After a pair of WM shows at the Trump Plaza, the showcase of the immortals moved to Toronto, Canada where the Sky Dome was packed with over 60,000 fans for “The Ultimate Challenge” with the Ultimate Warrior scheduled to meet Hulk Hogan for the WWF title. Throughout this Wrestlemania challenge, we’ve seen sold out venues each year, including the Andre vs. Hogan bout that drew a record-setting crowd in Michigan, but the visual of the sold out Sky Dome is also very impressive. Before the opening bell, Robert Goulet, an American actor and singer with French-Canadian heritage, sang a legitimately impressive version of the Canadian national anthem that doesn’t get the credit it deserves as a stellar performance. The first match saw Koko B. Ware battle Rick Martel in a basic, but solid opener that started the show well. Another basic bout followed when The Barbarian defeated Tito Santana. A comical side note, Jesse Ventura’s banter with Gorilla Monsoon on commentary about Mexican food and its potential side effects is hilarious. From there it was the tag team title contest of Andre and Haku, the Colossal Connection, defending against Demolition. For as much as fans might want to label Ax and Smash discount Road Warriors now because that was the original premise of the gimmick, they did well as a team, particularly for this pre-match interview where the two cut an entertaining promo to hype the title shot. I’ve mentioned in the past few days that as the years progress for each WM, you can continually see the sad and slow decline of Andre The Giant as his health problems continued to take a toll on him. Unfortunately, in what would be his final WM match, outside of a flurry at the beginning of the match and a sequence at the end that saw him trapped in the ropes for a spot he did throughout his career, Andre was on the apron for the majority of the action. Haku had to work nearly the entire match, which looked somehow odd because when he had the advantage on the baby face, he didn’t tag out to the theoretically most dangerous competitor in the match, Andre standing on the apron. Andre had to use the ropes to balance himself when he did occasionally throw a punch or a chop. After a miscue, Demotion win the titles, and after that, Bobby Heenan makes the mistake of slapping the Giant. Andre paint brushes Heenan before he boards the cart to exit the building. The response that Andre received when he put Heenan in his place was a credit to how over Andre was even at the end of his career, and the heat that Heenan had as a villain.
Earthquake vs. Hercules was more or less a squash match, and as we discussed yesterday, Hercules’ career didn’t pick up again until he had a heel run as a part of the Power and Glory tag team with Paul Roma. Mr. Perfect vs. Brutus Beefcake was a decent match and proved once again that Perfect can make his opponents look great. Perfect took great bumps and sold well enough to make “The Barber” look like more than just a mid-card gimmick. Bad News Brown vs. Roddy Piper was bowling shoe ugly and it’s probably best for us all if we forget as much of this storyline as possible. For some reason, Piper painted himself half black, seemingly in an attempt to represent every type of person or perhaps as a misguided tribute to Micheal Jackson. Piper tried to disco dance and randomly put on one glove so maybe he was a fan of the King of Pop? Either way, just a terrible match with a rather flat double DQ finish. For a tag team bout that appeared to be just an excuse to get more wrestlers on the show, The Hart Foundation beat The Bolsheviks in roughly 15 seconds. If these four guys got a WM level payday for that then good for them.
Lance Storm speculated on Twitter recently that maybe the reason Randy Savage was booked in a mixed tag with one of the participants that had no wrestling experience, was to avoid a scenario where he might overshadow the main event. In terms of in-ring action, he stole the show with Steamboat in 1987, had the memorable title win in 1988, and then the stellar match for the Mega Powers explode in 1989. Granted, the Hogan/Warrior match was an epic sports entertainment clash, but management wouldn’t have known that for sure when they booked the card. For the hurdles it had in terms of the format, this bout still had its moments with entertaining spots with Sherri and Macho attempting to sneak attack Dusty before The American Dream avoided it and sent them flying from the ring. In the few interview clips that people have talked about her, Sapphire was said to be a nice lady, but she really shouldn’t have been in the ring here at all. Sherri slaps her at one point and Sapphire seems to forget to sell it so Sherri rushes into the next spot to cover it. Ms. Elizabeth shows up at ringside and in somewhat of a foreshadow of the following year has a scuffle with Sherri toward the finish of the match. Dusty and Shapiro get the win, but a Dusty vs. Hogan match on this stage would’ve unquestionably been a better quality match.
The Orient Express beat The Rockers via count out in what was a clunky finish, but a solid tag match in terms of in-ring action. Pat Tanaka is one of the most underrated workers in the history of the business and matches like this show glimpses why he was always solid in the ring. This two teams would have another great match several months later at The Royal Rumble in 1991, but Paul Diamond under a mask as Kato had replaced Sato. I haven’t heard any particular reason that Tanaka or the Orient Express team weren’t used in a more prominent spot or for more than a brief stint.
I’m not sure who booked Dino Bravo, the grappler from Montreal, against Hacksaw Duggan in Toronto, but as the American athlete made his way to the ring waving the American flag, there was a noticeable silence in the Sky Dome. Soon, even Hacksaw realized it and switched the flag for his trademark 2×4 instead. The Canadian fans still chanted, “hooooooooo” with the baby face, but not much reaction outside of that. It wasn’t much of a match either, as Earthquake interferend to help Dino get the victory. Another match that didn’t have much to it was Boss Man vs. Akeem because the battle of the Twin Towers went roughly three minutes.
Jake Roberts vs. Ted DiBiase for the Million Dollar championship was really well done and the two in their prime built compelling action and fun spots throughout the match. Virgil got involved to cause Jake to get counted out, which I’m assuming is a finish to keep the unofficial title on DiBiase and still keep Roberts strong after the contest. Rick Rude beat Jimmy Snuka in just a few minutes for a bout that was simply there to set the pace of the card prior to the main event. That being said, despite Snuka clearly being past his prime, Rude proved again that he can always make his opponents look great with the way he sold in this match. A side note about this contest, actor and singer Steve Allen, who played a piano in the shower (seriously) with The Bolsheviks ready to sing the Russian national anthem during a segment earlier in the show, joined the commentary booth. This had to be a scenario where Allen didn’t know anything about wrestling and was brought in merely as some type of celebrity appearance because he mocked the “good guy” during the broadcast.
Prior to the main event, an interesting video package was shown of the Wrestlemania festival, which looked to be a very primitive version of Axxes that is such a major part of the WM experience today. Also before the bell of the WWF title match was a segment that was either so terrible you will think it’s great or it’s so awful that it was even worse than you would’ve expected. Honky Tonk Man is there to debut a few song so he makes an entrance in a pink Cadillac with Diamond Dallas Page behind the wheel. With his terrible Elvis impersonation, HTM starts to see “Honky Honky Love” either forgetting or missing the timing of the lyrics while Greg Valentine pretends to play a guitar solo from an obviously pre-recorded guitar riff. The Hammer’s attempt to sing a verse should’ve resulted in a fine for crimes against humanity before he stops playing the guitar while the guitar solo can still be heard. If all the existing footage of this train wreck was destroyed it would be considered a service to the wrestling business.
The well-known main event had the Sky Dome crowd going wild, and the energy from the audience really helped enhance the match, which is why this year’s WM seemed so flat without the crowd reaction. The actual match was structured in a very simple, but effective way. Warrior wasn’t known for selling much, but Hulk finally brought him to his knees in the test of strength spot. Hogan wasn’t taken off of his feet often, but Warrior clotheslines him over the ropes to the floor. These two were so charismatic and in their prime that as the drama unfolded in the ring that they got the most reaction that they could get from each spot. As we known Warrior got the win and it appeared that the torch was passed to Warrior until it wasn’t. Almost as fast as the Warrior climbed the ranks, his backstage antics, including demands for more money later on, led to a relatively short reign as champion. For as much as Warrior complained about management in the years that followed, he was put over the biggest star in the business at the time for the championship, how could WWF brass have given him a bigger push? Ironically, after Warrior dropped the title to the villainous Sgt. Slaughter to set up the main event against Hogan, the following year, his role in the company continued to be reduced because of how difficult it was to do business with him.
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Until next week
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