I’m a lifelong fan of pro wrestling, so naturally, I have a LOT of memories from years gone by that jump out at me. One of the memories that came flooding back to me recently was the night that Hulk Hogan fought Paul Orndorff in a cage on NBC’s Saturday Night’s Main Event. Thanks to the guys of TRN’s House Show Podcast reviewing the show, I felt like a kid again.
Saturday Night’s Main Event was at one time THE biggest wrestling show on television. Pay-per-view was in its infancy for most of the series’ run, the NWA had yet to launch their Clash of the Champions series, and the regular wrestling shows on television were still filled with non-competitive matches for the most part. Yeah, they’d throw us a bone every now and then and give us a decent main event match, but even that usually was just to set up something for later, and would often end in a non-finish.
So when a Saturday Night’s Main Event show would roll around on NBC about once a month, it was must see TV for young wrestling fans. Or must-record-TV in my case. Even being the weekend, my mom wouldn’t let me stay up to watch it as it happened. Instead, I would set the timer on the VCR, record it, and then watch it the next morning as soon as I got up.
The match I’m going to be talking about here took place on the January 3rd, 1987 Saturday Night’s Main Event. The “main event” of the show pitted World Wrestling Federation champion Hulk Hogan against his one time friend turned bitter rival, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. And this wouldn’t be just another match. No sir. This match was going to take place inside the walls of a 15-foot high steel cage! The only way to win one of these cage matches was to put your opponent down to the point that you could leave through the door, or climb over the top. The important thing is that your feet must touch the floor.
So I’m watching the tape the following morning after the live event, and the Hogan-Orndorff match was up first. It was a good back and forth affair, but nine-year-old me really had no reason to think that Orndorff would actually beat Hogan. But it got to a point in the match when both men were a little groggy, and they started to climb out on opposite sides of the ring. Jesse “The Body” Ventura on commentary exclaimed that it was a race! I kinda got on the edge of my seat. It was neck and neck as they both started down the outside. Vince McMahon was yelling for Hogan to drop down! Then it happened. Both men hit the floor at the same time! The theme song “Real American” started playing, which after the bout a winner’s music is played, but in this case it didn’t really tell you who won since both men used the same theme song!
Wait…who just won the match? There was confusion at ringside as both men were claiming victory. McMahon and Ventura were each arguing the case for a different competitor. Referees Joey Marella and Danny Davis were each declaring a different winner. Multiple replays of the finish were shown, but no official announcement had been made. It was Saturday night suspense at it’s finest! The show went to a commercial break, leaving everyone pondering what the outcome was! When the show returned, an announcement was made that this match had been declared a tie. But since a tie is like kissing your sister (my words, not theirs), the referee ordered the match to be restarted!
So after we had just witnessed an incredible battle, with an incredible ending, we were about to get even more! Unfortunately, the rest of the bout was not as exciting as the first half. Hogan went on to soundly defeat Orndorff once they were back in the cage. He even gave Bobby Heenan a good thrashing for good measure after the match was over.
Hogan would go on to an even bigger moment just a month later that I’m sure I’ll be covering at some point soon, while Orndorff would start to fall off in his importance as the rest of 1987 rolled on. But none of that could take away from the flat-out excitement of their cage match on that Saturday night so long ago. I still get goosebumps re-watching it today. You can watch the full match below and re-live the excitement, or live it for the first time.
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