Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh: Saturday Night’s Main Event VIII – 11/29/86


*** 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 VIII – 11/29/86

November 29, 1986
Los Angeles Sports Arena
Los Angeles, CA
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura
Attendance: 16,000

1) Randy Savage wrestled Jake Roberts to double disqualification at 9:30

Fun Fact: On the WWE’s “The Best of Saturday Night’s Main Event” DVD set, Jake Roberts discusses a conversation that he had with Dick Ebersol before his SNME VIII match with Randy Savage. In the interview he states Ebersol came to them and said, “Mr. Savage…Mr. Snake…if the ratings drop [during your match], this will be the last time you will be on Saturday Night’s Main Event and you will be back in Poughkeepsie doing local television.” So Savage and Roberts were extra motivated to put on a great performance. Roberts indicates it is one of his best matches ever and that Randy’s father had stated that it was Randy’s best match ever.

Fun Fact II: Going into this match, both men were still considered heels. The company thought that fans would cheer for Savage over the evil antics of Roberts. But to his surprise, fans cheered more for the Snake than Macho Man. A few months later, Jake Roberts would make an official face turn leading into WrestleMania III.

Scott: We begin the show with a very rare heel vs. heel matchup, yet one that has two pretty great workers here. Vince and Jesse are actually talking about the fact we have two rulebreakers in the ring, but Vince says the fans’ edge may be with Savage. We haven’t seen Savage on the big stage since his subpar match with George Steele at WrestleMania II. Jake has been battling Ricky Steamboat all over the country, including two highlight moments on this program. WWF needs to put the Macho Man on the big stage to prepare for what will be the feud that makes him a bona fide superstar. I think the focus of the match in terms of psychology is that they both treat Elizabeth like crap: Jake waves Damien in front of her and Savage hides behind her as a human shield. The storytelling was fascinating because you’re really not sure how they can tell the story of two evil cheaters going to battle. As the match progressed that it seems like Jake was getting the face pops, so the match was going in that direction. Savage hadn’t reached the levels of in-ring greatness yet but he still told a story perfectly, working desperately to keep his title while avoiding the DDT. With Savage dictating tempo it makes it out like Jake is the face in peril. Eventually chaos ensues and the referee calls for the double disqualification. Jake throws Damien on the Macho Man and he bolts with his IC Title. This was a lot of fun and the crowd got more into it than I thought they would for two bad guys. Grade: **1/2

JT: This is quite the important episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event as NBC executives were in the house and looking to be impressed. Legend has it that WWF officials asked Jake Roberts and Randy Savage to go out and tear the house down. It is also interesting that this is a heel vs. heel match but both of these guys were already hearing a smattering of cheers despite their tendencies. I should also mention Jesse Ventura’s absurd wig. Because it is ridiculous looking. It has been a strong year for both men, with Roberts working his way up the ladder while torturing Ricky Steamboat and Savage dominating the mid card as Intercontinental Champion. As the two played some mind games before the bell, Roberts seemed to be the crowd favorite on this night as chants of “DDT” rang echoed around the arena. Things were even early on with both men trading holds and fighting to a stalemate, showing lots of energy along the way. Roberts certainly seems be acting a bit more like a face early on, feeding off the fans. He would go for an early DDT but Savage felt it coming and bolted to the floor. When things resumed in the ring, Jake landed a boot to the gut but Savage blocked a DDT by shoving the Snake into the corner before catching him with a big foot to the face. Savage would work him over with his usual catlike quickness and aggression, fending off like Roberts comebacks here and there. Macho was able to get Roberts tangled in the ropes and used that opportunity to pitch Damien under the ring as the show went to break. When it returned, Roberts escaped and caught Savage with a nice running kneelift, which allowed him to reduce Damien and put him back in the corner. The Snake followed with a gourdbuster for a near fall but frustration was clearly starting to set in as Savage wouldn’t stay down. McMahon noted how the crowd had chosen Roberts here, much to the surprise of both him and Ventura. Savage would block another DDT attempt and again hit the deck where he would use Elizabeth as a shield. Roberts turned to unleash Damien but Savage cracked him with a knee to the back that drove him into the post. Macho followed up with a pair of big axehandles off the top rope for a two count. Roberts blocked a third and the pacing here has been fantastic, which has led to a tremendous atmosphere. Both men spilled to the floor again but when they started to get back inside, Savage caught Roberts with a stomp and then shoved the referee down. Roberts would do the same a moment later and that led to a double disqualification. After the bell, Savage grabbed a chair but before he could use it, Jake dumped Damien on him. Savage would take off with his title, living to fight another day. That was a hell of a showcase match with two of the biggest studs on the roster letting loose on national TV. Both kept up with the hot pace and fed off the crowd as they laid in some strong strikes and mixed in a little chicanery along the way. This easily could have edged along for another ten minutes or so and has to be on the short list of best SNME matches to date. Grade: ***

2) Hulk Hogan defeats Hercules with a legdrop to retain WWF World Title at 6:30

Fun Fact: Late in 1986, Hercules Hernandez’s contract with Slick was sold to Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Shortly after this managerial change, a name change ensued with Hernandez dropping his last name from the character and solely going by the name Hercules, taking on more of a mythical character. He also began carrying a long steel chain to the ring with him. This match with Hulk Hogan would be one of, if not the biggest match of his career.

Scott: SNME has turned into the “Bobby Heenan’s guy challenges for the World Title” show as through the first eight shows we’ve seen multiple championship matches with Bobby Heenan charges. This time its Hercules Hernandez, who was sold to him via Slick (including the awesome skit with both shysters at the bank). Once again we highlight the show with a Hogan title defense to get the big ratings on the early portion of the card. 1986 has been a crazy year for Hogan, fighting challengers from all corners, and here is his second nationally televised title defense inside the LA Sports Arena, after vanquishing King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania II. As expected, Hercules shows his immense power in a couple of spots and actually wrestled a great match for an inexperienced heel. He worked Hogan over with bear hugs and a backbreaker where he bowed Hogan’s body over his knee. Hercules then put Hogan in his torture rack and Jesse was so convinced that Hogan submitted he’s trying to tell Dave Hebner to call Hercules the champion. Hogan is limp on the mat while Hercules argues with Hebner and Jesse is losing it at the table saying Hogan quit; he’s almost convincing me. Of course this lag gets Hogan’s juices flowing and Hulk makes his big comeback and retains his title. I have to say even though I knew  that Hercules had no shot to win here, the combination of the crowd, Herc’s performance and Jesse’s awesome commentary led it to be more entertaining that I expected. Vince is such a milquetoasty babyface it’s nauseating as an adult, but I was marking out as a 13 year old. Jesse calls Vince the most biased announcer in wrestling. Sure he’s right but heck that’s how it worked in the 1980s. Another successful defense for the champion, and a much more fun match than I anticipated. Grade: **

JT: The strong card continues as Hulk Hogan is set to defend his title yet again here on SNME. His war with Bobby Heenan continues on as the Brain has purchased the contract of Hercules from Slick and was able to secure his new charge this championship bout. I really like how they ensured Hogan competed on all of these shows, helping keep that special feeling alive. Before the match we get pretty good promos from both sides, including Hogan busting out the vintage “This is where the power lies” line. Hercules is starting to shed his wild afro that had been on display for much of his WWF run to date. The LA crowd was gushing all over Hogan, picking up where they left off back at WrestleMania. Hercules showed off his power early, taking control of a test of strength, but that was short-lived as Hogan fought to his feet and broke the challenger down until Herc caught him with a kick. Herc would take advantage and hammer Hogan into the corner until the champion reversed a whip and hit a stiff clothesline followed by a running high knee. Heenan would run some interference but it didn’t work as Hogan landed a big boot and bodyslam but the champ came up empty on an elbow drop attempt. As Herc worked Hogan over, Ventura lost his mind over Dave Hebner being allowed to referee this match after getting tossed around in the last bout. Herc locked in a bear hug and then caught Hogan with a backbreaker. He followed that with the backbreaker and suddenly it looked like Herc was a legit contender. Until for some reason he dropped Hogan out of the hold and assumed Hogan had submitted. Hebner told him otherwise, which again sent Jesse through the roof. Herc then posed a bit for going for an ill fated pin cover. Hogan would hulk up and a few minutes later put this one to bed. Hercules really fucked up, he had Hogan beaten and gave it away. This was pretty fun and had some decent power offense blended into the formula Hogan bout and was also kept short enough to ensure the crowd stayed with it. Bobby Heenan comes up empty yet again and Hogan looks to wrap up 1986 as champion. Grade: **

*** We get a clip of Jesse Ventura, Bob Orton and Jimmy Hart eating at a Mexican restaurant and talking about Orton’s broken friendship with Roddy Piper. Orton claimed Piper always hid behind him but now has now friends to hide behind, especially tonight. We then see a video package highlighting the relationship before it fell apart. ***

3) Roddy Piper defeats Bob Orton, Jr. with a roll up at 3:48

Fun Fact: Roddy Piper, now in full face mode, finally gets his in-ring opportunity against his former bodyguard, Bob Orton. After attacking Adonis at the last SNME, Piper had vowed to come after Magnificent Muraco and Orton, the other two men involved in his hurting his knee. On the 10/18 segment of Piper’s Pit, Jimmy Hart gave Piper some gifts that he was not pleased with, including a pink cowboy hat and a rope from Bob Orton. Piper was told the rope was so he could hang himself with it. Piper ends up tying up Hart and pouring mouthwash in his mouth before jumping off of the stage and indicating his knee was better and he was ready to fight.

Fun Fact II: During this feud, Orton would sometimes come to the ring wearing a kilt as a mocking gesture to Piper.

Scott: I remember my brother being very sad for this match because he was the biggest fan of heels and this pair was the first great set of heels in the Federation Era. But Piper has become one of the most beloved babyfaces in the company practically overnight. I love Orton and Muraco in kilts to taunt the Hot Rod but that eventually doesn’t help as Dave Hebner throws Muraco out of ringside to the back. Jesse continues to berate Hebner as being “power hungry” and being involved in every match of the show. This is one of those matches that would have been better with a few more minutes of time and work. Piper dominated early with his usual fighting skills but Orton did get a few shots in after Piper took a shot to the bread basket. Honestly this seemed like a glorified squash as in only four minutes Piper dominated about 90% of the match. Since the face turn it seems like the second objective of SNME (the first being showcasing Hogan) is to push Piper as a fan favorite. They are accomplishing that but he still has some more hills to climb: Defeating Muraco (or “Fat Albert” as Piper called him in a promo) and eventually the ring leader, Adrian Adonis. Grade: *1/2

JT: What a sad day. These two were true besties in a world filled with backstabbing and hatred. Their relationship seemed like it could never break apart. Yet here we are. An angry Roddy Piper is looking for revenge and a fired up Cowboy Bob is looking to prove he was more than just Hot Rod’s muscle. Orton is decked out in plaid and also has a kilted Magnificent Muraco with him. As Orton proclaimed at the Mexican restaurant, Piper was out on his own but the Hot Rod clearly didn’t seem to care. Muraco wasted no time hopping on the apron and it backfired as the ever-present Dave Hebner tossed him from ringside. You can imagine how Jesse took that news. Piper went right for Orton, peppering him with lefts and rights before spiking him with a bulldog. Piper continued to unload and Orton had no chance to even take a breath or get any momentum going. Hot Rod would finally make a mistake by ducking down on a whip, giving Cowboy the chance to slug him in the jaw. The crowd chanted “Roddy” as Orton stomped away at Piper before grabbing a near fall. Jimmy Hart would hop on the apron but Piper showed Orton into him and then rolled the Cowboy up for the win. You would expect more of a blowoff between these two but Piper needed to go over pretty strong as he still had to mow through Muraco and eventually Adrian Adonis before gaining his full revenge. This match was nothing but had a ton of heat and backstory to fuel it. Grade: 1/2*

4) Killer Bees defeat The Hart Foundation when Jim Brunzell pinned Bret Hart with an inside cradle at 9:00

Fun Fact: The Killer Bees and The Hart Foundation have been locked in a nearly year long feud at this point. B. Brian Blair indicated at one point that the two teams wrestled somewhere between “300 and 600” times during the mid-1980s. 

Scott: After vanquishing the Dream Team, the tag team champion British Bulldogs need a new #1 contender so we have what Vince was calling an “elimination” match between two top challengers. With the Bulldogs as babyfaces, it seemed pretty clear that the Hitman and the Anvil would win this match and become the new #1 contenders. Indeed they dominate a good portion of the match with expert double teaming and their combination of power and workrate. Then when the Harts throw both men out of the ring, we get the expected move where the Bees put the masks on to thoroughly confuse the Pink and Black attack and after some confusion and chaos in the ring, Bee #1 is switched with Bee #2 in the ring and the Hitman walks into a small package for the victory. I was pretty shocked as the WWF threw the conventional booking manual out the window. We had a heel/heel match for the Intercontinental Title, and now we will have a planned face/face match for the tag team championship. That adds some fun and intrigue into these title chases and some work to be done for the “Championship Committee”. I wish there was still a committee to decide contenders. The match was ok but the result for me was a complete shock. Grade: **

JT: We saw these teams back at WrestleMania II and both have been plying their trade on TV and around the country, but this is the first time we get to check them out on SNME. The stakes were really high here as the story being pushed is that a win for either team would slot them close to a tag team title match with the British Bulldogs. I like that we get this type of match in place of a title bout because it really showcases the depth of the division. Bret Hart and Jim Brunzell kicked things off and Brunzell used his speed to control early, popping Hart with a jumping kneelift and then quickly tagging in Brian Blair, who went to work on the arm. As that went on, Vince discussed how the Bees could get underhanded in the ring when they would bust out their masks and fool the refs and opponents. We even get an inset interview with the masked Bees playing head games with Gene Okerlund. The Anvil tagged in but as the Bees stayed in control, Jesse took a shot at NBC honcho Dick Ebersol, again highlighting that brass was in the building. The Hitman nailed Brunzell in the back with a knee from the apron to swing momentum and the beating was on. Anvil would hit a nice standing dropkick as Jesse and Vince talked about the Harts’ new pink and black ring attire. Brunzell fell further into trouble as Hart picked him apart and then pitched him out to the floor. Pretty sure Brunzell is rocking Tom Berenger’s Major League hair style here. Brunzell landed a few shots to the gut of the Anvil, but it wasn’t enough to make much of a difference. The Bee came back with a big dropkick on Hart and was able to tag out by Dave Hebner missed the tag. This time Jesse backed him, which was funny. The Harts decked both Bees to the floor, but as they were out there, they ducked under the ring and put their masks on. As they did, Blair slipped into the ring and went right at Neidhart with plenty of energy and vigor. The Harts were rattled badly as the Blair ran right through them, capping the attack with a sleeper on Neidhart. Just as the Anvil was about to fade, Hart smashed Blair from behind with a sledge off the top rope. With Hebner tied up, we got another switcheroo, leading to Brunzell rolling up Hart for the win. That was a fun match, as usual for these two teams. I thought for sure the Harts would win this and line up for a title match, but I like that we got a surprise and also put the mask gimmick over. And it also keeps the Harts looking strong enough because the Bees clearly cheated their way to the win. The tag division is really growing and the depth is piling up as both of these teams were legit contenders to the Bulldogs’ straps. Grade: **1/2

5) Koko B. Ware defeats Nikolai Volkoff with a roll up at 2:30

Fun Fact: James Ware was born in June 1957 in Union City, Tennessee. He made his pro wrestling debut in 1978 as Koko Ware. He travelled around a lot during his first few years, making his way through Mid-South, Georgia and other NWA territories. In 1980 he won his first title by winning a battle royal to become the first ever Mid-American Television Champion. In 1981, Koko teamed up to be managed by Jimmy Hart and his First Family. In doing so, he changed his name to Sweet Brown Sugar. He became more of a tag team wrestler at this point, tagging with Steve Keirn first and then with Bobby Eaton, who he won the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship with.

He took on another name change after he and Eaton’s partnership dissolved into a heated feud. The two wrestled numerous grudge matches resulting in a final “Loser Leaves Town” match, which was won by Eaton. Shockingly, shortly there after a masked wrestler appeared in the territory with the name of Stagger Lee, who happened to wrestle very much like Sweet Brown Sugar. In 1983, Stagger Lee would be unmasked, revealing Ware as the mystery wrestler. He would next team with Norvell Austin, forming the tag team know as the Pretty Young Things or PYT Express, which would wrestle in the AWA, Memphis, Mid-South, WCCW and in Florida.

Ware moved on to the UWF after PYT dissolved and changed his name to the one he is best known by, Koko B. Ware. It was here that he began coming to the ring flapping his arms while his theme, “The Bird”, played. He joined the WWF in 1986 and took on the persona of the “Birdman”, complete with a macaw named Frankie that he would bring to the ring with him.

Scott: Our last two matches are a couple of glorified squashes to put over some new talent and build for future matches. Koko is fresh from Memphis and is popular with the fans, as he comes out with his macaw Frankie. Koko takes an early beating from the big powerful Russian, but eventually the speed takes over and Koko hits some quick dropkicks. Nikolai takes over with some power moves and even kicks out of the missile dropkick. Koko takes advantage of Nikolai talking to Slick and Koko rolls the Russian up for the victory. A nice little TV win for the very popular Birdman. Koko would embark on a great career during the Federation Era. Grade: *1/2

JT: As we edge later into the night, we dip into the lower mid card a bit. SNME stalwart Nikolai Volkoff is on the scene, with Slick in his corner. And his opponent is a newcomer straight from Memphis, Koko B. Ware. Ware came in with a strong rep and and an underrated career already built up so it would be interested where he slots in to the WWF roster. He had his macaw Frankie with him and his colorful look and energy made him an instant favorite amongst younger fans. Nikolai would jump the Birdman off the bell, using his power to smother the smaller Koko immediately. Koko fought through it and punched his way back into the match before taking the Russian over with a cool inverted monkey flip. A pair of dropkicks led to a near fall but Nikolai powered out strongly and then spiked Koko across the top rope. Nikolai would miss a knee drop and a moment later Koko pasted him with a dropkick off the top turnbuckle. Nikolai survived and hit a backbreaker but picked up Koko before the three count. He followed with a slam but then consulted with Slick which allowed Koko to roll him up from behind and pick up the win. Nothing to write home about here but Koko’s energy certainly is infectious. Grade: 1/2*

6) Magnificent Muraco defeats Dick Slater with a clothesline at 2:05

Fun Fact: Richard Van Slater was born in May, 1951 in Tampa, Florida. He began wrestling in 1968 in high school with Mike Graham. After high school, he attended the University of Tampa where he shared the wrestling mat with John Matuszak and Paul Orndorff. Following college, he turned down an opportunity with the Miami Dolphins to play football and chose to continue his focus on wrestling. Mike Graham got him involved in pro wrestling and he began his training in Tampa where he was trained by Jack Brisco, Bob Roop, Hiro Matsuda and Bill Watts. He spent most of his early years in Florida and then in Georgia Championship Wrestling before moving on to the Mid-Atlantic territory in 1983. Slater would later say that Jim Crockett ran one of the hardest promotions to work for. After a brief stint in Mid-South, Slater would join the WWF in 1986 where he would take on the role of a Southern Rebel. Unfortunately, his time in the WWF was not filled with much success. His past feuds and successes in other promotions were ignored and he was largely used as an enhancement talent (i.e. jobber) during his stay. Slater would move on from the WWF in 1987 and go back south of WCW.

Scott: This was nothing more than a set up match for whenever Muraco has to face Roddy Piper as part of the feud with Adrian Adonis. Slater was one of the better heels in history but I wasn’t a fan of his babyface run. Slater was one of the guys who collected Harley Race’s bounty on Ric Flair in 1983, along with another guy on this show tonight: Bob Orton. For once Mr. Fuji was useful as a manager as he trips Slater up and Muraco gets the victory. There’s not much more to say here, as Muraco gets the win. Grade: 1/2*

JT: Squash city incoming. Dick Slater was a solid worker and could have really added to the depth of the WWF roster but for some reason he was brought in as a face. Yes, a rebel in the Northeast territory was booked as a face. He was a great heel and should been used that way. Muraco battered Slater right off the bell, slamming his head into the corner and then slugging away. Slater got a glimmer of hope with a roll up and a few right hands, followed by an ax blow from the top rope. Fuji made the save for his boy and a moment later he tripped up the Rebel, allowing Muraco to catch his breath and pop Slater with a clothesline for the win. Grade: DUD

Final Analysis

Scott: This was a solid episode with another Hulk Hogan title defense, some advancement of the Roddy Piper/Adrian Adonis storyline and the unique battle of two great heels in Jake Roberts and Randy Savage. The biggest shock was the Killer Bees actually defeating the Hart Foundation as I was sure they would have heels be set up to face the British Bulldogs for the tag straps. We had a major TV debut in Koko B. Ware, a guy who would be a staple of the Federation Era for the younger fans. My PIC is a particularly big Koko fan. Another themeless show but plenty of between match interview segments to stretch the show out. This seems to be the main formula for the SNME shows but the themes will return soon enough. Final Grade: C+

JT: I really liked this installment of SNME. It flew by with a crisp pace and was packed with matches that wove through a nice and easy watchable format. Everyone got a prematch interview, every match had a story and there was no fluff or fill. As much as I enjoyed the themes of the early shows, they have really found their groove by jamming the show with matches and buzzing right along through the night. They are also spotlighting the big stars and angles early for the crowd that needs to tap out by midnight and leaving the filler for later in the show. However, they also leave a little treat dangling as we get a Hulk Hogan interview late in the night as well. We have seen eight SNME shows across a year and a half and you can tell they are really figuring things out. Here we got a Hogan title match, a great and unique opener, a fun tag team match with high stakes, a pair of squashes and a lot of advancement in one of the hottest feuds in the promotion. Oh, and the commentary was tremendous too. Not much to complain about here. Final Grade: B-