Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over ten years now and have reviewed over 5,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net, starting today. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
WWWF Heavyweight Wrestling
Date: January 6, 1966
Location: National Arena, Washington D.C.
Commentator: Ray Morgan
To give you an idea of how old this is, when this aired my wife’s mother hadn’t been born yet, the original World Tag Team Titles were about six years away, and Vince McMahon was twenty years old. This is by far the oldest show I’ve ever reviewed and I have absolutely no idea what to expect from it. This is a completely different era and the ratings are going to be a little bit lighter because I have no idea what’s going on for the most part. Let’s get to it.
I’m pretty sure this aired live and it would have been on a Thursday night.
After the announcer runs down the card for tonight, we spend a few minutes standing around before we’re ready to go.
Antonio Pugiliese/Arnold Skaaland vs. Angelo Savoldi/Tony Altimore
This is 2/3 falls. Antonio is billed as Bruno Sammartino’s cousin, which is an old tactic to give people a head start to getting over. Before the match, the announcer praises Vince McMahon (senior) for making up next week’s card already. We also hear the term dark match on television, as we hear of Bruno appearing in a tag match at the end of the taping next week. Skaaland’s team is the crowd favorite here.
Altimore and Skaaland get things going here with Tony trying to lure him into the heel corner. This goes nowhere until Arnold slaps him in the face and hooks an armbar. Savoldi tries to come in so the faces change without tagging. The referee throws Savoldi out so the good guys cheat again, resulting in Arnold hooking another armbar. Altimore counters into a front facelock/choke which he keeps getting admonished for.
Antonio comes in and hooks a cravate on Altimore. He lays Altimore on the mat and pulls on Tony’s arms with his feet on Tony’s shoulders in a submission hold which gets a bunch of two counts. Antonio literally rides around on Altimore as he crawls on all fours. Tony finally gets up and yells a lot, nearly punching out the referee. Antonio takes Altimore down again and hits a flying headscissors to bring Savoldi in as well.
Antonio snap mares Tony down as Savoldi tries to cheat some more, only to get hit in the chest. I don’t think Savoldi has been in yet at all. Naturally as I say that he gets tagged in, only to run away, landing in the wrong corner. Skaaland, ever the nice guy, holds Angelo in the corner so Antonio can hammer away. The heels double team Antonio in the corner as I guess we’re waiting on a hot tag to Arnold.
Scratch that as well as Antonio clotheslines Angelo down and brings in Skaaland for a full nelson. Altimore’s cheating fails as he hits Savoldi in the exposed chest. Savoldi backdrops Skaaland and I think we get a botch, as Angelo looks surprised that it worked. Immediately thereafter, they do the same spot with Skaaland hooking a sunset flip for the pin and the first fall.
It’s Skaaland vs. Altimore to start the second fall with Arnold hitting a quick monkey flip. The thud on the map sounded like thunder going off. Tony starts choking and is immediately caught, but it’s enough to let Savoldi get in some choking. Skaaland avoids a shot in the corner and the heels nearly have a fight over it. The legal guys circle each other for a bit before Altimore grabs Arnold’s arm for some cranking.
Savoldi tries to come in but Antonio literally chases him away. Everything breaks down for a bit until we get back to normal with Altimore punching Skaaland down. Unfortunately he punches him into Antonio who picks Tony up and lays him on the top rope. Antonio pounds Altimore over and over again in the face before dropping some knees to the head for the jackknife pin.
Rating: C+. For a match that ran over twenty minutes, I had no problem with this at all. It wasn’t exactly the Midnights vs. the Rock and Roll Express, but this certainly wasn’t boring. A lot of the moves are ones you would see today and it was clear who the good guys and bad guys were. The ending with Altimore getting beaten down and pinned was fine stuff. This wasn’t boring at all and I’m rather surprised by that.
Post match Altimore is out of it, taking a bit swing at the air and falling down in a heap.
Pete Sanchez vs. The Beast
Beast has body hair that would make George Steele jealous. I think he’s supposed to be a savage or something like that and it would make sense in this era. Beast immediately charges at Sanchez and the brawl starts fast. We hear about Beast getting a shot at Bruno in February, which would also fit the mold very well. Beast pounds Sanchez down and sends him into the corner for stomping and choking by his manager, Bobby Davis.
One of the buckles has come undone and Beast does nothing about it. Ok then. You can hear individual fans shouting to the referee that Davis is cheating which is a true sign of the times. Beast really likes forearms to the back. He hooks a chinlock followed by a bearhug and a Boston Crab to make Sanchez give up.
Rating: D. This was a somewhat extended squash and they did a good job at making Beast look good here. The problem is that about 90% of his offense was forearms to the back. Sanchez would be around for years as he was Ric Flair’s first opponent in Madison Square Garden, and Flair didn’t start wrestling until the 70s.
Beast takes a while to let go of the hold, making Davis smile a lot.
Smasher Sloane vs. Ronnie Etchison
This is Etchison’s debut and Sloane is your villain. Ronnie starts with a top wristlock which goes nowhere so he takes Sloane to the mat. They fight over the wristlock for a good while as this is boring stuff so far. Sloane takes him to the mat so Etchison shoves him away. A chop gets two on Sloane so he rolls to the floor. Back in and Sloane pounds away in the corner to take over. Ronnie comes back with a monkey flip and some knee lifts, followed by a front facelock.
They brawl a bit more with Sloane taking over via evil means. He keeps choking Ronnie against the ropes followed by some hiptosses. Etchison hits a kind of spear followed by some dropkicks to send Sloane back to the floor. After beating the twenty count back in, the match ends in a curfew draw. Yeah back in the day, wrestling couldn’t go past a certain time in a lot of areas so matches legitimately had to be stopped, just like this one.
Rating: D. Another dull match here which is annoying given that this was supposed to be a big debut. Like I said though, the curfew thing was something that happened back in the day and annoyed everyone. The match itself was really boring as it was all punching and kicking, which is a staple in wrestling. Nothing to see here and the fans back in the 60s didn’t seem thrilled with it either.
The announcer wraps things up.
Overall Rating: C-. The last two matches weren’t all that great, but man alive the opening tag match was solid stuff. Considering it ran nearly half the show, that’s a great sign. Obviously you can’t compare the show to a modern one, but this worked really well all things considered. A lot of people would get bored by it because they have no idea who is who, but it’s definitely not terrible.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 2000 Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Part 1.
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