#WF029 – Inside The Steel Cage
Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant
We start at the Philadelphia Spectrum, with this match from September 1983, which we have also covered on Best of the WWF Volume #4. We are mercifully joined in progress. I say mercifully, because as big and over as their feud was, their matches with each other were beyond bad. We are actually right towards the end of this bout and both are trying to escape the cage. Studd repeatedly tries to get out, but Andre keeps grabbing his ankle to prevent it. Even in its clipped state, this is horrendously boring. There is just so much laying around and not doing anything. It is not ring psychology, it is laziness. Andre slams Studd, which was a huge deal at the time, then in a superb spot, climbs the top rope and comes off with the big butt splash. That is of course the end, and Andre casually leaves through the door. The match was the shits, but that splash was impressive. Kudos to Andre for doing it, and indeed to Studd for taking it!
Final Rating: ¼*
Kamala vs. Andre the Giant
They just love Andre on these early comp tapes, don’t they? Clipped, short and pointless. The finish is identical to the last match! Slam, butt splash of doom, escape. He doesn’t get any points for it this time.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Don Muraco (c) vs. Superfly Jimmy Snuka
This is a very famous cage match from MSG in October 1983 and the pay-off to a major feud between the two. I have covered this already on the WWF’s Most Unusual Matches tape, though it is clipped here. Any fan of Mick Foley’s excellent (first) autobiography Have A Nice Day should be aware of it. This is the match he tells the story about hitchhiking to see, the one that made him need to be a wrestler. The cage is pre-blue bars, it is just a big steel mesh, similar to the Hell in a Cell, only obviously much smaller. Speaking of smaller, Muraco is looking trim here. Later on in the decade he got absolutely immensely ripped, to the point where he looked like he would pop. Snuka makes him wait for a long time before making his entrance, where he is seconded by inaugural WW(W)F champion Buddy Rodgers. He comes out sans music and razzmatazz. Strangely, it actually makes him seem like a bigger deal and the match much more like a legitimate sporting event. When they get going, Snuka wins a slugfest, but Muraco goes low and then slingshots Snuka into the cage, busting him open. Snuka gets a foot up in the corner to block the champion’s momentum, then tries to escape over the top of the cage. Muraco stops him but ends up getting crotched on the top, but Snuka is too hurt to take advantage. You know, I had heard so much about this match from WWF propaganda and from Foley’s book, but it is actually incredibly slow and a little dull. They have barely done anything. We do get a double juicer though, with Snuka sending Muraco into the cage. That is how cage matches should be; bloody! The finish is pretty lame, with Snuka giving Muraco some big flying head-butts, the momentum of which sends Muraco out of the door and thus he wins the match. The pay-off comes after the match though, as Snuka climbs the cage, and in one of the all-time iconic WWF moments, hits the Superfly Splash from the top of it. Now that was impressive. The crowd was absolutely rabid for the hugely over Snuka, but the action was surprisingly disappointing, being as it was slow and uninspiring. Only worth watching for the splash, if you somehow haven’t seen it.
Final Rating: ¾*
Macho Man Randy Savage & Adrian Adonis vs. Bruno Sammartino & Tito Santana
Check out the talent in this! This was not long after Savage first arrived, and thus he is a heel. Adonis has abandoned his New York brawler gimmick and fully embraced the effeminate pink-wearing poofter character, complete with an extra 100lbs of blubber. He could still work though, and this should be a belter. “You can get out of there but you can’t escape” says Alfred Hayes about the cage. Well, that is axiomatically wrong isn’t it? The date is July 1986 in Madison Square Garden, and this comes as a result of a tag match that ended in a count out between these teams, which is featured on the Macho Man Randy Savage & Elizabeth tape. Jump start here, and we have a brawl right away, as Hayes says: “Savage hasn’t been able to get his dressing gown off yet”. Oh lord, don’t you just love him? They go back-and-forth with little in the way of wrestling, instead opting to just brawl wildly. That is not a knock though, because they are all great at it and there is plenty of action. Savage tries to escape and gets to the top of the cage, but Sammartino stops him. Adonis does the same to Santana when he tries to leave. Savage gets his jollies bumping all over the place for Bruno, meanwhile Adonis hits a suplex on Santana and tries to escape. Sammartino stands and watches him, almost amused at the attempts to leave, then stops him by crotching him on the ropes. At the other end of the cage, Savage crawls for the door but is thwarted by Santana. Savage javelins Tito into the cage, but instead of trying to escape he hits a double axe-handle from the top. Tito gets busted open from the lawn dart spot, and it’s about time too! Nothing makes a cage match like a little blood. Make that a lot of blood, because Adonis is busted as well now, so we have a double juicer. Savage comes off the top with another axe-handle attempt, but Santana stops him with a punch to the gut. Savage goes into the cage a few times and now he is busted wide open, for a rarely seen in the WWF triple juicer! It was one of the most obvious blade jobs I have ever seen mind, but no matter, because this has been great fun. Christ, Savage is absolutely gushing here! Adonis decides against escape, instead going for a big splash off the cage onto Sammartino, but he moves out of the way. Savage tries to escape over the cage but crotches himself, and he and Santana brawl up top. Savage gets thrown off onto Adonis, and Sammartino throws him into the cage. Tito and Bruno both escape at the same time, to win the match. A really good match at that. Thoroughly entertaining and bloody as hell. Ten minutes long, but they didn’t stop, there was no resting at all. Sammartino looked great, despite his age, and the other three guys bumped around superbly for each other. Cracking stuff.
Final Rating: ****
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Greg Valentine (c) vs. Tito Santana
We are at the Baltimore Civic Centre and it is July 1985. This is the big blow off to their famous feud. As noted elsewhere, these guys had some really good matches in their series, better than anything Valentine did later on in his WWF career for sure. I am all in favour of two Tito matches in a row, but unfortunately this is clipped, just as it is on the History of the Intercontinental Title. The only place to get this in full on VHS is WWF Grudge Matches. Still, enough is shown to make it clear that this is a good match. The full bout goes around ten minutes, and barely stops just like the previous bout on the tape, and it would have been a far better option to show in full than the anti-match that was Andre-Studd. The finish sees Tito climb the middle of the cage, knocking Valentine off as he tries to stop him. Valentine notices the door next to him and shoots for it, but Tito kicks it closed onto his head and drops down to win the title. It’s a good finish to a good match. What a shame it was ruined by the Coliseum butchers.
Bruno Sammartino (c) vs. George Steele
This is from July 1970, and also features briefly on the Bruno Sammartino: Living Legend tape. Steele looks exactly the same as he did 15 years later. The problem is that he works the same too, which is hard on the eyes. Some kicking occurs from Steele, some kicking occurs from Bruno. This is NOT a classic encounter, believe me. It is fairly short though, at around 6-minutes, clipped down significantly from the 14-minutes it actually went. The finish comes when Sammartino rams Steele into the cage and simply walks out of the door. We didn’t need that on here.
Final Rating: ¼*
Bruno Sammartino vs. Roddy Piper
A third Sammartino match then (which is fine with me), this one from February 1986 at the Boston Garden. This is the culmination of a feud they had, stemming from Piper calling Bruno a “wop” on Piper’s Pit. He was ever so politically correct wasn’t he? I am amused at Piper trying to rile the crowd by putting up posters of the Chicago Bears, who beat Boston based team the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl just a few weeks prior. It’s cheap, but he looks so amused with himself doing it, that he makes it work real well. Sammartino goes right for Piper, rag-dolling him into the cage a number of times, busting him open right away, making this one of the most blood soaked tapes the WWF ever put out. Sammartino rips one of the posters down and tries to shove it up Piper’s ass, which takes us to a whole new level. He continues to thoroughly dominate, choking Piper out with his own shirt and then spitting on him. Piper gives him a low blow as he tries to escape the cage, which is his first offensive move of the match. Piper is gushing now, though not as much as Savage was earlier, but it is still impressively. The crowd have been well into this from the very start, and it has been great fun. I realise Sammartino was a huge star prior to his return, and had some memorable feuds and angles when he came back, but I still think he could have done even more. I think his hatred of the cartoon era stopped him from achieving another truly great run on top. Piper tries to escape the cage a couple of times, but is stopped by Bruno. They go back-and-forth in a slugfest, and Piper goes into the cage again. Bruno tries to leave, but Piper stops him and the tables turn again. This is a real war, just an excellently put together cage match between two unmatchable legends. Both had something really unique about them that can never be duplicated. Piper tries to escape but Bruno goes low as revenge for earlier on, and tries to leave himself. Piper grabs his ankle, but Bruno waffles Piper with a wooden chair a couple of times, and escapes for the win. This was great fun and an excellent choice to be on here. This is how cage matches should be; the blow off to a heated feud, with plenty of blood and brawling. Not two guys thrown into it for the sake of fulfilling a gimmick pay-per-view or on the whim of a “general manager” type figure to pop a rating.
Final Rating: ***½
Bob Backlund (c) vs. Pat Patterson
A rare Coliseum appearance for Bob Backlund next, this from September 1979 in Madison Square Garden. I openly admit, I have not seen a great deal of Backlund from when he was champion, because I found him so offensively boring when he came back from 1993-95 that I almost purposely avoided seeking anything out. I really can’t stand the little I have seen of his babyface persona and I don’t expect my preconceptions to change much here. Backlund controls to start with, before they both try to leave the cage. Backlund throws Patterson into the cage and makes an attempt to climb out again, but Patterson dives for the leg and returns the favour, and again tries to leave through the door. They go back-and-forth running spots to escape a few times and do lots of cage teases early on, though some fairly well done ones I have to say. I didn’t realise what a full on ginge Backlund was! How did he ever get over looking like that? I don’t just mean being ginger, I mean his look generally. I don’t get and have never got Backlund. His facial expressions when he sells are like those of a man receiving fellatio. Though, he is in with Patterson so maybe… They battle on top of the cage for a good few minutes, which Patterson finally gets the better of with a low blow, and Patterson hammers Backlund hard (hoho) with punches, and busts him open. This tape is a massacre. The bout has actually been very good, with plenty going on to keep it interesting. Both men try to climb over the cage at the same time, but are unable to mount the energy to get over, so they settle for a brawl in the middle. Patterson gets busted for a double juice, even though Backlund is already bleeding enough for both guys as it is. He is pouring with blood. The champ sends Patterson into the cage a few times and connects with fist drops, but gets thrown into the cage. Patterson tries to escape, but Backlund hits his big atomic drop finisher and wearily attempts to climb out one last time. Patterson finds some brass knuckles and goes to hit Backlund with them, but he gets blocked and hung upside down in the ropes. Backlund crawls for the door again, and kicks Patterson off as he tries to stop him, then falls backwards out of the cage to win the match and retain the title. Undoubtedly this is a good match, but I couldn’t enjoy it or take it seriously because of what both guys became. Backlund went on to do that crazy presidential candidate thing, and that is how I always remember him. Patterson became Vince McMahon’s personal stooge and worked in perhaps the worst match of all time against Gerald Brisco in their infamous Evening Gown match. Watching that, I pictured those characters. My bad, not theirs, but I can’t help but think that if say Bret and Perfect had the exact same match, I would have liked it even more.
Final Rating: ***½
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. King Kong Bundy
This is their lame WrestleMania II main event, and I am not watching it again. I know we sometimes re-review matches that have already been covered, but that is only when we have something to add. In this case I don’t, so here is Arnie’s review: The WWF pushed Bundy hard after his debut culminating in an angle where he hit multiple avalanches and injured Hogan’s ribs. At the time the WWF seemed more interested in building monsters for Hogan to slay than giving him interesting opponents. This is a blue bar steel cage match designed to give Hogan an even tougher environment to survive in. The odds are stacked against him, as they often were, leaving him to make the superhero comeback. The thing with Hogan is he could be carried by a better worker. It happened many times and he even had a great match with the Ultimate Warrior. But too often Hogan’s formula would be to take a bunch of heat and Bundy doesn’t have a moveset or a storyline that’ll make that interesting. Rib injury or no, people don’t buy Bundy as a major threat. The atmosphere is still decent but not the same as Hogan-Piper or Hogan-Orndorff or especially Hogan-Andre. The crowd have more fun cheering Hogan on as he gets his revenge. Bundy blades, gets thrown into the cage a load of times and choked with Hogan’s rib tape. But we’re not done just yet as Bundy crushes Hogan a few times. The Avalanche leaves Hogan prone but he stops Bundy at the door. That was the spot where if Bundy was going to win, it would happen. Hogan no-sells a second avalanche and slams Bundy. That’s all she wrote. Big boot, legdrop and he climbs out to retain. Despite the rib angle I’m still not convinced the crowd bought Bundy as a threat. Hogan was so over at the time he could literally face anyone and get big reactions, but the WWF was being a bit sneaky about it. They were careful with who was in there with him and if there was a sign of someone getting more popular, as was the case with Jake Roberts, they’d abandon the feud. Hulkamania was the backbone of Vince’s empire so he needed to keep his champ strong. That sort of explains the booking around WrestleMania II. For me personally, I think the whole angle was a disappointment.
Final Rating: *
Summary: Excellent in places, with Bruno Sammartino undoubtedly the MVP. Copious amounts of blood made this feel like a slasher movie, and the selection of a some good to great matches made this an entertaining affair. There was some bad stuff too, but it was generally pretty short and clipped down to almost nothing, keeping the flow of the tape moving. Like any tape dedicated to a specific gimmick match, it gets a little repetitive after a while, and the better matches on this release are probably worth watching alone to avoid becoming jaded. If you like cage matches and bloody brawls, this comes recommended.