WWF felt a little more cohesive than September, had a good TV angle, a shock title change, Hulk Hogan feuded with Big John Studd, and there was even more new blood.
10-1984 WWF Storylines
The major angle was Rowdy Roddy Piper vs The Tonga Kid. With Jimmy Superfly Snuka no longer on TV, Piper had been reading letters from Snuka’s daughter in recent weeks (was it an early Tamina Snuka off-camera cameo for continuity buffs? haha) saying how Piper put Snuka out of wrestling. Piper had challenged any of his family members to show up at Piper’s Pit, and The Tonga Kid interrupted his show and things got wild. Tonga Kid would have to go through Piper’s handpicked jobber, The Executioner, to get to him the next week. The Tonga Kid won the Piper match by DQ because Piper brought a chair in the ring and tried to hit him. However, watching the match you get the impression that he had Piper beaten and could have pinned him. He went crazy and hit Piper with a chair at least 5 times.
Although no one could replace Jimmy Snuka’s uniqueness, The Tonga Kid got over the with the fans thanks to the Snuka connection rub and being in a Piper revenge angle. Tonga Kid showed excellent facial reactions, emotion, and looked good. This was a huge difference to the boring chants he received as a jobber earlier in the year, when he could have replaced Samoan III and no one would have noticed. Anyway, you could not have asked for more to push somebody- he came off fantastic in the Piper’s Pit segments, matches, and laid out the WWF’s number one heel.
Brutus Beefcake put his services up to bid (Lou Albano, Fred Blassie, Bobby Heenan, and even Arnold Skaaland were mentioned as potential managers interested in him- note: not Mr. Fuji) and Johnny Valiant was the surprise manager to win. Johnny Valiant was billed as a wrestler-manager like some of the others. Johnny Valiant came off like a low-rent, cruder version of Bobby Heenan. He looked and acted LOT older than his real age (38). Valiant is like someone’s dirty, nasty old uncle who lives in the northeast, and his TNT appearance was cringe-worthy. For a guy who was supposed to dabble in stand-up comedy, his outfit and improv skills had a lot to be desired.
The feud of the year took dramatic turn as Greg The Hammer Valentine defeated Tito Santana to win the Intercontinental Championship. Captain Lou Albana had clipped Santana’s knee before the match so he was hobbling around, but still was going to beat Valentine, but Greg’s foot was UNDER the rope. As Tito celebrated, Valentine pinned him clean. Then he destroyed his leg with the figure four leglock. Santana was stretchered off and the TV shows really hyped up the injury angle. In fact, Santana was shown in the hospital having surgery, so it MUST have been real! Their rematch at Madison Square Garden was sick! Tito went crazy and bloodied Valentine and wound up getting disqualified. On TV, Tito bought a ticket in the audience and ran in to prevent Valentine from breaking Quick Draw Rick McGraw’s leg.
The Big John Studd w/ Bobby Heenan countout victory from MSG over Hogan was finally aired on TV, and there were a lot of promos advertising their rematch. This felt like a real feud, although their MSG rematch was anti-climatic (Hogan pinned Studd without the legdrop).
The North-South Connection still feuded with the Wild Samoans, and Sgt. Slaughter had recruited Andre the Giant and the Junkyard Dog to assist him in tag team battles with Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik. I have to admit, I was impressed with Nikolai Volkoff’s promos and power moves. I feel his career has been overshadowed by his tag team partner and the other Russians in the NWA, but Volkoff was very serious about being a Russian strongman during the controversial 1984 Olympics season. His singing of the Russian National Anthem wasn’t a comedy spot, it was a heat magnet. As far Sgt. Slaughter goes, he really was on top of his game and 100% over still. His former partner Pvt. Daniels had been taking away from his prestige months ago. Junkyard Dog’s initial push also put him in as a top WWF babyface, although it wasn’t a specific angle.
Andre the Giant and Kamala had run-ins on TV and a great steel cage match at the Maple Leaf Gardens, where Andre juiced and jumped off the ropes onto Kamala with a butt drop. He was selling for Kamala and let Kamala retain his heat. Kamala was in his prime here in the land of giants, and a better worker than Big John Studd, in my humble opinion.
The Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter were still going at it, but the women’s division was still relegated to a random female match as a special attraction on the occasional card.
October 1984 WWF Pushes
Brutus Beefcake was getting a lot of attention during this initial push, and one had to have wondered why. His gimmick was ridiculous- he was a male stripper billed from Parts Unknown. His first angle of scouting random opponents went nowhere, and was switched into a managerial bidding war. His in-ring work was poor. He was around 6’3″, tanned, with a decent build, and nice chin. Gorilla Monsoon said he was handsome. Granted, he was an old friend of Hulk Hogan, but you would think he would have to sink or swim on his own and show some talent. Even his strut was too over the top. He really looked lost and sloppy.
“David Bruno Sammartino” was chugging away in the lowercard and beating TV jobbers. The announcers always put him over, but the only decent match I saw him in was against Moondog Rex on that Andre vs Kamala card. I can’t say enough about the Moondogs- they had the basic moves down pat, were good brawlers, played their gimmick down to a tee, and tried hard. Anyway, David Sammartino showed emotion in this match and his powerpress slam of Moondog Rex was cool. David was basically copying his dad, but his short stature (5’8″) capped his potential in this time period. He had an endomorph body with huge upper body, but looked like an egg. His Piper’s Pit was interrupted by The Tonga Kid, so we didn’t even get to see how he could have held his own vs Piper on the mic. The top faces all showed fire, personality, or were already legendary: Hogan, Andre, Sarge, Tito, JYD. David basically was another version of Rick McGraw. All in all, David’s old school mat wrestling was not going to cut it, but one has to wonder if he would have gotten over if Bruno had introduced him in a hot angle vs Ken Patera.
Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan finally crossed paths one-on-one, but it was at house shows. Piper won by countout or DQ but Hulk also beat him. Oh, and there was nice Piper’s Pit where Piper and Valentine acknowledge that they were once enemies (a veiled citation to their dog collar chain match earlier in the year at Starrcade!)
Davey Boy Smith had teamed with Bret Hart and finally Dynamite Kid. In one match, Davey Boy and Dynamite had more moves and highspots than any other team in the WWF, and dare I say WWF’s history. It’s so weird watching a team using lucha-style moves in a slow paced league, where the wrestlers are told to take it easy. The fans popped for Davey Boy and Dynamite based on their in-ring moves, which goes to show you not everything has to be looks, angles, gimmicks, and interviews. However they were still working their way up.
Jack and Jerry Brisco entered The Fed but looked out of place, especially Jack who looked older than 43, and had a ridiculous grin on his face. Jerry was mistakenly billed as a NCAA Wrestling National Champion, like Jack. Their scientific approach was good though.
A fan dressed up as a hillbilly had a few camera shots on TV and MSG…Mr. Wrestling II and Mil Mascaras were not on TV. Barry Windham debuted at house shows before TV, and scored huge victories. I heard Jim Neidhart and Bad News Allen being billed in Canada, but I did not see them on TV. I believe Bill Jack and Buddy Rose were name dropped as well. Blackjack Mulligan joined without hype but not on Championship Wrestling.
David Schultz, The Spoiler, Rocky Johnson had been fading in the ranks and Brian Blair the Freebirds disappeared without a trace. A shame about Terry Gordy, since he and Bob Orton had nice brawl on TV. Magnificent Muraco was not active. Jesse Ventura was still rehabilitating. Paul Orndoff was still working his butt off, but it was Valentine who stole the title from Santana, not him. It’s a shame Mr. Wonderful never had WWF gold.
Mr. Fuji was wrestling more than managing, and still losing.
Ultimately, things took a step forward in terms of entertainment and continuity, but obviously without a real flagship TV show and multiple promoters running things in different cities and various syndicated programs, there is still much chaos in 1984. WWF is expanding so quickly that some new acquisitions get lost in the shuffle. But perhaps the weirdest thing looking back at this from 2018 is how new wrestlers don’t debut with angles, vignettes, or promos. WWF comes off as super wrestling league which collects the best of the best but doesn’t really know what to do with them yet. However the roster is excellent enough to really have great shows if the era allowed for it. As it stood, there was no reason to book dream cards or have cards stacked since attendance was good and the rosters were split anyway to make the daily grind.