By Joshua Molina for WrestlingObserver.com
– Run date: June 20, 1985
– Air time: 44:57
– Stars of the show: Steele, Capt. Lou Albano and Dr. Sigmund Ziff
Talk about a show that absolutely could not happen today. This was an offensive, insensitive and politically incorrect show. But it was also absolutely hilarious, with several laugh-out-loud moments, and some of the best acting ever on cable television. No TNT never won an Emmy, but my goodness, George “The Animal” Steele deserved an Emmy and an Oscar for his ridiculously brilliant performance as a psychotic, traumatized, dysfunctional person with several mental limitations.
This guy nailed this character, to the point where we are almost believe that he was legitimately limited. We’ll get to Steele in a minute, but first we get to hear Vince McMahon interview The Junkyard Dog.
The JYD was one of those legitimately super-popular guys before he ever stepped into a WWF ring. The WWF had not real plan for him, other than he was part of the dozens of wrestlers stolen from the territories. JYD was charismatic and super-popular, but he never destined for anything other than mid-card status with Hulk Hogan on top.
The Dog comes out and McMahon launches into his typical fanboy gushing, mentioning how popular JYD is. The Dog says “I can get along with anybody.”
We go quickly to a match between JYD and Tito Santana against Matt Borne and Steve Lombardi. Santana really carried this match. This guy was an incredible worker. Too bad he was buried also as a mid-carder in the Hulk Hogan area. In terms of technical ability he is one of the to 75 wrestlers of all time. The Dog was not a great worker. He was charismatic, but his offense here looked worse than Jon Stewart’s chair shot on John Cena at Summerslam.
Borne is doing his best to sell for JYD though, bumping like he’s Dolph Ziggler after two energy drinks. For no reason Ventura decides to go full-on racist: “The Junkyard Dog to me is almost illiterate and Chico Santana he don’t speak English all that well.”
No wonder Ventura wants to be Donald Trump’s running mate? Or wait, is that Hulk Hogan who wants to be his running mate. Ventura is the more sensible of the two, so maybe it was Hogan. Nonetheless, the WWF “scriptwriters” weren’t too kind to these wrestlers of color in 1985.
Santana pins Borne and we are back in the studio with JYD and McMahon saying “the fans were all over you.” McMahon humors us: “You have nothing but success in front of you as far as the fans are concerned.” McMahon even suggests that maybe if the Dog keeps winning he’ll get a title show against Hulk Hogan.
Yeah right. Hogan was no John Cena, who in the last decade put over fan favorites such as Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, RVD, The Rock and Edge, for no other reason other than he wanted get those guys over. Hogan put over the JYD in 1985? That was never going to happen.
The Junkyard Dog lingers, sliding down the couch as they introduce the next guest, Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart. Hart had the best laugh in the world. It rolled on forever. So annoying. He was a little fireball. A perfect heel. Hart refuses sit on the same couch as JYD, saying that either he leaves or the JYD leaves. Of course, JYD leaves because he’s a gentleman and doesn’t want to disrupt the show.
Hart has a package that give gives Lord Alfred Hayes. Apparently, in one of the episodes that is not on the WWE network, a few weeks ago Hart dumped water on Hayes in a beach segment featuring King Kong Bundy. To make up for this, Hart gave Hayes a package.
As Hart starts to fiddle with the package, we go to a match featuring Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Mario Mancini. Valentine was a true professional wrestler, but my god was he boring to watch. The match is moving like Ryback vs. The Big Show. Making matters worse, we have Bruno Sammartino on color commentary, who is referring to Hammer as being in “tip-top shape.”
No matter how great or awful they were in the ring, you could always count on Sammartino to comment about each wrestler’s physique and strength and conditioning, even if the were pudgy little jobbers. Oh well, at least we didn’t have to listen to him talk this week about how strong his son David is.
To distract people from the ridiculously slow pace of the match, Hart is jabbering with a crazy fan at ringside. Hart knew how to draw heel heat.
Valentine wins with a figure-four-leglock and back in the TNT studio Hayes is still opening the package. It’s one of those boxes that when you open it there’s another box inside. Hayes finally gets to the right box and a snake and powder explodes into the air, splashing all over Hayes and his jacket.
“There’s no fool, like an old fool,” Hart says with a maniacal laugh. Hayes pops up as though he’s going to assault him, when JYD returns with a jug of water. He goes after Hart and pours it on him. Hart screams, “You ruined my outfit. You are going to pay for this” and runs off the set.
Up next, we get what McMahon calls “a great lady wrestler.” Too bad McMahon doesn’t call his talent “wrestlers” anymore. Petersen comes out apparently as the newest challenger for Wendi Richter. McMahon has no shame: “Talk about an attractive young lady,” he says.
Sitting straight up and proper, she says “thank you” for the compliments. McMahon has morphed into his slimy nice guy character here, his voice low, his body leaning toward Petersen, trying to make her feel comfortable.
We go to the ring and its Peterson against Judy Martin.
I’ll say it again: The female wrestlers in 1985 were better than most of the current WWE female roster. The women were more normal looking, and their wrestling looked much more athletic and realistic. I don’t think they were trying to turn models into wrestlers in 1985. These were wrestlers that they were trying to glam up.
Petersen wins the match after Martin refuses to release a choke hold and pushes the referee, a big no-no, or a convenient went to end a match without having either wrestler do the job for the other.
The lady segments are typically short. They give Peterse enough time to look pretty, proper and grateful for the opportunity and then they ship her off the set. On the couch she said she wants a rematch with Martin and she wants to challenge Wendi Richter for the world title.
Before she leaves, McMahon calls her “a pretty young lady.” After Petersen, we get to meet “the lucky winner” of the WWF trivia contest that Lord Alfed Hayes was pushing several months ago. I am not sure they ever said her name, but I do remember her saying “this is an ultimate fantasy of mine dream come true,” while standing between Hayes and McMahon.
She’s apparently a huge professional wrestling fan, although not enough to get on a plane for. Hayes points out that she took a 19-hour Greyhound bus ride to get to New York. She also reveals that she has 10 cats, six dogs and three horses.
This is a bridge segment before the main event: George “The Animal” Steele.
Now watching TNT as a kid, of course I knew that wrestling was predetermined. The big question for me was always whether the wrestlers were like their characters in real life. When they said things, did they really mean that? Did Rowdy Roddy Piper and Cowboy Bob Orton really hang out together and cause trouble on the road? That was always the big question. And even though I knew wrestling outcomes were pre-determined, I knew that these guys were athletes, who chose professional wrestling because they loved the art of it.
But when George “The Animal” Steele was on TV, it was an entirely different story. I was convinced this guy was legitimately limited in his mental capacity.
He was also scary as hell. Can you imagine that bald, fat, hairy guy coming after you? It’s a boy’s nightmare. So props to Steele for playing that role so masterfully, as evidenced on this episode of TNT. Steele comes out with a noticeably fatter Albano, who is sporting a haircut. Albano lost some weight during the Cyndi Lauper angle, but appears to be morphing back into his gross self.
McMahon calls him on it, asking Albano if he has gained weight. Albano unbuttons his shirt and says that actually he has lost 30 to 35 bounds. No one embraced their fatness quite like Albano.
Albano starts to explain that he has found “Dr. Sigmund Ziff” who is a renowned “psychiatrist and gynecologist.” You just can’t make this stuff up. He said the doctor determined that Steele was depressed, homicidal and suicidal. But he can be helped.
“Under hypnosis, they said the man can be helped and they said there’s only one man in the nation today with a PhD, PhU, an IOU and an IOA that can help George Steele.”
Albano was so good at just making up words in the moment. Before the hypnosis we go to the ring to Saturday Night’s Main Event and a six-man tag match between Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham against The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkov and Steele.
A couple of notables: Steamboat was amazing. Windham was ridiculously amazing. Windham was so good in that ring, everything from his timing, to his athleticism and his ability to call a match. The match ends after Volkoff tags in Steele, who quickly attempts to tag back, but his partners abandoned him. Windham then rolls up Steele for the victory.
Just because they are bullies, Sheik and Volkoff decide to beat on Steele until Steel battles back. Albano runs into the ring and comforts Steele in a real tender moment. Albano rubs his head and Steele puts his head on his chest.
Ahhhhh. McMahon calls Steele, “the most unorthodox wrestler in the world today.” Back on the TNT set, Albano continues to explain why he wants to help Steele.
“I felt that in this man I saw nothing but goodness,” Albano said. “I realized the man was handicapped. He had a speech impediment. he was in trouble.” Meanwhile, Steele is acting like a paranoid freak, as though bugs are crawling all over him and there’s someone lurking over him about to slam him over the head. He was born for this role.
Albano says Steele simply has a calcium deposit building up in his head blocking his medulla, but that Dr. Ziff is going to fix it all. We go to the psychiatrist’s office and Steele is sprawled out. McMahon asks him how he plans to help Steele.
“I am the doctor of the last resort,” Dr. Ziff says. “Whenever things are hopeless they send them to me. And this man is hopeless.”
Ziff said he needs silence to hypnotize Steele. Ziff swings the pendulum in about three seconds claims that “he’s under, just like that.” What follows is a combination of disappointment and sadness. Dr. Ziff tells Steele to go back to his childhood, and suddenly Steele starts talking.
Now I don’t remember watching this segment as a kid, but if I did I would have been terribly disappointed. George was actually talking. I new that the psychiatry gimmick was a total work, so if George is talking, he must actually be a really smart guy to play along with this act.
Over the next minute George barks out these words:
“Teacher Say: Sit Down, Dummy.”
“George, No Talk in School.”
Man. How sad. Now we know that George was not a mentally challenged individual, he was actually a metaphor for all the bullied children all over the world. Then it goes worse. George says he grew up to become a professional wrestler.
“They booed George.”
“Threw things at me.”
“Spit at me.”
Dr. Ziff concludes that George is traumatized from a double rejection in his life. He claims that now that Steel has acknowledge his trauma, he will come out of the hypnosis as a new man. Of course, that doesn’t happen. Why would the WWF kill a great gimmick just for shock value? This isn’t 2015.
Dr. Ziff snaps his fingers and George starts freaking out like he sat on a bed of thumbtacks. Albano starts screaming that Steele will need more therapy. No kidding. It should have been a weekly segment. The show wraps up with Dr. Ziff on the couch. He’s trying to explain to McMahon how he can be a gynecologist and psychiatrist.”
“Everything is inside,” Dr. Ziff says, “sometimes you start at the top and work down and sometimes, well you get the idea.” Dr. Ziff says he is willing to help anybody:
“We will help anyone who comes to us,” Dr. Ziff says. “We only need need one qualification: money.”
What an amazing episode, thanks to Steele, who played this role perfectly. They tried something similar with Eugene a decade ago, but Steele shows on this episode that if they ever start handing out Emmys to WWE wrestlers, Steele definitely deserves one of those Lifetime Achievement Awards.