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WWF @ Maple Leaf Gardens
by Scrooge McSuck
May 22, 1988
- Unlike cards from Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, the LA Sports Arena, etc. etc., which were featured on local networks for years, events held at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens seemed to drop off first from being broadcasted in their entirety, with very few, rare occasions. That didn't stop the WWF from bringing film crews to these shows, though. Countless matches would be borrowed for Coliseum Home Video and episodes of PrimeTime Wrestling, as well as local Canadian television. Someone out there went through the trouble of compiling as much of the matches as possible into their proper slots, and that brings us to today's event.
- Originally taped from the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 22nd, 1988. Two matches missing from this card are a one-on-one encounter between Bret Hart and Bad News Brown, a live event angle set up from WrestleMania IV's battle royale, and a tag team confrontation between the Young Stallions and the Rougeau Brothers, the latter of the two going through the early stages of a heel turn. With that out of the way, let's head to ringside...
Opening Match: Jerry Allen vs. Steve Lombardi:
I should make a drinking game based on these old school house shows, with one rule being you must take a shot if Steve Lombardi or Iron Mike Sharpe is in the opening match. He's still a ways away from his one and only push as the Brooklyn Brawler, and poor Jerry Allen, he was a decent worker, but had a completely unremarkable run as a weekend scrub and plucky bottom-of-the-card attraction at house shows for most of 1987 through the summer of '88. Monsoon instantly works in a joke about the Terry Garvin School of Self-Defense in regards to Lombardi. Lockup and Lombardi with a slam. Whip is reversed, Allen takes him over with a back drop and a slam of his own, sending Lombardi to the floor. Back inside, Allen works the arm. Lombardi with a slam, but a mule kick keeps him away. Allen with a hip toss for two and it's back to the armbar. Lombardi comes back with a clothesline, followed by some clubberin' blows and another clothesline, sending Allen to the floor. Lombardi misses a charge to the corner, getting rolled up for two. He remains in control, snapmares Allen over and grabs a chinlock. Allen with a slam to escape, but a splash meets the knees. Lombardi goes for a suplex, but it's blocked and countered. Allen with an atomic drop, sending Lombardi shoulder-first into the post. Back drop for two. Scoop slam for two. Hip toss for two. Whip to the corner, Allen comes off the second rope with a body press, and that's good for three at 9:19. Not the worst match I've ever seen featuring Lombardi.
"The Rock" Don Muraco vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine:
No managers at ringside, despite Muraco being "managed" by Billy Graham, and Valentine by Jimmy Hart. I wonder if this was before or after the "Valentine beats the crap out of Graham" angle that aired on Superstars. It's really close to either side of the fence. They start with a knucklelock, with Muraco gaining the advtange. Valentine takes him down with a top hold and grabs a front facelock. Muraco fights free and shoves him to the canvas. He grabs a headlock and comes off the ropes with a shoulder tackle. Criss-cross sequence ends with Muraco taking him over with a hip toss. Lockup to the corner, Valentine with a cheap shot and sends Muraco to the buckle. He lays into him with stiff chops and drops him with an elbow, then drops another elbow for two. He slaps on a chinlock, but Muraco fights free, only to be caught with an atomic drop moments later.
Valentine with a headbutt across the midsection for two. Elbows to the top of the head, and back to the chinlock. Knee drop across the chest for two. Valentine drops him across the top rope, and sends him to the corner, with authority. Muraco no-sells a chop and scares Valentine out of the ring. Back inside, Valentine goes back to putting the boots to him. Slam, followed by a sledge from the top rope. Elbow drop for two. Muraco gets tossed to the floor as Heenan and Monsoon talk about the new stadium... The Skydome. As if that will ever come into play for the WWF. Back inside, it's the abdominal stretch, and yes, Mike Rotundo would be proud. School boy for two, even with a handful of tights. Valentine accidentally drops down across the knees of Muraco. He heads to the top rope, and the law of averages is proven right, as he meets a fist on the way down. Muraco with a snapmare and knee drop, followed by a hip toss. Whip and a clothesline for two. Muraco sets up for the piledriver, but goes with a shoulder breaker, instead. That only gets two. Valentine meets Muraco off the ropes with a pair of elbows and covers for a two count. Muraco shifts his weight on a slam attempt, landing on top for two. Valentine accidentally drops an elbow on the referee, to a babyface pop. Muraco meets a knee on a charge to the corner and rolled up, but the referee calls for the bell at 14:38, giving it to Muraco by Disqualification. Lame finish to a pretty good match.
The British Bulldogs (w/ Matilda) vs. The Islanders:
(Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid vs. Haku & High-Chief Afi)
No, that's not a typo. In the spring of 1988, the WWF introduced a third member of the Islanders, High-Chief Afi, formerly known as Sivi Afi (a.k.a their Jimmy Snuka replacement that nobody liked). Unfortunately for Afi, Tama left the company shortly after, and Haku was pushed in singles action to replace the injured Harley Race as "King of the WWF", leaving Afi with nothing to do. At least he has all those cool tattoos covering the entire bottom half of his body, up to his chest. Dynamite and Afi start. DK with a side headlock, followed by a shoulder tackle and clothesline. He takes Afi over with an arm drag and hooks the armbar. Davey Boy with a headlock and shoulder tackle, followed by a hip toss. Haku tags in and immediately walks into an atomic drop. They go through a sequence of reversals until Davey Boy puts him down with a slam. Dynamite grabs the arm and takes a series of shots across the neck for his troubles. Whip to the corner, Haku misses a body press, and gets caught in an armbar. Dynamite almost hooks a hold resembling a standing Crippler Crossface.
Davey Boy with a snapmare and chinlock. He gets caught in the heel corner and double teamed. Afi with chops to the back and it's time for a tongan nerve hold. Davey escapes with elbows and comes off the ropes with a shoulder for two. Double shoulder tackle by the Bulldogs, and Dynamite with a back breaker for two. Davey Boy with a snapmare and chinlock. Dynamite with a body press for two. Snap suplex and headbutt for another two count. Whip and a stiff clothesline for two. Haku finally turns the tables with a back suplex. Afi works Dynamite over, doing little of note. Choking in the corner with the tag rope. Haku with a standing dropkick. Whip and double elbow from the New Islanders. Afi misses a second rope headbutt, and in comes Davey Boy. He takes Haku over with a back drop, followed by a delay vertical suplex for two. Small package for two. They trade forearms, with Davey Boy getting the upperhand. Running powerslam connects for two. Dynamite comes in to teach Afi a lesson (how to wrestle?). Davey Boy lays Afi out with a clothesline, and covers for three at 11:42, despite Haku being the legal man. Decent work from the Bulldogs and Haku, but Afi really sucked.
Koko B. Ware vs. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan:
If Koko does the job here, I'm going to laugh my ass off. This is a classic example of stretching the card, with other such notables being the "split tag teams up into two singles matches" trick. Maybe Koko will get his job back from WrestleMania IV. I guess this is the first of several "open contracts" Heenan signed, which of course would lead to him being matched up with the Ultimate Warrior for several weeks in the summer. Heenan hides in the corner to avoid locking up, digging into his tights to tease pulling out a weapon. Heenan with trash talking and more hiding in the corner. Heenan gives a dirty look to Frankie and changes corners. Koko lays down, offering Heenan to do something about it. If there's something Koko is exceptional at, it's laying down, looking up at the lights. 3-minutes in, Koko finally lays into him with rights, then sends him to the buckle, and to the floor. Heenan comes back in and goes to the throat. He uses the strap of his singlet to choke Koko. Koko no-sells some rights and starts to Bird-Up. He conncts with a series of headbutts, complete with over-sell from Heenan. Whip to the corner, turning Heenan upside down. Heenan pulls something out and KO's Koko with it for three at 6:08... BWAHAHAHA! I don't need to explain the quality of the match. the Bulldogs come to ringside to scare Heenan off and check on their "good" friend and fellow animal lover.
Jake Roberts & Jim Duggan vs. Andre The Giant & Rick Rude:
Main Event of the evening. The pairings at the time were Duggan/Andre, stemming from Duggan KO'ing Andre with a 2x4 in responde to being cheated at WrestleMania IV, and Rude/Roberts, which stemmed from Rude offering to give Jake's wife the Rude Awakening. Jake and Duggan don't even wait for introductions, rushing the ring and... doing nothing. That pretty much makes the effort pointless. For whatever reason, we clip ahead in the action with Andre and Rude working Roberts over in the corner. Andre with some heavy-duty chops, followed by a headbutt. He continues putting the boots to Roberts, but rams himself into the corner trying to crush him. Duggan tags in and instantly gets worked over with chops and a headbutt. Andre grabs a front facelock, but uses the singlet strap to choke behind the referee's back. Rude with an elbow across the back of the head for two. Whip to the ropes and a collission puts both men down. Rude goes to the wrong corner and takes a well-placed right from Roberts. Andre tags back in and goes back to punishing Duggan. Rude in to pick up the pieces, but he tastes buckle and in comes Roberts. He unloads with rights and lefts, followed by the short-arm clothesline. He meets Andre in the ropes with a knee lift, and takes Rude over with a back drop. Jake sets up for the DDT, but Andre nails him from behind. Duggan comes in behind the referee's back and blasts Rude with the 2x4, allowing Roberts to fall on top for the three count at a clipped 5:26. Andre and Duggan brawl post-match, as we fade to black. Decent action from what was shown. I wouldn't have minded to see the first half.
Final Thoughts: Clocking in at about an hour, the time seemed to breeze on by, with nothing standing out as being fast forward material. Yes, the opener was the typical bottom-feeder affair, but it was short and lively, and the obvious stinker of Koko/Heenan was saved by some pretty good commentary. The rest of the card features solid matches between Valentine/Muraco, the Bulldogs/"Islanders", and a fun main event that was disappointingly cut short thanks to clipping. For rarities sakes, the main event, an appearance of Sivi Afi as a member of the Islanders, and even Koko vs. Heenan makes it a little more interesting to sit through than the usual affairs at the time.
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