Work & Shoot – The Magnificent Muraco
By Dave Newman on 24th December 2021
This edition of Work & Shoot focuses on Don Muraco, who has a pretty awesome podcast at the moment where he’s willing to tell some pretty good stories. These snippets are mixed in with some matches and angles from his eighties high points.
Gordon Solie’s Big Scoop
From Florida, Gordon speaks to Sir Oliver Humperdink and Don. The segment is ostensibly to get Hump over more at this time, with Don mugging at the side of the shot. Oliver talks about training his men and discusses recently inviting Gordon’s film crew to an exclusive public workout with Don and Masa Saito despite claims of slander. Don gets in a dig about how the booze was free so Solie was there (Gordon: “Well, that’s besides the point…”). We cut to Oliver running a training drill with the guys. Some of it looks and sounds quite homoerotic.
Back in the studio, with the heels gone, Gordon talks about how a member of the crew left a piece of equipment in the arena and left his camera running, managing to catch Don training himself to deliver the outlawed piledriver. We see that footage, as Don piledrives the training dummy over and over again while talking about being more interesting in crippling his opponents than winning. Hump catches sight of the cameraman and runs him off.
Back with Gordon again, very concerned with what he’s just seen and shown. Cut to later in the show, Sir Oliver has come out to confront him about having “THE AUDACITY!” to show that piece of film and demanding an explanation. “TO HELL WITH THE PUBLIC! I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PUBLIC!” Hump is great at ranting and raving with his eyes bulging out. At this point he grabs Solie by the tie and starts throttling (“Please try and restrain yourself! Just a second, sir!”). Mike Graham runs him off as Oliver throws a stool about and storms off.
Awesome little segment with Solie as the ultimate straight man and Humperdink losing his shit in a big way.
Don on Mr. Fuji
Speaking about his most famous manager and partner in Fuji Vice, he recalls first meeting Uncle Harry at Dean Ho’s gym in Waikiki. Don had hip surgery as a kid after being knocked over by a car and wanted to work out because he couldn’t participate in normal sports. Fuji was a local guy and couldn’t break out. He was a security guard at a department store and would walk out every night with stolen racks of clothes. He also tried stealing a motor off a boat with Dean and was assigned to be the lookout and to whistle if anyone came by. People did and he didn’t do anything, so Dean questioned him on it. His answer: “I don’t know how to whistle!”.
A young Jimmy Snuka was also around and drove a delivery van for a liquor store. He left it outside of the gym with the keys in and Fuj drove it off and took all the booze out of it with his partner. Fuji also refined his “Get the other guy to drive for hours to the arena, then drive them back home within fifteen minutes” rib in Hawaii too.
Don on Bobby Heenan
Don recalls the guys buying coke off a Cuban dealer in Buffalo who would wrap it up in a dollar bill. Bobby wasn’t a massive coke guy, but had one on him. When he went into his pocket for some money at the rental car stand he picked out the note and flicked it to open it up, sending the powder flying all over the place.
The Iron Sheik hated Bobby, but then he didn’t like a lot of people. Bobby got drunk one time and passed out in a hotel room they were sharing on the bed naked with his ass up in the air. Sheik took it that he was making an invitation to “humble” him, but “Sheik don’t put him over!”, also adding “And Sheik is hard too, but I don’t put son of a bitch over!”.
Don Muraco vs. Jimmy Snuka
The classic that I’ve never really thought before was that good, but we’ll see again after a few years. Vince in the locker room with Jimmy is great at putting over the significance of the match. Jimmy is surprisingly lucid in recapping their issue with his eyes as glassy as you’ll ever see. He puts over the steel cage as a place where men become animals and any and all injuries can happen. Probably his best promo ever, actually.
Contrastingly, Muraco is cool as a cucumber, tossing his tape in his hand while smirking. He talks it up as having finally built up to something he has planned over months. He puts over Snuka as the finest, but not the smartest wrestler, because he doesn’t have the intercontinental championship. The former was probably a real comment based on where Snuka was seen in comparison to Bob Backlund at this point.
Don comes out with Lou Albano, who leaves him to it as soon as he enters the cage. A high-pitched Pat Patterson awaits Jimmy Snuka, who comes out next. First Monsoonism of the match: “This crowd will be exploding in a minute!”. Brilliant sign in the crowd: “When Snuka flies, Muraco dies!”. Buddy Rogers is still around at this point to accompany the incredibly over Superfly. He leaves immediately too. Mel Phillips scoots out of shot around ringside at one point. Snuka enters and the match is on.
Slugfest to start, with Muraco first to fall. He goes for the door, but Snuka pulls him back, then rams his head into the door. Muraco knees him in the “midsection”, as Patterson diplomatically calls it, then slingshots him into the cage, with a blade job started on the way down. The blood is already coming fast. Cheese grater action, then Muraco’s unique one-handed Irish whip into the corner, but he runs into the foot. Snuka starts climbing, but Don catches him in a fireman’s carry. He drops down and straddles the top rope. Snuka’s not quick enough to follow him down with a flying attack, so Don slams him off the top. Mule kick to the “midsection”, but Snuka reverses another whip and Don takes a wacky bump into the corner. Run into the cage for Don to join in with the bleeding, catching up quickly. Flying fistdrop to keep it going. Don staggers in front of where the door is, Snuka runs at him with a flying headbutt, and in a contrived finish Don tumbles back over the top rope and through the door to the floor, getting the victory and keeping the belt.
Of course, it’s not done yet, as Snuka paces in frustration, then drags Muraco back in. Suplex sets up the Superfly splash, but not from the top rope but the top of the cage, which legend would have it is fifteen feet or more high in the air, when in reality it’s probably about ten at the very most. Definitely a match that’s more about intense atmosphere than completely intense action. Probably needed about ten more minutes and stuff that other famous cage matches had, like a Samoan drop or superplex off the top. Still, an acknowledge influential classic.
Don on Mil Mascaras
Mil Mascaras was someone who took himself very seriously, too seriously, so people like himself and Angelo Mosca used to call him Aaron when he had the mask on and Mil when he didn’t to wind him up. His matches were all the same and not that good, but he definitely had star power.
Don on Jim Barnett
Jimsy was an established power broker in wrestling and TV production, having made a fortune in places like Australia and Georgia. He was more trustworthy than the Welch family, so he monitored their business moves closely. Don was embarrassed one time when he smuggled a bottle of Cognac out of the bar for Andre, leading to a telling off from Jim. He reminded him of a time when he was younger and riding horses shirtless and asked him if he still had any pictures he could have for himself, “my boy!”.
Don Muraco vs. Hulk Hogan
Don is with Fuji now as the Hulkamania era is now firmly established. And it’s YouTube, so we get the full Survivor/Eye of the Tiger and big pop entrance for the Hulkster. I always wonder why they switched from 302 to 303 for his billed weight. Muraco attacks before Hulk is fully in the ring, belt and white gear on. Gene gets his Pearl Harbor knocks in on Fuji. The legs start shaking as Hulk fires back, knocking Don out of the ring with a headbutt, following him out with the Axe Bomber and getting an atomic drop and t-shirt choke on the outside. Back in, the clean as a sheet Hogan continues with the choking and spits on Muraco. Gene says this is something new to him, meaning he’s forgotten every Hulk match he’s ever seen. Slam and big elbow, with the same body language we’d get used to with the legdrop. On the outside, Don gets a chance shot with a chair to the gut, but can’t keep it going and gets hit with it twice himself. Gorilla comments that Hulk has been training on delivering headbutts, which makes me think what kind of fucked up training you go through for that! Regardless, Don is opened up and eats a back suplex before being tossed again. Nasty headfirst battering ram into the post, followed by biting. Suplex back in. Slam and legdrop, but Fuji manages to get the foot on the ropes and passes him some salt in the confusion about whether the match is over. Muraco tosses it at him for the legitimate disqualification finish. Shame that it was booked for the ref to see that because a cheap shot would’ve opened up an awesome heat segment. Hulk’s matches generally only got SO good, but this was in the top 75%. Doubtless booked for a second rematch.
Don on wrestlers with wigs
The conversation is prompted by the then-recent death of Tony Marino, who was a bodybuilder who wrestled as “The Battman (sic)”. Gerry Brisco accidentally knocked his wig off with a left hook, sending it flying, killing the match as he went scrambling for it. It would’ve been a great heel gimmick for the self-conscious narcissist to keep on getting his toupee detached. Angelo Poffo was another one who was constantly going “Don’t touch the hair!”. Bruno Sammartino, Stan Lane and Cowboy Bob Ellis were other bewigged wrestlers. Wahoo McDaniel and other guys used to stick shoe polish on their bald spots, which would leave you with black on your hand if you grabbed the wrong spot. Don never had the pleasure of seeing him wrestle as the Battman, with the hypocrisy of Bruno denouncing gimmicks but being tag champs in Pittsburgh with the Bruce Wayne impersonator. Don jokes that maybe Bruno wanted to be Robin.
Don on Ultimate Warrior: Chiropractor
Jim Hellwig was a trained chiropractor, but didn’t work like he did. Jim Neidhart asked him to fix his neck one time and as big as he was it almost killed him. If it had been a normal person he would’ve broken his neck, but Neidhart was so thick that it luckily just crunched the crick out of it. Muraco says it was like when Arnie or the Rock break someone’s neck in a movie with their bare hands. James Romero, his podcast producer, asks who other locker room neck crackers were, with one name in mind already – Harley Race. Don confirms that, because he was unnaturally strong for how he looked. This segues into a comparison of Warrior’s and Race’s driving techniques – Warrior constantly hitting the breaks, Race driving top speed all the time.
Ultimate Warrior on Don Muraco!
Warrior never really had much good to say about many on his YouTube show, with Randy Savage being an exception and Don as well, strangely. Training with Sting, he lived in poverty and had to steal food. Muraco mesmerized him, as he reminisces about the Snuka feud. He talks about how influential it was on himself, although he didn’t go half as high as Snuka did. Muraco was the ultimate heel as far as body and voice and way he spoke, “like he was eating gravel”, like the Crusher and Dick the Bruiser. Warrior got to travel with Muraco and enjoyed his presence and admired how he wasn’t resentful when his career started winding down. “He was really cool!” – that’s equal to a sainthood when it comes to Warrior.
Don Muraco vs. Roddy Piper
From Toronto, with Gorilla paying lip service to the big bid Jack Tunney had to make to get this match booked. And there was me thinking he was on the take! Don does the awesome heel psyche out of coming out to Piper’s music in a kilt. Johnny Valiant dubs him Don “The Flasher” Muraco with his sarcastic lifts of it. They just keep the music playing for Piper as he’s announced, dragging it out before eventually coming out to an even bigger pop. At this point Piper is playing it as he would as a heel, with the same short hair, but soaking it up like a babyface. He does the keeping an eye on Muraco at all times deal. Gorilla is good at explaining that Piper hasn’t changed, it’s just how the fans now react to him that has changed. Muraco charges and runs straight into the kilt and a beating. Eye poke and quick jabs, and Muraco does a Ray Stevens bump into the corner off a whip. Slam and big splash for two. Piper tries a cradle, but Muraco rings his bell with his knees. Fuj the Stooge gets a shot in behind the ref’s back with the cane – that’s more like it! Piper tries fighting his way back into the ring, but settles for pulling Don out for a trip to the railing, but he gets stung for good coming back in. Mick Foley-esque stuff piledriver for two. Curt Hennig necksnap for another two that the ref totally messes up the cadence of the count with. Big clothesline and a hook of the leg pleases Gorilla, but again it’s only two. Piper tries fighting back again, but the referee gets knocked down on a powerslam that you can see he was doing his best to look like he was obviously going to get taken down by. Swinging neckbreaker for a visual three count, but the ref is still down. Fuji throws the cane in, which Piper intercepts and catches Muraco right under the chin with for the pinfall victory. Gorilla’s take: you’ve got to fight fire with fire. Try using that one in the comments section Gorilla! Good match.
Don on Lars and Ole Anderson
Lars first, Don considers him hard to work with, because he was booked to do a Johnny Valentine act. He was good at it, but the crowd had moved on, so there was no more patience for sitting in a hold for a long time. The timing was all off too, plus he didn’t have Valentine’s charisma or aura. Don was willing to do an hour with anyone. As a side story, he recalls wrestling Koko B. Ware in Toronto and having a headache for a week off a dropkick off the top.
On Ole, James prefaces it by saying that Don speaks glowingly of everyone, with Ole Anderson being the exception to that. One time in Georgia a job guy got booked who was a simpleton straight out of Deliverance – simpleminded, but harmless. Ole talked him into how everyone washed their hands in the toilet just to make fun of him, needlessly cruel. If he could take advantage of someone or bully them he would. He reckons Roddy Piper was the only guy who halfway liked him, but I’ve heard Roddy say he and Sgt. Slaughter bought baseball caps with pig snouts on specifically to make fun of Ole’s facial similarity to one, so not so sure on that.
One Man Gang vs. The Rock Don Muraco
From MSG, with Don as Superstar Billy Graham’s champion, having saved him from further beating by Gang and Butch Reed in the angle that wrote him out of action. Vince is on commentary with Bobby Heenan and Lord Alfred Hayes here, with the description noting as well that Jack Lotz is the referee, implying upcoming snark on Vince’s part. Bobby argues the case for Graham not being considered a manager, with Alfred acutely pointing out that if he’s such a cripple then why are he and the other managers so worried about him? Gang bounces around for Don like a pinball on the opening volley, even doing a flip bump on a leg snap. Don kicks his leg out of his leg and works towards a spinning toe hold, which he does a cool drop back snap on too. Slick comes over to rant about Graham while Alfred holds the mic for him disinterestedly. Figure four of all moves on Gang, but he gets the ropes to break. Shockingly good psychology given the nature of Graham’s injury, even though it alternates between rapid and slow. Billy looks fucking rough at ringside without his shades on. Gang gets his first shot in after five minutes and pounds away in the corner. Muraco tries hitting the knee, but gets his face raked. Don starts his comeback and even throws out a rare dropkick. Bret Hart bump into the corner for Gang and Muraco mounts him to get a sleeper. The managers get into it at ringside, prompting interference from Butch Reed, who nails Muraco with the cane and Gang flops on top for the win. These guys were both willing to put their working boots on and it amounted to a great match in the waning days of the Rock. The heels gangs up on Graham, with him even getting squashed with a 747. Muraco makes the save in lieu of a prospective tag partner for the next show running in (as is, Muraco would end up teaming up with the Ultimate Warrior to beat Reed and substitute King Kong Bundy).
Melting it down: Some really good matches and angles with the Magnificent One, who has a good sense of humour and the same easy going nature that Warrior mentioned in his bit, meaning he’s honest without being hurtful, which makes for some great stories.