In lieu of a goofy intro, let’s get right to the part of Pat Patterson’s book with the most interest: his time in WWF as Vince McMahon’s right hand man.
The third match with Backlund along with the famous match with Slaughter I had later were my greatest moments as a wrestler.
Patterson in the book is very proud of his series with Backlund at Madison Square Garden because of the quality of the matches combined with the fact that it was a four match and not the usual three match series that would go countout-DQ-blowoff. The Slaughter “Alley Fight” match from May 1981 is one of those matches that is as good as everyone says it is. Pat wears the iconic “I Love NY” shirt during the bout.
(By the way, technically, Sarge never paid me for breaking the hold. With interest, I think I’m owed quite a bit of money today.)
In 1981, Slaughter was running a Cobra Clutch Challenge on the weekly TV show which is something he had done before in the Carolinas. He would give a sum of cash to whomever could break the hold. Patterson was the color guy on the show (funny to think of given his verbal foibles) and there was a slow build to his attempting the challenge in the ring. Just as he was going to break the hold, Slaughter let go and kicked the hell out of him. The challenge is in the video below:
And highlights of the MSG alley fight:
Later on I did my best to take care of Skaaland, who was always afraid of being kicked to the curb by “the kid.” (That’s what he called Vince Jr.)
Arnold “Golden Boy” Skaaland was one of the guys who had a guaranteed job as a result of Vince’s purchase from his father, but had some anxiety and with good reason. In Skaaland’s role as a manager, he did very little in an era when managers cut promos and went to TV tapings and MSG shows. Skaaland was mainly managing Backlund (who was more or less kicked to the curb, with his last match in August 1984) but Bob would cut his own promos. It’s humorous: Skaaland would walk him to the ring, soak in some applause, and then leave and go to the back and play cards.
Speaking of managers from the pre-Hogan era: A WWE Network “Table for 3” between the Three Wise Men (Fred Blassie, Grand Wizard, and Lou Albano) would be the greatest thing ever, even if Albano would eat everything. Blassie would have experience because he did that parody movie “My Breakfast with Blassie” with Andy Kaufman.
As André exposed his giant ass for the whole world to see, I blew the car’s horn. But, of course, it wasn’t a car full of wrestlers. It was an elderly couple in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Andre the Giant liked hanging with Patterson because they were both Francophones. The Giant always had an entourage with him: someone like Patterson, Skaaland, referee Tim White, etc. He also had Dave Barbie as a bodyguard and Barbie went on to become my favorite 1984 WWF jobber which is no mean feat. That’s like a dad picking his favorite child.
The old man [Vince Sr.] called me from his deathbed. He wanted to make sure I would do something for him. “Pat, make sure they take good care of André. André is our man, you know. I know Junior wants to do too much sometimes, so please keep an eye on my son, too.”
Andre used to travel to different territories as the trouble-shooting giant. When the local babyface would face some serious trouble, Andre would come in and join forces with that guy to help dispatch the bad guys. That ended in 1983 around the time Vince Jr. assumed control of the WWF. The system worked very well because the “special attraction” Andre never burned out the audience in any one place.
On August 31, 1987, I had a match against Brutus Beefcake with Mr. T as the referee at the Montréal Forum.
This is such a puzzling anecdote that I had to check it out, and yes this did happen. Montreal was often booked as its own world when the local promotion went out of business and the WWF moved in. They would run Montreal-only angles like the Rougeau Brothers winning the tag titles from the Harts in 1987, only to be overturned. They also had to be careful about the booking of Dino Bravo; he was booked against Hogan there at one point and Hulk got booed which is something they usually took great pains to avoid.
Patterson would show up in his home city as a heel in the mid-80s despite being a babyface as a full timer earlier in the decade. He would host an interview segment called “Pat Patterson’s Brunch”. Beefcake cut off some of his hair in this match, but didn’t shave his head or anything.
As for Mr. T: By 1987, his star had dimmed considerably even from the diminished level seen at WrestleMania 2 when Piper was getting cheered in the boxing match against T. In the dog days of summer 1987, he was brought in as a “referee enforcer” type to feud with Danny Davis but lasted only a few weeks and never made it to PPV.
Some background on Beefcake/Patterson below:
(Vince hates smoking. I always find a place to hide to get a quick smoke, even today. When we are in his limo, Vince complains about my breath, even when I chew gum trying to hide it. He must have a bionic nose or something. “I still smell the cigarette, damn it.”)
Smokers do generally have to gather in leper colonies these days. I recall when I smoked back in 2005 how strange it was to go into a bar in Philadelphia where smoking was allowed and how the air was so bad compared with Boston, where smoking had been banned in bars since the early 2000s.
Probably not for this post, but isn’t it funny how governments tax packs of cigarettes like crazy, and when people quit smoking in part because of the high costs you then hear cries about “revenue lost
I decided to go to the restroom and smoke a cigarette. You could do that back then. Someone took the stall right beside me. That person spoke. “Patrick . . . open up your book. We’re going to check our numbers to see if we should run that town again after tonight.” “Vince, you gotta be kidding . . . ?”
Maybe my favorite anecdote in the book. I think “crazy Vince McMahon workaholic” stories are starting to rival “Andre the Giant drinking” stories in my mind.
Coming up next time: We hit the 1990s as Pat becomes more part time with WWF, he talks about figuring out the Undertaker gimmick, and more on the Shawn/Bret dynamic.