Nail-biting, exciting moments, along with great memories, superbly athletic participants, combined with brutal, yet winning moves, help create the wonderful memories of what is considered the biggest event on the WWE calendar – Wrestlemania. The 30th edition of this event will be held on April 6, 2014 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. In honor of this, I will be looking at some of the great memories from the past 29 Wrestlemanias, starting with the first ten.
The inaugural Wrestlemania was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City in front of more than 19,000 fans. Anticipation was evident, as no one knew what to expect. The excitement, on the other hand, was felt in every corner of the Garden. The opening match featured Tito Santana victorious over a masked man known as “The Executioner” after applying his version of the “figure four leglock.” Though brief, fans were happy that one of their favourites won. But, Santana’s night was not over as he played a role in another match.
Fans witnessed the first title match in Wrestlemania’s history, as the Junk Yard Dog challenged the champion, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. The champion thought he won the match, after placing his feet on the ropes to pin the challenger. But, Santana ran to the ring and told the referee about the champion’s method of cheating. The official chose to restart the match, and Valentine opted for a count-out instead of going back to fight. The fans were angry with Greg, but I think he felt he did the right thing to keep his championship, because, in the WWE, a championship does not change hands on a disqualification or count-out.
The main event was a tag team match between Hulk Hogan and Mr. T (with Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in their corner) against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff (with “Cowboy” Bob Orton in theirs). This was the match fans wanted to see, and were most excited about. Orndorff applied a “full nelson” on Hogan which allowed Orton to stand on the ring apron in an attempt to hit Hulk with his cast. Hogan moved, and Paul was nailed instead. So, the plan backfired, and that allowed Hulk Hogan to pin Paul Orndorff to win the match for his team. The result sent the crowd into a frenzy to end Wrestlemania 1. This show had a lot of excitement, but I am sure Vince McMahon and the rest of the “higher-ups” of the WWE at the time were nervous. But, as it turned out, the event was very successful. So successful, Wrestlemania continued the year after with a little bit of a twist.
On April 7, 1986, the second ‘Mania event was held at three different locations: The Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York, The Rosemont Horizon, in Chicago, Illinois and the Los Angeles Sports Arena. One of the big matches in Long Island was Randy Savage battling George “The Animal” Steele for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Savage won with a roll-up, and he placed his feet on the ropes for additional leverage to retain the IC title. The fans were a little upset with the result, but at the time, Savage was a ‘heel’ (bad guy), so he felt he had to cheat to win, to go along with the character he was playing.
A tag team title match took place in Chicago as the champions, Greg Valentine and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake fought the British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid). New Champions were crowned after Valentine fell victim to Kid’s headbutt, much to the crowd’s delight.
The final match of the night occurred in Los Angeles as King Kong Bundy challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship, inside a steel cage. The only way to win was to go over the top of the cage and then having both feet hit the floor, or escape through the cage door. This was a tough, hard-fought match, and there were many times where it looked like a new champion would be crowned. But, Hogan, one of the best in the industry at the time, kept on fighting. He performed his usual match-ending legdrop, and attempted to climb the cage. Bundy tried to stop, but Hulk kicked his larger opponent away. With Bundy out of the way, the champion dropped to the floor and retained his title. What a great match it was, and the crowd was delighted with the finish. But the following year, Hogan had to overcome his biggest challenge yet.
Wrestlemania 3 was held inside the Pontiac Silverdome, in Detroit, Michigan, in front of 93,173 screaming, boisterous fans. To this date, that record still stands. In one of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania’s history, Randy Savage put the Intercontinental title at stake against Ricky Steamboat. There were many close calls in this match. There were thunderous ooh’s and ahh’s throughout this classic battle. The end came when the challenger blocked an attempted bodyslam from Savage, and turned it into a roll up or an inside cradle for a hard-fought, well-wrestled and well-deserved victory. The fans were ecstatic with the result as Ricky Steamboat emerged as the new Intercontinental Champion.
The main event was for the WWE Championship as Hulk Hogan battled Andre the Giant. The two exchanged intense stares at the beginning, and it was one the few times that Hogan was dwarfed by his opponent. Andre spent a lot of the match attacking Hogan’s back, using the bearhug very often, to wear him down. For Hulk, there were three huge challenges for him in this match. The first was that Andre had never been taken off his feet in any match in his career – Hogan did that with a hard-hitting clothesline. The second one was that the Giant had never been bodyslammed, and with all his strength, along with his weakened back, Hulk Hogan picked up his 525 pound opponent and bodyslammed him to the mat, to the surprise and astonishment of the Silverdome crowd. What a feat! Finally, after hitting his legdrop, Hulk Hogan became the first wrestler to defeat Andre the Giant. The crowd gave Hogan a well-deserved ovation. He was exhausted, and it was evident on his face, but he also showed that night that he deserved to be called WWE Champion, and more importantly, that with the right attitude, perseverance and determination, that dreams do come true.
In early 1988, the WWE Championship was vacant. A one-night tournament, featuring some of the top stars in the WWE at the time, was held at Wrestlemania 4, to determine a new titleholder. Some of the powerhouse names included “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, the One Man Gang and Bam Bam Bigelow. After lengthy, intense matches throughout the tournament, the final battle featured Randy Savage against Ted Dibiase, who had Andre the Giant in his corner, for the belt. Hulk Hogan came out to support Savage later in the match and saved his friend from an attack by the Giant. With Andre knocked out, Savage performed his flying elbow from the top rope on Dibiase for the three count. Randy Savage became the WWE Champion for the first time in his career. He then shook Hogan’s hand and celebrated, but their bond would not last much longer.
At Wrestlemania 5, two extraordinary championship matches occurred. For the Intercontinental title the champion, the Ultimate Warrior battled Rick Rude. Early in the match, the Warrior displayed many of his power moves, like a bearhug and tossing his opponent around the ring. Eventually, the battle went to the arena floor. The champion was attempting to suplex his challenger into the ring, but Rude’s manager, Bobby Heenan, tripped the Warrior, and held on to the leg for the challenger to get the pin. Because of this underhanded move, Rick Rude became the new Intercontinental Champion, and the fans voiced their displeasure with the result.
The main event was for the WWE Championship as Randy Savage took on Hulk Hogan. After kicking out of Savage’s flying elbow, Hogan performed his usual moveset (kick in the face, and legdrop) for the win. The fans were overjoyed with the result, as Hulk Hogan became the new WWE Champion.
On April 1, 1990, the WWE brought Wrestlemania 6 to the Skydome (now the Rogers Centre) in Toronto. I had the good fortune of attending the event with my family. It was an enjoyable show, and the crowd of over 67,000 was enthusiastic and loud throughout. Two interesting developments occurred during the show. The first happened at the conclusion of the tag team title match.
The tag team champions Demolition (Ax and Smash) battled the Colossal Connection (Andre the Giant and Haku, accompanied by Bobby Heenan.) After a miscommunication by the challengers allowed Andre to get tangled in the ropes, Demolition performed their finisher for the win, much to the delight of the audience. But, there was more drama ahead. Bobby Heenan entered the ring, and for no reason, verbally berated Andre the Giant, then the manager showed his stupidity by slapping, yes slapping the Giant. Andre obviously became furious, and physically attacked Heenan and Haku, then left the ring. Andre left to a huge ovation from the Skydome crowd.
The main event was a title vs. title match between the WWE Champion Hulk Hogan and the Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior. It was great to see the reaction of the crowd to both wrestlers, as both were cheered – it seemed as if the crowd was split. The spectators were stunned after the Warrior moved out of the way, before Hogan could finish the match with his legdrop. With Hulk down, the Warrior performed his big splash for the win. The Warrior became the WWE Champion, to the delight of probably half the crowd, myself included. In an act of respect, Hogan handed his opponent the WWE title, and they embraced each other to close the show. I enjoyed my experience at Wrestlemania, and seeing the crowd enthusiastic throughout made me happy. The vision of the crowd, the screams, the lighting and even the antics of the wrestlers all helped to leave an indelible image on an impressionable young fan’s mind.
Wrestlemania 7 saw the Wrestlemania debut of a man who would become one of the most dominant and popular performers in the history of the WWE – the Undertaker. As soon as he made his entrance the audience was interested. His dark persona and mysterious theme music instilled some fear in the crowd, especially among the children. His match against Jimmy Snuka was very quick. Snuka attempted to dive off the ropes for a splash, but ‘Taker caught him, and hit his Tombstone piledriver for the win. The right man won, but little did anyone know that the victory would be the beginning of a Wrestlemania undefeated streak for the Undertaker, that is still continuing today.
The co-main event was a ‘career-ending match’ between the “Macho King” Randy Savage (accompanied by “Queen” Sherri) against the Ultimate Warrior. What a fantastic match this was! Sherri tried to interfere very often, and it worked sometimes. But, the Warrior kept fighting back. After hitting numerous shoulderblocks, Savage fell to the floor. Seeing his opponent lifeless, the Warrior went out to the arena floor, dragged the “Macho King” into the ring and pinned him to end the “career” of Randy Savage. But, things became dramatic after the match.
Seeing Randy on the mat, Sherri entered the ring, and berated her wrestler, and kicked him repeatedly. Elizabeth, who was watching in the crowd, ran to the ring, attacked Sherri, and tossed her out of the ring. Eventually, Randy came to his senses, saw Elizabeth standing next to him, with tears in her eyes, and they embraced. There were even fans crying the stands, as they witnessed the reunion of probably the greatest couple in wrestling history. Randy Savage left Wrestlemania as a fan favourite, and also left with the woman he was meant to be with.
Wrestlemania 8 featured many nail-biting matches. One of them featured two fan-favourites in a fight for the Intercontinental Championship. Bret Hart and Roddy Piper had the fans’ attention throughout. There were many times Piper was tempted to cheat, but thought better of it. Piper attempted to end the match with a sleeper hold, but Bret climbed the turnbuckles, used his leg strength to push off and roll over his opponent to win this hard-fought match. Fans appreciated the efforts of both wrestlers.
Randy Savage challenged Ric Flair for the WWE Championship. What a match! Both men demonstrated how much this match meant, and were intense throughout. But, Flair’s downfall came when he took some time during different moments in the match to flirt with Elizabeth, and that made Randy’s blood boil. In the end, Savage blocked a punch from Flair, rolled up the champion, and grabbed a handful of tights for the win. Randy Savage then became the new WWE Champion, and the crowd screamed its approval for this small, yet powerful wrestler.
The WWE made history again for Wrestlemania 9. The event was the first ‘Mania to be held outdoors at Caesar’s Palace, in Las Vegas. Only one main event for the WWE Championship was scheduled, but instead, there were two. The scheduled match for the title was Bret Hart against the challenge of Japanese Sumo wrestler, Yokozuna. The challenger dominated most of the match. Bret, however, utilized his speed, and he was able to get his gargantuan opponent off his feet. Bret was able to apply his “Sharpshooter” submission, but while the referee was checking to see if Yokozuna was surrender, his manager, Mr. Fuji, threw salt in the eyes of the champion. Yokozuna then covered Hart for the three to become the new champion, or so it would seem.
Hulk Hogan walked quickly to the ring, and argued with the referee about his decision. As this was going on, Fuji grabbed a microphone and challenged Hogan to a fight for the title. Hulk accepted. Not long after the match began, Fuji tried the same trick with the salt, but Hogan ducked, and Yoko was blinded. Hulk then used a clothesline to take the challenger off his feet, and hit his famous legdrop for the win. To the screams and adulation of the Caesar’s Palace crowd, Hulk Hogan became the new WWE Champion.
The WWE returned to Madison Square Garden again for the tenth anniversary of Wrestlemania. The opening match featured the battle of the Hart brothers, as Bret took on Owen. I always believe that when brothers “fight” in a wrestling ring, the match will end up being great because they know each other so well. Owen tried to beat Bret with his own move, the Sharpshooter, but Bret reversed it. Owen then crawled to grab the bottom rope to force the referee to break the hold. Later, Bret tried to end the match with a roll up, but Owen countered into one of his own for the win. The crowd was shocked at the outcome, but in my opinion, the win was great for Owen, as he was now able to “step out of Bret’s shadow.” While both brothers performed superbly, I always had a liking for Owen. I met him many years ago, and what a caring, compassionate, and classy individual he was.
At Wrestlemania 10, Razor Ramon battled Shawn Michaels in the first ever “ladder match,” for the Intercontinental Championship. To win the match, a superstar must climb a ladder to retrieve the prize. The ladder was used as a weapon many times during the match. Shawn performed an awe-inspiring flying elbow from the top of the ladder. There were occasions where both athletes stopped each other from getting the belt by tipping over the ladder. To conclude this hard-fought battle, Razor climbed the ladder, as his opponent was on the mat, But Shawn got up, and tried to dive towards the ladder, possibly to make Ramon lose his balance, but to no avail. Shawn was too late as Razor Ramon grabbed the Intercontinental belt and fell to the mat to win the match. What a heart-pounding and exciting match it was – the fans certainly got their money’s worth. Both wrestlers were exhausted, but I am sure the crowd appreciated their efforts, especially Shawn, since he was so well-liked.
Wrestlemania has been, and will always be the biggest show in the WWE. The action is always intense, and the superstars enjoy showing that they belong at the biggest event of the year. The first ten ‘Mania’s were filled with drama, heart-pounding action and tons of excitement. Superstars were made, memories were created, and the matches became more intense as the years progressed.
If you ever watched any of the first ten ‘Mania’s,’ please feel free to share some of your memories. In my next article, I will continue my version of the “Road to Wrestlemania” by talking about Wrestlemania’s 11-20.