Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WWF at Madison Square Garden 10/16/87

Strike Force vs. the Islanders in a 2-out-of-3 falls match

As we continue on into the fall of 1997, there was a general sense that the WWF was riding high following the success of Wrestlemania III and that the roster was continuing to get better with some new faces coming in. Plus with the brand new PPV called Survivor Series in about a month, there was a lot of things to be excited about particularly in the ever growing tag division. We have seen over the last month or so how the tag division was getting bigger with the Hart Foundation on top and other teams staking their claim as the top contenders like Strike Force and the Islanders for example. These two teams have been in a really hot feud that started way back in the spring when the Can-Am Connection were still around and you could tell these two teams were thought highly of though with a heel team as champions it seemed more likely that Strike Force would be the top face team of the tag division. As a result, it seemed extremely likely that this would be the final blowoff to this feud though you could argue it had enough juice to go one or two more months.

Since their last encounter in this building back in September when the Islanders stole the win, the two teams would meet on 9/26 in Landover with Strike Force getting the win and then the next night on 9/27 in Cleveland the Islanders would get their win back over Strike Force. On 9/29 in Flint, Strike Force would defeat the Islanders and they would defeat them again on 9/30 in Battle Creek and 10/1 in Halifax. Strike Force would again defeat the Islanders in Hartford on 10/2 and the Islanders would get the win back on 10/3 in Boston, and on the 10/6 Superstars taping in a dark match Santana and Haku wrestled to a double disqualification. On 10/10 in Philadelphia, the Islanders would defeat Strike Force and it was announced that this match here would be 2-out-of-3 falls, meaning that this would more than likely be the definitive end to this feud.

The Islanders were still pretty hot as heels as they come out with Bobby by their side and Strike Force get a big pop from the crowd as they are hoping to see Strike Force avenge their loss from last month. Strike Force quickly clear the Islanders from the ring to start the match and the Islanders stall on the floor, and Santana starts off the match with Haku and they lock up with Haku backing Santana into the ropes and they trade blows. Santana takes control and knocks Haku down before pounding on him and whipping him into a shot from Martel, and Martel tags in and they hit a double clothesline on Haku as Santana knocks Tama to the floor. Martel pounds on Haku and hits a dropkick before ramming him into the buckle, and he rams Haku into another buckle and hooks a headlock before tagging Santana who stops Haku from nailing Martel and he pounds on him. Santana goes back to the headlock and he knocks Haku down before ducking a shot and hitting a Lou Thesz press for a two count, and Santana drives his knee into Haku’s head and tags Martel who drives the elbow into the head and goes back to the headlock. Haku whips him off and neither man goes down when they collide as Martel escapes a slam attempt, but Haku blocks a rollup and sends Martel to the mat only to miss the elbow and Martel drives his elbow into Haku’s head. Martel goes back to the headlock only for Haku to escape with a back suplex and he tags Tama who stomps on Martel, and he hits a pair of headbutts on Martel before hitting a jumping back elbow. He chokes Martel on the mat as Haku comes in and they switch with Haku continuing to choke Martel, and Haku kicks and pounds on Martel before ramming him into Tama’s foot and he tags him in. Tama goes up top as Haku holds Martel and Tama nails a chop on Martel for a two count, and Martel knocks Tama down only for Tama to keep him in the corner as he whips him into the other corner though Martel catches him with a pair of boots to the face. Santana gets the hot tag and he fires up on Tama before nailing Haku and he knocks Tama down, and Santana hooks the Figure-4 on Tama only for Haku to come in and break it up. Martel comes in and pounds on Haku until the ref forces him out as Haku hits a headbutt that sends Santana through the ropes to the outside, and Haku goes outside and stomps on Santana’s leg until Martel comes over to help Santana. Tama pulls Santana back into the ring and stomps on the leg before tagging Haku who pulls Santana to the corner and rams his knee into the post, and Haku rolls back inside and stomps on Santana before dropping an elbow on the leg repeatedly. He hooks a submission on the knee as Santana fights out of the hold only for Tama to tag in and he drops an elbow onto the knee twice. He hooks another submission on the leg until Santana shoves him off only for Tama to drop another elbow on the knee and Santana kicks him away again, and Tama hooks a front facelock as Santana struggles to his corner only for Haku to come in and pull him back. Tama pounds on him as Martel tries to come in only for the ref to stop him which allows the Islanders to hit a double diving headbutt on Santana, and Haku gets the three and wins the first fall for the Islanders. Martel tries to assist Santana as the Islanders encircle them and the second fall begins with the Islanders hitting a wishbone on Santana, and Tama drops an elbow on the knee and goes back to the submission as Santana rakes the eyes twice to escape and he tries to fire up only for Haku to nail him in the back from the apron. Tama hooks a small package on Santana as Martel and Haku come in with Haku nailing Martel as the ref forces him out, but Martel turns Santana on top of Tama which gets the three and Strike Force win the second fall to even things up. Martel again tries to assist Santana and keep the Islanders at bay during this break period, and the third and deciding fall begins as Haku stomps on Santana and slaps him in the face repeatedly. Santana tries to battle back as Haku pounds on him and tags Tama who nails Santana and throws him to the mat, and he stomps on Santana’s leg repeatedly and hooks another submission on the leg as Haku comes in behind the ref’s back and they switch off again with Haku continuing to work the leg. Santana kicks Haku to the mat only for Haku to recover first and he stomps on Santana only to miss the elbow, but Haku recovers first and gets a shot in on Santana as Tama comes in and hits a headbutt on Santana. They attempt the double diving headbutt again only for Santana to avoid it and Martel gets the hot tag, and he fires up on Tama and hits a backdrop before hitting a dropkick on Haku as Tama begs off in the corner. Martel grabs his legs and hoists him up in the air before slamming him to the mat, and he rams Tama into the buckle only for Tama to reverse a whip into the other corner though Martel hits a springboard crossbody for a two count. Haku comes in and Martel knocks him to the outside before pulling him up onto the apron, but Haku ducks a shot and holds Martel for Tama only for Martel to move and Tama nails Haku which allows Martel to roll Tama up, getting the three and winning the third fall and the match for Strike Force.

The match itself was pretty good as both teams worked hard and put on a solid 2-out-of-3 falls match, but the only gripe I have with the match is that the match was only given 11 minutes which was a crime especially since it was given the main event slot. The feud was pretty hot and deserved that spot, but this match could’ve easily been closer to 15-17 minutes especially if they were going to go the full 3 falls. As I mentioned, the feud between the two teams was still pretty hot and the matches have been very good, and while this one was no different it felt weird that the match felt so rushed when it could’ve built to a stronger finish and more dominant win for Strike Force. I mentioned how I felt that the feud maybe could’ve gone on at least until the end of the year, but considering the plans they had for Strike Force this was a fine end to the feud and the stipulation was fitting though maybe they could’ve gone with something more like a tornado tag match. This has been a good feud for both teams as Strike Force are clearly ready to move onto become the top contenders for the tag titles, but you do have to wonder where the Islanders would go from here as they seemed to now be stagnant on the heel side of the tag division. I thought the commentary of Gorilla and Nick Bockwinkel was pretty good as Bockwinkel provided some good insight into the match though hearing him with Gorilla was an odd pairing. The crowd was red hot for the whole match and popped big time for Strike Force when they won the last fall. Strike Force defeat the Islanders two falls to one to finally put an end to this feud and both teams move on.

Grade: ***

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