So here it begins, Chris and Joel from the Classy Ring Attire Podcast and joined forces with their Trashy Ring Attire brethren, Kue and BD, to review every Wrestlemania until we reached Wrestlemania 32 in April. They are joined by a man simply known as “sideshowbob” (Classy Ring Attire listeners might know him as @eviljackalopes on Twitter) who has offered to give a historical aspect as they begin with the first Wrestlemania.
Sideshowbob: As a backstory, the creation of the ‘concept’ of how the first Wrestlemania came to be has been documented better elsewhere. For this one, let’s face it. The card is shit and doesn’t hold up to me nowadays. So I’m going to give a few examples of why this card could’ve worked, and a brief backstory into the (few) angles that were going on… This is how I remember it, but I was only in 5th grade…
For starters: This is March 1985. Times were far simpler. There was no Back to the Future. The Terminator was not a franchise with sequels. Neither was Rambo. Eddie Murphy just rejuvenated his career with Beverly Hills Cop being a #1 draw at the theater until Friday the 13th Part 5 knocked it off its perch this month. The freakin’ Breakfast Club was still in theaters. Home phones were mostly rotary (means it had a dial). Atari already tanked over the E.T. game, and Nintendo hadn’t come out. VCRs were $350+, American (for Blair) and they still had a cord connecting the ‘remote’ to the box. Previously you ate at home and went out for entertainment. Then there was this new box on your TV that could get 35 channels… From across the country even! One of these channels had this late-night and Saturday am shows that featured wrestling. Another station carried the A-Team on Friday nights, and yet another, MTV, was dedicated to “music videos”, a new concept which hadn’t existed previously.
Leading up to this card, Bob Backlund lost the title to The Iron Sheik. Iron Sheik in turn lost his belt to that Hollywood blonde jabroni Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan made appearances on MTV, some with Mr T from the A-Team and Rocky fame. Roddy Piper called out and fought Hulk Hogan on MTV which brought celebrity involvement to Wrestlemania, hence the tag team main event. Most of the rest of this card was either squash matches or throwing names together. JYD vs Greg Valentine. No real build. Iron Sheik was teamed with Nikolai Volkoff to face Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda. Wendi Richter was running around with Cyndi Lauper on MTV talking about her match with Lelani Kai, but was usually overshadowed by Lauper looking high as a kite. The only real build beyond the tag team main event was a “body slam challenge” between Andre the Giant and Big John Studd. Yep, it ends when one slammed the other. Oh and lots of squash matches. So. As this card stands, the build was great if you were in the main event. The show itself has a place in history, but if it wasn’t for MTV this couldn’t have worked. So every time we bitch online about clueless celebs wasting time, remember this: it is truly because of the clueless celebrities, coupled with a perfect storm of fans in March of 1985 that allowed Wrestlemania to work at all.
Joel: I can’t possibly imagine what it must have been like to experience the first WrestleMania in 1985. There are people far better suited to put this event in the context that it deserves. Let me first say that if you are any kind of wrestling fan you owe it to yourself to watch the WrestleManias or at the very least watch the first one. It’s almost unbelievable how big the show is today compared to what it started out as, and to know that what it started out as was near unheard of at that time (largest event to ever be shown on closed circuit television ever, at the time). But I understand watching the show having seen the present version of Wrestlemania. Honestly the first thing that came to mind watching the show was how cheap it looked. The intro was just the logo over a slideshow of some images of wrestlers while generic music played in the background. A far cry from the pageantry of today. Then we get a shot of the ring in a dark room, and Gene Okerlund singing the national anthem. So that’s pretty much nothing like it is these days.
A few things about the show that I want to mention.
There are several things that seem to stick out oddly, just because wrestling is different today that is was in 1985, things like how loose the ropes are, or the fact that every match has a time limit.
Tito Santana and The Executioner (Buddy Rose) open the show which means that Santana is the first person to ever win a WrestleMania match and for a brief moment has the longest undefeated streak in WrestleMania history. Santana actually put on a really impressive show in this opener and it’s’ a bit of a shame knowing what his next seven WrestleManias are going to be like.
Next King Kong Bundy defeated S.D. Jones in what the announcers called a nine second match, but was at least a twenty second match by my count, and probably closer to twenty five seconds.
It’s pretty clear that even though this is a fairly subdued WrestleMania, especially when compared to later shows, WrestleMania was always supposed to be a really big deal. The announcers (Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura) spend more time hyping the show itself than the wrestlers. So much time is spent talking about what a big deal it is to be on the WrestleMania card and what a monumental event this is. Even from the first one WrestleMania was touted as the biggest show of all.
Man oh man, people are a lot more excited to see Bruno Sammartino than they are to see his son wrestle.
Was there nowhere else in the building that Alfred Hayes could have stood in all of Madison Square Garden?
If you’re frustrated with how much time celebrities take up on big shows nowadays, I can’t imagine the pain you must feel trying to get through the buildup to the main event of WrestleMania I.
Best WrestleMania so far: WrestleMania I
Kue: Ah, the genesis of our annual Fake-Fight-Festival. Speaking about the impact of this premiere MSG spectacle would be like wearing white foundation and lipstick while beating a dead horse named Jason Todd (topical and homage to a classic in one). So, I’ll simply speak on the event on its own merit. And Jesus H Christ, what a shitfest this was. All the matches were DUDs outside of Steamboat/Borne, and all but two were less than seven minutes.
The biggest factor to take away from this show is the first noticeable and successful attempt of WWE to break into the mainstream. With Lauper and Mr. T’s inclusion, and making sure the fantastication of the show was just as much in the forefront if not more so than the athleticism, Wrestlemania I established a tradition of making sure than, if at least for one night, pro wrestling was more than just a niche product.
BD: Let’s face it – wrestling has not aged well – and yet, looking at what was basically WWE’s first-ever PPV and (more or less) the launching pad for one of wrestling’s two boom periods, I can say that – for me – this show is completely unwatchable. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not some newer WWE fan who doesn’t get how it worked back then. I started watching wrestling as a kid around WrestleMania 7 or so. When I got hooked, the first thing I wanted to watch was all the old WrestleMania’s – so I did – backwards. And going backwards, WrestleMania 3 was the last show that bore any kind of resemblance to the current (at the time) product I enjoyed, and even that was limited to 2 matches (you know which ones they are.)
I will say that from a historical perspective, this is a fascinating show. I looked this show up on Wikipedia before I did anything else and found out that despite what WWE will tell you, this was WWE’s first PPV but not pro wrestling’s first. Jim Crocket Promotions had the first with, you guessed it, Starcade. THAT name was inspired by an angry old man Inside Pulse commenter from 30 years in the future. Anyway, don’t bother asking me whether that was NWA or WCW or whatever. Who knows. I’m not looking it up because I don’t care. And yes, neither the first Starcade nor the first WrestleMania were technically PPV… both were shown on closed-circut TV… I know. Shut up.
The point is, Starcade (the event, not the person) was very successful, so Vince (proving that even back then he was inept at evolving his product without competition basically forcing him to do so) did WrestleMania a year later. WrestleMania may as well have been called “Starcade With Celebrities.” Vince got Cyndi Lauper, Muhammad Ali, Liberace, The Rockettes, and Billy Martin, did two buildup shows on MTV and went to the races. This is interesting because it’s a formula that WWE still follows to this day, even though likely most people reading this would probably have preferred Starcade – let’s face it, if you wanted to watch the penultimate pro wrestilng PPV of the year and you had to choose between one with celebrities and one without, you’d pick the one without, right? Even if you’re into celebrities, it’s not like it’s ever the real celebrities – if you’re a celebrity, you only appear on a wrestling show for one of three reasons:
1) Your career is not going the way you want it to
2) You have horrible representation
3) You started your career in wrestling (and this has happened all of once)
4) All of the above
The show had a really good crowd, and the reception of the show was generally positive at the time. In the present day, the matches themselves wouldn’t even make it onto SuperStars or Main Event. There’s a good reason for that. They’re all terrible. Every single one. Chalk that up to evolution of wrestling as a whole, I suppose. If you’re inclined to check out this event, even for histoircal reference, I’d advise you not to bother. It’s a complete waste of time.
The thing that stuck out to me most about this show what horrible shape the wrestlers are in. No one besides Mr. T would get a job in WWE today. EVEN HOGAN. Think about that. They’d have told Hulk Hogan to go get abs. Now, if Vince McMahon could time travel, as tempting as it might be for WWE to go back in time and strive for that result NOW, the argument can be made that if they did that, wrestling would not have taken off – at least not like it did. (I wouldn’t be the one making that argument, but a lot of people would.)
Fun fact: The theme song of WrestleMania I. The song is “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins. That’s right. The theme song for WrestleMania I was “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins. I will say that again. The theme song for WrestleMania I was “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins. I will repeat that one more time in case it hasn’t set in yet – the theme song for WrestleMania I was “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins. If you weren’t alive back then, then go ahead and YouTube that, sit back and be ashamed for your species that this was, in fact, a thing.
Another fun fact: Shortly after WrestleMania, WWE’s first known screwjob took place – that’s right, Bret wasn’t the first one to get screwed. He was just the first one to whine about it incessantly like a little bitch. Anyway, Wendi Richter wrestled a masked female wrestler known as The Spider Lady, who pinned her to win the title. After the match, the Spider Lady was revealed as the Fabulous Moolah. Richter was unaware of the planned title change and left the WWF shortly after.
The greatest fun fact: Hulk Hogan was sued for five million dollars during the buildup to WrestleMania after he appeared on a show called Hot Properties. Hulk put the host in a chinlock, cutting off the flow of blood to the host’s brain until he fell to the floor unconscious and bleeding all over the floor. This is quite obviously the best WrestleMania fact ever and the best thing about WrestleMania I. This inspired my profile picture for this column.
Again, this show is unwatchable. This concludes my extensive review.
Sanders: Well it’s good to see that Vince’s obsession with superlatives and desire to involve celebrities in his product in order to feel validated was a thing since the beginning of Wrestlemania. They were hardly into the first match by the time Ventura and Monsoon talked about Wrestlemania as if it’s already an established huge thing. It’s unfair to compare these shows to the product of the more modern eras but dear lord, it’s a miracle WWF didn’t go out of business immediately after because this show is so unorganized. And I’m not necessarily talking about the matches themselves (although there were a lot of ridiculous endings to most of them) but it’s incredibly how unpolished everything out of the ring was. I started to feel bad for Alfred Hayes because was speaking as if he had become haunted by the ghost of Mike Adamle and had the “please kill me” look in his eyes to match. Also, it was surprising to see so many screwed up pre-taped interviews make it to air. Either Vince’s desire for perfection came later or WWF’s roster at the time was that bad at promos that these pre-tapes were the best takes and just wanted to leave well enough alone. And holy crap, that main event was some hot garbage. Again, it’s a miracle that the company didn’t immediately get the XFL treatment after this aired.
Best Wrestlemania so far: I’m tempted to just leave this blank.
We’ll be back next Tuesday with our review for Wrestlemania II!
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out the first ever live stream of the Classy Ring Attire Podcast tonight (Dec. 10th) at 8PM EST. Click here for more details.
Tags: Andre the Giant, clashy ring attire, Classy ring attire, Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, roddy pipper, Trashy Ring Attire, WWF