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WWF @ Madison Square Garden
January 25, 1988

by Scrooge McSuck

Hooooooooo!

- Vince McMahon, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and Lord Alfred Hayes are at ringside to call all the action, unless otherwise noted. Rare to see Vince doing a house show around this time (his first televised MSG appearance in quite a while), but I believe he’s filling in for Gorilla Monsoon, who was having medical issues at the time. We’re 24-hours removed from the Royal Rumble, where the main happening was the contract signing between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan.

Scott Casey vs. Jose Estrada:

The good thing about scrub vs. scrub matches is that you really can’t predict the winner. Lockup and Estrada with a hip toss. I’m desperately trying to think of something to say about either man, but really, what is there? Estrada would sometimes work as a Conquistador? Casey somehow got a PPV spot at the ’88 Survivor Series? Casey with a pair of arm drags and a scoop slam. They go through a series of counters doing a bit of chain wrestling. Estrada heads to the top rope and connects with a sledge for a near fall. He teases going high risk again, but Casey is waiting for him. Doing a quick search on Casey, I’m surprised to see he was already 40 years old at this point, having spent a large portion of his career in Southwest Championship Wrestling. Casey with the Piledriver, but he takes too long to cover. They really loved doing that spot in Casey’s WWF matches. Usually lead to him jobbing. Estrada puts the boots to him, but walks into a drop toe hold. Estrada with a handful of tights, throwing Casey to the floor. Casey with a sunset flip back into the ring for two. They trade blows until Casey comes off the ropes, missing a body press. Estrada goes for a neck breaker, but Casey hooks the ropes. Casey with a Shoulder Breaker, and it’s good for the three count at 10:05. *1/2 Work was OK, but the match was just background noise to the conversation covering Andre vs. Hogan.

Sam Houston vs. “Dangerous” Danny Davis:

It’s the program that lit Wrestling Challenge on fire! Houston is fairly new to the WWF, and you can tell Davis’ push is all but gone, as he’s working an undercard program with someone who was mostly used as a TV jobber. Davis starts off by running to the floor and stalling. You know the old saying, if you’re good at it, do it often. Is that Superfan Vladimir dressed like the Natural, Butch Reed?! Houston tries to leap frog the referee, and it’s screwed up. He slingshots Davis in and grabs an arm-bar. Davis tries a hip toss, but Houston rolls through to keep the hold applied. Houston with an atomic drop and back to working the arm. Houston misses a clothesline and goes flying over the ropes. Davis pounds away, doing little of note. He takes Houston over with a suplex, but a sloppy cover only gets two. Houston teases a comeback, but misses a charge to the corner. Davis with a slam and… People’s Elbow? Whip to the ropes and Davis with a clothesline for two. He argues about the count, allowing Houston to surprise him with a small package for three at 8:01. ½* Bad match, but not bad enough to dip into the negative scale. Davis’ work in the ring was pretty bad, but he also didn’t have anyone the crowd really cared about to work with.

Junkyard Dog vs. “The Natural” Butch Reed (w/ Slick):

I honestly don’t recall if there’s an issue between these two. Might just be undercard filler. JYD is long past the point of usefulness, and Reed… the guy is called the Natural and has bleach blonde hair. Not much to work with. At least we get to jam out to “Jive Soul Bro”. Unfortunately, we have to suffer hearing “Grab Them Cakes”. Reed tries a sneak attack, but it fails. JYD with a big right, knocking Reed to the floor. JYD grabs a headlock but gets sent to the post. Back in the rin, JYD works the arm. Reed cheap shots him with a foreign object to take control. Reed with rights and choking. Whip to the ropes and he connects with an elbow. It’s amazing how bad JYD is at pretty much everything. JYD nails Reed coming off the second rope, but can’t capitalize. Reed with a swinging neck breaker for two. JYD no-sells some punches and retaliates with his own. He hits his signature headbutts and gives one to Slick for the heck of things. Slick trips him up, but JYD no-sells it and hits Reed with a clothesline. He gives chase to Slick and winds up being rolled up by Reed for the three count at 6:22. -* This was hard to watch. JYD couldn’t sell a thing and his offense was just pathetic.

Omar Atlas vs. Dusty Wolfe:

Wow, I’ve got nothing to work with here. Wolfe was one of those guys who worked everywhere, but never really had much success beyond the midcard, then was forced to change his name to “Dale” when Dusty Rhodes came in. As for Atlas, I don’t know. Long-lost Uncle of Tony Atlas? If you thought Casey was advancing in age, Omar Atlas was a spry 50! He looks it. Atlas gets a near fall off an atomic drop. Criss-cross sequence ends with Atlas taking Wolfe over with an arm-drag and hooking an arm-bar. Another match that plays in the background to hyping the upcoming Main Event special on NBC. They trade holds but the crowd isn’t interested. More nothing as we segue into the “Terry Garvin School of Self-Defense” topic. “He breaks in young men” gets a legit laugh out of me. Wolfe with a snap-mare and fist drop for two. Whip to the corner, Atlas avoids a charge. He takes Wolfe over with a back drop and connects with a dropkick. He goes it for it again, but Wolfe side-steps him. Atlas escapes a slam attempt and a roll up gets three at 7:30. * Fast Forward material here. The work was OK, but heatless and the commentary barely paid attention to it.

“The Rock” Don Muraco (w/ Billy Graham) vs. One Man Gang (w/ Slick):

We were supposed to get the Main Event, but for reasons unknown, it’s being pushed back. If you’ll recall, it was the Gang (and a lesser extent, Butch Reed), who brutally attacked Graham to put him into retirement from in-ring competition. The first time I ever saw Graham, I thought he was some cross-dressing weirdo… come on, he looks like he’s wearing clothes he stole from someone’s grandmother. Muraco pounds away to start. He picks a leg to sweep the Gang off his feet and snaps back on the leg. Muraco with a head-butt across the midsection followed by mounted punches. Muraco continues to punish the leg with step over toe-holds. He somehow hooks the Figure-Four on Gang’s meaty legs. This had been surprisingly one-sided, so far. Gang surprises Muraco with elbows to finally turn things around. They trade blows, with Muraco getting the upper-hand. He knocks the Gang into the corner with a dropkick, whips him across the ring, and hops on his back with a sleeper. Slick hops on the apron for a distraction, but Graham intervenes. This brings out Butch Reed to whack Muraco with the cane, behind the back of the referee, of course, and the Gang lands on top of him for the three count at 8:30. Post-match, Graham gets worked on, including a 747 Splash from the Gang, until Muraco clears the ring. ** Surprisingly energetic outing from Muraco, dominating practically the entire match until the cheap finish.

- Vince McMahon conducts some in-ring interviews with Bobby Heenan and the Islanders, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (winner of last night’s Royal Rumble), and Butch Reed and Slick. Sounds like the Slickster’s men aren’t done with Billy Graham and Don Muraco. Odd placement for the intermission. I wonder if there’s a reason for pushing back the Main Event, or if it was just the planned placement and they just acted like something was up.

Hulk Hogan & Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Oliver Humperdink) vs. Ted Dibiase & Virgil (w/ Andre The Giant):

Main Event time. I’m going to say this until the last recap I ever do: the Main Event is the prominently advertised match, not the last match on the card. When will people learn how this works? Hogan is celebrating his 4th year as WWF Champion, having won it on January 23rd, 1984. Dibiase and Virgil try to bum-rush, but Hogan and Bigelow clear the ring. Dibiase gets sent from buckle to buckle and rammed into the head of Bam Bam. Whip across the ring and Hogan follows in with a clothesline. Bigelow with a whip to the corner and a clothesline. Hogan with an elbow, followed by a fist drop that resembles Dibiase’s signature style. Hogan with a back suplex and a pair of elbow drops. Hogan hits the ropes and gets tripped up by Andre. Dibiase takes control, dropping elbows and choking. Andre gets a cheap shot in, as well. Virgil comes off the top with a fist drop. Andre with choking behind the referee’s back. Dibiase knocks Hogan over the top rope with a big chop and rams him into the security rail. Back inside, Virgil unloads with some crummy rights and a clothesline. Dibiase with a series of fist drops for a near fall. He grabs a chin-lock, but Hogan fights back to his feet and escapes with elbows. He comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle and a double clothesline puts them both down. Bam Bam with the hot tag, and he unloads on Virgil with rights. He lifts Virgil up and plants him with a press slam. Hogan with the leg drop, Bam Bam with a splash, and it’s good enough for the three count at 11:04. Post-match, Andre knocks Bigelow silly while Dibiase and Virigl double team Hogan. Bam Bam recovers, knocking Andre off his feet with a drop-kick, and they clear the ring area with chairs in hand. ** Not a great match, but the energy was fine and the crowd was really into things.

The Young Stallions vs. Barry Horowitz & Steve Lombardi:

More from the bottom of the undercard barrel. Roma has his knee wrapped, having tweaked it at the Royal Rumble the night before in a loss to the Islanders. Lord Alfred’s grasp on the definition of obscurity might be a bit skewed, using that word to describe the ascension of teams like the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs to the top of the tag team division. I’d almost allow a free pass for lumping in Strike Force, but Tito and Martel had how many title reigns in their WWF careers? A lot, and they were teaming up for at least a few months before winning. Powers and Lombardi start. They criss-cross until Powers takes him over with a hip toss. Horowitz tries his luck and gets his arm worked on. He goes for a leap frog but gets knocked in the belly, and Powers cradles him for a near fall. Whip to the ropes, drop toe hold, and elbow drop to Lombardi. Powers with a body press for a two count. They continue working the arm until Lombardi surprises Powers with an inverted atomic drop. Horowitz with a suplex and leg drop for two. Lombardi with a clothesline for two. Horowitz with a snap-mare into a chin-lock. Gut-wrench suplex into a roll up for a two count. Powers tries to sunset flip Lombardi, but takes a punch to the face. Powers escapes another chin-lock, but takes a knee to the back from Lombardi. Horowitz with a unique cradle for two. Criss-cross and a collision puts both men down. Roma with the hot tag. He knocks Lombardi silly with a clothesline and takes Horowitz over with a back drop. Whip to the ropes and Powers with a Power-Slam for the three count at 13:33. **1/4 Another adequately worked match, just a bit dull because of the placement of all involved on the depth chart.

“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. King Harley Race (w/ Bobby Heenan):

Heenan has abandoned the broadcast position for the remainder of the show. I feel like this is nearing the end of the Duggan/Race program. I’m more than willing to say their show-long brawl at the Slammy Awards was some fun stuff. I wonder if Duggan was paid by the “Hooooo” he bellows. Race hammers away in the corner with rights. Whip is reversed and Duggan lays him out with a clothesline. Whip across the ring and Race takes his signature bump to the floor. Back in the ring and Duggan sends Race shoulder-first to the post. We get a collision spot, leading to Race falling head-first into Duggan’s groin. To no surprise, Duggan doesn’t sell it and maintains control. Am I the only one who hates Duggan’s sad attempts at bumping? Race with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Race with a Piledriver for another two count. Duggan no-sells some more, hits a few rights, and misses a knee drop. Race takes Duggan to the outside and misses a headbutt on the concrete. I don’t know if Duggan knows when to sell and when not to sell. He crawls under the ring, pops out the other side, and lays into Race with more punching. Whip to the ropes and Duggan with a clothesline, knocking Race to the floor. Race with a headbutt to the midsection. He goes to the top for a body press, but Duggan rolls through for the three count at 10:51. Post-match, Race tries to attack, but Duggan clears the ring with his 2x4. ¼* Race tried, but Duggan was almost as lost in the ring as Junkyard Dog, with poor selling and bumping.

Hillbilly Jim vs. “The Outlaw” Ron Bass:

Oh dear God, PLEASE BE QUICK! This is the WWE Classics on Demand version, so “Don’t Go Messin’ With a Country Boy” is dubbed over. I guess everything from Piledriver was salvaged at this point, but the original Wrestling Album not-so-much. Bass attacks before the bell with clubberin’ blows. Whip is reversed and Jim connects with a weak boot and splash combo for a two count. Jim goofs around with Bass’ whip while we get some stalling. Bass grabs a side headlock, but Jim slips free with ease. Bass willingly lets Jim grab a headlock, and doesn’t have quite the same success. Bass takes control, ramming Jim to the buckle and choking him across the top rope. Elbow drop gets two. Jim randomly makes his comeback and hits a weak clothesline for two. Jim misses a splash and Bass finishes with the between the legs face-buster (think Pedigree, minus the hooking of the arms) at 5:29. DUD It was short. That’s all I’ve got.

The British Bulldogs vs. The Islanders (w/ Bobby Heenan):

(Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid vs. Haku & Tama)
Final match of the night. No Matilda for the Bulldogs, who is at home still recovering from whatever ordeals she suffered at the hands of the Islander’s dognapping. Heenan comes to the ring with the classic invisible dog leash, so we might as well expect that to be involved in the finish. We get a brawl before the bell, with the Bulldogs clearing the ring. Dynamite brings Tama back in with a sling-shot and sends him to the buckle. Whip to the ropes, Dynamite with a shoulder tackle, followed by a piledriver for a near fall. He sends Tama into Haku and covers him for another two count. Davey Boy and Haku trade wrist-locks. Whip is reversed and a shoulder tackle doesn’t budge either man. Criss-cross ends with Davey Boy hitting a body press for two. Haku tries to hip toss out of an arm-bar, but Davey Boy hangs onto the hold. Whip to the corner, Davey with an elbow, hip toss, and back to the arm-bar. Double shoulder tackle from the Bulldogs. Dynamite with his signature snap suplex for two. Haku goes to the throat of Davey Boy and tags out to Tama. He takes control with choking. Whip to the ropes and Islanders with a double chop. Haku with a standing dropkick to the face for two. Islanders with a double head-butt. Whip to the ropes, Davey Boy surprises Haku with an elbow, and tags out to Dynamite. He works over both Islanders and nails Haku with a stiff clothesline for two. Knee drop from the middle rope gets two. Whip to the corner and Haku nails Dynamite coming with a double chop to the neck.

Tama comes in with a double axehandle from the top rope as DK becomes our face-in-peril. Tama with a headbutt and some choking. Haku with a jumping leg drop. He grabs a front face-lock and sends him to the buckle as soon as he’s near making the tag. Tama with a snapmare and it’s time for the Samoan standard nerve hold. Haku makes sure to tease him with the dog collar, because it would be a dick move to do. Dynamite fights to his feet but takes a knee to the midsection. Haku and DK trade forearms until Haku takes him over with a back suplex. Haku with a nerve hold and now it’s Tama taunting him with the collar. Haku distracts the referee, allowing Tama to crotch DK on the bottom rope. Whip to the ropes, Dynamite ducks a double clothesline and comes off the ropes with his own. Hot tag to Davey Boy, and he gives them a double noggin’ knocker. Back drop to Haku, followed by a suplex for a two count. Piledriver from Davey Boy gets another two count. He plants Haku with the Running Power-Slam, but Tama interrupts the cover, so Davey Boy scoops him up and plants him with the Slam, too! Instead of covering, he yanks the leash from Heenan and they whack the crap out of the Islanders for the Disqualification at 15:34. ***1/4 A tad too heavy on the nerve holds, but the Islanders looked good and even though Dynamite was on the serious decline due to injuries, he more than held his own in the ring. The finish was cheap, but expected.

Final Thoughts: Mostly a weak show that didn’t look too promising on paper. Bulldogs vs. Islanders was easily the best match of the night, and with the exception of a couple of generous ratings, a lot of nothing. I was especially disappointed by Hulk/Bam Bam vs. Dibiase/Virgil. I wasn’t expecting a lost classic, but most of the talent involved is capable of more than what we got. The card could’ve stood some trimming, padding it out to 10-matches thanks to the inclusion of stuff like Omar Atlas vs. Dusty Wolfe. The less said about Hillbilly Jim vs. Ron Bass and JYD vs. Butch Reed, the better. Even though I’m being a bit more negative, it was mostly an easy show to sit through. Recommendation to Avoid, unless you’re really into this era of wrestling.

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