LOS ANGELES, March 20, 2014 — Wrestling fans, can you smell it in the air? Can you feel the electricity running through your veins? That surge of excitement and anticipation you are feeling, only comes during “WrestleMania Season!” Well, at least that is what the WWE’s hype machine would like you to believe.
On Sunday April 6, WrestleMania XXX will occur at the Superdome in New Orleans. Can you imagine that? Thirty years of WrestleMania is a milestone for the WWE and its fans.
WrestleMania, or “The Showcase of the Immortals,” is what the World Wrestling Entertainment refers to as their “season-ending” pay-per-view extravaganza. It is the WWE’s version of the SuperBowl/World Series/Olympics/Royal Coronation/Grammys/Ship Launchings, and other grandiose events all rolled into one.
The first WrestleMania took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 31, 1985. It was the WWE’s, then the WWF, first annual pay-per-view event. Since it was 1985, the first WrestleMania was only available in selected areas. The event was viewed by over one million fans through closed-circuit television making it the largest showing of an event on closed-circuit television in the United States at the time.
WrestleMania was the brainchild of WWE’s owner Vincent Kennedy McMahon. His idea was to take the world of the “World Wrestling Federation” and infuse it with elements of pop culture like MTV and Saturday Night Live. McMahon felt that professional wrestling could bring actors, musicians and other cultural icons to interact in wrestling’s “world”, then that may attract new potential viewers. WrestleMania I featured several of the celebrities of the day such as Muhammad Ali, Liberace, Cyndi Lauper, and Yankees’ manager, Billy Martin.
The tag line for the event was “The Greatest Wrestling Event of All Time!” At the time, Vince McMahon’s main competition was Jim Crockett Promotions, which ran a yearly pay-per-view event called “Starrcade”. Starrcade’s first event was held in 1983. McMahon planned to rival, if not eclipse the success of Crockett’s Starrcade, and celebrity attendance would be his ticket to mainstream glory with WrestleMania.
If you are a wrestling fan and have never watched WrestleMania I, most of the card is forgettable, but do yourself a favor and watch just for the historical value. The Main Event of the night featured Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff battling Hulk Hogan and Mr. T (Yes, that Mr. T. Are there any other Mr. T’s that you know of?) in a tag team battle for the ages. Muhammad Ali was also the Special Guest Referee in this match.
The other main events featured Andre the Giant and Big John Studd in a $15,000 Body Slam Challenge and Wendi Richter escorted to the ring by Cyndi Lauper challenging Leilani Kai for her the Women’s Championship.
WrestleMania IV is a special event because it was the one night single elimination tournament where the winner would be crowned the new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Hulk Hogan, who was Champion for the past three years, had lost his title to Andre the Giant under controversial circumstances. Andre the Giant sold the title belt to the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase 47 seconds after he became champion.
WWF President Jack Tunney stepped in and vacated the title and immediately ordered a new champion to be crowned with a 14-man tournament at WrestleMania IV. Some of the superstars included in the tournament were Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, Jim Duggan, Jake Roberts, Rick Rude, and more.
As with WrestleMania I, IV’s matches are somewhat dated in the style to which current wrestling fans are accustomed. However, this is a landmark pay-per-view as the only other time there was a one night tournament for the title was the 1998 Survivor Series. While WrestleMania IV is built around the 14-man tournament, The Honky Tonk Man defends his Intercontinental Championship against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and Ax and Smash of Demolition challenge the tag team champions Rick Martel and Tito Santana of Strike Force.
Listen to a review of WrestleMania I on the podcast, “Time Limit Draw,” which reviews retro wrestling pay-per-views, and this was the show’s inaugural episode released in May 2013.
The second iconic WrestleMania of the past that “Time Limit Draw” tackled was 1988’s WrestleMania IV. This episode was released more recently on March 16, 2014.
James Ryan is a wrestling columnist for Communities Digital News. He is also a host of the Time Limit Draw podcast is found exclusively on iTunes under “Monday Night Flaw” and on the Flawedcast Network website at www.flawedcast.net/MNF. Please follow on twitter @TheTLDPod