WM PPV Countdown: #19 – WrestleMania IV

WrestleMania IV is one of my personal favorites in the supercard’s history, but it’s long running time, filler mid-card matches, no real memorable in-ring bouts and the lack of a promoted main event hurts this show in the overall legacy of WrestleMania.

WrestleMania IV was built on the backs of a 14-man single elimination tournament to determine a new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase made a vow to buy the WWF Championship but when then-Champion Hulk Hogan refused, DiBiase bought the services of Andre the Giant to take the belt for him. Andre, still sore from losing to Hogan at WrestleMania III, gladly took the offer, and on the February 8, 1988, Main Event program live on NBC Andre the Giant defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship thanks to a crooked referee, only to surrender the Title to DiBiase. The show drew the highest rated pro wrestling broadcast in history.

It was determined that DiBiase could not accept the WWF Championship via forfeiture and thus no one was officially the WWF Champion. WWF President Jack Tunney created a 14-man single elimination tournament to be held at WrestleMania with the winner emerging as the new undisputed Champion. Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan, the most recent WWF Champions, received first round byes and met in the quarterfinals, thus guaranteeing a rematch from WrestleMania III and keeping both men out of the finals.

Going into the show the company could only promote the six first round matches so the show was stacked with matches built upon the other company’s championships, personal rivalries and a good ol’ fashioned battle royal to “get the boys on the card.” Demolition started their path to WWF tag team immortality by winning their first of three WWF Tag Team Championships and becoming a catalyst for the future’s “cool heel” type of bad guy. Honky Tonk Man continued on his record-breaking Intercontinental Title reign by losing the battle against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake but winning the war by retaining the Title.

The story of the show however was the unknown journey the WWF World Championship tournament would take. While critics panned the tournament for lack of hype surrounding the tournament, the short matches and half the field that had no shot at winning I personally think the idea of the unknown in the tournament builds excitement and suspense. NCAA March Madness and its bracketology is a huge rage across the country and this was the WWF’s version of March Madness. The story of “Macho Man” Randy Savage having to endure four matches against four very different villains made for a great show-long storyline. While not one singular main event could be used as hype to sell the event, much like today’s Royal Rumble, WrestleMania IV was sold on the entire concept of the unpredictability of the tournament.

Realistically the in-ring matches in the tournament didn’t live up to their hype. Most of the first round matches were short, except for the dull Rick Rude-Jake Roberts match that went to a pain-staking time limit draw. The other big disappointment was Greg Valentine beating Ricky Steamboat in the first round, robbing fans of a Steamboat-Savage second round bout and rematch from their truly epic WrestleMania III clash.

Despite the feel-good story of The Macho Man becoming the new WWF World Champion, most remember the show for the long running time, the insane amount of matches (sixteen!) and no truly memorable in-ring action. Give the company credit, for each of the first four WrestleManias they tried a different concept. While this necessarily isn’t considered a successful concept, it was certainly something different and fresh.

Match Results:
– Bad News Brown won a 20-man battle royal. Other participants included Ron Bass, Sam Houston, Hillbilly Jim, George “The Animal” Steele, Sika, Bret Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Harley Race, Jacques & Raymond Rougeau, Jimmy Powers, Paul Roma, Danny Davis, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Ken Patera & Junkyard Dog.
– “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase pinned Hacksaw Jim Duggan. (first round WWF Championship match)
– Don Muraco beat Dino Bravo by disqualification. (first round WWF Championship match)
– Greg “The Hammer” Valentine pinned Ricky Steamboat. (first round WWF Championship match)

– “Macho Man” Randy Savage pinned Butch Reed. (first round WWF Championship match)
– One Man Gang beat Bam Bam Bigelow by disqualification. (first round WWF Championship match)
– Jake “The Snake” Roberts went to a time limit draw with Ravishing Rick Rude. (first round WWF Championship match)

– The Ultimate Warrior beat Hercules.
– Hulk Hogan went to a double disqualification with Andre the Giant. (quarterfinal WWF Championship match)
– “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase pinned Don Muraco. (quarterfinal WWF Championship match)
– “Macho Man” Randy Savage pinned Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. (quarterfinal WWF Championship match)
– Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake beat Honky Tonk Man (c) by disqualification in an Intercontinental Championship match.
– The Islanders (Haku & Tama) & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan beat Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid) when Heenan pinned Ware.
– “Macho Man” Randy Savage beat One Man Gang by disqualification. (semi final WWF Championship match)
– Demolition (Ax & Smash) beat Strike Force (Rick Martel & Tito Santana) (c) to win the WWF World Tag Team Championships.
– “Macho Man” Randy Savage pinned “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase in the finals of the WWF Championship tournament to win the Title.

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