Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh: WrestleMania II


*** 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 II: Three Times the Fun

April 7, 1986
Buy Rate: 7.0
Closed Circuit Attendance: 320,000

Nassau Coliseum
Uniondale, New York
Attendance: 16,585
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Susan Saint James

Match #1: Magnificent Muraco and Paul Orndorff wrestle to a double countout at 4:33

Fun Fact: Muraco was one of the stronger heels in the WWF during the first half of the 80s. He held the Intercontinental Title on two occasions, including one reign that lasted 13 months! He was involved in a brutal feud with Jimmy Snuka that culminated in a legendary cage match at MSG on October 17, 1983 but he’s now kind of lost in the shuffle, including being left off the first WrestleMania card. Orndorff was of course in the main event at MSG, but was turned face when Roddy Piper and Bob Orton left him in the ring after they lost.

Scott: Not much in this opener, just a lot of punching, kicking, and posturing. You can tell the WWF was just getting their production off the ground, because the audio for the closed circuit feed was low, and some of the camera angles were a little off. I was always confused as to why Muraco, who from 1980-1984 was one of the company’s top heels and a dominant Intercontinental Champion, was left off the inaugural Mania card last year and then is given a throwaway match here. It seems that some of the stronger characters in the “pre-PPV era” were tossed aside in favor of the newer guys that Vince poached from the other promotions (AWA, World Class, NWA). The weak ending made no sense unless this feud was continuing, and I don’t remember it continuing, so why not have a decisive winner? Orndorff doesn’t stay face for long, as he will begin a memorable feud with Hulk Hogan in a few months. Grade: *1/2

Justin: We kick off WrestleMania II with one of the main event stars from a year earlier. We are back in New York City, but this time it is only for a portion of the card, which has now been split up across three cities. Vince McMahon has the call here, alongside TV star Susan St. James. I always wondered why Don Muraco was left off WrestleMania I when you consider he was a pretty big star for the company since 1983. It was a really odd oversight. Here, he draws the goat from a year ago, Orndorff, who has since turned face after he took the heat from Roddy Piper and Bob Orton. I don’t necessarily disagree with these two going at it, but when you examine the rest of the card, they were seemingly wasted in a curtain jerker that goes nowhere. St. James adds nothing almost immediately, trying to analyze, but getting stomped on by Vince, who was still using his old “solo WWWF” commentary style. She also impressed by wondering if the Japanese Fuji is impressing “ancient Chinese secrets” upon his charge. Got to love mid-80s racism. Just when this thing was getting cooking, both men spilled out to the floor and brawled to a double countout. What a disappointment. If you are going to waste them, at least let them go 10-12 and give us a hot opener. This was nothing and helped nobody. Grade: 1/2*

Match #2: Randy Savage defeats George Steele to retain WWF Intercontinental Title when he rolls up Steele with his feet on the ropes at 7:06

Fun Fact I: The Animal, George Steele has been around the WWF for a few years. He was a vicious heel under the tutelage of Captain Lou Albano. He turned face in 1985 at the first SNME after being attacked by Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff after a loss, and has kind of floated around the mid-card for a while.

Fun Fact II: On the January 4, 1986 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event (recorded December 19, 1985), George Steele developed a crush on Miss Elizabeth. Over the next few weeks, Steele would begin giving gifts to Miss Elizabeth, infuriating the Macho Man, which would lead to this match at WrestleMania II.

Scott: The second Intercontinental Title match in WrestleMania history is, as expected, a huge disappointment. A lot of Memphis stalling by Savage, who hadn’t quite gotten it out of his system yet. It really was dull, and with a guy like Steele, it was worse. Steele doesn’t exactly have a Ric Flair-type repertoire of moves, so he just ran around flailing his arms. Every time he’d go up to Elizabeth, Savage would hit him from behind. Randy Savage made immediate dividends a few months earlier at the Wrestling Classic when he got to the finals and lost to Junkyard Dog (without getting pinned). Then to prove that he was a guy that the company wanted to hang their hat on as a foundation for this era, he wins the Intercontinental Title over the popular Tito Santana. Steele was definitely one of those “pre-PPV” guys that Vince was probably starting to phase out when he saw that the TV audience was looking to younger, fresher babyfaces. The match is really nothing more. Grade: *1/2

Justin: And things somehow get worse, despite including the fantastic Randy Savage. Savage had just missed the cut for WrestleMania I, having debuted a few months later, but had an impressive showing at the Wrestling Classic and followed that up by capturing the Intercontinental title in February. As the new year had dawned, George Steele became obsessed with Elizabeth in his own innocent way. Savage, being a jealous asshole, did not take kindly to it and began fighting Steele off while also berating his manager at the same time. Susan was all in on this feud, spitting out history and psychology and rooting on Steele. As you would expect, this is one giant stall-fest, with Steele dancing around, teasing Macho, who spent most of his time leaping in and out of the ring to avoid contact. Savage finally engaged and was able to trip Steele up in the ropes and work him over. Whenever Steele did get some momentum, he would distract himself with Liz and allow Savage to catch him from behind. The rest of this was just comedy gags with the flowers and turnbuckle foam, basically your usual George Steele debacle. I mean, it worked fine as a blowoff for this and fit the storyline. The issue is this wasn’t really the best place for it. This show screamed for a Savage/Tito Santana IC Title rematch. I nearly shit myself when Steele kicked out of the big elbow! What the hell? Savage continued to take advantage of the Liz distraction and got a cheap rollup for the win. Just weird booking that made Savage look like a bit of a loser early into his reign. I will be happy to never watch a face George Steele match again. Grade: 1/2*

Match #3: Jake Roberts defeats George Wells with a DDT at 3:05

Fun Fact I: The man forever known as “The Snake” cut his wrestling teeth down in Florida as Kevin Sullivan’s right hand man. He had some success in NWA, capturing the National Championship and Tag Team titles. He perfected his craft in Florida and Georgia until coming to the WWF in March 1986. It was also in Georgia in 1984 that he was an original member of Paul Ellering’s Legion of Doom alongside King Kong Bundy, Hawk, Animal, Buzz Sawyer, Iron Sheik, Luke Graham, the Original Sheik and Killer Karl Krup. He was a star in Mid-South Wrestling, winning the Television Title in his waning days there. Upon his jump to the WWF he began as a heel, but would eventually be one of the WWF’s most popular superstars.

Fun Fact II: George Wells started out his professional career playing eight years in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders, winning one Grey Cup championship. During the offseason in 1974, Wells began wrestling professionally in the San Francisco area where he would wrestle for three years before moving on to Stampede Wrestling in 1978. He retired from football in 1980 and concentrated on his pro wrestling career in the Central States and Mid Atlantic territories. He debuted in the WWF in 1985 and was used primarily as a preliminary wrestler on Prime Time Wrestling, but also wrestled on several supercards. After leaving the WWF he spent time in Memphis and in World Class where he would feud with the Dingo Warrior (later to become the Ultimate Warrior in the WWF). Wells retired in 1992 and began serving as a drug counselor in the San Francisco area.

Scott: This match alone for me shows the early rough production and format that WrestleMania had. The crowd seems uninterested, and lighting is dark and dingy and we have a bona fide jobber in a WrestleMania match. This match was obviously a showcase for the new acquisition for the company. Jake Roberts was a solid worker throughout the southeast, from Mid-South to Georgia to the Mid-Atlantic region. The highlight of this match certainly isn’t the work inside the ring but the hilarious commentary of Vince and Susan Saint James. Vince still didn’t have a total grasp of actual moves when he couldn’t name the DDT when Jake executed it on the former Oakland Raider. Dick Ebersol’s wife hopefully did this for free because she certainly didn’t earn her check for this hour-plus of work. After Roberts dispatched of Wells, we see the PPV debut of Damien. Elizabeth is the first lady of professional wrestling, then Damien is the first “pet” of professional wrestling. Roberts hadn’t really showed the real strengths of his character yet and that would be his classic promos and use of psychology. Here he really didn’t need it, but as 1986 progressed and he’d be on TV more his feuds would require more than just the in-ring work. Not much of a match overall but memorable for a debut of the Federation Era’s best characters. Grade: *

Justin: The highlight of this show so far may be the nice soft plush chairs that Vince & Susan are doing commentary from. Jake Roberts had recently debuted, heading north from the deep south, where he had developed his Snake character. He looks fantastic in this match, svelte and moving quickly around the ring. Vince references Wells’s CFL career and he does look built like a football player for sure. He uses a lot of power early, chucking Roberts from corner to corner, allowing Jake to work in some nice heel mannerisms as he begs off and tries to avoid further damage. Wells gets a nice powerslam for a near fall and isn’t a bad power wrestler by any means. Jake would out-hustle the bigger Wells, forcing him into a chase scenario and then catching him with a quick DDT for the win. Roberts got no offense in but between his selling and the way he snuck in the win, I thought it worked really well. Jake unleashes his snake on Wells after the bell to the shock and disgust of Vince and Susan. This was a solid debut for Roberts and a good little showing for Wells. Grade: *

Match #4: Mr. T defeats Roddy Piper in a boxing match by disqualification in the fourth round

Fun Fact: This stems from the residual effects of last year’s WrestleMania. In early 1986, Piper’s bodyguard, Cowboy Bob Orton had taken up boxing. He had knocked out a few jobbers on Superstars, and eventually accepted a challenge from Mr. T. It took place on a Saturday Night’s Main Event in Phoenix on February 15. Eventually, Piper came in and the two heels beat the snot out of T, including whipping him with a weightlifting belt. The heat for this match reached a fever pitch when on an episode of Piper’s Pit Piper and Orton shaved Mr T’s midget friend The Haiti Kid’s head into a Mohawk.

Scott: New York’s main event culminates a lackluster first 1/3 of this show. This is the culmination of a yearlong feud that started at last year’s WrestleMania when T and his partner Hulk Hogan beat Piper and Paul Orndorff in the main event. Piper tossed Orndorff aside and as 1986 started, helped his man Bob Orton into the boxing ring. Well that was an easy segue to get Mr. T into the mix and back onto television. When I was a kid I remember that February episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event as one of the most memorable because it started both this issue and the Hogan/Bundy feud. I was too young to understand the controversy surrounding T getting whipped with a belt, for me it was just a heel beating a face. Now I was in full Mike Tyson fan mode at this time so I knew what a real punch was and what a pulled punch looked like. The first round of this fight seemed legit, as both guys really threw some realistic haymakers. However by the second round you can tell this was mostly dancing and feigned punches. Like a wrestling match, Piper would take control with a couple of knockdowns and severe taunting. So by the third round I knew that this wasn’t going ten rounds and it could end here. After T knocks Piper down a couple of times, including a horrendous knockdown where T barely paintbrushes him, Piper ends the whole thing in round four by shoving the ref and bodyslamming T. We get chaos in the ring and it ends pretty much unresolved. Sure T won by disqualification (or whatever the boxing equivalent of it is) but really Piper should have eaten the knockout clean. Of course Piper hated T in real life and wasn’t about to let him get the upper hand. It’s also interesting to note that T was nowhere near the shape he was in a year earlier at the Garden. He was winded by round two, and it made the entire package slow and plodding. Thankfully the NY chapter of WrestleMania II is over and no one is impressed. Grade: N/A

Justin: After three shaky matches, the NY portion of the card wraps up with a very hyped up boxing match. Piper and Mr. T have had serious issue for over a year now and things got pretty ugly at times. Piper cut an awesome promo earlier in the show, talking about all the things he would give up if he lost (women!) and giving one last hard sell as only Hot Rod could. Part of the hype also included the great boxing trainer Lou Duva acting as Piper’s second in attempt to add a shred of legitimacy to his chances. In response, T had legend pugilist Joe Frazier in his corner. The angle heading in was really well done and I can see why this would be considered a main event level match for NY. Round one was a bit slow, with some feeling out, tie ups and attempted body shots and jabs. Piper’s trunks were pretty badass, they should sell those as retro wear. T came out hot for round two and came right at Piper, leading to a bit more action from both men this time around. In fact, Piper catches T in the side of the head with a couple of good blows and actually rattled and knocked T down. That surprised me, as did T showing so much vulnerability as Piper lands a cheap shot after the bell. They really played up that T was hurting badly during the rest period, and even better was when that dick Orton chucked water on him to rub salt in the wound. T opened round three with a big comeback, shaking the cobwebs and beating Piper around the ring, even knocking him to the floor. Both men were gassed at the bell and it was starting to feel like the guy that could stay on his feet longer would win this battle. Round four had the best action, as both guys just stood toe to toe and tossed bombs at each other to the delight of the crowd. Finally, a desperate Piper knocked down the official and bodyslammed T to draw a DQ. This was fairly entertaining and could have been better if it was a bit tighter, but it definitely looked cool and felt like a big spectacle, which was the goal I would assume. The finish was expected as neither man was likely to lay down here. That wraps up the NY portion of the card and thankfully gets us the hell away from Susan St. James for good. Grade: N/A

Rosemont Horizon
Chicago, Illinois
Attendance: 9,000
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon, Gene Okerlund, and Kathy Lee Crosby

Match #5: The Fabulous Moolah defeats Velvet McIntyre to retain WWF Women’s Title with a splash at :53

Fun Fact I: On November 25, 1985, Women’s Champion Wendi Richter faced off with the masked Spider Lady and was scheduled to retain her title. Well, a few minutes into the match, Spider Lady rolled Richter up, held her down and the ref counted three, giving the Spider Lady the championship. After the match ended, the Spider Lady ripped her mask off and revealed herself to be the Fabulous Moolah. Richter was shocked and pissed and immediately quit the WWF. It was later revealed that Vince wanted Richter to sign a new contract that she felt wasn’t fair, so she refused. Vince got pissed and had Moolah shoot on her to get the title back, thus ending the women’s portion of the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection.

Fun Fact II: Mary Lillian Ellison was born in 1923 in Tookiedoo, South Carolina to an Irish mother and part Cherokee father. After her mother’s death when she was 8, her father began taking her to the local wrestling matches to cheer her up, which is where she saw Mildred Burke, the Women’s Champion at the time. At age 14 she got married to a 21 year old named Walter Carroll. They would have a child soon after, but would divorce a year later. At age 15, Ellison left her child with a friend and headed out to begin her wrestling career.
Ellison’s career began under Mildred Burke’s husband, promoter Billy Wolfe with her first match in May, 1949. She was later introduced to Jack Pfefer who would give her the name “Slave Girl Moolah”. In the 1950s, Moolah became a valet for “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, providing the female sex appeal for his matches. In 1956, she moved to the northeast and began working for Vince McMahon Sr.’s Capitol Wrestling Corporation.

In September, 1956, Moolah won a 13 woman battle royal for the vacant World Women’s Championship, a title that had a lineage linked to the NWA World Women’s Championship. After the match, Moolah was given a new name by Vince Sr. which she would keep for the remainder of her career: The Fabulous Moolah. Her first title reign lasted over 10 years and during that time she was also recognized as the NWA champion, thus becoming the undisputed World Women’s Champion. She held the title until September 1966 where she lost it to Bette Boucher before winning it back a few weeks later. In 1972, Moolah became the first woman to wrestle in Madison Square Garden, which had previously banned women’s wrestling. In the late 1970s, Moolah would purchase the legal rights to women’s championship, which she later sold to Vince Jr. in 1983. Moolah continued to wrestle exclusively for the WWF and became their first women’s champion.

During the Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection in the mid 1980s, Moolah would lose her title to Wendi Richter with Cyndi Lauper in her corner at The Brawl to End It All event, which was broadcast live on MTV. Moolah later helped Leilani Kai defeat Richter for the belt in February, 1985, setting up the Richter/Kai rematch for the first WrestleMania. Richter would regain the title at that event, but when thing between Richter and the WWF soured, Moolah stepped back in. 

Scott: This was a colossal waste of time. Moolah worked with Vince to get the title off of the disgruntled Wendi Richter, and clearly past her prime she’s here to add a title match to the card. Seriously they shouldn’t have bothered, the whole thing was a mess. First off, the moves are nothing more than hair pulling and posturing. Second, McIntyre had her feet on the ropes and the referee didn’t see it, but was worse was that the camera angle switched so you couldn’t see it and the announcers didn’t mention it. No point in wasting further words on this one. Grade: 1/2*

Justin: I guess we had to have a women’s title match just to fill out the card as a true catchall of what the WWF was. Moolah was a house of fire here, bashing Velvet off the bell and keeping her staggering until Velvet came back with a series of kicks. She would miss a splash off the middle rope, allowing Moolah to smother her for the quick win. This was fairly pointless and I guess just here to give Moolah her moment in the sun. Grade: DUD

Match #6: Corporal Kirschner defeats Nikolai Volkoff in a Flag Match after hitting Volkoff with Freddie Blassie’s cane at 1:34

Fun Fact: Michael Penzel, who would later wrestle under the character name Corporal Kirschner, was born in 1957. As a teen, Kirschner would enlist in the United States Army and would become a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Following his Army career, Kirschner met Hulk Hogan while working in Minnesota. Hogan introduced Kirschner to Verne Gagne who enrolled him in his wrestling school. After training, Kirschner began working as talent enhancement for the WWF under the name RT Reynolds. After Vince McMahon discovered his paratrooper experience, he was given the military hero character Corporal Kirschner. He was known for being very stiff in the ring and many wrestlers were reluctant to work with him for this reason. In 1987 he tested positive for drugs and was suspended by the WWF. After the suspension, Kirschner refused to come back to work for the company. He would briefly wrestle in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion under the name Col. Kirschner. He would create a new character, Leatherface, in Japan and would wrestle there for the majority of the remainder of his career.

Scott: Here was a ready-made feud between an old dog of the promotion and a guy created to fill a gap. Sergeant Slaughter had recently left for the AWA and so Vince needed an “American Hero” to add to the show and give Nikolai someone to work with. I don’t understand why Vince made these matches and then gave them literally no time. This match could have gone for at least four or five minutes instead of the express match we do get. As this show progresses clearly it was booked for four matches and the rest was slapped-together junk (like a house show). Thankfully creative would ditch that concept and create what WrestleMania would eventually become: a real supershow. This match isn’t what I think of when “supershow” comes to mind. Grade: 1/2*

Justin: Next up is a flag match that has a bit of heat behind it, although it seems as if the Chicago fans are just desperate for something to cheer for at this point. Nikolai’s singing is always worth a chuckle and that is about all we have to laugh about so far in the Windy City. Kirchner had a solid look about him but I think he was seen as a Sgt. Slaughter knockoff and got treated as such. He was also reportedly pretty nuts, so I am sure that didn’t help. Nikolai was really aggressive to start, kicking the Corporal to the floor and battering him around, even stiffly bashing his forehead into the ring post which busted him open. Back inside, Kirchner made a quick comeback and used Blassie’s cane to crack Nikolai and pick up the layup win. Well, another quick stinker but these fans don’t seem to care they are getting a giant bowl of nothing. At least it was energetic? I guess. Grade: 1/2*

Match #7: André the Giant wins a battle royal

Wrestlers: Ted Arcidi, Tony Atlas, Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Bret Hart, Hillbilly Jim, Iron Sheik, King Tonga, Pedro Morales, Jim Neidhart, Bruno Sammartino, Danny Spivey, & John Studd. NFL players: Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Russ Francis, Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin, and William Perry Referees: Dick Butkus and Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Ed Jones was originally supposed to participate, but an injury kept him to ref status)

Fun Fact I: Five men in this match are making their PPV debuts, but the most notable is the PPV debut for Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, the Hart Foundation. Bret made his wrestling debut in Stampede in 1976. He was originally brought in as a referee, but when a wrestler was unable to perform at a event in Saskatoon, Bret’s father, Stu Hart, asked him to step in and compete. Bret would be trained by his father, along with many others, most notably Harley Race and the Dynamite Kid. During his tenure, Bret would win the Stampede tag titles with his brother Keith four times, and overall would win 17 titles during his tenure in Stampede. Bret would also compete in Japan for a short time, and remained in Stampede until 1984. Jim Neidhart also compete in Stampede for many years, and became a member of the Hart family when he married Ellie Hart, Bret’s sister. In 1984, Vince McMahon purchased Stampede Wrestling and brought over Bret, Jim, and Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid, otherwise known as the British Bulldogs. Bret made his WWF debut on August 29th, 1984 by teaming with Dynamite to defeat Iron Mike Sharpe and Troy Alexander. Originally, both Bret and Jim would be singles wrestlers, but Bret suggested they team up instead under the tutelage of Jimmy Hart, and thus became the Hart Foundation.

Fun Fact II: This is also the PPV debut for B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell, known as the Killer Bees. Blair was trained by Hiro Matsuda and began his career in Florida in 1977. He would move to the NWA in 1978 and began making a name for himself in a feud with Jesse Ventura in 1979. He would wrestle for World Class before coming to the WWF in 1981. After a short stint, Blair returned to Florida, eventually winning the NWA Florida Championship from Jimmy Garvin. Blair would have a second short stint with the WWF and stints with Georgia and Florida before returning to the WWF for good in early 1984. Brunzell began his career in 1973 in the AWA, winning the AWA tag titles with Greg Gagne in 1977. Brunzell would also have a short stint in the NWA in the late 1970s, even winning the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title. By the 1980s, he returned to the AWA and won the tag titles with Gagne on two separate occasions. Brunzell signed with the WWF in early 1985.

Fun Fact III: Our final PPV debut in this match is Jim Morris, otherwise known as Hillbilly Jim. Morris made his wrestling debut in 1984 in Memphis, donning a biker gimmick and going by the name Harley Davidson. After a short stint there, Morris would head up north and in early 1985, a series of vignettes showing Morris being trained by Hulk Hogan. We were then introduced to Hillbilly Jim, a simple-minded, shaggy-bearded Appalachian hillbilly dressed in overalls and hailing from Mud Luck, Kentucky. After a few tag matches with Hogan, Hillbilly Jim got his first big win over Rene Goulet at The War to Settle The Score. Unfortunately, a short time later, Jim would be sidelined by an injury. At a house show in San Diego, Jim was in the corner of Hogan during a match against Brutus Beefcake. As Jim was chasing Johnny V around ringside, he slipped on a wet spot and injured his leg. Since Jim was pretty popular with the fans, Vince wanted to keep him on TV, and in doing so, introduced a slew of “family members”, including Uncle Elmer, Cousin Luke, and Cousin Junior, so Jim could be at ringside during their matches. Hillbilly Jim would back in action by the end of the year.

Scott: This was clearly the biggest example of the WWF hitting not only mainstream but sports mainstream too, which was just as important to really gain the young male demographic. The wrestling half of the group consisted of a solid mix of jobbers, legendary big names like Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales, and the newcomers like the Hart Foundation. Funny, I think I was rooting for Harvey Martin to win because he played for the Cowboys. I was actually disappointed that Ed Jones wasn’t in the ring for I would have definitely wanted him to win as he was a current (at the time) Cowboy. Jim Covert was taking this a little too seriously as when he was eliminated he wouldn’t leave the ring and almost picked a fight with King Tonga. That wouldn’t have ended well. I’m surprised they allowed Dan Spivey to wear yellow boots and tights, since some other blonde guy in the promotion had the same color combination. It was funny with the Hart Foundation wearing blue instead of their customary pink. I wonder what the tension in the back was like between all these jacked up dudes from different walks of life. André was probably always the pick to win, so nobody else could really complain. Speaking of André, he has the yellow tights/boots combo too. Well, no one’s going to argue with “The Boss” about that. The bookers knew there was a future with the Anvil and the Hitman as they were the only ones left with André. Backtracking slightly, I can’t believe Studd went along with getting hoodwinked by the Fridge. Obviously the pro-Bears crowd was loving that. They had just won the Super Bowl three months earlier. Overall a fun battle royal and another notch in the belt of André the Giant. Grade: N/A

Justin: The cavalcade of stars continues on with our next match, as even the ancient Claire Peller is involved and gets a special introduction. Of course, I guess it fit since this whole match was centered around mainstream acceptance. This battle royal featured a mix of WWF stars and NFL players, many of whom were actually well known at the time. It did lead to a pretty impressive visual in the ring, I will say that. Honestly, the concept itself isn’t all bad either, its just that it took place on a card that was already bloated with non-wrestler involvement, so it felt like overkill. On its own, this would have been a rock solid addition to a loaded card. The WWF contingent is solid enough, mainly lower card guys but a few big stars, including Bruno Sammartino, John Studd and André the Giant. It also featured some new talent that would carry the promotion into the future, so that was cool to see. Russ Francis and William “Refrigerator” Perry (in Chicago, natch) were clearly set up as the key names on the NFL side and that would play out throughout the match. Perry got a huge pop, only rivaled by André. You hear it so often it has become hyperbole mainly, but the ring really looked tiny with all these big dudes piled in. It was pretty cool to see Bruno get a Mania match in under his belt, as his career was just about across the finish line here. The eliminations were all very standard and mixed across the genres in the first half of the match. Studd would eliminate Bruno after a brief showdown between the two big men. That was a neat matchup. Fridge really got in gear now and the crowd went nuts as he clashed with Studd, but Studd was able to chuck him over the top in the best spot of the match to this point. Fridge was then an asshole and pulled Studd out of the ring. Come on Fridge! I forgot to mention Dick Butkus at ringside, taking a break from tending bar for My Two Dads. The Harts had a great showing here, making it down to the final three after dumping Russ Francis. However, not even their teamwork could overtake the King of the Battle Royals. André manhandled both men and eliminated them in memorable faction as he kicked the Anvil to the floor and then threw Bret down on top of him. This was a fitting win and made all the sense in the world for André to win this. We don’t grade battle royals, but I enjoyed this one from a hoss and uniqueness perspective and as I said earlier, it was fitting of a WrestleMania. If only this one was less bloated. Grade: N/A

Match #8: The British Bulldogs defeat The Dream Team to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Davey Boy Smith pinned Greg Valentine after a Dynamite Kid headbutt at 12:02

Fun Fact: This marks the PPV debut of the British Bulldogs, Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid. The Dynamite Kid, real name Tom Billington, made his debut in Britain in 1975. He would be brought over to Calgary in 1978 by Bruce Hart and was instrumental in the training of Bret Hart. Following a stint with Stampede, Dynamite would wrestle in Japan from 1980-1984, including a legendary feud with Tiger Mask. Dynamite made his WWF debut on August 29th, 1984 by teaming with Bret to defeat Iron Mike Sharpe and Troy Alexander. His cousin, Davey Boy Smith, also got his start in Britain at the age of 15. He debuted in 1978 and won a match against Bernie Wright. Smith made his way over to Calgary around the same time Dynamite did, and both men would feud over the Stampede British Commonwealth Title in 1982. Smith would also have a brief stint in Japan before making his WWF debut in late 1984. The Bulldogs would begin their tenure in the WWF together by reigniting their Stampede feud with the Hart Foundation, who came over around the same time.

Scott: This was the match I was most looking forward to, almost as much as the main event. My brother was a huge Dream Team fan and my dad and I loved the Bulldogs. It was smart to put this match in Chicago where the best broadcast team was. Easily the best match of the night, two teams who were likely battling on the house show circuit with lots of countouts and DQs knew each other very well. There’s a great contrast of styles here as the slow, methodical Dream Team taking on the faster, quicker Bulldogs. Beefcake was growing as a worker with the more experienced Valentine and Valiant as his mouthpiece, and he got an extended heat segment in the ring. The climax comes when Valentine ditches a clear three count after a shoulderbreaker and instead gets Irish whipped into Dynamite’s headbutt. Dynamite hits the deck to the floor but Davey Boy Smith gets the three count and we have new Tag Team Champions. I was stoked and the New Haven Coliseum came unglued watching on closed circuit. The Bulldogs were groomed for this moment and they would spend the rest of 1986 defending the titles all over the country. The Dream Team would slowly fade and in 1987 a change was imminent. This was easily the match of the night. Grade: ***1/2

Justin: And it is now main event time for Chi-Town. I dug this slotting because it really made the tag belts and the champions seem elevated. I haven’t mentioned Cathy Lee Crosby much, but she has been tolerable, not nearly as bad as St. James was back in NY. She at least knows when to lay out and adds some genuine awe instead of trying to fake knowing what is going on. I have always liked the Dream Team and it was cool to see them get into such a big spot here. Working with Greg Valentine was big for Brutus Beefcake and was the first true step in his development as a performer. Of course that slob Lou Albano is out with the Bulldogs, always having to glom his way into managing more tag team champions. What a scrub. In a celebrity placement that made some sense, Ozzy Osbourne is also with the Bulldogs, here to root on his fellow countrymen. The stiff strikes were unloaded directly out of the gate, with Valentine trading blows with both Bulldogs. This is my kind of match. Dynamite was so crisp at this point, delivering a crackling snap suplex on the Hammer. The champs got a brief window of offense, but the Bulldogs took right back over, this time punishing Beefcake with an array of suplexes, slams and forearm blows. Every time the champs would gain control, it seemed to be short lived as the Bulldogs were just too strong and would power their way out of everything. The one move Dynamite couldn’t block was a great inverted Tombstone by Valentine. That was super stiff. Even that didn’t gain them much momentum, as the challengers again got right back into the match with a relentless assault, including a nice Davey Boy powerslam that got some great hang time upon impact. It was neat seeing Valentine direct traffic out there as you could tell he was training Beefcake on the job, constantly pointing things out to him like a shrew point guard while on offense. And just when the champs had firm control thanks to working Smith’s arm, things went all wrong when Valentine got shoved into Dynamite, who was perched on the top rope. They clanged heads and Davey covered Hammer to take the titles. You could tell both men were rattled as Dynamite was down on the floor for a while and Valentine was groggy in the ring. It was a pretty gnarly finish to a fantastic tag match. The downside is we had to hear Albano take all the credit after the match. This never slowed down and had tons of back and forth action and stiff offense. A forgotten gem hidden on a rough card. Grade: ***1/2

LA Sports Arena
Los Angeles, California
Attendance: 14, 500
Announcers: Jesse Ventura, Lord Alfred Hayes, Elvira

Match #9: Ricky Steamboat defeats Hercules Hernandez with a High Cross Body at 7:33

Fun Fact: Prior to hooking up with the WWF, Hercules had some varied success in Mid South wrestling and WCCW, where he won the Television title. He wore a mask in both territories, but when he arrived in the WWF, his face was visible and he was sporting a Roman Centurion type garb.

Scott: We begin our West Coast part with a solid undercard battle of contrasting styles. Hercules makes his WWF debut here against a master of the ring at this time. Steamboat is now in his more familiar martial arts-type tights and the Asian-style boots. The audio for this part was pretty bad as Jesse sounds like he’s in a tunnel. Maybe it’s the braids replacing his lack of hair. Elvira is speaking when spoken to and letting Jesse and Lord Alfred actually call the action. I agree with Justin that the announcing guests got progressively better, from Susan St. James who went rogue in NY and talked every five seconds, to Cathy Lee Crosby in Chicago who for the most part knew her role, to Elvira here who barely talked and let the wrestling guys do the match. Speaking of the match it was pretty good as Steamboat bumped for all of Hercules’ offense and made the big comeback leading to the cross body and the victory. Incidentally, LEE MARSHALL SIGHTING! His only WWF appearance of his career. You can tell he was going over the top on purpose to get a permanent gig. A solid start to the LA end of the show. Grade: **1/2

Justin: And it is officially time for the final leg of the show, out in LA. This is our most eclectic announce team, and not necessarily for the better. We have Jesse Ventura doing play-by-play alongside Lord Al Hayes and…Elvira. The celebrity overload continues. We also get a rare WWF appearance by Lee Marshall, who is doing the ring announcing. Steamboat has had a very solid first year in the promotion, but wasn’t quite involved in any sort of substantial feud at this point, so he is tossed in with the newcomer Hercules. Herc is a guy that can have a good match with the right opponent, so that may bode well here. Steamboat went right into his traditional offense to the delight of the crowd, keeping Herc all off balance and working the arm in the middle of it all. When Herc did take over, he was really vicious, ramming his knee into the side of Steamboat’s head before draping him across the top rope with a stun gun. The spot of the match for me was Herc ducking a third chop attempt and clobbering Steamboat with a clothesline. The turning point came when Herc went against his usual game plan and ascended the top rope. Steamboat got his knees up and Herc crashed and burned. Steamer followed with a high cross body to pick up the every hard fought win. This was a damn good match with both guys working hard and it was an impressive showing for Herc, who definitely carried his end of the bargain. Grade: **1/2

Match #10: Adrian Adonis defeats Uncle Elmer with an elbow off the top rope at 3:06

Fun Fact I: Keith Franke, aka Adrian Adonis, started his wrestling career in 1974 under his real name. He didn’t take on the name Adiran Adonis until the late 70s when he joined the AWA where he changed his character to a leather jacket-wearing biker. He formed the East-West Connection with Jesse Ventura and won the AWA World Tag Team Championships in July, 1980. Both Adonis and Ventura joined the WWF in 1981, wrestling as a tag team as well as in singles action. When Ventura had to stop wrestling due to injuries, Adonis formed another Connection tag team, this time forming the North-South Connection with Dick Murdoch in late 1983. In April 1984, the team won the WWF World Tag Team titles which they held until January 1985. The team broke up shortly after losing the titles.

Throughout his time in the WWF, Adonis started gaining a lot of weight, peaking around 350 lbs. After the split from Murdoch, his character began a transformation into a more effeminate one, creating the “Adorable” Adrian Adonis character. He dropped the leather jacket, bleached his hair blonde and started wearing pink ring attire paired with scarves, makeup and leg warmers. When Roddy Piper took a hiatus from the company, Adonis took over the Piper’s Pit talk segments, transforming them into “The Flower Shop”. When Piper returned, the feud was on as the two talk segments competed with each other. Adonis attacked Piper on the set of Piper’s Pit, injuring Piper’s leg and drawing lipstick on him. A week later, Piper attacked Adonis and destroyed the Flower Shop set with a baseball bat. The feud continued all the way to WrestleMania III where they wrestled in a hair vs. hair match. Adonis left the WWF shortly after WM III and returned to the AWA where he maintained his “Adorable” character and was managed by Paul E. Dangerously.

Fun Fact II: The trademark leather jacket worn that Roddy Piper has worn for years is the same jacket shed by Adrian Adonis on Piper’s Pit when he made his transformation into the Adorable One.

Fun Fact III: Stanley Fraizer started his wrestling career in 1960 in the Gulf Coast region. He wrestled under the name Pascagoula Plowboy and was a local favorite. Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler saw some of his early work and brought him into the Mid-South territory as well as the AWA. He used a variety of names while working in Tennessee, including wearing a large loincloth and going under the name Kamala II. He won several tag team championships during his career under his own name and Plowboy Frazier. When he joined the WWF in 1985, he was added to the group of Hillbillies and was known as Uncle Elmer. On the October 5, 1985 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event (which was recorded on October 3), he was legitimately married to Joyce Stazko. Jesse Ventura mocked the wedding from the announce position and later read a poem at the reception criticizing the wedding which led to a feud between the two. During that year, the Wrestling Observer newsletter voted him as the worst wrestler of 1985 and part of the worst tag with Cousin Junior. He left the WWF in 1986 and went back to Tennessee and then to the Continental Wrestling Association. He suffered from diabetes and poor health due to his weight. He died of kidney failure on July 1, 1992.

Scott: Well, this card took a turn after our last match. Fat crossdresser vs. fat hillbilly. Adrian Adonis used to be a badass former tag team champion with, coincidentally, Jesse Ventura. I’m sure Jesse is stunned with what has happened with his partner here. Hillbillies were the rage in the WWF at this time and this family would grow by two more members. The match is a mess as expected as Adonis has to carry the big Uncle to a serviceable little mid-card affair. There’s honestly not much more to say here. Elmer would never be seen on PPV again and Adonis would be given a storyline with a little more teeth. I love Elvira’s line about never seeing this much cellulite in one place before. To Adonis’ credit, if being a crossdresser was a punishment for getting too fat he did take it seriously and work the thing as best as he could. I think we’ll just move on from this now. Grade: DUD

Justin: And just when this show was picking up some momentum, we run into this hot mess. Adrian Adonis used to be fantastic, but he let himself go and was saddled with the flamboyant gimmick and turned into a bit of a goof. He did his best to own it and despite the increased girth, he could still bump around with the best of them, but his days as a legit contender were now gone. The less said about Uncle Elmer, the better. I hate hillbilly characters. Especially this one. Elmer flutters his hand to intimate that Adonis is a fairy, but instead he should realize he is about as useless as it gets. I can’t stand the over demonstrative ways of him and his cronies at this point, making a big over-dramatic gesture for everything. At one point, he throws a punch and falls on his ass because of it. He smacks Adonis around early, not even allowing him to get his moomoo off. This match was all Adonis, as he bumps around and sells Elmer’s weak ass assault. I don’t know why they didn’t use Hillbilly Jim here, at least he was spry and could move around the ring. Elmer hits a running splash in the corner but misses a slow motion legdrop. That allowed Adonis to go up top and hit a big splash for the win. Thankfully. Get Elmer and his coolats off my screen for good, thank you. Nothing doing here, the word sloppiness about sums it all up on many levels. Grade: DUD

Match #11: The Funk Brothers defeat the Junkyard Dog & Tito Santana when Hoss Funk pins JYD after Terry Funk hit JYD with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone at 11:42

Fun Fact: Terry Funk and his brother Dory Funk, Jr., who is also known by his nickname “Hoss”, are real life brothers, both born in the early 40s. They both started in the NWA promotion in Amarillo, Texas under their father, Dory Funk, Sr. Both were talented wrestlers that quickly moved up the ranks in the NWA. Dory Funk won the NWA World Heavyweight title in 1969 from Gene Kiniski and held the title for 4 ½ years, the second longest uninterrupted NWA title run in history. His brother Terry would follow suit, defeating Jack Brisco for the NWA World Heavyweight title in 1975 and holding the title for 14 months before dropping it to Harley Race. The duo travelled around the country to different territories and also made a name for themselves in Japan.

In 1985, the pair joined the WWF and an additional member was added, Jimmy Jack Funk (Jesse Barr). The trio were managed by Jimmy Hart and had a rivalry with the Junkyard Dog which led to the match at WrestleMania II. Terry left the WWF shortly after this, but Dory and Jimmy Jack continued to team together and he made an appearance in the 1996 Royal Rumble.

Terry would continue to wrestle in singles in NWA territories, WCW and ECW as well as in Japan where he would have a memorable appearance in 1995 in the IWA King of the Death Match tournament. In the final match, Funk would go against Mick Foley as Cactus Jack in an exploding ring, C4 explosive, barbed wire match. He also made a return to the WWF in 1998 as the character Chainsaw Charley, a mad-man wearing pantyhose on his head and brandishing a chainsaw. He was paired with Cactus Jack for a memorable feud with the New Age Outlaws. Terry continues to wrestle on the independent circuit.

Dory would establish the Funking Conservatory, a wrestling school teaching the Funk Method of Professional Wrestling. Notable graduates of the school include The Hardy Boyz, Lita, Kurt Angle, Edge and Christian, and Mickie James.

Scott: Los Angeles definitely got the best of this show as this crowd got the best matches, ones with actual feuds attached to them. This one was red hot as Terry Funk is a virtual heat magnet. This match is exciting from beginning to end as all four guys battle around the ring and outside the ring. Terry Funk was an NWA mainstay and a former World Heavyweight Champion and now makes his PPV debut in the big leagues up north. I have to say, Hoss (Dory) Funk has always looked sixty years old. Even in pictures from the late 60s, he looked old. Still a great worker and it shows here. Terry Funk not only brings heel heat but he’s actually a great seller of babyface offense. After both being involved in the Intercontinental Title picture at last year’s Wrestlemania to a lesser role but a great matchup with good workers. Great heel work late as Jimmy Hart tosses the megaphone to a limping Terry Funk with the referee distracted. He cracks JYD in the head and gets the three count. Overall a really fun match and a big win for the heel Funks. Grade: ***

Justin: I was glad to see Terry Funk make it to a WrestleMania, especially considering his run was just about coming to an end. He had a neat little title feud with Hulk Hogan in the fall, but since has been putting around in this tag team with his brother. I still am not sure why Dory Funk had to become Hoss, but such is life in Stamford. He has a pretty badass ten gallon hat on, I will give him that. A Santana/JYD team just seemed to make sense for some reason. They just fit well together. That said, I still think Santana belonged in the IC Title match with Savage in NY, but this is a fine fallback option. Things were pretty basic to start with Tito & JYD controlling the pace while the Funks kept trying to find time and air to regroup and slow things down. JYD seemed to be much more engaged, in a bit better shape and moving easier than he was a year ago, which is a plus since he looked terrible at MSG. Dory would tag in and go right to work on Tito, burying a tight knee before Tito landed a flying forearm to shake things back up. The Funks got it together with a little chicanery as Terry drilled Tito with a knee from the ring apron as he was draped on the ropes. Elvira has been brutal here, having no clue what she was talking about and mumbling whenever she did speak. Jesse was doing a nice job on PBP but really didn’t have much to work with. Dory was so smooth in there, taking Tito over with a textbook floating double underhook suplex and then cracking him with a perfect uppercut. JYD would finally get the hot tag and run through both brothers until everything spilled to the floor, where the Dog slammed Terry on a pile of chairs in a great spot. Back inside, JYD stayed hot, wiping out Jimmy Hart as well. However, as the referee was tied up with Tito, Hart tossed Terry the megaphone, which he used to crack Dog and pick up the win. That was a hella fun brawl with good teamwork on both ends and a hot crowd. LA has definitely won the luck of the draw thus far here tonight. I wish the Funks stuck around longer and had a feud with the Bulldogs over the titles, that could have been a lot of fun. Grade: **1/2

Match #12: Hulk Hogan defeats King Kong Bundy in a Steel Cage match to retain WWF World Title when he climbs out of the cage at 10:16

Fun Fact: On that same February 15 Saturday Night’s Main Event card that the Piper/T feud started, Hulk Hogan defended the Title against Magnificent Muraco. While Hogan was attacking Bobby Heenan, Bundy came in and laid out Hogan with two Avalanches and three splashes. Hogan was taken out on a stretcher with injured ribs. Every week there would be workout updates with Hogan lifting with taped ribs, preparing for the big match. Bundy had officially joined the Heenan Family on September 10, 1985.

Scott: The first World Title match in WrestleMania history was a steel cage match featuring two very slow, methodical men. Bundy was being built as a big time monster heel. Hogan continued his run as the top dog in wrestling, and wins the match after 10 minutes of power moves, and even a blade job by Bundy. I think Bundy gets unfairly ripped for this slot and this match as well. It’s definitely not the worst main event in Mania history and the cage definitely added the extra juice to the match that probably a straight up match wouldn’t have had. The crowd was excited for this one, and they see the first of many Hogan PPV “formulas”; Hogan starts fast, gets the crap beat out of him, gets hit with the finisher, comes back, big boot, leg drop, and pin. In this case, it was climbing the cage instead of going for the pin. A big win for the champ, and the first of many monster heels vanquished at WrestleMania. If the rest of the show was fairly terrible or at beat average, the LA portion of this show had the best overall quality, and it was capped by a solid main event and a good feeling for the crowd as their hero is victorious again. Grade: **1/2

Justin: Our official main event of the night had some damn good build behind it and saw the WWF Title defended at WrestleMania for the first time. Before the match, we got a really cool vignette of Hogan working out and showing that he was fighting through the back injury against advisement of his doctor. That segment alone sold me on this match. It was also a good idea to toss this inside the cage to add to the intrigue and also make this feel like a really big deal to close out the show. Before the match, we have to unload the rest of the celebrities with Tommy Lasorda (announcer), Ricky Schroeder (timekeeper) and Robert Conrad (referee). These celebs don’t quite have the cache that we saw on display a year ago. Bundy, now led by Bobby Heenan, was very impressive here, especially during his entrance, as he stomped toward the ring, looking massive. Hogan came in hot, tossing heavy blows to Bundy’s head, rocking him back into the cage. You can tell how truly thick Bundy is by the smacking sound and lack of give you get on Hogan’s clotheslines. Bundy took over by targeting the taped up ribs that he had injured back in Phoenix. Jesse pushes the story that Hogan came back too early to really sell the angle and put over Bundy’s chances. In a shrewd move, Bundy tied Hogan to the ropes by his medical tape but Hulk busted free and stopped Bundy from escaping. From there, Hogan started using the cage as a weapon, busting Bundy’s forehead open, giving us our first blood in Mania history. Hogan almost blew his momentum by trying to slam Bundy, but his ribs gave way and he collapsed. Luckily for him, Bundy was too wiped out to make a quick move out the door, allowing Hogan to drag him back inside the ring. Bundy would get one last gasp, dropping the big splash on Hogan but again, he couldn’t get out of the cage in time. In my favorite spot of the match, Hogan caught Bundy coming off the ropes and snapped him over with a huge powerslam. He followed up with the legdrop and eventually scaled and escaped the cage as Bundy tried his best to race him by going out the door. A very fun main event that saw both men work hard and tell the very simple story that was drawn up for them. The blood and powerslam were the icing on the cake, and the crowd seemed to agree. After the match, Hogan abused Heenan in the cage to put the feud to bed. A very up and down Mania wraps up with Hogan celebrating once again, title still firmly around his waist. Grade: **1/2


Scott: The second installment of the big show is much bigger, much more glamorous, and has many more celebrities. The problem was with the three sites, the card suffered with bad, dull mid-card matches and quick squashes. If you compare the three venues, there’s no doubt New York got stiffed. Their matches were awful, and the boxing match a disappointment. Chicago wasn’t much better, but at least they had André and the great tag title match. Los Angeles had the most balance, and the main event. All in all, it was an improvement slightly from the year before. However the three venues idea didn’t really work, and wouldn’t be used again. As a 12-year old seeing the show live with my dad at the New Haven Coliseum, I was marking out at everything. Now, looking at it more analytically, it wasn’t that great a show. Expanding to three venues when there wasn’t really a deep core roster led to some unneeded fluff. The announcing girls got progressively better, from obnoxious Susan Saint James to hilariously bad Elvira the annoucing was fairly solid. We also got to hear a rare Jesse Ventura play-by-play opportunity. This may not be a show you throw in when you’re bored but there are a few hidden gems and a feel-good title change to not totally make it a stinker. Grade: C-

Justin: Well, here we are a year later and Vince McMahon & Crew took everything that worked in MSG a year ago and amped it way the hell up. As a result we end up with an overproduced, overmodulated mess. Emanating from three locations and bloated with matches and celebrities, this ended up being way too ambitious, and the flow suffered as a result. There was some good sprinkled in here, but it gets a bit lost due to so much crap being jammed in around it. A major issue is that they needed to provide enough action for each location, so they were forced to pad with extra meaningless matches. If this card took place in one arena (Chicago, which had the hottest crowd) and had the fat trimmed off and a small configuration or two, it could have been a winner. LA ended up being the best leg of the three but Chicago may have been the hottest, while being quite top heavy. Shed most of the celebrities, (Claire Peller? Rick Schroeder? G. Gordon Liddy? What is this, Hollywood Squares?) and a few matches but keep the couple spectacles that made sense (battle royal, boxing match) and this show may have been remembered a bit more fondly. Grade: C-

PTBN Podcast: Episode #5