After slamming out one review earlier in the week, I thought, why not try to keep up the momentum with this one? And why not get something for the "grand-daddy of the grand-daddy of them all"? So we're going far back in time to check out an event that made the World Wrestling Federation THE powerhouse of wrestling: WrestleMania I!
WWE Wrestlemania I |
Posted by the Accelerator, May 14th, 2012
- The cover of the video about says it all, as you have Hulk Hogan, in blue trunks no less, standing next to Mr. T. Hogan's got the title around his waist, as you would expect.
- Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura are our announcers for the night. We're in Madison Square Garden, guaranteed to be a big deal.
- "Mean Gene" Okerlund is the person granted the honor of singing the Star Spangled Banner. He's got a notecard, but I think it's more just a safety crutch to make sure he doesn't mess up. He actually doesn't have a bad voice, but in future years, some great musicians will show up to sing this tune. Ventura compares Mean Gene to Robert Goulet. Uh, no, I wouldn't go that far.
- We go to Lord Alfred Hayes, who mentions the upcoming match between the masked Executioner and Tito Santana... and then immediately pitches it to some pre-recorded Mean Gene interviews. Strange, but ok.
- Mean Gene makes sure to mention that the Executioner is currently undefeated. Part of that is because he hasn't wrestled much in the WWF. Santana isn't going to let him get in the way of Santana's goals. The Executioner, meanwhile, is straight-forward, saying he's going after Santana's leg, that was injured recently by Greg Valentine. You probably shouldn't be telling the man your strategy, man, not if you want to be "a big leaguer", as you claim.
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner:
Backstory: Not much here, other than what they mentioned in the interviews. The Executioner is a relatively new character, portrayed by "Playboy" Buddy Rose. It was not a gimmick that would last. Santana is in the midst of his return to the ring, having been out for months due to Valentine not only taking the Intercontinental Title, but injuring Santana's leg with the figure-four leglock after the bout.
The Match: Santana's made to look like a million bucks, as he is flying through this one. The Executioner tried to get to Santana's leg, but Santana was pretty much dominating. At the end, Santana managed to get a flying forearm, then applied Greg Valentine's finisher, the figure-four leglock. The Executioner has to tap out, giving Santana the victory.
Ace Thoughts: Short one, but Santana actually used the time to show off, and Rose proved to be a good flopper for him. The fans loved the figure four application, as it really showed what the real feud was. Yep, this match was just to extend a feud. WrestleMania wasn't quite what it would become, after all. Santana and Valentine would continue their feud... actually, they would do it later in this show, but we'll get to that.
- Lord Alfred Hayes gives another nervous bit as talking about the next match, and leads us to the pre-recorded interviews again. Man, I don't get it.
- Mean Gene talks to Special Delivery Jones, who is going to get down with the biggest thing in town, King Kong Bundy. Okerlund then turns to Jimmy Hart & King Kong Bundy. Bundy wants SD Jones to think about the Avalanche in the corner and the... 5 count? Must be his gimmick at the time, I assume.
Special Delivery (SD) Jones vs. King Kong Bundy w/ Jimmy Hart:
Backstory: Bundy was the new monster in town, dominating almost everyone he faced. Picture the start of someone like Brock Lesnar or The Big Show and you've got Bundy's push. SD Jones was the opposite, a wrestler who had already been going for over a decade in the squared circle and was mostly enhancement talent. He would earn that status here tonight for sure.
The Match: For this match, I'll go ahead and do a complete recap. The wrestlers were both announced. The bell rings. SD Jones goes off the ropes and charges Bundy, who catches him in a bearhug and runs towards the corner, crushing him in there. Bundy backs up as Jones tries to get up, but it's too late, as Bundy lands the Avalanche! The match is over, although Bundy throws in an extra splash for the pin. The 'official' time is 9 seconds, a long-time Wrestlemania record (although it definitely took longer than that... but not by much).
Ace Thoughts: What can you say? Bundy beat somebody in just a few seconds. Is it any wonder that Bundy would be going for Hogan's title in a steel cage the next time WrestleMania rolled around?
- Mean Gene is in the back (not sure if it's prerecorded this time or not) with Matt Borne. It's weird not to see him in clown make-up. Borne gives his opponent, Ricky Steamboat, some compliments, but says that Steamboat's weakness is that he's a nice guy. Steamboat then comes up for his interview portion, talking about how big this wrestling extravaganza is. Steamboat basically says he can be mean and that he'll show it in their match. Interesting.
Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat:
Very little reaction for Borne, but the fans love Steamboat (as always).
Backstory: This was Steamboat's first big show for the WWF, having recently come from the NWA Mid-Atlantic region after having 'creative differences' with the booker there, a guy by the name of Dusty Rhodes. Steamboat is so new, he doesn't even have his nickname yet. "The Dragon" would be added soon enough. Bourne, at this time, really wasn't that well known. He was an indy wrestler, and was a long way from his eventual success in the '90's. Still, as Ventura reminds me during the opening of the match, Bourne does have family lineage, being the son of "Tough Tony" Borne. So that's something.
The Match: Steamboat is as athletic as always, getting the crowd into it with his flips and jumps. He also, though, sticks to a headlock for a good portion of the match. Borne gets in some offense with a couple of stiff shots at one point, and gets a gutwrench suplex and a back suplex for a near fall, but that was about it for him, as Santana soon took back control and didn't relinquish it again. He finally put Borne away with a top-rope crossbody, and the fans love it.
Ace Thoughts: So far, some pretty short contests, although obviously this one looked like a marathon compared to Bundy/Jones. Borne was at least allowed to fight back, but this was, again, another showcase match, proclaiming Steamboat's arrival. It's weird to see matches like this on a WrestleMania... of course, just a short time ago, I saw Sheamus beat Daniel Bryan in only a few seconds, so who am I to say things have changed? *lol*
- Again with Lord Alfred Hayes! Man, I love the guy in the future, but he's pretty rough here. To be fair, though, he does a little better this time, and even gives some details about David Sammartino striving to match his father's legend (Bruno). The pre-recorded clips are quickly proven, as the wrestlers walk past Hayes as he talks, eventually sending us to the interview clips.
- Mean Gene talks to David Sammartino, with Bruno right behind him. David talks about how cocky Brutus is, and how he's going to knock him down. Bruno also has a threat towards Johnny Valiant should he get involved. Of course, Mean Gene then just turns around and there's Brutus Beefcake (looking like he's wearing a superhero costume with the lightning bolt across it). Valiant does the opening talking, saying he'll 'stick his schnoz' wherever he wants. Valiant turns and completely blocks Brutus, as Brutus, uh... blows a raspberry. Valiant quickly says that's enough, and that he's the mouthpiece for Brutus. Ok then.
Brutus Beefcake w/ Johnny Valiant vs. David Sammartino w/ Bruno Sammartino:
Backstory: Beefcake is still in the process of figuring out his character, as evident in the last interview segment. He's a short time away from forming The Dream Team with Greg Valentine, and a few years away from his Barber days that would make him famous. David Sammartino was mainly a piece of the rope in the tug of war between Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon. At this point, David was getting a push, but only because Bruno, a long-time fan favorite, was there with him.
The Match: Brutus gets announced from parts unknown. He's even less developed than I thought. This one's a slower one from the beginning, as Gorilla & Jesse The Body both talk about how a slow pace is a good thing. Yep, sure. These guys actually go for quite a while, as it's easily the longest match of the night so far. A lot of back-and-forth action, with the fans clearly behind Sammartino... Bruno more than David, although David does get a few cheers. Beefcake looked to dominate for a while, but David finally made a comeback and got a big suplex on the larger man. This ticks Brutus off, so he tosses David to the outside through the ropes. Valiant immediately attacks, bodyslamming David on the outside, and Bruno runs over and attacks, getting the biggest pop of the night so far! Father and son beat down Valiant & Beefcake, sending them out of the ring. The bell's ringing, the crowd is extremely hot, and the ref declares the match a double disqualification. Confusing, since Valiant attacked first, but that's the decision.
Ace Thoughts: There were some signs of worthwhile wrestling in this one, although it took a while to see any of it. David clearly had some potential, but let's face it, under his dad's shadow, he never had a chance (see Flair, David). Beefcake, thankfully, fared much better, at least for a few years. I can't say I'd highly recommend this match, but the pop that Bruno got really did show you what the crowd thought about him. I just wish he and Vince hadn't had such a major falling out, because Bruno's all but forgotten today, and that's just wrong.
- Lord Alfred Hayes talks about the first of the title matches, as Jimmy Hart walks by, laughing. Hayes introduces the next match, then sends it back to Mean Gene's pre-recorded interviews yet again.
- Mean Gene first talks to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine w/ Jimmy Hart. Valentine talks about why he's the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, why he's the master of the figure four leglock, and why he's called the Hammer. I'm reminded of Dr. Horrible, but we'll let that one slide. The Junkyard Dog comes out and talks fast (and isn't the easiest to understand). I do catch that he needs more bones to chew on, and being the champion would get him a lot of bones. Way to stay in character.
Greg Valentine(c) w/ Jimmy Hart vs. The Junkyard Dog, WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Title Match:
Backstory: The most interesting thing about the storyline between these two is that The Junkyard Dog, for all his skills and fanbase, was actually a place holder in this one. About six months before, in September 1884, Valentine had won the Intercontinental Title by beating fan favorite Tito Santana. After the match, Valentine locked on his figure four leglock and put Santana on the shelf. The Junkyard Dog basically stepped into the feud and went after Valentine, fighting for the fans, which led to this contest at Wrestlemania.
The Match: JYD gets a "Goldberg"-like entrance, complete with music, to come into the ring, and the fans love it. The contest was back-and-forth, with Valentine trying to injure The Dog's leg in order to allow for the figure four leglock. JYD's usual answer was headbutts, as he was prone to do. At the end, it seemed that The Junkyard Dog had everything under control, but Jimmy Hart, sensing it, got onto the apron to complain to the referee. JYD went over and grabbed Hart, with Valentine coming to try and save his manager... only to hit Hart instead! JYD pummels Valentine into the corner, but Valentine suddenly turns the tables, drops the Dog, and then covers him, putting his feet on the ropes to do so! The bell rings, and it seems that Valentine has won the match. However, Tito Santana, Valentine's rival, immediately runs to the ring and points out that Valentine used the ropes, so the ref restarts the contest, and immediately starts counting out Valentine. The IC Champ and Hart look completely bewildered, honestly, and have no intention of coming back in, so The Junkyard Dog wins via countout. Valentine, of course, keeps the belt, but he's furious at everyone in the ring, especially Santana.
Ace Thoughts: The smile on the ref's face as he counted out Valentine was surreal. The match itself wasn't bad, if you're into mostly brawling. That's what The Hammer and The Junkyard Dog were good at, and both certainly hit hard during the match. What's sad is that I think the fans would have loved JYD as the Intercontinental Champion, and it would have sold well. That being said, JYD sold well without belts, so why bother with a title? Santana and Valentine would continue their feud, leading to a steel cage match (which Santana won to regain the belt). The Junkyard Dog, meanwhile, would just move on to other battles; sadly, this was the closest he ever came to winning WWF gold.
- Lord Alfred Hayes gives yet another clip of talking about the next match, with wrestlers moving in front of him, before going to the pre-recorded clips again. Originality wasn't needed in those days, apparently.
- Mean Gene interviews Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik, with Freddie Blassie. There's nothing like hearing an Iron Sheik interview, talking with "Gene Mene". Volkoff also adds in his... thoughts? Honestly, I have no clue what he said. Mean Gene then switches over to manager Captain Lou Albano and the US Express, Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham. Captain Lou does most of the talking, with Rotundo and Windham just being ready to go to the ring.
The US Express (Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham)(c) w/ Captain Lou Albano vs. Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik w/ Freddie Blassie, WWF World Tag-Team Titles Match:
Backstory: Well, we have two 'evil' (foreign) wrestlers vs. two 'good' (American) wrestlers. Do we need more back story? Basically, Volkoff (who was brought back to the WWF for this run) and The Iron Sheik were paired together in order to generate the most heat possible, pitting them against an American team to really get the fans involved. At the time, hating Russia and Iran was a sign that you were a true patriot.
The Match: Volkoff sings the Russian National Anthem at the beginning, and actually finishes it. The Iron Sheik then calls Russia AND Iran #1, and spits on the US. The US Expess comes out to "Born In The USA" by Bruce Springsteen, which had to cost some money to use. As Monsoon talked about, it was youth vs. experience. This one was a typical tag-team match to me, as various wrestlers played face(or heel)-in-peril. The fans loved everything the US Express did, and booed everything the 'Foreign Legion' did. Near the end, Rotundo has been taking a beating for a while, but manages to escape an abdominal stretch and get the hot tag to Windham. He beats on Volkoff and lands his Bulldog, but The Sheik breaks up the cover, prompting Rotundo to come back in. Rotundo knocks The Sheik from the ring, but then the ref grabs Rotundo, telling him to leave as well. With the ref distracted, Blassie passes his cane to The Sheik, who is able to smash Windham with it from outside. Windham goes down hard, and Volkoff makes the pin to win away the WWF World Tag-Team Titles. The fans aren't happy (except for the one silly guy with beer in his hand, waving to the camera).
Ace Thoughts: At the time, this was a stunning loss, as the fans never expected the American team to lose. It was a slow match at times, and not exactly a classic, but it was a shocking moment, to be sure. The two teams would continue to feud, battling it out over the belts, and The US Express would regain the titles in July '85 to end the feud. But it was a nice run for Volkoff & The Sheik, to be sure.
- Mean Gene actually appears to be live this time, since he's talking about what happened in the match. He talks with Fred Blassie, who says they got a pin in the center of the ring fair and square. Blassie also says he didn't have a cane with him. Pure '80s heel behavior: deny everything, and damn the evidence. The Iron Sheik says they've proved his country is the best. Volkoff just yells a little. We go back to Gorilla & The Body, with Gorilla pointing out that The Sheik was bleeding.
- We go to Lord Alfred Hayes, who.... ok, honestly, you know what happened here, right? Review of upcoming match, onto prerecorded comments, yada yada yada...
- Mean Gene interviewed Big John Studd and Bobby Heenan first, with Studd showing off the bag of money he is using as "bait". Heenan talks about eliminating Andre the Giant from wrestling, and keeps slapping Mean Gene's hand, keeping him from the money. Nice.
- We get several minutes of advertising, following by Intermission music. Yay.
Big John Studd w/ Bobby Heenan vs. Andre The Giant, $15,000 Slam Match:
Backstory: This feud goes back years. When Big John Studd came into the WWF, he and his manager at the time, Freddie Blassie, claimed that Studd could not be slammed, and even put money on the line to prove it. After several failed attempts by fan favorites, Andre the Giant stepped up to take the challenge, only to have Studd & Blassie cheat to get away with it. Andre would later slam Studd, but Studd would claim that it didn't happen. Studd switched managers at one point, joining with Bobby Heenan, but the feud with Andre continued. It hit new heights when, after a match, Studd & Ken Patera attacked Andre and cut his hair. Furious, Andre accepted a match with Studd at Wrestlemania, where Studd would put up $15,000 dollars, while Andre put his career on the line if he couldn't slam Studd.
The Match: Jesse refers to Big John Studd as "The Giant Studd", a name he had adopted recently. The two big men battle it out, but honestly, this one's almost all Andre, including a blatant choke (with a cool insert of Heenan screaming "Break it!"). There's also an EXTREMELY long bear hug, that would never fly today. The fans, though, eat it up, and I shouldn't be expecting any fast maneuvers or technical displays from these guys. The match really ends quickly, as Andre suddenly decides it's over. He nails Studd a couple of times, then easily picks him up and slams him, winning the match. Post-match, Andre takes the bag and starts throwing the money to the fans, only to have Heenan sneaking in, grabbing the bag, and running up the aisle with Studd right behind him.
Ace Thoughts: Ok, not the most thrilling match, but the last moments of it were definitely exciting. The crowd went absolutely berserk when Andre started to pick up Studd, and were huge fans of the finish. Maybe they could have sold that a little more (have a few false finishes), but it still worked the way it did. Studd would later dispute the slam (again: heel = deny all and damn the evidence), which is why Heenan stole back the money. Their feud would continue for another year.
- Mean Gene's live again, interviewing Andre the Giant about the slam. Andre says he doesn't care about the money. He's just happy he showed Studd and the fans that he could slam the big man. He's not going to retire; at least, not now.
- Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura call it "The Slam Heard Round The World". That would last for a couple of years, until Hogan slammed Andre.
- Lord Alfred Hayes comes in too early *d'oh!*, but then has his first really interesting moment, as The Fabulous Moolah comes by and gives him a spontaneous kiss on the cheek ("Good Gracious!") followed by Leilani Kai ("Or, Good Luck, something like that"). That made me laugh, as it actually threw Hayes off enough that he shook the nerves for a second and sounded almost normal.
- Mene Gene (pre-taped) interviews Wendi Richter and Cindy Lauper. Lauper uses the word "powerful" a lot, as she talks about how Captain Lou taught her how to manage. Richter mentions that she didn't lose the belt because of Kai, she lost it because of Moolah. We switch around to Mean Gene with The Fabulous Moolah & Leilani Kai. All Moolah gets to talk about is the special glasses she's wearing. Kai says she's going to "come back to the dressing room with my hand in victor!" And no, I wasn't the one who left off the "y" there.
Leilani Kai(c) w/ The Fabulous Moolah vs. Wendi Richter w/ Cyndi Lauper, WWE Women's Title Match:
Backstory: For the longest time, The Fabulous Moolah was on top of the WWF Women's Division, until Wendi Richter came along and took away the title. When Moolah couldn't regain the belt herself, she found a pupil to train, Leilani Kai, to do it for her. At The War To Settle The Score, Richter went at it with Kai, and seemed to be in control, until, outside the ring, Moolah attacked Cyndi Lauper. A distracted Richter was rolled up and pinned, allowing Kai to steal away the belt. This one at Wrestlemania is the rematch.
The Match: Worth noting is that Richter comes out to Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun", and the fans love it. This wasn't a "Divas" match like you'd see today. There was a lot of tossing and throwing around. There was also a lot of hair-pulling, so, yeah, that hasn't changed that much. The moves certainly weren't flawless, as I think I saw several mistakes during the match. But at least they're trying. Kai actually got in a ton of offense, making her look pretty strong in this one. At the end, Kai comes off the top turnbuckle with a cross-body, only to have Richter (sort of) reverse it for the win. Richter's the champion again.
Ace Thoughts: The crowd loves it, but I have to admit that one wasn't the easiest to watch. It appeared that Lelani Kai was way ahead of Richter during the fight, and the ending certainly wasn't perfect. Kai, thankfully, wasn't done with gold in the WWF, winning the WWF Women's Tag-Team Titles with Judy Martin (as the Glamour Girls) twice. Richter, meanwhile, would be tricked out of the title and be gone from the WWF before the year was out, in the original "Screw Job" (long before Hart/Michaels).
- Mean Gene interviews Wendi Richter & Cyndi Lauper in the back. Richter says it's the happiest second of her life. Most people would like a minute or two, at least. Lauper jokes around about Kai's name, turning it to "Cow". The two celebrate, as Mean Gene sends it back to the ring.
- Before the main event, we have the introductions of the celebrities. "Number 1" Billy Martin, famous New York baseball manager is the special guest ring announcer (the NYC fans love him). The guest timekeeper is Liberace, who comes out to "New York, New York" with the Rockettes, doing the kickline in the ring. The special guest referee gets the biggest cheers, as Muhammad Ali comes out. "Ali, Ali, Ali!" Worth noting is that the other referee appears to be Pat Patterson, although I don't get a great look at him, so I could be mistaken. Ali gets assigned as the 'outside' referee, so he doesn't have to worry about making the counts.
- A line of bagpipers leads the way out for Rowdy Roddy Piper, "Mr Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, & "Cowboy" Bob Orton Jr. The poor musicians, they're just doing their best, and the crowd is booing them. Guilt by association. Hogan, Mr. T, & "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka come out to "Eye of the Tiger", which is kind of funny to me. After all, most people think of that song being connected to Rocky, and, uh, both Hogan and Mr. T failed to win their matches there. Oh well, maybe it's just me.
Rowdy Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff w/ Cowboy Bob Orton Jr vs. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T w/ Jimmy Snuka:
Backstory: Hogan was the WWF World Champion at the time, having dethroned The Iron Sheik to become the top babyface wrestler. Piper, meanwhile, was running "The Piper's Pit" talkshow and was undeniably the most hated man in the WWF. Piper took it to a new level by attacking Cyndi Lauper at an event, which lead to Hogan and Piper facing off at "The War To Settle The Score". During the match, the referee got taken out, leading to Piper & Paul Orndorff (Hogan's former friend, who had turned on him) to double-team Hogan, then go after Lauper again, only to have Mr. T come from his seat at ringside to make the save. Hogan and Mr. T trained together for the next few months, preparing for this match.
The Match: Hogan and Orndorff start off with some circles, but Mr Wonderful quickly tags in Piper (who wants it). You'd think Hogan would want this match-up, but Mr. T's screaming to come in, so Hogan gives it to him. The two exchange slaps, and then the action is on. After a few moves, chaos breaks out, with everyone fighting everyone. Ali immediately comes into the ring, stopping that right away by slugging Piper and swinging at Orton. I believe Ali is a little biased, as he didn't swing at Snuka (who came into the ring), but the fans love him. The angry (and embarrassed) heels head up the aisle, with Hogan telling Patterson (the announcers confirm my vision's not that bad *l*) to stop the count, not wanting a countout win. The heels eventually come back, and the fight goes on again.
Hogan and Mr. T dominate Piper for a while, with Mr. T actually getting some nice wrestling moves. A cheap shot from Orndroff, though, sends Hogan to the outside, and Piper uses a chair before Ali can get there. Hogan's the face-in-peril for a long while, with Mr. T trying to find ways to get back in. Orndorff finally makes a mistake by missing a flying knee, which allows Mr. T to tag in. But Mr. T's not a real wrestler, so a double-team gets Mr. T back on the canvas, taking a beating from both men. Mr. T eventually powers out (almost too suddenly) of a hold and gets the hot tag, and a refreshed Hogan beats on both men. With Patterson distracted by Piper, Orton tries to come in, but Snuka immediately comes in and attacks him. Patterson loses complete control, getting rid of Snuk and trying to separate Piper and Mr. T, so Orton tries his flying cast shot on Hogan, only to hit Orndorff instead, knocking him out. Snuka gets rid of Orton, and Hogan gets the pinfall victory for his team. After the match, the faces celebrate, with Mr. T actually checking on Orndorff (who got left behind). Orndorff wakes up and almost fights everyone, but changes his mind and leaves. Notably, Hogan stops Mr. T from trying to shake Orndorff's hand.
Ace Thoughts: If you want wrestling action, this wasn't it. But if you liked crowd reactions, it pretty much lived up to the hype. Mr. T actually did alright, considering that he had no wrestling experience and supposedly wasn't the easiest guy to work with. Hogan and Mr. T would continue and on again/off again feud with Piper and Orton, while Orndorff would turn face again for a time due to the hit he took. Hogan and Piper would fight again at The Wrestling Classic, and Piper and Mr. T would fight at the next Wrestlemania.
- Mean Gene interviews the faces in the back after the match. Mr. T says wrestling is not for wimps, but he made it. Hogan says he knew what was inside Mr. T and praises Snuka for his involvement. The three reigned supreme, can you dig that? Snuka calls Hulk his big brother, and is happy they got the victory. Hogan says they're all going to be around for a long, long time. Well, he was right about himself, that's for sure.
- Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura close things out, thanking everyone for coming.
Final Thoughts: I saw this event when I was a lot younger, so maybe I was expecting more (seeing through the eyes of a kid). Wrestling's changed a lot since the first Wrestlemania, that's for sure. But as dry as some matches felt to me, it wasn't that bad an event. The crowd made two matches really stand out: Hogan/Mr. T and Andre. You can almost get away with skipping the rest of the matches and just watch those two, just so you can say you've seen them. After all, they're very significant, as without them, we might not have the powerhouse WWE today.