Monday, 17 September 2007

WWF Wrestlemania 2 - Retro Review

As we build up to the biggest wrestling show of the year, WWE Wrestlemania 23, I thought I’d keep up a tradition by reviewing a past Wrestlemania, this time the only Wrestlemania I’ve never seen - Wrestlemania 2, held in three different cities across America in 1986.
The show begins in New York, with Vince McMahon and actress Susan St. James handling commentary as “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorrf against “Magnificent” Muraco, who has his manager Mr. Fuji in his corner, in a battle of the powerhouses. It’s a good way to open the show, with Orndorff controlling the match by working over Muraco’s arm, before both of them start brawling outside the ring, with the referee counting both men out.
Title action time, as George “The Animal” Steele tackles “Macho Man” Randy Savage, with Savage’s Intercontinental title on the line. Of course, Steele isn’t really interested in the title, as he has eyes for Savage’s manager, Miss Elizabeth. Savage spends the early part of the bout running away from Steele, until the Animal catches up with him and takes a bite out of his leg. No matter what Savage tries, he finds it hard to cope with Steele’s animalistic tendencies, and when Savage does get in some offence, meaning his top rope elbow, Steele kicked out of the ensuing cover. In the end the only way Savage could defeat Steele was by sweeping his feet from under him and pinning him while his feet were on the ropes. A somewhat unusual match here, but nevertheless enjoyable.
Time for the snake man next, as Jake Roberts takes on George Wells. This is the first time I’d ever seen Wells in action, and he looked good against Roberts, who of course is in his prime here, and after Wells gets in some good offence, Roberts quickly takes over and takes him out with the DDT, before unleashing pet snake Damien on his fallen foe. The snake man at his best here.
After a video package looking at how the rivalry between Mr. T and Roddy Piper began, the best promo man in the business promises victory in the upcoming boxing match, promising to quit if he’s knocked out. We also hear from Mr. T, with his trainer Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who cuts usual kind of promo, before it’s on to the bout itself. Well, it wasn’t exactly the Thriller in Manila. Piper got one knockdown, T got to, and Piper eventually got disqualified by body slamming T in the middle of the ring in the fourth round. Not exactly something that set the pulses of this boxing fan racing.
We then move on to Chicago, with commentary handled by Gorilla Monsoon, Gene Okerlund, and actress Cathy Lee Crosby, as the Fabulous Moolah defends her Ladies title against Velvet McIntyre. This one didn’t last long. McIntyre got in a few good shots, but Moolah got the pin after the challenger missed a big splash off the second rope. Not really long enough for me to form some sort of opinion here, because it was neither good nor bad.
A flag match next, as Nikolai Volkoff, with manager Freddie Blassie in his corner, faces Corporal Kirshner, who you may recall was recently pronounced dead on the WWE website, only for him to turn up alive and well a few hours later. This is a good old fashioned America v Russia/Cold War kind of match, with Volkoff proclaiming his hatred of America. Another quick one here in this brawl, as Blassie’s attempt at interference backfires while the referee is taking a snooze, as he tried to toss his cane into the ring to Volkoff, only for Kirshner to intercept the flying object. A second later he was using it to take the big Russian out, getting the three count moments later, and winning the right to display the American flag. Good for what it was I suppose, and it certainly brought back memories of the old days when Russian wrestlers were vile and horrible.
Then it’s time for the battle royal featuring NFL and WWF star. Bill Fralic of the Atlanta Falcons tries to rile Big John Studd up in an interview, before the match itself. By now I shouldn’t have to tell you how I dislike reporting on these things. Featuring a ton of NFL players I’ve never heard of, and wrestlers such as Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Dan Spivey, Hillbilly Jim, the Iron Sheik, the Killer Bees, the Hart Foundation, Bruno Sammartino, and Andre the Giant. The NFLers give a good account of themselves, but in the end it’s Andre who emerges victorious, outlasting everyone, and taking out both members of the Hart Foundation to win the match. A very good match here, and great to see my all-time favourite Frenchman in winning mode here.
The second title match of the evening follows, as The Dream Team of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake, with manager Johnny Valiant in their corner, defend their Tag-Team titles against the British Bulldogs, Davey Boy Smith & the Dynamite Kid, who have their manager Lou Albano and rocker Ozzy Osbourne in their corner. This is a tremendous example of just how great a team the Bulldogs were, as both teams put on a great exhibition of tag-team wrestling, something which is sadly lacking in today’s WWE. All four men give a good account of themselves, especially Dynamite and Valentine, as the Bulldogs win the titles after Davey Boy rams Valentine’s head into that of his partner, getting the winning pin moments later.
On to Los Angeles, where Jesse Ventura, Alfred Hayes, and Elvira handle the commentary. First up it’s Hercules against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. While Hercules looks a little sloppy at times, it doesn’t stop this match from being enjoyable, with Steamboat looking at his best here, and getting the win after a cross body block off the top rope.
It’s another singles match next, as “Adorable” Adrian Adonis, along with his manager Jimmy Hart, takes on the hillbilly Uncle Elmer. Adonis is wearing a pink dress for some reason. Frankly, this one isn’t up to much. It’s basically a hillbilly and a fat camp man throwing each other about the ring, with Adonis getting the win after a flying head butt from the top rope. I never did like hillbillies anyway.
Jimmy Hart returns for the next match, as his team of Terry and Hoss (aka Dory Jr.) Funk take on Tito Santana and the Junkyard Dog. Having only had recent memories of Terry Funk’s hardcore tendencies, it was great to see a little “old school” Funker, as well as some of the skills of his older brother. It certainly is a wild a crazy one this, with the Funks using as many underhanded tactics as they can get away with, and getting the win after Terry clobbered JYD with Hart’s megaphone to get the winning pin (wasn’t that always the way with Jimmy Hart’s tag-teams?) A good match, even if it did seem somewhat chaotic at times.
Main event time, as Hulk Hogan defends the WWF title against King Kong Bundy in the confines of a steel cage. The story here is that Hogan is looking for revenge after Bundy injured his ribs, a storyline they would use again five years later between Hogan and Earthquake. Of course, Bundy has his manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan with him for company. It’s your typical Hogan fare here, with Bundy beating the crap out of him, Hogan making a brief comeback before Bundy hits Hogan with the avalanche in the corner and the big splash. Needless to say, Hogan hulks up after Bundy’s finishers, then takes him down with a body slam followed by a leg drop, before climbing over the top of the cage to escape. Afterwards, Hogan drags Heenan into the ring to dish out some punishment on the weasel.
In conclusion - you can tell that the WWF were still novices as far as pay-per-views were concerned when it comes to Wrestlemania 2. Staging the shows in three different cities presented certain problems, especially with the announcing teams. Gene Okerlund has always been a better interviewer, and the Ventura/Hayes team in the Los Angeles section didn’t really seem to gel. And let’s not mention the celebrity announcers, shall we?
Match wise, like many shows it had it’s good and bad points, with some being just too short, but then again I guess they were just catering to the short attention spans of the viewing public. The British Bulldogs v The Dream Team was clearly match of the show, and as I said before a great example of tag-team wrestling, and a great example of the Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith at their best.
Wrestlemania 2 would be good viewing for those of you interested in wrestling history, but if you’re expecting an extravaganza the likes of which we see today, then you’d probably better give this one a miss.
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