Arnold Furious: The WWF had a bright idea around late 1985; to show their new audience a chunk of their history. Their first step was to recap the history of their tag team titles. You’d think the first logical step would be the WWF title. Nope, that was tape #42. This was tape #15. I’m not sure who decided the tag titles were more important but here they are. Gene Okerlund is the host and promises “clips” of 20 matches over the next 2 hours. All matches are for the tag titles.
The Dream Team (c) vs. The British Bulldogs
For some reason, and they do this on a lot of tapes, they start with something current. Perhaps the modern, circa 1985, fan would be upset and confused by suddenly finding himself in 1978? The Bulldogs are exceptional as a team and Dream Team worked because of Greg Valentine carrying them. Johnny V shoves Dynamite Kid off the top rope as he’s aiming to finish the match. It’s a DQ and the Dream Team retain the belts. We’ll come back to this feud later in the tape, promises Gene Okerlund, the little fucking bald liar.
Tangent: We join the history in 1977 thus glossing over first seven years of the tag titles’ existence. I can only assume they don’t have footage of those early belt changes or can’t fit that much onto 2 hours of tape. Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler were the first champions in June 1971. Among former champs are Karl Gotch, Curtis Iaukea, The Blackjacks and the Executioners (Killer Kowalski & John Studd). Former champs who’ll be featuring again include Chief Jay Strongbow, who’s already had two runs with different partners, the Valiant Brothers, Dominic DeNucci and Tony Garea, who’s also had two runs with two different partners
Toru Tanaka & Mr. Fuji (c) vs. Dino Bravo & Dominic DeNucci
March 1978. This is already the third, and final, title reign for Tanaka & Fuji. DeNucci might have been a decent trainer but he was a terrible wrestler. Bravo isn’t much better but at least he’s mobile in 1978. Tanaka & Fuji run a demonstration of tag team formula for those unfamiliar with it prior to purchasing this tape. DeNucci starts no selling, I think, but that doesn’t go anywhere. Tanaka gets caught in a comedy airplane spin, where Fuji gets knocked over, and amazingly that’s the finish with the Italian stereotypes going over the Japanese stereotypes.
Final Rating: ½*
Dino Bravo & Dominic DeNucci (c) vs. The Yukon Lumberjacks
June 1978. This is the first example of Lou Albano’s ability to train tag teams. He’d had a host of tag team champions over the years. The Lumberjacks are not a particularly good team but rather a gimmicky one. Dino Bravo looks like the best wrestler in the match by some distance. The Lumberjacks are quite good at breaking up pinfall attempts or big spots. DeNucci gets double teamed and the Lumberjacks take home the gold.
Final Rating: ¼*
The Yukon Lumberjacks (c) vs. Larry Zbyszko & Tony Garea
November 1978. Garea was a tag team specialist and kept coming back after the belts with different partners. Zbyszko was a top end talent and his professionalism is nice. Garea is a stadium star. In that you can tell what moves he’s doing from a mile away. “STOMP”. They run a nice criss-cross and the lumberjacks collide giving the faces the titles. The Yukon Lumberjacks would disappear shortly afterwards, as if they were big bearded Canadian bad dream.
Larry Zbyszko & Tony Garea (c) vs. Johnny & Jerry Valiant
March 1979. Naturally Albano just went and found another team, as he did for years. The Valiant’s were ok but limited as wrestlers. Not only is Albano at ringside but also Jimmy Valiant. You may know him from working NWA as the Boogie Woogie Man. Jerry was brought in to replace Jimmy when he was sick. According to Dave Meltzer, Jimmy had hepatitis. Jimmy pulls the injured Jerry out of the ring, preventing a pin and Johnny scores the pinfall on the already fallen Garea.
The Valiant Brothers (c) vs. Tito Santana & Ivan Putski
October 1979. Santana was a plucky young babyface and just barely out of his rookie year in wrestling. Tito was a natural and went almost directly into the WWF. The big storyline ahead of this match was Lou Albano parting ways with the tag champs, thus leaving them without his wealth of experience. I take issue with Putski’s inability to work a hot tag, even if it is a missed one. How hard is it to come flying and hit someone? He just strolls in and the ref makes more effort in stopping him than Putski does trying to get in. The Valiant’s certainly understand formula and use Putski’s stupidity against him. They cut the ring off and run some tidy heat before the hot tag. Putski gets it, this time, and hammers both Valiants. The bell rings for some reason and keeps ringing. The match isn’t over, you idiot, stop ringing the bell. Santana nails Jerry with a crossbody for the belts and NOW you can ring the bell. A match ruined by a combination of incompetence from the timekeeper and your typical useless Putski stuff.
Final Rating: ½*
Tito Santana & Ivan Putski (c) vs. The Wild Samoans
April 1980. Miffed with the situation Lou Albano went and got himself another tag team. This time its Afa and Sika. The Samoans can’t cope with Putski’s power nor Santana’s speed. The Samoans do benefit from tag team familiarity though. They’re a better unit. Putski gets into trouble first before hot tagging to Santana, but he misses a high crossbody and is pinned with a Samoan drop. Not a very well structured match at all.
Final Rating: ½*
Tangent: Here we skip over a belt change as Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales won the belts at Showdown in Shea to really stick it to the Samoans. Backlund was the WWF champion at the time so they had to forfeit the titles due to a ruling that no one wrestler could hold both belts. The Samoans won the resultant tournament, bringing us up to…
The Wild Samoans (c) vs. Tony Garea & Rick Martel
November 1980. Garea returns with a new partner to challenge. Martel’s first WWF run saw him as a speedy flier and it wasn’t until his hot run with AWA that he gained his all-round ability. Garea is great at orchestrating double teams and his teamwork with Martel is even better than with Zbyszko. Its during this match that I’m very aware this is a different time. The commentary is as dull as some of the action, and you can see why Vince McMahon Jr. wanted to sweep all this old style away and reinvent wrestling. Martel, when he tags in, is like a breath of fresh air. The challengers manage stereo monkey flips and dropkicks before Martel finishes with a sunset flip. The controversy stemming from Garea being pinned at the same time. Martel was the legal man, so it’s not as controversial a switch as the heels would make you believe. Great teaming from Garea & Martel. Not unlike moves the Rockers would stun people with a decade later.
Final Rating: *½
Tony Garea & Rick Martel (c) vs. The Moondogs
March 1981. Lou Albano, having lost the titles, comes back with yet another tandem. The Moondogs were an ok team but neither of them were great. Not like Martel is. Martel also has insane love from the fans who chant “let’s go Rick” loudly throughout his whole heat segment. I suspect there are a lot of women in the Allentown crowd. They used to tape Championship Wrestling in Allentown, PA, quite frequently. The venue has already seen three tag title changes. Albano distracts to allow the giant BONE shot of doom and we have another title change in Allentown. Good heat on Martel although the Moondogs weren’t championship material.
Final Rating: **
The Moondogs (c) vs. Tony Garea & Rick Martel
July 1981. The re-match is also in Allentown, 4 months down the line. In more modern wrestling the Moondogs title run would have been one night. Win at the PPV, lose on Raw. But back in the day it was more about venues and taking matches around the horn. So this match has been run around the territory and they’ve got back to Allentown for a second switch. Garea & Martel are still the better team. Moondogs have had to switch from King to Spot because King was Canadian and had been stopped at the border. The WWF played it off as a car crash but it was probably drug related. This match isn’t as much fun as the first one because its more Garea than Martel. Not that Garea is a disaster but Martel was much more interesting at the time. The challengers continue with the great teaming including a blind tag into an O’Connor Roll. Albano and the bone miscue, allowing Martel to hit the other Moondog with a sunset flip and they get their belts back.
Final Rating: **¼
Tony Garea & Rick Martel (c) vs. Mr. Fuji & Mr Saito
October 1981. Guess who’s back with yet another tag team? Yep, its Lou Albano. Fuji already has previous runs with Toru Tanaka. It’s a pity they didn’t get Tanaka and Saito. That would have been a great team. Given that its 1981, Tanaka is probably retired though. As per usual Garea & Martel bring a lot of excellent teaming. This crowd contains some females that go insane at every two count, regardless of how dangerous it is and who has it. NEAR FALL, EEEEEEE. Etc. First wrestling show, ladies? Garea takes the heat with the Japanese running the shit out of formula. Albano interferes, no tag switches, cutting the ring off etc. After the hot tag, the champs get their continuity back. The finish is amazing. Martel heads up top and he’s coming off with a high crossbody only for Fuji to throw powder in his eyes IN MID AIR, Saito rolls through the pin and the belts change. Another good little title match involving Garea & Martel. Sadly this is the end of their involvement in the tape. McMahon must love this finish as much as I do because he’s screaming “RIGHT IN THE FACE” on the replay.
Final Rating: **¼
Mr. Fuji & Mr Saito vs. Chief Jay & Jules Strongbow
July 1982. This is 2/3 falls. The first fall is Fuji throwing salt in both Injun’s eyes and headbutting Jay in the groin for the fall. Its actually the match where they win the belts back. June 1982. WWF themselves are a bit confused as they advertise a second bout as the “re-match” when in actuality it’s the first match where the Strongbows win the titles. But then Vince gets a bit confused just during the match by telling us Jules is in the ring when its Jay and then changing to Jay for the pinfall. Fuji’s foot is on the ropes but the ref doesn’t see it. That’s the original belt change. We then skip ahead to October 1982 and after the re-match, which was shown first, when the Japanese won the belts back. So now Fuji & Saito are the champions. Following all this? I don’t know why they’ve shown these matches out of order but its painful on the brain. Jay gets a sloppy Thesz Press and the belts change again. I don’t know why this is such a mess but the WWF only have themselves to blame for putting it on tape this way.
Chief Jay & Jules Strongbow (c) vs. The Wild Samoans
With that previous feud absorbing a good 6-months, we’re into March 1983. Albano has switched back to the Samoans. The clip is about 90 seconds long and basically just the finish where the Samoans double team and finish with the Samoan Drop.
The Wild Samoans (c) vs. Tony Atlas & Rocky Johnson
November 1983. This match is no DQ, which Albano has stated elsewhere was one of his few errors in judgement as a manager. He probably felt it’d benefit his team as they cheated anyway. Rocky Johnson is, of course, the Rock’s dad. Watching him is always weird because he shares so many mannerisms with his son. He’s the worker on the team while Atlas is the powerhouse. They called themselves the Soul Patrol. It’s a good team but the Samoans don’t know what to do with them and spend most of the match applying rest holds. The referee gets clobbered on an Atlas slam and Albano comes in with a chair but accidentally hits Afa and Atlas pins. Huge pop for that finish but you’d question why Albano would sneak in with a chair, in a no DQ match, and then not hang around to break the resultant fall.
Final Rating: *
Tony Atlas & Rocky Johnson (c) vs. Dick Murdoch & Adrian Adonis
April 1984. It was one of the WWF’s most unusual teams. The straight-laced, and badass Southerner, Captain Redneck Dick Murdoch teamed with flamboyant New York Northerner Adrian Adonis. They were called the North-South Connection. Adonis could bump like crazy for a big man and Murdoch was an incredible all-rounder. They try to avoid anything generic and Murdoch & Adonis are good fun for heels. They purposefully litter their heat with hope spots so it’s never boring. It’s a wild clash with brawling all over the place until Adonis pretty much flukes a roll-up for the belts. Everyone in this was motivated and it was constant action.
Final Rating: **½
Dick Murdoch & Adrian Adonis (c) vs. The US Express
The champs held the belts for most of 1984 and this is into January 1985. An Adonis & Murdoch title run tape is something I would have loved to see released. The US Express have gained a new manager ahead of the match. No prizes for guessing; it’s a newly face turned Lou Albano. The champs have a wild time selling for the super-face US Express. Windham against Murdoch is exceptional. Windham tries for the bulldog but Adonis runs in and smashes him in the face in mid-move. That pisses Windham off and they brawl around outside with Adonis eating the ring post. Murdoch is busy gouging at the face of Rotundo so Windham surprises him with a sunset flip for the belts. This is clipped, but I imagine the full match was even better. Seriously, where’s my Murdoch & Adonis tape, damn it?
Final Rating: **½
The US Express (c) vs. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff
This is from WrestleMania and, bizarrely, is shown in full. Most of the matches on the tape have been heavily clipped. Not the case for this match, although its available on several other tapes.
Final Rating: **
Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff (c) vs. The US Express
June 1985. After the odd belt change, due largely to Vince McMahon owing Sheik a favour, we get things back on track. This match does have Volkoff doing a cartwheel so its worth seeing just for that. No matter how many times I watch wrestling from 1985 I can’t get used to Rotundo having long hair. It just doesn’t look right. He’s too boring to have even slightly flamboyant hair. It looks like one of the 80s scouser perm jobs too. Sheik takes offence at his hippy ways and tries the camel clutch only for Barry to save him with his flowing blonde locks. They run the ‘inside cradle with partners turning them over’ spot and Windham gets the last laugh by flipping Sheik onto his back. US Express get the titles back! Hippies 1 Commies 0.
Final Rating: **
The US Express (c) vs. The Dream Team
August 1985. Like almost every match on this tape its clipped and we join with Barry getting a hot tag. Hammer absolutely faceplants the bulldog. Its gorgeous. If there was ever a guy who didn’t mind landing face first on the canvas, its Greg Valentine. The move looked so ace they do it again. Windham gets some substance rubbed into his eyes and because he’s blinded he can’t kick out. Was that a brillo pad?
And because this tape was released before WrestleMania II, that’s the end of the tape. Which really makes you wonder why they bothered putting the Bulldogs match on first.
Summary: Goddamn there’s a lot of clipping on this tape. In some cases that’s fine because I never want to watch another Wild Samoans match. But with Murdoch & Adonis and Garea & Martel and the US Express, you want to see those matches. As far as conveying the history of the tag titles, one snafu in the order of the Strongbows-Samoans aside, this does the job though. As an overall record its informative and the 2 hour run time flies by because nothing ever gets the chance to outstay its welcome.