Confession time: I'm probably not the ideal candidate for reviewing this title, at least from a historical standpoint. Though I've followed the WWE during the last several years (since 1993, in fact), I'd never seen an entire episode of Saturday Night's Main Event before popping in this three-disc collection. For those equally unfamiliar, this release highlights some of the most memorable moments from WWE's successful Saturday night series, circa 1985 and beyond---and from top to bottom, it's a terrific primer for the era. Hosted by "Mean" Gene Okerlund and peppered with appearances by Hulk Hogan, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Andre the Giant and more, this condensed overview of Saturday Night's Main Event will have WWE history buffs smiling all the way through...but even if you're seeing this material for the first time, it's still a highly enjoyable experience.
Unlike the majority of WWE programming before 1985 (and even since then), SNME was made up almost entirely of high-profile matches. In short, it raised the stakes for wrestling on network TV and the ratings certainly proved it...for a few years. By 1991, the NBC program had been relegated to the fledgling FOX network and ended with a whimper during the next year. Though Saturday Night's Main Event returned to NBC in 2006 for a second run, it's never come close to approaching its popularity during the late 1980s. In any case, we still have plenty of terrific moments to remember---and lucky for us, we're treated to roughly eight hours of 'em during this three-disc collection. Both incarnations of SNME are given attention, though the original run gets the lion's share of coverage (and rightly so).
As far as the content goes, this three-disc set really covers a lot of ground. In addition to over 30 full-length matches (which have been listed below), a number of other highlights are also on board. As mentioned earlier, "Mean" Gene Okerlund serves as our host and provides plenty of context for those who may not be as familiar with the legacy of Saturday Night's Main Event. Although he does gloss over some of the rougher patches (never admitting that the move to FOX was due to dwindling ratings, for example), Okerlund mostly plays it straight---but in any case, his presence here really adds to the nostalgia factor. Other non-match highlights include scenes from Uncle Elmer's wedding, the union of "The Mega Powers" (Hulk Hogan and Randy "Macho Man" Savage), Koko B. Ware's infamous "Piledriver" music video, scenes from Oktoberfest circa 1990, Mr. Perfect smashing the championship belt, the 2006 return of Saturday Night's Main Event and much, much more.
It's also worth noting that a number of current and former WWE superstars are on hand to share their thoughts and memories, including Randy Orton speaking about his dad, "Cowboy" Bob Orton; Jake "The Snake" Roberts reflecting on a few matches; and Natalya Neidhart talking about her dad, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, who teamed with Bret "Hit Man" Hart for many years as "The Hart Foundation". These newly-recorded interviews add a significant layer to the proceedings, elevating it from a standard highlight reel to a fully-realized retrospective. But for all those who came here for the wrestling, let's have a look at the matches:
(31 matches on 3 single-sided DVDs)
Disc One *
Hulk Hogan vs. "Cowboy" Bob Orton [WWE Championship Match - May 11, 1985]
Disc Two *
Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy [WWE Championship Match - January 2, 1988]
Disc Three *
Hulk Hogan & The Ultimate Warrior vs. Mr. Perfect & The Genius [January 27, 1990]
* - Includes Additional Bonus Features (see below)
As if it weren't painfully obvious by now, there's plenty to see during this eight-hour main feature. Ironically, the wrestling often takes a backseat; after all, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and Andre the Giant were never revered for their technical prowess. This collection largely floats by on historical significance alone...but even without five-star matches, most of what goes down is exciting and unpredictable. It's worth noting, of course, that a handful of athletes elevate their material to greater-than-average heights, including the technically gifted Shawn Michaels (who appears during both incarnations of SNME), the previously mentioned Hart Foundation, Mr. Perfect, The Brain Busters, "Mr Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, The British Bulldog, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and many more. Heck, Ric Flair himself even shows up for a match. The play-by-play commentary from Vince McMahon, Jesse "The Body" Ventura and others ups the ante as well. Though the spectacle itself often outweighs the wrestling, WWE fans of all ages should have no trouble jumping right in. From top to bottom, The Best of Saturday Night's Main Event is one of the company's finest efforts to date.
On the technical side of things, this three-disc set is on par with recent WWE releases: production values are solid, matches are presented in their entirety (aside from commercial breaks, of course) and the Attitude-era "scratch" logo is still blurred from existence. Additionally, many audience signs bearing the company's previous initials---and audible mentions of its name---have been digitally edited, though the vintage WWF "block" logo appears generally unscathed. This makes for a rather confusing experience at first, but WWE fans should be accustomed to such a visually compromised presentation by now. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, The Best of Saturday Night's Main Event is easily on track with current WWE collections, at least during most of the main feature's eight-hour running time. There's obviously a bit of softness on display and the colors aren't exactly vivid, but this is undoubtedly due to the source material. Mild pixellation, edge enhancement and compression artifacts can be seen during many pyrotechnic sequences, but these are generally kept to a minimum. As usual, newly-recorded interviews are crisp and clear. Overall, fans should know what to expect here.
The audio is presented in a fairly standard Dolby Surround mix; likewise, it's roughly on par with recent WWE releases from the same era. This is hardly an enveloping and dynamic mix, but it certainly gets the job done. Crowd noise and play-by-play commentary come through loud and clear, creating a satisfying soundstage overall. As expected, optional subtitles and Closed Captions have not been provided.
Disc 2 starts off with another bonus segment; this time it's "Brother Love Interviews Hulk Hogan" from November 26, 1988 (11:32). Prefaced by Hulk's infamous beatdown at the hands of The Big Boss Man a month earlier, this clip also features the antics of Slick as Brother Love's guest of honor. The second and final extra on Disc 2 features "Sapphire's Debut" during a SNME match between The Big Boss Man and "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes on October 31, 1989 (9:02). Polka dots abound.
Disc 3 includes a bonus segment from July 28, 1990, entitled "Alfred Hayes and Gene Okerlund Go On Safari" (2:55, above right). This short but enjoyable skit also features appearances by Koko B. Ware, Jake "The Snake" Roberts and The Bushwhackers. The remaining two segments are brief Interviews with current WWE superstars: "Shawn Michaels Talks About Winning His First Intercontinental Championship" (1:07) reflects on his victory over The British Bulldog, while "Matt Hardy Talks About Boxing Evander Holyfield" (1:53) focuses on their August 2007 SNME bout. Both segments feature highlights from each respective match, though neither goes into much detail. Like the main feature, these extras are presented in 1.33:1 format and include no optional Closed Captions or subtitles.
Easily one of the most satisfying WWE releases to date, The Best of Saturday Night's Main Event is packed with plenty of good times and great memories---but in all fairness, this is hardly the company's premiere showcase of actual wrestling. In any case, barely a match goes by without a memorable face or a significant event, making this three-disc collection an invaluable resource for 1980s wrestling enthusiasts. The DVD treatment is on par with recent WWE efforts, boasting a decent technical presentation and a handful of appropriate bonus features. All things considered, the only complaint many fans will have is that it simply isn't long enough. Though many fans have undoubtedly picked this up already, The Best of Saturday Night's Main Event is a no-brainer for any and all interested parties. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.