What a sad weekend for fans of 1980s WWF wrestling, as we mourn both the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff and George “The Animal” Steele, both of whom died after lengthy illnesses.
These guys played strong heel characters in the WWF in the early ’80s. Koloff went on to feud with the Road Warriors in the NWA in the mid-1980s, while Steele turned babyface and had a long TV feud with Randy “Macho Man” Savage over the affections of Miss Elizabeth.
George "The Animal" Steele
Steele, whose real name was Jim Myers, was 79 when he died on Feb. 16, 2017, while Koloff’s birth monicker was Oreal Perras and he was 74 at his death on Feb. 18, 2017.
Both wrestlers were outright mean during the 1970s for the WWWF. Steele actually did menacing Continue reading
Let’s continue my look back 30 years ago to the original WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden by running down the big matches on March 31, 1985. Please check my prior posts in this series about the build-up for WrestleMania and a review of the preliminary matches on the supercard.
- Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo to win the WWF Tag Team Title – The match was short, but all action and was probably the best in-ring performance of this Mania. Captain Lou Albano accompanied the babyfaces to the ring, while Classy Freddie Blassie managed Sheik and Volkoff. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, on color commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, actually claimed Volkoff was a former Olympian. There were some great, simple spots in the match, including Sheik accidentally dropkicking Volkoff (I’m not sure I ever saw Sheik do another dropkick since then) and a high backdrop by Rotundo. Fans at the time buzzed about the ending, when Sheik broke Blassie’s cane over Windham’s back, leading to the title change. Interesting to note that Rotundo performed in the original WrestleMania, and this year his son, Bray Wyatt, faces the Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
- Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge – The rules were simple: If Andre slammed Studd, he would win $15,000 in cash in a duffel bag; if Studd wasn’t slammed, Andre had to retire. As you might imagine, this was the typical slow match these two often did, with the prerequisite
rest holdbearhug from Andre. The slam came out of nowhere, and then Andre attempted to throw the cash to the crowd, but Studd’s manager, Bobby Heenan, ran up and stole the bag from Andre. The crowd went nuts at the end of the match after getting the slam they wanted.
Mr. T is finally on his way into the WWE Hall of Fame — and deservedly so — as he was a large part of the reason that the first WrestleMania was a success and the WWF became a household name in the 1980s.
On March 31, 1985, in Madison Square Garden, T and Hulk Hogan defeated Rowdy Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff in the main event of Mania. This match stemmed from the War to Settle the Score match that Hogan and Piper fought a month earlier at MSG.
That earlier battle was broadcast live on MTV, and Mr. T, who was in the audience, stormed to the ring to save Hogan from a beatdown by Piper, Orndorff, and Cowboy Bob Orton (Randy Orton’s father). What a brilliant opportunity to shoot a big angle.
At the time of the first Mania, Mr. T was a cast member of a popular NBC show called The A-Team, which was about Continue reading
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?
It was 30 years ago this week that Hulk Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWF Heavyweight Title, ushering in Hulkamania in wrestling and setting the stage for Vince McMahon’s national expansion.
Hogan’s victory also planted the initial seeds of the first WrestleMania, although I’m not clear if McMahon had a supershow in mind at this point.
As I wrote earlier, the Sheik had shockingly defeated Bob Backlund for the belt on December 26, 1983, at Madison Square Garden. At the next monthly house show at the Garden on January 23, 1984, Hogan challenged for the title and won.
The shift in champions and power was shocking in ’84 because Continue reading
I’ve been terrible about updating this blog, due to real life creeping in: new jobs, house renovation loose ends, blah, blah. It doesn’t help that the current WWE product is teetering on boring, too.
The ironic part is I have so much to write about. I keep these little notes on paper or in my email draft folder of topics to post on, and they’ve just been sitting there.
One of the biggest things bothering me these days is Madison Square Garden and just how far this arena has fell in prominence in the WWE. Back in October, we had the 30th anniversary of Jimmy Snuka’s cage match with Magnificent Muraco at MSG, during which Snuka dove off the top of the cage, creating one of the most iconic moments in WWE history.
And now look at Madison Square Garden. As of this writing, the arena has had exactly zero wrestling cards in 2013. There is the annual (albeit routine) Christmas week house show at Madison Square Garden coming up on December 26, and the WWE hosted its 2013 Hall of Fame at the arena. That’s it for wrestling in the house that Bruno Continue reading