Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pro Wrestling Primer: WWF Championship Wrestling 3/10/84

Where were you on Saturday, March 10, 1984? If you followed politics, you might have been listening to President Reagan’s radio address on the economic recovery program. Actress June Marlowe died at the age of eighty, while Sharon Stone celebrated her twenty-sixth birthday. If you were a pro wrestling fan at this time, perhaps you were watching this telecast of “WWF Championship Wrestling.” Let’s venture down to ringside and join our hosts, Vince McMahon and Mean Gene Okerlund, as well as ring announcer Joe McHule…

The intro is funny because it still features Bob Backlund as the WWF champion, when Hulk Hogan had defeated the Iron Sheik for the title nearly three months ago. In fact, there isn’t a single shot of the Hulkster to be found. McMahon and Mean Gene let us know what we can expect from today’s program: some tag team matches, including one featuring midget wrestlers. Tony Garea and Brian Blair will be on hand (exciting), and new Intercontinental champion Tito Santana will be in the ring and a guest on “Piper’s Pit.” Greg “The Hammer” Valentine will also take on José Luis Rivera. The tape cuts off before they finish running down the card.

Back from commercial break, and we’re about to see
Rocco Verona take on “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. But before we get to proceedings, Joe McHule’s gotta do his own “Jooooooooe McHule, your ring announcer” introduction, complete with rolling R’s. Orndorff is managed by Rowdy Roddy Piper, but McHule misses an opportunity to roll a couple more R’s by not acknowledging the Hot Rod’s presence. Rocco Verona provides no competition at all for Orndorff’s superior wrestling skills in this basic squash match. The fans hate Orndorff, chanting “Paula” throughout the match, which only makes him get angrier and take it out on the hapless Rocco Verona. After a couple minutes, Mr. Wonderful deposits Verona with a piledriver for an arrogant cover and the 1-2-3. Orndorff’s piledriver always looked the most devastating back in the day. He seemed to jump up higher in the air before driving his opponent’s skull into the mat.

New Intercontinental champion Tito Santana hits the ring for a non-title bout
against Israel Matia. Matia knows that if he can pull off the upset, he’ll have earned a title match in the near future. With that in mind, he attacks Santana right off the bat, but it’s not long before Tito turns the tide back in his favor. The champion outwrestles Matia with style and grace, working over the left arm as Vince McMahon talks about how hard Santana worked to win the title. McMahon barely has enough time to list the WWF’s copyright obligations before Tito flattens Matia with his patented “flying burrito” forearm from the second rope for the pinfall and an “Arriba!” for the crowd.

Just four months before this match, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine took part in the legendary dog collar match at the inaugural Starrcade against Roddy Piper. Now he’s back in the WWF and managed by Captain Lou Albano. Today, his task is to see if he can end the undefeated streak of José Luis Rivera, a name that mid ‘80s WWF fans might recognize from Saturday morning telecasts like this one. Back in 1984, the outcome of this match might not have been so obvious to WWF fans who might have forgotten about Valentine’s run against former WWWF champion Bob Backlund a few years prior. But in retrospect, it is plainly obvious that Rivera’s streak is about to come to an end. Howard Finkel chimes in with a voice-over promoting next Sunday’s event at a high school gym in Portsmouth, NH. My, how times have changed. For all of the talk about José Luis Rivera’s unblemished record, he sure doesn’t get in much offense during this match. Valentine knocks him around before tossing him out of the ring like a piece of garbage. Albano, who was just yelling at Valentine to “HURT HIM! HURT HIM!” does his good deed for the day by tossing Rivera back onto the ring apron. Valentine follows his manager’s instructions by bending Rivera backwards over the ring ropes and TAGGING him with his clubbing forearm. Albano to the cameraman: “Did you HEAR that? DID YOU HEAR THAT?!?!” José Luis Rivera finally starts to show some fire with some punches and a pair of dropkicks, but misses a charge into the corner and hurts his knee. Like the proverbial shark smelling blood, the Hammer goes in for the kill, working over the knee to set up the figure-four leglock and the submission win. Valentine continues to work over Rivera’s leg well after the bell, not letting up until he feels his point has been made. Captain Lou loves it, but José Luis is a defeated mess, screaming in pain. A terrible way for this kid to encounter his first defeat.

We go to commercial and return with Mean Gene conducting interviews
promoting next Saturday’s card at the Boston Garden, taking place on St. Patrick’s Day. The devious Japanese stereotype Mr. Fuji comes in to talk about his match with American hero Sgt. Slaughter, telling a story of how his father recovered a watch from a dead Marine during World War II. The soldier’s name was even engraved on the back with his Harvard graduation date. “This watch is your loved one’s? I’m very sorry, is now Mr. Fuji’s watch!” Considering WWE’s current devotion to the troops in the Middle East, I doubt Fuji would be allowed to get away with this kind of promo today. Mean Gene is disgusted, but brings in Paul Orndorff to discuss his upcoming bout against Tony Garea. Orndorff chooses to talk about himself instead, committing a faux pas when he mentions all the men that want to touch his hair and his beautiful body. Gene: “MEN?!” Apparently everybody wants Mr. Wonderful, so bring on Tony Garea and Tito Santana and everyone else as Orndorff takes them all down.

Andre the Giant will also be in Boston next Saturday night. Despite being a Frenchman, Andre is not above celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with everyone else. Lord knows he’ll be able to put away more beer than Boston’s entire Irish community. He’ll be wrestling the Masked Superstar, promising to unmask him after beating him in the middle of the ring. Andre says some other stuff about being undefeated, but his thick French accent coupled with stretched vocal chords make it only slightly less difficult to decipher than his standard interview. Andre the Giant promos are really less about what he has to say than they are about being awestruck in the presence of the 7’4”, 492-pound behemoth. Enter the Masked Superstar, who informs us that the last time Andre said he’d take off the mask, he found that it wasn’t as easy as he initially thought. Sure, Andre is undefeated…but nobody’s ever been able to unmask the Superstar. And by nobody, that also includes Andre the Giant. Good point. We then go to commercial break.

We’re back and it’s time for a midget tag team match pitting Tiger Jackson and the Haiti Kid against Pancho Boy (a white guy from Canada, go figure) and Dana Carpenter. Haiti Kid and Pancho Boy start things off executing basic maneuvers at a quick pace. Jackson and Carpenter tag in. Dana Carpenter breaks Jackson’s Greco-Roman knuckle lock and sends him head over heels with a nice standing dropkick before tagging Pancho Boy back into the match. Jackson takes over on Pancho Boy, attempting a hurricanrana from the second rope that would have looked awesome if Pancho had done a better job taking the move. Not to be deterred, Tiger Jackson springs back up to the second rope and nails Pancho Boy with a flying bodypress for the pinfall victory. Tiger’s so stoked, he does a backflip and a funny little dance to celebrate. Pretty good match with a brief display of technical wrestling knowledge that surprised me, as well as Tiger Jackson’s athleticism. Not as farcical as most midget wrestling matches I’ve seen either.

Next up is “Piper’s Pit,” complete with a
disclaimer from Vince McMahon. Good thing, because Rowdy Roddy Piper is in racist dickhead mode today, hurling anti-Latin insults at Tito Santana regarding his recent Intercontinental title win. Santana’s fiery Latin temper flares as he stands up for his people, offering to take on all comers, including the Hot Rod. On that note, Tito isn’t going to take this crap, so he issues an “Arriba!” before leaving. Piper, of course, gets in the last word, calling the champion a coward who is unable to carry on an intelligent conversation and is obviously not a gentleman.

Oh, sweet! The next match pits perennial jobber Steve Lombardi against “Doctor D” David Schultz,
one of my favorites. Led to the ring by Roddy Piper, the good Doctor opens up a can of whup-ass and feeds it to Lombardi with gusto.

Steve Lombardi tries to mount some offense, but Schultz will have none of it. He appears to have Lombardi positioned for a tombstone piledriver, but Piper orders Dave to hold him there and let him think about it for a second before dropping him into a less-impactful bodyslam. Another slam to the canvas, and Schultz drops a pair of flying elbows from the second turnbuckle for the pinfall. Doctor D starts trashing Hulk Hogan in the ring, before continuing to do so in a post-match interview with Mean Gene Okerlund. According to Schultz, Hogan possesses “a 16-pound head and a size 17 foot” (whatever that means) and is only the champion because he has yet to face the Doctor. He demands that Mean Gene bring Hogan to the ring to meet his challenge, calling him a coward and a yellow dog. We then go to commercial break as Huey Lewis & the News’ “I Want a New Drug” plays in the background. I had to laugh out loud at their ironic choice of music.

We’re back for the six-man tag team en
counter, in which WWF tag team champions “Mr. USA” Tony Atlas and Rocky “Soulman” Johnson team up with the late S.D. “Special Delivery” Jones to take on the imposing trio of (Joe McHule: “What’s your first name?”) Goldie Rogers, Ron Butler, and Charlie Fulton. Don’t bet on the white guys in this match, buddy. The champs and their partner are in top physical shape, overpowering their foes with power wrestling. Butler, Fulton, and Rogers will have to put in a lot more gym time to keep up and are at a loss for what to do. Things get a little creepy when Tony Atlas puts Goldie Rogers in a wishbone-like stretch and produces some pelvic thrusts to add insult to injury.

Rogers manages to tag in Ron Butler, who takes a gorilla press slam and a big splash for his troubles and a pinfall loss. Oh, and did you know you can correspond with the WWF at: Wrestling; PO Box 1538; Greenwich, CT. 06836? Well, you do now!

We’ve still got a St. Patrick’s Day card at the Boston Garden to promote, so we’re back with Mean Gene for that express purpose. He’s announcing more matches, including appearances by Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas, Tito Santana defending the IC title against Iron Mike Sharpe, Tony Garea vs. Paul Orndorff, Salvatore Bellomo vs. the Iron Sheik, Sgt. Slaughter vs. Mr. Fuji, Andre the Giant vs. the Masked Superstar, and Hulk Hogan defending the WWF Championship against “Doctor D” David Schultz. In comes the Doctor to run down Hogan some more. He’s done some checking up on the Hulkster. Apparently there were a whole lot of Irish people on the boat that Hogan’s mom came over here on, which why the champion wants to be in Boston on St. Patty’s Day. Okay. But Schultz is gonna kick his ass in front of all the Irish women in town and throw the biggest party that Boston’s ever had. He’s gonna wear the WWF title around his waist while dragging Hogan down the street by that thin hair of his. Hahahahahaha! Not too many wrestlers got to rip on Hogan’s receding hairline, so Doctor D is the man. Schultz continues to insult the Hulkster as we go to commercial.

Back with Mean Gene and now it’s time to promote tomorrow night’s event at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, NJ. There’s going to be a battle royal with $15,000 going to the winner, but more importantly, Hulk Hogan is here to discuss his title defense against Dave Schultz. The basic gist is that Hulkamania has been running wild since becoming the champion and Hogan is not sure if he can control himself in the ring against the Doctor.

Up next is the tag team match with Tony Garea
and B. Brian Blair taking on Bill Dixon and Frankie Williams. Garea and Blair bring decent technical wrestling and effective teamwork, while Dixon and Williams don’t bring much at all. It’s not the most exciting match, so Vince McMahon informs us that René Goulet will be here next week against Sgt. Slaughter. Before long, Tony Garea cinches up Frankie Williams in an abdominal stretch to gain the submission victory. I think that’s probably the first time I’ve ever seen someone win a match with that hold. The show is over, but there’s still just enough time to let us know that Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka will also be in action next week. And that’s it for this week’s edition of “Championship Wrestling.” Thanks for joining us!