So this is where it all started. Not looking forward to this AT ALL haha.
Howard Finkle is the ring announcer, and he has to stop and double check his notes to see what he’s announcing… because the person singing the National Anthem is… MEAN GENE OKERLAND! LMFAO. They jam packed WrestleMania 1 with celebrities… TV, Movie AND Music… and yet the best they could do is MEAN GENE? I swear this is the ONLY time I have sat through this. When I watch WM live and they do it, I go get a drink. When I’m watching it on DVD or whatever… I skip it. But not this time! Mean Gene is awesome. Terrible at signing… but awesome.
Match 1 – Tito Santana Vs The Executioner – It’s happening because… yeah that’s a problem a lot of these undercard matches have on this show; there isn’t really a reason. Both men are interviewed before the match and they try their best to make something out of this, and it all boils down to Executioner wanting to make a name for himself at the expense of Tito, and he’s going to use the injured leg (caused by Greg Valentine) to do it. Match is short, and they work the leg angle into it the best they can with the time they got, and that’s that. Nothing harmless, but when you look at what WrestleMania has become now in terms of match build (for the most part, anyway), and what Starrcade already was 2 years before, you have to wonder if Vince and the WWF put any effort into anything on the show not involving a celebrity. Oh yeah, Buddy Rose is the guy under the Executioner mask. *.
In between matches… we get Lord Alfred Hayes. Who might be the worst guy they’ve ever hired to talk on a mic. Seriously. He is TERRIBLE. And not always in a funny way. For the “biggest show ever” Vince really fucked up by allowing Hayes anywhere near a microphone lol.
Match 2 – S.D. Jones Vs King Kong Bundy – Lasts “8” seconds. If 8 seconds = 24 seconds. LOL. DUD.
Match 3 – Matt Bourne Vs Ricky Steamboat – DOINK THE CLOWN! On paper this should have been great. Unfortunately they don’t get much time, though even then, you’d have to imagine that if this match happened in the NWA with the same amount of time it probably would have been better. No idea why this match is happening. Makes 3 in a row. This ain’t no “supercard” like Starrcade was, that’s for sure. Highlight might have been Steamboat imitating Bourne’s selling of an atomic drop lol. Some solid stuff, but absolutely nothing more. Disappointing given who’s involved, but then again, it’s the first WrestleMania show… and happening in WWF. This was very much the “style” of matches that took place the majority of the time. **.
Match 3 – David Sammartino Vs Brutus Beefcake – Oh joy, we are treated to a Brutus Beefcake match. At least he isn’t main eventing WM like he would do Starrcade a number of years later. His opponent is the son of Bruno Sammartino; David Sammartino. The pre-match interviews give us no real reason for this match to take place, and I’m starting to wonder if maybe there was some kind of reason for all of these matches, but they were just told to say what they plan on doing in the match when they got interviewed and not WHY they were going to do what they were going to do. Which seems pretty stupid to me. This match actually gets a fairly decent amount of time, especially compared to the matches prior to it on the card. I can see people not liking this at all, but I’ll go ahead and call it the match of the night. They work a really nice, simple story into the match, with Brutus seeing this as an opportunity to really make a name for himself at the first WrestleMania event by beating the son of legendary Bruno Sammartino. He tries to make himself look good by out wrestling the young kid, which backfires on him a couple of times, so he heels it up and does whatever he can to remain in control and try to win the match. Would have been nice to have an actual finish, but it was done to build to a tag match between Bruno and son David taking on Brutus and his manager Johnny Valiant. Which seems pretty backwards to me. Shouldn’t the singles match have maybe taken place on say… the War to Settle the Score and ended like the WM match, so we could have gotten the tag match at WM? That would have been like having the WM main event at the War to Settle the Score and use Mr T and that match as a build up to just a singles match between Piper and Hogan at WM. While a singles match for the title would have perhaps been a better choice, it would have been a waste of the celebrity presence of Mr T and the publicity gained from it. Surly having Bruno of all people in a match at WM would have helped draw more people to watch the event? Wait… forget all of that… did I just say that BRUTUS had the Match of the Night at a WRESTLEMANIA? ***.
Match 4 – Greg Valentine Vs Junkyard Dog – The first title match of WrestleMania now, with Greg Valentine defending his Intercontinental Championship against the Junkyard Dog. Valentine goes from having a Dog Collar match at the first Starrcade event to wrestling the Junkyard Dog. I’m sure that wasn’t a coincidence! Having a title on the line here makes this match at least seem important, which makes a change so far. Match isn’t particularly great, but it’s a decent enough hard hitting contest that was able to leave the crowd happy with the babyface winning but kept the belt on the heel. *1/2
Match 5 – Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo Vs Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff – Another title match follows, pitting the Tag Team Champions Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo representing the USA against the Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff representing Iran and Russia respectively. Isn’t Rotundo’s name actually Rotunda? Surprised they didn’t call Barry “Larry” or something too. Match is pretty good, which isn’t that surprising given how good Windham and Rotunda are. This is also a pretty historic match, as it features the first title change in WrestleMania history! **
The card so far has gone from meaningless random undercard matches, to matches with some meaning simply because a title is on the line, to matches now that have meaning because of a storyline. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d rather watch a great match with no build or real meaning than a bad match with lots of build and meaning, but it’s both that makes a match truly great in my opinion. So it would have been nice if they had made more of an effort for all their matches rather than just… 3.
Match 6 – Big John Studd Vs Andre The Giant – The first of these 3 if the $15,000 bodyslam challenge match between Andre the Giant and Big John Studd. If Studd wins, Andre has to retire. If Andre wins, he gets the $15,000! A basic old school stipulation which makes sense in the context of the feud, which is essentially the fact that Studd believes he is the only REAL giant of wrestling and intends to prove it. Only problem is I don’t think anyone ever really thought that Andre wouldn’t be able to slam Studd. Maybe I’m biased because I’d seen people way smaller than Andre easily slam people around Studd’s size on a weekly basis long before I saw this match, but even if I hadn’t, looking at a guy like Andre there’d have to be something wrong with you if you didn’t think he was capable of it. Ah well, this is a different era that I wasn’t even a part of yet as I wouldn’t be born for another few years, so it’s hard to really get in the mind set of what people might have thought at the time. Match stinks, anyway. Andre wasn’t very mobile compared to just a couple of years earlier, and Studd will probably never be brought up as one of the all time great big men in the wrestling industry. Thankfully it isn’t long. Ending with Heenan stealing back the money like the weasel he is, is probably the highlight of the match. DUD.
Match 7 – Leilani Kai Vs Wendi Richter – The second match with a storyline behind it was the last championship match on the show, for the ladies championship. The Fabulous Moolah was in the corner of the champion Leilani while Cyndi Lauper was in the corner of Wendi. With the help of Moolah, Kai was able to capture the ladies championship from Richter at the War to Settle the Score event, so a rematch was made for WrestleMania and gave the WWF another excuse to use Cyndi Lauper and the publicity that would come with her. It certainly isn’t a match anyone should go out of their way to watch, but honestly its better than the average diva match we get today. Some stuff looks pretty hard hitting and they pull out some moves that is extremely impressive for women wrestlers to be doing in 1985, and hell, would be impressive today given the sheer lack of talent most of the divas have. Another title change for WM too. *1/2.
Match 8 – Hulk Hogan & Mr T Vs Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff – The third match with any real story to it, is THE match with a storyline. The entire event, the company itself, and Vince McMahon’s livelihood were riding SOLELY on this match. Had WrestleMania failed, you can believe that this is the match that would get the blame. Afterall, you had the top babyface Hulk Hogan, the top heel Roddy Piper, the top celebrity involved in this whole thing Mr T, then the added attraction of Muhammad Ali being the special referee, Billy Martin as guest ring announcer, Liberace as guest time keeper and the The Rockettes accompanying Liberace to the ring. Cyndi Lauper might have been one of the stars that helped kick start the Rock n Wrestling connection, but it would be Mr T who took it to the next level by not only being involved in the main event angle, but being involved in the main event MATCH. He teamed with Hulk Hogan to take on Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr Wonderful Paul Orndorff. In the corner of Hogan and T would be Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and Cowboy Bob Orton would be in the corner of Piper and Orndorff. Now, I can’t for the life of me remember where I either read or heard this rumour, and that’s all it is, a rumour, but apparently the main event was originally planned to be a 6 man tag, with Snuka and Orton being involved in the actual match rather than just on the outside. Piper and Snuka had a lot of history stemming from one of the most memorable moments in WWF history, when Piper smashed a coconut over the head of Jummy Snuka on an episode of Piper’s Pit, so his involvement wouldn’t have been out of place in the match. However, various reasons may have prevented this from happened. The one I heard was that Snuka got in some trouble involving drugs, so his punishment was being removed from the actual match, which also ended up punishing Orton as well. Another one all stems from an incident a couple of years earlier involving Jimmy Snuka’s girlfriend dying from suspicious circumstances, and obviously having Snuka in a more high profile role on the show might have been bad for business. Again, this is nothing more than a rumour, and one I wish I could recall where I heard it from. Anywho, onto the match. It’s definitely got that “WrestleMania Atmosphere” to it, with the crowd just going insane for Mr T and Hogan and absolutely hating Piper and Orndorff. And then when Orton and Snuka pile into the ring and Ali jumps in to break shit up… wow. It isn’t a great match by any means, but the fans are absolutely loving it anyway. Hell, I can easily sit through this match and have a good time as Piper looks like he legit wants to hurt T (and he did hate him for real) and the fans want to legit hurt Piper. This match did its job, and did it well. It was designed to get the WWF more publicity and it did exactly that. Can’t fault it for that really. And hey, it isn’t even the worst main event in WrestleMania history, so that’s something! **.