February 5, 2012
WWWF At The Philadelphia Spectrum, March 25, 1978
Commentators: Vince McMahon and Dick Graham
Our first available Spectrum show sees NEW World Champion Bob Backlund make his first Philly title defense against an old rival of Bruno’s plus more!
Notes: As stated, Bob Backlund had defeated Superstar Billy Graham for the WWWF World Title on February 20, 1978, in MSG. While that ONE match is readily available on the History Of The WWE Title DVD release as well as various compilation packages found on ioffer.com, the full card itself surprisingly is not, which is the reason you haven’t seen it reviewed here.
Also, on the official release of this Spectrum card, two matches were sadly omitted, one being a tag match that saw Peter Maivia and Jay Strongbow defeat Stan Stasiak and Baron Mikel Scicluna (essentially three Hall Of Famers and a former World Champion in one match) as well as Gorilla Monsoon defeating The Golden Terror. Considering what DID make it onto this release (not to mention the lack of quality Monsoon matches that are available out there), it really makes the dedicated fan have to say “what da fuck?”
Match 1: Joe Turco vs Pete Reeves
Setup: Two jobbers with no name status, no skills, and no future jerk the curtain at the Spectrum.
Match: The Philly fans are booing the ring announcer (Gary Cappetta), the timekeeper, the refs, and both wrestlers, and rightfully so: Two guys with similar builds, ring attire, and even facial hair. It’s like watching Super Mario take on Wario. Turco, ostensibly the heel of the match, uses little more than chokes and kicks to make his weak, soft opponent flop like a fish. Eventually Turco gets whipped to the ropes but alas, Reeves puts his head down for a backdrop, only to get kicked in the face and pinned. Well at least that was a first.
Result: Turco via pinfall at 10:17
Rating: 0 (Shit) Me and my high school buddies used to put on better matches than this in our living room.
Match 2: Gypsy Rodriguez vs Pete Austin
Setup: A 20 year old kid takes on a seasoned veteran in this second barnburner of the evening.
Match: Gypsy looks to be rocking a Pirate gimmick (complete with gold earring), while Pete “Not Quite Stone Cold” Austin looks like a dumb kid with several layers of baby fat and a black baby’s bib singlet. Even though Gypsy looks to be severely outweighed (and is the heel), he expertly uses his acumen to embarrass his overmatched rival, even as McMahon openly says that the matches tonight are not very good so far. Even more disturbing is the pussy-like way Austin backs off on every opportunity given to him, as he looks more like he’d prefer to be cuddled up in his Mommy’s lap than be in there wrestling a pro match. Eventually, Gypsy is whipped to the corner and Austin charges in with an extra ounce of virgin rage, only for Gypsy to move and Pete to smack the corner and fall to the mat with a cry as Gypsy hits an elbow smash for the pin.
Result: Rodriguez via pinfall at 10:57
Rating: 1 (Okay) Unlike the opener, at least one of these guys had personality.
Match 3: Dominic DeNucci vs Davey O’Hannon
Setup: A pudgy and very effeminate Irish heel takes on the old dependable veteran DeNucci.
Match: O’Hannon somewhat resembles Stephen “Flounder” Furst from Animal House, and minces around in a pink singlet complete with shamrock. DeNucci, meanwhile, FINALLY gets a positive reaction from the tough Philly crowd, as they roar with approval for everything he does. Interesting stuff, as Dom is relentless in his attack and beats his opponent from pillar to post, and O’Hannon actually manages to BLEED profusely before getting beaten out of the ring and counted out.
Result: DeNucci via countout
Rating: 2 (Good) Earns an extra point because it’s so rare to actually see a (heel) jobber blade themselves.
Match 4: Bob Backlund vs Spiros Arion (WWWF World Title Match)
Setup: The new champ makes his first Philly title defense against the very cagey veteran.
Match: The basic Backlund match formula is a lot more refreshing than the old Bruno / Morales brawling format: The heel challenger comes in thinking that he’s gonna use the same old sneaky tactics, only to realize that he’s in there with an intense Wrestling Machine and is going to have to fight for his life. Great stuff from the getgo, as Backlund doesn’t give poor Spiros any breathing room whatsoever, staying on him like white on rice, and it’s all Spiros can do to get to the ropes to get the referee to break it up. Soon Spiros withstands the initial onslaught and the match gets really interesting, as he makes a comeback and rams Backlund’s head into the exposed turnbuckle among other things. Backlund catches Spiros with several pinning combinations during this time for a series of near falls. Soon Bobby fights back and hits Spiros with a piledriver, which Spiros KICKS OUT FROM (in ’78 no less), and the effect that Backlund is making Spiros look like gold from the way he keeps kicking out and fighting back is evident. Finally Backlund picks up Spiros for the atomic drop, but the clumsy oaf ref Dick Woherle (otherwise known as the only referee to get his own action figure) is hit by Spiros’ leg while he’s up in the air, causing him to fall outside of the ring unconscious (and be stretchered out). The two warriors continue to fight until the locker room clears to break it up and a second ref renders the decision of a Double DQ (really?)
Result: Double DQ at 17:49 (Backlund Retains Title)
Rating 3 (Great) Despite the bad final decision, a tremendous bout that redeems this card and was one of Spiros’ last great moments as his career wound down.
Match 5: Bruno Sammartino vs Ken Patera
Setup: After a lackluster Texas Death Match in MSG, these two continue their feud in Philly!
Match: Bruno was wrestling part time now at this point, and that’s probably for the best, as this meeting seemed to have a lot more energy and pep to it than the Texas Death Match. Patera attacks Bruno before the ring announcements and the brawl engages. Power moves, hiptosses and counter-wrestling are the order of the day here, but soon Bruno loses all touch with sanity and tosses Patera out to brawl on the floor, leading to the inevitable.
Result: Double Countout at 16:24
Rating: 2 (Good) As said, a lot more energy than their last meeting in MSG.
Match 6: Haystacks Calhoun vs Nikolai Volkoff
Setup: The 601-lb country boy makes a rare late career appearance against Nikolai.
Match: About what you would expect here: Nikolai (a fit and well-conditioned athlete at this point) can make little impression on his massive opponent much less even get him to sell. Not long after, Calhoun moves out of the way of a charge in the corner(!), which causes Nikolai to fall on his back. Haystack hits a big splash (though it looked more like he just laid on him) and that’s all she wrote.
Result: Calhoun via pinfall at 2:39
Rating: 1 (Okay) It is what it is: a freakshow match featuring someone who specialized in the genre.
Overall Rating: 1.5 The opener was unforgivable, but some solid stuff as it went on and an awesome Backlund title defense make this one that you too might want to seek out from your most trusted online retailer.