WWF on Z Channel – LA Sports Arena (8/13/1988) Review

The WWE Network uploaded several WWF on Z Channel events from the Los Angeles Sports Arena. In this review, I look at the second WWF on Z Channel event featuring the WWF TV debuts of Owen Hart and Curt Hennig.

WWF on Z Channel – August 13th, 1988

This was the first WWF on Z Channel episode uploaded on WWE Network, but not the first Z Channel show. We start off with a shot of the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Gorilla Monsoon & Superstar Billy Graham are on commentary running down the card before going to the ring.

Note: This version of the show is missing a Ron Bass match that featured a post-match angle with Gorilla Monsoon and Billy Graham.
Sam Houston vs. Black Jack

I looked up “Black Jack” on CageMatch.net. The masked “Black Jack” was also “Wildman” Jack Armstrong. He was like an early Barry Horowitz in a way. Throughout his career, Jack Armstrong traveled throughout the territories in the 70’s and 80’s, jobbing in nearly every match he was in. His most notable career wins were over Tully Blanchard in the 70’s and Mando Guerrero in 1994. He also did a tour of Japan, where he jobbed in every match he was in. This match aired on Wrestling Spotlight on September 10th, 1988.

Prior to the start of the match, Graham talked about how Sam Houston needed to lift more weights and put on muscle. I wonder if Vince McMahon told him to say that line. He was also putting over how there were going to be muscular wrestlers later, and that was what the WWF was all about. My how time has changed. This was your basic babyface vs. heel match, with Houston dancing around to the enjoyment of the crowd while Black Jack portrayed a whiny heel. This was a very technical match at the start with Houston working over a head lock on Black Jack. Black Jack tried to mount a comeback, but ended up losing to a Running Bulldog from Houston. After the match, Houston danced while a replay of the finish was shown.

Barry Horowitz vs. The Blue Angel

In the second match, we have the actual Barry Horowitz! Unlike Jack Armstrong, Horowitz had memorable moments where he won matches on TV. The Blue Angel was Owen Hart’s other masked gimmick in the WWF prior to becoming the Blue Blazer. It should be noted that this was Owen Hart’s first televised WWF match. He had been working house shows prior to this. This should be a fun one.

The opening moments of the match reminded me of how underrated Owen Hart was. He busted out some really nice high flying offense and did some solid technical limb work. The Blue Angel was the clear babyface in this match, as he was getting the crowd to clap along while Horowitz acted like a typical 80’s lower card heel. Horowitz slowed things down and utilized some heel tactics to get some heat in the middle of the match. The Blue Angel got a good amount of offense in this, and got the win with a moonsault. This was a really fun match. Anyone who is an Owen Hart fan should check this out if they haven’t already.

The Powers of Pain (The Barbarian & Warlord) defeated Nikolai Volkoff & Boris Zhukov

Volkoff and Zhukov attempted to sing the Russian national anthem, but the Power of Pain ran out to interrupt them for a huge pop from the crowd. It’s amazing how xenophobic wrestling fans were. Well, they still are. The match started out with the Russians trying to get the better of their opponents, but ended up finding themselves overpowered or outsmarted by the Powers of Pain. Volkoff and Zhukov mounted a comeback in the middle of the match and worked over Warlord. Eventually Warlord made a comeback and cleaned house. The Powers of Pain got the win with a Powerslam and Top Rope Headbutt combo. This was okay for what it was.

Curt Hennig vs. S.D. Jones

We have Jesse Ventura on commentary for this match. Him, Gorilla, and Graham were really entertaining on commentary. They made jokes about S.D. Jones walking through Watts in a weird effort to put him over as a tough guy. That, or they were probably being racist. WWF commentary was much more edgy back in the day than it is now.

This match also aired on the September 13th, 1988 episode of Prime Time Wrestling. Curt Hennig wasn’t working the Mr. Perfect gimmick here, but was playing the heel. Like Owen Hart earlier in the show, this was Curt Hennig’s first televised match in the WWF. He was working some shows, and appeared on WWF WrestleFest 1988. While that was a major it event, it was only released through Coliseum Home Video. However, his match against Terry Taylor supposedly wasn’t filmed.

Hennig worked over the back and ribs of S.D. Jones, and also sold Jones’ offense well. You can really see the influence Curt Hennig’s selling has had on guys like Dolph Ziggler. Hennig made Jones look like a vicious killer despite Jones’ sluggish offense. Hennig eventually won with a running clothesline. This match was mostly Jones being slow and Hennig working him over while doing his best to make him look good. Aside from the historical significance of this match when it comes to the career of Curt Hennig, this is worth skipping.

WWF Heavyweight Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs. Andre The Giant (w/ Bobby Hennan)

There were some interactions with Bobby Heenan and Savage prior to the match. After repeatedly harassing Elizabeth, Bobby Heenan was ejected from ringside to the pleasure of the fans. He would refuse to leave, and was escorted off by some LAPD officers. Andre The Giant was upset that Mr. Elizabeth got to stay at ringside.

This match had a pretty simple story. Savage, the smaller guy, tried to use speed and agility to overcome the bigger Andre The Giant. Andre used his size and strength advantage to try to wear down Savage. He would control him for most of the match until Savage made a comeback that resulted in Andre being caught in the ropes. The crowd were really into that spot, as well as Savage’s top rope Elbow Drop. The match ends in a double count out after Savage went after Andre The Giant for grabbing Elizabeth’s leg as she tried to get on the ring apron.

After the match, Andre grabbed Savage’s title, and Savage carried Elizabeth to the back as the fans booed Andre as he stood in the ring.

Intermission

After a commercial break, Gorilla Monsoon and Billy Graham recapped what had happened. We’re then taken to a backstage interview with Monsoon talking to Rick Rude about his issue with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. After that, we get another interview. They’re having a rematch from their previous encounter in L.A. This time, Monsoon is interviewing the Fabulous Rougeaus. They love U.S.A. so much!

The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond Rougeau) vs. The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart)

Once again, Billy Graham referenced the city of Watts.

This was a standard face vs. heel formula match with the Rougeaus playing up to the crowd for heat with antics while the Hart Foundation were all about wrestling. The Rougeaus worked over Bret for awhile with double team moves. They kept doing whatever they could to cause distractions, including trying to get Jim Neidhart to run into the ring before the referee kicked him out. This went on for an extended period of time before Bret made a comeback and a hot tag. Neidhart came in and cleaned house. The finish saw Bret hit Jacques with a piledriver and go for the pin, but Raymond hit him with a double axe handle from the middle rope behind the referee’s back. Raymond, who wasn’t the legal man, pinned Bret for the win. This wasn’t really that entertaining. It was mostly 80’s-style storytelling with no real excitement.

Randy Savage segment

After a commercial break, Randy Savage came out to ringside and got on the mic. He talked about Elizabeth getting hurt during his match. He said that “when Elizabeth is hurting, I’m hurting.” Powerful stuff. Savage signed an open contract for Andre and that the next time he gets him in the ring, he’s gonna kick his ass. Yes, he said “kick his ass.” This show is more edgy than most modern WWE shows.

Rick Rude vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts

As I mentioned, this was  a rematch from the last Z Channel event. Prior to the match, Rude got cut a promo and insulted the crowd. He started to pose, and some kid was held up by an adult trying to out-flex Rude. Roberts got on the mic to talk about Rick Rude being involved in a situation Jake’s wife and began chasing him to start the match.

Things started out hot with both guys chasing after each other. The fans were chanting “DDT” loudly in this. Rude did a really good job at selling Jake’s offense in this. Jake worked over the arm of Rick Rude, using various hammerlocks and wrist locks to control his opponent. Rude would mount a comeback late in the match by woking over the back of Roberts. They also teased a count out finish with Roberts trying to beat the count. The actual finish saw Jake Roberts counter an apron suplex attempt from Rude, landing on top of him for the pin. After the match, Rude complained to the referee as he show came to a close.

Final Thoughts

This wasn’t the most interesting event, but it had its moments. The television debut of Owen Hart was a fun one, and it was interesting to see Curt Hennig’s WWF television debut. As I mentioned before, the commentary was more edgy than today’s commentary, which I found amusing.

Aside from the Blue Angel vs. Barry Horowitz, every match was pretty boring and standard. Fans of today often times complain about how limited WWE workers are these days (and I agree to an extent) will probably realize we have it better now than fans did in the 80s. This show is worth skipping unless you really want to see what a smaller WWF show from 1988 was like.

The first Z Channel special was pretty interesting overall, but this one wasn’t as good. Still, it is pretty cool to see old footage from the LA Sports Arena on WWE Network. I hope the full set of shows that aired on Z Channel end up on the Network.

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