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WWF @ Johnstown, PA
by Scrooge McSuck
March 6, 1988
- It's time for the next trip down the FanCam Express Tour. The majority of WWF events taped by an audience member seems to fall in the early-to-mid 90's range, for whatever reasons you want to come up with, but here we are, in a rinky-dink gymnasium in Pennsylvania, just three weeks away from WrestleMania IV, home of the first ever Tournament to crown a new, undisputed WWF Champion. Other than an odd yellow tint, the video quality is pretty clear. It's probably just an effect caused by the quality of handheld cameras at the time. It WAS the late 80's, after all.
- Your hosts are... nobody. Thankfully the person recording this show had the decency to keep their mouth shut. Let's get to the action, shall we?
Opening Match: The Killer Bees vs. The Bolsheviks:
(B. Brian Blair & Jim Brunzell vs. Nikolai Volkoff & Boris Zhukov)
Anyone think the Bolsheviks might pick up the victory here? It's pretty much a toss up since both teams are bottom feeders of the Tag Team Division. Then again, the opening match should have the faces go over, but that's not an actual booking rule, just a personal opinion. The Bees come out to music, but it's hard to hear... probably Crank It Up. Volkoff with the sneak attack on Blair to kick things off. Blair catches the boot, spins him 'round, and sends him into an ear smack from Brunzell following an atomic drop. Elbow across the leg, but Zhukov breaks the pin attempt. Blair handles both Bolsheviks and we get heel miscommunication, as well. It's like a two-for-one special. Volkofff surprises Brunzell with a headbutt to the midsection, but misses a charge to the corner, allowing the Bees to control, primarily working the arm. Volkoff goes to the eyes and finally tags out to Zhukov. He briefly controls with some generic offense until being taken over with a sunset flip. Lots of playing to the crowd so far, but to be fair, the crowd is REALLY hot for whatever reason, so kudos to all four men keeping them alive and into everything. The Bees target the legs of Zhukov, working in a pair of wishbone manuevers, as well as their signature double spinning toe hold.
The Bolsheviks eventually gain control of the action, when Volkoff breaks up a Figure-Four and Zhukov attacks Brunzell from behind. They trade off choking him in the corner while the oblivious referee repremands Blair for having odd colored socks on. Volkoff sends Brunzell to the ropes, and catches him coming back in a bearhug. It doesn't take long for him to escape, but Zhukov quickly tags in and continues putting a hurt on him. Brunzell escapes a bear hug, but his back gives out on a slam attempt. Volkoff tags back in, and quickly gets laid out with a diving forearm. Blair gets the hot tag and unloads on Zhukov with rights and lefts. Volkoff tries to break the momentum, but Blair's a house of fire. Double noggin' knocker, and a sleeper hold applied to Zhukov. Brunzell tries to fend off Volkoff, but the referee forces him out of the ring, allowing Volkoff to come off the ropes with a double axehandle, and make the (illegal) cover for three at 15:11. Holy crap... this was a pretty good match. I don't think I've ever said that about a Bolsheviks match before. I must credit the hot crowd for some of that, though. They were into every second of it. The work was mostly simplistic, but nothing ever came across as fast forward material. Keeping the Bolsheviks on offense for as little as possible helped, too.
Koko B. Ware vs. Dino Bravo (w/ Frenchie Martin):
Unless we get a major upset, I think the heel side of the roster is going to be 2-0 by the end of this match. Koko was saddled up as "the other guy" to form a 6-Man Team with the Bulldogs at WrestleMania IV, and Bravo just started the "set the unofficial world record" for bench pressing at the inaugural Royal Rumble, so this is a bit lopsided when you really think about it. The crowd still loves Koko, though. Lockup, and Bravo proves right away he has the strength advantage. He plants Koko with a slam, and proceeds to celebrate, again. Koko blocks a hip toss and counters with one of his own, then sends Bravo to the floor following a headbutt. Back inside, Bravo goes for a headbutt, but ends up hurting himself, instead. Koko uses his speed advantage to avoid Bravo's caveman blows. He sends him to the corner with a dropkick, but a monkey flip is countered with an atomic drop. Bravo drops an elbow and covers for two. He boots Koko to the floor, allowing Martin the chance to get his token cheap shot(s) in. Koko's been on the floor for so long, he should be written off as being on Vacation leave. Back in the ring (FINALLY), Koko surprises him with a sunset flip for two, but Bravo remains in control with... a chinlock. Koko fights free and comes off the ropes with a body press for two. Bravo with a piledriver, and a trip from the second ends with him hitting whatever he was going for. Koko blocks a second piledriver and counters with a back drop. He mounts his mild comeback, until missing a charge to the corner. Bravo with the side suplex, and it's over at 10:22. Not very good, but we weren't expecting any miracles with this one to begin with.
WWF Women's Tag Team Championship Match:
(Itsuki Yamazaki & Noriyo Tateno vs. Leilani Kai & Judy Martin)
The Jumping Bomb Angels © vs. The Glamour Girls (w/ Jimmy Hart):
This is pretty much an automatic three-star match, judging from their history of working together. If you'll recall, these two teams also met the day before at a show held in the Boston Garden, so if they work the same formula as that, then this will definitely be fun. Tateno greets Martin with a dropkick, but a double team effort on Kai doesn't work. Tateno still manages to run through her with a knee, and plants her with a hard slam for two. The Angels take turn working the arm. Martin counters a body press with a slam, but Yamazaki bridges out of a cover and rolls Martin up for two. Kai sweeps the legs and manages to get trapped in a body scissors. Kai escapes, snapmares Yamazaki over and applies her own body scissors. Yamazaki rolls through, however, and turns it into a modified surfboard. Tateno gets trapped in the challengers corner, but manages to escape an Airplane spin and applies an octopus hold for a two count. Whip and a body press for another two count. Yamazaki with an elbow from the top rope, followed by a series of elbows for two. Whip to the ropes and Martin catches her with a knee to the chest. Kai throws her across the ring by the hair, then does the same to Tateno. Whip to the ropes, Tateno catches the boot, slugs her down, and slaps on a Figure-Four. Martin and Yamazaki come in, and we have duel-Figure-Four's. Martin manages to escape, and plants a boot to the face to free Kai.
The Champs continue working over the leg of Kai until Tateno hurts herself. Martin comes in and is quickly taken over with a sunset flip, but manages to maintain control. Tateno attempts to mule kick Martin away, but gets jerked out of the corner and slammed on her face. The Glamour Girls control with choking and kicking, so you know who's carrying who in the matches between these two teams. Tateno offers a comeback, but gets punted clear across the ring by Martin for a two count. Kai comes in with a dropkick for two. Martin and Kai continue taking turns putting a hurt on Tateno, without doing much of note. Tateno slams Kai off the apron, and we have an edit problem with the original recording. We come back with Martin still in control over Tateno. Whip to the ropes, Tateno with a sunset flip, but the referee is out of position. Yamazaki's constant distractions from trying to help her partner just keeps making things worse. In an odd spot, the referee eventually getas physically involved, throwing Kai down by the hair... Gorilla Monsoon would have a field day with that one. Yamazaki gets the hot tag and runs through Kai with a pair of high knees, followed by a body press on Martin for two. Double underhook suplex gets two. Second rope clothesline for two. We get face miscommunication in the form of Tateno hitting Yamazaki with a body press, but Yamazaki is still alert enough to pin Martin with a victory roll at 17:59. Solid match, but a notch below their usual level of quality. Maybe the extended offense for the Glamour Girls did it for me. They really didn't add much to that middle portion of the match.
Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (w/ Jimmy Hart):
The Dream Team Explodes, nearly a year after the original break up! I'm sure if this were taped in 1987, Beefcake would be fighting Johnny Valiant, but thankfully, he has a real opponent tonight. Stalling to start. Beefcake catches a boot, countering a cheap shot in the corner, and connects with an atomic drop. Valentine's selling of the hold is a bit unusual, to say the least. Beefcake literally kicks his ass to take the Hammer down, then drops an elbow across the midsection. Beefcake with excessive choking, a typical move your loveable babyfaces do. He must've been trained by Hulk Hogan, or something. Valentine goes to the eyes to take control and drives a series of forearms across the throat. Valentine has yet to do anything other than punch-elbow-choke. School boy roll up, with a handful of tights, only gets two. We hit the chinlock, because they must be exhausted from the 10-minutes of minimal effort put forth, so far. You can tell Beefcake is making a comeback, he starts making goofy faces, not unlike the Hulkster. Too bad a clothesline is all it takes to put him back down. Whip to the corner, Valentine charges in with a shoulder, and snapmares the Beefer out of the corner. He heads to the top rope, only to take a fist to the midsection on the way down. Beefcake slaps on his signature Sleeper, but Jimmy Hart runs in and bops him with the megaphone to draw a Disqualification at 10:20. Nothing to see here, really nothing else to say. It wasn't good.
George "The Animal" Steele vs. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase (w/ Virgil):
Hmmm... Dibiase is being groomed as the biggest (heel) threat to winning the Championship Tournament, and George Steele's run as a full-time performer was on it's last legs... I wonder who's going over. Weird to have Dibiase stuck in what is basically a nothing match, instead of with someone a little more at his level on the card. The timekeeper's excessive ringing of the bell is quite annoying, to the point Steele throws a chair into the ring. This goes on for a while, so I'm grabbing a sandwich. The crowd seems into it, but I find George Steele's act a waste of time. Dibiase with a failed sneak attack, and he's already at the mercy of the Animal. He controls with biting and even applies that overhead hammerlock he used as a quasi-finisher. Virgil with the distraction, allowing Dibiase to take it to the floor, and in clear view of the referee, use a wooden chair. Steele responds by throwing more furniture into the ring. Steele bops himself with the chair, and Dibiase covers for three at an unobtainable time. From the time Steele actually got into the ring until the finish, it was all of three minutes. What a waste of Dibiase's talents.
Steel Cage Match: Bam Bam Bigelow & "The Rock" Don Muraco vs. One Man Gang & "The Natural" Butch Reed:
I guess the steel cage was a hot match at the time to close out shows. I don't recall Muraco ever doing a proper end of feud match with either of Slick's men (over the Billy Graham beating), and I don't even remember if Bam Bam had a true program going on at the time. I do know all four men are scheduled to compete at the WrestleMania IV Tournament, and Bam Bam and the Gang are paired up for a 1st Round encounter. I was going to make a smart ass comment about editing out the theme music of Muraco and Reed/Gang... but I guess I just did.
Muraco/Reed and Gang/Bigelow are the pairings to start. Muraco sends Reed to the corner and immediately goes for the door, unsuccessfully. He pounds away in the corner, but Reed turns the tide after pulling him down from trying to escape. Muraco eats steel while the Gang lays into Bigelow with clubberin' blows. We trade partners, with the Gang taking a hefty size bump into the cage. Bigelow slams Reed face-first to the canvas and drops a fist across the forhead. Meanwhile, the Gang has regained control from the Rock, choking him down in the corner. Reed tries to climb out, but Bigelow crotches him on the top rope to prevent. Gang tries climbing, but Bigelow follows him up, and we have seperate brawls on opposite ends of the top of the cage. Reed lays Muraco out with a clothesine, but still can't get through the door, while Bam Bam FINALLY knocks the Gang off the cage following a series of headbutts. Muraco wins a slugfest with Reed, and the heels get rammed into each other, and then the cage wall. Bigelow makes his way through the door at 6:33, but gets knocked down hard by the Gang in the process. Muraco tries fighting off both men, but they catch up to him and pound away. They send him to the ropes and drop him with a double elbow. Reed to the second rope for a double axehandle. Gang goes for a splash, but Muraco somehow puts Reed in his place. Gang misses a follow up charge to the corner, and Muraco makes the slow crawl out the door for the victory at 8:38. Mostly punchy-kicky, but there seemed to be a bit of effort from everyone, and it was entertaining from start to finish. Can't ask for much more than that when you notice the caliber of performers involved.
Final Thoughts: I feel like I'm judging this more as a true arena card that was held on television, rather than as a Fan-Cam Quality. Yes, there's a difference, even if it's a subtle one. I guess the effort in the camera work and the perfect placement of the person operating it makes that much difference. Anyway, to sum things up quickly, all the tag team matches delivered, with varying reasons for their quality: the opener had that NWA style "faces dominate all but 2-minutes, so the action is non-stop" factor, the Bomb Angels with the complete carry-job of their older, less skilled opponents, and the Cage was a decent brawl that kept the crowd hot. The singles matches, however, all fell below standards, but nothing was so bad I'd have to go out of my way of singling it out. Solid show and recommended, if you ever come across someone with a copy.
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