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March 3, 2006
WWF Wrestlemania IV
Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, March 27th 1988
Before I get onto the mind-numbing task of reviewing Wrestlemania IV, it's time for a little more back-story. At this point in time (Spring of 1988) Jim Crockett Promotions was gasping for air. The WWF had screwed over NWA's first PPV Starrcade '87 in November by airing Survivor Series '87 on the same day. McMahon further hurt Crockett by airing a free cable Royal Rumble TV Special on USA Network that outbid NWA's Bunkhouse Stampede Finals PPV in January 1988. On the company’s last leg, Crockett decided to take one last vindictive swipe at McMahon and his WWF régime. He aired the very first Clash Of The Champions on TBS the same time that Wrestlemania IV was scheduled to air. The Clash turned out to be an exceptional show on free TV while Wrestlemania IV was 4 hours of excessive PPV boredom. Most fans simply gave up on Wrestlemania IV and watched Clash, which ended up costing the WWF millions.
Crockett may have won the battle but he lost the war. Cable companies that had abandoned Starrcade '87 that past November, were irate on what they viewed as a vengeful move to rob the WWF and themselves of millions and they warned both McMahon and Crockett never to do it again. In a few months Jim Crockett Promotions would cease to exist (Ted Turner would purchase NWA that November), while the WWF would continue to make millions off PPV for the rest of 1988 and on.
Here we go with Wrestlemania IV!!!
We open up with a video package that shows the board walk of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Close shots of wrestlers getting pumped up for Wrestlemania IV are shown. Interesting...
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura are in the announcers’ booth as we are mere moments away from the event starting. They take it over to Craig DeGeorge who has a report on the Wrestlemania IV weekend. Just so you know this is the Coliseum Home Video version NOT the PPV version. Wrestlemania IV was so long that the commercial tape it was put onto two videos even after Coliseum edits. It doesn't look like much is missing here anyways so a review of the commercial version is what you get. I'm too scared to even think what sitting through the PPV version must have been like!
Mean Gene is in the ring with Gladys Knight as she sings America The Beautiful.
*20 Man Battle Royal Featuring The Hart Foundation, The Young Stallions, The Rougeau Bros., The Killer Bees, The Bolsheviks, Sika, Sam Houston, Bad News Brown, Outlaw Ron Bass, Dangerous Danny Davis, Ken Patera, George 'The Animal' Steele, Junkyard Dog, Hillbilly Jim & The King Harley Race
Mr. Baseball Bob Uecker is in the commentators’ booth for this opener. The winner of the battle royal will be awarded a 7 ft trophy. Sam Houston gets the honor of being the first guy eliminated after Ron Bass whips him into Danny Davis who backdrops him out. Wait...Danny Davis eliminated Sam Houston first?!?! Ouch! Sika follows quickly afterwards. The brawl continues for a bit. George Steele is notably not in the ring and the announcers have no idea why (it would turn out later that he injured his leg coming down those damn stairs at the entrance). Anyways Steele picks on Neidhart trying to pull him out. The Anvil, fed up, slaps Steele the makes the mistake of turning his back on him which causes him to be pulled out predictably. Can't help but notice how The Rougeaus and Bees are really going at it here! Weren't they friends at Survivor Series? Whatever. Raymond Rougeau and both Killer Bees go out in a heap. JYD tosses out Ron Bass with ease. George Steele gets in Bass' face and is escorted back to the dressing room. Everyone gangs up and eliminates Hillbilly Jim who was apparently Uecker's pick to win it. Umm...obviously Bob Uecker hasn't watched wrestling in a while. Jim Powers is tossed out moments later. Roma fireman carries Danny Davis out after realizing he should have been eliminated by Sam Houston. The Russians attempt to put Patera out but Ken Patera ends up tossing out Nikolai Volkoff and then Boris Zhukov. Such an effort is only followed by Bad News Brown coming up and tossing out Patera right after. There goes USA! Harley Race dumps Jacques Rougeau only to be eliminated by JYD. Then Bad News puts out Paul Roma. It's down to Bad News Brown, JYD and a young heel Bret 'Hitman' Hart. Bad News and Bret unload on JYD and while JYD is able to hold his own for a bit he's dumped swiftly. At this point it looks like Bret and Bad News are co-winners but as soon as Hart turns his back. WHAM! He gets a shot of Bad News' ghetto blaster to the back of the head. Bad News viciously chops away at the Hitman then tosses him over the top to win the battle royal. But wait...it's not over. As Bad News' celebrates his victory, the Hitman climbs back into the ring and drops kicks Bad News out. He then proceeds to blow a major league fit and smashes the 7 ft trophy to pieces. The crowd cheers for Bret Hart as Bad News is escorted to the back. Fun little opener! **1/2
Match Analysis: Well it's hard to rate a battle royal but this was a good idea. This was an easy way to include the entire WWF roster and the battle royal told a nice story as well. I always thought a Battle Royal should have been the opener for every Wrestlemania after that. It's a great way to included all talent on the card while giving major matches more time. This match was important because it led to Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart's face turn.
Craig DeGeorge is back in the classy locker room of Ted Dibiase. Dibiase claims he's going to be the undisputed WWF Champion when the day is done.
Robin Leach comes down the aisle and makes a proclamation.
*Round # 1 Tournament Match: Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. 'Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase
Both Virgil and Andre The Giant accompany the Million Dollar Man. Dibiase and Duggan exchange some holds to start with and Dibiase surprisingly breaks clean. Suddenly a slugfest leads to Dibiase taking a nice bump over the top rope. The tide changes as Duggan eats a boot in the corner. Dibiase does some nice fist drops and knee drops but Duggan surprisingly counters it with a sunset flip. Wow! Duggan begins to make a comeback after a suplex but makes the mistake of setting up his clothesline finisher in front of Andre. The two get tangled up and Dibiase is able to knee Duggan in the kidney and get the pinfall. 3/4*
Match Analysis: For a 3-minute match this wasn't bad. I mean Dibiase and Duggan had a background from Georgia or Mid South wrestling so they probably could have put on a better show but considering the time constraints this was what we got. Not very good at all but still this was watchable.
Mean Gene is with Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake. Beefcake cuts a lame promo that basically shows he's more interested in cutting Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart's hair rather than win the IC title. Well no one accused Beefcake of being a genius.
*Round # 1 Tournament Match: 'The Rock' Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo
At this point Muraco is now a baby face managed by Superstar Billy Graham. It's clear here though that this Rock is far from the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. He botches a second turnbuckle splash early on. Some decent average wrestling here but due to time constraints this match is brief and meaningless. Muraco works on the knee until he gets tossed into the ropes and tied up, which turns the tide. Bravo hits a nice piledriver for a two count, 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. It looks like Bravo has won but the referee revives and promptly DQ's Bravo. Meh...3/4*
Match Analysis: This was a battle of steroids. Neither of these guys put on a great show here. However there are some nice spots as well as many botched ones. For the time it was given it's acceptable.
Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat is with his family. Steamboat cuts a great serious promo where he claims that everything he will do in his career from that day fourth will be for his son 'The Little Dragon'. Unfortunately this was his last WWF match until 1991...he would be off to greener pastures in the NWA.
Bob Uecker (whose searching for Vanna White) is with the Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart.
*Round # 1 Tournament Match: Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat vs. Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine
They tease a Savage/Steamboat match here but of course we won't get it. I think it's pretty bad to give these two guys only 15 minutes to work a match however they endeavor to put on a great show regardless. Steamboat works on Valentines arm to start, getting in some nice deep arm take downs. Hammer gets in some offense and then goes for the figure four early. Steamboat counters by kicking him into the post and they both ensue in a vicious chop fest. Valentine's on rubber legs but toughs it out and goes for the Figure four again. Once again The Dragon counters it and does a flying elbow drop. He then goes to the top and does a trademark Karate chop. Valentine gets rammed into the turnbuckle 10 times and the referee Hebner gives Steamboat static about it. Steamboat climbs to the top to finish off Valentine with a flying body press, but Valentine rolls through and gets the pin. What an upset! Great match though. Steamboat says farewell to the fans. ***
Match Analysis: Probably the best match in the tournament. For the time it was given (15 minutes) this was pretty good. I wish Steamboat had gone the distance but he was leaving the WWF. Still a very good match.
Mean Gene is with The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware. Koko kisses Matilda square on the lips...bleh!
Special Report with Craig DeGeorge as he pesters a courier over a package he is delivering to Bobby Heenan's dressing room. Heenan tells DeGeorge to buzz off as he takes the package. Then slams the door on his face! Funny stuff! The package would come in handy later in the show.
*Round # 1 Tournament Match: Macho Man Randy Savage vs. The Natural Butch Reed
At this point in time Savage is enjoying his run as a baby face. He is crazy over here. God Elizabeth looks hot here! Savage and Liz are sporting matching royal blue outfits as they enter. In typical baby face fashion Savage takes a beating by Butch Reed. While he gets some offence Reed changes that very quickly with a nice suplex. Savage is hurt, as The Natural proceeds to stomp a mud hole in him. Things look grim as Reed drops a fist off the top, Savage makes a comeback that goes nowhere. Reed clotheslines him then heads slowly to the top rope. Butch attempts to hit on Elizabeth, which buys Savage time to slam him off the top and finish him with a trademark elbow smash off the top rope. The crowd goes crazy! Humiliating loss for 'The Natural' Butch Reed. This match sucked. 1/4*
Match Analysis: This match was brief and brutal. Butch Reed looked really bad here, his offence was very slow and lazy looking. Essentially Savage took a beating then made an easy comeback which made Reed look like a total fool. Lord no wonder this was his last WWF match as well. Like Steamboat, he'd be off to greener pastures in the NWA as well
Bob Uecker is with Bobby Heenan and The Islanders. Heenan makes fun of Uecker for his quest for Vanna White and his hall fame induction. Funny stuff!
*Round #1 Tournament Match: Bam Bam Bigelow vs. The One Man Gang
Jesse calls Bam Bam and his manager Oliver Humperdink "the ugly twins". Ha! Gang wastes no time hammering Bam Bam while he's warming up. OMG misses a turnbuckle charge and Bam Bam gets a few 2 counts with his agility. Bam Bam gets some payback with a few blows and head butts. He floors the Gang and attempts to signal his finisher. He goes off the ropes but Slick pulls down the ropes and Bam Bam spills onto the floor. He attempts to get back in but the Gang blocks him off with a few hammering punches. Umm why isn't the referee keeping the Gang away from the ropes? Oh wait! He just counted Bigelow out! Okay...that makes sense! Not! Weird upset ending...bad match. DUD
Match Analysis: This was a real upset. The match was awful. I really expected Bam Bam to go over here since he was being groomed for the WWF title. However after this WM IV loss it was clear Bam Bam's WWF Main Event status was done. He was gone by the summer.
Mean Gene is with The Hulkster. Gene proceeds to kiss Hogan's ass. Heh! Some things never change. Hulk cuts a weird promo on Andre and the Hulkamaniacs. Something about slamming Andre and the earth breaking apart into the sea and Donald Trump drowning but letting go of his material possessions and embracing Hulkamania as his lord and savior and on and on. Right...
*Round # 1 Tournament Match: Jake 'The Snake' Roberts vs. Ravishing Rick Rude
Standard wrestling action here. A few exchange of holds and slams. However things get really slow as there are A LOT of rest holds and chin locks that slow this match down to sheer boredom. It becomes painfully obvious that they are working towards a time limit draw. Especially when Gorilla and Jess mention the risk of a draw. Rude dominates and the match slows down even more. BORING! Heenan yells at Rude not to waste time. Hell even he's bored! A few 'weasel' chants and 'boring' chants come on from the fans. A few Jake comebacks add some heat to the match but are thwarted quickly. Finally a decent comeback and just as Rude attempts to counter Jake with a pin. DING! We have a time limit draw. Both wrestlers are pissed. Jake chases off Rude with Damien. Dull match. *1/4
Match Analysis: I want these 15 minutes of my life back! This match was just before the famous Cheryl Roberts feud so there was nowhere near as much heat as some of their later encounters. This match points out how mediocre Rude was as a wrestler around this point. He'd improve but that doesn't change this match from being a disappointing bore.
Mean Gene is at the Tournament tracking board with Vanna White. He dubs Vanna "the world's most famous letter turner" Gee! Thanks Gene! They review the quarter final matches. Hulk vs. Andre, Dibiase vs. Muraco, Savage vs. Valentine, Gang gets a bye.
*Hercules vs. Ultimate Warrior
Warrior runs down those steps at the entrance. Wow! I'm surprised he didn't hurt himself there! Herc and the Warrior snarl at each other and get in each other’s faces with a few shoves. Warrior no sells Herc's punches and unloads on him with some of his own. Herc clotheslines Warrior three times to drop him. Warrior comes back immediately with a few slams. Herc dumps him over the top. Action on the outside. Warrior rams Hercules' head into the steps. Back into the ring, Herc gets some more offence. Warrior misses a turnbuckle charge and meets a full nelson but the fingers weren't locked. Warrior kicks off the turnbuckle and puts his shoulder up at the last minute to pin Hercules. Herc attacks Warrior with the chain after the match. Crap! DUD
Match Analysis: This was awful. Warrior was already no selling everything in sight and he was nowhere near over as he would be a year later. The counter was good for Warriors skill but it still was a bad match.
Review of the Hulk and Andre feud. Includes footage from Wrestlemania III, SNME and The Main Event from February 5th 1988.
*Round # 2 Tournament Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant
Everyone's hyped about this match. Dibiase and Virgil accompany Andre. The Trump Plaza pops big for Hogan's entrance, loudest it's been all night. Andre attacks Hogan before he can get into the ring in an attempt to go for a quick win. Hogan makes a quick comeback with a few forearms. Dibiase attempts to interfere but is met head first with Andre. Hogan knocks Andre down again and he gets tied up in the ropes. He wastes time though posing for the crowd and Dibiase and Virgil let him free. Hogan attempts to ground him again but is caught in a choke hold. Man Andre looks awful here. He continues to choke down Hogan. Wow! It's bad enough the 1st tape ends with both men doggin' it in the match. Hogan comeback, Andre's reeling, Hogan attempts to slam Andre but Dibiase nails him in the back with the chair. Hogan no sells it and Dibiase jumps out of the ring. The Giant and The Hulkster struggle for the chair, Hogan nails him, Andre nails him and both men are DQ'd. Hogan chases off Dibiase and suplexes Virgil on the floor. Hulk gets back in the ring and slams Andre. Then 'Real American' comes on and Hogan poses for the crowd even though HE LOST!!! Awful awful awful match. DUD
Match Analysis: Bottom line, this match sucked. Andre looked terrible and Hogan didn't help at all either. It should be noted that Hogan should have been DQ'd cause he hit Andre with the chair first. Then again Dibiase and Virgil interfered so maybe the ref decided that was the best idea. Whatever. The only thing redeemable bout this match is Gorilla and Jesse's great commentary during Hogan's posing.
Mean Gene is with Macho Man and Elizabeth. Macho says "Hulk Hogan is a cheated man not a defeated man". Essentially claiming he'll go all the way in the tournament cause he has Hogan's support. Elizabeth looks really hot again!
*Round # 2 Tournament match: The Rock Don Muraco vs. Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase
Winner gets a bye into the finals. It's amazing Muraco has made it this far into the Tournament. He wastes no time in jumping Dibiase before he gets into the ring. The Rock destroys Dibiase until he's suckered into a corner and makes a crucial mistake. The it's all Dibiase until he misses that elbow move off the second rope that he always misses. Muraco makes a comeback. However Dibiase counters with a stun gun move and pins Muraco. Meh! *
Match Analysis: Well this was a breath of fresh air after Hulk and Andre but it was still very rushed. It only got decent when Muraco made a comeback and Dibiase countered with that awesome stun gun move.
Mr. Baseball Bob Uecker is looking for Vanna White but he meets up with Demolition. You can tell this is early Demolition cause Smash's hair is shorter and he has yellow face paint. The Demos cut an awesome promo on Strike Force. They were such a cool team!
One Man Gang is in the ring for the announcement of his bye. Gang cheers but really what was the purpose of bringing him out for a bye? We already knew he had a bye anyways. Whatever!
*Round # 2 Tournament match: Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine
Savage and Liz enter wearing matching hot pink. Wow! Did I mention that Liz is looking pretty fine? Well this is a somewhat dull match. Really bothers me that we missed Savage vs. Steamboat for this but whatever! I'm not the booker! Valentine attacks early and Savage once again plays "face in peril". Match ends up on the outside and The Hammer gives Macho a taste of his own medicine with a few elbows. Savage comes back with a double ax handle for the two count. He then attempts to go for the elbow drop but misses and Valentine begins to put him in the figure four. Savage counters with a small package for the pin and victory. Nice move! Meh...match. *1/2
Match Analysis: This was clearly just another rushed match. Too bad we missed Savage vs. Steamboat. Maybe this would've been good had it been longer but it's not so...yeah it wasn't great at all.
Mean Gene is with Vanna at the board again.
*Intercontinental Title Match:(Champion) The Honky Tonk Man vs. Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake
Honky Tonk Man enters with Peggy Sue (ie. Sherri Martel with a wig on). Jesse says Hi To Terry, Tyrell and Jane in Minnesota. Why is Beefcake last to enter? He didn't even have theme music at this point! And he's not the champ! Whatever! Beefcake and Honky wrestle a comedy match. Bruti pisses off Honky by messing up his hair. Honky makes a comeback and slowly works down Beefcake. He attempts to go for the Shake Rattle 'n Roll but Beefcake grabs the top rope and Honky falls flat on his face. Beefer hooks the sleeper and Jimmy Hart interferes nailing the referee with the megaphone. Chaotic ending here where Bruti leaves the unconscious Honky Tonk in the ring while he chases Jimmy Hart until he catches him and cuts the Mouth of the South's hair. Peggy Sue brings around the Honky Tonk Man by pouring water in his face. However he is promptly DQ'd for Hart's interference. Horrible match. DUD
Match Analysis: One of the reasons I never liked Brutus' push was because of matches like this. Thank the booker that he was never IC champ. Or else we would have seen awful matches like this a lot more.
Bob Uecker is with Andre The Giant. Great promo where Andre explains the whole reason why he and Hogan were DQ'd to keep him out of the tournament so Dibiase would win it. Classic moment where Andre strangles Uecker. Funny stuff!
Craig DeGeorge is with Jimmy Hart and Honky Tonk Man. Honky rages bout The Barber cutting Jimmy's hair.
*The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware vs. The Islanders & Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan
Heenan enters wearing a protective padded suit (that's what the courier was delivering!). The whole story behind this match was that Matilda the Bulldogs mascot was dog napped by the Islanders and this is the revenge match. Right... anyway lame feud angles aside, both teams were very good at the time. We get off to a real great start when Dynamite catapults Tama into the ring and does a nice sequence with him. Bulldogs and Koko totally dominate until Dynamite eats boot in the corner. Heenan tags in and gets in some moves when the faces are down and out. It doesn't last long though as Koko makes an easy comeback and destroys the Brain. The Islanders double team and a pier six brawl erupts. In the confusion, The Islanders slam Heenan onto Koko for the pin. Nice little match albeit very short. ** After the match the Bulldogs chase off Heenan with Matilda. Silly really!
Match Analysis: This was an okay match. Would have been better had it been given more time. However this was decent and a nice escape from the tournament. Too bad the Islanders would be gone within a few months, they were a great team
Jesse Ventura poses for the crowd to a huge crowd pop
Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase is in the ring for another pointless bye announcement.
Bobby Heenan is out of breath backstage whining about the Bulldogs.
*Semi Final Tournament Match: Macho Man Randy Savage vs. The One Man Gang
Savage and Liz entering in matching black outfits. Liz still looks fine. Savage plays "face in peril" for the third time in the night. OMG batters him methodically. Slick yells at Elizabeth and the referee gets tied up giving the chance for the Gang to crack Macho with Slickster's cane. Ref sees it and bam, the Gang is DQ'd. Well that was brief. 1/4* After the match Savage gets a measure of revenge nailing Gang with the elbow smash and the OMG squashes Slick like a bug.
Match Analysis: Not much of a match. Very rushed. It was really no different than anyone other Savage match that night. He played "face in peril" and it was brief and brutal.
Mean Gene is with Vanna but she leaves just as Uecker rushes in. Uecker claims he looking for Vance White. Okay he said Vanna all night. Now the joke just doesn't work!
*Tag Team Title Match: (Champions) Strike Force vs. Demolition
Demolition is already super over here and they get a bigger ovation than Strike Force does even though they are the heels. Smash beats the living hell out of Martel. Crowd goes nuts. Pier 6 erupts Strike Force gains control. Smash bear hugs Santana and falls into an Ax clothesline on the apron. Nice move! The Demos cut the ring in half nicely with some double-teaming on Tito. Santana plays "face in peril" until he comes out of nowhere with a flying jalapeno on Ax. Ax tags Smash and Chico hot tags Martel. Rick Martel is on fire as he takes on both Demolition. He places Smash in the Boston crab but Fuji gets in the refs face and distracts him giving Ax the opportunity to smoke Martel in the back with the cane. Smash pins Martel for Demolition to win their first set of WWF Tag Titles. Good match. ***
Match Analysis: Not bad at all. This was actually probably the best match of the night but at this point the crowd did not care. Demolition's reign of terror had just begun!
Craig DeGeorge is with a victorious Demolition. Another classic Demolition promo!
*Final Tournament Match: Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase
Robin Leach comes down with the new WWF World Title Belt. Uecker is the announcer and Vanna is the timekeeper. All of a sudden the crowd seems slightly more interested in this match than the others. Savage and Dibiase start off with some nice sequences but Andre trips up Savage and the crowd chants for Hogan. Another sequence is thwarted by Savage getting tripped yet again by Andre. A flying neck snap and high knee sending Dibiase flying out of the ring, but when Macho tries to follow it up with an elbow smash Andre stands in his way taunting "jump". At this point Savage send Liz back to the dressing room and a few minutes later she returns with the Hulkster. Hogan grabs a chair and has a ringside seat while Dibiase dominates. Savage makes a comeback and Andre grabs him but Hogan rushes over and clobbers the big guy. Meanwhile Dibiase hits a clothesline and elbow drop for two. A 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 once again attempts to interfere by tying up the referee. Hogan climbs into the ring and nails Dibiase with a chair, knocking him out. Savage finishes it up with a flying elbow for the pin. We have a new World Champion! Although it's a totally tainted victory because of Hogan's interference. **3/4
Match Analysis: This was certainly not main event match status for Wrestlemania. Like the other matches this too was rushed. Hogan's interference totally devalued Savage's victory as it later became clear that if it weren't for Hogan, Dibiase would have won. Savage and Dibiase would have about a hundred better matches over the summer of 1988. This match was decent but it was certainly no Ric Flair vs. Sting 45 minute match.
Jinsell's Bottom Line: Gotta give myself a pat on the back for even reviewing this damn Wrestlemania! A total of 4 boring hours and 16 mediocre matches is simply too excessive for my tastes. The only way you can watch Wrestlemania IV the whole way through is on a rainy Sunday afternoon when there's nothing else to do. Just curl up in a blanket and some food and see if you can watch the whole thing. Even then you'd probably choose a more appealing show like Clash Of The Champions I or Wrestlefest '88. Nonetheless despite the bore, Wrestlemania IV is a historic WWF PPV that every fan should have for historical purposes. Mildly recommended.