Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WWF at Madison Square Garden 7/25/88

The Rockers vs. the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers

As we continue into the summer of 1988, the WWF was in a pretty good groove as we have seen over the last few months with a red hot main event scene carried by Randy Savage as the WWF Champion. But we have somewhat neglected to talk about the rest of the card as the upper midcard was beginning to take shape with some big names even though the IC Title seems to be in flux since you knew it was only a matter of time before the Honkytonk Man lost the belt. However, many will say that the division that was thriving during this time frame was the tag division as there were still some pretty solid teams despite a few having either been broken up or on hiatus. On this particular night in MSG, we see the debut of two pretty big teams with one of them having a bit of a longer shelf life than the other though both would have a solid run. The team we are focusing on today is the debut of the Rockers, a young team consisting of Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels who were coming off a successful run in the AWA as the Midnight Rockers. However, many forget that they were to debut a year earlier but ran into some backstage trouble and after a brief return to the AWA, they come back here and were primed to be one of the top teams on the face side. They make their debut here against the Rougeaus who were continuing to grow as a solid heel team with their All-American Boys gimmick and it would be interesting to see if these two teams can have good chemistry and put on a great matchup for this show.

Since the last MSG house show in June, the Rougeaus would actually receive some title shots against Demolition which was pretty interesting since Demolition were still heels as well, but it was clear that they were veering towards a face turn since the crowd was slowly getting behind them. The Rougeaus would then spend most of July facing the Killer Bees on house shows which plays off their issues from TV when the Rougeaus turned heel on the Bees, and they were set to face off at the big show called Wrestlefest in a mere five days. On the flip side, the Rockers were starting to hit the house shows after making their TV debut back in June and they would mainly face the Conquistadors with them winning all their matches. It was pretty interesting that they put the Rockers and Rougeaus together here for this show, but it was a good test for the Rockers to see if they could hang with one of the better teams on the roster.

The Rougeaus were pretty hot as heels as they come out waving the American flags and the Rockers get a pretty good pop from the crowd. The two teams do shake hands to start the match as the Rougeaus continue to act like the babyfaces, and Michaels starts off the match with Jacques and they lock up with Jacques backing Michaels into the ropes and giving a clean break. They lock up again with Jacques backing Michaels into the ropes and he gives a clean break again, and they shake hands and lock up with Jacques hooking a headlock and Michaels whips him off only for Jacques to leap over him and go back to the headlock. Michaels whips him off again and Jacques flips over him before hitting a dropkick, and he confers with Raymond and offers another handshake to Michaels which he accepts again. They lock up with Jacques going back to the headlock until Michaels whips him off and leaps over him, but Jacques fakes him out only for Michaels to escape a slam attempt and he hits a dropkick. Michaels now offers a handshake and Jacques refuses it before tagging Raymond as Jannetty tags in as well, and they lock up with neither gaining the edge and they lock up again with Raymond hooking a headlock and he goes behind Jannetty before hooking a full nelson. Jannetty escapes with a snapmare and Raymond regroups with Jacques before tagging him in and Jacques works the arm before tagging Raymond back in, but Jannetty ducks a shot only for Raymond to hit a back elbow and Jannetty ducks another shot before leaping over the top onto the apron. Raymond charges and Jannetty slides under him before hitting a jumping back elbow for a two count, and Raymond retreats to the apron to regroup before tagging Jacques and Michaels tags in as well. Raymond distracts Michaels which allows Jacques to trip him up and work the leg before tagging Raymond as they hit a wishbone on Michaels, and Raymond continues to work the leg until Michaels shoves him off only for Raymond to stomp on the leg. Jacques tags in and slams down on Michaels’ leg before continuing to work on it until Michaels shoves him off and hits a drop toehold, and Jannetty tags in and hits an armdrag before working on the arm. Jacques whips him off and Jannetty hooks a sunset flip for a two count before hitting another armdrag and he goes back to the arm, and Michaels tags in as he goes up top and slams down on Jacques’ arm before continuing to work on it. He slams down on Jacques’ arm again and continues to work on it before driving the knee into it, and Jacques whips him off only for Michaels to duck a shot and he hits a high crossbody for a two count. Michaels hits another armdrag and tags Jannetty who hits a big splash on the arm before continuing to work on it, and Jacques backs Jannetty into his corner and gives a clean break only for Raymond to shove him from the apron. This distracts Jannetty which allows Jacques to nail him from behind and Raymond tags in as he nails Jannetty in the back, and he pounds on Jannetty’s back and whips him hard into the corner for a two count. Raymond hooks a front facelock and tags Jacques as Raymond hoists Jannetty up and drops him onto Jacques’ knee for a two count, and then Jacques hooks an abdominal stretch on Jannetty before tagging Raymond who flips into the ring and he hits a side kick on Jannetty for a two count. Raymond goes back to the abdominal stretch on Jannetty who struggles to his corner before escaping with a hiptoss, but Raymond prevents him from tagging and he tags Jacques before hoisting Jannetty up as Jacques hits a dropkick to the back. Raymond hits an atomic drop on Jannetty and Jacques hits a big splash for a two count before ramming Jannetty into the buckle, and Jannetty reverses a whip into the corner and Jacques leaps to the middle rope only to miss the springboard crossbody. Michaels gets the hot tag and Raymond begs off only for Michaels to get a kick in and he pounds on Raymond in the corner, and he whips Raymond into the other corner and hits a backdrop before hitting a dropkick and a slam. He slings Jacques into the ring as Jannetty comes in and the Rockers whip the Rougeaus into each other, and Michaels hits a slam on Raymond before going up top and dropping a fist on Raymond for a two count as Jacques breaks the pin up. Jannetty pounds on Jacques until the ref forces him out as Michaels goes up top again, but Jacques shoves him off from the outside and crotches him on the top rope as Raymond gets the three and wins the match. After the match, the British Bulldogs come out and argue with the ref about the decision as the Rougeaus confront them, and Dynamite knocks Jacques out of the ring as Raymond retreats and they head to the back while the Bulldogs and Rockers stand tall in the ring.

The match itself was pretty good as both teams worked hard and put on a pretty solid tag match for the 15 minutes they got. This was actually a good spot for the Rockers to put them in there with a veteran team and they played up that well throughout the match, and it made sense since the Rougeaus are the more experienced team and the Rockers might have been overwhelmed. Even though the Rockers have been around for several years, this was much different than the AWA and you could tell they still had a few kinks to work out before becoming one of the top teams of the company. On the flip side, the Rougeaus were really starting to hit their stride by this point as they still try to act like the faces even though they are clearly being insincere about it. It also made sense for the Rougeaus to win as the loss doesn’t hurt the Rockers and the Rougeaus were clearly headed for a solid push going into the brand new PPV in August which is evident when the Bulldogs come out at the end of the match. This match probably would’ve seemed like it belonged in the opening spot to get the crowd fired up, but given the Rougeaus controlled most of it the match was fine in this spot. The crowd was into the match and the Rockers, but are not happy when the Rougeaus get the win. The Rougeaus steal the win over the Rockers and both teams move on though this would probably not be the last time these two teams face each other.

Final Grade: ***

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