Written by: Colin Rinehart
WWF @ MSG 7/23/84 (The Brawl to End it All)
July 23rd, 1984
Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
This was an extremely important show for the WWF in the process of getting Wrestlemania off the ground and eventually dominating the PPV business, the “rock and wrestling” connection as it’s been coined gave the WWF massive mainstream exposure and made Hulk Hogan a national star almost immediately. This special aired on MTV and originally the only match that made the air is the main event between the Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter, but luckily for us WWE Classics on Demand was kind enough to release the entire card from MSG that night here.
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Mean Gene Okerlund
Sika vs. Ron Shaw
Collar and elbow lockup starts us off, but Sika quickly takes the upper hand, beating Shaw out of the ring. Shaw throws a mini temper tantrum before getting back in and returning to the lock-up. Sika slaps on a chinlock and we’re moving at a snail’s pace now. Shaw tries for a headbutt but of course Sika is a Samoan which means his skull is made of some uber-steel that is impervious to pain in kayfabe land. Sika finishes Shaw off with a diving headbutt at 5:12. That was just bad, plain and simple. ¼*
The Iron Sheik vs. Tony Garea
Sheik was still semi-relevant, having only lost the World title to the Hulkster six months ago. Garea is one of those guys that’s not particularly bad, but he just never had that extra something you needed to be a success in wrestling. The crowd starts up a “USA!” chant despite neither man in the ring actually hailing from the USA. Garea leapfrogs over Sheik and then gives him a huge scoop slam that brings the crowd to it’s feet. Sheik tries for a big boot but Garea gives him an atomic drop and slaps on a side headlock on the mat. Sheik tries the boot again and hits it this time and he takes the immediate upper hand, slamming Garea into the turnbuckles repeatedly. Hip-toss and a dropkick followed by a cross-body block from Garea gets a quick two as Garea is fired up now. He gets bumped sternum-first into the turnbuckle though and Sheik gives him a HUGE back suplex for the 3 count at 5:35. Pretty decent stuff actually, Sheik actually looked pretty good and Garea was competent. *¾
WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Tito Santana (C) vs. Cowboy Bob Orton
It’s Tito time baby. If there’s one guy who should’ve been far more successful than he ever was, it’s him. Tito starts us off with some armwork on Orton’s left arm. They each try to outpower the other with Orton winning the test of strength initially before Santana is able to break the Greco-Roman hold. Santana hits a forearm off the top and Orton crumbles to the mat as the crowd starts to awaken, hugely behind Tito here as they always were. Back to the armbar for Tito but Orton gets the rope break quickly. Orton starts laying in big shots to Tito in the corner and then nearly breaks the ring ropes bouncing off of them to drop a fist on Tito for some good heat from the crowd. Running powerslam from Orton. 1-2–NOO! Tito kicks out. Orton keeps laying in big shots on Tito and then gives him a big backbreaker and taunts the crowd, who are so pissed at Orton already that a cup from the crowd comes soaring into the ring and hits Orton right in the forehead. Tito starts to make the comeback, desperately trying to get to his feet while throwing in big lefts and rights to Orton in the corner. Orton rakes the eye and then gives Tito almost a mini-Fisherman’s suplex that Monsoon calls a small package for another close two count. Orton tries to wear Santana down with a side-headlock but Santana keeps fighting back only for Orton to hit a cheap shot below the belt for a very close near fall. Orton goes for a big slingshot splash off the top rope, but Santana gets the knees up! Tito is fired up now and he starts slamming Orton’s head into the turnbuckle as the MSG crowd is going crazy for every bit of Tito’s offense. Abdominal stretch applied to Orton, but he counters into an abdominal stretch of his own. Big back suplex from Orton. 1-2—NOO! Tito just barely gets the shoulder up. Orton tries for a suplex but Tito counters with a small package, but again Orton kicks out before the three count. Tito misses the flying forearm and Orton follows up with a kneedrop, but Tito won’t be put away that easily. Orton gets shot into the corner and nearly flies over the top like a young Shawn Michaels, and then Tito rolls him up with a bridge. 1-2–NOO! Orton again kicks out! Both men are exhausted at this point, trading big lefts and rights on their knees. Orton tries for a piledriver but Santana back-drops him and both men are laid out on the mat for the count. Santana lays a few shots into Orton in the corner, but Cowboy Bob counters with an inverted atomic drop. Orton tries a fistdrop but Tito just pokes him in the eye and both men are laid out on the mat once more when suddenly the bell rings as both men have fought to a 20 minute time limit draw (at 20:03 technically)! After the match Orton and Santana continue brawling wildly until finally it’s broken up. This was just the kind of classic match that made the Intercontinental Title such a prestigious one through-out the 1980s as guys like Tito, Steamboat, and Savage would always wind up having the best matches on the card over it. Red hot crowd and great action from both men, you can’t ask for much more than that. ****
Bob Backlund vs. Butcher Paul Vachon
Backlund was coming to the end of his heyday here and would be gone from the company less than a month after this, not to be seen again in the WWF until 1992. Paul Vachon was a big name in the 70s alongside his brother Maurice and is probably better known to modern fans as the adoptive father of the late Luna Vachon. Collar and elbow lock-up to start us off. Backlund takes Vachon down by the feet and they lock-up once more. In a remarkable display of strength Backlund lifts Vachon up and just holds him up in the air for a few moments before slamming him down to the mat and then applying the Crossface Chicken Wing for the win at 2:40. Just a squash match for Backlund, which would be irrelevant in a few weeks. ¼*
Backstage in the locker room area Mean Gene Okerlund gets a few words with Greg Valentine about his upcoming title match with the WWF champion Hulk Hogan, alongside Captain Lou Albano. Valentine and Albano make their way to ringside while Hogan cuts a quick promo with Gene.
WWF World Title Match
Hulk Hogan (C) vs. Greg Valentine
We’re only about six months into the era of Hulkamania, so Hogan is still rocking the white trunks and US-colored t-shirt instead of his infamous yellow ring gear. Valentine tries to ram Hogan’s head into the turnbuckleto start but Hulk comes back with big lefts and rights in the corner. Valentine does the ol’ Flair Flop (bit early for that isn’t it Greg?) and then tries for a big boot but Hogan gives him an atomic drop instead. Valentine looks to escape but Hogan slams him back into the ring and lays another elbow smash into the Hammer, as it’s been all Hogan so far in the early-going. Hulk slaps on a chinlock briefly but Valentine counters it with a nice back suplex. He drives his elbow into Hogan’s lower back three times and then applies a partial Camel Clutch on the Hulkster. Hogan escapes the hold though and both men begin trading forearms in the corner. Valentine lays another big elbow into Hogan’s chest but can only get a one count. Suplex from Hogan and he already is starting to Hulk up. Shoulderbreaker and a big boot from Hogan sends Valentine out to the floor where they begin brawling much to the crowd’s delight. Back inside Valentine is back on top, laying in elbow smashes for another two count. Headlock from Valentine now and the Hulkster’s arm goes down once, twice, but not a third time. Valentine slams a chair from ringside onto Hogan’s knee, but the referee does nothing about it. Valentine tries for the figure four but Hogan counters out momentarily. Elbow drop off the second rope from Valentine. 1-2–NOO! Hogan isn’t done yet. He catches Valentine off the top with a clothesline and then hits the legdrop of doom for the quick 3 count at 10:33. Eh, I’ve seen worse house show title defenses from Hulk, but it was just your usual formula Hogan match here. *¾
Antonio Inoki vs. Charlie Fulton
Inoki is the current WWF Martial Arts champion, a short-lived title that was made specifically for Inoki during the early days of shoot-fighting, before MMA was even thought of yet. Fulton is just your typical jobber here. Both men lock-up but Inoki gets the takedown and starts wrenching away on Fulton’s knee in a submission that wouldn’t look out of place in a UFC fight. A series of shoulderblocks and forearms from Fulton have little effect on Inoki. Snapmare gets Fulton a quick two count and he slaps a sleeper hold on. The hold turns into a choke so the ref breaks it, and Inoki starts laying in quick kicks to Fulton’s shins. Big jumping enziguri kick from Inoki finishes it at 4:10. Just a squash for Inoki, but the crowd was totally dead. ¼*
WWF Tag Team Title Match
Adrian Adonis/Dick Murdoch (C) vs. Sgt. Slaughter/Terry Daniels
Adonis and Murdoch are one of the great unsung teams of the 80s, they had some incredible battles in the early 80s against the likes of the Brisco brothers and others. Slaughter had just recently been turned face and Terry Daniels is apparently the first inductee into Slaughter’s own “Cobra Corps”. Can’t say I’ve ever seen Daniels before. Daniels and Murdoch start us off with an exchange of wristlocks. Daniels tries working the arm for a bit, driving his knees in. Adonis and Slaughter tag in now and the crowd comes alive for Sarge. Adonis tries working a wristlock on Sarge but he counters it with one of his own and then tags Daniels back in. Daniels leapfrogs over Adonis but then gets monkey-flipped, only for Daniels to grab Adrian’s arm again and re-apply the big armbar. Adonis gets the tag to Murdoch, and Daniels again just slaps an armbar on Murdoch. Is that the only move this kid knows or something? Big bodyslam from Murdoch but Daniels just gets right back up and–yep, you guessed it—reapplies the armbar. I’m begging you Terry, do something, anything other than a god damn armbar. Adonis tags in and Daniels AGAIN applies another armbar. Good lord kid PLEASE do something else, ANYTHING! Nice leapfrog sequence between Adonis and Daniels and Murdoch tags back in. Big dropkick from Daniels and the god damn armbar AGAIN, but thankfully Sarge tags in now and he quickly cleans house of both of the tag champs, which the crowd loves. Big armbreaker from Sarge and then he tags Daniels back in who gets a kneedrop for a two count. I’ll give you one guess as to what move Daniels goes for here. Yep, the fucking armbar. Adonis tags in now and lays some stiff chops and forearms into the youngster. Running powerslam from Adonis, but he doesn’t go for the cover. Big “USA” chant starts up even though both Adonis and Murdoch are American. Double-teaming ensues and the ref of course won’t let Sarge in to break it up. Dropkick from Daniels and Sarge finally gets the hot tag and cleans house. Cobra Clutch on Murdoch! Adonis breaks it up with a knee-smash though. Daniels tags back in and hits another series of dropkicks, which I guess is the only non-armbar move he knows. Backbreaker-forearm smash double team combo on Daniels and Adonis gets the 3 count to retain at 16:52. After the match Slaughter cleans house again. Hot crowd and the parts with Sarge in were great, but this Daniels kid clearly wasn’t ready for this kind of spotlight given his extremely limited wrestling ability. I’ve never seen so many armbars in one match. Replace Daniels with someone competent and this could have been great. **½
Backstage Mean Gene gets a few words with the Fabulous Moolah and Captain Lou Albano about her title defense against Wendi Richter coming up next.
WWF Women’s Title Match
The Fabulous Moolah (C) vs. Wendi Richter
This is the only match of the night that was broadcast during the live MTV “Brawl to End it All” show that night, in large part because of Cyndi Lauper accompanying Richter to the ring. This was a huge step for the WWF as they scored a giant 9.0 rating with this match and gained national exposure they had never had previously. All of this would set in motion the creation of Wrestlemania next year, and the rest as they say is history. David Wolfe, Lauper’s manager, joins the commentary table for this match for no particular reason. He knows absolutely nothing about wrestling and it’s obvious. Lots of stalling from Moolah and Albano to start. Several snapmares from Moolah start us off and Richter lands right on top of Gorilla and Mean Gene at the commentary table. You know I think Mean Gene just copped a feel right there! Skeevy bastard. Back inside the ring Moolah hits a few knee strikes and then eats several forearms from Wendi for a two count. Armbar from Richter now, but she misses a follow-up body splash. Moolah starts pulling at Wendi’s hair now, choking her over the top rope and taunting the crowd at the same time. Big open-palm strike from Moolah, but Richter comes back with a headbutt. Moolah gets tied up upside down between the top two ropes and Wendi takes the opportunity to hammer away on a trapped Moolah until the ref is finally able to free her. Wendi applies a full-nelson for a bit and lets Cyndi Lauper punch Moolah right in the face, in full view of the ref. Shouldn’t that be a DQ? Suplex from Richter gets a two count. Monkey flip and a back body drop on Richter, but Moolah pulls Wendi up before the 3 count, wanting to apparently punish her some more. Captain Lou misses a cheap shot and then Moolah rolls Richter up for what appears to be the 3 count for Moolah at 11:20. However on the replay you can see Wendi lifted her shoulder right before the 3 count and Moolah’s shoulders were actually counted down, so we’ve got a NEW Women’s champion! Moolah doesn’t like this of course and she takes out the ref with a dropkick, which for some reason is unintentionally hilarious. Decent match with a hot crowd, but neither of these women could do very much outside of restholds and hair-pulling. *½
After the match backstage Cyndi Lauper and Wendi Richter share a few words with Mean Gene Okerlund about her big title win. Sgt. Slaughter and Hulk Hogan both come in and congratulates her as well. We aren’t finished with the full show yet though, so let’s continue on.
Paul Orndorff vs. Chief Jay Strongbow
Strongbow was way past his prime at this point while Orndorff was on the verge of breaking out as a real star, something everyone kept expecting from him until eventually it just never happened and he faded away in WCW. Stalling from Orndorff to start but Strongbow eventually gets a hold of him and lays some big shots into Mr. Wonderful in the corner. Strongbow evades a clothesline and tries for a sleeper, but both men collide off the ropes and Strongbow is sent to the floor, inadvertently ringing the bell in the process. Back inside Orndorff starts laying in forearms, but the Chief just shrugs them off like an Indian version of Hulk Hogan. Another side-headlock attempt from Strongbow, but Orndorff shoots him off the ropes and finishes him with a clothesline at 6:05. Strongbow was really too far gone at this point to be out there thing long, even for a squash match. ¼*
Afa vs. Rene Goulet
Goulet was one of many indistinguishable foriegn heels the WWF had employed at the time to do jobbing duties. Afa back-drops Goulet immediately to start the match and then applies a bear-hug. Goulet stuffs something into his glove and starts hammering away on Afa, even biting his forehead. Big headbutt almost sends Goulet up and over the ropes, but he just stomps on the Samoan’s bare feet and snapmares him. Goulet slaps on the old Iron Claw submission for a bit, but Afa breaks it up with a headbutt. Goulet shoots off the ropes but gets met with a big Samoan drop from Afa for the 3 count at 5:26. I have no clue what the point to this match was, even by squash match standards. ¼*
20 Man Battle Royal Match
(Featuring Antonio Inoki, Rene Goulet, Sika, Afa, Jose Luis Rivera, Butcher Vachon, Tony Garea, Chief Jay Strongbow, Steve Lombardi, Cowboy Bob Orton, Charlie Fulton, Ron Shaw, Terry Daniels, the Iron Sheik, Adrian Adonis, Dick Murdoch, Tito Santana, Paul Orndorff, Sgt. Slaughter, and Samula)
And here’s your main event for tonight, a 20 man over-the-top rope battle royal featuring mostly talent that had already wrestled tonight. The bell rings and it’s chaos of course. Lombardi is the first man eliminated by Sgt. Slaughter after about a minute of action. Tito and Afa gang up on Mr. Wonderful and Orndorff is eliminated next. Slaughter barely evades being eliminated himself. Strongbow gets tossed over next by Ron Shaw, and he’s followed shortly after by the Iron Sheik much to the crowd’s delight. Moments later Vachon is tossed out by Tito Santana. Things settle down a bit now with a few minutes passing before the next elimination, which is Charlie Fulton. Both of the tag team champions get eliminated next by a few of the Samoans, only for both Sgt. Slaughter and Samoan Afa to join them seconds later. Santana isn’t paying much attention and Inoki clotheslines him out quickly. Sika gets thrown out as well and we’re down to 8 men, excuse me, 7 men as Jose Luis River is eliminated. Inoki is laying in karate chps on Samula while Daniels gets eliminated by Goulet. Inoki back-drops Samula over the top though and he’s gone now too. Orton tries to gang up on Inoki but he eats an enziguri to the back of the head and flies over the top, being eliminated. Down to our final four here with Inoki, Goulet, Garea, and Shaw. Hmmm, I wonder who will win this one? Garea gets sent over the top so it won’t be him. Shaw and Goulet try to double-team Inoki now but Shaw gets tossed out accidentally by Goulet and then Inoki tosses Goulet out right after him to win the battle royal at 13:17. I hate grading battle royals, but this wasn’t too bad. It was obvious Inoki was going to win once it came down to him and a group of jobbers though. *¼
A very important show for it’s historical ramifications, but it’s not exactly a stacked card. Tito Santana and Cowboy Bob Orton wrestled to an excellent 20 minute time limit draw though so that match is well worth checking out, but after that there’s really nothing else here you can’t skip. Maybe check out the women’s title match for it’s historical significance. Because of the great Santana-Orton match and the show’s importance for the WWF gaining national exposure though I’ll give the show a slight Thumbs Up.