Scott & JT’s Vintage Vault Refresh: The Main Event I – 2/5/88

*** 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! ***


The Main Event I – 2/5/88

February 5, 1988
Market Square Arena
Indianapolis, IN
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura

Fun Fact: This is the first SNME spin-off episode which would be a live Friday night prime time broadcast from Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. The WWF’s popularity was flying high at this point. After an historic year in 1987, with the massive showing at WrestleMania III, the creation of their second PPV event Survivor Series and ratings of their SNME events which aired during late night on Saturdays, everything the WWF was touching turned into money.

Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol wanted to see how things would go if the program was put into prime time. Ebersol gave McMahon one hour on Friday night. In return, McMahon promised a WrestleMania main event as well as indicating something big would happen.

The end result was massive for both the WWF and NBC. The live broadcast drew 33 million viewers and a 15.2 rating, which to this day both remain records for an American wrestling broadcast on television. It would also result in the end of the four year title reign for Hulk Hogan and would set things up for WrestleMania IV.

1) Randy Savage defeats Honky Tonk Man via countout at 8:39; Honky Tonk Man retains WWF Intercontinental Title

Fun Fact: We start the broadcast with another rematch, this one from SNME XII for the Intercontinental title. Following the XII match, Savage was triple teamed by HTM and the Hart Foundation. As HTM lifted his guitar to hit Savage, Miss Elizabeth jumped in the way to save him. HTM pushed her to the mat and then brought the guitar down on Savage’s head. Elizabeth ran to the back and returned with Hulk Hogan, who cleared house, initiating a new friendship between Savage and Hogan. Savage continued to pursue the IC title on the house show circuit, with many DQ or countout results. HTM claimed during the leadup to this rematch that he would not only keep his title but would also win Miss Elizabeth.

Scott: This show was huge, super huge. This wasn’t Saturday night at 11:30pm. This was prime time on a Friday night at perhaps the high point of the Federation Era. So they had several matches for the arena crowd, including some characters that would be on the forefront for 1988. However the main focus for this show was the top guys in the company and both these men certainly are it. This feud had been raging for months after Savage’s face turn in the early fall. After what happened in October when Savage got belted with the guitar and Elizabeth was shoved to the ground, things were very heated. This match right from the get go is so much better than their first meeting. Savage is all over the place attacking Honky in and out of the ring and really wanting to be IC Champion again. Jimmy Hart and Peggy Sue (one of Savage’s future managers) were a distracting presence and Savage couldn’t corral Honky to win the match. In what was almost a glorified squash where the champion had literally no offense, Jimmy Hart clocks Savage with the megaphone while he was distracted. Honky was counted out anyway so the chicanery in the ring was all afterwards. Savage chases everybody off with the guitar and gets his hand raised in victory, but without the Intercontinental Championship. That’s ok with Savage because soon as he just may have bigger fish to fry in a few months. The match was fun and proved Savage is running with the main eventers, and Honky is the greatest chicken shit champion of all time. Grade: **

JT: For the first time in decades, professional wrestling arrived in prime time as this special edition of The Main Event aired live on a Friday evening on NBC. And knowing this was such a massive opportunity, the WWF loaded the card up with two big time matches that were looking to wrap two of 1987’s hottest and most enduring feuds. In our opener, Randy Savage is looking for revenge on the Honky Tonk Man and wants to gain back his Intercontinental Title while doing it. Honky still has a tight grip on the gold he unbelievable won back in the summer and upped his heel ante when he shoved the beloved Elizabeth hard to the mat in October. The Indianapolis crowd was raucous as the show started up and the hype continued to build. Honky Tonk and Jimmy Hart emerged first and Honky was joined by his main squeeze Peggy Sue and the trio danced happily, looking very confident about the title bout. The fans went bonkers for Savage and Macho wasted no time going right at Honky, cracking him with a series of elbows both in and out of the ring. Savage rammed Honky’s head into Hart’s and just kept on pounding the champ. Savage was a man possessed but eventually whiffed on a charge and crashed into the corner. Savage recovered but bounded to the floor to chase Hart, who had caused distraction. Back inside, the referee was tied up with Hart, allowing Honky to pelt Savage in the gut with the megaphone. Honky started wearing Savage down but Macho broke free and landed another elbow. Honky cut that comeback quickly with a knee to the gut that knocked Savage to the floor. Back inside, the champ was aggressive with his kicks and punches, clearly trying to match Macho’s pace and understanding the urgency due to Savage’s demeanor earlier. Honky cut off another comeback and then went outside to taunt Liz, but that just gave Savage a chance to recover and slug him from behind. Back in the ring, Savage brought the heat, kicking Honky in the chops and then chucking him to the floor. He careened off the top with a double axe handle and pitched the champ back inside, looking for the kill. Savage hit another axe blow but could only get a two count. As he hooked a sleeper, Peggy Sue went at Liz, drawing Savage out to the floor. Honky chased after but gut rammed into the post as the crowd buzzed. Savage rolled inside and would end up winning by count out but Honky retained his title. Honky would grab his guitar and have a stand off with Savage, but Hart bopped Macho with the megaphone, knocking him to the mat. Liz scurried to his side and protected her man, but Honky didn’t care and took a swing… but thankfully Savage popped up and blocked it. The crowd went bonkers as Honky scampered away. Savage would welcome Liz into the ring and raise her hand before hoisting her on his shoulder, officially cementing his face turn and showing his respect for Liz as opposed to his jealous rage that we had been so used to. The match was really very basic but the crazy heat and strong energy and pacing from both guys provide enough intangibles to bump this up a notch. Savage doesn’t get the gold but he did get the win and also saved his woman. So not a total win… but bigger things just may lay ahead. Grade: **1/2

2) Andre the Giant defeats Hulk Hogan to win WWF Heavyweight Title with a double underhook suplex at 9:05

Fun Fact: This is the rematch most wrestling fans had been looking forward to since WrestleMania III. At the very beginning of that match, Hogan went to bodyslam Andre, but wasn’t able to get him up. Instead, Andre falls on Hogan, leading to a very near pinfall, which Andre thought was a three count. This one moment in the match lead to a near year-long build to their rematch. Between that match and here, a new character had entered the fray looking for the title, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. According to him, “everyone has a price for the Million Dollar Man”. In late 1987, DiBiase announced that he was going to buy the WWF championship. When Hogan turned him down and told him that he would have to win it in the ring, DiBiase turned to Andre to get the title for him. DiBiase had purchased Andre’s contract from Bobby Heenan and had promised Andre a large sum of money to deliver the title to him after beating Hogan. At the USA Network special, Royal Rumble, Hogan and Andre signed the contract for the rematch setting the stage for the biggest rematch in pro wrestling, which would occur live on national television.

Scott: Well here we are. The biggest rematch in WWF history, live on network television. This match was almost as big if not bigger than their first match at WrestleMania. That was on PPV, but this on free TV on a Friday night. Millions (including me) watching live at home with my brother (rooting hard for the Giant of course) and I thought this was going to be a typical Hogan title defense where he will get beat down, make his comeback and win. The presence of newcomer Ted DiBiase adds some different sizzle to the match rather than Bobby Heenan. One thing I noticed now is that in the pre-match interview Hogan had his normal WWF Championship belt, but when he came down the aisle he had this new “Winged Eagle” belt. That will be the WWF Title belt for the next decade, and most fans decry as their favorite incarnation. Hogan comes out red hot and takes out DiBiase and his bodyguard Virgil but Andre took control and spent most of the match choking out the champion and weakening him. This may be the last time in his career Andre will be this mobile, and even so he’s using basic power offense and working Hogan with chops, boots and punches with the occasional bodyslam. It seems to me that Andre is more aggressive with his offense even if he is moving very slow. Hogan makes his comeback and hits his legdrop but the referee is occupied with Virgil so his pinfall attempt isn’t counted. Andre then hits his “Andre suplex” and as I’m awaiting the kick out, Hogan lifts his shoulder at two, but the referee kept counting to three. Wait, what? No this must be a mistake. I was awaiting a reversal and a restart of the match. Hogan’s shoulder clearly lifted his shoulder at two but Jesse (who was on cloud nine) says there’s no instant replay. And then the referee gives the title to Andre. I was stunned, literally stunned. I was staring at the TV completely frozen. My brother was dancing around the living room laughing at me and I had no words. Hulk Hogan’s epic four-year run as WWF Champion as the face of the company was over. Andre, then in an incredible turn of events, hands the title over to Ted DiBiase, who walks out with the WWF Title and Hogan is completely inconsolable. This was an incredible moment on live network television. But then out comes a guy who looks exactly like Dave Hebner. CHICANERY! We have two referees that look alike? Dave Hebner has a twin brother Earl, who was a referee down in Jim Crockett Promotions. Now it looks like Ted DiBiase paid off a referee to get plastic surgery to look like Dave Hebner. Total outside the box nonsense that was so great. The only bad thing is that Andre spent his entire career wanting the WWF Title, then he gets it and just hands it over to Ted DiBiase for cash. Weird. The entire package was worth the hackneyed finish but now (for the moment) a new WWF Champion. We will see how long that lasts. Grade: **

JT: Ever since Hulk Hogan slammed and defeated Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III, the hype for a rematch has been boiling hot. Andre took some time off for surgery but returned in the fall to defeat Hogan by count out at Survivor Series. He then was sold to Ted DiBiase and finally was set to receive his title rematch here. It was a really big deal for a bout this huge to be given away on free network TV but it was a stroke of genius to do so. Even with DiBiase roaming ringside, many had to assume Hogan would retain heading into WrestleMania. The anticipation grew as Andre lumbered to the ring, his enormous back casting a shadow across the the aisle and his presence creating a stir amongst the molten Indianapolis crowd. Hogan entrance was fantastic too as the fans went bonkers. The shot of Andre, DiBiase and Virgil standing on the apron as Hogan tore of his shirt was really cool. As was the slow pan up Andre’s body that ended on his confident smirk. The buzz grew and grew until Andre finally stepped in the ring and the match got underway. Hogan cleaned house, beating on DiBiase and Virgil before rocking Andre with some big right hands and chops. Andre stayed on his feet and absorbed the blows but Hogan kept laying them in. He tried a couple of clotheslines while also cracking Virgil and DiBiase yet again but Andre would not go down. This is a great way to start as it is keeping the crowd super engaged and making Andre look like a monster. Hogan kept pounding but made a huge mistake when he went to the top rope as Andre blocked him and slammed him to the mat. The champ dodged an elbow but got caught in a choke by the prone Andre. Back on their feet, Andre slung Hogan hard into the corner and then slammed him hard to the mat. Andre choked away as Jesse Ventura put over the great job Dave Hebner was doing in calling things evenly. The Giant drilled Hogan with a boot to the face that knocked him to the floor but Virgil pitched him right back in, allowing the challenger to go right back to the choke.

Hogan broke free and started laying in more chops and right hands and this time his aerial strike worked as he hit a clothesline off the middle rope. Virgil started tying up the referee as Hogan dropped the leg and covered. Hogan popped up and yelled at Hebner but Andre stalked him, cracked him with a pair of headbutts and hit a double arm suplex… for the win? Hogan got his shoulder up at two but the referee counted three and granted Andre the win and the title. The crowd lost their minds and Hogan freaked out as Jesse celebrated and rubbed it in to McMahon. DiBiase and Virgil surrounded the new champion, who was granted the title by Hebner. Things got crazier as Andre then forfeited the title to DiBiase, who took the belt and laughed away in Hogan’s face. The batshit madness continued as another Dave Hebner showed up… yes, a twin. The two referees stared each other down as the crowd booed lustily and Hogan tried to sort everything out. The Hebners shoved each other until one slugged the other and kicked him out of the ring. Hogan grabbed him and pitched him over the top rope into… er, over the arms of Andre, Virgil and DiBiase. This was wild stuff that shocked the wrestling world on many levels. It was amazing to see Hogan’s run end like this, especially right before Mania. It was also a huge boost to the character of Ted DiBiase, who instantly has caused all sorts of mayhem with his millions of dollars and deep greed. I think the match itself may even have been better than their one at Mania and the post match kerfluffle was some of the best storytelling we have seen in the PPV era. For the first time in our review, Hulk Hogan is no longer World Champion and chaos has fully ensued. Grade: **

Fun Fact: On the live broadcast, the show was running long and there was not enough time for the final match to air to completion. So the Strike Force/Hart Foundation tag match was still going on when NBC ended the show. When the events were placed on the WWE Network in 2014, the ending of this match was included and shown for the first time ever. Strike Force would win the bout.

Final Analysis

Scott:This was a one match show to bring millions to their TV sets. It was the biggest moment for Vince, as there hasn’t been prime time network wrestling since the DuPont days of the AWA. Not only was the buildup to the match great, but to now have the shocking moment of Hogan actually losing the WWF Title and then the chicanery that followed it. The Savage/Honky match was there to give Savage some shine and to fill the network block up. I’m not sure if the tag team title match was accidently dumped or if they knew they were going to run out of time but no bother. Clearly Hogan’s post-match interview was more important than the match anyway. The overall grade won’t be great, but that doesn’t discount the incredible moment of the match, the hot crowd and the shocking finish. Not that we put two and two together at the time, but with WrestleMania IV around the corner, this was the start of that build. Final Grade: C

JT: A massive night of wrestling television in prime time that more than delivered. This night wasn’t about workrate or in ring action. It was all about getting eyeballs on the product and delivering a major, memorable moment. Mission accomplished. We have a new WWF champion… maybe. We have chicanery and mischief and mayhem and madness. Ted DiBiase is immediately positioned as a major player… hell, he may be the new champion! Also, Randy Savage seemingly has put his issue with Honky Tonk Man to bed and based on the crowd reaction, he is easily the second hottest face on the roster. The company was cooking heading toward Mania but decided to shake things up and really open up a lot of potential doors in advance of their trip to Atlantic City. This show easily delivered on the hype and put a huge stake in the ground for the company. Final Grade: A