To continue with the worthless trivia, here’s a list of the ten longest matches in Wrestlemania history.
10) Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior (Wrestlemania 6): 22:51
9) Triple H vs. Randy Orton (Wrestlemania 25): 23:34
8) Undertaker vs. Edge (Wrestlemania 24): 23:50
7) Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit (Wrestlemania 20): 25:10
6) Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 21): 27:25
5) Steve Austin vs. the Rock (Wrestlemania 17): 28:06
4) Shawn Michaels vs. John Cena (Wrestlemania 23): 28:20
3) Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 25): 30:41
2) The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Big Show vs. Mick Foley (Wrestlemania 16): 36:28
1) Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (Wrestlemania 12): 1:01:52
That’s no surprise on the last one. But what of the shortest matches?
10) Big Show vs. Akebono (Wrestlemania 21): 1:02
9) Legion of Doom vs. Power and Glory (Wrestlemania 7): 0:59
8) Butterbeat vs. Bart Gunn (Wrestlemania 15): 0:35
6) Earthquake vs. Adam Bomb (Wrestlemania 10)/Red Rooster vs. Bobby Heenan (Wrestlemania 5): 0:32
5) King Kong Bundy vs. Special Delivery Jones (Wrestlemania 1): 0:23
3) Rey Mysterio vs. JBL (Wrestlemania 25)/Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna (Wrestlemania 9): 0:21
2) The Hart Foundation vs. the Bolsheviks (Wrestlemania 6): 0:19
1) Kane vs. Chavo Guerrero (Wrestlemania 24): 0:09
This is going to be a longer update. Between the two reviewed shows, I have 30 matches to work through.
#15) WRESTLEMANIA 6
Date: April 1, 1990
Era: Hogan Era
Location: SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Notable Debuts: Earthquake, Dusty Rhodes, Diamond Dallas Page
Twenty years ago, guys had their own version of the big Twilight argument. Were you on Team Hogan or were you on Team Warrior? The Ultimate Warrior, the company’s Intercontinental Champion, has blown up so huge that he and Hogan have no choice but to butt heads. In a complete shock, Warrior is remaining a face instead of becoming a jealous scumbag out of nowhere and challenging Saint Hogan. Good guy vs. good guy? This is pretty crazy shit for the time. It’s like seeing Superman fight Captain Marvel in wrestling form. While this show is subtitled “The Ultimate Challenge”, another possible name for it is “The Rise of Earthquake”. They really go out of their way to hype up this new guy as a future main eventer.
First thing’s fucking first: MOTOR RINGS. The motor rings, where a tiny ring on wheels drives the wrestlers to and from the ring, only exist in Wrestlemanias 3 and 6 and sweet Jesus do we need those guys to make a comeback. Speaking of Jesus, when he does make his comeback, he should be riding a motor ring.
The intro is really out there. It’s a look into space as Vince McMahon narrates about constellations. Two constellations take the form of Hogan and Warrior, which animate into a staredown. …Yeah! This Wrestlemania debuts the best Wrestlemania theme, which would last for three years. Have a listen.
There are a ton of solid promos backstage with guys like Earthquake, Brutus Beefcake, Demolition (before and after their match), Bobby Heenan, Jake Roberts, Slick and whatever the hell Warrior talks about. Gossip columnist Rona Barrett has a brief, yet uninteresting interview with Elizabeth, then threatens to broadcast footage of Jesse Ventura in a porn movie. See? Ventura really is a sexual tyrannosaur.
“Jesse, aren’t you going to finish?”
“I ain’t got time to–”
And I’ve gone too far. I… Okay, one more quick Ventura porn joke, but then I really have to move on. The movie would be called 9.11 Inches: The Inside Job.
There’s a fairly worthless segment where Rhythm and Blues go out to play their new hit Honky, Honky, Honky Love and the Bushwackers attack them and smash their instruments. Steve Allen hangs out in the bathroom with Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov and keeps attempting to play the Russian National Anthem on the piano. It features a hilarious exchange where Steve Allen says he’s going to play the anthem, but instead plays “Pop Goes the Weasel”. The Russians get furious with Allen and yell that it isn’t the Russian National Anthem.
“Oh, I’m sorry. What was I playing?”
Zhukov yells, “That’s Polish National Anthem!”
Allen looks to the viewer and says, “You can send your postcards to him.”
Lastly, I have to talk about one of the hardest segments to watch in Wrestlemania history. Mary Tyler Moore is shown in the front row and during a segment in the crowd, Sean Mooney feels the need to accost her. She puts over the athleticism of the show, but it’s blatantly obvious from the beginning that she doesn’t know anything about wrestling. That would be completely fine if it wasn’t for Mooney asking her all these questions about the product that she can only smile and guess about. The two of them discussing Rhythm and Blues gets increasingly uncomfortable.
Our hot opener is ”The Model” Rick Martel vs. Koko B. Ware. Martel starts off attacking Koko as the ref checks his gear. Koko quickly comes back and fights back from all sides. He really takes it to Martel until Martel is able to use Koko’s momentum against him and fling him out of the ring. He works on Koko’s back and gets him in the Boston Crab. Koko gets to the ropes and breaks the hold. Martel tries ramming Koko’s head into the turnbuckle, but Koko appears invincible to that and uses head-based attacks on Martel to the point that Martel flops over. Koko misses a top-rope crossbody, allowing Martel to put him in a Boston Crab in the center of the ring. Koko gives up and we’re off to a good start.
The Colossal Connection (Andre the Giant and Haku) defend the Tag Team Championship against Demolition (Ax and Smash) in what is a unique little match. On one hand, Ax and Smash – as they admit afterwards – are challenging for the titles in a match that paints them as the underdog. On the other hand, Andre is on his last legs and his involvement is pitifully minimal. While he and Haku do dominate at the start of the bell, Andre remains on the apron for most of the match and never gets tagged in. At most, he steps in to break up a pin or attack either member of Demolition.
That means that this match between Demolition and the more imposing Colossal Connection is little more than a handicap match. Haku does get some licks in (and he also drools one hell of a loogie), but Demolition have to hold back to make it look even. Andre eventually comes in for a double-team and accidentally gets kicked by Haku. Andre gets tied up in the ropes and Haku is victim to the Demolition Decapitation. We have new champs and Heenan is furious. He yells at Andre for costing them the titles and slaps him in the face. Andre roughs up Heenan with a series of slaps, catches Haku’s kick attempt, beats him up and then steals their ring cart.
You just know that in Heaven, Andre goes from place to place in one of those. Usually while drunk.
Hercules is fed to Earthquake, but it’s still way better than it has any right to be. Earthquake is portrayed as stronger than Hercules, so Herc has to use his superior speed to his advantage. This means running out of the way when Earthquake runs into the corner and hitting him with enough shoulder tackles to knock Earthquake to his knee. Hercules tries a backbreaker, but he isn’t strong enough to lift Earthquake. Earthquake takes him down and wins with the Earthquake Splash. After the match he hits a second one and leaves. Hercules refuses the referee’s help and gets up on his own strength.
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake faces Mr. Perfect in an average match. Beefcake keeps throwing Perfect out of the ring over and over again. He has things in hand until the Genius distracts the referee while slipping in a metal scroll. Perfect smacks Beefcake upside the head with it and starts working him over. From here, it’s Perfect hitting all of his usual moves. The knee lifts, the flipping whiplash neck move, etc. The weakened Beefcake hugs Perfect’s leg, which seems like an act of defeated desperation, but it’s setup. Beefcake grabs both legs and slingshots Perfect into the metal post. He pins Mr. Perfect, but Perfect’s manager the Genius has stolen the clippers while showcasing some hilarious facial expressions. Beefcake catches up with the Genius, gives him the sleeper and cuts off locks of his hair.
Next up is ”Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Bad News Brown. According to the video package beforehand, this feud is based on two things. One, they eliminated each other at the previous Royal Rumble. Two, Bad News Brown made fun of Piper’s chicken legs. The real story of the match is Roddy Piper’s appearance. Just… just take a look, will you?
Piper is half-blackface. Why? I don’t think anyone’s exactly sure about it. I think it’s because Brown is racist, so Piper’s doing this to mess with him and psyche him out. Speculating why is far more fun than watching the actual match. It’s a straight-up brawl, but without any charm to it like Hacksaw/Brown the previous year. Lots of rolling around and punching without any real aim. Piper puts on a Michael Jackson glove to punch Brown – again, no idea what that’s about.
They end up on the outside and keep brawling until the ref counts them out. They continue their fight to the back and Ventura sums it all up with, “It’s obvious that nothing has been settled at all!” How true.
As an aside, Andre messed with the solution Piper was supposed to use to get the paint off, so Piper had to spend the next couple weeks half-black. Andre was pretty much the best person ever.
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) vs. the Bolsheviks (Nokolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov) is a simple squash. The Bolsheviks try to sing their anthem and Anvil attacks them from behind. They immediately hit the Hart Attack on Zhukov and it’s over.
The Barbarian vs. Tito Santana is an okay strength vs. speed match. Santana uses that speed to his advantage until running right into a boot to the face. He later gets that momentum back with a top-rope axe-handle and a Flying Forearm. What looks like a win is marred by Heenan putting Barbarian’s foot on the rope. Barbarian recovers and beats down Santana. Ultimately, he finishes him off with one sick clothesline off the top. Santana flips over and folds up like an accordion.
We have our very first mixed tag match with Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire vs. Randy “Macho King” Savage and Queen Sherri. Elizabeth is announced and comes out to side with Dusty and Sapphire, completely pissing off Savage and Sherri. Sherri keeps trying to interfere on Savage’s behalf and time and time again the two are knocked into each other by Dusty. Sapphire’s tenure in the ring is possibly worse than you’d expect, with an offense based on her repeatedly knocking Sherri over with her hips. Sherri attempts a bodyslam, but can’t quite pull it off and falls back.
There’s a part where Savage keeps hitting Dusty with top-rope axe-handles to the outside until Sapphire finally runs over and protects him from a third one. I’m wondering if there’s a missed cue in there and Savage kept repeating until she caught on. Savage sneaks in a shot on Dusty with his scepter and Sherri follows up with a splash from the top, but it isn’t enough. It becomes mayhem in the ring and Sherri gets in Elizabeth’s face. Elizabeth attacks Sherri from the outside, allowing Sapphire to roll Sherri up and get the pin.
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) vs. the Orient Express (Sato and Tanaka) is a really good filler match. This is the early days of the Orient Express, when it’s a Japanese guy and a Hawaiian guy pretending to be Japanese, as opposed to when the team is a a Hawaiian guy pretending to be Japanese and a white guy pretending to be Japanese while wearing a mask. Exciting match with some good spots I’m not used to seeing from this era, like Tanaka backdropping Jannetty, Jannetty lands on his feet and runs over for the tag. Or Michaels running across the ropes and Tanaka showing his back to him. At the last second, Tanaka suddenly does a jumping twist and smashes Michaels with a surprise forearm. The Rockers ascend to the top ropes and Fuji hits Jannetty in the leg – which happens to be in full view of the ref, but never mind. Jannetty makes a go at Fuji, gets salt thrown in his eyes via Sato and sells the holy hell out of it. I’m talking about running around blindly and flipping over the barrier, into the crowd. He’s counted out and the Orient Express win.
Dino Bravo vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is funny for the reaction for Hacksaw. When it comes to playing to the crowd, Hacksaw has two ways to go. He says, “HOOOOO!” and the crowd will say, “HOOOOO!” He says, “USA! USA!” the crowd will boo him to oblivion. Remember, this is Canada. Hacksaw catches on in a minute or so and beats, “HOOOO!” into the ground worse than ever before. It’s a relatively short match featuring Dino’s lame set of offense against a guy who can’t make it look very good. Earthquake is in Dino’s corner and tries to get at Hacksaw. The referee chides him, allowing Hacksaw to put down Dino with a 2×4 shot. Hacksaw wins and Earthquake comes in to destroy him. A one-ah, a two-ah, a three-ah! Three Earthquake Splashes!
Like I said earlier, between this match, his own match and his appearances in the recaps for Hogan/Warrior, they really go out of their way to make Earthquake seem like the next big monster.
And while Hogan vs. Warrior is the battle of the two most popular stars, Wrestlemania 6 is nice enough to give us a match between the WWF’s two most talented guys at the time. Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase feels like a reward for something nice I must have done. Jake had stolen the Million Dollar Belt and he’s put it on the line.
The psychology is off the charts. Jake keeps holding the advantage and mixes in various attempts to DDT Dibiase. It isn’t time yet, so Dibiase is able to quickly slide away, but it’s definitely getting under his skin more and more. One time has Dibiase evade the DDT, then back into the corner with Damien resting and freaking over that too. Dibiase puts Jake in a front facelock, which would normally be pretty boring, but the crowd starts doing the Wave. It’s amazing. They really need to do this more often these days. Whenever a heel puts the face in a chinlock or trapezius hold, the crowd needs to start doing the wave until they’re done. Match ratings would be so much better. Also great is how Dibiase seems so annoyed at the crowd for doing that.
Dibiase slaps on the Million Dollar Dream, but Jake gets his foot on the rope. Dibiase tries an attack off the top and gets punched right in the gut for his troubles. Right as things are getting really hot, Dibiase grabs the referee by the leg, distracting him for Virgil, who pulls Jake out of the ring. Jake bodyslams Virgil and is left open for another Million Dollar Dream from Dibiase. Jake runs forward and hits Dibiase’s head off the post. Though Jake is in better shape at this point, Virgil rolls Dibiase back in to survive the ten-count. Dibiase wins and, according to the rules pulled out of Ventura’s ass, gets his belt back.
The post-match is perfect. Jake attacks the two and gets overpowered. Virgil runs off with the belt to keep it safe. Jake gets Dibiase with a surprise DDT and finds a wad of cash on him. He hands most of it out to the crowd, comes back into the ring and gives Dibiase a taste of his own medicine by shoving a $100 bill down Dibiase’s throat. Perfect feud ender.
The one thing that makes it hard to watch is knowing how different it would be if they did that today. Handing out $100 American bills to Canadians these days? That’s about worth the same as handing out flyers for a new hardware store.
The Twin Towers EXPLODE! as Big Boss Man goes up against his former partner Akeem the African Dream. Boss Man’s turned good after a crisis of conscience has made him refuse to take bribes from the Million Dollar Man. Maybe it’s the cartoony, black and white feel of the era, but I absolutely love that motivation. Coincidentally, Dibiase is still hanging around ringside and gets his heat back by ambushing Boss Man on the outside, bodyslamming him and shoving him into the post. That allows Akeem to easily dominate his fellow Tower.
The match lasts under two minutes, which is just long enough. Arguably even too long. Akeem hits an Avalanche in the corner, then climbs to the second rope and repeatedly clobbers Boss Man. Boss Man grabs him and delivers a very sloppy Manhattan Drop. He follows up by tossing Akeem into each corner over and over again. Akeem is Irish Whipped, ducks a swipe at his head and runs right into a Boss Man Slam. Akeem’s credibility is pretty much hung out to dry in order to make Boss Man a huge face. Boss Man proceeds to beat up Slick after the match.
I really do wish Boss Man’s face run went further, but I blame it on his post-Wrestlemania 7 days when they practically separated him from the roster and had him fight spinoff rivals like the Mountie and Nailz.
”Ravishing” Rick Rude faces Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in a match that features Steve Allen doing guest commentary. He doesn’t say shit outside of an amusing line about how he likes Snuka because he’s wearing Allen’s wife’s underwear. The match is very mediocre with a couple spurts of interest. Snuka doing the Rude hip gyrations is… well, gross, but it’s something. Snuka goes to the top and scraps whatever plans he has for a move, as he jumps over Rude and lands on his feet. He knocks Rude down and goes for a second-rope headbutt and finds nobody home. Rude hits the Rude Awakening and it’s over. They do work fairly well together, but the match is too short to really get anything out of it.
Now it’s time for the main event. It’s WWF Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Intercontinental Champion Ultimate Warrior in a match that is title vs. title. Wait, anyone ever notice how that basically spells out the winner? I know Hogan is Hogan, but would anyone believe that he would decide that the heavyweight title just isn’t enough and needs to hold onto more?
One of the things that really helps this match is that unlike pretty much every other face vs. face match, there is no clear crowd favorite. It’s about 50/50 between the fans. The excitement starts right off the bat with the two angrily shoving each other and then going into a test of strength. Unfortunately, when Warrior’s down on his knees, it does like quite a bit like fellatio. I like to believe that his inability to overpower Hogan here is what planted the seeds and gave Warrior his infamous belief that queering doesn’t make the world work.
The one match I like to compare this to is Goldberg vs. Lesnar from Wrestlemania 20. This match works for the same reason that match didn’t. Monsoon always brings up the irresistible force vs. the immoveable object, but that’s not how these matches feel. Goldberg vs. Lesnar comes off as the immoveable object vs. the immoveable object. Sure, a lot of their chicanery comes from spite for the fans, but the two base their match on the idea of no-selling each other and not moving an inch. That’s stupid and nearly impossible to get behind. Hogan and Warrior, on the other hand, is the irresistible force vs. the irresistible force. It isn’t that they’re super durable, but that they’re super powerful. When Hogan punches Warrior, Warrior flies back. When Warrior clotheslines Hogan, Hogan sells it like he got hit by a truck.
Hogan fakes a knee injury and uses it to his advantage by raking Warrior’s face and strangling him. They get each other with a double clothesline, but Warrior gets up first. He starts to power up by shaking the ropes and no-sells Hogan’s punches. After Hogan breaks Warrior’s bearhug, Warrior accidentally runs into the ref and knocks him out. He still takes it to Hogan with a couple top-rope axe-handles, but misses a shoulder tackle. Hogan tries for a pin, but the ref is still out. They briefly fight on the outside and Hogan eats the post. Warrior dominates, hits the Gorilla Slam and splashes Hogan in the back. Hogan gets to his feet and Hulks up. He gets Warrior with a boot and misses the legdrop. Without any wasted motion, Warrior runs across the ropes and counters with a splash. Warrior pins Hogan, Hogan offers him the title and everybody’s happy.
Then Hogan feuds with Earthquake, the company’s hottest heel, leaving Warrior to refeud with Rick Rude. Wait, something’s wrong about this picture.
#14) WRESTLEMANIA 4
Date: March 27, 1988
Era: Hogan Era
Location: Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Notable Debuts: Ultimate Warrior, Ted Dibiase, Demolition, Bam Bam Bigelow, Rick Rude, One Man Gang, Bad News Brown
You have to give Vince credit for keeping to his guns in keeping Wrestlemania innovative as an entire show when faced of the challenge of following up on Wrestlemania 3. The incidents between Hulk Hogan and the team of Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant has caused the title to become vacant. Hence, Wrestlemania 4 is given the format of a huge 14-man tournament for the title, plus five other matches. Overkill? Yes, I suppose, but this is Wrestlemania. Let them go all out.
This show is absolutely loaded when it comes to matches and it will give you fatigue. Even when two matches in the brackets are erased due to byes, there are sixteen matches! All the non-wrestling bits here are great fun. Bob Ueker returns from his Wrestlemania 3 stint, adding all sorts of great humor as he searches backstage for celebrity guest Vanna White. He gets involved with promos for all the heels, including a bewildering showing by Demolition, an interview with the Islanders that gets him in a comedic argument with Bobby Heenan and the well-known bit where Andre the Giant strangles him silly. Without a doubt, Bob Ueker is the best celebrity Wrestlemania’s ever utilized.
When he and Vanna White aren’t going over the tournament brackets (and boy is Vanna awkward here), Mean Gene interviews the faces. There’s one with the British Bulldogs/Koko B. Ware team that shows the contrast of bad mic skills with good mic skills. Randy Savage cuts a kickass promo where he puts over Hogan (“Hulk Hogan was cheated, but not defeated!”) and an absolutely bizarre Hulk Hogan promo. It’s so full of energy and crazy imagery and… fuck it. Here’s the promo.
His intense fake crying is what gets me the most.
Lastly, they randomly spend a moment of our time to have Jesse Ventura pose for the fans from the commentating balcony. Hey, the fans dug it. He’s probably the most popular heel of the era.
It all begins with a 20-Man Battle Royal, featuring “The Outlaw” Ron Bass, B. Brian Blair, Bad News Brown, Jim Brunzell, Danny Davis, “Hitman” Bret Hart, Hillbilly Jim, Sam Houston, Junkyard Dog, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Ken Patera, Jim Powers, King Harley Race, Paul Roma, Jacques Rougeau, Raymond Rougeau, Sika, George “The Animal” Steele, Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov where the winner receives a big, shiny trophy. Bob Ueker sticks around to do commentary with Monsoon and Ventura, which is a major plus. I also like that everyone involved got an in-ring introduction prior to the bell ringing.
George “The Animal” Steele either never enters or is eliminated before I can even notice. He hangs out outside the ring for several minutes and eliminates the Anvil by grabbing him by the goatee and yanking him over the top to the outside. It’s your usual mindless fun that you’d expect from a battle royal and even has Junkyard Dog avenge his Wrestlemania 3 loss to Harley Race by giving him the ol’ heave-ho. The final three are Junkyard Dog, Bret Hart and Bad News Brown. Junkyard Dog is able to hold his own by knocking both down and hitting a series of his crawling headbutts, but the two heels decide to collaborate. They pal around, talk over strategy, toss out Junkyard Dog and celebrate their joint victory. Then Bad News Brown turns on Bret with a Ghetto Blaster and gets him out of the ring, making him the winner. In response, Bret turns face by attacking Bad News and breaking his newly-won trophy.
The tournament’s first round starts up with ”Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase. Dibiase has both Virgil and Andre accompanying him, giving him the ominous advantage coming in. Hacksaw is able to overpower him early on with an atomic drop that sends Dibiase flying out of the ring. They do a good job playing up the match as brains vs. brawn, adding a sense of evenness when you ignore Andre’s appearance. Hacksaw goes for the 3-Point Stance, but Andre grabs his leg from behind. With the ref not paying attention, Hacksaw turns around and gets punched in the face by Andre and kneed in the back by Dibiase. He hits his falling punch and gets the dirty pin. Afterwards, Hacksaw gets his 2×4 and chases them off.
Next it’s strength up against strength as Dino Bravo takes on Don “The Rock” Muraco. It’s a fairly short match and sloppy at points, such as a screwed up splash/elbow drop thing by Muraco, but not offensive. The two have just enough mobility to keep it interesting, like when Dino is able to kick Muraco off of him as Muraco launches himself into the ropes, flips over them and gets himself strangled. The short match ends as Dino Bravo uses the ref as a human shield and gets disqualified for it, but finds out he’s lost after hitting a side suplex on Muraco and going for the pin. Goddamn, is the side suplex a stupid finisher.
The tournament fun continues with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Ricky comes out with his toddler son decked out in Dragon gear, to which Ventura asks if Ricky’s able to tag out to him during the match. Great job from both guys here in terms of selling and workrate. Well, maybe Valentine goes a little overboard with the selling. I counted 6 Flair Flops over the course of this match. What I like is how whenever the Hammer has things under control, everything slows to a crawl and becomes methodical. Once Steamboat gets things under control, the speed fast forwards. The surprising end comes when Steamboat hits a crossbody off the top and Valentine counters by rolling back so that he’s on top and then pulling the tights for a pin. From what I understand, this is Steamboat’s farewell show.
That’s four matches in a row that I’ve enjoyed. Sure, a lot of people shit on Bravo/Muraco, but the energy is up. Let’s see if it holds up.
”The Natural” Butch Reed takes on “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The match goes five minutes and has nothing much going for it, honestly. Reed dominates the entire match until the very end, where he goes to the top and Savage tosses him to the center of the ring. He climbs up, hits the top-rope elbow and that’s that. Basically, your average Cena match.
Next up is Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang. While it’s a big man match that’s doomed from the beginning, Bam Bam’s at his most agile, so there’s still some hope. That agility shows in Bam Bam’s expert selling, cartwheels and a crossbody mixed in there. That match lasts a little over two minutes until Bam Bam runs towards the ropes and Slick pulls down the top one. Bam Bam crashes to the outside and works his way back to the apron. One Man Gang clobbers him a few times until Bam Bam forces his way back in, overcomes One Man Gang and is ready to finish him off. Unfortunately, in a bullshit finish, he’s been counted out for all that time he was hanging out on the apron. Dumb.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude is the final match in the first round and should be, on paper, a decent showing. The whole point of this match is for the two to get a draw and give One Man Gang a bye. Doing it by having them get to the 15-minute time limit is a bad idea, but it would at least let the two go all out for those 15 minutes, right? Not so much. Believe me, it starts out well enough. Jake is able to take a simple lockup and back out of it, causing Rude to fall flat on his face. Whenever Jake goes for the DDT, Rude is rapid in escaping the hold by any means possible. When Jake misses a knee-lift, he goes flying. For a few minutes, these two are giving their all.
Then the match flat out dies. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan yells at Rude for taunting instead of going for the pin. Rude puts Jake in three seemingly never-ending chinlocks that cause audible “BORING!” chants. The match becomes a pain to sit through and ends with Rude putting his feet on the ropes for a pin, only to find out that he’s too late and the time has expired. If there’s ever a match that kills the momentum for Wrestlemania 4, you’re looking at it.
We take a break from the tournament to have The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules Hernandez. How weird is it that the Ultimate Warrior is in the most unnecessary match of the night? It’s a short match, regardless, and is able to keep up some level of energy. I think one of the better spots in the match is how it takes three clotheslines from Hercules to knock down the Warrior. Warrior gets up and levels Hercules with one. Far better than a simple test of strength. The ending is surprisingly more “wrestlingy” for a Warrior match than I’d ever expect. Hercules puts him in a full nelson and Warrior is able to reverse it into a pin. Post-match, Hercules attacks Warrior with his chain, but Warrior steals the chain and starts whipping it around the ring like a maniac. Not the best match, but it’s still enough to wake me up from the previous snooze-fest.
Round two of the tournament begins with Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. The two have been granted byes into the second round, but Ventura guesses that whoever wins will have felt the effects of enduring two matches anyway. It begins with Hogan fighting off both Andre and Dibiase at the same time, bonking their heads together, which I always appreciate because it means Gorilla Monsoon yells, “DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER!” How is there not a wrestling song cover group called Double Noggin Knocker? By getting rid of Dibiase and getting Andre tied up in the ropes, Hogan is finally able to tear his shirt off.
This is their third match and they’ve done away with the idea of Hogan as the underdog. Now it’s a straight up rivalry slugfest, not unlike King Kong vs. Godzilla. Nothing technical, but it’s a fun showing. My favorite bit is where Hogan knocks Andre down and starts dropping repeated elbow drops. I sit there and wonder how the hell Andre is supposed to look so imposing when being knocked down practically turns him into a giant turtle unable to get up. Then he simply reaches over, grabs Hogan and pulls him in, reminding you of how huge the dude really is. It does slow down for a bit, which is expected for an Andre match, as Andre gets Hogan with a double-trapezeus hold. Hogan powers out, stuns Andre and hints that he’s going to do a bodyslam.
With the ref distracted by Virgil, Dibiase comes in and hits Hogan with a chair. Hogan steals the chair and plasters Andre with it in front of the ref. The annoyed Andre steals the chair back and starts waffling Hogan with it. It’s silly in a Three Stooges way. Both are disqualified, causing another bye in the brackets. Hogan lays out Andre and chases Dibiase and Virgil up the entrance way. He only gets his hands on Virgil, but gives him a standing vertical suplex that takes him out of the rest of the show. He comes back into the ring, bodyslams Andre and spends way too long celebrating in the ring. Ventura calls him out on it, wondering what Hogan has to celebrate for. HE LOST!
Ted Dibiase vs. Don Muraco has a new dynamic now, considering Andre and Virgil are too beat up to accompany Dibiase. The millionaire is on his own now. Muraco manhandles Dibiase, starting it off by dragging him into the ring by his hair. There’s an awkward spot where Dibiase holds onto the top ropes in the corner while Muraco pulls him by the boots. Dibiase folds up and Muraco goes flying into the post. Give Muraco props for selling, I guess. Muraco mostly dominates and I do like his gimmick of showing how strong he is by doing one-handed Irish whips. As Muraco runs at Dibiase, Dibiase snatches him, picks him up and clotheslines him with the top rope. Dibiase gets the pin and the bye into the final round. It’s a nice touch that even with all his bells and whistles gone (Virgil, Andre and the ability to buy himself out of most situations), Dibiase proves himself a legitimate threat by being the only heel to win a match cleanly.
Randy Savage vs. Greg Valentine is elbows, elbows and elbows, followed by more elbows. There’s a couple axe-handles in there too and some brief Jimmy Hart interference. Fairly slow match, though it has its moments (knocking each other out as Savage hits the top-rope axe-handle and Valentine gets a punch in at the same time). Valentine goes for a Figure Four, but Savage pulls him in for a Small Package and gets the pin. Considering One Man Gang’s earlier bye, we’re at the end of the quarterfinals.
We take a break with Honky Tonk Man defending the Intercontinental Championship against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. The title means nothing here. The big drama for the fans is whether or not Beefcake can cut up Honky Tonk’s Elvis hair. It’s fitting, because the match isn’t so much about the wrestling ability, but the charisma of the two men involved. It’s telling that the biggest reaction from the crowd comes from Beefcake catching Honky Tonk by the foot and, instead of punching him, musses up his hair and sets him loose. Beefcake is able to avoid the Shake, Rattle ‘n’ Roll Neckbreaker by hooking his arm over the top rope. He gets Honky Tonk in the sleeper hold and makes him borderline comatose. He’d be champ if it wasn’t for Jimmy Hart clocking the referee when his attempts to distract the ref and Beefcake fail to work. Seeing his title out of his grasp due to disqualification, Beefcake goes after Jimmy Hart in one of the worst attempts at a chase sequence. He’s able to get Jimmy to hunch over the steps and cut off a couple locks from his mullet. Honky Tonk’s valet Peggy Sue gets a hold of some ice water and pours it over Honky Tonk’s face to wake him up so they can escape Beefcake’s wrath.
The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid) and Koko B. Ware take on the Islanders (Haku and Tama) and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. It starts off with a bang, as Dynamite Kid grabs the top rope and flings Tama in through force. Rather than flip over like normal, Tama soars in like Superman and falls flat on his face. Tama offers a handshake for the purpose of nailing Dynamite with a surprise kick, but Dynamite easily sees it coming and blocks it. When the two tag out, we get Haku and Davey Boy Smith in a good exchange of two power guys with respectable agility.
The big story of the match is Bobby Heenan’s involvement. He’s shown wearing this big protective outfit for attack dogs, mainly to protect him from the Bulldogs’ pet Matilda. At first, Monsoon and Ventura talk about how Heenan has limited mobility in it, but once he’s tagged in and starts giving the boots to Koko, Monsoon catches on that there’s more to it. There are metal buckles in the outfit and it’s covered in corduroy, which is more of a hazard for his opponent. When everyone’s in the ring and the ref isn’t looking, the Islanders pick up Heenan and drop him down onto Koko. Heenan gets the upset win. On his way to the back, the Bulldogs sic Matilda on him. Well, in actuality, they just kind of hold her up to him as the dog does nothing and Heenan sells it like he’s being torn apart.
It’s time for more of the tournament. With Dibiase’s bye, the semifinals is made up entirely of Randy Savage vs. One Man Gang. It’s a quick one, but it certainly gets some mileage out of its gas supply. It starts with Savage going for the more stick-and-run strategy and at one point grabbing One Man Gang’s beard, running down the ring, hopping over the top to the outside and letting gravity do the rest. One Man Gang gets a handle on things and spends several moments using various ways to crush Savage with his gigantic body. Savage fights back and is able to send One Man Gang through the ropes and to the outside, followed by a top-rope axe-handle. Then he screws up by trying to emulate Hogan and attempting a bodyslam.
Outside of the ring, there are words between Slick and Elizabeth. Savage gets his hand on Slick while the ref converses with Elizabeth. One Man Gang gets his hands on Slick’s cane and hits Savage with it. On one hand, the ref doesn’t see it. On the other hand, when the ref does turn around, One Man Gang is still at it, trying to slam the cane down as Savage continues to roll out of the way. Due to his own stupidity (or being paid off by Dibiase), One Man Gang is disqualified. He takes out his aggression by breaking the cane over Savage’s back and I’m glad they did that. The whole concept of the PPV is that it’s “The Passion of the Savage” (also the title of Double Noggin Knocker’s debut album) with him having to go through the entire four rounds, while One Man Gang and Dibiase get free passes and are more rested, but it doesn’t work on that alone. When you get down to it, Savage has wrestled an entire FOUR MINUTES more than Dibiase at this point. Have mercy! So adding the cane shots goes a long way in adding to the story.
Savage does get the last laugh, by the way. When One Man Gang celebrates with Slick, Savage hits One Man Gang with a top-rope axe-handle and causes him to fall over and crush Slick.
Our last wrestling match commercial break is Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel) defending the Tag Team Championship against Demolition (Ax and Smash). The bad news is that we have to deal with Demoliton’s silly stomp-punches. The good news is that there’s some decent double-team moves, like Smash holding Martel in a bearhug and getting close enough to the corner that Ax can clothesline the hell out of him. A funny botch occurs as one of Demolition tries to pin Tito. The ref counts two and then stops himself short and points out that Tito’s shoulder is up about a second or so before Tito actually kicks out! The match is a bit of a drag, mainly due to how late in the show it is. You can tell that the crowd is completely exhausted.
The second half of the match has Demolition work over Tito as he desperately tries to make a tag. Out of nowhere, he gets his bearings and nails Ax with a surprise Flying Forearm. Rather than go for a pin, he crawls over and gets the tag. Martel cleans house and puts Smash in the Boston Crab. Tito sees Mr. Fuji is out to interfere, so he runs over to the apron and smacks him around. He accidentally hits the ref and knocks him out for a moment. During this moment, Ax sneaks in and breaks Fuji’s cane over Martel’s back. Smash gets the pin and—wait, they did a cane spot again?! They just did that in the last match! Anyway, new tag champs.
The tournament finals has Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase for the vacated WWF Championship. We get Robin Leech coming out with the belt on a little pillow, trying to dodge all the fans who want to touch it. Then Bob Ueker comes out and gets hugged by a drunk fan with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth who hopped the barrier. Ueker doesn’t even flinch. Dibiase arrives with Andre back in his corner. Savage and Elizabeth enter, now on their fourth matching outfit of the night. That’s so adorable.
Very early into the match, Andre reaches in and trips Savage. The whole crowd can see the writing on the wall and stands up, staring in the direction of the entranceway, waiting for Hogan to show up. Andre continues to swipe at Savage’s leg and then plays innocent when the ref yells at him. There’s some nice back and forth between Savage and Dibiase, but Savage grabs onto Dibiase’s hair, gets a running start and again hops over the top rope. Dibiase rolls to the outside and would be a victim of a top-rope axe-handle, but Andre stands in-between the two and dares Savage to make the move. Savage steps down, walks over to Elizabeth and sends her to the back. Ventura figures it’s for her own protection.
She comes back out with Hogan in tow. Hogan pulls up a chair and watches the match, but the first moment he sees Andre trying to interfere, he races over and beats on him. Like in his earlier Butch Reed match, Savage grabs Dibiase off the top rope and tosses him into the center of the ring. He goes for the top-rope elbow, only to miss this time around. Dibiase puts Savage in the Million Dollar Dream and has him beat. The ref yells at Andre and Hogan sneaks into the ring with a chair and cracks Dibiase in the back with it. Savage hits the top-rope elbow and gets the win. Hogan celebrates with the new champion and his valet to end the show.
Wrestlemania 4 is a very unpopular show and sitting through it again, I can understand why. There are good matches in it. A lot of good matches. But they’re only good. There’s no stand-out. Nothing amazing. Just watchable matches marred by some very boring matches and the feeling of Hogan sharing too much of the spotlight on what should be Savage’s show. I’ll fully admit that Hogan is crazy over here, but I can’t shake the slight disappointment in an ending that more or less says, “How nice is it that Hulk Hogan let Randy Savage have the title? What a guy!”
(gif courtesy of Burrito)
Day One (#25-24)
Day Two (#23-22)
Day Three (#21-20)
Day Four (#19-18)
Day Five (#17-16)
Day Six (#15-14)
Day Seven (#13-12)
Day Eight (#11-10)
Day Nine (#9-8)
Day Ten (#7-6)
Day Eleven (#5-4)
Day Twelve (3-1)