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March 31st 1985
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse “The Body” Ventura
Buy rate: 398,000 (closed circuit television)
The first WrestleMania took place at Madison Square Garden, the home of many WWE events in history. So, how did the name “WrestleMania” come about? Well, that’s all down to legendary ring announcer, Howard Finkel who mentioned how the Beatle craze was called, “Beatlemania”. This wasn’t on pay per view as it was unlikely to broadcast Wrestling shows on PPV in those days; instead it was broadcast on closed circuit television. Many Cinemas broadcast the show allowing fans to attend to watch the event.
Vince McMahon has gone on record to say that if this show flopped then the WWE would not be around today. Thankfully, it was successful and here we are today looking forward to WrestleMania 30. Who would have imagined it! I also believe that having Mr. T involved was another reason why people took notice of WrestleMania. A star of the hit TV show, The A Team and the villain in Rocky 3, Mr. T was one of the leading stars of the 80’s so having him involved in the main-event alongside WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan, got a lot of people talking.
When re-watching the show (I’ve seen it millions of times by the way), the thing that stands out the most is the quality of the presentation. It’s a lot different to what we’re used to today. Most of the wrestlers don’t even have entrance music and the lighting setup inside the Garden makes it impossible to see the crowd. Whiles the quality of the show is far different to shows of today, the importance of the show shouldn’t be questioned. This is the most important event in the history of the WWE as it was the first ever WrestleMania. I want to mention that the version I’m watching it the “Tagged Classic” DVD version which is different to the actual pay per view and I’ll be reviewing the show (as well as the other ‘Manias that follow.)
A video package plays hyping the card, Vince McMahon provides voice-overs in his typical over the top way. The camera cuts to the inside of the arena. No pyro or fancy stage, just an old school look of the ring and the attendance. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura welcome the fans to the show. Jesse is rocking out in a flamboyant pink suit. Bet he never wore that in office huh? They cut to ring announcer, Howard Finkel. He introduces the crowd to Mean Gene Okerlund who will sing the national anthem. Mean Gene’s singing was so bad it was good! He had the lyrics written down! What a complete mess that was, Jesse though it was good! My God, anyway, let’s move on to our opening contest.
The Executioner vs. Tito Santana
The Executioner was actually “Playboy” Buddy Rose. He was billed from parts unknown and a neighbour of the Ultimate Warrior. His weight is unknown, it’s says “??? Lbs” on the graphic card. I found that hilarious. He’s so mysterious he won’t even go on the scales. Santana was a popular babyface and a former Intercontinental Champion so it was a good choice to put him in the opener as the fans loved him. Jesse called him “Chico” like he always does.After a criss-cross, Santana gets a backdrop and a dropkick to send him to the floor. The Executioner came back with a kick to the gut and a headbutt. He went for a leglock, but Tito fought out of it. Executioner comes back with a bodyslam. He goes to the top rope, but Tito gets back up to throw him off with a slam. His splash attempt fails because Executioner gets his knees up. Tito kicks him out to the floor and then brings him back with a bodyslam. Santana hits a running forearm. Santana puts him in the Figure Four Leglock, Executioner gives up and that wins it for Tito.
Winner: Tito Santana via submission
Rating: ** ½
Not bad for an opener. It was a good win for Santana who was looking to get back into title contention again. Commentators tried to put over the Executioner but nothing seemed to be working. He was gone not long after this.
King Kong Bundy /w/ Jimmy Hart vs. SD Jones
For those who are wondering, SD stands for Special Delivery. As for the “match”, Bundy locks Jones in a bearhug and rams him into the far corner. Bundy hits the Avalanche and follows up with a big splash for the victory.
Winner: King Kong Bundy via Pinfall
They announce the fall as “9 seconds” but in fact, it was actually 23 seconds. Didn’t give it a rating as it was a way to build Bundy as a monster and a future challenger to Hogan’s title.
Matt Bourne vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Steamboat looks in amazing shape here! I’ve never seen him as big as he is here. Steamboat takes control early following the tie up sending Borne against the ropes and hits a knife-edge chop. The Dragon follows it up with a snap mare into a reverse chin lock. Ricky goes into a standing side headlock, Borne counters with a back suplex but Steamboat rolls over back into the headlock. Eventually, the Dragon connects with the atomic drop and back into the headlock. Borne counters with an inverted atomic drop. The Maniac sends Steamer into the corner but is caught with a boot and a middle rope chop. Ricky goes right back into the standing headlock, this time Borne counters with a belly to belly suplex out of the corner. Matt follows that up with a textbook suplex but only gets a 2 count. Steamboat returns with several karate chops and drops Borne. Ricky now delivers a back suplex and a swinging neck breaker. The Dragon works on Borne’s neck dropping a chop and a knee into Matt’s throat. Steamboat delivers a double thrust chop and hits the flying cross bodypress for the win
Winner: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat via pinfall
A great show cast for Steamboat who was a rising star in the WWE at the time and one of the greatest athletes of his era. Matt Bourne will leave the WWE but return in 1992 under one the famous gimmicks ever, Doink the Clown.
Brutus Beefcake /w/ Luscious Johnny vs. David Sammartino /w/ Bruno Sammartino
Brutus was a heel here and not yet “The Barber”. Like the Executioner, he too is billed from “Parts Unknown” which is strange considering he never had a mysterious gimmick to fit that billing. Bruno gets a huge reaction from the crowd which isn’t a surprise as he was a massive draw and the 7 year reign he had as Champion. The first few minutes of the match were a waste. That’s usually results in a bad match usually. David with a hammerlock into a front face lock. Brutus gets to the ropes and the hold is broke. David locks on a standing arm bar but Beefcake goes for a body slam. David holds on and rolls it over into an armdrag & armbar (glad to see Bruno taught him at least one move). Beefcake with a side headlock take over but David fights up. Brutus is shot off the ropes and into a drop toe hold. Sammartino applies a double toe hold now on the Beefcake and then into a spinning toe hold. Brutus breaks the hold with a thumb to the eye followed by a backdrop. Beefcake delivers some forearms and a body slam for good measure (glad to see Hogan taught Brutus one of his 3 infamous moves). Beefcake works on David in the corner & goes for an Irish whip. David reverses & hits a backdrop followed by a suplex for a 2 count. Brutus nails David with a head butt to the mid-section and sends Sammartino out of the ring. Johnny Valiant body slams David on the concrete, which brings in Bruno who works over Luscious Johnny V. Finally, the crowd has erupted and all it took was a couple shots by Bruno. Why Bruno wasn’t booked in the first place is beyond me. Needless to say with all 4 men now in the ring the result of this match is a double DQ.
Winner: Double Count Out
Very slow and very brutal, however the finish was built up fairly well. The fans clearly wanted to see Bruno rather than the guys in the ring. Don’t blame them to be honest. Brutus would end up developing a strong gimmick which made up for his average in-ring skills. David would end up quitting the wrestling business not long afterwards whiles his father, Bruno would have a major falling out with Vince which lasted up until last year where he was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine © /w/ Jimmy Hart vs. The Junkyard Dog
JYD has entrance music, the first guy on the card to have so. The JYD goes to work on Valentine’s arm with what Monsoon called an “arm twister”. Greg shoots JYD off the ropes & goes for a boot but JYD catches the foot, spins Greg around and delivers a right hand. Valentine drops the Dog but misses an elbow and is head butted out of the ring. Back inside, a test of strength applied and the Hammer appears to be winning, Greg shoots off the ropes and delivers a forearm to the back of the neck drooping JYD. Valentine begins to work on JYD’s right leg setting up for the figure four leg lock. Dog begins to over sell dragging his body across the ring to get to the ropes. Valentine attempts the Figure Four but is kicked off by the Dog. Greg backs JYD into the corner but the Dog fights himself out with several head butts. Jimmy Hart gets up on the apron to distract the referee Dick Kroll but gets the JYD’s attention instead. The Dog moves as Valentine charges in which causes Greg to nail his own manager. As JYD came after Valentine, the Hammer scooped JYD’s legs up from underneath him and went for the cover getting the pin with his feet on the ropes. The decision is annulled after Valentine’s enemy at the time, Tito Santana, comes out and tells the referee Valentine cheated to win. The match was restarted and The Hammer was reluctant to get back in the ring and found himself outside for the 10 count.
Winner: The Junkyard Dog via Countout
The JYD was never great in the ring. He had a ton of charisma and the fans loved him for it. There wasn’t much action in this match but it did its job in terms of getting a reaction from the crowd.
Before the next match began, Nikolai Volkoff sang the Russian national anthem and of course, he got booed out the building. “Russia number one! Iran number one! USA *spits*” Got to love Sheik. Funny how two countries can be number one huh? The tag champs come out to a huge pop as expected.
WWF Tag Team Championships
Nikolai Volkoff/ Iron Sheik /w/Freddie Blassie vs. Mike Rotunda/ Barry Windham © /w/ Capt. Lou Albano
Sheik with a side headlock and is shot off by Rotunda. Sheik shoulder blocks Mike down Sheik goes for another off the rope attack but Rotunda gets in a monkey flip and follows it up with series of moves, the hip toss, the body slam and the side headlock take over. Windham is tagged in and delivers an elbow to the Sheik and drops a leg to the mid-section. Windham with a standing headlock and is backed into enemy territory. Nikolai grabs Barry and Sheik hits the rope. As Sheik runs in Barry moves and HOLY SHIT!!! The Iron Sheik with a DROPKICK!!!, but to his own partner. Okay this was already done tonight in the last match, come up with something new guys. Windham with a quick tag to Rotunda who hits and moves and then makes another quick tag right back to Barry. Sheik at this point had tagged in Nikolai. Barry rings the arm of Nikolai and tags back in Mike. Mike allows Volkoff to tag the Sheik back in. Sheik comes in and hits a backdrop on Rotunda (has there been a match where the backdrop wasn’t utilised yet other than S.D.’s match?). Sheik gets a 2 count and applies the abdominal stretch. Mike eventually counters this with a hip toss and both men make hot tags. Windham goes to work on Nikolai with several right hands and a dropkick. Windham delivers his finisher, the bulldog but the Sheik stops the count. All 4 men are in the ring now as Rotunda dropkicks the Sheik to the outside. As the ref gets Mike out of the ring, Sheik hits Windham from behind with Fred Blassie’s cane and Nikolai covers for the win.
Winners & new WWF Tag Team Champions: Nikolai Volkoff & Iron Sheik via pinfall
I enjoyed this match. It was an old-school tag match where the faces took control early on. The heels dominated Rotunda which build up to the hot tag. Windham had a lot of momentum but was countered from the attack with Blassie’s Cain. I wish a lot of tag matches of today used this formula more often.
Post match, Mean Gene interviewed the newly crowned champions. Okerlund quizzed Blassie about the whereabouts of his Cain to which Blassie denied having.
Up next is the Bodyslam challenge match. If Andre wins, he’ll receive $15,000 but if Studd wins then Andre will be forced to retire.
$15,000 Bodyslam Challenge match
Big John Studd /w/ Bobby the Brain Heenan vs. Andre the Giant.
Andre receives the biggest pop of the night so far, no surprise as Andre is one of the biggest draws in the business. Apparently, Andre never liked Studd and it shows as he hardly allows Studd to get any offence in at all. Studd starts off pounding Andre in the corner, but the true Giant no sells and sends Studd out of the ring. Andre chokes Studd out in the corner and hits some butt rams in the corner. Studd fights his way out of the corner and goes for a slam to no avail. Andre puts on a bear hug and the crowd goes nuts chanting “SLAM!” repeatedly. Studd breaks out of the hold but Andre begins to deliver right hands & a head butt. Andre shoots John off the ropes and Studd goes for a boot, but Andre caught the boot and sends Studd into the corner. Andre begins kicking away at Studd, picks up Big John and slams him like nobodies business. Just like that this match is over and the crowd goes nuts. Andre begins throwing the money to the crowd & Heenan sneaks from behind & steals the money. Andre continues to celebrate.
Winner: Andre the Giant
A very VERY slow paced match and both men were again very limited as to what they could do. It was just a showcase to put Andre over and the reception he received after the slam proved how popular he was with the crowd.
Backstage, Mean Gene interviews Wendi Richter and Cyndi Lauper about the upcoming match. He also interview Women’s Champion, Lelani kai and Moolah. Basic face/heel promos.
WWF Women’s Championship
Lelani Kai © /w/ Fabulous Moolah vs. Wendi Richter /w/ Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper was a massive star back in the day so getting her on board for WrestleMania was a big deal and it drew in a lot of mainstream press. Tie up by the two and Kai fires Richter across the ring, Richter comes back with a takedown & a grounded hammerlock. Kai comes back with an armbar of her own, working on Wendy’s arm. A hand full of hair by Kai brings Wendy back down to the mat. Wendy fights her way back up but Kai grabs the hair and delivers a snap mare. Richter comes back with a body scissors and another take down for a 2 count. Thanks to Wendy’s long hair, Kai takes Richter down again but Wendy comes back kicking Kai to the mat. The girls start a catfight and almost fall out of the ring as Lauper pushes them back in. Kai delivers a boot but Richter fires back with a fireman’s carry of sorts for another 2 count. Kai gets up and hits a back breaker and nearly gets the win. Kai with a body slam and goes up for a top rope body press. Richter attempts to use momentum but that doesn’t work so Kai just rolls on over for her and Wendy gets the 3 count.
Winner & new WWF Women’s Champion: Wendi Richter via pinfall
Rating: ½ *
Far too many botches throughout. The timing was off; executions were sloppy and no build up for the finish. On paper, the finish was crafty but not fluently done.
The main event is coming up so here come the celebrity guests. Baseball Legend, Billy Martin is introduced as the guest ring announcer. The crowd love him. Liberace and the Rockettes are up next, he’s the guest timekeeper. Mohammed Ali is introduced as the guest ring enforcer and finally Pat Patterson is the guest referee.
Finally, it’s time for our competitors. A band comes out playing the bagpipes followed with Rowdy Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff and Bob Orton. Piper has MEGA heat! Seriously, he was the most hated man in the WWF at the time. Real American is playing on the PA systems and out comes Hulk Hogan and Mr. T and the fans go nuts!
Rowdy Roddy Piper/ Paul Orndorff /w/ Bob Orton vs. Hulk Hogan/ Mr. T /w/ Jimmy Snuka
The crowd is so hyped it sends chills down my spine to this day. The homosexual Liberace rings a gay little bell and we’re underway. It looks like we’re going to start off with Hogan & Orndorff but Piper & T are tagged in. Piper spits on T, T slaps Piper, Piper waste locks T to the mat and rides him for a minute before T gets him off. Tie up and T shoves Piper back. Lock up again and T goes into a fireman’s carry and drops Roddy to the mat and we got all 4 men in the ring for a wild brawl. Piper & Orndorff retreat to the outside and are nearly counted out before the duo return to the ring. All 4 men back in and Piper & Wonderful collide. Hogan with an Irish whip on Piper & follows in with a clothesline followed by an atomic drop. Hogan tags in T and they deliver a double clothesline on Roddy. Mr. T slams Piper followed by a hiptoss on Orndorff. T drops Wonderful and sends Piper into Hogan’s knee. The Hulk is tagged back in and Hogan boots Piper over the top rope to the floor. Orndorff nails Hogan from behind and sends him out of the ring. This enables Piper to nail Hulk with a chair on the outside. Piper brings Hogan back into the ring and a double team by the heels in the corner with a double atomic drop. Muhammad Ali gets in the ring to restore some order. Orndorff in the mean time is tagged in and hits a suplex on Hogan. Piper comes in & holds Hulk while Paul hits an elbow from the top rope and then a back breaker. Paul tries for a flying something or another but misses. Orndorff tags in Piper and Hogan makes the hot tag as well. The heel team takes over on Mr. T using a double team. Piper rides T on the mat with a front face lock. T powers out & tags in the Hulkster. Hogan hits the “double noggin’ knocker” as Monsoon puts it. Hogan with a side headlock on Paul but Wonderful turns it into a back suplex. Bob Orton enters the ring but is quickly head butted out by the Superfly. With the ref distracted in the corner, Orndorff slaps Hogan in the full nelson & Orton climbs to the top to hit Hulk with the cast. Hogan moves and Orton hits Wonderful instead thus beginning Paul’s baby face turn. Snuka sends Orton back out of the ring and Hogan makes the cover on Paul for the win.
Winners: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T via pinfall
Rating: * ½
Unlike the other tag match, there wasn’t any flow this this match. It felt like a Vince Russo style booking job where too much action was going on at the same time. It could have been more organised but I guess that’s what happens when you have inexperienced people added to the mix. On the plus side, this match was everything that was great about the mid 80’s in the WWF. The star power was there and the match was pulled off relatively well.
After the match, Piper & Orton storm off leaving an unconscious Mr Wonderful in the ring with the faces. Orndorff comes round and is ready to take on Hogan and crew. He soon realises that he’s outnumbered and leaves. Hogan, Mr T & Snuka celebrate in the ring.
Hogan, Mr T & Snuka do a quick interview with Mean Gene following the match. T talks about how he trained hard and that wrestling “isn’t for wimps”. Hogan puts over how he knows how to pick the right partner and that he’ll be around for a long time. 30 years later, he’s still kicking about. At least he’s honest about something huh?
Gorilla & Jesse thank us for watching, as the show comes to an end.
Best match: Nikolai Volkoff/ Iron Sheik vs. Mike Rotunda & Barry Windham – A quality tag match which could stand in this day and age.
Worst match: Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd – Very slow paced match between two very limited performers.
WrestleMania moment: The anticipation for the main event. The fans were well and truly pumped up for it.
Top 5 Superstars:
1. Hulk Hogan – The biggest star on the show by miles. Fans loved him.
2. Roddy Piper – The biggest star on the heel side. Received mega heel heat during his entrance.
3. Ricky Steamboat – Even in a short match you could see the talent he processed.
4. Tito Santana – Carried the opening match well.
5. Greg Valentine – Done well against a limited performer.
Also for the top 5, I’ll be doing a points system which ties in with it. The way it works is whoever is top will receive 5points, 4 points for 2nd, 3 points for 3rd and so on. The league table after this event is as follow:
1. Hulk Hogan – 5
2. Roddy Piper – 4
3. Ricky Steamboat – 3
4. Tito Santana – 2
5. Greg Valentine – 1
Overall Show Rating (out of 10): 4.5
Quite hard to judge this pay per view when you compare it to events of today. I suppose once I finish reviewing all 29 ‘Manias, this will be near the bottom, perhaps in the bottom 5. Overall, it was a good show which served its purpose and kicked start the wrestling boom in the mid/late 80s.