Part Twenty Two
After their respective victories at the Survivor Series pay-per-view, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and Hulk Hogan discussed their upcoming steel cage match against “The Macho King” Randy Savage and “The Human Wrecking Machine” Zeus. Both men had battled Savage and Zeus before at SummerSlam but this match would be “No Holds Barred” which meant that anything could happen.
As they were being interviewed, Beefcake and Hogan were interrupted by Savage’s manager “Sensational” Sherri Martel. Never hesitant to get in an opponent’s face, Martel began yelling at Beefcake and Hogan. Before they could respond, Martel threw powder in both men’s faces, blinding them. Savage and Zeus stormed into the dressing room and proceeded to beat down Beefcake and the Hulkster. Savage choked out Beefcake with the royal scepter while Zeus manhandled Hogan, gripping the Hulkster’s neck with his mammoth mitts.
While he prepared for the “No Holds Barred” match, the Hulkster continued his WWF title defenses. One such defense took place on the November 25, 1989 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event where Hogan defended his championship against “The Genius” Lanny Poffo. Poffo (the brother of “Macho King” Randy Savage, a fact which was never acknowledged on WWF TV) had turned heel in March of 1989, billing himself as the smartest man in the WWF.
Although the Genius had won some matches, he certainly didn’t seem to have done anything to earn a WWF title shot. Perhaps the Hulkster was looking for a tune-up match for future title defenses. Whatever his reasoning, he got more than he bargained for. As the match unwound, it became clear that “The Genius” was a stalking horse for his protégé Mr. Perfect a/k/a Curt Hennig.
Hennig, a second generation wrestler (the son of famed brawler Larry “The Ax” Hennig) had jumped ship from the dying American Wrestling Association. On the October 7, 1989 edition of The Brother Love Show on WWF Superstars, The Genius introduced Mr. Perfect as his protégé.
The match started off with color commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura stating that The Genius was the smartest opponent that Hogan had ever faced. The match began with Poffo extending his left hand to Hogan to shake (a move that Emily Post would not have approved of). Hogan extended his right hand instead. Poffo extended his right hand at which point the champion extended his left, frustrating The Genius (as well as Ventura) and showing that the champion was shrewd himself.
The Hulkster used his tremendous strength advantage against his opponent, shoving The Genius so hard that the challenger fell through the ropes. Poffo returned to the ring only to get knocked down by Hogan again. It was obvious to everyone that The Genius was not going to overpower the champion. The Genius used an arm drag takedown to take Hogan off of his feet. He then pranced around the ring, no doubt reminding old school fans of Gorgeous George. When Poffo had Hogan in the corner, he backed away, apparently ready to give Hogan a clean break. At the last minute, Poffo gave Hogan a wicked slap, infuriating the champion. Poffo added insult to injury by prancing around the ring some more. Color man Jesse Ventura noted that The Genius was getting inside of Hogan’s head.
Poffo’s mind games backfired. Instead of confusing the champion, they channeled his rage into a brutal attack that saw Hogan clothesline Poffo then ram his head into the turnbuckle. Poffo quickly realized his mistake and bailed out of the ring where he began writing some sort of formula down. Jesse Ventura and Vince McMahon wondered what was going on but Ventura quickly realized that The Genius was devising a program to defeat Hogan. In Ventura’s words, The Genius was a walking computer who would devise a strategy to defeat the Hulkster.
The Genius went into action against Hogan but he his plans did not work out quite the way he had planned-or did they? Things took an unexpected turn when Mr. Perfect made his way to ringside. Mr. Perfect grabbed the WWF title and proclaimed that it wasn’t a perfect belt. He then spit out his chewing gum and put it on the belt. Meanwhile, inside the ring, the Hulkster had things under control. Once again, The Genius found himself outside of the ring. Hogan went out after him, only to be confronted by Mr. Perfect. Hogan walked towards Perfect, unaware that The Genius was creeping up behind him. The Genius dropkicked Hogan from behind, sending the champion into the ringpost, stunning Hogan.
The Hulkster managed to make his way back into the ring but The Genius wasted no time in going on the offense. While The Genius”] wasn’t a powerhouse wrestler, he still had the technical and aerial skills to weaken the Hulkster down. The Genius went to the top ropes and hit a moonsault on Hogan, covering him for the pin.
Hulk Hogan wasn’t finished yet. He kicked out and started hulking up. Jesse Ventura noted this, saying “There’s that look”. The look on The Genius’ face made it clear he knew that he was in trouble. Hogan went after The Genius, whipping him into the ropes and hitting the big boot.
Typical Hogan strategy would be for the champion to hit the legdrop and finish his latest victim off. It was clear that The Genius had studied the champion well. Poffo broke things up by raking the Hulk’s eyes, then raking his nails across Hogan’s back. This temporarily stopped Hogan’s offense but only temporarily. Hogan quickly recovered and retaliated, raking Poffo’s eyes then following up by raking his nails against Poffo’s back. Hogan then picked Poffo up over his shoulder and tossed Poffo outside the ring.
Poffo landed unceremoniously and Hogan followed him out. It was here that things headed south for the Hulkster. After tossing Poffo back into the ring, the Hulkster failed to notice that Mr. Perfect had grabbed the WWF title. Mr. Perfect blindsided Hogan, knocking him down behind the referee’s back. A ten count later, The Genius had won the match by count-out. Once he regained his senses, Hogan ran back into the ring, chasing after Mr. Perfect and The Genius. The two heels ran to the backstage area, taking the WWF title with them.
At the end of Saturday Night’s Main Event, “Mean” Gene Okerlund interviewed Mr. Perfect and his advisor, The Genius. Perfect was hard at work with a hammer, smashing Hulk Hogan’s WWF championship belt to pieces. Mr. Perfect told Okerlund that Hogan was not a perfect champion thus he was destroying the belt. Perfect proclaimed that he would destroy as many belts as Hogan replaced until he became WWF champion.
Shortly thereafter, Mean Gene interviewed a somber Hulk Hogan. Hogan took his damaged title belt and told Gene that Perfect had tried to symbolically destroy Hulkamania by destroying his title belt. However it would take much more than that to destroy Hulkamania.
The Hulk told Okerlund that the three demandments remained intact and that he would lead his brigade of Hulkamaniacs against Mr. Perfect. Mr. Perfect was headed for an Ultimate Challenge and the WWF champion predicated that the challenger would suffer the perfect defeat. Mr. Perfect would challenge Hulk Hogan for the title, both men appearing at house shows. Although Hennig had demonstrated his mastery of many sports, he came up short against the Hulkster. Hulk Hogan had shown that Curt Hennig was not perfect.
As 1989 neared its end, one challenge faced the Hulkster - the “No Holds Barred” cage match scheduled to air on PPV on December 27. Would Hogan and Beefcake be able to put Zeus and Savage away in a cage match with no rules? Join me next time as I look at the big cage match that wrapped up the 1980s.
Thanks again to Graham Cawthon for his awesome resource page The History of WWE!