Written by: Scrooge McSuck from Dawrestlingsite.com
– This video is courtesy of the original “WWE 24/7” On Demand service, so over-dubbed music for pretty much anyone who actually had entrance music at the time. They even dub-over whatever the “Madison Square Garden Network” music was. Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson are sitting at ringside to call all the action, unless otherwise noted.
Opening Match: Jose Luis Rivera vs. Tony Garea:
What a barn-burner to open the evening. Garea is winding down a career that included multiple reigns as Tag Team Champion with partners such as Haystacks Calhoun, Dean Ho, Larry Zbyszko, and Rick Martel between the years 1973 and 1981. Rivera on the other hand had mostly been used as enhancement talent, and would remain in that role throughout the 80’s, both under this ring name as well as various masked gimmicks, including but not limited to a Conquistador and a Shadow. Lockup and a clean break. They fight over a waist-lock and trade hammer-locks. Next is a game of headlocks, countered with head scissors, with Rivera getting the better of the exchange. Crisscross and Rivera with a body press for two. Garea with a pair shoulder blocks and an arm drag into the arm-bar. Rivera with a slam, but Garea hangs on. Rivera with a roll-up for two. Whip to the ropes, Rivera almost botches a leap frog, then blows a dropkick, triggering boos from the New York crowd. Whip to the corner, Rivera goes for a twisting body press, but Garea rolls through and gets the three count at 6:47. *1/2 Not an awful match, especially considering how intolerable it was watching Garea at this point of his career, but they stuck to a basic wrestling formula and it didn’t go too long. (I should point out, matches from this era are graded on a slightly different basis than I would present day stuff.)
The Invaders vs. Mr. Fuji & Tiger Chung Lee:
I’m already smelling styles clash. The Invaders are #1 (Jose Gonzalez) and #2 (Roberto Soto), the former far better known as the man who murdered Bruiser Brody in 1988. Mr. Fuji’s in-ring career was winding down, holding a fair share of Tag Titles with Professor Tanaka and Mr. Saito. Chung Lee had yet to be reduced to enhancement talent levels. Decent reaction for the Invaders. Fuji does his ceremonial salt spot. Chung Lee actually gives a clean break in the ropes. Not so on the second go-around. Whip to the ropes and Invader #1 with a sunset flip for two. The Invaders take turns working the arm with quick tags. Fuji tries going for a cheap shot, but Invader #2 catches it coming and works over his arm while Invader #1 hops in and out for whatever reason. Crisscross and Invader #2 with a body press for two. Chung Lee back in and more of the same. Chung Lee with a slam, but he can’t follow up on it. Lockup to the corner and Fuji chokes Invader #1 with the tag rope. Fuji with a slam and falling headbutt questionably low. Then he takes a shot at Invader #2 for the hell of it. Another falling headbutt to the lower back. Whip to the ropes and Chung Lee with a back drop for only a one count. Fuji in with the dreaded nerve hold. Fuji with a suplex. He goes for another, but Invader #1 counters with his own. Fuji goes to the top rope and gets slammed off. Invader #2 with the hot tag, and he unloads on Chung Lee. He turns him upside down in the corner and stomps away. Whip to the ropes and a back drop for two. Chung Lee with a good looking back suplex for a one count. Fuji with a gut-wrench suplex for two. Chung Lee slaps on a bear hug as Monsoon condones cheating as options for the Invader. Invader #1 comes in and goes for a twisting body press, but Chung Lee counters with an inverted atomic drop. Now he gets worked over with rest holds. Invader #1 with a dropkick, but he misses a dive to the corner. Invader #2 with a dropkick and roll-over cover for two. The Invaders take turns splashing the leg. Fuji breaks up an abdominal stretch, or as Monsoon calls it, “a pearl harbor job.” Heck breaks loose and we get some row-boat action, and we have a Time Limit Draw at 20:23. ** Started off fine and ended on a good groove, but would’ve been better off had they not stretched the match beyond the 10-minute marker. Those long stretches of bear-hugs and nerve holds killed all the momentum. At that point, you could tell they were going the distance.
Chief Jay Strongbow vs. The Masked Superstar:
Yes, this is the authentic Jay Strongbow, not a fake like the UWF paraded around several years later. The Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie) is probably best known to WWF fans as Ax of Demolition. I wonder if Monsoon will say this is a Main Event anywhere in the Country… and then he says it as I typed it. Thank you, predictability. Lockup to the ropes and some trash talking. I was going to say Strongbow looked a bit old, then found out he was 56 at the time of this match… SERIOUSLY?! Doesn’t look a day over 80, if you ask me. Strongbow relies mostly on headlocks in the early going. Please God, don’t let them go the distance. Whip to the ropes and Strongbow with a chop. Strongbow goes for the mask, which is completely unprofessional and unwarranted if you ask me. Patterson can’t make up his mind on commentary, suggesting he’d like to see the mask come off, then running down Strongbow for going for the mask. Now we know where JBL learned his craft from. Strongbow dances, and just looks like an old buffoon at this point of his career. He unloads with knee lifts and goes for the mask again. He hooks a sleeper, but the Superstar escapes and hits a big clothesline for three at 7:20. DUD Guess what… this match sucked. It would suck in 1984, 1999, or 2016. At least Strongbow laid down for the clean job.
Ivan Putski vs. Sgt. Slaughter:
The parade of middle-aged talent continues. Putski gets a decent pop, but at 44 years old, he was considerably long in the tooth at this point, having worked Main Events dating back to the mid-70’s. Monsoon calls Slaughter “Sgt. Gomer Pyle”, so I’m assuming he had yet to turn babyface. Slaughter takes his sweet time disrobing for the match. Putski is all about the fisticuffs, so Slaughter bails. Who’s breaking the first sweat of the match? My money is on neither man exerting enough energy to do so. They lockup and aren’t getting anywhere. Putski shoves him to the corner and plants him with a slam. He grabs a side headlock and comes off the ropes for a hard shoulder tackle. He brings Slaughter back in from the apron with another headlock. Slaughter counters with an atomic drop. Slaughter with a back breaker for two. He rams Putski into the turnbuckle and connects with another back breaker for two. Putski blocks being rammed to the buckle and sends Slaughter to the post, instead, busting him open. Whip to the corner and Slaughter takes his signature bump. Putski with rights. Slaughter reverses a corner and connects with a clothesline. He goes for a slam, but Putski lands on top for two. Putski with Polish Hammer, followed by a shoulder tackle, sending Slaughter to the floor. They fight on the apron, Putski knocks Slaughter back in the ring, and somehow is Counted-Out at 11:25. ¾* Slaughter’s bumping was worth something, and this wasn’t as bad as the previous match. Terrible finish though, to a match the crowd was actually into it.
Salvatore Bellomo vs. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (w/ Roddy Piper):
You can’t get much worse than a Sal Bellomo match. Orndorff is making his “MSG Debut”, and look, Roddy Piper has just been plucked away from Crockett after being one of the headlining performers for Starrcade, working in a managerial capacity while recovering from injuries. With all the stalling going on, you’d think we were in Memphis. Want to know something odd? This, of ALL the Mr. Wonderful matches in the WWF vault, was revived for the “Stars of the 80’s” DVD set released back in 2005. Orndorff attacks from behind (more than 3-minutes after the bell), and Bellomo’s selling is something else. Orndorff with a big elbow drop. He plants Bellomo with a slam and drives a series of knees into the back. Whip to the ropes and a high back drop for a two count. Orndorff goes for another slam, but Bellomo shifts his weight too land on top for a near fall. Whip to the corner and Orndorff meets the post on a charge. The crowd is actually hot for Bellomo making his comeback. Orndorff with a takeover, and Bellomo counters with a head scissors. Orndorff with a back suplex. He tosses Bellomo to the floor, allowing Piper to get some close-up trash talking in. Orndorff with a gentle slam on the concrete. Back inside, Orndorff with a delayed suplex for two. Bellomo teases another comeback, but Orndorff cuts it off and plants him with a slam. He goes for a knee drop off the top, but Bellomo rolls out of the way. Bellomo sweeps the leg and splashes down across the knee. Orndorff catches him off the ropes with a Power Slam (so much for that lame cartwheel), and the Piledriver finishes at 14:06. ½* Just a showcase for Orndorff, complete with milking his disrobing and Piper getting in some verbal lashings from ringside. Could’ve stood for a little time trimming.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
The Magnificent Muraco © (w/ Captain Lou Albano) vs. Tito Santana:
This probably could’ve headlined Madison Square Garden, but it’s the secondary match on the card tonight. Muraco has been the reigning Champion since January 22nd of the previous year, having won the belt from Pedro Morales at the Garden. Crowd kicks in the “Beach Bum” chants before the bell. A long lockup goes nowhere. They give it another go, with neither man with the advantage. Santana grabs a side headlock. They slug it out a bit until Santana takes it to the canvas and works the headlock for a while. He lets loose to drop a knee across the chest for a two count. Muraco fights back to his feet and counters with a side back breaker. Santana back to work with the headlock. At least he’s exerting energy to build up a sweat. Muraco escapes again, this time with a Russian leg sweep. Muraco with an elbow to the back of the head, followed by a Power Slam for a near fall. Muraco with choking across the bottom rope. Santana comes back with a flurry of rights, followed by boots to the head. Albano comes in and becomes a victim of a double noggin-knocker. Whip to the corner and Muraco somehow sidesteps the Flying Forearm. Muraco to the top rope, but Santana recovers and slugs it out with him. They take a tumble to the floor as the bell is frantically rung at 16:01, with both men continuing to exchange blows. The official decision: Both men have been Disqualified. *1/2 Felt like it was being built up for 20-25 minutes before almost instantly going to the finish. Don’t feel bad for Santana… he went on to win the title two weeks later in Boston (before they taped for NESN, so there’s no known footage available).
2 out of 3 Falls: Tiger Jackson & The Haiti Kid vs. Dana Carpenter & Poncho Boy:
That’s right, we’ve got some Midget Wrestling Action, so you know tonight is a big deal. Tiger Jackson is probably better known for his role in the mid’90’s as Doink’s little doppelganger, Dink. Oddly, Jackson is introduced from Jacksonville, FL, but was really from Quebec. I guess they didn’t want to introduce Poncho Boy from Quebec, and then his opponent as well, even though Poncho Boy is more fitting of a gimmicked hometown. Why am I putting so much effort into the Midget Match?! Carpenter is as tall, if not taller, than the referee. Jackson shows off his dance moves. Poncho Boy goes for the hair, but there’s none to grab. Jackson escapes a chicken wing, comes off the ropes with a dropkick, and takes Poncho over with a head scissors. Poncho recovers and spins him like a dreidel. Haiti Kid in with a series of dropkicks. Carpenter thinks he’s outsmarted Haiti, but gets knocked on his ass for it. Poncho pounds away, but gets caught with a sunset flip and Tiger with the three count at 5:19. We return from break with Haiti Kid hitting what is commonly known today as the “Rear View” on Poncho. Haiti no-sells being rammed to the buckle and hits Poncho with a headbutt. He takes Carpenter over with a suplex, and then the referee gets piled on. Crisscross, Haiti calls for timeout, and surprises Carpenter with an airplane spin. Poncho with the save, but Carpenter lands on top for two… then Haiti rolls on top of him, and the referee awkwardly counts three for the second fall at 7:26 (including the time of the 1st fall). Always hard to rate midget matches since they don’t follow the standard structure and are meant more as a comedy performance, but this wasn’t bad when it comes to the actual work performed. The second fall was needless and seemed clunky, though.
WWF Heavyweight Championship Match:
The Iron Sheik © (w/ Freddie Blassie) vs. Hulk Hogan:
Yup, that match. You have to love “Eye of the Tiger” being dubbed over by a song not written for nearly 2-years. Hogan is subbing for former Champion Bob Backlund, who never ended up getting his rematch. According to Monsoon, Backlund is injured and unable to compete, under doctor’s orders. I guess the Philadelphia athletic commission thought otherwise on the 21st. Hogan attacks at the bell, with Sheik still wearing his robe. Whip to the corner and Hogan follows with an elbow. He sends Sheik to the ropes and clotheslines him with the robe. Hogan with rights. Whip to the ropes and he hits the big clothesline, followed by a knee drop across the chest. The crowd is rabid for every single move. Hogan with a big boot, but it only gets two. Hogan with a running elbow and an elbow drop for another two count. A charge to the corner meets nothing but turnbuckle, allowing the Sheik to finally get some offense. Sheik with a back breaker for two. Sheik puts the boots to him and turns over with a Boston Crab, but Hogan powers out. Sheik with a gut-wrench suplex into a cover for two. He quickly slaps on the Camel Clutch, but Hogan fights to his feet and rams Sheik hard into the corner. Hogan quickly comes off the ropes with the leg drop, and we have a NEW WWF Champion at 5:37! Hulkamania is here! **1/2 Generously scored, but this was what it was: an epic changing of the guard, and one of the most memorable eras is kicked off in grand style. The nuclear reactions from the moment the match was introduced to Hogan’s celebration is something to behold.
– We return from commercial, with Gene Okerlund in the locker room with the New Champion and Andre the Giant congratulating Hogan on his victory. Ivan Putski walks in to dump some champagne. Here’s Rocky Johnson to add to the festivities.
“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. Rene Goulet:
No offense to anyone, but after that last match, who cares what else is on the card? More spring chickens in action, with a 52-year old Rene Goulet continuing to waste a roster spot. Goulet attacks from behind before the bell, biting him all over the place. Whip to the ropes and he connects with an elbow. He plants Snuka with a slam but only gets a one count. You can tell they are pressed for time. Snuka comes back with rights, followed by a hip throw. Goulet hides in the corner, but Snuka doesn’t relent. Goulet goes to the eyes, takes Snuka over with a snap mare, and slaps on a CLAW. Snuka comes back with chops. Crisscross, Snuka with a pair of leap frogs and a big chop. Snuka to the top rope and he comes off with a Flying Body Press at 3:53. ½* Not much to this one. You can tell they were rushing through it.
– Gene Okerlund is still in the locker room with Hulk Hogan, as well as his parents “Ruth and Pete Hogan.” They should’ve interviewed Sika to put over Roman Reigns when he had his big championship celebration.
Andre The Giant, Tony Atlas, and Rocky Johnson vs. The Wild Samoans:
Final match of the card. The Samoans are Afa, Sika, and Samula (eventually shortened to Samu, half of the SST/Headshrinkers). I’m expecting another rushed match with time running out for the night. Johnson and Atlas are the reigning Tag Team Champions, having defeated the Samoans thanks to a botched interference from Lou Albano. Atlas starts with Samula, grabbing a headlock. Crisscross and Atlas with a diving body press for two. They fight over a waist-lock. Johnson (father of the Rock) tags in and holds Samula open, allowing Andre to chop him from the apron. Crisscross, and Samula just keeps running while Johnson hangs back. The Samoans have a miscommunication and actually SELL a double noggin knocker. Samula puts Atlas in a Full Nelson, but Atlas easily escapes. Andre with another big blow from the apron, and now he’s in legally. Whip to the ropes and Samula nails him with a headbutt. Sika in for a double headbutt. Andre ignores further offense and lays out Sika with a headbutt. Andre with a noggin knocker to Afa and Sika, then finishes Samula with a big boot and butt splash at 5:31. ¾* Another match that was nothing more than an excuse to trot a few names out there for an easy payday.
Final Thoughts: I’m not going to lie… these shows aren’t for everyone. What you saw on this particular card is pretty much what you should expect from all WWF events of the era. A handful of decent matches, but the roster was dominated by evil foreign menaces, foreign baby-faces that were aimed at the local demographic, and a lot of aged wrestlers whose time had passed, but continued to take up space (Strongbow, Putski, Goulet, etc. etc.). You’re rarely going to find any high quality performances (just ask snarky Dave Meltzer at the time), but if you’re familiar enough with the product, and don’t try and binge watch every house show, you’ll find it a bit easier to get through a 2 hour block of WWF action.