Throwback Thursday: WWF Prime Time Wrestling (Dec. 31, 1987), As Seen on WWE Network

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This week Throwback Thursday rings in the new year with a New Year’s Eve edition of the World Wrestling Federation’s beloved Prime Time Wrestling, as seen on the WWE Network, that aired 33 years ago today!

Despite a growing industry wide contraction, 1987 had been by far the biggest year to date for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The promotion could seemingly do no wrong. Between syndication, cable television, live events, network specials, licensing agreements, and pay-per-view, the WWF had become a national powerhouse unlike anything in the history of pro wrestling. The peak came on March 29, 1987 when a purported 98,173 fans jammed the Pontiac Silverdome to watch Hulk Hogan successfully defend his WWF World title against Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. By the time this edition of Prime Time Wrestling aired the seeds for WrestleMania IV, which would again include Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, were just being planted. While this New Year’s Eve Prime Time Wrestling offers the opportunity to look back at the year that was there is little of that here. In typical WWF/E fashion the focus is on looking ahead. Beyond the slow build for WrestleMania IV the WWF was preparing for the inaugural Royal Rumble, the WWF’s counter to Jim Crockett Promotions’ Bunkhouse Stampede Finals, their first non-Starrcade pay-per-view event. Despite its origins the Royal Rumble would go on to become as synonymous with the WWF/E as WrestleMania itself.

 

 

While the main story at the time this edition of Prime Time Wrestling aired was Ted DiBiase’s failed attempt to buy the WWF World Heavyweight Championship from Hulk Hogan, the biggest story was the looming WWF Championship rematch between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. Another key story involved the Honky Tonk Man, just six months into his historic reign as Intercontinental Champion, and his bitter feud with Randy Savage that saw Honky shove Miss Elizabeth to the mat at October’s Saturday Night’s Main Event XII. Meanwhile, as we’ll see in this week’s Prime Time Wrestling, there was the escalating feud between the Islanders (and Bobby Heenan) and the British Bulldogs and the Islander’s theft of the Bulldog’s mascot Matilda. Up and down the card the WWF was rife with a variety of stories and stars that separated the WWF from anything else in the sport.

With all of that out of the way let’s get the WWE Network going, hit ‘play’, and see just how well this New Year’s Eve edition of Prime Time Wrestling holds up in 2020!

Edits aren’t an issue with this edition of Prime Time Wrestling on the WWE Network. Some music is overdubbed and Superstars of Wrestling banners blurred but they aren’t deal breakers, nor are the excised live event promos. Context isn’t perfect but it’s not bad. While the key syndicated TV of the era (Superstars of Wrestling & Wrestling Challenge) are missing from the Network as of this writing, nearly every prior edition of Prime Time Wrestling, dating back to April 28, 1986, along with all prior editions of Saturday Night’s Main Event and all past WWF pay-per-views, are available for you to enjoy right now on the WWE Network.

 

WWF Prime Time Wrestling (WATCH)
Date: December 31, 1987 – Location: Various
Attendance: N/A – TV Rating: N/A
Commentators: Various – Interviews: Craig DeGeorge

CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Hulk Hogan
WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion: The Honky Tonk Man
WWF World Tag Team Champions: Strike Force (Tito Santana & Rick Martel)
WWF Women’s Champion: Sherri Martel
WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions: The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin & Leilani Kai)

 

After the usual Prime Time Wrestling open we head inside the Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, New Jersey where Gorilla Monsoon, and co-host Bobby Heenan, welcomes us to the show. Heenan annoys Gorilla with party favors before Gorilla hypes the “featured match” and tosses to the opening bout.

 

Singles Match (WATCH – 1:17)
TAPED: Oct. 9, 1987 – Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas
Commentators: Bruce Prichard, Mike McGuirk, & Pete Doherty
Killer Khan w/Mr. Fuji vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage w/Miss Elizabeth

Killer Khan had returned to the WWF after nearly five years on the May 2, 1987 edition of Superstars of Wrestling. This match is good for what it is but it’s a basic TV match of the era for sure. The commentary is rough in this one. Mike McGuirk is great (even though she calls Saturday Night’s Main Event “Saturday Night Live”) while Bruce Prichard does his level best. Pete Doherty, on the other hand, becomes absolutely unbearable after just a few minutes. Randy Savage controls the opening minutes until Khan takes over in the corner thanks in no small part to Mr. Fuji. Khan takes the fight to Savage but cannot put Savage away. Savage tries to make a comeback only for Khan to cut him off. In the end, as Khan goes to spit the green mist, Savage ducks out of the way. As Khan acts like a surprised child at a magic show, Savage rolls Khan up in a school boy for the pinfall at 4:40.

WINNER is Randy “Macho Man” Savage w/Miss Elizabeth (Pin, 4:40)

 

After the match, and a replay of the finish, we head back to Gorilla & Bobby in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The two put a bow on the match we’ve just seen before Gorilla transitions to Heenan’s refusal to accept any of Gorilla’s Christmas presents. Gorilla produces an envelope from his jacket pocket and offers it to “Brain”, who examines it before refusing to accept it, claiming he’s not stupid enough to fall for the gag. Monsoon opens the envelope to reveal a what looks to be a 1934 thousand dollar bill. Heenan says he’s changed his mind but Monsoon isn’t sold. “You’ve been zonked twice by the Gorilla,” Monsoon tells Bobby. Monsoon says that Bobby may want the phone and bill back but he’s not getting either. We then fade to an abrupt commercial.

 

Coming out of the break Gorilla tries to bring up the growing tag team division in the WWF while Bobby continues to sulk over not getting the thousand dollar bill. With not much else to say Gorilla tosses to the next tag team bout.

 

Tag Team Match (WATCH – 11:25)
Originally Aired: WWF All American Wrestling – Dec. 27, 1987
Commentators: Bruce Prichard, Nick Bockwinkel, & Craig DeGeorge
“Iron” Mike Sharpe & Van Van Horne vs. Ken Patera & Billy Jack Haynes

After retiring and leaving the AWA in 1987, Nick Bockwinkel went to “New York” and became a color commentator and road agent for the WWF. While Bockwinkel was a fine commentator, much better than Pete Doherty, he’s a bit much here, constantly griping about the brace on Ken Patera’s right arm and the tactics both Patera & Haynes, the babyfaces, use in the match. At one point Bockwinkel nearly tosses kayfabe out the window as he grows frustrated with the lack of psychology and common sense in the match. Prichard seems willing to play along at first but by the end of this match Prichard has heard enough of Bockwinkel. Speaking of the match, it’s a drawn out squash that sees Haynes & Patera smother and dominate Van Horne & Sharpe. In the end, after a clothesline from Patera’s braced arm, Billy Jack cinches in a stiff full nelson for the submission win at 4:29.

WINNERS are Ken Patera & Billy Jack Haynes (Submission, 4:29)

 

After the match, as Haynes & Bill Jack celebrate, Demolition (with Mr. Fuji) ambushes the victors. Bockwinkel can’t help but point out that Demolition aren’t wearing an “orthopedic brace” like Patera as the babyface make a slow comeback. Demolition Ax tries to use Fuji’s cane but Patera ends up grabbing it and breaking the cane over the back of Ax. Demolition makes another attack, complete with one more jab from Bockwinkel about the arm brace, before retreating and leaving the babyfaces standing tall in the center of the ring.

 

We head back to Gorilla and Bobby, who denies being involved in Demolition’s attack on Haynes & Patera before trying to make a deal for a portion of the thousand dollar bill Bobby turned down. Gorilla puts a bow on the previous match and we head to break.

 

Following the break, after Gorilla comments on how hard it can be to keep up with everything happening in the WWF, Monsoon asks Bobby Heenan if “The Brain” was surprised that Hulk Hogan turned down Ted DiBiase’s offer to buy the WWF Championship from Hogan. (The offer was made on the November 28, 1987 edition of Superstars of Wrestling. Two weeks later, on the December 19, 1987 edition of Superstars of Wrestling, Hogan publicly refused DiBiase’s offer in an interview with Craig DeGeorge.) Heenan thinks a lot of people were surprised that Hulk refused the offer, explaining how Hogan and his family could have been “financially set”, an argument Monsoon shoots down. We then head to footage from the December 26, 1987 edition of Superstars of Wrestling of Craig DeGeorge interviewing Ted DiBiase (with Virgil). DeGeorge asks DiBiase about Hulk Hogan turning down DiBiase’s offer to buy the WWF Championship and DiBiase calls Hogan a “330-pound fool!” DiBiase says he offered a “stupendous amount of money” to Hulk but refuses to reveal the sum, saying it would make the “simpletons” minds swim. One day, DiBiase says, Hogan will realize how stupid Hulk’s decision was. “But, you know they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” DiBiase says. “But I say there’s more than one way to humble a Hulk.” DiBiase says what he wants he buys and he wants the WWF Championship. DiBiase says that even Hulk Hogan has a price and that one day DiBiase will get the WWF Championship. “And you can take that to the bank!”

 

We head back to Gorilla and Bobby and the two put a bow on DiBiase’s interview before Gorilla mocks Heenan’s top hat. After a short discussion about what DiBiase’s next plan will be we head to a montage of some fan’s reactions to Hogan turning DiBiase down.

 

After the montage Bobby Heenan introduces a special guest to the program: “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. When told that Heenan has said some not-so-nice things about DiBiase, DiBiase shrugs is off. DiBiase says that people have a tendency to change their tunes as he flips a thousand dollar casino chip to Heenan and tells “Brain” to have a good night. Monsoon razzes Heenan for being a miser and pushes the top hat down on Heenan’s head before we head to break. After the break Monsoon talks about the show to come before tossing to the next contest.

 

Singles Match (WATCH – 25:27)
TAPED: Dec. 11, 1987 – Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas
Commentators: Bruce Prichard, Mike McGuirk, & Pete Doherty
Sam Houston vs. Dusty Wolfe

Sam Houston, the former Jim Crockett Promotions standout, had been with the WWF since the beginning of May 1987. By the time this match was taped Houston was still riding a nearly perfect record on television. Houston had most recently been feuding with Danny Davis, a feud that saw Davis pick up a fluke count-out win thanks to manager Jimmy Hart glomming Houston with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone. We get another dose of Prichard, Doherty, and McGuirk in this one. While this match was the opener for the evening it’s clear Bruce Prichard is not comfortable with commentating. McGurik, as usual, is fine while Doherty grows unbearable, as usual, as this one drags on. Houston controls the action from the opening bell until Wolfe grabs a head scissors and keylock to keep Houston grounded, with the help of some hair pulling. Soon enough Houston makes the comeback and lands a stiff back elbow before Wolfe mistimes a spot and nearly knocks himself out on Houston’s rear end. Houston picks Wolfe up and quickly lands the bulldog for the pinfall at 8:40.

WINNER is Sam Houston (Pin, 8:40)

 

After the match we head back to Gorilla & Bobby who chat about Houston before Gorilla calls Heenan out for causing trouble at Caesars with his outrageous demands and harassment of celebrity guests. Following a break Gorilla begins talking about Koko B. Ware before telling Heenan that he has a surprise of his own for Heenan with footage of “one of the most outlandish things you’ve ever done in your life.” Heenan quickly turns talk back to Koko B. Ware while trying to deflect blame before we head to the ring for the next match.

 

Singles Match (WATCH – 35:36)
TAPED: WWF on NESN – Dec. 12, 1987
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon & Nick Bockwinkel
“The Duke of Dorchester” Pete Doherty vs. Koko B. Ware w/Frankie

We’ve had to listen to Doherty on commentary thus far now we get to sit through one of his matches. It’s a Festivus miracle! Koko B. Ware had been in the WWF since September of 1986, coming over from Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation. Nick Bockwinkel does a solid job on commentary talking about the mentality and psychology of a wrestler as well as putting over the mechanics of simple wrestling maneuvers, adding credibility to the action. Despite a rough start Doherty takes control of the action, dominating the match throughout. Eventually Koko makes the comeback and starts pouring on the offense. In the end Koko lifts Doherty for the Ghostbuster brainbuster and, after nearly killing Doherty with the move, scores the 1-2-3 at 7:20.

WINNER is Koko B. Ware (Pin, 7:20)

 

After the match we see a replay of the finish and head back to Atlantic City where Gorilla & Heenan put a bow on the match and have a bit of fun before heading to break. Following the break Gorilla & Bobby chat about the whereabouts of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine on New Year’s Eve before heading to the ring for the next bout.

 

Singles Match (WATCH – 47:17)
TAPED: Dec. 11, 1987 – Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas
Commentators: Bruce Prichard, Mike McGuirk, & Pete Doherty
Ken Johnson vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine

Bruce Prichard is especially bad on commentary for this one, as if he’s just given up. Given that this was the semi-main of the evening and Bruce had had to listen to Pete Doherty for two plus hours it’s no surprise. Speaking of “The Duke”, Doherty is just about unbearable to listen to by this time. In the ring Valentine dominates from the start. Johnson gets a bit of offense in late before Valentine drops the “hammer” on Johnson. After the big elbow Valentine cinches in the figure-four leglock for the submission at 3:05.

WINNER is Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (Submission, 3:05)

 

After the match we return to Atlantic City where Gorilla talks about the recent Valentine/Beefcake feud. After some back and forth about Heenan’s shenanigans in Atlantic City we head to break.

 

After the break we head to Atlantic City again but not for more Gorilla & Bobby. No, this time we head into Caesar’s Palace for Vince McMahon’s cringy, campy, over-the-top performance of “Stand Back”, off the Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II that had been released on September 21, 1987, from the 37th Annual Slammy Awards that aired on December 19, 1987. This entire presentation, from the wrestlers “playing” their instruments to Vince McMahon’s anger singing (and “dancing”), is one of the most ridiculous moments in pro wrestling history.

 

This is followed by footage of “King” Harley Race, looking like he should be singing “If I Were King of the Forest” in the Wizard of Oz, winning the “Best Dressed Ring Apparel” award. Race’s manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, gives the acceptance speech and demands that presenter “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan present the award properly by kneeling in front of Race which Duggan refuses to do. Race shoves Duggan off stage as Gorilla Monsoon arrives for the next segment. Suddenly all hell breaks loose as Duggan and Race begin brawling in the make-up area, sending make-up man Pierre running away like a woman. The brawl is a pre-taped, over-edited mess that looks as phony as the wrestlers playing instruments during “Stand Back”. Heenan ends up falling backwards into a garbage bin after hitting Race in the face with a stool. Gorilla says that Heenan has “made a shambles of this black-tie Slammy affair.” Duggan and Race continue to brawl using a variety of chemicals, chickens, and donkeys into what we’re told is the electrical area. Soon enough, after some more terrible editing, Harley Race misses Duggan and goes face first through a table. This is followed by a musical montage of the greatest “hits” of 1987 in the WWF. As the montage ends Race and Duggan, with Heenan lagging behind, burst through the screen and continue their brawl on the stage until Gorilla Monsoon subdues Duggan.

 

Back with Gorilla & Bobby the two try to put a bow on the Slammy Awards footage before champagne is delivered. The waitress returns Heenan’s quarter tip and Heenan sheepishly denies the insult. Monsoon then hypes the upcoming Royal Rumble and the two discuss the rules and how the match will play out as well as some of the matches announced for the show and Dino Bravo’s attempt to break the bench press record. Monsoon sells the event as a fan appreciation night but the event, as explained earlier, was counter-programming to the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede Finals pay-per-view event held on the same night.

 

After a break we see that Ted DiBiase has replaced Bobby Heenan. DiBiase gives Monsoon a heard time about being the host before we jump to the next bout.

 

Tag Team Match (WATCH – 1:08:32)
Originally Aired: WWF Superstars of Wrestling – Dec. 26, 1987
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jesse Ventura, & Bruno Sammartino
The Islanders (Haku & Tama) w/Bobby Heenan vs. The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid) w/Matilda

There is no match here. This was an angle from the most recent edition of Superstars of Wrestling that sees Bobby Heenan make an issue of Matilda being at ringside with the Bulldogs after nearly being attacked by Matilda. Heenan demands the dog be removed from ringside or the Islanders won’t wrestle. The Islanders walk out of the arena only to return and sneak attack the Bulldogs. With the Bulldogs down the Islanders grab Matilda and run out of the arena with the Bulldogs in pursuit.

NO WINNER declared (No Contest, 0:00)

 

Back in Atlantic City, Monsoon and DiBiase talk about Heenan’s actions with Monsoon decrying the behavior and DiBiase blowing it off. After a break Monsoon and DiBiase talk about Jake Roberts’ cunning (with Monsoon mistakenly saying that Roberts was the former WWF Intercontinental Champion) before Monsoon turns to Heenan and the terrible things he’s been saying about DiBiase.

 

WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 1:14:57)
Originally Aired: WWF Wrestling Spotlight – Dec. 19, 1987
Commentators: Bruce Prichard, Nick Bockwinkel, & Craig DeGeorge
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Honky Tonk Man(c) w/Col. Jimmy Hart

This is a fun match for what it is. We get some great pacing and psychology as well as a decent story. Jake jump starts the match but Honky quickly turns things around. Bruce Prichard sounds a bit more enthused but he’s clearly not having a good time. Jake manages to put up a fight but the distractions from Jimmy Hart are just too much for Jake to overcome as Honky Tonk takes full control of the action through a commercial break. Eventually Jake makes the comeback and looks close to winning the Intercontinental title when Honky gloms Jake with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone for the DQ at 6:01.

WINNER is Jake “the Snake” Roberts (Disqualification, 6:01)

 

After the match Jake traps Honky in the ropes and looks to put Damien all over Honky Tonk Man when Jimmy Hart sneaks up behind Jake. As Jake puts Damien on Hart, Honky Tonk Man slips free from the ropes. Moments later both Hart & Honky Tonk are on the floor and fleeing for higher ground as Jake stands tall in the ring. After a replay we head back to Atlantic City.

 

Back in Atlantic City Monsoon and DiBiase wrap up the Intercontinental title match before talking about DiBiase coming up short with Hogan. DiBiase refuses to talk about his Plan B as we head to our final break of the show. After the break Monsoon wraps the show and talks how nice the Boardwalk is before signing off!

 

Final Thoughts

This is a great edition of Prime Time Wrestling! Despite the lousy commentary at times this edition of Prime Time has a number of good matches and lots of fun between Monsoon & Heenan. There’s a lot of story in this week’s Prime Time, which isn’t usually the case, but it all works well and comes together in the end with DiBiase getting called out by Monsoon. Between the matches and the moments you can’t go wrong with this edition of Prime Time Wrestling! If you haven’t seen this edition of Prime Time or it’s been a while, you won’t be disappointed!

Already subscribed to the WWE Network? Then you can relive this classic New Year’s Eve edition of Prime Time Wrestling or experience it for the very first time! As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below!

For pre-WNN editions of TBT, click here!

From all of us at WWE Network News, have a safe and happy New Year!

Thanks for reading – until next year, see ya at ringside!

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