Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WWF at Madison Square Garden 9/21/87

Strike Force vs. the Islanders (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)

So as we come out of the summer of 1987 which ended up being a lot better than I think most people remember, the WWF was in an interesting position now that the fall was upon us. With Saturday Night’s Main Event about to return next month and the possibility that a new PPV might be in the works, it was a pretty exciting time to be a wrestling fan especially if you were a fan of tag team wrestling. As I have mentioned over the last two previewing, the tag division was really starting to heat up and one of the hotter feuds going on was the feud that started between the Can-Am Connection and the Islanders that has now transitioned into Strike Force and the Islanders. I thought that Tito Santana was a good partner for Rick Martel to have as Santana pretty much had nothing going on by this point and they fit pretty well together quickly, and the Islanders were also gaining steam as one of the top heels teams in the company so you knew the fans were ready to explode when the two teams finally faced off in the ring.

Since our last outing at Madison Square Garden where Haku defeated Martel in a singles match, Martel would actually continue to work singles matches against mostly Tama while Santana worked brief house show feuds with Nikolai Volkoff and Hercules. Strike Force had their first official match as a team on the 8/29 Superstars by winning a squash match and on 9/4 in Providence, Martel and the Islanders would compete in the King of the Ring tournament with Tama being eliminated in the first round and Martel fighting Haku to a draw in the quarterfinals. The two teams had their first match on 9/6 at WrestleFest 1987 in Cincinnati with Strike Force getting the win, and they would work the main events of several house shows going forward with Strike Force regularly getting the win. The Islanders would finally get a win over Strike Force on 9/13 in Miami and Strike Force would be back on the winning side of the next few shows heading into this one. It was pretty interesting that they didn’t start working the tag matches until September even though Strike Force had formed back in August, but if anything it did build anticipation for when the two teams finally met in the ring.

Strike Force get a big pop from the crowd while the Islanders were red hot as heels as was Bobby as he comes down with them after not being by their side the last few MSG house shows. The two teams waste no time and brawl in the ring to start the match with Strike Force clearing the Islanders from the ring, and the Islanders regroup with Bobby who gets his hands stomped on by Santana and Martel slingshots Tama back into the ring. He rams Tama into the other corner and whips him into the corner only for Tama to leap over him though Martel blocks a hiptoss attempt and hits one of his own, and he hits a dropkick that sends Tama over the top to the floor and he regroups before returning to the ring. Tama begs off in the ropes and they lock up with Tama backing Martel into the corner, but Martel avoids a shot and pounds on Tama in the corner before working on the arm and tagging Santana. He goes up to the middle rope and drives the elbow into Tama’s arm before getting a shot in on Haku, and he goes back to the arm of Tama who rolls through and whips Santana off only for Santana to leap over him and hit a flying clothesline for a two count. Santana goes back to the arm of Tama who escapes with a pair of headbutts and he hits a slam before tagging Haku, but he misses the elbow as Santana hits an armdrag before working on his arm. Martel tags in and drives the elbow into Haku’s arm before continuing to work on it, and Haku whips him into the corner only to miss a charge and Martel hits an armdrag before going back to the arm of Haku. Haku gets a knee in and pounds on Martel only for Martel to reverse a whip and he hits a flying clothesline on Haku for a two count, and Santana tags in as Strike Force hit a double clothesline on Haku. Santana rams Haku’s head into the mat for a two count and he goes back to the arm before taking him to the mat, and Haku fights to his feet and backs Santana into the ropes before pounding on him. Haku pulls the ref back as Tama goes up top and nails a shot on Santana, and Haku stomps on Santana before switching places with Tama as he hits a slam on Santana and he drops a fist on him. He stomps on Santana and then he hits a spinning back elbow on Santana before tagging Haku, and they hit a double chop on Santana and Haku stomps on him before pounding on him for a two count. Haku backs Santana into his corner and Tama chokes him with the tag rope as Haku taunts Martel before choking Santana as well, and Haku hooks a front facelock on Santana who fights to his corner and makes the tag, but Tama distracts the ref who misses the tag and he forces Martel back out of the ring. Haku knocks Santana down as Tama goes up top and hits a diving stomp on Santana for a two count, and he hooks a submission on Santana who fights to his feet and breaks the hold only for Haku to tag in as Tama prevents Santana from tagging. Haku pounds on Santana and hits a headbutt before hitting a stiff superkick on Santana for a two count, and he hits a slam on Santana only to miss the somersault senton and Martel gets the hot tag. He fires up on Tama and hits a backdrop before grabbing his feet and hoisting him up in the air as he slams him to the mat, and he knocks Haku off the apron and Tama reverses a whip only for Martel to hit a high crossbody. Haku comes back in and Martel pounds on him as Santana comes in and rams Tama into the buckle, and Strike Force whip the Islanders into each other and they hit a double punch to the ribs of Tama as Martel rolls him up only for Haku to get a shot in as the ref forces Santana back out. Haku tags in and stomps on Martel repeatedly before pounding and kicking at him, and he chokes Martel with his foot on the ropes as Tama also chokes Martel with his foot from the apron. Haku pounds on Martel and tags Tama who rams Martel into the buckle and whips him into the corner, but Martel leaps to the middle rope only for Tama to avoid the reverse crossbody as Martel hits the mat. Tama goes up to the middle rope only to miss the diving headbutt as Haku comes in and distracts the ref when Santana gets the tag, and Santana stomps on Tama only for the ref to force him back out as Haku hits a diving headbutt on Martel and rolls Tama outside before getting the three on Martel and winning the match for his team.

The match itself was pretty good as both teams worked hard for the 14 minutes that they got and put on a solid tag match. There was a lot of heat building for this match especially after the last few months of the islanders having the man advantage over Martel that the fans were hot for this match now that both teams were on an even playing field. Strike Force had gelled well as a team in the short time that they have been together while the Islanders were hitting their stride as a team by this point, and the two teams had really good chemistry and put on a really solid match. It was pretty interesting seeing this match so low on the card after being in main events on other smaller house shows, but given how loaded this show was it makes sense that it got slightly pushed down the card. The crowd was pretty hot for the match and Strike Force, but are not happy when the Islanders get the win. The Islanders steal the win over Strike Force, but clearly this issue is not over yet.

Final Grade: ***

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