As many of you are aware, WWE Network is pretty packed with all sorts of content. And as you may also know, we here at Place to Be Nation love long term, in depth projects. So, as part of this initiative, JT Rozzero, Chad Campbell, Jason Greenhouse, Scott Criscuolo & Dan McGinn are starting in 1975 and are planning to watch the entire offering of the WWE Network chronologically. They have plotted their course and after watching each program, they will share their thoughts, notes and recommendations with our readers. So, settle in and enjoy this epic ride through wrestling history!
Madison Square Garden House Show 1/23/84~
Run Time: 1:56:57
Tony Garea vs. Jose Luis Rivera
The Invaders vs. Mr. Fuji & Tiger Chung Lee
Chief Jay Strongbow vs. The Masked Superstar
Ivan Putski vs. Sgt. Slaughter
Salvatore Bellomo vs. Paul Orndorff
Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik – WWF Heavyweight Title
Jimmy Snuka vs. Rene Goulet
Andre the Giant, Rocky Johnson & Tony Atlas vs. Afa, Sika, & Samula – Best of Three Falls
JT: The match itself really wasn’t much but man the heat and big match atmosphere for Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik was just through the roof. Also, it is one of the most iconic moments in wrestling history, so it easily wins the MOTN award here tonight. Nothing else really stood out from a workrate perspective to challenge it legitimately. Plus Sheik snuck in some good moves and Hogan executed his strikes with authority so it was by no means a shit match. Plus, you know, Hulk Hogan, WWF Champion. Full show match ratings: 1/2*, *3/4, *, **, *3/4, **1/4, 1/4*, *
Chad: On a show with no stand out in ring action, it feels pretty easy to slot in the monumental moment of Hogan defeating the Iron Sheik. That match was an entertaining sprint and showed that Hogan was going to be the next huge star within the organization.
Jason: The Invaders vs Fuji and Chung Lee was the best workrate match, but there’s no way I can choose that over Hulk and Sheik. Five minutes of adrenaline rush that’s still an instant classic over 30 years later. History was surley made in the Garden this evening.
Dan: Um, is it possible to pick a match that didn’t involve a major title change, an atmospheric shift in the professional wrestling galaxy and one of the most iconic moments to quote Tony Schiavone “in the history of our sport?” I don’t have the stones at least to make such a pick. It’s Hogan/Sheik all the way!
Scott: The main event was a lot of fun and for workrate purposes I really liked the draw with Lee/Fuji against the Invaders as well as Muraco/Tito but obviously you have to go with Sheik and Hogan purely for historical purposes. It was the match that brought forth the era that made us wrestling fans and I will stick by it.
JT: Despite giving a little too much offense to Sal Bellomo, I thought Paul Orndorff was tremendous in his MSG debut. He oozed arrogance and I loved how often he mugged for the crowd throughout the match. His offense was hard hitting and crisp and you could tell he had what it took to be a top level heel right away. Roddy Piper was really good at ringside as well. Great heel package. Obviously big shout out to Hulk Hogan too, as he was full of fire while he wrecked Iron Sheik to take home the gold in front of a rabid crowd.
Chad: Hulk had his big moment here and he rose to the occasion and felt appropriate in the role. We have seen throughout wrestling history a bevy of guys that for one reason or another they don’t exceed when given the chance, Hogan did here and connected with the mainstream audience like few others in wrestling history. His work here made the belt feel important and that he was signifying that his time was now.
Jason: I really enjoyed heel, prick Paul Orndorff here during his debut, but Sheik gets the nod from me. He did the right thing and helped make Hogan look like a million bucks during their match and his post match selling topped off everything. I tip my hat to Mr. Humble himself.
Dan: Hulkamania is here! That’s Gorilla’s famous line from this evening and it signified the beginning of one of the most dominant title reigns in company history as well as bringing pro wrestling into previously uncharted waters of pop culture. A baby faced Terry Bollea didn’t shy away from the spotlight of MSG as from the moment he walked down that hallway and through the curtain, he had superstar written all over him. He flashed his power moves, took some licks by the Sheik, finished with a flourish by dropping the leg and changed the game in three seconds. Huge moment, place went crazy, and the champagne went flying. A lesser man may have wilted under the pressure of being the new face of the company. Hulk Hogan shined brilliantly to kick off 1984.
Scott: The matches all had guys with working boots on so it’s tough to pick a real strong performance but I can go with either Iron Sheik’s selling of the glorified squash or perhaps Sergeant Slaughter trying to put over Ivan Putski’s terrible offense. Even the opener with Garea and Rivera was a pretty serviceable match. Let’s see, I will go with the Sheik for doing the right thing even after the rumor that Verne Gagne offered a bounty to Sheik to take Hogan out. Sheik warmed the belt for a month and then laid down for what will be the beginning of a new era.
JT: I was really surprised at how great shape Ivan Putski was in. He was ripped. Also surprising was how much offense Sal Bellomo got in on Paul Orndorff in his MSG debut. I thought his spurt was going to be a brief tease to work the crowd but he ended up getting a batch of offense in. Finally, I was surprised to see Hulk Hogan’s parents in the locker room, but that was a great moment and interview that really enhanced the celebration and moment.
Chad: Besides the racist Japanese comments, I liked the pairing of Gorilla and Pat. I actually thought they had a lot of good insight and really worked at putting over the new faces in the organization like Masked Superstar and Orndorff that will have big roles going forward.
Jason: I was surprised Mr. Wonderful didn’t destroy useless Sal Bellomo in shorter time than he did. I understand why the match was longer than it should have been, as it was a good way to highlight Orndorff and Piper for the debuts. Also, a shout out to The Invaders for being a very impressive tag team.
Dan: I’m always shocked to see that Chief Jay Strongbow isn’t dead when we watch these shows. His man boobs are really starting to sag by this point. Vince, for the sake of everyone with above average vision, get this guy off camera. I’m also surprised how much I enjoyed that title match. I always thought it was a quick squash but Sheik looked great, got his licks in and Hogan looked larger than life in victory.
Scott: I was surprised a huge star like Roddy Piper didn’t wrestle at this show. He perhaps was still selling injuries from the dog collar match at Starrcade since that was less than two months before this show. He did second Paul Orndorff to the ring, not the first time these two would be business partners in the early days of the Federation Era. Otherwise nothing really surprised me here, just a typical mid-80s house show fodder.
JT: I expected more of a wild brawl between The Sarge and Ivan Putski and instead we ended up with a lot of stalling and not much of a pace until late in the match. The last few minutes and post match were really fun, just took a little too long to get there. It could have been a sneaky classic if they cut that closing pace the whole way through.
Chad: This whole card was pretty dreadful. It featured a lot of huge stars from the 1980s but Slaughter and Superstar were matched up with relics for an era that has passed. Orndorff looked really good in his debut but Sal got way too much offense on him in their match. A 20 minute tag draw and the drawn out Putski vs. Sarge match made the show drag overall to get through.
Jason: Serge and Putski could have had some blood to finish their match. It was a hot finish, but some juice to end a wild brawl would have been a nice way to cap off this match. An honorable mention goes to the IC title match between Tito and Muraco being cut from is version. I’m a big fan of both guys and it would have been OK cutting the Cheif Jay and Masked Superstar bore fest.
Dan: All I kept hearing about was this Tito Santana match for the IC belt from Patterson and Gorilla and did we actually get to see it on this night? Hell no. Stupid editing or curfew rules. That was a pretty tough cut considering they kept on matches that involved Ivan Putski, Rene Goulet and Jose Luis Rivera. I have a sneaking suspicion though that we will be seeing plenty of the man they called “Chico” in several of these columns down the road. [Sings] Don’t cry for me Tito Santana!
Scott: Even though we didn’t get to see the match here, they should have called an audible at this show and had Tito Santana win the Intercontinental Title from Magnificent Muraco and really make this one of the memorable house shows of all time. The Tag Team Champions (Tony Atlas & Rocky Johnson) were in the six-man main event so they didn’t defend their titles. Tito would win the IC belt a few weeks later in Boston, but I think they should have called it here and ended with Tito and Hulk Hogan as the babyfaces of the moment.
JT: Nothing screams “1984 house show” quite like this opener; The Invaders have some swank jackets on and I did not expect them to be faces; It is weird seeing Mr. Fuji with the long hair; That tag team draw was a little better than I expected; The crowd still loved the Chief but him constantly going for the mask got old quick in his match and I was glad to see Superstar grab the victory; Ivan Putski looks really damn good here; Sarge’s bump after the bell was really wild and worth checking out; Was neat seeing Roddy Piper here just a couple of months after watching he and Greg Valentine wreck each other at Starrcade; Nice added bonus to the importance of this show with it featuring Paul Orndorff’s MSG debut; Bellomo had a really fun and energetic initial comeback that got the crowd fully engaged but then he got much more offense than needed; The MSG crowd was batshit for Hulk Hogan and really fired up to see him dethrone the hated Sheik, what an atmosphere; Sheik was the perfect heel transitional champion as he was believable enough to be champ but not worth enough to protect in any way, so having Hogan basically squash him and kill his finisher here was fine; Jimmy Snuka vs. Rene Goulet should the dictionary definition of a cool down match, and I was glad it was a quickie; I like how Gorilla calls Samula the “number three Samoan” to make sure we know his ranking; the face team had some strong star power and it was a credit to the roster that they could roll Andre the Giant out there to close the show and make it not the end of the card feel anticlimactic or tacked on after the big title switch; Andre sitting hard on Samula for the win was a good finish to the main event
Chad: Quite the synth heavy opening for the show. Patterson and Gorilla on commentary is a unique pairing that I am interested to hear throughout the night. Garea still has immaculate hair. Garea and Rivera had a pretty decent opener especially by MSG opening match standards. I appreciated that it was short instead of a 15 minute headlock fiesta. A rare glimpse at the Invaders in the WWF. Mr. Fuji has let his hair grow out and it looks pretty gnarly. I have no idea what Invader I was doing when he kept jumping over the ropes into the ring and the right back out onto the apron. Here is our long draw of the night. The action here wasn’t that bad, but it was too long and could have used some editing. Fuji really is despicable in his portrayal as everything he does is heelish. Pat does let us know that Fuji owns a lot of rice deals in Japan. We also get Gorilla calling a Fuji sneak attack a Pearl Harbor job and a soy sauce comment right after. Gorilla lets us know that Chief Jay vs. Superstar would be a main event in any arena. Chief honestly looks 55 years old here, it feels like my dad out there wrestling. Glad to see Superstar win at least. Slaughter has a great look to him and a big star feel on this show so far. The match he has with Putski will never end. Gorilla continues with the quirks by busting out “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” The clothesline Sarge gives was great. Sarge not able to beat Putski clean and have Ivan actually clean house on him after the bell was some dubious booking. Paul drops a damn and Mean Gene looks appalled. Piper as the manager is interesting and he has some weird marks on his face. I liked Pat not giving a shit whether Piper likes him or not. Sal is getting way more offense in than I would have figured. Swank piledriver from Paul to put him away. Heat for Sheik vs. Hogan is pretty great. Hogan isn’t immortal yet, only incredible according to Fink. The build to the legdrop is pretty amazing and the roof blows off of MSG at the pin. We get the usual clean up nonsense at the end of the MSG shows after the big matches.
Jason: The opening package featuring the NYC skyline got me super pumped to watch this. How great is Howard Finkel? “Good evening, ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Madison Square Garden.” Man, that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Pat and Gorilla hyping the main event two minutes into the opening match showed how huge this show was going to be. Also, I can listen to Pat Patterson speak all day long. Santos Ramos could be the best referee name of all time. Tony Garea has the body of an old man roaming the beach in Miami. The Invaders were a pleasure to watch. What a fun team! Mr. Fuji with long hair seems very out of place. A nice job by Fuji and Tiger Chung Lee bumping around for The Invaders. Exactly how old was Chief Jay Strongbow here? My guess would be 92. Ivan Putski discovered ICOPRO before it was a thing. Dude was JACKED and the Garden faithful loved him. Sergeant Slaughter is such a great heel. I enjoyed the post match brawl between Serge and Putski. Right off the bat Orndorff and Piper had the Garden crowd by the balls. Such great heel heat by two of the best of all time. Gene calling out Sheik about speaking English was awesome. The Ayatollah Blassie!!! The crowd was ready to charge the ring the second Sheik and Blassie came out. The shot of Hogan walking down the hallway to come through the curtain is so iconic and still holds up just fine. MSG came unglued when Hogan hit the ring. My God, what a moment! When Hogan gets the three count, I think my TV shook. One of the coolest moments in wrestling history. I’m not a fan of the green title belt. Thank goodness it would get an upgrade shortly after this match. Andre, Putski and Rocky joining Hulk in the locker room is so cool. Hogan was so hyped; “It just turns me on, Mean Gene.” Poor Jimmy Snuka being the cool off match after Hogan and Sheik. Tony Atlas must be on the same “workout” plan as Ivan Putski. All three Samoans were great bumping around for the babyface trio. Andre plopping down on Samula was terrific.
Dan: So it would appear as though WWF discovered cheesy 1980s animation since our last outing in New York. Hey Fink, nice orange puffy shirt! Did Pat Patterson say “the smallest midget” in our opener? The Invaders look like a cross between The Blue Blazer and the Masked Assassins from Starrcade. According to Wikipedia, Invader #1 would go on to be the guy who murdered Bruiser Brody in the shower. I better be careful of what I say about that guy for the rest of this article. Did you know the Masked Superstar actually showers in a mask? Now that is dedication to the gimmick! I loved Pat’s line when justifying Superstar’s anger about Strongbow going for his mask. “He has the right to be hot, It’s not like he’s trying to pull Strongbow’s tights off.” Did anyone else chuckle at that or is it just me? Hey, didn’t Ivan Putski used to be fat? Another great quote came from Orndorff when he said in his promo that Bellomo was “more than just a spagetti eater to me.” Wow they could get away with a ton back in the 80s couldn’t they?
Scott: Ah, the old school MSG microphone logo. Nothing more to say; This was the first house show at MSG where they lightened the place up and added the red, white and blue ropes. The true “MSG” look that we all knew and loved in our childhood; It’s amazing how much we as kids loved long matches involving low mid-card guys; It’s funny how announcers during house shows were so full of inside jokes and gags that nobody understood. It was almost like they knew it was a limited audience so they could let loose a little bit and be funny; Even though it ended in a dopey draw, the Invaders/Fuji & Lee match was pretty decent; After having that beer belly in the 1970s, it was clear Ivan Putski was stopping at the Tampa pharmacy for prescriptions by 1984; The pop when Hogan wins the title is off the charts, still a chilling moment; Every time I see Salvatore Bellomo I think of the “Pizza Man” comment Piper gives him later in the year during a Pit
Consensus Best WWE Network Match to Date: Roddy Piper vs. Greg Valentine (NWA Starrcade 11/24/83)
Consensus Worst WWE Network Match to Date: Ivan Putski vs. Baron Von Rashcke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)
JT: This was pretty much a one match show and even that match was all about The Moment. Hulk Hogan knocking off the Iron Sheik is an iconic, industry changing title bout and that needs to weigh in heavily here. I also felt it was match of the night from a pure quality standpoint as well. The rest of the card was pretty basic house show fare and we didn’t get much in the way of workrate, but such is life in the early 80s WWF. Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper debuting in MSG is a huge moment too and I really enjoyed Mr. Wonderful’s tussle with the feisty Sal Bellomo. The commentary was solid and the crowd was hot, both adding to the enjoyment and fairly quick pace to the show. This is a bit of an overrate based on the atmosphere, booking, importance and the iconic moment but for a show loaded with poor matches, this was a really easy watch and a very historical one. Final Grade: 5/10
Chad: A famous moment for sure but I would strongly suggest to just watch that and have wave the entire rest of this show. The pieces were starting to form with Piper and Orndorff here, but the show overall featured the old vets of the Vince Sr. era still clamoring to whatever glory they had left. Final Grade: 3/10
Jason: A lot of star power and debuts on a show that revolved around an historic moment. Besides and huge Hogan moment and the debuts of Piper and Orndorff, this was a pretty standard MSG house show. Gorilla and Pat were excellent throughout the show and The Fink’s ring announcing was at it’s peak. If the undercard was a little better, so would my grade for this show. Final Grade: 6/10
Dan: This show was easy to watch because it had plenty of stars on the card to keep your attention plus we’re treated to one of those once in a generation moments that stay with you forever. I already said enough about Hulk but it’s pretty cool to know that Roddy Piper’s WWF reign seemingly starts here, Orndorff looks like a force to be reckon with on the heel side, Slaughter always entertains me when he’s on during this time period, plus I can keep making old jokes about Jay Strongbow! Everyone’s a winner! I have to admit, I tuned out the last few matches because I was too busy posing and pouring champagne all over my apartment but this was a fun stroll down memory lane and you should definitely check out that title bout for your own personal memory bank. Final Grade: 6/10
Scott: This is one of the most memorable house shows in WWF history. Besides Hulk Hogan’s industry-changing Title win, we have debuts of two of his biggest early rivals: Paul Orndorff and, more importantly, Roddy Piper. Sergeant Slaughter wrestles as a heel but that quickly changes. The main event was fun with all the big stars on hand, but everything else was standard house show fare. I’ll inflate the grade because of the big Hogan moment, but otherwise pretty straightforward. Final Grade: 6/10
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