On March 31, 1985 Wrestlemania was born. It was born at Madison Square Garden in New York City. While history will try to say that this was a great, entertaining event, some near 30 years later, it’s not the best wrestling show you’ve ever seen. But for its time, it was built as something very special. It was glitz and glamor. The legend says that Vince McMahon put all of his money into the show and was either going to live by the sword, or die by it. As you can tell, they lived.
The show was an event that tried to make wrestling nationally mainstream. It had Muhammad Ali, Billy Martin, Cyndi Lauper, and Mr. T. It would be like Oscar De La Hoya, Joe Torre, Rihanna, and Vin Diesel being involved in a wrestling show today. It was Vince McMahon’s official statement that wrestling was no longer just a regional business. Vince was in New York City with Liberace playing the piano.
They worked with MTV to help with promotion. MTV was hip and on the up and up with pop culture America and it was the perfect launching pad. With Lauper in tow and MTV in their back pocket, they could market Hulk Hogan, Vince’s hand picked superstar. History may try to say that Hogan was the star of the show, but in reality, it was Hogan piggybacking Mr. T’s popularity to rise to stardom. Hogan was already a huge wrestling draw while working in the AWA, but his popularity there would be peanuts compared to what he was about to become. MTV and WWE put on a special show titled The War To Settle The Score which was recap of all the angles they did with Cyndi Lauper, Lou Albano, and Roddy Piper. Piper’s character felt that Lauper had no place in wrestling and the new Rock N Wrestling connection was ruining his business. It was an absolutely silly show. Kenny Loggins made fun of Roddy Piper’s skirt. Piper did not in fact get to make fun of his beard. Tina Turner thought Piper was wrong. Dick Clark thought Piper would get his. Hulk Hogan had to come and save the day. Hogan and Piper wrestled on the show, which set up the WrestleMania main event. It was set up as Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T.
From a work rate standpoint, this was a bad WrestleMania, but Vince didn’t set out to shock the world with a wrestling show. He wanted to shock the world with a sports entertainment show.
Tito Santana and Buddy Rose are trivia answers to these questions. What wrestlers were in the opening match at the original WrestleMania? Who was under the mask of the Executioner? Buddy Rose wouldn’t have anything else to do with WrestleMania history, but he had the honor of losing the first ever WrestleMania match. Bruno Sammartino’s son David wrestled the pre-Barber, Brutus Beefecake. David Sammartino was smaller than his father and didn’t have 1/10th of what made Bruno so special. He was probably on this show so that they could get Bruno on the show. It ended up as a DQ, but Beefcake’s manager Johnny Valiant slammed young David. Not exactly good to have the old manager slam the up and coming wrestler.
In one of the more memorable short matches in wrestling history, King Kong Bundy squashed S.D. Jones. They were getting Bundy ready for a killer push and a chance with Hogan at WrestleMania 2 and he just obliterated poor S.D. Jones. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse The Body Ventura played it up like it was an 8 second match. If you watch closely, Bundy wins in around 17 seconds. Newcomer at the time, Ricky Steamboat, (heh, new comer) beat Maniac Matt Bourne in probably the best match of the night. It was short, but there was actual wrestling in this match on a show that didn’t have a lot of it. And Steamboat was jacked here.
There was an interesting story with the Intercontinental Championship match. The feud had been Greg “The Hammer” Valentine against Tito Santana. But for some reason, instead of continuing the feud with Santana, Valentine wrestled the Junkyard Dog, who was also the first person on the show to come out to entrance music (Another One Bites The Dust). JYD was one of their top babyfaces, so that’s probably why he was thrown into this program. At the end of the match, Valentine pinned JYD with his feet on the ropes for leverage. Tito came out and alerted the referee who restarted the match, but Valentine would walked and JYD won via count out.
The tag titles would be decided in a match between two long-time WWF stars and two guys who would soon leave the company. Mike Rotunda and Barry Windham were the tag champs and to use a Vince McMahon phrase, they were a slice of Americana. Whatever that means. They even came out to Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA, which would also be Hogan’s theme music for a small time. They lost to the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff in a match where Classy Freddie Blassie’s cane would be the deciding factor. Another interesting tidbit is that Real American, which became Hogan’s legendary theme song, was originally supposed to be for Windham and Rotunda. Dan Spivey would replace Windham to form the US Express with Rotunda, but they would also be short lived.
In today’s wrestling, the women’s match doesn’t get much time, and it’s rarely seen so high up on the card. But at the first WrestleMania, Wendi Richter was supposed to be the female version of Hulk Hogan. She was positioned in the second main event and came down to the ring with Cyndi Lauper and David Wolfe. She was the challenger to Lelani Kai, who is another trivia question answer as the only person to be at both Mania 1 and Mania 10 in a wrestling capacity. Kai was seconded by the the Fabulous Moolah. Richter won the match for all of Rock N Roll. Sometime later in 1985, Richter would lose her belt to the Spider Lady, who was Moolah under a mask. The story goes that she was told to sign a contract extension but wanted to take some time reading it before accepting it, and when she balked, they had Moolah pull the double cross and pin her in the ring. So Vince screwed Wendi Richter long before he screwed Bret Hart. And I don’t mean in a sexual way.
The two matches that were to make the fans go home happy included the main event, and also a match between Andre The Giant and Big John Studd, in which the winner of the match would be decided by a bodyslam. If Andre didn’t slam Studd, he would have to retire. If he did slam Studd, he’d win $15,000. He slammed Studd, took the money and started throwing it into the audience until Bobby “The Brain” Heenan grabbed the bag of money from the Giant and ran back to the dressing room.
As for the main event, it was a smart match that built to a hot comeback and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. Mr. T actually looked like an athlete as opposed to the following year at Wrestlemania 2 when he looked completely out of shape. He actually started the match and looked as good as you would possibly expect him to. Jimmy Snuka was in Hogan and T’s corner, and it was weird seeing him in the corner and not in the ring with a match that night. He was one of the hottest wrestlers around only two years prior. During the finish, Cowboy Bob Orton went to hit Hogan with his famous cast. Instead, he hit Paul Orndorff and Hogan scored the pin to win the match. Piper and Orton would leave Orndorff in the ring with Hogan and T and while it looked like Ordorff would turn face that night, it would take a bit longer.
The PPV was lackluster in the ring, but the presentation was decent. They did some things wrong as during some of Lord Alfred Hayes’ interviews, wrestlers walked right in front of him. But it definitely did its job and presented wrestling as a hot item.
Tito Santana defeated The Executioner
David Sammartino and Brutus Beefcake wrestled to a double-DQ
Ricky Steamboat defeated Matt Borne
King Kong Bundy defeated S.D. Jones
Andre the Giant defeated Big John Studd in a Body Slam Match
Junk Yard Dog defeated Greg Valentine via countout
Nikolai Volkoff & Iron Sheik defeated Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham to capture the Tag Team Championship
Wendi Richter defeated Lelani Kai for the Women’s Championship
Hulk Hogan & Mr. T defeated Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff