Wrasslin’ Back in the Day: Wrestlemania 1

Legends from the worlds of boxing, baseball, music and wrestling combine for an extravaganza!

For all the business insights, promotional info and other news surrounding this event, please check this article out.

We open with what should be an instrumental of Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover” over graphics of tonight’s match ups.

Mean” Gene Okerlund offers up a painful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura call the action.

Tito Santana vs. The Executioner

Both men stumble over their words in the pre-match promos. The masked man is Buddy Rose, for the .035% reading this who don’t know. Santana shines early as the hooded man takes a big backdrop and goes flying from the ring via a dropkick. They go through a brief awkward exchange where Santana whips him into the turnbuckle and then does…nothing. This is followed by a piledriver attempt, where Santana seems to maybe going to jump on his neck, but Rose backdrops him instead. This leaves Santana with his knees on the Executioner’s shoulders before taking the bump.

The Executioner starts to work on Tito’s surgically repaired knee, but Santana kicks him in the butt, which causes the masked man to fly over the top rope and land in a seated position on a chair. I don’t think that was a planned spot, but it worked! Tito finishes him with a flying forearm and figure-four at 4:50. This was a good opener, full of enough big bumping from Rose to showcase Santana and not lull the fans into boredom…if this happened to be their first taste of this wacky sport.

Special Delivery Jones vs. King Kong Bundy

Bundy’s pre-match promo is about how he’s going to win with the 5-count. Jones is quickly bear hugged, splashed in the corner and given a splash on the mat for just a 3-count. YOU LIED BUNDY! You lied…. The match is announced as ending in “9 seconds” but goes more than double that.

Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Maniac” Matt Bourne

Bourne promises that Steamboat’s lack of a mean streak will be his undoing here. Steamboat controls the early going with speed and technical grace. Steamboat hits a flying chop from the top and Bourne is selling big to really put over the Dragon. A fan screams “Boring” and I’m kind of aghast. Steamboat keeps the pressure on, fighting through Bourne’s token offense. Steamboat hits a flying crossbody for the win at 4:38. Bourne was more than willing to make Steamboat look good, and it made for an entertaining and fast paced affair.

David Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake

Johnny V and Brutus ignore the cameras trying to do a segment with Lord Alfred Hayes in the aisle and just walk right in front of him. They cut to a pre-match promo with Beefcake and V where Valiant stands in front of Beefcake and blocks him out from getting face time for the hundreds of thousands watching around the country. Back in the arena, big daddy Bruno gets a huge reaction from the MSG crowd.

Beefcake stalls a bit before he and Sammartino go through some rudimentary wrestling holds, all of which fail to achieve control of the match for either man. Beefcake starts to use some rest holds to slow the pace, something even the announcers take note of. Sammartino rebounds by bending Beefcake’s leg and knee at unnatural angles.

Beefcake drops fists, forearms and elbows to test the constitution of the youngster. The crowd begins to chant for “David”, showing that the heat segment is working. David fires up on que and starts delivering a bevy of punches, culminating with a suplex.

Brutus tosses Sammartino to the floor, where Johnny V slams him on the cement. This incites Bruno and he attacks V, chasing him into the ring to earn the double-DQ at 11:40. Bruno and son fight off the villains, with Bruno showing great fire as he begs them to come back for more when the heels head for the locker room. This match is disliked online, but on this viewing I enjoyed it. It wasn’t above average or anything, but it was fine for what it is.

Intercontinental champion Greg “The Hammer” Valentine vs. the Junkyard Dog

Valentine is all fired up, promising he’s in great shape at 248 pounds of fury. JYD gets a big reaction. I mark out, because JYD was one of my heroes as a youngster. The men tease fisticuffs right away, and JYD wins the strike battle once it commences. Valentine downs JYD with an elbow, but misses the follow up and finds himself headbutted several more times until he rolls to the floor.

JYD is downed with more elbows once things return to the center of the ring. The champ begins to work over JYD’s legs. JYD appears to be winded. JYD fights his way back to his feet. Valentine and Hart run into each other when Hart attempts to distract JYD in order to allow Valentine to get the jump on him. JYD starts a new offensive, but Valentine swipes him off his feet and cradles him, placing his own feet on the ropes for leverage as he scores the pin at 6:55.

Tito Santana charges in and screams at the ref over what happened. For whatever reason, this is enough for the match to be restarted. An irate Valentine seethes in the aisleway as the ref counts him out. Valentine tries to climb back in the ring at that point, but Hart clings to his leg to prevent it. The crowd goes bonkers for all this as the babyfaces celebrate.

World tag team champion Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo vs. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff

Captain Lou Albano cuts an absolutely subdued promo for his men, meekly hoping for a victory and he offers blessings to the fans. I wonder why Albano chose that route as apposed to his normally bombastic stylings?

The babyfaces control things early, out wrestling the foreign devils at every turn. The heels even run into each other, giving the fans a big rise with their bumblefuckery. Rotundo finally falls victim to Volkoff’s size after several minutes of dominance from the champs. Rotundo tries to fight back as the heels use their size to batter him. Sheik locks him in a abdominal stretch, but he can’t fully synch it in and Rotondo flips him over with a hip toss. This leaves an opening for Windham to be tagged in.

Windham goes right after Volkoff, downing him with a bulldog. A four-way skirmish breaks out and Sheik crack Windham with Fred Blaise’s cane behind the ref’s back. This sets up the pin at 6:56   . After that egregious cheating, the ref refuses to listen to Albano’s pleas for justice. After running the reverse finish in the previous match, just ignoring that bylaw here is kind of glaring. The replay shows Windham appeared to have been knocked out from a blow to the collarbone. I cry shenanigans. Is wrestling possibly not on the up and up?

Bodyslam challenge: Andre the Giant vs. “Big” John Studd

Studd jumps Andre from behind as the Giant is preoccupied by the bag of prize money being handed off at ringside. Andre chops Studd into retreat. Back in the ring Studd is ragdolled as Andre chokes him in the corner. The ref just watches as he’s not interested in trying to break up these two ogres. Andre sits on Studd in the corner, then traps him in a bear hug. The fans chant “slam!”, but the squeeze continues.

Andre is giving Studd nothing, cutting off any attempt at offense he tries and continuing his beating. Andre kicks Studd in the legs several times before just scooping Studd up and slamming him out of nowhere at 5:56. Andre tries to pass the money to the fans, but Bobby Heenan grabs the bag and runs off with it.

Having watched the Andre vs. Ken Patera match from MSG a few months earlier, I can appreciate what they were going for here as Andre destroyed Patera that night as well. Patera, however, was smaller and able to bump all over the place for Andre. Studd, meanwhile, was limited in the amount of bumps he was able to execute due to his size.

Wendi Richter vs. Women’s World champion Leilani Kai

Kai’s pre-match promo reveals that she has a southern accent despite being from “Hawaii.” Poor Alfred Hayes can’t even say “Rock and Wrestling” right during his live bit before the match. The ladies trade arm work in the opening minutes. It then appears the old “call it in the ring” mantra doesn’t always work as the ladies go through some back and forth with no flow or psychology. At one point Kai tries a gut wrench and Richter gives her a double leg takedown. Richter actually busts out a beta version of the F5 as she scoops Kai up on her shoulders and flings her to the mat. To top it off, they botch the finish as Kai tries a flying crossbody, which Richter was suppose to reverse, but she must have been too close to her, so they had to writhe around on the mat until Richter could make it on top for the pin at 6:12.

The cameras miss Lauper choking Moolah after the match, which would have been a big highspot. Kai attacks Lauper, and Moolah falls right on her face as she tries to climb in the ring as her foot catches on the rope. This match deserves far more scrutiny than the Sammartino/Beefcake affair. The fans go crazy for Richter and Lauper’s victory celebration, so I guess it worked in the end. Captain Lou is hanging out over Lauper’s shoulder during the post match promo, but he is not acknowledged. Special Delivery Jones can be seen smiling in a suit behind them as well, despite suffering “cracked ribs” an hour earlier.

Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff

Billy Martin comes down to a big ovation from his beloved New York sports fans. Liberace comes out next with the Rockettes. This leads to the famous image of Liberace doing the kicks with them. Somewhere Bill Watts is swearing. Muhammed Ali comes down for his role as special ref and the fans give him a warm reception. Pat Patterson is the in-ring ref, one would assume to make sure Mr. T doesn’t embarrass the industry by getting lost while performing.

“Cowboy” Bob Orton joins the heels at ringside. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka shadows the babyfaces. Jesse Ventura marks out for the entrances. Some random old man gets his Wrestlemania moment as he stands on the ring and sweeps the garbage while the biggest stars in the world are about to explode 5-feet to his left.

The lights over the crowd are darkened as the stars are in the ring, where the focus belongs. Hogan and Orndorff are about to start, when Piper begs to come in. T then begs to enter and the fans get what they came to see immediately. They trade slaps and Piper quickly takes him to the ground with some high school wrestling staples, keeping things simple for the novice. T delivers a fireman’s carry into a slam. This leads to a donnybrook as Orton and Snuka join the others in the ring as everyone brawls. Ali pops Piper and threatens Orton in order to reign in the law and order.

Piper and company take a break, teasing a walk out. All four of the in-ring participants brawl again in the squared circle before things finally settle down briefly. T hits Piper and Orndorff with a series of slams and hip tosses. This sends the crowd into hysterics. Piper eats a big boot from Hogan and falls to the floor. Mr. Wonderful sneaks behind Hogan and sends him to the floor as well. Piper smacks Hogan with a chair for good measure. Hogan falls into the face-in-peril position as the heels gang up on him. T tries to make the save, leading to another brief multi-man skirmish.

T makes an illegal tag in, hanging his body into the ring. Patterson allows it. T doesn’t fare well and Hogan tags back in to try and swing the momentum. Orton tries to make a run in, but Snuka cuts him off and head butts him to the floor. Then Snuka watches as Orton climbs to the top rope and attempts to come off and crack Hogan with his cast, only to bonk Orndorff instead. Snuka gets rid of Orton and Hogan makes the pin at 13:24. The story of the match was actually that the faces were overwhelmed, with T just not being able to hold up his end of the match, causing Hogan to try and beat two men by himself.

T tends to Orndorff, with Piper and Orton having stormed off. Mr. Wonderful gets up and looks around for his friends. This of course sets up Mr. Wonderful’s babyface turn.

Final thoughts: I came away enjoying this far more than I expected. Most everything was watchable, and nostalgia carried the rest.

Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin’ and true crimes.

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