Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh: Saturday Night’s Main Event XV – 3/12/88

*** 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 XV – 3/12/88

March 12, 1988
Municipal Auditorium
Nashville, TN
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura
Attendance: 10,000

1) Brutus Beefcake defeats Greg Valentine by lifting his shoulder up during a bridge suplex at 9:00

Fun Fact: The feud between Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine started back at WrestleMania III when Valentine and Dino Bravo argued with and dropped Beefcake from the Dream Team. Beefcake became “The Barber” in a face role. Bravo and Valentine would form The New Dream Team, a team that Valentine was not pleased to be a part of. He felt the two did not have much chemistry together. Valentine briefly left the WWF after he was asked to kidnap the mascot of the British Bulldogs, Matilda. He was later brought back under Jimmy Hart as a singles wrestler. He would feud with Beefcake for the better part of 1987 into early 1988, with this match being their last major television match together.

Scott: After over a year we finally get the on-camera battle between the former members of the Dream Team. The Beefer has been gaining big momentum since the babyface turn while Valentine was off the radar somewhat until he hooked up with Jimmy Hart. The commentary with Vince and Jesse continues to be the buzz about our last episode and the controversy involving the WWF Title. Jesse mentions WrestleMania in his opening but no details even though we were less than a month away from Trump Plaza. I love how Jesse has spun that saga to where he feels Hogan brought the fake referee to cause chaos so he wouldn’t lose clean to Andre. So funny. Beefcake was never a workrate marvel so this match is a lot of strikes and posturing. Valentine is a technician and a master of dictating tempo. Midway through the match Jimmy Hart’s crown jewel, Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man, makes his way out. He grabs the mic and starts taunting the #1 contender to his title, the Beefer. That match is announced for March 27 as Honky refers to it in his promo. After the break the match really picked up and both men went back and forth with strikes and grapples. Beefcake hits a big elbow then cranks up his sleeper but both men fall out of the ring. Jimmy Hart gets Beefcake to chase him and he walks into a Valentine stomp. Then Valentine hits a German suplex and both men’s shoulders are down but Beefcake lifts his shoulder at two and gets the win. I thought the win needed to be more definitive but a win is a win I suppose. Beefcake chases both guys off with his big shears, so it seems like this feud isn’t over. It probably is because Beefcake has bigger fish to fry on March 27: A shot at the Intercontinental Championship. Grade: **

JT: We sit just weeks away from WrestleMania and squeeze in one last Saturday Night’s Main Event before the big day. With all of the major players getting ready to jockey for the WWF Title, we have a solid slate of matches ahead here. A year ago in the Silverdome, the Dream Team officially came to an end and here the former tag team champions tussle, both in very different spots on the card. Greg Valentine has become a heel stalwart, tossed into the ring with anyone that needs a battle of credibility. Brutus Beefcake is on the rise, moving quickly up the face ranks and having his eyes locked on Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental Title…and perhaps his hair too. And he is also gunning for the hair of Jimmy Hart, who is now managing Valentine full time. Beefcake is still sorting things out as the Barber gimmick is fully in place but he still puts out a bit of a crazy man vibe with his mannerisms and facial expressions. Vince McMahon notes their history together as they trade off some blows early on. Beefcake landed the first big strike with a knee to the face and a slam before decking him with some right hands. After some epic selling from a pair of Barber atomic drops, Valentine hit the deck hard from an elbow to the dome. With the referee temporarily tangled up, Valentine landed a cheap shot and went to town, laying in some stiff elbows and forearms. He was able to hook the figure four in but Beefcake was too close to the ropes and forced the break… but not until after Hammer used the ropes too to inflict some damage. With Beefcake dumped outside and writhing on the floor, Honky Tonk Man strutted to ringside and grabbed the mic to taunt Beefer as he recovered. Honky was forced to the back during a break and when we returned, Valentine was still doling out clubbing blows and then started to punish the leg to set up another shot at the figure four. Before he could, Beefcake made a comeback with some stinging punches and a back elbow followed by locking on the sleeperhold. Valentine staggered to the ropes and pulled both himself and Beefcake to the floor, where the proceeded to trade punches. Hart tried to get involved but Beefcake chased him off until Hammer made the save. Valentine then took Beefcake over with a back suplex into a bridge, but during the count, Beefcake got his shoulder up giving him the big win and some momentum heading into his big title shot. That was a tidy little match with some stiff offense on both ends. The psychology was basic and effective and we even got the little tease with Honky to set up Mania. Beefcake got a needed win and even snips some of Hammer’s hair after the bell. Grade: **

2) Hulk Hogan defeats Harley Race with a legdrop at 6:37

Fun Fact: Table spots are a pretty typical thing in today’s wrestling matches, using worked tables that break easily. This wasn’t the case back in 1988, so the spot that Harley Race took with Hulk Hogan in this match was atypical. Hogan, lying prone on a table outside of the ring, moved out of the way as Race came off the ring and tried to hit Hogan with a headbutt. Race went crashing into the table. The impact with the table forced the metal edge of the table into Race’s abdomen, causing a hernia. Race continued to wrestle with the injury for a few months before finally taking time off in June for surgery and recovery. He would make a brief comeback in 1989 before leaving the WWF for good.

Scott: So for the first time in SNME history, Hulk Hogan is wrestling a match WITHOUT the WWF Title around his waist. It was really weird and unsettling as a fan to not see him as champion but the wheels were turning in the company and in Hogan’s professional life. This was somewhat of a dream match as Race was a former multi-time NWA World Champion and could give Hogan a really good match. They spend the early portion of the match on the outside and Jesse makes the point that obviously the referee isn’t counting to either of these guys. Hogan is ultra-aggressive here, slamming Race into the steel post and choking him out with the tape on his hand. Hogan is going insane, even so much as to lift Bobby Heenan up and start viciously choking him out until Race hits Hogan from behind and takes control. Then in an important moment of the match, Hogan is laid out on a table and Race goes for a flying headbutt, but Hogan dives out of the way and Race goes into the table. However Race suffers an severe abdominal injury and is out for the rest of 1988. Hogan makes his comeback and wins the match. During his posing I feel like Hogan had dropped some mass and looked trimmer than he had in the past couple of years. I thought this match was longer than it was but it was a lot of fun with a lot of action and different kind of performance from the former WWF Champion. I enjoyed this match a lot but I wish it was longer. Grade: **1/2

JT: Still reeling from his stunning loss a month ago, Hulk Hogan is out to wreck anyone related to Andre the Giant in any way. And since Bobby Heenan fit that bill, he was ready to mow through the King of the Family, Harley Race. For older fans this is a real battle of top legends, but in the land of the WWF it is just another match to push Hogan’s never ending feud with the Brain. Harley doesn’t have much going on in the way of feuds or storylines and just sort of floats from match to match as needed. And this is arguably his biggest with the company. Hulkster didn’t even have his shirt off and his music was blaring as Race jumped him and caught a beating as the crowd went crazy. Hogan kept mowing Race down with clotheslines as the match finally got underway and topped it off by sending Race over the top rope and onto a table at ringside. Hogan followed him and rammed him into the ring post and then blocked a Race piledriver with a back drop as the match continued as a brawl on the outside. Hogan used the post again and then slammed Harley on the floor before finally pitching him back inside. Vince mentions Hogan’s tournament match with Andre as he kept hammering away, even choking the King with his wrist tape. Hogan is wild here and it is really fun. And Race is the perfect guy to bump all around for him. Jesse calls out Joey Marella again, basically saying he is in Hogan’s pocket. Some Heenan interference finally gave Race a chance at some offense and he laid in a headbutt and stiff knee drop. Back outside, Race put Hogan on the table and went to the apron. He dove off with a headbutt but Hogan dodged and he smashed into it, splintering it in half. That spot fucked him up bad, causing internal injuries that did some real damage. Somehow Race recovered and hit a top rope diving headbutt but Hogan kicked out and finished off the King with his standard barrage. I really dug that match as it was a super fun brawl with Hogan just going crazy and pounding Race all around ringside. Harley’s offense was good too and the table bump was really neat to see at this time. The crowd heat was there as you would expect and with all the Hogan/Heenan tie-ins, this had a lot going for it. Grade: **1/2

3) Ted DiBiase defeats Randy Savage by countout at 11:39

Fun Fact: Less than three weeks before WrestleMania IV and their main event encounter for the world title, Ted DiBiase and Randy Savage met here on SNME for the first time on WWF television. This match planted the first seed in the formation of the Mega Powers.

Fun Fact II: Before the WWF vacated the title following the result of The Main Event title match, Ted DiBiase was billed as the WWF Champion on three house shows, including one on February 8 in Los Angeles where he defended the title against Bam Bam Bigelow. However, DiBiase is not recognized as having a WWF title reign since the title could not change hands by someone giving him the title.

Scott: As the storylines in the company start to weave into each other heading into Wrestlemania IV, the #2 babyface in the company takes on (at this moment) the most despised heel in the company. Fans still haven’t forgiven him for robbing their beloved Hulk Hogan of the WWF Title and now we see the other big fan favorite going toe to toe with him. Savage started 1987 in the position DiBiase was; a despised heel going after beloved fan favorite Ricky Steamboat. Fast forward and he’s a big fan favorite. Typical Savage match starts with him going crazy on DiBiase, bouncing around the ring and the outside throwing strikes and going crazy. DiBiase’s insurance policy, Andre the Giant, comes down the aisle as protection. We will see plenty of that over the next month. I think the hilarious part of Savage as a face is that now Jesse says Macho Man sometimes hides behind a skirt, where Vince says he’s never seen that. Well of course we saw it plenty of times in 1986 and through half of 1987. Virgil hits Savage from behind and gets ejected before the commercial break. Both men keep it up with the strikes, and what I loved about watching Savage is that he can go at a breakneck pace when he’s in control and still hits his moves crisply without looking too wild. The referee gets bumped and the real chicanery happens. DiBiase is being shielded while Andre lays the business down on Savage outside with chops and headbutts. The referee recovers to count Savage out and the Million Dollar Man wins cheap. He and Virgil start laying the wood on Savage in the ring until Hogan comes out with a chair and the heels scatter. We are full on towards the World Title tournament March 27 in Atlantic City and this shows who could be the favorites and the underdogs. Grade: **1/2

JT: We are yet to have seen Ted DiBiase wrestle on a SNME but he has wreaked all sorts of wild havoc in the promotion during his brief stay. He has flaunted his money and attempted to buy the WWF Title, sending the company into chaos as a result. With the belt upheld, both he and Randy Savage were slated for the big WrestleMania tournament to determine a new champion. Savage is now 100% a face, solidified back at the Main Event and is also one of the favorites to walk out of Mania with the gold. As Savage entered the ring and stood across DiBiase, Andre the Giant sauntered out to stand in his owner’s corner. The mind games continued as Virgil stalked Elizabeth, drawing Savage for the save and allowing DiBiase to kick him from behind and go to work with aggressive strikes. He choked away viciously as Vince put him over as a tactician and Jesse wondered which Hebner was refereeing the bout. Savage found an opening when DiBiase dropped his head. Macho knocked DIBiase to the floor but pitched him right back in to avoid any nonsense. He hit a top rope axe blow and DiBiase scurried to the floor to regroup and chat with the Giant. DiBiase regained control but it was brief because he ate and was rattled by Savage boot on a charge. Macho landed some shots until he missed a knee drop but he was able to kick DiBiase to the floor to break up a spinning toehold. DiBiase pulled him outside and the two tussled there until Andre distracted Macho, allowing Virgil to deck him from behind. The official tossed Virgil away from ringside Andre was able to stick around and DiBiase took advantage by hooking in a rear chinlock, leaning on Macho to wear him out. Savage broke free and heated up, bringing the fire with some clotheslines and a back drop. A moment later. the referee got knocked down and Savage pitched DIBiase to the floor. He followed with a double axe handle off the top but Andre came over and started pounding Savage, leading to Liz sprinting off to the locker room. Andre was relentless as he clubbed Macho and in the meantime DiBiase slid back inside and shielded the recovered Hebner. After the damage was done, Hebner laid the count on and reached ten, giving DiBiase the count out victory. I liked that finish a lot as it really builds heat for DiBiase’s group of thugs and also preps the two for a feud to continue. Hulk Hogan would emerge after the match to protect his new buddy and run off the assailants. The match was really good with a great back and forth pace and no lengthy heat segments either way. They showed off their chemistry right away and were both so smooth as they wove through the story of the match. I didn’t mind the countout one bit as it really made all the sense in the world, plus Andre looked like a monster as he kicked the shit out of Macho on the floor, weakening him for the tournament. Grade: ***

4) Islanders defeat Killer Bees when Haku pinned Brian Blair following a side kick at 3:38

Fun Fact: The Islanders were formed in mid-1986 when Tama was paired with Haku. Initially the team had a face run where they wrestled a lot of preliminary matches. With the large amount of talent in the tag team ranks during that period, the Islanders became lost in the shuffle and ended their initial run as jobbers to other teams. Shortly after WrestleMania III, the Islanders were wrestling the Can-Am Connection when Bobby Heenan came out to ringside. The Islanders made their heel turn and became part of the Heenan Family. During their heel run, they had two major feuds, one with Strike Force and the other with the British Bulldogs. At the time of this SNME event, the tag team was coming to an end. One month after this, Tama would leave the WWF. High Chief Afi would join the team briefly and would tag with Haku to keep the team together, but that tag combination was short lived. By the end of the May 1988, the Islanders would no longer exist as a tag team.

Fun Fact II: This match between the Islanders and the Killer Bees was originally shown on SNME as a one fall match. However, the match was actually a best 2 out of 3 falls match. The third fall was shown on the broadcast. The other two falls would be seen on Prime Time Wrestling on 4/18. The Islanders won the first fall, the Bees won the second fall and (as seen on SNME) the Islanders won the third fall and the match.

Scott: With our main events done, we have a couple of filler matches to round the show out. The Islanders were a babyface team but with some of his bigger guys gone, Bobby Heenan needed a new fresh tag team and this was a perfect one to turn heel and join him. The Killer Bees seem like such an outdated team as they’ve been around since late-1985, so this is almost like an elimination match in the tag team division. The match was actually a two out of three falls match but this fall was the only one televised. The Islanders were a great team with awesome chemistry and they went back and forth with the Bees for a few minutes before some heel chicanery with the referee getting distracted leads to the Islanders getting the only televised fall of the match. Not much more to see here except that Tama and Haku are the fresher, cooler team then two guys in bumblebee tights. Grade: *1/2

JT: This show has been quite loaded so far but the time has come to fill out the back end of the program. The Islanders have turned heel as the calendar turned and along with gaining a douchebag attitude, they also picked up Bobby Heenan as their manager. They are slated to battle the stalwart Killer Bees here and on paper this is a real nice matchup. In a funny bit, Heenan comes out in a beekeeper mask, teasing the Bees about their gimmick. The Bees came out first, using their speed and quick tags to control Tama. Brunzell would whiff on dropkick and Tama laid in a big headbutt to send him to his knees. He followed with a suplex for a near fall and then started to tag in and out with Haku to maintain control. Brunzell tried to wriggle free but he and Haku collided with a double clothesline, leading to both men struggling on the mat. However, both were able to tag and Blair laid the wood on Tama. He rolled the Islander up and the official counted but decided to stop at two to force Brunzell and Haku out of the ring. That momentarily confusion allowed Haku the chance to deck Blair with a side kick for the win. This was the third fall of the match and the only one shown on TV but the Islanders clearly had the higher stock right now and needed the solid win. This could have been really good with time but this just wasn’t the place for it. Grade: *

5) One Man Gang defeats Ken Patera with a clothesline at 3:00

Scott: Wow now this is a throwaway match if I ever saw one. One Man Gang was all over the country in the 1980s, as I remember him in the Apter mags from World Class to AWA to Crockett. Now Vince gets another big man on the heel side to add to Slick’s stable. Ken Patera came back from prison with his bad fluffy hair and creamy hairless legs to gain revenge on Bobby Heenan, and he never really did. Now here he’s fodder for the big bad man from Chicago. Not much more here. Grade: *

JT: Our final match of the night is a showcase bout for the One Man Gang, who is being prepped as a legit contender for the title tournament. Opposite him is the quickly fading Ken Patera, who was never the same after his stint in the hoosegow. These two were on opposite sides at Survivor Series and Gang eliminated Patera there. And he picks up right where he left off, jumping Patera as he disrobed and choked him with his track suit. Gang dropped some heavy blows but Kenny battled right back and actually hooked on a bear hug, even hoisting him off the mat. That was a really cool spot. Gang raked the face to break things up but Patera ducked an axe blow and locked in his full nelson. Gang reached the ropes but Patera had him on his heels and looked like he may steal this one until Gang got him trapped in the corner and buried him. Patera got one last flurry in the corner, raining down blows but a moment later Gang cracked him with a clothesline and just collapsed on him for the win. Damn if that finish was a little cleaner, this would have been a hell of a three minute tussle. After the bell, Patera got more offense in but Slick came in and broke things up. Weird way to set up Gang for Mania. Patera looked pretty good and showed nice energy and that bear hug spot was really cool and that was a surprisingly feisty little match. Grade: *1/2

Final Analysis

Scott: This was an important episode of SNME for a few reasons. First, as we head into WrestleMania IV the players all had to be placed in the proper positions as the World Title tournament looms. Second, it’s the first major show where Hulk Hogan isn’t the WWF Champion and the question was would the fans still love him if he’s just another guy on the roster. Well that question was answered swiftly in a win over Harley Race. Finally, you’re seeing how the show rotates guys in and out based on what the hot feuds are. For instance, Jake Roberts is usually a mainstay of SNME, but since he’s not really in a storyline right now he gets the night off (or wrestled off camera). Randy Savage (even more than Hogan) will always be considered the face of SNME, and from this point forward he’s pretty much on all of them. This was another fun episode with great storyline advancement and the usual great commentary from Vince and Jesse. Final Grade: B+

JT: Wow, what a hidden gem this episode was! It was a lot of fun and really flew by. The opener was quite solid and pushed along our IC title feud. Hogan/Harley was a really good and unexpected brawl and had the memorable table spot. Savage/DiBiase was a very fun showcase of their immediate chemistry and everything involved in that match played off the Main Event and set us up for Mania. Even Patera/Gang was fun as a brief squash, with Patera showing good energy and some impressive power. Jesse and Vince were right on point here, setting us up for the showdown at Trump Plaza. This is not an episode you hear much about, but it is well worth your time to check out. Final Grade: B+