What the World Was Watching: WrestleMania VIII
By LScisco on 23rd July 2023
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan are in the booth and they are live from Indianapolis, Indiana. This would be Monsoon’s last WrestleMania as a commentator, passing the torch to Jim Ross the following year. According to thehistoryofwwe.com, 62,167 fans attended and, in a bad sign for the company, more than 15,000 free tickets were distributed to pack the venue. The buyrate for the show was 2.30 (390,000 estimated buys). This continued a decline in pay-per-view buys for WrestleMania as the previous year’s edition had a 2.80 buyrate (400,000 buys).
Country music star Reba McIntyre sings the national anthem, departing from “America the Beautiful” that was typical fare for WrestleMania musical performances. When she finishes, Heenan cracks that McIntyre did a great performance for El Matador’s sister, arguing that her name is “Arriba McIntyre.”
The venue is a significant upgrade over the previous year’s use of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, giving the card a “big fight” atmosphere. The entrance has also been upgraded to have colorful vertical lights on each side of a black curtain with the WWF symbol at the top. The one puzzling layout decision is that the company opts not to use mechanized ring carts to transport talent to the ring even though there is a long journey to make from the locker room to the ring.
Opening Contest: Shawn Michaels (w/Sensational Sherri) (8-1) pins El Matador (10-0) after shifting his weight on a slam back into the ring at 10:37:
Michaels has been hyped over the past week as the number one contender to the Intercontinental Championship, telegraphing the result because El Matador has not gotten similar recognition despite being a former two-time champion. The beginning is slow and nothing special but picks up the last four minutes. Michaels blasts El Matador with a superkick and goes for the Teardrop Suplex but El Matador blocks. He catches Michaels with the flying forearm but Michaels tumbles to the floor. Back in, El Matador uses a slingshot flying shoulderblock and uses an inverted atomic drop to set up El Paso del Muerte. But Michaels rolls out of the ring again. El Matador tries to slam Michaels back in but Michaels holds onto the top rope for leverage and crashes onto El Matador in the ring, earning a clean win to continue his strong push through the midcard. The match would be Tito Santana’s last on a WrestleMania pay-per-view, relegated to dark match duty the next year. Rating: **½
Gene Okerlund interviews the Legion of Doom, who come out with their old manager Paul Ellering from the NWA. The Legion had not been seen since the February 9 edition of Wrestling Challenge. Ellering says that this marks the beginning of the end because he is here to get even. Animal warns Jimmy Hart that they are going to get even for losing the tag team titles. Ellering adds that attention to detail is going to take the Legion back to the top and Animal and Hawk promise not to let down their fans. This was a puzzling segment for the pay-per-view because the WWF did not usually do debuts on these shows. Most casual viewers were not aware who Ellering was and Animal and Hawk glossed over introducing him so Heenan had to do that work at commentary. The segment was also too long. But the one positive is that the Legion of Doom are staying with the company which helps an increasingly anemic tag team division.
Sean Mooney interviews Jake Roberts, who denies rumors that he is bringing a snake to the ring. He promises to put the final nail in the Undertaker’s coffin.
The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) (9-0) defeats Jake Roberts (7-1) after a Tombstone on the arena floor at 6:40:
Indiana lost to Duke the previous evening in the NCAA Final Four so Heenan argues that as “Indiana’s favorite Bobby” he would have guided the Hoosiers to victory. Roberts punches away but the Undertaker does not sell it and stalks after him until he can choke his opponent down in the corner. The crowd wants to react to the Undertaker pulverizing Roberts but there is not much for them to get behind. Roberts floats over a Tombstone attempt and hits the DDT but Roberts does not cover and the Undertaker sits up. Roberts uses another DDT but prefers to go after Bearer on the floor than cover. The Undertaker sits up and follows, giving Roberts a Tombstone on the arena floor, and after that things are academic. The match itself was flat until the DDT fest began but the ending was fun. This would be Roberts’ last WWF match for more than three years. Angry over not getting Pat Patterson’s job in creative, he threatened to no-show unless Vince McMahon released him from his contract. McMahon capitulated, Roberts did the job here, and headed for WCW. Rating: *
Okerlund interviews Intercontinental Champion Roddy Piper and Bret Hart. Piper recaps memories of Bret as a kid and alleges that Bret was not potty trained until he was seven and could not tie his shoes correctly. Bret finally cuts that off when Piper grabs his cheeks, prompting Piper to argue that Bret is trying to be a “hot shot.” Bret reminds Piper that he has something that Bret wants, the Intercontinental Championship. When Piper goes to leave, Bret grabs him and says he could have attacked Piper from behind, repaying the favor from their Wrestling Challenge segment. Piper refutes that as Bret walks off, screaming “Not today!”
Intercontinental Championship Match: Bret Hart (10-1-1) pins Roddy Piper (Champion) (6-1) to win the title after reversing a sleeper hold at 13:50:
Monsoon and Heenan do great work promoting the importance of the Intercontinental Championship for each man and speculating on the strategies they would take to get it. For this babyface vs. babyface match the story is which man will lose his cool first and start resorting to underhanded tactics to keep the title. Bret feigns a shoulder injury after a dropkick and uses that to surprise Piper for two. An irate Piper responds by slapping Bret and later uppercuts him when Bret is adjusting his boot. Bret starts bleeding after that exchange, in violation of company policy, but later played it off as unintentional and was not fined. The blood helps illicit sympathy for Bret and makes Piper look like a jerk by punching the cut to maintain an advantage. However, Piper cannot put Bret away as a bulldog, knee lift, and punches all get two counts. Bret pops up after a double KO to crotch Piper on the top rope and goes into the moves of doom but Piper kicks out an inverted atomic drop and side Russian leg sweep, respectively. Piper blocks the Sharpshooter and then blocks the second rope elbow drop with a boot to the face. As both men desperately tear into each other, the referee is knocked down when Piper pushes out of a headlock. Piper grabs the ring bell and there is great drama as he thinks of using it but the crowd does not approve. Heenan begs Piper to hit Bret, screaming “What the hell, use the bell!” Eventually, Piper decides not to use it and locks in a sleeper hold but Bret pushes off the turnbuckles and traps Piper in a pinning combination out of Piper’s finishing maneuver to regain the title. This told an amazing story with creative spots and counters. It further elevated Bret because no one had cleanly beaten Piper on WWF television (there was a strap match he lost cleanly to Jimmy Snuka but that aired on a Coliseum Video). Piper would not wrestle at another WrestleMania until 1996. Rating: ****½
Following Howard Finkel’s announcement, Piper grabs the title belt from the referee and eventually hands it to Bret, putting the championship around Bret’s waist to put him over.
Heenan introduces former WCW Champion Lex Luger, who joins the show from Atlanta, Georgia. Heenan hypes Luger as a future WBF champion. Luger praises Heenan and calls Monsoon “a fat guy,” establishing himself as a heel going forward. Luger hypes his physique, shows it off at Heenan’s behest, and drinks milk before hyping the WBF Championship on June 13.
The Mountie and the Nasty Boys are backstage, with the Repo Man sneaking into the segment out of the showers. They vow to electrocute, beat down, and tow away their opponents.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sergeant Slaughter, the Big Bossman, and Virgil promise hard time, broken noses, and a hard fight for their opponents.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sergeant Slaughter, the Big Bossman & Virgil defeat the Mountie, Repo Man & the Nasty Boys (w/Jimmy Hart) when Virgil pins Brian Knobbs after heel miscommunication at 6:32:
Ray Combs, the host of Family Feud does the introductions for the match as both teams are already in the ring. The babyfaces never get introduced as the heels go after Combs when he runs down their chances to win and insults their characters. Combs was involved because WWF superstars were playing WBF stars on the show in May. As is typical of these matches, everyone gets a chance to tag in and show what they can do. The action is pedestrian except for the Bossman turning over and raising his fist when Repo Man tries to jump on his back, giving Repo Man a low blow. Jerry Sags gets a two count after using a pump handle slam on Virgil and all hell breaks loose after the Bossman interjects himself seconds later to give the Mountie a spinebuster when the Mountie tries a give off the second rope. Knobbs rips Virgil’s face mask off and Sags tries to use it as a weapon but heel miscommunication results and the babyfaces prevail. In illustration of how this was a slapdash match of midcarders without direction, none of these participants made the following year’s WrestleMania. Rating: *
Mooney talks with WWF Champion Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect, who have a centerfold of Elizabeth that they refuse to show to the television audience. Flair tells Randy Savage that it will go up when Flair retains the title. He adds that Elizabeth will also get one last chance to ride Space Mountain.
Okerlund is outside Savage’s dressing room and says that Savage is not giving interviews. Okerlund wonders whether Savage is thinking about becoming a two-time WWF champion, defending Elizabeth’s honor, or worrying about the centerfold that Flair and Perfect could reveal.
WWF Championship Match: Randy Savage (2-0) pins Ric Flair (Champion w/Mr. Perfect) (1-0) with a schoolboy roll up and use of the tights to win the title at 18:02:
At the previous year’s WrestleMania Savage had his career ended by the Ultimate Warrior but he has spent the past year getting married, getting reinstated, and destroying Jake Roberts to get himself into title contention. Fitting the storyline, Savage tears into Flair but that works against him when an errant charge leads to him getting backdropped over the top rope. Flair gets near-falls from a suplex, back suplex, and vertical suplex but makes his classic mistake of going to the top rope and Savage tosses him off. Flair blades after going into the guardrail following a Savage flying double axe handle. While that adds to the match, it was also in violation in company policy and Flair was not able to convince officials that it was accidental like Bret, getting fined as a result. A flying double axe handle in the ring almost finishes Flair as the crowd is ready to pop for a title change. Savage follows up with the flying elbow drop but Perfect pulls Savage off out of view of the referee. When Savage chases after him, Perfect tosses Flair a foreign object that is used to deck the challenger but Flair has to waste time getting rid of the evidence and Savage kicks out to pop the crowd. Desperate, Perfect picks up a chair and waffles Savage’s left knee out of view of the referee and that causes Elizabeth to come to ringside in disregard of WWF officials wishes. Flair works the knee and locks in the figure-four. The problem here is that the officials keep arguing with Elizabeth and that distracts from the drama of Savage raising his shoulders several times to avoid getting pinned in the hold. Savage is able to eventually turn the hold but his leg is damaged to the point he can barely stand so his chances of winning like slim. Flair does a kneebreaker and holds Savage up to beat on the knee further. But Savage blocks one final blow, nails Flair, and rolls him up, reverting to his heelish ways a year earlier by holding the tights, and regains the WWF Championship. As the description attests, this match was an emotional roller coaster and it was great. The drama with Elizabeth at the end was not needed, though, because it did not factor into the finish. Rating: ****
Following the match, an angry and bloody Flair gets in Elizabeth’s face and forces himself on her, getting slapped and pushed and causing Savage to unload. WWF officials wrestle Savage down, allowing Flair and Perfect to get some token stomps before leaving. When they do, ring announcer Howard Finkel adds a “And once again” announcement to the declaration that Savage is WWF champion for the first time in three years. Fireworks also go off to add to the occasion, making one believe that the pay-per-view is over.
Mooney talks with Flair and Perfect. Perfect criticizes Savage for using the tights. Heenan joins the segment and complains about Savage cheating. A bloodied Flair says that his gang will regroup and one loss to Savage means nothing. He also promises to kiss Elizabeth the next time he sees her. All of this means that the Savage-Flair feud will continue after WrestleMania.
Savage and Elizabeth are interviewed by Okerlund. Savage does an intense promo about taking something that made Flair tick and he promises to get the rest of Flair because of what he did to Elizabeth. He says that the WWF Championship is Elizabeth’s and his fist is for Flair.
A video package recaps the Hulk Hogan-Sid Justice feud.
Mooney interviews Rick Martel, who talks about how Native Americans know nothing about fashions and he will need to disinfect the ring with Arrogance.
Tatanka (10-0) pins Rick Martel (7-1-1) after a body press off the ropes at 4:32:
Tatanka’s Lumbee tribe performs a tribal dance in the ring before the bout. The crowd is exhausted after the last match and is recovering from intermission so Tatanka gets no reaction running to the ring. Heenan is so flummoxed from the result of the WWF title match that he threatens to start punching Monsoon. The crowd remains dead during the bout as a standard television match develops and each man exchanges offense. There are not any pin attempts until the finish when Tatanka surprises Martel off the ropes with a body press and scores a clean win over an established veteran. Rating: *½
WWF Tag Team Champions Money Incorporated and Jimmy Hart talk with Sean Mooney. They tell the Natural Disasters that they are going to take them in the next match.
Okerlund interviews the Disasters, who say that they are coming to take titles that should be theirs.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The Natural Disasters (9-0) beat Money Incorporated (Champions w/Jimmy Hart) (4-0) via count out at 8:39:
The Disasters dominate most of the match and Typhoon has some botches near the ropes that eventually lead to him going to the floor and allowing the champions to get some offense. Typhoon does a poor job selling that, just standing like a wall as the champions punch in the corner. Like the previous match, the crowd does not care for any of this, not warming to the Disasters as triumphant babyfaces. A double KO following a clothesline allows Earthquake to get the hot tag. The Disasters run the champions into each other and Typhoon lands the Tidal Wave on IRS. However, Ted DiBiase and Hart pull IRS out before the Earthquake Splash and the champions take a walk to lose the bout but retain the titles. Typhoon has said in shoot interviews that both teams were told to go less than two minutes when they got to the ring but they ignored the instruction. They should have listened because this was a terrible, heatless match that would not make anyone want to see these two teams fight again. Rating: ¼*
Brutus Beefcake tells Okerlund that he is around to tell Hulk Hogan that he is his biggest fan and wants him to know how much support he has.
Owen Hart (2-0) pins Skinner (4-2) with an O’Connor roll at 1:09:
After Owen flips into the ring, Skinner spits tobacco juice in his face and goes to work. Skinner hits his finishing inverted DDT but Owen kicks out and when Skinner throws him over the top rope, Owen skins the cat back in and traps the man from the Everglades with an O’Connor roll. It was clear by this point that the pay-per-view was running short of time. Stories later circulated that the WWF wanted this quick match slot to go to the booked British Bulldog-Berzerker match but the Bulldog refused, saying he could not do quick matches. Skinner told officials that he could and this was the result. It probably would have been best for Skinner to avoid doing his finisher, though, as nothing was gained by having Owen kick out of it in an abbreviated bout like this.
Okerlund interviews Sid Justice and Harvey Wippleman. Sid says that he does not give a damn about the memories of Hulk Hogan because he wants people to remember that he ended Hulkamania.
Hulk Hogan defeats Sid Justice (w/Harvey Wippleman) (8-0) via disqualification when Wippleman interferes at 12:27:
In a strange beginning to the match, Sid tries to jump Hogan and Hogan fights him off as Hogan’s theme song keeps playing. The crowd wakes up after sleeping through the last three matches. They rabidly cheer Hogan, illustrating how good of a job Sid has done since The Royal Rumble at becoming a dastardly heel. The match is basic as a test of strength allows each man to play to the crowd and Sid chokeslams Hogan after a Wippleman distraction. A long nerve hold leads to a powerbomb but Hogan kicks out at two to start one final hulk up comeback. After Hogan hits the leg drop, Papa Shango was supposed to interfere but Shango gets a late start and cannot make it to the ring in time because of how long the entrance is so Sid gets the privilege of kicking out. Wippleman should have interfered once he realized what was happening but he stands on the apron until the kick out and then gets into the ring to draw a weak disqualification. Rating: ½*
Hogan continues fighting with Sid after the bell rings and Shango finally gets to the ring and Hogan is the subject of a two-on-one beatdown. Fans wonder who will help and the answer is provided when the Ultimate Warrior’s theme music hits and he runs down to the ring and clotheslines Shango over the top rope and does not sell a Sid chair shot. The Warrior and Hogan hug and celebrate amidst fireworks to end the show. The Warrior looked slimmer than he used to, leading to crazy rumors that Kerry Von Erich had been enlisted to play the character.
The Last Word: This WrestleMania was in the running for one of the greatest of all-time through the first half but after the WWF Championship match things go downhill at a breakneck pace. The WWF never should have had the long interview segments with the Legion of Doom and Lex Luger as those took away time for the planned card, leading to the British Bulldog-Berzerker match being scrapped. The main event was also poorly booked. With Hulk Hogan leaving, the WWF did not want Sid Justice to look weak but ending the biggest show of the year with a disqualification, and a botched one at that, was poorly received by fans. The Ultimate Warrior’s return was a great surprise but Papa Shango’s interference at the end was a mystery. He had never been aligned with Sid or Wippleman previously so it was unclear why he would decide to run out and attack Hogan at the end of the show. The WWF’s sagging popularity was evident in the declining buyrate for the show and the need to give out lots of free tickets to make the attendance look good on television. Despite this, the company still failed to sellout the venue and empty seats were obvious in the upper decks. The company’s declining reputation was also evident in the lack of celebrity participation which was in stark contrast to prior WrestleManias. To fix some of these issues, the WWF used this pay-per-view to lay the groundwork for the future, which is why this WrestleMania is historically significant. In many ways it was the end of the WWF’s Golden Era as new stars such as Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, Bret Hart, and Tatanka were put over aging veterans, heralding a new generation. And many of the stars of the older generation that appeared on this show either never competed at a WrestleMania again or would do so after returning to the company many years later.
Backstage News*: The live gate for WrestleMania was $1.25 million, which makes it the fourth-largest gate for a wrestling card in North America, trailing the gates of WrestleMania III, WrestleMania V, and WrestleMania VI. The WWF is blaming a disappointing buyrate for WrestleMania VIII on the economic recession.
-The dark match that fans got before WrestleMania went on the air was the Bushwhackers beating the Beverly Brothers in ten minutes.
-Hulk Hogan refused to attend a post-WrestleMania press conference. Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior did. Savage said he no longer did steroids because they gave him PMS.
-Geraldo Rivera’s Now It Can Be Told aired a feature on April 3 and featured two new allegations against the WWF. Former referee Rita Chatterton claimed that Vince McMahon raped her in his limo on July 16, 1986 and when she refused other advances by McMahon she was terminated. Chatterton’s lawyer is pursuing civil litigation as the statute of limitations has expired in New York for a criminal case. Her lawyer says that she has passed a lie detector test and the limo driver, Joe Stuart, has corroborated her story. Another former referee, Michael Clark, says that he was fired after refusing sexual advances from Terry Garvin, who had offered him more bookings, a green card to work in the United States, and $500. Clark said in the Rivera piece that Garvin, Pat Patterson, and Mel Phillips were known backstage as “The Cream Team” and that Phillips was the worst deviant of the three.
-Hulk Hogan recently bought a $2.3 million home in Tampa, Florida so rumors that he was going to Hawaii after WrestleMania are false. This makes it likely Hogan returns to the WWF at some point.
*Backstage news is provided courtesy of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer for April 13.
Up Next: Prime Time Wrestling for April 6!
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