August 28, 2004
Sheldon Kane III
Villians of the Squared Circle
Coliseum Video, 1986
A PERSONAL NOTE
There's not a wrestling fan alive who doesn't love a good heel character. All of my friends have their favorites; my sister loves quite a few of them; my father's all-time favorite was one of the all-time great heels, Superstar Billy Graham. And yes, there are a number of athletes fans "love to hate" who I enjoy watching myself. The Grand Wizard and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, two of the greatest heel managers ever. Superstar Graham. Fred Blassie. Ray "The Crippler" Stevens. Rowdy Roddy Piper. The Magnificent Muraco. Mr. Perfect. Ric Flair. Stone Cold Steve Austin, in his early days. Kurt Angle. I can go on forever naming names, but that's not why I'm here. You're here to read a review, so it's a review I shall deliver. As you can tell by that introduction, the subject here is the 1986 release Villians of the Squared Circle.
I first saw this tape about two years after it was released, when I was 11. You see at the time of its release, my family was rocking the Amish and we didn't even own a VCR yet. Finally, we got one in '87, and we eventually started snapping up used copies of the Coliseum Video releases at the old East Coast Video store in Union Square, Somerville. This was among the ones we grabbed, along with quite a good number of others. I guess the store was going out of business at the time and they were selling off everything they owned. Lucky me. That said, I will say that while there is an enjoyable collection of clips and matches here, it kind of misses the mark when it comes to covering the great villians of WWE history. Coliseum misses some obvious choices like Graham, Blassie, and the Wiz. They could have at least brought the 75-minute tape to two hours if these important legends were included. Oh, well.
Nevertheless, this tape does have some enjoyable moments, so let's get down to brass tax and get on with it.
Starting off with my beloved "It began over 5,000 years ago..." intro which starts off almost all of the early Coliseum releases. Our host seems to be Mean Gene Okerlund flying solo, but we are soon joined by a "panel of experts", in the form of Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Big John Studd, and King Kong Bundy. Studd gets right down to it and tells everyone "I don't consider myself a villian, I consider myself a very aggressive wrestler!" In response to Mean Gene's assertion that the three surrounding him are "experts on questionable tactics", Bundy retorts, "We've never done anything questionable in our lives." This tape starts out fun already, as Mean Gene starts to run down some of the dastardly deeds Bundy, Studd, and Heenan have pulled off which are covered on the tape: the three of them pull a big "LMAO" every time Mean Gene names off another incident. At one point Mean Gene mutters, "You sick people." To which Heenan responds, "Thank you." Before long, we're off to our first bout:
JAKE "THE SNAKE" ROBERTS vs. SCOTT MCGHEE (4/22/86)
We're starting things off right, at the then-present, with one of the all-time great heels of the era, Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Madison Square Garden's the backdrop, and we have Gorilla Monsoon, Ernie Ladd, and Lord Alfred Hayes on the mic. I actually remember seeing Roberts live at one of his earliest Federation matches at the Boston Garden, back in March of '86. God, Jake was such a tremendous heel. This was a man who could paint such a wicked picture with his words, and top it off by looking like a cold-blooded killer in the ring. Roberts dominates this match against Scott McGhee, who was actually a fine young talent down in the NWA before signing with the Federation, where he soon became a resident of Jobberville next door to Johnny K-9. McGhee does get a bit of offense in there, which goes to show what kind of respect Jake had for his fellow workers. Eventually, Jake scores a DDT almost out of nowhere, and gets the three-count. This brings us to the appearance of "Damian", Jake's python, from out of the bag and onto McGhee. Alfred's reaction is priceless. Good start to the tape, exhibiting one of the great rulebreakers of the day.
WINNER: JAKE "THE SNAKE" ROBERTS
"KILLER" TOR KAMATA vs. PAT PATTERSON (Showdown At Shea, 8/9/80)
Off to Shea Stadium, and the legendary Showdown At Shea card in front of 40, 671 fans. Gorilla overdubs commentary, since the master tape has no commentary at all. Kamata was a big, powerful athlete from Hawaii managed by Freddie Blassie, and had a good run with the Federation from the mid-70s to the early '80s. The name "Tor Kamata" was a salute to Tomas De Torquemada, the Spanish Inquisition's Grand Inquisitor. The opponent here, although he is playing the face, was also a great heel in his day, the first Intercontinental Champion Pat Patterson. This match was short but had some good action packed into it, with Patterson not even removing his ring jacket until midway through the contest. Patterson manages only a one count after hitting a knee off the top rope. Patterson has the advantage until Kamata decides to reach for what Monsoon calls "42 pounds of salt. A year's supply waiting for Patterson." Um, yeah. Anyway, Killer Tor threw the salt, but instead of hitting Patterson, it hits referee Dick Kroll in the face. Kroll promptly disqualifies Kamata and the "Blond Bomber" gets the W.
WINNER BY DISQUALIFICATION: PAT PATTERSON
PEDRO MORALES (Champion) vs. GEORGE "THE ANIMAL" STEELE (Challenger) (6/30/73)
Back to MSG, with a young Vince McMahon Jr. doing the play by play. It's fun seeing early heel George here. In his day, he was one of the most vicious heels in the WWWF, and also had a strange aura to him; he would only appear in the summer. Some fans in those days believed "The Animal" would go into hibernation, but in reality, George was a schoolteacher and a coach, who would resume his duties when the school year started. Enough back story; let's get to the match. Right away, Morales is getting hammered with the requisite George Steele foreign object. Might I add, the "heys" and "yous" George is famous for were quite a bit more exaggerated back then, with George howling "HEEEEEEY!" and "YOUUUUU!" Sounds pretty bizarre. Anyway, Steels mainly uses the foreign object throughout this match, with Pedro making comebacks periodically. In the end, Morales rams Steele into the bolt of the turnbuckle, busting him open a bit. Pedro keeps working over his cut until the match is stopped due to blood loss, even if it was just a small trickle.
WINNER DUE TO "EXCESSIVE BLEEDING": PEDRO MORALES
"BIG CAT" ERNIE LADD vs. ANDRE THE GIANT (4/26/76)
Once again at MSG, ditto for Vince on the stick. I have this televised promo in my video collection in which Ernie Ladd cuts a funny promo on Andre, saying "The man has the I.Q. of a boiled egg. He stayed up all night studying for a blood test to get a wrestling license!" In addition to being a big, tough man, as well as being a prized protege of the Grand Wizard, Ernie could cut a great promo too. He's another favorite heel of mine. Here, we see vintage Ernie Ladd at work, using his controversial taped thumb on Andre as a weapon. That was a big deal back in the day. Eventually, the "Eighth Wonder of the World" has enough of this abuse, grabs Ladd's hand, and forces him to hit himself with the taped thumb. Andre scores a huge back bodydrop, and according to Vince, "Here comes Andre Locomotive!", i.e. a giant splash. Ladd rolls out of the way, and Ernie Ladd pulls an Ernie Ladd, taking the countout and calling it a night.
WINNER BY COUNTOUT: ANDRE THE GIANT
LOU ALBANO vs. GORILLA MONSOON (6/30/73)
Not sure what the back story to this match is, if there is one. I know this is at a point where Lou was both managing and wrestling simultaneously, and this is from the same MSG card which brought us the earlier Morales-Steele match. So once again, Vince is announcing. "Friendly" Bob Freed is the ring announcer, who introduces Lou as "rough and tough." Hmm. There isn't a whole lot to this match; in fact it follows a similar pattern to the Andre-Ladd bout. Monsoon destroys Lou, and the crowd at MSG is going crazy. Lou pulls the Ernie Ladd, and Monsoon wins by countout. Meh.
WINNER BY COUNTOUT: GORILLA MONSOON
From here, we head into a very brief clip of a two-out-of-three falls match from MSG 11/12/73, of Stan "The Man" Stasiak and Blackjack Lanza vs. Andre the Giant and Chief Jay Strongbow. The spotight is supposed to be on Stasiak somehow, but what we see is a brief highlight of Strongbow dominating him. Huh? Sometimes these Coliseum tapes just confused me. We don't even get the ending here. But for those who want to know, Andre and Strongbow won in two straight falls. The following month, Stasiak would enjoy a nine-day reign as WWWF Champion.
SEGMENT ON THE MAGNIFICENT MURACO
We now head into a segment spotlighting one of the true all-time great heels, from Sunset Beach, Hawaii, the Magnificent Muraco. Don was so great at what he did, he really made people believe he was a total ***hole. And he could be VICIOUS in the ring. We start off with a quick MSG clip from 12/28/82 of Muraco throwing then-Intercontinental Champ Pedro Morales over the top rope, and then head into...
MAGNIFICENT MURACO vs. SPECIAL DELIVERY JONES (1983?)
I am unsure of the exact date here, looks to be 1983 and appears to be Championship Wrestling. Vince and Pat Patterson on commentary. This was a very odd choice for a Muraco match, as S.D. Jones seems to dominate. As I said earlier, Coliseum could do confusing things sometimes. Eventually, Muraco surprises S.D. with a powerslam and gets the pin from referee Dick Woehrle. Not a very good selection, they would have been better off picking the TV squash match where Muraco beat an opponent down while munching on a Hardee's meatball sub.
WINNER: MAGNIFICENT MURACO
We go into a Tuesday Night Titans promo where Muraco and Fuji tell Vince, "We are on the dark side, we control the dark side!" Vince responds with "There is only one way to go as you say! And that way to go is down, Mr. Muraco!" Muraco: "Just look down, just look down and spit at everyone below us." Muraco caps it off with "We are having one heckuva time. Put that in your pipe and smoke it." Today's heels could learn a few things from Mr. Don Muraco. We wrap up Muraco's segment by cutting to the end of a match between Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Mr. Fuji from Championship Wrestling. Steamboat pins Fuji, but in the aisle, Muraco jumps Steamboat with a chair, beats him with it, and spits on him. I would have rather picked Fuji and Muraco hanging Steamboat with his karate belt, but that's just me. From here, it's off to the Holy Grail of heels...
SEGMENT ON ROWDY RODDY PIPER
Mean Gene's voiceover: "This looks like the repeat of a bad dream." Yes, it's time to get Rowdy with Roddy! This segment doesn't cover the kind of ground the Rowdy Roddy Piper's Greatest Hits tape covers (see MillenniumMan's review), but it is a fun segment on one of the all time greats. We of course start off with March 18, 1984 on Piper's Pit, where Piper cracks a coconut over Jimmy Snuka's head in the most infamous moment in WWE history. From here we go to several more Piper clips, including: Piper smacking Lord Alfred Hayes in the chops on Tuesday Night Titans as Vince screams "What's the matter with you?!"...Piper laying some Hot Rod smack down on the late Frankie Williams (my friend Dan Tofalo LOVES that Pit, as do I)...Piper and Captain Lou Albano arguing on Tuesday Night Titans in December '84 and suckering Lou with a punch so hard he goes flying over the couch...and Piper crashing the set of The A-Team in 1985, taunting Mr. T. Then we're off to some clips of Piper causing mayhem in the squared circle, the highlight being Piper's wicked brass knux shot to Andre the Giant from MSG. And that covers the Rowdy One.
Moving on, it's time for a brief clip of "Macho Man" Randy Savage's Intercontinental Title win over Tito Santana at the Boston Garden, 2/8/86. We see Savage clock Santana with a small piece of rolled steel, and referee Danny Davis (no surprise here) counting the pin. This clip was shown over and over and over on Federation TV shows after it happened, so much I can recite Gorilla's and Jesse's commentary word for word. Pretty sad, really.
TERRY FUNK vs. ALDO MARINO (6/17/85)
Championship Wrestling, Vince and Bruno handle announcing. Aldo Marino is actually Ricky Santana. This was my introduction to Terry Funk, and my God did I fear him after watching this as an eight-year-old. Mel Phillips is handling the Funker's gear, and makes the mistake of putting Funk's hat on his own head. Vince thinks it's hilarious until Funk goes nuclear, slapping Phillips in the face and flipping him into the ring, where he beats the hell out of him. To add a touch of humor to all this, Aldo Marino would try to stop Funk periodically, but Funk would just stop to take out Marino and throw him out every so often and go back to beating down Phillips. Eventually, the Funker throws Mel out to the floor and it's match time. I find the sight of the attendants hapazardly carrying Mel to the back, without the benefit of a stretcher, to be one of the funniest sights I've ever seen in wrestling. And people think their handling of Billy White Wolf after his 1977 injury was haphazard. Anyway, things go back to normal, and Funk gets the win. Whenever I think of Terry Funk today, I don't just think of his status as a hardcore legend; I also think back to this moment. I really feared for Hulk Hogan's title reign after seeing Terry Funk for the first time.
WINNER: TERRY FUNK
THE IRON SHEIK vs. CORPROAL KIRCHNER (4/22/86)
MSG, Gorilla and His Lordship on commentary. The Iron Sheik truly was one of the most hated men in wrestling for years, as he brought back so many bad memories of the Iranian hostage crisis. But by 1986, that heat was starting to simmer just a bit, and here Sheik is partying in club mid-card with that red-handed thief Corproal Kirchner (see Roddy Piper's book). The fans didn't seem to care at all about this match, and Kirchner couldn't get a reaction no matter what he did to get a cheap pop. This one ends in a DQ after Nikolai Volkoff hit the ring and he and Sheik double teamed the Corproal. You might say the double team was a foreshadowing of things to come for Kirchner (again, see Piper's book).
WINNER BY DISQUALIFICATION: CORPROAL KIRCHNER
It's now time to bring the focus to Mean Gene's three co-hosts, Bobby Heenan, Big John Studd, and King Kong Bundy. We begin with Heenan ambushing Lou Albano after the Captain was named 1985 Manager of the Year on Championship Wrestling. Heenan smashing Albano with the trophy, coincidentally mimicks the 1977 Manager of the Year ceremonies, where Albano smashed Arnold Skaaland with the trophy so hard he and Vince McMahon both went flying out of the ring. As Heenan destroyed the trophy, Bundy and Studd attacked an intervening Hillbilly Jim, as Bundy splashed Hillbilly repeatedly until Uncle Elmer and Cousin Junior stepped in.
Next, Andre vs. Studd from Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Andre dominates and slams Studd, and starts to cut Studd's hair with scissors that Heenan himself brought into the match. Out comes Bundy. Andre starts to fight Bundy off with chops, until Studd tackles him down. From there, Bundy breaks Andre's sternum with a series of splashes. This was a big deal back in the day, and led to Andre taking on Lou Albano as his manager for a while. Really put Bundy over as a force. If that was not enough...
Bundy strikes again on Saturday Night's Main Event in Phoenix, taped 2/15/86 and aired 3/1/86. Here, Champion Hulk Hogan is the victim, as Hulk defended the title against Don Muraco. Heenan was subbing for Muraco's manager Mr. Fuji, who had "Asian flu" supposedly. As Hogan was choking Heenan out, in came Bundy, attacking the Hulkster. In a visual that damn near brought me to tears as a kid, Bundy repeatedly Avalanched Hogan in the corner as Muraco held Hulk's arms. According to Hogan, the Avalanches were so hard-hitting they popped his rib cage and knocked him out legit. Bundy then followed this up with splash after splash. This led to the main event of WrestleMania 2, and one of Hulk's greatest title defenses.
We close the tape out with an infamous moment from Championship Wrestling in December 1984. Andre is teaming with S.D. Jones (????), and taking on Studd and Ken Patera. Bear in mind, Andre was the first wrestler I ever watched, and my image of him at age seven was that of an invincible goliath who no one could touch. So this moment came as a total shock to my system as a kid. Studd and Patera attack Andre after S.D. is knocked out outside the ring, and their double slam on Andre was the first time I ever saw him off his feet. After beating him down further, Heenan produces a pair of scissors, and Studd does the unthinkable; shearing off Andre the Giant's long locks. Vince's voice sounded like someone had died; fans seemed to be in shock. I know I was in shock. The image of Andre looking vulnerable and beaten was something I never thought I'd see. This still sticks out in my mind to this day.
After they were done, Studd, Patera and Heenan gloated, as Patera yelled "We killed the Giant!" A replay is shown of the haircut, and Vince ends it by saying "There ladies and gentlemen...again, we're looking at the raping of a giant's dignity." Credits roll, end of the feature. And what a finish it was.
Enjoyable tape overall. As I mentioned earlier, the tape seemed to have some glaring omissions from its "rogues' gallery", but nontheless, I did like this video. Good collection of some great, legendary heels. If you're into the fine art form of a good heel performance, check this out sometime...if you can track it down. Word on the street says this is one of the hardest to find Coliseum Video releases out there. I can tell you this, guys like Triple H and Kane could use a viewing or two of this tape. Then they could learn how the big guys break the rules.