The SmarK Rant for WWF WrestleMania I
By Scott Keith on 11th October 2023
Live from Madison Square Garden
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura, with Mean Gene singing the national anthem.
Tito Santana v. The Executioner
The pre-match interview reveals that although Executioner is undefeated, Mean Gene knows NOTHING about him. Well aside from his undefeated record apparently. Maybe Gene was thinking of the former tag team champions? Executioner’s promo is top shelf stuff, as he reveals that he’s GOING AFTER THE LEG. Also he’s not only from parts unknown, but his weight is also unknown. Oh I’m pretty sure we’ve known Buddy’s weight over the years. Tito immediately does a criss-cross with the undefeated Executioner and dropkicks him out of the ring. Back in, Tito works a headlock, but as promised Executioner GOES AFTER THE LEG. And Tito ignores him and beats on him in the corner instead. Well that was a letdown. So instead Executioner headbutts Tito and gives him a knee to the gut to take over. He does actually try for a stepover toehold, but Tito rolls him up for two and makes a comeback, putting the boots to him in the corner. Executioner backdrops out of a piledriver attempt and goes to the top, but Tito slams him off and then hits the knees on a splash. Executioner finally lives up to his promise and goes after the leg, but Tito boots him out of the ring and then slams him from the apron. And he hits the flying forearm and finishes with the figure-four at 4:40. And so the Executioner’s undefeated record ends in his first appearance. No one else will ever have an undefeated record like that again, I’d bet! Hopefully Tito’s knee with recover from all the damage he took.
SD Jones v. King Kong Bundy
Jones takes a run at him and gets walloped in the corner with the Avalanche, and the big splash finishes at 0:24. In WWF speak, this is somehow “nine seconds”, although the truth didn’t come out until the quarterly investor’s call at the end of the month.
Ricky Steamboat v. Maniac Matt Borne
They fight for the lockup to start and Steamboat puts him down with chops and goes to the chinlock right away as Gorilla reveals that Steamboat and Jimmy Snuka were teaming up as The South Pacific Connection. I’ve heard that Snuka isn’t good at ending relationships, though, so that’s probably why they never stuck together. Steamboat works a headlock and chops him down again, and then goes to a facelock until Matt escapes with a belly to belly suplex. Snap suplex gets two. They slug it out and Steamboat gets a back suplex and follows with a neckbreaker and kneedrop for two. And he goes up and finishes with the flying bodypress at 4:45. Poor Matt was basically on job duty for the rest of the WWF tenure into 1986.
Brutus Beefcake v. David Sammartino
They were doing a weird gimmick where Beefcake never spoke at this point, so the pre-match promos were pretty awkward. Jesse speculates that Brutus might also be Johnny Valiant’s son, since little was known about Beefcake in 1985. Beefcake wins a lockup battle and stops to strut, as he tends to do, so David takes him down with a drop toehold. Brutus tries his own takedown and David reverses him and sends Brutus running to the floor with accusations of GREASING. This allows Gorilla to have a “IN MY DAY!” rant about wrestlers oiling themselves up too much and hindering their skin’s ability to breathe. David tries a wristlock, but Brutus slams out of it, and David hangs on and works the arm. David just has no heat, despite being put in a featured position like this. Brutus works a headlock, but David takes him down again and works a leglock this time. That goes on almost as long as this year’s show, but Brutus finally backdrops out to take over. When BRUTUS BEEFCAKE is the one carrying the match and showing charisma, you’re a failure. Brutus beats on the back and runs him into the corner, but David makes the comeback with his Bruno Jr. offense. Suplex gets two. Finally Bruno and Johnny V get involved and everyone slugs it out for the double DQ at 11:43, the only heat that the match had for the entire time.
Intercontinental title: Greg Valentine v. Junkyard Dog
JYD notes in his pre-match promo that he could buy a lot of bones if he wins the title. He could also buy a lot of crack. Maybe “bones” is street code for something? Our first entrance music edit of the show sees “Another One Bites the Dust” replaced with “Grab Them Cakes”, complete with Finkel overdub that sounds like something out of a video game. Dog goes for the arm right away and slugs Hammer down. Greg tries to drop an elbow, but Dog hits him with the headbutts and sends Greg to the floor. Valentine goes after the arm this time and then takes him down and works the knee with a half crab. This actually brings up a point about why Jesse and Gorilla were such a good combination, as Gorilla would throw out some kind of setup line to Jesse, and Jesse would always be ready with a followup to continue the conversation. There wasn’t any awkward pauses and dead air and they just clicked perfectly together. Dog fights back with headbutts and goes after Jimmy Hart, but Dog knocks him off the apron and Jimmy takes a scary bump on the concrete, allowing Greg to roll Dog up in the corner and use the ropes for the pin at 6:00 to retain. This brings out Tito Santana to stooge out Valentine to the ref, resulting in the ref continuing the match and counting Valentine out instead at 6:52. What kind of a bullshit finish was that? The ref just accepts Tito’s word that Greg was cheating? Obviously he’s got a grudge against Valentine!
WWF World tag team title: Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo v. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff
Lou Albano standing there drinking a beer during the pre-match promo is very much on trend for him. Also Windham and Rotundo are clearly in street clothes hours before the show and tell Gene “we’re on the way to ring right now”. The heat for the heels here is insane, with the crowd throwing garbage during the Russian national anthem. And obviously “Born in the USA” is edited out for the champions, although the generic replacement has some of the same beats. Rotundo hiptosses out of Sheik’s headlock and dropkicks him to start, then takes him down with a headlock to control. Windham comes in and gets caught in the heel corner, but Sheik and Volkoff collide and Barry escapes. Volkoff comes in and the champs double-team him, as Rotundo gets a back elbow for one. They work the arm, but Volkoff runs Rotundo into Sheik’s boot and Sheik drops an elbow for two. Sheik with a gut wrench for two. Volkoff drops him on the top rope and puts the boots to him, but Rotundo gets a sunset flip for two. Volkoff boots him down and Sheik comes in with an abdominal stretch, but of course Gorilla notes that the foot isn’t hooked. Rotundo escapes and it’s hot tag Windham, who dropkicks Volkoff and slugs away on him. Bulldog gets two as Sheik saves and it’s BONZO GONZO. Sheik grabs the cane from Blassie, however, and knocks Windham out, putting Volkoff on top for the title at 6:55. Gotta get the HEAT. This was a pretty energetic tag match but very short, like most of the show was **1/2. And of course this one got reversed a few weeks later on TV. But where was Tito Santana to stooge out the cheating for this match? Apparently the referees will just take the word of anyone who stops by the ring anyway.
Bodyslam Challenge: Andre the Giant v. Big John Studd
The pre-match promo with Heenan and Studd’s promo shows the wrestling trickery of the “$15000” at stake here, as the bag is clearly a few $1 bills crumpled up to provide the illusion of a bag full of cash. There’s maybe $100 worth of bills in there. If this was in Canada they’d need a suitcase to bring $15,000 in loonies to the ring. Also throwing it out to the crowd afterwards would be a lot more dangerous. So although this a normal wrestling match, the stip is that Andre has to slam Studd and thus claim his $15,000 bounty, or else retire from wrestling. Studd tries attacking in the corner and Andre chases him to the floor. Back in, Andre chokes him out in the corner and uses the butt like a future AEW women’s division star, but he’s not able to get the bodyslam. So Andre goes to the bearhug while Gorilla notes that Andre has the biggest heart of anyone in pro wrestling. I dunno, steroid use in the 80s left a LOT of guys with enlarged hearts, sadly. Andre works on the arm and kicks Studd in the ass a few times, and then picks him up and slams him to win at 5:54. This was pretty awful.
WWF Women’s title: Leilani Kai v. Wendi Richter
Obviously “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is edited out here. Kai was such a weird choice to make champion, but I guess they just needed someone who could get the belt and then get beat right away. Obviously if your last name is “Kai” you’re destined to have short title reigns in wrestling. Richter works the arm on the mat to start, but Kai takes her down with a snapmare for two. Gorilla and Jesse discuss how Kai should deny any wrongdoing or hairpulling, because if the referee doesn’t see it, he can’t call it. UNLESS TITO SANTANA TELLS HIM ABOUT IT, APPARENTLY. I’m still bitter about that. Kai chokes her out, but Wendi fights back out of the corner and gets two. This prompts a melee between Moolah and Lauper outside, and Richter makes the comeback in the ring. Slam out of fireman’s carry gets two, but Wendi charges and hits knees. Kai with a backbreaker for two. Kai goes up with a crossbody, but Richter rolls over for the pin at 6:15 to regain the title. Kind of a weak finish for what was a top level storyline.
Hulk Hogan & Mr. T v. Rowdy Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff
You may have heard about this one before. So we’ve got Billy Martin as ring announcer, Muhammad Ali as outside referee, and Liberace as timekeeper. To be honest Liberace was way before my time and outside of my pop culture experience at that age, so I never really knew what he was about. Plus he died only a couple of years after this. So “Eye of the Tiger” gets the axe and is replaced by “Real American”, obviously. Piper starts with Hogan for the monster heat, but Mr. T wants in because he wants a match with Piper. Well I’m pretty sure that couldn’t turn out badly. So they trade slaps and Piper takes him down and rides him on the mat, but T escapes that and the babyfaces chase the heels to the floor for a teased countout. Back in, it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and Hulk runs Piper and Orndorff together and then boots Piper over the top and to the floor. But then Orndorff clotheslines
Hogan out there, where Piper beats on him with a chair and outside enforcer Ali does nothing. It probably would have been a disaster if they had let Ali be the referee inside the ring. Back in the ring, the heels double-team Hogan and choke him out, then hit a double atomic drop while the referees are busy dealing with Mr. T. Wonderful with a suplex on Hulk and Piper slugs away on him and puts him down with a kneelift for two. Orndorff with an elbow off the middle rope for two. Paul goes up with a flying knee and that misses, allowing Hulk to make the hot tag to Mr. T, but T quickly gets clobbered and double-teamed. He’s no Logan Paul. Piper comes in and holds T down with a facelock while Ali stands on the apron for no reason until Pat Patterson tells him to get down again. Back to Hogan for the noggin knocker, but Orndorff puts him down with a back suplex. This allows Snuka and Orton to get involved with the ref distracted, but Orton goes up and hits Orndorff with the case accidentally, and Hogan pins Wonderful to win at 13:20. This was not great, to say the least, with the bulk of the match being Hogan selling and no real flow to it. Piper and Orton walk out on Orndorff afterwards, leaving him alone and confused when he wakes up. No wonder he had trust issues later on.
The Bottom Line:
Well, this is one of those shows that gets a free pass for historical reasons, so it’s pretty much recommended only if you’ve never seen it before, or if you enjoy historical curiosities like Buddy Rose opening the show under a mask or Matt Borne with blond hair.