I’ve always been a collector of something, accumulating large quantities of various items that have interested me for years. Be it Lego sets, comic books, action figures, trading cards, it seems I was always pursuing a new addition to one of my various collections. Of all the things I’ve collected over the years I look back with the most fondness on my assortment of pro wrestling VHS tapes; specifically the offerings released by Coliseum Video of various WWF events. Coliseum Video released hundreds of tapes from 1985 – 1997 but one tape stands above the rest in my heart as far as quality and nostalgia are concerned: Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em.
Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em was released by Coliseum Video in 1993 and just the box art alone evokes a sense of sentimentality in me. Although the WWF was in decline in 1993, the Coliseum Video releases reached their zenith in that year. For some reason the 1993 titles seem to be far and away the best as far as quality of content in spite of the decline in the product. As a personal preference I love the packaging design of the 1993 tapes as well. Every release had a metallic silver highlight across the top of the box that looked like a “tear” in the cover. You have to really see it in person to appreciate it but the 1993 boxes lined up next to each other on a shelf is extremely visually appealing.
The matches and features on Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em are superb. Lord Alfred Hayes is our host coming to us from inside a dilapidated house. While he introduces the audience to each segment he is also on hand to witness the Bushwhackers remodel the property and convert it into a rec room. Poor Alfred Hayes is the unfortunate victim of many of their hilarious antics gone awry. As a wrestling fan the Bushwhackers didn’t provide much inside the ring, but as a comedy team they certainly did a great job on this tape. I actually laughed out loud during a few segments. The other special feature is a segment called “Yokozuna: Cooking for the Single Man” in which Yokozuna, Mr. Fuji, and Mean Gene Okerlund dine in a Japanese steak house and give the cook a real work out.
As far as matches go, we get six on this tape and each one is a perfect representation of the transitional period from this era of the World Wrestling Federation. The action starts with Crush vs The Berzerker. Now, in case you don’t remember the Berzerker he was a big bulky bearded fellow that was dressed up like a viking and continuously stomped around the ring shouting “HUS!” On paper the match looks abysmal, and in reality it is a pretty lousy match. However, for some reason I am more entertained by this match than by anything I’ve seen in the WWE in the last 10 years. Lord Alfred and Gorilla Monsoon on the commentary probably helps.
Next up is Earthquake vs Repo Man. This era of WWF had a lot of gimmicks and so far they are represented on this tape in full force. Neither one of these guys was going to sell out a house on their own, and the match itself wasn’t much of an athletic display. Wrestling used to have an infatuation with the big strong fat guy that couldn’t move around very well. It’s an archetype we don’t see much in the business anymore but they dominated the business for awhile. The early to mid 90’s were the glory years for the portly pro’s as Earthquake, Typhoon, King Mabel, Yokozuna, Mr. Hughes, Bastion Booger, and others ran roughshod over their competition. As for this particular match, fortunately the promotion understood that these guys were not going to keep the audience riveted to the action so they ended it quickly.
Next we get to the real meat of the tape. An exclusive profile of Bret “Hitman” Hart who was WWF champion. Gorilla Monsoon interviews Bret in between each match asking him what his thoughts were going into the bout and how he prepared for his opponents. You can see that Bret isn’t used to being the spotlight wrestler in the territory and he appears to be a little uncomfortable as the headline wrestler. That said, it is obvious that Bret and Gorilla had a genuine friendship here and that Hart was quite humble.
First we have Bret vs Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental championship in a ladder match. This match took place at some point in early to mid 1992 and was televised on Prime Time Wrestling on the USA Network back in the day. Quality wise you can’t get much better than what these two provide. Even Sensational Sherri is at ringside to add to the atmosphere. This was the first ladder match in the history of the WWF (predating the WrestleMania X match between Shawn and Razor by approximately two years) so a lot of the audience wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Although there aren’t a plethora of high spots in this match it does tell a great story and does an excellent job building up suspense.
Next we see Bret defending the WWF title against Kamala who comes to the ring with both Kim Chee and Harvey Whippleman. I for one would like to see the win/loss record of Kamala at this point in his career to understand why he was granted a title shot as the number one contender. Maybe he sent a gift basket to WWF President Jack Tunney or offered to paint his face and chest for him. Whatever the reason Bret easily defends the belt against Kamala who is near the end of his career at this point.
Then we have Bret Hart vs Nature Boy Ric Flair for the WWF Championship. It’s amazing that this match had the outcome that it did. On paper this was just any other WWF house show event. The World Wrestling Federation was coming to Saskatoon Saskatchewan and the main event was Ric Flair defending the WWF Championship against crowd favorite Bret Hart. The way this was supposed to end was Bret giving a valiant effort coming so close to winning the title only for Flair to cheat and narrowly escape with a victory. That’s how it always went at these house shows and Flair had perfected the role. Instead what we got was underdog Bret Hart surprising everyone and coming away with a shocking victory. Consider that for a moment. The world championship changed hands on an un-televised house show in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. Not only that, but the match was never broadcast on Prime Time Wrestling for some reason. To see the title change hands a fan had to purchase the Coliseum Video Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em. The match itself was a great old school encounter and is a wonderful showcase for newer fans to witness the way wrestling used to be and arguably still should be.
Finally we wrap up the cassette with The Undertaker vs Razor Ramon. Undertaker had just recently become a babyface at this point in his career and he was squaring off against a fresh face in the promotion in newly arrived heel Razor Ramon. These two put on similar matches around the US at house shows during this time. Razor deals an incredible amount of punishment to the Undertaker who continues to rise up and come back for more, confounding and frightening Razor who eventually just gives up and leaves to the backstage area resulting in a countout win for the Undertaker. Not a wrestling clinic but it is entertaining.
The tape then comes to an end with an IcoPro commercial, Macho Man endorsing the WWF Fan Club, and the trademark finish of Lord Alfred Hayes narrating the Coliseum Video address for the audience. I have seen that screen and heard that voice announcing the PO Box so many times that it has become ingrained in my mind and I can repeat it at will. “For more information on Coliseum Video releases, write to Coliseum Video, Post Office Box one three one one, Fairfield New Jersey, Oh Seven, Double Oh Seven”. Seriously I didn’t look that up or watch it for this article, I just pulled it out of my figurative ass and typed it out on the fly. Go ahead and look it up. I guarantee it’s word for word. Just that segment alone transports me back to so many days gone by.
Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em has a reputation among the wrestling tape community as being one of the best Coliseum Video releases but I hold it in such high regard for it’s sentimental reasons as well. As a young kid our family only owned two wrestling tapes: The Best of Hulkamania and SummerSlam’s Greatest Hits and I watched them countless times. As a teenager however I had disposable income and embarked on a quest to accumulate as many vintage wrestling tapes as I could find. In mid 1998 for my birthday a close friend of mine purchased three wrestling tapes from a local mom and pop video store that was going out of business: Hulkamania 6, Starrcade ’95, and of course the subject of this article; Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em. All three are solid selections but despite an ever increasing library, Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em became and remained my favorite tape of all.