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WWF WrestleMania (I)
by Scrooge McSuck
Once again I'm going to try and do a review of every [PPV name here], but I almost always give up early on, so in this case, I'll just do the "random comments" review, since you can find at least 50 reviews of detailed PBP anywhere else on the Internet. I'll just copy and paste my random story from before, that I didn't see this WrestleMania until after the 15th, so you can guess how I reacted when I first saw it, still being a mark.
- Originally broadcasted from New York, NY from Madison Square Garden. Commentary is being provided by Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, while Gene Okerlund covers the backstage interviews and Lord Alfred Hayes just randomly talks. I'm going to ignore the interviews, since they're the basic "I want to win" stuff. Also, I should note, that this show is pretty much like every other MSG show at the time, and thus only had 2-3 matches worth a shit while the rest of the card showcases some newcomers and/or squashes. Also Part II, since it's Madison Square Garden, I'll be doing the "list wrestlers hometown and weight" bit.
Tito Santana (Tocula, Mexico... 244 lbs.) vs. The Executioner (Parts Unknown... ???):
The first match in the history of WrestleMania, and it's nothing more than a squash match for Santana, who was in the middle of a feud with Greg Valentine over the Intercontinental Championship. Since Valentine is preoccupied, Santana gets to face Buddy Rose under a mask to remind everyone "hey, remember that I'm still feuding with Valentine!" Very average match, with nothing really of note happening, but nothing too bad either. Executioner gets in some token Jobber offense™, but Santana manages to make the El Superchico comeback with the Flying Jalupeño, and finishes the Executioner off with the Figure-Four Leglock at 4:47. I'm not a big expert of 1985 WWF television, but I don't think Buddy Rose hung around much longer under the Executioner mask, and instead passed it on to other would-be Jobbers that no one cared about until Terry Gordy somehow got the gimmick in 1996. (**)
"Special Delivery" Jones (Philadelphia, PA... 239 lbs.) vs. King Kong Bundy (Atlantic City, NJ... 458 lbs.) (w/ Jimmy Hart)
A rather famous match, but not because of anything good. S.D. Jones, was in short, a Jobber who occasionally beat other jobbers on television and arena shows. King Kong Bundy was fairly new to the WWF (see my comment about MSG shows), so Jones is just going to be fed to him. Rather quick match, as Bundy rams Jones into the corner, follows up with the avalanche, and then connects with the big splash for the brisk victory at 0:23. However, the victory was announced at 9 seconds, which makes no sense unless you can't tell time. Although this is "the fastest match" according to the WWF (in WM history), the real winner I believe was the Hart Foundation defeating the Bolsheviks in 18 seconds at WrestleMania VI, and the "record time" was broken twice in 1985 (Dynamite Kid pinned Nikolai Volkoff in 7 seconds and Uncle Elmer pinned Jerry Valiant in 6), making it less special. (DUD)
Ricky Steamboat (Hawaii... 237 lbs.) vs. Matt Borne (Portland, Oregon... 241 lbs.):
Much like Bundy, Steamboat had only debuted in the WWF about a month or two earlier, so here's a chance for the MSG crowd to get into Steamboat without putting him into 20 minute matches with someone equal to him on the card. For those who don't recognize Borne, he also worked under the gimmicks of Col. DeKlerk and Big Josh in WCW from 1990-1991, as well as the original heel Doink in 1993. Much like Santana/Executioner from earlier in the show, this is just here to showcase what Steamboat has to offer, and is basically another extended squash. Borne controls briefly, but ends up taking to the fall to Steamboat's top rope cross body press at 4:37. I hate repeating comments from the same review, but this was decent, but nothing spectacular, mainly because Borne was just there to make Steamboat look good in a quick manner. (*1/2)
David Sammartino (Pittsburgh, PA... 252 lbs.) (w/ Bruno Sammartino) vs. Brutus Beefcake (Parts Unknown... 273 lbs.) (w/ Johnny Valiant):
And here we have our first of many really bad WrestleMania matches that makes one long for a bullet through the brain. Beefcake was never considered a "good wrestler" (he was given half-ass training from Hogan during their free time), but this was when he REALLY sucked. For those who have never seen David Sammartino, just imagine Greg Gagne, Erik Watts, Brian Christopher, or David Flair, except worse. What do they all have in common? I'm sure everyone can figure it out. Anyway, this match really fucking sucks, and is pretty much non-stop restholds and the occasional sucky punch exchange. To say the crowd isn't really into either man would be an under-statement. The match finally shows mercy by ending when Daddy Sammy and Johnny V. run in for no reason, causing a double DQ at 11:37, and setting up a Bruno/David vs. Beefcake/Valiant main event at the next MSG event. Before anyone asks, no, that match wasn't very good either, but at least the crowd was into it since Bruno was in the ring most of the time, and he was probably the only guy getting "Hogan" reactions, thanks to his legacy from the 60's and 70's in the north-east. (-*)
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine (Seattle, WA... 248 lbs.) (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. The Junkyard Dog (Charlotte, NC... 280 lbs.):
Another match with zero build up. Valentine was in the middle of a feud with Santana, as mentioned earlier, so it was pretty much a given to smart fans back then that JYD wasn't walking out of the show with the belt. JYD is the first person to come out to theme music at a WrestleMania, using Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", or whatever it was called. I could make a really lame drug joke at JYD's expense, but I'm not that heartless. In a series of them on this show, it's yet another dull, disappointing match with a shitty finish. Valentine originally wins by rolling up JYD and using the ropes for leverage at 5:58, but Tito Santana comes out to argue the result, and for once, the referee actually decides to take the wrestlers word for it, and thus restarts the match. Valentine won't have any of it, and is quickly counted-out, giving JYD the victory, but not the title. Not a good match by any stretch of the imagination, but much better than the previous. ( * )
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The U.S. Express (Windham: Sweetwater, TX... 240 lbs./Rotundo: Syracuse, NY... 238 lbs.) (w/ Lou Albano) vs. Nikolai Volkoff (USSR... 313 lbs.) & The Iron Sheik (Tehran, Iran... 258 lbs.) (w/ Freddy Blassie):
I don't think there was any REAL backstory to this, other than Sheik and Volkoff hate America, and, gasp, the reigning tag team champions happend to call themselves the U.S. Express. Windham would eventually go on to smaller and worse things in the WWF as the Widow Maker, the Stalker, and Blackjack Windham, while Rotundo went on to become an evil I.R.S. man. You can say the same thing for the opponents I guess, since Volkoff went on to formt he JTTS team of the Bolsheviks, become a flag waving american bangwagon jumper, and became Nickel & Dime Volkoff in 1994, while Sheik became an Iraqi despite being from Iran. One final note for the pre-match shenanigans: The Express come out to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA", which is really a negative song rather than some flag waving one. FINALLY... onto the match. It's nothing great, but surprisingly decent, considering who makes up the heel team. I have a hunch the match is clipped, so I guess that was a good thing. After some pier-six brawling, the Sheik manages to bust Blassie's cane over the back of Windham, and Volkoff covers for the three count at 5:02, giving them the tag titles, and also the first title change in WrestleMania history. Never fear though, as the Express would regain the titles from the evil foreigners about 3 months later. (**1/4)
$15,000 Body Slam Challenge:
Andre The Giant (Grenoble, France... 476 lbs.) vs. Big John Studd (Los Angeles, CA... 367 lbs.) (w/ Bobby Heenan):
Stipulations du jour: If Andre manages to slam Studd, he wins "$15,000", and if Studd slams Andre or the match goes to a time limit draw, Andre must retire... yeah, as if either stipulation means ANYTHING in wrestling. A few months back, Studd and Ken Patera did a major beatdown on Andre, resulting in them cutting his hair. THE 'FRO MUST GO! Andre is pissed off, so here's his revenge. Boring, dull, boring match with Andre resting like crazy and Studd getting pretty much zero offense in. The madness ends when Andre successfully slams Studd at 5:54, and winning the money. The celebration is short-lived, as Heenan steals back the money while Andre manages to throw out a few handful of dollar bills. That was basically the entire thing to the slam challenge. If someone actually did do it, they wouldn't get the money. OH THE BOOKING CREATIVITY! Not really a "match", so I won't try and give it a rating. (N/R)
WWF Womens Championship Match:
Leilani Kai (Hawaii... 162 lbs.) (w/ Fabulous Moolah) vs. Wendi Richter (Dallas, TX... 145 lbs.) (w/ Cyndi Lauper):
This match was set up at the February '85 MSG event, where Kai defeated Richter for the championship, probably with more than a little help from the Geriatric Moolah. Richter comes out to Lauper's song "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", which I guess is a step up from using "She Bop", yet another song the WWF production crew probably had no idea what was about. As usual with pretty much all women's wrestling from the WWF, this match is nowhere near being good, but the crowd is really pumped to my surprise, so I'll be a little more forgiving with the rating. Lots of nothing happens until a fight breaks out between the two wrestlers corner-women, and when the most notable moment doesn't include the actual performers of the match, that's a bad sign. Anyway, Kai comes off the top with a cross body, but Richter uses the momentum to roll over on top of Kai, and wins the Womens Title for the second time at 6:11. Richter's title reign would last until the Fall of 1985, when Vince McMahon pulled a screwjob on her when she refused to sign a contract that was shoved in her face earlier in the night of the incident in question. (3/4*)
The Main Event:
Hulk Hogan (Venice Beach, CA... 302 lbs.) & Mr. T (Chicago, IL... 225 lbs.) (w/ Jimmy Snuka) vs. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (Glosgow, Scotland... 232 lbs) & Paul Orndorff (Tampa, FL... 252 lbs.) (w/ Bob Orton Jr.)
Not a whole lot of build up here, but everything came to a head at the War to Settle the Score MTV Special, which saw Hogan defend the title against Piper, and featured run ins from Mr. T and Paul Orndorff, setting this match. The celebrities come out now, including Billy Martin (former multi-time manager of the New York Yankees), Liberace, and former Boxing Heavyweight Champion, Muhammad Ali, who is acting as the Special Outside Enforcer, also known as the worthless referee. The pre-match shenanigans eat up a good 10-minutes, and the crowd is pumped up for all of it. As he did for most of the first year of his second run, Hogan comes out to Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." To continue beating the same phrase into the ground, this match is far from a masterpiece, but considering it involves a celebrity who has never wrestled a match, it's rather entertaining. Not much outside of brawling, but it's better to book around everyone's strengths than weakness. After a pier-six brawl errupts, Bob Orton sneaks into the ring and comes off the top to deliver a blow with his cast, but Hogan manages to move out of the way, putting Orndorff in place to take the blow instead, and Hogan makes the easy cover at 13:22. The war is far from over though, as the feuds continued through the rest of the year, except Orndorff ended up turning face quickly after this and Orton was pushed more into Orndorff's role than as a back-up lacky type guy. After a post-match interview with the winners, the first WrestleMania comes to an end. (**1/2)
Final Thoughts: Going by the star ratings, this show looks rather sad, with nothing breaking the 3-star barrier. However, there's the little "wrestling has evolved so much" factor, and being 1985, you don't really expect a lot of great wrestling, but great storylines and ass kickings. The main event delivered, but everything else pretty much comes off as flat, and was used primarily to push feuds for other shows, which proves that WrestleMania had yet to become the show to blow everything off with the babyfaces standing victorious. Anyway, with the rambling done, WrestleMania 1 gets an automatic thumbs up recommendation, simply for the fact it was the first WrestleMania.
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