On paper, it looked like so much fun. All the old stars that I grew up watching having one last go on pay-per-view. Bundy, Snuka, Orton, Abdullah. It wouldn’t produce four-star matches, but it would be a good time.
In reality, Sunday night’s Heroes of Wrestling PPV was painful to watch, with most of the wrestlers embarrassing their legacies. The production for the event seemed at times like amateur hour, with many missed shots, bad lighting and microphones not working.
To properly review an event like this, I felt that I had to make like it was the late ’80s. So, I went home to where I grew up and watched the show there with my old ‘rasslin buddy Jamie. But now instead of talking about upcoming parties, parents and school work while watching wrestling, we talk about our hair going grey, jobs and old friends all the while still watching wrestling.
We went into it excited, and came out extremely unsatisfied.
The primary reason is that this is 1999, not 1985, and as a fan, I do not want my intelligence insulted anymore. The men in the ring are performers. George ‘The Animal’ Steele is not in fact insane. Should the producers have treated the event like more of a ‘Heroes of Hockey’ or ‘Baseball Hall of Fame’ show, with nicely produced vignettes celebrating the wrestlers’ careers and their influence on today’s wrestling scene, then it might have worked.
Instead, a brutally lame storyline of Sherri Martel being The Animal’s girlfriend, and later turning on him had me wishing I could turn to channel. We had The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff doing their old schtick again – which was great – but with some new manager (Nikita Brastikiff) working the crowd, and to whom we had no emotional connection.
And to top it off, the main event of King Kong Bundy versus Yokozuna didn’t happen. That alone is enough to consider this show a failure and a rip-off. By far, that was the one match that had appeal. Everyone wanted to see what Yokozuna was like, whether the rumours of his weight gain had, well, any weight.
Well the rumours are true.
The main event ended up being Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and Bundy against Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and Yoko. Simply put, Yokozuna looked like he weighed in at over 600 pounds, like someone who would appear on the Jerry Springer Show, not a pay-per-view in a pseudo-athletic main event. He really had no business on any wrestling show. We just wanted him to seek help for his obvious problem, not an after-match meal or two (or eight).
Speaking of problems, Jake Roberts still seems to have them. In a pre-match interview, he seemed more than a little out of it, and even a little tipsy. In the ring, in his singles match against The Anvil (which later became a tag ‘match’), The Snake wasn’t any better. He looked weak, out-of-shape and flabby. The Anvil, to his credit, while never a main eventer in his career, at least looked like he belonged on a pay-per-view and didn’t look any different than his recent turn in WCW.
During the Anvil-Snake match, the python Damien escaped its bag, and that brought the match to a halt. Then Bundy came down to the ring, followed shortly thereafter by Yokozuna. After a half-hearted five or six minutes, Bundy splashed Roberts for the win (but only with a three count). To end the pain, The Snake and Yokozuna beat up a Bundy lookalike who was at ringside, yet was never introduced to the crowd, and the announcers had no clue as to who he was.
Then everything abruptly went off the air at 10:30 pm ET, with no wrap-up, no warning, no credits. Now, that is obviously a timing problem, and it can happen to any promotion. But added to the other technical glitches like bad camera selections, terrible lighting, a lacklustre crowd (shown in ill-chosen crowd shots – if someone is on camera, at least make sure they are enjoying themselves), it is the proverbial crowning achievement in bad pay-per-views.
There is talk of doing more Heroes of Wrestling PPVs, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But please reconsider the in-ring product. If someone is not in shape to perform, like Sheik and Volkoff, Yokozuna, and others, then make their matches REAL short. Or don’t use them at all.
Today’s fans are not morons. Treat us with respect. Use the show to celebrate and educate today’s fans while showcasing yesterday’s stars for the fans that remember them. And most importantly, deliver what you advertise. (What happened to the advertised Dean of Wrestling Gordon Solie, anyways?)
It was quickly obvious that announcer Randy Rosenbloom and colour man Dirty Dutch Mantell would be playing it straight. The various matches were run-down. An angle was run where Sweet Stan Lane attacked Tully Blanchard and threw him in a trunk.
The Samoan Swat Team – Fatu & Samu beat Fantastic Tommy Rogers and Rocker Marty Jannetty
The SST came out with some schmuck named Paul Adams who tried to work the crowd, and Sika, an original Wild Samoan who should have been given more of a presence. Jannetty and Rogers both looked in decent shape and this was an okay match. Rogers was pinned following a Samoan Drop.
3 / 10 (Note: All matches graded on a curve. We know this ain’t the WWF or WCW, and expectations are certainly different.)
A George Steele – Sherri Martel skit aired
Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine pinned George ‘The Animal’ Steele
There was one shot in the match that sums up the whole show. The Hammer had just used a foreign object on Steele, and had put it in his tights. The camera then zoomed in on Valentine’s flabby butt. In the end, Sherri turned on Steele and hit him with a chair which allowed Valentine to score the pin. After, The Animal tossed ‘Sensuous’ Sherri from the ring in what was one of the best bumps of the night. Then he took his frustrations out on a poor, defenceless turnbuckle.
3/10 + 1 for Sherri’s bump after the match
Too Cold Scorpio beat Julio Fantastico
This was the only match of the night that could have been on RAW or Nitro and not have been out of place. Scorpio put on a very modern match with the youngster Fantastico, who will likely benefit from the PPV exposure. At one point, the action went into the crowd, and they hit a kid at ringside and the security was obviously unprepared for anything like that. For at least a minute, the cameras showed the crowd, but never got a shot of the wrestlers. Scorpio hit a Tumbleweed from the top rope for the 1-2-3.
Captain Lou Albano was named Heroes of Wrestling commissioner. Does anyone care? Albano’s lost a lot of weight but looked terrible.
Luke & Butch, formerly the Bushwackers, beat The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
We laughed and laughed at this one because it was soooo bad. Missed moves, too much light, and slow, slow, slow. The Bushwackers had blatantly obvious sprayed-on hair colouring. In the end, Volkoff accidentally hit Sheik with a foreign object (for old-timers, I don’t have to call it an international object!). The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
1/10, and only for the laughs
Tully Blanchard beat Sweet Stan Lane
This one was pretty decent, all things considered. Both are still great cutting promos and look to be in fine shape. In the ring, they were professional and kept things at a decent pace. The referee counted both men down at the end in a simultaneous pin, but for some reason awarded the match to Blanchard, even though the arm he lifted at the last second was the one he had on Lane.
A Neidhart – Bundy promo aired
Abdullah the Butcher versus One Man Gang ended in a double DQ
Oh what fun it is to bleed and be hit with chairs. Great fun to watch and brought back tons of memories. After the match, both men beat up security guards. The crowd was into this match more than any other.
A lame video aired of Cowboy Bob Orton cheating at cards with Albano and Jimmy Snuka
Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka beat Cowboy Bob Orton
Orton didn’t have the cast on. He was showing serious gut. This was a boring, sloppy match that discredited what both had done during their careers. ‘Commissioner’ Albano interfered to allow Superfly to hit a cross-body-block leap for the pin.
A bizarre Jake Roberts interview aired
King Kong Bundy & Jim Neidhart beat Yokozuna & Jake Roberts
A few chairshots couldn’t save this one.
Overall rating: 2/10