The Wrestling Classic (WWF) – November 7, 1985 – Rosemont Horizon (Rosemont, IL) – Main Event: Hulk Hogan (c) vs Rowdy Roddy Piper (WWF Championship) – Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Vince McMahon, Lord Alfred Hayes, and “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
I really don’t like one-event wrestling tournaments like KING OF THE RING, and THE WRESTLING CLASSIC is almost entirely taken up by a large tournament featuring 16 wrestlers. The problem with these tournaments is that either the matches are long, and the wrestlers get burnt out, or they’re short and the fans might not be properly entertained. The more matches you have, the more downtime there is between matches.
That said, THE WRESTLING CLASSIC is surprisingly enjoyable. Things move fast and there’s a wide variety of matches (short, technical, brawls), and the sheer old schoolness of much of the event (the Rosemont Horizon looks, feels, and sounds like the world’s biggest high school gym) makes the night feel incredibly transitional. With WrestleMania 1 now eight months in the rearview, the CLASSIC feels like a National Wrestling Alliance event more than a WWF card.
The first round of THE WRESTLING CLASSIC (Vince apparently ran out of good ideas for names after “WrestleMania”) features a bunch of short matches:
Adrian Adonis defeated Corporal Kirchner, scoring one for the heels. Adonis is still in his biker jacket persona here, and he’s got Jimmy Hart around to slap him on the back, and the two wrestlers pull off a couple moves before Adonis gets the win.
The Dynamite Kid took out Nikolai Volkoff before the Russian was even finished singing his national anthem, jumping off the top rope to hit him with a missile dropkick in the chest. It was such a powerful kick that Volkoff grabbed his head. Volkoff is pissed that he was robbed and he really was – why the hell did the ref call for the bell in the middle of the anthem? Nobody cares because Boo Russia but Volkoff was резьбовое.
Randy “Macho Man” Savage was next up and defeated Ivan Putski, who got one of the largest pops of the opening round when Howard Finkel announced his place of origin as Krakow, Poland. Savage and Putski get a few minutes, but most of it is wasted with Savage dodging the fight and running around outside the ring. It’s good strategy, in terms of saving some energy while still telling a story, but I’d rather have seen Putski face off with someone who didn’t need to save that energy. Savage gets te
The best match of the opening round was up next with Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat and Davey Boy Smith working through a few good moves and countermoves. This is the technical part of the night, but the match was just getting going when the Bulldog jumped onto the ropes and hurt his groin, so the ref rang the bell, and then people in orange shirts came out to help Davey Boy to the back.
The Junkyard Dog and the Iron Sheik had a match they’d probably had 1,000 times before, except it was only a few minutes long. Still, JYD and the Sheik are professionals and there was some good storytelling in this match – Sheik got physical with the ref, Sheik slapped on the Camel Clutch but didn’t hook the arms, allowing JYD to slide out, and JYD missed a falling headbutt to put the result of the match in doubt. The Dog got the win after successfully hitting a headbutt and advanced.
A bit of an odd match was next between Terry Funk and Moondog Spot. Yeah, Moondog Spot. Funk tried convincing Spot that they shouldn’t fight and should just leave together, taking a draw. As they headed to the back, with the ref counting in the ring behind them, Funk hit Spot in the back of the head and ran back to the ring, trying to get the cheap win. Spot chased him down and actually get Funk from getting back in the ring in time, allowing himself to pick up the win via countout. Is it an odd match? Yup, but tournaments like this need to vary up the program – you can’t just run a bunch of five-minute matches one after another, and Funk and Spot give you the kind of match you don’t often see, and that’s to the benefit of the card.
Tito Santana defeated Don Muraco. Probably. Sort of. Muraco got the pin and the ref did the three-count, but then apparently realized that wasn’t supposed to be the result and restarted the match. As Muraco celebrated, Santana hit him with a small package and that was all she wrote.
It was a mediocre match and by this point in the program, the fact that we were in 1985 really hit home. The whole card comes off as one step above a high school gym, with everything feeling rushed and on the verge of spiraling off-script. Heck, the WWF doesn’t even come up with a graphics package to show the tournament bracket – it’s on a massive piece of poster board in the back, where Vince and Hayes stand next to a blond woman who smiles like she is going to fire her agent as soon as she can get the shorter Hayes to get his paws off of her.
A really enjoyable match between Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton finished off the first round. There’s nothing fancy here, just two good sports entertainers doing their thing.
The Dyanmite Kid defeated Adonis, notable only for the hissy fit Adonis throws after he loses. Savage and Steamboat put on a good match that ended when Elizabeth distracted the ref, allowing Savage to pull some brass knuckles out of his trunks for the cheap win. The Junkyard Dog took on Moondog Spot in short order in a match where no referee bothered to show up, so JYD pinned Spot and did the count himself. The final match of the second round saw Orndorff and Santana put on a pedestrian match with a lot of holds that slowed everything down. The match ended with a double countout, eliminating both men from the tournament, which is a pretty lame outcome, but one that protected both faces.
THE WWF CHAMPIONSHIP
Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper continued their WrestleMania 1 feud and it’s easy to see why they’re at the top of the company in 1985. Neither guy is very technical, but they’re both fantastic showman, and they put on a match that went too short and ended with a disqualification when Ace Orton jumped in the ring, which was then followed by Orndorff jumping into the ring to chase the heels out. It’s a bad ending and the wrong ending, I think. It makes the WWF Championship match play like a filler match, which is too bad because there was some good back and forth action. Piper pulled off a unique sleeper move, sending Hogan into the ropes and then catching him when he came off the ropes around the neck, letting Hogan’s momentum spin him onto Hogan’s back.
The match is also placed wrong because we’ve still got the semifinals and finals to go, and JYD has a free pass into the final.
Savage and the Dynamite Kid are both much better wrestlers (if not sports entertainers) than Hogan and Piper, and I’d have loved to see them get more than five minutes to work together. You can see, though, that wrestlers of their type are going to play a big part of the future – their bodies are somewhere between they bodybuilders like Hogan and the brawlers like Piper. These guys (Orndorff is in this category, too) are ripped but there’s a high degree of athleticism, too. The ending of this match is phenomenal – Dymanite hits a superplex from the top rope that Savage countered with an inside cradle for the win.
THE ROLLS ROYLE
The WWF give away a Silver Cloud 3 Rolls Royce to a fan. I think that means a fan got the biggest payout of the night.
The Junkyard Dog defeats Randy Savage to become the first winner of a WWF tournament in the WrestleMania era. It’s the longest match of the night, coming in at a whopping … nine minutes. That’s right. Not a single one of the 15 matches went longer than ten minutes. Three of the matches went under a single minute.
This match is long on theatrics and short on actual action. Savage looks gassed, and why not, it’s his fourth match of the night. Even though those three matches lasted a total of about 12 minutes, he’s been going all night. The Dog’s two matches lasted less than five minutes. Savage is the company workhorse, though, and if you’re gonna trust one guy to pull off four matches, it’s the Macho Man. It’s a good match where Savage does most of the heavy lifting. Heck, even when JYD turns on the offense, Savage is expending more energy selling the headbutts than the Junkyard Dog is delivering them.
Savage is even the agent of his own demise. With the Dog leaning against the ropes, Savage charges him and delivers a back body drop, sending Savage to the concrete floor. (Seriously, concrete floors make my knees ache every time someone gets tossed from the ring.) With Savage on the floor, the Junkyard Dog picks up the win via countout. And for all that he gets … nothing. No belt. No trophy. No guaranteed title shot.
I’m glad THE WRESTLING CLASSIC didn’t become an annual event (Vince calls it “the first annual” and there was no second annual), but as a one-time event it’s a pretty fun watch. They do pack in 15 matches in 2.5 hours, so there’s not a lot of downtime. Really, only the Santana/Orndorff and the car giveaway felt like opportunities for the crowd to go buy popcorn. The WWF Championship match was a letdown but the tournament itself was pretty good.
Check out all of Atomic Anxiety’s wrestling reviews right here.
MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Paul Orndorff vs. Cowboy Bob Orton
STAR OF THE NIGHT: Randy “Macho Man” Savage, but the Dynamite Kid had a hell of a night, too.
MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: The Dynamite Kid hitting the missile dropkick on Volkoff.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “That ain’t no good draw.” – Randy “Macho Man” Savage to Miss Elizabeth after she pulled a card with Putski’s name on it from a bowl.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT #2: “He who laughs last, laughs best, and I’m not done laughing, yet.” Nikolai Volkoff.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT #3: “I should slap you, you big eyed jerk!” Terry Funk to Lord Alfred Hayes.
FULL CARD RESULTS
1. Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart) defeated Corporal Kirchner – Singles match
2. Dynamite Kid defeated Nikolai Volkoff – Singles match
3. Randy Savage (with Miss Elizabeth) defeated Ivan Putski – Singles match
4. Ricky Steamboat defeated Davey Boy Smith – Singles match
5. Junkyard Dog defeated The Iron Sheik – Singles match
6. Moondog Spot defeated Terry Funk (with Jimmy Hart) – Singles match
7. Tito Santana defeated The Magnificent Muraco (with Mr. Fuji) – Singles match
8. Paul Orndorff defeated Bob Orton by disqualification – Singles match
9. The Dynamite Kid defeated Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart) – Singles match
10. Randy Savage (with Miss Elizabeth) defeated Ricky Steamboat – Singles match
11. The Junkyard Dog defeated Moondog Spot – Singles match
12. Tito Santana fought Paul Orndorff to a double count-out – Singles match
13. Hulk Hogan (c) defeated Roddy Piper by disqualification – WWF Championship, Singles match
14. Randy Savage (with Miss Elizabeth) defeated The Dynamite Kid – Singles match
15. Junkyard Dog defeated Randy Savage (with Miss Elizabeth) by count-out – Singles match