A few years back, I inducted the debut episode of Wrestling Challenge, which you can find by clicking here. I like to find the pilot episodes for shows like this, because as is the case with many television progrems, they tend to start out as one thing then change and morph over time to adapt to something people want to actually see. In fact, the only thing I really remember about that premiere episode of Challenge is the company tried out “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd on commentary and when he was stuck for anything to say, he’d just reply “Beyond a shadow of a doubt” over and over and over again.
Not sure I’ve ever covered final episodes of shows before, but if I have, those visits have been far more rare. But as I was looking around for induction ideas I discovered I had access to the last-ever Wrestling Challenge, which took place in 1995.
And as I’ve covered countless times on the site, that era of of the company’s existence was by and large atrocious.
Atrocious and very, VERY, almost unforgivably neon.
My goodness, just looking at that intro I am getting a headache. Possibly a seizure. Not sure, but it’s bad. Who thought this was in any way a good look?
Well, look who’s back.
Bet you’re just here to point out that once upon forever ago, you were actually in a WWF intro package.
You know what, good for you.
So we meet the commentary crew, which consists of Jim Ross (who was not aged enough to be “Good ol’ JR” quite yet) and a man named Dok Hendrix.
Sweet Christmas, Dok Hendrix. What a tool.
Ok, let me try to explain this. So Michael “PS” Hayes was a pretty well known name in wrestling throughout the early 80s, being the front man so to speak for the legendary Fabulous Freebirds, a stable that ran havoc throughout the likes of World Class and the NWA. The ‘birds were stars pretty much everywhere they went, and even had I think one match in the WWF before they were shown the door for (allegedly) being too out of control behind the scenes. Long story long, Hayes was someone wrestling fans knew.
So of course this being the WWF, they had to give him a makeover and turn him into someone “new”, in this case, smooth talkin’ Dok Hendrix. Despite no longer being an in-ring competitor, old Dok was doing everything to make it all about Dok, all the time, on this show doing everything from pointing to himself in the most annoying manner possible to telling everyone he was more important than Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
You want to know why Vince started yelling in his announcers’ headphones, this may be your answer. And I can’t blame him.
At the start of this show, there is no mention whatsoever of it being any type of special event, let alone it being the end of the series’ nine year run. But throughout it, Dok keeps making little references and literally winking at the camera as if he knows something is up but he’s not going to tell anyone. Ross is of course oblivious and keeps begging for more info, looking like an out of touch doofus.
Yeah, that’s not gonna get old. Thank goodness this show is only an hour.
Our opening contest (no doubt scheduled for one fall) features Hakushi taking on Barry Horowitz. Throughout his run in the WWF, Horowitz was one of the most well known jobbers, a guy who was borderline phenomenal at making the big stars look incredible in the ring. Hakushi was an import from Japan who wasn’t quite Great Muta but was as close as you were gonna get in the cartoonish mid 90’s WWF.
You know how even today you see folks botching Muta’s famous handspring elbow and asking yourself why on earth they even tried?
Hakushi could do a pretty good one.
I mean, not perfect, but that looked pretty darn good.
Over the years I’ve seen plenty of people do that and it looks horrible 99.9999999% of the time. Am I just imagining things or didn’t Kelly Kelly try to do those back in the day? I remember there was at least one Divas era competitor that would to it and always wind up taking 15 seconds to get across the ring and missing their opponent by like two feet.
I’m sure one of y’all will help me out in the comments below.
At this time, Horowitz was actually involved in an angle with Skip and Sunny of the Bodydonnas. And yes, before you ask, that is indeed Tam of “Fun with Tammy” fame. This leads to Sunny distracting the ref so Skip can punch Barry in the face. Ross loses his mind over this vile villainy, yelling for the ref to turn around. Dok mocks him and tells him to stop being a stooge. Ross, undeterred, continues to rant like a madman, finally exclaiming the ref needs to “sit her down and shut her up!”
You know, that would have been really good advice, I dunno, 10 years ago. Maybe 15.
So anyway, you have this super talented guy in Hakushi against a life long jobber. Care to guess what happens?
If you guessed “have him lose on a banana peel roll up”, step right up and claim your prize.
The more I’ve watched of Hakushi over the years, the more I question why on earth he ever came to this stupid company to begin with. Guessing he felt the same.
Meanwhile, Tammy makes this face.
There’s a joke to be made here, but I’m too upstanding to do so.
Besides, she may escape prison and try to run me over with a car or something.
I do my best to keep the truly psychotic on my good side, thank you very much.
Premium Live Event News is next hosted by…is that…could that be “Sweet” Stan Lane???
Why it sure is!
And he is talking up a show coming up in five weeks at Madison Square Garden. Something odd about this particular episode is that it is completely localized to the New York market. Not just with promos by the wrestlers mentioning upcoming events in the area, but in the commentary throughout the entire show. It’s quite possible the show had become such a small blip on the WWF radar that a New York syndicated program was all it was at this point in time, not sure.
What I am sure of is Stan telling us that Bret Hart will be taking on Isaac Yankem at the upcoming Garden show, and the evil dentist will have Jerry Lawler in his corner. Not to worry though, as Stan tells us Bret will have a “true living legend” in his corner.
Maybe you’re thinking Bruno?
Stan was referring of course to a REAL legend, that being none other than…
George “The Animal” Steele!
Because when you think of the “Excellence of Execution”, you naturally think of green tongues and turnbuckle fluff.
Who knows, maybe Bret loved the Mine doll.
Next time one of you are at a signing with him, please ask him that and report back to us.
Up next is this completely baffling commercial in which an elderly trio are watching WWF television in scorching heat. At some point, they determine this wrestling stuff is so cool it turns them young again, with the old hag becoming so nubile that no less than Big Daddy Cool Diesel picks her up and wheels off with her.
One can only imagine Big Kev’s reaction when her coach turns back into a pumpkin.
By golly, that may even be worse than what happened to him earlier in the week when the British Bulldog himself, Davey Boy Smith, turned on him in a tag match so as to align with…Men on a Mission?
If this were to lead to Davey Boy rapping in Oscar’s place, I’m totally onboard with it.
We then get a promo from King Mabel next, who says the following line: “Big Daddy Fool, I always knew you were a fool. But I didn’t know you were stupid.”
Watching the last five minutes of this show – and trying to make sense of so as to explain any of it to you – has been a failed endeavor.
Even I have my limits.
Next, we get one more self promotion video with yet another old woman.
What on earth was going on with this company’s fascination of the elderly?
No wonder the median age of their current viewer is like 63 years old – they were priming for this like 30 years ago!
Jacob and Eli Blu are out next, and while I’d take any excuse to get out of discussing the Harris Twins, this time I actually have a pretty good one. Namely their opponents….
…Jason Ahrndt and Matt Hardy!
Hardy of course we know, as he is still kicking around at the time of this writing in AEW. Ahrndt may not ring a bell, but what if I were to tell you he was once part of Shane McMahon’s personal clique?
He was in the Mean Street Posse as none other than Joey Abs!
Not sure how that happened and honestly too lazy to look it up, but we do see greatness on display in the form of young Matt Hardy, as he does a springboard clothesline…
…which is completely shrugged off.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall for the backstage preparations for this match. I bet they went something like this:
Matt Hardy: So I do this really cool move where I bounce off the top rope for a flying lariat.
Jacob Blu: Sounds great.
(Matt walks away, pleased with himself.)
Eli Blu: What did that guy say to you?
Jacob Blu: No idea. We hitting Carls Jr after this?
Following the Blu victory, we get a static screen of a telephone, answering machine, and some dental floss. While there may be zero motion on display, we do get audio in the form of the following message from Dr. Yankem’s answering machine. Not an incoming message, mind you, but his OUTGOING one.
I feel like I am getting stupider with each passing moment I watch this.
Seriously, how on earth did anyone keep watching WWF during this period?
Did we all hate ourselves?
Dok goes in the ring to talk with Bret who looks as thrilled to be there as I am to watch this. I always thought Bret was an above average talker, but he is anything but here, giving us a terrible interview about what’s going to happen “in the SummerSlam.”
Never understood why no one told him it’s not THE SummerSlam, it’s just SummerSlam. He did the same thing in WCW, or as he called it THE WCW. I’d chastise him further, but seriously…here he’s fighting an evil dentist with bad teeth.
A dentist whose name is Isaac Yankem.
Cut the dude some slack, will ya?
Our next match features this young man, Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
Before we continue, I want you to look at this photo and ask yourself this: did anyone on planet earth (or Neptune or Krypton or Alderaan or any place else in the galaxy) see this guy and think, “You know, in a quarter century, he will be the number one man in the entire world of professional wrestling. This here is the next Vince McMahon.”?
This scrawny geek who was curtailing and bowing in an incredibly lame attempt to get heat?
The world is a strange, strange place, kids.
Never sell yourself short.
If this doofus could attain the level he’s at today, there’s hope for all of us, no matter where we may be in life.
As Hunter leaves the ring, he stops by to yell at the Mayor of Merchandise himself, BARRY DIDINSKY, who has the audacity to attempt to sell Bret Hart t-shirts for $20 (plus shipping and handling).
Apparently even back then Hunter didn’t like Bret!
We’re told the most bizarre individual in the history of wrestling is on his way to the WWF next, but honestly compared to everything else I’ve seen in this fever dream of an episode Goldust kinda falls into the range of 9 to 5 normal. He promises a vacancy in the Heartbreak Hotel, ending by quoting Arnold from T2, telling fans “Come with me if you want to live.”
Now THAT was something I loved about the original Goldust character that was dropped early on, those random movie quotes. Casey (Trash) and I used to guess each week what Goldie would reference and we were so sad when that got nixed seemingly after the first couple appearances. Would have been great like six years into his run as he’d be trying to come up with something he’d not used before.
By that point, an Amazon Women on the Moon quote wouldn’t have been out of the question.
Maybe we’d even get the loch ness monster in a trench coat, searching for victims in jolly old England.
(Oh RD, ain’t no one getting that reference.)
We get a recap of an Undertaker vs. Tatanka match from the previous Monday Night Raw, and let me tell you, I’ve never been happier to see a truncated version of a bout ever.
Holy smokes this looked bad.
Razor Ramon comes out and wins a very boring squash during which Dok and Ross discuss what “machismo” means, and JR tells him he knows what it means as he looked it up in a dictionary.
Dok cackles that Jim should be “looking” for other things.
Ross of course has no idea what Hendix is talking about, which causes Dok to just smile and laugh at the camera. This goes on forever and is one of the most annoying bits I’ve ever seen in any show, wrestling or otherwise.
We get another Live Event center, but there’s nothing of note other than Shawn Michaels telling us he’s going to be on Davey Boy like Tony Danza on the paparazzi. Timely humor like that never really ages well.
And speaking of not again well, we get YET ANOTHER goofy WWF self promotional commercial, but this time we’ve traded in the elderly for aliens from a 1950’s sci-fi movie.
For all you folks bemoaning the fact Vince in his final days was like thirty years behind the times, well, that was nothing new. Happened from the first day I watched the WWF.
Finally we get to the end of this spectacularly unspectacular episode with Dok asking Jim what he’s going to be doing next week. Ross stammers a bit and says that he “reckons” he will be here with the WWF.
At this point Dok lets the cat of the bag and tells Jim the show is over, kaput, canceled, and Ross is out of a job. And just to be timely, he throws in a Honeymooners reference as he throws JR out the door.
And that was the end of Wrestling Challenge, a one-note joke that wasn’t funny to begin with and yet dragged on for what felt like three days.
This show deserved better, as it actually featured a ton of legendary moments in WWF history. For instance, the first time Ric Flair was ever mentioned on WWF television?
Yeah, that was Challenge.
And this is what it became. A pity really.
Oh, yeah, and I guess I should answer the question I pondered at the beginning. So for the record, was Dok Hendrix worse than Ernie Ladd?
You said it, Big Cat!