Fijian Strap Match
Superfly Jimmy Snuka vs. Roddy Piper
So we start in St. Louis, Missouri in July 1984. Piper and Snuka had one of the most famous feuds of the era, both were amazingly charismatic workers, though neither was especially technically sound, so this should suit them to a tee. Piper is very reluctant to put the strap on at first. He finally does, and Snuka whips him a few times with it. They both try to choke each other with the strap at the same time, leading to a duelling strap battle, which Snuka wins due to his superior strength. Piper escapes by going to the eyes, and beats on Snuka with the strap. Snuka soon fights back, and whips Piper back-and-forth. For all this match makes sense because of the intense nature of the feud, as a contest it is not especially good. The strap limits the spots to whipping, choking and escaping, but little else. They continue to exchange control with neither man especially the aggressor over the other. Snuka pulls Piper into the post on the outside, and a headbutt leads to a crossbody off the top and a clean pinfall win. Hang on, a clean pinfall win! Piper jobbed clean!? That was a rarity in the WWF, or really anywhere. He gets his heat back after the match by attacking Snuka though, of course. Good brawl but rather limited, though a collectors item to see Piper actually lose.
Final Rating: **
Ricky Steamboat vs. Cowboy Bob Orton
We go to Landover, Maryland and fast forward exactly a year to the day, this being July 1985. Incredibly, this also appears on Best of the WWF Volume #6. It is a prime example of how lazy and lackadaisical Coliseum could be about these things. It is actually rather an insult to the paying customer, especially collectors. Video tapes were expensive in those days, so recycling matches just a few tapes later is inexcusable. I love Steamboat and Orton is vastly underrated too. Mean Gene likes Steamboat too it seems, as he talks about how the Dragon really “turns the crowd on”. Being turned on himself is merely implied… Steamboat uses his immense speed of execution to dominate Orton at first, before going to a hammerlock, and he even makes THAT interesting, switching the move to his feet and taking some over-the-top back bumps that look simply superb. He then does an awesome spinning chop and his legendary armdrag. Steamboat was unbelievable; he makes things look effortless. Orton finally gets something with a slam, but Steamboat gets to his feet and returns the favour, then hits the armdrag and goes to an armbar. Orton backs him into the corner and hits a hiptoss halfway across the ring. Orton slips outside and throws a drink in Steamboat’s eyes, taking control of the bout. The Boris Johnson lookalike referee lets that one slide. Because of his shenanigans, Orton is now all over Steamboat, and remains so for a good few minutes, until ‘the Dragon’ fires back with chops. Orton tries to cut him off with a piledriver, but Steamboat backdrops out of it. High crossbody off the top only gets two and Orton goes low to buy some time. Steamboat skins the cat and hits an enzuigiri to send Orton out of the ring, but Orton goes to the eyes. The whole thing has been really back-and-forth, with both playing their part. Undoubtedly though, it has been led by Steamboat’s superb movement and selling. Unfortunately we don’t get a proper finish, with Orton getting disqualified after using the cast from the top rope, and the brawl continues after the decision. This was another fun match, though with a much higher level off effort, but a little less intensity, than the last one. Orton could really go, but Steamboat was phenomenal.
Final Rating: ***¼
The British Bulldogs vs. Rene Goulet & Johnny Rodz
This is from MSG in April 1985, just after WrestleMania. Goulet was at the backend of his career by this point, and for all he was great at making others look good in his prime, he does rather look like an old man who shouldn’t be there by this point. As expected this is all Bulldogs at the start, with pace and power overcoming experience. Smith throws Rodz halfway across the ring with a press slam, then both the Bulldogs hit top rope dropkicks, before Dynamite dismantles Rodz with a snap suplex and a quick gutwrench. I sometimes wonder if guys actually liked working with Dynamite. He was incredible to watch, but man was he vicious. He ends up taking the heat, as Rodz and Goulet take him apart with double teams. Rodz misses a headbutt and Dynamite gets the hot tag, but is cut off with a low blow straight away. Goulet tries a gutwrench, but why bother when Dynamite has already done it? All you are doing is showing yourself to be inferior, because you can’t better anything Dynamite has done, he was too intense. We get a double heat with Smith taking a pasting, then he gets bored of selling and just sits up. Smith with a stalling suplex, but an illegal double team gives the heels the advantage again. Big monkey flip from Davey gets him out of danger and he hits the running powerslam on Rodz. Dynamite gets the tag, hitting a splash from the top to the win the bout. This was pretty good, though the structure was a bit wild. The Bulldogs just don’t have bad matches. Ever.
Final Rating: **¼
The British Bulldogs vs. The Hart Foundation
So July 1985 now, and we are in MSG. This should be a belter as well. This tape has been pretty good so far. Dynamite outwrestles Bret quickly before we are clipped to Neidhart and Davey in a test of strength. Davey rolls over the top of a backdrop attempt and hits a dropkick, which brings in Hart. Seven years later, these two main-evented the WWF show with the largest ever legitimate crowd; SummerSlam 92 at Wembley Stadium. As good as they were at the time, with the way the WWF was in 1985, you certainly would never have predicted they would be two of the top guys. It was all about size and cartoonish charisma, which neither guy possessed at the time. The Harts control Davey with quick tags and double team offence, then we get clipped again, to Bret missing a charge on Davey and hitting Neidhart. Dynamite is on fire when he comes in, and takes both of the Foundation apart. Bret hits the buckles really hard and then takes a vicious missile dropkick, and there is some super stuff on display here, as expected. A running powerslam from Davey results in a Neidhart save and we get clipped again to Hart in control of Smith for another heat. I actually thought that was going to be the finish. I’m not complaining though, this can go for the rest of the tape as far as I’m concerned. The bell rings as Davey goes for a sunset flip, and sadly this ends in a rather underwhelming curfew draw. What a shame. What we saw was incredibly good, but the clipping ruined it a little. Could and probably would have been rated higher if it was shown in full and had a finish, but still very much worth seeing.
Final Rating: ****
The less said about an appalling segment from Tuesday Night Titans involving George Steele, Vince McMahon, Captain Lou Albano and Dr. Ziff, the better. Suffice to say it is corny, cartoonish and utterly ridiculous. The gist is; Steele is nuts so they hypnotize him. They should have tried to convince him he wasn’t a wrestler, so we wouldn’t have to suffer his awful matches ever again. They give Steele shock treatment and Vince is concerned. It’s not like he can get any more useless or incoherent is it!?
Adrian Adonis, Big John Studd & Bobby Heenan vs. George Steele, Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo
We are in MSG for the third match in a row, this from June 1985. Windham and Rotundo were the reigning WWF tag team champions. They are the workrate guys in this for sure, along with Heenan in his own way, but Studd and Steele are pretty awful. Steele is one of my least favourites ever. Crap gimmick and abysmal in the ring. They stall for ages with nothing happening. When they finally get going Windham gives Adonis some armdrags and a trio of slams and then Steele bites him from the apron. Adonis wants no part of this, and goes to leave. Studd comes in and uses his size to briefly get the better of Windham, but he comes back and very nearly slams him. That was of course a huge deal at the time, because Studd did a gimmick where no-one could slam him. As ever we get clipped, and rejoin with Heenan getting a pasting from Windham. That bump he used to take to the outside was completely mental. Steele is the most over guy in this, and I just do NOT get it. What was his appeal? Rotundo comes in for the first time, and he outwrestles Studd briefly before succumbing to his size. They run a heat segment on the future IRS, who takes a beating from all three opponents. At one point Gorilla calls a DDT a “reverse underarm piledriver” and they act like they have never seen anything like it. This was pre-WWF Jake Roberts I guess. We get a melee with all six guys going at it, and the crowd explodes for Steele and Heenan’s exchanges. Studd saves his manager, so Steele gets a chair and chases everyone before nailing the referee with it. That is of course, a DQ. That was building into another decent match, primarily because Steele was rarely involved. It would have to be him who ruined it of course.
Final Rating: **
We get footage of a famous cage match between Bruno Sammartino and Ivan Koloff, as Vince McMahon introduces us to the story of Sammartino’s return to the WWF after his retirement in 1980. We get clips of Bruno’s son David against Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania, the full review of which is covered by Arnold Furious elsewhere in this book. This is clipped right down from the 12-minutes the match actually got to around 2 or 3. Good choice, the match sucked.
David Sammartino & Bruno Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake & Johnny V
So to follow up from the previous match and angle, we have this from MSG in May 1985. Bruno was great, a genuine legend, but David was simply awful. Bruno has his work cut out to make this worthwhile, but he shows he has still got it by taking out both opponents with ease, and the crowd goes crazy for the whole thing. But then David comes in and does a good but still vastly inferior impression of his dad. Everything Bruno does is completely natural, but David is a robotic imitation with an incredibly unlikeable face. The commentators talk about whether Bruno could compete for the WWF title again, and I think if it was in a different era they would have ran a dream match between Hogan and Sammartino. That would have been major box office. I bet they would have struggled to come up with a finish for that though. Bruno does his vintage count-along hammerlock spot, and then tags in David, who does the same, only once again it is far worse and almost cringe worthy. David is a tub of lard with no aptitude for pro wrestling at all. He is a pile of balls. Just a dreadful, dreadful worker. Beefcake and V take over on David, wearing him down with slams and backbreakers, among other things, and then David runs the ropes like a trainee on his first day at wrestling school. Then suddenly, it’s all over!, with Tubs getting the pin out of NOWHERE. A shitty quick finish to what was a half good and half shoddy match, depending on which Sammartino was in.
Final Rating: **
King Kong Bundy on Vince’s talk show from TNT complains about being recognised too much, and Vince and Alfred Hayes tell him he should try wearing a wig. Well, it certainly worked for Vinny Mac. Bundy has a surprisingly feminine and almost childlike voice and demeanor. That’s a WrestleMania main eventer right there! Hayes laughs his ass off at Bundy in a wig, so the big bald “monster” sulks off in a rage.
King Kong Bundy vs. Tony Garea
This comes from MSG in June 1985, from the same show as the earlier six-man tag. The lighting is much brighter on this show than the last match. That had a completely blacked out crowd, but they are more visible here. I miss the old-school lighting with the crowd blacked out, it put more focus on the wrestlers and the ring. Bundy and Garea exchange control early on, with Bundy using power and size against Garea’s speed and technical ability, as expected. It is all fairly dull though, just a squash getting dragged out because it is at MSG. Bundy shouldn’t be doing chinlocks, he should be running through people like a train. You can hear the crowd chanting “boring” and they are right on the money. Garea fights back, but gets caught with the avalanche and a splash for a Bundy win. Nothing to this at all, just a waste of everyone’s time.
Final Rating: DUD
18-Man Battle Royal
We close out the tape with a battle royal from St. Louis, Missouri in February 1984. Notable names involved include Mil Mascaras, David Schultz, Hulk Hogan, Big John Studd, Andre the Giant, Paul Orndorff, Jimmy Snuka and Rocky Johnson. So, there is some big named talent in here. This was very early into Hogan’s WWF run and he was red hot. There is a really cool spot with Andre splashing Bob Boyer, and the rest of the roster just piles on top of him. Boyer is squashed and removed, presumably with every bone crushed. Vince McMahon and Mean Gene are shambolic on commentary though, talking over each other constantly, shouting nonsense and struggling to keep up with what is going on. Rocky Johnson impresses the most, waging war with Murdoch and others. He gets busted open but is a house of fire, until he and Murdoch bundle each other out. Andre and Hogan go at it in a teaser, with Studd and Putski the other two remaining. Studd gets rid of Putski, then throws out Andre and Hogan while they are fighting each other, to win the match. A fairly boring battle royal for the most part, but some cool spots, all of which involved Rocky Johnson. A very random match to include.
Final Rating: ½*
Summary: Ruined by clipping, but it was mostly consistently entertaining, with some belters in there too between Steamboat-Orton and Harts-Bulldogs. The likes of Bundy, Steele and David Sammartino fail to bring the quality down too much because of the sheer number of super workers and intense and over characters on display throughout. Try and track down the full unclipped Bulldogs-Harts match, though even if you do, this is still a tape just about worth seeing.