WWE | Pro Wrestling

WrestleMania IV: Oh Yeah, This Show Takes Forever!

-You know the drill: the Olevia television, the iced tea, the comfy sofa, and a copy of WWE WrestleMania IV, emanating a mere 45 minutes from my residence, at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on March 27, 1988. I once had to pay $35 to park at the Trump Plaza just to stroll on the boardwalk for three hours with my ex. Lesson learned: the Ocean City Boardwalk is better. Hey Donald, call me when you get a Mack and Mancos in AC. If you didn’t understand that last sentence, bear with me, because all of my friends just cheered.

-Nice opening bit where the WrestleMania logo is affixed to a slot machine. Had this show taken place during Jon Corzine’s term as Governor, there would have been an”OUT OF SERVICE” sign on the machine.

-Here to sing”America the Beautiful”, the oft-forgotten Gladys Knight. No Pips? Was their appearance fee THAT high? Good rendition from Gladys, as it’s three in a row in the”great” column.

-Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura welcome us to the show, where the big ticket is the fourteen man elimination tournament for the vacant WWF World Title. Long story short: Hogan lost the belt two months prior to Andre the Giant under dubious circumstances involving a cloned (seriously) referee. Andre then surrendered the title to Ted Dibiase, and President Jack Tunney declared the transaction invalid, vacating the belt, and putting it up in a one night tournament. In other words, if you have any caffeine pills, take em now. Just don’t wind up like Jessie Spano.

-YES! Bob Uecker’s here to help commentate for the opening battle royal! The only other old, leather-faced geezer I get this excited for is Pat Summerall, and that’s because he could broadcast an entire NFL game while completely drunk, and nobody ever noticed. The man is without rival.

-Anyone else ever make the connection that Uecker and Ventura were both in Major League II? They were also the only funny parts of the movie. I refuse to dignify Rube Baker with further comment.

-So it’s a 20 man battle royal where the winner gets a trophy with a nameplate that reads”Brunswick Lanes Third Place Winner Fall 1985″. Howard Finkel makes his fourth appearance as he introduces the competitors. Funny how Harley Race is in the battle royal and not in the tournament. They could have jobbed Race to someone in 16 seconds and have Monsoon declare”Just because you were a World Champion elsewhere doesn’t mean you’re any good”. This is probably one of Vince’s biggest regrets.

-Nothing of note, except for George Steele spending the entire match on the floor. That’s how every Steele match should go. Uecker and Ventura make a joke about Vanna White having”Great Taste”, but being”Less Filling”. No wonder so many wrestling fans my age grew up to be sexual deviants. Myself not included, obviously….

-Paul Roma tosses Danny Davis to get the biggest pop he’d ever hear in his career. Why didn’t they have Race and Roma go at it? Roma said he’s a better Horseman than Ric Flair, so logically, wouldn’t Race want to tangle with the big cheese?

-So the final three are Bret Hart, Bad News Brown, and Junkyard Dog. STAMPEDE! Go Stu’s Crew! They should have switched to just the hard camera for this final sequence for more of a”Stampede” feel. Also, they should have all given each other low blows, in honor of Bruce Hart.

-So Dog gets tossed, and then News turns on Bret to eliminate him and win the bowling trophy. Uecker on News’ swerve:”I THOUGHT THESE GUYS WERE FRIENDS?!”. I’m gonna go back and time and give Uecker a copy of Bret’s memoirs. Also, Bret smashes the trophy to kick off his face turn that would indirectly lead WWF into the Attitude era. Funny how life works. Also of note, when Bret chucks the trophy, guess who one of the”ring boys” in the aisleway is? TONY CHIMEL! Pre-triple chin, of course.

-Next, it’s the first tournament match, as Ted Dibiase (the one with personality) takes on his former Mid South running buddy Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Duggan was so much better without music, letting the crowd just yell”HOOOOOOOO” as he marched to the ring. As for Dibiase, umm, can we just dub in”Million Dollar Rap” to his earlier matches? I defy you to name a better theme song in the annals of wrestling history.

-Jesse says”Only the winners advance forward”. Never again did Jesse take commentary advice from Joe Theismann.

-The match is just standard affair, because I’m distracted by a suit-wearing Andre the Giant, who’s in Dibiase’s corner. I love the fact that Dibiase had endless wealth, and was now buying Andre his wardrobe in the storyline, yet they could never seem to find clothes that didn’t look like they came from some fifth rate Big and Tall shop. Also, when Andre died, who got the hand-me-downs? I’m hoping it was Eddy Curry.

-Dibiase ends Duggan’s night with a kneelift and fistdrop. I guess nobody told Dibiase and Duggan that this wasn’t Survivor Series.

-Mean Gene conducts an interview with Brutus Beefcake and exclaims”What a package!”. Hey look, the joke wrote itself!

-The next first rounder is Dino Bravo facing Don Muraco. Muraco’s manager at this point is Superstar Billy Graham, who is hobbled from his steroid use. Muraco has to turn around at one point to find Graham, who is 15 feet behind him. I’ll admit, I laughed. I’m evil.

-Monsoon notes that Muraco”Didn’t look this good when he was Intercontinental Champion”. Must not make obvious joke, must not make obvious joke….

-This is a rather dull match, but I would like to point out that Muraco tried some kinda move off the middle rope and botched it. It was like a pump splash into an elbow, but ended up landing awkwardly in a non-move. It’s like CHIKARA without the Kabuki outfits and bad production value.

-Random fun: any show before 1997 where somebody gets caught in a submission hold and taps their hands on the mat repeatedly, which, at the time, DIDN’T signal a submission. It’s fun to go”he tapped, it’s over”, especially if it’s the first 2 minutes of a World Title match. Yes, I am easily amused.

-We get a DQ finish when Bravo pulls the referee in the path of a charging Muraco. The ref in question? Jimmy Korderas with a full head of hair. Looks like Corey Feldman. Anyway, Dibiase vs. Muraco in the quarterfinals it is.

-Since this show sucks, and I’m reviewing it on President’s Day, lemme give a shout out to the greatest President ever, Mr. Jack Tunney. It is my decision that no one governed the WWF better. Thank you.

-The way Uecker is stalking Vanna White, you’d think there’d be a Lifetime movie based on it. I love that Uecker just rambles and Jimmy Hart and Honky Tonk Man have to cut him off. I love production gaffes.

-FINALLY, a silver lining: Ricky Steamboat and Greg Valentine in the next first round match. It’s like getting Rey Mysterio and Dean Malenko on a crappy WCW show. Steamboat brings his son out with him, and we also see Steamboat’s wife Bonnie, who Ric Flair had many bad things to say about. Probably because she wouldn’t ride Space Mountain at his insistence. Who would have ever guessed that Steamboat’s kid would grow up to be the greatest speedskater in the history of time? What do you MEAN that’s not Apolo Anton Ohno?

-Steamboat armdrag! Won’t see another one on the tour til WM25.

-Oooh, a Steamboat blown spot as he mistimes a roll-up. See, they DO exist!

-Valentine never gets enough credit. He may not have had the pizzazz that Steamboat and others possessed, but he was the perfect opponent for any babyface. Kind of a bland, more grounded Chris Jericho. How many atrocious matches did Valentine have? Exactly.

-AWESOME double chop by Steamboat that gets awws from the crowd, with a great timber-fall from Valentine. Great wrestling isn’t about complicated spots; it’s about back-and-forth action that’s exciting, regardless of the moves being used. Steamboat’s a God and he never used complicated moves, other than the skin-the-cat. Right? Right.

-Valentine wins on a cross body reversal, thus robbing fans of a potential Steamboat-Savage round two match. Had this happened today, the smark boards would blow up and cry conspiracy. Eh well. See ya Ricky, enjoy your NWA Title.

-Mean Gene interviews The British Bulldogs and Koko B Ware, along with Matilda the bulldog. In terms of personality, Matilda ranks third out of the five in the frame. You can fill in the rest.

-SLICK GETTIN’ DOWN! JIVE SOUL BRO! God, between that and Dibiase’s theme, I’m torn as to which is supreme.

-SAVAGE! ELIZABETH! You may notice a trend as to my personal bias.

-So Valentine gets the winner of Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Butch Reed, who was another wrestler that doesn’t get enough credit. Him and Ron Simmons, as Doom, were one of the best brawling tag teams ever, as the street fights with the Horsemen proved. I just feel the bookers weren’t ready to let two black men dominate on such a large scale, and that’s a shame. Doom was APA before APA, and a childhood favorite of this author.

-Reed was originally supposed to beat Steamboat in 1987 for the IC Title before Honky. Had that happened, he would have been the only champion that Slick ever managed. Can you believe it?

-As Reed dominates, I have to note that Elizabeth’s”look of concern” may be the hottest facial expression in the history, next to Mickie James’ crazy eyes, Trish Stratus’ arrogant smile, and Rico’s kissy face. Er, wait….

-Savage catches Reed being lackadaisical, slams him off the top, and lands the big elbow to win. Match served its purpose, but was nothing special. And you know, nothing wrong with that.

-Uecker continues to be a lecher, as Heenan gets off his classic line about Uecker putting himself into the Baseball Hall of Fame via self-vote, and Haku cheeses on camera. Only Heenan could make Haku break character.

-Next, One Man Gang and Bam Bam Bigelow face off for a spot in the last quarterfinal. A quick shout-out to my best friend, and supporter of my writing, Mr. Rob Eagan, who is possibly Gang’s illegitimate son. I felt this was most appropriate place for the shout out.

-Bigelow busts out the John Belushi Fat-Man Cartwheel. If Bammer had a thin tag team partner, Vince could have made them into the Blues Brothers. Of course, needs a less talented brother to make the joke work.

-Bigelow takes a cheap count out to advance Gang. Poor Bam Bam Belushi. Looks like Dean Wormer really had it out for him.

-One of the few highlights of the show, as Hogan gets a priceless three minute promo where he threatens to break Atlantic City off of the coastline and save Donald Trump and his family from drowning, but only if Trump gives up his worldly possessions. Seriously, here’s the link. Just watch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77aLI1FOdXw

-I’m supposed to comment on this?

-Now for the most boring first round match by FAR, sadly between two of my favorite wrestlers, Ravishing Rick Rude and Jake the Snake Roberts. Long story short, it’s a fifteen minute draw, with about 137 seconds of excitement, and a”BORING” chant near the end. The only highlight is the portrait of Stephanie McMahon on the back of Rude’s tights. Ok, it’s not Stephanie, but if it was, you know Randy Savage would’ve asked for a pair.

-So in round 2, we have Hogan-Andre (both received byes), Dibiase-Muraco, Savage-Valentine, and One Man Gang with a bye. It’s like the ECWA, Super 8, but with names instead of workrate.

-Say what you will about Hogan’s crazed promo, but at least it wasn’t as bland as Vanna White’s discussion with Mean Gene. There’s a reason that she turns the letters on Wheel of Fortune and nothing more.

-For a non tournament breather, we have Ultimate Warrior and Hercules, because apparently, the fifteen minute trip to the merchandise stand wasn’t enough, so here’s another five minutes for the fans to get their hands on some Strike Force shirts, I guess.

-Ventura says that Warrior and Herc just don’t like each other. See, Herc’s just like everyone else in the locker room. This is before Warrior had any real skill or talent in terms of wrestling ability. Wait, lemme rephrase that…

-The match is so vanilla and bland that Monsoon and Ventura spend 45 seconds talking about Heenan’s lack of gambling prowess. You wouldn’t see that in Savage-Steamboat.

-Oh look, my favorite finish: the back suplex where the victim raises a shoulder and the attacker doesn’t! That only happened about 7,352 times during the 80’s, and it came to an end when Jack Tunney had that finish outlawed during a hearing in 1990. Which is why Tunney’s the best President ever. Warrior wins.

-Round two is underway, and it’s Hogan vs. Andre kicking it off. Weird to see these two squaring off in the middle of the show. Hogan saying”HELL NO!” to Dibiase’s offer to buy the WWF Title proves that not only did Stone Cold Steve Austin steal his WCW hairstyle from Hogan, but some of his catchphrases as well. He even has Hogan’s taste in fugly-yet-chesty blonde women.

-Hindsight being 20/20, given how cool Andre and Dibiase were together, I think JBL and Big Show could have been the New Mega Bucks and reigned supreme as Tag Team Champions. Maybe that’s what JeriShow was a nod to?

-The crowd’s lukewarm reaction to Hogan’s entrance should indicate that one night tournaments can be a drag. Especially when one of the matches is FIFTEEN MINUTES OF RESTHOLDS! When they say that wrestlers study tapes of past matches, I think I know what Randy Orton’s reference guide is.

-This is like their match from WrestleMania III, but with 70,000 less fans. And none of the heat. They’re rolling around with a chokehold as I’m having flashbacks to Royce Gracie’s UFC career.

-Standing choke! Andre’s got a varied attack. He can choke you while standing OR lying down.

-So a chair gets involved and both men get disqualified, which deflates the already tepid crowd. For a bonus, Hogan beats the crap out of Virgil in the aisle and recreates his slam on Andre. Hogan poses to celebrate. Celebrate what? Losing his chance to become champion again? I’m waffling here.

-Meanwhile, Savage and Liz (after a wardrobe change) cut a promo where Savage calls Hogan a”cheated man”. Sounds dangerously close to his later opinion of Hulk. Okerlund calls Liz’s smile an inspiration to Savage. Hey, if Liz smiled at me, I could probably will myself into anything. Except understanding why she fell in love with Lex Luger.

-Muraco/Dibiase time. Dibiase should have”Jesus Christ Superstar” as his theme these days. With the crowd already burnt out, they’re having difficulty getting them to come to life for these guys who have already competed in round one. Even Muraco can’t get the crowd behind him as he beats up Dibiase. This is turning into a snoozer.

-If this was any more paint-by-numbers, Dibiase would have a 1 on his chest and Muraco would have a 2. Yeah, it’s a lame joke, but this is a lame show. As Krusty the Klown says, I’m not busting out my A-List material for this.

-Hotshot ends it to give Dibiase the win and send him to the finals. As opposed to the WCW version of a hotshot, wherein everyone in 2000 was World Champion, except for Kaz Hayashi.

-Randy Savage becomes”Randy Salvage” as he and Valentine are next. Ventura can’t hear Monsoon over”the roar of the crowd”. Well, Jesse can lie like a politician, that’s for sure. Winner gets to try and carry One Man Gang in the semis. That’s like winning a hot dog eating contest and your prize is a hive full of bees.

-It’s never a good sign when Savage is the only remaining face left in the tournament, and the crowd’s not even rallying behind him during the heat segment. Jake Roberts not only ruins the lives of his family and supporters, but he ruins the spirit of the fans. I think Johnny Cash wrote”13″ about him.

-Savage cradles Valentine off of a Figure Four and FINALLY the crowd comes to life as Savage wins. He’s Randy SAVIOR! The Jesus beard and flowing robe have me convinced.

-Crap it’s Vanna. Where’s the mute button….

-Honky vs. Beefcake for the IC Title is up next, and Honky has Peggy Sue with him, which is a heavily costumed Sensational Sherri. Since this match sucks too, lemme take a moment and say this: Trish Stratus is regarded as the best female in the history of American wrestling, but Sherri, in my opinion, was just as great. She may not have had the overtoned fitness model look, but she took insane punishment from male wrestlers to get the crowd into it, and would sell for anyone. She worked harder than most of the men in her era and, all things told, was quite beautiful for someone who didn’t have a”superstar look”, and had quite the body as well. There may never be another woman in Sherri’s class again.

-On a lighter note, Ventura gives his annual shout out to his wife Terri, son Tyrel, and daughter Jade, and Monsoon repeats the names, leaving Jade out. Ventura quickly adds Jade, lest anyone think Monsoon is being insensitive toward mentally challenged kids. At this point, I’m looking for humor in just about anything.

-Honky’s selling wildly. Beefcake’s making crazed, googly-eyed faces. Crowd’s kinda into it. Yep.

-So it’s a DQ ending as Jimmy Hart whacks the ref with the megaphone while Beefcake has Honky in the sleeper. Jimmy gets a haircut to finally give the crowd something to eat up. Jimmy Hart was the male Sherri, for sure. By retaining his title, Honky would begin his tenth month as IC Champion. If the internet was big back then, there would have been rumblings that Honky was a politician from the smarks. You know it’s true.

-Then we get the famed interview where Andre strangles Uecker. Who made the better face: Uecker being choked, or Andre when he smiled as he was walking off camera? It’s a toss up.

-Up next, The Islanders and Bobby Heenan vs. The British Bulldogs and Koko B Ware. If anyone has a clear MP3 of The Islanders theme, send it my way. It’s like island meditation music. Heenan’s wearing an attack-dog trainer’s outfit to prevent a Matilda attack. Monsoon states that you”can’t bite through that material”, and I laugh, imagining Monsoon trying to chew on it before the show and then saying”Nope, it’s impossible”.

-This match is a carbon copy of the six man tag from the previous year with the Bulldogs and a cowardly non-wrestler heel (Heenan), except the crowd is in a coma. But a dog might bite Bobby Heenan! Don’t you want to be awake for that?

-Heenan pins Koko, and then Matilda rides his face. It’s not as dirty as it sounds. Then, just to try and wake the crowd up, Ventura poses up on the cross beam near the announce booth. The fans even chant”JESSE”, making him the #3 babyface on this show behind Hogan and Savage. Kinda sad, really.

-Savage is here to save us from dying of boredom! And Liz is quite the trucker pill. Mmm, Liz in glitter. Kelly Kelly who? Savage and Gang as the lone semi-final match, and I can see the light near the end of the tunnel.

-Monsoon mentions Gang sitting on Savage’s chest, and I realize that I was better off not having a dirty mind.

-Crowd is single handedly coming to life for Savage. Which is good, since Gang just got disqualified for using the cane on Savage. The post match ax-handle on Gang that made him land on Slick is still a classic moment.

-Java Monster, save my sanity….

-DEMOLITION! Crap, between their theme, Dibiase’s, and Slick’s, I’m mentally mapping out my”WWF Best MoFoing themes of all time” CD. We’re still years away from Heidenreich’s marching song, though.

-Know what theme DIDN’T make it to the CD? Strike Force’s theme. Even Kenny Loggins would be embarrassed to have recorded that. So the Strikers defend the Tag Team Titles against the Demos. The faces are two squeaky clean dudes with pompa-mullets, and the heels are face-painted brutes who threaten to knock your teeth out. This is before WWF was”market driven” if you couldn’t tell.

-Ventura’s too tired to argue with Monsoon, and even says so. See Vince? Your TALENT thinks the show is running long!

-The crowd’s only ecstatic when Santana and Martel nearly get their heads taken off. How in the Hell did it take Vince EIGHT MONTHS to turn Demolition face? In an era of Mad Max movies, the rise of bands like Metallica and Slayer, and general teenage rebellion and angst, is it any wonder that the fans fell in love with them?

-It’s a good, but bland, match, and it ends when Ax lays out Martel with Mr. Fuji’s cane, allowing Smash the pin and the titles to a noticeable pop. Here comes the Ax, here comes the Smash-er, he comes the prof-it, here comes the awe-someness….

-Be calm, my numbed buttocks. The end of the show is near.

-And now for the celebrities: Robin Leach (presenter of the belt), Uecker (ring announcer), and Vanna (lifeless hott-, I mean, timekeeper). Crap, I already made the”cast of Hollywood Squares” joke in the WrestleMania 2 rant. This is the debut of the”Winged Eagle” title that would last ten years, and then become the WWF Hardcore Title in 1998. Even funnier? A drunk fan accosting Bob Uecker in the aisleway and Uecker brushing him off. Good stuff.

-Dibiase has Andre with him for the tournament final, and Savage has Liz (in her fourth outfit). Between Liz and Vanna, Ventura says he’d pick Vanna because”To get Liz, you’d have to fight Savage”. That’s no lie, either.

-So the story is that Andre keeps interfering on Dibiase’s behalf to try and close out the Million Dollar Plan and get the belt for Dibiase. Savage keeps gaining control, and then Dibiase wrests it away when Andre keeps sticking his nose in. It comes to a head when Savage tries for an axe handle to the floor, and Andre stands over his prone boss. So Savage sends Liz to the locker room. For what exactly?

-Cut to a chinlock by Dibiase, and Liz returns with The Hulkster! Crowd pops huge for this development, possibly since the finish is coming.

-After Savage misses the big elbow, Dibiase hooks the Million Dollar Dream. However, Andre gets involved once too many, allowing Hogan to sneak in and whack Dibiase with a chair. One Savage Elbow later, and Macho Man Randy Savage captures his first WWF World Heavyweight Title! Liz and Randy cry real tears, both knowing that Savage earned it with his hard work and dedication alone. A bad show, but an apex moment for a man who, in my opinion, is the greatest wrestler of all time.

-Monsoon on Hogan, Savage, and Liz:”What a threesome!”. This brings an end to”Double Entendre Night”.

-CYNIC SAYS: Sixteen matches. Maybe 2 or 3 were any good. The main event was too short, but was the most memorable and historical for sure. I said before that every WrestleMania is recommended viewing, but make sure that you stock up on the stimulants before watching this show.

That said, OOOOOOH YEEEEEEAH! DIG IT!

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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