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The Road to Wrestlemania part one

I'd like to welcome myself back to LWJ, it's been awhile since I last posted anything here.  It's been a tough half a year or so, especially after my grueling double hysterectomy surgery.  Thanks to all the cards and letters of support.  For the three people that still read stuff on this website, you may know most of the LWJ crew are heading to Wrestlemania 23 in the D this year.  Personally speaking, I have been a wrestling fan for the last 20 years or so and have seen every Wrestlemania.  And I think I speak for some of you when I say the current product isn't exactly awe inspiring.  I can honestly say after this upcoming event, this very well might be the last time I pay attention to wrestling. 

So, one of the things I do best in life is steal someone else's good ideas.  And Coldcat's current Oscar watching project has inspired me to come up with my own little project...go back and watch every Wrestlemania in order and do my own reviews.  2 reasons why I feel like doing this:  I already have them all so it won't cost me dime one, and anything that will help keep a gun out of my mouth for another month is a good idea.

So let's start with the very first one, all the way back in 1985...

Wrestlemania  (March 31, 1985)      

The very first Wrestlemania took place at the WWF's monthly stomping grounds of NYC's Madison Square Garden.  The orginal concept wasn't that groundbreaking, as the WWF held these supercard shows frequently at MSG.  What made this event special was 1.) Announcers Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura told us it was "the greatest wrestling extravaganza of all time" every five minutes or so, and 2.) It was going out on closed circuit TV at movie theaters all over the country.  Oh yeah, and The A-Team star Mr. T was fighting in the main event, teaming up with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan against the dastardly team of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff.

We open things up with of course, the national anthem.  Trivia time:  The first big celebrity they got to sing the anthem at a Wrestlemania?  You guessed it, it was...oh snap, it was just "Mean" Gene Okerlund doing the honors.  Oh well, maybe next year.

Match 1: Tito Santana vs. The Executioner

Santana was fresh off losing the Intercontinental Championship to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and was put in the opening match to get the crowd going.  The Executioner was "Playboy" Buddy Rose under a goofy mask if anyone cares.  Short but energetic match between these two, as Santana wins after about six minutes with the figure-4 leg lock.

Match 2: S.D. Jones vs. King Kong Bundy

And we have our first history-making moment, as Bundy squashes Special Delivery Jones in the announced time of "nine seconds" when it seemed closer to "twenty-five seconds" for some strange reason.  WWF exaggerate something to make it seem better?  Never!  SD Jones earned this spot by spending the last four years wrestling "The Unpredictable" Johnny Rodz in the opening match of EVERY damn show I've ever seen from 1981-1984.  Anyhoo, I can't watch Bundy the same way anymore since Violent J of ICP referred to Bundy as looking like a "big swollen penis in a broken black condom."

Match 3: Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Bourne

Ricky was not yet "the Dragon" and Bourne was not yet "Doink the evil clown."  These two put on a pretty damn good match too, with Bourne busting out a sweet belly-to-belly suplex and Steamboat flying around the ring throwing chops and whatnots.  Steamboat wins with a flying body press off the top.

Match 4: David Sammartino vs Brutus Beefcake

Okay, here comes the suck.  David was the son of legendary Bruno Sammartino, and Brutus was a clumsy oaf who would later snap and start cutting people's hair.  If you like restholds, this is match for you!  They're all here, armbars, headlocks, you name it.  After about 8 minutes of non-stop action, Bruno finally pops the crowd when he attacks Beefcake and his manager to cause a double DQ.

Match 5: IC Championship:  Greg Valentine vs The Junkyard Dog

JYD was on fire back then, and Valentine was a pretty damn cool heal.  At that point the IC belt looked like it was made of tinfoil and sold at Meijers for $4.95 in those bargain bins.  Anyway, Valentine appears to win the match when he pins JYD with his feet on the ropes, but Tito Santana runs to the ring and bitches about the cheating, and the referee REVERSES the decision and counts out Valentine!  When did the refs ever do that shit?  I guess that was first ever screwjob on PPV!

Match 6:  Tag Team Championship:  Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo vs Nikolai Volcoff & The Iron Shiek

Rotundo would go onto greater fame in the WWF as "IRS."  Windham would go onto greater fame in WCW as "Barry Windham."  Here's the first of many shocking Wrestlemania title upsets as the Shiek and Volcoff win the belts as the Shiek blasts Windham in the back with manager Classy Freddie Blassie's cane.  The crowd was not happy about the American boys losing to the evil foreigners, I can tell you that much.

Match 7: $15,000 Slam Match:  Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd

Stipulations for this one are Andre must retire if he can't slam Studd, and if he can he wins $15,000 in cash, conveniently shoved in a tiny WWF gym bag held by Studd's manager Bobby "the Brain" Heenan.  Andre at this point in his career was slowly starting to deteriorate health wise, and his awesome little blue panties and monstrous beer gut shows that fact off.  After several minutes of slow-paced action, Andre simply picks Studd up and slams him.  Match over, thanks for coming.  Heenan, being awesome as usual, steals the money back and runs off with it.

Match 8: Women's Title:  Lelani Kai (w/The Fabulous Moolah) vs Wendi Richter (w/Cyndi Lauper)

This was actually pretty big, as Lauper represented part of the "Rock N' Wrestling" connection that Vince McMahon promoted to start appealing to a wider, younger fan base.  He ran shows on MTV and even had the boys appear in several of Cyndi's 80's hit videos.  The older fans and wrestlers hated it, but it worked so what the hell.  Anycrap, Richter wins the title back after a failed body press attempt by Kai, and Lauper gets her licks in on Moolah as well to send the fans into a frenzy. 

Main Event:  Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff

Yes, even though an actor actually wrestled in the main event of the first ever Wrestlemania, it's suprisingly a great match.  The crowd heat was incredible, Mr. T looked alright, and Piper at that point was so awesome as a bad guy that he had to have the riot squad bring him out to the ring and back!  Orndorff went on to greater fame as "Paul Orndorff's Dad."  Of course, Hogan & company win after Piper henchman "Cowboy" Bob Orton accidentally hits Orndorff with his cast and Hogan pins him. 

Piper & Orton leave Orndorff lying in the ring as Hogan & T celebrate with guest celebrities Mohammad Ali (referee), Billy Martin (announcer) and Liberace (timekeeper)  Yes, Vince actually thought it was a cool idea to bring Liberace of all people in front of a rabid wrestling crowd and have him dance with the rockettes before the match started. 

Match of the night:  The Main Event

Mark-out Moment of the night:  Watching "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's entrance in the main event, with the bagpipes and that cocky smile of his as he taunted the fans who wanted to kill him.

Summary:  For the first ever Wrestlemania, of course it doesn't hold up that well, but it was an entertaining use of two and a half hours and except for the Sammartino/Beefcake match it was never boring.  Seeing Hogan and T at the peak of the "Rock N' Wrestling" connection is interesting, and nothing beats bad-guy Roddy Piper at his healish best.  I'll go 3/5 stars.

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