The Chrononaut Chronicles: WWE Old School – Madison Square Garden – July 1, 1991

Live from New York, it’s WWE Old School! A classic Madison Square Garden card featuring the Ultimate Warrior meeting the Undertaker in a Bodybag Match, the Hart Foundation challenging the Nasty Boys for the WWF Tag Team Title, and a cool heel vs. heel storyline pitting Bobby Heenan’s Family against Mr. Fuji and his Orient Express.

The Chrononaut Chronicles – WWE Old School: Madison Square Garden – Tuesday, July 1, 1991

– Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, & Lord Alfred Hayes are your hosts, LIVE from ringside on MSG Network.

– Shane Douglas vs. Dino Bravo

This must have been near the end of both men’s WWF runs, as Douglas would return to WCW later in ’91 and Bravo (without Jimmy Hart) stopped dying his hair so it was a natural brown, which I don’t recall ever seeing on WWF TV at the time, although it was 26 years ago (!) so I could be wrong. Monsoon points out how much Bravo has bulked up as he overpowers Douglas until the Dynamic Dude hiptosses him and awkwardly takes him down in a headlock. Douglas hits a crossbody for a two-count, but Bravo counters a monkeyflip out of the corner with an inverted atomic drop and drops an elbow across the back for two. Gutwrench suplex gets two and Bravo applies a camel clutch, but Douglas fights out and sunset-flips Bravo for two. Bravo clotheslines Douglas for another two, but misses some elbowdrops and Douglas uncorks a trio of dropkicks for a two-count. After reversing Shane’s Irish-whip, Bravo sideslams Douglas for the un-deux-trois n 5:32. * Quick and simple opener.

– A promo airs for SummerSlam ’91 on Monday, August 26, right here in MSG! Heenan asks Monsoon to pick up eight tickets for him and he’ll pay him back later.

– Paul Roma vs. The Dragon

Romeo Roma is still the “Glory” half of Power & Glory, although he comes out alone, while the Dragon is of course Ricky Steamboat in a ridiculous dragon getup as he breathes fire before the match starts. The next time somebody tells you Vince is a marketing genius, ask them why he’d screw up a sure thing like Ricky Steamboat by taking away his recognizable “real name” and dressing him like a mutant gecko. The fire-breathing thing was actually pretty cool and he continued to do it when he returned to WCW, but it’s sad that everybody is supposed to forget who he was. Roma attacks Steamboat from behind to start and pounds away until the Dragon back-bodydrops him over the top rope and armdrags him into an armbar when he comes back in. Steamboat continues to work over the arm and throws chops, but Roma hits an inverted atomic drop out of the corner and clotheslines Steamboat to take control, as Romeo pounds the Dragon’s lower back with forearms and bodyslams. Leaping elbowdrop off the ropes gets a two-count and Roma lands a forearm smash off the top turnbuckle, then slugs away on the Dragon and snaps off a sweet dropkick for two after waiting too long to cover him.

Roma crunches the former Intercontinental Champion with repeated backbreakers across the knee and stomps away at the lower back as Steamboat sells it like a motherfucker and rolls out to the floor, but Roma follows him and rams his back against the apron. Roma brings Steamboat back in with a delayed vertical suplex for a series of two-counts and punches away, but Steamboat fires back with chops, an atomic drop, more chops, and a clothesline. The Dragon connects with a tomahawk chop off the top turnbuckle and goes for a splash off the ropes, but Roma gets the knees up and both men are hurt. Steamboat counters a headlock with a back-suplex and they’re both laid out until Steamboat rolls over on top of Roma for a near-fall. Roma pounds away and squashes Steamboat in the corner with a charging back-elbow, but Dragon avoids the next charge and goes to the top turnbuckle, finishing off Romeo with the flying bodypress in 11:05. Afterwards, Heenan complains about a fast count (true) and accuses the Dragon of pulling the tights (not true). *** Really good match, mostly due to Steamboat, but Roma held up his end and looked like a future star in the making with his cocky heel attitude.

– The Berzerker (w/Mr. Fuji) vs. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka

For you trivia buffs, this is the Berzerker’s MSG debut. You know, I was always intrigued by the Berzerker gimmick since it was so outlandish, but I suspended my disbelief by imagining that Mr. Fuji had used hypnosis to regress John Nord back to the mentality of his viking ancestors. I think that idea would have made for some interesting vignettes to introduce the character, since they always talked about Fuji having “mind control” over his wrestlers and the Berzerker character was never really explained. I guess we were supposed to think Fuji found him in a block of ice or something, like the YET-TAY in WCW. This is the era when the Superfly started wearing long tights and boots instead of trunks and barefeet, which means he’s getting old. Heenan christens the Berzerker’s furry boots “Hair Jordans” as he shoulderblocks Snuka and avoids a chop by grabbing the ropes, but Snuka does the same thing to avoid a big boot and fucks up a simple clothesline spot by running toward Berzerker’s left side. Does he think he’s in Mexico? Snuka unloads with a series of running headbutts that finally knock Berzerker over the top rope and kicks away at the big viking’s leg when he climbs back in.

The Superfly lands a flying headbutt off the middle turnbuckle, but when Snuka charges into the corner, Berzerker catches him with a boot. Berzerker jumps up and down like Eugene on steroids and knocks Snuka through the ropes with a knee to the gut as Monsoon & Heenan keep refering to some bad blood between Heenan and Fuji. Berzerker distracts the referee while Fuji whacks Snuka with his cane and points it at Heenan. After suplexing Snuka back into the ring, Berzerker ties him in the ropes Andre-style and nails the helpless Superfly with a big boot, but Snuka avoids the next one and Berzerker crotches himself on the top rope as Snuka shakes the ropes to increase the agony. Snuka levels the big man with a variety of headbutts, but Berzerker hotshots Snuka across the top rope and pins him out of nowhere at 7:16. 1/2* Pretty much what you’d expect out of a Superfly/Berzerker match in 1991.

– Brutus Beefcake comes out to the ring in his old wrestling attire, one year after the horrible parasailing accident that destroyed his career, to host “The Barber Shop” and introduces Randy Savage as his guest. The Barber explains that he has some questions for the Macho Man and gestures with his cartoonish hedgeclippers as he speaks, which makes Savage visibly nervous and he responds that he’ll play Beefcake’s game if he puts the clippers down, so he does. Brutus asks if Savage & Miss Elizabeth are “an item” and Savage admits that they are, as the crowd pops and Savage looks around like a paranoid schizophrenic. Savage admits that they have a relationship so Brutus asks if they’re in love, but like an embarrassed 10-year-old, Savage claims he didn’t hear the question and answers “YES!” when Brutus repeats it. Brutus asks if Randy & Liz will be getting married (what a busybody, I guess Bruti turned into a gossip freak on his year off) and Savage responds positively before announcing that he wants to marry Elizabeth in MSG at SummerSlam if she accepts his proposal this Saturday, since it hadn’t aired on TV yet. “Pomp & Circumstance” cranks up as Savage parades around with a poster of himself and Elizabeth and repeatedly kisses “her” while glancing around bashfully. It was never more apparent what the WWF’s target demographic was, as it looked so stupid for a grown man like Savage to be acting like an 8th-grader with his first serious crush.

– WWF Tag Team Title: The Hart Foundation vs. The Nasty Boys © (w/Jimmy Hart)

Heenan notes that this is a rematch from WrestleMania VII and points out that the Hart Foundation haven’t wrestled as a team very often recently; the next time Bret would be in MSG would be at SummerSlam when he wins the Intercontinental Title from Mr. Perfect. I’m guessing this is a way to say farewell to the Foundation since I believe they never wrestled in MSG again as a team, unless they did in ’97. Jim Neidhart starts off strong with big shoulderblocks on both Nasty Boys, but they bail out and regroup with Jimmy Hart in the aisle before Knobbs blindsides the Anvil while Saggs distracts him. Neidhart comes back with a dual-clothesline for the Nastys and Bret helps him clean house as the champs look confused at ringside. Back inside, Neidhart powers Knobbs into his corner and tags Bret, who excellently executes a back-elbow, bodyslam, and legdrop, but Knobbs rakes his eyes and tags Saggs. Bret armdrags Saggs and works over the arm until Saggs pounds away to escape, but he gets caught in mid-leapfrog in what looked like a botched inverted atomic drop and falls down as the Hit Man stomps his lower intestine. Bret hangs Saggs in the tree of woe and stomps away while the referee is distracted with Knobbs, allowing Hart & Neidhart to pull the illegal switch without tagging as the Anvil chokes the upside-down Saggs. Monsoon claims he saw a tag, but Heenan & Hayes disagree with him as Saggs rolls out to the floor and Bret slams his head against the ringsteps while Knobbs & Jimmy Hart complain to the ref. This is like a tribute to their awesome heel run from ’86-’88, that’s a pretty cool concept for 1991.

Back inside, Saggs rakes Neidhart’s eyes and grapples with him to the Nastys’ corner to make the tag, as Knobbs takes control and knocks the Anvil out to the floor. Knobbs baits Bret into coming in the ring to keep the ref occupied while Saggs bashes Neidhart in the gut with Jimmy Hart’s motorcycle helmet at ringside. I would have aimed for the head myself, but what do I know? Bret helps Neidhart back in as Knobbs tags Saggs, who levels Neidhart with a back-elbow and applies a rear-chinlock, but the Anvil struggles to his feet and Saggs tags Knobbs, who goes right back to the chinlock. Neidhart battles back, but Knobbs holds Neidhart back from his corner and tags Saggs to cut the Anvil off and reapply the chinlock. Saggs bodyslams Neidhart and dives off the top turnbuckle, but Neidhart pulls the knees up to block the splash and makes the hot tag while Saggs tags Knobbs. The Hit Man unloads on both Nastys and snaps off the Russian legsweep on Knobbs before dropping the elbow off the middle turnbuckle for a pin attempt as Saggs comes in to make the save, but Bret moves and Saggs accidentally elbowdrops Knobbs. Neidhart charges in to knock Saggs through the ropes and the Foundation nail Knobbs with the Hart Attack, but Saggs breaks the pin again and Neidhart pounds him while the ref tries to usher the Anvil out to the apron. Meanwhile, Jimmy Hart throws the helmet in for Saggs, but Bret intercepts it and blasts Saggs. The ref turns to see Bret wielding the weapon, then decides to go back to arguing with Neidhart while Bret clobbers Knobbs and throws the helmet out at the Mouth Of The South. Bret covers Knobbs, but the referee calls for the bell at 11:46 and awards a disqualification victory to the Nasty Boys to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship. *** I haven’t seen their WMVII match in forever (not a big Nasty Boys fan) so I’m not sure how it compares, but this was pretty good with the cool bit of the Harts reverting back to their heelish ways.

– Backstage, Sean Mooney interviews Earthquake with Jimmy Hart, who claims that his Natural Disaster will put Andre the Giant back on the shelf if he interferes in tonight’s match against Jake Roberts and warns the Snake that Quake will squash Lucifer just like he squashed Damian. Earthquake admits that Andre being in Jake’s corner will be a “Giant distraction”, but promises to take them both out if need be.

– Mooney interviews Andre & Jake, who points out that Earthquake owes both of them so it won’t be his night tonight. Andre threatens Quake and states that his worst nightmare starts now.

– Mooney interviews the Barbarian & Haku. Cutting a rare promo himself, Haku denies that they’re just doing Bobby Heenan’s dirty work and states that they would do anything for the Brain because he’s the best manager. Barbarian adds in a heavy accent that Mr. Fuji can just sit back and watch while they destroy his Orient Express. Cool, a heel vs. heel match and one of the only times I can ever recall Haku or Barbarian cutting a promo. Now I see why they never talk.

– Mooney interviews the Undertaker with Paul Bearer, who explains that the Dead Man derives his power from any funeral-related object and Undertaker promises to fill his bodybag with the Ultimate Warrior in tonight’s Bodybag Match.

– Heenan is gone from the broadcast table as Monsoon explains that at last month’s MSG show, the Brain turned the managerial reigns of the Barbarian over to Mr. Fuji, but Fuji caused him to lose, setting up tonight’s tag team match featuring Fuji donning the tights again to wrestle alongside his Orient Express.

– The Warlord vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine

Poor Greg; his face turn early in ’91 led to him becoming basically a jobber to every midcard heel they could throw at him and I suspect it will be no different here, even though Warlord doesn’t have Slick with him. Warlord overpowers Valentine from the opening lockup, but the Hammer throws chops and tries in vain to shoulderblock the former Power Of Pain. Warlord attempts a big boot, but Valentine catches the foot and takes Warlord down. The muscular behemoth retreats to ringside while Heenan returns to the broadcast booth and announces that Tanaka is not in the building, so Mr. Fuji will have to wrestle in the tag match later. Back inside, Warlord knees Valentine in the midsection and clubs away with big forearms across the back, but Valentine gets his feet up when Warlord charges in the corner and staggers the big guy with a double-axhandle off the middle turnbuckle. Valentine unleashes a series of clotheslines and finally levels the Warlord with a running elbowsmash off the ropes, but Warlord kicks off a figure-four attempt as Heenan speculates that his legs are too powerful for that hold.

Warlord stomps Valentine out under the bottom rope and rams his back against the ringpost, but Valentine finally crawls back in and Warlord pounds away with heavy forearms to the chest and lower back. Backbreaker gets a two-count and the Warlord applies a bearhug, but Valentine fights out with an elbowsmash and Warlord sneaks in a kick to the gut to retain control, as the Hammer takes a Face-First Flair Flop bump after Warlord smashes his head against the turnbuckle. Warlord goes back to the bearhug and Valentine runs his hands over Warlord’s bald head, but there’s no hair to grab, so Valentine breaks the bearhug with an earclapper and Warlord bodyslams him. Warlord misses a dive off the middle turnbuckle and Valentine mounts a comeback with a flurry of fists, clotheslines, and an elbowsmash that knocks Warlord into the corner, where the Hammer throws chops and elbows. However, Warlord reverses an Irish-whip and “powerslams” Valentine for the three-count at 10:19. I put “powerslam” in quotes because it was really just a half-assed bodyslam but Gorilla called it a powerslam anyway. 1/2*

– Earthquake (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts (w/Andre the Giant)

Jake has his new snake, Lucifer, in a sack and Andre the Giant on crutches in his corner. Lots of stalling to start, as Earthquake keeps yelling for Andre to go back to the locker room until Andre finally takes the mic and informs the Natural Disaster that he’s going to be around for a “long, long, long” time, which gets a pop from the crowd. I hope the big guy got his money back from the Psychic Friends Network, since he died a year and a half later. After some more stalling, Jake grabs a headlock as Heenan wonders if Andre went to Transylvania or a Detroit auto plant for his knee surgery. The Snake unfurls a flurry of fists to wobble Earthquake and grabs the headlock again, but Quake shoves him off to the ropes and Jake decks him with a kneelift. Quake bails out to yell at Andre, but Jake throws him back in the ring and levels him with the short-arm clothesline as we get a “DDT” chant. However, Quake counters the DDT with an inverted atomic drop and crushes Jake by standing on his chest and shoulderblocking him in the corner, then drops a big elbow across the lower back while taunting the Giant.

Jake slithers out to the floor and Earthquake impressively climbs to the top turnbuckle, but decides not to jump. Back in the ring for more choking, stomping, and shoulderblocks in the corner, but Jake mounts a comeback by blocking Quake’s next charge with a pair of boots and uncorks some punches. The Natural Disaster avoids a kneelift and drops a big elbow off the ropes before jumping up and down around Jake’s carcass to signal his finisher. However, Quake stops to argue with Andre and Roberts drills him with the DDT for the 1-2-3 at 10:30. Afterwards, Earthquake knocks Jake out to the floor and grabs a chair as Andre threatens him with a crutch, but the Snake unleashes Lucifer and chases Quake up the aisle. Good thing Andre got over his fear of snakes. *1/2 for the surprisingly clean finish to blow off their feud, as Jake would turn heel over the summer and Earthquake spun off into the tag team scene with Typhoon.

– Kato & Mr. Fuji vs. Haku & The Barbarian

Mr. Fuji is still in the same basic shape he was as a wrestler and performs his ceremonial salt ritual before their opponents come out, but he suddenly turns and throws the salt in Heenan’s face at the ringside announce table. The Brain is livid and even Monsoon claims that there was no call for Fuji to do that. Heenan gives Barbarian & Haku some instructions and returns to the broadcast booth to explain that he told them to get rid of Kato and focus on Fuji. The Barbarian overpowers Kato and throws chops, but the masked man comes back with a pair of tomahawk chops off the middle turnbuckle and clotheslines that can’t knock down the former Power Of Pain. Barbarian catches Kato in a backbreaker and tags Haku, but Kato avoids an elbowdrop and they trade chops before Kato fires off a nice dropkick and tags Fuji. Haku immediately bodyslams Fuji and covers him, but Fuji gets his foot over the rope and Heenan shoves it off as Monsoon & Hayes warn him not to get his team disqualified. Barbarian headbutts Fuji from the apron and Haku covers him again, but once again Fuji gets his foot on the rope and Heenan pushes it off. Fuji steps out to the apron to argue with Heenan, but Barbarian chops him and Haku brings the Devious One back in with a delayed vertical suplex. Fuji avoids a diving headbutt off the middle turnbuckle and tags Kato, who pounds away and tosses Haku out to the floor.

Heenan tries to help up his former Family member, but Fuji chops the Brain across the throat and he sells it like he was shot with a gun. Back inside, Kato nails Haku with a spinning back-elbow and drags him to his corner to tag Fuji, who drops a headbutt to the lower abdomen. The inscrutable Asian tags Kato back in and he chokes Haku with the tag rope while the referee is busy with Barbarian. Heenan finally starts to get up at ringside, gasping for air, as Kato snapmares Haku for a one-count and applies a neckvice, but Haku fights out and Kato knees him in the gut. Jumping elbowdrop off the ropes gets two for Kato, as the Barbarian makes the save and Fuji tags in to strike Haku with his martial-arts offense. Kato tags back in and pounds away until Heenan trips him up from ringside and Haku elbowdrops Kato for the pinfall at 7:32. Afterwards, the two managers want to fight, but Haku & Barbarian hold Heenan back while Kato restrains Fuji. Being the Devious One he is, Fuji throws salt again and it hits Heenan & Haku before Fuji & Kato flee the scene. After regaining his senses, the Brain retrieves his jacket and leads the Barbarian & Haku on a chase up the aisle. * Not much of a match from a Smarky McWorkrate perspective, but the storyline was cool as hell (heel managers feuding in 1991? fuck yeah!) and more than made up for it, since this was really the only time Heenan was a quasi-face in the WWF that I can recall. It was also the only time I can remember Monsoon actually taking Heenan’s side of an argument, so that was unique.

– Bodybag Match: The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) vs. The Ultimate Warrior

Much like the Casket Matches that would come later, the goal here is to stuff the opponent in the bodybag to win the matchup. The Warrior tries to slide in under the ropes to enter the ring and the Undertaker stomps him, so Warrior drags Undertaker out to the floor instead and batters him around ringside as he rams him into the steps and the ringpost. Inside the ring, Warrior kicks away at Taker’s gut and slams his head against the turnbuckles, but the Dead Man no-sells all of it as he calmly stalks the Ultimate One like Michael Myers and clotheslines him down. Taker levels Warrior with a flying clothesline off the ropes and chokes him in the corner while Paul Bearer clutches the urn and moans at ringside. Warrior ducks a clothesline and bodyslams Taker, but runs into a boot in the corner and collapses as the Undertaker glares at him. Damn, he played the Undertaker character so perfectly you’d think he really did have formaldehyde running through his veins. Warrior avoids an elbowdrop, but misses one himself and Taker chokes him in the corner again.

Undertaker whips him across to the opposite corner and charges in, but Warrior gets the foot up and plants the Dead Man with a sweet piledriver. However, Taker does the old zombie situp and Warrior piledrives him again, but Taker sits up again. A third piledriver puts him down for good and Warrior attempts the big splash off the ropes, but Taker blocks it with a hand to the throat and Warrior collapses to the mat. Bearer gives the signal and Taker buries Warrior with the Tombstone before putting him in the bodybag, but Warrior fights it off at the last moment and unloads with a series of clotheslines as Bearer hops up on the apron. Warrior knocks Paul to the floor and grabs the urn, clobbering Undertaker with it before sealing him in the bodybag to win the Bodybag Match in 9:29. Afterwards, in a great horror-movie visual, Taker sits up in the bodybag and Bearer unzips it as the Dead Man glares around and stalks up the aisle. *1/2 Not a great match, but the 11-year-old mark in me loved it.

Afterthoughts: This was one of the better house shows I’ve seen due to the lack of Steve Lombardi/Barry Horowitz/Iron Mike Sharpe matches… don’t get me wrong, I love those guys and appreciate what they do, but they don’t make for the most exciting matchups. The Hart Foundation reunion and the Heenan/Fuji rivalry were the highlights for me, with everything else serving its purpose and combining to provide a damn good show, although it could be just the nostalgia talking.

Join me on my time travels and check out my other reviews on The Chrononaut Chronicles!