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WWF TNT episode 4 review: The Rock'n'Wrestling Connection is born

  • Airdate: July 3, 1984
  • The stars of the show: Cyndi Lauper, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Capt. Lou Albano, Gorilla Monson and Mean Gene Okerlund

Captain Lou Albano deserves a lot of credit for the 1980s professional wrestling boom. Yes, there was Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon. But, it was Albano with help from Cyndi Lauper and Rowdy Roddy Piper that fueled the product right when it needed it most. 

Episode 4 of TNT is undoubtedly the best of the series so far. This episode essentially serves as the set up to the historic Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection that would change professional wrestling forever. The show is built around a couple of themes: Hulk Hogan, and the scrap between Lauper and Albano...with a lot of splendid nonsense along the way. 

Vince McMahon, who outdoes himself every week with his introductions of Lord Alfred Hayes, says, "The gentleman who allegedly gave the plans to break into Buckingham Palace". Hayes again giggled like it was the funniest thing he ever heard. 

McMahon pulls no punches. He leads off the show talking about Hogan's victory over the Iron Sheik to win the WWF championship. Hayes says, "I think we are going to have a champion here for a long, long time. Who can beat him?" 

This is the second time in four episodes that TNT has showed Hogan's title victory. They started the match with Hogan in the Sheik's Camel Clutch. Gorilla Monsoon and Gene Okerlund were stellar on commentary in the historic match. Monsoon: "Only the immense power of the Hulk can save him. He's starting to shake. He's got to reach down inside for something extra." Hogan, of course, won with the leg drop.

They then cut to backstage with one of the greatest wrestling moments of all-time. 

Okerlund: "It's absolute bedlam and pandemonium back here in the locker room!"

The importance of the backstage interviewer is so minimized these days, but Okerlund really knew his stuff and knew how to put wrestlers over, particularly Hogan. He stuffs the microphone in Hogan's face. 

Hogan: "All I asked was for the whole WWF to stand behind the Hulkster and I told 'em I'd bring it home for the USA.You know something Mean Gene, it is the dream of a lifetime, daddy. And you know something? I can't imagine; this is like going to the mountain top 1,000 times over. I feel the energy. Hulkamania is running worldwide. It just turns me on Mean Gene and I felt every one of those 25, 30,000-plus people with me standing behind me all the way and it felt great.

Okerlund: "Well, you have arrived Hulk Hogan!"

Hogan: "Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as this Mean Gene (shows the championship belt). This belt is part yours too. It's everybody out there's too."

It is absolutely one of the greatest promos ever. We can talk about Hogan being hypocritical, duplicitous, and refusing to job to just about everyone over the years, but his mic work was unbelievable here. He was fully in control in a way few wrestlers on the mic rarely are. 

Andre the Giant enters, pouring champagne over Hogan. Okerlund lets out an amazing scream, a combination of relief and pleasure. 

Andre: "I am really proud of you. You are a really good wrestler." Three years later, of course, these two would wage war in the biggest match of its time.

Ivan Putski then came in to shower Hogan with champagne, followed by Hogan's parents. The backstage moments made it out seem so real. Andre seemed so sincere. Okerlund and Hogan were flying high. 

After all that, TNT goes to another Hogan interview with Okerlund.

Hogan tells the camera to get a shot of his 24-inch pythons. Hogan works wonders with the microphone, simultaneously putting himself and Okerlund over, suggesting that Mean Gene was a rambling man until he found the right woman and settled down. We get another Hogan match, this time against the man who was a decade ahead of his time, Dr. D. David Schultz. Amazingly, the camera has a blue square over Hogan's face, who apparently is "busted wide open."

This censorship does not appear to be a modern-day WWE network type of censorship, but a legitimate back-in-the-day censorship of the blood on TV. I have to say, the blue square was awesome. It made me wonder how bad the blood was. Thanks to the lax censorship abilities of the WWF's graphics department, I would soon find out. 

Hogan is wearing blue trunks. Monsoon is screaming out "Hogan is bleeding profusely." In a moment you would never see today, Schultz is actually biting Hogan on his open wound. Schultz then dropped him on his back. The censorship box disappeared when the camera was not close on Hogan's head, but when it returned, it did so slowly, fans could see Hogan's blood for a few seconds.

It's Hogan, of course, and he isn't jobbing to Schultz or anyone without some major plastic surgery or two crooked refs and a primetime special. Hulk starting hulking up, refusing to sell any of Schultz's blows. Hogan turned full heel here, choking and biting Schultz. Hogan rammed Schultz into the post outside of the ring, and Schultz did an old-school blade job that I was totally oblivious to back then, but totally aware of now as an adult. 

Okerlund: "Oh Schultz, oh my Gawd (he had Gawd down before Jim Ross, apparently)."

Monsoon: "Schultz is bleeding profusely."

Okerlund: "He has been split wide open!"

Monsoon: "I can't believe he's even still conscious."

This was simple, yet effective commentary. Okerlund then went for the kill:

Okerlund: "Boy is this a classic. This is probably one of the greatest matches I have ever seen, and only in the World Wrestling Federation."

Schultz would miss an elbow off the top rope and then Hogan would win with a clothesline. A simple clothesline, not a series of false finishes or near-falls, but a clothesline. Jim Cornette would have been very happy.

Back in the studio, Hayes says, "I would suspect that we have not heard the last of Dr. D." Hayes' role is to treat everything legitimately. He did a fantastic job, even when he was telling bald-faced lies. When making excuses for Hogan's biting, Hayes said with a straight face: "Bear in mind that Hogan is a fantastically scientific wrestler." Unintentional comedy at its best.

In probably the second-worst segment of the show, out comes "The Butcher" Paul Vachon. In true talk show form, Vachon told a great joke:

Vachon: "It's a pleasure to be here on TNT. They said to me 'Butcher, you are going to go on TNT' and I said 'What I am going to do there' and they said you are going to meet Vince McMahon and you are going to meet the Lord, and I said 'I don't think I am ready.'"

Vachon, in the first of two musical moments of the day, walked over to the band and started singing. Vachon promises to deliver.

Vachon: "Wrestling fans don't expect a 300-pound, bald-headed French canadian Lumberjack to be able to sing."  He was actually pretty good. He was no Luciano Pavarotti, but he was at least as good as the Road Dogg. He had a good voice, singing about something in French. 

But the name on the marquee does say wrestling, so it's back to the squared circle with Vachon wrestling Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka.

Vachon went old-school on him, scratching his back and hitting him on the head. Unfortunately, at this stage of his career, Vachon was old and Snuka was the WWF's guy. In a hilarious moment, Vachon is flailing on the mat as Snuka gets ready for his signature dive. Snuka leaps, and Vachon pulls his head up like he's the Undertaker. Snuka, mid-air, has to improvise and instead delivers a headbutt to the back of Vachon's head to get the win.

It did not look good. Had it happened in an ECW ring, the crowd surely would have started chanting, "You Can't Wrestle." The referee and Snuka engaged in some light banter after the pin, like the ref was telling Snuka he should have kept the match going. 

McMahon and Hayes are back in the studio and analyzing the match when the mailbag arrives, hitting Hayes' feet. One man from Seattle asked if Snuka deserved a title shot. Another woman asked TNT to show clips of Red Bastien to show whether he was good looking or not. Hayes read the questions, and I wondered if the questions were actually written on the paper, or if he was making them up.

As Ric Flair would say, now we go to school. McMahon brings out Gorilla Monsoon, the voice of the WWF during its 1980s explosion. Monsoon, it appears, may have been one of the smartest professional wrestlers in history. He delivered a great promo putting the show over.

Monsoon: "It's a pleasure to be a part of the greatest wresting program since the greeks started it. It certainly is an asset to be associated with an organization that can produce this kind of programming and it is a great testament to you (McMahon)."

Monsoon makes TNT sound important. Monsoon said in his 20s, he was not a professional wrestling fan, but worked as a teacher and high school football and wrestling coach. You got the feeling that Monsoon was one of those "I hate professional wrestling" guys who caught the fever. McMahon then showed a clip from 1977 of, holy cow, MUHAMMAD ALI at ringside. Forget Mike Tyson and DX. Long before then, Ali was at a WWF show. 

Monsoon was wrestling Baron Mikel Scicluna. While it looked like it would be a great match, after Monsoon threw Scicluna through the ropes and onto the concrete floor, Ali decided to take off his shirt and enter the wrestling ring. Scicluna fled the scene. Ali stormed the ring as Vince McMahon said, "Muhammad Ali is going to commit sucide here!" Ali jumped in the ring and start red throwing jabs that Monsoon deflected. 

Monsoon then picked him up and put him in an airplane spin before dropping him on his back. McMahon screamed "Muhammad Ali has learned a lesson here the hard way." It is striking here to see how McMahon gave very little respect to Ali, treating him like he was any old boxer. This was a vehicle to put over Monsoon.

At ringside, McMahon, bedazzled in a spectacular red jacket, interviews Monsoon, who articulately explains how it went down.

Monsoon: "This guy may be a great boxer, but he doesn't belong in the squared circle with a professional wrestler. This guy is nothing. This guy doesn't know a wrist lock from a wrist watch. All he knows is how to throw a few lousy jabs. That is not going to stop a wrestler."

Back in the TNT studios, McMahon and Monsoon (Hayes is getting increasingly less TV time) discuss, of all things, MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. McMahon calls wrestling the greatest martial art, while Monsoon says boxers don't know anything about wrestling. 

Monsoon: "There's no professional athlete in any field that is going to step into the professional wrestling ring and take advantage of a professional wrestler. It just cannot be done." Ah, Gorilla, meet CM Punk. And thank goodness, Monsoon wasn't around to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. knock out The Big Show.

After the break, McMahon welcomes Captain 'Louis' Albano.

Albano is off-the-chart spectacular here. He comes out in his Hawaiian shirt, flip flops and choking, playing the slob role perfectly. 

McMahon is playing the instigator role tremendously and now we fully understand why Stephanie McMahon became the Billion-Dollar Princess and the chief agitator for The Authority. 

McMahon: "Does it bother you that you are something less than welcomed as far as general wrestling fans are concerned? You heard the boos here moments ago. It seems to me that you are a most unpopular individual. How does that sit with 'Louis' Albano?"

Albano responds that he doesn't care about anything other than the greenbacks and "the bread" and then lets out a huge burp that prompts McMahon to show a face of disgust. 

The whole theme of Albano on the show is that he claims to have made Cyndi Lauper and took her from her days as a "broad from Queens" to an international superstar. McMahon attempts to challenge how much Albano knows about music, questioning his musical background.

Albano then, with a perfect combination of cadence, seriousness and comedy, responded: "I happened to be an accomplished musician. I happen to play nine instruments fluently, but piano is my best one."

McMahon rolled his eyes brilliantly. Albano then left the TNT chair and headed toward the band. Albano moved the piano bench around, closed the cover over the keys, then re-opened it, and then took a seat. With his right hand, he stroked a couple of keys and grumbles, "Boy, is this thing out of tune!"

This was laugh-out-loud material. Meanwhile, McMahon and Hayes are bullying Albano, wondering whether the bench would even hold the 350 pound Albano. Albano cracks his knuckles and yells at Hayes and McMahon to "SHAT UP, OVER THERE!"

The joke here is that there's no way Albano could actually play the piano, right? WRONG.

Albano then plays the piano like he had more than a few lessons growing up, dazzling the audience with his skills. I don't know what the song was, but it was really well done, and Albano stunned everyone with his refined skills. Just when we were really enjoying it, Albano stopped and screamed at McMahon, "How do you like that, Junior? I always call him Junior."

In a rare moment of humility for the greatest wrestling promoter of all time, McMahon admits that he is "impressed." McMahon: "I guess you do know something about music. I guess there is some truth to your musical credentials." After Albano stunned the world, he got back on point.

Albano: "I took Cyndi Lauper. She was nothing more than a bar room lady. I don't like to use the word 'broad,' but that's what she was, a bar room lady. I taught her etiquette. I taught her how to dress."

TNT then cut to a Piper's Pit where Albano is going on about producing, directing, and writing Lauper's hit song and video "Girls Just Want To Have Fun". He shows everything he is responsible for, from a feature story in USA Today to an article in Life Magazine, even for her album cover. 

The backdrop here is that Albano kept promising to get Lauper on the Pit, but he could never make it happen. So Piper eventually did it himself and brought Lauper in. 

They cut to an episode of Piper's Pit and Piper brings out Lauper.

Piper, of course, because he's one of the best on the microphone of all time, carries the segment, telling Lauper that they are both No. 1 at what they do. He asks Lauper to explain how Albano made her career.

Lauper: "I love Lou, but he's not my manager."

Piper: "You are not calling Lou Albano a liar!"

Piper then brings out Albano, who acts like an insane man around Lauper. Albano tells Lauper to tell everyone that he discovered her in Queens and wrote the words to all her songs. Albano then pushes it and orders Lauper to tell everybody how "women belong in the kitchen and pregnant and than no woman has ever accomplished anything without a man behind her."

Suddenly, it stopped being funny. Lauper says she doesn't like Lou saying stuff like that. Albano called Lauper a "broad" and told her to "SHAT UP!"  Lauper then went nuts and flipped the table over and hit Albano over the head with her purse. Lauper's real manager David Wolff then came out and rescued Lauper from the weirdness that is professional wrestling.

Back at the studio, Albano won't stop:

Albano: "She had a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume in her purse. She's nothing but a ballroom tramp."

McMahon: "Get ahold of yourself, please."

Albano: "You are a disgrace to yourself and your family" as he spits.

What a segment. Albano certainly didn't get the credit he deserved for his role in the explosion of professional wrestling. He killed it like Chael Sonnen in the build up of the first Anderson Silva match. 

The next guest is Wolff, who is quite boring and normal when compared to professional wrestlers. Wolff says rather than slander lawsuits against Albano, they are going to settle this on Albano's terms, in his world, in the wrestling ring.

Wolff says Lauper will get a female wrestler and Albano should get his and the two will fight on MTV. Back at TNT studios, Wolff calls Albano one of the "abominable liars he's ever met."

From off-camera, Albano rushes Wolff in his chair and says, "What are you going to do, punk?"

McMahon apologizes for the ruckus.

The show ends with an odd interview with Terry Daniels, in full Marine Corps uniform, billed as the first inductee into Sgt. Slaughter's Cobra Corps. Daniels looks so out of place. They then show a clip of Slaughter wrestling Tiger Chung Lee with Daniels leading him into the ring, followed by Slaughter in New York staring at our national monuments.

McMahon then decided to end the show with a short clip of Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon wrestling Buddy Colt in Minneapolis, perhaps as a time-filler. There really wasn't much to it.

McMahon announces that next week, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine will appear on the show and that Valentine's wife is a "very attractive woman."

Hayes responded awkwardly: "She's a beautiful girl, she really is, but let's face it, Greg is a really good looking fellow. They deserve each other."

The WWF packed tons of storyline and character development into this two-hour show. The stage is set for the emergence of the rock 'n' wrestling connection and Hulk Hogan, Capt. Lou Albano, and Rowdy Roddy Piper are about to become huge stars.

The wrestling gods certainly smiled on McMahon and the WWF in 1984.