The Mania of March- The Spotlight On Wrestlemania 8

I’d like to start off by pointing out that as I got older, I grew an appreciation for Ric Flair. To me, he’s one of the best and most exciting wrestlers of all time. With that said, back in 1992, at the ripe old age of 5 years old…I hated Ric Flair. I didn’t understand what claim he had to the world title and I found his work boring. Back then my family family never watched WCW, so we didn’t understand why Flair was such a big deal.  We watched one WCW Clash of the Champions and we really didn’t enjoy it. To my family, WCW was just a lot of chops and didn’t have those larger than life characters that WWE had ( I realize how silly this is now by the way).   We all laughed when Flair came into the Rumble 92 at number 3 and thought, thank god he isn’t going to win. Of course, Flair would go on to win the Rumble, in arguably the greatest Rumbles of all time, but still we didn’t want Ric Flair as the world champion. At the time, we got our wrestling news from WWF magazine and from the Slammer, who wrote a quick article every Friday about the state of pro wrestling in the New York Daily News.  Thus it wasn’t like today where everyone knows Kevin Steen’s entire history and can’t wait for his first match.

I remember for Wrestlemania 8, they did a press conference where they would announce the new number one contender to face Flair at Wrestlemania for the title.  The likes of Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, Randy Savage & Roddy Piper were all in attendance and it was made to be a big deal. You can watch it below, if you’d like

I was pretty surprised when Savage got the call as Wrestlemania really was the Hulk Hogan show up to this poing & the Slammer was telling us WWF was going with Hogan and Flair so Savage seemed a bit out of left field.

As for this Mania itself,  I remember being really confused as to why the world title match didn’t go on last and looking back, I’m still a bit confused.   Savage and Flair had a natural story going into their match and it was a really great match, filled with a lot of passion that resulted in a clean finish and title win for Randy Savage.  To me this would have been a great way to end WrestleMania.

Instead the main event was Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice.  It ended up being the first time in WrestleMania history that the world champion wasn’t at least involved in the main event.  I want to say the reason was because it was being teased that the Hogan-Justice match was going to be Hogan’s last match in the WWF but that wasn’t true as Hulk returned to the WWF the next year.  As for this match itself, it ended in a disqualification which would then also make this the first time in wrestlemania history that the show ended without a clean finish.  Sid ended up getting disqualified when newcomer Papa Shango hit the ring and began attacking Hogan. This led to a really surprising and great return for the Ultimate Warrior who hadn’t be seen in about six months.  What’s funny is that I remember Warrior was a lot leaner and had a haircut so this led to the popular belief that the Ultimate Warrior had actually been killed and replaced by someone else, the belief was Kerry von Erich.

Looking back at this show, it’s really almost like a changing of the guard with that Wrestlemania.  Following this show, Hogan & Piper took time off.  Jake Roberts also left the WWF for several years following this show and by the next year’s WrestleMania, Flair and Warrior would be gone too.  Instead Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart were getting ready to take on more prominent roles as the years went on.

Before I close the door on WrestleMania 8, I’d like to mention a personal story from later on in 1992.

I have mentioned in the past how I’ve had a history of being afraid of some WWE superstars and storylines. Giant Gonzales, Doink The Clown & the time the Undertaker came alive in the casket and flew out of it at the Royal Rumble 1994, to name a few. Well, if there was one guy who I feared more than any other it was unquestionably Papa Shango. Shango didn’t only look creepy but he performed voodoo on his opponents and made strange black goo pour out of the Ultimate Warrior.

On September 11th, 1992, my father got he and I two tickets for the WWF at Madison Square Garden.  I couldn’t believe it as this was going to be one of my first live events, I didn’t even know what to do or think.  We jumped on the Long Island Rail Road from Bayside to MSG and it was a feeling like none other.  Everywhere  looked there were wrestling fans, everyone was wearing a shirt and holding a sign, it was great.  It would be the same feeling I would feel during every show I’d end up going to, but there was something that felt big time about MSG.

A we arrived to MSG, following an embarrassing moment where I took a leak in a potted plant at penn station, my dad told me he had a huge surprise for me.  Before he revealed that, however, my dad bought me a program which always showed the match card.  I opened it up and screamed off every big match on the card.  Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker!  Randy Savage vs. Razor Ramon!  Then my face sank…I nervously proclaimed to my dad ” Dad, Papa Shango is wrestling tonight, he’s wrestling Bret Hart”.  This only got worse when my dad revealed his surprise, which were front row seats!

I immediately began to scream as this was unbelievable and intimidating at the same time. I told my dad as great as this was we had to give the seats away.  I couldn’t sit there petrified of Shango.  I’m sure my father wanted to kill me but, being a good father, agreed to make someone’s day, by asking some fans to switch seats with us.   We enjoyed the show from the sixth row until the Hart-Shango match.  At this point, I had to use the bathroom and the only way this was possible would be to walk against the barricade and passed the first row.  We tried to do this while Hart had Shango in a headlock and we were in the middle of tiptoeing past the front row when Shango disposed of Hart and ran at the ropes as quick as possible taunting the crowd.  Well, that was it!  I was off to the races as I ran quickly into the lobby.  I had never seen my father run faster in his life as he screamed for me to stop.  I eventually did but we hung out by the souvenirs until Hart won.

To make matters worse, I then pleaded with my dad to run up to the barricade to see the Undertaker up close.  That’s right, the deadman was fine but Papa Shango was the problem!  As for what happened to ole Papa Shango?  Well, he had to retire as he soon realized that “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy!”

That’s gonna do it for now but next time I’ll be taking a look at the WWF in 1993.  Wrestlemania the album is released and WWF head’s to Ceasar’s Palace for Wrestlemania 9!

The Mania of March- The spotlight on Wrestlemania 7

Wrestlemania 7 was the first pay per view that my family ordered as we had gotten cable television not long before this… As a matter of fact, we tried getting the Rumble before this but had a problem with our cable connection as it had just been installed so we got the tape (remember those?) of the show the next day. Thus, I was pretty excited about the idea of watching a WWF pay per view live. Understand that the early 90s was during a period of time in which there wasn’t Monday Night Raw every week with high profile matches pitting main eventer against main eventer. You had Saturday Night’s Main Event every other  month or so but other than that, WWF television consisted of Saturday and Sunday morning programs, as well as prime time wrestling, centered around promos and preliminary matches. This made the pay per views feel so much more important as their were only four a year & they were your only real chance to see high profile matches.

The main reason why  I was so excited that we were going to be getting Wrestlemania 7 live on pay per view was that this meant that I would  finally get  to watch the countdown show, I’d get to see the matches as they were happening and I wouldn’t have to wait until they got the event at Blockbuster or depend on my father’s friend, this was amazing! This was also the beginning of watching WWF Pay Per Views together as a family, a tradition that continued for many years.  My dad would spend the day bar be cuing, my mom would make dessert and it would be the one night my sister and I were able to have candy and soda.

At the time, I was a huge Hulkamaniac, as I assume any four year old would be.  It seems looking back that Hulk Hogan was probably a bigger star in the 80s but in 1991, at least in my eyes he was still all the rage.  I remember Hogan was also everywhere, I distinctly remember that there was a special that ran on Nickelodeon at the time called “Stories From Growing Up” and it played constantly.  The special was about Hulk Hogan and how he used to be fat and got made fun of growing up.  It was ridiculous but I feel like I watched it every time it was on TV. You can watch that at the link below.

I also remember in 1991 being stuck in a Kids R Us with my mom as we had a flat tire and so we were stuck there for hours.  On the television, they kept playing all of these little commercials promoting items in the store.  One of the commercials featured Hulk Hogan and was a little of the Real American music video and then Hulk showed up to shill the WWE merchandise they had which included an awesome bedding set that I got later that year.  I had an absolute blast being stuck in the kids R Us because of this commercial and I remember doing everything I could to do my best Hogan impression I was entertaining customers and store security the whole day.

Thus, going into Wrestlemania 7, I was really happy to see that Hulk Hogan would be coming to his country’s defense against the evil Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter.  I remember i thought Slaughter’s win at Royal Rumble that year came out of nowhere and I hated seeing a bad guy walk around as the WWF champion.

I remember my father saying as that show began, “Wait what happened to the LA Coliseum?” which was a good question because WWF was really pushing the Coliseum hard especially at the Rumble that year.  I don’t recall it ever being revealed that Mania 7’s location was going to be changed to the LA Memorial Arena.

As for the show itself, I believe this was the last year for a while that they still put a ton of matches on the card in an effort to get everyone on the show, with an insane 14 matches.  That said, I did think that the matches helped the show fly right by as no match seemed to go too long. This also was during the period of time where the Rockers were kicking off most WWE shows and getting the crowd hot with a great fast paced match, similar to the ways that the Usos are used today. On this night they faced Haku and the Barbarian, a match I love to this day.   Aside from the top two matches, Warrior & Savage and Hogan & Slaughter, I remember being most excited Virgil vs. Ted Dibiase, believe it not.  I felt that they did a great job in, again, letting a long story unfold, that this match had a ton of heat behind it.

As for the two top matches, Warrior and Savage really stole the show for me.  The fact that Randy Savage hit five top rope elbow drops and they still weren’t enough to put the Ultimate Warrior away, just made Warrior seem so unstoppable.  If you couple that match with the excellent post match reunion between the Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth that left members of the crowd crying,  I’d say that this would be the type of match & moment I’d suggest anyone to watch if they were wondering what makes Wrestlemania so special.

Of course though, in the end, I was just happy to see the Hulkster back on top as the WWF World Heavyweight Champion after a full year away from the belt.  On paper this may not read as a classic but if you go back and watch that match, Slaughter was so good in his role, especially with General Adnan in his corner, that he had so much heat.  Further than that, Sgt. Slaughter does a great job bumping his ass off and really selling for Hogan.  Thus, maybe it’s just the nostalgia of this being my first ever Wrestlemania I saw on pay per view or what, but I loved this match and really enjoyed this Wrestlemania.

Next time we’ll take a look at Wrestlemania 8 which really brought a lot of change to the WWF.  Plus I’ll throw in a fun story about my first WWF live event and how scared I was about Papa Shango.

The Mania of March- The Spotlight on Wrestlemania 4

WrestleMania 4:

A lot of people don’t seem to look back as fondly when it comes to  Wrestlemania 4, for whatever reason, but to me it was great for a few reasons.  First, obviously I’ve said in the past what a big fan I am of gimmick matches and these include tournaments.  To me, there was always something pretty cool about seeing a wrestler have to compete three or four times in one night especially if that wrestler was versatile like a Bret Hart or, as was in this case, a Randy Savage.  From there, I also think that in looking back at this show, it was pretty cool to see Randy Savage get the spotlight.  It was all about Hulk Hogan in late 1980s WWF and so it had to be pretty shocking to see him and Andre get eliminated early.

As a bonus gimmick match there was also a battle royal on this show and I’m a huge fan of battle royals.   I remember the first time I saw this show, which was not live as I was still just a toddler, being surprised Bret Hart made it all the way to the final two and got a chance to shine.  Bret was still a part of the Hart Foundation for a few years after this and it was rare that a tag team specialist would get a chance to shine on his own at the time.

As a bit of a personal story related to Wrestlemania 4, as many of you know, the show was four hours long (This, just like the tournament, was one of the real promotional points of the show). Since it was so long, the coliseum home video of the show featured two different video tapes to accommodate the length of the show.  One day I was at a friend’s house and I offered to trade him one of my tapes for his copy of Wrestlemania 4, we were probably about 7 years old at the time, as I had never seen Mania 4.  I had heard that there was a tournament and a battle royal on this show and thought immediately that this would be the show for me.  Well, he gave me the tape but it ended up being only the first part of Wrestlemania 4.  I never realized this until I got home and watched the show only to see the second half was missing entirely and what’s funny is I didn’t know about this until the tape abruptly shut off midway through the show.   I kept rewinding the tape and cleaning assuming that there must have been something wrong.  Where were the finals of the tournament?   I actually had my mother call his mother to tell her son he gave me a broken tape.  Suddenly my friend laughed and admitted he didn’t give me part two and was screwing me.  And you thought the Montreal Screwjob was bad? He admitted that he wanted both my tape and the only parts of Wrestlemania 4 to really mean anything, the semi finals and the finals of the tournament.  Even though this upset me a bit, I still watched the first part of that Wrestlemania dozens of times if for nothing else but the Battle Royal.

What I also remember during this time was that I got my first ever WWF board game (This may have been a year or two later but it focused a lot on the time period of Wrestlemanias 3 and 4).  It was called the Wrestlemania VCR board game and it was pretty cool.  You would move around the game board and in doing so would eventually end up on a VCR square.  You would then turn on the tape and there would be able a 30 second clip of a match.  Whoever landed on the square would get to choose which wrestler they wanted in the clip and then whichever wrestler gained the upper hand during the clip, that player would get to move space.  So let’s say it was Hulk Hogan for the red team and Randy Savage for the blue team so you pick Hulk Hogan and in the clip he hits a legdrop and gets a pinfall victory, you would move up 10 spaces.  I played this game with my poor mother at least 100 times until we eventually memorized the tape inside and out.

Well that’s going to do it for me today but be sure to check out my review of Wrestlemania 5, coming up later today.  Until then take care and please feel free to share some of your favorite moments of Wrestlemania 4!

All Photo Credit: WWE

The Mania of March- The Spotlight On Wrestlemania 2

Wrestlemania 2: 

Welcome to day two of our comprehensive 31 Wrestlemanias in 31 days through the month of March.  Today we’re going to take a look at Wrestlemania 2 which was final Wrestlemania to take place prior to my birth as I was born later this year in October of 1986.  When I think about Wrestlemania 2 the first thing that comes to mind was the fact that this show took place over 3 venues.  The first four matches on the show took place in New York (Nassau Coliseum actually) than the next four matches took place in Chicago and then the final four matches took place in Los Angeles.  It was an interesting idea at the time and a pretty ingenious way to make money.  Production for this event had to be wild in order to pull that off.  There are so many things that can go wrong with live event production when broadcasting from one venue, let alone three. I always thought that this could be an interesting idea to try again but it will never happen this day in age where Wrestlemania takes over a city that has been bidding on it for, sometimes, years.

The way that this was that each venue had their own “Main Event” and then the fans would stay in the venue and watch the rest of the show on big screen monitors. The first venue was New york and was headlined by a boxing match between Roddy Piper and Mr. T.  From there the Chicago portion was main evented by the tag title match between the British Bulldogs and The Dream Team.  (Before you correct me, I know that the 20 man battle royal was more of the headline match in Chicago and is often remembered as Chicago’s main event but the tag title change ended the Chicago Portion of the show.  Lastly, the Los Angeles portion of the show featured the main event of the entire Wrestlemania, Hulk Hogan defending the world title in a steel cage against King Kong Bundy.

This was also during the time period in which celebrities played such a big part of Wrestlemania.  As with today’s Wrestlemanias you might hear a casual fan who hasn’t been watching in quite sometime ask what the top matches at Wrestlemania are, those same casual fans had to have been asking which celebrities were going to be at Wrestlemania.  I mean on this Wrestlemania alone, if you include the NFL players who participated in the Battle Royal, there were over 25 celebrities who appeared at this Wrestlemania.  It was absolute who’s who of celebrities which featured everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Joan Rivers and even the old Burger King guy, “Herb”! What we did get out of this was, however, was my personal favorite rendition of America The Beautiful ( and also the first time in which America The Beautiful was performed at Wrestlemania all together) ever performed at Wrestlemania, that by the late great Ray Charles!

Photo Credit: WWE

The One Match You Should See:

For me the answer here is the battle royal (I love battle royals), and it’s tough because the tag title match between the British Bulldogs and the Dream Team is a great match with a finish that the crowd absolutely loved.  That said when you mention Wrestlemania 3, the thing that immediately come to mind would be the involvement of the NFL players, especially members of the Chicago Bears in Chicago fresh off winning a superbowl.   It’s crazy to go back and think about the fact that you had active, pro bowl caliber players like Refrigerator Perry in a battle royal with hall of fame level WWE Superstars like Andre The Giant.  Could you imagine if in the Andre The Giant Memorial BattleRoyal you had JJ Watt and Demarcus Ware? It would never happen!  The crowd was so hot for the Chicago Bear players that I actually think the WWF should have made the call to have Refrigerator Perry win the match outright, even if this would mean that Andre would lose a battle royal for the first time ever.  The crowd would have just went completely wild for a Perry win.  What this did lead to for Perry was a memorable moment of him dumping Big John Studd and would later lead to his induction into the celebrity wing of the WWF Hall Of Fame (an induction, mind you, that John Cena presented Perry with leading to the first time I can really remember a crowd completely turning on him).  One last note on the Battle Royal, this was the only match in Wrestlemania history that WWE legends/ hall of famers Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino competed in.

Well that’s going to do it for today but I’ll be back real soon with my look back at WrestleMania 3!

The Mania of March- The Spotlight On Wrestlemania 3

Wrestlemania 3:

This was the first Wrestlemania I was alive for but I’ll admit that I never saw the full show until I rented the tape from a wrestling store here in Queens in the late 90s. That said, I probably have seen Hogan and Andre as well as Steamboat and Savage so many times I can’t even remember.  These two matches are the perfect example of how two matches can be so different but both still be so memorable in entirely different ways.  I feel like depending on the type of fan that you are, you either remember Wrestlemania 3 for Savage-Steamboat or Hogan-Andre.  If you’re more into the classic moments, it’s Hogan and Andre, whereas if you’re more into the classic matches, then its Steamboat-Savage.  There are so many of today’s wrestlers from Chris Jericho to the Hardys that have credited that Savage and Steamboat match as being an inspiration.

Aside from those two great matches, Wrestlemania 3 cannot be mentioned without talking about the 93,000 + plus fans that were in attendance.  I remember specifically that if you watched the home video they showed the fans as they were running to the arena or filing in after a long tailgate, which sadly isn’t on the network).   It really made Wrestlemania feel like a massive event.  Then of course when they brought you into the arena you were immediately him with that great screenshot of the crowd that just looked incredible.  I can’t imagine how amazing it must have been to be in that arena.  When I went to WrestleMania back in 2011 in Atlanta, I remember sitting way up in the nosebleeds and looking out going, “wow it’s amazing to see a wrestling show in such a large venue.  Well there were at least 20,000 more fans live for WrestleMania 3 and with the show taking places in the middle of the day, you could probably look out and see everyone, it had to be incredible.

From here I loved how the show started with Vince McMahon in the middle of the ring, welcoming the crowd to WrestleMania 3.  If you remember the risk that Vince took with the first WrestleMania, just two years earlier, it was nice to see him being able to soak in the massive success that the event had become.  I always thought it would be cool for Vince to kick off every show like but obviously that would have been hard to do as he became the villainous Mr. McMahon.  I remember that at some point a few years back WWE put out a history of WrestleMania DVD and a pop u video like version of WrestleMania 3.  Hearing Vince on those sets get choked up when talking about how he was thinking about his dad when he was welcoming the crowd to WrestleMania and how he knew his dad would be proud   This makes it mean that much more and is definitely something I can relate to.

Lastly, I also really get nostalgic for the motorized carts that brought the superstars to the ring because the aisle way at the Silverdome was so massive.   This just made the superstars look larger than life.  I also love the idea of Greg Valentine leaving Brutus Beefcake off the cart while the announcers ponder how he would get to the back, was walking not an option?  In any event,  I wish they would bring those carts back for like an old school Raw some time.

Well that’s going to do it for me but be sure to come on back tomorrow where we will take a look at WrestleMania 4!

All Photo Credit: WWE