The inaugural WrestleMania didn’t exactly set the world on fire in terms of match quality, so let’s see how II will fare. We are broadcasting from three different arenas here, with entirely different crowds in each of them. Roddy Piper and Mr. T will headline the Nassau Coliseum with a boxing match, while the Bulldogs and Dream Team will tussle it out for the tag straps in the closer of Rosemont Horizon. And in the main event of the evening, Hulk Hogan will defend his World Title in a Steel Cage bout against King Kong Bundy inside the LA Sports Arena. I will try separating the show into different sections to make it easier for me (and you) when dissecting the event. Without further ado, let’s get into the review…
Date: April 7th, 1986
Venue: Nassau Coliseum
Location: Uniondale, NY
Your hosts for the first venue are Vince McMahon and Susan St. James.
Vince McMahon welcomed all of us to WRESTLEMANIA! He presented his color co-host for the night, Susan St. James, before introducing the great Ray Charles to do the honor of singing ‘America The Beautiful’. With that out of the way, let’s head to the matches!
Paul Orndroff vs. The Magnificent Muraco [w/ Mr. Fuji]
Orndorff gained an early shine to start, and he showed he can work face just as well as he does heel. He stayed on Muraco’s arm with some solid, snug control before The Magnificent cut him off. They began throwing hands shortly after, resulting in both men brawling on the floor for a lame double count-out at 4:10. The crowd even chanted “bullshit!” at the finish! This was just getting started when it ended. [*¾]
WWF Intercontinental Title: Randy Savage (c) [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. George Steele
Only a few wrestlers have managed to make simple stalling entertaining, Randy Savage is definitely one of them. He ran away from Steele in the sleaziest way possible, and his constant dirty tactics kept things engaging. George was a shell of his former self by this period, so he resorted to his usual late ‘80s shticks, which consisted of him biting his opponent, getting horny for Elizabeth, and ripping off the turnbuckle pads. After Steele shockingly kicked out of the Macho Elbow Drop, Savage quickly used the help of the rope to pin the Animal down at 5:10. This was a fun Macho carryjob where he proved he can carry any inferior worker to an acceptable bout. [**¼]
Jake Roberts vs. George Wells
This was more or less a squash for Jake, but I can’t deny its effectiveness. George managed to get himself a short but fun flurry in the beginning before Roberts turned the tide by luring him into the ropes. He then hit the DDT to pick up the win at 3:15. It was fun while it lasted. Afterward, Jake dumped the snake on Wells, causing him to suffocate in a disturbing image. [*½]
Boxing Match: Mr. T [w/ Joe Frazier] vs. Roddy Piper [w/ Lou Duva & Bob Orton]
Oh, well. It can’t be WrestleMania II without this infamous encounter. This was originally booked to go for ten rounds. Can you even imagine that? Even though Piper might be charismatic enough to make this work, the punches landed by both men were so laughable it doesn’t matter. This went for four rounds and the crowd was dead for the majority of it. Piper eventually had enough of this BS, and he slammed Mr. T at 13:14, drawing a disqualification to end this shitshow. Nope. [DUD]
Date: April 7th, 1986
Venue: Rosemont Horizon
Location: Rosemont, Illinois
Your hosts for the second venue: Gorilla Monsoon, “Mean” Gene Okerlund & Cathy Lee Crosby.
WWF Women’s Title: The Fabulous Moolah (c) vs. Velvet McIntyre
There wasn’t anything to say about this. Moolah retained the title at 1:25 after McIntyre missed a splash off the top. It existed. [N/R]
Flag Match: Cpl. Kirchner vs. Nikolai Volkoff [w/ Freddie Blassie]
Nikolai attacked first with a spin kick, and he took Kirchner to the floor for a quick beatdown. It wasn’t long before Kirchner started making his comeback and the referee got bumped. This prompted Kirchner to use Blassie’s cane on Volkoff to get the win at 2:05. Even with its short runtime, this is still a waste of time. [¼*]
20-Man WWF vs. NFL Battle Royal
Here are the participants (black for WWF; blue for NFL): Andre The Giant, Bruno Sammartino, Big John Studd, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga, Pedro Morales, Dan Spivey, Ted Arcidi, The Iron Sheik, Tony Atlas, Bill Fralic, Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin, Jimbo Covert, Russ Francis & William “Refrigerator” Perry.
Ernie Ladd joined us on commentary for this one. This wasn’t any different than your standard run-of-the-mill battle royal. It mostly consisted of lots of lying around in the corner and some weak brawling. I like the mini-story between Studd and Refrigerator, and thought they were one of the only highlights of the whole thing. It ultimately came down to Andre, Bret, Neidhart, and Francis. The Hart Foundation successfully teamed up and got rid of Russ, but they inevitably fell short to Andre The Giant, as Jim got eliminated first before Bret was press slammed over the top into him at 9:13. A solid, if a tad generic, Battle Royal. [**¼]
WWF Tag Team Title: The Dream Team [w/ Johnny Valiant] (c) vs. The British Bulldogs [w/ Capt. Lou Albano & Ozzy Osbourne]
An ultra WWF 1980s workrate match with off-the-chart physicality. This had no hot tag or face-in-peril segment, so it felt like an exhibition contest for the most part. Every move executed here had an extra snap, giving it a more impactful feel. The Bulldogs exploded with hard-hitting, energetic offenses, while Valentine used his methodical approach to slow them down. Beefcake was only here to provide a brief interference for his teammate and hit a few moves here and there, so he didn’t harm the match in any way. The finish was wild, with DBS cracking Valentine’s head into Dynamite, sending him to the floor for a crazy bump before Smith pinned the Hammer at 12:03 to give us new tag team champions. [***½]
Date: April 7th, 1986
Venue: Los Angeles Sports Arena
Location: Los Angeles, CA
And now, your hosts for the final venue consisted of Jesse Ventura, Lord Alfred Hayes & Cassandra Peterson (as Elvira).
Ricky Steamboat vs. Hercules Hernandez
A solid battle of power v. speed pitting the swift agility of Steamboat against the massive strength of Hercules. Hercules had some nice-looking power moves up his sleeve, which Steamboat sold them in great fashion. After putting his knees up to counter Herc’s splash attempt, Steamboat went up and landed a crossbody to score the win at 7:27, the same move he used to beat Matt Borne in last year’s event. [**½]
Adrian Adonis [w/ Jimmy Hart] vs. Uncle Elmer
Uncle Elmer is a complete lump, he can’t even attempt a proper move without falling down! Adonis tried extremely hard here, bumping like his life depended on the line and doing everything humanly possible to make this watchable. In the end, he came off the top with a big splash for the win at 3:01. Adonis’s tremendous bumping saved this from being a DUD. [¾*]
Tito Santana & The Junkyard Dog vs. The Funks [w/ Jimmy Hart]
This is one of the many examples of why Terry Funk is the GOAT of wrestling. He took several hellacious bumps in this one, and his brilliant selling along with pitch-perfect mannerisms brought this to a positive light. Dory, on the other hand, didn’t do as much, but I thought he did fine as a secondary hand to his brother. Tito brought tons of fire as expected, and he showed exactly that in his opening shine. JYD was mainly here to be the hot tag guy, so he didn’t stink up the joint. Melee ensued in the final minutes, and Terry used Jimmy Hart’s megaphone to knock JYD out while the ref wasn’t looking for the pin at 11:42. A very good tag match that played well to the formula and featured an MVP performance from the legendary Terry Funk. [***½]
WWF World Heavyweight Title, Steel Cage: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. King Kong Bundy [w/ Bobby Heenan]
Hogan’s ribs were injured as part of an angle coming into the match, so he opened this by punching Bundy left and right, looking to knock the big man down and end it early. Bundy’s cut-off spot was to go after Hogan’s ribs, which was a logical move. Bundy ripping off Hogan’s bandage was a badass spot that made him look like a legit killer. Hogan’s comeback was awesome. He unloaded on Bundy with just about everything, ramming him into the cage and even stepping on his head at one point. He no-sold the Avalanche in amazing fashion and hulked up before climbing over the cage to retain at 10:15. Far from a classic, but an effectively-worked main event that told a simple story and had tons of heat to boot. [***]
I struggled to get to the whole show at times due to its terrible pacing and the uninspiring three locations format. However, the overall event wasn’t bad. The garbage and pointless stuff were kept short so that it couldn’t harm the show, and the good stuff is, quite frankly, vastly underrated. The two tag team bouts were rightfully great in their own ways, and the WWF v. NFL Battle Royal, Steamer/Herc, Macho/Steele, and the main event were all perfectly acceptable matches. Throw in a few celebrity involvements, and you have a solid 2nd edition of WrestleMania. Just forget about the boxing match and you’ll be fine!
And that’s it for today’s review. Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for my next installment of the series, where I’ll be looking at arguably the most popular wrestling show of all time, which is also regarded as the best ‘Mania of the ’80s.
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