When it’s all said and done, what Wrestlemania 23 will be remembered for is a haircut match. This isn’t any random old haircut match. This was a billionaire’s haircut match. Well, at least one of them was a billionaire.
Donald Trump has been affiliated with wrestling in the past. He hosted Wrestlemania IV and V at his Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They were two of the worst Wrestlemania’s ever, but that didn’t stop Vince McMahon from calling Trump’s name some 18 years later. And McMahon needed it.
Wrestlemania is what Vince McMahon and company build to every year. It’s their Super Bowl. It’s always the biggest PPV of the year, and the one in which they pull out all the stops. This year, the stops was Donald Trump. You might wonder why putting Donald Trump on a wrestling show, and one that he won’t even wrestle on, is important. The reason it’s important is because people wanted to pay to see who would get their hair cut between Vince and the Donald. Can you imagine a bald Donald Trump? Everyone wants to see that right? Even though anyone in their right mind would know that Trump would’ve never signed on to a match in which he’d lose his hair, it was built up so well, and it went on to be the main event in the biggest money making event in company history.
Donald Trump is still a big name. Even though his television show, The Apprentice was struggling mightily, he’s a well known public figure. And to get a well known public figure who isn’t a one hit wonder (like Kevin Federline) was a major coup for the WWE. It allowed them to enter the main stream media for a short while. The media picked up on Donald Trump being involved with wrestling and it sparked a little bit of a buzz. The wrestling fans are going to buy Wrestlemania. The goal is to get everyone else to do so.
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.