With a name as catchy as “The Big Event,” it’s kind of shocking this didn’t become an annual tradition. The show took place in CNE Stadium, which was the home of the Toronto Blue Jays before the opening of the Skydome in 1989. The stadium held about 44,000 for baseball, so with seats on the field the capacity would be even bigger here. And based on the aerial shots I don’t think they filled it, but they appear to have come pretty close. This might have been the biggest crowd in wrestling history to this point.
The show would be main evented by Hulk Hogan defending the WWF Championship against his enemy turned friend turned enemy Paul Orndorff. The two famously were on opposite sides at Wrestlemania I, but in the aftermath Orndorff and Hogan became allies against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. They became close friends, but then Orndorff got jealous. And the breaking point came when Orndorff sought to prove how close him and Hulk were by calling him during an episode of Superstars…only to be told by Hulk’s wife that he wasn’t there (though you could hear Hulk in the background). Orndorff turned on Hogan and aligned himself with Bobby Heenan. And tonight the former friends would fight for the greatest prize in wrestling.
The show opens with shots of Toronto and the stadium from a helicopter with Gene Okerlund talking over it, going over the matches for tonight.
Gorilla Monsoon, Johnny Valient, and Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd are our hosts tonight. Really a shame not to have Ventura, neither Valient or Ladd were very good.
No entrances, we cut right to the wrestlers in the ring.
The Killer Bees vs. The Funks
This is Hoss (Dory) Funk and Jimmy Jack Funk, I believe Terry had left the WWF at this point. I didn’t realize until right now that Jimmy Jack Funk was “Love Machine” Art Barr’s older brother. The Killer Bees were the midcard term of B. Brian Blair and “Jumping” Jim Brunzell. They were a pretty generic high-energy babyface team that wore bumblebee themed tights.
The Bees dominate the early portion of the match with basic wrestling holds. As soon as the Funks take the advantage there’s a cut to the Bees on the floor putting on masks. They proceed to pull a switcheroo and get the win.
Rating: *. Not bad, but handicapped by the match being edited to take out the Funks’ heat segment.
King Tonga vs. Magnificent Muraco
Wow, Haku is so thin here. Haku breaks out a nice Dropkick that sends Muraco over the top to the floor. This match is heavily clipped, as they cleverly jump from one Haku Arm Ringer to a later one. Nice try, Coliseum Video, but you’re not getting that one past me. Fuji gets a shot on Haku with his cane on the floor. Then he does it a couple times more for good measure. So devious, that Fuji.
Muraco goes to work on Haku’s legs and gets him in the Figure Four. Haku makes a comeback and hits a Flying Crossbody off the top. He looks to have the match won, but the time limit expires before the three count and we go to a draw. Announced as 20 minutes, only about 11 shown.
Rating: **. That might have been helped by the editing, I think they cut a long Nerve Hold.
Tony Garea vs. Ted Arcidi
Garea was a veteran and a multiple (according to Monsoon, six time) tag champion. Not familiar with Arcidi at all. He looks like a powerlifter and wrestles in shorts, tennis shoes, high socks, and a jockstrap that keeps creeping into visibility.
Wikipedia reveals Arcidi was a world champion powerlifter who once bench pressed 700 pounds in competition. He was let go after they brought back Ken Patera because there was no need for two powerlifters on the roster at the same time.
This one is over quick, as Arcidi wins with a Bearhug in two minutes.
Rating: ¼*. Pure squash.
Adrian Adonis vs. Junkyard Dog
Adonis has Jimmy Hart in his corner, and this match stems from JYD using Terry Funk’s brand on Jimmy Hart’s ass on an episode of “Saturday Night’s Main Event’ earlier this year.
JYD punches Adonis with his chain multiple times right in front of the referee and isn’t disqualified for some reason. Adonis is busted open a minute into the match. JYD shoves the referee and once again isn’t disqualified. Hart uses the opportunity to spray JYD in the face with Adonis’s perfume.
This match is just a mess. The ending is bizarre, with Adonis being counted out after he beats JYD back into the ring, then misses a charge and tumbles over the top rope.
Rating: ½*. That was weird.
“Iron” Mike Sharpe vs. Dick Slater
Sharpe is “Canada’s Self-Proclaimed Greatest Athlete.” I love how the announcers always have to put over Sharpe even though he’s never won a match. Slater makes quick work of him and gets the win with a Jackknife Roll-up after an elbow off the top rope.
Rating: ¼*. They only showed about two minutes, don’t know if the match was longer than that.
The Machines and “Captain” Lou Albano vs. Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
The Machines were the masked team of Bill Eadie, who was Ax in Demolition, and Andre the Giant as “Giant Machine.” The reason for the masks was that Andre had been kayfabe suspended for missing matches (in reality he was taking time off to film “The Princess Bride”). So he came back wearing a mask and teamed with various partners. It’s an old territory wrestling storyline that never ceases to entertain. At various points, some of the other Machines were Hulk Hogan, George Steele, Roddy Piper, The Crusher, and Blackjack Mulligan.
Really slow match here, which isn’t surprising given who is involved. The finish comes when Albano and Heenan get tagged in. Albano goes to town, but Heenan manages to tag out to Studd. The Machines come in to stop Studd from killing Albano and get disqualified.
Rating: ¼*. I thought we might get some fun comedy here, but it didn’t really happen.
Snakepit Match!!!: Jake Roberts vs. Ricky Steamboat
Alright, now we’re getting going. The three exclamation points are verbatim from the graphic for this match. This match stems from Saturday Night’s Main Event in May, where Roberts knocked Steamboat out with a DDT on the floor. Ricky’s healed up and back for revenge.
Snakepit Match!!! Just means No DQ, No Count Out. Steamboat takes over immediately and works on the arm. They fight to the floor, where Steamboat hits Jake in the face with a chair. Back in the ring Steamboat lands a Flying Chop and then goes back to the arm. They go back to the floor and Jake Catapults Steamboat into the ringpost.
Back in the ring Jake toys with Steamboat and ends up getting rolled up and pinned.
Rating: ***¼. Really good match for the time. Not a ton of high-spots, but I liked the build, Steamboat’s selling, and the way Jake’s arrogance cost him the match. These guys are two of my favorites.
Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules Hernandez
Suddenly Gorilla’s calling things solo. And his voice sounds different, this was clearly added post-production. I’d say this match might have been a dark match, but it’s night out and it was sunset at the start of the show.
This match is really boring. Not much heat, and the volume on the crowd is turned down because of the dubbed-in commentary. Haynes got the win with a Backslide. They had a better match at Wrestlemania III.
Rating: ½*. Didn’t do anything for me.
The Rougeau Brothers vs. The Dream Team
Another match we’d see again at Wrestlemania III. It’s a pier six brawl right off the bell. It’s a little weird seeing the Rougeaus as faces. They absolutely dominate the early stages of the match. They hit their assisted Swanton Bomb for a two count. Beefcake and Valentine take control and work heat for several minutes. Ray makes the hot tag and Jacques deal out Dropkicks. Jacques misses a Knee Drop off the second rope and we’ve got double heat. Valentine goes for the Figure Four and Ray sneaks in illegally with a Sunset Flip for a pin and the win. Two switcheroo finishes on the same show?
Rating: ***. Solid tag match there. Rougeaus worked well as faces.
Pedro Morales vs. Harley Race
Welcome to the senior circuit. There was a time where this would have been a huge match. Here it’s a bathroom match before the main event. Nothing really happens here before Race gets the win with a Flair Pin in three minutes.
Rating: ¼*. Probably didn’t need that.
WWF Championship: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Paul Orndorff
Orndorff enters to “Real American,” which never ceases to get heat when the crowd sees it’s not Hogan coming out. Orndorff and Hogan became friends when Orndorff turned face after Wrestlemania I. Adrian Adonis kept claiming that Hogan didn’t really care about Orndorff, so Orndorff tried to prove they were close by calling Hulk during an episode of “The Flower Shop.” Hulk didn’t come to the phone, proving Adonis right. Soon after Orndorff turned on Hogan and ignited this red hot feud. And lest you think I’m joking, how many other feuds have drawn 60,000 people in one night?
Hogan dominates Orndorff early. Heenan manages to distract Hogan to allow Orndorff to take over. Orndorff dominates for the next few minutes as the crowd begins to get restless. Hogan makes his comeback and hits Orndorff with a Running Knee, knocking the referee down in the process. Hogan hits a big Clothesline and goes for a Piledriver, but Heenan sneaks in and smashes a stool on his back. Orndorff has the win, but the referee is still down. The ref comes to and taps Orndorff’s shoulder three times. Orndorff celebrates as if he’s won, but it turns out he was disqualified for the ref bump.
Rating: *½. Pretty typical Hogan match.
Hogan takes care of business after the match and poses to end the show.
Overall: Pretty decent show for the time. One thing I really appreciate was we had 11 matches and something like 80 minutes of wrestling in less than two hours. No fluff between the matches, just bell-to-bell action. There were a couple good matches (Steamboat/Roberts and the tag match) and a few other fun things. Wouldn’t go out of my way to track this down, but it’s not the worst way to kill an afternoon.