The WWE Hidden Gems area of WWE Network’s on-demand library is one of the added anxiously agreeable things that the advance offers, a account absolution of concealed or rarely credible footage from their all-inclusive athenaeum that offers a acute attending at awe-inspiring canicule gone by in the sport. Not every anniversary is a home run, and there accept been way too abounding releases focused on matches from WWE’s acreage arrangement promotions that were already on YouTube, but there has additionally been a abundance of acceptable actuality and a abiding breeze of “holy grail” matches ahead believed to be lost. One week, you ability get a ahead bare bout of “The God of Pro Wrestling” Karl Gotch, or a complete, unaired 1983 agenda from the Omni in Atlanta. Another, you’ll get three hours of raw footage from Lex Luger’s promotional bout in 1993. And sometimes, as was the case this week, commodity shows up that both fills a gap and adds ambience to accomplished actual narrative. The absolution in question, this week, additionally has the added account of actuality absolutely batshit insane. It’s the unaired pilot from 1989 for the AWA’s “Team Challenge Series” concept, which did end up happening, aloof not as originally envisioned.
Some accomplishments is in order. Arch up to the Fall 1989 television season, a blitz of steroidal sports-adjacent antagonism shows like American Gladiators, Rollergames, and Tuff Trax were actuality awash to networks. According to the July 10, 1989 affair of Broadcasting, syndicators and programmers saw an aperture in that beginning brand acknowledgment to NBC’s alternating WWE specials outdrawing Saturday Night Live, which it occasionally preempted, in the Nielsen ratings. The new shows didn’t necessarily bear in that way, with alone American Gladiators arising as a bonafide hit (and not consistently in backward nights), but that wasn’t necessarily accepted in July. Aloof canicule afterwards that affair of Broadcasting dropped, Steve Beverly—at the time an Auburn University assistant cheating as the editor and administrator of the wrestling-on-TV newsletter Matwatch—heard about yet addition access into the awash field.
“AWA, SYNDICATOR BOB SYRES OFFER RADICAL NEW PROPOSAL TO STATIONS” apprehend the banderole for the affair appear on July 17th, arch off an commodity about the American Angry Association rebranding through a clutter sports-style TV show. It fabricated sense: The AWA, already one of the bigger money pro angry companies acknowledgment to its able midwest base, had by that point added or beneath collapsed, and rarely alike ran alive contest alfresco of the odd taped TV actualization for ESPN. All-Star Wrestling, their amalgamated show, would no best accept to be bombastic to its ESPN show, and instead could activity altered matches as allotment of an busy revenue-sharing accord with TV stations. The new abstraction was congenital about a clash alleged the Aggregation Challenge Series, and would see the accomplished agenda aggressive for an closing banknote award-winning as allotment of one of three teams.
The clash happened and it was terrible, but while it did absolutely booty over AWA programming, the beyond rebranding didn’t happen. So it was the awesomely abhorrent unaired pilot for the added bold show-esque adaptation of the concept, which was advised to address to stations that didn’t get American Gladiators or Rollergames, that showed up on WWE Network on Thursday. (The actualization is anachronous October 23, 1989 in the description, but the clash had already started by then. WWE-provided dates sometimes accept no affiliation to reality.)
The actualization opens with women in bikinis accomplishing an AWA-themed acclamation in an abandoned studio, interspersed with clips of wrestling, some accidental bandage playing, and… yes, that is artful boxing. Verne Gagne, the AWA’s apostle and above top brilliant appears, with dog in hand, to advertise admirers on the Aggregation Challenge Series in a promo that recalls annihilation so abundant as one of those ads that air on late-night cable for catheters or about-face mortgages or Medicare-covered aback braces. “And now we’re entering at new era,” Gagne intones. “The AWA is introducing its Aggregation Challenge Series, an advancing aggregation competition, with standings, bent by a point system. A aboriginal for able wrestling. That, forth with new television technology, brings you, the angry fan, anon into that ring.”
We again deliquesce to a ascendancy room, area anchorperson Ralph Strangis welcomes us to “the new AWA” and introduces his blush analyst, Greg Gagne, Verne’s son; he refers to their area as “the accessory base.” Ralph promises “the world’s greatest wrestlers” and “the Beverly Hills Knockouts,” who are the above artful battle troupe, and “hot, new, agitative bedrock ‘n’ cycle to advice us conductor in a accomplished new era in wrestling,” which is the aftermost time that annihilation like bedrock ‘n’ cycle appears in the broadcast. Greg adds that we will feel the activity acknowledgment to the alien new technology. Again they bandy to “the satellite” and it anon becomes credible why this never aired anywhere.
It’s Tommy Jammer, in advanced of a blooming screen, walking through some accomplishments from Tron with a sped-up video of admirers cheering—the aforementioned video on both abandon of him, aloof flipped, that will afterwards be acclimated for every distinct entrance. Jammer active offscreen, again enters a arena in an abandoned television studio. Area he was walking beforehand is not explained, and neither is why there are no admirers in the new amplitude into which he has aloof sauntered. It seems as if the television admirers was aloof declared to anticipate that there are admirers there, as canned army babble has been dubbed in. At assorted credibility throughout the bout there are additionally cutaways to fans, actual acutely at a bar or restaurant and not in the studio, who are apparently watching the match. It’s confusing, if beneath in Agitative New Technology means than in What Is Alike Accident Actuality ones.
Besides not accepting to anguish about cartoon advantageous fans, the abandoned flat does acquiesce AWA to use some altered camera angles, but annihilation groundbreaking. As for that “new television technology” that Verne mentioned earlier, the alone accurate archetype on activity is slow-motion burning replay, which they dubbed a aboriginal for able wrestling. It wasn’t—though it had conceivably not acclimated mid-match afore this, slow-motion replays had been about in angry back the aboriginal 1970s at the latest.
It’s not that this actuality looks antic in 2018, although it absolutely does. The added acute affair is that it would accept looked antic in 1989. If this was the AWA’s behind attack at analogous the assembly amount of added nationally televised promotions, again it was an base failure. It’s breathless as all hell, too: Are we declared to anticipate there are admirers in the studio? Or that the blooming awning access is real? There’s no adumbration that this pilot was advised alone as a asperous facsimile for a slicker adaptation that would air instead, either. The aforementioned basal arrangement is followed for the abutting match, featuring The Destruction Crew (Mike Enos and Wayne Bloom) adjoin Jerry Lynn and Ricky Rice. First, this happens:
Enos and Bloom were a affably able brace of rookies who bound angry into a appealing solid tag team; their brand were absorbing interviews in which Bloom would consistently acknowledgment questions with “I’ll handle this one, Mike.” None of that is here. Instead, afterwards bashing some green-screened barrio to dust, they do the aforementioned poor man’s Road Warriors account that every jacked up amateur did in the ‘80s. From there, administrator “Luscious” Johnny Valiant escorts them through the agenda abandoned and into the arena for a bout with Jerry Lynn and Ricky Rice. The bout itself is absolutely appealing good; best of the angry in the actualization is, at worst, altogether fine. It’s the aggregate abroad that’s the problem.
The much-hyped actualization of the “Beverly Hills Knockouts,” which appearance some arrant point-of-view camera angles on what’s declared to be a agilely believable clutter sports show, comes next. Why this is alike allotment of the AWA Aggregation Challenge Series is never explained, and neither is it absolutely bright whether the artful boxers are declared to be acclaimed abundant that admirers should apperceive who they are. Their allocation of the actualization is absolutely what you would expect: Scantily-clad women accomplishing bad toughman contest-rules battle which bound break bottomward into alike worse pro wrestling, all of which is fabricated added alarming by the tiny artful battle arena they’re in and an accessible abridgement of training. It’s bright that this is actuality to sex up the actualization and apparently accomplish it added adorable to TV stations (and eventually viewers), but it’s alien with aggregate abroad and wince-inducing on its own merits. It would accept been awe-inspiring on any pro angry actualization in 1989, but it’s abundantly aberrant in commodity affiliated with AWA, which was historically one of the best banal promotions in the sport.
Thankfully, someone, about accomplished what a adversity this pilot was, and the Aggregation Challenge Series that afterwards aired on television consisted of matches taped at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Well, mostly: One of those aboriginal tapings was attempt in an empty, blush room, with aegis guards present to anticipate interference. There was no army babble dubbed in, no canned army shots or “futuristic” entrance. Aloof wrestlers accomplishing brainless things like accommodating in “The Great American Turkey Hunt,” which was, for abridgement of a bigger term, a Frozen Turkey On A Pole Bout after any attempts at adorned production. It was above to the unaired pilot, if aloof barely, but again that’s not adage much.
David Bixenspan is a freelance biographer from Brooklyn, NY who co-hosts the Between The Sheets podcast every Monday at BetweenTheSheetsPod.com and everywhere abroad that podcasts are available. You can chase him on Twitter at @davidbix and appearance his portfolio at Clippings.me/davidbix.
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