February 25, 2010
As I’ve mentioned previously I’m trying to go back and watch all the WrestleManias in order and give you my thoughts, and I’m up to WrestleMania IV. This was a lot of fun to go back and watch because this was the first WrestleMania I attended live. I’d really only been a big wrestling fan for about a year at this point and just old enough to actually travel to attend a big event. I was in grade 11 in high school and me and three buddies got the idea of making a road trip to see Mania live.
My buddy Phil had an aunt who lived in Philadelphia and I think he was the one who first came up with the idea. He said his aunt could order us tickets and would let us stay at her place (and drive us into Atlantic City for the show) if we could make it that far on our own. At that point it became a scramble to see who could borrow a car and get permission to make the trip. I eventually talked my dad into lending me his car for the weekend so we were set. Four of us made the trip, Phil White, Dennis Polney, Mick Jain, and myself.
We piled into my dad’s Mazda 323 for the 650 mile drive to Philadelphia. I was the only one my dad wanted driving his car so I did all the driving for the 12-13 hour nonstop trip. We drove all day Saturday arriving in Philly late at night. After a few hours of sleep Phil’s aunt drove us to Atlantic City for not only our first WrestleMania but our first WWE live event. We had what you would call cheap seats but they ended up to be far better than we expected because we were just a few feet from the broadcast both and got to see Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura up close.
We were big time marks back then and made several huge banners out of bed sheets for the show. We had a big British Bulldogs banner (They were our favourites back then), a “The Body for President” banner, which got a big thumbs up from Jesse, and a “Strike Farce” banner, which almost got us in a fight with fellow Strike Force haters before they realized our banner said Farce not Force. Apart from the banner for Jesse we were way too far from the ring to have our banners seen, but we had the time of our lives and took a ton of picture. Unfortunately we needed a telephoto lens and didn’t have one so most of our pictures are real distance shots. I’ll attach a bunch of my personal photos from the trip at the end of this commentary.
I didn’t have too many memories of the show before watching it back but I did have a few which I want to share before getting to my thoughts from watching it again. The match we were looking forward to the most on the card was the 6 man tag featuring The British Bulldogs and Koko vs. The Islanders and Heenan. We all hated Koko, but the Bulldogs were kings to us back then so their match was always the most anticipated. I remember us having great debate over who would win the tournament with most of us figuring it would be Hogan; we just couldn’t picture WWE without Hogan as Champ. Savage was a long shot second choice as was Dibiase for us. Other than the tournament and the Bulldogs there wasn’t too much specifically we cared about. Oh that isn’t completely true; I remember us being very hopeful both Savage and Steamboat would advance to the second round so we would get the big Mania III rematch. We didn’t get the rematch but at least this was back when the title meant something so to us the Tournament was a big deal.
It’s a good thing the Title meant something back then because watching this show back now I could not believe how crappy it was. There were 16 matches on this show and not a single one of them I would even say was really good. All matches were short, most were near pointless, and so many of the finishes were complete crap. There were count outs and DQ’s all over the place on this show, and the concept of tight nearfalls at the end of matches still hadn’t caught on so even the clean finishes were basic as can be.
The show opened with the big Battle Royal, which like most Battle Royals was nothing special, but at the time I was thrilled to see Bret Hart featured in the finish and be set up for his first singles program as a baby face.
After the Battle Royal was the first round of the tournament which for the most part were a bunch of unexciting short matches. Probably the best match in the first round was Steamboat – Valentine but even that was basic as can be, highlighted more just by Steamboats energy and smoothness. Valentine was a very solid performer but my God he was the slowest bumper I’ve ever seen; he took most of his bumps falling like a tree, but somehow gravity affected him less, because he fell slower than trees would. An interesting note here, on commentary Gorilla Monsoon referred to Steamboat having Excellence of Execution. I didn’t realize he used the phrase before giving it to Bret Hart years later.
Another interesting note on this show; every single match featured at least one manager or valet. There were 10 different managers/valets featured on this card; boy times have changed. We had, Mr. Fuji, Peggy Sue, Oliver Humperdinck, Jimmy Hart, Virgil, Bobby Heenan, Elizabeth, Slick, Frenchy Martin, and Superstar Billy Graham.
After the first round we had the Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules, and what a shit-fest this match was. This match makes Koslov vs. Ezekiel Jackson look like Flair – Steamboat. This was soooo bad. At the end of the match Warrior even swings Hercules’ chain around over his head and then slams it into the canvas only to have it bounce right back up and catch him in the face.
On to the second round which featured 3 more uneventful matches. Hogan – Andre was horrible, Dibiase – Muraco was okay, and Valentine – Savage was just there. I understand now that with Savage having to work 4 times and him being set up as the top baby face they wouldn’t want him in the ring having a long match with fellow face Ricky Steamboat, but back then I sure was pissed at not getting it. My God was Don Muraco HUGE.
Up next we got Beefcake – Honky Tonk for the IC Title. Wow was this a drop in work rate from the IC match at Mania III. This was real bad with a crappy DQ finish and poor Jimmy Hart had to get his hair cut to try to salvage at least one pop out of the crowd. Following this was the Bulldogs 6 man match which at least had some action to it. The Islanders were good so when either one of them were in with the Bulldogs at least we had some action. Another complete crap finish with Bobby Heenan pinning Koko. I think the plan for the show was disappoint the hell out of the crowd all night so the pop for Savage winning the belt at the end will be even bigger.
Up next was some of the worst booking I’ve ever seen. In the only semi final match (Dibiase got a bye) Randy Savage faced The One man Gang in a very bad match. For the finish, the ref gets distracted and OMG hits Savage in the back with Slick’s cane. Savage sells this and OMG attempt to keep hitting him with the cane but savage keeps rolling out of the way so Gang misses. The ref eventually turns around and DQ’s Gang for attempting to use the cane. Keep in mind that he successfully hit Savage across the back and was not able to cover him or even hit him again because Savage still had his wits about him enough to move out of the way repeatedly.
After this match was the Demolition – Strike Force match for the Tag Titles, and guess what they did for a finish. Demolition distracted the ref and hit Rick Martel in the back with the cane and pinned him 1..2..3. Back to back cane shot finishes. Could they not come up with a different finish or at least spread these matches out? Savage got hit in the back with a cane and survives to win but Martel is out for the count, poor Rick. Poor match with the live crowd actually popping for the heels pinning the baby face Strike Force team.
Now we were up to the main event and I guess because this was Dibiase’s 3rd match and Savages 4th you can’t blame them for not putting out a great match but for the most part this was a story based match about getting Andre involved to bring out Hulk Hogan. This was just another nothing match featuring a weird finish where Hogan just slides in the ring to hits Dibiase with a chair setting up for Savage’s big elbow drop. The crowd popped huge on the finish and enjoyed the show but looking back what a let down. I did find it absurd that this whole tournament was created due to the controversy around the title started with the evil twin Hebner referee situation and then Dave Hebner referreed through out the tournament including this final match.
I guess this show was a success in that it set up Savage as the new champ, which led to a great year long angle breaking up the Mega Powers, but without the heat of the angles from back then, this was a really bad show; not a single stand out match out of 16. It will be fun to compare it to Mania V, which I also attended and remember being a much better show. I think I may have even though it was on par or better than Mania III at the time.
Mania billboard we passed driving into Atlantic City
My actual ticket stub from the show.
The Arena filling up before the show. We were way
up in the cheap seats. $50 seats check my ticket.
Jesse Ventura putting over our "The Body for President"
Banner. God we were marks.
Davey Boy Smith press slams Tama of the Islanders.
Randy Savage celebrates winning the WWF Title.