Not sure I’ve ever truly written about my love for the WWE Network here at WrestleCrap, so if I haven’t, it’s overdue. Offering this much content for a measly $10 a month may be the greatest gift anyone has ever given to us die hard wrestling fans. Want to see the the Gobbledy Gooker crack out of that egg? How about the Shockmaster falling through a wall? Shawn throwing his tantrum when Vader didn’t roll away? Ronnie Garvin dressing in drag as Miss Atlanta Lively?
It’s all like three clicks away. And I can watch it pretty much any place I want.
That’s truly amazing.
And thus, when I start complaining about the Network, it is really nitpicking of the highest order. While I can pine for more episodes of Prime Time or old WCW Saturday Nights to be uploaded, I can comfort myself in knowing while they aren’t ALL on there, a lot of them are.
Want to know what’s NOT on there? Like at all? That would be the WWF’s flagship of the golden era of the 1980s. I refer specifically to…
While the bulk of any Superstars show was a never-ending parade of squash matches, it was the place where all the major storylines played out over a weekly basis, the A-show as it were of its day. The build to the incredible Paul Orndorff turn on Hulk Hogan wasn’t on Prime Time or Saturday Night’s Main Event – it was on the WWF’s leading weekly syndicated show.
WWF Challenge was also a key player for the events of the day, and it too is nowhere to be found on the Network. I mean, who could ever forget when Bobby Heenan showed up with the NWA World Title, telling the world that Ric Flair was coming for Hulk Hogan.
That took place on Challenge. And while the debut episode was all kinds of horrible (and was thus inducted a while back), it still was a show where major events happened. But you’d never know that from the Network, as again, it’s nowhere to be found.
Along with these two was a third one-hour weekly show (WWE used to spread out its three hours instead of jamming into a Monday night block). This one was a bit more obscure, and I can’t say that during my fandom I can recall anything of major note taking place on it. But it was there and it happened each and every week. It was called All-American Wrestling and lo and behold what have we here? Its debut episode? Those are always great! Don’t believe me? Need I present Wrestling Challenge #001 or Monday Night Raw #001 as proof?
Can this live up to those impossibly high standards?
As I am so fond of saying…ONE WAY TO FIND OUT!
The show lets you know from the very first seconds that this is all about the good ol US of A, with shots of the Statue of Liberty, the St. Louis arch, and the Hollywood sign interspersed between red hot rasslin’ action, concluding with Jimmy Snuka sticking his crotch right in front of some poor jobber’s mouth. If that doesn’t get you waving a flag and chanting USA I don’t know what will!
Before we get to the matches, we get Vince McMahon “wholeheartedly” welcoming us to the debut episode of All American Wrestling. But if you think this is the fast talking Vince McMahon we all know and love, you would be dead wrong. He is stuttering and sputtering all over the place, and just seeming to be scared to death. The main image for this induction…
I chose that because Vince appears absolutely horrified, pausing randomly and just kinda zoning out like this was his first gig or something. It wasn’t of course, but all I can say is I hope Vince improves over the next 60 minutes or this is going to be a looooooooong night.
The subject of the show is going to be WWF Champion Bob Backlund.
Yes, that wacky guy you younger fans may only know from going crazy in the 1990s (in a woefully underrated performance)…
…hanging out with Darren Young…
…or causing a ruckus at the WWE Hall of Fame was actually the top man for Vince and his dad, carrying the gold for nearly six years.
SIX YEARS AS “CHAMPION”!!!
Good ol’ Bob, we will get to him in a minute. Time to pay the bills with a message from our sponsor…
Really, no joke, the first sponsor is the famous men’s magazine, and this may be the most incredible commercial ever for it.
Perhaps the most incredible commercial for anything in the history of planet earth.
Did you know Playboy gives you the best of everything? And by this they apparently mean…
…award winning authors like the guy who wrote Roots!
Interviews with Elliot Gould! Hopefully they ask him who said it was ok for him to put his feet up on coffee tables!
Sports analysts who autograph pictures of teams they cover! Or maybe they just like! Who knows!
Cartoonists who “point out the humor in today’s world”, such as Native Americans and pilgrims eating at McDonald’s!
The latest styles, like ridiculous shorts and bright yellow body suits!
The hottest tunes to enjoy while you’re eating egg rolls and fortune cookies!
Plus the newest electronics, namely rotary phones and an updated version of Simon!
And what the heck, let’s just throw some dinosaurs in there too!
Oh, and since you asked, yes, there are some beautiful women in Playboy, but really it’s all about…
…photographers flexing their muscles!
If all that isn’t worth $18.95 a year for your “monthly ticket to the good life”, I don’t know what is. Oh, and you folks down in Georgia, you need to call a special number. No 1-800-USA for you.
I can only guess we’re getting ready to boot you from the Union.
I can well imagine you for thinking I made all this up, so here’s the full commercial in all its glory. If you just loop that thing over and over for the next three hours instead of continuing to read this induction, I can’t say I blame you.
Those of you joining me for the rest of journey will be thrilled to learn we are heading to Madison Square Garden in 1978, as Bob Backlund battles Superstar Billy Graham for the WWWF title. And we get no less than Vince himself doing commentary! We get body slams, small packages, and bear hugs a plenty, as well as…
…whatever this may be. Perhaps a massage, not sure.
Then we get the lewdest bear hug you will ever seen. Graham escapes by grabbing Bob’s head and threatening to ram it into his crotch.
Bob then captures the title with the most devastating maneuver in the world:
An atomic knee drop!
Joke as I may, I would be lying however if I didn’t say this was a fun match, with the crowd going absolutely insane for every single move. “A dream come true!” Vince chimes in as Backlund celebrates his new found championship.
Scared Vince then shows up again, and he explains that Backlund is still the champ.
“For now,” he adds.
Well, that’s not very nice. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it almost feels like foreshadowing of some sort!
But hey, we can all trust Vince McMahon, right?
He’s an honest looking guy!
…compared to THIS guy he is! That there would be Porter Wagoner, and he explains that we all love to sing to ourselves and thus we should do that more often.
Really, that’s what the man said.
And now here’s YOUR chance to sing along with a professional band as he urges us to buys The Great Singalong Album! Available on two albums, cassettes, or 8-track tapes for just $14.95, it’s the best idea he’s ever heard of.
I mean, if you can’t trust Porter Wagoner, then who can you trust?
And we’re all in agreement Vince saw this commercial and came up with the idea for Double J Jeff Jarrett, right?
We then get a few promo pieces for various shows on the USA Network, including USA Hot Spots, hosted by Elizabeth Rawlins. It’s actually pretty wild to watch this entire thing and realize that a crappy cable network and a horrified Vince McMahon somehow, some way, wound up on top of the world. If you ever needed a push to let you personally know that you too could wind up a billionaire, screw inspirational posters. Instead, just look at that ad above…
…and look at Vince in 1983.
I mean, seriously, did anyone on planet earth think these two entities would wind up anywhere but the gutter?
And come to think of it, THIS guy was a gazillionaire too!
Yet here I am, spending 17 years of my life writing about awful wrestling.
…back to MSG we go, as Ken Patera is hugging Bob Backlund as he is laying on the mat. Vince explains to us that Patera is one of the strongest men in the world, a fact which he repeats using every possible synonym for the word “strong” approximately 437 times. If you are a fan of bear hugs, this would be the match for you.
Also, if you are a fan of Ken Patera repeatedly rubbing his own butt, this is the match for you. (Note – if you do fall into this category, please leave the site and never come back – you’re far too creepy for me to hang around.)
Patera rams Backlund into the referee and Ken gets at least a 20 count on the champ until another official comes out and rules the match a no contest.
“Bob Backlund not getting the duke that night,” Vince explains, “and indeed, there would be many occasions on which he would not be victorious, only being able to retain his title by count out or disqualification.”
Vince then urges anyone interested in giving feedback to their new program to send in those letters. And where might you send those?
That’s right, back in the day Vince not only would say the word, he would set up a PO Box NAMED it! In fact, throughout the entire show he talks about wrestling, “scientific” wrestling, catch as catch can wrestling, and tons more. He used to LOVE to talk about wrestling. No idea what caused him to wind up hating it so much, because he was all about it back in 1983.
He then leads us to our next commercials by promising us that after the break, we’ll learn more about how rough a year Bob Backlund had in 1982.
Jeez, I think that Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD might have been more complimentary to its subject!
This time we get a commercial with a mom giving her 17-year old son advice on his first job interview. Somehow this segues into a sales spiel for Global Life and Accident.
Sorry, but I have to ask – where on earth did she send him to get a job that caused her to immediately get a life insurance policy for him?
Back from break, once more Vince explains that Backlund has been “lucky” to retain his championship, which leads to a pair of matches against the East-West Connection of Adrian Adonis and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. We only get about 2 minutes of the Adonis bout before Bob gets a fast count for the win.
“Obviously a close call for Bob Backlund,” Vince notes. “He’d have a lot of those.”
The only thing shocking here is that Vince doesn’t roll his eyes while he’s saying it.
Back to MSG as we get Backlund defending against Jesse…with Ivan Putski as the guest referee. I’ve seen some horrible refs in my day (I lived through Bronko Lubich in World Class for crying out loud!), but Putski may seriously be the worst I have ever seen. Vince is completely appalled at how slow Putski is counting and I can’t argue.
Putski, I should mention, is a babyface. Just like Backlund. Jesse goes for cover after cover, and Putski never counts past one. As soon as Backlund gets a pin, though, Putski counts as fast as humanly possible, thus allowing Bob to retain the title.
“Obviously a very fast count by Putski there,” says Vince back in the studio, “and you have to wonder if he had not been the ref what the outcome of that match would really be.”
What a glowing endorsement of his company’s number one babyface!
Next up we get a very famous angle in which Billy Graham returns (after spending five years studying martial arts!) and destroys the WWF title. Curt Hennig would do the exact same thing with Hulk Hogan’s belt years later. So if you ever wondered how that idea came about, there’s your answer.
We get yet another match, as Backlund defends against Graham in a lumberjack match with Swede Hansen as the special ref. Backlund applies the chicken wing, while Graham repeatedly points at his throat yelling “choke.”
“It looks like Swede Hansen is confused!” Vince screams. “He’s giving the match to Backlund!”
And so yeah, Backlund gets another dubious victory.
We then get a string of “highlights” from matches in which Backlund “escapes” with the title according to Vince, including barely getting by Iron Mike Sharpe.
Yes, THAT Iron Mike Sharpe!
We get it, dude – Backlund sucks!
The show ends with a Bob Backlund interview so dull and monotonous you can almost see Vince motioning for Pat Patterson to get out the hook to pull him offstage.
And honestly, it wasn’t long after this show premiered that Vince did just that. Well, figuratively. Backlund dropped the WWF title to the Iron Sheik on December 26 in Madison Square Garden, with Bob getting injured by the Sheik and his Persian clubs. If this show taught us anything, we would not be surprised that Backlund was too weak to get back in the ring a month later. Thus, Sheik needed a new challenger and well…
…history marched on.
And in the process, it turned this terrified man into the biggest wrestling promoter in the history of planet earth. Why, you would have thought he planned this all along!