September 18, 2008
The War To Settle The Score, February 18, 1985, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon & Mean Gene Okerlund
Obviously this isnít a PPV, but itís the MSG house show that was used to set up Wrestlemania. Basically itís the 1985 equivalent of No Way Out. Itís also a big deal because the main event is being broadcast, not only locally on the MSG Network, but nationwide on MTV. Itís a very historically important show, because without Mr. T here to do the big angle, in front of such a big audience, Wrestlemania would not have been nearly the success that it was. The MTV broadcast drew a 9.1 rating, which is mind boggling to think about, and may have been responsible for generating a good number of new fans. So we know that the main event will deliver (angle wise anyways), but letís see how the rest of the show holds up.
Opening Match: Moondog Spot vs. ďQuick DrawĒ Rick McGraw
McGraw is a really sad case in wrestling history as his life was just filled with drug issues, and he ended up dying about 9 months later, leaving behind a baby daughter. I always wondered why he didnít get more of a push because he had the physique that McMahon liked, but maybe even Vince realized that it was just a matter of time before something happened? We start the match with Spot and the ref having a discussion on getting rid of the bone. First lockup gets a clean break. Second one sees Spot get a side headlock. McGraw takes him down from there and gets a 1 count with a surprise pin. Lockup again, and this time McGraw grabs an armbar. He holds this for awhile before getting sent off the ropes and coming back off with a shoulderblock. He comes off the ropes again and gets a crossbody for 1, and then an armdrag back to the armbar. McGraw switches to a hammerlock, and then goes back to the armbar. Spot forearms out of it and comes off the ropes, but gets slammed. He begs off, but McGraw is on him, landing a few shots before Spot catches him with an inverted atomic drop. Irish whip and McGraw comes off and tries a sunset flip, but Spot blocks and falls on top for 2. Rear chinlock by Spot, from which McGraw punches out, but then runs in to a knee. They slug it out until Spot takes control and hits some knees on McGraw. Shoulderbreaker gets 1 as McGraw makes the ropes. Spot goes to the 2nd rope and drops a forearm which gets 2, followed by a kneelift for another 2. Back to the rear chinlock, until McGraw elbows out. He comes off the ropes and they have a miscommunication where they just kinda run into each other. That leads to Spot getting a backbreaker for 2. Irish whip, but Spot puts the head down and gets kneed. McGraw misses an elbow, and Spot gets 2 off of that. Briefly back to the rear chinlock again before Spot tosses McGraw outside, where he rams him to the rail. McGraw gets up and tries to shoulderblock on the way back in, but gets kicked and headbutted. In the ring, Spot gets a corner whip but misses the splash. He begs off again but McGraw knocks him back and Spot gets tied in the ropes where McGraw works him over. Suplex gets a 2 count for McGraw, followed by a backdrop for another 2, and a small package for 1. Two slams get another 2 count. McGraw keeps trying for the pin, getting 2 after knocking Spot down with a forearm, then hooking a backslide which gets nothing as Spot immediately kicks out. Spot recovers to hit a stomachbreaker for 2 of his own. He goes up, where McGraw is able to slam him off and go for a pin but the 15:00 time limit expires at 14:32. Iíve always said that the only person in wrestling more corrupt then the promoter is the timekeeper. Not a terrible match or anything, and in fact it was a decent little display of the basics, albeit a bit slow paced. *1/2
ďThe UnpredictableĒ Johnny Rodz vs. Jose Luis Rivera
Rodz is a guy whose name usually comes up in discussions about how much of a joke the WWE Hall of Fame is. I mean, this journeyman jobber is in the Hall, but guys like Sammartino, Backlund, and Savage are not? Why is Rivera not in either? Heís just as qualified as Rodz. Couple of lockups and breaks before Rodz gets a waistlock takedown, but Rivera escapes. Armdrag by Rodz, and he hold an armbar, but Rivera is up and they go through some reversals ending with Rodz getting a break on the ropes. They have a brief shoving match, and then Rivera gets a side headlock. He gets fired off the ropes, but nails a shoulderblock. Side headlock takedown by Rivera, but Rodz sends him off the ropes again and this time Rodz nails a bodyblock. A couple of dropkicks to the face while Rivera is down keep him in the corner. To the 2nd rope and Rodz nails an elbow, and then drops a leg for 2. Irish whip leads to a back elbow for another 2. Another Irish whip, but this time Rivera ducks, and he gets Rodz to the corner. Corner whip and Rodz tries a poor manís Flair Flip, failing badly if thatís what he was actually going for. Rivera stays on him and whips him back to the opposite corner. He kicks Rodz down and chokes him with the boot, but Rodz comes back with some kicks. He then knocks Rivera outside. Rivera makes it back to the apron, but is met with some shots and is sent to the buckle which puts him back on the floor. Finally he makes it back to the apron and avoids the shot from Rodz. Rivera stomps away and sends Rodz to the buckle a few times. Rodz is able to reverse that and whips Rivera to the other corner, then follows him in with a shoulderblock. Another corner whip is reversed and Rodz hits the buckle and falls down, but Rivera misses and elbow and Rodz is able to drop a headbutt for the 3 count at 11:15. This was well short of a Hall of Fame performance, thatís for sure. Ĺ*
Rene Goulet vs. Hillbilly Jim
This is very soon after the debut for Hillbilly Jim, and heís very popular thanks to his association with Hulk Hogan. Goulet, whoís just about at the end of the line on his career, stalls big time here. In fact no contact is made until weíre past the two minute mark. And that contact is nothing more than Goulet being shoved off a lockup attempt. We finally get going with Goulet grabbing a side headlock, but he gets fired off the ropes by Jim and shoulderblocked. He rolls out to stall again, and walks back into a side headlock from Jim. Heís trying to send Jim off the ropes, but no dice. He finally makes the ropes, but the ref fails to break it and Jim pulls him back to the middle. Goulet makes the ropes a second time and when Jim struggles to pull him back, Gouletís feet get hooked on the top rope. Of course this leads to Jim doing the ďWell, I guess I can break the hold, if you say so Mr. RefereeĒ spot and Goulet falls flat on his face. Goulet goes to the outside again and gets a phantom object from the tights. He nails Jim with the ďobjectĒ to briefly take over, but when he decides to bite him, Jim gets angry and attacks with forearms and a headbutt. Jim whips Goulet to the corner, and he shows up Hall of Fame Member Johnny Rodz big time by doing a proper Flair Flip, even making it across the ring to try and hit a move from the top, but he gets caught in a bearhug and is forced to submit at 7:27. Just a squash for Jim to put him over big, but Goulet, who was a good wrestler, had nothing to work with here. DUD Post match, Goulet jaws with a fan at ringside, who stands up and turns out to be Mr. T, thus establishing that heís here for the fans in the arena.
WWF Womenís Title Match: Wendi Richter (w/Cyndi Lauper) vs. Leilani Kai (w/Fabulous Moolah)
Richter goes after Moolah to start but gets double teamed by the heels while Lauper is reluctant to get involved physically. Kai chokes her down, and then chokes her with her own coat. Richter fights back with a forearm, but gets kicked and taken down again with a snapmare. Kai with more choking, but Richter is able to come back by sweeping the leg out, then nailing a slam and legdrop for 2. Kai takes over again, hitting a bodyblock off an Irish whip, but Richter no-sells it and takes Kai down, and then hits a splash for 1. Suplex also gets 1, and then Kai is able to get a double leg takedown and roll it over to a Boson crab. Richter powers up and flips to a pinning position for 2, but then Kai rolls through and gets her own 2 count. Into the corner where Richter drives the shoulder in a couple of times, but misses the third try so Kai nails a double underhook suplex for 2. Snapmare, but she misses a legdrop and Richter gets up to nail some kicks, but then Kai comes back with some forearms. Iím starting to get frustrated with this crap. These girls are just out there randomly hitting moves on each other, most of which are performed in pretty sloppy fashion. Thereís no story being told, the action is not flowing well from move to move, as itís just ďIíll hit a move, now itís your turn so you hit oneĒ, and no one is keeping control or doing anything to get the fans invested. Thereís just nothing here to sink my teeth into and itís boring as hell. Moolah must have had no sense of ring psychology whatsoever to pass on to these girls, because this seems to be an issue in just about any match involving her students working together. Anyways, Kai gets sent outside, where Moolah helps her up. She gets suplexed back in by Richter for 2, then faceplanted and hooked into a badly executed surfboard. Gorilla even points out that Richterís shoulders are down the whole time and that the ref should be counting, but he lets it go. Richter eventually lets go of this and moves on to a stepover toe hold, lifting up Kai by the arms and letting her drop several times. Next is an armbar. Remember what I said about lack of psychology? Weíve now seen her do three moves in a row which affect the back, leg, and arm respectively. Pick one and focus damnit, or youíll never see a single star from me. Irish whip, but now she misses a dropkick. Kai stomps her and hooks a front facelock. Richter gets her foot on the ropes, but Moolah knocks it off. Richter gets out and catches a boot from Kai and trips her down for 1. Two kneelifts get a two count as does a bodypress. Big boot is another near fall as Kai just makes the ropes. Slam gets 2, and now Moolah makes her way around and attacks Lauper. Richter comes over to try and help, but gets nailed by Moolah which allows Kai to roll her up for 3 and win the Womenís Title at 11:49. To be fair I do notice a bit of psychology connecting this match to the Wrestlemania rematch. Here, Lauper doesnít get involved, allowing Moolah to do what she needs to do to get her woman the title, and in fact the distraction caused by Lauper getting attacked costs Richter the title. At Mania, Lauper learns from this, takes care of Moolah physically, and thus Richter is able to regain the belt. Thatís more of a booking thing though, so the girls donít get that much credit for it. As far as the match goes, itís not quite as bad as Wrestlemania, which I rated at -*, but I still donít feel that they deserve to get out of the negative ratings. -1/2*
David Sammartino vs. Moondog Rex
Rex has the same issues with putting the bone down that Spot did in the opener. Rex gets a wristlock off a lockup to start, which is reversed by David to a hammerlock. Rex backs him to the corner to break, and then shoves him off. This makes David angry and he charges and tosses Rex down, and then takes him down again with an armdrag. Rex gets out of that with a headscissors, but David escapes. Forearm by Rex and he tries to send David to the buckle but itís blocked, and Rex gets rammed instead. David grabs a rear chinlock, but Rex gets up and knees his way out. Corner whip and Rex works David over in there. Bearhug is applied, which lasts awhile as David canít escape. Finally he elbows his way out, comes off the ropes and gets a couple of shoulderblocks, followed by an attempted rollup, but Rex holds onto the ropes. Rex misses an elbowdrop so David puts the boots to him. Back suplex gets 2 as Rex gets the foot on the ropes. Corner whip and David charges but runs into the boot followed by Rex stomping him down. He drops David on the top rope for a 2 count, and then applies a rear chinlock. David escapes and comes off the ropes, but Rex avoids him and David is tossed outside. Some ringsiders really get on his case which is pretty funny. Rex boots him on the way in as David is now bleeding from the nose. He rams Davidís head to the buckle, and then hits a backdrop and kneedrop for 2. David fights back with a slam and kneedrop of his own for 2. Irish whip but he puts the head down and Rex kicks him. Rex whips him to the ropes but David reverses catches Rex coming off with a powerslam and gets the 3 count at 12:29. Slow paced, but itís still decent. Davidís style was just totally out of the 70ís and not gonna work in this era though. *
Nikolai Volkoff (w/Fred Blassie) vs. Swede Hanson
Nikolai is being built up here, and Hanson is at the tail end of his career so should be pretty much a squash. We trade shoves out of a lockup to start. Another lockup sees Volkoff back Hanson to the corner, where Hanson blocks a cheapshot and nails Volkoff himself. Volkoff rakes the eyes to regain control and uses punches, kicks, and choking to work Hanson over. Hanson blocks a kick and nails some headbutts. Volkoff doesnít really sell them and takes over again with a knee, some kicks and a headbutt of his own. Front facelock take down gets 2 and that transitions to a rear chinlock. Hanson makes the ropes, but Volkoff cheapshots him on the break. He kicks away and drops a knee, but a second one is avoided and Hanson works over the leg with some stomps. Volkoff gets up and just shakes it off. Corner whip, but Volkoff misses the charge. Hanson whips Volkoff back to the other corner, but he also misses. Volkoff gets a backdrop off an Irish whip, and then does what may have been an attempted press slam, but he canít get Hanson up, so he just drops him and gets a 3 count anyways at 5:53. Boring kick-punch-rest fest with only a couple of actual moves in the whole match. DUD
Cowboy Bob Orton vs. ďSuperflyĒ Jimmy Snuka
Weíre about at the tail end of this feud as Piper has moved onto Hogan, so Snuka only gets to face the bodyguard. Lockup and Orton gives a clean break. Second lockup and this time Orton shoves him off. They go again and Snuka takes him down. This pisses Orton off so he charges but gets nailed. Snuka whips him to the corner and Orton goes up and lands on the ropes. Snuka kicks him from there and he gets crotched. Heís starting to sell an arm injury, which will become important later. Snuka grabs a side headlock, so Orton fires him off the ropes and they crisscross. Snuka leapfrogs him twice so Orton gets frustrated and bails. Snuka chases him and Orton tries to catch him coming in, but that fails and he gets chopped. Snuka gets 2 off of that and then hooks another side headlock. Orton fires him off, tries a leapfrog of his own, but gets caught and dropped. Orton bails for a minute to recover then comes back with shots to the head, which of course have no effect, so Snuka just grabs a side headlock. Orton lifts him and drops him to escape then sets Snuka on the apron and hits an elbow outside. Orton knees him and then suplexes him back into the ring. Up to the top, he tries a splash but Snuka gets the knees up. Snuka chops him and then takes him down with a snapmare. He drops a fist from the 2nd rope, followed by an elbow, and then nails a backbreaker. Snuka to the 2nd rope again, but this time misses as he tries a headbutt. Orton comes off the ropes, but Snuka redirects him to the corner and Orton goes to the post arm first, which he sells big. A slugfest ensues, but Orton blocks a punch with the bad arm and Snuka jumps over with a sunset flip to get the 3 count at 9:58. Ortonís (worked) injury here resulted in him wearing the infamous cast for the rest of the year. A good pace and an issue people care about help make this good. Definitely the best match so far and a nice breath of fresh air from the crap weíve gotten so far. **1/2
ďMr. WonderfulĒ Paul Orndorff vs. Tony Atlas
Atlas stalks him, so Orndorff bails and stalls. Crowd chants ďPaulaĒ at him. Lockup leads to a side headlock from Atlas. Orndorff tries to fire him off the ropes, but canít do it. Finally Orndorff escapes, but Atlas blocks and nails an atomic drop, suplex, and headbutt in succession. He picks Orndorff up for a press slam, but then just puts him down. They lockup, but Orndorff rakes the eyes to take control. He hits an elbow and rams Atlasí head to the buckle, but you can guess how well that goes (Hint: Atlas is black). Orndorff bails to regroup, then comes back and nails a cheap shot off a lockup. He drops some knees on Atlas, then takes him down again and drops a forearm. Orndorff hooks a rear chinlock, but Atlas escapes and fires away with punches and a headbutt, followed by a piledriver. He tries a second one, but Orndorff backdrops out. Irish whip, but Orndorff puts the head down and gets kneed. Atlas goes up to the 2nd rope and comes off with a headbutt for 2 as Orndorff makes the ropes. Atlas argues the point with the ref, but that allows Orndorff to come from behind and nail a back suplex into a pinning combination for 3 at 5:52. Sportsman of the year Atlas tries to attack afterwards, but Orndorff escapes with the win. Heís headlining Wrestlemania, so he has to go over here. Ĺ*
WWF Tag Team Title Match: Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo (w/Lou Albano) vs. The Assassin & The Spoiler
Rotundo and Assassin start as Rotundo hits a dropkick. He tags Windham who takes Assassin to the corner nails the bulldog and gets the pin just like that at 0:39. I suspect that this may have been the victim of time constraints, but in any case it puts the new champs over strong. DUD
Salvatore Bellomo vs. The Magnificent Muraco (w/Mr. Fuji)
Muraco has recently returned from an absence and is being built up again. I believe heís scheduled for the first post-Wrestlemania feud at the Garden for Hogan. Lockup and Muraco gives a clean break, and does the same thing a second time. On the third lockup he tries the cheapshot, but Bellomo avoids it and gets a hiptoss. Muraco shakes that off and gets a take down into a rear chinlock, then thumbs him in the throat. He drops a forearm from the 2nd rope, and then rams Bellomo to the buckle. Bellomo is whipped to the corner where he jumps up and tries to come off with a bodypress, but Muraco catches and drops him with a spinebuster which was executed absolutely beautifully. Tombstone finishes Bellomo at 2:43. Good return win for Muraco and that spinebuster looked even better on the slow motion replay then it did live. * just for that spinebuster.
Main Event, WWF Title Match: Hulk Hogan (w/Lou Albano & Cyndi Lauper) vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper (w/Cowboy Bob Orton)
For this match weíre now broadcasting nationwide on MTV. Piper wears a Hulkamania t-shirt to the ring, and smashes a guitar to show his hatred for MTV and rock-and-roll in general. Orton is now wearing a sling to sell the injury from earlier. Bob Costas from NBC is the guest ring announcer for the match. Hogan comes in and they brawl right off the bat with the crowd going crazy for it. Hogan gains control and whips Piper to the corner, following him in with a elbow. Piper does a Flair Flop off of that, and then takes a slam from Hogan. Second slam and Hogan drops an elbow. Corner whip is reversed and Piper follows him in with a clothesline from which he gets a 2 count. Piper stomps him and tries another pin which gets 2 and follows up with a shot to the throat. Irish whip and Piper hooks a sleeper. Arm drops twice, but of course Hogan recovers and runs Piper to the buckle to break the hold. Piper rakes the eyes and then ties up the ref so Orton can get on the apron and do some damage, but Hogan blocks and rams the injured arm to the buckle. Orton retreats to the back, but Orndorff is right out there to take his place in Piperís corner. They trade eyerakes until Hogan whips Piper off the ropes and nails a clothesline. Hogan gets an atomic drop, but Piper turns around and punches Hogan who falls back into the ref. The ref sells this weak collision as though heís been shot a dozen times. Orndorff comes in off the top with a knee and the double team is on. Lauper gets up on the apron which draws the heels over to her, but before they can do anything Mr. T comes up to help her out. They lure T into the ring where Orndorff provides the distraction so that Piper can get him from behind. Hogan recovers and the heels flee. The entire NYC police force then storms the ring to keep them all apart and the crowd is absolutely nuts for everything. Hogan, T and friends celebrate in the ring as Hogan is announced as the winner by disqualification. I never heard a bell, but the ring results section has the match time as 7:40 so Iíll go with that. This was super heated all the way through. Strictly looking at it as a match, itís not great or anything. Iíll rate it as ** mostly for the heat and the intensity shown. But, we also have to remember that in no way was this meant to be a classic, but rather it was meant to be the angle that setup Wrestlemania and showed a large nationwide audience that wrestling was cool. In that regard itís hugely successful, and I believe that this has to be considered as one of the top ten most historically important matches in WWE history.
Ok, as I was saying, the Main is hugely important, and I consider that to be must see for any student of WWE history. Overall though, the show is nothing special. Match of the night hits **1/2, but besides that and the Main, thereís nothing good here. Undercard is your typical for the time squashes and meaningless prelims. There is a Womenís Title change as another historical point, and I know the rematch that one built to was another important factor at Wrestlemania, but itís an awful match. If youíre a history buff, get this show and watch them do a great job setting up the first Mania, but otherwise itís Thumbs Down for The War to Settle the Score.