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WWF Saturday Night's Main Event episode 29 review: 20-man battle royal, Ultimate Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter, Undertaker debuts

Undertaker & Paul Bearer

By Josh Nason, WrestlingObserver.com

Follow @JoshNason

In our long journey through every episode of WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event, one thing has always been consistent: a lot changes from episode to episode. On the last of just two 1991 SNMEs, we had a new champion, a new color commentator, a somewhat new direction, but the same feeling of a tired product that needed an infusion of something positive to help turn it around.

If you’re new to these reviews (and if so, where have you been?), here’s the disclaimer: no star ratings, no snark, no deep evaluation of matches. These are the musings of a 37-year-old with a dream assignment: watching old WWF matches from his childhood on the WWE Network.

- Airdate: April 27, 1991
- Taped: April 15, 1991
- Runtime: 1 hour, 6 minutes
- Location: Omaha, NE | Omaha Civic Auditorium

Vince McMahon and our newest color commentator Randy Savage open up in front of a green screen and are excited for a battle royal tonight. Savage had been recently retired by the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 7, but that wasn’t mentioned here. Savage seemed absolutely bubbly, not exactly upset that his career was over.

Random note: even though this was a SNME, the banners all said ‘The Main Event’ as did the microphone flags. Perhaps the initial thought was another hour long show?

Ultimate Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter (w/Gen. Adnan & Col. Mustafa)

We go to the back quickly where Savage has transported and is with former WWF Champion Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan, and the SNME-returning Iron Shiek, aka Colonel Mustafa! If you’ll remember last week’s recap, Slaughter wasn’t playing up the whole pro-Iraq deal. Well, that certainly changed here. He had the Iraq flag on his khaki uniform getup, and was even wearing a beret. Now THAT is the true indication of a villain.

Sgt. Slaughter

As Slaughter talks, we see a Coliseum Video exclusive clip of what happened post-Mania 7 when Slaughter fireballed Hogan backstage after Hogan had won the title. Slaughter said he had talked to Paul Bearer about the Warrior, which makes me wonder what that conversation would be like.

“Mean” Gene Okerlund is with Warrior and we learn why Slaughter and Bearer were sharing coffee. We see the famous clip of Bearer’s ‘Funeral Parlor’ where the Undertaker attacked and beat up Warrior, stuffing him in a coffin.

Undertaker vs. Ultimate Warrior

I remember this scene completely as well as the guys in ties attempting to open the coffin. Rene Goulet!

Ultimate Warrior Casket

Warrior doesn’t say much of consequence here, but does give a decent promo, promising Slaughter that he “will bring you the ultimate battle.”

We head to the ring where Slaughter’s crew are already waiting for this Royal Rumble rematch. That was kind of big back in the day, something that we have lost in the current era of stars fighting stars on a regular basis. Surprisingly, there’s no real mention of Hogan as the new champ. Shouldn’t that be a bigger deal?

A few minutes into the match, Savage finally addresses the painted and tasseled elephant in the ring as Slaughter is taking it to Warrior, saying he can’t feel bad for what is going on. If he’s supposed to be a heel, it’s not clear. McMahon explains that there are stakes here as Slaughter has to beat Warrior to earn another title shot and Warrior has to win to be strong for Warrior...or something like that.

As Slaughter has Warrior in a bear hug, Bearer comes out with the casket. Warrior breaks out of the hold and just stares at it before Slaughter attacks from behind. As we get back from break, everyone is standing and in awe of this scene, completely transfixed by all the major players and parts.

Paul Bearer | Ultimate Warrior

As Warrior makes his big comeback, Bearer lifts the casket lid and a very young Undertaker sits up, making his official SNME debut. Both guys stare at each other leading to a sneak attack by Slaughter, Adnan, and Mustafa. Taker attacks, leading to a 4 on 1 and a DQ win for Warrior even though it was never announced.

This brings out our new champion who helps clear house before taking the belt to Taker’s head. He no sells and the two stare down until Slaughter hits Hogan from behind, leading to the champion giving chase. Hogan has to slow up as Mustafa/Sheik is incredible slow running up the aisle.

Hulk Hogan vs. Undertaker 

So, let’s explain why this was awesome and what is forever lost in today’s scene. The match was between Slaughter and Warrior, but the bigger plays were Taker vs. Warrior and Slaughter vs. Hogan. The match had stakes which made it viable. The ending helped fuel the bigger plays while teasing an even bigger play between Hogan and Taker -- a match that we’d see pay off big time later in the year.

Back to the post-match, people are freaking out for Warrior vs. Taker. Taker takes two clotheslines to no effect and a Warrior shoulderblock puts Taker over the top rope but he lands on his feet and lumbers away with Bearer. Overall, this was a fun opening segment!

WWF Tag Team Champions Nasty Boys (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. The Bushwhackers

Gene is with the SNME-debuting Nasty Boys who are also now the champs after beating...some team? There’s lots of yelling and screaming as you might imagine, but nothing worth recording here for posterity.

We go to the ‘Whackers who are with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Why Piper? Why not? The current day Hall of Famers attempt to lick Piper and lift his kilt. Now that is what getting into the Hall is all about. In a recurring theme, the Nasties are already in the ring and Hart has on a ridiculous looking motorcycle helmet.

Jimmy Hart Nasty Boys

I don’t have high hopes for this match even though McMahon says, “With these Nasty Boys, it’s perpetual motion.” At one point, Jerry Sags gets in the ring and just raises his arms to say, “I’m awesome” and the crowd boos. Butch does his babyface motion to the crowd and Sags attacks from behind. New Jersey heels!

It didn’t take long for the ‘Whackers to get the advantage back and when they cleared house, the people went crazy. I didn’t remember them as being that popular, but good gravy, they were over in 1991. We then get this nonsensical exchange between McMahon and Savage:

- McMahon - “Sigmund Freud couldn’t figure out the Bushwhackers.”
- Savage: “What about Pavlov’s dog?”
- McMahon: “What about him?”
- Savage: “A ha!”

Along the way, McMahon gets Luke and Butch confused, vindicating me completely for my plane incident in 1988. After a super close near fall that the fans thought was the win for the ‘Whackers, Knobs double-legged Butch and put his feet on the ropes for the pin. Post-match, both Nasties get battering rammed out of the ring and dancing ensues.

To the back and Gene is with Paul Bearer and the Undertaker. Both guys are true to character and Bearer delivers a line as only he can: “The Undertaker and I have been saving boxtops and the Ultimate Warrior is the biggest prize.”

Bryan Alvarez Memorial 20-Man Battle Royal: Jake Roberts, Greg Valentine, Earthquake, WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan, I-C Champion Mr. Perfect, Marty Jannetty, Shawn Michaels, Haku, Warlord, Barbarian, Big Boss Man, Kerry Von Erich, Tanaka, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Davey Boy Smith, Tugboat, Hercules, Paul Roma, Kato, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka

As men file out, Gene is with Quake and Hart and we get a clip reminding us that Quake killed Damien by sitting on him. Quake yells, “I hate snakes! I hate pets of all kinds!” I picture him going to friends’ houses and refusing to pet dogs and ignoring requests to feed fish while they’re out of town. For added effect, he starts jumping up and down and the camera shakes. He’s a human earthquake, you see.

Savage is with Roberts who introduces Lucifer The Snake. There’s no hint of tension between the two even though they’ll soon have quite the interaction later on in the year. Savage tells us, “Jake “The Snake” Roberts seldom strikes out!” What?

Gene is with Hogan. He’s got the Python Power bandanna and is in “war mode.” There’s one thing on his mind, brother, and that’s Slaughter. In an amazing example of what an interviewer should do, Gene breaks down the rules of the match, explaining to Hogan what he already knows but in a way that sets up the chessboard. “You understand that stakes. If they dump the champion, that opens a lot of doors,” he says. Great!

As the final entrant, Hogan has full bandanna on. A new streak officially begins.

Hogan goes right after Earthquake first. Roma and Jannetty are out first, both eliminating each other. Again, what I loved about these when I was younger is that you saw all of these random tangles that you’d never see in one-on-one matches. An example: Kato working over Hogan in the corner or Hogan and Valentine exchanging elbows to Perfect.

Perfect is playing the role of the guy who comes in for a few minutes and then hangs out on the apron for a while. The new look Bulldog is barely acknowledged and gets tossed by the SNME debuting Warlord. Tanaka and “He’s still here?” Snuka get tossed out next by someone. Quake tosses Roberts and starts mocking him which prompts Roberts to pull out Lucifer which brings the match to a halt.

BFFs Hogan and Tugboat start going at it, because everyone was dying to see it. Then, Hogan just tosses Warlord like he’s a light heavyweight. SNME-debuting Barbarian tosses the invisible KVE. Quake tosses Duggan who McMahon still calls “the Quakester.” Hogan then eliminates Quake and dumps Kato as well. Suddenly, Tugger comes from behind and he eliminates Hogan! The future Mr. Wrestlemania then sends Tugboat over the top and Hercules soon hits the deck soon after. Madness!

The weird thing: no one makes a big deal out of the elimination. There’s no showdown or confrontation. It’s like Hogan was any other geek hitting the deck. What happened to the doors opening?

Perfect dropkicks BBM into Barbarian who back bodydrops him to the outside. Michaels dropkicks Haku to the outside and begins throwing punches with Floyd Mayweather speed to Perfect. Eventually, Michaels gets on the apron after flipping over the rope. After ducking several punches, he gets elbowed by Perfect to the outside. You could tell that WWF saw something bigger in Michaels as he got a lot of time to shine.

What an odd final three we’re down to: Valentine, Barbarian, and Perfect. McMahon says the sentimental favorite is Valentine. As Barbs holds Valentine’s arms, Perfect dropkicks Barbarian after Valentine moves, eliminating him.

Greg Valentine vs. Mr. Perfect

No lie: the crowd is on their feet and Perfect is amping them up with every super bump he takes from Valentine’s offense. The end came when Valentine was attempting to toss Perfect bodyslam style and both guys flipped over the top. Perfect held on (it looked like one foot touched the ground) and scampered back in to win the battle royal.

If you had told me Valentine vs. Perfect would have the Omaha faithful on their feet, I would have said you were crazy. By the way, this show was in Omaha but there was no tie-in to the wackiness than ensured just a year prior.

Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (w/Sensational Sherri)

Back from break, Hart is handing out sunglasses and Piper has joined Vince and Savage in the broadcast booth. Why now? Again, why not? We go to Gene who is with DiBiase and Sherri, sans Virgil. Jeez, it took one month and she’s already found a new man. DiBiase shows a crutch and says he’s got one for Bret after made Piper have one at Mania 7.

An oddly subdued Vince asks Piper to respond to Deebs. Piper barely makes any sense but says his new philosophy is to “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Savage says, “A little emotional, aren’t you, Roddy?”

On her way to ringside, Sherri gives a provocative lip lick to the camera, showing lots of herself in the process. She knew exactly what she was doing in her various roles and is really underappreciated.

Sensational Sherri 

Hart does a jump over the top rope onto Deebs on the floor because he wants this bad. This feels like it’s the beginning of Bret’s ascent to bigger things. I mean, he’s even rocking ‘Hitman’ on the back of his trunks now. Bret is so dialed in that when he confronts Sherri on the apron, he moves out of the way just in the nick of time for Deebs to knee her instead. The Nebraska faithful went ballistic for this.

WWF Omaha crowd

Deebs gets a great top rope hangman that regains the advantage, followed by a piledriver. Savage is oddly quiet during this whole deal, barely acknowledging that he spent the better part of a year with Sherri. As Sherri attacks Hart, McMahon oddly says, “It’s not one-on-one. It’s one-and-a-half to 2 on one.” Savage and Piper threw barbs about Sherri that were subtle and quiet.

As this went on, Sherri started to interfere a little too much which completely disrupted the flow of the match. Hart showed great babyface fire during his comeback, executing all of his soon to classic moves like the side Russian legsweep, the inverted atomic drop, that classic Hitman punch, and the backbreaker into the second rope elbow. It was such a great and sensical sequence of moves that you knew was leading toward something bigger when they started, like a great roller coaster ride.

The end came when Sherri grabbed Hart’s leg again and he lost his cool and went after her. As Deebs and Hart battled on the outside, Piper had enough and walked down to ringside behind an unsuspecting Sherri. He chased her around the ring and he he found a broom, chasing her away while making a few lewd gestures with the handle. Adult!

Deebs had enough and went down to confront Hart in the aisleway. Bret met him halfway, and the two slugged it out leading to a double countout. The best part? Right before they started punching, they did a LOCK UP. Technicians!

The Mountie (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Tito Santana

It’s our SNME Death Spot Match Of The Night featuring a very young, mulleted Mike Chioda as referee. Neither man gets an entrance as we go right to action. McMahon reminds us Santana has been in every Wrestlemania to date. It’s at this point there where I remember that El Matador isn’t too far off in the horizon.

Piper hasn’t rejoined McMahon and Savage on commentary, which makes me wonder why they bothered having him on the show to begin with. The end came when Santana hit the flying forearm and went for the cover, prompting Hart to climb up and fall clumsily in the ring. As Santana dealt with him, he failed to see the cattle prod get thrown to Mountie. Mountie then “shocked” Santana in the throat at which point the most ridiculous electricity noise was made. How Chioda wouldn’t have heard this is beyond me.

Mountie vs. Tito Santana 

Back from break and Gene is with a joyous Slaughter, Adnan, and Mustafa. Slaughter gets quickly serious and chides Hogan for interfering in a “military burial”. He brings up the fire incident and says he can’t wait to have Hogan’s facial skin in his hands. That’s cheerful.

We got to Piper who is with Hogan. Years later, this is still such a weird visual to me given their history. Hogan says nothing of interest here. McMahon and Savage take us out, sharing an odd back and forth about Savage’s hat and whether the two had a good time tonight.

And just like that, Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1991 was done. By next week’s review, nearly an entire year will have passed by and I believe I hear a few “Whooooos!” in the distance.

See you here next weekend!