Hogan. Andre. Savage. Ventura. Piper.
All five of these guys served as the cornerstones of WWF wrestling in the 1980s. Because these guys played such well-known characters during one of pro wrestling’s boom periods, they all ended up transcending their roles to outside the ring.
And now three of them are gone, with Rowdy Roddy Piper’s death on July 30 putting him beside Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Andre the Giant as stars who died way too young.
It’s really starting to suck being an old-school fan raised on Saturday morning WWF wrestling. Savage’s death blew us away in 2011, Hulk Hogan just last week got exposed for his terrible racist comments, and Piper now dies out of nowhere of a heart attack at age 61.
I grew up with Piper during middle and high school – and I know a lot of you who read this blog did, too. I can’t believe Piper – who at his peak was one of the most gifted performers on Continue reading
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.Embed from Getty Images
Let’s continue my look back 30 years ago to the original WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden by running down the big matches on March 31, 1985. Please check my prior posts in this series about the build-up for WrestleMania and a review of the preliminary matches on the supercard.
- Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik defeat Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo to win the WWF Tag Team Title – The match was short, but all action and was probably the best in-ring performance of this Mania. Captain Lou Albano accompanied the babyfaces to the ring, while Classy Freddie Blassie managed Sheik and Volkoff. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, on color commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, actually claimed Volkoff was a former Olympian. There were some great, simple spots in the match, including Sheik accidentally dropkicking Volkoff (I’m not sure I ever saw Sheik do another dropkick since then) and a high backdrop by Rotundo. Fans at the time buzzed about the ending, when Sheik broke Blassie’s cane over Windham’s back, leading to the title change. Interesting to note that Rotundo performed in the original WrestleMania, and this year his son, Bray Wyatt, faces the Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
- Andre the Giant defeats Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge – The rules were simple: If Andre slammed Studd, he would win $15,000 in cash in a duffel bag; if Studd wasn’t slammed, Andre had to retire. As you might imagine, this was the typical slow match these two often did, with the prerequisite
rest holdbearhug from Andre. The slam came out of nowhere, and then Andre attempted to throw the cash to the crowd, but Studd’s manager, Bobby Heenan, ran up and stole the bag from Andre. The crowd went nuts at the end of the match after getting the slam they wanted.
Mr. T is finally on his way into the WWE Hall of Fame — and deservedly so — as he was a large part of the reason that the first WrestleMania was a success and the WWF became a household name in the 1980s.
On March 31, 1985, in Madison Square Garden, T and Hulk Hogan defeated Rowdy Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff in the main event of Mania. This match stemmed from the War to Settle the Score match that Hogan and Piper fought a month earlier at MSG.
That earlier battle was broadcast live on MTV, and Mr. T, who was in the audience, stormed to the ring to save Hogan from a beatdown by Piper, Orndorff, and Cowboy Bob Orton (Randy Orton’s father). What a brilliant opportunity to shoot a big angle.Embed from Getty Images
At the time of the first Mania, Mr. T was a cast member of a popular NBC show called The A-Team, which was about Continue reading
I recently posted a podcast with John Cena, Sr. — the father of WWE superstar John Cena, who headlines WrestleMania 29 against the Rock — who talked to me about the first WrestleMania in 1985, Bruno Sammartino going into the WWE Hall of Fame, and his memories of the wrestling cards at the old Boston Garden. For those of you who were unable to hear the podcast or didn’t have time, below is the complete transcript of the interview. Continue reading
Over the weekend I got to watch Michael “P.S.” Hayes step up the microphone and sing a song about his fallen Fabulous Freebirds teammate, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy. The song is called “Freebird Road” and you can see video below and on the WWE YouTube channel.
“I wanted to introduce a whole new generation to somebody they may never have heard of,” Hayes says in the prelude to the song. The tribute coincides with Continue reading
It was 27 years ago this week that the WWF shot one of the early angles leading to the original WrestleMania, when Rowdy Roddy Piper smashed a gold record over the head of Captain Lou Albano.
The incident took place in 1984 at Madison Square Garden. Pop star Cyndi Lauper Continue reading
My friend, Tom — a loyal reader of this blog — suggested a little while back that it would be fun to take a road trip through some of the old WWF cards I went to that weren’t at the Boston Garden, but at smaller, perhaps less venerable, sites.
When I think back to the 1980s shows I saw in high school gyms and college sports facilities, my mind always comes back to a card that occurred on July 25, 1984, at the Tully Forum in Billerica, MA. I was 13 at the time, and my brother, father (who hated wrestling), and a grown neighbor (who loved wrestling) all made the short trip to the hockey rink used by the then-University of Lowell (now UMass-Lowell). There was a legimate traffic jam trying to get to the forum.
As I have written in past posts, 1984 was a hot summer for the WWF in terms of feuds: you had Continue reading
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 Continue reading
So we heard this week on Monday Night Raw that 1980s star Wendi Richter will be one of the inductees in the 2010 WWE Hall of Fame.
Richter had wrestled for several years on the women’s circuit before she was paired with Cyndi Lauper in 1984, who at the time was one of the hottest pop singers in the country. Richter won Continue reading