I recently looked at the first time the then-WWF put on a PPV sort of event. It involved one match being shown on MTV during The Brawl To End It All supercard at Madison Square Garden. Well, that clearly got heads at Titan Sports thinking, and so they decided to do it all again. But this time, there was something else at stake, for Vince McMahon had decided to take the plunge and go full megacard event. That would be the first Wrestlemania. But he had to get there.
Enter the fine folks at MTV once more. Once again eschewing the music that was in their title (and has since become a form of self-referential… I’d call it irony, but I don’t think it’s that), they agreed to once again show one match from the card. But unlike last time, this match would be the last match, and it would involve Hulk Hogan, as well as a cast of thousands.
This show was basically designed to simply set the main event for that first Wrestlemania. That’s it. But by getting eyes on the product on MTV, and these same eyes realising that the two guys they saw would be headlining that megashow, this was a fantastic marketing job. I mean it. No sarcasm. It was perfect for the time, for the demographic being aimed for, and for what Vince wanted to achieve.
This was about as perfect as you could get. And the two guys involved in the ring – Piper and Hogan – were brilliant. They sold Wrestlemania perfectly just by doing what they did. I think it is fair to say without these two going at it so believably, there would not be the WWE as we know it. And a certain fat guy in front of this computer would never have stepped into a wrestling ring, either.
So, the show. It’s another Madison Square Gardens show, shown on the MSG Network (doesn’t that sound like a cooking network for only foods that are bad for you?). However, all that’s on my crappy VHS video cassette is that one main event match and all the peripheral stuff. Actually, I reckon I just got the MTV broadcast. Ah, tape trading… those were the days. That and spending too much money on a VCR that could actually play international tapes. I digress.
Now, WWF’s second steps in their destiny to conquer the world: The War To Settle the Score!
The match is Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper for the World Heavyweight Championship.
We start with Hogan cutting a promo that claims he is not responsible for what’s going to happen. Alan Hunter is with Gene Okerlund. I believe Hunter was one of MTV’s VJs back in the day. How do I know that? Not sure, because we never got MTV here, but if I’m wrong, I’m sure some-one will let me know. Their opening discussion sets the tone for the main event. Okerlund verbally fellates Hogan and then we have a recap leading up to tonight. We go over the Capt Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper feud that led to Wendi Richter winning the title from Fabulous Moolah at The Brawl To End It All. Okerlund then compares Albano and Lauper reconciling to Hitler and Stalin. No… not a good analogy at all. Albano is now a face manager, and they look at x-rays of a normal human and the Captain (an ape of some sort)… oh, look, this is important for people who had no idea what was going on, but from 30-plus years in the future it is not funny. Still, electrocuting Albano seemed to help him. Next Dick Clark appears to present something to Lauper. Piper comes out and hits Albano with a gold disc and then hits Lauper and slams David Wolff until Hogan chases him off. That’s a way to set up a hot angle! He hit a woman, a non-wrestler… that is a heel. Of course, in the Attitude era it happened all the time, but at the time, this was shocking. Then we have a bunch of the heels supporting Piper in various vox pops. Then this exchange:
Female announcer: “But she’s a woman.”
Piper: “You slap me, I’ll knock you out.”
Holy crap, Gloria Steinem makes an appearance! And Patty Smyth calls Piper a ratbag. Oooh. Dee Snider cuts a cool promo. Geraldine Ferraro makes comment! (Female politician-type person, I think she tried unsuccessfully to be VP, for those born… oh, I’m depressing myself.)
Now Hogan talks, then Piper talks, and Hogan talks, and we have a Piper’s Pit where they do the contract signing. 15 minutes of all that (have things changed?), and we have a commercial. Back… and it is still going on… Rock musicians, wrestlers, managers all get a chance to waffle… err, talk. Tina Turner and Fred Blassie talk smack to one another. This is hilariously bad. The promos are all less than a couple of minutes each.
Holy cow, they even show the infamous Piper coconut on Superfly Snuka’s head! All this to show that Piper has lost it and is insane! “Just when you think you got all the answers, I change the questions.” One of my favourite Piper quotes.
Now we look at Hogan, including highlights of “The Incredible” Hulk Hogan winning the title from The Iron Sheik. This is really giving something to everyone late to the party! Las Vegas odds are apparently 7:4 for Hogan to win. And then they talk to people about who’s going to win. “Roddy, you better watch out! Hogan is gonna be on you like ugly on a ape!” says Little Richard. “These matters are better settled at the negotiating table,” says Greg Kihn. And that’s 24 minutes on introducing one match.
(Oh, if you don’t know who some of these people I’ve mentioned were… I feel for you. The 80s were awesome!)
Now, the one match. I guess I could find out the undercard, but I’m not that fussed. Of course, The Brawl To End It All had some nice matches untelevised, so maybe I’m missing something awesome.
Piper comes out with pipe and drum band and carrying an electric guitar, accompanied by Bob Orton with his arm in a sling after what happened earlier in the card, according to Gorilla Monsoon. Bob Costas comes to the ring to do the introductions. Then Piper destroys the guitar. Of course. Piper is wearing a Hulkamania t-shirt and does the Superfly pose when he’s introduced.
‘Eye Of The Tiger’ plays and the crowd explodes. This is the definition of over. This is why he was the perfect person to carry the WWF to world domination back at this time. Charisma personified. He’s got Lou Albano, Cyndi Lauper and David Wolff with him and makes a point of saying hello to Mr T in the audience as he goes past.
And the match starts before the bell. Slugfest to start, Hogan rakes the eyes, Piper charges and gets Hulk down. Back and forth on the mat. They look like they genuinely hate each other. Selling! Not just the pain, but every emotion. Young wrestlers – do this! Hogan with some rights, elbow in the corner, Piper drops to his face. Hogan slams Piper, a second one and a nice elbow drop. And now Hogan bites him as Gene Okerlund names every celebrity he can think of. Piper reverses into a corner clothesline, but Hogan out at one. Kick to the back of the head and Hogan is down. Kick to the side of the head. Nice face squash cover by Piper for two. Double chop by Piper. Off the ropes into a sleeper hold by Piper, on Hogan’s back. It’s almost a choke hold, but it’s cinched in tight. Hogan’s arm down, again, and then stays up at number three. This feels like a Cliff Notes version of a longer match. Hogan on his feet. He runs at the turnbuckle, but somehow ducks and Piper hits the top one and Hogan stumbles around and falls to his face. Piper up first, double sledge shot, eye rake, and then Orton gets in on the act until Hogan rams his damaged arm into the turnbuckle. He then starts to punch Piper (who has been distracting the ref) in the head, rakes Piper’s eyes a couple of times. Clothesline on Piper. Mr Wonderful comes out to encourage Piper and take over from Orton. Atomic drop on Piper, Hogan hits more punches and goes for another atomic drop, but a punch to the face stops that and Hogan falls onto the ref and knocks him out. That was not a huge knock and ref appears to have died. The only bad thing in an otherwise great match. Piper grabs Hogan’s legs and applies some sort of hold, Orndorff goes to the top rope and drops a huge knee on Hogan. Piper and Orndorff attack Hogan.
Nice elbow drop.
Now the fun starts. Lauper gets up on the ring apron and Orndorff and Piper stalk her. Mr T jumps up to protect Lauper. They invite him into the ring. Of course, he accepts. Orndorff distracts him and Piper attacks from behind. They both attack him now. Hogan finally wakes up and everything stops. T and Hogan face off against Piper and Orndorff, and they get the hell out of Dodge. No, they’re back and cops/security are holding everyone back, along with guys in suits. This is awesome. The ring is full and Orndorff and Hogan still go at it.
Finally some semblance of calm is restored and, ladies and gentlemen, your Wrestlemania 1 main event is set. Finkel tries to announce, but Hogan calls Piper and Orndorff back into the ring. Hogan is declared winner by disqualification and the crowd explodes. That was an amazing 12 or so minutes of a good match. Yes, it was all set-up with no real payoff, but they did well, it looked “real” (at least, the emotions certainly did), it certainly did not outstay its welcome, and it was all such a perfect sell. Is it any wonder Wrestlemania was a success after these two sold their arses off to make sure the crowd wanted to see more?
Hey, Hogan walked past Gorilla Monsoon, and Monsoon is bigger! I never realised he was such an imposing figure!
That was a lot better than I remembered and have given it credit for. Worth catching, actually.
And we’re back to Alan Hunter and Mean Gene. Hunter is lost; that’s funny. “Rock and roll came out well at the end there, and I’m pleased about that,” Hunter says. Rock and roll? Seriously? Wow, the drugs were better in the 80s.
Gene notes the score was not settled, and Hunter notes that this left it open. Hogan joins Mean Gene. Hogan gives one of his insane promos. The true art of promo – make yourself look good, but put your opponent over as well. Not done anywhere near enough anymore. Wolff and Lauper come in and nothing of consequence is said. Mr T comes in and he and Hogan cut a mutual masturbatory promo. Albano comes in and says… something. Again, my moron to English dictionary is missing.
Andy Warhol is speechless. And he looks like he’d rather be anywhere else. Now we interview random people. Joe Piscopo talks. Billy Squier looks like he’s auditioning for some film or TV show. Danny DeVito now says stuff. Wow. This is dragging. DeVito plugs a film he’s making with Piscopo and Albano.
Piper interrupts wearing a towel, wet from the shower, and cuts an insane Piper psycho promo. “Did they see him pin me?” Good point?
And that’s the show.
As a wrestling match it was not too shabby. As a sell-job for Wrestlemania, it was awesome. Look, if you can find it, I’d recommend watching it. The match is not too long and it certainly does not suck. They packed a lot into 12 minutes. It did not let up, there was always something happening. It might not have been a technical masterpiece, but who cares? The emotion they invested into it more than made up for it.
Yeah, and off this match they sold Wrestlemania and the rest is history.
Tags: Hulk Hogan, MTV, review, Roddy Piper, War To Settle the Score, wrestlemania, WWE, WWF