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WWE WrestleMania V: Oh, How It Drags

-Couch, Olevia, iced tea, copy of show. Anything missing? Oh, right, throw pillow. Back’s a little sore from carrying the burdens of WrestleMania IV. I was about five minutes away from calling Dr. Phil Astin and asking for something to help me bounce back.

-So It’s April 2, 1989, and we’ve returned to the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ. Did Vince develop some kind of gambling addiction from IV? The celebrities at this show should have been Pete Rose, Art Schichter, and Rick Tocchet.

-Monsoon and Ventura welcome us to the show, albeit informally, as we rush into America the Beautiful, as sung by at-the-time Women’s Champion Rockin’ Robin. Let’s just say that there’s a reason that she was never asked to do it again. There hasn’t been a single good rendition done by a white person thus far through five WrestleManias. On an unrelated note, did you know that Robin’s brother is Jake Roberts? That explains a couple of things.

-Also of note, apparently a young Lance Storm was in the crowd. I’ll do my best to look for him, since it’s the most airtime he’d ever see at WrestleMania.

-#5 for Finkel. Moving on.

-Up first , Hercules takes on King Haku. Haku is brought to the ring on a portable throne (not like a port-o-potty), carried by some barely pubescent ring boys, and led by road agent Terry Garvin. If you’ve never read “Sex, Lies, and Headlocks”, then you’ll never know why this situation is hilarious to me.

-The loose storyline here is that Bobby Heenan had once sold Hercules’ contract to Ted DiBiase, who proceeded to make Herc into a “slave”. So instead of facing DiBiase, Herc faces Haku, who is managed by Heenan. There’s no word on how Herc got himself “emancipated”. Maybe Jack Tunney freed him. Then that would mean that somebody would have to assassinate Tunney at the theater where “No Holds Barred” played, so….oh, forget it.

-Just a typical “power brawler” match, but Haku hits the greatest back breaker EVER at one point. Then he follows with one that may be one of the worst ever. See, Haku’s so awesome that he can hit both ends of any spectrum.

-I think we’re about due for another barefoot wrestler, now that I think of it. This needs to cross over into other sports. What could be more intimidating than an NFL lineman with no cleats? Nothing.

-Hercules scores the pin with a back suplex hold, and Haku becomes the first man in history to not raise the shoulder and get the pin himself. See? Haku’s a worker in flux. He does things you’d never expect, and he can also kill you with one hand. Sort of like an artistic illusionist from Hell.

-Jesse notes that it’s a “big win for the slave”. This is narrowly edged in insensitivity by the time that Roddy Piper and Bob Orton whipped Mr. T with a belt, and Ventura said that it was like “watching Roots 2”. Did any of his campaign contributions come from Robert Byrd?

-The Rockers get some interview time before their match with the Twin Towers, and Shawn’s sounding a little raspy there. The Atlantic City nightlife will do that to ya. By the way, as non-religious as I am, I would love to be present for when Shawn meets Saint Peter and Peter says “Yeah, you get into Heaven, but first we’re going to watch the tape of your life once God gets over here”. At the very least, I sense Shawn’s going to be twitching a lot.

-I’ll say it every time that I hear it: Jive Soul Bro makes me happy.

-So it’s the Rockers vs. the Towers in your classic underdog/big bully contest. Big Bossman is way overweight here, but not compared to Akeem, the former One Man Gang, whose gimmick is that he converted to being “black”. If Shawn and Vince die on the same day, Saint Peter can sit both of them down and have a double feature! Some parts will even intersect, and they can save time! But still, what are the odds, right?

-Shawn is just carrying the pace of this match, working quickly despite being hungover. I guess that was the big knock on Marty Jannetty. He could only work “decently” when he was hammered. Would you have ever guessed that ten years later, Bossman and Shawn would be allies in Vince McMahon’s corporation?

-Great moment alert: Slick, at ringside, gets annoyed with referee Joey Marella and yells “What we need is a black referee!” and causes Ventura to emit a stifled laugh under his breath. Wrestling was better when it wasn’t over scripted.

-Another great moment alert: The Rockers are double teaming Akeem and Ventura complains that the referee is doing nothing about it. Monsoon, always one to defend babyfaces no matter what, counters that perhaps Marella is checking to see where the Bossman was, when in fact Marella is standing there, watching the Rockers theoretically cheat. At least when Monsoon made an asinine statement, there was some modicum of comedic value. When Michael Cole does it, he’s just a colossal tool.

-After Akeem murders Shawn with a clothesline, we go into the finishing sequence that sees Shawn pinned with the 747 splash. Undertaker has a streak of wins, but Shawn has a streak of slugs that he’s made look good at WrestleMania. Next year: watch as Akio Sato doesn’t look out of place, thanks to the impeccable timing and ring generalship of the Heartbreak Kid!

-Poor Ted DiBiase. From the World Title finals to facing Brutus Beefcake in meaningless filler. I know wrestlers less interesting and less engaging who are given many bigger roles than this. Some of them are Ted’s own relatives.

-So DiBiase and Beefcake are stringing together a good exhibition of face and heel moves, but what’s the point? There’s zero storyline, and the crowd’s made up of suit wearing morons who are just there to be seen. Maybe Lance Storm can carry the crowd to a ***1/2 cheering performance.

-You know what would save this match? A double count out? I was just kidding, but the booking wasn’t. So we have no winner, and Beefcake goes after both men with his giant hedge clippers. Monsoon sees nothing wrong with this, calling it “extra curricular activities”. Monsoon also thinks that getting busted with cocaine at a Boston subway station is a “welcome diversion”.

-Earlier today, the Bushwhackers are interviewed during brunch with a sizable crowd gathered to watch them make pigs of themselves. Bad as that sounds, it’s sad that that’s more fans than AWA could draw at the end.

-Man, the Bushwhackers had the best fans: they would dress in their most slovenly attire and do the “arm bounce” dance while licking each other. Luke and Butch missed their calling as cult leaders.

-How bad is the match between the Bushwhackers and Fabulous Rougeau Brothers? Monsoon and Ventura actually have a debate about immigration. Talk about cutting edge! I hope Linda McMahon’s cribbing notes from this telecast. Benoit’s not on the show, so I’m sure the tape won’t be hard to find in Vince’s library. I just hope it’s not stuck against the inexplicably-sticky WBF tapes. Wait….ewww….

-While I appreciate Jacques and Raymond’s dorky heel mannerisms, it’s not enough to save things as the Whackers win in an awkward finish. Speaking of awkward, the winners lick Sean Mooney afterward, which I’m sure goes a long way in explaining why jumping to a Queens, NY news station a few years later wasn’t that hard of a decision for Mooney.

-“Mr. Perfect looks perfect!” exclaims Monsoon. Then Perfect stumbles during his entrance. Priceless.

-Mr. Perfect vs. the Slammy Award Winning Blue Blazer, aka Owen Hart. Creepy, isn’t it? Owen’s dead, having died in basically the same costume ten years later. Perfect’s dead, dying in 2003 of an overdose. And referee Tim White committed suicide at Armaged—wait, that was a storyline?

-In few words, best match of the night so far. Perfect gives Blazer plenty of offense, and Owen works in some nifty suplexes and pinning attempts. Perfect, however, was just on top of his game, knowing when to let the babyface dominate, and then knowing when to regain control himself, and look like an athletic God in doing so. If Jack Swagger didn’t come off as such an inbred yokel, he could do this gimmick just as well and ride it to the top.

-You know you’re a worthwhile wrestler when you’re working as a babyface and Jesse Ventura can’t even slag you. He hasn’t said one bad word about Owen during the entire bout. Come to think of it, he seemed to love the Hart Foundation, even as faces. Geez, Jesse, how bad DID Stu stretch you out?

-Perfect ends it with the Perfect-Plex. Stellar match, if short. Miss both men immensely. Sigh.

-Speaking of Ventura, here he is to wake the crowd up by posing. Posing….to AWAKEN the fans. Chris Masters, you’re doing it wrong.

-Earlier in the day, Mr. Fuji competed in WWF’s 5K run on the AC boardwalk. Can you imagine them trying this now? Who would compete in it? Not to slag WWE’s fanbase, but can the majority of them run up the street, let alone 5K? I’d give it a shot, provided that I get to wear Fuji’s Oddjob attire.

-More non-wrestling, except it’s Run DMC performing the “WrestleMania Rap”. I look forward twenty years from now to Kid Rock performing the “WrestleMania Crap”.

-So the WWF World Tag Team Titles are on the line in a 3 on 2 handicap match, as Demolition defend against the Powers of Pain and Mr Fuji. Fuji turned on the Demos, because um….he wanted to? Look, the man starred in Fuji Bandito! HE HAS IMMUNITY FROM EXPLAINING HIS NONSENSICAL ACTIONS! YOU HEAR ME? IMMUNITY!

-Speaking of immune, the Demos seem to be immune from getting this crowd to care. Maybe the 5K run sapped the fans’ energy. I mean watching it, not participating in it. It’s New Jersey, afterall.

-The heat segment, hypothetically, is supposed to be some unfair triple teams on Ax, but, given that the fans are as clueless as Jeremy Piven, the work is met with total silence. Let’s fast forward to the finish!

-Brrrrzzzzzttttbrzflfubflubflubflub DECAPITATION AND THE DEMOS OVERCOME THE ODDS! That was fun.

-Backstage, Macho Man Randy Savage screams at no one in particular and yells at an invisible Hogan. Then he asked the production crew if they were ready for him to “get into character”. Okay, I made the last part up, but you know that it’s within the realm of possibility.

-How far are Dino Bravo and Ronnie Garvin down on the WWF food chain? Jimmy Snuka made his return after a four year absence while both men stood in the ring, waiting to begin their match. It got a lukewarm reaction as well. In related news, it’s been 20 years since a WWFE PPV has been held in New Jersey, save for the Meadowlands. Thanks a lot, you silent heathens.

-Bravo wins in about 3 minutes with the side suplex. I didn’t leave out any major details, trust me. Oh, except for the crowd chanting “USA!” to show solidarity against Bravo. I’m sure Montreal native Ronnie Garvin was energized by the support of the fans.

-Why did Vince even sign the Brain Busters, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard? You know, other than to screw with NWA? Actually, never mind. They’re facing Strike Force, who need a boost of momentum after losing the tag belts one year earlier, Martel getting hurt, a lack of crowd reaction, the fact that they still have the cheesy Kenny Loggins-style music….actually, they need a lot right about now.

-At least this should be spirited. All four men are fine wrestlers, and, go figure, the wrestling is supreme. The only times Arn Anderson has had a bad match, the words “Renegade” and “Roma” would complete the sentence.

-Martel with a nice counter of Arn’s body scissors into the Boston Crab. Too bad that every time I see Martel in this era, I get the theme to Charles in Charge in my head. Force manages a pair of Figure Fours on the Busters and the crowd seems to be in awe. Wrest-ling?

-And now the story, as Santana overshoots a flying forearm and knocks Martel to the floor. This leads to Martel turning on Santana, kicking off a moderate heel run. Easiest way to get Rick to turn on you is say “My name is Tom Zenk and I won’t re-sign my deal for just any amount of money.”

-So Martel walks off and Santana eats the Spike-Driver to give the Busters the win. Well, it woke me up.

-Ooops, it’s nap time again, as it’s the dreaded “Piper’s Pit” segment with a returning Rowdy Roddy Piper, Brother Love, and 1980’s TV host Morton Downey Jr, who is a cross between Glenn Beck and Jerry Springer. It runs 20 minutes and it ends with Downey taking a fire extinguisher to the face. This is one of those segments that makes you envy the truly vegetative. It was such a boring and heat less segment, that you just know that it had a profound effect on Lance Storm’s life.

-I believe that this was the beginning of the end of Piper’s “cool factor”, as he had degenerated into a disturbed self-parody from here, save for a few shining moments here and there. Piper went away for 2 years and came back a far different man. Ever see the movie The Astronaut’s Wife, where Johnny Depp is in space and loses contact with mission control for a couple minutes and then, after they recontact him, he seems a little bit off? Yeah, I never saw it either.

-Mega Powers video package, to remind you why you ordered the show in the first place.

-Now for a Hogan promo, where he claims Savage tried to put Elizabeth between them. Well, that certainly lends credence to Monsoon’s “What a threesome!” comment.

-Back to actual wrestling, also in the loosest sense of the word, as we have Jake Roberts taking on Andre the Giant, with Big John Studd as the guest referee. You know you’re in New Jersey when there’s a woman with mall hair dancing in the crowd to Studd’s music with an inebriated grin. I wonder where she dances at these days?

-Andre attacks early, ramming Roberts into a turnbuckle with no padding, leading Ventura and Monsoon to demand to know where the pad went. My guess: Pete Rose stole it, got Hogan and Savage to autograph it, and sold it to some mark out front just so he can build his credit line. Gambling is such a disease.

-Andre’s slothish offense is actually bringing the crowd to life. Then he gets his arms tied in the ropes. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to Andre, I’m certain.

-Studd gives Andre the business for not letting Jake back inside the ring, leading to the two men getting into it, while Ted DiBiase steals the bag with Damian, and Jake Roberts gives chase. Finally, Roberts chases Andre off with the snake (after regaining it) and gets the DQ win, after Andre attacked Studd. If this paragraph confuses you, then imagine being Monsoon and Ventura, who can’t figure out the actual reason Andre was DQed (the fact that he attacked the referee). It’s like a convoluted plot for the OC, except Andre can not only hold his liquor better than Mischa Barton, but he probably smells better too.

Fan interviewed by Mooney: “JAKE’S THE BEST, JAKE’S THE BEST, JAKE’S THE BEST!”. He’s pretty enthusiastic for being Jake’s hook-up.

-Sherri cuts a quick promo, where she rips Rockin’ Robin’s singing. Sherri would go on to sing Shawn Michaels’ theme music 3 years later. Yep.

-The Hart Foundation vs. Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine looks to be a saving grace. It’s funny that in Bret’s book, he criticizes Honky’s abilities, saying his strikes “couldn’t break an egg”. Nowadays, Bret swings at Vince McMahon with no percision or coordination. So in other words, Honky Tonk Man wrestles like a stroke victim. Certainly adds new perspective.

-As Honky and the Hammer work over Bret, Ventura and Monsoon discuss Honky’s IC Title reign, where Gorilla mentions that he had the gold longer than Pat Patterson, and Jesse adds “No kidding, what a relic he was”. Easy there, Jesse, or Pat won’t let you share his haberdasher anymore.

-For those that say that Neidhart was just a slug who was carried by Bret, watch him lay down some dropkicks and then make your claim again. Plus, he had wide hips, and that bade well for his daughter. Wide hips on a girl? Gooooooooood.

-A megaphone shot ends it, as Bret whacks Honky across the….arm? That’s a pretty lethal swing. Maybe Congress should step in and investigate bicep concussions in wrestling.

-Finally, a notable match, as The Ultimate Warrior defends the IC title against Ravishing Rick Rude. The whole deal started when Rude jumped Warrior as the two men were having a posedown at the 1989 Royal Rumble. That’s what we need more of on PPV, pose downs. There’s your replacement for Survivor Series: Super-Flex! A night of posedowns! Think of the celebrities you could have on hand: Mark McGwire, Floyd Landis, Roger Clemens, that uhh….chick from East Germany who became a dude….

-Of note: As Rude comes out, a semi-hot babe in the crowd with the GREATEST mall hair ever. Mall hair can’t be taught. Either you have it, or you don’t. I hope the cameras find Lance Storm. Can you imagine a mall perm with a widow’s peak and a rat tail in back? Lance wouldn’t have even needed to cut promos with that hair; he could have gotten over on his appearance alone. Like an out of touch Goldberg.

-Funny bit to open the match, as Rude tries to jump Warrior beforehand with a kneelift and ends up smashing his knee into the IC Title around his waist. As tough as Rude was, he still had no problem playing a fool in the ring. Just don’t confuse character Rude with out-of-character Rude. PN News did and he still can’t see straight.

-When does Rick Rude EVER hit a missle dropkick? He did here. Great back and forth stuff.

-Monsoon gets testy because Heenan has his hands in his jacket pockets, believing that he may be going for a weapon. Ventura tries to downplay it, saying he’s just counting his chips. Monsoon wants to know if Heenan thinks there’s a coke machine at ringside. Now THERE’S a funny concept: a tag team loses a match because the partner on the apron went to get a Sprite, and his buddy couldn’t tag out and thus fell victim to the finish.

-Rude takes over, but can’t swivel his hips due to the pain inflicted upon him. We need more comedic selling in wrestling, especially when it ties into the psychology. Fans notice these things. If you notice, the crowd’s actually alive for this one.

-Rude gets the tainted pin after Heenan hooks Warrior’s foot during a suplex attempt, and Ravishing Rick gets his only WWF gold. A time traveling smark went back to 1989 and watched this match, saying this: “So Rude, the better wrestler, has to have his manager help him beat a muscle head with 2 moves? Afterward, they don’t even let Rude celebrate because the focus is on Warrior!”. Don’t worry, I just gave him two bags of Smartfood white cheddar popcorn, so that should hold him for 20 minutes.

-Ventura on Heenan’s cheating: “Vintage Heenan!”. Dammit, Jesse, you just gave Cole carte blanche!

-Just to drag this show out some more, here’s Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Bad News Brown in a battle of “Two men who haven’t had a great match since at least 1986”. It’s just strictly fodder, though Duggan yelling “GET OFF MY @$$” to Tim White livens the fans a bit. Just slightly. Lance is in the crowd thinking “You know, wait ten years, and this guy won’t be chanting USA anymore. He’ll convert to being Canadian and we’ll dominate a dying promotion! All 27 people watching will hate us!”

-Ventura says “If either man tries a hold, they might win it”. Sage advice. Sadly, a chair and 2X4 get involved and it’s a double DQ. Then we get the infamous image of Duggan’s snot-riddled mustache. Classy.

-Red Rooster promo. Terry Taylor was the Chris Harris of his era: decent wrestler, bad gimmick, laughingstock of the biz, but nobody feels bad.

-Rooster vs. Bobby Heenan and it’s over in 30 seconds as Rooster wins. Heenan had the Brooklyn Brawler with him, which is more Mania airtime than Lance Storm ever had. And thus brings “Let’s make fun of Lance Storm for being bland and underutilized” time to an end. On an up note, Rooster’s undefeated at WrestleMania, much like Undertaker. You can see the similarities.

-And now, the big finish.

-Mmm….Elizabeth. She’s so cute when she’s concerned.

-Why does Savage have to make his entrance first? He’s the champ! Stupid face/heel designations. Liz is out second to zero pop. Did watching the 5K kill everyone’s libido?

-There’s a recurring theme through this match that I will address here, rather than keep coming back to it: Although Jesse Ventura plays a devil’s advocate heel who points out babyface hypocrisy and praises the villains, he REALLY goes out of his way to slag Hogan in this match, going far beyond any burial job that he’s ever done. In his book “I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed”, Ventura was appalled that Hogan was paid over a million dollars for this show. To this I say: if Hogan wasn’t on this show, and had never worked in wrestling, then NO ONE would know who Jesse Ventura is. Hogan, while a politician with a massive ego, made everyone richer just by being there. Ventura needs to shut up once in a while and realize that his fame came vicariously through the very man he’s clearly jealous of. Ventura’s my favorite color commentator of all time, but, seriously, he needs to shut the Hell up.

-Lemme climb off my high horse now….

-Both men have worked this crowd into a frenzy with the “cat and mouse” game as Jesse calls it. GREAT heat spot as Savage pulls the neutral Liz in his way of a potential Hogan punch. Only months earlier, he was a virtuous and hard working hero who had the fans screaming for him. Is there anyone who can seamlessly play hero and villain like him? I think not.

-The one-upsmanship leads to Hogan getting busted open, and Savage using little heel tricks like going to the eyes and choking him with wrist tape to keep the advantage. Savage was the first opponent outside of Andre that made you think that he had a legit chance of beating the Hulkster.

-In a moment made famous by the old WWF WrestleMania NES commercial, Hogan bodyslams Savage over the top and the brawl continues outside, leading to Liz getting emotionally involved, and ultimately ejected. This is the first match of the night that really feels like it’s between two men who hate each other, and want each other dead. It’s probably not far off, either.

-Savage lands the Savage Elbow and gets 2 off of it, and this, of course, leads to the Hogan finish and his second World Title. GREAT match, and an all time favorite of mine, even though I’m a Savage loyalist. Great end to a dragging show.

-CYNIC SAYS: Going through Hell to get to Heaven. WrestleMania V sapped my energy, though many matches were “solid”, though it was the main event that made it all worthwhile. Soon, Vince cut back on the matches and length, for the better of course. But still, check out the two singles titles matches if you want to see some classics.

Coming soon: a whole new decade.

When he isn’t watching WWE, TNA, or his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, Justin Henry can be found writing. It is his passion as well as his goal in life to become a well-regarded (as well as well-paid) columnist or author. Subscribe to The Cynical Examination, his wrestling blog, at http://www.facebook.com.

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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