Wrestling Challenge – The First Episode

Wrestling Challenge

Ok, had to take a break.

I thought I could do nothing but WCW inductions leading up to the release of the new “Death of WCW”, but after doing one more week of what I believe to be final tweaking on the book, I could do no more. Even I reach my limits some times. I’ve already started the next WCW induction, so we do have more coming, but yeah, I decided to switch things up a bit this week.

And to do so, I went back to the year I began really watching wrestling: 1986. Ah, 1986. Now that was a banner year in wrestling. Orndorff turning on Hogan. Bulldogs winning the tag belts. Horsemen running wild.

But not everything was golden: there was the launch of a little show you may have heard of, a weekly syndicated WWF show: Wrestling Challenge.

Now many of you old schoolers are no doubt throwing your hands in the air, asking how on earth I could induct a program hosted by arguably the greatest commentary duo ever, Gorilla Monsoon and my hero, Bobby Heenan. But there’s the catch. The very first episode had Gorilla, but it sure didn’t feature “The Brain.” No, your commentators for this show would be…


C’mon, Johnny – where is your matching powder blue WWF suit?

Sadly, the commentary is just the beginning of the horrendosity on display here, so let’s just induct this sucker, shall we?

The show starts with the classic Wrestling Challenge theme I remember. Why I remember it I am not quite sure. Is it horrible? Is it good? Did they pull some sax player off the streets in Greenwich who had an empty case with a couple of dollars and some loose change in it to play the theme?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.

This may be a long induction.

Before we get to the ring for today’s action, we get a series of still shots highlighting who is on the program. That’s fine. Heck, I think they should bring that back for Raw. What is not fine (and something I have absolutely zero recollection of) is that they appeared to use a pre-alpha version of Photoshop on these shots then went filter crazy on them. For instance, the British Bulldogs are here, in front of a wacky purple rainbow…yet completely devoid of any skin tone whatsoever.


Meanwhile, King Harley Race looks to have been attacked while taking a tour through the Captain Crunch Crunch Berry garden.


And here’s Adrian Adonis, sadly having had his make up gun set to whore.


That or perhaps he was a pre-Matt Borne version of Doink the Clown.

I also learned that I had the name of Jake Roberts’ talk show segment wrong all these years. Always thought it was “The Snake Pit”. This image, though, learned me otherwise.


Had to have been called “The Snake Pot”. You’d have hoped someone in the company would have deduced that Jake may have had issues with “personal demons” just looking at that snapshot there.



We are also getting the FEDERETTES! I remember nearly nothing about them, other than that they were women with more neon than was legally permitted in 42 states.

Ok, enough pre-show fun. Let’s go to our ring announcer Howard Fink…waitaminute. That’s not the Fink.

No, it can’t be…but it is!


Lord Alfred, if you please!

Yes! Lord Alfred Hayes is our ring announcer today, and he starts off in grand style by butchering the word “scheduled”, somehow making it “shhhheduled.” Not sure if that’s an English thing or if he’s tanked. Maybe both. Regardless, we are introduced to the tag team combination of “Iron” Mike Sharpe and his partner, The Magnificent Muraco. Much like you, I remember them teaming all the never. They are taking on The Guy Who Birthed Bray Wyatt in Real Life (Mike Rotundo) and The Guy Who Bray Wyatt Copied Like a Xerox Machine (Danny Spivey), the US Express.

Or as Alfred calls them, “The USA Express.” Wasn’t that the name of the cartoon block on the USA Network back in the day?

Why I believe it was!

So the two teams square off with Rotundo and Spivey taking control early with arm wringers a plenty. In addition, we get an inset promo from “Superstar” Billy Graham promising to bring us all “boogaloo.” As he also mentions, and I am quoting here, “the WWF wrestling circuit”, I will presume it to be electric boogaloo. The excitement continues as we get the worst dropkick ever done by someone not named “Erik Watts”.

Props to “Iron” Mike taking such a huge bump…especially with that eternally bad forearm he had.

As this is going on, Ernie tells us that this youth movement can’t be beat…”beyond a shadow of a doubt.” I’d tell you to remember that, but that’s kinda Cat’s ‘go to’ phrase as I recall. You’ll hear it plenty, believe me.

In fact, I will keep a Big Cat Shadow of a Doubt Counter on throughout this episode.


The match ends when Rotundo small packages Sharpe…which is reversed behind the ref’s back by Muraco. As Spivey comes in to protest, the ref escorts Muraco out of the ring, turning his back to Spivey…who then reverses the small package again so that Rotundo can get the win. I so miss stupid little stuff like that in tag team wrestling these days.

What I don’t miss is being told that the worm has turned…”beyond a shadow of a doubt!”


Next up we get a segment called “Wrestler’s Rebuttal.” I have zero recollection of this segment ever on Challenge or anywhere else. Honestly, though, I don’t care as this one features one of my favorite wrestlers ever, “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Should also note that this is during what I consider to be Savage’s greatest era ever, his initial WWF heel run. Holy guacamole that was great.


He actually does have a rebuttal of sorts, directed to the fans, who he explains have been “super applauding” Elizabeth. He notes this is a poor action, and that they should be “super applauding” the Macho Man. This is the first I have ever heard of this term, so I have no idea how to “super applaud.” Rest assured, though, if Randy Savage were still alive, I would learn how to do so and then follow him around during his every day life “super applauding”. Hitting Qdoba for lunch, Randy? I’m there, Mach. I am there.

As we head back to the arena, Lord Alfred is introducing us to Adrian Adonis, along with his manager Jimmy Hart and bodyguard “Cowboy Ace” Bob Orton. His opponent today, from Lenexa, Kansas, Tommy Sharp!


Upon hearing of this man’s hometown, I immediately texted our jobber aficionado, Mr. Blade Braxton.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 7.40.27 PM

Yep, that was his response. He also noted that he was working on new Jobbers of the Week…wonder what will hit first, a new JOTW or a new RD & Blade Show. Hmmm.

To the match, as we get immediate and LOUD f*gg*t chants. I have this show from 24/7, so I can’t believe they didn’t censor those. As Gorilla chastises Adonis for chewing gum in the ring (“that’s one of the most dangerous things you can do in the world of professional wrestling!!!!”), I am slack jawed by Mr. Sharp’s stylish color combo: yellow, red, and BROWN!


That is a LOOK.

The trio turns to talking about how Orton is now wearing a pink cowboy hat. Gorilla: “Money does strange things to people, does it not, Ernie?”


I should note the referee in this match is Danny Davis, who would go onto fame as an awesome heel ref, the guy who more or less handed the tag team belts to The Hart Foundation. He’s in the early stages of heeldom here, being easily distracted by The Mouth of The South, allowing Orton to sneak into the ring so he and Adonis can do a modified Doomsday Device to get Adrian the win.


But hey, take heart, Tom. Not only did it take two men to beat you (“a miscarriage of justice!!!”), Gorilla dubbed you “young Tom Sharp”.

This despite the fact you looked at least 47 years old at the time.


Koko B. Ware is up next, trading fisticuffs with Bob Bradley. I was going to talk about Koko’s inset promo (complete with the world’s smallest boom box!), but then I noticed a FEMALE referee! Sadly, before I can do that, Gorilla notes that the WWF presents the best in wrestling today. And you know the reaction that gets.



So yeah, back to the girl ref, Rita Marie. The story goes that she claimed Vince McMahon forced himself on her. No idea if that’s true or not. In fact, I wouldn’t even bring it up, save for the fact that WWE’s side of the story is that she conspired with no less than Dr. D, David Schultz to smear Vince’s kinda/sorta good name. What I wouldn’t give to have been a fly on the wall for the planning sessions between this woman and the erstwhile Doctor. Bet it would have gone something like this.

You know me – looking for any reason to repost that. Was one of my favorite inductions, after all.

You know me – looking for any reason to shill the archives. Just $14.95!!

In the ring, Bradley heads up top!

Yeah, no idea what that was. Looks painful though. Just not to his opponent. “That pain will hurt you in a very unusual place,” notes Ladd. I’ll say. Anyway, this leads to Koko winning with a big splash.

Our next contest, “sheduled” for one fall, features Paul Orndorff (sans mustache) taking on…


…yessirree, Troy “I Ain’t Shane Douglas Yet!” Martin! Will he be able to Franchise “Mr. Wonderful”? Of note: this was during the very great era in which Orndorff was using (“stealing!!” corrects Monsoon) Hogan’s “Real American” theme. Never understood why everyone was so appalled by that; the music was originally for Rotundo and Barry Windham anyway.

Having said that, it was a killer way to generate heel heat. Right, Cat?


The best part is that one of the Federettes is at ringside. Is she upset with Orndorff for using the Hulkster’s music?

Um, no. You keep right on clapping offbeat, girl! Paul deserves it!

Discussion of Orndorff’s “mean streak” follows, which is then followed by, yes, you guessed it…


The action soon spills outside the ring, with Mr. Wonderful tossing Douglas over the barricade. In the meantime, we get an inset from The Honky Tonk Man, in full BABYFACE mode. Yes, when HTM first came to the WWF, he was a good guy, with Vince of the belief that he was going to be the number two baby face in the company.


No, seriously. That is what Vince McMahon thought.

So he talks about how Orndorff betrayed a man that was his friend, Hulk Hogan. Again, number two baby face, was going to be pals with Hogan. Don’t ask me.

Orndorff makes quick work of Shane with his patented pile driver.

Somewhere Rob Van Dam is watching, thinking, “I bet I can spring up 10 feet in the air from a pile driver like that.” Meanwhile Gorilla notes that this may terminate the career of “young Troy Martin.”


Yeah. Like he’d have passed that up.

Then he gives us ANOTHER one during the replay!


Correction: he gives us TWO more!


Also, theory: Vince had Ernie teach Art O’Donnell commentary. “If you can’t think of something to say, Art, just repeat something inane you said earlier again.”



The Snake Pit is up next, with special guests Grand Wizard, Kimchee, and Kamala. Wiz bellows on and on about jungles, putting his ear to the ground, fifteen reincarnations, pygmies, cousins of Damien, blonde bengal tigers, and being in VIP lounges. Won’t lie, I kinda nodded off during it. Please be forewarned if you start listening to this clip, it may be Thanksgiving before it’s over.


A recap of Harley Race’s coronation is next, this time voiced over by Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura. Probably a good thing; God only knows how many “shadows of a doubts” we’d have gotten had Cat been involved. A nice touch here: not only were all of Heenan’s men out there (including Studd and Bundy carrying Race around on their shoulders!), but all of the Slickster’s and Jimmy Hart’s guys were there as well. You know it’s a true sign of heel unity when the Moondogs show up bowing their heads in respect.

Speaking of, they are in our “main event”, as Rex and Spot take on The British Bulldogs. You know what wrestling needs more of these days?


Non-speaking, creepy looking hill jacks wearing rope belts and carrying around giant bones. Put that on Raw, and you’ll be back to 6.5 ratings every Monday night guaranteed.

Bulldogs win, of course.

Finally, mercifully, we get to the end of the show as we are given a preview of next week. On that show, we’ll be getting…


Three or four Big John Studds and…


…a rosie cheeked King Kong Bundy singing his favorite opera arias so loudly it’s causing shockwaves.

It will be a show everyone will want to check out, right Big Ern?


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