Welcome, everyone! This is the start of a new series, where I’ll be reviewing every single WrestleMania in existence in chronological order. Let’s start with the first-ever edition, where we’ll see stars like Andre the Giant, Ricky Steamboat, and Tito Santana wrestling in the undercard before being headlined by an all-star tag team bout, pitting the superhero duo of Hulk Hogan & Mr. T against the dastardly villainous team of Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff. Also, Muhammad Ali will act as a special guest referee in the main event.
Date: March 31st, 1985
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Location: New York City, NY
Your hosts for the event are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura.
Howard Finkel welcomed us to the show. He introduced “Mean” Gene Okerlund, who sang the US National Anthem to open the show. Gene did pretty well for a non-singer. Now, onto the show!
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner
The Executioner is actually Buddy Rose under a mask. He is billed as undefeated, though his name is literally tailor-made for an enhancement talent. This ended up being a solid showcase for Tito, who showed loads of fire here like he always does. The Executioner didn’t bring much in terms of bumping, doing minimal cheating and average heel work before submitting to Santana’s Figure-Four at 4:49. For the first WrestleMania match, this was fine. [**]
King Kong Bundy [w/ Jimmy Hart] vs. SD Jones
Jones charges right into a bearhug immediately. An avalanche and one big splash later, we have a winner in King Kong Bundy at 0:25. The WWF claimed this was a 9 seconds victory for Bundy, but even a 3-year old knows that is absolutely not true. [N/R]
Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne
Steamboat’s early headlock control was not long, but it was super cool, as he kept putting it back on even after Borne escaped from it. Much like the Tito bout earlier in the opener, this was a decent showcase for Ricky. He got to show off his usual crisp, clean-looking offensive moves that Borne fed well for. In the end, Ricky won with a visually-spectacular body press from halfway across the ring at 4:39. This might be the best match of the night in terms of pure wrestling. [**½]
David Sammartino [w/ Bruno Sammartino] vs. Brutus Beefcake [w/ Johnny Valiant]
Bruno Sammartino came out with his son, and the reaction he got completely eclipsed that of everyone here combined. David was mostly on offense in the first half, but his stuff primarily consisted of mediocre punches and kicks that didn’t draw much attention. Beefcake soon took over, and his segment on top was just deathly dull. Thankfully, the crowd erupted again when Bruno rushed to the ring after Johnny V interfered. He cleaned house as the crowd roared in approval, and this ended up being a double DQ in 11:43. When a part-time wrestler at ringside drew the loudest reaction of the matchup, you know there’s a problem. [*½]
WWF Intercontinental Title: Greg Valentine (c) [w/ Jimmy Hart] vs. The Junkyard Dog
Although Junkyard Dog was way past his prime at this point, they didn’t book this too long and went home at the right time before he got dog-tired. This was mainly carried by Valentine’s hard-hitting offense and solid bumping. He went after Dog’s leg to set up the Figure-Four, and JYD sold it fairly decently until he totally forgot about it in the post-match. Jimmy Hart intervened, and Greg nailed him by accident, only to roll up JYD from behind with his feet on the rope. Tito Santana came out, and he declared that Valentine didn’t win cleanly. Tito is such a righteous babyface that the ref somehow believed him, and thus the match got restarted. Valentine had enough, however, so he bailed, losing by count-out at 6:55, albeit keeping the belt. [**]
WWF World Tag Team Title: The US Express (c) [w/ Capt. Lou Albano] vs. The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff [w/ Freddie Blassie]
The Express gained control early until Rotunda got cut off by the heels. They maintained a brisk pace for this tag title match throughout by doing constant tags in and out. Windham received a hot tag that didn’t last long, as Sheik shot him with Blassie’s cane from behind before Nikolai got the pin for his team at 6:55. This was a fun, energetic tag match that gave us the first-ever title change at WrestleMania. [**¾]
$15.000 Bodyslam Challenge: Andre The Giant vs. Big John Studd [w/ Bobby Heenan]
If Andre lost here, then he’d have to retire. There was no doubt whatsoever that the Giant’s career would come to an end, and you can hear the crowd chanting “slam” when Andre went for a bearhug. This dragged past the 2 mins mark, and even the crowd’s heat slowly winded down as it went on. Andre kept his career alive at 5:53 when he finally slammed Studd. A decent spectacle that went on for way too long. [½*]
WWF Women’s Title: Leilani Kai (c) [w/ The Fabulous Moolah] vs. Wendi Richter [w/ Cyndi Lauper]
I didn’t find this engaging in any way at all. The action was super sloppy, and there was no flow or transition between each sequence. One thing I will praise was that the title change was a great moment, even though the women’s title could’ve been retired in the very next segment and nothing would’ve changed. Richter won the title at the 6:14 mark when she reversed Leilani’s crossbody into a pin. The babyfaces celebrated together afterward, and the crowd seemed into it, so I guess this worked out perfectly fine for what it set out to do. [*]
We get a big celebrity introductions before the main event, featuring the likes of Billy Martin, Liberace, and Muhammad Ali. They will each portray their respective roles at ringside for the main event, with Ali as the special enforcer being the highlight in particular.
Hulk Hogan & Mr. T [w/ Jimmy Snuka] vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff [w/ Bob Orton]
They stuffed shedloads of celebrities and stars to make this the biggest wrestling main event in history, and it absolutely worked for the period they were in. Hulk Hogan was at the height of his popularity yet, and the crowd went buck wild for him and his partner. Piper and Orndorff were in their element here, bumping their asses off and doing some excellent heel work, facials, and characterization to add to the bout. Mr. T had his vast lack of experiences well documented, as shown when he got trapped in the heel corner rather easily after tagging in. After Hogan cleaned house with the final hot tag, all hell broke loose, resulting in Bob Orton hitting Orndorff with his cast by accident at 13:34, thus giving Hogan’s team the victory. We got a tease of Orndorff’s face turn afterward, as he woke up only to find himself left alone in the ring. The post-match stuff worked, as it signaled Orndorff’s babyface run and didn’t take away from Hogan & T. [***]
It’s the first-ever WrestleMania, so it’s automatically a historic show regardless of its quality and/or buyrate. I admit there is nothing particularly stood out in terms of being great, but the show’s lively atmosphere and breezy pacing will make this a quick, easy watch for anyone who wants to give it a look. Not to mention, the commentaries by Gorilla and Jesse were top-notch and will provide you the lovely voices you want from a big-time event like this.
And that will be it for this review. Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll be reviewing WrestleMania II, which was broadcasted from, not one, not two, but THREE different locations! Until then, so long for now…
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