WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event IX – January 3, 1987 (taped December 14, 1986)
Hartford Civic Center – Hartford, CT
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura
Thirty-Five years ago, the World Wrestling Federation was in its “Golden Age” and the year that would give us WrestleMania III began with a noteworthy “Saturday Night’s Main Event.” The five-match pre-taped card was highlighted by a huge blow-off to end the long-running feud (approximately 6 months) between adversaries Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Heavyweight Champion, and his former buddy, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Hogan and Orndorff had been feuding with each other throughout the summer and fall months of 1986 with no clean outcomes in any of their matches. It was decided upon they’d finally settle the score within the confines of a steel cage where there could not be a count-out or a disqualification, only a winner. During the feud Orndorff came to the ring using Hogan’s entrance music as his own, “Real American.” Hulk Jr., Orndorff was out to prove himself NOT to be once and for all. Adrian Adonis had successfully planted that belief into Orndorff’s mind during the summer months of 1986 with Orndorff previously teaming with Hogan in tag-team bouts. The brainwashing by Adonis led to Orndorff’s heel turn against Hogan and Heenan becoming his manager.
In Orndorff’s pre-match interview with “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Heenan acknowledges that he’s taken out an insurance policy on Orndorff’s title belt once he defeats Hogan to become the heavyweight champion of the world. Orndorff refuses to answer any questions from Okerlund himself.
Hogan’s pre-match remarks, meanwhile, center on the steel cage match being the end of the road for him and Orndorff, calling it a “DEAD END” for “Mr. Wonderful.” Okerlund asks Hogan why he didn’t end things with Orndorff earlier on? Hogan calls the cage the most brutal arena of human competition and it is the match of last resort. Hogan was SO hyper juiced on anabolic steroids in 1986-87 that it carried into his promos.
Steel Cage Match for the WWF Heavyweight Championship:
“Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) vs. Hulk Hogan (c)
Result/Analysis: Hogan via escape (13:05) retaining the WWF Heavyweight Championship. The match is famous for the controversy 6 1/2 minutes in where Hogan and Orndorff both escape the cage with their feet simultaneously touching the floor. Hogan’s feet, based off several replays, appear to land first, though Ventura protests the ruling of a tie based on the knee bend in Hogan’s legs, crediting Orndorff as three hundreths of second quicker. LOL. Marella sides with Hogan while “Dangerous” Danny Davis sides with Orndorff, naturally. Before the re-start, Hogan takes out Davis, actually, Orndorff does, when he attacks Hogan from behind with Hulk celebrating his would-be victory. That leaves Marella in charge. Davis was the entrenched heel referee of the WWF who had previously helped Randy Savage become Intercontinental Champion and The Hart Foundation unseat The British Bulldogs for the Tag-Team Championship, so him aiding and abetting Orndorff, and Heenan, by proxy, was an added wrinkle for this match especially for Ventura and McMahon to fight over on commentary throughout. It’s hilarious! Orndorff becoming WWF Heavyweight Champion was never in the plans but his six-month feud with Hogan sold out countless arenas and drew a lot of money to get Hulk onto his next feud with Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III. Orndorff deserves credit for that. Hogan dominates the resumption of the match, abusing Orndorff by utilizing the cage and choking him out with his bandana to show how he’s a cheap artist. Heenan interjects himself to save Orndorff from defeat only he, too, is tossed around and left in the dust. Orndorff takes the Hogan leg drop and Hulk escapes to retain the title. In its proper context, being the blow-off match to end their feud, and, comparing the cage match here to Hogan’s versus King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania 2 in 1986, this match also being a first of its kind on national television, it’s an entertaining conclusion to the feud and it gave Ventura more Hogan ammo to work with as he could claim Orndorff was the rightful winner and champion. 35 years later, an eon of time since past, Ventura’s anti-Hogan schtick still holds. Orndorff would disappear from television for a while following this match only to return in the summer months to feud with Heenan, “The Heenan Family,” and Heenan’s newest protégé “Ravishing” Rick Rude.
Okerlund recaps the long-running feud between George “The Animal” Steele and Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Steele fell hard for Elizabeth in 1986. Call it a “Beauty and The Beast” story. Anyway, Savage went beserk and defeated Steele at WrestleMania 2 in a match where he defended the Intercontinental Title. Okerlund asks Elizabeth in Savage’s pre-match interview if Steele’s promised “surprise” tonight might be for her? Savage shuts Elizabeth up from talking, though, since he’s the champion and the one people want to hear from, telling Elizabeth, “I’m the champion and no one cares about you!” Savage threatens Okerlund and orders Elizabeth to walk him to the ring. You see, Savage had anger management issues long before he had anger managememt issues. Okerlund ascertains that Steele and his promised “surprise” have gotten to “The Macho Man.”
Upon Savage’s entrance, Ventura speculates that perhaps Steele is bringing one of his relatives out with him as a surprise, one of his first cousins – an orangutan. LOL.
Steele gives no further clue as to what his “surprise” is when Okerlund asks him in his pre-match interview. It turns out the “surprise” may just be a gift to Elizabeth of himself as a figurine action figure. Nah …
WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship:
Randy “Macho Man” Savage (c) w/ Elizabeth vs. George “The Animal” Steele
Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (8:08) after using the ring bell with the referee down. Steele kidnaps Elizabeth during the match as his real surprise (for Savage) appears: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Steele characterized the 1980’s WWF if there ever was someone. You could argue no one wrestler portrayed his gimmick any better, especially as Steele’s was as unorthodox as it got. Between beating up the referee or biting into the turnbuckle pad(s) – in every match, then using the turnbuckle stuffing as a weapon, Steele didn’t apply a single wrestling hold to his opponent, yet in his era, he was SO “over.” Steamboat was returning to set himself up as the challenger to Savage for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania III with a revenge storyline in play as Macho had given Steamboat a crushed larynx (kayfabe) a few months earlier on WWF SuperStars. Steele’s infatuation with Elizabeth, and thereby lengthy feud with Savage, had dragged on for nine months since WrestleMania 2 in April 1986 and the matches were all the same. Savage would win (he’d cheat to do so) but he’d get beaten up and roughhoused throughout leaving each match with a completely disheveled look. Savage was “selling” and he did so to every part of Steele’s gimmick. CLASSIC!!! You’d remember little about the Savage/Steele feud save for the Elizabeth bits, the wackiness of their many matches, and Steele later being intererwoven into the Steamboat/Savage all-time classic at WrestleMania III.
Rating: * (a theatric masterpiece and Savage’s bumping leads to * in the history books)
Okerlund interviews “King” Harley Race with Heenan present as Race’s manager. Race had become King by winning the non-televised house show-only King of the Ring Tournament on July 14, 1986. You’d be hard pressed to find video footage from that event in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Race tells Okerlund he is The King. The King of ALL wrestling. And everyone shall bow to him in servanthood. Race tries forcing Okerlund to bow for starters. LOL. Heenan chimes in that The JYD, that miserable mut, will be on all fours bow-wowing to “The King.” Gene thinks we’ll see the fur fly tonight as The Junkyard Dog is a proud warrior.
JYD talks to Okerlund following Race’s ring entrance. Dog says this country has never had no Queen and it’s never had no King and the only one his mom and daught taught him to bow down to was the good Lord above. “Handsome Harley Race, Dog says, Who in the he** do you think you’re dealing with”? This same interview clip was used in the pre-match package for JYD versus Race at the upcoming WrestleMania III but their feud began here. Gene ponders that the King may have sat upon the throne for too long.
“King” Harley Race w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan vs. The Junkyard Dog
Result/Analysis: The Junkyard Dog via DQ (4:38) due to outside interference from Heenan. This was yet another match on this SNME card that served as a precursor to a WrestleMania III bout, one in which the loser would have to bow to his victor. Race slugs JYD down in the early going and drops his patented knee. Race, known for his headbutt, tries one on JYD but that’s a mistake since JYD has the thickest cranium around, three inches thick according to Ventura. Dog crowns Race and sends him outside the ring. He then takes upon himself to declare himself The King, donning Race’s robe and crown. Heenan protests this display and he pays the price as JYD beats him up. Race returns to the ring to drop a viscious elbow off the top rope but the match is tossed out with referee Danny Davis even ruling for the JYD on a disqualification. Heenan tries forcing the JYD to bow to Race but that winds up with Dog sticking his ASS in Race’s direction. The segment ends with JYD clearing the ring, Davis included. Vince and Jesse took sides throughout. Hilarious.
Prior to a commercial break, Adrian Adonis gives pre-recorded comments where he tells “Rowdy” Roddy Piper he’s back and Piper is about to live his worst nightmare.
Meanwhile, Orndorff is upset over his loss to Hogan and thus being denied the WWF Heavyweight Championship. Heenan attempts to calm down Orndorff by claiming that he’s the champion of the world as the video footage will prove. Bobby says he’ll go directly to World Wrestling Federation President Jack Tunney and the outcome will be overturned in one month or less even. Okerlund chimes in that Hogan won the match and Heenan knows it.
Adonis and Jimmy Hart are with Okerlund next. “The Adorable One” says he returned from injury (alleged separated shoulder) – – – after Piper had crushed his arm with a crutch on a previous SNNE – – – because he’s not a mortal man. Hart says Adrian is all heart and he couldn’t be kept out of the ring even for one million bucks.
Piper tells Okerlund he’s not fighting for money but he’s fighting for pride. Adonis humiliated him and made him, and wrestling by proxy, look like a prostitute. That was the imfamous three-on-one Adonis, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and Magnificent Muraco assault on Piper during his return “Piper’s Pit” segment following a five-month hiatus after WrestleMania 2 in 1986, and his subsequent face turn.
“The Adorable” Adrian Adonis (w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart) vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Result/Analysis: Adonis via count-out (3:49). Piper unleashes a blitzkrieg on Adonis from the opening bell, a pre-cursor for what lay ahead for their match at WrestleMania III in two+ months. Adonis takes the beating and bumps all over the ring in a classic sell job while Ventura rags on McMahon for the bias in his commentary all throughout the night. Piper gets caught in Adonis’ sleeper hold, “Goodnight, Irene,” but that takes them both outside the ring. Adonis sprays Piper in his eyes with his perfume bottle and Piper becomes blinded too much to beat referee Joey Marella’s ten count and Adonis picks up the cheap win. Storyline advancement again here.
Meanwhile, Hogan is “getting off” on his victory over Orndorff tonight despite “Mr. Wonderful” and Bobby Heenan crying foul and claiming they’ll present WWF President Jack Tunney with the video proof showing Hogan actually lost. Yes, Hulk said he’d be getting off. Maybe not like that but …
“The Battle for Texas”
Jimmy Jack Funk vs. Blackjack Mulligan
Result/Analysis: Mulligan via pinfall (2:33) with a running back elbow. The match is a total squash and time filler. Utterly pointless this was, yet good for trivia purposes as having happened on the card. Neither guy made any substantial impact during this time period in wrestling so it’s an out of place match. There is a female referee whom I didn’t recognize.
The Verdict: Hogan and Orndorff saw their feud end, albeit in controversy. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat returned to set-up WrestleMania III versus Randy “Macho Man” Savage as George “The Animal” Steele kept on with his Miss Elizabeth infatuation. JYD/Harley Race previewed their Mania bout. Hot Rod only had a further score to settle with Adrian Adonis. 90 minutes of free wrestling on a Saturday Night when the product was in high demand and not over saturated. 1987 began here for the WWF and the stage only grew “Bigger, Badder and Better” within two months time come The Pontiac Silverdome. Historically speaking, the ninth SNME was impactful.