Vince McMahon literally put everything he had on the line, all for the sake of one vision, to make wrestling entertainment. Most other promoters laughed at his dream as is went against the traditions of the business. In fact old school promoters would argue that Wrestlemania wasn’t something that should be associated with their product. Looking back you can see their argument; no match from that night in Madison Square Garden has stood the test of time in terms of quality in ring action. But that wasn’t what Vince McMahon was worried about. On this night his talent would play second fiddle to mainstream celebrities. He was smart enough to know that by hiring talents such as Cindy Lauper, Mr T, Liberace, Mohamed Ali etc. his company would be cool by association. Vince McMahon used mainstream celebrities, not second rate ones like he would years later to put butts in seats ahead of his own talent. This was obviously before satellite television so the only way for fans to see the show would be to go to theatres across America to watch it.
Lets just say it worked.
Perhaps the one Wrestlemania where the actual wrestling mattered the least. Judged on wrestling quality it wouldn’t get a score but this event was all about the spectacular site of stars outside of the wrestling world coming in to give the business much needed credibility.
A year on from a triumphant experiment, an experiment which made WWE the number one wrestling company, which blew away the competition, which made it the place where every performer wanted to ply their trade the logical step was for a sequel.
Like any businessman Vince wanted to take a gamble, a risk, he wanted to better his original creation. Not only did he want to air the product in New York but also in Illinois and Los Angeles. Each city would broadcast 1 hour of the show with a main event and an undercard.
Think Sky Sports Champions League coverage and then consider this was in 1986 and you will realise how ahead of the time this was and how much of was a challenging feat! The fact that Vince McMahon would never attempt anything like this again maybe indicates it didn’t have the affect he was expecting but in business you need to fail to succeed and you need guts to try.
The WWE World title belt was defended for the first time at Wrestlemania 2 and there was a retirement match along with more celebrity appearances but like most sequels after the original we had seen it all before.
Perhaps one of the most significant Wrestlemania’s ever as unlike the first two Mania’s the actual wrestlers took centre stage. Celebrities were still involved and would be for years to come but now an established/accepted event Vince McMahon wanted to show the media (only present because of the celebs involvement) how talented his superstars actually were.
Hulk Hogan slamming Andre the Giant is one of the most iconic images in wrestling history and was the match which caught fans imaginations and put bums in seats. However the match that stole the show was Ricky Steamboat defeating Macho Man Randy Savage for the intercontinental title, the first truly great Wrestlemania match. Indeed the match is still spoken about today with the likes of Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Edge, Christian, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan etc (you notice all smaller built wrestlers) mentioning the influence this match had on their careers. This match, back when the IC strap meant something, went back and forth, with each near fall believable. This was perhaps the first example to talent that Wrestlemania was a chance to be remembered, to live forever, with the world watching one good match at Mania could be career defining.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you, Wrestlemania 4 and 5 are the only Wrestlemania’s to be held consecutively in the same arena, Donald Trump’s Plaza Hotel.
The selling point for Wrestlemania 4 was the one night tournament to crown the WWE champion, another first and only time theme for Wrestlemania. While the idea caught fans imaginations, 16 wrestlers was too much. This led to rushed matches and too many double count outs/time limit draws which confused proceedings. Plus how many of the 16 actually had a chance of winning the WWE title (which was more prestigious then then it is now, only a few men ever won it back in this period).
I would rather see a smaller tournament with more quality then a rushed one just for the sake of fitting everyone in. It meant that by the time we got to the final, Macho Man and Ted Dibiase didn’t have enough time (they got less than 10 minutes) to produce a classic. It was a solid match but these two fine workers would of done better with more time.
On another note, this would be the only Wrestlemania out of the first nine where Hulk Hogan didn’t wrestle in the main event. Not that he wasn’t involved, he helped Savage win the match and celebrated with the new champ and Elizabeth as the show went off the air.
What, you didn’t expect Hogan to totally let Savage have his moment did you?
Overall the tournament was a good selling point but too many draws/ byes and time restraints for the talent that mattered. If you don’t have time to do a 16 man tournament properly, don’t do it at all.
Held in the same arena, WWE went full circle. Wrestlemania 4 ended with Macho man and Hulk Hogan as best friends, a year on they were bitter enemies after Savage grew jealous of Hogan’s popularity and relationship with Elizabeth.
Creatively WWE had a lot more patience then it does today so it’s not impossible that the main event for Wrestlemania 5 was planned before the end of Wrestlemania 4.
It’s the kind of booking that WWE lacks today, I don’t really count Cena/Rock considering Rocky has never been a full time member of the roster since his return. For WWE to be able to tell a story throughout the space of a year involving it’s two most popular superstars was impressive and added much anticipation to this match.
Savage was always a great worker and could get the best out of anyone. This would be a very different Hogan match, not reliant on just strength and power, carried by Savage this would be one of the best matches of Hogan’s career at this point. One of the best booked Wrestlemania main events but considering the other matches these two would have it did not stand the test of time.
Undercard needed some support, maybe neglected by the attention put on the main event.
Another a piece of trivia information, this was the first time Wrestlemania ventured out of America, this time to Toronto Canada (where an eleven year old Edge can be spotted in the crowd)
In my opinion this boasted what a Wrestlemania main event should be, they took the two best superstars they had, the two biggest fan favourites and put them head to head. When that happens you don’t need a storyline, it’s simply a case of the best vs the best, lets find out who is the better man. It’s called the big match atmosphere, which can be hard to create in the fictional world of wrestling.
Very few Wrestlemania main events caught the fans imagination like this one. It was the first Wrestlemania main event where the outcome was not obvious, anything literally could happen. This may have been the kayfabe era but fans had been force fed Hulk Hogan kicking out of the villain’s finisher, hulking up, before hitting his opponent with a big boot and leg drop, most of the time fans knew what was going to happen, not on this night.
Plenty has been said about the Ultimate Warrior since he left the company, about his attitude and lack of respect for the business, some of which might be true but the idea that Hogan carried Jim Hellwig through this match and that he owes everything to Hogan is simply a myth. BOTH men deserve EQUAL credit for what was a surprisingly good match. Surprisingly based on the fact that both men in their careers relied on their body building power rather then technical wrestling ability. The crowd intensity, based on the uncertainty of the outcome, made this one of the best Wrestlemania main events of all time.
So whatever people want to say about the Ultimate Warrior he can claim he won the WWE title in the main event of Wrestlemania against the most famous name in wrestling ever, there are Hall of Famers who can’t claim the same, he must of done something right!
This match caught fans imagination so much that you could afford to ignore another put together for the sake of getting talent on TV mid card. You could sense in the atmosphere fans knew they were about to watch a special main event which seemed to give the whole event a boost.