Saturday Night's Main Event's 7 Greatest Moments of the 1980s
In 1985, shortly after the first WrestleMania, NBC started airing WWE's Saturday Night's Main Event specials every so often in the Saturday Night Live time slot on off weeks. That type of prime TV real estate was a big part of making the pro wrestling boom under Hulk Hogan even bigger, and a number of the most memorable moments from the late '80s took place on SNME.
This week, WWE Network completed their archive of every '80s episode of SNME, allowing fans to start to fill in the gaps between the already available pay-per-view events from when they were much less frequent. With that in mind, there's no better time to take a look at the most memorable moments of the '80s that took place on the show.
Note: Since they're included with the SNME shows on WWE Network and are generally considered part of the same series, this list includes moments from the two prime-time specials that aired as The Main Event.
7. Hulk Hogan Loses. Technically. (November 15, 1989)
Hulk Hogan was feuding with Mr. Perfect when somehow, he got booked against Perfect's manager, The Genius, in the featured match on Saturday Night's Main Event. Given how Lanny Poffo portrayed The Genius, this was something of a mismatch.
Having said that, it's a ridiculously fun match, with Genius wrestling as daintily as possible to try to bait the crowd into hating him. When Hogan makes his comeback, Genius even sells it by putting his hands over his mouth and gasping. It's tremendous.
In all of the chaos, Mr. Perfect attacks Hogan on the floor behind the referee's back, the referee starts counting and...The Genius wins?!?! Yes, he does.
There are better Hogan matches on SNME, including the next entry, but none more fun.
6. The Only Thing Better Than a Great Match Is One with Zeus Involved (May 27,1989)
The Big Boss Man feud is, for whatever reason, never mentioned among Hogan's best, maybe because he wasn't the champion for most of it. Still, they had a number of entertaining matches on house shows, leading to cage matches in every city. When they were done doing that around the horn, the cage match made its way to Saturday Night's Main Event.
Boss Man got his first push in wrestling because of his agility for his size, going up easily for Tully Blanchard's slingshot suplex. Here, he's climbing the cage when Hogan gets to the top rope, cuts him off...AND SUPERPLEXES HIM!?
Yes, really, Hulk Hogan did that.
They sell it for a few minutes, too. It's that one spot that people remember, but the whole match is great, probably the best Hogan ever had on SNME. As a bonus, Zeus, Hogan's rival from No Holds Barred, makes his live debut as Slick's guest, snarling at staring at Hogan before doing an awful job attacking him.
Zeus being so bad he rules is an odd juxtaposition with such a good, hard-fought match, but it's kind of awesome in its own way.
5. Photo Finish (January 3, 1987)
The first time that one of Hulk Hogan's friends turned on him, Paul Orndorff was the friend. They had already feuded a few years prior, but Orndorff eventually turned babyface and became Hogan's new best buddy.
For as much money as the feud made, what led up to it was kind of lame: Hogan was constantly ducking Orndorff's phone calls. Why? It was never explained, but Orndorff got fed up, and after a match against the Moondogs, he ambushed Hogan.
It was the first time Hogan's rival would be sympathetic but far from the last.
The feud did gigantic business all over North America, peaking with "The Big Event," which sold out CNE Stadium in Toronto. WWE didn't actually see the proceeds of those tickets because the show was sold to the Canadian National Exhibition for a flat fee (as was common with shows that took place during fairs and the like), but that's another story entirely.
The blow off match took place inside a steel cage on Saturday Night's Main Event. The reason the match is so well remembered is that there was a photo finish with both escaping the cage simultaneously.
Heel referee gave the match to Orndorff, while impartial official Joey Marella awarded it to Hogan. Marella was in charge, though, so he restarted the match.
Hogan won, and that was the end of the feud, with the Andre the Giant feud and WrestleMania III next in line. As the most famous televised match of the feud with a very memorable false finish, it's one of the most talked about SNME matches in the show's history.
4. Uncle Elmer Gets Married (October 5, 1985)
This one is pretty simple: Uncle Elmer was Stan Frazier, a veteran Tennessee wrestler who was brought in to portray the uncle of Hillbilly Jim. For some reason, when he got engaged to his girlfriend Joyce, they agreed to have their real life wedding take place in what's now the Izod Center at a taping of Saturday Night's Main Event.
Other than the obvious and Roddy Piper cutting a promo in the middle, it's played fairly straight. Click through to part two to see the reception, which is a lot more wacky than the actual wedding was.
3. The Mania Meets the Madness
In 1987, after losing the WWF Intercontinental Championship to Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage slowly turned babyface.
Well, sort of.
There was no actual turn. He just got really popular, and by the time he got a shot at the man who beat Steamboat, the Honky Tonk Man, he was clearly a babyface to the fans.
However, he still had no allies, so when the Hart Foundation ran in to keep him from winning the title after hitting his elbow drop, nobody came out to help him.
Miss Elizabeth begged, but Honky Tonk Man shoved her to the mat (the first time any wrestler put his hands on her) and then broke his guitar over Savage's head. With no help in sight, she ran to the locker room.
When she returned, she was dragging Hulk Hogan out the curtain.
He cleared the ring, because that's what Hogan did. When Savage came to, he was initially antagonistic, but Liz explained what happened, leading to the most epic handshake in wrestling history. Over the next year and a half, they started watching each other's backs more and became a sometimes tag team, dubbed the Mega Powers.
Occasionally, though, Savage would throw a dirty look at Hogan when he was around Liz. It built and built and built until he was, well, ready to explode...
2. The Mega Powers Explode (The Main Event February 3, 1989)
The Mega Powers had been feuding with the Big Boss Man and Akeem, collectively known as the Twin Towers. When they collided on the second prime time special, the Hogan-Savage tension came to a head.
During the match, Savage got thrown through the ropes onto Elizabeth on the floor. Hogan left the match to tend to her (begging for her not to die for some reason) until she woke up backstage and told him to go help Randy.
He did, but Savage was angry at being abandoned, slapped him and left the match himself. Hogan still won because that's what he does.
As they argued in the back, Savage accused Hogan of having "jealous eyes" with regards to his WWF Championship and Elizabeth. With Savage's eyes visible since he wasn't wearing his trademark sunglasses like he usually did on promos, he came off more scary and unhinged than ever before.
He clobbered Hogan with the belt, shoved Liz when she stepped in and threatened to "splatter" her on the floor.
The Savage-Hogan saga is still the most brilliant long-time storyline in WWE history. It was full of great angles, great matches and memorable promos. It was a huge success at the box office and lasted two and a half years, all told.
It's a masterpiece that stands as Vince McMahon's peak as a creative genius.
Note that during the original live broadcast, which is embedded here, there were some timing issues with the backstage segments that led to some fairly embarrassing bloopers that are cut out of the version on WWE Network.
At 21:30, Hogan isn't sure if he's on the air and asks for a countdown, and then at about 30:30, Brutus Beefcake steps into the frame way too early.
1. "THEY WERE IDENTICAL! IDENTICAL!!!!" (The Main Event, February 5, 1988)
Close to a year after WrestleMania III, Andre the Giant got a second shot at Hulk Hogan's WWF Championship. The big hook leading into the match was that "The Million Dollar Man," Ted DiBiase, had started leasing the rights to Andre's contract from Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Why?
So Andre could win the title for him. I mean that literally: DiBiase's goal was to buy the title, and his offers to Hogan had been rejected.
The match went as expected for several minutes until Andre covered Hogan after a suplex. Hogan got his shoulder up at two, but referee Dave Hebner counted to three. Andre was the new champion!?
That didn't last long, because he immediately announced he was surrendering the championship to DiBiase, who graciously accepted the belt and put it around his waist.
As the dust started to clear, a second referee appeared in the ring to argue with Dave Hebner. Oh, and this second referee happened to look exactly like Dave Hebner. The imposter, who officiated the match, attacked Hebner and kicked him out of the ring. However, Hogan was still there, so he threw Fake Hebner out of the ring.
When the show returned from a break, Hogan demanded to know how much DiBiase paid for the imposter's plastic surgery.
Fake Dave Hebner was, obviously, his twin brother Earl, who is now TNA's senior referee. After this, Dave soon retired to work backstage as a road agent, while Earl took over for him as a referee, even being billed as "Dave Hebner" for a few years.
It was the most watched match and show in American wrestling history and the greatest individual angle of the original boom period. What else could be number one?