It’s spring time and to us wrestling fans that means one thing. No, it’s not TNA Lockdown and you should feel bad if that’s what was the first thing that came to your mind. It’s that time, it’s time for Wrestlemania! If this was a TV show or even a youtube video there’d be lots of graphics and confetti and stuff however since I’m writing this, I’ll let you Google the graphics, I’ll wait here.
For your sake, I hope you had safe search on because when you Google wrestling graphic without it well, the FBI might be at your door soon. Anyway, it’s time for a joint production of the Card Subject to Change Podcast Network and It’s Raining Meng, it’s the March to Mania! Today we open up with what else? Wrestlemania 1 the first in a series of fantastic shows as well as Wrestlemania 11.
The Setting: Madison Square Garden in New York City
The Date: March 31, 1985
The Theme Song: Easy Lover by Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey as well as Axel F by Harold Faltmeyer (That’s right, they used the Beverly Hills Cop theme, arguably the best decision the WWF/E ever made music wise ever)
The Main Event: Hulk Hogan teams with Mr. T with Superfly Jimmy Snuka in their corner to face off with Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff with Cowboy Bob Orton in their corner
The Celebrities: Liberace, Muhammad Ali, Billy Martin, Andy Warhol, Cyndi Lauper, the Radio City Rockettes
Tito Santana vs the Executioner
King Kong Bundy vs Special Delivery Jones
David Sammartino vs Brutus Beefcake
WWF Intercontinental Championship © Greg The Hammer Valentine vs the Junkyard Dog
WWF Tag Team Championships © The US Express (Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham) vs Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik
$15,000 Bodyslam match Big John Studd vs Andre the Giant
WWF Woman’s Championship © Lelani Kai vs Wendi Richter
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff
This event took place primarily because Vince McMahon wanted to make a huge splash, utilizing the fledgeling television channel MTV to help promote the WWF and their product. During that era, the WWF aired two specials on MTV first the Brawl to End it All and then the War to Settle the Score (man back that rhyming was like Downstait songs, they just had to use them, thank god Finkel came up with the name Wrestlemania or we’d be talking about The Wrestle Vessle, oh don’t worry that name got used but in a far more sinister situation). Everything led to this, the biggest night in WWF history, Wrestlemania, not quite the Showcase of the Immortals yet but it was the foundation to what would become a great event. Now, I’m sure that’s enough of the background and all so let’s get what we came to see, hardcore nudity! Oh wait, wrong article, we’re here for Wrestlemania, so let’s go to ringside to ring announcer Howard Finkel!
Sorry about the Wrestle Vessel ad, I couldn’t find a logo so you deal with this
We open up the show with a running slide show of the participants in the event, with the NY skyline in one corner and the WWF logo in the other all while Easy Lover plays in the background because let’s face it when you think wrestling, you think Phil Collins, or at least I do. Opening up the event is Howard Finkel in the ring using that really great old MSG microphone that lowered from the ceiling. Singing the anthem is Mean Gene Okerlund, a fact that Finkel had to check his cards on, he was literally 10 feet from you Finkel, you can’t just look and go “Oh, Gene’s doing it”? Okerlund sings and I use that term loosely the anthem while reading the lyrics off a piece of paper, come on Gene, your son was in the Miracle on Ice, I’m sure you know the f’n anthem. Also, it’s a lot more awkward to sit through without the America montage they use now. Jesse Ventura compared Okerlund’s singing to Robert Goutlet, what an insult to Canada. Now on to his Lordship Alfred Hayes who will run down each match as the participants enter.
Pre match interviews conducted by Mean Gene with both Tito Santana and the Exectioner who at Mania was portrayed by the late Playboy Buddy Rose. The Executioner stating that he will break Tito’s leg that was previously worked over by Greg Valentine. The Executioner was announced as weight unknow, I’m going to assume this was before they stocked scales in Parts Unknown. Annnd there’s Jesse Ventura’s particular brand of racist commentary. Man, those ropes look uncomfortably loose. It’s a great idea to put a guy like Santana in the opening match role, he’s a seasoned veteran who the crowd enjoys. Rose at this point is just a few years away from the blood feud with the Rockers in the AWA but is playing the role of masked job guy very well. The Executioner doing exactly what he said he was going to do and go after Tito’s leg, nowhere in the promo did he mention going for the win but did very much go all in about working over Tito’s leg. Somehow, the Executioner was able to get dumped over the top rope and land sitting in a chair, how lucky. Figure 4 on the Executioner and he gives it up, your winner Tito Santana defeating the Executioner like a bullfighter in his home country. Hmm….Tito Santana and Bullfighter, I wonder if that could end up being something.
We go back to Lord Alfred talking a little bit about King Kong Bundy vs SD Jones. Jones is really excited about this match, and in walks Bundy with Jimmy Hart in his corner. Now, if you’re watching this show while reading this please do not blink during this next match you will miss everything. Here we go, the Walking Condominium vs a dude from Philly with a very pronounced Island accent. The Bell sounds annnd there’s the bell again, your winner in a squash that should define every other squash ever King Kong Bundy. He would ride the momentum from that win to a title opportunity against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 2. SD Jones would go on to uh…well he did induct Tony Atlas into the WWE Hall of Fame so he’s got that, right? Bundy’s 9 second win would stay on the record books until Wresltemania 24.
Our next matchup is Maniac Matt Bourne vs Ricky Steamboat, this should be great as we see the Dragon go up against Doink. Man, Ricky Steamboat was never that good at cutting promos, like it’s painful. Steamboat being introduced as being just form Hawaii, no towns, no cities just the state of Hawaii. Our referee looks to be Grandpa Jones. Steamboat showing some of what he would come to be known for during this match, Steamboat always had the uncanny ability to connect with the crowd and when you can connect with the notoriously rowdy MSG crowd, you’ve got something. This match was a great matchup albeit short at only 4 and a half minutes, in fact fans today complain about matches being too short, the first three matches at Wrestlemania went just over 10 minutes, 3 matches in 10 minutes a Vince Russo wet dream. Steamboat picks up the win with his gorgeous flying cross body, good match this could have easily swapped places with Santana/Executioner for opener.
Hoooo boy, our next match is a doozy as David Sammartino with his disappointed father Bruno in his corner goes up against Brutus Beefcake before beauty school with Luscious Johnny Valiant in his corner. Look, I don’t want to go off on a tangent or anything but really, it’s almost as if the Sammartino’s were the proto Rhodes’. I mean, we might have only been a few months away from David walking around in a gold body suit wearing a blonde wig and gold face paint…annnnnnnnnd I just got sick. Anyway it’s time for the second longest match on this card, that’s right the walking talking daddy issue vs the Hulkster’s bottom was the second longest match at the most important show at the time in WWF history. Bruno is at ringside with David wearing his best old dad/grandpa sweater. Bruno won’t even smile at David, I mean for godssake at least when Dusty had to be on TV with Dustin he would pretend to like him. Ventura is really, really trying to push a theory that Beefcake is Valiant’s son and Gorilla god bless him is all NOPE to that theory. It’s time for 13 minutes of hell as the bell sounds. Seriously, what god did I upset by having to subject myself to a 13 minute Brutus Beefcake match? Nepotismania is definitely running wild right now, brother. Beefcake is complaining that Sammartino is covered in oil, you know from what I’ve read, ol Bruti is a fan of that. They keep cutting to picture in picture views of the two men at ringside, Johnny V who’s animated at ringside and trying to give Brutus advice and Bruno who’s silently screaming at his wife for not aborting David. If you can’t tell I don’t give one crap about this showcase of mediocrity that’s going on right now so I’m just going to write more jokes about how Bruno loathes David. Literally, the only person I’ve ever seen entertained by this match is my 4 year old nephew Antonio. The match gets thrown out when Bruno and Johnny V start fighting in the ring, I assume that Bruno wanted to slug David during the scuffle but for the cameras he didn’t.
Intercontinental Championship match time we’re ready for Greg Valentine vs the Junkyard Dog for Valentine’s championship. Grab them Cakes plays as JYD walks to the ring since I’m watching the DVD version of the Wrestlemania anthology and they overdubbed Another One Bites the Dust. Pity, I could have loved to rock out to Queen after that abomination of a match before this one featuring a queen. Gorilla always liked to say it takes Valentine 20 minutes just to get warmed up in matches. If that’s the case even though this match clocks in at just over seven minutes, it feels like forever due to the slow paces of both the champion and challenger, now I’m not complaining because I love both guys but they just didn’t make a great pair due to the slower paces they both prefer to work at. Valentine steals the win with his feet on the ropes. Here comes Tito Santana, he points out to the referee that Valentine had his feet on the middle rope, the referee believes Santana because, babyface and restarts the match, JYD wins by countout.
Time now for the Tag Title match as the US Express with Cpt. Lou Albano take on Sheik and Volkoff with Classy Freddy Blassie in their corner. Nikolai Volkoff with the singing voice of an angel singing the Soviet National Anthem to a chorus of boos and the disrespectful NY crowd throwing garbage at the ring, and Iron Sheik getting his two cents in with his Iranian flag with the Ayatollah on it. Here come the champs wearing belts that were totally inspired by the NWA Championship. It’s this team also that you really have to believe gave us Husky Harris and Bo Rotunda since ol’ Cpt. Mike married Barry’s sister. Best part of the match? The referee sweeping up the mess the crowd threw at the ring. Little known fact, my mother attended Syracuse University with Mike Rotunda, I asked her about him, she called him an asshole, my mother is totally classy. Jesse mentions the World Series on commentary, I don’t think that’s fair the World Series is a set of seven games, some games might be dead but this is one show and not a series of seven and with that awful Sammartino/Beefcake match we should all be happy about that. Windham and Rotunda were such an underrated team, then again Barry Windham might be one of the most underrated wrestlers in history. Watching this match is where the video transfer to DVD isn’t great as tracking lines just came up, if anyone from WWE is reading this, I’d like another copy of the Anthology for my troubles, maybe that nice leather one signed by Vince that you were selling when the set came out. This is a decent tag match, nothing really special about it although the heels winning is a definite contrast to the rest of the night. I like seeing it though, really helps with the unpredictability factor. Volkoff wins when Sheik blasts Windham in the face with Blassie’s cane. Pretty sure the camera just panned past Joe Piscopo waving, that sentence is so 80’s it’s wearing leg warmers while listening to Debbie Gibson at the mall. On a side note, I’m pretty sure Shieky Baby is still cutting that post match promo.
FINALLY we get to see Bobby the Brain Heenan at ringside as we get ready for the $15,000 body slam match. Man, Hayes is SO nervous doing these live cut-ins by the entrance way, stuttering over his lines and screwing some of them up. The 15 grand is contained in one of those old WWF duffel bags, I still want one of those by the by. The lead up for this match was when John Studd cut Andre’s signature hair and left him with the shorter locks. The stipulation of this match is if Andre loses he will have to retire. This match was billed as the battle to find out who the true giant was, Andre at this point was two years away from participating in the most important match in WWF history , more on that later. While it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing match ever Andre/Studd did it’s job it was a spectacle match, the two monsters going toe to toe with one another to find out who the biggest truly was. The match is an enjoyable popcorn match and after two decent to good matches a great way to let the crowd breathe as the two biggest matches of the night were upcoming. The finish sees Andre give Studd a scoop slam and tossing the money to the crowd. Heenan runs into the ring and grabs the bag with the money hightailing it out of the arena.
Up next is the WWF Women’s Championship Match, The Women’s division was a huge part of the rock and wrestling connection in the 80’s, due in part to the participation of Cyndi Lauper with the WWF. She used wrestlers in her music videos, most notably Cpt. Lou Albano who was rumored to be her father due to the amount of times he appeared in Lauper’s videos. I just noticed that Lauper can’t say the name Lelani, she called her Lannie Kai, perhaps a shelved gimmick for the Genius? GORDON PLAY THE MUSIC! Anyway, Lelani Kai the second person on the card to be a native of Hawaii, so Hawaii’s representative to the WWF at that time were Ricky Steamboat and Lelani Kai, not too shabby since overall my hometown gets Marc Mero, IRS, Michael Cole, and Muhammad Hassan. REALLY WWE you can get the rights to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun but not Another One Bites the Dust? I’m blaming Dave Wolfe on this one but only because someone has to. Looking at what Richter and Moolah wore to the ring, it’s nice to see the shoulder pad industry was supported by more than just the Road Warriors in the mid 80’s. Jesse Ventura steals the show as far as clothing goes for Wrestlemania 1 goes with his gigantic pink tuxedo. Wow, women bumping when did that stop, oh and when do I get to see one of them attempt a spinning head scissors while holding on to their boobs for dear life so they don’t fly out? I also find it hilarious, the woman the WWF chose to represent Rock and Wrestling was the most southern, country fried woman on the roster but hey, she was over. Kai and Richter put on what was an entertaining matchup that holds up to this day, should it have been top under card? Probably not but it was every bit as important to the card as the main event as far as the Rock and Wrestling movement went. While it didn’t have the prettiest finish, MSG went nuts when Richter won the title back.
And here we are, after everything else it is main event time, a match that has been written about by people better than me and a match that has been analyzed several times over the years, The Hulkster and Mr. T go up against the Rowdy Scot and Mr. Wonderful, Pat Patterson wearing the sky blue and black bow tie as the referee in the main event, on the outside the Greatest of All Time Muhammad Ali serves as enforcer. Billy Martin was hired as ring announcer, fired, and then hired on again to do the introductions and ringing the bell is the one and only Liberace. I just noticed that while Billy Martin was doing the introductions, Finkel had to whisper them into his ear, Billy Martin had no damn idea what he was doing in that ring I’m going to assume he was drunk. Liberace enters the ring, dancing the Rockettes, I’ll bet he had his way with all of them after the show as well, dude was a chick magnet. Wait I’m being handed something….HE WAS GAY?! Get out of town, that bastion of masculinity was gay? Well, I guess you never know until you find out. And we get the first ever gigantic Wrestlemania entrance as Rowdy Roddy Piper gets led to the ring by a bag piping ground, playing his theme as he makes his way to the ring, man MSG HATED Piper but the dude should have been WWF Champion, could you imagine if this show was Hogan winning the belt back from Piper how crazy it would have been? Oh well, fantasy booking isn’t why were’ here, me watching this show is why we’re here. For the sake of what led up to this, we’ll call this match the Brawl to Settle the Score to End it All in a War. A lot of great heel psychology to open the match, Piper and Orndorff teasing that they’re going to get in the ring with Hogan. The Hulkster had issues with both guys in this match on the other side as well as the Ace Bob Orton. The importance of this match has been understated in wrestling history especially what headlined Wrestlemania 3 but there would have been no Wrestlemania 3 without this match, or even this show.
Wrestlemania has become as much a part of Americana as the Simpsons, baseball, or even apple pie. Mania is the most ordered pay per view event of the year, this year promises to be no different given the incredible amount of hype going into the show and a loaded card that will see several first time match ups including one that will never happen again. April 1 when you sit down to watch John Cena vs the Rock or CM Punk vs Chris Jericho or any of the other great matches on the card remember what started it, for if it wasn’t for Tito Santana vs The Executioner of Ricky Steamboat vs Matt Bourne we wouldn’t have what we’re looking forward to. This is the greatest time of the year for wrestling fans, this is our Super Bowl, our World Series, our Christmas and this is the advent to Wrestling Christmas, this is the March to Mania.
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