Welcome to the first of hopefully many, many years in review special reports. With an entire year, basically, of WWF programming recapped and in the books, it’s time to look back on the year. With only one house show we didn’t have a lot of high ranking matches. Most TV matches are simple squash matches, and are not worth rating. However we did have a few good matches, and lots of guys had fantastic years, although some had really bad years. So, let’s get started.
We opened 1980 with World Champion, Bob Backlund who ended the year still the reigning champion. We didn’t see a lot of Bob, as they kept him off television to make people attend the house shows. Now we’re used to seeing the champion on TV every week, but that wasn’t the way back then. Personally I like it better that way, makes the champion feel special, that’s why Brock was such a good champion. He only showed up for important things, not weekly in stupid promos and skits. Bob had a couple matches we got to see and he was quite impressive, not surprisingly.
At the start of the year Pat Patterson was the 1st ever Intercontinental Champion having won the belt on September 1st 1979 defeating Ted DiBiase. He lost the gold on April 21st 1980, after 233 days as champion, to the Olympian Ken Patera. Ken’s stranglehold on the gold would last an astounding 231 days before being defeated by former World and Tag Champion, Pedro Morales on December 8th. This made Pedro Morales the first ever triple crown champion, having held all the gold in the WWF. A feat that would not be replicated until Bret Hart in 1992. Now it seems like everyone gets multiple title wins, tarnishing something that was so unique. Title reigns were treated as big deals and something like this was monumental, now it’s just business as usual.
The year started with Ivan Putski and Tito Santana as the World Tag Team Champions, having won the gold on October 22nd, 1979 from Jerry & Johnny Valiant. They would hold the titles for 173 days before being upended by the Wild Samoans on April 12, 1980 in Philadelphia, PA. The Wild Samoans went on a rampage over everyone in the WWF before running into the amazing team of Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales at Showdown at Shea on August 9th, 1980. Unfortunately for Pedro due to Backlund being the current World Champion they had to vacate the belts. As the rules back then were you could only hold one title at a time in WWE, unlike now where we get double champions regularly. This makes me wonder two things, why did Pedro pick Bob, if he knew they’d have to have to vacate the gold and why they changed the gold when they could’ve done a disqualification and got the same result? Anyways, The Wild Samoans would go on to regain the gold in a tournament for the gold, defeating Rene Goulet & Tony Garea in the finals on September 9th, 1980 in Allentown, PA. This title reign did not last long as sixty days later, on November 8th, 1980 in Philadelphia, Rick Martel and Tony Garea upset the Samoans to win the gold and end the year as champions.
RECAP OF TITLE CHANGES
Pat Patterson → Ken Patera → Pedro Morales
Tag Team Championship
Ivan Putski & Tito Santana → The Wild Samoans → Bob Backlund & Pedro Morales → Vacant → The Wild Samoans → Rick Martel & Tony Garea
Looking at the win/loss records for 1980 we have a lot of guys with perfect scores, but that’s because of the lack of house shows. Most matches were squashes. Ending the year with a perfect record are Andre the Giant, Dick Brower, The Hangman, Hulk Hogan, Kerry Von Erich, Killer Khan, Larry Sharpe, Larry Zbyszko, Moondog King, Moondog Rex, Pat Patterson. Pedro Morales, SD Jones, Sgt Slaughter, Stan Hansen & Tony Atlas. Pat Patterson had the most wins for the year with a perfect record of 16-0-0. After the perfect records, Afa sits at 13-1-0 followed by Rick Martel at 9-1-0. On the opposite side of the spectrum, with the most losses sadly is Jose Estrada at 1-23-0, followed by Steve King at 0-22-0 and Johnny Rodz 1-20-0. Jose Estrada also has the most matches for 1980 at 24 matches, followed by Steve King and Johnny Rodz at 22 and 21 respectively. We had a lot of guys only make one appearance this year including Kerry Von Erich, Dick Brower, SD Jones (who just returned on the final episode of the year) and Bruno Sammartino.
Best Record with minimum 10 matches
Pat Patterson 16-0-0
Hulk Hogan 15-0-0
Pedro Morales 14-0-0
Tony Atlas 13-0-0
Larry Zbyszko 12-0-0
Rick Martel 9-1-0
Ken Patera 12-1-1
Rene Goulet 12-4-2
Rick McGraw 7-4-2
Worst Record with minimum 10 matches
Steve King 0-22-0
Angelo Gomez 0-14-0
Marc Pole 0-12-0
Jose Estrada 1-23-0
Johnny Rodz 1-20-0
Baron Mikel Scicluna 3-10-2
Domenic Denucci 5-6-0
MATCH OF THE YEAR
With a lot of squash matches, we didn’t have a lot of matches to rank. Only the competitive matches and once from house shows got rated, so only 34 matches from the year got rated.
Larry Zybsko v. Bruno Sammartino from March 24th 1980 in Madison Square Gardens takes Match of the Year with 4.25/5. Here’s the recap:
Here we go with what should be a brutal brawl between the former teacher and student. After Larry brutally turned on Bruno a few weeks ago, Bruno is anxious to get his revenge on a man he thought of as a son. The explosion from the crowd when Bruno comes out is amazing, like Hogan and Austin level combined. Just awe inspiring, as no one was more loved in NYC then Bruno was, he had such an epic run from the early sixties till about 1987, something that no one will ever touch. The bell rings and Bruno calls Larry to the middle of the ring, and Larry stays in the corner. Bruno with a quick armdrag and Larry dashes to the corner as the crowd is rabid, Larry charges and gets taken down two more times by Bruno. Larry stuck in the armbar now as he’s just cranking the arm. Larry sends him in and Bruno jumps over Larry and applies a waistlock taking down Larry. I can’t get past the crowd, it’s just mind blowing hearing a crowd this wild, as Larry makes the ropes and the crowd boos him. Even the agents are in the aisle watching the match if that tells you how big this is, as Larry kicks Bruno and headlocks him. Larry off the ropes and gets armdragged down, but Larry catches Bruno with an elbow and begins to stomp Bruno. Larry is all over Bruno like one of Vince’s cheap pastel suits, as he shoots Bruno hard to corner and then applies the hammerlock. Bruno powers up and makes the ropes, taking Larry down with a shoulderblock, Larry goes for the abdominal stretch and Bruno flips out into the full nelson. This has been amazing so fat, what a showcase. Bruno is just cranking on the pressure on Larry, but Larry makes the ropes to break the hold so Bruno shoves him to the floor. Larry is irate on the floor as Bruno is just outclassing him right now, as Larry and Bruno are yelling at each other. Larry gets back in and catches Bruno with a knee to the stomach and stomps the chest repeatedly. Bruno fights back and sends Larry in, Bruno with a big boot to the stomach and a kneelift send Larry flying across the ring. Bruno catches Larry in the legendary Bruno bearhug and Larry is screaming in pain. Larry rakes the eyes to break the hold, but Bruno right back to it, but too close to the ropes as Larry makes the ropes. Larry struggles to his feet and Bruno unloads in the corner before sending him to the opposite corner, as Bruno continues to pound his former protege. Bruno with a headlock and Larry sends him in, they collide and Bruno tumbles to the floor. Bruno gets to the apron and Larry kicks him back to the cement floor. Larry follows and rams Bruno into the apron, the hardest part of the ring, and then does it again as Bruno is hurt on the floor. Larry refuses to the Bruno back in the ring as he catches him again on the apron, the ref keeps Larry back so Bruno can get back in and Larry is just relentless now. Bruno struggles to his feet in the corner and Larry gives him no chance to recover as he continues to hammer the Living Legend. Bruno starts to comeback and Larry bails, Bruno chases him outside, Larry rolls in and catches Bruno coming in. Bruno finally catches Larry who gets his foot tangled in the ropes and Bruno is destroying him. The referee can’t get Bruno off of Larry and calls for the bell. Amazing heat and a fantastic brawl between two of the best. With a clean finish would’ve been easy five stars. Larry finally makes it out of the ring and Bruno still wants more, but Larry is getting out of the ringside area. The crowd is furious about the ending, as Larry got the better of Bruno, even if he did get his ass kicked. Bruno is even more angry about the decision but there will be a rematch.
4. Larry Zybszko defeats Bruno Sammartino by disqualification ****1/4
Taking second place is Tony Garea versus Johnny Rodz from September 20, 1980 with 3.75/5. Third place is a tie with both Rick McGraw versus Johnny Rodz from November 15th and Bob Backlund versus Spiros Arion from November 29th both garnering 3.5/5. However the Backlund match actually took place from a different year, but was aired this year so it still counts via loophole.
We close out this recap announcing our First Annual Year End Awards.
Wrestler of the Year: Pat Patterson
Pat had a fantastic year with multiple great matches and made a smooth transition from wrestler to commentator, while still wrestling occasionally.
Tag Team of the Year: The Wild Samoans
The Samoans won the titles twice this year, including once in a tournament. They took on all comers and we’re almost always successful.
Underrated Wrestler of the Year: Jose Estrada
Can only be one person, the man with most matches. Every match he did was fun to watch and he added so much personality. His only win, a tag match with Johnny Rodz was amazing.
Overrated Wrestler of the Year: Pedro Morales
I’m impressed that he’s the first grand slam champion, because perfectly his matches are so bland. His moveset is very limited, and his finish is so telegraphed that as soon as he hits the sledge you know it’s done.
Plummet of the Year: (tie) Rick McGraw & Angel Marvilla
First explanation of the award. Basically this award goes to the person who came in with hype and quickly went from star to jobber. Both Rick and Angel came in and it looked like they we’re going to pushed, however quickly both men dropped to the bottom of the roster.
Match of the Year: Larry Zbyszko v. Bruno Sammartino from March 24th
Fantastic match, brutal brawl and just an amazing contest. The crowd heat on Larry is massive, I’m surprised he got out of MSG alive after this. Bruno is easily the biggest star in wrestling history and no one will ever get the pop he could.
That’s it for this year, as we officially start 1981 tomorrow. My only quandary right now is as far as the ranking/ratings go once I start Mid-Atlantic. Do I incorporate Mid-Atlantic in with WWF or just keep WWF separate? Guess we have a while till I decide on that. For now, thanks for reading and stay tuned for another great year of WWF action.