June 19, 1983 - King Of The Ring - New York, NY

Sixteen men, four rounds, one World Title shot on the line! Who would become the first King of the Ring?

Mike Rotundo pinned Nick Bockwinkel with the Flying Clothesline in 0:07:33.
Rating: ** 3/4

The first match of the tournament pitted a tough veteran against a newcomer to the sport of wrestling with Intercontinental champion Nick Bockwinkel wrestling Mike Rotundo. The experience level here was definitely lopsided in favor of the champ, and with his Intercontinental Title not being on the line in this tournament format, he could be that much more aggressive. Bockwinkel was having his way with the youngster, toying with him when it looked like on several occasions he could have put him away. Even Bobby Heenan was telling Bockwinkel it was time to put him away, but Bockwinkel kept the attack on before finally going for an arrogant Piledriver. He took too long though, as Rotundo countered it with a double-leg takedown, and hit a slingshot that sent Bockwinkel crashing chest first into the top turnbuckle. Bockwinkel stumbled out and was cracked in the jaw by the Flying Clothesline from Rotundo, and the first match of the tournament had a huge upset! Rotundo has made a huge splash by eliminating the Intercontinental champion!

Larry Zbyszko pinned Spike Huber after a sunset flip in 0:02:05.
Rating: **

Not much to say about this match, other than Larry Zbyszko didn't have much trouble in his first round match with Spike Huber. Huber has looked all out of sorts since his matches with Bob Backlund, and the Cruncher capitalized with a quick victory in the first round.

Ric Flair defeated Don Muraco when Don Muraco passed out in the Figure-Four Leglock in 0:11:36.
Rating: ** 3/4

Don Muraco is all healed up from his neck injury, and even after his battles with Freddie Blassie, he's still as surly as ever, and he made that clear when he threatened to hit a fan on the way down to the ring. This was a tough opening round draw for his opponent, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. Flair has been focused in like a laser in the past year or so, and he stated in interviews leading up to this show that the King of the Ring was his chance to take that next step. Well he made the first one successful, as he wisely focused on the recently recovered neck of the Magnificent One before getting him in the Figure-Four Leglock and a ticket to the quarterfinals.

Tully Blanchard pinned Terry Funk with the Slingshot Suplex in 0:07:58.
Rating: ***

Terry Funk was lucky to even get to be a part of this tournament after his actions in Providence where he attacked several officials in during his post-match brawl with The Iron Sheik. Funk was fined for $10,000 for his actions, which is a large chunk of change, and he was definitely on thin ice. He didn't seem too concerned in this match though, as he was still his regular aggressive self, peppering opponent Tully Blanchard with hard left hands. This was Blanchard's first experience with an ass kicker, so it was going to be interesting to see how he reacted to the abuse. To his credit, he fired back, but he needed a little something extra to overcome Funk. While referee Danny Davis was attempting to get Funk to follow his directions, Blanchard pulled a bag of powder out of his tights. When Funk went back to Blanchard, Tully tossed the powder right into the Funker's eyes! Funk swung wildly as he was blinded, allowing Tully to kick him in the midsection and put him away with the Slingshot Suplex. Funk was still blinded as Blanchard went to the back. Danny Davis went to check on Funk, but the blinded Funk greeting him with a left hand! I don't know if Funk thought Davis was Blanchard or just didn't care, but he dropped Davis with a piledriver! Davis had to be stretchered out, and may miss a show or two with a neck injury. Funk, meanwhile, has been released from his GCW contract. Funk was already on probation, and GCW officials have decided it's in their best interest to cut ties with the Funker.

The Iron Sheik defeated Ricky Steamboat by countout in 0:04:13.
Rating: * 1/2
[Bob Backlund interfered against Ricky Steamboat.]

Ricky Steamboat was back in action, and he vowed to Bob Backlund that he was going to make sure the former World champion did not win this tournament. He was going to have a tough road to go down as his first round matchup was against the more than formidable Iron Sheik. The Sheik was Freddie Blassie's only participant in the tournament, so a lot was riding on the shoulders of the Sheik. Steamboat is perhaps the brightest young star in the business, and a lot of it has to do with his brains. He knows how to change his strategy up for any opponent. The Iron Sheik is one of the strongest men in the game (as his demonstration with the Persian clubs before each match proves) and Steamboat knew he had to hit and run and keep the pace fast. Steamboat was fired up and had Sheik on his heels, knocking The Iron Sheik to the floor with a dropkick. Steamboat then wowed the crowd by climbing to the top rope and jumping to the floor onto Sheik with a crossbody! Steamboat got Sheik back in the ring, but never got a chance to get back in himself. While Blassie was arguing with Tommy Young, BOB BACKLUND grabbed Steamboat and dropped him with a back suplex on the concrete floor! Steamboat hit his head hard and couldn't get back into the ring before the 10 count. Backlund had screwed Steamboat again, and The Iron Sheik reaped all the benefits with a trip to the quarterfinals.

Jimmy Snuka pinned B. Brian Blair with the Superfly Splash in 0:02:12.
Rating: ***

Jimmy Snuka is refocused and set his goals on once again climbing to the top of the mountain to become a World champion. Winning this tournament puts him right in a position to make that a reality. His first round match was against the annoyingly arrogant B. Brian Blair. Blair is no longer in a tag team, and his entrance back into the singles division was rough as the Superfly put him away in just over two minutes. Snuka meets The Iron Sheik in the quarters.

King Kong Bundy and Andre the Giant battled to a double countout in 0:02:33.
Rating: -1/2*

For me personally, this was the match I was looking forward to most in the first round as the two biggest and scariest men in wrestling locked horns with Andre the Giant butting heads with King Kong Bundy. The sheer size of these two giants was enough to make you stand back in awe, and the hundreds of flash bulbs going off when they engaged in a staredown before the match. Bundy is a huge man, but he had to look up to stare at Andre, which just shows how gigantic the Giant really is. The match itself would make you sick if you were a wrestling purist, but watching the power these two had as they clubbed away at each other was a spectacle in itself. Bundy made the mistake of making Andre mad, and that is something you just don't do. Andre knocked him outside the ring with a huge right hand. Andre wasn't content waiting for Bundy to get up, as he went to the floor and continued the fight. Referee Tommy Young tried in vain to get these beasts back into the ring, but forget. A double countout was a result, and a rematch being signed for July 13 in Pittsburgh!

Bob Backlund pinned Ken Patera after a fisherman suplex in 0:08:39.
Rating: *** 1/4

The final first round match now had a lot more importance than before, because based on the double countout in the previous match, either Bob Backlund or Ken Patera was going to receive a bye into the semi-finals. These two actually have an interesting history, as when Patera first debuted back in the late 1970s, he made then World champion Backlund his first target to make an impact. The times have changed a bit, but the rivalry was still alive and well as these two tore into each other from the opening bell. Patera had a great strategy as he was neutralizing Backlund's superior mat wrestling technique with power. After all, it's hard to lock someone in a leglock if you're being held in a bearhug. Backlund had to change up his normal tactics because his normal wrestling moves weren't working. He surprised the Olympian with a fisherman suplex and just held him down long enough to get the pin. A HUGE advantage for Backlund as he now can rest until the semi-finals.

Larry Zbyszko pinned Mike Rotundo after a gutbuster in 0:12:58.
Rating: ** 3/4

Mike Rotundo pulled off the upset of the first round when he pinned Intercontinental champion Nick Bockwinkel clean in the middle of the ring. He was going to need to pull another rabbit out of his hat in the quarterfinals as he took on Larry Zbyszko. Zbyszko had an easy go of it in the first round and was more rested up, but Rotundo was riding a lot of momentum and made this difficult on the Cruncher. Zbyszko came into the match too casually, feeling with his easy first match that this would be a walk in the park. Rotundo let him know it was anything but. Rotundo was a step quicker than Zbyszko at every turn, and Zbyszko was in serious danger of losing the match. Zbyszko lucked out when he found a way to duck the Flying Clothesline (that wasn't the lucky part) and Rotundo crashed down hard on the mat and knocked the wind out of himself (that was). The Cruncher hit a gutbuster to follow up which was enough to get the 3 count and a trip to the semi-finals.

Ric Flair defeated Tully Blanchard by disqualification in 0:08:50.
Rating: ** 1/4

Larry Zbyszko was patiently awaiting who he would fight in the semis, whether it be Ric Flair or Tully Blanchard. Flair has a distinct experience advantage, and you could see that as the Nature Boy controlled the tempo. Blanchard is going to be a great ring general one day, but Flair was schooling him with holds and reversals the entire duration of this match. Blanchard did have a backup plan, and it involved a pair of brass knuckles. Blanchard used a temporary distraction to pull the weapon out of his trunks and pop Flair in the jaw with it. He stowed the knux away and made the pin and got the 1-2-3 as the crowd exploded in boos! Blanchard thought he pulled a fast one, but MIKE ROTUNDO intervened, not wanting this miscarriage of justice to take place. He told referee Dick Kroll to check Blanchard's trunks for the weapon. Kroll did that, and when he discovered the knux, he reversed the decision and declared Flair the winner by disqualification! The crowd roared with approval as Blanchard yelled at Rotundo that he was going to make him pay. It's always good to see justice served. Flair will now meet Zbyszko in the semi-finals.

Jimmy Snuka defeated The Iron Sheik via pinfall in 0:08:49.
Rating: *
[Freddie Blassie interfered against Jimmy Snuka.]

Jimmy Snuka got through the first round with relative ease, but he had a mountain to climb against The Iron Sheik in the quarterfinals. Snuka has been a target of Freddie Blassie for awhile now ever since turning down his offer of managerial services. Blassie wants Sheik to win this tournament, but right below that, he wants Sheik to be responsible for eliminating the Superfly. The Iron Sheik is somebody who likes to assert his will early in a match using his size and his strength to do so, but Snuka is considered one of the toughest men we have ever seen in wrestling. Snuka almost appears to enjoy being hit, which makes him a dangerous opponent to wrestle. Snuka is a veteran of the sport though, and knows how to piss someone off, plain and simple. Sheik couldn't keep Snuka down, and Superfly continually chopping him did not do anything to make him stay calm. Sheik lost his cool completely and grabbed a steel chair from ringside and brought it in the ring. Sheik took a wild swing at Snuka, but Snuka moved. The chair hit the top rope and ricocheted back, smashing Sheik in his own head! Sheik fell back like a ton of bricks, Snuka made the cover, and that was all she wrote. Snuka made a big mistake post-match by turning his back while celebrating, and Blassie hit him from behind. The blow did next to nothing, and Snuka grabbed Blassie by the shirt and was going to knock his block off. He never got to though, as Sheik was back up and hit him in the back with the chair! Snuka went down, and for good measure, put the Superfly in the Camel Clutch! Officials finally got him to release the hold, but the damage had certainly been done. And now going into a match with a well-rested Bob Backlund, Snuka could be in a lot of trouble.

Bob Backlund won via default.

Due to the double countout between Andre the Giant & King Kong Bundy in the first round, Bob Backlund received a bye into the semi-finals, a marked advantage for him as he prepares for his hated rival Jimmy Snuka.

Ric Flair pinned Larry Zbyszko after a bulldog in 0:16:37.
Rating: *** 1/2

This match was a match that featured two men that have had similar career paths in GCW. Flair & Zbyszko are off-the-charts talented, but they have not been able to quite get past that glass ceiling and break out to be a World champion. This match showed how hungry they both are. For nearly 17 minutes, the Nature Boy & the Cruncher wrestled a fantastic match. Normally in a situation like this, you're more likely to see the rulebreaker wanting to prove himself and wrestle a clean match. However, Flair decided that if Zbyszko wanted to cheat, he would cheat right along with him. You very rarely see eye gouges, chokeholds, and biting get positive crowd reactions, but the fans in the Garden were behind the Nature Boy every step of the way. Tempers flared as the match wore on, and by the end of this match, these two were throwing bombs. Zbyszko went for an atomic drop, but Flair shifted his weight and reversed it into a bulldog that was just enough to get the duke. A hard fought matchup, but the Nature Boy moves on to the finals!

Bob Backlund defeated Jimmy Snuka when Jimmy Snuka passed out in the Crossface Chickenwing in 0:07:49.
Rating: ****

The other semi-final match was a big mismatch, not based on talent, but rather circumstance. Bob Backlund had a good win in the first round, but because of a double countout, he had a bye to this match, so he was very well rested. Jimmy Snuka, on the other hand, had himself a tough road. He had a relatively easy time with B. Brian Blair in the first round, but in the quarterfinals, he beat The Iron Sheik in a hard fought match, and was then assaulted afterwards by the former Iranian Olympian and put in the Camel Clutch. Snuka got to rest a little bit, but Backlund had the distinct edge. Snuka came out fast, hoping to put Backlund away quickly before Backlund could capitalize. It almost worked too, as a big headbutt early put Backlund down. Snuka climbed to the top for the Superfly Splash, but Backlund got his knees up and the Superfly crashed hard. Backlund smelled the blood in the water, en route to getting on the Crossface Chickenwing. Snuka held on and absolutely refused to submit to his most hated rival, but he was caught and too injured to escape. He passed out from the pain, and Backlund moved on to the finals.

Ric Flair made Bob Backlund submit to the Figure-Four Leglock in 0:26:10.
Rating: **** 1/2

Here we go! Time for the finals of the King of the Ring tournament. On one side, the former 2-time World champion desperate to regain his former glory. On the other, a wrestler so hungry that he will do whatever it takes to climb to the top of the mountain to win his first World championship. Both men were tired, Flair from his earlier matches and Backlund from literally just finishing his match with Snuka, but there would be none of that in this match. With something as important as a World Title shot on the line, both of these superior athletes blocked out the fatigue and just wrestled what has to be the match of the year so far in GCW, and perhaps the world. The pace never slowed down during this almost 30 minute match, which is unbelievable considering how much punishment each man was inflicting. It began to look like Backlund was going to pull this one off. He had a bit more left in the tank it seemed, and he was going in for the kill. He got a crazed look in his eye when referee Dick Kroll caught an errant thumb to the eye when he was trying to break up an exchange between the two combatants. Backlund's mouth was practically foaming as he put Flair down with a suplex. Backlund saw Kroll still incapacitated, and got an idea to go get the ring bell from the timekeeper's table. He never got that chance though because before he got to the table, RICKY STEAMBOAT jumped out of the crowd and blocked Backlund's path. Steamboat was just begging Backlund to come at him, but Backlund backed down and rolled back in the ring. Backlund was still jawjacking with Steamboat. Big mistake. When Backlund finally turned around, he was met by a low blow from the Nature Boy! Flair took Backlund down with a single-leg takedown and slapped on the Figure-Four! Backlund was screaming in pain while Steamboat was cheering like a madman at ringside. Kroll was stirring and regained enough composure to hear Backlund cry uncle. Ric Flair is the King of the Ring! What a scintillating way to end what was a fantastic tournament! And Flair now has earned himself a coveted shot at the World Heavyweight Title on September 16 when we return to Madison Square Garden! This particular night came to an end with Flair & Steamboat celebrating in the ring.

Card rating: ** 3/4

Match observations:

7/13/83 - CIVIC AUDITORIUM - Pittsburgh, PA

NON-TITLE - Dusty Rhodes (World champion) vs. Rick Martel
INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE - Nick Bockwinkel (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
Andre the Giant vs. King Kong Bundy
Jimmy Snuka vs. The Iron Sheik
Mike Rotundo vs. Tully Blanchard

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