Showdown At Shea
Date: August 9, 1980
Location: Shea Stadium, Flushing, New York
Commentators: Michael Cole, Mick Foley
FINALLY! This is a show I’ve wanted to do for well over a year now and until now I have never been able to find a copy of it. The commentators obviously aren’t from the right era but the original show had no commentary so this is all we’ve got. There were actually three Showdowns at Shea. The first one had a 75 minute draw between two faces for the world title (Morales vs. Sammartino) and the second had the famous Ali vs. Inoki fight (not at the stadium but played on the video screen there).
This one however is the most famous one with the first major Hulk vs. Andre match with the roles reversed and the match that won match of the year in PWI: Larry Zbyszko vs. Bruno Sammartino in the blowoff to a BIG feud in a cage. This is another one of those really glorified house shows but it’s a famous one and it’s nearly a holy grail to me so let’s get to it.
According to WWE 24/7 this is rated TV-14. Make your own jokes.
There’s no special opening here as it’s just Vince doing the in ring announcing and Cole welcomes us to the show. Cole is talking over Vince which today is grounds for death. It’s kind of annoying though as we can’t really tell what Vince is saying. The mat is red/purple which is weird looking.
Angel Marvilla vs. Jose Estrada
There were two matches before this, neither of which meant anything. To give a sign of the times we’re told why Fink isn’t there: he was on loan to Jim Crockett for his TV show. Can you imagine Jerry Lawler popping up on Impact for a loan? The looking back aspect of the commentary is very interesting as we hear about the high level of Puerto Rican wrestlers on New York cards which is true.
It’s so weird seeing no crowd around the arena and grass there instead. This is just weird to see as the wrestling is pretty bad but it’s just an opener here. The crowd sounds dead but the problem is that the crowd is so far away you can’t really hear them. They’re not bored though or at least I wouldn’t believe they are. The commentary is recorded in 2008 as Foley talks about the differences between modern wrestling style and the much slower paced stuff back then.
Estrada sends him over the top to the apron with a dropkick. I’m trying to talk about the match but like I said the wrestling is pretty weak here. Also the commentary here is one of the real highlights here as it’s rare that you can hear commentary recorded after the fact. Jose’s son was Edge’s first opponent and Edge nearly killed him, literally. Foley has never seen the main event tonight which should be interesting. Angelo hits a running flying headbutt for the pin. Vince’s microphone doesn’t work and he takes about a minute to get into the ring which Cole and Foley make a lot of fun of. Yeah they knew Vince wasn’t going to watch this.
Rating: D-. Match sucked but the commentary is the real treat here. I have a feeling that’ll be a running theme tonight too. These two were just out there as an opener and as odd as it is to say this they were there because they were Puerto Ricans. Those are Foley’s words mind you so don’t get on me for saying that. This wasn’t much of a match but it got the show started and something had to do that.
We skip a women’s tag match which had Moolah and three other girls. I’m not skipping them mind you. They’re simply not on the video although they happened.
Dominic DeNucci vs. Baron Mikel Scicluna
Now THIS should be interesting as Dominic trained Foley. I’ve never seen one of his matches so I’m new here too. The Baron kind of sucks but whatever. Notice a lot of the foreign wrestlers here as we’re on our second televised match and there hasn’t been a single white man. It was a different time to put it mildly and I’m kind of surprised by it since you would think it would have gone the other way and gotten more diverse.
The Baron is in the Hall of Fame for NO reason at all. His highlights listed on Wikipedia include one reign as a tag champion. Yep that’s it. Vince’s mic, now working, has a loud echo in the big stadium. Baron is loudly booed and Dominic is cheered which Foley calls a pop. Clean break in the corner to start as these guys look a lot alike other than their tights being different colors.
We talk about the ethnicity stuff again which is rather interesting. We make fun of Baron having a HUGE Malta contingent of fans which allows Foley to cater to history geeks. Baron gets rammed into the post twice which is fine with the referee for no apparent reason. Wait Dominic is in the red? How did I get that confused this whole time? Baron goes for a foreign object in his trunks resulting in a lot of jokes about something else in his trunks.
Foley talks about how Baron influenced his most famous trademark as Baron was known for REALLY overdoing his pulling out the foreign object, which inspired the way Foley would pull out Socko and look like he was trying to scratch his knee and then reach the ceiling. As you can see the wrestling here continues to mean nothing of note. The wrestling back in this era was for the most part just two guys in the ring having matches with no real story or angles going on.
Cole and Foley talk about early 80s television shows and what the actors are doing today. Dominic gets a sunset flip (which I remember reading about Foley FREAKING when he learned) and lays on his back instead of leaning forward for the pin. The time is announced at 6 minutes which the commentators talk about feeling FAR longer and I can’t say I blame them.
Rating: D. Another boring match although better than the first one. Again the commentary is far more interesting and is making this stuff watchable. Things should pick up later with better talent and matches that have feuds behind them coming up. Not much as far as wrestling goes here especially the ending but it wasn’t horrible.
Two more matches skipped, one of which had Greg Gagne so be glad it was skipped. The other had Pat Patterson vs. a Japanese guy that isn’t well known at all. Given the amount of time we’ve got left on this show, something tells me we might see these later on.
WWF Junior Heavyweight Title: Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Chavo Guerrero
Where to begin with this one? This is the equivalent of the Cruiserweight Title and the guy that holds it primarily wrestles in Japan. Fujinami is a GREAT wrestler for those that have never seen him and is one of the best lighter guys ever. Chavo is of course Chavo Guerrero’s father and was known a few years back as Chavo Classic in WWE. This title would move to Japan permanently soon after this and should not be confused with the Light Heavyweight Title which also was in Japan and Mexico for about 15 years and became part of the J-Crown which was defended in WCW in the mid-90s.
Oh yeah we have a match to see here. It’s getting noticeably darker here as you can tell we’ve skipped some stuff. Chavo is challenging here. There are also no entrances as when the announcements start the guys are already in the ring. The upper deck is nearly empty in a shot Vince likely won’t be thrilled with. Again notice the lack of Caucasians. Cole says he doesn’t know if the fans will like this or not because it’s just not what they’re used to which is probably true.
Cole calls Chavo vs. Chavo Jr. one of the more interesting stories in WWE history. Never let it be said that Cole understates anything. We get a Brian Hildebrand reference of all people as he’s more commonly known as referee Mark Curtis. Crowd is more or less silent here. All kinds of lucha and high flying stuff here which pops the crowd loudly. And so much for that as we go back to technical stuff and basic striking.
Cole and Foley discuss the mentality of a midcard worker who knows the fans are there to see the main event and not you. Foley also points out that the fans are likely to file in late because they only care about the main event which would explain a lot of the empty parts of the stadium. Fujinami hits a suicide dive which was INSANE stuff back then. Chavo goes for one as well but catches himself on the rope when he sees Tatsumi is gone.
This commentary is very interesting as you’re getting a lot of history and behind the scenes stuff that you would NEVER hear on Raw or Smackdown. Foley even mentions wrestling NEWSLETTERS and people talking about wrestling on the internet today. Imagine that being talked about seriously on Raw. I know I’m harping on that a lot but it’s by far and away the most interesting part of the show.
Foley talks about Japanese wrestling magazines that would come out within days of major shows with full color photographs. That’s rather impressive. We also hear about the silent crowds in Japan which takes a lot of getting used to. We hit the mat as I remember we have wrestling going on. It’s so weird to see the matches being such stuff in the background for the most part. Airplane Spin by Fujinami sends Chavo down.
Chavo hits a flying shot to the face and Foley is like oh crap we’ve got a good match here so I’ll finish my stories later. We get back to back rollups as Foley says how rare rollups and speed like this was which is true. Fujinami gets an awesome rollup for the pin and the referee doesn’t signal at all so it’s rather confusing. It’s the same thing Brian Pillman beat Jushin Liger with at Superbrawl II if you REALLY want to know what it looked like for some odd reason. Vince says he’s still World Wrestling Federation Champion.
Rating: C+. Not a great match but FAR better than what we’ve seen so far. This would be decent by today’s standards but this was ground breaking back then as no one knew what to think of guys flying around like that and moving so fast. The flying moves were solid too but they were like toppings on a pizza if that makes sense with the mat work being by far and away more important and prominent. Best match of the night by a mile though.
WWF Martial Arts Championship: Antonio Inoki vs. Larry Sharpe
Apparently these are shoot fights and Vince calls it the National Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Championship but that’s the only source I see that says that. Granted having Vince as your source kind of ends anyone else. I’m not going to try to explain the history and lineage of this title as it wound up in Japan and was never mentioned again after about 1985.
Ok we’re not going to have rounds or anything here. Inoki is called the most popular Japanese wrestler in the world ever which is a thread for sure. Foley tells a cool story about being in Italy and people came up to him asking for Inoki tickets instead of wrestling tickets. Sharpe was a Memphis guy I think and is very blonde. Foley and Cole try to explain the Martial Arts Title which maybe this isn’t for. I don’t pretend to get a lot of Japanese stuff but I know enough to get by.
Yeah this is a regular wrestling match but I’m going to say it’s the Martial Arts Title anyway. We hear about the legendary Inoki vs. Ali fight which is more or less the screwed up grandfather of MMA. LARRY SHARPE RAN THE MONSTER FACTORY! I KNEW I had heard that name before! This is just a standard wrestling match as the commentary continues to be the highlight here.
Inoki busts out the kicks which apparently is what he used against Ali. Does Inoki ever age? He looks the same he looked when he went into the Hall of Fame this year. He’s currently the equivalent of a Senator in Japan. Inoki kicks a lot at the legs of Sharpe who makes a short comeback. Inoki kicks the heck out of him again, getting a HUGE reaction surprisingly enough. Sharpe FALLS off the top for a “splash” and the Enziguri…DOESN’T FINISH? Inoki is all OH NO YOU DIDN’T and hits another one, prompting Sharpe to fall backwards like an idiot. Pin is academic.
Rating: C-. Kind of boring here and the end was kind of weird but the match wasn’t horrible. Inoki’s reception surprised me a bit but seeing a legend like Inoki is always fun. In the post match announcement Vince calls it the Martial Arts Championship so maybe he doesn’t even get it. Match was ok but nothing great at all.
Ok now I KNOW we’re coming back to some of the matches later as next up is the tag title match which would mean we’re skipping the IC Title match and Hogan vs. Andre.
Tag Titles: Bob Backlund/Pedro Morales vs. Wild Samoans
Backlund is world champion and this is 2/3 falls. Basically this would be Cena/Orton vs. the tag champions if the tag titles were a big deal. Backlund is way over as is Morales. Vince says in the corner to his left are the champions. The corner is empty but who cares about little things like those? According to Foley it’s FAR more interesting to talk to Backlund than to Afa, which doesn’t surprise me at all.
As far as the relations here, Afa and Sika are brothers I believe. Afa’s kids include Samu and Manu while Sika’s son is Rosey and he has another son in FCW. More or less picture it like this: if they’re Samoan and a wrestler, they’re probably related to each other. Cole talks about Pedro being a former WWE Champion which makes me think of him holding the spinner belt. We get some discussion of the New York curfew which meant that no wrestling could happen after 11. Matches would just stop at that time due to state laws. Imagine a big match just stopping at that point.
This is being written hours after the final NXT show on Syfy and there was a This Week in WWE History segment about a Cactus Jack vs. HHH match. Oddly enough Foley and Cole discuss that very match here in a very funny story about Captain Lou wandering down to ringside while the two guys were brawling in the crowd. Apparently Vince and Cole were in the gorilla position (Cole’s words) and Vince looked at him and said “Did Captain Lou just walk to the ring?” “I believe he did.” “Just checking.” Far funnier than it sounds.
We get the famous Samoan nerve hold on Backlund as this has been far more interesting and far more modern of a style match. We get a good example of what a manager can do as he holds Backlund’s tights to keep him in the corner so Sika can beat on him. Foley gives us a rather interesting history of managers. He really knows what he’s talking about as this is the area and company he grew up with. Backlund gets the Atomic Drop (his finisher. It was a much simpler time obviously) and Morales gets an O’Connor Roll (run the other guy into the ropes and roll him backwards into a rollup. You’ve seen it a thousand times. Bret likes to do it.) for the first fall.
Vince flat out screws up and says we have new champions prompting a very interesting question from Foley: who yells at Vince when he screws up? Vince booked the match, Vince made the announcement and he’s told the referee made it 2/3 falls. HUGE BULL chant starts us off. The Samoans beat up Morales before the second fall. THE FREAKING COPS TAKE ALBANO OUT! In the biggest city in the country in the middle of the summer, there was NOTHING better for them to do???
Foley starts having a sandwich because he saw Don Muraco do it as everything goes insane. Backlund gets a Piledriver on Sika to bring in both other guys. The commentary here is cracking me up. Backlund goes for a belly to back on Sika but Afa hits him in the head, prompting Backlund to…..fall backwards and drive Sika into the mat in a belly to back suplex. Pedro hits a dropkick on Sika so Backlund can pin him. They would have to forfeit the titles because Backlund couldn’t hold the tag and world titles so the Samoans got them back.
Rating: B. Most fun any of the matches so far tonight have been with the crowd being WAY into it and the guys having a great time out there. This worked as all four guys were pretty solid if not very good in the ring. The booking is a bit odd if they were just going to give the titles back to the Samoans. Why not a disqualification or something like that?
I was right. We’re doing some of the other matches.
Pat Patterson vs. Tor Kamata
We get one of the first wide shots and in case you’re curious the middle of the ring would be about where second base is. Kamata jumps him before the bell starts and is a rather fat man. He misses a top rope splash and Patterson takes over. Foley makes fun of Pat’s speech issues which are always funny. We talk about the Boot Camp match (go find that match. It’s against Sgt. Slaughter. Find the Alley Fight too as both are classics) to fill some time. Kamata throws powder at Patterson but it hits the referee for the DQ. WAY too short.
Rating: N/A. Fun while it lasted but nothing of note really. Patterson gets a big pop for the win.
Fabulous Moolah/Beverly Shade vs. Peggy Lee/Kandi Malloy
I only know one of them either. I think the card I have might be out of order. Or maybe the tape is out of order. It’s so weird seeing Vince doing Fink’s job. All one pieces for them here and Moolah with the black hair. Apparently Foley toured with Peggy Lee in some indy company in Africa. Well ok then. We hear about Moolah’s 28 year title run which is hilarious.
Match is a mess of course other than Moolah here. Foley sings a song for Peggy which I think is an Buddy Holly number. Ah yes it is but instead of Sue he says Lee. Foley points out that Moolah trained most of the women which is why so many of them wrestled exactly the same. Nothing of note is going on here of course. Double leg locks by the non-Moolah team. Moolah is just like screw this and beats up Lee and hits a backdrop of all things for the pin.
Rating: F. Cole and Foley rip the match apart afterwards, not even trying to make this sound like anything serious and I can’t say I blame them. Moolah was the only thing worth anything here.
Intercontinental Title: Ken Patera vs. Tony Atlas
This is pre-jail for Patera so he’s blonde and still kind of awesome. Atlas is Mr. USA and a generic strongman. Surprisingly good reaction for Atlas. This sums up Patera very well: before Mark Henry, there was Ken Patera. Just with a lower level of suck that is. Atlas is RIPPED with a body that makes John Cena look like Yokozuna. He throws Patera through the ropes on a kickout. Keep in mind Patera weighs about 270.
Foley goes into this insane story about how he remembers the Atlas/Johnson title win and how a strange set of circumstances that night led to him being world champion. Cole is ON IT tonight, talking about how the guys are doing everything in much more dramatic fashion because there’s no video or anything like that so the view you have from the stands is all you have. That’s something I wouldn’t have thought of but it’s very true.
We then get something I’d bet you will hear on a maximum of three other WWE produced shows ever: Foley says a lot of the matches aren’t that good. How many times can you remember someone that flat out saying a show has been bad for the most part? Vince would call the worst matches ever “extraordinary” or something like that while Foley is sitting here saying this show hasn’t been very good. He’s absolutely right which is very nice to hear for a change, especially from someone that knows what it’s like to be out there.
Full nelson goes on but Atlas gets the ropes. The announcers don’t talk about the matches at all and are just telling stories about how their memories of these guys which is really fun to hear. It’s nice to hear guys that love this stuff just sit around and talk about wrestling rather than put things over. We get an interesting issue as the fans chant USA for Mr. USA Tony Atlas. Keep in mind Patera was a legitimate Olympian.
Cross body gets two for Atlas as Cole runs down the history of Shea Stadium. We hit the floor for some brawling and Patera is in trouble. This is a big brawl for the most part and we get a bell as Patera stays outside too long. Foley calls the finish unsatisfying. Atlas gets on the mic and wants more but the champion runs.
Rating: C-. Not very good but fun. Power vs. power is easy to do and this worked fine. Both guys oversold everything which is the idea here and it worked rather well. Not great or anything but fun which is what the idea is supposed to be here. Atlas was pretty decent actually.
Ivan Putski vs. Johnny Rodz
Please….make it quick. Vince calls the wrestlers the principles. Putski is your Polish ethnic dude. Rodz is a trainer and Foley worked out with him for awhile. Rodz, the brilliant mind that he is, said Foley had no future. His reason? He couldn’t kick properly. Foley asks why Cole doesn’t talk about his legitimate news reporting stuff. Without missing a beat, Cole says “because no one cares?” He’s nothing if not self-aware.
We hear some about it and Cole being in Berlin for the fall of the wall and Foley says that it has nothing on Putski using a bearhug! Mick says Cole should talk about his credentials more and work in Rwandan genocide references in on Raw. How do you respond to that? Cole doesn’t, going back to making fun of the match. Putski just goes OFF and hits the Polish Hammer (running double axe to the chest. The guys sell it like JR calls a Stunner) for the pin.
Rating: D-. As I’ve said all night, the match was crap but the commentary was great. Foley and Cole have some awesome chemistry and we’re hearing a lot more from Cole than you usually would. He’s a likeable guy here and sounds like someone that it would be really fun to talk to about a bunch of different things.
The Hangman vs. Rene Goulet
Hangman is a generic guy and Goulet is more or less a career jobber. The commentary is great here as Goulet is famous for losing all the time and Hangman is someone even Foley doesn’t know. Goulet is wrestling with a torn bicep here because he wasn’t given time off for surgery. We hear about a charity softball game during the ECW Invasion. What the heck?
Cole says he’s sang Cena’s theme song with Cena in karaoke and sang Another One Bites the Dust with Patterson. WOW. Foley freaks on Cole about how he’s ignoring HANGMAN VS. GOULET! We talk about Hogan vs. Andre and the cage match which is just funny. Cole asks Foley about the Pope leading a prayer here in the 70s. Foley: *dead silence* that’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard! I had to stop the tape from laughing so hard at that.
We’re told this is a popcorn match as this is some of the best commentary as I can ever remember. Goulet is pretty boring and Hangman isn’t any better. DEAD crowd. Cole says the Hangman is the forerunner of a lot of failed gimmicks in the future. See what I’m talking about? We talk about serial killers and rats to fill some time as a hot shot ends it.
Rating: F. Match was boring but I didn’t see much of it due to laughing so much. I’d love to hear some commentary on other matches like this later on. We still don’t know who Hangman is and we go to highlights of the match. Uh…why?
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Yeah this works. Hogan has the traditional colors on but is a heel here. Cole keeps talking about Mania 3 and their FIRST MATCH EVER! This show and match was a big blow to Hogan’s ego that he lies about to this day. He claims that he and Andre drew this house but for the whole summer this and Larry/Bruno were the top feuds. One time was Hogan/Andre the top listed match and it got about 40% of a house full. 3 months later they came back and did the traditional listings resulting in a full house. Real World: 1, Hogan: 0.
It’s so weird seeing the yellow and red as heel colors. Foley fought Andre in Japan. I never knew that. Those ropes are LOOSE. Black elbow pads for Hogan which is a weird look. Hogan with a headlock to start as it’s a long feeling out process. Far different match than you would get at Mania. Foley talks about being at a Harley Race BBQ where Race has a picture of him slamming Andre. Take that Hulk!
We get some cool Andre stories which are just amazing every time. Hogan has a hairy back. Now that’s a weird one to write out. Bearhug by Hogan and this is a very slow match. Andre blocks a slam with a hammerlock. Down goes the referee as Hogan gets slammed. Hogan slams Andre and it’s just a normal move other than Cole and Foley babbling about it. Funny though. Andre gets a splash and a tainted count to win it from another referee. He got out but the referee counted it anyway.
Rating: D. Boring match here but these two are always fun together. This is the unspoken match as everything that Vince didn’t want you to know about at Mania time happened here. This was quick and more or less harmless though. I’m very surprised that this went so fast though, not even getting 8 minutes. Andre got busted open after the match.
Larry Zbyszko vs. Bruno Sammartino
Wrestling 101 here: Bruno was the mentor, Larry decided he had surpassed the teacher, teacher kept being the star, student attacks the teacher, they go to a baseball stadium and have a wrestling match in front of 36,000 people in a box with no lid on it. Tale as old as time. Old school cage here, as in the kind they have now. NUCLEAR heat on Larry. Bruno gets the only entrance of the night.
We even get clips of Zbyszko’s heel turn which is WAY rare. Bruno jumps him to start and Larry hits the cage 3 times in about 5 seconds. You can only go through the door here and not over the top for no apparent reason. Apparently Larry talks about this match to the point of annoyance. Low blow gives Larry a chance to breathe as this has been very intense so far.
Foley makes another interesting point: Bruno headlined all three Shea shows and only once was world champion at the time. That’s saying a lot. This is the first match with an angle and the crowd clearly knows it. We get into a discussion about whether Bruno would be successful today and the commentators say yes because he was the people’s man. You know, like that blue collar guy that represented the hard working everyman who didn’t like his boss. Someone you could have a beer with. Or maybe a case of them if you get what I’m talking about. Yeah I think Bruno would have worked today.
Almost all Bruno so far. Now we talk about Stan Hansen inspiring Foley to sleep with his wife. Ok then. We hear about Larry and Foley driving together and Cole says how would they get a word in edgewise? Foley says he only talks over Cole because he’s smarter than Michael is. Nice line! Bruno’s arm is bleeding so Larry punches away at it. After nearly ten minutes Larry makes the first attempt at the door, naturally not getting there.
We get into a semi-argument over whether or not Foley ever worked out. Foley seems genuinely pissed off about that and I can’t say I blame him. Bruno wakes up and beats the tar out of Larry, kicking him in the head one more time and walking out to win it definitively. Bruno beats on him some more after the match ends
Rating: C+. Solid match for what it was supposed to be which was a big time brawl. The fans loved it and Bruno decisively won. What more can you ask from them? This was a blowoff to a feud and that’s what they did. There’s nowhere for this feud to go from here and it ended. That’s what gimmick matches are for. LEARN THIS RUSSO!
Overall Rating: C+. The wrestling sucked but the commentary and atmosphere MORE than make up for it. This is probably the most interesting commentary I’ve ever heard as it’s really like hearing a director’s commentary on a DVD. It wasn’t about what was happening in the ring but rather about what was happening at this time and some very cool insight that you never get in regular shows. If you want to see this show good freaking luck finding it, but I’d recommend listening to it rather than watching it, which is a weird thing to say but very true. Recommended though and 85%+ of that is for the commentary.