Tag Archives: Larry Zbyszko


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 - eWrestlingNews.com


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 - NYTimes.com


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, Cagematch.de, WrestlingData.com, WWE Network,


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