Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh: WrestleMania IV

15_WM04_03271988tb_004

*** 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 IV: Savage Stands Alone…Sort Of

March 27, 1988
Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Attendance: 18,165
Closed-Circuit Attendance: 175,000
Buy Rate: 6.5
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura

Fun Fact: Before we get into the show itself, let’s get into the reasons why WrestleMania was set up the way it was. On February 5, 1988 NBC held a special prime time edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event. This was on a Friday night, and it was called “The Main Event”. It was the first time in over three decades that professional wrestling was on prime time network television. The big match was a WWF World Title match between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant. This was the long awaited rematch from the huge main event at WrestleMania III. It was announced prior to the show that Ted DiBiase had purchased the contract of André from Bobby Heenan. In the match, Hogan had his opponent ready to be pinned. At ringside were The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and his bodyguard Virgil. Virgil jumped on the apron to distract referee Dave Hebner. Hogan hit Virgil, but André caught him with a couple of reverse headbutts. He then turned him over with the “André Suplex”, and went for the pin. At the one count, Hogan clearly had his left shoulder up, but Hebner continued to count, and counted three. That’s right kids. Hulk Hogan’s four year reign as WWF Champion was over. Hebner handed the title to André, who held it for exactly 127 seconds. André handed it to DiBiase, who had been unsuccessfully trying to buy the title from Hogan for weeks. Then, the swerve: Another referee came out looking exactly like Dave Hebner. Well, it was Dave Hebner. The original referee was his real-life twin brother Earl. Earl had been working down in Mid-Atlantic for Jim Crockett. It is revealed that DiBiase paid someone to get plastic surgery to look like Dave. DiBiase held the belt for a week. In fact there were pictures of DiBiase at house shows wearing the strap. The following week on Superstars, President Jack Tunney stripped DiBiase of the title (he isn’t officially recognized as a champion), and declared the title vacant. A 14-man single elimination tournament was slated for Wrestlemania to officially crown an undisputed WWF World Champion, with Hogan and André receiving first round byes for being the last two World Champions.

Match #1: Bad News Brown wins a 20-man Battle Royal at 9:43.

Participants:
Ron Bass, Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Danny Davis, Bret Hart, Hillbilly Jim, Sam Houston, Junkyard Dog, Jim Neidhart, Ken Patera, Jim Powers, Harley Race, Paul Roma, Jacques Rougeau, Raymond Rougeau, Sika, George Steele, Nikolai Volkoff, and Boris Zhukov.

Fun Fact: Bad News Brown was a pupil of Stu Hart’s dungeon. He was known as Bad News Allen and Bad News Allen Coage. Brown wrestled in Stampede, Japan, and in Florida. He was actually Florida Heavyweight Champ, and had a pretty good feud with a very young Lex Luger.

Scott: We open up this massive event with the second battle royal in Wrestlemania history. This was pretty much the chance for everybody on the roster that wasn’t either in a title match or the tournament to get a WrestleMania payday. I love early on that Bob Uecker pulled open the curtain and said “When I got the call from Vince McMahon to come back…” We see some newcomers here in the bunch, like Bad News Brown. I’ve always said that Brown was a revolutionary character for 1988 WWF. He was mean, surly and pretty much liked nobody. That’s different for the era of kayfabe. Sam Houston just never seemed to fit in this company. He obviously got a good word from relative Jake Roberts, but he still seemed like an NWA-type wrestler. Another major plot point here is the switching of the Hart Foundation. Even though he’s still a heel, they were getting some cheers from the fans and there were a lot of signs in the crowd for the Pink and Black Attack. It more happens over the spring/summer, but the ending of this match clearly shows they’re trying to push them as fan favorites. Sadly on the other side of the coin, guys like the Junkyard Dog are starting to show they’re falling behind the new crop of superstars added to the roster over the past couple of years. He is one of the final three guys left with the newcomer Bad News and Bret Hart. They work JYD over and finally get him out, but just as the two heels are about to split the money and the trophy, Bad News hits his swank finisher, the Ghettoblaster. He works Bret over and dumps him over the top. Then, maybe a harbinger of things to come in about a decade, the Hitman gets in the ring and throws a tantrum. He destroys Bad News’ trophy and chucks it down the aisle. Overall a much better battle royal then two WrestleManias earlier when we had a bunch of football players flailing around. Bad News Brown makes a big push in the WWF, but the Hitman gets the last word. Grade: N/A

Justin: As WrestleMania’s successes kept piling up, the WWF decided to really up the ante and roll out a very deep, long show for its fourth installment. With a giant tournament, a few undercard matches and a big battle royal, this was easily the biggest PPV card to date for the company. The highlight of this one is easily my man Bob Uecker joining Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon in the booth. This match is pretty much filled with the lowest end of the talent pool except for a few select entries. Even old George Steele is in this one, camped out on the floor, never entering the ring for some odd reason. There is an interesting mix of talent here, with a bunch of guys that have hung around for a couple years but were being phased out and some others that were ready for a push. The announcers pretty much ignore the majority of the action, as they spent most of the time cracking jokes with Uecker. Steele was being an asshole, standing on the floor and then yanking Jim Neidhart out and somehow eliminating him. That wasn’t quite right. Bodies started to fly at a pretty good pace as this card would be bloated enough, we didn’t need this laboring on too long. Paul Roma’s leg seems to have healed up nicely as he actually makes the final four here, along with Bad News Brown, Junkyard Dog and Bret Hart. He would be the first to go, leaving us with Bad News and Hart left to double up on JYD, who valiantly hangs in and takes it to both guys. Bad News was a really nice addition to the midcard, a true nasty heel that was just a dick to everyone. This a great showing for Hart too, even though it is an opening match battle royal, he gets a lot of shine in it. After a pact and a lengthy attack, Bad News and Hart finally dumped JYD. That would lead to a classic WrestleMania moment as the two shook hands and seemingly agreed to be co-winners until Bad News turned him on and dumped him to the floor. Great character building for Bad News there and also sewed some seeds of sympathy for Hart, who had some changes on the way. Although, it was odd that they then had him turn around and be a crybaby that destroyed the giant trophy. Oh well. This was fine for what it was, no twists or turns outside of the Bad News double cross. Grade: N/A

FIRST ROUND:

Match #2: Ted DiBiase defeats Jim Duggan after a fist drop at 5:01

Fun Fact: Now a little background on The Million Dollar Man. Ted DiBiase grew up in Texas and went to the same college (West Texas State) as many other stars. DiBiase wrestled mostly in the Midwest, but did spend some time in the WWWF in the late 70s. In fact, in a coincidental piece of trivia, Hulk Hogan’s first ever WWWF match in 1979 was against DiBiase. From there DiBiase returned to Mid-South and then shifted to the UWF. There he feuded with Terry Gordy and Jim Duggan amongst others. In 1985, DiBiase received a huge NWA World Title match against Ric Flair, but lost the match after interference from Dick Murdoch. He came to the WWF in December 1987 amidst promises of a killer gimmick and huge push and was immediately pushed into the Main Event picture once he was inked.

Scott: So we begin this tournament with a favorite and…filler. Clearly when this fourteen man tournament started, there are favorites and there are filler guys depending on what the prize is. Of course when it was something like a check or a trophy, anybody is open to win. However with the WWF Championship on the line there’s a very small sliver of people who you know could clearly be the favorite to win it, and others who are there to put over the favorites. Due to the enormous number of matches during this show, these early battles were quick and to the point. Duggan has been around for about a year and although he has been a top flight babyface for the crowds, he’s not a guy ever taken seriously for a championship. André was still under DiBiase’s care, and would make his presence felt. Andre ends up tripping Duggan as he was in his three-point stance. Duggan’s distracted enough to be caught in a suplex, and DiBiase moves on. Gorilla seems surprised when Andre came down with DiBiase. Plenty of advance plot points in this PPV that will be used later on. Gorilla pointing out that DiBiase has Andre in his corner. The other big plot point is that Jesse went over the rules for the fans, including the fact that 1) Draws eliminate both men, and 2) Double DQs eliminate both men. Jesse Ventura never does anything by accident. That’s why he’s great. DiBiase tackles this match the same he handles every match tonight: With cheating and underhanded tricks. I love that Jesse rips Duggan for not being a legit wrestler and dummying down the match for his benefit. DiBiase expectedly moves on to the next round. Grade: **

Justin: We officially kick off the first title tournament in WWF PPV history with the renewal of a red hot UWF feud from a couple of years prior. Ted DiBiase is the reason this entire tournament even had to happen, so here he is in the opener, seeded up against the winner of the Royal Rumble, Jim Duggan. DiBiase has André the Giant and Virgil flanking him and is wearing his swank silver and purple suit. I love me some tournaments and always get excited for the opening round matches. Jesse and Gorilla do a splendid job putting over the concept, importance and possibilities right out the gate. Jesse predicted that Duggan would force DiBiase to brawl instead of wrestle and he was accurate early on as Duggan slugged away with big right hands, knocking DiBiase to the floor to regroup. DiBiase would work in some of his usual strikes, but Duggan was impressive in his comeback, surprising Jesse with some variance in his attack, even busting out a nice sunset flip and vertical suplex. Duggan looked to be in position to advance until André got involved, tripping Duggan up and allowing DiBiase to pick up the win and move on. This was a fine opener and I wish they had more time to give it a go and really build some heat, but this really wasn’t the setting for it. Grade: **

Match #3: Don Muraco defeats Dino Bravo by Disqualification at 4:54

Scott: In the “Totally Jacked Steroid” match of the night, the repackaged Magnificent Muraco takes on the Canadian Strongman. Now called “The Rock”, Muraco is joined by his manager Superstar Billy Graham. Maybe it’s his enabler too, because 1988 Muraco looks nothing like even 1986 Muraco. There really isn’t much to say here, as this match is a train wreck. Both men spend most of the match clubbing each other with strikes and sloppy center turnbuckle moves. After his “questionable” record-setting performance weightlifting at the Royal Rumble, many thought Bravo would advance to the next round against the tired Muraco. Ah, but in the era of heels vs. faces, Muraco wins due to a shady move by Bravo. Muraco went off the ropes for a shoulderblock, but Bravo pulls the ref in front of him. The ref hits the deck, and Bravo hits his side suplex. The ref calls for the bell, and Bravo thinks he won. The referee calls for the DQ and the Atlantic City crowd actually goes crazy when “The Rock” wins the match. It’s a shame that these matches were so short because we have a lot of psychology guys that could use a few more minutes to tell a better story but with a crazy 16 matches on the card things needed to sped along. Muraco moves on to face DiBiase to the next round. Grade: **

Justin: Next up we continue the tournament with a battle of two muscled up power wrestlers. Muraco has just gotten ridiculously huge by this point and it was pretty fitting that Billy Graham becomes his mentor, in more ways than one. Dino Bravo is firmly ensconced in his new solo run, with Frenchy Martin in tow and the world weightlifting record in his back pocket. Bravo tries to show off his power early but Muraco shrugged him off and went to town. Jesse credits Frenchy for bringing the aggressiveness out of Bravo but I find that to be dubious considering how lazy and useless Frenchy is. Bravo busts out a nice gutwrench suplex but misses a running knee in the corner to give Muraco an opening to start working the leg a bit. That came to a halt when Muraco got himself hung in the ropes and Bravo pounced right away, snapping off a piledriver for a near fall. Muraco avoided a second piledriver and I must say these guys are working pretty hard. I expected this to be a real dog but it wasn’t bad. As Muraco turned up the heat, Bravo got desperate and yanked the referee in front of him as the Rock charged his way. With the ref down, Bravo hit a side suplex but the referee called for the bell and disqualified Bravo for putting his hands on him. Muraco advances and this was a bit better than I remembered. Grade: *1/2

Match #4: Greg Valentine defeats Ricky Steamboat when Valentine rolls through a Steamboat crossbody at 9:09

Fun Fact: This is Ricky Steamboat’s final WWF PPV appearance for over three years.

Scott: The most entertaining match of the first round sees the loyal Hammer take one from the “dis-loyal” (depending on your point of view) Ricky Steamboat. We will get to that in a minute. If you were looking at a snapshot of two of the greatest and contrasting workers of the 1980s, these two guys were it. Valentine was a methodical worker who hit stiff strikes and worked his guy over for a long period of time before slapping on the Figure Four. Steamboat was all over the ring, with no wasted motion and expert fast technical maneuvers. Giving these two guys over nine minutes for the first round was a very smart move as these two can definitely entertain for at least that long. I most certainly would not have given say the previous match that much time. Jesse always mentions Barry Blaustein, who was his agent. Gorilla and Jesse are beginning to put in the fans’ heads that Hogan is the clear favorite to win the tournament, and they never used to be that confident about stuff like that. In one of the best matches we will see all night, two former Intercontinental Champions go all out, but the evil Valentine used Steamboat’s momentum against him when he was spun over on a cross body and with a handful of tights moves on to the next round. We won’t see Steamboat in the WWF again until 1991 because he and the company had a very strained relationship. After his epic win over Randy Savage at WrestleMania III, he asked to take a leave of absence to care for his pregnant wife. Vince was a little miffed that he put the title on a guy who wanted to leave. So he dropped the title to Honky Tonk Man and then spent the next year practically forgotten. In any event, the Hammer moves on in a great match. Grade: **1/2

Justin: In our third opening round contest we get a visit from the star of last year’s show battling another WrestleMania veteran as Ricky Steamboat takes on Greg Valentine. Steamboat’s stock has fallen quickly and he was in his waning WWF days here. Although, when you looked at the brackets it seemed very possible we may get a WrestleMania III rematch with Savage getting his win back over the Dragon, which would have been a great way to send the Dragon away. Steamboat enters with his baby son and despite the words of Gorilla, it makes him look like a bit of a pussy and quite arrogant as he paraded him around like Simba. After spending the last couple of years in the tag division, Valentine is back to being a steadying force on the singles side of the midcard and he now has Jimmy Hart by his side. Steamboat worked at his usual early pace as Gorilla continues the tradition of telling us how long it takes the Hammer to get revved up in the ring. As Greg starts to work his methodical offense, Jesse name drops his pal Barry Blaustein, a name many wrestling fans should be familiar with. This is a pretty good matchup as Valentine excels at slowly punishing opponents and Steamboat is the king of selling, so they build some nice heat together. Valentine even cut off a good Steamboat comeback and dropped him with a nice shoulderbreaker as he went right back to work without missing a beat. Steamboat would make another comeback but this just wasn’t his night as Hammer rolled through a high cross body and stole the quick pin to advance on, robbing us of a potentially glorious rematch. I get why the WWF didn’t want Steamboat to win as he was heading out the door, but him putting over Savage in a strong second round match could have been fantastic. Part of it may be that they didn’t want to split Savage’s fan base as well, so maybe Valentine was the safer pick. Alas, this was a very solid match that kept the crowd engaged and made sense the whole way through. Grade: **1/2

Match #5: Randy Savage defeats Butch Reed with the Elbow Drop at 4:07

Fun Fact I: This is Butch Reed’s final WWF PPV appearance. His final record is 1-3. After this he would jump to the NWA and hook up with Ron Simmons as the masked tag team Doom.

Fun Fact II: On the October 3rd 1987 Saturday Night’s Main Event, Randy Savage challenged Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Championship. Towards the end of the match, fellow Jimmy Hart wrestlers, the Hart Foundation interfered and cost Savage the match. After the DQ, the Harts and Savage mercilessly pounded on Savage and Honky even shoved down Elizabeth to the gasps of the crowd. Elizabeth went scurrying to the back, during which time the Harts held Savage up and Honky smashed his guitar over Savage’s head. Elizabeth then returned with Hulk Hogan in tow. Hogan chased off the Hart Family and shook hands with Savage, establishing the relationship that would dominate the storylines for the next year and a half. Honky and Savage were slated for a rematch on the Main Event in February 1988, but we will get to that later in the show.

Scott: Our next first round match pits Slick’s star (and the guy who allegedly got Honky Tonk Man the IC Title) against a dark horse favorite in the tournament. Savage really grabbed the fans’ hearts over the last four months of 1987 while feuding with Honky over the IC Title and could be a guy some fans think could slide in there in the tournament. The match is a quickie, and pretty much shows what a lumbering oaf Butch Reed is. Reed has Savage down, but takes what seems like an hour to get to the top rope while showing Elizabeth some machismo. Savage recovers, dumps Reed off the top rope and drops the elbow for the victory. With Jesse emphasizing that the guy who wins this tournament has to win four matches to get there, it also lends itself to the possibility somebody besides Hulk Hogan COULD win this thing. Couldn’t they? There’s not much more to say here, as Macho Man moves on to a date with the Hammer.
Grade: **

Justin: We progress through the brackets with another big time crowd favorite that was beginning to gain some serious momentum with the fans in Randy Savage. The crowds had been dying to cheer him and Elizabeth for most of 1987 and by the end of the year, the WWF obliged and here we stand as Macho is one of the favorites as the tournament got under way. In the opener he is set to battle Butch Reed, who has been around a little over a year but accomplished very little. This is his last PPV match as well and he would be in WCW soon enough. After a brief spurt of Savage offense, Macho went right into his trusted formula: get the shit kicked out of you and really gain some sympathy. And he did it just about as well as anybody else in the promotion. Reed used his weight and power advantage but spent a little too much time jawing at Liz and also tried to ascend the top rope, which made no sense. Savage would catch and slam him to the mat and quickly climbed to the top and dropped the elbow for the win. The crowd began to buzz as soon as Savage looked to the top and popped when he hit the move, and that was awesome. This match was all Reed but Savage hit the one move he needed to hit. Grade: *1/2

Match #6: One Man Gang defeats Bam Bam Bigelow by Countout at 3:00

Fun Fact: This is Bam Bam Bigelow’s final WWF PPV match until the 1993 Royal Rumble.

Scott: Wow we get quite a bit of beef in this match as two guys of similar sizes and styles battle in our next tournament match. Bigelow was a pretty hot babyface in late-1987 and had a great showing at the Survivor Series and could have been another dark horse to win it, or at least make it to the semifinals against DiBiase or another heel. Bigelow was in control for most of this match but Slick pulled the top rope and Bigelow hit the deck to the floor. In a quick three minutes a huge upset, in my opinion, occurred. I really don’t understand why this needed to be a countout though. I think One Man Gang winning with some chicanery would have been perfectly fine. Sadly we don’t see Bigelow again for quite a while, so it could have been a lost opportunity for a huge babyface in this company to make big money and draw house shows. Rumors are Hogan wasn’t willing to share the top with more than one person, and Bigelow got “nudged” out the door. Bigelow will be back in a few years, but he won’t be back tonight. Grade: *1/2

Justin: Even though his push has dimmed quite a bit since late 1987, Bam Bam Bigelow still feels like a big deal as he aggressively marches to the ring alongside Sir Oliver Humperdink. Maybe it was the swank saxophone theme music that helped him stand out? Here he reignites a battle from Survivor Series against One Man Gang, giving us our biggest battle of the tournament so far. Gang wasted no time going right at Bammer, slugging away and working him over in the corner. Bigelow came right back and got a near fall with a splash, followed by another after a cross body. It was pretty neat watching these two hosses just bounce off each other and bump around. Bigelow gained control and dropped a headbutt on Gang, but as he hit the ropes, Slick yanked down the top strand, sending Bammer toppling to the floor. Gang met him on the apron and held him up just long enough to get Bigelow counted out. Man, I was really getting into that one too before the shit finish. They were just chucking bombs. Bigelow got a raw deal here and would jet from the promotion right after this show. Gang moves on and I somehow am left sitting here wanting more, shockingly enough. Grade: *

Match #7: Rick Rude and Jake Roberts wrestle to a time-limit draw at 15:15

Scott: For the first time in this tournament we have a matchup that has some history to it. Rude began his gimmick of dropping the “Rude Awakening” on a gorgeous fan in the audience. Well he tried to drop one on Jake’s wife Cheryl and she cracked him with a slap to the face. That rankled Rude and Jake came down to protect his wife and to fire this feud up. Jake was maybe the #2 or #3 babyface in this company and since his arrival in late 1987 Rude’s moved swiftly up the heel ladder. If you’re paying attention to the brackets here, you’d think Jake would win so he’d face the heel One Man Gang in the next round. The match was booked very strangely in that instead of swift strikes and quick pinfall attempts, we are getting long headlocks and lots of posturing. Gorilla and Jesse point this out many times that there is a 15 minute time limit in this round but none of the matches so far came close to that. Valentine/Steamboat reached over nine minutes but didn’t get to double digits. Rude locks Roberts in a sleeper late in the match which makes this match even stranger from a booking decision. When you really listen to them, you can tell Gorilla and Jesse had such great chemistry and really enjoyed working together. Both men would soften their stances and really have solid neutral rapport when talking about certain guys. I was completely perplexed when there was a draw. Why take these two guys out of the mix? This one made no sense and begins what many consider “Non Finish-Mania”. Grade: **1/2

Justin: And the first round is finally wrapping up here with an intriguing matchup between two very similar wrestlers as Rick Rude and Jake Roberts are set to tussle. Rude’s swagger was fantastic by this point and he had gotten really comfortable, which made him just a top notch heel. On the flip side, Jake’s face turn has clearly been a tremendous decision as the fans were hot from him every time he walked the aisle. They wrestled to a stalemate early on, alternating offense by slamming each other stiffly over and over. Jake would go to the arm for a bit before trying for his first DDT attempt but Rude quickly slipped to the floor as he tried to hook it. Jesse jumped right on that point, noting that Heenan had schooled Rude on the move and how to avoid it. Great psychology there. The praise turned to criticism, however, as both Jesse and Gorilla got on Rude’s case for wasting precious time taunting the crowd after finally putting Jake down. They also questioned his decision to clamp on a chinlock when there was such a short time limit in place. This is Jesse & Gorilla at their best for sure. Rude would continue to grind the chinlock before planting Jake with a flapjack and following with a fist off the top rope. Rude kept being lax during pin attempts, earning even more rage from the commentators, and trying to just wear Jake down. Just as Jake was coming back around, Rude caught him with a really nice back suplex for a near fall. That would prove to be quite the blow for both men as it slowed them up a bit and about a minute later, the bell sounded for a time limit draw, eliminating both men from the tournament. With so many entrants, it was clear we would have some double eliminations along the way and with both men in the same position on the card it made sense to happen here. Despite being fifteen minutes and featuring a lot of restholds, this was pretty well worked and featured some interesting psychology mixed throughout, with an assist from the announcers. Grade: **1/2

*** Gene Okerlund and Vanna White review the tournament brackets and make round two predictions. ***

END OF FIRST ROUND

Match #8: The Ultimate Warrior defeats Hercules with a Bridge Suplex at 4:36

Fun Fact: On January 27, 1988, the Ultimate Warrior and Hercules were set to square off, but before the match, the two got into a tug of war with Hercules’ massive steel chain and they managed to snap the chain in half. The match ended in a DQ after Hercules beat the Warrior with the remaining piece of the chain, setting up the blowoff here.

Scott: We dive out of the tournament and see a straight up power battle between two jacked heavyweights. Warrior was slowly gaining a following as a big time fan favorite but starting with this match and through the end of 1988 he becomes a major player on the WWF landscape. Hercules cut his hair and is still in the Heenan Family, but slowly is being forgotten on the heel landscape. This match was ridiculously short and there’s not much in the way of workrate, similar to the vein of Muraco/Bravo. However they probably could have afforded to get a few more minutes in this match, but otherwise it’s a lot of power stuff and then a bridge suplex out of nowhere gets the victory. Hercules tries to strike him with the chain but Warrior gets it and whips it around the ring, cleaning house. It was probably smart not to put the Warrior in the tournament, because that would put too many guys you wouldn’t want to job out. You also don’t want to split the babyfaces too much and have them focus on one or two guys. Many fans may not think so now, but Ultimate Warrior will indeed put his stamp on wrestling history very soon. Grade: **

Justin: In our second non-tournament match we have a power grudge match on tap with newcomer the Ultimate Warrior squaring off with WrestleMania veteran Hercules. In the build to this match, they had a tug of war over Hercules’ chain and it snapped in half. That set up the story here: power vs. power. Warrior had tons of energy out of the gate and the crowd popped big for his entrance. We were treated to some basic power stuff here with a test of strength and series of clothesline to see how many it would take to knock each man down. The rest of the match basically saw them trading strikes and alternating between no-selling and stumbling around. The climax of the match came when Hercules hooked the full nelson, but Warrior propelled himself backwards by kicking off the turnbuckles and landed on top of Herc. Warrior got his shoulder up at the last second and won the match cleanly. After the bell, Herc tried to choke Warrior with his chain, but Warrior fought him off and celebrated his first WrestleMania victory. There really wasn’t much here at all but it was a platform to showcase Warrior against a solid mid-carder. Grade: *

QUARTERFINALS:

Match #9: Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant wrestle to a Double-Disqualification at 5:32

Scott: We begin the quarterfinal round with the match that everyone was waiting for. After the epic, earth-shaking main event one year earlier in Pontiac, followed by the match on national TV that made all Hulkamaniacs cry, we have the linchpin match of the tournament. With DiBiase sitting there in the next match and a possible battle with him in the semifinals, was it clear that Hogan gets another clean win over the Giant and move on? Looking back at the bracket, the bottom half really didn’t have any top flight heels that would make for a sexy final match of the tournament for Hogan. Of course Savage was sitting there, but with all the fresh babyface cheers he was getting having Hogan/Savage in the final really didn’t make much sense. Well, in the days before the internet and the dirt sheets, regular fans didn’t know he was taking time off to film “No Holds Barred”. After a match that wasn’t exactly top notch (and maybe not better than either of their first two matches), both men whacked each other with a chair and referee Joey Marella called for the bell. There was a very long pause where everybody was on pins and needles. Frankly Hogan used the chair first, so he should have been disqualified alone. Maybe Joey Marella is Hogan’s boy because both guys were disqualified instead. I was personally shocked and disappointed. I hadn’t quite jumped on anyone else’s bandwagon at this point, so I was reserved to thinking Ted DiBiase was going to win this tournament. I was really devastated that Hogan didn’t win the match. Sure he whacked Andre with the chair and posed for everyone after the match. However, that didn’t take away from the fact he wasn’t moving on. Jesse says Andre purposely got double DQ’d so DiBiase got a free ride to the finals if he could beat Muraco in the next match. This was clearly a stunning development and even with “Real American” blasting and Hogan posing, it doesn’t take away from the fact he will NOT be WWF Champion when this night is over. Grade: *1/2

Justin: It has been a long and winding road since Pontiac, MI a year ago, but here we are and Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant are set up for their rubber match. Twelve months ago, Hogan slammed Andre to retain his title but as 1988 began, Andre and Ted DiBiase cheated their way to victory, taking the belt off of Hogan in a shocking moment. After DiBiase failed to buy the gold, the title was vacated and put up for grabs here, so it was only natural that the two previous champions would receive a bye through round one but be forced to square off one last time. This match was the key to the tournament and would likely tip off who would be going through to the finals. If Andre won, the victor looked to be a bit of a mystery. If Hogan won, the result was fairly clear. Andre was accompanied by DiBiase and Virgil, as expected, and it was heavily intimated that the Giant was solely in the tourney just to take Hogan out and not necessarily to advance on. Andre didn’t even give Hogan a chance to get his shirt off, pouncing off the bell and slugging away. Hogan quickly rebounded, even landing a shot on DiBiase. Hogan rallied, knocking Andre to the mat and laying in a quick series of elbows as the fans really buzzed. Andre definitely seems a bit more vulnerable than he did a year ago and perhaps that is because we know Hogan can now beat him. When Andre took over, he went to his token nerve hold to slow things down but the heat only crested from there as Hogan rattled him with right hands to break it up. As Virgil was running interference, DiBiase came in with a chair but Hogan chased him off. With the referee turned back around, both men used the chair on each other, leading to a double DQ. Of course, that finish made no sense as Hogan used the chair first but you take what you can. Hogan would floor Andre and chase off DiBiase and Virgil as the official decision came in. DiBiase would sacrifice his bodyguard, who eats a suplex in the aisle. Well, sort of a suplex as Hogan just let him go. Back in the ring, Hogan slammed Andre and then posed for a while to give the fans their fill. This match was nothing special but was fairly short and the crowd was into it. Hogan and Andre are done for the night and the field has just gotten a bit more interesting. Grade: *

Match #10: Ted DiBiase defeats Don Muraco with a Stun Gun at 5:33

Scott: Sadly, you can’t book a foolproof tournament without some obvious decisions. Don Muraco wasn’t going to make it to the finals of this tournament, so clearly DiBiase was heading to the championship bout. This was nothing more than a clear fill match now, eats up some time before we moved on. Muraco was ridiculously jacked here. He got a little flabby in 1987 and knowing a repackaging was in order, he probably looked for a “medicinal edge” to look even better. I’m sure we’re not talking about rumors or conjecture here, just look at Muraco one year earlier in that tag team match with Bob Orton. He was big, but not cut and developed like he is at this show. Color commentators today should take notes from Jesse Ventura from this show. He constantly reminded everyone of the logistics of the match, like the winner here moves on all the way to the finals. The match goes back and forth, until DiBiase hits The Rock with a Stun Gun and grabs a victory. So DiBiase sits back and waits for a while to see who his opponent in the finals is. This decision, combined with who’s left in the bracket may give smarter fans an idea of who is left. Grade: **

Justin: The second round rolls on with a matchup that features one of our more obvious outcomes heading into the opening bell as Don Muraco locks horns with Ted DiBiase. Thanks to our previous match, the winner of this heads right to the finals and there was zero chance we were going to see Muraco in the championship match. DiBiase is flying solo for this one as Virgil is still reeling from Hogan’s attack and Andre is cooling down from his match. Muraco was hot early, taking the fight right to DiBiase, knowing what was on the line if he could pull out the win. Thanks to Billy Graham blocking his path, DiBiase couldn’t even slither to the floor to regroup. Only a desperation sling into the post saved DiBiase from a quick demise and allowed him to start choking Muraco vigorously. Jesse and Gorilla really did a nice job explaining the brackets throughout this show, highlighting who had an advantage and who the favorites should be as we trekked along. DiBiase kept wearing down Muraco, looking for any opening he could to put the Rock away. No matter how times I watch 1988 Don Muraco, I am always surprised at just how juiced up he is. He is just massive. Just as the Rock was mounting a comeback, DiBiase caught a charging Muraco and slung him across the top rope with a stun gun, putting him down for the three count. That was a really good finishing spot to cap off a solid match. Ted DiBiase couldn’t buy the belt back in February, but now he is just one victory away from winning it on his own in ring merit. Grade: **

Match #11: Randy Savage defeats Greg Valentine with a Small Package at 6:07

Scott: This is a match that my brother would salivate over. There are two of his favorite guys who are expert in-ring workers in a match that means so much. Isn’t “Pomp and Circumstance” such an awesome entrance theme? Sadly this is a match that definitely should be longer than six minutes, but we needed to hustle along here. Savage wrestles a lot like Ricky Steamboat so this match was worked similar to Valentine’s first match. As expected, Savage was the face in peril, taking a pretty substantial beating from a solid opponent and with the 400-pound One Man Gang next the winner can’t be too gassed. Valentine’s deliberate pace is exactly what was needed philosophically. Hearing Jesse actually criticize Savage for “not being on his game” is very rare in the late-1980s. Every time he would get a big comeback going, Valentine would drop a shot to the breadbasket and take the starch out of him. Then, in classic babyface Savage fashion, Macho Man snagged victory from the jaws of defeat by reversing a Figure Four attempt into a small package for the clutch victory. Savage took some beating in that match, and now must face the rested OMG in the semifinals. Grade: **1/2

Justin: Our final second round match will send one man on to face the One Man Gang in the sole semifinal bout. Gang advanced thanks to the Roberts/Rude draw earlier and was in a very good position to hit the finals, but with DiBiase already there, his opponent was fairly obvious. In fact, as I said earlier, as soon as Hogan and Andre were both eliminated, the finals became fairly clear, even if the ultimate winner was not. Wrestling in his second match on the night, Randy Savage has switched up his robe and Liz has made a corresponding move with her dress. Nice touch. Valentine would go right on the assault, clubbing Savage with some heavy forearms. Outside of a very brief flurry, Valentine began to dominate the offense, dropping elbows and slugging away at Macho. He would eventually turn his attention to the leg, trying his best to grab the figure four. Savage would fend him off, but Valentine would quietly regain control and crack Savage with a move to quell any type of comeback attempt. Jesse made a good point about how Savage seemed out of it and was wrestling on instinct and it certainly did seem that way. However, those words had barely touched our eardrums before Savage made a lightning quick comeback that was stop dead cold as Hammer cracked him in ribs during a top rope ax handle attempt. Valentine would again go for the figure four, but Savage countered to a small package to sneak out the win. That is a tough loss for the Hammer, who completely controlled the match but got caught in one moment of bad positioning and it cost him. Another good match that was well worked and made sense to close out the second round. Savage moves on. Grade: **1/2

END OF QUARTERFINALS

Match #12: Brutus Beefcake defeats Honky Tonk Man by Disqualification at 6:43; Honky retains WWF Intercontinental Title

Fun Fact: The feud between Beefcake and Honky Tonk Man had been building for a couple of months up to their first confrontation here in Atlantic City. Beefcake had vowed that he would not only win the title from HTM, but he would put him to sleep and cut his hair. After their DQ finish here, they continued to feud into the summer before Beefcake was taken out of the feud by an attack from “Outlaw” Ron Bass.

Scott: We leave the tournament for our first singles title match of the evening, as the Honky Tonk Man takes on the popular Barber for the IC Title. I totally forgot how many guys didn’t have entrance themes at this point in their careers. I was expecting a title change here as Honky was a comedy gimmick heel who probably had no business being Intercontinental Champion. Not that we knew anything about what was going on behind the scenes until later, but this was a clear setup for Beefcake to become the next IC Champion. However, Honky’s bobbing and weaving succeeds again as Honky gets himself disqualified and regardless of the “loser’s purse”, retains his championship. The match was pretty solid as when Honky needed to both dictate offense and sell comebacks he wasn’t too bad. I have to admit I was pretty surprised that we didn’t get a title change here, but why did we need another disqualification? Were there that many guys on this roster that needed to be protected and not lay down? I think Honky could have gotten a cheap win and then rebuilt Beefcake for a rematch later in the year. Instead we get a crutch DQ (one of many on this night) and Honky escapes, again. Grade: **

Justin: One year earlier I am not sure anybody would have believed Honky Tonk Man would be the Intercontinental Champion, let alone riding a nine month reign a year later, but here we are. Brutus Beefcake has been hot on the heels of the champ, gunning for both the title and Honky’s hair. Honky dances his way to the ring, flanked by Jimmy Hart and Peggy Sue and he at least feels like he has built up some legitimacy for the past few months. Beefcake gets a nice reception but is really over the top with his mannerisms and bug eyes, trying to play up his crazy side. We start off with a lot of stalling as you would expect but once the bell rang, Beefcake would go right at the champ. Beefcake is in an interesting spot here as he probably needed the win to close out this feud and advance further up the card as a legit player but you also wonder just how ready he was for that kind of run. Beefcake would punish the champ physically as well as emotionally when he tried to muss up Honky’s prized hair. Any time Honky seemed to get his feet set, Beefcake was all over him, knocking him around the ring with ease and outsmarting anything Honky tried. Honky would wrest away control when Beefcake whiffed on an elbow drop and he would spend the next few minutes roughing the challenger up while trying to measure when to go for the Shake, Rattle & Roll. After a few teases and false starts, Honky finally went for the SR&R, but Beefcake hooked the ropes to bust the move up. That led to a fiery Beefcake comeback that led to a sleeper dead in the center of the ring and was only thwarted when Jimmy Hart bashed the referee with his megaphone. Honky would pass out cold, but with the referee down as well, Beefcake turned his attention to the Mouth, chasing him around on the floor, but not before Jimmy grabbed the haircutting bag. Brutus would catch up to Jimmy, drag him to the stairs, pin him down and cut parts of Hart’s prized mullet for revenge. Beefcake really seemed at ease gliding someone to a set of stairs and pinning them down with his knee, so that is a bit scary. Peggy Sue would wake Honky up with some water but that was just to save him from further damage as the match ended by DQ thanks to Jimmy’s interference. Beefcake celebrated a bit too much but I stand by my statement from earlier that he was doing the weird crazy man gimmick and probably wasn’t quite ready to take some gold. The match was nothing special, filled with kicks and punches, but the end salvaged it a bit. Grade: *1/2

Match #13: The Islanders & Bobby Heenan defeat the British Bulldogs & Koko B Ware when Bobby pins Koko after a Splash at 7:28

Fun Fact: This match stems from Haku and Tama stealing the Bulldog’s mascot Matilda on December 8, 1987. After threats of suspension from Jack Tunney and thousands of get well letters from WWF fans, Matilda was returned to the Bulldogs and this match was set up.

Scott: We get another fairly hot feud that burned through the winter time, but this time it was involving an animal. The Islanders were easily one of the most underrated teams in the WWF, and here they take on a team that seems to be slowly sliding down the card. An influx of great teams later in the year really pushes the Bulldogs to the backburner, but for now they are still one of the more popular teams in the promotion. The whole crux of the storyline is that the Islanders stole Matilda, the Bulldogs’ mascot. Heenan, who apparently hasn’t wrestled in over a year, comes to the ring in an attack dog suit. That was great thinking by the world’s best manager. Jesse says Heenan looks like a “Chinaman”. That comment wouldn’t go over in 2014 WWE programming. In 1988, who cared? The crowd is silent during this match, probably because we reached almost the three hour mark and it might be gassed a bit. This is probably where many head to the concession stands or the bathroom. Heenan takes a pretty good beating from Koko, complete with tights that says “WWF” on the back. The heels get a surprise win when they splash Heenan on a prone Koko while the referee wasn’t looking. Of course we get some comedy as Matilda gets her hands on Bobby and the dog goes to town on the attack suit. Probably an expected result as the Islanders are the team with more shine but Bobby getting the actual pin was a surprise. It’s a fun match that gives the crowd a spell. Grade: ***

Justin: We stay outside the tournament as up next is a grudge six man tag team match. Since they are pretty big assholes, Bobby Heenan and the Islanders had dognapped Matilda, leading to months of fretting by the British Bulldogs and their fans. Heenan was finally forced to return the pooch and is pushed into facing his comeuppance here as he has to step inside the ring for the first time in WWF PPV history. However, always one to have a plan, Bobby is dressed in a heavily padded dog trainer outfit, hoping to stay away from Matilda’s wrath. The Bulldogs have enlisted always do-gooder Koko B. Ware to back them up in this one and at first glance they easily had the advantage in this one. Dynamite looks to be back in decent enough health as he is moving well around the ring and beating on Tama to open things up. Davey Boy was looking great too as he had bulked up but wasn’t overly bloated, which led to him moving around the ring at a good pace while also using his arsenal of power moves. He would use that strength to outwork the Islanders, who got brief spurts of offense in where they could. The tide turned when Dynamite got caught by Haku and beat down in the corner. That even led to a brief appearance by Heenan, who stomped away emphatically on Dynamite. Jesse lands the Most Racist Comment of the Night when he noted that Heenan “looks like a Chinaman” in his garb. Gorilla agreed, so there you go. Dynamite was able to tag out to Koko, who cleaned some house. He has looked pretty sharp in this one. Bobby tagged in again and took it to Koko, even choking him out at one point, so props to him for not hiding on the apron. I do enjoy how Koko always has “WWF” on his tights, he really is a company man. Things would break down, triggering a quick brawl, and the match would end when the Islanders spiked Heenan down hard onto Koko, giving the Brain the win. Wow, that was kind of a shitty feud for the Bulldogs, who looked weak throughout. You could tell they were pretty much an afterthought in the division by this point. Matilda would get a little revenge, running Heenan down in the aisle, but she couldn’t get too much action in thanks to Bobby’s outfit. This was decent enough but nothing that would really stand out. The Islanders were crisp as usual and Bobby did some great heel work, but outside of that, really basic stuff. Grade: **

SEMIFINALS

Match #14: Randy Savage defeats One Man Gang by Disqualification at 4:11

Scott: We get one more match to fill the empty slot with Ted DiBiase in the finals. This match started to change the mood of the show. After the Andre/Hogan double DQ, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Ted DiBiase was going to win the tournament. The crowd was a bit down after that and was trying to get into the excitement of the tournament. However, the master psychologist Jesse Ventura is skeptical that the Macho Man could actually win this tournament after two grueling matches and now taking on a rested 400-pound monster. Savage actually opens the match with a flurry of offense, a change from his first two matches when he took a significant beating in the early going. Slick continues to be his awesome smarmy self, stalking the beautiful Elizabeth around the ring. After only four minutes of action, the Gang takes the cane from Slick and tries to get Savage with it. However Savage keeps ducking the shots and the referee sees it. Gang is DQ’d and Savage makes it to the final match. Why couldn’t Savage get a win here? Did we really need yet ANOTHER disqualification? Who booked these finishes? I’m stunned by that. Did the One Man Gang have to be protected too? Absolutely nuts. Grade: **

Justin: Back to tournament action and it is semifinal time. This is our only third round bout as Ted DiBiase is already into the finals thanks to Hogan, Andre and a chair. Onto his third match, Savage and Liz are now decked out in black which is a really cool look for them. This is heady stuff for the Gang, just one match away from the final and very well rested after his bye through round two. I wonder how else they could have booked this tournament to add a bit more intrigue in this slot. Jesse firmly was on Team Gang here thanks to the bye and weight advantage and the fact that Savage has probably been through the two most grueling matches of the night so far. For the first time on the evening, Savage actually opens things up on offense and lands a few shots in first. Gang would slam Savage into the corner and began wearing him down, pretty much using his weight to dominate. Savage found an opening when Gang missed a splash and started to stick and move, even knocking Gang to the floor where Macho met him with a double ax handle off the top. That was a neat flurry for Savage and you could tell he was feeling how close he was to the gold. Unfortunately he got a bit too excited and tried to slam the Gang, which swung momentum back towards the 747. With the referee tied up with Liz, Slick tossed his cane into the Gang, who kept trying to pelt Savage with it but kept missing. The referee eventually saw what happened and called for the bell, putting Savage in the finals. Gang would get one cane shot in finally, but Savage got the last laugh when he smashed Gang from behind, knocking him on to Slick, who he was hugging. I actually liked the structure of this one but the finish was really stupid. Savage could have used a good clean win heading to the final and Gang looked really stupid getting himself DQ’d in such a big spot. Regardless, our final is now set up with the gold on the line. Grade: *1/2

END OF SEMIFINALS

Match #15: Demolition defeats Strike Force to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Smash pins Rick Martel after Ax hits him with Mr. Fuji’s cane at 8:00

Fun Fact I: These two teams faced off in a rematch on the July 11, 1988 edition of Prime Time Wrestling. Strike Force lost by countout after a Decapitation Elbow on Martel on the floor. The move left Martel with a severely hurt neck and put him on the shelf for eight months.

Fun Fact II: Leading up to WrestleMania, Demolition had put together a string of victories over the rest of the WWF tag team division, including The Killer Bees, The Rougeaus Brothers, The British Bulldogs and The Young Stallions.

Scott: This may have been the most transparent title change of the era on PPV. Demolition was the badass tag team in the WWF, whether heel or face. The crowd started to really cheer them as these were cool guys with spikes and face paint. Do they remind anyone of another team in professional wrestling? Some say yes, some say no. The momentum was growing and the cheers were getting a little louder, but Demolition were still heels with Mr. Fuji as their manager. Strike Force was the prototypical babyface tag team, and they had a good cache of fans. Demolition had the awesome entrance music. I always had the feeling that Strike Force was a transitional team and Demolition was not one of those random heel tag teams that was filling a PPV slot. Tito Santana will always be the face of the WWF’s conscience in the Federation era. I love when Jesse makes fun of him and calls him “Chico”, saying he has a taco stand in Tijuana. Demolition isn’t a complicated team to watch in terms of workrate. They just bludgeon you until you surrender or get pinned. Some fans love that power work, others find it lazy. They dominated a good chunk of this match, until a late hot tag by Tito to Martel and the French-Canadian goes crazy. Martel gets Smash in the Boston Crab and perhaps we get what I think would be an upset, but alas Mr. Fuji gets the cane to Ax who crushes Martel with the cane and we have new tag team champions. There was a significant cheer amongst the crowd, so not only was it the right choice to switch the titles but a change in attitude would likely be coming or Ax and Smash. Grade: **1/2

Justin: We have one last stop before the tournament finals and that is our tag team championship bout. Strike Force has reigned atop the division since October but Demolition has been red hot and lined themselves up for this title match. They have also dumped Johnny V and linked up with Mr. Fuji since we last saw then. I guess that is an upgrade, but I am not so sure. Strike Force jog down to the ring and sadly for them this crowd is seeming a bit burnt out after such a long night of wrestling. Those fans did wake up as Smash started wrecking Martel with a series of blows to the back, showing that Strike Force may be in serious trouble both in the match and with fan support. The champs double teamed their way back in control, which pissed off Jesse greatly. He pointed out that they may as well do it because it was their best chance and the referee seemed OK with allowing it. They kept quick tagging and pelting Smash with strikes while working over the arm but the challengers did some double teaming themselves to take over. With Santana caught in a bear hug, Smash backed into the ropes and Ax clubbed him with a nice clothesline to a pop from the crowd. The challengers took advantage and worked Tito over hard in the corner. Jesse follows up with another racist comment noting “Chico probably wishes he was back selling tacos in Tijuana”. He ain’t got time to bleed, baby. Tito really took a beating in this one as Demolition were like a well oiled machine on offense, and he was only able to make the hot tag after cracking Ax with a desperation flying forearm (learned in the Mexican Football League, per Jesse). Martel came in hot, running through the challengers with a series of dropkicks that lead into a Boston Crab on Smash. The referee got tied up with Tito, who kept running in and working over Ax and Fuji, but that distraction allowed Ax to grab Fuji’s cane and bash Martel in the neck with it. Smash would cover and we have brand new tag team champions to the delight of the Atlantic City fans. That was a much needed title change as they couldn’t hold Demolition back any longer. It was even evident here with a fairly wishy washy crowd getting into their offense throughout. The match was well worked and built heat nicely heading into the finish. The Era of Demolition is upon us. Grade: **1/2

FINALS:

Match #16: Randy Savage defeats Ted DiBiase to win tournament for WWF World Title with the Elbow Drop at 9:17

Fun Fact I: According to legend, Ted DiBiase was slated to win this match and the title before the year started. Savage was to regain the IC Title from Honky Tonk Man at the Main Event show. Honky’s contract was up, however, and threatened Vince that he would leave for the NWA with the title if he wasn’t allowed to keep it. Vince was pissed, but had to cave, as he couldn’t afford to have Honky show up on NWA TV with his IC belt in tow. Honky was allowed to keep the belt and Savage was still promised gold. So, he wins the World Title here instead. Nice upgrade. Savage would have passed the IC Title to someone else and fought DiBiase for the title at SummerSlam. This is the closest Ted DiBiase would get to the World Championship for the rest of his illustrious career.

Fun Fact II: The seeds for the Mega Powers were planted in October 1987 at the Saturday Night’s Main Event taping. During the event, Randy Savage was facing the Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental title. Savage hit his finishing elbow from the top rope and as he went for the pin, the Hart Foundation entered the ring and began attacking Savage, disqualifying Honky but keeping the belt in the Hart camp. During the attack, Honky shoved Miss Elizabeth, who then ran to the back for help. Honky and the Hart Foundation continued their assault on Savage, breaking a guitar over his head. Elizabeth returned with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, who cleared the ring. Afterward, Savage extended his hand to Hogan and the initial alliance was formed. Nothing more was mentioned about the two until this match, where the Mega Powers were formed.

Scott: We finally get to the end of this long evening with the match to determine the undisputed WWF Champion. It’s possible that the fans may not have figured out yet what was going to happen here. In the kayfabe days, if it’s not Hulk Hogan, than the world crumbles and the apocalypse is upon us. Savage had worked his butt off on this night and wrestled three very different workers and very different lengths and took a pretty good beating throughout the night to get to this point. So there was really no thinking that Savage was going to win this match, as DiBiase had Andre at ringside constantly interfering and getting in the way. So when Savage whispered something to Elizabeth and she ran up the ramp it was intriguing to say the least. Sure there was some chants for Hulk Hogan during the early portion of the match but when she walked out with Hulkster at her side, the dynamic of the match changed completely. That one move showed that Savage may actually win this thing. Then, we see an unprecedented first in the Federation PPV era. While DiBiase had the Million Dollar Dream slapped on, Hogan actually performed a nefarious deed. While the referee was busy with Andre, Hogan came in with a chair and whacked DiBiase in the back with it. Savage regained his bearings, got to the top rope, and drilled the elbow. Three seconds later, we had a new WWF World Champion. In one of the greatest tests of endurance and guts, Savage wrestles four matches against four tough sons of bitches and wins them all for the championship. Hogan and Elizabeth celebrate with the new champion as we go off the air. This was very different at the time, because let’s be honest, any young, kayfabe Hulkamaniac never really thought that anyone else would win the title. We were relieved to see Hulk in the ring, but someone else with the title was really strange. I, today, am still out of my mind seeing Hogan actually cheating with a chair shot to help Savage win the title. Hogan should have left the ring and let Savage bask in his greatest moment. He handed some shine to Savage there, he didn’t need to hang in there. In any event, we have a new champion not wearing red and yellow, and this long PPV marathon is finally over. Grade: ***

Justin: After a long trek from February’s Main Event through this winding tournament in Atlantic City, it was finally time to crown a new WWF Champion. The man who started this whole mess stands just one pinfall or submission away from finally grabbing the gold. Robin Leach saunters down to the ring with some angelic music accompanying him and the vacated title in tow. The belt did look pretty beautiful, glistening in the lights. Bob Uecker comes out as the guest ring announcer, followed by Vanna White, the guest timekeeper. There had been a show long angle of Uecker trying to track Vanna down and he finally does here, even landing a kiss on the cheek. Unlike his previous match, DiBiase isn’t alone this time as Andre is back with him. Jesse again was leaning against Macho here, thinking DiBiase was more rested and also had the managerial advantage from a physicality point of view. Savage & Liz had white on for this one, which was very fitting for a match of this magnitude. Regardless of who wins this one, either man would be a worthy champion, however it really felt like Savage’s night. He wrestled four times and it seemed like he was ready to finally take that next leap to a main event star. Andre wastes no time making his presence felt, tripping Savage up, causing Macho to be distracted and whipping the crowd up into a “Hogan” chant on the process. He would do it a second time and Savage was now all out of sorts thanks to his trickery. The match was pretty balanced early despite Savage’s weariness over the Giant. This was actually the most offense Savage got in on the entire night as he spent the large majority of the first three matches getting his ass kicked. Macho would knock DiBiase to the floor but before he could fly off the top rope on to him, Andre stepped in between and dared him to jump. Finally fed up, Savage sent Liz to the back and the crowd began to really buzz, assuming what was coming next. DiBiase slugged Savage after the conference and began to work Macho over. The crowd’s anticipation was paid off as Liz indeed brought Hulk Hogan out to ringside to even the score. Hulkster grabbed a chair and parked it at ringside, ready to protect his buddy. He got a very quick opportunity to do so when Andre landed a shot in on Savage, drawing Hogan over to crack him with a forearm and knock the Giant to the floor. Then, with the referee distracted by Andre, DiBiase hooked on the Million Dollar Dream, but that gave Hogan an opening to slug DiBiase with a chair to break the hold. Savage quickly scampered up to the top and flew off with a picture perfect big elbow to win the gold. Jesse was not happy, calling it a tainted victory and was shocked that Hogan would do that. DiBiase and Andre were pissed at ringside as Savage, Hogan and Liz celebrated in the middle of the ring. As much as I want to complain about Hogan getting involved here, it did pay off the build perfectly and also we saw Savage run through four tough matches, so it doesn’t marginalize this too much. Hogan celebrating with him does elevate him in the fans of the eyes, putting the two as equals, but I do think Hogan should have left after a minute to leave Savage to celebrate alone for at least a few minutes to close the show. The match was a fun sprint and probably the best of the tournament but still not more than a glimpse of what these two were really capable of. A new WWF Champion is on top of the mountain for the first time in the PPV era. Grade: ***

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: This show definitely had its slow points, as an unbelievable 16 matches on the card took a lot of time, and some of the tourney matches were dull but short. This was the biggest moment in Randy Savage’s career at this point, and it led to a nice ending of a very long night. The tournament idea was innovative, and added immense drama to the show. Again, Gorilla and Jesse’s commentary was right on. They pumped up the tournament like it was the biggest thing in wrestling history. Coming from the Silverdome to a convention hall was an obvious downgrade. From here Vince would utilize time management when putting so many matches on. For a long time I was not a big fan of this show, due to the long, dull matches. Plus being a big Hulkamaniac, I always held a grudge he didn’t win the title. The Honky schmozz was frustrating, but it was sweet to see Demolition win the straps. Does the show stand the test of time? Sort of. There’s individual moments that are fun to watch: Demolition, Savage and Matilda attacking Bobby Heenan. On the other hand, it is an unwieldy show to sit through, with a myriad of disqualifications and non-finishes. Future WrestleManias are over three hours, but this one doesn’t have that flow and polish that says Manias in the 2000s have. It’s a solid watch and its a legendary moment for Randy Savage. His career would never be the same. Hogan? He’s off to “LET IT RIP!” Final Grade: B-

Justin: Our longest PPV to date is in the books and a new WWF Champion has been crowned. This can be a tough show to watch at times as there are no real standout matches, with the highest grade clocking in at ***, but the show long storyline and tournament format make it entertaining to sit through for fans of this era. This is definitely an installment where nostalgia, moments and booking carry the workload but it is really important historically which helps buoy the grade as well. It can also be looked at as a real transitional show from the old PPV Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era to the next phase in company history. A lot of the talent that competed in those early PPV shows have been phased out and a new crop was being worked into the mix. Between those new faces and a new set of champions on top of the company in Savage and Demolition it is clear times were changing. Definitely check this show out for a dose of nostalgia and for the great booking, but don’t be expecting a high level of workrate this time around. Final Grade: B-

Author: Vintage Vault

Vintage Vault Reposts are a collection of reviews that Scott and JT have written over the years.