Wow, the summer of the 1984 sure was a busy one for the WWF. You had Hulk Hogan still on his honeymoon with fans after winning the WWF Championship from the Iron Sheik in January. Speaking of the Sheik, he was blowing off his huge feud with Sgt. Slaughter in boot camp matches. And Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka were tearing it up after the infamous Piper’s Pit with the coconut.
But in the summer of ’84, there was also another match that had significant ramifications for the future, as it planted the early seeds for the first WrestleMania in 1985.
When Wendi Richter challenged the Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women’s Championship, it was so much more than just a bout in the ring. Pop star Cyndi Lauper, who was an immense pop culture figure at the time thanks to her catchy tunes and MTV videos, helped jump-start the women’s title angle with Captain Lou Albano over the role of gals in society (you know, Albano championed the old “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” routine). Lauper and Albano each coached a female wrestler, with Lauper joining Richter, who at the time was being positioned as perhaps on the same playing field as Hogan (anyone remember the WWF Magazine cover with Hogan and Richter on it?).
Richter never really achieved that level of stardom, but the match between her and Moolah on July 23, 1984, at Madison Square Garden – known as the “Brawl to Settle it All” – received a ton of buzz. Moolah turned 61 years old the day before, if you can believe that. Had TMZ been around back then, the gossip site would have been all over this match. Instead, we got to see the bout live on MTV, which in 1984 was a big deal because MTV pretty much played music videos 24/7 (no reality shows or dance contests clogging up the music). Thus the Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection was born, which helped push the WWF toward the inaugural Mania.
Moolah lost the title in a match that was just so-so, which was no surprise given Moolah and Richter weren’t great athletically (although Moolah was very smart with ring psychology). Lauper really played her role well, so much so that I argue Lauper should be in the WWE Hall of Fame way ahead of some of the clowns in there already.
No doubt Vince McMahon had an idea for a major super show such as Mania already in his head before the Moolah vs. Richter match. But the success of the angle with Lauper and MTV made it a lot easier for McMahon to get mainstream interest in his bigger plans for national domination of the U.S. pro wrestling scene.