WWF Madison Square Garden (6.21.85) review
June 21, 1985
We’re in New York City at MSG. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Gene Okerlund. They claim an attendance today of 26-28k. It’s about 19,000. The capacity in MSG is just over 20,000.
Terry Gibbs vs. Lanny Poffo
Ok, so the obvious newcomer is “Leaping” Lanny Poffo, the babyface brother of Randy Savage. Both guys went to WWF after their dad’s promotion “ICW” (International Championship Wrestling) went tits up in 1984. Considering WWE own the rights to the ICW footage there’s basically nothing on the Network. Savage had been working a red hot feud with Jerry Lawler in CWA but now he’s ready for the big time. Lanny, meanwhile, has been working in Mid-South for Bill Watts. This is Lanny’s third match in the company and first at MSG.
Poffo was a decent worker but nowhere near the level that Savage existed on. He’s got a great hairstyle, which looks like it comes straight out of the Soul Glo commercial in Coming to America. Poffo does very little of interest, apart from his winning move, which is a moonsault. That wasn’t commonplace in 1985. It also sucked. It’s one of the worst moonsaults ever. The replay confirms he didn’t touch Gibbs at all.
Tony Atlas vs. Matt Borne
Borne bumps around like a freak in this one to try and get it over. His selling of an atomic drop looks like he’s just got his underwear caught in his asshole. This is truly awful. Atlas seems to have no idea what Borne is going for and Borne ends up wrestling himself.
Atlas had an incredible physique, especially his million dollar upper body, but a ten-cent wrestling brain. Borne earns his jobber pay and counts lights for the superstar.
Jose Luis Rivera vs. The Missing Link
Jesus, Vince even poached the Link. He’ll be back in World Class before the year is out. The crowd just don’t buy into his shtick. It’s almost like they tried to slot him into George Steele’s uncontrollable heel monster spot, but nobody cared. It doesn’t help that Link is halfway into the gimmick. Referee botches the finish. This was awful but short. Rivera is 100% jobber material now. Link didn’t work out.
Jim Brunzell vs. Moondog Spot
Jumpin’ Jim is brand new to the WWF and is wearing Killer Bees trunks. He only debuted about a week before this. The first WWF tag title shot is in a week. Things move fast around here. He’s jumped from AWA because he was tired of carrying Greg Gagne. I do not believe the WWF contacted Gagne about a move.
Okerlund is distracted here. First talking about high jumping and then getting horny after spotting a blonde in the crowd. The New Yorkers are equally distracted and don’t give a single fuck about any of this. It’s not a bad match but it drags with Spot not garnering much heat and Brunzell can’t get the crowd behind his comebacks. If anything, Spot gets popped. Brunzell mercifully ends this with a dropkick.
Randy Savage vs. Rick McGraw
I’ve seen this match before, which I reviewed for a book we did on Savage’s career.
Savage, a heel, comes in without a manager and happily running his own mouth. He was this tornado of caffeinated 900mph action. Randy debuted a few days ago on a TV taping and this is Vince introducing him to MSG.
Savage winds the crowd up so much that someone pitches a full drink at him. In New York, that’s expensive heat! That was probably a $14 beer. Savage stalls, taunts, and mouths off. He is a gargantuan asshole and he’s instantly over. McGraw sucks so Randy doesn’t let him do anything. When Rick starts getting carried away Savage is off again, chasing camera men and arguing with OAPs in the crowd.
Savage drops his double sledge to the floor and the crowd FREAK OUT because no one was doing spots off the top rope to the floor in 1985. That was Randy Savage. No one was doing what he does here. He’s reinventing the game. Savage finishes with the Flying Elbow. He looked immense here and he got over like a motherfucker wrestling Rick McGraw. Imagine what he could do with someone good? You wouldn’t have to imagine for long. The Savage super-push was on. **¾
The US Express & George Steele vs. The Heenan Family (Big John Studd, Adrian Adonis & Bobby Heenan)
Okerlund claims Steele is seeing a therapist called Sigmund Zip. You know this would be a ‘bit’ on WWF programming just a few short years later.
This is Adrian’s first match in four months, having seen his partner Dick Murdoch leave the company. When Adonis is in there, this is a good match. He bumps around like a maniac, and this is over with the MSG crowd. Windham goes after a slam on Studd, which would have landed him serious cash a few months ago, and he genuinely looks sensational here. I’m sure there’s an alternate universe where Barry Windham went all the way to the top in the WWF. If Adonis bumps like crazy in this match, it’s nothing compared to what Heenan does. He throws himself clean over the top rope at one point and sells like a champ. Heenan, while a great manager, was arguably a better worker. The match breaks down into PANDELIRIUM. George Steele gets carried away and bashes the ref with a chair. That’ll be a DQ, George. This was a fun match with some great performances in there. If they’d kept the Heenan Family against Windham, he’d have gotten over as a main event. ***
Desiree Petersen vs. Judy Martin
Judy was splitting time between AWA and NWA until the WWF bagged her in 1984. Desiree is a forgotten talent of this era. The “Danish Delight” wrestled as Malisa Dahl in the NWA. Judy should finish this quickly after pitching Desiree out onto the announce table but instead chooses to put a beating on her. The timekeeper, a mark for Desiree, keeps trying to end the match by banging on the bell. The wrestlers just ignore him. They ignore the ref too. Petersen has only been a wrestler for about a year so naturally they give this 15+ minutes.
A bored Okerlund has started debating the pronunciation of “Copenhagen” so Judy tosses Desiree onto their table again. This time landing right in front of them. Okerlund is distraught. His dictionary may have been damaged in that spot. Gorilla has to roll her back in. This must have been a rib. Petersen spends most of the match lying on the floor. They do work in a cool counter with Desiree attempting a headscissors and just getting backdropped out of it. She gets a roll up instead and gets the win. “What a match” yells Okerlund, who was closer to the action than us so was better able to appreciate it. Pretty dull, one note and overlong but a fun finish. Judy used a powerbomb in this and it wasn’t even close to being the finish.
King Kong Bundy vs. Tony Garea
Bundy beat SD Jones in a matter of seconds at WrestleMania. Garea is a slightly tougher prospect, but he shouldn’t be. If they wanted to get Bundy properly over he’d have demolished all these jerkass midcard nobodies all the way up to Hogan. Make people believe he can win that belt. They go six minutes, and nothing happens. Bundy works a loose chinlock. Garea gets a brief comeback but then Bundy splashes him for the pin. This was a very, very long squash.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Greg Valentine (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
Valentine feels like a lesser Flair with the IC belt. He’s been one of the most consistent wrestlers I’ve seen in this odyssey. This feels like the end of his great mid 80s run but he does go out in style before heading into the tag team ranks alongside Brutus Beefcake.
Here’s the guy who will, eventually, replace him as the WWF’s work rate megastar. The IC belt would find its way back around Tito Santana’s waist about two weeks after this. Both guys bring the NWA work rate here. It’s a slow build but they start hitting the near falls and the crowd are in. Steamboat’s comeback is so super-heated, the building is shaking. Steamboat is all “with Karate I’ll kick your ass, from here to Tiananmen Square”. Hammer takes a pisser over the top rope and gets counted out, which leads to them brawling some more. This was an intense brawl with very little technical stuff but heated as hell and a great match until the bleh finish. ***½.
B. Brian Blair vs. Barry O
It’s weird they split the Killer Bees up in singles action. Surely, this would have made more sense as a chance to showcase them as a team? This is very much house show fodder. Nothing much going on. Nobody in the Garden gives a shit about this one. The issue with the WWF having mega-over guys on their top end was the crowd just ignoring some of the other talent, by contrast. Blair wins with a sleeper and we can move on with our lives.
Backstage: B. Brian Blair not only mentions that Brunzell was in AWA and jumped ship to get to here but also that Brunzell was in a team called the “High Fliers”. He mentioned another promotion! I’m surprised he wasn’t hung, drawn and quartered for that.
The Hulkster gives us his thoughts and has created a new fashion craze of wearing his bandana over one eye. He claims he’s been training with “Rambo”.
WWF World Heavyweight Championship
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. The Magnificent Muraco
Not sure what Muraco has done to deserve a title shot, nor why it’s in a cage. A quick check through results reveals that Muraco beat Hogan on count-out back in April in the Garden, provoking this re-match. These two have no chemistry at all. Hogan expects a certain mobility from Muraco, which never emerges. This is a mesh fence cage.
This is under WWF cage match rules, which means the only way to win is via escape. No pinfalls, submissions or any of that. Running away to win a match never struck me as a good thing. Hogan runs Muraco into the cage and he does a blatant bladejob right on camera. He tried to do it in mid-air but carved himself up on the mat. He’s just slashing away down there. Hogan does a slightly less obvious job of cutting himself open.
Both guys bleed gushers, leading to a lame finish where Hogan just walks out of the cage. Huh. Tremendous amounts of blood in this but the work was poor. Cage matches should have blood in them, in my opinion. It’s almost expected. How can you have a cage match with no blood? Both guys really delivered in that regard.
Another taxing MSG show to sit through. A 12 minute Jim Brunzell singles match, Missing Link, Tony Atlas, Moondog Spot, Rick McGraw, a 16 minute women’s match (in 1985), a six minute Bundy squash and a B. Brian Blair singles match to cap it off. In the positive column; Savage’s debut was awesome, Steamboat-Valentine was really good with a bad finish and the main event delivered in the heroic bloodshed stakes. Until the IC title the match of the night was that crazy over six-man tag with Heenan and his goons against George Steele and the US Express. That was heated. A fantastic combination of WWF storytelling (Steele, Heenan) and NWA work rate (Adonis, Windham). More of that please!