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WWF @ Maple Leaf Gardens- July 24, 1988
by Scrooge McSuck
For the first time in forever, the WWE Network/Peacock has added content to the Old School section, including a bunch of Canadian shows that were treated as a TV taping, and only select matches were previous seen in package programming such as Prime Time or All-American Wrestling. Gorilla Monsoon is joined by newcomer Sean Mooney in the broadcast booth.
Scott Casey vs. Terry Taylor:
Casey is introduced simply from "Texas." This is one of Taylor's earliest appearances, making his first TV taping appearance roughly two weeks earlier in Lacrosse, WI. He's a few months away from the shame that would follow him for the rest of his career. Taylor is sporting the rare alternate blue tights and knee pads for this one. Is that a "Mr. P" on his tights? JUST KIDDING, that's a dead rumor. Lockup and Taylor with a snap-over headlock and strutting. Casey counters another headlock with a head-scissors, but Taylor is quick to the ropes. Lockup to the ropes and Taylor complains about a phantom hair-pull. Whip to the ropes and Casey catches Taylor with his head down, slamming him face-first to the canvas. Casey blatantly pulls the hair to prove a point and gets smacked around like a punk. Taylor connects with a jaw breaker for a near-fall. Gorilla talks about the history of Toronto, name-dropping Gorgeous George and Yukon Eric in an era where you didn't honor history. Casey wins the battle over a top wristlock and brings Taylor to the canvas. Taylor pulls the hair and counters with a head-scissors. Taylor with the hip toss, but he misses an elbow drop. Casey with another headlock, countered again with the head-scissors. These guys are LOVING that spot. Crisscross and Taylor wipes Casey out with a diving clothesline. He plants Casey with a slam and measures him up for a well-placed knee drop for two. Whip and Casey surprises him with a sunset flip for two. Taylor quickly regains control with a blatant choke hold. Taylor argues with the referee and gets rolled up for two. Whip to the corner and Casey charges in with a knee. Taylor uses the tights to shoot Casey into the turnbuckle. Casey escapes a sleeper with a jaw breaker and blocks a sunset flip, countering with a straight right. Taylor counters the mounted punches, but Casey blocks the inverted atomic drop and hits a clothesline for two. Whip is reversed and Casey with a big clothesline for two. Casey misses a charge to the corner and Taylor sits down across the knee before finishing with the Scorpion Death Lock at 12:08. Monsoon called it a grapevine Boston crab, Mooney, SEAN MOONEY, he of little wrestling knowledge and new to the WWF, called it "The Scorpion." Perfectly fine, but Taylor worked way too prelim for most of it and didn't do much to stand out. **¼
Billy Red Lyons gets a word from Terry Taylor, who takes a shot at Randy Savage for hiding being a 100-pound woman. That's quite the decision to let this prelim guy who struggled to beat Scott Casy throwing shade at the WWF Champion.
S.D. Jones vs. King Haku:
Jones is subbing for the Junkyard Dog. In either case, I'm expecting a poor-quality match, but you never know. Haku attacks with chops as Mooney brings up a conversation he had with Lord Alfred about the home of Haku. He chokes Jones across the rope as Monsoon mentions cannibalism. Jones fires back with slams and a hip toss, sending Haku to the floor for a powder. Back inside, Jones blocks a cheap shot in the ropes and throws a series of rights and lefts. Lockup and Haku hides in the ropes, daring Jones to take a shot at him with his back turned. There must be a lack of air conditioning based on the perspiration levels of the first couple of matches. Jones whiffs on a punt, then Haku misses an elbow drop. Jones with a stomach buster, sending Haku scrambling for the corner. Whip and Jones staggers Haku with a shoulder tackle. Haku counters a front face-lock with an inverted atomic drop. Whip and Haku with a dropkick on the chin. Haku slows things down with a nerve hold before dumping Jones out of the ring. Back inside, Haku with a headbutt and thrust kick for two. Snap mare and back to the nerve hold. The crowd is voicing their displeasure. Jones fights free by stomping Haku's foot. Jones rocks Haku with left jabs and headbutts. Whip to the ropes, Haku ducks a clothesline and lands a Super-Kick to the back of the head for three at 10:03. There's not much to say other than this wasn't good. ½*
"The Rock" Don Muraco vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine:
We don't have to worry about complaining about the licensed music of Muraco, because his entrance is cut completely, as we jump right to the action. That's one way to limit the editing process before dumping the stuff on the Peacock. Muraco doesn't waste time attempting to remove Valentine's shin guard. Valentine creates separation, booting Muraco in the face and scrambles for the floor, with a little interference from referee John Bonello. Back inside, Valentine works over Muraco with elbows and forearms. Whip to the corner and Valentine meets the post, even with a short distance from his starting point to the corner. Muraco punishes the arm, slamming it several times across the turnbuckle before dumping him out of the ring. Muraco follows, sending the Hammer into the guardrail. Valentine tries trading blows, but the damaged arm betrays him, allowing Muraco to regain control. Muraco must have a bingo card to fill with all the different places he's slammed Valentine's arm. Muraco is oozing confidence... and sweat. Muraco busts out a shoulder breaker and chooses to punish the arm more without attempting a cover. I'm sure that won't haunt him later. Whip to the corner, Muraco does a 360 before charging in and meets the knee. I love when Monsoon calls people out for that. Valentine drops a series of elbows, his first real offense of the match as we approach the 10-minute mark. OH MY GOD, VALENTINE IS WARMING UP! Valentine climbs the ropes and drops a forearm across the back. He keeps working the leg of Muraco and spins around the shin guard. He sets up for the Figure-Four, but Muraco pops him on the chin. Valentine tries again, but Muraco grabs the hair and counters with a small package for two. Muraco gets the better of a slugfest but buckles under a slam attempt. Valentine comes off the top and pays for it, complete with his face-first collapse. Muraco with a sloppy wedgie piledriver. He goes for a splash and meets the knees. Muraco blocks the Figure-Four for a third time and starts no-selling Valentine's blows. Muraco pummels Valentine with rights and lefts, shoots him to the roes and clobbers him with a clothesline. The referee gets bumped as Muraco scoops Valentine up. The reverse piledriver connects, but there's no one to count. Valentine removes the guard, whacks Muraco with it, and covers for three at 13:57. Monsoon calls it a miscarriage of justice. Took a while to get going, but a perfectly fine mid-card match. **½
WWF Championship Match:
"Macho Man" Randy Savage (c) (w/ Elizabeth) vs. "Million $ Man" Ted Dibiase (w/ Virgil):
If you attended a top-level WWF house show anywhere between April and September of 1988, odds are you saw Savage defend the title against Dibiase (except in markets that saw the blow-off sooner, then you got Andre gobbling up Savage before a BS finish). Savage attacks Dibiase in full entrance gear. He slams the belt into Dibiase's face and sends him out of the ring with a running knee lift. Savage follows and we get the classic DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER. Back inside, Savage comes off the top rope with a double axe-handle. Dibiase side-steps a charge into the corner and unloads with right hands. Savage turns things around, giving Dibiase a taste of the turnbuckle. Double reversal and Savage meets a boot in the opposite corner. Dibiase casually throws Savage over the top rope, conveniently at the feet of Virgil. Did Mooney say there's A LOT OF HEAT TO THIS MATCH? OH MY GOD, 1988 MOONEY RULES. Savage gets a taste of the ringside table, where we see Gorilla and Mooney are in attendance and not just calling this in post. Back inside, Dibiase with an elbow from the top rope for a two-count. Dibiase drives a knee into the chest and nails Savage coming off the ropes with a clothesline. Savage's comeback is quickly cut short as the camera fades to black for a commercial?! We return in the same spot that we left, with Dibiase getting another near fall. Savage fights from his knees and plants a boot to the chest, but Dibiase cuts him off again and hits another flying elbow for two. Savage blocks the suplex and counters with his own. They trade blows from their knees, with Savage getting the upper hand. Whip is reversed, Savage ducks a clothesline and hits a cross body press for two. Dibiase pops up and stiff-arm clotheslines Savage into next week.
Savage reverses a whip to the corner and rams his own knee into the turnbuckle. Dibiase starts to punish the leg, utilizing a spinning toe hold. Savage kicks him off, sending Dibiase crashing into the corner. Savage blocks a second attempt, knocking Dibiase over the ropes and onto the ramp. Dibiase climbs the ropes and pays for going to the well one time too many. Savage sends Dibiase from corner to corner and takes him over with a back body-drop. Whip and Savage with his signature hook clothesline. He hangs Dibiase across the top rope and has words for Virgil before climbing the ropes. Savage with the flying axe-handle. He goes to the far corner for the elbow, but Virgil hops on the apron for the distraction. Dibiase misfires on a running knee and Savage rolls him up for two. I honestly was setting the time, expecting that to be the finish. Dibiase slaps on the Million Dollar Dream, but Savage manages to fall into the ropes as he falls to his knees. Virgil comes around the corner and bops Savage with a chair while the referee is tied up with Dibiase! Dibiase arrogantly covers, but Savage kicks out at two! Dibiase with a pair of fist drops. He scoops Savage up, but Savage counters with a cradle, and as quick as you can say "meat sauce", Virgil hops on Savage for the cheap Disqualification at 14:21. Dibiase continues to put a hurt on Savage. Once the dust settles, Savage angrily tosses one of the referees aside and gives chase, disappearing out of sight. Even with the BS finish, another great match between two of the best the WWF had to offer. ***¾
Richard Charland vs. Terry Taylor:
OH, COME ON... We're told Hercules will not be here tonight, so Taylor is pulling double duty. Monsoon says Taylor must've stolen one of Greg Valentine's old robes. No mention of Taylor's earlier appearance, of course. Did you know Richard Charland went on to form a knock-off Demolition with Bill Eadie, working as "Blast" under the familiar gear shortly after Eadie's WWF departure? Lockup and Taylor with a snap arm drag. Charland fires off some arm drags of his own. You know what I've never noticed before? The surgical scar across Taylor's abdomen, caused by a serious car accident a couple of years earlier. Charland works the arm, but Taylor outclasses him, sweeping him off his feet with a top wristlock. Charland counters, so Taylor goes to the ropes for a break. Whip to the corner, Taylor blocks a monkey flip but is caught by surprise with a flying body press for two. Charland grabs a headlock and Taylor counters with back suplex. Taylor with a snap mare and knee across the forehead for two. Taylor casually dumps Charland out of the ring and taunts the crowd. Charland comes back in with a sloppy sunset flip for two. Taylor with a gratuitous rake of the eyes. Whip is countered and Charland charges into the corner with a clothesline. Charland misses another charge, and Taylor finishes with the Scorpion Death Lock at 5:48. Just like the opener, Monsoon and Mooney debate the name of the hold, coming to the same conclusion. Match was OK for what it was. *¼
The Powers of Pain vs. The Bolsheviks:
Even when we get nice things like a long-lost show, we're still forced to suffer with stuff like a Boris Zhukov match, made worse because we've seen what these teams are capable of together, and it isn't pretty. The Bolsheviks gets the jump on the Powers of Pain, but that plan quickly backfires, as the POP clean house and celebrate. I promise you, it's all downhill from here. Volkoff and Barbarian start proper. Lockup and Volkoff slightly moves Barbarian with a shove. Barbarian stands his ground receiving a shoulder block, so now Zhukov tries it and gets dropped like a bad habit. Zhukov throws some chops with little effect. Whip is reversed and Barbarian with a powerslam for two. Warlord in with Volkoff for THE GREATEST SPOT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD: THE TEST OF STRENGTH. Warlord controls, so Zhukov gives him a double axe-handle from behind. Warlord regains control, then spins Volkoff around as Zhukov tries it again. Wow, a genuinely fun spot. Barbarian with a boot to the face, followed by an elbow drop for two. Volkoff with a shot from the apron, allowing Zhukov to take control. Volkoff picks Barbarian off his feet for a bearhug and holds him off the ground for a solid 10-seconds. Did you know that these two men were members of the roster when the "New Generation" was the marketing strategy for the WWF? Barbarian gets choked with the tag rope while the referee is occupied with the Warlord. Barbarian escapes a second bearhug, but the Bolsheviks keep him from his corner. Barbarian and Volkoff smack heads for a double-down. Volkoff keeps Barbarian from tagging with a front face-lock. They should've gone home already. Barbarian hits a double clothesline and Warlord finally gets the hot tag. Thank you. He gives Zhukov a back body-drop, followed by a belly-to-belly suplex. Heck breaks loose, Volkoff gets dumped, and Barbarian finishes Zhukov with a flying clothesline at 11:39. This wasn't "good", but it wasn't the worst match on the card. *
The British Bulldogs & The Ultimate Warrior vs. Demolition & Mr. Fuji:
Demolition is the reigning WWF Tag Team Champions, but this is obvious a non-Title affair. This one would be a featured match on the August 1st episode of Prime-Time Wrestling. Dynamite starts… with FUJI?! Well, that caught me by surprise, since managers almost always did the chicken-sh*t shtick. Lockup into the ropes and Fuji goes to the abdomen. Whip and Dynamite with a cross body press for two. Dynamite with a slam, sending Fuji on a tactical retreat to tag in the formidable Ax. Lockup and Ax with his signature onslaught of clubbering blows. Dynamite turns things around and tags in Warrior, and he's running the ropes so hard the ring is rocking! Ax grabs a side headlock, but a shoulder tackle doesn't budge. Ax goes to the eyes and pounds on the back. Warrior reverses a whip and blasts him with a clothesline. Smash comes in and works Warrior over in the corner. Whip to the corner and Warrior pops out with another clothesline. Warrior unloads with chops and tags in Davey Boy to work the arm. Whip and Smash blocks a hip toss, only to get taken over with a flying head-scissors. Smash manages to back Davey Boy into his corner, allowing Ax to come in and take over. Snap mare and Fuji in with a falling headbutt across the midsection. Smash with a back breaker, followed by double-team pounding. Ax with a snap mare into the nerve hold. Davey Boy fights free but Ax traps the ankle to prevent the tag. Fuji with a slam, but he misses a leg drop from the top rope. Warrior with the hot tag and he hits Fuji softly with a clothesline. Heck breaks loose with all six men in the ring. Smash dumps Warrior out, and we're left with Demolition working over Davey Boy. Warrior recovers, climbs the ropes and hits Smash with a double axe-handle for the three-count and a HUGE POP at 7:58. Short and sweet, can't complain about that. **½
Final Thoughts: Other than the show-closing six-man tag, there isn't anything unusual about the card, so there's no lost gem between Superstars that rarely crossed paths. Regardless, this was a fun show with only a couple of poor-quality matches, with all the marquee matches delivering. I would've liked a pin-fall finish for the match between Dibiase and Savage, but it looks like they ran it back just two weeks later inside a Steel Cage. Running at a tick over 90 minutes, this is an easy recommendation, especially for fans of the era looking for something they likely haven't seen before.
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