The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – MSG 03.20.83
Pretty intriguing main event for this one and we get dangerously close to the Hulkamania era, so let’s give it a look!
Taped from Madison Square Garden
Your host is Gorilla Monsoon
Baron Mikel Scicluna v. Mac Rivera
“Mac” Rivera is better known as Jose Luis Rivera, eternal job guy and half of the Conquistadors. So this is odd, because the show is edited down to 1 hour and 13 minutes, but they still include the national anthem before this match, and you’d think that they’d just cut it out. They trade headlocks on the mat and the Baron runs Rivera into the corner and slugs him down while we lose the commentary track. I’m assuming that’s the “technical difficulties” referred to in the opening. Rivera tries to fight back and Scicluna beats on him in the corner. Back elbow puts Rivera down, but he comes back and works the arm as Gorilla puts over the long career of Scicluna. Yeah but that was a LONG time before this. Baron takes over with a boot to the gut and a boot rake, but Rivera slugs away after polling the crowd and the referee as to whether he should do it. What are they gonna say, no? Scicluna chokes him out on the ropes and we get a weird cut to later in the match, as Scicluna is doing kneelifts where he can barely lift his leg. Rivera makes another comeback as the Baron can barely run the ropes at this point, and Rivera finishes with a sunset flip at 8:02. Scicluna was pretty immobile here and his career was done for good by the summer. *
Tony Garea v. Johnny Rodz
Wait, so Johnny Rodz in the WWE Hall of Fame but Tony Garea isn’t? You’d think they’d stick him in there at some point, if only in the “breaking up fights on TV” wing. That’s a very specific wing, of course. Johnny slaps him and runs away to start, hiding in the corner while he folds his shirt up, and then runs away again once he gets into the ring. He gets an eye rake but Garea is all fired up and sends him into the corner, at which point Rodz catches him with a shot to the ear and stomps away to take over. Rodz uses the dreaded armbar combined with a nerve pinch. How UNPREDICTABLE! Garea fights free and makes a comeback, but Rodz puts him down with a knee to the gut and then misses a splash. This allows Garea to go to work on the arm now while Gorilla reminisces about Garea’s luxurious head of hair and how he couldn’t resist pulling it back in his day. Garea gets away from the hairpulling fiend and then takes him down with another armbar before pounding him with forearms. But then Rodz hits him with a forearm and then immediately pops up to the middle rope and drops a leg for two. That was pretty slick, but as Gorilla notes, it took the ref six seconds to get into position! Rodz with a flying elbow for two as he keeps yelling at the referee for his shitty positioning, actually telling him in advance that he’s going for the pin so that the ref can get ready! Normally I make fun of Gorilla for getting so triggered by the refs but in this case he’s justified. Garea misses a splash and Rodz gets two from that, but then celebrates like he won. Garea dropkicks him into the corner as a result and makes the comeback with the atomic drop as Rodz staggers into the ropes and collapses while selling. That gets two. Garea tries a backdrop and Rodz boots him in the head and flies to the top with an elbow, but he tries a second one and Garea hits him on the way down and rolls him up for the pin at 10:52. Pretty enjoyable match thanks to Rodz and his innovative offense. **1/2
Superstar Billy Graham v. Jules Strongbow
We are of course deep into KUNG FU BILLY GRAHAM at this point, as he completely changed his look and gimmick and looks a million years old here. What a weird change that was. Like he literally went from one of the most iconic and influential looks in wrestling history to ripping off a fad TV show. Graham also looks GAUNT here, clearly off the steroids and then some. Jules was one of the classic cases in wrestling of being the right guy in the right place at the right time, as he was nothing guy in the AWA named Frank Hill, but happened to move to the WWWF when Jay Strongbow needed a tag team partner, and there ya go, suddenly he’s a Native American who makes his own moccasins between shows according to Gorilla. Sometimes it really is that easy. Strongbow slugs him down in the corner and works the arm for a while, but Graham rakes the eyes and goes for the bearhug. Jules escapes that and goes back to the arm. Superstar uses his martial arts for a while, but Jules gets the chops and hooks a sleeper, which the crowd goes nutso for. Graham runs him into the corner to break, but Graham hits him with a JUDO CHOP OF DEATH and pins him at 8:48. Gorilla claims this would have been an automatic DQ had the ref seen it, but I guess Graham dramatically waving his arms afterwards disguised it. Graham looked pretty awful here. ½*
Meanwhile, Superstar does a post-match promo where he complains about wanting BETTER and stronger competition who won’t go down so fast from the Superstar Chop.
Meanwhile, Vince McMahon interviews Sal Bellomo about his big match, NEXT!
Salvatore Bellomo v. Ray Stevens
Yeah I’m not liking Sal’s chances here. I didn’t even realize Stevens did a WWF stint at this point, although he wasn’t around for long. Stevens slugs away in the corner, but Sal fires back with a dropkick and chases Ray into the corner. Sal works a headlock, but Stevens hits him with a slam, so Sal gets his own and goes back to the headlock. Stevens fights out of that and goes for a dropkick, but Sal counters with his own and they’re both down. Stevens tries a slam and Sal falls on him for two before going to a chinlock and really grinding on it. Meanwhile, Gorilla attempts to describe the excruciating pain of cauliflower ears and what’s involved in them, but then admits that he’s never actually had one of them. That’s a wrestler story in a nutshell for you. Ray goes to an armbar and pulls the hair to keep the advantage, but the ref sees it and forces the break. They fight on the apron and slug it out and Stevens teases the PILEDRIVER ON THE APRON, which is like the ultimate nuclear option in 1983, causing the crowd to shriek in horror. But Sal backdrops him into the ring again, although they’re both counted out at 8:00. Not sure why they were protecting Bellomo here. Match was OK. **
WWF title, TEXAS DEATH MATCH: Bob Backlund v. Magnificent Muraco
Muraco was IC champion at this point, although only the big belt is on the line. Backlund now has the ugly green monstrosity belt, one of the worst designs ever. I’m really glad Hogan ditched that thing as soon as he won it. Backlund immediately grabs a headlock and cranks on it like crazy, actually getting the crowd to count along as he wrings it out. Muraco tries to slam out, but Bob hangs on and takes him down again for two. Muraco tries to get out of the ring, so Bob drags him back in while still holding the move. Muraco hits a backbreaker, but Backlund won’t let go of the move and takes him down again. Bob continues putting the squeeze on him and Muraco tries to throw him off the ropes, but Bob slips under the top rope and blocks it while still holding the headlock. I have literally never seen that counter before. Meanwhile Gorilla notes that Arnold Skaaland is a “a household name in wrestling today, respected by all”. Really? I don’t think he was considered a particularly big star even in his own time, I’m not sure why they had to put him over so big at this time. Muraco finally breaks free and runs to the top rope, but Bob pops up there and snatches him down with another headlock. I will say, I’m always a sucker for guys tenaciously hanging onto a headlock in inventive ways. It doesn’t always work, especially if they’re not doing anything interesting with it, but Bob has busted out some cool counters here. Muraco tries to lift him up for a slam, but Bob just wrings the headlock again to bring him down. Finally Muraco uses the tights to escape and sends him to the apron, but then slams him back into the ring and Bob turns it into a cradle for two. And then gets his own slam. And then he takes Muraco down with the headlock again. OK, it’s a Texas Death Match, time to move past the headlock since we’re at 11:00 into the match already. Finally Muraco goes with what he knows and hits a low blow to break free. Gorilla thinks the ref could stop the match right there. Is he even paying attention to the rules of the match? I think someone (and we can probably guess who) actually corrects him in his earpiece, because he immediately clarifies that it’s no DQ and nothing is illegal. Muraco tosses him and drops him on the railing while Gorilla makes fun of the referee for chastising Muraco. “Was he not informed that this was a Texas Death match?” Were YOU not informed, Gorilla, when you going on about the low blow? Muraco tries to climb the ropes and attack Backlund on the outside, but the ref pulls him down. “Referee Dick Krohl not doing his job, which is nothing!” You said it, Gorilla! Muraco finally just goes out and tries to get Backlund, but Bob runs him into the post and they slug it out on the floor, as Muraco gigs and Backlund drops him on the railing. Gorilla notes that he’s busted open, bleeding profusely, and spewing blood all over the Garden floor, all of which are super exaggerated. Blood is LITERALLY POURING OUT of his head, notes Gorilla, as once again he is unaware of the meaning of “literally”. Bob pounds on the cut, but charges for the big punch and Muraco catches him with the powerslam for two. Muraco decides to head to the top rope again, but Bob slams him off and does an OVER THE SHOULDER BODY VICE?!? Muraco escapes from that with a bridge, but Bob procures the chicken wing and then finishes him off with a bridging german suplex at 19:52 to retain. Took a while to get going but it ended up being a hell of a match. ***1/2
This was a decidedly OK MSG show, but kind of neat to see Ray Stevens on it.