Wrestlemania II

Christ, here we go.  I am not looking forward to this one, as I recall WM2 is terrible.  Will it have aged like a fine wine?  Or soured like a fine ballsack?


 1. Mr Wonderful Paul Orndorff vs. Don Moraco


Orndorff, pictured here in a rare instance of racial insensitivity in the WWE
Orndorff, pictured here in a rare instance of racial insensitivity in the WWE

For Wrestlemania 2, they made a couple of terrible decisions, which, combined with the lackluster matches, conspired to sink the show before it began.  Bad decision #1 – splitting the venue.   Bad decision #2 – guest commentators.  For this match we have the “electric” duo of Vince McMahon and Susan St. James.  Unsurprisingly, they’re terrible together.  He is still finding his rhythm and I don’t believe she has ever watched wrestling.  She might think that it’s boxing – not sure. This match is a pretty quick affair – they exchange some moves and then get counted out.  Meh.

Overall: I am too apathetic to provide a rating


2. Randy “Macho Man” Savage vs. George “The Animal” Steele


First impression is that Macho Man was so lean and tiny compared to the last time I saw him as the Bone Saw guy in Spiderman 1.

Humans are supposed to look like they're about to explode, right?
Humans are supposed to look like they’re about to explode, right?

Ugh.  I do not like George Steele.  The shtick really gets old fast, and it’s not entertaining enough to last a match.   Macho does the best he can here, but he’s really working against a stacked deck.  The entire thing is punches, bites, flowers, turnbuckles.  The only bright side is this exchange:

Susan St. James: He may not be smart, but he has respect for women!

Vince: Indeed he does!

Way to set that bar pretty frigging low, gang.  George’s respect for women has been to stare at Elizabeth like a piece of chocolate.  His only advantage over Macho Man is that he’s not openly physically abusive.  Note – at this point, Susan St. James was married to Dick Emersol.  Is there a deeper meaning here?

Ho hum, Macho hits flying elbow, Steele kicks out, Macho gets pin using ropes.  Dull, terrible match.

Overall: two crummy matches for two


3. George Wells vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts


Pictured: George Wells
Pictured: George Wells

How is this the buildup match for the venue?  George Wells is introduced to a tepid smattering of applause and Jake enters to no music to and complete, apathetic silence.  The match itself has a decent pace to it, with both guys keeping the speed up….fjsoeirfslnfsouf9f9f999999999 Wow, sorry about that.  I blacked out on my keyboard due to sarcastic boredom.  The only highlight of this match is you can start to see some of the signature Jake the Snake moves that he’d incorporate into his routine:

Jakeisms

A. Pointing to his head showing how smart he is after ducking a move

B. Sprawled askew on the ropes

C. Sexually uncomfortable and inappropriate pin technique

Overall:  Vince refers to the DDT as a “oh no, he dropped him right on his head!”.  Fuck this match and fuck George Wells . 1/20


4. Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Mr T


Fan reaction to watching this match
Fan reaction to watching this match

Here’s how I would assume the conversation went the day after Wrestlemania 2 in Long Island:

Guy 1: Hey man, how was that massive pile of shit you paid money to eat last night?

Guy 2: Long and horrible!  But at least I got to hear the soothing, shrieking voice of Joan Rivers announce the ringside judges for the Piper / T match.  And goddamn if she wasn’t drunk.

Apparently in boxing it is common to have ringside judges.  For this match they had NBA star “Chocolate Thunder” Darryl Dawkins.  Cab Callaway… Herb…. what is even happening right now?

“No, even I don’t know who the frig Herb is” – sincerely, 1986

She finishes by announcing “Our third judge, one of my favorite Watergate judges – G. Gorden Liddy”.  What does that mean?  What could that possibly mean?  How drunk is she?

Seriously, she confused him with this guy, which is like confusing Kenneth Lay for Sim Lake. Not one single person is going to get that joke.
Seriously, she confused him with this guy, which is like confusing Kenneth Lay for Sim Lake. Not one single person is going to get that joke.

This match was a terrible idea.  I am astounded this is the main event.  Every single element of this match is handled terribly.  Here is what Piper has to say about it.  I have helpfully underlined the sentances where I do not understand one single goddamn word of what Piper is saying.

“It was one of the worst matches of my life. Why?  In that match with Mr. T, they didn’t trust me.  I had done some boxing.  I trained for 5 weeks for this fight.  They taped my fists up solid and then put it in the gloves.  He was scared.  At the end of the day it was my fault, let’s make that clear.  Those boxing gloves are thumbless.  Mr. T was supposed to throw a left-cross.  They asked me for a little show-business.  So when he threw the left, I was supposed to go through the ropes to the floor.  But when he threw it, he missed.  He was all tired.  They really protected him.  We got an old saying, I would rather you punch my teeth down my throat then throw a popcorn punch!

Overall: I feel very sorry for Long Island.  1 out of a million


 5. Velvet McIntyre vs Fabulous Moola


Welcome to Chicago!
Welcome to Chicago!

I don’t normally watch women’s matches.  This one is no exception.

Overall: ??

 


6.  Nikolai Volkoff vs. Corporal Kirchner


Sigh. Fine
Sigh. Fine

The rumor is that this match was originally supposed to be against Sargent Slaughter.  As the story goes, Slaughter was scheduled to appear in a non-televised match a couple weeks earlier.  Prior to the match starting he told Vince he was not going to wrestle without a raise.  Vince agreed, the match happened and then he immediately fired Slaughter when the match was over.  This left Vince with a hole for Wrestlemania 2, so Kirchner was a last minute stand in. What I think is fantastic is a Corporal is the literal rank below a Sargent.  Presumably if Kirchner had not worked out, they would have gotten Specialist Mitchell, then PFC Fernandez, eventually topping out at Private Wrestler.

Featured: Private Wrestler and his unexpectedly massive coin sack
Featured: Private Wrestler and his unexpectedly massive coin sack

The match is boringly indifferent.  Kirchner is not a talented wrestler, and Nickolai is only as decent as his opponent.  The match ends quickly as Kirchner nails Volkoff with a cane thrown by Freddie Blassie.  1-2-3, another dull mid-card bites the dust

Overall: This match – Ha-Phooey!  


7. Battle Royal


No, not this one
No, not this one

Lots of “classic” wrestlers in this match who were absent from Wrestlemania 1.  King Tonga, Pedro Morales, Hillbilly Jim, Danny Spivey.. what a miserable group!  But it’s the first Wrestlemania for Bret Hart!  I have no idea what the thought was for adding football players to this.  Did this decision somehow boost their attendance?  Were Iron Mike Sharpe and Steve Lombardi booked and they couldn’t fill the ring?

I remember thinking this match was the greatest thing I’d ever seen when I first watched it as a kid.  It does not really age well.  It’s kind of an interesting affair, but mostly you’re just waiting for the ring to clear out to get down to the final four.  There are some mildly interesting eliminations, specifically the Big John Studd putting the Fridge over the top. My favorite part of this match was seeing the Hart Foundation against Andre.  It’s the only time we’d see that particular match up.  Some great moves at the end, and it finishes with Andre throwing Bret Hart right onto Neidhart.

Overall: A great match for what it was at the time.  20 man / 40 man


 8. British Bulldogs vs. Brutus Beefcake and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine


Pre-crank days
Pre-crank days

This remains one of my favorite tag matches of all time.  This is to tag matches was Macho Man vs. Steamboat is for singles matches.  This one event might single-handedly save all of Wrestlemania 2 and make the it worthwhile.

I'm terrible!
On the other hand….

This match has incredible moves with really great back and forth between the teams.  Brutus and Valentine were a great heel team and this was the Bulldogs at the top of their game.  Dynamite Kid could really move for a dude his size.  The teams pull out all the stops, both sides just coming up with some fantastic and unexpected bumps

Like this one, for example
Like this one, for example

Brutus does this fantastic move to Davey Boy where he puts him in a hammer lock and picks him up and throws him on his back.  I had literally never seen that move before, and it was just incredible

Honestly, just a thing of beauty. Davey Boy's back may disagree
Honestly, just a thing of beauty. Davey Boy’s back may disagree

The match has one of the all-time great endings, with Dynamite Kid perching on the ropes and Davey Boy ramming Valentine’s head against it.  He falls on top of him for the pin, and the bell ringer goes insane, hitting the bell about 40 times in 3 seconds.  The crowed loses their minds.  Great end to a great match

Overall: 10/10


 9. Hercules Hernandez vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat


Sup ladies
Sup again, ladies

I’ve said it before, Steamboat can’t have a bad match.   The match is generally fine, with some pretty decent moves  Hercules noticeably has trouble keeping up with the pace Steamboat is trying to set.   A few of the moves are visibly sloppy, with Hercules needing more time to lumber into the move setup. Steamboat dominates almost all of this match.  Herc launches a little offense, but nothing too significant.  Steamboat does a great job selling everything Herc is throwing at him.  The match does was it’s supposed to and gets the crowd warmed up. It ends with Steamboats High Cross Body and a great start to the third venue.  Shit, maybe this entire Wrestlemania is really starting to find its footing

I'm terrible!
Nope

Overall: Not a terrible followup to the tag match but really not a big match you would expect at WM2. 4.10


 10. Uncle Goddamn Elmer vs. Adorable Adrian Adonis


Uncle Elmer looks exactly like Louis CK, just fatter
Uncle Elmer looks exactly like Louis CK, just fatter

I hate both these wrestlers, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this match.  Adrian Adonis wasn’t that bad as a wrestler, but his entire shtick rings as grotesquely mean-spirited in 2015 and it’s pretty uncomfortable to watch.   The match itself is a piece of shit.  The only surprise is that Adonis wins clean without cheating. At least we’re back to completely horrible matches that Wrestlemania 2 is known for.  God forbid it got decent for even a half second

I'm terrible!
Not on my watch!

 Overall: 2 / 47


 11. Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog vs. Terry and Hoss Funk


The Funktabulous Funk Brothers, Funking it up, taking no Funk
The Funktabulous Funk Brothers, Funking it up, taking no Funk

Well okay, a couple things here.  For starters, we’ve already had the best tag match of all time tonight, so these guys have a pretty high bar to hit.  Secondly, this was the penultimate match of Wrestlemania 2?  The Funking Funk brothers and JYD? I have incredibly low expectations for this match.

I can’t remember why they did it, but I feel like they just crammed JYD and Santana together in the hopes that their combined popularity would result in magic.  Mission not accomplished. Part of the problem with this match is that Terry Funk and Santana are fantastic wrestlers.  JYD is not.  He fucks up the pace of the match every time he enters the ring.  He’s overwhelmingly the more popular wrestler, but there is no accounting for the fans in 1986.  They’re idiots. The match ends because time rolls inexorably forward, it’s relentless march making fools of all as we dance futilely in the hourglass of the years.  For every season, turn, turn, turn.

So are the days of our lives
So are the days of our lives

Overall: Matches with JYD make me understand my own mortality.  7/12


12. Hulk Hogan Vs. King Kong Bundy


The Pre-match promos feature Hogan working out in his “private gym”

Not only that, the guy in the tank top is Hogan's Doctor. The guy in the tank top. And how did Hillbilly Jim get there, wasn't he in Chicago for the Battle Royale? How did he get to LA so quickly?
How did Hillbilly Jim get there, wasn’t he in Chicago for the Battle Royal? How did he get to LA so quickly?

Not only that, the guy in the tank top is Hogan’s Doctor.  The guy in the tank top.  The implication is that Hogan, before receiving medical attention, forced his personal doctor to wear his branded merchandise.

The recap for this match features one of my favorite moments from wrestling of all time.  In the workup, Bundy attacks Hogan on Saturday Night’s Main Event and avalanches him a bunch of time.  Hogan collapses, pretending to be unconscious and leads to this exchange:

McMahon: He looks unconscious!

Jesse: (quiet, awed) I believe you’re right.  I believe he is unconscious.

It is the best acting Jesse has ever done in his life…

Literally
Literally

..and led to years of me and my friends using that line whenever one of us failed at anything –  “I believe you’re right.  I believe he is unconscious”. Anyhow!  This match is a pretty dull affair.  It was pretty great at the time but after decades of Hell in a Cell and TLC matches it seems pretty tame.  The biggest surprise is Bundy cutting himself open, it’s a nice touch for a Wrestlemania. I have to say, I’m pretty exhausted by this point.  It was just such a shitty PPV, not even a Hogan match can save it for me.  I’m just glad this is over.

Overall:  Finally!  Bed time!  3/122

Wrestlemania I Recap


1.  Tito Santana vs. The Executioner (Buddy Rose)


I'm sad. So very, very sad.
I’m sad. So very, very sad.

And here we go.  The very first match of the very first Wrestlemania.  A very solid, standard work by both Santana and The Executioner to kick off what would would become the WWE’s signature Pay Per View event.  The match itself is nothing special, with some very standard back and forth, but there are some elements of the match that just seem very quaint and charming compared to wrestling in 2015:

  • No entrance, both competitors start in the ring.  They continued with this trend almost right through Wrestlemania 3.  It took them 4 years to get the hang of the entrance and the understanding about how that component of the match is almost as fun as the match itself
  • They dub the executioner as “parts unknown, weight unknown”.  The implication being he literally refused to participate in the weigh in and they couldn’t eyeball it.  I guess he also got paid in cash if he wouldn’t reveal where he’s from?  What does the “from” in wrestling signify anyways?  Where you born, or where you currently lived?  Why would the executioner be from parts unknown?  I’d hazard a guess that he’s American, but couldn’t they take a stab at that either?
  • “I have not seen of late this particular executioner”.  Man, Gorilla Monsoon is the best.  After The Executioner headbutts Tito, he follows up with this comment: “Might we one of his forte’s, we really can’t tell at this time”.  They are really playing up the angle that they have no idea who this wrestler is.  It’s fantastic.  How would that booking even realistically work?  Did he show up backstage in the mask, just say “I’m one of several Executioners, I want to wrestle at your signature event.”?  I guess they shrugged and said sure?  This is why wrestling is the greatest sport on Earth.
  • Absolutely no room outside the ring.  This carries through all of Wrestlemania – the action really stayed in the ring.  There is almost no outside match to speak of.
  • Tito’s Flying forearm was a great finisher and he really sold the move.  It just goes to show that you don’t need something absurdly complicated (I’m looking at you Sister Abigail) to have a great finisher.  It also shows how a great wrestler can sell a really simple move and how terrible wrestlers can’t (I’m looking at you Superman Punch)

Overall: A very good start to both WWE Replay and Wrestlemania: 16 out of 22

 


 2. Special Delivery (SD) Jones vs. King Kong Bundy


Mere seconds before my destruction
Mere seconds before my destruction

There is so little to stay about this match.  The entire thing existed to put Bundy over as an unstoppable monster.  Bundy wins in 8 seconds.

Here’s a fun fact (citation needed): after the match was over, SD Jones was so disillusioned by wrestling that he immediately quit the sport to play football as “Special Delivery” Eddie Jones – a white running back who played for the Chicago Bears in 1941.  This required him to build a functional time machine, which he fashioned out of old watch parts and a calculator.  This would eventually prove to be the inspiration for the hit show, Quantum Leap which aired just 4 years later.  SD Jones was never credited with its creation.

Edgar_Jones,_Cleveland_Browns_running_back,_in_1948
Him. He became this guy

Overall: Ultimately Quantum Leap was a brilliant series, marred by a very disappointing finale.  4 / 12


3. Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne


Sup ladies
Sup ladies

I don’t think it’s possible for Steamboat to have a bad match.  I really don’t.  What I find kind of interesting is when I was a kid watching this, I thought Steamboat was a “small” guy.  But look at him!  He’s jacked!  I think it’s just a measure of how fast he was that he could be considered as one of the smaller wrestlers.  Alternately I have a horrible memory.  Either or.

Generally, nothing wrong with this match at all.  It’s great to see some of the moves that you don’t see anymore, specifically the atomic drop.  No one does those anymore, but why?  It’s a great move!

Steamboat ends the match with what I thought was called a “high cross body” but that Jesse Ventura calls “A beautiful flying… tackle.. off the top rope, a la Jimmy Snuka” or “ABFTOTTRALJS”.

Overall: Fun fact: Matt Bourne is “Doink the Clown”!  18/21


4. Brutus Beefcake vs. David Sammartino


I'm a fat piece of shit
I’m a fat piece of shit

Wow, what a total piece of garbage this match is, that I am completely not excited for.  Here’s a question though – why did they list Brutus Beefcake as parts unknown?  I thought they only did that for guys with masks.

The only mystery here is why he thought

This match is really, really slow.  Just a lot of jockying for position, arm locks and a series of amateur takedowns.  Sammartino is a plodding, slow wrestler.  He moves with all the speed of an amateur screenwriter finishing a coffee in starbucks.  If he was continental drift, I’d be typing this from Africa.  His attacks are as gently ineffective as an occupy movement.  Philosophy majors find meaningful employment faster than he can land a headlock.

The one bright light in this otherwise horrific match is that it ends

Overall: Obviously, I hated this match.  0 / 10

 


5. Junkyard Dog vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine


Thump
Thump

Gorilla calls him “The Juker”.  Was that a thing we were ever doing in 1985?  I can’t stress enough how much I dislike the Junkyard Dog.  For example, if him and David Sammartino were forced into a kissing contest, I would not be turned on.

Here’s the challenge with JYD.  His entire in-ring persona was based on his spectacular  charisma.  The crowd absolutely loved the guy, and he rose to be an insanely popular mid-card solely on the strength of his personality.  His actual wrestling skills – at least to the extent they were displayed in the WWE – were virtually non-existent.  So to be a fan of his, you have to fine him entertaining for himself.  Which I don’t.  <Shrug>.  Different strokes I guess.

This match ends with Valentine putting his feet on the ropes for the pin.  Before the match can end, Tito Santana runs out and sets the ref straight.  The ref agrees with the random Mexican stranger who interrupts the match to explain what he saw from the dressing room 300 meters away and appropriately decides to change his own decision without going to the replay, the timekeeper, any of the photographers at ringside or the commentators.

Fun fact about Greg Valentine – this entire page of insanity

Overall: Another match bites the dust. 2 / 72

 


6. Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff vs. Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo


Teach us, magical wrestling icons, about complicated international politics!
Teach us, magical wrestling icons, about complicated international politics!

Here are some things I apparently cannot spell.  Sheik, Nikolai, Volkoff, Windham, Rotundo.  This match is a challenge to recap for me.

Volkoff singing the Russian anthem before the match has to be one of the best heel moves in the history of wrestling, followed by the Sheik’s cutting geopolitical punditry: “Russia!  Number One!  Iran!  Number One!  USA!  Ha-phooey!”.

I love Windham and Mike Rotundo as a tag team, and I don’t know why.  While they were not the most exciting duo, they ushered in an era of –

Wait, is their entrance version of “Born in the USA” a weird, elevator-music instrumental only version?  Holy crap, it is.  Why aren’t they using the real version?  Also, why do half the pages list Mike Rotundo’s name as “Rotunda”?  A Rotunda is any ground building with a circular floor plan, not one half of the (eventual) USA Express.

The point is – this is a pretty decent match.  Sheik and Volkoff were a great heel tag team and Rotundo and Windham really did work well together.  The arm drag by Rotundo on the Sheik is gorgeous.  The crown pops through the whole match and it’s a lot of fun.

Overall: USA!  USA!


7. Andre The Giant vs. Big John Studd


Spoilers in the above picture I guess
Spoilers in the above picture I guess

It’s a shame that by the time the WWE really hit the mainstream in the 80’s Andre was already a few years past his prime.  For anyone whose only impression of Andre is the Wrestlemania 3 matches, go back and watch some of his stuff from the 70’s.  He could move for a guy his size.

Sadly, by the time WM1 came around we had this Andre – a poor man nearly crippled by acromegaly.   He gives it his all in this match, but he didn’t really have many moves left at this point.  A match consisting entirely of punches and kicks.  John Studd does a great job with what he has.

The match ends with the slam and despite his condition, Andre scoops up Studd like a child.

Overall: Anybody want a peanut?


8. Lelani Kai vs. Wendy Richter


You wouldn't know it, but in real life Lelani Kai is not a dwarf
You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but in real life Lelani Kai is not a dwarf

I don’t normally watch women’s matches.  This one is no exception.

Overall: ??


9. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper & Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff


Obvious, fool-pitying joke here
Obvious, fool-pitying joke here

Here we go, the main event!  Hogan!  Piper!  S..Snuka?  Funny, I thought in Wrestlemania 1 Hogan was still using Eye of the Tiger as his entrance music.  For anyone who doesn’t remember this, before the days when the WWE commissioned all their songs (and thereby avoided pesky licensing fees) they used to use actual music.  Hogan originally came into Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.  While “Real American” has grown into it’s cultural significance, it really can’t compare to the pop he used to get.  Check out the difference.

Well that’s interesting.  Now thanks to Garfunkel and Oates, when I hear “Eye of the Tiger” all I can think of is “Sports, Go Sports

Hogan and Piper are just filthy with Charisma.  For the first minutes of this match it’s just Hogan and Piper posturing for the crowd and it’s literally the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.  The crowd agrees with me, they’re on their feet for basically the whole match.  The first few minutes is all heat and it’s fantastic.  Piper and Hogan were incredible in a way that wrestlers today just aren’t.

I have spent a lot of time trying to understand why Hogan works and Cena doesn’t.  Because essentially they’re the same wrestler – big, good looking guys with incredibly limited repertoires of moves who win their matches by being indestructible.  Same matches every time.  Here’s what I’ve come up with, and it boils down to sweat.  Bear with me.

In order for the Hogan / Cena match template to work, they need to create a suspension of disbelief with the crowd – namely that they might actually lose.  We know they’re not actually going to lose, but they need to sell us on the concept, and the degree they’re successful doing that is how well they sell moves.  Hogan is not necessarily better at selling moves than Cena, but within 4 minutes of any match, Hogan is just absolutely bathed in sweat.  His hair is soaking wet and he’s actually glistening.  This really helps give the impression that Hogan is struggling.  Whereas with Cena – he’s too athletic and really in shape.  He’s just a fantastic athlete who glides effortlessly through the matches.  He never feels like he’s in any danger, so it’s tough for the crowd to really get invested.  Whereas with Hogan you think “Christ, this 40 year old man might actually die of a heart attack”.

Anyway, this entire match is a fantastic end to to the show.  Hogan, Piper and Orndorff are all at the top of their game.  The match has great flow and the crowd is over the top for the whole thing.  The match ends when Bob Orton misses Hogan with the cast off the top ropes and hits Orndorff instead.   In the 80’s I would estimate that 75% of matches ended by either the heel hitting his own partner with a foreign object, or small package out of nowhere.

Overall: Sports, Go Sports!  9/5/11