Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh: Saturday Night’s Main Event IX – 1/3/87


*** Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV and TV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. In addition, Jeff Jarvis assists in compiling historical information and the Fun Facts in each of the reviews. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***

Saturday Night’s Main Event IX – 1/3/87

January 3, 1987
Hartford Civic Center
Hartford, CT
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura
Attendance: 10,000 (Including a 13 year old Scott, his brother and father)

1) Hulk Hogan defeated Paul Orndorff in a steel cage match to retain WWF World Title when he exits the cage at 10:42

Fun Fact: During their feud, Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff wrestled numerous matches without clean finishes. As a result, the two were signed for a steel cage match here to end their feud. Following the match, Orndorff would begin working a reduced schedule due to an arm injury that he sustained training during the Hogan feud. Since the two were drawing big money at the time, Orndorff did not want to take time off for surgery until the feud was completed. The six month feud was one of the most profitable feuds in the history of professional wrestling.

Scott: Words can honestly not describe how pumped up I was for my first ever live show. It worked out perfectly since I was a huge Hulkamaniac and my brother loved pretty much every heel in the entire company. The moment I heard Real American for the champ (not when Orndorff came out to it, which of course my brother cheered for) I was amped and ready to go. This is the end to a great blood feud that started back in the summertime and raged on the syndies and here on SNME. My brother was convinced that Orndorff was winning on this night and that there would be a big rematch at WrestleMania III. We have two referees here, as Joey Marella is the assigned referee but the questionable Danny Davis is there as well. That storyline has started to percolate, where Davis was leaning his refereeing towards the heels. Jesse is chewing Vince up for his Hogan bias, and for the first time since SNME started Vince is getting painted into a corner when he talks about Hogan, because as we know Jesse is smarter than he is. The bout has a great big match vibe and I remember the back and forth action well. I was hoping for some blood but knowing this would be on national TV I knew it wouldn’t happen…and then it did. More on that later. Then the first great live crowd moment I’ve seen: Hogan and Orndorff start crawling to opposite edges of the ring then begin climbing over the wall of the cage. It’s a race to the floor and…both guys hit the floor. The place went crazy, and in one of my favorite live moments ever, my brother gets up and heckles to our section that Orndorff is the new World Champion and he gets showered with pretzels and peanut shells by my fellow Hulkamaniacs. It was great. In any event the crowd is back to being focused on the match as evil Danny Davis shoves Marella to the floor and Hogan goes after him. Orndorff pearl harbors him and they restart the match. The action actually gets more hot and heavy until Hogan climbs out and beats Orndorff to the floor as Mr. Wonderful tried to get to the floor. This is one of my favorite TV matches ever (and I’m a little biased) but even watching now the energy is great and the controversial first ending to the match. Grade: ***

JT: We kick off our third calendar year of Saturday Night’s Main Event with a big one. The Hulk Hogan/Paul Orndorff feud has raged hard throughout the back end of 1986 and it is time for one final showdown. Inside a steel cage. With the WWF Title on the line. Can Bobby Heenan finally take the gold off Hogan? Can Orndorff step out of the shadow and finish his former friend off for once? Anticipation was quite high and this may be our biggest on paper SNME matchup to date. It was also the first cage match in the show’s run. Orndorff was still using Real American here as he kept tweaking the champ. He was also refusing to give interviews, speaking only through Heenan. Vince McMahon expressed immediate concern as shady referee Danny Davis was the second official manning the floor. Orndorff had gold in his sights as he jumped Hogan off the bell, stomping away viciously before heading to the door for a failed escape attempt. There was no pinfall option in this match, as it was escape only. And that is all Mr. Wonderful wanted to do: escape the steel. He was done wrestling Hogan at this point, he wanted the strap and he scaled the cage quickly for another attempt. The crowd was loudly behind Hogan as he made a last second desperation save, yanking Orndorff back into the cage by his hair. Jesse Ventura had a classic line there: “Hulk Hogan would not be champion if Mr. Wonderful was bald”. Hogan got a little dirty, choking the challenger with his headband but Orndorff came back with more strikes to even things up. Hogan came back with a big right hand and went for the door but Davis had locked the door, making it difficult to get it open quickly. More back and forth would lead to a stalemate where they both banged into the cage and collapsed. As they both recovered, they scaled the cage walls, climbed over…and both hit the floor at the same time. The referees debated over who won as the crowd was going bonkers. Real American played but that obviously was much of an indicator at this point. Davis would shove down Joey Marella and as Hogan grabbed him, Orndorff buried a knee in Hulk’s back. The match would be restarted after a tie was declared and after a break, it was back under way. Orndorff landed a stiff forearm shot off the top rope and then jabbed the champ with a foreign object. The crowd went crazy as Hogan made a fired up comeback, peppering Orndorff with right hands and chops. Hogan started to use the cage as a weapon, punishing Orndorff as revenge for these months of trash talking and attacks. He cracked the now bloody Orndorff with a backbreaker, dropped the leg and then scaled the cage, but was held up by Heenan, who had hopped in the cage. Orndorff made one last mad dash but Hogan fended off the Brain, stopped Orndorff, pitched the Brain into the cage, scaled the wall and won the match to a huge pop. After the bell, Hogan beat on Heenan a bit more and then celebrated his big win. That was certainly a fitting end to a really fun feud. The match had a ton of heat and backstory plus some really on point commentary and the referee stuff as well. That is a lot packed into ten minutes. The action was pretty basic and not as vicious as you may expect from a cage match blood feud, but the heat was there regardless. With Paul Orndorff finally dispatched the big question that is lingering centers around potential Mania challengers for the Hulkster. Who will step up? Grade: **1/2

2) Randy Savage defeated George Steele to retain Intercontinental Title by hitting him with the timekeeper’s bell at 8:10

Fun Fact: The Savage/Steele feud, which began at the beginning of 1986, is still going on at the end of the year, much longer than the WWF anticipated or intended. However a new contender to the IC title and a new feud has developed. On the November 22 episode of Superstars, Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat was challenging Savage for the title. Steamboat lost this match via count-out and was then attacked further by Savage, who took the ring bell and jammed it into Steamboat’s throat, crushing his larynx. Steamboat makes his return from injury here to prevent Steele from suffering a similar injury at the hands of Savage.

Scott: My brother was recovering after the disappointment of the first match to now see his single favorite guy in the entire company at that time (and #2 behind Ric Flair in all of wrestling). I hadn’t truly appreciated the Macho Man for a few more months and I was never a big George Steele fan anyway. The match starts fast as Savage gets pearl harbored by the Animal while Macho Man was berating Elizabeth. Savage was truly at his scumbag best, saying he’d slap Elizabeth and put her against the wall. Wow. A few minutes into the match and as Savage is about to hit Steele on the outside with a double axe handle when out comes the “surprise” that Steele was alluding to in the earlier interview: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. We all know what Savage did a couple of months earlier, when he crushed Steamboat’s larynx with the ring bell. True heel greatness because anything done to Steamboat brings automatic heel heat. Then in something that made no sense, Steele grabs Elizabeth and takes her to the back. Why Steele wasn’t counted out makes no sense, but I guess because Steamboat was in the ring the referee was distracted. I knew Savage wasn’t going to lose the title but just a question of what happens with he and Steamboat. To keep the story going, Savage uses the ring bell again and cracks Steele over the head while the referee wasn’t looking and gets the three count. To avoid further damage, Steamboat comes out (he was escorted by security earlier) and Savage bolts. The Steele storyline of 1986 is over, but the REAL storyline, the one that both men will be measured, really turns up. Grade: *1/2

JT: Another one of 1986’s longest running feud sees a match go down on this show. Randy Savage knocked off George Steele back at WrestleMania II but the Animal has remained infatuated with Miss Elizabeth and continued to be a thorn in Macho’s side. Here he was promising a big surprise for the IC champ but Ventura was nonplussed, calling Steele “an ignorant fool”. His surprise was apparently an Animal action figure, a gift that Savage yanked away immediately. Steele snapped from there and started slamming and hammering away at the champion. Vince would piss Jesse off by saying officials had to allow for some leeway when Steele was in the ring. The Animal would beckon to the back, apparently calling someone out to ringside, but Savage drilled him from behind and went right to work. As Savage climbed to the top rope to set up the big elbow, Ricky Steamboat’s music hit and he ran down to ringside making his big surprise return from his injury and distracting Macho. Steele would slam Savage off the top rope and send him flying over the top rope and hard to the floor. As Savage recovered, Steele scooped up Liz and stormed to the back with her. Steamboat blocked Savage’s path so he couldn’t follow after them but officials finally drove the Dragon back. After a break, Steamboat returned and chased Savage around until Steele came back as well, without Liz. Steele slugged away and used turnbuckle foam as a distraction tool while Steamboat was escorted away by the police. Both men got a little more sustained offense until Savage was able to dump Steele to the floor. The Animal came back in, brandishing a foreign object that he jabbed into the throat of Macho. Jesse continues to lose his mind over this stuff, including when Steele shoves the referee. Savage took advantage of that and bashed Steele with the ring bell to win the match. Well, that was a mess. The Steamboat stuff was great and Savage is awesome as always but Steele is tough to watch at this point. The Dragon is back and he is on a very clear collision course with the champion. Grade: *

3) Junkyard Dog defeated Harley Race by disqualification at 6:00

Fun Fact: On December 13 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA, Harley Race and JYD fought to a double count out after both men started brawling on the floor. As JYD went after Bobby Heenan on the ring apron, Race attacked him from behind. This would be the beginning of a feud that would carry into WrestleMania III. The two would battle again here the next night (12/14) at SNME, with the event airing on January 3, 1987.

Scott:I always thought Harley Race looked so strange when he arrived in the WWF. When he was seven-time NWA Champion, he had the dark hair, the grizzled beard combos and his awesome jacket with “Race” on the back. Here he’s clean shaven, his hair is dyed and he’s the “King”. Of course back in those days the WWF didn’t acknowledge their talent’s previous careers. As 1986 concluded, it seemed like the shine on Junkyard Dog dulled just a little bit but he was still involved in high profile feuds and this feud about snobby royalty and the everyday Dog. The match wasn’t much and Race gets DQ’d, then Race and Jimmy Hart beat JYD down while Danny Davis observes as Vince loses his mind. This feud continues on through 1987 as well. My brother was pissed that a seven-time NWA Champion was reduced to a weird gimmick. Grade: *

JT: Bobby Heenan’s busy night continues as he ushers out his King, Harley Race. The legendary Race arrived in the WWF in 1986 and was coronated by Bobby due to being a superior athlete and one of the all time greats as well as winning the WWF King of the Ring tournament. He was also hellbent on making people bow and that was the crux of his issues with Junkyard Dog. JYD vowed not to bow, but Race was dead set on making him do so. Race punched away early, picking up a two count, and then drove a kneelift to the chest to knock JYD down. JYD cut him off and slung him into the ring post shoulder first but Race came back with an eye poke and a belly-to-belly suplex. Race would try a falling headbutt but that backfired on him and gave JYD the opening to come back. The Dog shot Race hard into the corner, causing the King to flop over the top and down to the floor. JYD would grab the cape and crown and put them on, mocking Race until Heenan hopped in the ring to give him shit. JYD drilled the Brain with a right hand but Race snuck in and elbowed him in the back from the top rope. As Race and Heenan laid the boots in, the match was thrown out, giving Dog the duke by DQ. They would try to make Dog bow down but he battled through it and ran them from the ring. Danny Davis held JYD back, leading to JYD pelting him with a headbutt. Lots of sketchy face chicanery tonight. Nothing match here outside of a couple of cool bumps from Race. The feud will continue and the post match beating was the best part of the whole segment. Grade: 1/2*

*** Backstage, Paul Orndorff flips out about his loss and Bobby Heenan says he will obtain the videotape and prove that Orndorff’s feet touched the floor first and that he is the rightful champion of the world. ***

4) Adrian Adonis defeats Roddy Piper by countout at 3:35

Fun Fact: The Adonis/Piper feud is still at full boil here. On November 29, Adonis made his return after being taken out by Piper’s crutch. Adnois attacked Piper with a crutch of his own and then proceeded to put him in a sleeper hold.

Scott: You knew this one was going to be nothing short of a fist fight. This has been percolating since the beatdown and stealing of Piper’s Pit by Adonis and the traitor Bob Orton. Orton and Magnificent Muraco have been vanquished and now Hot Rod has his hands on the guy who stole his interview show. Piper continues to be quite popular, in fact he may be overtaking the previous #2 babyface in the company the Junkyard Dog. The match was a short sloppy brawl. Adonis cheats and uses the atomizer, which blinds Piper and he walks crazily around the ring. He gets counted out and Adonis gets the predicted cheap victory. This is a prelude to the big match March 29 in Pontiac, but of course no mention of that yet. The crowd is off the charts for this and perhaps organically, Piper’s face turn may be the hottest creative thing in the entire company short of Hogan’s World Title run. The match wasn’t much but more from these two to come. Grade: *

JT: This is a pretty heavy, loaded show when it comes to culminating or continuing 1986’s top feuds. Roddy Piper’s face turn is very much complete and the crowds love him wherever he goes. After mowing through Bob Orton and Magnificent Muraco, Piper wants his final revenge on Adrian Adonis. Adonis had been on the shelf for a while after Piper smashed his elbow up with a crutch on a previous SNME. Adonis was looking very rotund here and is working the Adorable gimmick very hard. Piper was on fire early, hammering Adonis and then knocking him into the ropes and kicking him in the head. Despite the girth, Adonis’ bumping is still on point. Piper continued to fling the big man around as McMahon informs us that Miss Elizabeth has been released from where she was locked up. Adonis made a brief comeback and went for his sleeper but they both tumbled to the floor and brawled outside the ring. After Piper slugged Jimmy Hart, Adonis sprayed Piper in the eyes with his perfume. The referee would turn around and count the Hot Rod out, giving Adonis a shady win. Another quick match but this one had some pretty hot action and good bumping and the crowd was eating it all up. And yet again, another feud that will continue on here into 1987. Grade: *

5) Blackjack Mulligan defeated Jimmy Jack Funk with a flying back elbow at 2:31

Fun Fact: Blackjack Mulligan, born Robert Jack Windham, was a college football player at Texas Western College and had several tryouts with NFL pro teams before hanging up his cleats. He was scouted by Wahoo McDaniel, who urged him to look into professional wrestling following his football career. He initially trained with Joe Blanchard in Texas before moving on and getting further training with Verne Gagne in the AWA in 1967. After his time in the AWA, he moved on to the WWWF and took on the Blackjack Mulligan persona. He had great success in the territory being managed by the Grand Wizard. His time in the WWWF was cut short after a fan at the Boston Garden came from the crowd and slashed Mulligan’s thigh with a knife, causing him to get hundreds of stitches to close the wound and putting him out of action for months. After healing, Mulligan returned to the AWA and teamed with Blackjack Lanza to form The Blackjacks tag team. The duo won several tag team championships in the AWA and WWWF in the mid 70s. Throughout his career, he would travel through other territories, spending time in Mid-Atlantic, WCCW and Florida, winning both singles and other tag titles along with way.

Fun Fact II: Ferrin Barr, Jr. began his wrestling career in 1980 and by the mid 80s was known as one of the top heels in Florida, wrestling under his given name. He won the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship, holding the title twice between October 1984 and April 1985. He also held tag team gold with Rick Rude, winning the US Tag Team Championships. In the spring of 1986, Barr signed on with the WWF and was given the role of Jimmy Jack Funk, fictional brother of Terry and Hoss Funk. He got a strong push initially, but with Terry Funk leaving the promotion in June, he and Hoss lost steam and were pushed back down the card. Once Hoss Funk left, Jimmy Jack Funk quickly became little more than a jobber.

Scott: This is a simple throwaway match for the simple reason that with former tag team champion Blackjack Mulligan back they want to showcase a former champion. What’s funny about this is that if you watched just Superstars and say, Prime Time Wrestling, all year and nothing else, you’d think he was a top superstar who is being pushed to the moon and is in line for title shots. Well as the year progresses you’ll see he’s nothing more than what he is here: a past his prime guy who’s getting a hand from Vince to make some money and get some “end of career” shine against a bunch of jobbers. In case you were curious, Jimmy Jack isn’t a Funk, he was simply used to carry some of Dory’s load as he was also getting up there in years. He becomes a “JTTS” from here on out. Nothing more than filler and a chance for a former champion to get some shine. Grade: *

JT: And as has become the format of SNME, we close the show with a low level match being used to push or reestablish a talent. This one is also coined “The Battle for Texas”. Blackjack Mulligan had recently returned to the promotion and they were looking to set him up for a decent push. JJ Funk demands that Mulligan remove the spurs from his boots and then attacks him as he takes them off. It didn’t matter as Mulligan came back and clotheslined Funk to the floor. Mulligan clubbed Funk without remorse and then polished him off with a jumping back elbow. This was a match. Grade: DUD

Final Analysis

Scott: This is one of my favorite episodes of the show, not only because I was there but because there was so much involved. You have a big title match (and according to Vince, first network televised cage match in years), the return of a big babyface against the heel IC Champion and a rare Roddy Piper match. The company is leaving the doldrums of 1986 and entering one of its biggest years fiscally and creatively. We have one more big (and risky) move booking-wise before Vince decides it would be a great idea to attempt his biggest show in a 93,000-seat venue. In our next installment we will delve more into that as matches and feuds become clearer. I’m going to grade this show ridiculously high because of my personal feelings, but you may enjoy it that much too. Final Grade: A-

JT: I did not enjoy this show nearly as much as Scott. It had a lot of really big storyline advancement and was quite loaded on paper, but I didn’t think any of the matches really delivered. The cage match felt like a spectacle, but was really basic and a bit too formula given the feud behind it. Also, with the screwy finish, it felt like the angle was going to continue even though this should have been the decisive blow off. I am done with George Steele. Ricky Steamboat’s comeback was a big deal and he is on a big time collision course with the Macho Man. The Piper/Adonis match was just there to push their feud along and while that is admirable, it kept the streak of subpar action alive in the back end of the show. Again, this was a really good outing for angle development but the action was just lacking a bit, which felt inexcusable given the lineup they assembled. Final Grade: B-