July 16, 2009
Steve Riddle

Wrestlemania
March 31, 1985
Madison Square Garden
New York City
Guest in order of appearance: Cyndi Lauper, Billy Martin, Liberace, and Muhammed Ali

Actual Show:

We see an opening montage of all the matches.

Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse ‘The Body” Ventura welcome us to Wrestlemania.

Howard Finkel welcomes us to Wrestlemania and introduces Mean Gene Okerlund who sings the national anthem.

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the first match, which leads to interviews with the participants.

1. Tito Santana forces the Executioner to submit to the Figure-4 at 4:49.

Debut #1: The Executioner is “Playboy” Buddy Rose under a mask. Rose had built a reputation across the country, specifically the Pacific Northwest. He also had success in the WWF a few years ago against the likes of Pedro Morales and Bob Backlund.

Debut #2: Tito Santana gained early fame in the NWA and AWA before joining the WWF in 1979. He found early success winning the Tag Team Titles with Ivan Putski. He would defeat the Magnificant Muraco on Feburary 11, 1984 to win the Intercontinental Title, holding it for seven months before being dethroned by Greg Valentine and put on the shelf. This is his first match back from injury.

WM Debuts: The Executioner and Tito Santana

Farewell: Rose would leave shortly after this event and head for the AWA, winning the tag team titles with Doug Summers and feuding with the Midnight Rockers. Buddy Rose would sadly pass away on April 28, 2009 from natural causes related to diabetes.

Analysis: A solid, basic opener to WM. Fresh off losing the IC title, Santana detours from that to face the undefeated masked man. Executioner works on the leg like he said, but it is essentially almost a squash. Rose would not be seen again, and Santana moves on and eventually regains the title from Valentine in a classic steel cage match in July. Good opener to kick off the show. Grade: 2.5

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the next match, which leads to interviews with the participants.

2. King Kong Bundy (w/ Jimmy Hart) pins S.D. Jones with a big splash at 24 seconds.

Debut #1: S.D. Jones put together an impressive resume in the NWA and California, winning tag titles in the latter territory, before coming to the WWF in the early 80s as an enhancement talent.

Debut #2: Bundy started his career in World Class Championship Wrestling, before moving to other territories like the AWA and NWA. He was also a member of the original “Legion of Doom” with the Road Warriors and company, before coming to the WWF.

Debut #3: Jimmy Hart first broke to fame as the singer of the Gentrys, who scored a number 1 hit with “Keep On Dancing”. After meeting Jerry Lawler, Hart moved to wrestling and became Lawler’s manager. He was brought up to the WWF before WM and given Bundy as a charge.

WM Debuts: S.D. Jones, King Kong Bundy, and Jimmy Hart

Farewell: Jones would stick around until 1988 before leaving wrestling. He made his last TV appearance in 2006 inducting longtime partner and friend Tony Atlas into the WWE Hall of Fame. S.D. Jones sadly passed away on October 26, 2008 from a stroke.

Analysis: A simple squash to establish Bundy as a possible main event heel. The time is more realistic than 9 seconds, but they only did it to make Bundy a badass heel. He moves on to the main event, eventually getting a new manager. Very short, but it served it’s purpose. Grade: 1

We see interviews with the participants of the next match.

3. Ricky Steamboat pins Matt Borne with a crossbody off the top rope at 4:36.

Debut #1: A second generation star, Borne first achieved success in Mid-South, teaming with Jim Duggan and Ted Dibiase. He arrived in WWF just in time for WM.

Debut #2: Ricky Steamboat established himself in the NWA, feuding with Ric Flair and teaming with Jay Youngblood. Named PWI’s 1977 Rookie of the Year, he jumped to WWF in 1984.

WM Debuts: Matt Borne and Ricky Steamboat

Farewell: Borne would leave in 1986 and jump to WCW in 1991 under the persona Big Josh before returning in 1992 as a very different and memorable character, Doink the Clown.

Analysis: Another solid mid card match. Both were seasoned well, although Borne had the wrestling gene in his blood. Steamboat was a fresh face and got quite the warm welcome. A tough win for Steamboat as Borne could bring it in the big time situation. Borne would not be seen until 1992 and Steamboat would bring us more memorable matches. Grade: 2

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the next match, which leads to interviews with the participants.

4. Brutus Beefcake (w/ Lusicious Johnny V.) and David Sammartino (w/ Bruno Sammartino) wrestle to a double disqualification at 11:42.

Debut #1: Beefcake is a real life friend of Hulk Hogan. He got his start as Hogan’s kayfabe brother in the late 70s, moving from the different territories, including Mid-South before joining WWF in 84.

Debut #2: Johnny Valiant is a tag legend. He and his partner Jimmy Valiant won the WWWF Tag Team Titles twice in the 70s, establishing them as one of the greatest tag teams of all time. After retiring, Johnny became a manager.

Debuts #3 and 4: The Sammartinos are synomous with the WWF. Bruno was arguably the biggest star of the WWWF in the 60s and 70s. He was WWWF Champion on two occasions, his first reign lasting 8 years. He used his pull to land his son, David a job.

WM Debuts: Brutus Beefcake, Johnny V., and the Sammartinos

Farewell: David could never get out of his father’s shadow and left in 1986. He would run around the independents before appearing on one WCW show in 1996.

Analysis: A sluggish match that dragged on a little too long. Beefcake would become a solid midcarder for the next several years, but now is very green. David always had his name keep him from getting a break, coupled with that he’s not a great wrestler. The countout was lame as the feud ended without a definitive end. This would have been better as a tag match. Oh well. Grade: 1.5

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the next match, which leads to interviews with the participants.

5. Junkyard Dog defeats Greg Valentine (w/ Jimmy Hart) by countout at 7:03. Valentine retains WWF Intercontinental Title.

Debut #1: Valentine is the son of the legendary Johnny Valentine. Greg started in the NWA, taking his dad’s place as Ric Flair’s partner (Johnny and Flair were in the same plane crash in 1975, which crippled Valentine). Greg would hold many titles, including the US Title and have a memorable feud with Roddy Piper, which culminated in a legendary dog collar match at the first Starcade in 1983. Valentine jumped to the WWF and beat Tito Santana in September of 1984 to win the IC Title.

Debut #2: JYD started as a football player, achieving All-American status and playing with the Packers before injuries ended his gridiron days. He began his wrestling career as Big Daddy Ritter in Mid-South and also had a brief stint in Stampede Wrestling in Calgary. He changed his name and became arguably one the biggest draws in Mid-South in the 80s. He jumped to the WWF in 1983.

WM Debuts: Greg Valentine and the Junkyard Dog.

Analysis: Had this match happened a few years earlier, it would have torn the house down. JYD was a huge star back in the day, and was still very popular, but he is slowly getting older and breaking down. Still in the midst of his feud with Santana, Valentine does his best to carry Santana’s friend to a good match. Valentine originally wins by pinning JYD with his feet on the ropes, but Santana comes out, complains and the match is restarted. Valentine and Hart return to the locker room and get counted out. Decent match, but not a great effort. Grade: 2

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the next match, which leads to interviews with the participants.

6. The Iron Shiek and Nikolai Volkoff (w/ “Classy” Freddie Blassie) defeat The US Express (w/ Capt. Lou Albano) when Volkoff pins Barry Windham after a cane shot from Sheik at 5:00.

Debuts #1 and 2: Volkoff defected to Canada and trained under Stu Hart. He gained success in the WWWF feuding with Bruno Sammartino. He moved onto the AWA and Mid-South before returning in 1984. The Iron Sheik was trained by Verne Gagne and bounced around the AWA, NWA, and Mid-South. He shocked the world by defeating Bob Backlund in December of 1983 to win the WWF Championship, holding it for a month before losing to Hulk Hogan.

Debuts #3 and 4: Real life brother in laws Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda starting teaming in Florida before moving to the WWF. They defeated Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch to win the tag titles. Windham is the son of Blackjack Mulligan.

Debuts #5 and 6: Freddie Blassie is considered on the greatest heels of all time. He would wrestle for several decades before retiring and becoming a manager. His first charge was a young Hulk Hogan. He then led Iron Shiek to the WWF Championship and also managed Volkoff. Capt. Lou Albano had a brief run as a wrestler before becoming a manager. He would manage a dozen teams to gold.

WM Debuts: Iron Shiek, Nikolai Volkoff, Freddie Blassie, US Express, Lou Albano

Fun Fact: The Express regained the titles in June, before dropping them to the Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine in August. Windham would bail out after a fall out with Vince, and Rotunda would leave too, but on better terms.

Fun Fact #2: The song “Real American” was originally for the US Express, not Hulk Hogan.

Analysis: A good match that could have been a little longer. Shiek and Volkoff are instant heat magnets, while the Express had garnered a nice little following. Very surprised to see the change, but Vince want a shocker and who better han two guys who were hated with such a passion. Grade: 3

Mean Gene interviews the new tag team champions.

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the next match, which leads to interviews with the participants.

7. Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd (w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan) in a $15,000 Bodyslam Challenge at 5:49.

Debut #1: John Studd began his career in the WWWF, winning the tag titles with trainer Killer Kowalski as the masked Executioners. Studd would bounce around to Florida, Mid-Atlantic and the NWA before returing to Titan and becoming a major heel.

Debut #2: The Eighth Wonder of the World began his career in Canada. He would join the WWWF in the late 70s and feud with all the top stars. At this point he was undefeated save for a few instances.

Debut #3: Bobby Heenan began his career in the AWA, managing Nick Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens, and others. He would move onto the WWF and took Studd as his first charge.

Stipulations: If Andre won, he received $15,000. If Studd won, Andre would retire.

WM Debut: Andre the Giant, Big John Studd, and Bobby Heenan

Analysis: Stemming from when Studd and Ken Patera cut Andre’s hair, the fans were salviating to see Studd gets his. It is becoming clear that Andre is breaking down from age and his size. The match is pretty bad, but the crowds pops loudly when Andre slams Studd. The end was a little anticlimatic, because Andre was not planning on retiring soon. He wins and passes out money before Heenan grabs the money. Bad match, fitting ending for a legend. Grade: 1.5

Mean Gene interviews Andre the Giant

Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the next match, which leads to interviews with the participants.

8. Wendi Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper) pins Leilani Kai (w/ Fabulous Moolah) by reversing a cross body off the top at 6:12.

Debut #1: Little is know about Leilani’s early days except she was trained by Moolah, but she came to the WWF in the early 80s.

Debut #2: Richter was also trained by Moolah and gained success in Calgray Stampede, the AWA, and NWA. Richter shocked the world when she ended Moolah’s 28 year reign as Women’s Champion.

Debut #3: Moolah is considered as one of, if not the greatest ladies wrestlers of all time. She bounced around the NWA and WWWF, holding the Women’s Title for 28 years.

WM Debuts: Wendi Richter, Leilani Kai, and Fabulous Moolah

Fun Fact: After Richter defeated Moolah, Moolah led Kai to the title a month earlier at War to Settle The Score.

Farewells: Kai would not be seen on PPV again until 1987. Richter is a different story. She would lose the title to the Spider Lady (Moolah under a mask). It was billed as the Original Screwjob as Richter was balking at signing a new contract and Vince forced the belt off her.

Analysis: A pretty bad match, when you look at this to some of the women’s matches we see today. The big pop came from Richter’s manager, music superstar Cyndi Lauper. Moolah and Kai do there best, but it is a bad effort with many blown spots and a weak pinfall win. Richter would hold the belt until she screwed herself. The match was bad, but the heat and excitement makes it acceptable. Grade: 3

Mean Gene interviews Wendi Richter and Cyndi Lauper.

Howard Finkel introduces the guests, Billy Martin, Liberace, and Muhammed Ali.

9. Hulk Hogan and Mr T. (w/ “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka) defeat “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (w/ “Cowboy” Bob Orton) when Hogan pins Orndorff after a cast shot at 13:22.

Debuts #1 and 2: Piper began his career in Kansas City and moved from place to place, gaining fame for his motor mouth. He gained fame in the NWA partering with Ric Flair and feuding with Greg Valentine. After a brief football career, Orndorff was trained by Hiro Matsuda (the same man who trained Hulk Hogan). He would gain fame in Mid-South and the NWA before coming to the WWF in 1983. He debut the same night Hogan won the WWF Title.

Debuts #3 and 4: Jimmy Snuka has bloodlines to the legendary Anoai Family from Samoa. After success as a bodybuilder, he started wrestling in the Northwest and NWA. He entered the WWF in 82 as a heel and feuded with Bob Backlund, culminating in a classic steel cage match. He then became a face and feud with the Magnificant Muraco. Snuka’s involvment in the match stemmed in an infamous incident in Piper’s Pit, when Piper smashed a coconut on Snuka’s head. Bob Orton Jr. is the son of Bob Orton Sr. He started in Kansas City moving on to the NWA. He came up with Piper and became his bodyguard. He is most famous for his cast, which becomes the catalyst of this end.

Debut #5: The man who would change wrestling in the 80s, Hulk Hogan started in Florida and had a brief heel run in the late 70s in the WWWF. He moved to the AWA as a heel, before becoming a babyface. He would feud with Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA Title, but would never win due to backstage politics with Verne Gagne. He would jump to the WWF and defeat the Iron Shiek on January 23rd, 1984 to win the WWF Championship. It was a major turning point for the WWF as they moved onto a national stage on the heels of “Hulkamania”.

WM Debuts: All participants of the main event.

Fun Fact: This match stemmed from the War to Settle The Score. Hulk faced off with Roddy Piper for the title which ended in a full scale brawl with all six men. The match was set, but T almost threw everything away by almost no showing the event.

Fun Fact #2: This match was named PWI’s 1985 Match of the Year and voted by the WWE superstars as the seventh greatest match in Wrestlemania history.

Analysis: The main event that started it all. Hulkamania was running wild as he and TV toughman Mr. T take on the Hot Rod and Mr. Wonderful. All four men deserve a lot of credit for drawing the audience they did. T almost got cold feet, but pulled together and put forth a good effort, taking this match very seriously. In the end, Orton accidentally hits Orndorff with the cast and Hulk gets the pin, begin the “Hogan Formula” that will be discussed the next few years. A good match with great heat and excitement to cap off the first Wrestlemania. Grade: 4

Final Analysis: The event that began a great tradition. It had been said that Vince put everything he had into this event, and if it failed, the company would have failed. But it did succeed and continues to be the premier sports entertainment event. The crowd was hot and the card, while there were a few duds, was very solid overall. Even though there have been better events, because this was the very first Wrestlemania, it gets a pass. Final Grade: A+

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