Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
March 31, 1985
By: Mitch Nickelson and Al N. Jaxson
Mitch: Live on closed circuit television (what is that?), the WWF brings the first ever Wrestlemania from Madison Square Garden. It’s the beginning of history, not only for Vince McMahon but also for Mitch Nickelson and Al N. Jaxson. Starting with this event, we will do our best to review every single Wrestlemania. Ever. It’s going to be a fun ride.
The format of this is simple. We’ll focus mainly on the matches and both offer our 2 cents on each one. We won’t get too detailed on them. We’ll save that for individual match reviews. If some great segment happens outside of the matches that we feel like sharing our opinion on, we’ll do so. Otherwise, we stay with just the matches.
The show starts and holy crap is Mean Gene singing the National Anthem? Wouldn’t have guessed that. He’s not too bad but it works. Jesse Ventura says something about him being as good as Robert Goulet or something, which was funny. Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon are the announcers.
Al: Like Mitch said, Wrestlemania 1 starts out with the singing of our great national anthem by none other than Mean Gene Okerlund!!! I was as surprised as you Mitch. Ol’ Gene gave it his best shot! Hey, Gene’s the man, I’m not gonna hate on the guy. Lord knows I’m no Luciano Pavarotti.
Tito Santana vs. The Executioner
Mitch: The Executioner is from Parts Unknown and his weight is unknown. He’s smaller than Tito. He’s got some mass, but he does not have the physique of an athlete like Tito. I did some basic online searching to find out that this goofy masked guy is actually Buddy Rose, which explains why he’s just some goofy guy in a mask. Santana is a fun wrestler but this match isn’t much more than an enhancement match. That’s odd that the first Wrestlemania would have matches like this.
Al: ARRIBA!!! Tito was great! Kind of overlooked in the history of the WWE. I mean he is a Hall of Famer but not a lot of people talk about Tito Santana. Guy could wrestle. Was in one of my favorite tag teams, Strike Force, with Rick the Model Martel. But this match was just a quick simple one clocking in a little over 4 minutes. Tito wins with a figure four lock against Buddy Rose in a mask. Nothing more to say here, folks, except I miss Lord Alfred Hayes!!!!!
King Kong Bundy (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Special Delivery Jones
Mitch: Okay, THIS is an enhancement match. Enhancement is too kind of a word, this match is a straight up squash. Poor S.D. Jones, he didn’t get a single move in and looked like a cupcake to Bundy. They say it was a 9 second match, but it was actually about 20 seconds. Not that that’s much better if you’re S.D. Jones.
Al: This was just a match to show how dominant King Kong Bundy was…I’m pretty sure Wrestlemania 2 was Hogan vs Bundy in the main event. Poor Jones didn’t have a chance in this one. I blinked and Bundy won 1,2,3.
Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat
Mitch: Matt Borne is the original Doink the Clown, but that won’t be for several years after this. Steamboat is looking as beefed up as ever in this and he’s always amazing to watch. These two kept it slightly more competitive than the first two matches, but I never really bought that Borne was going to win at any point during this match. Three enhancement matches to start the biggest wrestling event up to that point? I’m not used to this era at all.
Al: I wish Mean Gene wouldn’t have cut Steamboat’s promo short before the match cuz I could listen to Steamboat on the mic as long as he wants to speak. The Dragon truly had it all. He had the look, he had the in-ring skills, and he had underrated mic skills. And as my partner Mitch said, Borne was Doink the Clown years later. Another quick match with Steamboat pinning Borne after a flying cross body off the top. Ricky Steamboat had a match two years later with Randy Savage. I heard it was decent.
David Sammartino (w/Bruno Sammartino) vs. Brutus Beefcake (w/Luscious John Valiant)
Mitch: Brutus Beefcake grew up in the same town as The Executioner. Is there a Parts Unknown High School? Bruno Sammartino is billed as a living legend and the crowd gives him a proper ovation. The match was fairly even and both wrestlers seemed really athletic. It was a little boring but when David was thrown outside it kicked up a notch. The managers got involved and Bruno got the biggest pop of the night so far. They really wanted to see him fight. Both teams were disqualified.
Al: This was the best match of the night so far in my opinion. It was good to see Bruno there. He was before my time but I’ve seen clips of him back in his prime and he was the man back then. And it showed in this match how much everyone still had respect for him. Glad he got in the hall of fame. Well deserved. Brutus Beefcake and David Sammartino end this match in a double disqualification thanks to both managers getting involved.
Inter-continental Heavyweight Championship
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (c) (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Junk Yard Dog
Mitch: It was announced that this match is set for a 1 hour time limit. I looked up the time on Wikipedia and found out that it fails to hit the time limit by 53 minutes. JYD has a great connection with the fans and the announcers really like to point out whenever he gets to shucking and jiving. I like the goofy offense he has. He makes those crawling headbutts look good for being such a silly move.
This turned out to be a really good match. The crowd got behind JYD big time and they really thought he could win, but the ending was odd. Valentine put his feet on the ropes for the pin. The ref didn’t see and counted to three. Tito Santana comes out to the ring and sets the ref straight. The ref restarted the match and counted out Valentine as he was walking away. The Hammer was then counted out and the Junk Yard Dog was then declared the winner. But the title can’t change hands on a DQ, so why restart the match at all? I felt the match could’ve ended with the cheat finish and it would have made a little more sense. But it’s still the best match so far.
Al: Ahh, Greg Valentine…every time I think of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine I think of his dog collar match against Roddy Piper at Starrcade 1983. That match was brutal. Check it out if you haven’t! But this match starts out with the fan favorite JYD on the offense with headbutts and punches. Valentine gets a pin with his feet on the ropes but Tito Santana comes out and explains to the ref and they restart the match. I do agree with ya Mitch that even though JYD’s headbutts may be silly, they work. Junkyard Dog wins the match by count out but Valentine retains title. I will disagree with Mitch that this is the best match so far. I’d still give best match so far to Brutus Beefcake and David Sammartino thanks to the crowd reaction for Bruno.
WWE Tag Team Championship
Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/Freddie Blassie) vs. Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham (c) (w/Lou Albano)
Mitch: The Iron Sheik called Okerlund “Gene Mean” in their interview. Gene called Volkoff commie, but then corrected himself to say comrade. It shouldn’t be all that funny, but I thought both those lines were hilarious. I only remember Mike Rotundo because of the I.R.S. gimmick from when I was younger. The Rotundo family is becoming a wrestling dynasty with his sons Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas currently in the WWE.
Rotundo and Windham were very athletic. They were quick and exciting, kind of like The Rockers. As for the heels, Sheik and Volkoff were HATED. The Russian national anthem was awesome at the beginning. They showed the crowd and there were many people who would have charged into the ring and stopped the song themselves if they thought that they could. These were two of the best characters to ever be bad guys in this business.
The Sheik used Blassie’s cane to secure the victory. The cane broke on Windham’s back and it looked pretty brutal. I liked watching them walk to the back as the crowd was throwing trash at them, as the fans had been doing since the two first came out. I’m sure these two didn’t walk out in public too often in New York City as people probably would have rioted if they did.
Al: If I would have been watching this live I would’ve been excited about this one. Barry Windham was a top shelf wrestler. And talk about two of the most hated guys at that time, you hit the nail on the head with that, Mitch. Kinda like the outsiders when Hogan turned bad guy and joined the NWO. Just plain hatred from the fans. Another good example was Sgt. Slaughter in Wrestlemania 7, but we’ll discuss that later. This was a good tag match with the Iron Sheik and Volkoff stealing the tag titles from the US Express thanks to a shot to Barry Windham’s back with Classy Freddie Blassie’s cane from the Sheik.
Body Slam Challenge
Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd (w/Bobby Heenan)
Mitch: If Andre loses this, he has to retire. If Studd loses, he has to fork over $15,000. I was confused with how this would work, but the two will fight in a normal match but instead of a pinfall or submission to finish, the match only ends when one man body slams the other.
It’s funny how wrestling moves like the body slam can lose their luster over the years. It’s still impressive to do the power moves on the modern big men like Mark Henry and The Big Show, but the bar will always keep getting raised. I remember Lesnar hitting the F5 on Henry on the outside of the ring a few months back on Raw. And really, that was just an enhancement spot for the returning Brock. A simple body slam just doesn’t do it anymore.
Andre won and the crowd went ballistic for him. It was good for what it was.
Al: Well, the stipulation with this one was Andre the Giant had to body slam Big John Studd or he would be forced to retire. He body slammed him. So he didn’t have to retire. This one was silly to me but we all know what Andre’s defining moment was and that was at Wrestlemania III. So really, nothing more to cover with this one. I know this may be a little bit of a boring review than what you’re used to with good ol’ Al N Jaxson but folks, this was just a boring PPV let’s just be honest everybody. But it was a success. I mean, look at the crowd in the audience. It drew numbers and if it wouldn’t have drawn numbers I’d have a lot less WWE DVDs in my collection.
WWF Women’s Championship
Leilani Kai (c) (w/The Fabulous Moolah) vs. Wendi Richter (w/Cyndi Lauper)
Mitch: Why is Cyndi Lauper a wrestling manager? The crowd loves her and she got a great reaction, but I don’t get the backstory to this at all. In my lifetime I’ve noticed that women’s wrestling goes through phases of putting women in matches because they’re hot or putting them in matches because they can wrestle. The most recent decade has tried, whether successfully or not, to get the women to be both. But here we are with Wendi and Leilani and I honestly can’t tell if they’re hot by 80’s standards or not. They wrestle a decent match that’s more impressive than what some of the men did, so the evidence points to not hot.
Richter at one point tries for an airplane spin but chooses to slam her down instead. She does it real innovatively and accidentally invents John Cena’s AA finisher. Am I right, Al? That was awfully similar to what Cena does today. I wonder if Richter ever battle rapped. Richter wins and becomes the new women’s champ.
Al: Ok, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, I’ll have to agree with you, Mitch, John Cena’s AA was invented by Wendi Richter! It’s the same thing! And I would assume Cyndi Lauper was involved just from a business standpoint. She was the Katy Perry or the Miley Cyrus of that time. People knew who she was and they were gonna watch Wrestlemania to see Cyndi! Well, her fans would. All in all, not a bad wrestling match for a woman’s title. But if I’m gonna watch a women’s match give me an AJ Lee or a Lita match any day. Richter pins Kai with a roll up and steals the title! I was looking for Tito to come out and protest again, wouldn’t that have been great, Mitch? ARRIBA!!!!
Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka) vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper & Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff (w/Cowboy Bob Orton)
Mitch: There were celebrity guests who had random jobs in the main event. Liberace was the one that brought the most fanfare. Muhammad Ali is the guest referee. Pat Patterson must not have faith that Ali can do it because he’s reffing, too. Piper, Orndorff, and Orton come out to the music of a huge live Scottish marching band. Hogan’s music hits and the crowd gives a huge reaction. Hogan, T, and Snuka make their way to the ring. Lots of yellow foam fingers in the crowd. I wonder why this wasn’t just a six man tag since both teams had an active wrestler hanging out with them?
Liberace rang a sissy little bell to start the match. I think I’ll go back and review this in depth one day. There’s so much happening already; too much to write in a full show review. I feel like Mr. T looked especially good in this, which I see as a testament to how hard the heels worked for him. Piper gets around so bad these days in his old age; it’s good to get to look back and see him in days when he was incredibly athletic.
Al: Here we are…we finally made it! The Big Daddy, the Main Event! Hogan and Mr. T vs Orndorff and Hot Rod Rowdy Roddy Piper. Roddy Piper was about as good of a heel at this time than anyone in the history of wrestling. Hogan and Orndorff start it off then Piper and at get in… The crowd goes nuts for T. He was huge at that time. Rocky 3 was out just two years earlier which he was in, plus A-Team. He was huge. Long story short, cause this match was all over the place and I honestly missed some of it so I can’t give an accurate review on this one, but Hogan and Mr. T won. The feud between Mr. T and Piper would continue on into Wrestlemania 2.
Mitch: That was a solid show from start to finish. I was disappointed that there were no show-stealing matches, but at least nothing was terrible. Even the squash matches at the beginning were kind of entertaining. For being the first Wrestlemania, they seemed to put on a quality show that was very well received. The fans in the arena loved it and judging by the legacy of Wrestlemania, everyone went home happy that day.
Best match of the card for me was Rotundo/Windham versus The Sheik/Volkoff. I enjoyed the athleticism of the babyfaces and the best heel heat of the night (possibly matched by Piper) was generated by these two. This match had the goofy characters that only Cold War era pro-wrestling could deliver and some ring action that seemed years ahead of its time.
Overall, I’ll give the show 2¾ stars. I’m sure everyone who watched that night would have given it over 4 stars, but too much of it is dated for me. The body slam isn’t the move it once and Cyndi Lauper definitely isn’t the star that she once was. It’s still a watchable show, but I’m looking forward to the Wrestlemanias when Randy Savage is on the card.
Al: Not the best PPV ever but it was succesful enough to last a second year and a third and so on. I’m glad I finally watched this one (thank you WWE Network).
Best match for me: Brutus Beefcake vs David Sammartino.
Worst match: King Kong Bundy vs Special Delivery Jones. Even though nothing was wrong with it, it was just too quick to care anything about.
I’ll give this one 2 out of 5 stars!
Next Review: Wrestlemania 2!!!