Gorilla Monsoon and Dick Graham call the action. Graham excitedly announces the Moondogs, Tony Atlas, the Sammartinos and Barry Windham are in action. About a minute later he adds “oh yeah and the Hulker (sic) is here!”
Over 19,000 fans are in attendance.
Tony Garea vs. Moondog Rex
Monsoon claims Garea just came back from a 14-week tour of the Middle East. They feel each other out with the basics. Both men are solid workers, so everything is cleanly executed. Garea, the scientific grappler attempts to use arm drags and arm bars, meanwhile Rex slugs away. Rex grinds away for the meat of the match with his roughhouse tactics. Things go awry briefly as Garea avoids an atomic drop and tries one himself, only for Rex to shift his weight, seemingly thinking it’s a back suplex, so Garea goes with it although it looked sloppy enough for the announcers to point out.
Garea attempts to earn the win with a crossbody, then goes for a slam, but Rex rolls through and cradles Garea for the pin at 10:38. That finish was a surprise, as the brawler used scientific methods to best the grappler. Match overall was fine for being an opening event.
Jim Powers vs. A.J. Petruzzi
This is jobber vs. jobber. Powers is definitely the guy who the office has hopes for though as the announcers talk about his large muscles and good looks. The guys do some simple stuff before Powers gets caught with a neckbreaker and is pinned at 3:16. The announcers continue to put over Powers and suggest he’ll learn from his mistakes and win these kind of bouts sooner than later. Petruzzi may have been kicked in the mouth by Powers’ dropkick as he seems to be checking for blood. In that brief match, the fans started chanting “boring”, even though the guys were working a decent pace. I guess they were letting the promoters know how they felt about jobber matches.
The Barbarian vs. Carl Fury
“The Barbarian” is Dave Barbie, Andre’s former (current?) handler/stooge who had a good build and worked as a prelim guy. The nickname is new, and apparently Barbie came down carrying chains as well but that is not shown. The push never went anywhere, but I wonder if the nickname (obviously a play off of Barbie’s last name) was done to needle Crockett who had just brought in (Konga) The Barbarian in December.
Barbie jumps Fury and mauls him with forearms as Monsoon mocks his new gimmick. Barbie no sells some shoulder blocks and dropkicks to establish his size advantage. He locks on a lazy headlock and Monsoon calls him out on it. A poorly executed press slam finishes things at 3:27. Barbie looks almost like John Nord, and a pairing with those two would not have been the worst idea in the world.
Swede Hanson vs. Charlie Fulton
Hanson, the 200-year old looking babyface carrying the Confederate flag, is cheered. Hanson locks on a knee bar as the announcers ignore the match and talk about how and why Tony Atlas and George Wells both recently shaved their heads. They then debate if Bruno Sammartino is ready for his return to the ring tonight after being away four years. Hanson splashes and pins Fulton in mercifully short order at 3:28. Just a squash.
George Wells vs. Nikolai Volkoff
Wells now has a football jersey and NFL style pants as his gear. Volkoff drives knees and elbows into Wells and he returns the favor with a knee of his own. Volkoff and Wells exchange punches, but the big commie uses chokes and illegal throat blows to maintain the advantage.
Wells blasts Volkoff with several football tackles but finally misses one charge, crashes into the turnbuckle and crumbles to the mat. Nikolai snags the pin at 6:10. For a match with too limited beefy workers, this was entirely watchable.
Barry Windham vs. Dick Murdoch
Murdoch gets in Windham’s face right away. The men trade words and shove one another around. Murdoch drives punches, forearms, elbows and boots into Windham as he controls the action. Murdoch does many little things while working that make his actions better. This can be as simple as shooting the fans a little grin after smashing Windham with an elbow, to something like alerting the ref that Windham is balling up his fist – then yanking Windham’s hair when the ref is distracted by admonishing Barry.
Windham punches his way back into control, with Murdoch spitting to sell some of the shots blasting him. Murdoch tears at Windham’s face, using the big Texan’s long hair to obscure to the ref what deeds he’s doing. Windham is tossed to the floor, followed by Murdoch driving him into the railing. Murdoch prevents Windham from making his way back in the ring for a bit, before Murdoch ends up being dragged to the floor.
Dick’s face is smashed into the edge of the ring several times, with Murdoch spitting from the impact and stumbling around bug eyed. Windham tosses his head into the corner post, then jams Murdoch’s skull into the metal post as Barry squeezes it against the bar.
Windham misses a splash back in the ring and is sent back to the floor. Murdoch uses a crutch on Windham five times right in front of the ref. This does not warrant a DQ in the ref’s mind. I’m sure Murdoch spontaneously used the crutch, so the poor ref couldn’t do much since that wasn’t the finish.
As they move back into the ring the ending proves to be the same as the opening match as Murdoch attempts a slam and is cradled for the pin at 13:38. Good effort by two tremendous workers.
Bruno and David Sammartino vs. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff
This match feels pretty random. Bruno is 49 years old here. Heenan is 40. Paul Orndorff charges into the babyface corner alone and quickly gets beat down by Bruno as David goes off to batter Heenan.
Bruno and Heenan start things off formally, with the elder scoring several arm drags. Mr. Wonderful tags in and Bruno makes his way out to let the younger men battle instead. Heenan climbs the ropes to goad the fans as David works an armbar. Bruno shakes the ropes and Heenan takes a tumble off camera. Bruno waits for David to have Orndorff down to come in and take a turn. Bruno works the arm, just like David was. If this were a match with scrubs, the fans would be booing, but given the dynamics of the men involved, they are invested in seeing the legend wear down the heel.
Heenan tags in and Bruno staggers back to his corner to let David take the fresh man. The Brain bumps big to put David over before catching him with a shot to the throat, setting up Orndorff in good position to get some licks in on the youthful Sammartino. Heenan and Orndorff take turns wounding David for several minutes. A stiff shot gets thrown at some point, as David’s nose and face becomes splattered with blood.
Bruno makes the hot tag and slugs Mr. Wonderful out of the ring. Bruno tries to bearhug Heenan and something goes haywire as Bruno falls down and delivers something akin to a spinebuster. He picks Heenan right back up and into the bearhug. Orndorff runs in with a stool and knocks Bruno loopy, earning a DQ at 11:39. Bruno is choked with the stool afterwards until David makes the save and clears the ring.
Bruno took a different approach to the match than I was expecting as he was portraying himself as the weak link of his team, instead of being the conquering hero back in his gladiatorial arena. This was fun to watch thanks to Heenan’s bumping and Bruno’s mystique, but the match was nothing special at all.
Mike Rotunda vs. Mr. X
X is replacing Adrian Adonis, who was attempting to leave the WWF at this point. This MIGHT be Danny Davis, who worked the X gimmick later on as he prepped for his big heel run. The guy is nicely put together. X works a headlock. Rotunda and X work several grappling reversals on the mat, with Mike working towards a knee bar. An airplane spin is enough to score the pin for Rotunda at 5:35. Typical Rotunda match as it was technically sound but lacking any spark.
“Mr. USA” Tony Atlas vs. Moondog Spot
Spot is AWOL so Atlas spends several minutes walking gingerly around the ring, appearing to nurse his leg a bit. Monsoon makes fun of how Atlas looks bald.
Once things get going, Atlas leaps over Spot several times as the announcers discuss how the wrestlers can maintain their giant frames with the brutal travel schedule they are under. Spot uses several headlocks to waste time.
Atlas tries to run the ropes but something goes wrong and he jumps/falls to the floor. Atlas walks around ringside, makes his way back in the ring and press slams the obese Spot for the win at 7:40. Ugh, a true stinker here with little action and a big blown spot..
Hillbilly Jim vs. Rene Goulet
This is Hillbilly Jim’s first match in Philly and he gets a big cheer thanks to his association with the Hulkster. Jim does a little dancing while Goulet stalls. The stalling goes on for several minutes as Goulet slowly disrobes, then complains about Jim’s smell.
They work several spots to establish that Jim is big and strong, then Hillbilly dances some more. Goulet gets dropped on his face, which Jim celebrates by doing a cartwheel and dancing once again.
Goulet is whipped into the turnbuckle and does the Flair flip over them, then runs across the apron’s edge and scales the ropes. He leaps into Jim’s arms and quickly submits to a bearhug. The match went 5:18, but had about a minute of actual contact. I loved Jim as a kiddo, so I have absolutely no problem with watching this for nostalgia.
WWF World champion Hulk Hogan vs. Brutus Beefcake
Beefcake is stalling, so Hogan jumps him from behind and pounds him out of the ring. Beefcake and Hogan have a pose down and then a strutting competition. The fans eat this all up of course as Hogan plays to them masterfully.
Hogan punches Beefcake into a daze and bites his face for good measure. The fans chant a gay slur at Beefcake. Hogan dominates Beefcake for several minutes as Brutus flails and stooges for the mighty champion beating on him.
Beefcake gets his chance to batter Hogan, using his feet, fists and knees to wear the Hulk down for several minutes. Hogan hulks up after a series of pinfalls and quickly boots and legdrops Brutus, only for Johnny V to distract Hogan and disrupt the pin. Beefcake connects with a flying knee to Hogan’s back and scores a 2-count before Hogan is able to slip his leg under the ropes to break up the pin. Beefcake and Valiant celebrate anyway, and Hogan rolls up Beefcake for the real pin at 9:45.
Johnny V and Beefcake try to jump Hogan afterwards but he beats them up and sends them flying with a double noggin knocker which sends them bumping the wrong direction. Johnny V gets on the mic to challenge Hogan to a rematch. The Hulkster poses and we’re out!
Final thoughts: This was better than the usual WWF house show as they booked the prelim matches to not be dragged out for too long as they otherwise tend to. The fans came to see stars and not workrate, so they got their money’s worth.