The World Wrestling Federation experienced an action-packed year in 1980 running some of their biggest shows to date and it all started with a legend coming out of retirement, just for his protege to stab him in the back writes Will Burns.
Throughout the month on WWF TV, there were interesting happenings between Bruno Sammartino and his protégé Larry Zbyszko. For the weeks leading up to the new year, Sammartino (now working as a commentator) wished to interview Zbyszko but received no response. Vince asked Zbyszko a week later why he had been ignoring interview requests from Bruno Sammartino and Larry stated that although he respected Bruno, he wanted a ‘scientific exhibition match’ with him. Sick of labelled “Bruno’s protégé”, Zbyszko wanted to chance to prove to people what he was made of. Bruno immediately declined to face him. McMahon held another Zbyszko interview on the next TV show and Larry said if Bruno refuses to face him to prove himself, then he would retire. Bruno appeared and accepted the match but clearly stated that he feels like Larry is a brother and his goal was not to beat Zbyszko.
5th – At the Civic Center in Baltimore, Hulk Hogan faced Andre the Giant in their first known match – it ended as a draw.
12th – A sell-out crowd of 19,568 at the Philadelphia Spectrum witnessed a match in the Lou Albano-Pat Patterson feud that carried over from 1979. It was a short match with Intercontinental champion Patterson winning via count-out in under four minutes.
21st – At Madison Square Garden, Bob Backlund defended his WWF Championship against Ken Patera in a 25-minute bout that ended in chaos. After Patera tossed Backlund into the referee Jack Lotz, another referee Terry Terranova sprinted down to ringside and called for the timekeeper to ring the bell. After the decision was announced, Backlund and Patera brawled for several minutes until members of the locker room emerged to split the fight up.
On the 2nd of February edition of Championship Wrestling, Larry Zbyszko got his wish and an exhibition match with his mentor Bruno Sammartino. As the scientific bout went on Zbyszko grew frustrated as he was outclassed by Sammartino. Zbyszko ended up on the outside and Sammartino held the ropes open for Larry to return to the ring. Zbyszko snapped and laid boots into his mentor then smashed a wooden chair over Bruno’s head leaving him a bloody mess. The crowd erupted in boos as Zbyszko continued his assault and Sammartino was left lying, drenching the mat with his blood, and exited the ring on a stretcher. A truly shocking angle. The full analysis of the six-month-long feud can be read here.
Other big news coming out of the promotion is that Vince McMahon Jr. and his wife Linda has formed Titan Sports, Inc. This company will be used to promote the WWF wrestling events and Ice Hockey games.
18th – The Bob Backlund-Ken Patera feud continued with another match at MSG with I.C. Champion Pat Patterson as the referee. Backlund won via count-out in 15:38 much to the delight of the New York crowd. Also on the card, Austin Idol and Tommy Rich made their debuts in the famous arena, this was to be their only appearance in the building.
21st – Bruno Sammartino traveled to Amarillo, Texas to team with his 19-year old son, David, in a win over Mr. Pogo and Bob Morgan.
Business was booming for the Sammartino-Zbyszko feud. On the 1st of the month, the Philadelphia Spectrum sold out for the first meeting of the pair since the double-cross angle in February. On St. Valentines’ night, the Pittsburgh Civic Arena sets a wrestling attendance record is broke of 16,661 and on the 24th, another record goes at Madison Square Garden pulls in 26,102 for Sammartino vs. Zbyszko main event.
In the ring, Zbyszko was awarded all three matches by disqualification In Philly, nearly 20,000 fans saw Zbyszko win via DQ as Sammartino’s exploded with rage in the bout and put his hands on the official, and was thrown out. In Pittsburgh and New York, Bruno was disqualified as he refused to release a choke hold on his former protege.
8th – At the Civic Center in Landover, MD, ‘The Incredible’ Hulk Hogan defeated WWF Champion Bob Backlund via count-out in a long bout that went over thirty minutes.
5th – The Boston Garden records its third consecutive wrestling sell-out of 16,000 attendees.
12th – The WWF promoted a huge show at the Philadelphia Spectrum where Bob Backlund defended his WWF Championship against “The Incredible” Hulk Hogan. Hogan took Backlund to the limit, and again went nearly 30 minutes defeating the champion via count-out. Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko clashed again with Bruno coming out on top in around 18 minutes. However, the big news coming out the show was that Ivan Putski and Tito Santana lost their WWF Tag Team straps to the Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika.
21st – The Federation hit Madison Square Garden with another title change. In just over 30 minutes Ken Patera defeated Pat Patterson to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Bruno fought Larry again and Zbyszko had experienced enough punishment by the 15-minute mark and left the ringside area to take a count-out loss. One-half of the newly crowned tag champs The Samoan #1 took on Backlund for the WWF Title. Backlund emerged as the victor around 17 minutes due to a roll-up into a bridge pin. Hogan beat Frenchman Rene Goulet in quick fashion as did Andre the Giant against Bobby Duncum.
The Sammartino-Zbyszko war continued with a big match at the Boston Garden on the 10th with the veteran coming out on top with a count-out victory. Due to the fact that Zbyszko hot stepped it out of the arena once the going got tough for him. News started going around that the WWF is trying to book a baseball stadium in the New York area for a summer cage match between the two to settle the feud.
19th – The MSG show was a fantastic show for Zbyszko as he came out on top of 16-man Battle Royal. He outlasted top stars such as “High Chief” Peter Maivia, Gorilla Monsson, Pat Patterson, The Samoans, and Tony Atlas on the way to the victory. In the main event, WWF Champion Bob Backlund defeated WWF Intercontinental Champ Ken Patera in a brutal Texas Death Match that is a Match of the Year contender. The match went 23 minutes and Backlund pinned the Strongman with a crossbody off the top rope.
After Larry Zbyszko took advantage of every loophole or shortcut to avoid a beating from his former mentor Bruno Sammartino, WWF officials signed a huge match at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York on 9th August 1980. The “Showdown At The Shea” event was been hyped to hold a match to end the feud and Zbyszko would have nowhere to run, as the match was set to take place inside the confines of a 15-foot steel cage!
21st – WWF Champion Bob Backlund and WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera continued their war in a huge title vs title match at the Philly Spectrum. The IC champion ended up with his hand raised but it was via disqualification so the WWF belt remained with Backlund.
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant was signed for the Shea Stadium card in August. Hogan had attacked Andre in a New Japan Pro Wrestling MSG Series bout to cost the Giant his match against Stan Hansen, so he was forced to sign a match with Andre one-on-one.
Throughout the month, WWF Champion Bob Backlund was involved in a series of title defenses against Hogan, Zbyszko and Patera but remained in possession of the belt.
The Federation sets an attendance of 36,395 and gate for professional wrestling at Shea Stadium at the Showdown at Shea mega event on the 9th of August. The show was heavily promoted as a Cage match for Sammartino and Zbyszko to settle the score. Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales claimed the WWF Tag Team Titles from The Wild Samoans but relinquish the belts before the day was over so Backlund could concentrate on defending his WWF Championship belt. Full report here.
16th – Again Bruno and Larry pulling in good business as the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland sets a wrestling attendance mark of 19,787 for their lumberjack match.
23rd – Gorilla Monsoon had publicly stated in his column in the Philadelphia Journal, that he would retire if he failed to defeat Ken Patera at the Spectrum in Philly on 23rd August. Monsoon was bloodied and battered by Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera, who pinned the Gorilla after using the brass knuckles.
9th – In Allentown, PA at the Agricultural Hall, The Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika reclaimed the WWF Tag Team Titles after winning a six-team tournament that was held on WWF TV. Captain Lou Albano’s men defeated Rene Goulet and Tony Garea in finals after Afa pinned Goulet following a double team bodyslam while the referee was distracted.
20th – As promised last month, Gorilla Monsoon wrestles his last match ending his 21-year career. Gorilla was pinned by Hulk Hogan at the Civic Center in Springfield, MS.
22nd – In their first meeting on WWF soil, Champion Bob Backlund defeated NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race by disqualification in Madison Square Garden. Both grapplers emerged from the contest a bloody mess. We covered the entire event here.
Sgt. Slaughter, Stan Hansen and Killer Khan were new faces at the TV tapings for Championship Wrestling and All-Star Wrestling in October. Slaughter immediately challenged Backlund for the WWF belt on the 20th at Madison Square Garden. Slaughter took the champion to the limit and defeated Backlund by DQ.
The job of WWF TV color commentator passed from Bruno Sammartino to Pat Patterson on the 4th of October. Vince McMahon Jr. continued as TV commentator but turned over the portion of the show which provides audio news of upcoming events to Howie Finkel, ring announcer at Madison Square Garden and other major arenas in the area.
4th – The Hangman had been enjoying a good run since arriving in the Federation in June but was beaten by Bob Backlund in the Boston Gardenated streak. The Hangman and Backlund clashed many times throughout the month but the “All-American Boy” came out on top.
10th – Bob’s busy month continued as he was challenged by the most-hated man of 1980, Larry Zbyszko in Pittsburgh. The champion retained his belt pinning Zbyszko within 15 minutes.
11th – A special show was held at the Spectrum as Gorilla Monsoon retired from in-ring competition. The first 10,000 fans to enter the Spectrum received a signed photograph of Monsoon as the WWF held a special retirement ceremony for him. New Jersey Assemblywoman Barbara Faith Kalik presented Monsoon with a Proclamation on behalf of the State Assembly in a proud moment for Gorilla.
25th – Backlund experienced a tough contest against the Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera at the Capitol Center in Landover, Maryland, but Backlund once again prevailed as the strongman was counted out.
Newcomer Sgt. Slaughter received multiple shots at the WWF Championship and his matches with champion Bob Backlund all ended in disqualifications for either man.
8th – New WWF Tag Team champions were crowned at the Philadelphia Spectrum as Afa and Sika, the Wild Samoans were beaten by the team of Rick Martel and Tony Garea to send the Philly faithful into raptures. This is the fourth time that Garea has held the championships, formerly holding with Larry Zbyszko, Haystacks Calhoun and Dean Ho.
Also the Spectrum, Backlund defended against Larry Zbyszko with Tony Atlas as the special referee. The self-proclaimed “Living Legend” took Backlund close but ended up being disqualified after refusing to a break a choke hold. Backlund gained a bit of revenge by slamming Larry after the decision and kicking Zbyszko out of the ring.
And finally, the Spectrum also played host to a dream match as WWF Intercontinental Champion Ken Patera faced Bruno Sammartino and it was an even contest until Patera was struggling and hit Bruno with a ringside chair. The referee threw the match out and declared Bruno the winner, but the action did not end there. Patera kept punishing Sammartino placing him in a full nelson until Garea, Martel and Arnold Skaaland came to the rescue.
Bruno Sammartino and Ken Patera have been main eventing across the country while Bob Backlund, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan have been competing in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s MSG Tag League at the beginning of the month.
8th – Pedro Morales uncrowned Ken Patera to become the new Intercontinental Champion at Madison Square Garden, with Pat Patterson was the guest referee for the bout.
29th – The Federation winds up the year in front of 19,000 fans at MSG as Tony Atlas pins ‘Big Cat’ Ernie Ladd in the main event. NWF Champion & World Martial Arts Champion Antonio Inoki defeated Bobby Duncum and WWF Junior Heavyweight champion Tatsumi Fujinami successfully defended his title against Don Diamond.
1980 MATCHES TO WATCH
1980 WORLD NEWS
Pittsburgh Steelers win their fourth NFL championship in six seasons on January 20th, defeating the L.A. Rams 31–19 in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
On 19th February, AC/DC’s frontman Bon Scott died aged 33 in London, England.
In an announcement on March 20th, President Jimmy Carter declared that the United States will boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Six Iranian-born terrorists take over the Iranian embassy in London, England on 20th April. The British SAS retakes the Embassy on May 5th with only one of the terrorists surviving.
On May 16th, The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers to clinch the NBA Title in Game Six of a Best of Seven series to win the series 4-2. The Lakers won 123-107 in the final game with rookie Magic Johnson scoring 42 points.
The Summer Olympics begins on July 19th in Moscow, Soviet Union. A total of 82 countries boycott the Games with athletes from 16 of them participating under a neutral flag.
On October 21st, Philadelphia Phillies win the MLB World Series 4 games to 1 against the Kansas City Royals.
Ronald Reagan becomes the 40th President of the United States after defeating incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter on 4th November in the U.S. Presidential Election.
On the 8th of December, John Lennon was shot dead in New York City while he was walking toward his apartment, The Dakota with his wife Yoko Ono.
Sources: Joseph Shedlock Newsletters, Cagematch.de, WrestlingData.com, WWE Network,