Ringside Shadows #176: The Mid-80s WWF Crew Goes MTV
The mid eighties were truly a strange time for the WWF. On one hand of the spectrum, they had what seemed like a vice grip on the wrestling audience in general, from coast to coast. Much of this, granted, was due to their unbreakable grasp of the television airwaves during the era, but I think an equal part can be attributed to the athletes that gave their hearts and souls to the fans night in and night out. Legendary names like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, The Iron Shiek, Bob Backlund, Andre the Giant, Ricky Steamboat, Paul Orndorff, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were hitting full stride, all at the same time. To be honest, the roster boasted by the WWF at that time could almost overshadow their lineup even today. It was that visible, that outstanding, that good.
But on the other side of the coin, while these humongous names in the industry were putting on some truly memorable matches, matches which would go on to define their careers, they were doing so under a pretense that was almost unheard of prior to that day and age. They were doing it all in the form of a children's program.
It was the era of Rock'n Wrestling. A day where MTV was new, fresh and exciting. A day when the WWF saw that new trend and got in on the ground floor. Undeniably, his association and cross-promotions with the stars of MTV during the mid eighties was one of Vince McMahon's shining moments of genius. It brought an unbelievable new rush of fanfare to the once-dying spectacle, infusing pro wrestling with a lifeblood that still flows strong today. It gave men like Roddy Piper the opportunity to make or break themselves in the big time, and in Piper's case he ran with it.
Unfortunately, this inventive new marketing ploy also brought about more than a couple side effects, one of which I'll be observing closely here today. While I'll be the first in line to congratulate Vince for ensuring the WWF and wrestling in general would survive well into the twenty-first century, I'll also be among the first to criticize him for carrying it too far. Case in point; a little music video entitled "The Goonies R Good Enough," by one Cyndi Lauper.
If that title rung a little bell in the back of your mind, I'm not surprised. Yes, this was the music video for that catchy little Lauper theme song to the classic 1985 motion picture, The Goonies. Don't worry, the sheer mention of its name sends me spiraling down happy memory lane as well. You're not alone. However, if you're asking yourself what this particular flick has to do with the WWF, you're probably not alone. None of the WWF's stars appeared in the movie itself, (hell, Lauper was held to a single, brief, grimacing shot on the TV screen) and as far as I can tell they weren't used to promote the film either. However, Vince's boys are, for whatever reason, plastered all over this music video. And what a hoot it is...
So, aided by my brand new copy of The Goonies on DVD, I plan to drag my way through this treacherous little bit of music history, if just to record its relevance to the wrestling community. It's gonna be a fun ride, and if nothing else should prove to you just how far Vince McMahon is willing to go for shameless promotion. If you thought WCW's little escapade with "Chucky" a few years back was bad, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
This little cinematic masterpiece opens up with a far shot of a gas station, with the lovely Ms. Lauper jogging from off camera right into the thick of things. As a cheesy announcer tells us the bank is ready to foreclose on this quiet little station, we catch our first glimpse of something WWF: "Captain" Lou Albano, better known as 'that guy with the rubber band earrings,' is attempting to reason with a portrait of a pirate. Albano reveals to no one in particular (seriously, nobody's on screen) that this pirate was his long-lost relative, and if he only knew where he'd buried his treasure, they wouldn't have to lose the gas station.
As Cyndi complains about the neighborhood, one of her colleagues, boasting a sign that reads "Free cookies with gas," welcomes the day's first customer; a stretch limousine. Everyone rushes outside to meet this friendly new customer, but we (being avid followers of the WWF's current product) know better. Sure enough, the limo rolls to a stop and out steps "Classy" Freddy Blassie, followed by Roddy Piper and the Iron Shiek. While the Shiek rustles some random papers around and attempts to speak English, Piper tells us in his own roundabout way that they are now the legal owners of the gas station. Quoth the Shiek; "Listen, lady! This is my property! Now! So get outta here, you! Lazy! American! Bum! Athtaynatchaa!"
Piper pokes fun at the poor woman's cookies, and the sound of a cow is sounded off in the distance. I shit you not. The Shiek even blames it on Blassie, seeing as how he's been responsible for the majority of the WWF's past troubles with bovine-resembling bowel movements. Piper shoves a finger in Albano's face, which sets the whole group off on a monumental shouting match, a brawl which is only interrupted by a red pickup truck, driven by The Fabulous Moolah, with a giant plastic cow in the bed. "Milking" this cow is Nikolai Volkoff. This is just surreal.
The verbal sparring escalates, (nobody noticed Nikolai, who began singing moments later) leading Piper to remove the smiley-face button from Lou Albano's shirt and stomp a vicious mudhole all over it. And he's wearing his wrestling boots. A suit and tie, with a pair of maroon wrestling boots and the initials "RP" in fancy, fancy letters. God, how I loved Roddy Piper. What with all this screaming and button-stomping going on, it's a good thing they got a cardio machine like Piper for the gig... I think Hogan would've blown up by now.
Cue the music that'll be haunting my dreams this evening.
Hibachi chefs wheel a giant stove onto the lot and start tossing salt and pepper shakers back and forth. They're all in uniform. I couldn't make this up if I tried. Cyndi pays no mind to the custody battle going on at the front of her station, and instead begins singing, servicing the red pickup Moolah has abandoned, but Nikolai still occupies. Wait, scratch that, she isn't servicing the car. She's feeding the plastic cow a bottle of milk, through a straw. Holy god, what have I taken to produce such hallucinations? Now Nikolai is singing backup.
If nothing else, this video's giving me some happy memories of Cyndi Lauper. I had such a crush on her around this time, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't carry through to today. Not exactly what you'd call a common beauty, but she's hot in that "punk chick" kind of way. But I'm getting off track.
OK, Nikolai's just turned heel. He's left the relative safety of the back of that pickup, where he was singing pleasantly alongside Cyndi. Now he's joined Piper, Blassie and the Shiek in tossing the male gas station attendant around. Meanwhile, Lauper heads inside the station and begins taking down decorations from the wall. I guess they'll be giving up the gas station, as the Shiek has gone through all the legal channels in his quest to... hold the phone! When Cyndi pulled down the picture of Capt. Lou's pirate relative, she discovered a giant hole in the wall! How'd they miss that when they hung up the portrait in the first place? Nevermind that, as she dives in headfirst and gives me a nice peek at her backside in the process.
The Iron Shiek's dialogue is subtitled for a split second, proving it wasn't just me that thought he was having trouble with his English earlier on. And Cyndi's discovered some sort of treasure map. A skeleton's got a real death grip on the map (wokka wokka,) and instead of running away, she just sits there, widens her eyes to an inhuman degree, and screams. This is fun in a real "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" kind of way. Cyndi peeks to her left, and OHMYGOD THERE'S A BUNCH OF KIDS IN WHITE SHIRTS. Lauper's scared now, but still isn't really trying to get away. The kids shuffle around a bit, and suddenly... magic! Their shirts spell "GOONIES." Looks like most of the kids from the film were available for the video shoot. We've got Mikey's big brother, Chunk, Mikey himself, Data, Mouth, and the annoying lesbian blonde girl. And they've all got really cheaply made shirts on, each containing one letter to the word 'goonies.' How clever. Regardless, Lauper is overjoyed to see them, and they compare their corresponding treasure maps.
Time now for worthless, out-of-place but essential, clips from the movie.
Back to the video, and a woman with green skin, dressed in purple rags, has appeared from out of nowhere. "PIRATES!" screams the captioning at the bottom of the screen. Yeah, that's the first thing I thought of when I saw the woman with the green skin. Now we've got Pirates, as a few ominous characters dressed in animal skins appear for good measure, also from out of nowhere. Funny, these guys look more like cavemen than pirates. They also bear more than a striking resemblance to Roddy Piper, Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Shiek... Piper didn't even bother to remove plaid from his wardrobe. I guess he's the Scottish pirate. Either way, they're carrying all the Goonies away, leaving Cyndi to deal with the mysterious green-skinned "pirate" woman on her own.
Back at the gas station, the others have discovered the hole in the wall and climb in, giving the viewing audience plain shots of their asses, as well. And Cyndi's still running... the Goonies have vanished again, and the Scottish Caveman Pirate Wrestlers are after her now, too. She covers all the bases, running past skeletons and Hibachi chefs, (now located in the caves) before the pirates and the green woman corner her on a giant log, crossing a rushing river. Fans with detailed memories of The Goonies would remember this scene from the movie. It's where Data uses his "Slick Shoes", and I only remember that much because I know of a band who took their name from that line. The song's almost over, so we've got some issues that need to be sorted out in a short amount of time here... how's it gonna end??? The suspense must be too much to withstand.
Cyndi looks left, she looks right, she cries, she collapses, she... asks Steven Spielberg for help? Good god. Spielberg actually appears in the video from an editing room, (probably in the process of cutting this footage from the final version of the film itself) and lends us his ageless wisdom. "Well, the first thing you sh..... I don't know..." Talk about a random video. If nothing else, I've given you ammunition for future games of "Seven Degrees of HBK." Steven Spielberg? He appeared in this video, alongside The Iron Shiek. The Iron Shiek appeared in a Mick Foley skit in the days leading up to his "I Quit" match with the Rock in the late 90s. Mick Foley was later given his powers as commissioner of the WWF by... Shawn Michaels! You win! I win! We all win! Oh, yes... the video...
Cyndi cries a bit more, while the unfrozen caveman pirates build dramatic tension by just waving their swords from the relative safety of either side of the log. Suddenly, the water picks up and... the announcer tells us "and now for part two!!!" Words can't describe how happy this makes me. I don't think I can withstand it. I'm so happy, my butt-cheeks are clapping.
I guess Cyndi didn't get away after all. The water just poured over her and then she gave up. So, as the song heads to remix city, the scene is relocated to a pirate ship, where the heels are celebrating and the faces are slaves. This is just like the night after Starrcade '97! Lauper is punished for her crimes by carrying water around the deck. In a skimpy blue dress. Hey, even the plastic cow made it to the ship! He's hanging out in the background, but I'm sure he'll be a vital component to the story later. The Goonies are here too, but they're in shackles, kept busy by the WWF's finest by digging endlessly into giant barrels. What they're digging for is still a mystery.
Cyndi's asked by the green-skinned woman to get something from off-deck, and suddenly a giant octopus is swimming towards the camera. Cyndi's still singing, but she's also fighting a humongous tentacle. She sends it off in a huff, cutting away at its arm with a sword, and suddenly everyone's broken free of their shackles. The woman with the green complexion is defeated moments later, as a bucket is placed over her head. All they need to do now is hit it with a chair. The faces have found a treasure chest, and it's suddenly time for more scenes from the movie.
The heels are distracted, as the prisoners have thrown some jewels their way, and that poor, poor Iron Shiek. I don't think he could bend over at the hips even then. Everybody else is diving for the cash, and all he can do is throw his arms up in the air. Jeez, and this was only a short while after he dropped the WWF World Title to Hogan. How did the guy ever manage... did Vince just feel sorry for him?
All the Goonies deliver the remaining jewels to Lauper's open arms, and are rewarded with kisses. OK, now I'm jealous. Back at the station, everybody piles out of that hole in the wall with oodles of diamonds in hand. Outside, Nikolai, the Shiek, Piper and Moolah have a little hatchback in their clutches, and dammit! They're threatening to fix his alignment! Will somebody stop the damn match! The reappearance of the former owners doesn't sit well with the WWF's biggest names, and they won't take the jewels in exchange for the rights to the gas station.
Lauper's had enough. She whistles, and in a puff of purple smoke arrives the single strangest thing I've seen all day. And considering the video I've just watched, that really says a lot. Andre the Giant emerges from the cloud, dressed for all intents and purposes like he was just zapped through time, dressed like a Roman Gladiator. He's even got fluffy brown panties, and a giant golden bird chest plate. And, yes, he is also wearing his stunning blue wrestling boots. Good lord.
The heels play scared and vamoose in a hurry, with Andre in hot pursuit. Piper even tries to climb into a passing Camaro, but they wisely had their passenger side door locked. Oh, god, and Nikolai somehow got ahold of both Piper and Albano's smiley face buttons. He's wearing them where his nipples would be. Nikolai Volkoff has one smiling nipple and one frowning nipple.
And that's it. Wow. The fact that Vince made these guys somewhat respectable again after a move like that is a testament to his incredible ability as a booker. Hell, Freddy Blassie was even used as the federation's most respected old veteran less than three months ago. I bet if they'd shown this music video right before that segment, a lot of the impact would've vanished.
I don't think I'm capable of delivering the kind of words necessary to sum up a clip the likes of which I've just described, so I won't even attempt to do so. All I'll say is this; I'm sorry to have put you through that, and check back next week when I'll have something a little more on-topic to discuss. Guaranteed.
As for now, though, I'm off to a moment of silence in my room. The cow never made a return appearance at the end of the video, and I've been reminded of just how strong my crush on Cyndi Lauper really was. Today is not a good day. Today is a day of sorrow.
until next time, i remain...