“A.M. Chicago” was a local talk and variety show in the Windy City starting in 1974. By 1983, the show was last in the ratings, which prompted the station manager to hire Oprah Winfrey. Oprah had risen from a sexually abused past in the Milwaukee ghettos into becoming a charismatic young newscaster then working in Tennessee. The move created a sensation no one saw coming as Winfrey took “A.M. Chicago” to number 1 in the market, and by September 1986 the show was nationally syndicated. This article takes look at the “A.M. Chicago” cameras following Oprah as she ventured into a WWF show in May of 1985.
“Gentleman” Jerry Valiant calls the action at ringside with Oprah. How Valiant of all people got this gig baffles me. Mean Gene seems like the natural choice.
JYD and Tito Santana vs. Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake
Oprah has no idea who any of these men are. Well, that’s a good start! She sings Jim Croce’s “Bad, bad Leroy Brown” when JYD is introduced.
The crowd is red hot for the faces. Oprah: “Is this what they call a “tag team” match? This is already awesome.
They edit the match to the point when some action actually happens (rare for a WWF house show). Oprah is shown doing some over the top emoting. She marks out for a JYD clothesline. Winfrey thinks the guys need to work for knock outs instead of working holds. Paging Ronnie Garvin….
Oprah goes ga-ga for a low blow that Santana imparts upon Valentine. Valiant explains how working causes your flesh to callous and that is why the guys aren’t covered in bruises and cuts. JYD rocks Valentine with a big head butt. A double clothesline duly executed by JYD and Valentine makes Oprah laugh and sing.
Beefcake comes in and chokes JYD. The heels continue to cheat as Oprah cat calls them from ringside. Valiant explains the psychology of Valentine working over JYD’s leg. Oprah giggles at the crowd chanting “JYD”. Santana gets the hot tag, leading to him ensnaring Valentine in the figure-four. Beefcake breaks that up. Oprah mocks Beefcake after he gets knocked out of the ring. Valentine eats a powerslam from JYD and takes the pin. Oprah is busy talking to the camera and misses the finish.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura cuts a heel promo on Ivan Putski as Winfrey interviews him. Oprah tries to get to see Ventura’s gentle side, but Jesse explains when money is on the line, he’s a bad dude. He admits to liking golf though. I would have marked out if he went into a JFK conspiracy rant. I just released Alex Jones would make a great wrestling manager.
Putski gets promo time too. Oprah mocks him while he’s speaking Polish to the camera. That’ll win over the Chicago Pollocks. Ivan flirts with Oprah, and she’s impressed with his body. Putski says say no to drugs. Except steroids. Lots of steroids are good.
Ivan Putski vs. Jesse “The Body” Ventura
Putski takes it to Ventura right away with fists. Ivan chokes him with a piece of tape. A Polish Hammer nearly finishes things fast. Oprah reflects on her researching of wrestling holds and wants to know if we’ll see a “Boston crab”. Not with these two! The men brawl on the floor as Winfrey wonders if this match has any rules. Valiants sheepishly admits things are getting wilder all the time in this sport. Ventura scores a count-out win. Oprah seemed to enjoy the brawl.
Don Muraco and Mr. Fuji talk with Oprah. The fans are anxious to see the action, the wrestler’s are pros who have no need to be nervous. Fuji is there to scout Muraco’s opponents, which helps make him a better worker. Oprah mocks Fuji’s oriental accent in a fine moment of political correctness.
Hulk Hogan is up next. Oprah mugs for the camera as Hulk talks about taking Oprah out on the town. She’s into this idea and wants to know when and where. Hogan wasn’t ready for that response, so he has to talk his way out of the situation. Hogan mentions his tan, stating he’s darker than Oprah. Winfrey asks him about drugs, feeding Hogan a softball to tell the kids to stay off them. Hogan takes it the wrong way and seems to think Oprah is accusing him of doing them. Things then get awkward for a moment. Hogan brings up Woodstock and the drug culture of the past. Oprah asks if the Hulkster always talks so intensely (WHATCHA GONNA DO!!!) and he explains he’ll mellow out later when he’s surrounded by pretty ladies. Well, that went splendidly.
WWF Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Don Muraco
They dub in some music for Muraco that sounds like “Kool and the Gang” or something. Oprah flips out for Hogan’s entrance. She tears off her coat and puts on a Hogan headband while standing up on her chair. Winfrey screams “It’s the Hulkster!” over and over.
The crowd gives Hogan a huge response. Muraco gets “beach bum” chants. They show Oprah freaking out as Hogan gets the early shine on Muraco. Oprah and Valiant chat up Hogan’s attributes big time as he dominates Muraco. Oprah admits she has blown out her throat by screaming so much.
Hogan locks on a long headlock. We come back from a commercial with Hogan on the mat in trouble. Muraco traps Hogan in an abdominal stretch as Oprah debates whether the guys are having fun while wrestling or not.
Hogan clotheslines Muraco for a near fall. The big boot hits, but Fuji trips Hogan up on the leg drop attempt. Hogan goes after Fuji as Muraco tries to get the jump on the champ. Hogan side steps him, causing the heels to collide, which earns a big pop. Hogan rolls Muraco up for the pin. Oprah asks if that is the finish. Good product awareness.
Muraco and Fuji attack Hogan after the bell and clothesline Hogan with the cane. Hogan Hulks up and scares them off. Winfrey freaks out as Hogan poses. Oprah comes in the ring. However, Hogan doesn’t acknowledge her and walks to the back by himself. The Hulkster was still fuming over the drug thing from earlier it appears.
Final thoughts: This is something wrestling nerds should watch at least once just to enjoy the train wreck aspect of it all. Seeing Oprah in this setting has some novelty as well.