- Air date: May 16, 1985
- Run time: 46:16
- Stars of the show: Wendy Richter & Peggy Lee.
After watching nearly three dozen episodes of TNT, I am still struck at how successful this offbeat show was at making me care or hate WWF wrestlers. It’s amazing what a little time on the microphone can do for even the most boring wrestlers.
A few weeks ago big “Rusty” Brooks demonstrated some red-necked Stone Cold Steve Austin-like charisma, just because he sat in the main TNT chair and believed he was the best jobber on the roster. It’s a whole new television landscape, so I don’t expect TNT to show up again on the USA network, but there’s no reason why we can’t have a modern version of this show on the WWE network.
What a great place for us to see Vince McMahon? If McMahon believes he is too old for Monday Night Raw (which he isn’t), then he needs to move his face to the network and rehost this show. Lord Alfred Hayes has passed, but why not replace him with Jamison? Go find that guy and breathe new life into a one-time great concept. We WWE fans miss the good old days, when everything was a little less scripted. How do we know that we don’t have another Roddy Piper lurking in the shadows.
McMahon gets this episode going introducing us to Rocky Johnson, the father of Dwayne Johnson. It’s funny that McMahon refers to him as “The Rock.” Rocky Johnson had a better body than Dwayne, but lacked the promo skills.
McMahon gets the googly eyes when Johnson comes out and asks him how much weighs, while telling Hayes that this is the best he’s ever looked.
“My goodness, pumping that iron,” McMahon salivates.
Johnson says he weighs 260 pounds.
It’s too bad Hulk Hogan refused to wrestle any other good guys, because there’s an endless string of popular wrestlers that would have made great challengers for Hogan. Johnson, Superfly Snuka, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Tito Santana, Ricky Steamboat, etc.
We go to the ring and it’s Johnson vs. Steve Lombardi, who is rapidly approaching SD Jones as the man who has most appeared on TNT.
Bruno Sammartino, arguably the worst commentator in WWF history (I am not counting Mike Adamle) says about Johnson, “here’s a guy who is always in great shape. He’s always great to watch in the ring.”
Sammartino was always talking about how “tough” a guy was, clearly selling the old school mentality. I am sure if Bruno were calling an episode of Monday NIght Raw, he would say “This Brock Lesnar guy is quite the impressive individual. He’s a strong guy that is going to give a lot of wrestlers trouble inside that ring.”
Bruno even puts Lombardi over: “Lombardi has come a long way in the last year or so. He's quite aggressive and quite tough.”
This match consisted of Johnson, wearing Cowboy Bob Orton green trunks, mostly on the offensive, with Lombardi doing his best to sell for the big man. Johnson was certainly a better wrestler than The People’s Champion, although he had much skinnier legs. He performed some
impressive dropkicks and arm drags. He also threw in some good boxing. Johnson pins Lombardi with a sunset flip that certainly Rusty Brooks would have kicked out of.
Back in the studio McMahon draws attention to Johnson gold on his hands.
Johnson shows off his luxurious purchases and explains that he wears the watch because his later father gave it to him. Johnson, talking more like Ricky Steamboat than Dwayne Johnson, says that when he goes to the ring he has one thing in mind.
“All of the matches I am in, whether it is Steve Lombardi or Roddy Piper or whoever I go in there with I have the same mental attitude -- to win,” Johnson says.
McMahon says he wishes him all the luck in the world and tells him one more time "you look great."
Up next are the segments that remind us that yes, this is professional wrestling. It’s “Thatsa My Kitchen” with Salvatore Bellomo and family. TNT has enjoyed a laugh or two at the expense of practical every culture. McMahon is an equal opportunity offender when it comes to stereotypes.
Bellomo, a perennial enhancement talent, has appeared on a few episodes of TNT, building boats out of the WWF magazine.
McMahon calls it “Mama Bellomo’s kitchen.” Bellomo, of course, doesn’t speak English, only saying “Gratsi” when McMahon talks in her direction. We do know that the Bellomos are proud parents. There’s bell peppers and bread on the table and they are prepping for a big meal.
Bellomo puts over his mom: “Everyone always asks me why I am that fat. It's because of his Mama’s cooking.”
We go to the ring for some action with Bellomo, against, wait, another jobber, in Frankie Williams, of Piper’s Pit fame. Who’s going to win this one? Well considering that Bellomo gets a lot of air time on TNT and Williams has been portrayed as an all around sap, it looks like Bellomo is going to get his big television win here.
Both guys are wrestling in singlets. Bellomo has some technical skills, but he is just so slow. Still, he’s a better wrestler than The Miz and he never got to headline WrestleMania. One thing strikes me about this match. Neither guy has shaved his armpits.
No matter how macho you are, in the WWF, you shave your arm pits, whether you Andre the Giant or Zach Ryder. Even Brock Lesnar shaves his pits. Not sure how Williams and Bellomo got past the aesthetic sensors.
Williams is on the offensive in much of the match and has good facials, although he looks like he is 62 years old.
Bellomo would rally and win the match with a high cross body block. Back in the kitchen, McMahon is poking around the table like he’s never seen food before.
“What is this?” he asks. Bellomo responds. “It’s an artichoke." Bellomo is stuffing the artichoke with cheese and olive oil, prepping it for cooking. McMahon ends the segment, but says later on, “we will have some delicacies.”
The next guests on the show are Brutus Beefcake and “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, perhaps two of my least favorite characters ever.
Beefcake was cast perfectly as a male stripper. He looked great, but was kind of dull and stupid. Valiant, to this day, I have no idea what his gimmick was supposed to be. He was neither funny nor clever. He just rambled, wearing the most bizarre mismatched clothing ever.
Valiant is wearing what appears to be red sweatpants that would make George Costanza jealous. He’s wearing a New York Yankees jacket and a bandana. In this segment he keeps calling Beefcake his “main squeeze.”
Valiant comes out complaining about the smell, taking a shot at Bellomo and is Italian food.
“It smells like a used car wash,” Valiant says. Yeah, OK, Mr. Highbrow, you are the guy wearing sweatpants.
Valiant asks McMahon what’s on his mind. “We are busy people,” he says. Valiant pats the hand of Beefcake and calls him his “main squeeze.”
“We have people to see,” Valiant says. McMahon brings up WrestleMania and the problems Beefcake and Valiant had with Bruno Sammartino. Valiant is rambling like a drunk man, saying that Sammartino would have a heart attack if he ever stepped into the ring with him.
Beefcake is wearing oversized glasses and a Lightning Bolt across his chest that would make Sean Waltman nostalgic. Valiant dares Sammartino to get “get that punk kid of his out reform school and meet my main squeeze here.” They were doing everything to get David Sammartino over here.
McMahon says that “in a few minutes we are going to take you to some action via videotape.” McMahon loved to explain in 1985 that videotape was the form of technology they used to distribute their content. Valiant explains that due to his busy schedule he cannot accommodate Beefcake every night of the week so that Greg “The Hammer” Valentine fills in.
This is a strange pairing considering that Valentine was the intercontinental champion at the time. McMahon even calls it “a most unusual tag team.”
They are taking on Paul Roma and SD Jones. Hart is managing Valentine. I never knew Beefcake was also from Phoenix, Arizona. He too was billed as being from “Parts Unknown.”
Jack Reynolds is the announcer. I wonder what the story was behind Reynolds. He was pretty much the voice of the WWF in 1984 and still here in 1985, but he’s totally forgotten now. I wonder when and where McMahon fired him.
“I get the feeling that Roma and SD Jones are going to get more than they can handle this week,” says Reynolds, who apparently is letting Bruno Sammartino write his scripts.
I am mixed on these old jobbers matches. It’s pretty clear that Roma and Jones aren’t winning this match. Valentine carries the match and pins Roma with a figure-four-leglock. I would love to see someone win with that hold in MMA. Maybe CM Punk can tap out Cathal Pendred with that move one day.
The next guest is Wendi Richter, the WWF women’s champion. I have no idea who dressed this woman, but she looked like she belonged on the set of Mama’s Family.
This is probably Richter’s fourth appearance on TNT. McMahon points out that she did not kiss Lord Alfred Hayes this time, unlike a previous appearance. Hayes says he wouldn’t mind if she tried again and Richter says nothing, but looks at him and chuckles a bit.
McMahon asked the same question he did before Wrestlemania: “What do you think of Cyndi Lauper.” This feels like an odd question since Lauper is long gone by now and McMahon has never been big about putting anyone over who’s not on the roster. Richter says hse respects Lauper and that she’s done a lot for her and women’s wrestling.
We go to a match with Richter and Peggy Lee. One thing is clear right away. Both Richter and Peggy Lee look like Flair and Steamboat compared to today’s WWE divas. Lee is a natural-looking woman. She’s not tan or thin. Richter is tan and thin, but her attractiveness is secondary to her athleticness.
These two put on a women’s match that rivaled Trish Stratus and Lita in the Attitude Era. Tons of near falls. Bruno Sammartino on color commentary, by the way, says “Richter is in great shape.” Is he getting paid for this?
With the exception of Charlotte, Richter and Lee are better than any WWE Diva currently on the roster. Their match wasn’t a sideshow or joke. They worked hard and no one was trying to get a look at anyone’ puppies. This is an episode to watch just for this match.
Lee takes Richter to Snap Mare City, yanking Richter by the hair three times, in a marvelous spot. Bruno says, “I hate to say it, but Wendy looks in bad shape right now.”
Lee at one point stands on Richter’s face, in another great spot. I love this spot. I don’t know how well you can fake that hold. Obviously Lee needs to put all her weight on the top rope, but must still hurt to have wrestling boots on your face.
Richter finally wins when Lee jumps on her and she lifts her knees, then pins her with a sunset flip. Great women’s match.
Back in the studio, Richter puts over Lee.
“She was a tough competitor herself,” Richter says. “She ripped about half my hair out when she jerked my head onto the mat. But I like that, keeps you on your toes and makes you a better athlete when you have competition like that.”
The segment should have ended here, but instead we get pervert and sexist McMahon. McMahon asks about “the private life of Wendi Richter.”
McMahon: “You are such a pretty lady and an extraordinary athlete. Many are wondering if you would seize the opportunity to settle down one day and have a family.”
Come on, McMahon. I would love to have heard him ask Ricky Steamboat that question.
Richter has that confused look on his face, but since she’s southern and tactful, she answers the question with class. “I am looking forward to that, but right now I am looking forward to keeping in shape, staying focused and being a true professional.”
She says whenever she loses the belt fair and square and she’s not up to par, then she will think about different routes and alternatives. McMahon would do the thinking for her when he would fire her later in the year.
The show wraps up with a return to Mama Bellomo’s kitchen. They are tasting the foods that they prepared earlier in the episode. Valiant comes out to wreak havoc and insult Bellomo.
Valiant: “No way I would ever touch any of this garbage. It's all fattening.” Valiant that makes an lame Italian joke: “You know how you break up an italian wedding? Just yell the cement's here.”
McMahon tells Bellomo just to ignore him. Bellomo is rattled over Valiant's interruption, but offers Hayes one of the cooked artichokes. Hayes, a food snob, hates it. He wonders if the artichokes have been washed properly.
“Mama Bellomo alway washes everything properly,” McMahon says.
Hayes then complains that there are no napkins. “Not a napkin anywhere,” he says. “Typical Italian. Eat with your fingers.”
Another TNT episode full of everything we love and hate about professional wrestling. Will the WWE ever experience another big ratings period? Who knows, but back in 1985, when the WWF was running wild across the nation and on television, we had plenty of unscripted television, where the wrestlers were allowed to talk and take some risks with their personalities. I don’t think we need a segment with John Cena cooking in the kitchen with his mother, but a little more microphone time for guys like Cesaro, Kevin Owens and Damian Sandow could mean money for the WWE.
Next week on TNT? Ken Patera and the man who might one day own Gawker.