Throughout the history of pro wrestling bookers and promoters have always tried to come up with new, creative and innovative ideas to generate interest in their product. Some ideas have not only succeeded…but flourished. Others were DOA from the get go. Then there are those ideas which initially were innovative…but for various reasons….faded away. Those are the focus of this latest series of posts titled ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’.
Saturday Night’s Main Event was a WWF produced program that aired on NBC for several years as a replacement for the sketch comedy Saturday Night Live whenever that show went on hiatus. Saturday Night’s Main Event was a taped show that usually pitted marquee stars against marquee stars. (Something that was quite rare for the WWF in the 1980’s) With the overall success of SNME…NBC decided to give the World Wrestling Federation a spin off program of sorts simply called The Main Event.
The main difference between Main Event and Saturday Night’s Main Event was the fact that it was live (instead of taped) and it would air on NBC in prime time. Being handed such a tremendous opportunity by NBC…the WWF needed its first show to make a huge impact…and indeed they did.
A year earlier, Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silver Dome saw a reported 93,000 fans jammed to the rafters to witness the ‘8th Wonder of the World’ Andre the Giant challenge Hulk Hogan for the WWF title. There were countless other fans across the country who packed high school gymnasiums and movie theaters to watch the epic encounter on close circuit television. No doubt about it…Hogan Vs Andre at the third Wrestlemania was one of the most iconic moments in WWE history. Certainly, there would be no way to top such an event…or so we thought.
Nearly a year later, on February 5th, 1988…Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation did just that. A rematch between two of the biggest stars the WWF had at the time would take place. This time, however, the match would take place on free network TV…in prime time.
The match saw Hulk Hogan lose the WWF title to Andre when a crooked referee (Paid off by the ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase)…made the three count on Hulk’s shoulder’s despite the fact Hulk had his shoulder raised. The decision ended a 5 year long reign by the Hulkster. In reality, Hulk Hogan was taking time off the road to start filming the movie ‘No Holds Barred.’
You would think Hogan losing the championship to Andre was the biggest part of that night’s story. Instead, it was when Andre…just 1 minute and 48 seconds into his WWF title reign…surrendering the belt to Ted Dibiase. In addition to that, it was revealed that the referee who was thought to be Dave Hebner was actually his twin brother…Earl Hebner. (Who was making his WWF debut)
The match and its controversial result became the buzz throughout the wrestling world and beyond. The Main Event turned out to be a huge success with a record 33 million viewers tuning in. It was obvious that this was going to be the start of something big for the WWF.
A year later on February 3rd, 1989…the second prime time Main Event on NBC aired. This time, it featured a heel turn by The Macho Man Randy Savage on Hulk Hogan after Savage accused Hogan of lusting after his valet Miss Elizabeth. The ratings were not as explosive and impressive as the initial Main Event…but solid just the same.
It still helped spawn the third Main Event which took place in February of 1990. This show had the build of Hogan defending his WWF title against Randy Savage with boxing champion ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson serving as special guest referee. It would later be switched to boxer Buster Douglas after Douglas knocked out Tyson in their bout. The mystique was pretty much lost with Buster Douglas as a replacement and Hogan would successfully retain his title with Douglas knocking out Savage to close the match.
As with many of the WWF’s innovative shows through the years…the WWF decided to start taping the events before airing them to cut costs. The next two Main Event shows just didn’t have the same feel and the ratings never reached the monster ratings of the original Main Event. It was then decided to scrap the idea on NBC.
A great idea that worked for a brief period of time. Now, with the emergence of Raw, Smackdown and the WWE network…these type of shows seem obsolete…but oh were they fun during their heyday.
You can read all previous ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ pieces here.