Wrestlemania season is upon us so like every good wrestling blog we at RTDB are in full ‘Mania mode. However, as connoisseurs of the old school we aren’t just speculating about this year’s offering, we have been revisiting memories from our childhood. Today I look back at the very first Wrestlemania I watched on TV. As a young whippersnapper of just 7 years of age I had seen a couple of ‘Manias on VHS but Wrestlemania 8 was my first experience watching The Showcase of the Immortals live. Well almost anyway, I am from the UK.
To the event and we find ourselves at The Hoosier Dome (later the RCA Dome) then home of the Indianapolis Colts. There is a crowd of over 62,000 on hand and our commentators are the legendary duo of Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon.
To the ring and it’s time for the national anthem, sung by Reba McEntire. I have no idea who she is but it’s a very well received rendition, I guess people were just more polite back then. Literally as soon as it’s out of the way we’re ready for first match…
‘El Matador’ Tito Santana vs. Shawn Michaels
As Santana enters the ring Monsoon describe his El Matador character as “gallant”. Not a word I would use to describe someone that kills animals for the entertainment of others, but the world was a different place back then. HBK enters to a very impressive level of heat considering he was still a lower-mid card act (albeit one on the rise) at this point. The match kicks off and, well, it’s not great. Yes, Wrestlemania 8 starts with a headlock. Nothing too much happens in this match other than me thinking that Dolph Ziggler strongly resembles an early HBK, in character and ring work. The end of the match is clumsy to say the least, although did not appear to be botched. Santana holds Michaels too close to the ropes when trying to perform a bodyslam allowing HBK to hold the ropes and, well, fall onto Tito for the win.
Winner – Shawn Michaels
Match score – 5/10
Next is a promo from the recently re-hired Legion of Doom, with Paul Ellering. They shout (yes, shout into a microphone) and allude to being better than ever and wanting a Tag Title shot. They aim much of their aggression towards Money Inc. and effectively call them out, which seems to televise the result of the Tag Title match later on the card.
Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts vs. The Undertaker
This is the only match on the card to feature a quick video beforehand to set the scene. I have no idea why the other matches did not feature a highlights package and I have no idea why this match warranted one more than any other, very odd. Not only this but both men cut a typical backstage promo. To the match and the crowd is far more receptive to this match, even if it is a, typical of this time, slow motion Undertaker bout. The highlights from the match include Taker sitting up from two DDTs and Bobby Heenan’s commentary: “Do you know how Paul Bearer got hold of that urn? He got it the old fashioned way, he urned it.” Superb, Heenan really was priceless. The end of the match came after The Dead Man hit the Tombstone Piledriver outside the ring and rolled Jake into the ring for the win.
Winner – The Undertaker
Match score – 4/10
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper (c) vs. Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart
Before the match Mean Gene conducts an interview with both men. As they are both babyfaces Piper tries to wind-up Hart in a comical, not causing too much offence way. The no-nonsense Hitman is having none of it and tells Piper that all he’s after is the IC title. This promo reminded me of why I loved the Hitman. Unlike Hogan, Warrior and almost every other WWE Superstar at the time, he wasn’t like a cartoon character. The Hitman was just that, he was efficient, clinical and no nonsense, like a hitman. This description doesn’t sound too radical today but in the early 1990’s the realistic Hitman character was the exception to the rule in WWE.
Anyway, to the ring and in a rarity during his singles career Hart is wearing all pink, rather than pink and black. Sounds like an odd thing to pick out but the sight of Hitman’s all pink tights covered in blood is an image that has stayed with me since the day I saw it. Piper and Hart come together to hear the ref talk over the rules, like they do at the start of boxing matches. This was a common tactic for babyface vs. babyface matches back in the day. The opening exchanges are fairly typical, both men trading holds. Things really heat up when Piper, the more manic and unpredictable personality, shows a heelish side by spitting on Hart. On Commentary Heenan and Monsoon talk about the upcoming UK tour and Gorilla totally buries Sheffield. It’s hilarious; the big man was clearly not a fan of the Steel City. It’s around this time that Hart starts bleeding, which really adds drama to a match which is already simmering nicely. After a ref bump Piper has a chance to turn heel by clobbering Hart with the ring bell. Nice guy Piper doesn’t resort to such tactic and decides to use his sleeper hold instead. In a genuine Wrestlemania moment Hart counters the sleeper by springing off the turnbuckle and pinning Piper for the win and IC Title. Showing Hogan how it should be done, Piper graciously congratulates the new champion and humbly puts Hart over. Great match.
Winner and new Intercontinental Champion – Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart
Match score – 8.5/10
Next we head to Lex Luger’s living room to hear him talking about the ill-fated WBF. He finishes his promo by taking his shirt off, flexing his muscles and drinking a glass of milk, as you do…
The Nasty Boys, Repo Man and The Mountie vs. ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan, The Big Bossman, Sgt. Slaughter and Virgil.
As you can imagine this match is bollocks. In the pre match promo Duggan reveals his team’s tactics: “attack, attack, attack!” I always hated Duggan, even as a child I thought he was a complete bell-end. The highlights from this nonsense include the celebrity ring announcer guy who was actually quite funny, Bobby Heenan announcing Shawn Michael’s departure from the building and the sight of Virgil wearing some form of scaffolding on his face to protect a broken nose. Speaking of Virgil he actually scores the win on a Nasty Boy after a botched double team attempt.
Winners – ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan, The Big Boss Man, Sgt. Slaughter and Virgil
Match score – 2/10
Ric Flair (c) vs. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage
Match of the night and possibly the best WWE title match in Wrestlemania history. The added spice to this match is Flair’s claims to have been cutting Savage’s grass i.e. Flair claimed to have had his way with Liz. He even claims to have photographic proof as he and Mr Perfect brandish a “centrefold” picture of the first lady of wrestling during a promo. Of course we don’t get to see it. Speaking of Macho Man he was supposedly not granting interviews when Mean Gene came calling. However when Lord Alfred Hayes caught up with him for a Coliseum Video exclusive he was only too willing.
To the match and Savage isn’t hanging about, we get things started in the aisle. The crowd is electric for this, everyone hates Flair and everyone loves Savage. Savage gets the better of the opening exchanges, but of course heel Flair soon takes charge and slows things down. We settle into a typical match until Savage starts to build momentum after Flair successfully executes his famous turnbuckle flip spot. There are loud boos when Flair kicks out of a Savage cover, these guys were so over. We spill to the outside where Flair becomes a bloody mess. His blade job is not as discrete as Hart’s (he performs it on camera while lying under the guard rail) which resulted in him receiving a substantial fine during this PG era. As the temperature rises Elizabeth makes her way to the ring, presumably to see her man give Flair a kicking first-hand. She is accompanied by several men in suits trying to persuade her to return to the backstage area. Keep an eye out for the youngest of these ‘WWE officials’ as it is an early appearance of none other than Shane McMahon. While this is going on at ringside Flair starts to work over Savage’s leg. We build to what seems like Macho Man’s breaking point when he rolls up Flair, while holding a chunk of tights, for the win and the WWE Title. Flair and Perfect are livid and it all kicks off with the men in suits used to separate Flair and Perfect from Savage. Eventually order is restored and Savage can celebrate with his missus.
Winner and new WWE Champion – ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage
Match score – 9/10
Backstage Sean Mooney catches up with a livid Flair, Perfect and Heenan in the fake locker room while Mean Gene interviews Savage, erm, somewhere else. Emotions are high in these great promos, which tells us that this feud is not over.
Tatanka vs. ‘The Model’ Rick Martel
The adrenaline is still pumping from the previous match so this bout is fairly academic. In one of his earliest WWE appearances Tatanka scores the clean win to maintain his undefeated streak.
Tag Team Championship
Money Incorporated (c) vs. Natural Disasters
Once again we have the usual promos before the match. The back story here is that Jimmy Hart had turned on Earthquake and Typhoon, costing them the titles and becoming manager of Money Inc. in the process. Unfortunately for us LOD have already spoiled the outcome of this match in their earlier promo by focussing their attention on Money Inc. rather than both teams. It’s almost a good thing that this match is a write-off because it ends in a count out. Yes, the champions get intentionally counted out at Wrestlemania.
Winners by count out – Natural Disasters
Match score – 4/10
We hear from Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake in his first appearance for a long time. He obviously puts over Hogan’s chances in the main event.
Owen Hart vs. Skinner
Blink and you’ll miss it, Owen Hart just won. Total card filler, and barely filled any time at all.
Winner – Owen Hart
Match score – 3/10
As we prepare for the main event Mean Gene talks to Sid. He cuts his usual nonsensical promo about being the ruler and master of the world. We also see footage from a pre-recorded interview between Vince McMahon and Hogan where Hogan neither confirms nor denies if this will be his last match. He says that he’ll know when it’s over if it was his last match.
Sid Justice vs. Hulk Hogan
For the first time since the first Wrestlemania the title isn’t on the line in the main event. Granted, they are billing two main events but only one can go on last and be the true headline attraction. Hogan enters and gets stuck into Sid straight away. The big man is caught by surprise and runs for cover behind Harvey Wippleman. Rather oddly Hogan’s music plays for this entire exchange. There’s not much else to say about the match other than it consisted of numerous rest holds and tests of strength, which Sid got the better off. This match really was shit, until somehow it got even worse. It descended into farce when Hogan made his typical comeback and landed his big leg drop. The plan was for Papa Shango to break up the pin and cause a DQ. However Shango was nowhere to be found meaning that Sid had to improvise and kick out. Wippleman, also improvising, then interfered to allow a reason for the DQ finish. It is at this point that a rather lost looking Papa Shango finally shows up to give the Hulkster a beating. He and Sid continue the beat down until, for the first time in months, we hear the music of The Ultimate Warrior. He sprints to the ring (and it was a long aisle) and sends the bad guys packing. A more streamlined looking Warrior and Hogan pose to close the show. In a slightly ironic gesture Hogan actually does well to put Warrior over, just a couple years late eh?
Winner by DQ – Hulk Hogan
Match score – 1/10
I still hold this event in high regard, purely because it occupies a special place in my heart. Its plus points include a couple of outstanding matches and pretty much every big name WWE superstar makes an appearance. The bad points are that many of these appearances are just that and not actual matches. There are also a lot of crap matches, no more so than the main event. Like all Wrestlemanias this is certainly worth a watch, but you aren’t missing too much if you stop watching after the Flair/Savage match.