Vintage Vault Pre-Viewing: WWF at Madison Square Garden 8/22/87

Rick Martel vs. Haku

So as I had mentioned last month, the tag team division of the WWF was slowly becoming one of the hottest parts of the roster with several teams starting to establish themselves and put on constant good to great matches. It really does make it even worse that Tom Zenk bailed when he did as he and Rick Martel really had a good thing going as the Can-Am Connection, and this burgeoning feud they had going with the Islanders seemed like a good feud for both teams. But as we saw, Zenk left and now Martel was left floating in the wind even though they did keep the feud with the Islanders going by having him face them in singles matches leading to 2-on-1 beatings. It was pretty clear that Martel needed a new partner to continue this feud and they went an interesting route here by choosing Tito Santana as the new partner, which in a way made sense since Santana really had nothing going on by this point aside from this mini-feud he had with Ron Bass. But ultimately it was good for Santana as it gave him some direction while also giving Martel a solid hand for a partner, and you knew Santana could work well with the Islanders and they could put on some fun matches if given the chance.

The feud between Martel and the Islanders continued on after the July MSG house show though it did break briefly in the beginning of August, and then on 8/7 Martel fought Tama in a singles match with Martel getting the win again. The next day on 8/8, Martel again defeated Tama only to be beaten down by the Islanders and the next night on 8/9, Martel would defeat Haku in a singles match only to be beaten down again by the Islanders. Martel would defeat Tama over the next several days in singles matches and on the 8/15 Superstars, Martel would win a squash match only for the Islanders to attack him again. This time, Santana would make the save and help Martel run the Islanders off, and on 8/21 Martel and Haku would trade wins in singles matches on the same day in different venues. On Superstars the morning of this show, the Islanders won a squash match while at the same time Santana and Martel officially declared themselves a new team dubbed Strike Force. It was pretty interesting to see how quickly they had Martel and Santana become a team and not build it a little more organic, but considering they had to throw it together at the last minute it wasn’t that bad and they looked good as a team.

Haku was pretty hot as a heel as he comes out with Tama by his side and Martel gets a big pop from the crowd as he comes out alone first and the Islanders block him getting in the ring, but then he goes to the back and comes out with Santana though the ref throws both Santana and Tama out to make it a fair match. Haku wastes no time and gets a kick in on Martel to start the match before pounding on him, but Martel ducks two shots and hits a high crossbody for a two count before kicking at Haku and pounding on him. He sets up for a piledriver only to slam down on Haku’s head and he leaps over Haku, but Haku catches him ducking with a shot and he stomps on Martel before choking him on the mat. He pounds on Martel and rams him into the buckle before continuing to pound on him, but Martel avoids a backdrop by doing a cartwheel and he hits a dropkick before hitting a hurricanrana on Haku and pounding on him. He slams Haku’s head into the mat and rams him into the buckle before driving the elbow into the head twice, and he hits a snapmare and drops a knee on Haku for a two count. Haku rakes the eyes only for Martel to get a kick in and he rams Martel into the buckle again, and he whips Haku into the other corner only for Haku to catch him charging with a superkick. Haku stomps on Martel and chokes him with his foot before hitting a legdrop for a two count, and he kicks at Martel and hits a gutwrench suplex before hitting a falling headbutt to the back of Martel. Haku hooks a modified camel clutch on Martel who fights to his feet only for Haku to get a knee in and he pounds on Martel, and he hits a back suplex on Martel for a two count and rams him into the corner as Martel tries to battle back. Haku gets a shot in and whips Martel into the corner only for Martel to leap to the middle rope and hit a reverse crossbody for a two count, and Martel fires up on Haku until Haku rakes the eyes before sending him through the ropes to the outside. Martel gets on the apron and Haku nails him before hitting a headbutt and he hits a suplex back into the ring for a two count, and he pounds on Martel who tries to fire up and Haku rams him into the buckle. Martel blocks a second ram into the buckle and rams Haku into the buckle before pounding on him in the corner, and he rams the shoulder into Haku repeatedly only for Haku to reverse a whip into the other corner and he hits a clothesline. He goes up to the middle rope only to miss the diving headbutt and Martel fires up on him before hitting a dropkick, and Haku reverses a whip only for Martel to catch him ducking with a running kneelift. He rams Haku into the buckle and whips him into the other corner before hitting a monkey flip, and he whips Haku back into the corner and attempts another hurricanrana only for Haku to drop him face first on the buckle for a two count. Haku hits a slam on Martel and then hits a jumping headbutt for a two count before choking him on the ropes, and he distracts the ref as Tama runs back out with a chair and nails Martel with it which allows Haku to get the three and he wins the match. After the match, Santana quickly runs back out and clears Haku from the ring before checking on Martel as the Islanders head to the back, and EMTs bring a stretcher out though Martel gets to his feet and is helped to the back.

The match itself was pretty good as both men worked hard for the time they got and put on a solid match though it was a bit behind the match Martel had with Tama the previous month. To be fair, Martel and Haku only got 9 minutes as opposed to the near 20 minutes that Martel and Tama got and they didn’t have much time to build a long match though in this case they made it work as well. Much like Tama, Haku was building himself up as a solid worker since forming this team and we know by this point how well Martel can work as a singles star, and they had good chemistry here though again it didn’t quite meet how well Martel and Tama did. One thing to point out was the continuity in that Martel was able to beat the numbers game the previous month in beating Tama, but this time the numbers got to him as Tama assists Haku in getting the win. I thought the three-man team of Gorilla, Alfred, and new announcer Pete Doherty did a good job in putting the match over though Doherty was a bit overbearing at times as he tried to play the heel announcer. The crowd was pretty hot for the match and Martel, but are not happy when Haku gets the win. Haku steals the win over Martel thanks to Tama, but it’s clear this issue is not over yet as we were destined to finally get a tag match by our next show.

Final Grade: **1/2

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