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WWF Tuesday Night Titans episode 35 review: Hulk Hogan, Bobby Heenan, Ken Patera & King Curtis Iaukea

- Airdate: May 23, 1985
- Runtime: 40:41

I learned three things from watching this episode. Hulk Hogan was phenomenal in 1985. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is one of the greatest talkers in the history of the business. King Curtis Iaukea has a disgusting forehead.

Let’s start there. I love pro wrestling blood. As we all learned from watching 20/20 in 1984, the blood is often self-induced. But there was something thrilling to see Ric Flair get pounded and then lift his head and see the crimson mask. You knew the guys who bled were a bit tougher than the guys who didn’t. Ever see The Miz bleed? Exactly.

But I think I have changed my mind a bit on that after seeing Iaukea on this week’s episode of TNT. We’ll get to him in a moment, and it won’t be pretty.

***** 

The show begins with Lord Alfred Hayes shouting, “From the World Wrestling Federation it's TNT.”

The first guests are Heenan and “strongman” Ken Patera. Patera was one of the most uncharismatic wrestlers ever. He absolutely needed a manager. They tried to dress him up a bit with some shiny clothes, but it didn’t really work. Patera talked at you, not to you. And why did he disappear for awhile, skipping WrestleMania?

McMahon is in full instigator mode, reminding Heenan that the last time he was here it was an embarrassing situation. He’s referring to Paul Orndorff firing him. I don’t remember this and have never seen it because this episode for some reason is not on the WWE network. But we will take McMahon’ word for it.

Heenan says he’s not the kind of man who gets embarrassed. “If I had done something wrong and I had been the average 8-to-5, clock-punching humanoid I could be embarrassed,” Heenan said.

Heenan was so great at being dismissive. Rather than show us the clip of Orndorff firing Heenan, we go to an episode of Piper’s Pit, where Heenan reveals to Piper that Orndorff canned him.

Piper introduces Heenan with some respect. "We have with us the greatest wrestling manager I have ever seen in my entire life,” Piper says.

Paul Heyman is certainly giving The Brain a run for his money, but in 1985 Piper’s statement was 100 percent true. Heenan reveals what happened like he’s in some sort of confessional with his priest. There’s an air of guilt and shame in his words.

“The world's biggest no-good, lowlife ingrate, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff has fired me,” Heenan says.

Piper looks outraged and says “he cannot do that. He's a coward. He's Mr. Blunderful. He's not worth wasting your time on.” Heenan is flustered and freaking out. “He was nothing until I took over,” he says, flinging his arms.

Orndorff did the job at WrestleMania and his reward for that was probably a big singles push as a good guy, and eventually a money-making run as Hulk Hogan’s No. 1 opponent.

Back in the TNT studios, Patera says Orndorff has “a lot of class, but it is low class.”

He claimed Orndorff’s career was mediocre until Heenan started managing him. Orndorff was cursed with a bit of what plagued Patera. Orndorff was a boring. He was a natural heel, and way better as a heel. He was way more unlikable than likable, so him turning on Heenan totally had to be carried by Heenan, who could make fruit salad look daring.

Heenan is pulling this whole segment off perfectly, a combination of paranoia, disappointment and unbridled rage.

“The day is going to come when I am going to be soaking my hands in epson salt to bring down the swelling because I am going to smack you so hard I am going to knock the taste out of your mouth,” Heenan says. Nothing like the little guy promising to destroy the musclehead.

Heenan says he remembers Orndorff, “out at Madison Square Garden like a cheap light bulb.”

Heenan then gets back to Patera, his new focus. He called Patera an Olympic Gold Medalist, which isn’t true, unless they had a category for best blonde curly perm. Heenan also claims Patera is undefeated, which isn’t true either.

We go to the ring with Patera pounding on some guy named Ronny Dee. Patera is 100 percent owning this guy, taking time to flex during the match, a move that would excite announcer Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

“Another little pose for the crowd: We like it Kenny," Ventura says. Jack Reynolds is doing play-by-bay and asks why a man as strong as Patera needs to resort to choking his opponent.

Ventura says Patera needs to cut off the ring and take away the man’s air. “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat,” Ventura says.

Patera pins him with a swinging full Nelson that would excite Cesaro. He puts one foot on his chest like he just retired Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

Back in the TNT studios Patera says he is putting Orndorff and the Hulkster on notice.

“I want that World Wrestling Federation belt around my waste. I am undefeated and everyone knows this,” Patera says. Patera would have needed to purchase one of those $250 replica belts that didn’t exist in 1985 if he wanted to be champion.

McMahon seems less interested in Patera and goes back to talking about Heenan. He asks Heenan if he is doubting himself and his abilities after Orndorff canned him. Heenan seems committed to ruining Orndorff.

“I am going to financially and physically make sure the Paul Orndorff’s living in some doorway of skid row,” Heenan says.

Heenan portrayed a genuine sense of betrayal here. This wasn’t just a wrestler firing his manager. This was a son turning on his father and moving out of the house. Heenan was hurt and it showed.

Up next is King Curtis Iaukea. I used to think Abdullah The Butcher had the most disgusting forehead in the business. Iaukea gives him a run for his money. I have to admit that I didn’t take a lot of notes during the Iaukea segment. I was too busy staring at his forehead. How and why did McMahon even allow this guy on television?

McMahon says "You look fabulous,” almost like he was trying to be sarcastic. He looked anything, but fabulous. He was an abrupt reminder that maybe it’s not such a bad thing that we don’t see a lot of blood anymore in wrestling.

Iaukea's forehead is simply disgusting. He didn’t seem to mind though. He seemed fairly happy.

Since it’s wrestling, of course, we had to sit through a gazillion cultural stereotypes, and listen to Iaukea talk about life in Hawaii and the surfer, care-free attitude. I guess all people from Hawaii just hang around at the beach all-day.

Then we get some bizarre promotional video of Hawaii, which featured lots of scenic shots of the ocean, mountains -- and skin.

Iaukea says “you can't miss me. I am the fattest Hawaiian on the island.” Points to McMahon for saying that he thought he spotted a Kielbasa tree during the video. Hayes also deserves credit for saying one of the men surfing looks like Don Muraco.

When they show the girls in bikinis, McMahon tells Hayes to “watch your heart.”

From the stereotypes of Hawaii we go to the squared circle to see some vintage footage of Iaukea teaming up with Baron Mikel Scicluna against Chief Jay Strongbow and Sonny King.

When the segment was over, Iaukea shook McMahon’s hand: “It is a great honor and privilege to be a professional wrestler. Thank you for having me here and please come my way so I can make you comfortable.”

 A lot of these old-timers really seemed to treat TNT like it were a real talk show. They seemed genuine to be there and tried to answer McMahon’s questions with legitimacy. That was another great thing about TNT. It was a total unscripted work on many occasions, but some some of the guys didn’t seem to be in on the joke. McMahon, of course, was eating up all of it, perhaps the only guy on the set, who wasn’t guessing.

From there we go to Hulk Hogan, the man who 30 years ago was one of the biggest stars in the world. It’s sad to see how far this guy has fallen. Since he’s Hogan though, I don’t doubt that he will rise again. He always seems to do so.

In this segment we go to Madison Square Garden where Hogan is the ringmaster for the circus. Hogan’s “Real American” music plays over clips of him beating up guys like the Iron Sheik.

From there we see Hogan interviewed by Bruce Beck on the MSG network. Beck is pointing out that Hogan is making a difference in the lives of 18,000 “handicapped youngsters.”

Hogan at one point puts two kids on his shoulders and smiles, looking genuinely happy. Beck asks him what it feels like to help the youngsters. Hogan says that initially he was a bit sad, but once he got to meet all the kids he realized that the were “full of life.”

Beck asked Hogan if he felt it was important for an athlete to give back.

“You've got to,” Hogan said. “These are the people who support you. It makes you realize where you stand. I don’t know how to explain it. It just make you feel really good.”

Hogan came across super genuine here.

Back in the studio McMahon introduces Hogan, who gives him a huge handshake. With the big smile on his face, McMahon doesn’t seem to interested in figuring out who was responsible for the wrestling boom of the 1980s, he or Hogan. It looks like he is just happy to be cashing those checks.

Hogan turns the focus to wrestling and says Patera and Studd are the types of challengers that the WWF doesn’t need. He praises Orndorff for dropping Heenan.

“The first good move he did was firing Bobby “The Brain” Heenan,” Hogan says.  “Since then I have seen a lot of good change in the man. I think Mr. Wonderful is right on the right track.”

As we would find out later, Orndorff’s firing of Heenan was all a ruse, a set-up for one of the greatest turns in history, leading to one of the best house show runs in history. But for now, Orndorff and Hogan are buddies. Ever notice how everyone Hogan hangs out with eventually turns on him? Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Orndorff, Bubba “The Love Sponge?” Jimmy Hart apparently is the only guy who has figured out how to get along with Hogan for more than two decades.

Hogan stays on the couch as McMahon introduces “Mean” Gene Okerlund, another guy McMahon stole from the AWA.

Okerlund was one of the faces of the WWF in the 1980s. He’s one of those guys everybody 35 and older remembers. Gene was funny and whipsmart. They show a clip of him interviewing WWF Women’s Champion Richter. During the interview Richter says: “I am not about to lay down on my back and let some woman cover me.”

Okerlund starts laughing on camera, while Richter plays serious refusing to break character. Okerlund was famous for his reactions during live broadcasts, infamously dropping the F-Bomb when a part of the set fell down behind him during an interview.

He’s in a good mood during this episode, however. He’s wearing a what dress hat. McMahon asks him where he got it and Okerlund responds that it is the last thing that Truman Capote gave him before he left.

Okerlund starts talking about the good days when he and Hayes would “cavort with an occasional maiden.” Hayes reminds us that they were maidens, not wenches, prompting Okerlund to say “not that we didn't try, but it just didn't work out that way.”

McMahon and Hogan make fun of Okerlund wearing dress pants and dress shoes, but no socks, but Okerlund is proud to show of his legs.

This segment was going great until McMahon had to show us the video -- for the third time in TNT history -- of Hogan training Okerlund. This is footage of Hogan forcing Okerlund to run, lift weights and eat raw eggs. It was funny the first two times.

Back on the set Hogan says he need to train Okerlund because he found out that he had seven maidens lined up and had to get Gene into shape.

McMahon asks Okerlund how he got the name “Mean Gene.” Okerlund admits that it was given to him by Ventura, a declaration that probably had Hogan quietly using colorful language in his head, since Ventura was another guy Hogan couldn’t get along with.

The show ends with McMahon, Hayes, Hogan and Okerlund heading to the band and Okerlund to play a few songs on the piano as the credits rolled.

TNT this week offered a great mix of past, present and future, with great jokes and humor from Heenan and Okerlund. It’s amazing to see Hogan in his prime, just oozing charisma without even trying. Had he played his cards right, he could have been an announcer, a voice of the WWE, rather than persona non grata. He’s a good reminder that no matter how big of a superstar you become, it is still McMahon’s world.s