So much has been written about Wrestlemania 1 and the way it changed the wrestling landscape. Just here on Inside Pulse there have been many awesome columns about that very event. And here in some of my previous columns I’ve also looked at some of the wrestling events that preceded it, looking at the evolution of modern wrestling. Wrestlemania 1 might not have been the greatest wrestling show (although I do love the main event), but it is must-see viewing for wrestling fans, to show where what we have now all came from. It turned the tide for professional wrestling, taking it towards being such a staple of pop culture that everyone knows what you mean when you talk about pro wrestling even if they have not seen it.
Most people, however, seem to think that that first Wrestlemania was it for 1985. That was all that happened. Well, two other things happened. On November 28, we saw NWA present The Great American Bash, and on November 7 the WWF had their second big show, and arguably the first show that could truly be called a pay-per-view event.
Following on from Wrestlemania 1, we had The Wrestling Classic.
Now, first, I need to thank Josh. I had this on VHS (thanks to the joys of 1990s tape sharing) and it was wearing a little. In 2012, I asked if anyone had a fresher copy and a month later, a parcel arrived in my post. Josh had somehow got me a DVD of it, all official with a proper cover and everything. So, thanks, Josh, wherever you may be. I also do not know if this copy is clipped or anything, but it seems very similar to my original copy, so any clippage… no idea…
So… to the show! Interesting show – a tournament. We see all the matches from all the rounds, and all the participants were well-known at the time. I first saw this, by the way, after I saw Wrestlemania III, because, well… Australia. The final was the co-main event, with Hulk Hogan v Rowdy Roddy Piper for the WWF title. That was also the only non-tournament match.
I will mention that, as of writing this, of the 18 men involved in this, only 6 have passed away. That is a surprisingly low number, considering this was well over 30 years ago.
Shown on WRESTLEVISION! No, seriously… From the Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Chicago, Illinois, USA, North America, Planet Earth, Sol Solar Systam, Milky Way Galaxy.
They show some of the people drawing their opponents (“highlights”) for the tournament from a barrel. Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Lord Alfred Hayes and some-one named Susan Waitkis (?sp? no idea…), along with Mean Gene Okerlund doing interviews and stuff. “President” Jack Tunney explains the rules.
Commentators are Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon. Howard Finkel is the ring announcer.
Match 1 (round 1 match): Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart) v Corporal Kirschner
Adonis is in “leather-man” mode at this point. Kirschner gets a nice pop. So good to hear commentators talking like they know the product, talking about how a 10 minute time limit means they can’t mess around. However, the match is a lot of rest-holds and snap-mares. Very basic. And the ending comes when Kirschner goes for a suplex but Adonis blocks and drops him into a DDT. Nice finishing move from a dull, but short match. Maybe 4 minutes.
Winner: Adrian Adonis, pinfall
Look! A snap mare!
Match 2 (round 1 match): Dynamite Kid v Nikolai Volkoff
And before I have time to type this, Dynamite Kid wins in apparently 9 seconds, equally King Kong Bundy’s “record” of 9 seconds (though watching them both, this was legitimately faster, maybe 7 seconds). Volkoff sings the Soviet National Anthem, Kid hits a missile dropkick as Volkoff finishes, and that’s all she wrote.
Winner: Dynamite Kid, pinfall
The ONLY move.
Match 3 (round 1 match): Ivan Putski v Randy “Macho Man” Savage (with Miss Elizabeth)
My favourite wrestler early in his WWF career against one of the first US wrestlers I ever saw on TV, and a guilty pleasure (I’ll let you decide who is who). Macho’s pre-match interview is actually really cool, not as manic as I remember. Savage is still playing the run-away heel at this stage of his WWF tenure. Putski had the most of the match for the majority, but after getting Macho into a corner, Macho did a double trip and then pinned him with both feet on the second rope after about 3 minutes. Interesting – Putski looked a million bucks here.
Winner: Randy Savage, pinfall
Putski was built!
Slightly dodgy in the pinning technique.
Vinnie Mac tries to talk Volkoff goes off at him. So funny… but probably not intentionally.
Match 4 (round 1 match): Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat v Davey Boy Smith
Face v face match. Davey Boy looks positively small here compared to later on… but Steamboat looks like Steamboat. After what we’ve seen so far, this is a fast-paced match. Some nice moves. I’d loved to have seen an extended match between these two. Smith’s strength is quite impressive, even back then. Nice delayed vertical suplex from Steamboat. Smith goes for a move on Steamboat, who dodges, and so Smith hits the top rope groin first and the ref calls it as an injury win for Steamboat after about 3 minutes. What a shame. And Steamboat shows concern afterwards. Good, but way too short, match.
Winner: Ricky Steamboat, TKO
Perfect suplex. Just perfect.
Mean Gene with the Junkyard Dog giving one of his more intelligible interviews.
Match 5 (round 1 match): The Iron Sheik v The Junkyard Dog
‘Grab Them Cakes’… there’s a song I miss. Sheik jump-starts the match. It only takes a minute for JYD to stop selling. Sheik… is… so… slow… This match is terrible. Sheik looks like he’d rather be anywhere else. Sheik locks in the camel clutch (the word lock might be the wrong one in this case). He lets JYD go. After Sheik pushes the ref away, JYD hits a head-butt for the pin after about 3 minutes that felt so much longer.
Winner: Junkyard Dog
Camel clutch. Really, this was meant to win it.
Mean Gene with Terry Funk and Jimmy Hart. Funk sounds drunk. This is… awful. Then he spits tobacco juice on the camera. Yeah… this was… yeah.
Match 6 (round 1 match): Moondog Spot v Terry Funk (with Jimmy Hart)
Funk tries to convince Spot to leave the ring with him and settle for a draw. Spot seems to agree. Funk leaves first, Spot follows, ref calls for the bell and starts the count-out. Funk then attacks Spot, Funk is stopped by Spot before he can get in the ring, Spot gets in, the ref is still counting, and Funk is counted out… What the…? This was stupid on so many levels. Lasted I guess the 10 seconds it took the ref to count. Post-match, Funk attacks Spot and goes after the ref in a fit of anger. Well, he only had himself to blame there.
Winner: Moondog Spot, count-out
No picture… why bother?
Mean Gene with Mr Fuji and Magnificent Muraco. Muraco gives a really good promo; Fuji doesn’t.
Match 7 (round 1 match): Tito Santana (Intercontinental Champion) v Magnificent Muraco (with Mr Fuji)
This was a decent little match. Power versus speed, and they gelled quite nicely. Even better, Fuji didn’t get involved. Again, a longer match between these two (which I believe did happen) would be worth tracking down. Back and forth until, after around 5 minutes, Muraco wins with a power slam. Oh, back when a power slam was a finishing move and not a transition… But, no, Santana’s foot was on the rope, so the ref calls for the match to continue, Muraco doesn’t realise, and Santana schoolboys him for the surprise pin after 4 minutes or so. Stupid ending, really good match.
Winner: Tito Santana, pinfall
Power body slam(™Jesse Ventura)
Mean Gene with Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, talking about how his men are not involved in the tournament, and how he has a $50,000 bounty on Paul Orndorff’s head.
Match 8 (round 1 match): “Cowboy” Bob Orton v “Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff
The pop for Orndorff is huge. Orndorff works the perpetually injured broken arm of Orton to start with. Jesse talks about the “true” Orndorff, which would turn out to be prescient. Orton turns the tide. This is a good match. These two worked well together. Watching these old matches, I’m getting more and more of an appreciation of Bob Orton’s ability in the ring. The crowd is into Orndorff. The ending is rather abrupt, as Orton uses the cast on Orndorff and the ref actually sees it. What? Another strange ending (after about 6 minutes) in a series of them tonight. Rest of match was quite good.
Winner: Paul Orndorff by disqualification.
Some decent action in the ring.
Vince and Lord Alfred (sexually harassing this Susan person when we cut to him… ha! It’s funny! Allegedly…) go through what happened in the first round. They go through the match-ups for the second round (and time limit is now 15 minutes). Funk interferes to whine like a toddler. I wonder where this DVD is from as when Funk says “WWF” they cut the “F” out. Oh well.
Match 9 (quarterfinal match): Dynamite Kid v Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart)
Jesse leaves commentary to go talk to Macho Man when the match starts. O… kay. Gorilla talks about that, and it’s certainly more interesting than the headlocks of the match. Dynamite tries to liven things up; Adonis isn’t having a bar of it. Gorilla calls a backdrop suplex a gut-wrench. *Sigh!* Still, nice strength by Dynamite there. So slow. Dynamite speeds things up. Jimmy Hart gets on the apron, Dynamite is distracted, Adonis rolls him up, Dynamite kicks him off into Hart, which knocks Adonis silly and Dynamite gets the pin. Adonis’ matches were not good tonight, and yet another stupid ending after 6 long minutes. Dynamite is proppy afterwards. And Adonis throws a tantrum in the ring.
Winner: Dynamite Kid, pinfall
Dynamite Kid could snap suplex anyone.
Mean Gene is with Jesse Ventura, talking about Macho Man and Jesse Ventura’s commentary and Jesse Ventura.
Match 10 (quarterfinal match): Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat v Randy “Macho Man” Savage
And we start with Macho using Miss Elizabeth as a human shield, then jump-starting the match. They go outside a few times, and this match does not stop. Back and forth. But then, after about 5 minutes, Steamboat gets him up for a backdrop suplex, and Macho hits him with something he pulled from his tights. Just as it was getting good. Another bleh ending. You know. I’d like to see a longer match between these two. Maybe at a Wrestlemania. Maybe for the IC title. Maybe even stealing the show from a Hogan/Andre main event. Wonder if that ever happened? Should look into it…
Winner: Randy Savage, pinfall
Suplex, awesomely done.
Mean Gene with Moondog Spot. Spot is gnawing at a bone. And he talks like a stereotypical caveman, not using any words, but grunts. Still made more sense than the Twilight books.
Match 11 (quarterfinal match): Moondog Spot v Junkyard Dog
And before I can type this, Spot jumpstarts the match, misses a move, JYD hits him with his crappy crawling headbutts, JYD counts his own pin… and wins? What is this? Night of the insanely ridiculous endings? 30 seconds if that.
Winner: Junkyard Dog, pinfall
Moondog Spot misses the whatever…
Mean Gene with Bobby Heenan again. Finally the Hogan-Orndorff match is mentioned. For 30 seconds.
Match 12 (quarterfinal match): “Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff v Tito Santana
Face v face, but crowd is on Orndorff’s side a little more. Very technical start to the match. As the commentators noted, Santana’s leg is now bandaged, so maybe they had to play for that. Still, it is all mat-based wrestling and is unfortunately dull, good though the skill shown are. Santana’s leg gives out so Orndorff works on it. My God, so boring! Crowd is so not into this, and who can blame them? Santana falls out of the ring, Orndorff follows and they fight out there, and after 8 minutes it’s over.
Winner: DCOR (no winner)
JYD gets a BYE in the semi-finals.
Fighting outside for the only excitement in the match.
Vince and Lord Alfred (still harassing the poor woman… still as funny as a fart in an elevator), and they go over the semi-final matches. Hey, Vince called this “the first annual Wrestling Classic.” I don’t think they did a tournament like this again until Wrestlemania IV… and look how thrilling that was for all involved…
Jesse and Gorilla now chat, killing time apparently. Mean Gene with Hulk Hogan. Generic Hulk Hogan promo.
Match 13 (WWF Heavyweight Title Match): Rowdy Roddy Piper v Hulk Hogan (c)
Is there anything cooler than Piper’s bagpipe entrance? Match starts with Hogan dragging Piper outside the ring. The match was okay; it wasn’t terrible, it was fun for what it was, but really it was just there. Nowadays, this match would have been in hour two of Smackdown. It does not stop, there is always something happening. A chair gets involved after the ref is knocked out. Hogan locks on a sleeper and Cowboy Bob Orton comes in to make the save until Paul Orndorff makes the save with a chair of his own. Well, it was an eventful 7 minutes and was a bit of fun. Certainly watchable.
Winner: (still champ) Hulk Hogan, DQ
And out we go…
Mean Gene with Junkyard Dog. Another good JYD promo. Jimmy Hart comes to scream at JYD. Well… there’s a story I clearly missed.
Match 14 (semi-final match): Dynamite Kid v Randy “Macho Man” Savage (with Miss Elizabeth)
My favourite match of the night. Another match-up I’d like to see be given more time. Savage’s counter from the cross-body was a thing of beauty. The double clothesline was high impact, and one of the best executed I have seen. Dynamite’s dropkick was awesome, and then he hit a superplex from the top rope (this is apparently the first time that move was used in the WWF) that Savage turned into an inside cradle on landing. That was brilliant! I wanted 10 minutes more of this! 5 minutes was not enough. Two guys showing what they’ve got and letting it all hang out. In just 5 minutes… Wow.
Winner: Randy Savage, pinfall.
That’s a big back bodydrop
Vince and Susan talk about giving away a car. This was not on my video copy. They let Susan talk… don’t do that again. It’s a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce – I’m a sucker for a classic Rolls. It happens, with lots of speeches. Oh God! Some of these people should NEVER be given a microphone ever again. Let Savage have time to recover for the final and for Miss Elizabeth do another outfit change, I guess.
Mean Gene in the locker room with Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff. More generic Hogan stuff, and generic Orndorff stuff.
Match 15 (tournament final): Randy “Macho Man” Savage v Junkyard Dog
Macho is favouring the leg after the last match, limping and looking like he is in pain. I’m guessing ‘Grab Them Cakes’ was dubbed in. If my VHS copy was watchable I’d play it and see what song they dubbed over. It takes so long to start; Savage tries to intimidate JYD with a chair. That doesn’t work. Savage is reluctant to lock up and when he does JYD overpowers him. This match is dull. It’s not actively bad, just boring. They go outside for a long time. I cannot stand JYD’s crawling headbutt. JYD backdrops Savage over the top rope to the floor. He stays there, unable to answer the count. 10 tedious minutes. Not a good way to finish the tournament.
Winner: Junkyard Dog, countout
And over we go…
And we finish with Mean Gene interviewing JYD, Jesse comes in to complain about Savage having an extra match, not giving the winner anything. What a downer ending to the night. Sort of summed up the whole thing. Back to Vince, Alfred and Susan. Nothing of consequence is said.
And thus we have it. The first official WWF PPV (apparently). Not bad, but everything felt so short and rushed. Still, worth tracking down if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill.
Tags: 1985, Adrian Adonis, Bob Orton, Corporal Kirschner, Davey Boy Smith, Dynamite Kid, Hulk Hogan, iron sheik, Ivan Putski, Jesse Ventura, Junkyard Dog, Magnificent Muraco, Miss Elizabeth, Moondog Spot, Nikolai Volkoff, paul orndorff, PPV, Randy Savage, ricky steamboat, Rowdy Roddy Piper, terry funk, Tito Santana, tournament, VInce McMahon, Wrestling Classic, WWF