I am 29 years old, soon to be 30. Born the same year as me, Wrestlemania is probably the most important thing to come to professional wrestling. As is said many times in the 30 broadcasts, football has the Super Bowl, baseball the World Series. For pro-wrestling, we have Wrestlemania. Like the championships for any competition, staged or not, we have years that are absolute runaway successes, and terrible failures. I want to run through all 30 years so far of Wrestlemania, breaking down each event match by match and grading them. I am not keeping kayfabe, I have been watching wrestling since around the age of 5, so I like to think I know what is going on. I want to pump these out somewhat quickly, hopefully maybe even catch up to Wrestlemania 31. We will see, but in any case, let’s get rolling with the first Wrestlemania.
Announcers: Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon
Opening: National Anthem Singer: Gene Okerlund. First of all, really? I hate to spoil a later match, but Cyndi Lauper is there. In 1985, you have this singer at the height of her career, but you have Gene Okerlund sing the national anthem? Sure, why not. It’s not like he forgot the words, but it was a beyond odd choice.
Match 1: Tito Santana (Face) vs The Executioner (Heel)
I am not sure who The Executioner was at this point, as there was like 30 Executioners but he looked like a dude chosen from the crowd before the event. Raggedy mask, lacking in skills besides delivering slow clubbing blows, it was clear this dude was in the ring to simply make Tito Santana look good.
However, if that was The Executioner’s one job, he did it well. Santana is a big guy, with a surprising combination of speed and strength. By no means a high flyer, he still had a grace to him that easily could be seen as a forerunner to someone like The Undertaker. However, he has an odd style, although that seems to be somewhat normal for the time. Most of his moves targeted upper parts of the body, displaying the strength of the obvious crowd-favorite. Despite his targeting early on, the match ended with a leg-based submission, the Figure Four Leg-Lock. While other wrestlers spend a match setting up their submissions, Santana went into this seemingly from nowhere, but the result was obvious. The Executioner tapped, and Santana got the win.
While not a classic match by any stretch of the imagination, it was competently executed and benefited by not running too long.
Result: Santana wins by submission
Match 2: King Kong Bundy (Heel) vs SD “Special Delivery” Jones (Face)
Managers: Jimmy Hart (King Kong Bundy)
One of the more surprising aspects of this matchup came before the bell even rang. I didn’t and don’t know much about King Kong Bundy, but the guy can talk on a microphone. Which for this time was a rare trait in pro-wrestling. While he isn’t on the level of Hogan on the mic, I almost wonder why Jimmy Hart is paired with Bundy. He almost isn’t needed in this equation, at least not from what I saw. I don’t remember him talking a ton, or doing much during the incredibly short match.
If it seems like I am harping on the pre-match talk, it is because I am. The match was something like 13 seconds. This was a squash match through and through. Somewhat surprising considering SD Jones got a largely positive reaction from the crowd. I have no idea though if this is because he was legitimately popular, or Bundy was just so hated. But in the end, the match went bear hug, splash in the corner, then a final splash by Bundy for the win. If nothing else, Bundy did look dominant and slightly scary. So mission accomplished I guess.
Result: Bundy wins by pinfall
Match 3: Ricky Steamboat (Face) vs Matt Borne (Heel)
Steamboat is a lot bulkier in this match than I typically remember, but he is still extremely athletic. It seems he at this point has not come into his more high-flyer style seen in later years, or he is toning it down to help his opponent. Borne is a basic bruiser type, very typical for the age, perfectly competent. Also I think Borne gets credit for having the first suplex of the night, only took 3 matches.
Also Steamboat introduced something that has been lacking up until now; a flow. In the first two matches, all the moves were done with no real consideration to the move being done next. You saw this with Santana delivering high, clubbing blows then finishing the match with a leg submission. You saw this with Bundy just delivering splashes. Instead of this almost jerky way of wrestling, Steamboat shows off a style and grace that was incredibly rare for the time. Exemplifying this grace is a great high-cross body done by Steamboat to end the match. In 1985 this would be a high-impact finisher for anyone, but no one would have made it look as good as Ricky Steamboat.
Result: Steamboat wins by pinfall
Match 4: Brutus Beefcake (Heel) vs David Sammartino (Face)
Managers: Johnny Valiant (Beefcake), Bruno Sammartino (David)
Before I go into why I hated this match, let me just say that David Sammartino is a mountain of a man. Definitely his father’s son, he is simply huge, and despite being so young, looks incredibly imposing in the ring. However all he has is a decent look, every aspect of this match was terrible, and made me sad to watch. The start of this match featured a ton of amateur wrestling moves, like I was sitting in a high school gym watching this. The majority of this match was simple take-downs and float-overs. While these were competently done on both sides of the mat, a horrible habit of David’s started to crop up early, and it came up often. While his father Bruno was one of the most relentless, bruising wrestlers ever, David is nothing but a pale imitation who will do a move, and never ever press the advantage. He would back off and let Beefcake recover, every single time he was knocked over.
On top of this, many of David’s moves were at best lazy, and most of the time, horrendously sloppy. The worst offender was a leg-lock that didn’t look like it hurt at all. There was no selling from David on the move. It didn’t look intense, nor was there any real display of force in the move. However, in this horrible move, David was not the only offender. While David came off in the match looking green and a bit stupid, Brutus looked bored and lazy. During this aforementioned leg-lock, Beefcake could not be bothered to sell the move at all. It didn’t hurt, and Brutus had no intention of making it look like it hurt. He even had the flat out gall to sit there during this leg-lock and adjust his damn arm-sock thing. It’s crap like this that reminds me why Brutus Beefcake never became a big thing. Not only did he lack talent, he didn’t bother trying to make up for it elsewhere.
This match only got the least bit watchable when the infinitely more talented managers got into the action. Bruno, who was retired was actually moving faster than his much younger son, and it was all around just sad to watch. This waste of time ended in a way that only wastes of time could, with a double DQ for interference from the managers. This match should have never been on the card, and pulled down Wrestlemania as a whole for it.
Result: Double DQ
Well now that we got through half the event, let’s take a break. This is already a lot of words, and the second half will be even more words. Words words words. Plus I haven’t gotten this done as quickly as I would have liked to and I really want to get on to Wrestlemania II. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my thoughts about the first half of Wrestlemania, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, get a hold of me in the comments.