War To Settle The Score: The Prequel To Wrestlemania

War to Settle the Score
Date: February 18, 1985
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Attendance: 22,000
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Gene Okerlund

This is the sequel to the Brawl to End it All and tonight we get real with it as Hogan defends the title against Piper. This is another one of those shows that was on MTV and helped launch wrestling into the stratosphere. It would have a third part in the trilogy. That was called Wrestlemania which I think you may have seen before. Anyway, this was also a full card which I have as well, so we’ll get to the famous stuff at the end. Let’s get to it.

Rick McGraw vs. Moondog Spot

McGraw was a head case apparently but that’s according to Roddy Piper so I’d be skeptical of it. The Moondogs were completely insane so I’m not sure who’s crazier here. You might remember McGraw’s name from Bret’s book as he was one of the first people in wrestling to die from an overdose. The referee has to hide Spot’s bone before we get started. Crowd is rather dead to start as you would expect them to be.

Gorilla can’t decide if McGraw is young or old for some reason. I think it might be because Gorilla was a bit out there at times. They really need to stop talking about where you hide your bone. It just doesn’t sound right although it’s rather funny. McGraw gets a dropkick and locks in an armbar to take over. According to Gorilla he’s fire hydrantish. If you grab him with a wrench and turn it he’ll spit out water? You can’t park in front of him?

Sunset flip can’t get Moondog over and he continues to control. They slug it out a bit and Spot hits a spin kick to the ribs which is about as random looking as you could imagine. Backdrop by Spot gets two but can’t get it to work again. We hit the chinlock for awhile before we hit the floor for awhile.

Gene thinks this is getting totally out of hand which is what he’d say no matter what was going on. McGraw Hulks Up and Spot gets tied up in the ropes. This match might be setting a record for backdrops. Slam gets two for McGraw. Spot goes up and gets slammed off ala Flair but the time limit runs out on a cover. This managed to get 15 minutes if you can believe that.

Rating: D+. I want to hate this match but for some reason I can’t. It’s not any good but it really didn’t suck. It was way too long and all that jazz, but the match really isn’t as terrible as you would think it is. I have no idea who decided to let them fight for fifteen minutes, but it went by fast which surprised me more than anything else.

Jose Luis Rivera vs. Johnny Rodz

Rodz basically trained half of ECW. This is one of the last vestiges of the old WWWF days where you had a lot of guys like Rivera that were there to give the Puerto Rican fans a guy to cheer for. The most famous example of this is the Italian favorite Bruno Sammartino. Rodz asks for an explanation of what constitutes an illegal strike actually. I got the two guys confused as Rodz looks Puerto Rican and Rivera looks Caucasian. Odd indeed.

They work the mat to start with Rodz grabbing an armbar. Basically a long feeling out process to start us off here. Rodz gets a nice seated dropkick which of course they don’t have a name for yet but this was far before we had anything like that. Rodz puts on a somewhat sloppy striking clinic here as he controls. I think he’s a heel but he’s not being booed at all really.

Granted the crowd isn’t doing much of anything. They pop when Rodz misses a cross body though and here comes Rivera. Rodz might kick more than Kaval does. He sends Rivera to the floor as he finally starts acting heelish. Rivera’s mouth is busted open and Rodz finally starts being all crazy like he’s supposed to be.

How has Rivera not been counted out? He’s been outside for like two minutes straight. Rodz takes a clothesline as we get the comeback. This needs to end soon as it’s getting rather boring. Rodz gets sent into the corner but Rivera misses a middle rope elbow. A running headbutt ends it with a face pop for Rodz.

Rating: D. Not as boring as the previous match but still pretty dull overall. This was about 80% punching and kicking which made it another chore to sit through for the most part. It’s not horrible or anything but it wasn’t interesting at all. That’s part of the problem with house shows back in the old days: it was really like an indy company so it’s hard to just jump in and care about these people.

Hillbilly Jim vs. Rene Goulet

I did this one already on Wrestling’s Country Boys. BIG pop for Jim. Andy Warhol is here as is Danny DeVito. Since this was shown later on the syndicated show, those cameos are awesome. Jim is wearing Hogan’s boots. Good thing they were the same size. Jim chases him away to start as we’re into stalling mode.

Long headlock by Goulet which gets him nowhere. Jim does that chest out pose of his which is always fun. He’s a character that always would work because he wasn’t ever treated seriously. He would probably get over today if he was treated the same. Big old headlock by Jim as Goulet has nothing but that’s his job as a jobber.

Basically this is a long squash as Goulet can’t do much at all but gets in jobber offense to take some control. He bites Jim which just ticks the big old boy off. Very basic offense with the biggest move being a headbutt sets up the bearhug for the easy submission. Post match Goulet goes after some fan at ringside. That fan’s name: Mr. T. Guess how that goes for the jobber.

Rating: D. Like I said this was a very long squash at nearly eight minutes. The fans loved Jim though as he was just big and fun. What more can you ask of him than that really? The match was bad but the fans were way into it and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Womens Title: Lelani Kai vs. Wendi Richter

Moolah is with Kai so I’d expect some shenanigans here. Kai is a Hawaiian stereotype character of course complete with hula skirt. Cyndi Lauper is with Richter here. Everyone brawls to start and Kai beats up Richter to start. Standing on the fingers isn’t nice at all. Lauper’s manager, as in her actual manager, is on commentary here. The two girls collide and that gets them nowhere.

Kai gets a Boston Crab but Richter reverses almost immediately. Richter puts her in position for Shattered Dreams but uses a shoulder to the ribs instead. The outfits are confusing me here as the Hawaiian chick is in blue with white polka dots and Richter is in tan/brown colored stuff that almost looks like leopard print.

Kai is sent to the floor and she might have kicked Moolah in the head. Richter gets a surfboard which doesn’t work that well at all and doesn’t get her anywhere as a result. Richter is dominating here. You can tell there are a lot of similarities in the way these two were trained which was a major problem they had in this division in this era due to Moolah training everyone. Moolah chokes out Lauper, prompting Richter to go over for the save. A shot to the face lets Kai get a backslide for the pin and the title.

Rating: D. Pretty bad match here but it set up the fair rematch at Mania which for some reason is more famous than anything else they did even though it meant nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. Not much going on here at all other than again setting up Mania, even though the main part of that would be set up later in the show.

David Sammartino vs. Moondog Rex

David is terrible but is here because of his dad. Sammartino grabs a hammerlock to start which gets him nowhere at all. Gene is way too infatuated with that bone of Rex’s. Rex, who is built like a freaking tank, works the back and neck of Sammartino which is getting him nowhere for the most part.

There’s a bearhug by Rex and David is in trouble. You can tell a match isn’t that interesting when it was a 2 minute bearhug in the middle of it. Not always the case but more often than not it is. Rex gets a chinlock near the ropes which Gorilla says David won’t grab because “that’s not how he was raised.” What the heck? He was raised to sit there and take all kinds of punishment? Was Bruno a sadist?

David’s nose is busted. I bet that gives Bruno a slight erection. STIFF punch from Rex as he goes after the blood. David starts the comeback and they speed things up somewhat as I guess they’re running out of time. Yeah I’m right as David gets a pretty decent powerslam to get the pin to end this rather weak match.

Rating: D+. Again with the weak matches. This is another one that went nowhere at all and never was interesting in the slightest. I’m not sure who is booking this card tonight but they should be forced to watch it. Were they really that light on talent tonight? Granted no one cared except for the main event. Still though it’s another bad match in a pile of them.

Nikolai Volkoff vs. Swede Hanson

We get the FULL Soviet national anthem for a change. Hanson was an interesting character as he was considered such a hard worker that even as a heel he got over as a face because he impressed people. He’s a redneck from the South which is odd given his name which would make you think European or something like that. This should be bad again.

Hanson is a big strong guy that wears the singlet like Andre did. It’s your standard big man vs. big man match without either really having much in the way of the talent department. They fight over a top wristlock and Nikolai takes a bite of Hanson. I’ve never had Swedish food but maybe it’s good. The fans chant USA which actually works here.

The announcers really need to stop calling him the Swede as it’s really confusing. Swede gets in a low blow and we look at some random chick in the front row in a yellow hat. Ok then. These two really like to lock up. You would almost think they’ve gone through their power stuff and are just filling time. Nikolai goes for a backbreaker but can’t get him up at all so Volkoff just falls on him for a REALLY awkward and clearly botched pin.

Rating: D. Can we please see a decent match? It doesn’t even have to be good, just an ok one would be fine. This was a power vs. power match but neither guy was incredibly good. Nikolai would hook up with Iron Sheik very soon to make a big tag team but until then he was stuck doing stuff like this. Another bad match.

Jimmy Snuka vs. Bob Orton

This is a precursor to Heroes of Wrestling. Snuka is roided out of his mind here. This is an offshoot of Piper vs. Snuka. BIG pop for Snuka. Snuka sends him in and almost puts Orton to the floor with the force of it. Amazing how much more into this the crowd is with someone they actually, you know, CARE ABOUT.

We get a headlock from Jimmy as they’re feeling each other out here. Snuka does the double leap frog that he was kind of famous for as the speed is way up here. Back to the headlock but this time on the mat. We get one of my favorite stupid lines ever from Gorilla: “This is a main event in any arena in the world.” You know, except for here where it isn’t the main event.

Orton hits the floor for a bit of air. I guess there wasn’t enough air elsewhere in the ring. Atomic drop takes Jimmy down as I guess his head wasn’t as hard as his balls. Wait scratch those balls and replace it with a head and put balls where head was. Yeah that should do it. Orton misses a top rope splash which he landed on his feet in anyway. Jimmy unleashes the martial arts of grunting and Orton is reeling.

It’s one sided now with Jimmy fully in control as he hits a backbreaker and heads to the corner. A headbutt (no splash???) misses and Orton gets out of the way. Orton charges at Snuka in the corner and hits his arm on the post, hurting his….HOLY CRAP IT’S THE ARM INJURY!!! This is easily the most famous injury in wrestling history, not healing for over two years. According to Orton it was legit hurt for that long and they just made it a gimmick, but I’m not sure I buy that. A sunset flip ends Orton just a few seconds later.

Rating: C+. Much better than anything we’ve seen so far tonight but still nothing classic. Great bit of history here though with that injury which I never realized happened here. These two were joined at the hip forever and luckily the matches were at least pretty good more often than not. Decent match and a breath of air for the most part.

Gorilla runs down the card so far in what sounds like a recap. Fink is running down a big list of names which I’d assume is for a battle royal or a lumberjack or something. Ah yeah it’s a lumberjack match. OH OK this is an ad for next month’s show. Mr. T. will be in Piper’s Pit next month.

Tony Atlas vs. Paul Orndorff

This should be decent. Orndorff is heel here. Atlas is HUGE. Gene says ouch has been called. Atlas beats on Paul with ease and pure power moves. Gorilla press but he just sets Orndorff on the top instead of slamming him. Tony gets his head rammed into the buckle and just smiles because of it. See it’s because he’s stupid.

Atlas dominates for the vast majority of the match including hitting a Piledriver. A second one is blocked though as this already needs to end. The show that is, not the match. Headbutt off the middle rope gets two for Atlas. Atlas yells at the referee about it and gets rolled up by Orndorff for a fast pin.

Rating: D-. Just get to the end of the stupid show!!! There are 11 matches in total counting the main event. That’s more than most PPVs get today. Why are we watching all these nonsense matches? No one cares and they’re all far too long. Just get to the end of this already, I beg of it.

Tag Titles: Mike Rotunda/Barry Windham vs. The Spoiler/The Assassin

Both challengers are in masks. Windham is YOUNG here. Spoiler is a semi-famous guy from the 80s and Assassin is a generic masked dude. Rotunda and Spoiler start us off….and then Windham hits a bulldog to end this in maybe 30 seconds. Well I did say get us to the ending so maybe they’re listening.

Don Muraco vs. Salvatore Bellomo

Muraco was a top heel around this time and Bellomo was an Italian dude. Fuji is with Muraco here. Total squash with Muraco hitting a diving knee drop, kind of a spinebuster and a modified tombstone to end this. At least it’s main event time now.

Edouard Carpentier is here. WOW there’s a name out of the past. He passed away earlier this year too.

WWF World Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper

We’re on MTV now for the next thirty minutes. Piper does the whole pipe and drums intro thing. Piper wears a Hulkamania shirt and brings in a guitar. Orton has a sling for his arm as the injury is very slow healing already. Bob Costas is doing the ring announcing here to show how big this is. Piper breaks the guitar saying this is what I think of rock and roll.

The place EXPLODES for Hogan and Eye of the Tiger. This really should have been the main event of the first Mania, perhaps with Hogan challenging for the belt. They go right at it to start with Hogan DRILLING in right and Piper collapsing from the force of a whip into the corner. Big elbow drop has Piper reeling early on. A ton of celebrities are here. This really was a huge deal.

Clothesline in the corner gets two as the fans are rabid here. Piper gets the sleeper which is actually a choke. We get two arm drops and Hogan shakes his finger no on the third one to a huge reaction. Hogan rams him into the corner to break it up and here’s Orton for the interference that isn’t seen.

His arm goes into the buckle and Hogan fights back with….left hands? Really? It’s on now and here comes Paul Orndorff to replace the hurt Orton. There goes the referee and Orndorff gets a top rope knee and it’s thrown out somewhere in there. The heels beat down Hogan, and then we get to the REAL reason this show happened: Mr. T. jumps the guard rail and gets in, only to be beaten down as well. Hogan comes up for the save, and ladies and gentlemen, I give you Wrestlemania.

Rating: D+. Match sucked and if you think that means anything then stop reading as you have no business here. The match was simply the backdrop to set up the biggest event in wrestling history (yes Starrcade that includes you) and the show that would make WWF mean something. This would lead to Hogan vs. Orndorff which set up Hogan vs. Heenan which set up Hogan vs. Andre and I think you can see where this could get awesome in a hurry. Bad match, EPIC moment as the WWF had arrived.

Post match Orton comes back and it’s 3-2 but everyone and their mother gets in the ring, including the NYPD as they try to break this apart.

In what would more or less be considered DVD extras today we get 12 minutes of interviews with everyone from Cyndi Lauper, Dave Wolfe (her manager), Joe Piscapo, Danny Devito, Mr. T., Hogan, Orndorff, Orton and Piper who all swear it’s not over. The wrestlers say we’re ready any time. How about in 41 days at Madison Square Garden? Anybody?

Overall Rating: D. A few things to consider here. Number one, this was to get people to come back next time which needless to say, IT WORKED. Second, the national audience only saw the last half hour which helps a lot. Other than the main event which was insane, this was boring beyond any and all belief. The main event is required viewing for any historical fan though as its importance simply can’t be understated and without it there’s no Wrestlemania. The two hours leading up to the main event though sucked and sucked hard. Bad show, good ending.


Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews

1 comment

  1. A King says:

    The Hogan/Piper match is on the Piper DVD set. Just thought I’d point that out.