Snuka’s Greatest Leap – MSG 10/17/83

I’m doing this month’s history piece a little different this time since I have two shows to cover. This article will contain all the news up to October 17th, and the next edition will cover the rest of the month.

Jim Crockett Promotions
The biggest news of the month is that NWA President Bob Geigel announced JCP has won the bid for Harley Race defending his NWA World title against Ric Flair in a cage. The event will take place Thanksgiving night in Greensboro and be dubbed “Starrcade”.

This is great news as JCP has a number of feuds that seem to just be cycling rematch after rematch for months on end, such as the Steamboat/Youngblood vs. Brisco Brothers, Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine, and Rufus R. Jones vs. Dory Funk Jr., among others.

That being said, on October 3rd Steamboat and Youngblood won their fourth NWA World tag titles by beating the Briscos in Greenville.

Wahoo McDaniel has joined Ric Flair’s efforts for revenge against Bob Orton Jr and Dick Slater, the men are battling in both singles and tag bouts.

Jimmy Valiant is continuing his war with Paul Jones’ army, focusing on fending off Baron Von Raschke in “bounty” matches.

Dory Funk Jr. got into it with manager Paul Jones on TV to start the build to a babyface turn.

St.Louis 
Harley Race headlined the monthly St. Louis event with a title defense against the massive Hulk Hogan. Race was forced to throw Hogan over the top rope to save his title by disqualification. On the under card Barry Windham teamed with David Von Erich to overcome Crusher Blackwell and the Super Destroyer, Blackjack Mulligan beat Buzz Tyler and Iceman Parson bested Tonga John (Konga the Barbarian) along with Angelo Mosca Jr., Bob Brown and Buck Robley in prelim action.

Portland

NWA champ Harley Race came to the area to face off with the powerful and popular Billy Jack (Haynes) on several shows.

World Class
NWA champ Harley Race came in to defend his NWA World title against Kevin Von Erich, Kamala, David Von Erich and Iceman Parsons early in the month.

The Von Erichs continue to battle the Freebirds, now in the tenth month of their feud. Kamala and Jimmy Garvin remain side focuses for the local heroes as well.

Memphis 
Jerry Lawler feuded with Jesse Ventura throughout the month. They battled in “no DQ” matches, trading the Southern title.

Austin Idol battled Stan Hansen in bullrope and bunkhouse matches.

The Rock and Roll Express feuded with the original Midnight Express of Norvell Austin and Dennis Condrey.

The WWF continued it’s west coast expansion moves as they ran in Los Angeles with Andre facing Big John Studd in a cage and Snuka besting Don Muraco via DQ when Muraco and special ref Tito Santana got into it. San Jose saw Snuka and Andre team to face Muraco and Studd.

At various house shows WWF champ Bob Backlund defeated Sgt. Slaughter in both straight wrestling and steel cage matches. Don Muraco, George Steele and Tiger Chung Lee also received title shots.

16,000 fans came to the Boston Garden to see Backlund defend his title against the Masked Superstar along with Don Muraco facing Jimmy Snuka in a steel cage match. 12,000 fans came to Pittsburgh to see Snuka and Muraco battle in a Fiji strap match.

Muraco competed in a famous squash match that aired October 15th where Captain Lou fed him a meatball sub sandwich and a soda in the middle of a match with jobber Victor Mercado.

The WWF invaded Ole Anderson’s GCW territory by running shows in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio with Andre the Giant teaming with Ivan Putski against the Samoans headlining both shows. GCW responded with a Cincinnati show it’s own at the end of the month with Dusty Rhodes facing Buzz Sawyer, The Road Warriors beating Tommy Rich and Pez Whatley, Paul Ellering besting Mr. Wrestling II, Ron Garvin going to a time limit draw with Les Thornton and Jake Roberts being disqualified against Brett Sawyer. Ole’s card only drew 750 fans.

Ivan Koloff’s angle with Pat Patterson from the previous month got lots of air time on WWF TV but the in ring feud was held off til November.

Big John Studd was absent for much of October as he toured New Japan.

The Iron Sheik started on TV. That debut proved to be much bigger than anyone expected.

Michael Hayes was announced as making special appearances in Boston and MSG, but the matches were never mentioned on TV and Hayes never appeared at either event.

The legendary manager The Grand Wizard of Wrestling died abruptly on October 12th of a heart attack. He was 57.

AWA
Hulk Hogan continued his feud with David Schultz and Mr. Saito, even beating them in handi-cap matches by DQ.

Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell continued to pursue World tag champions Ken Patera and Jerry Blackwell.

Blackjack Lanza faced his former manger Bobby Heenan on many house shows.

Rick Martel teamed with Steve O to try and avenge his beatdown in August from Jerry Blackwell and Ken Patera. When O proved to not provide enough muscle to match the beefy heels, Mad Dog Vachon was called to action as Martel’s new partner. The pair even convinced Andre the Giant to come in and team with them against Patera, Blackwell, and Adnan.

Billy Graham returned to the AWA and entered a number of battle royals.

Mid-South
North American champion Butch Reed successfully overcame JYD in street fight and lumberjack matches. Reed then declared he would defend his title against anyone but the JYD. The up and coming Magnum T.A. was picked as his next challenger, but the JYD was named the special ref for the match. The Dog was very bias as a ref and T.A. scored a big win and the title. This would spark a controversy I’ll cover next time.

JYD was also involved in some big tag team matches as he and Jim Duggan teamed to face the National tag team champs The Road Warriors. Another main event saw Dusty Rhodes partner with JYD and Crusher Darsow to collide with Skandor Akbar, King Kong Bundy and the Missing Link.

Stampede
Stu Hart returned to the ring for the first time in four years for a pair of matches where he teamed with his son Bret against manager JR Foley and The Stomper.

Georgia 
Dusty Rhodes was brought in to work several Ohio shows to help fend off the WWF’s attack.

Afa, Sika, Tito Santana and Ivan Koloff all worked a Michigan spot show for GCW, despite their current ties to the WWF.

Buzz Sawyer continued his war with Tommy Rich, but also faced challenges from Roddy Piper and Rhodes. Rich and Sawyer would soon blow off their feud in a big way – more on that in the next article.

The National tag champion Road Warriors defended their belts against a variety of guys like Tommy Rich, Ron Garvin, David Sammartino, Brett Sawyer and others.

Jesse Barr is in under a hood as “Mr. Wrestling” in order to raise Mr. Wrestling II’s ire.

Florida
NWA Champ Harley Race took on Dusty Rhodes and Barry Windham in successful title defenses.

Dusty Rhodes was hounded by Abdullah the Butcher and battled him across the territory.

Mike Rotondo was focused on defending his NWA Southern Heavyweight title against “Outlaw” Ron Bass.

Hulk Hogan came in as a special attraction and defeated Ejiah Akeem.

And now for our featured attraction:

WWF at Madison Square Garden October 17th, 1983
Gorilla Monsoon calls the action. Pat Patterson is the color commentator.

Tony Garea vs. Rene Goulet
This is probably going to be really good. Goulet has on his awesome cape. Goulet puts on a glove. The men exchange some good mat based head locks and leg scissors into quick escapes. Goulet then hooks on a wristlock and the men work with that on the mat and from a standing position. Since they are working the hold and not just laying there, I can appreciate them working a safe, slower style. Goulet works the ribs, then takes to biting Garea’s chest and sides. Goulet tries for the claw but Garea catches him with blows coming in. Garea gets some big hip tosses, a dropkick and a flying crossbody I bought as the finish. A sunset flip a minute later ends Goulet’s night at 12:33. Solid match between two veterans who were preparing for the final salvos of their careers.

Special Delivery Jones vs. Tiger Chung Lee
Fred Blaisse is managing Lee. Lee takes Jones down and tries to tie him up but Jones avoids the submission attempt. Lee hits some chops and when the ref warns him Lee just bows and smiles. Jones delivers a head butt and offers a bow of his own. The crowd eats that up. We get a lesson in race relations from the announcers that ends with Pat Patterson talking about massage oils. They discuss Korean food as Lee sits in a rest hold. Jones uses a series of head butts to rattle Lee. Lee tries a top rope move and gets slammed off and the audience just roars. Lee catches Jones with a shot and hits an enziguri for the win at 8:41. This was better than you’d expect given the participants, the hot crowd giving a so-so match more zest than the action deserved.

Ivan Putski vs. Sgt. Slaughter
Slaughter gets a lot of heat coming out to the ring. The men trade muscle poses as Sarge mocks Ivan’s roided up body. Sarge then stalls and stalls. Supposedly Putski was the shits to work with, so Sarge is probably in no rush to see action. Putski locks on a headlock and he’s too strong for Sarge to escape it. Sarge then absorbs a big shoulder block and flips head over heels. Ivan goes back to the headlock. Sarge is sent into the turnbuckle, then Putski bounces his head off the steel post. Putski sends Sarge flying into the other turnbuckle as Sarge sells a knee injury. Slaughter attempts several offensive bursts but his knee is hindering him. A Cobra Clutch is locked on Putski but Ivan makes it to the ropes. The men trade fists as Ivan hits the ref by accident. This earns Slaughter the DQ win at 10:29. Match was garbage, crowd was hot for it though. We may be “treated” to a rematch next month after that finish.

Tito Santana vs. “Iron” Mike Sharpe
Things start a bit slow, but Santana fires up and causes Sharpe to flee with a bevy of punches and kicks. Sharpe runs into a series of arm drags. Santana then works an armbar that Sharpe repeatedly fails to escape from. Shape takes another walk before getting some control time with forearms and grunting. Sharpe handles things with a long headlock/smother, with Tito trying to fire up from underneath his larger opponent. Santana breaks free but the men end of colliding and both go down. Tito gets up first and delivers a big knee drop but the 20 minute time limit expires at just after 18 minutes. Sharpe tries to jump Santana after the match but Tito cleans his clock. I don’t know if it was a styles clash or just a lethargic pace due to the match length, but this one didn’t click for me.

WWF World Champion Bob Backlund vs. The Masked Superstar
Superstar promises to unmask if he wins the gold. Backlund takes Superstar off his feet several times, but Superstar is able to keep pace with the champ. Backlund works a headlock and then a head scissors. Superstar escapes from that but Backlund quickly recaptures him. Backlund then locks on a lengthy hammerlock. I guess they are going for Backlund making Superstar suffer a bit for what he did to Eddie Gilbert, but the current pace suggests they are going to an hour draw.

An armbar follows as Backlund maintains his dominance. Superstar finally catches Backlund with a shot that sends him to the floor. Superstar tries a stun gun and Backlund takes a silly looking bump off of it. Superstar next connects with a flying headbutt and a Russian leg sweep. Superstar misses a second attempt at a flying headbutt. Backlund tries to lock on the cross-face chicken wing but Superstar is too big to apply it to. Superstar gets in a shot and delivers his swinging neckbreaker finisher. Some fans visibly leap up in excitement. Superstar looks at Backlund’s unmoving body and…doesn’t go for the pin. He then sends Backlund to the cement and delivers a neckbreaker on the concrete. He then returns to the ring and allows the ref to count the champ out at 16:13. WHAT!? Then Superstar celebrates with the belt. Why would he assume he is the champ? Solid match, very annoying finish.

They interview Backlund in the locker room and he admits he was beat and he can’t figure out why Superstar didn’t finish him. The man wants to cause pain and Backlund has to stop him “By Golly!”

Mike Graham vs. Bob Bradley
Monsoon and Patterson talk about “other areas” and how winning across the country sets you up for a run in the WWF. They work a very basic, technical match. You can see during one spot that they aren’t too familiar with one another as they have a moment where it appears Graham wants Bradley to feed him his body but Bradley stays in the corner. A German suplex finishes Bradley at just under five minutes. Just your basic extended TV squash.

Snuka cuts his normal incoherent promo.

Muraco does a GREAT promo in response:

Steel Cage: Intercontinental Champion Don “The Magnificant” Muraco vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
The men trade shots as soon as they can get within reach of one another. This is a blood feud and it ends tonight! Snuka cracks Muraco and sends him reeling. Muraco responds by sling shotting Snuka into the cage and tearing open his flesh, allowing the plasma to pour from his head. The men fight up the cage and Muraco teases throwing Snuka over the edge and to the cement. Snuka’s gusher has caused blood to pour to his chest already!

Snuka fires back at Muraco and the Magnificant one is sliced open and he bleeds profusely from his forehead. A diving headbutt rocks Muraco. Muraco is then smashed by Snuka with a big headbutt and he stumbles into the door and falls to the floor for the win in just under seven minutes. That was awesome but all too brief. Snuka attacks Muraco after the bell and delivers his famous Superfly Leap from the top of the cage.

Snuka missing that move against Backlund the previously year set up this legendary moment. With hindsight on my side, I can say the modern era of big bumps has taken the impact of the spot away. Actually I just watched Sgt. Slaughter take a similar bump in JCP a few months earlier than this.

Pat Patterson interviews Larry O’Dea. He was an Australian wrestler/promoter but he had no ties to the WWF. He’d make one WCW appearance being mauled by Terry Gordy and Dr. Death in 1992.

Capt. Lou puts over Muraco for his toughness in surviving the match and the splash. Lou actually botches his promo at one point and just screams into the microphone to reset the promo. Lou’s great as always.

I’m not sure why they put this cage match in the middle of the card since they have to spend upwards of fifteen minutes to put it up, then another fifteen to take it down.

Rocky Johnson vs. Sika
This is setting the stage for Johnson and Tony Atlas to challenge for the tag titles the Samoans own. They throw down back and forth before Johnson scores a sunset flip pin in just under two minutes. Good but very brief.

The Invaders vs. Israel Matia and Butcher Vachon
Matia is a fat bald job guy. Vachon was good a decade earlier, now he’s just enhancement talent. The Invaders use remarkably fast tags as they keep the large Matia confounded. The announcers put over Vachon’s past as a monster heel. The Puerto Ricans keep up the pace until scoring the win at 6:58. If they found the Invaders some small guys to work with, they could probably have some real barn burners. This was just an extended squash.

Andre the Giant vs. Afa
Afa attacks Andre before the bell, so Andre manhandles him, grabbing his trunks and yanking him into several punches. He then boots Afa and sits on him for the pin at 1:07. The Samoans got no love from the bookers tonight.

Final thoughts: This was the first WWF card I really enjoyed seeing from top to bottom in this series so far. The big matches delivered, even if the match layout was wonky. Now that the wrestling war is starting things are going to get interesting fast!

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin’ and true crimes.

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