#WF056 – Best Of The WWF Volume #16
Lee Maughan: Hosted from the Prime Time Wrestling studios by ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund with Frenchy Martin and Outback Jack. Good grief.
Giant Machine vs. Tatsumi Fujinami
So this is actually from New Japan with the original Japanese announcing left intact which, on an official WWF tape was absolutely surreal to see, especially in the pre-YouTube, underground tape trading days. Giant Machine is of course Andre the Giant under a hood, the gimmick based on Junji Hirata’s Super Strong Machine character that was transplanted into the WWF in 1986 with Bill Eadie/Masked Superstar/Demolition Ax as Super Machine and Blackjack Mulligan as Big Machine, although in the WWF they were portrayed as babyfaces unlike in Japan. That being said, by the time this tape came out, Andre was a heel in the WWF so it didn’t matter… although the Machine’s gimmick was long gone so I’m sure someone was still confused. Tatsumi Fujinami meanwhile is a legend of the Japanese grappling game, having trained under Antonio Inoki debuted in the now-defunct Japanese Wrestling Association, and helped Inoki form New Japan after Inoki was fired by the JWA for conspiring to take over the promotion. He went on to become one of New Japan’s greatest stars, thanks to his matches and rivalries with likes of Riki Choshu, Big Van Vader, Ric Flair, and others. A former WWWF Junior Heavyweight champion, Fujinami also happens to be no stranger to Coliseum Video, as his match with Ted Adams from Madison Square Garden was featured on The Best of the WWF Volume #15, but nobody bothers to identify him here. How contemptible. Things start out well enough, with Fujinami using his speed to go after Andre’s legs, but once Andre gets his hands on Fujinami, it’s rest hold city. And that’s kind of the story of the match really. It’s quite exciting when Fujinami’s on offence but utterly boring when Andre is. Oddly for a Japanese match, Andre also has a manager with him (as opposed to a second or a corner man), a guy called K.Y. Wakamatsu dressed in a red and black poncho, a pork pie hat and carrying a megaphone. And naturally, he gets up on the apron to cause a distraction. How kind of the Japanese to throw out this western wrestling cliché so the regular WWF fans would feel right at home watching this crappy match! So with Wakamatsu distracting the referee, Fujinami gets pissed off and slams the referee. Makes sense. Don’t go after the guy dicking around on the apron, just attack the referee. Well, he’s a referee, he probably deserved it. They all deserve it sooner or later. So yes, Coliseum Video managed to find a match from Japan (a country where clean finishes are practically demanded in every match by the fans) with a disqualification finish. Somehow, for Coliseum Video, that seems entirely appropriate. Match was all of six minutes.
Final Rating: *
Back in the studio, Gene mutters “Ah, so!” in his best ‘Ching Chong Chinaman’ voice whilst dressed in a not-at-all racist Japanese costume, complete with squinty-eyes and buck teeth. Well, of course.
Mr. Okerlund Goes to Tokyo
Gene goes on a tour of Tokyo and absurdly claims that Japanese people are all taught in English schools and speak the English language well. Naturally, he accosts a thoroughly confused Japanese man on the streets with no clue what he’s saying, so Gene asks him if he’s selling any rice, but it turns out he’s selling newspapers. Wow. Next stop is Fuji Bank, before Gene meets a mannequin which he says is very lovely but it “isn’t quite Hooterville.” This guy. To Mystiq Records next where Gene asks for The Wrestling Album. He points out a picture of Marilyn Monroe on the wall and wonders if the Japanese know she’s gone. They speak a different language Gene, they’re not ill-informed idiots. Amazingly, the guy behind the counter returns with a copy of The Wrestling Album on 12” vinyl with Japanese artwork. That’s got to be a set-up, hasn’t it? At Tokyo Tower, Gene throws 500 yen into a telescope so he can peep on the “336 girls sitting by the pool and sunbathing” at the American Club, and then he laughs a dirty old man laugh. “There’s some beauties down there and you won’t believe it… they’re a’capella!” What a fucking pervert! Back in America, Gene and Frenchie get into an argument about the Eiffel Tower while Gene swings a samurai sword around.
The Jumping Bomb Angels vs. Condor Saito & Bull Nakano
Holy sh*t – we’re back to Japan with the great AJW promotion, renowned for the greatest women’s wrestling (and some of the very best wrestling, period) on the planet. And despite this, the introductions are made by the most bored-sounding ring announcer of all time. The Jumping Bomb Angels are Noriyo Tateno & Itsuki Yamazaki who came to the WWF in 1987 to feud with The Glamour Girls over the WWF Women’s Tag Team titles, in some of the best matches in North America at that time. Bull Nakano is the same girl who would feud with Alundra Blayze in the WWF in 1994, but she’s a lot smaller here at the spry young age of 19. She doesn’t quite have the wild, long, spiked blue hair here, but she and Condor Saito have another legend of Japanese wrestling with them on the outside; Dump Matsumoto, and the three of them are doing a post-apocalyptic cyberpunks gimmick with half-shaved heads and dyed hair. Incidentally, Nakano and Matsumoto had a pair of tag team matches together in the WWF in 1986, using the name ‘Devils of Japan.’ Again, the original Japanese announcing is left intact, although you can make out the words “Leilani Kai and Judy Martin, WWF champion team”, placing this match somewhere in 1987. It’s kind of an odd choice to showcase the Angels though (I suspect AJW just sent the WWF this match rather than someone at the WWF choosing a specific outing) as they mostly get dominated by the monster heel team, with just some token offence in the small comebacks they attempt, like Tateno’s pretty incredible slingshot over the ropes to the apron, then right back over the top with a cross-body in one fluid motion and no hesitation on it whatsoever. Absolutely mind-blowing to see anyone do that in the late 80s. It’s even more incredible when you realise how rock hard the ring canvas looks to be, like a boxing ring from the 1950s. It looks like they’re practically landing on concrete, which makes the pace of this match (and AJW’s full-on, big bumping style) so much more incredible to see. Amazingly, at no point does the action ever slow down. It’s literally non-stop, full on stuff for the duration which, again, in this ring is incredible. With that said, it’s not without it’s flaws; Bull swings a mean nunchaku with more accuracy than Michelangelo wiping out a Foot Soldier in full view of the referee, and doesn’t get disqualified, and there’s no real flow or story to the match. It’s the kind of match that you’d see on tape in 1988 after a diet of Prime Time Wrestling squash matches and be absolutely blown away by, but it’s also the kind of match you’d watch with modern eyes and consider something of a ‘spotfest’, even if it’s not strictly the highspot-rest-highspot-rest style you’d associate with that term. In many ways, it’s like watching something from Dragon Gate. And the funny thing is, believe it or not, the Angels weren’t even the best team in AJW. Just think about that! Think about how good their matches with The Glamour Girls were, how exciting this match is, how ahead of their time they were, and yet they still couldn’t hold a candle to Lioness Asuka & Chigusa Nagayo, the Crush Gals. And then, the dreaded Coliseum Curse rears it’s ugly head, as they manage to dig up probably (not really) the only double-count out in Japanese wrestling history. Such a deeply dissatisfying end to one of the best matches you’ll ever see on a WWF release from the 1980s.
Final Rating: ***½
Seriously, if all you know of women’s wrestling is sub-two minute WWE Divas matches and pillow fights, do yourselves a favour and check out some late 80s-mid 90s All Japan Women, and prepare to have your socks knocked off.
Mr. Fuji vs. “Unknown”
I’m not sure who the opponent for Fuji is, and all my research comes up blank. He kind of looks like a skinny Austin Idol, if that helps. I also couldn’t dig up a date or a specific location for whatever show this match is culled from, but the commentator is speaking Arabic so it clearly aired on TV over there at some point. The match is joined in progress about five minutes in, with Fuji holding a headscissors. How exciting. Whoever this guy he’s wrestling is just looks hopelessly out of his depth, as he stumbles around the ring and takes some poorly-timed bumps. Fuji slaps on a cobra clutch and that’s it. What aired of the match was all of two minutes.
Final Rating: DUD
The Killer Bees vs. Mike Sharpe & Barry O
Barry O for the uninitiated is Barry Orton, son of Bob Orton, Sr., brother of ‘Ace Cowboy’ Bob Orton, Jr., and uncle of Randy Orton (Barry’s actual Christian name is Randal, funnily enough) who was later blackballed from the World Wrestling Federation for speaking out during the WWF’s sex scandals of 1992, claiming to have been molested by senior backstage officials Pat Patterson and Terry Garvin as a young boy, although stating the incidents took place before any of them were connected with the WWF. He also had a short but successful stint in the Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion up in Calgary, Canada under a hood as Zodiak, as both a manager and opponent for Jason the Terrible. This is from the infamous ‘Puerto Rican Downpour’ outdoor show, as the heavens opened up and it pissed it down like you’ve never seen before. The tiny little ring in the middle of the stadium (looks to be about 16×16) is just completely waterlogged, but as they say in the entertainment world, the show must go on. Sharpe accidentally nails O with a forearm across the chest to start, just so they’ve got an excuse to have a shoving match on the floor and not have to wrestle in the ring. I mean, it just looks so dangerous. You can see them literally sliding all over the place, there’s that much rain, and their wrestling boots don’t exactly offer up much friction. Even the referee falls over just walking from one side of the ring to the other. I’m amazed someone didn’t tear their groin or their quadriceps doing matches under these conditions actually. Finally, Jim Brunzell just thinks “fuck it”, and small packages O for the pin. Match was all of four minutes, and pretty impossible to rate given the circumstances, but it certainly made for a hell of a unique spectacle. The Hulk Hogan-Big John Studd match from this card is on the Hulk Still Rules DVD, and WWE Classics on Demand have since broadcast the entire show, although having seen it I can say that watching one match under the rain is fascinating, watching eight of them back-to-back, not so much.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules
This is from the WWF’s first show in Italy and aired on the Italia1 station, with this footage appearing to come direct from the TV broadcast given the station insignia in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. There’s very little action as you might expect from these two. In fact, close your eyes and try to imagine a Warrior-Hercules match in your head. Help yourself to a WWF ice cream bar if you imagined it exactly like this – a posedown offers parity, as do lock-ups, so they trade running shoulderblocks with Warrior not budging, but Hercules hitting the deck like a sack of shit. Warrior gives him the gorilla press slam but Hercules gets the knees up on Warrior’s splash attempt. With Warrior hurt, Hercules locks in the full nelson, but it’s no Masterlock and Warrior breaks it with ease, so Hercules clobbers him in the back of the head and Warrior spills out to the floor where the pair of them brawl to a lame count-out finish in less than four-and-a-half minutes. That’s exactly the DUD you predicted, right? First house show in Italy and they couldn’t even give the audience a clean finish, all so they could protect dear old Hercules. Why? What was he being spared for? God only knows.
Final Rating: DUD
Andre the Giant vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
This is the main event from the same Italian show that Warrior-Hercules semi-main evented, and with that one-two punch, I’m surprised the entire promotion wasn’t deported immediately. The Italian commentator (Dan Petersen) constantly annoys me during this match by exclusively referring to Duggan as “Hacksaw Jim” but likewise amuses me when using the Italian words for ‘the Giant’ – “El Gigante.” The sadist in me now wishes there’d been a Duggan vs. Giant Gonzalez match back in ’93. Like that Warrior-Hercules match, this one is just as predictable. Duggan tries to evade Andre with much less grace and intensity than Tatsumi Fujinami did earlier in the tape, then Andre gets his hands on him and chokes him out. A lot. Eventually, the crowd starts up with “Hogan” chants, despite the Hulkster having not even been on the European tour. Andre works in his favourite spot, namely getting his arms tied up in the ropes, and the reason I like that spot so much is because you can believe it with a guy Andre’s size, plus he always obliterates his opponent the second he gets untied, further establishing how dangerous he is and what a desperate little window of opportunity that had really been. Upon Andre’s escape, Duggan runs into a big boot in the corner for pin. After the match, Andre chokes out Duggan then goes after the referee just because he’s a dick, so Duggan clonks him on the head with his big plank. Match was all of six minutes, and every bit as bad as you’d expect.
Final Rating: ½*
Back in the studio once more, and Gene is dressed like Outback Jack and shaving with a knife. Outback tells him “That’s not a knife, I’ll show you a knife.” He reaches under the table so it looks (rather less-than-coincidentally) like he’s about to zip open his flies and pull his cock out, allowing Gene to reply “I know about your knife, I’ve seen it some place before… possibly in a movie.” I don’t know if that was supposed to be a Crocodile Dundee reference or just flat out genital innuendo. Knowing Gene, it was probably both.
Mean Gene Goes Down Under
Gene and Ricky Steamboat meet some koala bears but Gene is appalled when a man from Australia tells him the gefilte fish are extinct. Either he’s ill-informed or he’s a liar. Maybe he just meant they were prohibited in Australia. Either way, Gene gathers up Steamboat, S.D. Jones and Paul Roma and they head off to feed some baby kangaroos. Nothing of note happens, although Gene tries to work in some dick jokes when they realise they’re unaware of the sex of the koalas, but they fall flat. Back in America, Outback Jack informs Gene they weren’t kangaroos at all, but actually wallabies.
At Home with Outback Jack
Out in the scrubs, Outback feeds dead chickens to a crocodile then heads off to the pub for an arm wrestling match. After winning, one of the pub’s patrons yells: “Outback! Yer a fukin’ hero!” and it doesn’t get bleeped out. From there, another match for Outback as he challenges a cow to a beer drinking contest and no, I’m not making this up. Outback apparently loses, but claims it wasn’t fair because the cow has four stomachs. Pearls of wisdom next, as Outback tells us “koalas are cute little buggers”, then it’s off to meet an indigenous tribe who sit around a fire and paint Outback’s face in preparation for battle in the World Wrestling Federation. I don’t see how that would make any difference, and guessing by Jack’s win-loss record, it didn’t. Finally, he wrestles a water buffalo. “This is what you do when you’re chasing a man on the flats! You lock ’em up, and then you toss ’em!” If only Gene had been around to make some gay jokes at that line.
Well, what do you know? Back in the studio, Gene yelps “Let’s go to gay Paris!”, putting all the emphasis on the word “gay” and gleefully pointing at Frenchie while he does so. Gene thinks that’s hilarious and honestly, his head probably would have fallen off if he’d have been laughing any harder. The bottom-of-the-barrel sleaze factor this man has is just absolutely off the charts.
King Harley Race vs. The Junkyard Dog
Frenchy Martin is doing the commentary here for the Canal+ television broadcast, which means having to listen to his gravelly voice all match long and not having a clue what he’s saying to boot. Frenchie’s French Is still preferable to ‘Duke’ Doherty’s English though. And yes, it’s the WWF’s first ever card in France and they’ve got the world’s most famous French wrestler, Andre the Giant, working as a special guest referee instead of wrestling. Not that I’m advocating a third Andre match on this tape or anything, but that does seem like a gigantic waste of the guy, all things considered. Not only is Andre not wrestling, but he’s a heel too, which makes for a somewhat mixed-up atmosphere. Luckily, the crowd seems to play along with it, although you’d think for one night he could work as the triumphant returning hero and squash a couple of local guys in a handicap match like he used to do in the olden days, but I guess they felt using him as a heel official was a better idea. And it’s really not a better idea at all because look, we know professional wrestling is a work and a heel referee is out there to draw heat and help his buddy or his associate or his stablemate win, but therein lies the logical flaw – why doesn’t Andre just fast-count or disqualify JYD the first chance he gets? Why would you, as a blatantly crooked referee who aren’t even trying to hide the fact you’re crooked, still go along with the pretence of having a legitimate match? Who is that supposed to fool? And why did WWF president Jack Tunney suspend Andre in 1986 for no-showing a television match but let’s him get off scot-free despite having just pulled the most-biased referee job since Danny Davis? Where’s the consistency in that? So Andre’s one-sided officiating job is the basic story of the match as he prevents JYD from throwing punches in the corner, but allows Harley to throw fists. He breaks a legal wrist-lock takedown for an illegal hair-pull (which Harley hilariously protests about AFTER Andre has admonished JYD, which in the context of their sinister plot works really well actually), and then cleans up the ring instead of counting after JYD hits his big powerslam. Harley takes a nice back bump over the top and eventually hurts himself from headbutting JYD (because as a black man, JYD has a head made from granite, or something) then Andre just casually kicks JYD in the ribs and disqualifies him for headbutting Harley, after he had told him not to. Oddly enough, the JYD-Andre grudge match this set up, didn’t take place until October 7th, 1988, on the WWF’s second show in France, making it quite literally a match one year in the making.
Final Rating: *
The Rougeau Brothers vs. The New Dream Team
This is joined in progress to The New Dream Team (Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine and Dino Bravo, who replaced Brutus Beefcake after WrestleMania III) getting the heat on Raymond Rougeau, but it’s all very pedestrian stuff and not all that interesting. In fact, the most interesting thing I noticed here was the crowd. As far as the eye can see, it’s all adults, and fairly well dressed ones to boot. I’m not sure if they’re all Canal+ executives, glad-handers or if WWF wrestling was considered the chic thing the first time it came to Paris (much like the celebrity attention they got in New York in 1985 around the ‘Rock N’ Wrestling Connection’, MTV and WrestleMania time with Andy Warhol, Danny DeVito and others showing up to the matches) but there’s not a child in sight. With there being so little to say about the match (other than Valentine selling a bridge into a monkey flip escape like a kick to the balls), here’s a little theory about why the original version of The Dream Team was better than the new incarnation, despite Bravo being a better worker than Beefcake (at least until Beefcake improved dramatically, at least by his own standards.) The original goal of the Dream Team was to disguise the relatively green Beefcake by putting him in a tag team situation where he could learn from the highly experienced Greg Valentine who, after dropping the Intercontinental title to Tito Santana in a steel cage match in July of 1985, was at a loose end for something to do. As it was, Valentine carried the bulk of the in-ring work with Beefcake on the apron, watching, learning, and coming in for selected spots, and the team gelled. Once Beefcake was ready to fly solo, Bravo came in as his replacement, but as a seasoned veteran himself (he’d already been wrestling for 17-years at that point, the same as Valentine) there was no need for Valentine to shoulder the burden of responsibility, and the team split the work evenly. Unfortunately, the team now lacked the flamboyance and colour that Beefcake brought, and Bravo had discovered the steroid needle and pumped himself up to bursting point, severely reducing the quality of his in-ring performances as compared with his more slender days as a naturally brunette Italian-Canadian babyface in the Montreal promotion. The result of the union between Valentine & Bravo was two equal parts that actually amounted to less than a single whole. Obviously, Raymond gets the hot tag to his brother, everything breaks down and then Greg goes for the figure four leg lock on Jacques, only for Raymond (the illegal man) to come in with a sunset flip for the pin. Decent ending to a match that was neither good nor bad. It was just some wrestling. The end.
Final Rating: *¾
Summary: An interesting enough tape in some respects, in that it was almost unfeasible in the pre-DVD/Classics on Demand “we own the tapes to everything” era that the WWF would include outside footage on one of it’s official releases, but low-and-behold, here’s New Japan followed by AJW. For any hardcore wrestling fan in 1988, that must have been absolutely mind-blowing. Just as interesting is that the original announcing has been left on all the matches, with only the Killer Bees match having English language commentary on it, giving the tape a distinctly unique flavour. Some might find it hard to sit through foreign-language broadcasting, but then pro wrestling itself is a pretty universal language so there shouldn’t be too many problems. Much harder to sit through is the quality of the bouts themselves, and some of them are absolute dire, or simply not worth your time. The Angels match is actually a terrific place to start if you’re interested in getting in joshi puroresu, given that you should be familiar with three of the four girls in the match, and the Killer Bees match is a sight to be seen. But the rest is a total dumping ground. Recommended for the Angels, or if you’re really interested in seeing the ongoing chronicles of ‘Mean’ Gene Steptoe: “Dirty Old Man.”