The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – Maple Leaf Gardens 04.21.85
Hey, my special “Not RAW or Nitro or Smackdown” week continues as I explore the territories in the mid-80s. This morning it’s a show from Maple Leaf Gardens in the thick of Hulkamania.
Taped from Toronto, ON
Your hosts are Jack Reynolds & Jesse Ventura
George Welles v. Bret Hart
This show must be taped for the early days of Prime Time Wrestling, which would explain the Reynolds /Ventura commentary team. Welles is announced as being a former member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, which the crowd cheers for. Obviously they’ll cheer for anything if those losers get a pop. Welles works a hammerlock while our announcers question the family relation between Bret Hart and Jimmy Hart. Welles dumps Bret to the floor when Bret tries to escape that hammerlock, and then he goes right back to it. Bret takes him into the corner and Welles nice a nifty ropewalk with his hands and takes Bret to the floor with a headscissors, then brings him back in with a flying headscissors for two. Not bad! Welles works a headlock, but Bret hits the hooking clothesline and drops the leg to take over. Bret goes to work and drops the elbow for two before choking him down and raking the eyes on the ropes. This draws the approval of the Body, who also enjoyed raking the eyes back in the day. Sadly, Bret wastes this goodwill and pride by going for a pin and not hooking the leg, and Jesse retracts his admiration. So fickle. Bret with a chinlock, but Welles escapes with a backbreaker, so Bret drops an elbow on him to cut that off. Bret with his own backbreaker to show him how it’s done and he goes up, but Welles slams him off to make the comeback. He gets the headbutt and a powerslam for two. Shoulderblock and Bret is out, but Welles goes after Jimmy and Bret rolls him up and grabs the tights for the pin at 9:07. Pretty good opener! **1/2
The Dream Team v. Tito Santana & Ricky Steamboat
OK, we’ve now got Gorilla & Jesse on commentary and I know I’ve reviewed this particular match before somewhere. This is a strange Frankenstein-ed show. This was of course before the fateful cigar to the face that made Valentine & Beefcake into the champs. Interesting to note that Jimmy Hart is the manager of record at this point, not Johnny V, because Valentine was still the IC champion. Gorilla gets all his clichés in early, as this is a main event anywhere in the country and the crowd is literally hanging from the rafters. The crowd chants “Fruitcake” at Brutus, which I’m kind of surprised never caught on. Brutus hides from Steamboat in the corner to start, and they criss-cross into a hiptoss from Steamboat, and the heels bail. Back in, Dragon hits Brutus with the flying chop, into a shot from Tito, and then he whips Brutus into Tito’s knee. The faces double-team with an elbow and Tito rings Beefcake’s ears and rams him into the mat. Tito with the facelock and Beefcake backs off and gets advice from Valentine. I believe he said “Make sure to suck up to Hogan any chance you get”.
Beefcake slams Tito and it’s over to Valentine, but Tito was playing possum and he fires away to send the Hammer running to the floor. The heels regroup and Valentine pounds away on Santana with forearms, but Tito fires back with a clothesline and then whips him into a chop from Steamboat. Tito with a headbutt to set up the figure-four, but Valentine kicks out of it and drops the Hammer. That gets two. Hammer with the shoulderbreaker and it’s back to Beefcake, who does his usual choking and punching to earn his pay. Steamboat gets morally offended as usual and thus distracts the ref, and Tito takes more of a beating as a result. Man, these are two guys who know EXACTLY how to milk every bit of babyface sympathy of a crowd. Beefcake knocks Steamboat off the apron for a dramatic sell from the Dragon, and then beats on him outside while Valentine abuses Santana in the ring. Back to the heel corner, Valentine holds an armbar on Tito and Beefcake comes in with a headlock, then accuses Steamboat of poor sportsmanship, which AGAIN draws Dragon in, but this time it backfires on the heels into a hot tag and Ricky is PISSED.
Chops for everyone and he suplexes Beefcake to set up a flying chop, into the sleeper. But Valentine nails him from behind to break it up, and they slug it out. And of course Steamboat goes down first, as Valentine adds a mean looking punt to the ribs and a gutbuster for two. Over to Beefer again and they double-team him in the corner, into an atomic drop from Valentine that gets two. They keep whipping him back into the corner and Beefcake adds a pretty nice clothesline, helped out by Steamboat’s ragdoll physics sell, and Valentine comes in with a forearm from the top. Elbow off the middle rope and he yanks Steamboat off the ropes to allow him the figure-four. Steamboat reverses for two and then tries for the tag instead of fighting from behind, because he’s SMART. The heels cut him off, however, and Steamboat again fights them off, and again it’s just enough to go for the tag instead of trying for the glory alone. Hot tag Tito and it’s the flying forearm for Valentine, but Beefcake saves at two. Brutus dumps Steamboat and they beat on Tito, but he comes back in with a flying chop on Brutus to get rid of him. Tito meanwhile gets the figure-four on Valentine and the crowd nearly RIOTS out of joy. Holy SHIT. Valentine gives up at 15:36 because otherwise I think the crowd would have rushed the ring and killed him. Man, Tito and Ricky could have been one of the greatest babyface tag teams ever. They shouldn’t have been, but they COULD’VE been. ***1/2 If you’re into the old school tag team goodness, check this one out post-haste.
WWF title: Hulk Hogan v. Paul Orndorff
This is the post-Wrestlemania 1 heel version of Orndorff, not the more famous heel turn in late 86, of course. Hulk is wearing the 85 Hulk belt, but Real American is overdubbed so it must have been during the brief period with the entrance music between Eye of the Tiger and Real American. The one with the piano riff and chorus of “HULK! HULK!” But then one never knows with the Network these days. Hogan chases Orndorff out of the ring immediately by jumping him before the bell like a real hero, and Wonderful thinks it over outside. Paul hides in the corner claiming a head injury. Maybe he’s concussed, Hogan! I hope he sues for millions later on. Not that Hulk had much left after Linda’s legal team got through with him. Orndorff goes back to the ramp to continue recovering from his head injury, and we really should have a doctor stop the match and give him IMPACT testing. Back in, and of course Hogan works a headlock like a monster, on a guy with a potential head or neck injury, and Orndorff hits the floor again clutching his head. GET THIS MAN SOME MEDICAL ATTENTION. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Back in, Hogan continues hitting a concussed man in the head and follows with a corner clothesline to further injure the neck, and then HEADBUTTS him. YOU SICK BASTARD. This jerk is worse than 10 Hitlers. Or Nia Jax.
No, sorry, that’s going too far. Even Hulk isn’t that dangerous.
Finally Orndorff fights back in his fog of concussion and drops elbows on Hogan, then desperately throws him to the floor to escape the bloodthirsty monster trying to deliberately cripple him and end his career. Orndorff stomps him down outside, probably barely even able to remember his own name at this point after the cheating and abuse from Hogan, and of course Hulk stays out there hiding like the yellow coward that he is. He’s even wearing yellow gear! Talk about someone who can dish it out by can’t take it. Back in, Orndorff valiantly chokes him out and follows with a suplex, then drops a knee on his throat, hoping to end the scourge of Hulkamania before it can end any more careers too early like this one. This man is a true hero. Sadly, Hulk rams his head into the turnbuckles a bunch of times, completely disregarding the injury that he himself caused, but he misses an elbowdrop because karma is a bitch. Orndorff goes up to finish, but tragically his equilibrium is messed up by Hogan’s cowardly tactics, and Hogan is able to roll through for the pin to retain at 10:11. You beat an injured and possibly crippled man, I hope you’re proud. Asshole. Afterwards, Orndorff is so messed up by the concussion that he offers a handshake, obviously not remembering what a treacherous snake that Hogan really is, but thankfully after giving Hogan a sportsmanlike handshake because he’s the bigger and better man, he escapes without Hogan stabbing him in the back. Anyway, this was pretty good, too. ***
Hell of a show, and it only runs an hour, so it’s well worth checking out on the Network!