30 years ago: The prelim matches at the first WrestleMania

In my prior post, I looked at the seeds planted in 1984 that began the push towards the original WrestleMania, as well as the build-up for the main event. Now let’s remember the actual card as we approach March 31, 2015, which will be 30 years after the first Mania.

The show took place at Madison Square Garden, beginning (ahem) at the ripe time of 1 p.m. Yes, you’d be home for dinner after the first WrestleMania. Here’s a rundown of the preliminary matches on the card:

  • In a surprise that I forgot about until I recently rewatched the event on the WWE Network, Mean Gene Okerlund sung the National Anthem. That’s quite a gap between Okerlund and Aretha Franklin two years later.
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  • Tito Santana defeated the Executioner – These days, it seems so odd that a WrestleMania opened with a series of jobber matches, but times have changed. The funny part about this match is that the Executioner was actually the late Playboy Buddy Rose under a hood. The mystery of this strange masked man was explained in Rose’s obit in the Wrestling Observer: Apparently Rose was set to come back to the WWF to feud with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat with Bobby Heenan as his manager, so the WWF didn’t want Rose losing as himself at WrestleMania. Unfortunately for Rose, shortly before he was to shoot an angle with Steamboat after Mania, officials found him passed out in a dressing room, and he got canned.

  • King Kong Bundy defeated S.D. Jones – “Today is the day for me, baby! I’m going to get down for you!” Jones yelled in a rare pre-match promo with Okerlund. This match at the time became a big deal because Bundy blew away Jones in an alleged nine seconds, although if you actually timed the bout, it was really 23 seconds. Jones died in 2008. Meanwhile, this victory marked the start of Bundy’s biggest year in wrestling, culminating when he main evented WrestleMania 2 against Hulk Hogan.
  • Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat defeated Matt Borne – Another strange squash match for a supercard, although Borne (also now dead) was a good worker who reached far greater success as the original Doink the Clown in the WWF and Big Josh in WCW. During this match, play-by-play announcer Gorilla Monsoon mentions the WWF as “the Mecca of professional wrestling,” Borne needing “Excedrin No. 5” from a Steamboat chop, and that Borne got hit in the “occipital protuberance” – all three of which are classic Monsoon one-liners.
  • David Sammartino went to a double DQ with Brutus Beefcake – Luscious Johnny Valiant managed Beefcake, while Bruno Sammartino seconded his son. It was the first big match for both Beefcake and David Sammartino. The ref threw the match out after Bruno and Valiant start fighting in the ring. In a funny moment, while Lord Alfred Hayes was providing a pre-match rundown of the competitors, Beefcake and Valiant went by, with Valiant telling Hayes, “Hey, wake up, wake up.” God, Hayes was awful in these segments. Bruno got the biggest ovation so far in the show, and Valiant himself had a tremendous career in Madison Square Garden in the 1970s. I’m not sure many fans in 1985 would have guessed that Beefcake, and not David Sammartino, would go far in the WWF.
  • Junkyard Dog defeated Greg “The Hammer” Valentine by countout in an Intercontinental Championship match – This was a standard Valentine match, but the crowd got into it. Valentine originally pinned JYD with his feet on the ropes, but Santana came out to tell the ref what happened, which prompted the official to reverse the decision and count out Valentine after “The Hammer” refused to come back into the ring.

In my next installment, I’ll take a look at the big matches and main event that took place at the first WrestleMania.

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6 comments

  1. Pingback: Has the Barclays Center shoved Madison Square Garden aside for wrestling? | Boston Garden Balcony
  2. Pingback: 30 years ago: The aftermath of the first WrestleMania | Boston Garden Balcony
  3. Pingback: 30 years ago: The big matches and main event at the first WrestleMania | Boston Garden Balcony
  4. Frank

    I remember all the hype leading up to WM1 i.e. Hulk & Mr. T on SNL the night before as well as all the news outlets reporting on that as well (ABC, NBC, & CBS). I remember the cheap seats going for $100

  5. david

    I can recall getting to the garden early that day and the place already packed in the lobby a great buzz going around with everybody excited for the event. it shows how far it has come in the 30 years now the first match sometimes is the best match on the card you don’t see the lets build this guy up by putting him in the ring with a jobber, and they have gotten away form all the celebrities like in the past with only a few now and they focus on the wrestling.

  6. Pingback: 30 years ago: The build up for the first WrestleMania | Boston Garden Balcony

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