We’re back with some liner notes from our “Piledriver” podcast episode! Over the course of 3 hours of talk about old school WWF wrestling, there’s bound to be some items that warranted a footnote or two, so let’s get to it!
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Before “The Viper” Randy Orton, the WWF had “The Snake”, who made his mark as a killer heel in the 80’s. He was as lithe and slithery in the ring as his pet python “Damien”. Jake Roberts debuted in the WWF in 1986 and arguably gave some of the best heel interviews for that federation. Check out this classic he gave immediately after slapping Ms. Elizabeth.
But Jake The Snake is best known for his finisher, the DDT, which stands for a number of things depending on who you ask:
- Drop Dead Twice
- Demonic Death Trap
- Damien’s Death Touch
- Death Drop Technique
- Damien’s Dinner Time
- “The End”
Check out this sick DDT compilation!
I brought up Jake the Snake wrestling against early rival Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, who surprised him after the match by bringing his own pet to the ring– a komodo dragon to counteract Jake’s pet python Damien! Check out this moment from Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1986 (jump ahead to 8:55 mark, or watch the whole thing for a great classic match!):
Jake was eventually featured in 1999’s Beyond the Mat documentary, which showed him at what may have been the lowest point in his life, if not his wrestling career. Some would say this depiction of Roberts was what inspired the 2008 film The Wrestler.
“The Doctor of Style” Slick
Kenneth Johnson, better known as Slick, was a heel manager in the 80’s WWF. With his debut in 1986, Slick made history as the first ever African American manager in the WWF. Slick arrived and purchased a half-interest in “Classy” Freddie Blassie’s stable of heels, including Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik. Due to Blassie’s poor health, Slick ended up managing his wrestlers full-time, adding to his stable with The Twin Towers (Big Boss Man and Akeem, the African Dream), “The Natural” Butch Reed, Rick Martel, Power and Glory and The Warlord.
But Slick is best known for his entrance theme, which was a track on the Piledriver album that had its own music video. As Eclectik noted during Episode 9.5, the video starts off with Slick in KFC (correction: not Popeye’s chicken) enjoying a bucket of fried drumsticks. Yes, Vince McMahon was playin up the racial stereotypes pretty big in the 80’s, but damn if it wasn’t entertaining. I’m sorry y’all, but this track was bangin!
Oh, and in case you were wondering what was up with Akeem the African Dream? Yes, that is the former One Man Gang, who was transformed by the influence of Slick!
The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
In 1986, these real-life brothers from Montreal, Quebec debuted in the WWF– first as faces but then turning into a heel tag team managed by “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. Eventually, the Rougeaus started working a pro-USA gimmick, regularly teasing their acceptance of American culture. When they came to the ring, they were billed as “soon to relocate to Memphis, Tennessee”. It was during this time in the late 80’s that they came to the ring under the theme “All-American Boys”, which they sung themselves. Here’s hoping you can stomach this…
Junkyard Dog w/Vickie Sue performing “Grab Them Cakes” at the 1986 Slammy Awards
What can we say here? The JYD basically made a song and dance about groping on women. And to think us kids thought he was talking about cake as in Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima or Hostess?
The Rockers break-up on “The Barber Shop” and the birth of “The Heartbreak Kid”
Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were a popular tag team in the WWF known as “The Rockers”. They had feuded with the likes of The Hart Foundation, The Rougeaus, The Brain Busters and The Twin Towers in the late-80’s. However friction started to develop between the tag partners and it all came crashing down in 1992 on Brutus Beefcake’s segment “The Barber Shop” . A superkick to the face, a header through a plate glass window, and the rest, as they say, is infamy…
Sherri Martel then professed her love of Michaels on this segment of Paul Bearer’s “Funeral Parlor”.
Here was the debut of Michaels as a solo competitor, with Sensational Sherri as his new manager.
For those wondering, yes… that was Sherri Martel singing the original “Boy Toy” theme song.
Jannetty did eventually return to try and exact his revenge on The Boy Toy, only to miss his shot with the heart-shaped mirror. Michaels eventually got the better of his ex-partner, defending his IC title against him at the Royal Rumble. The bad blood continued on after the match with a backstage brawl, but shortly after was the last the WWF had seen of Marty Jannetty for a few years.
Hillbilly Jim’s “Don’t Go Messin With a Country Boy”
When I say I used to get up and do the do-si-do and stomp around in my Brooklyn apartment as a kid when this song came on, I wasn’t joking!
Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling cartoon
Aired Saturday mornings on CBS from ’85 to ’87, this show had real life segments with pro-wrestlers book-ending the cartoon. Check out the first episode that aired here:
The Wrestling Albums
Vince McMahon is no fool. The man continued to capitalize on the success of pro wrestling by moving into the music industry with several wrestling themed albums. The WWF started with The Wrestling Album in 1985, which had such popular themes as “Real American”, “Grab Them Cakes”, “Hulk Hogan’s Theme” (used at the start of the Rock ‘N’ Wrestling cartoon), and “Don’t Go Messin’ With a Country Boy”. Here’s the video for “Land of a Thousand Dances”, featuring several WWF wrestlers, managers and personalities all in one song.
and yes, that’s Meatloaf and Cyndi Lauper you saw in that video!
of course, who doesn’t recognize the “Real American” theme? The Hulkster sure does strum a mean fake-guitar!
Propelled by the success of the first wrestling album, in 1987 the WWF released “Piledriver, The Wrestling Album 2”. This one had several hits previously featured, like “Jive Soul Bro”, “Demolition”, “Honky Tonk Man” and “Girls In Cars”. But it was the title track, sung by Koko B. Ware, that garnered all the accolades and attention, mostly because of the music video.
But who among us were prepared for the greatness that was Vince McMahon’s “Stand Back”– a performance truly for the ages…
Unfortunately there wasn’t another wrestling album until 1993, when Arista/RCA released “WrestleMania The Album”, which was ultimaely forgettable. It basically was a bunch of early 90’s tracks themed around the wrestlers on the WWF roster at the time– let’s just say none of the videos were worth featuring here. But interesting enough, one of the c0-producers of this album???
None other than Simon Cowell, now known for being a judge on American Idol and now X-Factor (the talent competition, not the comic book nor the Attitude-era faction of X-Pac, Prince Albert and Justin Credible)!
more liner notes to come!