This is where it all began. It’s the biggest night ever in wrestling. It’s the night that created the event that has become synonymous with wrestling itself. Wrestling and the WWF were hotter than ever in 1985, and Vince McMahon took advantage with a huge show: Wrestlemania, from Madison Square Garden in New York City and broadcast to closed-circuit locations all around the country. They pulled out all the stops, bringing in Mr. T, Muhammad Ali, and plenty of other celebrities.
The night before this, Hogan and Mr. T hosted “Saturday Night Live.” Also, Hogan made his infamous appearance with Richard Belzer, where he accidentally knocked him unconscious with a Front Facelock. Seriously:
Yeah, that was outstanding. Hogan was sued by Belzer and ultimately settled out of court. Anyway, let’s get to the show:
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura are our hosts.
Gene Okerlund sings “The Star Spangled Banner” to kick things off. You should look this clip up.
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner
Pre-recorded comments lead us in. Executioner was undefeated. Got a feeling that isn’t going to be the case once this match is over. The Executioner was “Playboy” Buddy Rose under a mask.
They keep things pretty basic, but both guys were solid workers. Tito controls most the match before getting the win with his signature Flying Forearm, followed by the Figure Four.
Rating: **. Solid opening match. Vince said he went with Tito in the opener because he knew he’d deliver, and he was right.
Gene Okerlund interviews S.D. Jones, who is about to get massacred by King Kong Bundy. He then interviews Jimmy Hart on behalf of Bundy.
King Kong Bundy vs. S.D. Jones
This one is over in less than 30 seconds. Bundy just literally squashes Jones in the corner, hits a Big Splash, and gets the win in 24 seconds.
It’s announced as nine seconds, a fake new record, but that’s obviously wrong. Bundy hesitated before making the pin.
Rating: ¼*. Fun squash.
Gene interviews “The Maniac” Matt Borne, who says he’ll beat Ricky Steamboat because Steamboat is too nice. Steamboat says this is the most important day of his career.
Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne
Matt Borne was the original Doink the Clown. Steamboat controls early with his typical Leap Frogs, chops, and Arm Drags. Borne breaks out of a headlock with an Inverted Atomic Drop. Steamboat comes back with a big chop to the head from the second rope. Borne gets a Gordbuster, then a Snap Suplex. Steamboat fires back with chops and a Back Suplex. Swinging Neckbreaker by Steamboat, but Borne goes to the eyes.
Leap Frog sequence ends with Steamboat knocking Borne down with a Clothesline. He goes to the top and connects with a Flying Cross Body for the win at 4:38.
Rating: **½. Typical quality match you’d expect from Steamboat.
Gene Okerlund interviews David Sammartino, who is backed by his father tonight. We then hear from Brutus Beefcake and Johnny Valient.
David Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake
David only had a job and a push as a favor to Bruno, who was still semi-active at this point. This one is pretty basic, mostly David controlling with holds and takedowns.
Finish is a Double DQ as Valient and Bruno end up getting involved and everyone brawls.
Rating: ½*. David Sammartino ranks above Eric Watts but below Ted DiBiase in terms of disappointing wrestling sons.
Gene is in the back with Junkyard Dog and Greg Valentine, the competitors in our Intercontinental Title match next.
Intercontinental Championship: Greg Valentine (c) vs. Junkyard Dog
They never could quite recreate JYD’s magic outside of Mid-South. Lots of headbutts in this one. Valentine gets control and goes to work on the legs. Valentine accidentally knocks out his own manager, Jimmy Hart, when JYD moves out of the way of a Clothesline.
But that allows Valentine to roll JYD up for the pin with his feet on the ropes.. Tito Santana runs down and tells the referee that Valentine cheated, and the match is ordered to re-start. Valentine refuses to return to the ring and is counted out at 6:55.
Rating: 1/2*. When the crowd wasn’t cooking for a JYD match there wasn’t much for him to fall back on.
Gene is in the back with the U.S. Express of Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham, along with their manager, Captain Lou Albano. They’ll be defending the tag titles against Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff next.
World Tag Team Championship: The U.S. Express (c) vs. Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff
As always, the Russian National Anthem gets killer heat. “Iran #1, USA (spits).” Sheik and Rotundo start. They run through a typical shine segment for the good guy. Windham tags in and takes it to Sheik. Vokoff tags in and gets leveled by Rotundo. Total domination by the challengers so far. Volkoff manages to get the advantage and he and Sheik work over Rotundo. Some decent power moves in this sequence. Rotundo manages to make the hot tag, leading Windham to come in and clean house. Bulldog by Windham nearly gets the win, but Sheik breaks it up and then gets Windham with a cheap shot with Blassie’s cane. That’s enough for the win at 6:56.
Rating: *. Basic tag match with a weak finish.
Gene interviews the new tag champions, then talks to Big John Studd and Bobby Heenan about the $15,000 Body Slam Challenge against Andre the Giant.
$15,000 Body Slam Challenge: Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd
If Andre wins he gets $15,000 of Studd’s money. If Studd wins Andre has to retire. Pretty lopsided stipulations, making it pretty clear who is going to win. Studd takes it to Andre off the bell, but Andre fights back. Studd heads to the floor. He gets back in the ring and gets Thumped in the corner. Studd goes for the slam but can’t get him up. The crowd chants “Slam!” which sounds a lot like “Yes!” Bear Hug goes on for a bit. Andre gets a few more shots in and slams Studd to win at 5:54.
Rating: ½*. That was about as dull as it gets.
Andre starts to throw the money into the crowd, but Heenan steals the bag and runs away with it.
Gene interviews a victorious Andre the Giant. Then we hear from Wendi Richter and Cyndi Lauper. Conversely, we hear from Lelani Kai and Fabulous Moolah.
Women’s Championship: Lelani Kai (c) vs. Wendi Richter
Moolah is managing Kai against her old rival, Richter. Moolah interfered to cost Richter the title few months prior. The crowd pops huge for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Can’t blame them, I’m singing along with it myself. Richter controls a mat sequence early. They proceed to trade the advantage without much of interest happening.
Moolah gets involved and we get a brawl between Moolah and Lauper. Back in the ring, Richter gets Kai on her shoulders and slams her off with something of an Inverted Attitude Adjustment. Kai comes back with a Backbreaker, then a Body Slam. She goes to the top and hits a Cross Body, but Richter rolls through for the win at 6:12. Less of a debacle than some of the other women’s matches from this era.
Mean Gene interviews the new Women’s Champion. She says it’s the happiest moment of her life.
Howard Finkel introduces the celebrities for the main event: Yankees manager Billy Martin as the ring announcer, Liberace as the time keeper, Pat Patterson as the referee, and Muhammad Ali as the outside enforcer.
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff
Piper and Orndorff enter to bagpipes. They have “Cowboy” Bob Orton in their corner. “Real American” comes on and the crowd goes wild. He and Mr. T are accompanied by Jimmy Snuka. Hogan and Orndorff are going to start, but then Piper tags in and T wants in. Hogan and obliges and T and Piper start. Piper and T exchange slaps before Piper takes T down. T escapes and gets Piper in a Fireman’s Carry. Now we get a pier six brawl, including Snuka, Orton, and Ali. Orndorff and Piper regroup outside and start to head to the back. Hogan begs Patterson not to count them out and they eventually return to the ring.
Hogan beats up both Orndorff and Piper. Atomic Drop on Piper. T tags in and he and Hogan hit a Double Clothesline. T slams Piper and the crowd goes crazy. Hogan tags back in and wails on Piper. Hogan throws Piper to the floor, but then gets knocked to the outside by Ordnorff. Piper nails Hogan with a chair on the floor. Piper and Orndorff proceed to work over Hogan. Heat segment goes on for a few minutes. Orndorff goes for a Knee Drop but misses, allowing Hogan to make the hot tag to T. T quickly gets double-teamed and worked over. Smart wrestling here, as it allows Hogan to be the one who wins it for his team. T powers out of a Front Facelock and tags in Hogan.
Ondorff catches Hogan with a Back Suplex. Orton tries to get involved, but Snuka cuts him off. While Patterson is trying to get Snuka out of the ring, Orton goes to the top rope. He comes off trying to hit Hogan with his cast, but catches Orndorff instead. Snuka takes out Orton and Hogan gets the pin at 13:24.
Rating: **¾. Fun match, good cap to the show.
Hogan, T, Snuka, and Ali celebrate in the ring as the show ends.
Overall: A pretty good show. Nothing too spectacular, but that wasn’t the kind of wrestling the WWF was promoting at the time. Someone tuning into wrestling for the first time saw major mainstream celebrities, some good athletic action, and the over-the-top characters that the WWF specialized in at the time. The show was a big success commercially, inspiring Vince to make Wrestlemania a yearly event. And now it’s grown into the biggest spectacle in all of wrestling, a show that routinely does 1 million pay-per-view buys. And it all started right here.