THE SPECIALISTS Nostalgia Review: The History of Wrestlemania: The Beginning, The Risk, A look at the main event of every Wrestlemania
Mar 30, 2008 - 11:53:43 AM
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Brian Hoops, PW Torch.com Nostalgia Specialist
The History of Wrestlemania
This month, the single biggest professional wrestling event will be held in Orlando, Florida. The WWE will promote its 24th annual wrestling spectacular called Wrestlemania. This week’s article looks at the history of the Wrestlemania and its implications on the wrestling industry.
Wrestlemania, a term coined by long time WWE employee Howard Finkel, was started out of part vision and part desperation by Vince McMahon Jr. McMahon had purchased the then WWWF from his father and partners; the old Capitol Sports promotion, in 1983 and began his ambitious national expansion plans. In 1984, McMahon lured top regional stars from rival territories including Gene Okerlund, Junkyard Dog, Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage and the biggest prize of all; Hulk Hogan. Hogan was the key to the national expansion plans as he was the one man that McMahon could see had the charisma, look and believability in the ring that could capture not only the current wrestling fans interest, but also cultivate another entire generation of wrestling fans. To take his company national, McMahon began running house shows in other promotions territories, using the territories former top stars as headliners on his own shows. McMahon also began buying TV time on the other territories local television stations, sending his syndicated wrestling broadcasts around the country. The cost to acquire the top wrestling stars, promote national touring house shows and nationally syndicated television was enormous and by late 1984, McMahon and the WWF was in a dire financial condition. McMahon was very close to bankruptcy and losing everything. However, McMahon had a vision and was willing to bet everything on the success of one idea. McMahon’s idea was to promote a wrestling card, broadcast the card on closed circuit TV and on a new concept called PPV.
This one wrestling card was named Wrestlemania; and was supposed to be the wrestling equivalent of the NFL’s Superbowl. PPV was in its infancy in 1985, however closed circuit TV had been around and tried with success for several years. In fact, the AWA in 1983 promoted “Super Sunday” on closed circuit TV in Minneapolis and the NWA promoted the first Starrcade on Thanksgiving night, 1983 also on closed circuit TV. Both were considered very successful shows and McMahon was hoping to build on the success of closed circuit TV and take it one step further, broadcasting live nationwide on PPV.
With McMahon and the WWF very close to bankruptcy in early 1985, McMahon virtually bet the entire company as well as his personal finances on the strength of the success of this show. McMahon was willing to bet everything on this one show, knowing that if his bet didn’t pay off; there would be no second chance. But McMahon was and is an incredible wrestling promoter. Territorial wrestling promoters frequently used local talent as a way to attract not only the hardcore wrestling fans that came to every local wrestling event, but also as a way to attract the casual wrestling fans that led to the bigger house show business that every promoter craved. McMahon followed this format, only knowing that if he was to promote a show that was to be received nationally, he would need to involve national celebrities to attract the kind of national publicity that would make his Wrestlemania concept a huge success.
The first Wrestlemania was to be held on March 31, 1985 in the WWF’s backyard of Madison Square Garden in New York City. MTV was riding a huge popularity boom as a new, cool station on cable TV. McMahon was able to secure a wrestling event on MTV, combining rock and roll and professional wrestling. On the MTV special prior to Wrestlemania, Cyndi Lauper, one of the most popular pop singers in 1985; became involved in a match between the Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter. Lauper would become one of the more visible celebrities on the Wrestlemania show and was in a way largely responsible for cultivating a new generation of wrestling fans that were originally fans of rock and roll music. Other celebrities that were featured at Wrestlemania 1 was a special appearances of Liberace. The main event featured Muhammad Ali as the special guest referee and Billy Martin as the special guest ring announcer. The main event itself was a tag-team match between the WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, accompanied by Jimmy Snuka against the team of Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, who were accompanied by Cowboy Bob Orton. Mr. T had achieved nationwide recognition as “Clubber Lang” in the Rocky III movie, that Hulk Hogan had an appearance in as well as the weekly TV show “The A-Team.” With all the mainstream celebrities, Wrestlemania 1 was a huge financial success that allowed the WWF become the number one wrestling organization in the court of public perception in 1985.
The following is a look at all the Wrestlemania and the highlights of each show.
Wrestlemaina 1 – March 31, 1985 - Hulk Hogan/Mr. T defeated Roddy Piper/Paul Orndorff in the main event. Tito Santana defeated the Executioner in the first ever match at Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania 2 – April 2, 1986 – Hulk Hogan defeats King Kong Bundy in a cage match and Andre the Giant defeats 19 other wrestlers including several NFL players.
Wrestlemania 3 - March 29, 1987 – Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant for the WWF title and Ricky Steamboat defeated Randy Savage to win the Intercontinental Title.
Wrestlemania 4 - March 27, 1988 – Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase to win a tournament for the WWF title. Demolition defeated Strike Force to become new WWF World Tag Team Champions
Wrestlemania 5 – April 2, 1989 – Hulk Hogan defeated Randy Savage to become new WWF World Champion. Rick Rude defeated the Ultimate Warrior to become new Intercontinental Champion.
Wrestlemania 6 - April 1, 1990 - Ultimate Warrior def. Hulk Hogan to retain Intercontinental Championship and become new WWE Champion.
Wrestlemania 7 – March 24, 1991 – Hulk Hogan defeated Sgt. Slaughter to become new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Randy Savage lost a retirement match to the Ultimate Warrior.
Wrestlemania 8 – April 5, 1992 – Randy Savage defeated Ric Flair to win the WWF World Heavyweight Title. Hulk Hogan defeated Sid Vicious/Justice by dq. Bret Hart defeated Roddy Piper to become new WWF Intercontinental Champion.
Wrestlemania 9 – April 4, 1993 – Yokozuna defeated Bret Hart to become new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Minutes later Hulk Hogan defeated Yokozuna to win the title.
Wrestlemania 10 – March 20, 1994 – Razor Ramon defeated Shawn Michaels in a Ladder Match for the WWF Intercontinental Title and Bret Hart defeated Yokozuna for the WWF World Title.
Wrestlemania 11 – April 2, 1995 – Diesel successfully defended the WWF World Heavyweight Title against Shawn Michaels. Lawrence Taylor defeated Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event.
Wrestlemania 12 – March 31, 1996 – Undertaker defeated Diesel and Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart in a 60 minute Ironman Match for the WWF World Title.
Wrestlemania 13 – March 23, 1997 – Bret Hart defeated Steve Austin in a submission match and Undertaker defeated Psycho Sid to become new WWF World Heavyweight Champion.
Wrestlemania 14 – March 24, 1998 – Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to become new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Undertaker defeated Kane.
Wrestlemania 15 – March 28, 1999 – Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett defeated D Lo Brown and Test to retain the World Tag Team Titles. Steve Austin defeated the Rock to win the WWF World Heavyweight Title.
Wrestlemania 16 – April 2, 2000 - Triple H w/ Stephanie McMahon def. The Rock w/ Mr. McMahon, Mick Foley w/ Linda McMahon and Big Show w/ Shane McMahon to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Title. Edge and Christian defeated the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz in a Ladder Match to become new WWE World Tag Team Champions.
Wrestlemania 17 - April 1, 2001 – Steve Austin defeated the Rock to become new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Edge and Christian defeated the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match to become new WWE World Tag Team Champions.
Wrestlemania 18 – March 17, 2002 – The Rock defeated Hollywood Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker defeated Ric Flair. Triple H defeated Chris Jericho to retain the Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion.
Wrestlemania 19 – March 30, 2003 – The Rock defeated Steve Austin, Triple H w/ Ric Flair defeated Booker T to retain the World Heavyweight Title, Hollywood Hogan defeated Mr. McMahon in a Street Fight, and in a match for the WWE Championship, Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle to become new champion.
Wrestlemania 20 – March 14, 2004 – In a match for the WWE Championship, Eddie Guerrero defeated Kurt Angle to retain the title. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer defeated Kane, and in a Triple Threat World Heavyweight Championship Match; Chris Benoit defeated Triple H and Shawn Michaels to become new champion.
Wrestlemania 21 – April 3, 2005 - Money in the Bank Ladder Match; Edge defeated Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Jericho, Christian and Kane. In a match for the WWE Championship; John Cena defeated JBL to become new champion. In a World Heavyweight Championship Match; Batista defeated Triple H to become new champion.
Wrestlemania 22 – April 2, 2006 – Rob Van Dam won the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, John Cena defeated Triple H in a match for the WWE Championship and Rey Mysterio defeated Kurt Angle and Randy Orton to become new World Heavyweight Champion.
Wrestlemania 23 – April 1, 2007 – The Undertaker defeated Batista to become new World Heavyweight Champion. John Cena successfully defended the WWE Heavyweight Title against Shawn Michaels and Mr. Kennedy won the Money in the Bank Ladder match.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s look at wrestling nostalgia. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
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