Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Supercard! Summerslam ’88 with the Honky Tonk Man

The Honky Tonk Man takes us through his run in the WWF, culminating with Summerslam ’88!

Presented by Kayfabe Commentaries

Hosted by Sean Oliver 

Honky Tonk Man (Wayne Ferris) and Sean lament about how the stars of the 80’s are all old, dead, and/or dying. We need to get their memories now.

Honky Tonk debuted in the WWF in September 1986 in a segment where Don Muraco was serving as a talk show host.

Hulk Hogan met Honky at the Calgary Stampede that prior summer and told him he should head to the WWF for a run. Honky was not sure if he was good enough to survive in the glitz of the WWF coming from a background of working in small territories.

Vince McMahon called him the next day and arranged for Honky to come in.

McMahon had him bring in a promo tape and a short match from Stampede to give Vince a chance to see what talent Ferris had.

Vince saw Honky as an Elvis impersonator who would be loved by fans. The WWF could then sell jumpsuits and other gimmicks to kids.

Being a babyface was really not what Ferris wanted to do. The WWF added to the issue by taping Honky’s early matches in Canada where the fans had been seeing him as a heel on TV for the past year working for Stampede.

McMahon did not back down on his plan, and enlisted Hulk Hogan to cut promos with Honky. The American fans saw the other fans booing Ferris and followed suit anyway.

The locker room was full of guys Honky had met or worked with over the past 10 years of his career, so he blended right in.

The WWF gave up on Honky being a babyface in November by holding a fan vote about Honky’s popularity. When the fans crapped on Honky in the vote, he turned heel. The other heels were glad Honky did the turn because they struggled to get heel heat on Honky

The fan poll was Jesse Ventura’s idea. Vince gave Ferris the gist of what he wanted him to say as the turn went down.

Jimmy Hart was placed with Honky. The pair fit magnificently together. Other managers were good, but the gimmicks jived with Hart and Honky. Plus they worked together in Memphis and had chemistry.

Hart had been traveling with Roddy Piper, Bob Orton, Adrian Adonis and other drugged up wild men, meanwhile Hart himself was clean cut. Once Honky became his charge, the pair traveled together.

Cpl. Kirchner worked with Ferris a bunch at this time. Honky had to work hard because Kirchner was raw and not very good in the ring. Chief Jay Strongbow was serving as an agent for many of the matches. Strongbow booked screw job wins for Honky, which did not serve to put Ferris over very well. When the same finishes were booked for a second straight month in the same towns Honky mentioned to Strongbow that they were repeating the spots. Strongbow took offense to this and it earned Honky heat in the office.

Strongbow and Ferris had worked a little feud in Puerto Rico years earlier, but the Chief acted as if he had never met Honky before now Ferris made it to the WWF. If there was heat between the two of them stemming from that, Honky does not know why.

1987 saw Ted Dibiase, Butch Reed, One Man Gang and other stars debut, which gave some of the vets in the locker room reason to be nervous. Pedro Morales went after Billy Jack Haynes and Honky verbally, trying to break them mentally to perhaps help preserve his own spot on the show.

Jake the Snake still claims that Honky Tonk Man broke his neck with a guitar shot. Honky maintains that there is zero medical evidence that the blow did the damage. “With all the drugs Jake took, why would his word be taken over mine?” asks Ferris.

Roberts ended up in rehab several times, allegedly because of taking many drugs to relieve his neck pain.

Suddenly, Honky starts talking about how liberals need to get over the fact that Donald Trump is president. We need to see both sides of each argument…

The gimmick guitar was precut, and it exploded with very little pressure. Jake’s story doesn’t match reality.

Ferris was not a fan of being around Damien the snake. Alice Cooper was terrified of it at first too prior to having to handle it during Wrestlemania 3.

Honky went on a jobbing tour after Jake left to head to rehab. Had Roberts not been hurt, Ferris would probably have been getting wins to build the feud to set up Jake getting rematches.

Butch Reed missed the TV taping where he was to beat IC champ Ricky Steamboat for the title. Honky got the spot instead. Steamboat was pissed he was going to lose to a bum, and ended up trying to mess up the finish. He grabbed Honky too tight, which forced Ferris to grab the wrong rope as he tried to “cheat” to win. Steamboat also made sure to lift his shoulder off the mat to kill off the illusion he lost.

Steamboat had asked off to spend time with his new born baby. Vince had just given him the belt six weeks earlier, and McMahon was not impressed that the Dragon wanted to skip touring as champ, which forced the title change. Honky told Vince he would work 7 days a week if necessary.

Steamboat was given his time off, but this took away the obvious feud for Honky to cash in with. This meant Ferris had a belt, but was facing substitutes who would not be headline caliber.

Fast forward to February of 1988 where Randy Savage is booked to beat Honky on national TV on “Saturday Night’s Main Event”. A meeting was called with the principles. Jimmy Hart and Ferris sat alone for hours. Dick Ebersol and Macho Man had a private meeting. Then Pat Patterson and Vince McMahon met with Savage and Ferris. They focused all their attention on Savage and his future push. Ferris was not given a say in the matter. This rubbed Honky the wrong way. Vince finally mentioned to Ferris that they would “rebuild him”. Ferris figured this meant he would be on a trip back to jobberville for himself and maybe even getting fired.

Honky had spent the past year busting his butt with the crazy WWF schedule. He and Macho Man and been on a streak of big business matches as they fought across the country.

Jim Barnett was called up to see if he could get Ferris a spot with the NWA. Barnett told Honky not to lose on TV, because it would kill his heat.

Jimmy Hart did not want to lose his plum spot as Honky’s manager, so when he got wind of Ferris possibly leaving, he was very upset.

Blackjack Lanza, serving as an agent, was contacted by Honky. He told Lanza he was not going to lose to Savage. Within five minutes, Howard Finkel called Ferris back. Honky figured McMahon was listening in on a speaker in the office. Vince finally got Ferris on the line, and Honky told Vince off about ignoring him during the planning stages for the big Macho Man match. Then the bombshell came down as Ferris told him he had contacted Barnett about jumping ship. Vince went crazy and swore up a storm.

Honky told McMahon he would only lose to Hogan, who had gotten Ferris the WWF gig, or Vince, because he owned the title. Ferris told Vince the belt will be over his fireplace mantel in Memphis, and if he wants it he can come and fight for it.

Ferris then met up with Macho Man and explained the situation to him. Savage understood that Honky was just looking out for himself, as all wrestlers need to do.

Vince changed plans, giving Savage the world title and moving Brutus Beefcake up to challenge Honky at Wrestlemania 4. The vibe from the office towards Honky was cold, as they now did not trust him.

Had the WWF told Honky he was going to work Beefcake for a few months and then lose the title, he would have been fine with it. Honky just wanted to be respected enough to be kept abreast of the plans.

Honky’s promos improved after refusing to lose to Savage. This was due to Ferris being bitter and wanting to stick it to the WWF by cutting biting promos on how great he was.

The Ultimate Warrior was very quiet and shy during his early months in the WWF.

Vince was upfront about the plan to have Warrior beat Honky. Since McMahon gave him enough respect to give him the heads up, Ferris was fine with doing the job. He was prepared for the very real possibility that Vince would fire him as soon as the strap came off.

Honky was earning almost 20 grand a week by headlining house shows as champion.

Hogan was about to go into movies, so Vince wanted the Warrior built up to be his replacement.

Hercules warned Honky that the Warrior was the shits in the ring. Once Warrior and Honky started working a nightly series, Ferris ended up getting banged up night after night.

A few months after Summerslam, Honky was promoted to face the Red Rooster on Saturday Night’s Main Event. At the last moment, Rooster was switched out for Warrior and Honky was expected to job on national TV. Honky went along with it but it was clear the WWF was testing/screwing with him.

Ferris claims the switch happened so late that Taylor had already done promos set to air during the show’s intro.

The WWF booked their talent to work Toronto the night before Summerslam ’88. This was risky as the talent could have been delayed in travel. This also did not give the guys a chance to rest up before the big event.

The jumpsuits Honky wore cost between 6-10 grand each.

Randy Savage and Liz had a separate locker room, but all the other heels and faces were gathered into one room.

TV days were boring. You just sat around for hours. If anything, you cut promos to air on the radio or something.

Summerslam drew $335,000 for a live gate.

The British Bulldogs vs. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers: The Bulldogs were awesome talents. The Rougeaus were second generation wrestlers, so they knew how to work very well.

Ken Patera vs. Bad News Brown: Ken Patera was a great guy, and a great performer. He was mad that he was being placed into a spot of constantly jobbing. Bad News was not happy with his own push either.

JYD vs, Rick Rude: Rick Rude was being groomed for a big push. JYD was on the way out and was putting over the next star.

Powers of Pain vs Bolsheviks: Volkoff sucked in the ring. The Russians got good heat, so working them made for easy fan interaction.

Brother Love w/ Jim Duggan: Brother Love was a bit over the top. A lot of guys had wacky exaggerated gimmicks anyway.

Ultimate Warrior vs. The Honky Tonk Man: Honky was prepped and calm before the match. Warrior was quiet, but his body was clammy from the nerves. He worked STIFF. Honky laid out the match. Ferris wanted to give Warrior a couple of big spots before the quick pin because he wanted to give Warrior the rub and not make it look like a fluke.

Honky refused to lay on his stomach for Warrior’s splash because he did not trust Warrior not to hurt him with a hard shot to Ferris’ back or nuts.

The fans went BONKERS for the match. Vince told Honky he did well. Warrior thanked him.

Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo: Honky has a theory that when faces wear baby blue, it is a sign that the office is prepping to fire you.

Hart Foundation vs Demolition: The Hart Foundation put over the next big thing here. The Harts had been the top heels and were putting over the next guys to carry the mantle.

MegaPowers vs. Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant: Ted Dibiase came into the WWF with the promise of being given a run with the WWF title. Honky refusing to job to Savage in February messed up the plans and Savage ended up with Dibiase’s title run.

Savage was livid in 1986 when George Steele carried Elizabeth away during a Saturday Night’s Main Event spot. He thought Steele was feeling her up.

Paydays were not discussed amongst the talent. Honky did earn more for Summerslam ’88 than he expected. Wrestlemania 3’s payoff was well under what he expected.

A few years later when it came out that Hogan and Warrior were earning over $500,000 a PPV, Honky and others were a bit bothered by what they had been earning comparatively.

After doing a run on top against Warrior, Honky was then pushed down the card and his nightly checks were 600 bucks if he was lucky. Well under what he had been making on top. Ferris tried to make his own breaks by going to Vince and volunteering to work a feud with Jimmy Snuka, who had just returned to the WWF. After a few months, the pair managed to headline some smaller WWF shows and they made some decent money again.

Warrior and Honky had a rematch a few years later at a Las Vegas indy show. Warrior was much better in the ring by then. Warrior was pissed about his money though and was bitching backstage.

Rick Rude did an impressive job carrying Warrior to good matches. Honky was able to slowly work some new things into he and Warrior’s matches, and the bouts improved over time.

Ferris ends this shoot like a true worker should as he teases that the origins of the “Rhythm and Blues” tag team is interesting…and the split is a good story too….but that won’t be told until the next shoot….

Final thoughts: The two hours on this DVD flew by as Honky is just wildly entertaining. How much you can believe may be an issue, but sometimes it’s all in the delivery.

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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