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WWF Wrestling Challenge (9.6.1986) Review

April 23, 2021 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
WWF Wrestling Challenge 9-6-1986
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WWF Wrestling Challenge (9.6.1986) Review  

-A few people have asked if I’d review Challenge and, while I like to finish what I’ve started, generally, I really could use a break from WWWWWWWWF All-Star Wrestling, so we’re going to jump ahead eight years, knock out 13 episodes of this bad boy, and then hop back to All-Star Wrestling.

-Quick refresher of the significance of this episode of this show: Even when the WWF expanded nationally, their actual television production still looked really shitty, with two-camera shoots using whatever lighting equipment the venue already had, chintzy graphics, and editing that looked like it was done with a machete and bubble gum. And then in 1985 they got the deal to do Saturday Night’s Main Event and NBC made it clear that they wanted a wrestling show that didn’t look terrible. Dick Ebersol took the WWF under his wing and Vince & Co. took full advantage of it, and actually genuinely LEARNED from the experience of making shows for NBC. By the fall of 1986, the WWF decided to upgrade all of their television production to catch up to the way that SNME already looked. The most superficial change was in the names of the syndicated program packaging:
-The A-show, “Championship Wrestling,” became “Superstars of Wrestling.”
-The B-show, “All-Star Wrestling,” became “Wrestling Challenge.”
-And then because the world is a confusing place, the C-show, which was already called “Superstars of Wrestling,” became “Wrestling Spotlight.”

-So going forward, the shows are going to be brightly-lit, slickly-packaged shows done in larger venues with cameras everywhere. They taped shows three weeks at a time, and if you look at the first three weeks of “Superstars,” it’s “Superstars” as you picture it right out of the chute. The first “Wrestling Challenge” taping feels like a pilot not intended to air. There’s all sorts of little odd stuff about it that gets dealt with and chipped away in the next few weeks.

-Originally aired September 6, 1986.

-Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon, Ernie Ladd, and Johnny V.

-Your theme music is atrocious and we’re stuck with it for the next 2 1/2 years.

-Your “Here’s who’s on the card this week” graphics are screengrabs that have been electronically painted and they’re really hit-or-miss.

-Debuting this week: The Federettes, a group of sexy ring attendants. They’re all attractive but Suzette the brunette is an absolute DISH.


-Lord Alfred Hayes is your ring announcer and he’s not great. It’s odd how he was a great heel manager but had no aptitude for any other job in the business. Also, the heel side is our first instance of something that Superstars and Challenge did for the first few weeks–disguising squash matches by mixing stars with jobbers. It’s a neat idea in theory but the issue is it just makes the star also look like a jobber, which is likely why they got rid of this.

-We get our historic first head-in-a-box promo on the new show, as Superstar Billy Graham drops in with words in the middle of the desert promising to hurt people in the “WWF wrestling circuit.”

-Muraco gets his stuff in and then tags in Iron Mike. Rotundo airplane spins him for two when Muraco breaks the pin. All four men are in the ring and Rotundo cradles Sharpe while the referee is distracted. Muraco runs over and rolls them over so that Sharpe is on top, and then Spivey runs over and rolls them back, and the referee finally turns around and counts three for the Express.

-Speaking of people who are great at one thing but aren’t good at much else, Ernie Ladd whips out his first “without a shadow of a doubt” of the taping.


-Randy Savage cuts a promo complaining about how the fans cheer Elizabeth but not him. “Wrestler’s Rebuttal” is a weird segment because it’s not really a rebuttal, it’s just a regular promo with a name slapped onto it.

ADORABLE ADRIAN ADONIS (with Cowboy Bob Orton & Jimmy Hart) vs. TOMMY SHARP

-Cowboy Bob is now wearing a pink cowboy hat to pledge his loyalty to his new boss. Sharp tries to work the arm, but Adonis simply heaves him to the floor. Gorilla Monsoon notes that the referee, Danny Davis, grabbed Sharp’s arm while he was trying to apply a hold in the ring. Sharp heads back in and Davis gets into an argument with Jimmy Hart as Bob Orton runs into the ring and helps Adonis with a double-team move. He scurries out and Adonis pins Sharp immediately. Ernie Ladd says that without a shadow of a doubt, Davis is incompetent. How odd…

-Ken Resnick has words with Cowboy Bob, who says that Adonis offered him more money and more convenience than Roddy Piper. Piper ran off to Hollywood and stopped paying Orton, and as far as Orton is concerned, once the paychecks stop coming, the contract is void. And Piper couldn’t get away with saying anything he said to his guests if Orton wasn’t with him.


-Koko’s singles debut. No Frankie yet. Odd choice by the Network, dubbing in generic music for Koko to cover “The Bird” by Morris Day, when they could have just dubbed in, you know, Koko’s other music. Ernie Ladd calls Koko’s dance moves “a step ‘n fetchit,” so this is already going really well. We get a funny line from Johnny V, who says that the name “Koko B. Ware” sounds like he’s a wrestling breakfast cereal. Koko gets a Federette, Lord Alfred, AND a security guard to dance with him pre-match, but referee Rita Marie wants none of it. “Without a shadow of a doubt,” says Ernie, and do a shot.

-Match starts as we get pre-taped words from Koko, cutting a promo with a boom box as we don’t quite have a grip on what his gimmick is yet. Bradley takes over with a slam in the meantime, but misses a legdrop from the top rope. Dropkicks by Koko. Missile dropkick and a splash finish.

-Ken Resnick brings in Jimmy Hart, who defends Adrian Adonis’ choice to hire Bob Orton as a bodyguard. Ken Resnick makes a really good point here, rattling off a long list of Jimmy’s charges and saying if he has all these guys under contract, why do you need a bodyguard?

“Mr. Wonderful” PAUL ORNDORFF (with Bobby Heenan) vs. TROY MARTIN

-Orndorff comes to the ring to “Real American,” which is, without a shadow of a doubt, Hulk Hogan’s music. Jobber Troy Martin is Shane Douglas, who you might remember as the guy who had that Viagra On a Pole match in WCW.

-Orndorff attacks right away as we get words from babyface Honk Tonk Man, who’s all shook up because Orndorff attacked his friend Hulk Hogan. Orndorff sends Martin to the floor and whips him over the barricade. Piledriver finishes, and the commentators think Troy Martin needs to ride out of here on a stretcher. How about a skateboard instead? Without a shadow of a doubt, he was injured by that move, without a shadow of a doubt.


-Debut of Jake’s interview segment, where Jake dresses like Don Johnson but hosts an interview segment from a set that looks like a cave. Thheeeeeeee Wizzzaaaaaaaaard brings in Kamala and Kimchee. The Grand Wizard communicated from beyond in his 15th reincarnation, and Wizard told him where to find a vicious cannibal in Africa. I find it weird that after they expanded nationally, The Wizard’s gimmick is that he communicates with the ghost of a guy that 90% of the national audience has never heard of.

-From the final Championship Wrestling taping, all the heels are in the ring awaiting the arrival of Handsome Harley Race. Race has a seat on the throne while Bobby Heenan reads a fawning speech. They put the crown on him, Bobby bows down, and Studd and Bundy carry him out on their shoulders.

-On Superstars, the Machines walk down the aisle, and Giant Machine’s struggle to just climb into the ring is a downer.

BRITISH BULLDOGS (Tag Team Champions, with Captain Lou Albano) vs. THE MOONDOGS

-Gorilla emphasizes that this is non-title, because in 1986, the Moondogs are like, just one or two wins shy of being number-one contenders, I think.

-Moondogs attack from behind but Dynamite fights back with a snap suplex on Rex, with Johnny complaining “That’s the only move the little goof has.” I actually do really like how Wrestlemania 2 was this wound that never healed for the Dream Team, because they talked about it all the time right up until the team dissolved. Davey Boy tags in and the Moondogs take over without a shadow of a doubt. Three-man unit is NOT working well together, with Johnny V snapping “Shut up!” so he can slip in a line about Captain Lou.

-Dynamite heads back in and gets double-teamed, but hot tag Davey Boy and Davey Boy takes on both Moondogs. He goes for the finish after a suplex on Rex, but Spot runs in and tosses him to the floor. Neat finish sees the Moondogs work over Dynamite while Davey Boy just stands on the apron and does something, and right at the moment that everybody has totally forgotten who the legal man actually is, Davey Boy just heads to the top and comes off with a bodypress for the win.

-Jake The Snake and Randy Savage cut a promo in a weird moment.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Jumping from 1978 to 1986 suddenly, the meat of the show hasn't improved. Matches aren't great on All-Star Wrestling '78, they aren't great on Challenge '86. But what jumps out immediately is how much FUN it feels. The fans are more into it, it feels vibrant, and best of all, the squashes are SHORT. It's okay to do a seven-minute squash if the jobber does some token offense that makes it feel like a real competition, but a seven-minute squash where one guy takes 100% of the match is the dullest thing pro wrestling has to offer, and the 1978 show has that in spades. If all you're doing is showcasing a star, just keep it to a two-minute ass-kicking! Challenge has the right idea.