Wrestler of the Day – May 11: Larry Zbyszko

I’ll cut the stalling and get right to it. Today is Larry Zbyszko.

Zbyszko got his start in 1973 and would be in the WWF pretty early on in his career. We’ll start in MSG, December 19, 1977.

Larry Zbyszko/Tony Garea vs. Jack Evans/Larry Sharpe

This is two years before Zbyszko would have his big feud with Sammartino so he’s not much yet. There’s a curfew from the New York Athletic Commission stating a show can’t go on past a certain time so this has 15 minutes max despite being listed as a one hour time limit. That’s no joke actually and they really have to stop the match after a certain time of night. Larry Sharpe is one of the three or four most prolific trainers ever, having trained about fifteen guys that I’ve heard of, the most famous being Raven, Sheamus and Big Show among a ton of other midcard guys.

Evans and Garea start us off and the crowd is just spent. Much like them I just don’t care either. Ending with a tag match like this is kind of a weird idea but I guess they didn’t want to risk anything important being cut off. Garea gets beaten on forever as like five minutes have passed since the last thing I typed. There’s just nothing worth mentioning at this point as even Vince has said this isn’t going to crack 15 minutes due to the curfew.

Zbyszko finally gets the tag and comes in to get a backdrop for the pin and the first fall. Larry beats up Jack as we’re desperately running out of time. The next show, which apparently isn’t the one Backlund wins the title on, won’t air on TV. Such a shame. Actually looking at the card, no it isn’t. The only interesting thing is an elimination 8 man tag match which we would call a Survivor Series match.

This is just going on and on as you know the time is about to run out. Everyone goes in at once. The heels are apparently called the Blonde Bombers, which about 93 teams have used over the years. Garea beats up Evans and the bell goes off for the curfew. Larry and Tony win by being up one fall, making this a kind of Ironman match. The curfew is 11. Seriously that’s just weird to hear.

Rating: D+. Nothing too bad here but they weren’t getting anywhere fast at all. This was one of those things that they throw on at the end to fill out the card, kind of like the final matches on a SNME or something. It wasn’t interesting or anything but it wasn’t horrible I guess.

From January 21, 1980, against someone you may have heard of.

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.

From literally the next day, the start of the biggest story of Zbyszko’s career.

Larry Zbyszko vs. Bruno Sammartino

Now THIS is some legendary stuff. This is the original match where it’s more of an exhibition than a match. Basically Bruno is the teacher who taught Larry everything he knows but Larry wants to prove he can hang with Bruno. This is from January of 1980. This is going to be all feeling out/nice guy stuff until the very end. Sammartino takes him to the mat with a drop toehold and has dominated the entire match so far.

Bruno keeps putting holds on Larry and then lets them go which is an odd choice of offense. Larry grabs an abdominal stretch but Bruno powers out of it. Half crab goes on Bruno but Larry lets it go. Sammartino grabs about his fifth hold and lets go of it too. They try a crisscross and Larry gets tossed over in a hiptoss. He’s getting very ticked off here.

Apparently Bruno said he’d only wrestle defensively in this match. Larry heads to the floor to cool his head and Bruno looks the other way for some reason. Larry comes back in and in the biggest heel turn ever at this point, DESTROYS Bruno with a wooden chair. There is blood all over the place. This was shocking and came out of absolutely nowhere. It also set up the hottest feud of the year which we’ll get to the blowoff of in a second.

Rating: C-. The match itself means nothing as the heel turn is the whole thing. This was one of the biggest angles ever and is still a huge turn that works to this day. They would feud over the summer and would blow it off in front of about 40,000 people in the infield of Shea Stadium. We need to get to that now.

And then the rematch.

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 heck 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!

After some time in the territories, Zbyszko would head off to the AWA, with one of his first major matches being against Dusty Rhodes in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 10, 1984.

Larry Zbyszko vs. Dusty Rhodes

Zbyszko immediately stalls on the apron before getting caught in an early armbar. Back to the apron for a bit until Larry gets hammered by right hands. Larry rakes at the eyes but Dusty comes back with elbows to the head followed by some strutting. They hit the ropes and a quick (for Dusty) elbow to the head sets up the big elbow drop for the pin.

Rating: D-. Yes his finishing move really was an elbow drop at this point. The match was nothing to see but Rhodes was one of the biggest stars in the world at this point so the fans were WAY into this. Larry would become a much bigger deal in the AWA soon enough, but he would never be at Dusty’s level.

Speaking of people who were big stars, here’s a tag match from StarCage 1985.

Brad Rheingans/Bob Backlund vs. Larry Zbyszko/Butch Reed

Once Backlund left the WWF he didn’t really do much but this was probably the high point of his non-WWF stuff. Rheingans vs. Reed to start which is a pure power match. The idea here is that Brad and Backlund both coached the US Olympic team which I’ve never heard of but maybe it’s true. Anyway Brad gets caught in a headlock but he hits a dropkick to take Butch down. Off to Backlund and it’s time for the arm work.

Forget Backlund because Brad is in before he can do much at all. Larry comes in and Brad puts on a HARD headlock before bringing in Backlund for a bit softer headlock. Brad comes in again and we get some good old fashioned cheating to take him down. Butch and Larry hit a double slam for two followed by a big boot to take Rheingans down, but for some reason he’s able to easily tag out.

Backlund comes in and naturally works on the arm some more. More heel cheating (do I need to bother to explain which team is the heel version?) gets Backlund in trouble and it’s chinlock time. Larry comes in and slams Backlund for two before more double teaming follows. A small package gets two for Backlund but it’s back to Reed with a double ax to the back. There’s a bearhug as Reed slows things down again.

Off to another chinlock by Reed and Backlund is in trouble again. Back to Larry for more stomping to Backlund and there’s the abdominal stretch that Zbyszko loves to use. We can’t have a tag yet though because we need the sequel to the bearhug: the LIFTING bearhug! Just like earlier, a headbutt gets Backlund out of the hold and they collide off the ropes.

Bob makes the tag and even though the referee doesn’t see it, he lets it go anyway. I guess he’s as bored as I am. After a quick cleaning of house, Backlund is brought back in to pound away on Larry, who apparently has a title Backlund wants. That helps a bit I guess. In a very abrupt ending, Larry sets up a piledriver but Backlund backdrops him and stays on top for the pin.

Rating: D+. As I said, this match just kept going. It’s pretty clear that they’re extending the matches longer than they should go due to the amount of time they have and a total of seven matches on the card. The problem with this show is that the stories for these matches are almost tacked on, making the matches hard to get into. They’re not bad though.

And from the infamous WrestleRock 1986.

Larry Zbyszko vs. Scott LeDoux

LeDoux was a legit boxer before becoming a referee and wrestler in the AWA. This is under “European” rules, which means they wear gloves and we have ten two minute rounds. Larry Hennig, Curt’s papa, is the referee for no apparent reason. It’s really closer to boxing than wrestling but it’s the AWA so I doubt they knew what it was supposed to be. They tease hitting each other for a bit until LeDoux grabs a full nelson. Larry escapes and Scott (what is with that name being so popular in this company?) unloads on him with punches, sending Larry to the floor.

This is actually closer to MMA (kind of almost sort of) than boxing or wrestling but whatever. Larry chills with his ninja (don’t ask) for a bit as we’re probably about halfway through the first round. LeDoux gets into a boxing stance so Larry bails to the apron. I’m shocked too. Larry picks the leg and goes to the mat which is smart. Round 1 ends with Larry in control.
Off to round 2 and Larry gets on one knee. He gets up and hits a spinning kick to the ribs.

Larry climbs on his back which doesn’t work at all as LeDoux pounds on the ribs with elbows. Armdrag by Larry into an armbar but LeDoux punches him in the face. Larry pounds him in the corner and slams him for no cover. Zbyszko pounds on him to end the round.
Round 3 begins with Scott’s eye swelling shut. Larry takes him to the mat and hooks a front chancery. For the first time we’re told you win by pin or knockout. Decisions are still a gray area. Larry POUNDS HIM with punches and a kick to the ribs. Back to the mat and Larry is totally dominating him.

Round 4 starts with Larry missing a kick and LeDoux gets in a flurry to take over. For no apparent reason he grabs Larry and rams him into the corner. There’s a slam and Larry is reeling. The fans aren’t that thrilled but you can’t please everyone. They’re both getting gassed here but LeDoux clocks Larry to end the round but the bell saves him.
Larry starts round 5 bleeding and gets knocked to the floor….where he rams LeDoux into the post for the DQ 5 seconds into the round.

Rating: C-. I liked it but it wasn’t great. As usual with this show, I have no idea why they were fighting because the announcers are too busy telling us that the AWA is a national company to give us a simple story. The match was entertaining though which is really all you can ask for in something like this. Good stuff and thankfully they kept it fast paced. If this was just boxing, it would have been a disaster.

Larry would head back to the NWA for awhile where he would challenge for the Western States Heritage Title (it’s as worthless as it sounds) and defend it at Bunkhouse Stampede.

Western States Heritage Title: Larry Zbyszko vs. Barry Windham

Barry is defending.  This belt lasted for about a year and a half. The name is from the fact that it started in the UWF out of Tulsa. What you’re looking at here are the only two men to ever have the title. Keep in mind that the WESTERN STATES Title is being defended in New York. Larry is just as annoying looking as he used to be. Again, no reason for this to be on the card or anything. It’s just there.

Barry is champion here and Larry has Baby Doll, the original Diva for lack of a better term with him. She looked ok but good for the late 80s. Since it’s a Larry match, the required stall gets about two minutes. Since this is a PPV though, that’s just your initial stall. I’d bet on more coming. A headlock hits after about four minutes. The crowd is rather irritated after the last debacle of a match.

I was right: Larry is stalling. Apparently there’s a history here. Don’t worry about telling us what it is or anything. Windham has a bad knee. Why you ask? Eh not told that either. Why would you need to know anything unimportant like that? Larry tries a dropkick. WOW. Even Ross makes fun of it. Oh no. LARRY USES A HAMMERLOCK! AHHHHHH!!!

Windham gets a freaky looking rollup as Zbyszko is sitting on the mat and Windham wraps his legs around him from behind. He rolls over and gets a rollup for two. Cool looking move. Windham calls the referee a bastard when he’s asked if he gives up in a leg lock. Larry uses what we would call an ankle lock. Wow that’s weird to see in the 80s.

Windham goes up and misses an elbow off the top that looked awful. It looked like he just jumped and hoped it would have hit. Larry works on the knee, which at least is consistency, although he switches things up rather than just using the same hold. ARE YOU LISTENING BOBBY EATON? Again, WHY DO THESE TWO HATE EACH OTHER? It’s never been explained. Also, when did Larry learn karate?

In an impressive move, Larry has a headlock on and Barry hits a belly to back for the counter with one arm. Very impressive looking. He then calls Baby Doll a bad word. Barry goes for a suplex but his knee gives out and Larry crashes to the mat. Isn’t that the same thing as a regular suplex? We go to the floor (called the streets for no apparent reason by JR) as this is FAR better than the previous match. It still sucks, but it’s better I guess.

We’re fifteen minutes in according to Tony. See what happens when you do more than just hammerlocks? We’re getting covers and various other shots like that but it’s still Zbyszko and Windham. In other words, it’s pretty boring. And on that note both guys fall down. Great. Just great.

Barry does six punches in the corner. Six? What the heck ? Down goes the referee. That’s just what this match needed. Baby Doll’s shoe goes into Windham’s head for the pin. That’s the only title change in the belt’s history as it would be dropped in like a year with no one caring.

Rating: D-. This was boring, but to be fair this was light years ahead of the previous match. At the end of the day, Larry Zbyszko singles matches can only be so good. This wasn’t horrible, but NO ONE cared at all. At least we’re half done with the card. It was a different time where titles would just be thrown around for no real reason. Scratch the different part.

It was back to the AWA where Larry would win the World Title in the final days of the promotion. Here’s a six man tag from some point in 1990.

Doug Somers/Colonel DeBeers/Larry Zbyszko vs. Curt Hennig/Greg Gagne/Jimmy Snuka

Larry has blonde hair here and it looks weird to say the least. This is back in Vegas for no apparent reason and is billed as the main event. Gange is the son of the owner and completely and utterly crap. He was given a title made for him and he was literally one of only two people to hold it until the company folded. The heels have Sherri Martel with them here and she’s listed as Women’s Champion so this is after June 28.

DeBeers says something stunning as he says he won’t wrestle Snuka as he’s not 100% white. He’s apparently replacing some rookie named Scott Hall. I love seeing random names like that pop up. And before any moron says something, yes I know Hall wrestled for a long time in the AWA. Larry Hennig, Curt’s dad, is on commentary with the other two. Larry (Zbyszko is the only one I’ll refer to for the rest of this match) stalls like he always does and the announcers make fun of him for it. Yeah it’s the same show as earlier as the same seats are still empty.

Larry has mad heat on him and the crowd tells him that he sucks. The Colonel comes in and refuses to fight Snuka. He’s from South Africa where apartheid was still going on. He actually has curled mustache and twirls it. I like this guy. The twirler is beating on Snuka while he’s tied up as we return from a commercial. He’s doing the traditional cowardly heel thing as he’ll only fight when it’s easy.

Hennig is the top face in the company only after Bockwinkle and would soon win the title from him, holding it for about a year. This is more or less completely lacking any kind of flow as it’s a mess if I’ve ever seen one. Gagne is getting the tar beaten out of him and Hennig keeps getting tags that the referee doesn’t see. Hennig comes in and just cleans house. You might even say he’s perfect at it. A missile dropkick on Somers gets the pin for the faces. DeBeers jumps Snuka and like an idiot goes for the head. If you’re going to be a racist, know your stereotypes.

Rating: D+. Again just kind of a mess but I’m assuming there’s a story here as there would be little reason to have this as the main event otherwise. Hennig was a god in the AWA at this time and this was no exception at all. He looked dominant and that was why this match happened.

When that company went under, Zbyszko would head to WCW and become part of the Enforcers with Arn Anderson. They would steal the World Tag Team Titles in a tournament final and defend them at Halloween Havoc 1991.

Tag Titles: Enforcers vs. Patriots

The Enforcers are defending and are Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko. The Patriots are Todd Champion and Firebreaker Chip and are also the US Tag Champions, but their titles aren’t on the line here. For the sake of simplicity, if I say champions here, I only will be referring to the Enforcers. Chip, who looks like he has an entire steroid store inside him, hooks a quick abdominal stretch but Larry escapes.

Zbyszko is getting frustrated so he brings in Anderson. Off to the much taller Todd Champion but Anderson punches him down with ease. Todd gets sent to the apron but he low bridges Anderson to the floor, which again isn’t a DQ. Back in the ring and Anderson gets caught in a bearhug but Larry breaks it up. Everything breaks down and the Enforcers are knocked to the floor.

Larry comes in to face Todd and guess what Larry does. Just take a guess. After running from Todd he makes a blind tag to Anderson who dumps Todd to the floor. Larry rams him into the barricade to take over and the Patriots are in trouble. Anderson puts a knee into the chest and it’s back to Larry. Neckbreaker gets two. Todd pounds on Anderson but Arn makes a blind tag to bring Larry back in. Larry gets caught in a suplex and it’s a double tag to Arn and Chip. Everything breaks down and Chip runs into Larry, allowing Anderson to spinebust him in half for the pin to retain.

Rating: D. This was another boring match with the Patriots being in there because the Enforcers needed a challenger. The match wasn’t any good at all and the Patriots clearly weren’t very good. Chip looked like he was about to explode with all of those bulging muscles on a small frame too.

Their major feud would be with Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes. They would break Barry’s hand at Halloween Havoc though and put him on the shelf. Dustin needed a new partner, and he debuted one at Clash of the Champions XVII.

World Tag Team Titles: Enforcers vs. Dustin Rhodes/???

Anderson and Zbyszko are defending. Dustin comes out with Barry but Windham is in street clothes. Barry says he can’t wrestle tonight (that was announced earlier) but introduces the partner. The partner comes out in a black robe and a huge dragon mask over his face. Dustin goes over and pulls the mask off to reveal……RICKY STEAMBOAT. The Enforcers go insane and refuse to hand the belts over to the referee. Anderson to Zbyszko: “HE’S JUST A MAN!”

Steamboat and Anderson get things going but everything quickly breaks down with all four guys heading outside. Zbyzsko is sent into the barricade and the Enforcers go back inside, only to be dropkicked right back to the floor as the challengers stand tall. Things settle down with Ricky grabbing a headlock before dragging it over to the corner for a tag to Rhodes. The challengers start some fast tagging to work on Larry’s arm with Dustin cranking on an armbar.

Arn finally fights back and takes Rhodes into the corner and stomping away to take over. Dustin charges into a knee in the corner and Arn is actually able to hit his top rope forearm to the back (which usually has as good of a track record as Flair coming off the top). Rhodes gets a boot up in the corner and drops Anderson to the floor with an elbow to the head. Back in and it’s off to Larry who talks a lot of trash and wants the Dragon.

Steamboat is just fine with that and scores with some martial arts but Larry slaps him in the face and gets Ricky to chase him around. The chase allows the Enforcers to catch Steamboat coming in with some double teaming and the champions take over. Ricky fights back with some chops to Anderson but Larry comes in to break up a sunset flip. The champions cheat on an abdominal stretch before dropping Steamboat with a belly to back suplex for two.

Anderson ducks his head for a backdrop but gets planted into the mat but Larry prevents a hot tag attempt. Steamboat can’t slam him due to the work on his back so Anderson slaps on a bearhug. He takes Ricky down to the mat with the hold for some two counts but Steamboat counters with a bodyscissors. Anderson switches up to a Boston crab and keeps walking it over to his corner. Larry does the same and Steamboat slaps the mat but we’re a few years away from that meaning anything in wrestling.

Rhodes gets the tag but the referee is with Anderson to further fire up the crowd. Steamboat comes back with an atomic drop to Arn and they ram heads to put both guys down. Ricky finally crawls over and makes the tag to Dustin and blow the roof off the place. Dustin cleans house with slams all around and a bulldog to Anderson. Rhodes gets knocked into the corner but Steamboat tags himself in and hits the high cross body for the pin and the titles.

Rating: A. Great old school style tag team match here with the Enforcers cutting the ring off and using classic tag team strategy. They did all the tag team spots that have worked for years and they worked here too. Dustin was getting better every single day around this time and putting him in there with Ricky Steamboat was going to make him even stronger.

Larry would start to wrap up his career around this point but he wouldn’t be done. A few years later, Steven Regal started running his mouth about how great he was and Larry didn’t take kindly to this. He decided to take Regal on at Slamboree 1994.

Larry Zbyszko vs. Steven Regal

Regal is TV Champion here but this is non title. Regal had been insulting America on Saturday Night and Larry got tired of it and punched him. There’s an anti-WWF sign in the crowd, saying WCW dominates WWF. At this time, not really but whatever. Both were rather uninteresting. Apparently Regal reads books on how butterflies fly. Why does Heenan know that? We’ve walked around for about a minute and a half and now we get contact.

It was a leg trip and it leads to more stalling. And then we repeat that. Ok seriously we’ve had three minutes go by and there have been two leg trips. Freaking DO SOMETHING! And now Regal is killing time on the floor. We hit some decent chain wrestling that lasts all of 10 seconds as I guess that’s just too much for them. Regal’s face is better than just about anyone else’s ever. There’s some great technical stuff in there but the constant stalling and standing around is hurting it a lot for me.

Regal uses a move that we would refer to as a Tazmission, which naturally gets a BORING chant from the ECW crowd. Regal goes for a butterfly suplex but Larry backdrops him over and gets a pin out of it. They would switch the title the following Saturday, so this being non-title makes something close to sense. You have to remember Saturday Night was like their Nitro at the time.

Rating: B-. This was solid from an in ring standpoint, but the stalling was freaking STUPID. It sucked the life out of this for me as it was like having commercials almost. It’s a standard thing for both guys, but that doesn’t make it right. Regal would wind up doing a far more emotional version of this about 12 years later with Dean Ambrose, Kassius Ohno and Cesaro.

Larry would become a full time commentator after this run, but come out of retirement again in late 1997 to face Eric Bischoff. The match was at Starrcade 1997 for control of Monday Nitro and with Bret Hart as guest referee.

Eric Bischoff vs. Larry Zbyszko

This should have been Hall vs. Larry, as those two had been talking trash to each other for months. However, Larry only gets Hall if he beats Eric here tonight. If Eric wins, the NWO controls Nitro. Larry is in good shape here considering he’s 46 and hasn’t wrestled regularly in about five years. Bret checks them for weapons and we’re ready to go. Bischoff has the body of a 15 year old girl. He is however a black belt in karate so you can expect a lot of striking.

Bischoff hits a quick shot to Larry’s head and immediately celebrates. More strikes follow and Eric heads out to the floor for consultation with Hall. Back in and Larry hits some shots of his own and Eric is scared. Larry goes after him again and Eric hits a spin kick to the side of the head that knocks Larry down. That’s enough for Zbyszko and he charges at Eric and takes him down to the mat. Bret admonishes him for pulling Eric’s hair, so Larry puts on a sleeper and a headscissors, both of which are broken up for being chokes.

Off to a standing figure four but Eric quickly makes a rope. The damage is done though and Larry goes after the leg. Makes sense against a karate guy. Bret keeps Larry away from Eric and the announcers PANIC. Imagine that: a referee following the rules. Eric is sent into the steps and takes a brief walk around the ring. Back in and Bret blocks a right hand from Larry, allowing Eric to get in a kick to the head. Bischoff fires more kicks with Larry on the ropes, although Bret is fine with them.

Eric is starting to kick himself out though as the kicks are getting weaker and weaker each time. Now he fires rights and lefts in the corner as Larry is just covering up. Eric can barely move now and Larry shakes everything off. A suplex puts Bischoff down and Larry ties him in the Tree of Woe. Hall pulls something out of his pocket and loads it into Eric’s shoe, WITH BRET LOOKING RIGHT AT THEM. I mean, he knows what’s going on so why not LOOK THE OTHER WAY???

Anyway, Eric kicks him in the head with the loaded foot and the piece of metal goes flying. Bret isn’t supposed to see it, despite watching it fly through the air. Eric celebrates, so Bret hits both Bischoff and Hall before putting Hall in the Sharpshooter, which is Bret’s version of the Scorpion Deathlock. Larry chokes Eric for a bit and is declared the winner, presumably by DQ.

Rating: F. This was in the second to last spot on the biggest show of the year and featured the boss of the company who has no skill whatsoever in the ring. Larry did fine all things considered, but to waste this spot on this match and to waste BRET HART’s in ring debut on this match is absolutely ridiculous in every sense of the word.

Larry would get his hands on Hall the next month at Souled Out.

Scott Hall vs. Larry Zbyszko

These two have a long history dating back to the AWA in the 80s and it’s picked up here in a battle of tradition vs. disrespect. Hall has his lackey Louie Spicolli with him. Larry had promised he wouldn’t come to the ring alone and points to Dusty Rhodes to be his corner man. Scott’s toothpick is swatted out of the air and Larry takes him to the mat. Hall goes after the arm as Tony makes fun of Heenan for thinking Larry was bringing Ted DiBiase to the ring with him. That’s hardly a ridiculous guess.

Larry offers a test of strength but gets Hall’s arms moving so fast that he slaps Scott in the face. Hall gets suckered into an abdominal stretch as Dusty plays cheerleader. Larry goes for a front chancery but Hall counters with a right hand to the face. Hall punches Larry down in the corner before tying up the legs like an STF but putting on an armbar instead.

A clothesline puts Larry down as the fans are all over Hall. The fallaway slam puts Larry down but he backdrops out of the Outsider’s Edge. Zbyszko pounds away in the corner but accidentally spin kicks the referee down. In a nice move, Larry plays possum to catch Hall in the front chancery but Spicolli runs in for the DQ.

Rating: D+. This was pretty good considering it was Larry’s second match in several years. Hall had to tone it down to let Zbyszko keep up with him but the match was hardly a disaster. It’s not a great match on its own but the long story building up to it makes the payoff a bit better. Not much but some.

Zbyszko would occasionally wrestle on the indies but would find a semi-permanent home in TNA. He would become an authority figure that wrestled a bit, including a huge feud with Raven. This culminated in a hair vs. hair match at Victory Road 2006.

Raven vs. Larry Zbyszko

Raven is the face here if you’re confused, as you likely are. He has a big old gut here and Larry seems to fall. Apparently Johnson tripped him. Well at least they’re not hiding it anymore. They lock up and go around the ring a bit as it’s clear this isn’t going to go long. Larry gets a spin kick as the crowd is pretty much dead here. Larry throws on a spinning toe hold and works the leg a bit.

A chop gets two but Larry complains about the speed of the count. Well at least he’s actually wrestling and not stalling all day here as is his custom. Back to the toe hold because I guess those chops were too exciting for us. Raven Effect hits but Johnson was knocked down. A pair of small packages get us nowhere and then the Raven Effect #2 ends this.

Rating: F. What else were you expecting here? Boring match to end a boring angle (by the end of it) and the ending was known for weeks. Yeah I’ve got nothing here. This was boring. That’s it.

Another feud would be with Eric Young, culminating in a Loser Gets Fired match at Bound For Glory 2006.

Larry Zbyszko vs. Eric Young

The fans are totally behind Eric here. They want Larry fired so he stalls as usual. Eric points at Larry and the fans boo, then he point at himself and the fans cheer. No contact about a minute and a half in. They lock up and Larry hits the spinning back kick and the abdominal stretch. Eric reverses and the referee takes a shot. Eric Young vs. Larry Zbyszko is getting a referee bump. Larry pulls out a foreign object but gets hit low. Eric gets the object and hits Larry for the pin.

Rating: F. If you don’t get why this is an F, you’re on your own.

I would look at some indy stuff from later on but I’m afraid it might get worse. Larry Zbyszko is a great example of a guy who did one awesome thing one time and NEVER got close to it again. The feud with Sammartino is still the textbook example of the teacher vs. student story and that’s the case for a reason: it was done to perfection. Larry was at his best on a mic though and it became a problem later on when his matches didn’t get better until he was a veteran in the 90s.

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