#WF005 – The WWF’s Most Unusual Matches

James Dixon:

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Lumberjack Match
Greg Valentine (c) vs. Tito Santana
This comes from March 1985 in MSG, a few weeks before the inaugural WrestleMania. Lumberjacks include King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, Matt Borne, Ricky Steamboat, Junkyard Dog, Rocky Johnson and Jimmy Snuka. Valentine and Santana had a long-running feud over the IC title, and some great matches. At this point Tito was one of the premiere workers in the world, and being at MSG always adds something to matches, so this could be a good start. We are so early on in the VKM era that we don’t even have the classic IC belt yet, just the green strap piece of shit. Valentine jumps Santana from the off, but Tito’s speed allows him to recover quickly, and Valentine ends up outside the ring but the lumberjacks put him back in. What strikes me is how small Tito is compared to later in the decade; he looks tiny! The lumberjacks have been fairly muted so far, but I expect that to change. They go back-and-forth and Valentine tries to leave, but the lumberjacks soon put paid to that. A big elbow to the back of the neck from the middle rope, fells Valentine like a tree. He has taken that slow falling tree bump like three times now. Talk about going to the well too many times! Santana is dominant until he eats a big knee to the jaw, but he gets out of a pin attempt. Valentine slows things down to his preferred methodical pace, stomping away at Tito. He targets the leg but then just throws him out of the ring to catch a breather. The lumberjacks throw him back in, so he throws him out the other side. A clubbing elbow and knee drop get two for Valentine, and he slaps Tito for good measure before going for the figure four leglock. He wastes too much time and Santana nearly catches him with a cradle. A big forearm smash stops Tito’s momentum. Valentine works him over in the corner, but Tito cuts him off by monkey flipping him face-first into the buckles, before a slugfest ensues. Valentine takes his favourite bump a couple more times in the midst of the chaos. Other than his penchant for that phony looking staple of his, Hammer has looked really good here. He was much quicker and more motivated in the early to mid-80s than he was towards the end of the decade, and it is like watching a different wrestler to the boring slug he became in the 90s. Jimmy Hart interferes to try and stop a Tito figure four, and Valentine reaches the ropes with help from John Studd. Tito goes for Studd and we have another big slugfest. Tito and Hammer clash heads and Valentine falls on him for the win, without knowing too much about it. A fun match for the era with some sound and logical psychology. Both guys worked hard and did plenty to keep it entertaining. An enjoyable start.
Final Rating: ***

 

Indian Strap Match
Greg Valentine vs. Chief Jay Strongbow
We go back to July 1979, once again in MSG. This is the first strap match ever held at the Garden. Jesse Ventura is flying solo on commentary and it is so strange to hear him doing it on his own. I love the way he says “bleeding” though. “Strongbow is BLEE-din, he is BLEE-din”. The blood lights a fuse in the Chief, who unloads on Valentine. We get clipped, and when we cut back, Strongbow is trying to leave but can’t because of the strap. They have a brawl on the outside and it is pretty wild for the time. There hasn’t been a single wrestling move in this though, it has been all punches, kicks and forearms. The brawl ends up in the corner and Strongbow kicks the referee out of the way a couple of times, leading to the locker-room emptying as they try to separate the two combatants. During the melee, a fan gets in Valentine’s face, so Hammer just fucking leathers him! Ultra respect for the Hammer! Smack that fat bastard! Ventura amuses himself on commentary by talking about how different everyone looked then compared to today (1985) and basically calls Gorilla Monsoon obese. The official decision is a double disqualification, which is something of a rarity in a strap match. Things get so heated that the police get involved to keeps the wrestlers apart, and the fans away from them. While the heat may be impressive, all they actually did was punch, and at seven minutes it was too short to be anything special. I’m sure they had a good story going into it, and it was probably fun to watch at the time, but it doesn’t hold up well.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Texas Tornado Match
Roddy Piper & Bob Orton vs. Superfly Jimmy Snuka & The Junkyard Dog
We are in MSG once again, this time in January 1985. The rules of the match are that it’s a tag, only without any tags. Piper and Snuka have had their issues of course, including the memorable coconut incident on Piper’s Pit. Piper was absolutely red hot at the time. So was Snuka, actually. In fact, all four guys were over in a big way. That results in this being frantic and wild early on, it’s just a big brawl. With the nature of the Texas Tornado stipulation, that should come as no surprise. Psychology and formula heat take a backseat hear in favour of a good old donnybrook. However, like the last match, it is a lot of punching with little else happening. There is no structure at all, and it is more akin to the middle section of a Royal Rumble match. Orton and Piper both do sleepers, and we get clipped to save us from the boredom. We return and they are still both doing sleepers. Christ, how long were they doing them for? They transition into MORE double sleepers, and we get clipped again and they are STILL doing them. Then again! What the hell is this!? Finally Snuka and JYD manage to reach each other and pull the heels into a head-first collision, ending perhaps the longest rest spot I have ever seen, and that is with the clipping. The faces take control briefly until Piper clocks JYD with a knee lift, and he and Orton do a double suplex on Snuka. Orton comes off top, but Snuka gets his knees up. It spills outside and Piper and Snuka brawl, with Piper throwing him into the railing. Piper trips JYD and Orton covers him for the win. What a massive letdown with was! Just a dreadful match, comprising of endless punches punctuated by the longest sleeper hold sequence of all time.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

10-Woman Battle Royal
This is from the late 60s in Philadelphia. The winner challenges Moolah for the Women’s title. The rules are unusual, as it is not over the top rope, but rather pinfalls are the only way to eliminate someone. There are some strange characters involved too. The ref for one, looks like a hippy fan they dragged from the crowd and one of the women wrestlers is wearing a gimp mask. Gorilla calls this a classic. Ever the company man, he tried his best to put over any shite that the WWF (or in this case the WWWF) churned out. The slingshot that women wrestlers used to use where they would bump face first in the ring was one of the most ridiculous looking spots I have ever seen. It just looks so silly. But not as silly as that bloody ref! He is on his hands and knees counting with big slappy hands, all the while looking like he is head banging at a metal gig. Incredibly bizarre. Mercifully, most of this is clipped, but the biggest woman in it, Sue Green, wins the match and the title shot. The inclusion of this was a mistake, because it was a big pile of bollocks, with a load of sloppy, awful looking botches. Surely the only reason it was included on this tape was because of the referee. He certainly was bloody unusual!
Final Rating: DUD

 

20-Man Battle Royal
We return to traditional Battle Royal rules and go back to the “present”, this being from July 1984 from Madison Square Garden. The entrants are: Antonio Inoki, Rene Goulet, Sika, Jose Luis Rivera, Butcher Vachon, Tony Garea, Chief Jay Strongbow, Afa, Steve Lombardi, Bob Orton Jr., Charlie Fulton, Ron Shaw, Terry Daniels, The Iron Sheik, Adrian Adonis, Dick Murdoch, Tito Santana, Paul Orndorff, Sgt. Slaughter and Samula. There is quite the mix of guys, and yet it’s amazing how few of them wrestled at WrestleMania, under a year later. The WWF was in a major transition during this time. Gorilla is on his own commentating just as he was in the previous match and like Ventura did earlier. It is so obvious that this was dubbed in later though and it takes away from and tension knowing that it is not “live”. This gets heavily clipped, and the final four are Tony Garea, Rene Goulet, Antonio Inoki and Ron Shaw. Goulet and Shaw team up to eliminate Garea, but then Goulet accidentally knocks Shaw out. Inoki throws out Goulet to win. Nothing more than a generic battle royal, but a rather plodding one at that.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Steel Cage Match
Don Muraco (c) vs. Superfly Jimmy Snuka
This is a very famous cage match from MSG in October 1983 and the pay-off to a major feud between the two. Any fan of Mick Foley’s excellent (first) autobiography Have A Nice Day should be aware of it. This is the match he tells the story about hitchhiking to see, the one that made him need to be a wrestler. The cage is pre-blue bars, it is just a big steel mesh, similar to the Hell in a Cell, only obviously much smaller. Speaking of smaller, Muraco is looking trim here. Later on in the decade he got absolutely immensely ripped, to the point where he looked like he would pop. Snuka makes him wait for a long time before making his entrance, where he is seconded by inaugural WW(W)F champion Buddy Rodgers. He comes out sans music and razzmatazz. Strangely, it actually makes him seem like a bigger deal and the match much more like a legitimate sporting event. When they get going, Snuka wins a slugfest, but Muraco goes low and then slingshots Snuka into the cage, busting him open. Snuka gets a foot up in the corner to block the champion’s momentum, then tries to escape over the top of the cage. Muraco stops him but ends up getting crotched on the top, but Snuka is too hurt to take advantage. You know, I had heard so much about this match from WWF propaganda and from Foley’s book, but it is actually incredibly slow and a little dull. They have barely done anything. We do get a double juicer though, with Snuka sending Muraco into the cage. That is how cage matches should be; bloody! The finish is pretty lame, with Snuka giving Muraco some big flying head-butts, the momentum of which sends Muraco out of the door and thus he wins the match. The pay-off comes after the match though, as Snuka climbs the cage, and in one of the all-time iconic WWF moments, hits the Superfly Splash from the top of it. Now that was impressive. The crowd was absolutely rabid for the hugely over Snuka, but the action was surprisingly disappointing, being as it was slow and uninspiring. Only worth watching for the splash, if you somehow haven’t seen it.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

Superfly Jimmy Snuka & Arnold Skaaland vs. Don Muraco & Captain Lou Albano
The feud continues two months later on Boxing Day 1983, once again from MSG. I have to assume it is “unusual” because the managers are working, but I would peg it more as “unappealing” if I had to put a label on it. Skaaland is, according to Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson on commentary, the oldest active wrestler on the roster. They are probably right; the guy looks about a hundred. He can go though, for an old man, and he is in decent shape too. The city dwelling Yonkers chant “beach bum” at Muraco, but he couldn’t care less. Skaaland uses his ring savvy to catch a small package on Muraco and gets a close fall. Snuka now in for the first time, and Muraco controls him at first with a headlock, until Snuka ups the pace and knocks Muraco down with a big chop. Captain Lou is in to face Snuka, and he tries to talk his way out of anything physical, to no avail. As I am sure you will read about more later, Lou Albano ranks right up there with Hillbilly Jim, George Steele and a few others from this early 80s who were over but for no explicable reason, and had the ability to drag down anyone they got involved with. Captain Lou did a lot for the WWF in the Rock N Wrestling era, but I do NOT need to see him wrestle. He is the downfall in this match too, accidentally hitting Muraco with a vicious forearm, allowing Snuka to come in with a crossbody off the top for the win. Another boring match featuring Snuka, where nothing much happened and it dragged on. This is not an era of the WWF that I enjoy watching.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Haystacks Calhoun, Larry Zbyszko, & Peter Maivia vs. Moose Monrow, Strong Kobayashi, & Butcher Vachon
This is just a quick clipped look back at a six-man tag match from the 70s to show off the immense size of Haystacks Calhoun. He is certainly unique in that he is a massive fat guy with really skinny child’s legs. He is also dreadful in the ring. This was like thirty seconds of action, a pointless inclusion.

 

Best 3/5 Falls
Andre the Giant, Rocky Johnson, Salvatore Bellomo, Jimmy Snuka, & Pedro Morales defeated Mr. Fuji, Ray Stevens, Don Muraco, Buddy Rose, & Superstar Billy Graham
1983 again, though earlier in the year back in February. We are at the Philadelphia Spectrum for this. This also appears in clipped form on Wrestling’s Bloopers, Bleeps and Bodyslams! On paper is just seems like a big clusterfuck. The names are certainly there, but the 3/5 falls is too much. Maybe they were testing and honing the Survivor Series formula for later years. The rules of this particular ten-man are that the two guys involved in the fall have to then start the next fall. Rocky Johnson impresses with his speed in the early sequences, but we get clipped to Snuka in the ring with Muraco. Quick tags from the face team, with Andre the Giant sending Muraco to the outside with a big boot. Andre was in much better shape here than when he turned heel, moving around at a brisk pace. Speaking of brisk pace, we get clipped again and Muraco gets an airplane spin on Bellomo when we return. Adonis gives him more of the same. Snuka gets the tag from the Italian, and they are tagging in and out at a quick rate here. Unfortunately, it has rather been all tags and little in the way of action. Watching it out of context of the feuds, from a pre-PPV era, makes it hard to get emotionally invested. Fuji pins Bellomo to get the first fall, but Bellomo catches one back on Fuji thanks to Snuka’s help. The falls come at a fast rate, with Snuka pinning Rose moments later. It is all very hard to follow and not particularly good anyway that you real care to try. Andre gets teamed up on, but mounts a comeback on Rose. He rams Rose into Snuka’s hard head, which Snuka doesn’t sell of course, and then hits the big boot and sits down on him for the three and the final fall. Not my cup of tea at all, it just wasn’t fun to watch, and that is criminal in a multi-man match.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Summary: A bad tape, and a real slog to get through as well. It drags on and on, going from one pointless match to another, and most of them are clipped to hell. There is FAR too much Snuka, who was over and charismatic, but dull in the ring. Valentine-Santana saves the tape from being a complete washout, but this is still a definite no.
Verdict: 16

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