Wrestler of the Day – June 29: Big John Studd

Here’s a forgotten giant: Big John Studd.

Studd got his start under the name Chuck O’Connor back in 1972, but we’re going to have to jump ahead to 1980 in Minneapolis. We’re skipping over Studd as Executioner #2 and winning a WWWF Tag Team Title. Anyway back to Christmas Day 1980 in the AWA.

Big John Studd vs. Mad Dog Vachon

Studd is about fourteen inches taller than Vachon and pounds away to start. Vachon will have none of that and chases Studd out to the floor. Back in and Vachon takes Studd down by the leg and bites his boot. Studd takes another breather on the floor before sending Mad Dog into the corner to take over. Now both guys head to the floor where Vachon pelts a chair at Big John’s head.

Back in and Vachon rakes Studd’s back but gets caught in a bearhug for a few moments. Vachon misses a charge into the post but is still able to backdrop out of an over the shoulder backbreaker attempt. Mad Dog hammers away in the corner but the referee pulls him off and the match is stopped with Vachon winning by DQ. That makes no sense and even the announcement that it was due to using an illegal heart punch doesn’t help as there was no such punch thrown.

Rating: C. This was far more entertaining than you would expect as Vachon lived up to the Mad Dog name. He stood maybe 5’7 and took it to the 6’9 Studd while making it look realistic. That’s a really impressive feat and a good example of why Vachon was such a big star in this organization for such a long time.

Off to the WWF now with a match from July 16, 1983.

Andre the Giant/Jay Strongbow/Ivan Putski/Rocky Johnson vs. Wild Samoans/Samula/Big John Studd

This is the ultra rare three out of five falls match. And in an eight man tag too. Not bad for a gimmick match main event. You should know most of these people. Samula is the third Samoan and more or less just a backup guy. He’s more famous as Samu of the Headshrinkers. We’re in Philly here and Samula starts with Rocky. This is a pretty high profile tag match.

Afa steps in, Andre steps in, Afa steps out. Afa is in again to face Rocky. Rocky was very popular back in the day and I like him more every time I see him. For some reason the teams are on full sides of the apron instead of in one corner each. Off to Studd to take on Rocky but Andre wants in. You don’t tell a giant no so it’s off to Sika. Andre rams John and Sika’s heads together and waits on an opponent.

Sika begs off but Andre destroys him anyway. This is 1983 so Andre can still move. Here’s Strongbow who still looks like a human. He hooks the sleeper and everything breaks down. Johnson grabs Sika so Andre can chop him. Double headbutt takes Strongbow down. The Samoans are tossed around by Andre and there was a bell for some reason. Gary Capetta is the announcer if you care. The first fall is a DQ against the Samoan team so it’s 1-0 heroes.

Jay is one of the people in but we don’t have an opponent. Ok so it’s Samula. Studd choked Jay to give the Samoan the advantage and Andre isn’t pleased. A headbutt puts Strongbow down and a falling version of it ties us up. Strongbow whips Samula into Andre’s boot which is good for the third fall, making it 2-1. It might have lasted 20 seconds. 23 actually.

Round four starts and the fans want the battle of the giants. Putski hasn’t been in yet. It’s Strongbow vs. I believe Afa to get this one going. Now we get some Polish Power. He rams Samoan heads together and pounds on Afa. Sika finally gets a shot in and the Samoans take over on Ivan. A double headbutt sends him flying, but he flies right to Andre. The Giant cleans house and breaks up a triple team. Samula jumps into a boot and Andre sits on him to win three falls to one.

Rating: C. The match wasn’t all that exciting but this was to fire up the crowd with something new and I think you can safely say they did just that. Not a great match or anything but it got a lot of big names in there and the fans got everything but the top request they had, but that was certainly coming. Fun way to end things.

You knew we were getting to Hogan sooner or later. Here’s one of his first title defense, just two and a half months after winning the belt. From April 6, 1984.

WWF World Title: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy

In Boston I think here. Most importantly though we get the Hulk’s Rocking Wrestling theme! OH YES!!! This is pre-Mania 2 as the tights are still white and the belt is still different looking. Granted it looked that way for over another year but there’s a Wrestling Album reference so that solidifies the date. Plus a website listing the dates that I have. Bundy hammers away to start and after a brief Hogan comeback he takes Hogan down. Surprising.

Hogan gets sent to the floor and Bundy tries to keep him there because clearly you can win the title that way. Hulk pulls him to the floor and hammers away like only he can. Back in and Hogan uses his speed for a change. Usually it’s coke rather than speed so this is a rarity. Hogan can’t slam him though so maybe he should have gone with the cocaine. Bundy falls on top for two.

We hit the chinlock for awhile as the ending is about as clear as possible. Granted every time I say that it’s not the typical Hogan ending so what do I know? Hogan fights up and hits some shoulder blocks but an elbow takes him down with ease. A pair of Avalanches (splash, Bundy’s finisher) gets two and here it comes. Third avalanche is no sold and Hogan wins with a powerslam. Dang it I’m wrong again!

Rating: C. Oh come on it’s Hogan vs. a monster in the 80s. What were you expecting here? This is the formula to end all formulas and it works almost every time. This was perfectly acceptable as Hogan popped the crowd against large opponent #4. What’s wrong with doing what the crowd wants?

Studd was a big enough star that he was in the main event of the show on the famous Black Saturday. This was when Vince took over the WCW show in Georgia and nearly caused an industry wide riot. From July 14, 1984.

Bobo Brazil vs. Big John Studd

This is in Philadelphia if it matters. Bobo’s punches are very bad so Studd is going to be the one to carry this. Do you get why this is going to suck? We hit a bearhug to waste some time. Without much movement we switch places and Bobo has the hold on Studd. Studd hits the floor to waste some time.

This is the main event mind you and it’s by far worse than the other squash matches we’ve seen. A Philadelphia crowd is DEAD for this by the way. Bobo’s finishing move gets some polite applause but it (a headbutt) doesn’t even put Studd down. Bobo misses a legdrop and an elbow drop from Studd ends it.

Rating: F. This was awful. John Studd was the best guy out there. Let that sink in.

Back to Hogan, from December 10, 1984.

WWF Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Big Jon Studd

This is in the Meadowlands. Gary Michael Copetta is the ring announcer of all people and this is in December of 84. If Hogan can slam Studd he wins $15,000. Hogan is in yellow here. I’m trying to place the voice of the other commentator besides Gorilla. I think it’s Howard Finkel actually. Wow it is. This could be interesting.

They clip the beginning of this a bit but I think it was just them staring each other down. Both guys go for slams but neither can get the other up. Heenan is Studd’s manager here. Hogan gets him up but can’t turn him around for the slam. There’s the big boot very early but Hogan still can’t slam him.

Hogan tries for about his fifth slam in 3 minutes as we’re clipped to Hogan hitting a clothesline. ANOTHER slam attempt but we go to the floor instead and Hogan is in trouble. His head is bleeding too. Hogan can’t get back in and we clip it some more. I’d assume it’s only about 30 seconds or so each time but it’s frustrating that you don’t know for sure.

Studd comes off the top to crush Hogan for two. MORE clipping as Hogan is in big trouble here. He gets slammed as Studd’s offense is shall we say really limited. Studd kicks him to the floor so Hogan is like screw it let’s fight out here. Can Studd do anything besides pound on him with forearms? Hogan slams him on the floor which doesn’t get him the money but it does get him a countout win. Hogan lifts the referee over his head in a gorilla press position for no apparent reason.

Rating: D. Pretty bad match but the fans wanted to see Hogan win and that’s what they got. Hearing Howard on the announce team is still weird beyond belief as is Copetta doing the announcing. From a few other places it appears the match was only clipped by about 90 seconds, which begs the question of why clip it at all. Anyway, bad match but Hogan winning was the point here. Andre would claim the money at the first Wrestlemania.

Here’s probably Studd’s most famous match, from the first Wrestlemania in the Body Slam match against his biggest rival.

Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant

This is a bodyslam challenge with some special stipulations: if Andre wins, he gets $15,000 but if Studd wins, Andre has to retire. Studd charges in to start but is immediately chopped back and he bails to the floor. Back in and Andre punches him in the head and rams him in the corner with all of his weight. Studd goes for a slam and Andre is just like dude please. The fans chant for a slam as Andre puts on a bearhug. That goes on for a good while until Andre shifts over to a facelock. Apparently if this goes to the time limit, Andre has to retire. Andre kicks at the leg for a bit and casually slams Studd for the win. It’s as quick as it sounds.

Rating: D. This was pretty terrible but the fans loved Andre and he had to be on here. Also this was part of a big feud as Andre and Studd cut Andre’s hair a few weeks before this. The match was pretty weak but then again what are you going to expect from these two guys with Andre’s body starting to fail on him.

Here’s a match with a different kind of opponents. From June 21, 1985.

US Express/George Steele vs. Adrian Adonis/Big John Studd/Bobby Heenan

This is from MSG and this show is a bit more famous because of the debut of Randy Savage on it. No one wants to start with the Animal. Barry and Adonis (not yet gay or in pink) start us off. Let the stalling begin! Before anything happens, Heenan is brought in so Windham tags Steele. Heenan DIVES to the floor to hide and it’s back to Adonis. Now it’s back to Windham before any contact has been made at all.

Off to Studd to meet Windham and Barry is knocked down pretty easily. It isn’t often that Barry has to speed things up but he does it here as he doesn’t have another option. He keeps going for the slam which doesn’t work at all. A cross body gets two. Clipped to Heenan being brought in and Barry beats him down like a world champion beating on a manager.

Everything breaks down and Steele rams all three heels into the posts. Rotundo comes in and Heenan’s mouth is bleeding. Mike takes Studd down and works on the arm. Clipped to Adonis beating on Rotundo. Gorilla gives us some analysis of what we’re seeing and the fans chant USA. Windham finally comes in as does Steele, wanting to get his hands on Bobby. There wasn’t a tag and everything breaks down. Steele goes outside and comes back with a chair which he hits the referee with for the DQ.

Rating: D. Pretty boring match here and I really don’t get the point of them giving us what appears to be a focus on Steele and then having him lose his match. Then again I think they did that more than once in this series so it must be a running theme. That doesn’t mean it makes sense but it’s what they’re doing I guess.

Studd was part of the beginning of a huge angle. Here’s the first part at Saturday Night’s Main Event II.

Big John Studd/King Kong Bundy vs. Tony Atlas/Andre the Giant

The heels cut Andre’s hair and beat him up in Toronto so he picked some random partners to try to fight back. By the way that’s Abraham Washington’s Tony Atlas in there. Andre and Bundy start and the bigger fat man is MAD. He rams Bundy’s head into Atlas’ which is kind of mean but whatever. Somehow Atlas, a big old man, is the smallest in this match by far.

He gets beaten down and the splash from Bundy half kills him. Andre and Studd……uh…….I guess you could call it fight. Everything goes insane and Andre gets the tar beaten out of him. I think the match has been thrown out. Oh and Atlas got posted so he’s out. AND HERE COMES HULK! The faces clean house as Andre and Hogan begin their year and a half long angle that would culminate at Mania in Detroit. Andre and Atlas win apparently, I’d guess by DQ.

Rating: D. Match was awful, but this was about starting a huge angle. Now at the time no one knew how big, but this is a very historic moment no matter how you look at it. Studd wasn’t the focus here, but he was a great choice as a catalyst for the start of this feud as both Hogan and Andre hated him.

And the next part, from Saturday Night’s Main Event III.

Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant vs. King Kong Bundy/Big John Studd

Hogan in white is always interesting. This was the main house show main event at the time so you would see this quite often around this time. It’s still Eye of the Tiger for Hogan which is weird to say the least. He’s rocking an Abyss shirt as it says American Made. Who would have thought ripping a shirt off would get such a pop?

Hogan vs. Bundy starts us off. Hogan of course can’t slam him and hurts his back. That lasts less than two seconds and it’s ALL Hogan. Ok make that Andre, called the Big Boss Man here which is something I’ve heard before. I love Andre’s punches since he has to swing down to connect due to his height.

Hogan does the majority of the match due to Andre already being injured. Ventura says he’ll be in a six man on the next SNME with the previously mentioned guys. Andre accidently hits the referee and of course we get a huge brawl. It’s weird when Hogan is the smallest guy in there. Actually it isn’t as he commonly was.

Another referee comes in since the original is more or less dead. Vince’s overselling of all this stuff is great. After a commercial we have Studd vs. Andre. Hogan spits at Studd after knocking him down. What a nice guy. Andre gets tied up in the ropes and Bundy hits the avalanche on Hogan and the double team begins. The referee throws it out as Hogan makes the save. Hogan and Andre win by DQ.

Rating: D. This was a glorified squash as the heels controlled for a combined 9 seconds I think. This was just to have a TV spectacle and nothing more which is fine I guess. It’s a tag team main event match, but this was just different and didn’t work in the slightest. The historical aspect helps it a bit though.

Bundy and Studd would become a regular team, including this match from April 22, 1986, just after Wrestlemania II.

British Bulldogs vs. King Kong Bundy vs. Big John Studd

Main event here and non-title for reasons not explained. Either heel weighs more than the champions combined. That’s rather cool for some reason. Smith vs. Studd to start but Dynamite cheats to take Studd down. No tag though so they hit a double dropkick instead for two. The fans are all over Heenan here. Off to Bundy now. How did he main event Mania but Smith never did?

More double teaming by the champions takes Bundy down but one on one it’s all Bundy. Ladd is talking about the stock market for some reason. All power by Bundy of course and Smith is in trouble. Back off to Studd who hammers away on Smith for two. We talk about Andre’s suspension which would lead to the Machines and ultimately his heel turn and Mania III. Bundy back in now and an elbow gets two. This is non-title for no apparent reason.

Studd comes in, misses a charge and tags back out. Neither of those guys were ever accused of being technical masters. They double team Smith a bit as we’re just waiting on the hot tag. Ah there it is and Dynamite comes in and tries a sleeper on Studd which goes nowhere at all. Everything breaks down and the referee is tossed for the DQ. Weak.

Rating: D. Uh yeah. This is more or less the match they hyped all show (work with me here) and we get a five minute match with a DQ ending? Nothing great here but considering the non-champions (why was this non-title again?) what did you really expect? Weak ending.

Time for a handicap match on June 3, 1986. The ending sets up the next match on June 14, 1986.

Big John Studd vs. Ricky Hunter/Jim Powers

I just can’t escape this Powers guy. Before the match starts though King Tonga (Meng/Haku) comes out and says he can slam him. Studd says wait your turn. Both guys try to slam him which doesn’t work at all. Bruno is on commentary and he’s about one step shy of saying “dudes, fail.” They finally figure out that you have to beat on him and then slam him when he’s stunned. The idea is fine but it doesn’t work at all. Studd destroys them and pins Hunter with a slam.

King Tonga runs in and slams him with ease. You know what that means.

Big John Studd vs. King Tonga

Studd immediately slams him during the opening bell to take over. Tonga goes for a slam but it gets countered. That’s the whole point of the match: Tonga wants to slam Studd. Off to a chinlock but Tonga comes back with some martial arts. Another slam attempt sends them tumbling to the floor and it’s a double countout. No rating again but this was a one move match.

They brawl on the floor post match with Tonga getting the better of it. The brawl and teasing going back in goes on longer than the match. Now they get back in and brawl as there’s a referee in there for some reason. Tonga headbutts him to the floor and that’s enough for John.

Around this time, Andre the Giant was suspended, only to be replaced by a three man team from Japan called the Machines. One of them was Giant Machine and the joke should be obvious. Here’s a match with Andre’s partners facing the Heenan Family at the Big Event.

Big Machine/Super Machine/Lou Albano vs. Big John Studd/King Kong Bundy/Bobby Heenan

Ah yes the Machines. Now this was the epitome of a comedy angle that took off for a little while. The idea was that Andre the Giant was suspended for (kayfabe) not showing up for a match. Soon thereafter two new masked guys from Japan appeared: Super Machine (Ax from Demolition) and Giant Machine (duh).

Over the Summer they feuded with Heenan, Studd and Bundy with guest appearances by Piper Machine, Animal Machine and Hulk Machine. It was total tongue in cheek, kind of like Mr. America with Hogan. They were eventually joined by Big Machine who was Blackjack Mulligan when Andre could barely move.

Andre was kind of the manager and only wrestled occasionally. The angle ended about two months after this to set up Mania 3. Anyway let’s get to this. We get a shot from the broadcast booth and the ring is TINY. Studd and Super Machine start us out. The Machines’ strength is freaking impressive. Ax is by far and away the smallest one. What does that tell you? Gorilla says he’s been over 500 pounds before but at Mania 4 said the biggest he ever wrestled at was 440. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t trust Gorilla Monsoon! Ok I’m back now I think.

With Big Machine down Heenan comes in and goes for the mask. Super Machine is like screw that and drills him. Bundy was just a big fat waste of oxygen. You can tell he was just thrown into Mania. Look where he was just 4 months later. Heenan comes in again and Albano comes in also.

Super Mario kicks his teeth in for a bit but a thumb in the eye and the heels beat up Albano. Andre has had enough and just comes in there and starts whipping all kinds of villains which causes the DQ. He was just freaking terrifying when he got mad. Ax being the smallest guy by far is a freaky sight.

Rating: C-. It was a comedy match so that’s fine. The Machines were just a fun team so this worked fine. Andre was fun as all goodness when he could move and this was no exception. It was nothing serious and it wasn’t supposed to be. The idea would be over soon but it was fun while it lasted.

Studd would retire in 1986 before coming back in early 1989 as a face. He wasn’t around long but he won the Royal Rumble and then feuded with the Heenan Family, particularly Andre the Giant. Here’s one of those matches from Wrestling Challenge on May 7, 1989.

Big John Studd vs. King Haku

The crown is on the line here and remember that Haku used to wrestle as King Tonga. Haku hammers away to start as we get an inset interview from Heenan, saying Andre is always watching. Studd shrugs off the King’s offense and knocks him down with ease. Big John calls for the bearhug but Andre comes out for a distraction. Haku kicks Studd in the back of the head and right at Andre for some choking, drawing a DQ. Jim Duggan runs out for the save, likely setting up a tag match.

Big John Studd wasn’t anything great, but he was imposing enough that a win over him meant something. He’s almost like the Great Khali today: you know he isn’t going to win, but he’s impressive looking enough that he could get people’s attention. No he wasn’t going to have many good matches, but he didn’t need to in order to fulfill his purpose.

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