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WrestleMania II – A Portrait in Wrestling History

WrestleMania II
From The Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale NY, Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, IL, and The Sports Arena in Los Angeles, CA
April 7, 1986

The laughter of one year prior had largely subsided. Those who felt Vince McMahon had zero chance of succeeding with a closed-circuit venture called WrestleMania were no longer guffawing at the prospect of his failure, and the silence was filled with McMahon’s chuckles instead. The event was an overwhelming success that opened channels that allowed McMahon and the WWF to swim into the mainstream, and gain a new audience.

Success is a funny thing, because it can lead to two diametrically opposed reactions. One can either rest on their laurels, comfortable with the knowledge that reaching the mountain’s peak is enough to satisfy a man’s adventurous side for the rest of his days. On the other hand, a man can be dissatisfied with success, and begin looking for another mountain to climb.

[adinserter block=”1″]After wetting his feet in the pay per view market with Wrestling Classic the previous November, McMahon decided that WrestleMania’s next incarnation would have to, as he’d done with the first WrestleMania, do the unthinkable.

With the knowledge that he had wrestling’s biggest stars under his thumb (Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Rowdy Roddy Piper among others), McMahon split the promotion into three groups and put them in three different time zones, in three different arenas, with four matches in each, for wrestling’s first true “triple-cast”.

Nothing like it had ever been attempted in professional wrestling. After all, a pay per view emanating from three locations across America (Long Island, Chicago, and Los Angeles) sounded like a dream best described to a shrink. McMahon and company forged ahead, however. And so, on the only Monday WrestleMania that has ever taken place, twelve matches were scheduled over the course of a frenetically paced evening. Four titles would be decided, and celebrities galore would be on hand as well.

For the event to work, there would have to be a balance between the cities. Therefore, it was in McMahon’s best interest to come up with as even of a divide as possible.

For the New York WrestleMania 2 portion, McMahon was banking on Rowdy Roddy Piper and his big mouth to fill the Nassau Coliseum. His opponent would be a nemesis from one year prior, television and movie actor Mr. T. To stir the pot a few times more, the match would take place not with wrestling, but with boxing. Piper and Mr. T, for their parts, were filmed in heavy training for the bout. Each man would be flanked with luminaries from the boxing world: T was trained by famed heavyweight boxer “Smokin'” Joe Frazier, and Piper was given hall of fame boxing trainer Lou Duva.

Also on the New York card, “Macho Man” Randy Savage would defend the Intercontinental Title that he’d won two months prior against George “The Animal” Steele, who seemed more interested in Savage’s squeeze, the lovely Miss Elizabeth, than being champion.

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In Chicago, McMahon booked a match that was as timely as it was intriguing. Two months removed from the Chicago Bears shuffling and crushing their way to winning Super Bowl XX, a battle royal was put together featuring two Bears (rookie defensive standout William “Refrigerator” Perry and offensive lineman Jimbo Covert) as well as other well-known players of the day (Harvey Martin, Bill Fralic, et al), and also featuring many famed wrestlers, including The Hart Foundation, Bruno Sammartino, the Iron Sheik, Big John Studd and, of course, wrestling’s battle royal king, Andre the Giant.

If that sea of oversized humanity wasn’t enough, Chicago would also be treated to the World Tag Team Titles being decided, as the Dream Team (Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake) would defend against The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid), who were seconded by the eclectic duo of Captain Lou Albano and heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne.

Out to Los Angeles, where the final third of the show would take place. Hulk Hogan’s name hasn’t come up yet, so it’s a safe bet that The Hulkster would be headlining this portion of the night. Hogan was paired up with monstrous Atlantic City villain King Kong Bundy, with the WWF Championship on the line. The stage was set several weeks prior, when Bundy injured Hogan’s ribs on Saturday Night’s Main Event with a serious of splashes. For the first time since becoming champion, Hogan had never looked so mortal.

Adding to these curiosities were the additional celebrities selected to be on hand. For one thing, every commentary team featured a female star to accompany the well known WWF male announcers. In New York, Vince McMahon worked alongside actress Susan St. James (wife of McMahon collaborator/NBC executive Dick Ebersol). Over in Chicago, Gorilla Monsoon and Mean Gene Okerlund worked with actress Cathy Lee Crosby. And perhaps the most unusual trio of voices belonged to the team in the City of Angels, as Jesse Ventura was tasked with carrying not only Lord Alfred Hayes, but also the “Mistress of the Night”, Elvira.

With three arenas, three cities, twelve matches, four championships to be decided, a boxing match, a battle royal, and a horde of celebrities, would the WWF thrive yet again?

Paul Orndorff went to a double count out with Don Muraco in 4:10
(One of the most bizarre matches in WrestleMania history: too short, bad ending, verbal promos inserted over the commentary, and Orndorff slanting his eyes to mock Mr. Fuji, Muraco’s manager. Let’s just move on)

-WWF Intercontinental: Macho Man Randy Savage def. George Steele in 5:10
(Have you ever seen a good George Steele match in your life? Jeez, even Savage couldn’t work a miracle here)

-Jake Roberts def. George Wells in 3:15
(Decent match, tempered only by Wells spitting up phlegm afterward, courtesy of Jake’s python choking him. Don’t watch this while eating oatmeal)

-Boxing Match: Mr. T def. Rowdy Roddy Piper by disqualification in round four (13:14 total)
(Fun while it lasted. Piper was the greatest heel of all time until Vince McMahon took his title in the late nineties. Wasn’t a great match or anything, but it’s worth a look just for laughs)

WWF Women’s: Fabulous Moolah def. Velvet McIntyre in 1:25
(For this, WWF let Wendi Richter get screwed and walk out. I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but Moolah might be the fakest “legend” in wrestling history)

Flag Match: Corporal Kirchner def. Nikolai Volkoff in 2:05
(I wonder if Vince regrets this outcome, knowing that Kirchner was going to wipe the locker room floor with him not long after)

Andre the Giant won a twenty man battle royal, last eliminating Bret Hart, in 9:13
(Refrigerator Perry wrestling, Bruno and Sheik going at it, Russ Francis wrestling in a wifebeater, Dan Spivey looking like a creepy Hogan clone, Jim Neidhart eliminating himself….this match had it all!)

WWF World Tag Team: The British Bulldogs def. The Dream Team in 13:03 to win the belts
(Outstanding match, which is to be expected from Dynamite, Smith, and Valentine, but even Beefcake brought the goods. Surprised nobody’s used that hammerlock throw that he did since)

Ricky Steamboat def. Hercules in 7:27
(Give Steamboat seven minutes, and he’ll give you seven minutes that don’t suck)

[adinserter block=”2″]Adorable Adrian Adonis def. Uncle Elmer in 3:01
(Give Uncle Elmer three minutes, and he’ll take ten years off your life)

The Funk Brothers def. Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog in 11:42
(An underrated WrestleMania classic; a wonderful mix of chaotic brawling and good tag team wrestling. Plus, there’s a table spot in the match, and it’s 1986. Check it out)

WWF World Heavyweight/Steel Cage Match: Hulk Hogan def. King Kong Bundy in 10:15
(Satisfying main event: Bundy bled, the cage exit spots were dramatic, and Bobby Heenan got beat up. Plus, Rick Schroeder was there for some reason)

Either by technical complexities or for aesthetic reasons, we’ve yet to have an event since that took place from even two separate locations (save for the final Nitro simulcast in 2001). While it was an interesting experiment to attempt the wrestling equivalent of a New Year’s eve special that gradually goes westward, it’s probably not something to try again, especially in this day and age.

Looking past that issue, over 40,000 combined fans attended the event, and, while the buyrate numbers don’t appear to be available for this event, the fact that WrestleMania III took place a year later should mean that the numbers were good enough, right?

WrestleMania II is not often regarded as a great show, by any means. But, then again, we do judge the event on modern standards. No, there was no true show-stealing ****1/2 classic, nor was there meant to be. Instead, the event did what it was supposed to do: showcase the larger than life stars on a big stage, highlighting the biggest feuds of the day, and settling a number of scores. The Rock n Wrestling machine kept rolling well after this show ended, so one could say that WrestleMania II was successful.

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.

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Justin Henry
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.


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