Thursday, April 27, 2017

WrestleMania: It All Starts Here

WrestleMania star power

WrestleMania – March 31, 1985 - New York City - Madison Square Garden

The WWF gambled big – and won – with the first WrestleMania, which was shown around the country on closed-circuit TV and a few pay-per-view outlets.

Vince McMahon put a ton of money and hype into the first Mania, and its success made it the biggest date on the wrestling calendar each year.

Hulk Hogan and Mr. T appeared on Saturday Night Live on the eve of the show, leading into their main event battle with Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.

Cyndi Lauper brought a lot of eyes onto the show as well, with her management of Wendi Richter and the WWF’s appearances on MTV.

Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura called the action, with Howard Finkel serving as ring announcer. Mean Gene Okerlund kicked off the show by singing the national anthem.

Lord Alfred Hayes hyped the matches, and the wrestlers walked right past him on the way to the ring.

1. Tito Santana vs. The Executioner
Santana was on a quest to recapture the Intercontinental title from Greg Valentine. Tito used the figure-four leglock (Valentine’s hold) to beat the masked Executioner, who was portrayed by Playboy Buddy Rose.

2. S.D. Jones vs. King Kong Bundy (with Jimmy Hart)
A literal squash match. Bundy hit the avalanche and big splash to put Jones away. This was announced as a “record time” of nine seconds, but we can all count to nine and the match lasted longer than that.

3. Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne
Steamboat’s star began to rise with a win over Borne, who would show up at WrestleMania IX as the evil Doink the Clown. Steamboat won with a top-rope bodypress.

4. David Sammartino (with Bruno Sammartino) vs. Brutus Beefcake (with Johnny Valiant)
Bruno’s faithful fans at Madison Square Garden went nuts when he countered Valiant’s interference, as this match ended in a double-disqualification.

5. Intercontinental title: Junkyard Dog vs. Greg Valentine (champion, with Jimmy Hart)
Valentine’s IC title looked like it came from an indy promotion. He used his feet on the ropes to win the match, but Santana tattled to the referee. Valentine refused to restart the match and was counted out. This continued the Santana-Valentine feud.

6. Tag Team Championship: Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo (champions, with Capt. Lou Albano) vs. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff (with Freddie Blassie)
Sheik blasted Windham with Blassie’s cane to give Volkoff the pin and the championship. Windham and Rotundo would win the belts back a few months later.

7. Bodyslam challenge: Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd (with Bobby Heenan)
Andre would win $15,000 if he could slam Studd, but he would have to retire if he failed to slam him within the time limit. Andre hit the slam within six minutes and started throwing the money to the crowd. Heenan stole the bag of cash and ran to the back.

8. Women’s title: Wendi Richter (with Cyndi Lauper) vs. Leilani Kai (champion, with Fabulous Moolah)
Richter had won the title from Moolah on the first big MTV special and dropped the belt to Kai on the second one. In a sloppy match, Richter reversed Kai’s top-rope bodyblock and got the pin to recapture the title.

9. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (with Jimmy Snuka) vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (with Bob Orton)
Muhammad Ali was the special enforcer referee. Imagine the MSG fans getting to see Ali, Bruno and Hogan in the same night.

Liberace and the Rockettes didn’t seem to know when to stop doing the kick line. Former New York Yankees manager Billy Martin was the ring announcer. Piper came out with a bagpipe band. Photographers and cops jammed the ringside area.

Mr. T looked very good in the ring. His ability to hold up his end of the main event earned him the 
MVP award of the show. We will name an MVP of each show to determine the pay-per-view MVP of each decade.

Orton tried to interfere with his cast, but he clobbered Orndorff instead and Hogan got the pin. Somehow, Orndorff was blamed for this mishap, and he eventually turned babyface.

Next: The first real pay-per-view in WWF history, The Wrestling Classic!

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