I hope you’ve all enjoying reading the first few parts of this Wrestlemania series, and as far as a Wrestlemania challenge, this particular event was the toughest “challenge” up to this point. With 16 matches on the card because of a tournament that was being held for the vacant WWF title, this event is bloated and unnecessarily long with over a 4-hour broadcast. Several nothing contests were booked that were given a few minutes each simply to satisfy the tournament format, which caused the entire show to drag on as it progressed. Since it wouldn’t make sense to review countless brief matches, I’m going to discuss the main bouts and some of the background of this event, which is chronicled well in Lavie Margolin’s “Trumpmania,” a book that traces the orange villain’s involvement in the WWE. Upon its debut on Amazon, Margolin sent me a copy to review, and it was interesting to read about the climate of Trump’s now-bankrupt Atlantic City hotel and casino. In the late 80s, Trump’s project depending on the boardwalk and the beach to bring tourist to his venue, but he needed a draw to that location beyond just the standard vacation months. At the time, boxing was at one of its peaks and Trump secured several high profile boxing cards for his casino with the overall plan to get visitors to drop money at his tables.
Robert De Niro was right in the film, casino, “in the end, we get it all.” Then again, you have to wonder how Trump bankrupted a casino?
Anyway, Gerry Cooney had two chances at the heavyweight title in a pair of losses against Michael Spinks and George Foreman in 1987 and 1990 respectively. Mike Tyson defended his heavyweight belt at the Trump plaza on a few occasions and was known for jogging down the board walk during training sessions on fight week. Sports and entertainment brought people into the building and most importantly to the slot machines for the businessman. So, sports entertainment fit well into the business plan for Trump. In many ways, WM IV and the next edition the following year were essentially bought shows, as Trump paid a premium price for the event to be hosted in his building, and the WWF didn’t have to concern themselves with the amount of tickets sold, as that was handled by the venue.
After reading the details in Margolin’s book and considering the atmosphere of the show, it’s very possible that Trump saw Wrestlemania as purely a promotional tool since many of the tickets to the show were comped to high rollers to bring them back in to gamble, which didn’t create the best environment in terms of crowd response because many in attendance were only causal fans. On the flip side, Trump usually had a split of the ticket revenue for the boxing shows since securing a heavyweight title fight demanded a much higher price.
As we all know, the tournament was designed for and accomplished the goal of making Randy Savage a top star, but prior to that star-making elbow drop he connected with on Ted DiBiase in the finals, there were other reasons that the show was almost totally flat.As I mentioned in yesterday’s write-up on WM 3, that Silver Dome show was essentially the peak of the boom of the 80s and the two years that followed more or less rode the momentum from it. With both Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan in the tournament, much of the selling point of WM IV was the eventual rematch between the two from the prior year. The two did indeed clash in the opening round with a bout that ended in a rather anti-climatic DQ. In reality, Andre’s health problems would’ve prevented him from wrestling multiple matches in one night, and even the first round match wasn’t memorable. Truthfully, it took two of the biggest stars in the company off the show early, which is why most of the rest of the event is fluff.
The story of Macho Man chasing the title while the devious DiBiase seemingly has the odds in his favor provided a good narrative for the latter stages of the tournament and the drama of the main event was presented well. A few of the other bright spots on that night were the Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude match that went to a time limit draw because Jake was solid in everything he did and Rude sold it great. The six man tag with The Bulldogs and Koko vs. The Islanders and Hennan was entertaining. The tag title match of Demolition vs. Strike Force was decent too.
Randy Savage winning the title was needed to add more depth and variety to the main event scene, especially because of the expanded WWF programming with more pay-per-views being added outside of WM for the first time in the history of the company. Plus, Hogan won the belt from the Iron Sheik in 1984 and had held the title for over four years prior to the infamous twin referee angle that saw the championship vacated. As we would see the following year, again back at Trump Plaza, Hulk was back in the role of the hero challenging for the WWF title, but a switch to set that up to give Hogan a fresh opponent was key. As much as Savage was definitely a larger-than-life athlete, he was actually smaller in statue, but he knew how to much what he did as impactful as possible. Macho looked like a star, worked like a star, and presented himself as a major star. Too often in the modern era of incredible high spots, nuances like body language, presentation, and the small details of selling that can take something to the next level are overlooked.
As far as Trump and his casino, the promotional push for WM IV must’ve paid off because as mentioned, he purchased the event the following year as well. From the research the Margolin did for his book, in the weeks prior to each WM card, the hotel had several advertisements for the sports entertainment event, including WWF themed poker chips. So, all things considered, Wrestlemania IV was a star-making night for Macho in what would ultimately be used in the main event for the following year so in that regard, the show made some valuable progress, but as far as a viewing experience, this is probably one of the WM shows you could skip to the main event without missing anything of importance for the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta