WWF Tuesday Night Titans episode 29: Ricky Steamboat, Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff, and Lisa Sliwa
By Josh Molina, WrestlingObserver.com
Stars of the show: Ricky Steamboat, Lisa Sliwa and Vince McMahon’s Massive Bump
The post-Wrestlemania 1 show was part-recap, part new character-introduction. The WWF introduced Ricky Steamboat as somewhat of a martial arts expert and sex symbol. We also meet Guardian Angel Lisa Sliwa, in a totally bizarre segment that was even more confusing than when the WWF tried to introduce that female WWF magazine journalist character early on in the show’s run.
The show opens up with Vince McMahon in a glamorous orange jacket, looking rather chirpy. He’s probably thinking about his segment later with Sliwa. Our first guests are the NEW tag team champions, The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.
McMahon goes right after Blassie, saying that “the wrestling world was shocked” by the title change. Blassie is outraged. He doesn’t know anyone would be surprised since he told everyone beforehand that Sheik and Volkoff would win. Blassie says Albano is not playing with a full deck and that the “pencil neck geeks” should take a good look at Sheik and Volkoff, the greatest tag team of all time.
We go to Madison Square Garden to watch the match.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon call Wrestlemania 1. Speaking of, how could would it be if McMahon could get Ventura back for WrestleMania 32, the biggest WrestleMania of all time? I am sure there’s some reason why McMahon and Ventura would be reluctant to pull this off. They probably hate each other. Monsoon isn’t around anymore, but why not Ventura? Even with all his conspiracy theories, he cannot be any worse than Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Ventura says: “You see dead World Series. You see dead Super Bowls. But you don’t see dead WrestleManias.’
Monsoon and Ventura have to be considered the second-greatest announcing duo of all time, behind Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Ventura was not a full-on heel announcer, other than his hatred for Hogan, but he had a skeptical edge about him in calling the matches. Monsoon was the All Michaels of the show. He was a rule-following, down-the-middle, legitimate announcer, with a slight slant toward the good guys.
Ventura defended the bad guys mostly when he felt the good guys were getting a better treatment than the bad guys. Ventura loved pointing out inconsistencies in how the good guys and bad guys were getting treated by the referees.
Ventura points out that Sheik and Volkoff are showing superior skills by cutting off the ring. “The key to tag team wrestling is as much as you can keep your opponent on your side of the ring as much as you can.”
Couple of things: Barry Windham looked phenomenal in this match. He was so good for his size. If he could have talked he may have been one of the sport’s biggest stars. Volkoff had the most interesting way of selling when Windham was beating on him. He would shrug his shoulders forward and turn his arms inward and just take the shots to the chest. I can’t imagine Brock Lesnar ever selling like that (unless he’s in the ring with Cain Velasquez.”
The Iron Sheik kicks Windham in the face with his book and Monsoon says: “That illegal, ominous, horrible looking thing that I call a weapon. That’s not part of professional wrestling.” Ventura responds: “It’s part of it because it is on his foot.”
They take a break and when they return the Iron Sheik takes Rotundo to Suplex city. They are actually going to show this entire 15-minute match. The match is nothing special, other than Windham and the Iron Sheik were very technically strong.
The match ends with Albano and Blassie jaw-jacking on the outside of the cage, giving Blassie time to hand the Sheik his cane. The Sheik smacks Windham over the back with Blassie’s cane, while Mike Rotundo is arguing with the ref.
Volkoff pins the Sheik and Finkel announces: “AND NEW World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Champions.” Madison Square Garden is pissed. They clearly did not see this title change coming. Ventura says “25,000 people are stunned live and a million-plus stunned watching.”
In the studio, McMahon tells Blassie that his victor was controversial. Blassie: “What do you mean controversial? He pinned him right in the center of the ring.”
Then we go to a backstage interview with the new champions. Mean Gene Okerlund says to Blassie, “Where’s your cane?” Blassie responds “I didn’t have a cane.” Sheik grabs the microphone and screams “Russia No. 1. Iran No. 1”
Back on the couch McMahon starts to bully Volkoff, only to get owned by the Iron Sheik. McMahon, with his jerk smirk, points out that Volkoff is wearing the same red suit that he always wears on TNT. Volkoff says he has five of those red suits.
The Sheik isn’t having any of it: “Mr. McMahon, we didn’t come here to talk about clothes or oil or politician. We didn’t come here to talk about Nikolai Volkoff and his suit or the Iron Sheik’s oil.” Sheik was one of the smartest wrestlers of that time. He came across as a lunatic largely because of his loud delivery and thick accent, but he was thoughtful legit. He and Kurt Angle would have made a great match had the two competed in the same era.
Sheik says he respects “Mr. McMahon because you grew up tough running the WWF.”
“I expect you to ask me about his belt,” Sheik says.
Sheik pretty much shuts down McMahon from that point and the segment ends. Our next guest is Ricky Steamboat. He’s not ‘The Dragon’ yet.
Clearly McMahon is impressed with Steamboat. “One of the premiere athletes in the World Wrestling Federation.” This is the first we see of Steamboat on TNT, but he wrestled at WrestleMania against Matt Borne.
We go to a different match, featuring Steamboat against Steve Lombardi. One things is clear. Steamboat was absolutely phenomenal wrestler. This guy was technically crisp and sound. There may not have been another one like him. He simply didn’t make any mistakes.
Steamboat, of course, won with a high-cross body block from the top rope. Along the way he delivered dropkicks, chops, flew threw the air, skinned the cat and performed overall tremendously.
I always wanted to see a Steamboat vs. Tito Santana match. Santana was also a great wrestler. Both of these guys were fan favorites and had similar styles, but they would have had a tremendous match. This segment, however, was clearly designed to show off Steamboat’s physique and body, not his wrestling ability.
McMahon showed a series of pictures of Steamboat at his gym in Charlotte, North Carolina. Steamboat says he benches and squats about 405 pounds. He said after working out he likes to take a good sweat in the sauna.
It’s a good thing Steamboat was a great worker, otherwise I could see McMahon be tempted to turn him into some sort of arrogant model type like he did with Rick Martel. Here’s a former AWA world champion, known around the world, yet spraying perfume in the eyes of his opponents.
Steamboat at some point would become “The Dragon” and embrace a karate-style. He had some of the greatest matches ever, including the iconic series of matches with Ric Flair in the NWA in the late 1980s and perhaps the greatest WrestleMania match of all-time against Randy “Macho Man” Savage at WrestleMania 3.
From a great worker to an awful character, we go to Hillbilly Jim. Jim toward the end of 1984 got a huge push as the big fan from the audience who Hulk Hogan took a liking to and decided to train.
After months of training and finally making his wrestling debut, Jim disappeared. Now he’s back, at his Mudlick, Kentucky home, strumming some sort of stringed instrument.
Jim decides to come clean and let the fans know that he injured his leg in a match against Brutus Beefcake, as the camera panned down to his leg in a cast. He said he is going to take care of Beefcake and his manager Johnny Valiant as soon as he gets back.
Jim says he’s in fine shape and has been squeezing tires in the backyard and pillows in his bedroom to stay in top shape. He apologized for “Granny” not being around. She isn’t feel well, he said., which is probably code for McMahon firing her.
Jim introduces us to two “fox hounds,” Lancer and Dancer and promises to be back “before you know it.”
Kind of a lame (no pun intended) segment. Apparently the WWF put Jim on the shelf in the buildup to WrestleMania. It’s probably a good thing Jim hurt himself before Wrestlemania, otherwise he might have appeared on the card. I am not sure that even Andy Warhol would have found the art behind exploiting every offensive stereotype imaginable for people from Kentucky.
We go from the offensive to the bizarre and the introduction of Guardian Angel Lisa Sliwa. McMahon says that Sliwa is a former fashion model who became a Guardian Angel, and now wants to be a professional wrestler.
The Guardian Angels are a volunteer organization that wears white shirts and red hats and professes to make the world a better place by solving problems through peace and conversation. You might occasionally read about a Guardian Angel stopping a mugger or a meteorite about to hit Earth.
Sliwa, who appears to be drop dead gorgeous underneath the beret, said she was watching more male hero after another in the World Wrestling Federation and she decided it was time to bring some class to the women’s division. She told a story about an encounter she had in New York City, where she stopped a mugger by putting him into a chokehold.
I went to the internet to learn more about Sliwa and discovered that she was married to Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who fell out of favor with mainstream America after admitting to fabricating some of his stories about helping people out. Lisa eventually divorced Curtis. She works as a television anchorwoman now in New York City.
On this night on TNT, however, she was the hottest ticket in town. McMahon, since he plays the role of creep and bully so well, asks Sliwa if she will demonstrate a few holds on Lord Alfred Hayes to demonstrate what she has been learning.
She puts Hayes in a wrist lock, hammerlock and full nelson, why McMahon blares that “I can you hear you creaking and cracking all the way over here.” Oddly, while Hayes is in the full nelson, McMahon attempted to unbutton Hayes’ shirt with one hand, but failed miserably.
Then McMahon decides to turn it up a notch. He asked Sliwa what she would do if someone grabbed her around the waist. McMahon decides to volunteer as the perpetrator, and snuggles up behind her. Clearly this was a good day for McMahon.
Sliwa explains that she would simply throw the attacker to the side. I was fully expecting McMahon to no-sell the move just so that he could prolong the number of attempts. Instead Sliwa turned and threw him off her back to the side. McMahon bumped like he was Triple H taking the judo throw at WrestleMania 31 from Ronda Rousey.
This was all McMahon, who took the bump like a pro. Sliwa never became a professional wrestler. I don’t recall that she ever had a match or even appeared on WWF television after this. It’s probably a good thing. We wouldn’t want Scott Hall crapping in her luggage or Jeff Jarrett holding McMahon up for more money to lose to her, or the Fabulous Moolah refusing to pass the torch to her.
As tough as Sliwa was, she appeared too nice to survive in the WWF.
The show wrapped up with Hayes announcing a winner of The Great Wrestling Trivia Contest, alongside McMahon, Sliwa and two executives from the USA network.
McMahon got a good dig in at the USA executives, saying TNT would be pre-empted next week “thanks to these guys.”
This was a strange follow-up show to WrestleMania. No mention of Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Andre or Roddy Piper. We did get the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff celebrating their WrestleMania win. McMahon and Hayes did appear more upbeat this week and the show still seems to be focused on developing and elevating characters, a concept that would probably work well today.
Imagine McMahon hosting a modern-day version of TNT, with someone like Pat Patterson at his sidekick? Maybe some of us would start to like this Roman Reigns guy — if we actually got to know him on camera, rather than seeing him job every week.