The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania IV
- Live from Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Your hosts are Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon
- As my pledge to you, faithful readers, it is my personal goal to single-handedly boost the buyrate of this year's Wrestlemania by 0.2 through the power of Retro Rants! The stinging irony, of course, is that through the miracle of Vietnamese technology I haven't paid for a show since about 1995, but that's another story. Save that Superbrawl money and buy Wrestlemania instead! (Had I known how shitty WM15 would turn out, I would have campaigned for Superbrawl instead. Sadly, the advent of digital cable pretty much destroyed my ability to easily descramble PPV, but thankfully the internet solved that particular dilemma only a few years later. Not that I would advocate such behavior, and in fact I’m more than happy to buy shows that interest me.)
- This is an interesting show for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's the first World title tournament on PPV. (If only Buddy Rogers’ gruelling tournament win had been held during the PPV era!) Second, it demonstrates how Vince's excesses come back to bite him in the ass, as this show is about as bloated and excessive as you get. And where to hold such a show than Atlantic City under the auspices of Donald Trump?
- Opening match: Battle Royale.
Case in point, whose dumb idea was it to open a show with a battle royale? Sam Houston gets the honor of being the first one out. Sika follows quickly after. This is basically a JTTS-fest. (Jobber to the stars, a term which now has little meaning because there’s no jobbers or stars. Just a bunch of sports entertainers.) George Steele, who has been sitting outside since the start, pulls Jim Neidhart out. Ray Rougeau and the Killer Bees go in one big heap. JYD dumps Ron Bass with little trouble. The referees try to convince the Animal to actually enter the ring, but he's not going anywhere. Everyone gangs up on Hillbilly Jim and dumps him. Jim Powers gets dumped. We're getting down to the cream of the jobber crop. Nothing interesting going on outside of the eliminations. Ken Patera dumps both Zukhov and Volkoff, then gets dumped by Bad News Brown. Brown sends Harley Race and Jacques Rougeau flying, then Paul Roma. That leaves Brown and Bret Hart against JYD. The Dog takes both of them on, but the heels overwhelm him and beat on him for a while, then toss him. Bret foolishly thinks they'll split the trophy, but Brown ends that line of thought by turning on Hart out of nowhere and tossing him to win the battle royale. This would mark two major turning points: 1) Bret's face turn and 2) The first time Bret is double-crossed on a major PPV. har har. Bret (and isn't this a shock) destroys the trophy. (Here’s a quick story for you. My wife and I have a Valentine’s Day / anniversary tradition of going to the MOTOR SPORTS SPECTACULAR show every year in February, because monster trucks are fucking awesome. Now, the show is definitely more entertainment than sports, with a healthy dose of sports entertainment thrown in, but none moreso than the quad racing portion. Inevitably, every year the quad race will be between the hometown Saskatchewan team, and the evil Toronto team. The Toronto team is always helmed by a heel team captain who cheats outrageously, like this year’s race that saw them actually fielding an extra rider in the race due to a Saskatchewan “no-show”. Now of course this is classic pro wrestling booking, with the hometown team being down 3-on-4, only to come back and win. WWE of course does the opposite because it’s unexpected. Anyway, so yeah, the Saskatchewan team wins after the captains nearly get into a brawl and decide to settle things with a ONE ON ONE QUAD RACE TO THE DEATH, and the prize is a ghetto-ass bowling trophy. So summoning my 25 years of pro wrestling fandom, I turn to Jodi and say “I bet that the bad guy smashes the trophy.” And sure enough, that’s what happens. So yeah, fucking fake quad racing is doing basic pro wrestling booking better than WWE.) I don't rate battle royales, but this one sucked.
- Robin Leach comes out to officially open the tournament. The brackets:
- Ted Dibiase v. Jim Duggan
- Don Muraco v. Dino Bravo
- Ricky Steamboat v. Greg Valentine
- Randy Savage v. Butch Reed
- One Man Gang v. Bam Bam Bigelow
- Jake Roberts v. Rick Rude
(Hulk and Andre get a automatic bye against each other into the quarterfinals)
(Those fans who, like me, were watching the weekly TV at the time will remember that this was not the original bracket for the tournament. In fact as originally presented, Ted Dibiase was in the lower bracket and was going to face Hulk Hogan in the finals and win the title. They had that bracket for a couple of weeks and then just kind of switched to the other one and hoped that no one would notice. Well, future internet nerds sure as hell noticed, and we hope someone got fired over this one.)
- First round: Hacksaw Duggan v. Ted Dibiase (w/ Andre & Virgil).
Slugfest to start and Dibiase works in the over-the-top-rope bump early on. Tide turns as Duggan eats boot on a charge to the corner. Dibiase drops a fist and a knee but Duggan gets a sunset flip for two. Duggan bleeds hardway from the mouth at one point. Dibiase comes off the second rope, but of course gets caught and does the somersault oversell. Duggan with the big comeback, but he makes the stupid mistake of setting up for the CLOTHESLINE OF DOOM in front of Andre, who trips him up and allows Dibiase to drop another fist for the pin. Three minute match. 1/2*
- Dino Bravo v. Don Muraco.
Do you smell what the Rock is...oh, wait, wrong "Rock". (2012 Fuad says: HO HO, IS FUNNY BECAUSE BOTH DON MURACO AND DWAYNE JOHNSON WERE NICKNAMED “THE ROCK”.) Muraco is accompanied to the ring by Scott Steiner. Oh, wait, that's Billy Graham. Anyway, dumb references aside, it should be noted that Muraco isn't very good at this point. (I think it was more like he was unable to move without the steroid needle popping out and muscles deflating like a balloon.) He slips on the second turnbuckle and fucks up a pump splash early on. They proceed to do another Nitro match, as it's okay but so compressed for time reasons that there's no way to do anything meaningful. Muraco works on the knee until he gets tossed into the ropes and tied up, turning the tide. Bravo hits a piledriver for two, but Muraco blocks the second one and they do a double-knockout spot. Bravo pulls the referee in front of him to block a flying forearm, then hits the sidewalk slam on Muraco. Referee quickly revives and DQ's Bravo. Bleh. 3/4*
- Greg Valentine v. Ricky Steamboat.
Steamboat works on the arm to start, and gets some two counts off shoulderblocks. It's a crime to force these two into a 5 minute match. Jesse makes the obligatory Barry Blowski reference here. (This was written before “Beyond The Mat” came out, as I then discovered that Barry BLAUSTEIN was the person being namedropped all those years.) Now we're just waiting on him to say hello to his four friends in Minnesota. Hammer and Dragon are endeavouring to have a good match despite the time constraints. Someone who looks a lot like Bill Watts is sitting in the front row beside Ivana Trump. Hammer gets some two-counts and then sets up for the figure-four, working on the knee. Steamboat escapes and they do a chop-fest. Valentine does the Flair Flop off a really nasty chop. A greco-roman thumb to the eye turns the tide. Valentine to the top with a shot to the head, and he goes for the figure-four again. Steamboat blocks and comes back again with a flying elbow. He goes to the top and hits the KARATE CHOP OF DEATH. Crowd is really getting into it. Valentine gets rammed to the turnbuckle 10 times, and Hebner gets in Steamer's face about it. Steamboat goes to the top rope again in frustration and hits the bodypress, but Valentine rolls through for the pin. I never realized how good a match this was. And why WAS Dave Hebner working this show only weeks after the biggest referee screwjob in history? Steamboat says goodbye to the crowd in his usual low-key manner and headed to the NWA for better days. ***
- A courier has a special delivery for Bobby Heenan. And then, in a moment horribly out of character for Heenan...he TIPS THE DELIVERY GUY! When does Heenan EVER tip anyone? Geez, what a crock. The package would come in handy later in the show...
- Randy Savage v. Butch Reed.
Savage and Liz are in matching royal blue. Savage is freshly face-turned at this point and is just crazy over. I miss "Jive Soul Bro." That was good entrance music. (My first time pining for “Jive Soul Bro.” There would be many more over the years.) Savage begins a grand tradition for his career as a babyface, taking a pounding from Reed for the majority of the match and then coming back with the big move, in this case set up by Reed hitting on Elizabeth while climbing the turnbuckle, which in turn gave Savage enough time to recover, slam Reed off the top turnbuckle, and drop the big elbow for the pin. Crowd goes batshit. Match sucks. 1/2* (I find somewhat amazing that, considering how Savage basically worked as a top-level heel for 90% of his career up until this point, he effortlessly nailed the babyface formula within weeks. Some guys, like Randy Orton, took years to fully grasp concepts like sympathetic heat.)
- One Man Gang v. Bam Bam Bigelow.
Back in my mark days, in grade 8, there was no bigger topic of discussion than wrestling. And the one thing we all agreed on: Bigelow kicked ass and he would win the tournament with room to spare. Well, what did we know? (Obviously we weren’t reading the WON at the time, although anyone who did would have been the most popular kid at school.) This match is the very green Bigelow against the deteriorating Gang, so you can guess how good it is. At least it's quick. Bigelow squashes Gang, but Slick pulls down the ropes and sends Bam Bam crashing out of the ring for the countout. DUD (I think I go into more detail in the redo coming later in this post, but this was truly a retarded finish, with Bigelow getting counted out while STANDING ON THE APRON.)
- I usually skip over interviews, but I have to point out Hulk Hogan giving the most bizarre, overblown, egomaniacal, delusional interview I've ever heard. Something about slamming Andre and the earth breaking apart and Donald Trump drowning but letting go of his material possessions and embracing Hulkamania as his lord and savior and on and on. (I think Chael Sonnen must have been a fan of this one.)
- Jake Roberts v. Rick Rude.
Final first round match. This was just after the "Rude kisses Cheryl Roberts" angle that has since spawned every other wife-stealing angle in the WWF (and a few in WCW). Ironically, Rude really WAS banging Roberts' wife on the side, causing Jake's divorce, which in turn triggered all his drinking problems which ended up destroying his life. Or so Roberts claims, despite most other viewpoints which portray Roberts as a lifelong mean drunk. Meanwhile, these guys are obviously working towards a draw, because they're using a lot of restholds and taking their time between moves. Boring chants start up 8 or so minutes in. Chinlock, wristlock, headlock and a lot of other moves that end in "-lock". Absolutely nothing of note until about 12 minutes in when Jakes makes the big comeback to wake up the crowd. Rude lures Roberts into the corner and tries the Ric Flair pin, but the time limit expires to put me out of my misery. *1/4
- Gene and Vanna White examine the pairings on the big board:
- Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant
- Ted Dibiase v. Don Muraco
- Randy Savage v. Greg Valentine
- One Man Gang - BYE
- I now understand why they don't let Vanna talk much on Wheel of Fortune.
- The Mighty Hercules v. The Ultimate Warrior.
This is Warrior's PPV debut. Vince must have being going nuts trying to think of the ways to spend the money he was going to make off this guy. Warrior was just going nuts, period. Really horrendous match, even by the low standards set by these two idiots. Warrior no-sells everything in sight. Goldberg take note: This could be you in 10 years, pal. (Yeah, but with about $30 million more in the bank and no need to ever work again.) Why did they bother with this dog of a match? Herc locks in the full nelson, but Warrior walks the ropes and pushes off, getting the pin. -** It should be noted that the Fantastics were fighting the Midnight Express in a near ***** match on TBS right about that time on the first ever Clash.
- Review of the Hulk-Andre war. Does anyone else see the stinging irony of Hogan taking his current World title in the EXACT way that Dibiase tried to in 1988? (Was I referring to the Fingerpoke of Doom here? I guess that would make sense, although Andre never actually laid down for Dibiase.)
- Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant (w/ Dibiase & Virgil).
You know who the smartest man in the whole Andre deal was? Bobby Heenan. He sold the contract of Andre to Dibiase for $1,000,000 and publicly bought it back for about $100,000. The guy made a $900,000 cash profit! Anyway, this match is utter tripe. And I should point the stupidity of cutting the first tape off in the middle of the match. Both Hulk and Andre dogging it in the SAME MATCH is not a good combo. Andre keeps Hulk down with the VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DOOM, but Hogan comes back. Then the overbooking takes over, as Dibiase slams a chair into Hulk's back to interrupt a bodyslam. Hulk and Andre fight over the chair, and the referee disqualifies them both. It should be noted that Hulk clearly hit Andre with the chair in plain sight of the referee, but it's Hulk so no DQ is called until Andre follows suit. Poor Andre has to suffer the indignity of being bodyslammed yet again after the match. Crybaby Hulk poses for the fans after his loss. But it's not enough to give the Orange Goblin five minutes to pose, oh no, he had to interject his roided, overly tanned, ugly face into the finals later on as well, because BENOIT FORBID that we go 10 minutes without mentioning the name of Jesus H. Hogan. Anyway, this match was –*** (So I didn’t like the match?)
- Don Muraco v. Ted Dibiase.
Winner gets a bye to the finals. So, if Hogan's such a huge Billy Graham fan, why hasn't he dragged his crippled ass out of whatever old age home he's in and put, say, the cruiserweight title on him? I'm sure he's down to about 180 pounds at this point. And he's probably got a better hip than Roddy Piper. (Boy, I was in a MEAN mood. Marriage really did mellow me out.) Hey, is that Dave Meltzer kneeling at ringside with the cameramen? It sure looks like him. Anyway, Muraco destroys Dibiase, but a crucial mistake swings it back in Dibiase's favor for a while. Muraco was so roided up that he could barely move at this point. Muraco makes the comeback, but gets caught with a stungun and pinned, sending Dibiase to the finals. Nothing match. *
- Randy Savage v. Greg Valentine.
Savage and Liz are in matching hot pink this time. Dull match which ends up outside the ring pretty quick and Hammer gives Savage a taste of irony, with an elbow off the apron. Savage comes back with the double axehandle for two. Valentine escapes the big elbow and goes for the figure-four, but Savage reverses to a small package (this show was personally the first time I'd seen that done, although Flair had done that finish dozens of times before, unbeknownst to me at the time) and gets the pin. *1/2
- Intercontinental title match: Honky Tonk Man v. Brutus Beefcake.
Peggy Sue is with HTM, and is as usual Sherri Martel in a bad wig and poodle skirt. Jesse works in the chance to say hi to Terry, Tyrell and Jay in Minnesota. Honky and Beefer do their usual quasi-comedy match, with Beefcake playing mind games by messing up the hair of the champ. (Yeah, it’s Wrestlemania, and they’re doing a fucking comedy match.) Jesse points out a great justification for the DQ rule: If you get a bad referee who DQ's the champ unfairly, then he's been screwed out of his title, hence the "You must win a title by pinfall or submission" rule. Of course, if the promoter is sitting at ringside screaming "Ring the fucking bell" then there's not much you can do about it. You know, Mike Ciota used to be really thin and had a LOT of hair, as compared to today. I'm not the least bit interested in this match. Honky goes for Shake, rattle and roll but Beefcake grabs the top rope to block and makes the big comeback. Beefcake hooks the sleeper in the center of the ring, so Jimmy Hart makes the prudent decision and knocks the referee into next week with the megaphone. In the ensuing chaos, Beefcake chases down Jimmy Hart and cuts his hair, and the referee wakes up to DQ Honky. DUD
- Bobby Heenan & The Islanders v. Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs.
You see, the delivery guy was bringing a dog-proof suit for Heenan to wear here. Because the Bulldogs had an actual bulldog as their mascot, see. And the Islanders kidnapped the dog, and presumably did unspeakable things to the dog, and the WWF had a big "Get Well Matilda" campaign after the dog was returned, setting up this match. "Get It"? (Hey, there’s a dated reference for you.) That being said, the Bulldogs and Islanders do a really nice sequence combining speed and power to start, until Dynamite Kid eats a foot on a cross corner charge, allowing the Brain to come in and administer some punishment. Doesn't last long, of course. Koko gets the hot tag but gets beat down pretty quick. Crowd is out of it. Heenan gets some more shots on Koko, but ends up getting creamed and a pier-six erupts. The Islanders slam Koko and then drop Heenan on top for the pin. Started okay but died off quick. **
- Jesse Ventura does some poses for the fans, getting a bigger pop than half the guys on the show tonight.
- Tournament semifinals:
- Dibiase - BYE
- Randy Savage v. One Man Gang
- Randy Savage v. One Man Gang.
Savage is obviously resting up for his final match later in the evening. Fashion watch: Matching black outfits this time. OMG batters Macho in methodical fashion, but Slick's propositioning to Liz allows Gang to grab the cane and nail Savage, drawing a DQ. And that's all I have to say about that. 1/4*
- WWF World tag team title match: Strike Force v. Demolition.
In my all time markout moment list, this ranks about #4 or 5. Demolition would be over so HUGE if they were around today, it would be scary. They could do garbage matches out the wazoo and never have to get into the ring. (They’d never get a look today. Bill Eadie would be considered too old and Barry Darsow would be told to get on roids and get hair plugs.) Strike Force gets no pop. Smash kicks Martel's ass and the crowd loves it. Pier-six breaks out quickly and Strike Force gains control. The crowd isn't impressed. Santana, the designated punching bag, gets caught in a bearhug by Smash, which leads to Ax clotheslining him from the apron. Good spot. A nice powerslam gets two. The crowd obviously wants to cheer for the Demos but doesn't feel comfortable doing so because they're the heels. That would never be a problem today. (Today it would be a problem because Demolition would get punished for getting over when it wasn’t planned.) Well, unless you count the Rock and his schizophrenic relationship with the fans. Santana plays Ricardo Morton and gets hammered, but hits the Flying Jalapeno and hot tags Martel. He takes out both guys and applies the Boston Crab to Smash, but Santana is keeping the referee occupied. Ax nails Martel with the cane and Smash rolls on top as the ref revives and counts three, to one of the biggest pops of the night. (One of the only pops of the night.) The Demos capture their first tag titles. ** Over on TBS, Tully and Arn were jobbing the NWA tag titles to Lex Luger and Barry Windham, and in one of those odd wrestling karma things (I believe “happenstance” or “serendipity” were more the words I was looking for there), Demolition would go on to hold the titles for an astounding 18 months, before finally losing them to... Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson.
- WWF World title match: Ted Dibiase v. Randy Savage.
Robin Leach brings out the WWF title (a belt which would last for 10 more years). Bob Uecker is the guest ring announcer. Vanna White is the guest timekeeper. Matching white outfits for Savage and Liz. Andre trips Savage almost immediately, prompting the crowd to call a spot and chant for Hogan. He doesn't come out yet. Andre trips Savage *again* and the chants for Hogan get louder. Savage controls with some nice sequences and gets a few two counts. Savage with the flying necksnap and a high knee to send Dibiase flying out of the ring, but Andre blocks him from delivering anything from the top rope. So Savage sends Liz running back to the dressing room to fetch you-know-who. Hogan grabs a chair and takes a seat at ringside while Dibiase applies a chinlock. Andre grabs at Savage again and Hogan clobbers him. Dibiase, meanwhile, hits a clothesline and elbowdrop for two. Suplex for two. Dibiase goes to the top and Savage slams him off and goes for the elbow, but he misses and Dibiase slaps on the Million Dollar Dream. Andre interferes again, tying up the ref, and Hogan runs in and nails Dibiase with the chair, knocking him out. The big elbow is academic and Savage is the new WWF champion, his first of two reigns as WWF champ and five World titles overall. Savage and Dibiase would go on to have a classic series of matches over the summer. Everyone goes home happy tonight, however. **3/4
The Bottom Line: At a mind-numbing FOUR HOURS LONG and SIXTEEN MATCHES, this show is more aptly dubbed Wrestlemania Bore. No way could either WCW or the WWF get this much PPV time to waste today (Well except for Wrestlemania, which does it every year now.) , and a good thing it is, too. Still, ridiculous length and poor match quality aside, this was an important show, establishing Savage as a World champion one year after his most crushing defeat, and setting up a year-long angle that would culminate in Wrestlemania V one year later. I could have done without about an hour of this show, but it's still recommended viewing for historical reasons.
(The redone version is actually pretty close to the original, with match times added, so we’ll move past it unless I say anything REALLY stupid.)
The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania IV
- Live from Atlantic City, NJ.
- Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura. Ah, those were the days.
- With Wrestlemania XX being slotted for a four-hour show, I figured we might as well take a look at the first time a show was scheduled for that long, and just how incredibly boring it could be. This show was of course set up by the infamous Andre the Giant title win and twin referees, featuring a 12-man tournament for the WWF title. The show is in the Trump Plaza Convention Center, which is less of an arena than a giant bingo hall, which makes for a bizarre atmosphere, to say the least.
- Opening match: A Battle Royale. Who the fuck opens a major show with a battle royale? If ever there was a cheap way to get everyone a piece of the gate, this is it. We’ve got the Hart Foundation, Young Stallions, Sika, Danny Davis, The Killer Bees, Bad News Brown, Sam Houston, The Rougeau Brothers, Ken Patera, Ron Bass, Junkfood Dog, The Bolsheviks, Hillbilly Jim, Harley Race and George “The Animal” Steele. The usual donnybrook to start, as Steele just stands outside and pulls at legs randomly. First man out is Sam Houston, via Danny Davis. Talk about your bad exits. Sika goes quickly as well. I forget if he’s Rikishi’s dad or Rosey’s dad. Bunch of directionless punching as Steele still won’t get into the ring, and the Bees keep pulling themselves back in. Steele pulls Neidhart over the top to eliminate him. Ray Rougeau and Brian Blair eliminate each other, and Jim Brunzell also ends up on the floor in the process. Ron Bass gets dumped by JYD as the thrillride in the ring continues. Gorilla marvels at Danny Davis still being in after the gruelling match. Yeah, 4 minutes in. Hillbilly gets tossed by Bad News. Paul Roma dumps Davis with a fireman’s carry, but Jim Powers gets tossed by Bad News. Race and JYD get into a headbutt contest, and that goes nowhere, and then Patera gets rid of both Russians, but Bad News dumps him from behind. Jacques Rougeau is disposed of by Race. JYD headbutts Race right over the top, leaving us with a final four of Roma, JYD, Bret Hart and Bad News. Bad News quickly gets rid of Roma, but heel miscommunication allows JYD to hold off the heels. He headbutts both, but they regroup, pound on him, and toss him. Bret thinks that Bad News is gonna split the trophy with him, but he was kinda dumb in those days, and sadly he falls victim to a Ghetto Blaster (enzuigiri) and gets tossed to give Bad News the win at 9:43. BAD NEWS SCREWED BRET! This would actually kick off Bret’s babyface turn and lead to his singles career. I don’t rate battle royales, but this one was pretty bad. Bret smashes the trophy, then rams Bad News into his birthday cake and attacks him after signing the contract.
- WWF title tournament, first round: Ted Dibiase v. Jim Duggan. Remember the days before Dibiase had a theme song? The sad thing is that this was an AWESOME brawl in their Mid-South days, which circulated on a million comp tapes. They fight for the lockup to start and Duggan slugs away and gets an atomic drop. Dibiase goes over the top on the melodramatic sell and stalls for a bit. Back in, Dibiase throws some chops, but gets clotheslined. Duggan pounds away in the corner, but eats boot on a blind charge and messes up the sell, as he’s out of position for Dibiase’s followup. Ted pounds on him and gets a lariat, which Duggan doesn’t sell properly. Must be stoned tonight. Dibiase hits him with an elbow off the middle and the fistdrop for two. How come no one uses that fistdrop anymore? Duggan gets a laughable sunset flip for two. Well, it’s the thought that counts. Dibiase hits him with a knee and another fistdrop, but Duggan reverses a suplex and catches Dibiase coming off the top. Duggan makes the comeback with a clothesline and a powerslam. He goes for the three-point stance, but stands in front of Andre like a MORON and gets tripped up. Fistdrop finishes for Dibiase at 5:01. Anyone that stupid deserves to lose. Fairly entertaining little match. *1/4
- WWF title tournament, first round: Dino Bravo v. Don Muraco. Muraco is managed by Superstar Graham at this point, before his relationship with Vince got REALLY bad, and he’s using “Jesus Christ Superstar” as a theme. Man, that’s one movie that Hollywood is probably tripping all over themselves to remake now. Both guys are roided to the gills. Guess it’s a special occasion. They trade shots in the corner and Muraco powerslams him out of there, and follows with a splash for two. Armdrags, but Bravo gets his own and drops an elbow. Gut wrench suplex and he stomps away, but misses a knee in the corner and Muraco goes after it. He keeps going with a spinning toehold, but they slug it out with forearms and both go down. Bravo throws the ref into Muraco’s path and it’s a ref bump. Bravo gets the sideslam, but the ref calls for a DQ at 4:55. That’s the fastest referee revival I’ve seen this side of Earl Hebner. ½*
- WWF title tournament, first round: Ricky Steamboat v. Greg Valentine. This was assumed to be a no-brainer win for the Dragon to set up a rematch with Savage. HO HO, silly us. Criss-cross to start and Steamboat gets his trademark armdrags and works on the arm, and slugs Hammer down for two. Back to the arm, but he gets some shoulderblocks for two. Steamboat goes out and skins the cat back in, and dropkicks Valentine from behind for two. That looked sloppy. Back to the arm, as Jesse drops the name of future Beyond the Mat documentary maker Barry Blaustein. Valentine comes back with chops and chokes away, then yanks him off the ropes. He drops the hammer for two. Steamboat escapes a backdrop suplex and rams him into the turnbuckle to come back, and grabs another armbar. Hammer escapes with an atomic drop and a clothesline, then works the throat over on the apron. Back in, he slugs Steamboat into the corner, but Steamboat fires back with some NASTY chops for two. A slam attempt is reversed for two. Valentine with the gutbuster and he goes to work on the legs, but Steamboat shoves him off into the turnbuckles. They exchange some primo chops, which would get over HUGE these days, and Hammer takes the worst of that. Steamboat gets two. Hammer goes to the eyes, much to Jesse’s delight, and gets a shoulderbreaker for two. He goes up with a forearm shot off the top, which somehow sets up the figure-four, but Steamboat chops out of it. Hitting the guy in the leg is usually advisable if you’re using the figure-four as your finish. Steamboat comes back with a back elbow and goes up with the flying chop, and that gets two. He rams Valentine into the turnbuckles 10 times and goes up to finish, but apparently his temper has clouded his judgment, because Hammer rolls through for the clean pin at 9:09. Valentine was pretty game for this one. This would prove to be Steamboat’s first swan song in the WWF, as he waves goodbye to the fans and leaves for the NWA. ***1/4
- WWF title tournament, first round: Randy Savage v. Butch Reed. First outfit for Savage tonight: Bright blue robe, fuchsia tights. Liz’s dress matches the robe. Savage dodges Reed to start, but gets caught in the corner, and Reed drops a fist on him. He pounds him in the corner and gets a suplex, and an elbowdrop gets two for Reed. Savage bails, so Reed necksnaps him on the apron and stomps away. Back elbow and Reed drops a fist off the second rope, but puts his head down and Savage comes back with some timely pugilism. Reed catches him with a lariat, however, and goes up. Slowly. Very slowly. So slowly that he has time to put the moves on Elizabeth, allowing Savage to slam him off the top and finish with the big elbow at 4:06. Basic babyface Savage match, as he gets pounded for a while and makes the surprise comeback. ¾*
- WWF title tournament, first round: Bam Bam Bigelow v. One Man Gang. This was shortly after Bam Bam’s big debut, which is why the result was so perplexing. I’m not sure what Bigelow did to screw up his monster push, but he must have done SOMETHING to piss off Vince. Gang attacks him in the corner and slugs him down, and then splashes him in the corner. Another charge misses and Bam Bam overpowers him into a splash for two. Crossbody gets two. Fistdrop gets two. Bigelow comes back with a clothesline and no one is selling. Bigelow finally headbutts him down and goes to finish, but Slick pulls him out of the ring and Bigelow can’t beat the count back in at 2:58. This was slightly ridiculous because Bigelow was clearly on the apron and the count should have been broken. ½*
- WWF title tournament, first round: Ravishing Rick Rude v. Jake Roberts. This was interesting, because the famous angle between these two over Cheryl Roberts was taped BEFORE Wrestlemania, but didn’t air until after, so really the fans were getting the blowoff on a feud they didn’t know existed yet! Rude overpowers him into the corner and does some posing to start, but Roberts faceplants him. Rude slams him and slugs away, but Roberts gets his own slam. Oh, cruel hand of irony. Jake slugs him into the corner, where Rude sees Damian and walks into an arm wringer. Jake works on the arm, but Rude slugs him down, although he is unable to break free of the move and Jake brings him down to the mat with him. Jake holds the wristlock and turns it into an armbar, but Rude brings him to the top and finally slugs out of it. Jake catches him with a kneelift, however, and goes for the DDT, but Rude slips out. Back in, Jake goes back to the armbar and they criss-cross, but Jake catches him with a slam, but whiffs on the kneelift and Rude takes over. Considering Jake nearly flew out of the ring on the missed kneelift, Rude should be glad it DIDN’T hit. The poor guy would have had a broken jaw from it. Rude hits the chinlock and hangs on through Jake’s escape attempt. Finally Roberts flips him off, but Rude goes up with an elbow and clotheslines him down for two. Back to the chinlock. Rude elbows him down for two and goes back to the chinlock, as the crowd is increasingly lulled to sleep. Jake tries to suplex out, but Rude hangs on. He turns it into a cover for two, allowing Jake to bail. Rude holds him on the apron and elbows him down, however, for two. Back to the chinlock. That goes on forever, completely telegraphing the result. Jake finally powers out with a jawbreaker and picks up the pace by slugging away on Rude and backdropping him. Short-arm clothesline sets up the DDT, but Rude powers him into the corner. Blind charge hits boot and Jake hits him with a gutbuster for two. Rude comes back with a backdrop suplex, however, for two. They clothesline each other for the double KO, but Jake recovers first. They head to the corner, where Rude gets two, and it’s a 15:00 draw, at 15:13. I guess the timekeeper was lulled to sleep, too. *1/2
- So your quarterfinals look like this:
- Andre v. Hogan
- Dibiase v. Muraco
- Savage v. Valentine
- One Man Gang – Bye.
- Ultimate Warrior v. Hercules. Ah, the days when Warrior was only considered vaguely weird instead of outright insane. They exchange shoulderblocks and get nowhere, and then fight into the corner with a lockup. Warrior throws chops, but misses a pathetic clothesline, and Herc puts him down with three clotheslines. Selling isn’t exactly Warrior’s strong point. Warrior fires back with his own, and then another one. I see where Batista gets his moveset from. Warrior misses a punch and Hercules dumps him, but gets pulled out himself and they brawl outside. Back in, Herc slugs away, but Warrior still won’t sell, and he fires back as they awkwardly fight it out in the corner. Hercules brings him out of there with an atomic drop, and dodges Warrior’s charge, setting up the FULL NELSON OF DEATH. Gorilla thinks it’s over, but Warrior pushes off and gets the pin at 4:35. That weak finish would be erased by Warrior’s monster push to come. DUD
- WWF title quarterfinals: Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant. The whole saga is recapped for those who need it. This feud is one of those cases where they started out with a bad match and got worse each time. Andre attacks to start, as vigorously as he could move by that point, and pounds Hogan with the CLUBBING FOREARMS. Having seen Hogan wrestle Big Show a million times, Andre really doesn’t look that tall here. Hogan fights back with clotheslines and goes after Dibiase, then rams him into Andre and starts throwing chops. Andre falls into the ropes and gets tangled up, so Hogan capitalizes by tearing his shirt off and posing. Well, no one ever said he was a great strategist. He slugs on Andre to no avail, and Andre finally goes down. He drops elbows, but Andre chokes him down on the mat. Andre is painfully slow here. Dibiase gets his shots in from the outside, and Andre chokes him from behind and turns it into a VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DOOM. And we move to tape #2. That’s the worst tape break I’ve ever seen. Anyway, Andre continues choking, but Hulk miraculously comes back, which is a development I didn’t expect at all. Punch punch punch clothesline and Hogan goes for the slam, but Dibiase brings in a chair and breaks it up. Our combatants fight over it, and it’s a double DQ at 5:14, giving the winner of Dibiase v. Muraco a free trip to the finals. Horrible, horrible stuff, as Andre was obviously in no shape to be out there. -** Hogan, sportsman that he is, beats up Virgil and nearly kills him with a suplex on the floor because he didn’t want to go down with him. And then he slams Andre too. What a hero.
- WWF title quarterfinals: Don Muraco v. Ted Dibiase. Muraco brings him in with a slam to start and clotheslines him, and drops an elbow, and a powerslam gets two. He hammers away and gets a back elbow, then drops the Asiatic Spike from the second rope, for two. Snapmare into a necksnap and Muraco yanks him out of the corner and gets a standing dropkick for two. Man, Muraco is game tonight. Dibiase bails and avoids the wrath of Superstar Graham, but heads back in and Muraco slugs on him. Muraco whips him into the corner and yanks him out again, but Dibiase hangs onto the ropes and uses the leverage to pull Muraco into the turnbuckles. Now THAT’S smart. Dibiase chokes away and clotheslines him for two. Knee to the gut and the FISTDROPS~!, which get two. Muraco comes back with a kick to the head, but Dibiase slams him and goes up for Elbow That Never Hits. It doesn’t hit. Muraco makes the comeback with a nice clothesline as Dibiase bumps all over, but he walks into a hotshot and that finishes for Dibiase at 5:35. This was all a major style clash, with Dibiase bouncing off Muraco like a pinball, but Muraco seemed energetic enough to make it worthwhile. *3/4 Dibiase goes to the finals.
- WWF title quarterfinals: Greg Valentine v. Randy Savage. Another matchup you didn’t see much of. Savage and Liz now have matching pink outfits, and Savage has changed to the classic bright red trunks. Once he went to long tights it totally ruined his mystique. Valentine attacks to start and hammers away in the corner, but Savage takes him down with a kneedrop for two. Hammer quickly forearms him and goes up with a forearm from the top, and drops an elbow for two. Shoulderbreaker gets two. Valentine tosses him and follows with an elbow to the floor, and lays in the chops outside before sending him into the railing. Back to the apron, where Valentine hammers on the throat and chokes away. Back in, he works on the leg a bit, but Savage does a bit of damage control by making the ropes. Valentine keeps coming with a drop suplex for two. Backbreaker gets two. Savage suddenly comes back and gets the double axehandle for two, but chases Jimmy Hart and gets caught with a cheapshot. Savage blocks a suplex and gets his own, but goes up too soon and gets caught coming down. He tries to charge and crotches himself as a result, and Valentine goes for the figure-four, but Savage reverses to a cradle for the pin at 6:06. This never really got going. *
- Intercontinental title: Honky Tonk Man v. Brutus Beefcake. Sherri Martell is playing Peggy Sue here. You know, not to overthink the characters here, but did it strike anyone else as weird that Beefcake had an almost-sexual fascination with cutting other guy’s hair? I mean, here’s a guy who comes from San Francisco, and enjoys putting other men to sleep and then dominating them with a pair of large scissors, essentially marking his territory with a bad haircut. And this stems from having his hair cut by another confused, formerly-butch, wrestler in the form of Adrian Adonis. So is this like some kind of sick rape-revenge fantasy being lived out on our screens? And you thought Rob Feinstein was a perv. They fight over a lockup to start and Honky pounds on him, but gets his foot caught by Brutus, who atomic drops him. And then he MESSES UP THE HAIR. Oh, it’s on now. Back in, Honky wants to slug it out, but then changes his mind and hides in the ropes. Brutus rams him into the turnbuckles to take over and gets a high knee, but Honky bails again. Brutus pulls him back in and dodges a kneelift, but misses an elbow. Honky stomps away on the mat and drops a fist, and Brutus gives a goofy sell of it. Jimmy Hart gets some cheapshots from the outside and Honky goes for Shake Rattle N Roll, but elects to keep punching instead. Another try, but it’s too close to the ropes and Brutus hangs on to block. Beefcake fights back and backdrops him, and Honky begs off from this flurry of offense, but it’s NO MERCY from Beefcake, as he hooks the sleeper. It’s not looking good, so Jimmy Hart waffles the ref with the megaphone and Beefcake releases the move like a moron. Beefcake is more excited about getting a chance to cut Honky’s hair than winning the title, so he goes for his scissors, but Jimmy steals them. Beefcake chases him down and gives him a haircut, which shows a distinct lack of focus on the task at hand. Peggy Sue dumps water on Honky to revive him, and we’ll call it at DQ at 9:00, although the actual match was only 5:00 or so. Beefcake would get MUCH better in 1989, before the boating accident turned him into what he became later in his career. ½*
- The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware v. The Islanders & Bobby Heenan. This was the blowoff for the abysmally stupid dognapping angle, and Heenan is wearing a dog-proof suit. Once again, Tama (Sam Fatu) is the twin brother of Rikishi, although minus all the bulk at this point in his life. I stand by my assertion that all samoan wrestlers should be forced by law to carry around their family trees on a 3x5 card. Dynamite pulls Tama in to start and hiptosses him, but he begs off. DK slingshots him into the corner and out to the floor. Back in, Smith slams him, but misses an elbow. Haku comes in and grabs a headlock on Davey Boy, and they collide in mid-air and Davey Boy gets two. Slam gets two. Crucifix gets two. Davey Boy hits the chinlock, but he gets taken back into the Islander corner and worked over. He comes back with a press slam on Tama, but Haku comes in and pounds on him. Back elbow, but Koko gets in and takes both Islanders down with a headscissors. Dynamite clotheslines Haku, but walks into a kick in the corner. And that finally brings the Brain in, as he stomps on Dynamite and then tags out to Tama again. Backdrop on the Kid and Tama slams him to set up a pump splash, but it hits knee. Hot (?) tag to Koko, which the crowd doesn’t really pick up on, and the heels collide. Haku clotheslines him, however, and pounds away. So Koko is YOUR face-in-peril, as Tama goes up with a shot, and Heenan bats cleanup again. He stomps and chokes away, but Koko slugs back and whips him into the corner. Koko dropkicks him into the post, but takes too long and the Islanders jump him from behind. It’s BONZO GONZO and the Islanders drop Heenan onto Koko for the pin at 7:28. This went NOWHERE, with no flow to it and no heat on anyone. ¾*
- Jesse stops to pose for the fans, because I guess the show just needed MORE filler or something.
- WWF title semi-final: Randy Savage v. One Man Gang. Winner of this gets Dibiase for the title. Savage and Liz have matching purple outfits, and Savage has moved back to the fuchsia trunks again. They fight over a lockup to start and Savage hits him with an elbow, then necksnaps him using the beard for leverage. Gang powers him into the corner, however, and pounds away. He uses the CLUBBING FOREARMS until Savage goes down, and that gets two. Elbowdrop gets two. Big splash misses and a corner splash also misses, which allows Savage to come back with some fisticuffsmanship, and Gang bails. Savage follows with the axehandle to the floor, and back in he tries a slam, to no avail. Gang chokes him down while Slick puts the moves on Elizabeth (HIM she runs from, but Lex Luger she shacks up with?) and Gang tries to use the cane for no good, but alas the ref sees it and it’s a DQ at 4:12. I have no idea what they were shooting for here, but this obviously wasn’t it. DUD They would have a much better match on SNME a couple of weeks later.
- WWF tag team titles: Strike Force v. Demolition. Remember the days when an oddball, thrown-together team winning the tag titles was something DIFFERENT? Hard to believe there was a time when Demolition hadn’t yet won the tag titles, but here it is. They still have one of the greatest themes ever written. By this point in Strike Force’s reign, the pretty-boy act had worn thin and the crowds were ready for a heel team to beat them. I, for one, was cheering for Demolition vociferously at the closed-circuit location where I was watching in 1988. Smash pounds on Martel to a face pop to start, and catches a crossbody attempt, but Santana dropkicks them over. It’s a donnybrook and Strike Force cleans house and double-teams Smash with a clothesline. That gets two for Martel. The crowd is SERIOUSLY burned-out by this point, which was approaching four hours into the show. Ax comes in, but gets armdragged by Santana. Strike Force works on the arm in the corner, but Ax headbutts Martel and brings Smash in, who walks into a hiptoss. Back to Santana, as they keep switching off and stay on the arm. Santana tries a leapfrog and gets clotheslined by Ax from the apron, however, and it’s CLOBBERING TIME. Ax keeps Tito in the corner and they unload on him, and now the heel fans start making themselves heard. Ax gets a powerslam for two. Smash chokes away and they do some cheating, and it’s a suplex for two. By the way, I assume everyone knows that Smash is Barry “Repo Man / Blacktop Bully” Darsow, but in case you don’t, now you do. Ax comes in, but puts his head down and Santana catches him with an elbow, but Smash smartly drags Tito back to the corner again. Tito catches a fluke flying forearm (with great sell by Ax), and it’s hot tag Martel. It’s dropkicks for everyone! He knocks Smash down and gets the Boston Crab, but Tito brawls with Ax, allowing Mr. Fuji to bring the cane into play. Ax nails Martel, good night, and we have new champions at 8:00, to one of the biggest face pops of the show. Standard formula stuff. *1/2 The Demos would reign forever, finally losing the titles 14 months later to the Brainbusters, who were busy losing the NWA titles to Barry Windham & Lex Luger at approximately the same time this was happening!
- WWF World title finals: Ted Dibiase v. Randy Savage. Thank god it’s almost over. Final outfits for Savage & Liz are matching white, and Savage is back to the red trunks again. Dibiase has Andre with him, Savage has Liz. Now there’s a mismatch. They fight over the lockup to start and Savage elbows out of the corner, but gets tripped by Andre. The crowd already can read 18 chapters ahead of the bookers and starts calling for Hogan. They exchange hammerlocks and Dibiase goes down, but Andre trips Savage again. Would YOU argue with him? Crowd wants Hogan again. Dibiase starts on the arm, but Savage reverses, so Dibiase rams him into the corner and pounds away. Clothesline gets two. Sunset flip is blocked by Savage, and he comes back with a clothesline for two. Dibiase takes a breather and regroups. He starts hammering on Savage and chops him down, and a back elbow. Another one misses and Savage elbows him down and necksnaps him on the top rope (with a great oversell from Dibiase), and a high knee puts Dibiase on the floor, into the protective arms of Andre. Savage finally gets smart and sends his woman to the locker room, sacrificing himself, as this gives Dibiase the chance to lay him out and drop the fists for two. Crowd knows why she’s gone. Dibiase hits the chinlock, and that’s Hogan’s cue. He takes a seat at ringside and Dibiase slugs away in the corner. Andre goes for Savage, but now Hogan makes the save. Dibiase clotheslines him and drops an elbow for two. Suplex gets two. Gutwrench gets two. Dibiase goes up, but gets caught and slammed, and Savage goes for the kill. Elbow misses, however, and Dibiase hooks the Million Dollar Dream. Andre gets a shot in, drawing the ref over, and thus Hogan comes in and blatantly cheats, hitting Dibiase with the chair, and Savage finishes with the flying elbow to win his first World title at 9:17. Definitely not their best match, as they were both burned out and surrounded by angles. **1/4 I don’t get how it would have been booked for the original ending – Dibiase winning the title – however. I can’t see them ending a Wrestlemania in 1988 with the heel winning, but that’s what was supposed to happen.
The Bottom Line:
A long, boring, dull, BORING show filled with C-list celebrities (Vanna White?) that was mainly there to serve as a prelude to Wrestlemania V and the HUGE money match that was Savage v. Hogan. It wouldn’t be until recent years, when fans were more open to seeing 20 minute matches on a major show, that they could properly run a four-hour Wrestlemania.
Recommendation to avoid.