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The Name on the Marquee: Madison Square Garden Presents the WWF (04.25.88)

June 26, 2010 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
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The Name on the Marquee: Madison Square Garden Presents the WWF (04.25.88)  

-Well, this is a nice bit of dumb luck. WWEClassics.com added this show just a few weeks ago and it syncs up perfectly with the timeline of this column. Coincidence, or do I have an avid fan in Stamford? I’m going to go with coincidence.

-It’s Monday night, April 25, 1988 at MSG. I think it’s cruel to make New York fans have to choose between seeing this show live or staying home to watch Gorilla & Bobby on Prime Time.

-Saturday Night’s Main Event-style cold open, with Randy Savage cutting a short promo to get revved up for his big main event against Ted DiBiase tonight.

-Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan.

-Gorilla & Alfred get into an interesting dissertation about Boone’s style & his spot on the card, noting that he often loses matches because he hurts himself on high risk moves, but the problem is wrestling is evolving to the point that everybody HAS to have some high risk moves in their arsenal, so he’s kinda stuck. They have an equally interesting discussion about Lombardi; Gorilla notes that he’s a graduate with honors from the Terry Garvin School of Self-Defense and that Pat Patterson has spent a number of hours training him. Alfred concurs, saying you can see that in the way that Lombardi tends to prefer getting behind his opponents for takedowns.

-Boone backs Lombardi into the ropes. Lombardi backs Boone into the ropes and rams shoulders into his gut. Boone reverses an Irish whip and hiptosses Lombardi. Backdrop by Boone and Lombardi heads to the floor for a rest. Lombardi charges back into the ring and runs right into a drop toehold. Boone wrings the arm. Lombardi gets free and slams him, but Boone armdrags him and goes right back to work on the arm. Crucifix by Boone gets two. Boone goes back to work on the arm and sticks with it. MSG is starting to get restless, but have decided to hold back on the chant for the moment.

-Boone keeps working the arm, and keeps working it, and keeps working it. Lombardi fires him into the ropes and press slams him facefirst. Gorilla compares it to Ultimate Warrior’s offense, and it’s actually an apt comparison. Hard clothesline by Lombardi sends Boone out to the floor. He won’t let Boone back inside for a time, but eventually launches him back in with a slingshot. Lombardi chokes Boone and gives him an uppercut. Backbreaker gets two. Small package gets two. Headlock is clamped on, and Lombardi just hangs on and hangs onto it.

-Boone gets free and goes for a splash, but Lombardi raises the boots and chokes away at Boone. Lombardi rams Boone into the turnbuckles, but Boone grabs his legs on the mat and rolls him up for two. Fistfight gets going and Lombardi wins it, then dodges a corner charge from Boone. He tosses Boone to the floor while Gorilla argues that the WWF should consider making that a DQ.

-Back in the ring, Lombardi gets a two-count while Alfred suggests that Terry & Pat should teach him to use his head more. Boone gets a fluke suplex and follows with a shoulderblock and a kneelift. High elbow off the ropes and Lombardi backs into the corner. Boone follows him in and pounds away, ramming him into the turnbuckles. Snap suplex by Boone and he starts to head to the top rope for something, but Lombardi gets to his feet and brings him off with a back suplex.

-Irish whip by Lombardi. He charges and runs right into a boot. Boone goes to the top and goes for a moonsault; Lombardi dodges, Boone thinks quickly and lands on his feet. Lombardi charges at him and Boone ducks. Lombardi crashes into the corner and rolls him up for three. 1 for 1. Jaw hanging at the thought that it was Lombardi who carried the match. During the replay, a group of fans who just HAVE to be the Rosotti sisters sing “Heeeyyyyy Lombardi, You Lost Agaaaaaaaain!”

-New look for Patera, who has traded in his glittering suits for a simply embroidered jacket so he actually LOOKS like an Olympian now. Dino demands silence for an important announcement, but the crowd surprisingly boos loudly to prevent him from speaking.

-Dino’s big announcement is that he’d rather have an arm wrestling match than a wrestling match, and Patera boldly uses the word “butt” while accepting the challenge. The grim realization that they don’t have the proper equipment handy causes us to pause so that Howard Finkel can get on the microphone and ask for a table. Okay, that’s a nice touch of realism, honestly, but then we have to really, really WAIT for this table for a minute. They finally bring it out and pass a few chairs into the ring. Gorilla Monsoon, bastion of pop culture, says that the sight of arm wrestling “reminds me of that Sylvester Stallone movie, where he was an arm wrestler.”

-The arm wrestling contest is underway and Patera wins, which Bravo blames on cheating by Patera. Patera agrees to another arm wrestling match and you’ll never guess what happens next. Patera is out cold. Chief Jay Strongbow & Arnold Skaaland walk him back to the locker room, and Gorilla reacts in shock at how much weight Strongbow has gained. 1 for 2. If this had been a TV segment, it would have been done in four minutes. I’ve never understood the logic behind doing this angle at a house show and having it be much, much longer just because it’s a house show. It’s not like the fans paid to see arm wrestling anyway.

-Howard Finkel gets word from the MSG doctor that Patera will not be cleared to wrestle for the remainder of the night, so the referee declares Dino the winner by forfeit.

-Pretty good pop for Bret on his coming out party as a face. Brown attacks during the intros, because why should Bret be any different. Hiptoss by Bad News. Right hand follows, but Bret fights back with his own hiptoss and a slam. Elbow sends Bad News to the floor. Bad News teases leaving early before heading back in and mule-kicking Bret.

-He sends Bret into the turnbuckle, then whips and charges. Bret avoids the charge and beel throws Bad News. Slam follows, and then a knee drop from the Hit Man. Bret turns his back to goad Bad News and it works, because Bad News charges and Bret backdrops him over the top and onto the floor. Vladimir taunts Bad News and that’s so disheartening that he heads to the locker room. He changes his mind and goes back to the ring, where Bret politely slingshots him back inside.

-Brown offers a handshake. The fans boo, and when Bad News realizes that nobody believes him, he just shrugs and throws punches. HA! Bret throws punches back, but Bad News catches him with a boot and heads to the top rope. Bret Flair-slams him and gives him a boot to the breadbasket. Inverted atomic drop by Bret. Legdrop by Bret, and then he connects with the second rope elbow. Bret rakes the eyes and goes for a backbreaker, but Bad News gives him a thumb to the eye and gets out. He clotheslines Bret down and chokes away. Series of right hands and more choking by Bad News. He chokes Bret over the top rope and slingshots him back to the mat. Bodyslam and a fistdrop. He chokes Bret and then drapes his neck across the apron to hammer him. Gorilla is able to get his nightly allotment of anatomy jargon worked in from that.

-Bad News keeps hammering the Hit Man and slams him onto the floor. Alfred says that Hart is probably shaken to his foundation by that, and doesn’t even seem to realize what a cutesy pun that was. Bad News rams Bret back-first into the post. Irish whip by Bad News and Bret crashes just like we’ve always counted on him to. Bad News tries it again and Bret reverses it. Bret goes for another second rope elbow and it misses this time. Legdrop by Bad News gets two.

-Uppercut and a slam by Bad News get two. Bad News goes for a splash from the second rope and misses. Punches by Bret and then a backdrop to get the comeback rolling. Series of punches and an elbow by Bret. Backbreaker connects this time for a two-count. He launches Bad News out to the floor and slams him on the concrete. Bret suplexes him back into the ring for two. Punches and a dropkick by Bret, then another shot at the midsection. Snapmare by Bret. He goes for the elbow again and Bad News rolls out of the way.

-Punches by Bad News. Bret reverses an Irish whip and monkeyflips Bad News for two. Bad News backdrops Bret over the top rope and goes outside to go for a piledriver on the floor. Bret blocks it and turns it into a backdrop. Back inside the ring, Bret gets his own piledriver right as the bell sounds, and it’s a time limit draw. 2 for 3. GREAT match, with a lot of “tit for tat” spots and both guys anticipating offense from each other and reacting accordingly. Good storytelling. It’s a keeper.

-Gang charges at Bigelow and Bigelow just tumbles right past him. Side headlock by Bigelow. Shoulderblocks go nowhere. Gang tries to do a criss-cross but Bam-Bam just runs across his back, then drops down to headbutt him. From there Bigelow works the arm for an extended spell. Gang sends him into the ropes. Bigelow goes for a sunset flip and Gang just drops down and sits on him to turn the tide.

-Gang pounds away and rams a boot into Bigelow’s neck. He rakes the eyes, then brings Bam-Bam into the corner and rams him over and over. Right hands and an eyerake by the Gang. Hard clothesline by Gang and he clamps on a nerve hold. It lasts forever, as nerve holds tend to do. Bam-Bam elbows his way to freedom and it’s a slugfest in MSG. Gang goes for an avalanche and Bam-Bam raises the boots and follows with a clothesline to take the Gang off his feet. Shoulderblock by Bam-Bam. He goes for another one and Gang sends him absolutely SAILING across the ring and out to the floor. This has to be seen to be appreciated. A guy Bam-Bam’s size shouldn’t be able to get air like that.

-They brawl on the apron and we basically get the same finish as Wrestlemania IV. They’re on the apron and Bam-Bam rams the Gang into the turnbuckles over and over and over again until the referee finally enforces a rule never enforced and DQs Bigelow for not getting out of the corner. He’s PISSED and tackles the Gang post-match, slamming him and sending him running. 3 for 4. Restholds were a little longer than I liked, but a good bout.

WWF UNDISPUTED TITLE OR WHATEVER THE HELL THEY’RE CALLING IT RIGHT NOW: RANDY “Macho Man” SAVAGE (Champion, with Elizabeth) vs. “Million Dollar Man” TED DIBIASE (with Virgil)
-Virgil gets too close to Elizabeth and Randy goes out of the ring to chase him. Virgil nearly kills himself on a chair while DiBiase sneaks up and attacks Savage on the floor. DiBiase goes for a bulldog, but Savage counters by ramming him shoulder-first into the post. Back inside, DiBiase tries to play possum to sucker Savage in, but Savage catches him and atomic drops him onto the floor. Savage snaps DiBiase’s arm over the top rope, then rams him into the post again.

-Back in, Savage wrings the arm. DiBiase tries to get away, but Savage gives him an elbow between the eyes. Rake and a turnbuckle shot by DiBiase to turn things around. Chops and an Irish whip by DiBiase. He charges and Savage ducks, so DiBiase goes shoulder-first into the turnbuckles. DiBiase grabs the tights to toss Savage to the floor before he can take full advantage. DiBiase rams him into the barricade and brings him back inside. Axehandle off the second rope gets two. DiBiase gets frustrated and chokes Savage. Clothesline gets two.

-Savage gets a little hopeful moment with elbows between the eyes, but DiBiase fights him right back and suplexes him for two. DiBiase goes for a slam and Savage counters with a cradle for two. DiBiase is pissed about that and puts the boots to him, then chokes him out. Savage goes for a backdrop, DiBiase hangs on for the sunset flip, but Savage punches him. DiBiase recovers quickly and boots him down. He tries for a suplex; Savage blocks and reverses.

-Snapmare and a headlock by DiBiase to block the comeback. Savage fights it, gets to his feet, and rams DiBiase into the turnbuckle to break the hold. DiBiase recovers quick and goes for the backward falling elbow, and it misses, as it will every time he goes for it for the remainder of his career.

-Savage whips DiBiase and follows with an elbow. He snaps DiBiase’s neck over the top rope and of course DiBiase does a beautiful sell for that. Double axehandle off the top rope by Savage. DiBiase retreats to the corner. Savage charges, DiBiase dodges. DiBiase tries a go-behind, Savage elbows out of it, but DiBiase falls backward and takes out the referee. Shortly after, Savage goes back to the top rope, but Virgil yanks his foot and sends Savage crashing to the floor just as the referee wakes up. Referee counts ten and DiBiase takes the match by count-out. 4 for 5. Predictably good outing from these guys. It’s a shame that the Wrestlemania IV match is the best-known one between these guys because the other matches I’ve seen from them so far have been better.

-Gorilla interviews DiBiase in the back…Interesting thing; Gorilla was a big, big guy and it appears that they actually have DiBiase & Virgil standing on a platform in front of him so Gorilla doesn’t look so imposing.

-Gorillla’s next guest is Hercules. Bobby Heenan isn’t in the building tonight, but that’s no problem. He’s going to prove who the true warrior is tonight.

-And now here’s Demolition & Mister Fuji. Gorilla isn’t impressed with the way they got the belts, but Fuji insists that his team is training even harder now that they’re the champions.

-Lord Alfred Hayes finally gets off his ass and interviews Randy Savage. Savage is pissed off that his first title defense ever at MSG was ruined by Virgil. He hopes DiBiase knows that shallow victories are the only victories he’ll ever get over the Macho Man.

-Lord Alfred talks to Strike Force. They got the goods and they got the guts to take the belts back.

-Lock-ups go nowhere. Horowitz throws a forearm and they go off the ropes. Rivera backdrops Horowitz and Horowitz calls for a time-out. Rivera Irish whips him and armdrags him a couple of times. He goes to work on the arm and the fans lose their patience with these guys surprisingly quickly.

-Horowitz takes the hint and sends Rivera into the ropes. Rivera armdrags him a few times and squeezes in a dropkick for good measure. Armbar by Rivera and for some reason the crowd is more tolerant of this one. Horowitz backs Rivera into the corner and slaps him, then makes Rivera chase him. Once inside, Horowitz puts the boots to him and gives him an uppercut. Horowitz tries a pin using the ropes for leverage, but he’s so obvious about it that the referee just looks at him with disappointment until Barry lets go.

-Front facelock by Horowitz, but that’s not evil enough, so he goes after the eyes. Headscissors by Horowitz; Rivera makes it to the ropes. Horowitz tries a slam but Rivera cradles him for two. Kneelift by Horowitz blocks the comeback and Barry gets a two-count. Rivera tries a bodypress but Horowitz catches him and makes it a backbreaker. Horowitz heads to the top rope and Rivera slams him right off.

-Backdrop by Rivera, followed by a suplex. Dropkick sends Horowitz to the floor. Irish whip by Rivera; he charges and Horowitz takes a knee and elbows him in the gut. Rivera recovers and slingshots him into the middle turnbuckle. Another dropkick by Rivera. He goes for another one and this time Horowitz anticipates and backs away from him. Russian legsweep by Horowitz gets the three-count. 4 for 6. Not bad, just dull.

-Weird prematch hijinks see Sherri having a wardrobe malfunction and holding up the show while the referee ties a knot in the back of her tights to keep everything together. Can’t tell if that’s legit or if it’s just for heat.

-Sherri backs Desiree into the ropes and breaks cleanly. She offers a handshake, but Desiree’s ready for the cheap shot and throws punches of her own. Bodypress by Desiree gets two. Desiree keeps going with the theme of tonight’s show by working the arm until Sherri can escape and get to the ropes for a breather. Desiree plays to the crowd and Sherri sneaks up to attack. Desiree’s ready for her again and backdrops Sherri, then slams her for two.

-Desiree goes back to work on the arm, then switches to a front facelock. She rolls over to make it a pinning combination for two. Back to the arm. Sherri fights out with chops and punches, then faceplants Desiree. Desiree sweeps the legs and rolls her up for another two. Sherri tries to go to the ropes and Desiree yanks her by the hair to keep her in the middle of the ring. Dropkick gets two. Side headlock by Desiree, but Sherri sends her into the ropes and kicks her. Shoulderblock by Sherri, but she gets caught with a monkeyflip. Desiree slams her and gets two.

-Sherri comes back again with a shoulderblock and a turnbuckle shot. Another turnbuckle shot and a little choking by Sherri for good measure. She punts Desiree, then tosses her to the floor. Back in the ring, a double clothesline takes both women down, but they get right back up. Desiree faceplants Sherri and Irish whips her. Desiree charges, then sends Sherri into the ropes. Sherri counters by coming off the ropes with another faceplant, and that gets three to retain the gold. 4 for 7. Still just a potato.

-Hercules tries to attack with the chain, but Warrior just snatches it away from him and chases him out of the ring. Warrior swings the chain over his head triumphantly, and I find myself thinking that the entire reason Hercules was turned face later in the year was because Vince nodded and said, “That looks cool, actually.”

-Shoving contest goes Warrior’s way. Lock-ups go nowhere. They try again and it’s another stalemate. They jockey for a top wristlock and Hercules manages to bring Warrior down to the mat with a handful of hair. They try the top wristlock again and Hercules yanks him to the mat again. Warrior tries to lunge at him and the referee holds him back while Hercules calmly goes to the floor and smiles at him. “Shit!” yells the Warrior.

-Hercules keeps teasing going back into the ring and backing off just to annoy the Warrior. Warrior gets fed up and yanks him back in by the hair, then chops him down. Hercules tries all kinds of offense, but Warrior blocks every shot, then just grabs his ankle and flips him over. Warrior just chops the piss out of Hercules, politely telling him “One more” before throwing his last chop. He tells Hercules “Clothesline” and I think it’s pretty dumb to tell your opponent what offense works on you, because sure enough Hercules hits him with a clothesline and hurts him.

-Hercules tosses him to the floor via a handful of tights. Hercules attacks him on the floor, then brings him inside, and now that Warrior is feeling weak, Hercules goes for a test of strength and wins it, naturally. Warrior warriors up and boots him away. Hercules fights him off and throws a right hand, then another. Knees to the back by Hercules, and then a bearhug. Warrior “sucks some air into his important lungs” (Alfred) then “shakes all over” (Gorilla) to break the hold.

-Hercules clotheslines him down to block the comeback, then drops an elbow. Non-chalant cover only gets him a two-count, however. Both men collide on a shoulderblock and Warrior stumbles and falls on top for a two-count. Hercules is upset about that and bounces up to hit another clothesline, but another arrogant cover gets two. Hercules goes for another clothesline, but Warrior ducks and catches him coming back with a powerslam for two.

-Hercules just gets frustrated and tries punches, but Warrior punches back until Hercules hits the mat. Warrior starts to dance (please don’t) and clotheslines Hercules. Press slam by Warrior gets three and the crowd absolutely erupts. 5 for 8. Well, this blew their Wrestlemania IV match the fuck out of the water. Great storytelling to start: Hercules for once is facing somebody that matches him in the power department, so he totally changed his usual game plan and instead focused his offense on frustrating and outsmarting Warrior. Warrior still wouldn’t die, so it turned into both men unloading their whole arsenal on each other until Warrior finally won simply by being the better man. Thumbs way the hell up for an unexpected pleasure.

-It’s a brawl to start and Strike Force clears the ring. Martel applies the Boston crab right away on Ax and Tito keeps throwing forearms at Smash to keep the hold from being broken. Referee finally reprimands Tito to give Smash an opening and Ax is freed from the hold. Smash tags in and now Strike Force goes to town on him. Tito works the arm, then Martel comes in and works the other arm.

-Ax manages to tag in and Ax him down, but Martel angrily snaps back up and snaps Ax’s arm over and over until he crumbles to the mat. Double gut shots by Strike Force and Tito faceplants Ax for two. Smash tags in and runs into an armdrag, and Martel goes back to work on the arm. Ax interferes from the apron to turn the tide and Demolition gangs up on Martel while the referee’s back is turned. Smash smashes Martel and tags in Ax. Slam gets two.

-Ax keeps axing away at Martel’s back, then tosses him to the floor. Smash attacks him on the floor and Smash brings him back in while Fuji joins the commentary team. Tito suddenly mounts a comeback when Fuji isn’t providing guidance anymore, so he ducks out to go back to managing.

-It doesn’t help. Martel boots Smash down and Demolition resorts to illegal switching so Ax can take control, and it works because, again, the referees can’t tell the difference between two entirely different-looking members of Demolition for some reason. Martel elbows Ax down and Tito makes the hot tag in and clean house on everybody in his sights. He whips Smash into Ax and connects with the flying forearm. Tito goes for the pin, but Fuji heads up to the apron and a brawl erupts. While the referee deals with it, Fuji sneaks in and gives Tito a hard shot to the throat with his cane, and that helps Demolition steal another victory to retain. 6 for 9. More good storytelling, with Demolition being caught off-guard by Strike Force actually fighting them Demolition-style and putting them in the position of having to keep up.

End of the show and onto the Game Show Utopiaplug.

The 411: Well now that was just a hell of a show, and best of all, it was a hell of a show in places where I wasn't expecting a hell of a show. Savage & DiBiase were predictably great; Hart & Brown was better than I expected; Strike Force & Demolition were good, and I can't say this enough, but Warrior vs. Hercules shocked the crap outta me. Very recommended.
Final Score:  6.6   [ Average ]  legend

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Adam Nedeff

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