Special thanks to Kris Zellner, Jim Zordani, Graham Cawthon, Matt Farmer, Tamalie, Dave Meltzer, Karl Stern, wrestlingdata.com, crazymax.org, prowrestlinghistory.com and the “Between the Sheets” podcast for the results and historical information I have used for this series. The Wrestling Classics and Kayfabe Memories message boards have also been invaluable in answering my questions on certain issues and angles.
Where we last left off: June 1985
The biggest card of the month for the WWF, both in terms of impact and star power was in Baltimore. There on July 6th the fans were offered a rare chance to see Hulk Hogan defend his WWF World title against Roddy Piper. The match ended in a predictable double count-out. The final match of the evening saw Tito Santana battle Greg Valentine inside of a steel cage. Santana finally got revenge for Valentine injuring him and taking the IC belt the prior year. Valentine had already started teaming with Brutus Beefcake, and will be moving forward as primarily a tag wrestler. The card drew over 13,000 fans.
Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper continued their feud. They added gas to the fire on TV by partaking in a brawl that required over a dozen wrestlers to put a stop to it.
A new blood feud began as a result of a Don Muraco/Ricky Steamboat TV match. Muraco and his manager Mr. Fuji quickly forfeited a chance for victory by double teaming Steamboat and hanging him from the ropes with a belt wrapped around his throat. This led to a series of tag team main event matches taking place across the country with Steamboat finding various friends to aide him.
In an interesting note that I do not have an answer for, Andre the Giant had been largely absent from the WWF since the end of April. He spent May and June touring Japan, without any stops in the WWF. Then in July he only worked two matches in total. I have found nothing to indicate he was hurt or protesting his WWF bookings. He did miss at least one scheduled WWF shot in July as Bruno Sammartino was called into action in Buffalo to replace him.
Sammartino fought the Missing Link on that Buffalo show. Link ended up throwing around some chairs at ringside, near where the commissioners were sitting. They were upset enough that they talked to WWF officials and threatened to ban them from the city if such behavior wasn’t curtailed in the future.
Announcer Jack Reynolds, who was signed away from Pro Wrestling USA just to stick it to the competition, was released.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated once again recognized the WWF title as a “World” championship. They had spent several years defining it as a regional belt. I believe that was done in retaliation to the WWF banning the PWI photographers from ringside. The WWF also started “Victory” magazine in order to compete for the newsstand money around that time.
The first ever “King of the Ring” tournament was held in Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro. It drew over 23,000 fans. The brackets were not laid out fairly in a kayfabe sense, as Tito Santana had to face Terry Funk, the JYD paired off with Don Muraco, Mr. Wonderful fought Bob Orton and Steamboat battled Greg Valentine. Meanwhile Les Thornton tangled with a jobber, and Pedro Morales slugged it out with a manager, among other tournament bouts. Round two saw Tito Santana grapple with Jim Brunzell in a match I would like to see. Ultimately, the finals was bizarrely booked to be Don Muraco beating the Iron Sheik in a heel vs. heel bout. Muraco took the duke. Hulk Hogan defended his gold against Nikolai Volkoff in the main event.
Across the country business was on fire. 14,000 came to Oakland to see Piper face Orndorff, Hogan fight Brutus Beefcake and the JYD tangle with Valentine. The same dual headliners drew almost 15,000 to Los Angeles. 18,000 fans came to Pittsburgh to see Hogan down Don Muraco. A crowd of 15,000 went to MSG to witness a battle between Piper and Mr. Wonderful. Toronto drew 18,000 fans for Hogan defending against Big John Studd. A second show in Toronto a few weeks later drew 11,000 fans to see Mr. Wonderful clash with Studd in a “bounty” match, as well as Ricky Steamboat and Animal Steele brawling with Fuji and Muraco.
Philly was a battle ground city as JCP came in with their big guns blazing. NWA US champ Magnum TA fought Nikita Koloff, Dusty Rhodes defended his TV title against Tully Blanchard in a “bullrope” match and the new NWA World tag champs, the Rock and Roll Express, battled Ivan Koloff and Krusher Kruschev. The WWF drew almost 10,000 fans to see Mr. Wonderful fight Roddy Piper, plus Andre the Giant teamed with Ricky Steamboat to tangle with Mr. Fuji and Muraco.
Columbus, Ohio was a battle of spot shows as the WWF offered up the U.S. Express facing Sheik and Volkoff, with JCP countering with a card full of the old Georgia wrestling crew being supplemented by NWA World champ Ric Flair tangling with Magnum TA.
The Meadowlands saw the WWF present Ricky Steamboat seeking vengeance against Mr. Fuji, Tito Santana clashing with Don Muraco, and Mr. Wonderful getting his hands on Bobby Heenan. The AWA, under the guise of “Pro Wrestling USA” brought in the Road Warriors to fight Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes, AWA champ Rick Martel grappled with Nick Bockwinkel, Sgt. Slaughter knocked around Larry Zbyszko and Greg Gagne was DQ’d against Ray “the Crippler” Stevens. The AWA drew 4,500 fans.
There is some scuttlebutt online that Bockwinkel was given this match so he could add that he had main evented in New York to his resume. I suppose such a line of thinking might have occured, but I do not think Martel was going to move the needle here one way or another if given a more WWF fan friendly opponent.
St Louis/Central States
The Bob Geigel and Verne Gagne led St. Louis crew continued to struggle. Their St. Louis show was headlined by Kerry Von Erich facing his long time WCCW foe Gino Hernandez. Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton came up short against Marty Jannetty and Bob Brown, Dick the Bruiser fought Mr. Pogo and the Giant Gustav crushed Scott Hall and Sheik Abdullah in a handicap match. The WWF drew 6,500 for a show headlined by Hogan and Mr. Wonderful clashing with Bob Orton and Roddy Piper.
NWA champion Ric Flair toured the area again, defending against Kevin Von Erich and Harley Race.
The WWF ran Kansas City, Missouri, drawing 6,000 fans for a rare match up of Hulk Hogan clashing with Greg “the Hammer” Valentine.
With Jim Brunzell departing for the WWF in June, Greg Gagne needed a new partner. He spent several weeks teaming with the likes of Steve O and Blackjack Lanza, but in order to finally put his issue with Nick Bockwinkel to bed, he needed a real badass. Enter Sgt. Slaughter, who took Gagne to “Camp Slaughter” and left him with an infamous gimmick in the aftermath:
The horrible porn music was supposedly added for the VHS release, and replaced Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” or something similar. Nonetheless, the “Rambo” gear looked goofy and had to hurt the angle, which had been raging on for several months.
The AWA continued to sell Jim Brunzell’s Remco toys after he left for the WWF. Brunzell had to sue in order to get his royalties for them.
Dick the Bruiser (56-years old) and Da Crusher (59-years old) teamed together for the final time in a traditional four man bout as they fought Buddy Roberts and Michael Hayes in Green Bay on July 28th.
The yearly midwest business downturn for the AWA that occurred each summer came to pass once again. For example, Salt Lake City had drawn 10,500 fans in May, and were down to 1400 fans for this month’s event with Sarge and Greg Gagne butting heads with Bockwinkel and Stevens. The Freebirds fought the Hennigs in the co-feature. Not helping matters is the fact that Jerry Blackwell, statistically the AWA’s top draw, left at the end of May for rest and a long tour of Japan, so he was nowhere to be seen to the local fans. The Road Warriors, the other main AWA draws, only worked one AWA show in America. They were doing shots for JCP, Florida and Montreal. Despite being AWA World tag champs, they already had one foot out the door.
The Twin Cities show (drawing 2,500) saw Sarge and Gagne partner up to best Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens by DQ. Rick Martel defended his AWA gold against Michael Hayes in a match that ended with the other Freebirds interfering. It was suppose to set up a Martel and Crusher match against the Birds for the next month, but Verne Gagne and Crusher ended up having a money argument and Crusher was replaced by Curt Hennig. The Road Warriors battled the Long Riders and Boris Zhukov downed the Baron. Zhukov was in line to work Martel, so they were trying to build him up. The WWF drew 4,000 fans to the Met Center to see Hulk Hogan defend his title against Roddy Piper.
Winnipeg drew 3,200 fans for a Rick Martel title defense against Larry Zbyszko. Zhukov attacked Martel after the match to set up their program. Gagne bested Nick Bockwinkel and the Freebirds bested the Baron, Da Crusher and Larry Hennig.
Chicago fans were treated to an AWA title match between Martel and Hayes. Bockwinkel and Stevens scored a DQ win over Slaughter and Gagne in the co-feature. The WWF came to town and drew 3,000 fans for a battle where the U.S. Express downed Sheik and Volkoff.
Milwaukee area fans were offered up Slaughter against Larry Zbyszko in a battle for the Americas title. Da Crusher fought Michael Hayes to a draw in the co-feature. The WWF drew 2,800 with a card loaded with former AWA stars Jim Brunzell, Jesse Ventura, Ivan Putski, Tito Santana and Adrian Adonis.
Pro Wrestling USA
It would appear that other than the above mentioned Meadowlands card that the only Pro Wrestling USA event was a paid show at the Rocky Point Amusement Park. Bob Backlund headlined against Boris Zhukov. The supporting bouts were the Wild Samoans against the Long Riders and Larry Zbyszko facing Steve O.
Gino Brito and his partners at Lutte Internationale saw the writing on the wall as the WWF crept into their territory. Rather than continue to try to fight using talent on loan from the AWA, an agreement was made with Lutte Internationale and the WWF to co-promote a number of shows over the rest of 1985 and beyond. Vince McMahon promised to use Montreal talent in main events and agreed to give them wins over the WWF stars in some cases.
The final show at the Montreal Forum for the Lutte promotion was on July 29th. Over 17,000 fans came to see Dino Bravo face off with the Masked Superstar. Bravo won the match and attempted to unmask the Superstar, but he was attacked by a masked man who would prove to be Joe LeDuc.
The co-main event was a revenge bout for the Rougeau Brothers. Ron and Jim Garvin and battered and bloodied the Brothers, as well as their father in an attack in June. On this night, the Rougeaus attacked before the bell could even sound. Blood flowed as the teams brawled for the next 10-minutes until the ref chose to DQ both sides. Jacques Sr. entered the ring post-match and celebrated with his sons. It was a nice moment, but the war was not over.
AWA tag champs Hawk and Animal worked several Quebec area towns against the Tonga Kid and King Tonga.
The WWF came into Quebec City and drew 10,000 fans to see the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff fall to the U.S. Express.
Next time we head south to see what went down in JCP, Mid-South and other areas in July of 1985.