The WWE Network has recently added the majority of the Saturday Night’s Main Event collection. What better show to start with than the one that featured the most watched televised show in World Wrestling Entertainment history!
Episode 37 of SNME is not technically SNME as it was branded the “Main Event”. The Main Event aired on a Friday night in prime time on February 5, 1988. The show featured without question the biggest rematch in WWE history pitting Hulk Hogan against Andre the Giant in a singles match for the first time since their historic WrestleMania 3 bout. The three-match card only ran an hour yet those 60-minutes were record breaking. It was also newsworthy for what down inside of the ring and out.
[adinserter block=”1″]You won’t find a bigger event by the numbers. The live broadcast remains the most watched wrestling program in American television history bringing in a whopping 33 million viewers with a 15.2 rating. Let those numbers resonate for a minute to grasp the magnitude of this show. The WWE truly peaked on this night and has not come close to bringing in that amount of viewers since.
The show opens with a classic assortment of promos by some of the best in the history of the company. Randy Savage promises to send the Honkytonk Man back to Graceland with a one-way ticket, the Honkytonk Man claims Savage can’t Elizabeth satisfied, Ted DiBiase predicts that the WWE championship will fit around Andre the Giant’s waist as easily as the Giant’s hands fit around Hogan’s neck, and the Hulkster brings it home with an awesome promo telling Andre that Hulkamania will never die. Over 25 years later and these promos still get me hyped for the event!
Vince McMahon opens up the show with Jesse Ventura. Vince brags about the record for the largest television audience set by the show. Jesse runs down the facts and predicts that Andre is going to win the WWE title after waiting almost one year for the rematch. Jesse boldly predicts a clean sweep by the heels and Vince seems shocked by the Body’s remarks regarding the Honky and Miss Elizabeth.
A vignette airs of Hogan training for his match with Andre the Giant. Hogan is enormous here and bench pressing a ungodly amount of weight. Fun fact: Jake the Snake Roberts’ theme plays throughout the video which is weird in hindsight. I’d love to see them make a video like this for Cesaro who is one of the strongest guys in the WWE but that’s another topic for another blog. My hunch is that Andre’s training was not quite as extensive.
Mean Gene interviews Jimmy Hart and Honky. Honky and Hart claim Elizabeth is head over heels for the champ. Gene is upset and wants Honky to be more specific when he says he is going to oblige Liz. Honky proceeds to quote several Elvis songs when he asked about where he is going to take her which is beyond tremendous. Gene hopes the real Elvis doesn’t hear that. As a pro wrestling fan I am sure Elvis would have loved it.
Gene talks to Savage and Liz. Gene repeats the news and tells Savage he will be competing in front of the largest audience in WWE history. I don’t know if it was a snafu or not but Honky’s music plays loudly in the background making it hard to hear the promo. Savage tells Honky that vengeance is his as a concerned Liz looks on.
The match itself was a lot better than you’d expect given most Honky matches weren’t all that great.. Jesse accuses Liz of smiling at Honky. Savage attacks Honky on the floor and is on fire. Honky uses the megaphone early which Jesse thinks is justified Honky works over Savage early on. Honky points to Liz throughout the match motioning as if he is coming for her. This is where the action turned in Savage’s favor as Savage nails Honky from behind. Savage brings Hart in the ring who winds up eating a knee from Honky as the place goes crazy. At this point I remember watching this at home thinking that I was going to see a new champion…and I may have if the match went as planned but more on that in a minute. Honky is fading to Savage’s sleeper as Peggy Sue (Sherri Martel) approaches Liz. Savage drops Honky to help Liz outside of the ring. Honky sneaks up on Savage but is countered and thrown into the ring post. Honky is counted out and the place goes crazy. Jesse is quick to point out that the belt does not change hands. Honky then grabs his guitar and gets back into the ring. Honky corners Savage. Hart nails Savage with the megaphone from behind. Liz sits in front of Savage and begs Honky not to hit him with the guitar. Savage pops up, grabs the guitar, and chases Honky off. Savage puts Liz on his shoulder to a big pop. Jesse says he’s lost all respect for the Macho Man. Great opener!
Fun fact: Savage was booked to regain the intercontinental title from Honky. Honky refused to drop the belt that night. “This particular television show had 35 million people watching. That particular Main Event had 35 million people. You got to remember; Turner had a lot of money and Turner was trying to make a run at Vince. I said, ‘No. I’m not going to do this on television. You want to do it, I’ll do it anywhere else. I’m not doing it in front of 35 million people’,” said Honkytonk Man. It would eventually work out for Savage who wound up getting a run with the WWE title at WrestleMania 4 yet it was Ted DiBiase who lost out. DiBiase was booked to win the WWE title at WM 4 and wound up as the odd man out. What is kind of odd is how the finish of this match played into the psychology of the Hogan-Andre match. If you didn’t know the story you would think that the CO finish made perfect sense setting up for the next match yet that was reportedly not the plan.
Vince predicts that we will have the greatest rematch in World Wrestling Federation history. Jesse and Vince recap the WrestleMania 3 match which Jesse says was very disputed. The questionable moment in the match is shown where Joey Marella may or may not have counted to three. Andre’s attack on Hulk from the last SNME where he choked Hogan out is shown next as is the contract signing. Hogan’s attire is 80s awesome. The match certainly has a “big match” feel to it to say the least.
The Million Dollar Man says Andre is already champion due to the questionable referee and says Virgil will keep an eye on the referee. DiBiase says Andre has had the best training that money can buy. DiBiase calls Hogan “small change” and says his account is overdrawn and Andre is going to close it. Andre says he will never stop if he gets his hands on Hulk’s neck.
Hulk cuts a crazed promo and claims that Andre and DiBiase’s claims about the ref’s three count are bogus. Hogan says he has no problem with them watching the referee. Hulk predicts victory in an absolutely classic Hulk promo from the Hulkamania era. It was arguably one of his best!
It’s time for the biggest rematch in WWE history. Hogan comes out with a drenched shirt to a thunderous ovation. Even Jesse gives Hogan props on being in the best shape of his life. Hogan goes right for Andre and is held back by referee Dave Hebner. Andre is completely stoic and not phased at all about Hogan’s threatened attack. Hogan reminds Andre, DiBiase, and Virgil of the bodyslam at Mania 3. Andre’s silence is tremendous and something you won’t see by a big time heel in 2014.
The biggest rematch in WWE history lasts just under ten minutes. No big stare down like their Mania match. The match starts off with Hogan cleaning house, taking out Virgil and DiBiase. Hogan turns his attention to Andre and goes to town with a series of punches. The strategy is clear. Hogan is trying to get Andre off of his feet so he can drop the leg. Andre is wobbly and misses one of the slowest punches in history. Hogan bounces off of the ropes and nails another big punch. Fans are literally jumping up and down. Hogan tries to chop at Andre and he still can’t knock him off of his feet. Jesse points out that Andre is taking everything from Hogan and still won’t go down. Hogan rams Andre’s head into the turnbuckle twice. Andre is groggy. Hogan bounces off the ropes and hits an elbow on Andre. Andre still on his feet. Andre still on his feet after Hogan hits a clothesline off of the ropes. Hogan now turns his attention to DiBiase and Virgil. A Hogan punch sends Virgil to the floor. Hogan stomps on DiBiase’s hand and Ted sells it like he’s been hit by a baseball bat and drops his money. Hogan still punching Andre who is still standing. Jesse points out that Andre has shown no offense. Hogan rakes Andre’s eyes and runs across the ring to deliver another clothesline. If you have never seen the match it probably doesn’t read as anything special. Yet once you watch the match and experience it with the hot crowd and the announcers, you get a much different appreciation for it. Andre is wobbly again and bent over. Hogan winds up and hits a big punch. Andre still rocking and reeling but won’t go down. Hogan goes to the top rope for what has to be one of only a handful times in his career. Bad move Hulk. Hogan is too slow and Andre catches him by the throat. Andre slams him off of the top which has to be one of the biggest bumps Hogan ever took during his career. Hogan is selling it like he got dumped off of a 15-foot high steel cage to the floor. Andre seemingly falls to the ground in a very awkward moment. Vince points out that Andre missed a head butt. Maybe he did but the director completely missed it and it just looked like Andre collapsing. Hogan is the first to get up. He sees the Giant down and goes for a cover. Andre catches him by the throat. The referee breaks up the blatant choke hold. Andre goes back to the choke. The referee keeps breaking it up and Andre goes right back to it. Andre hits a big right hand on Hogan. Andre whips Hogan into the turnbuckle. Hogan bounces off and goes down. Vince points out that this more punishment to Hogan’s back. Andre stomps on Hogan’s hand. Andre body slams Hogan. Andre kicking at Hogan. He picks Hogan back up and delivers a head butt and a chop. Hogan grabs Andre’s leg but the Giant thwarts the attempt. Hogan is down once again after another head butt. Andre hits a big boot on Hogan. Andre falls and Hogan rolls outside of the ring. Virgil rolls Hogan back in. Jesse brilliantly points out the earlier result between Savage and Honky and reminds fans that they learned from earlier and don’t want a count out which results in no title switch. Talk about thinking quick! Andre takes the strap from his tights and wraps it around Hogan’s throat. Andre clubs Hogan to the back. Andre back to the choke. Hogan starts shaking his head and working his way back to his feet. Hogan removes Andre’s hands from his throat and hits a knee and a chop. The fans are going crazy. Hogan pounds on Andre in the corner. Hogan going to the second rope…this has to be a record. Hogan hits a clothesline off of the second rope which finally takes Andre off of his feet. Hogan points to Andre and looks at the fans who are jumping up and down once again. Hogan goes for the leg drop but Virgil grabs Hogan’s leg. Hogan hits the ropes from the other side and drops the leg. The referee is busy yelling at Virgil and doesn’t count. Vince counts to five to make sure everyone at home knows that not only could Hogan beat him, but he could have gotten a five count. Hogan is upset and starts yelling at Hebner. Andre grabs Hogan from behind, delivers two head butts to the back of Hogan’s head, and takes him down with one of the worst suplexes you will ever see. The referee counts to one and a half, Hogan gets his shoulder up, yet the referee drops for a second and third time to give Andre the win. The fans are going bananas at this point. Jesse and Vince are arguing over the result. Hogan is on his feet and holds up one finger. Hogan is yelling at Hebner and telling him to ask the fans. Hebner tells Hogan “no way” and tells Hogan he was down. Vince calls it a “stupid mistake.” The referee presents the belt to Andre. Mean Gene hits the ring to talk to the new champion. Hogan is confused.
Andre tells Gene that this is not a surprise and he predicted it. Andre then tells Gene that he is surrendering the belt to Ted DiBiase. DiBiase celebrates with the belt which Vince calls ridiculous. Hogan moves the referee and goes after Andre and DiBiase. The heels are on the ground while Hogan is on the second turnbuckle yelling at them. Jesse questions whether Andre can just give the title away.
Back in the ring both Hebner brothers are arguing. Hogan confronts them and is trying to figure it all out. Hogan grabs them both by the throats and interrogates them. Hogan releases his grip and can’t believe it. The Hebner brothers are arguing and Earl drops Dave with a punch. Vince says that he must have taken the money and was in cahoots with the Million Dollar Man. See I would have guessed that the one throwing the punch was the one that was set up, not the corrupt ref. Dave Hebner drops to his knees and begs Hogan for mercy. Hogan presses the referee over his head and throws over the top rope onto the heels. Unfortunately for the referee the heels misjudged Hogan’s strength and Hogan overthrew him. Oops! Hogan continues to plead his case with the fans.
[adinserter block=”2″]Back from the break and Strikeforce are making their way to the ring for a WWE tag team championship match with the Hart Foundation. Hogan is standing by in the back with Mean Gene. Vince says “Mean Gene Okerlund is standing by with Mean Gene”. Gene says there will be a thorough investigation. Hogan is in tears and hysterical. Hogan accuses the referees of plastic surgery, he says he had all bases covered, never in his wildest dreams did he think he’d be ripped off by a crooked referee. Hogan says that when he turned around the referees were identical. Hogan is screaming to the Hulkamaniacs.
Say what you will about Hogan but this is exactly what is missing in today’s WWE. When is the last time you saw a guy in tears after he was screwed out of the WWE title? John Cena laughs it off or makes corny jokes while you had this guy in tears over losing the WWE title. It was an incredibly powerful promo.
The show goes off of the air in the middle of the WWE tag team title. Vince and Jesse talk about an impending investigation. Vince signs off.
This was a great show! The 49:00 (commercials cut out on the Network) flew by and while you only had about 18 minutes of wrestling, the show had a fantastic flow from start to finish. If you are new to the Saturday Night’s Main Events and checking them out on the Network, I can’t think of a better one to start out with than this gem.
Watch Episode 37 of SNME on the WWE Network (with subscription)
[amazon_link id=”B00JHH1YAW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]WWE The Paul Heyman Story[/amazon_link]