As we wind down pro wrestling’s big season, I wanted to look back at the aftermath of the first WrestleMania 30 years ago.
Sure, the success of the inaugural Mania opened the door for the annual card to continue, from 1985 right to WrestleMania 31 this year. They’ve been mainly good shows, with some great cards as well and a few stinkers. But had the first Mania flopped, while it’s possible Vince McMahon would have attempted another supercard, it would not have been under the WrestleMania name.
I also remember the immediate months after WrestleMania 1 because a new show debuted called Saturday Night’s Main Event. This program offered free matches pitting major stars against each other on network TV, as it substituted several times a year for Saturday Night Live on NBC. Saturday Night’s Main Event offered great action for those of us who grew up with the idea that big WWF matches only happened during the house shows, although these days the program wouldn’t seem so special.
I’ll be looking more in detail at the 30th anniversary of the first Saturday Night’s Main Event soon, but suffice to say without the success of Mania in 1985, NBC probably would have been very cool to the idea of wrestling on network TV.
Cyndi Lauper’s involvement with wrestling waned after WrestleMania, and in fact Wendi Richter was gone within a year, never to show her face again until her WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2010. Mr. T resurfaced at WrestleMania 2 to fight Rowdy Roddy Piper in a worked boxing match, but without Hogan as support, the bout was pretty awful.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t until Mike Tyson’s involvement with WrestleMania XIV in 1998 that celebrities like T and Lauper played such an important role in WWE angles.
McMahon was already strongly into his expansion at the time of the original WrestleMania in 1985, but the event’s success – particularly in pop culture circles – helped fuel the notion from the national media the WWF was the only wrestling game in the country worth paying attention too. It’s a status that the organization has largely enjoyed straight through today.
McMahon’s gamble with the original WrestleMania paid off big time.