Special thanks to Kris Zellner, Jim Zordani, Graham Cawthon, Matt Farmer, Tamalie, Dave Meltzer, Karl Stern, wrestlingdata.com, crazymax.org, prowrestlinghistory.com and the “Between the Sheets” podcast for the results and historical information I have used for this series. The Wrestling Classics and Kayfabe Memories message boards have also been invaluable in answering my questions on certain issues and angles.
Where we last left off: July 1985
As I mentioned in my previous article, Andre the Giant had been largely absent from the WWF since May. Upon his return, the WWF ran an angle during a match in Toronto with the Giant and “Big” John Studd which saw the Giant attempt to cut Studd’s hair as revenge for Studd and Ken Patera cutting his hair many months earlier. King Kong Bundy came to the ringside and helped beat down Andre. This culminated with Bundy hitting four splashes and “breaking Andre’s sternum”. Andre headed to Japan on August 20th to spend a month with New Japan and sell the angle in the states. You can read my recap of the event here.
The WWF put over Randy Savage by doing an angle in which all the established managers wanted him for their stables. Savage bucked all their offers and introduced Miss Elizabeth to the WWF as his valet instead.
Corporal Kirchner debuted in a series of vignettes. He claimed he was a Vietnam vet. In one segment, he actually pulled a knife on Mean Gene. He was basically doing a Sgt. Slaughter rip off gimmick and was programmed with the foreign heels.
Cousin Junior was added to the Hillbilly clan, alongside Jim and Uncle Elmer.
Ricky Steamboat had a busy month. He was featured in “Cosmopolitan” magazine on their list of “Hottest Sports Hunks”. In an amusing Easter egg, the front cover promised an article on the dangers of cocaine – something that the WWF roster knew a lot about.
Steamboat was also featured on TNT in a hokey skit where he fought off a number of ninjas as part of his training regimen. The Dragon also worked a match with Mr. Fuji on TV. Upon beating Fuji, Steamboat was attacked by Don Muraco with a wooden chair. The gimmicked chair looked so fake that Jim Ross took to the air on Mid-South TV and told the fans it was an insult to them for the WWF to pass along such a weak looking attack with a pre-cut chair as a serious event. He promised the Mid-South wrestlers would only use steel chairs and swing with bad intentions when you saw them use chairs on TV.
Rick McGraw, a capable journeyman type mid-card worker, was featured on TNT in part to celebrate his recent marriage. Watching this interview actually saddened me, knowing that McGraw would be dead in only a few short months. More on that in a future article.
TNT also featured a ridiculous vignette where Capt. Lou had George Steele undergo shock therapy in an effort to “cure” his mental issues. Steele was cured by the machine, only to be accidentally shocked back to his “normal” abnormal self.
Roddy Piper was featured in an over the top vignette on TNT where he took Vince McMahon and Lord Alfred Hayes to his dungeon where he had people strapped on boards and being tortured. This was worse than most of the “comedy” wrestling that I deride so much in today’s product. It hit me right in the Kayfabe.
Terry Funk got into a fight with Tony Garea at a bar that was set up at the TNT studios. McMahon suggested it would lead to some matches between the men, but the records indicate they only worked one time.
The WWF partnered with the Ohio State Fair to offer free tickets to their grandstand show with admission to the Fair. The result was 50,000 people saw WWF champ Hulk Hogan down “Big” John Studd. The other key bouts saw the Iron Sheik fall to Mr. Wonderful and the U.S. Express downed the Dream Team.
Another State Fair show, this time in Michigan, saw 30,000 fans come to see Hogan battle Greg Valentine. JYD bested Bob Orton by DQ in the other match of note. Only five days earlier the WWF ran Detroit and sold another 21,000 tickets as Ricky Steamboat and Hogan partnered to down Muraco and Fuji. Santana and Macho Man fought over the IC gold as the co-feature.
The Boston Gardens saw 15,000 fans witness Mr. Wonderful throwing down with Roddy Piper. JYD and the Dragon bested Fuji and Muraco in the other key bout. I reviewed that show here.
Fuji and Muraco fell to Tito Santana and the Dragon in front of 10,500 in Los Angeles. Piper and Orndorff battered one another on that show as well.
WWF champ Hulk Hogan drew 16,000 to Pittsburgh for a title defense against Brutus Beefcake. The undercard saw two unique tag bouts. The first saw the U.S. Express defend their WWF tag gold against “Big” John Studd and the Missing Link. Later in the show Animal Steele tagged with Andre the Giant to down the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.
22,000 fans entered MSG to see Andre and Mr. Wonderful partner to battle Piper and Orton.
Richfield, Ohio drew 14,000 fans to see Andre clash with “Big” John Studd, The Dragon and Santana down Fuji and Muraco, as well as the U.S. Express defending their WWF tag belts inside a cage against Sheik and Volkoff.
Just under 10,000 fans entered the Philly Spectrum to witness Bruno Sammartino serve as the ref for another Piper/Orndorff war. Bruno ended up brawling with Piper and Bob Orton at the end, which you would assume would set up a tag match in the near future. The card also featured the “Dream Team” of Beefcake and Valentine using Johnny V’s lit cigar to blind Barry Windham and steal the WWF tag gold from our heroes.
Choosing Philly as the site of the title change may have had something to do with JCP’s continued attempts to compete in the market. This month JCP presented World champ Ric Flair tangling with TV champ Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A. brawling with Tully Blanchard, plus the NWA tag champs the Rock and Roll Express fighting the Koloffs.
JCP also ventured back to Allentown, Pennsylvania with Magnum T.A. fighting Tully Blanchard over the U.S. title highlighting a night of action that also saw Dusty Rhodes clash with Abdullah the Butcher inside of a cage.
The new partnership of the WWF and the Lutte promotions in Montreal got off to a rocky start. The shows mixed WWF talent and local Montreal stars. However, the hottest program of the summer was still raging as the Rougeau Brothers fighting the Garvins kept the audiences coming in groves. When the box office showed over 21,000 tickets having been sold, Vince McMahon told the local promoters that his talent was the reason for the success, not the Lutte Promotions big feud. Dino Bravo and King Tonga (Haku) remained the top local names the WWF intended to push. The Rougeaus were disgruntled enough that they debated breaking off into their own promotion. The Masked Superstar and the Garvins were not interested in working for the WWF and headed elsewhere in short order.
On a final, near tragic note, Bobby Heenan missed his flight from Florida to Los Angeles. The plane, Delta Flight 191, crashed. 137 people perished. Heenan missed the flight by a mere three minutes.
The local St. Louis promoters brought in Sgt. Slaughter to challenge NWA champion Ric Flair. Crusher Blackwell lost his Missouri title on the undercard to Harley Race. Dick the Bruiser and Blackjack Lanza also booked in top matches in an attempt to pretend we never passed 1975 on the calendar.
Flair also tangled with Race in several other cities in the Central States loop.
The WWF drew 4,200 to St. Louis to see Hogan battle Nikolai Volkoff. JYD and the Dragon battered Muraco and Fuji, Macho Man failed to wrest the IC title from Tito Santana and Animal Steele brawled with the Iron Sheik.
Thank you for reading! I will be back soon with all the news, notes and results from the AWA, Mid-South, JCP and others as the WWF machine continues to mow over the wrestling world!
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