For those not familiar, WWF’s Tuesday Night Titans was a fun, odd parody of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
The show began in 1984 and featured Vince McMahon as the host and Lord Alfred Hayes as his sofa sidekick. The concept was fascinating. These larger-than-life figures inside the wrestling ring would actually sit down and do interviews with that announcer-guy McMahon (at the time the television audience didn’t know he was the owner) and the eccentric, mildly creepy Hayes, who talked with a funny British accent, yet somehow made wrestling sound important.
Week by week, we’ll take a look at the highs and lows of this iconic wrestling show which you can find in full on the WWE Network.
– Episode 1: May 28, 1984 airdate
– The stars of the show: Dr. D. David Schultz, Lord Alfred Hayes, Vince McMahon and Capt. Lou Albano.
Hayes announced the show’s first guests as Capt. Lou Albano, The Wild Samoans, Tito Santana and a special feature with Dr. D. David Schultz.
McMahon opens the show and admits that TNT is “a most unusual treatment of the World Wrestling Federation.” McMahon introduces Hayes, who is wearing a spectacular purple ruffled suit, calling him “perhaps Britain’s answer to Idi Amin.” McMahon’s facial expressions are off the chart here as no one does the maniacal smirk like he does.
In talking about the upcoming guests, McMahon says Santana is “one of the true heartthrobs in sports and entertainment today.”
The beauty of McMahon then was his ability to speak absolute B.S., but say it so seriously that you actually wondered if it were true. Hayes too was treating everything with a serious face, offering a sort of an intellectual take on the sport. After some light banter, McMahon cut to a wrestling match featuring Paul Orndorff and Brian Blair.
Paul Orndorff vs. Brian Blair
What’s memorable: These guys are actually wrestling in an actual wrestling match. At one point, Blair does a drop toehold, countered by a reverse hammerlock with McMahon saying, “They are wrapped up like an octopus at the moment.” The announcers were actually calling the match. Later, Orndorff threw Blair through the ropes and “Mean” Gene Okerlund, working as a color commentator, screamed, “Blair is airborne! He went sailing out of there.”
Orndorff then dropped Blair on the railing on his throat. Photographers are also at ringside shooting photos, something long gone in the modern era. As hokey as they looked, they made it seem like it was a real sport, and not just a television show. Okerlund was really good here, selling the match and actually talking about what was happening in the ring.
The show then took an incredible turn with with a focus on Dr. D. David Schultz.
Here’s how Hayes described Schultz: “He speaks funny, that accent of his is somewhat amusing, but the message is deadly. This man is a bully inside and outside of the ring.”
The fact that Hayes believes Schultz talks funny is amusing because, well, Hayes talks pretty funny himself.
Let’s be clear: Schultz was ahead of his time. If he were around in the Attitude Era, he may well have been the biggest superstar of the era. Schultz’s charisma was unreal, even if a later segment with his “wife” and “kids” was extraordinarily distasteful.
They cut to a studio interview with Okerlund doing an amazing introduction that built his character: “He’s a man who has wreaked havoc and devastation on opponent after opponent ever since he arrived in the World Wrestling Federation. He is the veteran of Nashville, TN, Music City, Tennesse, I don’t mind telling you, Dr. D David Schultz!”
Schultz strutted on camera with a curly wild blonde afro and a bright yellow tank top. This dude looked mean, like he could stare down Mike Tyson.
“I am looking for a man,” he blurts. “I don’t care how big you are or how tall you are or how big or small you are.”
This is Stone Cold Steve Austin x2. After stating that he was the guy on the playground who beat up your kids and stole their lunch money, Schultz then cut a ridiculously brilliant promo:
“If my mama stood here and talk to me bad, I’d slap her, but she knows better. If my wife talked to me bad, I would knock her head off, and if one of my ladies — WHAT DO YOU WANT (he stops and looks at Okerlund) YOU KEEP TOUCHING MY LEG.”
Okerlund then cut him off and sent it to a match with Schultz facing a jobber named Billy Travis. Not much to the match except that Schultz dominated him and after the match, he yelled, “The same thing is going to happen to Hogan when I get ahold of him.”
In a feature called a House Call, they took a camera to Schultz’s house to see what he was like in the comfort of his own home.
WWF shooting inside wrestlers’ homes is typically not a good idea (Steve Austin/Brian Pillman) and this was no exception. Here, all of the terrible stereotypes of Southern men were on display. Schultz wore a red tank top and screamed at his wife for not making dinner and at his kids for not having manners. He scares his kids away, screaming “Go pet the dog and don’t come back unless I holler for you!”
A few minutes later, Schultz’s brunette wife says “supper is ready,” and Schultz, wearing mini-shorts you might expect a 13-year-old girl to wear while hanging around the house on a weekend, proceeds to blast her for not washing the dishes. “What is this the city dump?!” he said.
The segment just got worse. When his “wife” interrupted him, Schultz freaked out and said “I guess you thought I was through talking. I shouldn’t have let you come out of the bedroom anyway.”
Now it’s just Schultz and one of his kids at the kitchen table. The kid hands him a glass of tea and Schultz drops it. He then freaks out like he’s going to slap his kid before telling him to go upstairs. Schultz absolutely carried this segment because everyone else in it made the Bella Twins look like fabulous actors.
The segment was terribly offensive, but it showed his on-camera charisma. The match, the interview, and the at-home segment really brought Schultz’s character to life. We hated him — absolutely hated him — and so, we wanted to watch him. Had there been PPV at the time, we would have paid to see him wrestle anybody.
Back in the studio, Hayes remarked, “It would seem that Dr. D David Schultz practices the same intimidation at home as he does in the squared circle against his opponents.”
It’s too bad he knocked out John Stossel a year later on national television. He might have been a huge star.
Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana (pre-Spanish Matador days, because Spain and Mexico is the same thing, right?) came out as the next guest.
Santana was offended by Schultz, saying it was “beyond my imagination that someone would treat someone like that.”
McMahon cut to a match between Santana and Adrian Adonis (fat, but pre-obese “Adorable” Adrian days. How did McMahon get Adonis to do that awful gimmick anyway?) Adonis spent most of the match pulling up his tights which ended in a 30-minute draw.
Back in the studio, Santana talked about how hurt he was after the match, but that he worked hard to recover. Hayes, McMahon, and Santana played this perfectly, making the match and Santana sound important. At this time, the I-C title meant something and wasn’t a throwaway title.
They moved to a mailbag segment where Hayes read “questions” from the fans, one of which was whether McMahon ever wrestled professionally. McMahon’s response: “Not big enough, or bad enough to be a professional wrestler. Collegiate wrestler — a little bit.”
The show then transformed inadvertently into “TNT is Captain Lou Albano”.
No fat guy has every acted so comfortable in his own skin as Albano. He paraded around with his disgusting belly hanging out of his Hawaiian shirt like he was Randy Orton. Like Paul Heyman and Jim Cornette, Albano proved that you don’t have to look like a million bucks to be a million dollar player.
Albano was notorious for taking all the credit when his champions won the tag titles, and frequently bounced around from tag team to tag team. We see a clip of The Wild Samoans defending the tag team championship against Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas. Johnson, The Rock’s dad, and Atlas won the titles after Albano accidentally hit Afa with a wooden chair instead of Atlas, the intended target.
The reaction to the title change was special as adult men and women came unglued. An older woman in thick glasses nearly fell over with excitement.
When they came back to the studio, the Samoans were on the far end of the couch. McMahon then introduced Albano, who walked slowly to the stage. McMahon, trying to instigate a fight between the Samoans and Albano, asked Albano if he was responsible for the “unorthodox” title change.
“I personally don’t feel like I am responsible at all,” Albano said. “It was a technical mistake, but so what? They were three-time champions. They should have been tough enough not to be crybabies.”
Albano then did what he did best: insult people, to build heat around himself: “They were nothing before me. They were savages in the trees.”
Hayes asked how such a mistake as hitting the wrong person with a chair could be excusable. McMahon then asked bluntly if the rumors were true that Albano had his eyes on a new tag team of the aforementioned Adonis and Dick Murdoch, of which Albano denied, but implied that he has had secret meetings with them.
This was around the time of the Rock & Wrestling Connection explosion, but before the first Wrestlemania in 1985, so Cyndi Lauper was firmly involved in the WWE. Albano chose to bring Lauper up, saying just like the Samoans, he had rescued her career. “I took Cyndi Lauper out, I took the woman out of the slums of New York, Queens, the worst part of Queens, the downer section, and made her what she is today. I stress the word “woman” because what woman has made herself!”
McMahon then asked what the difference was between managing individuals and tag teams, and Albano responded with the fact that it’s “quick tags,” and that he films all of his matches, adding that he has a 157 IQ.
Then, in a bizarre segment, they cut to a faux talk show with a studio audience, similar to something like the old Phil Donahue show. It was unclear to me what the show was. On stage was Albano, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter, Freddie Blassie, and an unidentified woman.
McMahon, carrying a microphone with the number 39 on it, was in the audience asking questions. Albano, at one point, insulted an African-American man in the audience, saying if he was nice to him, he would let him “shine my shoes after the show,” prompting the man to flip him the kind of double bird that Stone Cold would have loved.
A woman asked Blassie why he supports Iran (he was managing the Iron Sheik at the time) when he makes his money in America. Blassie quickly retorted with “I make my money anywhere I go.” Albano then insulted the woman’s “two-tone” hair, saying that if she had any class, she would have nice hair like Blassie.
Albano owned the room. He was a heel, but the kind of heel that got other people over and himself hated.
The show wrapped up with a simple, but extremely effective segment. McMahon showed short clips of various wrestlers. In one clip, Andre the Giant wrestled two men — Johnny Rodz and Jack Evans.
Then they showed clips of Hogan wrestling The Masked Superstar, followed by Superfly Snuka wrestling Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, then of the Iron Sheik putting a double camel clutch on two guys.
“It’s a most exciting time, in fact, the most exciting time, in professional wrestling,” Hayes said. McMahon wrapped up the show by saying they’d be back in two weeks.