#WF128 – The History Of WrestleMania
James Dixon: Hosted by Vince McMahon, who is wearing a flash polyester suit. Was that ever in style?
Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd is joined in progress and with retrospective commentary from Gorilla Monsoon and Jim Ross. We get the finish and little else, with Andre slamming Studd to a big pop. Gorilla calls it a classic, which is a somewhat outlandish claim. However, just showing minimal footage of some of these matches will definitely help the flow of the tape and indeed the general watchability of the thing. The tag main event gets the same treatment, before we go to the women’s match between Leilani Kai and Wendi Richter. Curious choice of order, I must say. I guess Hulkamania was dead so they wanted to skirt over him as much as possible, but it is going to be a tough task due to his prominence on EVERY show featured on this tape. Wendi Richter is someone who also didn’t exist anymore in WWF land, so I am surprised her title win gets featured as a key match. That was all brief and far too short to be of value.
We start with Roddy Piper and Mr. T in a boxing match, with Vince McMahon joined by my favourite guest commentator ever; Susan St. James. Uh oh! Uh oh! Uh oh! Annoying isn’t it? Uh oh! Uh oh! It is practically unwatchable when she is commentating. Mr. T wins the match to boos from the pro-wrestling crowd, and we go right into Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a steel cage. It’s a match well documented in these volumes as being the wrong main event. Bundy was rotten and not an effective monster heel, no matter how hard they pushed him. Jim Ross continues his transition from world class play-by-play guy to robotic drone, claiming he watched this event live on pay-per-view. Impressive, considering the show wasn’t broadcast via that medium, what with it not existing yet. I am onto the WWF’s propagandist tricks by the way, as they have turned the crowd volume right down for this, I assume in an effort to show that Hogan “wasn’t that over”. It gets turned back up for Steele vs. Savage, and for Christ sake, couldn’t they have replaced the commentary on this one!? Back to Susan St. Uh Oh. This has been one of the longest clips so far, which is rather unfortunate as very little happens in the section we are shown. Then rather oddly, the footage just ends while Steele is chasing Savage around the ring, and we head to the NFL vs. WWF battle royal. Far be it for me to complain about a George Steele match getting cut short, but jeez, that is some lazy ass editing from Coliseum. I don’t know why I am surprised. Once again Hogan has been brushed to one side, though surely they won’t be able to do that with ‘Mania III. We see the battle royal from the start, but after King Tonga is eliminated we cut to the high spot of the match between The Fridge and Big John Studd. There was probably money in doing a match in Chicago between Studd and Fridge. People were into their exchange big time, and they could have done decent business, even if it was just locally. Not long after the Fridge-Studd stuff, Jim Neidhart takes the most ridiculously hammy bump you will ever see, from an Andre big boot, and then Andre hurls out Bret Hart to win it. Susan St. James and Shamu Bundy make most of the ‘Mania II coverage skipable.
Back in the studio, Vince tediously runs down what the NFL players from that match are now doing. Most of them are playing football, but for different teams. Well no kidding, it was about 8-years later when this was made. Vince seems delighted with himself when he segues from Bill Fralic playing for Detroit to WrestleMania III, which as everyone should be fully aware, came from the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Michigan. Good one, Vince.
Savage vs. Steamboat is joined in progress, and of course it is every bit as good as the hype suggests, even quarter of a century later. Gorilla and JR put the quality of the bout over, as well as waxing lyrical about the massive crowd. Undoubtedly you lose some of the story and the intensity by seeing this midway through, but it is still Savage-Steamboat and thus it is still superb. Thankfully, we get more than the tiny snippets that the other bouts received, and there is enough here to make this entirely worthwhile. Elizabeth’s expression when Savage gets back dropped over the top to the outside, is priceless. Rather than appearing concerned, she looks more like she just realised she had left the iron on. Only five minutes, but still, it is five minutes of one of the all-time great matches. Elizabeth is unintentionally hilarious at the end too, reacting with a grimace that looks more like a laugh, as if she had just been told a rather amusing dirty joke about peanut butter and jam.
We go to the finish of Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis next, a fun match with plenty of extracurricular afterwards, including Brutus Beefcake cementing his babyface turn. Adonis gets a haircut after losing to Piper’s sleeper, with Beefcake doing the honours with the clippers. The footage shown is significantly more haircut than match. Adonis’ sell job of the haircut when he sees himself in the mirror remains priceless.
Next to the biggest and most recycled match in wrestling, which is of course Hogan vs. Andre. Hogan gets main event billing, finally. Well, unless they decide to show Billy Jack Haynes against Hercules. Did you ever notice that Haynes threw up on Herc’s back while he had the full nelson applied outside the ring? What a disgusting bastard. Just clipped highlights here, but we see the world’s most famous slam. The reaction of the crowd as they rise in unison, remains legendary. As has been stated many times, the spectacle and grandeur of the match have never been replicated, and never will be, even if the action was the pits. A much better choices of matches in this segment, though there was a lot more quality to pick from.
And now watch this tape go to hell, because WrestleMania IV is god awful. I do appreciate Vince having the tournament bracket back in the studio, with little pictures of the wrestlers on it. Attention to detail wins this bonus points. We get about 4-seconds of Savage’s win over Butch Reed and about 12-seconds from his win over Greg Valentine in the quarter finals. Similar brevity occurs for Savage-One Man Gang, thankfully. Savage cuts a retrospective talking head promo about being winded in the match with Gang. He discusses the final with Ted DiBiase, and while it lacks his 80s intensity, it is still just as nonsensical and batshit mental as ever. To the final match itself then, and Hogan is already at ringside in Savage’s corner, so we are quite a way through. I hate this match. I find it so incredibly boring. It is not just from watching it jaded due to a terrible show and Savage overkill either, even watched with fresh eyes I think it is slow and dull. Savage wins the belt of course, and the knackered crowd just about muster a pop. What a bad idea it was to hold WrestleMania at Trump Plaza. So, obviously, they held it there again the following year. I love WWF logic.
And now a montage of celebrities who have appeared at WrestleMania over the years. Steve Allen’s amusing segment from WrestleMania VI with the Bolsheviks gets extended play, which is perhaps somewhat ironic given than Allen was one of the most high profile names opposed to the WWF in the Attitude era, as a supporter of the PTA. He is dead now, so I guess Vince won.
Mania V is slim pickings, but Andre vs. Jake is one of the worst matches on a bad card, so clearly that is the obvious choice to be featured. Coliseum do it on purpose, I am convinced. This is all extracurricular, and the number of moves exchanged between Andre and Jake in this clip is a grand total of ZERO. What an excellent choice for inclusion! “What a match!” babbles Gorilla. I have no problem with the solid bout between Rude and Warrior being included. Sadly, all we get from this match is the very famous and oft-copied finish. I am now longing to see some actual wrestling.
Savage-Hogan is of course the main event, and it was one of the biggest drawing bouts on pay-per-view for a number of years. We join this one with Elizabeth being taken to the back, and Savage in control on the outside. I like this match, and in particular the two year storyline arc that built up to it. I am not surprised it drew so well, it was storytelling in wrestling at its very best. The only good thing about ‘Mania being back-to-back at the awful Trump Plaza, was that the Savage story arc came full circle, as he won and then lost the title in the same venue. They could have done both at MSG instead and it would have been infinitely better, of course. In case you were wondering, Hogan won with the usual fare. The debate about whether that was the right choice is discussed in Volume #2.
Warrior-Hogan starts us off. This match is a testament to what smart pacing, planning and determination can achieve. It is an epic tour de force, and for me, the perfect match that these two could have had. Everyone who loves wrestling knows this match move-for-move. It is timeless. It remains a huge spectacle and retains its aura, no matter how many times it is viewed. For those who have never seen it, yes, I AM talking about a match between Hogan and Warrior being great. Hard to fathom sure, but check it out if you don’t believe me. It’s honestly good. I’m not crazy here… It is also the first time ever in the Hulkamania era that Hogan suffered a clean televised pinfall defeat. We get quite a good chunk of this match as well, certainly enough to give a true representation of what went down. The rest of the show is severely lacklustre, and nothing else gets an airing. Frankly, nothing, even with politics considered, should be following Warrior-Hogan anyway.
We return to the studio where Gorilla Monsoon joins Vince to discuss the next few Manias. They put over Hogan’s character for endorsing Warrior following his defeat. Others would point to this as spotlight stealing from Hogan, but that is open to debate. My view is that it’s Hogan, so if it looked like spotlight hogging, that’s probably what it was.
The classic retirement match between The Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage starts things off, and we join this from the second Savage flying elbow. The crowd becomes audibly more and more riled and concerned as Savage drops elbow after elbow. This was years before it took three finishers at WrestleMania to win a match, and back in 1991 just one finishing move was practically a guaranteed victory. In many ways, with what they did here, Savage and Warrior rewrote the rules and set the bar higher for what a Mania main event match should be. The crowd reaction when Savage kicks out of Warrior’s splash, the same move that beat Hogan the previous year, is spine tingling. They cannot believe it. I know I have been harsh on Warrior in the past, but you have to appreciate his effort when it came to the big matches he had. He was limited and one-dimensional, but he became his character like almost no other, and could be led to not just a watchable match, but to a classic. When he worked good workers like Savage, DiBiase and Rude he could and did have great matches, but when he wrestled slugs like Hercules, Andre the Giant and Papa Shango, he struggled and the viewer suffered. We get the whole post match angle after Warrior beats Macho Man to “retire” him, as Elizabeth and Savage reunite after over two years estranged. It is one of wrestling’s all-time great heart-warming moments, one that will forever live in infamy. To me, it is the best relationship angle that has ever occurred in wrestling. The crowd reaction to them hugging is still incredible, and people genuinely cried. This was wrestling at its finest, and it is so, so simple.
The Rockers take on the occasional team of Haku and The Barbarian next, but we only get a few clips from the opening sequences, before going to Jake Roberts against Rick Martel in a blindfold match. How utterly pointless to even show The Rockers’ stuff if we only get a minute or so from the shine. Why oh why would you go to Jake-Martel!? Once again, it is one of the worst choices from the card. Just minutes and minutes of non-action. That gets cut too, and we have the main event, with Hogan against WWF champion Sgt. Slaughter, again joined in progress… but we don’t even get the finish! The highlights end with Hogan hitting a splash/clothesline in the corner. What the hell are they playing at?
“The Undertaker’s first ever WrestleMania appearance” says Vince in the studio. I wonder who that guy was that beat Jimmy Snuka the year before? They looked awfully similar. Come on Vince, get it together. Taker makes short work out of Jake, and we move onto Hogan against Sid Justice. No finish shown, though, there wasn’t one anyway really. Straight into the finish of Flair-Savage, with Macho lifting his second WWF championship. They are flying through this, but without anything really happening. This is a real cut and paste mish-mash job.
We go next to Roddy Piper against Bret Hart, which I guess makes clear the WWF’s current direction with the emphasis put on the Hitman here. We are well into this, with Bret busted wide open, but in control of Piper. This is Piper’s greatest match, without question. It is a superb effort from both guys, with Piper determined to get his friend over in a big way. The story they tell is a masterpiece, crafted perfectly and playing off the morals of Piper and the emotions of the crowd. Piper contemplating using the ring bell but then deciding against it, is superb stuff. The finish with Bret pushing off the buckles while locked in Piper’s sleeper and getting the pin, has been recycled many times, often by Bret himself. Hart is a bloody mess and looks like he has been in a war. Piper straps the belt on him after the match. See Hogan, that is how you endorse and put over your opponent.
Urgh. This is a shocking show. Furious was kinder to it than it deserved. It is just so very boring. It looks like a minor show with the outdoor setting and small crowd. I still attest that if WrestleMania IX had been indoors, it would have been a better show, or at least felt like one. We start with Doink vs. Crush. Yeah, really. I mean, look at the matches we got at Mania VIII, then compare it to this. At least it is brief, with double Doinks proving too much for the technicolor Crush. Fluorescent orange man, really, what were you thinking!?
The Mega Maniacs take on Money Inc. next for the tag titles, in Hogan’s return match, and we start and abruptly end, with Hogan’s hot tag. The action just stops midway through and we cut to Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez. I am actually starting to feel sorry for Hogan! This is the worst match in WrestleMania history, bar none. Well, maybe some of the Diva matches in later years… Again, we get a very brief clip, though this time I am thankful. We get even less of The Headshrinkers vs. The Steiners, literally about 5-seconds. That was just pointless! Luger-Perfect is next, and I am too distracted by Luger’s tassels, the dyed blonde tips in his hair and his odd looking bumps. In a travesty, Luger wins. Bad booking.
Bret Hart stumbles through a promo about his match with Yokozuna at Mania IX, and he seemingly can’t even remember the bout. I don’t blame him, he has probably blanked much of it out. The match is ok for a ‘Zuna match, but it could have been more according to Bret. In his (superb) book, he says how all of his offense was cut at the end, because Yoko was blowing so badly and couldn’t do it, so they went to the home sequence early and cut bits out. Obviously the result would have been the same either way, a result that I still think was a mistake. If this had been a few years prior with Hogan in Bret’s spot, he would have vanquished the monster and moved on. Even if the intention was to build to the ultimately scuppered Hogan-Hart match months down the line at SummerSlam, there was still no reason to beat Hart here. Yokozuna was a tedious wrestler, with matches so slow, snails would blush with embarrassment. You know what I don’t understand about Vince McMahon’s booking? When he went with a heel champion, he always used guys who had been with the company for a relatively short amount of time. He did it with Taker in his WWF rookie year, same with Flair and Slaughter. He then did it again here with Yokozuna. What was wrong with the regular heels on the roster over the years? Flair aside, the likes of Mr. Perfect or Jake Roberts would have been far better choices. We actually get a fair chunk of this, including the full post-match shenanigans with Hogan winning the WWF title for the fifth time. Yeah, the tape ends with Hogan winning a title! They must have had a change of heart about their feelings towards him midway through making it.
Vince finishes off the tape by saying that maybe one day, WrestleMania will take place on the moon. Ok… It may be difficult to broadcast that live! A four second delay? Please. The internet will have spoilers out before the stream catches up…
Summary: It’s a bit of a mess really. Things move really quickly, but sometimes too fast. It is hard to watch and digest what is going on. This would have benefited more from being a “best of” type tape rather than a feature. I can only assume this was previously a Mania pre show or hype event, from the way Vince and Gorilla are talking. Either way it is not especially worthwhile, and you would be better off with one of the many other tapes that feature actual full matches. Not recommended.