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.
Date: April 2nd, 1989
Venue: Trump Plaza Convention Center
Location: Atlantic City, NJ
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.
Hercules vs. King Haku [w/ Bobby Heenan]
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
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. [***]
Ted DiBiase [w/ Virgil] vs. Brutus Beefcake
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
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
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.
WWF Tag Team Title: Demolition (c) vs. The Powers of Pain & Mr. Fuji
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
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
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. [***]
Piper’s Pit, w/ Brother Love & Morton Downey Jr.
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
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
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]
WWF Intercontinental Title: The Ultimate Warrior (c) vs. Rick Rude [w/ Bobby Heenan]
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
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
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]
WWF World Heavyweight Title: Randy Savage (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
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]
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.
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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