March 27, 1988
Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Attendance: 18, 165
Closed-Circuit Attendance: 175, 000
Buy Rate: 6.5
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura
Fun Fact: Before we get into the show itself, let’s get into the reasons why Wrestlemania was set up the way it was. On February 5, 1988 NBC held a special prime time edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event. This was on a Friday night, and it was called “The Main Event”. It was the first time in over 3 decades that professional wrestling was on prime time network television. The big match was a WWF World Title match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. This was the long awaited re-match from the huge main event at Wrestlemania III. It was announced prior to the show that Ted DiBiase had purchased the contract of Andre from Bobby Heenan. In the match, Hogan had his opponent ready to be pinned. At ringside were The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and his bodyguard Virgil. Virgil jumped on the apron to distract referee Dave Hebner. Hogan hit Virgil, but Andre caught him with a couple of reverse head butts. He then turned him over with the “Andre Suplex”, and went for the pin. At the 1 count, Hogan clearly had his left shoulder up, but Hebner continued to count, and counted three. That’s right kids. Hulk Hogan’s 4 year reign as WWF Champion was over. Hebner handed the title to Andre, who held it for exactly 127 seconds. Andre handed it to DiBiase, who had been unsuccessfully trying to buy the title from Hogan for weeks. Then, the swerve: Another referee came out looking exactly like Dave Hebner. Well, it was Dave Hebner. The original referee was his real-life twin brother Earl. Earl had been working down in Mid-Atlantic for Jim Crockett. Dave says that DiBiase paid someone to get plastic surgery to look like Dave Hebner. DiBiase held the belt for a week. In fact there were pictures of DiBiase at house shows wearing the world title belt. The following week on Superstars President Jack Tunney stripped DiBiase of the title (he isn’t officially recognized as a champion), and declared the title vacant. A 14-man single elimination tournament was slated for Wrestlemania to officially crown an undisputed WWF World Champion, with Hogan and Andre receiving first round byes for being the last two World Champions.
1) Bad News Brown (Allen Coage) wins a 20-man Battle Royal at 9:43.
Ron Bass, Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Danny Davis, Bret Hart, Hillbilly Jim, Sam Houston, Junkyard Dog, Jim Neidhart, Ken Patera, Jim Powers, Harley Race, Paul Roma, Jacques Rougeau, Raymond Rougeau, Sika, George Steele, Nikolai Volkoff, and Boris Zhukov.
Fun Fact: Bad News Brown was a pupil of Stu Hart’s dungeon. He was known as Bad News Allen and Bad News Allen Coage. Brown was one of the biggest proponents of the Dynamite Kid wrestling in Japan in the late 70’s. That was a pretty good move. Brown wrestled in Stampede, Japan, and in Florida. He was actually Florida Heavyweight Champ, and had a pretty good feud with a very young Lex Luger.
Scott: Just a chance to get a bunch of guys on the show for the big payday. This was also the first taste of a Bret Hart singles push when he was the last guy left with Brown. Brown turned on him after they teamed to toss JYD. Brown had one of the swankest finishers in the biz: the Ghettoblaster, which is basically a standing Enziguri. Bob Uecker’s return to the booth with Jesse and Gorilla also makes this very entertaining. Grade: N/A
Justin: A decent enough opener to kick off one of the longest PPVs in wrestling history. The major stars being pushed here were clearly Bad News and Bret Hart, as they are the last two men standing. You can definitely see the interest in a Bret Hart singles push brewing, but they hold off a while longer. After being double crossed by Bad News, a face turn for the Harts seemed in order, and a face turn they would have, just in time for the inaugural Summerslam in August. Bret would try and gain revenge on Bad News over the summer at WWF Wrestlefest, a huge stadium show in Milwaukee, but Bad News came out on top again. This is the last hurrah for a few familiar faces as well, such as George Steele, Sam Houston and Sika. Ok, maybe not memorable, per se, but it is still their swansong. Weird to see JYD get a bit of a push here, but I guess if you examine the lineup for the match, he was probably the best face to build sympathy on at the end. After the match, Bret clues us into his true personality, as he complains about being screwed, climbs into the ring and destroys Bad News’ trophy. Grade: N/A
2) Ted DiBiase defeats Jim Duggan after a fist drop at 5:01
Fun Fact: Now a little background on The Million Dollar Man. Ted DiBiase grew up in Texas and went to the same college (West Texas State) as Dusty Rhodes and Tito Santana. DiBiase wrestled mostly in the Midwest, but did spend some time in the WWWF in the late 70’s. In fact, in an ironic piece of trivia, Hulk Hogan’s first ever WWWF match in 1979 was against DiBiase. In 1979, he was recognized as the first WWWF North American Champion (a title belt he had taken with him from Mid-South), which was the pre cursor to the Intercontinental Championship. From there DiBiase returned to Mid-South and then shifted to the UWF. He actually held the UWF World Title, and feuded with Terry Gordy, and even Jim Duggan. In 1985, DiBiase received a huge NWA World Title match against Ric Flair, but lost the match after interference from Dick Murdoch. He came to the WWF in December 1987 amidst promises of a killer gimmick and huge push and was immediately pushed into the Main Event picture once he was inked.
Scott: Due to the enormous number of matches during this show, these early battles were quick, and to the point. The crowd was very much into Duggan, but it was pretty obvious as you’re watching DiBiase was going to win this match. Andre was still under DiBiase’s care, and would make his presence felt, tripping Duggan as he was in his three-point stance. Duggan’s distracted enough to be caught in a suplex, and DiBiase moves on. As Justin and others close to me know, I despise Jim Duggan. His gimmick annoyed me. His promos annoyed me. HE ANNOYED ME. Thankfully he was in a match I knew he was losing. Gorilla and Jesse did a fabulous job pumping up the tournament, making it very special and unique. DiBiase moves on. Grade: 2
Justin: The first tournament in WWF PPV history features two men that had been major parts of the success of Bill Watts’ UWF. Jim Duggan, despite having no pure wrestling skills, was quickly gathering a strong following, one that would support him until his final days in the WWF in 1993. Here, though, he is clearly overmatched and outnumbered by DiBiase’s crew. As Scott mentioned, Jesse and Gorilla do an awesome job of selling the tournament idea and making it seem as important as can be. I also like how Gorilla makes a big deal about Andre being at ringside, as he didn’t have a manager’s license. Man, it was just the little things that helped sell a match and a story that just aren’t done anymore. Anyway, DiBiase makes quick work of Hacksaw and is one step closer to realizing his destiny. Grade: 2
3) Don Muraco defeats Dino Bravo (Adolfo Bresciano) by Disqualification at 4:54
Scott: Bravo was moving more and more up the heel ladder. After his “questionable” record-setting performance weightlifting at the Royal Rumble, many thought he would advance to the next round against the tired Muraco. Ah, but in the era of heels vs. faces, Muraco wins due to a shady move by Bravo. Muraco went off the ropes for a shoulderblock, but Bravo pulls the ref in front of him. The ref hits the deck, and Bravo hits his side suplex. The ref calls for the bell, and Muraco advances. As we saw at Survivor Series, Muraco had been turned face, and teamed with former WWF Champion Superstar Billy Graham in an effort to get him over. He advances to face DiBiase. Grade: 2
Justin: Another quickie first round match that sees the rejuvenated Dino Bravo job without having to be pinned. Muraco needed to move on here to provide a face opponent for DiBiase, but the bookers clearly wanted Bravo to come off unscathed, so we get the first of many cheap endings here tonight. Bravo also debuts his new manager, the very useless Frenchy Martin, who does no more than wave the Quebec flag and take random beatings. Muraco looks so over roided and bloated that it is scary, and his once stellar in ring work has deteriorated quickly. However, with the Superstar in his corner, Muraco continues to be pretty over, which was a good thing to help gain heat on Bravo and DiBiase. Grade: 1.5
4) Greg Valentine (John Wisniski, Jr.)defeats Ricky Steamboat (Richard Blood) with a roll-up at 9:09
Fun Fact: This is Ricky Steamboat’s final WWF PPV appearance for over 3 years.
Scott: The most entertaining match of the first round sees the loyal Hammer take one from the “dis-loyal” (depending on your point of view) Ricky Steamboat. Ever since taking time off after Wrestlemania III to be with his pregnant wife, he’s been on Vince’s shit list. So, this was it. Steamboat loses here on a cheap roll-up, and leaves for 3 years. Valentine, who’s always done what was asked, moves on to the next round. Steamboat would wind up back with Jim Crockett Promotions by the end of the year, and would have one of the greatest feuds in wrestling history in 1989 with Ric Flair. Grade: 2.5
Justin: Man, if there was ever a time to deliver a Steamboat win, this was it, as a possible Savage-Steamboat rematch was on the horizon for the second round. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Steamboat was on his way out the door and the last thing Savage needed right now was to take on a popular face, as he needed all the fans backing him that he could get. Valentine was always game for a big performance, and he delivers a fun, quick paced match here with the departing Dragon. Before the match, Steamboat came to the ring with his newborn son, who was wearing a little dragon costume. It could honestly be argued that the “Little Dragon” was the complete reasoning for the outcome of this World Championship Tournament and the departure of his father, but more on that is coming. Grade: 3
5) Randy Savage (Randy Poffo) defeats Butch Reed (Bruce Reed) with the Elbow Drop at 4:07
Fun Fact: This is Butch Reed’s final WWF PPV appearance. His final record is 1-3. After this he would jump to the NWA and hook up with Ron Simmons as the masked tag team Doom.
Fun Fact II: On the October 3rd 1987 Saturday Night’s Main Event,, Randy Savage challenged Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental Championship. Towards the end of the match, fellow Jimmy Hart wrestlers, the Hart Foundation interfered and cost Savage the match. After the DQ, the Harts and Savage mercilessly pounded on Savage and Honky even shoved down Elizabeth to the gasps of the crowd. Elizabeth went scurrying to the back, during which time the Harts held Savage up and Honky smashed his guitar over Savage’s head. Elizabeth then returned with Hulk Hogan in tow. Hogan chased off the Hart Family and shook hands with Savage, establishing the relationship that would dominate the storylines for the next year and a half. Honky and Savage were slated for a rematch on the Main Event in February 1988, but we will get to that later in the show.
Scott: The Macho Man, flying under the radar since losing the Intercontinental Title the previous year at the Silverdome, wins his opener against “The Natural.” Butch Reed, whose no-show at a live event the previous year led to the Honky Tonk Man winning the IC Title, changed the scope of this show and 1988 storylines. The match was typical face Macho: he gets a quick start, gets the crap beat out of him for a while, heel flirts with Elizabeth, and Macho drops the elbow. Nice opener, but Macho’s night is just getting started. Grade: 2
Justin: A real quick match here, which is a good thing, considering how much more Savage had to wrestle throughout the rest of the show. Butch Reed had some promise, and seemingly was on Vince’s good side, as he was set to win the I-C Title and was placed in the Main Event of the first Survivor Series, but for some reason, the potential was never reached and he would be gone shortly after the show. Randy Savage, now a very popular face, picks up the quick win with his patented Elbow Drop and advances on into the second round, which at this point seemed to be about as far as he would go. Grade: 1.5
6) One Man Gang (George Grey) defeats Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Bigelow) by Countout at 3:00
Fun Fact: This is Bigelow’s final WWF PPV match until the 1993 Royal Rumble.
Scott: Real express line match here. The puzzling thing here is what happened to Bigelow? He’s showcased in the main event of the Survivor Series, and the sky was the limit for him. Then, he is MIA at the Rumble, and here he’s beaten on a cheap count-out by the One Man Gang. Bigelow gets to the apron, which is supposed to stop the count. The ref just keeps on counting, and Bigelow is out. He’s not seen on a WWF PPV again until 1993. Gang moves on, and with the next match gets a gift as well. Grade: 1.5
Justin: A real clusterfuck here, as these two put on a true dog of a match. The result is mind boggling, as Bigelow is jobbed out in 3 minutes, which makes no real sense, especially to a joke like the Gang. I have read rumors that Hogan cut Bigelow’s push off quickly as he was quickly getting over with the fans and could have been a major star, but who knows for sure. The match is ugly and the count-out is cheap, as Bammer was clearly on the apron and basically in the ring when the ref counts 10. Grade: .5
7) Rick Rude (Richard Rood) and Jake Roberts (Aurelian Smith, Jr.) wrestle to a time-limit draw at 15:15
Scott: This was a strange decision. You would think because the winner of this match faces a heel, and he was crazy over that Jake would win this match. Again, Rude escapes without a loss. This was just a simple feud until Rude, who’s already reaching awesome heel status, starts messing with Roberts’ wife Cheryl over the summer. He even put a portrait of her on his tights. Roberts exploded, but that feud never had a real blowoff. A lot of restholds and psychology in this match, but modern day fans might find that boring. It’s true about that. Fans from that era still like matches with psychology and basic tempo. Fans now see restholds as a sign of laziness. That’s usually not the case, unless you’re Yokozuna or Diesel, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Grade: 2.5
Justin: A match that I actually liked a lot better when watching it recently than I did in the past. I enjoy all the different ways Rude tries to escape the DDT and the psychology behind it, especially when Jesse and Gorilla talk about how Heenan had been training Rude on how to reverse it. Again, it was the little things to get the story over. I also enjoyed some of the sick bumps Rude took in the match, which would become his hallmark during the rest of his career. Jake is one of those guys, like Duggan, who can lose and lose and lose and always be way over with the crowd. This match is a little on the slow side, but it had to be so the outcome could be reached. If you take it in stride and realize it is slow for a reason, the match is more enjoyable for sure. Better things were in store for both men, so the double elimination doesn’t hurt either too much. Grade: 2.5
END OF FIRST ROUND
8.) The Ultimate Warrior (Warrior) defeats Hercules (Ray Fernandez) with a Bridge Suplex at 4:36
Fun Fact: On January 27, 1988, the Ultimate Warrior and Hercules were set to square off, but before the match, the two got into a tug of war with Hercules’ massive steel chain and they managed to snap the chain in half. The match ended in a DQ after Hercules beat the Warrior with the remaining piece of the chain, setting up the blowoff here.
Scott: Not much to this match, just a chance for the new up-and-coming good guy superhero to get a win. Hercules was actually getting stale as a heel, and would be in for a change by the end of the year. Warrior was getting over with the fans in a big way with his face paint, and energetic entrance to the ring. By the summer he would be rewarded with gold, and really get over with the fans, as he would end the longest and stupidest Intercontinental Title reign in WWF history. Grade: 2
Justin: Ultimate Warrior’s first official feud ends with a big victory on wrestling’s biggest stage, as he downs Hercules in less than 5 minutes. Hercules would stay in the upper-mid-card, but would finally get a shot in the arm as the year ends. The Warrior would continue to feud with various members of the Heenan Family over the summer, and would go on to feud with Heenan and his charges in one way or another until 1990. This is a good, but brief match that is used to get the Warrior a big win in a high profile situation. Grade: 1.5
9) Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea) and Andre the Giant (Andre Rousimoff) wrestle to a Double-Disqualification at 5:32
Scott: Everyone expected Hogan to win this match and advance in the tournament. He didn’t. That was a huge shock. Remember, in the days before the internet and the dirt sheets, regular fans didn’t know he was taking time off to film “No Holds Barred,” and that’s why he didn’t win the tournament and the title. So after both men whacked each other with a chair, referee Joey Marella called for the bell. I was personally shocked and disappointed. I hadn’t quite jumped on anyone else’s bandwagon at this point, so I was reserved to thinking Ted DiBiase was going to win this tournament. I was really devastated that Hogan didn’t win the match. Sure he whacked Andre with the chair and posed for everyone after the match. However, that didn’t take away from the fact he wasn’t moving on. It turns out Andre purposely caused the double-DQ so DiBiase wouldn’t have an opponent if he advanced into the next round. This sucked, pure and simple. So did the match. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Man, take away the huge build up and awesome atmosphere, add in some back surgery and a year of age, and these two just can’t match the awesomeness of Wrestlemania III, not that there was anyway to do so, but you get the point. This match is very slow and quite sluggish, as it is becoming PAINFULLY obvious that Andre is just falling apart. They were using him well, as DiBiase’s muscle, but his matches were just going to hell by now, and Hogan was not the man to carry him. When you watch this match, it seems like Hogan should have been DQ’d, because he clearly hits Andre with the chair first in direct view of the referee, but it was just bad timing on Hogan’s part, as Andre grabs the chair right after and drills Hogan with it too, officially triggering the bell. After the match, noted sore loser Hogan kicks the shit out of Virgil with a suplex in the aisle, slams Andre and poses for 25 minutes. The crowd and announcers are in shock and the tournament is now wide open, for sure, as the two favorites are gone early on. Grade: .5
10) Ted DiBiase defeats Don Muraco with a Stun Gun at 5:33
Scott: From here, the tourney starts to get a little predictable. With both Hogan and Andre out, DiBiase looked like the clear favorite to take the title. Muraco was getting nice pops from the crowd with his manager Superstar Billy Graham and the cool “Jesus Christ Superstar” music, but it was unlikely he was going to win. He had the momentum, but DiBiase actually played this one straight up with no cheating, and executed a perfect Stun Gun for the pin and the victory. Now, with the Andre/Hogan double DQ, DiBiase moved on to the final match. After the big face turn in late 1987, Muraco was soon running out of gas. At this point, all the matches in this tourney were starting to look the same: quick, inoffensive. Grade: 2
Justin: A decent match that is completely carried by DiBiase’s bumping and selling for the roided Muraco. The outcome here was pretty obvious, as Muraco was not seen as any sort of contender by this point, and DiBiase was deeply involved in the storyline, so the intrigue is sorely lacking. DiBiase is flying solo here, as Andre was cooling down after his match and Virgil was broken in two by Hogan. Muraco puts up a good fight, but DiBiase hits a nasty stun gun and advances on into the final match. Grade: 2
11) Randy Savage defeats Greg Valentine with a Small Package at 6:07
Scott: A tough, stiff match between two former Intercontinental Champions. Valentine was not going to win, and even at this point you really didn’t think Savage could go much further. Valentine may not have been high on the importance list, but he still could give you a good, stiff match. He smacked the crap out of Macho Man, but again Savage escaped with the win, and advanced to face One Man Gang in the semifinals. Gang got a pass here with the Rude/Roberts draw. Grade: 2.5
Justin: Man, if Savage is going to win this thing, he was going to EARN it. DiBiase had two fairly easy matches and a lucky bye, but Savage is battling some stiff bastards and taking a beating on his road to the title. I wish these two would have gotten a rematch on TV with a good 15-20 minutes to tell a great story, but we never really got another match. Valentine was still a great worker, and he shows it here, as he pounds on Macho for about 6:04, before Savage reverses the Figure 4 and gets the quick pin to advance. Valentine is shunted down the card after this, but would always put out solid performances, and, as many Vince “Loyalists” are, he is always on TV and PPV. Grade: 2.5
END OF QUARTER FINALS
12) Brutus Beefcake (Ed Leslie) defeats Honky Tonk Man (Wayne Ferris) by Disqualification at 6:43; Honky retains WWF Intercontinental Title
Scott: Was this ever going to end? It was still unexplainable why this gimmick joke wrestler with no physique and a thimble of ability was still Intercontinental champion. At this point you really thought Beefcake was taking the strap. He was really getting over, and would have been a very credible champ. The match was entertaining, but Honky was DQ’d when manager Jimmy Hart whacked the referee with his megaphone. Beefcake wins the match, but Honky keeps the title. Why, we don’t know. Instead of getting a re-match at the inaugural Summerslam, he’s taken out on camera by Ron Bass and another up and comer ends the tyrannical reign of the Elvis wanna-be. Grade: 2
Justin: Another goddamn DQ on a show ripe with them. Beefcake was pretty over here, and a title switch would have gotten over well, but I guess they figured with two other switches on the show, they didn’t need a third being lost in the shuffle. Plus, after building Honky’s reign up so much, the big change needed a better stage than buried as the 12th match on a 16 match card. Thus, Honky escapes to defend another day, but Beefcake gets the moral victory when he gives Jimmy Hart a trim after the match. Grade: 1.5
13) The Islanders & Bobby Heenan defeat the British Bulldogs & Koko B Ware when Bobby pins Koko after a Splash at 7:28
Fun Fact: This match stems from Haku and Tama stealing the Bulldog’s mascot Matilda on December 8, 1987. After threats of suspension from Jack Tunney and thousands of get well letters from WWF fans, Matilda was returned to the Bulldogs and this match was set up.
Scott: An energetic 6-man tag match between a strong but forgotten heel team and a fading face team. The Islanders were never really given their just due, but were given this juicy little storyline involving the swiping of Matilda. As for Davey Boy and Dynamite, they were still giving everything in their matches. Even with the gradual degenerating of Dynamite’s back, he was still better than almost every wrestler his size in the world at that time. They just weren’t on the high list of teams in the tag title mix, as evidenced by their loss in two consecutive Wrestlemanias. The legendary visual of Bobby Heenan wearing an attack dog suit is classic. The match was pretty good, but another loss for the Bulldogs is disheartening. Grade: 3
Justin: A fun little match here to spell the crowd somewhat. Bobby Heenan is always classic and here he busts out a specially delivered and oversized dog catchers suit to protect him from Matilda. The suit has lots of metal buttons and zippers on it, which plays a part in the match, as the Islanders slam Bobby hard onto Koko to end the match. After the bout, Matilda gets her revenge, however, as she chases Bobby down the aisle and gnaws on him for a few minutes. On the face side of things, Koko is just lucky to get on PPV (although he got a lot of PPV time in 1988), so the loss means more to him than most, as he was glad to be there. The Bulldogs, however, have fallen quite far down the ladder over the past 2 years, and they are jobbed out once again on the major stage in yet another six-man tag. Dynamite’s back is a real mess and as a result the team can’t be relied upon for a major push, but I doubt they would have gotten one anyway. Grade: 2.5
14) Randy Savage defeats One Man Gang by Disqualification at 4:11
Scott: This match started to change the mood of the show. After the Andre/Hogan double DQ, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Ted DiBiase was going to win the tournament. However, after Savage got the snot beat out of him for the third time of the night, One Man Gang was foolishly disqualified for chasing Savage around the ring with his manager Slick’s cane right in front of the ref. So the match was set: Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase. Even though Savage had garnered a lot of fans over the past few months, it just didn’t seem likely he would win 4 matches in one night. However, you also didn’t totally count Macho out. Winning 4 matches in a night would have been a great accomplishment for the fans to appreciate. This match wasn’t much, but the point was made: Savage is in the final, but he’s exhausted. This must also be a record that still stands: Four matches in one show end in disqualification. Bizarre booking, but obviously needed to spin the show in this direction. Grade: 2
Justin: This was definitely a good time for a DQ ending…because we just WENT ONE GODDAMN MATCH WITHOUT ONE! My lord, JUST FUCKIN JOB…YOU ARE THE FUCKING ONE MAN GANG, WHY MUST YOU BE PROTECTED? JUST LIE DOWN…HE IS THE FUTURE CHAMP, YOU WON’T LOOK THAT BAD! DAMMIT! Savage advances, which is good, and the Final Match is set. Grade: 1
END OF SEMI-FINALS
15) Demolition defeats Strike Force to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Smash pins Rick Martel after Ax hits him with Mr. Fuji’s cane at 8:00
Fun Fact: These two teams faced off in a rematch on the July 11, 1988 edition of Prime Time Wrestling. Strike Force lost by count-out after a Decapitation Elbow on Martel on the floor. The move left Martel with a severely hurt neck and put him on the shelf for 8 months.
Scott: The momentum was growing and the cheers were getting a little louder, but Demolition were still heels with Mr. Fuji as their manager. Strike Force was the prototypical babyface tag team, and had a good cache of fans. Demolition, though, had the awesome entrance music. They had the spiked outfits. Sure, they weren’t the real Road Warriors, but they were OUR badass tag team. It was OK to like both teams if you were a fan of WWF and NWA. Most WWF fans, particularly younger ones, weren’t watching NWA or AWA, so they really never made the comparison. OK, I’m on a tangent. The point is Demolition was the baddest of badass teams in the WWF, and the tag titles were a mere formality. This would be the first of 3 tag title reigns, the first tag dynasty in the modern WWF era. Grade: 2.5
Justin: Man, I wonder if Vince was prepared for the huge pop Demolition would get when they ended Strike Force’s reign. The crowd was behind the heels, and Vince took notice and would rectify the situation by the end of the year. Strike Force had a good run, but Demolition’s time was at hand, and they did the right thing by putting Ax and Smash over strong on the big show. Demolition would start a long reign of tag team dominance here and solidify their place in WWF history. Grade: 2.5
16) Randy Savage defeats Ted DiBiase to win tournament for WWF World Title with the Elbow Drop at 9:17
Fun Fact: According to legend, Ted DiBiase was slated to win this match and the title before the year started. Savage was to regain the IC Title from Honky Tonk Man at the Main Event show. Honky’s contract was up, however, and threatened Vince that he would leave for the NWA with the title if he wasn’t allowed to keep it. Vince was pissed, but had to cave, as he couldn’t afford to have Honky show up on NWA TV with his I-C belt in tow. Honky was allowed to keep the belt and Savage was still promised gold. So, he wins the World Title here instead. Nice upgrade. Savage would have passed the IC Title to someone else, and fought DiBiase for the title at Summerslam. This is the closest Ted DiBiase would get to the World Championship for the rest of his illustrious career.
Scott: This was quite the little surprise at the time. Savage had turned face, and had won his team’s match at the Survivor Series. Then he faded into the background a little, not being on the Royal Rumble show and having a non-descript match with Honky Tonk Man at “The Main Event”. So there was really no thinking that Savage was going to win this match, as DiBiase had Andre at ringside constantly interfering and getting in the way. So when Savage whispered something to Elizabeth and she ran up the ramp it was intriguing to say the least. Then when she walked out with Hulk Hogan at her side, the dynamic of the match changed completely. That one move showed that Savage may actually win this thing. Then, another first in the modern era, while DiBiase had the Million Dollar Dream slapped on, Hogan actually performed a nefarious deed. While the referee was busy with Andre, Hogan came in with a chair and whacked DiBiase in the back with it. Savage regained his bearings, got to the top rope, and drilled the elbow. Three seconds later, we had a new WWF World Champion. In one of the greatest tests of endurance and guts, Savage wrestles 4 matches against 4 tough sons of bitches and wins them all for the championship. Hogan and Elizabeth celebrate with the new champion as we go off the air. This was very different at the time, because let’s be honest. Any young, kayfabe Hulkamaniac never really thought that anyone else would win the title. We were relieved to see Hulk in the ring, but someone else with the title was really strange. In any event, we have a new champ, as this long PPV marathon is finally over. Grade: 3
Justin: Well, all the build up paid off in spades, as the final match is an exciting affair with the popular face emerging with the title. The surprise was great, and was starting show anything could really happen. I’m sure a lot of Hogan fans were disappointed at the time, but the change was good and it helped the shows by having a fresh face on top of the mountain. Savage and DiBiase would have better matches over the summer, including a great one at Wrestlefest, but the story here was the epic run of Savage and the storyline of Hogan gaining his revenge on DiBiase and Andre. It was nice to see Hogan give the rub to Savage, but he almost overshadows Savage in the post match celebration, which I guess is OK for that time, as it legitimized Savage as a player in the fans eyes. Hogan’s grandstanding is OK for now, but it is going to get old fast, and when it does it gets ugly. For now, however, Randy Savage stands on top of the WWF mountain, and the buildup to one of the greatest storylines of all time has officially begun with the crowning of the Mega Powers. Grade: 3
Scott: This show definitely had its slow points, as an unbelievable 16 matches on the card took a lot of time, and some of the tourney matches were dull but short. This would start the run of Wrestlemanias with double digit matches on the card. By 1992 they’d pare it down a bit, but for now everyone was slated to get a payday. This was the biggest moment in Randy Savage’s career at this point, and it led to a nice ending of a very long night. The tournament idea was innovative, and added immense drama to the show. Again, Gorilla and Jesse’s commentary was right on. They pumped up the tournament like it was the biggest thing in wrestling history. Coming from the Silverdome to a convention hall was an obvious downgrade. Considering there were no real levels, and everyone was pretty much on the floor made this an unusual surrounding for a show. It almost looked like an outdoor show at a ballpark, where there were a lot of seats on the floor at even level with the ring. It was still very exciting, but a little long. From here Vince would utilize time management when putting so many matches on. For a long time I was not a big fan of this show, due to the long, dull matches. Plus being a big Hulkamaniac, I always held a grudge he didn’t win the title. The Honky schmozz was frustrating, but it was sweet to see Demolition win the straps. Now that I’ve had a chance to watch it again with a different perspective, and a little wiser, I enjoyed the show more than in the past. The Mega Powers are born, and would blaze a trail together for the next 10 months. You do feel a little bad for DiBiase, knowing now that if it wasn’t for that dipshit Honky Tonk Man, DiBiase would have won this tournament. Doesn’t faze me, he’s still one of the swankest heels ever. Final Grade: B-
Justin: Time has definitely been good to this show in my eyes, as I have grown to enjoy it more each time I see it. It was cool to see a show focused on Savage, and he really busted his ass to make the whole tournament underdog story work. The build and storyline for this show was amazing and well crafted for sure, and it gave new life to a stale Andre the Giant as well. In retrospect it would have been nice to see DiBiase win the title, since we now know he would never even get a sniff afterwards, but at the time it worked out to go with the face Savage. Honky really dicked things up, and would be punished on the next PPV and over the next 2+ years, as he repays every job he owes from his lengthy reign. They probably could have hacked off the Battle Royal, six-man and Warrior-Hercules match, but I understand why they were there. The show is quite long, and you need some patience to watch it, but it is definitely worth checking out from time to time. The buy rate for this show was actually damaged a bit, as Jim Crockett decided to pay Vince back for screwing up his Bunkhouse Stampede with the Royal Rumble AND for putting Survivor Series up against Starrcade back in November. Crockett decided to run the inaugural Clash of the Champions the same night as this PPV on FREE TV (WTBS). He also booked a 45-minute classic between Sting and Ric Flair, which easily topped any match workrate wise on Wrestlemania. Vince was livid, as were the PPV companies, and they told the two men to stop the shenanigans and quit running against each other where PPV was concerned. Both men listened and stopped the tactics after this show. All in all, the show is a fun one, and a nice change of pace, but you must keep an open mind when you start to watch it. Final Grade: B-
MVP: Randy Savage
Runner Up: Demolition
Non MVP: Honky Tonk Man
Runner Up: Ted DiBiase/Ricky Steamboat (Victims of circumstance)
All Time PPV Active-Wrestler Roster
“Special Delivery” Jones
King Kong Bundy
Andre the Giant
Big John Studd
King Tonga (Haku)
Davey Boy Smith
Dory Funk, Jr.
Billy Jack Haynes
Koko B. Ware
Honky Tonk Man
One Man Gang
Bam Bam Bigelow
PPV Rest in Peace List
“Playboy” Buddy Rose (Wrestlemania I)
“Special Delivery” Jones (Wrestlemania I)
Uncle Elmer (Wrestlemania II)
Adrian Adonis (Wrestlemania III)
Haiti Kid (Wrestlemania III)
Little Beaver (Wrestlemania III)
Next Review: Summerslam ‘88