The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – MSG 01.22.83
As I’m sure you know, pre-Hulkamania WWF is not really my jam, so I’ve been putting these 83 MSG additions off for a while because you can only take so much Baron Mikel Scicluna. But I’ve got to review everything at some point, so here we are.
Taped from Madison Square Garden
Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Gorilla Monsoon
Pete Sanchez v. The Unpredictable Johnny Rodz
Sanchez takes Rodz down with armdrags while Gorilla notes that Johnny’s wife is two weeks overdue to deliver his child, so he might want to wrap it up fast and get home. Even his kid is unpredictable! Sanchez works an armbar while we get a couple of weird angles where the feed switches to someone filming a projected image, although the Vince commentary is seamless so I don’t know what the fuck THAT was about. Rodz finally escapes with a knee to the gut and the camera switches a couple of more times. That’s so weird, given these shows are pretty much single camera on the one side all the way through. And the color saturation is noticeably different whenever they switch, so maybe they had to Frankenstein this one together from multiple sources or something? Rodz goes to a chinlock while Vince clarifies that it’s not really a “resthold” as such. Sanchez fights out and gets a crossbody for two while this feed keeps switching between film and videotape and it’s super distracting. Maybe they should stick with the filmed version, because it looks spectacular for 1983. They collide for a double down, but Rodz tries a slam and Sanchez falls on top for two. And then Rodz hooks him with the small package to finish at 6:54. I wouldn’t have predicted that! *
SD Jones v. Baron Mikel Scicluna
Speaking of the Baron. Scicluna immediately tries a bearhug off the lockup, but Jones quickly escapes and works the arm while Gorilla notes that Scicluna is so raw-boned that his skeleton has to weigh 120 pounds. Baron slugs Jones down and uses his CLUBBING FOREARMS before choking SD down. And we get more choking, but SD fights back and then just lets him back off. Well that’s dumb of him. No wonder he loses all the time. Baron runs SD headfirst into the turnbuckles, which of course is a mistake easily predicted by science at the time, but again SD has no followup. Scicluna calls for time, which SD has been doing a great job of giving him already, and then he goes to work on SD again with a cheapshot. SD fights back again but he’s got nothing more than punches. Scicluna misses a charge, however, and Jones headbutts him for the pin at 5:58. Really bad, as they were missing simple stuff and Jones barely made contact on his punches. -**
Swede Hanson v. Superstar Billy Graham
Oh man. This is only 3 years after Graham’s prime and he’s already let his physique go to shit before pumping it back up by the end of the year. Graham attacks and chases Swede to the floor with his KARATE, but Swede fights back and whips him into the corner. Swede goes to the top, but misses his flying kneedrop and Graham pulls out a foreign object and hits Swede in the throat for the pin at 2:21. Flabby old karate man in sweat pants Superstar and babyface Swede Hansen equals NO BUYS. DUD At least it was very fast.
WWF Intercontinental title: Pedro Morales v. Magnificent Muraco
Oh hey, it’s the full version of the match we just saw on Best of the WWF 2! So yeah, this is a rematch from the previous show, which was a double DQ, and Pedro is fired up. And of course I literally just watched this one on the Best of the WWF volume 2 a couple of days ago. Muraco attacks and Pedro rips off his shirt and goes on the offense, yanking him out of the corner. Morales chokes him out with his own shirt and biels him across the ring with it, so Muraco calls for time and hides in the ropes. And the ref lets him do it! COME ON, REF! There’s no timeouts in the world of professional wrestling! Pedro gets a sunset flip out of the other corner for two, so Muraco takes a bump to the floor to buy some time. Muraco tries to get back in the ring, but then ends up walking the apron and taking a Flair Flop to the floor in a pretty crazy bump. Back in the ring, Muraco runs away again, but Morales works him over and puts the boots to him. Muraco calls for time again and hides in the ropes, but the ref actually counts him this time, so Muraco hits Pedro right in the cajones and takes over. Some kid in the crowd is yelling “Come on, Pedro, get up!”, showing zero empathy for the poor guy. He’s probably too young to understand that one. So then Pedro “accidentally” kicks Muraco in the nuts while the ref is trying to get Muraco’s shirt remains off, so they’re even. Two wrongs make a right and all. Muraco hides in the corner again, so this time Morales charges and misses, taking a dramatic knee into the turnbuckle. So of course Muraco goes right to work on it and gets a figure four, but Pedro reverses the hold. Don with the spinning toehold, but Pedro shoves him into the post to escape. Pedro with a backbreaker, but he drops Muraco right on his own bad knee, and that’s not smart. He gets the Boston crab, but Muraco is in the ropes an his knee gives out anyway. Morales keeps fighting and tries a slam, but the knee collapses and Muraco falls on top for the pin and the title at 11:00, winning it for the second time. Muraco was just great around this time. The additional 3 minutes of figure-four didn’t add much to the match but it’s nice to have the unedited version. *** Vince pretty much writes a eulogy for Pedro after the title loss, but he stuck around for another couple of months.
The Wild Samoans v. Tony Garea & Eddie Gilbert
Big brawl to start and Garea cleans house with dropkicks. I always have trouble wrapping my head around young white meat babyface Eddie Gilbert. It just doesn’t compute. Garea works on the arm of Afa and then dropkicks him out of the ring, terrifying the press corps at ringside. Back in, the Samoans accidentally chop each other in the corner, and the babyfaces continue working on Afa’s arm. Eddie dropkicks Afa and fights off Sika, and they go back to the arm again. Sika comes in and Garea takes him down and they work his arm over as well. Sika comes back, but misses a charge and Gilbert takes him down and works the arm again. But then the Samoans draw Garea in, and hit Gilbert with a double headbutt behind the ref’s back. That gets two, but Sika puts him up for more punishment and the Samoans go to work. Afa with the nerve hold and they take turns with that as Gorilla accuses the ref of being incompetent. I know, I’m shocked. Afa goes up and misses a diving headbutt, and it’s HOT TAG Garea. The Samoans collide and he gets the abdominal stretch on Sika while Gilbert fights off Afa, but he can only hold him off so long and eventually the ref escorts Gilbert out, which allows Afa to nail Garea and put Sika on top at 9:30. Obviously the Samoans were on the way up again and they won the tag titles on TV a couple of months after this. A really good tag match for the time. ***1/4
Jules Strongbow v. Ray Stevens
So now they’re definitely using someone’s off-air recording of the show for this match, as this looks brutal and probably should have just been left off. Jules fights off an attacking Stevens and dropkicks him out of the ring to start. Back in, Stevens takes more bumps for Jules and bails to regroup, but Jules beats on him in the corner while Stevens begs off and runs away again. Back in, Jules keeps beating on him with chops, setting up the abdominal stretch, and Vince declares it over. Gorilla even agrees that the hold was locked in correctly! This is indeed a happening! Stevens easily escapes by cheating, and they collide for a double down. Jules with a chop for two. He misses a dropkick after making the comeback, and Stevens drops an elbow on his neck to set up the piledriver at 7:38 to finish. Jules was obviously the worker of the Strongbow team and Ray Stevens was Ray Stevens, so this was pretty good! ***
WWF title: Bob Backlund v. Big John Studd
Another match transferred from someone’s EP dub of the show here. Studd was managed by Freddie Blassie at this point, and Gorilla immediately declares that Bob has no chance to apply the chicken wing to Studd because of the size difference. No wonder Backlund got so bitter and left. Bob works a headlock to start, but Studd slams out of it and then misses an elbow. I should note that Studd’s flowing blond locks were nearly Peter Avalon level at this point. Studd grabs his own headlock and cranks on that, but Backlund tries to reverse to the chicken wing and Studd beats him down to block it. And of course Gorilla insists again that Backlund can’t do it. They get into a slugfest and Bob tries a slam, but Studd falls on top for two and now he can go to work on the back. Studd with a bearhug and a slam for two, and he goes to the middle rope with the SUPER CLUBBING FOREARM. Backbreaker gets two. Back to the bearhug, and Studd switches to an over the shoulder backbreaker, but Bob pushes off in the corner and gets the pin at 7:49. Studd goes back to the backbreaker and Vince is convinced that Backlund actually submitted to THAT, but Bob retains. Vince thinks that Studd was SCREWED and is the rightful champion. Maybe that’s why he booked Studd to win the 89 Rumble. *1/2 Even more odd than this finish was that it didn’t lead to anything. Studd did a couple of rematches at house shows over the next couple of months, but they never had the traditional MSG title rematch and Backlund moved onto other challengers. I guess they just wanted to keep Studd strong for Andre the Giant?
Mac Rivera v. Curt Hennig
Interesting to see Curt passing through the WWF at this point. Meanwhile Vince and Gorilla are still debating whether Backlund submitted “8 feet in the air” from the backbreaker, so obviously they’re building to a rematch to settle things. Rivera and Hennig trade headlocks to start and they collide while getting their spots mixed up, with Hennig seemingly hurting himself in the process. So Hennig goes back to the headlock while Gorilla admits that they’ve been ignoring the match and he doesn’t particularly know what’s going on. Rivera hits him with the knee to the gut while Vince just decides to throw it to a replay of the Backlund match finish because no one cares about this match and we all know it. Rivera whips him into the corner for two and gets a slam for two. Vince notes that Studd is irate because this was his one shot. Mom’s spaghetti. Sorry, it’s just reflex at this point. Meanwhile this match is still going on, I guess. Hennig with a slam and he goes up with a missile dropkick for the pin at 8:08. This was sent out there to die in every sense. *
Jimmy Snuka v. Playboy Buddy Rose
Back to the proper feed again, thankfully. Buddy puts the badmouth on Snuka and slaps him around. Hopefully Snuka doesn’t snap and murder him in retribution. Oh well, it’d probably just get covered up anyway. Rose was pretty svelte at this point in his career, actually. Snuka quickly whips him into the corner, so Rose slaps him around again and Snuka responds with a chop that sends Rose flying. Buddy cranks on the headlock, but Snuka takes him down with a headscissors and goes to his own. Meanwhile, through the magic of headphones, we hear someone in the front row yell out “YOU’RE A BUM, MONSOON!” and his drunk buddy laughing at the bon mot. You really showed him, guy. Rose with a neckbreaker for two. He goes to a rear chinlock and Snuka powers up, but Rose knees him in the back and dropkicks him to the floor this time. That was like a slow motion ballet, with Rose slowly backing up and throwing the dropkick and then Snuka delicately moving to the ropes and then deciding to bump to the floor. Buddy gets some shots on the apron and even Vince is like “Man, the refereeing sucks tonight.” Maybe he should just situate himself at ringside and call for the bell at the proper time himself? Snuka comes back with a springboard attempt but he slips and falls on his face, which thankfully Rose covers by selling it as a headbutt to the back. Snuka makes the comeback with his usual and finishes with the Superfly splash at 15:17. Man, this did NOT need 15 minutes for that finish. *1/2 Buddy, bless his heart, sells the loss by rolling to the apron and then taking one last bump to the concrete on the way out.
Salvatore Bellomo v. Charlie Fulton
Sal works the arm to start while Gorilla relates a story about how Bellomo recently went to Europe for a series of tournaments that lasted “fifty straight days” in the same arena, with over 200 wrestlers in each one. Just to be clear here, records show that Sal worked one or two matches for the CWA in Austria in 1980 and 81, which is a far cry from “fifty straight days”. Bellomo gets a surprise crossbody at 3:33 for the pin after some headlocks. The announcers are like “Well, he pretty much fell ass-backwards into that one.” DUD
Mr. Fuji v. Rocky Johnson
We’ve got 10 minutes until curfew so don’t bet on a finish here. Fuji uses the martial arts to work Rocky over to start, but Johnson comes back with a backdrop while Gorilla notes how Fuji had Mr. Saito “shipped back to Japan” as soon as they lost the tag team titles to the Strongbows. And then Gorilla continues burying Saito, noting that he never listened to Captain Lou and in fact didn’t even speak English in the first place, which made him tough to advise. Fuji with the nerve hold, but Rocky fights out for a dropkick, but a second one misses. Fuji uses his KARATE and goes back to the nerve hold, but Rocky escapes with a suplex. Fuji drops him on the top rope and Gorilla calls for the DQ, but Rocky rolls him up for the pin at 6:41 as we are DESPERATELY OUT OF TIME. And we leave with the image of Rocky selling his bruised nuts to wrap up a way-below average MSG show. *
The IC title switch and Samoans match were pretty good for the time, but the rest is a boring slog and gave me no interest in seeing another Backlund-Studd match.