A few months back, The Rambler had me take my first look at GRUNT! The Wrestling Movie from 1985 and share my thoughts on that gritty, grappling mockumentary in this review. Spoilers, it wasn’t my favorite piece of attempted comedy.
So when I was booked for a rematch with obscure cult cinema focused on the squared circle, this time in the form of Body Slam from 1986, it took a little more bribery. The promise of few old comics and some vintage trading cards can make a man do some crazy things, but I’m happy to report that the experience of watching Body Slam was a real hoot.
The film stars TV pretty boy Dirk Benedict who kids of the 80’s will remember most from his roles as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica or Face Man on the A-Team, who in this story plays M. Harry Smilac a sleazy, but affable con-man who finds himself managing a wrestling tag team on the rise. Their partnership results in a musical money-making innovation to the business that catapults them to superstardom by the film’s end.
Before we get deep into my thoughts on the film, I thought it would be worth citing a few bits of history about the making of Body Slam.
US Top 40 Singles for the Week Ending April 2nd, 1983
WrestleMania is just days away, and as always, hopes are high that it is a blow away show. Through the years, the “sports” biggest event has left lasting memories on millions of fans world-wide, and I’m no different. So with that in mind, here are five of my favorite memories from Wrestlemania’s gone by.
#5: WWF vs NFL Battle Royal, WrestleMania 2, 1986
As a kid who was a huge wrestling fan, battle royals always held a special intrigue with me. Maybe it was having so many guys in the ring, or the possibility that any of them could win, I’m not sure. But what I do know, is that to an 8-year-old, when you put some of the biggest and best wrestling stars and some of the biggest and best football players from the NFL in the same ring, anything can happen!
I was so pumped to see this affair heading into the event, that it was really the only match that I talked about at school. While all of my wrestling friends wanted to see Hulk Hogan get his revenge against King Kong Bundy in a cage, I wanted to see if Superbowl Champion William “The Refrigerator” Perry could be the last man standing in the big battle royal.
With an impressive lineup of WWF talent including Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, Bruno Sammartino, The Hart Foundation, The Killer Bees, Pedro Morales, the Iron Sheik, King Tonga and NFL stars like Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Russ Francis, Harvey Martin, and William Perry, the ring was filled with star power. And if that wasn’t enough, NFL legends Dick Butkis and Ed “Too Tall” Jones patrolled the ringside area as referees for the match.
The most interesting part of the match was when Big John Studd and William Perry got to square off. Perry held his own until Studd tricked him into running into his big elbow. He then simply beeled Perry over the top rope to eliminate him. But once on the floor, Perry wanted to shake Studd’s hand and congratulate him. When Studd reached down to shake his hand, Perry gave a big tug and pulled John Studd over the top rope to eliminate him too!
Andre the Giant went on to win the match, last eliminating both members of the Hart Foundation. Andre was always referred to as the king of Battle Royals, so it was fitting that he took home the top honor in this mammoth match.
In the mid – late 80’s, professional wrestling, and the WWF in particular, was big business. A lot of the WWF superstars were becoming household names thanks to Vince McMahon and his traveling circus. Two of the better known superstars were “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Piper had spent years as the biggest bad guy wrestler on the roster, while Ventura was well known as one of the voices of the shows as color commentator. Each broke out of the WWF world to become moderate successes in Hollywood. Piper had starring roles in B – Movies like Body Slam, Hell Comes to Frogtown, and They Live. Meanwhile, Jesse was becoming a solid back up man in action flicks with Running Man and Predator.
In 1991, they teamed up on the small screen in the pilot episode of Tag Team. The shows premise was simple. These two wrestlers couldn’t wrestle for a living anymore, so they decide to become cops. That decision was made after they used their wrestling moves to stop a robbery at a grocery store. It was a simple idea, but one that a television series could conceivably be based around.
As the air date for the pilot episode drew closer, Vince McMahon was hyping the debut of the show on his wrestling shows, and as a 13 year old wrestling fan, I was salivating. I marked the date and time on my calendar so I wouldn’t miss it. Here was another chance to inject more wrestling into my world, and I wasn’t going to miss it. Although I can’t recall what night of the week that this premiered on, I DO remember getting everything set up in my room for it. My chair was at the right angle, I had a frosty beverage at my side, and some sort of snack at the ready. I was pumped.
As I remember it, the episode was pretty good, and I thought it was really cool that these two wrestlers were going to be in a television show every week. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of just how exactly television worked at that time, and was quite disappointed when the show never aired again. The series wasn’t picked up, and the show was thrown into the huge pile of “could’ve beens” with hundreds of other series that were never picked up.
I listened to a podcast featuring Ventura and Piper a while back, and Ventura explained why the series wasn’t picked up. The two companies who were producing the show together, Disney and Corelco, got into a lawsuit with each other over something not even remotely related to the Tag Team series, and while in litigation, the show was left in limbo since neither side was doing business with each other at the time. When the lawsuit dust settled, too much time had passed and the Tag Team series was abandoned.
It’s a real shame, because the two had great chemistry together in the pilot, the premise was solid for an action/comedy show, and would have probably drawn decent enough ratings to keep the 13 – episode first season on the air. Whether it would have been picked up beyond that is anyone’s guess, but I know one 13 year old who would have watched religiously.
Check out the pilot and see what YOU think.
“He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga — and his future in baseball.”
That’s how the article entitled, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” started. It was a 13-page review of a young, unknown baseball pitching phenom named Sidd Finch. What followed was one of the strangest stories in the history of sports in general, and Sports Illustrated in particular.
No one could believe what they were reading. This strange young man who pitched while wearing a single work boot on his right foot and could throw the ball at an unheard of speed of 168 mph! But none of it was real. It was all an elaborate April Fool’s Day hoax perpetrated by writer George Plimpton and Sports Illustrated.
Fans who read the article couldn’t believe that the Mets had stumbled onto this player. A couple of team owners called the Commissioner asking how their batters could face Finch safely. Several major news agencies sent reporters to Florida trying to get an interview. The nation at large fell for it, hook…line…and sinker.
The following week in their April 8th issue, Sports Illustrated printed a smaller article announcing Finch’s retirement. In the April 15th issue, they plainly revealed it had all been a hoax. They had actually made it known that it was a hoax via a code in the original article. Check out the first letters of the first words from the article that I used at the start of this post. It spells out HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY.
Go back in time and relive the fun of the article by clicking below. It’s a reprint of the article from the Sports Illustrated’s magazine dated April 1, 1985.
Written by Bill Lancaster (Burt’s son) and directed by Michael Ritchie (who had helmed adult fare like The Candidate and Smile), this winning 1976 film worked on a lot of levels—and not just the “hey, those naughty kids are cussing” level either. There was the underdog triumph story at the movie’s core; there was the satire of the uniquely American institution of Little League and its overly-involved bench parents (in the year of our country’s bicentennial, no less). There was also a redemptive character piece at work, as Buttermaker, via his group of misfits, tried to get his shambled life together once and for all.
Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) is a former minor league baseball player, and currently, a disheveled drunk and a not-so-devoted pool-cleaner. And if you think he’s mastered the fine art of uncouth and offensive language, wait until you meet the kids on his future Little League Team.