The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – MSG 10.24.77
I was going to review the Superstar Graham documentary on the Network, but I thought that reviewing one of his biggest title defenses would be a better memory of him for me personally.
Taped from MSG, and this is the followup show to the famous Dusty Rhodes-Superstar title match that was won by countout and obsessed about by Cody Rhodes for the next few decades. But this time it’s a Texas Death match, and last I checked, Dusty is from Texas, so that’s bad news for the Superstar.
Your host is Vince McMahon
The Unpredictable Johnny Rodz v. Larry Zbyszko
Young Larry is “the Polish Prince” at this point, and Vince points out that he’s a protégé of Bruno Sammartino. Hopefully that works out well for him. Larry is much bulkier than he would be in later years, definitely looking like the Tonga Kid to Bruno’s Jimmy Snuka here. Rodz hides in the ropes while Vince notes that he’s not a very heralded wrestler and doesn’t rank very highly in the ratings. Truly this is a man who knew how to create superstars. Rodz continues stalling, until finally LARRY FREAKIN’ ZBYSZKO is like “Dude you’re stalling too much” and takes him down to work the leg. Rodz pulls the hair to escape that and goes to an armbar, but Larry reverses out of that and Rodz runs him into the turnbuckle. I didn’t predict that! Rodz puts the boots to him and stomps away, but Larry makes a comeback and he’s so clearly aping Bruno’s mannerisms here. Rodz runs away to the apron and then hides in the corner, before getting a cheapshot for some offense. But then Larry makes a fired up comeback and drops a knee for two. But then Rodz hits him with a kneelift out of the corner and goes up for a ropewalk into a forearm, which I certainly wouldn’t have predicted, and a flying stomp from the top gets two. Larry with a sunset flip to counter a backdrop, and that gets two. Rodz slugs away and gets a splash for two, but he tries another one and there’s no water in the pool. And Larry wraps him up with the small package and gets the pin at 9:34. Once Larry slimmed down and leaned more into his “technical wrestler” character he got a lot better, but this was surprisingly all action outside of Rodz stalling, and a very good opener. ***. I would not have predicted that!
Pretty Boy Larry Sharpe v. Johnny Rivera
Interesting that we have two matches in a row featuring people who ended up being more famous as trainers than wrestlers. Sharpe throws some flowers into the audience and escapes a takedown attempt to start, but he makes the error of pointing to his head to indicate intelligence. Rivera goes for an armbar and Sharpe reverses to his own and uses the hair to put Rivera down. Rivera makes a comeback and Vince notes that Sharpe “was losing his visual aspects”, which is Vince-speak for “He couldn’t see where Rivera was”. They continue fighting for the armbar and criss-cross into a hella awkward sequence where Rivera seemingly tries to jump into a guillotine on Sharpe, and Larry just puts him down with a slam and goes to a chinlock. Whatever they were trying for there, it didn’t work. Sharpe puts him down with a back elbow and unleashes a familiar sounding “Woo!” to celebrate. Like a blond haired heel would ever get over with that crap. Sharpe with a neck massage on Rivera as this match continues going nowhere. Sharpe holds the nerve hold forever, but Rivera fights up, misses a dropkick, and Larry pins him at 10:25. This was the exact opposite of the opener: No action. 1/2*.
Butcher Vachon v. Lenny Hurst
Albano gets unceremoniously kicked back to the dressing room before the match. Yeah, the very idea that a manager would be at ringside for a match! Preposterous! Can you even imagine the shenanigans and tomfoolery that would result? I do think it’s hilarious that they need to put a manager with BUTCHER VACHON so that you know he’s a heel. Have you SEEN this man? Even though I know that Lenny is not a young Haku, every time I see him my brain keeps trying to convince me that this is the time I’ll look him up and discover that it’s a young Haku. But not this time. Vachon rakes the back a bunch of times, but Hurst rakes his face in retaliation, “extending his proboscis somewhat” in Vince-speak. So Butcher chokes him out on the ropes, but Lenny gets all fired up and makes a comeback, going to work on the legs and then yanking him off the ropes. But then he stops to do a cartwheel and Butcher hits him suspiciously south of the lower abdomen and Hurst bails to the floor to recover. He figths his way back in with a sunset flip for two and makes another comeback, booting Vachon down, but walks into a boot to the face and Vachon puts him away with the HANGMAN submission at 6:00. Why hasn’t someone brought that back as a submission finisher? Hawk used to use that one from time to time and it was always awesome. This was pretty good for what it was. **1/2.
Vivian St. John & Winona Littleheart v. Leilani Kai & Kitty Adams
Vince notes that Leilani and Kitty “are a little on the chunky side”. Ouch. Vince also confuses Vivian St. John with unrelated Vivian Vachon, probably because we just had a Vachon working and Vivian St. John looks a bit like Vivian Vachon. Stall stall stall to start and Kitty chokes out Vivian while Vince clarifies that Kitty is not only chunky, but old and a “rugged customer” as well. No wonder he has to rape women, with pickup lines like that…
Kai switches in for more choking and did I mention the choking? There’s quite a lot of it. St. John manages to switch to a headlock on Kai and they do a silly pinfall reversal spot as the crowd is just bored to tears by this. Anyone who complains about AEW’s women’s division should watch this and get back to me. Littleheart gets the hot tag and runs wild with monkey flips on Kitty, but some hair tosses cut off that comeback quickly. And a double slam from the heels gets the pin. NEXT. DUD
WWWF title, Texas Death match: Superstar Billy Graham v. Dusty Rhodes
Holy shit what a reaction for Dusty’s entrance. Vince lets Dusty do a promo in the ring before the match, which is where the famous “I am the hit maker…” soundbite comes from, in case you’re wondering. Also, to clarify a question that was asked on the blog a few weeks back: Dave talked about Superstar Graham’s early career on Observer Radio the other day, and in fact Graham took the interview style from Dusty. And other sources, of course, but Dusty definitely was the influence on Billy. Vince clarifies that the Texas Death match is “simply a no holds barred type of confrontation” and not the more famous version of the match they do in Texas. These days “Texas Death” refers to a school getting shot up by someone with an AR-15 and then the governor blaming drag queens, I think. Graham attacks to start and that’s a mistake, as Dusty gets all fired up and sends him into the corner with a bionic elbow. Graham bails to the floor to regroup. Back in, Dusty immediately gives him another elbow and Graham flies to the other side of the ring on the bump and then exits again. Graham teases leaving and then comes back in for a cheapshot before hauling Dusty to the floor for a brawl, but Dusty tosses him back in and wallops him down again. Vince speculates that Graham is playing possum, and indeed Superstar hits him with another cheapshot and then takes Dusty to the floor and sends him into the post. Back in the ring, Dusty is busted open, but he still fires back with more elbows and chokes Billy out with a piece of rope before hanging him on the ropes. Graham manages to get busted open by this and Dusty beats on him with more elbows and drops a fist on the bloody forehead for two. Graham is in the ropes, so Dusty elbows him down again and then puts his own feet on the ropes for two. Graham puts him down with a clothesline and flops an arm over for the pin at 9:00 to retain. But Dusty pops up right away and continues the fight, chasing Graham to the floor and back to the dressing room. Weak finish to a fun match, although the previous one was much better. ***
WWWF tag team title: Mr Fuji & Toru Tanaka v. High Chief Peter Maivia & Chief Jay Strongbow
Wow, we’ve got the full rainbow of ethnic stereotypes in there. I guess we should call the challengers Hail to the Chiefs? We get some heel miscommunication and Fuji chops Tanaka by mistake but they quickly make up. But then Fuji comes in and immediately chops Tanaka down again and Toru points out that’s twice in a row. So Maivia comes in and the champs double-team him in the corner and Fuji goes to the nerve pinch while Vince tells the story of Maivia doing a two day tattoo session for his famous leg sleeves and nearly dying from blood poisoning. And then it turned out that they had actually tattooed a Chinese takeout menu as a rib on him! So anyway we hit the 10 minute mark with nothing but nerve holds on Peter thus far. Finally he fights out and makes the tag to Strongbow and holy shit we’re right back to the nerve pinch again. So this gives Vince a chance to discuss the heritage of Strongbow, which he describes as “about 40% Native Indian and the rest is some combination of honorary Indian chief.” I mean, I guess that’s ONE way to describe it. More miscommunication from the heels and now the babyfaces work on Tanaka for a bit and the heels trap Peter in the corner again. But Peter manages to get busted open, makes the comeback, and headbutts Fuji down for the pin at 18:50 to win the first fall.
Second fall and the ref immediately stops the match due to Maivia’s bleeding, awarding the fall to the champions at 21:38. That makes zero sense.
Third fall and I guess Jay has to wrestle the match alone? So Jay makes his comeback and runs wild on the champs, hitting them with kneelifts and getting the sleeper on Tanaka, but Fuji nails him from behind to break it up. And then Peter Maivia runs in again and that’s a DQ at 27:10. Those last two falls were completely worthless and the match was a bore. 1/2*.
Ivan Putski v. Stan Stasiak
Stasiak goes low right away and puts the boots to Putski, who stumbles around the ring selling it for a while. Stan chokes him out but Ivan slugs back, hits the Polish Hammer, and Stan bails out of the ring and calls it a night at 2:00.
Well that was not exactly a top level night of WWF action at the Garden.