Killer Rob Wrestling Flashback

A look back at the original event
that started an annual tradition

Wrestlemania, the very first event that began the annual super-spectacle that wrestling fans and common sports fans alike look forward to every year. The initial Wrestlemania was held at Madison Square Garden to a sold out crowd, with the main event being a tag team match featuring Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff. The main event would also host world famous icons in Liberace and Muhammed Ali.

The event started with everybodies favorite, Mean Gene Okerland, and a singalong with the crowd of the Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards, the first match would take place featuring The Executioner vs Tito Santana. It was a decent match to get things started off, with The Executioner being the obvious jobber and losing to Santana via the figure-four leglock. The second contest was a squash match with 458lb King Kong Bundy destroying SD Jones in what was reported to be 9 seconds, although it seemed from the ring of the bell to last a bit longer than that, but Vince McMahon wanted some history to take place at Wrestlemania with new records being set at the landmark event.

The pre-match backstage promos were interesting with the heel delivering his promo promising to hurt and beat up the face, only to walk off as the babyface immediately walks in from the other side to give his interview. It’s like, if the guys are so bad and hate each other so much, then why not start fighting right then-and-there since they’re literally 5 feet from each other.

The next match would be future Doink, Matt Borne, taking on fan-favorite Ricky 'The Dragon’ Steamboat. The Dragon would win with a beautiful flying cross-body splash off of the top rope. The comical aftermath from this match would be when Borne, who looks to have a decent beer gut and is tiredly walking back to lockerroom, almost walks in front of Lord Alfred Hayes as he’s live on air doing an on-site report. That would've been funny, and it turned out to be, as many wresters walking to the ring would cut in between Lord Alfred and the camera. Atleast Borne had some professional where-with-all to survey what was going on.

Even though he was a fan-favorite, looking back you can really see why on-site reporter Lord Alfred Hayes was eventually released by the WWF. He really had trouble delivering his lines, almost looking nervous and bumbling through his material. He reminded me of that old SNL skit with Chris Farley as the extra-nervous interview journalist. On the contrary, the Wrestlemania action was called by the great tandem of Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. Their commentary is always entertaining and is so nostalgic and enjoyable to listen to again.

Brutus Beefcake with Lucious Johnny Valient would fight to a double disqualification with the fan-favorite Sammartino’s, the legendary Bruno with son David. Valient and Bruno cornered from the outside, and when Valient slammed David on the concrete, Bruno started throwing haymakers and clearing house to the roar of the crowd.

Following the melee, defending Inter-Continental champion Greg ‘ The Hammer’ Valentine would take on the Junkyard Dog. The fans went nuts for JYD’s entrance, with what might’ve been the biggest pop of the night. JYD was super-over, and the fans loved him. Valentine, who was a wrestler’s wrestler, would get the pinfall with his feet illegally on the ropes for extra leverage, only for Tito Santana to come out and persuade the ref to continue the match because of the cheating. It’s like, is Tito Santana head of the athletic commission? Whatever he says is gospel and refs just blindly believe what he says? Anyway, the match is indeed restarted to the dismay of a furious Greg Valentine who is eventually counted out, giving the Junkyard Dog the victory.

Next up are promos with the Iron Shiek and Nikolai Volkoff managed by Classy Freddie Blassie, and you always have to chuckle with the Shiek forever reverse-addressing Okerlund as “Gene Mean”. The Iron Shiek's promos were always so awesome. The despised foreign team would take on the world tag team champions of Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham with manager Capt. Lou Albano. Capt. Lou happens to be sporting some ridiculously-looking bizarre fishing lures that are pierced to his face. Volkoff gives his ritual prematch heat-getting Soviet National Anthem with the ring being littered with trash thrown by the fans.

This was a good match with Rotundo and Windham being in their prime, making you wonder how Vince would ever let these talented stars walk from the WWF? The young stars would go on to lose their titles when Blassie gave his cane to the Shiek who nailed Windham with it to knock him out and Volkoff secured the pin. Makes you wonder why head athletic commissioner Tito Santana didn’t come out and overrule this decision. Maybe Santana liked JYD more than Rotundo and Windham.

Big John Studd and Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan were the next contest in a special ‘15 Thousand Dollar Slam Match’ vs Andre the Giant. The prematch promo with Studd and Heenan showcased a WWF gym bag with so many crumpled-up dollar bills that you’d think they gathered that money from the nearest drug corner in Harlem and stuffed it in the bag. Even Pablo Escobar was disgusted with the sight of that bag of dirty, crumpled-up cash.

The stipulation for the match consisted of Andre slamming Studd and earning the 15K, or if he couldn’t slam Studd before the time limit than Andre would be forced to retire. At this point in his career, Andre was starting to get heavier, but was still in good shape and moving around well for a giant. He would eventually get the slam and the win, but that weasel Heenan would run off with Andre’s money.

A women's match was held between champion Leilani Kai with the Fabulous Moolah vs Wendi Richter cornered by ultra-popular music star Cindi Lauper. The crowd seemed to love this match with the star power and Richter winning the title with Cindi Lauper fending off Moolah’s devious tricks. This would lead into the final match of the evening which featured even more celebrities to entertain the crowd and guarantee a memorable main event.

Baseball great Billy Martin was the guest ring announcer, who welcomed the world famous Liberace and the Rockettes to the ring. Liberace did the 'kicking dance’, arm-in-arm with the Rockettes, and he genuinely looked to be having a fantastic time. Next to come out was the one and only, Muhammed Ali. The champ would be a special guest referee, as the crowd welcomed him chanting, “Ali! Ali!”. Man, what a place in time in the history of the world.

To me, however, what really made this an event full of heart and soul is when the line of Scottish bagpipe players came out to serenade the Rowdy one, Roddy Piper. Wow! -what an amazing moment with all the bagpipe players coming out and surrounding the ring playing such a remarkable instrumental Scottish tune. This was followed by an iconic moment of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T approaching from the lockerroom and Hogan doing that prayer-like crucifix blessing gesture. The stage has certainly been set for an immortal main event.

This was kind of a chaotic main event, with Hogan and Mr. T having Jimmy 'Superfly’ Snuka in their corner, and Piper and Orndorff having Cowboy Bob Orton cornering them. Throw in Ali who at one point swings at Orton for interfering, and you got yourself a true all-out wild brawl. As Liberace rings his crystal bell to start the match, Piper taunts Hogan to tag Mr. T, an inexperienced wrestler, to gain the early advantage. Piper’s size and wrestling skill were a bit much for Mr. T to deal with, but Mr. T is able to land a few moves of offense. The match is continually interuppted by Orton getting involved, forcing Hogan, Snuka and all the combatants to go at it in a wild fight.

Hogan is the true dominant force in the match, punishing Piper and Orton with his strength and size to the crowd’s delight. Piper looks to use a chair on Hogan to equalize the situation to his favor, giving the heels the momentum. This has to be the craziest match that Pat Patterson ever officiated. Piper and Orndorff start to punish the injured Hogan, until Orndorff misses a flying knee attack, and Hogan tags Mr. T. The heels are able to suppress Mr. T’s offense and start to wear him down until he’s able to reach his corner and tag Hogan back in. All the wrestlers enter in what turns into a wild brawl, and Orndorff puts Hogan in a full nelson. Cowboy Bob Orton, who’s arm is in a hard cast, climbs to the top rope looking to clobber Hogan but misses, hitting teammate Orndorff and KOing him. Hogan covers Orndorff for the three count and the win to the crowd’s delight.

Wrestlemania was an action-packed event filled with the WWF’s top wrestlers and some world-renouned celebrity star power. It would kick start an annual tradition that even non-wrestling sports fans and the mainstream media look forward to every year. Wrestlemania is where legends are made, and young talent look to make their mark in the industry. It is the true 'Super Bowl’ event of the pro wrestling business, and just like the Masters tournament in golf, Wrestlemania is a tradition unlike any other.