It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost 30 not-so-long years since the original WrestleMania took place on March 31, 1985, in Madison Square Garden.
With WrestleMania 31 coming up on March 29, 2015, I thought it would be fun to look at the history of the first Mania, starting in this post with the show’s build up.
The seeds for the original Mania got planted in July 1984, when Wendi Richter defeated the Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women’s Title during a live MTV special. With pop star Cyndi Lauper in the corner of Richter and Captain Lou Albano seconding Moolah, the victory ushered in the Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Connection to the video music generation. Later that year, Lauper was involved in an angle with Rowdy Roddy Piper, whom the WWF wisely inserted into the mix.
The result was the War to Settle the Score, another MTV special featuring Piper challenging Hulk Hogan for the WWF Heavyweight Title in February 1985. Actor Mr. T, at the time another huge star, was at ringside, and in wild ending scene, T jumped the barricade to help Hogan as he was getting beaten down by Piper and his cronies. Earlier that night, Richter lost her championship to Lelani Kai.
T and Lauper’s involvement with the WWF played a huge role in the success of the first WrestleMania a month later, and Lauper’s absence from the WWE Hall of Fame is ridiculous when goofs like Drew Carey and Pete Rose get nods.
The main event saw Hogan and T face Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Other big matches included Richter taking on Kai in a rematch, and Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd in a bodyslam challenge.
One of the most memorable WWF skits came in the weeks leading up to the supercard, as Mean Gene Okerlund snuck into a secret training session with Piper and Orndorff. It was a hilarious piece with so many great moments, including the heels beating a “passerby” on the streets of New York City after they threw Okerlund out of their gym.
And incredibly, on the eve of the first WrestleMania, Hogan and T hosted Saturday Night Live. Here’s a quick clip:
Can you imagine Roman Reigns hosting SNL the night before Mania? I just don’t think it would happen today, which is testament to how aggressively the WWF promoted WrestleMania in 1985. For many people, WWF-style pro wrestling was pop culture because of Lauper and T. Had all of the pieces not come together so perfectly, the first Mania could have bombed. Had that happened, it’s possible the WWF would have gone out of business due to the loans the company had taken out to finance its national expansion.
For sheer survival, the WWF’s build up of WrestleMania had to be a home run.
In my next post, I’ll take a look at the preliminary matches at the first WrestleMania.