Classic Era Network w/ Kace: Top 25 Favorite Matches (WWF PPV List, 1985-1990)

From the first WrestleMania in 1985 to Survivor Series in 1990, the World Wrestling Federation is steep in the Age of Hogan.  During this time period, Hulk Hogan will compete in the main event in 12 of the events listed on the Network during this timeframe and is credited with a co-main for another where he was on next to last.

However, the WWF had plenty of stuff going on not involving the Hulkster.  There was the Ladies’ Division doing what it could to survive before finally being killed off until 1993.  There was the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship having some memorable title holders including the Honky Tonk Man who would enjoy the longest single reign with the title ever.  There was the abundance of talent in the Tag Team Division, soon being defined by Demolition.  There was the arrival and rise of the Ultimate Warrior.  There was the odyssey of Randy Savage.  There were notable arrivals and gimmick changes.  There were notable departures.  There was Andre the Giant being a bad guy.  The Age of Hogan was a fascinating time to be a WWF fan.  Here now, my Top 25 favorite matches.  Some are clinics, at least is a one-sided affair, and there are those of epic nature.  My method of determining this list is simple.  Did I like the match and if so, how much?  I don’t do star ratings.  I don’t do star ratings while watching other sports so I’m not gonna delve into that here.

With that, let’s begin.

#25

WWF SummerSlam; 8/28/1989

Singles

The Honky Tonk Man Vs. Dusty Rhodes

I enjoyed Dusty Rhodes’ time in the WWF, especially early on.  I had become so accustomed to him taking everything serious and dealing with “risky business” and whatnot.  It seemed like no matter what was going on in the NWA’s Jim Crockett Promotions, Rhodes would somehow wind up in the middle of it.  He would be involved in bitter rivalries with the Four Horsemen, the Koloffs, the Midnight Express, and maybe even Paul Jones.  Sometimes this would all happen at once.  During his last year in JCP, he had to deal with Barry Windham joining the Horsemen.  He had to deal with Ron Garvin sucker punching him out of the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship.  He had to deal with the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering suddenly being salty with him, including a spike near one of his eyes.  Shit was kind of heavy and Dusty needed a change of pace.  In the WWF, he got to enjoy that for the most part.  Just to add a little color to his already colorful personality, he started rocking the yellow polka dots as a way to show everyone that he wasn’t here to try and do Hulk Hogan’s job for him.  He was here to make money, win matches if able, and enjoy himself.

The Honky Tonk Man was not a fan, leading to this match at SummerSlam.  Rhodes has his moments and HTM has his.  At one point, referee Freddie Sparta winds up in the wrong place, as will happen with wrestling refs.  Jimmy Hart, HTM’s manager attempts a Billy Travis Special on Rhodes only for it to backfire.  The guitar crashes over HTM’s head instead of Dusty’s and Dusty finishes his opponent off with the Bionic Elbow and the pinfall.

#24

WWF Royal Rumble; 1/24/1988

Royal Rumble

The first ever Royal Rumble match consisted of 20 competitors.  The number would rise to 30 the following year.  This first Rumble also took place on USA Network, running interference on an NWA PPV event called Bunkhouse Stampede Finals.  The title track to this broadcast starts off with Bret Hart and Tito Santana with battle royale rules and another competitor entering every 2 minutes.  “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, entering in at #13 picks up the victory, last eliminating the One Man Gang.  For Duggan, the win would catapult him to contention for the vacant WWF Heavyweight title and a spot in the tournament at WrestleMania IV to determine a new Champion.  While Duggan would come up short there, he can still look back and smile on being the first ever Royal Rumble winner.

#23

WWF SummerSlam; 8/28/1989

Tag Team

Randy Savage & Zeus Lister Vs. Brutus Beefcake & Hulk Hogan

The promos on both sides made me wonder if this rivalry was brought to us by cocaine.  Nevertheless, this was a strange situation that somehow managed to churn out an entertaining and intense tag team bout.  On one side, there was Randy Savage, former WWF Heavyweight Champion and his manager Sensational Sherri Martel and with them, this monstrous rookie named Zeus.  Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr. had decided to adopt the “Zeus” name from his character in the film No Holds Barred in which he starred with Hulk Hogan.  During the filming things got tense and Zeus Lister was convinced that in a real professional bout, not one scripted by Hollywood, he could take Hogan down.  Lister had his upsides including strength and a superhuman ability to absorb punishment.  All he needed was for someone to guide him into how to actually compete and that’s where Savage came in.

On the other side, there was Hulk Hogan, the WWF Heavyweight Champion and his ally, Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake.  Years ago, when Hulk was Terry Boulder, there was Ed Boulder.  When he adopted the Hulk Hogan name, there was Dizzy Hogan.  Ed/Dizzy finally showed up in the WWF and became Brutus Beefcake and for a while, they were on opposing sides.  In 1987, that would change and the two would be friends once again.

That brings us to this match where it’s up to Savage to carry his rookie partner in a tag bout against his most hated rival and that rival’s friend, a former WWF World Tag Team Champion.  Savage had his work cut out for him, but still he offered the best crash course in wrestling he could for Lister and Lister did the best he could under the circumstances.  Oh, there was one more thing Savage had to deal with.  His former manager Miss Elizabeth showed up for this one, representing Hogan and Beefcake.  Martel, whose makeup indicated that if all else fails, she was ready to become a GLOW girl and beat up Vicky Victory (like all the other bad girls did… I’m convinced Seasons 3 and 4, beating Vicky was a rite of passage or something… it was like being allowed to kick the shit out of the Southern Belles in Season 1), now had to deal with Elizabeth in the opposing corner.  Sherri also had with her a loaded purse which would wind up factoring into the finish of the bout.  Hogan, able to knock Lister down with the Axe Bomber clothesline was able to grab a hold of the loaded purse which had been used earlier on Beefcake and now he was going to use it on Lister.  The move proved effective and Hogan, with a bodyslam and the Atomic Leg Drop for the pinfall got the win.

#22

WWF Royal Rumble; 1/24/1988

WWF Ladies’ Tag Team Championship; Best of 3 Falls

The Glamour Girls (c) Vs. The Jumping Bomb Angels

This match basically serves as the apex of the WWF Ladies’ Tag Team Division.  It also signaled the beginning of the end for the division as Vince McMahon on commentary, and also the guy who owns the company had a hard time trying to figure out the Jumping Bomb Angels’ names.  The Glamour Girls, Judy Martin and Leilani Kai along with their manager, Jimmy Hart went into this match as the defending Champions.  The JBA’s however had a strong showing against the GG’s at Survivor Series a couple of months prior and this was their shot.  The JBA’s, consisting of Itsuki Yamazaki and Noryio Tateno had achieved Championship success in their native Japan as the WWWA World Tag Team Champions, an all-women’s league win against the Crush Gals of Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo in 1986.  This best of 3 falls bout was their opportunity to achieve that same level of success in North America.  The bout turned out to be the best of the card with the GG’s winning the first fall and the JBA’s bouncing back to capture the last two falls to win the titles.

#21

WWF WrestleMania V; 4/2/1989

Singles

King Haku Vs. Hercules Hernandez

Hercules Hernandez competed in the first match of the first ever Starrcade, a tag team win as part of the masked Assassins over Freight Train Jones and Bugsy McGraw.  After that, there was a falling out between the Assassins and Hernandez, as Assassin #2 would eventually be unmasked and in need of a fresh start.  He would get that fresh start in Mid-South, managed by Jim Cornette before moving on to the WWF.  For whatever reason, Herc just couldn’t seem to find his footing on the big stage, losing to Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania 2 and suffering either losses or some sort of draw.  At Survivor Series 1988, he had some measure of success as a member of a winning team, but not before suffering an elimination.  Now he was taking on a man who was managed by Bobby Heenan, someone who had been Hernandez’ manager before that falling out.  It was no ordinary man, either as it was King Haku, the man who had taken over the King’s Crown from Harley Race, solidifying his hold on the throne earlier in the year at Royal Rumble 1989.  Hercules wasn’t interested in the crown however.  All he wanted was to win.  To finally score a big win on the big stage and near the end, it looked as if Haku was going to snuff that out with a well timed kick.  Herc however fought back, getting a rollup and the win.  This match would become the only WrestleMania win for Hernandez, but it was well earned.

#20

WWF SummerSlam; 8/27/1990

WWF Heavyweight Championship; Iron Steel Cage

Rick Rude Vs. The Ultimate Warrior (c)

This match marks only the second time in which the WWF Heavyweight title is defended on PPV inside an iron steel cage.  Like that previous time, it involved the reigning Champion taking on a client of Bobby Heenan’s.  Also like that previous time, the reigning Champion gets the win.  All things considered, Ultimate Warrior probably should’ve lost this match and his title as Rick Rude, himself a former World Class World Heavyweight Champion and the man responsible for handing Warrior his first major loss at WrestleMania V, picking up the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship in the process had the match won more than once.  However, the “Ravishing” one let his ego and lust for punishment get in the way, costing him big time.  Warrior recovers, escapes the cage, wins the match and Rude can only wonder what might’ve been.  Rick Rude will have to wait until 1993 to gain any kind of World Heavyweight level title again, beating Ric Flair for what would become the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship.

#19

WWF Survivor Series; 11/26/1987

5-on-5 Elimination Tag Team

Team Sensational Sherri Vs. Team Fabulous Moolah

One of the things I liked about this bout is that Velvet McIntyre, who choked badly at WrestleMania 2 the year before got her shot at redemption and made a good run of it.  McIntyre would score two eliminations with the Americana Victory Roll.  One on Donna Christianello and the other on WWF Ladies’ Champion, Sensational Sherri Martel.  She would eventually be eliminated by the Glamour Girls, but still not a bad showing for Velvet, one of those underrated and underappreciated talents of the 1980s.  Speaking of the GG’s, with McIntyre gone, this match became an elimination tag between the GG’s and the Jumping Bomb Angels.  Leilani Kai and Judy Martin threw down with Itsuki Yamazaki and Noryio Tateno with the JBA’s getting the better of it, becoming the survivors of the bout and eventually earning a shot at the GG’s WWF Ladies’ Tag Team Championship a couple of months later at WWF Royal Rumble on USA Network.

#18

WWF SummerSlam; 8/29/1988

Tag Team

The Megabucks Vs. The Megapowers

Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, former rivals had managed to bond over much of the previous year and now Hogan, like Savage had Miss Elizabeth as his manager, the first manager for Hogan in the WWF since Fred Blassie.  Elizabeth’s methods of managing, not quite the same as Classy Freddie though.  In any event, Hogan had an ongoing issue with Andre the Giant stretching back to early 1987 and Ted DiBiase, the “Million Dollar Man” also had a distaste for Hogan, going back to Hogan’s first WWF stint about a decade prior.  Fearing that the match might get out of hand, President Jack Tunney appointed Jesse Ventura as special guest referee for this, the first ever SummerSlam main event.  While Andre and DiBiase had Bobby Heenan and Virgil at ringside, Hogan and Savage had Elizabeth and claimed to have a secret weapon.

It turns out that in order to unweash the secwet weapon, Hogan and Savage had to sacrifice themselves a little bit, letting Andre dispose of them on the outside, cueing up Elizabeth to get up to the ring apron and show what the weapon was.  The weapon turned out to be Elizabeth undoing her skirt and showing more pantyhosed leg than normal, along with some red trunks.  Something to understand, this wasn’t a sight people were used to seeing out of her as she was always decked in a nice dress, hosiery, heels, etc., but not looking to make herself a sex symbol.  She just wanted to manage and wear nice outfits, like any other manager outside of Jim Cornette or Johnny Valiant.

The skirt removal on the apron got Heenan’s attention.  It got Virgil’s attention.  It certainly got Andre and Ted’s attention and it also managed to get Jesse’s attention as he was suddenly no longer interested in issuing a count out to Hulk and Randy.  Hogan and Savage shake hands, slide in and go on the attack.  They score the win and that’s it, Megapowers over the Megabucks.

The post match was intriguing as Savage seemed a bit miffed at first towards Hogan picking Elizabeth up and carrying her around in celebration, but he would get over it… for now.

#17

WWF Royal Rumble; 1/21/1990

Submission

Greg Valentine Vs. Ron Garvin

I’ve always gotten a kick out of this match and no matter how many times I watch it, I never find myself going, “Wow this match isn’t as good as I thought it was.”  It’s always a fun ride from start to finish and for Garvin’s WWF run, this was “Rugged Ronnie’s” finest hour.  Ron and Greg had issues with each other throughout 1989 and it finally reached a boiling point with this match.  Valentine had started wearing a shin protector over one his legs, approved by the WWF as it was to help heal up from an injury while still letting him compete.  After a while, complaints started to mount up that “the Hammer” was basically using it as a weapon, likely reminding President Tunney of whatever headaches he had to endure with Ace Orton’s forearm cast.  Garvin, for this match was allowed to wear his own brace which he nicknamed the Hammer Jammer.  At one point, Valentine applies the figure four only to realize Garvin’s brace was preventing the full effect of the hold, leading to Ron mocking Greg.  Eventually, Valentine gets wise to this and along with some help from his manager Jimmy Hart, they’re able to remove Garvin’s brace.  The match looked like it was going to spell doom for Garvin, but he persevered and after both men instinctively went for pinfalls during this submission match, Garvin finally found a hold that would work just fine for a submission.  It was one he had seen Sting use while in JCP, the Scorpion Deathlock.  Valentine submits and Garvin gets to celebrate what’s arguably his biggest WWF triumph.

#16

WWF SummerSlam; 8/29/1988

WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship

The Honky Tonk Man (c) Vs. The Ultimate Warrior

For one night, the Ultimate Warrior got to be a one-man Legion of Doom.  The Honky Tonk Man had been WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion for over a year.  He had the longest single reign of anyone in the history of that title.  Such a lengthy reign and it all crashes down in a matter of seconds.  Originally, HTM was to defend against Brutus Beefcake in a rematch from WrestleMania V.  “Outlaw” Ron Bass however attacked Beefcake at a prior event and though a new top contender had been named, HTM and his manager, Jimmy Hart had no interest in finding out, preferring to be surprised.  That’s how confident HTM had become with his title reign.  Warrior runs out and just destroys him, picking up his first title in the WWF, the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship.

#15

WWF WrestleMania III; 3/29/1987

Hair Vs. Hair

Adrian Adonis Vs. Roddy Piper

This one had been brewing for a while and it all started over a battle of interview segments, the Piper’s Pit against the Flower Shop.  Roddy Piper hosted one and Adrian Adonis had hosted the other.  On an earlier edition of Piper’s PIt, Adonis had shed the image he had, getting rid of his New York jacket in favor of a different look to which Piper offered encouragement.  The Flower Shop changed all that however and suddenly it was a straight up feud.

Piper was ready to do things other than wrestling, something he had been at nonstop for around a decade by this point.  He had apparently impressed someone in Hollywood with his performance in the film Bodyslam and he was about to begin starring in more films.  Before all that though, there was this matter of personal business to tend to, Adrian Adonis.  The match was signed for WrestleMania III and it would be hair vs. hair.  The match was a crazy free-for-all with Adonis’ manager Jimmy Hart involving himself.  Piper persisted and eventually he’d catch Adonis in the sleeperhold, knocking him out and getting the win.  Brutus Beefcake, fresh off a win over the Rougeau Brothers and also being dumped by his tag team partner, Greg Valentine and their manager Johnny Valiant ran down to assist Piper, knowing that the allies he had would no longer be there so it was time to get some new ones.  Beefcake administered the haircutting and shaving of Adonis after the match and it would lead to him becoming “the Barber.”

Piper got to leave pro wrestling on a high note though he would return.  Adonis was in the WWF for a brief time afterwards with the shaved hair slowly growing back in before leaving for the AWA.

#14

WWF SummerSlam; 8/29/1988

Singles

Hercules Hernandez Vs. Jake Roberts

I admit, I was kind of surprised at how much I enjoyed this match.  It was a match that was basically booked so both competitors would be on the card.  Hernandez’ contract was about to be sold by Bobby Heenan to Ted DiBiase, which didn’t sit well with Hernandez at all, bolting away from Heenan and DiBiase both.  Roberts just wanted to DDT the shit out of someone.  He would deliver one for the win to Hercules, but not before Herc made him earn it.

#13

WWF Royal Rumble; 1/15/1989

WWF Ladies’ Championship

Judy Martin Vs. Rockin’ Robin (c)

This match would turn out to be the last to showcase Rockin’ Robin’s wrestling talents on PPV as her next and last PPV appearance would involve singing “America the Beautiful” at WrestleMania V.  This bout basically serves as the swan song for the Women’s Division in the 1980s as it won’t have another resurgence until 1994 with Alundra Blayze leading the way.  Prior to the contest, Sherri Martel issued a challenge to the winner of the match.  Robin gets the win, but she and Martel will not have a showdown at WrestleMania as this looked to set up.  it’s unfortunate, but both competitors in this Battle of Carolina went out and did whatever they could to each other in the hopes of gaining the victory.  It was a nice send off for the division at the time, even if no one quite realized it yet.

#12

WWF SummerSlam; 8/28/1989

WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship

Rick Rude (c) Vs. The Ultimate Warrior

This was a highly anticipated rematch from WrestleMania V.  At that event, Rude won with a little help from manager Bobby Heenan, wresting the Intercontinental title from Warrior.  Here, Rude and Warrior go at it like the bitter rivals they are and Warrior, for the second consecutive SummerSlam gets the win, capturing the IC title.  It would be his second and final reign, only relinquishing it in 1990 after gaining the WWF Heavyweight Championship.

#11

WWF WrestleMania 2; 4/7/1986

WWF World Tag Team Championship

The Dream Team (c) Vs. The British Bulldogs

There’s sacrificing yourself for the greater good and then there’s the Dynamite Kid.  Holy shit.  The Dream Team consisted of Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake, managed by former WWWF World Tag Team Champion Johnny Valiant.  The man who managed Johnny and brother Jimmy Valiant to those titles, Lou Albano was on the opposite side, managing Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid, the British Bulldogs.  Also with them for this match and for moral support was singer Ozzy Osbourne.  This match is the highest ranked standard tag bout on the list and it’s worth watching as both teams showed what they were willing to do for Championship glory on the biggest stage.  From hammerlock slams to Kid sacrificing his body.  What a sacrifice it was, as he uses his head for a weapon while standing on the ropes, causing him to lose his balance and fall hard to the floor behind him.  The result was the back of Kid’s head lacerated from thunking the concrete, but it also led to the Bulldogs getting the WWF World Tag Team titles.  It was a painful way to get there, but they got there.  This is also Albano’s last great moment as a manager before leaving the Bulldogs, his Machines, and the WWF behind.

#10

WWF Royal Rumble; 1/15/1989

Royal Rumble

By the time “Big” John Studd had entered this contest as the #27 entry, quite a bit had gone down to already to make this a memorable Royal Rumble.  It started with Ax and Smash of Demolition drawing 1 and 2 and fighting each other before Andre entered at #3.  This was the first RR match to go with 30 entrants as opposed to the previous year’s 20 and was also the first broadcast on PPV after last year’s was on USA Network.  It featured another chapter in the rise and fall of the Megapowers.  There was controversy over how Ted DiBiase wound up with #30, the last entry.  There was a 1-on-1 showdown between Hulk Hogan and the Big Bossman.  There was quite a bit going by the time Studd arrived.  For Studd, this is pretty much his biggest highlight in the WWF as he last eliminates DiBiase, becoming the second ever Royal Rumble winner and the first winner of the 30-competitor version.

#9

WWF WrestleMania IV; 3/27/1988

WWF Heavyweight Championship Tournament Final

Ted DiBiase Vs. Randy Savage

After a year of frustration, starting with losing the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship to Ricky Steamboat only to watch Steamboat squander it to the Honky Tonk Man.  Dealing with HTM and the Hart Foundation, getting the Billy Travis Special on Saturday Night’s Main Event and suffering through his manager, Miss Elizabeth also being assaulted with a hard shove.  Losing allies in one locker room and having to go to the other where people may have still been harboring bad feelings towards him.  Being unable to recapture the IC title against a man he clearly felt to be better than.  Getting help from Hulk Hogan which meant now having to possibly deal with the wrath of Andre the Giant, something few people could ever want.  A year of frustration for Randy Savage and he dealt with it at WrestleMania IV in the WWF Heavyweight Championship Tournament.  He was the only competitor to compete in all 4 rounds, taking on a rested Ted DiBiase in the final.  Savage had been through this before with the Wrestling Classic tournament in 1985, losing in the Final Round of that one against Junkyard Dog on a count out.  This time, it would be different.  He was stronger, he was faster, he was wiser.  He was hungry and ready to be a World Heavyweight level Champion.  Sure, people could dismiss his time as ICW Heavyweight Champion years earlier even though at the time he was convinced that was World title enough.  Becoming WWF Heavyweight Champion meant no one could ever doubt him being at that level again.

DiBiase on the other hand had his own frustrations.  At one point, he seemed poised to become World Heavyweight Champion of the NWA, but it wasn’t to be.  Now he was in the WWF with a rich contract, rich enough to let him become the “Million Dollar Man.”  He was hungry for World Heavyweight level recognition himself and he didn’t care what he had to do in order to achieve this goal that constantly escaped him.  In early 1988, he was willing to buy it if need be, just so he could hoist that belt and feel like a World Champion.  He would get his wish during NBC’s The Main Event, not only buying off Andre the Giant and Bobby Heenan, but also bringing about referee shenanigans between WWF referee Dave Hebner and his brother, the debuting Earl Hebner, fresh from ditching Jim Crockett Promotions.  Andre got a win that would almost instantly be thrown out by President Jack Tunney, but not before Andre handed it over to DiBiase.  DiBiase was ordered to return the title to Tunney and a tournament was announced for WrestleMania IV to determine a new Champion.

DiBiase had Andre on his side.  Savage had Elizabeth.  Savage figured during the bout that he was going to need a little more assistance in order to deal with Andre’s interfering.  He sends Elizabeth to the back and she brings with her Hulk Hogan.  Hogan takes a seat at ringside to serve as equalizer.  Near the end, there’s a distraction and Hogan, sensing an opportunity to screw over the man who had essentially screwed him out of his title in the first place, does so with a chairshot to DiBiase’s back.  Savage takes advantage, hits the Macho Man Elbow Drop and gets the pinfall.  He gets to hoist his manager, Elizabeth on his left shoulder in celebration while she holds the title belt.  Basking in that glory with them is Hogan.  At the time, Savage didn’t care.  He finally got his moment.  The days of George Steele’s meddling were far behind him now.  Savage was World Champion, a title he’ll hold until the next WrestleMania.

#8

WWF WrestleMania; 3/31/1985

WWF Ladies’ Championship

Leilani Kai (c) Vs. Wendi Richter

The highest ranked women’s bout on the list comes from the first WrestleMania in 1985 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  While the main event of that card was a tag match, the highest title bout on the card belonged to the WWF Ladies’ Championship, held by Leilani Kai after a controversial win over Wendi Richter.  This was the rematch and this time Richter would have some help.  Unusual help, but help nonetheless from singer Cyndi Lauper and manager Dave Wolff.  Lauper and Wolff, along with Richter were key fixtures in the WWF’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection along with Hulk Hogan and Lou Albano as well as MTV.  Kai had at ringside, former NWA and WWF Ladies’ Champion, the Fabulous Moolah.  Lauper assured Moolah that she would do her best to keep her from interfering.

Kai and Richter had for me the best match on the card.  They were back and forth, they were physical, they were vicious.  They were even a bit innovative with the offense including Richter’s fireman carry into a spinebuster slam.  With a little more practice and polish, she could’ve made that her finisher.  Instead, it would be momentum allowing Richter to get the win as Kai’s top rope body press was reversed once both competitors hit the mat, Richter muscling her way to being on top and getting the pinfall.  Richter won the WWF Ladies’ Championship for a second time, never legitimately losing it.

Yeah, I said it.

#7

WWF WrestleMania 2; 4/7/1986

WWF Heavyweight Championship, Iron Steel Cage

King Kong Bundy Vs. Hulk Hogan (c)

This was the birth of the WWF’s iron steel cage, a reinforced cage to deal with superheavyweights like King Kong Bundy.  One could make an argument that it should be called the Bundy Cage as a result.  The cage makes quite a debut on PPV, serving as the main event for WrestleMania 2 with the WWF Heavyweight title on the line.  Bundy, managed by Bobby Heenan had managed to rough Hulk Hogan up during a Saturday Night’s Main Event broadcast, causing Hogan to suffer some bruised ribs.  It gave Bundy a weakspot to go after, but here’s the thing.  This is Hogan and eventually Hogan Time is going to kick in and when it does, he’s not going to feel that pain.  It’s this weird superhuman thing with him.  Speaking of weird, the commentary for this match consisted of Lord Alfred Hayes, Jesse Ventura (who sounds like he’s trapped in a fishbowl), and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, the alter ego of actress Cassandra Peterson.

Think of a commentator or announcer you like that never got to call a WrestleMania main event and then remind yourself that Cassandra Peterson got to.

All that aside, it was a good fight with a simple rule.  Escape the cage first and you win.  Hogan absorbed the punishment from Bundy and upon getting hit with Bundy’s Avalanche in the corner, Hogan Time initiated.  Bundy didn’t stand a chance after that with Hogan taking the advantage from there and keeping it, escaping the cage and celebrating the win.  This was the first WrestleMania to have a WWF Heavyweight Championship bout and next year’s will be the first WWF Heavyweight title bout not to involve a cage.

#6

WWF Royal Rumble; 1/21/1990

Royal Rumble

While 1988 had the first Rumble match and 1989 had the first 30-competitor version, 1990 is notable for being the first in which the reigning WWF Heavyweight Champion got the victory.  Hogan, entering at #25 would tie the Ultimate Warrior for number of eliminations at 6.  Of course the most memorable part of this Rumble is that Hogan and Warrior at one point eliminated everyone else and suddenly had the ring to themselves, getting the crowd on its feet.  The showdown would be a taste of things to come, leading to the eventual title vs. title bout at WrestleMania VI.  Here, Hogan got the better of Warrior, helping to eliminate him.  At WrestleMania it would be a different story.

#5

WWF Survivor Series; 11/22/1990

4-on-4 Elimination Tag Team

The Dream Team Vs. The Million Dollar Team

This is where the Undertaker first made his presence felt against top caliber WWF competition.  This is where the destruction began.  This is where the world ending Tombstones began, at the expense of Koko Ware.  It started right here.  Before Paul Bearer, there was Brother Love as Undertaker’s manager, looking to assure the world that the two most powerful forces were Love and Death, and they represented both as far as they were concerned.  “Mean” Mark Callous was dead and in his place, a far more frightening competitor.

Other than that, it was still a great bout.  There was the emotion of Bret Hart, competing the day after his brother Dean had died.  There was Taker eliminating Dusty Rhodes and then continuing to assault him all the way to the back.  There was Hart hanging in there, the match coming down to he and Ted DiBiase with DiBiase using his smarts to get the win.

This match is about more than just who won and who lost.  It’s the match that launched the legend of the Undertaker.

#4

WWF WrestleMania III; 3/29/1987

WWF Heavyweight Championship

Andre the Giant Vs. Hulk Hogan (c)

Of all the times Andre the Giant had been bodyslammed, this was the most impressive one.  Andre had gained in girth over the past few years, making a clean looking slam on him a lot more difficult.  Hulk Hogan was up to the task, but only out of necessity.  Truth be told, Hogan did not want this match at first.  He was used to dealing with big guys and he was used to dealing with bad guys.  Andre was his friend though.  Sure, they had been rivals years before, but Hogan had undergone a change of attitude since those days.  They were friends.  Andre was among the first to congratulate Hogan in 1984 when he finally got to celebrate winning a World Heavyweight level title and not getting screwed out of it immediately afterwards.  Winning the WWF Heavyweight title alleviated the pain of not getting to be NWA World Heavyweight Champion in his bout with Harley Race or the number of times he was screwed over in the AWA every time he finally thought he had beaten Nick Bockwinkel for their World Heavyweight title.  The WWF was different.  They were a little more fair about these things.  Hogan and the WWF made an awesome combination in 1984 and by 1987 it was at a fever pitch.  Andre was starting to feel left behind.  He knew he only had maybe a few years left in his career at most and he was getting to the point where if he was ever to be a World Heavyweight Champion himself, he was going to have to step up now while he still could.

Yes, there was the stuff about the trophies with Andre getting one for his years of success and Hogan getting a bigger one.  Yes, that caused Andre to have some resentment.  There was some deeper shit here though.  Andre had to strike now or else he was never going to get the chance.  If it meant aligning with Bobby Heenan, a man he despised then so be it.  Andre knew he wasn’t going to get that opportunity in the NWA or the AWA as he was basically seen as just a WWF guy by this point.  It had to be the WWF which meant putting the friendship aside and challenging Hogan.  Andre needed whatever motivation he could to issue the challenge and the trophy bullshit was motivation enough.  He issued the challenge and Hogan finally accepted, setting the stage for WrestleMania III’s main event.

This match isn’t about who could pull off the niftiest move.  It wasn’t about making Dave Meltzer come in his pants with star ratings flying everywhere.  This was brute strength dealing a more brute giant who was no longer in the mood for anyone’s shit.  Hogan had a simple game plan and even when it looked bad for him at times, he stuck to it.  He knew the strategy was his best chance to get a win over a man he had struggled against years earlier.  The turning point was the Axe Bomber clothesline finally knocking Andre down.  Hogan had to wear him down with multiple strikes, be they punches, running elbows, knife edge chops, anything to chop away at the redwood that was Andre.  It worked.  Finally in a position to finish Andre off, Hogan nails the most impressive of bodyslams, bounces off the ropes, hits the Atomic Leg Drop and gets the pinfall victory.  All Heenan could do at ringside was watch as he once again failed to conquer Hulkamania.

#3

WWF WrestleMania V; 4/2/1989

WWF Heavyweight Championship

Randy Savage (c) Vs. Hulk Hogan

The rise and fall of the Megapowers exploded here.  After aiding Savage in his quest to become WWF Heavyweight Champion, Hogan would be there as an ally for the “Macho Man,” worrying less about the WWF Heavyweight title and more about being the superhero who fended off evil wherever it lurked.  Hulk also picked up Miss Elizabeth as his manager.  Hogan and Savage proved to be a good team, defeating the Megabucks at SummerSlam, but the seeds of separation were being sown.  At SummerSlam, Savage was a little miffed at Hogan picking Elizabeth up in his arms and carrying her around in victory.  At Survivor Series, Savage became a little more miffed at Hogan doing it again during a post match celebration.  At Royal Rumble, things would get heated between the two upon Hogan helping eliminate Savage.  They would be engaged in a rivalry with the Big Bossman and Akeem aka the Twin Towers and during a tag bout against them, things fell apart with Elizabeth being wiped out at ringside and Hogan abandoning the match temporarily in order to carry his manager and friend to the back.  Savage called Hogan out on that, finally having enough.

The Megapowers exploded with a helpless Elizabeth providing nothing more than yells and screams for her friends and clients to cut it the fuck out and Savage ignoring her in favor of beating up on Hogan, something that was quite repressed by then.

That brings us to Atlantic City, where the rise began with Savage’s ascension the year before.  Now it would come to an end, courtesy of the man who had helped make it possible.  Savage, for all his Macho Man Elbow Drops and abilities still had no answer for Hogan Time.  Miss Elizabeth was ringside initially before being ordered away for basically for being in the way of both competitors.  There would be no excuses.  There would be no one to blame at ringside.  There was only a kickout at 2 from the elbow drop.  There was Hogan Time kicking in and Savage falling prey to it like so many before him.  The big boot, the leg drop off the ropes and the pinfall.  Just like that, the dream was over for Randy Savage.  Hulk Hogan was once again the WWF Heavyweight Champion and Savage never fully got over it between here and his demise at WrestleMania VII against the Ultimate Warrior.

This match is important in understanding the narrative of not just Hulk Hogan’s career, but also the career and madness of Randy Savage.

#2

WWF WrestleMania III; 3/29/1987

WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship

Randy Savage (c) Vs Ricky Steamboat

For many, this match is still the standard bearer, the measuring stick of which all WrestleMania bouts are compared.  Was it a great match?  Sure, but was it Savage/Steamboat great?  That’s basically what this match means to so many.  Something to understand about this bout is that there was a backstory to it.  Randy Savage had defeated Tito Santana to become the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion.  Ricky Steamboat was embroiled in a heated rivalry against Jake Roberts.  Savage would outlast his challengers and Steamboat would finally earn enough vengeance on “the Snake” to move on.  The “Macho Man” and the “Dragon” would finally meet and it would end in disaster for Steamboat, as Savage decided to end Steamboat as best he could, going for the throat and drilling him with the timekeeper’s bell, putting Ricky out of action.

Meanwhile, Randy was still having to deal with the antics of George “the Animal” Steele who continued to get under Savage’s skin by giving so much attention to Savage’s manager, Miss Elizabeth.  In retrospect, that shit was downright creepy and Savage had every right to be paranoid about a competitor either chasing after his manager or at least pretending to just to fuck with him.  Steele would defend his supposed infatuation with Elizabeth in an interview years later claiming “my wife doesn’t do windows.”  Yes, Steele was trying to woo Elizabeth out of wrestling so she could work as his fucking housekeeper.

This match is a classic.  It is a must see.  It is not, in my opinion the greatest match ever.  It’s not the greatest Ricky Steamboat match ever.  It’s not the greatest WrestleMania match ever.  However it’s definitely great, despite the shortcomings that keep it from being the best ever.

First, there are deja vu issues.  Savage sends Steamboat over and out the same way Roberts did to Steamboat during their match at The Big Event in 1986.  Later on, Steamboat back body drops Savage over and out, battle royale style the same way Junkyard Dog did to Savage during their match at The Wrestling Classic in 1985.  Could be coincidence.  Could be a matter of both men scouting each other and knowing those types of attack could prove useful.

While the deja vu can be explained as good scouting by both competitors, an issue that can’t be rationalized when placing this bout on the pedestal of all-time greatness is Steamboat being forced out of the ring and spending too much time trying to recover.  That in itself isn’t so bad, but what brings it down a bit is the fact that Steele wound up involving himself in the process.

Yeah, there’s an unfortunate incident with Dave Hebner, the referee eating a collision and being out of it for a bit, but that’s a standard hazard of being a pro wrestling official.  No matter how good a referee is, at some point he’s just going to be in the damn way.  Savage, sensing an opportunity to finish Steamboat off for good, goes out to ringside and grabs the timekeeper’s bell.  Steele interferes, throwing Savage off and causing him to lose the bell which just lies there.  The referee does his best to ignore the big blue foreign object lying in the ring and just focuses on Savage and Steamboat.  The ending is great with Steamboat using Savage’s own momentum of a bodyslam against him to get the pinfall victory and the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship.

What makes this such a satisfying match, especially at the end is knowing what all Steamboat had to go through just to get to this level in the WWF.  He had left Jim Crockett Promotions where he had won multiple Championships and was always a title threat to any competitor who had one.  In the WWF, it wasn’t so instantaneous.  He suffered through feuds with Don Muraco and Jake Roberts only for Savage to try and end his career.  One thing he had going for him though was WrestleMania with this win bringing him to 3-0 at the biggest stage in wrestling.  The following year he’ll suffer his first WrestleMania loss, but Steamboat was about to disappear for a while anyway.

This match is historic.  It’s important and despite my nitpicking, it’s quality from start to finish.  It tells not just a story, but the end of one while also beginning the start of quite a path for Randy Savage.

#1

WWF WrestleMania VI; 4/1/1990

WWF Heavyweight Championship Vs. WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship

The Ultimate Warrior (IC) Vs. Hulk Hogan (WWF)


The most epic of showdowns in the 1985 to 1990 PPV section of the WWF’s history is this one.  This match triggered something in fans and the WWF itself.  It triggered emotions.  There were people shedding tears of joy or just tears, period from how overwhelming the matchup was.

It was a battle of heroes and ideals.  Hulk Hogan, the WWF Heavyweight Champion, a hero to his Hulkamaniacs and professor of believing in the demandments taking on the Ultimate Warrior, the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion, a hero to his Warriors and professor of believing in one’s self.  It was the Christian with the crucifix who spoke of “saying your prayers” against a polytheist who spoke of “the gods” and channeling their powers.  It was a man who had become larger than life taking on another who appeared on his way to a similar fate.

It all came down to Toronto and the SkyDome.  It came down to WrestleMania VI.  It came down to the Ultimate Challenge.  Title Vs. Title.  Hogan would defend his title.  Warrior would defend his title.  In a way, this was basically a unification bout with Warrior challenging for Hogan’s WWF title and Hogan challenging for Warrior’s IC title.  Unless I’m mistaken, this is the only time I can recall Hogan ever challenging for the Intercontinental Championship.

The match itself was back and forth with fans cheering on each competitor.  Every move, every strike, every hold, every challenge felt important.  Every moment of the match felt like it could turn the tide either way and set the course of history.  All of that aside, this was a match both men wanted to, heck needed to win.  That meant gameplans.  For Hogan, it would be the standard of testing his opponent’s strengths and measuring the next move, then absorbing what punishment he could before Hogan Time inevitably kicked in.  For Warrior, it was also about testing the strengths of his opponent to see where he measured and doing his best to channel his own energy against any onslaught.  Both men fought a with a good plan.  Then came the end.

Warrior thinks he’s got things won and that’s when Hogan Time kicks in.  Warrior, like so many before him instinctively goes for strikes only to be blocked.  Warrior however knew there was one thing he could do that other opponents had failed to do… absorb the punishment and watch for the leg.  Perhaps Warrior had noticed Zeus Lister months before getting up from a Hogan bodyslam, refusing to let it phase him.  It had to be something he took into account.  Hogan hits the big boot and while not a bodyslam, it’s still a move that normally causes the inner-functions to shut down, like it had Randy Savage the year before.  Warrior kept himself from shutting down and when Hogan came off the ropes to focus 300+ pounds of muscle into the Atomic Leg Drop, Warrior moved.

Hogan, hitting nothing but canvas became too paralyzed to do anything about Warrior suddenly rising up and hitting him with the running splash.  Warrior gets the win, he retains his WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship, he becomes the new WWF Heavyweight Champion and the crowd goes crazy.  The emotions pour out everywhere.

It’s still an awe inspiring moment for me as a fan.  Warrior would vacate the IC title to focus strictly on the WWF one.  Hogan will have to wait another year before he’s Champion again.

Hogan Vs. Warrior at WrestleMania VI is the kind of match that can never be duplicated.  Even if someone tried to, it would fall flat.  It is for the Network’s WWF PPV list from 1985 to 1990, my #1.

Other #1’s may vary.

Next up, we backtrack to Thanksgiving 1983 and the first NWA Starrcade.

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Kace

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