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WWF at Madison Square Garden - December 26, 1983
by Erick Von Erich

What the HECK?/Intro-
WWE Classics OnDemand has been on a treadmill, of late. Seemingly running random house shows with no real relevance or even mild interest. But this month they dusted off a fairly significant show; from late 1983 and the dawn of the WWF's boom period. During 1983 into 1984, they had a rather awesome roster, so this show should deliver. Calling the action is Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson, in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden. Ring announcer Howard Finkel welcomes the crowd and introduces all the ringside officials from the New York State Athletic Comission. But with so much going on in the World Wrestling Federation, let's get down to ringside for...

Match 1: Jose-Luis Rivera vs. Rene Goulet
Okay...so the delivery will be delayed a bit. Goulet still has dark hair and is without his usual glove. Monsoon and Patterson spend most of the match talking about how Goulet is a crafty veteran, in contrast to the young Rivera. All while some very basic chinlocks and armbars take place. The ending is a little weird, as both guys hit the mat after a slam attempt, so Rivera covers Goulet for the 3 count. Sorry I missed a few moves in this match(by "few" I mean "several"), but I can only stand so many punches n' headlocks.

Match 2: Salvatore Bellomo vs. Tiger Chung Lee
C'mon, Tiger-- rip his frickin' head off!!! Until I started getting WWE Classics (WWE 24/7), I had no real opinion of Bellomo. But after watching him for the past three years or so, I can't stand the guy. Probably because he's a mouth breather and most of his moves are choreographed. Sal delivers several uppercuts, which Gorilla informs us are: "European uppercuts, which they do over in Europe". Next, Gorilla will verify for us that Texans are from Texas. After some basic offense, Sal gets two drop-kicks, a kneelift, tippy-toes on Tiger's grill, then goes into a reverse chinlock. Tiger does a squat-lift from the mat and dumps Sal on the turnbuckle, out onto the floor. Sal returns, ties up Tiger's legs and works the groin. Snapmare, chinlock, then Sal hooks a sleeper. Tiger lifts him off, again, then suplexes him and lands a backbreaker for a 2 count. Both guys go for a gut-wrench suplex, with Sal winning and getting a 2 count. Tiger's right back up with belly-to-back suplex for another 2. Sal kicks out, then whips Tiger to ropes to hook an abdominal stretch...which the fans go crazy for! I shit you not. After more uppercuts, Sal starts working Tiger's trapezius area. Tiger manages a leg-lock, then works it over into a bow-and-arrow. Sal muscles out, applies a spinning leg-drop...then the 20 minute time limit expires to signal a draw... DRAW! Postmatch, Sal clears the ring and sends Tiger packing. The first 10 minutes sucked, but the last 10 were pretty darn good for a match between Bellomo and Tiger Chung Lee. I still hate Bellomo, though, as the next segment will confirm that.

A Very Special Backstage Interview with Lord Alfred Hayes
Hayes brings in Bellomo, fresh from the ring and with a mild bleeding cut on his mouth. Sal babbles between Italian and English...and I'm not sure what the hell he's trying to say. Possibly saying he'll no longer be a nice guy and break the rules in the future? I dunno'. Was this a mild heel turn or something?

Match 3: Arnold Skaaland & Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka vs. Captain Lou Albano & Magnificent Muraco
The issue between Muraco and Snuka is still raging at this point. Buddy Rogers; who was intrumental in the angle and Snuka's face turn; was originally scheduled to wrestle, but an injury forced him out and Skaaland stepped in. Skaaland comes out in a basic white bathrobe, which Gorilla informs us that Capt. Lou is "a walking advertisement for birth control". By the way-- I have to say that I always dig the way Finkel announces Lou ("Captain Loooooouis ... Albano!"). Anyways, match begins with Skaaland and Muraco. Muraco seems to be taking it easy on the old geezer, until Skaaland reverses an irish whip into the turnbuckle, then flings Muraco with two armdrags to send him bailing! Muraco is pissed, but hops back in an applies a headlock. Skaaland counters with a slam, so Muraco resorts to a low-blow. The chant of "beach bum" breaks out, until Skaaland gets a small package for a 2 count! Holy crap, the old guy can GO! Muraco hops out again and returns to face Snuka. They criss-cross the ropes and Snuka DOES, in fact, "Jump-Jump"! Chop from Snuka a jumping headbutt result in a 2 count. Snuka goes to a reverse chinlock, but Muraco wiggles out and tags Lou, almost accidentally. Lou gets chopped by Snuka, but sneaks in a low-blow to take over. Lou distracts the ref, which allows Muraco to almost decapitate Snuka with a knee into the throat from the top turnbuckle. They work on Snuka, until the ol' full nelson/heel miscommunication/accidental punch business. Skaaland runs over to cut off Lou, which allows Snuka to go upstairs and land the quick Superfly Splash on Muraco for the 3 count! Afterwards, Lou leaves the ring and takes a swipe at Pat Patterson, who chases him off. Seemed like a lot of dead weight in this match, at first, but Skaaland really delivered and this was much more fun than I expected.

A Very Special Backstage Interview with Lord Alfred Hayes
Skaaland and Snuka are in. The "Golden Boy" credits Snuka for being such a great partner, which Snuka decides to "tell da' people one thing, brother". Which, of course, results in THREE things: Skaaland's great, Muraco's in trouble and a "maliki liki maka" holiday wish.

Match 4: Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Sgt. Slaughter
Sarge tries to start off fast, by running the ropes. But Chief instantly hooks his sleeper! Sarge makes the ropes and bails, then returns to try again. This time, Chief slides under Sarge's leg, chops, armdrags and applies and armbar. Srage breaks, sends Chief to the ropes, leapfrogs and takes him to the mat with a drop toe-hold. Sarge clubs away, hit a reverse elbow and a backbreaker for a 2 count. Sarge goes for a slam, but collapses midway through as Chief gets a quick cover. Sarge goes for the Cobra Clutch, but CHief makes the ropes to break it. Chief goes on the warpath, begins dancing, and connects with 2 kneelifts and then the sleeper. Ropebreak, again, but Sarge alertly pushes the ref away, then cleaves Chief with the Slaughter Canon (big ol' clothesline)! # count cover is then elementary for Sarge.

Match 5: Ivan Putski vs. The Masked Superstar
Superstar just towers over Putski, but "Polish Power" holds his own. Superstar with a standing side-headlock, but Putski powers out and head-scissors him to the mat. Superstar tosses him out, accidentally takes out the timekeeper, then stomps away from the apron. Gorilla takes this moment to plug the next MSG show on January 27, 1984-- hopefully, that's marked on YOUR new 1984 WWF Calendar, which has Jimmy Snuka on the cover! Superstar puls Putski back in and delivers an atomic drop. He goes for his neckbreaker finisher, but Putski grabs the ropes. Putski is whipped to the ropes, but returns with the Polish Hammer! Putski thumps away on Superstar's dome and manges to loosen up the mask. The mask is almost off, as they fight along the ropes and bump the referee. Putski accidentally hit the ref, but BOTH guys are disqualified as this is officially a double disqualification.

Match 6: WWF World Heavyweight Championship:
Bob Backlund (c) (w/Arnold Skaaland) vs. The Iron Sheik (w/"Ayatollah" Blassie)

To defend his country's honor, Backlund has his stars n' stripes jacket on. The commentators make a big deal out of Sheik attacking Backlund's neck with his Persian clubs, recently. However, it soon becomes apparent that Backlund's left arm is injured. Sheik attacks before disrobing, stomping on Backlund and choking him with a scarf. Sheik works the armbar and Backlund is reeling less than a minute into the bout. They bounce off the ropes and Backlund manages a hip-toss, but Sheik goes right back to the bum arm. Backlund tries holding him off, but Sheik turns it into a surfboard to really stretch the arms. Backlund rolls forward, breaks the hold and comes back with a series of kicks, a head-butt, a flying elbow and a head-knocker, but can't lift a suplex attempt. Backlund falls to the mat, selling the arm injury, so Sheik capitalizes and is right back on it. Backlund head-butts and tries a slam...but his arm gives out in mid-manuever as Sheik falls on top for a quick cover. Sheik applies the surfboard again, as they fight over it for a minute or two. Backlund twists out, gets a waistlocks, bridges up from the mat, but can't manage a backslide. Sheik whips him to the ropes, but misses a flying elbow. Sheik goes for a suplex but; just like he did several times against other opponents; Backlund flips out the backside, pushes Sheik to the ropes, rolls him up and goes for the bridging cover. Backlund can't plant the bridge properly, as his arm fails him again. Sheik kicks out and immediately applies the Camel Clutch. Backlund writhes in pain, but doesn't give up. Arnold Skaaland throws in the towel to signal a submission, as suddenly there's a NEW WWF Champion! Fans are pissed! Sheik and Blassie celebrate...as Blassie straps on the belt, upside down, for a moment. More shock, as Finkel announces the NEW champ and the official match time of 11:50.

A Very Special Backstage Interview with Lord Alfred Hayes
Blassie and the Iron Sheik are in, trumpeting their title win. Sheik speak "Ma-mason Sqar Garden"! Sheik number one! Iran numbair one! Iran numbair one!

Match 7: 2/3 Falls: Tony Atlas, Rocky Johnson & SD Jones vs. The Wild Samoans (Afa, Sika & Samu)
The crowd is DEAD! Atlas and Johnson are the reigning tag champs at this point. 6-way brawl to start, with the good guys clearing the ring. Atlas gets one of the Samoans' tribal dresses, puts it on and dances the hula. In fact, Atlas seems to be having a blast throughout this entire match. All three guys take turn wrenching an armbar on Sika, until Jones comes in to apply a shoulder stretcher. Tag to Afa, who is reluctant to enter. Faces completely take over, as they continue pummeling the Samoans all around the ring, with headbutts a-plenty. Samu manages a legdrop on Johnson, but "Pandemonium" soon breaks out as all six guys tussle in the ring. It's a total beatdown of the Samoans... but the ref disqualifies BOTH teams, giving each side one loss.

Final fall begins and it's a bit more animated. Samu takes a triple does of punishment, including some boxing jabs from Johnson. Johnson and Atlas team up for a double-whip and a shot to Samu's tummy. Out of nowhere, Atlas lifts Samu for a piledrvier suplex (think: Goldberg's jackhammer)! Whoa! But Samu gets a low-blow and tags in Afa for a diving headbutt. Samoan pound Atlas for awhile, until he makes the hot tag to SD Jones. SD is like Pine-Sol as he cleans house. Afa catches him in a stun-gun on the top rope to turn the tide. A diving headbutt from Afa is enough to get the final pin and the Samoan victory at 20:51.

A Very Special Backstage Interview with Lord Alfred Hayes
In the locker room with Arnold Skaaland and a sobbing Bob Backlund (now with ice pack). Skaaland justifies his decision to throw in the towel, as Backlund's arm was absolutely killing him. Still in pain and upset, Backlund "cries" and feels that he let everyone down and couldn't defend his country.

Match 8: Tito Santana vs. Ivan Koloff
They start off by trading wasitlocks and working the mat. Tito is simply awesome at this point in his career, but ol' Ivan can still go. Koloff gets a full nelson, but Chico slips out and gets his own. He pounds him in the corner, wristlocks him to the mat, then clamps on a side headlock. Koloff kicks, gets a 2 count, then tosses Tito to the ropes for an elbow. Belly-to-back suplex from Koloff, but Tito sweeps the legs and goes back to the headlock. Clubbering and an atomic drop from Koloff gets 2. A bearhug happens, but Tito claps the ears and breaks it. Tito begins working Koloff's knees and whips him in for a backdrop. Tito goes for a splash, but Koloff gets the knees up. Koloff whips Tito to the ropes, but misses an elbow. Tito rebounds from the other side and connects with the flying forearm to get the 3 count pin! Darn good lil' match, here, clocking in at 15:46.

Match 9: Invaders vs. "Iron" Mike Sharpe and Butcher Vachon
The masked Invaders were pretty awesome, but most of the WWF tag teams at the time were big, power guys. So they didn't seem to mesh too well and left in a few months. Sharpe starts out by pounding away and bellowing.Invader #2 reverses an Irish whip, sends Sharpe to the corner and monkey-flips him. #2 pulls "the wimp" to the corner, as both Invaders tag in and out to work his arm. Vachon comes in to stomp and work on #2 for a bit. The ref keeps missing the tags, until he randomly allows Invader #1 to come in and backdrop Vachon. Quick tag to #2, who is whipped to the ropes by #1, then hiptossed onto Vachon to get the pin. "Economy Sized Match" at only 4:45, but it beat the curfew time limit.

Why'd You Tape This??
The main event was a huge shock to the WWF fans, as I don't think they expected this. Iron Sheik seemed like just another "Backlund Opponent of the Month"; like Slaughter, Big John Studd or Buddy Rose. But he actually won?!! Whoa! Iron Sheik's reign was basically the "Dawn of Hulkamania", but it wasn't until mid-1985 that the WWF became all cartoony. Like I said, 1983-1984 was a great year for them. It would've been interesting if Sheik had reigned longer than he did, but there was no denying Hulk Hogan's popularity. It's strange, because at the tail end of THIS card, Gorilla talks about Backlund's return match, set for next month's MSG show. I don't think Hogan even appeared in the WWF until mid-Janaury 1984.

With such an important and historical title switch, the WWF could have coasted with the undercard. Yet it's a fairly stacked card with decent matches. The two openers were just that, but the rest of the card is quality stuff. I would've been prefectly content to turn the show off after the Santana-Koloff match, so the Invaders match was a cool bonus. When I got done watching this, I thought: "dang... glad I recorded this. GOOD show!"

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