Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WWF at Madison Square Garden 2/17/86

Hulk Hogan vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) in a Lumberjack match for the WWF Championship

So as we head into the month of February, it was clear that this mini-feud between Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage was one of the best feuds to come through the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden in the last few years. This reminds me a lot of the feud that Hogan had with the Magnificent Muraco over the spring of 1985, but obviously Savage was a far better worker than Muraco at this point and the matches he’s had with Hogan were head and shoulders better than those matches. It was also pretty clear that they thought very highly of Savage that not only is he getting these title matches so early in his run, but the fact that he won the last two matches by countout was also a big show of confidence. Savage would get another big vote of confidence prior to this show which we will talk about in just a bit, but I’m pretty sure that he was a guy being looked at as a future WWF Champion. As for Hogan, this was also a good holdover feud for him as we are heading towards WM 2 and he had his big match planned for that show, so it would be interesting to see how this match plays out since it was more than likely that Hogan was going to retain the title.

Since their last meeting at MSG back in January, the two men would keep apart as Savage continued his feud with Tito Santana and then at a house show in Boston on 2/8, Savage would use some brass knuckles to defeat Santana and become the new Intercontinental Champion though the match won’t be televised until 2/22. Savage would also continue his TV feud with George Steele as Steele continued to be enamored with Elizabeth much to Savage’s frustration. As for Hogan, he would mainly begin feuding on the house shows with King Kong Bundy while also wrapping up his feud with Terry Funk, and a mere two nights ago at the Saturday Night’s Main Event taping for 3/1, Hogan would suffer an attack by Bundy which led to him suffering injured ribs. It was pretty interesting that both men had big angles shot before this show yet they wouldn’t air until after this show, so it may this match feel so interesting and almost like it was in its own time warp.

So after the way the last two matches ended between the two, it was announced that they would face off here in a lumberjack match to ensure that there would be a definitive winner and champion thus ending the feud between the two and now we have the match as the main event after being in the middle of the card the last two months. All the lumberjacks consist of men who had competed earlier tonight and they include Lanny Poffo, Dan Spivey, the Hart Foundation, the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, Rick Steamboat, the Magnificent Muraco, King Tonga, Tony Atlas, Cpl. Kirchner, Les Thorton, and Barry O. Also amongst the lumberjacks are George Steele and King Kong Bundy which makes sense since they are the two men that are about to have big programs with Savage and Hogan respectively. Savage was red hot as a heel as he comes out full of confidence as he comes out without the IC Title since the match hasn’t aired yet, and Hogan gets a huge pop from the crowd as he comes out with his ribs taped up to sell the injury from Bundy though that doesn’t really make sense since that attack hadn’t aired. Hogan wastes no time and attacks Savage from behind to start with Savage distracted by Steele, and he pounds on Savage and hits a big clothesline before taking the belt off and nailing Savage twice in the back with it. Hogan hits a big back suplex on Savage and then tosses him through the ropes to the outside before going outside himself, and he pounds on Savage as Steele and Kirchner keep the heels back and he throws Savage back into the ring. Hogan nails an elbow on Savage and hoists him up in a choke before slamming him to the mat, and then he hooks Savage in a bearhug before ramming him into the corner and he whips Savage into the other corner before hitting a back elbow. Hogan hits an atomic drop on Savage only for Bundy to trip him up from the outside, and Hogan goes outside and nails both Bundy and Muraco before quickly returning to the ring. Hogan hits a headbutt on Savage who quickly rakes the eyes and he hits a running knee to the injured ribs, and then Savage goes up top and hits an axehandle on Hogan for a two count. Savage throws Hogan to the outside where Bundy and Muraco are and they pound on Hogan along with Sheik as the faces try to come over and assist, and Muraco holds Hogan against the post as Bundy hits an Avalanche into the post before throwing Hogan back into the ring. Savage quickly pushes Hogan back to the outside where Muraco again holds Hogan against the post as Bundy hits a second Avalanche, and they throw Hogan back into the ring where Savage stomps on him before going up top and hitting an axehandle on Hogan for a two count. Savage hits a hooking clothesline on Hogan for a two count and stomps on him before ripping the protective tape off of Hogan, and he kicks at Hogan before going up top again and hitting another axehandle on Hogan for a two count. Savage drops a knee on Hogan for a two count as the crowd chants “Hogan” and Savage drops an elbow on Hogan for a two count, and Savage pounds on Hogan and chokes him on the rope before kicking at him. Savage goes up top again and hits another axehandle on Hogan for a two count before going up top again and this time he hits the flying elbow, but Hogan kicks out at two and starts to hulk up as he no-sells Savage’s shots. He fires up on Savage and knocks him down before hitting the big boot only for Savage to rake the eyes which Hogan no-sells, and Savage hooks a headlock only for Hogan to whip him off and Steele trips Savage up from the outside which allows Hogan to hit the legdrop and get the three as he retains the title. After the match, Savage is left frustrated on the apron and he heads to the back as Hogan celebrates with the title and poses for the fans to close out the show.

The match itself was very good as both men worked hard and put on a fun lumberjack title match though it doesn’t quite reach up to the level of their last match in January. I do feel that the heat that carried the feud over these last few months had dissipated a bit by the time we get to this match, but it doesn’t hurt it that much as there was still plenty of gas left in this feud by the time we got to this moment. I thought having the lumberjack gimmick fit considering how the last two matches ended, but I’m sure some people would’ve preferred to see these two in a no holds barred match or even a cage match to really blow the feud off. I thought having Bundy and Muraco attack Hogan on the outside made sense as it continued to build the burgeoning Hogan/Bundy feud that was starting to pick up steam. There were two things in the match that really bothered me and the first was that Hogan for the third time killed Savage’s finisher which now felt like a bit too much especially after the damage Bundy and Muraco did. The other thing I didn’t care for was that Steele got involved and in essence cost Savage the match even though that also made sense since they had a feud going on as well, and I guess they wanted to keep Savage somewhat strong since it was a pretty foregone conclusion that Hogan would win though having two wins against Hogan should’ve been more than enough. Even though it was a shame that Jesse wasn’t here to call the match as he would’ve been all over Hogan and Steele, I thought that Gorilla and Alfred did a good job as they have also gelled into a solid commentary team. It made sense to finally have this match in the main event as it clearly belonged in this spot, but it was a bit weird that the lengths of the matches went down with each one as this match doesn’t even crack eight minutes. The crowd was red hot for the whole match and popped big time for Hogan when he won. Hogan finally gets a win over Savage and retains the title, and both men move on as they had marquee matches at WM to look forward too.

Final Grade: ***1/2