THIS RETRO BUSINESS: WWF WrestleMania (aka ‘WrestleMania I’) – March 31, 1985

Yep. We already did this one. But we’re doing it again because I’m reviewing the WWE Network PPV’s in order of release date. Besides, it will be fun to revisit this stuff. If you want to read the old one (meaning the one you read a few weeks back), it’s below my new one.

So, the one thing I’ve noticed was that NWA was more no-nonsense with comic exaggeration wearing a straight face. The WWF, in contrast, was a bit more cartoony with their guys. In any case, it was two different brands facing off.

Crockett Promotions had created Starrcade two years earlier. Wrestlemania was the answer to Crockett.

We start off with a weird video montage which I can only assume was meant to entertain those waiting for the show to start. It’s like watching somebody’s screensaver.

Mean Gene welcomes us to Wrestlemania, LIVE from Madison Square Garden in New York!

Gene is the one singing the National Anthem tonight…and…ok. That’ll do. Not the greatest but not the worst. The crowd gets behind him. Everyone’s in good spirits and Gene even has them sing with him.

Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura are your guys on the mic.

Lord Alfred Hayes is backstage and he talks about Tito Santana taking on The Executioner and then transfers things to Mean Gene who is backstage with Tito.

Tito says he’s gonna beat The Executioner. The Executioner (who looks less like an executioner and more like the dude who boosted your Yamaha receiver back in the 80’s) cuts a clumsy promo, proclaiming that he wants Tito’s “leg” and he will be “going after it”.

MATCH #1: The Executioner vs. Tito Santana
There’s a “nice criss-cross” run to start this thing. Those aren’t my words. Monsoon is overly impressed. Tito hits a back drop and Executioner goes flying from the ring. Santana puts Executioner in a headlock and Executioner breaks out after about a minute. Tito, however, punches at him and rams his head into the mat. Executioner and Tito reset a bit and Executioner ends up hitting a knee to Tito’s gut. Executioner tries to go for Tito’s leg(!) and can’t get the Figure Four wrapped. He gets another leg lock but Tito gets out and whips Executioner into the ropes, trying for a piledriver but Executioner hits a back drop and body slam. Executioner hits the top rope but Tito press slams him off. He tries for a splash but Executioner puts his knees up to block it. Executioner tries to beat on Tito again but Tito dumps him outside and OUCH. There’s no room out there. This was before people fought outside so the surrounding area is filled with people, tables and chairs. Executioner actually lands perfectly on a folding chair and then gets back in the ring where Tito hits the Flying Forearm and the Figure Four for the win at 4:49.
WINNER: Tito Santana via Figure Four
GRADE: C+. Nothing terribly wrong with this one though it was pretty much the Tito Show the entire time and a bit short.

  • The Executioner was “Playboy” Buddy Rose whose gimmick (in the WWF) was being fat — something Vince McMahon, evidently, thought was hilarious. In reality, Rose was an accomplished wrestler having made the careers of wrestlers such as “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. When he came to the WWF, he ended up wrestling for the next five years as a Jobber to the Stars before retiring in 1990. He would go on to host a local call-in talk show called “Live at Noon”, in the mid-90’s, out of Portland, Oregon. In 2005, he would wrestle “one last match” at the independent “WrestleReunion” alongside his friends and colleagues, Bob Orton, Jr. and Colonel DeBeers against his friends, Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Jimmy Valiant. In 2009, he was found dead in his home by his wife. He died of natural causes but was morbidly obese by that time and had issues with blood sugar and diabetes. Rose was just 56 years old.

Post-match, we get a replay.

Lord Alfred Hayes says King Kong Bundy is next up against SD Jones.

Gene has interviews with Jones and Bundy.

MATCH #2: King Kong Bundy (w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart) vs. “Special Delivery” Jones
Jones jumps at Bundy and tries a Bear Hug but Bundy tosses him into the corner and hits The Avalanche. We’re done at 24 seconds, though Howard Finkel claims it’s “nine seconds”.
WINNER: Bundy via Avalanche
GRADE: F, of course. But this is famous because reasons.

  • Jones was mainly a Jobber to the Stars until he quit wrestling in 1990. He inducted his colleague, Tony Atlas, into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. He worked for the tabloid, “The New York Daily News” until 2008 when he died from complications following a stroke. Jones was 63 years old.

Gene’s backstage and his “guest at this time” is Matt Borne. He says Ricky’s a nice guy but he’ll beat Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat says he’s gonna get mean because he’s in the WWF.

MATCH #3: Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat
Steamboat hits a nice chop and snap mare and it’s on. Steamboat with a headlock. Borne counters with a side suplex but Ricky counters, landing on his feet, hitting an Atomic Drop and it’s back to a headlock. Borne comes back with some chops and tosses Ricky into the corner but Ricky comes back with a chop off the ropes after head scissors. Another long headlock and we have our first “BORING” chant at around 21:30. Borne hits a Gut Wrench Suplex and gets two because “he didn’t cinch the leg”, according to Ventura. Steamboat hits a side suplex and swinging neckbreaker and then drops some knees to Borne’s chest. Borne goes for a clothesline but misses and Steamboat hits a forearm and Dragon Splash and we’re done at 4:38.
WINNER: Ricky Steamboat via Dragon Splash
GRADE: C+. Steamboat had better matches than this as did Borne.

  • Matt Borne wrestled with WCCW and USWA for the next few years before turning up again in WCW, in 1991, as “Big Josh”. He is a second-generation wrestler and is the son of “Tough” Tony Borne.

Replays follow and then Hayes is backstage to talk about the next match-up so, of course, we have Gene backstage with David Sammartino along with his dad, Bruno. Johnny Valiant yells. Then Brutus spits or something.

MATCH #4: Brutus Beefcake (w/ “Luscious” Johnny Valiant) vs. David Sammartino (w/ Bruno Sammartino)
Monsoon calls Brutus, “Bruti”. There’s some strutting by Brutus and some initial offense by David and then Brutus is out of the ring to relax. This is so awesome. Brutus is back in the ring and David hits a nice takedown and leg lock but has to let go as Brutus gets to the ropes. Another lock-up and David puts an arm lock on. He hits a knee to the arm and lets go…then consults with his Dad and HOLY CRAP GET ON WITH IT. Beefcake hits a side headlock but Sammartino gets out of it, tossing Beefcake into the ropes. Brutus hits a shoulderblock and more running around, culminating in takedowns and reversals and ending up with Sammartino tripping Brutus and hitting a toe hold. He goes for a leg lock but Brutus gets out and unloads a back drop off a running attack. Brutus follows with a slam and kicks at David. He puts David in the corner and hits an elbow, then a whip into the opposite corner and David looks hurt. Brutus beats on him repeatedly and methodically. He tries another corner toss but David reverses and hits a back drop. Both men exchange punches and Sammartino gets the upper hand with some jabs and a knee to the stomach. Sammartino hits a suplex and gets two. Brutus tosses David out of the ring. Valiant attacks him so Bruno comes running over and it’s a fight. All four men brawl in the ring and we’re done around 12 minutes later.
WINNER: No contest
GRADE: C+. Slow match that picked up slightly at the end but no real intensity.

Post-match, the Sammartinos clear the ring. Brutus and Valiant point at them as they head back to the dressing room. 

  • David had a strained relationship with his father, Bruno (due to David’s steroid use) despite what you saw here. David left the WWF a couple of months later, only to come back here and there. He was, eventually, finally fired by the WWF in 1986 for punching a fan. He wrestled, independently, for the next few years until turning up in WCW in 1996 for a match against Dean Malenko on WCW Nitro. He has, since, been semi-retired and wrestles matches every few years.

Ventura and Monsoon talk about what they’ve seen so far.

Hayes says the IC Title Match is up next.

Gene does his pre-match interviews.

MATCH #5: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (champion) (w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart) vs. The Junkyard Dog (challenger) for the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship
I love the IC Title. I just don’t get it. Just like the “Heavyweight” championship, it’s representative of each continent…so all I can guess is that they had to have more than one title because one title was boring. The belt here is ugly as hell. Glad it changed. Dog and Valentine finally square off which JYD getting a nice right hand on Valentine. Valentine hits a Hammer Elbow on JYD who comes back and knocks him to the mat, going for the JYD headbutts while crawling around at Valentine. After back off a bit, Valentine and JYD go into a test of strength. JYD is put to the mat and Valentine starts beating on JYD’s knee and then tries to go for the Figure Four. JYD kicks him off and backs into a corner. Valentine comes in with a series of punches but JYD comes back with his own and then hits a HUGE headbutt. Valentine falls to the mat. Hart climbs up to distract the ref and JYD grabs Hart. Valentine tries to club JYD from behind but hits Hart instead and it’s all JYD with several punches. Valentine reaches down, grabs JYD’s legs and then pins him with his feet on the ropes. Post-match, Tito Santana comes to the ring and, somehow, convinces the ref that Valentine cheated, so the ref reverses the decision and tells Valentine the match is still going. Valentine blows him off and gets counted out at 7:06.

WINNER: Junkyard Dog via countout (Valentine still champion because it was a countout)
GRADE: D+. This took off near the end, ended terrible, and then just got worse. What a way to have JYD win the match but not the title. And, what’s worse — TWICE. What was the point of re-starting the match if he wasn’t gonna win the thing anyhow?

Valentine looks upset and wants back in but Hart drags him to the dressing room.

Hayes introduces the next match for the Tag Titles.

Gene interviews both teams. It’s always fun to hear Sheik say, “Gene Mean”.

MATCH #6: Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (challengers) (w/ “Classy” Freddie Blassie) vs. The U.S. Express (Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham) (champions) (w/ Captain Lou Albano) for the WWF Tag Team Championship
The Volkoffs sing the Soviet National Anthem which makes people throw shit in the ring. Then Sheik spits at “USA” in case the heels didn’t already draw enough heat. Sheik starts with Rotundo. Sheik gets early offense but Rotundo nails him with a hip toss and drop kick. Tag to Windham who hits a legdrop to Sheik’s stomach. The two lock up and Sheik tries a double team dropkick but misses and Sheik hits Volkoff instead. Sheik apologizes and then manages to tag in Volkoff as Windham just stands there and does nothing. Volkoff tagged in and Rotundo and Windham tag in and out hitting multiple arm locks. Finally Volkoff manages to get out and tags in Sheik who slams Rotundo and then a Gut Wrench for two. Sheik goes for a suplex but Rotundo reverses it. Sheik rolls over to his corner and tags Volkoff who picks Rotundo up and drops his neck on the ropes. They lock up and Rotundo hits a Hammer Lock. Rotundo whips Volkoff to the ropes and hits a Sunset Flip for one. Volkoff stomps at Rotundo and tags in Sheik who puts Rotundo into an Abdominal Stretch but Rotundo manages to hip toss Sheik. He tags Windham. Volkoff in as well as Windham hits The Bulldog and gets a pin but Sheik in to make the save. Windham continues to beat Volkoff as Rotundo yells at the ref for some reason. Sheik nails Rotundo with the cane and Volkoff gets the pin.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: Nikolai Volkoff & Iron Sheik via cheating

Post-match, Iron Sheik grabs the MSG Ceiling Mic of Doom and yells stuff into it. The crowd is so happy, they can’t stop booing.

  • Windham wrestled for the WWF for about six more months before appearing in the NWA’s Florida leagues in ’86. His full-time return to the NWA was later the same year.
  • Rotundo wrestled with the WWF for the next couple of years and re-joined the NWA in 1987. 

Backstage, Mean Gene is shocked (SHOCKED!) at the results of the match. Blassie can’t believe Gene is mad about the match and claims there was no cane in his hand during the match. Iron Sheik says something about Russia and Arabs being the best.

Monsoon and Ventura talk things over and it’s back to Hayes who introduces Andre vs. Big John Studd.

Gene is backstage with Big John Studd and Bobby Heenan. Studd has a bag with “$15,000” dollars in it. Heenan says they’re not gonna see Andre anymore after this match because Andre will never be able to slam Studd.

MATCH #7: Big John Studd (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) vs. Andre the Giant in a $15,000 Dollar Slam Match (Andre retires if he loses)
Studd taunts Andre with the money and then attacks him in the corner. Andre comes chopping back in return. Studd bails out of the ring to rest and then gets back in only to find himself being choked by Andre. Ref’s so afraid to count it, Andre doesn’t break it. He squashes Studd in the corner until Studd comes back with a body slam attempt but he can’t get Andre off his feet. Andre puts Studd in a bear hug as the crowd chants “SLAM!” over and over. Studd tries, repeatedly, to break free but the bear hug just does not stop. Finally, Studd breaks free and Andre hits a Sleeper. Andre lets go and starts clubbing Studd instead, then slings him into the ropes for a back drop. Studd goes for a kick and Andre catches him and then clubs him in the face and kicks him in the legs. Andre continues his attack in the corner and then slams Studd for the win.
WINNER: Andre the Giant
GRADE: D+. This was just Battle of the Bigs but no skill on either side.

Post-match, Andre grabs the bag with the money and starts tossing it all over the place. Heenan runs in, grabs the money and runs with it.

Backstage, Gene has Andre. Andre says he doesn’t care about money. He did this show the fans that Studd could be slammed and beaten. Gene cuts him off. RESPECT.

Hayes is backstage and Leilani Kai and Moolah walk by and kiss him.

Gene interviews Cindy Lauper and Wendi Richter and then Moolah and Kai.

MATCH #8: Leilani Kai (champion) (w/ The Fabulous Moolah) vs. Wendi Richter (challenger) (w/ Cyndi Lauper) for the WWF Women’s Championship
The two women lock up and Richter hits a drop kick and arm drag. She moves into a Hammer Lock as Ventura claims that Richter can lift 200 pounds. Kai finally comes back, whipping Richter to the mat by her hair. Kai lifts her up and starts pounding on her, slamming her head into the buckle. Snap mare puts Richter on the mat but Richter hits Body Scissors on Kai. Kai lifts Richter off the mat and the two roll around with Richter getting a two count. Kai takes over again, pulling on Richter’s hair. Richter is tossed into the corner and Kai charges but Richter knees her in the face. Richter is pulled, by the hair, by Moolah and Lauper confronts her. Kai hits a boot on Richter back in the ring but Richter starts punching back and then hits Dump Slam and Splash and nearly gets a pin. Kai gets put in the corner but Richter misses and hits the buckle. Kai hits a backbreaker and NEARLY gets a pin. Kai hits a body slam and goes to the top rope and hits a Cross Body Splash but Richter turns Kai over when she lands and gets the pin!
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: Wendy Richter via pinfall
GRADE: B-. Not a bad match at all.

Richter and Lauper celebrate and the crowd loves it.

  • Lauper, of course, was a musician before this and has a great career in music with several albums and awards to show for it. IMO, she’s one of the only people missing from “The Celebrity Wing” of the the WWE Hall of Fame that truly deserves the honor of being there.
  • Richter left the WWF in November of the same year. As the story goes, she was booked to defend the title against a newcomer called “The Spider Lady”. Richter was pinned for a three-count DESPITE kicking out at one. After the match, Richter attacked the newcomer and unmasked her, revealing the newcomer to be The Fabulous Moolah. When Richter demanded an explanation for why she was screwed over, she was told that it was punishment for not signing a new contract with Vince McMahon. Richter’s counter argument (that she had already signed a five-year deal with the WWF) fell upon deaf ears. She quit the WWF and wrestled independently until 2005 when she finally retired. In 2010, Richter was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Roddy Piper. Despite her anger with McMahon, she had appeared to have buried the hatchet and is under a “Legends” contract with the company.

Gene interviews the winning ladies backstage and nothing but good feeling. Lauper mispronounces “Leilani Kai”, calling her “Lanny Fy” and Richter, to her credit, corrects her.

Howard Finkel introduces former New York Yankees manager, Billy Martin to the crowd as the Special Guest Ring Announcer.

Martin introduces Liberace and The Rockettes who do their kicks inside the ring. Incredible. This is one of my favorite “celebrity-at-Wrestlemania” moments.

Muhammad Ali is introduced as a referee outside the ring. The crowd chants his name and I’ve got goosebumps.

Jose Torres is also a guest referee.

Martin introduces the competitors: Roddy and Orndorff with Orton out first. Hogan, Mr. T and Snuka out next. Roddy is out with a troop of Scottish bagpipes and drums.

And it’s match time.

MATCH #9: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper & “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (w/ “Cowboy” Bob Orton) vs. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/ “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka)
The refs ask Liberace to ring the bell…and he does with a bell made of small crystal. Love it. Hogan and Orndorff start but Hogan wants Piper. So Orndorff tags him in. Hogan and Piper circle…but Mr. T wants to face Piper…so Hogan tags in T and the crowd is roaring. Piper and T go nose to nose as the crowd chants for T. The two exchange slaps until Piper grabs T and puts him to the mat, Greco Roman style. T busts out, however, and there’s another stare down. Piper tries to grab T again. Mr T. hits a Fallaway Slam and it’s a Pier 6 Brawl. Orton and Ali come into the ring and then Snuka hits the top rope. Ali hits Piper! The heels are outside the ring and decide to go to the back to re-group. So, the ref starts counting and Piper and Orndorff come running back. Hogan clotheslines Piper in the corner after a huge brawl and then chokes Piper on the mat when the ref’s back is turned. T gets tagged and they clothesline Piper. T hip tosses Piper and Orndorff, then tags Hogan back in who trades punches with Piper. He knocks Piper out of the ring and chases but Orndorff attacks Hogan from behind and he falls outside with Piper. Piper grabs a chair and whacks him and then tosses him back in the ring. Orndorff attacks Hogan with the ref’s back turned so Mr. T flies in there and it’s chaos AGAIN as Ali steps in the ring after Referee Pat Patterson can’t get T out. Finally, order is restored and Orndorff hits a suplex on Hogan and tags in Piper. Piper punches on Hogan and nearly gets a fall. Orndorff hits the top rope and leaps and tries a flying knee but Hogan moves and tags in Mr. T. T gouges both Orndorff and Piper. The two men end up double-teaming T before Piper leaves the ring. Orndorff is all over him, weighing him down so he can’t tag Hogan. Orndorff tags in Piper who hits a Front Facelock. Mr. T gets out and tags in Hogan who beats on the heels and then headbutts both of him. Piper leaves the ring and Orndorff hits a Side Suplex. Orton enters the ring but so does Snuka who knocks him out of the ring and it’s chaos again as Piper and T go at it in the corner. Orton climbs the ropes as Orndorff holds Hogan for the Cast Chop…but Hogan moves and Orton whacks Orndorff instead! Hogan covers for the pin. Orton tries to break it but Snuka nails Orton before he can make contact! It’s over!
WINNER: Hulk Hogan and Mr. T via pinfall
GRADE: I’ll go for A- here. There’s so much to love about this match. The crowd was electric the entire time, the wrestlers involved never looked better. It isn’t pretty but I loved the anarchistic style of things here. The “main events” got bigger from here, of course, but this was a great start.

Piper leaves the ring with Orton, ditching Orndorff completely. Hogan and Mr. T try to help Orndorff up and they do but Orndorff snaps at them until he figures out he’s outnumbered and leaves while the Faces celebrate.

Gene is backstage with Hogan, Mr. T, and Snuka and they’re hyped because of the win.

Monsoon and Ventura close us out.

OVERALL: I will say B- for the event. Humble beginnings are always interesting to me. Even being the first one, this Wrestlemania had some incredible moments.

That’s it!

If you want to view the first review I ever wrote for Wrestlemania, you can do so below.

— Matt

It’s nearly April 1st and Wrestlemania 28 is right around the corner!

So, what I thought I would do is go through one Wrestlemania a day leading up to big day. This will hit the blog every single day except for Saturdays and Sundays except for the last entry. The last Wrestlemania will be recapped the day before on Saturday, March 31st.

And, now…on with the show!

Let’s time travel back to the early 1980’s.

Back then, the WWE was known as “WWF”, or “The World Wrestling Federation”. One thing hadn’t changed – founder Vince McMahon was in competition with somebody.

This somebody being “Jim Crockett Promotions” out of North Carolina. Crockett’s organization, if you remember, was NWA and, after that, WCW, which McMahon would, eventually, go on to purchase and own.

Before that, however, WWF was just getting its national legs. McMahon had pushed his organization nationwide while Ted Turner was using Crockett’s company to bring in late night ad viewers for WTBS in Atlanta. Turner, with money to back Crockett, asked him he could change the name of NWA’s “Georgia Championship Wrestling” to “World Championship Wrestling”. Crockett agreed on the name change (which would not occur until a few years later) but the business continued to thrive. It moved out of a tiny television studio and began shooting in arenas that would hold thousands of people instead of hundreds.

Crockett, however, had another problem – on top of being national competition, the WWF was also acquiring their top wrestlers and performers. So, in response, Crockett had to go one higher than McMahon – he created an event that would air on paid cable called, “Starrcade”, which would feature the best talent GCW had to offer on a gigantic card of wrestling matches.

Starrcade was a success and popularized big events on closed-circuit television.

McMahon, looking to answer back, met with his board and created an event called, “Wrestlemania”. Leading up to it, McMahon began a partnership with MTV and started a storyline-feud between popular music superstar Cyndi Lauper and the WWF’s Captain Lou Albano. As the story went, Cyndi Lauper was annoyed with the content of sexism portrayed in the video against her. The two decided to settle it in a ring. They created two specials with MTV – “The Brawl to End It All” and “The War to Settle the Score”.

McMahon also enlisted the help of two other celebrities: Liberace and the great Muhammad Ali. Along with Lauper, the two celebs were in the build-up to AND in the eventual event.

Aside from the celebs attracting attention, WWF’s extremely popular wrestling phenom and face of the franchise, Hulk Hogan, was scheduled to wrestle a huge match on the card with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Piper, however, enlisted the help of his friend, Paul Orndorff and Hogan, in return, tagged up with Mr. T.

The event was held at Madison Square Garden in front of 19,000-plus fans…

And, thus, begins our recap…

The event is LIVE from Madison Square Garden.

It’s good to hear the voice of the late Gorilla Monsoon. He always made things so welcoming when I started watching this stuff as a kid. He’s with Jesse “The Body” Ventura. They go to ring announcer, “Howard Finkel”.

The mic being pulled down from the ceiling is classic. A little different than the wireless hang mics.

Surprisingly, “Mean” Gene Okerlund is leading the crowd in the National Anthem…Okerlund isn’t terrible but has no real range. Good job, though, and he gets the crowd into it.

Ventura says that Okerlund “rates right up there with Robert Goulet”. Heh.

“Lord” Alfred Hayes says that the first match is going to be between the great Tito Santana and The Executioner.

Backstage, Tito tells Mean Gene that he respects The Executioner a great deal but he’ll beat him anyhow. The Executioner says he’s gonna take out Tito Santana’s injured leg.
(The Executioner is the late “Playboy” Buddy Rose…I forget about him. He wasn’t very good behind the mic but he was a pretty fun guy in the biz.)

MATCH #1: The Executioner vs. Tito Santana
No music or entrances. The bell sounds like a gigantic Salvation Army bell at Christmas time. This was pretty low-key stuff back in the day. Both contestants start in a clutch. Headlock on Tito. Now the two of them “criss-cross”. You never see that anymore. It’s generally two wrestlers running back and forth between the ropes in opposite directions. Pretty amusing in the fact that it’s utterly pointless. Tito with a HUGE Irish Whip. Executioner out of the ring and then back in. Lock-up again and Tito with a headlock. Tito uses the turnbuckle and keeps the headlock, flattening Ex on his back for a two-count. Ex elbows out but Tito keeps up the attack, eventually banging Ex’s head against the mat. The ref breaks Tito from attacking him in the corner and the two face off again. Kick by Ex and a headslam in the corner. Ex tosses Tito in the ropes and a knee in the stomach by Executioner. He knocks Tito down and hits him in the crotch while he’s down. Ex goes for an inverted Figure Four but Tito gets out and gets a two-count on a reversal. Ex is in the corner and begs off and Tito starts stomping and punching. An Irish Whip into the corner. Tito goes for a piledriver but Ex reverses and tosses Tito over his head. Body slam by Executioner and he’s going to the top turnbuckle. Santana gets up and throws him to the mat. Tito goes off the ropes for a body splash but Ex puts up his knees and gets Tito in the stomach. He drags Tito to the ropes and places the injured leg on them. He stomps Tito’s leg but Tito kicks him out of the ring. Tito brings him back in the ring and hits the Flying Forearm! He doesn’t go for the pin, however…he hits the Figure Four instead and gets a submission.
WINNER: Tito Santana

It’s funny, looking at this now. There is absolutely NO room outside the ring. You’ve got MAYBE three feet between the ring and the fan barriers, which are slotted steel grates and NOT the big barriers you see nowadays. It’s funny to go back and look at the history of this and see how far things have gotten. I wonder if Vince ever thought his organization would look like it would all these years later…

Lord Alfred Hayes says the next match is going to be King Kong Bundy w/ the great Mouth of the South, Jimmy Hart against Special Delivery Jones! This is great stuff.

Backstage, the bragging between the two goes on. Bundy would fit into things these days, I think. 🙂

MATCH #2: King Kong Bundy (w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart) vs. “Special Delivery” Jones
Once again, the two stand in the ring as Howard Finkel announces both wrestlers. The bell rings. Bundy is frightening. He bear hugs Jones as he tried to knock down Bundy. Then he tosses Jones like a rag doll, into the corner. Then he follows up with a HUGE Avalanche in the corner, then a HUGE body splash. Forget it. 1, 2, 3.
WINNER: King Kong Bundy
GRADE: F. Though notable for being a WWE record.

This, by the way, was a 9-second match. That’s a “WWF Record”. Heh. I wonder if they still kept track of that stuff.

Backstage, Gene is with Matt Borne. Borne (Matt Osborne), if you remember, went on to become one of the stranger WWE characters of all-time: Doink the Clown. I remember when Doink first appeared. I really thought he was gonna be an easy guy to beat but his skills were great and his character’s trickery was GREAT…we’ll get back to Doink, don’t worry. 🙂 Borne says that Steamboat is there to beat the great Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat has NOT aged well these days but he looks GREAT here.

Body and Gorilla talk about Borne and Steamboat’s match.

MATCH #3: Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat
There’s no real flow to things in the inaugural WM. It’s just announce the match, go, announce the match, go. Dry, compared to the storylines that we see now. The two face off with a “20 minute time limit”. Remember those? The ref checks Borne’s tights. He’s got nothing. The two circle then lock up. Steamboat puts Borne into the ropes and does two nice leap frogs, then a nice knife chop. Then hits a snap mare and a chin lock into a head lock. Borne tries for a backdrop but Steamboat just flips over Borne’s shoulders and puts Borne right back into a headlock. Steamboat continues this and Borne tries an Atomic Drop but Steamboat, again, flips over Borne’s shoulders. Steamboat reverses and picks Borne up, hitting an extended Atomic Drop. Steamboat mocks Borne in pain then goes for another headlock. This time, Borne picks him up in a bearhug and drops him on a knee. Steamboat down. Borne takes over with kicks and punches, then nails Steamboat in the corner. Then tosses Ricky into the other one. Borne approaches Steamboat but Steamboat leaps up and wraps his legs around Borne’s head, tossing him to the mat. Borne gets up and Ricky hits a chop. I’m used to people doing a Ric Flair-style “wooo”, but we’re not there yet. Steamboat goes for another headlock, then goes for a front headlock. Borne pushes Ricky into the corner and the ref breaks them up. Borne knees Ricky in the corner, then hits a gut-wrench suplex. Borne hooks him for a snap suplex and gets a 1-count on the pin. The two trade punches and chops. Gorilla keeps calling them “karate shots”. Gotta love the non-PC world. 🙂 Down goes Borne. Steamboat picks him up and hits a back suplex. He grabs Borne and hits a reverse neckbreaker. Steamboat goes into the corner and hits an elbow drop, then a knee in the sternum. Two-count. Borne gets up and pokes Ricky’s eyes. Borne misses the clothesline and Ricky hits a hand to the face. Up to the top of the ropes goes Steamboat and he hits the cross-body block for the pin!
WINNER: Ricky Steamboat
GRADE: B+. Steamboat just rules.

The first good match of the event. Well-wrestled.

Backstage, Hayes says the next bout is going to be Brutus Beefcake vs. David Sammartino.

Gene interviews Sammartino backstage.

MATCH #4: Brutus Beefcake (w/ Luscious John Valiant) vs. David Sammartino (w/ Bruno Sammartino)
Bruce comes out with his son and gets a HUGE pop upon his introduction. The two posture for the crowd. Beefcake, to me, always looked like a gay Chippendale to me. Still does here. Gorilla talks about the tension in the crowd. Body wonders what the main event will be like. Johnny is still removing Beefcake’s entrance gear. Sammartino paces, waiting. Finally, the two lock up. Sammartino into the corner, by Beefcake. Beefcake looks great here. Sammartino goes for a lock-up but Beefcake walks away, strutting like Ric Flair. Sammartino tosses Beefcake into the corner and rushes at David who tosses him down. Beefcake backs out and gets up. The two lock up and Sammartino gets behind Beefcake. Beefcake reverses and takes Sammartino down. Beefcake exits the ring. He gets back in with Valiant comforting him. Sammartino locks up and goes for an arm lock, then takes down Beefcake with a front facelock. Body says the fans are getting a “good view of the Beefcake” as he’s on all fours. Gorilla laughs. Beefcake gets to the ropes and the ref breaks the hold. David goes for Beefcake’s arm again but he reverses and hits a HUGE body slam but Sammartino reverses into an armlock! What a move! Then a knee drop! Good action so far. Sammartino runs around the ring then locks up again. Brutus hits a headlock and snapmares him down to the mat. Sammartino kicks but to no avail. Sammartino gets to his knees, then to his feet. He tosses Brutus to the ropes and he hits a shoulderblock. Into the ropes again, Brutus takes Sammartino down with a hip toss. Brutus and David run at each other but Sammartino takes him down and goes for a leg lock and a double toehold. Brutus is doing a terrible job selling this if this is supposed to “hurt”. There’s no reaction until Sammartino puts pressure on him. Sammartino gets kicked off of Brutus but Sammartino gets RIGHT back into the leg lock. Now Sammartino attempts two Figure Fours but Brutus kicks out. Sammartino goes for ANOTHER leg lock. As vintage as this is, these matches are terribly booked, move-wise. A lot of time is wasted with holds and locks. Brutus tags Sammartino in the eyes and goes after him. He tosses David into the ropes and hits a huge back drop. Brutus follows up with forearm drops, then a huge body slam. He runs and kicks David in the face. Brutus kicks David while he’s down. Then he beats on Sammartino’s lower back. Sammartino in the corner, Brutus hits an elbow to the jaw, then tosses Sammartino HARD into the turnbuckle. He goes down. Brutus follows up with more elbows then a knee to the gut and a punch to the head. He hits a couple forearms to the head and keeps attacking David. David reverses a corner throw and hits a HUGE back body drop! Brutus gets up first and hits Sammartino. The two trade punches until Sammartino hits a HUGE uppercut. Sammartino hits some knees off the ropes then goes for a suplex and hits it! Two-count! Brutus hits a head to the stomach and tosses him outside. Outside, Valiant body slams him but Bruno takes over and beats up Valiant! The two spill into the ring and Brutus and Valiant attempt to gang up on him. David makes the save and the ref rings the bell. It’s going to be a “double disqualification”. Interesting, since Valiant attacked first, but that’s wrestling! 🙂
WINNER: None. Double DQ.
GRADE: C-. This match was insanely slow.

I love how Gorilla says that Brutus “Pearl Harbored” Bruno…more of that non-PC commentary.

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the next match, then goes back to Gene again.

Gene interviews Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and then Junkyard Dog.

MATCH #5: WWF Intercontinental Championship – Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (Champion w/ “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart) vs. The Junkyard Dog
WHOA! Junkyard Dog has an entrance WITH music! He comes into the ring with chains around his body, taunting the champ. Crowd sounds into this one. The two put up their dukes but don’t do anything. Then they run around each other again. The two finally lock up and Dog gets the armlock. He hits a punch. Then a headbutt. Hammer tosses him into the ropes and goes for a kick but Dog catches him and knocks him down. Body says it was a punch but Gorilla says he couldn’t tell. Heh. The two lock up and Hammer knees Dog in the stomach. He tries for a forearm but misses and Dog barks at him. The two wait then go for a test of strength. Hammer gets the upper hand and then gets a wrist lock. Dog tries to power out but Hammer hits a forearm to the face, then an arm to the neck, knocking him down. He hits a Hammer elbow-drop to the leg and goes to work on the knee. He’s going for a half Boston Crab but Dog resists. Hamme then drops back, putting pressure on Dog’s knee. Hammer boots him while he’s down then hits the knee to the groin. He tries for the Figure Four but Dog kicks him off. Dog to his feet and Hammer right on him. The two trade punches in the corner but Hammer gets a slight upper hand. But Dog counters with some nice punches and a headbutt! Dog with a HUGE headbutt. Valentine goes down! I swear…Hammer was HEAVILY influence by Ric Flair. He even falls down like Flair did. Hart is on the apron, distracting the ref and Dog turns his attention to him. Hammer goes after Dog but hits Hart instead. Dog goes after Hammer but Hammer reverses a move and hits a cheap pin with his feet on the ropes!
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
GRADE: C-. These matches are pretty stock.

Post-match, Tito Santana comes running out and tells the ref that Valentine used the ropes. The ref buys it and restarts the match but Hart won’t let Valentine back in the ring, physically restraining him. The ref counts out Valentine!

WINNER: Junkyard Dog via count-out
GRADE: And now it’s a D-. What was the point of a re-start?

As it’s a count-out, the title cannot change hangs. Really, a decent match but slow and nothing special. Dog is just not on par with Valentine, skill-wise.

Hayes announces the next title match for the WWF Tag Team Championship. You can hear the heat the Soviet team is getting as they enter the ring.

Gene interviews Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff backstage. Captain Lou Albano gets interviewed after that. I never got Albano with all that giant booger-thing hanging off his face.

MATCH #6: WWF Tag Team Championship – Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Classy Freddie Blassie) vs. The U.S. Express (w/ Captain Lou Albano) (Champs)
Before the match, Volkoff sings the Russian National Anthem much to the dismay of the crowd. Major heat for this plus balls of paper being thrown at them in the ring. You couldn’t get away with that now. Albano leads Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham down to the ring with music. It looks like it’s going to be Sheik first vs. Rotundo. Sheik mocks the crowd and the two lock up. Sheik has Rotundo in a headlock and then hits a shoulderblock. Rotundo comes back with a hip toss and a body slam. He gets in the wrong corner and gets hit by Windham. Headlock by Rotundo and a quick two-count. Tag to Windham who goes off the top rope with a forearm. He drops a boot in the abdomen. Headlock to Sheik who puts Windham in their corner. Windham tosses Sheik into the ropes and Sheik misses Windham on the comeback dropkick, hitting his own partner. Crowd likes that. Sheik apologizes to Volkoff then tags him in. The two lock up and a headlock by Windham. He tags in Rotundo who hits a shoulderblock then an arm lock. Tag to Windham and an armlock. Another tag and Rotundo comes in, hitting the shoulder of Volkoff but he breaks out and sends Rotundo’s head into the boot of Sheik. Sheik whips Rotundo into the ropes and a HUGE body drop. Elbow drop and a two-count by Sheik. Gut wrench Suplex and a two-count again. He goes for a suplex but it’s blocked twice by Rotundo and reversed! Tag to Volkoff who stomps away then goes for a snake eyes-like drop on the ropes. Rotundo goes for a lock but Volkoff just busts out and works on Rotundo. He goes for a running body drop but Rotundo gets a Sunset Flip for two! Volkoff tosses Rotundo and hits a knee, stomping him when he goes down. Volkoff tags Sheik and Sheik boots Rotundo in the stomach. Outside, Blassie and Albano face off. Inside, Sheik has an Abdominal Stretch but Rotundo gets out of it and hits the tag for Windham! Windham gets the hot tag and drops Volkoff with a drop kick and series of punches. Into the corner and he hits a big Bulldog but gets a two count from the save by Sheik. All hell breaks loose as Rotundo makes a save. But, as the ref is distracted, Blassie hands his cane to Sheik who levels Windham with it. Volkoff gets the pin!
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: Nickolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik
GRADE: B-. This was heel heat at its best.

The crowd doesn’t like it at all and paper is being tossed at them. Sheik gets on the mic and repremands the crowd about something. He’s one of the greatest heels there ever was. The two leave the ring with the belts.

Post-match, Gene interviews the new champs who whoop it up. Blassie: “What cane? I didn’t have no cane!” Love it.

I think, from here on out, I’m not really gonna go move-for-move here. Too much to recap. Instead, I’m gonna just do some here-and-there commentary.

Alfred introduces a Body Slam Match. Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant.

Backstage, Mean Gene interviews Big John Studd with Bobby Heenan. It’s VERY nice to see Heenan in healthy shape in this video as opposed to how he looks now. I am very glad that Heenan is still alive and kicking.

MATCH #7: Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant ($15000 Dollar Slam Match)
Amusingly, Ventura had a small snafu and says that he’s been to the Super Bowl and seen some “lousy NBA Championships”, then he says that this is NOT, um, I mean IS one of the greatest spectacles that they are witnessing. You had it right the first time, Body. Out in the ring, Finkel says that this is the $15,000 Dollar Slam Match. The stipulations are these: one fall will win the contest. If Studd is slammed, Andre wins $15,000 bucks. If he can’t do it, Andre will retire from wrestling. The money, for accuracy sake, is in a duffel bag with the WWF logo. Look at that old-school merch! 😀 Andre the Giant comes walking out to the ring. All he has are wrestling trunks. He’s a “face” here. No heel work. That wouldn’t come until Heenan gets to him. Heenan is wearing a black-sequin jacket with black slacks here. I don’t think we see that anymore except on the women managers. In the match, Studd gets an early advantage but the two trade punches. Both men are so tall, they can step over the top rope. The only bad thing about matches like this is that they have an almost glacial pace. The hits are large and the drops are more devastating, but it just moves slow. Half the match is spent with Andre bear-hugging Studd. Studd tries to slam the Giant but it doesn’t work. Giant Irish Whips Studd and Studd tries to kick Giant. Giant stops him and hits him. There’s no style here. Giant slams Studd after working him over in the corner. This gets a HUGE pop from the crowd. Giant gets the money and actually starts throwing the money around but Heenan grabs the money and runs away with it, chasing him and Studd out of the ring.
WINNER: Andre the Giant
GRADE: D+. Cute attempt at a gimmick match.

Backstage, Gene interviews Giant. Giant says he has no idea where the money is but he doesn’t care. He just showed the world he could beat Studd. Giant says he’s not close to retiring.

Our next match, according to Hayes, is Wendy Richter vs. Leilani Kai for the Lady’s Title.

Backstage, Mean Gene interviews Wendy and Cyndi Lauper.

MATCH #8: WWF WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP – Leilani Kai (Champ – w/ The Fabulous Moolah) vs. Wendy Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper)
Wendy and Cyndi come out to Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. In the earlier interview with Gene, Cyndi says she’s a “good manager because Captain Lou Albano taught her how to manage”. I’m not sure if that’s something I’d brag about…anyhow, the match takes forever to start. Once it does, it’s a lot of hair-pulling. Not bad action so far. The two women are fairly good at putting some emphasis behind their moves. Body remarks that Richter can “press 200 pounds”. I’m looking at her arms and I kinda doubt that. A lot of hair-pulling again. You don’t really see that anymore. It’s very prevalent here. Richter gets hair-pulled like seven times. Somewhere in there, Moolah gets a hold of Richter and goes to town with her hair again. Lauper comes to the “rescue” by hitting Moolah with her towel…or something. Anyway, Moolah doesn’t sell any of it. Kai nearly gets a three-count after a back-breaker. After that, Kai goes to the top rope and goes for a cross-body block but Richter reverses and gets the pin.
GRADE: D+. Pre-Diva. They aren’t great now and they weren’t really great back then, either.

Post-match, Richter is given the belt and announced as the winner. Some dude with long hair and sunglasses is in the ring helping them celebrate. No idea who the hell he is but he leaves after a while.

Backstage, Cyndi says she “brought her towel” because “Moolah is bigger than me”. So, you have a ton of other items you COULD have used and you grabbed a TOWEL as a weapon?

MATCH #9: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper & “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (w “Cowboy” Bob Orton) vs. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/ “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka)
To ring in the big main event, former Yanks manager, Billy Martin, comes out to announce the match. Martin, for no real reason at all, introduces Liberace being escorted by the Rockettes. Body says this is the “greatest thing ever seen associated with the WWF” as they kick and dance in the ring. Apparently, the WWF is short on “great things” and has yet to see Muhammad Ali introduced. When he gets introduced, Ali walks down the aisle. The fans chant his name as he gets in the ring and poses. Piper and Orndorff hit the ring with bagpipes. Bob Orton is behind him. His kid looks so much like him. Hogan’s “Real American” theme hits to a huge pop. Pat Patterson will be the official. Inside, hell starts to break loose and Orndorff snaps a stick, apparently belonging to Snuka. Liberace will stay at ringside. I guess he’s the timekeeper or bell-ringer or something. Hogan will start the match. Piper and Orndorff argue over who is starting against him. I guess it’s Orndorff…no, he tags in Piper. The two stare at each other for the longest time. Mr. T is trying to get people fired up and he wants in…so Hogan tags him in. This has just as much action as one of Hulk’s more modern matches. T and Piper trade slaps across the face and the match begins. I never got why T didn’t do more professional wrestling. It’s almost certainly better than what he went on doing. Reading rumors (aka Wikipedia), I am told that Piper and Orndorff “didn’t like” Mr. T because he was an actor and had not paid his dues. Interesting. Anyhow, T picks up Piper and spins him around and slams him down. Old school Fireman’s Carry. I think T really could have gone some place. At one point, all hell breaks loose and the four wrestlers just get in a free-for-all. The ref gets in there, Orton gets in, Ali gets in, Snuka joins in…I’m really surprised that Martin and Liberace didn’t join in. T with some great wrestling moves. He hits a hip toss on Piper at one point that looks beautiful. Hogan, apparently, says that T saved this match from not happening. I’d like to think that Hogan left his ego at the door here. It’s really a shame that Orndorff didn’t continue his career. He only went two more years because of a terrible arm injury. Hogan gets beat up bad here but makes a tag to Mr. T who goes apeshit and knocks Piper and Orndorff around. For the third time, Gorilla uses the term “Pearl Harbored” when Piper ambushes Mr. T from behind. Once is enough, twice is reaching but three times? A hot tag to Hogan from Mr. T and he goes to town on Orndorff and Piper. Then he gets hit hard. Later on, all hell breaks loose and Orton accidentally clocks Orndorff in the skill with his cast. Hogan gets the pin. This is one of those matches where Hulk didn’t “Hulk up”. I’ll explain that as we go.
WINNERS: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T
GRADE: B+. It was a “classic”. So I’ll grade this one higher.

This wasn’t the greatest main event. Honestly, I thought that there were better matches on the card.

So, that’s Wrestlemania I.

My favorites of this one: Tito v. Executioner was a good, decent start to things. I also LOVED the Tag Team Championship Match. That was a great match with a lot of emotion. The match of the event was a tie: Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat/Sammartino vs. Beefcake. Both had some great skill shown off.

Least-favorite: Women’s matches…I don’t know what it is. I just can’t stand them. So Richter vs. Kai didn’t sit well. Also Hammer vs. Dog was a giant let-down. It’s evident that it was pure skill vs. no skill. Dog may have been a fan favorite but he was a terrible wrestler, if this match was any indication. Also, I have to say, if you’re gonna book a match where it restarts after you’ve caught the champ cheating, HAVE A DIFFERENT OUTCOME. It’s not fun when you restart and then get a dumb count-out. Giant vs. Studd also was boring as all hell. I think it was on the upper card because both men are big guys. Finally, squashes suck. Bundy and Jones are a gigantic joke. The match is over in nine seconds and we’re on to the next match. You couldn’t have dragged it out?

Overall, I give Wrestlemania I a C+. It’s worth watching ONLY to see how far we’ve come.

GRADE: Yeah. I’d say this is still a C+. It’s interesting.

— Matt


  1. YEP. I remember this one well. LOL. I couldn't get past the whole Cyndi Lauper issue. I remember thinking to myself, “What the hell?!?! What, are we all gonna do a 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' sing-along???


  2. I remember seeing her around when I was kid and I loved her music. She was one of the only women who I thought could fight alongside the boys. 🙂

Leave a Reply