Throwback Thursday: WWF Wrestling Challenge (Sept. 13, 1986), As Seen on WWE Network and Peacock


This week Throwback Thursday digs deep into the archives of the WWE Network and Peacock to examine a classic, early edition of the World Wrestling Federation’s Wrestling Challenge series that aired 38 years ago this month!

By September 1986 the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was in the midst of an unprecedented boom. While televised pro wrestling had been popular on a regional basis for more than 30 years, often drawing higher ratings than prime time programming in certain territories, it had not been since 1959 that a national wrestling program garnered as much attention as the WWF programming of the mid-’80s. Prior to 1959 and the debut of Sam Muchnick’s Wrestling at the Chase, there were a bevvy of nationally known grapplers but not one singular national promotion. After the three decade-plus National Wrestling Association experiment nearly put pro wrestling in a ditch, Sam Muchnick devised a new NWA in 1948, a “National Wrestling Alliance”, in which dues-paying members, abiding by the agreed-upon by-laws of the cartel, would promote under a single “NWA” banner and recognize a lone World Heavyweight Champion that would tour the cartel territories, building stars as he went. The new arrangement was a rocky one at first, with some of the more stubborn promoters unwilling to abide by the single World Champion rule. Some were made to see the light and others were banished, but order was maintained and the cartel grew in strength, numbers, and popularity. Thanks to overexposure on early-’50s television, due in large part to wrestling being inexpensive to produce, pro wrestling found itself in steep decline by the end of the 1950s. As popular as Wrestling at the Chase was, the overexposure of the ’50s drove a once-nationally followed sport into regionally produced television markets in which the invisible territory lines were fiercely defended. Though the NWA World Champion would tour from territory to territory the promoters kept their product separate from each other and used local television to drive fans to the untelevised live house shows where the bulk of the money was made. But the proliferation of cable television in the early ’80s doomed many of the regional promoters. While old time promoters like Verne Gagne, Jerry Jarrett, and Fritz Von Erich thought of new ways to recapture old glory, Vince McMahon saw an opening for a new world order of nationally televised professional wrestling. McMahon would use national syndication and cable television, as well as a clever partnership with MTV, to create a national touring promotion that wouldn’t be constrained by the same rules and by-laws of NWA promoters. With two highly successful WrestleMania events in the books (and McMahon busily trying to lock down a massive main event for WrestleMania III), an immensely popular Saturday Night’s Main Event series on NBC late-night, well over 350 live events a year, and a seemingly endless supply of eager celebrities, it was hard to argue that McMahon’s vision wasn’t working out almost exactly as he envisioned it. While promoters like Verne Gagne and Fritz Von Erich were hoping ESPN would provide the lifeline needed to survive and still others believed in tandem booking, Vince McMahon and the WWF were moving forward, leaving old ways, old ideas, and out of touch promoters in their dust.




The major story on WWF TV at the time this edition of Wrestling Challenge aired was the ongoing war between former friends Paul Orndorff and WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan. Ricky Steamboat’s revenge mission against Jake Roberts was another big story, as was Roddy Piper’s simmering feud with Adrian Adonis, as well as the WWF’s ever-growing tag team division. Away from the ring the top song in the nation the week this edition of Wrestling Challenge aired was Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”, from the film Top Gun, while Madonna’s iconic True Blue was the number one album. On television NBC’s The Cosby Show was number one as Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, a Stephen King adaptation, starring Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland, was the number one film in theaters.

Now let’s fire up the WWE Network on Peacock, hit play’, and see just how well this early edition of Wrestling Challenge holds up in 2022!

Aside from some of the entrance themes edits aren’t an issue with this edition of WWF Wrestling Challenge on the WWE Network and Peacock. Context isn’t so good. Due to trademark issues with promoter Albert Patterson Superstars of Wrestling has yet to be uploaded in any meaningful way before the series reboot on April 18, 1992. While the debut edition of Wrestling Challenge is available, the only other weekly series currently available remains Prime Time Wrestling, which is largely intact dating back to April 28, 1986. All Star Wrestling (which Challenge replaced), is mostly hit and miss and runs only through February 1982 while Championship Wrestling (the series replaced by Superstars of Wrestling) has yet to be uploaded to either WWE Network or Peacock. All prior WWF PPVs and past editions of Saturday Night’s Main Event are available for you to enjoy right now on the WWE Network and Peacock.


WWF Wrestling Challenge #2 (WATCH)
Date: September 14, 1986 (TAPED: Aug. 27, 1986) – Location: Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, Connecticut
Attendance: >18,000 – TV Ratings: N/A
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Ernie Ladd, & Johnny Valiant – Interviews: Ken Resnick

WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Hulk Hogan (January 23, 1984, WWF on MSG Network, from Iron Sheik; Hogan was subbing for an injured Bob Backlund in what was supposed to be Backlund’s WWF Championship rematch with Iron Sheik)
WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion: “Macho Man” Randy Savage (February 8, 1986, WWF on NESN, from Tito Santana)
WWF World Tag Team Champions: The British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid & Davey Boy Smith) (April 7, 1986, WWF WrestleMania 2, from The Dream Team (Greg “The Hammer” Valentine & Brutus Beefcake))
WWF Women’s Champion: The Fabulous Moolah (July 9, 1986, Sydney, Australia, from Velvet McIntyre)
WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions: The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin & Leilani Kai) (August 1, 1985, Cairo, Egypt, from Velvet McIntyre & Desiree Peterson)


Following the typical WWF signature of the era we head inside the Hartford Civic Center where Gorilla Monsoon welcomes us to the show and introduces his co-hosts for the week, Ernie Ladd and “Luscious” Johnny Valiant (“Johnny V”), before we get a the Wrestling Challenge open of the era.



Back inside the Hartford Civic Center Monsoon, Ladd, & Johnny V give us a rundown of the matches and segments to come before we head to the ring for the opening bout.


Tag Team Match (1:57)
The Funks (Hoss & Jimmy Jack) w/Jimmy Hart vs. Junkyard Dog & George “The Animal” Steele w/Capt. Lou Albano

Hoss Funk, for those who may not know, is the legendary Dory Funk, Jr. George “The Animal” tears apart the turnbuckle pad prior to this one. The Funks try to jump start only to eat a body slam and headbutt from JYD. As the Funks regroup with Hart on the floor we get a manic insert promo from Capt. Lou Albano, who shouts about why he’s had such success with JYD & Steele, including the difference in styles and filming the matches “in entirety with my 901.72”, before the promo is cut short. While Albano rants, Steele takes the fight to Hoss Funk, scoring a near-fall that is broken up by Jimmy Jack. JYD meets Jimmy Jack in the ring and the two grapple a bit before Hoss holds Steele for Jimmy Jack to attack. “Animal” moves, of course, and Hoss is sent to the floor moments before JYD sends Jimmy Jack over the top rope to join his partner. After Albano’s promo the Funks slow the match down and corner Steele. Jimmy Jack and JYD tag in and JYD runs right into a throat thrust in the corner. Jimmy Jack lands a fist drop from the second rope but JYD no sells it before taking a knee to the kidneys from Hoss. As the Funks open up on JYD, Steele tries to help only to be knocked to the floor by Jimmy Jack. Jimmy Jack distracts the referee while Hoss attempts to hogtie JYD. Steele enters the ring with a chair and runs Hoss off as JYD lifts Jimmy Jack for a big belly-to-back suplex for the pinfall at 2:24.

WINNERS are Junkyard Dog & George “The Animal” Steele w/Capt. Lou Albano (Pin 2:24)


After the match JYD & Steele try to hogtie Jimmy Jack for good measure before Jimmy Hart & Hoss Funk pull Jimmy Jack out of the ring. After JYD & Steele are announced the winners the pair show off a bit of their dance moves as we see replay of the finish.


Next we head to this week’s “Wrestlers’ Rebuttal” promo from the Hart Foundation, Bret “Hitman” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. “The Anvil” starts by wondering why fans across the country are calling the Hart Foundation “nasty boys” when what’s really nasty, Neidhart says, is when fans call Bret Hart a “grease ball”. Bret says fans have been calling Neidhart “beer belly” and that it makes him sick what people have been calling the Hart Foundation, saying it comes down to a lack of respect. The Hart Foundation will be the next “World Heavyweight Tag Team Champions”, Bret says, because the Hart Foundation are “the best there is, there best there was, and the best there ever will be!” We then head to our first Peacock ad-break of the hour.


Singles Match (8:27)
Mario Mancini vs. Kamala w/Friday & Kimchee

This match takes a bit of time to get going thanks to all of Kalama’s gimmicks. Kamala had just returned to the WWF on the September 6, 1986 debut edition of Superstars of Wrestling, a win over Tommy Sharpe, that was taped the day before this match on August 27th. This one is the squash you might expect it to be. As Kamala goes to work on Mancini we get an insert promo from the Wizard. Wizard shouts about being told by the Grand Wizard, “on his way to his fifteenth reincarnation”, to go to Uganda and find Kamala, “the man who love to chew on bones!” Kamala continues to take the fight to Mancini before landing a thrust to Mancini’s throat and delivering a big splash for the 1-2-3 at 2:01.

WINNER is Kamala w/Friday & Kim Chee (Pin, 2:01)


After the match Kim Chee & Wizard work to get Kamala off of Mancini before we hear the ring announcement and see a replay of the finish. We then head back to the interview location where Ken Resnick is joined by Capt. Lou Albano. Resnick begins by talking about what a great job Albano and “infamous psychologist” Rodney Papofnick have done with George “The Animal” Steele, who seems to be getting smarter “and more conversant”, Resnick says. Albano begins by saying that “Rodney Papofnick and Syd Green Leaf are twin brothers from different mothers, they’re both psychiatrists and gynecologists.” Albano puts over the doctor and says that he had helped “in the career” of George Steele. Albano then says he’s watched Steele for years and has believed that Steele is the “finest athlete in the world today”. Steele may not always rely on wrestling skill but Steele has the heart of a lion, possessing both balance and leverage. Steele, Albano says, knows every wrestling hold, though Steele doesn’t often use them, but has speed, guts, and ability. Early in “Animal’s” career, Albano explains, Steele had a speech impediment that cause children to criticize and laugh at him. Albano claims that doctors implanted an “eclectic steel plate” in Steele’s tongue to try and correct the lisp but people still laughed and criticized Steele. But with the support of the fans and the “good help of the Lord” Steele saw the light and changed his ways. Steele joined with Albano to help fight Multiple Sclerosis with Cyndi Lauper. Albano fades to the back of the set as George says that when the Captain says be nice, he’s nice. “Now Captain says ‘be vicious’. Savage, George be vicious.” Just like that the interview is over and we head to the next Peacock ad-break.


Tag Team Match (15:32)
Joe Mirto & Jack Kruger vs. Hillbilly Jim & Cousin Luke

Mirto & Kruger try to jump start this one but Hillbilly Jim & Cousin Luke reverse a pair of Irish whips out of the corner, running Mirto & Kruger into one another and sending the pair to the floor. As Mirto & Kruger regroup and the match slows down we get an insert promo from manager Jimmy Hart. Hart says he hates everything country, including Hillbillies, before calling out Hillbilly Jim for believing he’s a movie star. Hillbilly Jim may have Cousin Luke with him but Jimmy Hart manages the Funks and the Hart Foundation. Hart says that his teams are coming for the Hillbillies any where they can before reminding Jim & Luke that if they play with a bull they may just get the horn, “if ya know what I mean!” As Jimmy Hart talks away Cousin Luke goes after Joe Mirto until Luke misses a running elbow drop. Kruger tags in and opens up on Luke but can’t keep the hillbilly down. Kruger tries for a hip toss but Luke puts on the brakes. Kruger goes up and around but still can’t get Luke over. Luke quickly reverses the hold and takes Kruger over before tagging in Hillbilly Jim. Luke & Jim land a double-slam to Kruger before Jim whips Kruger into the ropes for the bear hug. Mirto tries to make the save but is met by Luke before Kruger finally submits at 2:37.

WINNERS are Hillbilly Jim & Cousin Luke (Submission, 2:37)


Following the match Jim holds the bear hug for a few more moments before we get the ring announcement, some dancing, and a replay of the finish. We then head back to the interview location where, after putting over the depth of the tag team division in the WWF, Ken Resnick interviews the Rougeau Brothers, Jacques & Raymond. Resnick starts by pointing out that that the Rougeau Brothers are still undefeated in the WWF. Raymond says that he and his brother have been in the WWF since January and are still undefeated. (The two had debuted for the WWF in February of ’86 before making their TV debut on the April 7, 1986 edition of Prime Time Wrestling as part of a card taped in Sydney, Australia on February 28, 1986, with a win over the Moondogs.) That’s the reason he and his brother are here in the WWF, Raymond says, to beat every tag team around and “become number one tag team” in hopes of earning a title shot against World Tag Team Champions the British Bulldogs. Raymond puts over the level of competition in the tag team division, as Resnick did moments earlier, and says that that’s the way he and his brother like it. Raymond says he and Jacques love the competition and love “fighting in the ring” but, most of all, they love to “stick together against the world”. Resnick turns to Jacques next, asking how helpful it must be to have his brother with him as a partner, for traveling, wrestling, and training. Jacques says he loves his brother and talks about how his brother can inspire him to work out and train when he’s sore from the prior night’s match. Jacques says that he and his brother inspire each other and the fans inspire them as well. They respect and like the Bulldogs, Jacques says, but they like the title belts “a little bit more.” Resnick wraps the interview and we head to the next Peacock ad-break.


Coming out of the break Gorilla Monsoon sets up and tosses to a pre-debut promo for the incoming Honky Tonk Man. HTM would make his WWF TV debut with a win over Terry Gibbs on the September 28, 1986 edition of Wrestling Challenge (taped September 17, 1986), two weeks after this show. HTM wrestled his first taping the prior day, September 16, 1986, at the Superstars of Wrestling taping, scoring a win over Ron Shaw. Honky Tonk Man, coming in as a babyface, says he’s feeling fine. After dancing the night away with Betty Sue, HTM got up early this morning dropped the top of his ’57 Chevrolet, and started revving the engine because he was “feelin’ so fine” about heading to the WWF. Honky Tonk Man says it won’t be long now, that coming to the WWF has been a dream of his. HTM says he can’t wait to get his hands on the likes of Paul Orndorff and take care of business (TCB), “TCB Tennessee-style, daddy!”


Singles Match (23:19)
Roger Kirby vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

Steamboat’s been wearing the red bandanna he’s sporting here since Jake Roberts hit Ricky with a brutal DDT on Saturday Night’s Mania Event 6 on May 3, 1986. If you’re looking for a Steamboat squash you won’t find it here. Steamboat starts the match strong, fighting off Kirby’s offense to take complete control. It seems like we’re heading towards another squash when Kirby lands a Manhattan drop that takes the wind out of Steamboat’s sails. As Steamboat reels from the low blow Kirby goes to work on “the Dragon” kicking and pounding on Steamboat but rarely going for any covers. Steamboat has a number of hope spots but Kirby uses one shortcut after another to take control. Then, after Kirby Irish whips Steamboat into the corner, Steamboat leaps over Kirby and then through Kirby’s legs before delivering a big stalling body slam. Steamboat then climbs the ropes and hits a beautiful crossbody from the top for the pinfall at 4:33.

WINNER is Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (Pin, 4:33)


After the match we get the ring announcement and replay before heading to the second-ever edition of Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ “Snake Pit”. The “Snake Pit” segment had debuted the prior week on the inaugural edition of Wrestling Challenge when Jake interviewed The Wizard. After welcoming fans to “the Snake Pit” Jake opines that “even the wisest of men can be made a fool”, a take on Proverbs 17:28, and says that his guest this week, Hillbilly Jim, “has a head start”. As Hillbilly Jim take his place beside Jake for the interview Jake tells Hillbilly that he may recognize the swampy bog in the center of the set as one of Jim’s grandmother’s recipes. Jake says it’s “not the size of the wand. it’s the magic you perform”, and says that’s where he’s “losing” Hillbilly Jim. Some people are innovators, Jake says, while others are imitators. Jake says he’s an innovator, and tells Jim to stomp his foot twice if Jake is talking too fast. “Most wise men keep their mouths shut and let the fools do the talkin”, Jim says. Jake, taken aback by the swipe, says that while he didn’t bring Damien to the set today he thinks Jim may have brought an animal with him. Jake sniffs the air, and Jim, before guessing that maybe it was a pig Jim brought with him. Jim tells Jake that a pig would be nicer than a snake. Jake says he wants to get through to Jim “head to head” and says he can “get into country”. It would be like, Jake says, “when the bird is flown the nest is empty”, motioning to Jim’s head. As the music swells Hillbilly Jim tells Jake that they have a saying back home: “Sometimes the lights are on but there sure ain’t nobody home!” As exasperated Jake drops the microphone and turns his back on Jim as we cut to the next Peacock ad-break.


Tag Team Match (31:49)
Big John Studd & King Kong Bundy w/Bobby Heenan vs. Paul Roma & Billy Jack Haynes

Billy Jack Haynes, known more today for his off-the-wall comments, had debuted on WWF TV on the July 7, 1986 edition of Prime Time Wrestling with a win over Frank Mancini from the famed Maple Leaf Gardens that was taped on June 1, 1986. Paul Roma debuted in the WWF on January 5, 1985 edition of Championship Wrestling, taped on December 17, 1984. This match is the timeless wrestling tale of size against power. As this one gets going we get an insert promo from “King” Harley Race, who says that it didn’t take him very long to become king of the WWF and that when he was crowned he vowed to himself to rule wrestling with an “iron hand”, having no mercy on anyone and being the “greatest that God every put on Earth”. Back in the ring, as Race is talking, Billy jack nearly bodyslams Studd. Billy Jack out-quicks Studd until Bundy lands a knee to Haynes’ kidneys from the apron. The heels take over, with Bundy dominating Billy Jack until Bundy misses a splash in the corner. Roma gets the hot tag and goes after Bundy, dropkicking Bundy into the corner. Roma tries to Irish whip Bundy into the near corner, though, and Bundy reverses. Studd rushes in, grabs Bundy, and Irish whips the big man into Roma in the corner for the Avalanche. Studd waylays Billy Jack as Bundy covers Roma for the 1-2-3 at 2:38.

WINNERS are Big John Studd & King Kong Bundy w/Bobby Heenan (Pin, 2:38)


Following the match, as the heels celebrate, we hear the ring announcement and see a replay of the finish before heading to the next Peacock ad-break. Coming out of the break we head right to the ring where Nikolai Volkoff, joined by partners Hercules Hernandez and the Iron Sheik, as well as managers Slick & Freddie Blassie, is singing the Russian national anthem. As Volkoff sings we hear “The Caissons Rolling Along” as Cpl. Kirchner, Jim Powers, and Salvatore Bellomo make their way to the ring for the final match of the week.


—“Six-Man Tag Team Match” (36:37)
The Iron Sheik, Hercules Hernandez, & Nikolai Volkoff w/Slick & Freddie Blassie vs. Cpl. Kirchner, Jim Powers, & Salvatore Bellomo.

The babyfaces charge the ring and jump start the match. The brawl soon settles down with Volkoff and Kirchner in the ring, a ring full of trash thrown by upset fans. Everyone gets a chance to shine and momentum shifts back and forth until the Hercules opens up on Jim Powers. The heels take the fight to Powers, with Blassie’s help, as we get an insert promo from “Superstar” Billy Graham regarding his return to the WWF, which would happen on the September 27, 1986 edition of Superstars of Wrestling. As Graham talks Hercules Hernandez traps Powers in a torture rack for the submission win at 2:56.

WINNERS are The Iron Sheik, Hercules Hernandez, & Nikolai Volkoff w/Slick & Freddie Blassie (Pin, 2:56)


After the match the heels celebrate their win as we get the ring announcement and see a replay of the finish before heading back to the interview location. This time Ken Resnick is joined by the Hart Foundation, Bret “Hitman” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and manager Jimmy Hart. Resnick again hypes the WWF’s tag team division before talking about “one team” that continually finds itself embroiled in one controversy after another: the Hart Foundation. Jimmy Hart steps in and says that he’s got a surprise today, that while Jimmy Hart usually does the interviews alone, given that the Hart Foundation are always busy, the Hart Foundation will join Hart for today’s interview. Neidhart starts by reiterating the same things he said in the “Wrestlers’ Rebuttal” segment earlier in the show about being called “nasty boys” by fans. Resnick says that many fans take issue with the tactics the Foundation use, but Bret jumps in and says there isn’t a thing wrong with their tactics, that the tactic is “winning”. Bret talks about the Killer Bees using their masks to cheat while the Foundation win with strength and skill, “not to mention looks”. Neidhart shows off his muscles and rips the other teams for not having muscles like the Foundation. Resnick asks about the Machines and Bret says that being “big and dumb” doesn’t matter because the Foundation has “strength and skill”, as well as Jimmy Hart in their corner. With Jimmy Hart by their side, Bret says, the Foundation “can’t lose”. Neidhart says the Foundation are going after “the leather and the metal, the Bulldogs, the belts.” As Bret continues to talk Resnick wraps the interview and sends us to our final Peacock ad-break of the hour.


Following the break Monsoon, Ernie Ladd, and Johnny V take turns hyping next week’s big card before Monsoon signs off and tosses to a highlight vignette for this week’s show!


Final Thoughts

This is a fast-paced hour of WWF TV that illustrates the embarrassment of riches that was the WWF roster in the fall of 1986. The action, for the most part, is all good to decent, this despite there being any true stand-out matches, and the promos are great. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an hour this week this edition of Wrestling Challenge will do the trick. It’s not a classic show by any stretch of the imagination but it is fun. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen this edition of Wrestling Challenge, or maybe you’ve never seen it before, this is a great time to revisit the show. Who knows, you may actually like it, and that’s never a bad thing!

Already subscribed to the WWE Network on Peacock? Then you can relive the classic edition of WCW Saturday Night right now or experience it for the very first time! As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below!

For pre-WNN editions of Throwback Thursday, click here!

, Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!



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