In the build-up to Wrestlemania 32, the Flickering Myth writers look back at previous instalments of the ‘Showcase of the Immortals’.
Paul Orndorff vs. Don Muraco w/Mr. Fuji (Double Count Out)
IC TITLE MATCH: Randy Savage (C) w/Miss Elizabeth vs. George ‘The Animal’ Steele
Jake Roberts vs. George Wells
Roddy Piper w/Lou Duva & Bob Orton Jr. vs. Mr T. w/Joe Frazier & The Haiti Kid (Boxing Match)
WWF WOMENS TITLE MATCH: The Fabulous Moolah (C) vs. Velvet McIntyre
Nicolai Volkoff w/Fred Blassie vs. Corporal Kirchner (Flag Match)
20-Man Battle Royal
WWF TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: The British Bulldogs w/Lou Albano & Ozzy Osbourne vs. Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake (C) w/Johnny Valiant
Ricky Steamboat vs. Hercules Hernandez
Adrian Adonis vs. Uncle Elmer
Terry Funk & Hoss Funk w/Jimmy Hart vs. Tito Santana & Junkyard Dog
WWF TITLE MATCH: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy w/Bobby Heenan (Steel Cage Match)
Wrestlemania II suffered from an inconsistent opening hour. The show’s official opening was actually great, but it was unfortunately followed by a very weak opening match. Having headlined the event a year earlier, ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff was relegated to the ‘curtain jerker’ match. A relatively short match, it was the finish that ultimately let this one down. A frustrated Orndorff looked to use a steel chair but was cut off by the referee, so instead he simply hurled the chair inside the ring. This (for some reason) prompted Muraco to leave the ring.
Vince said on commentary that he ‘had no idea what the referee has ruled’, as the New York crowd gave Wrestlemania its first ever ‘Bullshit!’ chant. It was the announced that the referee had counted both men out of the ring, resulting in a no contest. To make matters even worse, a production fault meant that Howard Finkel announced the result of this match over the top of a Mr. T promo that immediately followed it! An unmitigated disaster.
Another low-point came at the end of the New York portion of the event, book-ending the city’s night with disappointment. Following on from their inclusion in last year’s main event, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper would once again square off against ‘movie star’ Mr. T, this time in a worked boxing match.
Admittedly, the build up to this match was pretty good: Piper delivered his premium brand of promo earlier in the night, and the inclusion of boxing greats Lou Duva and Joe Frazier certainly added to the intrigue. Sadly, the match never delivered on what the hype had promised. Mr. T looked much more out of place than the previous year, throwing some truly God-awful punches throughout the match. Piper did what he could to salvage the match with some over-the-top antics, but he was on a sinking ship from the start.
The crowd lost all interest in the match and by the time that ‘T’ was announced as the winner, all signs off life had been sucked out of the arena. It was also quite evident that Mr. T didn’t carry the same star-power as he did the preceding year.
As previously mentioned, the opening segment was a huge improvement on the previous year. Vince stepped in front of the Wrestlemania cameras for the first time ever to deliver his oft-repeated introduction, before welcoming the legendary Ray Charles to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ (a massive upgrade from Gene Okerlund’s impromptu performance 12 months earlier).
In the days before the Royal Rumble, a 20-Man Battle Royal would have been something of a gamble for a show as prestigious as Wrestlemania 2, especially when the list of competitors included semi-retired wrestling legends and real-life NFL stars.
Luckily for everyone involved, the match turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire event. The Chicago crowd was right behind the match, and the inclusion of Bruno Sammartino and a couple of their beloved Chicago Bears only increased their interests. The non-wrestlers delivered a surprisingly decent performance, with William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry delivering a stand-out effort that would later earn him a place in the WWE Hall of Fame. The finish was also memorable, as Andre the Giant eliminated both members of the Hart Foundation to pick up the victory.
Of the three geographical segments the show was split across, Chicago was definitely the best. In addition to the Battle Royal, the city was treated to a fantastic tag-team bout between four excellent in-ring workers. The Bulldogs were a great team with their own unique selling point and a stacked moveset. The crowd were behind them from the very beginning and were yearning for the impending title change. The Bulldogs had the added bonus of being accompanied to the ring by Ozzy Osbourne, one of the few legitimate celebrities shoe-horned into the event.
The in-ring action was explosive, as it so often was when The Bulldogs were involved. Dynamite Kid and Davey-Boy were on fire, and their stellar selling managed to cover up the flaws of their less athletic opponents, particularly Beefcake. The finish was an interesting one, involving a headbutt from Dynamite that led to a nasty-looking bump from the second rope down to the floor. The crowd went nuts as Ozzy celebrated with the new champs, after a match that a far better story the the steel-cage main event.
The second Wrestlemania suffered from the problem that a lot of big-budget sequels do: attempting to top their predecessor and becoming bloated in the process. Everything had been turned up to 11 and the result was an overly-saturated exercise in excess. There were too many matches, many of which had very little story-development behind them, and the bizarre decision to broadcast the event from three different cities led to some unnecessary production errors.
The whole event was much glitzier than the original Wrestlemania a year earlier, but unfortunately the ‘glamour’ came at the expense of meaningful storylines and quality production values.
Jackson Ball – Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn