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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Larry/Bruno: How That Feud Saved the WWF(?)


I know you usually don't field questions from the pre-WWF expansion era. But hopefully you can reach back and dig something up, If not, I'd like to hear you riff on this...

I saw a Kayfabe Commentaries preview with Larry Zbyszko talking about 1980 WWF. This was the year he turned on Bruno Sammartino and they had a major feud that lasted most of that year. From what I gathered is, Larry Z is claiming the WWF was on the verge of bankruptcy, his feud with Bruno saved the company, he should have been given a run with the WWF title because Backlund wasn't drawing and he left the Northeast after disputing money with Vince McMahon Sr.I don't want to understate the Larry-Bruno feud because it was a big deal, Zbyszko had nuclear heat and Backlund was pretty much pushed in the background because of it, which of course hurt his drawing power as champion.

But how much of this is really true? Was the WWF in that kind of financial straits heading into 1980? Was there a plan to put the title on Zbyszko? I had heard years ago that Zbyszko was suppose to turn face after the Sammartino feud (as evidenced by raising Bruno's hand after he lost the blowoff cage match at Shea Stadium). And the fact Zbyszko never went back to the WWF/WWE even when the territories went belly up and companies were going under just adds to the mystery.

What do you got?

OK, here's what I know about the Larry-Bruno situation, which is very limited because all the stuff I have from that time is very kayfabe-y and the Observer didn't start up in the form we know it until the mid-80s. So this is all stuff I've cobbled together from Meltzer's radio shows and Karl Stern and such.  

Basically, yes, there was a rough plan to catapult Zbyszko from the Bruno feud into the WWF World title, and in fact I've also heard separate talk that the plan was for Bruno to get a third long run with the belt himself, so you could probably do some associative property math and speculate that Backlund would drop the belt to Larry in 81ish, then Bruno would win it from Larry for his big blowoff victory and last World title (remember, he didn't actually pin Larry in the cage match, so it wasn't definitive by the standards of the time).  However, Bruno and Larry were really tight in real life, and once Bruno started having problems with the WWF, he allegedly got into Larry's ear and convinced him that he shouldn't concede to the booking plans so easily.  So after the cage match at Shea, Vince Sr would pitch programs for Larry where he'd do the job, and Larry would be like "Oh, well, I main evented Shea Stadium with Bruno, so if you're asking me to job to his schmuck then you're basically asking Bruno to do the job."  And then of course things got nasty and Bruno left, which left Larry without his leverage and he quickly bailed on them as well and in fact never came back.  So obviously there was some BAD blood in the split, since you're think Bruno's return would have opened the door for him in 85, or even when the WCW buyout happened. 

As for the bankruptcy, doubtful.  They were still selling out MSG every month even with Howdy Doody on top for six years, so things couldn't have been particularly bad.  Not to mention Graham was a hell of a draw on top before that for a year.  

31 comments:

  1. Does literally every wrestler have an "I was going to be booked to win the title and should've been champ, but..." story?

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  2. It seems like it. It would be great if a few of them were self aware enough to end them with "... but that would be ridiculous, because I wasn't that good!"

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  3. I seriously doubt that Backlund would've held the belt as long as he did if he wasn't drawing.

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  4. I was thinking the same thing. Of course, Larry Z is one of those people who I just automatically assume is completely full of shit every time he opens his mouth.

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  5. Yeah, Im not a fan of Larry Land at all.

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  6. I just read on a very reputable website that B. Brian Blair came very close to being the guy to take the title off Iron Sheik, but they were worried the sheik might shoot and, um, make him humble, so they went with Hogan instead.

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  7. fuck that... Larry Z has a place in my heart for Life.


    Orlando, FL MegaCon 2008


    Larry Z at the media booths along with Chasen Rance... (some indy goof) Lawler, Gail Kim, Traci Brooks, SoCal Val, and THE CAT.


    Im laughing because Lawler and his ex is there.


    ANyways goto get Larrys autograph and I ask him about Shea Stadium:


    Paraphrasing "Yeah we drew big business and I was supposed to get a run with belt soon after but Bruno and Vince had a fallout."


    On Leaving the WWF "Verne was paying me more money for less dates"


    On HBK:" Yeah he is a fag... Boytoy... They all sucked Vinces dick to get a run with the belt. Vince, Bret, Hunter you name it"




    !!!!!!

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  8. So does anyone else really enjoy the work of Larry, Bruno, and Backlund? Just about every worker mentioned in the question/article are what I'd consider "acquired taste" workers, except for Billy Graham (best wishes for recovery to him, by the way).

    Especially when you take modern sensibilities into consideration, it can be a really grueling sit, watching Bruno hold a bearhug or Backlund holding a leg scissors off-and-on for twenty minutes, but I find it strangely engaging. It just feels like a real contest. The old house shows from the 70s on Classics On Demand are among my favorite bits of programming.

    That said, I still got exasperated with Larry's stalling. It went beyond just generating heat, to being outright infuriating. Even as a kid, watching old tapes in my cousin's basement, I knew to skip the first 5-8 minutes of any Larry Zbyszko match, because Larryland was situated at the intersection of 5th and Stallsville.

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  9. It seems like the Golden Age of wrestling has a lot of "I could've been an Olympic gold medalist" stories and everyone from the Rock N Wrestling era has an "I could've been World Champion" story. I wonder, if in ten years, this generation will be saying "I could've been trending worldwide on Twitter!"

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  10. thats the first time i ever heard about the bearskin rug.

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  11. so if you're asking me to job to his schmuck



    Ew, no need to no that Larry was jobbing to somebody's schmuck.

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  12. On Leaving the WWF "Verne was paying me more money for less dates"


    Thing is, by "dates" he means go on dates with Donna Gagne, HIYOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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  13. So obviously there was some BAD blood in the split, since you're think
    Bruno's return would have opened the door for him in 85, or even when
    the WCW buyout happened.



    I remember when they had those WWA PPV's, and one of them was in Las Vega, and Larry showed up for the sole purpose of cutting a promo where he ran down WWF, Vince, and Jericho, while adding absolutely nothing to the show.

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  14. I can't stand Larry Z. His Nitro commentary was downright disrespectful and disgusting. I laughed when Rey Mysterio made buckets of $ selling masks and merch in WWE. Larry Z, someone I don't care to ever see in WWE.

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  15. I thought Zybysko was great, both as a wrestler and as a heel personality, but his bitterness did eventually impair his effectiveness as a commentator. But I suppose the industry needs a few anti-Vince iconoclasts.

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  16. YankeesHoganTripleHFanJanuary 20, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    Billy Graham;s dying again?

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  17. Larry Z always seem like a bullshitter outside the ring.

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  18. Bob backlund >>>>>>>> larry z

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  19. Backlund has had lots of crazy matches that hold up today. Against slaughter/patterson/greg valentine/billy graham all those matches rule. Watching wwe 24/7 you will occasionally get a msg show with an awesome backlund match. Other two guys not my cup of tea

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  20. I'm on my phone and apparently don't have good enough service to verifythis is the match vs slaughter I was thinking of but I'm pretty sure this is it.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xcky6VoQdg4#

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  21. Definitely. But I think it has a lot to do with the fact that these guys - especially the old school guys - are basically carnies. Everything is a work. So either the "I was supposed to be champ" stories are them working whoever will listen, or they themselves were being worked by the carny promoters.

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  22. Oh well if he's a bitter ignorant homophobic dinosaur then I guess he's pretty cool.

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  23. Can anyone name a good Zbyszko singles match besides the Cage with Bruno? He always looked real awkward in the ring, his silly weak knees selling was business exposing. I think the only thing he did that looked half way decent was a spin kick. Good thing Verne's daughter liked him.

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  24. Isn't it well known that Vince owed both Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson alot of money for some reason, which is why both had/have a job for life in the WWE? Or is tht a competely different issue?

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  25. I believe it was a share thing, and in exchange for their shares Vince Jr. gave them life-long jobs.


    Of course I'm not much of a wrestling historian, so I might be completely wrong.

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  26. Brian Blair would have been humbled.

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  27. Zbyszko vs Bischoff.

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  28. Being pretty young I don't have nearly the knowledge of older wrestling to criticize Larry(I refuse to attempt to spell his last name on my own) but just from what I know of him from interviews and his WCW run I'm not dying to see more from him.

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  29. Every WWE doc is filled with, "Well I would have gone to the Olympics but. . . " story. It's amazing how crazy things happened each time to keep them out!!

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  30. Only when in Wargames and vs Regal at Slamboree 94

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  31. In my experience, most wrestlers have been fed enough shit by promoters that it's not exactly a stretch for them to say it. If you think about Vince McMahon and his "opportunities", it's pretty evident that a lot of guys were told about the *possibility* of holding this title or that title, even if plans changed or it was nothing but hot garbage.

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