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Wrestlemania I Review(30 Days of Mania)

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2014 Update: This is now a part of “30 Days of Mania” – an open ended review series to chronicle every event, originally posted as part of the failed “27 Days of Mania” series. The review, including reference to 27 Days of Mania, will be left untouched.

I’m gonna start this thing off as I mean to go on, and do something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m going to attempt to review every Wrestlemania, from 1985 to 2011, hopefully before Wrestlemania XVII takes place. It’ll be tough, it’ll be fun, I might give up, I might not, but either way it’s gonna be a challenge, and I’m all for that.

I’ve not actually seen every Wrestlemania, which is an extra incentive, as a fan of over 15 years, to actually say when I’ve done this, that I’ve in fact seen every Wrestlemania. So without further ado, lets start…

Wrestlemania, featuring the stars of Rocky III

What better way to start than at the beginning? Where it all began…for the first time. As I sit down to watch the very first Wrestlemania, a sense of historical importance adds to my anticipation. Wrestlemania took place in(where else) Madison Square Garden, New York City on March 31st 1985, with 19,121 in attendance. Vince McMahon began the Wrestlemania franchise to be the World Wrestling Federation’s equivelant to the already successful Starrcade pay per view event, started by Jim Crockett Promotions back in ’83. At the time Wrestlemania was the largest closed circuit television broadcast in the United States, being viewed by over one million fans. It would go on to define what we now know as “sports entertainment” and is to this day the biggest event in professional wrestling, its legacy likely to live on as the most important event in the history of professional wrestling, period.

So on to the show itself and the show opens with a photo montage along with the Wrestlemania logo, some truly cheesy electric guitar playing in the background. You can guess which decade this took place in without even looking at the screen. The photos depict some of the matches and celebrities that will respectively take place and appear. Then we’re greeted with Gorilla Monsoon delcaring “the World Wrestling Federation presents the wrestling extravaganza of all time, Wrestlemania!” Never quite got the wording of that one. Howard Finkel(sporting a dashing combover) welcomes the live crowd and the singer of the National Anthem…Mean Gene Okerland! Oh dear. He actually gives the US Anthem a decent enough rendition, through frequent glances at the words on a card. That being said, some of the wrasslin’ fans at MSG seem to be having trouble remembering the words too.

Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon, the commentators for the night, hand us over to Lord Alfred Hayes! I love this guy. His way of speaking and regal British accent makes everything sound proper. “I know hand you over to my colleague Gene Okerland who conducted a pre-recorded interview with these two wrestlers.” So much about that sentence wouldn’t be allowed today, sadly. Mean Gene interviews the participants in the opening match, Tito Santana and The Executioner. Santana delivers a pretty standard 80’s face promo, nothing special, whilst The Executioner(the late Buddy Rose) manages to get through a standard heel promo, where he states he’s going for the leg and nothing else. Way to give away your tactics.

Tito Santana Vs. The Executioner

Here we have it, the first match in Wrestlemania history, Gene-o. As they start off the match, the iconic MSG hanging microphone hangs over their heads like a ladder match prize. Monsoon states that he’s very impressed by the Executioner though he’s never seen him wrestle. Crowd pops huge in the opening stages when Santana hits a headlock takedown, how awesome. The Executioner is wearing what looks like Fruit of the Looms, a sleeveless black top and a bright red mask…I wonder if “The Executioner” was meant to look like a complete pansy. Jesse Ventura likes “Irish Rips”.Unintentionally awesome spot: Executioner goes to sit on Santana’s leg whilst its on the bottom rope, Santana pushs him with his feet, sending him flipping over the top rope and landing seated in the timekeepers chair. Match ends soon after with a figure four leg lock from Santana at 04:50.

(*) – Not much of a match here to rate, a particularly unmemorable first match of Wrestlemania, but not bad by any means.

Hilariously ridiculous pre match promo from Special Delivery Jones and a great little 20 second offering from King Kong Bundy who hardly needed Jimmy Hart there with him.

King Kong Bundy w/ Jimmy Hart Vs. Special Delivery Jones

The crowd hates King Kong Bundy after he ends the match instantly with a bearhug, an Avalanche splash in the corner and a standing splash for the pin at 0:23.

(n/a) – Again, even less of a match to rate. An effective sqaush I guess. I’ve seen worse.

More backstage interviews with Matt Borne and Ricky Steamboat. Decent enough.

Matt Borne Vs. Ricky Steamboat

Interested in seeing this one. I love Steamboat and have always had an interest in the man behind the mask of Doink. First tie-up in Wrestlemania history, impressive. It starts off great with a lot of clean and fast paced action. The crowd chants “Boring” during a headlock and soon after Borne hits his head quite hard taking a simple side suplex. After some more back and forth action Steamboat hits a beautiful crossbody from the top rope for the pinfall at 04:37.

(**) – Once again, a very short match but there was a lot more content packed in, they made the most of their time. Everything was executed well and you can see here the potential Steamboat would go on to live up to.

Alfred Hayes talks about the next match, and he’s actually standing at what you could call gorilla position, the ring in view behind him. So as he talks about David Sammartino trying to emulate his father, Steamboat and Matt Borne are walking back from the ring, and Borne almost walks in front of him. “Lets hear, exactly what they had to say, with these, heated words.”

Interviews with Brutus Beefcake and David Sammartino with their respective managers for their upcoming match Johnny Valiant and the legendary Bruno Sammartino. David looks pumped in his GOLD’S vest. I think his promo was alright, was too busy admiring his…anyway. Johnny Valiant rants so hoarsely and quickly it’s hard to understand what he’s on about and Mean Gene tries to talk over him to no avail.

Brutus Beefcake w/ Johnny Valiant Vs. David Sammartino w/ Bruno Sammartino

Wow, the Samartinos actually got an entrance. First entrance in Wrestlemania history, folks. Ventura raves about how the nose, face and hair are the same between father and son. Bruno gets a big pop, a true legend. Back when the WWF was the WWWF, Bruno became the longest reigning WWWF champion, with two reigns spanning 11 years. He won the belt on May 17th 1963 against the original “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in(where else?) MSG. Monsoon and Ventura marvel at Beefcakes tights. “You know back when I was wrestling, I wouldn’t even know where to get tights!” Feels like this match might actually get some time and it’s textbook face versus heel stuff. David has Beefcake in a front facelock on the mat and Ventura remarks “the fans are definitely getting a good view of the Beefcake.” To which Monsoon laughs and replies “yes they are, haha! I -love- it.” Wow, that was gay. And announcers actually referencing suggestive positions that take place in wrestling matches? Some really nice wrestling going on here. Beefcake takes time whilst in a leglock to rearrange his arm wraps. I guess even in times of pain and suffering wrestlers still take the time to make sure they’re looking good. Nonetheless I’m enjoying the simple story of Beefcake bringing the power and brute strength, whilst Sammartino tries to get in with wrestling and holds. David starts to fight back and ends up on the outside. Johnny Valiant picks him up and slams him down on the concrete floor. Bruno grabs Valiant and throws him into the ring, following him in and unloading on him in the corner. The crowd is going mental as David and Beefcake join the fray and the Sammartinos fight them off. Beefcake and Valiant back off down the aisleway as the match is declared a double disqualifciation at 12:43.

(**) – Really enjoyable little match, solid work and a great moment at the end, Bruno looked sick throwing punches and raising hell. Crowd loved it, this is getting to feel more like Wrestlemania.

Monsoon and Ventura talk about the record breaking match between SD Jones and King Kong Bundy, claiming it was a 9 second match, classic wrestling exaggeration. It probably would’ve been 9 seconds if Bundy didn’t move so slowly. Monsoon hypes the “still to come, confrontation of all time!”

Greg “The Hammer” Valentine is interviewed backstage, with Jimmy Hart flaunting the Intercontinental Championship behind him. Great line by Greg: “They call me the Hammer because I nail ’em and hit ’em harder than anybody else!” This all just reeks of a bad porn film…too much? Another crazy black man promo from Junkyard Dog.

Greg Valentine(c) w/ Jimmy Hart Vs. Junkyard Dog – Intercontinental Championship

Junkyard Dog gets a full entrance with music this time. I’m half expecting fireworks and pyro for the main event. Crowd are loving him as he dances about in the ring with that ridiculous chain around his neck and THUMP on his white tights. Junkyard gets the early upper hand and hits the ram like headbutts on the Hammer. Valentine counters a wristlock with a stiff forearm. First stiff forearm in Wrestlemania history, boyos. He works over the leg of Junkyard and I notice along with THUMP he has JY DOG on his tights. I wonder if he had to pay by the letter. Monsoon says of Wrestlemania “this is a happening” for the third time so far. Valentine gets hit and does what I can only describe as a Flair Flop. He was also wearing a flambouyant style robe in his entrance and is being pushed by the announcers as “the true master of the figure four leglock”. Wassupwitdat? Junkyard is selling his leg now, Cena could learn a thing or two from this. Jimmy Hart jumps onto the apron and Junkyard grabs him. Valentine pushs them both, sending the Mouth of the South onto the concrete. Junkyard fires up on Valentine who counters with an eye rake and pins him using the ropes for leverage. Buuuut nooooo! Tito Santana comes out and kindly informs the referee of the pesky rule breaking. The ref restarts the match but Valentine and Jimmy Hart stay on the outside getting counted out. The crowd pops huge for the countout win and Valentine looks pissed, eventually heading back, pointing angrily. They announce again to the crowd that Junkyard Dog wins by countout at 07:05.

(**) – Decent enough. It didn’t get started enough for me, but it did its job for the crowd who ate it up.

Monsoon reiterates that the IC title doesn’t change hands on a countout and that Greg Valentine is still “the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship.” I feel bad. I’m picking him apart and he’s dead.

Oh God. Interview with The Iron Sheik, Freddie Blassie and Nikolai Volkoff. As Alfred Hayes put it “both these teams had quite an opinions, let us hear some more about those opinions they had to express.” I’m doing it again. HAHA oh my god, Sheik is amazing already. “You know Gene Mean, this is my best time of life, for sha-shituation!” Sheik pushs past Gene and starts shouting and is cut off by the Wrestlemania logo! That was fantastic. Textbook blue collar face promo from The U.S Express Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo with Captain Lou Albano doing most of the talking. Barry Windham, in polo shirt and jeans says he’s on the way to the ring right now.

Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik w/ “Classy” Freddie Blassie Vs. The U.S Express(c) w/ “Captain” Lou Albano – WWF Tag Team Championship

Crowd are absolutely hating Sheik and Volkoff, even Blassie. Volkoff gets on the MSG microphone to sing the Soviet National Anthem, uber heat here, great stuff. The ring is getting showered with garbage. Sheik takes the mic to proudly state “IRAN! NUMBER ONE! USA! HAH! *spits*” US Express are super over and what the fuck is that hanging from Lou Albano’s cheek? I still haven’t seen the tag belts anywhere. It’s just like 2011. Wow. This is the first time I’ve actually seen Sheik wrestle/take bumps. He was pretty alright. His Aladdin boots are absolutely ridiculous, though. Big USA chant. Hot tag about 5 minutes in and Windham hits a big bulldog on Nikolai, who takes it right on his face. The referee gets distracted and the Sheik hits Windham with a cane. Volkoff gets the 3 count at 06:55.

(**) – For heat alone I gave it an extra star but there wasn’t much to this match. Again quite short. I’ve got to remember that things were simpler back then but at the same time 60 minute broadways were the norm back then. Obviously this show is just about 2 hours long and Vince wanted to have as much going on as possible. The crowd were shocked by the win, making their disapproval known and we see the belts for the first time. First title change in Wrestlemania history, people.

Backstage Blassie claims that you all saw the 3 count and that’s all that matters. Mean Gene asked Blassie where his cane was and Blassie denied such a thing existing. Sheik starts talking, or shouting more like, and everyone starts shouting and not much is heard. Sheik’s face was literally pouring with sweat. After 5 minutes.

Next up is the $15,000 Body Slam Challenge laid down by Big John Studd, managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. The challenge was made to Andre The Giant who must retire if he loses. Big John Studd and the Brain cut a promo backstage with a WWF duffel bag full of cash.

Big John Studd w/ Bobby “The Brian” Heenan Vs. Andre The Giant – $15,000 Body Slam Challenge

Monsoon just called the duffel bag a “World Wrestling Federation Briefcase.” D’oh. Andre fends off John Studd at the beginning with some huge chops, forcing him to retreat to the outside. Closeup of Andre’s feet and the ring looks quite lumpy. Andre chokes John Studd in the corner and we get a screen in screen shot of the Brain on the outside, they must’ve thought that was cutting edge. Well,I guess it was back then. Huge “Slam! Slam!” chant, the crowd are into this one. In theory. It’s moving quite slow. After about 5 minutes of slugging around, Andre picks up John Studd and slams him down for the win at 05:53. Big pop as Andre takes the duffel bag and throws cash into the crowd, before the Brain grabs the bag and takes it running to the back.

(*) – Fun idea for a match, wasn’t that interesting. Nice moment more than a match.

Gene Okerland gets a quick word with Andre and they end up talking over each other like most of the interviews so far.

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the semi main event, “the first of our two Rock N’ Wrestling Connection matches”, eluding to the crossover in the 80s between wrestling and the music industry, the WWF doing a few shows with MTV etc. Moolah kisses Hayes on her way to the ring to manage Leilani Kai, to which he replies with good old British “good gracious!”

Interview with Cyndi Lauper, who’s managing the challenger for the Women’s Championship, Wendi Richter. Typical stuff, again from Leilani Kai and the Fabulous Moolah.

Leilani Kai(c) w/ The Fabulous Moolah Vs. Wendi Richter w/ Cyndi Lauper – WWF Women’s Championship

Man this is so 80s. They enter to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I’ve got to admit though, I can see how nearly 30 years ago this would seem cool, and the crossover of celebrity into wrestling that became a later staple(however good or bad) of Wrestlemania. Ventura mentions that Wrestlemania is the Woodstock of wrestling for about the fifth time. Monsoon is still saying “this is a happening.” I’ve lost count how many times he’s said that one. Weird seeing women actually wrestle as opposed to just rolling around. They’re both wearing what look like swimming one pieces. It’s very quickly gotten boring. Leilani hits a snapmare using Wendi Richters hair, I felt that one. Wendi with a huge slam off the shoulders similar to Wade Barrett’s Wasteland. I wasn’t expecting anything like that. She gets a 2 count. First nearfall in Wrestlemania history, dudes. Leilani counters getting splashed in the corner with a double knees, that was sick. She then hits a crossbody from the top and Wendi reverses it into a rollup for the pinfall victory at 06:12. Lauper goes after Moolah on the apron and Richter gets involved. Moolah gets in the ring and catches her leg on the rope, stacking it right onto her front. That was classic. Lauper and Richter celebrate. Lauper looks like a piece of shit. Her manager even gets in to hog some of the limelight.

(**) It started off well, tailed off a bit and ended pretty strong for a women’s match at the time. Crowd were really invested in it too.

They all celebrate backstage with Mean Gene. The women’s belt looks awful, I made better belts than that when I was 10.

The Fink announces that the main event is next. He brings out the special guest ring announcer Billy Martin. Liberace and the Rockettes come out to dance around as Jesse Ventura calls this, and I qoute “the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in association with the sport of professional wrestling.” Monsoon once again: “This is a happening folks!” The fans enjoy it but soon start chanting “Ali! Ali! Ali!” and out comes “The Greatest” himself, as the Special Guest Referee. This is pretty special, really. Pat Patterson is also in the ring talking to Ali, presumably as a second referee. The bagpipes fire up and out comes a big group of player and drummers, this was great. Out comes Piper with Paul Orndorff, a swagger in his step and a smirk on his face. Cowboy Bob Orton with cast as always accompanies them to the ring. “Real American” hits and the sea of people in MSG almost turn yellow as hundreds of yellow fingers wave around. The classic shot of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T heading to the ring from the locker room, with Jimmy Snuka close behind. The amount of star power in the ring right now is incredible. First main event in Wrestlemania history, brother.

“Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper w/ “Cowboy” Bob Orton Vs. Mr. T and Hulk Hogan w/ “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka – Special Guest Referee Muhammed Ali

Ali heads out of the ring and we’re told he’s the outside referee, fair enough. Liberace rings the bell, looking gayer than Billy and Chuck(you can’t libel the dead). Hulk and Piper start off in the ring, the atmosphere at fever pitch. Before they clash, Mr. T is jumping up and down in his corner calling for Hulk to tag in. The future star of TNA merely turned his head to Mr. T to consider tagging him in and the atmosphere increases, fans blaring horns. He tags in Clubber Lang and the famous faceoff with Piper unfolds. They go face to face and Piper slaps the taste out of Mr. T’s mouth. They exchange a few slaps and Piper breaks it up with a kick to the gut, taking Mr. T down with a waistlock takedown. Mr. T manages to get out of it and actually looks like he’s been training up. They tie-up and Mr. T picks up Piper in a firemans carry and slams him down in basically a Waste Land. All four men start brawling, and Ali comes in, heading for Piper. During the chaos Snuka gets on the top rope for no real reason and gets down again. Ali scuffles with Piper and grazes him with an awkward punch, that was weird, Ali just looked really sloppy. Shame. He then takes a swipe at Bob Orton who’s on the outside, a clip that’s been shown a lot. That at least, was effective. Hogan takes control of the match, beating down on Piper and Orndorff. Mr. T tags in and gives Piper a decent scoop slam and catches Orndorff running in with a sweet hip toss. The match quickly disintegrates again with Piper and Hogan brawling on the outside. Back into the ring Piper and Orndorff work over Hogan, while Mr. T keeps trying to run in and Patterson has to keep pushing him back, I wonder if that was legit. Mr. T makes the hot tag, but I think it was mistimed, it turns into a bit of mess as the heels now work over him over. Hogan gets back in without much buildup and Piper distracts Patterson. Bob Orton tries to get involved and receives a Superfly headbutt for his troubles. It breaks down yet again and Orndorff holds Hogan for Orton to hit from the top rope. Hogan moves and Orton ends up clubbing Mr Wonderful with his cast and Hogan gets the pinfall at 13:13.

(**1/2) – So my highest ‘rating’ is 2 and a half stars. Ok so my rating isn’t like usual ones but I think it’s fair. The match was a mess, technically. But the crowd were into it bigtime. I still think if it was worked a little better it could’ve gotten even bigger reactions, but for what it was, it was good. First ever main event in Wrestlemania history, motherfuckers.

They celebrate after the match and Piper storms off. Orndorff was still laid out in the ring and when they were announced as the winners he snapped up and as Monsoon and Ventura keep saying “he doesn’t know where he is!” Real American plays and the true celebration begins as Orndorff storms off. All the guests get in the ring along with Superfly and everyone shakes hands. Fair enough, this is still pretty cool, regardless of the actual wrestling quality of the match. Back then it was huge with those names. As they show the replay I now see that Piper was cut off by Mr. T in the finish, which I didn’t catch in the chaos at the time.

Hogan and Mr. T are interviewed backstage. Mr. T talks gibberish about being ready and World Wrestling and it being real tough. All I keep thinking about is Rocky 3. Superfly cuts a classic nonsensical promo and Hogan talks his usual stuff. Monsoon and Ventura at ringside say goodbye, Monsoon gets in a final “this has been a happening” and we see the fans leave the building. Then we actually get credits with still images from the broadcast.

So there it was, Wrestlemania I(as it’s now known as) came with the tagline The Greatest Wrestling Event Of All Time! While it definitely didn’t live up to that moniker(though at the time I’m sure many thought it had), it certainly will forever be one of the most important wrestling events of all time. It created a franchise that has become bigger than anything in the history of wrestling. It was a fun watch and I now feel like more of a proper wrestling fan having now seen it. Most of the card was full of short matches with a few memorable moments and overall I’d say as a wrestling fan it’s worth the watch.

Final Verdict: 7/10 – Normally I’d give it a 4 or 5 out of 10 but due to its historical importance I notched it up a couple, most of the wrestling was good, there just wasn’t enough matches that let them go very long.

Firsts of Wrestlemania I: First match, First entrance, First stiff forearm, First title change, First main event.

Final Thought: Who was the WWF Champion here? Was it Hogan? I guess the starpower of the main event was more important than the title, just seems odd it wouldn’t be even mentioned or seen.

Is that Hogan on the left or Jim Duggan? “Hooooooooo!”

Luke

  1. March 15, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    Wrestlemania II review coming soon, the days are ticking down…I need to get a move on

  2. March 15, 2011 at 8:10 PM

    Cool review, hope you do all of them.

  1. May 8, 2011 at 3:13 AM

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