Is WrestleMania Always a Beautiful Thing?

WrestleMania Sometimes Sucks

I’m putting the psychology series on temporary hiatus until I can get this out of my system. I think there’s still a good two or three columns left in that series, though. I want to look at several specific matches that had great psychology, and also at several wrestlers who were masters at manipulating a crowd and telling a story in the ring. I’m definitley going to milk this one for all it’s worth.

That can wait, though.

I want to get on the “Lets all write about WrestleMania” bandwagon before it’s too late.

This column is inspired by the overwhelming wave of forced positivity that’s threatening to swamp the Internet Wrestling Community as WrestleMania approaches. As the predictable and uninspiring WM 21 card took shape, I was looking forward to reading column after column of complaints from whiny brat writers who wanted more out of this year’s show. Sadly, it seems that many of my fellow commentators are quite happy with the card as it stands, and most of us seem to be looking forward to the event with great anticipation.

Everywhere I turn, I find people talking about how WrestleMania almost always delivers the goods. Apparently, we can count on this year’s show to continue the proud legacy of great matches and great moments that was first established on March 31, 1985 in Madison Square Garden. I can respect that point of view, I plan on watching this year, and I expect that I’ll enjoy the show, but I am pretty disappointed that I didn’t get to read my expected share of brickbats and vitriol.

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Once I started heading in that direction, though, it quickly became apparent that it would be a waste of column space to complain about Sunday’s show. It hasn’t happened yet, obviously, and there is a pretty good chance that it won’t suck as badly as, say, this year’s Survivor Series.

Still, there is a chance that it won’t live up to everyone’s expectations.

Desire is the Root of All Unhappiness

You are allowed to have whatever expectations you want, but this is what I want every WrestleMania to provide:

1) A reason to feel genuinely good that I ordered the show – This can be a classic match, a genuine spectacle, or a truly sublime moment. There has to be at least one thing that makes me think, “This could only happen at WrestleMania!” As long as I get that, everything else is gravy.

2) At least a couple of examples of wrestlers pulling out all the stops, leaving it all in the ring, or whatever cliche you prefer to use when discussing extra effort – This is The Biggest Show of the Year, and it’s fair to expect that someone will rise to the occasion.

3) Some entertaining crap – WWF humour can be pretty hit or miss, but most WrestleManias give the fans at least one decent laugh out loud moment… even if it isn’t always intentional.

4) A relative absence of painful crap – Appearances by fifth-rate celebrities, failed attempts at comedy, really poor matches with no redeeming comedy value, and “Why did they even bother?” moments can drag any show down. As far as I’m concerned, they have no place at WrestleMania.

Here’s What I’m Going To Do

I’m going to go through all 20 previous Wrestlemanias, and eventually get to this year’s show, and see how they measure up to my expectations. I’m going to completely ignore the merely mediocre stuff that could have happened at any PPV, and focus on the genuinely great and genuinely sorry moments that make or break each show in my opinion.

This will probably take a couple of weeks.

But First…

Here’s what I think of the potential of this year’s show:

Reason(s) To Order: I think that, of all the matches on the card, Eddie vs. Rey has the best chance of being a ***** classic.

I don’t see either of the possible title changes being anywhere near as compelling as last year’s main event, and I don’t know if Angle and Michaels will have great chemistry, but you never know.

My Worst Case Scenario is that too much focus will be placed on HHH vs. Batista, to the extent of forcing some of the other matches to tone it down so they don’t take away from the Main Event. In that case, there really might not be a true classic on this card, since I don’t think Dave and Hunter have it in them at this stage.

Extra Effort: Guerrero vs. Mysterio Jr.; JBL vs. Cena; HBK vs. Angle; The Ladder Match; or HHH vs. Batista, in that order, are the matches that I think might exceed expectations.

Entertaining Crap: Piper’s Pit should be fun. If Hogan gets involved, it might be an all-time unintentional comedy bonanza.

If Hassan & Davari get involved, it will probably end up more painful than entertaining.

Big Show vs. Akebono has potential.

Painful Crap: Hassan & Davari (If they interrupt Hogan, Austin, or Piper); Hulk Hogan (If he gets involved in a match but isn’t physically capable of holding up his end); HHH vs. Batista (if they go too long); Orton vs. Undertaker (If Orton goes over in the wrong way); and a Cruiserweight Gimmick Match (If they have one, in the “Why even bother” sense) could all wind up being painfully bad.

I have faith that Trish will keep her match from falling into this territory.

A Look Back

WrestleMania. March 31, 1985.

Reason(s) To Watch: There’s a tendency to give the first WrestleMania a bye when analyzing it, since “There was never anything like this before…” but in fact there was something like it before. NWA’s StarrCade ’83 and ’84 are the two most obvious examples of North American Professional Wrestling Supercards that took place before Vince’s first big show. ’83 had Steamboat & Youngblood vs. The Briscos, Flair vs. Race, and The Piper vs. Valentine Dog Collar Chain Match. ’84 had Blanchard vs. Steamboat in a classic encounter.

The template had been set, and it was clear that a true Supercard should have at least one great wrestling match. There was not a single great match on the first WrestleMania card.

For sheer spectacle, however, it would be impossible to beat Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Piper & Orndorff. Mr. T was the biggest TV star in North America at the time, and having Billy Martin, Liberace, and especially Muhammed Ali at ringside added to the sense that something special was going on. I think that the only people who were disappointed by the first WrestleMania were hardcore NWA fans who expected the event to be about the in-ring action. Everyone else should have been more than satisfied.

Extra Effort: While there weren’t any outstanding matches, Matt Bourne did a great job of selling for Ricky Steamboat, and Greg Valentine pulled a decent match out of JYD.

Entertaining Crap: Andre the Giant answering Big John Studd’s Bodyslam Challenge was pretty fun in its way.

Bundy pinning S.D. “Special Delivery” Jones is probably the most famous squash match of all time.

Painful Crap: Brutus Beefcake vs. David Sammartino was a terrible match, but poppa Bruno’s run-in kind of salvaged it.

The presence of huge pop star Cyndi Lauper, however, was not enough to save the awful Women’s Title match.

WrestleMania 2, What The World Is Coming To. April 5, 1986.

Reason(s) to Watch: There was nothing really special on this card.

Extra Effort: The Bulldogs vs. Dream Team and Funks vs. Santana & JYD matches were as good as anyone could have expected. Steamboat made Hercules look pretty good. Still, nobody pulled off anything truly special.

Entertaining Crap: The Piper vs. Mr. T boxing match was good fun, as was the WWF/NFL Battle Royal.

Painful Crap: Susan Saint James was probably the worst guest commentator of all time. She really had no clue.

Nobody cares now, but at the time it sucked that Bundy was in the Main Event instead of The Magnificent Muraco – who was wasted in a lame opening match that went nowhere.

Seeing Adrian Adonis wearing a dress and stuck in a match with Uncle Elmer was also pretty painful.

WrestleMania III, Bigger, Badder, Better. March 29, 1987.

Reason(s) to Watch: Savage vs. Steamboat was the best match the WWF had put on to that point.

The intercontinental Title match, Hogan vs. Andre, Piper vs. Adonis, and The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis vs. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana were all satisfying culminations to storylines that had been building all year. The Main Event has subsequently been re-written as a pivotal match in wrestling history, but at the time it was just one of four highly anticipated match-ups.

Extra Effort: Steamboat and Savage put on an exhibition that was so good that they actually got in trouble for it, since it was felt that they took attention away from the main event.

Andre the Giant managed to put on a decent match despite being barely able to walk on his damaged legs.

Aretha Franklin did a great Job on “America The Beautiful.”

Entertaining Crap: Bundy’s partners turning on him was good for a chuckle.

Painful Crap: It would have been better if the Hercules vs. Billy Jack match had been given a finish, but nothing on this card really sucked.

WrestleMania IV. March 27, 1988.

Reason(s) to Watch: If you’re a big fan of Randy Savage, this card saw his first World Title Win. If you’re a big fan of Demolition, their victory over Strike Force should warm your heart. If you are a fan of Stampede Wrestling then Bad News Brown turning on Bret Hart is probably among your favourite WWF moments. Most importantly, if you enjoy being bored to tears by hours of terrible wrestling, this is the WrestleMania for you!

Extra Effort: Steamboat and Valentine put on the only good match of the tournament, but it was nothing they couldn’t have done any night of the week in any arena in America.

Entertaining Crap: The British Bulldogs & Koko B.Ware vs. The Islanders & Bobby Heenan wasn’t exactly a good match, but I liked it.

Painful Crap: If you can remember what Duggan and DiBiase were like in Bill Watts UWF/Mid-South promotion, then you can probably share the pain that I feel when I think about their match here.

Bravo vs. Muraco, Savage vs. Reed, OMG vs. Bigelow, Rude vs. Roberts, Hogan vs. Andre, Valentine vs. Savage, and OMG vs. Savage were among the other extremely disappointing tournament bouts.

WrestleMania V, The Megapowers Explode. April 2, 1989.

Reasons to Watch: Even a borderline Hogan-Hater like myself can admit that the Main Event just flat out ruled. The build was excellent, the heat was off the charts, and the match itself very nearly lived up to the hype.

Extra Effort: The Brain Busters brought NWA-style wrestling goodness to WrestleMania in their match vs. Strike Force.

Mr. Perfect & Owen Hart packed a ton of action into their brief match.

The Rockers sold like crazy for The Big Boss Man & Akeem The African Dream.

Hogan and Savage obviously gave their very best, and their match was better than anyone expected.

Entertaining Crap: Piper facing off with Morton Downey, Jr. was good at the time.

Painful Crap: Bad News vs. Duggan was nowhere near what it could have been, and Jake vs. Andre was tough to watch.

The most truly painful thing about WrestleMania V, in my view, was seeing Terry Taylor stuck with the Red Rooster gimmick in a silly squash match with Bobby Heenan that featured a Steve Lombardi run-in.

Next week: More WrestleMania!

Bonus mini-column: A Refreshing Blast of Negativity

I think that this past month, heading into WrestleMania, has seen the weakest set of major World Champions to ever have reigned at one time.

Triple H (Big Ole’ Gold Belt) and Triple J (TNA World Nepotism Title) have long overstayed their welcome at the top. They are both past their prime and neither is the best worker or the most over heel on their respective shows. JBL (WWWF World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion of his particular TV program) and Satoshi Kojima (New Japan Pro Wrestling IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, AND All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown Champion. No, really) are both pretty good tag team wrestlers who would like to be Stan Hansen when they grow up. Even Ring of Honour has an upper mid card guy (the talented Austin Aries) holding their most prestigious belt.

I don’t care how positive you are, the sky is most definitely falling.

Elsewhere on the site:

There is just a ton of great reading on IP this week.

If you haven’t read it already, I’d strongly urge you to set aside some time for Lucard’s latest Nyogtha, where he covers the very interesting topic of how PR firms try to influence the gaming media. If you’re interested in the topic, I’d suggest checking out all of the articles he links to, as well.

Rob Blatt’s excellent WrestleMania Madness poll is in full swing, you can check it out here. There are a ton of WrestleMania polls and discussions going on on our WWE Forum.

Matthew takes an in-depth look at the sorry state of the E’s tag team scene here.

There’s also a lot of good reading on the Comics Nexus, including this though provoking deconstruction.

I may have stopped writing my music column (at least temporarily), but Gloomchen hates a bunch of songs, Fernandez pimps in haiku, and Aaron‘s going to miss a week.

Back in Wrestling, Team ROH’s Brad has posted another great review.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy Wrestlemania!

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