Back to Where it all Began: Wrestlemania 1 review

Craig Wilson

What better way to look ahead to this year’s Wrestemania than by going back to where it call began, back in 1985, at the Madison Square Garden for Wrestlemania 1.

wrestlemania1

The show starts with photos of those competing in each match with a picture of the New York skyline in the background set to, obviously, a very 80s generic soundtrack. We also see images of the celebrities in all their glory.

Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura.

Gorilla introduces us to Wrestlemania before sending us straight to Howard Finkel as he announces that Mean Gene Okerlund will start the show by singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.

Match 1: Tito Santana v The Execution: The Execution is a masked Buddy Rose, a former AWA Tag Team Champion. Lord Alfred Hayes, clad in a cream tux, introduces pre recorded comments where Mean Gene speaks with both Santana and The Executioner.

Santana is back after a stint out thanks to an injury caused by WWF Intercontinental Champion Greg Valentine in the pair’s feud over that belt. Santana gets, as Gorilla correctly states, an incredible ovation from the crowd.

A lock up to start and a criss cross before a back body drop and a dropkick sends The Execution to the outside. Side headlock applies pressure and Santana uses the turnbuckle to gain the advantage and gets a near fall.

Executioner breaks the hold with a shot to Santana’s previously injured knee before Santana rams him headfirst into the mat. Executioner is able to take control with a boot to the gut but taking Santana down with a knee to the gut after whipping the former Intercontinental champion into the ropes.

A figure-four leglock attempt is countered but Executioner keeps going for the injured knee. Executioner slams Santana twice but is caught attempt ing to come off the top rope and Santana slams him from the top. Executioner then gets his knees up to counter the splash. He then tries to attack the knee but Santana kicks him out of the ring before bringing him back in where he hits the flying forearm and the figure-four leglock for the win.

Your winner: Tito Santana via tap-out. So Santana wins the first ever Wrestlemania match and it really wasn’t a bad match. A solid opening match and the crowd were hot for Tito in this one.

Lord Hayes is backstage again as he builds up to King Kong Bundy v S.D. Jones and we again get pre-recorded comments.

Match 2: King Kong Bundy v S.D. Jones: SD Jones charges get caught with a charge in a bear hug and is slammed into the corner. An Avalanche follows before the big splash and the pin for the three count.

Your winner: King Kong Bundy via pin. Not quite the 9 seconds advertised but still a squash. This served the purpose and amusingly the replay at the end is the entire match.

Mean Gene catches up with Matt Borne – the future Doink the Clown – backstage and he states that Steamboat is just too nice.

Match 3: Matt Borne v Ricky Steamboat: I forgot to mention that in a bright pink tux, Ventura is running Alfred Hayes close for who has the worst tuxedo on. This isn’t “The Dragon” yet, it’s a quite generic looking Steamboat in white trunks, white kneepads and white boots.

Chops and a snapmare puts Steamboat in control before he flips out of the reversal attempt and keeps the headlock applied. Borne then sells the atomic drop but is able to gain some advantange with an inverted atomic drop and a series of clubbing blows.

Steamboat comes off the second rope with a chop to the head then one to the chest sends Borne down. Gut wrench suplex and a snap suplex only gets a one count. Back suplex sends Borne down as Steamboat regains control. Spinning neckbreaker and a knee drop secures a two count but borne rakes the eyes.

He misses a clothesline but Steamboat connects with a flying chop to the chest before a cross body from the top rope secures the win.

Your winner: Ricky Steamboat via pinfall. Borne was able to get in some offence but essentially a squash and a victory for Steamboat although not quite the “sensational” one that Monsoon stated.

Mean Gene catches up with David Sammartino, who is with his father Bruno as Bruno warns Johnny Valiant, Beefcake’s manager, not to get involved. Beefcake botches a promo, showing exactly why Johnny Valiant does all the talking there.

Match 4: Brutus Beefcake (w/ Johnny Valiant) v David Sammartino (w/ Bruno Sammartino): Unsurprisingly great pop for the Sammartino’s, considering how many times Bruno sold out this venue. It takes an age for Beefcake to remove his ring attire and he gives the fans a strut that would become his trademark when he gained the barber gimmick.

The two run trhough some mat based wrestling to start before David digs out a front-face lock, a move made famous by his father. Way to move out of your old man’s shadow, David. The problem for him was that he may have used many of the same moves, but lacked virtually all the charisma that made his Father such a big name.

Brutus hits a backdrop and Brutus punches and kicks his opponent all over the ring. Sammartino is able to make a comeback with punches and knees and a big suplex for two. David is thrown to the floor and is slammed to the ground by Valiant. Bruno rushes to his son’s aid and throws Valiant into the ring and the four men brawl in the ring as the referee calls for a DQ.

Your winner: No contest. First non-squash but also the first non-finish on this card and, of course, in Wrestlemania history. This match lasted some 12 minutes but felt a lot longer than that. Brutus was a very boring performer whilst Sammartino was far too green and that combination never leads to a good match, as this one demonstrates. The crowd really only cared about this one when Bruno was in the ring…

First ever Wrestlemania title match as Hayes introduces comments from WWF Intercontinental Champion Greg ‘the Hammer’ Valentine and The Junkyard Dog.

Match 5: WWF Intercontinental Champion Greg ‘the Hammer’ Valentine (w/ Jimmy Hart) v The Junkyard Dog: JYD comes out to Grab Them Cakes his song from ‘The Wrestling Album’ released in November of this year. This is the anthology edition of the show and sounds dubbed… Sure it was ‘Another one bites the dust’ by Queen that played as he made his way to the ring.

JYD catches a boot attempt and clubs Valentine to the ground. A knee lift regains control but he misses a falling forearm and JYD hits the headbutts on all fours. Test of strength and Valentine uses a shoulder block and a big fore arm to gain control.

Valentine then works on the legs, softening them up for his patented figure-four leglock. Single leg crab attempt is blocked and JYD kicks out before the two trade clubbing blows in the corner. JYD wins that battle and hits a series of headbutts, keeping hold of his opponent, and Valentine does t he trademark Flair fall to the mat.

Hart jumps up the apron distracting JYD but he ducks as Valentine attmpes a forearm shot and Valentine knocks Hart to the ground. The two fight into the corner and Valentine gauges the eyes and picks up the win with his feet on the ropes.

Santana hits the ring to explain to the referee what happens and the referee reestarts the match but Valentine is gone so JYD wins via count-out.

Your winner: The Junkyard Dog via count-out. Good enough match spoiled by the silly ending. Furthers the feud between Santana and Valentine but matches on Wrestlemania shouldn’t really be used for the purpose of furthering a feud.

Freddy Blassie tells Mean Gene that he’s confident that he’s managing the next WWF tag team champions before Lou Albana says they’ll do their best – not the most confident of promos from the reigning champions, that’s for sure.

Match 6: WWF Champions The U.S. Express (Mike Rotunda & Barry Windham) (w/ Captain Lou Albana) v Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Classy Freddy Blassie): Of course Volkoff starts with an out of key rendition of the Russian national anthem as fans throw rubbish at the heel tag team.

The champions, making their way to the ring to a dubbed pastiche of ‘Born in the USA’ by Springsteen, hit the ring to great cheers from the crowd. In the original, it was Springsteen’s track that the team used as entrance music.

Rotunda, who would achieve further tag team gold later down the line as I.R.S, starts with Sheik. Shoulder block from Sheik to start but a huge hip toss, dropkick and slam puts Rotunda in control. Windham comes off the top with a big elbow and drops the leg to Sheik’s lower abdomen.

Windham is backed into the heels’ corner but miscommunication from them and Sheik hits Volkoff with a dropkick. They make up and Volkoff enters the fray. He takes the advantage with a headbutt to the gut but Windham is able to make the tag and Rotunda knocks his opponent down with a back elbow and a falling elbow for a 1.

We get another entrance from the top rope for Windham, as he nails Volkoff with a flying elbow. He tagsin his partner who also hits a flying elbow. Volkoff fights back and drives Rotunda into The Sheik’s boot, who back body drops Rotunda and hits an elbow drop for a near fall.

Volkoff is back in and drops Rotunda over the top rope and clubs away on the champion. Rotunda gets a two with a sunset flip but Volkoff gets out easily and hits Rotunda with a big knee. Windham finally gets the hot tag hits the bulldog but Sheik saves the three count and four men brawl in the ring. In the confusion The Sheik hits Windham with Blassie’s cane and Volkoff covers for the three count and to win the belts.

Your winners: And new WWF Tag Team Champions The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. A great old school tag team match with a very surprising, and deeply unpopular, ending as new WWF Tag Team Champions are crowned.

Match 7: Big John Studd (w/ Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan) v Andre the Giant: This is the $15,000 bodyslam match. If André slams Studd he wins $15,000 but if Studd wins then André retires.

Studd attacks at the bell but André comes back with chops and a head-butt forcing Studd to retreat to the outside. He comes back into the ring to a huge choke on the ropes before André continues to beat on him in the corner

We get treated to a lengthy bearhug from André as the restless crowd chant “slam” in an attempt to inspire André to do just that. To no avail, Stuff gauges away on The Giant’s eyes in the hope of breaking the hold.

The bearhug is eventually broken but André remains in control as he beats on Studd before slamming him out of nowhere for the win before handing out the money he won to the fans in attendance until Heenan sneaks off with the bag of money

Your winner: André the Giant via the slam. A boring squash match but it did create an early iconic moment of André slamming Studd.

Match 8: WWF Women’s Champion Leilani Kai (w/ The Fabulous Moolah) v Wendi Richter (w/ Cyndi Lauper & David Wolff): This is all about the rock ‘n’ roll wrestling connection rather than the in-ring action. The WWF had successfully used, and there’s no better word for it, MTV ahead of this event to boost flailing sales and Cyndi Lauper played a huge role in this.

Wendi is in control from the start as she tosses Kai around the ring in a hammerlock. Kai takes control with a snapmare and picks up a two count. Kai uses the hair to take, and reams in, in control of this one.

Wendi gets a series of nearfalls but Kai fights back with a kick to the gut and snapmares Richter using the hair. Richter catches her running into the corner with knees to the face and picks up the two count before backing her into the corner where Moolah attacks. Lauper and Moolah go at it before Kai drops Richter with a boot to t he chest.

Kai gets a near fall with a backbreaker and Kai goes up to the top rope for the cross body but Richter rolls through – well just about – and picks up the win and becomes new WWF Women’s Champion.

Your winner and new WWF Women’s Champion Wendi Richter. A horrible match to watch. A very boring encounter filled with rest holds and a near botched finish.

Match 9: WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Mr. T (W/ ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka) v Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (w/ ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton): Pre-match we’re introduced to the special ring announcer for the main event Billy Martin, the guest time keeper Liberace – with the Rockettes – and the special guest referee Muhammad Ali.

Whilst Ali is the guest referee, it’s more of an enforcer role he has with Pat Patterson handling in-ring duties. Piper and Mr T eventually start this one and after trading slaps they trade amateur wrestling holds.

After regrouping in the corner, Piper runs into a fireman’s carry and then a brawl ensures which prompts both Snuka and Orton to get involved. Piper briefly hightails out of there after Ali takes a swing at him.

It returns to normal with Piper and Hogan in the ring and They trade eye-rakes before Mr. T is tagged back in. He slams Piper and hip tosses Orndorff, who had charged in.

Hogan is back in and he kicks Piper over the top rope to the outside. Orndorff then clotheslines Hogan over the top where Piper nails him with a chair which results in even more action on the outside involving Muhammad Ali, Piper and Orton.

A distracted Pat Patterson then misses a number of double teams on Hogan until Ali gets in the ring to help Pat Patterson regain order. Orndorff then misses a top rope knee drop that allows Hogan to make the hot tag and Mr. T is back in.

However, it is a short lived advantage for them as Orndorff and Piper overwhelm him. They work over him until he makes it to his corner and tags in Hogan but the heels soon regain control with a backsuplex.

Bob Orton then attempts to enter the fray but Snuka hits him with a head-butt. Orndorff locks in a full nelson as Orton comes off the top but Hogan moves and he hits Orndorff with the cast allowing Hogan to make the cover for the three to give the victory to Hogan and Mr T.

Piper then knocks Pat Patterson down and leaves with Bob Orton as Orndorff is left in the ring, turning him face.

Your winner: Hogan and Mr. T. A humorous enough match and entertaining, despite the distinct lack of wrestling ability being on show.

Post match Hogan, Mr. T and Snuka discuss their victory here.

Overall: Historically vitally important to the history of professional wrestling. Sure, major cards had been done before but not on this scale, with the amount of crossover appeal generated by the celebrities nor with the wide reach obtained through the event being broadcast on closed circuit television to theatres across America.

With any card, there are some low points as well as high points. Such a number of squash matches always tends to leave a sour taste in the mouth as did the David Sammartino v Beefcake match but the entertaining tag title match and the main event more than made up for it.

An enjoyable event and from a viewers standpoint, a great portal into the world of the WWF in 1985.

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One thought on “Back to Where it all Began: Wrestlemania 1 review

  1. Pingback: A Moment In Time: The War to Settle the Score | Ring the Damn Bell

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