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WWF Saturday Night's Main Event - January 3, 1987

by Erick Von Erich

During the 6 years that I had WWE Classics On Demand, I kept hoping and waiting for this particular show to pop up. It never did. In fact, I think all of maybe 3 SNME cards were ever aired on WWE Classics. Sheesh. Anyways, I have fond memories of this show, as I remember seeing parts of it during a camping trip on New Year's weekend. It's a transitional card, as it moves the WWF from their fairly cartoonish 1986 era into the somewhat more serious 1987 era. To be even more precise, it ends the big Paul Orndorff/Hulk Hogan program and clears the plate for the HUGE Andre the Giant angle and WrestleMania III. Other significant angles are set-up, as well.

Originally taped on December 14, 1986 from the "beautiful Hartford Civic Center", the old home of the NHL Whalers that also doubled as a shopping mall. As the broadcast opens, we get staccato promos from "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Hart with "Adorable" Adrian Adonis, George "The Animal" Steele, "King" Harley Race and finally the Junkyard Dog. Followed immediately by the usual video highlights set to Animotion's "Obsession". Judging by the video match-ups, it looks like there will only be one throwaway match on the show. Vince McMahon and the recently returned (finally back from filming "Predator") Jesse "The Body" Ventura are our hosts. But with so much going on in the World Wrestling Federation, let's get down to ringside for...

WWF Championship Steel Cage Match:

Hulk Hogan (c) vs. "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff

To paraphrase Mike Tenay: "What a way to kick off Saturday Night's Main Event"! McMahon proclaims this the "first time a steel cage match has been shown on network television". I suppose it might be a first for NBC, but it's semantics. In the pre-match promos, Heenan mentions that he's taken out a new insurance policy for Orndorff's new title belt. As Orndorff enters the cage, the announcers freak out over the presence of second referee, Danny Davis. Orndorff attacks Hogan as he steps in, whipping him with the title belt. Orndorff immediately tries to exit the door, twice, but Hogan grabs the leg. Orndorff drops some knees and a diving clothesline. He hops over the cage, but in one of those LOGIC IN WRESTLING spots, Hogan is up to reach over, grab his hair and pull him back in. Jesse gets a classic line: "Hogan would not be the champion if Mr. Wonderful was bald!" Hogan drapes him inside the cage and bounces his head off of the bars. Hogan takes over, finally removes his headband and chokes out Orndorff. Hogan climbs the cage and its Orndorff's turn to pull him down and start "hammering away". Hogan makes a mini-comeback and goes for the door, but Heenan's locked it! They struggle some more until both guys hit the cage. They start climbing up opposite sides and drop down, hitting the floor at the same time. Referee Joey Marella, while Danny Davis declares Orndorff the winner. The 2-for-1 music of "Real American" plays to realy confuse everyone.

Davis shoves Marella to the floor, but himself gets taken out in the brawling between Hogan and Orndorff. Marella restores order, talks to ring announcer Howard Finkel and officially announces it as a "tie"; so the match must re-start. Orndorff drags the champ back in and lands a fistdrop from the top turnbuckle. More punsihment from Mr. W, including a short-arm clothesline until, randomly, Hogan makes the Spinach Comeback. The usual shots from Hogan, followed up by a few chops and three tosses into the big blue cage, as Orndorff blades. Hogan plants him in the center of a the ring with a backbreaker, drops the biig leg, then begins the climb. Heenan runs in and tries to slow down Hogan, as a wobbly Orndorff staggers up the other side. Hogan kicks off Heenan, tosses him into the cage, then atomic drops Orndorff for good measure. Hogan climbs up, over and reaches the floor, about 2 seconds before Orndorff makes the cage door. Hogan is declared the winner, then returns to the ring to beat the crap out of Heenan.

Even though the in-ring action was just punchy/kicky, it was a heated steel cage encounter, as they really played up the rules of the match. Both guys wasted no time in trying to escape and they used the nuances of the cage to the match's advantage. The cage was the third player in the match and it worked very well. Add in the "tie", the re-start, even the Danny Davis angle, and you've got an entertaining and satisfying conclusion to a main event feud. Pretty famous match, as its been on several "Best of" and Hulk Hogan compilations. Fair enough, since it's certainly a highlight of both guy's 80's runs, no matter how you slice it.

WWF Intercontinental Championship:

"Macho Man" Randy Savage (c) (w/Elizabeth) vs. George "The Animal" Steele

We get a quick video package, dating from March 1986 over George's lust for Liz. In the pre-show interviews, George mentioned he had a "surprise" for Macho, which initiially turns out to be an LJN doll that he gives to Liz. Savage is pissed and tosses it away, which allows George to attack and tree-choke him. George with a bulldog into the top turnbuckle, then two slams. He hop up on the corner and waves to the lockerroom, meaning Savage can Pearl Harbor him from behind and take over. Savage slams him, then goes up top for the big elbow but pauses as "Sirius" from the Alan Parsons Project plays. Yup, it's the real "surprise", Ricky Steamboat! Jesse with another classic line: "you're telling me some moron just happened to start playing that music?!" George slams Macho off the corner, then tosses him over the top rope. With Savage dazed, George picks up Elizabeth and carries her off to the back. Macho comes to, but is met in the aisle by Steamboat, who's itching for a fight. The refs and "the police" eventually get Steamboat to leave, right as George returns to attack Macho and eat some turnbuckles! George tries for the bulldog into the turnbuckle again, but Savage shoves him off. Savage works him over, then tries for a sleeper, but George chomps down on the arm. Jesse: "someone is going to have to feed this guy before a match, McMahon!" Savage breaks it by flinging George out to the floor. George gets frustrated and whips out his ol' trusty Foreign Object, blasts Savage with it, then does his usual hiding schitick. The ref gets shoved and while he'sdown, Savage sneaks in with the timekeeper's bell to brain George. The ref conveniently recovers just in time to see Savage cover George and apply the 3 count.

Savage grabs the bell and wants to do a beatdown, but Steamboat runs in to make the save. Steamboat helps George wake up, by rubbing his head and dumping turnbuckle stuffing on him. Another reason Steamboat was so damn awesome: he would completely throw himself into whatever angle was out there. They raise each other's hand to make the fans happy. Match wasn't anything amazing, but for a Savage/Steele encounter, it was extremely good. All the shenanigans advanced things towards WrestleMania III, moved towards the end for the Savage/Steele title program and made the second straight entertaining match.

Junkyard Dog vs. "King" Harley Race (w/Bobby Heenan)

Jesse talks about how Race won "every King of the Ring tournament". McMahon counters with "but there were only TWO of them"! I'm not sure, but I think this is the start of their little feud, as each side sets it up with pre-match interviews about bowing. I guess there's some kayfave sesne behind them locking up, since JYD won the 1985 "Wrestling Classic" tournament. Race demands a bow before the match, but JYD gives a backside salute, instead. Danny Davis is the ref, as he "accidentally" distracts JYD so Race can get in an opening shot. he whips JYD to the ropes for a high-knee, then a kneedrop for 2. JYD with the obligatory headbutts, then Race with a belly-to-belly and his diving headbutt. But, since it's the JYD, Race gets dazed by the headbutt. Race gets tossed to the corner and does his usual oversell to tumble outside. JYD grabs the crown and cape to parade around the ring. Heenan attacks and, of course, it's Managerial Beating Time. Race jumps back in with a big elbow from the top corner. Race and Heenan do a double-team beatdown on JYD, as somebody decides to ring the bell. Finkel announces it as a DQ win for JYD. McMahon says: "Davis was forced to do that". JYD recovers and wants to take off after Race and Heenan, but Davis stops him and gets a headbutt for his efforts. Again, another entertaining match. Nothing spectacular in the ring, but the storyline was the focus. I suppose JYD vs. Race was an improvement over the worn-out "JYD vs. Jimmy Hart's Underwear" feud that never seemed to end.

"Rowdy" Roddy Piper vs. "Adorable" Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart)

Supposedly Adrian's return to the ring after Piper beat the tar out of him with a crutch at the last SNME (Nov 1986). Jimmy Hart has the atomizer/spray-can, but they seem to be playing down his effeminate "Adorable" persona. No scarves or bows, either. Piper's pre-match interview has the semi-famous clip of "I ain't fightin' for money, brother, I'm fightin' for pride"! Piper starts by tossing his kilt over Adonis' head, bites the forehead, hip-tosses him several times, then sends him flipping into the ropes with a kneelift. Adonis does an enhanced version of the Andre the Giant Special, as he FLIPS to get his arms caught in the ropes. Piper pulls him out, whips him all over the ring, then works on Adonis' injured left arm. Adonis gets a low-blow and delivers some punishment, while Piper randomly sells his old ear injury. Adonis hooks his "Good Night Irene" sleeper, as they both tumble out to ringside. They brawl for a bit, but Adonis mists Piper's eyes with the atomizer. Piper is "blind", wanders around ringside and he's counted out. Jesse: "I can't believe Joey Marella can count to 10!" Garbage match, but to continue the feud they had to give Adonis a win, somehow.

Blackjack Mulligan vs. Jimmy Jack Funk

This match has its own special "Battle for Texas" graphic. Blackhack tries to start the match in his spurs, until Funk points it out to female ref, Rita Marie. Funk uses the moment to attack, until Blackjack whips him to the corner and clotheslines him over the top. They fight outside, as Blackjack backdrops Funk on the floor. They must've been running short on time, because Blackjack's pre-match interview is played as an inset. He sounds a little bit like 1989 WWF Dusty Rhodes. Back in, Funk tries a slam, but gets gorilla-pressed by Blackjack. Blackjack takes Funk's head off with a clothesline, then lands his Big Flying Reverse Elbow to get the pin. Blackjack tries to lynch Funk afterwards. Just a squash and a way to get Blackjack some exposure.

Jesse Ventura and Vince McMahon summarize the night. Jesse contends that there was no clear proof Hogan's feet touched the floor, so Orndorff still has a claim to the title. The credits then roll over Phil Collins' "Take Me Home" with footage of Hogan celebrating his win.

From a techincal standpoint, this card stunk. When a hip-toss is the best move of the night, you know you're not in for a wrestling clinic. Yet this is an excellent card with no less than the 4 top babyfaces in the entire promotion. It's basically the beginning of "The Road to WrestleMania III", too. The angles are played out very well and there's not a single minute of wasted time in the entire broadcast. The crowd is into it, while while Vince and Jesse are at the top of their games. I'll even go so far as to say this is the BEST episode of the entire SNME series. Definitely check it out.

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