Throwback Thursday: WWF Championship Wrestling (Feb. 2, 1980), As Seen on WWE Network and Peacock



This week Throwback Thursday loads up its Mr. Fusion, fires up the DeLorean, and heads back to 1980 to revisit a monumentally important edition of WWF Championship Wrestling, as seen on the WWE Network and Peacock, that aired 43 years ago this month!

By February 1980 the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was running strong as one of the “Big Three” sanctioning bodies in North American pro wrestling. At this time the WWF was cooperating, and in good standing, with the other two sanctioning bodies of the “Big Three”, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and Verne Gange’s American Wrestling Association (AWA). Rather than work to undermine the authority of the others, the WWF, AWA, and NWA worked together to promote talent, establish rising stars, and validate the separate Heavyweight Champions. In fact, on April 30, 1979, all three recognized Heavyweight Champions—Verne Gagne (AWA), Harley Race (NWA), and Bob Backlund (WWF)—wrestled on the same untelevised Madison Square Garden show.

Promoters from as far away as Dallas, Texas would send their young stars to Madison Square Garden in the hopes that some of the New York rub would help boost their own stars drawing power. Stars like Ted DiBiase, Roddy Piper, Tito Santana, Hulk Hogan, and David & Kerry Von Erich wrestled in Madison Square Garden before returning to their how territories.

Despite the high cost of doing business in such a large territory Vincent James McMahon made it work, turning the WWF into one of the most financially successful territories in the nation. Current WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund, whom many feared couldn’t support the territory, managed to thrive in most of the key cities, selling out Madison Square Garden time and time again against a who’s-who list of top heels. Behind the scenes, however, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the promotion’s lead television announcer, was beginning to show his promotional chops when, in 1979, the younger McMahon bought the Cape Cod Coliseum in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

McMahon’s success in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, combined with McMahon’s prior promotional exploits, only served to strengthen his belief that the WWF could work well beyond the borders of the North East territory. On February 21, 1980, just two weeks after this edition of Championship Wrestling aired, Vincent Kennedy McMahon incorporated Titan Sports. Little more than two years later, in June 1982, McMahon would take his first steps towards buying the promotion from his father and putting his ideas of a nationally touring wrestling promotion to the ultimate test.



The top story in the WWF at the time this edition of Championship Wrestling aired was the simmering student/teacher rivalry between former WWF Heavyweight Champion Bruno Sammartino and his sole protege Larry Zbyszko. WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund, meanwhile, was splitting his duties between Ken Patera in the Garden and Bob Duncam at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Outside the ropes the top song on the country the week this edition of Championship Wrestling aired was Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” while Pink Floyd’s iconic The Wall was the top-selling album. CBS’s The Dukes of Hazzard was the ratings king as Kramer vs. Kramer, starring Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, and Justin Henry, was tops in theaters.

Now let’s head over to the WWE Network on Peacock, hit ‘play’, and see just how well this edition of WWF Championship Wrestling holds up 45 years later!

Edits are not an issue with this edition of WWF Championship Wrestling on the WWE Network and Peacock. As of this writing context is sketchy, though, as only two prior editions of Championship Wrestling, dating back to January 12, 1980, are currently available on the WWE Network and Peacock while a slew of past editions of All Star Wrestling, dating back to September 13, 1975, are presently uploaded to the WWE Network. Fourteen (14) past editions of WWE Old School, chronicling HBO/MSG Network cards from Madison Square Garden and PRISM cards from the Philadelphia Spectrum, dating back to June 30, 1973, are available for you to enjoy right now on the WWE Network.


WWF Championship Wrestling (WATCH)
Date: February 2, 1980 (TAPED: January 22, 1980) – Location: Allentown Agricultural Hall, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Attendance: N/A – TV Ratings: N/A
Commentator: Vince McMahon – Interviews: Vince McMahon

NWA World Heavyweight Champion: “Handsome” Harley Race (November 7, 1979, Amagasaki, Japan, from Giant Baba)
NWA Women’s Champion: Fabulous Moolah (September 18, 1956, Baltimore, Maryland, defeated Judy Gable in tournament finals to become the inaugural NWA Women’s Champion; despite Moolah having lost the Women’s title on three separate occasions the WWE, then and now, does not recognize these title changes; according to WWF/E records Moolah won the title on September 18, 1956 and held it, undefeated, until July 23, 1984 when Moolah lost the tile to Wendy Richter at The Brawl to End It All event on MTV)
WWWF Heavyweight Champion: Bob Backlund (February 20, 1979, WWF on MSG, from “Superstar” Billy Graham)
WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champions: Pat Patterson (September 1, 1979, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Johnny Rodz in the finals of a tournament to unify the North American and South American Heavyweight titles; the tournament and existence of the “South American Heavyweight Championship” were fictional as no such tournament or title ever existed; Pat Patterson had defeated Ted DiBiase for the WWF North American Heavyweight title on the June 23, 1979 edition of Championship Wrestling, taped on June 19, 1979, before the title was quietly transitioned to Japan for New Japan Pro-Wrestling to use)
WWWF Tag Team Champions: “Polish Power” Ivan Putski & Tito Santana (October 22, 1979, WWF on MSG, from the Valiant Brothers (Johnny & Jerry))


After the usual Championship Wrestling open of the era we inside the jam-packed Agricultural Hall where Vince McMahon welcomes us to the show. McMahon gives a rundown of the card to come and notes the buzz of anticipation for the big Zbyszko/Sammartino bout which, McMahon says, could be one of the “greatest matches ever held on television”. McMahon then tosses to our first Peacock ad-break.


Coming out of the break we head to the ring where legendary ring announcer Joe McHugh takes care of the usual opening housekeeping, including announcing a ringside physician by the name of George Zahorian, before introducing the participants for our opening contest.


—Singles Match (1:23)
Ken Patera w/The Grand Wizard of Wrestling vs. Freddy Marzino

The bell rings before Patera has a chance to get his jacket and pants off. Grand Wizard helps Patera disrobe, and the fans give the pair a hard time as McMahon openly wonders about the “personal” relationship between wrestler and manager (wink, wink). The match, though, is a squash. Marzino can’t get anything going as Patera pounds, slams, and otherwise dismantles Marzino before cinching in the swinging full nelson for the submission win at 2:08.

WINNER is Ken Patera w/The Grand Wizard of Wrestling (Submission, 2:08)


After the match Patera holds on to the full nelson as the Grand Wizard distracts the referee. Patera then drops the hold and he and Grand Wizard celebrate their win as Patera poses with a foot on Marzino’s chest. Joe McHugh announces Patera the winner before the referee, indicating Marzino’s neck in injured, calls for a stretcher to carry Marzino from ring with. Two other referee’s enter the ring and get Marzino moved out of the ring as McMahon notes that the neck injury in the most prevalent injury sustained by Patera’s opponents. We then head to the next Peacock ad-break.


—“Non-Title Singles Match” (7:34)
Jose Estrada vs. WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion Pat Patterson

Patterson was just five months into the inaugural Intercontinental title reign at this point. This match is a rare opportunity to see Patterson at his height of popularity in the WWF. Not much of Patterson’s career in this era has been uploaded to the Network prior to this, and it’s a nice treat to be able to see Patterson at his best. Estrada jump starts the match, attacking Patterson before Patterson can get his ring jacket off. In a flash, though, Patterson fires up and turns the tide, slingshotting Estrada into the corner before sending Estrada to the floor.

Back in the ring Patterson cinches in a rear chinlock that Estrada gets out of by going to Patterson’s eyes. Estrada takes the fight to Patterson for a few moments before Patterson trips Estrada and rams Estrada’s knee into the ringpost a few times and returning to the ring to focus on the now-injured knee. As Estrada kicks himself free of Patterson’s leg lock Vince McMahon notes that the WWF has been inundated with mail wishing both Zbyszko and Sammartino well ahead of this week’s exhibition. According to the volume of mail received, McMahon says, it looks as if the fans are split evenly between Zbyszko and Sammartino. A staggered, one-legged Estrada tries to fight off Patterson but he’s at the Champion’s mercy.

Patterson teases poking Estrada in the eyes when Estrada tries to do it first. Patterson no-sells the eye poke, kicks Estrada low, and pokes Estrada in the eyes, hurting his own fingers in the process. Patterson then ties Estrada in the near-side ropes and, after smoothing Estrada’s hair, decks Estrada with a pair of right hands. Patterson charges Estrada, who gets himself free and avoids Patterson only for Patterson to go between Estrada’s legs and land a second slingshot, this time sending Estrada over top rope to the floor.

Soon enough Estrada is back in the ring where Patterson lands a big back body drop for a near-fall. Estrada momentarily slows Patterson with another eye gouge and begins to pepper Patterson with shots, including more eye gouges. In a flash, though, Patterson fires up and lands a slew of punches. Patterson lands a pair of side headlock takeovers before landing a pair of running shoulder tackles and a sunset flip for the 1-2-3 at 7:07.

WINNER is WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion Pat Patterson (Pin, 7:07)


Following the match Patterson has his arm raised as Joe McHugh announces the particulars of the match before we see a replay of the finish. We then head to the next Peacock ad-break.


—Singles Match (16:45)
Angelo Gomez vs. “The Incredible” Hulk Hogan w/Freddie Blassie

This is a powerhouse squash. Gomez tries to use his quick punches and quick feet to frustrate Hogan to no avail. Hogan uses his power and size to dominate and punish Gomez before winning with the Canadian backbreaker at 2:15.

WINNER is “The Incredible” Hulk Hogan w/Freddie Blassie (Submission, 2:15)


After the match Hogan poses with Gomez still trapped in the Canadian backbreaker as Blassie eggs Hogan on. Hogan drops Gomez as we see a replay of Hogan’s stalling vertical suplex. Joe McHugh announces Hogan the winner and raises Hulk’s arm as we head to the next Peacock ad-break.


—“Special Challenge Match” (21:49)
Larry Zbyszko vs. “The Living Legend of Wrestling” Bruno Sammartino

This match and angle is one of the very best to ever be produced on WWF/E TV. The story, pacing, and psychology are all next level great. Even before this one gets going McMahon again hypes it as one of the very best matches to ever be televised. The story here is as old as time, pitting youth against experience. Zbyszko, eager to get out from under the shadow of his trainer and mentor Bruno Sammartino, threatened to retire just last week if Bruno failed to give him this match. Bruno agreed to wrestle Larry but refused to go out of his way to hurt or even defeat Zbyszko. It was Larry who had something to prove, not Sammartino.

From the beginning we see Bruno easily reversing Zbyszko’s holds only to let them go, refusing to finish Zbyszko off nor allow Larry the chance to work himself free. When Zbyszko does get in some kind of offense he rushes in for a pin attempt that Bruno easily escapes. Despite Zbyszko’s best efforts Bruno finds a way to reverse Zbyszko’s hold before simply letting go, slowly angering Zbyszko. Be it an abdominal stretch or half-crab, Bruno easily reverses Larry, unintentionally embarrassing Zbyszko. Soon enough Bruno traps Zbyszko in a top wrist lock, and Zbyszko rears back, as if an old-school test of strength was about to break out, when Bruno simply lets go, irritating Zbyszko further.

After a lengthy tie-up the two start a criss-cross that sees Bruno reverse a Zbyszko hip toss for one of his own, bouncing Zbyszko hard off the mat. Undeterred, Zbyszko ties up with Bruno once again, grabbing a side headlock. Bruno hurls Larry into the ropes and drops down before catching Larry in a tight bear hug. But just as soon as Bruno cinches up the bear hug he let’s it go, dropping Zbyszko to the mat. Larry yells at Bruno to stop releasing the holds and finish Larry if he can, but Bruno fails to understand Larry’s frustration and growing sense of humiliation. After pacing around the ring Larry steps in and takes a hammer lock.

Bruno twists this way and that, trying to find a way out, before flinging Larry through the ropes to the floor where Zbyszko fumes. In the ring, meanwhile, Bruno patiently waits for Zbyszko to return to the ring, going so far as to hold the ropes open for Zbyszko.

Larry calms down and steps on the apron but, as he bends to enter past Bruno, Zbyszko knees Bruno in the gut. Larry goes on the attack, a wild animal in the ring, shocking the WWF faithful. Zbyszko stomps at Bruno before launching Bruno into the turnbuckle. With Bruno staggered, Larry leaves the ring to grab a wooden folding chair from ringside. As Zbyszko reenters the ring the referee tries to take the chair but ends up flung to the floor, ending the match at 9:31.

WINNER is “The Living Legend of Wrestling” Bruno Sammartino (Disqualification, 9:31)


With the referee on the floor and Bruno on spaghetti legs, Zbyszko gloms Bruno in the face with the chair, busting Bruno wide open. Larry waffles Bruno a second time and Bruno blades yet again. Bruno reaches his feet one more time only for Zbyszko to land a third, brutal chair shot before slamming the chair into the mat. Bruno is laying in a pool of his own blood as Larry storms from the ring and Dr. Zahorian rushes to Bruno’s side. Soon enough a stretcher arrives and the fans look on in horror and disbelief as Bruno is taken from the arena on a stretcher, face down, and we head to the next Peacock ad-break.


Coming out of the break the next match is already in the ring as we see a referee toweling Bruno’s blood from the mat as the awkward hush continues to hover over the fans.


—Singles Match (34:31)
“The Unpredictable” Johnny Rodz vs. “Mr. U.S.A.” Tony Atlas

Rodz doesn’t look all that enthused to be in the ring with Atlas as this one gets underway. The fans are still in a state of hushed awe as Rodz goes to Atlas’ eyes to gain the advantage. Rodz opens up on Atlas, even tying Atlas in the ropes, before Atlas ducks a Rodz lariat and storms back. Atlas attacks Rodz and cinches in a standing armbar. A well-placed headbutt gives Rodz an opening and Rodz lands a variety of offense on Atlas but can’t put Atlas away. Rodz is in control until Atlas reverses an Irish whip and Rodz goes face-first into the corner. Rodz staggers out of the corner only to run smack into an Atlas headbutt from the second rope for the pinfall at 4:39.

WINNER is “Mr. U.S.A.” Tony Atlas (Pin, 4:39)


After the match Atlas celebrates his victory as Joe McHugh makes the announcement. As Atlas departs the ring Johnny Rodz has the referee check his scalp for cuts from Atlas’ headbutt. McMahon then notes the continued shock of the fans as we head to the next Peacock ad-break.


—Singles Match (42:17)
Steve King vs. “Big” Bob Duncam w/Capt. Lou Albano

Yet another squash. King tries to get something going but Duncam is just too big and too strong. Soon enough Duncam lowers the boom on a game King, working King’s arm. Duncam easily quashes King’s hope spots as he uses nerve holds and chokes to batter King. Out of nowhere Duncam lands his running bulldog for the 1-2-3 at 2:35.

WINNER is “Big” Bob Duncam w/Capt. Lou Albano (Pin, 2:35)


Following the match Duncam and Albano celebrate their win as we head back to McMahon at the announce position. McMahon hypes next week’s card before telling us there is no further updates on the condition of Bruno Sammartino but they hope to have news next week, as well as maybe even having Bruno himself on the show. We then see a slow-motion replay of Duncam polishing off Steve King as McMahon tries to put a bow on the “dark day in pro wrestling” and the show comes to an end.


Final Thoughts

This is an exciting and historic hour of WWF TV! Though the standout portion of the show is the iconic Zbyszko/Sammartino angle, the rest of the card delivers the kind of action fans had come to love from the WWF. This edition of Championship Wrestling should be required viewing for anyone who calls themselves a WWF/E fan and for anyone looking to study the psychology of pro wrestling. In other words, what are you waiting for? Head on over to the WWE Network on Peacock now to relive this historic edition of Championship Wrestling or to experience it for the very first time! You won’t be disappointed! Who knows, you may actually like it, and that’s never a bad thing.

Already subscribed to the WWE Network on Peacock? Then you can relive this classic, iconic, and historic edition of WWF Championship Wrestling right now or experience it for the very first time! As always, let us know what you think in the comments section below!

For pre-WNN editions of Throwback Thursday, click here!

Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!



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