This week Throwback Thursday goes “old school” as we dig deep into the vault of WWE Network to revisit a classic night of World Wrestling Federation action from the world-famous Boston Garden that took place 32 years ago today!
At this point in 1986 the push was on for WrestleMania 2, which had just been announced. WrestleMania aside, the WWF, like the rest of the industry, was booming at this point in time. On this same night the WWF ran a second show, at the same exact time, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that aired live on PRISM (an event currently unavailable on the Network) and drew a sell-out crowd of 19,710. In total 35,890 fans turned out to watch the WWF live on this night while an untold number of fans watched either event in their homes or local bars.
All but the final two matches of this card ended up airing on either All-American Wrestling or Prime Time Wrestling in late February and mid-March. The final two matches, Steamboat/Muraco and Piper/Sammartino, have never been released on WWE Home Video in the DVD era.
Context is a mess on the Network. While all prior editions of Saturday Night’s Main Event and Tuesday Night Titans are currently available on the Network, as well as a handful of previous Old School programs, Prime Time Wrestling picks up in April of ’86. So it’s easy to enjoy the matches for what they are but understanding their meaning, for younger fans especially, can be very difficult.
There is one major flaw with this edition of “Old School” and that is the complete lack of any milestones on the Network for any of the matches, though I have provided time stamps for each of the bouts here.
WWF on NESN (WATCH)
Date: February 8, 1986 – Location: Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Attendance: 16,180 – TV Rating: N/A
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura – Interviews: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Hulk Hogan
WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion: Tito Santana
WWF Word Tag Team Champions: The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake & Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
WWF Women’s Champion: The Spider Lady/Fabulous Moolah
WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions: The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai & Judy Martin)
The show opens with the usual (great) Old School opening montage. In the arena Gorilla Monsoon welcomes us to the show and he and Jesse Ventura marvel at another sold out Boston Garden show with the fans Whanging from the rafters.W
— Singles Match (WATCH – 1:11)
Paul Christy vs. “Leaping” Lanny Poffo
Lanny reads a poem trashing Piper’s Pit, and that’s about as exciting as this match gets. The boo-birds are out early for this one and they hang around until the very end. This match, Christy’s third in the WWF and first televised bout, is one rest hold after the next and repeat spot after repeat spot. In the end Poffo makes a quick comeback and wins after a moonsault at 9:56.
WINNER is “Leaping” Lanny Poffo (Pin, 9:56)
After replays we go to break and return with the next match already in the ring.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 13:50)
Barry O vs. Siva Afi
This was Afi’s second televised match following the January 27, 1986 Madison Square Garden show. The commentary between Jesse and Monsoon, riffing on Afi’s training and a myriad of other things, is a highlight of this one. Barry O works a typical heel match and there’s just enough action to keep the boo-birds at bay. All in all, it’s not that bad of a match but another match where the heel dominates the better part of the action until Afi makes the comeback and scores the win with a flying crossbody at 7:42.
WINNER is Siva Afi (Pin, 7:42)
As before, we get replays of the finish before going to break, after which the next match is ready in the ring.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 23:14)
Tiger Chung Lee vs. George “The Animal” Steele
This one gets going before the introductions even begin when Lee attempts to attack Steele with his kendo stick. Steele grabs the stick and ends up breaking it in half, much to Lee’s annoyance. Steele tosses the broken stick to Lee who picks it up and, a la Oliver Hardy, flings it to the floor before storming into the ring. This is an entertaining match for what it is despite the “rules” meaning virtually nothing. Steele, obsessed with getting into the turnbuckle pads, eventually turns one of the middle turnbuckle pads around, exposing the bolt, which “Animal” uses to K.O. Lee for the pinfall at 5:44.
WINNER is George “The Animal” Steele (Pin, 5:44)
Again we see a replay, get a break, and come back with the next match in the ring.
— “$15,000 Bodyslam Challenge Match” (WATCH – 30:26)
Big John Studd vs. Hillbilly Jim
The stipulation in this one is pretty simple: Should Hillbilly Jim slam Studd, Hillbilly wins $15,000. The match is power against power with Studd doing all he can to keep Hillbilly Jim down to prevent the bodyslam which Jim goes for again and again. The fight moves to the floor where Hillbilly ends up posting Studd before sliding back in the ring to beat the ten count and pick up the win via count-out at 7:25. After the match Hillbilly Jim grabs the microphone and challenges Studd to come back to the ring so Jim could win the $15,000. Jesse jokes about what a hillbilly would spend $15,000 on as they go to commercial.
WINNER is Hillbilly Jim (Count-out, 7:25)
As usual the next match is in the ring waiting when we come back.
— WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 39:34)
Randy “Macho Man” Savage w/Miss Elizabeth vs. Tito Santana(c)
This is an extremely important match in the annuls of the WWF/E and of the Intercontinental title. The modern lineage of the Intercontinental Championship and its relevance to today’s product can be traced to this match on this night. In all honestly, this is one of my favorite Intercontinental title matches. Santana’s emotions get the better of him as Tito routinely wants to make the match a fight while Savage uses his speed and quick thinking to get the upper hand. The match eventually slows down as both men continue to swap momentum. Santana looks to have the match won and goes for the figure-four leglock when Savage kicks Tito away and climbs to the ring apron. Santana tries to bring Savage in via back suplex when Savage gloms Tito with a foreign object. Savage falls on top of the injured Santana and scores the 1-2-3 at 10:31 to win the lone Intercontinental title of his career to a massive pop from the Boston faithful! After the match Savage tosses the foreign object to the floor where a cameraman picks it up. This marked the end of Santana’s second and final Intercontinental title reign at 217-days. Savage’s reign (as the tenth Intercontinental Champion) would be the second-longest to that point at 414-days, 11-days shy of Pedro Morales’ then-record 425-day reign.
WINNER and NEW WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion, Randy “Macho Man” Savage w/Miss Elizabeth (Pin, 10:31)
We get replays of the finish before seeing an injured and groggy Tito Santana trying to get to his feet.
After a break we come back to Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura in the back interviewing the new Intercontinental Champion Randy Savage. Savage says he’s “real proud” and that it’s a “bad day for Hulk Hogan” since Savage is now the number one contender to Hogan’s WWF World title.
After another break we come back with the next match already in the ring.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 55:31)
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) vs. The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair & “Jumpin'” Jim Brunzell)
This match, as usual with a Foundation/Bees showdown, is a great tag team match. Great psychology, great timing, great story, it all leads to a stellar tag team match as good as any in the business at the time. For those wondering, Jimmy Hart, manager of the Foundation, is in Philadelphia with Adrian Adonis and Terry Funk on this night. A great spot late in the match sees Neidhart inadvertently knock Bret from the apron and through the wooden guardrail at ringside. Minutes later “The Anvil” and B. Brian Blair collide mid-ring. Brunzell tries to help his partner but only serves to distract the referee as Bret Hart, the illegal man, lands a gorgeous elbow from the second rope to score the tainted 1-2-3 at 15:42.
WINNERS are The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) (Pin, 15:42)
As before we see the replays of the finish before going to a commercial break and returning with the next match ready to go.
— “Martial Arts Match” (WATCH – 1:13:39)
“The Magnificent” Don Muraco w/Mr. Fuji vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Before this one starts Steamboat and Muraco bicker over who will wear which color outfit which Steamboat ends when he tosses the white outfit in Muraco’s face. These two had been feuding for the much of the latter half of 1985 and their comfort/trust with one another shows. This one starts out s-l-o-w with a ton of stalling and doesn’t pick up until Muraco takes control. There are a few standout spots, including Muraco sling-shotting Steamboat into a steel chair held by Fuji on the outside which opens Steamboat up, turning the fight into a “Bunkhouse” match. In the end Steamboat reverses Muraco’s tombstone piledriver and makes the big comeback. Moments later Steamboat takes out Fuji, skins the cat, and rolls Muraco up for the pin at 17:22. After the match Muraco goes after Steamboat with Fuji’s cane in a brutal attack that leaves Steamboat laying.
WINNER is Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (Pin, 17:22)
We see the replay of the finish next, but not the post-match attack, before going to break. When we come back the “steel cage” is up. The ring announcer announces the wrestlers but they don’t show up just yet. This gives Jesse and Monsoon the chance to chat about Bruno and how many “cage” matches he’s been in. “Well, I tell ya, Gorilla,” Jesse says, “I think, personally, the ‘Living Legend’ should’ve stuck with commentating—he doesn’t even do that that well—let alone getting inside a cage match with ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper.”
— “Steel Cage Match” (WATCH – 1:33:53)
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino
Piper comes out wearing a Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl Champions T-shirt and tapes up a poster of William “Refrigerator” Perry and Jim McMahon, both Chicago Bears stars, to the east and west sides of the cage which doesn’t make the Boston crowd too happy seeing as the Bears thrashed the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX just 13-days earlier. Bruno is booed before he comes out but Piper’s Bears antics ensure Bruno’s the solid babyface when he finally comes to the ring. This one is a bloodbath with Piper getting opened up mere seconds into this war. Bruno stuffs one Bears poster in Piper’s mouth and the other down Piper’s pants as the “Living Legend” mauls Piper until Piper hits Bruno in the ol’ sausage and peppers as Bruno tries to walk out the door. There is some pretty good drama involving attempted escapes that keeps the fans on the edge of their seat. The last few minutes of the match see Piper’s arse hanging out, which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing. In the end Bruno goes low on Piper and ends up crawling out the cage door when Piper grabs Bruno’s legs. Bruno reaches through the door, grabs a wooden folding chair, and gloms Piper in the face with the chair. As Piper crumbles to the mat unconscious Bruno slithers out the door to the floor to pick up the win at 8:41 to a huge pop.
WINNER is “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino (Escape, 8:41)
In the ring Piper is furious, flinging the chair around the ring before smashing it on the mat. We see replays of the finish before the show fades to black.
Well, if you can get past the first three matches this is a great old school night of WWF action!
The Intercontinental title match is a classic, as is the “martial arts” match (in its own way) and the tag team match, while the Sammartino/Piper “cage” war is as old school as you can get! If you’re a fan of WWF action or you’ve never experienced the WWF from this era (or some of the names) save the big shows this is a great stop to make. You won’t be disappointed!
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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