Venue: Madison Square Garden (Manhattan, NY)
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Hillbilly Jim, & Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan
Back in the day the WWF used to hold regular house shows at their home arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City, airing locally on the MSG Network (and sometimes nationally thru the old Prime Time Wrestling TV show). I’m a huge mark for these old shows despite their very rocky quality as they tend to feature matches you wouldn’t have been able to see on TV otherwise as well as occasionally a dry run for a future PPV. These will pop up frequently and very much out of order whenever I feel like recapping them. First up is this one from February 19, 1990 on the road to WrestleMania VI as Hulk Hogan teams with Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake to take on Mr. Perfect and his manager (and secretly damn good wrestler) The Genius. Let’s see how it goes.
- WWF CHAMPION: Hulk Hogan
- WWF INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION: The Ultimate Warrior
- WWF TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: The Colossal Connection (Haku & Andre The Giant)
- Tito Santana vs. Buddy Rose (3/4*)
- Ronnie Garvin vs. Earthquake (*3/4)
- The Red Rooster vs. Rick Martel (**)
- Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect & The Genius (**1/4)
- Jim Brunzell vs. Bad News Brown
- Dusty Rhodes vs. Akeem
- Jim Duggan & The Rockers vs. Mr. Fuji & The Powers of Pain
Tito Santana vs. ‘Playboy’ Buddy Rose
This is actually a rematch of sorts from the first-ever WrestleMania, only Rose was much thinner back in 1985 and wrestled Santana under a hood as The Executioner. Rose tips the scales at over 300 pounds here, grossly overweight to the point that the WWF decided to make that his gimmick and I guess punish the dude for liking cheeseburgers too much. Hence that dumb Blowaway Diet nonsense that never saw the light on WWF PPV so it’s been easily forgotten.
The first two minutes or so of this one is crowd work, Rose trying to make a big show of taking his shirt off as the crowd boos and commentary mocks him for his fatness. We have a similar body type so if you’ll excuse me I’m going to sob into a mirror and finish this review when I get back.
Phew that was fun. Santana controls the opening few minutes, working an armbar. Rose tries to escape by grabbing the rope to force a break but the jerk referee decides to be a jerk and kicks him off instead of doing the thing he’s supposed to do. As stated previously, he a jerk. Rose grabs Santana’s tights and sends him to the floor then spends the next few minutes kicking at him to keep him there. Once the action gets back into the ring Rose slingshots Santana into the ropes then holds the legs as he falls back on his knees, a submission that Monsoon refuses to put over because Santana could easily just sit up (which he does both times he’s put in it). Santana connects with a series of shots on Rose, who slides through the ring and lands on the floor head-first. It looked like he tried to hook his feet under the middle rope for a comedic hanging spot but just couldn’t pull it off. Heenan continually gives pointers to Rose on commentary, prompting Monsoon to pester him about taking him on as part of the Heenan Family. Heenan most certainly does not wanna do that. Rose manages to climb to the top turnbuckle but Santana slams him hard into the canvas; luckily the ring doesn’t destroy itself on impact. Rose counters a Figure Four by kicking Santana away then both men collide in the center of the ring knocking the wind out of one another. Santana is up first and manages to connect with the Flying Forearm (or ‘Flying Jalapeno, as Heenan calls it) for the 1…2…3.
This match is so slow and plodding that I’m almost impressed. So much stalling and padding here to stretch out this match far far longer than it needed to go; they did not have enough to make it past ten, let alone go almost seventeen minutes. Yikes. What a blah way to open their MSG show, though Santana getting the pin does net a decent pop. I’d be excited for this match to be over too, though.
Tito Santana defeated Buddy Rose via pinfall with the Flying Forearm (16:55)
- Final Rating: 3/4*
‘Rugged’ Ronnie Garvin vs. Earthquake
Quake doesn’t have Jimmy Hart by his side but he does look like a walking turd with his dark brown ring gear so I guess that’s an okay trade-off? Garvin is treading water at this point, his feud with Greg Valentine having ended. Honestly I don’t think he even does much going forward and is out of the company later in the year.
Garvin gets ‘Rugged’ throughout the match, biting and kicking and stomping Quake while using his smaller stature to avoid as many hits as he can. Every time Quake gets a couple of power moves in Garvin recovers quickly and tries to take the big man off of his feet. He does manage to do so but Quake easily flings him off during a lateral press attempt. Garvin tries a Sharpshooter (which doesn’t have the name yet as Bret Hart hasn’t adopted the move as his own), Quake easily counters it. He misses a corner avalanche and Garvin tries to hit him with a flying crossbody from the top rope. Quake catches him, slams him to the mat, and finishes him off with the Earthquake Splash for the victory.
Earthquake was in the midst of a dominant heel run so his win made perfect sense but honestly this one was a little more competitive than I expected. Garvin had great fire trying to pick himself by his bootstraps and find any way he could to overcome the size difference. This one actually wasn’t half-bad, but maybe I’m just comparing it to that wretched opening contest.
Earthquake defeated Ronnie Garvin via pinfall with the Earthquake Splash (7:37)
- Final Rating: *3/4
Earthquake continues smushing Garving with more Earthquake Splashes after the match, Garvin full on twitching to sell it. Respect. Garvin is taken out of the ring via stretcher.
The Red Rooster vs. Rick ‘The Model’ Martel
The Red Rooster is Terry Taylor, former Jim Crockett star who decided to give the WWF a try and got saddled with one of the dumbest gimmicks imaginable. It was one thing when he was a heel and it was a demeaning nickname but once he turned face, styled his hair like a rooster, and walked around pecking, it was all over. Taylor’s off-camera career has been fruitful don’t get me wrong but oh my god did the WWF absolutely murder his potential as a wrestler. JEEEEESUS.
Before the match starts Martel sprays some ‘Arrogance’ from his Atomizer to mask the stench of the crowd a la Gorgeous George. Martel takes the early advantage with some babyface-style headlock spots but soon enough Rooster fights back with a whole lotta shoulderblocks that force Martel to the floor to get a breather. Back inside the ring Martel puts the ref in between them so he can land a cheapshot, then falls victim to some arm-focused offense as Rooster tries to weaken it for his Chickenwing finisher (CHICKENWING HAHA GET IT, OMG POOR TERRY TAYLOR). But when Martel hurts his left knee Rooster starts focusing on that instead, which is so dumb that even the commentary team craps on him for it. Martel escapes a Figure Four by kicking Rooster out to the floor, then weakening his back by ramming him repeatedly into the apron. Martel suplexes Rooster back into the squared circle and covers but the ref makes A RIDICULOUSLY SLOW COUNT that drives the commentary team insane. Where did they get these refs back in the day, man? Rooster whips Martel into the corner but runs right into a knee and Martel tries to use the ropes to roll him up but Rooster kicks out. Martel thinks he’s won however and starts celebrating, allowing Rooster to grab the tights (giving us an ass shot of The Model), rolling him up for a two-count of his own. Rooster tries more pinning combinations but Martel can’t be put down and we’re past the 20 minute mark so I guess this isn’t going to be the time limit draw I was expecting. Rooster makes a fiery babyface comeback but his dropkick is countered by Martel who turns it into the Boston Crab and Rooster submits. Oh okay.
I was initially into the match at the beginning but it just kept going and I started losing interest towards the middle. They pulled back in for the end though and honestly I’m glad Martel got the victory and we didn’t end up with a time limit draw. A shame I can’t go into a ‘GOD FORBID THE RED FREAKIN’ ROOSTER LOSES SOME HEAT’ rant though. Maybe next time. Side note I super love Rick Martel and this Model gimmick so expect a lot of bias in future reviews of his matches. Might as well be honest.
Rick Martel defeated The Red Rooster via submission with the Boston Crab (21:22)
- Final Rating: **
Hulk Hogan & Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect & The Genius
Beefcake was in the midst of a feud with Perfect and Genius at this time, having humiliated the latter a month before at the Royal Rumble by cutting his hair and essentially giving him an ugly mullet. Perfect also had beef with Hogan as well, as Hogan eliminated him from the Rumble match to win the entire thing, technically ending his perfect streak (since he wasn’t pinned though it doesn’t count?). Apparently Perfect was originally supposed to win the Rumble until Hogan decided to get involved, and that’s a damn shame.
Being the consumate babyfaces Hogan and Beefcake attack Perfect and Genius before Hogan’s music even ends and the bell rings. What nice dudes. Perfect goes into his legendary overselling early, taking a big boot from Hogan that sends him flying over the top rope and onto the floor. The tide turns early as Genius’ metal scroll comes into play, Perfect clobbering him with it on the floor while the ref is distracted. Hogan plays the babyface in peril for a bit, a weird sight to see. Genius is relegated to mostly weak eye gouges and choking in this one but does get to throw in a MOONSAULT that’s unfortunately countered with a pair of knees. Beefcake tags in and runs roughshod, getting Perfect in the Sleeperhold. Genius hits Beefcake from behind with the scroll, Hogan chases him around for a bit, then barely runs back in to break up the pinfall attempt. Ref had to count a little slower than desired to make sure that could happen. It’s Beefcake’s turn to take punishment as he gets double-teamed and choked with the tag rope while the heels provoke Hogan into accidentally distracting the referee. Beefcake counters a backdrop with a kick that Perfect sells like a football being sent through a goalpost. He manages to tag Hogan but the ref doesn’t see it to the chagrin of the crowd. Perfect connects with a Perfect Plex but Hogan breaks up the count. Genius tags in to pick the bones but unfortunately for him Hogan gets the for real legal hot tag and soon enough it’s curtains for him as Hogan in short order finishes him off with the Big Legdrop.
I won’t say this was anything spectacular but it was a perfectly fine house show match and the crowd got super into it so it did its job. Perfect’s selling is always fun to watch as is Genius, who was criminally underutilized and undervalued during his time with the WWF. Whether as a manager or a wrestler he was great almost every time…unless he was stuck doing crap with The Bushwhackers and The Beverly Brothers. Bleh.
Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake defeated Mr. Perfect & The Genius when Hogan pinned Genius following a Big Legdrop (15:28)
- Final Rating: **1/4
After the match Beefcake puts Genius to sleep and cuts more of his hair off. Hogan tries to give some to a fan which is creepy, the kid almost falling over the railing to reach it. Hogan and Beefcake then do a whole lot of posing for the crowd. And that’s the end of…WAIT THAT WASN’T THE MAIN EVENT? Weird. Alright let’s keep going then I guess.
–Sean Mooney is standing by with The Powers of Pain and their manager Mr. Fuji, who will be wrestling by their side in the main event tonight. Fuji still wrestled in 1990? Good for him, damn. The Powers of Pain are super close to being broken up here as by April The Barbarian is part of the Heenan Family and working singles. Anyway the promo isn’t anything spectacular, they just throw some shade at their opponents tonight. Weirdly enough Fuji is easier to understand than The Barbarian.
-After what I assume is a commercial break we’re back with Mooney who’s now with ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan and The Rockers. Duggan is wearing Rockers shades and part of a Rockers shirt and he jumps around behind Mooney rocking out while Marty Jannetty handles the shade throwing. Apparently they’re looking for revenge from a previous MSG show which I haven’t seen but might get to at some point. Watching things out of order is fun!
“Jumping” Jim Brunzell vs. Bad News Brown
If you’re looking to kill a crowd after your biggest star has wrestled this is definitely the way to do it, MY GOD. Brunzell had some success in the WWF as part of The Killer Bees with B. Brian Blair but that was a long time ago (in WWF years) so now he’s just here enhancing talent. Brown came to the WWF in 1988 after a successful run in Canada; his gimmick of hating everybody was solid but this dude was the shits in the ring at least during this run. Just real bad. He’s in the middle of a feud with Roddy Piper that’s going to lead them into their infamous WrestleMania VI match. I’ll review that come April but here’s a spoiler: it’s awful.
Brown tries to attack Brunzell at the brunzbell but Jumping Jim is ready for him with a sunset flip. Sadly this doesn’t get him the pin so we’ve got more to go. Brunzell outwrestles and outmoves Brown, forcing him to bail to the floor to stall and also tease leaving altogether which he doesn’t unfortunately. Brown counters a backdrop and goes on the offensive, which is just a bunch of choking and forearms and stuff. Brunzell dodges a corner splash and starts working over Brown’s now hurt right arm. Brunzell tries a spinning toehold, Brown kicks him all the way out to the floor, taking off the top turnbuckle and exposing the steel while the ref is busy checking on our fallen hero. Brown tries to send him into the steel but Brunzell counters then hits a Dropkick but Brown gets his foot on the rope to avoid the loss. Brunzell misses a corner splash and leaves him open for the Ghetto Blaster and Brown picks up the victory.
Too long and not very interesting. Brown using an enzuigiri as a finisher was novel though for the time but that’s about as much credit as I’m going to give him wrestling-wise. Again the gimmick was pretty solid. According to the video source I’m watching Brunzell was a last minute replacement for Jimmy Snuka. I wonder how that one would have gone. Probably just as bad, honestly.
Bad News Brown defeated Jim Brunzell via pinfall with the Ghetto Blaster (14:41)
- Final Rating: 1/2*
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes [w/ Sapphire] vs. Akeem “The African Dream” [w/ “The Doctor of Style” Slick]
This is Rhodes’ final full year as a full time competitor, which is super sad when you think about what the WWF had him doing. The polka dots were a dumb idea but Dusty is one of the most effortlessly charismatic people in the history of pro wrestling so he made them work, as did Sapphire who I low-key love as a manager. Akeem is the former One Man Gang who the WWF decided needed a racist gimmick change. Now he’s jive walking around in a terrible blue jumpsuit while another Slick does his best to sell it but can’t because as much as I love him and his theme song he’s a bit racist too. Some pro wrestling stuff doesn’t age well.
Slick talks some trash before the bell rings so Sapphire uses her sizable hips to boot him out of the ring. Rhodes takes it to Akeem with his usual mode of offense, the Bionic Elbow, which Akeem sells each time by jive walking before falling over like a tree. Akeem drops Rhodes with a jab and goes right to a nerve hold as my eyes roll back into my skull. Rhodes regains control for a minute but misses his finishing Elbowdrop and Akeem traps him in a bearhug. Rhodes dodges a corner splash and hits a series of jabs that level Akeem. Slick climbs the apron, Sapphire pulls him off. Akeem then goes after Sapphire so Rhodes comes out to defend her honor. Akeem attacks him and holds him for Slick, but Slick accidentally hits Akeem with a high knee and Rhodes rolls back into the ring in time to win via countout. The heck?
Blehhhhhh. That’s my review. These two seem winded as soon as the bell rung and did nothing of note or interest for almost ten goddamn minutes. Yeesh. To Rhodes and Sapphire’s credit though they were at least entertaining enough to keep the crowd invested so there’s that I guess.
Dusty Rhodes defeated Akeem via countout (9:01)
- Final Rating: 3/4*
–Howard Finkel hypes the next MSG show scheduled for March 19th. Matches include Warrior vs. Perfect, Duggan vs. Earthquake, Piper vs. Martel (YES!) and the debut of The Orient Express as they take on Demolition. Don’t miss it! Or do I guess because it happened 27 years ago.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan & The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) vs. Mr. Fuji & The Powers of Pain (Warlord & The Barbarian)
The Powers of Pain were a knockoff Road Warriors team that left the NWA (where they were feuding with said Road Warriors) for the greener pastures of the WWF. Greener meaning money because they accomplished absolutely nothing during their two year run. Speaking of wasted potential The Rockers always had good matches but ended up in the WWF at a time where bigger and more important tag teams were monopolizing the belts. They did eventually win them but then that reign was stricken from the record thanks to a faulty ring and the fact Vince wanted to keep The Hart Foundation together a little longer.
Duggan and The Rockers attack The Powers of Pain before the bell even rings, Fuji smart enough to get out of harms way. Match begins for real and The Rockers take The Powers of Pain down with stereo victory rolls thanks to the clothesline power of Jim Duggan. They work Warlord over for a bit and Duggan rocket launches Michaels into him with a flying crossbody. Warlord forcefully kicks out, sending Michaels to the floor, then Michaels gets dropped with a clothesline when he climbs back on the apron, then Barbarian rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in the ring the heels work Michaels over, Fuji tagging in for some nerve holds and a Banzai headbutt, while a girl in the audience starts crying in worry for her man. Barbarian misses a flying headbutt, Duggan gets the hot tag and double noggin knocks the brains out Warlord and Barbarian. He hits his 3-Point Stance lariat but his pinfall attempt is broken up and the heels are back in control until Jannetty gets the second hot tag. He fakes Warlord out then he and Michaels connect with double flying axhandles. Barbarian breaks up a pinfall attempt and a brawl between the teams ensues as Fuji pulls out a pack of EVIL ORIENTAL SALT from his tights. Before he can do anything with it Duggan hits him from behind with the 2×4 and Jannetty covers for the win.
A lot better than I was expecting, honestly. Nothing too great but it was cool to see Fuji still throwing hands in 1990 and Michaels’ bumping ability was second to none. The height he got off a backdrop from Warlord was awe-inspiring, it almost looked like he was going to hit the very high ceiling. Anyway this is about it for The Powers of Pain, they won’t be missed.
Jim Duggan & The Rockers defeated Mr. Fuji & The Powers of Pain when Marty Jannetty pinned Fuji following a 2×4 shot from Duggan (16:35)
- Final Rating: **
-Sean Mooney is standing by with Rick ‘The Model’ Martel. We get some pre-recorded comments from his opponent for next month’s MSG show, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, who questions Martel’s confidence. Martel has so much confidence that he has Arrogance (HA THAT’S HIS SPRAY COLOGNE) and vows to put Piper away come March 19th.
-After a commercial break we go to Mooney again who’s with Mr. Perfect and The Genius. Pre-recorded comments from next month’s opponent The Ultimate Warrior play as he vows to do what his WrestleMania VI opponent Hulk Hogan couldn’t do and end Perfect’s unbeaten (at MSG) streak. Perfect says he’s Warriors ultimate match and promises that Warrior won’t be the one to break his streak.
-Cut to Monsoon, Jim, and Heenan who end sign off. During the credits Heenan is whisked away by security off-camera.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m not going to be too hard on this televised house shows; they are a novelty and even if they suck I’m excited to review them because they were so different from the regular syndicated TV and you get to see matches you wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. As it stands this one is pretty forgettable, no interesting match-ups you should check out, but it’d be good background noise. Screw that Brunzell/Brown match though, seriously.