Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the WWF’s first PPV: The Wrestling Classic. The show featured a 16 man tournament and Hulk Hogan defending the WWF title against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Today we go back in time and revisit the event.
Glorious 80s music soundtracks the intro as Howard Finkall introduces the various competitors that will take part in the single man tournament, the winner of the Rolls Royce and the title bout between challenger “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and then champion Hulk Hogan.
We cut to Vince McMahon, who briefly hypes the tournament and the title match before he introduces Lord Alfred Hayes and Susan Waitkis. The trio then discuss the single man tournament as we see the first round brackets and clips are aired from earlier of the draw taking place.
A brief interview with Jack Tunney follows before we cut to the announce team of Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon.
First Round Match: Adrian Adonis (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Corporal Kirchner: Monsoon hints to Adonis’ past as one half of the East West connection with Ventura. They go back and forth in early stages before Kirchner slows it down with a side headlock. Adonis breaks it with a back suplex and drills his opponent with several elbows to the head and a running elbow to the prone Kirchner. Kirchner mounts a comeback and attempts a suplex but it’s countered by a kind of DDT type manoeuvre and that’s all she wrote. The announcers chalk this up to a lack of experience from Kirchner.
Mean Gene catches up with Adonis and Hart backstage with the victor being predictably gloating in his remarks.
First Round Match: The Dynamite Kid vs Nikolai Volkoff: Standard heel fare to start as Volkoff grabs the mic to sing the Soviet national anthem. “USA USA” chants break out, a big motivator for the Dynamite Kid I’m sure… Dynamite Kid attacks with a dropkick as Volkoff lambastes the crowd for their lack of respect and gets the quick win.
We cut to the back where Okerlund is interviewing Randy Savage – who is in action next against Ivan Putski – and Miss Elizabeth. Savage says the Wrestling Classic is the most important thing at the moment and that he is nervous. And that he is ready. Elizabeth says it’s exciting. Mean Gene says Putski has been in the WWF for over a decade and “is great.”
First Round Match: ‘Polish Power’ Ivan Putski vs Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth): The announcers argue over the placement with Elizabeth with Monsoon believing that she should be front and centre, not hidden out of sight. Ventura pipes in saying he’s giving Savage advice ahead of this tournament. Savage spends the opening moments dodging his much larger opponent. He tries a full nelson on Putski but it’s unsurprisingly short lived and Savage is back to circling the ring. When Putski eventually gets his hands on Savage his overpowers him with a series of clubbing blows. From out of nowhere Savage gets the win with his feet on the turnbuckle.
McMahon and Hayes catch-up and discuss the card so far before a very angry Volkoff interrupts them and slams “American justice”.
First Round Match: Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat vs Davy Boy Smith: Two babyfaces here, although Steamboat got the better reaction. The trade holds and reversals to start and the action is pretty quick. Steamboat beautiful bridges out of a pinfall into a nearfall of his own. Smith hits what would soon become a trademark press slam for a two. Steamboat attempts a running splash but Smith gets knees up and hits several dropkicks but misses a running charge at the ropes and crotches himself and the referee calls for the bell. Steamboat checks on Smith as the announcers claim Smith is in a lot of pain.
It’s Junkyard Dog’s chance to be interviewed by Mean Gene ahead of his upcoming bout with the Iron Sheik. Plenty of boos in the background as Sheik clearly makes his way to the ring.
First Round Match: The Iron Sheik vs The Junkyard Dog: Sheik attacks to start, chocking the Dog with his headdress before insulting the crowd. The crowd chants for the JYD and that results in a comeback. Sheik is felled by a headbutt and another one sends him retreating to the outside. Back in, Shiek hooks in a full nelson but JYD easily powers out and a running clothesline fells his opponent for a two. He follows with a snap mare and attempts a falling headbutt but Sheik dodges it and slaps on the Camel Clutch. The Sheik releases the hold and chokes in the corner. The referee tries to break them up but is pushed to the side, with Sheik distracted JYD hits a standing headbutt and picks up the win.
Unsurprisingly we head to the back to Mean Gene who now has the company of Terry Funk ahead of his bout Moondog Spot. Funk says he wants the $50k bounty from Paul Orndorff and a title shot against Roddy Piper. Funk ends the interview by spitting tobacco on the camera lens.
First Round Match: Moondog Spot vs Terry Funk (w/ Jimmy Hart): Spot is announced as being from parts unknown but despite that has his weight announced. Couldn’t they have asked Spot where he was from when he was on the scales? Funk grabs a mic and says he doesn’t want to wrestle spot. Funk offers spot a chance at a draw with both men walking out. Monsoon correctly points out that if it’s a draw both men will be eliminated. I think Monsoon is on to Funk here….Funk double crosses Spot but the Moondog catches him and Funk tosses him back into the ring but is counted out himself and Spot qualifies for the next round much to the chagrin of Funk and Hart.
It’s Mr. Fuji and The Magnificent Muraco that are with Okerlund in the back. Short interview where Muraco praises his upcoming opponent Tito Santana.
First Round Match: WWF Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana vs The Magnificent Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji): Monsoon announces this would be a main event anywhere in the wrestling world before Ventura wonders why Santana entered this as he could get injured. Muraco attacks from the start. Santana gets a few moves in but it really is all Muraco. He looks to have it won with a powerslam but Santana’s foot is on the rope. The ref doesn’t let Muraco know and Santana gets the win via a roll-up. A decent match with a silly finish.
Bobby Heenan is in the back and while he admits that none of his guys are there he does say they are always watching. He reiterates that there is a $50,000 bounty on Paul Orndorff’s head.
First Round Match: Paul Orndorff vs Bob Orton Jr.: Until WrestleMaia I they were friends but Orton inadvertently nailed Orndorff with the cast and then blamed him for the loss. Orndorff goes after the injured arm and uses some heel tactics to get some control. Orton fights back and kills time with a headscissors. They eventually fight to the floor where, in front of the referee, Orton loads up the cast and once again drills Orndorff prompting a DQ finish.
We go to Vince and Lord Alfred who announce the next brackets:
- Adrian Adonis vs. Dynamite Kid
- Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat
- Junkyard Dog vs. Moondog Spot
- Tito Santana vs. Paul Orndorff
Quarterfinals: The Dynamite Kid vs Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart): Dynamite uses his speed to get an early an advantage leading to Adonis seeking advice from his manager. Adrian slingshots him into the corner and hits a suplex before using a chinlock to kill some time. Meanwhile, Jesse gets up and walks out of the broadcast position, saying he has to talk with the Macho Man. Dynamite powers up into a backdrop suplex but misses a flying headbutt. Adonis works over Dynamite’s knee and locks in a Sharpshooter but the Dynamite Kid gets to the ropes. Adonis tries a bulldog, but Dynamite shoots him into the corner and follows up with a sick hooking clothesline and drops a knee. A snap suplex and a headbutt draws Hart onto the apron. Kid goes after him and gets rolled up, but his kickout sends Adonis into Hart and allows Dynamite the chance to pick up the win.
Quarterfinals: Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. Ricky Steamboat:
Jesse Ventura confirms that he is advising Savage for this match. Savage taunts Ricky and then hides behind Elizabeth in a classic heel move. Steamboat turns his back and gets blindsided. He soon comes back with chops and sends his opponent to the floor. Steamboat suplexes him from the outside to the ring and hits the crossbody for a near fall. Savage falls to the apron and digs something out of his tights. Savage misses a swing but when Ricky attempts a suplex, Savage drills him with whatever the foreign object is and gets the win. As good as it gets in 3 minutes but, as everyone knows, they have better matches…
Quarterfinals: Junkyard Dog vs. Moondog Spot: JYD avoids a dive and hits a headbutt on Spot. With no referee in place, JYD takes matters into his own hands and counts the three and is awarded the win.
Quarterfinals: Tito Santana vs. Paul Orndorff: Tito has an injured leg after the first round. They wrestle a fairly straightforward match to start with, what with them both being babyfaces. Orndorff eventually shows frustration and is forced to go to the ropes. He hits an atomic drop on Tito’s injured leg but backs off because he’s a sportsman. Tito gets to his feet but Orndorff takes him back down and works on the leg. Tito fights out of it before they hit the floor and a slugfest ensures and both are counted out.
WWF Heavyweight Title Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper: Piper attacks before the bell and they fall to the floor for some brawling. Back in, Hogan hits a corner clothesline to knock Piper silly before dropping some elbows and pounds away in the corner. The referee breaks it up and this allows Piper to cheap shot the champion and take control. Piper applies his sleeper and Hogan appears to fade before Hulking up and they are again back to the outside. Back in, Hogan takes over and hits an atomic drop but is sent into the ref. With the referee down, Piper smashes Hogan with a chairshot but a second one is blocked and Hogan applies a sleeper. This brings out Orton again who drills Hogan with the cast and that’s all she wrote. Paul Orndorff makes the save.
Semi-Finals: Dynamite Kid vs. Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth): With JYD having a bye this is the only semi-final match. Early on, Dynamite Kid steamrolls Savage with a shoulderblock and hits a crossbody but Savage is in the ropes. A sunset flip gets two before Dynamite misses another crossbody attempt. They both hit a stiff looking clotheslines. Savage goes up to the top but Dynamite hits a dropkick. That sets up a superplex but Savage hooks Kid’s legs and gets the pin – undoubtedly the best match on the entire card.
Wrestling Classic Tournament Finals: Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. The Junkyard Dog:
Savage stalls to start with until JYD gets hold of him and overpowers him. He applies a bearhug but lets it go to club his opponent with forearms and a headbutt to the lower back. Savage eventually catches him with a neckbreaker before he tosses his opponent outside of the ring and hits a double ax-handle off the top then another. They go back in and he tries another – goes to the well once too often, eh Gorilla? – but the Dog catches him in the gut. Savage is then trapped in the ropes and is pummelled. Savage eventually gets himself free and charges but is backdropped all the way to the floor and is counted out bringing to an end a pretty grim match and, if truth be told, event.
Overall: On paper there is some good wrestling and some top talent on this card. The problem, however, is that there are just far too many matches. It means everything goes by too quickly. This show would have been better had they just had the quarter finals onwards. Alas, this is the 80s and it would take the company a while to stop having quite so many matches on a show. Worth watching? No, not really.