Hulk Hogan, Liberace and Mohammed Ali...The crazy first Wrestlemania

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Unless you have been living on the moon for the past week, you may have noticed that Wrestlemania XXXIII has just happened. ‘Mania is one of the largest events in the sports entertainment calendar and since its incarnation in the 80’s its gone from strength to strength. Often controversial but never boring, Wrestlemania is one of the must see TV events of the year and with this in mind lets go back to 1985 where it started.

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Wrestlemania took place on March 31st, 1985 at the world famous Madison Square Gardens It was to be the WWF’S first pay per view event. The idea wasn’t a new one with Jim Crokett from rival wrestling company National Wrestiling Alliance actually pioneering the idea in the previous year with some success. Where WWF did it right is that they knew who their demographic audience were. With some deft promotional ideas involving major celebrities at the time and some clever gimmicks including some great cross promotion on MTV, the first Wrestlemania was poised to have a massive audience. But did it live up to its hype?.

The Event

Vince McMahon (the owner of WWF) wanted to make sure this was a show, so he brought along all his finest and most popular wrestlers. In the opening matches we saw Tito Santana lose to the Executioner and King Kong Bundy pin Special Delivery Jones in a then record 9 seconds. The next match was for the Intercontinental belt which at the time was held by Greg Valentine and challenged for by Junkyard Dog. In an entertaining match the belt was held by Greg however it set the tone for the rest of the tournament. The next event was the tag team championship match between Nikolai Volkoff and The Iron Sheik, and the reigning champions The U.S Express. In an obvious villain VS hero match the only way the Sheik and Volkoff could win was through cheating which they did and much to the dismay of the crowd were crowned Tag Team Champions.
Andre the Giant was a formidable and undefeated force in the WWF and he kept this accolade by defeating Big John Studd. He also picked up $15,000 for bodyslamming the rotound Studd. The next match was the Women’s Championship between Leilani Kai and Wendi Richter who was managed by pop singer Cyndi Lauper. Richter won the match and became the new women’s champion.

The Main Event

In the history of WWF (WWE) surely there hasn’t been a line up as crazy as this...
MR T and Hulk Hogan VS Rowdy Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. To make things even more bizarre, Mohammed Ali was guest referee and Liberace was guest time keeper.
In a climatic match the advantage swung from team to team but in the end it was Hulk and Mr T who won, taking advantage of some illegal tactics from their opponents which truly backfired. Whilst this was a great match, perhaps the celebrity guests distracted from the action in the ring.

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The Aftermath

Whilst Wrestlemania lacked perhaps some of the more technical wrestling and finesse that wrestling fans were used to it certainly delivered on entertainment and glitz. Wrestlemania wasn’t anywhere close to the ‘Manias that followed however it was a great foundation to build on and has plenty of memorable moments to look back on.


Published by Matt Young in 80s Sports