Time to hit the vault to check out the early years of the WWF. It’s the 18th July 1981 (filmed on the 1st) and we’re in the Fieldhouse of Hamburg, Pennsylvania for an episode of All Star Wrestling! Your main event tonight: Jack Carson takes on Strong Kobayashi! Who?
We’re into the long long ago of the Fed here, at a time when Vincent James McMahon was still nominally in charge of things, though Vincent Kennedy was, I think, less than a year away from taking over. All Star Wrestling was WWF’s “B” show of this era, behind Superstars, so there will be plenty of job-tastic action along with a few highlight packages I am sure.
Our opening titles have lots of 80’s twang and real dated inverted picture effects, with a big focus on Andre the Giant. We are welcomed to ringside by our commentators, Pat Patterson and a very young Vince McMahon, in his mid-30’s here. They talk up Killer Khan as the only man who has been able to take down Andre. Patterson, stuttering a bit, posits that Khan’s later match with Rich McGraw may be a surprise. WWF Champion Bob Backlund is also in action later. Patterson, reading his lines off a card it sounds like, explains that if Backlund is pinned in this non-title match the challenger will get a title shot. Patterson is unable to properly sell this as a possibility.
After a break we’re back with the same two, talking again about the situation with Andre. Patterson looks petrified anytime he is called upon to talk. Andre’s taken some punishment recently, especially to his ankle: Patterson blandly states that we might see others targeting that ankle in the future, then suddenly we get an awkward mid-sentence cut to highlights of a 2-out-of-3 falls six-man tag at a previous event, which looks like an excuse for Andre to throw people like Captain Lou Albano around the ring. It’s a confusing affair, filled with senseless brawls, where McMahon legitimately asks “What’s going on?” at one point. Andre’s team picked up the win, and it might as well have been “Make Andre look strong” the way it was booked.
Back at the Fieldhouse, McMahon and Patterson again play up Killer Khan as a challenger for Andre, and then it’s another break.
It’s taken a while to get to an actual match considering there’s only 45 minutes in this show, but here we go.
Rick McGraw vs Killer Khan w/Freddie Blassie
McGraw a well-respected jobber of the era, who died tragically young just a few years after this, possibly drug related. Khan, billed as being Mongolian despite his Japanese background, was a briefly famous heel most known for his then current programme with Andre.
Khan on the attack straight away, laying in clubbing shots. Hip toss, double slap, head wrench against the ropes. “Leave him alone” shout from the crowd that gets a laugh from me. Stomps, a stiff looking chop to the throat then an extended armlock and the crowd getting behind McGraw despite the inevitable result. McGraw forced to the ground, then briefly rallies back to hit what we would call the Attitude Adjustment in the future. Big Match Rick lays in a drop-kick, then mounted punches in the corner, to the crowds enthusiastic delight. Super McGraw grabs Khan by his knot because foreign heels deserve no respect. Khan back with a side kick, but McGraw brings the hustle, loyalty and respect with elbow strikes, then a monkey flip out of the corner for two.
I’m stunned this is an actual match and not a two minute squash to be honest. McGraw’s five moves of doom interrupted by some big punches, then a big side backbreaker for two. By God King, McGraw has kicked out again! Khan with a big elbow, another double slap to the head, but McGraw back with a rake to the eyes. No “Let’s Go McGraw/McGraw Sucks!” chants yet. Is able to get in a sneaky crucifix pin for two, but can’t get Khan up for a powerbomb. Shots to the head, a headlock and Khan counters with a brutal reverse suplex where McGraw looks like he lands right on the top of his head.
A knee drop, chops and McGraw dumped out. Nothing can keep him down though, and he gets back into the ring as we see replays of the attempted murder/reverse suplex. McGraw getting beaten down, more head wrenches, and McMahon wishes Andre was here. Blassie able to get a shot in with the ref distracted, Khan comes off the top with a big splash/knee drop, and that’s it in a stunningly lengthy nine-and-a-halfish.
Winner: Killer Khan. McGraw needed to do the AA off the top rope really.
Verdict: Actually really good. Result was inevitable, but McGraw got put over huge.
In the aftermath, we get another replay of that dangerous-as-hell suplex. Khan and Blassie leave the ring to a resurgent McGraw, and walk into an interview with Patterson. He criticises Khan’s assisted win over McGraw and plays up Andre’s return. Blassie runs down Patterson and McGraw, and swears he never interferes. His motto is “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat” before laughing like the Joker. Odd heights and valleys to this promo. Blassie thinks Andre’s leg still needs healing, then lets Khan grunt into the mike for a bit. This interview just keeps going and going as they discuss the finer points of Andre’s injury and the best way to handle him. It finally tails off, perhaps as they realise half the show is gone and there are still three matches on the card. Speaking of.
Moondog Rex w/Capt Lou Albano vs Bob Backlund (non-title)
WWF Champ Backlund roughly half-way through his reign at the top, coming through the crowd here to face a hillbilly jobber. Pure as white snow babyface Backlund takes Rex down a few times until he begs off. Extended wristlock into a toss, then again. Shoulder charge, Backlund no-sells a Scoop Slam, back to the wristlock. Backlund out of another slam attempt that was much more awkward, roll-up for two, and Backlund cleans out an interfering Albano, who brings out Rex’s tag partner “Moondog Spot”. Backlund continues knocking down Rex, including a nice delay Scoop Slam for two. Rest-hold, part three, follows.
Backlund tripped up by Albano on a charge, allowing Rex to get in a few licks. Looking for a piledriver, Backlund reverses into a back body-drop to a big pop. Backlund hits his own rubbish looking piledriver in response, but only two. Reverse suplex as Albano goes for the interference spot too early, and skitters back. Backlund reverses an Atomic Drop into a roll-up for three in around seven.
Winner: Prefer Backlund as a comedy non-wrestler honestly.
Verdict: 90% Backlund offence that did nothing for either man really.
Albano and Spot jump Backlund in the aftermath, but naturally he fights them off, with some Michaels/Hogan-esque selling from Albano. Fans suddenly swarm the ring to celebrate Backlund’s victory. It was only a squash guys. Every person in the crowd is suddenly in the ring, and are then spilling out of it in a pellmell fashion, a lawsuit waiting to happen. As quickly as it started we go to break, and when we’re back it’s back to normal for the next match.
Chris Canyon & Ron Shaw vs Dominic DeNucci & SD Jones
Canyon is the future King King Bundy of course. Shaw a jobber who would be most famous for a match against David Sammartino later in his career where Sammartino submitted to a bear hug because he was annoyed with the company. DeNucci a little remembered mainstay of early WWWF/WWF who had a crazy long career, stretching from the late fifties to 2012. Jones a better remembered long-term jobber.
DeNucci and Shaw to start, lock-up, lock chains, DeNucci with the advantage. A few mild tosses and into a rest-hold. In comes Canyon, billed as 385 pounds, and that’s very much an “at least” situation. He shoves DeNucci around for a bit, then Jones in for a very mild double-team on Canyon. Jones unable to send Canyon down with shoulder charges, but does it with a drop-kick instead. Canyon gets some advice from Jones and we go to a test of strength. Even enough, DeNucci in for a wrist-lock, then Jones in for the same, how thrilling.
They do a few missed tag spots with Canyon and Shw while DeNucci and Jones take turns with the wrist-locks. As this continues McMahon casually announces that Rick McGraw fractured his neck earlier, amazing. Patterson reacts like the verbal equivalent of paint drying. In the ring Shaw has gotten in, gets in a few roll-ups for two. Canyon almost straight back in though, gets a headbutt from Jones in the corner and DeNucci gets the pin in just over six.
Winners: Jones and DeNucci, fighting valiantly against the imminent spectre of permanent job status.
Verdict: Forgettable tag. “Canyon” looked very limited.
The heels are unhappy, but no one takes any notice. We get some replays of the headbutt, and then it’s the main event after a break.
Strong Kobayashi vs Jack Carson
Carson, described by the announcer as a “contestant”, is a jobber so devoid of status he does not have a Cagematch profile. Kobayashi a Japanese blow-in with WWF for a short period this year at the tail end of his career. Only a few minutes left, so this will be short.
Lock-ups, Kobayashi with strikes and takedowns, then a side headlock for a very long time. McMahon and Patterson compliment the Japanese people and their appreciation for wrestling, while Kobayashi beats down Carson: “Not the most scientific” is McMahon’s description. Kicks, strikes, more kicks. Another update on McGraw, who is off to the hospital with a broken neck, though McMahon notes the local hospital doesn’t have an X-Ray machine, which I find darkly hilarious, it’s like Michael Scott is running the medical side of things. Meanwhile, Kobayashi gets in a Crucifix Pin for the 1, 2, 3 in just over three.
Winner: Random Japanese tough
Kobayashi beats Carson down a bit more in the aftermath, to very mild boos. McMahon tries to be solemn about McGraw, but then the jaunty theme tune starts playing over him kind of ruining the effect. And that’s all.
Best Match: McGraw/Khan was actually surprisingly good, so an easy pick.
Best Wrestler: I guess Backlund can go at this time. What was up with that post-match celebration though?
Worst Match: Main event, a boring squash put into the top spot for no reason.
Worst Wrestler: The future King Kong Bundy didn’t start out any better.
Overall Verdict: It was OK I suppose, more matches like the first one and I would have had a lot of time for it.
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