WWWF: Madison Square Garden (06.27.77)

WWWF: Madison Square Garden
June 27, 1977
New York City
Madison Square Garden

Your current WWWF champions are as follows:
WWWF Heavyweight Champion: Superstar Billy Graham (4/30/1977)
WWWF World Tag Team Champions: Chief Jay Strongbow & Billy White Wolf (12/25/1976)

Pop Culture #1s of the Time:
#1 Movie of the Week: The Rescuers starring Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor
#1 Song of the Week: Got to Give It Up (Part 1) by Stevie Wonder
#1 TV Show of the 76-77 Season: Happy Days starring Ron Howard & Henry Winkler

Follow along with the WWE Network!

Your host is Vince McMahon. We finally have Howard Finkel doing the announcing here. His first card as the ring announcer came about back on January 17.

  • Jose Gonzalez vs. Jan Nelson

Finkel announces Jan Nelson from Minnesota hinting there should be a Nordic background to his name, which to me you would think his name would be pronounced “Yan” and not “Jan”. Nelson doesn’t give Finkel any grief about it being the heel in this match, so whatever. Maybe his name really is pronounced “Jan”. Either way, here we go. Nelson and Gonzalez try to feel each other out to start, which is probably 80% of wrestling in this promotion. This sets up the PUERTO RICAN COMEBACK, but Nelson puts a stop to it. He misses a corner charge though and Gonzalez unloads on him with dropkicks. I mean, he goes DROPKICK CRAZY and eventually pins Nelson. (9:46) This loss apparently was so devastating that Nelson left the WWWF and went back to the AWA where he was trained. *

  • Larry Zbyszko vs. Rocky Tomayo

Vince mentions Larry Z being trained by Bruno Sammartino and having similar physical features. He even brings up Zbyszko’s love of golf. Some kid in the crowd is really giving it to Rocky calling him a chump and what not. Not a lot of movement here as Larry Z works the leg of Rocky for most of the match. Tomayo tries to break Zbyszko’s face with punches and turnbuckle smashes, but Larry surprises him with a small package for the win. (7:31) Yep, BORING. ½*

  • Tony Garea vs. George “The Animal” Steele

Steele – who is back in the WWWF on a full time basis – runs to the ring and does his crazy man routine. Garea gives Steele a bunch of armdrags and monkey flips him to the floor to mess with the fans. Back in, Animal low blows Garea to take control. Steele stalks Garea saying “YOU” and stomping Garea every now and then. Eventually, Steele gets run off into the corner and hits his head on the ringpost. HERE COMES TONY! He stomps the life out of Steele and when Garea is ready to whip him out of the corner, Steele kicks him in the balls and unloads on Garea with a foreign object for the DQ. (7:28) Of course, Garea gets the foreign object away from Steele and clears him of the ring. The crowd goes absolutely bananas for this. ¾*

  • 2/3 Falls: Andre the Giant & Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Nikolai Volkoff & Ken Patera (w/Captain Lou Albano)

You may be wondering where Billy White Wolf is at. Well, Ken Patera “injured” him during a match a few weeks back on Championship Wrestling when he would not release the FULL NELSON and put him out of the WWWF. The real reason was so that he could have legit neck surgery. When Strongbow was asked about Billy White Wolf on TV two days before this show, he said there was a relapse in BWW’s rehab and that he would never wrestle again. And just like that, BWW is gone. He would continue the Billy White Wolf gimmick in Hawaii of all places for a few more years, so I don’t think he got the short end of the deal there. Of course, we know he made it big in the AWA as Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie where he stuck around until the promotion ended in 1990. He would then return to the WWF after thirteen years as General Adnan to do the whole Sgt. Slaughter heel turn and then battle Slaughter when he turned face again in late 1991. Oh, and the WWWF doesn’t really do anything with the vacant tag titles until the first week in October to crown new champions, but we will get to that later.

FIRST FALL: Vince mentions that Patera wants to slam Andre during this match. Good luck! Strongbow won’t leave Albano alone and chops him back to the dressing room while Andre keeps Volkoff and Patera at bay. We can see Patera has his ribs taped here. Strongbow immediately puts Patera in a full nelson. When Patera breaks loose, Andre tags in and applies the full nelson. He can’t break away from Andre, so he reaches the ropes to get the break. Andre then gets stuck on the wrong side of town. With some help from Strongbow, Andre puts Volkoff and Patera’s heads together and then headbutts them. Volkoff takes over on Strongbow and finds a bearhug. Strongbow escapes and slides under Volkoff to reach Andre for a hot tag. Volkoff gets picked right up into a bearhug from Andre. Back to Strongbow, he gets overtaken by Patera who grabs a chinlock. Andre’s arms are so long that he can reach in for a tag way further than anyone else. When the ref doesn’t see the tag, he’s got to leave. He finally makes the tag to Andre who delivers an atomic drop to Patera. Andre gets cornered though, but Andre turns the tables on Patera as he and Strongbow start splashing the heels. Andre headbutts Patera down, but misses a splash. Tag to Volkoff, he can’t handle Andre going toe-to-toe, and Andre reaches Strongbow. Now Strongbow goes on the WARPATH. He locks a sleeperhold on Volkoff, but then Patera comes charging in with a knee to the back and the ref calls for the bell to DQ the heels in 13:46. Well, that’s a pretty weak finish.

SECOND FALL: Volkoff gets yanked into the corner by Andre and chopped by Strongbow. Volkoff and Patera start to argue and it brews to the point where Patera explodes and decides to walk out on his partner. Oh boy. Andre then boots down and splashes Volkoff for the win. (16:25 total) Good to see Patera coming around. **

  • Stan Stasiak vs. Lenny Hurst

Stasiak takes a break from Portland wrestling to come to NYC – or takes a break from NYC to go out to Portland. Not sure which, but either way, here he is. Lenny Hurst makes his debut in MSG. He wrestled in Portland as the Calypso Kid prior to coming here which may be why Stasiak is working with him. Hurst avoids the Heart Punch and does a good job keeping Stasiak on the mat with a headscissors. When Stasiak escapes, he tries to break Lenny’s hand, but Hurst fires back with a dropkick. Stasiak sets the kid up and punches him down, but Hurst fires back on him and gets him tied up in the ropes. Stasiak kicks him down though and delivers the HEART PUNCH for the win. (8:21) Glorified squash for Stasiak. *

  • WWWF Heavyweight Championship: Superstar Billy Graham (c) (w/The Grand Wizard) vs. Bruno Sammartino (w/Arnold Skaaland)

As strange as it is to mention “Bruno” and “title shot” in the same sentence, this is Bruno’s first WWWF title shot inside MSG since he last won the WWWF title back on December 10 1973 when he defeated Stan Stasiak, which spurned his last run as the WWWF champ. Since finally gaining the WWWF title, Graham has successfully defended the championship once in MSG back on May 16 against Gorilla Monsoon.

Before Bruno comes out, Vince Jr. grabs an interview with Graham that’s pretty monumental and exactly the type of interview you think of when you think of Superstar Billy Graham. Once Vince goes back to the table, he of course hopes Graham is only champion for a few more minutes. When Bruno appears in the ring with Skaaland, there’s a definite feeling of anticipation coming from the crowd. They are just so ready for Bruno to regain the championship tonight – almost as if to say that their savior was down, but now he has returned. HEAT, folks. There’s heat. Bruno goes nuts on Graham to start until Graham has to take a powder. Back inside, Graham is begging off trying to “break the momentum”, as Vince says. Graham finds a full nelson as Vince reminds us of Bruno’s broken neck, but Sammartino breaks free and applies the same hold to Graham. Even though he’s clearly stronger, Graham can’t break the hold and goes limp to the mat. He tries once more to break loose, but can’t get away from Bruno and has to fall into the ropes so that the ref calls for the break. Graham applies a waistlock, but somehow Sammartino is able to pull his hands apart. Now Graham pulls back on the arms and buries his knee into the shoulder blades. AGAIN, Bruno is seen to be the stronger of the two, which to me makes little sense. Are we to believe that Sammartino works out his core muscles and Graham is all glamour muscles? Anyways, Bruno reverses the hold and Graham reaches the ropes for another break. Graham grabs a headlock and jabs him in the throat to take control. He’s all stomps and whips into the corner. He jumps on the cover at one point and freaks the crowd out, but Sammartino kicks out at two. Time for the BEARHUG. Bruno winds up punching out and slams Graham. Sammartino then applies a BEARHUG of his own. Graham once again gets a break using the ropes. As Bruno ends up on the floor, Graham does all he can to keep him there. At one point, the ref gets in between them and Bruno trips up Graham to get back inside the ring. Graham begs off as Bruno punches and kicks. The ref keeps getting in between them and winds up calling for the bell to DQ them both. (18:39) As Graham escapes back to the locker room, Skaaland has to get Bruno under control. Sammartino gets a rematch in MSG next month, but would once again fall short of recapturing the WWWF championship, and would end up being his final WWWF title match in MSG as Graham moved onto other challengers. Am I wrong in saying that Bruno seems fairly one dimensional as a wrestler and really knows how to do one style of match well? Is this a case where we are seeing a man who is in the twilight of his career or is this all Bruno has ever done because Sammartino doesn’t have to do more to get a reaction? Very interesting questions at least while I’m watching so much WWWF right now. **½

  • Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Raschke (w/Freddie Blassie)

So now we’ve got two Barons in the WWWF. Just a heads up: this is a 30 minute draw and these two aren’t exactly the highest energy workers in wrestling. You would think after Bruno losing, they would have given the crowd a more exciting match. I know they love seeing Putski, but all the love for Putski goes out the window once the bell rings. In the final moments, Putski knocks Von Raschke through the ropes with the POLISH HAMMER. Back inside, they trade more shots until the bell sounds to signal the draw. (30:00) The crowd boos and is once again very disappointed. The match only runs about 20 minutes in real time, but they call it a 30 minute draw anyways. Some times wrestling is like that. They will meet again the following month where Putski finally defeats Von Raschke. ¾*

  • High Chief Peter Maivia vs. Baron Mikel Scicluna

This is the MSG debut for Maivia who is as we all know the maternal grandfather of the Rock and blood brothers within the Anoa’i family that has produced all the other Samoan wrestlers you have ever seen in WWE – besides Samoa Joe, that is. Vince mentions the Samoan tattoos on Maivia that cover his thighs and mid section. Scicluna tries to smash Maivia’s head on the turnbuckle, but that just pisses him off. While Maivia is headbutting him, Scicluna reaches for his foreign object. Maivia takes it away and punches him down. Scicluna then misses a corner charge and as he falls back to the mat, Maivia rolls him up for the three-count for a quick win. (2:09) The WWWF proves to be the place where Peter Maivia would remain for the rest of his career. ½*

  • 2/3 Falls: Haystacks Calhoun & Dominic DeNucci vs. Professor Tanaka & Mr. Fuji

FIRST FALL: This is the first time I’ve recapped a Haystacks Calhoun match and the one note I see from TheHistoryofWWE.com about this match is that he is never tagged into the match. Tanaka corners DeNucci and tries to chop, but DeNucci thinks he can karate chop as well. Haystacks gets a shot in from the apron. There ya go. That’s all we will see from the guy. To be fair, his huge size was catching up to him. Tag to Fuji, he goes to the eyes of DeNucci and whips him into the ropes for a running clothesline takedown for the three-count in 3:06.

SECOND FALL: DeNucci goes wild on Fuji and tries to get a pinfall knowing they are close to the curfew. As DeNucci gets stuck on the wrong side of town, Calhoun comes in hoping to help out. The bell gets rung as we have reached the 11PM curfew. (4:30 total) Since Fuji and Tanaka have actually scored a pinfall, the match gets awarded to them. Ya know, to send the crowd home happy. ¾*

Final Thoughts: This might be the worst card yet. It was too long with the type of talent here. I would say a 90 minute show is probably where they need to stay. I know they were working off a 20 minute draw from the previous MSG show or whatever with Putski and Von Raschke, but that type of shit shouldn’t be happening. The Bruno/Graham match is fun with all the heat and gives you a good look at the personality and interview style of Graham (which is really just Muhammad Ali), so you might want to check that out. Otherwise, this simply doesn’t hold up at all and with the way the crowd reacted to more than half the show’s result, I think most everyone would have hated it then. Thumbs down for MSG 6/27/77.

Next time, we will see Ivan Putski receive a WWWF title shot against Superstar Billy Graham. Plus, Bruno Sammartino will meet Ken Patera in a Texas Death Match which might be a hidden gem.

Until then, so long for now.

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Posted on February 20, 2019, in WWE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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