#WF043 – The Ken Patera Story
James Dixon: Lee was supposed to be doing this, but he claims to have “lost the tape”, thus leaving me with the pleasure! I swear, I might kick his ass. Craig DeGeorge presents this, alongside Johnny V, and gives a run-down of what we have to look forward to. I am looking forward to the end credits. No not really. In all seriousness I think the problem with Patera, is that many fans like myself, only saw him in the mid-Hulkamania era after his prison stint. He was a bland babyface working dreadful matches with the likes of Bad News Brown. With bleached blonde hair and an arrogant persona, he was certainly much better as a heel.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Pat Patterson (c) vs. Ken Patera
From April 1980, this went over 20-minutes, but only the last few are shown. The crowd are absolutely rabid. Maybe I don’t give Patera enough credit, because he was one over mother. Patera shoves Patterson into the referee, and then goes up top and hits a knee drop to the back. The ref recovers enough to count the fall, even though Patterson had his foot on the ropes. The decision stands and the crowd are incensed, but Patera is the new champion. It’s a shame it was only the last few minutes, because that looked like a helluva match.
TNT: Bobby Heenan & Ken Patera
This is from April 1985, with Heenan telling Vince McMahon how Patera is undefeated and that he is on a quest to dethrone Hulk Hogan. He gets in some shots at Paul Orndorff, and we go straight into the next match.
Ken Patera vs. Ronnie D
This is a TV match from the same month as the TNT show. Ronnie D was just enhancement talent, and Patera rips him apart using his power. Random observation: Ken Patera looks an awful lot like Chuck Palumbo! Seriously, facially they are so close it’s actually scary. Patera has the match won a few times, but keeps picking him up instead of pinning him. Eventually he uses his swinging full nelson finisher and pins D with one foot on his chest after around two minutes. Clearly sending a message, he does another one afterwards. Standard TV squash match, but Patera did come off as a right asshole by not pinning his opponent over and over again. Nothing wrong with this.
Final Rating: SQUASH (Not rated)
Mean Gene runs through Patera’s pre-WWF career, discussing his accomplishments as a weight lifter and a shot putter, and they show off his Olympic gold. We cut to a few segments showing Patera’s strength, including a classic with Patera stopping Vince McMahon’s camper van with his leg strength. Mean Gene says Patera joining Bobby Heenan was the start of a tragic downward spiral. Perhaps a tad over the top. They will be blaming Heenan for him ending up in prison next. He practically does actually, before going into the story of the incident that led to Patera ending up in jail, with surprising honesty. The short version is that a restaurant wouldn’t serve him, because they were closed, so he got roid rage and threw a rock through the window. When he got arrested at his hotel, he kicked off with the police and subsequently was sentenced to two years in prison. Gene is boiling with rage about this, implying that in a society with rapists and murderers, such a sentence was excessive for a former national hero. It was actually, it was way over the top. Patera is interviewed and says he accepts full responsibility for his actions and that no-one is above the law. He says he should never have listened to Bobby Heenan, and in kayfabe world, he blames him for what happened. He promises to come back stronger and better than ever. He didn’t. Patera was never the same after jail and disappeared soon afterwards.
Bobby Heenan is interviewed and tells Patera not to blame him, and that he is not responsible for what Patera did. This leads to an in-ring debate between Patera and Heenan, hosted by Mean Gene. Heenan insults Patera and says they should have thrown away the key, but Patera says he has paid his debt and he is proud of his accomplishments and having the opportunity to return to the WWF. The WWF censorship team gets another chance to shine, playing constant beeps through Heenan’s speech as text flashes along the bottom of the screen, saying how they have had to censor Heenan’s words due to their heinous nature. I really wanna know what he said now! I can only imagine it was “WWF fans, wrestler, belt, steroid, Chris Benoit, War Games, Macho Man Randy Savage, XFL”. We do hear some of the speech, as he calls Patera a vicious and violent animal that should remain behind prison walls. Patera says he is through with prison and he is through with Heenan and his weasel family. Patera says he had a lot of time in prison to think about the Bobby Heenan’s of the world, and how Heenan didn’t show his face in the trial or during his time away. Patera has severe abandonment issues, and looks like he is going to burst into tears because Heenan didn’t write him any letters or come see him. I am surprised this didn’t turn Patera heel actually, such is the pandering desperate nature of his promo. This has been a really good, emotionally driven storyline though, but then again shoot based angles often are. Patera has said the exact same sentence THREE TIMES about how he is proud to live in the US and he has paid his debt. There was a reason Patera used to have Heenan as his mouthpiece, because he was far from the more verbose of talent. The segment ends with Heenan whipping Patera in the FACE with his belt, which of course brings out Patera’s roid rage, and he beats up Heenan. He will never learn, will he? Reformed indeed…
Ken Patera vs. Hercules
This is Patera’s first match back in the WWF after his two year stint in prison, and it comes from New Haven, Connecticut in April, 1987. Hercules is a logical choice for his first match back, as he is a member of Heenan’s Family, but also a guy known for his power. It makes sense that these two would fight each other. Herc jumps Patera with forearms and knees, and Ventura on commentary says Patera is not ready and will have major ring rust. Patera fires back, but Herc cuts him back off with a knee to the gut. Patera comes back again with more clubbing blows, but Herc goes to the eyes to derail him. You know what I like to see in wrestling matches? Wrestling moves. This has not featured any, it is just punches, forearms and kicks. That is not to say it has been especially bad as a fight, but to call it “wrestling” is pushing it. Herc throws in a backbreaker before going to the bearhug, but Patera fights out and hits a clothesline. Patera hits two HUGE slams, throwing Herc right across the ring. It’s an impressive looking move. Patera locks on a bearhug, and Harley Race, who was in Herc’s corner along with Heenan, jumps Patera and we have a DQ. Herc and Race beat on Patera until Billy Jack Haynes runs in for the save, and thus, Patera’s credibility will forever be tarnished. When you need Billy Jack Haynes to save your ass, you know you are screwed. Short, but a fun brawl. I guess they couldn’t put Patera in for too long in his first match back.
Final Rating: *¼
Ken Patera vs. Jimmy Jack Funk
Ah yes, Jimmy Jack Funk, otherwise known as “Shit Funk”. WWF went through a period of replacing departing stars with cheap imitations. Jimmy Snuka was replaced with Sivi Afi, Barry Windham by Dan Spivey and this was the WWF’s attempt at replacing Terry Funk. Inevitably, none of these worked at all. Jimmy Jack looks like Terry Gordy wearing the Repo Man’s hamburgler mask, only without any of the talent of those two. Funk starts well with a slam and a fist drop from the buckles, but it only gets two. Patera switches a whip and hits a clothesline, followed by an inverted atomic drop and a suplex, for two. Vince McMahon was comically bad at commentary, and calls a bearhug a “backbreaker”. I mean jeez, even Alfred Hayes would have got that one right! That finishes the match, just a squash, but it got Patera over as still being able to hang in the WWF after his absence.
Final Rating: ½*
Ken Patera vs. Frankie Lane
This is from the following month in Buffalo, New York. Lane was just enhancement talent. DeGeorge condescendingly says that this wouldn’t be on a top ten WWF matches list, but they are showing it for the finish. It is of course a total squash. The Heenan Family are all huddled together, stood watching the match, which Patera wins with the bearhug, which Vince has now learned the name of, as he calls it right this time! Hercules, King Kong Bundy, Harley Race, Paul Orndorff and Bobby Heenan surround the ring and attack Patera, and a five way assault occurs. Ventura is delighted with the Heenan Family’s brand of vigilante justice, as they whip Patera with a belt like a dog and then wrap it around his neck. The match was nothing, just there to set up the angle, which turned out to be a really well-delivered gang pummeling.
The Snake Pit: The Heenan Family
Jake says that a lot of people in wrestling need managers, but Heenan may need protection. Heenan disagrees, introducing the members of his family. Heenan says he is tired of people beating him up, and that every tough guy who thinks they can make a reputation at his expense has another thing coming, because the Family is stronger than ever.
Ken Patera vs. The Honky Tonk Man
We go back a month to May 1987, for Patera’s first match at MSG in two years, which was also the main event of the show. A lot of Patera’s most memorable angles as a heel took place in this venue, so the crowd reaction to him will be interesting. Patera delivers his big slam to Honky twice to start off, causing him to bail to the outside. Honky tries his hip swivel, but his back still hurts from the slam so he can’t. Patera goes to the wristlock, and then hits a massively delayed atomic drop, and messes up Honky’s hair afterwards for good measure. Patera was the king of delayed moves, and I mean that in a good way. His slam across the ring was impressive, and something not seen very often since. The delayed atomic drop adds a nice personal nuance to a generic move and he even used to delay his suplex a little too. You don’t realise things like that about him until you watch a few of his matches in a row. I have been won over by Patera on this tape. Honky takes a while to get going, and many minutes pass before he manages an offensive move. He finally catches a break when Honky moves out of the way of a charge in the corner, and Patera hits the post shoulder first. Unfortunately, Honky’s offense is pretty dull, it is just weak strikes and no wrestling moves at all. Thinking about it, I am not sure if I have ever seen a Honky match that was above average. Honky misses a flying axe handle, and Patera fires back with punches and a monkey flip, followed by a clothesline and a backbreaker. Honky gets his foot on the ropes to break it, but walks straight into a slam. Attempts by Jimmy Hart to distract Patera don’t work, and he catches Honky in a bearhug. Seeing Honky is in trouble, Hart runs in and nails Patera with his megaphone for a DQ, but it has no effect. In an impressive spot, Patera lifts up both Honky and Hart into a bearhug at the same time, before they flee the ring soon after. Really good finishing sequence, very exciting, and even the shitty finish had a good payoff with the cool double-bearhug spot. We also get bonus insider terms thrown out from Johnny V on commentary, as he says “Honky is still selling the arm there” just before the go-home sequence. Good match when Patera was on offense, dull when Honky was in control.
Final Rating: **½
Ken Patera & Hulk Hogan vs. King Harley Race & Hercules
This is from the Philadelphia Spectrum in June 1987, a few weeks after the five-on-one beating that the Heenan family delivered to Patera. Hogan is the reigning WWF champion. This was a huge spot for Patera, and a sign that the WWF were really serious about pushing him as a top guy. Rumour has it that Patera was set to rejoin Heenan and face Hogan for the title at WrestleMania IV, until plans got nixed when Patera got injured. I don’t know how true that is, but if it is accurate, then it is a very interesting scenario and one I think could have gotten over. Hogan and Race actually had a bit of an issue around this time as well, with the two having Texas Death Matches around the circuit, two of which are featured on the Even More Unusual Matches tape. Hogan and Patera clear the ring to start, and Hogan squares off with Race when we get going properly. Race surprises Hogan with a headbutt, but Hogan comes back with a suplex and clotheslines Race over the top. Patera in with Hercules next, and Patera overpowers him easily. The more I watch Patera here during the few months after his comeback where they did push him, the more I feel it is a shame how they dropped the ball with him. Hogan is actually taking the heat here, and unless they do a double, it’s going to be Patera with the hot tag and big face comeback, which shows just how high he was being positioned. When they use Hogan to get someone over, they are serious. Well, apart from that time he teamed with Billy Jack Haynes… Race and Herc work Hogan over some more, before Herc locks on the bearhug, which DeGeorge completely no-sells by saying that Hogan has been in a bearhug from Andre the Giant, so nothing compares to that. He half has a point, but surely it is about technique as well as just size. It is all moot anyway as Hogan escapes and hits a clothesline, finally tagging in Patera. Patera throws Herc across the ring with a slam and hits a suplex, but Race saves him from the bearhug. Race in with a side belly-to-belly suplex, but Hogan makes the save for his team. A gutwrench suplex yields the same outcome. I think I was expecting too much from Hogan to think he wouldn’t want the ego boost of the real hot tag. Here he comes, running through the heels with ease. Big boot to Race, and the legdrop, but Heenan distracts to save his man. The respite is short lived however, as Hogan and Patera hit a double clothesline on Race, and Hulk covers for the pin. Too much Hogan, when the issue was supposed to be with Patera and the Heenan Family. I guess that could have been used as grounds for them to eventually feud though. Have you noticed how a lot of Hogan’s rivalries are based on his opponents being pissed off with him hogging the spotlight?
Final Rating: *¾
Summary: A surprisingly good tape! I wasn’t expecting much from this going in, but it turned out to be highly rewarding and thoroughly entertaining. The story about Patera going to prison is well told and entirely captivating, and the stuff with Heenan and the Family that follows is very entertaining. The only negative surrounding this is that there is a feeling of disappointment knowing how Patera’s final WWF run turned out, as it ended up as something of a damp squib. Still, this is worth seeing. Recommended.