Rock Star Gary reflects on…WWF WrestleMania

Live from New York, NY

Airdate: March 31, 1985

Attendance:  19,121

Hosted by Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura

Here we are–the very first WrestleMania that has spawned over three decades of supershows for the WWF/WWE. Let’s dig in to how the World Wrestling Federation got to this point:

  • On July 14, 1984, WWF programming replaced Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) on TBS. This date is often called “Black Saturday” due to several complaints called into TBS due to the bizarre change. With the WWF firmly planted on the USA Network, Vincent K. McMahon felt a second network was necessary as part of his national expansion. In order to do so, McMahon bought controlling stake in GCW from the Brisco Brothers and Jim Barnett; thus, he gained GCW’s timeslot from 6:05-8:05pm on Saturday evening. It wasn’t until declining ratings led McMahon to sell the timeslot to Jim Crockett, Jr. for $1 million. The last taping occurred on March 30, 1985.
  • On July 23, 1984, as part of the Rock’n’Wrestling Connection, the WWF and MTV co-promoted The Brawl to End it All LIVE at Madison Square Garden where Wendi Richter dethroned the Fabulous Moolah as WWF Women’s champion. Richter was managed by none other than pop singer Cyndi Lauper. Captain Lou Albano got involved denigrating Lauper for being a woman. Meanwhile he starred in Lauper’s hit video “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
  • On December 28, 1984 (a day that “Dr D” David Schultz would like to forget), Lauper accepted an achievement award that was presented by American Bandstand’s Dick Clark. In return, she presented the WWF with a gold platinum record accepted by Hulk Hogan and Wendi Richter. Also Captain Lou Albano was introduced by Lauper and given an award for his role in their fundraising effort for multiple sclerosis. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper came to the ring and smashed the record on Albano sending him down in a heap. When Lauper checked on him, Piper kicked her. David Wolff, Lauper’s manager, got involved, but Piper picked him up and powerslammed him. Hulk Hogan returned to shoo Piper away.
  • On January 21, 1985, the US Express (Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo) defeated Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch for the WWF tag team titles.
  • On February 18, 1985, the WWF and MTV co-promoted The War to Settle the Score from Madison Square Garden where Leilani Kai beat Richter for the WWF Women’s title. The only match shown on MTV was the WWF title match between Hogan and Piper. Notable names that appeared on the show were Bob Costas, Gloria Steinem, Patty Smyth, Ted Nugent, Dee Snider, Geraldine Ferraro, Dick Clark, Kenny Loggins, Peter Wolf, Tina Turner, Greg Kihn, and Mr. T. In the main event, Mr. T assisted Hogan in his standoff against Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Additionally, “Cowboy” Bob Orton injured his left arm during this show requiring the cast that would help to make his career in the WWF.
  • On March 17, 1985 at Madison Square Garden, Piper held a Piper’s Pit segment with guest Mr. T. While Orndorff and Orton stood with Piper, Hogan and “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka seconded the star of the hit TV series The A-Team.
  • On March 28, 1985, Hogan and Mr. T appeared on Hot Properties hosted by Richard Belzer. Hogan placed Belzer in a headlock, and Belzer passed out. Belzer later sued Hogan and settled out of court.
  • On March 30, 1985, Hogan and Mr. T hosted Saturday Night Live to promote WrestleMania. Piper and Liberace were also on the show.
  • In addition to these occurrences, McMahon still had to throw every penny he had toward this show to make it happen.

Before he attached his name to “Tutti Frutti” on the Wrestling Album, “Mean” Gene Okerlund graced us with the national anthem including an “Everybody.” It’s one of the quickest renditions I’ve ever heard.

Backstage Lord Alfred Hayes hypes the first match.

In a pre-taped interview, back in the dressing room, Gene interviews Santana. Immediately afterwards he interviews the Executioner who claims to be a “big-leaguer.”

Match 1: Tito Santana versus the Executioner

Highlights:

  • For those unaware, the Executioner was none other than “Doughboy” “Playboy” Buddy Rose.
  • Criss-cross began the match which led to a Santana back drop.
  • He followed that up with a dropkick sending the Executioner outside the ring.
  • Jesse made a profound correlation when he stated that what Woodstock was to rock’n’roll as WrestleMania was to wrestling.
  • Santana countered a grapevine into a cradle. Impressive!
  • He then tried to ring the Executioner’s bell but received a back drop instead.
  • After a slam, the Executioner mounted the top turnbuckle. Unfortunately he got caught and slammed down to the mat.
  • Upon attempting a splash, Santana hit knees.
  • While the Executioner was working on the leg against the ropes, Santana booted him over the top rope to the floor.
  • After slamming him back into the ring, Santana hit the flying forearm.
  • He then hooked the figure-four leg lock.
  • The Executioner submitted.

 Rating: **

Summary:  While the outcome wasn’t in much doubt this was a decent opener.

Hayes previews the upcoming Bundy-Jones match.

Back in the dressing room, Gene interviews a very excited S.D. Jones. Afterward Bundy takes up my entire screen and promises a five-count.

Match 2: S.D. “Special Delivery” Jones versus King Kong Bundy (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Highlights:

  • At the bell, Jones came off the ropes but was caught in the bear hug.
  • Immediately Bundy rammed him back-first in the corner.
  • He then hit a running avalanche.
  • Splash off the ropes SQUISHED Jones.
  • 1-2-3.

Rating: DUD

Summary: While Monsoon and Jesse (wearing a pink tuxedo) contemplated a record time of nine seconds (announced by Howard Finkel), the match actually lasted 23 seconds. Impressive squash for the monster Bundy. I wonder if he celebrated by climbing the Empire State Building.

Back in the dressing room, Gene interviews Matt Bourne. Unfortunately he’s not wearing clown makeup. Recent WWF acquisition Steamboat is ready to show some “meanness” in the WWF.

Match 3:  Ricky Steamboat versus “Maniac” Matt Borne

Highlights:

  • Atomic drop and a side head lock gave Steamboat the early advantage.
  • However, an inverted atomic drop and knee lift turned the tide for Borne.
  • Chop from the second rope by Steamboat followed by another one put Borne down on the mat.
  • Belly-to-belly suplex followed by a vertical suplex by Borne got 2.
  • Belly-to-back suplex and a swinging neckbreaker by Steamboat had Borne dazed.
  • Standing knee drop got 2.
  • Flying double fist to the face by Steamboat put Borne down.
  • Steamboat then mounted the top turnbuckle, hit the flying body press, and got the pin.

Rating: **1/2

Summary:  Good showcase match for Steamboat. He should have a bright future here in the WWF.

While holding the WrestleMania program Hayes previews the Beefcake-Sammartino match.

Gene interviews the Sammartinos then Beefcake with Valiant who accused Bruno of being a pickpocket.

Match 4: David Sammartino (w/ Bruno Sammartino) versus Brutus Beefcake (w/ “Luscious” Johnny Valiant)

Highlights:

  • As expected “The Living Legend” received a huge ovation from the crowd.
  • A tremendous shoulder block followed by a reversal of a hip toss gave Beefcake the advantage.
  • Lots of mat wrestling by David, but he hasn’t concentrated on a particular area.
  • After finally settling on Beefcake’s legs, David applied a spinning toe hold.
  • Back drop and slam by Beefcake turned the tide.
  • In the corner Beefcake walloped David with an elbow to the jaw followed by a forceful cross-corner whip.
  • Vertical suplex by David got 2.
  • After Beefcake tossed David outside the ring, Valiant slammed him on the concrete floor.
  • Bruno grabbed Valiant, rammed him face-first into the apron, and tossed him into the ring.
  • Once all four men were in the ring, referee Henry Terranova called for the bell.
  • Double-disqualification was the ruling.

Rating: *1/2

Summary:  This was very early in David’s career, but it was also a good effort by the WWF to involve Bruno here. If I had been in attendance this would have been the bathroom break match.

After the match the Sammartinos clear Valiant and Beefcake from the ring.

Hayes previews the upcoming Intercontinental title match.

Gene interviews Valentine then JYD.

Match 5 for the WWF Intercontinental title: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (champion w/ Jimmy Hart) versus the Junkyard Dog

Highlights:

  • On the original broadcast, “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen brought JYD to the ring. On the WWE Network, “Grab Them Cakes” was played. Hey! That hadn’t been created yet!
  • Valentine missed a forearm so JYD delivered some head butts sending Valentine almost out of the ring.
  • Figure-four leg lock attempt by Valentine thwarted by a boot to the backside.
  • A pair of head butts by JYD sent Valentine to the mat face-first.
  • Hart jumped on the apron, and JYD grabbed him.
  • Using the distraction, Valentine came off the ropes and nailed…whoops…Hart instead of the Dog.
  • Hart fell hard down to the concrete floor.
  • As JYD rallied against Valentine, the “Hammer” raked the eyes.
  • After a double-leg takedown, Valentine used the second rope as leverage for his legs to pin JYD.

Rating: *1/2

Summary:  This was a battle between a wrestler and a sports-entertainer. The wrestler got the better of the SE’er this time. Or did he?

Already showered and dressed, Santana runs into the ring to tell referee Dick Kroll about Valentine’s chicanery. Kroll then restarts the match and counts Valentine out. Both men are fresh acquisitions to the WWF so it makes sense that JYD wins. As Valentine is apoplectic, the crowd chants “Tito.”

Hayes previews the WWF Tag Team title match.

Back in the dressing room, “Gene Mean” interviews the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff with Blassie. Afterwards Albano provides a generic babyface promo.

Match 6 for the WWF Tag Team titles: The US Express (champions w/ Capt. Lou Albano) versus the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff (w/ “Classy” Freddie Blassie

Highlights:

  • For those unaware, the US Express were real-life brothers-in-law Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda. Both Monsoon and Finkel pronounced it “Rotundo.”
  • U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • Volkoff sang the Soviet National Anthem. The crowd booed him out of the building.
  • Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” should have brought their opponents to the ring, but the WWE Network didn’t want to start giving “The Boss” royalties.
  • Hip toss by Rotunda followed by a dropkick to the Sheik.
  • Windham tagged in, mounted the top turnbuckle, and lowered the boom on Sheik.
  • Heel miscommunication led to Volkoff eating a Sheik dropkick on the apron.
  • Back elbow by Rotunda to Volkoff only got a one count.
  • Back drop and an elbow drop got 2 for Sheik on Rotunda.
  • Gutwrench suplex by Sheik got another 2 count.
  • Vertical suplex reversed by Rotunda, but he was unable to tag out.
  • Volkoff dropped Rotunda on the top rope throat-first.
  • U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
  • Sunset flip by Rotundo got 2 on Volkoff.
  • As Albano and Blassie argued outside the ring, Sheik applied an abdominal stretch.
  • Hot tag Windham.
  • Dropkick followed with a bulldog, but Sheik saved the pinfall.
  • While all four men in the ring referee Jack Lutz was distracted with Rotunda.
  • Meanwhile Sheik nailed Windham with Blassie’s cane.
  • 1-2-3.
  • WE HAVE NEW CHAMPIONS!

Rating: ***

Summary:  Solid tag match with heel shenanigans prevailing.

Backstage “Gene Mean” interviews the NEW champs with Blassie. While the earlier interviews were pre-taped this exchange was live.

Hayes previews the battle of two giants over $15,000. He states that if Andre doesn’t slam Studd he’ll be forced to retire.

Back in the dressing room Studd brags about Heenan’s money and beating Andre while Gene tries to fill his pockets.

Match 7 (body slam challenge): Andre the Giant versus Big John Studd (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)

Highlights:

  • To give you an idea of how humungous each man is, Studd was 6’10” and 367 lbs. as Andre stood 7’4” and weighed 476 lbs.
  • A tag team match on 12/1/84 (taped 11/13) where Studd and Ken Patera cut Andre’s long locks set this match up.
  • The MSG crowd showed their love for Heenan by chanting “Weasel” at him.
  • Head butt by Andre put Studd down to his knees. He then exited the ring.
  • Much to Heenan’s chagrin, Andre choked Studd in the corner then tried to SQUISH Studd in the corner.
  • Studd tried to slam him but couldn’t.
  • Bear hug by Andre as the crowd chanted “slam.”
  • Another head butt by Andre knocked Studd silly.
  • A series of kicks to the legs softened Studd up allowing Andre to slam him.
  • Andre wins $15,000.

Rating: *

Summary: This was more of a feature than a match. The crowd ate it up with a spoon.

After the match, Andre opens the bag of money and tosses money into the crowd. Immediately Heenan grabbed the bag and high-tailed it backstage.

Backstage Gene interviews Andre who states that he’s not ready to retire. Jesse coins the ending of the previous match as “the slam heard ‘round the world.”

Backstage Hayes…wait a minute…both Moolah and Kai kiss Hayes on their way to the ring.

Back in the locker room, Gene interviews Lauper and Richter followed by Moolah with Kai.

Match 8 for the WWF Women’s title: Leilani Kai (champion w/ the Fabulous Moolah) versus Wendi Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper)

Highlights:

  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” brought the challenger and her manager to the ring, but the WWE Network doesn’t want you to know about it.
  • Cyndi Lauper’s manager, David Wolff joined Lauper and Richter at ringside.
  • Though these women are tough, they don’t have anything on Rhonda Rousey.
  • In order to break a leg scissors, Kai pulled Richter up by the hair.
  • Mule kick by Richter thwarted a blind charge and got 2.
  • When Kai brought Richter close to her corner, Moolah grabbed Richter.
  • Lauper stood up for her woman by attacking Moolah.
  • Fireman’s carry slam got 2 for Richter.
  • Backbreaker by Kai got 2.
  • After a slam, Kai mounted the top turnbuckle.
  • Kai hit a flying body press, but Richter used momentum to roll on top.
  • 1-2-3.
  • WE HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!

Rating: **

Summary:  My very generous rating is mostly due to the crowd appeal of Lauper. The skill level of these women wasn’t high whatsoever. Without the celebrity involvement, this match either misses the card or is scheduled much lower.

After the match, Lauper attacked Moolah again. As Finkel announced the new champion, the crowd ERUPTED.

Backstage Gene interviews the NEW Women’s champion Richter who, with her Texan accent, was fired up. In stark contrast with her Queens accent, Lauper was happy for her champion.

Before the main event, Finkel introduces the guest ring announcer–former New York Yankee #1 Billy Martin. Unlike his meeting with Okerlund setting up his appointment, the volatile manager appears to be quite sober. He announces the guest timekeeper Liberace who enters the ring with four Rockettes and proceeds to dance a number with them. Next, Martin announces the guest referee–Muhammed Ali–who will be outside the ring. Finally, Pat Patterson will officiate the match inside the ring.

Match 9: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (w/ “Cowboy” Bob Orton) versus Hulk Hogan and Mr. T (w/ “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka)

Highlights:

  • A bagpipe entourage led the tremendously hated trio of Piper, Orndorff, and Orton to the ring.
  • WWE Network once again insulted my intelligence by playing “Real American” (which hadn’t yet been created) instead of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
  • Liberace rang a little bell to begin the match.
  • T begged Hogan to tag in against Piper.
  • Fireman’s carry by Mr. T followed by a slam kept the rabid crowd engaged.
  • Pandemonium broke out as not only wereall four men in the ring but also Snuka, Orton, and Ali.
  • Ali chased both Piper and Orton out of the ring even throwing a haymaker.
  • The heel trio took a walk, but Hogan waved them back.
  • Back in the ring, Hogan and Mr. T rammed Piper’s and Orndorff’s heads together.
  • Clothesline in the corner by Hogan to Piper followed by another double noggin-
  • Atomic drop by Hogan who then rammed Piper’s head into the mat.
  • Subsequently, a double clothesline to Piper by the babyfaces kept the crowd on its feet.
  • A slam to Piper preceded a hip toss to Orndorff by Mr. T.
  • Big boot by Hogan sent Piper over the top rope to the floor.
  • Clothesline by Orndorff sent Hogan over the top rope to the floor to join Piper.
  • Outside the ring, Piper nailed Hogan in the back with a chair.
  • As Mr. T distracted Patterson, Piper and Orndorff double-teamed Hogan in their corner.
  • The heels delivered a double atomic drop to Hogan as Ali jumped into the ring again.
  • Vertical suplex by Orndorff to Hogan kept the heels in control.
  • Knee lift by Piper got a two count.
  • After a tag, Orndorff delivered an elbow off the top rope.
  • After a backbreaker by Orndorff, he mounted the top turnbuckle.
  • He attempted a flying knee drop but missed.
  • Hot tag Mr. T.
  • After successfully escaping a front face lock, T tagged out to Hogan.
  • Hogan delivered a third double noggin-knocker, but Orndorff retaliated with a belly-to-back suplex.
  • Suddenly Orton jumped in the ring, but Snuka intercepted him then caught him with a head butt.
  • As Mr. T distracted Patterson, Orton mounted the top turnbuckle.
  • T stopped Piper from nailing Hogan as Orndorff held Hogan in a full nelson.
  • Orton came down and accidentally nailed Orndorff in the back of the neck with his cast. Whoops.
  • Orndorff is OUT COLD.
  • 1-2-3.

Rating: ***1/2

Summary:  Despite being a celebrity and not a full-time wrestler, Mr. T’s involvement didn’t hinder this match whatsoever. While very much a sports-entertainment type of match, it came off beautifully. An extra star was added for reasons I explain below.

After the match Piper wallops Patterson, flips off the crowd, and heads to the dressing room. Mr. T checks on Orndorff until he wakes up dazed and confused.

Hogan poses before heading backstage.

An ecstatic Gene interviews the champ, Mr. T, and Snuka. Hogan truly sells this as a team effort. Who knew?

Conclusion:  THIS card is the reason I became a wrestling fan back in 1985. Without any doubt, this show defines the term spectacular. To combine the extremely high level of celebrity with the showcasing of the WWF’s wrestling superstars make this show golden. In case you aren’t sure how popular this event was, over one million viewers watched this show on closed-circuit. If you have a friend on the fence about being a wrestling fan, this card just might do the trick to convert them.

See you for the 2nd annual David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions!

Buyrate: NONE

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