April 21st, 1985
Billy Red Lyons and Gorilla Monsoon call the action.
Rick McGraw vs. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
McGraw is at a peak roid cycle here, just bloated with muscle on his small frame. Lyons points out that McGraw is short. Thanks for burying the babyface! McGraw tugs on the Anvil’s beard and Monsoon justifies it as legal since Neidhart chose to grow facial hair. Oy vey. We are fast and loose with the rules as always.
The men exchange some basics, with McGraw controlling things until Neidhart catches him and dumps McGraw’s coccyx down onto his knee twice. Neidhart hacks away and chucks McGraw to the floor. McGraw fires up back in the ring but is dumped on his tailbone once again and powerslammed. The ref (a tall old man) counts with the slightest movement of his hand off the mat and it seems to throw the announcers off as they fall silent as time stands still. It appears the ref also delayed the count to look at McGraw’s shoulder blades, somewhat killing the finish as Neidhart is declared the winner in 7:47. The match was fine for an opener, with the guys working relatively hard, and not just laying around in rest holds. The fans were vested in the heat and shine, making for perfectly acceptable wrestling.
Steve Lombardi vs. “Magnificent” Don Muraco
Muraco has also found the steroids, as his baby fat is starting to turn into massive bulky hard beef. Muraco stalls for the first several minutes, complaining after every offensive move Lombardi successfully executes. Eventually Muraco gets angry and chucks Lombardi to the cement. He treats Lombardi to a trip into the railing as well.
Lombardi mounts a brief comeback after Muraco runs into the turnbuckle, but the Magnificent One just casually scoops him up and Tombstones him for the win at 6:09. Muraco receives a mixed reaction for the win, with way more cheers than one would expect for such a cad.
Ivan Putski vs. Jerry Valiant
Jesse Ventura takes over for Billy Red Lyons for reasons that are left unstated. As I feared from the line up, this match quickly devolves into an exchange of rest holds. This is only broken up by an occasional exchange of fisticuffs. You know things are bad when Monsoon has to tell us how exciting things are in the ring. A sloppy Polish Hammer, which lands on Valiant’s shoulder, and maybe glances on his chin, finishes things at 6:04. It felt more like 64 minutes. Next please!
George Wells vs. Bret Hart
Monsoon is now gone, with Jack Reynolds taking his spot next to Jesse Ventura. This is turning into WWF Nitro. Wells always strikes me as someone who is a bit underrated. I’ll wager Hart will find a way to make this fun since his opponent is competent. Wells dominates the early minutes, out wrestling the future “Excellence of Execution” and frustrating Hart thoroughly. Wells earns a good pop from the fans by delivering a pair of flying head scissors.
Hart gets the heat with an array of elbows, arm work and other such moves before Wells catches him on the top rope and slams him off to a big reaction. Wells unleashes some big blows, including milking a headbutt for maximum reaction. A powerslam fails to earn Wells the win, so he takes things a bit more technical and attempts a cradle, which Hart reverses, clinging to Wells tights for the win at 9:11. Hart was motivated as he had just turned heel and was being given a chance in the tag division with Neidhart. This was an entertaining back and forth contest.
Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid vs. Moondog Spot and Barry O
What has become of my beloved Moondog Rex? (He’s debuting in a new gimmick in Mid-South) Kid bounces all over the place for Spot. The Bulldogs use their speed and ability to fly to rattle the much larger heel duo and sends them to the floor to regroup.
Smith uses a number of flips to escape O’s grasp, so O attempts his own flips, only to wind up slammed instead. The faces control things with suplexes, slams, headbutts, and their general speed advantage. The heels roughhouse tactics prove not to be enough for them to garner and sort of extensive control.
The match eventually just simply goes on too long as the heels get an unnecessarily drawn out heat segment after being outclassed for a good chunk of time. The announcers mention several times how heavily favored the Bulldogs are, so the heels dominating really makes the Bulldogs look bad. The Bulldogs finally get their momentum back and Smith press slams the Kid unto Spot for the win at 16:05. Had the heels been an established heel duo, I could accept the match length a little more. This was not quite the showcase it was intended to be.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Tito Santana vs. Brutus Beefcake and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
The Hammer is still the IC champ here, and the “Dream Team” is in their infancy. The faces get the quick shine on the heels as Beefcake bumps around for them, with Valentine getting cheap shotted several times as he stands on the apron. The crowd eats it up! The audience is giving Beefcake a bunch of heat and chanting “Fruitcake”.
Valentine tags in and Santana is all over him as their feud is still raging after endless months of hard hitting matches. Valentine grinds into Santana with elbows and forearms and the crowd is quick to chant for their hero to fight back. Tito fires up and unleashes fists into Valentine’s chest and face. The Hammer shakes off a figure-four attempt and regains his physical dominance of the Mexican star.
The heels take turns teeing off on Santana, raining blows unto his body and trying to remove his limbs manually via arm wrenching. Finally Santana manages to speed around Beefcake and make a tag to Steamboat who goes in all kinds of fired up. Steamboat rattles both heels with chops and drives Beefcake to the mat with a suplex. The crowd’s excitement dies down after the numbers game sees Steamboat trapped 2-on-1 at the mercy of the heinous duo. Valentine batters Steamboat with blows and a stomach breaker before the Dragon endures more double-teaming.
Santana makes the hot tag and tries to fight off both heels. The sweat drenched men dump Steamboat, then double up on Santana as the ref stands by impishly. Steamboat is able to drag himself from the cement and attack Beefcake through the air. Valentine attempts to atomic drop Santana, but Tito leg picks him and traps him in the figure-four. The crowd goes BONKERS, literally leaping into the air. Valentine cannot take the pain any further any surrenders the match at 15:31. Beefcake fights with Steamboat all the way back to the locker room as Tito and Valentine exchange threats. This match made it on the “Best of the WWF Volume 4” VHS release and is generally regarded as one of the best WWF tag matches of the era by internet geeks like me who still watch decades old wrasslin’.
WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan vs. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff
There is a delay in Hogan’s entrance, followed by WWF President Jack Tunney coming to ringside and speaking to the refs. Nothing comes from this, so it may have been a legit issue in the back.
The roof comes off the place as Hogan makes his entrance. Hogan dominates at the bell, back suplexing Orndorff, then downing him with punches. Mr. Wonderful bails out to regroup. He waves off Hogan several times before finally taking a battle stance. He then takes a walk down the ramp.
Hogan rattles Orndorff once they get rolling and Orndorff seeks a break again. Hogan makes him pay with an eye rake and an atomic drop. Mr. Wonderful finally catches the champ with a knee and is able to dump some elbows upon his prone frame. Hogan is chucked to the floor and sent into the railing.
Orndorff continues to batter Hogan with an array of elbows and blows, broken up only by Hogan making a brief rally. Mr. Wonderful tries a flying crossbody, but Hogan rolls through with it and holds Orndorff down just long enough to retain his gold at 10:03. Orndorff offers his hand after the match and gives Hogan a thumbs up. After Wrestlemania’s ending saw the babyfaces tend to Orndorff, we get another step towards his turn to the side of good as he acknowledges Hogan was able to out wrangle him and keep his gold once again. Begrudging respect may soon turn to friendship. Hogan poses and we’re out!
Final thoughts: The last two matches saved the show as most of the undercard had me reaching for the coffee to stay awake.