The Wrestling Episode is our cleverly-named feature wherein we watch non-wrestling shows with wrestling episodes and try to figure out what the hell’s going on in them. You’d be surprised how many there are. You can watch the episode on Amazon here. If you have any suggestions on shows that need to be featured in The Wrestling Episode, let us know in our comments section below.
I’ve Never Heard Of The A-Team. What Is It?
In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.
The A-Team was an action-adventure series that aired on NBC from 1983 to 1987, and, per broadcastingcable.com, was created with one of the most coked-out pitches of all time.
“Brandon [Tartikoff, president of NBC’s entertainment division]’s pitch was very strange,” [writer Stephen J.] Cannell remembers. “He said, ‘Have you seen The Road Warrior with Mel Gibson?’ I said yeah, Mad Max. He said, ‘Yeah, but the idea, it’s not that. Have you seen The Dirty Dozen?’ I said, yeah, Lee Marvin. ‘Well, it’s kinda that, but, like Road Warrior, it’s kinda not that.’ And he said, ‘You know that guy Belker on Hill Street Blues?’ I said, yeah, the cop that bites everybody at the booking desk? He said, ‘Yeah, he could be in this show. And you remember Mr. T from the Rocky movie?’ And I said yeah. And Brandon said, ‘Well, he drives the car.’ And that was the pitch.”
The writing team’s response was, What the hell is he talking about?” and three hours later — not a joke — they’d created the show. So … it’s kinda bonkers, and also better if you snort a cafeteria tray full of cocaine before you watch it.
And There’s A Wrestling Episode?
Two, technically. Hulk Hogan became a recurring guest on the show, appearing in two episodes between 1985-1986. Hogan and A-Team star Mr. T bonded over a little thing called WrestleMania in early ’85, and I guess T was like, “hey man, thanks for letting me be on your show and punch Roddy Piper, wanna be on my show and punch character actors for shooting at us and flip over some cars?” I also assume he mentioned how much he loves his mother 75 times in the conversation.
Up first we’ll be tackling the creatively titled Body Slam, in which Hogan must join the A-Team to keep an evil businessman from destroying a Venice Beach boys club. Think of it as a prequel to Hogan doing the exact same thing 10 years later on an episode of Baywatch.
So, Who Are The A-Team?
From left to right:
- Bosco Albert “B.A.” Baracus, a black man who loves milk and is named after a chocolate syrup you put into milk. He handles the weapons and drives the A-Team van, and is literally Mr. T. I’d waste time describing him to you here, but all you need to know is “Mr. T” and “hates flying.”
- John “Hannibal” Smith, leader of the group. He’s a tactician, master of disguise, and cigar enthusiast played by the male escort from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He barely ever cares what’s happening, thinks he’s a lot funnier than he is, and never, ever loses, so of course he was once played by John Cena.
- Templeton “Face(man)” Peck, the group’s handsome con-man. He’s played by Dirk Benedict, who followed up being in this episode called ‘Body Slam’ with Hulk Hogan by filming a movie called Body Slam with Rowdy Roddy Piper.
- H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, an insane chopper pilot seen here in disguise as the back of Hulk Hogan’s head
- Hulk Hogan, if you believe Hulk Hogan when he said they tried to get him to be a regular and join The A-Team, which like all Hogan stories is probably complete horse shit
- Pablo Escobar? Either him, or a random guy backstage who got in the shot
The episode opens with the A-Team scoping out the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and watching Hulk Hogan defend the WWF Championship against Big John Studd. Mean Gene Okerlund is not only on commentary, but on LIVE commentary you can hear throughout the arena. Also, Hogan defeats Studd by hitting an Axe Bomber on him in slow motion, causing Studd to slowly fall down on his face. The referee then counts him down for three, because “not knowing how commentary works” and “not knowing how pins work” are the top two prerequisites for a Wrestling Episode.
You can tell they didn’t give Gene a script to work with and didn’t actually play a match for him to call, so his commentary is super vague and repetitive. During this two minute opening he says, “I’ve never seen a match quite like this!,” reiterates that he’s “never seen anything quite like it,” mentions that he’s “never seen quite so much action,” and later mentions he’s “never seen the Hulkster in quite so much danger.” Gene has never quite been to a wrestling show, I guess.
It gets even funnier when Mr. T stands up in the front row in full Hulkamania garb and puts Bobby Heenan in a full nelson so Hogan can defeat the Damned Numbers Game™. Gene has to say “that’s celebrity guest Mr. T from The A-Team” without actually saying it, so he says, and I quote:
“The Hulkster is being helped up by a friend, I don’t know who this gentleman is, but he’s in the Hulkster’s special seat! He’s holding the belt above his head, he must a very special friend of the Hulkster’s! … Now that unidentified stranger has climbed into the ring with Hulk Hogan, he’s got to be a very special friend of the Hulkster!”
After the match, The A-Team heads backstage for a meet-and-greet with the still oiled-up Hulkster, who greets his special friend with two important bits of information:
- he could use the A-Team’s help with “a problem even bigger than the Hulkster:” raising money for the local rec center he does charity work for, because there’s some shady shit going down in children’s Venice, and
- he and B.A. know each other because they fought together in the Vietnam War
We’ll get to the rec center in a second because that’s the entire episode, but yes, they say that Mr. T and Hulk Hogan fought side-by-side in Vietnam. That’s got to be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Black Dynamite saving “little Chinese kids” in ‘Nam is more believable than that. This is the conversation they have, verbatim, featuring Hogan going Full Hogan and trying to steal all the glory:
Hogan: “B.A. was the baddest dude I ever met in ‘Nam!”
Hannibal: “B.A. says he saved your life over there!”
Hogan: “Hey, he didn’t save my life, I saved his life!”
Mr. T: “No man, you’re getting it all wrong, you been getting this mixed up for years. Don’t you remember Da Nag during the Tet Offensive?”
Hogan: “Yeah and we were pinned down in the hut…”
Both: “… and you took the shell that knocked you cold!”
Hogan: “you took the shell!”
Mr. T: “no YOU took the shell!”
Quick side note: Hulk Hogan was born in 1953, and was two years old when the Vietnam War started. Mr. T’s a year older than him. The Tet Offensive he and T took shells in happened in 1968, when Hogan would’ve been 14 years old, so unless dude was a military wunderkind and didn’t spend the 1970s lifting weights and playing bass in Florida rock bands, he’s lying. LIEUTENANT HOGAN YOUR STORY AIN’T GOT NO LEGS.
Also it’s a fictional TV show but I can’t resist dragging my special friend.
It turns out a bunch of evil gangsters want to buy the Venice Boys Center from its proprietor and demolish it for evil gangster reasons, but she’s able to temporarily hold them off by pulling a gun on them. A gun she keeps in her desk at the children’s center. She’s quickly disarmed, and when things are about to get F-Teamed in the A-Team, The Hulkster shows up. He punches out the bad guys, and he and Mr. T jump in the military Turtle Van to give chase.
If you never watched the A-Team, they really only had three stunts: shooting guns at the ground near people and cars but never hitting anybody, driving half of a car up a ramp so it flipped over and landed upside down, and these big dramatic car chases where every car is the General Lee and can fly. Evidence:
Do They Catch Them In Their Flying Cars And Punch Them With Loud Sound Effects?
Not yet. The bad guys manage to escape, but Hannibal — master strategist — comes up with a plan: use their heads, go down to the yacht where the bad guys are currently holed up and threaten them a bunch. You see, the evil crime family trying to upend the youths are the Kotero Family, headed by Papa Kotero, who is the Great Value Don Corleone from The Godfather. His son wants to go straight and run the family like a legitimate business, but his dad’s like, “I didn’t spend three years in the A-Team extended universe to not do evil gangster shit.”
Hogan and Mr. T go down to a yacht they barely fit in (pictured … shout-out to Hulk’s crocheted fingerless gloves) and shake down the younger Kotero for a “legitimate” donation to the youth center, getting him to sign over thousands of dollars to them because there are cameras watching. Papa Kotero gets pissed, and that sets up the core of the episode: the FBI, the military, and a crime family trying desperately and failing to defeat the combined efforts of four TV super heroes and their friend from pretend underpants fights.
By the way, this sets up the most accidentally funny joke in the entire episode. As T and Hogan are driving around, satisfied with themselves, they start arguing about Vietnam again. Hogan says he’s not afraid of anything, so T starts throwing out things he might be afraid of, like sharks, or heights. Hogan says nah brah. T then asks Hogan if he’s afraid of the dark. Hogan’s response:
I’ve heard some tapes that might say otherwise, but let’s move on.
Kotero’s goons follow them to the gym, where they go after they commit reverse criminal fraud of whatever, and pull a gun on them in the parking lot. What they don’t realize is that they’ve been lured here by the master strategist Hulk Hogan … when he’s forced into the dark gym, Hogan flips on the switch to reveal the entire babyface roster of the World Wrestling Federation waiting shoulder-in-shoulder in pitch black to attack anyone who came in like a Purge surprise party. Unless Hogan just wandered into a Zubaz-themed orgy before it got started, I don’t know.
This crew includes Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, both of the British Bullogs, Corporal Kirchner — real diminishing returns here already — and Rick McGraw, who is most famous for slapping Roddy Piper and running away on an episode of Piper’s Pit. The gang beats up the goons using Pro Wrestling, because pro wrestling is the strongest.
What’s Everyone Else Up To?
Through some elite espionage — being in the other room and listening — the A-Team discovers that the Koteros want the land for more reasons than just making children cry: it’s the site of some buried criminal gold. You’d think the Koteros could just go up to that gun-toting lady from the rec center and be all, “hey, turns out our family buried gold under your building, any chance you wanna help us get it out so we don’t have to buy and bulldoze your shitty 1980s YMCA? We’ll give you a gold bar to buy some swing sets,” but I guess the world of action TV shows is more high stakes than that.
Hannibal gets the great idea to dress up like a crooked cop from the 1940s for some reason, shake down the Koteros to get them to lead him to the gold, convince Murdock to dress up like a criminal and dig it up, then … something? It never gets that far, because when they dig up the box that’s supposed to contain the gold, it’s empty. Then the FBI swoops in on a double top secret investigation and arrests the A-Team.
Oh No! Do The A-Team Go To Jail?
No, because Murdock — who isn’t actually a member of the A-Team in “getting arrested by the government” terms, he’s just been aiding and abetting them for several years — shows up dressed as a Military Guy and tricks an entire military police group into letting him drive away in a van with a bunch of their criminals.
Yeah, The A-Team has even fewer consequences than pro wrestling. They make those laser fights on G.I. Joe look like the opening to Saving Private Ryan.
Is This Going Anywhere?
Right back to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where Hogan is now “distracted” by all this gangster and almost-being-shot stuff to the point of almost losing to Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine via rest hold. Greg Valentine got this spot in the main event of an episode of The A-Team because they thought he was the lady who played Ma Fratelli in The Goonies. Mean Gene can’t stop talking about how distracted by something Hulk seems. He probably misses his special friend.
The Koteros, upset that their gold has been hornswoggled and that this WWF live event in Los Angeles in 1985 might raise enough money to save a youth center, decide to throw away all illusions of legitimacy and rob the box office at gun point. Hogan quickly finishes off Valentine with a Hulk Up and an Atomic Leg Drop (using the far leg, giving us two botched finishes in one episode somehow), and spots the gangsters from the ring. With T and Hogan closing in on them in one direction and the remaining A-Teamers closing in on them from backstage, it’s not long before hired goons are getting thrown into completely legitimate looking concession stands.
There’s also a great moment when Murdock — the MVP of the A-Team, don’t @ me — stops an entire group of goons in a parkour move straight out of the opening of Boone The Bounty Hunter. With everyone down, Hannibal steps into frame like he’s done something and quips, “is there such a thing as a five-man tag team?” That results in a slow-motion high-five with 1980s TV freeze-frame …
… but you know Hogan immediately went to Vince like, “hey brother, five man tag teams,” and stole the idea for Survivor Series from the A-Team.
Is That It?
Not quite. We get a final scene where the A-Team (and the youth center, I guess) are now in charge of the criminals’ yacht, Dirk Benedict tries to give the lady from the center the ol’ Dirk Benedict, and Mr. T and Hulk Hogan get into one final argument about Vietnam that causes them to lock up on a dock (dock-up? no, that’s not right) and try to throw each other into the ocean. In the end they decide to just be friends, because LOL, neither of them was in fucking Vietnam.
So What Have We Learned?
- Gene Okerlund has never seen an episode quite like this one
- if you are Hulk Hogan’s special friend, you might get to sit in his special seats
- Mr. T is to blame for Hulk Hogan not dying in Vietnam
- shooting wrestlers and threatening ladies at Discovery Zone will not get you a box of gold, it’ll only get you sent to jail