– Welcome to another retro report, this time in preparation for/celebration of WrestleMania 29. Guess how I picked this one to review? It was either WrestleMania 2, or WrestleMania 9.
– Comments, likes and shares are appreciated. If you like these types of reports, share them around and get them big traffic. I’ll try to do more.
– If you’d like to read another technically “retro” WrestleMania report, be sure to go back and read the Best and Worst of WrestleMania XXVIII Live.
– I’m going to be at the various events surrounding WrestleMania 29 and Mania itself, so if you’re in the
New Jersey New York area, find me and throw up the high-five.
Click through for the Best and Worst of WrestleMania 2. Warning: It happens in 1986.
Best: Here To Sing ‘America The Beautiful,’ The Great, RAY CHAAAAAALL
I miss the days when actual musical legends would get brought in to sing National Anthems and stuff for wrestling. In the early days of WrestleMania you had Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, two of the shoot most important people in modern music history, and they’d get to do these full, impassioned, beautiful renditions of songs. Now you just get whoever has an album coming out (John Legend, I’m looking in YOUR direction), and that’s only if they don’t decide to just give it to Lilian again. Lilian is fine, don’t get me wrong, but she is not Ray f**king Chaaall.
So yeah, you don’t need a wrestling blogger to tell you that Ray Charles could knock out ‘America The Beautiful’ in his sleep. He was awesome. He was also apparently wearing William Regal’s jacket.
Idea: WWE loves making Raw “go old school,” so why not to do the same for a random WrestleMania? WrestleMania 32. Pay Jamie Foxx a shit-ton of money and get him to recreate this verbatim.
Worst: One Event, Three Venues
You may remember WrestleMania 2 as “the WrestleMania that came to you from everywhere.” They did a third of the event in New York, a third in Chicago and a third in Los Angeles. I’m assuming they did a Tito Santana vs. The Executioner rematch from Dallas or wherever and forgot to cut to the feed.
I get why they’d want to do this (three sold out buildings instead of one, not to mention the weird professional joy of saying they did a wrestling show from EVERYWHERE), but man, how bad did this suck for the people in attendance? The New York people started off hot, got to see a BOXING MATCH MAIN EVENT and then had to sit there watching the rest of the show on TV. The Chicago folks got to see Andre the Giant, but only after watching a third of the show on TV, then immediately had to go BACK to the TVs after their assy third wrapped up. The Los Angeles fans had to watch a glorified video package for two f**king hours before they got an Uncle Elmer match and 15 minutes of Hulk Hogan.
Quick, figure out why they haven’t done ANOTHER one like this!
Worst: Mr. Wonderfully Racist
One of the most important things to remember about WrestleMania 2 is that it happened in 1986, that magical year when the Challenger exploded and you could still get away with yelling F**K YOU GOOK at an Asian dude for no reason. I’ve got to warn you up front, this is basically the most horrifyingly racist WrestleMania ever, and Paul Orndorff making “slanty eyes” to taunt somebody WHEN HE IS THE GOOD GUY is only the beginning.
I don’t get to write about it a lot, but I love Don Muraco, and I love his gimmick even more. He’s a beach bum. That’s his wrestling gimmick. He is a guy who SPENDS A LOT OF TIME AT THE BEACH. How hilarious of a non-factor is that when getting to know somebody? “I’m tough!” “Screw you, I know you spend more than reasonable amount of time swimming!”
Worst: A Show-Opening Double Countout, or
Best: A Mid-80s Crowd Chanting ‘Bullshit’ And Being Totally Right
Here’s a quick guide to booking a wrestling show in 1986:
– Do not make anybody happy
– Do the same thing you did at the previous show, because there’s no way for anybody to see it or hear what happened.
– Put a lot of time between shows in a specific area, so the “I want to see good wrestling” thought becomes more vivid than the “nothing good ever happens when I go see wrestling” reality
Some wrestling promoters still do this. If you ever see a “legends” match on an otherwise unremarkable card (example: Tommy Rich vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka at Cleveland All Pro Wrestling’s Night Of Legends 7), chances are they’re just gonna wander out, tease the stuff you wish you could see them do, then just kinda mindlessly punch each other in the shoulderblades and walk to the back for a double count-out.
What I’m getting at is that WrestleMania 2’s Orndorff/Muraco opener is that match, and it didn’t matter, because nobody f**king remembers that Paul Orndorff and Don Muraco opened at WrestleMania. I don’t remember it and I just watched it. I want to see good wrestling!
Best: Charlie Day As Rowdy Roddy Piper
Rowdy Roddy Piper is so much better than you remember. The guy was legitimately bat-shit and unafraid to say things like “I grew my hair out so you could tell me apart from Mr. T” and make references to T’s “bristly hair.” Bob Orton’s Cigar Store Indian-ass would just stand in the background looking like those dudes who wanted to kill the Fraggles on Fraggle Rock, doing nothing in particular while the creative juices (or drugs) (probably drugs) sent Piper over the deep end.
Basically Piper is the most irredeemable pro wrestling scumbag ever, but he’s just so charming and good at his job you can’t help but enjoy it.
Best: Susan St. James Explains The Macho Man, Or
Worst: Susan St. James Speaks Or Does Anything
Here’s a full transcript of everything Susan St. James (celebrity guest announcer) (you may remember her from nothing) says during the first third of WrestleMania 2: “Uh oh.”
Sure, she says some powerfully obvious stuff about the wrestlers (sample point: Macho Man is mean to Elizabeth, and George Steel is nice to her!), but it’s almost entirely expressed through “uh oh.” She sounds like the Pagemaster trying to jump in the video game version of The Pagemaster*.
*Yes, this is the most obscure reference I’ve ever made.
Worst: Randy Savage Having To Sell A Bite To The Outside Of A Boot
For modern WWE fans, imagine if CM Punk was at the absolute top of his game, in-ring and outside of it, and his big WrestleMania match involved him going one-on-one with an old, fat, hairy, mentally-handicapped sexual stalker who loved stuffed animals and ate foam. IMAGINE THAT, IF YOU WILL.
I don’t have anything against George Steele necessarily (I love him in Ed Wood), but he is GARBAGE in the ring. If Nikolai Volkoff was trying to be one of The Oddities you’d almost approximate it. There’s a moment in the match where he bites Macho Man on the ankle, and it was the first time I can remember being pissed off by something in wrestling not making sense. Straight up, George Steele bites the outside of a boot. Macho sells it like he’s in pain, then sells it further by LIMPING (because Macho Man was basically the best wrestler ever), but JESUS CHRIST he was biting the outside of a THICK ASS RUBBER BOOT, and he didn’t even bite it hard enough to leave teeth marks. How do teeth work? At least when Shark Boy bites people in the ass with the fake teeth on his mask you can rationalize it, because the only thing between Shark Boy’s mouth and your asshole is two layers of spandex. George Steele is BITING A F**KING RAIN BOOT.
Worst: George Wells Traumatizes Me Forever
The ending to the George Wells/Jake “The Snake” Roberts match is one of the formative moments of my young life as a wrestling fan, for probably the worst reason.
I remember going over to my Aunt’s house to watch this on pay-per-view, because I am an ancient. I was six and an NWA fan, so I’d seen a lot of graphic stuff in pro graps … one of my earliest “watching wrestling with my family” memories is my dad saying OH MAN YOU GOTTA SEE THIS ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER/RAGING BULL MANNY FERNANDEZ SOMBRERO MATCH, IT IS THE BLOODIEST THING. So yeah, I was six, but I accepted that there was blood in the human body, and that if you tossed somebody into a cage enough times, some of it would come out.
What I did not know is that you could REGURGITATE WHITE FOAMY CRUST-LIQUID if somebody put a snake around your throat. Laid a snake on you, whatever. George Wells loses, so Jake does what he always does (“I’m gonna lay this snake on your body for some reason, LOL”). George starts barfing up the middle part of an Oreo and my brain goes ABORT, ABORT, ABORT. I didn’t watch this for like, 15 years afterwards because it traumatized me so badly. In retrospect it isn’t nearly as bad as I remember (just like that first ghost in Ghosbusters), but man, it was a hard, hard lesson in the gross shit the human body can reproduce.
Hilarious “sheltered kid from Virginia” note: I grew up in an extremely religious place with a terrible education system, so I didn’t take sex-ed until I was like, 24 years old. So circa 5th grade when my friend tells me he saw a porn tape and that “white stuff” came out of a guy’s privates, my brain remembered George Wells, and oh my God, it was the worst.
Best: Roddy Piper Is Doing His Very Best To Make This Terrible Boxing Exhibition Entertaining
You can read about why this match happened the way it did on any number of PRO WRESTLING GONE WRONG sites, but here’s what you need to know: Mr. T was a TV star who wanted to be in wrestling shows but he couldn’t really wrestle, so they let him do a boxing exhibition against a guy he hated, who happened to be an awesome wrestler and a shoot dickhead.
So Mr. T and Roddy Piper have a boxing match, which is more or less the last thing somebody wants to see when they go to the biggest wrestling show of the year (see also: sumo matches, not-worked toughman competitions, non-America-The-Beautiful-or-National-Anthem musical performances). T gets winded about 4 seconds in, Piper just starts f**king with him, and something kinda entertaining happens. It starts with Piper’s amazing Tartan robe and shorts (they look like something you could buy at Target) and beautifully illustrates why wrestlers should always get the upper hand in any situation involving celebrities on a wrestling program.
Worst: 15 Minutes For A DQ Finish, Or
Worst: This Was Like What They’d Do On Raw Now To PROMOTE A WrestleMania Match, Or
Worst: Roddy Piper Vs. Mr. T = CM Punk Vs. The Rock
But yeah, it’s not actually any good. It’s a boxing exhibition. ACTUAL boxing is boring to watch, much less fake (faker?) boxing where the guy who is clearly winning can’t throw the knockout blow because his bosses will fire him and he’ll get a stern look from Mary Hart on ‘Entertainment Tonight’ or whatever.
It’s very much like something they’d do to promote a match pre-Mania today. Mark Henry and Ryback have an issue … why not PUT THEM IN BOXING GLOVES to see who the TOUGHER MAN IS? One of those weird decisions from a crazy person that probably should’ve just been “make them have a wrestling match” and benefits nobody.
It reminded me a lot of the Elimination Chamber ’13 WWE title match between CM Punk and The Rock, where Punk was just bouncing around checking his pulse, killing time so The Rock could suck up enough wind to hit a dancing elbow without his heart exploding. Modern-day Rock is 100% 1986 Mr. T. He’s popular because he says funny stuff, he looks extremely tough by design, and he looks like a total goon whenever somebody tries to fight him.
Best: Cathy Lee Crosby Of Mars
I have absolutely no idea what Cathy Lee Crosby is wearing, but I hope it came with a raygun.
The important thing to know about Cathy Lee Crosby is that she is not Susan St. James, so while she is not exactly Gordon Solie providing color commentary, she’s at least trying to make the wrestlers sound like cool people, and not just pointing out how stupid they all seem.
Best: LOL Moolah
Fabulous Moolah was the WWF Womens Champion from 19-aught-four until 1985, partially because they forgot they had a Womens Championship, and partially because they never thought to update their division from the 1960s, when you had to be a “hooker” to hold the title. This is funny, because by the mid-2000s you ALSO had to be a hooker to hold the title, but a totally different type of hooker.
Anyway, Moolah was supposed to have a match with Velvet McIntyre here, but Velvet went for a splash and missed, causing her f**king K-Mart swimsuit top to snap. Faced with the thread of boobs an hour into the first ever wrestling pay-per-view, Moolah just rolled Velvet over and held her down for a pin. Velvet got her feet on the ropes – BOTH of them – but nobody cared, because nobody has ever cared.
Regardless, the bar for womens’ matches at WrestleMania was set pretty low here (I have legit seen longer, better matches on G.L.O.W.), and would not be further lowered until the Miller Lite catfight girls almost 20 years later.
Worst: That Moment When I Find Myself Rooting For The Soviet Guy
Think about all the wrestlers you remember as being really, really cool from 1980s WWF. Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, the Million Dollar Man, the Big Bossman, Andre the Giant, Hogan, Jake the Snake. All the obvious guys. Aside from Hogan, they all had reasonable body types, right? Steamboat was pretty jacked, but he looked like he could move. Hogan’s entire gimmick was that he was the MOST MUSCULAR, but he just looked like a big strong guy, he never looked like a WBF reject.
That’s important to point out, because everybody you DON’T remember as a really cool 1980s WWF guy is ON SO MANY DRUGS THEY ARE ABOUT TO BURST. Like, half of these guys are just immobile piles of muscles with interchangeable gimmicks. Hercules is a muscle and he holds a chain! Corporal Kirchner is a muscle and he loves America! Etc.
I feel HORRIBLE for these dudes. They are hideous. Imagine if every third guy on Raw was Mason Ryan. Mason Ryan holding the US flag! That’s what the WWF was. When somebody makes that “Vince only pushes big muscular guys” point, remember that Jake the Snake looked like your f**king uncle, and that Corporal Kirchner was the Kingshit of Steroid Mountain and never did anything.
All Nikolai Volkoff wanted to do was sing his nation’s anthem. You guys are jerks. I’d rather be a dumpy Soviet trying to show a little national pride than a guy who did 60,000,000 bicep curls and ate a Pacific Ocean full of shark testosterone so he could wave the flag harder than anybody else ever.
Best: Holy Shit, The Dynamite Kid
If you can’t tell, that’s the Dynamite Kid on the far left of the image, plummeting off the top rope TO THE CEMENT for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON at the end of a match his team won.
I’m a huge, huge mark for Dynamite Kid. I love basically everything he ever did in the ring, and his stuff against Tiger Mask is the very definition of being ahead of your time. He’s just better than everybody else here. He was the first wrestler to actually do that “destroy my body to entertain you” thing everybody claims, and … well, he’s the first person to prove that doing that actually destroys you, so it’s not all happy nostalgia roses. But still, in the context of old WWF shows, Dynamite Kid is the f**king truth.
Worst: Did You Know Brutus Beefcake Existed Before He Was A Barber? Yep, It’s As Bad As You’re Imagining
If you’re looking for the f**king false, look no further than Brutus Beefcake, pre barber gimmick. Can you seriously believe that this guy was a pro wrestler on the biggest show of the year BEFORE he got a pair of hedge clippers and threatened to cut peoples’ hair with them? I mean, THAT was super stupid and shitty, but Brutus without “The Barber” is unimaginably bad. Thank goodness he had Greg Valentine in full Ma Fratelli mode to carry him here.
Best: Everything Related To Ozzy Osbourne (Except His Children)
BRISH BULLDAH FREVAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Mid-80s Ozzy Osbourne is adorable here. He doesn’t really serve a purpose or have a role besides “also is from England” (helpfully pointed out by Jesse Ventura), and he just stands around pumping his fists and smiling, waiting to talk. When it’s FINALLY his turn, he just goes (in so many words) YEAHHHHHHH and gets it all out at once. Also, he is for real dressed like Miami Vice. Precious.
Best: The Boring Match That Made Me A Fan Of Battles Royal Forever
WrestleMania 2 is defined for me by battle royal that put 14 pro wrestlers in the ring with six NFL players and asked them to kinda-sorta punch each other for ten minutes. It’s one of the most boring battles royal you’re ever going to see, but it felt like the most interesting thing ever to me when I was a kid. I’ve always been drawn to the stories of wrestlers who don’t have anything important to do, and on a show where Hercules By God Hernandez gets a showcase match against Ricky Steamboat, these nerds living in Andre the Giant’s inevitable battle royal win shadow are the ultimate in “not having anything important to do.”
I urge you to watch the entire thing. The participating wrestlers are all guys you’ll recognize for one reason or another (Hillbilly Jim! The Iron Sheik! That one Killer Bee Iron Sheik wants to buttf**k! The OTHER Killer Bee!) and the football guys are all dressed like psychopaths. Russ Francis thought a wifebeater complimented a pair of black underpants. William Perry is wearing a bright red onesie (more on that later). It’s wonderfully wretched, and the exact battle royal you think of when you say “battle royal.”
Best: The ‘Where’s The Beef’ Lady Botches The One Thing She Does
Oh lord, the “Where’s The Beef” lady.
For those of you who are not 200 years old, Clara Peller got famous in the mid-80s for being an old lady on a Wendy’s commercial. She’d look at burgers from competing fast food places and yell WHERE’S THE BEEF, because she could not find those burgers’ respective beefs. Beeves?
Here, she’s the guest timekeeper, and her only job is to yell WHERE’S THE BEEF or WHERE IS THE BEEF or probably just BEEF when they point at her. They softball it right in, too, all “Clara, you look like you have something to say. DO YOU?” All she has to do is put “where’s” and “the” and “beef” into a sentence.
Instead, she yells “NOW?” at somebody off-screen. We can’t hear her, because her microphone is either off or too far from her mouth. Again, “NOW?” When three times of a guy offscreen going YES JESUS CHRIST LADY NOW proves to be enough, she throws her arms around (moving the microphone even FARTHER from her mouth) and KINDA mouths WHERE’S THE BEEF to f**king NO APPLAUSE. It’s the WORST. You had ONE JOB, Where’s The Beef Lady. ONE JOB.
Best: Bruno Sammartino! Teen Bret Hart!
There’s a lot to love in this battle royal without even worrying about the battling. Bruno Sammartino shows up to wrestle a little, a year removed from being ringside to coach his son David, who was not as good as Bruno, and was two feet and an ethnicity away from being Raja Lion.
The Hart Foundation shows up, too, in its most innocent form … Bret Hart is like 8 ½ years old, and he and Jim Neidhart don’t even have pink gear on. They’re wearing blue. Jimmy Hart KINDA yells stuff into a microphone, but not really. It’s like the off-brand Big Lots action figure versions of the Hart Foundation.
Worst: Russ Francis Gets The Ironman Push
I don’t know why, but wifebeatin’-ass Russ Francis makes it to the final four, going so far as to try and outfox the Hart Foundation by himself to stave off elimination. It’s notable because … well, I don’t know why, honestly, but the Hart Foundation and Andre the Giant are in the ring together at a WrestleMania, and they’re all trying to work around this scrambly football player who won’t stop tucking and rolling.
Worst: William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry’s Onesie
HERE we go. Check out what the Fridge is wearing. Near the end of the match his pants just give the hell up, and we’re left staring at the horrible, crimson road between William Perry’s butt cheeks.
Perry is a hero in Chicago (and rightfully so), so he gets a lot of the big spotlight moments here, including setting a battle royal precedent by eliminating someone after being eliminated himself. This would become important in … pretty much every battle royal and Royal Rumble somebody overbooked between 1986 and now. Big John Studd eliminates him fairly, Perry responds by being a poor sport and pulling him out of the ring after lying about a handshake. Studd’s the bad guy, and Fridge is a hero. In a onesie. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Best: “Mustard Man”
One of my favorite memories of this match is showing it to my girlfriend, who immediately referred to Andre the Giant as “Mustard Man.” Seriously, look at him:
Dude is enormous, doo-doo brown and wearing the most yellow boots and panties in history. He looks like a gigantic corndog. I love it.