What the World Was Watching: WrestleMania VI

Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura are in the booth and they are live from Toronto, Ontario, Canada in what will be Ventura’s last appearance calling a WWF pay-per-view.  According to thehistoryofwwe.com, the show drew a sellout crowd of 67,678, a new attendance record for the venue.  It drew a buyrate of 3.8 (an estimated 550,000 purchases).  This was a decline from the 5.9 buyrate of WrestleMania V, but this can be attributed to more homes getting pay-per-view access by 1990, thereby messing with the buyrate average.

Robert Goulet sings the Canadian National Anthem.  According to Bruce Prichard, Goulet was picked for this spot because he badly botched signing “The Star Spangled Banner” several years earlier and this was a chance for him to redeem himself in front of a live crowd.  The WWF put the lyrics on the Skydome’s video screen to ease Goulet’s nerves.  And if you watch his body language during the performance, he goes from a bad of nerves to a guy having the time of his life halfway through.  His wife, who watched backstage, cried her eyes out after he nailed the song.

Opening Contest:  Rick Martel (6-1) defeats Koko B. Ware (5-1) via submission to the Boston Crab at 5:28:

Ring carts return to WrestleMania after a two-year absence because of the distance from the locker room to the ring.  This match is an average TV-like bout, with Ware getting an early shine, Martel working the back, and Ware mounting a late comeback, which comes to nothing when he misses a reverse flying body press off the second rope.  Martel locks in the Boston Crab after that and wins the second WrestleMania opener of his career.  Rating:  **

Gene Okerlund interviews the WWF Tag Team Champions the Colossal Connection and Bobby Heenan.  Okerlund calls the Connection the “Colostomy Connection” and refuses to admit to it when pressed by Heenan.  The Connection vow to eliminate Demolition in the next match.

Sean Mooney talks with Demolition.  Ax likens facing the Connection to chopping down redwood trees, while Smash says he would like to throw his opponents into a semi-tractor trailer and drive them off a cliff.

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:  Demolition (6-0) defeat the Colossal Connection (Champions w/Bobby Heenan) (4-0) when Ax pins Haku after Demolition Decapitation at 9:16:

Even though the Connection are undefeated they have not defended the tag team titles since winning them from Demolition three months ago.  Haku wrestles the whole match for his side, more out of necessity because Andre the Giant struggles to do simple spots like kicking Ax when he does a backslide.  Andre escalates his involvement after Smash gets the hot tag, but Demolition thwart his involvement by double clotheslining him into the corner.  When Andre comes out he holds Smash for Haku’s thrust kick, but heel miscommunication leads to Andre getting tied in the ropes and after a double stun gun, Demolition finish Haku to win the tag team titles for the third time to a massive pop.  The middle portion was bland, but the finishing sequence was great.  Rating:  *½

After the match, Heenan chews Andre out in the ring but makes the biggest mistake of his career by slapping the big man.  Andre paintbrushes Heenan and kicks him out of the ring.  Haku tries to thrust kick his partner, but Andre catches that and knocks him out of the ring too.  Then, when Haku and Heenan try to get onto the ring cart to leave, Andrew throws them off that as well and rides into the sunset as a babyface once again.

Okerlund interviews Earthquake and Jimmy Hart.  Hart predicts that the epicenter of a new earthquake will be Skydome and the only thing that is not known is what the Richter scale will read.  Earthquake talks about Skydome crumbling because of the devastation he is about to unleash in the ring.  It is easy to see why Earthquake got over as a heel act in this era because, like Hulk Hogan, he made ridiculous claims appear believable.  Earthquake’s trademark swaying during promos was also a nice touch.

Earthquake (w/Jimmy Hart) (9-0) beats Hercules (5-0) after the Earthquake Splash at 4:52:

Hercules has been AWOL for much of the build to this WrestleMania match, a sign that his singles push was ending.  Hercules gives it the old college try, dazing Earthquake with some clotheslines.  However, he decides to go for the torture rack and since he is not Hulk Hogan it does not work.  A couple of elbow drops later, and Hercules is sent to the showers after the Earthquake Splash.  Despite the outcome, Hercules is not stretchered out and is shown standing after the contest, a sign that the WWF still had plans for him later.  Rating:  *

Rona Barrett talks with Elizabeth.  Elizabeth says she has been away for a while because she does not think she could get involved in matches in a favorable way, thereby disappointing her fans.  She promises that if she returns to ringside that she will be more active.

Sean Mooney interviews Brutus Beefcake, who is checking Mr. Perfect’s singles record.  Beefcake says that while Perfect is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, and he will capitalize on them.

Brutus Beefcake (6-0-1) pins Mr. Perfect (w/the Genius) (9-0) after slingshotting him into the ring post at 7:47:

In a proper start for a grudge match, both men tear into each other in the corner.  Mary Tyler Moore is shown at ringside eating up the action as Perfect bumps all over the place for atomic drops and Irish whips into the turnbuckle.  Beefcake is laid out by the Genius’ scroll, turning the next four minutes into a Perfect beatdown.  Perfect becomes overconfident and ends up surprised by Beefcake, who catapults him into the ring post and unceremoniously pins him.  The outcome ends Perfect’s unbeaten streak but makes Beefcake’s win look like a fluke.  It is almost certain these two will face off later.  As far as this match was concerned, it was just Perfect wrestling himself, but he did a good job of it.  Rating:  **

After the match, Beefcake goes to cut Perfect’s hair but the Genius tries to steal his hedge clippers.  Beefcake cuts him off in the aisle and tosses him into the ring where he puts him in the sleeper.  Then Beefcake cuts his hair.

A video package recaps the Roddy Piper-Bad News Brown feud.

Okerlund interviews Piper, who has decided that he is going to paint half of his body black for his match with Brown.  Piper runs down Brown’s looks, continuing a line of nonsensical promos in the build to this match.

Bad News Brown (9-0) wrestles Roddy Piper (7-0) to a double count out at 6:38:

Due to Piper’s blackface, this is a match that is now removed on WWE Network.  The match is poor as Piper and Brown spend most of the contest exchanging punches.  Near the end, Piper pulls a white glove out of his tights, but thankfully he does not moonwalk like Michael Jackson.  Ventura rightly questions whether Piper should be able to wear this glove and hit Brown, but referee Danny Davis is not known for making wise decisions.  The battle quickly spills to the floor and the brawl goes to the locker room, creating a draw.  According to Brown in shoot interviews, he was supposed to win this match and then lose a return match to Piper later, but Piper refused to do the job for him, and, as a result, this was the finish that was created.  And things got worse for Piper when he got to the dressing room because Andre the Giant dumped out the liquid to remove his black paint, so he had to fly home painted half black.  Rating:  ½*

Steve Allen has his piano set up in the shower to rehearse the Soviet National Anthem with the Bolsheviks.  The Bolsheviks get mad when Allen will not play the right tune and drops lots of Russian jokes instead.

The Hart Foundation (5-0) beat the Bolsheviks (3-2) when Bret Hart pins Boris Zhukov after the Hart Attack in 17 seconds:

The Foundation interrupt the Bolsheviks singing of the Soviet National Anthem because Jim Neidhart cannot put up with it and then quickly finish off Zhukov with the Hart Attack.  Bret does a cool 1-2-3 gesture for the camera as he covers for the winning fall.  The outcome accelerates the Foundation’s push toward a tag team title match with Demolition while also signaling that the end was near for the Bolsheviks run in the company.

Okerlund talks with Tito Santana, wrestling in his sixth WrestleMania.  Santana puts over the Barbarian’s look as he promises that he will do whatever he can to survive.

The Barbarian (w/Bobby Heenan) (2-0) pins Tito Santana (6-2) after a flying clothesline at 4:32:

Ventura cracks himself up by joking that Santana could have won the match by count out if he sent the Barbarian some of his cooking ahead of time, dubbing the move “Chico’s Revenge.”  The match is clunky in spots, like when Santana blocks the Mafia kick or when the Barbarian blocks an O’Connor roll by running Santana’s throat into the top rope.  Santana is heavily protected, with Heenan putting the Barbarian’s foot on the bottom rope to break up a pinfall after Santana hits the flying forearm, and he succumbs to the Barbarian’s finisher shortly thereafter, selling it like a champ by folding up like an accordion.  Like the Hercules match earlier, the purpose of this contest was to put over a new heel as the WWF is trying to rebuild that side of the roster.  Rating:  *

A video package recaps the Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire-Randy Savage & Sensational Sherri feud.

Mooney interviews Rhodes and Sapphire.  Rhodes says Savage and Sherri cannot be true royalty because they are missing a crown jewel.

Mixed Tag Team Match:  Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire (w/Elizabeth) defeat Randy Savage & Sensational Sherri when Sapphire pins Sherri after Elizabeth interferes at 7:30:

This is the first mixed tag team match in WWF history.  The crown jewel that Rhodes was referring to in the prior promo was Elizabeth, who is unveiled after Rhodes and Sapphire do their introduction.  Ventura cannot repress his hatred for Rhodes and Sapphire, immediately tearing into them during their entrance when they are announced at a combined weight of 465 pounds.  The rules are that the men and women cannot interact, but they do tease intergender action throughout the bout.  The match is a testament to Savage and Sherri’s bumping ability as they have several miscommunication spots with each other, and Sherri lays out for Sapphire using her butt as a weapon of mass destruction.  As promised in the Barrett interview, Elizabeth gets more involved at the end, tossing Sherri into the ring after Sapphire knocks her out and then shoving Sherri from the floor, causing her to fall over a prone Sapphire and get schoolboyed (schoolgirled?) for the winning fall.  After the match, Rhodes, Sapphire, and Elizabeth dance.  This is a classic contest where the entertainment value exceeds any criticisms one might have about the ringwork.  Rating:  **½

Okerlund chats with a distraught Bobby Heenan, who rants about Andre the Giant slapping him earlier in the show.  Okerlund has to correct himself when he asks Heenan where he found the “balls” to slap Andre, changing it to “nerve” due to the nature of the product at the time.  Heenan vows to bring in new members to his stable that will listen to his direction.

Okerlund and Ventura talk with Rona Barrett.  She says that she has discovered a piece of film from an adult film that Ventura was a part of.  Before that can be shown, Ventura tosses the broadcast to Mooney.

Mooney interviews an irate Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri.  Savage says that suffering builds character and more suffering awaits Dusty Rhodes.  He promises never to be embarrassed again by the American Dream.

Monsoon assures Ventura that he looked at the film Barrett had, and it is nothing to worry about.

Okerlund interviews WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, who says Toronto is his territory as lots of Hulkamaniacs greeted him at the airport.  He tells the Ultimate Warrior that he hopes he is a good loser because he is going down.

Mooney talks with Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior, who immediately tosses Mooney aside by saying he is not worthy of breathing his air.  The Warrior vows to unify the power of the Warriors and Hulkamaniacs, the latter of which includes the power Hogan has accumulated over the last five WrestleManias.

The Orient Express (w/Mr. Fuji) (3-0) defeat the Rockers (6-1) via count out at 7:38:

The great thing about adding the Express to the roster is that the Rockers now have someone their size to compete against.  Both teams are tentative and wrestle at a slower pace than expected, largely due to the Rockers partying too much the night before.  Tanaka does most of the heavy lifting for his team, landing a nice forearm to Shawn Michaels off the ropes and then landing on his face from a double backdrop near the end of the bout.  Fuji breaks up a Rockers effort at the flying fist drop by whacking Marty Jannetty with his cane.  That causes Jannetty to stalk Fuji on the outside, but he is blinded with salt by Sato.  Jannetty sells that well, falling across the ringside barrier and into the crowd, and that makes it impossible for him to beat the referee’s count.  Rating:  **¼

Steve Allen talks with Rhythm & Blues.  Allen is not thrilled with the assignment, saying he has never been so excited to talk to an act since he “found out Pee Wee Herman was straight.”  The Honky Tonk Man says that Rhythm & Blues will be the biggest act that music has ever seen.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan (9-1-1) beats Dino Bravo (w/Jimmy Hart & Earthquake) (8-2-1) after hitting him with a 2×4 at 4:15:

Duggan uses a zillion clotheslines to wear down Bravo, but Earthquake blocks the three-point stance clothesline by holding Duggan’s leg.  Hart tries to use the distraction to toss Bravo Duggan’s 2×4, but gets possession of it first, whacks his foe behind the referee’s back, and prevails.  Bad match but the WWF kept it short.  Rating:  ½*

After the match, Earthquake beats up Duggan and gives him two Earthquake Splashes.  And just like that, Earthquake has his next feud.

A video package recaps the Jake Roberts-Ted DiBiase feud.

Okerlund interviews Roberts, who cuts one of his most remembered promos about how DiBiase will be “wallowing in the muck of avarice” after their match.

Million Dollar Championship Match:  Ted DiBiase (Champion w/Virgil) (8-1) beats Jake Roberts (7-0) via count out at 11:53:

This is the first time that the Million Dollar Championship Belt is on the line for a match.  For a hot blowoff this does not have a good start, with each man working over long rest holds.  Based on the lack of interesting developments, the crowd does the wave.  Things pick up seven minutes in, as Roberts has to use the bottom rope to break up DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream and a subsequent pin attempt.  DiBiase’s ill-fated decision to do an axe handle off the second rope triggers Roberts’ comeback, but DiBiase grabs the referee to avoid the DDT and Virgil pulls Roberts to the floor.  There is some brief fighting there with Roberts ramming DiBiase into the ring post to escape another Million Dollar Dream, but Virgil rolls DiBiase into the ring to avoid the count out and he retains the title (and regains possession of the belt).  These two had a better showdown in Madison Square Garden, but this match got better after the wave.  Rating:  **½

After the bell, Roberts flattens DiBiase and Virgil with clotheslines and DDTs DiBiase so fans can pop for something.  Virgil makes off with the Million Dollar Championship Belt, which is bound to provoke some ire for DiBiase because he failed to protect him.  Roberts tosses some of DiBiase’s money to fans at ringside, including to Mary Tyler Moore, who Ventura rightly notes does not need anything, and stuffs one of the C-notes down DiBiase’s gullet.  He goes to throw Damien on DiBiase, but Virgil runs down to ringside and gets DiBiase out of the ring.

Mooney interviews Akeem and Slick.  Slick says that DiBiase has given them a nice financial incentive to give the Big Bossman a hard time.

Okerlund chats with the Bossman, who reiterates that he does not take money from anyone.  He calls Akeem “a tribal reject from Africa” and says he is proud to be an American.

The Big Bossman (7-1) pins Akeem (w/Slick) (4-0) after the Bossman Slam at 1:52:

Setting up the Bossman’s next feud, DiBiase attacks him after he gets to the ring.  Akeem fails to capitalize on that, though, as the Bossman does an inverted atomic drop to escape some corner punches and finishes off his former tag team partner in less than two minutes.  For a tag team blowoff this got resolved in record time, but the Akeem act was beyond its expiration date.

Mooney asks fans what their opinions are about Rhythm & Blues and they are not fans of the act.  It is all an excuse to get comments from Mary Tyler Moore, who does not know a lot about the product and just nods and says “yes” to everything Mooney says.

Rhythm & Blues do a live performance of “Hunka Hunka Honky Love,” which is terrible because Honky sings his lines too quickly.  The backup Honkettes are not bad, though.  The only notable thing is that Diamond Dallas Page is the driver of the pink Cadillac that brings the duo to the ring.  The Bushwhackers get revenge for Rhythm & Blues attacking them last week on Superstars by dressing as merchandise vendors and then coming in and destroying Rhythm & Blues instruments.

Monsoon and Ventura put over the new indoor attendance record that has been set at Skydome.  Ring announcer Howard Finkel communicates this to the crowd.

Rick Rude (w/Bobby Heenan) (6-1-1) defeats Jimmy Snuka (1-0) after the Rude Awakening at 3:49:

Even though Snuka was appearing on house shows he was not prominently featured on television as his only singles win was against the Brooklyn Brawler on the January 15 edition of Prime Time Wrestling.  Steve Allen does special guest commentary for the match, but he does not say much.  The action meanders until Snuka misses a flying headbutt off the second rope and Rude pounces with the Rude Awakening for the victory.  Snuka barely sells the finish, quickly kicking out at three and showing few ill effects, but this win continues to rebuild Rude after his lost his house show feud to Roddy Piper.  Rating:  *

A video package recaps the Hulk Hogan-Ultimate Warrior feud.

WWF Championship vs. Intercontinental Championship, Title-for-Title Match:  The Ultimate Warrior (Intercontinental Champion) (4-0) pins Hulk Hogan (WWF Champion) (2-0) with a splash to win the title at 22:52:

Since both men entered WrestleMania with equal momentum, the match books them as such as they exchange shoves, the advantage in test of strength spots, and body slams.  Hogan dominates the middle portion and tries to win with a chinlock, only to have the Warrior fire back after a double clothesline spot and try to win with a bearhug.  Each man also gets a visual pin on the other when referee Earl Hebner gets bumped by a Warrior charge as Hogan covers after avoiding a Warrior flying shoulder block and Warrior covering Hogan after a side suplex.  And even though that last spot is simple, the crowd is on the edge of its seat for it.  Hogan hulks up after taking a Warrior splash to the back but when it looks like Hogan is bound to retain the title once again, the Warrior avoids the leg drop and quickly hits Hogan with a splash to end Hogan’s second WWF title reign.  The false finishes at the end were well done, creating tons of heat for the actual finish, and the booking played perfectly to the strengths and characters involved.  Rating:  ****

After the match, Hogan presents the Warrior with the WWF Championship and embraces him, thereby endorsing his title reign.  Hogan exits on a ring cart and there is great camera work for his exit as he is shrouded in darkness, with the fireworks above the ring illuminating the area around him.

The Last Word:  This was hyped as a one match show and that one match delivered so anyone that bought the show got their money’s worth.  Mileage may vary on the mixed tag match in the middle of the show, but one could not ask for a better start to the Ultimate Warrior’s title reign as he got a clean win over Hulk Hogan, something that no one in the WWF had pulled off since Hogan won the belt from the Iron Sheik in 1984.  And little did fans know at the time, but this event would mark the last televised, in-ring appearance of Andre the Giant as a competitor in the WWF, so from a historical standpoint this show has that going for it as well.

Backstage News*:        According to those in Skydome, Hogan received more cheers during the main event than the Ultimate Warrior did.  The WWF inflated the attendance number for WrestleMania VI as there were closer to 64,000 fans in attendance.  That will give the WWF a gate of $2.7 million after taxes and the exchange rate is factored in, and once pay-per-view is added in the company looks to make $20 million.  This falls short of some expectations that the show could do $30 million.  Part of the reason or a declining buyrate relative to WrestleMania V may also be due to a higher price being charged for the show ($29.95).

*Since closed circuit telecasts were a bust, the WWF is likely to focus on a pay-per-view only model going forward.

*The Wrestling Summit show has only sold 25,000 tickets in the Tokyo Dome so unless the Ultimate Warrior is a big draw in Japan after beating Hulk Hogan it will not sell out.

*The WWF is likely to position Rick Rude as the Warrior’s first challenger because he is the only person on the roster with a pinfall victory over him.

*The WWF is all-in on selling tickets for WrestleMania VII, announcing to the pay-per-view audience that the show would take place in Los Angeles at the Coliseum, and they should order tickets immediately.  This is the first year that the WWF is selling tickets so far ahead of WrestleMania.  According to reports, they have already sold $100,000 in tickets, but that may only cover a few sections on ringside seats that are pricier.

*Backstage news is courtesy of The Wrestling Observer for April 9.

Up Next:  Prime Time Wrestling for April 2!