WWF Madison Square Garden (3.17.85)
March 17, 1985
We’re in New York City at MSG. This is the go-home show for the first WrestleMania. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Gene Okerlund.
Rocky Johnson vs. Charlie Fulton
The more I think about this era of WWF, the more I think Rocky Johnson should have been a bigger star than he was. Swift of foot, big on personality, over with the fans, talented in the ring, a quick wrestler with technical ability. He was a little loose but so was The Rock and it never did him any harm. Johnson was about done here, leaving the WWF in the summer. He’d never hit the same highs any place else. Fulton is bad and Rocky beats him with a sunset flip.
Barry O vs. Rene Goulet
Why must Goulet wrestle on every MSG card? He looks older than dirt.
Barry O is also known as Barry Orton but I guess they didn’t want people getting confused with Bob Orton. I mean, they could have just used that, because there were actual shoot brothers, but hey, who am I to tell Vince his business. Of course, Barry O was only ever an enhancement guy and they didn’t want to tarnish Bob’s good name. It would be fair to say Barry wasn’t particularly creative. He works a very long headlock, and the match is boring. Orton himself was more interested in music and his heart wasn’t in the business. They still pushed him a little bit and he rolls up Goulet for the pin here. A dull match though, with both guys not being that interested in putting on a show.
Jim Neidhart vs. SD Jones
Oh no, another Anvil singles match. At least he’s gained Jimmy Hart as a manager here.
Jimmy has just joined WWF after a successful run in Memphis. Jimmy’s persona rubs off on Anvil a bit and he’s out there cackling during the match like a lunatic. It hasn’t improved his work though and SD isn’t much help. At least they keep it short. Anvil wins with a powerslam. Show has been a load of nothing so far.
King Kong Bundy vs. Jose Luis Rivera
Bundy debuted a few weeks ago and this is his first MSG match. Vince is very keen on him and wants to push him hard. Rivera gets nothing. Bundy shrugs off a few dropkicks and gets a big pop for his elbow drop finish. He forces the referee to count to five on the pin. The crowd pop him hard, showing that squashes will get you over in the Garden. If you’re big.
Hogan talks about Mr T and calls him the “baddest dude” he had available as a tag partner at WrestleMania. Man, Jimmy Snuka can hear you.
Roddy Piper is over enough to have a chat show segment in the middle of an MSG show. Changing the business, brother. Piper regales us with the story of St Patrick’s Day, where all the snakes got run out of Ireland and where did they go to? New York City! “Out of 13 million people you’d think they could find 9 people that could play baseball”. The New York Yankees, ladies and gentlemen. Piper wrote the book on running down a hometown.
Piper talks up his guest, which is supposed to be Mr T, but he brings out Paul Orndorff, which gets him even more heat. Mr T doesn’t come alone though and brings Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Snuka with him, which gets a deafening reaction.
The Mr. T-Hogan connection didn’t make much sense to me as a kid but that’s because I hadn’t seen Rocky III. It made both their careers. The A-Team started in 1983 and that turned Mr. T into a household name. His rise in television was connected to Hogan’s rise in wrestling. T has a background in boxing, so that naturally becomes a focal point of his run in professional wrestling. Piper offers Mr. T the chance to back out of WrestleMania right now and he won’t hurt him.
Piper doesn’t mince his words and says if he turns up at Mania he’ll put him in hospital. Mr. T demands a fight now and Piper bails. Interesting to see Hogan being prepared to let someone else run their mouth during a segment that he’s also in. I’m still confused by them doing a tag to main event WrestleMania I but you can see the intention to mix celebrity with star power. The wrestling itself took a backseat.
Matt Borne vs. David Sammartino
David, Bruno Sammartino’s 5’8” boy, is one of the most underwhelming workers of this era. He has none of Bruno’s fire and intensity. He’s only 24 years old and would wash out of wrestling before he was 30. Based on what I’ve seen of him, there’s a reason for that. I quite like Matt Borne, who just jumped from NWA, but he didn’t get much joy in WWF until his run as Doink. This is another boring match. There’s a lot of rest holds. Borne does a chinlock for a minute at one point. The match is only 8 minutes long! David was a decent striker, his forearms are solid, but his diminutive figure and his last name crushed any chance he had of getting over in this company. Borne tries for a powerslam and Sammartino rolls through it into the pin and even that’s such a dull finish that the crowd barely pop it.
Jesse Ventura, Big John Studd & Ken Patera vs. Andre the Giant, Jimmy Snuka & Junkyard Dog
Lou Albano has turned babyface and is managing the face team. Being in a music video will do wonders for your career. Andre vs Studd is the focus as they’re facing off at Mania in two weeks. Andre is out for revenge after the Heenan Family cut his hair. Andre is frisky during this and keeps jumping into the ring to nail people. Huge chunks of this match is just Studd putting JYD or Snuka in rest holds. That’s until Andre tags in and potatoes the hell out of Studd. Apparently Andre didn’t like Big John and Studd makes a point of getting out of there ASAP. Andre puts Ventura down and Snuka hits the Superfly Splash for the win. I much preferred Andre vs. Patera on the last MSG show. This had way too much dead time with Big John’s big bore-hugs.
Ricky Steamboat vs. Terry Gibbs
Steamboat left the NWA a few weeks ago, which is bad news for the NWA but good news for the horrible New York undercards as he’ll almost certainly improve them. Gibbs is an ok wrestler, but he struggles to keep up with Steamboat. He’s used to having to deal with lumbering New York talent and Steamboat’s ring positioning seems to catch him by surprise. Ricky finishes with a high crossbody, and we move on. Perfectly fine squash for Steamboat.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Greg Valentine (c) vs. Tito Santana
Back in November they went to curfew. So, MSG removed the curfew for their rematch and Hammer got counted out. Now, we get a lumberjack match so he can’t get counted out. Run on booking, you love to see it. Hammer tries to run away a few times but quickly gets shoved back in.
Given the stipulation, I was expecting a quicker pace but after it starts gangbusters it slows right down and Hammer grinds the match into mediocrity, which is a shame. The best thing about watching Valentine-Santana multiple times in quick succession is seeing how different the matches are. A lot of workers would just do the same match with little variations. Santana lets the lumberjacks get in his head and he goes after Big John Studd. Hammer doesn’t really take advantage. They then run a spot to finish where they clock heads and Valentine falls on top to retain. The lumberjacks didn’t help these two have a good match and both guys didn’t think through the plan. Valentine kept trying to escape, which doesn’t make sense and he could have pitched Tito out to the heel side to get some help on the finish. They’ve had better matches than this, that’s for sure. I’d go around **¾ if you want a rating. Nothing for the notebook.
The best part of this show was when they let Roddy Piper run his mouth. The wrestling in this company is very poor when compared to other promotions. When you watch anything else and then this, the difference is like night and day. The build to WrestleMania here is limited. They certainly work on the main and the Andre-Studd match up but the women aren’t even on this show. That’s the third main event. Nor do we see the incumbent tag champions, who would lose their belts at Mania. On a positive note; I’ve gone out of my way to find more non-WWF content for this project. You may be pleasantly surprised.