History of WrestleMania with KB
For the next 24 days I'll be posting a review a day on every single Wrestlemania. I've been going back and rewatching every show, many of which I haven't seen in years. Thrown in are ratings for each match on a traditional school grading school and my recommendation for the whole show.
If you don't like my take on a match or a show, call me out on it. The point of this is to get debate going, so say whatever you think of me. In case you've never seen or don't own any of these shows, I'm including 2-3 matches per show so there's definitely going to be something that can be debated.
Starting today, Thursday, I'll be posting one a day until the day before WM 25 and after WM 25 I'll post my review of that to complete the set. They'll be going on chronological order as well, so off we go to 1985.
Date: March 31, 1985
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura
National Anthem: Gene Okerlund
And so it begins. Wrestlemania is here. In what was perhaps the greatest cross promotional strategy of all time, the WWF teamed up with MTV to promote the biggest wrestling show of all time in what was called the Rock N Wrestling Connection. This idea was nothing short of genius and it truly got the war going with the NWA.
Spearheaded by the feud between Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper, this show was all about fanfare. While little happened as far as historical significance, this show goes down in history as being great simply because of what it meant in history. Never before had mainstream celebrities been mixed with wrestling on such a vast scale. Obviously the results were great and Wrestlemania was born.
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner
Anyway, let’s get going with the show. To begin with, in the first match in the history of Wrestlemania, we see Tito Santana vs. The Executioner, portrayed by Buddy “Blow Away” Rose. Before the match we get a pre-recorded interview (which I believe all of them are tonight) from the Executioner saying that he’s going after Santana’s leg which was already injured.
The match is pretty much what you would expect for an 80s WWF match. Very standard stuff that’s by no means bad, but not really great either. Tito is at his best here against a random heel, and he wins in standard fashion with a forearm and the figure four.
Rating: C. Considering it’s the first ever match at the biggest show that would ever exist, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s certainly not bad, but doesn’t really set a good first foot forward for Wrestlemania if that makes sense. This is more famous for simply being the first match in the history of the biggest wrestling series ever, but it wasn't anything special at all.
King Kong Bundy vs. Special Delivery Jones
The next match is I believe still the shortest in Wrestlemania history as King Kong Bundy faces Special Delivery Jones. More prerecorded comments with Bundy saying he’s mad about something or other. In less than 25 seconds, Bundy hits a pair of splashes to pin Jones. This match was the epitome of a squash match. No rating of course.
“Maniac” Matt Borne says this is his chance to beat one of the best wrestlers in the world. Steamboat is too nice of a guy which will be his downfall.
Steamboat says this is a big test for him. Wow he must have a bad memory if this is his biggest challenge.
Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat
Now we get onto a solid match with the always dependable Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne, who is far more famous as heel Doink. Jesse is ROCKING that pink tuxedo. Not a lot of people can get away with that big Jesse is making it work for me. What was up with the five bells after everyone’s name? Steamboat is in the basic white tights which is odd to see indeed.
Feeling out process to start. Why can’t it ever be a feeling up process? Steamboat chops away and we get a chinlock seconds in. That’s not something you see everyday. I miss hearing Jesse call Gorilla Gino. A long atomic drop has Borne in trouble but he gets one of his own to avoid us hitting squash territory.
Ok perhaps you should forget the lack of a squash here as it’s almost all Steamboat here. At least the right guy is doing the squashing. Borne gets a suplex for two as even Gorilla says this isn’t going to work. He throws left handed punches and Gorilla concludes that he is in fact left handed.
We’re getting a lot of suplexes in this. Swinging neckbreaker by the Dragon gets no cover. A knee drop gets two. Steamboat speeds things up all of a sudden and there’s the flying cross body and I think you know what that means as this is 1985. Yep it’s over.
Rating: C-. Glorified squash match here with nothing special happening at all for the most part. Steamboat is always fun to see and this was no exception here. He would get a bit higher on the card in coming years before getting his lone world title in 1989. Borne would bounce around various companies before dancing with bear cubs in WCW and becoming a clown in WWF. Nice way to see different career paths.
David Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake
Now we go on to what was little more than a reason to have the managers brawl at ringside, we have David Sammartino against Brutus Beefcake. Davide is accompanied by his father and Johnny Valiant for Beefcake. Big stall to start which is filled in by Gorilla talking about how great the crowd is, and for the time it really was. Finally we get going and Jesse cracks me up by saying that a loss for either man here could set their careers back 2 years.
That’s nothing but priceless. Anyway, we have a nice little wrestling sequence to start with Beefcake stalling again after sliding to the floor. We’re almost 5 minutes in and nothing at all of interest has happened yet. They’re trying to do a technical match and it’s just failure. I’m quite bored as I watch this match and it’s not getting any better.
I feel like I’m watching a house show match, but not the good kind. I feel like I’m watching a house show match that makes jobbers look good. Even the commentators sound bored here, yet for some reason the crowd is into this. FINALLY we get the managers involved and it’s a huge brawl for the double DQ.
Rating: D-. I was so bored I almost fell asleep. Absolutely nothing at all of note and it was just done to get Bruno on the show. David had a lot to live up to and for the most part he never came close which is the case for the vast majority of the kids of major stars. If nothing else look at David Flair. This was a very bad match though as Beefcake was the top guy in the ring which sums up things rather well.
JYD says he’ll win.
Valentine says he’ll win.
Intercontinental Title: Junkyard Dog vs. Greg Valentine
No intro for Valentine as he’s just in the ring. That was far more common back then. It’s hard to imagine that the title is less than six years old at this point. Another One Bites The Dust by Queen brings Dog to the ring. I prefer Grab Them Cakes but that’s just me.
Valentine was awesome at this point and Gorilla says he might be the best IC Champion of all time at this point and I can’t really put up that much of an argument against that. He would lose the title to Santana soon after this who would lose it to Savage before Mania II. Dog is more or less the challenger of the month at this point and was very popular as well. Why he was popular is beyond me as he tends to be annoying as hell but what do I know?
Naturally the Dog dominates to start with punches and headbutts. Valentine misses a punch and Dog gets on all fours with the heabutts. That’s about the biggest offensive move he’s going to have so I wouldn’t expect much more than that from him. We hear about Jimmy Hart’s stable which has Jim Neidhart but no Bret. It’s so weird to hear about Neidhart being a singles guy.
Valentine goes for the leg. He used the Figure Four as his finisher at this point which apparently he has patented. Did he file for the paperwork for it? Does he get royalties whenever Flair uses it? Dang no wonder he’s broke. Jesse says Valentine has no bones about this. I love bad puns.
Figure Four is kicked off which is the traditional counter of course. They slug it out and surprisingly enough Dog loses. Ok never mind he doesn’t but he was for a few seconds there. Jesse says a Dog headbutt would drop an oak tree. No see you make the tree watch one of his matches and it’ll fall asleep. That is how you drop an oak tree if JYD has to be involved.
Dog goes after Jimmy but Valentine accidently pops his own manager. Here comes the Dog with his variety pack of punches and headbutts. Valentine cheats to get the pin with his feet on the ropes and apparently gets away with it. Tito runs out to tell the referee what happened so the match is restarted. Why can’t more people do that if they can get away with it? Valentine takes a walk anyway just because he can I guess. No title change thank goodness.
Rating: D+. Pretty boring match here with Valentine dominating for the most part. It went by rather fast though which helped a good bit. I can’t stand the Dog but Valentine is pretty good. This of course set up more of Valentine vs. Santana which helps a lot as at least we got a good feud and eventual title change out of it in a solid cage match between them.
On a side note, the old IC Title looks far better than the one they would replace it with. It’s kind of like the NWA US Title which I’ve always been a fan of. Decent match but really just a placeholder for the most part. Granted though they had no idea what they were doing here so it’s ok I guess.
Tag Team Titles: U.S. Express vs. Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik
Next up we have a match that I’ve always kind of liked. For the WWF Tag Team Titles, Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik against the US Express of Mika Rotunda and Barry Windham, who at the show came out to a song called Real American. Upon further review, this match is still pretty good and likely the best match of the night so far.
There’s not much to it but there doesn’t need to be. It’s America vs. foreigners, which is a formula that absolutely never fails. Rotunda plays a great face in peril here as he tries to out wrestle the monsters on the other team. There’s not a lot to this match but what they have is just fine. Big hot tag to Windham who cleans house, which leads to a big brawl. Blassie hands Sheik his cane which is smashed over Windham for a pinfall and a title change.
Rating: B-. Not much here, but what they had was at least passable. It was the standard U.S. versus the evil heels which is a formula that’s hard to mess up if anyone in the match knows what they’re doing, and these people knew. The titles would change back just a few weeks later so this was to do nothing more than get a title change on the card to make it seem historic. Keep in mind that this was still in the era when title reigns were usually longer so this meant a lot more.
Body Slam Match: Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd
It is now time for the first of two famous matches from this card as Andre the Giant faces off with Big John Studd in a $15,000 vs. retirement match. Studd had put out a challenge saying that no one could body slam him, and no one could. Then a man named Andre took him up on the challenge, and this right here is the result of that challenge. Andre controls early on but eventually Studd evens things out.
The crowd is off the hook for this match behind Andre to say the least. This is really just a lot of bearhugs and big punches/forearms for about ten minutes but the crowd eats it up. Andre just goes off on the knee and then slams Studd like it’s nothing at all. He gets the money and throws the money to the crowd, prompting Heenan to steal it and run off.
Rating: D+. The wrestling was awful, but the crowd was going crazy the whole time. Classic example of a match where the crowd played a key factor. Andre was getting to the point here where he couldn't do much. These giant vs. giant matchups were rarely good but this worked as the whole idea was to just have Andre FINALLY end the "you can't slam me" angle which he had done about a dozen times on house shows but this was the official one.
Women’s Title: Wendi Richter vs. Lelani Kai
In the penultimate match of the night, we get the first of the Rock N Wrestling matches with the Women’s Title on the line with Wendi Richter against Lelani Kai for the Women’s Title. At the time, Richter was the second biggest face in the company, often main eventing house shows when Hogan was elsewhere. Cyndi Lauper being in her corner didn’t hurt her at all as Lauper got into this.
In a scene that for some reason is now famous, Lauper and Richter run down the aisle in the back of the arena as the crowd is going batshit crazy over this. For one of the only times ever in wrestling, the celebrity manager clearly wants to be doing this. This match is standard back and forth stuff with the young Richter clearly being the one that’s going to win or MSG might have been burned down. Finally Richter reverses a cross body to get the pin and the title as the fans are going insane.
Rating: B. This match was billed as half of the double main event. Think about that for just a bit. The Women’s Title match, main eventing Wrestlemania. If that doesn’t tell you how big Lauper and Richter were, nothing will. I never really got the appeal of Richter but at this time she was main eventing the B-level house shows over the IC Title or Tag Titles. Imagine going to a show today where the main event had Michelle McCool in it.
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff
And now for the main event, we have Mr. T and Hulk Hogan against Piper and Orndorff with Muhammad Ali himself as the guest referee. Why this wasn’t Hogan against Piper one on one is beyond me. As usual, Piper has a live bagpipes band which is always cool. The fans aren’t really booing much because they know what’s coming. Real American was already taken so instead we hear Eye of the Tiger, or at least I think we do.
The eruption is so loud I’m not sure what I’m hearing. Your other referee is Pat Patterson. If you’ve seen one Hogan match you’ve seen them all for the most part and this is no exception. Hogan embarrasses his opponents to start and then gets beaten down with some cheating. Double teams throughout the match on both Hogan and T until finally we get the brawl we’ve all waited for. Bob Orton and Jimmy Snuka are the seconds here and they both get involved.
Finally Orton comes off with the cast to his Hogan but catches Orndorff instead as Hogan pins him. This prompts Piper to leave him in the ring, which led to Orndorff’s face turn. Hogan and T pose as we go off the air.
Rating: B. Basic tag match, but why was this a tag? It just made little sense and there was no drama to it at all. Hogan didn’t even win with the legdrop. Fun little match, but not for the main event of Mania. For the life of me I will never get why this wasn't Hogan vs. Piper for the title, perhaps with Piper even defending and dropping it to Hogan. Very odd choice indeed but it worked very well for what it was supposed to be.
Overall rating: C-. This show clearly isn’t famous for the wrestling as there’s only 2-3 good matches on the card. What this show is famous for is the idea of a supercard in the biggest arena there was in the biggest city there was with celebrities, national coverage, and a huge main event. The idea was amazing but no one knew what they had here and it shows. For its time this was mind blowing. Now it’s just average at best. Watch it for the last three matches and skip the others.
So what do you think? Am I right or am I crazier than George Steele? Let me know and let's hear your take.
For what it was at the time I still don't think the original was anything out of the ordinary compared to other house shows and special events that were taking place at the time, aside from the fact that they slapped the "WrestleMania" name on the event and invited a bunch of celebrity names to attend the event. I personally feel WM didn't really get off of the ground until WMIII, the match listing was a mile long and it featured a lot of matches that fans at the time wanted to see. I still enjoyed WM1 & WM2 but I just feel that they were not out of the ordinary when compared to other MSG shows going on at that period.
That's something that I mentioned in here I think: these matches screamed house show to me often times. Why should I want to see Matt Bourne and Ricky Steamboat or Beefcake vs. David Sammartino? It's like they were just trying to fill time. The show isn't bad per se, but it's certainly nothing mind blowing.
You'll see in my WM 3 review that I definitely agree. That was truly the first supershow WM and it's because of the main event. That wasn't something that was happening 3 nights a week but *wink* for the first time ever. That is what made Mania great.
Santana vs The Executioner is a terrible match. I give Santana credit because I think he was a great wrestler for his time. The Executioner’s interview is hallarious to me. I love weight ??? age ??? location ??? They could not even get this guy on the scale to weigh in. No feud match receives a D from me. Just for the funny interview.
Bundy vs Jones was a squash match. But it was a good match to continue to push Bundy as a main heel. I give this match a B/C. Not great but it did what it was supposed to do.
Steamboat vs Borne was a pointless match. Steamboat can wrestle, but no point to this one. I give it a F.
Brutus vs Sammartino and I agree with you on this one. But you get Bruno and Valiant on the show. Match could have been much better, but who cares. I give it a D.
JYD vs Valentine could have been a great match. If any of you have heard interviews by Valentine during this time they will drop your jaw. Not on how good they are but what he says. Like “I’m going to wipe your black face on the ring!” What the hell. Two popular names but not a great match C/D rating.
Volkoff & Sheik vs US Express was a pretty good match. Putting the tag titles on Russians during this time was an 80’s move, but an okay one. Title change and it was halfway good. I give it a B.
Andre vs Stud was a great idea. A slam match. Crowd was into it. Both guys were over. Neither could wrestle very well at that point though. But sometimes the story line can make the match. Handing out money to the fans at the end was cool too. I give it an A/B rating.
Richter vs Kai was a great women’s match for the time. Fans were into it and Cindy was there. Not a big fan of either wrester but the match worked. I give it an A.
Tag Main Event I thought was great. You got to showcase Hogan, Mr T, Wonderful, Piper, Snuka, & Orton. The match kept the Hogan/Piper feud going, turned Wonderful face, which will lead to a feud with Piper and then an intense one with Hogan. Mr. T was not that bad as he was very over at the time. Snuka and Orton get involved. There is a finish. I thought it is great for the time. I give it a A/B. Only negative is belt is not on the line at Mania.
I give it an overall score of C. Not bad but not great.
In defence of WWE, I don't think it was supposed to be amazing. I think the first Mania was supposed to lay the foundation for the great wrestlemanias to come. They were gonna first build up the name as the premiere wrestling event.
Although with such an average show, they could've blown it on the first night. But thanks to Andre and Hogan, it became as big as it was supposed to.
I enjoyed pretty much every WrestleMania between 1-17 minus a couple like 9, 14 and 11, which I felt lacked heavily.
To be honest, I think you have to rate this one on a totally different scale. It screams "house show" becuase in essence, thats what it was, more of an exhibition of sorts, made to have mass appeal. The vast majority of new fans wouldnt know of titles, and angles such as that, just celebreties, and personal vandettas. I think this was more just to jog interest and get the names and faces out there, more than anything, which is why it was set up the way it was, and why a tag match headlined. Also, this could also be show by Andre being involved in the "test of strength" type gimmicky match. It was an exhibition, not really a wrestling card. I think the same could be said about mania 2, as well. You have to veiw them, and rate them, on an entirely different scale than all the rest.
Date: April 7, 1986
Location: Nassau Coliseum-New York, Rosemont Horizon-Chicago, Illinois, Sports Arena-Los Angeles, California
Attendance: 40,085 combined for all three venues
Commentators: New York - Vince McMahon, Susan St. James. Chicago - Gorilla Monsoon, Gene Okerlund, Cathy Lee Crosby, Ernie Ladd. Los Angeles - Jesse Ventura, Alfred Hayes, Elvira
America The Beautiful: Ray Charles
This show is the classic what the fuck were thinking moment from the WWF. They had made Wrestlemania the year before and they hit it so far out of the park that by the time it was Wrestlemania 2 the ball hadn’t come down yet. This was a problem though. Since the inaugural show had been such a success, Vince felt they had to do something to top it. This was his idea: what if we did Wrestlemania from 3 different places??? Think about that for a minute. How weird would that be?
Not to mention, Vince had another idea: let’s put it on a Monday! Again, just awkward sounding. The format used was three locations, each with an undercard and then a featured match, which were a boxing match, a battle royal, and the true main event, Hulk Hogan against King Kong Bundy in a steel cage.
The idea was odd on paper and worse in reality as it felt like watching three shows instead of one. There’s no rhythm and because it was in three locations, announcers were a rare commodity. Due to this, Vince’s last idea was to put a real commentator together with celebrities to do the commentary. What followed might be the biggest clusterfuck in company history.
Paul Orndorff vs. Don Muraco
We begin the show in New York City with Paul Orndorff against Don Muraco. Why are they fighting? I don’t have a freaking clue but they are so here we go. As they begin we hear comments from both and neither have anything to say of meaning.
Orndorff is easily the face here so if he never accomplished anything else in his career, the face turn between Manias one and two was effective. As was predicted, the celebrity commentator is atrocious, with such gems like “I think he’s winning!” Orndorff controls the early part of the match but Muraco breaks it up with some power. They roll outside and we get a double count out as the crowd clearly can be heard chanting bull shit.
Rating: D+. Fine for what it was, but the fans got it right with their chants. This is the opening match to Wrestlemania? Seriously? That's the best they could come up with? This feud more or less never went anywhere at all as Orndorff was about to get the biggest push of his career by far, resulting in him making about $20,000 a week for awhile. This was just an odd choice for an opening match but then again this was an odd choice for a show so I guess it fits.
Intercontinental Title: George Steele vs. Randy Savage
Next up the intercontinental title is on the line as Randy Savage defends against George Steele. This is a match that I can’t find a standalone version of so I can’t put this one in here. However, this was another chapter in the over year long feud between these two. Savage had been allegedly mistreating Liz and Steele had developed a crush on her. That led to, what else, Savage being jealous and a 15 month feud began.
Mega stall from Savage to start as he seems afraid of Steele. Savage runs again and finally on the third time Steele goes after him. They finally lock up and Steele beats Savage up for a while with power moves and biting but Steele keeps going to talk to Liz. This was a weird period for Savage as they knew they had a gem with him but they didn’t know what to do with him. Yeah he was the IC champion, but where did they go with him from there?
This was all they had until the next year when he and Steamboat stole the show and Savage was launched into the main event. For some reason Savage has a bouquet of flowers that he and Steele try to beat each other up with. After ripping apart a turnbuckle and eating the stuffing (not making that up) Steele gets slammed and elbowed, but he kicks out?
Yes, George Steele is the first man to kick out of the elbow, and he pops up, beats on Savage some more and then gets rolled up and Savage uses the ropes to pin him. Steele eats more stuffing.
Rating: C-. This was a comedy match I think with wrestling mixed in. Savage is the highlight here as he sells like crazy for Steele and it helps a lot. These two had this freaky chemistry that no one has ever been able to really figure out. They would feud on and off for the next year before FINALLY ending it with the return of Ricky Steamboat for that whole greatest match of all time thing he and Savage would have next year.
Jake Roberts vs. George Wells
We follow up that strange match with another somewhat strange match as Jake Roberts, still a rookie here, takes on some guy named George Wells. This match is little more than a glorified squash. Wells dominates early but doesn’t go for a pin when he has the chance. Jake recovers and DDTs him to win the match. Afterwards he unleashes Damien who causes Wells to look like he’s foaming at the mouth.
Rating: D+. Talk about a weird choice to have on Wrestlemania. Jake was brand new at this point so they needed someone to make him look good and they pick....George Wells? There was a squash on Mania for the first two years and both times they were the least interesting match on the card. I don't get the selection here for the most part and it's pretty bad all things considered.
Boxing Match: Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper
We now move onto the main event of the New York portion of the show: a boxing match with Roddy Piper and Mr. T. This was built up on SNME about 2 months before hand with Mr. T. beating Piper’s friend Bob Orton in a boxing match before being beaten down by both of them. That came on from what started over a year ago in the main event of the first Wrestlemania, so this truly was a showdown that had been built up for ages.
Factor in that T had been the World Boxing Champion in Rocky 3 just a few years ago and was on a top rated TV show where he was a bad ass. Both men have famous trainers in their corners to make it look more legit. For no apparent reason Joan Rivers does the ring announcing. This is ten three minute rounds. She introduces Orton as the Ace Comedy Bob Orvin. Nice job of handling the reading thing honey.
They actually got Smoking Joe Frazier to be in T’s corner. One of the biggest stars in Hollywood has in his corner a former world heavyweight champion who had three of the best boxing matches in history with Muhammad Ali. He also has a midget. Well of course he does. They treat this like a real boxing match. Oh dear.
T goes for the ribs which doesn’t work all that well for him. Piper hits him on the break which is illegal of course. There has been no mention of judges or anything like that so I guess this is destined to not go the distance. The referee has broken them up about four times now. I think these are three minute rounds. For the most part these punches aren’t landing at all but they sell them anyway of course.
It’s not so much boxing but rather glorified grappling with the occasional punch thrown. The fans are more or less dead if you didn’t guess that. After the first round nothing has really happened. Piper has a bunch of grease on his face for the second round which is keeping the punches from T from being effective.
This is painfully boring if I didn’t make that clear so far. Piper knocks the hell out of T with some big roundhouses and finally drops him to huge cheers because something HAPPENED for a change. The knockdown gets a count of 8. Piper keeps pounding on him as round two ends. They brawl a bit during the break and Orton throws water at T.
Piper does the Ali Shuffle to start the third round. T gets him into the corner and pounds away with more or less open hand shots to the head and Piper is in trouble. That gets a count of 7. T gets a huge punch that I think hit so of course Piper is knocked to the floor. He gets up at 9 and then holds onto T for the last 25 seconds of the fight.
They just trade big bombs to start the fourth round. And then he punches the referee and slams T for the DQ about a minute into the fourth round. It’s a bit brawl and T of course gets the win. Was there a reason for both that ending and also having Piper dominate a round like that? This was awful.
Rating: F. On WRESTLEmania they had a long boxing match. This was just boring beyond belief and the boxing looked awful. They tried to make this seem legit and it failed on more than all levels. T was never seen again and Piper turned face relatively soon after taking time off for knee surgery. Boring match and awful beyond belief.
Women’s Title: Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre
We start with the Women’s Title on the line as Moolah defends against Velvet McIntyre. This match is just weird. Moolah dominates, Velvet comes back and then misses a splash allowing Moolah to pin her. It screams botched finish to me as even the announcers seem surprised.
Rating: N/A. Just was nothing at all and might have gone a minute. Little to rate here so I won't even try to.
Nikolai Volkoff vs. Corporal Kirschner
Now we have a flag match with Nikolai Volkoff against the forgotten Corporal Kirschner. Yeah I don’t remember him either. The winner gets to have their flag waved. Other than that it’s a standard one on one match. As usual, Nikolai sings the Russian National Anthem before the match starts. Nikolai dominates early on, ramming Kirschner into the post twice and busting him open. I kid you not, Kirschner lands 7 right hands, catches Freddy Blassie’s cane and hits Nikolai with it to win the match.
Rating: D-. This was supposed to be a brawl but it was a bad match. 7 punches and a cane shot? Give me a break. Kirschner is apparently one of the most legit tough guys in the history of the business and got thrown out of most major companies for being too rough. Based on this and his match at the Wrestling Classic I'd assume it's due to a high level of suck but that's just me. This was just barely long enough to warrant a rating and it wasn't any good at all.
Now we get the most famous match from this show: a 20 man battle royal with ten pro football players and 10 wrestlers. This is going to go GREAT. Since most of you won’t know half the people in this I’m not going to list them all until the end. The big names are a still rookie Bret Hart, Andre the Giant, Big John Studd and Bruno Sammartino. For the most part this is a run of the mill battle royal.
It’s little more than a bunch of punching and kicking against the ropes as we get down to the big names. Oddly enough the celebrity commentator is the only one that gets anything right. Gorilla says stuff like Studd has this guy in the corner when they’re almost in the middle of the ring, or Ernie Ladd who was a wrestler saying no one wants Andre when he’s beating someone up. Amazing.
The only really famous thing in this match is a football player named William the Refrigerator Perry getting eliminated by Studd but then offering a handshake and eliminating him. The Iron Sheik eliminates Hillbilly Jim just as he would in the gimmick battle royal 15 years later at WM 17. The final four are the Hart Foundation, a football player and Andre. Do I need to really give the details on this? Andre beats up the Harts to win the match after launching Bret out in a press slam.
Rating: B. It’s a bunch of football players and 80s wrestlers with a few great workers. Nothing special, but considering what they had to work with this is just fine. The football stuff didn't lead anywhere which is kind of surprising as they set up a Fridge vs. Studd thing that never happened at all that I know of. This was just ok and at least the right guy won it. Andre would of course be in the biggest match of all time the next year.
Tag Titles: British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team
Now we have what is likely the best match of the whole show. It’s a classic 80s tag match with the British Bulldogs, and Ozzy Osbourne in their corner for God alone knows why to face the tag team champions of the Dream Team Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine. You can tell they’re serious here as this has a sixty minute time limit.
The ring looks small here for some reason. Gorilla asks why Ozzy is there too which means he’s confused like I am. There are two referees here which I doubt will mean anything for the most part. Smith vs. Valentine to get up. The ring is all loud here still.
The Bulldogs were so fast with those tags and this is no exception at all. Valentine won’t tag out for no apparent reason. He counters a backdrop though and here’s Beefcake. Small package by Dynamite get two. Fisherman’s suplex by Davey gets two. I guess he’s not perfect. After Davey gets beaten on for a bit Dynamite comes in and slugs it out with Valentine.
The champions cheat a bit and they still can’t take over. I never got the appeal of the Dream Team but to be fair it might be that Brutus was just awful at this point. Valentine gets a Piledriver on Dynamite but falls forward so it kind of looks like a tombstone but with Dynamite’s stomach facing out. That was kind of cool looking.
Bulldogs clear the ring as things speed up a bit. Davey gets the powerslam for two as it wasn’t a finisher but just a signature move at the time. The champions work over Davey as momentum changes hands a lot here tonight. They work over the arm, including with a shoulderbreaker from Valentine.
However he shows his idiocy by pulling Davey up at two. Nice job you lunkhead. And there’s the idiocy coming through as for no apparent reason Dynamite gets on the middle rope and Davey rams Valentine’s head into Kid’s for the knockout shot and falls on Valentine for the pin and the titles. That ending came from NOWHERE and Dynamite is out cold from the shot which is kind of amusing for some reason. That’s Albano’s 16th title win as a manager. Hokey smoke.
Rating: B-. Fun stuff but the ending was just so freaking random. I don’t get the ending as it was like they looked at the clock and realized they had no time left and were like oh crap we need to finish this. The Bulldogs were a good team and were a huge step up from the Dream Team. They would lose them to the Harts in about 8-9 months so the tag division was starting to roll at this point.
Ricky Steamboat vs. Hercules Hernandez
We move to the final and by far the worst of the three locations as we’re now in LA, beginning with Ricky Steamboat against Hercules Hernandez. This was supposed to be Bret vs. Ricky in the big showdown match for Mania. I'm not sure what the showdown would be for since for all intents and purposes they had no feud that I know of but a little face on face action never hurt anyone, even though Bret wasn't a face at the time so scratch that line.
They start off kind of fast but not fast enough for anything to mean much. This was a different era so matches like these were really commonplace. There's no feud or anything here and Hercules is just a big power guy that had been given a fairly decent push so he's getting to fight one of the best guys in the company at one of the biggest shows of the year.
There is almost nothing to say here though as I've been watching for a few minutes and nothing has happened at all. Well at least nothing worth talking about that is. Hercules goes for the backbreaker as this is before the Full Nelson made him the original Chris Masters. Relatively standard Steamboat match which means it’s at least passable. Herc is the big powerhouse that beats the hell out of Ricky, makes one mistake and the Dragon makes his comeback. The flying body press ends things as always.
Rating: C-. And that's almost all for Steamboat. I liked Hercules for some reason but for the life of me I don't get the point in having him be considered a better prospect than Bret was. This was the epitome of a throwaway match with nothing special at all going on in it and nothing of note to talk about really. I sat there for minutes at a time with nothing of note so I apologize for the most history based match here.
Adrian Adonis vs. Uncle Elmer
Now for the odd match of the night, we have Adrian Adonis, playing a controversial gay gimmick at the time, against Uncle Elmer, a fat hillbilly character. The crowd chants a certain homosexual slur at Adonis to start the match which he prances around the ring to.
This match is slow and mostly painful as the smaller man in the match weighs about 350lbs. When he’s your agile guy, you know this isn’t going anywhere. Elmer punches him and literally falls off his feet from it. Quite sad actually. Adonis has his dress, yes dress ripped off and it’s just hideous. Elmer beats on him some more but misses a leg drop. Adonis hits a top rope headbutt and gets the pin.
Rating: N/A. I never got the appeal of either of these characters and thankfully Elmer wasn't around much longer. Naturally he got a tape mainly about him and his family because that's the way the 80s went.
Junkyard Dog/Tito Santana vs. The Funks
In the next to last match of the night, we have the Funks against JYD and Tito Santana. This is another filler match that had no point at all other than two faces against a heel team. This is a much slower paced match as they do more old school stuff in there. Terry vs. Tito starts us off so we're certainly getting things started off on the right foot here.
You have three guys that belong in the Hall of Fame and JYD who is in there because he was popular in the 80s making him a LEGEND. I still don't like him but he's more bearable than some people I can't stand. This is definitely a different style than most are used to. I'd like a bit more explanation as to why they're fighting but I think It's 1986 is about as close as we're going to get. Tito dominates for the most part here, hammering away on both Funks. He was completely awesome at this point if you didn't get that.
Off to the Dog now and we get some boxing. A Texas man lost a fight to a dog. Don't bother going back to Amarillo I guess Terry. Someone please explain the appeal to me of the Dog as I just don't get it at all and never have. Dory plays Ricky Morton which just sounds wrong and gets beaten on in the corner for a bit. The forearm gets two as I guess Tito didn't have it perfected yet.
Control shifts over to the crazy men and they beat down Tito for awhile as he's really playing Ricky Morton. That still sounds wrong. After a few minutes of basic offense from the Funks JYD comes back in and everything goes nuts. Terry is thrown to the floor where there are no mats. He might have legitimately hurt his knee or ankle there and I'm not surprised at all. With the referee not looking, Terry clocks the Dog with the Megaphone (Jimmy was managing them which I forgot to mention) and the heels steal one.
Rating: B-. Pretty fun match here with the Funks being all evil and the thrown together face team doing whatever they could to get the win. Granted that didn't happen but at least they tried. This was a better match than I remember it being and while it's still mainly formula stuff it worked rather well. I liked it and granted three of the guys being all time greats helps a bit.
WWF World Title: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy
This is a cage match and the only one in Mania history if you don't count the Cell match at Mania 15 which most people don't. The story behind this is Bundy jumped Hogan at a SNME and hurt his ribs, which hadn’t healed yet. Hogan wrestled against doctor’s orders with tape all over his ribs. Simple but effective but kind of too simple as this was more or less thrown together about a month ago.
This is a very not surprising match with Bundy going for the ribs and Hogan having to fight through the pain. It's solid because it's Hogan doing what he does best but the total and complete lack of drama or anyone really caring for the most part is hurting it. Also having Jesse as lead announcer is a very odd choice.
Bundy rips the tape off of Hogan's ribs like a good heel and Hogan messes up as always by trying to pick Bundy up and of course he can't do it. There's nothing special going on here at all but it's working for the most part. Ah there's the Hulk Up. Very surprisingly we get a power slam here and not the traditional slam. Maybe his ribs really were hurt. He ties up Bundy and goes over the top to retain and end the show.
Rating: B-. It’s Hogan against a monster heel not named Andre. What are you expecting here? This was his bread and butter and the fans popped for the end (only) so I guess you can call this a success. I'm a sucker for Hogan matches in the 80s so I'd say there's probably some bias in the rating but who cares? Fairly solid match but nothing unique about it at all other than the cage aspect.
Overall rating: C+. While certainly better in the ring than the first Mania and including some storylines this time, the three venues thing is just a mess. There’s really only two or three very good matches here and I’d call maybe the tag title match Mania worthy. Other than that there’s a lot of filler and it’s more or less 1-2 big matches per location with the rest being all filler.
This show suffers from trying to do something that had never been done before, and while they did indeed do that the overlooked one major point: the new thing they did wasn’t a good idea. It’s really not that good of a show overall. Watch the highlights if you want to, but don’t waste three hours watching it from start to end.
Good Thread KB. Essentially I agree with the consensus of Wrestlemania I being nothing more then a glorified house show. It was, but you also have to remember, context. There was no national TV deal set, pay per view was in its infancy, and the WWF was just beginning to come around as a national power. Essentially Wrestlemania was a knee jerk reaction to the NWA creating it's supercard in Starrcade, and an attitude of anything you could do, I could do better.
Wrestlemania I was pretty bad, nothing great, nothing terrible. I only remember Greg Valentine and JYD having a pretty good matchup for the IC title, I remember the Body Slam challenge and Heenan grasping the bag, and then I remember the clusterfuck that was known as the Main Event featuring a guy named Mr. T. Pretty much all you need to know about Wrestlemania.
Then Wrestlemania II was the first pay per view that I remember watching "live" at least I think it was. I was 5, and vividly remmeber the Image of Hogan atop the Steel Cage ripping his shirt off with the title belt around his waste. Overall though this is the worst Wrestlemania ever to date, yes even worse then Wrestlemania 11. The only thing you can remember from Wrestlemania II that was remotely positive was Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T, but even that ended in a joke. The Dream Team vs. The Bulldogs was probalby the only solid match of the entire card. I tried to watch this again last year, and the entire pay per view was terrible. The celebrity announcers calling color comentary was horrendous, the Battle Royal was a mixture of NFL Players and Wrestlers, and the card had Uncle Elmer, that's bad.
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