We are going back in time today and taking a look at WWF 1980s wrestling from the Philadelphia Spectrum. Hulk Hogan headlines a stacked show with a WrestleMania 2 rematch against King Kong Bundy while “Macho Man” Randy Savage provides the support with an intercontinental title defense against Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff.
Dick Graham and Gorilla Monsoon open up the show talking about how big tonight’s show. Graham praises Gorilla for putting together such a great show while Gorilla corrects him and says it was the WWF, not him. Gorilla says that Randy Savage’s reign may be over because Mr. Wonderful doesn’t take a backseat to anyone and that King Kong Bundy is looking for the Hulkster. Dick says that something is going to be decided one way or the other. Talk about going out on a limb.
Hank Kropinski welcomes us to the Spectrum. I either watched or attended every WWF show in Philly during this time and I can’t ever recall seeing this guy before.
Brickhouse Brown vs. Moondog Rex opens the show. Yes, the same Brickhouse from Memphis. I completely forgot he was in the WWF. Gorilla points out his terrific amateur background and puts Brick over as “one of the best male dancers in south Florida”, comparing him to the Chippendales. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
Gorilla talks about the Moondogs returning to the WWF and all of the tremendous tag team competition which is a bit ironic since Rex is competing in a singles match.
Now I know why Brickhouse didn’t last very long. Brick takes a shoulder tackle and then does a delayed bump of about ten seconds. Who said wrestling was better back in the 80s? So far we are off to a great start in Philadelphia.
Graham starts to talk about the card, running down the matches of a card that sounds a hundred times better than WrestleMania 2. In other words, “Yes this sucks, but stick around, it gets better.”
Gorilla compares Brickhouse to a smaller version of Tony Atlas. In 2011 he’d have to apologize for a comment like that. Both guys keep putting over his body, which with the dancing references is making me question the agenda of our announcers for the night.
Brickhouse is just terrible. Everything he sells is on a delay. Now you know why a pro wrestler with a million dollar body in 1987 was working in Memphis. It just looks awkward. Combine that with someone as slow as Rex and you have the makings of the next Botchamania video.
Gimmick infringement! Brickhouse Brown blatantly is ripping off Rocky Johnson with his comeback of punches. Watching that with the Tony Atlas references makes me wonder if the plans were for him and Mr. USA to tag up.
Brick gets the win with a reverse flying cross body press off the second rope. Gorilla puts over the win saying how tough Rex is, yes the same Rex who loses every week on television. The crowd pops big for the win.
A rather odd pairing of Tiger Chung Lee and Hercules Hernandez teams up next to take on Hercules is barking like Bruiser Brody. “Born in the USA” is blasting and Gorilla says, “You know who’s coming.” Dr. Death Steve Williams? Nope, it is Dan Spivey and Mike Rotunda.
It is pretty interesting to see someone like Hercules in such an obvious squash match. Especially when he just came from the Mid South where he was headlining shows weekly for Bill Watts. Not to mention he was also managed by Freddie Blassie at the time and getting a semi decent push on television.
One thing that is getting a bit annoying is Gorilla putting over all of these jobbers like they are on the level of King Kong Bundy. Rex is dangerous, Tiger Chung Lee is tough, it’s like he never watched a Saturday morning All Star Wrestling show.
Watching Mike Rotunda work after watching Brickhouse Brown makes you appreciate how great of a worker Rotunda was. He never did anything exciting, but everything was just so tight.
After telling us how dangerous the combination of Hernandez and Lee were, Gorilla now tells us that he doesn’t think they have the right kind of chemistry. Talk about a bandwagon jumper.
I watch Spivey and think that this guy just came along at the wrong time. He looked too much like Hulk Hogan but at another time, he would have gotten a huge babyface push. It is also amazing to see him here as the clean, cut all-American knowing years later he’d return as Waylon Mercy.
Dick Graham points out that Dan Spivey has “all the equipment” to which Gorilla responds, “I guarantee you that he doesn’t have a problem getting a date for Saturday night.” These guys need a cold shower.
Hercules finally gets into the match about 8 minutes in and is barking up a storm. Hey, if you can’t get Brody and you can’t get Nord, they’ll take Hernandez. Hercules is awesome! I can’t do it justice but the way he throws off Spivey and runs the ropes is just great. The guy is just constantly going.
Rotunda misses a dropkick giving the heels their first real advantage. Herc and Lee start tagging in and out and double teaming Rotunda. Herc steps up to the top rope and the ropes look like they are about to fall apart. I hope they tighten them before the Macho Man hits the ring. Herc comes off with a sledgehammer and the heels continue working over Rotunda’s back.
Wow! A fan just hit the ring. A fan gets to the apron and is tackled by about 8 Spectrum security guards. You know you have a hot crowd when Hercules and Tiger Chung Lee are getting fans that crazy. Gorilla says the fan would have gotten killed if he hit the ring.
This match actually had a pretty cool finish. Tiger Chung Lee shoots Spivey to the ropes and sets up as if he is about to shoot him again but instead, Spivey flies and catches him with a bulldog in mid-air. Very cool spot! The finish comes at 12:26 which was about 10:26 too long. This was a solid match but nothing real exciting until the end.
Magnificent Muraco vs. Junkyard Dog is up next. Muraco was drinking a lot of the “apple” juice at the time if you get my drift and is just huge. I don’t know but there is something about Muraco’s appeal that got lost to me when he jacked up. I liked him better as the out of shape beach bum.
JYD is super over as you would expect. Mr. Fuji is with Muraco. We are a few minutes in and the Dog hasn’t sold a thing for Muraco. Man, JYD is something else. He is just clumsy and delayed with everything, yet the fans are popping for everything.
Muraco turns things around with an eye rake. Muraco is now going to town with elbows and stomps on JYD. Muraco then slams the Dog’s head into the turnbuckle and the Dog just turns around and smiles. Dick Graham is getting excited like he just won the lottery.
You know I never realized how awful the Junkyard Dog was until now. His punches are horrendous and his clothesline makes Brickhouse Brown look like the Dynamite Kid. How did he work for Bill Watts and not know how to throw a punch?
Fuji gets on the apron and throws the cane to Muraco. Muraco breaks it in half over JYD’s head, and the ref calls for the bell. Muraco is continuing to pound on the Dog as the ref just stands there looking. Graham then ponders, “Maybe the ref didn’t hear the bell?” Gorilla responds by yelling at Dick, “The ref called for the bell!” Dick keeps going with this ridiculous theory and Gorilla goes silent. I thought a fight was going to break out at the announcer’s table.
Gilberto Roman continues to just watch as Muraco kicks JYD in the head after the bell. I was waiting for him to pull out his own cane and reveal himself as an associate of Fuji and Muraco. The announcers are all over Roman for doing nothing. JYD is now busted open. “What is this madness I thought this was over” screams Graham!
Gorilla is awesome here! JYD makes the superman comeback and grabs the cake. Roman tries to stop him and Gorilla yells, “Gimme a break Roman!” JYD continues to pound on Muraco’s head with the broken half of the cane. This is would be great stuff if the Dog’s shots weren’t going at a blitzing rate of 5mph.
JYD finally turns around and nails Roman with the cane. Gilberto does his best impersonation of the Ric Flair face-forward bump. The match ended in a little over six minutes yet the aftermath went for another ten. Muraco was a one-man show in this one. Gorilla says, “That’ll cost him a few dollars. Not that he didn’t deserve it.”
Kal Rudman interviews King Kong Bundy. Bundy brings the real Miss America into the promo who is cutting a heel promo with Bundy. Bundy is great. He asks Kal if they would have beautiful children together. Miss America whispers, “It’s over, it’s over.”
King Kong Bundy vs. Hulk Hogan is up next for the WWF title. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is out with Bundy. There is a crowd shot here as Bundy is introduced and the place looks sold out to the rafters. Bundy actually gets a few cheers beings that he is something of a hometown guy from Atlantic City, NJ. I am surprised he didn’t bring Miss America out with him.
The place just goes absolutely wild for Hogan. I am sorry but there has been nothing even remotely close in pro wrestling to this in many years. Fans are screaming at the top of their lungs for Hogan. I can barely hear Monsoon and Graham. It’s insanity!
This one really has a big match feel to it and it’s just a house show. Bundy shoves Hogan off from a lock up a few times to start the match. Bundy kicks him and throws him into the corner and goes for the avalanche (wow that’s early), and Hogan moves. Hogan goes to town with punches on Bundy. Heenan gets on the apron and is on the receiving end of a Hogan punch and the place has come unglued.
Hogan tries to take Bundy off of his feet with clotheslines to no avail. Hogan throws Bundy outside to the floor. Bundy takes an awesome bump from the ring, especially for someone his size. Hogan follows him out and goes on the attack. Hogan is wrestling this one like a real grudge match. So far this match is great!
Hogan pounds Bundy on the floor and the crowd gets even louder. Hogan then uses Bundy’s shoulder strap to choke him. Hogan slides in to break the count and then slides right out to continue more of the beating on Bundy. He is like Stone Cold Steve Austin!
Hogan now takes Bundy and rams his head into the timekeeper’s chair at ringside. Hogan chokes Bundy with the bottom of the chair. I feel like I am watching a match from Memphis or the Mid South territories, but nope this is WWF wrestling. Every single person in the building appears to be on their feet, most of them jumping up and down.
The action finally moves back inside the ring. Hogan continues punching away on Bundy. Hogan picks him up for a bodyslam and Heenan jumps on the apron and pushes Bundy on the back. Bundy falls on top of Hogan, but Joe Marella is no fool! Referee Marella saw it and now sends Heenan to the dressing room to the delight of 24,000 fans. This was a short night’s work for the Brain.
Hogan is stunned from the drop which gives Bundy time to recover. WWE wrestlers today need to watch this match. Bundy goes on the offensive, yet continues to sell the beating he just absorbed. If this was WWE 2011 Bundy would have immediately jumped on the offense completely ignoring the fact that he just got his butt kicked for 8 minutes.
Bundy is just unloading on the champ as the crowd screams “Hogan, Hogan!” Bundy goes for another avalanche, yet the Hulkster reverses and uses Bundy’s momentum to deliver a big powerslam. Fans are literally jumping up and down. Hogan is selling his back from the slam. Bundy gets up, drops a knee, and gets a two-count. Bundy grabs a reverse chinlock, slowing the action down for the first time in the match. Not for long. It’s time for Hogan to “Hulk up!” Bundy quickly cuts him off.
The third time is the charm. Bundy finally hits the avalanche on the third attempt. Bundy pulls his straps down and is going crazy. Bundy covers him, Hogan kicks out at two, and throws Bundy off of him. Wow, talk about no selling a finisher! NOW it’s time for the “Hulk up.”
Hogan is going through convulsions as Bundy slugs him. Gorilla says, “He’s Hulking up!” Hogan then unloads with a series of right hands, big boot, leg drop, 1-2-…wait a second, it’s Adrian Adonis! Huh? Yes that Adrian Adonis.I guess that old AWA grudge will never die.
“Adorable” Adonis comes out of the crowd and hits the ring dressed like a woman (wig and all). Adonis puts the boots to Hogan. Hogan recovers, throws out Bundy, and stares down Adonis. Hogan chases Adonis around the ring, Adonis escapes leaving his wig in the ring.
Hogan puts on Adonis’ wig and starts doing his post-match act. Hogan looks hilarious with a long blonde wig on. Hogan strikes well, a stereotypical homosexual pose and the crowd goes crazy. Mel Phillips (of course he reappears when he sees a wig and dress in the ring) announces Hogan as the winner by DQ. Adonis returns to the ring and has a stare down from the apron with Hogan. Hogan lays out the wig and belt, drops to his knees, and begs his former AWA rival to get in the ring. Adonis finally leaves and Gorilla proclaims Hogan, “the greatest wrestler of all time and a fantastic individual.” Was Vince in his ear?
Okay I have a couple thoughts on this one. For one, this match was just fantastic. No it isn’t the kind of match you would have seen headline an NWA show at this time, but it was a fun match, with a great story, that had the fans going from start to finish. Honestly, these guys only slowed down for about 30 seconds. The match was just non-stop action and what you’d expect from a grudge match.
The bummer here is the non-finish. Adonis’ interference really didn’t make a ton of sense other than to set up next month’s main-event. I don’t think there would have been anything wrong with pinning Bundy after such a great match. Although to be fair, the fans didn’t seem to mind and the stare down between Hogan and Adonis was tremendous.
Hogan gets a lot of crap for not “knowing how to wrestle” but this match told a different story. No, he wasn’t going in there and trading holds with Bundy, but he put on the kind of performance you hoped to see if you were paying to see Hulk Hogan. It wasn’t Flair-Steamboat but it was a great main-event for the WWF. It was also much better than their WrestleMania 2 cage match.
Harley Race vs. George Wells follows the main-event. Wow, talk about slowing down the pace. No disrespect to Race, but he looks very old here and well that is probably because he was. The fans aren’t treating Race like a former NWA God. Quite frankly, this was the popcorn match.
Gorilla points out that Wells just returned to the WWF after a series of eye injuries. Race catches Wells early with a clothesline. Race is wrestling a very slow and deliberate pace. Gorilla is really putting over Race as something of a crippler.
Gorilla puts over Race as a world traveler. Of course no mention of Race being a former NWA champion, well yet anyway. Gorilla says “He has about four or five different moves that can put the lights out for you.” Well my lights are about to go out, this match is real slow.
Race throws Wells to the floor. Race drops a head butt on Race on the floor. If you think about that one, it really makes no sense why you’d want to drop a head butt on someone who is laying outside the ring right?
Race is back in the ring. Race poses to the crowd and nobody cares. Race goes back to the floor and rams Wells’ head into the guard rail. Someone close to the announcer’s table is screaming, “boring!” I always hated that even as a kid, but I have to agree with this guy.
Race picks up Wells and drops him via fisherman’s suplex. Unlike Mr. Perfect who bridged for the pin, Race just drops him. Race then covers him for the three count and the crowd could care less.
I know that these weren’t exactly Harley’s glory years but if you didn’t know that Harley was a former multi-time world champion and big draw for the NWA you’d never believe it watching this match.
King Tonga (Haku) vs. Les Thornton is next up. Thornton is a substitute for Big John Studd. Tonga just recently bodyslammed Studd on television so it was a big letdown not seeing the advertised match.
Thornton is a former NWA junior’s champion and known as the “Man of a Thousand Holds.” Needless to say he left about 998 of them back in the NWA because this was a total squash. Tonga hits a bodyslam and a real cool looking thrust kick for the pin. Thank goodness this one only lasted a little over 4 minutes.
Kal Rudman interviews Paul Orndorff. Orndorff says he has a surprise for Savage and brings Miss America back out. Wait a second she was with Bundy an hour ago. What a whore! Unfortunately this was a pretty tame interview from Orndorff who normally knocks them out of the park.
Kal Rudman and Michael Tearson interview the Macho Man Randy Savage next. Savage on the other hand is awesome. He calls Orndorff (known as “Mr. Wonderful), “Mr. So So.” Savage actually appears to be having some fun with Tearson and Rudman.
Randy Savage vs. Paul Orndorff for the WWF intercontinental title closes the show. I have to be honest. When I went through my old videos to find an old house show to review, I saw this match and immediately grabbed this. I don’t remember the match but these two guys were two of the best workhorses in the WWF at the time. I am expecting big things out of these guys.
Savage is out first and the fans are right back to their feet. Everyone appears to be standing up. Savage even has some fans as there is one guy dressed up like Savage and someone else holding up a big Savage sign. Remember, this was 1986.
Savage won’t let Orndorff get in the ring. Savage is kicking at him every time he tries to enter the ring. Orndorff then gets in the ring and Savage runs behind Miss Elizabeth. Savage and Orndorff are having words before the match. This is setting up to be a great match.
Savage enters the ring via the top rope. Graham points out that Savage has a few fans out there, “they like him.” Savage hits the ropes, Orndorff cocks his fist, and Savage takes a powder to the floor.
Savage is a nut. He grabs a chair from a fan at ringside and threatens Orndorff with it. Now Savage is back in and offers Orndorff a hand shake. The two instead exchange arm wringers. Savage gets a break on the ropes.
Savage hits the ropes and Orndorff catches Savage with two big arm drags. Savage hits the floor and throws another chair into the ring. Orndorff cups the ears and pulls a Hogan. Savage comes back in but refuses to lock up. Great stalling by the Macho Man.
Orndorff hits the floor and takes matters into his own hands. He sees flowers at ringside and walks over to Miss Elizabeth with them. Wasn’t this the same guy that hated women a year ago or was it just Cyndi Lauper? Anyway, the fans are going nuts for this. Savage is incensed! He grabs the flowers and tries to rub them in Orndorff’s face. Orndorff reverses and rubs the flowers into the face of the champion.
Orndorff then goes to town on Savage. Savage reverses and catches him with a clothesline. Savage goes up top and drops a flying axe handle to the inside. The ring is covered with flowers. Savage now chokes Orndorff on the top rope.
Savage starts arguing with Joey Marella and Orndorff surprises him with a reverse rollup. The fans go crazy thinking they are about to see a title change. They don’t. Savage is back in control. Savage drops Orndorff with a big vertical suplex. Savage goes for the cover and gets two.
Savage goes for another axe handle but is caught with a punch by Orndorff. Orndorff hitting Savage with his signature punches. Savage hits the floor, Orndorff follows. Savage picks Orndorff up for a suplex on the floor but Orndorff reverses and catches Savage with an elbow. Orndorff then clotheslines Savage who is now out cold on the floor. There is certainly a lot of brawling on the floor tonight for a WWF show.
Orndorff slides back into the ring and the bell rings. Orndorff wins by count out in a little over eight minutes. Mel Phillips announces Orndorff as the winner and Orndorff pushes him out of the way so he can pose for the fans. Gorilla Monsoon calls it a “tremendous victory.” Really, a count out win in a title match is a tremendous win?
Overall it was an okay show. Hogan vs. Bundy blew everything out of the water. I felt that it was near impossible to get the fans back after the Hogan match was over. Even with such a great main-event, you had both title main-events end with non-finishes. That’s pretty weak if you ask me, especially for a house show.
One thing that really stuck out to me is the pedigree of most of the talent on the show. All of the top guys were wrestlers that spent years in territories around the world perfecting their craft before they came to the WWE. It certainly makes a huge difference when you compare their backgrounds to most of the talent today that don’t have that kind of experience before joining the WWE.
Hogan, Bundy, Savage, Orndorff, Race, Muraco, Adonis, and even Hercules Hernandez toured everywhere before they came into the WWF. They were more than ready for the big show and could work all kinds of different matches thanks to their background. It really shows how much pro wrestling is lacking without the territories when you watch the main talent on this show.
I’ll be honest. I don’t know how many more of these I can do. Other than Hogan vs. Bundy, it was really hard sitting through a lot of the other matches. But who knows, check back at the Camel Clutch Blog from time to time and I may surprise you.
Full WWF Philadelphia, PA 6/28/86 results…
Brickhouse Brown (sub. for David Sammartino) pinned Moondog Rex
Dan Spivey & Mike Rotundo defeated Hercules & Tiger Chung Lee
Adrian Adonis pinned Tito Santana (note: not on the DVD to review)
Billy Jack Haynes defeated Moondog Spot (note: not on the DVD to review)
The Junkyard Dog defeated Don Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji) via disqualification
WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan defeated King Kong Bundy (w/ Bobby Heenan) via disqualification
Harley Race pinned George Welles
King Tonga pinned Les Thornton (sub. for Big John Studd)
Paul Orndorff defeated WWF IC Champion Randy Savage via count out