My first time on the WWE Network: Watching Backlund, Hansen, Patterson, and Slaughter from MSG in 1981

I finally had a chance to try out the new WWE Network last night — and of course the first stop I made was an old WWF house show from Madison Square Garden in April 1981.

A lot of my inspiration for writing this blog comes from my nostalgia of the ’80s wrestling scene that I grew up on, and the WWE Network is a pipeline back to those halcyon days.

With house shows filed under the “Old School” heading on the website, I have high hopes that an old Boston Garden card may eventually show its face on the network, as the intro mentions the Garden, MSG, and the Spectrum.

For the record, the MSG clip I watched wasn’t actually the full house show, but instead an hour of the featured matches. Many of the prelim bouts that filled out the house show cards in those days were skipped on the network clip. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, do I really need to see Baron Mikel Scicluna fight S.D. Jones? On the flip side, why not just post the whole show and let the viewer decide what to watch?

According to the History of WWE website, this card drew an incredible 22,000 fans to the arena, plus another 3,000+ people to the adjacent Felt Forum to watch it on closed circuit TV. It’s crazy to think that many fans came for a house show.

I also must make mention of how great it was to again see Howard Finkel handling ring announcing duties with the distinctive overhead MSG microphone.

The matches I watched included:

  • Intercontinental Champion Pedro Morales defeating Moondog Rex. Captain Lou Albano, who briefly appeared with Rex during the introductions, was at his zany best, while Morales clearly still had the love of the New York City crowd years after his heyday as WWWF Heavyweight Champion.
  • Pat Patterson fighting Sgt. Slaughter to a double disqualification after they both tossed referee Jack Lotz out of the ring. This match was a precursor to Patterson and Slaughter’s  famous street fight, which took place the next month at MSG. Patterson was a such a great babyface worker in the ring.
  • WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund beating Stan “The Lariat” Hansen in a steel cage match. This was a typical cage match from that era in the WWF — in other words, a brawl where the winner had to escape the cage. For the record, the WWE Network is not editing or digitizing blood, as Hansen gigged himself during the match.

I think for those of us longing to see some old footage of the WWF from the ’70s and ’80s, getting the WWE Network is a no brainer when you can also watch WrestleMania XXX at $9.99 a month.

I’ll keep you posted as I find other 1980s gems on the network.


  1. knelson77

    Hello, Scott. Longtime fan of your blog. Great Work. Anyway, myself and three friends have been doing a podcast on the good old days of WWF wrestling (and occasionally other areas, like Portland and St. Louis) called Titans of Wrestling since August. We review footage, beginning with January 1979, and have a great time talking about all the fantastic characters from the era, such as Bruno, Albano, Patterson, and Backlund. We have tons of fun doing this, so please check it out if you have the time. I think you will enjoy it.We are up to November 1980 now. This goes for fans of this blog as well. Give us a listen. (Just skip episode 1, as myself and two of our other regulars didn’t join the show until episode 2. Not to brag, but honestly the quality improved dramatically from there)

    Recently, we have started a YouTube channel (Titans TV) featuring matches and segments from all the great territories of the past. Enjoy.

    And while I am jazzed to evntually examine the epic Sgt. Slaughter vs Pat Patterson feud,I personally look forward to watching that Baron Scicluna vs SD Jones match when we get around to reviewing that MSG card. : )

  2. Joe Lowry

    Thank you Scott for providing me with some much needed information in regards to subscrbing to the WWE Network. Currently, I am a subscriber to WWE on Demand. I will eventually make the much needed jump to the WWE Network. What’s holding me back is what is actually in the archive section. You had said in your blog that its called “Old School”. Which incidentally is what the name is with the on demand service. I do hope they archive some of the old Boston Garden NESN Shows. Currently, the WWE on Demand service periodically shows the old NESN TV House Shows from the Boston Garden. I believe the major difference between the Network and the On Demand service is access. With the Network you have the access at your fingertips. As opposed to the on demand service, you only get what they provide you with for that particular month. Again, as I mentioned previously when the WWE announced this major venture, they are directing there demographic to us older generations. Never before have I seen such a push for all the old PPV’s and House Shows from yesteryear. I am not complaining but trying to figure out why? I honestly believe that they realize that most of us older generation fans have moved on so to speak. Not saying we are not fans of the WWE anymore, but as life goes on, you get married, you have children, life changes in various ways, etc. which makes a difference when shelling out money for PPV’s or going to the house shows or even watching televised shows such as RAW, Smackdown and whatever other network airs WWE Programming. In a sense our viewing (as well as spending) habits have indeed changed. WWE has taken notice to that, Hence why they show RAW and Smackdown on other networks on more convenient nights such as Friday. The WWE is on a very intense and strategic marketing campaign to get the older generation back. After all with this economy, alot of the older generation fans miss the hey day of yesteryear. For example, in my instance I used to take my son back in the 90’s to every WWE event possible. But as he grew older and went on to college, things changed. Now some umpteen years later, he is out of college, living back home (due to the economy) and has all of a sudden started tuning into WWE programming again. With this in mind, why not get the parent back involved so to speak. And what better way for the WWE to do that than launch a network which is geared towards both generations. Marketing saavy and genius if you ask me. For the first time in years I DVR’d RAW this past Monday. The goosebumps returned and my hair on my back was raised when Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman stood in the ring and all of a sudden the lights went out and The Undertakers music hit! The WWE got me back….again!

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