WWE WrestleMania I
March 31, 1985
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
I quit watching Raw last week. Initially, I thought I had made a rash decision. After all, there were worse episodes of Raw out there and there were one or two things that I liked. But now that I’ve had a week to think about it, I made the right decision. I have school and other priorities that, shockingly, are more important than to get a review of Monday Night Raw up late Monday night. Of course, this was a completely voluntary project that I took upon myself to request, but when the time came to give up the project, well, that time was last week, and I took it. Raw will probably be better later this year, but I won’t be around to review it. Simple as that.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to come up with a new project. This summer I reviewed all 11 G1 Climax events. I had a pretty fun time with it, and most importantly, people seemed to enjoy it. So let’s up the ante a bit. Everyone likes that one wrestling show called WrestleMania, right? People have a fun time watching it, and have done so since 1985. What better way to celebrate the upcoming 30th anniversary of WrestleMania by reviewing every show, leading into WrestleMania 31 in California? I can’t think of one. I’ll be reviewing one WrestleMania per week (sometimes two), every week, leading to the big show in 2015. It’s a giant undertaking (pun itended) but by the end of the project, every WrestleMania will be here for everyone to remember and witness, in full detail. Without further adieu, let’s begin with the one that started it all.
It was a big project for Vince McMahon to take on. After spending the last year cultivating and picking talent from the various regional promotions that he raided, he was ready to take his father’s business to a national level. But that took time, cunning, and most importantly, you know, money. He didn’t have a lot of that heading into the first WrestleMania, and the only way to make a lot of it was to go in a different direction. He needed something that would resonate, would creative a new audience interested in pro wrestling on a national scale, and something that would initiate a cash flow that was desperately needed.
That was where the whole Rock ‘N Wrestling connection started. Cyndi Lauper started appearing regularly as Wendi Richter’s manager. Since she was a big sensation during the eighties, Richter became a star. Hulk Hogan started associating himself with Mr T., who was huge as a part of the A-Team television series during the same era. The celebrities and the rock and roll atmosphere the WWF perpetuated soon got Vince McMahon what he wanted- national recognition. But he still needed money. So he would go on to create the WrestleMania card, a large scale wrestling event that further cultivated the Rock ‘N Wrestling connection by not only having celebrities there, but by also having celebrities compete in matches. It was a huge gamble to take, and Vince McMahon himself wasn’t even sure if the project was going to work out. But hey, we wouldn’t be here today if the project was a dud. It was a huge success, and it started a tradition that continues to this day. Now with the big introduction out of the way, let’s move on and actually get to the first WrestleMania!
Show opens with a WrestleMania logo with a picture of the New York skyline in the corner. Pictures of the wrestlers competing tonight are all shown. Frankly, it looks like someone just took all of these pictures out of a magazine and posted them on here. Professionally done shots these are not. Also not the greatest production values of all time, I have to say. This is their first major closed circuit event though, so not everything’s going to be perfect on the first night in.
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura are on commentary for the first ever WrestleMania.
Mean Gene Okerlund is out to sing the national anthem. I have no idea why out of all the people to sing the national anthem, he’s the guy. I guess they had someone to bring in initially, but they backed out, so they picked Mean Gene as a rib or something. He goes through the song very quickly and it instantly comes off like he’d rather be doing anything else than to be in the middle of the ring singing. He was fine, though. Jesse Ventura compared him to Robert Goulet. He wasn’t THAT good.
Alfred Hayes, who looks exceedingly nervous throughout the show, throws it to Mean Gene for a Tito Santana interview. No one’s gonna stop him tonight, brother, arriba! The Executioner says he’ll go after the leg Greg Valentine had injured previously. He wants to prove tonight that he is indeed a big leaguer. I should mention this is the only time Executioner has ever been seen on a WrestleMania, so I think you know how the upcoming match turns out for him. These weren’t the best interviews ever (Santana was never that great, thinking about it) but at least they didn’t come off as phony or scripted. They sounded real, and that comes across pretty well even if the promo is bad.
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner. The REAL IDENTITY of the Executioner is, of all people, Buddy Rose. Did not know that, probably because the guy under the mask in no way resembles the Buddy Rose I know, who is quite obese. He actually looked 217 pounds here as opposed to 270. What a difference a few years makes! Santana started off with a great babyface comeback that the crowd was into. He went for a splash but Executioner got the knees up. Didn’t last long though as Santana soon locked in the figure four and that’s it. A fun opener that was full of action, but pretty short. **1/4
Alfred Hayes introduces Mean Gene who interviews Special Delivery Jones about his upcoming match. SD was HYPED, I gotta say. “This is the moment I’ve been ready for” Jones said. “Today’s the day for me, baby!”. He also makes sure to mention that we’re gonna get down tonight. Heck yes, I’m ready to get down! King Kong Bundy follows and promises a five count.
King Kong Bundy vs. SD Jones. Jimmy Hart is managing Bundy, who destroys SD in nine seconds. And by nine seconds I mean twenty four. What’s funny is if you even count really slow it’s hard to count to 9 seconds here for this match, so I have no earthly idea how WWE came up with this number so quickly. It was probably (GASP) predetermined. Guess when Jones said he was going to get down, he meant get down for a five count. NR
Mean Gene is with Matt Borne. MANIAC Matt Borne, I should add. He says Ricky Steamboat is too nice of a guy and he’s here to beat him up. Steamboat says this is the biggest wrestling extravaganza in the world and in a few minutes he’ll beat him up. I like how everyone on the roster here is getting a chance to talk, even if it’s just for a minute or so.
Ricky Steamboat vs. MANIAC Matt Borne. One spot that is always enjoyable in the world of pro wrestling is the selling job someone does whenever they get atomic dropped. Enjoyed Borne’s selling of it here and Steamboat mimicking him. This was mostly an exhibition for Steamboat, who did some fun stuff here, quick and exceedingly fluid. Borne did have control briefly, but it was mostly Steamboat’s match. He wins with the crossbody. Fine enough squash match. **
Alfred Hayes was talking, but I was paying more attention to Matt Borne, who comes up right to the camera next to Hayes. He looks like he has zero idea where to go and just walks behind Hayes to get out of the way. That was pretty funny. They cut to pre-recorded comments between the next two participants, David Sammartino and Brutus Beefcake. Bruno Sammartino and Johnny V are seconding each of them respectively. Johnny V was talking so fast here I had zero idea what he said.
They are making sure to let everyone know WrestleMania is live from Madison Square Garden because they show the same message in between each match.
David Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake. I feel kind of bad for David. Finkel introduces him, but then he makes sure to give Bruno the bigger introduction. Bruno, of course, got the way bigger reaction than anyone here. Not really fun to be a second generation wrestler, especially if your dad is, well, Bruno Sammartino. But maybe it’s not so bad in 2014 since your name will get changed in developmental anyway. Gorilla noted that one of Bruno’s favorite holds is a FRONT FACE LOCK. Things have changed in the last 30 years, haven’t they. Lots of stalling to starts things off. Sammartino eventually gets things rolling. David started off the match and was actually pretty good. They made sure to put in a mini screen of Bruno looking concerned. Beefcake cut him off and was less interesting on offense than David was. His selling was also pretty eh. Sammartino came back with a huge back body drop that people popped for. The simple things back then, so nice to see. David exited the ring and Johnny V grabs him and bodyslams him on the outside. Bruno grabs him and throws him in the ring, attacking him. This somehow results in a double DQ. technically I don’t think Johnny V did anything to warrant a DQ since he bodyslammed David on the outside. Sammartino should have been DQ’d for his dad attacking V inside the ring, but oh well. This was fine. **
Intercontinental Championship: Greg Valentine (c) vs. Junkyard Dog. This match had a one hour time limit. Imagine the Junkyard Dog doing a broadway with Greg Valentine. This was just a match. JYD did some lame offense. Valentine worked on his leg for the figure four. Valentine got the visual pinfall by putting his feet on the middle ropes. Tito Santana came out and told the referee about this, so the referee restarted the match since Tito Santana always tells the truth or something. I thought the ref’s decision was final? Valentine decided just to walk away for the count out loss. This benefited no one. 1/2*
Promos between Volkoff/Sheik and the US Express. How did Lou Albano get those rubber bands on his face? Did he have holes in his cheeks I never saw? I’ve been intrigued by this for a while. No one had anything interesting to say.
Tag Team Championship: Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik vs. Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham (c). Kind of amazing the WWF had both of these guys when they were still young and never used them as singles stars. No, I’m not talking about the challengers. Windham always seemed to be a guy I thought would go far in the WWF because he had the size, promo ability and worked like nobodies business. I guess he just fell in between the cracks or something. Albano was bleeped out right before the bell, as I guess he had some not very nice words to say to the heels. Rotundo was really good here bumping for the heels, who were not in fact very good. Keep in mind both ended up wrestling well into the 90s, Windham gets a hot tag and clears house. Sheik grabs Freddie Blassie’s cane and strikes Windham with it, causing Volkoff to cover him to win the match and the titles. Basic with a fair enough finish. *3/4
Mean Gene interviews Freddie Blassie and the new champs. He played dumb about the cane. Sheik talks to Gene Mean. His country is the best, you see.
Hayes introduces the next pretape, which is hyping the $15,000 (!) bodyslam challenge. Big John Studd and Bobby Heenan put over the money which Heenan shows in a WWF gym bag. Looks to be a bunch of crumpled up 1 and 5 dollar bills. He sure doesn’t keep his money tidy.
$15,000 Bodyslam Challenge: Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant. The stipulations are if John Studd loses, he loses the money. If Andre loses, he must retire from wrestling. This reminds me of how much the retirement stipulation has been thrown around and how no one takes it seriously anymore. But hey, this is 1985, so big stakes here. For the first five seconds of this match, it was actually awesome as Studd jumped him and they exchanged a flurry of offense that was great. But then Studd exited the ring and starts stalling. Then Andre gains control and most of this offense sucked. He was very slow and it didn’t look convincing in the least bit. Much of his run here was just presence anyway. He won a bodyslam that got a GIGANTIC reaction, however, so you know what? Maybe he didn’t need to be an excellent worker. He was Andre the Giant and people liked him. 1/2*
Andre tossed the money out to the crowd after the match, much to Heenan’s dismay. Mean Gene interviews him as he gets back to the tunnel. Says no way to retirement. He was going to cut a promo, but he got cut off. Oops!
More pretapes that Lord Alfred introduces. This was a pretty unnecessary role, but again, WWE didn’t get its production for these shows down pat for a few years. Alfred says this is the first of the “Rock Wrestling Connection” matches, as he calls them. He came off so nervous during all of these promos, you kind of feel bad for them. He sends it back to Gene. Cyndi Lauper’s been taught by the best, Captain Lou Albano, so tonight she’s going to lead Wendi Richter to victory and snub out Schmoolah. Schmoolah, wearing bedazzled dollar sign glasses that Mean Gene was appalled by, says her jeweler made them. Lelani Kai, the champion, says she’ll have her hand raised as the victor.
Women’s Championship: Lelani Kai (c) vs. Wendi Richter. The champion, in the ring, was introduced first. Wendi Richter and Cyndi came out to a happy little tune that kind of sounds like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but not exactly, because you know, that whole copyright deal. This was…a match. I mean, neither of them were Rosa Mendes or Cameron or anything, but only maybe a few notches above. Wendi was totally over though. Richter wasn’t that good, though at one point she did hit a reverse death valley driver. Yeah, seriously. I wonder if that was on purpose or not. The managers got into it at one point with Lauper sending Moolah reeling. Richter botches the finish when Kai goes to the top rope and launches off with a crossbody but only kinda but not really floats over for the three count and the title. Despite the botched finish people still cheered big time for the title change. Like I said, just a match. *
Mean Gene is with the new champion. They basically just celebrate, with Richter saying that it took two people to beat her for the title and now it took two people to regain it. I thought a babyface could do it all by him/her self.
Now it’s time for the main event. And since it’s the very first WrestleMania, it’s time for CELEBRITIES. Billy Martin, a baseball manager, is the special guest announcer. I am sure in the baseball world he’s a big deal. Liberace comes down with the Rockettes, and he’s the guest timekeeper. They do a dance in the ring. Fun! Then the biggest celebrity of all, the greatest, MUHAMMAD ALI comes to the ring as a special referee. The crowd were into him, that’s for sure. Piper and Orndorff come to the ring with bagpipe players. Hulk Hogan comes out to Eye of the Tiger. And by Eye of the Tiger I mean Real American edited over Eye of the Tiger.
Mr T. and Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. Cowboy Bob Orton is in the heel corner and Jimmy Snuka is in Hogan and T’s corner. Mr. T wants Piper in early. Hogan tags him in and Mr. T proceeds to slap Piper. Piper takes him down and keeps him on the ground but T manages to escape. Turns into a melee that has Muhammad Ali coming to the ring and restoring order. Piper tries to leave, but eventually comes back to the ring. T dominates, body slamming and arm dragging guys and didn’t look terrible at all. Hogan is tagged in and gets worked on forever. T is tagged in and runs in for a bit, but like Gorilla says, the heels soon Pearl Harbor him as well. Hogan comes back in to clean house. The heels try and double team him, but T helps him even the odds. Orton comes in to strike Hogan with the cast off the top rope, but ends up smacking Orndorff instead. Hogan covers and gets the win for his team. Overbooked a bit, but I think that’s what it needed to be in these circumstances. T isn’t a trained wrestler, and the celebrities are a big deal, so Ali needed a spot and T needed his spots. Really well done considering who was in here .**1/2
Hogan, T and Snuka all become chummy with the celebrities, and eventually make it back to the tunnel where Mean Gene is standing by for an interview. T says that he trained hard and that “this isn’t for wimps”. Hogan says he, T, and Snuka will be around for a long time. I don’t think Snuka made it to Mania 2, but oh well!
This was a pretty solid show, but not what I would call great or even good. Now with that said, it was successful big time on a national level, so they accomplished the job they set themselves out to do. But in hindsight, this was an acceptable show with nothing going out your way to watch. The wrestling is simple, the crowd was hot, and the celebrity cameos were fun so it’s definitely not a thumbs down show. Just there.