WWF Tuesday Night Titans episode 12 review: John Studd attempts bench press record, Bruno Sammartino, Tito Santana on crutches
By Josh Molina for WrestlingObserver.com
– Airdate: Oct. 15, 1984
– Runtime: 1:35 minutes
– Stars of the show: Tito Santana, Big John Studd, Vince McMahon, Junkyard Dog
Vince McMahon outdoes himself again to start the show, calling Lord Alfred Hayes, “the elder uncle of Boy George.” Not sure if that’s a fashion or some other kind of joke, but Hayes for some reason is extraordinarily flattered by it, erupting into wild laughter.
I remembered Hayes a lot more fondly as a teen-ager watching the show in the 80s; as a 40-year-old adult, Hayes seems like he’s living off his accent and ridiculous suits, and not working that hard. McMahon promised that Big John Studd will be here to attempt to break the world bench press record and we’ll the met the 18-year-old Tonga Kid.
The show opens with an uncomfortable segment featuring Sgt. Slaughter yelling at his Cobra Corps. Slaughter had an incredible gimmick, and played the role perfectly, but somehow he came across extremely unlikable here, even though he is suppose to be the good guy.
It’s also easy to see here why McMahon would have no trouble incessantly pushing Roman Reigns on us, considering that back then Hulk Hogan was the man, even though the WWF saw an endless string of super popular wrestlers who would have made great opponents for Hogan, including Slaughter and Tito Santana (whom we will hear from soon). The fans in the 1980s didn’t know they could actually change the course of the show by demanding a Slaughter vs. Hogan match.
It wasn’t until ECW exploded a decade later that fans realized they were an integral part of the show. Of course we would one day see Slaughter vs. Hogan, but Slaughter would have to be turned into an Iraqi sympathizer.
There was no sympathizing in 1984, however.
In this segment Slaughter is yelling at a several of his recruits, while barking highly insensitive insults, even for professional wrestling.
– Slaughter: “We don’t want anymore Iranians around, do we?
– Recruit: “No, sir!”
– Slaughter: “We don’t want the Russians invading, do we?”
– Recruit: “No, sir!”
– Slaughter: “We want to clean up America of all the Trash and that’s what we are going to do!”
This kind of banter would not go over very well in today’s world, but during the Reagan era, the Iranians and the Russians were “the bad guys.” Slaughter is forcing his young bucks to take part in all sorts of hazing, including climbing walls, running, scaling walls, etc. Slaughter then claims the the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff could never survive this type of workout.
“That’s why USA is No. 1!” Slaughter screams.
Considering that the Sheik was a high-level Olympic wrestler, I am sure he could climb a rope, and it would probably be no big deal for Volkoff either. The segment officially jumped the shark when Slaughter asked a young recruit this question: “Would you rather be eating Vietnam rice?” Wow. Just wow.
Slaughter showed his cultural ignorance by taking the questioning further: “Would you like to be eating Russian food? Would you like to be eating Iranian food?” Apparently Slaughter doesn’t know any Russian or Iranian menu items.
The segment felt longer than a Triple H promo, but thankfully ended after 20 minutes, but not before Slaughter screamed several times how he doesn’t want any “pansies out here.”
We get our third appearance in 12 episodes of Tito Santana as a guest on the show, but this time he is on crutches and without his coveted intercontinental title. Apparently Greg “The Hammer” Valentine did a number on him and stole the title. Santana was just awesome in his role. He vowed to return to 100 percent and get the title back (he would) and rise to the top again.
“I have never thrown in the towel Vince, and I never will,” Santana says.
For some reason we don’t see the title change, but instead a match with Santana and Rene Goulet before he lost the title. These old school jobbers can really work, and they weren’t trying to steal the show like Dolph Ziggler. Goulet was a jobber legend and he and Santana had a better match than anything on WWE television not involving Daniel Bryan.
They had great headlocks, arm drags, body slams, flying body presses, and, you know, actually wrestling. Santana won after a flying forearm.
After the Goulet match McMahon felt compelled to show us the aftermath of the Valentine title change and a group of wrestlers who carried Santana out on a stretcher.
The announcer compares the moment to when Terry Bradshaw was carried of the field. It gets better. McMahon takes us to video footage of Santana at the hospital. Santana actually rolls up to the counter by himself in a wheelchair and the woman behind the counter says, “Hello, Tito.” Of course she knew who he was.
For some reason Santana is wearing his sunglasses while about to go into the surgery room. Santana is rolled into the surgery room where we see a bunch of doctors hovering over Santana to repair his knee.
“A man with your heart, I have no doubt you will attempt to make a very strong comeback,” McMahon says.
McMahon asks Hayes if he thinks Santana’s career is over. Hayes mumbles something about how we don’t know yet but that if he does return he needs to know how to counter Valentine’s figure four leg lock.
After Santana, we move to Studd who is standing by a bench press looking to set a world record.
Studd says he is going to warm up with 630 pounds. Studd does it and McMahon says, “that was a very impressive lift.” McMahon asks Studd if psychologically he is ready to set the record of 700 pounds. I don’t think this is going to go well.
Studd attempts, but fails miserably. He pops up and blames the spotter and McMahon for failing to give him a good lift, then wanders off stage.
it was an odd segment that made Studd look like an idiot. I guess they wanted to make Studd look stupid, but shouldn’t they make him look like a monster? McMahon then takes us to a tag match between the Wild Samoans and tag team champs Dick Murdoch and Adrian Adonis, with Capt. Lou Albano as a special guest referee.
These were two great tag teams. Albano, of course, messes up the match by favoring Murdoch and Adonis, whom he badly wants to manage. The champs win by disqualification.
Next up: Bruno Sammartino. This should be good.
McMahon says Sammartino looks great and Sammartino agrees and says he also feels great. Sammartino opens up talking about how he weighs 275 pounds, but was as low as 250 during his career to increase his speed and stamina. McMahon is fawning over Sammartino saying that his name is synonymous with professional wrestling.
They cut to a match with Sammartino against Bulldog Brower. I was actually impressed with Brower who was light on his feet for a fat guy and knew how to sell. The match is stopped because Brower was bleeding heavily.
In the studio Sammartino says he loved scientific wrestling, but after breaking his nose 11 times that he learned how to brawl in the ring. McMahon asks him if Sammartino would ever go back into the ring. Sammartino says he retired on top for personal reasons, but says he could return and be successful against the current guys.
The conversation then turns to Sammartino’s son, David Bruno Sammartino. The kid doesn’t look too impressive. He’s bulky and short and wouldn’t last five minutes in the current WWE, based on his look alone. Here he wins his match after a quick powerslam.
I remember this kid, but then I remember he disappeared really quickly. Sammartino is talking about his kid’s strength when Studd interrupts and starts yelling at Sammartino, daring him to spot him as he attempts the bench press record again.
This time, Studd is successful with Sammartino as the spotter. Studd is thrilled and says, “do you think I would come out here and make a fool out of myself? I knew I could do it.” Not sure if that was the official record or not (something tells me not), but nonetheless Studd redeemed himself.
It’s now time for the “Hearts & Flowers” segment of the show. Last week Heenan killed it answer questions from female audience members, and now it’s Classy Freddie Blassie who will response. (If you missed last week’s episode you must hear Heenan’s response to a woman’s question about her husband’s “six-inch tattoo).
The first question is from a woman who says her husband doesn’t pay attention to her after watching TNT. Blassie barks out that the woman needs to take a bath, shave her arm pits or change the sheets. Unlike Heenan last week, there’s no humor in Blassie’s comments, so he comes across as a sexist old man.
Whomever came up with the next question deserves a writing award. “My husband loves to watch professional wrestling, but after watching he tries to use some of the wrestling moves on me. His ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka dive off the dresser is too much. What should I do?”
Blassie says that could be a problem because the guy could miss the mark if she doesn’t bend a little. McMahon then takes the question bigger and asks whether men should be practicing wrestling holds on their spouses. Blassie says that with his second wife he used to practice strangleholds on her. “Some of these broads need to be kicked around,” Blassie says.
McMahon looks uncomfortable with Blassie’s comments.
In the final question, a 60-year-old woman says she doesn’t have a lot of experience with men, but that she is ready to take the plunge. She wants to know how she could date a wrestler. Blassie says no matter how old you are the fire never goes away. He suggests that she try to hook up with Sgt. Slaughter, Tito Santana, Hulk Hogan or even the 18-year-old “Tonga Kid.”
McMahon looks disgusted by Blassie’s comments and ends the show. Heenan last week was spectacular, but Blassie came across as mean and out-of-touch. If this segment continues, Heenan should answer the questions every week.
It’s now time for our cultural segment (ridiculous stereotype) of the week featuring The Tonga Kid.
I tried to do some quick research on how The Tonga Kid was related to the rest of the Samoans, and I think he may have been Rikishi’s twin brother, and also a member of the Headshrinkers in the 1990s. All I know is that for sure is that The Tonga Kid is related to Roman Reigns, which really pisses me off, because it reminds me of how Reigns instead of Daniel Bryan is going to win the title at WrestleMania. No! No! No!
Kid is surrounded by a bunch of female dancers, a precursor to undoubtedly the luau we are going to have to endure very shortly. Not sure what happened to Snuka, but McMahon seems to be setting up the Kid for a match with Rowdy Roddy Piper. To prove that he is ready, McMahon takes us to a match with the Kid vs. Ted Grizzly.
The match is short and the Kid wins with a Snuka-like dive off the top rope. Apparently Roman Reigns is the only guy in the Anoa’i family who can’t do a Superfly splash.
After a long and painful luau segment, it’s the end of the Kid and the introduction of The Junkyard Dog, in a series of matches designed to introduce him to the WWF crowd and build him into a superstar. The Dog was a big star in the Mid-South area, but now he’s arrived in the WWF, the latest recruit with McMahon’s expansion.
Next the Dog is taking on Paul Vachon, then Big Ron Shaw. The Dog is much slimmer here than he was by the time Wrestlemania III rolled around. The show ends with us back at the luau. For some reason, there’s Fortune Cookies and McMahon breaks one open and reads it to Hayes: “You will soon wear a skirt and experience a beautiful lei.”
Episode 12 of TNT felt a bit disconnected at times, but it did a good job of pushing Santana, The Tonga Kid, Sgt. Slaughter and the Junkyard Dog. Fans came out of the show caring about four separate guys, while also seeing some entertaining stuff from Studd and Bruno Sammartino.
It must have been an amazing time for the WWF. They are still riding the high from the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection. McMahon is stealing wrestlers from all over the country, building his roster in preparation for the first WrestleMania, which would become the biggest gamble of his career and the defining moment of the modern era of professional wrestling.