Run date: June 6, 1985
Run time: 36:41
This is one of the few episodes of TNT that feels really modern, like it could have been shot today or in the last few years. Maybe it's the live Las Vegas crowd, or just about the time McMahon felt comfortable enough to be himself, but he's in full Mr. McMahon mode here, yes more than a decade before this man and the character would merge on national television.
For starters, he's wearing an off-white suit, a dramatic change from the purple, red and orange jackets he typically wears. It's a good color for him, definitely less game show-hostish.
There really is a live crowd this week, not a make-believe one like the every other episode of TNT. Our first guest is Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Man this guy was freakin' amazing during this time. No one could have ever predicted that he would become a governor one day, and get recognized as one of the most prominent pop culture icons of our time, but it is clear here that he has something extra.
This is the Ventura at the height of his glam phase. He's wearing red Lady Gaga glasses, a tan jacket, tie-dyed shirt and tight black jeans. Ventura gets booed as he walks out and McMahon says "somewhat of an unfriendly welcome, but you are accustomed to that." McMahon is such a jerk, even trying to play a face.
Ventura takes the CM Punk approach to his A-holeness and says "I don't care." McMahon continues the bullying: "What about your sunglasses? That's unusual even for you."
Ventura is done with McMahon games and goes into business for himself.
"I am a new idol for the kids," Ventura says. "You look at Rock 'n' Roll today and you got all these rock stars who think they are big, tough guys, like David Lee Roth and Billy Idol and all these little pipsqueaks who don't weigh 150 pounds soaking wet. "
Ventura I believe was injured around this time and his time in the ring was about to come to an end, so McMahon and the WWE were thinking of ways to keep him around, rather than send him back to the AWA. So he became this rock star character, complete with a song and video, that actually didn't sound that bad.
"I got the power, I got the speed. You want to trouble you'll be sorry if you mess with this body. I got the body, the body rules tonight. "
Ventura sounds at least as good as John Cena, and The Rock, but not quite as good as Lillian Garcia. He's playing the role well, even if he is technically talking and not singing.
Later in the video he says: "I got the fist, made of iron, I got the body that never tires." McMahon back in the studio says, "I think you wrestle considerably better than you sing."
Ventura was never as witty as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan when he was insulted. He typically just barked back, like he did here: "I gave you the opportunity to debut this rock video right here on TNT and this is the kind of shabby treatment I get?"
McMahon cuts him off and says, "We thank you very much for joining us and we wish you well in your career." Ventura looked stunned that McMahon ended the segment, and McMahon, the ultimate heel, says to Ventura: "What do you want to talk about?"
Ventura responds: "I am the greatest broadcaster in the world today. I tell it like it is. I don't play favorites." That's pretty funny considering Ventura pretty much hated on Hulk Hogan and most of the other good guys as a color commentary.
McMahon then abruptly asks Ventura if we can see "the body." Ventura popped up and walked off the set, saying "you pay to see the body."
The live crowd, by the way, booed Ventura with every word, which was Ventura's greatest gift. He was the ultimate heel and played it well.
Up next is Lisa Sliwa, the Guardian Angel who tried to become a WWF wrestler. We met Sliwa a few weeks ago. Clearly McMahon had big plans for her, but she eventually just sort of disappeared. She was also a fashion model.
McMahon takes us to the gym and Sliwa training with jobber Mario Mancini. God Bless Mancini. Sliwa was demonstrating her wrestling skills and flipped Mancini with a snap mare that looked about 99 percent Mancini and 1 percent Sliwa. Mancini's lucky he didn't permanently injure his neck with this botched hold.
Mancini did walk out of the ring after the move, leaving Mean Gene Okerlund to interview Sliwa, who said she had a black belt in karate and jiu-jitsu. Okerlund, always excellent at straddling the line between seriousness and absurdity, asked her what the differences between the martial arts and professional wrestling. Sliwa said she would be disqualified in a second if she performed some of the jiu-jitsu karate in the wrestling ring.
From the brawn we go to the beauty and Sliwa's modeling shots. Did McMahon think that associating with Sliwa would bring the WWF positive national exposure or did he just see something in her and wanted to try to make her a star.
When they return to the couch and the live crowd, Hayes said "Wendi Richter is going to have to look out." Maybe Moolah got ahold of Sliwa and scared her away, or Sliwa realized the WWF was not for her, but she disappeared after this.
From one major push to another and Bruno Sammartino as a guest on TNT. Sammartino is appearing the show yet again not to promote himself, but to try to get his son David over as superstar. The problem was that the fans cared more about Bruno than David. But good for Bruno for trying. Bruno sits down and McMahon doesn't waste a lot of time: "Your son is attempting to follow in your footsteps," and Bruno takes over.
"For a young fella, he's really strong," Bruno says. He claims that David can bench press 545 pounds.
Bruno came back to the WWF to get his son over and even took part in several tag team matches with David against Brutus Beefcake and his manager "Luscious" Johnny Valiant.
We go to Madison Square Garden and the tag match and the crowd is going crazy for Bruno as he's pounding on Valiant and Beefcake. This was supposed to be a segment that got David over, but it's not happening. Even the announcers are confused.
"David hasn't been in the ring yet," Lord Alfred Hayes says.
"I don't know if his dad is going to let him in or not," Gorilla Monsoon says. "He certainly doesn't need the help." Just as Bruno finally makes the tag to David, they cut back to the TNT studios, in what certainly must have been a rib on Bruno and David.
Luscious Johnny Valiant them came out on the set wondering why McMahon didn't show the part of the match where Valiant allegedly threw Bruno into the audience. As Valiant creeps toward Bruno calling him an old man, Bruno says "This old man would have taken you 10 years ago and this this old man would wipe the floor with you today."
Valiant then throws a blow and Sammartino who blocks it and then throws a John Cena-like right hand that connects on Valiant's shoulder, sending Valiant over the TNT chair in somewhat of a sloppy bump. Guess it went with the Cena-like right hand.
Valiant was supposed to clear the chair like Capt. Lou Albano did when Rowdy Roddy Piper hit him, in a the same exact segment, but he didn't sending the chair down with him. McMahon had nothing to say, except "We'll be back with more TNT."
Bruno and David would stick around a little while longer, but David never went anywhere, and Bruno would spend much of the next 20 years badmouthing Vince McMahon and the new era of the WWF, including a memorable segment on the Phil Donahue show, until Triple H greased his palm and finally convinced him to forgive and forget and join the WWE Hall of Fame.
Next up is Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Big John Studd. Poor Studd Heenan just overshadowed everyone he managed and here, the 6 foot 11 Studd just faded into the background. Heenan sits down and McMahon says "you hold the distinction of being the first manager in the World Wrestling Federation ever to be fired."
Heenan kills it with a response of "Had Orndorff stayed out here on TNT another 30 seconds I would have fired him." The Orndorff turn was no small feat. He was a natural heel, but Heenan was so good that he made the face turn work.
Heenan says he showed Orndorff how to comb his hair and how to work out and took a "ham-and-egger" and turned him into "Mr. Wonderful." Without him, Heenan says, he's now "Mr. Pitiful." Around this time, Heenan put a $25,000 bounty on Orndorff for anyone who "puts Paul Orndorff out of wrestling for good."
Orndorff would spend the next few months teaming with Hulk Hogan against the Heenan family, setting up the ultimate heel turn, when he turned on Hulk Hogan.
His heel run against Hogan probably wouldn't have worked as well without Heenan success and turning him face. The show ends with an odd segment held up only by Heenan and Ventura. Heenan and Studd stood on a stage ready to gong anyone from the audience whose questions they didn't like.
Ventura and Valiant roamed the audience asking questions, but not really. Valiant's whole schtick was to cut off any of the audience members from actually asking the questions. Ventura was just there to insult the audience.
Ventura asked one guy where he was from and when he responded "New York" Ventura asked if it is as "filthy" as everyone says. The guy didn't know how to respond and he got the gong from Studd.
The live show really boosted TNT's relevancy. For the first time, it made the show feel like an actual wrestling talk show, not a staged fake WWF talk talk show.
It's amazing to watch the WWF in 1985 and 2015. In 1985, the crowd is 100 percent behind the faces and against the heels. If this show were happening in 2015, the live crowd would have been 100 percent behind guys like Ventura and Heenan. Bruno and David would have been booed out of the building.
The WWF in 1985 was a time, as odd as it sounds, of a bit of wrestling purity. The internet had not yet killed every angle before it played out. The fans followed the storylines and generally rooted for the good guys and booed the bad guys.
Lisa Sliwa is cheered here, but would have been absolutely destroyed in 2015. McMahon, however, is still the thread between 1985 and 2015. As much as everything else has changed, McMahon has been the glue behind it all.