WWF: Madison Square Garden (01.21.80)

WWF: Madison Square Garden
January 21, 1980
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 (9/1/1979)
WWF World Tag Team Champions: Ivan Putski & Tito Santana (10/22/1979)

Your host is Vince McMahon.

  • Davey O’Hannon vs. Angelo Gomez

So it looks like they have just decided to turn O’Hannon heel – with his baby pink tights. If I remember right, he was just a low-midcard Irish babyface the last time he was here in the WWF. He works an armbar and pulls the trunks to get Gomez to go to the mat. He’s pretty much a WWF heel to a tee – using brawling tactics. O’Hannon applies a nerve hold and they slowly build to Gomez’s comeback. He heads to the apron until Gomez decides to cool down. Back in, O’Hannon grabs a knucklelock and kicks him down to the mat. Gomez reverses the hold and stomps on the hands. O’Hannon goes to the eyes and smashes Gomez’s face into the turnbuckle. Gomez leapfrogs O’Hannon to avoid a backdrop and dropkicks him down. This is lower card Puerto Rican babyface work 101 here that we’ve seen out of several other Puerto Rican wrestlers of the time. Gomez is the greenest of the guys though. He delivers a backdrop, but telegraphs the second one. O’Hannon delivers an ugly swinging neckbreaker for the win. (10:21) Snoozer. The crowd seemed into hating O’Hannon and cheering on the green Angelo Gomez, but nothing to see here. ½*

  • Kevin Von Erich vs. Johnny Rodz

Kevin makes his one and only appearance inside Madison Square Garden. Starting back in November, the Von Erich boys would have a match in MSG every other month. David wrestled Davey O’Hannon back in November and Kerry will join us in March to face Jose Estrada. This is early enough in Kevin’s career that he’s wearing his wrestling boots. Not sure when he decided to go Jimmy Snuka on us. There’s a feeling out process to start. Rodz backs him into the ropes and starts his roughhousing. When Kevin starts to fire back on him, Rodz has to slow the action down so he can level Von Erich with a cheapshot. Kevin counters a chinlock into a headscissors. Rodz doesn’t seem to know how to handle this guy. Rodz escapes a headlock and counters to an overhead wristlock. Once Rodz forces Von Erich to the corner, Kevin reverses a corner whip and basically Stinger Splashes the guy a few times. As they start whipping each other into corners, Von Erich tries to crossbody Rodz but Rodz walks away and lets Von Erich crash and burn. Who do you think you are, SAMOA JOE? Von Erich gets two off a surprise sunset flip. He lands a jumping elbow and a big splash off the ropes for two. It gets even more awkward, but then they go into the finish as Von Erich delivers a Thesz press to Rodz for the win. (8:28) Not saying Kevin is green here, but he doesn’t really mesh well with the WWF style to me. ¾*

  • Larry Zbyszko vs. The Great Hussein

Here’s a rematch from the last Philly Spectrum show. Larry just made the heartfelt challenge to Bruno and he gets a somewhat mixed reaction. Of course, he’s facing the Iron Sheik here, so there’s no chance of the crowd taking his side in this match. During a sitout, Hussein gets dumped out to the front row. Back in, Zbyszko continues to get the better of Hussein. He cranks on a headlock and lets out some frustration by pounding on Hussein’s head. They work a headlock until Hussein lands a nice standing dropkick. He misses a cannonball splash though. Zbyszko locks in the ABDOMINAL STRETCH, but Hussein reverses. Larry hiptosses him over, but Hussein remains in control and lands a big backdrop. He tries another, but Zbyszko counters to a sunset flip for two. Double KO ensues. Hussein finds a vertical suplex and Vince thinks that’s curtains for Larry. Zbyszko kicks out at two. He tries another, but Zbyszko counters to an inside cradle for a nearfall. Zbyszko hits a vertical suplex and then tries to slam Hussein, but Larry collapses. Hussein headbutts the mid-section and tries to use his loaded boot. Zbyszko finally has enough and attempts to take off the boot. Hussein kicks him away. However, Zbyszko slams Hussein and covers him. Hussein kicks out, but Zbyszko lands on the referee. He goes for an elbow drop and Zbyszko moves causing Hussein to elbow drop the ref for the DQ. (10:29) Pretty weak finish, but a fun back and forth match. **

  • Hulk Hogan vs. Dominic DeNucci

Freddie Blassie shows up to the ring with Hogan and causes some disturbance for DeNucci. He leaves so that the match can start. Vince on commentary has been pointing out that Hogan has no wrestling skills whatsoever. Hogan overpowers old man DeNucci to start. Not a shock there. When they do a test of strength, DeNucci uses leverage to monkey flip Hogan. Once things settle down, Hogan destroys DeNucci with a shoulderblock. He somehow manages a Thesz press on Hogan and gets a two-count. DeNucci tries a full nelson for some reason. Hogan almost immediately escapes the hold and forces DeNucci to a corner for a beating. Hulk slams DeNucci and delivers an elbow drop, but DeNucci kicks out at two. Hogan catches DeNucci with a back elbow and lands a knee drop. DENUCCI WILL NOT DIE! There’s a bunch of goofy selling from DeNucci here. DeNucci resorts to brawling to get Hogan to sell. He telegraphs a backdrop though and Hogan drops him on the top rope. He heads to a corner, points to the heavens, and delivers the LEGDROP for the win. (7:34) That was an interesting match. With every blow, you are wondering how much whoever is getting hit is going to continue to sell. Hogan would never rise above the mid-card babyfaces of the time in MSG during his first big heel run. Of course, that all changes in a few years, brother. *½

  • WWF World Tag Team Championship: Ivan Putski & Tito Santana (c) vs. The Wild Samoans

The Samoans get their first big shot at the tag belts in their MSG debuts. Putski and Santana have been do-nothing champs and it seems they are pretty much just babyface placeholders until the Samoans are solidified. Before the match, Vince comments that the Samoans are “uttering some sort of primeval.. whatever”. Imagine how ballistic he would go on the headset if one of his commentators said anything remotely close to that sentence today. Putski and Afa start the match. Afa forces Putski into his corner allowing Sika to grab hold of Putski, but Putski moves when Afa throws a punch knocking Sika down. Putski puts Afa in a full nelson, which is interesting considering the height difference. When Afa reverses the hold, Putski moves and Sika nails Afa by mistake. Tito comes in and makes this a pier-six brawl. They are obsessed with whipping the Samoans into one another. DOUBLE BUSHWHACKERS to the Samoans does absolutely nothing to them. Tag to Tito, he grinds on a headlock. Afa escapes and whips Tito into the corner, but he misses a charge and runs his knee into the buckle. Santana trips him up and drags him over to Putski for a tag. He applies a spinning toe hold to Afa. The tag champs take turns working the knee. Santana makes the mistake by slamming Afa’s head off the mat. Back to the knee. Eventually, Afa decides it’s easier to just low blow Putski to stop all of this. He tags in Sika to get some heat on Putski. This sets up a false tag to Santana. Tito gets a tag for real this time and he goes DROPKICK CRAZY on the Samoans. Tired of Tito going nuts, Sika picks him up and drops Santana on the top rope causing him to crash and burn on the floor. This is enough to get Tito counted out as the Samoans win the match. (12:46) This feud is far from over, but it won’t really continue unfortunately inside MSG as this is the only tag title match they have against each other. It seem their feud really takes place inside the Spectrum than here in MSG. Lots of Samoan fun here with their selling and whatnot. While Putski and Santana haven’t done anything as champs since the Valiants left, Tito is a decent fiery babyface to get demolished by the Samoans. **½

  • Rene Goulet vs. Baron Mikel Scicluna

Finkel points out that this is Goulet’s return to MSG. This is his first appearance in this building since 1972. Oddly enough, he was fighting Scicluna even back then. A guy named Mike Wepner who is involved with “Front Line Management” talks to Vince about the atmosphere in MSG. Kal Rudman even shows up to further promote wrestling as equal to all the rock shows that go down in NYC and Philly. This is a nothing match. Scicluna beats on Goulet for most of the time, but then Goulet comes back and wins by sunset flip in 4:59. ½*

  • WWF Heavyweight Championship: Bob Backlund (c) vs. Ken Patera

They continue to tease a queerosexual relationship between Patera and the Grand Wizard as Patera slowly gets disrobed. Hey, why does Arnold Skaaland get to stay at ringside and the Grand Wizard has to leave? Patera does a great job stalling to start. Backlund gets away from a few sitouts. Patera decides to charge him and gets launched with a backdrop. He sells the move like he fell on concrete. Patera tries to bait Backlund into a corner, but Backlund wants to meet him in the center of the ring. Backlund grabs a headlock and when Patera starts pounding the back to escape, Backlund lets go of the hold and nails him with a forearm. They are getting the most out of very little. Back to the headlock, this time Patera sits Backlund on the top buckle to get away. Patera dares Backlund to put him down with shoulderblocks, but that doesn’t work. Backlund instead surprises him with a nice standing dropkick to take Patera off his feet. Patera runs into a pair of armdrags and begs off. They tease Backlund escaping a few different arm holds, but Patera pulls the hair or the tights to maintain control. He applies an arm stretcher hold down on the mat, but Backlund eventually gets to the point where he has enough leverage to stand up and run his boots over Patera’s face to break the hold. Backlund applies the same hold and turns it into a rowing exercise, which pops the crowd. Patera tries rolling out of the hold, but Backlund puts him in a headscissors. When Patera powers out, Backlund monkey flips and armdrags him around until he’s put back in the arm stretcher hold. More rowing from Backlund. When Patera stands up, he grabs the top rope trying to get the pinfall. Patera puts the boots to Backlund and delivers that throwing slam he does. He follows up with an elbow drop, but Backlund presses him off the pinfall. Big vertical suplex gets only a one-count.

Patera then backs Backlund into the corner and then applies a bearhug in the middle of the ring. Backlund gets his hands through the grip and tosses Patera away, but Patera stays on top of Backlund pounding the back before reapplying the hold. Backlund does a GREAT job selling the hold as Patera puts him down on the mat for a few nearfalls. Next thing you know, Backlund gets a SECOND WIND, but Patera’s grip proves to be too much and he puts Backlund down on the mat. This is the sign of a REAL struggle. Backlund gets up again and the only way he can get Patera’s grip to break is with an EPIC inverted atomic drop. Patera is stunned. Backlund starts to come back, but he runs into a double-KO. Patera falls on top of Backlund, but Backlund kicks out at one. Vince is trying to make this dramatic, but this referee is pretty slow. Backlund wins a suplex battle, but a splash off the ropes hits knees. Patera lowers the boom and goes for the Full Nelson, but Backlund slips away and kicks Patera back. Backlund ducks a swing and gives Patera the ATOMIC DROP for 1-2-NO! Patera gets his foot on the bottom rope for the dramatic nearfall of the match. During a scuffle, Patera shoves Backlund into the ref and we’re done here. Patera tries the Full Nelson again, but Backlund kicks off the ropes and falls back onto Patera. Another old man ref comes out and calls for the bell. (25:52) A giant pull apart brawl ensues between the two guys. Some EPIC storytelling here as this feud is also far from over. Ken Patera is one of Backlund’s greatest rivals here and you’re seeing why in this match. Everybody talks about the Texas Death match in May, but don’t let this one pass you by. ****

  • Pat Patterson vs. Captain Lou Albano

As soon as the bell rings, Patterson goes after Captain Lou, and Albano flees to the dressing room. He comes back to the ring to avoid being counted out and goes to the eyes. These two just need a special stipulation match. Patterson rips off the wrist tape and chokes Albano until he’s retreating to the floor. Back in, Albano goes into the Abdullah the Butcher playbook and uses a foreign object to gain an advantage. Of course, Patterson gets the object away from Albano, and busts him open. Albano certainly sells TERRIBLY. He eventually has enough and flees to the dressing room – never to be seen from again on this night. (6:11) It’s exactly what you would expect. ½*

Before the next match, Howard Finkel hypes next month’s MSG card and mentions Austin Idol and Tommy Rich will be making their MSG debuts. Also, you’ll see MIDGET wrestlers. Bob Backlund will be defending the WWF heavyweight title against Ken Patera in a return bout with special guest referee Pat Patterson.

  • Bobby Duncum vs. Mike Masters

Just a beat ’em up for Duncum. He delivers a backbreaker, puts more boots to Masters, and finishes him off with the RUNNING BULLDOG in 1:29.

  • Tony Atlas vs. Swede Hanson

Kind of awkward with the Confederate flag on the back of Hanson’s jean jacket, no? Hanson grabs the house mic and tells Atlas that they should just get to “boogying”. Atlas beats the crap out of Hanson to start, but then Hanson kicks him while he recovers in a corner. Hanson smacks Atlas around and drops some knees to the mid-section. This just wakes up Atlas as he goes to town on Hanson. He whips Hanson from corner to corner and then delivers a FLYING HEADBUTT. Not like a Chris Benoit flying headbutt, but a HEADBUTT in mid-air. That takes care of Hanson in 2:17.

Final Thoughts: This was actually an above average MSG show capped off by the big Backlund versus Patera showdown. If you can find a copy, check it out. WE HAVE ENTERED THE 1980s, FOLKS. Slight thumbs up for MSG 1/21/80.


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