Saturday, July 14, 2018

Black Saturday (World Championship Wrestling 14-July-1984)

So they dropped the Black Saturday episode of the old World Championship show from 1984... a show that aired precisely twenty-four years ago.

Once upon a time, there was an old wrestling promotion called Georgia Championship Wrestling, which was hosted by popular wrestling announcer Gordon Solie and featured popular NWA stars such as the Road Warriors, Dusty Rhodes, Ole Anderson, Ric Flair, and others. It's been a staple of the WTBS Superstation every Saturday Night at 6:05 p.m., airing a program called World Championship Wrestling.

And then Vince McMahon came along and bought the company.

Now instead of NWA stars wrestling at a small Atlanta studio, we have pre-taped WWF matches and interviews from other arenas for other WWF programs. People were pissed at this development, but none moreso than Billionaire Ted himself, Ted Turner. WWF's version of WCW had shit ratings, so Turner gave time slots to Ole Anderson and Bill Watts' Mid-South circuits, both of whom did better than McMahon's show... to make a long story short, the show was eventually sold off to Crockett and the rest is history.

And it began with this one show.

The show opens with the standard show open; nothing completely different from what came before or even what came after with the early Crockett shows.

And then pops up WCW co-host Freddie Miller to welcome the World Wrestling Federation. And then, in a scene that I've seen in several DVD documentaries and even in screenshot form, we have Vince McMahon stepping in front of that World Championship Wrestling logo - looking about as stiff and rigid as he usually did back in the day when he was just an on-air pipsqueak announcer - and saying that it was a pleasure to be on WTBS and was looking forward to giving these southern hicks some real sports-entertainment to look forward to... just in a much nicer way, I'm sure.

And then after Vince's opening spiel, we get a commercial for upcoming WWF live events... not from an Atlanta studio. Seeing WCW graphics advertising WWF events with Howard Finkel doing voiceovers might be a surreal sight today, but if I were a longtime fan of the WCW program and I saw this, I'd imagine that my reaction would be a lot more severe. Clearly, not a smart idea to advertise events held in other cities in order to get people on board with your new show.

WWF Tag-Team Champions Dick Murdoch and Adrian Adonis defeated S.D. Jones and Nick DeCarlo . And you know... this isn't taking place at an Atlanta studio and it's not the usual Georgia Championship Wrestling dudes on screen, but I tell you what; this was a pretty good tag match. You had the tag team champions making frequent tags to keep S.D. Jones from tagging in his partner, who's just in there for a short bit. And when Jones is on fire, the champs are just getting headbutt after headbutts and they're rattled for a bit before they eventually finish DeCarlo with an elbow/suplex double team move. I liked this match. I liked the tag champs. I liked seeing Adrian Adonis before he got fat and adorable. I liked seeing S.D. Jones last longer than half a minute. I was more interested in this match being ignorant of what came before or what these guys did around this time than I ever got interested in a modern-day WWE main event feud with ten hours of TV every week. This was refreshing fun.

And then much like a modern-day WWE Pay-Per-View event, after the amazing first match, it all goes to shit.

We get a Mean Gene interview with Mr. Fuji, who's introducing George The Animal Steele into the fold. Now for those too young to remember, George Steele was this really hairy wrestler whose main gimmick was that he was this incoherent wildman who would eat the turnbuckles... that was his shtick. Again, probably not the smartest thing to put on a show you just hijacked and are trying to convince the audience of your greatness, as we get Fuji and Gene trying to get George to talk and he mutters "FUJI!" Okay, this wasn't all that great to watch now; I'd imagine the people back then reacting to this.

And then the interview's over and we get another promo for more WWF house shows on the road.

Vince McMahon shows up on screen - as stiff as ever - to intro us to the next match; a match taped from Minneapolis, Minnesota. And in this match, it's Jesse "The Body" Ventura taking on Chris Curtis in an extended squash match and... look, Jesse beats the guy in a bad match. It was slow, it was plodding, Jesse didn't do much both physically and otherwise, Curtis was just there to "take bumps" or whatever... bad.

I guess we should touch on the commentary. The opening tag-team contest was commentated by Vince McMahon and Tony Garea; the latter sounding somewhat sedated, but otherwise passable. In this riveting squash match, we get Gorilla Monsoon and Mean Gene Okerlund. We'd eventually get Vince for the rest of the show, but... yeah, is there any wonder why this show was shit on by the audience? Talk about not giving a fuck.

Vince shows up on screen once more to intro the next Mean Gene interview; where Mean Gene tells about this Superstars Of Wrestling show that we've been watching... which sort of tells me they really didn't do anything for this show specifically, but rather just took whatever sloppy seconds they had laying around and put it on this new WTBS show that replaced the previous crew who were on this show and thus pissing a lot of people off.

So we have Mean Gene interview Iron Sheik's favorite wrestler in the universe, B. Brian Blair. He talks for a bit before walking off. I suppose the idea is to convince the audience watching this show that what they're getting from here on out is better than what they had before... it didn't work.
And then we get Mean Gene interviewing Alexis Smirnoff, a Quebecois fellow with a strong Quebecois accent posing as a Russian dude. I swear to God; I hear this guy speak; he sounds French-Canadian and so I look him up and... it's a dude from Quebec. Yep.

And then we get another promo for a WWF event being held at The Omni... in Atlanta! It took these fuckers TWENTY-SIX MINUTES to promo their upcoming live Atlanta show, their Summer Spectacular, their Summer... SLAM, if you will... and then we have ANOTHER PROMO, this time for the WWF Magazine.

So we get Vince McMahon introducing a match involving the former WWF Champion, the Iron Sheik... and he makes a note to mention Sheik beating Backlund for the title and then losing to Hogan, but doesn't bother to name the opponent that Sheik is facing for this pre-taped match. So said match has the Iron Sheik making short work of some geek from Toronto. Riveting action on this here World Championship Wrestling show.

Later research turns out that said geek was Ron Hutchinson, a Canadian wrestler who'd bounce around the smaller Canadian promotions before starting his own wrestling academy, which would produce a number of modern-day stars and legends such as Edge, Christian, Trish Stratus, Gail Kim, Beth Phoenix, Just Joe, and others. So that was cool to see him... on the receiving end bouncing around for Sheik before getting his back broken and being made humbled. No word as to whether Sheik fucked his ass or not.

And look, there're probably better examples on the Network. But you watch this Iron Sheik squash match and you see the way the guy looked and moved around... it's hard to imagine that this guy would become the Sheiky-Baby we all know and love today. This guy was all business and man, I wish he had a better run with the World title before he became the sacrificial lamb... but whatever.

Another promo for more WWF house shows followed by stiff as shit Vince McMahon introducing our next match; longtime veteran Bobo Brazil going up against Big John Studd over at the Spectrum in Philidelphia. Because that's just SCREAMS small Atlanta studio.

Okay, I need to say something about Bobo Brazil. The dude was pushing 60 here... but you wouldn't know it because how good he looked. He looked about ten, twenty years younger than he actually was. When I go to WCW Nitro or even 2003 WWE and I see guys like Hogan and Piper go at it, they looked like shit. They looked old. When I see guys like Ric Flair and Vince McMahon today, they look like walking skeletons. They look REALLY OLD.

Bobo Brazil looked 40-ish here. How the fuck was this guy sixty-ish fucking years old in this match? That's impossible.

So we have this match between Bobo Brazil; an elder statesmen who doesn't look the part... going up against the youngster Big John Studd. They trade some blows for a bit before Studd catches Bobo in a bear hug and Bobo is trapped for a bit before he manages a bear hug and a good couple minutes is spent on bear hugs, which wouldn't go over well with today's audience... unless it was Bayley because she's supposed to be a hugger. Bobo misses a legdrop, Studd wins with an elbow to score the pinfall.

Yeah, this was not a good match. When the highlight of the match was being amazed at how good Bobo Brazil looked for a sixty-year-old and not much else... yeah, no comment.

So here's stiff Vince again intro-ing us to another Mean Gene interview, this time with Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff, who spends most of the interview with his back to the camera talking to Mean Gene. Poor Meme Gene trying to make something of this interview, but... it's funny to watch this now because it's years after the fact and all these bad interviews are fun to poke fun of... but again, this is the first show of WCW featuring WWF wrestlers replacing what had been a highly-regarded WCW program.

And so how does this World Championship Wrestling program featuring the first appearance of World Wrestling Federation superstars end? With a promo for the WWF Magazine as well as an announcement that next week's program will feature the reigning WWF World champion Hulk Hogan in all his glory. We then get Freddie Miller back on camera, trying to convince us to all the good things to look forward to.

And then the tape warps... and the show ends.

So that was the WWF version of World Championship Wrestling... and it was bad. When the show begins, we start with what I thought was a pretty solid little wrestling match. Not a big deal or anything, but it was a fine match that showed some promise to a show that really needed it. And then they drop the ball with these obvious jobber matches that aren't very good, these cartoonish interviews that goes against the grain of what came before, and promos for shows that weren't in Atlanta save one.

And then there was the big flaw with this show; all of this stuff was taped at other venues, which went against the condition of the contract where Vince needed to produce content for the show from an Atlanta studio. And on top of that, but I wouldn't be surprised if this stuff aired elsewhere on other WWF programming at the time. The interviews, I'm fairly certain, were probably featured on their other Superstars Of Wrestling television program. It's like they bought a time slot for a popular show for the sake of burying it and replaced with pure shit, expecting people will like it.

Except they hated the show... and in a way, I can see why.

WWF's WCW experiment didn't last long and eventually, the slot went to Crockett Promotions while Vince focused on his other stuff. And after seeing this endeavor so badly blundered, is it any wonder why the WCW buyout in 2001 became a total clusterfuck of television afterwards?

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