WWF Madison Square Garden (1.21.85) review
January 21, 1985
We’re in New York at MSG. Creeping towards WrestleMania I. Seeing as the Brawl to End it All and the War to Settle the Score are not on the Network, I thought I’d review some random MSG’s to get the feeling in the company going into Mania. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Gene Okerlund. We have 16,000 on hand and the product is definitely hot.
Terry Gibbs vs. Moondog Rex
Gibbs is an in-house jobber. He’s 6’ 4”, which is such a WWF height for a jobber. The Moondogs are a blight on 80s wrestling. A relic of the 70s. Gibbs is the better worker, by some distance. Rex does a lot of chinlocks. I end up skipping and at one point it’s an entire minute. Rex is bad at everything. He looks gassed. He can’t jump for spots. He can’t kick out. Rex eventually wins with a neckbreaker. Rex fucking stinks.
Brett Hart vs. Rene Goulet
The graphic spells Hart’s name; “Brett”, hence my spelling here.
This is pre-Hart Foundation, but Bret has 6 years in Stampede, multiple New Japan tours and has decided he’s going to bring actual wrestling to the undercards here. Looking back here, it would have made sense for Bret to go to the NWA instead of WWF and ply his trade there. WWF made it easier for him to stand out though, because so many dudes were just doing nothing in their matches. Bret sells like a champ too, especially for Le Scorpion, Goulet’s attempt at the Iron Claw. Goulet isn’t good and his control segments are outright bad. It’s a credit to Bret that the match is passable. Vince should have seen this and given him a better calibre of opponent. Bret has a strong comeback, which gets good pops and Bret finishes with the sleeper. Not bad for an MSG debut. Goulet was dead weight at times but at least he could keep up, albeit with dated selling.
Tony Garea vs. Jim Neidhart
Speaking of the Hart Foundation, here’s the other half of it. Anvil also worked for Stampede but spent 1984 in Florida.
Neidhart is not a singles guy at all. Putting him in the Hart Foundation made his career. Anvil has no idea what to fill the match with. Garea can’t be bothered to help him out and we get lots of shitty ideas, like a never-ending test of strength where Garea doesn’t try. There’s a load of rest holds and they give them 12 minutes. Garea does nothing to help Anvil out at all. You can see Jim getting frustrated at Garea’s selling, or lack thereof. The last 20 seconds is pretty good, with some near misses leading to an Anvil powerslam but even that would have been more effective if Jim hadn’t stopped in the middle of it to show he was holding Garea’s dead weight. This was really boring.
The Magnificent Muraco vs. Swede Hanson
Oh, come on, for fuck’s sake. Give me something here.
This guy gives big ‘I can barely be bothered to get out of bed’ vibes. Hanson is here to pick up one last payday before retiring.
Pedro Morales, former champ, is introduced before the match and Muraco looks actually animated about it. Could probably smell the money. Pedro is back for one final run in the big time. The plan for this match was Swede saying “let’s take it easy tonight brother” and Muraco being all “works for me Jack”. The lack of effort is palpable. It’s the third bad match on this card. New York Style, baby! Muraco looks like a super worker compared to Swede and finishes with the Hawaiian Hammer (Tombstone). Impressive power on the finish to lift all that weight. It almost makes up for the entire rest of the match.
Moondog Spot vs. Blackjack Mulligan
The referee here is Rita Marie (aka Rita Chatterton), who alleged Vince McMahon sexually assaulted her. Loads of women alleged Vince did stuff to them so it’s probably legit. From a legal perspective, we’ll keep saying “allegedly”. Spot (Larry Latham) is a decent brawler and he’s a better worker than Moondog Rex.
Mulligan is Barry Windham’s dad. He looks just like him.
Latham reminds me of the dog character on Red Dwarf, I wonder if he was based on him. The match falls apart towards the end of Mulligan wins with an inside cradle. This was better than some of the stinkers on the card, which isn’t saying much.
Ken Patera vs. Andre the Giant
Bobby Heenan’s boys, Big John Studd and Patera, cut Andre’s hair so now he’s mad and out for revenge. Andre full on Bob Eucker’s the poor bastard. The visuals are fantastic but sadly impossible to get a still shot of. Patera gets beaten from pillar to post until Bobby jumps in there with brass knucks for the DQ. This was fun enough, with Andre waiting until he faces John Studd at Mania for his proper revenge.
George Wells vs. Big John Studd
Wells was a CFL player who worked for various NWA territories. I suspect he caught Vince’s eye working for Mid-South as “Master G”. He looks like a star, but he’s limited in the ring. Studd is supposed to be nine inches taller than Wells. He’s not. The problem WWF have with Studd is they want to market him as a giant so they can put him in with Andre but he’s not that big. Studd hits a backbreaker for the pin and Wells tries to kick out. I think Studd got legitimately mad about Wells pulling his tights on a previous spot. There was definitely some sort of issue and I noticed Studd talking to Wells in the lead up to that tight pull.
Roddy Piper & Bob Orton vs. Jimmy Snuka & Junkyard Dog
This is under “Texas Tornado” rules, which means there are no tags. Everyone can get in there at any time, which is a good concept as it keeps the action going. Piper is a heat magnet, and you can hear people screaming at him the whole match. Snuka is out for revenge here too, going back to the coconut spot on Piper’s Pit last year.
Piper is great here. From mocking Snuka’s pose to grabbing a sleeper on JYD and kicking Snuka at the same time. The double sleeper spot unfortunately kills what had been a fun match up to that point.
Snuka gets thrown outside and JYD gets double teamed for Orton to get the pin. It’s a little surprising to see JYD take the L here but that’s how strongly they were booking Piper. They wanted a strong heel presence against Hogan for WrestleMania and he had a title shot at the War to Settle the Score too. This was mostly good. **½
The Spoiler vs. Rick McGraw
Spoiler is Don Jardine, who was a big star in the 60s and 70s. He’s at the end of his career in 1985 and nobody gives a shit. McGraw is another 80s tragedy. He died in 1985 of a heart attack. He was just 30 years old. The match is sloppy as hell. Jardine clubbing away and struggling to sell McGraw’s unorthodox offence. Unorthodox is my polite way of saying he’s a right fucking state and can barely figure out how to do basic wrestling moves. The mechanics of everything seem confusing to him. At one point he tries to pull Spoiler out of the ring and his legs are either side of the ropes so McGraw can’t get him out of there. It’s sad to watch. Spoiler wins. Nobody cares. Just sad.
Just prior to the main event Howard Finkel announces that Roddy Piper gets a WWF title shot next month. The War to Settle the Score. An event that isn’t on the Network, for reasons I don’t understand. I’ve seen it before and it’s not a great match, but it does have buckets of heat.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Greg Valentine (c) vs. Tito Santana
MSG has apparently lifted the curfew, after the curfew saved Valentine’s title last time they met in November. Tito lost the belt to Hammer back in September when he injured his knee, as an angle. Greg chooses to work the ribs rather than the bullseye of a taped knee. Which is a bit weird considering he uses a Figure Four. The strikes are nice and snug and Valentine, despite his odd focus, does nothing but tidy, neat work. It’s key to the match that Santana gets adequately worn down over the course of the contest.
From a psychological standpoint, Santana decides to take the leg. A leg for a leg. In terms of selling, this is where it helps that Valentine hasn’t worked Tito’s leg because he can remain mobile but is damaged in other ways from Hammer’s approach.
Tito tries to take this sign’s advice and “nail the Hammer” but he goes for the Flying Forearm too early and flies out to the floor. Every time they do a double down, Valentine recovers first. He’s clearly fresher. Tito reaches deep though and hits the Flying Forearm, knocking Valentine out to the floor. Santana can barely stand but it’s worse for Hammer who gets counted out. Santana wins the match but not the title. Tito, an idiot, thinks he’s won the belt. ***¼. Not a patch on their killer match from ‘84 on the undercard of the Bootcamp match but easily the best thing on this show.
Fuck me, this was a slog. 10 matches here and let’s recap:
Studd/Wells: not good
Tornado tag: fun
Four outright stinkers and everything dragged, apart from the tornado tag and the Andre match. Where did Vince McMahon get all these shitty workers from? I know he had an aging roster but he still has an aging roster, just with different old guys like Rene Goulet, Don Jardine and Swede Hanson. Throw in some dreadful workers like George Wells, Jim Neidhart, Moondog Rex and Rick McGraw and this is a shit show. Compare all this other crap to what the likes of Piper, Hogan, Snuka, Santana, Valentine were doing. The real stars of the show. When Mania rolled around the focus was fully on them.
A bizarre little factoid about this date. WWF ran two shows. The other was in Hartford and featured the WWF tag titles changing hands as the newly debuted US Express beat the North-South Connection. Sadly, that was it for Dicky Murdoch. It is bizarre to me that the tag title change didn’t happen in MSG. Hogan worked the house show, so surely it didn’t need the tag switch too?
I watched this show to try and get some perspective ahead of WrestleMania and, apart from Andre vs Patera, it didn’t really help. If this was a modern booking set up, then Santana was definitely winning the title at WrestleMania. He wasn’t even in the IC title match.