A trip down memory lane as Greg DeMarco fires up the WWE Network and watches the Wrestling Classic, a 16-man tournament that was the precursor to WWE’s King Of The Ring!
As many of you know, a retooled WWE Network has been rolled out on pretty much every platform. Some things are missing (Hidden Gems, anyone?), and others are odd (sound has been off for me on Chrome). Those are bugs I expect to see worked out soon, but overall I love the new interface. While playing around with it, I decided to watch Wrestling Classic, a 1985 one-night, 16-man tournament put on by the then-WWE for a packed house at Chicago’s Rosemont Horizon.
Side note, Eric Ames covered this very event as a Chairshot Classic, and you can read that here. He did a bang-up job, but our formats are going to be very different, so I recommend checking both out!
And while you’re checking things out, pick up your very own Chairshot t-shirt:
The Wrestling Classic – 11/7/1985
Rosemont Horizon, Chicago, Illinois
The tournament was put-on mostly for effect, as no prize was on-the-line for winner. King Of The Ring was largely that way, and the Royal Rumble started off being for nothing but a battle royal victory. It didn’t take away from the event itself, which for 1985 was great, and in my opinion still holds up today. I know the in-ring action doesn’t hold a candle to what we see today, but the psychology and crowd interactions are also lessons today’s product needs to absorb.
- Adrian Adonis pinned Corporal Kirchner
- Dynamite Kid pinned Nikolai Volkoff
- Randy Savage pinned Ivan Putski
- Ricky Steamboat beat Davey Boy Smith by inuyry default
- Junkyard Dog pinned The Iron Sheik
- Moondog Spot beat Terry Funk via countout
- Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana pinned Don Muraco
- Paul Orndorff beat Bob Orton by disqualification
The first round was rushed, but we have 15 total matches on the card to get through. Thankfully, future one-night tournaments would normally follow an 8-man format, providing for a much better pace. The size of the tournament was part of the spectacle. The format also sold this, as the first round matches had a 10-minute time limit, and the commentators sold the need to end a match early to conserve energy for later in the night.
Two interesting interactions were Ricky Steamboat vs. Davey Boy Smith and Terry Funk vs. Moondog Spot. Steamboat-Smith was babyface vs babyface, and the match ended when the Smith crotched himself on a dive towards the ropes and couldn’t continue. Steamboat didn’t want to win this way, but did advance because of it. Funk-Spot was equally unique, as Funk and Spot agreed they wouldn’t fight each other (honor among thieves?), only to see Funk’s attack on Spot backfire and the man made of cheese pick up a quick countout win.
Also fun was the fact that Randy Savage pinned Ivan Putski by placing his feet on the ropes, but Don Muraco failed to do so later in the round when the ref saw and stopped it. Santana would win quickly after with a small package.
- Dynamite Kid pinned Adrian Adonis
- Randy Savage pinned Ricky Steamboat
- Junkyard Dog pinned Moondog Spot
- Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana and Paul Orndorff battled to a double countout
This round is really fun to dig into. Dynamite Kid beating Adrian Adonis is fantastic as it pushes Dynamite into the semifinals, an unexpected twist since he’s a tag team wrestler but is getting a one-night push. Dynamite was largely ahead of his time, and would have been a big singles star had he debuted a decade or so later. In the effort of fairness, I must point out that Adonis had his foot on the rope, a point that never stopped the WWWF Championship from changing hands, and didn’t stop Dynamite from advancing here.
Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat would go on to make history, but tonight’s match was brief. Savage won with brass knuckles, and would go on to beat Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Championship with a similar strategy three months later, and eventually face Steamboat at WrestleMania 3 in a match that will never be forgotten.
Junkyard Dog beat Moondog Spot quickly, and counted his own pinfall. There was no ref and the bell never rang, but that didn’t stop JYD’s win from being official. In the last quarterfinal, Paul Orndorff and Tito Santana wrestled to a double countout. That eliminated both men, gave JYD a bye into the finals (usually a heel move), and ended Bobby Heenan’s $50,000 bounty on the head of Orndorff, who he’d eventually manage.
Open and read later:
WWF Championship: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Roddy Piper
Many complain about the fact that Piper never got a shot at Hogan on pay-per-view, as WrestleMania I happened earlier in the year and WrestleMania 2 would see Hogan battle King Kong Bundy inside a steel cage. But this was a pay-per-view event, and say Piper get his shot at Hogan. Hogan would win by disqualification, which in this era was par for the course. The primary source of revenue for WWF at the time was ticket sales, so you had to pay for a ticket to see that feud pay off. You simply can’t compare the business in 1985 to the business today.
Semifinal Match: Randy Savage pinned Dynamite Kid
The one night push comes to an end, as Savage beats Kid by turning a superplex into an inside cradle for the win. Kid still looked like a million bucks, and the clean win for Savage (after cheating in the prior two rounds) sets him up to look like a star by the time the night is over, regardless of the end result of the tournament. This is a great time to point out that Jesee Ventura was solidly in Savage’s corner, even acting as an advisor and dare I say advocate throughout this process.
We gave a fan a Rolls Royce (Vince McMahon loves giving lavish things away), in a spot that let Savage rest before the finals.
Tournament Final: Junkyard Dog beats Randy Savage by count-out
Yes, you read that right. The match ended by count-out, giving the tournament win to The Junkyard Dog. It’s a total heel move, he beat a man who wrestled almost twice the number of minutes as he had, and it wasn’t a decisive win. Savage would go on to bigger and better things, but JYD was still the overwhelming fan favorite. (Side note: my first ever house show as a kid was main evented by JYD against Terry Funk, and he was insanely over.)
In a move that I don’t ever remember being paid off, Jesse Ventura would enter the ring and berate JYD for winning that way. You’d almost think Jesse went into business for himself, as it left Junkyard Dog looking like an idiot for winning this way.
Overall, this event was all story and little wrestling. Even the matches that could be great (Ricky Steamboat vs. Dynamite Kid, Randy Savage vs. Steamboat, Savage vs. Dynamite Kid, Don Muraco vs. Tito Santana) were too short to be the least bit meaningful. But the storytelling was fantastic, a point lost on many who might watch this today. For that reason, it’s worth checking out.