Welcome to my first ever blog here on WordPress and there is no more fitting place to begin than at the very beginning. My very first PPV review sets the bar for every post thereafter and so it is important that you understand the review I am about to do is based on nothing except my own personal opinion.
I want to hear your opinions so let me know where you agree and disagree. Blogging is all about spreading the word so please tell your friends and lets spark some real debate.
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura are our commentators for the night. Mene Gene Okerland is the backstage interviewer, Howard Finkal is the ring announcer and Lord Alfred Hayes reads links on the entrance ramp. I’m not entirely sure why. He’s bad though. Really bad.
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner
This match is a bit of a strange one. Tito Santana was very over at this point in his career. He’s the former Intercontinental champion and one of the top babyfaces on the roster. So why is he facing off against a masked “Playboy” Buddy Rose? And why is Buddy Rose doing this gimmick? Were they really that stuck for talent? The first thing that you notice is the low budget production (compared to nowadays). Mene Gene Okerland has sung the national anthem (why not get Lauper to do it?) and so the opening bout begins.
It’s a fast start which is what you get from Santana. Buddy Rose does a good job of keeping up with him despite not being in the condition of the former Intercontinental champion. It’s generally a back and forth match that sees a lot of energy from Santana and a lot of restholds from The Executioner. After a high forearm and a figure four leglock, it’s Santana that picks up the win, unsuprisingly.
King Kong Bundy vs. Special Delivery Jones
SD Jones was a regular in the WWF at this point often competing in singles matches and the odd tag match. This was his biggest match yet though, taking on the monstrous King Kong Bundy. Bundy was acompanied by his manager Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart but there wasn’t much work required for the Colonel. It took a shove and an avalance in the corner for Bundy to win in what the commentators reported a 9 second victory. In reality it was 24 seconds.
“Maniac” Matt Borne vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Again, on paper this looks like a one sided bout. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Again, this seems to be a match with no build to it. And if there was, it wasn’t mentioned. One criticism of this match is that it was quite similar to the opener. You’ve got the explosiveness of Ricky Steamboat matches with the technical skill of Borne. Ricky is very over in this one, the crowd are right behind him. He encourages this by mimicking Borne, much to the audiences delight. Borne also works the crowd himself which adds a lot to this match. Unlike the generic dominant heel format of today , this is another back and forth match which ends in Steamboat taking the win with a standing splash. Another entertaining bout albeit similar to the opener.
Brutus Beefcake vs. David Sammartino
An interesting pairing here. Brutus Beefcake is out first with his manager Lucius Johnny Valiant. Beefcake has sparkly purple tights on making him seem more modern and more of a showman than what we had seen previously. For the first time tonight we are treated to an entrance which consists of David Sammartino and his father the great Bruno Sammartino running down to the ring. The crowd go nuts for Bruno and it instantly becomes clear why his son has a match at the first ever Wrestlemania. It seems as though when Daddy is around, David Sammartino gets a good match but when he’s not, David is at the bottom of the card.
Bruti plays the classic heel. Shouting at the ref and generally being irritating. He was never the best worker and with Sammartino Jr being pretty horrendous and relying on rest holds, this match is not one for the ages. Sammartino dominated for a while using submission holds until eventually Beefcake came back on the offensive. I was suprised to hear the crowd chanting “David”. This guy is defunct of personality. Eventually Valiant gets involved which causes Bruno Sammartino to help his son out, much to the crowds delight. And so it ends a double DQ. This match was less than 2 minutes shy of the main events duration, leaving me asking WHY?! Brutus given the right opponent can put on a decent match. Sadly Bruno Sammartino was not his opponent.
Intercontinental Championship Match
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine(c) vs. The Junkyard Dog
Well we’re now heading into the business end of the PPV. To being, our first title match of the night and it’s Greg Valentine vs. JYD. Valentine hasn’t been champion long having defeated Tito Santana for the gold and instead of a rematch tonight, it’s JYD that gets the opportunity, reason being: I have no idea.
First observation is that the title belt is green. Second observation is Jimmy Hart can finally earn his money as he manages Valentine. Can I just say, I’ve never liked Greg Valentine. I don’t know what it is, his hair, his face, his generic personality, I don’t know. But he was at his best in the 80’s. He was at his peak in matches against Roddy Piper, Hulk Hogan and Tito Santana. This however is against the hugely popular JYD.
Valentine starts off slowly, working the leg. His finisher is the figure four leglock you know, so working the leg is paramount. In response to this, JYD works the crowd. And they lap it up. The headbutts on the ground cause the crowd to cheer whilst the headbutts stood up cause Valentine to oversell. Jimmy Hart gets involved which allows Valentine to get the pin but the dastardly heel uses the extra leverage from putting his feet on the rope! El Grasso Tito Santana (now suited up) runs down and tells the ref what happened. The ref believes him and continues the match, counting Valentine out. So the Dog wins it, but Valentine keeps his title. This one fades out with the crowd cheering for Tito, once again, somebody not involved in the match captures the crowds attention.
Tag Team Title Match
The US Express (Barry Windham & Mike Rotunda) (c) vs. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
I love a good tag division and the WWF in the 1980’s had a very good tag division. Just a team with a name is good enough for me and brother in laws Rotunda and Windham had a name! Sheik and Volkoff works for me too as they’re both heels with the same agenda. And they’re foreigners which in WWF/E’s eyes, means you have to hate them. Lou Albano fresh off a face turn accompanies the US Express whilst the dastardly Classie Freddie Blassie manages Sheik and Volkoff.
Volkoff singing the Soviet national anthem is such a heel move, I love it. I’m a big heel fan, I find they have more interesting personas and as quite a selfish person myself, I relate better. The US Express have that generic face gimmick that I don’t really like. I’d much rather see them as Stalkers and Taxmen. This was an even back and forth match where the heels kept Rotunda grounded. Eventually he made the hot tag to Windham (who should have been a much bigger star in the WWE) who cleans house before getting smashed in the back with Blassie’s cane courtesy of The Iron Sheik. Volkoff makes the cover and that’s all she wrote. This was a fun, enjoyable match and in my eyes, the match of the night so far.
Following this was a victory celebration from The Iron Sheik and co followed by a backstage interview with the surprisingly good talker Big John Studd and his manager, the great Bobby Heenan. That means we’ve got the battle of the giants up next.
Big John Studd vs. Andre The Giant
At last it appears we have a match with some build up. Studd and Andre are up against each other in a $15,000 body slam challenge. If Andre wins he gets the cash but if Studd wins then Andre retires. High stakes for this one. As you can probably guess this match wasn’t a technical masterpiece, it was slow, sluggish and full of simple holds. I have to say though, I’m rather impressed with Big John Studd who suprises me with his good ring psychology and selling. In the end though it’s Andre who wins, much to the excitement of the live capacity audience. He’s very over, such a friendly looking giant. Needs to sort his teeth out though.
Womens Championship Match
Leilani Kai (c) vs. Wendy Richter
Our third title match of the evening and penultimate match at the original Wrestlemania is between two of the top women in wrestling. Leilani Kai from Hawaii recently won the belt from Richter with a little help from her manager and former champion Fabulous Moolah takes on Wendy Richter accompanied by pop sensation Cyndi Lauper. This match was announced as the first of our “Rock and Wrestling” matches. I guess that’d be because Lauper is involved. Or maybe because for the first time tonight a wrestler (Richter) came out to entrance music!
This match was back and forth, no heel dominance in this one. Bit of an odd spot with Richter shoving the referee as if she was the heel but we’ll glaze over that. Like every match that has had a manger tonight, the managers got involved, first Moolah and then Lauper. Kai goes for a big splash (very similar to fellow Hawaiin Ricky Steamboat earlier in the night) but Richter rolls through (botching it a little) for the big win and our second title change of the night.
Hulk Hogan & Mr T vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper & “Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff
Ring Announcer: Billy Martin
Timekeeper: Liberace w/ The Rockettes
Referee: Muhammad Ali
Referee: Pat Patterson
All star line up for this one, this is where all the money went and if this PPV failed then the WWF would be no more. But of course it didn’t fail. Piper and Orndorff come out to live bagpipes whilst Hogan and Mr T come out to horrendous 80’s synth. Orndorff looks ripped tonight. The faces are accompanied by Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and the heels are with “Cowboy” Bob Orton. After a good start from Hogan and T, Piper and Orndorff take to the entranceway and try to do a runner. Hogan won’t have a countout win though and beckons them back in. To which they do.
Piper sells fantastically in this one. To both Hogan and Mr T. Speaking of Mr T, he wasn’t actually that bad in the ring. Maybe this is due to Hogans training (Mr T taught Hogan to be streetwise as part of the deal). Eventually there’s a hot tag to Mr T but that doesn’t last long as Piper and Wonderful work very well together. Some classic double teaming. There’s lots of action in this match which makes a change from all the rest holds in much of the undercard. Hogan makes the tag and after Orton accidentally hits Orndorff, it’s Hogan and Mr T that pick up the win. Cue the awful 80’s music.
Rating: 7/10* Match Of The Night
Overall this wasn’t a bad pay per view. By todays standards it’s not very good but back then it had a bit of everything. Larger than life characters, hated heels, fun faces and of course when it was all said and done the baby faces were celebrating in the ring. It was do or die for the World Wrestling Federation and of course the great promotion lived on. Hulkamania was starting its long journey although not quite at its peak just yet.
Overall Rating: 45/100