I was going to review the 6/27/77 MSG Old School, but…well…..let’s just say that it was over two hours long and featured Ivan Putski and Baron Von Raschke going at it for thirty minutes. “Going at it” is up for interpretation because they sure weren’t wrestling.
Vince McMahon & Dick Graham provide the commentary.
Match #1: Bob Backlund (c) (w/ Arnold Skaaland) vs. Spiros Arion for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship.
Backlund is a month removed from beating Superstar Billy Graham for the title here. Backlund offers his hand, but Arion backs away. Lock up to start and Backlund shoves Arion into the ropes in a surprise show of strength. Waist lock for Arion, reversed by Backlund and Arion makes the ropes for the break. Another go-behind for Backlund and Arion makes the ropes again but Backlund lifts Arion out and brings him back to the middle. Backlund quickly reverses another waistlock and turns it into a pin attempt for the one count. Another bridge pin attempt for Backlund for a two. Arion gets a side headlock but Backlund breaks the hold by lifting Arion a few times. Backslide by Backlund gets two. Backlund takes Arion down but they’re in the ropes. Arion gets a couple of chokes in on the mat. A body slam for Arion, but a second one gets turned into a small package for Backlund that gets two. Arion bails to the floor to regroup. Arion gets a wristlock but Backlund slips out. Arion backs up to the corner, but Backlund calls him out to the middle. A kick is caught by Backlund and he drops Arion to the mat. Backlund tries a leg takedown, but Arion rakes the eyes to get out. Backlund gets a sunset flip off the ropes for a two. Backlund catches another kick, drops Arion and legdrops the leg and gets an ankle lock and starts stretching Arion’s leg on the mat. Arion makes the ropes, the ref wants a break, but Backlund kicks the leg before letting go. The turnbuckle pad is off in the corner, and Arion rams Backlund’s head twice into the exposed buckle. The ref is debating with Arion as to whether or not there was a kick to the nuts there. Arion kicks Backlund to the floor. Backlund attempts to get back in, and Arion brings him in off the apron into a gutwrench rib breaker. Backlund comes back with mule kick out of the corner, but Arion takes control. He gets the over-the-shoulder backbreak on Backlund, who tries to get the backslide for a reversal but loses it. Backlund rams Arion’s head to the exposed buckle. Backlund hits the pildriver. YES! Arion kicks out at two. Backlund goes for the atomic drop but Arion’s foot hits the referee who hits the floor. Backlund leans out to check on the ref, and Arion attacks from behind. Now the two start with the fists as it breaks down. Other wrestlers come down to break this up and separate the two. The referee is being carted away on a stretcher. Backlund and Arion keep going at it, but they’re separated again. ***1/2
WINNER: Nobody. Official decision is a Double DQ. Backlund was a breath of fresh air during this period. He had speed and agility, but could also brawl. As for this match, it was surprisingly good. It was never dull at any point. The non-finish would lead to rematch at the next Spectrum show, and this was a good way to kick off a feud.
Match #2: Bruno Sammartino (w/ Arnold Skaaland) vs. Ken Patera.
Patera attacks from behind before the introductions! The ref calls for the bell, and we’re under way. Stomps from Patera, followed by a body slam. More stomping from Patera. Bruno comes back with a kick to the gut. Patera leap frogs over Bruno coming off the ropes but Bruno stops and picks him up for a slam. A series of arm drags and Patera bails to the floor. Back in the ring, Patera stalls on a lockup. Out of the corner, Patera kicks Bruno and puts him down. Patera misses a knee drop and Bruno goes to work on the leg and gets a half-crab. Patera gets out, slugs away and backs Bruno to the corner. Patera whips him to the opposite corner and gets a slam on the rebound. Patera misses an elbow drop and bails again. Back in, Bruno gets a side headlock. Patera shoves him off the ropes and gets a high knee to put Bruno down. Patera tries for the full nelson, but Bruno drops him on the turnbuckle. Bruno now chokes Patera on the bottom rope. Head to the buckle, then off the ropes for a kick to the gut. Bruno hits the rear chinlock. Now Bruno gets his own full nelson, but Patera makes the ropes for the break. Patera takes a walk outside. Back in the ring, Bruno is a HOUSE AFIRE with the rights. A kick puts Patera down for two. Bruno hits the front facelock on the mat. Patera powers out and drops Bruno in the corner and slugs him down. Off the ropes and Patera gets the bear hug! Patera turns the bear hug into a pin attempt for two. Bruno tries to headbutt out, successfully. Bruno kicks Patera down, and is now selling the back from the bear hug. Bruno with a kick, then a knee to the head. Patera is down, and Bruno gets in another kick. Patera comes back with kicks of his own and Bruno is down. Patera gets in a couple of chokes, with Bruno hanging out of the ring. Patera brings Bruno back in the middle for the bear hug. Bruno tries to get the arms inside to break the hold, and judo flips Patera to break it. Bruno gets a bear hug of his own, but Patera rakes the face to break it. Patera hits the floor again. Patera pulls Bruno out, but Bruno shoves Patera to the post. Back in the ring, the two go back and forth with rights. They head out to the floor again, and Bruno gets Patera with a chair. The bell rings, but the two continue brawling outside. Back in the ring, they make like they are going to continue brawling, but Patera fakes him out and splits. **
WINNER: Nobody. Official decision is a double countout, or a draw per Gary Cappetta. This match had a lot of back and forth for both guys. This was mostly a kick and punch fest with some bear hugs thrown in. It broke down into a nice brawl at the end, but this was not as good as the first match. Bruno would hit the commentary booth not long after this, and wrestle part time.
Match #3: Haystacks Calhoun vs. Nikolai Volkoff.
Haystacks is a fat hillbilly a la Uncle Elmer, and Volkoff is billed as being from Mongolia. Volkoff actually pushes Calhoun into the ropes and slugs and knees him down. Calhoun comes back with some forearms. Whip into the ropes and a Volkoff shoulder block fails to move the fat guy. Waistlock attempt by Calhoun, and Volkoff makes the ropes. Volkoff takes over with slugging and headbutts. Calhoun shoves him into the corner and starts with the fat guy corner splashes. Volkoff reverses it and continues to slug and knee away. Volkoff misses a corner charge and hits the mat, and Calhoun gets the big fat guy splash for the 1…2…3. 1/2*
WINNER: Haystacks Calhoun. The fat hillbilly wrestler stereotype applies here. Volkoff tried his best with what he had, which wasn’t much. Vince, Jr.’s love for hillbillies was inherited from Vince, Sr. apparently.
THE POST-GAME OPINION: This episode of Old School was an improvement over that piece of crud from ’77. The Backlund-Arion match was a surprise, and I have quickly turned into a fan of Backlund in this era. Bruno’s full time career was winding down at this point, although he still had some big matches left in him. Ken Patera was one of the top heels that this company had until well into the early 80’s, although personally I’m not a fan. Finally, not all hillbillies were into dancing and getting down. Some of them were just about the backstage buffet.
Thanks for reading, and watch for the next ECW review coming in a day or two.