Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WWF at Madison Square Garden 6/14/87

Hulk Hogan vs. “King” Harley Race (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) in a Texas Death Match for the WWF Championship

So as we head into the summer of 1987, there was still a lot of question as to where Hulk Hogan was going to go as his main rival Andre the Giant was still taking time off from back surgery. In a way, it worked because it kept the feud simmering as Bobby would keep harping on the fact that Andre supposedly won at WM III and the heat would still be there when Andre did come back. On the other hand, there weren’t a lot of top level contenders for Hogan especially when it came to the house shows and finding challengers to draw those shows would be a test. As we saw last month, Hogan had started a house show feud with Harley Race who was still a pretty hot heel following WM though them having a rematch here did seem a bit weird since Hogan won clean. But they did make it seem like Hogan got lucky a bit and Race beat him down after the match, so you knew that they were going to try and get a hot rematch out of the two which would be a stipulation match though it would be interesting if they put the title on the line as well.

Since their last meeting at MSG back on May 18th, they would break apart for a bit before meeting again in Baltimore on 5/30 which Hogan won clean again, and the next night on 5/31 Hogan would defeat Kamala by DQ after Race got involved. Hogan and Race would meet again in a Texas Death match on 6/6 in Boston with Hogan winning clean, and then the next night in Toronto they would have another Texas Death match with Hogan winning clean and then the same result would happen in St. Louis on 6/13. So it was pretty clear by this point that this would be the ultimate finale of this house show feud and even though it was pretty obvious how it was going to go, you just hoped that they would put on a fun match.

Hogan gives a great interview before the match putting over the heat for this match and for some reason, we have this match in the middle of the card again though you figured this should’ve been the main event of this month’s card. Race was red hot as a heel as he comes out in all his glory and Hogan gets a big pop from the crowd like usual, and Hogan actually breaks out the white tights for this match which was pretty cool since he was pretty much straight red and yellow by this point. Race wastes no time and attacks Hogan as he enters the ring to start the match only for Hogan to backdrop him over the top to the floor, and Hogan goes outside and pounds on Race before taking him up the aisle and ramming him into the guardrail. He throws Race back into the ring and knocks him down before using his shirt to clothesline Race twice, and he chokes Race with his shirt and pounds on him before kicking at him. He knocks Race through the ropes to the outside before going outside himself and choking Race with his shirt again, and he rams Race into the commentary table and stomps on him before taking the tape off his hand and chokes him with it. Hogan grabs a chair and breaks it over Race’s head before pounding on him and biting him in the head, and he rams Race into the apron as both men get on the apron and Race hits a low blow as Hogan falls into the ring. Race drives the elbow into Hogan’s head and pounds on him before driving the knee into Hogan’s head repeatedly, and he stomps on Hogan’s groin and then he hits a piledriver on Hogan for a two count. Race hits a headbutt on Hogan and hits a snapmare before hitting a falling headbutt on Hogan who falls out to the apron, and Race stomps on Hogan and drives the knee into him as Hogan grabs at his leg only for Race to rake the eyes. The crowd chants “Hogan” as Race hits a gutwrench suplex on Hogan for a two count and then he rams Hogan into the buckle, but Hogan reverses a whip into the other corner with Race sailing over the top to the floor. Hogan goes outside and scratches Race’s back before chasing after Bobby which allows Race to nail Hogan from behind, and he rams Hogan into the post before grabbing a chair and jabbing it in Hogan’s throat twice. He jabs the chair into Hogan’s back and hits a headbutt before knocking him down to the floor, but Hogan avoids a falling headbutt as Race smacks his head on the concrete and Hogan drives the elbow into Race’s head before scratching his back. Both men roll back into the ring and Hogan kicks at Race before hitting a big boot, and he hits an atomic drop on Race before hitting a clothesline that sends Race through the ropes to the outside. Bobby tries to assist Race as Hogan comes outside and rakes Race’s eyes before ramming him into the post, and Race heads up the aisle as Hogan grabs a chair and nails Race in the back with it. He pounds on Race only for Race to hit a headbutt to the ribs and he hits a piledriver on the floor in a nice spot, and Race hits a falling headbutt on Hogan on the floor and throws him back into the ring as Bobby hands him the title and Race holds it up high. Race nails Hogan in the ribs with the title and throws it down by his head before going up top and attempting the diving headbutt, but Hogan pulls the belt in the way and Race hits the title with his head as Hogan picks the title up and nails Race in the head which gets the three and Hogan retains the title. After the match, Bobby gets on the apron and Hogan knocks him down before nailing Race in the head with the title again which sends Race through the ropes to the outside, and Race and Bobby head to the back as Hogan celebrates in the ring with the title.

The match itself was actually a lot of fun as both guys worked hard for the 10 minutes that they got and they put on a good brawl. Unlike last month where they could’ve easily gone another 4-5 minutes to get the match cooking, 10 minutes was the perfect length for this match as they go all out even though they don’t use a lot of weapons. Considering again how anticlimactic the match was since you knew that Race was not going to win the title here, he looked good as he got some shots in though in a way Hogan pretty much dominates the match. One interesting note was that Alfred said that Race might be the favorite with it being a Texas Death match which I thought put a bit more heat on the match though again you knew there was no way Hogan was losing the title. I thought Race hitting the piledriver on the floor was the best spot of the night and one I thought they wouldn’t do, but it was also pretty weird that neither man bled during this match especially since Hogan bled in the last match. As I mentioned, Race did look good here even though he jobbed clean twice in a row now to Hogan which pretty much ends the feud and it would be interesting to see where Hogan would go from here while he waits for Andre to make his return. The crowd was red hot for the match which they usually are for Hogan matches and they popped big for Hogan when he won. Hogan retains the title over Race in this Texas Death match and both men move on.

Final Grade: ***1/2

Author: Steve Riddle

I have been a wrestling fan since 1993 and that is probably my biggest love, with movies being a close second due in part to being employed at a movie theater for over 9 years.