July 19, 2006
John R. Nocero
Saturday Night's Main Event??
I love “Saturday Night’s Main Event” because of the debut episode on May 10, 1985.
I missed it.
I was 10 and my buddies and I were sleeping at a friend’s home. Why I can’t remember. Maybe we were a gang or he had a hot sister who walked around naked. In any event, I was there. I remember I was amped for the show. But someone wanted to watch “Tales From The Darkside,” a precursor to “Tales from the Crypt” without The Cryptkeeper (sidenote: who had the better cackle: Ted DiBiase or The Cryptkeeper?).
So I am sure we got into trading baseball cards or looking at Playboy and the next thing I know it is 1:30 am. I felt like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” decoding “Be sure to drink your ovaltine” with his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.
I vowed from that point on I would never miss another episode again, no matter if my eyelids would feel as heavy as a guilt trip from your mom because you wouldn’t call your grandmother on your birthday to thank her for that cheesy vest. You knew the shot of adrenaline would kick in about 11:15 pm as you flipped the channels, killing time. Who the hell watched the local news at that age? Then, you would flip to NBC during the last commercial before the show, and hear legendary Don Pardo with the following call, as legendary as Joe Buck calling Mark McGwire’s 61st home run.
“Saturday Night Live will not be seen tonight and will return next week. In its place we bring you..”
And then this! :
Close your eyes and you can hear “Animotion” by Obsession.
According to The History of WWE.com, for nearly seven years, the WWF preempted SNL’s Saturday night timeslot and brought professional wrestling back to broadcast television after an absence of many decades. Providing memorable matchups almost monthly, SNME allowed the WWF to reach an even broader fanbase and learn firsthand from NBC execs as how to further the production value of their programming.
Memorable? Shit. Can you forget The Iron Sheik dressed as Batman for the Halloween special October 31, 1985? I wish that was my freakin’ screensaver! That same episode, Ricky Steamboat pins Mr. Fuji in a Kung Fu challenge. Post-match, you will see Don Muraco drink a cup of liquid from the announce table at ringside, then walk in the ring and spit it in Steamboat’s eyes. Couldn’t someone teach him the fine art of blinding mist??
Phoenix. February 15, 1986. No diehard forgets that SNME set up WrestleMania 2. Two big splashes and two avalanches landed King Kong Bundy in the big bad blue steel cage against Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship. Roddy Piper whips Mr. T. like Kunta Kinte on free TV no less.
The only thing missing was Gorilla Monsoon, on this week’s episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge, say “and we will have highlights from the big matches this weekend between..”
Moments like that were why I was excited that the show was returning in March of this year, after 14 years off the air. The WrestleMania hype machine was in full swing, and I was hoping for a banner special. I thought wrong. The show featured too little wrestling and tanked in the ratings, drawing a 3.1. Really, what the hell were they expecting? Besides myself, my mom is the only one still watching television on Saturday nights and I think she is still searching for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
I was excited for the return this week. Not only did it feature better matches, but my wife and I watched with my son, and this really felt like a happening. The last time I watched with a family member was back in 1985, with my sister, and her lasting memory of that show was Randy Savage teaching Elizabeth to swim by tossing her off a cliff into the water below.
Instant feedback told me I loved this show. I was entertained. I especially enjoyed watch my son giggle as Triple H blasted the Spirit Squad’s eardrums with an airhorn, though I sure as hell hope I don’t get a phone call from his mom this week informing me that he told her to “spank my bottom until it is red.” Hell, even my wife woke up Sunday morning and went to the computer to see what happened in the main event before she logged onto eBay.
But on Wrestlingobserver.com Sunday morning, it quotes that the show did just a 2.65 fast national rating and finished last among the major networks. Why? Everyone knows the Spirit Squad is DX’s bitches, Cena is still chasing the title and despite an awkward opening segment between the Hulkster and Randy Orton, even that program seems to be working.
Could it be the product is overexposed and their intended demographic is playing beer pong and hoping to taste some lemon fresh panties at 8pm on Saturday night? Could it be that we just saw the WWE title change hands two weeks ago and the fact another change would be redundant and bad for business??
The major problem is this: the WWE bombards us with RAW, ECW, Smackdown, Heat, monthly PPV’s, their 24/7 package online, ad nauseum. Alternatives can be found with TNA or even UFC. Wrestling is there when we want it. The show is less of a happening than it was 20-odd years ago and no one watches anymore. If families do, such as mine, I want more wrestling, no matter how many scantily clad divas bounce their silicone around on a mechanical bull.
Bet everyone wishes it was May 10, 1985 again huh?