30 Years Ago, WWE Drew Their Biggest TV Audience Ever For ‘The Main Event’
February 8, 2018 - WWE
On Feb. 5, 1988, 30 years ago this week, veteran wrestling returned to primary time promote network radio after a decades-long absence. WWE had been using semi-monthly Saturday Night’s Main Event specials in a Saturday Night Live time container on NBC for roughly 3 years before it got a immature light for an hour-long special during a center of a “sweeps” ratings duration that determines internal promotion rates. It was a outrageous eventuality for WWE and an equally large opinion of certainty by NBC. To make a many of it, WWE would need a uncover to be something special. As good as WWE did in syndication, on cable, and in that late night time slot, this was something else entirely. Friday was not a “death slot” in 1988, either, that meant a uncover would roughly positively be seen by a biggest assembly in American wrestling history, many reduction association history. Making a many of a eventuality was imperative, generally with WrestleMania entrance adult in March.
And darned if they didn’t lift it off. The Main Event drew a 15.2 rating, a commission of American homes with TVs that were tuned to a show, and 33 million viewers. And those 33 million people saw a biggest and many batshit violent square of Vince McMahon artistic essay that a star has ever seen.
All 3 of a a promotion’s titles were during interest on a show, though a suggested categorical eventuality and biggest sketch label was Hulk Hogan fortifying his star championship opposite Andre The Giant, who had envy incited heel a year earlier. With their initial assembly carrying packaged a Pontiac Silverdome, sole 450,000 sealed circuit tickets opposite North America, and garnered 400,000 pay-per-view buys in a star of customarily 5 million homes, there was no limit left for McMahon to conquer besides network TV. The NBC special would be a best probable promotional automobile for WrestleMania IV, that would also be built around a Hogan-Andre feud. It was such a coup, in fact, that it’s still tough to trust all these years after that they unequivocally pulled it off.
The former WWE writer/producer Bruce Prichard discussed that start story on a Main Event-themed book of his podcast final week. Per Prichard, it all began when arbitrate Dave Hebner went to Vince McMahon to see about removing a pursuit for his brother, Earl, who worked for opposition Jim Crockett Promotions. Dave wanted to breeze down his in-ring purpose and turn a backstage highway agent/producer, that would leave an opening for Earl to step in as a referee. At some indicate during a conversation, Dave mentioned that Earl also happened to be his matching twin. According to Prichard, Vince perked adult during this and became really into a thought of employing Earl; he told Dave not to tell anyone else about a conversation. Earl soon gave his notice to Jim Crockett Jr., who concluded to keep his depart secret. With many of a TV shows taped distant in allege and Earl carrying customarily seemed on Crockett’s Bunkhouse Stampede pay-per-view reduction than dual weeks earlier, nobody would have any thought that he had jumped.
Come Feb. 5, a arbitrate for Hogan-Andre was, of course, “Dave Hebner.” After a messy hip toss by Andre, Hebner counted 3 and admitted a hulk a new champion, notwithstanding a fact that Hogan’s shoulder had really apparently come off a pad during a count of two. After being awarded a belt, Andre immediately surrendered it to his new manager, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, who had been on a query to buy a pretension instead of winning it from Hogan in a ring. All ruin pennyless lax shortly thereafter, with “another Dave Hebner” (the genuine one) using to a ring and arguing with his lookalike imposter. Eventually, Earl embellished Dave, proof that he was a immorality twin. Hogan saw this and afterwards nearly killed Earl when he tossed him out of a ring so tough that he flew so distant that a other bad guys couldn’t locate him.
The customarily spirit as to what a ruin indeed went on came in a form of Hogan’s tearful, sensational locker room interview after a match. The answer was, apparently, not that Dave Hebner had an immorality twin brother, even if many fans remember it that way. Instead, they got…this:
HOW MUCH MONEY DID THEY SPEND ON THE PLASTIC SURGERY, MAN!?! we had all bases covered! we had a Hulkamaniacs watchin’ DiBiase! we had Virgil in his place! NEVER IN MY WILDEST DREAMS, MEAN GENE, would we consider we would get ripped off by a penny-pinching, two-timing referee. HOW MUCH MONEY ON THE PLASTIC SURGERY?! How many income did he spend to compensate a arbitrate off?!?!
When we incited around, Mean Gene, they were identical!
Look during a shoulder, brother! Look during a shoulder! The arbitrate is paid off, brother! Look during a hundred dollar bills descending out of his pocket! MY GOD! HULKAMANIACS!
The speak afterwards finished abruptly due to time constraints.
The finish had to be kept underneath wraps until a uncover aired, and was played tighten adequate to a vest that Prichard says he done a indicate of seeking not to be looped in. This combined a problem, though: The weekend’s syndicated shows, that were treated in-canon as if they aired live or tighten to it, had to be uttered over and distributed around satellite before The Main Event took place. The resolution was a crafty one: It was announced that superficial boss Jack Tunney had ruled that, tentative serve examination of Hogan-Andre, a outcome of a compare could not be discussed on television. Throughout that weekend’s Superstars of Wrestling show, Jesse Ventura was regularly bleeped for perplexing to speak about it before walking off a set. DiBiase, meanwhile, worked that weekend’s live events as champion before being nude a following week. WrestleMania IV would underline a 14-man contest for a pretension with Hogan and Andre any removing a bye to a rematch in a quarterfinals.
The Hebner brothers were kept off TV for a while, with Earl eventually creation his debut… as “Dave Hebner.” The tangible Dave would spasmodic be seen when highway agents were used to mangle adult fights, though he was never named; Earl would have to wait several years before finally being referred to by his possess name. For roughly a decade, The Main Event was what a Hebners were best famous for, though that altered during Survivor Series ’97, when Earl was a arbitrate for a compare in that Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels double crossed Bret Hart on a designed finish. Earl called for a bell to be stage while Michaels had Hart in his possess Sharpshooter finishing hold, afterwards bolted from a ring and met adult with Dave, whose automobile was using with their bags packaged inside. The dual sped away, and it seemed as if they would have jobs for life in a promotion; hell, Earl’s son Brian was eventually hired as a referee, as well. “For life” lasted until 2005, when a brothers, who oversaw locus sell sales, were dismissed over some kind of misappropriation of t-shirts.
The WWE/NBC understanding lasted customarily a few some-more years, as it incited out. The primary time specials never came tighten to 30 million viewers again, while ratings for a late night shows dwindled and an now antiquated Gulf War-centric storyline done everybody concerned uneasy. While WWE did eventually reestablish a network presence, it was customarily on fledgling smaller networks like UPN or in a form of poorly-rated occasional specials on NBC. However, WWE’s ongoing negotiations with Fox, which are rumored to include a flagship Monday Night Raw relocating to a Fox promote network, could change that. Thanks to The Main Event, any destiny network uncover will have a work cut out for it, both in terms of success and pristine lunacy.
David Bixenspan is a freelance author from Brooklyn, NY who co-hosts a Between The Sheets podcast each Monday during BetweenTheSheetsPod.com and everywhere else that podcasts are eavailable. You can follow him on Twitter during @davidbix and perspective his portfolio during Clippings.me/davidbix.