On This Day: January 23, 1984 – WWF House Show: The Birth of Modern Wrestling
WWF House Show
Date: January 23, 1984
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City New York
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Pat Patterson
I don’t have the proper words to explain what this show means to wrestling. It’s the night that changed everything and gave birth to modern wrestling. Here, we have the new WWF World Champion the Iron Sheik defending against the breakout star of Rocky III, Hulk Hogan. Obviously everyone knows the ending to this (they should as the match has been included on at least eight WWF tapes/DVDs) and it’s one of the matches everyone should see at least once. Let’s get to it.
Jose Luis Rivera vs. Tony Garea
Feeling out process to start as I think this is face vs. face here. Garea works on the arm to start and they hit the mat for a bit. Both guys trade headscissors and head locks to control with Rivera finally controlling. Tony gets a quick cross body for two before hooking an armbar to slow things down again. Jose tries to fight out and even slams Tony but can’t break the armbar.
Rivera grabs a quick two off a rollup and they circle each other a bit more. Somehow we’re still feeling each other out after five minutes. There’s nothing going on so we look at a replay of the rollup. Rivera kind of messes up a backdrop then tries a dropkick as Garea tries a backdrop. Since things like dropkicks and backdrops are too complex, it’s back to the armbars. Out of nowhere, Rivera tries a spinning cross body out of the corner but Garea rolls through and gets a kind of fast count for the pin.
Rating: C-. Technically this was fine but that doesn’t make it a good match. Garea was one of those guys that was always around and was mainly a tag team guy but he would get a good reaction when he was out there. Rivera on the other hand was never all that interesting and was probably just there because he was Puerto Rican. Not much to see here.
Invaders vs. Mr. Fuji/Tiger Chung Lee
The Invaders are masked guy and one of them murdered Bruiser Brody. One of the Invaders is taller so we’ll call him #1. The official Invader #1 is the guy so it’s hard not to boo him. Lee and #2 start things off….but Gorilla is calling him #1. Oh wait he’s the taller one. Great now they’re making rapid fire tags (#2 barely gets over the ropes without tripping) and Chung’s arm gets beaten on over and over.
Monsoon says #2 is in there now so good enough. Anyway he stays on the arm and it’s off to Fuji for the first time. #2 blocks a chop and hits Fuji in the ribs before cranking on the arm a bit. #1 randomly jumps in and out of the ring to distract the referee. As he’s doing this, #2 doesn’t move an inch. A cross body gets two for #2 and it’s back to the arm. Fuji looks ticked off.
Back to #1 for some arm cranking on Lee who finally hits a slam…and is promptly kicked in the face. It’s back to the armbar by #2 and here’s #1 again. Lee shoves #1 into the corner for some choking from Fuji with a tag rope and it’s officially off to Mr. It’s quickly back to Lee to crank on #1’s arm and hit a backdrop for two. Fuji gets a suplex of his own for no cover. #1 comes back with a suplex of his own followed by slamming Fuji off the top, allowing for the hot tag to #2.
Lee comes in as well and things speed WAY up. Gorilla calls #2 by his real name (Johnny Rivera) just before Lee hits a Saito Suplex for two. Back to Fuji who suplexes #2 and chops him down before bringing Tiger back in. We hit the bearhug and Gorilla says to bite him in the ear or poke him in the eye to escape. Monsoon was EVIL at times. Back to the bearhug and #1 breaks the hold up, only to have Fuji switch sans tag.
Fuji hooks the ultra lame back claw as Gorilla talks about having a bunch of bananas thrown at him. Now he talks about which camera we’re looking through to fill in time. #2 crawls around to the corner (could it be because it was just a freaking hand on his side?) and makes the hot tag to #1 to face Lee…and they lock up. So much for the burst of speed. A spinning cross body out of the corner is caught in an atomic drop from Lee to get us to heat segment #3.
We hit the chinlock as this is clearly going to the time limit draw. Fuji comes in for some double choking (I miss stuff like that. It’s so basic but it works so easily) before another illegal switch. #1 misses a splash which gives Lee two but he allows the tag to #2. We get some leg work as the Invaders rapidly tag in and out again. They take turns cannonballing down onto the leg but Lee escapes a spinning toe hold. #2 blocks the tag though and we get a leg lock.
Fuji comes in and gets his own leg worked on for good measure. Off to an abdominal stretch (Gorilla complains like a broken record) on Fuji followed by one on a charging Lee. Fuji breaks it up so here’s #2 who is WAY too small to hook an abdominal stretch on Lee but he does it anyway. Everything breaks down and the Invaders hook a Rowboat (stupid double leglock) as the bell rings for the time limit.
Rating: D+. This wasn’t the worst match in the world but after about ten minutes it was clear what we were going to. It didn’t help that a lot of the match was spent going slowly so they could fill in time. This was a much more common occurrence back in the day as well as you would get a draw on almost every show.
Masked Superstar vs. Chief Jay Strongbow
Strongbow is a relic of the past and Masked Superstar would become more famous as Ax of Demolition. Gorilla calls this a main event in any arena in the country, other than this one I guess. They shove each other around to start and man alive does Strongbow look old. Patterson seems to have disappeared. Jay runs the Superstar over and puts on a headlock. Pat is back now and thinks Strongbow will try to take off the mask.
They get back up and Masked Superstar runs into the corner to hide. Back to the headlock as this match doesn’t seem interested in going anywhere. Strongbow goes for the mask and we head to the floor. Back in and Strongbow goes on the warpath and fires off some knees to Superstar’s head. He can’t get the mask off though and Masked comes back with shots in the corner. It’s warpath time again and Strongbow hits a bunch of chops and his sleeper but Superstar comes back with a single clothesline for the pin.
Rating: D+. The match was boring but the crowd carried it by being so into Strongbow. Sometimes just a simple gimmick like being an Indian along with the longevity that Jay had (he was in his mid 50s here) were all that you needed. The match itself was pretty dull but Strongbow was trying at least. Shockingly not horrible here.
Ivan Putski vs. Sgt. Slaughter
We get the shot from the back as Sarge comes out. I miss that camera shot. I think Slaughter is a heel here but he seems rather popular anyway. Putski, who might be 5’8 in heels, starts firing off punches but Sarge bails to the corner. They circle each other a bit more with no contact yet. Putski is small but he is RIPPED (and pretty clearly full of steroids). They finally collide with Putski shoving him around and slamming the Sarge down to stall some more.
Ivan hooks a headlock as Patterson talks about Putski loving to drink and sing. Back to the headlock as this is going slowly again. Slaughter finally comes out with an atomic drop and works on the back for a bit. That doesn’t last long though as Slaughter gets rammed into the top turnbuckle and may have been busted open in the process. Slaughter gets sent shoulder first into the post as Patterson says to stay on top of him. Is that what he got to do after the Alley Fight?
Slaughter reverses a whip into the corner and comes back with the Slaughter Cannon (running clothesline) to take over but he can’t slam Putski. Ivan is billed at 225lbs and Slaughter can’t slam him? The Cannon misses and Putski comes back with the Polish Hammer (double ax to the chest) and a shoulder to send Slaughter to the floor. In a funny bit, Sarge’s chin gets caught on the bottom rope to keep him from hitting the concrete. They fight on the apron and Putski knocks Slaughter back inside, which lets Slaughter beat the count and win by countout.
Rating: D. Another dull match here as is the custom for 1984. Putski just wasn’t that good and he looked freaky to say the least. He was just too muscular for someone his size and it never quite worked. Slaughter would go to the AWA pretty soon after this and stay for years until coming back around 1990 to be the turncoat American.
Gorilla sends it to the back for an interview with Paul Orndorff, including a rare mistake as he messes up Orndorff’s name. After that bad mistake. Paul says that Salvatore Bellomo is nothing more than a spaghetti eater to him.
Paul Orndorff vs. Salvatore Bellomo
Paul has Roddy Piper with him and this is Orndorff’s MSG debut. This is also Piper’s return to MSG after being in the NWA for about five years. We stall to start a lot, allowing Patterson to get in another line that is only funny when he says it: “If Orndorff turned his back to me like that, I would be all over him.” Now Orndorff and Piper complain about Sal’s knee brace. The heels threaten to leave as Pat says he’d like to get in the ring with Orndorff to see if he liked him.
Now Paul complains about not having his own corner. He finally gets back in so Piper can disrobe him. Wait actually he just unties it and the disrobing takes place on the floor. The bell rang about four minutes ago so this is just stalling. Piper distracts Sal and the attack is on fast. The squashing begins and Piper is immediately talking trash. Orndorff stomps away and chokes on the rope before getting two off a backdrop. Piper to the referee: “COUNT FASTER!” Sal falls on Paul in a slam attempt for two. Piper: “NOT SO FAST!”
Orndorff misses a charge into the post and rams his shoulder, allowing Bellomo to make his required comeback. A dropkick hits Orndorff and Paul misses an elbow drop. Bellomo puts on a wristlock but Paul gets in a knee to the ribs to stop the momentum. Sal grabs the arm again immediately and cranks away, even surviving an armdrag attempt from Paul. Bellomo adds a headscissors as the match keeps going. Orndorff finally suplexes his way out of the hold and Sal heads to the floor.
Piper yells at Bellomo as only he can before Orndorff slams Sal on the floor. Back in and Paul hits a perfect suplex for two and Roddy can’t handle many more of these kickouts. Orndorff chokes away in the corner a bit, much to the anger of the “bite his ear or poke him in the eye” dude. Orndorff goes up but misses a top rope knee drop and gets beaten on for a bit. A powerslam stops Bellomo dead and a great piledriver ends this clean.
Rating: C-. It depends on how you look at this one. Bellomo stayed in there too long, but at the same time it made Orndorff look like a killer which is the right idea here. That piledriver looked GREAT and Orndorff was clearly going to be something special. Fourteen minutes is too long of a match though, especially for an MSG debut like this.
Bellomo takes forever to get out of the ring to make the beating look even better. Good stuff.
Intercontinental Title: Don Muraco vs. Tito Santana
Tito is challenging and Muraco has Albano with him. Feeling out process to start with Albano wondering around the ring for no apparent reason other than he’s Lou Albano. Tito finally takes over with a headlock before firing off some of those right hands that Jesse would say have guacamole on them. When the headlock stops working, Tito just rams Muraco’s head into the mat. Why over complicate things?
Back to the headlock as Tito cranks away. A big knee drop to Muraco’s head gets two and it’s back to the headlock. Don comes out of the hold with a backbreaker but is immediately slammed right back down into the headlock. This is getting rather repetitive as we’re over eleven minutes into this match and about nine of them have been spent in a headlock. They changes things up slightly by having Tito on his feet where Muraco can break the hold with a kind of Russian legsweep.
Muraco rams Santana’s head into the buckle to take over and adds in a powerslam for two. I’m pretty sure Muraco’s finisher at this point was a tombstone but I’m not sure. The fans cheer for Tito and he starts to Hulk Up a bit. Santana punches Muraco down and stomps away before having to take Albano out. The forearm misses Don though and both guys are down. Muraco goes up top and they slug it out….for a double DQ? Dang this is an old school match. Even Gorilla sounds confused by that.
Rating: D. I LOVE Tito Santana, but man alive this was boring. It’s a sixteen minute match and nearly thirteen minutes of that are spent in a headlock. That isn’t an exaggeration either. I checked to see if I had forgotten something but there’s nothing else there. Tito would win the title from Muraco about three weeks later in Boston.
Tito swears he can beat Muraco and claims he got ripped off. Albano had no business being in the ring.
Haiti Kid/Tiger Jackson vs. Dana Carpenter/Pancho Boy
Midget match with 2/3 falls here. Kid and Tiger are incredibly small and probably half a foot shorter each than the villains. Tiger Jackson would go on to become Doink’s partner Dink. Carpenter is almost as tall as the referee. Pancho gets pantsed by Tiger and we’re ready to go. Carpenter and Jackson start things off but Dana immediately brings in Pancho. Tiger hooks a headlock so Boy tries to grab his hair, forgetting that Steve Austin has more hair on his head than Jackson does.
Pancho slaps Jackson in the head a bit before getting elbowed in the ribs. Jackson takes him down with a flying headscissors and holds him on the mat for a bit. I think Pancho might have portrayed Queasy of Jerry Lawler’s team at the 94 Survivor Series but that’s just a guess. Pancho fights up and literally spins Jackson around on the top of his bald head.
Haiti comes in with some dropkicks to clean house. Carpenter comes in and gets beaten up too as this is your usual midget match. Haiti dropkicks Dana to the floor before putting him in a full nelson. We get some heel miscommunication resulting in Pancho hitting Carpenter by mistake. Back to Pancho vs. Tiger as this keeps going. They keep going until Jackson hits a middle rope sunset flip for the first fall.
The third fall begins with Haiti vs. Pancho, because if there’s one thing better than a midget match, it’s a two out of three falls midget match! Haiti Kid is black, so therefore his head is immune to being rammed into buckles. Kid can’t suplex Carpenter and the referee gets dogpiled. We get a crisscross and Kid hooks an airplane spin on Carpenter. We get a weird ending as Haiti covers Carpenter and the referee is REALLY hesitant to count the pin, as in that wasn’t the correct finish.
Rating: D. I hate these things. They’re not interesting because there are no stories to them and the matches are always based around unfunny comedy. I guess the live crowd likes them or something, because I don’t care about these things at all. Nothing to see here other than the same shenanigans you see everywhere.
Freddie Blassie is annoyed that Hogan has been swapped in for Bob Backlund and says the cheating isn’t going to work. Sheik speaks I’m assuming Arabic and rants about Hogan before switching to English and getting cut off. Why? Because this is pre-taped and Sheik and Blassie are in the ring.
WWF World Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik
This is it. This is the match that changes EVERYTHING. Sheik beat Backlund like a month earlier and Backlund is too injured to get his rematch here, so Hulk gets the shot instead. The place goes NUTS for Hogan’s entrance for the first of many occasions. This is Hogan’s return to the Garden after about three years. After being bored all night, the place is going nuts just from hearing “From Venice Beach, California.”
The bell rings and Hogan CHARGES at him in the corner before Sheik can even get his robe off. A clothesline with the robe takes down the champion and it’s all Hulk so far. Another big clothesline puts Sheik down before Hulk easily picks him up for a choke. Hulk, ever the hero, spits on Sheik to a huge ovation. Big boot gets two so Hulk hits a pair of elbows for two. Hulk FINALLY screws up by missing a running elbow in the corner and Sheik takes over.
The champion stomps away with those curled boots of his. I guess it’s a Middle East thing. A backbreaker puts Hogan down but he easily powers out at one. Off to a Boston Crab but Hulk powers out after about ten seconds. Sheik can’t get anything going here long term. A gutwrench suplex gets two for Sheik and (with an infamous erection for some reason) puts on the camel clutch that won the title. Hulk casually wags his fingers no and he powers out of the hold in less than thirty seconds. Hogan picks Sheik up, rams him into the buckle, drops the big leg, and as Gorilla puts it, Hulkamania is here.
Rating: A+. This was exactly what it was supposed to be as Hogan squashed Sheik here, basically selling nothing and escaping Sheik’s best move before beating him in less than six minutes. Look at this card: even the opener was a minute longer than this match. Hogan DOMINATED the champion here and left no doubt about who was better. After this, everything became about flash than substance, and for people who complain about it, let it go already. The change is over and it’s never going back. Absolutely perfect here.
Sheik refuses to go out on a stretcher and charges at Hogan again, only to get beaten down one more time.
Hogan celebrates in the back and Andre pops up to pour champagne over him. This would be used in the Mania III hype package. It’s still the big green belt too which was ugly as sin. Rocky Johnson and Ivan Putski come in to celebrate too.
We’ve still got two matches to go. I never got why that was the case.
Rene Goulet vs. Jimmy Snuka
Goulet jumps Snuka to start and does some what appears to be biting. A back elbow puts Snuka down and a slam gets two. The very popular Snuka comes back with a hip toss and Goulet hides in the corner. Rene puts on a front facelock but Snuka elbows him down and wins with a top rope cross body.
Rating: D+. Snuka is always fun to watch and this was just a quick match to fill in time before the end of the show. No one bought Snuka as being in trouble at all and there was no reason to. He was INSANELY over at this point, probably the second biggest star in the company other than maybe Andre.
Hogan’s parents celebrate with him in the back.
Andre the Giant/Rocky Johnson/Tony Atlas vs. Wild Samoans
It’s Afa/Sika/Samula here who would become Samu in the 90s. Johnson and Atlas are tag champions, having beaten the Samoans about two months prior. I think that’s Samula and Atlas to start things off as we’re just waiting on Andre to come in and destroy people. Rocky comes in instead and we get a crisscross. Rocky stops and allows Samula to keep running in a funny bit.
Johnson ducks an attack in the corner and causes some heel miscommunication before it’s back to Tony. Atlas EASILY breaks a full nelson and sends Samula into a shot from Andre. Here’s the big guy (I mean the biggest of the big guys) but Samula blocks a backdrop with a headbutt. Two Samoans headbutt him down and it’s Sika the legal man. The headbutts are no sold now and Andre is starting to have fun. Andre drops Sika with a headbutt and sits on his chest for a pin.
Rating: D+. This was as simple as it sounds. I don’t think Afa ever got in there as this didn’t even last five minutes. Andre and the Soul Patrol were popular guys and it was a fun way to send the crowd home happy. Good stuff here and a good way to end the show which wasn’t exactly hot so far.
Patterson and Monsoon wrap things up.
Overall Rating: D+. This was a hard one to sit through. 1983 wasn’t the best time for the company as far as in ring stuff went and you could see a lot of the less interesting stuff going on here still. Hogan winning the title here of course changes everything though and is the only reason to watch it. You can literally find it on at least 8 tapes or DVDs and it’s all over Youtube. Not a good show, but to say it’s historic is a huge understatement.
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