The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Old School – MSG 10.25.76
Bruno AND Andre on the same show? Sold. Also this was exactly 44 years ago today, so why not.
Taped from Madison Square Garden
Your host is Vincent Kennedy McMahon Jr.
The Unpredictable Johnny Rodz v. Manuel Soto
I’m not familiar with Soto, but he appears to be a journeyman from Puerto Rico. Rodz declines to engage for the first little bit, hiding in the ropes and then walking along the middle rope to remain out of bounds. We get some fisticuffs and Rodz hits him with a cheapshot and pounds away on him on the ropes, completely ignoring the sanctity of the ropes after hiding in them for the first couple of minutes. Well that’s why he’s the heel I guess. Rodz stops to strut and beats him down again, never doing anything beyond punching and kicking him. I should note that Vince, even in 1976, was talking about the babyface needing to “build momentum”, so it’s been a long time. Indeed Soto does fight up and slugs away in the corner, and Rodz bumps over the top rope and out to the apron. He tries to go to the top, but Soto slams him off and follows with a backdrop. Rodz tries a splash and misses, twice, and Soto gets one. They collide for the double down and Soto makes another comeback, but misses a blind charge. And then Rodz throws him out of the ring and Soto manages to get his head tied up in the ropes on the way out. Those are some LOOSE cables. Rodz hits him with a knee to the gut, but Soto comes back with a dropkick and bodypress for the pin at 10:39. Rodz decides to keep attacking, so Soto beats on him some more and sends him packing. Totally decent curtain jerker. **
Bobo Brazil v. Gashouse Gilbert
I believe we’ve run into Doug “Gashouse” Gilbert before, who shares a name with the later wrestler but isn’t related as far as I know. Bobo was introduced as the “US Heavyweight champion” but the timeline doesn’t match up with Bobo’s reigns for any of the multiple versions of the title floating around at that time so who the hell knows. Given that there was the Mid-Atlantic version, the Detroit version, the San Francisco version, the Toronto version, and probably a few others I’m missing, it’s entirely possible that he was SOME version of a US champion in October 1976. I have no idea which one would be recognized by the WWWF in New York at that point, though. They exchange forearms to start and Gilbert wins that battle on the ropes and goes to work with a wristlock while stepping on Bobo’s fingers. Bobo slugs back in the corner, so Gilbert goes to work on the wristlock again and then goes to the top. That proves to be stupid as Bobo immediately pops up and slams him off, but Gilbert beats him down on the ropes. This is boring so I look up what the hell a “gashouse” is supposed to be, because if you google it now all you get is online weed stores. Turns out that the term is a long gone American colloquialism for a seedy part of town where lowlifes get into fights. That’s a pretty good heel nickname, then! Of course it also fell out of usage completely about the time of this show. Bobo finally has had enough and finishes with the Coco Butt at 8:09.
Tor Kamata v. Jose Gonzales
Personal fact time: My friend at the time went to the same church as Kamata here in Saskatoon near the end of Tor’s life, and used to tell me what a nice guy that he was. Kamata apparently claimed to have played Oddjob, which I found confusing at the time because Harold Sakata was far more famous and I was pretty sure he wasn’t attending an LDS church in Sasatchewan, given that he had been dead for decades, but I can see where a wrestler might lie about that sort of thing because they looked a bit alike. Sadly, Kamata died in 2007, before I could get a chance to meet him, because I had watched a lot of him in Stampede over the years and it would have been pretty cool regardless. Of course, Jose Gonzales is not a nice guy, and in fact he’s a murdering piece of shit who can burn in hell. Kamata does the evil Japanese stall forever, with two salt ceremonies, but Gonzales takes him down with some armdrags until Kamata hits him with a throat thrust to take over and goes to work with a nerve pinch. Jose fights out, but Kamata puts him down again with a KARATE KICK and finishes with an Oriental splash at 8:09. This was setting up Kamata as Bruno’s next challenger of the month, I believe. Kamata beats Gonzales down further after the win, but Vince assures us that he’ll be all right. Well that’s a shame. *
Stan Hansen v. Ivan Putski
Stan was coming off his cage match loss to Bruno at the last show, which was a hell of a match by the way, and Gorilla Monsoon is the special referee here for whatever reason. Putski blitzes him to start and beats on him in the corner as the crowd goes apeshit, but Hansen fires back and Gorilla is already losing control of this thing. COME ON REF! Putski takes him down and beats on him, but Hansen clobbers him with an elbow to take over and he proceeds to dropping knees on him for two. Putski fights back and the crowd is NUTS for this, and then Putski grabs a headlock and cranks on that. Interesting that Putski had been a comedy figure like Otis is today, but at this point suddenly was turning into the bodybuilder figure that most people would know him as later. Hansen fights out of the headlock, but Putski backdrops him and goes right back to the hold again and he’s CRUSHING Stan with it. Now that’s how you do a headlock! Stan finally drops him on the top rope to escape, and Gorilla immediately calls for the DQ at 6:35. So Hansen attacks the Gorilla and I don’t have to tell you how THAT works out for him. Hint: Not well. Well, I’ll say that Gorilla certainly put the money where his mouth is here, immediately calling for a DQ for a gross infraction. Nothing great here but the crowd was crazy for it. *1/2
WWWF title: Bruno Sammartino v. Nikolai Volkoff
I don’t know how serious of a challenger Volkoff would have been viewed as at the time, but I’m sure the answer is “not much”. Interesting that Lou Albano is managing the Russian here, as I would have thought that it would be Freddie Blassie or the Grand Wizard at this point. Bruno takes him down and works for the leglock, but Volkoff suckers him into a test of strength and then hits him with a cheapshot and takes over on the mat. Bruno makes the ropes, so Nikolai gives him a few more kicks and drops a few knees for good measure. “The fans are a little bit disappointed in Bruno at this moment”, notes Vince. Well New York fans are pretty fickle. Bruno reverses him into a pair of cradles on the mat for two, which frustrates Volkoff, and this time Volkoff tries another test of strength and BRUNO hits him with a cheapshot and beats on him! Oh that’s great. So this time they legitimately do the test of strength, with everyone having learned their lesson, but Bruno knees him in the face and the crowd is pretty happy with that. Bruno with the armbar, but Volkoff wins a power battle and knocks him down. So Bruno takes him down with another armbar and keeps him on the mat. Volkoff does a nice bridge to escape, and actually manages to overpower Bruno again with the test of strength. So Bruno powers out of that, and Volkoff beats him down again. They slug it out and Bruno wins that battle as you’d expect, but Volkoff falls in the ropes. Bruno charges in again but walks into a bearhug this time, and he actually squeezes his hands around Volkoff and gets his own! That’s a unique counter, but Volkoff immediately pokes him in the eye to break. They collide and both guys are down, and Bruno gets two. Bruno rams his head into the mat and boots him down a few times. TAKE THAT FOR BEING RUSSIAN, YOU COMMIE! Volkoff begs off, but Bruno is HOT BLOODED and slugs away in the corner, at which point Volkoff declares himself the winner for some reason. And then he hits Bruno with a headbutt to the gut and beats him down again. Ah, crafty. Volkoff with the headlock on the mat and then he boots Bruno down while telling him to get up. There’s an inherent contradiction there. Does he want him to stay down or get up? Must be a language barrier. Volkoff whips him into the corner for two and continues beating him down, but Bruno has had enough of this shit and reverses another corner whip, sending him into the turnbuckles and rolling him up for the pin at 18:00 to retain. This was a really good match, like shockingly good considering how bad Volkoff got later in this career. There was a heavily edited version on the Bruno video I reviewed recently, but the full version is far better. ***1/2
Baron Mikel Scicluna v. Victor Rivera
Vince promises all kinds of great action in the upcoming months here on “Home Box Office”, whatever THAT is. Scicluna immediately charges into the corner and misses, injuring his knee, and he backs off to the apron and calls for time. Where’s Gorilla when you need him? Back in, the Baron finds a foreign object and moves it from his tights to his armpit to hide it from the ref, and Vince gets a funny, noting that the smell alone would knock out the opponent. So Scicluna grabs a headlock and hits Rivera with the object to take over, which looks like cheating to Vince from Our Vantage Point. Rivera fights back, so the Baron pulls out the object again and gets another shot on the ropes. The Baron pounds away on the back and Rivera bails to the apron, so Scicluna runs him into the post and that looked kind of nasty. Rivera fights back from the apron and runs the Baron into the turnbuckles and makes the comeback off that, dropping a knee and then tying him up in the ropes. This allows him to go into Scicluna’s tights and steal the object, and that gets the pin at 6:41 before proudly holding up the object. Maybe you should HIDE it, dummy. Vince of course has no problem with this miscarriage of justice because it happened to the heel. *
Best 3 out of 5 falls: The Executioners & Bruiser Brody v. Jay Strongbow, Billy White Wolf & Andre the Giant
Well this is quite the six-man. I feel like this was on a “Most Unusual Matches” Coliseum video at some point or maybe a “Best of the WWF” one. The Executioners are Big John Studd and Killer Kowalski under masks, and White Wolf is the future Sheik Adnan, playing an Indian babyface at this point. Because wrestling. Brody is looking kind of THICC at this point, perhaps not yet into his famous all-tuna diet here in 1976. We’ve got a TWO HOUR time limit here, although there’s only 20 minutes left in the show so I’m assuming it doesn’t go quite that long. Kowalski beats on White Wolf and traps him in the corner to start, and Brody comes in and pummels him. The Executioners double-team him, but it’s over to Strongbow and he gets double-teamed as well. But then Andre comes in and just wrecks everyone’s shit but good, bearhugging Brody until the Executioners break it up. So Andre goes over and beats on THEM while Brody bumps all over the ring. Andre sandwiches him in the corner while Strongbow adds splashes, but the heels all team up and triple-team Andre on the ropes. They go to work on the leg, but Vince isn’t worried. “They’re only 300 pounds” he notes. See, Vince can have a sense of humor when he wants to. Andre finally shoves Kowalski off and makes the tag to White Wolf, reaching from halfway across the ring to do so, and White Wolf gets a slam for one. But then Kowalski drops a knee on him and gets the first fall at 9:00.
Second fall and the heels continue working White Wolf over, but we get a melee and White Wolf pins an Executioner at 11:30 to even it up.
Third fall and the babyfaces get themselves all psyched up, but then the Executioners try to pull a fast one. I know referees are blind but it’s not exactly hard to tell the difference between John Studd and craggy old Killer Kowalski’s bodies. Everyone quickly gets into a brawl and Andre beats on poor Bruiser Brody in the corner, but White Wolf again falls victim to a double-team because he’s apparently too dumb to tag out. Studd takes him down with a snapmare for two, but White Wolf wraps him up in a leglock and the heels quickly save. Over to Strongbow, who gets a sleeper on Studd, but Brody saves that one. Kowalski gets a stomach claw on Strongbow while Andre stands on Studd, and the ref calls for a DQ at 16:10 and awards the fall to the babyface side. Vince diplomatically thinks this is bullshit but he’s like “Well, what can ya do?”
Fourth fall and Strongbow starts with Brody this time, but quickly gets distracted and trapped in the heel corner for some shenanigans with the tag rope, but Strongbow fights back on Brody with chops before the Executioners cut him off again. Strongbow fights out of the corner but the heels all cling on him and hold him there, until Andre charges in and fights them off for the Chief. Studd stupidly whips Strongbow into the babyface corner, at which point an annoyed Andre tags himself in and just destroys Studd with a big boot and splash to finish it at 21:00. DO NOT FUCK WITH ANDRE THE GIANT. I cannot stress that enough, people of the 70s. The match was mostly just filling time at the end of the show. **
Another enjoyable MSG show that proves once again that Bruno was great and Andre was terrifying. So about what I expected. Made me really want to see an Andre v. Brody singles match in the Garden, though! Of course I went searching and it doesn’t appear they met very many times, and certainly nothing that would have been on the Network. Too bad.