Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WWF at Madison Square Garden 6/21/85

Hulk Hogan vs. the Magnificent Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji) in a Steel Cage match for the WWF Championship

So in having watching this feud play out over these last three months, it has been a real old-school type of feud that we would have seen back in the early days. In the days when Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund were the top dogs of the WWF, their feuds with the top heels always played out the same way. They would have one or two matches that usually saw a DQ or countout finish though there were times the match ended in a draw, and then the third match would have a stipulation added which saw the champion win clean and end the feud. Now back in the days of Sammartino and Backlund, the last match would usually be a Death Match where both men just beat the crap out of each other. As the 1980s went on, the payoff would take place inside of a steel cage in that the champion would retain without the challenger looking too weak since they don’t get pinned. While it appears to feel redundant by being used over and over, it always felt big since the feud had gotten so hot that putting it in a cage was the only way to end the feud which always made it feel special.

So following their last encounter at MSG back in May, Hogan and Muraco would face off in Chicago on May 24th which saw Hogan retain the title, and then they meet again in St. Louis on May 30th with Hogan again retaining the title clean. Hogan would again defeat Muraco on June 1st in Minneapolis and then Hogan would go on a tour of Japan as Muraco stayed in the USA, and then they pretty much were kept apart as Hogan rarely worked the June house shows while Muraco did. So unlike the build in the previous two matches where they rarely faced off outside of MSG, they do have a few singles matches which would see Hogan win clean every time. It was just setting the stage for this final match between the two and the heat between them was very palpable, and you knew the MSG crowd was frothing at the mouth waiting for this match after what they had seen in the last two matches.

Both men deliver strong promos before the match in between shots of the cage being set up around the ring as the crowd is completely buzzing, and unlike the previous two matches which were in the middle of the card this one without question had to be the main event. Muraco was red hot as a heel as he walks into the cage with a lot of confidence and then Hogan gets a huge pop from the crowd as it sounds like the roof is going to blow off of MSG. Hogan tosses the belt to Muraco and dares him to use it as Muraco picks it up and charges, but Hogan ducks and pounds on him before grabbing the belt only for Muraco to duck a shot. They lock up with Muraco getting a pair of knees in only for Hogan to block a ram into the cage, and Hogan gets a kick in and hits a pair of elbows only for Muraco to block a ram into the cage as well. Hogan rakes the eyes and whips Muraco chest first into the corner before pounding on him, and Muraco again blocks a ram into the cage and hits a low blow on Hogan. Muraco stomps on Hogan and hits a kneelift before kicking and pounding on him as the crowd chants “Hogan”, and he hits a falling headbutt to Hogan’s groin and calls for the door to be opened only for Hogan to stop him. They trade blows with Hogan taking control until Muraco gets a knee in and he pounds on Hogan, but Hogan starts to fire up as he no-sells Muraco’s shots and he pounds on Muraco before hitting a clothesline. Hogan drops an elbow on Muraco and bites him in the face before hitting a headbutt, and he hoists Muraco onto his shoulder and rams him head first into the cage which busts him open. Hogan lifts him up again and rams him into the cage before pounding on him, but then Muraco sidesteps a charge and sends Hogan face first into the cage. Muraco then slingshots Hogan into the cage which busts him open and then Muraco tries to climb out of the cage, but Hogan climbs up top and pulls him back in as he rams Muraco repeatedly into the cage before again biting him in the face. He pounds on Muraco and continues to bite him as Muraco returns the favor and Hogan falls to the mat, and Muraco comes off the middle rope with a shot to Hogan and he stomps on Hogan. He drops a fist on Hogan and stomps on him before continuing to pound on him, but then Hogan ducks a shot and he hits a big boot that sends Muraco into the ropes and his head gets tied up in the ropes. Hogan makes his way to the door as Muraco wriggles free and he grabs at Hogan’s leg, and Hogan stomps on him repeatedly and knocks him back before falling to the floor which gives him the win and Hogan retains the title.

The match itself was pretty good as both men worked hard and put on a good cage match though I think if they had more time to work with, they could’ve put on a really awesome match. Given how hot this feud was and how anticipated this cage match was, the fact that they were only given 9 minutes to work with seemed like a bit of an insult and they deserved at least 14-15 minutes to just beat the crap out of each other. This was a good feud for Hogan to take part in while he continued his main feud with Piper and Orton, and this also reminded everyone how good Muraco could be and that he was still a solid top heel. One of the things I have enjoyed with this feud and watching it develop is how they built up to this match with the first being a feeling out match with Muraco stealing the countout win, and then the next match being a brawl with Hogan wanting his revenge and Muraco getting DQ’ed to escape. That all built to this match where they had to be a winner and Hogan finally puts Muraco away to end the feud. Even though they did do this match a few times around the circuit, I thought making it somewhat exclusive to MSG was also very unique as it made it feel special and you had to come back the next month to see what would happen. Much like the last two matches, the crowd was red hot for this match and they popped big time when Hogan escapes the cage to get the win. Hogan finally puts this 3-month feud with Muraco to bed by winning the cage match and retaining the title, and both men move on as Hogan continues his other feuds while we wonder what will become of Muraco following this series.

Final Grade: ***1/2