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WWF At Madison Square Garden
March 17, 1985

by Scrooge McSuck

Mr. T

- Presented on the MSG Network, sponsored by Mitsubishi Motors, Manufacturers Hanover, TWA, Texaco, Planters: New York's Number One Sports Nut, and Ivory Soap. Gorilla Monsoon and "Mean" Gene Okerlund are calling the action from ringside, and yes, we're TWO WEEKS AWAY from WrestleMania, in the same building HOSTING WrestleMania. This was part of a double-shot, working the Philadelphia Spectrum later that day, with a completely different card (no, I don't have it for recap). This show is featured in the practically empty "Old School" section of the WWE Network, and is missing the tag match featuring the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.

Rocky Johnson vs. Charlie Fulton:

I honestly had no memory of Rocky Johnson still kicking around at this point, but it looks like he stuck around through the Spring before departing. Lockup into the ropes and Johnson gives a clean break. Johnson gets funky working on a hammer-lock until Fulton gets to the ropes to force a break. Lockup and Fulton with a weak roll-up that is countered with a head-scissors. Johnson with more dancing, taking Fulton over with a hip toss. I can see where his Johnson's son (Dwayne something or other) got his characteristics for his early babyface run in the WWF in 1996-97. Fulton gets some token offense, working Johnson over in the corner. Whip to the ropes, Johnson rolls under a clothesline and gets a sunset flip for three at 3:52. This was a waste of time but kept short. - Barry O vs. Rene Goulet: I guess Barry O is working as the babyface, or we're getting a pointless heel vs. heel match to pad the card. "Who knows what that O could be." Maybe he's the long-lost relative of Paul Orndorff! Lockup into the corner and a clean break. They do it again, and Goulet complains of a phantom hair-pull. Goulet with a headlock, countered by Barry with a head-scissors. They jockey for position, doing a series of counters, but neither man gaining control. Barry O keeps going to the head-scissors, but Goulet escapes each time. Whip and Barry with a shoulder tackle, then back to the headlock. Crisscross and O rolls through a hip toss, trapping Goulet in an arm-bar. The crowd is not very receptive of this clean-cut work. Goulet with a knee to the midsection to slow Mr. O down. Goulet with a snap mare out of the corner and grabs THE CLAW. If only his rhinestone glove was on for further damage. O with rights to the midsection, but Goulet cuts him off with biting. They trade strikes, with O getting the better of it. Whip and Barry with a sloppy back-drop that Okerlund tries to cover-up as a backfired sunset flip attempt. O with a slam for two. Running power-slam for two. Goulet sweeps the leg and hooks a headlock. Goulet with a slam and knees across the chest. O with another comeback, hitting Goulet with an atomic drop. Whip to the corner and O meets a knee. Goulet goes for a slam but O counters with a small package for three at 8:51. This was fine, even if the crowd didn't care for it. **

"Special Delivery" Jones vs. Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart (w/ Jimmy Hart):

This is Hart's first appearance at Madison Square Garden, for those who care about that sort of thing. With Barry O introduced from Las Vegas, and the Anvil from Reno, you could put them together as the Nevada Foundation. What, you have a better suggestion? Okerlund lets us know of Hart's prior experience in the music industry. Lockup and Neidhart shoves Jones down with a handful of hair. Jones grabs a side headlock and yanks the beard of Neidhart in retaliation, but unfortunately for him, the referee chastises him for the blatant disregard for the rules. Crisscross and Jones with a sloppy hip toss. Another crisscross ends with Jones stomping Neidhart as he attempted a monkey flip and goes to work on the left arm. Neidhart with a slam, but Jones rolls through, holding on to the arm-bar. Neidhart scoops Jones up again and drops him across the top rope to break the hold. Jones no-sells being rammed head-first into the turnbuckle, but a rake of the eyes still works. Neidhart hooks a rear chin-lock. Jones fights free and unloads with lefts. Whip is reversed and Anvil finishes with the Power-Slam at 6:54. Standard affair from The Anvil. I'm sure Jones' next appearance at the Garden will go better for him. *

Jose Luis Rivera vs. King Kong Bundy (w/ Jimmy Hart):

Bundy only debuted on WWF TV the day before on Championship Wrestling, so another fresh appearance at MSG (unless Bundy made an appearance, years earlier that I'm unaware of... and indeed he did, working as "Man Mountain Cannon" on June 8th, 1981). He's rocking the cape, but not the sunglasses. Rivera avoids a lock-up, using his speed. He goes for an over-head wrist-lock, but Bundy tosses him with ease. Lockup and Bundy with a forearm across the back. Whip to the ropes and Bundy with an elbow. He scoops Rivera up with ease and plants him with a one-arm slam, then drops a knee across the chest to really kill the poor geek. Rivera with a pair of dropkicks that are no-sold. Bundy crushes him in the corner with the Avalanche and drops an elbow for the five-count at 2:35. Lots of "ooh" and "aw" from the crowd throughout, and a fun squash. That's quick for a house show match. You don't think he can top it, do you?

- A Very Special Edition of Piper's Pit. The advertised guest is none other than Mr. T. No, that's not a typo. Piper comes to the ring with his bodyguard, Bob Orton (who now has the infamous cast on his left forearm), carrying a large case. Piper claims he's here for Piper's Pit because they couldn't find anyone to fight him and tells us about St. Patrick's Day, when the Irish chased away all the snakes, and they apparently ended up in New York City and grew. Piper goes for cheap heat, making fun of the New York Yankees (who went 87-75 in the 1984 season, so it's not the biggest insult. That would come when Stump Merrill became the manager at the end of the decade). Before Mr. T comes out, Piper brings out "one of the finest athletes he's ever seen, and a fine gentleman", Mr. Wonderful, Paul Orndorff. Orndorff makes monkey sounds to mock Mr. T. Now that all three of them are in the ring, he invites Mr. T to the ring. Oh, sorry, MISTER T, according to the MSG graphic. He's not alone, either, coming to ringside with not only Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, BUT WWF CHAMPION, FRIEND TO THE END, AND TAG TEAM PARTNER, THE INCREDIBLE HULK HOGAN™. Piper asks T if he's afraid to come out by himself, and T responds the same reason Piper has his guys. T ultimately refuses his seat, finding Piper untrustworthy. HOT TAKE, T. Piper says he's researched T's background and found out he's a former tough man and amateur stand-out in Illinois. He's going to do T a favor and give him a chance to bow out of their match at WrestleMania. Piper has some illustrations of what could happen to T, with various injuries promised if he doesn't back down. Piper puts on a Mr. T bald-cap to mock him, but T snatches it off his head and both men have to be restrained by their respective entourage. Piper says "We will save this for the 31st" and throws a fan's beverage at him before storming back to the locker rooms. T casually destroys Piper's pictures and promises Piper will pay for everything he's done. This was ALL Piper (and more tasteless heat getting from Orndorff). Bret Hart & George Wells vs. Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Fred Blassie):

Great spot for everyone to follow that last segment. The "official" spelling of Hart's name looks like it was "Brett" for a while, but we'll just keep it as "Bret" for the sake of not being an obnoxious jerk (which I sometimes tend to be). Volkoff and Sheik have a date with Rotundo and Windham at WrestleMania, and it's before Vince went senile, so you know they aren't jobbing here. Monsoon and Okerlund are having a blast laughing at Blassie standing on the USSR flag as he sang the Soviet anthem. Hart and Sheik start. Lockup and Sheik grabs a side headlock. Whip and Sheik with a shoulder tackle. Crisscross and Hart with a hip toss, followed by a dropkick. He plants the Sheik with a slam and takes him over with a side headlock. Wells tags in to pick up where Hart left off. He comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle and goes back to the headlock. Crisscross and Wells counters a hip toss with his own. Sheik finally gets the hip toss to work but misses a senton. Wells with a snap mare into a cover for two. Hart with a snap mare and leg drop. Sheik rakes the eyes and sends him into the boot of Nikolai. Volkoff tags in for the first time and thumbs the throat of Hart. Volkoff drops Hart across the top rope. Crisscross and Bret takes Volkoff over with a sunset flip. Volkoff quickly regains control. Whip to the corner but Volkoff's knee meets the turnbuckle. Bret with a seated splash across the chest, BUT VOLKOFF WON'T SELL A DAMN THING. Sheik in, taking Bret over with a back drop, then comes off the ropes with an elbow. The bell randomly rings as Hart gets whipped into the corner. He fights off Volkoff with rights and a dropkick but guess what... Volkoff won't sell for longer than 2-seconds. Sheik with a gut-wrench suplex for two. Bret counters an abdominal stretch and takes Sheik over with a snap suplex. Wells tags in to a BIG POP and unloads with rights and headbutts. He hits Volkoff with a diving shoulder tackle. Sheik loads the boot and kicks Wells in the face, then drops an elbow for three at 8:59. This was fun when Volkoff wasn't in the ring. Iron Sheik has become one of my favorites of the era recapping all these shows leading up to WrestleMania. **1/2

David Sammartino vs. Matt Borne:

Borne is wearing a shirt that has "Maniac" on it, but I don't think he was ever recognized by that nickname in the WWF. Borne is probably best known as the original Doink (the Clown) and for some serious "personal demons". Borne with a shove before the bell. Lockup and I can't help but see HOW SHORT Sammartino is. Borne's not exactly a giant, but he has a considerable height advantage. Sammartino with a pair of leg sweeps. Borne with knees and a belly-to-belly suplex. He takes David over with a snap mare, drops a knee across the face, and grabs a rear chin-lock. Crisscross and David with a flurry of right hands. He's fighting like his father in 1971. Whip to the corner and he takes Borne over with a back drop. David with a snap mare and grabs his own chin-lock. Borne escapes and stomps on David's face. He chokes Sammartino across the rope and cradles him for the world's slowest two-count from the worst referee I've ever seen, and this guy worked MSG shows ALL THE TIME. Someone teach this referee how to work for the hard camera, he's standing in front of the "action." Sammartino sends Borne into the corner and hits him with more rights and lefts, but Borne cuts him off, grabbing a front face-lock. Borne reverses a whip to the corner but meets the post charging in. Sammartino with a vertical suplex for two. He plants Borne with a slam and drops a knee across the chest. Sammartino with a rare trip to the top rope and he's slammed down for it. Borne goes for a power-slam, but Sammartino rolls through and hooks the leg for three at 8:26. Not much here but Borne did enough to keep it out of the toilet. *

Andre The Giant, The Junkyard Dog, and "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka (w/ Capt. Lou Albano) vs. Big John Studd, Ken Patera, and Jesse "The Body" Ventura (w/ Bobby Heenan):

Scoff at the wrestling ability of all involved, but this is a heck of a Six-Man Tag for 1985 and could easily be pushed as a Main Event match. For those wondering, I think Albano was lightly associated with Andre, although it wasn't as regular as him being by the side of Windham and Rotundo. Andre doesn't waste time, going on the attack and sending Studd to the floor. Things settle down, with JYD unloading on Patera with rights. Whip and he takes Patera over with a back drop. Andre tags in to work Patera over. Studd tries to help but Andre won't have any of it. Whip and Andre hits Patera with a big boot. JYD back in with his signature headbutts, sending Patera to the floor for a breather. Patera mouths off Andre and bails, again. Andre decides to go after Studd, who escapes to the floor, as well. JYD gets caught in the corner thanks to some excessive choking from Ventura. Andre briefly makes the save and continues to make Patera and Studd his female dogs. Meanwhile, Ventura keeps punishing JYD. Orndorff must be proud. Ventura tries hitting the Dog's head and hurts his own hand in the process. Ventura over-sells being rammed into the turnbuckle and begs for mercy. Snuka tags in for the first time and hits his signature headbutt and chop. Snuka with a slam and falling chop from the middle rope. Ventura thumbs the eyes to cut him off, and Patera chokes him across the rope. Whip and Ventura with a chop. Studd with a slam for two. He grabs a bear-hug, but Andre breaks it with a kick to the back. Patera in with a bear-hug of his own. Ventura tags in and applies... a f'n bear-hug. JTD with a headbutt to the back to break this one. Studd with ANOTHER BEAR-HUG. Andre finally gets the hot tag and smothers Studd in the corner, destroying him with body blows, chops, and headbutts. He goes for a slam, but Patera saves. Ventura tags in, eats a boot from Andre, and Snuka finishes with the Splash at 11:50. Post-match, Andre and Co. squash Studd and Patera in the corner. Other than Andre making life miserable for Heenan's guys, this was low-level stuff with Bear-Hug-Mania running wild. ¾*

Ricky Steamboat vs. Terry Gibbs:

Steamboat is making his first appearance at the Garden... since 1980? I guess he worked the Garden, teaming with Jay Youngblood, so this isn't his Garden debut as I expected. Steamboat offers a handshake, but Gibbs cheap-shots him and unloads with rights. Whip is reversed to the corner and Steamboat takes Gibbs over with a back drop. Steamboat with a slam, sending Gibbs hiding in the corner. Gibbs with another cheap-shot, further agitating the Steamer. Steamboat chases Gibbs around the ring and finally hits him with a big chop. Steamboat with the arm drag into the arm-bar, but Gibbs thumbs the eye and tosses him out of the ring. Steamboat fights Gibbs off from the apron. The referee prevents him from delivering a punch, giving Gibbs the chance to sucker-punch him. Gibbs with an atomic drop. Steamboat comes back with chops and finishes with the flying body press at 4:36. Not the most impressive outing for Steamboat. I honestly can't think of one time I said "hey, that match with Terry Gibbs was good." ¼*

WWF Intercontinental Championship; Lumberjack Match:
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Tito Santana:

Lumberjacks include King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, JYD, Jimmy Snuka, Rocky Johnson, Ricky Steamboat, Matt Borne, Barry O, Charlie Fulton, and Terry Gibbs. One of the biggest mysteries at the time is "why didn't they do Valentine vs. Tito" at WrestleMania. I want to say running at the Garden so close to the show is an obvious answer, but they didn't have to book the match for this night. Valentine attacks as the referee is checking Santana's pads and unloads with elbows. Santana fights to his feet but Valentine rakes the eyes. Whip to the ropes, Santana ducks a clothesline and lays out the Hammer with a clothesline of his own. Santana with a flurry of rights before ramming Valentine into the top turnbuckle. Valentine bails, into the comfort of the heels. Steamboat decides to send him back to the wolf, with Santana punishing him with more rights. Back inside, Santana blocks a boot and connects with an atomic drop. Valentine's attempts to escape backfires and Santana continues to pummel him. Valentine with an inverted atomic drop, but Santana quickly regains control. All the babyfaces make sure to prevent Valentine from leaving ringside. Santana slams the back of Valentine's head into the canvas and drives a knee into the face. He comes off the middle rope with an axe-handle and covers for two. Whip to the corner and Santana meets a knee. Valentine with a knee across the chest for two. He comes off the ropes with a wind-up forearm for another two-count. Valentine targets the surgically repaired knee and grabs a standing half-crab. Crowd with chants of "Tito" as Santana escapes with a straight right to the face. Santana gets tossed, only to be thrown back in. Valentine with forearms across the chest, followed by a knee drop for two. Valentine goes back to the knee and teases a Figure-Four, but Santana counters with a small package for two. Valentine wins a slugfest and comes off the ropes with a European uppercut. Santana drops Valentine face-first across the turnbuckle and drives a shoulder into the midsection. Santana wins their next slugfest and takes him over with a suplex for two. Santana goes for the Figure-Four, but Valentine rakes the eyes and bails. The Lumberjacks send him back inside, where Santana nails him off the ropes with a forearm. Santana gets the Figure-Four applied, but Studd pulls Valentine to safety as Jimmy Hart distracts the referee. Santana takes some shots at Studd, allowing Valentine to club him from behind. They trade blows for Round 3. Whip to the ropes and they bop heads, with Valentine falling on top of Santana for three at 15:00. Lumberjack matches isn't my favorite gimmick, but they made this one work and we got a surprisingly clean finish. ***1/4

Final Thoughts: We're only two weeks away from WrestleMania, and the biggest segment of the night was the live edition of Piper's Pit that had all parties involved in the big event's Main Event tease a physical confrontation that sadly never took place. There's a few decent matches and a few poor matches throughout the card, and I can't help but love Andre doing his best to destroy the Heenan Family at every possible moment. Unfortunately one of my favorite matches on the card is missing from the WWE Network version (I have a copy of the original MSG broadcast), otherwise I'd give this a solid recommendation.

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