WWF: Madison Square Garden (09.22.80)

WWF: Madison Square Garden
September 22, 1980
New York City
Madison Square Garden

Your current WWF champions are as follows:
WWF Heavyweight Champion: Bob Backlund (2/20/1978)
WWF Intercontinental Champion: Ken Patera (4/21/1980)
WWF World Tag Team Champions: The Wild Samoans (9/20/1980)

Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Kal Rudman.

  • NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Les Thornton (c) vs. Jose Estrada

When I see the name, I sometimes think of Les Thatcher. Thornton is from Manchester, England which is home to a ton of great wrestlers like Billy Robinson, Johnny Saint, and the most famous of them all (at least here in the U.S.) would be Davey Boy Smith. After wrestling all over Europe, he came to Canada in 1971 where he would win several regional titles. He would continue onto the United States wrestling in nearly every NWA territory. From 1980 into 1982, Thornton would defend the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight title in all the continental territories.

Estrada decides to cheapshot Thornton to get things started. Imagine that. Thornton goes to town on Estrada with forearm shots. He puts Estrada on the mat with a couple hiptosses. Estrada maintains a wristlock and bends the rules to make sure that happens. When Thornton finds himself in a wristlock again, he climbs up Estrada and lands back on the mat only to then nail Estrada with another forearm uppercut. Everything Estrada tries, Thornton has a counter and it’s pretty sweet. Estrada tries a knucklelock down on the mat, but Thornton bridges up and hangs on so he can monkey flip Estrada across the ring. Estrada hammers on Thornton since he can’t outwrestle him. Thornton counters a chinlock into a hammerlock, but Estrada rakes the eyes to stop him. Back to the chinlock, this time Thornton looks to be in trouble. However, he comes back and delivers a back drop followed by a nice backbreaker for the win. (7:02) I’m digging Thornton. I would love to see some of his matches with Tony Charles. **

  • Pat Patterson vs. Johnny Rodz

Much like Estrada, Rodz has a similar gameplan and BUM RUSHES THE SHOW on Patterson. Rudman agrees this is probably the best course of action Rodz can take. The beat down just continues and gets worse and worse for Pat to set up his comeback. He gives Rodz a backdrop and throws him over the top rope to the floor. Back in, Rodz gets whipped into the corner and takes a weird bump. FIGURE-FOUR is locked in, but Rodz is near the ropes for the break. There’s a Boston Crab, but again he’s too close to the ropes. Patterson delivers a Piledriver, but Rodz grabs the bottom rope to avoid the pinfall. DRAG HIM AWAY FROM THE ROPES. Double-KO ensues. Both men can’t land splashes. Rodz winds up missing a corner charge and Patterson is on him with a sunset flip for the win. (8:04) That was pretty action-packed – and these always showed great chemistry. **½

  • The Hangman vs. Dominic DeNucci

Every time they mention that the Hangman is from “Europe”, this is what comes to mind:

DeNucci tries to do his hilarious bullshit to start, but then the Hangman decides that’s not how this match is going to go and bends DeNucci over his knee with a chinlock. Big knee strike connects, but then the Hangman misses one in the corner. DeNucci goes to town on the knee and posts the balls. Back inside, Hangman misses a corner charge and runs the side of his head into the ringpost. Am I actually rooting for DeNucci now? Hangman keeps trying to kick at DeNucci with the bad leg and pays for it every time. Over in the corner, Hangman takes control beating the shit out of DeNucci. He chokes on DeNucci and rips at his face. Backbreaker connects and bends DeNucci over his knee. DeNucci surprises Hangman with a sunset flip, but only gets two. Another backbreaker and Hangman pounds away on DeNucci, but it’s all just one big ROPE A DOPE. DeNucci fires back and tries the AIRPLANE SPIN, but Hangman holds onto the ropes and lands on top of DeNucci for the three-count. (10:15) Another surprisingly good match. This was way better than it had any right to be. Afterwards, Hangman attacks DeNucci with the noose, but DeNucci gets the noose away from the Hangman and hangs him over the top rope. EPIC. Funny watching the police keeping the people back while a man is being “hung to death”. Kal Rudman is losing his shit. AWESOME. **

  • Larry Zbyszko vs. Tony Garea

Garea and Zbyszko EXPLODE here. This is EASILY the semi-main event. Tony Garea wrestles his first match in MSG since March 1979. Rudman says Zbyszko was born a rich kid and that’s why he’s so arrogant. Zbyszko tries to bait Garea into a corner, but Garea wants to fight in the center of the ring. They finally touch as Garea picks up Zbyszko for a slam. Angered, Zbyszko charges Garea and takes an armdrag before bailing out. That’s two moves. The crowd has already lost their minds. Larry Z gets back on the apron and loosens a turnbuckle pad while the ref keeps Garea back who is seeing all this. Garea grabs an armbar and they play around with that hold for a while. Eventually, Zbyszko seizes the moment to catch Garea with a back elbow as he comes off the ropes. Zbyszko tries to keep Garea on the floor and loosen a turnbuckle pad at the same time. He runs Garea into the turnbuckle pad on the apron, but then he tries a second time and Garea blocks only to send Larry Z into the buckle. Garea whips Zbyszko from corner to corner and gives him a hiptoss to set up the ABDOMINAL STRETCH. Zbyszko hiptosses out, but Garea is there with a dropkick. Back to the ABDOMINAL STRETCH. Zbyszko grabs the ropes and sticks his head THROUGH the ropes, but Garea loses his temper and refuses to let go of the hold to get DQ’ed. (12:15) Rudman feels Garea didn’t really care about beating Zbyszko and just wanted to punish him. Incredible heat, an intense story, and I want more. ***¼

  • Rick Martel vs. Rick McGraw

Kind of a strange matchup here – babyface and babyface. It should be a good match though. Even Kal Rudman agrees. There’s a feeling out process to start. It really comes down to who makes the first mistake will lose. At one point, Martel works a headlock and shoves McGraw off into the ropes to catch him with a shoulderblock to send McGraw into the Rikishi bump. Well, does that mean the Rikishi inside-out bump is the McGraw bump? Who knows. McGraw is adamant with an armbar. They go from corner to corner only with McGraw trying to get the quick pin on Martel, but Martel blocks a hiptoss and turns McGraw around for a backslide to get his first MSG victory. (6:47) Good match. **

  • Pedro Morales vs. Afa

No, he’s not Afa. He’s SAMOAN #1. Pedro makes his return to the Garden. This is his first match here since February 1975 when he defeated Butcher Vachon. Captain Lou Albano gets carried back to the locker room by police. You could see this as a continuation of the feud between Morales and the Wild Samoans since they met at Shea Stadium. Afa beats the crap out of Morales for a few minutes and keeps him on the floor. When Afa goes to bring him back inside, Morales falls on top of Afa for the super fast count from the old man referee in 3:34. The Samoans losing to Backlund and Morales might have been their death nail in this area. They seemed UNBEATABLE before August 9. Now they are losing in crappy finishes. I get the booking for this amount of time on this show because Backlund and Race goes so long, but they are killing off the Samoans. We’ll see Sika later against Tony Atlas.

  • WWF Intercontinental Championship: Ken Patera (c) vs. Rene Goulet

MY MAN Ken Patera is in the Garden. The most entertaining part of this was Goulet wiping his ass with a “Ken Patera for President” t-shirt. I guess there’s worse people who could be POTUS. Patera tells Goulet he’s going to get a “good ass whipping”. Goulet is hot to trot against Patera to start, but then telegraphs a backdrop and Patera small packages him for the quick three-count in 1:04. So much for the “ass whipping”, I suppose.

  • Bob Backlund (w/Arnold Skaaland) vs. Harley Race

Even though this is from MSG, there’s no commentary for this one. The match never aired on TV and in it’s place, the MSG Network aired four matches from the Showdown at Shea show. This was marketed as an attempt to unify the belts. Knowing that, it pretty much guarantees that nobody is going over. Race bumps around for Backlund to start. Backlund grabs a headlock. Any time that they’re on the mat and Race tries to turn Backlund over on his back, Backlund does this awesome bridge up to his feet and uses the extra leverage to take Race back down to the mat flat on his back. I know this is New York, but this has been all Backlund. Around 25 minutes in, Backlund delivers the ATOMIC DROP and Race flies over the top rope to the floor. Back in, Race headbutts Backlund low and starts dropping knees and headbutts. Backlund comes back with a sudden piledriver, but a delayed over only gets a two-count. Race hits a knee lift and tries a Diving Headbutt off the second rope, but Backlund moves out of the way. Double-KO lands Race on the floor. Back in, Backlund hits a jumping legdrop for 1-2-NO! Butterfly suplex connects for 1-2-NO! Now Backlund takes a headbutt out to the floor. When Backlund makes it up to the apron, Race bashes his head into the ringpost to bust him open. Oh geez. Race punches the cut to show how brutal of a man he can be. On the apron, Race tries to run Backlund into the post again, but Backlund manages to send Race into the post instead to bust him open. Back in, Backlund pounds away on the cut forehead. He wins a fisticuffs battle and hits a backbreaker for two. Swinging neckbreaker on Race gets two. Gutwrench suplex scores another nearfall for Backlund. Race tries a suplex, but Backlund flips out and grabs a sleeper. Once Race goes down to one knee and the ref checks his arm, Race pulls the ref right into Backlund to get himself deliberately DQ’ed. (35:32) Certainly a dream match at the time made all the more surreal with time by seeing the NWA world title in Madison Square Garden inside a WWF ring. ***¼

  • Tony Atlas vs. Sika

Here we have the SAMOAN #2. These two try to match power against power. Of course, Atlas will win every time. When Sika has enough, he beats Atlas into the ropes. Sika whips Atlas across, but Atlas does a leapfrog and goes DROPKICK CRAZY on him. Kal – “He’s got the BOOGIE going!” Sika rakes the face and goes back to pounding on Atlas. This sets up the TONY ATLAS COMEBACK! As Sika misses a corner charge, Atlas drops an elbow on the man for the three-count in 5:32. Another weak finish to a Wild Samoan’s match.

  • Special Referee Gorilla Monsoon: Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan

This match never aired on the MSG Network for whatever reason, but was filmed and does appear on the WWE DVD set: Hulk Hogan: The Unreleased Archives released in 2009. Since this didn’t air on the MSG Network, there’s no commentary, so Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler do the commentary for this match on the DVD. Monsoon can only keep Andre and Hulk apart for so long. Andre beats on Hogan and squashes him in the corner. When Monsoon warns Andre of a closed fist, Andre asks for permission only for Hogan to grab Andre by the hair. Not liking those tactics either, Monsoon pulls Hogan by the hair to get him off Andre. Here comes Andre with chops and closed fists. Hogan can’t hang anymore and rolls out to the floor. Back inside, Andre gives him the coconut smasher. Andre grabs a headlock, but Hogan turns it around with a bearhug. At one point, Hogan actually PICKS UP Andre, but winds up having to let him go because he couldn’t hold him. Nevertheless, Andre is hurting. Hogan delivers the LEGDROP and an elbow drop to the back. He keeps Andre on the mat for a while, but Andre does get up. Hogan applies the bearhug again, but Andre HEADBUTTS out and lays in the chops. He slams Hogan, but misses the Avalanche Splash. With Andre on his knees, Hogan puts a hurting on Andre only for Andre to reach up and apply his own bearhug. Andre lifts Hogan up and drives him into the corner. He gets Hulk on the mat and falls on Hogan’s knee, but it seems to hurt Andre’s back. Hogan gets up to his feet and SLAMS Andre. Not the pop and flash bulbs you remember from WrestleMania III. Hogan tries another slam, but Andre falls on top of him for the quick three-count – even though Hulk kicks out at two and a half. (12:18) These matches were never going to be *great* wrestling matches, but people hated Hogan and loved Andre, so it sold tickets and it certainly sold tickets when the roles were reversed. At least in their matches from 1980, Andre isn’t in quite as much pain as he would be in their most famous match, so it’s a little easier to watch from that respect. *½

Final Thoughts: It’s scary I know, but this is one of the better MSG shows from this era that I’ve watched. Certainly no big takeaway matches like we saw with Backlund and Patera in May and the Sammartino-Zbyszko feud is over, but seeing Backlund and Race is pretty cool and Larry Zbyszko is still ON FIRE here. The challenge to me at the time would be whether or not the WWF could turn Zbyszko back babyface and give him a run with the WWF title. I don’t know how their matches were and I know they wrestle , but I have to believe a three-match series with Backlund in MSG would have been money. I know they wrestle a few times in the Philadelphia Spectrum around this time and I’m looking forward to it. Anyways, thumbs solidly in the middle for 9/22/80 MSG.

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