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WWF at Madison Square Garden
by Scrooge McSuck
February 19, 1990
Presented on the MSG Network, with Gorilla Monsoon, Hillbilly Jim and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan calling the action. There was a B-Show lineup touring that hit Huntington, WV and Lansing, MI the same day, but no details are available, unfortunately. Among the names listed for the Huntington show, the Rockers, Powers of Pain, and Dusty Rhodes were all advertised. That seems like a bit of a drive for a matinee show.
Tito Santana vs. "Playboy" Buddy Rose:
Yes, this is a rematch to the first match to ever take place in WrestleMania history (back when Rose moonlighted as an Executioner because... I don’t know). Rose takes exception to being introduced at 317 pounds, a gag that never gets old. While never possessing the best body, Rose is easily 75 pounds heavier here than he was in 1985. Rose stalls to remove his shirt while everyone, including the heel color commentator, buries him for his physique. The verbal burial would last all match, by the way, so just putting it out there now. Trust me; every possible opportunity that presents itself results in a fat joke. Santana controls early, working the arm. Rose takes over and falls in love with this weird spot where he lays on his back, then has Santana laid out in a slingshot grip, with Santana’s back resting across his knees. It looks lazy more than punishing, and yes, Monsoon buries Rose more about the execution of this hold as well as his weight. Rose makes a slow trip to the top rope and gets slammed down to give us our first Earthquake of the night. Santana goes for the Figure-Four Leg Lock, but Rose sends him crashing face-first. Santana picks up with the comeback despite the setback, and the Flying Forearm finishes at 16:54. That was quite long for a preliminary match, but this show only has seven matches, so probably going to see guys going long all night. Match had a few moments but was mostly dull and could’ve stood to be trimmed by 5-minutes or so. *¼
"Rugged" Ronnie Garvin vs. Earthquake:
Someone had the right idea to drop the "Canadian" part from Earthquake’s name around the time of the Royal Rumble. I never got adding it in the first place, but it is what it is. Earthquake runs the ropes and jumps up and down to taunt Garvin. Garvin uses his hands of stone to back Earthquake into the corner. Garvin picks the leg and gets clobbered for it. Even his diving splash as a pin attempt has little effect on the Quake. Other than using his fists, nothing is working for Rugged Ronnie. He knocks Earthquake down, but the Reverse Figure-Four attempt is a foolish one. Garvin goes for a flying body press, but Earthquake catches and plants him with a powerslam, and the Vertical Splash finishes at 7:38. Post-match, Earthquake with some "aftershocks", leading to Garvin doing a stretcher job. Not great, but well worked for what it was. Garvin sold big and did everything he could to show he had fight and he was no match for the much larger Earthquake. **
The Red Rooster vs. "The Model" Rick Martel:
By this point, the Rooster wasn’t making appearances on syndication, relegated to Prime-Time exclusives until he would leave the company shortly after WrestleMania VI. I can’t stress enough how much I love Martel’s "Model" theme music. We get a little bit of a surprise as Gorilla Monsoon openly acknowledges how Gorgeous George used to spray the ring with perfume back in the day, and then we get a history lesson on Rooster’s rivalry with Heenan because WHAT ELSE CAN YOU TALK ABOUT. Martel isn’t in a storyline, and Rooster is a geek. Martel showboats a little too much, allowing Rooster to take control. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last long. Heenan teases there will be a new member of the Heenan Family. A week or so later, we got the update on Mr. Fuji selling the Powers of Pain’s contracts individually, with Warlord going to Slick and Barbarian going to Heenan. This is another match where they’re doing very little so they can stretch out the time of the match. Maybe some of the West Virginia guys haven’t arrived yet. That’s always a classic story for prelim matches going ridiculously long. Rooster works the leg before taking a comical bump over the top rope. Martel brings him back in with a suplex for two. Martel with the abdominal stretch, and of course is criticized for not applying it properly. Martel stacks up the Rooster in the corner and puts his feet on the ropes, but the referee sees the chicanery. Rooster goes for a slam, but his back gives out. The comeback is back on, with the Rooster getting near-falls off a sunset flip and inside cradle. Spine-buster and back breaker for another two-count. Diving clothesline for two. Martel avoids a dropkick, and the Boston Crab finishes at 21:21. Yes, they went more than TWENTY MINUTES. Competently worked, but I’m not signing up to watch it again. *½
Hulk Hogan & Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect & The Genius:
This was originally advertised as Hogan working solo, taking on Perfect and the Genius in a handicap match, but we’re throwing Beefcake in there because... I don’t know. Hogan in a 1-on-2 was still a heavy favorite, now Perfect might as well be the handicapped. This one would be recycled for the Coliseum Video, "Super Tape Vol. 2". One of the many instances where the Main Event took place before intermission. At least the Genius arrived, assuming he worked the West Virginia show he was advertised appearing on. Perfect gets a surprising amount of offense on Hogan before taking a comical bump off the big boot, then settles into his usual role of playing a ping-pong ball. Beefcake connects with a high knee, but Perfect gets a foot on the ropes. Perfect uses the Genius’ scroll to bash Hogan across the face, FINALLY giving the heel team a chance to get some heat. Beefcake gets the hot tag, but he’s cut off quickly, so we’re setting up the REAL hot tag to Hogan. He cleans house with the usual and finishes the Genius with a big boot and leg drop at 15:28. Post-match, the Genius gets some of his hair trimmed (get used to it, Lanny), with Hogan passing some of the clipping to fans at ringside. Perfectly acceptable action (pun intended), though the result would never be in doubt. The biggest surprise was the Genius spending most of the match on the apron. **
Sean Mooney is standing by for the intermission and gets interviews with Akeem and Slick, Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire, The Powers of Pain and Mr. Fuji, and The Rockers and Jim Duggan.
"Jumping" Jim Brunzell vs. Bad News Brown:
This was originally advertised as Bad News vs. "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. Brunzell might be a prelim scrub, but it might make the match a little bit better. Maybe. This is Brunzell’s first appearance for a WWF broadcast since Survivor Series 1988, where he did his last job for... Bad News. He would make a handful of appearances on house shows in 1989, probably as emergency fill-in duty. Bad News threatens to take a walk following an atomic drop and clothesline. It doesn’t take long for Brown to take control, doing little of note. Brunzell with a snap mare and leg drop as Monsoon draws comparison to Hogan. Uh-Oh, if Brunzell already wasn’t a jobber, he might’ve been jobbed out as punishment. Brunzell keeps working early 80’s AWA style, targeting the arm with a spinning wristlock. They take the action to the floor, with Brown taking a bump into the guardrail. Brunzell gets greedy and meets the post. There’s almost no mention of Brown’s current storyline with Roddy Piper. It’s not a title feud, but it’s getting decent time on syndicated television. Brown continues to punish Brunzell on the floor, choking him with some cables. He tries using an exposed turnbuckle, but it backfires. Brunzell connects with his signature dropkick, but Brown is too close to the ropes. Brunzell misses a charge to the corner and the Ghetto Blaster (enzuigiri) finishes at 14:39. Another match that went too long with too little happening for most of it. *
Dusty Rhodes (w/ Sapphire) vs. Akeem (w/ Slick):
Forget the Ultimate Challenge, we’ve got the American Dream vs. The African Dream! Insert the quickest, easiest, laziest joke you can about how Akeem was a rib on Dusty Rhodes. Before the bell rings, everyone just dances around in such a goofy visual I can't help but enjoy it. They're clearly going for a comedy match early on, with lots of bad selling and Akeem bumping as Dusty winds up for the bionic elbow. Akeem rakes the eyes and drops a big elbow to take control. Slick gets a cheap shot on the floor that Dusty no-sells. Akeem slows things down more with a bear-hug. Whip to the corner and Akeem misses the charge. Sapphire trots around the ring to yank Slick off the apron. Akeem goes after her, but Dusty makers the save. Slick accidentally hits Akeem with a running high knee, allowing Rhodes to roll back in the ring before the bell, and Akeem is counted out at 9:01. The comedy early on was fun and, dare I say, entertaining. The rest of the match was bad. ¼*
The WWF returns to Madison Square Garden on Monday Night, March 19th. Among those signed for individual competition: The Mighty Hercules and "The Birdman" Koko B. Ware! WWF newcomers the Orient Express make their garden debut against Demolition! The self-professed "World’s Strongest Man" Dino Bravo battles Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake! The undefeated "national disaster" Earthquake will oppose "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan! "The Model" Rick Martel faces "Rowdy" Roddy Piper! Finally, the Ultimate Warrior meets Mr. Perfect! No word on if the Intercontinental Title is being defensed, but they’re pushing hard that Warrior is looking to do what Hogan couldn’t, and that means ending the "Perfect Record."
The Rockers & "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan vs. The Powers of Pain & Mr. Fuji:
Final match of the night. The last time the WWF came to MSG, the Powers of Pain not only defeated the Rockers, but laid a major league beating on Marty Jannetty afterwards. I guess Duggan is here to make sure Fuji doesn’t get involved. Two weeks later, Fuji isn’t even their manager, so this seemed like a waste of time for the Rockers. The Rockers rush the ring for a fight before the bell. Warlord easily over-powers Michaels and pounds away. Michaels hops on his shoulders and gets a bit of assistance from Duggan to take him over. Duggan adds another assist, helping on a synchronized sunset flip spot. Duggan launches Michaels on top of the Warlord for two. Barbarian hits Michaels from the blind side and rams him into the post. Warlord launches Michaels almost out of view of the camera on a back body-drop. Fuji tags in to drop a headbutt across the midsection and apply a nerve hold. Heenan makes fun of a ringside fan that appeared to be upset over Michaels taking a beating. IT’S STILL REAL TO HER! Barbarian misses a diving headbutt and we get the hot tag to Duggan. He fights off both Powers of Pain by himself until the numbers game finally catches up. Jannetty gets the next hot tag and hits Warlord with everything but the kitchen sink. Rockers with a double fist drop from the top for two. Fuji digs into his tights for the salt, but Duggan whacks him with the 2X4 before he could use it, and Jannetty covers for the three-count at 16:37. The heat segment on Duggan was a bit dull with his clumsy bumping and inability to throw himself around like either Shawn or Marty, but the rest was another solid effort between the Rockers and the Powers of Pain. ***
Final Thoughts: Not the strongest show, with a weak card featuring too many matches going long. I’d say give the two biggest matches of the night a look, because there’s no need to watch Martel and Terry Taylor sleepwalk through a 20-minute match or listening to commentary bury a talent for their physique while they stretch 8-minutes' worth of action into twice that length.
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