Wrestlemania IV from Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey featuring the tournament to crown a new World Heavyweight Champion. As I recall from childhood, this event was so long that it was a two VHS tape release. Gladys Knight sings America the Beautiful while wearing a jacket with enough ads on it to make a NASCAR jealous. YEAH, AMERICA!
Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura on commentary, Bob Uecker shows up to call the first match with them.
20 Man Battle Royale
- This is basically everyone on the roster who has nothing else to do at Wrestlemania, and you can tell they really don’t care.
- George the Animal Steele is a participant but never gets in the ring. He pulls Jim Neidhart out, which counts for some reason.
- Two heels, Bad News Brown and Bret Hart are the final two participants, which is unique. Bad News Brown is the winner after double-crossing Bret, but Bret comes in and smashes Brown’s trophy. Crowd doesn’t care.
- Uecker leaves to find Vanna White.
Robin Leach reads a proclamation about the Championship Tournament
- He ends his nonsense by saying “I’m Robin Leach and I do know why.” which I believe it a shot at Dana Carvey’s Saturday Night Live impression, but he could care less when he says it and no one in the crowd seems to care either, so I’m not going to attempt to research it now.
Championship Tournament Match: Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Ted DiBiase (with Andre the Giant and Virgil)
- So far no one has come out to any kind of music.
- DiBiase wins after shenanigans. Duggan never attempted a USA chant, which explains his loss.
Mean Gene interviews Brutus The Barber Beefcake
- Gene uncomfortably (well for the audience anyway) asks about Beefcake’s package.
Championship Tournament Match: Dino Bravo (with Frenchy Martin) vs. Don The Rock Muraco (with Superstar Billy Graham)
- The Rock used an instrumental version of “Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber during this era, a great theme for an entrance that of course is edited out of this.
- The Rock wins via DQ after, well you know, shenanigans.
Bob Uecker interviews The Honky Tonk Man
- This is taking food out of the mouth of Craig DeGeorge, wherever he might be.
Championship Tournament Match: Greg The Hammer Valentine (with Jimmy Hart) vs. Ricky The Dragon Steamboat (with infant)
- Steamboat brings his baby to the ring, which… really… is just the dumbest thing. Put that kid to bed.
- Ventura says that Valentine can’t match Steamboat’s technical skill, so he should just cheat.
- Ventura name drops Barry Blaustein, who would later direct 1999′s Beyond The Mat.
- Curious bit where Steamboat rams Valentine’s head into the turnbuckle 11 times, the ref breaks it up, and Steamboat starts manhandling the ref.
- After about 20 pieces of business where one of the two men crashes to the mat like a giant redwood tree, Valentine wins by pinfall. Not cleanly of course.
Mean Gene interviews The British Bulldogs (with the newly rescued Matilda) along with Koko B. Ware
Championship Tournament Match: The Natural Butch Reed (with Slick) vs. Macho Man Randy Savage (with Elizabeth)
- Reed just murders Savage the entire match until he starts gawking at Elizabeth. Savage sneaks up, hits the elbow and wins clean. Crowd pops for his victory which is the first time they’ve made themselves known.
Uecker interviews The Islanders with Bobby the Brain Heenan (finally!).
- A young Jonathan Coachman looks on somewhere and thinks “I can do that!”
Championship Tournament Match: One Man Gang (with Slick) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (with Oliver Humperdink)
- This show is really, really long. I’m already kind of sick of it. The dead crowd isn’t helping.
- One Man Gang wins. Count out. Shenanigans.
Mean Gene interviews the Hulkster.
Championship Tournament Match: Ravishing Rick Rude (with Bobby Heenan) vs. Jake The Snake Roberts
- I have no idea where this falls in the “Rick Rude hits on Jake’s fake wife” storyline.
- This match is basically a reverse chin-lock for 20 minutes.
- The ref falls asleep and the match is declared a draw. Neither man advances.
Mean Gene interviews Vanna White and is kinda creepy about it.
Hercules (with Bobby Heenan) vs. The Ultimate Warrior
- I always thought Hercules was underrated, for a big power guy anyway.
- Lots of power moves and blown spots.
- The Ultimate Warrior wins via pinfall, then Hercules chokes out Warrior with his chain.
Recap of Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Championship Tournament Match: Andre the Giant (with Ted DiBiase and Virgil) vs. Hulk Hogan
- I’ve been watching this show for at least four days now and I’m only halfway done.
- Hogan flies into the ring like an idiot and Andre immediately beats the hell out of him.
- Andre gets tied up in the ropes, and instead of taking advantage, Hogan uses this time to remove his shirt and ask for cheers from the crowd. LIKE AN IDIOT.
- DiBiase comes in with a chair and nails Hogan. Hogan is all “Nah…” and goes after DiBiase. DiBiase bails, so Hogan attacks Andre with the chair, right in front of the referee. The ref is all “Nah…” and allows the match to continue. Andre gets the chair and brains Hogan with it, again in front of the ref and again the ref allows it.
- Finally the ref calls for the bell, and so Hogan uses the chair on Andre again.
- Result is a double disqualification, which is nonsense. Hogan should have been DQed. Even stranger is that it doesn’t sound like it was ever announced to the crowd.
Mean Gene interviews Randy Savage (with Elizabeth)
Championship Tournament Match: Don Muraco (with Superstar Billy Graham) vs. Ted DiBiase
- DiBiase wins via pinfall in a mostly uneventful (but well worked) match. Sorry, Rock.
Bob Uecker interviews Demolition (with Mr. Fuji)
Championship Tournament Match: Greg Valentine (with Jimmy Hart) vs. Randy Savage (with Elizabeth)
- Just noticed that Valentine isn’t wearing his shin guard that he always used to cheat with. That must come about later?
- This is Savage’s second match of the night where he just gets beat the entire time, only to pop up at the last minute and manage to win. This time he wins via pinfall after a small package.
Mean Gene. Vanna White. More talking about Bob Uecker.
- Vanna still likes Hulk to win it all, even though he’s been eliminated.
The Honky Tonk Man (champ, with Jimmy Hart and Peggy Sue) vs. Brutus the Barber Beefcake for the Intercontinental Championship
- Peggy Sue is Sherri Martel. Huh, I didn’t know that. Thanks Wikipedia!
- Also, she died in 2007. I didn’t know that either. Bummer.
- Beefcake gets HTM in the sleeper, so Jimmy Hart knocks the referee unconscious.
- Brutus chases Jimmy Hart under the ring and the two wiggle around for a little bit.
- They emerge, and Beefcake cuts Hart’s hair. THE ULTIMATE INSULT.
- Beefcake wins by DQ, obviously.
Bob Uecker interviews Andre the Giant
- Andre declares he’s still undefeated. Uh, Wrestlemania III?
- Andre chokes Mr. Baseball. This is the 5 seconds of footage that’s used all the time, in every WWE montage ever.
The Islanders and Bobby the Brain Heenan vs. The British Bulldogs (with Matilda) and Koko B. Ware (with Frankie)
- Bobby Heenan hasn’t wrestled in years. He’s wearing a protective suit.
- “Heenan looks like a Chinaman, don’t he?” — Jesse Ventura
- Heenan actually spends a good amount of the match in the ring.
- The Islanders throw Heenan down on top of Koko B. Ware, and he scores the pinfall victory.
- Afterwards they try to get Matilda to chase down Heenan to attack him, but the dog is all “What?” and doesn’t care.
Howard Finkel asks us to look at the Wrestlemania IV banner and then introduces Jesse The Body Ventura.
Championship Tournament Match: The One Man Gang (with Slick) vs. Randy Savage (with Elizabeth)
- Savage tries to slam One Man Gang. Haha, no.
- Slick goes after Elizabeth with his pimp cane while Savage is recovering from trying to lift 900 pounds.
- One Man Gang is disqualified after beating Savage with Slick’s cane. That was dumb. You’re a match away from the title, idiot.
Mean White. Vanna Gene. Sexual nintendos. Bob Uecker.
Demolition (with Mr. Fuji) vs. Strike Force (champs) for the World Tag Team Championship
- HOLY GOD WHY WON’T THIS SHOW END
- Strike Force has TERRIBLE entrance music. Like bad 80s cop show montage music. Okay no, that would be awesome.
- As a kid I didn’t care. But now as an adult… I don’t understand Demolition. The S&M outfits, the glam face paint, the body glitter, the redneck threats to kick my stinkin’ teeth in… what the hell is Demolition supposed to be?
- Demolition cheats and wins the belts. Technically Tito Santana hit the referee so Strike Force should have been DQed to retain the titles.
The Million Dollar Man (with Andre the Giant) vs. Randy Savage (with Elizabeth) for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship
- Robin Leach brings the title belt to ringside on a red velvet pillow. He takes the title to Donald Trump and lets him touch it.
- Bob Uecker is introduced as the guest ring announcer. Christ. Donald Trump touches him.
- Vanna White is introduced as the guest time keeper. Please don’t go over to Donald Trump.
- Gross, he touched her.
- Dave Hebner is the referee. That doesn’t seem right.
- Everyone is now covered in body glitter thanks to the Demolition match.
- Andre keeps interfering so Savage sends Elizabeth to the locker room. She returns with the Hulkster.
- DiBiase has Savage in a sleeper hold, Andre interferes, the ref goes to warn him and Hogan comes in the ring with a chair and strikes DiBiase with it.
- Savage gets up, sees what Hogan did, hits the elbow and pins DiBiase. New champ. Birth of the Mega Powers.
- Ventura goes nuts about Hogan cheating, and you know what, he’s right.
Sometimes I wish I could go back and slap myself as a kid. He should not have been into Hogan as much as he was. Now when he and Andre were DQed, it added a certain element of surprise to the show. But the lackluster crowd and having 197 matches really took the wind out of the sails.
One of the hopes for the WWE Network is access to everything in the vaults. But that dream isn’t there yet, not by a long shot. And I was immediately frustrated after watching the 1988 Royal Rumble because it heavily hyped the upcoming NBC card The Main Event, which featured the Hulk Hogan/Andre the Giant rematch. It’s an event that I very much remember from my childhood.
Luckily, someone uploaded the event to Youtube. So let’s go ahead and revisit this hour special, because I can’t wait for the Network to do it.
A somewhat homoerotic Hulk Hogan training montage is up first.
Mean Gene interviews The Honky Tonk Man with Jimmy Hart
- HTM calls Okerlund a “green bean”.
- Apparently this upcoming match with Randy Savage is predicated entirely on HTM’s belief that Elizabeth wants him.
The Honky Tonk Man (champ) vs. Macho Man Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship
- The champ is out first. His girlfriend Peggy Sue comes along, not bothered by her man’s lust for Miss Elizabeth.
- Mene Gene interviews Savage. Okerlund could do his job and ask Elizabeth if she wants Honky and put an end to this angle right now, but instead he just lets Savage rage while she looks on, confused.
- Great match between these two. All kinds of drama and shenanigans, and the crowd is going absolutely bonkers.
- Savage wins via count out, after complete chaos which continues once the match is over.
Recap of the Hulk Hogan / Andre the Giant feud, then Mene Gene interviews Andre, Ted DiBiase and Virgil
Hulk Hogan (champ) vs. Andre the Giant for the WWF Heavyweight Championship
- Fans of the little seen British show ANDRE WHO? are in attendance.
- Mene Gene interviews Brother Hogan, brother, who makes faces.
- The place goes nuts when Real American hits. This is the height of Hulkamania, and 12 year old me was running around the room like an idiot right about now.
- After attacking DiBiase and Virgil, Hogan hits Andre in the face about 100 times but Andre won’t go down.
- Hogan attempts a top rope maneuver (?!) but Andre puts a stop to that noise. Hogan’s back immediately goes out.
- Andre in control and he just beats the living hell out of Hogan until Hogan starts Hulking Up™.
- Hogan climbs the ropes again (!) and successfully hits a clothesline on Andre from the second rope, finally knocking Andre down.
- Hogan goes for the Leg Drop of Doom but Virgil trips him. As referee Dave Hebner scolds Virgil, Hogan hits the leg drop and pins Andre for at least a five count. Hebner never sees it.
- As Hogan protests, Andre sneaks up behind him and takes him down. He pins Hogan and Hogan immediately gets his shoulder up but the ref ignores it, counting to three. New champion.
- Howard Finkel announces the NEEEEEWWWWWWWWW champion and Hogan is going mental about being robbed.
- Mean Gene comes into the ring and Andre surrenders the title to Ted DiBiase.
- Now here’s where things get really smart and really stupid all at once. Referee Dave Hebner’s twin brother Earl enters the ring, dressed as a referee, and the two confront each other. Which, yeah, sudden introduction of an evil twin referee, that’s awesome. But why then was the other referee also in the arena, dressed to work and not noticing that his evil twin brother was in the ring working the main event? No one backstage did a double take? To further confuse just what the hell this bit was trying to accomplish, as they yell at each other they do the Star Trek evil clone thing of “No, I’m Dave Hebner. No I’m Dave Hebner. I know who I am, who the hell are you?” Wrestling logic.
- Hogan grabs them both and starts screaming at them. Eventually one Hebner clobbers the other and Hogan beats up the remaining one, throwing him out of the ring and onto DiBiase and Virgil.
- After commercial, Mean Gene interviews Hogan in the locker room, who is literally crying about being robbed of his precious belt.
As the show ends, a World Tag Team Titles match between The Hart Foundation and Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel) is in progress. Strike Force, the champions, retained the titles.
Well the WWE Network is upon us and I was itching to revisit some old school wrestling (I should get that itching checked out). At $9.99 a month it’s too good of a deal to pass up, and I hope the service leads to a radical shift in how companies deliver their content to customers.
The launch was a little shaky, as launches tend to be. But once it was running smoothly I decided to watch the inaugural Royal Rumble from 1988, an event I remember watching live on the USA Network. (If you don’t have or refuse to get the WWE Network you can get the event on DVD from Amazon here)
Jesse the Body Ventura and Vince McMahon on commentary, always a good pairing. I’d forgotten how grating Vince’s announcing voice was though. From Ontario, Canada, January 24th 1988.
Ricky the Dragon Steamboat vs. Ravishing Rick Rude
- Steamboat’s music and intro have clearly been overdubbed, removing whatever entrance music he had at the time.
- Rude was a textbook heel. He worked a crowd masterfully.
- A lady in the front row has her own personal megaphone. Good luck getting one of those into an arena today.
- Lots of old school wrestling for most of this match, until it suddenly becomes Wrestlemania III all over again as there’s a long, quick series of near-falls.
- Rick Rude thinks he wins by submission, but the referee awards the match to Steamboat via DQ, which was the proper call surprisingly. Rude protests.
Dino Bravo vs. weights
- This is the infamous moment where Jesse Ventura helps Dino Bravo set a “new world’s record” in bench pressing to become “The World’s Strongest Man”. It goes on far too long, but Bravo, Ventura and Frenchy Martin work the crowd like champs to get heat.
- Someone in the crowd is a fan of Spuds MacKenzie.
The Glamour Girls (champs) vs. Jumping Bomb Angels in a 2 out of 3 falls match for the Women’s Tag Team Titles
- Wait, the women’s tag team titles? Those were a thing?
- Yep. Wikipedia says they were a thing from 1983-1989.
- Thanks me!
- Wikipedia also says that Leilani Kai, one of The Glamour Girls, “has trained with nunchucks for at least two years. She also rides motorcycles, deep sea fishes, and hunts wild boar.”
- Overdubbed intro for the Jumping Bomb Angels.
- Joey Marella is your referee, making this the third straight event with a participant who is no longer with us.
- Ventura asks McMahon what the names of the Jumping Bomb Angels are, in case he wants to ask one out on a date later. Vince is all like “I dunno. Let’s call one Pink and one Red.”
- Jumping Bomb Angels win the titles and the crowd actually pops big time. This is because they were trapped in that arena and cell phones weren’t readily available yet for distractions.
Footage of Hogan vs. Andre and The Million Dollar Man’s offer to buy Hogan’s belt. Then the contract signing for the upcoming rematch, brother.
- Jack Tunney is in the ring! Unblurred! The WWF President exists again!
- Ventura points out the hypocrisy of the Canadian crowd going nuts for Real American playing over the loudspeakers.
- Andre makes Hogan wait. And wait. And wait some more. The crowd rabidly chants “Hogan! Hogan!” They desperately want to see that contract get signed.
- Dibiase gets on the mic and publicly shames Hogan like a boss, daring him to sign his career-ending contract.
- Andre finally signs and then beats Hogan with the signing table. Hogan spazzes and convulses in the ring like he’s been poisoned.
The inaugural Royal Rumble match
- Bret Hart and Tito Santana are the first two participants and are already in the ring as the rules are explained.
- 20 participants in this one, arriving in 2 minute intervals. Going over the top rope signals your elimination, doesn’t matter where your feet hit. That’ll change.
- As Howard Finkel explains the rules, this little kid is confused as fuck.
- I’d forgotten Jesse’s obsession with calling Tito Santana “Chico”.
- The Rock! The Rock is here! Oh wait, it’s Don “The Rock” Muraco.
- The final stats, according to Wikipedia:
Recap of the contract signing. Then it’s time for Hulk Hogan to talk.
- Hogan is out with Craig DeGeorge. Craig DeGeorge sighting!
- Hogan has changed his shirt and is now wearing the belt, brother.
- Nope, there goes the shirt, brother.
- If you’re drinking every time there’s a “brother” you’re now dead.
The Islanders vs. The Young Stallions in a 2 out of 3 falls match
- Bobby Heenan has been absent this entire show, which is a shame.
- Vince is now telling Jesse that his segment with Dino Bravo was boring. Way to sell your own product Vince!
- Jesse continues to berate Vince’s lack of muscles, which is amusing knowing what we know now.
- Vince says the Islanders can hang upside down from the top rope just using their toes. Jesse tells him that he’s racist and makes a Jimmy the Greek reference.
- Needless to say, the match itself is not worth talking about.
- The Islanders win the first fall via count out, then we go to commercial, then when we come back Craig DeGeorge is interviewing The Million Dollar Man and Andre the Giant. Okay…
- DeGeorge tries to interrupt whatever the hell Andre is saying and just about gets murdered for his troubles.
- Another commercial, because current Young Stallion and future Four Horseman member Paul Roma is “injured”.
- Jesse makes fun of the Indy 500 and Vince says he’d like to see him dragged behind an Indy car. Yikes.
- The Islanders win via submission. Why did they close the show with this dud?
- Vince continues to give Jesse shit about Dino Bravo’s “world record” then hype Hogan vs. Andre II as the show ends.