– Yes, in my shameless attempt to boost this year’s edition’s buyrate through cheap shilling, I present the first in a BIG-ASS series of Wrestlemania Retro Rants, leading up to the big show in 6 weeks. I’m going to attempt to do all of them. So stop bugging me, I’ll get to Wrestlemania X sometime in the next couple of weeks.
– Live from New York, New York, the city so ugly they had to name it twice.
– Your hosts are Jesse and Gorilla.
– Gene Okerlund sings the national anthem. Dear god…
– Opening match: Tito Santana v. The Executioner. Welcome to hell, Tito, as you’re stuck in the opening match against a masked Buddy Rose before the crowd is even finished filing in. Well, things would get better later. Rose, btw, weighs all of about 200 pounds here, although he would get a huge gut the next year. Maybe he should use “Blow Away”. Standard jobber match to introduce the very-not-wrestling-fan crowd to the basics of what’s going on here tonight. Actually a reasonably decent match as Rose controls for a couple of minutes, but Tito makes the comeback with the Flying Jalapeno and figure-four for the submission. I’ve seen worse. **
– SD Jones v. King Kong Bundy. This would be the very definition of a squash. Jones jumps into a bearhug and gets Avalanched and pinned in 9 seconds to set a (bogus) speed record. DUD
– Matt Borne v. Ricky Steamboat. Geez, where do you start here? Borne is a jobber at this point who would go on to become WCW’s Big Josh and from there the WWF’s original Doink the Clown. He’s reportedly been trying to commit suicide recently, which I find very sad considering how talented a wrestler he is. Steamboat is fresh off jumping from the NWA here. It should be noted that Steamboat is the first one to participate in both the first Starrcade and the first Wrestlemania, although there’s two more later in this show. Good lord those ropes are loose. Steamboat pretty much squashes Borne and finishes it with the flying bodypress. It’s the Steamer, so there’s nothing to hate here. **1/4
– Brutus Beefcake v. David Sammartino. There was some sort of feud going on here, but it’s the David Flair of 1985 so who gives a shit? Sammartino was so hideously untalented that even the almighty power of nepotism couldn’t get him over. Speaking of hideously untalented, Beefcake was no slouch in that department, sucking the meat missile as emphatically as anyone at the time. This is very, very old school. David works on Beefcake’s leg for a while, but Beefcake comes back with his 1985 offense. Oh, wait, this WAS 1985, so I guess it’s apropos. David comes back in turn with some rights and a kneelift. David moves sooooooo slow. Beefcake tosses David out of the ring, where Johnny V attacks. Bruno saves his son and absolutely beats the crap out of Johnny, triggering a big brawl for the double-DQ. Cheap ending. *1/2
– Intercontinental title: Greg Valentine v. Junkfood Dog. Valentine is the second person to do both Starrcade and WM. There’s one more to come. Valentine works on the leg a bunch and JYD actually sells it. Crowd doesn’t seem particularly interested in this one. I don’t think there was any sort of storyline going on here. Hart jumps up on the apron and gets punched off by JYD, allowing Greg to do the Ric Flair pin in the corner on JYD for the win. Tito Santana, humanitarian that he was, tells the referee about the malfeasance on the Hammer’s part, so the match is restarted and the departing Valentine is counted out. Bleh. 1/2* On the replay, we see Jimmy actually taking a vicious bump off the apron onto the un-padded floor. Ouch.
– WWF Tag team title: Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo v. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff. Volkoff does the special extended version of the Russian anthem for the big occasion. To give you an idea of the magnitude of what was about to happen here, picture the New Age Outlaws defending the tag titles against, say, DOA. As in, NO ONE gave the challengers half a chance. Hard to believe that Sheik was only a year removed from the World title at this point. Barry Windham RULES IT, BABY at this point. Quick tags from the champs to start and the Evil Foreigners do some miscommunication to establish them as the blundering heels. Rotundo plays Ricky Morton, although really Ricky Morton hadn’t established the Ricky Morton role at this point in his career…well, whatever. Rotundo escapes the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DOOM and makes the hot tag to Windham. Windham hits the bulldog on Volkoff but Sheik breaks up the pin, triggering a pier-six brawl. Sheik nails Windham with Freddie Blassies’s cane, and Volkoff falls on top for the pin. Quick match. Crowd is unimpressed to say the least, but they needn’t have worried because it was just a hotshot title switch and the US Express would regain the belts a few weeks later. Blah match. *
– Bodyslam challenge: Big John Studd v. Andre the Giant. If Andre slams Studd, he gets $15,000. If he can’t, Andre retires. Bobby is wearing white and purple for the pre-match interview, and when we cut to ringside he’s wearing black and red. This was set up by an ep of Saturday Night’s Main Event where Heenan’s family cut Andre’s afro off. The match is a pretty typical Studd-Giant match, namely slow and boring. In short order, Andre slams Studd and wins the match. But Vince “El Cheapo” McMahon does the Jerry Lawler booking job, as Andre pulls out a couple of handfuls of the money and throws it to the crowd before Heenan steals it back. No real match, so no rating.
– WWF Ladies Title: Leilani Kai (w/ Fabulous Moolah) v. Wendi Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper). Ah, yes, the Rock N Wrestling Connection rears its ugly head with this match. In the pre-match interview, Wendi sounds EXACTLY like Mongo MacMichael, I swear to god. Wendi is just absolutely crazy over. Pretty much a cookie-cutter women’s match, complete with hair-pulling snapmares, and Cyndi Lauper interference. Kai goes for a bodypress off the top and Richter rolls through to regain the title. This was about 1/2*
– Main Event: Mr. T & Hulk Hogan v. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff. Billy Martin is the guest ring announcer, Liberace is the guest time keeper, Muhammad Ali is the guest referee. Patterson is the second ref. FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, Martin is dead, Liberace is dead, Andre is dead, Studd is dead, JYD is dead, Ali is a vegetable, Orndorff is retired, Steamboat is retired, Santana is retired, Valentine is retired, the ladies are persona non grata, Cyndi Lauper is the punchline to several 80s jokes, Windham, Rotundo and Beefcake are considered over-the-hill, wrestling has changed irrevocably and forever…and Piper is still fighting Hogan for the World title. This is why I hate WCW so much, because no one has any sense of f*cking perspective. Anyway, Liberace rings a little bell to start the match. Geez, and people were SURPRISED that this guy was gay? Piper and T start out, and Mr. T actually shows some amateur wrestling technique, which pretty much puts him one up on his partner. T with a fireman’s carry takedown on Piper, which triggers a big brawl right away. Stalling from the heels and then we’re back in as the faces beat the living snot out of Piper. Mr. T looks surprisingly not sucky here. WCW take note. Piper does a dramatic oversell of the big boot, falling out of the ring, then suckering Hogan out after him, which allows him to bash a chair over his head to take control. Ah, those were the days. Heat here is INCREDIBLE. Hogan takes the DOUBLE ATOMIC DROP OF DEATH! Hogan gets beat up for a bit, but Orndorff misses the flying kneedrop and Hogan makes the hot tag to Mr. T. Doesn’t last long as Orndorff smothers T right away. Hogan gets a semi-hot tag in short order and the requisite pier-six breaks out with Jimmy Snuka fighting Bob Orton. But Orton’s interference backfires and Orndorff gets decked with the LOADED CAST OF HIDEOUS DEATH and pinned by Hogan, with no legdrop. Hm. Well, as celebrity matches go this lay somewhere in between Jay Leno and Lawrence Taylor. **1/4 Piper and Orton abandon Orndorff to the wolves, and Hogan is nice enough to let him go in peace. This would lead to Hogan and Orndorff forming a tag team, which would lead to that team self-destructing because Hogan is a jerk.
The Bottom Line: Well, it was the first Wrestlemania, what’d you expect? It didn’t get great, or particularly good, until the third one. The WM2 rant will demonstrate that more than adequately.
Still, if you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a look for historical reasons. Otherwise, not recommended.