Maple Leaf Gardens 10/21/84
May 17, 2015
Late last year I had offered to review events from the WWE Network for wwe.com in hopes of promoting their service and possibly attracting followers to my twitter, with an @LanceStorm byline. I wrote a sample review to give WWE an idea of what I was proposing and while my idea was met with enthusiasm, final approval to move forward never came. Rather than letting my work go to waste I've decided to share that review with you here.
Welcome to my once a month stroll through the WWE Network. I frequent the Network much more than that and often review events on my website www.StormWrestling.com but once every month I will pick an event or program from the WWE Network to watch and review for you here as a WWE.com exclusive. There is so much stuff available on the Network it's sometimes hard to decide what to watch so I'm hoping with my monthly selections to introduce you to some great stuff you may not even know is there.
For my first event I'm going into the WWE Old School section of the on demand library and picking the Maple Leaf Gardens event from 10/21/84. Maple Leaf Gardens holds a special place in my heart. While I spent my entire career based in Calgary... Alberta, Canada, I actually grew up in Northern Ontario so Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens was the closest city that regularly held WWE Events. As a teenager in High School my friends and I took several trips (a 3 hour drive) to The Gardens in Toronto to watch WWE Events. This would be several years before I would attend my first WWE Event in Toronto but I wanted to start with the earliest one on the Network so we are starting with the October 21, 1984 event.
We don't get the entire event, we only get four matches but that makes for a very easy 1 hour show to watch. This works out perfectly for me because I do the majority of my Network viewing on my iPad while doing cardio, and a one hour session is ideal.
Despite these events not being regularly televised events they do have commentary, and for this event we had Billy Red Lyons and Jack Reynolds. Billy Red was a staple for Canadian WWE fans because he did commentary on many of the Saturday morning WWE shows in Canada in the 80s. I even went to the same University as his son (Wilfrid Laurie University). I found the commentary quite good although I did laugh at the fact that Billy Red would often end his sentences by saying Jack's name, I assume to let him know he could talk next. This seemed like a good idea but we ended up getting a lot of "Wow that was a big hiptoss, Jack." "Look at the size of his arms, Jack" if he'd have just added a few Brothers, he'd have sounded like he was doing a Hulk Hogan impression. "Let me tell you something, Jack!"
The 1984 event was before WWE made all rings universal so this wasn't your standard WWE Blue ring with the Red White and Blue ropes from the Hulk Hogan era; it had cables instead of regular ropes and vinyl turn buckle pads.
Our first match was Greg "The Hammer" Valentine defending the Intercontinental Championship against SD "Special Delivery" Jones. SD Jones wasn't really a top contender, but I always loved Special Delivery back when I was a fan so I enjoyed seeing him here. He was a bit of an early day Zach Ryder in that he was way more popular than his win/loss record might warrant. This was a slower paced match, because Valentine very much lived up to his moniker of "The Hammer" and would slow and match down and just pound on a guy. If you were a fan back in the early 80s you are well aware that Greg Valentine liked to use the Figure 4 Leg Lock so he worked on SD's leg for quite a while before eventually picking up the win with... a Belly to Back Suplex. I'm not making this up.
Our next bout was Nikolai Volkoff vs. Rocky Johnson. Fans today might only know Rocky Johnson as The Rock's dad, but in the early 80's he was a very popular wrestler in his own right. Nikolai of course sang the Russian National Anthem and he did it without any accompanying music so we got to hear more of the words than usual and see that Nikolai wasn't that bad of a singer. Singing skills aside the crowd did not like the big Russian. This too was a slower match, by today's standards, but Rocky had tremendous footwork and could move when he wanted to. After a great flurry by Johnson and a couple of sweet dropkicks (and I know dropkicks) Rocky got caught in a cross body attempt and dropped throat first on the top rope, and was pinned by Volkoff. If I can quote Boney M "Oh those Russians" (Google it kids: Boney M, Rasputin)
Next up was my favourite match of the night: Davey Boy Smith & The Dynamite Kid against Goldie Rogers and Bobby Bass. I purposely didn't call them the British Bulldogs because they weren't a regular team yet. They were introduced separately, wore different colour gear, and Dynamite had this bright shiny cape on. Goldie Rogers was still wrestling in Calgary when I started wrestling in 1990 so I was familiar with him, but have no memories of Bobby Bass. In 1990 the majority of Goldie Rogers matches involved him taking his ring jacket off. This may sound odd but he had a knack for stalling and delaying taking his jacket off and would often spend 10+ minutes doing so. He was still using these tactics here but thankfully it only lasted a minute or so. Davey and Dynamite were such amazing athletes and this was well before injuries took their toll on Dynamite, so this was a very fast paced match and the crowd was super into the Bulldogs. Dynamite picked up the win with a diving head butt off of the back of Goldie Rogers who was held on Davey Boy's shoulders in a fireman's carry. He was so high up it was crazy and the crowd went nuts.
The Main event of the show was Andre the Giant vs. Kamala inside a Steel Cage. Keep in mind that in 1984 at a live event, Steel Cages were a lot more low tech than they are today so when I first saw this thing I thought, "Please don't call this a 15 foot high steel cage" because this thing was probably 8 feet tall. Thankfully they claimed it was 10 feet high, which was at least reasonable. I also found it odd that Kamala was referred to as the Ugandan Giant and Andre was called the French Giant. It presented them as far more equal than I ever thought would have been the case. There wasn't a lot of wrestling moves used in this bout; it was pretty much just a fight. It was escape the cage rules, and it was pointed out that the chain link style fencing stuck up above the top of the cage and was very barbed up top. They showed us a close up and it did not look like it would be no fun to climb over the top of this cage. Kamala dominated a lot of the match using chops and kicks but never managed to escape the cage. Andre eventually hit an Earthquake like jumping sit on Kamala's chest, followed up by another one off the top rope, before exiting the cage for the victory. Andre was a lot more agile in 1984 than the Andre most fans remember from later in his career and seeing him come off the tope rope was just nuts. I can't even imagine what would be going through Kamala's mind as he saw the near 500 lbs Andre the Giant jumping off the top rope about to land on his chest. If you will allow me one more obscure quote I'll steal one from George Takei and say "Oh My!"
While this wasn't the greatest event, I love going back and looking at the older events, and reliving the history of the industry. I will definitely try some of the MSG, and Boston Garden events down the road but I will alternate the area of the WWE Network I choose from each month to offer up the best variety. If you have any comments about this review or suggestions for future reviews you can reach me on Twitter at @LanceStorm and be sure to Hash Tag the tweet #WWENetwork
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