Wrasslin’ back in the day: WWF at the Cap Center 5/28/83

WWF: On May 10th, Jimmy Snuka participated at a WWF TV taping in Allentown. Before the event, Snuka and his girlfriend Nancy Argentino were involved in some form of domestic dispute. When Snuka came to his hotel room after the event, he found her to be unresponsive and had her rushed to a local hospital. She died shortly after from cranial injuries. Doctors found dozens of cuts and bruises on her whole body and they pushed for a homicide investigation. Snuka changed his story of how the wounds occurred several times and ultimately Vince McMahon Jr. and a briefcase full of bribes (allegedly) was able to end the investigation of his top babyface draw. Of course this story is still ongoing as Snuka was finally charged last year for his involvement in Nancy’s death.

The same night that the Snuka/Argentino tragedy unfolded, Eddie Gilbert was involved in a car wreck and suffered a severe neck injury. He would be out of action for only a few months, but the accident would trigger a pain killer addiction that haunted Gilbert for the rest of his life.

Sgt. Slaughter started making TV shots in April, and he jumped to the WWF in early May to begin chasing Bob Backlund’s World title. He actually got a shot at MSG after brutally attacking Backlund on TV with his riding crop.

New Japan star Tatsumi Fujinami came in for a brief run in the area.

A small hint at what’s to come occurred as WWF ran an Ohio show with Snuka vs. Ray Stevens, Jules Strongbow vs. Ivan Koloff and Rocky Johnson facing Don Muraco. The show drew 3800 fans and was credited as a sell out.

Then two stops in California saw Muraco vs Rocky Johnson, Mil Mascaras vs Ray Stevens and Snuka vs Buddy Rose headline in Los Angeles with Pat Patterson and Fujinami in under card bouts. Then in San Diego Snuka clashed with Muraco, Mil Mascaras met Buddy Rose and Rocky Johnson beat Ray Stevens, with Patterson and Fujinami on the under card again.

The WWF gave Jules Strongbow his notice. He did a TV job to the Samoans, and another to Sgt. Slaughter to finish up his run.

George Steele and Tito Santana both returned to the WWF rings.

Around the rest of the territories:

May 1st saw Jim Crockett Promotions back in Greensboro. The headline match was the final rematch of “The Final Conflict” as Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood defeated Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle in a match with two refs, no DQ, no count-out and a stipulation that the heels would split if they lost. Both men were WWF bound. Slaughter was already making WWF TV appearances and headed right into a program with Bob Backlund. Kernodle was dead in the water. He ended up losing matches on TV not too many weeks after he arrived.

The undercard was filled with Jimmy Valiant battling Kabuki in a street fight, The Brisco Brothers facing Angelo Mosca and Gene Anderson, Jake Roberts beating Mike Graham, Bugsy McGraw squaring off with the One Man Gang, Joe LeDuc brawling with Rick Harris, Dick Slater beating Sweet Brown Sugar (Skip Young) and Greg Valentine beating Roddy Piper. Piper came in as US champion. Valentine brutally attacked Piper’s ear, throwing off his balance and making Piper nearly incapable of defending himself. Several NWA officials stepped in and stopped the match due to Piper’s injury, costing him his title and setting the stage for future battles. This of course would be another step towards Starrcade. This event drew a somewhat disappointing 4800 people. The tag title match was a rematch of a rematch of a rematch of a…. you get the idea. I assume the fans may have felt burned after “The Final Conflict” did not end the feud and thus perhaps stayed home.

JCP returned to Greensboro 3 weeks later. By this time, the Brisco Brothers had turned heel on Jim Nelson and broke his leg. This allowed Nelson to change his gimmick to Boris Zhukov and seek a push elsewhere. The Briscos then started to chase Steamboat and Youngblood. Their match here ended with the champions gaining a DQ victory. This was just the beginning in a feud that was destine to end at Starrcade. The undercard was not as strong this time around as Valiant and Kabuki battled once more, Greg Valentine butted heads with Joe LeDuc and Rufus R Jones beat Jake Roberts. Several prelim matches were included as well.

GCW: The Omni hosted a NWA World title match between Ric Flair and Tony Atlas on May 1st. Atlas secured the DQ win to keep his title hunt alive. Tommy Rich and Paul Orndorff beat Killer Brooks and Larry Zbyszko in the co-feature along with Dick Murdoch battling Buzz Sawyer and Ron Garvin facing the Iron Sheik.

Tony Atlas headlined again on May 15th as he faced Killer Brooks, who was subbing for Buzz Sawyer. Paul Orndorff beat Larry Zbyszko in the co-main event and Stan Hansen, Dick Murdoch and Brian Blair squared off with Killer Brooks, the Iron Sheik and Paul Ellering in a big six man match. Ron Garvin faced Bob Roop in what had to be a hard hitting affair.

St.Louis saw Harley Race beat Crusher Blackwell for the Missouri title. This was to heat Race up as he had an NWA World title match scheduled in St. Louis the following month. Butch Reed battled Greg Valentine to a draw, Bob Orton Jr beat Manny Fernandez and Rick Martel, Kerry Von Erich, and Bobby Duncum were in undercard bouts.

Florida: The Dusty Rhodes vs. Kevin Sullivan feud continued to unfold, with Dusty and Barry Windham squaring off with Sullivan’s Army of Darkness. Blackjack Mulligan clashed with Angelo Mosca several times and Magnum TA finished up here and headed for Mid-South.

Mid-South: The Rat Pack split up in Mid-South over Ted Dibiase doing business with General Akbar. Hacksaw Duggan did not want to be involved with an evil  foreigner (we were suppose to forget Duggan had taken money from Akbar for evil deeds in the past) and he and Ted Dibiase split on good terms. Shortly after that, Dibiase showed his true colors by attacking Duggan. This kicked off a feud that would culminate in a loser leaves town match that would send DiBiase to Georgia for a year.

As mentioned above, Magnum TA debuted in Mid South and he was groomed to be a star from the beginning.

Hogan left the AWA for Japan almost right after April’s Super Sunday show and did not return to the Gagne’s until the middle of August. The AWA was preparing for their slower summer months anyway.

The war with Mad Dog Vachon and Jerry Blackwell roared on. With Sheik Adnan injured at the hands of Verne Gagne and Mad Dog the previous month at “Super Sunday”, Blackwell did not have a partner to pursue AWA tag champs Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell. Sheik took care of this by making a deal with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to sell him Ken Patera’s contract for a truckload of cash.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDHos_Piqu0

On May 26, 1983 in Houston Southwest Championship Wrestling tried to establish itself as a major promotion by holding a tournament for a new World Champion. This one would be endorsed by Lou Thesz, who would be on hand to give the winner of a tournament his old NWA title.  Terry Funk, Nick Bockwinkel, Bob Orton Jr., Adrian Adonis, Bob Sweetan, Wahoo McDaniel and others all participated. Ultimately Orton and Adonis would meet in the finals, with Adonis winning the gold. He would leave the promotion two months later without losing the title and the whole idea was scrapped soon after.

Memphis

Powerful Toronto based promoter Frank Tunney died at the age of 70. Montreal Promoter Johnny Rougeau died of cancer at the age of 54.

And now on to our featured attraction:

WWF in the Capital Center May 28th, 1983

Mac Rivera vs. Barry Hart

We jump right into action, without even getting on screen graphics for the men. Gorilla Monsoon is on the call. Hart is Barry Horowitz. They start with some solid mat work before things get chippy and Hart starts using some less than kosher moves. The fans get into the action despite the men’s prelim status. They have a rather vanilla encounter before a crossbody at 11:13 wins it for Rivera. Horowitz was already smooth at this tender age.

Sal Bellemo vs. “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff

Koloff whips his chain around the ring menacingly, so Bellemo gets a chair to defend himself. The men settle down after that. Koloff dares Bellemo to hit him and we get a jaw jacking session before Bellemo frustrates Koloff with a dropkick. Koloff begins to attack Bellemo with strikes and a choke hold. Sal gets some small comebacks but Koloff is willing to tug on a tuft of hair or go for a gouge of the eye to regain control, so Bellemo spends most of the bout selling. A flying knee from the top rope finishes Bellemo at 12:33. Nothing flashy here, but not bad for a glorified squash.

Princess Victoria and Susan Starr vs. Lelani Kai and the Fabulous Moolah 

Monsoon calls Moolah “Lillian”. Moolah and Kai control the action with armbars as they go through the distract the ref and switch off illegally trick. Kai tries to jab her fingers in Victoria’s mouth and gets them bit. Victoria gets a brief spurt of action before the heels go back to restholds. Moolah constantly pulls hair and chokes Victoria, as the ref is overwhelmed.

Moolah ends up falling on the ref and they do a comedy spot as Moolah has the ref trapped under her bosom and Victoria jumps on as well. Victoria eats more offense before finally getting the tag. The faces go through a fast paced sequence of double teaming before they accidentally collide. The heels follow that up by accidentally colliding themselves and that allows Starr to pin Kai at 13:15 in one I would deem an upset. The action was largely inconsequential, but I enjoyed the ending sequence.

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka vs. Sika 

Sika jumps Snuka from behind. This quickly transitions into a nerve pinch. This goes on for several minutes. Snuka breaks the hold but Sika produces a foreign object and whacks Snuka. Snuka endures more abuse before springing back to life and busting open Sika with strikes before nailing a diving headbutt at 6:05 for the win. Well…the match stunk but Snuka got the biggest reaction of the night while doing just about the least, so I guess he has this pro wrestling thing pretty well figured out.

“Iron” Mike Sharpe vs. Baron Mikel Scicluna

This is heel vs. heel. Scicluna is over 50 and nearing retirement. They stall to start as both men accuse the other of having foreign objects. Sharpe takes a walk. Sharpe clubs away once he finally decides to stop stalling. Scicluna produces a foreign object and rocks Sharpe with it. The fans approve of Baron cheating. Things return to form as Sharpe turns to clubbing away before loading his forearm pad and KOing Baron for the win at 9:57   Sharpe tries to get some more shots in, but the Baron gets his weapon and chases him off. The heels trying to out cheat one another made for some fun moments in an otherwise punch/kick encounter.

IC Champion Don Muraco vs. Rocky Johnson 

Swede Hanson is the special guest ref. Muraco gets rode by the crowd with chants of “beach bum!” Muraco has all of his early offence reversed on him. Johnson locks Muraco into a lengthy leg grapevine. He works that hold for several minutes. Muraco finally manages to bend Johnson back far enough to be able to bite his face and break the hold. Muraco sells the leg damage as he tries to mount his own offence. Muraco delivers a Tombstone but he chooses not to go for the cover. He tries a top rope splash and eats Johnson’s knees. Johnson gets revved up and starts to unload with fists before Muraco is busted open on the steel ringpost. Johnson hits a series of dropkicks but Muraco pulls Swede Hanson in the way of one of them. Muraco then sends Hanson to the floor. Swede comes back in and attacks Muraco at 17:35. Hanson declares it a double DQ. There was some good action here but Johnson was done as a challenger with a Snuka feud on the horizon for Muraco.

Don Kernodle vs. Pete Doherty 

Doherty is a jobber who acts wacky. He was a bit of a staple on the WWF cards for the next several years. Kernodle is in after his big money run with JCP. He looks as vanilla as possible here. Monsoon does him no favors by stating he has never seen him work, and thinks Doherty can earn the win here. I’m not sure if they were testing the waters for a face run here or not but Kernodle became a glorified jabroni pretty quickly in the WWF. He wins via neckbreaker in 11:07 of bland action. I am becoming pretty confident that all the time limits I am getting from the ring announcer are phony. This match in particular seemed much shorter than what was announced.

Bob Bradley vs. Samula  

Bradley is another glorified jobber. Gorilla tries to claim he is a power lifter, but he appears to have the traditional soft jobber body. Monsoon tries to ponder the genetic reasons why ethnic people have hard heads. Samu chops and forearms away for what feels like an eternity before nailing an impressive long range flying headbutt in a bit after 9 minutes. Well if the goal was to cool off the crowd before the main events, mission accomplished. Yawn.

Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Sgt. Slaughter

Sarge is the first man to come out with theme music tonight. Sarge is new to the area and they are heating him up for a run with Bob Backlund. They spend several minutes stalling before Sarge eats a chop and bails. When Sarge comes back in he eats more chops and takes a big bump into the corner. Sarge avenges that with a series of clubbing blows before he sends the Chief over the top rope. Considering he’s in his 50’s, that was a good bump. Sarge puts the boots to him for several minutes before the war dance signals Strongbow’s comeback. Sarge is locked in the dreaded sleeper but manages to ram Strongbow’s head into the top turnbuckle. He follows that up with a clothesline and that’s enough to get the pin at 11:45.

World Champion Bob Backlund vs. Afa 

Backlund comes down to a tepid response. Really a scary lack of reaction for the guy carrying your top title. The men start slow as they battle over a top wristlock. When you think Samoans, you think technical wizardry. They up the tempo with a bearhug. Backlund works another wristlock. Afa breaks out and locks in a nerve pinch. That gets locked on for several minutes. Backlund breaks it, but gets trapped right back in it. Backlund finally breaks it and starts working on Afa’s arm again. Backlund delivers a somewhat sloppy piledriver. Afa is then locked in the cross face chicken wing and Afa submits at 14:53. Ugh, match was dreadful. Backlund is interviewed after the fact and he talks about wanting to injure Slaughter.

Final thoughts: This was a seriously brutal card to sit through. Way too many jabroni matches that went on forever. There’s not much help coming to the roster for another six months or so, so I’ll have to buckle down and try and appreciate whatever bones they toss me.

Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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