Saturday Night’s Main Event marked a momentous shift for the World Wrestling Federation. While the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection”, WWF’s partnership with MTV spearheaded by Cyndi Lauper, made the WWF a household name it was Dick Ebersol’s partnership with Vince McMahon that ushered in the era of “Sports Entertainment”. By utilizing scripted promos and skits, pre-taped segments, and slick editing Dick Ebersol helped transform WWF’s rasslin’ programming into true “Sports Entertainment”, dramatically separating the WWF from its competition and changing the face of wrestling forever.
As for the event itself, the debut edition of SNME featured a number of big angles, including George “The Animal” Steele and Paul Orndorff’s babyface turns, that would carry the WWF through the summer of 1985 and well into 1986 and, in the case of “The Animal”, 1987.
With none of the weekly TV from the era currently available on the WWE Network context for the first SNME is nearly non-existent.
WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event I (WATCH)
Date: May 11, 1985 (TAPED: May 10, 1985) – Location: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York
Attendance: >8,300 – Rating: 8.8 (>14,000,000)
Commentators: Vince McMahon & Jesse Ventura – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Hulk Hogan
WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
WWF Tag Team Champions: The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff
WWF Women’s Champion: Wendi Richter
WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions: Velvet McIntyre & Desiree Petersen
The show opens with Cyndi Lauper telling WWF Women’s Champion Wendi Richter how to beat Moola. Next we get a quick promo from WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan who says he’ll have Mr. T in his corner against Bob Orton. Mr. T says that if Roddy Piper interferes he’ll have to deal with Mr. T. Hogan then tells us to “kick back and relax for Saturday Night’s Main Event!”
After the opening montage Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura welcome us to the show, selling the two big title matches, the six-man tag, and the JYD in action on the show tonight.
As “The Animal” and the WWF Tag Team Champions enter the ring “Mean” Gene interviews Windham, Rotundo, Steamboat, and Albano about the forthcoming match. Windham says he’s got the best team ever and that it’s too bad the titles aren’t on the line. Albano says that if Blassie gets in his way he’ll “bust him wide open!” After the promo Volkoff does his Soviet anthem shtick.
The U.S. Express “Born in the U.S.A.” theme is replaced with generic rock music on the Network, different from the music used on the 2009 Best of Saturday Night’s Main Event Home Video release, for those keeping score.
— “Six-Man Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:18)
George “The Animal” Steele & WWF Tag Team Champions The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff w/Freddie Blassie vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & The U.S. Express (Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo) w/Capt. Lout Albano
This is an exciting, fast-paced match that sees the babyfaces, unusually, dominate nearly the entire match with quick tags and high impact maneuvers. In the end it comes down to Steele and Windham. But when Steele tries to tag out the Tag Team Champions walk away and leave Steele to the wolves. Windham sneaks up from behind and rolls up “The Animal” for the win at 6:57. After the match Sheik and Volkoff attack “The Animal” but he fights them off. Albano, Steele’s former manager, calms Steele down and helps his old friend to the back.
WINNERS are Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & The U.S. Express (Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo) w/Capt. Lout Albano (Pin, 6:57)
“Mean” Gene catches the Tag Team Champions and Blassie as they go to the back. Blassie calls Steele a “fruitcake” before Steele attacks them again.
Up next is Piper’s Pit (15:09) with Roddy Piper & Bob Orton and their guest “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. We see footage from WrestleMania six-weeks prior as McMahon tells us this is the first time since the big event that all three have met and that “bad feelings definitely exist”.
Piper tries to sit Orndorff down when “Mr. Wonderful” tells Piper “ladies first.” Piper calls Orndorff a loser, calling Orndorff out for being pinned at WrestleMania, while Orndorff says Piper left him flat. The two trade insults before Piper tries to slug Orndorff who blocks it, taking out both Piper and Orton. Orndorff goes for the piledriver on Piper when Orton clubs Orndorff with the cast from behind. Mr. T makes the save, Power Twister in hand, and helps “Mr. Wonderful” to the back.
“Mean” Gene interviews Hulk Hogan about the incident and Hogan tells Okerlund Piper is the typical kind of person that needs to be driven from the WWF and that he’s dedicating his match tonight to his mother. Hogan says that Orndorff finally felt what it was like to “have people behind him” and that Hogan hopes Orndorff keeps it up.
Hogan’s “Eye of the Tiger” theme is replaced with “Real American” which didn’t actually debut until five months later on the October 12, 1985 edition of Championship Wrestling as the theme for the returning U.S. Express.
— WWF World Heavyweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 21:56)
“Cowboy” Bob Orton w/Roddy Piper vs. Hulk Hogan(c) w/Mr. T
This one starts quick with Hogan in control before turning into the typical Hogan matches to come. Hogan blocks the Orton superplex, nails Orton with an elbow from the second rope, and then hits the Atomic Leg Drop before going for the pin. Piper reaches in and hits Hogan, though, giving Hogan the win by DQ at 6:48. After the match Mr. T attacks Piper, who no-sells the attack, before Piper and Orton turn to Hogan. Suddenly Paul Orndorff runs in to help Hogan and the three men chase Piper and Orton off.
WINNER and STILL WWF World Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan w/Mr. T (Disqualification, 6:48)
Next Fabulous Moolah tells Gene Okerlund that she has an order from “the higher-ups at the WWF” barring Cyndi Lauper from ringside due to her continued interference in prior Moolah/Richter matches.
With Moolah in the ring Cyndi Lauper, with Richter and David Wolfe, tells Okerlund that she’s Richter’s manager and that “a manger sticks by her girl.” Both Lauper and Richter tell Okerlund that Moolah’s the real dirty cheater.
Richter’s Cyndi Lauper “She Bop” theme has been replaced with a generic tune called “Party Girl”.
Before the match Howard Finkel reads the scroll (“Be it hereby acknowledged…”) banning Lauper from ringside. An unhappy Lauper spends the rest of the match watching on a monitor by the entrance.
— WWF Women’s Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 32:34)
Fabulous Moolah vs. Wendi Richter(c) w/Cyndi Lauper & David Wolfe
This match is more of a fight than a wrestling match with Moolah clearly dictating every movement in the ring. After a back-and-forth brawl Richter reverses a Moolah slam into an inside cradle for the pin at 3:21 to retain the title. After the match Lauper runs to the ring to celebrate with Richter and Wolfe. Aside from an appearance in Puerto Rico on October 19, 1985 this would mark Lauper’s final WWF TV appearance as Richter’s manager. Richter, meanwhile, after a dispute with Vince McMahon, would be screwed out of the title on November 25, 1985 in Madison Square Garden by “Spider Lady” Fabulous Moolah and would never work another match for the promotion.
WINNER and STILL WWF Women’s Champion, Wendi Richter w/Cyndi Lauper & David Wolfe (Pin, 3:21)
After a break “Mean” (by god) Gene interviews Junkyard Dog about bringing his mother, Bertha, to the event and wishing everyone a happy Mother’s Day. Bertha tells Okerlund that she’s proud of her son and hopes he can “come home pretty soon.”
JYD’s “Another One Bites the Dust” theme song has been replaced with “Grab Them Cakes” from The Wrestling Album released in November 1985. Some of the commentary is also muted during the entrance most likely due to the music being overheard on the live mics.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 43:21)
“The Duke of Dorchester” Pete Doherty vs. The Junkyard Dog w/Bertha Ritter
First of all, I love Pete Doherty. There isn’t anything about the guy I don’t find entertaining. As for the match, it’s a squash. JYD torments Doherty in and out of the ring. Eventually JYD ends the match with the big Thump powerslam at 3:14. After the match JYD celebrates with his mother, who dances with JYD.
WINNER is The Junkyard Dog w/Bertha Ritter (Pin, 3:14)
After a break Okerlund hosts the big Cyndi Lauper Mother’s Day Surprise, complete with giant cake. He talks to JYD and his mother; Sheik and Volkoff, who complain about a late invitation; Freddie Blassie, who claims the young woman with him is his mother; Lou Albano, who reads a short poem; Hulk Hogan and his mother, Ruth; and Wendy Richter, Cyndi Lauper and Lauper’s mother Catrine.
Fabulous Moolah crashes the party and complains about not being invited before running down Catrine Lauper for how Cyndi turned out. “Catrine?” Moolah says. “She looks more like latrine to me.” This all leads to Okerlund and Moolah being covered in cake by both Laupers and Wendi Richter.
Back from break Vince asks Ventura his thoughts on the show and “The Body” cheers Piper and Orton “annihilating” Paul Orndorff and says the Hogan’s victory (by DQ) was tainted. There’s another break, after which McMahon signs off before slow-motion footage of Hogan coming to the ring plays as the show as the credits roll.
The seeds of today’s WWE are on full display in the debut edition of SNME. Part wrestling, part comedy, part drama, part rock concert, Saturday Night’s Main Event was essentially WWF’s version of a variety show, producing a bit of everything for everyone.
Featuring some solid action, great angles, and memorable moments, the debut edition of SNME is worth watching if only to see how far the business has come and, at the same time, just how little has changed.
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