WrestleMania – The Original Grandaddy

WrestleMania 1 PosterEvent: WrestleMania
Date: March 31, 1985
Venue: Madison Square Garden (New York, New York)
Attendance: 19,121

If you’ve never seen this show before and you’re a fan of modern day WWE stuff the first thing you’ll notice is the production value here absolutely blows.  But don’t judge them too harshly.  First off, this show was 25 years ago and it was the first time something like this had ever been done.

The first voice we hear is Gorilla Monsoon and he’s sitting next to Jesse “The Body” Ventura.  As an old school wrestling fan this is definitely my favorite combination on the mic.  From there Howard Finkel welcomes us to the show and then we head right into the Star Spangled Banner by non other than… Mean Gene Okerlund.  Um… what?

Tito Santana defeated The Executioner
Before the match gets started we get a brief intro by an incredibly uncomfortable looking Lord Alfred Hayes followed by taped interviews with Mene Gene, Tito and The Executioner.  Of note here is that Gene tells Tito that he knows absolutely nothing about The Executioner (Paul Perschmann better known as “Playboy” Buddy Rose) and Executioner tells Tito that he’s going to go after the leg that Greg Valentine had previously injured.  To his credit he does in fact “work the leg” during the match.  4:50 into the match Tito hits the flying forearm and then slaps on the figure four for the victory.

King Kong Bundy (with Jimmy Hart) defeated Special Delivery Jones
More Alfred Hayes looking like a fish out of water. He’s so uncomfortable doing live TV it’s not even funny.  The introductions of the wrestlers and Jimmy Hart (accompanying Bundy) take longer than the match.  Bundy catches SD in a bear hug, throws him into a corner, hits the Avalanche followed by a splash and gets the pin.  They announce it as officially 9 seconds.  Bundy is announced as 458 lbs and Monsoon continually refers to him as over 500 lbs.  Hilarious.

Ricky Steamboat defeated Matt Borne
Matt Borne (would go on to WWF fame as Doink The Clown) and Ricky Steamboat are up next.  The pre-interviews are really funny here as they’re trying to create heat between them which just obviously isn’t there.  Steamboat is HUGE here – completely roided out which is weird cause when I think back to him I never picture him as being a monster.  Borne looks like he’s completely winded after about 4 minutes.  Steamboat gets the win after a flying tackle off the top rope (which Monsoon tells us was 15 feet across the ring).

David Sammartino (with Bruno Sammartino) fought Brutus Beefcake (with Johnny Valiant) to a double DQ
More uncomfortable camera time for Alfred Hayes.  It’s hilarious that the wrestlers are entering and leaving the right in the same isle where Hayes is broadcasting from.  Johnny Valiant is accompanying Beefcake and goes to great lengths to let us know that only HE will speak for Brutus.  In fact Gene sticks the mic in his face and all Beefcake manages is a fart sound / raspberry.  No shit.  This is “pre-Barber” days for Beefcake and he’s playing the heel very nicely.  This is actually a pretty good match with some sold back and forth action until Beefcake throws Sammartino out of the ring where Valiant slams him on the concrete.  Bruno is there to back up his boy and we’re off the races for a classic double DQ finish.

WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Junkyard Dog defeated Greg Valentine (c) (with Jimmy Hart)

In the pre-match interviews Valentine goes on record saying that he’s in the best shape of his career and that he’s lost quite a bit of weight going into this match… yeah right.  One thing that you notice very quickly in these older WrestleManias is that the guys aren’t NEARLY as ripped as they are today.  Valentine certainly isn’t out of shape but he’s not ripped up the way HHH and Batista are today.  That said, Monsoon does refer to “The Hammer” as the best Intercontinental champion in history here.  Solid match (though slow) with Hammer working over JYD getting him ready for the figure four and Dog getting in some patented headbutts.  Hammer gets the pin while having both of his feet up on the ropes.  Referee didn’t see it (do they ever?) and declares Hammer the winner.  As he and Jimmy Hart leave the ring here comes Tito Santana to let the referee know what he’s missed.  The referee determines that Tito is obviously telling the truth and restarts the match.  From here Hammer gets counted out and JYD is declared the winner.  He’s AWFULLY happy for winning the match (but not the title).  Monsoon says about 12 times that Hammer is still the IC Champion.

WWF Tag Team Championship
Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik (with Freddie Blassie) defeated The U.S. Express (Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham) (c) (with Lou Albano)

Prior to this match we get a great Lord Alfred Hayes interlude.  Hayes says, “Both these teams had pointed opinions.  Let us hear some more about those opinions that they had to express.”  Seriously?  We couldn’t find anyone better to be on the mic?  * sigh *  After that we get an interview with the Iron Sheik who’s always awesome.  “Gene Mean, this is my best time of life for shape situation.”  Translation… “I’m in good shape”.  We get the standard singing of the Russian national anthem from Volkoff which brings back some great memories.  I’m not a huge fan of tag team wrestling but this is decent for what it was.  Volkoff and Shiek play the heels but honestly they’re not really doing much “heelish” until the very end when Shiek breaks Freddie Blassie’s cane over Windham’s head to get the pin fall and the victory.  I have to wonder… where was Tito to save this title for the good guys?

$15,000 Body Slam Challenge
André the Giant defeated Big John Studd (with Bobby Heenan)

This is a clusterfuck from the beginning.  I don’t remember the lead up to this match but the story goes like this.  Andre wins if he can slam Big John Studd.  If Andre doesn’t win he retires.  Beyond that, I’m not sure what to tell you.  Monsoon makes reference once to the fact that pin falls don’t count in the match up so it appears that the only way Studd can win is to make it to the time limit without getting slammed.  I’ve never been a fan of “big men” matches and this one doesn’t do anything to change my opinion.  It’s not Andre’s fault but he’s just too damn big to do anything in ring.  He’s completely winded after about 4 minutes of kicks, punches, bear hugs and ass-slams in the corner.  Yes… he puts Studd in the corner and essentially backs into him.  Apparently it’s a wicked offensive maneuver.  Andre finally ends the boredom by slamming Studd, winning the match and grabbing the $15k from Bobby Heenan.  He the proceeds to start throwing the cash to the fans until “The Weasel” grabs the back and heads to the locker room.  For as bad as Andre is in the ring, he’s worse on the mic and the WWF knows it… to the point where they completely cut off his post-match promo mid sentence.

WWF Women’s Championship
Wendi Richter (with Cyndi Lauper) defeated Leilani Kai (c) (with the Fabulous Moolah)

This is the first “Rock and Wrestling” match as we get the inclusion of Cyndi Lauper accompanying Wendi Richter to the ring.  It’s obviously a ploy by the WWF to get another audience into wrestling and I’m not sure that it works.  I honestly don’t remember ever seeing this match before and after seeing it I see no reason to watch it again.  This is definitely not a “Diva’s Match” that we get in current story lines.  This is woman’s wrestling and it’s SLOW.  We’re treated to quite a few hammer locks, arm bars and pulling of the hair.  At least with current WWE Divas we get a bit of T&A that makes up for the sub-standard wrestling (though I have to say some of the current Divas are decent workers).  Near the end of the match Lauper and Moolah (accompanying Kai) get into it outside the ring.  Cyndi is obviously not comfortable in thie element and it shows.  This match thankfully comes to an end when Kai attempts a cross body block off the top rope which Richter clumsily rolls through to get the pin.

Hulk Hogan and Mr. T (with Jimmy Snuka) defeated Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (with Cowboy Bob Orton)
This is the time where the WWF starts to bring out the big guns… sort of.  Billy Martin is announced as the special guest ring announcer.  Liberace (being accompanied to the ring by The Rockettes) is the guest timekeeper and Muhammad Ali is the special guest referee (though he’s a “floor ref” rather than in the ring).  This doesn’t start out promising as we get a complete  mosh right off the bat.  Cowboy Bob Orton (with the “bad guys”) and Superfly Jimmy Snuka (with the “good guys”) all make there way into the ring as does Ali.  At one point Snuka’s on the top rope waiting to do a splash but just jumps off feet first… lame.  I do have to give MAJOR props to Mr. T for his work here.  He’s doing body slams and hip tosses out there like this is his first job.  Well done B.A.  Well done.  Hogan is thrown to the outside and slammed with a chair (however the padded chair does cut down on the desired effect).  After another mele in the ring Orndorff has Hogan in a full nelson and is holding him so Bob Orton can come off the top rope and hit Hogan with his “loaded” cast.  Of course Hogan moves at the last minute pulling Orndorff into harms way “knocking him out” long enough for Hogan to get the pin.  We actually get a post-match interview which is rare as most shows these days go off the air with the winner posing in the ring.

General Thoughts

  • The ropes are crazy floppy.  In fact the ring looks like it’s going to fall apart as the wrestlers are moving around.
  • Moves that today are nothing more than “filler” are talked about as “power moves” – body slam, back body drop, suplex, etc.
  • The ringside announce table is literally RIGHT at ringside.
  • Whatever happened to announcing where people are from and their weights?
  • Jesse makes reference to the fact that it’s the biggest card in history – 1.2 million people.  He’s obviously referring to the closed circuit crowd (remember this was before PPV) but he doesn’t reference that.
  • I miss the times where “hooking the leg” was a prerequisite for actually getting a pin.
  • Fans don’t throw trash into the ring anymore.
  • For the most part the wrestlers are complete crap on the mic.  It’s obvious that back in these days the “product” was more about in ring than story lines.  Amazing that they gave the mic to some of these guys.
  • Today, the concept of a “time limit” in any match aside from an Iron Man Match is completely absent.  During WrestleMania they announced the time limit for just about every match.
  • Personally these shows have always been about the wrestling.  I like the idea of having one big show at the end of the “season” and I could do without all the celebrity stuff.  Let’s face it… Billy Martin, Cindy Lauper, Liberace, The Rockettes and Ali knew nothing about wrestling, care nothing about wrestling, etc.  They’re obvioulsy there for name value.  I’m sure it worked for some of the non-wrestling fans but for us “pure” fans they’re nothing but a boring distraction.
Liberace
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