Tryout: Luigi Evangelista

Hello folks. I’m Luigi Evangelista and I’ve been a wrestling fan since the first Wrestlemania. I’ve got WWE Classics on Demand as part of my cable package and Mr. Keith has graciously allowed me a tryout, so if things go well, I’d be able to review some of the programs on this great station. I hope if and when the WWE Network is up and running, it’ll have similar programming to what they’ve got on demand right now-it’s incredible to think of what’s in the vault. Anyways, this first review is going to be a house show from the Boston Garden on May 18, 1985 under the WWE Old School block of programming. Just a bit of background going into this event to get everyone up to speed. The WWF is just coming off the biggest gamble in the company’s history with the wildly successful Wrestlemania 2 months ago and Hulkamania is one of the biggest things going in the USA. The WWF’s national expansion is in full swing and they are selling out arenas all over the country. In fact, this broadcast is the first wrestling card aired on the NESN regional sports channel in New England and its taking place 1 week after the very first Saturday Night’s Main Event. Your champions as of this date are: WWF Tag Team Champions-Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff WWF Intercontinental Champion-Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine WWF Women’s Champion-Wendi Richter WWF World Champion-Hulk Hogan Now, on to the show! Your commentary team is Gorilla Monsoon and ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund and Gene is already in hard-sell announcer mode that’s going to get old in a hurry. It’s a good thing they came to their senses and put him in the back doing interviews because commentary is just not working for him. First match is Salvatore Bellomo vs. Moondog Spot and the crowd booed the face and cheered the heel, so in case you were wondering-that’s not new. Very slow start with wristlocks and arm bars and the crowd is booing them already. Spot and Bellomo trade headlocks, the crowd is chanting ‘Boring’ and Monsoon and Okerlund acknowledge it. Things finally pick up a little from Moondog Spot as he goes to the 2nd rope with a fist drop on Bellomo and sends him out of the ring, then rams him into the barrier. When Bellomo gets back in, Spot follows up with a chin lock and a reverse atomic drop. Bellomo with a standing dropkick out of nowhere but Spot fights back and catches him off an Irish whip with a shoulder breaker for the pin and the crowd cheers. I’m not sure if they cheered him or the end of the match. Monsoon and Okerlund are struggling to make sense of the crowd’s reaction. Next up is Steve Lombardi vs. Swede Hansen and the crowd goes mild for Hansen. Lombardi takes forever taking off his ring jacket, then stalls by adjusting his kneepads and by doing stretches in the corner. Okerlund passes the time with mother-in-law jokes for your entertainment while we wait. Eventually they lockup and Hansen grabs a hammerlock, then works on the elbow and Lombardi makes it to the ropes. More stalling and the crowd is getting restless. Hansen catches Lombardi in another hammerlock and then to a face lock where he’s lifting Lombardi right off his feet. Steve Lombardi’s facial reactions keep this thing entertaining-like he’s genuinely upset about everything that’s gone wrong for him in this match. Lombardi-ring general that he is-gets a chin lock and keeps the hold on while Monsoon complains about the refereeing and Okerlund comments on a fan wearing a tux at ringside. Hansen eventually traps Lombardi in the corner and the future Brooklyn Brawler looks like he’s just encountered Freddy Kruger in a nightmare. Hansen gets a weak splash for the pin. Monsoon can barely keep from laughing at Lombardi’s reactions at the end of the match. Big John Studd vs. Rocky Johnson is next. Bobby Heenan is managing Studd and the crowd is starting to wake up with big heat for the Brain and loud cheers for Rocky. Heenan talks trash to Johnson and Rocky spits right in his eye. Heenan goes nuts and so far, it’s the most entertainment we’ve had tonight. Rocky hits a body press but then makes a mistake by going for a body slam and Studd takes control. They do a test of strength and the crowd gets really into it when Rocky gets Studd to his knees and stomps his hands. Studd takes back control with a bear hug. Rocky keeps the crowd into it by punching and head-butting his way out of it. Johnson goes for the body slam again and Studd holds onto the ropes, falls on top of Johnson and gets the pin. Monsoon accuses Heenan of tripping Rocky but the replay shows he wasn’t nearby. Quick match but the crowd was into it and you can see where The Rock picked up his showmanship from. He’s like a chip off the old Rocky. Thank you-that took a while to come up with. We have Tito Santana vs. Brutus Beefcake with Luscious Johnny Valiant as his manager. Tito is one of the top faces in the WWF and Beefcake is just starting to develop as a character. In fact, Tito would regain the Intercontinental title in July and Beefcake and Valentine would take the tag titles in August, so both guys are on the upswing of their careers at this point. Okerlund makes fun of Beefcake’s choice of ring attire, comparing him to a Chippendale’s dancer. Okerlund then reveals that Beefcake is no longer from ‘Parts Unknown’ but billed from San Francisco and Monsoon gives a sarcastic laugh at that. At the start Monsoon mentions an attack from Beefcake on Hilbilly Jim that caused a knee injury and put the big guy on the shelf. Santana has a wristlock and Beefcake body slams him. Santana keeps the hold on throughout and Beefcake manages to get to his corner. Back in and Santana and Beefcake trade shots before Beefcake goes back to his corner again. This time Valiant tries to get involved and Tito nails them both with what Monsoon calls a double noggin-knocker. Beefcake recovers with a reverse atomic drop and a body slam, then goes to the good old-fashioned choke after a failed pin. More cheating and Okerlund is screaming at the ref to disqualify Brutus. Beefcake hits a backdrop and does the Barber strut version 1.0 to boos. Beefcake goes to the middle rope and hits an elbow but a weak pin attempt gets Monsoon to take him to task for that. Santana fights back again after Beefcake misses a splash and Tito hits an elbow off the 2nd rope, then a figure four leg lock. Valiant distracts him and all three guys end up outside the ring, where Valiant and Beefcake double team Santana and get him bleeding, but Tito wins by count out by just barely beating Beefcake back into the ring. The crowd really got into it when the guys went to the outside. I’d guess that would’ve led to a rematch at the Garden between these two later in the year. Ken Patera vs. Tony Garea is up next with Bobby Heenan managing Patera. Garea gets on the mic and taunts Heenan for getting fired by Paul Orndorff a week ago on national TV. The “Weasel” chants start up as Heenan loses it again. Just a note: this is 5 months after Patera and Studd cut Andre the Giant’s hair and Ken Patera is still getting big heat from the crowd. Monsoon evens gives him props for retiring him years ago at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Patera gets Garea in side headlock and tries for a quick pin while pulling the tights. The tide turns when Patera poses for the crowd and Garea hits a nice dropkick. Garea getting a little offence but Patera attacks with some cheap shots and chokes him out by the ropes. Patera goes back to choking while Heenan distracts the ref in a classic heel move. Monsoon and Okerlund are both berating the ref for a doing a lousy job while the Patera keeps alternating between a chin lock, a hair pull and a good old-fashioned choke. Patera tosses Garea outside and they end up scrapping out there for a bit before Garea gets control back in the ring. Patera goes for a knee lift but misses and hits a turnbuckle and Garea goes to work on the knee and follows up with an abdominal stretch. A sunset flip into a pin doesn’t work for Garea, so he tries to send Patera into the corner. Patera moves while Garea goes for the attack and drops an elbow and covers for the pin while grabbing the tights like a good heel would. Garea looked horrible in the match and the crowd died halfway through it. By August, Ken Patera would be in prison serving a 2 year sentence for assault. His comeback as a face went over like a lead balloon before injuries started to pile up, so it was interesting seeing the end of his glory days as a heel here. The IC title match is up with Greg Valentine defending against Junkyard Dog in a Wrestlemania rematch. Jimmy Hart is in Valentine’s corner. I’m hoping this will be a better match than what we got at Wrestlemania. JYD has the crowd in the palm of his hand tonight and plays up to them. A standoff between the two ends when Valentine hits JYD with an elbow to the head with no reaction, so he bails outside. Back in and JYD goes to work with an arm-wringer that puts Valentine down. Stalling by Valentine, so Okerlund and Monsoon start talking about the history of Boston wrestling. Valentine gets control with a few elbow drops and some pinning attempts with no success. The crowd is chanting ‘JYD’ and get behind their guy while Valentine keeps working on the arm on the mat. JYD finally fights back by raking Valentine’s face, then biting him and choking him, like a good hero would. JYD attacks with his running head-butts while on all fours and Valentine does a flop, then ends up outside the ring. Hart gives himself a hernia trying to drag Valentine back in the ring, where JYD goes for a falling head-butt that misses. Hart distracts the ref to get Valentine back in it and that backfires when JYD tosses Valentine into Hart. The match ends suddenly when JYD hits a power slam and Valentine rolls it into a pin while grabbing the tights and wins the match. JYD attacks Valentine and chases Hart around a bit afterwards. It was more entertaining than the Wrestlemania match but still not that great. Barry O vs. Ivan Putski is up next and Putski build like a brick shithouse while Barry O is definitely not. Gorilla goes out on a limb and predicts that Putski will win the match. I’d put some pretty big money on Putski here too, Monsoon. Putski with some power moves to start and Barry O tries a full nelson that clearly is a bad idea. In what has to be either a mistake or a very poorly planned spot, Barry O tosses Putski to the ropes but instead of coming back Putski trips into the top rope and chokes himself out. Barry O goes to work but he gets almost no offence before Putski turns the tide, hits his Polish Hammer sledge shot and gets the pin. Okerlund congratulates Monsoon on calling the outcome of the match and Gorilla’s reaction is simply a chuckle and an “Oh my God”. Pete Dougherty vs. Mario Mancini in a sure to be classic is on the docket. Dougherty is loud and annoying and Monsoon thinks he’s great. He’s known as the Duke of Dorchester and he celebrates every move he hits as if he’s won a championship. Dougherty starts off with shots and throws Mancini outside, when he nails Mancini with an elbow and follows up with another attack when Mancini gets back in the ring. Dougherty stays on him with a body slam, a leg drop and an elbow drop and that gets the pin. His celebration was pretty impressive with a jig and a dance afterwards. Main Event time is next and it’s a tag team match between Hulk Hogan and Jimmy Snuka vs. Bob Orton and Don Muraco with Mr. Fuji as their manager. The crowd explodes for the Hulkster before they even see him and all four men scrap in and out of the ring to start, then Orton pairs off with Snuka and Hogan attacks Muraco before the match starts for real. Every move that Snuka hits gets a pop and he attacks Orton’s arm (which has only been broken for about 2 months now). A tag to Hogan results in the champ nailing Orton’s arm with an elbow off the 2nd rope. Back to Snuka with more work on the arm, then back to Hogan with more offence and an atomic drop. Eventually, Orton gets Hogan to his corner where Muraco tags in and the tide turns. Muraco keeps Hogan in his corner where the heels take turns attacking Hulk. Orton back in with more shots to Hogan and a suplex where he holds Hogan up for about 30 seconds and it looks impressive. The action has really slowed down now and Muraco and Orton double-team Hogan and taunt Snuka at the same time. Hogan eventually makes the tag to Snuka who cleans house and attacks Muraco and Orton. Mr. Fuji distracts the ref, and when Snuka goes for a splash, Orton nails Superfly in the head with the cast and Snuka gets cut from that. Hogan gets attacked by Muraco outside the ring and Snuka is bleeding like a stuck pig. It’s so bad that Orton’s cast is turning red with Snuka’s blood. Muraco in and bites Snuka and he’s got blood all over his face. For those of you who watch the show “True Blood’, the opening credits that show a kid with his face smeared with blood is what Muraco looks like here…only with much more insanity in his eyes. Snuka eventually makes the tag to Hogan, but he gets double-teamed by Orton and Muraco. The bell rings and it’s a DQ against Muraco and Orton. The match is over but a melee erupts and all four men are outside with chairs. The police are outside to get control back and Muraco and Orton escape. Gorilla Monsoon and Mean Gene Okerlund recap the night and thank us for joining them for the first wrestling event on NESN. Thanks for indulging me and I hope you all enjoyed the recap!