WWF @ MSG 10.28.91
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, & ‘Lord’ Alfred Hayes
Before the days of WWE giving away their big matches for free on weekly TV, the only non-PPV way you could check out superstars wrestling someone besides nameless jobbers were the semi-frequent events at the company’s home venue, Madison Square Garden in New York City. These shows are essentially videotaped house shows but occasionally feature notable contests and this edition, which aired on October 28, 1991, happens to be one of those with Ric Flair’s first big match in the WWF as well as one of the first appearances of Tito Santana and his ‘El Matador’ gimmick. Okay only one of those things is good but let’s dive in anyway.
Kerry Von Erich vs. Big Bully Busick
A bonafide superstar in the 1980s for his father’s World Class Championship Wrestling promotion, and a former NWA World Champion to boot, Von Erich finally made his way to the WWF in 1990 and was initially successful, unseating Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship. However a whole host of personal demons and skill degradation put the kibosh on any long-term plans so by the time this even rolled around Von Erich was essentially treading water and earning a paycheck as part of the undercard. Busick, a familiar face to those who paid attention to 80s-era jobbers in the Mid-Atlantic region, was finally getting his shot in the big leagues working a lame “bully” gimmick that saw him commit such nefarious acts as the popping of a child’s balloon with a lit cigar. In other words he wasn’t really going anywhere either, despite having arguably the greatest mustache in the history of professional wrestling.
Anyway onto the actual match at hand and they start with some basic back and forth stuff so Monsoon, Heenan, and Hayes can shill Flair’s debut in the Garden later tonight. Von Erich and Busick engage in a test of strength, with the latter bringing the former to the mat for a host of two-counts, despite the fact Von Erich’s shoulder not being on the mat (a fact the announcers pick up on and mock the ref incessantly for). Von Erich misses a corner splash and goes shoulder-first, giving Busick a limb to work on for a few seconds before jumps head first into the Iron Claw. Busick forces a rope break and actually blocks Von Erich’s Discus Punch the first time but Von Erich is successful on the second go around and it’s curtains for the Bully. Nothing particularly memorable or interesting here as both men lacked any chemistry and performed one ugly move after the other. That’s one way to start a show I guess. (7:08)
Final Rating: DUD
Davey Boy Smith vs. Irwin R. Schyster
In typical fashion Schyster cuts a pre-match promo about tax cheats and what-not. Former heel ref turned heel wrestler turned unassuming ref “Dangerous” Danny Davis is handling the officiating for this one. Nice of the WWF to give him another shot, especially in a match where one of the participants is someone he used to regularly screw over during that run (Smith).
Schyster was known as Mike Rotundo (or Rotunda, depending on the territory) and his main mode of heeling it up was to escape the ring and stall for long stretches of time. Fear not because even as an evil tax man he’s still about that life and spends the first few minutes bailing to the floor whenever Smith gets the drop on him. Smith eventually gets dumb and ends up sending himself out to the floor, allowing Schyster to go on the offensive which, because again this is Mike Rotundo(a) we’re talking about, means weardown submission holds while using the ropes for leverage. Smith mounts a comeback but Schyster levels him with a clothesline for a two-count and the action spills to the floor. Monsoon makes mention of how close they’re getting to the time limit so it doesn’t take a hardcore fan to figure out how this one’s about to end. Schyster grabs a tag rope from under the ring and chokes Smith it, but Davis doesn’t disqualify him because of reasons. Smith grabs the other rope and pays Schyster back, but Schyster breaks it up with a low-blow. Smith manages a small package but (SHOCK! AWE!) the bell rings and we’ve got ourselves a draw. Schyster at the time was still undefeated so the WWF felt the need to keep that in-tact while also making sure that Smith, who had just returned earlier in the year, didn’t take the fall either. I understand the reason but oh man was this match like watching paint dry. (20:05)
Final Rating: ½*
After the match Smith calls for five more minutes and Schyster teases fulfilling the request, but instead bails to the back. What a cad.
Jim Neidhart vs. The Mountie
I’m starting to suspect the WWF didn’t bring their A-game to this event. Both Neidhart and Mountie manage to wake the crowd up a little, who were all but dead for the first two matches. Neidhart even calls Mountie a “jailbird” on the house mic, referencing Mountie’s night in jail at SummerSlam 1991 a few months prior.
Neidhart and Mountie do next to nothing for five whole minutes, with the former overpowering the latter at every opportunity and the latter bailing to the floor to reset a couple of times. Finally Hart intervenes and Mountie attacks Neidhart from behind to turn the tide and hopefully get some action going. Mountie smashes Neidhart into the ring steps but the steps make no sound so that was pretty pointless. Mountie continues the attack for a bit until Neidhart mounts his comeback, taking Mountie’s head off with a clothesline for a two-count. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of chemistry in this one either as the very little action we’ve gotten just comes off janky and awkward. Neidhart goes for a knee but hits nothing but turnbuckle and Mountie rolls him up, hands full of tights, for the 1…2…3. There was no reason this match had to go on as long as it did as these two clearly had no ideas for what to do but to be fair at least the crowd cared more about this one than the first two matches so I guess that counts for something. (11:23)
Final Rating: ¼*
Out comes “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, led to the ring by Heenan who has ditched the announce desk for this one. Flair made his Madison Square Garden debut back in 1976 but the commentators treat this as if this is his big debut in the venue. The crowd is on their feet and they give Flair the standing ovation he deserves. Flair’s still doing his “Real World’s Champion” gimmick, carrying around the WCW World Championship belt with him which isn’t obscured on this show (perhaps because WWE owns everything now and don’t have to deal with any potential lawsuits this time around). Monsoon and Hayes make sure to hype a potential match between Flair and the WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan, who isn’t on the show today because he’s got better things to do.
Roddy Piper vs. Ric Flair
The wars between Piper and Flair have been going on since their time in the NWA back in the 80s and it’s rekindled anew for the WWF. Both men are captaining teams next month at Survivor Series so this is like a little preview of that. Flair shoves Piper, Piper slaps him back and it’s on. The ref tries to separate them so Piper sits him on the top turnbuckle to get him out of the way. Awesome. Flair lays into Piper with chops in the corner, Piper fires back with a series of jabs and a backhanded slap, causing Flair to flop to the mat then bail out to the floor to reset. Flair manages to gain control for a beat, hitting his picture perfect kneedrop out of the corner, but Piper quickly mounts a comeback and eventually the ref is bumped so he can’t count Piper’s pinfall. Flair bounces back with a belly-to-back suplex but then makes his usual Flair Folly by climbing to the top turnbuckle which allows Piper to slam him down to the mat. Piper grabs the chair right out from under Hayes and tries to hit Flair with it but the ref grabs it, opening him up to a jab from Flair. Flair then dives through the ropes on top of Piper and covers with his feet on the ropes for the 1…2…3. Tremendously fun for what it was, especially in comparison to what I’ve seen on the show thus far. A total on the fly brawl with some fun spots and a good heel win for the ‘Dirtiest Player in the Game’ to establish himself in the WWF. (12:01)
Final Rating: ***
Sean Mooney is standing by backstage with Flair and Heenan, who spend their time calling out Hulk Hogan for their eventual first encounter.
The Big Bossman vs. Col. Mustafa
Pretty much every wrestling fan remember Mustafa better as the dastardly Iron Sheik, who terrorized the WWF in the 1980s, but by the time 1991 rolled around he was a broken down shell of what he used to be with skinny arms and a huge gut. He had returned earlier in the year as part of Sgt. Slaughter’s evil foreign heel stable but with that angle concluded after SummerSlam he’s just kind of hanging out right now showing up on random shows. This is going to be an ugly one, readers.
Heenan rejoins the announce table to save Monsoon from Hayes’ rambling nonsense. Before the match even starts Irwin R. Schyster makes his way out to declare war on the Boss Man, calling him a tax evader who should be in jail. Fair enough. Mustafa attacks Boss Man from behind with some weak-looking offense and a chinlock. Boss Man clotheslines Mustafa then appears to run to the back to chase after Schyster, who has left the ringside area. But I guess a countout just isn’t happening so Boss Man comes running back to finish the match. With such easy prey I don’t blame him. Mustafa regains the upper hand by hitting Boss Man with a foreign object no one sees that he tucked in his pants (don’t get any weird ideas, I can feel what you’re thinking you weirdo). Mustafa manages a gutwrench suplex but then goes right into his overacted offense, hitting weak forearms while stomping as hard as he can on the canvas for effect. Boss Man eventually stops messing around and almost puts Mustafa through the ring with a standing spinebuster for the 1…2…3. Ugly as sin but at least it was mercifully short; why anyone allowed Mustafa/Sheik to embarrass himself after 1988 I’ll never know but I guess he got the last laugh in the end by becoming and internet sensation. (4:51)
Final Rating: ¼*
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. The Berzerker
Now this is a match I can get into. Hart is one of the best wrestlers ever and at this point was starting to cement himself as a singles star, having just won the Intercontinental Championship a few months prior at SummerSlam in this very arena. The Berzerker, known as John Nord in other circles, had a goofy gimmick where he was a “HUSS”-yelling Viking who threw people out of the ring but he rocked in the role and honestly my nostalgia for the gimmick is so intense I can’t make fun of it. I want to, I just…I can’t, man.
Given Bezerker’s love of getting wins via countout Monsoon smartly assumes the Intercontinental Championship is probably not in jeopardy, which was always a valid and kind of match-shattering issue whenever Bezerker received a title shot. Both men trade right hands to start and soon enough Bezerker is in control via boot during Hart’s corner splash attempt. Berzerker beats Hart down outside of the ring, choking him with a camera cable and everything. Back inside the squared circle Berzerker spikes Hart with a piledriver and actually goes for the lateral press but only gets a two-count. He misses a corner splash and Hart mounts his comeback with the side russian legsweep as well as a second-rope elbowdrop. Hart remembers his finisher is a leg submission so he kicks Bezerker’s leg out from his leg and Berzerker falls into a forced splits. Ouch. Hart goes for the Sharpshooter but gets a thumb to the eye for his troubles, so instead he opts for a Crucifix roll-up for the 1…2…3! Solid matchup here, these two meshed well together. Berzerker had a goofy gimmick but really could wrestle when needed to and Hart was the master of playing the plucky babyface. Solid stuff. (10:18)
Final Rating: **1/2
Tito Santana vs. Hercules
Santana and Hercules are two of my favorite undercard guys from 80s-era WWF so to see them relegated to this is a little sad. This is one of Santana’s first appearances under his new “Matador” gimmick which was supposedly meant to give him a new lease on life in the company but in reality was just a racist and insulting gimmick that turned a solid hand into a joke. Hercules is in Power & Glory mode here, managing to look like he’s aged twenty years in just one with ill-fitting long hair and mustache. Big Bully Busick he isn’t.
Santana taunts Hercules with his pink cape to start (because he’s a bullfighter, get it?) and Hercules actually charges at him. Oh man. I wish I could go back in time and give these guys a hug. Santana has the early offense but Hercules uses his, uh, um, Herculean strength to take control and here we go with a bearhug spot. Wonderful. Santana manages to escape and hits the Flying Forearm (or ‘Flying Burrito’ according to Heenan) but Hercules gets his foot on the bottom rope before the three-count. But…isn’t that Santana’s finisher? Santana rebounds and hits a second Flying Forearm, this time to the back of Hercules’ head for the 1…2…3. Match wasn’t terrible outside of the bearhug spots and the fact Hercules wasn’t felled by the first forearm. Kind of took the wind out of the sails a little bit. (9:12)
Final Rating: **
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Legion of Doom (c) vs. The Natural Disasters
The Legion of Doom began their first WWF Tag Team Championship reign a few months prior at SummerSlam and were immediately programmed into a feud with The Natural Disasters, who also had formed around that time. The Skyscrapers they weren’t but for those who love a good hoss fight this isn’t bad on paper. The crowd is obviously all about L.O.D. because it’s L.O.D. and L.O.D. rules. Did I mention L.O.D. yet? L.O.D.
Being that this is the main event both teams get that ‘behind the curtain’ entrance where the camera catches them walking by en route to heading out to the arena. Love that touch, still wish it was used today. All four men get into an intense staredown and a shoving match breaks out but the ref manages to get them under control for the bell to the ring and the match to start. Hawk and Typhoon start off, the latter clotheslining the former. Hawk gets a foot up during a corner splash attempt and takes Typhoon off his feet with a double axhandle. Earthquake comes in to break the count and all four men stare one another down in the ring once more. Animal and Earthquake both tag in and The Natural Disasters take over when Animal’s attempt to bodyslam him fails. Earthquake is huge, in case you forgot. The Disasters take turns squeezing the life out of Animal. Hawk gets the tag but the ref doesn’t see it and the ref is accidentally knocked over to boot. Nice. Eventually Hawk gets the hot tag for real and lays into both Disasters until a donnybrook breaks out and Hawk gets sent to the floor. Earthquake and Typhoon take turns splashing Animal and throw the ref out of the ring, earning a Disqualification for absolutely no reason and that’s your big MSG main event everyone! This was an even-keeled hoss fight, almost like they were just testing the waters for a L.O.D./Diasasters match instead of actually focusing on having a good one. I dug what was there enough, though. (8:02)
Final Rating: **
Hawk reemerges and clears the ring of the Disasters, letting the Tag Team Champions stand tall to end the show while Monsoon announces that Hogan Vs. Flair will happen in December here at MSG! Nice. Hopefully the WWF doesn’t bungle it and this becomes a longstanding feud in the company. Ahem.
Summary: Like most televised MSG events this was just a house show that happened to have video cameras. It started off really rocky for the first three matches then turned around once Flair and Piper had their contest. By the end I wasn’t regretting watching this event, but it is most definitely not essential viewing. Good fodder for background noise while you’re doing other things perhaps.