Saturday, December 1, 2012

July 29, 1986: WWF at Newmarket Recreation Complex

Is it possible to be underwhelmed because you've built your expectations so high that it's impossible for something to meet them?

Considering it was only the second wrestling show I'd ever been to, I don't remember a whole lot about this night. I don't have pictures. I remember the local newspaper, The Era, had one shot of Adonis vs Junkyard Dog, but their online digital archive does not offer access to 1986.


Could this have been a weak show because of the WWF's intense schedule? The wrestlers had worked a ridiculously long night on the evening before at a TV taping in Brantford.


Then the crew split directions across the northeast. Some came to Newmarket. Another bunch went to the Asbury Park, NJ Convention Hall for a July 29 card including Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake vs. Sivi Afi & King Tonga, midgets and ladies. A third squad featuring Randy Savage headed to Binghamton, NY for a show at the Broome County Arena. The Federation's talent was split three ways, and again I was seeing the 'C' team.
At least I had a good seat. It was hard to have a bad seat at the Newmarket Recreation Complex, an arena with about 3000 fixed seats that was less than a year old. I learned from that first show back in May that ringside seats don't give the best view. It's true at a concert, and especially true at a wrestling show, where the ring is at about the head level of a seated crowd. When people are standing, it's hard to see what's going on in the ring unless they're up and flying. When the wrestlers are fighting at ringside, only the first few rows of ringside can see anything. This time, I was up in the stands.

But I don't remember who I was with. I think the first show I went to with my dad was in September in Toronto. I wasn't by myself. Probably with Zach and Peter.

On to the results!

In the opening match, Terry Gibbs lost to Brickhouse Brown. This was the first and only time I'd ever seen Brown, who'd been recently acquired by the WWF. Records searches suggest this may have been Brickhouse Brown's first WWF match! Gibbs was a regular heel jobber from Florida -- a humourless, no-nonsense, tanned man. But he always lost. Brown, a trim, chiseled black man with experience in the US South, was being groomed for a babyface role when the WWF reorganized its TV programs in late summer. He never ended up on television, though, and I guess I was one of the few people to see his WWF stint.

Cousin Luke defeated Moondog Rex in a match between two big bearded guys wearing jeans. Cousin Luke's gimmick was part of the hillbilly crew - Hilbilly Jim, Uncle Elmer and so on. Moondog Rex was one of the Moondogs - scruffy-looking rulebreakers who wore tattered blue jeans and carried dinosaur bones to the ring. I remember nothing about this match.

Harley Race defeated Scott McGhee. Harley was new to the WWF, and at the time, Vince McMahon refused to acknowledge that any other promotion existed. So, even though Race was a legend in the sport, and former NWA World Heavyweight Champion several times over, his new WWF audience did not know that. They only saw a slow, old-ish guy who grunted a lot.

Here's Harley Race's WWF debut from just weeks earlier:


Harley Race's WWF debut by Stinger1981

Race's opponent was Scott McGhee. McGhee was another former champion who no one in the arena had ever heard of. He was NWA Junior Heavyweight champion and Florida champion. He had what was essentially a cup-of-coffee jobber stay in the WWF that Wikipedia doesn't even recognize. Well, at least I can say I saw him beaten by Handsome Harley Race.

Junkyard Dog defeated Don Muraco in a match I don't remember. In fact, I thought JYD fought Adrian Adonis. The Internet tells me it was Dog over Muraco and Adonis over Tito Santana, so I'll have to go with that.

I'm sure the JYD/Muraco match was passable, and I bet the Santana/Adonis match was good, because Santana was a great babyface and Adonis, even as he ballooned in size, was a great performer and could bounce around the ring like crazy.

Of course, the show was stolen by Jacques & Raymond Rougeau defeating Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart. This was a rematch of the bout that got me hooked on the first show back in May, and although I don't remember any of the spots, I'm sure it was an exciting end to the night.

There was a no next-day buzz at school because there was no school -- this was late July. Perhaps that's why my memory of this event is so absent.

But the fandom kept building. I watched more tapes, read more magazines and kept my eye on the TV. And that takes us to The Big Event at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium.

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