WWF at Madison Square Garden - April 30, 1990
by Erick Von Erich
What the HECK?/Intro-
It's back to April 1990, for the WWF's first big MSG show since the events of WrestleMania VI. Gorilla Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes welcome us to the arena and preview the card a little bit. Tonight, Hulk Hogan will face the "supreme test of his career" as he'll tangle with Earthquake! Plus, Rhythym n' Blues will square off with the Bushwhackers in what Gorlla promises us will be "a classic". But with so much going on in the WWF, let's get down to ringside for..
Match 1: Hercules vs. Haku (w/Bobby Heenan)
Herc is back to his old black trunks, after wearing powder blue drawers for the past year or so. They start off by tussling with some lock-ups, until Herc delivers a charging shoulderblock and a side-mare takedown. Haku powers out, whips him to the ropes and herc returns with a high cross-body press for 2. Haku shoves Herc away, managing to give him a half-wedie, as Herc wrestles the next minute with one bun hanging out. In some weird timing, Gorilla picks this moment to tell us how Herc loves kids, dogs and cats and carries around pictures of them...and they're not his own. I feel like I need a booster shot, now. Haku works Herc over for a lengthy amount of time, with an inverted atomic drop, shoulderbreaker the always exciting nerve-hold. Herc blocks a suplex, reverses it, slams Haku, then tries a flying splash. Haku gets his knees up to block. They brawl for a bit, until Haku dodges and sends Herc fling out to ringside. Haku follows him out and schedules a meeting bettwen Herc and the ringpost. Back in, Herc goes for a sunset flip. Haku blocks it, chops him and drops straight down for a cover, raising his arms in the air. Yup, in one of those over-used WWF spots, Herc manages to hook Haku's arms and suddenly scores the pin. Much better than you'd expect, as both guys worked well and it ended with a clean and (somewhat) suprising win for Herc.
Match 2: Jim Powers vs. Paul Diamond
Of course, Powers enters to "Crank it Up"-- which may hold the unofficial record for "second most played WWF theme, ever". Hell, even some freakin' MIDGETS (and S.D. Jones) used the theme, circa 1987. Diamond is freshly re-located from his days as "Hard Rock" over in the AWA. Gorilla predicts that this will be "a classic". Powers starts out playing it fair, but Diamond complains about a hairpull and gets in a slapping cheapshot. Powers gets ticked off, so he quickly underhooks him for a pin attempt. Diamond gets back to is feet as Powers returns the favor and slaps him in the mush. Powers whips him to the corner for a monkeyflip, then follows up with a slam and a half-assed dropkick to send Diamond to the floor. They go back and forth for a good 10 minutes or so and despite Powers' frequent use of an armbar, this may be the best match I've ever seen from him. A quick sunset flip from Powers gets 2 as Bobby "the Brain" Heenan joins the commentary crew. Powers whips Diamond, hard, into opposite corners, four times. Diamond tries a Thesz press off the ropes, but powers catches him in mid-air and nails an inverted atomic drop. Backdrop, whip and a drop-kick from Powers scores 2. Powers whips him to the ropes again, but delivers a shitty powerslam. Diamond rolls through the slam, turns it into a pinning combination and steals the win. Not the "classic" Gorilla predicted, but even though Powers blew the finish a little bit, this was the second Suprisingly Watchable match of the night.
A Very Special Interlude with Rhythym n' Blues
Right as Powers exits the ring (and before a commercial break), the familiar sounds of the Honky Tonk Man's theme song blare through the Garden. It's Honky's old theme, but he comes to the ring with Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and Jimmy Hart, then grabs the house mic to announce that he has a NEW song. He's here to sing it, even.. so let's cue up "Hunka Hunka Honky Love"! Honky actually sings the whole thing, while Hammer and Hart chime in on the chorus. They're without guitars, but Hammer goes into a hilarious AIR GUITAR routine! You just haven't watched pro wrestling until you've seen Greg Valentine doing the air guitar in the middle of the ring at MSG. Honky concludes by saying they have to go to the back to comb their hair, but they'll be back, soon! Thank you, you're a beautiful audience!
Match 3: Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Bad News Brown
Set up from shortly after WM6, when Jake spoiled Bad News' birthday on an episode of "Superstars of Wrestling". Heenan states that Bad News walked all the way down from Harlem. Shoving match and positioning to start, with Bad News being all "whooooaaa, there's that snake bag". Jake tries for the DDT early, but Bad News drops out of it and rolls to the floor. They trade armbars, until Bad News hip-tosses Jake and misses a diving headbutt. Jake goes for the DDT again and Bad News escapes again. Heenan and Gorilla alertly point out that Bad News seems to have that move well-scouted. Alfred sheepishly mentions Bad News' background as an Olympic judo athlete. Bad News gets Jake to chase him around ringside, then catches him with a chop once they're back in. Bad News follows up with a clothesline, hard whip to the turnbuckle, face-plant, then a slam out on the floor. News picks up a chair, but Jake tosses both News and the chair into the ring. Ref quickly disposes of the chair while Jake hits the short-arm clothesline and signals for the DDT. This time, News counters by grabbing the top rope. Ghetto Blaster connects out of nowhere and Jake is sent outside once again! Bad News grabs Damien's bag and tosses it under the ring. He pulls Jake back into the ring, beats the tar out of him, then goes for the house mic. "Lookit! Lookit this piece of garbage you call a hero". Yeah, pretty much the same spot News did on the March 1989 SNME. Bad News picks him up for a slam, but Jake counters and lands the DDT! Both men are out, but Jake manages to place his arm over Bad News and score the three count. Once again, I'm surprised, as I expected this match to end in a DQ or double countout. As Jake recovers, he's upset that he can't find Damien, but the fans are there to help. Just as Damien is unleashed, Bad News rolls out.
Match 4: Jose-Luis Rivera vs. Nikolai Volkoff
Whoa, it's 1984 at MSG all over again! Where's Freddy Blassie?! Hmmm..although this show aired under WWE 24/7's "Large and In Charge" theme due to Earthquake, it could also be shown under "Latino Legends" because Rivera's on it! Right?!! Despite the "Lithuanian" angle and the pending rift with Boris Zhukov, Nikolai stills sings the Soviet anthem. If I remember correctly, when that angle started out, it initially seemed like Zhukov would end up as the babyface. Nikolai starts off with a series of kicks and thumps. Rivera catches a kick, then spins Nikolai around for an atomic drop. Rivera splits the legs and delivers an elbodrop to the groin. Nikolai rakes the eyes as Gorilla and the Brain wonder where Zhukov is. Gorilla speculates that he "probably got his cranium stuck in the door of the cab". Gorilla seemed to LOVE making little remarks about Zhukov's dome! Heenan then builds up Nikolai a little, saying he was voted "most handsome man in Russia in 1985! His sister was second". Nikolai goes old school by headlocking Rivera and rolling him up, off the ropes. Rivera then collides with the turnbuckle and is suddenly the victim of Nikolai's version of the Russian Sickle (charging clothesline to the external occipital protuberance). Easy 3 count victory for the Russian.
Match 5: Bushwhackers vs. Rhythym n' Blues (w/Jimmy Hart)
(Luke & Butch vs. Honky Tonk Man & Greg "The Hammer" Valentine)
Heenan asks: "is that Bad News in a suit?" as a bald, black security guard helps R&B to the ring. R&B still are without their guitars, so they probably learning something from the Bushwhackers' attack at WM6. Honky grabs the house mic and sings, but is abruptly cut off by the bouncing music of the Bushwhackers. New Zealanders clear the ring, so Butch gets the house mic and gets the crowd to chant "greaseball" at Valentine. Basically a fancy brawl, but the Whackers manage a double atomic drop and clothesline on Valentine. Plus a Battering Ram for the Honkster. They work on Valentine for awhile, targeting his arm. Valentine gets a backbreaker for 2, then brings in Honky who lands a flying fistdrop on Luke. A chinlock happens. Valentine winds up his arm and lands three successive elbodrops on Luke, but only gets a 2. Luke gets the hot tag to Butch as all four then enter the ring to brawl. Luke recovers and chases Honky back to the dressing room with a chair. Ref counts to 10 and awards the countout victory to Rhythym n' Blues. After the decision, Valentine works over Butch and sets him up for the figure four. Luke arrives in time, with a chair and theme music, to save his cousin. For good measure, they hit a Battering Ram on Valentine.
Intermission time as Sean Mooney delivers backstage interviews with Ted DiBiase, the Big Bossman and Earthquake. Nothing exiciting, but DiBiase gets off a decent tirade towards the Bossman.
Match 6: Red Rooster vs. Dino Bravo (w/Jimmy Hart)
Another mild surprise, as I had always thought Terry Taylor left the WWF about a month earlier. Bravo powers around the ring, but Rooster ducks and springs off the ropes with a flying bodypress for a 2 count. Hip-toss and a nice drop toehold from Mr. Poultry in Motion. Bravo shoves him away, delivers an inverted atomic drop (apparently the Move of the Night) and hooks on a modified camel clutch. Rooster utilizes his beak and bites, then works a backslide for a quick 2. Bravo jabs him in the throat, slams him and lands a flying elbowdrop. Bravo then succesfully flies off the second rope and delivers a double axe-handle to the top of Rooster's comb. Bravo tries coming of the top rope, but this time Rooster catches him with a talon to the tummy. Flying clothesline and a jawbreaker get another 2 count for the Rooster. Bravo finally has enough, whips Rooster to the ropes and plants him with his side suplex finisher to get the pinfall. This chicken was apparently well-cooked, white throughout and done.
Match 7: Big Bossman vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase (w/Virgil)
Bossman runs in and clears the ring with his nightstick. Heenan suddenly storms off the set, saying how much he hates the Big Bossman (coincidentally, his mic seemed to be going out, but it worked for the pending "Heenan picks on Bossman's mom" angle). DiBiase takes his time walking around ringside, so Bossman grabs the house mic and hollers: "no excuses, punk! Get in here I can kick your ass!" Gas! He...he...cursed! DiBiase enters, but Bossman is a house of fire and pounds him into the turnbuckle 10 times. Bossman loogie, chop and an inverted atomic drop (that move again) send DiBiase packing. Bossman follows him out and beats him around ringside. Back in, Bossman tries for a big splash off the top, but DiBiase dodges. Virgil passes the nightstick to DiBiase, who gets a cheapshot and takes over. Bossman is knocked outside, where DiBiase sends him into the railing. DiBiase then pulls him back in and works...a bearhug? Hmm, seems to work, since DiBiase begins targeting the lowe back as Gorilla wonders if he might have a ruptured spleen. DiBiase lands a blow off the second rope, but Bossman fights off a second attempt. Bossman clotheslines DiBiase, then pulls Virgil into the ring. Virgil, of course, gets a beating, until DiBiase attacks from behind and slaps on the Million Dollar Dream. Bossman makes the ropes to break the hold. DiBiase whips him for an attempted backdrop, but Bossman puts on the brakes and small-packages DiBiase to get the pin! DiBiase and Virgil perform a mild beatdown on Bossman until he gets his Magic NightStick and clears the ring. Whoa...dude... Bossman started the match by clearing the ring with his nightstick and now he ends the match the same way! What symmetry...it's like Watchmen in a rasslin' match!
A Very Special Interlude with Bad News Brown
News returns to the ring in his workout gear, grabs the mic, insults all the "beer-bellied sharecroppers" and challenges Jake Roberts to a rematch. Y'see, the previous match "wasn't fair" because Jake had Damien. Bad News says he'll take the subway to 125th street, then go down into the sewers to find the biggest nastiest rat around. Gorilla mentions that they're probably aren't too many beer-bellied sharecroppers in NYC.
Match 8: "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka vs. The Barbarian (w/Bobby Heenan)
WWF super-fan Vladimir, in his usual spot behind the right-side ringpost, is excited to see Snuka and even has a big poofy foam Snuka hand! Barbarian now has his hair fully grown in and new Big Poofy Boots, but hasn't switched to his deer antler look, just yet. Barbarian bounces off the ropes and plows over Snuka with a shoulderblock. Snuka fights back with a series of chops and a flying headbutt off the ropes, to send Barbie reeling. Barbie responds with a running kneelift, backdrop and, of course... THE BEARHUG. Silly me, thinking I could get through a Barbarian match without another frickin' BEARHUG! Snuka fights out, then comes off the ropes with a flying bodypress for 2. Snuka sends him to the corner, but Barbie blasts him with a Big Poofy Kick, then uses the ropes for leverage to score the 3 count.
Match 9: Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake (w/Jimmy Hart)
Quake attacks right away, put misses an elbowdrop. Perfect time for Hogan to rip his shirt off, then thump Quake around. Hogan then comes off the ropes with a flying bodypress (whoa), but Quake catches him and plants him with a slam. Hogan begins twitching, selling a lower back injury. Quake drops a big elbow for a 2 count, then beats on Hogan in the corner and applies a bearhug. Hogan makes a mild comeback, with 13 elevated shots on the turnbuckles, but he collapses as he tries to slam Quake. Quake works on him, then drops ass on Hogan with his finisher. In a shocking turn of events, Hogan makes the Spinach Comeback and kicks out of the finisher at 2! Big kick, three shots and the Big Legdrop. 1...2... Jimmy Hart runs in and jumps Hogan for the disqualification. They brawl after the bell and Hogan finally slams Earthquake.
Post-Match Locker Room Interviews with Sean Mooney
Earthquake and Hart runs in, challenging Hogan again. Hart promises that next time they meet, it'll be "Hospital City, baby!". Which was accurate, since Earthquake went on the Brother Love Show and sidelined Hogan for a few months, shortly after this.
Mooney then promotes an upcoming show at the Meadowlands Arena on June 11, headlined by the NEW WWF Champion, the Ultimate Warrior, taking on "Ravishing" Rick Rude-- the only man who has ever beaten Warrior for a title. Footage of Heenan training Rude in the gym, followed by a wonderful Warrior Promo that goes a little somethin' like this: "we ran from the edges of the normal pitiful universe. We walk straddling crevices of an unstable world!" The normals know not of what thoughts lie in his head for they are unknown to them!
Gorilla and Al wrap it up, making a special point of how great Hogan looked. Okay, time for a booking rant: Hogan taking on Earthquake really killed Warrior's popularity and title reign. Quake first entered the WWF by attacking Warrior and they had some history (remember "John from West Virginia" and the push-up contest with Bravo?). So it seemed natural that after a few months of build-up, Earthquake would be Warrior's first post-WM6 feud. Quake was becoming the WWF's biggest heel, so why not? Instead, Hogan was placed in a program against Earthquake...while Warrior went back to Rude, a guy he had beaten less than a year ago. And a guy who had spent the last few months putting over Roddy Piper. This made Warrior's reign seem like a midcard deal and really killed his momentum. Okay, so "Amanda Ultimate Warrior" didn't help, either. Warrior had just beaten THE guy in the WWF for the past 6 years (Hogan) and he should've been booked against THE top heel (Earthquake).
Of course, Hogan wasn't going away and he needed something to do. In 1990 Hogan had the role that the Undertaker had for the first half of the 90's; main event guy who didn't need a title and always fought his own little cadre of freaks and weirdos. Well, Hogan can build up just about any opponent he faces, so instead of Earthquake he could've faced Rude, Barbarian, Warlord, Akeem, Bad News, Rick Martel... anyone but Quake. Why not turn "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan heel against Hogan? Heck, worst case would let Hogan simmer for two months until Sgt. Slaughter arrived in June 1990. Hindsight's always 20/20, but the Earthquake feud always pissed me off. Even with the proposed theories of "Hogan-Warrior II at WrestleMania 7", this could've worked.
Why'd You Tape This??
Aside from the Main Event killing the euphoria from WM6, I enjoyed this show. Seeing Bad News and DiBiase do clean jobs was unexpected and really made the card seem like a WWF version of "Clash of the Champions". I watched the enitire show in one sitting and it flew by pretty quick, yet ended up running almost 2.5 hours. Even Lord Alfred Hayes didn't seem to bore me. Keep in mind that the WWF from 1989 to about mid-1990 was probably my favorite era of the Fed.
However, now well removed from my markish 1990 peak, I don't think I can give this show a good recommendation to the avergae rasslin' fan. I liked it... but I don't know if YOU will. While I dug the Roberts/Brown match, laughed at Valentine's AIR GUITAR and was pleasantly surprised by Herc/Haku and Powers/Diamond, the main event was VERY formulaic and left a bad taste in my mouth. Or.... maybe that means I'm still in 1990 mark mode? Warrior Wildness will Reign Forevahhhhh!! YARRRRR!