PTBN’s Excellent WWE Network Adventure: Maple Leaf Gardens House Show 4/21/85

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 RozzeroChad CampbellJason GreenhouseScott 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!

MLG85

Maple Leaf Gardens House Show 4/21/85
Run Time: 51:34

Card:
George Wells vs. Bret Hart
Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake vs. Tito Santana & Ricky Steamboat
Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff – WWF Championship

Best Match

JT: I enjoyed the whole show, but the tag match was the highlight for me. I loved the matching tight will talk more about Ricky Steamboat and Tito Santana below, but I loved their coordinated tights. They got off to a red hot start, rattling Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine with consistent flurries of offense that had the crowd rocking. Once Beefcake and Valentine took over, we got a great heat segment thanks to some power offense and top notch selling by Santana. The crowd was rabid for Steamboat’s hot tag and house of fire segment and that took us right into a second heat segment, this time on Steamer! Genius match structure to take advantage of two great sellers. Things eventually broke down and led into a hot, tight finish with Valentine submitting clean to the figure four. The crowd fucking loved that one. What a great way to keep that feud boiling. Plus, the match featured Santana vs. Valentine! You can never go wrong with that! Match Grades: *1/4, ***3/4, **1/2

Brian: The Ricky Steamboat & Tito Santana vs. Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake match was the best on the show. It was all action and while continuing the Santana/Valentine feud it also allowed then newcomer Steamboat a lot of shine and he did a fantastic job. Judging by this match, Santana & Steamboat could have been one hell of a tag team if they stayed together.

Dan: When they clipped this show, they definitely saved some pretty good matches for us to devour. I loved the tag match immensely. Beefcake and Valentine worked wonderfully together and I wonder if matches like this put an idea in Vince’s head to eventually have them form The Dream Team. The brass may have been onto something too with Santana and Steamboat. Pairing two guys together that fans adored was a strong move. Plus how can you criticize a team with matching baby blue tights? I was surprised to see Tito get over on Valentine but the fans exploded when it happened and I jumped along with them. Santana can now stake his claim on receiving another title shot. Excellent match!

Scott: All three matches were actually pretty entertaining, but I’ll go with that Dream Team vs. Steamboat & Santana match. Tito and Steamboat were two top flight babyfaces who rarely teamed on TV. Dream Team were slowly gaining steam as a heel tag team, but wouldn’t really hit their stride until the summer.

Best Performance

JT: I will go with Santana & Steamboat for the reasons I already covered here. They were on fire and so smooth as a dream babyface team and the closing moments of their win were great. Shout out to Paul Orndorff too, who did a nice job of playing up his impending attitude change while also balancing his heel tendencies as he took a shot at the big gold. The closing handshake was huge too.

Brian: Steamboat showed off his skills here and had himself a fantastic outing. For someone about a month into his WWF run, he was instantly getting over based off of his in-ring work. He really was one of the best babyface workers of all-time.

Dan: Steamboat looked awesome in the tag match. He made a terrific hot tag in the match dazzling Valentine and Beefcake with all his flying chops. He also displayed some fancy footwork in avoiding Brutus and finding his way to the outstretched hand of Tito late in the bout. For Santana, he couldn’t have picked a better wing man in his attempt to get one over on the Hammer than the future Dragon. He even gets a few extra licks on Brutus after the bell. This kid has a future!

Scott: I give it to Paul Orndorff, who did a great job towing the line from sort of heel to sort of face all match, then did the begrudging hand shake to the WWF Champion after the match. Good character work there.

Biggest Surprise

JT: I am surprised they didn’t run with George Wells more than he did. He had their prototypical look, a pro sports background and some really solid power offense, especially during his comeback. He seemed like a no brainer for a push around this time.

Brian: The big surprise here was Orndorff offering his hand to Hogan after the match then congratulating him before leaving. Even the fans applauded Orndorff as he made his way backstage. This was about the time when Orndorff turned babyface once Roddy Piper & Bob Orton blamed him for why they lost at WrestleMania.

Dan: Paul Orndorff shook hands with Hulk Hogan? Is this the same many who verbally abused the shoe shine girl? Now he’s exchanging sweaty handshakes with the champ? What’s next? A man hug? I echo Ventura in saying that something is coming over Mr. Wonderful!

Scott: I was surprised the card was chopped up. They must have the full cards somewhere. Why not just go all out? There’s plenty of storage, and more matches. Even house show squashes are fun.

Biggest Disappointment

JT: I am kind of disappointed that Tito Santana and Ricky Steamboat didn’t have a more sustained run as a superpower babyface tag team. They meshed wonderfully here and were super over with the fans. A longer run could have been very memorable and led to some classics. We could have also had some of the most consistently greatest heat segments this side of Ricky Morton… from either guy! Just like we saw here tonight.

Brian: For those who want to see the full version of these shows you would be disappointed here as they only showed three matches.

Dan: Jack Reynolds had a rough start tonight in not being able to correctly identify George Wells’ CFL team. I mean I can see how that would be difficult information to find out considering he seems to do all these Canadian shows and since the ring announcer JUST SAID IT OUT LOUD TO THE ENTIRE ARENA! It’s the Saskachewan Roughriders!

Scott: I was disappointed, like above, that this isn’t the full show. Also all this dubbing in and out of announcers. Jack Reynolds wasn’t the best and Gorilla is the better choice but what happened there?

Additional Observations

JT: Bret Hart looks so damn young here; And George Wells looks pretty jacked up; Jesse Ventura and Jack Reynolds stumbling through a discussion on the CFL was funny; I liked Ventura noting that Bret’s style in the ring has shifted since synching up with Jimmy Hart; Wells got a decent amount of shine to open this one up; Jack calling referee Terry Yorkston “one of the best in North America” made me chuckle; Wells had a pretty decent little comeback but the finish was pretty sloppily executed; Good call to pair up Brutus Beefcake with Greg Valentine here coming out of Mania, but I was surprised to see no Johnny V; Steamboat & Santana is an all time babyface dream team, no pun intended; It was weird hearing Jesse acknowledge the “fruitcake” chant; Gorilla notes that Hammer has dropped 15 pounds; I love that we get more of Santana vs. Valentine, just with a different twist mixed in; I wonder if Steamboat and Beefcake were being set up for a feud or were just tossed in here to fill slots; I love double heat segments, especially when you have two A+ sellers like Santana and Steamer; This is a big match for Paul Orndorff coming off the Mania loss but still sticking in the Main Event picture; The crowd was bananas for Hulk Hogan and he stormed the ring and tore apart his shirt; I always enjoy watching Orndorff rattle people with his elbow drops; The finish to the main event was really awkward looking but at least set up the post match

Brian: First, here are the other matches not shown on the Network version of this show: Jim Neidhart vs. Rick McGraw, Don Muraco vs. Steve Lombardi, Ivan Putski vs. Jerry Valiant, and British Bulldogs vs. Moondog Spot & Barry O. Nothing special there. Jack Reynolds was on commentary for the first match and was as awful as ever. He really was one of the worst commentators the WWE has ever employed as he made frequent mistakes and had a boring voice, Bret Hart, with new manager Jimmy Hart, beat George Wells in a so-so match. Wells was far from the smoothest worker but did have some athleticism at least. We then got Beefcake & Valentine I believe before they were introduced on TV as the Dream Team. Johnny V was not here but was the following night at MSG, where Tito ended up teaming with the Junkyard Dog (who headlined the “B” show this day in New Haven, CT against Bob Orton). The final match shown here was Hogan defending the World Heavyweight Title against Paul Orndorff. This had a ton of heat but was more of a basic house show match with lots of stalling at the beginning then a fast-paced final few minutes. The loss, Hogan reversing a crossbody, also protected Orndorff a bit as he did not get put away with the big boot and leg drop. The fans really reacted positively towards Orndorff’s treatment of Hogan at the end.

Dan: For anyone interested, George Wells was once drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1971, but really made his bones while playing up in the Great White North. I know it’s a different planet up there, but Wikipedia says he averaged between 30-36 quarterback sacks per season during his peak years. Welcome to the Adventure Bret Hart! Jesse says he’s developed a more “rough house” style since joining up with “The Mouth of the South.” Wells definitely looked impressive in front of his countrymen. The fans enjoyed this pairing based on the reactions. Not much announcer love in the opener as Reynolds takes the ref to task for slow counts while Jesse admonishes Bret for sloppy pinfalls. Thank you Network for editing out Wells’ ass on the trunk pull. Gorilla wastes no time in busting out the “main event anywhere in the wrestling world” comment for the tag match. I credit Hammer and the bookers for not doing the typical “heel champ runs for his life when arch rival enters the ring” routine. The tag team continuity with these two teams was impeccable. That place went bananas when Tito beat Valentine with the champ’s own hold. Ventura and Gorilla were a bit much with the “good little man, good big man” conversation. Clearly Vince felt the same way with all his muscle-bound champs and main eventers. Ventura questioned the legitimacy of Hogan’s win. Awful camera angles left the decision inconclusive. Hogan looked absolutely bewildered after shaking hands with Orndorff. It’s the same look I make whenever I hang out with Scott.

Scott: This show must have been given a voice over after the fact, because the announcer said what CFL team George Wells played for, and then Jack Reynolds and Jesse Ventura get totally wrong what teams he played for; Very early Bret Hart match, as he wasn’t in the promotion for a long period of time to this point; Yes Jack, Terry Yorkston is the referee. You’ve told us about 11 times during this first match; Both Jack Reynolds and Jesse are applauding Bret Hart for pulling the tights in pinning George Wells; Now the second match Jack is replaced by Gorilla Monsoon. What the hell?; So we had an experiment of the future “Dream Team” before Valentine lost the IC Title; A very cool combination of Tito and the Steamer as I don’t think I’ve ever seen them tag together; Jesse is very subdued, not overly crazy with his heel mannerisms. He gets more comfortable with that by the end of the year when some of his personal favorites join the promotion; You could argue that the Santana/Valentine feud is 1985’s feud of the year. They had great chemistry in the ring and almost all their house show matches were top notch; You can tell the guys are voicing it over, because they have shown all four sides of the ring and there isn’t even an announce table; Wow Valentine tapped on the figure four, I was shocked at that finish. That continues the Santana/Valentine IC Title feud; Was the rest of the card that bad that they couldn’t put the full show on the Network? Perhaps it’s technical issues. I just checked the rest of the card courtesy of Graham Cawthon’s History of WWE website, and other than a British Bulldogs match vs. Moondog Spot and Barry O, we aren’t missing much; Hogan actually looks in great shape here, not as bloated as he would be in 1986 and 1987; Hogan raked the eyes? Will wonders never cease; I remember from my childhood at least one guy was always back dropped on the iconic MLG ramp. Maybe in another match someone did; the ending of the WWF Title match is awful, as Hogan rolls Orndorff over but his shoulder may have been up; Since this is post-WrestleMania, Orndorff’s face turn is almost complete

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 Raschke (Madison Square Garden, 6/27/77)

Final Grade

JT: This was a super easy watch with one hidden gem of a tag match sandwiched by two watchable bouts. Plus it is also fun seeing prime Hulk Hogan just for the crowd reactions alone. We also had some angle progression here with Santana grabbing a win over Valentine and Paul Orndorff slowly inching toward his face turn. The main event was a bit more sluggish than I was anticipating so that does hurt the overall show for me, but at less than an hour, you can do much worse than watching these three matches. Plus the surprising handshake at the end was a big deal. That said, this wasn’t a must watch by any means either. Final Grade: 5/10

Brian: They trimmed the excess fat off of this show by only airing three matches and it was for the best. What we saw shown was decent for the most part and made for a breezy watch. The tag team match was really good and the World Title match had a lot of heat but its nothing you really should go out of your way to see either. If you want to catch a glimpse of the televised house shows from this era, you could do worse. Final Grade: 5.5/10

Dan: I always think I rank these types of shows higher because it’s something different from TNT. Call it the “Anti-TNT” effect. That being said, you know I liked this show immensely. I’m not going to deduct points because it was cut because I can only grade on what I see. Trust me, I’ve killed some of these shows wishing on my dog’s life that they were cut shorter so longer isn’t always better. But I enjoyed all three matches. The opener was competitive when I expected a one-sided squash not to mention it featured one of my favorite guys of all-time (Bret, not George Wells silly!). The tag match was fun and furthered the Tito/Hammer feud that was scorching hot. Plus we saw some up-and-comers in Steamboat and Beefcake exchanging blows. Finally, I never complain when Orndorff is on my screen and the champ, Hogan, had a nice, albeit brief, title defense in front of a hot crowd. What’s not to love? Watch this with no fear Nation! Final Grade: 7/10

Scott: Considering it’s only three matches, this is a pretty good little show. All three matches were fun and the character development of Paul Orndorff was exceptional. It was cool to see Tito and Steamboat team together. We get an early Hitman singles match which was also solid. It would have been nice to see the rest of the card but checking it again it’s not that important a get. The three matches chosen make for a high grade. Final Grade: 8/10

You can find every grade and category winner from the entire Excellent WWE Network Adventure by clicking this link!

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.