January 28, 2006
Dusty Rhodes vs. Superstar Billy Graham
Madison Square Garden
October 24, 1977
For many years Iíve heard about how highly this match was regarded. Prior to Grahamís recent DVD release, the only match between the two I had seen was the bullrope match from MSG held the following year. And letís just say it left something to be desired considering Chief Jay Strongbow was the biased guest ref and the match ended on a count-out after only 6 minutes.
So here we are Ė October 1977. Superstar Billy Graham is 6 months into his reign as champion, a reign that took him all over North America Ė from St. Louis to Houston to Tampa to Toronto. During those first few months he fended off challengers such as Chief Jay Strongbow, Tony Garea, Gorilla Monsoon, Ivan Putski, Jack Brisco, Peter Maivia, Bobo Brazil, Larry Zbyzsko, Haystacks Calhoun, Ken Patera, Bob Backlund, and even the great Bruno Sammartino.
If there was one rising star that had the credibility to take Grahamís title it was ďThe American DreamĒ Dusty Rhodes. A superstar in Florida, Rhodes became an instant hit in the WWWF when he debuted earlier that year. The two great showmen locked up in September 77 with Grahamís title on the line. Dusty emerged victorious after 15 minutes of action but, as it was via count-out, Superstar retained his title.
The rematch would be contested under Texas Death Match rules. Two men enter, only one emerges victorious. And this time there would be a clear-cut winner.
Dusty is in the ring wearing a red Ric Flair-like sequined robe which reads ďDustyĒ on the back.
A much younger Vince McMahon pulls the challenger aside and interviews him on the ring apron prior to Grahamís entrance, crediting Rhodes for there being 22,000 in attendance tonight. Dusty then gives his own short Superstar Billy Graham-esque promo.
Graham, chewing bubble gum, and manager the Grand Wizard are met by a chorus of boos but with audible whistles and cheers thrown in as well. The champion is wearing a orange and black outfit, custom made for Halloween. John Stanley is the referee for the contest.
The Wizard attempts to take the shirt off Graham but Dusty uses it as an opportunity to Pearl Harbor the champion. Rhodes fights off a retaliation moments later and uses a number of elbows to knock the champion down in the corner, then pauses to trash talk him as the fans go wild. In the melee, the Wizard returns backstage, as was customary for all managers at the time not named Arnold Skaaland.
Superstar rolls out to the floor to halt the momentum and when he takes too long getting back in Rhodes goes outside to encourage him. Back inside the ring, Graham catches Rhodes in a headlock and lands a blow to the forehead that sends the challenger out to the floor. The champ locks Dusty in a headlock outside the ring and attempts to run him into the ring apron but the challenger fluidly slides out of it and rolls Superstar back inside the squared circle where he continues his assault with a series of punches, knees to the head, and a young Flip, Flop, and Fly.
The champ continues to play the cowardly heel and begs off from Rhodes, eventually landing a sucker punch to the midsection. Moments later, Graham sends Rhodes into the ring post on the floor and then into the retaining barrier as Vince reminds us that the match is no holds barred.
Superstar drags a rope out from underneath the ring and begins to choke the challenger while at the same time biting away at a cut on the challengerís forehead. Seeing his opening, the champ locks Dusty in a bearhug, which the challenger breaks after landing three elbows to the head. And then itís Dusty, not Graham, who uses the rope to hang the champ from the ring apron (a scene which played a heavy part in this DVD not being released in the UK Ė topless women in tabloid magazines are fine but scenes of strangulation are bad, go figure).
Graham rolls to the floor but is caught by Dusty, who proceeds to pummel away at a laceration on the championís forehead. A series of elbows inside the ring leave Graham reeling.
Big Dust, now in full control of the match, senses his opportunity is at hand and lands a calculated and powerful fist drop to the temple of the champion before confidently raising his hand in the air. With 8 minutes removed, Rhodes falls on top of the champion for the first cover of the match but Graham wraps his legs around the bottom rope to avoid the pinfall.
Moments later Dusty attempts a second cover, this time with his feet on the ropes, but the referee notices and refuses to make the cover. The challenger plays to the crowd, believing he has won the title, and argues with Stanley over the call when he realizes the match is still going (and technically, since it is No DQ, wouldnít feet on the ropes be allowed?).
A bloody and bruised Superstar staggers to his feet and, in one last desperate attempt, charges head-first into the challenger, knocking both men to the mat. 10 seconds later, after struggling to raise his body, Graham drapes his arm across the chest of the challenger. The 1-2-3 follows and the match is over at 9:13.
Dusty immediately rises to his feet, as though the ringing of the bell brought him out of unconsciousness, knocks Graham to the mat and follows with three big elbow drops. Rhodes makes the cover, not realizing the match has ended. When the referee fails to make the count, Dusty knocks the champion to the floor.
Stanley raises Grahamís arm in victory and all three individuals head backstage. The champion is announced as the winner of the bloody contest as Vince regards the victory as being controversial (itís about the cleanest controversial finish Iíve ever seen).
Good stuff here. A well worked match between two icons with tons of crowd heat. Itís the Rock / Triple H of its time in that you had the young immensely popular babyface against the cool heel world champion both of which, at least in this case, revolutionized the art of the promo. All you have to do is watch this match and youíll see that both Graham and Dusty, while both had successful runs in the WWWF, could have done much larger business had their feud continued. For that matter, the same could be said of Superstarís title reign.