Category Archives: 1980


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.

WWF: Madison Square Garden (04.21.80) – PDRwrestling


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 MaiviaGorilla MonssonPat PattersonThe 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.

Ring Posts: Q&A with Sgt. Slaughter - Baltimore Sun


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. 

Pedro Morales -


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.


Bob Backlund vs. Ken Patera (MSG – 21/01/80)

Larry Zbyszko vs. Bruno Sammartino (Allentown, PA – 02/02/80)

Bob Backlund vs. Hulk Hogan (Philadelphia Spectrum – 12/04/80)

Bob Backlund vs. Ken Patera – Texas Death Match (MSG – 19/05/80)

Bob Backlund vs. Ken Patera (Philadelphia Spectrum – 26/07/80)

Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan (Philadelphia Spectrum – 26/07/80)

Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan (Shea Stadium – 22/09/1980)

Bruno Sammartino vs. Larry Zbyszko – Cage Match (Shea Stadium – 22/9/80)

Bob Backlund vs. Harley Race (MSG – 22/09/80)

Bob Backlund vs. Larry Zbyszko (Philadelphia Spectrum – 08/11/80)

The Example of Ronald Reagan -


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.

Will Burns

Sources: Joseph Shedlock Newsletters,,, WWE Network,


22nd September 1980 – Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY – Attendance: 20,000

On 22nd September, hot on the heels of the gigantic ‘Showdown at Shea’ show in August, the Vincent J. McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation promoted a return to Madison Square Garden with two of their biggest main events they have ever booked.  The Federation had not run the Garden since June 16th due to the Democratic Party convention but they return in style.

The incredible Hulk Hogan got his return match against Andre the Giant after the controversial finish of their Shea Stadium bout. In addition, for the first time in MSG history, WWF Champion Bob Backlund and NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race clashed with both titles on the line.

After enduring a recent NWA World Title loss to Giant Baba in Japan, Harley Race subsequently recaptured the belt to put it on the line in this huge encounter against Bob Backlund.  Backlund himself was in the Orient last month and defended his WWF title against Antonio Inoki in a match that was cut short by interference from Stan Hansen and “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe.

Despite their troubles overseas, MSG was treated to a fantastic bout that made history in this unification bout. The now five-time champion Race made his eight defense of this new reign in front of the sell-out crowd. This was the bout that Backlund had longed for.  Even though he has met Race for the NWA strap on many occasions across the States, this was on his home turf at the Garden.

The match nearly ended after only two minutes after Backlund got a close count from a Lou Thesz press. Despite repeated attempts to physically intimidate Backlund, the WWF champ kept his cool and worked on Race with a wearing headlock. Race eventually worked his way out of the hold and nailed Backlund with a high knee lift.  Race then set Backlund up for a suplex but the WWF champion reversed it to pop the crowd. Backlund went back to the headlock and then an abdominal stretch which frustrated the five-time NWA champion and Race escaped, thumped Backlund down to the canvas and delivered a knee drop.  However, again as Race went to deliver a suplex, Backlund slipped out and put Race down with a Belly-to-Back suplex for a close fall.

Race made his way back into it and punished Backlund and headed to the top rope to possibly deliver the knee drop from the top, but Backlund caught Race and slammed him off the top.  Afterwards an atomic drop sent Race to the outside with Backlund interrupting the referee’s count, Race made it back in before the ten. Race hit a low blow on Backlund without the referee Jack Lodz’s knowledge and hit a further knee drop to Backlund’s head.  He then hit a piledriver and a headbutt which looked likely to put Backlund away, but instead of covering he hit another headbutt and went for another piledriver.  Backlund gained some adrenaline and landed a piledriver of his own for a near fall.

Race gained back the advantage and missed a headbutt from the second rope which disorientated the NWA champ. He and Backlund collided which sent both men down, but Race spiralled out of the ring.  Backlund dragged Race back in and landed a leg-drop for a two count. He then landed a gut-wrench suplex to another near fall and Race was in trouble of losing his championship. Desperate, Race hit Backlund with a further low blow and was warned by Lodz.  Race crashed Backlund’s head into the ring post and again was cautioned by Lodz as the now-busted open Backlund was nearly counted out.

Race opted to try and slam Backlund’s head into the ring post again but he was reversed into it which caused Harley to bleed profusely. Backlund finally lost control once he saw the blood and thumped Race down and landed a backbreaker for yet another near fall. The crowd were hot and desperate to see Backlund’s hand raised but Race escaped every time showing why he is the NWA champion.

Backlund slapped on a sleeperhold nearly sending Harley unconscious but a desperate Race grabbed Lodz and was disqualified.  The crowd thought that Race had submitted until ring announcer Howard Finkel read out the decision. The DQ win for Backlund meant both men kept their titles although Backlund’s arm was raised.  You can watch the full bout here on the WWE Network.

Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant’s match at Shea ended in controversy as the replays showed that Andre was awarded the bout even though it was clear that Hogan kicked out of the pin.  Hogan’s manager “Classie” Freddie Blassie demanded a rematch and it took place at MSG with Gorilla Monsson as the special referee.

Hogan and Andre tangled before the ring introductions could take place, and despite Monsson trying to split them apart he rang the bell early to begin the bout.  Hogan started rule breaking early on which encouraged Monsson to grab Hogan by the hair to reprimand him.  The impressive build of Hogan, who has been overpowering all in his way so far in the WWF, found it hard to overpower the Giant.

Hogan made Andre suffer in a bear hug once he gained a measure of control in the bout early on. Andre battered his way out but Hogan put him down with axhandles and kicks. Hogan tried to use the ropes to his advantage on many occasions with Monsson dragging Hogan away, in behaviour that was unusual for a referee.  Andre dished out some knife edge chops that took Hogan down and Andre dragged him up for a bodyslam.  Andre’s effort at a splash missed the target as the frantic Hogan rolled out of the way before Andre got to his feet and slapped on his own bear hug.

Hogan worked his way out and the MSG crowd was stunned into silence once Hogan got Andre up for a bodyslam.  However, instead of covering, Hogan attempted to slam the Giant again but Andre’s weight was excessive for the man from California and his legs gave way.  Andre landed on top and Monsson slammed his hand down three times to award the Frenchman the match.

In the other bouts, the opening match was for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title as Les Thornton defended against Jose Estrada. This was the Englishman’s first appearance at MSG taking on, although local, the very unpopular Estrada, who attacked Thornton before the bell. Thornton quickly turned the tables and gave the Brooklyn native some punishment with strong rights and lefts. Thornton dominated the majority of the match winning exchanges of chain wrestling and got the pin with a backbreaker.

Next up, Pat Patterson defeated “The Unpredictable” Johnny Rodz via pinfall with a sunset flip. Rodz took advantage early on stomping Patterson until the former Intercontinental Champion fled to the outside but Rodz continued the punishment with a top rope elbow further kicks and stomps on his return. Rodz then rammed his opponent’s head into the iron ring post which seemed to wake up Patterson as he made the comeback. The roles were reversed and Rodz was being severely punished in the ring and on the outside. The referee had many chances to disqualify either man but failed to and he became confused failing to break holds, when either man was held up in the ropes, before Patterson gained the victory with the flash pinfall.

The undefeated The Hangman kept his 100% record remain intact against fan-favourite Dominic DeNucci. The bout started off as a back and forth affair until DeNucci began working on the Hangman’s right leg and the Italian took control of the fight.  But the bad guy got the duke after DeNucci caught the aeroplane spin on The Hangman but he grabbed the top rope, DeNucci legs crumbled and was caught out for the three count.  The Hangman attacked DeNucci after the decision with the noose but the Italian gained control of the rope.  He proceeded to hurl the man from Europe over the top rope with the noose around his neck, choking The Hangman unconscious as the crowd erupted.

The cheers turned to unanimous boos for the next bout as Larry Zbyszko made his way down to the ring to face former tag team partner Tony Garea. The New Zealander took the early advantage in the match, much to the crowd’s delight but Zbyszko fled the outside, and subsequently on his return to the ring, he unsuccessfully attempted to remove the top turnbuckle pad behind referee Jack Lodz’s back.  When Larry finally made it back into the ring, Garea went to work on the left arm of Zbyszko. After taking a few minutes of punishment, Zbyszko caught Garea with an elbow that sent the fan favourite to the outside, and Larry once again attempted to remove the turnbuckle pad. Larry worked on Garea with stomps but the Kiwi caught Zbyszko in an abdominal stretch. Eventually, Zbyszko’s cheating ways got the better of Garea who proceeded to choke Zbyszko in the ropes and failed to break Lodz’s five-count and Larry was announced as the victor.

Newcomer to the area, Rick Martel made his MSG debut against “Quickdraw” Rick McGraw. In a scientific match with lots of sportsmanship, Martel reversed a hip toss into a back cradle for the win. The competitors shook hands and showed appreciation for each other after the bell.

One half of the Wild Samoans, Afa faced formed WWF Champion Pedro Morales in the next match.  Morales was making his return at MSG for the first time in five years and got a great ovation from the New York crowd much to the unhappiness of the Samoan’s manager Captain Lou Albano. In a seesaw battle, Morales scored a questionable pinfall in three and half minutes after reversing a bodyslam. The two brawled after the bout with Morales gaining the advantage and sending the Samoan sprawling to the outside.  The video replays showed it was a bad decision by the referee with Afa kicking out on the two and a half count.

The Intercontinental Championship match between champion Ken Patera and challenger Rene Goulet was next and it did not last long. The Frenchman gained an early advantage on the champion but before either man could get warm-up the match was over. As he was Irish-whipped into the ropes, Patera booted Goulet to the chest and small packaged Goulet for a win in just a minute much to the shock of the MSG faithful.

Sika of the Wild Samoans took on “Mr. USA” Tony Atlas before the Andre-Hogan main event.  The athletic Atlas is still undefeated in the WWF after he landed an elbow drop as soon as Sika missed a splash in the corner.

  1. Les Thornton pinned Jose Estrada in 7:05 to retain the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship (**)
  2. Pat Patterson pinned Johnny Rodz in 8:10 (*)
  3. The Hangman pinned Dominic DeNucci in 10:15 (**¼)
  4. Larry Zbyszko defeated Tony Garea via disqualification in 12:17 (**½)
  5. Rick Martel pinned Rick McGraw in 6:59 (**)
  6. Pedro Morales pinned Afa in 3:29 (*)
  7. Ken Patera pinned Rene Goulet in 1:00 to retain the WWF Intercontinental Title (NR)
  8. Bob Backlund defeated Harley Race via disqualification in 35:41. Due to the disqualification, Backlund remains the WWF Champion and Race remains the NWA World Heavyweight Champion (**¾)
  9. Tony Atlas pinned Sika in 5:32 (*¼)
  10. Andre the Giant pinned Hulk Hogan in 12:25. Gorilla Monsoon was the special referee. (*)

For information on our match ratings click here.

This was the just the fourth time that Race has defended the title in the building after a defense against Tony Garea in 1978 and a pair of bouts with Steve Travis and Dusty Rhodes in 1979.

The WWF could not book the Garden in July or August due to the 1980 Democratic National Convention for Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale’s re-election. Although not intentional, this was a great thing to happen to Vince McMahon and the WWF as this encouraged them to run Shea Stadium in August, which did tremendous business.

This was a stacked card but the action itself was disappointing in many of the bouts.

After an incredibly slow start, Race and Backlund’s match turned into a great match around twenty minutes in and well worth a watch, however, Andre and Hogan was disappointing.

The Les Thornton-Jose Estrada opener was enjoyable with catch wrestling, back body drops and monkey flips are aplenty.  Check out the Larry Zbyszko-Tony Garea bout if you can. Zbyszko is so over as a heel, it makes the match a good watch.

I have designed a poster for this event, check it out by visiting our artwork page.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source: WWE Network, Pro Wrestling Illustrated – February 1981,


9th August 1980 – Shea Stadium, Flushing, NY – Attendance: 36,295

In front of over 36,000 fans, the ring was set-up outside the diamond at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, and the World Wrestling Federation hit it one out of the ballpark with this mega event. 

Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko clashed in what would be their final battle, the cumulation of a heart-breaking feud.  Pre-match, Bruno added to the anticipation proclaiming he would retire if he did not win the bout.  After purposely being counted out in matches with Bruno for the past few months, Zbyszko had nowhere to run inside the demands of the steel cage.

With the tension at boiling point, Bruno entered the cage immediately attacking Larry, slamming his head into the cage four times. Zbyszko, a desperate man at this point, motioned to the referee to open the door but Bruno would not let him escape. Blood flowed early in the bout with Zbyszko suffering a laceration from his head.

Zbyszko then nailed Sammartino with a low blow and the match turned. Larry laying the boots into Bruno’s mid-section and then slamming the former champions head in return, into the cage walls. Twice Zbyszko tried to escape the cage by climbing over the top but Bruno pulled him back in to punish his former student some more. Zbyszko again nearly left the cage, however via the door but Sammartino dragged him back in and once again slammed his head into the unforgiving steel.

Bruno suffered an injury to his right arm with cause a cut to open, but this only fired him up and he slammed Zbyszko’s head into the ring post from the apron.  He punished the self-proclaimed “Living Legend” some more by once again ramming his head into the walls and around 14 minutes on the clock, Bruno emerged victorious walking through the door leaving the bruised and battered Zbyszko laying in the ring.

As Sammartino left, he slid his index finger over his throat which enraged Zbyszko, adrenaline built and he got to his feet and chased after Bruno.  As Zbyszko approached him from behind, Sammartino landed two hard rights to Larry’s head which rocked him but Zbyszko proceeded to grab Bruno’s arm and raise it in victory. Bruno did not appreciate the gesture and walked down into the dugout. The war was over and Bruno was the victor.

Time will tell what the future holds for both men. Will Bruno go back into retirement? After all the statements he made about proving himself and defeating Bruno earlier in the year, will Zbyszko continue his wrestling career?

On the rest of the card, in the opening bout, the crowd were treated to an all-Hispanic match-up as Angel Marvilla defeated Jose Estrada in 7:27 via pinfall, after Marvilla came off the ropes and hit a flying headbutt.

Dominic DeNucci and Baron Mikel Scicluna battled in a high-tempered affair which DeNucci won via a sunset flip in 5:57. For the majority of the bout, despite many efforts to antagonise De Nucci, Scicluna failed to make the Italian avert from the innate dignity which has made him famous.  However, after enduring several minutes of cheap tactics, DeNucci exploded and ended up pinning Scicluna for the victory.

In a battle for the WWF Junior Heavyweight Title, the champion from Japan, Tatsumi Fujinami faced Mexican superstar Chavo Guerrero.  Early in the contest, Fuijnami dived through the ropes onto Guerrero and the pair rolled across the green of the diamond. The empathic crowd showed their appreciation with cheers. Minutes later, Chavo looked like he was going to repay the favour to Fujinami but just teased the dive. This was not the end of Chavo’s showboating however, this failed to provoke Fuijnami as the match wore on.  Fujinami aimed to suplex Chavo but the Mexican reversed it for a roll-up, the champion popped out of the pin and turned Guerrero up with a bridge for the three count in just over ten and half minutes.

Next up, Fujinami’s mentor Antonio Inoki defended his National Wrestling Federation Heavyweight title, a belt he defends normally in New Japan Pro Wrestling, against “Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe. The New Jersey native tried to play mind games early on by not getting ready for the bout. Sharpe finally de-robed from his Elvis Presley-esque jumpsuit, however, Inoki looked unperturbed and took control of the match taking Sharpe down to the mat.  Sharpe gained some offense nailing Inoki with some stiff boots to the chest but Inoki replied by taking Sharpe down with some leg kicks. Inoki prevailed and retain the strap after delivering two savage kicks to the back of the Pretty Boy’s head.

The WWF Tag Team Champions the Wild Samoans were dethroned by the team of Pedro Morales and WWF Champion Bob Backlund in a best of two out of three falls bout winning by two falls without reply. Backlund was punished by double team manoeuvres early on but he and Morales were a fall up after 9:30 with Morales rolling Afa up for the pin. The crowd erupted thinking the duo had won the championships, but it was short-lived as the further falls needed to be carried out.  Even ring announcer Vince McMahon was confused and climbed into the ring to declare the winners.  Samoans’ manager Captain Lou Albano was getting involved so the referee ordered the security supplied by the NYPD, to take him out of the ballpark. This action disorientated the Samoans and allowed Backlund to hit a piledriver on Sika but Afa stopped the three count.  Sika hoisted Backlund up for a Samoan Drop but Morales dropkicked the Samoan in the face, causing him to topple over while Backlund landed on top for the three.  The Shea Stadium faithful exploded in celebration for the new champions. Yet there is a huge question mark over the future of the tag titles as it is reported that the WWF will not allow Backlund to hold these and his WWF Heavyweight Title.  More on this in our August 1980 Round-up to be released in the coming days.

Pat Patterson was attacked before the bell by the vicious Tor Kamata in the next bout.  Although, Patterson ran out the winner in quick fashion (2:06) after Kamata was disqualified for attempting to throw salt into the Canadian’s eyes.  It ended up in the eyes of referee Dick Kroll and he threw the match out.

In ladies’ action, Beverley Shade and the NWA World Women’s Champion The Fabulous Moolah defeated Kandi Malloy and Peggy Lee when Moolah flipped Lee with a backdrop and hit a splash for the 1-2-3.

Next up, Ken Patera defended the WWF Intercontinental Championship against “Mr USA” Tony Atlas and the challenger dominated early on, sending Patera to the outside after receiving a press slam.  Patera continued to take punishment much to the crowds’ delight with Atlas landing a series of headbutts, dropkicks, elbow drops and splashes, however, the tide turned when Patera dropped to the floor with Atlas’ head in his hands, causing Mr. USA’s throat to be dragged across the top rope.  Patera, the self-proclaimed Worlds Strongest Man, slapped on a swinging full nelson but Atlas managed to reach the ropes and force the referee to break the hold.  Although the Tony Atlas fans would be disappointed after the pair were brawling on the apron and Patera failed to climb back in before referee counted to ten.  Atlas won the match but not the title.  Patera attacked Atlas after the bell.  The victor grabbed the mic after the decision was called and challenged Patera to continue the fight but the Olympian refused to return to the ring telling The Wrestler magazine that “he had better things to do than fight a wimp.”.

Although Johnny Rodz attacked “Polish Power” Ivan Putski before the bell, he lost the bout via pinfall after Rodz tasted the full impact of the ‘Polish Hammer’ double axhandle in under five minutes.

Rene Goulet faced the challenge of “Classie” Freddie Blassie’s latest addition to his camp, The Hangman.  The more experienced Goulet outclassed the Hangman throughout but fell to defeat after he was dropped throat-first on the top rope.

In a battle of undefeated men, “The Incredible” Hulk Hogan, flanked by manager Freddie Blassie battled Andre the Giant.  As discussed in our July 1980 Round-Up article, Hogan and Andre had an altercation in Japan just weeks earlier in NJPW’s MSG Series tournament.  Hogan stopped Andre from entering back in the ring in a tournament match against Stan Hansen and the giant was counted out.

At Shea, as the arrogant 6ft 8, Hogan sauntered toward the ring, the fans’ boos echoed around the stadium, while in direct contrast, Andre was unanimously cheered by the 36,000 plus crowd.  It was a power man contest both testing their unbelievable strength on each other.  However, Hogan failed to bodyslam Andre while the Frenchman got Hulk up no problem.  Unfortunately, while Andre was lifting him, Hogan’s trailing leg knocked the referee out.  Hogan attacked Andre from behind and to the gasp of the crowd, got Andre up and slammed him down to the canvas.  Andre recovered and returned with a splash added for the win but the match ending was marred in controversy.  Although, Andre looked to have pinned Hogan for the three count and was awarded the win, video replays showed that Hogan looked to had raised his shoulder before the referee counted three.  After the bell, Blassie handed Hogan some brass knuckles which he placed into his elbow pad and clotheslined Andre. Andre suffered a laceration and this war will continue.

  1. Angel Marvilla pinned Jose Estrada in 7:27 (*¾)
  2. Dominic DeNucci pinned Baron Mikel Scicluna in 5:57 (**)
  3. Tatsumi Fujinami pinned Chavo Guerrero in 10:33 to retain the WWF Junior Heavyweight Title (***)
  4. Antonio Inoki pinned Larry Sharpe in 8:53 to retain the NWF Heavyweight Title (**½)
  5. Bob Backlund & Pedro Morales defeated The Wild Samoans in 14:42 to win the WWF World Tag Team Titles in a Best Two out of Three Falls match 2-0 (***)
  6. Pat Patterson beat Tor Kamata via disqualification at 2:06 (NR)
  7. Beverley Shade & The Fabulous Moolah beat Kandi Malloy & Peggy Lee at 6:06 (*)
  8. Tony Atlas beat Ken Patera via count-out at 8:20. Patera retains the WWF Intercontinental Title (**¼)
  9. Ivan Putski pinned Johnny Rodz at 4:45. (*½)
  10. The Hangman pinned Rene Goulet at 8:27 (DUD)
  11. Andre the Giant pinned Hulk Hogan at 7:49 (*¾)
  12. Bruno Sammartino defeated Larry Zbyszko at 13:59 in a steel cage match (***¾)

For information on our match ratings click here.

WWF owner and commentator Vince McMahon did the ring announcing at Shea Stadium instead of the usual ring announcer Howard Finkel. The reason being that “The Fink” was working for Jim Crockett Promotions that night as Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling ran a show at the Municipal Auditorium in Buffalo, New York.

In drawing such a large crowd, everyone did well financially off this gigantic show although no bigger than the headliner Bruno Sammartino, who reportedly received a paycheque for $35,000 for his nigh’s work.

The Bruno vs. Larry initial angle and the subsequent feud is iconic in professional wrestling. This was an idea that Zbyszko and Sammartino concocted themselves, to push Larry’s career on and it worked perfectly and gave the WWF a massively profitable show at a time of dire need.

Watching this whole angle build and its conclusion is one of the main reasons I have chosen to revisit the history of all this footage and finally produce content for this website.  There was plenty of material here that I have not seen in my thirty years as a fan and it is a joy to research, watch, discover and learn.  Hopefully, you guys can learn with me, and like me get a kick out of it at the same time.

On this journey, we will discuss every fine detail about these shows and angles and this is just a taster of what is to come.  We have a long way to go until March 2001 so stay with us, stay patient and enjoy the ride.

The shows itself was enjoyable and only had a few poor matches.  I would recommend hopping onto Youtube for highlights of the Sammartino-Zbyszko match and if you can, check out a young Hulk Hogan vs Andre in a total switch of roles that they would play less than seven years later.

I would advise (again if you can find them) to check out Fujnami vs. Guerrero and The Samoans vs. Backlund and Morales too.

As always, thanks for reading…

Will Burns

Source: WWE Network, Larry Zbyszko – ‘Adventures In Larryland’, The Wrestler – January 1981


It is reported by sources in New York that over 30,000 fans will embark to Shea Stadium, the home of the New York Mets on August 9th 1980 for the World Wrestling Federation’s biggest show to date, “Showdown at Shea”.  There is only one match that could headline an event of this magnitude, Larry Zbyszko vs. Bruno Sammartino writes Will Burns.

“No Mr. Nice Guy” proclaimed Larry Zbyszko shortly after exhibition bout with his mentor Bruno Sammartino on a February 2nd 1980’s edition of WWF Championship Wrestling. The fan’s jaws dropped to the floor when Zbyszko erupted violently in a vicious attack against the former legendary WWF champion. The student stabbed his teacher in the back and at Shea Stadium, he must pay the consequences.

Larry met Bruno in 1967 and describes the moment perfectly in his autobiography “Adventures of Larryland”: “So, when I turned 16, I became a stalker.  I couldn’t help it — when I found out my larger-than-life, living and breathing hero lived only two miles away, I had to drive past his house every chance I got.  One day, I damn near wrecked my car. There he was in his backyard — I could see him through the hedges.  I’m sure it made his day, some 16-year-old, pimply-faced kid stumbling through his humble beginnings shrubbery.  But that’s how it started —I trespassed into his privacy.  I introduced myself, very respectfully, and for some reason, he bought my dream. It really was as simple as that — Bruno’s protegé, Larry Zbyzsko, was born.”

Bruno agreed to train Zbyszko and then began working out regularly in the two-time WWF champion’s basement and by 1972, in a business which is incredibly difficult get into, Bruno introduced his protégé to Vincent James McMahon, the owner of the World Wide Wrestling Federation, and Zbyszko was signed to appear on their shows.  Larry idolized Bruno and Bruno treat Larry like a younger brother. They were incredibly close.

Then as time went on Bruno suffered injuries and semi-retired from the ring and Larry started plying his trade with great success, winning the WWWF World Tag Team Titles with partner Tony Garea in November 1978.

However, in December 1979, the student-mentor relationship showed signs of cracks when Bruno (now a colour commentator on WWF Championship Wrestling) was snubbed by Larry when he tried to interview him.  A week later, Sammartino stated that he had tried to reach out to Zbyszko to talk to him but he could not get him to acknowledge his calls. Vince McMahon was able to talk to Larry at ringside and Larry made his feelings known…

“I was trained by Bruno Sammartino and he taught me almost everything I know.  And it was very hard for me not to talk to Bruno but I couldn’t get myself to talk to the man and I am going to tell everybody why.

I want to make this clear to everybody – I do not hate Bruno. I do not disrespect Bruno but I have to become Larry Zbyszko to survive in my chosen field, in my career. For years now, I have been walking down the street and I have been recognised as “hey, you’re the one that Bruno trained aren’t ya?” and I have been walking down the streets for years and people say “hey there’s Bruno’s protégé”. And I have been getting this all over the world, not just where I live, I’ve even been getting this off some members of my own family.”

“The man who helped me so much is now standing in my way.  I cannot become Larry Zbyszko, the veteran while I exist in Bruno Sammartino’s shadow.”

“I have to prove myself and I deserve a chance. I have asked Bruno for my favours in the past and I have to ask for one more. I want to wrestle Bruno Sammartino and prove myself to the world and the fans and to the promoters that won’t give me the recognition I’m due.”

As the weeks went by on the television shows, Bruno rejected the idea of the match saying that he “loved Larry like a brother”, he could not fight his brother and Zbyszko’s challenge hurt him deeply.

After a match on the 26th January edition of Championship Wrestling, Zbyszko called Vince over to talk and he stated if Bruno would not wrestle him, he would leave the business. He called out Bruno face-to-face which Sammartino obliged. Bruno said he did not want Zbyszko to end his career due to his willingness not to wrestle. He reluctantly agreed to the match and give Zbyszko the chance to prove himself however, that he would not go easy on Larry but he would not go out to hurt him.

The next week on television (February 2nd), the match took place. The bout was a technical exhibition bout and Zbyszko was being clearly being outclassed by his mentor. Larry began to show his frustrations and after Bruno reversed a hammerlock that sent Zbyszko hurtling to the outside, Bruno held the ropes open to invite Larry back into the ring.  Zbyszko snapped and viciously attacked Bruno stomping away at his chest before slamming him headfirst into the turnbuckle.

The crowd were shocked and Zbyszko’s actions had only just begun. He grabbed a wooden chair from the outside and smashed it across Bruno’s forehead three times and the Italian was bleeding copiously laying on the mat.  The boos rang out of the Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania as Larry eventually left the ring as Bruno lay in a pool of his own blood.  Betrayal of the lowest order.

Bruno spoke shortly afterwards, very sombre and talked about the loss of blood he suffered and the sleepless nights he had been experiencing due to the incident.  In contrast, Larry was brash and cocky, proclaiming himself as “the new living legend”.

Bruno was out for revenge and the pair met at a huge show on March 1st in front of a sold-out Philadelphia Spectrum. In a back and forth affair, it was Bruno that displayed his frustrations and while pummeling Zbyszko in the corner, Bruno threw the referee out of the way and many from the locker room had to peel Sammartino off from causing Zbyszko serious damage.  Bruno was disqualified and Zbyszko was announced as the winner.

In a rematch at Madison Square Garden on 24th March, Bruno failed to release a chokehold on Zbyszko and was again, disqualified. The next month with the Spectrum sold out again, Bruno gained some revenge when Zbyszko’s attempt to bring a steel chair into the ring backfired. Sammartino gained control of the chair and he slammed it into Larry’s head. Bruno was declared the winner after Zbyzsko was unable to continue.

This bitter feud was in full swing when the pair returned to MSG on 21st April. Zbyszko tasted defeat again but via count-out when he walked from the punishment that his mentor was dishing out. The pair battled at the Boston Garden on May 10th, again Larry walked out to give Bruno the frustrating count-out victory.

On 9th August 1980 at Shea Stadium, in a match that has attracted over 30,000 fans, Bruno will meet Larry again. But this time there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, as the bout takes place inside the confines of the demanding steel cage. The heartbreaking war will end so join us here for a full report in the coming days.

Will Burns