Following the timeline of WWE (then WWF) Pay Per View events, we come to the second, and final PPV of 1985, The Wrestling Classic. I can definitively say that I never saw this event prior to this viewing. I vaguely remember seeing the Coliseum Video tape of this at the video store as kid, but maybe the script font of “The Wrestling Classic” logo just didn’t jive with me or something? I’m not sure. On paper, I should have been down for this, Piper vs. Hogan and a 16 man tournament. I don’t know, I was a weird kid since I even remember renting the Hillbilly Jim / Uncle Elmer “Country Boys” showcase video. Anyway, The Wrestling Classic is notable for the aforementioned Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Hulk Hogan title match, and for the WWE PPV debut of Randy “Macho Man” Savage who had signed with the company a few months prior. Let’s see what the Wrestling Classic has to offer.
Turn Heel Retro: The Wrestling Classic (1985)
Wow. That WWF graphics logo and the “recognized symbol in sports entertainment” voice over. Now that brings back some memories. Immediately we kick in with some jazzy music and Howard Finkel says this is presented in “Wrestlevision”, whatever that is. The Wrestling Classic is live from the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois. Much like at WrestleMania, we get a bunch of stills of all of the wrestlers set to appear on the show, but since we didn’t use a Phil Collins song tonight, we actually get to hear Finkel’s voice over. Apparently the WWE also raffled off a Rolls Royce car that some lucky fan is going to win later tonight. Crazy. I think they should give out a Tesla at WrestleMania in a few weeks. Just sayin’.
We’re then sent to mild-mannered announcer type, Vince McMahon, who sets the stage from inside the Horizon. McMahon then introduces us to Lord Alfred Hayes, who looks a little less spooked than he was at WrestleMania, but not by much, and Susan Waitkis. I tried using Google to get some idea of who Susan Waitkis is and made no real headway. I don’t remember her as part of the regular on air staff from WWF back then so… yeah. No clue, but she’s standing with Hayes in front of the tournament brackets. Hayes puts over the tournament as something that is going to take a lot of endurance for these guys to survive. Vince then goes through the various round one matches. Susan Waitkis just smiles and points with a long stick as Vince comments on each first round match up. My guess is she was just someone who looked vaguely enough like Vanna White that they just ran with it.
We’re then sent to “earlier today” when Mean Gene Okerlund was backstage as the wrestlers drew their opponent’s names out of a fish bowl. Two guys with 80s hair helmets and suits are holding a bowl and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat goes to pull out a name. Wait, so how did they choose who got to pick the opponents? For example, couldn’t Steamboat have theoretically pulled his own name out of the bowl? Or, did they make a custom bowl of the remaining eligible names before each guy pulled? That seems like a lot of work and not very efficient. Anyway, Steamboat gets Davey Boy Smith and seems excited and says he’s a “fine, young man”. I’m already predicting this will likely be the match of the show. Next, Elizabeth pulls a name for Savage and gets Ivan Putski, which upsets Savage. To finish this segment up, Mr. Fuji draws for Don Muraco, who couldn’t be bothered to be there and gets Tito Santana.
We’re then sent back to McMahon and Hayes and McMahon says that President Jack Tunney is on hand. This tournament is serious business! Mean Gene is with Tunney who seems to be reading lines off a cue card. Mean Gene wants Tunney to elaborate on the rules of the tournament. Tunney says the only rule is you have to win to advance. LOL. Gene then mentions if it’s a draw, both wrestlers would be eliminated and Tunney confirms this. We’re then immediately sent back to Vince which leads me to believe the Tunney thing was to kill some time.
We’re then sent to ringside and see Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Venture for first time tonight. Ventura is wearing a purple, sparkly, tie-dyed jacket and red sunglasses. All right let’s get the first round of the tournament underway! Jimmy Hart and Adrian Adonis are already in the ring. Corporal Kirchner actually gets an entrance with music.
Match #1: Adrian Adonis (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Corporal Kirchner (Round One match)
The first round matches only have ten minute time limits, so I’m not going to expect much… but, this match… eh. Kirchner’s big offense is a rest hold that eats up almost one-third of the run time. Adonis gets in all of the offense and wins by Kirchner failing at a suplex attempt. WWE Network calls it a “DDT” but it looks more like a blown spot and Adonis just went with it and pinned Kirchner.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – I think I realize now why I had a Corporal Kirchner action figure as a kid but never remember seeing him on TV by the time I was watching regularly.
During the replay, it looked less like a blown spot, but still seems like a strange way of doing a DDT. Mean Gene is with Hart and Adonis. Hart talks a mile a minute and Adonis cuts a really good promo. We’re then sent to the ring with the next two wrestlers already in the ring. Dynamite Kid gets a huge pop and Volkoff gets the standard massive heel heat. Volkoff does his usual spot of singing the Soviet National Anthem and then starts to cut a promo on America as the bell rings.
Match #2: Dynamite Kid vs. Nikolai Volkoff (Round One match)
Dynamite Kid climbs the ropes, missile dropkicks Volkoff, and gets the pin. Yes, it is over that fast. This had to have beaten Bundy’s “record” against SD Jones at WrestleMania.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – I love this if for nothing else besides the LOL factor of Volkoff, a former tag champ, getting beaten that quickly and by a solitary missile dropkick no less. The crowd just ate this up too.
We’re then sent backstage where Okerlund tries to interview Savage, which is competing with Finkel announcing something in the ring. Damn, Savage is a great promo. We’re then sent back to the ring with Putski already in the ring. Savage gets his “pomp and circumstance” entrance.
Match #3: Randy “Macho Man” Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs. Ivan Putski (Round One match)
We get a mismatch of styles here and Savage spends most of the match worrying about where Elizabeth is standing and avoiding Putski. I know almost nothing about Putski but he reminds me of a smaller Ryback for some reason so that is likely coloring my potential enjoyment of this match. Savage gets a cheap, rope-assisted roll up pin the corner to advance.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Due to the sheer number of men in the tournament, I figure Savage was going to be in at least one garbage match. This is likely that match.
We’re then sent back to Vince McMahon and Vanna Waitkis who also specializes in putting a photo of the winner on the next round’s bracket. Vince is talking to Hayes when Volkoff storms in and commandeers the mic and starts ranting about how he was robbed. Vince suggests that perhaps Volkoff sang the national anthem one time too many. Volkoff says some more barely intelligible stuff and I’m not kidding, the captioning person for the WWE can’t even figure some of it out.
Back in the ring, Steamboat and Smith are already there getting introduced for the next match.
Match #4: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Davey Boy Smith (Round One match)
So, my preliminary “match of the show” isn’t going to be match of the show. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fine match up until the bizarre ending. Things are clipping along just fine as you’d imagine a Steamboat / Smith match in 1985 would go, then Smith charges at Steamboat who dodges, and Smith gets crotched by the ropes. The ref immediately calls for the bell and awards the match to Steamboat. What?
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – So, either Smith legit got injured, considering Steamboat immediately checks on him after the bell, or they got really creative to have some variety with so many matches on one show. Either way, it looks super awkward so I can’t, on good conscience, give this a thumbs up.
We then spend time looking at Smith’s agony face while some security guys and guys in burgundy blazers help him out of the ring.
Meanwhile, Okerlund is backstage with The Junkyard Dog. JYD cuts a promo thanking God and his daughter for allowing him to be there. He also says thanks to Chicago. The Iron Sheik is already in the ring and JYD comes out to the awkwardly dubbed “Grab Them Cakes”, so I’m assuming he really came out to “Another One Bites The Dust”.
Match #5: The Iron Sheik vs. The Junkyard Dog (Round One match)
So far this seems like it’s been the longest match out of the first round. Sheik gets the Camel Clutch on JYD, who escapes it by just so sort of collapsing. Sheik then starts bickering with the referee and the Dog uses this opportunity to head butt Sheik. He then lazily covers Sheik, not even hooking the leg, and gets the three count.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – One of the better matches on this show so far, but that’s not saying much. JYD is insanely over with this crowd so this match has that going for it.
The ref announces JYD as the winner and we abruptly cut to Okerlund who is with Terry Funk and Jimmy Hart. Funk cuts a great promo saying he’s going take $50,000 from Paul Orndorff and use that to somehow get a match with the world champion… Roddy Piper… because he thinks Piper will beat Hogan tonight. Apparently the $50k was a bounty Heenan put on Orndorff, so I suppose he has that hanging over his head tonight too. Okerlund is terrified of Funk, so Jimmy Hart ends up holding the mic cuts a promo saying Funk is ready for anything. Funk then walks up to the camera and spits tobacco juice all over it, several times. LOL.
We’re then sent to the ring where Moondog Spot is already waiting. For those younger people reading this, the Moondogs were like the Wyatt Family if the Wyatt Family didn’t wear shirts and didn’t cut vaguely mystical promos in a smoky room. They win about as many big matches as the Wyatts do. Anyway, Funk cuts a promo trying to bargain with Moondog to have them both leave the ring and get a draw. Funk goes first, Spot follows.
Match #6: Terry Funk (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Moondog Spot (Round One match)
So, the “match” consists of Funk hitting Spot and trying to run back into the ring. They brawl outside the ring for about five seconds and then Spot gets inexplicably thrown back into the ring by Funk. Terry can’t beat the count and loses by count out. Yes, this happened.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – Really?
Post-match, Funk attacks Spot, but Moondog eventually escapes.
We’re then sent to Okerlund who is with Mr. Fuji and Don Muraco. Fuji cuts a promo on Santana, the current IC champion. Muraco cuts a subdued promo saying if he can beat Santana it’s all going to be easy from there.
Match #7: Tito Santana vs. The Magnificent Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji) (Round One match)
So far the best match of the first round and it is marred by a bizarre finish. Muraco has the match in control and hits a powerslam right next to the ropes. Santana apparently gets his foot on the ropes, but the ref doesn’t see it and counts three and the bell rings. Due to the terrible camera angle, you never actually see Tito’s foot on the ropes. Santana then just small packages Muraco and the ref counts three and the bell rings again.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Decent match, terrible finish.
Post-match, we see a replay and apparently no actual angle of this controversial finish exists. Ventura calls it a cheap win for “Chico Santana”.
Meanwhile, Mean Gene is with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Gene says that none of Heenan’s “men” are here tonight, but Brain says they’re watching from “vantage points”. Mean Gene says “weasel” which you just don’t call Bobby Heenan. The Brain calls the fans “humanoids” and then says he has $50,000 to whomever takes out Orndorff in the tournament tonight.
Match #8: Cowboy Bob Orton vs. Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff (Round One match)
I never would have guessed it, but this is the best match of the first round. Orndorff is insanely over with the crowd, which I also wouldn’t have guessed. Orton takes control for most of the match, but then Orndorff starts to mount a come back. Orton gets “crotched” on the ropes, like Davey Boy Smith, but for some reason this doesn’t equal the end of the match. Orton tries to flee by running out of the ring and then back in. This gives him enough to time to adjust his cast and he then drills Orndorff with it from the apron. He then goes to pin Orndorff, but the ref calls for the bell and doesn’t count.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – So far the best worked match, beyond the Steamboat one with the bizarre finish. I’m assuming this is an auto-DQ for using the cast, but even still the finish looks super awkward.
Post-match, the ref raises Orndorff’s hand. Mr. Wonderful and Cowboy Bob then brawl in the ring and Orndorff comes out on top.
We’re then sent to Vince and Alfred Hayes is aggressively holding Vanna Waitkis with a bizarre look on his face as she tries to hit him with her stick. Man, the 80’s were a strange time. We then get a break down on the matches from Alfred Hayes who seems to have spent the show so far sexually harassing Waitkis and literally has nothing to add to what we’ve seen so far. Vince then explains the brackets for Round Two. He calls Savage / Steamboat a “main event” and then mentions the Junkyard Dog and something is either censored or the audio feed completely goes out for a few seconds. Terry Funk then storms in like Volkoff earlier and claims he was robbed. Ah, Funk says “WWF” and that gets censored. Vince must have mentioned the “WWF” earlier. We wouldn’t want to confuse this with the panda organization. Anyway, Funk starts ranting about how he could beat a variety of wrestlers and we’re sent back to the ring.
Match #9: Dynamite Kid vs. Adrian Adonis (w/ Jimmy Hart) (Quarterfinals match)
So, this is the first match on this show I can say I honestly enjoyed. I mainly remember the “Adorable” Adrian Adonis character so it’s been a treat to get to see him work without the trappings of that gimmick. He and Dynamite have a great little match here. Kid suplexes him at one point which is a testament to how strong he was for a guy his size. Things break down when Adonis tries to roll up Kid, but gets sent into the ropes and collides with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone. Dynamite takes advantage of this and gets the pin. Also, of note during this match, Jesse Ventura leaves the commentary position to “go talk to the Macho Man about his match with Steamboat”. So, Monsoon is solo for most of this match.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – An enjoyable match, with the classic “heel getting karmic payback” finish.
We’re then sent to Okerlund who is backstage with Jesse Ventura. Apparently Ventura is helping Savage scout the competition in this tournament. I hope the advice Ventura gave him was, “Don’t slam into Elizabeth, don’t hit someone with a fake cast, don’t try to convince your opponent not to wrestle, don’t sing the Russian National Anthem, and Randy, whatever you do, don’t crotch yourself on the ropes.” Anyway, Okerlund calls Ventura out for his biased commentary and Jesse claims he just calls it like he sees it.
Next, Steamboat is already in the ring and we’re getting Savage / Steamboat in this otherwise uneventful show. In just a few years, these two will steal the biggest show the company had done up to that point, but we’re not quite there just yet.
Match #10: Randy “Macho Man” Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (Quarterfinals match)
Obviously not the classic these guys have in 1987, but so far easily the best match on this show so far, and likely match of the night overall. Steamboat gives a ton of measured chops and Savage mounts a little offense so it’s not a total squash job. Savage reaches into his tights on the apron for brass knuckles. When Steamboat goes to back drop him into the ring, Savage nails him with the knuckles a few times, then hides them back in his trunks. Classic heel “cheating to win” stuff.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – I’m ready to call this one match of the night and it’s just a preview of the stuff to come between these two.
Meanwhile, Okerlund is backstage with Moondog Spot who is scratching his head and holding a giant bone. Moondog Spot speaks gibberish and Okerlund just gives up. Spot then heads to the ring. JYD is out next to the awkwardly dubbed “Grab Them Cakes”. He still appears to be the most over performer of the night.
Match #11: The Junkyard Dog vs. Moondog Spot (Quarterfinals match)
So, as soon as JYD enters the ring, Spot attacks him. He gets in some shots and then goes off the ropes and misses. JYD head butts him from the mat, gives him a standing head butt, and covers him. There is bizarrely no referee in the ring so JYD counts his own three count… and the bell rings.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – What did I just watch?
Okerlund is backstage with Bobby Heenan. The Brain says he’s here to scout some talent tonight. Okerlund wants Heenan’s thoughts on the title match tonight. The Brain thinks Hogan is drained and there will be a new champion tonight.
Match #12: Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff vs. Tito Santana
This was almost a good match. Santana comes out with his leg bandaged, selling an injury from a previous match. Orndorff then methodically works that leg for almost the entire match. It makes complete sense until they both randomly leave the ring and start trading blows. They go careening into the ring post and the ref counts both guys out.
Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – This would have worked if Orndorff got a submission victory. Instead the entire set up for working the leg is ruined when they just start brawling outside to ring to earn a draw.
We’re sent back to Vince and… wow. Alfred Hayes is now kissing Vanna Waitkis. Where is Human Resources Ashley? Susan has one of the most legit complaints I’ve seen on a WWE show so far. Okay, Ashley has most likely not been born yet, but this level of sexual harassment would not stand today. Vince asks for Hayes’s thoughts on the semi-finals and Alfred says this is one of the most exciting things he’s ever seen in wrestling. JYD gets a bye this round, saving us from another four-minute match that ends when Tito Santana slips on a banana peel and Howard Finkel counts a three count for JYD.
We get the Hogan match here, so considering the crowd so far, the only logical outcome is JYD wins this tournament since, besides Hogan, he’s the most over guy with this crowd. Piper is out first, once again being led to the ring by the bagpipe band.
We’re then sent back to Okerlund who is with Hogan. Hulk says the entire country is going to watch Piper learn what Hulkamania feels like coming down hard on him, brother. Piper has backed himself into a corner, brother. Whatcha gonna do when the Hulkster runs wild on you?
Back in the ring, Piper is introduced and gets some boos, but nothing like the heat he got at WrestleMania. Hogan must have come out to “Eye of the Tiger” still at this point because the awkward “Real American” dubbing happens again. Hogan is insanely over with the crowd. Interestingly, Hogan is in all white tonight and not the classic red and yellow.
Match #13: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper (WWF World Heavyweight Championship match)
While not a mat classic, this was a fun “main event”. Hogan starts off on fire, but Piper gradually gains the advantage. Piper locks in the sleeper hold and Hogan almost goes out. We don’t exactly see the “Hulking up” that Hogan becomes known for, but after Hogan causes both men to fall outside the ring, he does no sell some punches from Piper. Then we get a ref bump and Piper immediately goes for the chair and gives Hogan a chair shot. Hogan recovers though and delivers a chair shot to Piper and slaps a sleeper hold on him. The ref comes to seeing Bob Orton rushing the ring and nailing Hogan with his cast. DQ.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – The crowd went absolutely nuts for this match, and while a DQ is a pretty cheap finish for a PPV match like this, I’ll allow it because a lot of these spots hadn’t become cliché yet in 1985.
Post-match, Piper and Orton work over Hogan. A chair wielding Paul Orndorff shows up to make the save. Hogan and Orndorff then pose in the ring as “Real American” awkwardly plays in place of the original audio.
We’re then sent back to Okerlund who is with The Junkyard Dog again. Gene says that Lord Alfred Hayes said that JYD might make it all the way to finals. Well, I imagine unless he dies or gets injured during the Savage / Dynamite Kid match he’s a lock for the finals since HE HAS A BYE THIS ROUND. JYD mentions something about losing weight and partying in Chi-town if he wins. Then Jimmy Hart storms the interview area ranting about people making fun of him because of his red underwear.
Now it is time for the semi-final match. Savage has come out wearing a different cape for each entrance so far tonight. Nice.
Match #14: Dynamite Kid vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) (Semifinal match)
Okay, this is a pretty good match. It’s a little short, but Dynamite Kid looks incredible in it. Savage ends up winning after taking a huge superplex off the top rope from Dynamite. Savage is able to turn slightly into a small package while his shoulders are up. Great ring awareness by Savage there and a great finish.
Verdict: Thumbs Up – If this had been the finals and Savage won this way, this could have redeemed most of this show. But… yeah. At least we got another halfway decent match.
Post-match, Savage sells the superplex, a move Monsoon has “never seen before” and in 1985 this was a pretty insane spot. Savage then has to be carried back to the locker room.
We’re then sent to McMahon and thankfully it’s just him and Vanna Waitkis. I feared what Alfred Hayes would be doing to her at this point. It’s now time to give away the Rolls Royce. Ah, Alfred Hayes is involved in announcing the winner so we’re saved from seeing anything more disgusting with him and Waitkis… for now. Vince asks Vanna if she’s ever ridden in a Rolls Royce and her big line is “Can’t say that I have”. Vince sends us to the ring, and then scratches that and shows us footage of the actual car that will given away. Then this exchange happens.
Vince: That’s a nice looking car.
Waitkis: It is? Ah, yeah. That looks great. I wish I could be in it right now.
We’re then sent to the ring filled with guys in suits to see who wins this car. Before we do that we have “individuals” that will give a statement. Is this court all of a sudden? First up is President Jack Tunney. President Tunney says that this sweepstakes the largest one the WWF has done so far and he thanks the participants. Next, is Basil DeVito who is the Director of Promotions. Basil cuts a promo almost identical to Tunney’s. Nothing like getting us hyped up for that tournament finals match than a bunch of PR people giving speeches! Next, Mr. Ed Fiberschoff who is from the firm that handled the entries speaks. He actually gets boos, likely because people are tired of this show coming to a screeching halt. What’s next? Are they going to let the US Postal Service worker that put the entries into the WWF P.O. Box give a statement? Anyway, Fiberschoff says a lot of the same things as the other guys and then he explains how they determined the winner. Now, Lord Alfred Hayes will announce the winner, assuming he can keep his hands off Waitkis long enough to do so. This is going on so long people are now throwing stuff into the ring. Hayes tries to cut one of those promos where he mentions the city’s name to get a pop, but it doesn’t happen for him. He starts stumbling over his lines and I’m legit wondering if he’s been drunk this entire night. It would make a lot of sense. Michael Hamley from Batavia, Illinois is the winner. Hayes asks for the crowd to give the winner a “Chicago cheer” and they start booing. I love it.
We’re then sent to the locker room where Gene Okerlund is hanging out. He’s trying to get a word with Hogan and Orndorff. He asks the camera man to “keep the shot above the waist” since guys are getting out of the shower. He then happens upon Hogan. Hulk cuts a promo on Piper and Orton. Orndorff appears and Hulk challenges Piper and Orton to a tag match. Orndorff starts screaming about the bounty on his head and something about “Saturday Night Live”. Hogan says that he and Orndorff have a surprise for Piper and Orton. We then abruptly cut to Monsoon and Ventura again.
Next, we go to Finkel in the ring and he introduces Savage. Randy comes out with a limp, a tie dye t-shirt, and no cape this time around. JYD is out to a decent reaction, but it really seems like the car giveaway really sucked some of the energy out of the crowd.
Match #15: Randy “Macho Man” Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs. The Junkyard Dog (Finals match)
Savage spends a good chunk of the early part of the match avoiding even being in the ring. Finally, JYD takes control as he’s the “fresh” guy in the match as Ventura keeps reminding us. Savage mounts a comeback attacking Dog outside the ring. Apparently, in this match, chair shots are allowed as long as they’re outside the ring. Okay, then. Eventually Savage takes it back in the ring and JYD “dog head butts” him three times. Savage then gets sent over the top rope to the floor and just lies there. JYD wins the match and the tournament by count out.
Verdict: Thumbs Down – This is the way the Wrestling Classic ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. After that long drawn out segment before this, the very least they could have done would be some sort of decisive victory. It’s like they didn’t want to put Savage over here but also wanted to protect him and not have JYD pin him. Really bizarre end to a bizarre show.
Post-match, the crowd comes alive again as the JYD is declared the winner. Mean Gene gets in the ring to interview JYD for like the fourth time tonight. Ventura then interrupts to protest the outcome of the tournament. I’m with Jesse. Ventura defends Macho Man and says Savage should be declared the winner. Jesse then rejoins Monsoon to continue to complain about Junkyard Dog winning. Ventura is visibly upset and on camera, but this doesn’t stop fans from hanging over the railing behind him asking him for an autograph.
We’re then sent back to Vince who is with Alfred and Vanna. Waitkis then kisses Alfred Hayes, telling a generation of young boys that if you get drunk at work, grab some random co-worker, and start kissing her, she’ll eventually be okay with your advances and respond in kind. Vince then asks Waitkis if she’s “seen such action ever before in her life”. She says she “never has”. We then imply that Lord Alfred Hayes is going to bang her in the Rolls Royce after the cameras are turned off. We then learn this was the “First Annual Wrestling Classic” but are still waiting, 31 years later, for the “Second Annual Wrestling Classic”.
We then get sent to this image to end the broadcast. An apropos summary of this event.