WWE WrestleMania (Revisited)- March 31, 1985
by Scrooge McSuck
- OK, so I've obviously recapped this show before. The archives have a version that was written sometime around 2006-07, which shows my growing pains in developing my own style. About a decade later, I did a complete analysis of EVERY WRESTLEMANIA (through WrestleMania XXX, or the last Mania to have the number featured in the logo), and yes, I probably said as much as I could for WrestleMania, but only in the bubble that was "WrestleMania." Having watched hours of WWF TV in the weeks leading into WrestleMania, I feel I owe the show a little something better (and yes, I'm never satisfied with myself), so here we go, one more time... WrestleMania.
Presented LIVE on Closed-Circuit Television (on the East Coast, but on a tape-delay everywhere else) and in limited Pay-Per-View markets from the mecca of professional sports, Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura are at ringside to call all the action, Lord Alfred Hayes is working from the entrance aisle as a segue to backstage interviews, and "Mean" Gene Okerlund is hosting all interviews and performs the Star-Spangled Banner. There's a rumor that persists to this day that a well-known musical act was scheduled to appear, but no-showed. Considering they DIDN'T advertise it ahead of time, I highly doubt this was anything more than a "wink-wink" to get people talking.
Note: I decided to watch the "Anthology VHS" version released in 1997 for this recap. Why? The Coliseum Video version edits licensed music and cuts almost all the interviews (which I don't cover, but for viewing preferences, I still watch them), as does the version on DVD and the WWE Network, but with worse editing. The Anthology/Legacy version is the closest to the original broadcast, with licensed music intact and none of the matches edited (a trend that WrestleMania would suffer from Mania's V, VI, and VII). It also seems like I "owe it" to this VHS copy because the first time I ever watched WrestleMania was on this tape, purchased from the Shop-Rite Super-Market in my (then) hometown of Monticello, NY. As someone who never watched content from this era, I was surprised by the different production presentation and pacing of the show.
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner:
In shoot interviews years later, Santana expressed disappointment finding out he was the opening match (back when the prelims were reserved for under-card guys without a purpose) until being assured by Vince himself that Santana was chosen to start the show with a good match. The Executioner is a masked Buddy Rose, rapidly gaining fluff around the middle, but a solid hand. He's comically introduced with an unknown weight, as if the scales were reading funny because of his mysteriousness. Lockup and a side headlock from the Executioner. Crisscross sequence ends with Santana sending the Executioner to the floor with a dropkick. Back in the ring, Santana controls with a side headlock. Executioner with a cheap shot in the corner. He drives a knee to the midsection and goes for a spinning toe hold, but Santana quickly counters with a roll up. Santana with a flurry of boots to the midsection and a whip to the opposite corner. Executioner escapes a Piledriver attempt with a back drop. He plants Santana with a slam and heads to the top rope. Santana recovers and slams him down. He comes off the ropes for a splash, but meets the knees. Executioner goes to work on the surgically repaired leg, but Santana again fights him off. He slams Executioner into the ring, comes off the ropes with the Flying Forearm, and locks on the Figure-Four Leg-Lock for the submission at 4:50 as Ventura notes "Santana might be serving notice to Greg Valentine." NO, THEY WERE SAYING IT BACK THEN, TOO?! Solid opener to kick to the show off. **
"Special Delivery" Jones vs. King Kong Bundy (w/ Jimmy Hart):
Bundy made his debut two weeks ago on Championship Wrestling, and in his few appearances, has been utterly dominant against his opposition. Jones is glorified enhancement talent, and probably doesn't have a chance to fare much better than those who came before him. This match is a great example of two different techniques in WWF booking philosophy: trying to set a record, and then lying about it for the sake of lying about it. Bundy catches Jones coming off the ropes, crushes him in the corner, follows up with the Avalanche, and comes off the ropes with a big splash for the three count at 0:24, but Howard Finkel informs us that it was "9 seconds", a WrestleMania record that would stand until WrestleMania 24 (but in actuality, the legit time was broken at WrestleMania VI). I'm not going to bother giving this a rating, but you could probably say anything under 30-seconds is an automatic DUD. The odd thing about announcing the time of the fall... it wasn't something regularly done in the WWF and is the only match on the card with the time announced!
Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne:
Like Bundy, Steamboat (still not known as "The Dragon", part of a series of segments on TNT that are laughably bad) arrived in the WWF only a few weeks ago, and like Buddy Rose, Matt Borne is a skilled talent that could be trusted to have a good match but was used as an underneath heel. Lockup, crisscross and Steamboat unloads with chops. He takes Borne over with a snap-mare and grabs a side headlock. Steamboat gets a "wow" from the crowd doing a back flip and connects with an atomic drop. Borne takes control with a knee to the face. Steamboat catches Borne with a boot in the corner and comes off the second rope with a chop. Borne with more knees to the midsection and a belly-to-belly suplex. Borne with a snap suplex for a two count. Steamboat comes back with a flurry of chops. He takes Borne down with a delayed back suplex, followed by a swinging neck breaker. Whip to the ropes, another crisscross, and Steamboat lays him out with a headbutt. He heads to the top rope, and Steamboat with the Flying Body Press for the three count at 4:38. Another decent match to show off some new talent, and you can tell the crowd was impressed by Steamboat's athleticism. *1/2
David Sammartino (w/ Bruno Sammartino) vs. Brutus Beefcake (w/ Johnny Valiant):
Our first match of the night that was at least mentioned on any of the TV covered in the weeks leading up to the show. There are no real issues here that I can think of, but there was the hint that the Sammartinos are fighting to avenge Hillbilly Jim, injured at the hands of Brutus Beefcake. Even though this is David vs. Beefcake, BRUNO is the star of the match as we'll see. Beefcake avoids a lockup by strutting. Sammartino with a shove to the corner, followed by a drop toe hold. They grapple on the canvas and Beefcake complains about oil. Beefcake with a slam, but David hangs onto the arm. Sammartino works the leg for a while until Beefcake goes to the eyes. Whip to the ropes and a back drop. Beefcake with a slam and clubbing blows across the chest. Hard whip to the corner. Beefcake continues to pound away with knees and forearms. Sammartino reverses a whip to the corner and takes Beefcake over with a back drop. Sammartino with a flurry of punches and a suplex for two. Beefcake tosses David to the floor, where Valiant greets him with a slam. Bruno comes over to make the save to the best pop of the night so far, chasing Valiant into the ring. Bruno takes out Valiant while David sends Beefcake packing, and it's ruled a Double Disqualification at 11:44. A dull match that ended up selling a tag team match with four involved when they returned to MSG. 12-minutes was just too long and the crowd was dead until Bruno got involved. *
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
I'm convinced that the JYD got this spot based solely on his theme music (and his obvious popularity, of course), as he was one of the few performers coming out to rock music (in his case, Queen' "Another One Bites the Dust"). In promos hyping the show, Valentine said he's enlisted Hart as his manager because he knows what "Rock ‘n' Roll is all about", leading me to believe my theory is correct. JYD goes to work on the left arm. He catches a boot and lays the Hammer out with a right hand. Valentine winds up and misses a forearm, then gets chased from the ring after a series of JYD's signature headbutts. Monsoon puts over Hart's stable, including Valentine, Bundy, and Jim Neidhart. There's a singles push nobody remembers. Valentine manages to ground the JYD and goes to work on the leg. He goes for the Figure-Four, but JYD kicks him off. They trade blows in the corner, with JYD winning the exchange. JYD focuses his attention on Jimmy Hart, but Valentine's sneak attack backfires. JYD with rights in the corner, but Valentine sweeps the legs and rolls him up, with feet on the ropes, for the three count... but wait, here's Tito Santana to tell the referee of the shenanigans, and the match will continue! No, wait, it won't. Valentine decides he'll just take the Count-Out at 6:55. That was an awful finish for such an important card. The rest of the match wasn't much better. ½*
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. The Junkyard Dog:
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
Classic USA vs. Foreign Menace booking. Rotundo and Windham won the titles from Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch on January 21st and were instantly cutting promos on Volkoff and Sheik. Lots of talk about the Iron Sheik winning Blassie his first WWF Championship at MSG, and now he's going to try and do the same with the Tag Team Championship. Before we get to the match, I'd like to say I've skipped around and have yet to find a match where the name U.S. Express is used, and the only shirt I've found says "Windham and Rotundo: USA Express." So far, that's the closest I've come to trying to solve this mystery. Rotundo and Windham come out to Springsteen's "Born in the USA." Rotundo and Sheik start. Sheik with a side headlock and shoulder tackle. Crisscross, Rotundo with a hip toss, dropkick, and a scoop slam. Windham comes off the top with an elbow, followed by a leg across the lower abdomen. Windham gets caught on the wrong side of town, but Sheik's running dropkick accidentally hits Volkoff. Rotundo with an elbow on Volkoff for barely a one count. The Champions take turns working the arm until Rotundo gets rammed into Sheik's pointed boot. Whip to the ropes and Sheik with a back drop and elbow for two. Gut-wrench suplex for another two count. Volkoff drops him throat-first across the top rope. Rotundo counters a headlock but gets caught against the ropes. Irish whip and a surprise sunset flip gets two. Sheik with an abdominal stretch. Rotundo would naturally be able to counter it with ease. Windham with the hot tag, unloading on Volkoff with rights. Irish whip and a dropkick. The running bulldog connects, but Sheik breaks the cover. The referee reprimands Rotundo, allowing Sheik to break Blassie's cane across Windham's head, and Volkoff covers for the three count and the Tag Team Titles at 6:56. Slightly rushed, but a solid match, giving us our 1st title change in WrestleMania history. This one gets a big increase from the original rating (*1/2) to **1/2.
Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham (c) (w/ Capt. Lou Albano) vs. Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Fred Blassie):
$15,000 Body Slam Challenge: Andre The Giant vs. Big John Studd (w/ Bobby Heenan):
One of three Main Events for the evening. The seeds were originally planted for this when Studd (along with Ken Patera) "raped Andre of his dignity" by cutting his hair. Ever since, Andre has been on a mission to destroy the Heenan Family. After putting the cash on the line if Andre could slam him, Andre was goaded into putting his career on the line if he were unsuccessful. Originally advertised as a standard match, the new stipulation is simply "Andre must slam Studd to win the match or be forced to retire." Studd attacks before the bell, but Andre shrugs it off and lays into Studd with chops, sending Studd to the floor. Back inside, Andre chokes away in the corner. Studd with a knee that was questionably low, but a slam attempt fails. Andre grabs a bear-hug, and we'll be back in a few hours when this move is over. Studd fights free, but Andre is back on him with a chin-lock. Whip to the ropes, Studd goes for a punt, but Andre catches the boot and continues the complete annihilation. Andre kicks away at the leg of Studd, scoops him up, and cleanly slams him for the victory at 6:54. Andre starts throwing out some of the cash, but Heenan runs in to steal back the bag because he's a cheap bastard who, gasp, went against his word. They came in with such a hot angle and kind of laid an egg here. Regardless of the obvious result, it felt like it under-delivered, even on the low expectations I had for this combination. DUD
WWF Women's Championship Match:
Even though WrestleMania 35 is the "first ever" Women's Main Event, there's no shame that this match got second-billing beneath the Tag Team Match to come. Dating back to July of last year, when Richter won the Women's Title from Moolah at "The Brawl to End it All", there's been tons of focus on the Rock n' Wrestling Connection, highlighted by the involvement of Cyndi Lauper. Moolah's protégé, Leilani Kai, won the belt from Richter on the undercard to the "War to Settle the Score", with a little help from Moolah herself. Will lightning strike twice for Richter at MSG? Richter comes out to "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", of course. Lockup to the ropes and they both throw some of the most god-awful punches I've ever seen. Leilani with a takedown and they trade wrist-locks. Leilani takes control, with gratuitous amounts of hair pulling. Richter counters a mounted choke with a body scissors. Sloppy takedown for a near fall. Moolah gets a cheap shot in, so Lauper comes around the corner to make the save. That didn't get nearly the pop that Bruno's involvement got in an undercard match. Whip to the ropes and Richter with an over-the-shoulder slam. Charge to the corner, but Leilani gets the knees up. Sloppy back breaker for a near fall. Kai goes to the top rope for a flying body press, but Richter rolls through (again, another sloppy spot), and gets the three count and her 2nd Women's Championship at 6:12. The tale of this match: sloppy. I short-changed the match before, but only by a little. I'm revising my rating from ¼* to *. I know, big deal.
Leilani Kai (c) (w/ The Fabulous Moolah) vs. Wendi Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper):
Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/ "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka) vs. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper & "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff (w/ Bob Orton Jr.):
More of the Rock n' Wrestling Connection, including Piper physically assaulting Lou Albano, David Wolff, and Cyndi Lauper, leading to a match with Hogan at "The War to Settle the Score." The match ended without a true winner, with Paul Orndorff, Bob Orton, and Mr. T all getting involved. In the weeks since, we've been treated to countless training videos of Hogan and T, while Piper and Orndorff mostly taunted them (and in Orndorff's case, using questionable dialogue regarding T's ethnicity). Before the match can get underway, we are introduced to the guest ring announcer (Billy Martin), guest timekeeper (Liberace), and guest referee (Muhammad Ali). Ali will only be the outside referee, with Pat Patterson doing the honors inside the ring. Hulk and Mr. T come to the ring to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." Hogan and Orndorff start, but wait, Piper already wants to tag in. Now Mr. T is demanding the tag to get him some of Piper. They go nose-to-nose and trade slaps. Piper with a boot to the midsection and a waist-lock takedown, followed by some paint brushing. They have a go again, and this time Mr. T drops Piper with an airplane spin. Hogan and Orndorff rush in for a corner brawl, Snuka and Orton tease coming in the ring, and Ali rushes in to clear things up, and throws a few rights to get the point across. Hogan pounds away on Piper and connects with an atomic drop. Whip to the ropes and a double clothesline. Mr. T with a slam to Piper and a hip throw to Orndorff. Hogan with a big boot, sending Piper over the top rope. Orndorff with a clothesline, sending Hogan out as well. Piper with a chair across the back, in full view of two referees! Hogan actually plays the role of face-in-peril. Mr. T with the hot tag, but more double teaming puts T in trouble. Hogan with the real hot tag, and it's time to take it home. The ring becomes cluttered mess, allowing Orton to come off the top with a cheap shot with his cast, but at the last second, Hogan moved, letting Orndorff take the shot instead, and covers for the three count at 13:24. This was a spectacle and lived up the hype with some solid action and a good finish that lends itself to further storyline development in the coming months. Another match where I'm revising my rating, again minor. My original rating was **1/2, but I think the atmosphere and effort boosts it to ***.
Final Thoughts: The 1st WrestleMania always gets a free pass for being just that: the first. If you pay attention to the product at the time, this was a super-sized version of their normal house shows. The under-card has prelims, but more effort was put in having 1.) strong performances and 2.) putting people over huge instead of just filling the card, and we've got 5 matches that could be considered "main event" caliber when the normal show might have 2. As far as the wrestling goes, it's on par with the era, with some noticeable increase in effort from some. Unfortunately, knowing the hype that went into the show, it's disappointing that Andre/Studd and Richter/Kai performed so poorly when they were 2 of the 3 strongest pushed matches. Hogan/T vs. Piper/Orndorff makes the show memorable, but is it good enough to make up for the rest? No. Do I still recommend giving the show a watch? Yes. Despite the quality of a few important matches, it sets the template, right down to pushing celebrities over the talent (Mr. T, obviously), and bringing people in as a special attraction to add intrigue to a match (Bruno at ringside), trends we see to this day.
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