Growing up in the 1980s, I was an absolutely huge pro wrestling fan. One of my earliest wrestling memories was the build up to WrestleMania 2 in 1986, and I can remember watching this show on video tape over and over. The twist here is that instead of looking at this show through the eyes of a 5-year-old boy, I’ll be watching as a 30-year-old man. Naturally, this post won’t really appeal to non-wrestling fans, so you might as well skip this one if old-school WWF was never your cup of tea.
Keep in mind, this entry will be posted in that sort of “live blogging” format. That is, I’m just relaxing on my couch with the laptop while the show plays on my TV. So please don’t expect a masterful writing job — I’m just have fun punching up quick notes while the show runs without any pausing, rewinding, or fast forwarding. When the show’s over, so is this report. Here we go…
“WrestleMania 2 – what he world has come to!”
A young Vince McMahon welcomes us to the greatest sports entertainment spectacular of all time from the Nassau Coliseum, just 20 minutes from my home here on Long Island. Joining him in the ring is Susan St. James (the wife of Vince’s good buddy, Dick Ebersol). In comes Ray Charles to sing “America the Beautiful.” Though I remember constantly speeding through this part as a kid, Charles is actually very good — so already I’ve found something I appreciate as an old man that meant nothing to me as a youngster. The song ends with a photo of everybody’s favorite hero, WWF Champion Hulk Hogan!
Now we’re in Chicago with Mean Gene who tells us you can cut the electricity with a knife. That was quick, we’re back to New York with Roddy Piper and his boxing trainer Lou Duva. Piper says if Mr. T knocks him out, he’ll retire. He closes out the interview by saying though T mocked him by wearing a kilt, he’d never shave his hair like an Indian and paint himself black — awesome.
Ring announcer Howard Finkel tells us it’s time for the opening contest. “Magnificent” Don Muraco with Mr. Fuji in his corner takes on “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. These guys are jacked to the gills. Orndorff just taunted Fuji by making “slant eyes” — I kid you not. Susan St. James just remarked that Muraco may be employing Fuji’s ancient Chinese techniques. There’s some decent back-and-forth action until both competitors get counted out on the floor. Orndorff wants to swing a chair, but the referee intervenes. The crowd is chanting “bullshit” — I never noticed that before.
Mr. T is with “Smokin” Joe Frazier and the Haiti Kid (a midget wrestler with Mr. T’s haircut). T says he’s tried of talking and ready to get in the ring with Piper tonight.
Now we’ve got the Intercontinental Championship match – George “The Animal” Steele takes on the Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage who has the lovely Miss Elizabeth in his corner. Savage is the heel here, and he’s awesome in this role. Steele plays the Animal character extremely well, but he’s not in Savage’s league in terms of athleticism. Macho is probably the best athlete on this entire card. Steele slows things down with illegal chokes and bites, and, of course, ripping the turnbuckle open to eat the stuffing inside. Savage does what he can to keep things exciting, ultimately pinning Steele with his feet ont he ropes. All in all, this was a fun short match. Steele kicked out of Savage’s flying elbow on the ONE COUNT and completely no-sold it, and that kind of messed things up at the end a bit. He was also pinned in a sort of missionary sex position which was kind of awkward looking.
Back in Chicago, Mean Gene interviews Bill Fralic and Big John Studd. This is great. Gene requests decorum, but Studd squashes a football and argues with Fralic about how wrestlers are better than football players.
In NY once again, we’ve got a squash match at WrestleMania. Yep, it’s Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. George Wells. Wells gets plenty of offense in early, but this is primarily there to showcase Roberts who was a newcomer at this point. Roberts wins with his signature DDT and he wraps Damien, his python, around Wells at the end of the match which causes him to foam at the mouth. Vince informs us that Jake’s undefeated streak remains in tact with this win.
There’s a video package giving us the build up to the boxing match between Mr. T and Roddy Piper.
Now we’re in Los Angeles for Jesse Ventura to interview Hulk Hogan. Hulk says he’s taking out King Kong Bundy in spite of his injured ribs. He also makes a prediction that Mr. T will defeat Piper because he’s fighting for what he believes in. We return to New York and Susan lets us know she’s rooting for Hulk.
Finkel hands the microphone over to Joan Rivers, who was probably 60 here, as the guest ring announcer. She introduces a boatload of celebrity stars — Guest Judges: Darryl Dawkins, Cab Calloway, & G. Gordon Liddy and Guest Time Keeper: Herb (Burger King commercial superstar). This is New York’s main event, scheduled for 10 rounds of boxing. The best part of the introduction is that she misreads “The Ace Cowboy Bob Orton” as “The Ace Comedy — and funny man — Bob Orvin.” I’m not making that up, it really just happened. Now it’s time for the boxing match between Mr. T and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. This is even faker than all the other stuff on this show. Wow, this gets really bad. Mr. T is atrocious. This whole thing is a sloppy, clumsy mess. So this represents the first horrible match that I didn’t really know was horrible when watching as a kid. Mercifully, it ends in the fourth round when Piper gets disqualified for throwing the ref down and bodyslamming T. A melee ensues following the match where all the corner men flood the ring — Vince mispronounces melee twice. Thank god we’re done with Susan St. James with our location switch.
Now we’re in Chicago with Gorilla Monsoon, Mean Gene Okerlund, and Cathy Lee Crosby. It’s funny that they’re all sharing one microphone, it’s sort of awkward as compared to how it would be today where all three would have their own mic. Chet Coppock is the ring announcer. Women’s World Champion Fabulous Moolah defends against Velvet McIntyre. Moolah is ancient here, yet she’s still the Champ and is believeable in the roll of tough old wench. The match is over in under a minute when McIntyre misses a splash off the rope allowing Moolah to pin her and retain the belt.
It’s time for a flag match! The winner gets to wave his flag — so 1980s here. Representing the USSR it’s Nikolai Volkoff with Freddie Blassie in his corner against Corporal Kirshner who represents the good old USA. This is pretty lousy, but that’s ok. Blassie shouts to Kirshner, “get in there you yellow dog!” The mat in Chicago is really miced well, every stomp sounds like somebody beating a drum. Wow — this went faster than I remembered, certainly no more than 2 minutes. Blassie tries to throw his cane in to Volkoff but Kirshner intercepts it and uses it as a weapon. He wins and America reigns supreme over those commie bastards.
Mean Gene Okerlund takes over the ring announcing duties for the 20-man Battle Royal. More celebrities: Clara Peller (Wendy’s Where’s the Beef Lady) is the time keeper, but she is 100 years old and doesn’t even know her name is announced. It doesn’t matter, her microphone doesn’t work anyway. The referees are Dick Butkus and Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Here are the 20 participants: Jimbo Covert, Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi, Harvey Martin, Dan Spivey, Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga, Iron Sheik, Ernie Holmes, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Big John Studd, Bill Fralic, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Russ Francis, Bruno Sammartino, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, and Andre The Giant. This is really cool because the crowd is so into it. Chicago really seemed to get the best portion of the show. Andre wins the battle royal, last eliminating Bret Hart by launching him onto his partner on the floor. The most memorable spot in this match is Perry offering a truce with John Studd, after Studd eliminated him, only to pull Studd out to the floor. As Ernie Ladd says, Perry fools him with “the oldest trick in the book.”
Back in New York, it’s getting a bit confusing now, Roddy Piper sits with Vince and Susan to continue his trash talk of Mr. T. The Long Island crowd cheers the replay of Piper slamming T. We head back to Chicago for Mean Gene to interview Jimbo Covert and the always entertaining Iron Sheik. We also see some highlights of the battle royal that just completed. Cathy Lee is less annoying than Susan St. James, but I’d still have enjoyed this show much better with Gorilla and Jesse like the other WrestleManias of the era.
Now, here comes the best match on the entire show. For the WWF Tag Team Championship, The Dream Team (Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake w/ Johnny V) defend their belts against the British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid w/ Captain Lou & Ozzy Osbourne). As a kid, I always liked this match better than anything else on the show and still consider it one of my all-time favorite matches (even though I haven’t really watched it in over a decade). Believe it or not, it really holds up well. Dynamite is a spectacular performer and Davey Boy is very good. Valentine is solid for the heels. Though Beefcake is very limited, they keep his involvement to a minimum which allows this match to shine. The Bulldogs win the belts when Davey rams Valentine into Dynamite and covers him. Dynamite takes a ridiculous bump off the top rope to the floor that doesn’t even get appropriately captured because they just didn’t have the type of camera set up you’d find at a show today. At any rate, the title victory really feels like a special historic moment — something else that’s missing from pro wrestling these days. It sort of comes out of nowhere too which makes it even more fun. Nowadays, you’ll know exactly when the matches are going to end because they telegraph it so blatantly.
After a brief interlude in New York, we’re going out to Los Angeles. Vince really does a great job at making it seem like the main event is going to be something you just can’t miss. Susan St. James says she thinks Hogan will win — what a bold prediction. Out in LA, you’ve got Jesse Ventura sandwiched between Lord Alfred Hayes (ungodly awful) and Elvira (horrible). To make matters worse, there are really only two fully-functional headsets which Hayes and Elvira use; Jesse’s mic is all messed up which is pretty annoying. Our ring announcer, Lee Marshall, gets things rolling with Hercules Hernandez and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. I hardly remembered this one, but Steamboat was actually very good in this generic-1980s-WWF-mid-card match. Steamboat wins with a high cross body block. His talent was really wasted in what was essentially a curtain-jerker on the west coast. In fact, with the time zone difference, the LA audience didn’t watch the already recorded matches until after the main event ended, meaning the Chicago portion we just saw would be their “main event” on closed circuit.
In a match that I can recall skipping almost every time I watched this show, Adorable Adrian Adonis w/ Jimmy Hart takes on Uncle Elmer. I’ve skipped this match so many times that I even had to fight the urge to hit fast forward when I saw it was about to start. The reality is it wasn’t that bad. Adonis was deceptively awesome. He weighed 300 pounds and dressed like a woman, but he was actually a tremendous athlete and even even manages to carry Elmer (arguably the worst wrestler I’ve ever seen) to a reasonably decent match. He flips all over the place like an acrobat before securing a clean fall with a flying chop to the prone Elmer. Adding insult to injury, Adonis beats him up after the match until Elmer rolls to the outside.
“Awful” Alfred interviews an enormous Hulk Hogan who vows to win, regardless of his injuries. Jimmy Hart is back out there with Terry and “Hoss” Funk who battle it out with Tito Santana and the Junkyard Dog. I loved JYD as a kid. In fact, a month after this, JYD headlined the first live WWF card I ever attended against Hoss Funk at the Nassau Coliseum in a sort of WrestleMania revenge match. This is a by-the-numbers baby face vs. heels tag match. Approximately two and a half hours in, I’m really tired of watching wrestling at this point and I’m ready for the show to be over. Terry Funk actually does a lot to make things entertaining, bumping on the floor and taking a body slam on a table. Surprisingly, the heels steal one here in our penultimate match with a little assistance from Jimmy Hart’s dreaded megaphone. Terry smashes JYD with the foreign object while referee Dave Hebner’s back is turned, he gets the cover and the team is victorious. Much like the Long Island audience earlier, the Californians chant “bullshit.” Terry sells a knee injury after the bout. Now we’ve got a dozen or so crew members coming out to assemble the steel cage for the main event.
We’ve got a string of video highlights detailing the long build up to the big match and Hogan’s road to recovery following his injury at the hands of Bundy. We also get to hear from Heenan and Bundy — damn this was great. Bundy cuts an absolutely awesome promo about how he’s going to win the belt tonight. Heenan lets us know we’re about to experience “Bundy Mania.” We head back to New York one more time for Vince to get just a little more hype in. Now, we are treated to our main event — WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Challenger King Kong Bundy w/ Bobby “The Brain” Heenan inside a “15-foot-high” steel cage. Celebrity Mania continues with Tommy Lasorda as the guest ring announcer, Ricky Schroeder (who was booed) as the guest time keeper, and Robert Conrad (who was cheered) as the guest referee. Hogan slams Bundy, drops the leg, and climbs over the cage to hang onto his title. The spot I remember of Hogan kicking Bundy down to the canvas from the top rope is still cool. The best bumps on the entire show were probably by Heenan in the post-match ass whooping by Hogan. I always loved that part because Heenan was so good at making you want to see him get beat up. Hogan matches were predictable, but you got to see what you wanted. He slays a dragon, and everyone goes home happy.
This was a fun show to watch because it really takes me back. I felt like a little kid watching this show which is always a nice escape from the frustrating and complicated adult world. WWF absolutely overdid it with the celebrities as so many of them contributed absolutely nothing to the show. In fact,some of them, like all three women announcers, were a detriment to the overall presentation. This is also the last time they did a big show from multiple locations which really didn’t mean all that much in retrospect, but I guess it could have been a big deal at the time in terms of making the show seem like a can’t-miss happening. So I’ve had my fill of wrestling for a while after sitting through three hours of this, but I definitely recommend the show to old-school wrestling fans looking for nostalgia or new-school fans who have never seen it.