Categories
PPV Reviews WrestleMania

WWF WrestleMania V Review (The Mega Powers Explode!)

IMG credit: WWE & TPWW

After an abomination of a show that was WrestleMania IV, we’re back once again with yet another installment of my retrospective WM series. This time, we will be looking at an event worth one year of build-up, the place where the Mega Powers explode – the fifth edition of WrestleMania! Elsewhere, The Rockers made their ‘Mania debut against the Twin Towers, Rick Rude defended the Intercontinental strap against the Ultimate Warrior, Strike Force battled the newly-arrived Brain Busters, and much more. And with the introduction out of the way, let’s head to the show.

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Date: April 2nd, 1989

Venue: Trump Plaza Convention Center

Location: Atlantic City, NJ

Attendance: 18.946

Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura.

WWF Women’s Champion Rockin’ Robin sings ‘America The Beautiful’ to open the show. Dang, they must’ve run out of famous singers to hire. She didn’t do very well, by the way.

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Hercules vs. King Haku [w/ Bobby Heenan]

IMG credit: WWE & Sportskeeda

Hercules is now a babyface after Bobby Heenan attempted to sell him to DiBiase as a personal slave. He got a nice shine at the start before Heenan’s interference allowed Haku to take over, giving us a short heat segment in this throwaway undercard opener. Haku catching Herc coming down with a Savate kick was a cool spot that I didn’t expect. Hercules eventually won this one at 6:54 with a bridging belly-to-back suplex. Just a simple, inoffensive match to kick off the PPV. Not too shabby. [**]

The Rockers vs. The Twin Towers

IMG credit: WWE

The former Midnight Rockers of the AWA faced the colossal duo of Twin Towers in this exciting tag team battle of power versus speed. The Rockers overwhelmed their much-larger opponents using innovative, fast-paced tandem offense. Bossman, Akeem, and Jannetty all looked great, but it was Shawn who stood out from the pack. He bumped all over the place like a pinball and took a helluva beating from the Towers, including a vicious lariat from Akeem that looked like it could’ve decapitated him! We got a badass finish, with Bossman catching the future HBK with a spinning powerbomb in mid-air, before an Akeem splash brought this one to an end at 8:04. [***]

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Ted DiBiase [w/ Virgil] vs. Brutus Beefcake

IMG credit: WWE

Beefcake’s WrestleMania stinker record continued with another abysmal matchup. DiBiase did his best to carry this with all his bumping and heel work, but it was hopeless when you’re in there with the legendarily bad Bruti. Beefcake would improve himself by the summer of ‘89, but I’m afraid he’s as awful as he’s ever been in this one. This got thrown out the window at 10:01 after Virgil intervened, and both men won’t stop fighting on the floor past the referee’s count. The finish was like a rotten cherry on an already messed-up cake. They did a post-match brawl afterward, but DiBiase retreated to fight another day. This was a chore to sit through. [*]

The Fabulous Rougeaus [w/ Jimmy Hart] vs. The Bushwhackers

IMG credit: WWE & WhatCulture

I refuse to believe the Sheepherders and the Bushwhackers are the same teams. That’s just impossible! You know the deal when you’re watching a Bushwhackers match that lasted more than five minutes. They went through their usual bullsh-t comedy routine, making their opponents look like fools as a result. The Rougeaus made the common heel error of celebrating too early, and they paid their price for it in the form of a Battering Ram and a double gutbuster at 5:10. Absolutely horrendous. I gave it a quarter star for The Rougeaus as they were actually TRYING something to make this watchable. [¼*]

Mr. Perfect vs. The Blue Blazer

IMG credit: WWE

Mr. Perfect and Owen Hart made their WrestleMania debuts in this underrated, action-packed sprint from the Trump Plaza. They both went all out here, dazzling the crowd with a string of high-impact maneuvers that were rarely seen within the Fed at the time. The fact they managed to pack this much into 5 mins is certainly impressive! After getting a nearfall off a crucifix and arguing with the ref about it, Blazer got nailed from behind for his trouble before a PerfectPlex put things to an end at 5:38. A fun sprint from a horrible ‘Mania. [**¾]

American hip hop group Run-DMC performed a WRESTLEMANIA RAP. Moving on.

IMG credit: WWE
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WWF Tag Team Title: Demolition (c) vs. The Powers of Pain & Mr. Fuji

IMG credit: WWE

This showed slight potential in the first few minutes with some solid clobberin’ from all four hosses. Mr. Fuji became the deciding factor of the bout when his distraction allowed the POP to gain the advantage on the Demos. They worked over Ax in a decent segment until a Smash hot tag finally brought some life to this insufferable New Jersey crowd. The finish, which saw Mr. Fuji misfiring the salt and taking the loss for his team via a Demolition Decapitation at 8:55, actually received a nice pop from the crowd, much to my surprise. Far from good, but watchable enough overall. [*½]

Dino Bravo [w/ Frenchy Martin] vs. Ronnie Garvin

IMG credit: WWE & WhatCulture

What’s worse than a regular squash on a PPV? A squash by the absolute WORST. Yes, you read that right. This was done simply to reestablish Bravo as one of the top WWF midcard heels, but no one could have cared less. Ronnie Garvin is making his singles PPV debut here in the WWF, and he couldn’t have been any more unlucky being fed to the Canadian strongman. Bravo put a stop to Garvin’s comeback with his side suplex, and that’s all she wrote at 3:58. Another thing to note is that Jimmy Snuka made a cameo appearance before the bout, and he got no reaction from this deader-than-dead crowd. [½*]

The Brain Busters [w/ Bobby Heenan] vs. Strike Force

IMG credit: WWE

Strike Force made their return after Martel’s injury put a stop in the team’s tracks for almost a full year. They gained the early upper hand on the former Horsemen as Jesse questioned how well Tito and Martel can work together after not teaming up for so long. Martel became visually pissed after he was on the receiving end of an accidental flying burrito by Tito, and soon his frustration came clean when he refused to accept Tito’s tag and left him all alone against the Busters. Tito tried his luck, but it was no use, as he fell victim to a Spike Piledriver at 9:17, marking the end of the duo known as Strike Force. I was expecting a 10+ mins barnburner between two of the best tag teams North American wrestling has to offer at the time, but what I got was a classic heel isolation segment before a tremendously well-executed angle kicked in. [***]

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Piper’s Pit, w/ Brother Love & Morton Downey Jr.

IMG credit: WWE

Holy cow, this show just won’t end, will it? I love Hot Rod, but this segment wasn’t needed whatsoever. Piper barely got any pop from the crowd during his entrance. He insulted Brother Love and sexually harassed him before taking off his pants – ahem, I mean kilt – and sending him running in horror. Roddy then cut a promo on Morton Downey, as I struggled to make any sense of, well, whatever this was. And FINALLY, we ended this stupid segment with Piper blasting Downey Jr. with a fire extinguisher. Hooray… except we still got about an hour and a half left on this never-ending show.

Andre The Giant [w/ Bobby Heenan] vs. Jake Roberts

IMG credit: WWE

Big John Studd is your special guest referee here, and he looked like a man hanging onto his last legs. He did nothing of value until the last few minutes of the contest. Andre was done by this point – I mean, the man can barely wrestle a proper match, let alone take a bump. Jake put in a decent effort, but there’s only so much you can do here. Andre choked and held Roberts for what felt like an eternity before Ted DiBiase made a run-in to steal Damien, causing Roberts to chase him to the back. Meanwhile, Andre attacked Studd, earning him a disqualification at 9:39. We finally ended this mess with Roberts returning to the ring and scaring the Giant away with his pet snake. Giving Andre ophidiophobia in this feud wasn’t ideal, but it at least provided some amusement to this feud. [DUD]

The Hart Foundation [w/ Jimmy Hart] vs. Rhythm & Blues

IMG credit: WWE & 411Mania

The Harts opened this with a fun opening shine that Valentine and Honky did a solid job bumping and feeding for. Valentine stopped the shine by evading Bret’s patent elbow drop, and they worked a short but worthwhile FIP segment into this time filler bout. Neidhart came in with a hot tag and actually woke up the crowd a bit with the fire he showed. Things slowly broke down, but as Jimmy Hart distracted the ref so his team could use the megaphone, Neidhart intervened, giving Bret said object instead. Hart then used it to knock Honky out for the win at 7:40, foiling the heels’ plan to a shockingly good pop from the audience. A perfectly acceptable tag match placed in a dead slot of a dead PPV. [**½]

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WWF Intercontinental Title: The Ultimate Warrior (c) vs. Rick Rude [w/ Bobby Heenan]

IMG credit: WWE & Sportskeeda

Rick Rude carried the Ultimate Warrior to his first-ever good match. Rude tried to blindside Warrior at the bell, only to end up kneeing the belt instead in a funny spot. Warrior still looked awkward and clumsy in his movement, although that was redeemed by Rude’s humorously over-the-top bumping. Rude bumped huge for Warrior to make him look like a million bucks! Warrior’s two bearhugs might’ve been overblown, but Rude being unable to do the hip swivel as a result of that was a nice little payoff from it. Heenan eventually got involved, tripping Warrior and holding his feet down so Rude could pin him for the three at 9:42. The finish was clever, though the execution was far from it, as Warrior clearly had both his feet under the ropes. It put over how much Warrior was screwed here, at least if you wanna look at it the other way. [***]

Bad News Brown vs. Jim Duggan

IMG credit: WWE

Brown jump-started the bout by attacking Duggan right at the bell, only for Hacksaw to withstand it and send him bailing. Brown picking Duggan’s head as a body part to target was an interesting move. They brawled outside and we got a 2×4 v. steel chair showdown in the ring. They both went for the shot at the same time, and the ref called it a double DQ at 3:49. Another utterly pointless filler, but hey, at least it was short. [¼*]

Bobby Heenan [w/ The Brooklyn Brawler] vs. The Red Rooster

IMG credit: WWE

More filler to fill time between the IC Title match and the World Title main event. Heenan came out with an injury to sell the post-match assault from the Warrior earlier, which was reported to be legit. Anyway, the less said about this, the better. Taylor ducked a blind charge from Heenan and then pinned him in a mere 0:31 for a quick win. [N/R]

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WWF World Heavyweight Title: Randy Savage (c) vs. Hulk Hogan

IMG credit: WWE

This has tons of backstories behind it, arguably dating back to late 1987 when the Mega Powers initially united. Miss Elizabeth was in a neutral corner, and Jesse Ventura hilariously accused her of being a gold digger as she walked down the aisle. I consider this one of my top Hulk Hogan bouts ever, but truth be told, his opponent was actually the one who did most of the heavy lifting. Savage turned in an amazing heel performance, cheating like a maniac and riling up the crowd with his shady antics. Macho using Liz as a human shield was a genius heel move that you can’t help but smile at. Hogan received colors after getting kicked square in the forehead, and Savage was just a crazed man targeting that cut. Elizabeth finally got ejected from ringside after her troublesome appearance nearly caused a brawl that could’ve halted the whole match. Savage continued his onslaught by jamming away at Hogan’s throat in a brutal fashion. He went up top and landed the Macho elbow, but Hogan immediately hulked up, landed the boot, and dropped the big leg for the win at 17:54.

I’m of the opinion that Savage should’ve gone over and held the belt until SummerSlam, but it’d be counterproductive in this era to see a heel standing tall or having a non-finish of any kind to end a show, so I get why they’d go with their decision. Regardless, this is a very underrated WrestleMania main event, easily the best of its kind up to this point, and one that should garner more praise among fans. This was a marquee bout between two of the biggest stars in wrestling, with spectacular build-up and off-the-chart heat. [***¾]

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Overall

Much like its predecessor the year before, WrestleMania V was a way-too-long-of-a-show that simply never ceased to end. While there are some gems on this card – and that main event absolutely belongs in the conversation of most iconic ‘Mania main events of all time – the show just felt wayyyy too darn long overall, making it a mission impossible to sit through the whole thing in one round. Furthermore, this rotten Atlantic City crowd didn‘t give a crap about 80% of the show, giving off a tepid atmosphere that is more than enough to kill an entire PPV event by itself.

Score: 4/10

Rating: 4 out of 10.

That’ll be all for today, people. Thank you so much as usual for checking in. And make sure to be alert for my next review, where we will take a look at the first time WrestleMania INVADED Canada! Stay tuned!

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Categories
PPV Reviews WrestleMania

WWF WrestleMania IV Review (A Macho Crowning)

IMG credit: WWE & Sportskeeda

Welcome to another look-back at WrestleMania, good people of SmarKVille! On the last edition of our series, we were treated to arguably the most popular wrestling event in history. While what I’m about to review won’t exactly be “good” (or if any watchable, at all), it’s a pretty historic show in itself, featuring the first and only one-night tournament for the WWF Title, and an amazing championship win by the Macho Man. With the intro out of the way, let’s carefully head towards the show…

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Date: March 27th, 1988

Venue: Trump Plaza Convention Center

Location: Atlantic City, NJ

Attendance: 19.199

Your hosts for the night are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura, with Bob Uecker joining them exclusively for the opener.

“Mean” Gene Okerlund introduced us to the show, then treated us to a live performance of ‘America The Beautiful’, courtesy of Gladys Knight. She did great.

And since I’m a super kind human-being, here’s the bracket for you people below:

IMG credit: Sportskeeda & WWF
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20-Man Battle Royal

IMG credit: WWE & WhatCulture

Here are the participants: Bad News Brown, King Harley Race, The Junkyard Dog, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, George Steele, Ken Patera, Jacques Rougeau, Raymond Rougeau, Paul Roma, Jim Powers, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov, Hillbilly Jim, Ron Bass, Danny Davis, Sika & Sam Houston.

You can expect a bunch of Battle Royal tropes and spots here in this give-everyone-a-payday opener. The crowd was into the action at least, which made it slightly worthwhile. At last, we were left with Bret Hart, Bad News Brown, and Junkyard Dog. Bret and BNB decided to team up, which is a nice callback to their time together in Stampede. They eliminated Dog, but Bret stupidly celebrated first, thinking he’d be splitting up the prize with Brown. Brown obviously blasted him with the Ghetto kick, then threw him out for the victory at 9:47. Bret then destroyed Brown’s trophy afterward for betraying him, marking one of his first breakout moments in a singles rank. An average Battle Royal, but far from bad. [**]

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FIRST ROUND: Ted DiBiase [w/ Andre The Giant & Virgil] vs. Jim Duggan

IMG credit: WWE

Although this was meant to be nothing more than a throwaway tournament opener, it was somewhat entertaining enough to not waste your time. DiBiase was in full bumping mode here, and Duggan seemed extra motivated than usual getting to work with his old Mid-South nemesis. He even pulled out a sunset flip at one point! This came to an end when Andre tripped Duggan from ringside, allowing DiBiase to knee him from behind before following with a fist drop to advance at 5:02. [**]

FIRST ROUND: Don Muraco [w/ Superstar Billy Graham] vs. Dino Bravo [w/ Frenchy Martin]

IMG credit: WWE & bastionblogger

Muraco looked absolutely ridiculous getting accompanied to the ring by Billy Graham and wearing his grandpa T-shirt. He was an embarrassing shell of his former self by this stage, botching simple moves in the first minute of the bout in hilarious fashion. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Bravo actually looked better than him here. Bravo tried to take advantage after a ref bump, but he was disqualified at 4:54 due to pulling the referee into the collision. What a stupid finish. And there’s even more of this to come! [*]

FIRST ROUND: Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine [w/ Jimmy Hart]

IMG credit: WWE & WhatCulture

Steamboat’s last hurrah in his first WWF run saw him battling Valentine in a technical-hard-hitting, Mid-Atlantic-style contest. Valentine held serve for most of this, with Ricky doing a masterful selling for his attacks as expected. Seeing these two traded chops on each other urged me to check out some of their other matches. Valentine taking his trademark bumps for Steamboat’s chops might be cartoonish, but I’d be lying to say I wasn’t entertained by it. Valentine got the win by rolling through Steamboat’s crossbody into a pin full of tights at 9:10, but this was a good sendoff for the Dragon all the same. [***¼]

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FIRST ROUND: Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. Butch Reed [w/ Slick]

IMG credit: WWE & Tape Machines Are Rolling

Savage plugged Reed right into his babyface formula, except that said formula was still a work in progress. Reed was on offense for 80% of this, and though I’m usually a fan of his, I thought he was too dull here working on top. Butch went up top, but he took too long eyeing Elizabeth, allowing Savage to slam him off and drop the Macho Elbow for the pin at 4:08. Not one of Randy Savage’s finest performances, that’s for sure. [*]

FIRST ROUND: Bam Bam Bigelow [w/ Oliver Humperdink] vs. One Man Gang [w/ Slick]

IMG credit: WWE

Bam Bam Bigelow feels like the WWF late ‘80s incarnation of Keith Lee. He was given a rub on TV right after his debut, received a star-making moment in his first PPV appearance, then became an afterthought and was released shortly thereafter. He and Gang were putting on a serviceable bout until the putrid non-finish grinded everything down to a halt. Bigelow fell to the floor after Slick pulled down the ropes, and the referee instantly declared it a double count-out at 2:59, even though Bigelow was on the floor for not even 5 seconds. Another dumb finish tonight. [½*]

FIRST ROUND: Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude [w/ Bobby Heenan]

IMG credit: WWE

They opened this last first-round tournament matchup with some solid exchanges that saw Rude bumping and feeding Roberts’ stuff in an entertainingly theatrical fashion. I admit they had me doubting myself a little bit whether this will age better or not. Unfortunately, this turned into a long, never-ending affair filled with tedious Rick Rude chinlocks. Roberts made one of the most boring comebacks I can remember before the 15:00 time limit draw came to a close. The one redeeming value I got from this is how humorously-looking Rude’s tights were. It gave me a pretty good chuckle! [*½]

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The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules

IMG credit: WWE

I’m no Hercules hater, but he’s not going to carry a green as grass Warrior to anything remarkable. Warrior still hasn’t quite got his act down yet, so the crowd didn’t provide that much of a reaction for him. Herc tried to submit Warrior with the full nelson, but the latter kicked the turnbuckle to pin both men down before lifting his shoulder up at the last second at 4:38 for a fluke win. Was there any reason why Warrior shouldn’t completely squash Herc here? This was about what you’d expect from these two. [½*]

QUARTER-FINAL: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant [w/ Ted DiBiase & Virgil]

IMG credit: WWE

This was never going to be on the level of their other highly-acclaimed encounters, but it never tried to be. Andre is getting really immobile at this period, but he has always been a smart worker who can get the best out of his limitations. It wasn’t much different here. They kept this short and basic to accommodate him, and the crowd was hot all throughout. I hated the double DQ finish, as Hogan was literally the first one to fire the chair shot at 5:22, and Andre only did it after. Yet another idiotic ending in a bunch of them tonight. Hogan cleaned house post-match so he could do his obligatory poses to the fans. I’ve seen worse. [*¾]

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QUARTER-FINAL: Ted DiBiase vs. Don Muraco [w/ Superstar Billy Graham]

IMG credit: WWE & Classic Wrestling Review

DiBiase now had to come out alone due to the ending of his first-round against Duggan. Muraco put on a better showing than his previous match with Bravo, with him being more comfortable on offense than earlier. This was largely carried by DiBiase’s selling, bumping, and heel work. He caught an oncoming Muraco with a stun gun to pick up the win in 5:34. A solid enough quarter-final round bout. [**]

QUARTER-FINAL: Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. Greg Valentine [w/ Jimmy Hart]

IMG credit: WWE & TheSportster

Valentine’s methodically vicious attacks mixed well with Savage’s sublime selling. The layout of this worked due to the above statement, even if it was questionable to barely give Savage any offense on his biggest night ever. Valentine cut off Savage’s axe handle only to take a ‘Timber!’ bump in a cute spot. He then tried a Figure-Four on Savage, only for Macho to counter it into a cradle to score the win at 6:06. I feel this would have benefited much more had it been given at least 5 more mins to strengthen its final stretch. [**½]

WWF Intercontinental Title: The Honky Tonk Man (c) [w/ Jimmy Hart & Peggy Sue] vs. Brutus Beefcake

IMG credit: WWE

Yeah, no. Not even Honky Tonk Man’s tremendous heat-drawing ability could save this garbage. Beefcake looked like he was more concerned about cutting Jimmy Hart’s hair than winning a championship. They did a couple of lame comedy spots to hide the wrestling limitations of both men, and it downright stunk. Beefcake won by DQ at 6:30 after Jimmy knocked down the referee, which was another dreadful finish in a string of them tonight. He then celebrated in the ring like a total doofus. A complete and utter disaster in the worst way possible. [DUD]

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The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware vs. Bobby Heenan & The Islanders

IMG credit: WWE

This was a breath of fresh air compared to all the other matches on this show. Bobby Heenan arrived in a dog training suit to protect himself from Matilda, but he ran away from her anyway when the Bulldogs made their entrance. God bless the Brain. This was an enjoyable six-man tag that saw the Bulldogs and Koko showing off their zealous movesets whilst the heels, Heenan in particular, bumped their asses off in an almost over-the-top manner. Heenan eventually got the pin for his team at 7:30 after the Islanders barged in and sky lift slammed him onto Koko. He didn’t get to celebrate, though, as Matilda instantly chased him to the entryway while he ran away in horror. [**½]

SEMI-FINAL: Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. One Man Gang [w/ Slick]

IMG credit: WWE & NotRobVanDam (Dailymotion)

This is Savage’s third match into the show, so the Gang Man logically decimated him since he received a bye earlier. The story was okay, but we’ve seen it played out twice beforehand, so there’s no reason to get excited about it. Slick handed a cane to Gang after the referee was busy with Liz, but OMG failed to hit Savage with it in time as Macho kept avoiding the shot. The referee turned back to see this and awarded the win to Randy at 4:12 via disqualification. Savage finally advanced to the final after three exhausting rounds, and I’m ready to be done with the show at this point. [¾*]

WWF World Tag Team Title: Strike Force (c) vs. Demolition [w/ Mr. Fuji]

IMG credit: WWE & TheSportster

The birth of Demolition’s record-breaking tag title reign came in the form of a decent tag team contest. Tito and Martel are the faster, more experienced team, so they used that bit of advantage in their favor, overwhelming the Demos from the get-go with quick movements and classic tag IQ. Smash cut off said shine by catching Tito in a bearhug and dropped him onto an Ax clothesline, which was a neat transitional spot. Strike Force looked like they got this in the bag when Martel locked Smash in a Boston crab, but Mr. Fuji interfered, opening the door for Ax to hit Martel in the back with a cane shot at 8:02 for the win. I could see myself liking this more had the crowd been hotter. [**¾]

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WWF World Heavyweight Title, Tournament FINAL: Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. Ted DiBiase [w/ Andre The Giant]

IMG credit: WWE

The crowd started a “Hogan” chant right away after Andre tripped Savage, essentially telling us this will focus more on the outside drama rather than the in-ring action. Savage and DiBiase had some technically smooth exchanges in there, but it was aimless and lacked any real substance to stand out. After a few minutes into the bout, Savage instructed Liz to go to the back and bring Hulk Hogan out to even the numbers. Hogan soon arrived to huge cheers from the crowd, making me feel a little bad for Savage as he had his moment in the sun ruined by one man’s presence. As the referee was dealing with Andre, Hogan walked up behind DiBiase and blasted him with a chair. This gave Savage the opportunity to go up and drop the elbow for the victory and the belt at 9:20. The final shot of Savage lifting up Elizabeth as she held up the belt will forever be etched in my mind as one of pro wrestling’s most beautiful images. This was a solid, albeit highly disappointing, WrestleMania main event. [***]

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Overall

Clocking in at an absurd 3.5 hours and featuring a preposterous number of thirteen matches, this WrestleMania is an impossible slog to sit through. The whole show collapsed under its own weight as a result of this, causing it to drag on and on without ever feeling like its gonna end. And don’t even get me started on the number of non-finishes throughout the event! Randy Savage’s crowning was an unquestionably amazing moment for the ages, but it required an exhausting journey to get there. This is the worst WrestleMania ever in my book.

Score: 3/10

Rating: 3 out of 10.

That will be it for this edition of WrestleMania review, thank you very much for reading! Stay tuned for the next installment of the series, where I will be reliving a highly memorable ‘Mania, featuring the culmination of a year-long storyline between the Hulkster and the Macho Man – the implosion of the Mega Powers!

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Categories
PPV Reviews WrestleMania

WWF WrestleMania III Review (Bigger! Better! Badder!)

IMG credit: WWE

Welcome back once again, everyone, to another WrestleMania review! With two ‘Manias in the book already, let’s now take a look at what is regarded to be one of the best wrestling show of the ’80s. This show will feature a marquee Intercontinental Title bout between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper’s “Retirement” match, a six-man tag involving an evil referee, and many more! In the main event, we will see a legendary showdown between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. Let’s head to the show!

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Date: March 29th, 1987

Venue: Pontiac Silverdome

Location: Pontiac, MI

Attendance: 93.173 (disputed)

Your main hosts for the show are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, with several guest celebrities joining in on occasions.

Just like last year, Vince McMahon opened the show by welcoming us all to WRESTLEMANIA!! He then introduced the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin to sing ‘America The Beautiful’ for our opening performance.

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The Can-Am Connection vs. Bob Orton & The Magnificent Muraco [w/ Mr. Fuji]

IMG credit: WWE & Culture Crossfire

This was essentially a showcase for the exciting Can-Am, but Orton and Muraco sure brought their working boots with them. They bumped and stooged for the newly-formed team in entertaining fashion while making sure to cut them off like a classic heel unit. After a Martel hot tag was made, things quickly broke down, giving us a heel miscommunication that allowed Martel to hit a crossbody at 5:37 for his team’s victory. Considering how over they were here, one wonder how far The Can-Am Connection could go had Tom Zenk not stupidly backed out first. [**¾]

Hercules [w/ Bobby Heenan] vs. Billy Jack Haynes

IMG credit: WWE

It’s the Battle of the Full Nelson! This was a standard power affair, built around simple but effective psychology. Both men did a sound job fighting over and setting up their version of the full nelson, targeting the back of their opponents and teasing the crowd a bit before finally locking the move in. Billy Jack came out on top in the final exchange, but they both spilled to the floor shortly after. This led to Haynes locking in the hold on Hercules on the floor, giving us a lame double count-out at 7:54. Afterward, BJH stupidly chased Heenan to the ring, causing him to get jumped by Hercules, who busted him up with some chain shots. Needless to say, this was a much better match than what I was anticipating. [**½]

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Midget Mixed Tag: King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook & Little Tokyo vs. Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid & Little Beaver

IMG credit: WWE & Wrestling News World

So, King Kong Bundy went from main eventing last year’s show to… this? Alright then. We got a couple of silly midget “comedy” spots before Bundy tagged in and finally destroyed Little Beaver to end this tomfoolery at 3:25. A complete waste of time, even if I enjoyed seeing Bundy killing one of the midgets. [DUD]

Loser Must Bow: King Harley Race [w/ Bobby Heenan & The Fabulous Moolah] vs. Junkyard Dog

IMG credit: WWE

The stipulation is simple: the loser of the match must bow to the winner. Race bumped like a madman for Dog here, including two 360s over the top rope (in and out of the ring) and a dangerously-looking missed apron headbutt that no doubt played a part in his body’s destruction years later. Bobby Heenan ended up distracting JYD, and that allowed Harley to hit a belly-to-belly suplex to score the win at 4:22. JYD rightfully bowed as per the match’s stip, but he picked up the throne afterward and unfairly smashed it into Race. What a sore loser that guy was! This was enjoyable enough thanks to Race’s god-like bumping ability. [*¾]

The Dream Team [w/ Johnny Valiant & Dino Bravo] vs. The Rougeau Brothers

IMG credit: WWE & Classic Wrestling Review

The Rougeaus gained some shine to begin until a missed springboard crossbody from Jacques allowed the heels to take over. Bobby Heenan actually sneaked into the commentary booth here, and he automatically became the highlight of this by bragging about his clients’ success earlier in the night. Just as the Rougeau Brothers seemed like they had won this, Dino Bravo weaseled his way into the bout and nailed Raymond behind the ref’s back to give his team the win at 4:03. After the match, the heels walked away and left Beefcake all alone in the ring. Nothing much to this one, but the post-match will come to play later. [*½]

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Hair v. Hair: Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis [w/ Jimmy Hart]

IMG credit: WWE

This might not be Piper’s “retirement” match, but it’s his last one as a full-timer, and the crowd was stoked to see him win nonetheless. Adonis is such an underrated bumping machine. He bumped around like a ragdoll for Piper and fed all his shine like crazy! Piper was no slouch here either, throwing wild punches and selling the possibility of him losing in the most believable way possible. Adrian put the Goodnight Irene on Piper, but he released the hold early, thinking he’d already won. This set up a run-in from Brutus Beefcake, who revived Piper, allowing the Hot Rod to put Adonis away with a sleeper at 6:54 for the happy ending. An entertainingly heated brawl for the hero to go out. The Beefcake face turn was also brilliantly done if you’ve been following the TV leading up to this (if not, the previous match could still shed some light on you). [***½]

The British Bulldogs & Tito Santana vs. The Hart Foundation & Danny Davis [w/ Jimmy Hart]

IMG credit: WWE

Dynamite Kid’s unfortunate injury put him as the face-in-peril of the match. He was worked over by the Harts, who used tag team wrestling 101 to isolate him. Danny Davis finally tagged in, and he soaked in all the boos like a true dickhead, only to then hit Kid with one wussy stomp before tagging out. This eventually blew up in his face when he tagged in again, as the Harts unknowingly slingshotted him onto Kid’s knees! Tito soon got the hot tag, and he was a literal house of fire! Davey Boy got his rightful revenge for his team by murdering Danny with the mother of all Tombstone. All kinds of pandemonium broke loose in the final minutes, and Davis clocked Smith with Jimmy’s megaphone at 8:52 to pick up the win for his team. An underrated WrestleMania gem that never gets enough love from the fandom. [***¼]

Butch Reed [w/ Slick] vs. Koko B. Ware

IMG credit: WWE

Well, you know a filler was needed for a show this huge. Koko is one guy I’ve come to later appreciate after watching some of his work in (and outside) the company, and Reed has always been a rock-solid powerhouse all throughout his career. They did well with what they were given here. The finish saw Reed rolling over Koko’s crossbody into a pin with a handful of tights at 3:39. He didn’t get any celebration, though, as Tito Santana came out and floored him and Slick, much to the crowd’s appreciation. Just a cooldown bout to set up the audience for what’s next. [*]

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WWF Intercontinental Title: Randy Savage (c) [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. Ricky Steamboat [w/ George Steele]

IMG credit: WWE

This still aged well like a fine wine. They worked at a lightning-quick pace here, popping the crowd with a series of spectacular false finishes and fast-paced sequences. Savage was an awesome prick through and through, going after the Dragon’s previously injured larynx like the true Macho Man he is. I particularly loved the spot where he dumped Steamer after the latter skinned the cat back in. Steamboat, in return, was fantastic in his selling and comeback, garnering immense sympathy and showing magnificent fire in his attacks, be it chops, arm-drags, dropkicks, you name it. It all came down to the ring bell in the end, but just when Savage was about to use it, George Steele pushed him off the top rope, allowing Steamboat to reverse a slam into a small package at 14:35 for the win and the title. I don’t mind the finish, as it made perfect sense according to the storyline, and really, seeing the Dragon with that belt justified everything. My rating on this has changed throughout the years between ***** and ****¾, but it will certainly be a certified MOTYC anytime I visit 1987. [****¾]

Jake Roberts [w/ Alice Cooper] vs. The Honky Tonk Man [w/ Jimmy Hart]

IMG credit: WWE

Jake kicked Honky’s ass immediately, which was a logical start given the build-up. After a bit of brawling, this turned into an ordinary TV affair. The Honk Man worked over Jake with his Memphis tricks. Jake made a comeback near the end, but Jimmy Hart’s distraction opened the door for Honky to schoolboy Jake with his feet on the rope at 7:04. Afterward, Alice Cooper arrived, and with the help of Roberts, scared the living sh-t out of Jimmy Hart with Damien until Honky finally ran back and pulled his manager out. This was perfectly acceptable wrestling, with a fun post-match segment. [**]

“Mean” Gene Okerlund came out and announced the record-breaking attendance record of 93.173 for the show, which is still a mystery to this very day.

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The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff [w/ Slick] vs. The Killer Bees

IMG credit: WWE

It doesn’t get any more filler than this. The Russians did their usual national anthem schtick, but this time Jim Duggan stormed into the ring and rushed them out. Wow, the land of the free, huh? There wasn’t much to speak of here in the ring. The Bees got their shine on the Sheik (including a SWEET Brunzell dropkick!) before the heels predictably took over. Duggan kept walking around ringside, and while Sheik had Brunzell in the Camel Clutch, he started chasing Volkoff into the ring, then hit Sheik with a 2X4 at 5:44 to give the Russians the win by DQ. I’m honestly surprised the Killer Bees didn’t assault Duggan after that idiocrasy. You could skip straight to the main event without this and everything would stay the same. [*¾]

WWF World Heavyweight Title: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre The Giant [w/ Bobby Heenan]

IMG credit: WWE

I lost count of how many times I’ve watched this. The massive staredown at the start is still enough to give me goosebumps. Hogan failed to slam Andre early on, and that ultimately became the bout’s main story. Can the Hulkster slam the Giant? Andre smartly went to work on Hogan’s back off that, and Hogan sold all of it like a champ (no pun intended). They optimized everything to maximum efficiency, milking every single spot available to prevent Andre from running out of gas. Everyone talked about the famous slam heard ’round the world, but the moment where Hogan was able to knock Andre off his feet for the first time via a clothesline is equally breathtaking. Hogan finally slammed the Giant to a gargantuan reaction, then dropped the big leg on him at 12:01 for an epoch-making victory. It’ll be hard to judge this without acknowledging the gigantic atmosphere, the terrific build-up, and the monumental financial success. This is arguably wrestling’s most popular match ever, and that will never change. This might only get a *** judging by silly pro-wrestling stars, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it deserves a 100. [***]

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Overall

This is, without a doubt, the best WrestleMania up to this point. Yes, the match quality wasn’t there all the way. Yes, it might’ve gone a bit too long overall. However, there’s no denying the fantastic production value, the brilliant commentary by Gorilla & Jess, and the epic atmosphere of the Pontiac Silverdome itself. Hogan/Andre, Savage/Steamboat, Piper/Adonis, there are LOADS of stuff to check out from this show! Simply put, a show that every wrestling fan must go out of their way to see at least once due to its enormous historical significance.

Score: 8/10

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Welp, looks like this is it for today’s review. Thank you for reading! And, be sure to check out my next journey through the history of WrestleMania, where I’ll be looking at the only tournament-themed ‘Mania in existence. It’s the night of the Macho Man’s crowning!

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