WWF Prime Time Wrestling: January 5, 1987

WWF Prime Time Wrestling
– January 5, 1987

Hosts: Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Lord Alfred Hayes, Ken Resnick, Vince McMahon, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bruno Sammartino and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

In studio, Gorilla and “The Brain” discuss the matches on tap while bantering with each other as was customary. Two nights before, Saturday Night’s Main Event IX had aired on NBC but there’s no mention of that at the top of the broadcast. All of the matches were pre-taped on these shows, yet long before the Internet existed, it didn’t matter. No one knew anything and these Monday night’s reeked of pure awesomeness. Up first, we get tag-team action! Howard Finkel, aka “The Fink” handles the ring introductions.

The Dream Team [Brutus Beefcake and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine] (w/ “Luscious” Johnny V.)
The Islanders [Haku and Tama]

Result/Analysis: The Dream Team via pinfall (14:15 aired) when Valentine pins Tama after Tama had been crotched across the top rope by Beefcake with Johnny V also running interference. The match takes place at Madison Square Garden but it’s anyones guess as to when, late in 1986 I’d surmise, that it did. Monsoon and Hayes dissect the tag-team ranks and surmise the winning team of this bout would be thrust into the number one contenders spot. That held no truth but Gorilla had a way of making you believe the inner workings of the World Wrestling Federation in those days. Johnny V drops by to discuss his Dream Team on commentary before he assumes his managerial duties and he lays claim to MSG being the home of The Dream Team saying things here won’t go as badly for Beefcake and Valentine as they did at WrestleMania 2. At a minimum, that was 6 months prior to this match, but Valient and The Dream Team never did get over losing the tag-team titles to The British Bulldogs there so bringing up their defeat, be it from Valient or any of the announcers, was highly relevant in an era of limited television and/or pay-per-view exposure. The Islanders were a newly formed tag-team, though Haku (as King Tonga) and Tama (as Tonga Kid), had been in the WWF since 1983. The Islanders were a face team, something I hadn’t recalled them as being. Hammer and Haku do the heavy lifting early in the match while Beefcake takes up space on the ring apron for The Dream Team. Tama was the high-flyer for The Islanders and he shows off his arsenal
with a nice vertical splash. Beefcake stinks up the joint when he comes in so Valentine tags himself back in to rescue the match, executing a tombstone-like piledriver on Tama. A while later, Tama, who was the face in peril, cradles Valentine for a near fall as a counter to Hammer attempting the figure-four on him. Haku gets the hot tag and cleans house but Johnny V hops on the apron to distract the incompetent referee. Valentine discards Haku as Beefcake crotches Tama on the top rope. Tama sells his discomfort by not being able to kick out of Valentine’s cover and gets pinned. There isn’t much to see in this one but the match has length and I can listen to Monsoon, even with His Lordship with him, commentate all day.

Rating: **

Back in the studio, Monsoon tells Heenan that during 1987, WWF President Jack Tunney, his good friend, is going to do an extended investigation into the conduct of ringside managers. LOL. Bobby, meanwhile, is working on his list of New Year’s resolutions.

Next, Monsoon segues into a highlight package for the reigning WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan for the just completed 1986. Heenan doth protest too much the airing of the montage but to no avail. Hahahaha! Hogan’s long-running feud with “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff is nicely spotlighted within along with Hulk running roughshod over Beefcake and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, among others, in individual battles. Monsoon gives it to Heenan after the package concludes noting the video showcased a lot of The Brain’s own stable coming up on the short end of those matches. Heenan reminds Monsoon his men dominated for 15-20 minutes of those matches but the viewers don’t get to see that. Classic.

Up next, it’s more wrestling action from The Summit in Houston, Texas as Prime Time Wrestling circles the country.

Tito Santana -VS- Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Result/Analysis: 20:00 time limit draw. Yep, there’s no winner here but in the 1980’s era of the WWF, the occasional draw was still seen. Santana was a floating mid card babyface here since his days as Intercontinental Champion had ended. Roberts, meanwhile, wrestles as a heel yet the popularity of the DDT was drawing him face reactions from crowds in arenas throughout the country. Vince McMahon would take notice. The DDT coupled with seeing Damien taken out of the snake bag got Jake over immensely. It got to next level. Roberts had finished off a summer feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in 1986 and he was inbetween storylines himself. I’d call him a tweener more by late ‘86 when this match happens than an outright heel. Tito was the more accomplished wrestler of the two but Jake’s mind games and psychological tactics evened the playing field. Santana carries the match throughout with Jake escaping defeat numerous times to set up himself up for possibly executing the DDT. Monsoon references the 20-minute time limit a few times over and it becomes clear as you watch the match that’s the likely outcome. Why would either of these guys do the job for the other at this point in time? Santana counters Jake’s attempt at the DDT by locking in the figure-four leg lock off a back drop but Jake doesn’t submit to it and he reaches the bottom rope. He grabs the snake bag out of desperation but referee Dave Hebner stops him just as the ring bell sounds. The match is announced as a draw with Roberts not having submitted. Jake takes Damien out off the bag to slither around the ring as Tito flees. Hebner, meanwhile, shows bravery by holding the bag open for Jake to put Damien back inside but Roberts instead chases Hebner out of the ring with Damien. Ha! The match is hard fought and refreshingly old school as I watch it in June 2022. Tito vs. Jake had the ingredients to be something special had the WWF ran with it but an average level was the median reached here. It’s a house show quality match that just happened to air on television.

Rating: **1/4

In the studio, Heenan answers Monsoon’s question on what The King, Harley Race, is looking for in 1987. According to Bobby, The King is looking for the recognition he deserves for twice winning the King of the Ring Tournament and for the people to get down on one knee to him. LOL!

Sivi Afi -VS- “The King of Wrestling” Harley Race (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)

Result/Analysis: Race via pinfall (:38) following a cradle suplex. The match was carried over from
“Superstars of Wrestling” with Afi doing the quickest of jobs to “The King.” I hadn’t recollected Afi all of these years later so I looked him up and learned he was initially brought into the WWF to be the replacement for “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and he was billed as Snuka’s cousin. That character attempt totally flopped but it’s good trivia nonetheless. Race was already in a feud with The Junkyard Dog and JYD has pre-recorded comments here as the 38 second match unfolds stating he’s never had a King and he won’t bow down to one. Following the match back in the studio, Heenan questions Monsoon, who was just returning to his seat, where he was during the match as it had come and gone and it was one of the greatest matches ever. So funny! Bobby and Gorilla had perfect chemistry together. It was natural and I bet they didn’t have to rehearse much of anything.

Rating: DUD

Ken Resnick interviews The Hart Foundation, the newly named number one contenders for the World Tag-Team Titles held by The British Bulldogs. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, notably the mouthpiece of the team, walks like an Egyptian as he does a play on words, as he affirms the status of The Foundation after their non-title victory over The Bulldogs that had recently occured. Bret “Hitman” Hart affirms Neidhart’s words and says The Hart’s will be the new champions while The Bulldogs return home to England to sip their lemon chanties and listen to their Wham records. Bret was so green and unnatural on the mic. He might never have made it without “The Anvil” and the lengthy run of tag-team success that The Hart Foundation would have over a five-year run.

Gorilla segues Prime Time Wrestling back to 1986 to focus on the two titles that changed hands during the banner year. Hey, it was a different time. First up, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, thanks to rogue referee “Dangerous” Danny Davis, unseated Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship at the famed Boston Garden (2/8/86). Then, at WrestleMania 2 (4/7/86), The British Bulldogs ended the championship reign of The Dream Team by capturing the Tag-Team Titles at the Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago. At least one could say that decades now later, that these title changes carried historic weight and are much remarked upon by pro wrestling historians and fans of that era, of which, I am one. It’s my childhood. The nostaglia in these five-plus minutes is just phenomenal to re-watch all these years later. Phenomenal.

Gorilla and Bobby argue over the outcome of each title change with Heenan rightfully pointing out The Dynamite Kid was illegally perched on the second rope when Greg Valentine was thrown into him leading to “The Hammer” being pinned by Davey Boy Smith as The Dream Team lost the belts. As for Savage, Heenan says he missed there being any nefarious means by which he defeated “Chico” Santana. Gorilla plays the incredulous one letting Bobby sink himself in the argument. LOL!

Finally, to cap the “year in review” Captain Louis Albano pinned Johnny V to win a six-man tag-team match for his retirement bout while teaming with The British Bulldogs, whom he managed, against The Dream Team, whom Johnny V managed. Monsoon points out Albano managed 16 teams that won the Tag-Team Championship. Gorilla points that while Albano did that much in his career, Heenan, his co-host, managed a full year where none of his men captured any gold. HaHaHaHa. Gorilla asks Heenan what he has done? Bobby says, “I’ve kept you working.” Pure GOLD!!!

Six-Man Tag-Team Match:

The Hart Foundation [Bret “Hitman” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart] and “Adorable” Adrian Adonis
(w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart)
S.D. Jones and The U.S. Express [Mike Rotunda & “The Golden Boy” Danny Spivey]

Result/Analysis: The Hart Foundation and “Adorable” Adrian Adonis via submission (3:35) when Adonis puts S.D. Jones to sleep with Goodnight, Irene. The match is from “Wrestling Challenge” and there’s nothing to see here. Resident jobber S.D. Jones delivers a loss for the babyface trio with Spivey doing little and Rotunda giving nothing more than arm drags. The Hart’s don’t stand out much and Adonis earns the fall. Had the match gone longer, maybe it’s something? Pointless here.

Rating: 1/2*

Bobby’s New Year’s resolutions: to manage the WWF Tag Team Champions, to manage the WWF Intercontinental Champion, to become Manager of the Year, again (Gorilla says, “You didn’t win it the last time.”), to manage the WWF Champion, to make more money than ever and to win Commentator of the Year.

Hillbilly Jim -VS- The Magnificent Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji)

Result/Analysis: Hillbilly Jim via DQ (7:58) when Fuji interferes and strikes him with his cane. The match is terrible. Just terrible. Muraco was inbetween a feud with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and relevancy as a heel as 1986 ended and 1987 began. He had two notable years, though. Hillbilly was a pure novelty act and he wasn’t all that popular despite being a babyface that usually opposed the monster heels of the era. The best thing Hillbilly had going for himwas his entrance song “Don’t Go Messin’ With a Country Boy,” and it’s for that, his later managerial tenure in the mid-1990’s, and being in the upcoming WrestleMania III Six-Man Tag-Team Match with his two midget partners opposite King Kong Bundy and his two midget partners, that got Hillbilly into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2018. Muraco had more impact, yet his upper body build and later babyface run with Superstar Billy Graham as his manager carried his later career. After his 1983 feud with “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka ended, Muraco was a marquee name but he didn’t partake in any great matches nor feuds really. The match here has too much stalling (by Muraco) and it’s fought at a slow pace with little wrestling of consequence. Fuji, the devious one, involves himself for Muraco to cause a disqualification once Hillbilly gets his bearhug submission on. Hillbilly rarely won any match clean unless he wrestled someone lesser than he, a true rarity. A bad, bad, BAD “Main Event” / feature.

Result: DUD

The Verdict: Prime Time Wrestling is such a feel good 90 minutes (without commercials) that the matches being terrible or merely average mattered not. The feeling one had when watching wrestling back in 1987 was completely organic. Nearly everything put forth was embraced and it all still reeks from nostaglia a generation or nearly two generations later. I could watch these episodes all day and every day. The banter between Monsoon and Heenan remains classic. Their on-screen chemistry was absolute perfection. The matches on this first episode of the new year circle back to the end of 1986. There’s zero storyline advancement or discussion of any of the current happenings within the World Wrestling Federation. And so what? These days, I’d love to see this kind of programming. It worked. Perhaps next week, more will come out as to the direction of the WWF and the ongoing feuds will get highlighted. Who wouldn’t time travel back to this era?

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