Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Prime" Memorabilia Memories from Prime Time Wrestling

If you are a subscriber to WWE Network, you may have noticed an influx of classic content in the past few months. No one can seem to figure out just what causes the company to suddenly go on an uploading binge for the "Vault" section, but very few are complaining either. While the company may want you to believe that "Holy Foley" and "Camp WWE" are two of its most popular shows, I rarely hear from anyone that admits to watching those. Instead, it's the vintage shows and matches that I see the most feedback on. One of those shows suddenly saw its uploads stop just around two years ago, only to pick up in the last few weeks. That show? WWF Prime Time Wrestling.

Interestingly, Prime Time Wrestling is the show that I saw the most of as a kid, especially in my years as a casual fan. I was out with family during the day on weekends, so I really didn't partake too much in the classic "Saturday morning wrestling." Instead, I most recall catching Saturday Night's Main Event (after all, it was an event) and Prime Time. And even though the show went through a variety of hosts and formats, my brightest memories revolve around the Gorilla Monsoon-Bobby Heenan version.

I still prefer Monsoon with Jesse "The Body" Ventura as a commentary team, but the two didn't do too much hosting of Prime Time beyond some early episodes. The majority of the run featured "The Gorilla" and "The Brain" providing an often hilarious look at the goings on in the World Wrestling Federation. The chemistry between the two has never been matched in wrestling, obviously aided by their real-life friendship that was completely hidden on television. Okay, maybe a few times you got the feeling that Gorilla didn't completely hate "The Brain," but this was still the era of kayfabe.

Most wrestling television shows at the time didn't yield much memorabilia themselves. Heenan and Monsoon did have a few promotional photos together, but the merchandise of the time more or less centered around the wrestlers themselves. That being said, Prime Time Wrestling featured an absolute plethora of WWF items available in the era.

As with WWF Tuesday Night Titans, the LJN Wrestling Superstars figures were often present on the set of Prime Time. Monsoon and Heenan would utilize them to help illustrate the latest feuds between superstars, and would sometimes set them up to reflect the matches featured on that particular episode. On one segment, Monsoon laments that there wasn't a "Gorilla doll" available. You very much get the idea that he would have appreciated it happening, as it absolutely should have. One has to wonder if there was ever any consideration to the idea, considering how associated he was with the company.

The late, legendary WWF Magazine was also prominently featured. If Gorilla wasn't egging Heenan on about his men not being featured, the two would often cite photos and articles from the latest issue. And who could forget..."From the pages of the World Wrestling Federation Magazine, here's 'Update!'" That segment, which always displayed the latest magazine cover ("...on newsstands now!") was usually hosted by Craig DeGeorge, Lord Alfred Hayes, or Mean Gene Okerlund and spotlighted a recent major happening. And when Bobby finally made the cover in 1987? I'm sure "Miss Betty" was never happier!

As the WWF marketing machine grew and grew, so did the merchandise shown on Prime Time. When George "The Animal" Steele's buddy "Mine" started showing up, Gorilla informs us that we can in fact own it ourselves. We all know how few took the company up on that offer. The musical albums produced by the company were pushed heavily, as was the movie "No Holds Barred" upon its release. Posters, banners, and even Hasbro figures and Tonka Wrestling Buddies would eventually show up as set decor as the years went by. When the show changed formats in 1991 and started to feature a live audience, the merchandise faded away almost overnight. Advertisements were still there, but it just wasn't as fun without the camera focusing in on an LJN or Hasbro as the commercial break ended. And it certainly wasn't as entertaining without the Monsoon-Heenan pairing.

By 1993, Prime Time Wrestling was replaced with Monday Night Raw. No one can deny that Raw has had hundreds of memorable moments as the flagship show of the company and changed the way that wrestling was presented on television. Prime Time rarely advanced angles, as it was mainly a magazine/recap style show. Nonetheless, that was part of the magic. Prime Time featured matches that really didn't fit in anywhere else in the WWF lineup at that point. Some were good, some were bad, but Gorilla and Bobby always made it entertaining. Now that we know how much fun they were really having, it makes it just all the sweeter. And speaking of sweet, I'm sure that somewhere, in a place far greater than we know, our late, beloved Prime Time host knows that we did eventually get a "Gorilla doll"...

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