WWE purchased the AWA video library a decade and a half ago, but only recently has it started paying off.
Perhaps inspired by the popularity of the AWA Team Challenge pilot, WWE recently put another super-obscure AWA program on the Network’s Hidden Gems section.
See, these weren’t any ordinary wrestling matches filmed for public consumption. These were custom wrestling matches. You know, private wrestling matches. And you know what that means…
In this case, it means something called the “Battle of The Breakfast Cereal”, which took place on May 1st, 1989 at the Hyatt hotel in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The whole thing was a corporate gig hosted by Kellogg’s for their sales meeting. As the conference was held in Minneapolis, home of rival General Mills, the higher-ups at Kellogg’s decided to pump up their employees with a series of Kellogg’s vs. General Mills-themed wrestling matches – a task the locally-headquartered AWA was certainly up to, kayfabe be damned.
In an unusual move for a wrestling event featuring breakfast cereal avatars, the show kicked off with the Star-Spangled Banner.
The ring announcer then prepared to run down the night’s card, only to be interrupted by fans making noise – at a wrestling event of all things! Granted, this was an AWA event, so he probably wasn’t expecting it, but one audience member was kind enough to tell the rowdy spectators, “Hey animals, quiet down!”!”
The audience of cereal salesmen was promised four, and I quote, “No-holds bouts”…
…with names like the Minneapolis Melee, Terror in the Twin Cities, and The Brawl Near St. Paul. If this sales conference had been moved to Duluth at the last minute, they would have been screwed.
All this action would culminate in the tag team “Rile in the Aisle” – “aisle” because the wrestlers had to walk down one to get to the ring, and “rile” because it rhymes with “aisle”. That contest would be fought over the In Your Space trophy, commemorating Kellogg’s invasion of General Mill’s home turf.
We were then introduced to the card’s competitors, who represented the hated General Mills and the beloved Kellogg’s, respectively.
The bad guys (according to the sign on the curtain) were Mike Enos, who entered the ring with the Total package. No, not Lex Luger. I mean a box of his namesake cereal, as on this night Enos was competing under the name, “Total the Terrible”.
His Minnesota Wrecking Crew partner, Wayne Bloom, was christened, Hondo “The Honey Bee” Haymaker.
Col. DeBeers was promoted a rank or four, adopting the moniker The General. Fun fact: The “General” in General Mills is an adjective, not a title, and the “Mills” are mills, not a last name.
Unlike the Beverly Brothers before him, DeBeers didn’t get any special ring attire and instead came out in his regular South African military gear. This way, Kellogg’s could imply that General Mills supported apartheid.
But wait – he was carrying a box of Corn Flakes – a Kellogg’s cereal! Unless he was about to elbow-drop that box of cereal, he’d really screwed up.
Last in the General Mills gang were The Mills Brothers, Pat Tanaka & Paul Diamond, who, believe it or not, were not even related.
Diamond punched out a box of Frosted Flakes, which was pretty ridiculous even for a guy who would dress up like this three years later:
On the good guys’ side was Nutri Rockne…
…a name that calls to mind the kind of solid, painful-to-pass bowel movements one might have after eating whole grain cereal. Then again, his regular name was Tommy Jammer.
Then there was Derrick Dukes, known tonight as Mr. O-Portunity…
…and Wahoo McDaniel, known here as Dr. K in honor of company co-founder Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. The real Dr. K went into business to provide Americans with food that was hearty, but also bland so as not to inflame the passions. In other words, the partnership was a perfect fit for AWA.
Ironically, the celibacy advocate would have had a a stroke had he known about the last two members of the Kellogg Crew, the duo known as The S&M Team.
No, I don’t mean Demolition.
I mean, Tom Zenk & Greg Gagne, whose unfortunate team name was short for “Sales & Marketing”.
Before any actual wrestling could begin, there was business to take care of, like this motivational speaker who was there to remind the crowd of General Mills’s devious marketing tactics, and how Kellogg’s would crush them with their new, competitive cereals.
After all, who wanted to sell Honey Nut Cheerios when they could market…
“Nut & Honey Crunch O’s!!!!!!”
His enthusiasm would have been even more convincing if he hadn’t had to glance at the box to remember the name of the cereal. It wasn’t just well-established honey-sweetened oat cereals that the new marketing blitz targeted; there were even bigger fish to fry, like the health-conscious raisin bran market.
“Move over, Total Raisin Bran….
“…We’re gonna sell Nutri-Grain Raisin Bran!!!”
And they did, for nearly five whole years.
The speaker then cut a promo on Kix and how it hadn’t tasted good in years…
…after which he appropriately punted the box of that same cereal into what would have been the fourth row (had there been any chairs set up on that side of the room).
After scolding Michael Jordan for selling out to the inferior cereal company…
…and after quoting “Network”…
…he gave a Churchill-style speech about Kellogg’s new aggressive strategies to defeat the Nazis and/or General Mills.
The first match pitted Total The Terrible against the new kid on the block, Nutri Rockne, named for both Kellogg’s line of inedible Nutri-Grain cereals and football star Knute Rockne (then dead for six decades).
The ring announcer commentated the action on a live mic while subtly plugging Kellogg’s products. For instance, there was this bit of expert insight:
“Nutri Rockne, ladies and gentlemen, is energized by the vitamins and minerals in Nutri-Grain cereal!”
This wasn’t strictly true, of course. Video evidence suggests there was only one lady in the entire audience.
Still, Nutri had enough mega-nutrients to power his way to victory with a splash.
It was then time for another speaker from England, whom the ring announcer graciously pointed out was 5’5”. That’s 165 cm.
Shockingly, the five-foot-five presenter casually dismissed the evening’s athletic portion as “joke wrestling matches”, no doubt drawing the ire of Nutri Rockne.
Not to be outdone by the first guy, this Englishman unleashed a barrage of war metaphors to spell out the company’s new strategy aimed at damaging their rival’s brands at all costs.
Not only would they roll out a line of suspiciously similar competing cereals, but they’d be issuing new coupons!
It was then time for Mr. O-Portunity, named for Kellogg’s new and short-lived Honey & Nut Crunch O’s, to take on the representative for Honey Nut Cheerios…
…who, for heel heat, shouted at the fans that he was more nutritious.
Mr. Safety Wayne Bloom made sure to clear away the many bits of cereal littering the ring before engaging in any grappling.
The announcers warned the audience that Honeybee Bloom might use such dirty tricks as illegal body slams and illegal dropkicks. And no, I have no idea what such maneuvers would entail. He couldn’t mean that body slams and dropkicks were themselves illegal, as I’m pretty sure the AWA had been allowing such high-risk moves for months.
In a less-than-ringing endorsement of the action, the same ring announcer who had previously announced the match as having a fifteen-minute time limit…
…now informed the crowd at the 5:40 mark that eight minutes had elapsed, with only two minutes remaining, and so could the wrestlers please get the hell out of the ring ASAP.
And the hell out of the ring they got, skipping to the finish: In a first (and last) for a professional wrestling match, Wayne Bloom attempted to knock out O-Portunity with a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, only for the foreign object to have no effect.
Before the match, that British guy had promised to strike at weaknesses its competitors didn’t even know they had, and apparently one of those weaknesses was that their cereals made lousy foreign objects.
I mean, what were Kellogg’s and the AWA trying to say about the rival cereal brand? That it was a lightweight when it came to flavor?
Amazingly, the Kellogg’s guy ended up winning again!
Next was the Brawl Near St. Paul pitting Wahoo “Dr. K” McDaniel against Col. “The General” DeBeers.
This time, The General brought a box of his own company’s cereal, Cheerios, to the ring…
…only to be confronted by an overzealous fan who chucked a handful of cereal right in his face. They are really into this s**t.
DeBeers and McDaniel had the most basic of basic matches, culminating in a ref bump spot that really highlighted what a mess Kellogg’s and company were making of the Hyatt ballroom.
The General took advantage of the situation by reaching into his trusty box and appearing to knock Wahoo McDaniel out cold with a handful of Cheerios.
As the previous match had already established, Cheerios made poor weapons, so our astute ring announcer pointed out that DeBeers had used a foreign object hidden in the box. Despite this cheating being announced live over the PA system, the referee was none the wiser about the illegal use of a weapon…
…nor about the interference of the S&M boys, who put DeBeers down with a pair of dropkicks. Illegal dropkicks, I might add!
Dr. K then delivered a single knife edge chop to put The General away.
Wahoo then tore open the Cheerios box in vain to find the foreign object, which DeBeers had stuffed safely down his pants.
After the first two speakers made knock-off breakfast cereals and coupons sound like the salvation of mankind, expectations were high for the third and final speaker…
…who delivered this boring lecture about… well, I don’t even know what it was about. Cereal, I guess?
In the final match, Battle Creek’s S&M Team sought to whip Minneapolis’s Mills Brothers. In fact, all the General Mills heels were billed from Minneapolis, and every single one of them lost so convincingly in their hometown, you’d swear Vince McMahon was booking.
“Get a job, you bums!” yelled one angry Kellogg’s employee. You know, I’m pretty sure the Mills Brothers already had at least one job (pro wrestler), on top of another possible career in the cereal biz.
Tom Zenk, inspired by the evening’s speakers, really, really got into the cereal wars angle, yelling at Tanaka that he was “mad as hell” before going audibly insane while applying a headlock.
Not even interference from General Mills himself could hold down Greg Gagne…
…who, revived by a box of Kellogg’s cereal provided by a fan…
…blinded Pat Tanaka with deadly Nut & Honey Crunch O’s.
The disciplined team of S&M were bound to win, dominating the match before winning by…
The Z-Man and the G-Man took home the coveted In Your Space trophy, which surely disappointed the future Max Moon, Paul Diamond.
Larry Nelson closed the show by massaging the sponsors with an embarrassingly self-congratulatory script. And I thought the Kelloggs had been staunchly opposed to masturbation!
After putting two incredibly boring cereals at the forefront of its new marketing campaign, not to mention taking lessons on competitiveness from the AWA, it’s a wonder how Kellogg’s ever survived the real-life battle of the breakfast cereal.