In 1986, WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan took on all comers for the championship which included the likes of Terry Funk, Don Muraco, King Kong Bundy, and Randy Savage. During that time, Hogan was able to rely on Paul Orndorff a good friend. That was until Orndorff turned on Hogan in the summer.
Orndorff wanted to be the WWF World Champion and turned his back on the Hulkster to become champion. Hogan fought Orndorff a few times in 1986, but Orndorff was unable to win the WWF World Championship. However, Orndorff was able to avoid being pinned by Hulkster. They had matches at the Big Event and Saturday Night’s Main Event #7, both matches Hogan won by disqualification.
To close out 1986, Hogan and Orndorff would compete in steel cage matches. On the December 13th in Philadelphia, Hogan prevailed over Orndorff by escaping the cage before Orndorff could escape through the door. They would meet inside a steel cage again at SNME #9. During the match, it appeared that Orndorff had one the championship but it was ruled a tie. The match was restarted and Hogan managed to retain the championship. The victory for Hogan would essentially be the end of the feud with Orndorff.
On the house shows, Hogan continued to wrestle Kamala on the house shows inside a steel cage and was able to retain the title in those matches.
On the January 17th edition of Superstars, Hogan was presented with an award for being champion for three years. Andre the Giant was part of the celebration. At the January 19th MSG show, Hogan was victorious over Kamala in a No DQ match, and after the match Andre the Giant appeared and toss the championship at Hogan teasing from tension. The following week, Andre was given an award for being undefeated, but it was a smaller award. When Hogan came out, Andre left. There were some issues between the two men and it was revealed that Andre would have a face to face showdown with Hogan the following month on Superstars.
Question: How were fans feeling about Hulk Hogan as WWF World Champion at this time?
James Fabiano: “Of course I was enthusiastic about Hogan as champ. It was closing in on my first year as a fan, and this was my hero at the time.”
Walter Howard: “I hated it. When he did that shake you knew it was all over. It was getting stale. But I was biased because I respected wrestlers like Tito Santana and Ricky Steamboat over Hogan.”
Chad Walters-Shantal: “I’m sure I was happy with Hogan as champion. I didn’t see him too often on tv only the SNME Shows really. Cable wasn’t as readily available at the time so Hogan wasn’t as overexposed as he would’ve been today.
Mike Campbell: “He was my favorite wrestler, and was always beating those scary bad guys. I loved that he was the champion.”
Question: Did you believe in Paul Orndorff as a challenger to Hogan?
James Fabiano: “The Orndorff turn was my first heel turn. So I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought he clotheslined Hogan to revive him from the double team of Bundy and Studd. Then came the piledriver and celebration with the other heels. I honestly felt more threatened by Bundy’s chances at Mania 2 due to the size difference. Orndorff was annoying to a young Hulkamaniac, but I didn’t see him winning the title.”
Walter Howard: “Absolutely. They had some excellent matches. When Orndorff put the title on him it was a perfect fit. He had a lot of charisma and having Heenan helped greatly. Reaction to him turning on Hogan? Utter shock. This was the very first time I ever witnessed a heel turn ever. It was so well done and I will give Hogan credit. I actually sympathized for him.
Chad Walters-Shantal: “I believed in Paul Orndorff as a challenger, but had he had an Intercontinental title run beforehand. I would have believed in him more. I hated him before he turned on Hogan. So I wasn’t too upset when he turned.”
Mike Campbell: “I actually had no idea about the turn itself. I’d always thought that Orndorff was a heel managed by Heenan until late 1987. I was probably 11 or 12 when I first found out that he’d turned babyface in ’85 and then turned on Hogan.”
Question: Was there a sense that Andre wanted the WWF World Champion? Sympathy for Hogan?
James Fabiano: “I didn’t want to believe it, but after the Hogan-Kamala rematch at the Garden, when Andre came in and stared at the belt, my dad said “He wants to fight Hulk for the title.” When everything came to fruition, well, that’s another story for another time.”
Walter Howard: “I thought that was a great angle. I honestly don’t think he wanted the belt. The purpose was that he felt disrespected and he was out for revenge. Sympathy for Hogan? Yes. Definitely. That angle was perfect. Hogan’s idol breaking his heart.”
Chad Walters-Shantal: “Andre from what I remember was out “suspended” until he showed up with Heenan on Piper’s Pit. So I don’t remember any sense of it. “
Mike Campbell: “Yes, I always thought that it came about because Andre was jealous of Hogan, and was a jerk for turning his back on his friend. I’d seen footage of Andre celebrating with Hogan after he’d won the title from Sheik. I felt like Andre was in the wrong.”
WWF Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage has been dealing with Ricky Steamboat and George Steele for many months. Savage defeated Steele at SNME #9 after using a ring bell, but Ricky Steamboat did make an appearance during the match. For the remainder of the month, Savage would wrestle Steamboat on the house show circuit winning the matches by disqualification.
Savage did have one other match against Bruno Sammartino on January 3rd in Boston where Savage won by count-out. However, Sammartino locked in a bearhug and kept the hold on for several minutes afterward until officials and other wrestlers had to break the hold.
Question: As we head into WrestleMania III, would you be more interested in a Savage/Steamboat showdown or would a pivot to Bruno be acceptable?
James Fabiano: “Savage-Steamboat! I was curious if Ricky could come back from what was presented as a career-threatening injury, heck, it was sold by all as a LIFE-threatening one. And if he did, of course I wanted to see him get revenge.”
Walter Howard: “It would have been interesting to see a passing of the torch match with Bruno losing to Savage. He was still in excellent condition.”
Chad Walters-Shantal: “I was very interested in Steamboat vs Savage. Especially with the George Steele side story. I don’t remember a ton of stuff between Savage and Bruno from the time. So in my eyes it was always gonna be Steamboat.”
Mike Campbell: “IMO, it had to be Steamboat vs Savage. It’s one thing for Bruno to come out of retirement to shut Roddy Piper’s mouth or help out Tito Santana when Savage has Adrian Adonis doing his dirty work. But, in 1987 Bruno didn’t need to be challenging for titles.”
Davey Boy Smith has continued to defend the WWF Tag Team Championships despite his partner, Dynamite Kid, being out with an injury. Davey teamed with Sivi Avi, Blackjack Mulligan, Junkyard Dog, Billu Jack Haynes, The Crusher, Roddy Piper and Tito Santana during the month. For the most part, Smith teamed with them to defeat the Hart Foundation on the house show circuit.
Question: With Dynamite Kid out of action, should the WWF Tag Titles be taken off the Bulldogs? Who would’ve been your choice to be champions?
James Fabiano: “If Dynamite would be out for a long time, sure. They probably did the right thing with the Hart Foundation.”
Chad Walters-Shantal: “I honestly didn’t remember Dynamite being hurt until rewatching it in the early 90’s. But the other two teams at the time that I would have liked to seen the titles on were Hart Foundation and the Islanders.”
Walter Howard: “I always felt that the Killer Bees were a great tag team that was overlooked and should have had a run with the titles.”
Mike Campbell: “Yes, with Dynamite being hurt, the titles had to be taken off the Bulldogs. Especially during the time when the WWF is on the road constantly. Looking the landscape of teams at the time, the Hart Foundation was the best choice to take the belts. The WWF almost never went with babyface vs babyface matches, so the Can-Am Connection, Fabulous Rougeau Bros, Islanders, and Killer B’s don’t make sense. John Studd already left, so you can’t do Studd and Bundy. Hindsight shows that Valentine and Beefcake couldn’t carry them. So, that basically leaves Demolition (who were brand new at this time), Sheik and Volkoff, and the Hart Foundation.”
On the January 17th edition of Superstars. Hercules put the full nelson submission on Billy Jack Haynes after Heenan called Haynes out to the ring.
Sal Bellomo made his mission clear that he wants the fans in America to love him more than the fans in America and he’s going to beat Bruno Sammartino to make that happen.
Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake started a tag feud with Mike Rotundo and Dan Spivey. They won a tag match in Philadelphia on January 10th and on January 11th in Toronto.
What were your reactions to what was going on in the WWF at this time?