So now that 1986 has come to an end and 1987 began, it would be interesting to see where some of the Superstars would go now that some of the hotter feuds of the year had already ended. However, one of the feuds that was still going on as the year started was the feud between Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff for the WWF Title. It was clearly one of the best feuds of 1986 and was still drawing pretty well, but I think by this point it was starting to reach its last legs so when it was announced that they would face off on the first SNME of the year in a cage, you knew that it would be the definitive end of the feud. I wonder if there was some thought that they could stretch the feud out further so that it would end at Wrestlemania which made sense considering how hot the feud was, but considering how long it was going on and where they were debating about having WM it seemed like they wouldn’t make it to WM and that Hogan would be shifted into another feud. It does make you wonder if maybe they should’ve started the feud later in 1986 so that it could make it to 1987, but this was a fitting end for the feud as it was on TV and put in a cage to make sure there was a clear winner.
As most remember, the feud between these two started back in June when Bobby Heenan and Adrian Adonis started putting in Orndorff’s ear that Hogan wasn’t really his friend, and then on July 19th Orndorff would complete his heel turn by attacking Hogan during a tag match and he would hook up with Bobby and the Family. The two men would stay apart for most of the summer on the house shows as Orndorff would feud with other guys while Hogan had a run with Adonis, and they would have their first match on August 24th with Orndorff winning by DQ. They would then face off at the Big Event in Toronto with Hogan winning the match by DQ and then they fought at the Sam Mushnick Tournament on 8/29 with Orndorff winning by DQ, and they would then break apart again as Hogan fought different challengers while Orndorff had a run with Roddy Piper. On the 10/4 Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hogan and Orndorff had their rematch and Hogan would again win the match by DQ after Adonis got involved, and they would continue their house show feud with Hogan winning by DQ or countout in matches that had the stipulation that if Hogan lost by DQ, he could lose the title. They would also continue the feud on TV by mainly cutting promos on each other while also having cage matches on the house shows, and they again would stay apart briefly on the house shows while Hogan also had a successful title defense against Hercules on the 11/29 SNME. It was then announced on TV that the two men would face off here to kick off the year in a steel cage match for the title, and by this point it was pretty clear that this would be the end of the feud though you did wonder if they could pull a swerve and have Orndorff win the title which would lead to Hogan chasing to WM.
I find it very interesting that they decided to have this match be first considering it was the biggest match of the night, but it did make sense since they could have the cage already constructed and didn’t have to waste time plus they usually put Hogan early in the show to draw the audience. Both men give great promos at the very beginning of the show with Hogan giving his inside the cage in an awesome visual, and they put over the importance of this match and Orndorff was brimming with confidence that he would be champion. Both men come out to “Real American” in a cool touch as Orndorff had stolen Hogan’s theme song to use for himself which was a swank touch, and Vince and Jesse put over the cage match as Jesse guarantees a new champion tonight. Hogan gets a huge pop from the crowd while Orndorff was red hot as a heel, and in another interesting touch we have two referees at ringside as senior referee Danny Davis, who had been coming under scrutiny as of late for his refereeing and he joins assigned referee Joey Marella at the door. Hogan enters the ring by climbing over the top of the cage in another cool touch and Orndorff wastes no time as he catches Hogan with a knee to start the match, and he pounds on Hogan before taking the title off of him and whipping him with it. He stomps on Hogan and then quickly tries to get out the door only for Hogan to grab his leg, and Orndorff stomps on him and drops a pair of elbows on him as the crowd chants “Hogan”. Orndorff again tries to go through the door with Bobby’s assistance only for Hogan to again grab the leg to stop him, and Orndorff rakes the eyes and stomps on Hogan before hitting a low clothesline and dropping an elbow on him. Orndorff tries to climb out over the top only for Hogan to climb up and grab him by the hair leading to a great call from Jesse saying that Hogan would not be champion if Orndorff was bald, and Hogan chokes Orndorff against the cage and pounds on him before ramming him into the cage repeatedly. He pulls Orndorff down back into the ring and knocks him down before choking him out with his headband which causes Jesse to flip out, and he pounds on Orndorff before leaping for the top of the cage only for Orndorff to pull him back in as he pounds on him. He drives the knee into Hogan twice and chokes him with his knee before crawling for the door as Bobby opens it up for him, but Hogan grabs the leg and tries to crawl over him only for Orndorff to rake the eyes. Orndorff misses the elbow twice as Hogan starts to fire up and Orndorff begs off before making a run for the top of the cage, but Hogan pulls him down and pounds on him before knocking him down. He goes for the door only for Bobby to briefly keep Marella from opening it up and Hogan opens it himself, but Orndorff grabs at Hogan’s leg as Davis quickly closes the door despite Hogan being right there. Orndorff gets a shot in and hits a headbutt to the ribs of Hogan before driving the knee into his face, and he again drives the elbow into Hogan and hits a crawling headbutt before slamming Hogan’s head into the mat. Hogan blocks a ram into the cage only for both men to send each other into the cage and they collapse to the mat, and both men manage to get to their feet and start climbing up different sides of the cage with Hogan having a slight lead until Orndorff catches up to him. Both men climb down the side and leap to the floor, landing at approximately the same time as Marella declares Hogan the winner while Davis declares Orndorff the winner and subtly celebrates with him. In a cool touch, “Real American” plays so the crowd immediately assumes Hogan won though those who paid attention know that Orndorff used the theme as well, and Vince and Jesse argue about who the winner is as Jesse says that since Davis is the senior official, his decision is the final one which was another cool touch. Marella and Davis argue about the decision until Davis shoves Marella to the ground and Hogan goes after Davis, but Orndorff comes up from behind and nails Hogan in the back which in turn causes Davis to get wiped out before ramming him into the cage. Orndorff grabs the belt as Howard Finkel announces that the official decision is a tie and that the match will be restarted as we head to a commercial break.
Back from the break, Orndorff stomps on Hogan and drags him back to the door as he forces him back into the cage, and another great line from Jesse as he believes Hogan didn’t want to get back in and was forced in by Orndorff and Marella. Orndorff goes up top and drives the elbow into Hogan before grabbing something off the mat and digging it into Hogan’s face, and he stomps on Hogan as officials assist Davis to the back. Orndorff drives the elbow into Hogan and drops a knee on him before dropping the fist on him twice, and he hits a short clothesline on Hogan and drops another fist on him only for Hogan to shove him away and he starts to hulk up. He no-sells all of Orndorff’s shots and Orndorff begs off until Hogan fires up on him and he rams Orndorff into the cage three times, and he continues to pound on Orndorff before ramming him into the cage one more time which busts him open. Hogan hoists Orndorff up and hits a backbreaker before hitting the legdrop and he starts to climb up the cage, but Bobby gets in the cage and grabs at Hogan’s foot as Orndorff recovers and tries to climb out the other side. Hogan kicks Bobby to the mat and he pulls Orndorff back into the ring before hitting an atomic drop and then he whips Bobby into the cage, and Hogan climbs up over the cage as Orndorff crawls for the door only for Hogan to manage to hit the floor first which gives him the win and he retains the title. After the match, Hogan gets back in the cage as Bobby struggles to his feet and Hogan knocks him down before hitting an atomic drop that sends Bobby out the door, and Hogan celebrates his win as they show the replay of the finish earlier with both men hitting the floor at the same time.
The match itself was pretty good as both men worked hard and put on a hot cage match for TV, and I thought that this was a fitting end for this feud given how their matches have played out with no clean finishes. These two men have had great chemistry throughout their matches and whenever they got together, you knew that they would have really fun matches and this one was no different. Orndorff was really hitting his stride in the ring by this point and deserves more credit for working through an arm injury given how hot this feud has been, and Hogan was also hitting his groove as well as he was now coming up on three years as champion which was crazy to think about given how much more TV there has been at this time. Both men hold no punches in the cage and let it all hang out with Hogan finally getting the win and vanquishing Orndorff to settle this feud. The only thing that baffles me is that if this was supposed to be the end of the feud and Hogan ends up winning, why did they do the false finish in the middle by having both men hit the floor at the same time? I can only assume that they wanted to have some uncertainty and have the thought that Orndorff could win the title and build to the rematch at WM, but given where they were planning to have WM I don’t think this feud had the legs to get to that point. It was also pretty clear that they also did this finish to continue the ongoing saga of Danny Davis as he had already started subtly favoring the heels and that continues here as he quickly awards Orndorff the win. I thought Vince and Jesse were completely awesome in this match as Vince was soundly behind Hogan and Jesse called him out on it, and it was around here where Jesse’s disdain for Hogan really started to come out and it would continue. The crowd was red hot for the match even though they were a bit confused during the false finish, but they do pop huge for Hogan when he wins. Hogan retains the title inside the cage over a game Orndorff and both men finally move on as Hogan waits to see who will be his next challenger come WM.
Final Grade: ***1/2