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The SmarK Countdown: Wrestlemania

(2012 Scott sez:  Welcome to the WRESTLEMANIA COUNTDOWN!  Since Wrestlemania as an event has been blessed with so many re-rants from me over the years, I’ll include the redone versions in each post to speed things up.  I’m also dispatching with saying “2012 Scott sez” because it takes forever to type and I’m sure you figure out that the bold italic comments are new.  Unless you’re stupid, in which case I can’t help you.)

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania.

- Okay, they’re here, so please stop bugging me now. Over the next month, we’re gonna cover all 15, so you might wanna pull up a pillow or something and get comfortable. (Oh, the days when there was only 15 shows to go through when doing a countdown.)

- Live from New York, New York, the city so ugly they had to name it twice. Original airdate March 31, 1985.

- Your hosts are Jesse and Gorilla.

- Gene Okerlund sings the national anthem. Dear god...

- Opening match: Tito Santana v. The Executioner.

Welcome to hell, Tito, as you're stuck in the opening match against a masked Buddy Rose before the crowd is even finished filing in. Well, things would get better later. Rose, btw, weighs all of about 200 pounds here, although he would get a huge gut the next year. Maybe he should use "Blow Away". Standard jobber match to introduce the very-not-wrestling-fan crowd to the basics of what's going on here tonight. Actually a reasonably decent match as Rose controls for a couple of minutes, but Tito makes the comeback with the Flying Jalapeno and figure-four for the submission. I've seen worse. **

- SD Jones v. King Kong Bundy.

This would be the very definition of a squash. Jones jumps into a bearhug and gets Avalanched and pinned in 9 seconds to set a (bogus) speed record. DUD

- Matt Borne v. Ricky Steamboat.

Geez, where do you start here? Borne is a jobber at this point who would go on to become WCW's Big Josh and from there the WWF's original Doink the Clown. He's reportedly been trying to commit suicide recently, which I find very sad considering how talented a wrestler he is. (I’m assuming he didn’t succeed, since we didn’t hear anything about him dying and he was fairly recently reinventing himself on the indy scene yet again.)  Steamboat is fresh off jumping from the NWA here. It should be noted that Steamboat is the first one to participate in both the first Starrcade and the first Wrestlemania, although there's two more later in this show. Good lord those ropes are loose. Steamboat pretty much squashes Borne and finishes it with the flying bodypress. It's the Steamer, so there's nothing to hate here. **1/4

- Brutus Beefcake v. David Sammartino.

There was some sort of feud going on here, but it's the David Flair of 1985 so who gives a shit? Sammartino was so hideously untalented that even the almighty power of nepotism couldn't get him over. (That’s a bit harsh, as David was just saddled with expectations that he couldn’t possibly hope to meet.)  Speaking of hideously untalented, Beefcake was no slouch in that department, sucking the meat missile as emphatically as anyone at the time. This is very, very old school. David works on Beefcake's leg for a while, but Beefcake comes back with his 1985 offense. Oh, wait, this WAS 1985, so I guess it's apropos. David comes back in turn with some rights and a kneelift. David moves sooooooo slow. Beefcake tosses David out of the ring, where Johnny V attacks. Bruno saves his son and absolutely beats the crap out of Johnny, triggering a big brawl for the double-DQ. Cheap ending. *1/2

- Intercontinental title: Greg Valentine v. Junkfood Dog.

Valentine is the second person to do both Starrcade and WM. There's one more to come. (Oo, oo!  I know the answer, condescending 1999 Scott!) Valentine works on the leg a bunch and JYD actually sells it. Crowd doesn't seem particularly interested in this one. I don't think there was any sort of storyline going on here. (Nope.) Hart jumps up on the apron and gets punched off by JYD, allowing Greg to do the Ric Flair pin in the corner on JYD for the win. Tito Santana, humanitarian that he was, tells the referee about the malfeasance on the Hammer's part, so the match is restarted and the departing Valentine is counted out. Bleh. 1/2* On the replay, we see Jimmy actually taking a vicious bump off the apron onto the un-padded floor. Ouch.

- WWF Tag team title: Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo v. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff.

Volkoff does the special extended version of the Russian anthem for the big occasion. To give you an idea of the magnitude of what was about to happen here, picture the Dudley Boyz defending the tag titles against, say, The Mean Street Posse. (Or for an analogy that ISN’T totally dated…oh wait, there aren’t any tag teams left.  Never mind.) As in, NO ONE gave the challengers half a chance. Hard to believe that Sheik was only a year removed from the World title at this point. (Fun fact:  Speaking of tag wrestlers, the other choice for transitional champion between Backlund and Hogan was Bill “Masked Superstar / Demolition Ax” Eadie.)  Barry Windham RULES IT, BABY at this point. (Really?  He was good, but RULES IT, BABY is pretty strong.) Quick tags from the champs to start and the Evil Foreigners do some miscommunication to establish them as the blundering heels. Rotundo plays Ricky Morton, although really Ricky Morton hadn't established the Ricky Morton role at this point in his career...well, whatever. (Obviously this isn’t an exact science.)  Rotundo escapes the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DOOM and makes the hot tag to Windham. Windham hits the bulldog on Volkoff but Sheik breaks up the pin, triggering a pier-six brawl. Sheik nails Windham with Freddie Blassies's cane, and Volkoff falls on top for the pin. Quick match. Crowd is unimpressed to say the least, but they needn't have worried because it was just a hotshot title switch and the US Express would regain the belts a few weeks later. Blah match. *

- Bodyslam challenge: Big John Studd v. Andre the Giant.

If Andre slams Studd, he gets $15,000. If he can't, Andre retires. Bobby is wearing white and purple for the pre-match interview, and when we cut to ringside he's wearing black and red. (It was a wizard.)  This was set up by an ep of Saturday Night's Main Event where Heenan's family cut Andre's afro off. The match is a pretty typical Studd-Giant match, namely slow and boring. In short order, Andre slams Studd and wins the match. But Vince "El Cheapo" McMahon does the Jerry Lawler booking job, as Andre pulls out a couple of handfuls of the money and throws it to the crowd before Heenan steals it back. No real match, so no rating.

- WWF Ladies Title: Leilani Kai (w/ Fabulous Moolah) v. Wendi Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper).

Ah, yes, the Rock N Wrestling Connection rears its ugly head with this match. In the pre-match interview, Wendi sounds EXACTLY like Mongo MacMichael, I swear to god. Wendi is just absolutely crazy over. Pretty much a cookie-cutter women's match, complete with hair-pulling snapmares, and Cyndi Lauper interference. Kai goes for a bodypress off the top and Richter rolls through to regain the title. This was about 1/2*

- Main Event: Mr. T & Hulk Hogan v. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff.

Billy Martin is the guest ring announcer, Liberace is the guest time keeper, Muhammad Ali is the guest referee. Patterson is the second ref. FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, Martin is dead, Liberace is dead, Andre is dead, Studd is dead, JYD is dead, Ali is a vegetable, Orndorff is retired, Steamboat is retired, Santana is retired, Valentine is retired, the ladies are persona non grata, Cyndi Lauper is the punchline to several 80s jokes (She actually had another comeback after I wrote this and now she’s adult contemporary cool again), Windham, Rotundo and Beefcake are considered over-the-hill, wrestling has changed irrevocably and forever...and Piper is still fighting Hogan for the World title. This is why I hate WCW so much, because no one has any sense of fucking perspective. Anyway, Liberace rings a little bell to start the match. Geez, and people were SURPRISED that this guy was gay? Piper and T start out, and Mr. T actually shows some amateur wrestling technique, which pretty much puts him one up on his partner. T with a fireman's carry takedown on Piper, which triggers a big brawl right away. Stalling from the heels and then we're back in as the faces beat the living snot out of Piper. Mr. T looks surprisingly not sucky here. WCW take note. Piper does a dramatic oversell of the big boot, falling out of the ring, then suckering Hogan out after him, which allows him to bash a chair over his head to take control. Ah, those were the days. Heat here is INCREDIBLE. Hogan takes the DOUBLE ATOMIC DROP OF DEATH! Hogan gets beat up for a bit, but Orndorff misses the flying kneedrop and Hogan makes the hot tag to Mr. T. Doesn't last long as Orndorff smothers T right away. Hogan gets a semi-hot tag in short order and the requisite pier-six breaks out with Jimmy Snuka fighting Bob Orton. But Orton's interference backfires and Orndorff gets decked with the LOADED CAST OF HIDEOUS DEATH and pinned by Hogan, with no legdrop. Hm. Well, as celebrity matches go this lay somewhere in between Jay Leno and Lawrence Taylor. **1/4 Piper and Orton abandon Orndorff to the wolves, and Hogan is nice enough to let him go in peace. This would lead to Hogan and Orndorff forming a tag team, which would lead to that team self-destructing because Hogan is a jerk.

The Bottom Line: Well, it was the first Wrestlemania, what'd you expect? It didn't get great, or particularly good, until the third one. The WM2 rant will demonstrate that more than adequately.

Still, if you've never seen it, it's worth a look for historical reasons. Otherwise, not recommended.

The SmarK Retro Rant - Wrestlemania 1 (Director's Cut)

- Yes, it's another redo of a rant that sucked first time around due to being 5 years ago and all.

- This is from the 'Collection' set of Wrestlemanias released in 1997, and thus the show is complete and uncut from the original broadcast, unlike the hacked up Coliseum version that I used the first time around. Unfortunately, the actual quality of the tapes is about as low as humanly possible - recorded in EP and seemingly as fragile as Scotch tape with magnetic filings on them. I haven't even watched this before and it's already threatening to fall apart. (Hey kids, remember when you had to decide what speed to record on your videotapes?) 

- You know it's 1985 because they loop 'Easy Lover' while Vince promos the upcoming matches. Mean Gene sings the Star Spangled Banner, which has to rank both with high and low points in the sport. At least it wasn't 'Tutti Frutti'.

- Live from New York.

- Your hosts are Gorilla & Jesse Ventura.

- We even get the Tito Santana and Executioner pre-match promos before the opener! Executioner is OBVIOUSLY Buddy Rose given the face and voice.

- Opening match: Tito Santana v. The Executioner.

Criss-cross to start, and Executioner bails off a dropkick. Back in, Tito grabs a headlock and walks the ropes with it for two. As usual Gorilla reminds us that no one has ever been pinned with a headlock. I'd like to see someone get pinned from the 80s one of these days, just to hear his reaction. Executioner goes after the leg, as promised in the pre-match promo, and rams Tito into the corner a few times. Tito runs into a knee and Executioner goes for a figure-four, but Tito kicks off, so he tries a spinning toehold instead and gets rolled over by Tito for two. Tito comes back, but Executioner begs off. Tito whips him around, but Executioner backdrops out of a piledriver and goes up. Tito slams him off, but hits knee on a splash attempt. Executioner goes to work on the leg, but Tito dumps him. Tito slams him back in, Flying Jalapeno, and figure-four finishes at 4:49. Hey, this was pretty decent without all the clipping! *1/2 (Oddly enough, my original match rating was higher.) 

- King Kong Bundy v. SD Jones.

Hey, an SD Jones Wrestlemania promo. That's worth getting this version of the tape alone. We gonna get down, baby. Or so I hear. The promo lasts longer than the match, however. The kayfabed time is 9 seconds, the real time is 0:23, as Bundy wins with an Avalanche and a splash. I don't know where they get 9 seconds from, in fact, as it took Jones that look just to stagger into place in the corner. (It was a wizard.) DUD The actual fastest match ever is Bret Hart beating the Mountie in 1991 at a house show, as the opening bell rang and he cradled him for the pin right away.

- Matt Borne v. Ricky Steamboat.

Ricky still has his NWA short tights. Criss-cross to start and Steamboat chops away, into a headlock. Borne reverses, but Steamboat flips out and goes back to it. Atomic drop and back to the headlock. Borne gets his own atomic drop and stomps away, but Steamboat comes out of the corner with chops , and back to the headlock again. Borne counters with a nice belly to belly out of the corner and follows with a regular one for two. They slug it out and Steamboat wins that battle with ease and gets a backdrop suplex. Neckbreaker and kneedrop get two. Borne comes back into a criss-cross, and Steamboat knocks him down and goes up for the flying bodypress at 4:35. Pretty much a Steamboat squash. ½* Borne was so humiliated that he didn't return to Wrestlemania until the ninth one, as Doink the Clown.

- Brutus Beefcake v. David Sammartino.

David is one of the all-time sad stories of wrestling, as he was both the son of one of the greatest wrestlers ever (Bruno) but also the son of someone who would soon be on the outs with the WWF (also Bruno) and thus not only had the expectations of greatness surrounding him, but got punished for who he was. (Today of course he would just be renamed Brent Butterworth and wrestle on NXT for 18 months straight with no mention of his family history.)  He was never any good to begin with, which just made it worse. They actually should have done the tag match that was featured on Coliseum Video instead of this singles match. Beefcake and Johnny V do the big stall to start. Beefcake wins a lockup (so THAT'S where Hogan stole that from!) and then dodges another try at one. PSYCHOLOGY. Okay, maybe not, but I haven't had a lot to work with yet. (Neither have I.) David takes him down with a toehold, and they do some mat-wrestling, which allows Beefcake a chance to bail. Back in, David goes to a facelock, but Brutus makes the ropes. David goes for the arm, and Brutus slams out, but David hangs on. Brutus goes to a headlock, but David reverses to a toehold. This is all rather pedestrian, as there's no real selling or strategy involved. David stays on the leg, but Brutus goes to the eyes to break and takes over. Backdrop and Brutus pounds away. The BODYSLAM OF DOOM sets up a devastating kick to the shoulder. Wow, what a hoss that Brutus is. I can't believe this goof was actually a decent worker by 1990. Brutus works him over in the corner with nothing worth mentioning (except in the ironic sense), but David reverses a whip and backdrops him to come back. This match just keeps going. They slug it out and David knees him in the head and suplexes him, for two. They fight outside and never make it back in, as it turns into a big donnybrook at 11:35. Okayish if incredibly boring. *  (Much like this rant.) 

- Intercontinental title: Greg Valentine v. Junkyard Dog.

Dog psyches him out to start and goes to the arm right away. Dog slugs him down and Valentine retreats. Greg pounds him down, but misses an elbow and gets headbutted out of the ring. Back in, they do the test of strength and Hammer hammers him down. Greg goes to work on the leg with some weak stuff, but Dog shoves him off on the first figure-four attempt. They slug it out, and Dog headbutts the shit out of him. Jimmy Hart jumps up to protest, and Valentine nails him by mistake, as Hart takes a headfirst bump to the concrete floor and I believe gives himself a concussion. Greg cradles for the pin at 5:57, using the ropes for leverage. This went nowhere. ½* Tito explains the chicanery to the ref, so he restarts the match and Greg walks out, giving the win to JYD. Silly finish, but it put more heat on the Tito-Greg feud. (Can you imagine booking that kind of finish at a Wrestlemania now?  That’s like a bad Smackdown finish.) 

- WWF tag team title: Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo v. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff.

Sheik headlocks Rotundo to start, but gets hiptossed and dropkicked. The US Express pinballs him in the corner and Rotundo goes back to the headlock. Windham comes off the top and legdrops Sheik low, but gets caught in the wrong corner. Heel miscommunication allows him to escape, however. Volkoff tries and gets headlocked by Windham right away, and Rotundo gets an elbow and elbowdrop for two. Windham comes in with an elbow and they work over the arm in the corner. Good tag stuff there. Rotundo meets the boot of the Sheik, however, to turn the tide. Sheik backdrops him and drops an elbow for two. Gutwrench suplex gets two. Rotundo comes back with a suplex of his own, but Volkoff stomps him down. Rotundo tries a hammerlock, but gets worked over on the ropes. He gets a sunset flip for two, but Volkoff stomps him down again. Knee to the gut and Rotundo gets worked in the heel corner, which leads to the ADOMINAL STRETCH OF DEATH by Sheik. He escapes and makes the hot tag to Windham, who dropkicks Volkoff and gets a bulldog for two. It's BONZO GONZO, but Sheik hits Windham with Blassie's cane and Volkoff gets the pin and the titles at 6:55. Don't cry, the US Express would regain them a couple of weeks later. This was just to have a title change, I think. Match was your usual tag formula, but had terrific heat. **

- We take a merchandising break during the intermission. Hey, where's the DVD?

- $15000 Bodyslam Challenge: Andre the Giant v. Big John Studd.

The object here is to slam your opponent, not to pin him. The bag carried by the heels is the old wrestling trick of stuffing a couple of hundred bucks in singles into a bag and calling it 'thousands'. (Always loved Paul Heyman’s story about Jerry Lawler doing that trick in Memphis and nearly starting a riot because the fans were dumb enough to buy it.)  Gorilla questions the wisdom of putting your career up against $15,000, but then Andre never was the genius type. They slug it out to start and Studd bails. Back in, Andre chokes him out to the delight of the crowd and gives him the ASS OF DOOM in the corner. Studd's first try at a slam fails. Andre goes to a bearhug and that goes on for a while. He switches to a sleeper of sorts and starts working on the arm, then slugs Studd down. He keeps kicking the leg, and slams him at 5:51. Total drek. DUD Andre tosses the actual money in the bag out to the fans, and Heenan steals it quickly after.

- Women's title: Leilani Kai v. Wendi Richter.

Fabulous Moolah cost Richter the title a few weeks prior to this to set it up. They even left 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' in as Richter's entrance music here, which they never do for 80s video releases. Usually they overdub generic music to save a few bucks. Cyndi Lauper is managing Richter here, and Lauper is managed by David Wolfe, who is not be confused with the David Wolfe in wrestling who currently known as Slash in NWA-TNA. Not that anyone would be, but one never knows. (WTF was I going on about there?  That’s not even his real name!  Was Wikipedia around in 2004?)  Wendi slugs her down to start and goes for the arm, unsuccessfully. She tries again and gets a hammerlock. Kai reverses and works the arm herself, then switches to the leg and chokes her down. Wendi squeezes her with a bodyscissors, and they do a HORRIBLE suplex attempt that turns into a Kai near-fall. Kai charges and hits boot in the corner, and Richter gets two. Moolah gets her shots in on Richter, and Kai gives her a big boot as a result. Richter fights back with a fireman's carry for two. Blind charge hits knee and Kai gets two. Backbreaker gets two. She goes up and they even manage to screw up a bodypress-reversal, as Richter regains the title at 6:10. This was atrocious and embarrassing to watch at times. ¼* (Likely still better than an Alicia Fox match.) Richter would get screwed over by the WWF shortly after, as a contract was shoved in her face before what was supposed to be a squash match, and when she refused to sign the masked 'jobber' turned out to be Famous Moolah, (Who the fuck is Famous Moolah?  Damn Word autocorrect.)  who did a shoot and won the title.

- Hulk Hogan & Mr. T v. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff. Special ring announcer is Billy Martin, special timekeeper is Liberace, special outside referee is Muhammed Ali, and special sauce is that stuff they put on Big Macs instead of mayo. Jimmy Snuka and Bob Orton are both hanging out at ringside, and your official ref is Pat Patterson. Hogan and Piper start, but Mr. T wants to start. Hogan, being the unselfish guy that he is, obliges. Slapfest to start and Piper goes low and takes him down, and they do a bit of mat-wrestling, with T coming out on top. T grabs him in a fireman's carry, and it's breaking loose in Tulsa! Referees and seconds all get involved, and I wonder if Paul Heyman was booking back then. Piper and Orndorff decide to call it a night and take a walk, but Hogan won't let them be counted out. So Piper saunters back in, and the faces unleash the dreaded DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER before Hogan clotheslines Piper and gives him an atomic drop. Hogan chokes away, and Mr. T comes in for a double-team. He slams both heels and Hogan pounds on Piper and boots him out of the ring. Orndorff hits him from behind and Hogan joins him out there, which allows Piper to give Hogan a little chair action. Back in, the heels work Hogan over in the enemy corner, including a double atomic drop. Orndorff gets an elbowdrop and stomps him down. Suplex and Piper comes back in and slugs away. Kneelift gets two. Orndorff drops an elbow for two. Backbreaker and Orndorff goes up, but misses the elbow. Hot tag T, but the heels beat him down. Orndorff wrestles him down and the heels work him over in the corner and Piper goes to a front facelock. T escapes and tags Hogan again, who delivers another knocking of noggins, but gets suplexed by Orndorff. Orton and Snuka suddenly brawl for no reason, and Orton nails Orndorff by mistake in the melee, giving Hogan the pin at 13:21. Probably the best of the night, as T didn't look any worse than anyone else they might have picked. **1/2 This would lead to Orndorff's face turn (and eventual heel turn) and set up T v. Piper the next year.

The Bottom Line: Well, this is one of those shows that gets a free pass for historical reasons, so it's pretty much recommended only if you've never seen it before, or if you enjoy historical curiosities like Buddy Rose opening the show under a mask or Matt Borne with blond hair.