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WWE WrestleMania II (Revisited)- April 7, 1986
by Scrooge McSuck
- Presented LIVE on Closed-Circuit Television and Pay-Per-View on Monday Night, April 7th, 1986, from three locations and three different time zones. Quite the daring task, maybe as an attempt to one-up Jim Crockett Promotions, who held Starrcade, their flagship event, from two different locations, both on the East coast. As we'll see throughout the event, the broadcast didn't go off as well as one would hope, with several production blunders remaining in cuts released since the original broadcast date.
For the longest time, I've considered WrestleMania 2 one of the weakest of the shows in ‘Mania history, but that was not knowing the storylines at the time and watching it "as is." Now that I've covered a decent amount of WWF television in the months leading up to the event, I have a better grasp of why matches are taking place, and maybe I'll be more emotionally invested in them with that newfound knowledge. I've previous covered WrestleMania 2 in a walkthrough of every WrestleMania (up to a certain point) several years ago, so warning, the match ratings are likely to change from that because reasons.
Part 1: Nassau Coliseum; Long Island, NY
- Vince McMahon and Susan Saint James are calling the action. Susan Saint James is probably best known (in 1986) for her role in "Kate & Allie" and being the wife of Dick Ebersol, an NBC executive with close ties to the success of the WWF in the mid 80's, introducing McMahon to something called "network television production quality", something lacking across all of professional wrestling at this point in time.
- Ray Charles sings "America, The Beautiful", and despite an early production snafu, pulls through for one of the best renditions you'll ever see. To this day, one of my favorite scenes from "The Sandlot" is the boys playing on the night of 4th of July with Ray Charles singing this song as they are in awe of the fireworks (all except for Benny the Jet, of course).
- Roddy Piper is standing by to cut a promo about how he's a trim 219-pounds, and promises that if Mr. T knocks him out, he'll retire from boxing, professional wrestling, and dating girls. Don't worry, he'll keep Ace around. He also lies his ass off about not moving an inch when Joe Frazier through a medicine ball at him, and insists he grew his hair long so people would be able to tell the difference between himself and Mr. T.
"Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff vs. The Magnificent Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji):
I'm glad I'm covering this show again, because I've got a lot to say about this one. On paper, I always assumed this was a direct result of Bundy's attack on Hulk Hogan, because of Muraco's involvement and the relationship of Orndorff/Hogan that built up throughout 1986. Nope. It's a match for the sake of having a match. There's no backstory to it, and both men have quietly done nothing for most of 1986 once their latest programs with Piper (Orndorff) and Steamboat (Muraco) respectively ended. In ANOTHER production error (that's 2 in less than 5-minutes), we get pre-recorded comments from both men played over the action when it was intended to be a split-screen spot. It just happens. I'm standing by my opinion that Orndorff is an AWFUL babyface. Lockup and neither man with the advantage. Orndorff grabs a side headlock and gets caught off the ropes with a slam. Orndorff with a slam of his own, and Orndorff taunts Fuji but making slanted-eyes and mockingly bowing to him. JESUS CHRIST, ORNDORFF (the WWE Network edits this out, while all physical media versions kept it intact). Muraco with a knee and elbow in the corner. Whip is reversed and Orndorff with a back body-drop, followed by a drop toe hold into the arm bar. Muraco with an arm drag but Orndorff keeps the hold applied. Susan Saint James with her first "uh-oh" of the night. There'll be many, many more. Muraco finally escapes with a Samoan drop. They trade blows in the corner, with Orndorff getting the better of the exchange. They take a tumble over the top rope and brawl at ringside for a Double Count-Out at 4:33. The crowd with a very loud "bullsh*t" chant in response. This felt like the opening minutes of a 15 or 20-minute match, then they just went home with it. What an opener! *
- Mr. T is standing by, flanked by Smokin' Joe Frazier and the Haiti Kid. He's not the guy to talk before a big fight, because his fists do all the talking for him. He's going to punch him all over his body and avenge what they did to the Haiti Kid.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
"Macho Man" Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth) vs. George "The Animal" Steele:
The short and sweet story here: Randy Savage treats Elizabeth like crap, George Steele has an infatuation with her, and several times presented her with flowers, drawing the ire of Savage. Lou Albano was still Steele's manager at this point, but he's in Chicago for a more important moment on his card. Randy Savage is the only man to come to the ring to entrance music for the New York portion of WrestleMania 2. Susan throws unbiased reporting by the wayside and blatantly cheers for the Animal. Bell rings and Savage immediately bails. Steele gives chase and starts biting on his right leg. Savage catches Steele entering the ring with a high knee, but Steele no-sells and grabs a double choke-lift. The crowd pops for every move, so you can see how much they hated Savage. Steele becomes distracted by Elizabeth's presence, allowing Savage to tie him up in the ropes. He climbs up and hits a surprisingly ugly flying body press. Steele quickly recovers and dumps Savage out. He crawls under the ring and pops out on the other side for an ambush attack on Steele. Whip to the ropes and Steele counters a clothesline with more biting. Savage grabs a bouquet of flowers from ringside and smacks Steele across the face. Steele with MORE BITING to wrestle the flowers away and he slaps the hell out of Savage with them. Whip to the corner and Steele audibles, chowing down on a turnbuckle. He takes some of the stuffing and rakes Savage's eyes with it. Savage powders again and uses a distraction from Elizabeth to come off the top rope with a double axe-handle. Back inside, Savage with a slam and the flying elbow, but Steele kicks out at two! Steele flips Savage upside down into the corner, but a short distraction from the referee buys Savage time to recover, sweep the legs, and pin Steele (with feet on the ropes) to retain at 7:08. I'm surprised I enjoyed this a lot more than I have in years gone by. It's not a classic, but they definitely did as much as they could with the limitations Steele brought to the table. **
- "Mean" Gene Okerlund is standing by (from Chicago) with Big John Studd and Bill Fralic. They don't waste time getting into a shoving match. Studd says Fralic has no class because he's a football player. Studd has a replica New England Patriots ball and smashes it with ease to show what he's going to do to the football guys. Fralic has nothing but to call Studd "Dud".
George Wells vs. Jake "The Snake" Roberts:
Roberts made his television debut three weeks ago and was shoehorned onto the lineup before making his syndication debut. I've mentioned him in other recaps, but Wells had a successful career in the CFL before turning to professional wrestling. He didn't have much of a personality, so he's one of many prelim guys that were mostly forgotten over time. Susan isn't a fan of snakes, but there's a chance Roberts loses, and we won't see the snake. Oh, the naivety on her, it's charming. Roberts hops in the ring and immediately slaps Wells. Wells responds with rights. Roberts cuts him off with a knee and dumps him to the floor. Roberts follows, but is met with a right hand. Back inside, Wells comes off the ropes with a diving shoulder tackle. Whip to the corner and Wells with a flying head-scissors. Wells with a scoop slam. He lands a big chop and sends Roberts to the canvas with a knee lift. Whip to the ropes and Wells with a powerslam for two. Roberts with a thumb to the eyes to cut Wells off. He lures Wells out of the ring and NAILS him coming back in with a knee lift before finishing with the DDT at 3:06. Post-match, Roberts dumps the snake on Wells, who sells it by frothing. Oh-kay. Decent, but short. Wells WWF career didn't have much gas left, working through the early Summer and finishing up by the end of September. *1/2
- Jesse "The Body" Ventura is standing by (from Los Angeles) for an interview with WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan. You don't see them share screen time too often. It's a typical Hogan promo, actually somewhat restrained. Ventura is over-the-top cheering for Bundy, of course. I dig that red feathered boa he's wearing, too (Jesse, not Hogan. That would be WrestleMania X-8 and onward).
Mr. T (w/ Joe Frazier and The Haiti Kid) vs. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (w/ Lou Duva and Bob Orton Jr.):
The Main Event of the New York portion of the card. We know their history for WrestleMania 1, but here it's a bit more confusing. It started with Jack Tunney banning Bob Orton (and Paul Orndorff) wrestling with a cast, which turned into a "boxing" gimmick for Bob Orton. After a couple of weeks, Hulk Hogan appeared and accepted an open challenge on behalf of Mr. T. T and Orton fought on Saturday Night's Main Event and Piper got involved after the match, lashing T with a strap. Before the match, we get a parade of celebrities! Joan Rivers is doing the ring announcing (and calls Bob Orton "ACE FUNNY MAN, BOB MARVIN)! The judges are "Chocolate Thunder" Darryl Dawkins from the NBA's New Jersey Nets, "Show Business Legend" Cab Calloway, and Watergate something-or-other, G. Gordon Liddy. The Timekeeper, HERB. WHO? Herb was a (thankfully forgotten about) mascot for Burger King, the only man in history to have never tried a "Whopper" (Burger King's signature sandwich). He's a complete geek that reminds me of Jameson, if Jameson lost his hair. The Fink is clearly seen giving cues to Rivers, probably telling her to move it along because this is taking FOREVER.
With all that stuff said and done, lets get to the action. We're scheduled for 10 rounds of Boxing. The referee gives the instructions, with Mr. T doing his best to not look at Piper until suddenly they go nose-to-nose like a couple of dogs ready to tear each other apart ("we don't need any of that crap in here!"). Despite no tale-of-the-tape, McMahon knows Piper has the reach advantage, and gives us viewers keys to victory that Mr. T should follow to counter that disadvantage. I don't have to go out of my way to badmouth the pulled punches, because OBVIOUSLY they're working here. Watch any Rocky movie. Most of the time, the punches looked awful. BUT. The technique and footwork were believable enough to mask those shortcomings. Here, the technique quickly falls apart, and they start doing worked punches of a pro wrestling match, not a boxing match. There's surprisingly little heat throughout the 1st Round (which goes a legit 3:00). Piper spends most of the between-round rest period jawing at T from over T's cornermen's shoulders. Round 2 opens with Mr. T complaining about Piper's forehead being greased too much. The crowd actually starts popping for PIPER'S flurry of punches. Piper throws pro wrestling haymakers that drop T for the 1st time at 2:00 of Round 2 (to another pop), but he's up at 8 and the Round is over soon after (again, a legit 3:00). Mr. T goes down at the bell, AND GETS PUNCHED WHILE ON HIS KNEES, and the referee starts a count anyway. Orton tosses a bucket of water at Mr. T to get some heat. Piper opens Round 3 by dancing around, almost taking Mr. T lightly. Mr. T throws punches that have nothing behind them, so he's either gassed or doing a poor job simulating boxing. He punches Piper down in the corner at 1:05 of Round 3 for an anemic reaction. We FINALLY get a short-lived "T" chant as he knocks Piper out of the ring at 1:58 of Round 3. This is a SLOW count when it comes to Boxing officiating. Between rounds, Piper flips his lid and tosses a stool at Mr. T because why the hell not. The crowd suddenly pops, and it's for a ring-card girl. Probably the best reaction of the match. They stop giving a crap about style and throw roundhouse rights and lefts, unguarded. Piper knocks T's mouthpiece out. Mr. T rocks Piper and suddenly Piper shoves the referee and slams Mr. T (with gloves on!) for the Disqualification at 1:17 of Round 4. Lou Duva gets involved in the scuffle with Smokin' Joe, but it's only the 2nd wildest brawl he's ever seen in a Boxing ring (the honors for the top spot goes to a disgusting riot after a match between Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota in 1996).
That was... something. It's hard to rate such a gimmick match in a wrestling scenario, but here we go: The match failed in where things mattered: Roddy Piper, diabolical heel, was getting face reactions, or at worst, no heel heat, while Mr. T, except for 15-seconds, got little, if any, babyface reactions. It also failed in delivering a satisfying conclusion, going with our 3rd cheap finish out of 4 matches from New York (Savage using the ropes to pin someone is still a cheap finish). As I mentioned earlier in the match, I can forgive bad punches, but the broken footwork and overall technique is completely gone half the time, making the bad punches look worse. This match also marks the last match for Piper until August, as he took time off to film the movie "Body Slam". Mr. T would return to the WWF in the Summer of '87 in a short-lived angle as a babyface enforcer referee. Yeah, by that point, Mr. T's shine was long gone.
Part 2: Rosemont Horizon; Chicago, IL
- Gorilla Monsoon, "Mean" Gene Okerlund, and Catchy Lee Crosby are calling the action, unless otherwise noted. Crosby is likely best known at the time for hosting "That's Incredible!" from 1980-1984, a reality show that gave a platform for people to showcase talents and daredevil-style risks. TECHNICALLY the Rosemont Horizon is in Rosemont, IL, just outside the Chicago city limits, but "Chicago" sounds more impressive than "Rosemont", doesn't it? Chet Coppock is doing ring introductions for this leg of the broadcast.
WWF Women's Championship Match:
The Fabulous Moolah (c) vs. Velvet McIntyre:
We're kicking off Chicago's card with THIS? Moolah has made all of one appearance on Championship Wrestling in 1986, a comedy segment on Piper's Pit, and Ms. McIntyre has made even less appearances than that. If you only followed syndicated television, McIntyre's name was rarely mentioned, with most of the promotion being "Moolah defends the title." Oh, Moolah regained the belt from Wendi Richter in a double-cross that predated the Montreal Screwjob by well over a decade, but that's a story for another day, and in fact, this sentence alone is taking longer to type than the length of this match. Give credit to Moolah, she gets major heel heat for her introduction. Moolah attacks from behind and throws McIntyre with a series of hair mares. Whip to the ropes and Moolah with a forearm. McIntyre ducks a clothesline and hits Moolah with a pair of one-footed dropkicks. Whip and McIntyre with an elbow, followed by a slam. She misses a splash from the second rope, and Moolah pins her at 0:59 despite McIntyre's foot on the ropes the entire time and the referee looking right at it. The long-standing rumor was they went home immediately due to a wardrobe malfunction. NOPE. Just by looking at the action, at no point does McIntyre's top fall apart. They were just sent out there to get the match in and out as quickly as possible, and you can tell by the pace they went. For such a short match, I'd hate to assign a rating, but that finish was beyond awful as the trend continues. -*
Corporal Kirchner vs. Nikolai Volkoff (w/ Fred Blassie):
Basic rules of a Flag Match: The winner of the fall waves his country's flag. Kirchner vs. Volkoff received quite a bit of television time earlier in the year, but it feels like things cooled off as soon as WrestleMania 2 was officially announced for April 7th. It's one-dimensional but effective: Volkoff hates the USA, Kirchner represents his country with pride. Kirchner is the 2nd wrestler to come out to theme music on the card. It's cheesy patriotic music, but it still counts. Volkoff immediately hits Kirchner with his spinning kick to the midsection. He tosses Kirchner to the outside and sends him face-first into the post. Volkoff bites him, and he's clearly doing the work of giving Kirchner color, as we see Kirchner has a small laceration. Back inside, Kirchner comes back with rights, taking out the referee by accident in the process. Blassie tosses in the cane, but Kirchner intercepts, whacks Volkoff, and covers for three at 1:36. It worked last year, not so much this year. Kirchner waves the flag with of the good old USA. OK, was it really necessary to do a blade job for a match that barely went 90-seconds? Honestly, nothing to this one, but for continuity sake, I'll slap a rating on it. DUD
- 20-Man Invitational Battle Royal:
(Participants: Jimbo Covert, Pedro Morales, "Mr. USA" Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi, Harvey Martin, "Golden Boy" Dan Spivey, Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga, The Iron Sheik, Ernie Holmes, B. Brian Blair, Jumpin' Jim Brunzell, Big John Studd, Bill Fralic, Brett "Hitman" Hart, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Russ Francis, Bruno Sammartino, "The Refrigerator" William Perry, and Andre The Giant)
Chet Coppock announces THIS is the Main Event of the Chicago portion before handing over duties to Gene Okerlund. Here we go with another lineup of celebrities! The Timekeeper is a lady who has found the beef, Clare Peller, an elderly woman who gained short-lived notoriety in commercials for Wendy's, asking "Where's the beef?" when mocking the burger portions of other franchises. She stands up and waves the microphone like a wand, mouthing her famous line but we don't hear any of it. No, Los Angeles doesn't have a McDonald's representative. If only they could've gotten Ronald McDonald… Dick Butkus and Ed "Too Tall" Jones are the special referees. Jones was listed as a participant up until the weekend of the show, so no idea why he's suddenly on the outside looking in. He's replaced by Ernie Holmes, who was never mentioned in any of the syndicated promotional spots. At different times, Lanny Poffo and Dino Bravo were advertised to appear as well. Based on TV hype, Big John Studd received the biggest push for the WWF Superstars, while The Refrigerator and Bill Fralic got the lions share of hype for the NFL players (and retired players). Wait, what about Andre? Well, he hasn't been on TV for most of 1986, either in syndication or on TNT (the USA Network show, not the TV Network). Heck, he was barely working a regular schedule, missing most of the Winter until doing a tour of Australia and going back on the road in the final week of March.
Former AFL star (before it merged into the NFL) and professional wrestling legend, "The Big Cat" Ernie Ladd, joins the commentary team for this one. A bunch of guys go after Perry, but Covert makes the save for his partner. Watching Spivey and Martin trading hammerlocks is hilarious. Tonga and Covert tussle, making it easy for Fralic to dump them out at 1:01. Andre and Studd gravitate towards each other, of course. Sammartino dumps Holmes at 1:49. Andre goes after Fralic, who holds on for dear life. Brunzell gets dumped by a small group at 2:39 (and was working the match with a cast on one of his wrists). The Refrigerator tosses Atlas at 3:01 to a big pop, then goes toe-to-toe with Studd. Harvey Martin and Pedro Morales take each other out at 3:54. Credit to Martin, he was actually trying to work in there. Andre and Perry work over Studd. Jim, Spivey, and Blair gently put Arcidi over and out at 4:26 (and I mean GENTLY). Sheik back-drops Spivey out at 4:41, then tosses Blair and Hillbilly Jim at 5:51. IRAN NUMBER ONE! Bruno and Brett scuffle for a second, and that's a dream match across generations I wouldn't mind seeing. Studd and Sheik team up to toss Fralic at 5:17, who seems very disappointed. Bruno sends Sheik packing at 5:29, then Studd dumps Sammartino at 5:56. Perry fights out of the corner and tackles Hart and Neidhart over the top rope, but both hold on. He tackles Studd into the corner. He loads up again but meets an elbow, and Studd hip throws him out at 6:36. Perry offers a handshake and pulls Studd out at 6:55. The Hart Foundation with a double dropkick to Andre, trapping him in the ropes. They double-team Francis and toss him at 7:55, the final representation of the football players. Brett whips Neidhart into Andre with a shoulder tackle. They try the spot again but Andre boots Brett in the face. He grabs Neidhart by the goatee and gives them a DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER. Andre with a whip and boot, sending Neidhart comically over and out at 9:03. Brett climbs the ropes but Andre scoops him off and tosses him onto Neidhart at 9:16 to win the match, looking completely gassed. I'm not trying to rebook things, but looking at Andre's condition, and his presence on TV, and you could've easily left him off the card, slotted in someone else as cannon fodder, and did a finish where Perry goes over by doing the double-tackle that knocked both Hart and Neidhart over the ropes at the same time. Alas, what we got was a decent showcase. It's a Battle Royal with a lot of beef, so there's lots of hugging and steroid acne, but there's a few good exchanges and they used the football players well (except for Holmes, but who cares, he wasn't advertised). Kudos to Hart and Anvil doing all the work for Andre at the end, who was barely able to move, let alone lift either man up without generous assistance. **1/2
- Vince McMahon and Susan Saint James are standing by for an interview with Roddy Piper. He says he didn't come for a picnic, and when he finally started to fight, Mr. T had to cheat. Nothing T could do could hurt him. Piper says he has fight after fight in him, he doesn't have to retire, and doesn't have to dye his skin black. No, that's WrestleMania VI. Susan says that's a bunch of "blarney." There's a word I haven't heard a lot in my life.
- Gene Okerlund is standing by with Jimbo Covert. He says he got cheated. He tried to help William Perry but Fralic had to attack him from behind. IT'S A BATTLE ROYAL. The Iron Sheik comes in next and says this proves that "wrestler is better than football player." IRAN NUMBER ONE!
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake (c) (w/ Johnny Valiant) vs. The British Bulldogs (w/ Capt. Lou Albano and Ozzy Osbourne):
Final match and NOT the Main Event of the Chicago portion of the card. The Bulldogs defeated the Champions in a Non-Title Match on Championship Wrestling way back in early February, only to lose their nationally televised Championship Match (the March 1st episode of SNME) thanks to a fracas at ringside and poor officiating (or they just lost, but we have to make the heels look like cheaters). Because of that, we have TWO referees, no doubt delighting Monsoon. I've argued for months in my syndicated and TNT recaps that the "Dream Team" name wasn't a thing, but it was actually part of the gimmick when Valiant would talk about them, so it counts, I guess, even if the ring announcers never introduced them as such. Why is OZZY OSBOURNE in the corner of the Bulldogs? He's English, and his 1986 fashion sense includes a salmon colored matching jacket and trousers. The Bulldogs are the 3rd act to come out to music ("Rule, Britannia!").
Valentine and Davey Boy start. Lockup and Davey Boy shoves Valentine to the canvas. They trade blows, with Davey Boy backing the Hammer into the corner. Valentine shoots for the legs and takes Davey Boy down, only to miss an elbow drop. Whip to the ropes and Valentine with a hip ross. Davey Boy avoids a forearm drop and tags in Dynamite. He sends Valentine into the turnbuckle and goes for an early pin attempt. Whip to the ropes and Dynamite comes bouncing back with a hard shoulder tackle. He snaps Valentine over with a suplex and drops an elbow. Davey Boy back in, taking Valentine over with his delayed suplex for two. Valentine throws a series of forearms in the corner. Davey Boy reverses a whip to the corner but is caught with a forearm across the back of the head. Beefcake in for the first time, working the left arm. Davey Boy counters the wristlock with a press slam. Dynamite sends Beefcake to the ropes and lays into him with the hook clothesline for two. Inside cradle for two. Davey Boy with a Fisherman Suplex for two. Valentine tags in and clobbers Smith with a forearm from the top rope. Valentine with a suplex of his own for two. Dynamite in, trading brutal forearms with Valentine. He sends Valentine into the corner and unloads a series of shoulders into the midsection. Whip and the Bulldogs with a double shoulder tackle for two. Whip to the ropes and Dynamite with a sunset flip for two. Back breaker for two. Knee drop across the forehead for two. Valentine rocks Dynamite with forearms and plants him with a reverse Spike Piledriver for a near-fall. Dynamite brings the knees up, inadvertently hitting Valentine low. Valentine makes a slow climb to the top rope and gets slammed down for his efforts. Slam into the corner and Davey Boy sets up to launch Dynamite for a headbutt, but Valentine bails. Back inside, Valentine knees Dynamite repeatedly across the back of the neck. Davey Boy tags back in and plants Valentine with the Running Powerslam for two. Snap suplex from Davey Boy for two. Valentine reverses a whip, sending Davey Boy shoulder-first into the post. Beefcake in, slamming Davey Boy with a hammerlock applied. Valentine with a shoulder breaker, pulling Smith off the canvas at two. Meanwhile, Dynamite Kid has scaled the ropes in the Bulldogs' corner. Davey Boy shoves Valentine away, knocking heads with Dynamite, who takes an UNGODLY bump to the concrete floor with a sickening splat. The impact knocks Valentine out as well, and Davey Boy covers for three and the Tag Team Championship at 12:02. Dynamite is dead on the arena floor while OZZY OSBOURNE celebrates with the belts. Nice callback to Saturday Night's Main Event, where a head collision went in Valentine's favor. Might as well have listed this as Valentine vs. The Bulldogs, as Beefcake did very little, and it's for the better. This was a FANTASTIC match with non-stop action, a hot crowd, and a finish that played off the Bulldogs' unlucky break in the last attempt to dethrone Valentine and Beefcake. Our first truly great WrestleMania match. ****
- "Mean" Gene and Cathy Lee Crosby with post-match interviews from Captain Lou, Ozzy, and the Bulldogs. I love how excited Ozzy is to be there, even if there's no reason for it. I'll take energized celebrities over bored looking ones all day long.
Part 3: Los Angeles Sports Arena; Los Angeles, CA
- Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Lord Alfred Hayes, and Elvira (Mistress of the Dark) are calling the action for the final portion of the card. In an odd twist, Ventura is doing the play-by-play and Alfred is in his usual role of color commentator. Kudos to Elvira being in full gimmick for this appearance and showing off two reasons why she was so popular in the 80's. Lee Marshall is our ring announcer. He's one of those "feels weird to see on a WWF show" kind of guys.
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Hercules Hernandez:
No backstory here. The long running rumor at the time was that Steamboat was originally slotted for a match with Bret(t) Hart, but plans changed, and he was switched to Hercules while Hart was added to the Battle Royal. As consolation, they were booked for a match featured on NESN when the WWF ran the Boston Garden a month before this event. Vince McMahon mentioned on TNT that Hercules was undefeated, which completely went under the radar for me. He was managed at the time by Fred Blassie, but he was stuck in Chicago, so Hercules feels more like a sacrificial lamb here. Final rambling point: Steamboat doesn't enter to theme music, despite using "Sirius" by the Alan Parsons Project in the months before this event. Hercules surprises Steamboat with a running high knee and pounds away on him in the corner. Whip to the ropes, Steamboat slides between the legs and nails Hercules with a chop. Steamboat with a pair of deep arm drags before hooking the arm bar. Crisscross and counters leads to Steamboat going back to work on the arm. Hercules with a right to the lower midsection to break the hold. Whip to the ropes and Steamboat regains control, leap-frogging Hercules and nailing him with an elbow. Steamboat with a suplex and back to the arm bar. Hercules sends the Dragon into the turnbuckle and knocks him into next week with a clothesline. Hercules with knees to the face, much to the delight of Elvira. Whip and Hercules drops Steamboat across the top rope with the Hot Shot. Steamboat quickly teases a comeback, but he buckles under the weight of a slam attempt. Whip and Hercules with an elbow. He drops a pair of elbows and arrogantly covers for two. Steamboat lights Hercules up with chops but the comeback is thwarted with a short clothesline. Hercules with two press slams. He meets knees coming off the top rope, and Steamboat finishes with the flying body press at 7:33. Perfectly fine action, though forgettable, and a little sloppy at times. **1/4
Uncle Elmer vs. "Adorable" Adrian Adonis (w/ Jimmy Hart):
Adonis has gone one step further with his attire. Along with the makeup, bows, and leg warmers, now he's wearing a muumuu. Uncle Elmer comes out to "Don't Go Messin' With a Country Boy". Of the 4 acts to come out to music (so far), two of them are CPL KIRCHNER AND UNCLE ELMER. Another match without a backstory. Elmer does his best to prance around to mock Adonis' flamboyant makeover. Elmer sends Adonis into the corner and FALLS ON HIS ASS throwing a right hand. Jesus Christ. Adonis sends himself into the post to sell another right hand and falls to the concrete floor. Elmer rips the clothes off Adonis and brings him back in with a slingshot. Elmer with a weak belly bounce, sending Adonis tumbling backwards over the top rope, trapping his arms in the ropes. Whip to the corner is reversed and Elmer charges in with an avalanche. He misses one of the worst looking leg drops I've ever seen, and Adonis thankfully finishes with a flying forearm across the chest at 3:04. Woof. Everything Elmer did was as awful as you could imagine, but Adonis bumped his ass off to salvage what he could. Elmer would make one last appearance for the WWF at the next episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, before finally being put out to pasture. ½*
- Lord Alfred Hayes with a pre-recorded interview with Hulk Hogan. Did we really need two?
The Junkyard Dog & Tito Santana vs. Terry & Hoss Funk (w/ Jimmy Hart):
I never realized how much television time was dedicated to the feud between the JYD and the Funks. Unfortunately for Tito, he's just a friend helping someone out, as he had nothing to do with the angle, having lost the Intercontinental Title to Randy Savage in February and being left with nothing to do. JYD and Santana come out to the Slammy Award winning "Grab Them Cakes." With all the talk in the weeks building to this event, I half-expect Jimmy Hart to have his pants removed. Terry wildly tosses chairs in the ring before the bell. Hoss and JYD lockup in the corner, with Hoss throwing forearms. Whip is reversed and Hoss gets sent into Terry. JYD with slams on both of the Funks, sending them to the floor for a breather. Back inside, Terry lights up Santana with chops. Whip and Santana clotheslines Terry over the top rope. Hoss comes in and is met with a pair of dropkicks. JYD peppers Terry with rights and slams him repeatedly into the turnbuckle. JYD goes for second helpings and lands a headbutt for two. Terry with ANOTHER bump over the top rope, to the exposed concrete floor. Hoss unloads on Santana with forearms. Crisscross and Santana with the diving forearm but Terry makes the save. Santana drags Hoss in with a headbutt. Crisscross and Terry lands a boot to the back. He tosses Santana to the floor, where Hart gets a few kicks in before the JYD chases him away. Back inside, Terry with a suplex for a slow two-count. Santana blocks a second attempt and throws Terry into the ropes with a suplex of his own. Both men come off the ropes and bop heads for a double-down. Hoss in with a butterfly suplex for two. Whip and a double clothesline followed by a leg drop from Terry. Dave Hebner is counting extremely slow. Santana avoids another leg drop. He scrambles around Terry and finally tags in the JYD. He runs wild with rights and gives the Funks a double noggin knocker. Whip and a clothesline to Terry. Terry grabs a choke with the wrist tape, but the Dog headbutts him and sends him flying over the top rope with a back body-drop! JYD follows, slamming Terry onto one of the ringside tables! Meanwhile, Tito is laying into Hoss with right hands. JYD goes after Jimmy and slaps him off the apron. KEEP YOUR PANTS ON, JIMMY! JYD with an inside cradle(!) for two. Santana cuts off Hoss and briefly applies a Figure-Four. During the melee, Hart tosses the megaphone to Terry. He whacks the Dog with it and covers for three at 11:44. I don't know if it's true, but there's rumors from the time that Terry injured himself legit on that big bump towards the end of the match. Either way, he would make one more appearance for the company before departing for retirement #12. Good match. ***
- While the blue bar cage is being constructed, we must pad the show. We get a replay from TNT where Gene Okerlund is reporting on location from Hulk Hogan's gymnasium, being spotted by Hillbilly Jim and Dr. Ponovich.
- Jesse Ventura is standing by for an interview with King Kong Bundy and Bobby Heenan. Heenan guarantees he'll be packing the Heavyweight Championship in Bundy's luggage later tonight. Bundy says history has proven that when Bundy and Hogan meet in the ring, Hogan is the one laid out and taken out on his back.
WWF Championship; Steel Cage Match:
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. King Kong Bundy (w/ Bobby Heenan):
The Main Event and FINAL match of the night. Legendary manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda, is doing the ring announcements. Ricky Schroder (then starring in "Silver Spoons") is the guest timekeeper, and Robert Conrad (best known for the series' "Hawaiian Eye" of the late 50's/early 60's and "The Wild, Wild West" of the late 60's) is the guest referee. You win by either escaping through the door or climbing over the cage (and for those who care, this is the debut of the blue bar cage that was used for the better part of the next 12 years). Bundy's vicious assault on Saturday Night's Main Event is the reason for this defense.
Hogan comes out to "Real American" and scales the cage before removing his shirt, revealing the heavily taped ribs. They immediately exchange rights, with Hogan rocking Bundy. Whip to the ropes and Hogan with a big boot. He chokes Bundy with the strap of his singlet and throws more right hands. Whip to the corner and Hogan follows in with a clothesline. Whip and Hogan with a running elbow. Bundy blocks being rammed into the cage and pounds on the ribs. Bundy plants Hogan with a slam and steps on the back of his head. He goes for the door, but Hogan grabs the leg to cut him off. Bundy slams Hogan into the cage and goes for the door again, unsuccessfully. Bundy removes the tape and chokes Hogan with it. Hogan cuts off another escape attempt, clawing at the face of Bundy. Whip to the corner and Hogan follows with an elbow. Whip to the ropes and Hogan uses the momentum to send Bundy face-first into the steel. Bundy blades in full view of the camera. Hogan targets the wound with a flurry of short rights and some scratches. Bundy gets sent back and forth into the cage, but the big man still won't go down. Hogan climbs the ropes and chokes Bundy across the top rope. Hogan goes for a slam but buckles under the weight of his enormous challenger. Bundy makes a slow move for the door, but Hogan stops him by choking him with the tape. Elvira accuses Ventura of being jealous because he doesn't have his own cartoon. ZING! Bundy fights Hogan off, sends him to the corner, and hits the Avalanche! Bundy comes off the ropes with a splash, but Hogan is alert enough to wrap himself around Bundy's leg, preventing escape. Whip to the corner and another Avalanche. Hogan no-sells this one, reverses a whip, and takes Bundy over with a powerslam! Hogan comes off the ropes with the leg drop! He signals for the escape and starts to climb. Heenan tries to block his path, allowing Bundy to recover. Hogan boots Bundy down and climbs over. Bundy goes for the door, but Hogan touches down first to retain at 10:19. Post-match, Hogan chases Heenan into the cage and throws him into the cage before sending him out the door with an atomic drop. Hogan celebrates with his classic posing as the show goes off the air. It's easy to dismiss a Cage match with the names attached here, but I feel it's a bit underrated, maybe because the commentary doesn't do a good job conveying the story. I'm not a fan of the cage escape-rules gimmick, but here, they did it right. Hogan never goes for an escape until he wins the match, while Bundy is the one going for the door after every big spot. Bundy wasn't a bumper, so they did a good job building up to the closing moments where Hogan is finally able to get the monster off his feet. Was the result a no-brainer? Of course, but sometimes the predictability is where the fun lies. ***
Final Thoughts: The show started out rough, with some bad matches, either due to a lack of effort or people rushed for time, and the Main Event from New York was a huge egg laid in front of 10,000+ people who mostly looked bored and had no interest in cheering for the alleged babyface. Once we get to the Battle Royal, this turns into a good show, with only one bad match (which lasted 3-minutes) putting a damper on a solid string of action from that point forward. The Tag Team Championship is the first great match in WrestleMania history for sheer in-ring performances, and we have fun gems like the Battle Royal, the Cage Match, and the JYD/Tito vs. Terry and Hoss to give a look. Years ago, I considered this one of the Bottom 5 WrestleMania's, but there's just enough good stuff to not only drag it from those damning words, but to creep into a VERY mildly recommended show, due entirely to second half of the card and an especially solid showing from Los Angeles.
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