Wrestlemania Challenge Day 2

After you’ve (hopefully) read the initial edition of this series, we go to Wrestlemania 2, which had a rather odd format of a dozen matches shot from three different locations, broadcasting the other two locations to those in the arenas, as well as to the usual closed-circuit venues. I could be wrong on this, but literally the only reason I can think of for why this event had three simultaneous locations is simply so that the company could generate three live gates from one show since those tickets would obviously be more expensive than the traditional closed-circuit tickets. The result of the coast-to-coast wrestling extravaganza is a rather clunky card that doesn’t quite build to the main event. The reason for this is when one venue watches their live main event in the building, the process repeats with a rather inconsequential match from a different location after that.

From Nassua Coliseum, the show kicks off with Don Muraco vs. Paul Orndorff. Muraco had some solid years in his career, and Orndorff should’ve or could’ve had a better run if he wasn’t in the shadow of Hogan, but this four-minute double DQ wasn’t the way to start an event. On a better note, the Randy Savage vs. George Steele bout was simplistic, but an improvement. I always thought this match was really key for Savage as a performer because even with Steele’s limited in-ring ability, Macho Man showed he could be a workhorse and carry the match. At the same time, the way Elizabeth was used here, as she unwillingly and unintentionally distracted “The Animal” set up the blue print for Macho’s heel run. In short, this was the first glimpse on a major national stage that Macho was going to be a star because in small ways he showed he could do it all in this segment.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. George Wells sounds like a squash match from a B-show and that’s basically what it was. I don’t know who George Wells was or what he’s doing now, but I wish him well.

The New York main event brings Mr. T back to fight Roddy Piper in a boxing match as a way to build off of the main event from the previous year. Supposedly, there was real-life animosity between the two at the time because Mr. T assumed he was going to automatically get to steamroll his opposition. Who knows how much of it is actually true, but the way Roddy hurdled a stool at Mr. T in between rounds didn’t look like he was concerned with the actor’s safety. In true pro wrestling fashion, Piper eventually decides to body slam the member of the A-Team to get disqualified. A hilarious side note, during the post-match scuffle, Joe Frazier, who was in Mr. T’s corner, looked like he was going to attempt to slam boxing trainer Lou Duva from Piper’s corner. Thankfully, “Smokin’ Joe decided not to do any harm to Lou. This was the conclusion of Mr. T’s Wrestlemania run, which was the right decision because he looked legitimately exhausted before the finish of the contest.

Moving to Chicago for the next portion, the process resets with basically another opener that saw Moolah beat Velvet McIntyre in just over a minute for a rather pointless match. Velvet McIntyre’s top looked to snap during the opening sequence so perhaps that’s what lead to the abrupt finish. It doesn’t get any better when Corporal Kirchner won a flag match against Nikolai Volkoff in just a few minutes. Since this is Kirchner’s only WM appearance, I wanted to discuss a few things about his character. When Sgt. Slaughter left the WWF in the mid-80s after a dispute because he was offered a spot in the GI Joe toy line, which was wildly popular in that era, Vince McMahon more or less found another solider for a military gimmick. The results were less than ideal, as Slaughter was one of the company’s most popular figures, and simply putting Kirchner in camouflage wasn’t going to automatically get him over with the fans. The audience saw the gimmick for what it was, a discount version of Slaughter, who went to the AWA and had a stint there until almost the closure of the promotion. After the gimmick flopped, Kirchner had a year in the organization before he left. However, he found extensive success in Japan as Leather face, a spinoff of the character from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre film.

The British Bulldog won the WWF Tag Team titles in what was probably the best match on the show. It’s extremely disappointing that Dynamite Kid suffered a very serious back injury before the end of the year and his career was on a slow decline after it. Despite another two years working in the WWF, in many ways this match is the peak of the Bulldogs run there because it was a championship win on a high profile show. I’ve written about the career of the Dynamite Kid before, but it still has to be asked, with all the natural ability he had, what would his career have been without all the steroid abuse? Because he started wrestling at such a young age, I don’t think people realize that Dynamite was only in his late-20s at the time of the back injury and in a wheel chair by the time he was 40. As far of this particular show, this match was needed since it brought some substance to a rather flat event outside of Savage and the entertaining boxing melee earlier on the card.

In predictable fashion, Andre The Giant won a battle royal that featured some NFL players, which was neat for what it was. William “The refrigerator” Perry was given the shine here because of the location of the second live part of the show, but I’ve always wondered why he wasn’t used for anything after this except for a WWE HOF induction that was also held in Chicago in 2006.

Across the nation to Los Angeles for the final portion of the show. There’s not really much to say about either the Steamboat/Hercules or Adonis/Elmer bouts since they are both basic undercard matches without much too them. Thankfully, we’d see “The Dragon” steal the show next year and Adonis would also have a much improved position on the card for the third edition of WM. Terry and Hoss Funk vs. JYD and Tito is a fun match and yet another example of why both of the Funk brothers are great. I still have no idea why Dory Jr. was called Hoss, but I would guess it would be to give him some type of gimmick. Since Terry doesn’t work another WM match until he retires a few more times, I want to talk about some of his WWF work from this era and specifically why it speaks to his brilliance. Several years ago, before the WWE network made almost everything easily accessible, I was at a comic con and saw a very shady looking character selling bootleg wrestling DVDs with his own poorly made covers as box art. I knew enough not to pay this carny for any of his merchandise so I set up a DVD trade. I gave him copies of Japanese compilation sets he didn’t have as a trade for some of the shows I didn’t have on DVD yet or best of sets. One of the compilation sets I picked up was “Terry & Dory Funk in the WWF”, a four-disc set of their run in the mid-80s. Something I noticed almost immediately was Terry had the ability to take jobbers that barely got offense against other wrestlers and make them look competitive. Terry had solid matches against grapplers that wouldn’t have had a chance to show any skills other wise and made them look like they had a chance. Granted, Terry eventually beat Tiger Chung Lee and Louis Rivera, but if he gave them nothing then who did he really defeat?

As I said yesterday, professional wrestling is often more about the moments than the matches and the steel cage main event is a perfect example of that. The famous blue cage became associated with iconic matches like Bret vs. Owen at Summer Slam in 1994, but most that have discussed the blue cage mention that it had zero give to it as opposed to the traditional mesh cage. The giant blue cage was constructed so that Hogan and Bundy could climb on it, but for whatever reason it was used for over a decade after that. In a rare instance for the WWF in the 80s, Bundy was bleeding during the match and Hulk got the predictable win. The shot of Hulk posing in the cage is one of the reasons he stayed over as the top star in the Rock and Wrestling era. Essentially, this was the typical scenario of Hogan slaying the monster heel, which was fine in 1986 because it hadn’t been recycled countless times the way it was when the same booking was used in WCW a decade later.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta