Wrasslin’ Back in the Day: WWF @ Madison Square Garden 3/17/1985

The Road to Wrestlemania makes one last stop at MSG with Piper hosting his Mania opponents inside the Pit

Gorilla Monsoon and “Mean” Gene Okerlund call the action.

This is only two weeks before Wrestlemania and the WWF is hedging their bets that they can draw in MSG even while offering a huge event in the same building so soon after.

This is the WWE Network version of this event, and based on the time, it appears some material was edited off including George Wells and Bret Hart facing off with the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.

Rocky Johnson vs. Charlie Fulton

This is Johnson’s return after a brief period where he quit the promotion. Okerlund even acknowledges the fact that Rocky was gone. Johnson uses some nice athleticism to flip around, which proves to be the most interesting thing about the match as Johnson goes through the motions before nailing a sunset flip for the easy win at 3:35. Mean Gene describes his excitement over the finish by saying ‘Wouldn’t that jar your mother’s preserves?” Stay away from my mother Okerlund!

Barry O vs. Rene Goulet

Barry O could pass as Terry Gordy’s little brother more so than an Orton with his big puffy hair and basset hound looks. While the men grapple the announcers plug Wrestlemania. Monsoon HAS to be right at all times and makes up “facts” to counter Okerlund’s press notes. The fans start to crap on the match as O is using a headlock and armbar for too long for their tastes. O appears to be sucking wind, so he’s probably blown up from the pressure of working his first match at the Mecca of wrestling.

Goulet uses a claw and the chants start up of “boring!”. Gorilla gets off a good line as Goulet bites O: “I always heard he was a vegetarian.” O hits a delayed slam, seemingly changing his mind mid-move as to what he was going to do. He then picks Goulet back up and hits a powerslam. I assumed that would be the finish but Goulet kicked out. The Frenchman goes right to a headlock causing the boo birds to come out strongly as they are looking for a cure for their boredom. O snags the pin with a surprise small package at the 8:50 mark. The fans give the match a relief filled smattering of applause for being over.

Special Delivery Jones vs. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart

Jimmy Hart is with Neidhart. Did they ever bother to explain Hart snagging his contract from Mr. Fuji? Neidhart does a little stooging as he attempts to be the aggressor, allowing Jones to one up him by catching the Anvil with a well timed kick, then a bit later delivers a sneaky yank of Neidhart’s beard to annoy the big man.

A frustrated Neidhart starts to choke Jones and deliver illegally placed blows to sway the momentum in his favor. He eventually goes for Jones’ head, which of course does not hurt a minority. Jones gets a bit of shine off of that before being scooped up and driven to the mat with a picture perfect powerslam to earn the Anvil the duke at 6:52. This was good enough of a showing, considering this was just a competitive showcase for Neidhart.

Jose Luis Rivera vs. King Kong Bundy

The parade of newcomers continues. Jimmy Hart is with Bundy here. Monsoon uses “a mountain with legs” to describe Bundy. The “walking condominium” is my personal favorite. Bundy casually destroys Rivera with forearms and elbows. He squashes Rivera in the corner and drops an elbow for the easy win at 2:30. The crowd is noticeably buzzing over this beast of a man wrecking his prey so easily.

It’s promo time with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T in the back. Hogan justifies picking an actor to contend with the WWF’s most devious heels. Hogan’s screaming startles Okerlund in an amusing moment. Mr. T explains that he’s not interested in talking and just wants to fight Piper and Orndorff.

Piper’s Pit

This is being held live in the ring. Piper laments that no one was willing to fight him on this card. Piper trolls New York for their lousy sports teams. He teases bringing out Mr. T, but Mr. Wonderful comes down instead. Paul Orndorff, Bob Orton and Piper share a love fest. Orndorff motions that Mr. T is a monkey. Mr. Wonderful wonders if they should put up an outhouse so Mr. T feels at home.

T comes out, with Hogan and Snuka in tow. The heels seem surprised that he actually brought back up. Piper tries to make T sit down, but he does not trust Piper. They argue over making their running mates back off so they can have some one on one time. This interview is actually going nowhere fast so far.

Piper starts to scream about T’s background as a tough guy and offers him a chance to back out of Mania. T explains that Piper attacked him the last time they were in the same ring and Mania will offer him a chance for revenge.

Roddy produces a series of paintings of Mr. T with various body parts bandaged up. When that fails to sufficiently rile up T, Piper puts on a Mohawk and that triggers Mr. T to swipe at him. T screams that you don’t mess with his hair because that represents his heritage. The heels walk away, with Piper making sure to throw some liquid at T on the way out.

T grabs the microphone and tells the fans he’s training hard and promises to deliver pain. He kind of drones on and finally tosses the mic down. This segment really lacked the pizzazz that this angle had delivered up to this point. If they were looking for a final hot moment to push closed circuit Mania ticket sales across the country… this failed.

David Sammartino vs. Matt Borne

Yet another new face in the WWF, as Borne makes his MSG debut. This match up does not favor Borne winning his first major outing. Borne slaps Sammartino and we are off hot. Borne delivers a nice belly to belly suplex before working a headlock which gets the restless fans annoyed again. They might be listless from all the unfamiliar faces tonight? Sammartino slugs his way back into the battle and locks on his own headlock. Borne locks on another headlock and the crowd groans. Borne switches it to a chinlock. This is followed up with a front facelock. Borne must be trying to kill his own career off here by having a stinker. Borne eventually tries a slam but Sammartino turns it into a small package for the win at 8:36. The crowd gives David a polite applause, but this kind of showing probably helped wipe away a bunch of the good graces the fans had for the “Living Legend’s” son.

Jimmy Snuka, the Junkyard Dog and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka vs. Ken Patera, Big John Studd and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Captain Lou walks the babyfaces to the ring. Andre wastes no time and attacks Studd. All the heels bail to the floor quickly. JYD and Patera start things formally and Patera is flung through the air. Andre tags in and mauls Patera, drawing in Studd. The Giant drives their heads together. JYD gives Patera a series of headbutts and sends him running.

Patera and Studd run as Andre tries to grab them. JYD is caught in the heel corner once the villains decide to actually fight again. Ventura tries to hurt JYD’s head and quickly learns the long standing rule of minorities and their hard heads. You should have watched the Jones bout Ventura!

Snuka gives the future Minnesota Governor some chops, but a poke to the eye stymies the Fijian. Studd tags in and tries to put the squeeze on Snuka, but Andre makes the save. Patera entraps Snuka a bear hug and then tags in Ventura, who applies his own bear hug. JYD breaks that up. Studd tags back in and Snuka is locked in his fourth straight bear hug.

Andre finally tags in and is a house of fire as he wails into Studd. He follows that with a headbutt that visibly misses by six or seven inches, with nothing but air in between. Studd sells it anyway. Studd manages to tag off to Ventura, who is quickly booted by Andre and then splashed from the top rope by Snuka for the pin at 11:55. Andre hovered over the men, daring Patera and Studd to break up the cover. The faces corral Patera and Studd into a corner after the match and do a three man shoulder tackle to squash them into the turnbuckle. Andre’s rage made this watchable, as he consistently put over his lust for revenge on the men who humbled him months earlier by cutting his hair. Ventura being used as a fall guy made sense given that he was medically limited in how often he could actually wrestle.

Ricky Steamboat vs. Terry Gibbs

Yet another new face comes to the WWF here as the “Dragon” appears. Steamboat gets near zero reaction. New York fans had not seen Steamboat for several years and that was just a few appearances (maybe only one?) by Steamboat and Jay Youngblood in MSG. The Dragon is working in plain blue tights here, which made him appear fairly generic. The “Bruce Lee” gimmick he was given soon after was a huge upgrade from what we see here.

Steamboat attempts to work an up tempo, chasing Gibbs and abusing him with chops. Gibbs gets a bit of token offense before Steamboat rallies. Steamboat attempts to play to the crowd a bit, but they are having little interest in anything being done here. Steamboat delivers a chop from the second rope and a top-notch flying crossbody from the top rope for the pin at 4:36, but the crowd just refuses to show him any love. The match was as uninspiring of a debut as Steamboat could possibly have had.

Intercontinental champion Greg “The Hammer” Valentine vs. Tito Santana

This is under lumberjack rules. The heels have monsters like Studd and Bundy on Valentine’s side, meanwhile Santana apparently could not convince Andre to help him, much less Hogan. Jimmy Hart is managing Valentine.

Valentine is rocked early on and falls by the heels. Santana knocks him to the floor again and this time the babyfaces are able to shove him in. Bundy is wearing the world’s largest velvet tracksuit. I love him even more now. Valentine makes several attempts to escape to put over the gimmick. Snuka wearing a gym shirt and jeans just feels wrong. That’s his murdering gear, not his wrasslin’ apparel.

Valentine finally starts laying in the blows to Santana in order to actually win this thing, since escaping is obviously impossible. Santana’s leg is kicked and bent in unnatural directions. The fans chant “Tito! Tito!” to rally their hero.

Santana is dumped by the babyfaces, which doesn’t stop Bundy from trying to get his nose in on the action. The guys at ringside are really not attacking either man, literally just serving to push them back in the ring as is designed by the match. Valentine attempts a figure-four, but Santana cradles him instead.

Valentine stalks Santana into a corner, but is pressed off his feet by Santana’s legs and dumped face first in the turnbuckle.That was cool spot.  Santana starts to wear away at Valentine, culminating with a figure-four attempt that Valentine maneuvers out of. Valentine decides to run again before being dragged back in the ring.

Valentine is locked in the figure-four. Jimmy Hart distracts the ref, allowing Studd and Charlie Fulton to drag Valentine to the ropes. Santana attacks Studd for his interference, allowing Valentine to come from behind and attack his challenger. The combatants end up bonking heads, simultaneously falling to the mat unconscious. Valentine happened to land on Santana, which allowed the referee to make an absurdly fast count for the pin at 14:59. These guys had another hard hitting, sweat drenched fight. Valentine had been fending off Santana for months now, and his desperation to keep the title was clear. The stipulation might have hampered the match a bit, since Valentine had to get the gimmick over, but this was a good finish to a lousy show.

Final thoughts: This was truly a nothing card, even with two of the WWF’s premier feuds being showcased in the ring. Having a card full of new faces wrestling in front of disinterested fans made for an unappealing viewing. Had the Piper’s Pit segment gone down better, I think the whole event might have gotten a big boost.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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