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WWF Saturday Night's Main Event episode 27: Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect vs. Tito Santana, Kerry Von Erich debuts

WWF Wild Kingdom

By Josh Nason, Wrestling Observer

If you had told me that an Ultimate Warrior match on the 27th edition of WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event would be great, I would have given you a free month of the Network on the house. (Well, Bryan Alvarez’s house anyway.) But yes, true believers, a Warrior match on tonight’s show was indeed really, really, good.

As far as the rest of the show, Mr. Perfect and Tito Santana shone through a 66-minute episode that intended to make its viewers weepy at Hulk Hogan’s condition...even though he showed up no worse for wear following a nasty attack by Earthquake.

If you’re new here, welcome! You’ve got off the exit for the latest stop on my journey through every SNME on the WWE Network. With no star ratings and limited snark, this is my opportunity to relieve part of my childhood and look back on my formative years watching the sport of kings.

- Airdate: July 28, 1990
- Taped:  July 16, 1990
- Runtime: 1 hour, 6 minutes
- Location: Omaha, NE | Omaha Civic Auditorium

Lord Alfred Hayes 

Of all people, the SNME-debuting Lord Alfred Hayes opens us up as if he’s on safari. For those too young to remember, there was a famous show called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, one that began in 1963 and brought viewers into the wild around the world. This was before the Internet, so forgive our amazement about seeing lions on a 26” color set once a week, ok? As a result, WWF decided to make this entire show animal themed because of, well, Omaha. Did I mention Omaha is in Nebraska? Not exactly an exotic paradise, you know?

Anyhoo, McMahon’s voice comes in and corrects Hayes, saying it’s WWF Wild Kingdom and that “all I see is annnnnnnimallllllllllllssssss!” The summer months must have been light on creative in Stamford. McMahon is live in the arena with Jesse Ventura who is in full jungle gear. We get a lot of animal and hunting references to the point of exhaustion. McMahon runs down the card and makes sure that to let us know that “returning to Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hullllllk Hogan!!!!” He never left, Vince.

And yes, we get a reference to jungle fever.

WWF World Champion Ultimate Warrior vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude (w/Bobby Heenan)

Heenan and a short-haired Rude are doing a promo in front of Rude’s logo, sans Gene. We then flip to Warrior who is going sans full face paint in lieu of the double cheek job, perhaps in an effort to make him more personable to the fans?

Ultimate Warrior

As much as I’ve lamented the WWF’s push of Warrior as champion in the SNME era and as much as I’ve noted the fans’ lack of crazed interest, Omaha was hugely into the Warrior’s entrance tonight. They were standing for a good portion of the early part of the match as Warrior was dominating Rude. McMahon and Ventura did a good job referencing their I-C title feud and how Rude beat him, establishing the Ravishing One as a legitimate threat.

Rude’s selling of atomic drops deserves its own WWE Hall Of Fame induction. Actually, Rude himself should be in. He’s one of the most recognizable names in history and had feuds with nearly every big name there was. I get why he probably won’t, but if Koko Ware and a limo driver are in the Hall, Triple-R deserves his posthumous moment.

Rude nearly has Warrior out with a sleeper and ref Joey Marella decided to use Warrior’s leg to see if he’s awake rather than his arm. “Big” John McCarthy and Herb Dean, take note. We get an awesome sequence as Rude tried the Rude Awakening and Warrior powered out, only to miss a clothesline and get hit with the Awakening out of nowhere. He kicked out at two and began his comeback, but this was indicative of the rest of the match.

Warrior hit his big splash and was going for the win, but Heenan grabbed Warrior’s hair to distract him. As Heenan went to the back, Warrior chased after him in the aisle and Rude gave chase. Eventually, Warrior and Heenan made their way back in the ring and Heenan got beat up for his troubles as Rude got counted out. McMahon never said Rude was counted out though and just focused on the fact Warrior won. We didn’t even get a bell!

Finish aside, this was a great, entertaining match and BY FAR, the best one Warrior’s had on SNME. Well, maybe second to his epic I-C title encounter with the Super Ninja, but it’s a close second.

We then go back to Hayes and “Jungle” Gene Okerlund!

Mean Gene Okerlund

Hayes is pretending they are going on safari and says they’ll encounter “lions, tigers, and bears” which makes Gene shudder. That leads to this great exchange:

  • Gene: “Are we going up the river?”
  • Hayes: “Why would you ask me that?”
  • Okerlund: “Because I always wanted to meet Pete Rose.”

I legit laughed out loud. I must add that if you have never seen the second episode of SNME and the zoo skit between George Steele and Okerlund (aka perhaps the best segment in the show’s history), do so now. Go! I’ll wait.

Back from break, McMahon throws us to a video to “reflect upon the spectrum of Hulkamania in this special tribute”. It starts with Hogan kicking ass and then the Real American music changes to a slow tempo as Earthquake splashes him repeatedly on the Brother Love show. We get slow motion montages of Hogan with Hollywood stars, beating Sheiky Baby for the title, carrying Dolly Parton in a video, and being admired in general. We then get a dramatic cymbal crash and back to Quake sitting on Hogan’s chest repeatedly as young fans look on in HORROR and SADNESS.

Hulkamaniacs 

It’s as if Hogan died. The video ends on Hogan’s stuff in a locker and the door closing dramatically as if he’s going to retire.

Hulk Hogan

McMahon is in the ring and welcomes Hoga. Despite the tone of the video, Hogan is smiling and looks ready for a night out on the town. The fans are into Hogan big time and he grabs this sign which drives Ventura crazy.

Hulk Hogan

Hogan is set to battle ‘Quake at SummerSlam and thanks all the fans that wrote all the cards and letters to him while he was down and out. He says that even if it takes him a year, he’s going to answer each and every one of those letters. Somehow, I doubt this happened, but if he sent one to you, let me know about how heartfelt he got, brother. Good penmanship?

It’s amazing just how much Omaha was into Hogan and this promo. McMahon asks Hogan about Dino Bravo being in Quake’s corner and Hogan says he’s going to have the big Tugboat in his corner to help out. Talk about a step down in friends from Randy Savage and Warrior. The fans start looking to the aisleway (no music needed, mind you) and the dastardly heels are en route to the ring. As ‘Quake and Bravo close in, Tugboat runs in, avoids falling, and stands tall next to Hogan.

Back from break and we’re in the jungle with Okerlund and Hayes who keeps calling him Jim as a nod to Omaha host Jim Fowler. Hayes does a voiceover that “nature is calling” as Gene is taking a piss by a tree. As they start walking, Koko Ware flies in out of nowhere with Frankie and starts singing because that’s the only way he can communicate. Ware is trying to find a mate for Frankie. you see. He leaves and we move on with our lives.

As Okerlund trips over a tree root, he comes face to face with Damien of Damien The Snake fame. Jake Roberts then appears shirtless in wrestling tights, mentions something about Bad News Brown, and we move on. The Bushwhackers then walk down railroad tracks as Gene simply points in astonishment. Detroit Zoo, this ain’t.

WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition (Smash/Crush/Ax) vs. The Rockers (Marty Jannetty/Shawn Michaels)

This is the three man era of Demolition, which was incredibly lame. No one liked Crush. No. One. Crush and Smash are our pairing tonight as “Ax is taking the night off” even though he’s at ringside. If you remember on the last SNME, the Rockers and Hart Foundation went to a double dq trying to establish the new No. 1 contenders, so I assume that must have been settled on Superstars of Wrestling, Challenge or Spotlight.

Smash has definitely dropped weight since we first saw the team make their SNME debut in a battle royal years ago. These are the types of observations you’re getting as I struggled to get into this match. I don’t know if it was because of the Dems or an off night for the Rockers, but this was fairly dull.

Michaels got in and Omaha got to their feet. Michaels is a house of fire and Jannetty/Michaels hit the double fist drop from the top, making it look like we’re getting new champs. Michaels gets a roll-up on Smash and as the ref gets distracted, Ax runs in and nails the future HBK with a clothesline and pins him. Wait, what? Referee Marella never noticed a guy who wasn’t in the match getting the pin? Apparently so. This was dumb.

Speaking of the Harts, they emerged from the back and complained to the ref about what happened. Then, THE LEGION OF DOOM make their SNME debut appearance and add their .02 into the fray.

Legion of Doom

Back to the jungle, Okerlund contracts “ants fever” and starts acting like all kinds of animals. Like Crush in Demolition, this was lame.

WWF Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. Tito Santana

A lot has changed for Perfect since we last saw him lose clean to Hogan on SNME. He’s got a new manager in Heenan and now has the I-C strap.The two are with Mooney and Perfect says that he’s heard people compare Santana to a cheetah. Really? Ventura says McMahon doesn’t like Perfect. McMahon says he doesn’t like people who think they’re perfect. Note to future talents: talk about your flaws a lot.

We get a great bit as the camera catches Heenan saying “Choke him?” to Perfect as he has Santana in a rear head crank. Heenan then distracts the ref and Perfect chokes him much to the crowd’s dismay. Heel synergy!

The second half of this match was fantastic. Santana was making an Omaha-backed comeback and after a big right hand, Perfect fell into ref Dave Hebner’s leg. Santana kicks out Perfect’s leg (Perfect does his flip bump on the top of his head) and locks on the figure four for the visual submission. He then hits the flying forearm and Hebner slowly makes his way over for the 1...2...and kick out.

Everyone is standing as it looks like this is Santana’s night. Another forearm from the second rope and Hebner counts slowly for two. Santana is livid as Hebner grabs his ankle. Another ref runs out as we go to break. Will we see a new champion?

The end came when Perfect reversed a small package for his own small package for the pin, closing out a tremendous six or seven minutes. Seriously, this match today would be lauded as one of the year’s best. Well worth the watch.

Ventura is in the back with Earthquake, Bravo and Jimmy Hart. Nothing of note was said.

We go back to the jungle as Hayes’ voiceover starts with “Jim is wishing for a pack of Camels.” Through binoculars, they spot Jimmy Snuka woofing and running away. They then walk by a vat of “human bean soup” (was there a joke here?) and run into Akeem and Slick. Gene and Our Lordship are trying to find the Yangtze River and ask the two where it is. Slick and Akeem say it’s the other way and just keep on walking. This was so wacky. They eventually find the river which is is more like standing water. Okerlund falls into the river and hilarity ensues.

Slick and Akeem 

“Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich vs. “Playboy” Buddy Rose

With all apologies to both guys, it’s our SNME Death Spot Match Of The Night. We get two SNME debuts for the price of one, and McMahon says Rose is “hippo like” and “walrus like”. I can’t get over that KVE wrestled with one foot. Isn’t that kind of miraculous and amazing? The end came when Rose went to the top and got slammed off, and KVE hit his discus punch for the pin.

Ventura is in the back with Rude and Heenan. The two talk about the men rematching at SummerSlam in a steel cage, meaning he finish of tonight’s earlier match makes a lot more sense now. Rude says that Warrior will be “singed by the heat of my burning desire.” That doesn’t sound good.

Mooney is with Warrior, pacing around with a neon leopard print headband like a Motley Crue roadie.

Ultimate Warrior

The only thing of note: a fly randomly buzzing around when Warrior was trying to make a point.

McMahon and Ventura do a quick rundown of the top matches at SummerSlam and send us one last time to Hayes and Okerlund who is with a chimp, “perhaps a relative from his family tree” as Hayes points out.

Gene Okerlund and Chimp

Despite a return to the campiness of 1985, overall, this was a bleh edition of SNME that did feature two really fun matches. As we enter the final stretch of our reviews, here’s hoping for a strong finish.

See you next Saturday!