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#WS902 – WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches


James Dixon:


Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff
We start with the main event of the very first WrestleMania, and the match that helped change the business. Mohammed Ali is the guest referee, alongside Pat Patterson. Piper and Mr. T start things off once we get going, and the crowd is electric as they slap each other. Piper tries to take T to the mat with an amateur takedown, but T escapes and does a fireman’s carry, just as all hell breaks loose. Ali restores order, and Piper decides he has had enough and goes to leave. In reality they do almost nothing for the opening exchanged, but the crowd is red hot. It just shows the importance of a good feud featuring charismatic guys. T is better than a lot of the wrestlers were in the cartoon era of the company. Hogan comes in with Piper and the Hulkster gets the better of it, and a double clothesline from the faces takes down Piper. T slams Piper twice and hip tosses Orndorff, and Hogan sends Piper to the outside with a big boot. The intensity here is just off the charts. The crowd wants to see Hogan and T murder Piper. Hogan takes a chair shot on the outside and Piper and Orndorff work him over with double teams. Mr. T tries to stop the assault, but Patterson prevents him from doing so. Double atomic drop from the heels, and a suplex from Orndorff as they do a number on Hogan. Orndorff hits a backbreaker but missed a knee from the top, and gets the tag to T who unloads with punches, but he gets taken down. It is one of the least effective hot tags I have ever seen! Though, he is not a wrestler so I guess he can be forgiven. This is set up so Hogan can take the glory, as ever, and of course Hogan gets the tag back from T and he rams Piper and Orndorff together, only to get caught with a back suplex. Orton tries to get involved, but Snuka comes in and takes him out with a headbutt. It all breaks down, but T stops Piper from attacking Hogan and Orton accidentally hits Orndorff with the cast on his arm, and Hogan covers for the win. Booked to the hilt, but it didn’t drag on too long and there was enough happening to make it interesting. I don’t rate it as highly as Furious, but it was ok considering who was in there.
Final Rating: **


20-Man Battle Royal
We go to WrestleMania II, and this match featured guys from the WWF and the NFL. It’s a rare chance to see Bret Hart and Bruno Sammartino in the same ring. What a match THAT could have been if both guys were in their prime. When you look back, it is pretty wild that they did this match, and it is actually no-where near as awful as it had the potential to be. The NFL guys got it and understood the rules of the match, which is not that easy a thing to do. Dan Spivey looks a helluva lot like Hulk Hogan. Andre is doing his best Hogan impression as well, wearing all yellow. Did guys think they would get over more by wearing the same colours? The crowd explodes as local hero ‘The Fridge’ takes down both the Hart Foundation with a tackle, then targets Big John Studd. Studd eliminates him to massive boos, but Fridge pulls him out afterwards. He has learnt his sportsmanship from Hogan! The final four is Russ Francis, Andre the Giant and the Hart Foundation. The Harts eliminate Francis and then target Andre. He kicks them both off when they try to eliminate him, and knocks Bret down with a huge boot to the face. Double noggin knocker and a big boot sends Neidhart out in one of the stupidest bumps you are every likely to see. Anvil stopped, changed direction, and then essentially ran and jumped over the top rope. Wild. Andre eliminates Hart by throwing him over the top onto Neidhart, thus winning the match. This was fairly short and exciting and there were some really fun moments, especially involving Fridge. Far better than it should have been, considering it was half NFL players.
Final Rating: **


The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis vs. The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana
This match is ok, but why the hell would you choose it over Steamboat-Savage!? The Bulldogs take out all three of the heels outside the ring before the bell, and then do a number on Anvil in the ring. Santana comes in but gets caught in the corner, but his quickness allows him to escape and tag in Davey Boy, who catches Anvil with a big back body drop. The commentary on this is dire, because instead of Ventura, we have a bunch of celebrities alongside a clearly less than impressed Gorilla Monsoon, and it is distracting. This match is ok, but it would have been so much better as just a straight Bulldogs-Harts match, with Davis and Santana working a singles squash. With the amount of shit on this card, you would have to cut half of it to make it a truly great overall show. The Harts work over Dynamite, and Davis comes in for a few seconds to put the boots in. The crowd really wants to see him take a beating here, and they have booked this smart, because Davis only coming in for seconds at a time and throwing a few kicks before tagging back out, is really pissing off this massive crowd. The pop for Tito when he comes in and unloads on him is incredible. Tito proceeds to wipe Davis out with the flying forearm, but instead of going for the pin he lays in with punches. Anvil makes the save with a clothesline to the back of the head, but Santana manages to tag in Davey Boy before Davis can escape. Clothesline from Davey followed by a tombstone piledriver, and Davis is out of it. Davey doesn’t want to end it yet, and hits a stalling suplex and a running powerslam, but Anvil prevents the pin. Tito hits the flying forearm on him and a melee breaks out. In the midst of it, Davis nails Smith with the megaphone and falls on top of him for the fluke pin, to the disgust of the crowd. This is an ok match, but not a patch on what it could and should have been if Davis was not involved. Credit to him though, he took an absolute hammering from Davey at the end, and the finish was really well worked and red hot.
Final Rating: **¾


WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Honky Tonk Man (c) vs. Brutus Beefcake
Brutus doesn’t even have music. He walks to the ring with a deranged look on his face and intent in his eyes, not something you want to see from a guy wearing pink and wielding massive sheers. Neither of these guys are especially good, so this will probably be a slog. Beefcake messes with Honky early on, hitting an atomic drop and then ruffling his hair, before connecting with a big right that sends him to the outside. Back in and Honky gets his head rammed into the buckles ten times, and Beefcake hits a high knee to again send Honky out of the ring. It’s a good start actually, it has been all Beefcake but it has been pretty decent. It is when Honky takes over with his boring offence that things get hard to watch. Honky does take over as Beefcake misses an elbow, and he goes to work with a snapmare and a fist drop. Jimmy Hart chokes Beefcake while the ref is distracted by Honky. They do a really strange spot where Honky sets up the Shake, Rattle and Roll finish, but he stops and doesn’t do it, then moves over near the ropes and goes for it again. Predictably, Beefcake blocks it with the ropes and makes a comeback. Awful ring positioning and communication, they killed all suspension of disbelief there. Beefcake comes back and puts on the sleeper, but Jimmy Hart nails the ref with his megaphone to prevent the win and the title switch. Beefcake targets Hart and cuts his hair outside the ring. Meanwhile, Peggy Sue tries to revive Honky while a number of referees try and do the same to the original ref. When the dust settles, Beefcake has won by DQ, but Honky retains his title. Typical Honky title defence, and not much of a match. They weren’t exactly spoilt for choice at Mania IV though.
Final Rating: *


Summary: Two of the matches feature celebrity involvement, but the early Mania’s were dominated by outside stars, so I guess that is rather fitting. The matches were reasonable choices, because the options on the first four Mania’s are somewhat slim, but the overlooking of Savage-Steamboat rankles somewhat. There is no real theme to anything here, it is just the matches out of context and without a thread to tie them together. Ok for a quick peek at the event, but not really worth the effort.
Verdict: 43


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