Dubbed, “The Ultimate Challenge”, Wrestlemania VI was a one match show. Everything on WWF TV at the time was done to build up this match. And there was good reason. It was the most important match for the company since Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant at Wrestlemania III. Hulk Hogan was on his way out to do a movie and the WWF needed The Ultimate Warrior to be the man to take his place. Actually, they needed someone hip to rejuvenate Hogan’s slightly stale act too. Warrior was probably the right guy since his popularity was at an all time high. But technically, the money in Warrior was in him chasing the title, not being the one to hold it for very long. Thinking back, it might not have been bad to give it to Rick Rude or Ted DiBiase, and then have Warrior chase them for the championship, rather than having Hogan drop it to Warrior. But then again, this was one of the biggest money matches in the history of the company. The Warrior was already Intercontinental Champion and his popularity was nearly as high, or higher at the time, than Hogan’s. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into people paying money to see him. It was a short lived feud, and one of the reasons babyface vs. babyface feuds don’t work is because once the match is over, the feud is probably over unless someone turns heel.
The build up was incredible for this match. They first touched each other at the Royal Rumble. They both threw everyone else over the top rope and the two of them were in the ring together. They both went into the ropes. Hogan dropped down, Warrior jumped over him, Hogan missed a clothesline as Warrior ducked it, and then they hit the double clothesline that put both of them on the floor. Then they finally came to blows at Saturday Night’s Main Event as they teamed up together in a match. After they won the match, the Genius and Mr. Perfect jumped them, dumping Hogan out of the ring. Warrior fought off both guys until Hogan came back in the ring and Warrior accidentally hit Hogan. It was at this time that I figured out, even as a young wrestling fan, that the belt was going to switch hands at Mania. When Warrior hit Hogan, there weren’t many boos. It was exactly what the WWF had wanted. Someone else who could take the ball and run with it. At least, thatâ€™s what they had thought, though it didn’t necessarily happen that way.
The rest of the card was very suspect. There weren’t any other top matches, and probably the hottest secondary feud was Dusty Rhodes vs. Randy Savage. They faced off in an inter-gender tag team match. It was Dusty Rhodes and his valet, Sapphire vs. the Macho King Randy Savage and Queen Sherri. The match was a joke, but in an interesting twist, Elizabeth came down ringside to support Dusty and Sapphire. It was never shown that she hated Savage, only that she hated Sheri. This was important, because Savage and Elizabeth would get back together at the following Wrestlemania in one of the greatest love stories ever seen. Rhodes and Sapphire won the match thanks to Elizabeth who tripped up Sherri. Sapphire had no wrestling experience and did one suplex that only looked like a suplex because Sheri bumped big for her. And, she should’ve stayed out of spandex.
I have a feeling my kids are going to want this game badly, even if they’re too young to have watched many of these guys wrestle.
Here’s the list of wrestlers and managers in the game according to IGN.com.
Andre The Giant
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Junk Yard Dog
Bam Bam Bigelow
King Kong Bundy
Koko B. Ware
Big John Studd
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
Ravishing Rick Rude
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
Rowdy Roddy Piper
Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Honky Tonk Man
Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase
Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Jake The Snake
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
I was only twelve years old, but I knew what was going on. I knew that Hulk Hogan really didn’t fight Andre The Giant for real at Wrestlemania III. I knew that there was a team of people who came up with ideas, though I didn’t know that Vince McMahon was the owner and not just the announcer until a few years later. But still, in February of 1988 as a twelve year old fan who understood some of the business, I was still saddened even though I knew what was coming. Let’s go back slightly.
In 1987, the WWF had their most lucrative WrestleMania yet with Mania III. The buyrate was spectacular and they filled the Pontiac Silverdome. Even though they marketed the match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant as the first time they ever wrestled, it wasn’t. And it was a spectacle, even though the match was bad. How can you top that? Well they couldn’t, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Fast forward to February of 1988. Ted DiBiase, aka The Million Dollar Man, said he was going to buy the WWF Championship belt. Hogan responded on an episode of WWF Superstars of Wrestling by saying that the belt wasn’t for sale. On The Main Event, which was broadcast live on a Friday evening on NBC, Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant had their WrestleMania III rematch. When I heard that they were doing a live show on national television a month before Wrestlemania IV, I knew something drastic was going to happen. And then on the morning of the show, the San Jose Mercury News Sports Section did a story on the show, writing exactly what the finish would be. I was heartbroken while reading that Hogan would get double crossed by the referee and lose the belt to Andre. But I was the talk of the school that day. I told everyone I knew what the finish was going to be. But deep inside I was upset about what was going to happen. I was a heartbroken fan that night. I guess that means the angle was played out perfectly. Andre The Giant won the match because the referee was paid off by The Million Dollar Man (they used twin refs, Dave and Earl Hebner for drama) and then The Giant subsequently gave the belt to DiBiase. DiBiase had just bought the championship like he said he would.
But, president Jack Tunney said that DiBiase couldn’t buy the championship and declared the title vacant. Wrestlemania IV would be the place where they would hold a tournament for the championship. It would be a 14-man in the tournament, but Hogan and Andre would have their third match in a year to start off the second round after being given a first round bye. There were also some really good possible match-ups, with the best being Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Randy Savage locking up in a rematch of their Wrestlemania III classic, but the WWF decided to screw the fans out of that match and had Steamboat lose to Greg Valentine in the first round. Either McMahon had heat with Steamboat, as was the reason Steamboat dropped the Intercontinental Title so quickly to the Honky Tonk Man in 1987, or he wanted to save that possible match-up for later, even though Steamboat would soon leave to the NWA where he’d have classic matches with Ric Flair and eventually win the 10 pounds of gold. With Savage, DiBiase, Steamboat, and Rick Rude in the tournament, there was a possibility of some really good matches. But of course, the WWF couldn’t give us the good matches. Rick Rude and Jake “The Snake” Roberts wrestled to a mind numbing 15 minute draw, knocking them both out of the competition. And in the worst case of overbooking Greg “The Hammer” Valentine defeated Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat in a decent match. The Hammer would go on against Savage in the second round, who beat “The Natural” Butch Reed in the first round, and we would never see Steamboat vs. Savage part two.
They were pushing DiBiase as the favorite because of what happened at the start of round two. Hogan vs. Andre started off the second round and Ted would face the winner. He beat Don Muraco in the second round who defeated Dino Bravo in the first round. There were two trains of thought by fans. First, Hogan would win and he’d face DiBiase. Or Andre would win, and would forfeit his third round match to DiBiase as he said before the tournament started. But none of those things happened. Hogan vs. Andre was an awful punch-fest that was called a double disqualification and caused most of the fans in the Trump Plaza to groan. Both Hogan and Andre were eliminated, and DiBiase would get a bye into the finals. The problem with having Hogan only there for one match is that WWF fans were always trained to understand that Hogan would be in the main event. This time, Hogan was gone early and it caused a lot of the fans to leave as well. Only the die-hard wrestling fans were going to stick around for four hours without Hogan.
After defeating Reed, Savage also went through Greg Valentine in a decent match. He would go on to face the near 400-pound One Man Gang. The Gang defeated Bam Bam Bigelow by countout earlier. Bigelow was the hottest young wrestler in the federation just one year prior. It was the dumbest finish of the night as Bigelow sat there and watched the ref count him out while he was standing on the apron trading blows with the Gang. Savage defeated the Gang in another terrible finish as the Gang decided to use the his manager Slick’s cane on Savage right in front of the referee.
So the table was set. It was Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase in the finals of the tournament to declare the new WWF Champion. There were five other matches outside of the tournament and none of them were very good. Bad News Brown turned Bret Hart face by winning a battle royal to start off the show. They double teamed the Junkyard Dog and threw him out and then Bad News double crossed Hart to win the match. The Barber, Brutus Beefecake beat the Honky Tonk Man by DQ in a meaningless match for the Intercontinental Belt. The one match that was meaningful out of the five undercard bouts was Demolition defeating Strike Force to win the tag belts, though in my opinion they didn’t win it in convincing enough fashion to get them over as a WWF version of the Road Warriors.
Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon as the announcing team made Savage out to be a complete underdog for having to wrestle four times and with Andre in DiBiase’s corner, they sold it like Savage had no chance. That was until Elizabeth brought out the Hulkster, giving the fans one more chance to see their favorite, and also to even up the sides. The finish was good, albeit a little rushed as Hogan broke DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream sleeper with a chair shot to the back and Savage was able to hit his elbow off the top to finish the match and be crowned champ. Since Hogan would be doing No Holds Barred with Tiny Lister and David Paymer, Savage would have a full year’s run with the belt. To foreshadow Savage turning on Hogan the following year, they had Elizabeth bring Hogan down to the ring hand in hand. That subtlety was great and it kicked off the single greatest angle they did which would “explode” at WrestleMania V.
There wasn’t a single standout match on this show, and the tournament final was fine, but unspectacular.
In some cool trivia, Ted DiBiase was actually supposed to win the tournament. He was going to get the WWF Championship and Savage would get his IC Title back. But the Honky Tonk Man didn’t want to drop his IC belt to Savage. Vince then changed his mind to go with Savage as the top guy rather than DiBiase.
Results Bad News Brown won a 20-man battle royal Brutus Beefcake defeated Intercontinental Champion Honky Tonk Man via DQ The Islanders & Bobby Heenan defeated the British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware via pinfall The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hercules Demolition defeated Strike Force for the Tag Team Championship Round One, Championship Tournament: Ted DiBiase defeated Hacksaw Jim Duggan Don Muraco defeated Dino Bravo by DQ Greg “the Hammer” Valentine defeated Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat via pinfall Randy “Macho Man” Savage defeated Butch Reed via pinfall One Man Gang defeated Bam Bam Bigelow via countout Rick Rude and Jake “the Snake” Roberts wrestled to a 15-minute draw Round Two, Championship Tournament: Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan wrestled to a double DQ Ted DiBiase defeated Don Muraco via pinfall Randy Savage defeated Greg Valentine via pinfall Semifinals, Championship Tournament: Randy Savage defeated One Man Gang by DQ Finals, Championship Tournament: Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase to capture the World Wrestling Entertainment Championship
In late 1986, the main event was already being set up for Wrestlemania III. I remember watching Superstars of Wrestling and they held an awards ceremony on the Piper’s Pit. I had never seen this before so it looked like a big angle. And it was one of the biggest. Throughout Hogan’s career on top in the WWF, which started in late 1983, he was the guy, but Andre was always treated as just as special of an attraction. Hogan was the champ, but Andre was just as unbeatable. I honestly don’t remember him losing by pin fall from the time I started watching. Even Hogan would constantly point to Andre as the big man. During the awards ceremony, Hogan received a big trophy for being the champ and Andre came out to congratulate him. Then Andre received his trophy for being undefeated and Hogan came out to congratulate him. Andre seemed perturbed as if Hogan was coming out to steal his glory. Later, Andre famously ripped the cross off Hogan’s chest that made viewers understand that Andre wasn’t going to be so lovable anymore. The turn happened and Andre was now an unstoppable bad guy.
The turn was helped even more by Bobby Heenan who became Andre’s manager. Heenen was always such a great foil for Hogan. He managed King Kong Bundy, Paul Orndorff, and Andre who were three of Hogan’s biggest money opponents. Heenan was masterful here, painting the picture as to why Andre would want to wrestle Hogan. Heenan would go on to say that Hogan never offered Andre a shot at the title, Hogan never respected Andre, and Andre was sick of it. At the same time, Andre would just sit there with this careless look on his face as Hogan tried to convince Andre that Heenan was evil. Much of what Heenan said made sense though, and that made the angle for me. I could see why Andre wanted a shot at the title.
The other angle that had a huge affect on me as an 10 year old was Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage. Savage was tremendous in his portrayal as a win at all costs heel. They had a match where Savage draped Steamboat’s throat over the outside railing and jumped off the top rope and hit the back of his neck, thrusting Steamboat’s throat into the railing. He then used the ring bell to do the same thing, targeting Steamboat’s throat. Steamboat sold it like a champ as they carried him to the back while he was grasping for air. Vince McMahon was screaming and saying that Steamboat had swallowed his tongue. I hated Savage with a passion at the time.
Those were the two big matches for Mania III, but what also made this event was the fact that most of the rest of the matches were booked with some nice build. The Honky Tonk Man and Jake Roberts and JYD vs. Harley Race feuds ended with bad matches, but you remember the build. You remember Honky blasting Roberts with the guitar and JYD bowing and curtsying to Race before sucker punching him.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was watching Saturday Night’s Main Event where the big angle for this Wrestlemania started. The main event was scheduled for Hulk Hogan vs. The Magnificent Muraco and instead of Muraco’s regular manager Mr. Fuji by his side, Bobby Heenan was in his corner. They said that Fuji had the flu, which was an angle alert. However, I was only nine so I didn’t know about angle alerts. During the match, Hogan went after Heenan and King Kong Bundy came in to attack Hogan and “pearl harbor” him as Vince McMahon would say. It was a sneak attack that left Hogan laying in the ring, taking big splash after big splash. As a young Hulkamaniac, I was devastated. I had just been turned on to wrestling the year before by my best friend at the time, and I bit hook, line, and sinker. There I was, up at midnight, watching my hero take the beating of his life. Bundy was played up huge. He was a mountain of a man. He actually resembled the letter “O” with his short but fat torso and lack of neck. He used to be called a condominium with legs. As Hogan lay lifeless in the ring, I was upset at this guy with the bald head and wrinkled forehead. But I was smart enough to know my guy was going to get revenge. The storyline was that Hogan was in the hospital suffering from rib injuries and you could write the Hulkster to wish him well. I wasn’t that gullible, but I know other young kids were. They even had Mean Gene Okerlund talk to the doctor and they showed x-rays of Hogan to sell the angle. They would meet again in the main event of Wrestlemania 2 and in a steel cage.
This show has been over for a couple of weeks already you say? Well, I still haven’t watched the last two episodes, so here’s the review of the second to last episode.
Todd says Dennis needs to slow down. Butterbean says Dennis needs to treat him with respect or it’s going to get nasty.
Dennis says he’ll hit hard and they should hit him back hard. Brutus tells the viewing audience that it’s called a receipt if someone hits you hard and you hit them back just as hard.
Bischoff says they’ll learn the arm drag and a basic chop. Too bad Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair aren’t teaching these. Hogan comes out in his gear to teach them the body slam. Hogan tells the guys that when he slammed Andre at Wrestlemania 3 that Andre was almost 700 pounds. He didn’t say give or take two hundred pounds. It’s so funny as to why he has to lie about that. Isn’t 500 pounds enough?
Rodman slams Danny hard and Butterbean wants him. Butterbean slams him softly. Rodman tries to get Bean and can’t. Neither can Danny. Hogan tells Brutus to do it. He can’t get him quite up. I think it’s up to Hogan. He didn’t try. Darn. I wanted to see it.
They are going to do two matches. There’s a triple threat between Screech, Danny, and Todd while the big man match is between Rodman and Butterbean.
The chop looks like it hurts a lot. They’re playing it up like Dennis doesn’t want to be physical anymore because of the possibility of a receipt. Hogan takes Dennis aside and tells him he loves him and tries to inspire him a bit.
Screech is trying to coach a bit too much and the guys are bothered with him.
Hulk brings a doctor in to check the guys out before the match. Screech is the only one to complain about his injuries and the doctor tells him he has at least one broken rib. And he might have a MCL sprain in his left knee.
The triple threat is up first. Screech and Danny are working together over Todd. But I bet they get pissed at each other and the match ends with one of them pinned. Todd goes flying over the top. Screech double crossed Danny. That was fast. Todd took both of them out and then did a high cross over the top rope and onto both guys. Screech took a foreign object out of his knee pad and put it in his elbow pad. He knocked both guys out with it for the pin.
Butterbean just beat on Rodman for the entire match until Rodman hulked up. Rodman came off the top for the flying clothesline and Butterbean caught him with a sidewalk slam for the pin.
Butterbean was bad, but Danny was too. Rodman is the only believable guy, but if Todd learns how to sell a little bit better, he’d be heads and shoulders above everyone.
Bischoff tells Rodman that he works too stiff. Hogan tells Todd that he needs a bit more control. Bischoff says Butterbean never breaks character and makes him believe, but his covers are weak. Hogan says that Rodman, Butterbean, and Todd are heading to the finals. It’s between Screech and Danny. Hulk says Dustin’s chops and kicks are so bad. He tells Danny that he doesn’t hit people as hard as he looks. Hulk tells Danny Bonaduce to leave.
The next show is the finale. There’s a jabroni battle royal as long as a final match for the title.