Thursday, May 11, 2017
The inaugural WrestleMania is the first Pay-Per-View listed on the WWE Network but it was actually on closed-circuit television. This show, over seven months later, was actually the first WWE Pay-Per-View in history. It features a one night tournament, though not much is on the line. No title shots or anything like that, just a Cadillac goes to the victor. I don’t know if the show will be great, but it is certainly historic.
Vince McMahon introduces the show before walking over to a big board. The board has the 16 competitors in the tournament. Lord Alfred Hayes and some random blonde lady are there. They run down the brackets, though the blonde woman does more pointing than anything else. They cut to clips of Mean Gene hosting the drawings earlier. Ricky Steamboat pulls British Bulldog, Miss Elizabeth pulls Ivan Putski for Macho Man and Mr. Fuji takes Tito Santana for Don Muraco. Commentary consists of Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura.
It always amuses me to see Adrian Adonis in this gimmick, knowing that he was also “Adorable.” Gorilla instantly puts this over as the “most prestigious wrestling tournament in the world.” Kirchner gets the early upper hand and the ring sounds pretty weird. Adonis nails a suplex to turn it around, slowing down the Corporal. Kirchner goes for a suplex of his own, but Adonis lands on him with a strange DDT variation and scores the win.
Too short to really be anything of note. I expect that will be the theme of the night. It wasn’t a good start though.
Nikolai does the Russian national anthem gimmick to the disdain of the crowd. Dynamite Kid climbs to the top and hits a missile dropkick right at the bell. He pins and nearly instantly wins.
I honestly wonder how many times that happened to Nikolai Volkoff in his career. The crowd popped hard.
There are a fair amount of interviews in between the matches. I won’t be recapping them all. So far, Adrian Adonis had a decent one and Macho Man was…well, the Macho Man.
Savage gets taken down by Putski a few times due to the power disadvantage. Ventura keeps calling Ivan “Pudusky” or something like that. Putski puts the boots to Savage in the corner until Savage trips him up. He rolls him up with feet on the ropes to advance.
I came away disappointed with this. Randy Savage is at the top of the list of guys I wanted to see in this tournament, so to see him almost do nothing here was a shame.
They get right into the action, countering each other and jockeying for position. Steamboat impressively bridges up and gets two on a backslide. Smith shows off the power with a gorilla press slam. Davey choose to wear Ricky down before trying a suplex. Steamboat counters into a stalling vertical of his own. Smith comes back with some dropkicks but then misses a charge and gets crotched on the top rope. He seems hurt, causing the official to call for the bell.
That was easily the most fun of the night. There was loads of potential for a really good match with more time. The finish was odd but it was most likely a work considering it ended around the time that all other matches were ending. Still, one of the better short matches you’ll find.
They start fast, exchanging right hands but JYD wins out, causing Sheki to beg for mercy. JYD misses a headbutt and ends up in the Accolade…er, Camel Clutch. JYD plays possum and goes limp so Sheik lets go. He gets up and headbutts him in the back, scoring the victory.
This was here. Nothing of note really happened and neither guy is among my favorite to watch.
Before the match, Terry Funk cuts a promo and says he doesn’t want to wrestle Moondog Spot. Moondog doesn’t want to wrestle him either, so Funk says they should both walk out and take a draw. They go to leave and Funk attacks Spot in the aisle. However, Spot comes back and beats him into the ring, stealing this via countout.
I figured we’d get another super quick match. Fun moment for the crowd, but can’t really be rated.
Gorilla Monsoon claims this match would be a main event anywhere in the world. Don Muraco beats on Tito with some power stuff in the early stages. Tito gets the first near fall with a flying cross body, but has his momentum stopped quickly. He quickly swings that and starts working the arm to wear down his powerful opponent. It’s always fun to hear Jesse call Tito “Chico”. Muraco hits a powerslam for three and the bell rings. Then, all of a sudden, Tito pulls Muraco into a small package to win.
That was a fine little match until that awful finish. I’m okay with Tito getting his feet on the ropes, but they gave no warning to Muraco and the bell rang, so it came off as very unfair.
These two were on the same side at WrestleMania earlier in the year. Orndorff instantly goes after the injured arm and the crowd is pumped. Orndorff really focuses on it, while commentary debates the legitimacy of the injury. Orton gets his foot up and gets in the driver’s seat. He clubs away on Orndorff in the corner. Orton works a headscissors to wear down Orndorff. Orndorff rallies, causing Orton to take a breather outside. Back inside, Orton levels him with the cast. He goes for a pin but the bell rings.
Another fine match that had a hot crowd. This was enjoyable and protected both guys, while being relatively fun. The finish wasn’t exciting but it was still good fun.
Lord Alfred Hayes hits on the blonde as Vince McMahon goes up to discuss the tournament so far with him. Terry Funk shows up to complain about getting robbed.
Dynamite Kid has an obvious speed advantage. Add in his first match only going about six seconds and he is clearly in better positioning here. He starts hot, sending Adonis to regroup outside. Once back in, Adonis starts using his strength. When Ventura realizes what the next match is, he leaves to go talk strategy with Macho Man. Adonis keeps the pace slow until Dynamite Kid nails an impressive gutwrench suplex. Adonis then applies an ugly Sharpshooter. Dynamite Kid gets free and goes into a flurry, ending with a second rope knee for two. Jimmy Hart distracts the Kid, allowing Adonis to roll him up for two. Dynamite Kid kicks out, sending Adonis into Hart. He just then pins Adonis to advance.
A solid match here. This was a good mix of Kid’s speed and Adonis’ strength. Dynamite Kid was doing things that wouldn’t become the norm for a long time.
Oh, snap. In less than two years, these two would go on to have arguably the greatest Intercontinental Title match in history. Savage gets in Ricky’s face, hides behind Elizabeth and then attacks. Steamboat kicks his ass and sends him outside. They fight out there for a second before Savage goes on the offensive inside. Steamboat turns the tide only to eat a back suplex. Savage goes up top for a double axe handle but Steamboat catches him with a right hand on the gut. He hits a suplex and signals that he’s going up top. Savage avoids Steamboat before getting a mysterious weapon out of his tights and nails Steamboat with it to steal this.
You could tell that there was something great with more time between these two. This was a good back and forth despite being short and was my favorite thing on the show so far.
JYD attacks quickly and nails a big headbutt before the referee even gets in the ring. JYD counts his own win and walks out. Somehow, that’s considered official.
Well that was something.
The commentators are very excited at the prospect of this encounter. With both men being faces, they start with a lengthy feeling out process, avoiding striking each other. Ventura and Monsoon discuss the possibility of either guy going to underhanded tactics. Orndorff because he’s done it in his past and Tito because Bobby Heenan has a $50,000 bounty on Paul’s head. Tito has a bad leg that starts to affect him. Orndorff hangs back to give him a breather, but then goes after the leg. They continue to work the mat until they fall outside. Out there, things get more physical, leading to a double countout.
Most of the match was worked on the mat, which isn’t the most exciting style, but it made sense here. They slowly built to them getting more physical before the finish. Fine stuff overall.
Piper is quick to attack and the crowd is pretty hot for this. This was basically the money match in the company at the time. Seeing Hogan in white trunks is still odd. Hogan turns it around with some offense but Piper is quick to move back to the driver’s seat. Hogan’s selling is pretty odd. He catches Piper in a bearhug but Piper pokes him in the eye to break it. He tries a sleeper but both men fall outside to break it. Some fans throw garbage at Piper. Hogan starts to Hulk up outside. The ref takes a bump so Piper grabs a steel chair and delivers a WEAK shot. They fight over the chair until Bob Orton runs in for the DQ.
The crowd was very hot for that, making it better than it actually was. I expected the unclean finish because of the era. Like a lot of things tonight, this was fine until the finish.
Paul Orndorff runs in to help Hulk Hogan and they run off Roddy Piper and Bob Orton.
Well this is interesting. Kid frustrates Savage by outworking him on the mat, causing Savage to take a powder. They lock up and Savage uses a dirty right hand to take control. Their back and forth sees them get stuck in the ropes. Kid tries a sunset flip, but Savage uses the staple of all fat wrestlers and just sits on him. They do the classic double clothesline spot and both men are down. Dynamite Kid hits a top rope superplex, but the wise Randy Savage pulls him into a small package to make the finals.
I really wish we’d gotten a legit match between these two that lasted longer. This was still a blast for the time it lasted and actually featured a straight finish.
They waste a ton of time discussing a contest to win a Rolls Royce. They have like four or five different guys talk about it but they all basically say the same thing.
They’re selling how worn out and hurt Macho Man is right from his entrance. When the match begins he stalls a ton. He gets back inside, is overpowered a few times and looks overmatched. JYD does a bearhug to give us more downtime, then continues to focus on the back. Savage hits a clothesline and then a double axe handle to the outside. Savage continues the attack outside but misses his next axe handle attempt. JYD starts doing his signature headbutts, which Savage oversells hard. JYD backdrops Savage over the top to win by countout.
What a lackluster way to end a tournament. Randy Savage should have won. If they wanted to send the fans home happy, they could have had Hogan/Piper close things. Anyway, this was one of the weaker matches of the tournament for sure.
Jesse Ventura hops in the ring to protest the win since Savage wrestled an extra match. It goes nowhere.
Overall: At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a show that I would recommend. A ton of matches, some of which were either bad or too short to rate, doesn’t usually equate to a decent rating. However, the fact that there were so many matches allowed the show to move along quickly and most things didn’t overstay their welcome. There were some good ones in there, mainly involving Steamboat, Dynamite Kid and Savage. Add in the fact that this is the first PPV ever and the history factor makes this a welcome watch. Up next for will be !