The product of the first twenty years of the internet.
Visit the FORUMS!

Original TSM

" The Gravel Pit " Other Other Movies / TV Other Movies / TV Other Movies / TV Other Movies / TV
    Search for in  




      Tape Reviews









      Movies / TV




      Books / Comics

  " The Gravel Pit "

Wrestling > Tape Reviews

Today in Wrestling History (December 26)
Posted by Jared "JHawk" Hawkins on Dec 26, 2002, 00:01

Today in Wrestling History (December 26)
by Jared "JHawk" Hawkins

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and a happy Boxing Day for those of you who celebrate it. I pretty much had a wrestling fans' Christmas with the exception of NHL 2003 and NCAA March Madness 2003 for the Playstation 2. I hope to have some reviews and stuff up in a couple of days, but I'm pretty lazy.

And I will be covering the Best of WWE 2002 this Monday. You have been warned.

Let's get on with this, shall we?

Once upon a time, professional wrestlers didn't get time off just because it was Christmas week. In fact, it used to be customary for many of the territories to hold major shows on Christmas Night (or afternoon, depending on the territory). And with some, even if they didn't have a "supercard", they would allow some pretty major things to happen on or around Christmas. Today, we go back to Boxing Day 1983 for what wound up being the end of the WWF as a territory and the beginning of the national explosion.

The story so far: On February 20, 1978, Bob Backlund became the World Wide Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion by defeating Superstar Billy Graham in Madison Square Garden. Barring two brief periods that weren't recognized until the last three years or so, Backlund maintained a firm grip on the title for over five years.

Vince McMahon Sr. had tried to run a national company in the 1960s (which is the real reason for the WWWF forming in the first place). Vince Sr.'s main problem was that he built his company around ethnic stars who could get over in the Northeast (Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales in particular), but it didn't necessarily work outside the Northeast region. So Vince Sr. stuck to promoting the Northeast.

That's what made Bob Backlund's title reign such an analomy. While a great collegiate wrestler (and a former NCAA or NAIA champion, I can't remember which), Backlund was very bland. I mean, he was so bland that New York crowds would actually chant "white bread" at him. There were times where certain heels would actually get better reactions than Backlund. I have two Backlund-Hulk Hogan matches from the Philadelphia Spectrum on tape where Hogan is clearly the fan favorite, and that was in 1980, well before the advent of Hulkamania. In fact, Jimmy Snuka got such incredible reactions in his feud with Backlund in 1982 that he was turned face to compensate for it.

During that Snuka-Backlund feud, Vince McMahon Jr. bought the WWF from his father. And Vinnie Mac had one clear take the company national and, if possible, become the only wrestling company anywhere, thus giving him the right to put on shitty show after shitty show and still be number one. And he needed a superstar to do it. But first, he had to find that superstar. In the meantime, he had to deal with Backlund remaining as champion. Vince did eventually find that superstar, and now he needed a plan to put the title on him.

Enter The Iron Sheik. The Iron Sheik was legitimately Iranian, and whether or not his Olympic background was legit or not is always debated, but Sheik was clearly a superb amateur. A series of title defenses for Backlund against the Sheik were signed for December 1983 and January 1984.

Move to December 1983 at a TV taping in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Iron Sheik gave a demonstration of his Persian clubs workout. Each club is about 75 pounds, and the Sheik would have one in each hand and turn them behind his back. You'd have to see it for it to be described accurately. Anyway, he challenged Backlund to try it, figuring he wouldn't be able to do it. Backlund did it, but was attacked by Sheik and "injured" in the process. The diagnosis: an injured back and neck.

Without any further ado... we take you to New York City's Madison Square Garden. It aired live on the MSG cable network on December 26, 1983, and your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson. Once upon a time you could find this on ebay, but now WWE refuses to allow a copy to be auctioned off even though they have no interest in ever releasing the footage themselves ever again.

One fall with a one hour time limit for the WWF Heavyweight Championship: The Iron Sheik (w/"Ayatollah" Freddie Blassie) vs. Bob Backlund (champion--w/Golden Fossil Arnold Skaaland)

Saying "Ayatollah" Blassie is not a typo. He actually wears a turban and calls himself Ayatollah as part of managing the Sheik here. Backlund is favoring his left arm even before referee Dick Kroll can search both wrestlers. Sheik immediately attacks before the bell and targets the neck, including choking Backlund with his turban. Kicks to the back, and he locks in an armbar. Backlund armdrags out of it. Sheik puts the armbar back on. Notice Backlund opening and closing the hand in an attempt to regain circulation. Little stuff like that keeps the armbar from being just a resthold. Backlund armdrags out of it again. Sheik, to his credit, goes right back to the armbar. Sheik twists on it occasionally. Sheik pulls back as Patterson acknowledges how much Sheik is sweating. Backlund breaks it by whipping Sheik into the ropes but is met with a shoulderblock. Sheik off the ropes again, but Backlund hiptosses him with the right arm and slumps to the mat. See, everything Backlund does hurts his own left arm neck. Sheik immediately with a kick to the back and an armbar. A couple of punches to the shoulder and back to the armbar as Blassie screams out his instructions. Sheik adds a reverse half nelson to the armbar, and Backlund's shoulders hit the mat for a series of two counts. Backlund finally gets some punches in, but Sheik gets in one shot, then pulls back on both arms while putting a knee into Backlund's back. Backlund eventually falls and kicks out of it, then resorts to headbutts to get an advantage. Running forearm smash. Earringer. Swinging neckbreaker, but he hits the back of his head and immediately favors his neck. That enables Sheik to lock in a head and arm submission, which is turned into a double chickenwing. Backlund maneuvers into a shoulderblock. Boot facerake, and Sheik begs off. Backlund kicks and stomps away, but he stupidly goes for a bodyslam, and since he has no strength in one arm, he falls and Sheik gets a two count. Blassie screams "Get the arm!" and Sheik immediately goes back to the modified surfboard. Backlund tries to reverse it, but Sheik uses the momentum to keep the hold on and puts the knee to the back as soon as Blassie tells him to. Again a reversal attempt, and again Sheik uses the momentum to go back to it. Backlund flips out of it and goes into a cradle for 2. Backlund into a headscissors, Sheik floats over for 2, Backlund bridges out of it and goes for a backslide, but thanks to the injured arm he can't take Sheik over. Sheik goes for a suplex, but Backlund floats behind and gets a rolling reverse cradle with a bridge...but he can't hook the bridge and therefore can't get the pin. Blassie shouts "Get the neck!" Sheik seems confused, even at Blassie's instruction, and stands over top of Backlund...and Sheik locks in the camel clutch! And he has a ton of torque on Backlund's back! Skalaand almost immediately throws in the towel, and Sheik is awarded the championship at 11:50. Rather boring by today's standards, but some excellent psychology and the crowd was really into it. **1/2 My only real problem is the inconsistency in the WWF rulebook. Today we wouldn't think twice about it, but if you look back at Backlund's title reign, he lost a number of matches due to injury or blood loss and those didn't count as submissions. Oh well.

Postmatch, Lord Alfred Hayes interviews Sheik and Blassie. Blassie said it would happen and it did. Every move Sheik did tonight fell right in place. Sheik says something in Iranian, then says Backlund can beat any American, but tonight it was an Iranian that beat him.

Hayes also interviews Backlund and Skaaland later on. Skaaland puts Backlund over for going through with the match even though he was hurt, but he knew Backlund wouldn't quit so he threw the towel. "It hurt me worse than it did him." *cough*Bullshit*cough* Sheik is obviously a worthy champion. Hayes tries to speak to Backlund, and he's almost crying from the pain, but he apologizes to the fans for letting them and his country down.

The aftermath: Sheik enjoyed a title reign of exactly four weeks before losing the title to Vince McMahon's hand-picked superstar. You might have heard of him. His name was Hulk Hogan. We'll discuss the situation leading to that one next month on the appropriate date. But two things are worth noting.

1. Even though Backlund missed his MSG rematch with the Sheik due to his injury, he missed no in-ring time prior to that, and in fact had several rematches with the Sheik at house shows across the country. In fact, just two days prior to their scheduled MSG rematch, Backlund wrestled (and lost by countout to) The Masked Superstar, aka Demolition Ax, at the Philadelphia Spectrum. This was one of those things that Vince McMahon thought would never come out, and without the internet, might still be largely forgotten. And Backlund, ever the trooper, sold the neck and arm at those house shows.

2. According to Sheik in his shoot interview (and confirmed by Bobby Heenan in his autobiography), Sheik almost didn't stay with the WWF long enough to face Hogan. Allegedly, Verne Gagne was willing to pay Sheik a hefty sum to have a "title unification match" in Minneapolis. Sheik would drop the title on an AWA card, McMahon would be without a champion, and his plans to go national would at least be delayed if not entirely cancelled. However, Sheik refused the offer. As Heenan said in his book, "That's why you'll always see The Iron Sheik working for the McMahons. They appreciated his loyalty." Is that true? Hell, I don't know. But you have to admit, it's a pretty good story either way.

We will cover the Sheik's title loss to Hogan on January 23. In the, I'll try to find something.

Happy holidays, and don't forget to send me your feedback.


Latest Headlines

 Old School Wrestling (Week 10)
 Old School Wrestling Weeks 8 & 9
 Old School Wrestling Week 7
 Here we go, it's hockey time in Torino.
 TSM College Football Recruiting Spectacular
 UFC 57: Liddell vs. Couture III Preview
 DVD Releases: Week of June 6th
 DVD Releases: Week of May 30th
 DVD Releases: Week of May 23rd
 " The Gravel Pit "
 From JHawk's Beak: Insomnia Edition
 Searching For Gold In The Age Of Plastic: Depression