Friday, April 1, 2011

Look back at Wrestlemania I through V

Wrestlemania 27 is just a few days away and while Stephanie is at Wonder-Con, I'm going to take a trip down memory lane looking at the past 26 Wrestlemanias: the good, the bad and the oh-my-God!

The first Wrestlemania took place in 1985 and was an ambitious experience at the time. Nothing had ever been done like it before, so a good number of celebrities were brought in to add some star power to the mix.

Everyone remembers Muhammad Ali, Cyndi Lauper and Liberace holding court, but it was a celebrity in the main event that made it memorable. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.

With an undercard that was somewhat limited, the main event turned out to be the best match of the card.

But, I'll always remember the 23 second squash match between King Kong Bundy and Special Delivery Jones. I remember as a kid being amazed at how scary and awesome Bundy was. And the WWF knew that as well which led nicely into the very next year.

If the first Wrestlemania was ambitious for its time, then Wrestlemania II was the biggest thing to happen. It's the first Pay Per view the WWF produced and took place in three different venues (something, I think, they haven't tried since).

Bundy challenged Hogan for the title inside the ugly giant blue steel cage, while Mr. T fought Piper in a boxing match. Both of these matches are almost forgotten in the long history of great Wrestemania matches.

Two of the more memorable matches were the Macho Man/George "The Animal" Steele grudge match (Steele was in love with Macho's valet Miss Elizabeth) and the 20-man (wrestler and NFL pro) battle royal. The battle royal is especially of note because it really got people to notice future world champion Bret "The Hitman" Hart as a single's competitor (he was in the tag team the Hart Foundation at the time).

Wrestlemania III is entering the era of what I call "serious business."

The main event was something everyone, everyone wanted to see: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. The buildup to the match was great because we as viewers loved Hogan, but thought there was no possible way he could slam the giant. Which just made for great television when he eventually did. If YouTube were around then, the clip of the slam heard round the world would have been rewatched like crazy.

Yes, there was a mixed midget tag team match thrown in there and yes it was bad.

But, Wrestlemania III also gave us one of the best matches of all time; Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage. To this day people still consider it one of the best, pure wrestling matches in history.

Wrestlmania IV was great for being able to pass the torch to someone else besides Hogan. For years he remained the champion and always won.

Building up to the event, he actually lost. In a controversy Andre beat him but the title was made vacant. So a tournament was to be held to crown a new champion.

Of course, everyone knew that Hogan would just win it.

Then something interesting happened. He lost in the quarterfinals! Shocking at the time. It was literally like the death of a beloved character on your favorite television show. What was going to happen? Who would we root for?

Savage of course. Savage burned through the tournament and eventually beat "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase in the finals to become the new champion.

Torch effectively passed.

It's just too bad they went back to the well of having a former friend of Hogan turn on him.

Wrestlemania V, other than the lame main event (Hogan obviously won his title back), was surprisingly full of pretty darn good matches. Just look at the talent in the show: Shawn Michaels, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, Mr. Perfect and the Red Rooster.

Out of the first five Wrestlemanias, the Savage/Steamboat match wins hands down as the best of the bunch. Picking a worst match is a little harder since a lot of the early ones had a lot of squash matches and a few jobbers thrown in.

The next batch of Wrestlemanias start to get even better with matches that redefined the "sport" of wrestling.

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