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.
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.
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
Legendary WWE ring announcer Howard Finkel, who is also the organization’s resident historian, wrote a great article on WWE.com looking at 10 wrestlers who used alter egos. The list ranged from Dusty Rhodes moonlighting as the Midnight Rider in Florida Championship Wrestling to Mick Foley’s many WWE personas.
One person on Finkel’s list brought back a lot of memories for me: The Fabulous Moolah’s short stint as the masked Spider Lady, which allegedly was part of an in-ring screw-job of Wendi Richter. 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
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