The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – MSG 12.26.83
OK, time for a show with a famous main event that not many people have watched, and in fact the match itself was rarely seen by anyone after it originally aired. So this should be interesting!
Taped from Madison Square Garden
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Pat Patterson
OH MAN the lighting for this show is cool, as they’ve got the big lighting rig above the ring and it’s lit like a Saturday Night’s Main Event or something. Why didn’t they keep that instead of going back to the dimly lit arena look right afterwards?
Jose Luis Rivera v. Rene Goulet
Goulet takes him down and works the arm to start while Gorilla recaps the Sheik-Backlund angle with the Persian clubs. Goulet stops to point to his head to indicate intelligence, and Rivera gets a headlock takedown to take over. NEVER POINT TO YOUR HEAD! Rivera continues working on the headlock, but Goulet goes to a lengthy chinlock and slugs away in the corner. Rivera goes to the arm with a hammerlock, so Goulet bites him in the kidney region and then takes him down for a stomp to the gut that gets two. Goulet with the knucklelock on the mat, but Rivera bridges up to escape that and Goulet chokes him out on the ropes. But then Rivera gets an ugly victory roll and rolls him up out of the corner for the upset pin at 10:03 out of nowhere. A very dull opener. *
Salvatore Bellomo v. Tiger Chung Lee
Tiger uses KARATE to put Bellomo down, but Sal gets a dropkick. Tiger takes him down with an armbar and works on that before putting him down with a kick to the throat. Lee with a nerve pinch, but Sal fights out of that until Tiger takes him down again. That goes on for a while and Bellomo fights out of it and makes a comeback, basically standing on Tiger’s neck in the corner and then doing the lame babyface deal where he stands there deciding to punch him or not. So he opts for a dropkick and Tiger retreats to the ropes and then puts him down with a chop for two. And we’re back to that nerve hold again. So then Bellomo goes to his OWN nerve hold, with hookers, and blackjack! In fact, forget the blackjack and the nerve hold. Tiger manages to get Bellomo into the corner to escape the devastating trap hold and then knocks Bellomo to the apron. Sal makes a comeback and does a Three Stooges routine for some reason while getting fired up, but then goes to a chinlock for his offensive flurry. Even the announcers are burying Bellomo here for blowing his big chance. Lee runs him into the turnbuckles to break free and follows with a butterfly suplex for two. Backbreaker gets two. They fight for a gut wrench and Sal gets that for two. Lee gets a side salto for two. Bellomo with the abdominal stretch and Gorilla buries that six feet under, but Lee escapes in seconds anyway. Sal with a half-crab, but Lee escapes that as well. Sal makes a comeback and slugs away, but Lee chops him down for two. Sal gets all fired up, but then goes back to the trap hold while Gorilla thinks he should use the STUMP PULLER. Holy cow, I haven’t ever heard anyone call that move outside of the internet before. Mind blown! And it’s a draw at 19:30, which was telegraphed by neither guy ever trying for a pin with anything more devastating than a trap hold for the entire match. They were just putting in time. ½*
Jimmy Snuka & Arnold Skaaland v. Captain Lou Albano & Magnificent Muraco
Well this is an interesting trainwreck. Muraco actually starts with 80 year old Skaaland, and Arnold takes him down with armdrags to a big pop. Muraco stops to flip off the Superfly, so Skaaland slams him and the crowd accuses him of being a beach bum. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig to me. Skaaland waits out all the stalling and gets a small package for two, and then brings Snuka in. Muraco grabs a headlock, but Snuka puts him down with chops and a headbutt for two. Muraco’s selling is great here. Snuka with the chinlock, so Captain Lou comes in and just kicks Snuka in the old yam bag blatantly to take over. Great refereeing there. Muraco hits Snuka with the top rope kneedrop while Albano takes the ref, and the announcers are just so disgusted and disdainful of Albano that you have to love it. He’s such a FAT SLOB! Muraco puts Snuka down with a thumb to the throat and goes to a full nelson, but Albano comes in and accidentally hits his own man with a cheapshot. Skaaland takes care of Lou, and Snuka finishes Muraco with a flying bodypress at 10;14. This was roughly 10,000 times better than it had any right to be, with nuclear heat. ***
Meanwhile, Jimmy Snuka dedicates his win to Buddy Rogers, who was not doing well at that point.
Sgt. Slaughter v. Chief Jay Strongbow
They criss-cross and Sarge walks right into the sleeper, and so he bails to the floor and runs away. Back in the ring, Strongbow tries a headlock and then chops Sarge down before going to the armbar. Slaughter comes back with a backbreaker for two and they do an embarrassing botch where a headlock attempt turns into a double knockdown and both guys are selling phantom shots. That was a disaster. Sarge puts him in the Cobra Clutch, but Jay immediately falls in the ropes to break and then makes the comeback. Strongbow gets his own sleeper, but Slaughter is in the ropes right away. So he does it again, but Slaughter falls into the ropes again to break and then hits Strongbow with the Slaughter Cannon and pins him at 7:40. This was a bit of a disaster. ½*
Ivan Putski v. The Masked Superstar
Well this show certainly has been an interesting hodge podge of styles and eras so far, you have to give it that. Rumors persist that the Superstar was in consideration to be in the spot occupied by the Sheik as the guy to move the title to Hulk, but I think most of that comes from Eadie himself. Putski grabs a headlock to start and grinds on that, although Gorilla posits that the Superstar has “ligament strength” and thus might be stronger than Putski’s weight-lifting muscle. Superstar gets a cheapshot and goes to a chinlock while Gorilla hypes the next MSG show on January 23 1984. I wonder if anything big happened on that one? Gorilla also shills the new 1984 WWF calendar, which was a Christmas present that I received every year from my parents from 86 until I moved out. AEW was going to put one out, I heard, but then Tony Khan lost interest after February and never finished it. Superstar throws Putski to the floor and stomps on him from the apron, and then hauls him back in for an atomic drop. Superstar tries the neckbreaker, but Ivan grabs the ropes to block and comes back with the Polish Hammer. Ivan goes for the mask, so Superstar hides in the ropes and Putski accidentally takes out the ref in the process, drawing a double DQ at 7:00. Bad match, bad finish. ½*
WWF World title: Bob Backlund v. The Iron Sheik
So yeah, everyone just assumed this would be another challenger of the month roadblock for Bob to overcome, but bigger plans were afoot. Sheik attacks him and chokes Bob out with the scarf to start, then puts the boots to him and goes to an armbar for some reason. Bob flips him out of that, but Sheik goes back to the armbar while Blassie starts yelling at his man to go for the NECK. And Sheik ignores him and stays on the arm. Bob fights out, but Sheik boots him down again and goes back to the arm while Blassie is losing his mind at ringside trying to get him to go after the neck like the storyline called for. Gorilla meanwhile repeats the lie that Sheik won a medal in the Olympics, but now Sheik goes to the surfboard and finally starts doing stuff in the vicinity of the neck. Bob kicks out of that and puts Sheik down with a forearm, but then tries a neckbreaker and hurts his own neck. Sheik is doing such a lousy job of working the neck that Bob has to WORK HIS OWN NECK to get the storyline over. Sheik grabs a hold on the mat and Blassie keeps yelling “KICK HIM! KICK HIM!” while trying to get Sheik to follow the script and go after the neck. Backlund makes a comeback, but he tries a slam and Sheik falls on top for two. Sheik goes back to the surfboard while poor Blassie is desperately trying to call the match for him, not even being the least bit subtle about it, telling Sheik to put the knee in the back. Backlund flips him into a crotch hold for two and bridges into a backslide, but Sheik kicks him in the shoulder to put him down again. Bob with another rollup, but Sheik I guess takes out the neck, and then goes right to the camel clutch, which draws the famous towel throw from Arnold Skaaland at 11:55. So the Sheik is the new WWF champion, no doubt for years to come, unless Vince manages to steal the biggest new star in the sport from Verne Gagne by the next MSG show. BUT HOW LIKELY IS THAT, LOL? This was a SUCH a weird, bad match, as Sheik gave Backlund absolutely nothing and basically wouldn’t follow his own gameplan even while Blassie was literally screaming what to do next after every move. Huge disappointment, especially since I’ve been waiting for 40 years to finally see it. *1/2
The Wild Samoans (Afa, Sika & Samu) v. Tony Atlas, SD Jones and Rocky Johnson
The crowd is still very much in shock after the title change, so the babyfaces immediately clean house and chase the Samoans to the floor. Back in the ring, the Samoans regroup, so the faces triple team Sika in their corner and maintain wrist control. The Samoans have a conference in the corner, possibly trying to figure out who they’re all related to, but Atlas rams their heads together. Back to the babyface corner, but Rocky walks into a chop from Afa and he gets trapped in the bad place. Samu with a headbutt to the lower abdomen and a legdrop follows. But he tries a headbutt and his underdeveloped young Samoan head can’t overcome the power of wrestling science, and Rocky wins that battle. Afa comes in and collides with Rocky for a double KO, but the other faces come in and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA. The seemingly refuses to take control, and then he finally calls for the bell at 9:39, disqualifying both teams.
So we go to the third fall, now tied 1-1, picking it up with Jones putting Samu down with headbutts. Gorilla gets a funny bit about how “Atlas, Johnson & Jones” sounds like a law firm. Poor Samu gets double-teamed in the babyface corner and Atlas hits him with a piledriver, so Samu hits him with a low blow behind the ref’s back. And then Afa comes in with an even more blatant headbutt to the groin before switching off for more punishment. Samu gets two and Atlas tosses him off, so Sika comes in for a double-team clothesline and that gets two. Atlas fights back with a suplex, but Samu sneaks in with a headbutt to put him down again. But then Sika tries the same trick and Atlas dodges him. Tony takes a bump to the floor, so Rocky helps him back in, and the Samoans cut off the ring again and hold him in their corner. Atlas fights back again and hits Sika with a dropkick to set up the HOT TAG to SD Jones. Now there’s a sentence you don’t type every day. But SD walks right into a stungun from Afa like a complete doofus, and the Samoans take turns dropping headbutts on him. And they give him a special delivery of a LOSS at 20:17 after three of those. This turned into a hell of a match actually, although SD looked like a complete goober at the end. ***1/2
Meanwhile, Arnold Skaaland tries to nurse Bob Backlund’s shoulder back to health while Lord Alfred questions what went wrong. Bob feels like he let everyone down and whines like a little bitch. Suck it up, Bob. This could not have made Backlund look like any more of a loser. What a burial job this whole show was.
Ivan Koloff v. Tito Santana
MSG 83 or ECW 92 main event? Oh wait, there’s people in the building and everyone on the show got paid, never mind. I didn’t know Uncle Ivan was still hanging around the WWF in 83, since the Russians in Crockett were about to become a pretty big deal. I will say, this is another unique matchup that I haven’t seen before. Tito goes for a takedown and Koloff goes to the ropes to escape. Ivan goes for a full nelson while Gorilla lays out all the possible escapes, and Tito decides to go with reversing to his own. Ivan goes to the ropes, so Tito runs him into the top turnbuckle a few times. Tito slugs him down, but Ivan puts him down with a knee to the gut for two. Even the announcers are riffing on Ivan’s forehead and how he gets busted open easier than Jon Moxley, and Koloff necks Tito on the middle rope to take over. Back elbow gets two. Tito takes him down with a headlock and Ivan rolls him over for two, and then hits him with a kidney punch to take over. Suplex gets two. Backbreaker gets two. Ivan goes to the RUSSIAN BEAR-HUG, but Tito slugs out of that while Pat declares that there are UNDREDS of Tito Santana signs in the audience. UNDREDS OF THEM. Tito makes the comeback and slugs away in the corner, then dodges a running knee from Koloff and goes to work on the leg as a result. Tito with a backdrop, but he goes for a splash and Ivan gets the knees up to block. Tito hits the flying forearm, however, and gets the pin at 15:44, with a pretty fast count from the ref to boot. Really good match from two pros. ***1/4
Iron Mike Sharpe & Butcher Vachon v. The Invaders
Some kid is yelling “YOU STINK, SHARPE!” in the front row. No wonder poor Mike was a compulsive hand-washer. Meanwhile the announcers discuss the impending rematch for Bob Backlund on January 23 1984, which of course we all remember as the date when Bob Backlund received a rematch with the Iron Sheik for the WWF title. Invader 2 controls Sharpe with a monkey flip and some armdrags, and the Invaders switch off with armbars. Gorilla continues STRONGLY HINTING that something big is gonna go down on January 23 1984, which of course is Bob Backlund receiving his contractually obligated rematch for the WWF title against the Sheik, which I’m sure is a big deal. The heels manage to get an Invader in their corner and double-team him. The other Invader comes in and they double-team Vachon for the pin at 4:44 as we wrap up the show with a nothing tag match. *
Some interesting stuff on this show that’s worth watching, but not particularly the main event. But hey, at least we’ll have another chance to see if they can do a better match on January 23 1984, when Backlund gets his rematch on the next MSG show!