Classic Era Network w/ Kace: WWF WrestleMania IV (1988)

The battle of wills between the World Wrestling Federation and NWA’s Jim Crockett Promotions gets a new wrinkle as this time it’s JCP looking to screw with the WWF instead of the other way around. While this event was going on, the first ever Clash of the Champions was taking place on TBS.

But that’s JCP and we’ll deal with that another time. For now, we have the Atlantic City Convention Hall, referred to vocally as Trump Plaza hosting WM for two consecutive years. It was never done before and hasn’t been done since. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura are your commentators and before we get to the tournament stuff to determine a new WWF Heavyweight Champion, we have a battle royale for a trophy to deal with. I learned from watching this and POWW (see Leather, Peggy Lee and Bambi) that trophies are an invitation to disaster.

This battle royale features 20 men, 19 of which actually enter the ring while George Steele stays on the outside, eventually earning him a disqualification. And that’s how you get DQ’d from a battle royale. The first elimination is Sam Houston, eliminated by arch rival Danny Davis. The Hart Foundation continue their streak of being in WM’s, but never in a standard tag match and at this point have been in more battle royales than standard matches. The following year they’ll finally compete in a tag team match.

Just like at WM2, Bret Hart makes it to the final 3, this time helping Bad News Brown eliminate Junkyard Dog before Brown eliminates Hart. Frustrated, Hart attacks Brown post battle and destroys the trophy. Between this and growing tired of Jimmy Hart, the Hart Foundation would have an interesting Spring into Summer this year.

Of the 20 men in this contest, only 1 was a former World Heavyweight level Champion at this point, King Harley Race who just missed making the final 4.

This brings us to the 1st Round of the WWF Heavyweight Championship Tournament. This tournament is a result of some shenanigans on WWF The Main Event back in February. It’s the kind of clusterfuck where the WWF should have just thrown out the result and I have preferred to do that since the matched aired on NBC. The assigned referee refused to participate, sending his brother in to do it instead and since they resembled each other, no one was the wiser. The non-WWF sanctioned ref who granted had experience as a ref for JCP makes his dubious debut, illegally refereeing a match for the WWF Heavyweight title and screwing over the Champion, allegedly for a payoff. Not only that, but the guy who won the match and title without a recognized WWF ref immediately sold the title to some other dude 45 seconds later.

To his credit, President Jack Tunney appeared to have thrown the whole thing out, leading us to this tournament. In other leagues, the title would just go back to the guy who was screwed over, but this is during a time where the WWF was wanting to capitalize on entertaining the fans any way they could, thus a tournament which would not only include the official who now was able to receive official recognition as a WWF ref (Danny Davis had to have been miffed by this), but also allowed the two wrestlers who caused this mess in the first place to take part. Realistically, Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase should have been suspended and made to participate in the battle royale instead of being rewarded with a chance to win the title in a tournament.

Anyway…

Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant receive automatic byes to the Quarterfinal Round where they’ll face each other. Your 1st Round matches are Ted DiBiase Vs. Jim Duggan in a Rat Pack Special, Dino Bravo Vs. Don Muraco (whose Jesus Christ Superstar theme is overdubbed), Greg Valentine Vs. Ricky Steamboat (whose “Sirius” is overdubbed), Butch Reed Vs. Randy Savage, One Man Gang Vs. Bam Bam Bigelow, and Rick Rude Vs. Jake Roberts.

There are 3 former World Heavyweight level Champions in this tournament, Hulk Hogan (WWF), One Man Gang (UWF), and Rick Rude (World Class). Steamboat is less than a year away from capturing the NWA World Heavyweight title from Ric Flair and again, Andre’s doesn’t count, no matter how many times some doofus at the former World Wrestling Federation says otherwise. In any event, I’ve never counted it and never will.

DiBiase defeats Duggan with assistance from Andre. Muraco beats Bravo by DQ. Valentine hands Steamboat his first WM loss to advance, putting “the Dragon” at 3-1 at WM events. Savage (with Miss Elizabeth in outfit #1) beats Reed. Gang beats Bigelow by count out, signalling the end being near for Bam Bam’s first WWF stint. Rude and Roberts fight to a time limit draw, giving Gang a Quarterfinal Round bye.

A non-tournament match sees the Ultimate Warrior defeat Hercules Hernandez as Herc’s run of PPV futility continues.

We have 3 Quarterfinal matches and a bye. Hogan Vs. Andre, DiBiase Vs. Muraco, Valentine Vs. Savage, and Gang getting the bye. Andre and Hogan are double DQ’d, dismissing both from the tournament and as it turns out, that was the plan the whole time between DiBiase and Andre, further making the WWF look bad for having them in this thing in the first place. DiBiase beats Muraco and gets a bye to the Final Round. Savage (with Miss Elizabeth in outfit #2) beats Valentine. Gang enjoys his bye.

We have a pair of matches to get through before our lone Semifinal contest. The first is Brutus Beefcake challenging the Honky Tonk Man for the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship, winning by DQ which means HTM gets to retain. The other is the Islanders and Bobby Heenan defeating the British Bulldogs and Koko Ware as Ware’s run of futility on PPV continues.

DiBiase enjoys his bye while Savage (with Miss Elizabeth in outfit #3) defeats Gang.

Savage gets one match to rest up before the Final Round and that’s a contest for the WWF World Tag Team Championship between defending Champs Strike Force and the challengers, Demolition. Demolition gets the win with a little help from their manager, Mr. Fuji. For Tito Santana of Strike Force, this particularly sucks as he’s gone from winning the first ever WM match in 1985 to a 3-year WM losing streak while his partner, Rick Martel goes from winning the previous year with Tom Zenk as his partner to experiencing the first of two straight years of futility and resentment with Santana as his partner. It’s no wonder they break up a year later.

We get to the Final Round and it’s a well rested DiBiase (with Andre) taking on Savage (with Miss Elizabeth in outfit #4). Just like with the Wrestling Classic Tournament in 1985, Savage and Elizabeth were confident in being able to make it through all 4 rounds by way of bringing 4 different attires. Andre’s interference influences Savage to have Elizabeth head to the back and bring Hogan to ringside. The match ends with Hogan cracking DiBiase across the back with a chair, leading to Savage hitting the top rope elbow and getting the pinfall and the title.

Other fun stuff.

The final round features members of the future New World Order in WCW, Savage and DiBiase in the ring, Hogan and Elizabeth at ringside. Another future NWO member, Rude was eliminated in the 1st Round, while Virgil (Vincent in WCW’s NWO) was ringside initially for DiBiase before being injured by way of suplex on the aisle stairs.

Celebrity participation included Bob Uecker for the second year in a row, Vanna White, and Robin Leach whose “…and I do know why” rebuttal to the “…and I don’t know why” joke that was going around at the time is probably lost on anyone watching this for the first time in 21st Century.

Between this and Gang’s next PPV match at Survivor Series in November, he’ll undergo an identity change with the help of Slick, becoming Akeem, the African Dream.

Participants in the rival NWA Clash of the Champions event on TBS include the Powers of Pain who along with former WWWF Heavyweight Champion Ivan Koloff lose to the Road Warriors and Dusty Rhodes. The POP will arrive in the WWF just in time for SummerSlam. The team of Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard lose their match to Barry Windham and Lex Luger and will head over to the WWF in time for Survivor Series.

Two men taking part in WrestleMania IV, Butch Reed in the tournament and Junkyard Dog in the battle royale will face other in a match the following year at the Clash of the Champions card opposite WrestleMania V.

Donald Trump sits in the first row opposite the A camera so he’s visible. He’ll be in the same seat the following year. During this and the following year’s WM, he’s currently working on Ex-Wife #1.

Gladys Knight performs “America the Beautiful” and there have been no reports of Trump grabbing her pussy.

Miss Elizabeth is ringside for 4 matches and Trump is able to resist any urges to grab her pussy.

The Ladies’ Division is represented by Sherri Martel who moonlights as “Peggy Sue” at ringside for the Honky Tonk Man along with manager Jimmy Hart. Trump doesn’t appear to grab her pussy.

No word on whether Trump considered Santana to be a rapist or drug smuggler.

Trump fails to start up a “U-S-A!” chant upon Brown, an American eliminating Canadian Bret Hart.

While Brown wins the battle royale, two other black men, Reed and Ware suffer losses which likely make his future political base feel a little better about things.

Next up, the first SummerSlam which takes place at Madison Square Garden, just like the first WrestleMania.

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