July 6, 1969 - Grand Prix Of Wrestling - Day 3 - New York, NY

Bruno Sammartino pinned Gene Kiniski after a piledriver in 0:22:22.
Rating: *** 1/4

Our opening match of the quarterfinals here on the third and final day of the Grand Prix tournament was certainly intriguing as it was filled with backstory. Gene Kiniski & Bruno Sammartino are no strangers to each other as many will remember it was Kiniski who defeated Bruno for the World Title and more or less ran him out of GCW. Even if Kiniski has changed his ways since then, Sammartino isn't one to just let bygones be bygones. The two men picked up right where they left off 3 years ago with a knockdown drag out fight. The result this time would be different as Bruno avoided the Backbreaker and caught Kiniski with one of his own signature piledrivers to pick up the duke. Having secured the win, Sammartino did the classy move and gave Kiniski a nod of respect.

Luke Graham pinned Bobo Brazil with the Thumb to the Throat in 0:14:13.
Rating: * 3/4

You'd be hard pressed to find two men who hate each other more than Bobo Brazil & Luke Graham do, so the fact that we got them in a quarterfinal match was a treat for everyone. Graham had visions of winning this tournament and he left a little in the reserve because of it, which nearly cost him as Brazil was only out to make Graham bleed. If it wasn't for a well-placed shot from Lou Albano with the GCW World Title, this could have been different. As it stands, the World champion is moving on to the semis to wrestle Bruno Sammartino.

Pedro Morales is forced to withdraw from the tournament.

Our third quarterfinal match was scheduled to be the United States champion Pedro Morales meeting Antonio Inoki, but when Morales was introduced, he didn't come down to the ring. It was announced that Morales suffered an undisclosed injury on day two of the tournament and he was forced to withdraw from the tournament. This received a huge negative reaction from the crowd, as well as Antonio Inoki, who wants to prove himself against the best. Either way, Inoki moves on to the semis and awaits the winner of our next match.

Bill Watts pinned Verne Gagne after a lariat in 0:13:51.
Rating: * 1/2

Whoever won this match was going to have a tough time either way with a fresh Antonio Inoki waiting in the semis, but that didn't stop Verne Gagne and Bill Watts from going at it like it was the finals. Gagne tried to keep Watts on the mat, because once the Cowboy starts throwing lariats, it's usually all over. That is what happened here. Gagne controlled the majority of this match, but all it took for the Cowboy was to catch him with one hard lariat under the jaw and that was game, set, match. Watts moves on to face Inoki in the semi-finals.

Luke Graham pinned Bruno Sammartino after a flying clothesline in 0:15:59.
Rating: **** 1/4

A match everyone was dying to see - the current World champion against the only 2-time champion in GCW history. A loss for either man would be crippling for their egos, especially the reigning World champion. That is almost what happened to him as Sammartino grounded and pounded him around the ring. Bruno took his lumps too, but for the most part he had Graham right where he wanted him. That is until Bruno made an uncharacteristic journey to the top rope for a superplex. Graham fought out of it and threw Bruno to the mat, following up with a vicious flying clothesline that nearly took Bruno's head off. No one was going to get up from that as the World champion is in the finals.

Antonio Inoki pinned Bill Watts after a power bomb in 0:05:57.
Rating: ***

Bill Watts was game and ready to fight, but after an extremely tough matchup against Verne Gagne earlier, wrestling a fresh Antonio Inoki was not a recipe for success. Inoki gets through Watts in relatively easy fashion and sets up a monumental final.

Antonio Inoki made Luke Graham submit to the Octopus Hold in 0:38:33.
Rating: *****
[Lou Albano interfered against Antonio Inoki.]

The finals couldn't have been any bigger as World champion Luke Graham met co-producer of the Grand Prix Antonio Inoki. This match was very interesting as with as dominating as Graham has been in his career in GCW, the one man who has given him the most trouble, including holding two victories over the champ, is Inoki. Fans will remember it was Inoki who ended Graham's 476 day US Title reign back in 1967. Even after all of those battles before, the hatred was still evident, and this was their greatest fight of all. In fact, this could go down as the greatest match in GCW history. The crowd was in a frenzy during this whole match as they were solidly behind Inoki to pull it out. It looked bleak when Graham hit the Thumb to the Throat, but fortunately for Inoki, the force of the blow caused him to fly to the outside. When Graham got Inoki back in the ring, Inoki surprised him with the Octopus Hold right in the center! The MSG fans were on their feet at Graham struggled to reach the ropes. Graham made one final push, but Inoki locked in the hold even deeper and the World champion had to submit. Antonio Inoki is the initial Grand Prix of Wrestling winner! Anybody who got to witness this match should consider themselves lucky. What a classic way to close out this huge success of a tournament.

Card rating: *** 1/2

Match observations:

After this great event, Madison Square Garden will be privy to even more GCW as we are back on July 12th! These matches are signed so far:

WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES - Dick the Bruiser/The Crusher (c) vs. Chief Jay Strongbow/Wahoo McDaniel
UNITED STATES TITLE - Pedro Morales (c) vs. The Sheik
SIX MAN TAG ACTION - The Funk Brothers/Thunderbolt Patterson vs. The Cripplers
MAIN EVENT - Bobo Brazil/Peter Maivia vs. World champion Luke Graham/Ernie Ladd

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