WWF New York City House Show – January 21, 1980: Not The Most Interesting Time For WWF

WWF House Show
Date: January 21, 1980
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Attendance: 20,000
Commentator: Vince McMahon

Back to the past for some old WWF action. We’ve got Backlund defending against Patera tonight as well as Hogan in heel form against Dominic Denucci, who I’ve never actually seen wrestle. Other than that we have a lot of guys that I’ve heard of and have seen occasionally but don’t know a ton about, which is par for the course in 1980. Let’s get to it.

Kevin Von Erich vs. Johnny Rodz

From what I can tell this was the fourth match that took place on this night but maybe all of them aren’t on the broadcast. That’s happened before. Fink calls this the second bout so maybe my list is wrong. This is Kevin’s MSG debut. Rodz is the short guy with a temper. Rodz hooks a front suplex but instead drives Von Erich down like a front facelock. This is match that follows the style of the time, meaning a LOT of standing around and mostly punching.

Von Erich misses a dropkick but Rodz hides in the corner anyway. They go to the mat and Von Erich manages a headscissors while standing on his head. That was pretty cool. Kevin drops some forearms to the back and hooks a headlock. Rodz hooks an armbar which is quickly broken. Kevin tries a spinning cross body out of the corner but misses completely. Sunset flip gets two for Von Erich. Splash gets the same. Rodz comes back with a hip toss and legdrop for two. Von Erich wins with kind of a Thesz Press.

Rating: D-. Oh man I’m in for a long show. This was REALLY boring as Rodz had it in about negative fifth gear while Von Erich couldn’t hit much of anything. I don’t think Rodz did anything beyond punching and kicking for about 90% of the match, which doesn’t make for a very interesting opener. Awful match.

The Great Hossein Arab vs. Larry Zbyszko

This is called the third bout and it’s right after the previous one on my list. Arab is much more famous as The Iron Sheik. Sheik tries to take it to the mat but Larry escapes to a stalemate. Larry speeds things up and sends Sheik to the floor where he gets very ticked off. Back in an elbow misses and Sheik is even madder. I sense a humbling. Larry hooks a headlock and pounds away with right hands. The fans are way into this.

Back to the headlock and things speed way up with a crisscross. Sheik hits a pair of leapfrogs but gets caught in the headlock again. Sheik has finally had enough and blasts Larry in the face, but a knee drop misses and it’s back to Zbyszko. There’s an abdominal stretch but Sheik reverses into one of his own but that gets reversed as well. Sheik sends him into the corner and backdrops him for two.

We finally get to the heel control portion of this but it ends just as quickly in a Zbyzsko sunset flip. They collide and both of them go down. Sheik gets up first with a suplex but he can’t cover immediately so it only gets two. Another suplex is countered into a small package which gets two for Larry, as does a slam. Sheik loads up one of the boots but Larry trips him down and goes after it. That somehow gets two but Sheik kicks him onto the ref. That’s not enough for him so he drops an elbow on the referee for the DQ.

Rating: C-. It’s amazing what charisma can do for you. This was only a little bit better of a match than the previous one, but the charisma the two guys have made me want to see them fight which is what made things work better here. Sheik getting more and more disgruntled until he snapped worked a lot better for a story than “I’ll hit you a lot.” Larry would turn heel on Sammartino the very next day.

Dominic DeNucci vs. Hulk Hogan

This should be interesting. Hogan is still a heel here and has Blassie with him. Hogan shoves him around a lot to start and for some reason DeNucci tries to match power with him. The more famous one pretty easily wins a test of strength but DeNucci comes back with a monkey flip and Hulk is frustrated. Dominic dives at Hogan and falls on top of him for a Thesz Press for two.

Back to their feet and Hogan easily breaks Denucci’s full nelson. Hulk pounds him down and drops an elbow for two. Knee drop gets the same. DeNucci fights back but ducks his head and gets kicked in the face. Hulk hits something like what we would call a hot shot and the big leg gets the pin.

Rating: C-. Another boring match but you know Hogan is going to have charisma. Seeing him in MSG is always something cool to see too. The interesting thing about Hogan was that he was clearly going to be a big deal and probably a world champion even before the rise of Hulkamania. Pretty much just a squash for Hulk here.

Tag Titles: Wild Samoans vs. Ivan Putski/Tito Santana

Putski and Santana are champions and their opponents are making their MSG debuts. This would be Afa and Sika, the original Samoans. Putski (who is barely taller than the top rope) starts with Afa. Long stall before we get going and Putski gets a BIG reaction for pushing Afa into the corner. They trade full nelsons and we get heel miscommunication. Everything breaks down and the Samoans are rammed together.

Putski tries a double noggin knocker which gets him nowhere at all. Off to Tito vs. Afa now and the Samoan growls a lot. Maybe he wants a taco? The champions work on the leg without tagging. What great role models. They take turns stomping it and I think Tito kicked him low at least once in there. The leg work continues and more or less it’s just kicks to the leg of Afa. The idea of holds seems to be lost on the champions.

Just as I say that of course, Putski hooks onto a weak leg lock. He doesn’t tag Tito but Santana comes in anyway. The referee does a lot of not paying attention. Afa kicks Ivan away so Putski pounds him down and tags in Santana again. It’s very strange to see the faces in such long lasting control. Afa hits Putski very close to the groin and headbutts him down. There’s the tag after almost nine minutes of pounding.

Sika comes in and things continue to go slowly. Off to some choking which doesn’t last long at all. Putski fights up but Sika elbows him right back down. The Samoans hit a double clothesline and Putski is in trouble. We get the unseen tag to Santana which gets them in trouble this time. You would think that would be a heel move but here the champions did it. Nice change of pace at least. The second attempt at the tag works and everything breaks down. Afa crotches Tito on the top rope and that’s a DQ apparently.

Rating: C+. Best match of the night so far with both teams going at a pretty fast pace. The heel in peril idea was definitely interesting and having them go wild and get disqualified at the end was a nice choice as it fits their crazy men mentality. Good little match here which probably set up a gimmick mater later on.

Actually scratch the DQ as it was a countout.

WWF World Title: Bob Backlund vs. Ken Patera

Patera is blonde here and is the strongest man in the world. Backlund has been champion almost two years here. Backlund backs Patera into the corner twice and the challenger hides in the ropes. Backlund easily breaks two attempts to send him to the mat and backdrops Patera to the apron. Patera charges in again but gets knocked back again. This is basically the Backlund formula in action.

A forearm sends Patera down so Bob hooks a headlock. Patera easily picks him up and sits the champion on the top rope. Bob gets down and speeds it up, hitting a dropkick and a pair of armdrags. Backlund rolls out of a wristlock but Patera pulls his hair to take him down. They fight over a top wristlock and Backlund gets pulled down again. Patera cranks on the arm as things continue to be very slow.

After a minute or so, Backlund fights up and hooks the exact same hold on Patera for good measure. Off to a headscissors as the champion maintains control. Back to the arm hold and the fans are into this. Patera finally gets up and takes him down, dropping an elbow for two. A bearhug to Backlund is quickly broken up but Patera takes him down almost just as fast. Now the bearhug goes on full and things slow right back down again.

They take the bearhug to the mat and Patera gets a pair of two counts. Backlund tries to break it but can’t as they’re back on their feet. This hold has been going on for almost three minutes now until Backlund finally gets an atomic drop to break it. Backlund hits a suplex but a splash hits knees and the champion is down again. Patera drops a double ax off the middle rope and sets up the full nelson, his finisher.

Backlund slips down before the hold goes on but Patera kicks him in the back. Backlund comes back with his atomic drop (semi-finisher) but Patera gets a foot on the ropes. Patera whips Backlund into the referee in the corner and everyone is down. There’s the full nelson but Backlund walks the ropes to escape. They slug it out from their knees as the referee is stretchered out….and the match is thrown out.

Rating: C-. That’s probably being generous too. The ending was getting good until they did the setup for a rematch later on. This is also a great example of a match that I’d point to when people talk about guys like Dusty Rhodes going an hour a night. This match ran just under 26 minutes and was REALLY dull at times. Two of the holds combined for six minutes of it which doesn’t exactly make it interesting. That’s more of a generational thing though so it’s more understandable.

Post match Backlund goes off on Patera so the locker room comes out to break it up.

Intercontinental Title: Pat Patterson vs. Lou Albano

Patterson goes right after him to start and Lou bails. He stays gone far longer than a ten count but is allowed back in anyway. Albano kicks Patterson in the knees and tries a foreign object which is taken away. Patterson scoops the leg and starts choking away. He chokes with some tape and Albano hits the floor. Back in Lou gets in a shot with the object but Patterson pounds him down again. Albano walks out and takes the countout.

Rating: D. This was just for fun as Patterson was still very popular and Albano was only an occasional wrestler. There wasn’t much to it and that’s just fine as it got the fans fired up despite there being like 15 minutes left in the show counting another break. Patterson is a guy who isn’t remembered as well as he should be.

Tony Atlas vs. Swede Hanson

Hanson is a big fat guy and this is Atlas’ debut in MSG. Atlas knocks him into the corner very quickly and I think we’re in squash territory here. A pair of dropkicks has Hanson reeling but he gets in some shots to break the momentum. Atlas shrugs it off and a middle rope headbutt gets the quick pin.

Overall Rating: D. Pretty boring show here without a lot really happening. Then again you would get a show a month at this point so it didn’t really hurt to have a show to burn every now and then. The matches here were all pretty boring and nothing significant really happened, but we did get some fairly big MSG debuts. Bruno vs. Larry would help things a lot though.

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