*** Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***
WrestleMania I: The Grand-Daddy of Them All
March 31, 1985
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
Attendance: 22, 000
PPV Buy Rate: 1.1
Closed-Circuit Attendance: 380, 000
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura
Match #1: Tito Santana defeats The Executioner with a Figure Four at 4:49
Fun Fact I: The first ever Wrestlemania match features a man who would go on to become a PPV Iron Man, Tito Santana. Tito will be featured in tons of PPV matches between now and his departure in 1993. He also will go to wrestle in the first 9 Wrestlemanias, something only he and Hulk Hogan would do. Buddy Rose, on the other hand, makes his one and only WWF PPV appearance. He would stick around on and off through 1990, but would be nothing more than an entertaining jobber to the stars.
Fun Fact II: “Playboy” Buddy Rose was born Paul Perschmann on November 15, 1952. He was trained by Verne Gagne and Billy Robinson in the early 1970s and made his debut under his own name in December 1973 against Bob Remus, who would later be known by the character name Sgt. Slaughter. Throughout his career, Rose would work in the AWA, WWF and for Pacific Northwest wrestling, where he would have an infamous feud with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. In 1982 he would begin working for Vince Sr. in the WWF where he feuded with Bob Backlund for the World Heavyweight title. Back in the AWA in the mid 80s, he would team with Doug Somers to feud with an up-and-coming tag team, the Midnight Rockers, who would become The Rockers in the WWF (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty). Rose gained a large amount of weight in his later years, which he actually used as part of his wrestling gimmick. On April 28, 2009, Rose was found dead of natural causes in his Washington home by his wife.
Scott: The one that started it all begins with an elementary opener. Tito was on fire the previous year as Intercontinental Champion. Considering this was such a big moment and a huge event for the McMahon family, they couldn’t get somebody with real singing talent to sing the National Anthem? At least that gets huge upgrade by the next WrestleMania. Santana was on a mission and it was evident here. He lost the title to Greg Valentine in September and had just wrestled him in a big Lumberjack match just two weeks before in this same Garden ring. Here he defeats The Executioner, who is really “Playboy” Buddy Rose with a mask on. Not much more to say, except this is the last time you will see a wrestler called The Executioner on PPV until the 1996 Survivor Series, coincidentally in Madison Square Garden as well. Tito stays on fire and will recapture the IC Title from Valentine in July inside a steel cage in Baltimore. I still wonder to this day why they didn’t do the Santana/Valentine match here. One more note, and that’s our broadcast team. The two guys who built my fandom, Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. They are a little rough here, but by their next WrestleMania in Pontiac, they are pure gold. Grade: **
Justin: A basic match to help get the crowd worked up and to put a very popular face over in the first match of the first WrestleMania. Oh, and help them recover from Mean Gene singing the National Anthem. The soundtrack for a WWF generation is set here as Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura run commentary for us right out of the gate. Buddy Rose is looking quite svelte here, compared to what he would transform into by 1990. He even gets to cut a promo before the match! This card is very clearly kept in line with how house shows were booked in the day, which makes sense since you can argue it is a glorified version of one. Tito got off to a hot start, but Executioner is able to find a window and go right to the leg, as he promised to do in his pre-match promo. The crowd was really into this one, as Executioner got caught up top but was able to get his knees up for a Tito big splash just when it looked like he may be cooked. Tito shook that off, nailed the flying forearm and cinched in the figure four to win the first match in WrestleMania history. This was a feisty little sprint and got things off on the right foot. Despite the solid grade, I do feel like Santana could have been used better elsewhere on this show, which I will get to in a bit. Grade: *1/2
Match #2: King Kong Bundy defeats S.D. Jones with an Avalanche Splash at :24
Fun Fact I: The original Wrestlemania served one purpose: feature a bunch of wrestlers who will never see the light of day on another WWF PPV ever again. “Special Delivery” Jones is well known in the wrestling world, but never rose above jobber-to-the-stars status. SD had a decent run in Mid-Atlantic, teaming with Rufus R. Jones in a feud with the Andersons and also with Porkchop Cash for a brief NWA Americas Tag title run. He migrated to the WWF in the early 80s, and ended up playing a big role as a recognizable enhancement talent as Vince Jr. started to make his push towards national stardom. Jones would hang around as a jobber until December of 1988. Despite his lackluster career, “Special Delivery” gets to be a part of history here, on the first WrestleMania.
Fun Fact II: World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas was the birthplace of the ring character King Kong Bundy, Known in real life as Chris Pallies, Bundy at the time was using the ring name Big Daddy Bundy, a combination of “Big Daddy” from English wrestler Shirley Crabtree and the last name of serial killer, Ted Bundy. After a dispute with the Von Erich family, Bundy was brought into the stable of manager Gary Hart and reintroduced to the world as King Kong Bundy. While in Mid-South Wrestling, the AWA and the NWA, he would regularly demand a 5 count instead of the standard 3 count for a pinfall as he squashed his competition. Bundy joined the WWF in 1985 and was immediately pushed as a dominant heel. After crushing SD Jones at Wrestlemania I with his signature Avalanche Splash, Bundy was pushed to the top of the card over the next year and would headline Wrestlemania II against Hulk Hogan in a steel cage match. After leaving the WWF in 1988, he would make a return to the Federation in 1994 as part of the Million Dollar Corporation. He would become the fourth victim of the Undertaker’s Streak at Wrestlemania XI. Bundy would leave the WWF in the fall of 1995 and would continue to work the independent wrestling circuit until retiring in 2006.
Scott: Now, that is the realistic length of this match. Remember when everyone said it was :09? I always find that hilarious that back in the day kayfabe was running wild and we just accepted it. This was a chance to begin the slow one-year burn of Bundy as a big main eventer. I don’t think he was groomed for WrestleMania II just yet, but definitely for a main event run. SD Jones was just fodder for the “Condominium with Legs”. Bundy was managed by Jimmy Hart at that point, but in a year it would be Bobby Heenan. Grade: *
Justin: This is just a match to get Bundy over as a monster. SD Jones knew his role, and he plays it well, selling Bundy’s splashes like death and doing the job in less than 30 seconds. Jesse and Gorilla play up how dangerous Bundy is, and the mission is accomplished. This would kick off a strong, year long push for Bundy. This was a quick and harmless match and would become instantly infamous for WrestleMania trivia fiends for years to come. Grade: 1/2*
Match #3: Ricky Steamboat defeats Matt Borne with a High Cross Body at 4:36
Fun Fact I: Matt Borne is a second generation star who is best known for some of the outrageous characters he has played throughout his career. After having some success in Mid-South Wrestling, where he formed the “Rat Pack” with Jim Duggan and Ted DiBiase, Borne arrived in the WWF just in time for the first Wrestlemania, as he made his first appearance at a house show in Boston on March 2, 1985, going to a draw with Rick McGraw. Borne would hang in the WWF until mid-1986. He would pop up in WCW in 1991, portraying bad-ass lumberjack, Big Josh. After mild success in the lower-mid-card, Borne would jump back to the WWF and take on the most well-known persona of his career: Doink the Clown.
Fun Fact II: Ricky Steamboat had built up quite the resume during his 6 years in NWA Mid-Atlantic, and be well known for his brutal feud with Ric Flair and his famed partnership with Jay Youngblood. The 1977 PWI Rookie of the Year won 9 championships during his years in Mid-Atlantic, but in late 1984, he decided a change of scenery was needed, and made the jump to Vince McMahon’s burgeoning WWF. Ricky Steamboat made his WWF debut on March 5, 1985 (3 days after Borne) on a Championship Wrestling TV Taping in Poughkeepsie, NY, defeating Steve Lombardi. Steamboat will hang around for the next 3 years, and will go on to provide tons of memorable matches and moments.
Scott: The man who would be part of some of the greatest matches over the next 10 years defeats a grizzled veteran in Matt Borne, who had been around for the block, but was new to the WWF, which was similar to Steamboat, who had just left NWA Mid-Atlantic. He actually still had his NWA white tights on. Both guys are exceptional workers and I wish they could have been given much more time for this one. One year earlier Steamboat was working one hour draws with NWA World Champion Ric Flair. The match is definitely a cruel tease to what may be a great 15 minute typical house show match. Steamboat’s arsenal is definitely something not real prevalent in the promotion at that time so for some fans it was indeed a breath of fresh air. Bourne is no slouch either as he worked Steamboat over with some exemplary workrate and not typical punches, kicks and posturing that the usual WWF heels did. Steamboat wins and sets himself up for a successful first run in Vince McMahon’s Kingdom. Grade: **
Justin: Another undercard match that serves the same purpose as the opener: put over the popular face in a quick, but solid bout. I love how Bourne has his shades on for his prematch interview, a true symbol of a cool cat in the mid-80s. Steamboat was clearly looking to make an early statement here, having just joined the promotion just weeks beforehand. Borne was always a great worker and I am kind of sad we don’t get to see more of him on PPV over the coming years. Steamboat showed off his crisp offense right out of the gate, snapping off chops and wrenching in a tight side headlock. Once he took over, Bourne hit a nice belly-to-belly suplex, followed by a snap suplex for a near fall. Bourne’s selling was also really good as well. Steamboat came back with more chops and even worked in a swinging neckbreaker as both guys are showing some decently vast movesets considering the year and promotion. Steamboat would ascend the ropes and polish Bourne off with a graceful high cross body, picking up a nice signature win just one month into his New York run. It is no surprise that he and Steamboat put on a good match, despite the tight time restraints, but I really enjoyed this one. The “Dragon” was on his way, and things would only get better for him as we move along. Grade: **
Match #4: Brutus Beefcake and David Sammartino wrestle to a double countout at 11:42
Fun Fact I: WWF mega-legend Bruno Sammartino used his pull with Vince McMahon to land his son David a gig. David never really caught a fair shake, and always had his last name held against him. Add in the fact that he sucked, and this thing had disaster written all over it. He would last a little over a year in the big leagues, before vanishing in July of 1986, with his last being a bout with Hercules on July 10th. After a brief stay in the AWA, Sammartino would bounce around the Indy world for the next 10 years, and eventually found himself on WCW Nitro on December 16th, 1996, where he faced Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight Championship and lost.
Fun Fact II: If there is anyone in the wrestling business that benefited from the rise of Hulkamania it is Ed Leslie, aka Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Leslie began his wrestling career side by side with Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan) in 1977, where they were advertised as brothers, Ed and Terry Boulder. He wrestled short stints in the WWF and Mid-South territories in the early 80s before joining the WWF full time in 1984 as the heel Brutus Beefcake managed by “Luscious” Johnny Valiant. He later started teaming with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, making up The Dream Team. Beefcake and Valentine won the Tag Team titles from the US Express in August 1985 and held the titles for 8 months before losing them to The British Bulldogs at Wrestlemania II. After another year together, The Dream Team broke up at Wrestlemania III and Beefcake began his run as a face after being left in the ring by Valentine and Valiant after the team lost to The Rougeau Brothers. Later in the night when Roddy Piper defeated Adrian Adonis, Beefcake was there to cut the hair of Adonis, payback for Adonis cutting his hair after a 6 man tag team match just weeks before Wrestlemania. Beefcake became “The Barber” and used that gimmick for the remainder of his time in the WWF.
Beefcake suffered a serious injury in 1990 which put him out of the ring for 2 years. He was helping a parasailing friend prepare for takeoff when the the driver of the boat mistakenly took off, causing the friend’s bare feet to slam hard into Beefcake’s face, crushing his facial skeleton. Over 100 metal plates were used to repair his face. He returned to the ring in 1993 where his injury was used as part of a storyline with Money, Inc. (Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster). He would wrestle with the WWF until Wrestlemania IX. He would wrestling in WCW as part of Kevin Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom as The Zodiac, as The Booty Man (a character infatuated with his own buttocks) and The Disciple (a body guard of Hollywood Hogan).
Scott: This match was between Hulk Hogan’s buddy and the Living Legend’s kid. It was way too long, and really pointless. This match should have been at the “War to Settle the Score” show in February, and this should have been a tag team match with the Sammartinos against Beefcake and Luscious Johnny Valiant, Beefcake’s manager. The problem with this match is that Beefcake isn’t as established a worker yet as we would be, so with his role being to dictate the pace, it was a struggle to really get the match going. This was too big a stage for two fairly inexperienced guys to work alone. I’m actually stunned that they didn’t have Valiant and Sammartino in this match to really sizzle the card up. Sadly the match was a lot of punches and kicks, a far cry from the work we saw in the previous match. The match would end with the expected chicanery from Luscious John and the “Living Legend”. They would brawl in the ring and the referee would throw the whole thing out. I think this was probably as much as everybody was expecting, but it would have fit better at the February set-up show and have a tag team match here. Grade: **
Justin: David Sammartino. Where do we start? He looks like he should be doing news flashes on sports talk radio, not wrestling on the biggest show in WWF history. His dad even cuts him off mid-promo to talk down Johnny V, his counterpart on the outside of the ring in the one. Although, David at least go to talk. Brutus Beefcake stood quietly stoic as V ranted and raved. I take back what I said earlier. David looks like a guy that groomed and bred dogs from a home kennel, still not a pro wrestler. Beefcake was quite trim here and he and V stalled things off the bell, slowly disrobing and milking the crowd. Jesse works in my favorite talking point as he mentions that a loss here would set one of these guys back by a year or so. David looks like a real mess in his granny panty tights, short frame and wide ass. But, he showed some energy early, really bouncing around and working presentable mat offense. Things would stay on the mat as both men alternated control and focused on different body parts. Gorilla put over David’s amateur wrestling skill as it relates to his moveset exhibited here. I put over his ability to sell mobile phones at a kiosk in the mall, still not a wrestler. You can’t kill this crowd at all as they are cheering on David during his big comeback, filled with right hands and kicks. As David looked to start wrapping things up, Beefcake headbutted him in the stomach and chucked him to the floor, where V slammed him, triggering a huge pier six brawl in the ring that blew the Garden apart. The match ended in a schmozz but wow that was a hot thirty second explosion once Bruno started wailing on V. This match wasn’t nearly as bad as I always thought it was, as David showed good fire and Beefcake bumped and sold for him. The finish was pretty fun too. Nice job, David. Now get back on the lot and sell me an affordable, used car. Grade: **
Match #5: Junkyard Dog defeats Greg Valentine by countout at 7:03; Valentine retains WWF Intercontinental Title
Fun Fact I: Greg Valentine was a big time heel in NWA-Mid-Atlantic. His resume includes the US Heavyweight Championship, a tag team title with Ric Flair, and a legendary dog collar match with Roddy Piper at the first Starrcade. He jumped ship to the WWF and defeated Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Title on September 24, 1984 in London, Ontario. Tito had won the Intercontinental Title from Don Muraco on February 11th, ending Muraco’s 13 month reign.
Fun Fact II: From the small town of Wadesboro, NC comes one of the perennial fan favorites from the Rock ‘N Wrestling era. Sylvester Ritter was a star football player at Fayetteville State University, twice earning honorable mention All-American status. After graduating, Ritter began his wrestling career in Tennessee working for promoters Jerry Jarrett and Nick Gulas. He later moved on to Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary before joining Mid-South wrestling in 1981 under Bill Watts. This is where Ritter would get the name and gimmick that would stick with him for the remainder of his career. He was given the name Junkyard Dog and would wear a neck collar and chain to the ring before his matches. Early on in his new gimmick, JYD would come out to the ring pushing a cart filled with junk called the “Junk Wagon”. He was predominantly a jobber early on until his gimmick caught on with crowds. Over time he because the top face of Mid-South where he feuded with the likes of the Fabulous Freebirds, Ted DiBiase, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed and Kamala.
In 1984, JYD moved to the WWF where he was still over as one of the top faces in the company. Often after his matches, he would invite children to the ring to dance and made sure to interact the the young audience that was attending wrestling events. He would record a new theme song that he would come out to the ring to called “Grab Them Cakes”, which appeared on the WWF’s first music compilation, The Wrestling Album. JYD would win the tournament during the WWF’s first official PPV event, The Wrestling Classic, and would have numerous memorable feuds, including one with King Harley Race which would culminate at Wrestlemania III. JYD would continue wrestling with the WWF until 1988. He would wrestle short stints in WCW until 1993 and would stay active in wrestling until his death.
On June 2, 1998 on his way from Mississippi to see his daughter’s high school graduation in Wadesboro, NC, Ritter fell asleep at the wheel and was killed in a single car accident. JYD was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2004 the night before Wrestlemania XX in New York City. Accepting the award was his daughter LaToya Ritter and his sister Christine Woodburn.
Scott: The current Intercontinental champ detours from his vicious feud with Tito Santana, to take on Santana’s pal, the JYD. Dog was a big time babyface in Louisiana, and in Memphis. He arrived in the WWF in 1984, and immediately became a fan favorite. This stems from a Lumberjack match Santana and Valentine had 2 weeks prior at MSG. JYD was one of the lumberjacks and a skirmish broke out between the two. Here, Valentine apparently won with a roll-up that included his feet on the ropes. Tito Santana came out to dispute with the ref that Valentine’s feet were on the ropes. The ref agreed, and counted Valentine out as he was leaving the arena. This would be JYD’s only WrestleMania win. Just like the previous match, I was surprised that we didn’t see the actual #1 contender for the IC Title getting a title shot here. Maybe it was to set Santana up to the TV audience as a legit contender with a warm-up match earlier in the show. You obviously can’t leave the very over JYD off the card so this is fine. The Hammer was one of my brother’s favorite guys back in the day because of his love of good heels and because he’s a great worker. Valentine and Santana would continue their feud for a few more months, and Santana would regain the IC Title in a classic cage match on July 7, 1985. Grade: **
Justin: In our first title match of the evening, Greg Valentine puts his prized Intercontinental Title on the line against the always popular, if not completely regressing Junkyard Dog. Earlier, I reference that I had a better spot in mind for Tito Santana, and this was it. Why not do a hot blowoff between the two bitter rivals that had been warring over the gold prior to this show? JYD felt a bit shoehorned in. Plus, he didn’t have a lot left in the tank when it came to in-ring work. Early on, it felt like Valentine wanted to wrestle in this one, but JYD derailed him with headbutts and strikes. Valentine fought through it and went right to the knee, trying to weaken the limb for the figure four. Dog was moving so slow here and did nothing more than throw punches. I mean, sure the crowd eats it up, but shit what a waste of Valentine on this show. The Hammer would roll JYD up and use the ropes as leverage to get the pin and retain his title. And then in a really stupid spot, Santana shows up and tells the ref that Valentine cheated, so he decides to restart the match and count Valentine out while he has a big stupid grin on his face. Jesse is pissed off and I can’t disagree. What a sham. Valentine deserved better than this for sure. Grade: 1/2*
Match #6: Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff defeat US Express to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Volkoff pinned Barry Windham after Iron Sheik hit him with Freddie Blassie’s cane at 5:00
Fun Fact I: The song “Real American” was originally for the US Express, not Hulk Hogan.
Fun Fact II: In early 1985, Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo were the fair haired golden boys of the WWF. On January 21st, they defeated Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch for the straps, but their reign would be short-lived, as Vince wanted to pull a shocker on PPV. They would regain the belts from Sheik and Volkoff on June 17th, but would quickly lose them again to the upstart Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine) on August 24th. Following the loss, Barry Windham got into an argument with Vince and decided to bail to the NWA. Rotundo, never one to burn bridges, decided to go with his partner, but he made sure to leave on amicable terms with Vince to ensure he would have a future with him. Rotundo’s foresight definitely paid off six years later, when he was looking for a job and Vince gave him one, along with a solid long-term push and a solid character: Irwin R. Shyster. Windham’s careless bailing stuck in Vince’s mind, and even though he rehired him a couple of times, he never gave him a good push again.
Fun Fact III: Josip Nikolai Peruzović was born in 1947 in the Socialist Republic of Croatia, which was part of Yugoslavia. Peruzović was part of the Yugoslavian weightlifting team until 1967 when he defected to Canada. He was trained by Stu Hart in Calgary before coming to the United States in 1970 where he began wrestling for the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). He was given the character name Bepo Mongol and was paired with Geto Mongol, both managed by Captain Lou Albano. The team captured the WWWF International Tag Team titles on June 15, 1970 before losing them to Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler in a match that unified the International and World Tag Team titles.
During the Cold War, Russian characters were easy heel characters in wrestling. Peruzović broke away from his tag team partner and was repackaged as a singles wrestler with the new name Nikolai Volkoff, billed from Moscow, Russia. Volkoff would go on to make numerous runs at the WWWF title early on in his singles career.
In late 1974, Volkoff moved on to the AWA where he maintained the Russian gimmick, but took on a new name, Boris Breznikoff, managed by Bobby ‘The Brain” Heenan. He returned to the WWWF in 1976 and went back to his Nikolai Volkoff name, which he would hold until his retirement. In the early 80s, Volkoff wrestled a brief stint in Mid-South Wrestling until Bill Watts.
With Vincent K. McMahon now in charge in the northeast, Volkoff came back to what was now the WWF where we was teamed with The Iron Sheik to form a formidable foreign tag team. Volkoff would come to the ring and ask that the audience rise for his singing of the Soviet national anthem, which caused the crowd to boo like mad before their match ever began. The duo would win the WWF Tag Team titles at Wrestlemania I, but would lose them back to the US Express (Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham) just 3 months later. After losing the tag titles, Volkoff would wrestle in singles competition in addition to tag team, chasing the World title held by Hogan.
In late 1987, Volkoff would team with another Russian character, Boris Zukhov (who was actually American wrestler James Harrell), to form the tag team, The Bolsheviks. They feuded with The Power of Pain (The Barbarian and The Warlord), wrestling them at the first SummerSlam event in 1988. The team never gain as much traction with crowds as the Volkoff/Sheik team did. Over time the team was relegated to comedy matches with The Bushwackers. The team dissolved in 1990 after Volkoff confronted Zukhov prior to a match and began singing “The Star Spangled Banner”, garnering huge cheers from the crowd. Volkoff became a fan favorite following the turn and fall of the Soviet Union. He would leave the WWF in 1990, but would make a brief return in 1992 for the Royal Rumble match. In 1994, he would return again as a lackey in the Million Dollar Corporation before going into semi-retirement. Volkoff was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2005.
Fun Fact IV: From 1978 until 1983, the world title in the WWWF/WWF territory was held by Bob Backlund, a straight-laced babyface champion. When Vince Jr. took over the business from his father, he had bigger plans and want to put the title on the more charismatic character Hulk Hogan. In order to do so, he needed the right heel to beat Backlund and then lose to Hogan. The Iron Sheik fit this bill.
Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, later known as The Iron Sheik, was born in Tehran, Iran. Vaziri made a name as an amateur wrestler and served on the Iranian Greco Roman wrestling team for the 1968 Summer Olympic games in Mexico City. He later moved to the United States and became an assistant coach for 2 US Olympic teams.
Vaziri started his professional career in 1972 under Verne Gagne. After wrestling as a face early on in the AWA, his character was changed to what he would use for the rest of his career. Vaziri shaved his head, grew a buffo style mustache and began wearing curl toed boots. Due to the politics of the day, the new character, originally named The Great Hossein Arab and later The Iron Sheik, drew a lot of attention. The Iron Sheik had a brief stint in the 1979 and a run in the NWA territories in 1980-82. He returned to the WWF in 1983 where he was brought into a feud with Bob Backlund for the World title. On the day after Christmas, 1983 in Madison Square Garden, the world was stunned as the 6 year champion Backlund was defeated for the title. Backlund never submitted to the Camel Clutch finisher, but Backlund’s manager, Arnold Skaalund, threw in the towel causing the title change. Sheik held the title for a little less than 1 month before dropping the title to Hogan in MSG on January 23, 1984, sparking the beginning of Hulkamania.
He would later team with Nikolai Volkoff with manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie where they would win the WWF World Tag Team titles from the US Express at Wrestlemania I, the first title change ever at the megashow.
Later in his career, The Iron Sheik would take on the role of Colonel Mustafa who was aligned with Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter during his WWF title run around the time of the Gulf War in 1991. The Iron Sheik made his final Wrestlemania in-ring appearance at Wrestlemania X-7 in Houston, Texas where he won the gimmick battle royal. In 2005, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Sgt. Slaughter.
Scott: The first title change in WWF PPV history came as quite a shock. Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo had been on a roll since winning the titles a few months before. They were also quite popular with the fans. Their opponents had been put together only recently before this, but since both Iran and the Soviet Union were on the country’s collective shit list, Vince figured why not. This match/package is the worst example of these pre-shot interviews as both Windham and Rotundo say they’re heading straight to the ring right now, even though they still have their jeans and polo shirts on. The match is a basic tag formula match, and with four fairly good workers in the ring it makes it very entertaining. Sure Nikolai doesn’t have the quickness that the other three guys do, but he is a solid power guy who can fit himself into the match in his own way. The match gets really hot at the end when Windham gets the hot tag and that’s when I thought we have a successful title defense. However, in what would be one of many heel screwjobs in PPV history, the Eastern Bloc heels gain a win thanks to Freddie Blassie’s cane. It’s a great example of the old school manager we don’t see in current day wrestling anymore. Sheik and Volkoff would hold the titles for a couple of months, and then the Express gets it back. Not a bad match. Grade: **1/2
Justin: The big matches are stacked up fast and furious now, as this bout has the tag team titles on the line. The US Express were good fan favorites and worthy champions for sure. Unfortunately they have allowed that pie eating slob Lou Albano to glom onto their heat, as he does every other tag team that is worth anything. In the prematch promo, Albano is sipping from a can of soda with his gut hanging out, rambling on about effort or some such. Their opponents were led by a real manager, the Ayatollah Freddie Blassie. I loved that shit. Sheik & Volkoff were a great heat seeking missile of a tag team and it was shrewd to put them together as they just had a great evil foreigner look that worked perfectly here in 1985. The fans were rocking from the entrance of the champs right through Rotundo’s early flurry, which included a great slam of Sheik where he chucked him down with real force. The champs quick tagged their way into a really nice pace until the foreigners used some chicanery to slow them up. They would really rough up Rotundo, yanking him around with some true anger. Windham would get the hot tag and was all fired up, working Nikolai over with vigor before dropping him with the bulldog. Unfortunately, as the referee was tied up with Rotundo, Sheik blasted Windham with Blassie’s cane to steal the win and the titles. This was smart because you needed at least one memorable title change on this show, and this was a layup decision to build heat and deliver that moment. These four worked well together here, and when you blend in the stiffness of Sheik & Volkoff with the fire and selling of Rotundo & Windham, you get a nice finished product. Grade: **1/2
Match #7: André the Giant defeats Big John Studd in a $15,000 Bodyslam match when he slams Studd at 5:49
Fun Fact I: There were two huge stipulations in this match: if André the Giant wins he gets $15,000 of Studd’s money, but if Studd wins, André would be forced to retire.
The feud between Studd and André had been brewing for 2 years at this point. Big John Studd and his manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie had issued a “Bodyslam Challenge”, offering $10,000 (which later grew to $15,000) to anyone that could slam Studd. Studd had boasted that no one could slam the big man. After several unsuccessful competitors, André took up the challenge. In their first encounter, André was about to slam Studd before Blassie interfered and attacked André from behind. Their feud continued throughout 1983 with André slamming Studd several times, once so hard that the ring collapsed. In spite of being slammed, Studd continued to bill himself as the “True Giant of Wrestling” and claiming that he had never been slammed. Studd was later paired with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, which took the feud to a new level. The heat in the feud was turned up after a televised tag team match match where Studd and Ken Patera teamed against André and S.D. Jones. After the match, Studd and Patera attacked André and cut his hair. Afterward, André accepted Studd’s “$15,000 Bodyslam Challenge” that would be held at the inaugural Wrestlemania.
Fun Fact II: André René Roussimoff, better known to the world as André the Giant, was born in Grenoble, France in 1946. Early in his childhood he began showing symptoms of gigantism, a condition which results in excessive growth and height. By the age of 12, André was already 240 lbs. at a height of 6’3”. André began his professional wrestling career at the age of 17 after he moved to Paris. He wrestled under the name Géant Ferré, which was a mythical French giant. He began making a name for himself over parts of Europe, Australia and Africa.
André premiered in Japan in 1970 where he was billed as the Monster Roussimoff. During his time in Japan, doctors diagnosed him with acromegaly, which develops when the anterior pituitary gland produces an excess amount of growth hormone. André moved on to wrestling in Montreal and for Verne Gagne’s AWA. After the novelty of André’s size would wear off, ticket gates would drop. André’s business manager, Frank Valois, contacted Vince McMahon, Sr. for advice and he offered several suggestions. They put together a strategy to bill André as an immovable giant and changed his name to André the Giant. He was loaned out to promotions around the world for short periods of time to keep from overexposing him and was given guaranteed money as well as a billing fee paid to McMahon.
André debuted in the WWWF in 1973 and quickly became a fan favorite as well as in other territories. When Vince Jr. purchased the business from his Dad, he required wrestlers to work under exclusive contracts which he required of André as well, although he did allow André to appear for NJPW as well. The largest and most well known feud of his career was the one in the last 1980s with Hulk Hogan which would result in the headline match at Wrestlemania III.
As his career neared an end, André’s health issues started becoming more noticeable in matches. On January 27, 1993, André passed away in his sleep from congestive heart failure. Later that year, McMahon would form the WWF Hall of Fame and André the Giant was the sole inaugural inductee.
Fun Fact III: Big John Studd, born John Milton, was trained by Killer Kowalski and made his pro wrestling debut in 1972 under the name Chuck O’ Connor. He would jump around the various territories in the early part of his career, where he achieved success as a tag team wrestler. Studd and Kowalski teamed to win the WWWF tag team titles in 1976 and Studd teamed with Ken Pattera to win the NWA Mid-Atlantic tag team titles in 1978.
When Studd returned to the WWF in 1982, he was paired with manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie and later with Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. He wrestled as the top challenger for Bob Backlund’s WWF championship, but never defeated him for the title. He is best known for his ongoing feud with André the Giant. Later in his run with the WWF, we would team with King Kong Bundy to continue to feud with André and other faces in the company.
Studd retired from the WWF for a couple of years in the mid-80s before returning to the promotion in 1988 as a face. He feuded with members of the Heenan family, who he had turned his back on when he returned. In 1989 Studd won the first PPV edition of the Royal Rumble.
Studd died of liver cancer and Hodgkin’s disease on March 20, 1995. He was inducted posthumously into the WCW Hall of Fame in 1995 and into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 prior to Wrestlemania XX.
Scott: Two of the biggest (literally) legends of the ring clash in a match that had been brewing for some time. This stems from a feud that started in late-1984 that saw Ken Patera and Studd shave off André’s famous afro. Many considered this match at main event level when the card was released. The match itself is not great, as André was already showing his age and the effects of his condition that made him as big as he was. The match is a lumbering affair as both men work each other over with simple strikes and posturing. The feud and the promos were incredible, but it was evident we were not going to get Ricky Steamboat-type offense here. Still the crowd was rabid for this match and would have definitely been crestfallen if Andre lost the match and had to retire. In the days of kayfabe that would have been a pretty devastating loss. Add to the fact that apparently André and Studd legitimately didn’t like each other and it adds so much to the match. The big pop comes as he slams Studd, takes the duffel bag with the cash, and tossed it into the crowd before Bobby Heenan swiped the bag and ran away. A big win for the legend. On a side note, I always wanted that WWF duffel bag. Grade: *1/2
Justin: We are seven matches in and I think this is the first match that had any true level of buildup behind it. These guys had been battling for a while and a big part of that story was the Heenan Family shaving André’s vintage afro. So, here we get André’s career on the line up against a whole bag full of cash. I like the slam stipulation too as it mixes things up and helps this bout stand out as the very top of the undercard. The NY crowd was hot for André as you would expect. He quickly put Studd on the defensive, kicking him in the head and knocking him to the floor to regroup. André was already moving a lot slower and was much heavier by this point here. It is too bad he couldn’t have made it to the PPV era in the shape he was in just a couple of years before. Studd couldn’t find any opening at all as André beat him around in the corner before hooking in a bear hug. Studd would get virtually no offense in here as André just kept pouring it on him before slamming him for the win. Wow, that was essentially a squash. André grabbed the bag and got to toss some of the cash to the crowd before Heenan snuck in and took the bag back before quickly escaping. This was more of a moment than a match, per se, but that was good for a show like this that needed as many memorable moments as it could get. Despite the actual match being nothing, it gets a little bump due to the big spot and the crowd pop that resulted. Grade: *
Match #8: Wendi Richter defeats Leilani Kai to win WWF Women’s Title when Richter reversed a High Cross Body at 6:12
Fun Fact I: Richter shocked the wrestling world when she defeated The Fabulous Moolah for the title on July 23, 1984 at MSG, after Moolah dominated the title since 1956, only losing for a few days here and there. Moolah then took on Lelani Kai as her charge, and Kai (with the help of Moolah) took the title from Richter on February 18, 1985 at “The War to Settle the Score”.
Fun Fact II: The Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection began in 1983 as a cross-promotional endeavour between the WWF and different groups in the music agency. The idea came from WWF manager Captain Lou Albano, who met Cyndi Lauper on a plane to Puerto Rico. Lauper invited Albano to appear in her music video for her hit song, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, where he would play the role of her father. Lauper later appeared in a Piper’s Pit segment with Albano. Lauper was called a “broad” during the segment by Albano, which led to a challenge by Lauper. Each would choose a female wrestler and the two would wrestle each other. Wendi Richter was Lauper’s choice, with Albano selecting The Fabulous Moolah. On July 23, 1984, “The Brawl to End It All” match was broadcast live on MTV. Richter defeated Moolah for the WWF women’s title after Lauper hit Moolah with her purse, ending Moolah’s WWF promoted 28 year reign as champion.
On December 28, 1984, Lauper would kick off another angle for the WWF. On this date she presented an award to Captain Lou. During the event, Rowdy Roddy Piper came out, insulted Lauper’s music and then smashed the framed award over Albano’s head. Lauper was knocked over and her manager David Wolfe was bodyslammed by Piper before Hulk Hogan hit the ring and Piper retreated. This led to a match between Hogan and Piper at “The War to Settle the Score” event at Madison Square Garden on February 18, 1985 with Albano and Lauper both in Hogan’s corner.
Lauper would be involved in another event on that same show regarding the Women’s title. Moolah, still upset after her earlier loss to Richter, would challenge her to a match on behalf of another women’s wrestler, Leilani Kai. The match was set for “The War to Settle the Score”, with Lauper in Richter’s corner and Moolah in Leilani Kai’s corner, with Kai winning the title. A rematch was set for the inaugural WrestleMania event with Lauper again managing Richter and appearing in her corner.
Scott: One of the highlights of the show has the very popular Texan defeating Moolah’s girl from Hawaii. The match is a little sloppy, and even the ending with Richter reversing the High Cross Body was not quite smooth. This match was all about Richter’s “manager” for the night, Cyndi Lauper. She was part of the big “War to Settle the Score” card in February. This also included heel manager Captain Lou Albano, but he was a face by now. I love in the pre-match promo that Lauper called Kai “LANNY KAI”. So funny with that Queens accent. This match (aside from the main event) may have been the most hyped match on the entire card. It really was the lynch pin of this entire show and of the environment that the WWF became. Rock and Wrestling was this match, let’s not deny it. Obviously the main event was the selling point of the show but without Cyndi Lauper’s involvement, this show (and the War to Settle the Score) wouldn’t have had the mainstream attention that this first WrestleMania needed to succeed. Both women worked their tails off in this match as Richter was a good worker but I think Lelani Kai deserves some credit here for working the heel role to perfection Moolah kept the heat going outside, Lauper did a nice job of taking that out of the equation too. Richter reversed a high cross body for the three count and the place went crazy when Richter won the belt, but she was on borrowed time. She would be screwed years before Montreal was ever on our minds. Still, a fun match and a very memorable moment in WWF history. Grade: **1/2
Justin: You may not expect it, but the excitement of the Garden is off the charts for this next match. The main reason, you ask? Cyndi Lauper. The pop star was hot as ever at this point, and her albums were flying off the charts. Luckily, Vince McMahon ignored the old school purists who told him his Rock ‘n’ Wrestling idea would never work. Vince had the vision and long term planning to hook up with MTV early on and jump on the music bandwagon. Thus, once Lauper hit it big, it was all worked out to have her and her manager, David Wolfe, get involved in storylines, including a classic moment where Roddy Piper kicked her in the head. The heat was out of control for the whole thing, and it spills over to the culmination at this show. Her snappy accent and fast paced talking style was perfect and she did a nice job building the match on TV and in the prematch promo. I thought it was smart to add Moolah in the mix here too to add some legitimacy to the match. It would be hard to see them having a women’s match on this show and not have Moolah involved somehow. MSG was bananas for Lauper and her and Richter jogging to the ring like rock stars is one of WrestleMania’s most memorable entrances of all time. Gorilla Monsoon may have said it constantly, but this really was a happening. The match itself is a clusterfuck of blown spots, sloppy wrestling and the usual women’s fare, but it really didn’t matter. When Richter gets the three, the roof nearly blows off, and causes this to be the absolute peak of women’s wrestling during this era, as it was placed on an important part of the card and overshadowed everything before it. It was just a fun moment that sees a lot of chaos and a hot ending that popped MSG big time. To me the whole package was much more important than the wrestling for this one and my grade reflects it. Grade: **1/2
Match #9: Hulk Hogan and Mr. T defeat Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff when Hogan pins Orndorff after Bob Orton accidentally hit Orndorff with his cast at 13:22
Fun Fact I: This also stemmed from the “War to Settle the Score” show at MSG on February 18, 1985. The show was televised on MTV, and it included a World Title match between Hogan and Piper. The match ends in a messy schmozz, including security and police officers, and we come to this. Over the coming weeks, lots of workout vignettes from both sides aired to pump up the match. Then, in the days leading up to this match, Mr. T began to get a little weird about the whole thing, and even ended up disappearing for a while the DAY of the show. Hogan and Vince were freaking out, but T finally surfaced and the match went off without a hitch.
Fun Fact II: Terry Bollea was a lifelong wrestling fan that was discovered in a gym by the Briscos and eventually trained by Hiro Matsuda. He made his pro debut in Florida, but quickly burnt out thanks to Matsuda’s strict training regimen. After some time away, Bollea craved to return to the business, and along with friend Ed Leslie, he got back into the game in the Alabama territory. After a run as the Boulder Brothers, Bollea & Leslie were offered more money to jump to Memphis by Jerry Jarrett, and they quickly accepted. After a local TV appearance where he dwarfed Lou Ferrigno, Jarrett dubbed him Terry “The Hulk” Boulder. In late 1979. Bollea was lured to New York by Vince McMahon, Sr. and was given the in ring name of Hulk Hogan. After a successful heel run and spending some time honing his skills in Japan, Bollea was offered a role in Rocky III. McMahon refused to let him participate in the movie, so Hogan quite the WWF and joined AWA instead. An early heel run turned into a red-hot face turn and the birth of Hulkamania. As 1983 ticked away, Hogan saw the writing on the wall and where AWA was headed, so he decided to return to New York. On 12/27, Hogan returned to WWF TV and solidified his New York face persona by saving Bob Backlund from an attack a few weeks later. On 1/23, Hogan shocked the WWF fans by knocking off the Iron Sheik to win the WWF Championship. His star would explode as the year went on, and along with Vince McMahon, he was the man that would help lead the promotion from a strong territory into a multimillion dollar national wrestling company.
Fun Fact III: Canadian Roderick Toombs left home as a young teenager, travelling the country and eventually make his pro wrestling debut at the age of fifteen. In 1973, he hit the United States, beginning a stretch where the newly named Roddy Piper competed as an enhancement talent in Kansas City, Texas and with the AWA. Eventually he landed in California and it was there that he received his first sustained push. By late 1975, he was a top heel in NWA’s San Francisco and Los Angeles territories. In 1980, he moved across the country and joined NWA’s Mid-Atlantic territory, igniting a heated feud with Ric Flair. He also spent time in Georgia as a heel color announcer. Piper would eventually turn face and become embroiled in tremendous feuds with Flair, Sgt. Slaughter and Greg Valentine, the latter with whom he had a memorable, bloody dog collar match with at the inaugural Starrcade. In late 1983, he turned heel once again and fulfilled his final NWA dates because in 1984, he would be heading to New York. After joining the promotion as a manager for Paul Orndorff and David Schultz, Piper would step back into the ring full time as a top flight feel. Later that year, he created his infamous talk show segment, Piper’s Pit. Much of 1984 was centered around his brutal feud with Jimmy Snuka but by 1985, he was elevated to the main event and entered into a feud with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan.
Fun Fact IV: After a brief run in professional football, Paul Orndorff focused his sights on pro wrestling in 1976, when he hooked up with the Mid-South territory in Memphis. After leaving Memphis, Orndorff continued to win gold across various NWA territories, before settling in Alabama in 1979. He returned to Mid-South in late 1980, working various opponents until early 1982, when he moved on to Georgia. After a brief run in Japan, Orndorff signed with the WWF in late 1983. By early 1984, he was aligned with Roddy Piper and was becoming one of the hottest heels in the territory. Now dubbed “Mr. Wonderful”, Orndorff worked with Piper and manager Bobby Heenan to terrorize WWF faces, eventually leading them into a mega-feud with Hulk Hogan as 1984 was coming to a close. Orndorff teamed with Piper to battle Hogan & Mr. T at the first Wrestlemania. After some miscommunication, Orndorff ate the pin and would become the scapegoat for the loss. After Piper officially turned on him, Orndorff became a hot face, dumping Heenan, and aligning with Hogan. A bitter Heenan would then place a $25,000 bounty on anyone that could put Orndorff on the shelf. The bounty would eventually be increased to $50,000 as the weeks went on
Scott: The first main event in WrestleMania history is an entertaining affair between the three hottest wrestlers in the promotion at that time, and one of TV’s hottest stars. This match, just like the show in general, was reaching national mainstream attention. That was highlighted by Hogan and T hosting Saturday Night Live the night before. With all the celebrities, from Muhammad Ali, to Liberace, to Jimmy Snuka and Cowboy Bob Orton on the outside, MSG was at a fever pitch. The match was a frenetic horse race, with constant movement in the ring and quick tags in and out. I remember as a kid watching Hogan and T on that SNL and really getting into the mood. My dad was a fan along with me and was excited simply because of Billy Martin (who was probably down the street at either Foley’s or Jack Dempsey’s before the show) as he was a former Yankee. I at the time was in full blown Hulkamania mode and was very pro-babyface here. In the climax, Orndorff has Hogan held from behind, and Orton goes to the top rope, set to drop the cast. Hogan moves out of the way and Orton whacks Orndorff. Hogan gets the pin, and MSG explodes. Piper and Orton, blaming his partner for the loss, walks out with Orndorff was still on dream street. This leads to a few things: 1) Orndorff turning face, 2) The Piper/Mr. T boxing match at WrestleMania II, and 3) The beginning of many great Hulkamania moments in WrestleMania history, and a perfect main event to cap what will become a pro wrestling institution as just as much a rite of spring as the NCAA Tournament and MLB Spring Training. Grade: ***
Justin: It is Main Event time, and you knew the company would go all out to make this a big time match and moment. They loaded up the celebrities and hyped this match to no end, including the SNL appearance the night before. Guest ring announcer Billy Martin was about to start his third stint as Yankee manager right after this show and gets a nice welcome from the NY fans. He is followed by guest timekeeper Liberace, who dances with the Rockettes and special enforcer referee, Muhammad Ali, who gets arguably the biggest pop to this point in the show. Piper, Orndorff and Orton were played to the ring by live bagpipers which just brought about a fantastic aura and atmosphere. The really felt like major stars here and there was no better heel on the planet than Piper that would have fit better in this spot at this moment in time. The only entrance that topped that one was the one that followed, as MSG splits apart for Hogan, Mr. T and Jimmy Snuka. All four of these guys were in fantastic shape and ready to make history. As Piper and T stand nose to nose in one of the most famous pictures in Mania history, Gorilla lands ones his most famous lines: “Mr. T has been living on tuna fish and water” to describe his ripped physique. Things break down early as all the seconds and competitors spill into the ring, drawing Ali in to take swipes at Piper and Orton. This was good booking to get the crowd really fired up and show how combustible things could be. After another flurry by Hogan, Team Piper was able to wrest control after a skirmish on the floor. They would work over Hogan until the Champion was able to tag in T, who came in hot but was quickly busted down to the ground by Orndorff. Piper switched in and the plan was clear: keep T grounded and wear him out. That plan never came to fruition as T escaped and tagged Hogan in. Normally you would think chaos would help Piper & Crew but here it backfired. They were in full control, working over both Hogan and T, but once Orton hopped on the apron and drew in Snuka in retaliation, things crumbled. Orton got involved again but his attempt backfired and he clocked Orndorff with his cast, leading to the finish and one last big pop from the fans. Piper & Orton bailed, leaving a confused Orndorff to try to piece together what went down. This was about as perfectly booked as this match could have been, using T to his strengths without overexposing him and letting the pros do the heavy lifting. The celebrities were all also used well too. The first Mania Main Event is in the books and a true legacy has firmly been established. Grade: ***
Scott: This is the first one, the one that started the greatest extravaganza in wrestling history. OK, as a card it was average. It was pretty much a glorified MSG house show. Who cares, this is WrestleMania. The reason we’re all wrestling fans today. There’s urban legend that AWA promoter Verne Gagne offered Bruiser Brody $100,000 to jump from the crowd and break Mr. T’s leg. This wasn’t the first time Gagne, who despised Vince McMahon, threatened something like this. The Iron Sheik says in the Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80s DVD that Gagne offered him money to injure Hogan in the January 23, 1984 title match. Gagne’s fault was not realizing soon enough that wrestling was evolving, and he wasn’t. That’s why in 1990, the AWA went out of business. Alas, none of it happened, and history was made. There were some shocks (Sheik/Volkoff), some disappointments (Beefcake/Sammartino), and a great main event. As a show, there were better WrestleManias, heck better house shows. It was the first wrestling tape I ever rented, and even though I had been a fan for about a year and a half at that point, I was hooked forever. Final Grade: A+
Justin: Well, the grandfather of all future PPVs was in the books and Vince McMahon was a successful man. It has been stated many times that Vince invested so much in this show, that if it bombed or failed, he may have gone out of business. Everyone was nervous, right down to Jesse Ventura, who had to be held up from behind by Gorilla Monsoon at the beginning of the show. Thankfully, the show was a mega-hit and WrestleMania is still the main force in wrestling today. In 1984, Vince McMahon had a vision, and many of his confidants followed his lead, and those are the men that helped revolutionize the sport. The men who thought Vince was stupid and didn’t jump on the bandwagon would quickly fall to the wayside. His long-term vision of what he wanted the WWF to be came to life with WrestleMania. The show was a perfect blend of wrestling and pageantry and was a prime example of the newest fad in the sport: Rock ‘n’ Wrestling. WrestleMania was a mega-hit, and because of it, Scott and I have plenty more PPVs to review. The show itself flew by with great pacing and no wasted time. The MSG crowd was insane all night long and everyone worked hard to deliver. This show was much better than I have given it credit for in the past with solid work up and down and tons of memorable moments that live to to this day. It is hard to give this anything but a perfect grade just based on historical significance but the wrestlers and fans held up their end of the bargain as well. Final Grade: A+
PTB Podcast Review: Episode #3