– Live from Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey
– Your hosts are Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon
– As my pledge to you, faithful readers, it is my personal goal to single-handedly boost the buyrate of this year’s Wrestlemania by 0.2 through the power of Retro Rants! The stinging irony, of course, is that through the miracle of Vietnamese technology I haven’t paid for a show since about 1995, but that’s another story. Save that Superbrawl money and buy Wrestlemania instead!
– This is an interesting show for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s the first World title tournament on PPV. Second, it demonstrates how Vince’s excesses come back to bite him in the ass, as this show is about as bloated and excessive as you get. And where to hold such a show than Atlantic City under the auspices of Donald Trump?
– Opening match: Battle Royale. Case in point, whose dumb idea was it to open a show with a battle royale? Sam Houston gets the honor of being the first one out. Sika follows quickly after. This is basically a JTTS-fest. George Steele, who has been sitting outside since the start, pulls Jim Neidhart out. Ray Rougeau and the Killer Bees go in one big heap. JYD dumps Ron Bass with little trouble. The referees try to convince the Animal to actually enter the ring, but he’s not going anywhere. Everyone gangs up on Hillbilly Jim and dumps him. Jim Powers gets dumped. We’re getting down to the cream of the jobber crop. Nothing interesting going on outside of the eliminations. Ken Patera dumps both Zukhov and Volkoff, then gets dumped by Bad News Brown. Brown sends Harley Race and Jacque Rougueau flying, then Paul Roma. That leaves Brown and Bret Hart against JYD. The Dog takes both of them on, but the heels overwhelm him and beat on him for a while, then toss him. Bret foolishly thinks they’ll split the trophy, but Brown ends that line of thought by turning on Hart out of nowhere and tossing him to win the battle royale. This would mark two major turning points: 1) Bret’s face turn and 2) The first time Bret is double-crossed on a major PPV. har har. Bret (and isn’t this a shock) destroys the trophy. I don’t rate battle royales, but this one sucked.
– Robin Leach comes out to officially open the tournament. The brackets:
Ted Dibiase v. Jim Duggan
Don Muraco v. Dino Bravo
Ricky Steamboat v. Greg Valentine
Randy Savage v. Butch Reed
One Man Gang v. Bam Bam Bigelow
Jake Roberts v. Rick Rude
(Hulk and Andre get a automatic bye against each other into the quarterfinals)
– First round: Hacksaw Duggan v. Ted Dibiase (w/ Andre & Virgil). Slugfest to start and Dibiase works in the over-the-top-rope bump early on. Tide turns as Duggan eats boot on a charge to the corner. Dibiase drops a fist and a knee but Duggan gets a sunset flip for two. Duggan bleeds hardway from the mouth at one point. Dibiase comes off the second rope, but of course gets caught and does the somersault oversell. Duggan with the big comeback, but he makes the stupid mistake of setting up for the CLOTHESLINE OF DOOM in front of Andre, who trips him up and allows Dibiase to drop another fist for the pin. Three minute match. 1/2*
– Dino Bravo v. Don Muraco. Do you smell what the Rock is…oh, wait, wrong “Rock”. Muraco is accompanied to the ring by Scott Steiner. Oh, wait, that’s Billy Graham. Anyway, dumb references aside, it should be noted that Muraco isn’t very good at this point. He slips on the second turnbuckle and f*cks up a pump splash early on. They proceed to do another Nitro match, as it’s okay but so compressed for time reasons that there’s no way to do anything meaningful. Muraco works on the knee until he gets tossed into the ropes and tied up, turning the tide. Bravo hits a piledriver for two, but Muraco blocks the second one and they do a double-knockout spot. Bravo pulls the referee in front of him to block a flying forearm, then hits the sidewalk slam on Muraco. Referee quickly revives and DQ’s Bravo. Bleh. 3/4*
– Greg Valentine v. Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat works on the arm to start, and gets some two counts off shoulderblocks. It’s a crime to force these two into a 5 minute match. Jesse makes the obligatory Barry Blowski reference here. Now we’re just waiting on him to say hello to his four friends in Minnesota. Hammer and Dragon are endeavouring to have a good match despite the time constraints. Someone who looks a lot like Bill Watts is sitting in the front row beside Ivana Trump. Hammer gets some two-counts and then sets up for the figure-four, working on the knee. Steamboat escapes and they do a chop-fest. Valentine does the Flair Flop off a really nasty chop. A greco-roman thumb to the eye turns the tide. Valentine to the top with a shot to the head, and he goes for the figure-four again. Steamboat blocks and comes back again with a flying elbow. He goes to the top and hits the KARATE CHOP OF DEATH. Crowd is really getting into it. Valentine gets rammed to the turnbuckle 10 times, and Hebner gets in Steamer’s face about it. Steamboat goes to the top rope again in frustration and hits the bodypress, but Valentine rolls through for the pin. I never realized how good a match this was. And why WAS Dave Hebner working this show only weeks after the biggest referee screwjob in history? Steamboat says goodbye to the crowd in his usual low-key manner and headed to the NWA for better days. ***
– A courier has a special delivery for Bobby Heenan. And then, in a moment horribly out of character for Heenan…he TIPS THE DELIVERY GUY! When does Heenan EVER tip anyone? Geez, what a crock. The package would come in handy later in the show…
– Randy Savage v. Butch Reed. Savage and Liz are in matching royal blue. Savage is freshly face-turned at this point and is just crazy over. I miss “Jive Soul Bro.” That was good entrance music. Savage begins a grand tradition for his career as a babyface, taking a pounding from Reed for the majority of the match and then coming back with the big move, in this case set up by Reed hitting on Elizabeth while climbing the turnbuckle, which in turn gave Savage enough time to recover, slam Reed off the top turnbuckle, and drop the big elbow for the pin. Crowd goes batshit. Match sucks. 1/2*
– One Man Gang v. Bam Bam Bigelow. Back in my mark days, in grade 8, there was no bigger topic of discussion than wrestling. And the one thing we all agreed on: Bigelow kicked ass and he would win the tournament with room to spare. Well, what did we know? This match is the very green Bigelow against the deteriorating Gang, so you can guess how good it is. At least it’s quick. Bigelow squashes Gang, but Slick pulls down the ropes and sends Bam Bam crashing out of the ring for the countout. DUD
– I usually skip over interviews, but I have to point out Hulk Hogan giving the most bizarre, overblown, egomaniacal, delusional interview I’ve ever heard. Something about slamming Andre and the earth breaking apart and Donald Trump drowning but letting go of his material possessions and embracing Hulkamania as his lord and savior and on and on.
– Jake Roberts v. Rick Rude. Final first round match. This was just after the “Rude kisses Cheryl Roberts” angle that has since spawned every other wife-stealing angle in the WWF (and a few in WCW). Ironically, Rude really WAS banging Roberts’ wife on the side, causing Jake’s divorce, which in turn triggered all his drinking problems which ended up destroying his life. Or so Roberts claims, despite most other viewpoints which portray Roberts as a lifelong mean drunk. Meanwhile, these guys are obviously working towards a draw, because they’re using a lot of restholds and taking their time between moves. Boring chants start up 8 or so minutes in. Chinlock, wristlock, headlock and a lot of other moves that end in “-lock”. Absolutely nothing of note until about 12 minutes in when Jakes makes the big comeback to wake up the crowd. Rude lures Roberts into the corner and tries the Ric Flair pin, but the time limit expires to put me out of my misery. *1/4
– Gene and Vanna White examine the pairings on the big board:
Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant
Ted Dibiase v. Don Muraco
Randy Savage v. Greg Valentine
One Man Gang – BYE
– I now understand why they don’t let Vanna talk much on Wheel of Fortune.
– The Mighty Hercules v. The Ultimate Warrior. This is Warrior’s PPV debut. Vince must have being going nuts trying to think of the ways to spend the money he was going to make off this guy. Warrior was just going nuts, period. Really horrendous match, even by the low standards set by these two idiots. Warrior no-sells everything in sight. Goldberg take note: This could be you in 10 years, pal. Why did they bother with this dog of a match? Herc locks in the full nelson, but Warrior walks the ropes and pushes off, getting the pin. -** It should be noted that the Fantastics were fighting the Midnight Express in a near ***** match on TBS right about that time on the first ever Clash.
– Review of the Hulk-Andre war. Does anyone else see the stinging irony of Hogan taking his current World title in the EXACT way that Dibiase tried to in 1988?
– Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant (w/ Dibiase & Virgil). You know who the smartest man in the whole Andre deal was? Bobby Heenan. He sold the contract of Andre to Dibiase for $1,000,000 and publicly bought it back for about $100,000. The guy made a $900,000 cash profit! Anyway, this match is utter tripe. And I should point the stupidity of cutting the first tape off in the middle of the match. Both Hulk and Andre dogging it in the SAME MATCH is not a good combo. Andre keeps Hulk down with the VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DOOM, but Hogan comes back. Then the overbooking takes over, as Dibiase slams a chair into Hulk’s back to interrupt a bodyslam. Hulk and Andre fight over the chair, and the referee disqualifies them both. It should be noted that Hulk clearly hit Andre with the chair in plain sight of the referee, but it’s Hulk so no DQ is called until Andre follows suit. Poor Andre has to suffer the indignity of being bodyslammed yet again after the match. Crybaby Hulk poses for the fans after his loss. But it’s not enough to give the Orange Goblin five minutes to pose, oh no, he had to interject his roided, overly tanned, ugly face into the finals later on as well, because BENOIT FORBID that we go 10 minutes without mentioning the name of Jesus H. Hogan. Anyway, this match was -***
– Don Muraco v. Ted Dibiase. Winner gets a bye to the finals. So, if Hogan’s such a huge Billy Graham fan, why hasn’t he dragged his crippled ass out of whatever old age home he’s in and put, say, the cruiserweight title on him? I’m sure he’s down to about 180 pounds at this point. And he’s probably got a better hip than Roddy Piper. Hey, is that Dave Meltzer kneeling at ringside with the cameramen? It sure looks like him. Anyway, Muraco destroys Dibiase, but a crucial mistake swings it back in Dibiase’s favor for a while. Muraco was so roided up that he could barely move at this point. Muraco makes the comeback, but gets caught with a stungun and pinned, sending Dibiase to the finals. Nothing match. *
– Randy Savage v. Greg Valentine. Savage and Liz are in matching hot pink this time. Dull match which ends up outside the ring pretty quick and Hammer gives Savage a taste of irony, with an elbow off the apron. Savage comes back with the double axehandle for two. Valentine escapes the big elbow and goes for the figure-four, but Savage reverses to a small package (this show was personally the first time I’d seen that done, although Flair had done that finish dozens of times before, unbeknownst to me at the time) and gets the pin. *1/2
– Intercontinental title match: Honky Tonk Man v. Brutus Beefcake. Peggy Sue is with HTM, and is as usual Sherri Martel in a bad wig and poodle skirt. Jesse works in the chance to say hi to Terry, Tyrell and Jay in Minnesota. Honky and Beefer do their usual quasi-comedy match, with Beefcake playing mind games by messing up the hair of the champ. Jesse points out a great justification for the DQ rule: If you get a bad referee who DQ’s the champ unfairly, then he’s been screwed out of his title, hence the “You must win a title by pinfall or submission” rule. Of course, if the promoter is sitting at ringside screaming “Ring the f*cking bell” then there’s not much you can do about it. You know, Mike Ciota used to be really thin and had a LOT of hair, as compared to today. I’m not the least bit interested in this match. Honky goes for Shake, rattle and roll but Beefcake grabs the top rope to block and makes the big comeback. Beefcake hooks the sleeper in the center of the ring, so Jimmy Hart makes the prudent decision and knocks the referee into next week with the megaphone. In the ensuing chaos, Beefcake chases down Jimmy Hart and cuts his hair, and the referee wakes up to DQ Honky. DUD
– Bobby Heenan & The Islanders v. Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs. You see, the delivery guy was bringing a dog-proof suit for Heenan to wear here. Because the Bulldogs had an actual bulldog as their mascot, see. And the Islanders kidnapped the dog, and presumably did unspeakable things to the dog, and the WWF had a big “Get Well Matilda” campaign after the dog was returned, setting up this match. “Get It”? That being said, the Bulldogs and Islanders do a really nice sequence combining speed and power to start, until Dynamite Kid eats a foot on a cross corner charge, allowing the Brain to come in and administer some punishment. Doesn’t last long, of course. Koko gets the hot tag but gets beat down pretty quick. Crowd is out of it. Heenan gets some more shots on Koko, but ends up getting creamed and a pier-six erupts. The Islanders slam Koko and then drop Heenan on top for the pin. Started okay but died off quick. **
– Jesse Ventura does some poses for the fans, getting a bigger pop than half the guys on the show tonight.
– Tournament semifinals:
Dibiase – BYE
Randy Savage v. One Man Gang
– Randy Savage v. One Man Gang. Savage is obviously resting up for his final match later in the evening. Fashion watch: Matching black outfits this time. OMG batters Macho in methodical fashion, but Slick’s propositioning to Liz allows Gang to grab the cane and nail Savage, drawing a DQ. And that’s all I have to say about that. 1/4*
– WWF World tag team title match: Strike Force v. Demolition. In my all time markout moment list, this ranks about #4 or 5. Demolition would be over so HUGE if they were around today, it would be scary. They could do garbage matches out the wazoo and never have to get into the ring. Strike Force gets no pop. Smash kicks Martel’s ass and the crowd loves it. Pier-six breaks out quickly and Strike Force gains control. The crowd isn’t impressed. Santana, the designated punching bag, gets caught in a bearhug by Smash, which leads to Ax clotheslining him from the apron. Good spot. A nice powerslam gets two. The crowd obviously wants to cheer for the Demos but doesn’t feel comfortable doing so because they’re the heels. That would never be a problem today. Well, unless you count the Rock and his schizophrenic relationship with the fans. Santana plays Ricardo Morton and gets hammered, but hits the Flying Jalapeno and hot tags Martel. He takes out both guys and applies the Boston Crab to Smash, but Santana is keeping the referee occupied. Ax nails Martel with the cane and Smash rolls on top as the ref revives and counts three, to one of the biggest pops of the night. The Demos capture their first tag titles. ** Over on TBS, Tully and Arn were jobbing the NWA tag titles to Lex Luger and Barry Windham, and in one of those odd wrestling karma things, Demolition would go on to hold the titles for an astounding 18 months, before finally losing them to… Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson.
– WWF World title match: Ted Dibiase v. Randy Savage. Robin Leach brings out the WWF title (a belt which would last for 10 more years). Bob Uecker is the guest ring announcer. Vanna White is the guest timekeeper. Matching white outfits for Savage and Liz. Andre trips Savage almost immediately, prompting the crowd to call a spot and chant for Hogan. He doesn’t come out yet. Andre trips Savage *again* and the chants for Hogan get louder. Savage controls with some nice sequences and gets a few two counts. Savage with the flying necksnap and a high knee to send Dibiase flying out of the ring, but Andre blocks him from delivering anything from the top rope. So Savage sends Liz running back to the dressing room to fetch you-know-who. Hogan grabs a chair and takes a seat at ringside while Dibiase applies a chinlock. Andre grabs at Savage again and Hogan clobbers him. Dibiase, meanwhile, hits a clothesline and elbowdrop for two. Suplex for two. Dibiase goes to the top and Savage slams him off and goes for the elbow, but he misses and Dibiase slaps on the Million Dollar Dream. Andre interferes again, tying up the ref, and Hogan runs in and nails Dibiase with the chair, knocking him out. The big elbow is academic and Savage is the new WWF champion, his first of two reigns as WWF champ and five World titles overall. Savage and Dibiase would go on to have a classic series of matches over the summer. Everyone goes home happy tonight, however. **3/4
The Bottom Line: At a mind-numbing FOUR HOURS LONG and SIXTEEN MATCHES, this show is more aptly dubbed Wrestlemania Bore. No way could either WCW or the WWF get this much PPV time to waste today, and a good thing it is, too. Still, ridiculous length and poor match quality aside, this was an important show, establishing Savage as a World champion one year after his most crushing defeat, and setting up a year-long angle that would culminate in Wrestlemania V one year later. I could have done without about an hour of this show, but it’s still recommended viewing for historical reasons.