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 Hulu 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.
Previously On ‘Boy Meets World’ The Wrestling Episode
We learned about what would happen if Danny Tanner tried to make a ’90s version of The Wonder Years with any available Savage children and were introduced to school bully Frankie, whose father happens to be 11-time World Champion professional wrestler and White Castle of Fear tenant Big Van Vader. Cory Matthews wanted to be popular so he joined the wrestling team, and ended up getting booked in a weird carnie high school gym show against a barking adult so tough he once had his eyeball popped out in a match and just calmly put it back in. Standard TGIF fare.
Before we get to the next wrestling episode from season 4, we have to mention Vader’s brief but memorable season 3 cameo in the episode ‘New Friends And Old.’ Vader gets called into Mr. Feeney’s office for a parent-teacher conference because Frankie the Enforcer and Joey the Rat (again, see last week’s episode) bully-tricked Cory and Shawn into wearing cheerleader outfits at school. Joey was suspended, because I guess he’s the Dennis Stamp of this series and didn’t get booked, and Frankie is tempting the same fate. Vader assures his blood rival Feeney that he’ll make sure Frankie “straightens up and flies right,” and we get a great and also incredibly sad reveal of Vader’s wife.
Vader disappears for the remainder of the episode, but barges into Cory’s kitchen during the end credits in full gear, with a championship belt around his waist. The Mastodon continues his quest to fight this 7th grader, but Cory says he doesn’t want the championship because he’d “never make it through airport security.” Cory’s mom even shades Francis for not acting like this at PTA meetings, and Vader ends up once again having to take out his frustrations on Eric with a Goldberg-esque gorilla press into a powerslam. Incredibly, the running gag of Eric Matthews almost getting murdered by pro wrestlers actually pays off in the show’s final season, but we’ll get to that.
Up first, let’s finish Vader’s arc with the season 4 classic, ‘Sixteen Candles and Four-Hundred-Pound Men.’
So In This One Do Cory And Shawn Meet Minkus’ Dad, Stan Hansen?
No, this one delivers a classic sitcom plot: the Two-Timer Date. I’ll let TV Tropes explain:
Character schedules dates with two different people at the same time. “You can’t be two places at once,” the character’s friend says. Rather than doing the sensible thing and cancelling one of the dates, the character tries to keep both, going back and forth between the two dates without letting either know what’s going on.
Cory’s two, very realistic dilemmata:
- Topanga is having a sweet sixteen party that she says she doesn’t care about, but clearly cares a lot about. She wants Cory to be there to dance with her because her parents did the same thing back in the day, and because they’re like Romeo and Juliet with drastically different hair quality
- Frankie the Enforcer — secretly a gentle soul — lets it slip during poetry class that he’s dealing with an unreciprocated love, so Dem Boys agree to help him out in exchange for help with poetry
Who’s The Object Of Frankie’s Unrequited Love?
Why, The Man They Call Vader, of course.
Cory and Shawn go over to Frankie’s house for a poetry lesson and learn that the unrequited love Frankie’s dealing with is from his father, motherfucking Bull Power. Vader is like, “poetry sucks, why aren’t you a sumo wrestler,” and Frankie mopes. We also get to meet Frankie’s little brother Herman, who wants to be a wrestler like his old man, and who we should all pretend grew up to be NXT’s Jake Carter.
It’s here that Cory begins his master plan: he’s a total smark who thinks he can book the shows just because he watches too much wrestling — the absolute nerve of people like that — so he’s going to give Frankie “wrestling advice” to get him closer to his dad. His first tip: Vader’s setting up the Vader Bomb too slowly. Which, I mean, duh, the guy takes like 2 1/2 minutes to climb the ropes and bounce up and down a bunch before doing it. Plus, this is late enough in the show’s run that Vader’s left WCW and gone to the World Wrestling Federation, instantly cutting 5 points from all of his stats.
Vader responds positively, because he never once considered in over a decade of wrestling that he should try to move quickly. We soon find out that Vader’s got a big match against Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts coming up with the winner getting a title shot against WWF Champion Shawn Michaels in Madison Square Garden, and that he wants Frankie at ringside to give him more Hot Scoopz. Frankie, knowing nothing about wrestling, guilt-forces Cory and Shawn into being valets with him.
But WAIT JUST A MINUTE FOLKS, it turns out that-
Vader’s Wrestling Match Is On The Same Night At The Same Time As Topanga’s Sweet Sixteen?
Now you’re catching on!
Shawn shows up to Cory’s house later with a VHS tape of The Flintstones and explains the Two-Timer Date trope to Cory frame-by-frame, using an actual episode of the show, ‘Pebbles’ Birthday Party.’ In that episode, Fred Flintstone has to go to his infant daughter’s birthday party on the same night he’s supposed to hold a stag party for his prehistoric bovid-themed men’s club, because The Flintstones was buck wild. You can watch that episode here.
Shawn insists that the two events are close enough for Cory to pull a Fred. That leads to this exchange, which is legitimately hilarious to me:
“Okay, Topanga’s sweet sixteen is a mere 3/10 of a mile away from Vader’s wrestling match.”
“All right, what’s our time constraints?”
“I’m on that too, Fred never spend more than 75 seconds at either location.”
“Yeah but you see Shawn that’s a cartoon, time was compressed, we’re real, we’re in real time.”
“Trust me, it’s the same thing.”
“No, no it’s not, you see, a television show can cover many days in one half-an-hour program.”
“Trust me, it’s the same thing.”
He also points out that the flaw to the plan in all these shows is that the person trying to pull off the ruse doesn’t pay enough attention to their wardrobe. Fred shows up to Pebbles’ party wearing his water buffalo hat, and that gives him away. If Cory can jump back and forth in 75-second bursts and not, say, show up to Topanga’s sweet sixteen wearing a Vader mask, he’ll be fine.
What Could Possib-Lie Go Wrong?
That’s the first thing that’s ever gone wrong!
So that sends us to a real-life WWF house show for Vader’s big match, which despite being filmed at a real wrestling event feels like the fakest match we’ve ever featured in one of these columns. There are just so many little things wrong with it, from it happening in Philadelphia at the Great Western Forum (which is in Los Angeles, on the complete other side of the country) to Brother Love doing the ring announcing and live, audible commentary at the same time. A Third Thing To Wrestle With is the logistics of Vader getting a WWF Championship match at Madison Square Garden, unless you want to pretend this is during the build to SummerSlam and they pushed back that match to do it in Minnesota. It’s a shame Cory and Shawn weren’t around to give Vader advice for THAT one.
Brother Love’s commentary is wonderfully hand-holdy — “Vader wants to know who the man is, I know who the man is, the man is Vader!” — but the true highlight is post-Crisis Jake Roberts clearly, legitimately scaring some child actors with a gigantic snake.
About 76 seconds into the match, Shawn announces that they’ve been at the arena for 75 seconds and must run over to the Sweet Sixteen party. I feel like maybe they could’ve just told Topanga they had to be at the arena for this one match and didn’t have to bolt back and forth for the full three hours, but whatever. Their excuse to Frankie is that they need to run and buy a program, because they “can’t tell the players without a program,” despite them all wearing t-shirts with Vader’s big fucking face on the chest with VADER written under it. And also Vader is wearing long-johns that say VADER TIME on the gut. And also he is their friends father, and they were in his house a minute ago.
Cory makes it to the party and decides to use about 50 of his 75 available seconds blaming Topanga for being “hard to find,” then pawns her off on the other guests so he can sprint back to Los Angeles. This happens a few times, including once where he pawns his loving girlfriend off on her aunt so he can bail again, and also nearly talks to her while wearing a Vader mask, which I guess they were selling outside of the arena as they were racing by.
Eventually Cory’s advice for Vader finally comes into play: he tells Vader to “watch out for the DDT.” REALLY. IN A JAKE THE SNAKE MATCH. YOUR TIP IS “DON’T LET JAKE THE SNAKE DDT YOU.” I’d make more fun of this is Vader didn’t legitimately need this pro tip, and uses it to — get this — avoid the DDT. You know you’re WWF Championship material when you need your son and two of his acquaintances, not even two of his FRIENDS, to help you avoid a hold everyone’s chanting and Jake’s broadly signaling for.
I wish Cory’s next tip had been, “tell your dad he’s 400 pounds and he’s wrestling a much smaller, older man who can barely walk, just punch him in the ears and throw him at the ground, how did you win 11 World Championships before this?” Only time for one tip, though, as the boys have to sprint back to Cory’s girlfriend’s extremely way-more-important-than-a-good-grade-in-poetry once-in-a-lifetime social event. she invited him to and told him was important.
Moments before they’re supposed to dance, Shawn points out that Vader’s starting to lose the match. How does he know this? By LOOKING AT THE TELEVISION AT THIS SWEET SIXTEEN PARTY AIRING THE LOCAL WWF HOUSE SHOW ON A LIVE FEED. BRUH.
They run back to the Forum to find Vader losing badly, which is funny because if you accept that 75-second intervals and 3/10 of a mile jog as true facts, they’ve still only been wrestling for like five minutes. Vader gets knocked out of the ring by some sad old man punches, and begs his son for help. It’s here that Frankie realizes he’s out of Cory’s two impossibly obvious shitty wrestling tips and uses his poet heart to explain that while he has “no advice about piledrivers and scoop slams,” he can give his dad love and support, because he’s the “champion of the world in my heart.” This gives giant-ass former NFL playing pro wrestling bad-ass monster with a steaming elephant helmet the strength to roll back in the ring and beat up this sweaty, dying old man.
At this point you may be wondering, how did they film this at a live event? How did the crowd handle that? Well, you may be surprised to know that a wrestling crowd forced to watch something other than wrestling on their wrestling show reacted badly. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with show creator Michael Jacobs on WWE.com:
The whole crowd looked at these actors from Hollywood and all in unison started chanting, ‘You suck!’ ‘Cory sucks!’ and ‘Shawn sucks!’ It was a big challenge in our post-production to get out [the chants], so Hollywood became the villain of that evening.
But At Least Topanga Was Totally Happy, Right?
When the boys get back to the party, everyone is gone. Because yes, the party that began like 10 minutes ago ended and emptied out in the time it took some boys to celebrate a wrestling win in the ring and run 3/10 of a mile. Topanga reveals that she’s been watching the match on that TV the whole time, and Cory’s like OH MY GOD WHAT, despite it being the only TV in the room and it playing a currently-happening house show. Topanga demands a “good reason” why Cory would do this to her, and he opens up about how he wanted to help Frankie reconnect with his father. Shawn mentions that Frankie owes Cory a favor now, so he cashes it in and somehow Frankie’s able to let them dance to a Jimmy Hart soundalike version of ‘Sixteen Candles’ in a fully set-up World Wrestling Federation ring in an empty arena with full lighting after a show. They’re the Undertaker’s jacket and hat of romance.
I thought the favor was, “help us with poetry,” but sure, that’s also fine.
From Michael Jacobs:
“We were stopping the show. [The crowd] had paid to come in and watch wrestling. All of a sudden, they see a girl and a boy dancing and the boos rain down upon us! The funny thing is, I don’t think it was hostile, I think everybody was having a lot of fun.”
I’m guessing you re-shot this in an empty arena later because Philadelphia sports crowds just love to have fun.
Is That It?
Oh lord no, we haven’t even talked about the best part.
The romantic dance continues into the credits, where Cory and Topanga are in love and yadda yadda. While this is happening, Vader and Frankie share a nice moment, and Vader mentions that he’s developed a new move to beat Shawn Michaels: the Vadersault. Frankie asks if he can see it, not aware that Vader’s actually been using it for years, so Vader (who is still in his gear, because he just lives that way) demonstrates.
This sets up a funny bit where Cory promises Topanga that he’ll never let anything hurt her, then must immediately move her out of the way of a 400-pound man backflipping off the top rope at them onto nobody.
The stare at the camera at the end like, “did we get it?” is the best part. This is the last we see of Vader in the Boy Meets World extended cinematic universe, but spoiler alert, he didn’t beat Shawn Michaels, and he didn’t win the WWF Championship. I wish they’d kept this story going and filmed an episode about Eric showing up and accidentally causing the Montreal Screwjob.
So What Have We Learned?
- The Flintstones was a good show, but you shouldn’t base your life around it
- if you have to choose between going to a wrestling show and your girlfriend’s birthday party, go to your girlfriend’s birthday party
- If you’re a legendary wrestler, do some basic research on your opponents for God’s sake, and don’t ask your high school-age son’s friends to fill you in
- Shawn Michaels lays down for ABSOLUTELY NOBODY