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Wrestlemania IV

With WM3 setting records and getting such great critical and fan praise, of course the following year's event would not measure up by comparison.  But the buildup was legendary...

So Andre the Giant was pissed after losing to Hogan and wanted a rematch.  Somewhere in all this "The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase made his debut and tried to buy the title from Hogan, who of course was too much of an all-American hero to accept.  In hindsight he probably should've; with the millions Dibiase would've given him he wouldn't have to resort to crap like Hogan Knows Best these days.  So Dibiase gets pissed and buys Andre the Giant's contract, so that Andre can beat Hogan and then hand Dibiase the title. 

In February of 1988, a live edition of "The Main Event" took place on NBC for the Hogan/Andre rematch, and it was the largest viewing audience ever for a wrestling show on television.  Andre seemingly pinned Hogan, even though Hogan lifted his shoulder before the 3-count, causing a dispute with referee Dave Hebner.  Andre then gave the title to Ted Dibiase and declared him the champion.  All of a sudden, it appeared that another Dave Hebner entered the ring and started arguing with the first Dave Hebner!  Of course in real life it was Dave's twin brother Earl.  So the speculation was that Dibiase paid a "lookalike" Hebner to cheat Hogan out of the title!  And there was also a little known rule where to win the title you must beat the champion and not get handed the championship, so the WWF stripped the title from Dibiase and declared it vacant. 

A tournament was announced for Wrestlemania 4, which took place in Atlantic City at Trump Plaza.  I wonder if any of the matches were on the sports books?  Probably not.  If they were, all the people responsible would still be in prison right now.

Wrestlemania IV  (March 27, 1988)

Gladys Knight opens things up with "America the Beautiful."  Our announcers are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, along with guest ring announcer Bob Ueker at various points.  After watching a few of these things I must mention how awesome Monsoon and Ventura were together, especially compared to what Ross & Lawler have become these days.  Gorilla and Jesse were funny, knowledgable, and actually commentated on the match taking place!  They did a great job of making it seem like the match taking place was real, and Gorilla's insight and Ventura's sarcasm and wit made these shows fun to watch.  I'd also like to give props to Bob Ueker, arguably the greatest guest celebrity they ever had.  He participated in nearly everything; announcing, commentating, and interviewing, and he honestly looked like he not only wanted to be there, but was having fun too. 

Match 1: 20-Man Battle Royal

Wrestlemania starts off with a battle royal, featuring all the guys on the roster not in the tournament or fighting in title matches I guess.  The winner gets what looks like a huge bowling trophy.  The action gets going and guys are flying out all over the place.  Ueker: "This looks like the final day of cut day at spring training!"  Jesse: "Hey Ueker, with your lifetime batting average of .200, if you were in the ring that means you could only hit one guy out of five!"  What a great commentary team.  The final three for this one are Bret Hart, Bad News Brown, and the Junkyard Dog.  Hart and Brown double-team the dog and eventually throw him out.  The Hitman and Bad News seem to form a pact, but then Bad News SCREWS Bret and nails him with the ghetto-blaster and tosses him out to win it.  This would officially launch Bret Hart into singles competition, until they teamed him back up with Neidhart like three more times until they finally settled on it for good three years later.  If you don't know what happened to the trophy after the match, you're not a true wrestling fan.

Time for the tournament to begin.  14 guys, single elimination, you know the drill.  Hogan & Andre got byes into the 2nd round and will face each other.  Robin Leach makes a "special proclamation" and declares the tournament shall begin.  Is Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous still on?  Oh yeah, it's called the E! network.  Oh SNAP!

Match 2: (Round 1) Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs Ted Dibiase

We'll breeze through these since it's a four-hour show and most of these matches are pretty basic.  I always liked how Jesse always made fun of Duggan for some reason ("don't you think it'd be a disgrace if Duggan won the title?") Anyway, Dibiase brings out Andre for some tomfoolery and Duggan ends up getting tripped up by the Giant, allowing Dibiase to advance.

Match 3: (Round 1) Don Murraco vs Dino Bravo

Before Rocky Maivia, there was "The Rock" Don Murraco, no longer "Magnificent" I guess.  These two have a nice speedy little power match, until Bravo pulls the ref in front of a charging Murraco and gets himself DQ'd.  Moron.

Match 4: (Round 1) Ricky Steamboat vs Greg Valentine

Whoa, this match was a lot better than I remember it being.  These two beat the HELL out of each other with chops and elbows and whatareyous.  Valentine gets the upset pin rolling through Steamboat on a flying body press attempt.

Match 5: (Round 1) Randy Savage vs Butch Reed

Reed had Slick with him, Savage of course had Elizabeth.  As much as I like the Slickster, I'd have to go with Liz on that one.  Savage was a freshly-turned good guy, as his feud with the Honkytonk Man over the IC title turned him into a face on just on general principles.  Reed controls the match but gets distracted looking at Liz (who wouldn't) and Savage catches him with the elbow for the win.

Match 6 (Round 1) Bam Bam Bigelow vs The One Man Gang

I wonder if he talks about this in the shoot interview?  Bigelow was pretty young here, and the Gang was a fellow fat guy, who would later travel to Africa, change his name to Akeem, and learn how to get his dance on.  Sadly Bam Bam doesn't do a pre-match interview, robbing us the chance to hear him refer to the Gang as "good people."  Anyway, the Slickster pulls Bigelow out of the ring (pulling the ropes down as he ran into them) and the Bammer gets counted out.

Match 7 (Round 1) Jake Roberts vs Ravishing Rick Rude

These guys would later have a great feud over Jake's wife but that came after this match.  These two fight around for a bit until it becomes painfully obvious that they're gonna go the full time limit.  I can tell because they're the only ones in the tournament so far to use multiple rest holds and lay around the ring for minutes at a time.  Sounds boring but Gorilla and Jesse keep it interesting.  So yeah, Rude & Roberts go the full 15 minute draw and neither man advance, giving the One Man Gang a bye into round 3.

Match 8:  Ultimate Warrior vs Hercules

These guys weren't in the tournament, it's just a good old-fashioned grudge match.  The Warrior was still pretty young here, and the match kinda sucks.  Hercules goes for a back suplex (the kind where both guys' shoulders end up on the mat) and Warrior raises his shoulder to get the win.  Hercules tries to sneak up on the Warrior with his chain (the one he made Atlas and Sampson cowar at his feet with) but Warrior must've studied the tape of the previous year and saw what happened to Billy Jack Haynes and said "not me, man."  He chases Hercules out of the ring and moves on with his life.

Match 9: (Round 2) Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant

These two have fought each other a few times now so it's kinda lost its luster.  And in fact, they barely go five minutes before beating each other senseless with a chair and getting double DQ'd.  Well, so much for Hogan winning his title back. 

Match 10: (Round 2) Don Murraco vs Ted Dibiase

Dibiase is all alone here, as the Giant just wrestled and Hogan killed bodyguard Virgil by suplexing him on the floor.  They keep showing shots of Donald Trump at ringside, with then-wife Ivana.  Poor girl had to sit there for four hours and watch this?  No wonder they got divorced.  These two have a good match back and forth, which Dibiase wins by slingshotting Murraco neck-first across the top rope.  Dibiase gets a bye into the finals, since Andre & Hulk eliminated each other earlier.

Match 11: (Round 2) Randy Savage vs Greg Valentine

At this point the outcome of the tournament is pretty much revealed, as Savage is the only good guy left, having to simply go through Valentine, the Gang and then Dibiase.  There's no way in hell they would've made people sit there for four hours and have a bad guy walk out with the title, so Savage has to take it.  I can't believe I wasn't smart enough back then to figure THAT out.  Anyway, Valentine pounds the crap out of Savage for awhile until he gets rolled up into a small package after attempting the figure-4 and Savage puts him away.

Match 12: IC Championship:  Honkytonk Man vs Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake

Honkymania was running wild in 1988, as he scored the mega upset over Ricky Steamboat for the IC title.  He then spent the next year getting chased around and beaten by every face they put him against, only to pull off the upset or get DQ'd or counted out.  People seriously filled arenas just to see the guy finally lose that title.  For some reason they decided to put him with Beefcake here for the biggest event of the year.  An okay match between the two, but of course Honky gets DQ'd when manager Jimmy Hart nails the ref with his megaphone after Brutus put Honky to sleep.  Brutus then gives Hart a little haircut and all is right in the world, even though Honky keeps the title again.

Match 13: The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware vs The Islanders & Bobby Heenan

This one was setup after Heenan and the Islanders (Haku & Tama) stole Matilda, the Bulldogs' mascot and dumped her someplace backstage in a horrible incident of animal cruelty that would've gotten them locked up for five years if it wasn't staged.  They even had fans write in letters to Matilda (the awesome "Get Well, Matilda campaign) that I even thought was stupid at 11 years old.  Heenan is wearing a funny attack dog trainers outfit for this match, just to add to his awesomeness.  The Islanders were a pretty awesome team, and Haku had a nice long run in the sport after they split.  Unfortunately this is the phase in the Bulldogs' career where they lost nearly every match for some strange reason, and Heenan ends up pinning Koko.

Match 14: (Round 3) Randy Savage vs The One Man Gang

We continue with the tournament, with the only match in the third round.  Savage, like his previous two matches takes a shit kicking but comes back, eventually getting the win by DQ after the Gang attacks him with Slick's cane and gets caught.  Way to be careful there, Gang.  It's not like you were wrestling for the WWF Championship or anything.  Oh, double SNAP.

Match 15: Tag Team Championship: Strike Force vs Demolition

Strike Force was Tito Santana and Rick Martel, who teamed up after The Islanders attacked Martel after his former partner Tom Zenk left the company, and then attacked Tito while he was broadcasting for some Spanish commentary team for no reason.  Works for me, they took the titles from the Hart Foundation and were very popular...for like two months.  Then for some reason people started getting sick of them.  That's the reason why during this match you can hear the fans start cheering for the mega-heel Demolition, but that may have been because Demolition were pretty damn cool back then.  They win the titles here, but as heels they still had to cheat to win. 

Main Event: Tournament Finals, WWF Championship:  Randy Savage vs Ted Dibiase

Ueker was the guest ring announcer, and Vanna White was the guest timekeeper.  I wonder if ringing the bell of a fake wrestling match is harder than turning letters over on a crappy game show?  Dibiase brings Andre down with him, Savage has Liz.  Looks wise no question you take Liz, but watching your back in a fight?  Savage may be in trouble here.  The match starts and Andre just starts being a TOTAL DICK, tripping Savage like three times and begging him to take a shot at him.  Savage finally has enough and sends Liz back to get help, in the form of you-know-who with the yellow trunks and the bald head, brother.  Hogan sits down at ringside and Savage is all "check-mate, bitch" and they go back to the match.  Andre starts arguing with the ref about 10 minutes into the match and Hogan finds his opening and sneaks into the ring and smashes Dibiase across the back with a chair!  Jesus, that was just BLATANT.  Why was it okay for Hogan to cheat so bad, anyway?  Savage drops the elbow and wins his first title.  Dibiase has a legitimate gripe I think.

Match of the night: I was gonna pick Steamboat/Valentine, but I'll go with the main event, Savage and Dibiase always had good matches together.

Mark-out moment of the night: I guess Savage winning the title for the first time.

Summary:  A lot of fans and critics didn't like this one and it is pretty damn long, but I enjoyed it for what it was.  They never had another tournament like this at a Wrestlemania, so it's interesting at least. 

***


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