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WWF Saturday Night's Main Event - March 12, 1988
by Erick Von Erich
It's part XV of NBC's orginal SNME run! Taped less than a week before the airdate: March 7, at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Not exactly homebase for the WWF and somewhat of "enemy territory". We get opening promos from Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Slick (with the One Man Gang), "King" Harley Race & Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, then closing things out with the NON-champion, Hulk Hogan. The Savage/DiBiase exchanges are noteworthy, because of what they'd go on to do. Slick's promo is an "Olympic Update" as he says Ken Patera will "do what all American Olympians do best: lose to the One Man Gang"! I'm no Olympic historian, but I don't recall the Gang showing up at Calgary and beating the tar out of any members of the US Olympic Team that year, yet I could be wrong. Oh, and we also get a NEW opening theme for SNME. It's clearly inspired by "Obsession" with more tempo and overall excitement in it. For my money, it's the best theme they used for any TV event. But with so much going on in the World Wrestling Federation, let's get down to ringside for...
Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart)
As the show starts, Jesse Venutra and Vince McMahon have their usual opening banter. McMahon mentions that he's from the South and Jesse responds by calling him a redneck. Strange little on-air mention of McMahon's heritage. Anyways, this is pretty much the blow-off for the Beefcake/Valentine feud, which had officially run since November '87 and unofficially since the Dream Team Exploded at WrestleMania III. Valentine starts off with a series of forearm uppercuts, until Beefcake comes off the rope with his high-knee. Beefcake with a slam, big boot, two atomic drops and a flip-over cover gets a 2 count. Valentine keeps selling Beefcake's attack until he suckers him into the corner. Valentine with some chops, then a top-rope elbowsmash for 2. Figure-four is applied, but Beefcake grabs the ropes. Valentine keeps working the leg and kicks Beefcake to the floor. This is the cue for the Honky Tonk Man
to walk down, take the house mic, and run down Bruti. I honestly forgot all about this and had no idea that Honky and Bruti did a little face-to-face build before their WrestleMania IV match. Action resumes in the ring, as Hammer keeps thumping away, then softens up Bruti's legs for the figure-four. Valentine gets his trunks pulled down, then kicked into the turnbuckles. Beefcake with a mighty comeback (and me with a terrible Gwar reference), hooks the sleeper and they tumble outside. Jimmy Hart gets chased around ringside, leading Bruti back into the ring and an ambush from the Hammer. Belly-to-back suplex, both guys hit the mat, but Bruti gets his shoulder up at 2 as Hammer basically pins himself. Of course, Hammer and Hart celebrate, thinking they've won, as Bruti sneaks in and clips a few locks off of Hammer. Bruti is officially announced as the winner as Hammer has a temper tantrum. Beefcake fends them off with his super-sized shears and steals Jimmy Hart's jacket. A decent match, despite the cheesy over-used belly-to-back ending. Tied up the issue with Valentine, added Honky to the mix and kept Beefcake strong going into his WrestleMania IV Intercontinental Championship shot.
Hulk Hogan vs. "King" Harley Race (w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan)
Still feeling the aftershocks of "The Main Event", Hogan is without the WWF title and out to give someone a serious tushy-kicking. Little shocking to see him without the belt and being tossed back into the mix of contenders by meeting Race in a random match-up (yes, the two had a series in the summer of '87, but this is well removed from that). Hogan hits the ring, chases off Heenan, then shrugs off Race's early offense. Three Race headbutts seemt to daze Hogan, but a fourth wakes him up. For whatever reason, Hogan has a taped fist and goes to work on Race's mug, knocking him to the ground then finally ripping off the rest of his tanktop. Three clothesline and Race tumbles over the top tope, almost crotching himself on a steel chair at ringside. Hogan follows him out and rams him into the ringpost. Hogan chases Heenan, then Race atries going for a piledriver, only to get backdropped onto the (padded) floor. After all this, we can make out referee Joey Marella who is only at a FOUR count. Hogan with a ringside atomic drop, then sends Race into the post again and slams him. They finally make it back inside, where Hogan keeps unloading on Race. He unwraps his taped fist and uses the stand to choke out Race. Big clothesline and a cover, but Marella interrupts to take away the tape strand. More heel Hogan tactics, until Heenan distracts and Race gets in a double axe-handle. Race with headbutts a plenty, kneedrops, belly-to-belly suplex and a piledriver. Hogan gets tossed outside, where Race sets him up the ringside table. Hogan dodges and Race's ribs crack into the table, breaking it. Common Internet Ruling and WWF Kayfabe is that this crippled Race...but he shrugs it off an goes right back to the match! Race rolls Hogan back in and lands his diving top-rope headbutt. In a suprising turn of events, Hogan kicks out of the finisher at 2! Whip and a clothesline into the corner. Another charging clothesline, followed by the big legdrop almost immediately, as Hogan gets the 3 count.
An absolutely entertaining match. Very quick pace, hot crowd and lots of outside action. The underlying story with Hogan's rage over losing his title was a nice element. Race's matches with Hogan were probably the best of his WWF "King" run. The table spot is a highlight, but it's strange that Race still went on to wrestle for almost a month after this (including WMIV), showed no immediate effects from it, yet a lot of fans claim otherwise. Over three months later, in late June, the WWF did a flashback to this match, saying it took Race out of action. I think the real story is that the table impact eventually led to a hernia for Race. I'm guessing that Race, ever the bad-ass tough guy, pressed on and didn't have it checked out for awhile. I'm not so sure that he directly "retired" from it, either, as he had additional in-ring runs with the WWF, AWA and even NWA before becoming a manager in 1991.
"Macho Man" Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. "Million Dollar Man" Red DiBiase (w/Virgil & Andre the Giant)
Another seemingly random SNME match-up, but this is nice foreshadowing for the rest of 1988. With the help of Virgil, DiBiase gets the early jump on Savage, working him into the corner, choking him on the ropes, then whipping him in for a reverse elbowsmash. DiBiase with a flying elbow from the second rope as Savage does his usual selling schtick, acting like he's been shot (or has really bad digestive issues). Savage reverses an Irish whip, lands a reverse elbow, then catches DiBiase with a knee. Charging knee to the back sends DiBiase flipping outside. Savage pulls him back in and lands a flying double axe-handle from the top. Savage's charging neck-drop on the top rope is next. After a brief meeting with Andre, DiBiase suckers Savage in with a kneelift and lands 3 fist-drops. Whip to the corner, but Savage gets his knees up to block DiBiase's charge. Standing elbowdrop gets 2 for Savage. Slam, but Savage misses a kneedrop. DiBiase works the spinning toe-hold, until Savage kicks him off and over the top rope! They brawl at ringside, until Virgil interferes. Referee "Good" Dave Hebner orders Virgil to the back as we go to commercial.
Action resumes as DiBiase lands a shot from the second rope and an elbowdrop for 2. Chinlock from DiBiase to slow things down, finally, after a good 7-8 minutes of non-stop action. Savage fights his way up, hits the ropes and nails a charging clothesline. Ref-bump occurs as they hit the ropes. Savage throws DiBiase outside and connects with his flying double axe-handle from the top turnbuckle! With the ref out, Andre waddles over to beat the living snot out of Savage. Liz is concerned and runs to the back. DiBiase revises Hebner and encourages him to start the count-out. Savage can't make it off the floor and is counted out, as DiBiase officially wins. Virgil returns as all three bad guys start to do a beatdown on Savage. Hulk Hogan then runs in, with steel chair in hand and Liz in tow, to cleae the ring. Hogan helps Savage to his feet and a good ovation. Great match, as we're now 3-for-3 on this SNME. I usually frown on count-out decisions, but this worked very well. Great way to tease what was to come between DiBiase and Savage, post-WMIV, although we as fans had no idea it was coming.
The Killer Bees vs. The Islanders (w/Bobby Heenan)
B. Brian Blair & "Jumping" Jim Brunzell vs. Haku & Tama
To be a weenie to both the Bees and the British Bulldogs, Heenan has a beekeeper's mask on, in addition to an empty dog collar. Brunzell starts off fast with a slam and a drop-kick on Tama for 2. Double-team work on Tama as they target his left arm. Brunzell misses anotehr drop-kick, allowing Tama to take over. Suplex from Tama gets 2, the Haku is in for the heavy artillery with his own drop-kick. Both guys are down a double clothesline, then tag off to their partners. Blair with an atomic drop on Tama, a slam and one for Haku as well. Blair with a roll-up off the ropes for 2...but the ref stops the count as Haku enters the ring. Brunzell is in, as well, and while the ref shuffles Brunzell away, Haku blasts Blair with a clothesline and scores the 3 count. Not bad for what was shown, as this was only the only televised fall of what was a 2/3 Falls match.
Ken Patera vs. The One Man Gang (w/Slick)
I'm not as harsh on Patera as most, but this is a definite "meh" match. Gang attacks as Patera's dis-robing, choking him with his own warm-up pants. Patera fights back with his "weasel whacker" brace, whips Gang to the corner then applies a bearhug. Gang rakes the eyes to break, then gets caught in a (nearly) full nelson. Patera thumps away, until Gang crushes him with a clothesline/body press off the ropes. Very sloppy, but Gang gets the 3 count. Patera attacks after the bell and tries to slam the Gang, but Slick and his Cane of Power break things up. Patera did his best and got the crowd fired up a bit, but this was an ugly match with almost no offense from the Gang, which is probably why it was mercifully kept at just under 3 minutes. In a nitpicky editing moment, we can see the ringside table from the Hogan/Race match, still un-cracked and looking fine.
"Mean" Gene Okerlund is backstage with a cackling Hulk Hogan. The gist is that Hogan's snapped and on the warpath. Jesse and McMahon have two more hype and analysis segments to close out the show.
Why'd You Watch This?
The Hogan/Race match is pretty famous, while the rest of the show is largely forgotten, which is a shame. Going by my scorecard, 4 of the 5 matches are high-powered and full of action. The fifth (Patera/Gang) was kept short enough so as to not ruin the overall card. This episode probably ranks somewhere between 5 to 10 of the series; not top 5, but definitely top 10. Not too hard to find a copy of this show on the Internets, if you want to watch some quality wrestling for about 70 minutes.
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