The Name on the Marquee: WWF Championship Wrestling (3.30.1985)
Posted by Adam Nedeff on 04.14.2014
Featuring a copy-paste of the first thing I ever wrote for 411...
-Originally aired March 30, 1985.
-Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Bruno Sammartino.
MIKE ROTUNDO & BARRY WINDHAM (Tag Team Champions, with Captain Lou Albano) vs. PLAYBOY BUDDY ROSE & JIM HARLEY
-Rotundo starts with Rose and they trade arm wringers. Rotundo gets a firm upper hand and uses his feet to apply a hammerlock while the crowd taunts Rose with a “Fat boy” chant. Rose responds by dodging a move by turning a cartwheel, and the chant stops IMMEDIATELY and a few of the fans even applaud him.
-Slam by Rose and he goes to the second rope, but knee meets gut and Buddy has finally had enough and tags in Jim Harley. Windham unleashes a beating on him, and Rotundo finishes him off with the airplane spin.
-Lord Alfred Hayes profiles the Junkyard Dog, wrestling’s most charismatic star. We look back at the Dog breakdancing with a few fans after a match. JYD has vowed to take the Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania.
KING KONG BUNDY (with Jimmy Hart) vs. PAUL ROMA
-Bundy has dumped the sunglasses but still has the cape. Bundy pounds Roma and rams him in the corner. Flair-calibur chop by Bundy, and he drops a knee and decides to call it a night, but changes his mind and picks Roma up at two. Avalanche and another kneedrop gets three…and then two more, because that’s how Bundy rolls.
-We go to Gene Okerlund, with another rundown of the big card for tomorrow. He chats with Cyndi Lauper about tomorrow’s spectacular. Moolah’s gone down once in MSG, and tomorrow she’ll go down again and she’ll take Lelani Kai with her. Gross.
RICKY STEAMBOAT vs. RICK SAVAGE
-Rick takes Ricky down, but Ricky rolls through and ties up Rick until Rick makes it to the ropes, forcing Ricky to make a clean break. Rick punches away at Ricky, but Ricky whips him and meets him with a high knee. Armdrag by Ricky on Rick. Rick backs Ricky into the corner and Irish whips him, but Ricky Irish whips Rick and armdrags him. Rick makes the ropes and forces another clean break, and we have a “Boring!”
-Rick connects with a hard elbow off the ropes and Ricky fires back with hard chops to stop the chant once and for all. More chops from every direction, and a bodypress from the top gives Ricky the win.
-Gene Okerlund chats with Andre the Giant. He pledges that he will retire when he’s good and ready, not because Big John Studd makes him. He vows to collect the $15,000 and take a nice vacation.
-Gene gets some words from Liberace, who can’t wait for the event of the year in Madison Square Garden. He's spending his weekend in the company of a bunch of half-naked oiled men rolling around with each other, and then he's headed to Wrestlemania!
MAGNIFICENT MURACO vs. JIM POWERS
-Muraco’s alone this week. He attacks from behind while Vince McMahon jumps in and clarifies that there will be no television broadcasts of Wrestlemania, with the exception of homes with pay-per-view capabilities. Otherwise, you need to get to a local theater or auditorium.
-Powers works the arm and slams Muraco. Armdrag follows, but Muraco fights back with a knee to the gut and decides not to waste time. Tombstone finishes.
-We go to the locker room at MSG, where Gene Okerlund clarifies that Wrestlemania will only be seen on closed-circuit TV. The “True Story of Wrestlemania” DVD actually has the raw footage of this, with Vince McMahon coaching Mean Gene about how to phrase it.
-Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, and Bob Orton look at the Wrestlemania poster. Piper hangs a toilet seat over it, and Paul Orndorff smears a banana on it for “that souped-up spider monkey, Mr. T.” Piper smashes an egg against it, and Orton puts the finishing touch on it by putting his cast against the poster, knocking over an entire wall of the Pit.
HULK HOGAN & MR. T TRAIN
-They admire the view from the Empire State Building, and T suggests they go to Central Park and beat up some muggers to train for Piper & Orndorff. He estimates they’ll need about seven.
-They head to the park for some jogging, and you can tell Hulk doesn’t actually jog that much because he has the “What the fuck do I do with my arms?” body language that I had whenever I tried it.
-Off to the weight machines and then to the floor, where they scissor each other and slap each other on the head to fire each other up. They go to MSG and look at ring construction in progress. MSG has their combat zone ready. They’re not afraid to get dirty, because that’s what the people want them to do.
GREG “The Hammer” VALENTINE (Intercontinental Champion, with Jimmy Hart) vs. PAUL POMPEII
-Greg has entrance music, but I’ll be damned if I can name it.
-Knee, and some HARD elbows by Valentine. Vince for some reason is missing from commentary, and Bruno is surprisingly not terrible when he’s on his own.
-Vince suddenly returns, Bruno is suddenly quiet, and Pompeii is suddenly getting offense. Greg fights back and lobs him out to the floor. Back in, Valentine applies a chinlock to the disdain of one really loud fan in the crowd. Elbows and a figure four end it.
-Gene Okerlund talks to Captain Lou and the Tag Team Champions. Mike Rotundo hopes the fans in Iran are watching when they take the Iron Sheik hostage.
And hey, how did the big day turn out? Let's turn the wayback machine to 2008...Oh my god, let's look at my life...I was working as a telemarketer, desperate to get fired somehow (my wish came true about a month later). I had been laid off from "Wheel of Fortune" but hadn't even got hired at CBS yet, and I thought that writing about wrestling would be a fun hobby...And here's what I wrote...
-If you can read this, it means I’ve followed the instructions for posting correctly. My name is Adam Nedeff, game show junkie, and more importantly for the purposes of this column, wrestling junkie. Just to give you a heads-up of where I’m coming from with these reviews, I began watching regularly in 1989 and watched almost exclusively WWF programming until it began getting really bad in the mid-90s and I began looking around. As a result, most of my tape collection is WWF/E and that’s mostly what you’ll get here, but I’ll try to review NWA/WCW when I can, and I’m open to trading.
-For my first column, I decided to start with Vince McMahon’s mega-gamble of 1985, Wrestlemania I. (I figured anything with a roman numeral I in it would be a logical starting point for my efforts.) Vince had spent the entire previous year gobbling up regional territories, or failing that, their stars, and managed to attract mainstream media attention in the process. It was all building toward a national supercard to air on closed-circuit TV and pay-per-view (in the few markets where that was being treated as an experiment at the time). For all the hype and all the business that Vince had pulled in the previous year, the fact was that if this show didn’t live up to expectations, he was broke. 23 years later, he’s still firing people and showing his ass on national TV when the whim strikes him, and here’s why.
-This is from the 1997 VHS box set of Wrestlemania I-XIII, which means that it’s fairly close to the original, unedited live broadcast, with entrance themes left intact and all that good stuff.
-March 31, 1985 from MSG in NYC.
-Your announcers at ringside are Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse “The Body” Ventura.
-Howard Finkel greets the crowd, and then asks them to rise for the national anthem, sung by…Mean Gene Okerlund. Okay, this has bothered me for years; did somebody else cancel a scheduled appearance here?
NOTE FROM 2014: I'd say "Adam sez" but I'm already transparent enough about wishing I was Scott Keith. Anywhoo, I've since watched a shoot interview with Gene Okerlund, whose account of Wrestlemania I is that Vince booked a surprise celebrity guest to sing the anthem (Gene wouldn't say who), but that the guest showed up in no condition to perform, and Vince pretty much shoved him out there and told him to sing.
OPENING MATCH: TITO SANTANA vs. THE EXECUTIONER
-The Executioner is a masked Playboy Buddy Rose, who had a pit stop in the WWF between his main event run in the Northwest and his tag team title run in the AWA. Those of you who remember him as an obese jobber will be shocked at the rationale here, but the feeling from the WWF bookers at this point was that Buddy was way too big a star to be losing in the opening match, so they put a mask on him to hide his identity.
-Then they immediately torpedoed that by having him cut a pre-match promo where his voice gives away the fact that it’s Buddy Rose. Anyway…
Jesse reveals how easily impressed he is by saying that “Wrestlemania is living up to everything I expected it to be” before the bell even rings. Early criss-cross (and good GOD these are the loosest ropes I’ve ever seen; it looks like they’re in danger of falling out of the ring any second) leads to a back bodydrop from Tito, and it’s pretty much a Tito squash from this point forward.
-Executioner gets some token offense and there’s actually a story & psychology to it as Tito is on the comeback trail after having his leg broken by Greg Valentine. When Exebuddy finally gets some offense in, he targets the leg. He goes for a step-over toehold, but Tito makes a comeback with a Flair slam off the top rope. Splash is countered by Executioner. Neat spot with Executioner draping Tito’s leg over the bottom rope and dropping down to put all his weight on it, and Tito counters by using his free leg to shove him over the top rope, and Executioner lands perfectly seated onto an unoccupied chair. Not a mind-blower or anything, but it was interesting.
Flying forearm follows, and Tito would normally finish it with that, but since he knows Greg Valentine is watching, he goes for a figure four and gets the submission at 4:50. Remember two sentences ago when I said Not a mind-blower or anything, but it was interesting? That’s pretty much the entire match. 1 for 1.
NOTE FROM 2014: I also apologize for my first three years or so when I had it in my head that I had to type absolutely every move.
SPECIAL DELIVERY JONES vs. KING KONG BUNDY (with Jimmy Hart)
-SD actually cuts a promo! The most insightful thing he says is “Buy a hat!”, which is probably why he didn’t cut them very often. Bearhug, ram into the corner, avalanche, splash, pin. Bundy wins in 23 seconds, or “nine seconds” according to the official announcement. 1 for 2.
NOTE FROM 2014: Did you know that the nine-second announcement was bullshit and it was actually 23 seconds? Did you? Not many fans realize that. It's almost never brought up when discussing the first Wrestlemania. Seriously. No one mentions that.
RICKY STEAMBOAT vs. MATT BORNE
-Steamboat is still a few months away from becoming “The Dragon,” and Matt Borne is still a few years away from being a dancing lumberjack. Guess whose career was more fulfilling. Borne was a jobber in this run with the WWF, which is an example of how it took them a few years to get Wrestlemania right. The biggest card of the year is 33% jobber matches?
-Collar-and-elbow leads to a Steamboat side-headlock. He shoves Borne into the ropes for a few leapfrogs, and getting back to the loose ropes I noted early, the spot they were going for gets bungled when Borne, simply bouncing off the ropes, gets tangled in them for a second. Steamboat goes back to the side headlock, Borne counters out of it, but Steamboat counters the counter and goes…back to the side headlock. Borne counters again, and this time Steamboat counters with an atomic drop…and a side headlock. What, was his original gimmick going to be Ricky “The Brisco” Steamboat?
-Borne comes back with a reverse atomic drop and an Irish whip, but Steamboat makes a comeback with some “karate” and a side headlock. The fans are starting to lose patience (“BOOOOORRRRR-IIIIIINNNGG!”). Borne comes back with a suplex, and they trade chops and punches. Steamboat wins that battle and then goes to a back suplex and a neckbreaker. History-making moment, as the neckbreaker leads Gorilla to break out “external occipital protuberance” for the first time ever on PPV. Top-rope bodypress gives Steamboat the win at 4:37. Disappointing effort, knowing that both guys were capable of more. 1 for 3.
DAVID SAMMARTINO (with Bruno Sammartino) vs. BRUTUS BEEFCAKE (with Johnny Valiant)
-David’s fate is pretty much sealed during the ring intros, as Daddy gets a standing O and David gets roughly a mixed reaction. David was doomed from the start, as his dad trained him with ultra-old school mentality, and his offense already seemed outdated in 1985. He also lacked his dad’s charisma, so he had a double whammy going for him. He lingered in the WWF for the better part of 1985 before quitting in spectacular fashion at a Spectrum show by emphatically submitting to a jobber’s resthold.
-Lots of mat wrestling to start, and of course Sammartino wins that battle (although Beefcake gets a nice takedown at one point). David finally decides that he wants to work the arm with an armbar and some kneedrops to the elbow. He stops and goes to his corner to get advice from Bruno. I bet Bruno said, “Keep doing stuff to his arm.”
-Beefcake goes for a side headlock, which officially means that at Wrestlemania I, Brutus was as good a worker as Ricky Steamboat.
-David gets a drop toehold and starts working Beefcake’s legs. Brutus totally no-sells, which doesn’t exactly help. So David isn’t much of a worker and Brutus isn’t much of a seller (he calmly adjusts his glove while David twists his leg at one point). Beefcake comes back with a series of power moves; really, his whole offense at this point in his career is incredibly weird; he seems to think he’s a foot taller and 150 pounds heavier, because he keeps doing “big man” stuff like clubbing forearms and exaggerated bodyslams. And he does it…very…very…slowly.
-Sammartino comes back and they trade blows. Sammartino whips Beefcake into the ropes and sticks out his foot; Beefcake catches the foot, lets it drop to the mat, and then grabs his stomach. Ugh. Beefcake sends him to the floor and Johnny Valiant attacks, drawing Sammartino, Sr.’s wrath, and it’s a brawl for the DDQ at 12:43. 1 for 4.
INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE: GREG “The Hammer” VALENTINE (champion, with Jimmy Hart) vs. JUNKYARD DOG
-This is another example of how it took them a while to get Wrestlemania booking right. The opening match established that Tito Santana wants to fight Greg for his title, and now Greg is defending the title against another guy with whom he has no actual issue.
-A whole lot of nothing happens to start. Stalling somehow leads to rolling headbutts, then a Valentine arm ringer and a forearm to the head, and it’s time to work the leg. Hey, David, watch closely as Greg sticks with it.
-A lot of stretching and twisting moves to damage it. When he actually goes for the hold, JYD kicks out and gets back to his feet, and whether you like JYD or not, I have to point out that he gets something right here: He hops around on one foot to move around the ring, and when he stands still, he’s standing on one foot. Contrast this to the usual “My leg is injured, oh, I’ve broken the hold, I feel better now” selling of…well, just about everybody.
-More headbutts and the Dog uses Greg’s time on the mat to walk off the injury, but Jimmy Hart hops on the apron. JYD sees Valentine coming and moves out of the way, and Jimmy actually takes the sickest bump of the show, landing right on the back of his head on the unprotected floor. JYD goes back on the offense, but Valentine goes to the eyes and gets a pin with his feet on the ropes. Tito comes to the ring and tells the referee, who restarts the match, but Greg refuses to get back in, and JYD gets the win via count-out at 7:05. Not much of a match, but I’m giving it a point just for JYD showing the correct way to sell an injury. 2 for 5.
TAG TEAM TITLE: MIKE ROTUNDO & BARRY WINDHAM (champions, with Captain Lou Albano) vs. NIKOLAI VOLKOFF & IRON SHIEK (with Classy Freddie Blassie)
-Pre-match promo wackiness sees Iron Sheik giving in his classic instruction, “Cameraman, zoom!” The babyfaces counter with Captain Lou cutting his promo with a can of beer in his hand the entire time. The fans pelt the heels with so much trash that it actually causes audio problems for Gorilla & Jesse briefly.
-Sheik plants Rotundo with a shoulderblock to start, and Rotundo counters with a hiptoss and a dropkick that completely misses. Windham tags in and dodges a double-team attempt, and Sheik ends up hitting a nice-looking dropkick on his partner. Volkoff tags in and Windham & Rotundo work the arm, but Volkoff makes the comeback with an assist from Shiek’s notorious boot. Sheik tags in and he trades suplexes with Rotundo, but Volkoff tags in and we officially have our designated Morton for this match. Sheik puts the boots to Rotundo and follows with an abdominal stretch, but Rotundo counters out and makes the tag. It turns into a pier sixer and during the confusion, Shiek drills Windham with Blassie’s cane, and it’s a totally unexpected title change at 6:55. Fast-paced, not much resting, everybody came there to work. That’s a point. 3 for 6. Blassie’s post-match counter to accusations of cheating: “I didn’t have no cane.” You’ve convinced me!
-Lord Alfred Hayes recaps the Andre/Studd feud without cue cards. “Studd says I am the champi—giant. And Andre the Giant says I am the giant.” Thanks, Alfred.
-Intermission time! Buy the official Wrestlemania program! Buy the official Wrestlemania poster! Make SD Jones proud and buy the official Wrestlemania hat! Fans of “The John Boy & Billy Big Show” will recognize the music here as the cue for news breaks.
NOTE FROM 2014: For the rest of the world, John Boy & Billy are a syndicated morning zoo radio team based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they were incredibly popular among the kids I went to high school with. I loved them to until I finished college at got a job at the radio station that carried the show, and listening to a complete four-hour John Boy & Billy broadcast TOTALLY alters your perception of them. I guess they figure, quite correctly, that most people in the country are going to here 45 minutes or so of your morning radio show, TOPS, during the drive to work. So John Boy & Billy do about 20 minutes of original material around 8 am. And then the next morning, you'd hear that same chunk around 7 am. And then the next morning, you'd hear it again around 9 am. AND they had a segment promoted as "The Classic Bit of the Morning" each day too. Add in the hourly local news and weather breaks, the hourly commentaries from Robert D. Raiford, and the music, and out of a four-hour broadcast, there was maybe 40 minutes of actual new content.
$15,000 BODYSLAM MATCH: ANDRE THE GIANT vs. BIG JOHN STUDD (with Bobby Heenan)
-If Andre slams Studd, Studd has to pay $15,000 straight cash to Andre. If Studd slams Andre, Andre has to retire. Clubbing forearms from Studd, chops & headbutts from Andre. Andre with a lot of his offensive moves that don’t have names, like the spot where he forces his own knee and Studd’s head downward while ramming them together, and the spot where he has Studd in the corner and thrusts himself backward over and over again. Andre bearhugs Studd…and bearhugs him…and bearhugs him…and bearhugs him. More random moves from both guys, but then Andre shows a little bit of intelligence for the finish, kicking Studd’s legs over and over again, and after sufficiently weakening the legs, Andre calmly picks him up and slams him for the $15,000 at 5:53. 3 for 7.
WOMEN’S TITLE: LELANI KAI vs. WENDI RICHTER
-Cyndi Lauper says that Captain Lou Albano taught her how to be a manager. Better have a beer before you get to the ring then, Cyndi. A word about Wendi here…she was quite hot here (barring the 80s feathered hair and weird colors for mascara) and sure enough, we get the whistles from the crowd when she takes off her entrance jacket, but here’s the other side of Wendi’s character…she had a mantra that she would repeat over and over again about how a woman can get whatever she wants “if she believes in herself.” And that got her over huge with a crowd that didn’t normally get into wrestling. Contrast this with the current product, where women rebel against their boyfriends by posing naked and titles change hands in tubs of gravy, which doesn’t sell tickets and is forgotten the moment that the next match begins. Wendi was the best of both worlds…she was eye candy for the guys and she had a message that resonated with women and that made her a bona fide main event player. It didn’t even matter that she wasn’t that great a worker, it was that combination that drew the crowds.
-There’s not much to describe here other than the offense that you see in every other match involving two pupils of Fabulous Moolah (snap mares, hair pulling, and exaggerated forearm blows). It should also be noted that both women are graduates of the Iron Mike Sharpe School of Selling (“Arrgh!”) Blown finish sees Lelani get a flying bodypress that is very gradually reversed by Richter for the 3-count at 6:12. Bleh. 3 for 8.
-Post-match interview sees Gene Okerlund asking Cyndi, “Did Moolah give you any trouble?” And Cyndi helpfully explains, “No. I brought my towel because she’s bigger than me.” Well, that clears that up.
-Main event time! Guest ring announcer Billy Martin (who showed up drunk) gets through his duties with Howard Finkel’s help (You can hear Finkel cueing him throughout…”And now their opponents.” “AND NOW THEIR OPPONENTS!”). Liberace dances with the Rockettes, and Muhammad Ali waves a lot and lets Pat Patterson do most of the actual referee work.
HULK HOGAN & MISTER T (with Jimmy Snuka) vs. ROWDY RODDY PIPER & “Mr. Wonderful” PAUL ORNDORFF (with Cowboy Bob Orton)
-Piper & T start, and their stuff is more interesting now that it’s been established that these two guys GENUINELY disliked each other. They trade slaps, and attempt some mat wrestling, where T actually gets the upper hand. All hell eventually breaks loose and Ali runs in to clear Orton & Snuka out of the ring. The heels are upset enough that they decide to call it a night, but Hogan goads them into coming back, and Hogan is a one man wrecking crew. T comes in and does the same.
-Piper takes it to the floor and drills Hogan with a chair. Orndorff & Piper double-team Hogan in their corner. When it’s finally one on one, Orndorff gets a suplex. Piper tags in for a punch and a kneelift, and it’s back to double-teaming. Hogan finally gets the tag and now it’s T’s turn to eat a lot of double-team moves. T tries mat wrestling again, but this time Orndorff maintains the upper hand. Hogan tags in and THIS time the babyfaces make their comeback, but Orndorff suplexes to even things out. Bob Orton runs in for no reason, Snuka runs in to counter, and again all hell breaks loose. With Muhammad Ali & Pat Patterson sufficiently distracted, Orndorff puts Hogan in a full nelson and Orton comes off the top rope with the plaster cast, but Hogan moves and Orton KOs Orndorff. Hogan gets the academic pin for the victory at 13:13. Piper & Orton leave without Orndorff, and Hogan & T help him to his feet to lay the groundwork for that turn. 4 for 9.
-After that, the babyfaces and celebrities all take their bows.
-End credits, set to Axel Foley’s theme, which would have been far more appropriate for the opening titles montage than their inexplicable choice of “Easy Lover.”
-This is one of those shows that gets a free pass just based on historical value. As I said a few times, it took them a couple tries to get the formula right for Wrestlemania, but there’s some good stuff here, if not classic. Thumbs up for history, thumbs in the middle for actual quality wrestling.
The 411: Uh, the rating for Championship Wrestling, or the rating for Wrestlemania?