WWE WrestleMania IV
March 27, 1988
Atlantic City, New Jersey
The fourth WrestleMania event was unique in that it’s the first and only time that WrestleMania began without somebody holding what was then known as the WWF World Heavyweight Title. How did that happen?
During a match with Andre The Giant in February, the reigning World Champion Hulk Hogan was screwed over by a shady referee (the infamous twin Hebner angle), who was bought off by Ted Dibiase. Andre won the title and he handed it over to Ted Dibiase, who had bought it from him. That title reign didn’t last for long as WWF President Jack Tunney stripped Dibiase of the title and announced a 14 man one night tournament at WrestleMania. That’s a quick way to sum up a big angle. I’ll get more into it during the show.
On a personal note, this is the first WrestleMania I watched live. I can remember being almost 7.5 years old and begging my older cousin to order it at his house because I wanted to see if my favorite wrestler Randy Savage was going to win the World Heavyweight Title during the one night tournament. The PPVs were shown live in the afternoon in these days, so I can remember watching it with my cousins and a few of my friends, who were also big WWF fans at the time. Like a lot of people, we were excited to see who would leave this show as the WWF Champion.
This is a four hour show. I’m not doing full play by play for every match on every show going forward unless I’ve already written a recap for it, which we won’t get to until we get in the WrestleManias in the 2000s. I’ll hit the key points in every match while also providing some analysis.
The event takes place in Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, which of course is owned by Donald “I like to put my name on things” Trump. The crowd is very loud at the beginning. Mean Gene Okerlund is in the ring and he welcomes us to the show. He introduces Gladys Knight, who sings America The Beautiful.
First match is a battle royal. There’s a trophy for the winner. The announcers for the show are Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura, who always did a very good job together. They run down the card talking about the tournament and Bob Uecker is back as a celebrity just like he was a year earlier.
Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Bad News Brown, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov, Danny Davis, George Steele, Harley Race, Hillbilly Jim, Jacques Rougeau, Ray Rougeau, Jim Powers, Paul Roma, Ken Patera, Ron Bass, Sam Houston, Sika, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell and Junkyard Dog
There are a lot of midcarders and tag teams in this one. Gorilla called Hillbilly Jim a favorite to win. Well he is tall, but I doubt many people believed it. First guy eliminated is Sam Houston followed by Sika as the next elimination. George Steele is in the match, but he spends much of the match out on the floor just because he’s a crazy man. Steele eliminated Neidhart while he was still outside the ring. Both Killer Bees are eliminated as well as Ray Rougeau and then Ron Bass. The announcers are arguing about whether or not Steele had been eliminated. Hillbilly Jim is next to be eliminated and Paul Roma eliminates Danny Davis, while Roma’s partner Jimmy Powers got eliminated as well. Race lost a headbutt battle with JYD, who always has the hardest head. Flurry of eliminations with Volkoff, Zhukov, Patera, Jacques and then Harley gets headbutted out by JYD. Final four are Bret Hart, JYD, Bad News Brown and Paul Roma. Brown eliminates Roma with a backdrop. The heels (Brown & Hart) try to work on JYD, but he avoids the double team and hits the headbutts on both guys. They recover to double tea on JYD, who was always very popular. Hart and Brown try to corner JYD, who does his best to fight them off. They weaken JYD and pick him up by the legs to eliminate him. Hart & Brown are the last two left. They raise each other’s hands. Hart was celebrating, so Brown kicked him in the back of the head. Bret whipped him in with Bret taking his sternum bump into the turnbuckle. Brown throws Bret out to win the battle royal at 9:45.
Winner: Bad News Brown
After it was over, two dudes in suits presented Bad News with a trophy that was over six feet tall. Bret was pissed about the elimination, so went back in there, knocked Brown out of the ring and destroyed the trophy. The crowd cheered Bret for his actions. The Hart Foundation would soon turn babyface after this and Bret would be in the babyface role for the next nine years.
Analysis: * It was a very boring battle royal until it got down to the final three competitors. The ending bit with Brown & Hart was a lot of fun especially because it meant the babyface turn of Bret Hart.
Bob Uecker left the announce table to go find Vanna White. He’s not bad as a celebrity announcer, but it’s not like he’d be missed too badly.
In the ring, Howard Finkel welcomed Robin Leach, who was the host of the TV show “The Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.” It was fairly popular show in the late 80s and early 90s…I think. I have no idea. I was watching sports, wrestling, cartoons and playing Nintendo. The glory days. He read a proclamation, welcoming us to the World Title Tournament portion of the show.
It’s the first round of the tournament. There were 14 men in the tournament with Hulk Hogan & Andre The Giant receiving first round byes.
First Round: Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Ted Dibiase w/Virgil & Andre the Giant
Dibiase has his assistant Virgil with him, along with Andre the Giant. Hacksaw gets control early with an atomic drop that sends Dibiase over the top to the floor. Back in the ring, Duggan uses his power to put him down with a clothesline and corner charge misses. Dibiase works him over with punches as well as a clothesline to put him down. Dibiase hits a double axe plus a fist drop for a count of two. The crowd was solidly behind Hacksaw, who hit a shocking sunset flip for two. Duggan came back with a suplex and another hard clothesline. Nice powerslam by Duggan. He set up for his finisher in the three point stance, but Andre tripped him up. Duggan went after him, so Andre hit him in the head at the same while Dibiase drove his knee into Duggan’s back. The ref saw the Andre punch and did nothing. He should have been looking elsewhere. It was a jobber ref, not Joey Marella (Gorilla’s son) or one of the Hebner twins. Dibiase hit a fist drop to win at 4:57.
Winner: Ted Dibiase
Analysis: * The finish wasn’t great, but they got the story over with Dibiase being a threat because he had Andre in his corner.
Backstage, Mean Gene talked to Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, who loves his steel blades that he uses to cut hair. That’s all I got out of it. I was distracted by his awful outfit. He’s facing Honky Tonk Man for the IC title later.
First Round: Dino Bravo w/Frenchy Martin vs. Don Muraco w/Superstar Billy Graham
Muraco was a face here. Graham is a former World Champion as I’m sure most know. Two power guys here. Let’s just say it’s unlikely they would pass a Wellness Test legitimately in 2012. Muraco was sloppy pretty early, missing a few spots. Bravo used his power, hitting a gutwrench suplex. Bravo missed a knee attack, so Muraco worked over his left leg with a variety of moves including a spinning toehold. Bravo kicked him off and hit a Piledriver for two. That was Muraco’s finisher. Muraco recovered and they hit clotheslines at the same time. Muraco hit a bodyslam and he ran off the ropes, but Bravo pulled the ref in front of him, which led to Muraco decking the ref with the forearm smash. Bravo hit his signature move, a side slam. Yep, that’s his finisher. The ref miraculously recovered way too quickly and instead of counting the pin, he tapped Bravo on the shoulder to let him know that he was disqualifying him. Muraco wins via DQ at 4:53.
Winner: Don Muraco
The win means Muraco meets Dibiase in the quarterfinals.
Analysis: 1/2* Bad mesh of styles here since they were two power guys who had no chemistry together. The finish sucked.
In the interview area, Bob Uecker talked to Jimmy Hart & Honky Tonk Man, who was the Intercontinental Champion. Uecker told Hart that Bob’s buddy Brutus Beefcake was going to cut Jimmy’s hair. It wasn’t much of an interview.
Time for another tournament match as Greg Valentine takes on Ricky Steamboat, which should be pretty good. Valentine was in the ring first. Ricky got a big pop. He brought out his son known as Little Dragon, who was a couple of months old (Jesse said he looked like a power lifter). That son is now wrestling in FCW under the name of Richie Steamboat.
First Round: Greg Valentine w/Jimmy Hart vs. Ricky Steamboat
In terms of in-ring performers, Steamboat is one of the best ever and Valentine was very good for much of his career. Gorilla just said “excellence of execution is the name of the game for Ricky Steamboat.” That’s the Bret Hat line a few years early. Ricky got some great nearfalls early, Hammer tried to toss him and Ricky skinned the cat back in leading to a dropkick and a pinfall attempt. Steamboat was awesome. Valentine worked him over with his patented elbows to the head. Nobody used elbows more than Valentine. Ricky countered a suplex attempt by ramming Valentine’s head into the turnbuckle and then he worked over the left arm as he always liked to do. Valentine came back with an atomic drop followed by a clothesline. Hammer used chops to slow him down, but Ricky came back with chops and a bodyslam got countered by Hammer leading to a two count for him. Valentine hit a headbutt to the stomach. Figure Four got countered by Steamboat, which led to a chopping match. Ricky hit a big chop to win that battle. Valentine used his power to get a shoulderbreaker for two. Valentine got an elbow off the top followed by the Figure Four, but Steamboat hit him in the head to break free. Ricky hit a back elbow to put Valentine down. Ricky went to the top and hit a chop to the head for a count of two. Steamboat rammed Valentine’s head into the corner 10 times. To the top, Ricky hit the flying crossbody (his finisher), but Hammer rolled through, grabbed the tights, covered and the ref counted to three for the victory at 9:12.
Winner: Greg Valentine
Post match, Ricky argued with the ref about the finish. Then he waved to the fans. I guess he was over it fast. He’d be gone from WWE soon after this. In early 1989 he showed up in the NWA where he had a classic rivalry with Ric Flair. He did return to WWE eventually.
Analysis: *** Best match of the night so far, easily. There were a lot of good nearfalls, they worked hard and built up to the finish very well. It’s a shame that Steamboat wasn’t booked better post WrestleMania 3, but that’s what happens in wrestling sometimes.
They showed Donald Trump sitting at ringside. His hair wasn’t as awful as it is these days. Age is a bad thing.
Backstage, Gene talked to The British Bulldogs & Koko B Ware. The Bulldogs talked about how Matilda the Dog was a certified weasel hunter, meaning she’d be going after Bobby Heenan later. One of his nicknames was “The Weasel” for those that don’t know.
Next up in the tournament is Butch Reed vs. Randy Savage. Here we go. The seven and a half year old version of John Canton was marking out during this entrance. Randy was my personal favorite when I was a kid as I’ve written many times. He was a very popular babyface here a year after stealing the show as a heel at WrestleMania 3 with Ricky Steamboat.
First Round: Butch Reed w/Slick vs. Randy Savage w/Elizabeth
Reed was a decent midcarder, but never a main event level heel. Savage could have good matches with just about anybody if he got the time. The crowd loved everything Savage did. Reed used his power to get a suplex leading to a two count. Reed knocked him out to the floor as Slick celebrated with Reed. Slick wore some great outfits, that’s for sure. Reed hit a fist drop off the middle rope. After a brief comeback by Savage, Reed decked him with a clothesline. Reed went to the top very slowly, Savage slammed him off and quickly climbed to the top to hit the flying elbow for the pinfall victory at 4:05.
Winner: Randy Savage
Analysis: 1/2* Reed got some offense in, but Savage was able to outsmart him for the win. It was basically a squash, which is what it should have been.
The quarterfinals look like this with two matches to go:
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant
Ted Dibiase vs. Don Muraco
Greg Valentine vs. Randy Savage
Backstage, Bob Uecker continued to trash talk Jesse about Vanna White. He talked to Bobby Heenan and The Islanders, who were facing the Bulldogs and Koko B Ware later on. The big story was what Matilda would do to Heenan during the match.
In another tournament match, the One Man Gang was in the ring waiting for his opponent, Bam Bam Bigelow.
First Round: One Man Gang w/Slick vs. Bam Bam Bigelow w/Sir Oliver Humperdink
Both guys weighed around 400 pounds. Bigelow is the face here. He was a pretty good worker for a big guy. Gang was limited as a worker, but had impressive size. I always thought the name One Man Gang was pretty cool for a wrestler. Gang used power early, but Bam Bam used his speed to hit a shoulderblock, a cartwheel and an ugly splash. Bigelow hit a headbutt as Gorilla busted out his “irresistible force vs. immovable object” line. Bigelow used a series of clotheslines and some headbutts to knock Gang down. Bigelow ran into the ropes, Slick pulled the top rope down and he bumped over the top to the floor. Bigelow got on the apron, Gang was hitting him while he was on the apron, the ref was counting and Bigelow got back in the ring after the ten count while Gang left the ring on the other side. Why was the ref counting while Bigelow was on the apron getting hit by Gang? Odd. Gang wins via countout at 2:56.
Winner: One Man Gang via countout
Analysis: DUD That’s one of the worst booked finishes I think I’ve ever seen. I always liked Bigelow. He showed flashes of his athleticism, but it was too short to really showcase what he could do.
Backstage, Mean Gene interviewed Hulk Hogan. He cuts a very intense promo where he says that he’s going to prove that he can beat Andre The Giant again. That part of the promo is pretty good. The rest of this promo is completely insane as he talks about how there will be an earthquake once he slams Andre, that Donald Trump will have to dogpaddle through across the ocean to save his family and really I just wish I had these three minutes back. You can see the promo for yourself and try to figure out what he’s trying to say…brother.
It’s time for the last first round match as “Ravishing” Rick Rude takes on Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Rude has Bobby Heenan with him as his manager. There are a lot of managers on this show. Rude tells us to keep the noise down while he shows off his body. “Look at the abs,” says Gorilla. That’s awkward.
First Round: Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts
I’ve always been a fan of these guys. They’re two of the better wrestlers from this period that didn’t become true main eventers. They also had two of the best mustaches in the history of wrestling. That’s a future column! Not really. I liked Roberts more as a heel, but he was very popular in the face role. They start off exchanging bodyslam until Roberts decides to slow it down by working on Rude’s left arm with a wrist lock. I just heard a classic Gorilla-ism as he said “kisser” which was his name for a person’s mouth. Rude fights back to his feet, so Jake hits a shoulderblock and goes for a DDT, but Rude bails to the floor. They are working a very slow paced match here. Back in the ring, Rude finally took control by dodging a knee lift and hitting a nice clothesline to put Jake down for a two count. Rude puts him in a reverse chin lock for a couple of minutes. This match is way too slow. It’s even losing a hot crowd. Jake fights out, so Rude knocks him back down with a chop to the head and a clothesline gets him two. Back to the chin lock. Roberts fights out, but Rude hits a flap jack and then goes to the top rope with a fist drop. Then back to the chin lock. Oh no not again. Jake suplexes out, but Rude holds onto the chin lock because he loves it so much. Roberts rolls out, so Rude elbows him for a two count and then goes back to the chin lock again. Roberts finally fought out of it with a jawbreaker and hit a back body drop. Roberts hits the patented short clothesline while the crowd cheers loudly after waking up from all those chin locks. Rude avoids the DDT, but a charge into the corner doesn’t work as Jake gets a boot up and hits a gutbuster for two. Rude comes back for a back suplex while the announcers wonder if it’s close to a time limit draw. They do the double clothesline spot as each guy is knocked out. Rude trips him up, covers him with his feet on the ropes and the ref counts to one as the bell rings. It’s a time limit draw at the 15 minute mark. It actually went to about 15:10, but they had to time it with that last spot to end the match.
No winner due to a time limit draw
After the match, Rude thought he had won. The ref told him it was a draw. They had announced earlier that the first round had a time limit of 15 minutes meaning nobody advances to the next round.
Analysis: * Sometimes guys will be booked in a 15 minute match and they will go all out with a bunch of nearfalls to make it look like a classic. In this case they didn’t try to have a classic. They just wanted to make it to the 15 minute mark by busting out way too many rest holds. I think Rude had him in the chin lock for about six minutes total, if not more. Both of those guys were better than this. They should have had a better match. Instead, they had this very disappointing bout that I had forgotten about over the years probably because of how boring it was. Also, they should have had a clock or something to warn us that they were near the 15 minute mark because if they did that maybe the crowd would have cared a bit more.
The Quarterfinals of the tournament look like this:
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant
Ted Dibiase vs. Don Muraco
Greg Valentine vs. Randy Savage
One Man Gang gets a bye into the Semi-finals
If it was a logical tournament, Hogan and Andre wouldn’t meet so early in the tournament. It’s not, though, so that match is coming up. Giving Gang a bye was probably a smart move. He wasn’t really known for his endurance.
Mean Gene is backstage near a board that has the tournament brackets. He brings in Vanna White, who was on Wheel of Fortune. It’s 24 years later and she’s still on Wheel of Fortune, so this was when she was in her prime. I guess she’s still attractive to the 50+ year olds that likely make up the majority of Wheel of Fortune viewers. She analyzes the key people in the tournament. I hit fast forward.
Back to the ring, Hercules was ready for his match to begin. His opponent? The Ultimate Warrior, who sprints down to the ring.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules w/Bobby Heenan
This was Warrior’s first WrestleMania. He was very popular here and it would only grow over the next couple of years. He was also very green, so seeing him have a good match was rare. It’s another powerhouse match, so lots of the usual power exchanges like punches being thrown all over the place and clotheslines being the most popular moves. It took three Hercules clotheslines to put the Warrior down. Back to his feet, Warrior knocked him down with two clotheslines in a row. Hercules dumped him to the floor, Warrior pulled him outside with him and rammed him into the metal steps. Back in the ring, Hercules used his power to take over with an atomic drop. Warrior missed a charge in the corner. Hercules put him in the Full Nelson. Warrior went to the corner, pushed off with his feet and they fell back so both of their shoulders were down. The ref counted them both down, Warrior got his shoulder up at two and Hercules was down for three so Warrior won via pinfall at 4:32.
Winner: The Ultimate Warrior
After the match, the crowd was very happy with Warrior’s win. Hercules attacked after the match by wrapping the chain around his neck. Warrior powered out of it, stealing the chain and causing Hercules to bail.
Analysis: 1/2* Not much of a match. Weak finish. Warrior should have won in a more decisive manner especially because of how hard they pushed him after this. Crowd loved Warrior, but this was a brutal match to watch.
It’s intermission time as they roll commercials for WWF merchandise. Fast forward.
Back from intermission, Gorilla & Jesse set up the Quarterfinal round of matches starting off with Hogan vs. Andre.
We get video highlights of all the key moments in the Hogan/Andre relationship through the years from when they were friends to when Andre challenged for the title at WrestleMania 3 and when Hogan won there. Then we see Ted Dibiase’s promo where he says he’s going to buy the World Heavyweight Title. Hogan’s response to Dibiase was: “Hell no!” Then we got a clip of Andre attacking Hogan after a Saturday Night’s Main Event match and choking him down so that he passed out. Then we get a clip of Dibiase asking Andre if he’d deliver the World Title to him and Andre saying that he will deliver that belt. The next clip is from The Main Event when Hogan had Andre pinned after the leg drop, but Virgil had distracted the referee. Andre ended up coming back, hitting Hogan with a headbutt and a suplex. He covered, Hogan had his arm up at one and the ref still counted to three. We later found out that the ref was Dave Hebner’s twin brother Earl, who got paid off by Ted Dibiase. From there, WWF President Jack Tunney announced that the World Title would be vacant and we’d get this tournament out of it. Now the Quarterfinals are ready to begin.
The first entrant is Andre The Giant, who is accompanied by Ted Dibiase & Virgil. He gets booed although it’s not that bad. I think people were still in awe of Andre even though he was a heel. “Real American” starts up and the crowd goes wild for Hulk Hogan.
Quarterfinal Round: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant w/Ted Dibiase & Virgil
Hogan slides into the ring, Andre attacks right away and the match begins. Andre goes after him with chops, headbutts and punches to the head. Hulk comes back with three forearms that almost knock Andre out of the ring. Dibiase on the apron, Hogan goes after him, Andre walks over, Hogan grabs him and it’s DOUBLE NOGGIN KNOCKER~! time. Hogan chops him a few times as Andre falls back into the ropes, tying himself. He always did that spot. Dibiase and Virgil helped him out of there. Hogan hit him with multiple punches, which eventually put Andre down. The Giant came back with a blatant choke hold. Andre choked him a lot and used chokes to ground Hogan while the crowd cheered the Hulkster on. Hulk fought out of the deadly trapezius hold with “big right hands to the kisser.” Hulk gave him a clothesline that put Andre in the corner. Virgil went on the apron. The ref told him to get down as Dibiase snuck up behind Hogan and hit him with a chair in the back. The ref didn’t see him. Hulk got the chair, fought over the chair with Andre, kicked him in the gut and hit Andre in the back with the chair. Andre got the chair from him, kicked him in the gut and hit Hogan in the head with the chair. That was one of the most awkward chair shots I’ve ever seen. Ref calls for the bell at 5:13 making it a double disqualification. Shouldn’t Hogan be the one that gets disqualified since he was the first guy to use the chair?
Match Result – Double Disqualification
After the match, Hogan used the chair again. He hit Andre in the head with it to knock him down. Hogan chases after Dibiase and Virgil. Dibiase shoves Virgil towards Hulk, who gives Virgil an awkward looking suplex on the floor because Hulk never fell down with him. Ouch. Hogan went back to the ring. Andre was still dazed. Hogan gave Andre a bodyslam much to the delight of the crowd. Andre bailed while Hogan celebrated. Hulk looked pretty happy for a guy that lost because he used a chair in the match.
Analysis: 1/2* A bad match not on the level of their WrestleMania 3 match because Andre was a year older and was obviously in bad shape here. It was difficult for him to do anything. As for the booking, I’m sure a lot of people were shocked that Hogan didn’t win this tournament. It was a refreshing change to know that somebody else would be holding the World Title by the end of this night.
The double disqualification means that the winner of the Dibiase/Muraco match advances to the finals of the tournament.
Back to the interview area, Mean Gene talked to Randy Savage and Elizabeth. Savage said Hogan was a cheated man, not a defeated man. Good point. Savage thinks nothing is going to stop him and one half of the Megapowers from making it all the way to the finals. “All the way yeah!” With a thumbs up. That was a bit cheesy.
Quarterfinal Round: Ted Dibiase vs. Don Muraco w/Superstar Billy Graham
Ted doesn’t have Virgil or Andre with him because of what happened in the match before. Muraco jumped him before the bell and used a powerslam to get a two count. He dominated the first minute or two as Dibiase tried to break free, but it wasn’t easy until he escaped following a Muraco dropkick. Graham scared him while on the floor, so Ted rolled back in and Muraco continued the attack. After getting beat up for about two minutes, Ted countered the power by outsmarting Muraco and driving him head first into the turnbuckle. Dibiase hit a clothesline on Muraco followed by a knee. The crowd is pretty quiet for this one. I think the Hogan/Andre match wore them out, which is understandable. It’s not easy to follow a match like that. Dibiase continued the offense, but then he made a mistake as he went to the middle rope and missed a back elbow thanks to Muraco moving out of the way. Muraco hits a clothesline while Dibiase begs off. Muraco charges in, Ted picks him up and drops him throat first over the top rope, stun gun style. That’s enough for the pinfall at 5:44.
Winner: Ted Dibiase
The win means Dibiase goes to the finals of the tournament since the Hogan/Andre match resulted in no winner.
Analysis: * Very basic match. Muraco had the power moves early, Dibiase used his smarts to come back and then when it looked like Muraco would finish him off it was time for Ted to use his brains again to get the win. I liked seeing the stun gun used as a finisher here. Of course it wasn’t called the stun gun at this point, but that’s the name I use for it since Steve Austin used it as a finisher in his WCW days.
Backstage, Bob Uecker was in the interview room as Demolition and Mr. Fuji talked trash about Strike Force, who they would be facing later.
In the ring, the One Man Gang was celebrating that he got a bye in the semifinals because of the Roberts/Rude draw earlier in the night. At least he didn’t dance. He was not yet Akeem the African Dream. He faces the winner of the next match.
Next up is Greg Valentine vs. Randy Savage. Macho Man gets a huge pop for his entrance. He’s in a different outfit than he was in during his first match. So is Elizabeth.
Quarterfinal Round: Greg Valentine vs. Randy Savage
This should be a good match. Savage is an all time great in-ring performer while Valentine was pretty good, as I mentioned earlier. Lots of back and forth action. Valentine wears him down with elbows, three different variations of it. Greg loved throwing those elbows. Shoulderbreaker gets two for the Hammer. He dumps Savage over the top to the floor and hits him with…you guessed it…an elbow. On the apron, Valentine hits him with some more elbows, this time to the throat. Greg goes for the figure four, but Savage is too close to the ropes. Savage hasn’t had much offense in these first few minutes while Valentine hits a suplex for two. The crowd isn’t that loud here. I guess Hogan’s posing really tired them out, huh? Finally, Savage makes a comeback with a bodyslam and a double axehandle off the top gets him two. Hart distracts, so Valentine gets a punch to the throat and a back elbow. Macho reverses a suplex into one of his own. Savage to the top, double axe is countered by a punch to the gut by Valentine. They’re both struggling to get to their feet. Savage misses an attack to the back leading to Valentine going for a figure four. Macho counters with a small package and that’s enough for the win at 6:06.
Winner: Randy Savage
They replayed the finish. Macho left quickly, celebrating the victory.
Analysis: *1/4 I expected better although this finish actually worked unlike most of the earlier matches. It was too short for them to really put the match into the next gear. I liked the finish.
Backstage, Gene talked to Vanna about the ongoing “Bob wants to talk to Vanna” storyline that provided so many unfunny moments during the show. Then they went over the next round of matchups.
World Title Tournament Semifinals:
Randy Savage vs. One Man Gang
Ted Dibiase gets a bye to the finals.
Intercontinental Title: Honky Tonk Man w/Jimmy Hart & Peggy Sue vs. Brutus Beefcake
The role of Peggy Sue is played by Sherri Martel here. Beefcake gets a decent pop here. His babyface act was getting over pretty good. He enters with the scissors because he’s “The Barber” and that’s what he does. Neither guy was a very good worker although they had some decent moments. They were more about doing the basics and getting by on being over the top characters. Beefcake gets an atomic drop. Then he messes up HTM’s hair. Should I call him “Honk” like Gorilla does? It might happen. Beefcake gets a high knee right to the kisser as HTM bails to the floor. Brutus flips him back into the ring and misses a big elbow, which leads to HTM going on offense. The sideburns of HTM are more impressive than his offensive maneuvers. HTM goes for the Shake, Rattle & Roll neckbreaker, but Brutus is near the ropes so he holds on while HTM falls to the mat from the momentum of the shaking. Beefcake makes the big babyface comeback with a back body drop to wake the crowd up from this very boring match. Sleeper by Beefcake much to the delight of the crowd. Jimmy Hart jumps on the apron. The ref tells him to get down. He doesn’t. The ref turns his back, so Hart hits the ref in the back with the Megaphone. Beefcake puts HTM to sleep, but the ref is out and Beefcake had no idea what happened. Hart steals the bag that had Beefcake’s haircutting equipment. Beefcake cuts some of Jimmy’s hair while they’re out on the floor. He had long hair, so that’s very kind of him. In the ring, two referees try to help the knocked out ref. Peggy dumps water on HTM to wake him up. They bail. The official ruling is a DQ win for Beefcake. Other refs stop Beefcake from cutting more hair. Match went about 6:00 or so.
Winner via Disqualification – Brutus Beefcake
Brutus celebrates the win even though he didn’t win the title. He got to cut some hair, so that’s what counts.
Analysis: 1/4* Very boring match. I think the most impressive move was a back body drop. Like I said these two got by more on their charisma than they did on their in-ring skills. Plus, they were both very close friends of Hulk Hogan. That helps. It’s all about the game and how you play it. The political game, I mean.
Backstage, Bob Uecker was joined by Andre the Giant. He says that Ted Dibiase will be the next World Champion and that Hulkamania is over. Then Andre chokes Uecker for fun, which is a very famous clip that I’m sure a lot of you have seen over the years. I love Andre a little more just for doing that. I wish he did it to Vince for booking some of the finishes on this show.
Next match is The Islanders & Bobby Heenan vs. British Bulldog & Koko B Ware. Heenan comes out wearing a dog handler’s jacket to protect him from the bulldog Matilda. The Islanders are comprised of Haku (aka Meng in WCW) and Tama was better known as the Tonga Kid. His brothers are Rikishi & the late Umaga. The more you know. Bulldogs & Koko get a nice ovation from the crowd while the announcers focused in on Matilda more than the actual wrestlers.
British Bulldogs & Koko B Ware vs. The Islanders & Bobby Heenan
Heenan is wrestling here. He immediately gets out of the ring as soon as Matilda meets him in the ring. Yes, the story of this match is about a dog versus a manager. Davey Boy Smith gets a nice crossbody on Haku for two. Nice crucifix by Smith for two. My favorite in this match was Dynamite Kid, but injuries really hurt his career by this point. Smith hit a Gorilla Press slam on Tama, but then the Islanders used quick tags to work him over. Tag to Koko B Ware, who hits a nice dropkick followed by a headlock/headscissors combo on both Islanders. Nice clothesline by Kid, but Haku slows him down with a kick. Heenan tags in, gets a couple of kicks on Kid and tags out as soon as Kid was able to punch him in the gut. The announcers say that Dynamite was back to 100 percent when in fact he was not. He tagged out to Koko, who hit some high flying offense again. Haku used power to slow it down again while Matilda got more close-up shots. Heenan tagged in to go after Koko after The Islanders beat him up. Koko has “WWF” on his tights. He’s a loyal employee, I guess. Koko hit Heenan with punches and then a dropkick to the back that sent Heenan head first into the turnbuckle. The Islanders saved Bobby as all six guys were fighting in the ring. Of course the ref only told the Bulldogs to leave the ring. That allowed the Islanders to pick up Heenan and drop him on top of Koko. That pinfall is good enough for the win at 7:30.
Winners: The Islanders & Bobby Heenan
Post match, Davey Boy grabbed Matilda and chased Heenan up the aisle. Heenan tripped of course, so Smith put Matilda on top of him much to the delight of the crowd. Then they all ran away. Well that was cheesy.
Analysis: 1/2* Another bad match on this card. You have to love how when everybody starts brawling, the ref only tells the babyfaces to leave the ring. The Matilda vs. Heenan payoff wasn’t very exciting although what could you really expect out of it? This was the last WrestleMania appearance for one of my favorites, the Dynamite Kid. His partner Davey Boy Smith would be back of course.
After that match, Howard Finkel asked the crowd to look up to the announce booth to acknowledge Jesse Ventura, who got a nice ovation from the crowd. He did some poses. That’s why they call him “The Body” I guess. More time being wasted on this show.
They announced that Ted Dibiase had a bye into the finals. They felt the need to bring him to the ring to announce this just like they did with One Man Gang earlier. It’s semifinals time as One Man Gang comes out to almost no reaction.
Semifinal Round: Randy Savage w/Elizabeth vs. One Man Gang w/Slick
The announcers try to tell us that Gang is the favorite because he had a bye while Savage had to win two matches. It’s nice of them to paint Savage as an underdog even though I doubt anybody actually believed that Gang would win this with Dibiase already in the finals. Gang uses power moves to slow Savage down. The power moves are clotheslines, punches and splashes in the corner. A bodyslam by Gang gets a two count as Savage gets his foot on the ropes. Gorilla oversells Savage kicking out of another nearfall. Gang misses a splash so Savage comes back with the speed and hits a double axe to knock Gang to the floor. To the top, Savage hits a double axe all the way to Gang on the floor. Savage goes for a bodyslam, but that doesn’t work and Gang knocks him down. Slick walks over to Elizabeth, talking trash. She goes on the apron, the ref tells her to get down and Slick jumps on the apron. Savage goes at Slick, the Slickster tosses his cane to OMG and he attacks Savage with it. The ref turns around to see OMG going after Macho with the cane, so he disqualifies him at 4:05.
Winner: Randy Savage via disqualification
Post match, Gang hit him with the cane one more time sending Macho Man to the floor. Macho recovered, went to the top rope and hit a double axe handle onto OMG, who was hugging Slick which meant he squashed the Slickster.
Analysis: 1/4* It was more story than it was match. Savage could have a good match with a guy like One Man Gang if they were given a lot of time, but obviously that didn’t happen. The idea was that Savage would walk into the finals beat up from not only having three matches, but also the OMG attack with the cane.
Backstage, they went back to Mean Gene and Vanna White in front of the tournament brackets. The finals are set: Dibiase vs. Savage. Vanna excused herself so she could go to ringside. Gene checked out her ass as she left. Gene rules. He might get a star of the night for that. Uecker showed up looking for Vanna, but she left. That ongoing storyline during this show was brutally bad.
It’s tag team title time with Demolition taking on Strike Force, which was Tito Santana and Rick Martel, who came out to some generic music that was awful. The crowd didn’t react much upon their entrance. It’s been a long show.
Tag Team Titles: Strike Force vs. Demolition w/Mr. Fuji
Ax and Smash were an overpowering heel tag team managed by the genius that is Mr. Fuji. All four guys start brawling early on with Strike Force hitting a double clothesline on Smash for two. Smash counters the speed of Santana by holding him up in his corner for Ax to knock him down with a clothesline. The crowd cheered the move. They liked the look of Demolition. They took turns working over Tito or “Chico” as Jesse always called him. A powerslam by Ax gets two. They continued to work over Tito with their assortment of punches, kicks and cheating moves. Smash hits a two count after a suplex and a follow up elbow misses. Tito can’t make the tag yet. Ax got the tag, whipped Tito in and Tito came back with the flying forearm to the head. Both guys were down as Tito got the hot tag to Martel. Back drop to Smash followed by dropkicks for both guys. The crowd isn’t cheering much during the babyface comeback. He put Smash into the Boston Crab. While this was going on, Tito was fighting Ax and hit him with the flying forearm. Of course the ref only tries to get Tito out of the ring. He punches Fuji, who throws his cane towards Ax. He picks up the cane, hits Martel in the back with it and Tito accidentally knocks the ref down. Instead of helping his partner, Tito goes after Mr. Fuji some more. While all that’s going on, the ref counts the pin for the Demolition win at 8:02.
Winners: Demolition – New Tag Team Champions
After the match, Tito was upset with the ref. Maybe he should left Mr. Fuji alone and he could have helped. That’s my way of saying the finish could have been done better because it messed up.
Analysis: 1/2* That was an overbooked finish. Also the second match in a row where a cane was used as a weapon. The crowd didn’t seem to care too much about Strike Force while they cheered for Demolition winning the titles. Then again they were probably burned out from seeing 15 matches to this point.
In the ring, Howard Finkel introduced Robin Leach of the Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, who would present the World Heavyweight Title to the new champion. The crowd didn’t react for him. The guest ring announcer is Bob Uecker and the guest timekeeper is Vanna White. At least Vanna got a nice reaction.
We get the intros for the finalists in the World Heavyweight Title tournament. Ted Dibiase comes out first along with Andre the Giant, who is wearing his ring gear. Randy Savage enters with Elizabeth. They both had different outfits on the four times they entered the ring.
Finals of the World Heavyweight Title tournament: Ted Dibiase vs. Randy Savage
Gorilla busted out his “you can cut the electricity with a knife” line at the beginning of the match. Right off the bat, Andre tripped up Savage. The crowd started chanting “Hogan! Hogan!” as if right on cue. He doesn’t come out yet. Must be using his “vitamins” or something. Savage ran the ropes and Andre tripped him up again. Dibiase worked him over as the announcers pointed out that Savage was in his fourth match while Dibiase is in his third match. Dibiase got a couple of good nearfalls. Savage came back with a clothesline for two. Dibiase gets a back elbow to put Savage down. Randy comes back with speed and uses the top ropes to clothesline Dibiase across the neck. He follows that with a running knee to the back that sends Dibiase over the top to the floor. Macho wants to give him the double axe on the top, but Andre is standing in front of Dibiase. Macho goes over to Elizabeth and she runs to the locker room area. The crowd goes wild because they know what’s coming. Dibiase hits a series of fist drops for two.
Elizabeth returns with the other half of the Megapowers, Hulk Hogan, who grabs a chair and sits in the corner of Randy Savage to negate the interference of Andre the Giant. Now the crowd gets even louder. Dibiase pounded on Savage in his corner, then he backed away and Andre grabbed Savage by the tights. Hogan ran around to that side of the ring where he stunned Andre with a punch. Dibiase hit a vertical suplex for two followed by a gutwrench suplex for two. Bodyslam by Dibiase. He goes to the top, Savage throws him off and climbs to the top rope for the flying elbow. He misses it. Dibiase puts on the Million Dollar Dream sleeper. Savage is close to the ropes, so Andre knocks his hand away. The ref admonishes Andre, which allows Hogan to sneak into the ring and crush Dibiase in the back with the steel chair. Savage regroups, realizes Dibiase is down, does this spin around in a circle with his right hand in the air and I can remember marking out huge at that moment. The crowd did too. We all knew what was coming. To the top, Savage hits the Flying Elbow, hooks the leg and gets the win at 9:20.
Winner: Randy Savage – New World Heavyweight Champion
Analysis: **1/2 It was a solid match. They would have better matches, but with Savage working four matches and with all of the shenanigans outside the ring to play up the story, it wasn’t the right time to have a classic match. As a moment it was very special.
Post match, Hogan runs in the ring and hands Savage the title. Then he makes sure Dibiase & Andre stay out of the ring.
To end the show, there was a big celebration between Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Elizabeth. There was an iconic shot with Elizabeth on Randy’s shoulder while she held the World Heavyweight Title with tears coming out of her eyes. It’s one of those sights that you’ll never forget.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– The story surrounding the World Heavyweight Title was well done. The problem was they had this 14 man tournament for the title when it really should have been eight people at the most. Too many matches burned out the crowd at various points although they did come alive for the main event.
– As I re-watch these shows, I learn to appreciate Randy Savage even more than I used to. He did all the little things right. Younger wrestlers should study tapes of the guy. You can argue that he was the most complete wrestler in the history of the business. It’s not just the in-ring talent that made him great. It was the theme music, the entrance, the extravagant robes, the facial expressions, mannerisms and an awesome finishing move as well. He showed how good he was on this four hour show.
– There were bad finishes all over the place. Of the 16 matches on the card, I’d say about half of them could have been done better. Thankfully match finishes are something that WWE would get better at over the years.
– In the WrestleMania 3 write-up I mentioned every match except for one had a manager involved. On this show, all 16 matches had somebody in the corner of somebody else including Matilda the bulldog. This was definitely the era when managers were the most prominent in WWE.
– The ongoing story of Bob Uecker and Vanna White was brutal. I didn’t laugh once. At least they cut back on celebrities on this show, which was a nice change of pace after having too many of them the first two WrestleManias especially.
Best Match: Greg Valentine vs. Ricky Steamboat – Not an all-time great match or anything like that, but still a very solid match.
Worst Match: One Man Gang vs. Bam Bam Bigelow – A lot to choose from. This was the worst.
Most Memorable Moment: Randy Savage hitting the top rope elbow to win his first WWF World Title. The moment where he first raises his arm up in the air after he realizes Dibiase is down is the one that I’ve always liked the best.
1. Randy Savage – Had four matches. No epic matches like the year prior, but he was still the best performer on the show.
2. Ted Dibiase – Worked three matches in his WrestleMania debut.
3. Hulk Hogan – He did a really good job of putting over Savage in the main event. Yes, the crowd cheered more for Hogan than they did Savage, but Hulk didn’t steal the spotlight from him.
4. Greg Valentine – Two pretty good matches and a lot of elbow smashes.
5. Gene Okerlund – For checking out Vanna’s ass after she walked away. I told ya he was a candidate to be a star of this show.
Show rating (out of 10): 4.5
This was a below average show. No question about it. It was a 16 match card. That’s too many matches. The longest match was the Roberts/Rude 15 minute draw that ended up having about 8 minutes of rest holds. If you book a show that goes that long you should have some matches that get more time or tell a better story. I’ll remember this show mostly for too many matches with way too many bad finishes.
It’s also a show that means a lot to me as a wrestling fan because it was the first WrestleMania I ever watched live. My favorite wrestler as a kid won his first World Heavyweight Title in a moment I will never forget. I was so happy to see Randy Savage holding that belt. I guess this show would be kind of like a movie or TV show you liked from when you were as a kid that means a lot to you then, but when you look back on it you realize maybe it wasn’t so great at all. Then again, those memories stick with you forever.
I’ll always look at WrestleMania 4 in a positive light because of the emotions it brought out of me as a kid and as a fan of Randy Savage. I just wish it was a better show. Can’t win ’em all, right?
John Canton [email protected]