The SmarK Rant for Coliseum Video presents The History of the Heavyweight Championship
By Scott Keith on 31st August 2022
The SmarK Rant for Coliseum Video presents The History of the WWF Heavyweight Championship
Next up in the trilogy of title histories from Coliseum Video, it’s the history of the WWF title!
Technical note: This copy, which I’m legally watching here and totally not pirating because I don’t even know what a torrent is, appears to have been ripped from WWE 24/7, complete with the logo in the corner and all instances of the word “WWF” bleeped out and blurred. So this should be a fun romp. Also I don’t remember this tape ever being on WWE 24/7 but then Sasktel had a pretty bastardized selection of what was on there at times anyway. It was more like WWE 17.5/4, am I right?
Hosted by Craig DeGeorge, Bobby Heenan & Johnny V
WWF title: Ivan Koloff v. Pedro Morales
From MSG, Feb 8 1971, as we necessarily skip over Buddy Rogers and Bruno Sammartino due to no footage existing any longer. That’s a pretty significant skip! Not sure why they didn’t show Koloff winning the title, unless that footage wasn’t found until after 1987, which is also likely. Pedro overpowers Ivan to start and gets some slams before taking him down with a headlock as the crowd goes completely insane. Koloff had some HEAT. He was really triggering people by beating Bruno, I guess. Pedro grinds on the headlock and draws huge heat for that, but Ivan catches him with a big boot and stomps him down while Bobby reveals that Bruno has retired from wrestling and is delivering pizza in Pittsburgh here in the present. Huge if true. Koloff goes to a chinlock and then chokes out Pedro with his strap, but Morales fights out and gets all fired up while Koloff wants a truce. If there’s one thing doomscrolling through Twitter has taught me, it’s to never trust a commie. Well that and there’s 10 websites for marketing that every influencer should know about but somehow didn’t! Koloff with a bearhug as we jump ahead a bit as Johnny V notes that “even the referees look like they’re putting in tomato plants at this point in time”. I have no idea what that means but Bobby cracks up hearing it. Pedro fights out and they collide for a double down, but Koloff recovers first and reverses a slam for two. Koloff goes up for the BRUNO KILLER KNEE from the top, but Pedro moves and he also goes aerial with a bodypress for two. Koloff with a german suplex, but Pedro lifts his shoulder, my least favorite finish, and wins the WWF title at 9:10 aired as the crowd goes BANANA. Apparently the full match was 30:05 according to the ring announcer, which I can’t even imagine. And Bruno even comes out to endorse Pedro and present him with the belt for good measure. 1 for 1.
WWF title: Pedro Morales v. Stan Stasiak
We are presumably at December 1 1973 after a Roman-like 2 years as champion for Pedro, although the title change took place in Philly and this appears to be an MSG match. Joined in progress with Stan missing a splash and Pedro getting two, but the bell rings for curfew after FIFTY THREE MINUTES and Pedro wins by decision. 1 for 2.
A graphic informs us that Pedro lost to Stasiak in Philly, and then Stasiak lost it to Bruno right after, although strangely we don’t get footage of either title change here on his tape literally titled “The History of the WWF Heavyweight Championship”. We only had 9 champions by this point, so we’re running out of title changes, boys.
WWF title: Bruno Sammartino v. Killer Kowalski
Back to MSG in April of 1974 for this one. Joined with Kowalski slugging away in the corner until Bruno bleeds, but Bruno EXPLODES on him and slugs away until the ref stops the match for a bullshit DQ finish at 2:33 aired here. 1 for 3.
WWF title: Bruno Sammartino v. Ivan Koloff
Off to December 1975 for this, as Bruno finally gets his rematch, but in a CAGE. So Bruno hauls him in and just lays a beating on him, but we’re clipped to Koloff putting him down with a big boot and sending him into the cage. Clipped again to Bruno making the comeback, but he runs into a boot and Ivan goes up with the BRUNO KILLER KNEE, but he declines to follow up and celebrates instead. Bruno fights back as they whip each other into the cage, but Bruno backdrops him into the cage and runs him into the cage to bust him open, and then walks out the door to retain at 3:58 shown. This was a pretty awkward cage match. 1 for 4.
WWF title: Bruno Sammartino v. Ivan Koloff
Another match in their series, with Gorilla Monsoon as the special referee this time. Oddly, this took place a month BEFORE the cage match, in November 1975 in MSG. Introducing the match, Bobby notes that Gorilla isn’t suited to be a referee because “he’s so blind that he takes off his glasses and it starts a forest fire”. Bruno gets tossed and Ivan won’t let him back in, so the Gorilla gives him what for. Bruno fights his way back in and beats on Ivan in the corner, slugging him down for two. Back in the ring, Ivan pounds Bruno down as Vince declares it a SEE SAW MATCHUP BACK AND FORTH, but Bruno gets a bearhug and Ivan makes the ropes to break. So Bruno hauls him off the ropes and reapplies the hold, but Ivan gets a cheapshot to escape. Koloff with a slam for two, but Bruno hits two of his own for two. They fight to the floor and Koloff just grabs a chair and clobbers Bruno, and that’s a DQ at 7:20 aired here. 2 for 5.
Bruno Sammartino v. Mr. Fuji
From Championship Wrestling in what looks to be 1975, and this is announced as a non-title match. Although then Craig DeGeorge does an inset intro for the match where he declares that this shows Bruno putting his title on the line against all challengers. The Fuj tries a wristlock to start and beats on Bruno in the corner, but Bruno flings him from one side of the ring to other and backdrops him. Fuji tries a slam and Bruno counters into an armdrag and works on that. Fuji with a slam that works this time, but he misses a legdrop and Bruno works the arm again. Fuji escapes that, so Bruno stomps on his bare foot. That seems a bit uncalled for. So Fuji gives him the dreaded BOOB CLAW to slow him down and then finds something in his tights while the crowd freaks out, and he rakes the eyes with the phantom object to take over. What a ribber. Bruno fights back in the corner, but Fuji gives him the old foreign object to the throat to cut him off and puts the boots to him. Metaphorical boots, obviously. Fuji goes up and Bruno slams him off to make the comeback and finishes with a backdrop at 8:25. This was a fun TV match with a hot crowd. 3 for 6.
WWF title: Bruno Sammartino v. Superstar Billy Graham
Off to MSG again, although this isn’t the title change yet. The Grand Wizard combing Graham’s luxurious blond hair while he poses is some tremendous heeling. This looks like January 12 1976, so we’re still a ways away from Bruno losing the belt. They do a test of strength to start and Bruno wins that, but Graham hits him in the gut with a headbutt to escape. Bruno catches him in the bearhug, but Graham escapes and knocks Bruno to the floor for a countout win at 3:39 aired. Vince protests that there’s supposed to be a 20 count when you’re on the floor, which is news to me. 3 for 7.
WWF title: Bruno Sammartino v. Superstar Billy Graham
This is called the “rematch” by the tape, but it’s more than a year later in Baltimore, April 30 1977. And Bruno was ready to move on to something else. Graham sends Bruno into the corner off the lockup and flexes, which is a spot that Hollywood Hogan would lift directly years later. Another lockup and Bruno gets flung into the corner again, but he comes back with an armdrag and works on that. Graham bails to escape and wants a test of strength, and we’re clipped to Bruno making the comeback to escape that. Graham puts Bruno down with a knee to take over and puts the boots to him before choking him out on the ropes. Graham misses a blind charge and hits the corner knee-first, and now Bruno takes out the knee and Graham takes a wacky bump to the apron. So Bruno runs him into the post to bust him open and then hauls him back in and slugs away. Graham catches him with a bearhug, but Bruno slugs out of that and whips him into the corner. Man those ropes are LOOSE. Bruno with his own bearhug, but Graham is in the ropes and Bruno continues beating on him despite the ref’s protests. So Graham trips him up and pins him with his feet in the ropes to win the title while he’s distracted, at 11:11. And they get Graham out of there with the belt FAST, as everyone sprints back to the dressing room. Pretty damn good match, though. 4 for 8.
WWF title: Superstar Billy Graham v. Gorilla Monsoon
From MSG, May 1977, so we’re like a week after Graham won the title and this would be Graham’s first MSG defense. Graham tries to overpower the Gorilla, but Gorilla quickly takes him down and gets a Giant Swing and big splash for two, with Graham only getting the ropes to escape before going to the floor. Back in the ring, Gorilla works the arm and Graham can’t power him down, and then Gorilla catches him in the bearhug, but Graham fights out and gets his own bearhug. Early in the match, Craig DeGeorge tried to compare the match to Hogan v. Andre at WM3, and I’d agree that the match quality is absolutely in that category. They head to the floor and Graham runs him into the railing a couple of times, and then back into the ring with a flying knee for the pin at 9:40 to retain. This was a complete snore. 4 for 9.
WWF title: Superstar Billy Graham v. Bob Backlund
From MSG, February 20 1978. We’re clipped to Graham trying a headlock, but Backlund rolls him up for two. We jump to Graham doing the bearhug, but Backlund reverses to his own, so Graham gives him the Jesse Ventura Special to escape. Bob keeps coming with an abdominal stretch, but Graham escapes that, so Backlund hits him with the atomic drop and pins him to win the title at 3:13 aired. Graham’s foot was clearly on the ropes, but such is life. 4 for 10. Not sure why they clipped the match so brutally given the full thing would have been available and it was a hugely historic title change.
WWF title: Bob Backlund v. Greg Valentine
This is a cage match from 1980 in Philly, as Backlund and Valentine had a pretty good feud in 80. Valentine attacks on the way into the cage and Backlund immediately fights him off and catapults him into the cage. We’re clipped to Valentine trying to crawl out of the door, but Backlund grabs him by the boot and hauls him back in while Craig notes that if Hammer hadn’t tied his laces so tightly, he’d be World champion. Clipped again to a bloody Valentine stopping Backlund from escaping, but Bob comes back and slugs away on him before sending him into the cage. Valentine won’t stay down, so Backlund gives him a pretty vicious piledriver and walks out the door at 3:55 aired to retain. Seemed like the full match would be pretty boss. 5 for 11. As noted, they have a match on the WWE Network’s MSG shows that was pretty great, too.
WWF title: Bob Backlund v. Jesse Ventura
From MSG, March 14 1982, with Ivan Putski as special referee. Classy Freddie Blassie managing Jesse is just about perfect, of course. Oddly the WWE Network doesn’t really have anything from the 82 era in the MSG shows available. Ventura does some posing and Backlund takes him to the floor, but we’re clipped to them colliding and Ventura falling on top for two. Man, looking at Jesse here really shows how much he was ripping off from Superstar Graham, from the hair to the gear and moveset. Ventura with a piledriver for two, but Putski counts so slow that even Vince is showing support for Jesse’s case. Backbreaker gets two. Atomic drop gets two. Jesse with the body vice and Vince thinks it’s over, but Bob pushes off the ropes and flips him over for two. That should have been the finish. And indeed Bob does another rollup and gets a really fast count from Putski for the pin to retain at 3:50. What a shitty refereeing job from Ivan there! No wonder Jesse hates him so much. Match was fine. 6 for 12.
WWF title: Bob Backlund v. The Iron Sheik
Moving onto December 26 1983 in MSG, as we’re clipped to Sheik taking out the neck and putting Backlund into the camel clutch, at which point Arnold Skaaland throws in the towel and Sheik is the unlikely WWF World champion. The full show is on the WWE Network and it’s on my list to review soon, by the way.
WWF title: The Iron Sheik v. Hulk Hogan
Of course, we’re onto January of 1984 next, as Sheik does his camel clutch and Hulk fights out of it and drops the leg to win the title. Not even sure why they had to clip the match to the finish since the whole thing was 5:00 long.
WWF title: Hulk Hogan v. Randy Savage
And we close the tape with a dark match from Wrestling Challenge, June 3 1987. So Savage is still a bit cranky due to losing his IC title. Savage attacks at the bell and drops the double axehandle right away, then chokes Hogan out on the ropes. Hulk slugs back and STEALS THE GLASSES. What a punk move. Hulk chases him to the floor and threatens to punch Elizabeth in the face when she jumps in front of Savage to protect her man from this maniac! Back in, Hulk slugs away and sends Savage to the floor with an atomic drop, and then Liz again begs for mercy and Hulk picks her up and tosses her across the floor like a piece of meat. Savage gets some revenge with a double axehandle to the floor, hopefully teaching Hulk some manners in the process, and then hits him with a running knee to the back out there. Back in the ring, Savage decides it’s time to finish things and goes up with the flying elbow, but the ref gives a biased slow count to rob Savage of the title and Hulk makes the comeback. Probably due to drugs. Big boot puts Savage on the floor and Macho grabs a chair, but Elizabeth stops him from using it because she’s brainwashed by Hogan. Back in, Savage drops another elbow, but he’s so confused by this betrayal by his manager that he somehow misses, and Hulk rolls him up for the pin at 7:00. WOMEN, am I right? 7 for 13.
I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting out of this one, but it seems like a disappointment, lacking a lot of the historical context that something like the tag title tape had. And it also didn’t really have much in the way of classic or famous matches covered, with loads of clipping and odd choices for inclusion like highlighting random title shots for Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. Can’t give this one a recommendation, unfortunately.