WrestleMania Diary: Part 3
Regardless of what Triple H and his band of merry men say, evolution is not a mystery. Professional wrestling has evolved out of necessity for generations. Fans get older and are replaced by their children, and like the film industry, the WWE has had to evolve to feed their rapidly growing tastes. If you can’t keep people’s attention, you fade into obscurity. That’s why WrestleMania II tried its hardest to be a giant spectacle. It took place in multiple major cities, had three separate main events, celebrity guests, and…fell flat on its face. But that’s alright. A lot of times you have to fail at something before getting it right, and WrestleMania III was better because of its predecessor’s failure.
“Bigger, Better, Badder” was the tagline of WrestleMania III, and the WWF definitely lived up to their own challenge. Back in the 80’s this was THE best event in entertainment. The Can-Am Connection was rocking the tag team division, Harley Race was having a “king-off” against the JYD, Roddy Pipper had his farewell match, The British Bulldogs challenged the Hart Foundation, and of course the amazing Intercontinental Championship between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat. And then there was the “slam heard ’round the world” in what was billed as the largest confrontation in wrestling history: Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship. This card was stacked like Rob Terry, and like I said, in the 80’s it was the event to see! 93,173 people in attendance…can you even comprehend that? Never mind the PPV sales and millions watching across the country in arenas and theaters. WrestleMania III was were the evolution started… Somewhere along the line I think the creative team (if there was such a thing back in the day) realized the fans were soon going to need something more than blockbuster match-ups. Once you’ve seen Andre vs. Hogan, there are few “attractions” that will look as appealing. I think someone looked at the success of in-ring masterpieces like Savage vs. Steamboat, and realized people will cling to exciting action just as much as iconic mash-ups. Which leads us directly to WrestleMania IV…
After WrestleMania III Hogan and Andre continued to feud off-and-on, leading to the infamous Main Event match where Andre would screw Hogan out of the title and sell it to the Million Dollar Man moments later. However, the WWF refused to recognize DiBiase as the champion, and after declaring the title vacant a tournament was announced for the title at WrestleMania IV. This was, in my estimation, where in-ring action took its first major leap forward in WrestleMania history. The tournament itself was legendary and showcased some of the all-time greats (Greg Valentine, Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts, and Randy Savage just to name a few…), but the matches were really something special. Jake Roberts and Rick Rude tore the house down in their 15 minute first round match (the longest match of the night). Ricky Steamboat and the “Hammer” had a great first round match, even though Steamboat would have been a much more interesting choice going forward, setting up a WrestleMania III rematch, this time for the biggest prize in wrestling. However, the final match made more sense from a storyline perspective and featured Randy Savage against Ted DiBiase, with Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant standing ringside. I admire the choice by the WWF to showcase Savage and DiBiase rather than run with the same Andre/Hogan program that had been main eventing every broadcast for the past year. They kept their two biggest attractions in the spotlight but gave a mega push to a deserving Randy Savage. Great matches, great risk, great booking, and a great payoff.
WrestleMania V is where things got sorta…mediocre. It wasn’t bad, and the evolution of great in-ring action continued on, but outside of the Mega Powers implosion of a main event, it didn’t have a lot going on for it. Shawn Michaels made his WrestleMania debut with The Rockers, but lost an otherwise electrifying tag team match. The FOUR other tag team matches on the card were pretty solid, but some of the teams really felt thrown together for no other reason than to get them on the card. Mr. Perfect vs. Owen Ha…erm…the Blue Blazer was notable, but not all that interesting. And Rick Rude pissed a lot of people off by defeating the Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental Championship. But I will always remember this as the WrestleMania were Hulk Hogan started to get annoying. I could get over his boring matches and the fact that he monopolized the scene of the first three, because he’s Hulk Hogan, and without him there is no WrestleMania. But Randy Savage was at the pinnacle of his career, and it was Hogan’s inability to have a match with another face that led to Savage playing the whiny, jealous heel character, ultimately beating and diminishing his rival in the process. Hogan could have lost and built Savage into a more dominant machine, but Hogan doesn’t lose…least of all at WrestleMania. Like I said, WrestleMania IV wasn’t bad, but it was just another event ending with one more Hulk Hogan title reign. For whatever reason, it was also plagued by stupid gimmicks. The returning Roddy Pipper put on one of the most awkward segments in professional wrestling history featuring Brother Love and Morton Downey, Jr.
Speaking of awkward gimmicks…does anybody know who in the WWE is so obsessed with “little people”? I would assume it has to be Vince, as he’s the only person that has been around long enough to keep bringing the idea back.Today you’ve Hornswoggle running around doing creepy things with teenage girls, and at WrestleMania III King Kong Bundy and Hillbilly Jim had a “midget match”, featuring a bunch of incredibly racist little people (their names were Lord Littlebrook, the Haiti Kid, Little Toyko, and Little Beaver. Respectively they were British, Haitian, Japanese, and Indian). And I distinctly remember a few years ago when there was talk of bringing in a midget league for Smackdown… If I remember correctly they actually tried it for a week or two, and immediately realized it was a stupid idea. I believe they were also racially named. I personally think it’s not only insulting and embarrassing for the hundreds of thousands of little people out there, but it’s also just plain frustrating to have to sit through. If you want to entertain little kids, hire a clown. I’m sure Nick Dinsmore could use the money…
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