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.
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.