WWF: Madison Square Garden (12.17.79)

WWF: Madison Square Garden
December 17, 1979
New York City, NY
Madison Square Garden

Your current WWF champions are as follows:
WWF Heavyweight Champion: Bob Backlund (2/20/1978)
WWF Intercontinental Champion: Pat Patterson (6/23/1979)
WWF World Tag Team Champions: Ivan Putski & Tito Santana (10/22/1979)

Your host is Vince McMahon.

  • Larry Zbyszko vs. Bulldog Brower

Brower controls to start as he headbutts Zbyszko and puts him down on the mat. He grabs a chinlock and Larry Z tries escaping with an overhead wristlock, but Brower pulls Zbyszko down to the mat by his hair. You know, that old trick. Back up to his feet, Zbyszko escapes into a hammerlock and wins a slugfest. Brower stuns him with another headbutt and goes back to punching. He grabs a headlock in the middle of the ring. Sounds like someone brought a kazoo to the arena tonight. Zbyszko comes back and goes ham on Brower in the corner. He slows things down with a headlock, but Brower shoves him off into the ropes for a double-KO. Brower then goes for a slam, but Zbyszko falls on top as Brower collapses to get the three-count in 4:43. ¾*

  • Riki Choshu & Seiji Sakaguchi vs. “Bad News” Allen Coage & JoJo Andrews

Vince calls Choshu and Sakaguchi the Japanese tag team champions, but the graphic shows this bout is for the “North American Tag Team Championship.” Well, I guess both claims are true. They are tag team champions – in Japan – because the NWA North American tag titles are primarily defended in New Japan Pro Wrestling and have been since 1975. It’s only natural Bad News Allen gets the match here since he was trained by Inoki. By the way, Choshu is missing some hair to complete his signature look. Vince pronounces his name: “Co-Shoe.” Allen isn’t interested in letting the ref check his Michael Jackson glove on his right hand. We’ll see what that’s all about in a little bit, I’m sure.

Choshu is the aggressor early on against JoJo, but he has a tougher time dealing with Coage. Sakaguchi lays in the chops on Bad News and knee lifts him. Coage goes to the eyes and bites the forehead. JoJo tags in and punishes Sakaguchi with headbutts. Tag to Choshu, he hits a dropkick and a slam for two. He applies a chinlock and the crowd gets after Bad News whenever he tries to slink through the ropes. Sakaguchi tags in and applies a sleeperhold, but can’t hold onto JoJo. In comes Bad News, they go to the mat and wind up in the wrong corner as Choshu gets a hot tag. Bad News headbutts Choshu to cool him off and puts him in his corner to double-team the man. Tag to JoJo, he backs Choshu into the corner so that Bad News can choke him with the tag rope. All JoJo does is headbutt. He misses an elbow drop and Choshu tags Sakaguchi for chops. Backbreaker to JoJo only gets two. Sakaguchi and Choshu toil with JoJo for a little while longer. Sakaguchi drills JoJo with a flying knee and applies a Boston crab for the win. (9:44) Just a glorified squash for the New Japan boys. Bad News is still awesome though. *½

  • Mike Graham vs. Johnny Rodz

Graham gets his once a year middle of the card match in MSG here in December. Lots of talking to start by Rodz in order to cheapshot Graham. Mike slams Rodz out of the corner to calm things down, but Rodz goes right to beating him in the corner. Graham goes to the leg, but Rodz would rather fight dirty than wrestle. Graham gets a hold of Rodz’s wrist, but Rodz punches back. Big slam to Graham. Rodz continues to punch, but Graham punches back and slams Rodz. As Graham tries to wrestle him on the mat, Rodz starts BITING Graham’s legs and arms. Vince thinks Rodz is hungry. Yes, hungry enough for a Mike Graham Sandwich. Rodz returns to his brawling tactics, but misses a knee charging in the corner. Graham applies the FIGURE-FOUR and gets the submission win. (5:03) Rodz at least tried to make it interesting, but Graham wasn’t having it. *

  • Ted DiBiase vs. Hulk Hogan

Freddie Blassie comes with Hogan to the ring, but he doesn’t stay. This is the last match in the WWF for Ted DiBiase’s first run. But don’t worry, he’ll be back a much richer man. On the other hand, this is Hogan’s MSG debut, which makes this match interesting from a historical standpoint. The graphic says he’s the “Fabulous Hulk Hogan”, but Finkel calls him the “Incredible Hulk Hogan.” Vince can hardly keep his pants on watching Hogan flex his biceps. Not a lot of action to recap, just Hogan generally being a real confident heel. DiBiase puts up a fight kicking out of the legdrop and the running elbow drop. He escapes the chinlock by running Hogan into the corner. He mounts a comeback, but misses a corner charge and runs his shoulder into the ringpost. A backbreaker and a bearhug gets Hogan the win. (11:16) Hogan certainly shows a level of charisma that’s really something special to behold and interacted with the crowd like very few did at the time. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands from bell to bell. **

  • Texas Death Match for the vacant WWF Heavyweight Championship: Bob Backlund (c) vs. Bobby Duncum

So here’s what’s happening with the WWF title. It was November 30, 1979. In New Japan, Bob Backlund was defending the WWF title against Antonio Inoki. The challenger kicked out of the champion’s atomic drop and then PINNED the champ with the back suplex. Everyone in Japan who watched the match saw Antonio Inoki capture the WWF title. Six days later, Bob Backlund was granted a WWF title rematch and when Tiger Jeet Singh interfered causing the match to end in a no-contest, Inoki decided to vacate the championship. However, no one in the states knew this happened and the WWE has never recognized what happened, so therefore I’m not going to act as though it did happen since this is all a work and blah blah blah.

It should be noted that this entire show is also being played on Japanese television as well. We get to this match where Howard Finkel introduces the “WWF President” Hisashi Shinma and he’s holding the WWF title – because as far as the Japanese audience knows, the title has been vacated by Antonio Inoki. You might recall this man joined the WWE Hall of Fame last year as part of the Legacy wing. Shinma will be our on-screen authority until Jack Tunney shows up on the scene in 1984.

Anyways, Captain Lou Albano joins Bobby Duncum while we see Arnold Skaaland with Bob Backlund before the match begins. Backlund takes hold of a headlock on Duncum and never seems to want to let go. Duncum finally runs Backlund in the corner and jabs him in the throat. He grabs the shoulders of Backlund and then applies a headlock, but Backlund counters with a back suplex. There’s an AWESOME piledriver from Backlund. Slow cover gets two. Duncum sees a back drop coming and hits Backlund with a knee. A backbreaker gets a nearfall for Duncum. O’Connor roll from Backlund gets two. There’s the RUNNING BULLDOG from Duncum, but Backlund kicks out at two! Another RUNNING BULLDOG gets 1-2-NO! Wow. He throws Backlund to the floor. As Backlund reaches the apron, Duncum runs him into the post and Backlund falls to the floor OVER THE GUARDRAIL. Crazy. Duncum tries to keep Backlund on the floor. However, Backlund sunset flips into the ring for 1-2-NO! Over in the corner, Backlund avoids a corner charge and delivers the Jack Brisco rollup for the three-count. (17:18) After kicking out his finish twice, I can’t imagine Duncum will be back in MSG for a while. Weird finish for a “Texas Death Match”, too. I enjoyed their Spectrum match in January a bit better though, and this wasn’t quite as violent as I hoped. Backlund makes a big deal about the victory for the Japanese TV cameras and wishes the NYC crowd a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year before he heads back to the dressing room. Vince says Bob is something else. **½

  • Antonio Inoki vs. The Great Hussein

Hard to imagine two different personalities than these two guys. Inoki has the NWF heavyweight title with him here. Hussein jumps Inoki at the bell, but Inoki fires back and slams him down. Inoki even chokes Hussein with his own headdress and then rips it up for the fans. They work off an armbar for a while. After Hussein breaks free, there’s a weird miscommunication moments where Inoki decides to bar the knee on the mat. Hussein elbows out of the hold and slams Inoki for a chinlock. Crowd seems to be under the opinion that Iran sucks. Inoki comes back with a standing dropkick. Hussein answers with one of his own for two. Inoki reverses out of an abdominal stretch into one of his own, but Hussein hiptosses out. Weird double-KO. Hussein hits a vertical suplex and tries a second one, but Inoki counters with a suplex of his own. Hussein delivers the gutwrench suplex. Inoki sees a backdrop coming and sunset flips him for two. Now Inoki applies the Indian deathlock and maneuvers to a bow and arrow submission. Hussein claws his way out and gets the LOADED BOOT ready, but Inoki takes off the boot! Hussein apparently has BOTH boots loaded as he kicks Inoki. He then gets the boot Inoki stole and smashes Inoki’s face onto it against the turnbuckle. This busts open Inoki. While the ref is trying to get the boot away from Hussein, Inoki staggers up and lands the ENZIGURI for the win. (14:59) Afterwards, Hussein beats the ref with his loaded boot and leaves the ring – just like that. Well, Sheiky baby does the job here and I wonder if this helped him get onto a New Japan tour in 1980 because he does work the month of March there mostly putting over Inoki and Fujinami. **

  • NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Harley Race (c) vs. Dusty Rhodes

Vince puts over the fact that these two have traded wins over the NWA world title and we’re getting to see the “rubber match”. While Dusty has wrestled many times in MSG, this is only the third match for Race inside MSG as he has defended the NWA world title against Tony Garea and Steve Travis. Dusty hits Race with his jabs and the Flip Flop and Fly. He even goes for the quick win as he backdrops Race and delivers the BIONIC ELBOW for 1-2-NO! Race backs against the ropes and makes sure it was only a two-count. Rhodes finds a headlock and Race escapes, but Dusty counters a suplex and gives Race an atomic drop (oops) for two. Back to the headlock. Rhodes nearly pins Race again as Race tries to slam him only to collapse and fall to the mat. Race buries a knee in the sternum to turn the tide. He misses a falling headbutt though and Rhodes is on him with an elbow drop and a front headlock. They play around with that hold for a while. Race is busted open. He backs Dusty into the corner and lays in some shots, but then Dusty reverses a corner whip in for the Harley Race corner bump out to the floor. Back in, Dusty delivers an AWESOME piledriver for two. Race comes back with headbutts and stomps and knee drops the head of Dusty. Rhodes starts to DUSTY UP and lays in some shots for a two-count. Race rakes the face and returns to the headbutts. A suplex and a flying headbutt connects. A nice knee drop sends Dusty rolling to the apron. Dusty starts to bleed in front of the Japanese announce table. Race runs Dusty into the ringpost, but Dusty WILL NOT DIE! He comes back into the ring and fires back on Race with elbow and such. The ref checks the cut because Dusty is bleeding everywhere. Rhodes is clearly out on his feet as he falls through the ropes to the floor. Ring the bell, it’s over due to too much blood loss. (13:18) Crowd lets you know this a bullshit finish. Race whacks Dusty with the NWA world title, but gets kicked out to the floor. We get a great shot of Dusty and his blood soaked blond afro at the end. Believe it or not, this might be the ONLY Rhodes/Race match I’ve ever recapped from bell to bell. **½

  • WWF Intercontinental Championship: Pat Patterson (c) vs. Dominic DeNucci

Vince describes the recent contractual happenings between the Grand Wizard and Captain Lou Albano over Pat Patterson’s contract. Patterson wanted nothing to do with Albano and is now without a manager – leading to Patterson’s babyface turn. Hammerlocks and wristlocks to start. Patterson delivers a cheapshot to DeNucci and heads to the apron. Back inside, DeNucci puts Patterson on the mat and slaps him one good time. Patterson takes exception and lays in some shots in the corner. He grabs a front headlock until DeNucci sits him up in the corner. Patterson kicks at DeNucci, but DeNucci comes back and whips him from corner to corner. DeNucci applies a spinning toe hold and then bars the leg. Patterson grabs DeNucci by the nose and puts the knees to him. DeNucci gets hot again and catches him coming off the ropes. It’s AIRPLANE SPIN time. DeNucci covers for 1-2-NO! O’Connor roll gets two as well. As DeNucci comes off the ropes, Patterson monkey flips DeNucci and lays on top of him for the win. (6:31) Not a bad little match for DeNucci. Leave it to Patterson to get a good match out of him. *½

  • WWF Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs. Johnny Rivera

Rivera still has his left hand taped here. They run the ropes and trade hiptosses. Fujinami armdrags Rivera over, but Rivera counters with a headscissors. As Fujinami kips up, Rivera is there to meet him. Rivera hangs onto an armbar and won’t let go despite Fujinami’s hiptosses. Fujinami finds the ropes to break the hold. He puts Rivera on the mat for the bow and arrow submission. Rivera finds a way out and stays on top of Fujinami.  They do a test of strength in the middle of the ring, which leads to Fujinami flipping Rivera over into a rollup for two. Crowd doesn’t even know what to think of that. Fujinami stretches the leg, but Rivera grabs a wristlock. As Fujinami starts to escape, Rivera takes him over with a headscissors. Back to the test of strength, Fujinami looks to impress. He puts Rivera back on the mat and bars the knee. Rivera winds up on top of Fujinami and nearly pins him, but Fujinami bridges out. As Fujinami is coming off the ropes, Rivera tries a monkey flip only for Fujinami to cartwheel away from the move. Rivera comes off the middle turnbuckle with a crossbody, but only gets two. He hits a suplex for another nearfall. There’s a standing switch on Rivera and Fujinami catches Rivera with a Bridging German Suplex for the win. (10:17) Fujinami is just light years ahead of Rivera here, but he stayed with him fairly well. Fujinami and Rivera are all hugs at the end. No New Japan tours for Rivera. **½

  • WWF World Tag Team Championship: Ivan Putski & Tito Santana (c) vs. Victor Rivera & Swede Hanson

What is this one hour time limit BS? It’s way too late in the evening for that. Looks like Swede Hanson is now been downgraded to Baron Mikel Scicluna status. Putski armdrags Rivera a few times before Rivera corners him and tags Hanson. Putski escapes a headlock and applies one of his own. BRING ON THE WILD SAMOANS. Tag to Santana, he picks up where Putski left off smashing the Swede’s head off the mat. Hanson buries a knee into Tito to turn the tide. Tag to Rivera, he smashes Santana with elbows and backdrops him. Santana gets cornered on the wrong side of town. BRING ON THE WILD SAMOANS. Moving on. Hot tag to Putski. He lands the POLISH HAMMER to stagger Hanson while Tito comes off the top with the FLYING BODYPRESS for the win. (6:57) Yeah, BRING ON THE WILD SAMOANS. ½*

Final Thoughts: Actually a disappointing show. It felt really long. However, the upsides was seeing Hulk Hogan in all his glory. This dude is off the charts charismatic and he’s on the same show as Dusty Rhodes in 1979. Tatsumi Fujinami had the best match of all the New Japan boys. The downsides are pretty much everything else. The WWF and NWA world title matches were okay, but nothing to write home about. Everything else felt like filler and there was definitely no reason to have those last three matches after the crowd saw Dusty Rhodes and the bullshit finish. Thumbs down for MSG 12/17/79, but check out the Hogan match for a good time.




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