January 16, 2005
Sheldon Kane III
The Biggest, The Smallest, The Strangest, The Strongest
Coliseum Video, 1985
I'll give Coliseum Home Video credit where it's due. As much as their tapes were were sometimes hard to watch since almost everything was clipped to shreds, they still helped me learn a great deal about WWE's long and illustrious history. How else would I have been able to see all of those historic matches and moments at such a young age? Through the magic of videotape, of course! I got to see tons of classic matches thanks to the good folks at Coliseum, and because of this, at the young age of 10 I was able to say I saw footage most kids my age never even knew existed. Yep, I was a proud lad, bragging to anyone at school who cared to listen about how I had just scored the Chief Jay Strongbow-Greg Valentine "Indian Strap Match", or something to that effect. I really did enjoy the old Coliseum Video tapes lots. Especially the one I am about to review: yes, it's a total clipfest, but unlike so many of those, this featured such a wide array of footage it was impossible not to show it some love: The Biggest, The Smallest, The Strangest, The Strongest.
I first saw this tape in 1988, a few years after its release. What exactly was the purpose of this tape? Apparently, it was to show how many different facets there were to a World Wrestling Federation competitor. Some of them were the type of giants the McMahon family have loved banking on since the start; others were entertaining little guys (the midgets) who had the ability to make a crowd laugh with their slapstick antics; other guys were just out there, bizarre athletes who both entertained and shocked the audience; and of course, you have your immense strongmen, the ones whose impressive feats of strength made them immortals (well, most of them. Haven't heard much from Ted Arcidi in the last 15 years or so, have you? And where is ol' Mark Henry at?)
The tape's hosted by none other than future Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who mentioned that Coliseum Video pegged him to be the host because he knew all about being strange or something. At least he isn't sporting that nasty glitter wig he was wearing on the Most Unusual Matches video. After a brief explanation of what the video's all about, we head into our first of four sections, focusing on "The Biggest".
ANDRE THE GIANT
We start off with a brief 1983 clip from Championship Wrestling, of the late Andre the Giant kicking around Samu, known at the time simply as "Samoan #3". Naturally, a segment on the Federation's all-time biggest athletes can't start off with anyone else but the big Frenchman (he was also the first wrestler I ever watched). We get to see Andre throw Samu around a bit, then Samu attempting a go-behind waistlock. Dumb move. Andre just heaves out his huge behind, knocking Samu from Pennsylvania to somewhere in Ireland. We even get the moment captured in full slow-mo glory. Moving on...
At 6'6" and 270 pounds, the late, great Bobo Brazil certainly was a big man. But Bobo was a big man in other ways as well; he was the man who paved the way for other African-American wrestlers to earn a living from the sport. Early in Bobo's career, he wasn't even allowed to stay in the same hotel as his Caucasian counterparts. Bobo was the man who broke down those barriers. Here we see a brief clip of Bobo taking on another late, great legend, "The Vampire" Fred Blassie, on September 21, 1964 for Bobo's United States title. The finish of this match is seen on Volume 2 of the Federation's "Best Of" series. This could very well be the oldest WWE footage in existence.
The late Haystacks Calhoun was about as big as big could get, at 601 pounds. From Morgans Corner, Arkansas? He WAS Morgans Corner, Arkansas! No, he never held the WWWF Championship (he did get to hold the World Tag Team Championship with Tony Garea though), but let's be honest; if you were the Champion back then, would YOU have risked your well-being by giving a man the size of Calhoun a title shot? Here we see Calhoun in six-man action from Championship Wrestling in the '70s, teaming with Larry Zbyszko and grandaddy Rock, the late "High Chief" Peter Maivia. They take on Butcher Vachon, Strong Kobayashi, and Frank "The Moose" Monroe. A more complete version of this match can be seen on the Most Unusual Matches release from '85.
"BIG CAT" ERNIE LADD
Ernie Ladd was an imposing figure in the ring and on the gridiron. He also cut one hell of a promo. One of the great heels of his time, taped thumb and all. Here we see Ladd putting a beat down on two enhancement guys (one of them the late Frankie Williams), from a Championship Wrestling clip from what appears to be 1980 or '81. Poor Frankie can't even budge Ladd with a dropkick.
Ivan Koloff? Maybe it's just me, but I don't remember Koloff much for being an atypical "big man". Actually Jesse Ventura explains he was wider than most guys of his era, weighing 295 pounds at his peak weight. Fine. The clip we see here of Koloff goes back quite a way here. It may even be from around the time of his WWWF Championship reign.
Traveling back to March 15, 1971, we see Gorilla Monsoon in babyface mode here, taking on the Wolfman, who would later be managed by Fred Blassie. Monsoon was big in size, as well as heart. He weighed 440 pounds at peak, and was capable of crushing any foe with his trademark "Manchurian chops", as well as his big splash finisher, the "Manchurian Landslide." You see, big Gorilla was originally billed as being from Manchuria, dating back to his heel days. I believe it was around 1976 when they started announcing Gorilla as from New Jersey. Here, we see Monsoon throw Wolfman to the ropes, chopping him down, before hitting the Manchurian Landslide for the three-count. And they're literally hanging from the rafters.
We now go to January 1985, and Piper's Pit. We get an appearance from 6'9", 340-pound former World Tag Team Champion, Blackjack Mulligan. Mulligan fluctuated from face to heel quite a lot, and apparently the wind was blowing North on this day, because Roddy faces a face Blackjack. We don't even get to see the whole Pit, although we do catch a funny line from Piper, in which he calls Mulligan "Tex Ritter." You gotta love Roddy! As a personal aside, Blackjack Mulligan was the second wrestler I ever watched, right after Andre.
HULK HOGAN vs. BIG JOHN STUDD
Here, we get two big men for the price of one: the one and only Hulk Hogan (6'8", 310 pounds), taking on the late Big John Studd (6'10", 364 pounds). These are highlights from their December 10, 1984 clash for the World Wrestling Federation Championship at the Meadowlands Arena, as seen on the first HULKAMANIA tape (see my review). Honestly, there's not much to say here that I didn't say before in the HULKAMANIA review.
Big Nikolai was without question, one of the most intimidating wrestlers of his era. He was HUGE, with a big barrel chest and arms and legs the size of tree trunks. And he packed it all into a solid 6'4", 313-pound body. Here we see Volkoff in tag team action on Championship Wrestling circa 1985, manhandling 280-pound enhancement guy Joe Mirto. Vince goes into hard sell mode after Volkoff lifts Mirto high overhead before executing a backbreaker.
KING KONG BUNDY
6'6", 468 pounds. A man-mountain from Atlantic City, and one of the most well-remembered names from the 1980s, King Kong Bundy was feared by all he faced. After all, he did put a couple of guys named Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant on the disabled list. Before those accomplishments however, we get Bundy from June 21, 1985 from Madison Square Garden, taking on former World Tag Team Champion Tony Garea. The complete match can be found in Volume 3 of the "Best Of" series. Fun fact: long before becoming famous in WWE, Bundy had previously appeared in WWE rings years prior as an enhancement talent named Chris Canyon (no, not THAT one).
Oh, great. Hillbilly Jim. This is one guy that's best left forgotten, in my opinion. He may be a nice guy and all (and by all accounts he is), but honestly, he never exactly impressed me whenever he got into the ring. Yes, he was (storyline) trained by Hulk Hogan and all that, but what does it say about Hulk when the guy he trained to be a wrestler was average at best? Anyway, this is a clip of Hillbilly Jim taking on everyone's favorite "Michael Jackson of the wrestling world", former World Tag Team Champion and all-time great French competitor Rene Goulet. This match took place on the undercard of the famous Hogan-Piper MTV match from 2/18/85, and can also be found complete on the Wrestling's Country Boys video (though I strongly advise everyone to AVOID that tape at any cost).
Now we get Hillbilly Jim's "uncle", the late Uncle Elmer (Stan Frazier), on Piper's Pit from June 17. 1985. The 450-pound-plus Frazier actually has quite an interesting history as a wrestler, taking on some strange personas early in his career (names like "Plowboy Frazier", "Giant Rebel", "The Convict", and "Kamala II" come to mind). Poor Uncle Elmer and Hillbilly Jim end up looking like tools on this Piper's Pit, as Piper grabs Elmer's cowbell, rings it and says "You get milked today, you big sucker?!"
Now we move on to our next section of the video, "The Smallest". Wonder if Tazz will show up here? Oh wait, this is 1985. No Tazz. Or Max Mini, for that matter. (I'm only joking of course, I have nothing but respect for "The Human Suplex Machine").
IVAN THE TERRIBLE & BILLY THE KID vs. BUTCH CASSIDY & TINY TOM
This is just a brief clip from Madison Square Garden (looks to be mid-'70s), to depict what the midgets can be like in the ring. We don't see very much, just a lot of whining from Ivan the Terrible. Is it me, or have there been a lot of wrestlers named Ivan the Terrible over the years?
TIGER JACKSON & THE HAITI KID vs. DANA CARPENTER & PANCHO BOY
If my memory is correct, Pancho Boy was a Boston homie. This match comes from 1984, on Championship Wrestling. Vince and Mean Gene on the mic. Tiger Jackson was a famous midget competitor on the East Coast, who would later gain further WWE fame by portraying "The Macho Midget" and "Dink", Doink the Clown's sidekick from his babyface run. Haiti Kid became something of a cult figure in the mid-to-late '80s, befriending Mr. T and Hulk Hogan after Roddy Piper sculpted his dated afro into a Mr. T-style mohawk. If I'm correct, Haiti Kid later appeared at the AWA's "WrestleRock" event as "Little Mr. T". That could have been someone else, though. Anyway, Tiger Jackson gets the pinfall win for his team, and shows some pretty good acrobatics here too. Not of the Rey Mysterio variety, but still rather nice.
LITTLE BEAVER & SONNY BOY HAYES vs. SKY LOW LOW & BUTCH CASSIDY
December 28, 1982 at MSG, on the undercard of Jimmy Snuka vs. Ray Stevens (see my match review). There's a weird spot in this match where Sonny Boy Hates seems to be trying to perform a headstand or something, but keeps falling onto his back. Even Vince sounds exhausted by this, at one point blurting out, "What is he trying to do?" The late Little Beaver is best known for getting squashed by King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania III, and subsequently becoming Hillbilly Jim's sidekick for a while. I even remember Beaver getting splashed by the One Man Gang in the Boston Garden, which was the last time I ever saw the little guy. And of course, Sky Low Low is probably the most famous midget wrestler of all time, but he looks rather ancient here. He also does the job in this one.
LITTLE JOEY & FRENCHIE LAMONT vs. SKY LOW LOW & LITTLE BRUTUS
This is the closest one gets to a complete match on this tape. Culled from the February 18, 1971 MSG card in which Pedro Morales won the WWWF Championship from Ivan Koloff. This is Sky Low Low in his prime, teaming with his frequent partner Little Brutus. Vince McMahon is on the mic, but it's hard to tell if it's from the original master or if it was overdubbed. Frenchie gets a hot tag in this one and actually looks pretty good out there, but not good enough. Sky and Brutus get another win. Typical midget match antics seen here. And with that, we're done with the "Smallest" segment. Surprisingly, this wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Pretty entertaining, in fact.
Now we move into my favorite segment on the tape..."The Strangest"!
THE RUGGED RUSSIANS
The Rugged Russians were a masked tag team from the '70s managed by a man named Nikita Mulkovich, who would do a Russian-style dance in the ring before their matches. And that's exactly what we see here, until the Russians' opponents see about all they can stand, and chase Mulkovich from the ring. I remember someone revealing who exactly the Rugged Russians were under the masks over on the Kayfabe Memories message board, but I can't remember who they were. Odd little clip to start off the segment, which makes it all the more interesting.
Back to the Wolfman-Monsoon match from 3/15/71 that was seen earlier, this time with the Canadian in control, raking Monsoon's eyes and choking him. As I mentioned earlier, Wolfman was to become one of Fred Blassie's proteges a few years afterward, one of his first if I'm not mistaken.
This clip looks to be another early '70s piece, this time featuring "The Wild Bull of the Pampas", Pampero Firpo. Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Firpo was an intimidating sight who could finish an opponent easily with his "El Garfio" (a face claw), or by utilizing a bearhug. I remember seeing an article from an old Aptermag about Firpo, in which he showed off scars from a stabbing. This guy was probably nice as pie away from the ring, but in it, he looked as fierce as they came. We don't see very much here of Firpo, but if you want to see more, I suggest picking up the "Wrestling Gold" DVD set, which has a short - but complete - match featuring Pampero Firpo in action.
THE GRAND WIZARD & CRAZY LUKE GRAHAM
THE highlight of this tape, bar none! 1978, Championship Wrestling. After seeing a quick clip of Luke Graham abusing an opponent with a foreign object - which the Wiz takes out from the back of Luke's tights as he's arguing with the referee - we get treated to a full, unedited promo from the "Manager of Champions" himself, the late Ernie Roth, aka the Grand Wizard. One look at his colorful look, complete with a glittering turban, sunglasses, and mismatching suits, is enough to leave a lasting image. But just listen to this guy on the mic! He takes digs at Vince over "buying himself" a trophy proclaiming him "Announcer of the Year", shows off a fan-made sign that reads "The Grand Wizard Is the Manager of Champions", and comes across like a mad genius while doing it. When Vinc questions the Wiz's claims to popularity, asking why he hears so many boos, the Wizard retorts with, "It's the booze in the fans that make them boo us!" No one was better at cutting the heel manager promo than the Grand Wizard. In fact, Paul Heyman seemed to borrow a lot of his interview style from the Wiz. It's too bad he passed away in 1983. He could have been such a key player in the Rock 'n' Wrestling era.Long live the Grand Wizard!
MAD DOG VACHON
Clad in his ever-present dog collar and chain, Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon was one of the most bizarre - and vicious - wrestlers the sport ever saw. And yet, he came into the sport with an ameteur pedigree, representing Canada in the Olympics and finishing seventh place in the 174-pound class for freestyle wrestling. He turned pro by 1950, and the rest was...you know the rest. He was best known for his career in the AWA, but here he is in the Federation, on June 17, 1984 in Minneapolis (the Hogan-Schultz "Minneapolis Massacre" headlined), taking on Buddy Colt. Minnesota was AWA country, therefore Mad Dog gets a HUGE pop from the crowd upon entering the ring. We see too much of Buddy Colt dominating here, jumping Mad Dog at the opening bell. Man, Coliseum Video had some odd practices. Incidentally, Mad Dog would play a major role in a WWE Championship match about 12 years later, when Diesel and Shawn Michaels used his prosthetic as a weapon on each other. Sickening sight, may I add.
MOONDOG SPOT ON TUESDAY NIGHT TITANS
This is one of the most bizarre TNT segments I've ever seen. Apparently, Lord Alfred Hayes was hosting a British-style tea party, which was attended by the British Bulldogs and, of course, Vince. Moondog Spot and his manager at the time, Mr. Fuji, also attended. Fuji starts insulting the "British tea", proclaiming "Japanese tea very good!" Upon command, Spot goes crazy, and destroys the tea cups and coasters with his rawhide bone while Alfred freaks out. Funny thing? The Bulldogs just sit there with frowns on their faces and do nothing to stop Spot on his rampage. Naturally, Vince is also freaking. After Spot and Fuji leave, Alfred and Vince start arguing over who invited Spot to the party. Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre.
I don't think categorizing a Lucha Libre legend like Mil Mascaras as "strange" is very respectful, but at least we get to see some footage of "The Man of a Thousand Masks" in action. As we all know, Mil is one of the most well-known Luchadores of all time, and like his predecessor El Santo, was a crossover celebrity in Mexico. Here, we see Mil in action in 1984, teaming with S.D. Jones (???) against Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch. And of course, Mil dominates the action upon tagging in, showing off some impressive high flying skills and getting a hot crowd reaction when doing it. I know some people in the business (like Mick Foley) don't think much of him personally, but there's no denying this legend had loads of talent and an exciting look.
CAPTAIN LOU ALBANO
Lou Albano fits well into this category, with rubber bands hanging from his face and his strange promo style. He was also a successful tag team wrestler and manager, having managed 17 different teams to the World Tag Team Championship. But we don't get much more than a few quick highlights of Albano getting kicked around by his former charge Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, from a match at the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1982. I love this tape, but I don't get some of these clips. Why bother spotlighting someone if you're gonna show them in an unfavorable light? This was long before Albano left the Federation, so it can't be for that reason. Eh, I don't understand it. Moving on...
NIKOLAI SINGS THE RUSSIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM
This is culled from the first WrestleMania, March 31, 1985 (see my review). Why this qualifies as "strange" is beyond me. I mean, it's not like Volkoff having a good singing voice made people feel weirded out or anything.
SEGMENT ON STRANGE FASHION STATEMENTS
This is a musical montage of various wrestlers and their supposedly "strange" ring attire. If Coliseum Video truly found Roddy Piper's traditional Scottish attire and Jay & Jules Strongbow's Native-American garb to be "strange", then everyone from executive producer Arthur Morowtiz down to the guy who fetches coffee needs a good hard slap. That's just disrespectful, although coming from a wrestling organization that gave us "Akeem" and "Saba Simba", I shouldn't be surprised.
KEN PATERA & BIG JOHN STUDD ON TUESDAY NIGHT TITANS
This is a hilarious segment from TNT, January 15, 1985. In an attempt to mock what they did to Andre the Giant a month earlier, Studd, Patera, and Bobby Heenan put some poor schlub into a barber's chair and proceed to give him a haircut that makes Brutus Beefcake's work look like Christine Riley's by comparison. They dump talcum powder all over his head, smear all kinds of hair cream on him, and the whole time, they're calling him "Andre". You just can't get this kind of priceless comedy on WWE shows anymore, no matter how much they show Eugene, Christy Hemme, and William Regal singing along to Lindsay Lohan songs.
They only show a ring intro here, but just the glimpse alone is enough. Just look at her. Lady Madd Maxxine stood over six feet tall, and looked like the biggest punk rock chick anyone had ever seen. Know what else? I found her quite hot. Yes, I dig punk and goth chicks. Anyone got a problem? *wink*
THE MISSING LINK ON TUESDAY NIGHT TITANS
Perhaps no other wrestler in history can come close to The Missing Link in terms of being "strange." Even stranger, his background was totally the opposite of what he became in the 1980s. He started out wrestling in the 1960s under his given name Byron Robertson, before gaining fame in Toronto as scientific mat master Dewey Robertson. In the '70s he also took on a masked gimmick called "The Crusader". As Dewey Robertson, he also wrestled in the Mid-Atlantic area in 1979, managed by the first WWE Champion, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. By 1984, Robertson had undergone such a wild transformation that hardly anybody knew who he was! With his green makeup, odd haircut and his penchant for hitting his head against chairs and turnbuckles, the Missing Link was truly a sight to behold. Naturally, Vince Jr. wanted a piece of this, and signed Link by the end of '84. In the Federation, Link was managed by Bobby Heenan, who had trouble calming his man down sometimes. Especially in this TNT segment from 1985, where Link, Heenan, Vince, and Alfred are all in a dark cave. Link starts howling at Vince, and Heenan has to get in his face, yelling "No no, Link! NO! NO!" Maybe the Missing Link was too weird even for the World Wrestling Federation. He seemed to be gone as quickly as he arrived.
GEORGE "THE ANIMAL" STEELE
Who better to end this segment on "strange" than WWE Hall of Famer George Steele? George took strange to new heights, eating turnbuckles, flashing a green tongue, and yelling "HEY!" and "YOU!" whenever he felt the urge. Most fans had no idea George also worked as a school teacher and coach, hence why he only appeared in wrestling rings during the summer months. This match shows "The Animal" at his best, brutalizing Steve Lombardi at the Philly Spectrum, June 7, 1984. I feel George Steele had the greatest finisher in wrestling history with his trademark Flying Hammerlock. Easily the most painful finisher I've ever seen.
Time to go from "strange" to "strong." Onward to our final section, "The Strongest." Jesse Ventura warns fans that these displays of strength are not meant for people to try at home, and off we go...
BRUNO SAMMARTINO vs. BEPO MONGOL
Nikolai Volkoff makes his third appearance on the tape, this time under his "Bepo" gimmick from the Mongols tag team. In this 1970 match, he gets a WWWF Championship shot against Bruno Sammartino, easily the strongest man of his era. For those who don't know, Sammartino was a standout weightlifter before becoming a wrestler. It came in handy in his ring career, as he became the only man to ever lift 601-pound Haystacks Calhoun off his feet. We don't see much out of Bepo and Bruno here though, a criss-cross which knocks Bruno through the ropes is about all we get. Didn't exactly show off their strength, but still a fun little clip from the archives.
IVAN PUTSKI & JESSE VENTURA ARM WRESTLE
A classic segment from Championship Wrestling, August 10, 1984. This is also seen on the 1999 Jesse Ventura video which was released to cash in on his success as Governor of Minnesota. Ventura tries a number of stall tactics to piss off Putski and the crowd, like preparing to lock hands and then suddenly standing up and strutting around again. Of course, Putski then does the same thing, and Jesse goes nuclear. "Polish Power" then does this funny crowd interplay bit where he points at himself and the crowd cheers, then points at "The Body", to which the crowd boos on command. He does this over and over and in progressively faster succession. Eventually, the two get serious and start arm wrestling. Whenver Putski gains an edge, Ventura grabs the side of the table, and pulls Putski back down again. Just as Putski seems to have victory at hand, Ventura loses it, and attacks Putski with a chair. Vintage Jesse Ventura! This should have been on the WWE Hall of Fame 2004 DVD.
IRON SHEIK ON TUESDAY NIGHT TITANS
October 9, 1984. Former World Wrestling Federation Champion the Iron Sheik is shown swinging 75-pound Persian clubs over his head, his favorite strength exhibition. He also used them to injure Bob Backlund's neck a year earlier. Not much more to say about this, except that the Iron Sheik is very, very strong.
BIG JOHN STUDD ON TUESDAY NIGHT TITANS
This is from October 23, 1984. Big John Studd proclaims he is about to break the world bench press record by benching 700 pounds. What was supposed to be a serious segment contains some comedy as well, with Studd getting peeved at Vince and company when he was unable to complete the press the first time by blaming it on a "lousy liftoff." We cut to Bruno Sammartino being interviewed on TNT, when Studd comes back out to say he's going to make another attempt at it, and this time no one's going to stop him. Bruno even assists Studd with the spot this time. Yes, this time he does it, but as we all know, this was an unofficial lift.
TONY ATLAS vs. KEN PATERA
This appears to be 1985, at MSG. This is a very quick clip of a past-his-prime, pre-MTV True Life Tony Atlas, getting a quick beatdown in on Ken Patera at the opening bell of a match. No idea why this is here. If they really wanted to show Atlas at his strongest, they should have shown him pressing Hulk Hogan over his head in 1981. This somehow leads into...
KEN PATERA STRENGTH EXHIBITION #1
Rare clip from Championship Wrestling, appears to be 1977. Vince, in his yellow-sportcoat glory, conducts this strength exhibition, which shows Patera driving a spike through a piece of wood, bending a spike with his bare hands, and blowing up a hot water bottle with his lungs. A few notes about this segment: the crowd is really riding Patera badly here, booing him unmercifully and chanting "Putski" whenever they could. It really seemed to be getting to Patera legit, too. Also, when he's "blowing up" the water bottle, you can clearly see him digging his fingers into the side of the bottle before it pops. Fun segment.
KEN PATERA STRENGTH EXHIBITION #2
1985, Tuesday Night Titans segment. We see Patera holding back a moving vehicle with his legs. Impressive feat of strength, and I can see why Jesse gave the pre-segment warning. Wouldn't want anyone getting put through a wall with a car or a van, now would we? Honestly, this did look like a dangerous exhibition. Patera easily could have been crushed to death doing this.
Closing credits set to "Carnival Overture Op. 92" as usual, then we get coming attractions for Best of the World Wrestling Federation Vol. 4, Wrestling's Country Boys, and Wrestling's Amazing Managers. And that wraps it up.
THE FINAL VERDICT
This was an excellent assortment of clips from the WWE video library, although at times some of the clips didn't seem to serve the purpose they were supposed to serve. WWE Home Video would release a production similar in style to this tape in 2001 called ACTION!, which also featured a myriad of clips split into various sections. I guess WWE loves their clipfests, and when they're done right, they're actually watchable. Great tape to seek out, and as a companion piece, look for ACTION! too. I may even review it here sometime.