Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff in the Cage

I’m a lifelong fan of pro wrestling, so naturally, I have a lot of memories from years gone by that jump out at me. One of the memories that came flooding back to me recently was the night that Hulk Hogan fought Paul Orndorff in a cage on NBC’s Saturday Night’s Main Event. Thanks to the guys of TRN’s House Show Podcast reviewing the show, I felt like a kid again.

Saturday Night’s Main Event was at one time THE biggest wrestling show on television. Pay-per-view was in its infancy for most of the series run, the NWA had yet to launch their Clash of the Champions series and the regular wrestling shows on television were still filled with non-competitive matches for the most part. Yeah, they’d throw us a bone every now and then and give us a decent main event match, but even that usually was just to set up something for later, and would often end in a non-finish.

So when a Saturday Night’s Main Event show would roll around on NBC about once a month, it was must-see TV for young wrestling fans. Or must-record-TV in my case. Even being the weekend, my mom wouldn’t let me stay up to watch it as it happened. Instead, I would set the timer on the VCR, record it, and then watch it the next morning as soon as I got up.

The match I’m going to be talking about here took place on the January 3rd, 1987 Saturday Night’s Main Event. The “main event” of the show pitted World Wrestling Federation champion Hulk Hogan against his one-time friend turned bitter rival, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. And this wouldn’t be just another match. No sir. This match was going to take place inside the walls of a 15-foot-high steel cage! The only way to win one of these cage matches was to put your opponent down to the point that you could leave through the door, or climb over the top. The important thing is that your feet must touch the floor.

So I’m watching the tape the following morning after the live event, and the Hogan-Orndorff match was up first. It was a good back-and-forth affair, but nine-year-old me really had no reason to think that Orndorff would actually beat Hogan. But it got to a point in the match when both men were a little groggy, and they started to climb out on opposite sides of the ring. Jesse “The Body” Ventura on commentary exclaimed that it was a race! I kinda got on the edge of my seat. It was neck and neck as they both started down the outside. Vince McMahon was yelling for Hogan to drop down! Then it happened. Both men hit the floor at the same time! The theme song “Real American” started playing, which after the bout a winner’s music is played, but in this case, it didn’t really tell you who won since both men used the same theme song!

Wait…who just won the match? There was confusion at ringside as both men were claiming victory. McMahon and Ventura were each arguing the case for a different competitor. Referees Joey Marella and Danny Davis were each declaring a different winner. Multiple replays of the finish were shown, but no official announcement had been made. It was Saturday night suspense at its finest! The show went to a commercial break, leaving everyone pondering what the outcome was! When the show returned, an announcement was made that this match had been declared a tie. But since a tie is like kissing your sister (my words, not theirs), the referee ordered the match to be restarted!

So after we had just witnessed an incredible battle, with an incredible ending, we were about to get even more! Unfortunately, the rest of the bout was not as exciting as the first half. Hogan went on to soundly defeat Orndorff once they were back in the cage. He even gave Bobby Heenan a good thrashing for good measure after the match was over.

Hogan would go on to an even bigger moment just a month later that I’m sure I’ll be covering at some point soon, while Orndorff would start to fall off in his importance as the rest of 1987 rolled on. But none of that could take away from the flat-out excitement of their cage match on that Saturday night so long ago. I still get goosebumps re-watching it today. You can watch the full match below and re-live the excitement, or live it for the first time.

1989 WWF Survivor Series Program

Since 1987, the WWF’s Survivor Series has been a Thanksgiving tradition. For a few years, it took place on Thanksgiving night, then moved to Thanksgiving Eve for a while. After that, it bounced around to a Sunday night that was close to Thanksgiving.

But the yearly event has always been a highlight of the wrestling year with its unique concept where teams of four “strive to survive” in elimination tag team matches. The 1989 edition featured five of these matches filled with the biggest superstars of the day.

In this time capsule, look back at the big event through the pages of its official program, and try to remember what the anticipation was for big wrestling events like this.

October 28th, 1989

You know how there are just certain days from your past that you remember more than others? Well October 28th, 1989 is one of those days for me. It was a Saturday, which meant cartoons in the morning, but it was what went on that night that made it memorable. Let me tell you about it.

I’ve talked about the yearly Harvest Festival we had every year at my elementary school. Well, in 1989, the Harvest Festival fell on Saturday night, October 28th. So all day long I was eager with anticipation of that night’s event. It was also the night of WCW’s first Halloween Havoc pay-per-view event, which admittedly, put me in a disadvantageous position of possibly having to choose one or the other to enjoy that evening. So my morning hours were wracked with nervous feelings. Not enough that I couldn’t enjoy my usual Saturday morning cartoons, but it still played on my mind throughout the day. Normally, I can make my mind up quickly about things, but this was different. This particular day offered a very hard decision to make.

But as the cartoons ended and the afternoon started to roll around, my Dad made an offer. Since he would be going to the Harvest Festival with us so he could play bingo, he wouldn’t be there to watch TV. He suggested that we set the timer on the VCR and record Halloween Havoc while we were out! Now keep in mind, this was still the era before we had one of the cable black boxes that allowed us to get all of the PPV shows at no additional charge. At that time, I was allowed to order every other wrestling PPV, and this was the show. I skipped WWF’s Summerslam that year because I had gotten The Great American Bash in July. So we got the PPV ordered and the time set so I wouldn’t have to miss Halloween Havoc after all. With that set, I could turn my attention to the Harvest Festival.

So I spent the afternoon playing with Construx toys while I counted down the time left before time to go to the Harvest Festival. You know how I know I was playing with Construx? Because I was already trying to build what my interpretation was of the Thunderdome cage that was to be featured in the main event of the wrestling show that night. As it turned out, I wasn’t that far off.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I really can’t remember my Halloween costumes from through the years. While that is true, I actually do remember my costume from 1989. I went as a convict. It wasn’t the most creative idea, but at least I had a costume. Time was getting close, so I got the costume on, but I still had a little time before we would be leaving.

It was in that short amount of time that I watched the only episode of the TV show “She’s the Sheriff” that I would ever watch. Since She’s the Sheriff was a syndicated show, and since it had already ended its first run, I probably had to have been watching it on my local Fox affiliate. I can’t tell you what episode it was that I saw that day, and since there are no full episodes on Youtube for me to embed, you’ll just have to make do with a video of the opening credits for the show.

So we finally got to the Harvest Festival and my first order of business was to take my Mom to the showcase and show it off to her. Our school had a big showcase display right across from the office in the main hub of the school. Back then, the top three classes at school all had a part of the Harvest Festival to handle. The 7th graders got to put on the yearly haunted house, the 6th graders were in charge of The Disco, or The Batcave as it was called in 1989, and we 5th graders had to put together the showcase. The theme for that year was antiques, and my Mom had donated her grandmother’s kitchen knife to be put on display with the other relics. The showcase wasn’t really anything special, but since we worked on it, I had to show it off.

Once I got tickets to the games in the gym, it was time to say bye to the folks and go run with my friends for the night while all the parents went to the cafeteria to play bingo. I used to think that would be so boring until I had kids of my own, and then it turned out that the bingo was the highlight of my night when taking my kids to these things.

My friends and I ran around and played games, toured the haunted house, and made several trips to The Bat Cave. Not to dance mind you, but to hear the music and hang out in the darkened room. No self-respecting 5th-grade boy could be seen dancing awkwardly in front of the girls.

But even as I was having all of this fun, my mind kept drifting back to home and the hard-hitting NWA action I was missing out on. The Festival was starting to wind down so I made my trip to the “general store” to buy some old-fashioned candy and got ready to go home to see how things were turning out in the wrestling battles.

The flaw in my plan was realized when we got home and the show was still going. So not wanting to get spoiled on anything prematurely, I waited until it was over, rewound the tape, and started the show!

I had been highly anticipating the Halloween Havoc show because the NWA had done such an amazing job building up not only the rivalries but the theme of the show itself. It had a Halloween setting and had an advertised main event of a Thunderdome cage match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta. The promotion for the cage itself was fantastic as they boasted it would be the largest cage in history and would be electrified to make sure the competitors stayed inside.

But not only was the main event something I was really looking forward to but there were also several other key matches that night as well. The first meeting between The Road Warriors and The Skyscrapers was dubbed as The irresistible force meeting the immovable object, The Steiner Brothers taking on the mysterious tag-team only known as Doom, Lex Luger meeting Brian Pillman, and other matches.

It was hard staying awake that night to take it all in, but I fought my way through it, and watching that show capped off a great night in my young life.

After all of these years, it’s funny to think back about how a school event and a wrestling show could make such a lasting impression on me. But I think it has more to do with the current state of life we find ourselves in. So much responsibility with jobs, families, and the like, that sometimes our hearts ache to just go back, even if just for a little bit. And that’s what Retro Ramblings is for me. It’s my chance to go back, even if just briefly, to a simpler time. Thanks for taking a minute to make the trip with me.

And just for the record, here’s my ratings for the Halloween Havoc ’89 matches from that night:

  • Tom Zenk vs. Mike Rotunda – 2 stars
  • The Samoan Swat Team vs. The Midnight Express & Steve Williams – 3.5 stars
  • Tommy Rich vs. The Cuban Assassin – 1/2 a star
  • The Fabulous Freebirds vs. The Dynamic Dudes – 3.5 stars for the crowd atmosphere
  • The Steiner Brothers vs. Doom – 3 stars for the mystery
  • Lex Luger vs Brian Pillman – 4 stars
  • The Road Warriors vs. The Skyscrapers – 3 stars for the spectacle
  • Rick Flair & Sting vs. Terry Funk & Muta Thunderdome Cage Match – 4.5 stars for the whole experience

WWF Thumb Wrestlers

WWF Thumb Wrestlers

The WWF Thumb Wrestlers were my consolation for not having the LJN figures.  Now I really didn’t mind not having the full-sized LJN figures as they weren’t very fun to play with due to their inflexibility. The only reason I wanted the full-sized LJN counterparts was because everyone was getting them.

The Thumb Wrestlers were cheaper, so I was actually able to pick up several packs of these with my weekly allowance, and that gave me enough variety to really enjoy having these.  I had Hulk Hogan, JYD, Hillbilly Jim, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and Big John Studd.  As I said, enough variety to play around with and have some matches. 

The WWF machine was clicking on all cylinders and they really knew what they were doing with these thumb wrestlers. I mentioned how they came packed two per package…well, they mixed them up and the same figure would appear in multiple packs. This meant that you could theoretically find any matchup of the figures you wanted. To the best of my research abilities, here are the two-pack combinations that were available:

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1988 Great American Bash Program

In this Time Capsule, I’m looking at something very near and dear to my heart, as it’s the official program from the NWA’s Great American Bash tour in 1988.

For wrestling fans back then, the Great American Bash event was the highlight of the summer. The tours in 1986 and 1987 set the wrestling world on fire those summers, and while 1988 was a little less enticing than those first two years, it still featured several hot feuds. Not to mention the PPV event that year would feature the Tower of Doom match.

The PPV event would not feature the touted scaffold matches, but since this program covers the tour as a whole, that anticipated matchup is featured, as well as the War Games matches that also were not going to be on the PPV.

This program is a great look back into the goings-on in the NWA that summer, and I hope you enjoy flipping through it as much as I did.

The flip book below is super easy to use. The controls are in the control panel below the book, and you can use them to go forward or backward. I suggest using the expand button to blow it up to full screen for maximum enjoyment.