WWF Tag Team Championship
Tony Atlas & Rocky Johnson (c) vs. Dick Murdoch & Adrian Adonis
We start with a tag team title match in April, 1984 and we are in Hamburg, PA. Rocky Johnson is of course the father of The Rock, and Atlas worked for WWE as recently as 2011. Vince McMahon is on commentary with Mean Gene Okerlund. Johnson and Atlas were ripped. Adonis was starting to lose his figure but he could still work and bump well. He is very different to the effeminate character he played in later years after the Rock ‘N Wrestling explosion. Johnson dominates both guys with armdrags, and he and Atlas take turns working over Murdoch’s arm. Murdoch shows his agility, nipping up to escape the hold, but Atlas is too strong and keeps the hold applied. Adonis in with Atlas, and he pounds him with elbows and knees. A double back elbow takes him down. Murdoch in now and he exchanges blows with Atlas, who gets the better with a headbutt. Adonis keeps him grounded briefly, but another headbutt allows the tag to Rocky who takes out both guys impressively as Gene calls him a “veritable one man gang”. Strangely enough, that is how George Gray, who competed as the One Man Gang, was given the name over in Jim Crocket Promotions. Jim Ross used to say essentially the same thing as Gene did, about Gray in Mid-South, and it stuck. Anyway, the heels are sent careening into each other and a Boston Crab is applied, but Murdoch breaks it up. Atlas beats on Murdoch outside the ring, but inside Adonis rolls up Rocky and gets the three to win the titles. Mean Gene sells the moment beautifully, simply shouting “Oh no!” a couple of times and saying he can’t believe it. The crowd can’t believe it either, they are incensed. Title changes used to really mean something! Fun match, though it was very short.
Final Rating: **½
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Pedro Morales (c) vs. Don Muraco
We continue the focus on stars from a previous era and another big title match. Morales is in his second reign as champion, and has held the belt for an impressive 425 days. Only Honky Tonk Man to date, has ever held it for longer. The match takes place at MSG in January 1983. These two have been feuding for years over the title, and have beaten each other for it more than once. Morales was also the first Triple Crown Champion in the WWF. Morales has the better of the early going, beating Muraco from pillar to post. Muraco ends up outside of the ring, and Morales rams his head into the ring a few times and then the turnbuckle. In a cute spot, Muraco walks right off the apron and falls to the floor because he is so dazed. I love little moments of ingenuity like that. Muraco rolls under the ring to prevent Morales coming for him, showing awareness and savvy that you rarely see in the modern era. Muraco finally gets something with a kick to the midsection, and then chokes Morales with his t-shirt. Morales evens the score from the cheap shot earlier, escaping by kicking Muraco in the nether region. Morales charges Muraco in the corner and misses, slamming his knee into the buckle. He proceeds to target the knee, but we get clipped so I am unsure how long it went on for. I will admit, I am surprised at how decent this has been, for an old style match. When you watch it, it just seems like decades before WrestleMania and all that era, not just two years. It’s pretty bizarre. Morales manages a backbreaker but he does it onto the injured knee. It continues to bother him when he puts on a Boston Crab, and a slam attempt is a move too far for the injured limb, and his knee gives out allowing Muraco to fall on top for the win and the title. Another historical title change here, and another good little match. There was really the feeling there that they hated each other, and the story they told made sense all the way through. Every move meant something. Highly enjoyable.
Final Rating: ***
Pedro Morales vs. Killer Kowalski
More from Pedro, but this is from almost ten years prior. We remain at MSG but the date is July, 1974. Pedro didn’t change a bit in ten years. Kowalski went onto train a lot of wrestlers, most notably Triple H. He has been on top for much of the early going, and he locks the claw hold onto Morales’ leg early on. Jesse Ventura on commentary talks about the hand strength of Kowalski, and how his hands were like vices. He goes onto explain in detail what Kowalski is doing and why. Once again, ‘The Body’ shows just how good he was on commentary at putting over the guys in the ring and the match itself. He is the unmatched master of the announce booth. Kowalski continues targeting Pedro’s leg relentlessly, and he has almost been feral in his pursuit of said limb. He plays his character so well too, he was a master of his craft. Morales gets desperate and rakes the eyes, and finally rallies with three big left hand shots. Morales backs off and allows Killer an opportunity to come back on him, which Kowalski takes by again going for the leg. Morales was good, but he was really dumb. He would leave his opponents far too many openings and allow them to get up and come back at him. They go back-and-forth with neither guy in clear control. Kowalski puts the claw on the stomach and works the hold again. In a way, this is almost like watching an MMA fight, such is the realism of the story and the techniques they are using. Kowalski targeted the leg but it didn’t work, so he went for the stomach. He leaves the claw locked in and just works the hold, but there is a purpose, it is not just for the sake of rest. It’s a way of working that you rarely see in the cartoon era and beyond. It is not for everyone, but I happen to enjoy it. Morales comes back again when he loses his famous temper, and unleashes on Kowalski. They end up biting each other and then brawl on the outside. The bell rings but they keep going at it tooth and nail well after the decision. The official ruling is a double count out. This was a good little match for the era, and everything made sense. The story they told was again a masterclass in how to work from two legitimate pro wrestling legends. Don’t be put off by the relatively poor quality of the footage or the era it took place in. It was a lot of strikes and holds, but if the match had happened in the new millennium in HD, it would have been raved about.
Final Rating: ***
This is just heavily clipped footage from a match between Jamaica Kid & Billy the Kid vs. Sky Low Low & Little Brutus. I love the “midget madness” subtitle, I must say. The camera is super-zoomed for this, I assume because they are so small! The crowd is made up pretty much entirely of pensioners! You can hear them cackling away in the background, absolutely giddy at seeing the midgets running around the ring and causing mischief. For no apparent reason, we cut midway through to a different midget match, with Brutus and Low this time taking on Sonny Boy Hayes and Joey Russell. It all becomes somewhat pointless, because all the matches are the same generic midget spots and the whole thing has gone on far too long. When the hell is this stuff even from? It looks like the 60s! It randomly ends in the middle of the highlights, mercifully bringing to a close a terrible segment, and the first bad thing on the tape.
Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Prof. Toru Tanaka
We get an appearance from the same hippy referee that did the women’s Battle Royal on Most Unusual Matches! This is the battle of the racial stereotypes in the politically incorrect 70’s WWWF, from MSG in 1973. Sadly neither wrestler is with us anymore, as Tanaka died in 2000 and Strongbow in 2012. Tanaka may also be familiar to people as an actor, having appeared in a number of roles, including parts in The Running Man, 3 Ninjas and Last Action Hero. One thing I am really enjoying on this tape is the pre-match voiceovers from Gorilla Monsoon. He gives a little background into both wrestlers and the style of wrestling on display. It really adds something and helps get the viewer into guys they may not be aware of. Alfred Hayes is also much better on his own discussing the match, rather than playing the cartoonish goof he became in later years, though he does questions whether karate was called karate back in those days. He then shatters his credibility almost instantly by saying how they “really went at it hammer and tongs back in those days” after minutes of non-action with barely anything happening. Sometimes I just think he says the first rambling thought that comes into his head? Tanaka controls with a nerve hold, and the pace of the match has been very deliberate and slow, as was the style of the era. Strongbow fights back and does his famous war dance, hitting a couple of knee lifts. Tanaka tries to retaliate by throwing salt in his eyes, but the referee stops it and calls it a DQ. Hayes calls Tanaka “crafty and sneaky”. That’s because he is a racist. That whole thing was a waste of time.
Final Rating: DUD
WWF Music Interlude
Oh man. We get a brief snippet of Captain Lou Albano tinkling away on the piano, before cutting to Mean Gene Okerlund on the piano and Hulk Hogan on bass, performing “Tutti Frutti”. “Oh testify” bellows Gene during a solo. Indeed.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Tito Santana (c) vs. Paul Orndorff
We skip forward all the way to September 1984 in St. Louis, Missouri and this is more like it! Monsoon says the match was chosen by WWF officials, because it was so good. It certainly starts at a furious pace, and boy was Santana over! Orndorff is forced out of the ring because of Santana’s quickness, and back inside they go back-and-forth, wrestling at speed. Things eventually slow when Santana puts on a top wristlock, which takes Orndorff to the mat. We speed right back up though, as Santana does an innovative move which can only be described as a crossbody wristlock. If it was a botch then he covered it masterfully, if not then it is incredibly inventive. Impressive either way. Back to the holds with a Santana hammerlock, but Orndorff escapes with elbows to the head. It doesn’t last, and once again we go back to the arm, this time with an armbar. Orndorff makes a bigger escape with a reverse atomic drop, then stomps Santana down. The whole thing so far has been evenly matches and thoroughly entertaining. Both guys could really go, and were excellent at bumping and selling. I always think the best matches are between evenly matched opponents around the 230lbs mark, and that is both of these guys. This match would have worked in any era of the WWF, so for this to have taken place in 1984 is impressive. Orndorff controls things now, taking Tito out on the outside before dropping him neck first over the ropes, then kicking him back out of the ring. Santana tries a comeback but is cut off, though Orndorff doesn’t capitalise. Maybe he was trained by Pedro Morales… Chinlock from Orndorff, but Tito escapes with an elbow and a knee lift, only to get caught with a back suplex for a near fall. Tito catches a crossbody out of no-where for a near fall of his own, but again gets floored, this time with big punches. Orndorff goes for the win again, but the kick out sends him to the floor in another innovative spot. Maybe he had been getting tips from Muraco as well! Orndorff recovers and hits a knee drop, but an attempt to come off the ropes meets knees. Santana fires up and a slam leads to a slingshot into the buckles, again for two. Santana goes for the flying forearm, but Orndorff leapfrogs and hits a clothesline for yet another near fall. A knee to the face looks to have the match won for Orndorff, but the time had expired before the ref could count the fall, and thus we have a draw. This was like a WrestleMania match from the Attitude era and beyond, jam packed with intensity and near falls. A really great match between two fantastic workers.
Final Rating: ****
Some Surprise Endings
Inspired by the close finish of the last match, Gorilla says they thought it would be fun to put together a few clips of unusual finishes to matches. We start with Don Muraco defending the IC title against Rocky Johnson from 1983. Johnson is well on top, lacing Muraco with punches and busting him open, but he accidentally clocks the referee and is disqualified. Next up is Bobo Brazil against Freddie Blassie from way back in 1964. The finish comes when Brazil headbutts Blassie into the ropes, and Blassie gets tangled between the bottom and middle ropes on the outside of the ring, getting counted out. Next, we joined Andre the Giant against the Black Demon from 1981. Demon was just a generic masked enhancement guy. Andre does a hiptoss and Demon’s mask comes off, and that is that. Finally, Gorilla Monsoon is guest referee for a Texas Death Match (street fight) featuring tag champions Tony Garea & Rick Martel against The Moondogs. The finish comes when Gorilla takes out the Moondogs and the champs hit a double back body drop for the win. Fun segment, with some interesting stuff. Though, the surprise finishes were tame by comparison to what you see in the modern era.
WWF Tag Team Championship
Tony Garea & Rick Martel (c) vs. Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito
The last match is for the tag titles, and takes place on Halloween night in 1981, from Philadelphia. Lots of armdrags from Martel early on, who appears to be having a fit, such is his intensity here! Garea comes in and works Saito’s arm, then does the same to Fuji when he comes in. The champions have controlled the entirety of the early going. Martel back in and he goes to the arm, then hits a crossbody for a near fall, before going back to the arm once again. The champs have dominated, combining quick spots out of various arm holds, with a flurry of armdrags. They were certainly a fiery combination. You can see why they put Tito with Martel years later, because he was very much of the same mould. Fuji and Saito take control of Garea eventually, working him over with quick tags and martial arts. Their offence is very strike based rather than working holds, combined with stereotypical Japanese “sneaky” tactics. And we all know that the Japanese are sneaky; it was drummed into us earlier by Hayes. Pat Patterson on commentary hammers the point home a few times just in case anyone missed it. Garea fights back with forearms, and slams Fuji, but misses a dropkick. A slam for Saito gets a near fall, as does a knee drop for the top. Saito goes to the front facelock and then he and Fuji double team Garea. He finally manages the hot tag to Martel, who is a house of fire. Quick tags back-and-forth from the champions, who have a lot of momentum building now. Martel comes off the top with a crossbody, but Fuji throws salt in his eyes as he comes down, allowing Saito to reverse it into a pin and the titles. “Right in the face with nothing but pure salt! RIGHT IN THE FACE!” screams Vince McMahon on commentary. I wonder if he says that to all the girls… A good tag match from the era, with a hot, interesting finish.
Final Rating: **¾
Summary: A trip down memory lane that won’t be for everyone. This definitely harks back to an old-school era, and a lot of modern day wrestling fans may struggle to appreciate the action on display might not be able to look past the poor footage quality, more deliberate pace and less familiar names. If you can, there is plenty of rewarding action on here. All of the title changes were good, the Kowalski-Morales match is an almost MMA-like affair from a long forgotten era, and the Orndorff-Santana match is a classic from the time period. Recommended.