Straight Shooting: The History of Wrestlemania
The history of the most famous annual wrestling event in America today!
March 31, 2000
By Fritz Capp
My how times flies. It seems like only a few months ago when I was driving across the Causeway to go to a friend's house to see the big WWF "closed circuit television" event, Wrestlemania. It was a new and innovative way to put across a big show to more than just the people who happened to be in the city that it was being held in. I for one was jacked about it.
For those of you who had just come out of your mother’s womb back then and are now accustomed to 2 - 3 wrestling pay per views a month let me tell you, it was a big deal for wrestling fans everywhere. No longer did we just have to put up with edited highlights or wait for the report to come out in Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which is historically three months behind the times. No, this time we were going to witness first hand the events of this major card.
Little did we know back then just how big this event was going to play on the wrestling industry, and in actuality we didn’t really care. All we knew was that we were going to be a part of it, even if we were still sitting in our living rooms or at a friend's house.
Considering that we are far removed from the events that happened on March 31, 1985, lets take a small look at the history of this now-infamous event and how wrestling has changed over the years, chronicled by this annual wrestling card.
March 31, 1985
The names on this card tell you that the era of "Hulkamania" was in full swing. While this card had many names on it, the meat of this card focused on the main event was pitted Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff. This card also was the focal point for the relationship between "Rock and Wrestling" with Cyndi Lauper accompanying the WWF’s Women’s champion Wendi Richter to the ring. Other luminaries on hand for the first WrestleMania were Liberace, Billy Martin and Muhammad Ali.
This night also saw King Kong Bundy pin my favorite professional jobber S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones in 9 seconds and was also host to the huge "$15,000.00 Body Slam" match between Andre the Giant and Big John Studd. Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik also took the tag team championship from then WWF Tag champs Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo. Of course Hogan and Mr. T won their main event battle, but little did anyone know just what they had done that night.
April 7, 1986
WrestleMania II took advantage of the fact that they did not have to be in the confines of one building to hold this event. Combine that with the financial mind of Vince McMahon, who I am sure thought to himself... "self....why just hold this in one arena when I could sell out three" and you have the makeup for the second in the long line of WrestleMania events. WrestleMania II was held in the Nassau Coliseum in New York, The Rosemont Horizon in Chicago and from The Sports Arena in Los Angeles. This card also saw members of the Chicago Bears become a part of a well-hyped match. The main event for this card was Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a cage. The luminaries for this match were Ozzy Ozbourne, Joan Rivers, Cab Calloway (no relation to Mark), Ray Charles, Tommy Lasorda and Elvira.
This card had a four round boxing match between Mr. T. vs. Roddy Piper. This match was held in the Nassau Coliseum. It went into the fourth round with Mr. T. Getting the victory via disqualification. Other matches held at the Nassau Coliseum were Paul Orndorff vs. Don Muraco, Randy Savage vs. George "The Animal" Steel for the Intercontinental Title, and Jake Roberts vs. George Wells. The Rosemont Horizon had a completely different complexion as the fans there saw the Fabulous Moolah retain her title when she won her match over Velvet McIntyre. This is where the 20 man Invitational Battle Royal was held. This match saw Andre the Giant win after eliminating the last man, which was Bret Hart. Other participants were, John Studd, Hilbilly Jim, Tonga Kid, Jim Brunzell, Jim Neidhart, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcini, Pedro Morales, B. Brian Blair, Dan Spivey, Iron Sheik and football players William Perry, Bill Fralic, Russ Francis, Jim Covert, Harvey Martin and Ernie Holmes. The British Bulldogs also took the WWF Tag Team Titles in Chicago from Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake. The Sports Arena fans saw Ricky Steamboat beat Hercules Hernandez, Adrian Adonis pin Uncle Elmer, Dory and Terry Funk beat Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana. In the main event, Hogan retained his title in his defense against Bundy.
March 29, 1987
This event is still talked about throughout the industry for two very notable reasons. One, this is the card that had the classic Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat match, and also for the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant match up for the Heavyweight title. Emanating from the Pontiac Silverdome with over 90,000 fans in attendance (some argue the number is closer to 63,000), this is without a doubt one of the largest wrestling events as far as attendance goes in wrestling history. Another notable match was Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis in what was billed as Roddy’s "retirement" match....win...lose or draw. This match had a special stip that said that whoever lost the match would have his head shaved. Roddy won the match and allowed Brutus Beefcake to do the honors on Adonis’s head. Some say that this is where Beefcake earned the moniker "The Barber."
Other matches on the card included Rick Martel and Tom "Z-Man" Zenk beating Bob Orton and Don Maraca, Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules Hernandez battling to a double count out, Hillbilly Jim/Haiti Kid/Little Beaver beating King Kong Bundy/Lord Littlebrook/Little Tokyo, Harley Race pinned the Junkyard Dog, Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake beat the Rougeau Brothers, Bret Hart/Jim Neidhart/and Danny Davis beat Dynamite Kid/Davey Boy Smith/Tito Santana, Butch Reed pinned Koko B. Ware. The Honky Tonk Man beat Jake Roberts and The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff beat the Killer Bees (Jim Brunzell/B. Brian Blair). In what is considered one of the best matches in all of the WrestleManias Ricky Steamboat beat Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Title. In an even bigger match, Andre the Giant passed the torch to Hulk Hogan, thus cementing Hogan’s immortality. Andre showed the world that there were still honored traditions that should be adhered to in professional wrestling. A lot of people today could stand to learn the true value of what Andre did that night.
March 27, 1988
This WrestleMania had a different complexion about it since there was no world champion going into the event. This show was held at the Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Preceding this event, Andre the Giant (who won the world title) was stripped of the belt for trying to give the belt to Ted DiBiase, which prompted then WWF president Jack Tunney to declare the belt vacant and to have a tournament for the title at WrestleMania. The luminaries at this event were Vanna White, Bob Uecker and Robin Leech. This card also had a 20 man Battle Royal tournament with a large Tournament Trophy as the prize.
The card was as follows: (a side note to this is that Hogan and Andre received byes until the second round due to the fact that they were the last two people to hold the title)
World Heavyweight Title Tournament - Round #1
Ted DiBiase pinned Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Don Muraco beat Dino Bravo
Greg Valentine pinned Ricky Steamboat
Randy Savage beat Butch Reed
One Man Gang beat Bam Bam Bigelow
Rick Rude and Jake Roberts went to a 15-minute time limit draw
World Heavyweight Title Tournament - Round #2
Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant fought to a double disqualification
Ted DiBiase pinned Don Muraco
Randy Savage beat Greg Valentine
World Heavyweight Title Tournament - Semi Finals
Randy Savage beat One Man Gang by DQ
World Heavyweight Title Tournament - Finals
Randy Savage pinned Ted DiBiase to win the WWF Heavyweight Championship
As I said above there was a 20-man battle royal tournament, which saw Bad News Brown win the trophy after eliminating his last opponent Bret Hart. The rest of the participants were, Jim Neidhart, B. Brian Blair, Sika, Ron Bass, Raymond Rougeau, Jim Brunzell, Jim Powers, Hillbilly Jim. Danny Davis, Ken Patera, Jacques Rougeau, Harley Race, Junkyard Dog and Paul Roma. Other matches on the card saw the Ultimate Warrior pin Hercules Hernandez,, Brutus Beefcake beat the Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man by DQ, The Islanders and Bobby Heenan beat the British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware and Demolition take the World Tag Team Titles from Rick Martel and Tito Santana.
April 2, 1989
WrestleMania V was once again held at the Trump Plaza Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey and this time the fanfare was even more so than the previous show. Run-D.M.C. made a special appearance doing an original WrestleMania rap that had the crowd hopping. Roddy Piper also made the show, hosting a special edition Piper’s Pit with Brother Love and Morton Downey Jr. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka also made a special appearance. So did Big John Studd, who was there to be a special guest referee in the match that pitted Andre the Giant against Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
The matches for this card were: Hercules defeated King Haku (Meng), The Twin Towers (Big Bossman/Akeem (One Man Gang) beat The Rockers (Shawn Michaels/Marty Jannetty), Ted DiBiase and Brutus Beefcake went to a double DQ, The Bushwhackers beat the Rougeau Brothers, Curt Hennig beat the Blue Blazer, Demolition kept their tag team titles against Warlord, Barbarian and Mr. Fuji, Dino Bravo beat Ronnie Garvin, Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson beat Rick Martel and Tito Santana, Jake Roberts beat Andre the Giant when John Studd disqualified Andre for attacking him, The Hart Foundation beat Greg Valentine and Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude beat The Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental Title with a little help from Bobby Heenan, Bad News Brown and Hacksaw Jim Duggan went to a double DQ and in the main event Hulk Hogan beat Randy Savage to regain his World heavyweight Title in the very same arena that Savage had won it in one year prior at WrestleMania IV.
April 1, 1990
This event was held in the Toronto SkyDome and to see that 68,000 plus fans in attendance really left an impression on the guys in the back. This was also a record setting attendance for the SkyDome, which to this day has not been equaled. There was magic in the air on this night because the two top draws in the federation were in the main event for a title vs. title match. To say that the world was watching is an understatement as this could have been, at the time, the most anticipated WrestleMania to date. The participants in the main event....Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. Other matches on this night were the first ever mixed tag team match in WWF history and Ted DiBiase trying to regain his "Million Dollar" belt.
The matches at this card were: In a dark match Paul Roma beat Steve Lombardi, Demolition regained their World Tag Team titles from Andre the Giant and Haku, Rick Martel beat Koko B. Ware, Earthquake beat Hercules, Brutus Beefcake won over Curt Hennig, Roddy Piper and Bad News Brown went to a double countout, The Hart Foundation defeated The Bolsheviks, The Barbarian beat Tito Santana, Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire defeated Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Sensational Sherri, The Orient Express defeated the Rockers when the Rockers were counted out, Hacksaw Jim Duggan pinned Dino Bravo, Ted DiBiase regained his "Million Dollar" belt when Jake "The Snake" Roberts was counted out, Big Bossman beat his former partner Akeem, Rick Rude beat Jimmy Snuka and at the 22:51 mark in the match The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan to win the WWF World Heavyweight Title. This left the Warrior holding both the WWF Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles. The Warrior would then relinquish the IC belt.
March 24, 1991
The Gulf War was raging in the Middle East. American sentiment towards Iran were running high. A new sense of patriotism was running rampant through the United States, and Vince McMahon was certainly not going to miss out on a golden opportunity. So this card, which was set in Los Angeles, had all the makings to be a hit. It pitted Sgt. Slaughter (once the stalwart protector for everything American before switching sides and joining the Iranians) against the WWF’s own vestige of true American virtue, Hulk Hogan. This was not a small card to say the least. Luminaries at the show included Donald Trump, Regis Philbin and Henry "The Fonz" Winkler who all watched the stars and stripes take center stage for this event.
The matches were as follows: In a dark match, Koko B. Ware pinned Steve Lombardi, The Rockers defeated The Barbarian and Haku, Kerry Von Erich beat Dino Bravo, Davey Boy Smith pinned the Warlord, The Nasty Boys beat The Hart Foundation to win the WWF Tag Team Titles, Jake Roberts beat Rick Martel, The Undertaker beat Jimmy Snuka, The Ultimate Warrior beat Randy Savage in a "retirement" match which brought The Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth back together, Koji Kitao and Genichiro Tenryu defeated Smash and Crush, Big Bossman beat Intercontinental Champion "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig by DQ, Earthquake pinned Greg Valentine, The Legion of Doom beat Power and Glory, Virgil defeated Ted DiBiase by countout, Jacques Rougeau beat Tito Santana and Hulk Hogan defeated Sgt. Slaughter, regaining the World title for the third time.
April 5, 1992
Indianapolis, Indiana was the setting for WrestleMania VIII, which brought none other than "The Nature Boy" himself, Ric Flair, to the WWF’s event for the first time. Flair entered this event as the WWF Heavyweight Champion, but had a target on his back courtesy of Randy Savage. Preceding the event, Flair had taken it upon himself to first try to steal Miss Elizabeth away from Savage. When he realized that was not going to happen, he proceeded to ridicule her every chance he got. This incited the rage inside of Savage and set the stage for this match up. It also was the first appearance of Sid Justice (Sid Vicious). This was also supposed to be the last WrestleMania that would have Hulk Hogan on the card, as he announced his retirement from the sport before the card.
The matches were as follows: in a dark match The Bushwhackers beat the Beverly Brothers, Shawn Michaels pinned Tito Santana, Tatanka beat Rick Martel, The Natural Disasters (Earthquake and Typhoon) won over the tag team title holders Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Shyster via a count out, in an 8 man tag team match Virgil, Big Bossman, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Sgt. Slaughter beat Repo Man, The Mountie and The Nasty Boys, Randy Savage beat Ric Flair to regain the heavyweight championship, The Undertaker beat Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Bret Hart pinned Intercontinental title holder Roddy Piper and took the title, Owen hart beat Skinner and in the main event Hulk Hogan beat Sid Justice via disqualification. The show ended with run-ins from Papa Shango and the returning Ultimate Warrior.
April 4, 1993
This ultra gala event held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada was quite the spectacle. Remembered as "The World’s Largest Toga Party," there were a quite a few new names added to the long list of WrestleMania participants. This card had the first time appearance in a WrestleMania ring of The Steiner Brothers, Razor Ramon, Yokozuna, Lex Luger, Giant Gonzales, Doink, and The Headshrinkers (Jim Ross also made his WWF debut as an announcer). While it is a known fact that Hogan did not retire and was to be at this event, no one knew just how large a role he was to have on this night, as he was slated to be a participant in a tag team match up and nothing more.
The night's events are as follows: in a dark match Tito Santana beat Papa Shango, Tatanka beat Intercontinental champion Shawn Michaels by disqualification, The Steiner Brothers beat the Headshrinkers, Doink pinned Crush, Razor Ramon beat Bob Backlund, Money Inc. retained their titles after a DQ victory over Brutus Beefcake and Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger pinned Curt Hennig, The Undertaker defeated The Giant Gonzales, Yokozuna beat world champion Bret Hart to become the WWF heavyweight champion. Immediately after the match Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji issued a challenge to Hulk Hogan. He immediately accepted and then beat Yokozuna to once again become the WWF World Heavyweight Champion.
March 20, 1994
This card gave us the infamous "Ladder Match" between Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) and Shawn Michaels, which is still being talked about today by wrestling aficionados everywhere. This card also saw two heavyweight title matches as both Bret Hart and Lex Luger challenged WWF champion Yokozuna for the belt. This was brought about at the Royal Rumble when both Bret Hart and Lex Luger’s feet hit the floor at the same time ending the Rumble match up. WWF officials decided both would have a title shot at WrestleMania. This card also saw the new faces of Alundra Blayze, Men on a Mission, Luna Vachon and Adam Bomb join the ranks of the illustrious of WrestleMania alumni.
The card was as follows: Earthquake beat Adam Bomb, Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon beat Doink and Dink, Randy Savage beat Crush in a falls count anywhere match, Yokozuna beat Lex Luger by DQ to keep the World Title, Alundra Blayze beat Leilani Kai to retain the Women's Belt, Men on a Mission beat The Quebecers, Razor Ramon beat Shawn Michaels in a ladder match to keep the IC title Bret Hart beat Yokozuna to win the World Title with Roddy Piper as special guest referee.
April 2, 1995
The Hartford Civic Center played host to this show, which not only had a World Title defense, but also saw New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor take on Bam Bam Bigelow in a much hyped match throughout many mainstream media outlets. For this match Bam Bam had the backing of Ted DiBiase’s "Million Dollar Team" while L.T. had the backing of his "All-Pro" Team which consisted of Ken Norton Jr., Ricky Jackson, Carl Banks, Reggie White, Steve McMichael and Chris Spielman. This WrestleMania added Diesel (Kevin Nash), Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie (Road Dog), The Smoking Guns (Billy and Bart Gunn) and Jacob and Eli Blu (Ron and Don Harris) to their list of alumni.
The card went as follows: Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith beat the Blu Brothers, Razor Ramon beat Jeff Jarrett by DQ, Undertaker beat King Kong Bundy, Owen Hart and Yokozuna beat Smoking Gunns to win the Tag Team Titles, Bret Hart beat Bob Backlund in an I Quit Match, Diesel beat Shawn Michaels to keep the World Title, and Lawrence Taylor beat Bam Bam Bigelow.
March 31, 1996
This card which emanated from The Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California could actually be considered one of the major turning points in WWF history because on this night was the 60 minute "Iron Man" match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels for the World Wrestling Federation Title. This match was set up by months of bickering and fighting between the two participants, mostly because of the totally opposite personalities of the two wrestlers. Shawn Michaels' over flashy cockiness was in stark contrast to what Bret Hart believed made a great wrestler. That with the "agreeing not to agree" philosophy between the two set the stage was set for one of the best matches to ever happen at a WrestleMania event. This card also saw some people debut at WrestleMania who would forever change the face of the WWF in the upcoming years. Those names are of course, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Little did we know then just how much impact these two would have on the federation and also on wrestling in the years to come. Other names making their first appearance at WrestleMania were The Body Donnas; Skip and Zip, with Sunny, (Chris Candido, Tom Pritchard and Tammy Sytch), Vader, Ahmed Johnson, Goldust, The Godwinns (Mark Canterbury and Dennis Knight and Savio Vega. We also saw The Ultimate Warrior make his ultimately short re-appearance in the WWF here.
The card was as follows: During the Free For All: Body Donnas beat The Godwinns to win the Tag Team Titles, British Bulldog, Owen Hart and Vader beat Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, Jake Roberts, Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Savio Vega, Ultimate Warrior beat Hunter Hearst Helsmley, Undertaker beat Diesel, Roddy Piper beat Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot match and Shawn Michaels beat Bret Hart in an Iron Man match to win the World Title in controversial fashion as the 60 minute time limit had expired but the clock was restarted and the match ordered to continue.
March 23, 1997
The "Windy City" of Chicago once again played host to Vince McMahon’s annual spectacular and the fans in attendance and around the world were not disappointed. The event this year featured one of the most brutal bloodbaths ever witnessed on a wrestling pay-per-view when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin battled Bret Hart in a match that In personally will forever remember as being one of the best matches I have ever seen in the WWF. This night also saw The Undertaker go for his quest of the WWF title when he fought "Psycho" Sid Vicious for the coveted prize. Once again two names were added to the WrestleMania alumni that would have a major impact on the WWF and pro wrestling and those names were Rocky Maivia and Mankind. Other first timers to WrestleMania were The Headbangers, Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon, The Sultan (Rikishi), Ken Shamrock (special guest referee) and Faarooq.
The matches were as follows: in a dark match Billy Gunn beat Flash Funk, Hunter Hearst Helmsley beat Goldust, Owen Hart and The British Bulldog went to a double c/o with Vader and Mankind, Rocky Maivia beat The Sultan to retain the IC Title, Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson beat the N.O.D. in a Chicago Streetfight, Bret Hart beat Steve Austin in a submission match when Austin passed out and in the main event The Undertaker beat Psycho Sid to win the WWF Title.
March 29, 1998
Boston’s Fleet Center was the setting for one of the most hyped WrestleMania cards as this night saw "Iron" Mike Tyson as special guest referee for the match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and then WWF champion Shawn Michaels. Once again mainstream media played a big role in the hyping of this card. That, along with Tyson being one of the most controversial figures in sports, the battle between Vince McMahon and Steve Austin just starting to gain momentum, and Shawn Michaels running one of the most controversial groups ever in pro wrestling (D-Generation X) this night's show was highly anticipated by loyal fans and casual watchers alike. New alumni to WrestleMania’s long list of wrestling personalities include Kane, Cactus Jack (sorry everyone, I had to put that there even though Mankind was listed in a previous group, just call me a Foley mark), Marc Mero & Sable, Aguila, and Taka Michinoku.
The night's card was as follows: The Legion Of Doom won the 15 team battle royal, Taka Michinoku beat Aguila to retain the Light Heavyweight title, Hunter Hearst Helmsley beat Owen Hart to retain the European title, Marc Mero & Sable beat Goldust & Luna, Rocky Maivia beat Ken Shamrock by a reversed decision to retain the IC Title, Cactus Jack & Chainsaw Charlie beat The New Age Outlaws, The Undertaker beat Kane and in the main event Stone Cold Steve Austin beat Shawn Michaels to win the WWF Title.
March 28, 1999
"The City of Brotherly Love", Philadelphia, played host to WrestleMania XV. In front of a capacity crowd of some of the most rabid wrestling fans in the world the WWF once again put on a stellar show that included matches that will be talked about for years to come. There was the usual ultra amount of controversy that surrounded the main event match between The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin up to and including who would be the special guest referee for the match. This card also saw pro boxer Butterbean enter the WWF’s squared circle against the winner of the WWF’s "Brawl For All," Bart Gunn. First time participants were Bob Holly, Al Snow, Test, D-Lo Brown, Paul Wight, Val Venis, Tori and Shane McMahon.
The matches were as follows: Bob Holly defeated Billy Gunn & Al Snow to win the Hardcore Title in a "Triple Threat Hardcore" match, Tag Team Champs, Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart defeated Test & D-Lo Brown, Butterbean defeated Bart Gunn in a "Brawl For All" match. Vinny Pazenzia was the Referee. The outside judges were Kevin Rooney, Chuck Wepner, & Gorilla Monsoon, Mankind defeated Paul Wight to be the Guest Referee in the Main Event, IC Champ, Jesse James defeated Val Venis, Ken Shamrock & Goldust in a "4-Man Elimination" match. Val Venis & Ken Shamrock were counted out. Jesse James defeated Goldust, Kane defeated Triple H., Women's Champ, Sable defeated Tori, European Champ Shane McMahon defeated X-Pac, The Undertaker defeated The Big Bossman in a "Hell In A Cell" match and in the main event we saw "Stone Cold" Steve Austin defeated The Rock to win the World Title in a "No DQ" match.
The history of WrestleMania is a long one and one that is filled with the biggest names in the business. It is also one of the most celebrated events in pro wrestling. This year's card promises to be nothing less. In today's world professional wrestling is more popular than ever, which translates into a money making machine that is the envy of many businessmen everywhere. I hope you all enjoyed this little piece of history on this weekend before WrestleMania XVI. I really enjoyed writing it and reliving the history of this great event.
And with that I am outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.
Back To Straight Shooting Main Page
Back To PWBTS.com
copyright © 1997 - 2000
Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets
Site Design by Fritz Capp
CGI work done by Paul Howe