April 1, 1990
Venue: SkyDome, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Tagline: “The Ultimate Challenge”
Runtime: 3 hours, 36 minutes
RS: The parallels between this and WrestleMania III cannot be overlooked. We are in the brand new SkyDome (Rogers Centre) in Toronto which can house a massive crowd. We have the little ring carts being employed again to transport the wrestlers to the ring. We have Hulk Hogan in a main event that will become part of professional wrestling folklore. We have two champions squaring off in a winner-take-all situation, similar to how Hulk Hogan’s three year title reign had been put up against Andre’s 15 years of being “undefeated.” The WWF has figured out that WrestleMania is a big deal and must be treated as such. But they aren’t content with just letting it sit — it’s time to take it to an international audience. Toronto is a perfect choice: Canada has a huge professional wrestling fan base and tradition. The Hart Family is Canadian. Dino Bravo, Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, The Rougeaus, Ron Garvin, John “Earthquake” Tenta — all Canadian. Toronto is also close enough to Manhattan for a healthy draw from their New York old territory. The WWF still needs to learn that, as a storytelling gimmick, “America good, everyone else bad” doesn’t work quite as well north of the border. While Hulkamania is bathed in American patriotism, the charisma and legend of Hogan can’t be stopped by the Canucks. But, you’ll see Jim Duggan fall flat and have to find another way to get over with the crowd. Enough of my rambling, let’s get to it!
TH: Our first WrestleMania north of the border, thankfully far away from the odious DJT after two previous WrestleManias at his now-bankrupt properties in Atlantic City. What a treat to start us off — Robert Goulet singing “O Canada!” Their anthem is better in every possible way than the U.S. anthem. “We stand on guard for thee,” indeed.
Wikipedia lists a dark match before the event starts, with Paul Roma defeating the Brooklyn Brawler. It’s not included in the WWE Network’s official version of the PPV and we did some searching for video of it, without any luck. Drop us a note if you happen to find it online!
- Koko B. Ware, with Frankie the macaw, vs. Rick “The Model” Martel
TH: Back after a triumphant role at WrestleMania III, it’s one of our most beloved superstars. That’s right, it’s the return of the little carts that take the wrestlers to and from the ring! I’m so glad those are back, even though the walk to the ring at the SkyDome doesn’t appear nearly as epic as the walk at the Pontiac SilverDome. Koko comes out jamming with his macaw, Frankie; Martel is now going by “The Model” and sporting sunglasses, a sweater around his neck, and a pesticide sprayer full of his signature cologne, Adrian Adonis-style. Jesse and Gorilla inform us that the cologne is called Arrogance, appropriately enough. Martel is now billed from Cocoa Beach, FL (sorry, Montreal.) This is the gimmick for which Martel gave up Strike Force and his teammate, national treasure TIto Santana, during WrestleMania V? Disappointing. Martel attacks early, but Koko hits a great cross-body off the second turnbuckle, two standing dropkicks, a nice back body drop, and clotheslines Martel out of the ring for a big pop. There’s some decent back and forth action: Martel gets the upper hand and almost gets the Boston Crab before Koko gets the rope break. Koko does his impression of “hulking up,” no-selling a couple of turnbuckle head smashes then dealing out rights and lefts and two “flying headbutts” (where he clearly pushes Martel’s face with his hand.) Unfortunately, he misses a cross body off the turnbuckle and Martel gets the crab, no rope break this time, and the win. OK match to get us started, though I would like to note that Martel’s perm is super distracting and his “smooth jazz” music sounds like a soap opera theme.
RS: These two come out working hot and fast, drawing in this hyped up crowd real quick. I’m sure they will be hot as the crowd has a few more hours to knock back more Molson and Labatts before Hogan and Warrior come out. In the 80s and early 90s, did all black wrestlers have hard heads, making them immune to headbutts? Martel reverses some awkward maneuver by Koko and locks in a Boston crab for the win.
- Demolition (Ax and Smash) vs. The Colossal Connection (Andre the Giant and Haku), with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, WWF Tag Team Championship match
TH: Pre-match, Mean Gene interviews the champions, whom he sneakily calls “the Colostomy Connection,” leading to a series of poop jokes. Heenan: “If you wanna talk evacuation, fine” and “Let’s get moving.” As they walk off, Mean Gene informs us the tag team is, “Anything but regular guys” Hehe, poop jokes. Demolition cut their promo with Sean Mooney and are still scary as hell. Their promo has a surprising amount of metaphors for two guys who look like extras from Mad Max: Ax is gonna chop down Haku (Get it, like a tree? Cuz he’s an ax?); Smash is gonna put Andre in the back of a semi and drive him off a cliff, smashing him on the rocks below. (See what he did there?) Seems like overkill to me, but ok.
RS: I love these fake locker room sets they used for promos back in the day. Like, there’s no way they’re real.
TH: Don’t poop on my dreams, Rich. I believe everything I see at a WrestleMania is real. Anyway, we know going in that Haku is going to carry the bulk of the wrestling duties for his tag team, with Andre leaning on the corner. Andre interferes from the corner a few times, including grabbing Ax by the neck so Haku can wail on him. Haku still has his cool purple tights and bare feet but seems to have put on a few pounds and isn’t as dexterous or as interesting here as in WrestleManias. IV and V. I have to say I liked him better as part of The Islanders. Good start for Demolition on Haku, Andre interferes a couple of times but it doesn’t amount to much. He breaks up one potential pin with the weakest kick I’ve ever seen. Jesse keeps teasing how everyone’s gonna be in big trouble when Haku finally tags in Andre, how the Giant is going to be “rested and fresh.” As the Brady Bunch gif says, “Sure, Jan.” Haku breaks out his karate moves and beats up Ax pretty well, who also gets a corner headbutt from Andre, til Ax finally manages a hot tag to Smash. I like the finish here — Smash pulls a huge back body drop on Haku and goes for the pin. When Andre tries to interfere, Smash cold cocks him, then Smash comes in and Demolition gives Andre a double team clothesline, knocking him into the corner. While the ref is distracted Andre grabs Smash and holds him for the coup de grace, but Haku misses the kick and knocks Andre down and into the ropes, where he’s tied up and out of the way. Demolition hit their finisher (The Decapitation!) and the pin on Haku to regain the Tag Team Championship while the crowd goes apeshit. Good match for being basically a 2-on-1. Kudos to Haku for finding a way to let Andre get in one more WrestleMania, and for not getting killed by these two beasts.
RS: This match is just gonna be meaty guys pounding on each other. There’s going to be zero finesse to this one. Andre looks a little bit more rested but definitely past his prime. Haku is doing the heavy lifting in this match for his team. I love Demolition, but I still don’t understand their gimmick. Anyone remember that Rosie O’Donnell/Dan Aykroyd movie where they were cops or something and went to a sex island for undercover work? Anyway, this match is grinding away. They had such speed and excitement in the opening match but they dial it back for a slog of a fight. Haku has been in for like six minutes now with no tag to Andre.
RS: After the match, Heenan is really giving Andre the business but goes too far and slaps him, and Andre beats the snot out of him and Haku. Andre, the lovable giant from The Princess Bride, finally turns face as he is driven from ringside. Considering he never was legally in this match, I assume his career is nearing its end. This is the last WrestleMania match for Andre (but not his last appearance); he’d be dead less than three years later.
- Earthquake, with Jimmy Hart vs. Hercules
RS: Earthquake is undefeated coming into this match, so I’m pretty sure we’re nearing his feud with Hogan, if my memory serves me right. Hercules is so tiresome. He looks like a jobber in this match. At some point Earthquake gets his mouth bloodied. Growing up as a fat kid, Earthquake was a weird inspiration for me. I guess it was because I struggled with the physical fitness tests but here’s a big guy kicking everyone’s ass. Luckily this match went pretty quickly. The blood coming from Earthquake’s mouth makes him even more vicious.
TH: Oh good, Hercules is back again. There’s cheers for him this time, so he’s the face vs. Earthquake, who is massive and gross (as a fellow fat kid, I feel like I can say that) but he moves surprisingly well. Gorilla tells us that Earthquake has sent 28 men to the hospital so far, and that the ring has been specially reinforced for this match. If you say so, Gino. I really like Earthquake’s booming music. The bass rumble made my dog bark at the subwoofer. Hercules, looking a little thicker than in previous WrestleManias, gets the jump early. Earthquake takes a breather outside the ring and regroups. There’s the obligatory “test of strength” and some generally lackluster action. Hercules has the upper hand until he goes for a back breaker and can’t handle ‘Quake’s mass. Earthquake hits the big elbow and sit-down splash, with an extra one after the bell for good measure. RIP, Hercules’s sternum. Fun fact: Earthquake (John Tenta) was a high school wrestling champion and collegiate wrestler at Louisiana State University before joining the LSU football team. After college he actually moved to Japan to join a sumo stable and had a pretty successful run before switching over to pro wrestling, first with New Japan Pro Wrestling, then joining the WWF in 1989.
- Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect, with The Genius
RS: Mr. Perfect finally has his classic theme music. Production values are really improving. Brutus gets a big pop. Both of these guys are in prime shape. We’ve officially reached the “bread basket” era of wrestling. Every punch not to the face is to the “bread basket.” I know he was a heel but I always liked Perfect. Brutus is really selling everything. He’s far better at selling the beating than giving the beating himself. Brutus ends Perfect’s perfect run with a slingshot into the steel post, a real lackluster finish. Too bad we didn’t get to see Perfect’s finesse moves and suplexes. I do enjoy the shot of Mary Tyler Moore sitting ringside.
TH: My god, so many haircut puns in the pre-match ringside promo. Ringside, Brutus is back with his crazy outfits and hedge clippers, while Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig) is back with his simple dayglo yellow singlet and sneer, this time announced and accompanied by The Genius (Lanny Poffo, our first WrestleMania sighting for Macho Man’s brother. He’s in an academic robe and cap, which is what highly intelligent people wear all the time in their day to day lives.) Mr. Perfect, with the perfect heel move, jumps Brutus before the bell while his back is turned. Brutus gives him a shoeshine and clocks Curt over the top rope. There’s some interference by The Genius, slipping his metal scroll to Perfect, who brains Brutus with it. Hennig’s little leg shake before he stomps Brutus each time is a nice touch. Brutus goes for the haircut after the pin but The Genius runs (well, more like ambles) off with the clippers, and Brutus easily catches him and brings him back to the ring, where Brutus chokes him out with a sleeper and gives him a trim, while Mr. Perfect slinks away. Brutus’s music, which plays on a loop during this whole sequence after the match, is truly terrible. Also, who wants to wrestle in somebody else’s hair? I hope the housekeeping crew gets a chance to sweep up before the next match. Hey look, it’s Mary Tyler Moore at ringside! Aww, she looks great.
- Bad News Brown vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
TH: To start, there’s a recap of the Piper v. Brown feud starting at the Royal Rumble. Piper cuts a promo with Mean Gene that has to be seen to be believed. He’s, um, got half his face and body painted black and is talking about Bad News’s bulging eyes, large nostrils, and big mouth. Ummmmm. This wasn’t ok, even in 1990. He says something about his “split personality” but I think both sides of Piper are racist. (Also think back to his match with Mr. T at WrestleMania 2, and the obvious racial dynamics there. Yuck.) Piper, entering to bagpipes, is still the face even though he’s objectively obnoxious. A sign in the crowd says “Piper for P.M.” These two get into a heckuva brawl, with the action spilling outside the ring. Chairs are involved, and both men are counted out. Brown is pulled away by multiple refs but Piper continues to attack while the bell sounds uselessly.
RS: Piper cuts a half blackface promo and mocks Bad News’s big nose, all of which is pretty much in character for Piper. Piper gets a huge pop coming to the ring and Bad News gets some real heat. Man, there’s some nice souvenir satin baseball caps for this show. I wonder if I can snag one of those from Ebay? Danny Davis is the ref for this match, so I guess his lifetime ban is up; definitely better than having to watch him “wrestle.” This is just a brawl. In modern times, this match would have been a no-DQ match, but they still have restraint here. Piper pulls out a white glove and starts pounding on Bad News with it. Maybe this will be our double count-out? It sure is! The tradition continues
TH: The less said about this match the better, but let’s pause to appreciate Bad News Brown, aka Bad News Allen, nee Allen James Coage. A legit Judo practitioner with several amateur titles, heavyweight gold medals at the 1967 and 1975 Pan American Games, and a bronze medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics, Bad News was the first African American to win a solo Olympic medal in a sport other than boxing or track and field. His WWF career lasted just two years, 1988-1990, but he was a well respected worker with a career in New Japan Pro Wrestling, WWWF (the precursor to the WWF) and Stampede Wrestling going back to 1977.
RS: Hey look, it’s Steve Allen! He’s playing piano for the Bolsheviks in the men’s room so they can practice the Russian National Anthem. It’s not going particularly well. This is so bad. Definitely comedy for the older audiences.
- The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) vs. The Bolsheviks (Boris Zhukov and Nikolai Volkoff)
RS: Bret is clearly on the edge of stardom. Oh man, Bret gave away his shades to a kid in the crowd. I had a souvenir set of those, but I think they were thrown out at some point. Volkoff has taken the mic to sing his anthem. There’s not quite as much heat for this, probably because this is Canada, but the Canadian Hart family jumps them and that gets a big pop. The Hart Foundation squash them! The Russkies didn’t even get their jackets off. Neidhart is so damn strong. Fun fact: Zhukov is from Roanoke, Virginia; Volkoff was from Croatia.
TH: Nikolai only has one more WrestleMania to pull his Soviet Anthem gimmick before the USSR dissolves. #history The Harts hit their finisher and get the pin, all in 19 seconds. Was that faster than the King Kong Bundy match from WrestleMania 1? Obviously this is a squash match, setting up the Hart Foundation as the contenders for a tag title shot against Demolition.
RS: LOUD NOISES! WrestleMania is now getting so big, they’re advertising the date and location (Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) of the next WrestleMania. It’s becoming like the Super Bowl.
- The Barbarian, with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan vs. Tito Santana
TH: National treasure Tito Santana is back for his sixth WrestleMania appearance in a row and he looks great. This guy is ageless. Jesse, of course, uses Tito’s presence as an excuse to sling some lame racist comments about “Chico,” Tijuana, and Mexican food causing intestinal distress. Eyeroll. The Barbarian is Bobby’s “latest acquisition” and he’s a huge MF, another Road Warriors/Legion of Doom clone with lots of tough guy moves and shoulder block no-sells. Barbarian catches Tito with a big boot (of course) and actually pulls off a cool wire walk on the second rope before missing an elbow drop. Tito hits the double ax handle and a flying forearm, but Heenan saves the pin by putting Barbarian’s foot on the ropes. Tito is about to go after Greatest Heel Manager of All Time Bobby Heenan ™ but smartly turns back to his opponent. Veteran move, Tito — not getting distracted by the manager! Unfortunately, Barbarian catches Tito with a vicious clothesline off the top rope and the pin. Ouch. See you next March, Tito? I heard we’ll be in LA.
RS: Don’t forget Jesse talking about his Mexican prostitute, Juanita. Since kids watched this stuff, no wonder people are still racist. Tito has such a glorious mane of a mullet. This is a classic power vs. speed match, and a really solid, quick-paced match. Heenan saves The Barbarian, who then rebounds with a big flying clothesline. Tragic.
- “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and “Sweet” Sapphire, with Miss Elizabeth vs. Queen Sherri and Randy “Macho Man” Savage, mixed tag team match
TH: I can’t believe we’ve made it through six WrestleManias without seeing American Dream Dusty Rhodes, one of the all-time greats both in the ring and behind the curtain. There’s a flashback to the Royal Rumble to recount some shenanigans involving Brother Love, Dusty and his manager Sapphire, Randy, and Sherri. The entrance by Macho Man (er, excuse me, Macho King) and Queen/Sensational/Scary Sherri takes FOR-ever. In the ring, Dusty grabs the mic and announces a big surprise — Miss Elizabeth will be in his and Sapphire’s corner for this match! Elizabeth enters to Macho’s music, looking radiant on the little cart and getting a big pop. There’s lots of fat shaming from Jesse, suggesting an oatmeal and sardine diet for Sapphire. (Was that ever a thing? I’m not googling it, I don’t want to deal with the resulting ads.) The rules, apparently, say that in a mixed tag match men have to wrestle men, women have to wrestle women, but Dusty is playing fast and loose, pushing Sherri around a bit. Sapphire hip-checks Sherri a few times, then picks her up for the world’s slowest airplane spin, followed by a weak slam and a half-assed pin that doesn’t have a chance. Gotta hook that leg, Sapphire. Sherri tries to pick up Sapphire for a slam but Sapphire falls on her. Oops.
Overall a pretty sloppy match with lots of chaos, seemingly provided for comic relief and for the big return by Elizabeth, who’d been absent for several months prior. Elizabeth throws Sherri back in the ring with authority and Sherri, distracted by Elizabeth, gets stacked up and pinned by Sapphire. Elizabeth joins Dusty and Sapphire for an in-ring celebration afterward while Macho fumes. Dusty still has one of the best entrance songs, and one of the most indecipherable accents, of all time.
RS: We have the WWF’s first mixed tag match! I’m having trouble focusing on anything besides the scar tissue on Dusty’s head from decades of blading himself every night. It’s purple! We have the return of Elizabeth to ringside duties, pissing off Macho Man. There’s standard shenanigans resulting in a Rhodes win… scars.
Intermission time at the SkyDome, clearly. There’s more of Vince McMahon shouting ad copy for WrestleMania VII at the LA Coliseum (“California, here we come!”) and a promo with Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan, who’s still upset with Andre from their earlier confrontation. Gossip columnist Rona Barrett talks with Gorilla and Jesse, but I can’t hear a damn word she’s saying. As best I can tell she claims to have dirt on Jesse the Body, maybe some racy footage. Gorilla wants the footage for some reason (perv) but Jesse throws it to Mooney instead, who’s talking to Sherri, who’s raging like a kid named Kyle about to punch some drywall, and Randy. “Suffering builds character,” Randy tells Dusty Rhodes, “and you’re gonna learn a lot of character.” Yikes! One more promo with Mean Gene and Demolition, who are still ebullient over their tag title win, while also setting up the coming feud with Hart Foundation. On their way out, Mean Gene says the duo is “On their way to an Up with People concert to celebrate.” Mean Gene’s on a roll tonight!
Time for the main event promos! First up, Mean Gene with Hulk Hogan. He starts by talking about the SkyDome as “the greatest arena of all time” and seeing it from the air as he flew into Toronto. Hulkamania is running wild in Canada as well as in the U.S., according to the Hulkster. There’s a weird evangelical vibe here, Hogan talking about converting the Ultimate Warrior’s fans (Warriors, as opposed to Hulkamaniacs) to the “right path” with the training, prayers, and vitamins, saving all of the Warriors from the darkness.
By contrast, the Warrior’s promo is one of the most insane things I’ve seen in a long time, and I watched The Lighthouse. He begins by shoving Mooney out of the frame: “You are nothing but a normal. You do not deserve to breathe the same air that I and Hulk Hogan do.” Hehe, I’m gonna start telling people they’re “normals.” Warrior says “Hulk Hogan” roughly 400 times in the space of three minutes. Apparently, Hulkamania, as personified by Hogan’s five previous WrestleMania appearances, has been good, but has reached the end of its lifespan and the limits of what it can achieve. By defeating Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior is going to bring the Warriors and Hulkamaniacs together. Hulkamania will be transmogrified through the person of the Warrior and will rise to the next level through him, as well as through all of the now-unified Hulkamaniacs and Warriors. So perhaps Hogan is John the Baptist and the Warrior is Jesus Christ? However you interpret it, it’s fucking intense. On top of his delivery, the Warrior just looks amazing. He’s basically one giant vein. His biceps look like they’re going to pop and kill someone. His physique is flat-out distracting. His hair is so magnificent that Slippery When Wet-era Bon Jovi would be jealous. A+ promo, would watch again, even after the half dozen times I’ve already watched it. I might print out the text and set it aside for my family to run next to my obituary.
RS: An amazing promo from Ultimate Warrior about merging their ethos and the metaphysical. I’ll have what he’s having. If you could make the Warrior’s mojo into a pill, you could cure clinical depression.
- The Orient Express (Pat Tanaka and Sato), with Mr. Fuji vs. The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)
TH: Whew, back to real life after the Warrior-as-Christ thesis. I hope folks were able to catch a smoke after that. The Orient Express (is that ok to say?) look cool in their red robes with white scarves and Japanese flags on the breast. Ooh, we’re about to get our second WrestleMania appearance of the Rockers, matched up this time with guys more their size. There’s some OK action, but Mr. Fuji’s interference keeps the pace from really getting going. Jannetty takes the cane from Fuji after one interference too many, gets hit in the eyes with salt and falls over the barrier into the crowd. The Rockers get counted out for the loss in what seems to be a real waste of some talented performers. Probably the weakest match of the night so far, including the 19 second tag team match.
RS: Ok, so you have a team made of two guys from East Asia named after a train that runs from Istanbul to Paris. Sure. I won’t be referring to them by that name. Shawn Michaels is so young. The Rockers are so over with this crowd. Do you think they intentionally dressed Mr. Fuji like Oddjob? Fun fact – the actor who played Oddjob, Harold Sakata, was a professional wrestler. They’re really working over Marty setting up a hot tag to Shawn. Michaels is making Tanaka and Sato look so good. The match ends in a count out. The crowd boos but I think it’s because the ending is crap, not because Tanaka and Sato won.
TH: Man, Steve Allen was so funny. He’s interviewing Rhythm & Blues, the, um, “musical duo” of Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. He gets in some really funny lines: “I haven’t been this excited since I found out Pee Wee Herman was straight;” and “This is gonna be at least as big as when Tiny Tim played the Vince Lombardi rest stop off the New Jersey turnpike.” Lol. I’m happy to have Greg the Hammer back, but disappointed that he’s being wasted in garbage like this.
RS: That was a weird fever dream of a segment.
- “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. Dino Bravo, with Earthquake and Jimmy Hart
TH: Dino is back again! This guy’s like the Michael Meyers of WrestleManias. Here comes Hacksaw with his flag and 2×4 and Hoooo. This is a USA vs. Canada match in Canada so Hacksaw gets a fair number of boos, though you can hear plenty of hoooos from the crowd during the match. God, Duggan was… not good in the ring. There’s some meh action before Earthquake, in Dino’s corner, grabs Duggan. Hart tosses the 2×4 to Dino, but Duggan gets it back and knocks out Dino while the ref is distracted to get the win. Earthquake comes in after the bell to drop two big elbows and three sit-down splashes on poor Hacksaw. I guess this will be #29 sent to the hospital by Earthquake. A highlight of the commentary on this portion of the show:
- Gorilla: “This is ridiculous.”
- Jesse: “No it’s not.”
Great job, guys.
RS: Dino enters to the French national anthem. Let’s see how Duggan plays in Toronto. The crowd seems antagonistic but Monsoon says it’s a big ovation. Hacksaw tries to get a USA chant to start but the crowd really boos. WWF needs to work on making their product international. Their xenophobic, nationalist method of establishing faces and heels isn’t going to work. One camera man is obsessed with setting up shots that are eclipsed by Earthquake. Hacksaw does a Hogan and starts to no-sell, but Dino shuts it down. I still don’t get how Hacksaw is a thing. Hacksaw gets a dirty win to a surprisingly big pop from the crowd. I know most of the crowd came across the border to Toronto but there’s still a significant Canadian representation in the crowd. Earthquake lays waste to Hacksaw after the match. There’s been a lot of unfortunate camera angles of Earthquake’s …fault lines.
- “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, with Virgil vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Million Dollar Championship match
RS: Ted finally has his “Money Money Money” theme music. Jake cuts a short promo. It’s clear to me that Jon Moxley watched Jake’s promos in wrestling school and took his soft talking delivery. Ted really, REALLY reminds me of Ric Flair with the big sells and avoidance tactics. Jake is in his prime. It’s good to see Jake and Ted get some real ring time at this event. I am really feeling this match. They’re going back and forth and it feels like there’s real animosity between them. In the ground headlock, you can see Ted calling moves. While they hold the lock, the wave starts in the crowd. Ted’s sleeper hold is now called the Million-Dollar Dream and it’s locked on Jake but Jake finds the ropes. Jake catches Ted in the bread basket. The tide is turning. This might get my best match. But, another count out! What is this crap!
TH: Jake cuts a great pre-match promo about representing the people who need help with basic necessities while DiBiase insults them and rubs their noses in his wealth. Jake predicts Ted will be a victim of his own greed. Hell yeah, I’m here for class warfare led by Jake the Snake. Gonna use my $600 stimulus check to build my own guillotine. Down to the ring — I forgot that Ted sang his own theme song. It’s… not good. He should have gotten Rhythm & Blues to record a theme song for him. Jake gets the upper hand early and does a cool reversal to toss DiBiase out of the ring. Jesse wants to talk about The Wave going around the upper deck of the SkyDome, which eventually reaches the floor seats so you can see it on camera. “This is what it’s all about, Monsoon,” he says. Huh. In non-Wave-related news, there’s a super loud “Jake” chant when Roberts is down, and when he’s wrapped up in the “Million Dollar Dream” sleeper. Jake is losing the fight and almost pinned, but manages to get his foot on the rope once, then twice. Ted goes for the double ax handle off the ropes but gets caught (“breadbasket” BINGO!) Jake bounces back with a couple of short clotheslines and a back drop. The crowd wants the DDT but for some reason he’s not going for it. Don’t get distracted by Virgil, Jake! After a third short clothesline, Jake calls for the DDT, but Virgil pulls Jake by the tights and out of the ring. Jake bodyslams Virgil on the floor and DiBiase catches him with the sleeper again, but gets run into the ring post and knocked cold. Virgil helps DiBiase back into the ring, while Jake, still recovering, gets counted out for the loss. I’d say this is the match of the night so far but I don’t like that finish. Jake sneaks back into the ring while Ted and Virgil are celebrating and double clotheslines both of them, sending money flying everywhere. Jake gets the DDT to satisfy the fans while Virgil bolts with the belt. Where’s Damien the python?? Jake passes out the $100 bills (which look real) to the crowd and almost causes a fight. He gives one to Mary Tyler Moore! Hope she gives it to an underprivileged Canadian kid in the (checks notes) first row at a WrestleMania. Unfortunately, Virgil rescues the Million Dollar Man before he can get a hug from Damien.
- Big Boss Man vs. Akeem, with Slick
RS: Culturally appropriated white dude vs. a good ol’ boy cop wearing a confederate flag on his sleeve. The good ol’ boy is the face, but with a Canadian crowd, they don’t really seem to care. DiBiase hid after the previous match to jump Big Boss Man. I’m hoping this attack keeps this match from happening, but alas, the match does start. This match was quick with a Boss Man win. Who knew the 1990’s WWF would be so woke to have a cop with symbols of racism and oppression on his sleeve, representing the systemic racism buried deep in our justice system. Or maybe, he’s just supposed to be a cop and it’s good that he’s racist? Maybe I’m reading too much into it. It’s 4:30 AM.
TH: There’s the obligatory promo with Akeem, who won’t stop moving around, and his manager Slick. I think he’s supposed to be “jiving,” but it kinda looks like he’s twitchy from being on the meth. Speaking of hard drugs, Big Boss Man is inexplicably sweaty for his promo. “I’m proud to wear the badge but most of all, I’m proud to be an American,” he tells us. The confederate flag patch on his sleeve says otherwise. I’m with Rich — Boss Man always worked better as a heel for me. In what world, even the coked up 1980s, is a Georgia prison guard supposed to be a good guy? Akeem comes down to the ring on the little cart (yay!), dancing/twitching to the wackest rap song you’ll ever hear. I think it may have been recorded by Rhythm & Blues. The back of his shirt has an outline of Africa with the word “Africa” in the middle of it, in case there was any question of where he’s from. Do you think he knows that Africa is not a country? In our WrestleMania V post Rich mentioned that the Akeem gimmick seemed a bit racially insensitive, but I didn’t comment because I was under the mistaken assumption that George Gray, who played Akeem (and previously One Man Gang) was at least biracial. After a fair amount of googling and an even more significant amount of head shaking, it seems this is not the case. He’s a white dude from Spartanburg, South Carolina. I found an interview with Slick in which he claims that the Akeem gimmick was his idea, but I don’t know if that makes it better or worse. Apparently Vince was a big fan of the gimmick, so probably worse. Anyway, down to the action. Million Dollar Man, miraculously recovered from his match with Jake the Snake, pulls a sneak attack on Boss Man before the bell, so BBM starts at a disadvantage. There’s a GREAT clothesline from Big Boss Man, who makes pretty quick work of Akeem. So the racist Southern prison guard beats the White guy pretending to be an African. #Diversity!
TH: Let’s get some audience reaction for the upcoming performance by Rhythm & Blues. A little boy thinks they “can’t sing or dance or do anything,” while a little girl can at least name their “hit” song. Ringside, Mary Tyler Moore says the show has been a wonderful mix of athletics and theater. You can tell she’s already looking forward to WrestleMania VII. I heard it’s going to be in LA. When we can’t bear the tension anymore, here comes the duo in a pink Cadillac with poodle skirt girls and Jimmy Hart, who’s holding a gold record. I’m not sure where he borrowed that. Fun fact: a very young Diamond Dallas Page is driving the caddie! We get a few bars of “Hunka Hunka Hunka Honky Love,” which is as good as you’d expect it to be, before Rhythm & Blues is chased from the ring by the Bushwhackers, who are not music fans. They smash up the guitars but, notably, not the much more expensive monitors left behind. It’s fun to see the crowd doing the Bushwhacker march. Rich has a Bushwhacker story, which hopefully he’ll relate again.
RS: I wonder how Jimmy Hart feels having his compositions used this way? Jimmy is actually an accomplished musician as a member of The Gentrys before turning to wrestling. He also wrote the theme music for many wrestlers, including Ted DiBiase, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Sting, and many others. He even wrote that darn catchy WrestleMania theme that has opened the last few manias. Having a degree in music and being a wrestling fan, Jimmy Hart had a dream job. (And as we post this, it’s Jimmy’s 77th birthday — happy birthday, Mr. Hart!) Thankfully the Bushwhackers interrupted the concert. I think I forgot to mention last time that when I was licked by a Bushwhacker, I was cosplaying Paul Bearer for a contest. He got a mouth full of baby powder I had rubbed into my face to make me pale. I came in second and got to actually get in a WWF ring!
TH: Howard Finkel makes the SkyDome attendance record announcement, 67,879! This record would stand until 2002, when it was topped by WrestleMania X8 (68,237). Impressive!
- “Ravishing” Rick Rude, with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
RS: I don’t know why this match is happening but here we are. Snuka is old (for a wrestler) but looks shredded. He has muscles on muscles. It almost feels like they were sent out to give Hogan and Warrior more time to get high. Anyways, Snuka never really lands any good spots and falls victim to the Rude Awakening and it’s over.
TH: This is a weird penultimate match between a huge star at the time (Rude) and an aging former superstar (Snuka). I agree that it feels like filler between the musical interlude and the main event. Steve Allen joins Jesse and Monsoon in the booth and gets in a few more solid jokes. Steve thinks Jimmy Snuka is ugly, and he’s not wrong, though Superfly is in amazing shape here (going on age 47!) There’s a couple of cool moves on both sides, including a “front body drop,” I guess you’d call it? Snuka goes to the top rope prematurely and has to hop over Rick. Snuka gets the wrong end of the “Rude Awakening” and it’s all over before it begins, in less than four minutes.
- The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan, “Winner Takes All” match for WWF Intercontinental Championship and WWF World Heavyweight Championship
TH: As is becoming customary at WrestleMania main events, we need a recap of the partnership and feud between the two headliners. It’s too bad the word “frenemies” didn’t exist in 1989-1990. If I had a time machine I’d go back and introduce it to the announcing table for these guys. Apparently they’ve been saving each other from beatings at the hands of Earthquake off and on for the past few months. I’m preparing myself mentally for this match, which I know runs 22:51, our longest match of a Wrestle Mania by far. (Hogan vs. Macho Man at WrestleMania V was the longest to that point at 17:54.)
Both guys eschew the little cart (boo!) in favor of running/walking to the ring. There’s a dramatic staredown while referee Earl Hebner explains the rules, since both men are obviously new to the sport, and shows off both belts. I’m tempted to go blow-by-blow for this match, but also recognize that nobody wants to read that, so here’s the capsule version. There’s a lock up to start, followed by the obligatory test of strength as first Warrior drives Hulkster to his knees, then vice versa. This is good theater, setting up how evenly matched the two men are in terms of strength. There’s a criss-cross to a scoop slam by Hulk but Warrior pops right back up; then they reverse the same exact sequence, but Hulkster is much slower to get up, again providing a good point of comparison/contrast. Hulk gets clotheslined out of the ring, where he limps around and collapses; once back in the ring Hogan sells the leg “injury” for a little while until it’s no longer convenient. “Hulkster now able to put some weight on that leg,” Monsoon observes, when he starts his comeback. I love when Monsoon uses scientific names for body parts (e.g., “patella”) and then has to explain them to Jesse.
After the initial back and forth, Hulk is pretty much in control through most of the match. He hits a nice suplex and a two-count pin attempt, then a rest hold, err, chinlock. Uh oh, the tide is turning and now Ultimate Warrior is “hulking up” (“Ultimating Up?”) Warrior throws three elbows to break the hold, then both guys knock each other out with a double clothesline. That’s a cool spot, but unfortunately they’ve used it in a previous match, which we saw in the flashback, so it’s not as exciting as it could be. Hebner starts the double count, with both guys milking it. The camera goes in tight on both guys’ faces, arms, and hands before Warrior sits up like Jason Voorhees. And now both men are up! Hogan is looking like me on a Sunday morning. He should hydrate and take some Alka Seltzer, maybe some toast if his stomach can handle it. Warrior shakes the ropes to Ultimate Up™ some more, hits a couple of tough clotheslines and a beauty of a suplex. Now another rest hold, err, bearhug to slow things down. This move seems misplaced to me — why ratchet up the drama only to slow it back down again? Poor Hebner gets knocked out in a fracas. Hogan gets a pin but nobody is conscious to count, then the Warrior gets a suplex and a pin, but still no ref. Hebner wakes up for a very slow count, but Hogan kicks out. A Warrior win looks close with a press slam and a splash on a face-down Hulk (weird spot), but then we get the Hulk no-sell, hulk up, shaking the finger, big right hands, big boot, and the big leg drop. But he misses the leg! Good gawd! The elusive failed finisher! Warrior hits a big splash and the pin, 1-2-3! Warrior is ecstatic and Hulk is distraught, but Hogan collects himself to bring the belt back to the ring and present it to the Warrior. Hogan raises the Warrior’s hand, and the two exhausted warriors share a big hug to earn a huge pop from the crowd. This was actually a really exciting match, an emotional rollercoaster with no real heel, and a textbook example of a “clean match.”
RS: In this match, for 20 minutes, we have about five different moves occur between the two; a bodyslam, a clothesline, an elbow drop, and a test of strength. The test of strength is possibly the most compelling thing to happen at a Wrestlemania thus far. There’s a lot of running the ropes, which is…weird. Warrior definitely has the superior cardio. The Ultimate Warrior really came out of nowhere in popularity. It feels like he’s been there forever with how over he is even though this is only like his second year in WWF. The crowd is absolutely volatile. If they did any more moves than these, the crowd would melt down with overstimulation. Hogan is looking ridiculously tanned again. If he was a Thanksgiving turkey last time, he might be an Easter ham by now. They really go back and forth, but Hogan got out-hulked in the end. If I had been watching back then, I would have no idea who was going to win. They did such a great job of building Warrior up to the same level as Hogan that it’s really unpredictable. Hogan shockingly misses his big leg drop, leaving him prone to Warrior’s belly flop and tremendous victory. I would only nitpick that Hogan oversells a leg injury early in the match which he isn’t able to sustain through the whole thing. This really was one for the ages. Warrior became the first WWF wrestler to hold both the Intercontinental and World Heavyweight Championships.
TH: Man, I hate to be a mark again and say it’s the main event, but I kinda think it’s the main event. Before we got to the main event, I would have said Jake the Snake vs. Million Dollar Man, since it has two super talented guys in their prime. And while I didn’t like the finish, we still got the DDT after the match, which was very satisfying (even if nobody got the Damien treatment.) Warrior vs. Hogan, though, really delivers. For two guys who have reputations of not being particularly good workers, they have excellent chemistry, play off each other’s strengths, and bring out the best in each other. As the two biggest superstars of the period (I’d say Warrior was even more over with fans than Savage was during the MegaPowers era) there’s an undeniable significance to them appearing together this way. The action is engaging and dramatic and the finish is emotional. “Hulkamania will live forever,” as Jesse tells us after the match. I’m also dedicating my write-up of this match to good guy and Jeopardy champion Kurt, who was a little Warrior back in the day and even wore Ultimate Warrior facepaint for his dad’s WrestleMania VI watch party. Apparently there are photos, which Kurt will not produce.
RS: I’m going to back away from the main event and say Jake and Ted barely stole the show. The back-and-forth and feeling of true animosity really fueled this match. Yes, the finish was really frustrating, but considering, like, half the card ends in count-out, the endings don’t matter any more. Ted is drastically underrated and Jake’s soft-spoken, intelligent, and terrifying promos were ahead of their time. The suspense that the Million-Dollar Dream could be slapped on any time and Jake could land a DDT out of nowhere really made you feel like an ending could happen at any time. Virgil also knew his role and only got involved at the proper times, so it still felt like it was almost a fair fight, and that Ted actually wanted to do this fight.
RS: Probably the Rockers vs. Sato and Tanaka. It’s just because this match had such potential but just fell flat. I’m ready for Shawn and Bret to break free.
TH: As much as it pains me to say it, I’d also go with the Rockers vs. the Orient Express. Mr. Fuji’s constant interruptions keep the match from building any steam, so we don’t really get to see the true talents of Michaels/Jannetty and Tanaka/Sato. Not a match, but demerits for wasting the talents of Greg the Hammer in the lame Rhythm & Blues gimmick. I want a figure four leglock, dammit!
Oh Sh!t Moment
RS: Hogan missing the leg drop and getting pinned. I mean, I knew Warrior won, but I was still surprised and excited over that finish. Again, Hogan pulls the heel move of losing but somehow that makes him and his opponent look good and the crowd loves him more. Every match prior was billed as the possible death of Hulkamania, but in a Christ-like manner, Hogan is sacrificed and somehow that takes Hulkamania even higher.
TH: The overt racism in both Roddy Piper’s match vs. Bad News and in Akeem’s gimmick. Those bits have not aged well. Bad News Brown should have whipped both their asses for trying it.
TH: I’m giving this one a 4 out of 5, though I’m tempted to bump it to a 4.5 for the absence of human shitstain DJT. It has better pacing than WrestleMania V, and they handled the obvious intermission break much better. Most matches run between three and eight minutes, with two matches under two minutes and two matches over nine minutes. Even at 22 minutes plus, the main event doesn’t feel too long. Mostly solid matches, and minimal outright duds. All in all a strong event.
RS: 4.5 out 5. Just when you thought Hulkamania was at its peak, it gets magnified by his LOSS. The event runs smoothly. Every match is pretty tidy and has some intrigue going into it. Just when I thought WWF couldn’t milk Hogan and Savage any more, they found a perfect, equally over opponent for Hogan and put Savage in with another veteran talent in the night’s gimmick match. This event would have drawn a perfect score if it weren’t for the count outs. At this point, WCW doesn’t even bother to put on a free counter event on TBS because WrestleMania has become a juggernaut. While I am tired of Hogan, he’s just so damn popular, there’s no way he can’t be in the main event. The energy of 67,000 people screaming like maniacs adds something that is indescribable. Just, man, ease up on the racism a bit. I’m sure it’ll be better by WrestleMania VII…right? The nationistic patriotism just doesn’t sell…right?
Steve Allen, d. 2000
Andre the Giant, d. 1993
Dino Bravo, d. 1993
Bad News Brown, d. 2007
Big Boss Man, d. 2004
Earthquake, d. 2006
Howard Finkel, d. 2020
Frankie the macaw, d. 2001
Mr. Fuji, d. 2016
Gorilla Monsoon, d. 1999
Bobby Heenan, d. 2017
Hercules, d. 2004
Joey Marella, d. 1994
Miss Elizabeth, d. 2003
Moore, Mary Tyler, d. 2017
Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig), d. 2003
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, d. 2018
“Mean Gene” Okerlund, d. 2020
Queen Sherri (Sherri Martel), d. 2007
Rowdy Roddy Piper, d. 2015
Dusty Rhodes, d. 2015
“Ravishing” Rick Rude, d. 1999
Randy “Macho Man” Savage, d. 2011
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, d. 2017
Sweet Sapphire, d. 1996
The Ultimate Warrior, d. 2014
Nikolai Volkoff, d. 2018