By Joshua Molina for WrestlingObserver.com
- Air date: July 4, 1985
- Runtime: 45:16
We’re in week 40 of our rambunctious ride through the video annals of perhaps the greatest “talk show” ever on the USA Network -- Tuesday Night Titans. Long before “Mr. McMahon” was created at the 1997 Survivor Series, “Mr. McMahon” was instigating, humiliating and insulting WWF talent on this iconic show.
Yes, back in 1985, McMahon, in all his purple suit-wearing, pencil-holding, “I’m just the lead announcer” glory was controlling the puppet strings on a product that was taking off and about to take off in really, really big way.
Whereas today we pray that a guy like Kevin Owens can get the microphone for more than two minutes, on TNT everyone had a chance. Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant could rap (or mumble) with McMahon, but so could jobbers such as Jim Powers and SD Jones. Even the old-timers appeared on TNT, guys such as Lou Thesz, Freddie Blassie and Bruno Sammartino to talk about the good old days.
TNT helped so many guys and girls get “over.” It was a highly scripted forum, but within that script, there was great freestyle dialogue between McMahon and his guests. Throw in a little slapstick comedy from sidekick Lord Alfred Hayes, and you have wrestling splendor like only 1985 could bring. This week was extra special because we had two of the great talkers in wrestling history: Ventura and Heenan. We also have a “worker” in Les Thornton, and 1985’s version of “Ryback,” but way more intriguing, “The Missing Link.”
The show opens up with future Minnesota governor and conspiracy theorist Ventura. At this time Ventura is transitioning from full-time wrestler to full-time announcer, and apparently part-time singer.
For the second time in a month, we are treated to a music video featuring Ventura, where he’s belting out a not-so-horrible song called “The Body Rules.” It’s typical 1980s, with strobe lights, blurred cuts in and out and all-around weak production values. The video features Ventura on the microphone with scantily clad ladies dancing and some big-haired musicians. Ventura on McMahon’s couch reminds us why he matters: “I can be a rock star and a wrestler. How many rock stars can be wrestlers? I guess that depends on if Vince Russo is booking the show.
Ventura has a little bit of Kanye West in his lyrics here:
“The body rules. This body is strong. You mess with me, I am going to tear you down.”
Hey, those lyrics put over a nice rap sample, would have made it sound really nice. Or there’s also these from the heart lyrics that resemble a bit of rawness of a young Jim Croce: "I will split your head Jack. I am the baddest mother walking the streets."
The video features several slow-motioned shots of a man that Ventura calls a “premiere underground flash guitarist of Minnesota.” His name sounds like “Mark Orian”. “This man is better than Prince,” Ventura says, which is a set-up for a show-long angle involving the diminutive musical genius. Ventura is boasting that he has a big record deal coming up with Epic Records.
“I foresee possibly The Rolling Stones opening for me,” Ventura says. Few could spew absolute nonsense and make it sound somewhat real like Ventura could. The video features some images of Ventura bashing Hulk Hogan and throwing water in his face. McMahon, ever the instigator, asked if he got clearance from Hogan to show that footage.
Ventura said he didn’t need approval from Hogan because it shows what is true: Hogan is ducking him. Although at this point in time Hogan was clearly the more prominent wrestler and celebrity, today Ventura has a lot more going for him than Hogan does. Ventura may insult the government with reckless abandon, but he doesn’t make sex tapes with his best friend’s wife, nor throw around racial slurs in them. McMahon then asks Ventura talk about his transition into color commentary and Ventura starts explaining why he’s the best announcer in the business.
“I tell it like it is,” Ventura says. “I play no favorites.”
That’s absolutely hilarious because Ventura always rooted for the heels, with special affection for guys such as Randy “Macho Man” Savage,” and “Ravishing Ric Rude,” while berating Hogan incessantly. McMahon, since he likes to bully, asks Ventura about his oversized red glasses and asks Hayes what he would look like wearing them.
Ventura puts the glasses on Hayes and then unfortunately lets us see something we can’t unsee. Hayes puts his glasses on and sticks out his tongue like he’s some stereotypical rock star. Hayes sticks his tongue out and -- well, it looks like he has one of the gnarliest cold sores on his tongue. Just saying . . .
McMahon tells Ventura that “there's no doubt that you are among the Top 10 wrestlers in the world today,” before heading to a match between Ventura and WWF legend Tony Garea. Garea does some great selling while Ventura works the crowd. At one point Garea’s head gets tied up in the ropes and the referee has no idea how to get him out of it. He literally flips Garea around to get him out, which couldn’t have felt good.
Garea misses a splash into the corner and Ventura pins him by dropping an elbow. Back on the couch, Ventura complains that McMahon was a “biased announcer” and that he could do a better job commenting and a better job behind that desk than McMahon could. McMahon, clearly setting up an angle, tells Ventura that next week he can have his chair and that he can be guest host TNT and bring any guest he wants. Ventura says that Hayes can stay next week because “we don’t want to see Alfred in the unemployment line.”
Ventura, because we’re supposed to believe he’s super connected to mainstream celebrities, says next week “Maybe I will call up Prince. No one has ever talked to Prince. I might do that.” Can’t wait for that.
Next up we go from the super charismatic Ventura to a guy named Les Thornton, who looks like a 1985 version of William Regal or Fit Finley. This guy was built like a tank and certainly possessed legitimate wrestling skills.
Thornton comes out and tries to establish his street cred. He says Hayes is from the posh parts of England, while he lived among steel factories and cold mines. “Where I come from, we learned submission,” Thornton said.
McMahon asks Thornton to show off some of his submission holds on a “volunteer” from the audience. Keep in mind that TNT has no live audience yet. Thornton goes to town on some skinny guy, taking him down and squeezing him like he was destroying some kid in Stu Hart’s dungeon.
Even though Thornton was past his prime at the time of his appearance on TNT, it was still an opportunity for a professional wrestling fan to appreciate him, and a change for Thornton to get himself over, even in a small way. And now we get to the main event: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. As Heenan comes out he get books from the fake audience. Just as Heenan sits down McMahon asks the live band to play “Pop Goes The Weasel,” which just humiliates Heenan.
Considering that AWA fans were calling Heenan “weasel” long before he walked into the WWF, it’s surprising that McMahon embraced the term, but then again, McMahon is rolling in the dough in his 1985 expansion glory, so he might not care that much right now about burying gimmicks he didn’t create.
The great thing about Heenan was that he didn’t care that McMahon owned the company. He could shoot with the best of them, and make people laugh while doing it. Heenan says McMahon is a “troublemaker” who likes to “set people up.” He recalls last week’s episode where McMahon asked Cowboy Bob Orton how much money Rowdy Roddy Piper takes from him.
“It is none of their business,” Heenan says.
McMahon then asks Heenan how much money he takes from Ken Patera and Big John Studd. Heenan then just floors McMahon with his response:
"Why don't you read me my rights first?” Heenan says. “I don't answer these kinds of questions.” Patera is wrestling some guy named Gary Starr. Ventura is on color commentary and called Patera “an awesome specimen.” After Patera pins Starr, he poses and Ventura says "pose for me Kenny, pose for me Kenny." Ventura loves his hardbodies.
Back on the couch McMahon asks Heenan if anyone has collected on the $25,000 bounty on Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff yet. Heenan says it will happen soon. He then does what he does best: berate the little people.
“That's $25,000 people,” Heenan says. “That's more than you make in 10 years. That's more than the bands' instruments are ensured for. I ought to put a bounty on the band. $11 bucks.” LOL.
McMahon clearly outwitted in this banter, gets to the point and asks Heenan to “tell us a little bit about your latest acquisition.”
As a kid I was absolutely terrified of The Missing Link. He had that green face-paint, ball of hair on the back of his head, and mean look on his face. He was also one of the few WWF wrestlers featured in the iconic Sports Illustrated issue that Hulk Hogan was on the cover of. The Link had an aura about him. Too bad he couldn’t wrestle.
Heenan explains who The Missing Link is -- with humor: He's close to 275 pounds. He's about 6 foot 3 or 4 and he’s off the wall. He's not a lot of fun at parties. He probably stays in the room with the coats and memorizes the labels.” LOL.
Heenan continues: “He’s not like Les Thornton, who takes some 110-pound cab driver from the audience and takes him down. You know what The Missing link would do with Les Thornton? He would put him on a spit and baste him.”
We go to the ring where SD Jones is already there. The Missing Link is announced next and he takes a few seconds to get into the ring.
Play-by-play announcer Gorilla Monsoon says “What on Earth is that?” The Link looks legitimately mean. As he turns around the camera catches a great deal of acne on his back. This was the 1980s afterall . . .
The match is hardly a match. It consists of the Link giving Jones several axe handle chops. Monsoon, like McMahon was in his headset telling him what to say, says, “he’s obviously very athletic.” Obviously.
Hayes on color commentary says The Link looks like “a madman.”
Link is just pounding on him. I don’t know how great of a wrestler The Missing Link was when he was in his prime, but in 1985 he makes Ryback look like Ric Flair. The Missing Link pins Jones with a headbutt off the top rope. Monsoon screams “he made it look easy.” Then Monsoon says, from the look of paintwork on his face “he looks like he could be from some aboriginal tribe.”
Link then grabbed a red chair and set it up in the middle of the ring. He went to the top rope as though he were going to jump off the top and break the chair, but Heenan got in the middle and calmed him down.
Back on the couch, Heenan says The Link is “the most devastating force in wrestling. Whether he is from Borneo or Cleveland this man has everybody talking. After the commercial break, McMahon says that they are going to search or the Link in his hometown, Parts Unknown, Population 1.
It’s clearly a set designed to look like a remote jungle. Heenan is carrying a flashlight looking for The Link. He explains that this is a big day because The Link has been “asked to be on Carson, Letterman, Merv Griffin, but he has never done a talk show.” Heenan finally finds him and escorts him out to the front of the set. The Link looks disoriented and confused. McMahon then decides to use a little bit of humor of his own:
“What percentage of your take home pay does Bobby “The Brain” Heenan take?” McMahon asks. The Link ignores him like he doesn’t understand what he is saying. The Link is pacing when Heenan is standing next to some kind of beef barbecue on a stick. Heenen rotates the meat and says: “That's one of my jobs. Whenever he wants to eat, I turn his meat.”
McMahon can’t take it anymore and puts a microphone in The Links face and asks “why the unusual color of the face paint?” (what color should face paint be?).
The Link runs off like he’s Kamala in the presence of a snake, while Heenan says “you scared him off.” When they return they are back on the couch and McMahon says next week’s host will be “Jesse “The Body” Ventura” and “it is going to be the greatest TNT in history.”
They packed so much into an hour show. It’s 30 years ago, but the WWF was so much more progressive in 1985. Imagine what would happen if someone like Bray Wyatt put a bounty on Brock Lesnar? How awesome would that be. Lesnar could destroy everyone put before him until the man whom he least suspects turns on him and collects on the bounty. That would make an instant heel out of someone like Roman Reigns, who will need to be a great heel before he can be a great good guy.
The greatest thing about TNT is that it gives facetime to so many wrestlers week after week. That facetime is crucial to getting new stars over. You never know. Your heel champion could tear out his ACL and you might need some other guys waiting in the wings to step in -- and get accepted by the fans.
Next week: Will Prince show up on TNT?