This Smark Wrestlemania Rant by Scott Keith is part of a series of reposts counting down to this year’s Wrestlemania. They are re-published “as is” with relative commentary from when they were written. Enjoy!
The SmarK Retro Rant… Wrestlemania 1 (Director’s Cut)
– Yes, it’s another redo of a rant that sucked first time around due to being 5 years ago and all.
– This is from the “Collection” set of Wrestlemanias released in 1997, and thus the show is complete and uncut from the original broadcast, unlike the hacked up Coliseum version that I used the first time around. Unfortunately, the actual quality of the tapes is about as low as humanly possible — recorded in EP and seemingly as fragile as Scotch tape with magnetic filings on them. I haven’t even watched this before and it’s already threatening to fall apart.
– You know it’s 1985 because they loop ‘Easy Lover’ while Vince promos the upcoming matches. Mean Gene sings the Star Spangled Banner, which has to rank both with high and low points in the sport. At least it wasn’t ‘Tutti Frutti’.
– Live from New York.
– Your hosts are Gorilla & Jesse Ventura.
– We even get the Tito Santana and Executioner pre-match promos before the opener! Executioner is OBVIOUSLY Buddy Rose given the face and voice.
– Opening match: Tito Santana v. The Executioner. Criss-cross to start, and Executioner bails off a dropkick. Back in, Tito grabs a headlock and walks the ropes with it for two. As usual Gorilla reminds us that no one has ever been pinned with a headlock. I’d like to see someone get pinned from the 80s one of these days, just to hear his reaction. Executioner goes after the leg, as promised in the pre-match promo, and rams Tito into the corner a few times. Tito runs into a knee and Executioner goes for a figure-four, but Tito kicks off, so he tries a spinning toehold instead and gets rolled over by Tito for two. Tito comes back, but Executioner begs off. Tito whips him around, but Executioner backdrops out of a piledriver and goes up. Tito slams him off, but hits knee on a splash attempt. Executioner goes to work on the leg, but Tito dumps him. Tito slams him back in, Flying Jalapeno, and figure-four finishes at 4:49. Hey, this was pretty decent without all the clipping! *1/2
– King Kong Bundy v. SD Jones. Hey, an SD Jones Wrestlemania promo. That’s worth getting this version of the tape alone. We gonna get down, baby. Or so I hear. The promo lasts longer than the match, however. The kayfabed time is 9 seconds, the real time is 0:23, as Bundy wins with an Avalanche and a splash. I don’t know where they get 9 seconds from, in fact, as it took Jones that look just to stagger into place in the corner. DUD The actual fastest match ever is Bret Hart beating the Mountie in 1991 at a house show, as the opening bell rang and he cradled him for the pin right away.
– Matt Borne v. Ricky Steamboat. Ricky still has his NWA short tights. Criss-cross to start and Steamboat chops away, into a headlock. Borne reverses, but Steamboat flips out and goes back to it. Atomic drop and back to the headlock. Borne gets his own atomic drop and stomps away, but Steamboat comes out of the corner with chops , and back to the headlock again. Borne counters with a nice belly to belly out of the corner and follows with a regular one for two. They slug it out and Steamboat wins that battle with ease and gets a backdrop suplex. Neckbreaker and kneedrop get two. Borne comes back into a criss-cross, and Steamboat knocks him down and goes up for the flying bodypress at 4:35. Pretty much a Steamboat squash. Â½* Borne was so humiliated that he didn’t return to Wrestlemania until the ninth one, as Doink the Clown.
– Brutus Beefcake v. David Sammartino. David is one of the all-time sad stories of wrestling, as he was both the son of one of the greatest wrestlers ever (Bruno) but also the son of someone who would soon be on the outs with the WWF (also Bruno) and thus not only had the expectations of greatness surrounding him, but got punished for who he was. He was never any good to begin with, which just made it worse. They actually should have done the tag match that was featured on Coliseum Video instead of this singles match. Beefcake and Johnny V do the big stall to start. Beefcake wins a lockup (so THAT’S where Hogan stole that from) and then dodges another try at one. PSYCHOLOGY. Okay, maybe not, but I haven’t had a lot to work with yet. David takes him down with a toehold, and they do some mat-wrestling, which allows Beefcake a chance to bail. Back in, David goes to a facelock, but Brutus makes the ropes. David goes for the arm, and Brutus slams out, but David hangs on. Brutus goes to a headlock, but David reverses to a toehold. This is all rather pedestrian, as there’s no real selling or strategy involved. David stays on the leg, but Brutus goes to the eyes to break and takes over. Backdrop and Brutus pounds away. The BODYSLAM OF DOOM sets up a devastating kick to the shoulder. Wow, what a hoss that Brutus is. I can’t believe this goof was actually a decent worker by 1990. Brutus works him over in the corner with nothing worth mentioning (except in the ironic sense), but David reverses a whip and backdrops him to come back. This match just keeps going. They slug it out and David knees him in the head and suplexes him, for two. They fight outside and never make it back in, as it turns into a big donnybrook at 11:35. Okayish if incredibly boring. *
– Intercontinental title: Greg Valentine v. Junkyard Dog. Dog psyches him out to start and goes to the arm right away. Dog slugs him down and Valentine retreats. Greg pounds him down, but misses an elbow and gets headbutted out of the ring. Back in, they do the test of strength and Hammer hammers him down. Greg goes to work on the leg with some weak stuff, but Dog shoves him off on the first figure-four attempt. They slug it out, and Dog headbutts the shit out of him. Jimmy Hart jumps up to protest, and Valentine nails him by mistake, as Hart takes a headfirst bump to the concrete floor and I believe gives himself a concussion. Greg cradles for the pin at 5:57, using the ropes for leverage. This went nowhere. Â½* Tito explains the chicanery to the ref, so he restarts the match and Greg walks out, giving the win to JYD. Silly finish, but it put more heat on the Tito-Greg feud.
– WWF tag team title: Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo v. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff. Sheik headlocks Rotundo to start, but gets hiptossed and dropkicked. The US Express pinballs him in the corner and Rotundo goes back to the headlock. Windham comes off the top and legdrops Sheik low, but gets caught in the wrong corner. Heel miscommunication allows him to escape, however. Volkoff tries and gets headlocked by Windham right away, and Rotundo gets an elbow and elbowdrop for two. Windham comes in with an elbow and they work over the arm in the corner. Good tag stuff there. Rotundo meets the boot of the Sheik, however, to turn the tide. Sheik backdrops him and drops an elbow for two. Gutwrench suplex gets two. Rotundo comes back with a suplex of his own, but Volkoff stomps him down. Rotundo tries a hammerlock, but gets worked over on the ropes. He gets a sunset flip for two, but Volkoff stomps him down again. Knee to the gut and Rotundo gets worked in the heel corner, which leads to the ADOMINAL STRETCH OF DEATH by Sheik. He escapes and makes the hot tag to Windham, who dropkicks Volkoff and gets a bulldog for two. It’s BONZO GONZO, but Sheik hits Windham with Blassie’s cane and Volkoff gets the pin and the titles at 6:55. Don’t cry – the US Express would regain them a couple of weeks later. This was just to have a title change, I think. Match was your usual tag formula, but had terrific heat. **
– We take a merchandising break during the intermission. Hey, where’s the DVD?
– $15000 Bodyslam Challenge: Andre the Giant v. Big John Studd. The object here is to slam your opponent, not to pin him. The bag carried by the heels is the old wrestling trick of stuffing a couple of hundred bucks in singles into a bag and calling it ‘thousands’. Gorilla questions the wisdom of putting your career up against $15,000, but then Andre never was the genius type. They slug it out to start and Studd bails. Back in, Andre chokes him out to the delight of the crowd and gives him the ASS OF DOOM in the corner. Studd’s first try at a slam fails. Andre goes to a bearhug and that goes on for a while. He switches to a sleeper of sorts and starts working on the arm, then slugs Studd down. He keeps kicking the leg, and slams him at 5:51. Total drek. DUD Andre tosses the actual money in the bag out to the fans, and Heenan steals it quickly after.
– Women’s title: Leilani Kai v. Wendi Richter. Fabulous Moolah cost Richter the title a few weeks prior to this to set it up. They even left ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ in as Richter’s entrance music here, which they never do for 80s video releases. Usually they overdub generic music to save a few bucks. Cyndi Lauper is managing Richter here, and Lauper is managed by David Wolfe, who is not be confused with the David Wolfe in wrestling who currently known as Slash in NWA-TNA. Not that anyone would be, but one never knows. Wendi slugs her down to start and goes for the arm, unsuccessfully. She tries again and gets a hammerlock. Kai reverses and works the arm herself, then switches to the leg and chokes her down. Wendi squeezes her with a bodyscissors, and they do a HORRIBLE suplex attempt that turns into a Kai near-fall. Kai charges and hits boot in the corner, and Richter gets two. Moolah gets her shots in on Richter, and Kai gives her a big boot as a result. Richter fights back with a fireman’s carry for two. Blind charge hits knee and Kai gets two. Backbreaker gets two. She goes up and they even manage to screw up a bodypress-reversal, as Richter regains the title at 6:10. This was atrocious and embarrassing to watch at times. Â¼* Richter would get screwed over by the WWF shortly after, as a contract was shoved in her face before what was supposed to be a squash match, and when she refused to sign the masked ‘jobber’ turned out to be Famous Moolah, who did a shoot and won the title.
– Hulk Hogan & Mr. T v. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff. Special ring announcer is Billy Martin, special timekeeper is Liberace, special outside referee is Muhammed Ali, and special sauce is that stuff they put on Big Macs instead of mayo. Jimmy Snuka and Bob Orton are both hanging out at ringside, and your official ref is Pat Patterson. Hogan and Piper start, but Mr. T wants to start. Hogan, being the unselfish guy that he is, obliges. Slapfest to start and Piper goes low and takes him down, and they do a bit of mat-wrestling, with T coming out on top. T grabs him in a fireman’s carry, and it’s breaking loose in Tulsa! Referees and seconds all get involved, and I wonder if Paul Heyman was booking back then. Piper and Orndorff decide to call it a night and take a walk, but Hogan won’t let them be counted out. So Piper saunters back in, and the faces unleash the dreaded DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER before Hogan clotheslines Piper and gives him an atomic drop. Hogan chokes away, and Mr. T comes in for a double-team. He slams both heels and Hogan pounds on Piper and boots him out of the ring. Orndorff hits him from behind and Hogan joins him out there, which allows Piper to give Hogan a little chair action. Back in, the heels work Hogan over in the enemy corner, including a double atomic drop. Orndorff gets an elbowdrop and stomps him down. Suplex and Piper comes back in and slugs away. Kneelift gets two. Orndorff drops an elbow for two. Backbreaker and Orndorff goes up, but misses the elbow. Hot tag T, but the heels beat him down. Orndorff wrestles him down and the heels work him over in the corner and Piper goes to a front facelock. T escapes and tags Hogan again, who delivers another knocking of noggins, but gets suplexed by Orndorff. Orton and Snuka suddenly brawl for no reason, and Orton nails Orndorff by mistake in the melee, giving Hogan the pin at 13:21. Probably the best of the night, as T didn’t look any worse than anyone else they might have picked. **1/2 This would lead to Orndorff’s face turn (and eventual heel turn) and set up T v. Piper the next year.
The Bottom Line: Well, this is one of those shows that gets a free pass for historical reasons, so it’s pretty much recommended only if you’ve never seen it before, or if you enjoy historical curiosities like Buddy Rose opening the show under a mask or Matt Borne with blond hair.
Tags: cyndi lauper, Scott Keith, SmarK Rant, wendi richter