The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – Pro Wrestling USA presents Meadowlands Mayhem!
Taped from East Rutherford, NJ (04.19.85), drawing about 10,000.
Your hosts are Killer Ken Resnick and Doug McLeod.
Tonight’s main event is a UGANDAN DEATH MATCH. That’s a hell of a hook. I’ve got no idea what’s on this show, but it’s another unholy union of Jim Crockett and Verne Gagne talent so let’s just check it out and see what we get.
Pretty Boy Larry Sharpe v. Bobby Duncum
As always, Sharpe remains a fascinating case of someone who was nothing special in the ring, but ended up training a huge percentage of the top stars of the next decade at his school. Sharpe grabs a headlock to start, but Duncum takes him down and drops a knee. Sharpe catches him with a knee to the head and drops an elbow, but Duncum elbows him out of the ring and Sharpe thinks it over for a while. Duncum pounds away on the ropes and tosses Sharpe over the top and onto the announce table. This is somehow not a DQ, and in fact you can hear the timekeeper yell “GET THE FUCK OFF MY TABLE!” at Sharpe while he recovers, at which point Bobby pulls him in and finishes with a bulldog at 4:20. And then Sharpe bitches out the guy afterwards, telling him “Maybe you can talk to the other guys like that…” as we fade out. Oh man, I love stuff like that. This match, I didn’t love, as Duncum was way past the point where he needed to hang it up, and so was Sharpe. ½*
Steve Olsonoski & Tom Zenk v. The Wild Samoans
The Samoans get a giant babyface reaction and the actual babyfaces get booed out of the building. You can still hear the timekeeper bitching about the table, complaining to the announcers that it’s a safety hazard to have guys bumping onto it. That was cut out of the eventual broadcast version, I’d assume. Steve O tries an elbow off Afa’s head, and that goes badly for him. So then he tries to ram their heads together and that also backfires on him as the Samoans completely whoop him. Over to Zenk, as Afa works on his arm, and then Steve O comes in and the Samoans no-sell his stuff and Afa backdrops him. Back to Zenk, as Sika headbutts him into oblivion and finishes with the samoan drop at 5:18. This was a completely one-sided squash in every sense. ¼*
Kendo Nagasaki v. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Duggan is subbing for an “injured” Dusty Rhodes, so the crowd boos him. Well, he was working the next night in Atlanta according to cagematch, so it couldn’t have been a bad injury. Nagasaki uses a variety of martial arts, but Duggan comes back with shoulderblocks and finishes with the three point stance at 2:40. Nothing to this one. ½*
Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin v. Baron Von Raschke
Big stall to start and Baron goes after Precious, but gets jumped from behind by Garvin as we go to a wider angle with no broadcast commentary and a brightly-lit ring. Weird, especially since you can see Resnick and his partner at ringside actually doing commentary. Garvin chokes the Baron in the corner and gets a snapmare for two. To the chinlock as the crowd loses patience with the match already and starts chanting “boring”. Garvin beats on him in the corner and now the commentators have ceased commentating and are just watching the match. Baron goosesteps into his comeback and yanks Garvin out of the corner, then runs him into the turnbuckles 10 times and it appears to be time for THE CLAW. Garvin gets to the ropes to escape and finds an international object in his tights, and that finishes at 7:10. That was about as simple of a match as you’re gonna get. **
The High Flyers & Tonga Kid v. The Fabulous Freebirds
OK, this should be pretty great. Back to the ringside camera angle again for this one. Buddy gets double-teamed and takes some clown bumps in the babyface corner to start, and then Hayes comes in and does all his wacky stalling before getting a cheapshot on Tonga to take over. The Kid makes a comeback, but Gordy comes in to pound on him and then Tonga chops him down. Brunzell with a headlock on Gordy, but he gets slammed for his troubles. Back to the headlock, but this time Brunzell gets his own slam on Gordy and holds off the Freebirds while keeping the headlock on Gordy. This sets up the always-great spot where he takes Buddy down with a headscissors while headlocking Gordy, and the Freebirds run away and regroup. Back in with Gordy again, but he accidentally hits Hayes while trying to attack Brunzell, and then the Freebirds finally get the advantage by going 3-on-1. Because they’re HEELS. That’s a lost art these days. They work on the arm in the corner, but Brunzell makes the hot tag to Groovy Greg and he backdrops Hayes for two. Gordy immediately cuts him off with a knee from the apron and Hayes beats on him in the Freebird corner. Buddy with a backbreaker for two and Gordy gets a sideslam for two. And then the tape appears to break or something, and we cut to Gordy hitting Gagne with a hooking clothesline and Hayes holding a facelock in the heel corner. Gagne fights back on Gordy, but Buddy bulldogs him for two. Gagne gets another hope spot, but the Freebirds triple-team him in the corner again and Hayes gets the sleeper. Greg flips out of that, but Hayes goes back to it again, but the announcers note that Verne taught Greg the hold, so obviously he knows how to reverse it. And so he does. Gordy comes in with a bearhug, but Greg reverses to an atomic drop to escape and then kicks away from Roberts and it’s HOT TAG Tonga. He makes a great comeback and runs wild on the Freebirds with headbutts, setting up a double dropkick on Roberts, but Hayes & Gordy double-team Tonga Kid behind the ref’s back and get two. It’s a pier-six brawl, so the ref just calls for the no contest at 19:15. Damn it, it was just getting really great! ***1/2 Buddy is pretty pissed about this decision, yelling that “He came here to beat up some Yankees” and so is left unsatisfied by the result. This had great crowd heat and you have to love the scummy Freebirds in top form.
AWA World title: Rick Martel v. King Tonga
Back to the single camera wide angle with no commentary for this one. Tonga is being managed by Masked Superstar and Nick Bockwinkel is hanging around ringside to challenge the winner. With Martel, Haku and Ax all involved here it’s like a weird preview of the WWF’s tag team division two years later. Tonga attacks to start, but Martel gets a crossbody for two before he even has a chance to get his belt off! Tonga bails and regroups, but misses a blind charge back in the ring and Martel goes to work on the arm. And that goes on for a while as holds an armbar for about 3:00 until Tonga hits him in the gut and tries a hammerlock. Martel reverses that and goes back to the armbar again, but this time Tonga escapes with an enzuigiri and pounds the neck, then goes to a nerve pinch. And THAT goes on for a while. Tonga cuts off a comeback attempt with some chops and goes to a chinlock and the crowd is really bored of this. Martel gets a rolling reverse for two, but Tonga dumps him out to cut him off again. Martel with a sunset flip back in for two and a piledriver for two, and a delayed suplex gets two. Martel with an abdominal stretch, but Tonga escapes that, so Martel pounds the back and gets a backbreaker for two. He misses a dropkick and Tonga hits him with a gut wrench for two. Russian legsweep gets two. Martel comes back and slugs away in the corner, but Tonga runs him into the turnbuckles, which Martel reverses into a crossbody for the pin to retain at 13:25. This never really got going or went anywhere, but it was OK and average. **1/4
UGANDAN DEATH MATCH: Sgt. Slaughter v. Kamala
NO PINFALLS! NO SUBMISSIONS! NO DISQUALIFICATIONS! NO TIME LIMIT! LOSER GOES OUT ON A STRETCHER! If Slaughter actually gave a shit in 1985 this could be pretty fun. Not holding my breath for that. Kind of weird that guys like Duggan and Kamala were floating between here and Mid-South as needed at this point, which is a very strange thing to witness during these days of WWE locking everyone up to iron clad 5 year contracts. Sarge is seconded by noted former Nazi Baron Von Raschke, who is currently waving an American flag so I guess he’s OK. They trade chops to start and Sarge makes the fatal error of mocking Kamala’s belly slaps, so Kamala attacks him in the corner and chokes away. Slaughter takes his usual corner bump over the top rope. Back in, Kamala with the chops and choking as always while Slaughter assumes his favorite position at this point: Laying on the mat selling while mentally counting all his GI Joe money. Kamala keeps choking and chopping and the entire point of the match, the Texas Death stipulation, is completely ignored as there’s no attempts at the 10 count. Kamala gets a splash for two. What’s the point of a near-fall? You’re better off taking the pin and then using the 10 count to recover. Kamala beats Slaughter down again and gets another splash for two. Way to kill the gimmick, dumbass. Like he won’t even take a pinfall in a match where they literally don’t count? Slaughter makes the comeback and gets a dropkick, his one highspot after 10:00 of selling, and the Slaughter Cannon sets up the Cobra Clutch. Skandor Akbar takes the ref and then Slaughter chases after Billy Robinson, allowing Kamala to team up with him for a stuff piledriver on the floor. So at this point, Slaughter is counted out, and then he gets 30 seconds to recover and then gets another 10 count that he has to beat. So Slaughter seemingly beats the count, but Kamala kicks him out again and I guess he wins the match by countout at 13:20? That was a needless fuck finish on an already crappy match. Spoiler: Despite the stipulation being that the loser is the one who gets taken out on a stretcher, no one gets taken out on a stretcher. DUD
AWA Americas title: Larry Zbyszko v. Bob Backlund
Larry refuses to bring the belt to the ring, and I don’t know what that’s about, although the ring announcer notes that Larry is afraid of Backlund stealing it. Maybe he lost it at the airport or something and they had to come up with a storyline explanation? Was there even a belt? There was literally only two champions and Larry only got it in the first place so Slaughter could beat him for it. We get a mere 90 second stall from Larry and then he goes to a hammerlock, but Backlund reverses and they square off with threats of FISTICUFFS. But it’s Larry so no contact is actually made. Bob goes to a headlock as the announcers do a bizarre run about how Backlund did a fan vote to his home address trying to determine who the “real World champion” is, and all the fans thought it was Backlund. Who, by the way, is not the champion of this promotion. Pro Wrestling USA had two World champions already, Rick Martel and Ric Flair, and basically they’re saying that Backlund is above them because he’s still the WWF champion in the minds of the fans. What a strange tactic. Backlund works the arm for an extended period, but Larry dumps him and undoes a turnbuckle, and a neckbreaker gets two. Piledriver gets two and then we go to Larry’s usual chinlock for a bazillion minutes, but Backlund reverses out to a suplex. Zbyszko back to the chinlock, but Backlund escapes with an atomic drop for two. Backlund with a piledriver, but Larry gets into the ropes. So Bob PROCURES THE CHICKENWING, but Larry hides in the ropes again to break. Finally Larry just throws him over the top to get DQ’d at 14:00. Backlund looked so, so, so of a different era here, just a year removed from being WWF champion. It’s crazy how fast the business can change and leave someone behind. Match was OK. **1/2
This was interesting and a historical curiosity and I can always recommend it on that level, but Slaughter was just so obviously phoning it in at this point that it kind of sucked the life out of the show at the end. Nothing really bad or offensive here, so I’d call this one SKIM IT if you’ve got a couple of hours to check it out on the Network and you still think of Bob Backlund as a viable main eventer in 1985.