July 1, 2023

WWF at Madison Square Garden (6.16.84) review 

WWF at Madison Square Garden (6.16.84) review 


June 16, 1984 


We’re in New York City at MSG. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Gene Okerlund. 22,000 in the Garden for tonight’s card. Which includes the tag titles on the line, Valentine vs Santana for Tito’s IC belt and an iconic main event; the Boot Camp Match. Slaughter vs Iron Sheik.  


The Magnificent Muraco vs. Tony Garea 

Gorilla claims Muraco “went back to Hawaii to rest” when he wasn’t in the WWF. He was in New Japan mate. Why would you even claim that? He also says Muraco is in “great shape”. He looks significantly fatter than the last time I saw him. Maybe that’s a double rib from the Gorilla. Muraco barely works up a sweat and it’s mostly clubbing blows until he runs Garea into the ropes and finishes with a powerslam. This is prime New York Style. Lots of punches and stalling. I’m conflicted as to whether Muraco was lazy or just smart. After all, he got paid anyway and hardly ever bothered in his matches. 


Howard Finkel gets our attention to memoralise Vincent J. McMahon. Vince died in May after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. Would Vince Sr have approved of junior’s national expansion? It’s hard to say.  


Jose Luis Rivera vs. George Steele 

The Animal is another of wrestling’s wild men.  

Steele played the gimmick like King Kong. Strong but incapable of communicating. As with other wild men (Missing Link immediately springs to mind) he has a manager and it’s Mr Fuji. Steele’s whole approach to the gimmick is interesting. He doesn’t run after fans, he’s almost curious about them. You can see why Vince turned him face. He’s sympathetic. He’s also extremely hirsute. If you’ve never seen him wrestle, it’s quite the experience.  

One of his favourite bits is eating the turnbuckle pad. Rivera gets nothing, is run into the exposed buckle and the “Flying Hammerlock” finishes. It’s not so much a ‘flying’ move but rather a lifted hammerlock. This was all about Steele’s shtick, which I actually like. As long as he’s not in there with someone good.  


WWF World Tag Team Championship 

The North-South Connection (Dick Murdoch & Adrian Adonis) (c) vs. The Wild Samoans 

I love the North-South Connection. They had some great dirty south tags with the Brisco’s in WWF. Adonis stuck around until 1987, whereas Murdoch left in 1985 to go back to Japan. This is two out of three falls. The Samoans have just kicked Lou Albano to the curb and are getting face reactions because of it. The Samoan hard head lore is in full force here. Murdoch hurts his own elby bone on it.  

Adonis isn’t as heavy as he’d get in years to come. Watching Adonis get into worse and worse condition is one of the saddest visual journeys of the decade. Adonis splashes Sika, who spent most of the first fall eating heat, for 1-0.  


Lou Albano comes out here to have a chat with the North-South Connection, just cementing the Samoans face turn. The Samoans power through fall two and Murdoch eats the Samoan Drop for 1-1.  


Albano now tries to cosy up to the Samoans, seeing as they’re in the ascendancy. Murdoch is a great watch here. His selling is sensational. Adonis tries to ruin it by coming in and doing big bumps, which just look stupid. People complain about Shawn Michaels and Mr Perfect doing big bumps but it’s nothing compared to Adrian here. Everyone piles in and Sika swats the ref away for the DQ. Adonis and Murdoch retain the belts. This was good at times. Samoans are better as babyfaces and the champs brought the personality. It’s in the **½ range. Some chunks of the match dragged and there was a lot of focus on Lou Albano.  


This man. He has an elastic band hanging off his face.  


SD Jones vs. Jesse Ventura 

Wrestling was cruel to Jesse Ventura. The explosion of WWF was ideal for him to springboard to the next level. He had everything Vince McMahon wanted in a star. They’re building him for Hogan here, but he’d be diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs and had to retire.  

Ventura is a special breed. He’s not afraid to look ridiculous for his art. The multi-coloured hair, the massive blue sunglasses, paisley tights and a mass of earrings. Ventura was limited in the ring and was a far better talker. Even during the matches he’d just be yapping away, talking shit. He beats Jones with a backbreaker in short order. Ventura found his true calling on commentary. His career from here on out is limited and he’d officially retire in 1986.  


WWF Inter-Continental Championship 

Tito Santana (c) vs. Greg Valentine 

Hammer jumped over in January from NWA. He’s already had shots at Santana, including a time limit draw in Philly and a DQ victory in the same city. Both on PRISM Network. This is not only technically sound, but the work is done at a belting pace. Santana using his speed to dominate the challenger. Valentine being capable enough to bump everything and make Santana look good. Hammer is one of those ‘solid hands’ who could make anything work in the ring. His bumping and selling allows Santana to go full bore with his strikes. The crowd is on fire for it. This showed that two smaller, athletic guys could get the big reactions from the big crowds. It took Vince a while to actually acknowledge that.  

They only slow down for Hammer to work the arm but that’s so they can conserve energy for a huge scrap to finish the match. Santana gets backdropped to the floor, Valentine goes out to fight him and only Hammer beats the count out. Stick a finish on this bad boy and it’s four stars. Great match. ***¾.  


Backstage: Tito makes up a bunch of bullshit about the match, despite there being clear video footage that he’s lying. Like saying Valentine pulled the tights to escape a pin. The video footage shows that didn’t happen while he’s talking about it. The excellence of this match set up a long feud between the two over IC gold, which would run until early 1986.  


David Schultz vs. Andre the Giant 

Dr D had an infamous, but brief, career in the WWF. He was mainly in the midcard but wrestled Hogan for the strap and gets to work Andre here. Schultz was fired after assaulting reporter John Stossel who tried to get a comment from him that wrestling was fake. Schultz wasn’t a great talent. He had Perfect-esque permed blonde hair but lacked Hennig’s in-ring savvy. Andre is still somewhat mobile here and hits a few suplexes. Andre sits on Schultz for the win, in what was an extended squash.  


Steve Lombardi vs. Mad Dog Vachon 

Lombardi, in pre-Brooklyn Brawler days, would remain as an in-house jobber in the WWF until the mid-90s, where he moved into backstage roles. Vachon is yet another AWA pick up for Vince. He just raided that company. Vachon wasn’t exactly a primo star in 1984 and he was only used on TV twice before his retirement in 1986. He was struck by a car shortly afterwards and had one of his legs amputated. Lombardi kicks out of the finish, a piledriver, twice so Vachon holds him down a third time, so he gets it and stays down.  


Salvatore Bellomo vs. Paul Orndorff 

Poor Paul has Bellomo again. There’s no Piper today and Orndorff is not in the same mood as before. There’s no stalling. He just goes in there and beats the piss out of Sal. He just fucking creams the poor bastard. As with their first match it’s still way too long but at least Orndorff knows not to give Bellomo any respect. The more I see of Bellomo, the more I can see how much he sucks. At least he can take a beating. Piledriver finishes. Hey, fuck you Brooklyn Brawler. That’s how you stay down. How did Vince McMahon let them run consecutive matches with a piledriver as a finish and have the jobber kick out twice? If I was in charge Lombardi wouldn’t have been an in-house jobber for 12 years, he’d have been unemployed. This was pretty good but basically an extended squash.  


Bob Orton Jr vs. Chief Jay Strongbow 

Strongbow is in his last year as a full-time wrestler and would only appear a few times on TV after 1984. Vince just loved sticking him on MSG cards so this isn’t even the last time I’ll be reviewing one of his matches on this project. Orton makes the match with his selling but he probably shouldn’t be selling as hard as he is. It gets the match over anyway. Orton is one of a host of signings from McMahon in 1984. He came from NWA with Piper and Valentine. Orton is only 34 here and is one of those guys who left wrestling earlier than expected. That said, he did come back to the WWE in 2005 to help his son Randy get over. Funnily enough, Strongbow is the same age here as Orton was in 2005. Strongbow mounts his comeback but falls over and Orton beats him with the Vaderbomb. Orton throws a punch to the throat as he lands. A decent bit of speedy cheating. The match was long for what it was, under 10 minutes, and Strongbow needs to retire. 


Bootcamp Match 

Sgt Slaughter vs. The Iron Sheik  

The Bootcamp match is a falls count anywhere match, with no DQ’s, count outs or submissions. The crowd is quite feisty!  

Terry Daniels walks around the ring with Old Glory in a display of patriotism. Daniels was in the Cobra Corps, Slaughter’s stable around this time but it was basically just him and Daniels in a tag team. Sarge left, which fucked the whole thing up, and Daniels went back to Mid-South. Sarge is mega-over and beats the hell out of Sheik. Sarge takes his wicked corner bump to turn the tide to the Sheik. While the concept of a hardcore match is common nowadays, this was ahead of its time and the crowd eat it up. Sarge takes another header into the corner, into the ring post this time, and he blades after that.  

The sight of blood in WWF was a rarity and this is a gusher. Sarge kicks Sheik in the head and he blades too. There’s blood everywhere. The fans are getting all riled up and pelting the ring with trash.  

Sheik tries to bash Slaughter with his boot but Sarge takes it off him, loads it up, and smashes Sheik in the head for the pin. The combination of hard work, bumping and bloodshed make this an 80s classic. It hasn’t aged particularly well but it’s still one of the best matches I’ve seen from these early 80s shows so far. **** 


The main comparison for me is with the Piper vs Valentine Dog Collar match from Starrcade ‘83, which was also a bloody, violent match. While Piper blading his own ear was pretty sick, the entertainment levels of the Bootcamp match were higher. The blood and the bumping were great.  


The 411: 

For me two of the most underrated guys from this era were Slaughter and Sheik. Both very capable wrestlers with a range of abilities. From mat basics to big bumps to brawling to the heroic bloodshed on display here. On a secondary tier is the great IC midcard main event of Tito Santana vs. Greg Valentine, which is technically excellent and one of the best matches I’ve seen so far on this trip through early 80s wrestling. To have both of those on the same card makes this the easiest recommendation for a show so far. However, there are some absolute stinkers in between that you need to skip.  

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