INDUCTION: Prime Time Wrestling’s Audience Era – Why Did They Ruin My Favorite Show?

35 Submitted by on Thu, 27 August 2015, 20:00

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WWF, 1991

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but there would be no WrestleCrap.com without Prime Time Wrestling.  That’s not because the show was bad; it’s because the show was so fantastically awesome.  It’s what led to me becoming a pro wrestling fan in the first place.  It started with a British Bulldogs vs. Hart Foundation match.  I’d never seen anything like it before, and fell in love with the action and psychology in play. It was, in a word, great.  But for every Bulldogs-Hart **** classic, there were a half dozen or more Jimmy Jack Funk vs.. Tony Garea snooze fest.

And you know what?  It didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter because of the greatest team in the history of pro wrestling:

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And of course that would be Bobby Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon.

They didn’t spearhead my favorite wrestling show of all time, they were the hosts of my favorite TELEVISION show of all time.

Oh how I love these great, great men.

You know, I just grabbed a random episode of Prime Time from the archives I have here (and yes, I have every single episode since for whatever reason WWE Network apparently can’t be bothered to have them all) to introduce this induction.  And just looking at that image made me smile and laugh.  I could write a book about how awesome this show was (I’ve actually pondered what it would take to write The Prime Time Chronicles) because every single time I tuned in and saw Monsoon and Heenan I smiled, laughed, and had the time of my life.  Back in the old VHS days, I would tape the show and not bother to record any matches; I just wanted to see Gorilla and the Brain bicker back and forth.

I mean, the image itself leads us right into a story about the show – look at it, and you know they are celebrating New Year’s.  Holidays were a HUGE deal on Prime Time.  So you got New Year’s (generally with Bobby being hung over while Gorilla yelled at him)…

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….Thanksgiving with Pilgrim Bobby…

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…Christmas (with WWF STOCKINGS!!!!!)…

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…and Halloween, where the two played dress up every year.

moonsoonheenan4The one above had to be my favorite, and possibly the greatest overall episode ever.  Not only did we get Bobby as The Genius and Gorilla as Brother Hate, we got Roddy Piper (dressed as the Brain!) knocking out the real Brother Love with a pumpkin.  Upon waking up from his gourd-based slumber, Love proceeded to throw a tantrum, telling how he’d been hit with a BRICK.  Everyone in the entire segment was absolutely phenomenal, and it led to the end of the show featuring a segment with Roddy Piper giving us, yes, you guessed it, HALLOWEEN TIPS.

(Yeah, it was Prime Time that gave us that classic WrestleCrap Radio bit.)

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Should also mention that Piper had changed his outfit so he now resembled a weasel.  Awesome.

That’s not even getting into the times when Heenan and Monsoon went out of the studio, traveling to such locales as…

…Busch Gardens (where Bobby’s wife showed up and his daughter stomped him on the foot calling him “WEASEL!” in uncredited roles!)…

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…the OLD WEST (!!!!!) where the Brain tried his hand at ACTING and DIRECTING in a series of fantastic cowboy skits, and my all time favorite…

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…TONY PACKO’S HOT DOG EMPORIUM, where the pair signed their buns (Heenan: “Gonna be hard to do without a mirror!”) which I say is unquestionably the funniest seven minutes of WWF television in history.

Ok, yeah, such a book may be a must.

How I absolutely, positively, loved this show.

So how on earth did it wind up here at WrestleCrap.com?

Apparently, the powers that be in the WWF decided the show needed to be monkeyed with and promptly took the simple fun of two guys you could tell were having fun together and thus being entertaining by themselves and bloated it with a bunch of…well, WrestleCrap.

On February 18, 1991, my favorite show ever died in front of a live, studio audience.

The show was a disaster from the first five seconds, as the iconic intro was gone.

Gorilla? Gone.

Heenan looking baffled? Gone.

And most importantly, Heenan carrying Monsoon around in a rickshaw?

GONE.

GONE.

GONE!

In its place?

The most unflattering shots of Stamford, Connecticut imaginable, filmed as if it were done on someone’s home video camera as they were driving through town.  It climaxed with an extended look at a bowling alley.

What, you thought I was kidding?

As idiotic as that looks, it sounded much, much worse, as we get a voice over explaining how we were in the entertainment capitol of the world, Stamford, Connecticut.  Did you know it’s just 44 miles north of the Big Apple?  YOU DO NOW!  It was obviously meant to be campy and fun, but just wound up being kinda stupid.

It was a precursor of things to come.

Right off the bat, we see things have gone horrifically awry, as the Prime Time set has vanished and Gorilla Monsoon is nowhere to be found.  Instead we get The Brain and Vince McMahon in the back, looking at what appears to be a 13″ black and white TV.

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Also, it appears they are taking a leak.

No no, they’re just getting ready to go out.

Out where, you ask?

Out to a studio audience, which is compose of kids clapping and stomping their feet as if they were hepped up on goofballs.  If the International Olympic Committee were to ever decide that paddle boating was a valid sporting contest, these geeks would win the gold.

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Lord Alfred shows up, but it’s not to shill for Sugar Daddy (“the flavor which lasts a lifetime”) or Yipes Stripes (“share dare chew it blow it!”).  No, he’s there to introduce THE STARS OF OUR SHOW!  I won’t even attempt to peck out what his Lordship has to say, as I know I can’t do him justice, so yeah, click here.

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The yuk yuks start with Vince telling us that we’re going to be getting a tour of Washington DC with Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush since it’s President’s Day.  We are also told that the Bushwackers would be here to join us live in studio.  Thrilling.  So the boys toss it to the first match of the evening, a tag team battle royal!

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Which is really boring.

The sole highlight is Roddy Piper calling one of the Nasty Boys “Nags”.  Or maybe it’s “Knaggs.”  Yeah, I like that spelling better.  Again, though, I am not going to knock this show for terrible bouts, as the Monsoon-Heenan Prime Times always had oodles of crappy matches.

But they never had anything, ANYTHING, resembling the train wreck we are about to witness.

That would be when Nancy and Barbara show up on screen.  And by that I mean two guys wearing what appear to be Spitting Image puppet masks against a green screen image of the white house.  This while “Mean Gene” Okerlund does a goofball speech about…well, nothing.  I mean, yeah, we get a couple of timely (I guess) jokes (I guess), but really, it’s just…nothing.  Here, you take a listen and be the judge.

Back to the studio we go, as Vince threatens us with more Nancy and Barbara throughout the show.  But enough of that.  Vince puts on some granny glasses (ummm what?) as we debut a new segment:

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PRIME TIME NEWS!

Here we get stories of the Rolling Stones bassist (?), Patriots’ owner Victor Kiam (???), and how specific foods and drinks reflect your mood. What this has to do with pro wrestling, sports entertainment, or honestly anything at all, I have no idea.  Pretty sure it was just a platform for Bobby to launch into one liners, but even he seems baffled at the concept.

Can’t say I blame him.

Oh, I should also note that Vince taps his cards repeatedly.  You know, like a real live anchorman would.

As I look at that GIF above, and I watch the rest of this show, all I can think is seven years later, Vince would be the hottest heel in the business and would transform himself into a legitimate, honest-to-goodness billionaire.

The past two minutes as I have been trying to type that sentence, my head is just instinctively shaking “NO”.

But we got MISTER MCMAHON and the business changed forever.

Again, just seven years after we got THIS.

AND THIS!

Yes, discussion of wallets hurting your lower back.

And again my head shakes no.

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The next segments, featuring Roddy Piper talking up Virgil and then a VIKING match, aren’t making it any easier.  It also doesn’t help matters that the commentary duo for that match is, in fact, Bobby and Gorilla…who are no longer the hosts of this show, I remind you.  I will say, in the interest of fairness, just having them together in this one match means this show is now not the worst ever.  This would be solely due to the fact that Monsoon asked, and I quote, “I wonder where he parked his boat?”

Oh how I miss Gorilla Monsoon.

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Before we go back to the studio, we get Okerlund and Hacksaw Jim Duggan at Toys R Us!  Gene shills and shills as only he can, telling kids to blitz the store and buy title belts, wrestling rings, POWER CYCLES, and MACHO KING PUZZLES!!!!  The skit concludes with Duggan slamming his 2×4 on Gene’s foot, causing Okerlund to jump up and down in pain while he exclaims that we need to HOP ON DOWN to Toys R Us.

HOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Thankfully (or not!), Okerlund heals up in time to get us back to Washington DC, as we get a primer on the US Capitol building.

As Gene babbles on, Barbara and Nancy ‘fight’.  Oh boy.

Remember when we did that induction years back of Barrack vs. Hillary?  Remember how horrible that was?  I can say without hyperbole that skit was literally one gazillion times better than what I am watching tonight for you kids.

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Somewhere in here, we get a Hulk Hogan promo, as he hypes his upcoming showdown with Sgt. Slaughter at WrestleMania VII.  During the interview, he talks about how he’s concerned that Slaughter may be planning to, and I am simply reporting the facts here, drown us in oil, shoot Scud missiles at our homes, and kidnap children as prisoners of war.  But don’t worry – Hulk’s going to make sure that doesn’t happen!

Yeah, I can’t believe this failed to sell out a 100,000 seat arena either.

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The Bushwackers join us for a weather report next.  Because, you know, COMEDY.  So these two nitwits yell at each other for a good five minutes.  And it’s all just as funny as this.  Which is to say not at all.  To be honest, I don’t even know if it is supposed to be funny.  As I just edited and saved out that clip, I am thinking it wasn’t.  I mean, I didn’t laugh.  There were no jokes at all that I could detect in there.

Maybe it was supposed to be a legitimate weather report.

And it goes from bad to somehow even worse as we get ANOTHER segment with Barbara and Nancy, this time outside the Lincoln Memorial.  Now they are sword fighting for some reason as our 16th president rolls his eyes.

At the risk of pounding it into the ground, Prime Time Wrestling is the show that made me a wrestling fan.  I’ve not watched this reboot version of it since it aired originally because I was so mad when it happened.  But I’ve matured in the past quarter of a century.  So I was sure, 100% positive, I would not be as upset as I was the first time I saw it.  It could not be as bad as I remembered it being.  And it’s not.

It’s worse.

Like so much worse that it is unfathomable. Seriously, think back to the worst WWE comedy you’ve ever, ever seen, and whatever you just imagined is so much funnier than this it’s not even comprehendible.

And I am getting just as angry as I did back then.  Maybe more.

Perhaps this next segment will soothe my soul.

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And maybe, just maybe, it can, as it is PICK THE BRAIN, wherein we get questions for Bobby.  Shockingly, the questions are so completely idiotic that even he can’t save things.  I mean, seriously, one of the questions is, “Dear Brain, here’s a real problem for you – my husband’s feet stink!  What should I do?”

Again, the whole essence of why Gorilla and Bobby were so great together is that they didn’t TRY to be funny, they simply WERE funny.  Gorilla didn’t ask Bobby stupid questions that no one would ever ask.  He would present things, generally concerning, get this, WRESTLING, and Heenan would just riff off it.  It was natural comedy.

And he and Monsoon were the best ever at it.

It wasn’t the Bushwackers “modeling” (which we got next)…

…and it sure as heck wasn’t crap like this…

…or this…

…the punchline of which was that we were told the ladies get along “swimmingly”.

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Despite fighting with each other on all the segments we’d been forced to endure throughout the prior two hours, they show up together and throw water on Bobby.

With the Good Lord Above as my witness and I am not making this up, that was the main event of the show.

Y’all can get angry about your favorite stars not being pushed, or the so-called Divas Revolution being turned into a complete farce.  It all pales in comparison to this.  Seeing something that I loved so much being trampled upon.

Try as he might, Bobby just couldn’t save it.

And sadly his daughter wasn’t there to stomp on the producer of this show’s foot!

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35 Responses to "INDUCTION: Prime Time Wrestling’s Audience Era – Why Did They Ruin My Favorite Show?"
  1. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    Great induction, boss! This is when I started watching wrestling so this is the only PTW I ever knew (well this, and the later “round table discussion” version).

  2. The Doctor of Style says:

    Clearly, the swinging pendulum in the show’s intro was needed to hypnotize you into not changing the channel.

    I think in Heenan’s 1st book, he said McMahon made TitanSports employees come to the studio after work to sit in the audience.

  3. Ian Feuerhake says:

    Yes! I loved Prime Time too, and this pissed me off to no end. Why did they have to ruin a good thing?

  4. Mister Forth says:

    The only good part of this time was Heenan’s joke about the guy’s wife.

  5. Sean Bateman says:

    Bobby Heenan is a riot with Gorilla and a few times with JR (see JR and Brain work their magic during the Bastion Booger vs Rick Martel match for proof). This puts Bobby’s talent to shame. Thanks, Deal.

  6. AK says:

    Those Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush characters (particularly the masks) are unsettling.

    Then there’s the GIF of Nancy chasing Barbara with the two machetes, maybe it had hokey music to go along with it but watching it on here sans music actually gives me the heeby jeebies. It’s actually quite terrifying and puts most horror movies to shame.

    Seriously, post that GIF anywhere else and I’d like to see how many people would correctly guess it was from a Wrestling (Sports Entertainment) Show and it was meant to be..funny?

  7. James says:

    And now I demand RD make the ultimate sacrifice: REVIEW EPISODES OF THIS SEMI-REGULARLY.

    Because as bad as this seemed, there’s tons that made the Whackers’ Weather Report and such pale in comparison.

    The return of Jamison…

    Bobby vs. the pregnant woman…

    The Triangle of Terror hold a Hulkamaniac hostage…

    Sean Mooney replaces Vince (he pulled a TNT again…)…

    More Lord Alfred antics…

    And after all that, I must say I still liked this version of PTW. Hey, I was in the phase where I accepted anything that resembled wrestling on TV.

    And for a consolation, by the end of the year, they did go back to something resembling the original format, but this time with the roundtable discussions in between. Home of Mr. Perfect’s face turn…oh yeah, did I mention that the PTW talk show is where Ric Flair made his 1991 WWF debut?????

  8. Brad says:

    How could you neglect the worst part of this era of PTW……Vince’s horrifying tracksuits

    But yeah I’m with you, for me it doesn’t get better than Brain and Gorilla riffing on each other for a whole show.

    • Ed says:

      Like so many – I have 100’s of hours of PTW on tape – no matches – just Heenan and Monsoon.
      Of course having Piper for a while in Studio B didn’t hurt. And the classic 4 week run of the Bobby Heenan Show.

      Heenan said USA made Vince stop it since it wasn’t wrestling content as per the contract with the channel. Otherwise it could have ran for a while.

      “If you know anyone who wishes to be on the Bobby Heenan Show, or DESERVES to be, please write us at Titan Sports.” Classic

  9. Mav says:

    As usual, I agree with RD. The original Prime Time with Gorilla and The Brain was fantastic. Those two were hilarious together. They made the show, fully completely. You got a lot of matches from a very dark Boston Forum but it didn’t matter. Those two were comedy gold. And truly a case of here of not knowing what you had til it was gone. Heck, I didn’t even really like when they brought in Piper and tried out The Bobby Heenan Show. I needed no change to the original kick-ass formula. I’ve stolen a lot of Bobby’s comedic mannerisms over the years and I’ll never forget when we saw Gorilla up close in 1989 in Niagara Falls for a Wrestling Challenge taping (in the Gorilla position before anyone knew what that was) and my buddy yelled out, “Hey, Gorilla, Wanna banana?” Two legends doing their thing. One incredible show.

  10. Enhancement Talent II, Mark 3 says:

    Great job RD. I laughed when you said you used to FF past the matches to get to the Gorilla/Heenan segments. That’s exactly what I did when I had the WWE Classics on Demand!! Even the main events sucked, like Sam Houston vs Dangerous Danny Davis. (But I still liked it when Gorilla would claim these matches could main event any arena in the country.)

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is an awesome induction.

  12. Jack Mehoffer says:

    Why would Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush be fighting anyway? They were both married to Republicans. George Bush was Reagan’s Vice President.

    I know it’s been two decades, but I don’t recall any kind of Nancy Reagan vs. Barbara Bush feud

    • Ravishing Bob Caudle says:

      George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan (despite ultimately sharing a ticket/two terms) were pretty fierce rivals in the primaries leading up to the election and never really got along after that either. There are even some conspiracy theories out there (and some compelling/strange connections between Bush and Hinkley, etc) that Bush had a hand in the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan. Having said all of that, no…I don’t recall there being any (public, anyway) feuds between the first ladies LOL. Likely just more inane Vince ideas of wacky comedy.

  13. King Of Kings says:

    Yeah this version of the show sucked no doubt about it however they would redeem themselves somewhat next year with their awesome round table discussion with Bobby, Perfect, Gorilla, Slick, and Vince. Henning was having a ball sitting next to Bobby cracking up at his one liners.

    My personal favorite one.

    Bobby on Funeral services

    Bobby: So reverend have you performed any of these services?

    Slick: On many many occasions.

    Bobby: How hard is it to get the gold out of the teeth. LOL

  14. ScroogeMcSuck says:

    Vince’s idea of turning Primetime into a goofy variety show was such a good idea, it was abandoned by the end of the Fall. The roundtable format wasn’t much better, with ratings falling more and more until they just said fuck it and rebooted Primetime as Raw. Just thinking about Primetime makes me want to go and watch some old Gorilla/Heenan hosted episodes.

  15. drew says:

    I grew up a few towns away in Connecticut and attended a bunch of these taping when I was 10 years old or so. Highlight was being at the one when Earthquake made “quakeburgers”.

  16. Thomas Moffatt says:

    Imagine if they brought this back in some form? Hosted by Michael Cole, Nipple H and the Miz? With ‘antics’ from Hornswoggle? WWE ‘Hall of Famer’ Donald Trump taking on ‘Obama’? Adam Rose proving the only thing worse than the real Russell Brand is a Russell Brand wannabe? Being reminded that the Divas Revolution was all down to Nipple H? JBL shouting a lot? Damien Sandow being wasted? The Ascension doing squat? Eva Marie?

  17. John C says:

    Just looking at the still shots of Bobby & Gorilla make me smile and laugh. That studio show really seemed so tacky and low budget with Vince in the track suits and they had to sit on the stools. It was a big drop off from Weasel & Gino sitting at a desk with the monitor behind them. It’s been a bummer on The Network I wanted more older content like the MSG house shows, NWA Saturday Night Shows but instead we get the awesome hijinks of Swerved and probably more Bellas than you can shake a silicon stick at.

    • Guest says:

      I don’t think they have the rights to those or something I was actually puzzled when I watched the Network and saw no Thunder or Saturday WCW.

  18. Larry says:

    While the studio audience was bad, I do remember one funny moment with them. It was when I.R.S. made an appearance & wanted to “audit” someone. So he & Heenan start asking questions to people in the audience looking for a candidate. Bobby & Irwin go up to one guy & Heenan says, “You sir. What do you do for a living?” The man says, “I’m an attorney.” Heenan & I.R.S. look at each other & both immediately & in a deadpan delivery go, “Forget him.”

  19. Doc 902714 says:

    So this is where the Prime Time Players got their Inspiration!

  20. Bruno Jr says:

    I was inspired to watch the old episodes of Prime Time on the WWE Network. I forgot Jesse Ventura was the co-host. But, the Network only has the Heenan episodes.

  21. Mike says:

    I used to think Raw was what SNL would be like if Mitt Romney won the election. I was wrong.

  22. DC says:

    I’m just glad you didn’t choose the episode where Paul Bearer “embalmed” Lord Alfred Hayes who supposedly had an erection underneath the sheet.

  23. Kev says:

    Even in his prime, Vince knew how to ruin a great thing.

  24. Justin says:

    The original PTW format was GOLD. My favorite episode was the SummerSlam ’89 special, with Monsoon & Piper at the desk and Heenan on the set of his talk show. Piper and Heenan were so mean to each other it was amazing. I rewatched that tape so many times, only for the host segments.

    The fact that Vince was likely jealous of Heenan and Monsoon’s natural chemistry and effortless comedic timing and wanted in on the fun shouldn’t be much of a surprise I guess. Vince has always fancied himself a hilarious guy, except that he has basically no natural sense of comedy whatsoever. It’s no wonder PTW was retired less than two years after this horrific reboot.

  25. Jed Shaffer says:

    I’d forgotten all about this.

    RD, I’ll be sending you my therapy bills.

  26. Ravishing Bob Caudle says:

    At the time, being an adolescent who had mostly dropped out of following WWF right after WM4 (we watched Clash of the Champions instead live and then watched WM4 *without sound* due to a problem w/our uncle’s descrambler/VCR, imagine that horror lol…and the letdown after having witnessed WM3 the year before and many times in between as it had also been taped for us) and a brief flirtation again for WM6, mostly due to there being no Clash that night, (this time around it was reversed, we could HEAR it but only see it sometimes through the scrambled ppv feed lol) By this time I was a full-on NWA/WCW kid (growing up in the Carolinas was likely a big part of this, too) but this was oddly the thing that brought me back around to semi-following WWF again. Why? Because Ric Flair was now in the WWF and this was where we got our Nature Boy fix now AND Bobby Heenan and Mr. Perfect?! A perfect combination, and about the only one that could make it worth sitting through this version of the show. My strongest memories of this show all involve either those three or Ted Dibiase (w/Sherri, and “Virgilina”, Virgil in drag.)

    My personal favorite moment of this version of Primetime: Bobby Heenan playing the Hulk Hogan call-in/phone game on the WWF hotline and IIRC winning a HH tshirt, which he said he would line his bird cage with. lol Mr. Perfect was there for this as well and I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere on Youtube (or was at one time anyway, much to my delight.) I enjoyed the roundtable format but just as I began following the product again semi-regularly along came RAW and the New Generation Era, neither of which I dug and I once again tuned back out until years later with the exception of a few Saturday morning WWF shows if I happened to come across them. I couldn’t stomach Todd Pettingill though and was shocked the first time I saw Michael PS. Hayes as “Dok Hendricks” having thoroughly enjoyed him as a Freebird. Vince just never knew what to do with NWA/WCW guys (though that may have been by design) which is odd considering how good his track record was with AWA stars.

    • Ravishing Bob Caudle says:

      FWIW, I have to agree with the person who said that even then, Vince knew how to ruin a good thing. He seemed to be going for the Tuesday Night Titans shtick but unlike that show, which had a natural, charming kind of “wackiness” to it, this primetime incarnation just felt fake, forced, and cheap, like many things in the early 90’s.

  27. Conquistador #3 says:

    The audience era was awful… except for the Macho Man’s bachelor party. I’m getting married!!

  28. steve1977 says:

    Oh just shut the fuck up RD. It was enjoyable having a studio audience, there was plenty of moments that were good. How about making a company yourself instead of having a idiotic website that just shits over wrestling!

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