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 YouTube 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 Help! … It’s The Hair Bear Bunch, What Is It?
Riding high on the success of their cartoon Yogi Bear, about two bears who are always trying to escape from a national park, Hanna-Barbera created Help! … It’s The Hair Bear Bunch, about three bears who are always trying to escape from a zoo. Remind me if I ever get the chance to pitch Bears Everywhere!, a cartoon about four or more bears trying to escape from wherever else bears live.
The show debuted in 1971, so they also ride invisible motorcycles, and one of them has an afro.
And There’s A Wrestling Episode?
There is, and we’re writing about it this week because I can’t find a wrestling episode of Jabberjaw. Also, it’s the series finale!
The Hair Bair Bunch is made up of three bears; Hair Bair, who has an afro, and presumably put together the bunch; Bubi, his smaller and more paranoid bear friend who is not a Jewish stereotype; and Square Bear, a slow, laid-back bear who keeps promising the Final Fantasy VII remake will be out soon when he knows good and well that shit’s never happening. They live at the Wonderland Zoo where they have a customized cave full of luxurious amenities like pool tables, and constantly complain about their living conditions.
Serving as the antagonists on the show are Eustace P. Peevly, an evil zookeeper whose worst crime is trying to keep the animals inside the zoo he runs, and his dumb muscle assistant, “Botch.” Yes, there’s a wrestling episode of a cartoon where one of the main characters is named “botch.” In what I assume is a total coincidence, Botch is always messing up Peevly’s plans.
Supporting characters include Bananas the gorilla, Furface the lion, Fumbo the elephant, Slicks the fox, Boxy the turtle, Hoppy the kangaroo, George the giraffe, Melvyn the monkey, Gabby the parrot, Ollie the octopus and Einstein the owl. Fun fact: I only made up one of those.
Is There An Animal Battle Royal At The Zoo Or Something?
No, Wonderland Zoo is not a wonderland of wrestle.
The initial story of the episode is that the bears want to escape the zoo so badly they pretend to be dead, so they can be transported off the premises in the back of a rug truck. Things are going great at the zoo. Botch realizes what’s going on and stops the truck, causing the zookeeper to punish the bears by making them, you know, hang out outside their cave and act like bears so zoo guests can enjoy them.
This infuriates the, again, actual bears until they hear an announcement on the radio: Mid-City Sports Arena is giving a $500 cash prize to anyone who can spend one minute in a pro wrestling ring with “The Masked Marvel.” Hair Bear’s idea? Sneak the zoo’s gorilla, Bananas, into the event in wrestling gear and have him I guess murder the wrestling stranger.
After a rebel rousing from one of Hanna-Barbera’s numerous gay lions, Bananas launches into a training montage of doing pull-ups on an elephant’s trunk and weightlifting.
I also want to take a second to point out that my favorite part of any Hanna-Barbera cartoon from the ’70s is how every character’s voice sounds like a bad, exasperated approximation of an old film or television star who was dead before I ever saw it. The first time I actually heard Phil Silvers speak I was like, “oh, that sounds like 50 different Hanna-Barbera characters.”
So it turns out Bananas is a fucking gorilla, so he’s got some natural wrestling aptitude that weight training turned up to 11. Here he is lifting a fully grown brown bear over his head with one finger, spinning him around and throwing him into a cave wall so hard HE EXPLODES. That’s not a crash, Square Bear hits the wall so hard it creates combustion. Guess he’s more of a Rhombus Bear now.
Meanwhile — and I bet you didn’t see this coming — Zookeeper Peevly has decided to go to the wrestling show himself, and when the zoo superintendent (zooperintendent?) bails on him, he agrees to take Botch instead. As they’re driving to the arena, they and another car are impeded by a fallen tree. Botch hops out and throws the tree aside, because brother trains like Brock Lesnar.
It turns out the guys in the other car are the bookers for the wrestling event, and that the Masked Marvel has the measels. The weasilier of the two suggests Botch take Marvel’s place, and the stage is set: a mentally handicapped zoo employee getting mutilated by an actual gorilla in front of an audience.
Bananas gets repackaged as “Kling Klong,” a King Kong gimmick that outright says he’s a gorilla. I just thought he was a 5-foot-6 400-pounder with a bag on his head. And whose arms almost drag on the ground when he’s standing up straight. Also he’s wearing a tiny hat on top of his bag? I’d make more fun of that if it didn’t take place in a universe where animals wore human clothes, but only parts of them. Like, why does Yogi Bear have a collar and tie on but no shirt? How does that even work? Does he wake up and tie that shit every morning?
Botch, seen here transforming his boss into an Archie Comics character, does well in his first two bouts as the Masked Marvel. He wins the first one by just making a bunch of scary faces and causing his opponent to pass out, and wins the second by rebounding off the ropes with Samus Aran’s Screw Attack:
Please note the ongoing Wrestling Episode column tradition of TV shows and cartoons wanting to do wrestling episodes but having not even a basic idea of how wrestling works, as the match ends with the referee counting three despite (1) no pinfall taking place, (2) the loser being “pinned” on his stomach, and (3) this all happening on the floor. The ref is great, he just counts ONE TWO THREE YOU’RE OUT really fast any time you’re on the ground, whether you’re being pinned or not, like he’s got somewhere to be.
So Who Wins The Hanna-Barbera Clegane Bowl?
At first Botch is like, “ooh, ooh, Mr. Peevly” — “ooh ooh” is is catchphrase, because he’s Gunther from Car 54 Where Are You?, an extremely timely reference even in the ’70s — he’s like, “ooh, ooh, that looks like a gorilla.” And even when Bananas is literally eating a banana and standing on the ropes pounding his chest and making gorilla noises, Peevly’s like, “absolutely not, that is a human man.”
In a nice bit of psychology, Bananas uses the one move we’ve seen him utilize — the overhead finger spin into MASSIVE EXPLOSION — and Botch tries to counter with HIS one move, the rope rebound screw attack. Bananas is forced to go deep into his moveset to a second move: the CESARO SWING.
Yes! You’d think he would’ve tried a monkey flip, but I don’t write these things.
The referee appears from off-screen and, barely moving his arm because animation is hard, declares ONETWOTHREEOUT! Kling Klong is the “winner and new cham-peen.” But wait! Did I mention that Vince Russo wrote this episode? Hey, he was 10 when it first aired, you never know.
While Kling Klong is celebrating, Peevly FINALLY recognizes him and unmasks him as a gorilla. He makes a cogent point: the $500 cash prize was supposed to go to any person who could last a minute in the ring with the Masked Marvel, and Bananas isn’t a person, he’s, in case you missed it, a fucking gorilla. The announcer confirms that there are no Air Bud style loopholes where the rule book doesn’t explicitly prohibit bears from organizing and sneaking a gorilla into a wrestling match to compete against an actual wrestler’s last-second untrained replacement, so the money goes to Peevly. Swerve!
Is That It? The Heel Wins?
Not so fast!
The Bears tell the Zooperintendent that Peevly has promised to donate his winnings to the “Society for Orphaned Zoo Animals” and he’s very excited about it, possibly because he’s on a ton of drugs and is talking to bears. They also told him that they gave Peevly the idea, so this balls-tripping zoo boss orders Peevly to give them anything they want, right now. They demand food, so the episode (and series, I should remind you) ends with him complaining while delivering Scooby-Doo munchies-style stacks of snacks. Because dude had ice cream, sodas, an entire watermelon and like nine pies ready to go outside the cave.
So, What Have We Learned?
- a gorilla can throw you so hard you explode
- wrestling shows are organized at the last minute, often with no trained wrestlers available and nobody checking to see if wild animals have broken in, gotten into the ring and started pinning people
- if you’re only wearing part of clothes, it still counts as “wearing clothes”
- Hanna-Barbera put considerably less than zero effort into making cartoons, and I love every single one of them
- I could probably find a wrestling episode of Goober and the Ghost Chasers if I looked hard enough