This is an extract from an old article on my first blog that was exploring some of the best wrestling matches of the 1980s. This one focused on the feud between Pat Patterson and Sgt. Slaughter in the WWF, culminating in an Alley Fight. It is reprinted here as a tribute to Pat Patterson who passed away at the age of 79.
Pat Patterson had first entered a WWF ring in 1979 as a heel, wrestling under the tutelage of The Grand Wizard. A WWF North American Championship title reign evolved into the apocryphal Intercontinental Title Tournament in Rio De Janeiro, leaving Patterson high up the card as the guy who held the second belt in the company at the time. Even with the support of the Grand Wizard, he was unable to defeat Bob Backlund when it mattered most, when the WWF World Title was on the line. Following an attempt to have his contract sold to Captain Lou Albano, Patterson turned face and would spend the majority of his time in 1980 feuding with Albano and his charges, the Wild Samoans.
In similar fashion, Sgt. Slaughter’s early days in the WWF saw him side with The Grand Wizard and battle often with champions across the card; from Backlund to the now-IC Champion Pedro Morales and even a couple of matches against the WWF Tag Team Champions (Rick Martel and Tony Garea). He was always competitive, with many of the matches ending in double DQs, count-outs or draws. Slaughter even found time to have a couple of matches against Patterson, often with his hand held high in victory in the end.
The Pat Patterson vs. Sgt. Slaughter match was the culmination of a feud that began in the late months of 1980, all centering around one move; the Cobra Clutch. Slaughter has put up $5000 of his own money to any man who was able to break the hold. Patterson, now pulling double duty as an announcer, voiced his disapproval of Slaughter, querying that he did the challenge on a man who was beaten down. The following week, a fresh jobber was unable to break the hold, leading to Slaughter offering out Patterson to the tune of $10,000.
You can hear the utter disgust that the crowd feels for the bully that Slaughter is, almost to the point where it is too difficult to hear him over the venom of the crowd. It is no surprise when the calm and considerate Patterson feels he has no option but to get involved and try and break the dreaded maneuver.
After Black Demon walks before the Clutch challenge can even begin, Slaughter slaps Patterson across the face and the challenge is on! The challenge angle is almost as great as the match – we’d heard that Patterson had been studying the move and he pushes off the top turnbuckle to land on Slaughter; flips him over his back; runs Slaughter face-first into the top turnbuckle – yet still Slaughter holds on. Just as it appears Patterson might break the hold, Slaughter knees him in the stomach and attacks him with a wooden chair, busting him wide open.
(As an aside, Slaughter actually feuded with Andre the Giant between the time the angle took place and the Alley Fight match – often losing matches by countout).
Violence begat violence as the matches the followed between the two often saw DQ finishes. Referees, in particular, seemed to be the issue for both men, often being seen to be surplus to requirements in rendering a decision (Indeed, if you have the WWE Network, you can see a previous match in the feud where the referee is dealt with by both men, leaving them to continue brawling around the ringside). With no clean finishes and referees deemed an unnecessary addition, the Alley Fight match was signed – a fight with no rules and no referee, a chance for Patterson to finally get revenge for the embarrassment that Slaughter had caused him throughout the previous months. Not surprisingly, this feud ending brawl was to take place at Madison Square Garden, the home of the WWF.
As if the crowd were in any doubt who they should get behind, Pat Patterson even chose to rock an ‘I Heart NY’ t-shirt. The first punch of significance sets the tone for the fight, a careening shot from Patterson blasting Slaughter’s hat off of the top of his head. Unsurprisingly, the first few minutes of the match have Patterson destroy Slaughter, booting him several times with the cowboy boots and even taking off his belt to strangle the Sgt. – a cathartic release for both Patterson and the crowd. Only an eye rake, heel 101, allows Slaughter to take control.
Having watched the match for the first time in many years, what really stands out is how little Slaughter controls the match. He hits Patterson with some brass knuckles, throws him over the top rope…and nothing much else. But that is the point, I guess. This is the chance for the audience to vicariously get one over on the bully that is Slaughter, the man who has trumpeted long and loud about how much better he is than all the guys in the ring and the people in attendance.
The finishing stretch is visually impressive, a slingshot by Patterson sending Slaughter into the ring post, Slaughter’s forehead exploding and blood saturating his white top almost instantly. Several ring post shots, a cowboy boot blast to the face and repeated boot shots on the outside leaves the Grand Wizard no choice but to throw in the towel. Even then, Slaughter is still holding on, trying to fight back, strong booking to leave both wrestlers all the better for the finish to the match. You could argue that Patterson’s viciousness almost makes you feel sympathy for the Sarge…almost.
Would I recommend digging this out to have a look at? Definitely. The angle shows the power of a well-run submission angle, which makes it a shame that these angles don’t play out anymore (and when they do, they don’t really work). The feud coupled with the ferocity of the feud-ending match was enough to secure it the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year award – a genuine slice of excellent 80s wrestling.