WWE Old School: Madison Square Garden – February 20, 1989

The Chrononaut Chronicles – WWE Old School: Madison Square Garden – Monday, February 20, 1989

– Hosted by Rod Trongard & Lord Alfred Hayes. Thankfully, this broadcast would be Trongard’s final WWF appearance.

– Iron Mike Sharpe vs. Jim Powers

Iron Mike is introduced as “Canada’s Strongest Man,” no doubt upsetting the legion of Dino Bravo fans from coast to coast. Jim Powers refuses a handshake and Sharpe does some of his world-class stalling before grabbing a headlock, but Powers escapes and avoids Sharpe’s ill-advised dropkick attempt. The commentators discuss the Powers of Pain & Mr. Fuji vs. Demolition handicap match coming up at WrestleMania V while Powers executes a vertical suplex for a two-count and works over Sharpe’s unprotected arm, but Sharpe gets tied in the ropes Andre-style and boots Powers when he charges at him. Iron Mike batters the Young Stallion until Powers mounts a comeback and barely touches Sharpe with a dropkick to knock him down for a near-fall. Sharpe reverses an Irish-whip and sets for a back-bodydrop, but Powers wraps up Sharpe in a small package for the 1-2-3 at 12:14. * Pretty basic, typical opening match on a WWF house show in the ’80s.

– The Brooklyn Brawler (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. The Red Rooster

I believe this will be the first Red Rooster match I’ve ever recapped, so please excuse the requisite “MAN, what a stupid gimmick” comment, but MAN, WHAT A STUPID GIMMICK! And no, the fact that people still remember the gimmick doesn’t make it successful; people still remember Fonzie jumping the shark, does that mean it was a good thing? Trongard recalls that the Brawler sucker-punched the Rooster in the Prime Time Wrestling studio to set up this match as the Brawler introduces Bobby Heenan, who walks out and distracts the Rooster while Lombardi attacks Taylor from behind to start. Rooster mounts a comeback and unloads, but Brawler counters a back-bodydrop with a kick to the face and removes his dirty, tattered Yankees t-shirt to choke Rooster with it. Brawler puts the shirt back on and controls Rooster with a chinlock as Taylor keeps trying to fight out and finally escapes, but Lombardi takes him right back down in the chinlock. The Rooster finally escapes for good, but the Brawler clotheslines him over the top rope and the Rooster comes back in with a sunset flip for a two-count as the crowd is surprisingly hot.

Rooster backslides Brawler for another hot near-fall, but the Brawler gouges the Rooster in the throat and goes back to the chinlock. Taylor back-suplexes out of it and lifts Lombardi for a bodyslam, but the Brawler crashes down on top of him for two and reapplies the chinlock until the Rooster pecks his way out and shows great babyface fire as he mounts a comeback. The Rooster unloads on the Brawler and knocks him out to the apron with the patented Fivearm flying forearm before suplexing him back in, but Heenan grabs Rooster’s leg and Brawler crashes down on top of him to steal the pinfall at 14:40, which is the same finish the Brain would use at WrestleMania V to help Rick Rude pin the Ultimate Warrior. See, if Warrior had done his homework, he wouldn’t have fallen for that trick. Afterwards, Heenan runs away while the Rooster clears the Brawler from the ring with a dropkick and protests the decision. **1/2 Surprisingly good, despite the chinlocks, as Taylor showed great babyface fire and got the crowd hot while Lombardi was decent in his role. This, of course, set up the epic Rooster/Heenan match at WrestleMania.

– Akeem (w/Slick) vs. Big John Studd

Slick and his awesome “Jive Soul Bro” entrance theme accompany the African Dream, while Big John gets a good reaction in his first match back in MSG since late 1986. This would also mark his final MSG appearance. Studd takes the early advantage and armdrags Akeem, but Akeem clubs away to fell the big redwood and wrenches his back attempting a bodyslam. Akeem keeps pounding away and tries another bodyslam, but his back gives out and Studd lands on top for a two-count. Big John unloads on Akeem and clotheslines him over the top rope as they slug it out on the floor and the referee counts them both out at 7:49. Afterwards, Studd roars that he didn’t come back to MSG for a double-countout and drags Akeem back in the ring, following through on his threat to impressively bodyslam the 450-pound African Dream. * Solid “clash of the titans” type match with a bullshit finish. There was no reason Studd couldn’t have pinned Akeem considering he won the 1989 Royal Rumble and Akeem was mainly a tag team wrestler at the time.

– The Brooklyn Brawler inexplicably gets MORE mic time as he comes out to brag about beating the Red Rooster and offers a rematch anytime, anyplace.

– The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers vs. The Bushwhackers

No Jimmy Hart, but the Rougeaus are accompanied by their tremendous “All American Boys” entrance song. All four men brawl to start and the Bushwhackers whip the Rougeaus into each other before Jacques & Raymond bail out. Luke & Butch play to the crowd and Jacques blindsides Luke, but the Bushwhackers drive the Rougeaus from the ring again and work the crowd some more with their usual antics. I didn’t know it at the time since we didn’t get NWA/WCW here, but it’s amazing how Vince took a pair of notoriously violent rulebreakers like the Sheepherders and got them over as friendly fun-loving babyfaces in the WWF using many of the same mannerisms they did as heels. Raymond applies an abdominal stretch on Butch, but Luke bites Ray’s ass to save his cousin and Butch bites Jacques’ derriere as the Rougeaus stall and complain to the referee about being bitten. In a funny bit, Butch points out to the ref that Luke doesn’t have any teeth and therefore is innocent. Story checks out, at least.

Jacques offers a handshake, but Luke punches him and Jacques fires back with a beautiful dropkick as the Rougeaus isolate Luke and choke him with the tag rope behind the ref’s back. The Rougeaus control Luke with double-teams, frequent tags, and illegal switching until Luke finally makes the tag, but the ref doesn’t see it and ushers Butch back out while the Rougeaus set up a double-team. However, Luke ducks and Jacques accidentally nails Raymond with a flying kneelift off the ropes before the hot tag is officially made to Butch, who marches in and cleans house on both Rougeaus. Raymond trips up Butch from ringside and Jacques covers him, but Luke hits Jacques and Butch rolls on top for the three-count at 12:15 as the crowd erupts. Damn they’re hot tonight. *** Great comedy match with good tag team psychology, as the Bushwhackers and the Rougeaus were perfect foils for each other and meshed well together, plus the fans loved it.

– “Ravishing” Rick Rude (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake

Bobby Heenan seconds Rick Rude, who addresses the crowd as “inner-city swampsows” when he removes his robe to show us “the body that made the Ultimate Warrior look like a little boy.” I miss you, Ravishing Rick. Rude tries to intimidate Beefcake with a double-bicep pose, but Brutus motions for Rude to kiss his ass and overpowers him early on, so Rude bails out and Beefcake stomps Heenan’s hand on the apron when he’s not paying attention. Back inside, the Barber pounds the Ravishing One until Rude takes him out of the corner with an inverted atomic drop to gain the advantage and applies a chinlock, but Beefcake fights out and goes for a splash off the ropes. However, Rude gets the knees up (I guess Brutus learned that splash from Ricky Steamboat) and goes back to the chinlock, but switches to a choke while Heenan distracts the referee. Stomachbreaker gets a two-count and Rude chinlocks Beefcake again as Brutus battles out and attempts a piledriver, but Ravishing Rick back-bodydrops out of it and clubs away.

This time it’s Rude who uses the Steamboat Splash as Beefcake gets the knees up, but Rude rakes the eyes to blind Brutus and ducks the Barber’s wild swings until Brutus outsmarts him and drills him with an inverted atomic drop. Brutus unloads on Rick and clamps on his trademark sleeperhold, but Rude gets his foot over the bottom rope just before his arm drops for the third time. Lord Alfred accuses the Brain of putting Rick’s leg on the rope, although that wasn’t the case, as Rude leverages Beefcake face-first into the turnbuckle and dives off the top with a fistdrop for a near-fall. Beefcake rolls up Rude to score the pin at 18:48 and the crowd loves it. Afterwards, Rude dumps Beefcake through the ropes and flees the scene when the Barber comes back in with scissors in hand. **3/4 Solid stuff, although if this had happened a year or two later (barring Beefcake’s accident) I bet it would have been a PPV main event and they could have hit ***+ as both guys were really coming into their own in terms of ringwork.

– It must be intermission time as Sean Mooney interviews the Fabulous Rougeaus, who issue a challenge for a rematch with Dino Bravo in their corner if the Bushwhackers can find someone to join them.

– Mooney recaps how Greg Valentine recently attacked Jim Neidhart during a match against the Honky Tonk Man and interviews the Anvil, who vows to rip off the Hammer’s shinguard tonight and “do the wild thing” all over him. Eww.

– Mooney interviews WWF Champion Randy Savage, who refers to MSG as the home of Macho Madness and promises to preview what he’ll do to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania V when he hurts the Ultimate Warrior tonight.

– King Haku (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. Rick Martel

Bobby Heenan comes out with Haku and demands that everybody stand up to pay respect to the King, but the crowd just boos as the Brain suggests the microphone must not be working. This is Rick Martel’s first match back in MSG after his injury, as he withstands an early ambush and snaps off some hiptosses and armdrags to send Haku scurrying out to the floor. Back inside, Martel works over the arm until Haku breaks an armbar, but Martel rolls him up for a two-count and armdrags him back into the armbar. Martel hammerlocks the arm and rams the shoulder into the turnbuckle, but Haku breaks out again and Martel springs off the middle turnbuckle with a crossbody for two. The future Model goes right back to the armbar until Haku sidesteps a charge and Martel goes sailing through the ropes. Haku cinches in a front-facelock in the ring and pounds the neck area, but Martel hits a crossbody for two.

Haku goes back to the front-facelock until Martel breaks it by ramming Haku into the corner a few times. Martel sets for a back-bodydrop, but Haku clubs him across the neck and scores a near-fall off a shoulderbreaker before applying the dreaded trapezius nerve pinch and then back to the front-facelock. Martel counters into a small package for two and even executes a vertical suplex, but Haku tenaciously holds onto the front-facelock. Martel finally jars him with an inverted atomic drop and they slug it out as the Strike Force member mounts a comeback. Back-bodydrop and a backbreaker each get two and Martel applies an abdominal stretch, but Haku hiptosses out and misses a sweet somersault splash off the ropes. Martel locks Haku in the Boston Crab, but the bell rings as the 20-minute time limit has expired. Oh, that old chestnut. Afterwards, Martel drives the King out of the ring with a pair of dropkicks. *** Good psychology with Martel’s early arm work and Haku going after Martel’s injured neck, and the finish made sense as both guys needed to be kept strong going into WrestleMania.

– Greg “The Hammer” Valentine vs. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart

The Anvil pounds the Hammer to start and tries to remove the shinguard, but Valentine bails out and takes the advantage with a forearm blast off the top turnbuckle for a two-count. Neidhart comes back with shoulderblocks, but runs into a knee and Valentine drops the elbow for two. Valentine ruthlessly zeroes in on Neidhart’s leg and works it over until the Anvil fights back and scoops him up for a bodyslam, but the knee gives out and the Hammer lands on top for two before going back to work on the damaged joint. Valentine adjusts the shinbrace and tries to hook the figure-four, but Neidhart rakes the eyes to stop him and Valentine tries the figure-four again. However, Neidhart kicks him off and uncorks a nice dropkick as he unloads on Valentine and gives him a taste of his own medicine by wrapping his leg around the ringpost. The Anvil keeps trying to remove the shinguard and the referee intervenes, but Neidhart shoves the ref off while Valentine removes the brace himself and whacks Neidhart with it for the pin at 8:06. **1/2 Nice stiff match-up that told a good story and helped to build up the Hart Foundation reunion against the Hammer & Honky Tonk Man at WrestleMania V.

– Non-Title: “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior

This non-title bout is champion vs. champion as the Macho Man is the WWF Champion and the Ultimate Warrior is the Intercontinental Champion. Savage pounces on Warrior as soon as he steps through the ropes, but Warrior no-sells it and knocks Savage to the floor with a flying shoulderblock off the ropes. The crowd is electric as Warrior presses Savage back into the ring, but Savage scurries back out and lures Warrior outside again in order to slide back inside first and attack the Warrior as he’s sliding in. The Macho Man dives off the top turnbuckle with a flying bodypress, but the Ultimate One catches him and hangs him in the TREE OF WOE as he stomps away and throws chops when Savage regains his proper vertical base. Warrior unloads on Savage, but misses a charge in the corner and Savage knocks him through the ropes with a knee to the back. The WWF Chanmpion follows his opponent by diving off the top turnbuckle with the flying double-axhandle all the way out to the floor. That’s still awesome no matter what year it is.

Back inside, Savage snaps Warrior’s throat across the top rope and chokes away for a two-count, then follows up with a kneedrop to the throat for two and continues to focus his attack on the Intercontinental Champion’s throat. The Warrior breaks free of a chinlock, but Savage clotheslines him down for two and connects with the flying double-axhandle off the top for barely a one-count as Warrior does the power-kickout and reverses a vertical suplex for two. Rick Rude appears at ringside and starts flexing, but the Warrior actually remains focused and lands an atomic drop for a near-fall as the WWF Champion gets his foot over the bottom rope. In an unintentionally funny moment, Warrior stops to argue with the referee just as Lord Alfred is praising him for not letting Rude distract him. Savage rolls up Warrior with a handful of tights for a near-fall and Warrior faceplants him, but Savage gets the knees up when Warrior goes for a splash off the ropes. At least it makes sense for Warrior to use a splash since he always does it.

Macho covers for a near-fall and pounds away, but the Warrior no-sells and hulks-up as he levels Savage with a clothesline and plants him with a running powerslam. Instead of going for the pin, Warrior goes after Rude at ringside and Savage drops the double-axhandle off the top as the ref counts Warrior out at 9:34. Afterwards, Rude and Savage shake hands and embrace (what a heel combo they could have made in the early ’90s) but the Warrior returns to send the crowd home happy by hurling the Macho Man over the top rope and Gorilla-pressing the Ravishing One. ***3/4 Really good Savage/Warrior match. They always had great chemistry together and I loved the classic Savage psychology of targeting the throat, but I hated the finish because Warrior was able to ignore Rude… right until the end, when he randomly went out after him. It looked like maybe Rude missed his cue to interfere or something. Other than that, really entertaining match-up thanks mainly to the Macho Man.

Afterthoughts: Entertaining house show to build to WrestleMania V (“The Mega-Powers EXPLODE!”) with one of the earliest Savage/Warrior matches in the WWF and some other midcard programs that would lead to WrestleMania such as Rooster/Brawler, Valentine/Neidhart, and Rougeaus/Bushwhackers. Even Martel/Haku could have been tied into WMV if the commentators had suggested that Heenan wanted Haku to soften up Martel for Strike Force’s big reunion match against the Brain Busters. I remember seeing pictures from this show as a kid in one of the Pro Wrestling Illustrated family of magazines – I’m thinking it was Inside Wrestling, with a story about Savage possibly joining the Heenan Family because Rude helped him, and a “Battle of the Sex Symbols” recap of Beefcake/Rude – so it was pretty cool to finally see it.

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