September 1984 WWF Review
The Debut of Bobby “The Brian” Heenan in the WWF
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan debuted in the WWF at Madison Square Garden on 9-22-1984. Like all of the WWF’s newcomers or return wrestlers, this came with no fanfare, hype, vignette, or announcement. In many ways, Bobby Heenan’s surprise debut and immediate programming vs Hulk Hogan was serendipitous; Jesse Ventura was scheduled to face Hulk Hogan in the main event but Ventura had a real life-threatening condition and had been rushed to the hospital before the card.
Therefore Big John Studd was the substitute. A backstage interview revealed that his manager was Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Studd had never looked so interesting with other managers or alone. Their chemistry was felt immediately, they both were “hailed” from California, Studd sounded more relaxed, even his his cape finally made sense, and Heenan put him over like no other. Studd put over Heenan as well, citing that he a great reputation.
Color commentator Mean Gene Okerlund said he knew what Heenan was capable of, and indeed he did- Mean Gene saw Bobby at his height in the AWA. Gene said he was a great wrestler, too.
But that’s not all! Gorilla Monsoon wondered why Heenan was allowed to stay at ringside during the Hogan-Studd match, so it appears Heenan may have set the new standard for managers to remain at ringside in MSG (if one ignores babyface Arnold Skaaland ringside presence for decades or Lou Albano, Cindi Lauper, David Wolfe and others..LOL).
More importantly, Studd beat Hogan by countout thanks to Heenan’s presence and they even stole the belt from ringside and kept it until he gave it to Mean Gene on TV during an interview. Later on the card, Heenan interrupted Howard Finkel’s announcement for next month’s card. He came out with a contract and demanded Hogan come out to sign it. It stated that if Studd wins by countout next time, he will win the title. Hulk came out and they had the confrontation. The amazing thing is that Heenan was the first person to really challenge and lash into Hogan face to face in 1984 WWF. For such a small framed personality, he was a threat to Hogan and the New York fans were intimidated by him and threw garbage at him on the way back as the police escorted him back. What a debut! And it wasn’t on syndicated TV. Fred Blassie and Lou Albano both were icons and still getting a lot of heat but Heenan- in one night- established himself as being equal to or better.
The best series of matches you’ve never heard about was 1984 B. Brian Blair vs Iron Mike Sharpe. They once again fought at MSG and once again Blair could not pin him. Brian Blair is a candidate for best WWF worker in 1984, and Sharpe does everything right as a heel. The sad part is that they were both complete jobbers.
The Spectrum featured a Dream Match between Andre the Giant vs Roddy Piper, however it only lasted under 5 minutes, was dominated by Andre, and ended when Piper vamoosed for a countout.
Moondog Rex had a nice TV bout against Hulk Hogan. The Moondogs, however, saw more house show action than televised. They would have been a good addition to the tag team scene if they were pushed.
Bruno Sammartino returned to the WWF- this time as a color commentator besides Vince McMahon, and brought along his son, David Sammartino. Bruno’s first TV match to call was Junkyard Dog vs Ron Shaw. He had nothing to say until McMahon asked for his opinion, in which he proceeded to say how JYD works out and is unstoppable. Bruno “coincidentally” was there to put over David in his match vs Jerry Valiant. One fan was bored with David Sammartino’s standing armbar. David did not have the look or charisma to be in the upper card of the WWF in 1984. Ironically, Brutus Beefcake scouted him at ringside for a few seconds (they would tangle at WrestleMania I in 1985). Beefcake had been scouting faces since his debut, although his motives were not known.
Bret Hart and The Dynamite Kid debuted on Maple Leaf Wrestling with an interview and tag match. This team is mind-boggling to me: it has the best members of the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs. It would have been the most technical tag team in WWF history. Dynamite was more impressive with his flashy moves and top rope dropkick; Hart was content to sell and absorb damage. Hart debuted in singles competition on WWF Championship Wrestling, looking way too serious and too skinny for what Vince was looking for in WWF 1984. Dynamite Kid in singles action looked fantastic, his only flaw to Vince being his height, sadly.
“Vice President” Jack Tunney appeared on TV on Piper’s Pit, while Angelo Mosco color commentated along side Vince McMahon on Maple Leaf Wrestling.
Sgt. Slaughter officially began his feud with Nikolai Volkoff, who was managed by Fred Blassie, and Volkoff teamed up with Iron Sheik sometimes. Nikolai and Sheik jumped Private Terry Daniels and Slaughter aided the first (and only) member of his Cobra Corps. Daniels was a jobber at this time, and Sarge was doing his own thing before this. Unfortunately for Daniels, Slaughter picked Junkyard Dog to tag with him vs. the foreigners, and said Daniels was “out of wrestling”. Sarge actually reassured us by saying JYD was an American even though he’s black!!
The Wild Samoans- Afa and Sika- were still feuding with the WWF tag team champions Dick Murdoch and Adrian Adonis in tag and six-man matches, and with Lou Albano involved heavily. It seemed like that had a chance but it was not meant to be. Albano other matches on house shows…just a very weird time for him with so much on his plate.
A familiar face in Georgia, Roddy Piper guest hosted WWF on TBS for one episode. Piper was still at his peak in September, with his Piper’s Pits. WWF showed his August MSG match vs Jimmy Snuka on TV, where Piper put him out on the concrete. But this seemed to cover the fact that Snuka was hardly wrestling anymore.
Ups and Downs
The Fabulous Freebirds were still working 6-man tag team matches against whichever odd combination thrown at them on house shows (Moondogs + Bob Orton or Ken Patera, and random jobbers). Cindi Lauper even came out to hug them on TV and they walked way with Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Speaking of music, JYD used Another One Bites the Dust and Volkoff used a Russian classical piece (sometimes). The important wrestlers were getting theme songs. Anyway, Wendi Richter was still feuding with The Fabulous Moolah around the horn.
Kamala’s push was still in full force and he worked an angle with Andre the Giant on TV. Kamala also had a safari video, with his mysterious handler Friday. Jesse Ventura was also pushed and got over based on his interviews. Ken Patera (sometimes managed by Lou Albano) was making his way through the lower card easily. Greg Valentine and Bob Orton were workmen in the midcard. Magnificent Muraco was nowhere to be seen.
Tito Santana was still chugging away, defending his Intercontinental Championship against the likes of Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton, Jr but not as frequently as usual.
It was sad to see Pat Patterson be a babyface jobber to the stars, and Chief Jay Strongbow was worse. But in those days, it was about giving back to the industry. In a later era, WWE kept older guys strong for comebacks. Dr. D David Schulz and Rocky Johnson had lost momentum. Meanwhile, Jose Luis Rivera continued to be on all the shows with no push or interviews. He never gets a good fan reaction, he doesn’t seem to care, and his matches are long and boring. I am not sure who he knew to be so well connected. I mean, he’s on every week but The Spoiler is back in Parts Unknown. Tiger Chung Lee is nowhere to be found. Yet Jose Luis Rivera gets to job on TV and has horrible MSG undercard matches- all year.
All in all, besides Bobby Heenan coming to the WWF, I felt that September was not as hot as from Jan-July. Things started to stall in August. I felt that the WWF was expanding too quickly and some guys got lost in the shuffle while others were completely forgotten. In other words, WWF needed more than 1-hour local TV shows to promote their bloating roster. (Yes, I know they had various 1-hour weekly shows and premium cable programs showing house shows, but the average viewer only had access to one of them every weekend and perhaps the ability to go to the matches in person.) The programs on Maple Leaf and Wrestling at the Chase seem like alternate realities with Billy Red Lyons doing backstage interviews. But even with these problems, my main issue is the poor quality of matches. For the most part in 1984 so far, there was really only 1 good match on a card, and most of the time none on TV. Even the really memorable cards had 2-3 good matches.