From The SkyDome in Toronto, ON
April 1, 1990
If you’re not moving forward, then you’ve stopped.
For six years, save for one fourteen month spell, Hulk Hogan had been the WWF’s alpha dog. From January 23, 1984 to April 1, 1990, Hogan was champion the entire time, save for Randy Savage’s yearlong reign, and the two month vacancy in 1988 that preceded it.
So, who would McMahon strap the rocket to?
The answer seemed apparent at the 1990 Royal Rumble, when Hogan was part of a maelstrom of force that cleared the ring of all but one other man.
That man was WWF’s Intercontinental Champion, The Ultimate Warrior.
Hogan and Warrior came nose to nose, as the crowd in Orlando lost its collective mind. Tony Schiavone on commentary blew a verbal gasket. Even Jesse Ventura, a known detractor of both men, was sucked into the colossal showdown.
Time stood still as the two men barged into one another, neither men yielding to the others attack. After both men floored each other with a double clothesline, the action died down, but the seed was planted into McMahon’s brain. The energy in the arena when Hogan and Warrior had their version of “High Noon” was like nothing yet seen in the annals of WWF.
The fans were buying Warrior as being on Hogan’s level, and, in 1990, Warrior’s fan base was on the rise, whereas Hogan’s was declining.
That fact made these two men equals in the fans’ eyes.
Hogan vs. Warrior it was.
Hogan and Warrior was etched in stone to be the main course of a fourteen dish dinner at Toronto’s SkyDome. The WWF knew that filling the venue would be a challenge, with wrestling’s overall popularity waning since the Rock n Wrestling era, and knew that Hogan and Warrior was the best bet to bring in a capacity crowd.
To sweeten the pot, to the vast community of fans that assumed Warrior would merely be challenging for the WWF Championship, President Jack Tunney ruled that Warrior’s Intercontinental Title would also be in the lurch. If the winner of this match was to truly determine the best wrestler in the world, the winner should take all, and the loser left with nothing to call his own.
The match, now taglined “The Ultimate Challenge”, was preceded by weeks of back-and-forth interviews with Hogan and Warrior both making bizarre threats. For instance, Hogan commanded Warrior to die and be reborn a Hulkamaniac, whereas Warrior ordered Hogan to take control of an airplane, and “nose dive” his way into Parts Unknown.
While nothing the two men said was making an ounce of sense, their words didn’t deter the fans from wanting to see the epic clash take place.
While this would be enough of a selling point, the WWF had other offerings to fill out the remainder of the spectacular. The only other “official” title match of the afternoon would feature Demolition attempting to become three time WWF World Tag Team Champions by defeating the team that handily defeated them in the previous fall for them. The team in question was the Colossal Connection, comprised of Haku and the legendary Andre the Giant.
Elsewhere, Mr. Perfect was set to take on Brutus Beefcake, in a match that came to be at the Royal Rumble when Beefcake, wrestling Perfect’s second, The Genius, began to cut his hair during the match. Perfect hit the ring and brutalized Beefcake’s ribs with a folding chair as an act of vengeance. The implication in place was that Perfect felt he should have gotten a shot at Hogan’s WWF Championship at WrestleMania, and was taking his frustrations out on Hogan’s best friend.
In other storyline action, Dusty Rhodes and Macho King Randy Savage had run afoul of each other after their respective women company, Sapphire and Queen Sherri respectively, got physical with each other at the 1990 Royal Rumble. Rhodes then threw Savage out of the Rumble later in the night to set up the very first Mixed Tag Team match in WrestleMania history. On top of this, Rhodes promised a “secret weapon” that would surely infuriate Savage.
Certainly not least, Jake Roberts had stolen the Million Dollar Title from Ted Dibiase, and was holding it hostage in his snake Damian’s bag. Why? Dibiase had put Roberts out for six months with a neck injury nearly one year earlier, and Roberts was using his act of theft to goad Dibiase into stepping into the ring with him, with the belt on the line between them.
For the final time, Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura would call the action together. Robert Goulet opened the show with a stirring rendition of “Oh Canada”. Gossipist Rona Barrett and comedian Steve Allen were on hand, as were Rhythm and Blues to sing their new song.
Rick Martel def. Koko B Ware in 3:51
(One held the AWA Title for well over a year; the other is a WWE Hall of Famer. But watching this match, you’d never know it)
WWF World Tag Team: Demolition def. Colossal Connection in 9:30 to win the belts
(Bigger than Demolition winning was Andre the Giant getting his last hurrah, turning on Heenan and Haku, and leaving in the motorized ring cart to cheers, while waving to the people. There has never been a giant quite like Andre since, and there never will be)
Earthquake def. Hercules in 4:52
(Appropriate timing: Andre takes his curtain call, and Earthquake comes in as the new monster, establishing himself as the next big threat to the babyface side of the roster)
Brutus Beefcake def. Mr. Perfect in 7:48
(A minor upset at the time, as Perfect was somewhat infallible, but more importantly, it would be Beefcake’s last major win for a very long time)
Rowdy Roddy Piper fought Bad News Brown to a double count out in 6:48
(Let’s just say Al Jolson half-liked Piper’s performance)
The Hart Foundation def. The Bolsheviks in 19 seconds
(If Bret Hart has a copy of his check from this show, he should frame it as an immortalization what a great world we live in)
The Barbarian def. Tito Santana in 4:33
(One of the sickest endings in WrestleMania history. Watch Tito’s head on the clothesline if you’ve never seen it)
Mixed Tag Match: Dusty Rhodes/Sapphire def. Macho King Randy Savage/Queen Sherri in 7:52
(Two things saved it: one was Miss Elizabeth being the “secret weapon” and the other was Jesse Ventura dogging this thing on commentary. I was going to miss The Body)
The Orient Express def. The Rockers by count out in 7:38
(Good match, but things would get far better when Kato replaced Sato. Check out the 1991 Royal Rumble sometime for proof)
Hacksaw Jim Duggan def. Dino Bravo in 4:15
(Gorilla Monsoon claimed before the match that Earthquake, in Bravo’s corner, didn’t have a manager’s license and explained “because he’s a wrestler, and you can’t hold both licenses.” Monsoon could explain anything. If he was still alive, TNA could hire him to explain the booking)
Million Dollar Championship: Ted Dibiase def. Jake Roberts by count out in 11:50
(You know a resthold is going long when the crowd breaks out “the wave”. You know it’s going extra long when the cameras pan to “the wave” instead of watching the match. Decent bout either way)
Big Boss Man def. Akeem in 1:49
(THE TWIN TOWERS EXPLODE!)
Ravishing Rick Rude def. Superfly Jimmy Snuka in 3:59
(Steve Allen was on commentary for some reason, and remarked that his wife has Snuka’s tights as underwear. I have nothing to add to the prior statement)
(An amazing effort from both men, both of whom told a great story without gimmicks and stunts. Even with Warrior out of breath, Hogan proved to be a solid technician and general by leading his opponent through the wringer without flaw. For that, Hogan deserves more credit than he gets)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
Warrior’s win was an upset unto itself, because it marked the first time Hogan had been pinned clearly since 1981, when Hulk was a heel and lost to Tony Atlas. While the sheer visual of Hogan taking the loss without having an out should have catapulted Warrior into permanent stardom, as well as being the new leader of the WWF, business didn’t exactly soar with him as champion, as compared to Hogan’s glory days.
Ignoring that fact for a moment, consider the guts that it took for McMahon to go with that ending. Although in Bret Hart’s memoir, “Hitman”, Hart indicates that McMahon was developing a love/hate relationship with Hogan at that point, McMahon himself may have had reservations about letting his cash cow of six years take a clean loss to a hopeful new savior.
WrestleMania VI is seldom remembered for anything but the main event. Moments like Andre’s final match, Demolition’s final tag team title win, Mr. Perfect’s first major loss, and Jesse Ventura’s last PPV before leaving, are diminished by the light of Hogan and Warrior’s epic.
WrestleMania VI is a one match show, as intended, and that one match shows that Vince McMahon will take chances.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.