When the WWE first announced that they were returning to Saturday Morning television, the first thing that ran through my head was the familiar twang – familiar because it was a Monday Night Football ripoff – of the song affectionately referred in my house as as “Diesel: Cool. Undertaker:”
The fondest memories I have from this time when Saturday Mornings consisted of Cartoons, Wrestling and bowls of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Cereal are also the most random, mostly likely due to the sugar consumption: The Ultimate Warrior bleeding black goo, puking uncontrollably due to a Papa Shango curse; The British Bulldog, defending the Intercontinental Championship against the Repo Man “hours before” facing Shawn Michaels on Saturday Night’s Main Event in a second title bout; Bret Hart – the WWF’s fighting-est World Champion – giving a Title Shot to Virgil (Seriously! THIS happened!); Cursing whatever baseball teams that week preempted WWF Superstars, Papa Shango style. The adventures in the World Wrestling Federation blended nicely with the fantasy moments on found on Saturday mornings. It was effective then; it makes sense that, with Saturday Morning Slam, the WWE would try it again.
Saturday Morning Slam combines WWF Superstars with some of the other Saturday morning incarnations, namely Livewire (remember Todd Pettengill?) and WWF Mania (remember Dok Hendrix?). Like Livewire, which was originally a live fan (and sometimes Paul Heyman) call-in show that later became a recap show, Slam has “The Third Degree,” a segment similar to the the Inbox on their YouTube channel. Like Mania, which was an in-depth look into the lives of the Superstars before later becoming a recap show, Slam featured a trip to Planet Funk where Brodus Clay and the Funkadactyls taught us all how to “Walk the Funkasaur.” As a really nice touch, the WWE linked the Funkasuarus segment into a “Evolution of Dance” feature, showcasing the fleet footed Superstars from WWE’s History: 2 Cold Scorpio, Rikishi, Too Cool, The Disco Inferno and The Junkyard Dog. The Bootyman was blissfully left out of the segment.
Even with all this, Saturday Morning Slam also had wrestling! Kofi Kingston faced Heath Slater in a one on one match. Since, Slam airs between Justice League Unlimted and Dragon Ball Z Kai, leading with Kofi and Slater makes sense: Kofi flies around the ring like a Superhero, leaping tall wrestlers in a single bound, whereas Heath Slater looks like Raggedy Ann, employing the same ragdoll physics when getting thrown around the ring. Even their match announce looks like comic panels.
Santino (and the United States Championship) came to ringside to join Josh Matthews on commentary. The WWE put their more colorful characters in this one show, making it one that needs be watched more than listened to. This is not a slight on Josh Matthews who, as the play-by-play announcer, balances dispensing factoids and engaging with Santino, who commentates like he’s hopped up on Mountain Dew. The match itself was more amped up with the comical elements of wrestling. Kofi and Slater did some criss-cross ring work, resulting in a winded Heath begging for some water. Both Kofi and Slater stopped mid-match to gesture the crowd: Kofi with his “Boom, Boom, Boom” Handclaps and Heath with what he thinks is air guitar-ing. Kofi was the winner of the contest, utilizing a high-cross body instead of his Trouble in Paradise kick.
According to Internet reports, there is a no “Head or Neck moves” rule for the show. Kofi’s mid ring adjustment seems confirm this. Also, there was a moment mid-match where Kofi was driven chest first into the turnbuckles; instead, we were shown Santino and Josh Matthews reacting to the ring action. I’m less upset about this change than I was about the changes in the JLU episode “Initiation” that preceded it. A group of thieves are robbing a grocery store only to be foiled by the Green Arrow. However, their guns made laser pew-pew-pew sounds instead of gun sounds. If these robbers had lasers, Why would they be robbing a grocery store? They’d aim higher. But this shows that all of the Saturday morning cartoons need to be modified to reflect a more PG environment and a less imitable style. If that means less Ultimate Warrior throw-up on television, then I’m all for it.
WWE Saturday Morning Slam took a step toward recreating that connection from the Saturday Morning cartoons of the 80’s and the 90’s. Wedged between JLU and DBZ Kai, the tales of good versus evil, when plainly told by Superstars like Kofi Kingston and Heath Slater, fit with the themes of the other shows. There’s even unintentional synergy when Supergirl uses the phrase “Alpha Male Smackdown,” which could also apply to the world of wrestling. Actually, it does, especially since Smackdown is one of the WWE’s many contributions to popular culture. There’s something calming about kids having both Superman and SuperCena to look up to while devouring bowls of the SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cereal.