Dunn's Countdown To WrestleMania: WrestleMania IV
Posted by J.D. Dunn on 03.18.2005
You're the Best Around! Nothing's Gonna Ever
The storyline here is that Andre the Giant defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Title through nefarious means. Andre handed the title over to Ted DiBiase, who paid a hefty sum for the belt. WWF President Jack Tunney ruled that you can't do that, so a tournament was arranged.
March 27, 1988
Live from Atlantic City, NJ.
Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura with Bob Uecker stalking around the arena.
Opening Match: Battle Royal.
Winner gets pride and a trophy. Your participants are Sika, George "the Animal" Steele, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Danny Davis, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Jacques Rougeau, Raymond Rougeau, the Junkyard Dog, Paul Roma, Jim Powers, Sam Houston, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov, Bad News Brown, Hillbilly Jim, Ken Patera, Outlaw Ron Bass, and Harley Race. Steele never even gets in. It finally comes down to three former Stampeders - Bret Hart, Bad News Brown, and the Junkyard Dog. Bret and Bad News collude to doubleteam JYD and throw him out. Bad News suddenly turns on Bret with an enzuigiri. Bret takes the Bret Bump to the corner, and Bad News throws him out. Bret doesn't like it, and destroys the trophy, sowing the seeds for his babyface turn. Not much of a match, but such a well-remembered moment that you should take a look. *1/2
Preliminary Match: Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Ted DiBiase (w/Andre the Giant & Virgil).
A few years earlier, this was a main event match for Mid-South. In fact, you could make the argument based on ratings and attendance that these two were bigger draws than Hulk Hogan at that point. But that's in the past. Duggan stopped trying almost immediately upon entering the WWF. Duggan brawls to start and atomic drops DiBiase over the top rope. Duggan gets the mounted punches and whips Dibiase to the opposite corner. Dibiase gets a boot up and knocks Duggan down with a clothesline. Duggan punches his way back and gets a sunset flip for two! Dibiase goes to the second rope but gets caught in the breadbasket on the way down. Duggan sets up for the 3-point charge, but Andre trips him up from the outside. Duggan goes after Andre, enabling Dibiase to get a shot to the kidneys and finish him with a fist drop at 5:03. *
Elsewhere, Brutus Beefcake threatens to take the title away from the Honkytonk Man.
Preliminary Match: Dino Bravo (w/Frenchy Martin) vs. Don Muracco (w/Superstar Billy Graham).
Muracco reverses a corner whip and delivers a clothesline. He goes up for the Arn Anderson pump splash, but Bravo is out of position. Bravo comes back with a few elbow drops and a gut wrench suplex. Bravo misses a knee charge to the corner. "The Rock" targets the hamstring and locks in a spinning toehold. Bravo kicks out of it, sending Muracco into the ropes where he gets hung. Bravo unties him and piledrives him. Muracco backdrops out of another piledriver, and they clothesline one another. Muracco drops him with a flying forearm. He tries another, but Bravo pulls the referee in the way. Bravo side suplexes Muracco, but the ref recovers and disqualifies Bravo at 4:51. *
Uecker catches up with The Honkytonk Man and Jimmy Hart. Honky promises to retain his title and tosses in a few Elvis references.
Preliminary Match: Greg Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Ricky Steamboat.
This is the second missed opportunity of the night, with Duggan-Dibiase being the first. Steamboat wanted to go over here and face the Macho Man in a rematch of last year. Of course, in 1988, the WWF didn't like to have babyfaces going at it. Steamboat dominates with the armdrags and a thrust kick. Valentine throws him over the top, but Steamboat skins-the-cat and dropkicks him in the back. Valentine lays in some forearms. He yanks Ricky off the ropes onto his external occipital protuberance area. That gets two. Ricky backflips out of a backdrop suplex and rams Valentine's head into the turnbuckle. Valentine counters an armbar to an atomic drop. He drops Ricky with a clothesline. To the outside, Valentine drapes him over the apron and chops him in the throat. Back in, Ricky lays into him with some chops and covers for two. He collapses on a slam and gets counted for two himself. The Hammer delivers a gutbuster and goes to work on the legs to set up the figure-four. Ricky kicks out of it, and they exchange chops. Valentine goes to the eyes and gets a shoulderbreaker. Valentine comes off the top with a forearm. Steamboat counters the figure-four with a chop, though. Ricky delivers a chop from the top rope. That gets two. He rams Valentine's face into the turnbuckle. Ricky goes up and comes off with a crossbody block. Valentine rolls through with a handful of tights and gets the surprisingly clean win at 9:10. ***1/4
The British Bulldogs show off their dog Matilda. Koko B. Ware hangs around too.
Preliminary Match: Macho Man Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. Butch Reed (w/Slick).
Here is another dream match wasted in the mid-card. Reed was a really big name in Mid-South, drawing big money as a babyface (although not as much as the JYD). Savage, of course, had a great run in his own territory before jumping to the WWF. Reed reverses a suplex early on and drops an elbow for two. He tosses him outside and high fives Slick. He snaps Savages neck across the rope and poses. Back in, Reed knocks Savage down with w reverse elbow and goes up. A fist drop right between the eyes has Savage reeling. Savage counters a backdrop attempt with a boot to the chest. Reed misses a charge to the corner but gets a flying clothesline. Reed goes up, but makes the mistake of jawing with Liz. Savage recovers, slams Reed off the top, and finishes with the Flying Elbowdrop at 4:10. Typical Savage squash. *
Uecker has a word with Bobby Heenan and The Islanders about Matilda.
Preliminary Match: The One Man Gang (w/Slick) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (w/Sir Oliver Humperdink).
As with all male babyface managers, Humperdink is pretty useless. Too bad too, because he was a decent heat-getter in the territories. OMG attacks at the bell and lays in the forearms. He whips Bigelow into the ropes and avalanches him. A second avalanche misses, and Bigelow shoulderblocks him down. A "flying" crossbody gets two. Bigelow keeps on the big guy with forearms. A clothesline knocks the Gang down. Nothin' happening. Bigelow knocks him down with a headbutt and drops a driving headbutt. He goes for the coup de grace, but Slick pulls the ropes down on him. Bigelow spills to the outside for a very lame countout loss at 2:59, especially since the OMG was brawling with him the whole time and wouldn't let him in. 1/2*
Odds on favorite Hulk Hogan goes on one of those weird 1980's jags about slamming Andre and sucking the world down to hell, but Donald Trump embraces Hulkamania and rises three days later because the Beatles did it and it was cool. Or something.
Preliminary Match: Rick Rude (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. Jake Roberts.
This is one of the few matches that really had a storyline behind it, involving Rude and Jake Roberts' wife. No play-by-play here because it's long and boring, filled with the same moves over and over. Rude freaks out because he winds up in the same corner as the snake. Jake works the arm. A lot. Rude with a chinlock. Rude with a chinlock. Rude with a chinlock. Rude with a fistdrop off the top for two. Rude with a chinlock. Rude with the front facelock. Jake finally gets sick of all the stalling and backdrops him over. A short clothesline sets up the DDT, but Rude counters by ramming him into the turnbuckle. Rude charges into a knee lift. Jake with a gutbuster for two. Rude comes back with a backdrop suplex for two. They clothesline each other. Jake moves in but gets scooped into a pin. Rude puts his feet on the ropes and gets the apparent pin, but time ran out before the three (15:00). Both men are eliminated from the tournament. *1/2
Gene and Vanna White analyze the first round and the pairings for the second round:
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Ted Dibiase vs. Don Muracco
Greg Valentine vs. Randy Savage
The One Man Gang — BYE
Hercules (w/Bobby Heenan) vs. The Ultimate Warrior.
The Warrior was close to Batistaville here, only in those days there was no need for instant gratification because people were content to go see Hogan squash heel after heel. Lots of no-selling and clotheslines to start. Herc backdrops him over, and they brawl on the outside. Back in, Warrior fires back and mounts him in the corner for some punching. Herc counters to an atomic drop. Warrior misses a charge to the corner, and Hercules locks in the dreaded Full Nelson. Warrior pushes off the turnbuckle, sending them both to their shoulders. Warrior, mat tactician that he is, raises his shoulder at the last second so only Herc gets counted down. Warrior picks up the big win en route to a year-long undefeated push that would end a year later. After the match, Herc tries to strangle Warrior with his chain, but Warrior makes his own save. (4:37). 3/4*
Recap of the Hogan/Andre split that happened over a year earlier. Just to recap: Hogan was a hugely popular champion. Andre was always in his shadow and never seriously went after the title at any point in his WWF career…until guys like Bobby Heenan got in his ear. Andre congratulated Hogan on a long run as champ. Hogan tried to congratulate Andre on a career-long undefeated streak (fictional). Andre walked out on him, though. Andre would return and rip Hogan's crucifix right of his chest and challenge him on the spot. Hogan accepted and they met at the match of the century at Wrestlemania III. Early in that match, Hogan collapsed under a slam and nearly got pinned. Andre would go on to lose, but use that controversial nearfall as an excuse for another title shot. Ted Dibiase left the UWF and showed up as "The Million Dollar Man," offering to buy the title from Hogan. Hogan refused, so Dibiase made a deal with Andre — "win the title from Hogan and I'll buy it from you." With the help of evil referee Earl Hebner (who apparently received plastic surgery to look just like senior referee Dave Hebner), Andre defeated Hogan. Andre handed the belt over to Dibiase, but WWF President Jack Tunney ruled that you can't purchase the belt. So that's where we stand today.
Quarterfinals Match: Andre the Giant (w/Ted Dibiase & Virgil) vs. Hulk Hogan.
Andre attacks as Hogan is getting in the ring. Hogan never gets started as Andre lays into him with headbutts and punches. Hogan finally makes the big comeback and chokes Dibiase. He knocks their heads together and chops Andre until he falls against the ropes, tying himself up. Hogan knocks Andre to the ground and drops a series of elbows. Andre catches and starts choking him. That constitutes most of the rest of the match. If you have the Coliseum Home Video, it cuts off right about here and you have to continue on the next tape. Hogan powers out of a nerve hold and clotheslines Andre in the corner. He tries to slam Andre, but Dibiase sneaks in and blasts Hogan with a chair. Hogan steals the chair from him and hits Andre with it. Then Andre hits Hogan, drawing a double DQ at 5:23. Both men are eliminated from the tournament, changing the entire complexion of the field. Hogan suplexes Virgil on the floor. 1/2*
Macho Man and Liz talk about Hogan doin' tha thing. Oooh yeah! Macho Man will take on Greg Valentine in the Quarterfinals.
Quarterfinals Match: Ted Dibiase vs. Don Muracco (w/Billy Graham).
Dibiase protests, so the Rock pulls him in and drops a leg on him. Muracco gets two of a nice powerslam and stays on top of him. The Statue of Liberty forearm drop gets two. Muracco busts out the Hennig neck snap. A dropkick sends Dibiase to the outside, but Graham chases him back to the ring. Muracco tries to pull Dibiase away from the ropes, but Dibiase pulls him back over the ropes to take control. Dibiase tries to crush his Adam's apple. Dibiase misses a back elbow drop. Muracco whips him to the corner. He charges, but Dibiase quickly ducks and hits him with a Hot Shot for the clean win at 5:35. As a result of the draw between Hulk and Andre, Dibiase moves directly into the finals. **
They clip the One Man Gang celebrating his bye. Thanks to the Roberts-Rude draw, he'll be fresh to pick over whoever wins this next match.
Quarterfinals Match: Greg Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth).
Valentine corners him with some forearms. Macho fires back and whips Valentine to the opposite corner. He drops a knee for two. Hammer starts dropping the elbows. Shoulderbreaker gets two for Valentine. They take it to the outside where Valentine lays into him with chops. Back in, Valentine softens up the knee and goes for the figure-four. Savage is in the ropes, though. Valentine gets a few two counts, but Macho suddenly comes back with an elbow. That was sort of odd. A double ax-handle gets two. Macho chases Jimmy Hart of the apron and reverses a suplex to his own. They nail each other. Macho misses a running charge against the ropes. Valentine pulls him to the center and goes for the figure-four, but Macho counters to a small package for the win at 6:05. Macho moves on to meet the One Man Gang. **1/2
Intercontinental Title: Honkytonk Man (w/Jimmy Hart & Peggy Sue) vs. Brutus Beefcake.
Peggy Sue you might know as Sherri Martel. These may be the four most irritating people in wrestling at this point. Beefcake gets an atomic drop and MESSES UP HIS HAIR! Honky takes a breather after that. Back in, Beefcake rams Honky's head to the buckle. Brutus high knees him to the outside. He snapmares Honky back in. Brutus misses an elbowdrop. Honky starts stomping him mercilessly. Jimmy sneaks in and chokes him behind the ref's back. Honky sets up for the Shake, Rattle & Roll but opts not to. He knees Brutus instead. Honky sets up for it again, but Brutus grabs the ropes. Backdrop by Brutus. SLEEPER! Honky starts to fade, so Jimmy hops up on the apron and blasts the ref with the horn. Brutus puts Honky out, but he can't win because the ref is out. Beefcake realizes what's happened, chases Jimmy down, and cuts his hair. Peggy Sue dumps ice water on Honky to wake him up. They get him out of there before Brutus can do any more clipping. There is no final bell, but they announce Brutus as the winner by DQ around 9:00 in. *
Andre interrupts Uecker's search for Vanna by revealing that he did his job in knocking Hogan out of the tournament.
Six-Man Tag: The Islanders & Bobby Heenan vs. The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware (w/Matilda & Frankie).
The Brain comes out with a padded uniform to stave off dog attacks. Dynamite knocks around both Islanders and slingshots Tama to the floor. Davey Boy misses an elbow drop. Haku tags in, but DBS gets a crossbody for two. A crucifix gets two more. Davey settles things down with a chinlock. He counters a wristlock to a press slam. Davey flips out of a backbreaker and tags Koko. Koko comes in with a dropkick on Haku. The Islanders try to doubleteam him, but Koko rolls them over in a Guerrero-ish maneuver. Dynamite tags in but gets dominated by Haku. Finally, Heenan tags in and gets a few shots. He tags back out immediately. Tama goes for an Arn Anderson pump splash, but Dynamite gets the knees up. Koko gets the first tag and backdrops Tama. Haku comes in but gets whipped into his own partner. The Islanders catch up with Koko and start to doubleteam him. The Brain tags in again and keeps Koko down. Koko whips him into the turnbuckle and dropkicks Heenan to the ringpost. The Islanders come in to protect Heenan, so the Bulldogs come in for a huge brawl. In the chaos, the Islanders press slam Heenan on top of Koko for the win at 7:25. Fun stuff. **3/4
Jesse takes some time out to pose.
Semi-Finals: The One Man Gang (w/Slick) vs. Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth).
The Gang pushes Macho around to start. Macho sticks and moves. Macho slingshots him on the top rope by using his beard. OMG catches him as Jesse talks about Macho's failure to move around the ring. Gang slams him but near the ropes. Gang misses a splash, so Macho starts jabbing him. A double ax-handle sends Gang to the outside. Macho follows him out with a double ax-handle off the top. Back in, Macho stupidly tries to slam him. Slick chases Elizabeth up to the apron, drawing the ire of the referee. Slick tosses the cane in to the Gang, but the ref turns and sees him using it. Gang gets disqualified at 4:10, sending Macho to the finals. Steve walks warily down the street with his brim pulled way down low. Silly finish. 1/2*
Uecker just misses out on tracking down Vanna again.
WWF Tag Team Titles: Strike Force vs. Demolition (w/Mr. Fuji).
Smash starts out with Martel and destroys him. He catches him on a crossbody, but Tito sneaks in and dropkicks them over. Ax makes Tito pay for it. The match breaks down, and Strike Force doubleteams Smash for two. Strike Force targets Smash's arm, but he makes the tag. That pattern repeats for the next few minutes. Tito gets caught and clotheslined. Demolition takes over. Ax gets two off a powerslam. Smash tries to crush Tito's throat. The fans here are really silent. They don't want to root for the bad guys, but they don't like Strike Force either. Finally, Tito avoids an elbow drop and delivers the flying forearm. HOT TAG to Martel. Martel starts dropkicking everyone. He puts Smash in the Boston Crab. Tito tries to keep Ax from interfering but it backfires. As the ref gets caught up with Tito and Fuji, Ax takes Fuji's cane and BLASTS an unsuspecting Martel with it. Smash lands on top for the win and the titles at 8:04. They would go one to be one of the WWF's most successful tag teams of all time. **1/2
WWF Heavyweight Championship Finals: Ted Dibiase (w/Andre the Giant) vs. Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth).
Robin Leach brings down the title. Uecker serves as ring announcer. Vanna is your guest time keeper. Macho gets an elbow early on, but Andre trips him up from the outside. They do some technical wrestling, and Andre snags Savage again. Macho avoids an elbow drop and shouts at Andre. They exchange wristlocks, and Dibiase whips him into the ropes. He gets two off a clothesline. Macho counters a sunset flip with a fist. That gets two. Dibiase begins methodically to work him over. Savage ducks a reverse elbow and clotheslines Dibiase on the top rope. He knees Dibiase to the outside and goes up, but Andre stands in between them, protecting Dibiase. That tears it. Savage goes over to Elizabeth and sends her to the back. Dibiase jumps Macho from behind and drops a series of fists to the eyes. The crowd rises to their feet as Elizabeth returns with Hulk Hogan! Andre gets involved again, but Hogan runs over and breaks it up. Savage makes the comeback, but Dibiase goes to the eyes and clotheslines him down. A suplex gets two. A gutwrench suplex gets two more. Dibiase goes up, but Macho catches him and slams him off the top. Macho goes for the elbow, but Dibiase moves! Cool sequence there, as that looked like the end. Dibiase locks in the Million Dollar Dream. Savage makes his way to the ropes, but Andre pulls them away from him. As the ref admonishes Andre, Hogan runs in and WHACKS Dibiase with a chair. Macho Man recovers and hits the elbowdrop for the win at 9:17. Macho picks up his first world title and becomes the first person other than Hogan to hold the title in nearly four years. Macho, Hogan and Elizabeth celebrate. ***
Final Thoughts: This PPV has a number of fondly remembered moments, from the beginning of Bret's face turn, to Demolition and Macho's first title wins. The problem is that it's just brutal to sit through the matches once you know the outcome. In other words, it's about an two hours of good programming stretched over 3 1/2 hours.