With this being the Presidential primary season and the Road to Wrestlemania, there is no better time than now to kick off what I will call TrumpMania, a look at Donald Trump and the Wrestlemanias in which he was involved. This will include WMs 4 and 5 which he hosted in Atlantic City, WM7 where he prominently sat front row and did an interview during the show as his future wife Marla Maples was part of backstage segments, and WM23 where he was half of the hair versus hair stipulation with Vince McMahon. Before getting into Wrestlemania 4, let’s examine some questions going into the event.
Why did Donald Trump want to host Wrestlemania?
You mean other than for ego purposes? The prior year was in the Silverdome so there was increased interest in hosting the event given the publicity from that. In the 1980s, Atlantic City was trying to become a viable east coast alternative to Las Vegas for gamblers. Legalized gambling only started in Atlantic City in 1978, and was actually banned in the rest of the state.Trump’s people felt that by hosting wrestling, they could draw a different demographic to the casino and maybe they would enjoy themselves and come back.
Why did the WWF want to “downgrade” to a smaller venue?
Business was still very good in 1988, but there was nowhere else for them to go after doing Wrestlemania in the largest indoor building in the United States the prior year. The question was whether they could make as much money on the live gate which would be difficult because of the number of people. Trump’s group bought out most of the tickets so they could be issued as comps to high rollers and others. The price paid to host the event was larger than the gate for WM3 and at much less risk for the WWF. The problem would come with the type of crowd this would be: people who were comp’d tickets who couldn’t care less that Rick Martel just got the hot tag.
Did anything good come out of this event?
The Trump people had the idea to do a fan fest type thing, the forerunner to Wrestlemania Access. It made the event more of a weekend than just the one show and gave families something to do. There was also a brunch on Sunday called the “Bacon, Bagels and Biceps Brunch” which is such a great name.
Why did Atlantic City die?
The simplest explanation is that Foxwoods Connecticut (which opened as a full casino in 1992) was a better alternative to Atlantic City, which never really shook it’s seedy reputation over the years. Other casinos popping up all over the east coast on Indian reservations did not help the cause.
I can’t find Trump Plaza on a map. Where was this event held exactly?
This show was at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, a historic building that has stood since 1929 and still hosts events to this day. Presenting sponsors like the Trump Plaza casino were permitted to use their name for the building for events like this. Trump divested his interest in the casinos a long time ago.
Why do I care about this show?
This is the first VHS tape my father purchased for me. As you can see, it cost $39.99, no small sum for 1988. It was on a pair of two hour tapes from Coliseum Video.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to wrestling. The main story coming into the event was the vacant WWF World title. Andre the Giant won his match against Hulk Hogan at The Main Event on February 5 with the help of a crooked twin referee Earl Hebner. This is funny because Earl was working in the NWA as recently as a few weeks before and was granted his release to be a part of this angle. Andre gave the title to Ted DiBiase per their financial agreement. After defending the belt for a week, DiBiase was stripped of the title by WWF President Jack Tunney in what has to be one of his better promos from his desk. I always wondered what the hell that was in the background at Tunney’s office since it sure as hell isn’t Stamford, CT. The title would be decided in a tournament of 14, and those brackets were changed from the original version.
There are problems with tournaments: 1. It can be very predictable when the promotion is married to face/heel matchups. 2. You won’t get long memorable matches for the most part. 3. You can’t build to these matches unless it’s guys with a prior history. This will follow the same format as the WM3 review.
Gladys Knight sings a God Bless America/My Country Tis of Thee medley while wearing a bizarre sweater with patches all over them like a NASCAR driver. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura welcome us, and Jesse is pumped up because he doesn’t have to work with Vince McMahon. They run down the card and Bob Uecker crashes onto the scene. Says it was the first time he ever had an option renewed. Jesse shows his fist to Mr. Baseball who gulps.
20 Man Battle Royal
The build: None to speak of here, though a few guys on the weekly shows said they were going to win this. It was the first of what is now a Mania tradition: the “get everyone onto the card at all costs” thing. There are a ton of tag teams here: Rougeaus, the Hart Foundation, Killer Bees, Bolsheviks. The winner will get a giant trophy, which I am sure will be brought home intact by the winner, right?
The match: I’m fond of battle royals for some reason as evidenced by my Royal Rumble series. This would be the only Wrestlemania appearance for these guys in the match: Outlaw Ron Bass, Sam Houston, Sika, Jim Powers, and Ken Patera. George the Animal Steele hangs around outside the ring presumably for the same reason that the Iron Sheik won the WM17 gimmick battle royal: he wasn’t going to be taking the over top bump. Uecker says this looks like the final cutdown day in spring training and Bob thinks Billy Martin is in there somewhere, though he is 3 Manias late for his appearance. Ventura says this isn’t the match for Sam Houston because he’s small. No match was Sam Houston’s kind of match once he left Central States. Uecker is looking for Vanna White, but Jesse says she’s in love with him. Ventura is upset that Vanna came and that Tunney never cleared it with him. The commentary is far more interesting to me than the match. Jesse says that “you know Vanna has good taste so she’s less filling”, a not so sly reference to Uecker’s Miller Lite ads. Interesting to see the Killer Bees and Rougeaus go at it since they would have a match in the summer that would turn the Rougeaus heel, months after an aborted Bees turn. Gorilla is very confused, thinking Steele got thrown out when he was never in. Mr. Baseball’s pick was Hillbilly Jim who got eliminated by the Bolsheviks, who got taken out by Patera to which Ueck yelled “USA is in! Yes sir!” then Patera is put out to which Jesse says “There went USA, Uecker.” King Harley Race bumps hard over the top, not bad for a guy who was literally impaled on a table not long before.
Final three is Bad News Brown, Junkyard Dog and Bret Hart. Three dudes who made their bones in Stampede Wrestling long ago. Hart and Brown form an alliance to get JYD out. It looks like they may split the prize, but Bad News hits the Ghetto Blaster enziguri. You can see Trump at ringside loves it, though with Ted Cruz around now you know Trump definitely loves to see a guy born in Calgary get the crap beat out of him. Bad News gets the trophy and says “I am the winner!” Hart comes in with a dropkick from behind before smashing the trophy. Gorilla: “Don’t ever double cross the Hitman!” Yes, I’m sure Vince McMahon will make a note of that. Uecker says this is why he never wanted to be MVP because of jealousy like this.
Verdict: Very underrated stuff here at the end. It elevated Bad News Brown and they kept him undefeated all the way to late in the year when he would be facing Hogan and Savage at the top of the card. Bret Hart was supposed to get a single push out of this, but ended up doing jobs for Bad News when he wasn’t doing jobs for him.
Robin Leach is in to read a really long proclamation. He is such a creature of the late 1980s.
“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (w/Virgil and Andre the Giant) vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan
The build: This is the most interesting of all 1st round matches in terms of prior history. These guys were Rat Packers in Mid-South back in the day before Duggan became a super babyface in the territory. When Duggan was fired in May 1987 after the drug/DUI arrest, he was brought back late in 1987 on the strength of his match with DiBiase at the Paul Boesch retirement show in Houston. Duggan was probably the #4 babyface at this point among singles wrestlers.
The match: Not too bad for 5-6 minutes even if the crowd wasn’t much into it unless Duggan was yelling “HOOOOOOO!” Jesse asks Gorilla how much he scalped his comp tickets for, which is a very inside joke that will be covered later. Duggan does a sunset flip and Ventura is amazed by this, and so am I. Can’t recall ever seeing that again. “Don’t you think it would be a disgrace if Duggan won the title?” asks Jesse. Funny stuff. The town manager where I live is named Jim Duggan, actually but it’s not the same guy obviously. Duggan is tripped up by Andre when we goes for the three point stance, then Hacksaw takes a shot from Andre and DiBiase at the same time and is pinned.
Verdict: Not long before WM4, Andre and Duggan kicked off a feud. Andre destroyed some jobbers and Hacksaw made the save and was being chked by Andre before knocking him out with the 2X4. The feud did a lot for Duggan, and they would main event a show at MSG in July.
Okerlund is with Brutus the Barber Beefcake and says “What a package!” as he looks at his crotch area. Alrighty then. Beefcake tries and fails to rhyme and says the blade is ready for Jimmy Hart. I suppose he means a haircut and won’t stab him or something.
“The Rock” Don Muraco (w/Superstar Billy Graham) vs Dino Bravo
The build: Bravo was claiming to be the world’s strongest man after the interminable Royal Rumble benchpress segment in January. Muraco was still feuding with Slick’s crew to avenge their attack on Graham in late 1987.
The match: Lot of steroids involved in this one, oh my. Ventura claims Graham with his tie dyed stuff is ripping him off, which reminds me of that guy from high school who said that “Pink Floyd is imitation U2”. When Gorilla brings up Graham’s status as a former world champion and how Jesse never won, Ventura says that Graham “beat an easy champion!” That would be Bruno Sammartino, who had just left the WWF so they were looking to bury him good at this point. Muraco does one of the worst splashes of all time, with Bravo out of position. Muraco with a spinning toe hold that is like a rest hold, then gets hangman’d into the top and middle rope. Muraco goes for a forearm, but Bravo pulls the referee (Jim Korderas) in the way. Bravo hits the side suplex and the ref taps him on the back three times, but it’s actually a DQ. Oh how WWF loved this kind of misdirection finish during this period. Poor Korderas’ night wasn’t over yet, by the way.
Verdict: Crappy match between two muscleheads. At least it was short. I do wish Muraco’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” music wasn’t dubbed out since that was the best thing about him at this point. They would rematch at Summerslam in August in a match that was also bad.
Bob Uecker is with Jimmy Hart and the Honky Tonk Man, who says he doesn’t care if he has to backstroke up the Mississippi to prevail. He backstrokes out of frame which wouldn’t be the last time a guy does that on this show.
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine vs Ricky “The Dragon Steamboat”
The build: Two former IC champions here and both at a crossroads. Valentine was back in singles action after the failed team with Dino Bravo, and Steamboat was on his way out. This would be his final WWF match for over three years. The Dragon brings his kid to the ring before handing him to his wife, letting us know how whipped he is. The bracket offered the tantalizing prospect of a Steamboat-Savage rematch in round 2.
The match: One of the better matches in the tourney. Jesse says he doesn’t think the Hammer should try to match the Dragon hold for hold and should definitely cheat. Gorilla says Hammer might not be warmed up before the 15 minute time limit. I’m gonna need to figure out how many Valentine matches in WWF actually went over 15 minutes. They do botch a schoolboy where Hammer falls too fast, but if you watch the rest of these matches that’s easily forgiven. Jesse’s friend Barry Blaustein picks the Dragon to win it all, so I guess he wasn’t a dirt sheet subscriber. Gorilla does his “external occipital protuberance” line here. Steamboat goes for the high crossbody, but it is reversed and Valentine grabs the tights for the win. Steamboat kind of says farewell in the ring to the crowd, who really don’t seem to care.
Verdict: If you have a guy who is leaving, you can’t give him a win no matter how much you may want Savage-Steamboat II. Besides, Valentine could use some rebuilding because there was some value in him as a midcard hand.
Shot of Donald Trump and wife Ivana in the front row. Ventura says that’s his box. Then Okerlund is with the British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware. Davey Boy says Matilda the dog is going weasel hunting. Koko saves this segment with his high energy, no pun intended.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (W/Elizabeth) vs “The Natural” Butch Reed (w/Slick)
The build: Savage was on a huge roll at this point, the clear #2 babyface in the company. He was supposed to be the IC champion at this point but the title was kept on Honky Tonk Man for various reasons. That worked out fine for Macho though. Butch Reed was just about done with the company.
The match: Ventura says he was singing Savage’s praises years ago. Love when the heel announcer keeps loyal to a particular guy even when he turns babyface. Macho and Liz have the blue robe/dress combo. Reed gets a lot of offense here all things considered. He goes up top but gets mouthy with Liz and slows down, allowing Savage to slam him off the top and land the big elbow for the win. Jesse thinks that’s why Liz is out there, to distract opponents.
Verdict: Savage is being built up for his long night, but I would have given him a more decisive win.
Bob Uecker is excited about Vanna White but is interrupted by the Islanders and Bobby Heenan. Ueck warns the Brain that Matilda is back and that the “ASPC-KGB-Y” ought to be on him forever for the dog-napping. Heenan runs down the opponents, and Uecker asks to not be invited to speak at the Outrigger dinner for the Islanders.
Bam Bam Bigelow (w/Oliver Humperdink) vs One Man Gang (w/Slick)
The build: Bigelow had a very good run since his arrival in the summer of 1987…until he blew out his knee less than two weeks before Wrestlemania. He had feuded with the Gang and won just about all of the matches decisively. For those who didn’t know about the injury, Bigelow might have been something of a favorite.
The match: Just atrocious. One of the worst matches in the history of Wrestlemania and Bigelow should not have been out there. Bam Bam does a splash that is somehow worse than Muraco’s earlier where he doesn’t even leave his feet. Bigelow ends up outside after Slick pulls the top rope down, and then is counted out on the apron with the 10 count applied with one foot in the ring.
Verdict: They tried here, but my God this was awful. The less said the better.
Gene Okerlund is with Hulk Hogan, who is very concerned about fault lines and Donald Trump when he slams Andre through the floor.
“Oh yeah it’s been hard to live with, man! Fe fi fo fum, Andre! One long year and your time has come, man! No marks, no scars, no blemishes on the Hulkster, brother! But inside, I’ve been scarred for one long year! Everywhere I go, man, all the little Hulksters ask me “is there any truth to the fact that there was a controversial count? Hulkster, did you really get him over your head? Did you really beat the Giant?” Well today, man, in Wrestlemania 4, we’re gonna wipe that controversy out. Andre the Giant, in the second round when you’re fresh as a daisy, with the whole world watching, I’m gonna prove brother that I can beat ya anywhere anytime. And all my Hulkamaniacs, they’re gonna feel it too!”
Oh wait, he’s not done.
“Yeah but if you look in their eyes, man, have you seen the fear in all those little Hulksters? They realize that when I get Andre the Giant cinched up in the launch position and I slam him through the Trump Plaza brother, ffrom New York down to Tampa, Florida the fault line is going to break off. And as Andre the Giant falls into the ocean, as my next two opponents fall to the ocean floor and I pin them, so will Donald Trump and all the Hulkamaniacs. But as Donald Trump hangs on to the top of the Trump Plaza, with his family under his other arm, as they sink to the bottom of the sea…thank God Donald Trump’s a Hulkamaniac! He’ll know enough to let go of his materialistic possessions, hang on to the wife and kids, dog paddle with his life all the way to safety. But Donald, if something happens, if you run out of gas, and all those Hulkamaniacs run out of gas, just hang on to the largest back in the world and I’ll dog paddle us, backstroke us all the way to safety!”
Hogan then backstrokes out of frame. I’ll leave it at that.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs “Ravishing” Rick Rude (w/Bobby Heenan)
The build: This build wouldn’t air until after WM4. The famous angle with Cheryl Roberts was filmed at the same taping as the Andre-Duggan confrontation. This was plenty hot and put both guys in a good spot going forward.
The match: Kind of funny how they allude to the Jesse the Body Award from the Slammys, and Gorilla puts over Ultimate Warrior. They teased that feud for a while before it happened. Everyone likes Rude and Roberts in retrospect but both of them had a lot of stinkers in their careers. This is a time limit draw of 15 minutes that feels like it’s an hour. Heenan yells at Rude for some of the match about not wasting time, which always seems to telegraph a draw. Rude gets a pinning combo as the time limit expires with his feet on the ropes. This bored an already dead crowd, which only woke up when the snake came from the bag after the match.
Verdict: Would have been MUCH better to do a double countout or double DQ with a wild brawl. This would set up the feud that they had already filmed. Doing a draw like this did nothing for anyone.
Gene Okerlund is in front of the brackets with Vanna White, who doesn’t know who Bob Uecker is. Vanna confirms that she is white by saying that Hulk has been nice to her. White also likes that Randy Savage has a “woman person” like Liz behind him.
Ultimate Warrior vs Hercules (w/Bobby Heenan)
The build: This was a non-tournament match. Hercules and Warrior had a “chain match” on Superstars where Warrior “broke” the chain. Even though it would take two to do that since they were both holding on. This was also Warrior’s first feud of any note.
The match: Warrior was still very green at this point. Hercules needs three clotheslines before the Warrior would go down, but when the tables are turned Warrior only needs one. Warrior tries to hotshot Herc on the top rope but whiffs. Looked like Warrior tried to skin the cat but missed. That would have been a sight. Heenan is shown with his hand in his pocket, Ventura defends by saying he’s just looking for change for the slots. Gorilla says Brain has “short arms and deep pockets”. Hercules gets the full nelson but doesn’t have it fully locked, Warrior walks to ropes and lifts a shoulder to avoid the double pin and score the fall.
Verdict: Crappy looking finish. What’s funny is Hercules would be on the other side of the exact same finish a year later at WM5. Warrior gets out of being choked by the chain and swings it around after the match.
Jump cut in the Network version because of the intermission break. Sugar Ray Leonard is shown in the crowd; Titan Sports would promote his November 1988 fight with Donny Lalonde. It was not profitable.
Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant (w/Ted DiBiase and Virgil)
The build: Andre did not wrestle after WM3 until the Survivor Series. Hogan was counted out and Andre prevailed as the sole survivor. In the meantime, DiBiase proposed buying the WWF title off Hogan who replied in a very subtle and understated fashion, “HELLLLLLLLL NOOOOOOO!!!!” Andre the Giant was more receptive and DiBiase bought his contract from Bobby Heenan. After a Saturday Night’s Main Event match, Andre choked out Hogan during the posedown after a win over King Kong Bundy. The contract for the Main Event was signed at the Royal Rumble. As referenced, Andre won the match, sold the belt to DiBiase and it was held up a week later. Each man got a bye to round 2 in the tournament.
The match: This is not good, even accounting for Andre’s limitations. Ventura says Andre looks like a man on a mission. He’s not rapping like Mo or Mabel though. Andre with some shots early before Hogan responds with forearms. Hogan knocks DiBiase and Andre together before Andre gets tied in the ropes. Eventually, Hogan gets caught in a choke after hitting 3 rapid elbows. Andre gets that nerve hold and time for a hilarious note: during this is when Tape 1 on the Coliseum Video tape ran out and you had to switch to tape 2. Hogan Hulks up and goes for a slam but DiBiase hits him with a chair as the ref is distracted by Virgil, who probably enjoyed the attention. Hulk and Andre fight over the chair and Hogan lands a shot. Then Andre hits Hogan with the side of the chair that you can hear a PING. Yikes. Andre is knocked down by a 3rd shot. Hulk chases DiBiase but Ted throws Virgil to Hulk. Hogan then shows his love for people of color by hitting a horrific vertical suplex on Virgil. There is no announcement after the bell so Gorilla tells us both guys have been DQ’d, probably because with Hogan out this crowd would tune out immediately. Hogan then hits the most anticlimactic slam of Andre ever, which Trump probably put in the contract for hosting the event.
Verdict: If Hogan wasn’t going to win, the path had to be cleared. Though he could have lost the final by countout or a screwy DQ. I LOVE how Jesse Ventura rags on Hogan for posing after being eliminated. Then Jesse says he thinks Andre got the double DQ to wipe out Hogan at DiBiase’s behest. Gorilla doubts this but Andre would actually confirm this bit of storytelling later. Man, this was a good night for Ventura. “I love watching Hogan pose when he’s not the champion,” says Ventura, who adds that Donald Trump is a winner because he signed a “heckuva check” to get Jesse to appear. The Body’s burials of Hogan will never get old with me.
Gene Okerlund is with the Macho Man in Liz in the pink robe/dress combo. Savage puts over Hogan in a way that Hogan would never put Macho over. Nothing will stop the Madness now, says Macho who links himself to Hogan. Will he take it all? Liz says “I think he is” in a rare comment from her.
“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs “The Rock” Don Muraco (w/Billy Graham)
The build: DiBiase has no one with him. Andre just wrestled, and Virgil is out of commission while Muraco has Graham with him.
The match: This is an excellent carry job by Ted. Muraco with some offense early including stuff before the bell. Jesse is pissed about this but Gorilla says all is fair in love and war and in quest for the WWF title. Ventura worries about Superstar interfering and Graham threatens Ted with the cane. DiBiase gets a cool looking stun gun on Muraco to score the win.
Verdict: Not that bad, all things considered. DiBiase to the finals, as projected by anyone with a brain.
Bob Uecker can’t find Vanna White, but Demolition and Mr. Fuji interrupt. Excellent promo by Ax and Smash, and Uecker wonders if it’s October 31st already. Also looks at Fuji and says he’s never had sushi. Back in the ring, we waste some time with the One Man Gang there. Finkel says he has a bye and will face the weinner of the next match.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart)
The build: None to speak of, and no history between these guys though both won the IC title from Tito Santana.
The match: Hammer is in control for much of the match here. Funny when Gorilla raises the possibility of a One Man Gang-Valentine match. Both guys nearly left the WWF that fall for Jim Crockett Promotions but both were convinced to stay. Cool spot where Savage gets the double axe handle but Hammer gets a punch in so both men are down. The Hammer goes for the figure four but Savage turns it into a small package for the win.
Verdict: Kinda neat how Savage won in similar fashion to how he lost at WM3.
Gene Okerlund is with Vanna White, who is hiding from Uecker. Vanna’s acting leaves a lot to be desired. She still loves Hulk though.
Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake vs The Honky Tonk Man (C) (w/Jimmy Hart and Peggy Sue) for the Intercontinental title
The build: Beefcake got a match for the title in late 1987 and ended up cutting Jimmy Hart’s hair, but didn’t win the belt. That’s very familiar. Honky for his part eliminated Brutus from the Survivor Series with his Shake Rattle and Roll finisher.
The match: Beefcake messes up Honky’s hair early to psych him out. I mentioned earlier that Jesse made a joke about scalping tickets and that is probably a veiled reference to an actual incident where Beefcake gave his comp tickets to Mark Etess of Trump Plaza and asked him to scalp the tickets for him. Ventura also says hi to his family during this match. Peggy Sue is of course Sensational Sherri in disguise. Gorilla and Jesse have a good discussion about the DQ rules for championship matches. When Honky takes control, he goes for Shake Rattle and Roll but stops and just knees Beefcake instead. Clearly a blown spot or they were out of position. When he goes for the move later, Honky moved him near the rope where the Barber grabs to get out of the hold. Sleeper by the Barber and Jimmy Hart hits the apron. When referee Jim Korderas comes over, Hart waffles him from behind. This was legitimate, as Korderas was either legit knocked out by the megaphone or from hitting the mat. Hart tries to bail but is caught and Beefcake grabs him, sits on him then cuts off a bunch of his hair. Peggy Sue wakes up Honky with some water, and Beefcake is declared the winner by DQ. You can see Korderas is like a corpse in there showing how real it was.
Verdict: People wanted to see Honky die, and it would have been wasted in front of this cold crowd. Better off doing it at a place like Madison Square Garden which is exactly what they did. But this was almost the same match as the one from the prior November.
Bob Uecker is worried about Vanna, but here is Andre the Giant and magic happens. He brags about taking out Hogan, which is what DiBiase paid him for. Uecker asks Andre to “get your foot off my shoulder” and Andre chokes him for 3-4 seconds as Mr. Baseball does a fantastic sell. Andre is so taken by this you can see him crack a smile on his way out.
The Islanders and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan vs The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware
The build: In a December 1987 match on Superstars, the Islanders kidnapped Matilda. Heenan was particularly anti-dog around this time, saying things that would never fly today. The angle was kind of cut off when people complained and Matilda was returned. Fans were asked to write get well letters to Matilda, which was actually a ploy to replenish the WWF’s mailing lists.
The match: On the Coliseum Video tape, Heenan is shown taking delivery of a package earlier in the show. That would be the attack dog trainers outfit. This is very similar to the six man the Bulldogs were in the prior year, with Heenan in the Danny Davis role. Some vintage Dynamite Kid early against Tama, who definitely was someone who could have been a bigger star if he was more reliable. Ventura says that Heenan looks like a Chinaman out there, which is moderately racist. But he’s actually referring to Hop Sing, the Cook from Bonanza. “Wait til they tag Bobby Heenan then you’ll see some wrestling!” says Ventura. Gorilla is very worried about the straps on Heenan’s outfit. Jesse says Heenan is saving himself to which Gorilla says “yeah, for the senior prom!” Koko with a head-scissors/headlock takeover of both Islanders in a nice move. Swagger
Vader Tama bomb by Tama missed on Dynamite and Koko is back in. Ventura accuses Matilda of using the ring post for a bathroom. Koko works over Heenan but the Islanders make the save. As it breaks down, the Islanders toss Heenan onto Koko and the Brain gets the winning fall. Matilda gets at the Brain after the match, however.
Verdict: Very strange match that didn’t feel like a blowoff. Tama would be gone within a few weeks, replaced by Sifi Avi and then the team was disbanded. The Bulldogs would be gone by the end of the year.
Jesse Ventura is introduced to the crowd and he poses up on the balcony position, and he gets one of the loudest crowd pops of the night. He then declares he might come out of retirement. In the ring, Finkel tells us DiBiase has a bye and will meet the winner of the next match.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs One Man Gang (w/Slick)
The build: Savage is billed as getting tired and is facing a fresher opponent who has over 200 lbs on him.
The match: Macho Man and Liz have the matching black robe/dress combo. Gorilla says Savage has heart, to which Jesse says “Bret Hart?” Gang is clotheslined on the top rope when Savage grabbed him by his beard. Very quick match as Slick throws the cane to the Gang while the referee talks to Elizabeth who was on the apron because Slick had been sassing her. Gang misses with the cane and the ref turns around for the DQ right before Savage is hit with the cane. Kind of pointless, especially since in the post-match, Savage hits a double axe handle on OMG and he falls into Slick and squashes his own manager. So why couldn’t he just pin him?
Verdict: Would have preferred Macho to get 4 pinfalls tonight. The only way this makes sense is if DiBiase paid off the Gang to get DQ’d but damage Randy Savage but they never pursued that. DiBiase of course would famously do business with Slick at the 1989 Royal Rumble to buy #30.
Okerlund is with Vanna White again and they are both excited. Uecker comes by but he misses her. Uecker says some guy named Vance White wrote him letters, which is puzzling. A rare comedy miss for the man who played Harry Doyle
Demolition (w/Mr. Fuji) vs Strike Force (C) for the WWF tag team titles
The build: Not much in the way of interaction, but Demolition was pushed strongly as #1 contenders leading up. Strike Force is a classic example of a babyface team that was very popular but then when they became champions gradually declined since “the chase” was no longer in play.
The match: Demolition beats down Rick Martel early and the crowd pops. Poor Ricky Martel, doing his babyface best but it wasn’t working at this point. Strike Force hits some double team moves and goes for a pin, which Jesse says should not count. Which is strange since tag team wrestling is mostly about cool double teams. Gorilla questions whether Martel can beat or even use the Boston Crab in the match. Oh come on, if this blog is committed to anything it’s the proposition that Rick Martel is awesome and can do it all. Bearhug/clothesline combo on Tito transitions control to Demolition. Santana will be the face in peril here. “Bet you Chico wishes he was back selling tacos in Tijuana right now,” says Jesse. Gorilla: “He’s not from Tijuana, Jess!” Because that was the issue. Tito fights back with the flying forearm, which Ventura says he learned in the Mexican Football League, the MFL. Not the XFL, but Tito did play football at West Texas State with Ted DiBiase and Tully Blanchard. Martel gets the hot tag and cleans house and gets the Boston Crab on Smash. See, I told you! Everything breaks down and Tito knocks Ax out of the ring. Fuji is on the apron and Tito takes care of him, but the cane ends up in the ring. Ax picks it up and cross-checks Martel in the neck. I hope the NHL Department of Player Safety looks at that. I should note the crowd doesn’t respond to Martel here until the Boston Crab. Smash pins Martel and Ax hides out with the cane on the outside and we have new champs. The finish gets one of the bigger pops of the night. Jesse says it “looked to be illegal”.
Verdict: It was time to get the belts off Strike Force and Demolition would have a great run. This would be the start of the longest tag title reign in history. Demolition would “injure” Martel on June 1 in Oakland which would allow Martel to take time off to care for his ailing wife. Tito would bring in the Powers of Pain as mercenaries to face Demolition in the early summer.
Robin Leach comes down with the winged eagle title belt. He goes to show it to Donald Trump who just looks at it and pats Leach on the cheek in a hilarious power move. Bob Uecker is introduced as the ring announcer and comes down to a version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played on a tuba. This is because Uecker famously used to catch balls with a tuba in batting practice. He then introduces Vanna White as the timekeeper, who gets quite the security escort. She gives Uecker a peck on the cheek which causes Bob to nearly faint.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (w/Andre the Giant) – Tournament Final
The build: These two had a match on SNME that aired only 15 days earlier. DiBiase won by countout and supposedly the idea behind it was Savage wanted a test match to go over things with DiBiase.
The match: Macho and Liz are in the matching white robe/dress combo. Before the match, Jesse asks the Vanna vs Liz question and Gorilla chooses Liz. Then Jesse says he’d pick Vanna so as not to fight Macho Man for Liz. You can hear beeping because Gorilla backs up like a dump truck on that one. The story told early is that Andre is going to interfere and Savage has no answer. Andre grabs the leg of Savage who trips, and the crowd chants for Hogan immediately. Savage gets tripped a second time, ref sees nothing. Incidentally, very strange to have Hebner as the referee here considering the angle was fresh in everyone’s mind. After taking some shots early, Savage regains control and DiBiase ends up outside. Macho Man tries a double axe handle to the outside but Andre is in the way. He gets in Liz’s ear and she runs back to get Hogan.
DiBiase regains control as Hogan is coming back, and he grabs a chair and sits in Savage’s corner. When he gets there, he stops some Andre interference but Ted still controls. Vertical suplex, gut wrench suplex, that fist drop…oh how I love that Million Dollar Man offense. He goes up top but is caught and slammed. Macho goes for the big elbow but misses. DiBiase goes for the Million Dollar Dream, which is an odd time to debut the move but Savage can’t grab the rope because Andre grabbed it. Referee admonishes, and Hogan sneaks in with the chair and clobbers DiBiase. It’s a heel move, but one chair shot from earlier deserves another. Savage sees it, hits the iconic elbow (maybe the best one he ever did) and gets the win. Hogan stands around to give the endorsement, but it only feels like he overshadows the coronation of a new champion. Liz holding the belt on Macho’s shoulder is one of the greatest images in the history of wrestling. “What a threesome, Jess” says Gorilla. Couldn’t have picked a worse time for that particular line. Jesse wants to come out of retirement again.
Verdict: Good, fun match that was pretty well booked. DiBiase and Savage would have a great series of one on one rematches on house shows, including a cage match series. The four principals would meet in the main event of Summerslam 1988, which I covered in one of my first blog posts here.
Summary: I don’t hate this show, because it’s ingrained in me as part of my childhood. But is it a good show? Of course not! Hell, there was a much better wrestling show airing for free on TBS that very day in the Clash of the Champions! So much wasted time, so many matches and anyone without a connection to it will feel like this takes forever. But when you sit as a kid eating Mac and Cheese while watching the tape 5-6 times a year, of course it’ll be close to the heart. I wouldn’t recommend this show, but consider this guide a rather mild defense of my own childhood memories.