It’s fairly well known that among wrestlers who have turned to Hollywood, few have made it. While Hulk Hogan can claim that he starred in feature films, the truth is that his releases have been D-grade disasters such as Mr. Nanny and Santa with Muscles. Trust me, fellow Crappers – successes like The Rock are few and far between.
During the late 80’s and early 90’s, though, there were two grapplers poised to be Hollywood’s new golden boys: Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura. Piper impressed both critics and the ticket buying public in the sci-fi thriller They Live. Ventura hit the silver screen opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator and again in The Running Man. Things certainly looked bright for both men, and fate was on their side.
According to Ventura’s book, Ain’t Got Time to Bleed, a six year old son of a Hollywood writer had come up with an idea for a buddy cop show featuring pro wrestlers. ABC executives loved the idea, and put Magnum PI‘s writing staff to work, getting a dozen or so scripts ready to go. Piper and Ventura were immediately inked, and the pilot for the show, appropriately enough called Tag Team, went into production.
Tag Team is the story of the tag team (gee, how clever) of Tricky Rick McDonald (Piper) and Billy the Body Youngblood (Ventura).
Before I even start, I want you to say that outloud: Billy the Body. Go on, say it!
Ventura may have stunned the nation by becoming governor of Minnesota, but I speculate that had he won the election as BILLY the Body, the shockwaves would likely have registered on the Richter Scale.
As the show opens, things are fine and dandy: the pair is moving up the tag ranks, fans love them, and happy go lucky promoter Marty (who bares an uncanny resemblance to the mafia kingpin from those old Stacker 2 commercials) can’t wait to book them at every venue.
However, for reasons the script doesn’t feel like explaining, Marty’s wife Leona wants Rick and Billy to drop their upcoming match against the notorious Samurai Brothers. Since this is 1991 and wrestling is real, they are all like, “No way, Jose,” causing Leona and her Giant 80’s Mall Hair to storm out of the room.
After a hard fought battle, the good guys put the kibosh on the Samurais with the dreaded double elbow drop. This infuriates Leona, who tells Marty that the boys have been making passes at her. Marty, no longer quite so jolly, then boots them from not only his promotion, but the entire world of professional wrestling.
Who the hell does he think he is? Vince McMahon?
It doesn’t take the boys long to realize that without wrestling, they can’t pay their bills, so they become piano movers.
I’m not trying to be funny here, but I swear I thought that piano movers only existed in 1940’s cartoons and Three Stooges shorts. I mean, come on – you have to admit that seems to be a pretty limited vocation.
“Can you move my bath tub?”
“Hey pal, what’s it say on my jacket? PIANO mover!”
The boys lose their grip on a piano, causing it to race down the stairs and smash clear through a brick wall, indicating that the piano was apparently made of solid lead.
The worst wasn’t over, though, as on the way home the boys walk in on a grocery store robbery. The pair springs into action, and take out the bad guys using an array of pro wrestling manoeuvres, including (but not limited to) arm drags, clotheslines, and monkey flips.
Some career advice from RD Reynolds: it you’re a criminal and get foiled by a MONKEY FLIP, it’s probably time to seek a new, legal line of work.
The police are mighty impressed with Tag Team’s show of wanton carelessness, and suggest that they join the force.
The boys think this is a grand idea, and run off to the police academy. You’d think this would lead to all kinds of wacky, Steve Guttenberg-level hi-jinx, but there’s no comedy to be found here, intentional or otherwise.
In fact, there’s not much zaniness at all. The rest of the show is simply the pair performing basic wrestling moves on lame, non-descript criminals. You may not have ever noticed it, but when wrestling moves are performed outside a ring, it tends to look really dumb.
Still, every buddy cop movie cliche is here:
– Grumpy old veteran just days from retirement?
– Rookies getting suspended, then redeeming themselves by disobeying orders and rescuing victim?
– Smiling shot of heroes paused at end of show?
With the formula in place, it seemed certain that the show would gain a time spot on ABC’s fall schedule. However, the day before the show was scheduled to shoot its first regular episode, a network exec nixed the show entirely. Despite Piper and Ventura’s best efforts to get the rights to the series (and therefore move it to another network), the show was canned, never to see the light of day.
And somewhere, a six year old wept.