[PPV Recap] ‘WWF WrestleMania IV’ – WWF Championship Tournament, Strike Force vs. Demolition

Date: March 27, 1988
Venue: Trump Plaza (Atlantic City, NJ)
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura

The fourth-annual WrestleMania features the first-ever (REAL) tournament to crown a new WWF Champion, after the belt was held up following Andre The Giant’s attempt to sell it to ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase on an episode of The Main Event. Apparently WWF President Jack Tunney has morals, who knew? Anyway this is also the first of two WrestleManias in a row to be held at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, NJ beginning a long association with real estate loser turned reality show loser turned Presidential loser Donald Trump. Gross. Let’s watch this one anyway and get it over with.

Champion Roll-Call

  • WWF Champion: VACANT
  • WWF Intercontinental Champion: The Honky Tonk Man
  • WWF World Tag Team Champions: Strike Force (Tito Santana & Rick Martel)

The Lineup

  • Battle Royal for a SUPER IMPORTANT TROPHY (**1/4)
  • WWF Title Tournament 1st Round: Jim Duggan vs. Ted DiBiase (**)
  • WWF Title Tournament 1st Round: Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo (*3/4)
  • WWF Title Tournament 1st Round: Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine (***)
  • WWF Title Tournament 1st Round: Randy Savage vs. Butch Reed (**)
  • WWF Title Tournament 1st Round: Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang (*)
  • WWF Title Tournament 1st Round: Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude (1/4*)
  • The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules (*1/4)
  • WWF Title Tournament Quarterfinals: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (DUD)
  • WWF Title Tournament Quarterfinals (**1/2)
  • WWF Title Tournament Quarterfinals (**1/2)
  • The Honky Tonk Man [c] vs. Brutus Beefcake for the WWF INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP (*)
  • Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs vs. Bobby Heenan & The Islanders (*1/4)
  • WWF Title Tournament Semi-Finals (*3/4)
  • Strike Force [c] vs. Demolition for the WWF WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (**3/4)
  • WWF Title Tournament Finals (**1/2)

*****

-‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund welcomes the crowd and home audience to WrestleMania IV, then hands the mic over to R&B legend Gladys Knight for ‘America the Beautiful’. No musical accompaniment like last year with Aretha Franklin, but we get the same ‘Merica slideshow. Once she finishes a SUPER IMPORTANT TROPHY is carried to the ring, the participants of the opening battle royal following behind. Cut to Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura run down the card and celebrity involvement. Bob Uecker, the MVP of last year, shows up to say this is the first time he’s been renewed (he played one year for each team back in his MLB days).

THE SUPER IMPORTANT TROPHY
20-Man Battle Royal

The participants are as follows: Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Jim Powers, Paul Roma, Sika, ‘Dangerous’ Danny Davis, Jim Brunzell, B. Brian Blair, Bad News Brown, Sam Houston, Jacques Rougeau, Raymond Rougeau, Ken Patera, Ron Bass, Junkyard Dog, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov, Hillbilly Jim, Harley Race, and George ‘The Animal’ Steele.

Bell rings and it’s certainly a battle royal. Steele never actually enters the contest, content to just hang out and mess with referees. Houston and Sika are the first two eliminated. Volkoff almost tosses Brunzell out, but he slides under the bottom rope before his feet touch the mat. Crowd pops when Davis almost goes out but Zhukov saves him for no reason. DANNY DAVIS WAS OVER, BROTHER. Steele trips Neidhart, Anvil slaps him in the head and Steele eliminates him by pulling him out. Both Killer Bees and Raymond Rougeau get eliminated next. Steele is still being a nuisance at ringside, going after Bass after The Outlaw gets eliminated. Ventura says Steele was never in the ring, Monsoon pretends like he was and got eliminated. Ventura is right. Hillbilly Jim gets dumped by Zhukov and we’re down to 10 or so, now 8 as both Davis and Powers get eliminated. Battle royals are boring to recap and probably even more boring to read, bear with me y’all. WrestleMania III foes JYD and Race go at it, Patera eliminates Volkoff and Zhukov, Brown dumps Patera. JYD tosses Race and we’re down to the final four: Brown, Hart, JYD, and Roma.

Roma gets eliminated quickly and the heels try to double team JYD but he ducks Brown’s attempt at a clothesline. Crowd cheers the Dog on as he tries to fight THE DAMNED NUMBERS GAME. Hart and Brown, former Stampede Wrestling adversaries, stop JYD’s offense and work out a strategy while slapping hands. Hart and Brown’s alliance is successful and they eliminate the Dog. Hart and Brown appear to have decided to be co-winners…until Brown attacks him from behind with the Ghetto Blaster. Brown hates everybody. Brown whips Hart hard chest-first into the corner and tosses him out to win the battle royal.

Bad News Brown won the 20-man Battle Royal, last eliminating Bret Hart (9:45)

  • Hey it’s a battle royal, you’ve seen one before. I enjoyed this one, they kept it short and I liked the story at the end of Brown goading Hart into teaming up before turning him on because he’s a lone wolf who doesn’t get along with anybody. Gave the match something worth grasping onto outside of normal battle royal enjoyment and I appreciate that. Why didn’t George Steele actually enter the match proper, though? His involvement felt real weird and pointless. (**1/4)

Two refs present Brown with the trophy inside the ring. Hart dropkicks Brown out of the squared circle and breaks Brown’s trophy, throwing a hissy fit and I guess turning himself and Neidhart into babyfaces in the process. Nothing says face turn like throwing a tantrum because you were outsmarted. Uecker bails from the commentary booth in search of fellow celeb Vanna White. His taste in women went up a peg from WrestleMania III where he was trying to creep on The Fabulous Moolah.

-Howard Finkel goes over the rules of the title tournament while Monsoon and Ventura talk over him so no one can catch anything he’s saying (each round has a specific time limit, with the finals having NO time limit, I got that much). He then introduces Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous host Robin Leach to the ring to read a proclamation to officially start the WWF Championship tournament, written on a scroll for added goofy theatrics. WWF is leaning into celebrating 80s excess on this show, holding it at a casino and having Leach kick things off.

WWF Championship Tournament: 1st Round
‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan vs. ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase [w/ Virgil & Andre The Giant]

DiBiase is the reason the WWF Championship was held up in the first place; he engineered Andre The Giant’s tainted title win and bought the championship from the big man with cold hard cash. This didn’t fly and instead of giving the championship back to Hulk Hogan, the man who was screwed out of it thanks to a referee switch and a tainted three-count, Jack Tunney decided to put it up in a one-night tournament. So if this show ends up feeling as bloated as it looks on paper I am fully blaming The Million Dollar Man.

DiBiase backs Duggan into the corner, Duggan blocks the cheap shots and belts him with a right hand. Duggan connects with an atomic drop and DiBiase goes over the top and onto the floor. HE HAS BEEN ELIMINATED FROM THE ROYAL RUMBLE. Props to Andre for being able to find a suit that actually fits him. DiBiase chops Duggan and belts him with rights, Duggan ducks a back elbow and connects with a clothesline, following up with count-a-long rights in the corner. DiBiase counters a corner splash with a boot and goes on the offensive. DiBiase connects with an elbow from the middle buckle and a fist drop, covering for a two-count. Duggan with right hands, DiBiase stops it with a rake of the eyes. Duggan catches DiBiase with a sunset flip for a two-count. Ventura is shocked that Hacksaw was able to pull that move off, and honestly so am I a little bit. Duggan counters a suplex attempt with one of his own then catches DiBiase coming off the middle buckle with a right hand to the breadbasket. Duggan slams DiBiase and sets up for the Three-Point Stance. Andre trips him up and cheap shots him, DiBiase takes advantage and connects with a fist drop for the 1…2…3!

Ted DiBiase defeated Jim Duggan via pinfall thanks to interference from Andre The Giant (5:02)

  • With so many matches on this show and in this tournament it’s not surprising this one didn’t go very long. It wasn’t bad though, Duggan still had some Mid-South in him so he went hard and that sunset flip was cool and surprising. Yes I popped for a SUNSET FLIP, sue me. DiBiase weasels his way past the first round, and it appears that this will be one of the top stories of the tournament going forward. I’m into it. (**)

An angry Duggan grabs his 2×4 and chases DiBiase out of the ring to get some heat back, but The Million Dollar Man doesn’t care. We see the replay of the finish and the ref CLEARLY saw Andre cheap shot Duggan but we’re going to ignore that like Monsoon and Ventura did.

Cut backstage where ‘Mean’ Gene is standing by with Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake, wearing the most neon of pink. Beefcake vows to become the new Intercontinental Champion tonight and is ready to cut Jimmy Hart’s hair if he tries to get involved.

WWF Championship Tournament: 1st Round
‘The Rock’ Don Muraco [w/ ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham] vs. Dino Bravo [w/ Frenchy Martin]

Graham returned to the WWF as a wrestler but a series of injuries forced him into retirement and now he’s here managing Muraco, his protégé who turned face after coming to Graham’s aid during an attack by Butch Reed and One Man Gang (both also in the tournament). Muraco is JACKED TO THE GILLS in a most unnatural way. I don’t know what Muraco’s original music was, but I’m digging the WWE Network ‘Roman Gladiator horns’ dub. Winner of this one faces DiBiase in the next round.

Bravo attacks early, Muraco counters an Irish whip and hits a clothesline followed by a powerslam. He tries some sort of inverted elbowdrop (Vader Bomb-style) but slips off the ropes and doesn’t get all of it. Pretty funny. Bravo quickly takes over, hitting a gutwrench suplex and working The Rock over in the corner. Muraco dodges a corner knee and kicks Bravo’s leg out of his leg. Muraco focuses on further weakening Bravo’s now-hurt knee, slapping on a spinning toehold like he’s Lou Thesz. Graham and Martin jaw at each other ringside. Bravo kicks Muraco off, Muraco brushes it off and reapplies the hold. Bravo kicks him off again and Muraco ends up entangling his head in the ropes for a moment. Bravo breaks him out and hits a TREMENDOUS piledriver, using Muraco’s own move against him. He takes too long to gloat though and Muraco kicks out of the pinfall attempt. Muraco counters a second piledriver attempt and both men go down with a double clothesline. They come to, and Muraco catches Bravo with a flying forearm. He goes for another but Bravo pulls the ref between them and Muraco accidentally knocks him out. Bravo attacks Muraco from behind and hits his Side Suplex, the ref however doesn’t count the fall and instead DISQUALIFIES Bravo. The Rock advances.

Don Muraco defeated Dino Bravo via DQ (4:54)

  • Decent big-man contest. Unnecessary DQ finish though, I guess they didn’t want Bravo to take a pinfall loss. It’s hard to buy Don Muraco as a babyface after so many years being ‘Magnificent’ but he’s trying. I especially like that the WWF put him in baby blue trunks because psychologically that color represents safety and pleasantness. Well-played. (*3/4)

Cut backstage where Bob Uecker interviews WWF Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man and his manager ‘Colonel’ Jimmy Hart. Uecker cracks some jokes, HTM shuts him down and says Beefcake is gonna feel the ‘Shake, Rattle, & Roll’. This was pointless.

WWF Championship Tournament: 1st Round
Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat vs. Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine [w/ ‘The Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart]

Steamboat makes his entrance carrying his infant son (future NXT star Ritchie Steamboat) for ULTIMATE BABYFACE POWAHHHHH. Fun fact: Steamboat was actually punished by the WWF for having the gall to ask for time off to be there for the birth of his kid, cutting his Intercontinental Championship reign short the year before and giving him nothing to do after. Classy move, Vince. Valentine has gone solo once again following the dissolution of his original Dream Team with Brutus Beefcake and the New Dream Team with Dino Bravo. Baby Steamboat is pretty calm given the fact he’s in a LOUD arena surrounded by thousands of STRANGERS. I can barely handle that now and I’m in my 30s. His wife Bonnie Steamboat takes the baybay backstage.

Steamboat slides under Valentine’s legs and takes him to the mat with his signature super-deep armdrag. He transitions to a wristlock as Valentine gets to his feet, wringing the arm to take away any feeling left. Steamboat drops Valentine with a chop and covers but only gets two. Valentine tosses Steamboat out, Steamboat skins the cat and dropkicks The Hammer from behind and covers for another two-count. Valentine belts Steamboat with a series of rights and elbows, taking control of the contest. Valentine goes for his first pinfall attempt but Steamboat kicks out. Steamboat flips out of a back suplex and rams Valentine into the buckle, following up with a kneedrop and transitioning into a standing armbar. Valentine escapes with an inverted atomic drop and belts Steamboat with a clothesline. Cut to Donald Trump, the owner of Trump Plaza, watching from the crowd. Excuse me while I vomit uncontrollably. Back to the mat Valentine connects with a gutbuster and drops a headbutt right between the legs. He goes for the Figure Four, Steamboat kicks him into the buckles. They trade hard-ass chops. Steamboat belts Valentine hard, Valentine falls like a tree and Steamboat covers for the 1…2…kickout. Valentine thumbs Steamboat in the eye and hits a shoulderbreaker for the 1…2…Steamboat kicks out. Valentine connects with an axhandle from the top turnbuckle and tries the Figure Four but once again Steamboat counters, this time with a right hand. Steamboat repeatedly rams Valentine’s head into the canvas and follows up with a back elbow off the Irish whip. Steamboat with a flying axhandle from the top turnbuckle, Valentine timbers to the mat and Steamboat covers for the 1…2…Valentine manages to kick out. Count-a-long buckle shots from The Dragon, the ref tries to step in between and Steamboat SHOVES HIM AWAY. Whoa there, Dragon, you’re supposed to be a nice boy. Steamboat connects with a flying crossbody but Valentine rolls through into a lateral press, hand full of tights, for the 1…2…3!

Greg Valentine defeated Ricky Steamboat via pinfall after countering a flying crossbody into a lateral press (9:09)

  • The WWF was smart in giving these two almost ten minutes to work with, as these are two of the better performers on the roster, and they did not disappoint. A really good hard-hitting match with a ton of nearfalls and a great chop war thrown in for good measure. Not much to complain about here, it even had my favorite reversal finish. This is Steamboat’s final PPV appearance of this run, as he would leave the company for the NWA soon after, and his final WrestleMania appearance until coming out retirement without missing a beat at WrestleMania XXV in 2005. (***)

Steamboat complains about Valentine pulling his tights but the referee lets the finish stand and he’s gone from the tournament.

Cut backstage to ‘Mean’ Gene who’s standing by with Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs along with the Bulldogs’ mascot Matilda. They plan to take Matilda ‘weasel hunting’ tonight in their match against Bobby Heenan & The Islanders. I think this is the only time Ware got to speak at a WrestleMania.

WWF Championship Tournament: 1st Round
‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. ‘The Natural’ Butch Reed [w/ ‘The Doctor of Style’ Slick]

WHY IS THERE NO ‘JIVE SOUL BRO’ DURING REED AND SLICK’S INTRODUCTION? The Network has it dubbed with something that doesn’t even match Slick’s sweet dance moves, and it’s drowning out The Fink. I’m irrationally angry about this. Savage turned face last year, finally leaning into the popularity he was experiencing with fans despite doing his best to be a bad guy. This is Reed’s final WrestleMania appearance and I believe his final WWF PPV appearance altogether, ending a mostly uneventful run stuck in the midcard. Supposedly he was in line for the Intercontinental Championship but no-showed the event so it went to The Honky Tonk Man instead but he can be seen in HTM’s post-win celebration so that’s a bunch of bunk. Plus it took until 1996 to have an African American win a singles title, you think they would have actually done it back in the 80s? NOPE. Mid-South they weren’t.

Reed tries to bully Savage at the start but The Macho Man is too fast for him. Reed escapes a waistlock by squashing Savage in the corner, bringing him to the mat with a snapmare and following up with a fist drop. Savage stuns Reed with a buckle shot and tries for a suplex but The Natural is too big for him and Reed easily counters with one of his own. Reed goes for a cover following an elbowdrop but only gets two. Reed keeps on Savage, connecting with a forearm from the middle buckle, driving it right into the forehead. Savage counters a backdrop with a kick and lays into Reed with a series of shots. Savage dodges a corner elbow but can’t dodge a clothesline. Reed jaws at Elizabeth, wasting time before he climbs to the top. Savage recovers in time to slam Reed off the buckles and follows up with the Flying Elbowdrop for the 1…2…3.

Randy Savage defeated Butch Reed via pinfall with the Flying Elbow (4:08)

  • Savage overcomes the much-bigger Reed in a match that went quicker than I would’ve liked but we’ve got a lot to get through so in a way I’m okay with it. Reed looked relatively strong in defeat, not that it ultimately matters for his WWF career but still. Not bad. (**)

Cut backstage to Bob Uecker, who’s still looking for Vanna White. He talks about writing her letters and being an all-around creep until he’s interrupted by Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and The Islanders. Uecker lays into Heenan for his previous kidnapping of Matilda. Heenan shuts him down and says he’s ready for Matilda because he’s got a surprise. The Islanders don’t get to say anything for they are FOREIGN.

WWF Championship Tournament 1st Round
Bam Bam Bigelow [w/ Sir Oliver Humperdink] vs. One Man Gang [w/ ‘The Doctor of Style’ Slick]

Bigelow made his debut for the WWF the year prior and got a pretty big push out of the gate as the last survivor of Hulk Hogan’s team at the first-ever Survivor Series. Bigelow is a much better heel so it’s always weird to see him on the face side of things. Oliver Humperdink is one of pro wrestling’s veteran managers and a man I’ve never understood because every time I see him on any show he never actually TALKS for his charges or does much. I DON’T GET IT. I do however totally get One Man Gang, another one of my favorite midcarders from the WWF/WCW. A big ol’ mohawked brute from the streets of New York City, not a lot to the character but he was very convincing. Too bad he gets repackaged after this show into the borderline (maybe not even borderline) racist Akeem, The African Dream. What a fumble that nonsense is. We’ll get to that soon enough though, let’s get to the match.

Gang attacks Bigelow at the bell, throwing Bigelow chest-first into the corner and splashing him. He misses the follow-up splash and Bigelow knocks him to the mat. He does a cartwheel for no reason then covers for a two-count. Bigelow with a crossbody for another near-fall followed by a headbutt and a series of right hands to the bridge of the nose. Bigelow with more headbutts, Slick pulls the rope down and Bigelow falls out to the floor. Bigelow climbs the apron and Gang clobbers him repeatedly and the ref calls for a countout. Heh?

One Man Gang defeated Bam Bam Bigelow via countout (2:55)

  • I was enjoying this one until it got super cut short and given a terrible ending. Refs usually break counts when the guy inside the ring starts clobbering the one outside but since they needed a cop-out here they pretended that’s not a thing to give the Gang a tainted win. So dumb and a lame way to end Bigelow’s first WWF run. He’ll be back in 1993, which has its moments. (*)

We go backstage where ‘Mean’ Gene is standing by once again, this time with Hulk Hogan. Hogan vows to prove that he can beat Andre The Giant tonight (which he proved last year at WrestleMania III but I digress). Hogan says when he slams Andre through Trump Plaza, there’s gonna be an earthquake and there’s gonna be a flood and he’ll backpeddle Donald Trump and his family back to safety. That’s an all-time stupid promo right there, my god.

WWF Championship Tournament: 1st Round
Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts vs. ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude [w/ Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan]

Roberts and Rude end up feuding after Rude makes unwanted advances on Roberts’ wife Cheryl but that happens after this show so this is just a regular ol’ tournament match. Rude’s music has been dubbed out by the WWE Network, which is unfortunate. Granted it’s no ‘Simply Ravishing’ but it’s still some sexy ass jazz and it’s sorely missed in footage of his WWF run. Winner of this one gets the ‘pleasure’ of meeting One Man Gang in the quarterfinals and this officially ends the first round.

Feeling out process for the first minute, Rude catches Roberts with a pair of scoop slams. Roberts counters the third slam with a couple of his own, forcing Rude to bail to the corner. He sees the snake bag and escapes the corner in a panic, running into a wristlock/arm wringer. Roberts keeps on the wristlock, Rude running around and overselling it as much as he can. Rude tries to escape with a series of rights, but Roberts hangs on and brings him to the mat. Rude backs Roberts into the corner and buries a couple shoulders into the midsection. He seats Roberts on the top turnbuckle, ref pushes Rude away and allows The Snake to hit him with a flying kneelift. Roberts goes for the DDT, Rude slides out and seeks comfort in Heenan’s arms. Aw. Roberts and Rude criss cross, Roberts slams Rude but misses the kneelift and goes flying. Rude flattens Roberts with a clothesline and wastes time gyrating his hips so his pinfall attempt only results in a two. To the chinlock we go, Rude getting in a blatant chokehold as well while Heenan argues with the ref. Roberts finally escapes after a minute and change but Rude quickly rebounds with an axhandle from the middle buckle. Rude with more hip gyrating and another clothesline for the 1…2…Roberts kicks out. Rude is SO ANGRY ABOUT THIS he…slaps on another chinlock. Oh. Okay. These guys have a long night or something, why are we going so slow here? Roberts escapes and Rude pops him up and onto the canvas. Rude follows up with a top rope fist drop, covering once again for the 1…2…not enough. Rude tries again to no avail and now WE’RE BACK TO A CHINLOCK. Crowd tries to entertain themselves by chanting ‘WEASEL’ but it feels like the wind is out of the sails a little bit.

Roberts gets to his feet and tries to escape with a belly-to-back suplex but Rude keeps the hold applied, moving into a lateral press for the 1…2…nah. Rude peppers Roberts with kicks, Heenan screaming about hurrying it up and getting it done. Rude with another two-count and OH MY GOD IT’S ANOTHER CHINLOCK. The smaller ‘BORING’ chants are now much louder. Roberts almost passes out but gets a second (or third or fourth) wind, trying to get the crowd behind him as he finally escapes with a jawbreaker. Roberts mounts a comeback with a series of short jabs and a backdrop, the crowd popping as it’s not another goddamn chinlock. Roberts hits a short-arm clothesline and goes for another DDT, but Rude counters by ramming Roberts into the corner. Rude charges, Roberts get a knee up and follows up with a gutbuster for the 1…2…Rude kicks out. Rude counters a dumb side headlock with a smart belly-to-back suplex, covering for the 1…2…NOPE. Roberts and Rude take one another down with a double clothesline and the crowd responds with a defeated ‘AWWWW’. That’s pretty funny, honestly. Rude rolls Roberts up, feet on the ropes, but the ref calls for the bell. It’s a DRAW and One Man Gang gets a bye to the semi-finals to face the winner of Savage/Valentine.

Jake Roberts and Rick Rude fought to a time-limit draw (15:00 officially, but actually 15:15)

  • A dreadfully dull match that spent too much time on chinlocks and armbars with very little else to show for it, even managing to kill the hype of the crowd halfway through. All the talent in the tournament and they couldn’t shuffle anything around to have Steamboat/Valentine in this spot instead? At least they would have been more watchable. A bad match with two guys not equipped to fill the fifteen minutes needed to get it this one to the end. What a limp way to end the first round. (1/4*)

Roberts brings out Damien and the crowd DOESN’T EVEN CARE that’s how bad this match was. Christ. How embarrassing, especially from two guys who should have been better than this.

‘Mean’ Gene is backstage at the big tournament bracket with Wheel of Fortune personality Vanna White, finally making her first appearance after an hour-plus of hype. Okerlund asks if she’s seen Bob Uecker, White doesn’t even know who he is. COLD. They go over the quarterfinals and White gamely tries to pretend like she knows what’s going on.

The Ultimate Warrior vs. ‘The Mighty’ Hercules [w/ Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan]

This is Warrior’s big WrestleMania debut, having come to the WWF the year prior. He isn’t the crazy dude we all grew up with and loved yet but he’s got the ring entrance down and a goofy headband, which he thankfully ditches after this show. Apparently they had a tug of war over Hercules’ chain at some point and snapped it, Monsoon attributing that to Warrior because he’s the good guy.

Warrior and Hercules run into each other but neither goes down for they have MUSCLES and love POSING. Wrestling is cool, I promise. Warrior backs Hercules into the corner, ref steps in between and Hercules gets in a cheap shot. Warrior responds with a series of chops but misses a clothesline. Hercules takes three clotheslines to finally take Warrior down, but Warrior gets back up and they tug of war until Warrior hits a clothesline. Clothesline clothesline clothesline. Warrior wants to stun gun Herc, but Herc shoot puts a stop to that. Hercules dumps Warrior on the floor, Warrior pulls him out and rams his head on the steps. Hercules with a series of jabs and a back elbow, but Warrior bounces against the ropes and cracks him with a hard forearm to the neck. COUNT-A-LONG PUNCH TIME. Warrior takes a second to gloat and Hercules takes advantage with an inverted atomic drop. Warrior reverses a corner Irish whip but misses the splash and Hercules applies the Full Nelson. Warrior kicks off the buckles and lands on top of Hercules, both shoulders are down for the 1…2…Warrior gets his shoulder up…3!

The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hercules via pinfall (4:37)

  • Looking back it’s so weird to see Warrior in an even matchup, given how dominant most of his contests would be once the rocket was strapped to his back. This was okay, muscle dude and muscle dude doing muscle stuff, but I can’t say I was particularly into it even if I have an unhealthy love of Hercules. Love that Warrior didn’t even get to DEFINITIVELY win in his WrestleMania debut too. (*1/4)

Hercules and Heenan think they got the win but the ref tells them otherwise and raises Warrior’s arm in victory. Hercules attacks Warrior and chokes him with his GREEK CHAIN. Warrior escapes and swings the chain around like Leatherface at the end of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre while Herc and Heenan bail.

Boxing great Sugar Ray Leonard is shown hanging out in the crowd with his son then we go to a video recapping the feud between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant, which began before WrestleMania III and has raged on ever since. ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase interjects himself into things, saying he’s here to BUY the WWF Championship which Hogan steadfastly refuses. Andre promises to deliver the WWF Championship to DiBiase and defeats Hogan for the belt on an episode of The Main Event thanks to an EVIL TWIN REFEREE.

WWF Championship Tournament: Quarterfinals
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant [w/ ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase & Virgil]

Hogan charges in, Andre immediately attacks him with chops and headbutts. Hogan bounces back with a series of forearms that drives the big man to the ropes. DiBiase climbs the apron, Hogan with a double noggin knocker on him and Andre. Andre’s arms gets tied up in the ropes, DiBiase and Virgil trying desperately to free him while Hogan rips his shirt off and does some crowd work. He should have just taken advantage but hey, whatever. Hogan knocks Andre to one knee, then eventually to the mat. Hogan drops a series of elbows but Andre escapes the pinfall attempt and immediately launches into a chokehold. A dizzied Andre struggles to clear the cobwebs, launching into a series of chokes, breaking before getting DQed and moving into a NERVEHOLD, the bane of my existance. Hogan falls to his knees and almost succumbs to the pain but SHOCK AND AWE he doesn’t. Hogan pries Andre’s hands off and belts the big man with a series of rights and a clothesline into the corner. Hogan wants to slam Andre, Virgil climbs the apron to distract the ref and DiBiase hits Hogan with a chair. Hogan no-sells it and grabs the chair. He hits Andre with the steel then Andre grabs the chair and hits Hogan in retaliation and we’ve got a bell. They’ve both been disqualified. WAIT WHAT

Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant fought to a double-disqualification (5:22)

  • These two headlined the biggest show in history last year and pulled off a miracle. Lightning most definitely didn’t strike twice as this was very bad, with a finish that makes no sense. Ref saw Hogan hit Andre with a chair first so he should be DQed and Andre should be moving on in the tournament but instead he DQs both guys after Andre decides to retaliate? RIDICULOUS. Yeah yeah wrestling is fake or whatever but at least try to make sense, man. Also yes I’m aware I’m taking that finish way too seriously but LET ME HAVE THIS ONE. (DUD)

Hogan hits Andre with the chair again and chases DiBiase & Virgil up the entryway. DiBiase throws Virgil at Hogan, who suplexes him on the ground (more of a throw since he doesn’t drop down). Monsoon announces the double-DQ and Hogan slams Andre, then celebrates like he won the match. Ventura mocks him for this and rightfully so, BROTHER.

‘Mean’ Gene is standing by backstage with ‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Savage puts over Hulk Hogan, saying he’s a cheated man not a defeated man. Savage says nothing is going to stop him from winning the WWF Championship while the camera randomly focuses on Elizabeth, who looks worried. She’s supportive either way, agreeing with The Macho Man that he’s gonna take it all.

WWF Championship Tournament: Quarterfinals
‘The Rock’ Don Muraco [w/ ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham] vs. ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase

DiBiase comes to the ring without his entrance gear and without Virgil, who’s still suffering the effects of that suplex throw a few minutes ago. Muraco pulls DiBiase in and slams him as the bell sounds. Muraco with a powerslam but DiBiase kicks out at two. Muraco with a fist drop from the middle turnbuckle for another two-count, Monsoon scolding him for not properly hooking the leg. What a smark. Muraco with a standing dropkick but once again DiBiase kicks out, this time bailing from the ring. Graham threatens to hit him with a cane so he rolls back in, leaving him open to a right hand from The Rock. Muraco tries to pull DiBiase out of the corner, DiBiase uses his leg strength to slingshot him into the buckle and maybe even the post. The winner of this match advances right to the finals thanks to the finish of Hogan/Andre. Interesting how that worked out, do I smell SHENANIGANS? DiBiase continues the assault but his pinfall attempt is thwarted when Muraco gets his foot on the rope. DiBiase with a scoop slam but he misses a fallaway elbowdrop from the middle buckle, giving Muraco a chance to mount a comeback. The ref looks like a zombie, YIKES. Muraco drops DiBiase with a shoulderblock, DiBiase grabs Muraco and hits a Stun Gun for the 1…2…3!

Ted DiBiase defeated Don Muraco via pinfall with a stun gun (5:35)

  • If this match happened in a less bloated event I think it could have been tremendous. But we’ve got like 500000 matches left on this show so we got the truncated version, which is still pretty good. Solid win by DiBiase, who proved that he can win matches without the help of Virgil with this one. I like that; the fact he has the talent but chooses to cheat anyway is a great characteristic that makes him even more of a jerk. Anyway after a string of bad matches it’s nice to get one that didn’t feel like a chore to sit through. (**1/2)

Bob Uecker is still lusting after Vanna White but hasn’t found her yet. He’s interrupted by Demolition and Mr. Fuji who cut a promo about their Tag Team Championship match against Strike Force. Strike Force is an all-time great tag team name.

Back to the arena The Fink officially announces that One Man Gang has a bye to the semi-finals, which Slick celebrates by jumping in the Gang’s arms like he just won the World Cup or something. Love it.

WWF Championship Tournament: Quarterfinals
‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine [w/ ‘The Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart]

Winner of this one meets a fresh One Man Gang in the semis. Valentine with forearms in the corner, Savage connects with an elbow and a kneedrop for a two-count. Ref steps in to create separation, Valentine belts Savage with a forearm and a lame strike from the top rope that didn’t have a lot of oomph to it since Savage was too close to the buckles. Valentine continues the offense, tossing the Macho Man out to the floor and following up with an elbow to the back of the neck off the apron. Valentine connects with a vertical suplex and a backbreaker, but each time he covers Savage manages to kick out. Savage with an explosive bout of offense out of nowhere, ending with a flying double axhandle for the 1…2…Hart climbs the apron to stop the count and distract the Macho Man. Valentine nails him from behind and goes for another suplex but Savage counters with one of his own. Savage goes for another flying double axhandle, Valentine catches him on the way down with a shot to the breadbasket but The Hammer also gets enough of it to feel the effects as well. Valentine goes for the Figure Four, Savage counters with an inside cradle for the 1…2…3!

Randy Savage defeated Greg Valentine via pinfall with an inside cradle (6:08)

  • A decent match following the same template of Savage getting beaten down for the bulk of the contest until managing to pull it out in the final seconds. Not bad, but Valentine’s match with Steamboat earlier in the show was way better. The WWF is really throwing their weight behind making Savage look like the ultimate underdog babyface here and I respect it. I don’t respect the fact that there’s still one more hour to go and five matches in said hour. The bloat on this show is really starting to wear my ass down. (**1/2)

‘Mean’ Gene is standing by with Vanna White in the tournament bracket room. White still has no real idea who Bob Uecker is. They go over the results so far, including DiBiase’s bye into the finals thanks to the finish of Hogan/Andre.

WWF Intercontinental Championship
The Honky Tonk Man [c] [w/ ‘The Colonel’ Jimmy Hart & Peggy Sue] vs. Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake

The 80s were so out there that a heel doing an Elvis impersonator gimmick set a record for longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion. I love HTM, don’t get me wrong, but what a strange dude to get that honor. Peggy Sue is better known to rasslin’ fans as Sensational Sherri, but right now she’s in full 50s poodle skirt mode. Ventura brags about playing piano on Honky’s theme ‘Cool, Cocky, Bad’ which is true if you believe the “live” rendition at the Slammy Awards the year before. I’m sad the Slammy Awards are just a special episode of RAW instead of a goofy show of its own, we need more wrestlers pretending to play instruments in this day and age. Beefcake comes to the ring sans theme music but with a CRAZY LOOK in his eye, freaking me out. The garden shears were a fun prop but were never actually used to cut anything. HOW DISAPPOINTING. Ventura gets his Minnesota shout-outs in as the bell rings.

Honky backs Beefcake against the ropes and drives a knee to the gut. Beefcake ducks a back elbow and catches a kick, winding up and…hitting an atomic drop instead. Beefcake musses Honky’s hair up, Honky bails to the floor freaking out about his ‘do. Beefcake with count-a-long buckle shots and a high knee, but Honky slides out of the ring to regroup and avoid a potential cover. Beefcake brings Honky back into the ring with a snapmare but misses an elbowdrop, and the champ takes over. Honky with a whole lot of punching and kicking, Hart with blatant choking behind the ref’s back. Honky goes for the Shake, Rattle, & Roll but Beefcake blocks it by hooking the top rope. Beefcake mounts a comeback and slaps on the Sleeperhold. Honky starts fading, Hart climbs the apron and HITS THE REF with his megaphone. Beefcake knocks Honky out and goes to get his cutting tools but Hart grabs the bag and tries to climbs under the ring. Beefcake drags Hart out by the pants and cuts Hart’s hair with the smaller scissors while he’s pinned down on the steps. Peggy Sue tries to wake Honky up while two officials try to wake up the first ref. Peggy Sue wakes Honky up with water and the heel trio bail from the ring. Fink gives the official announcement: DQ.

Brutus Beefcake defeated The Honky Tonk Man [c] via DQ; The Honky Tonk Man retains the WWF INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP (9:20 total)

  • There was no bell after the ref got clobbered so I lumped everything together until the finish was made official, don’t take the time too seriously. Or hopefully you just skipped the recap entirely because this match was dullsville and instantly forgettable. Blehhhhh. (*)

Bob Uecker is still trying to find Vanna White backstage, but instead in walks Andre The Giant. Andre says that DiBiase paid him to keep Hulk Hogan out of the tournament, explaining why the double-DQ went down. Uecker sarcastically asks Andre to get his foot (hand) off his shoulder, Andre chokes him and Uecker sells it better than 90% of pro wrestlers ever sell anything. You’ve seen it, it’s in a ton of WrestleMania montages, and it’s still funny to this day.

‘The Birdman’ Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid) [w/ Matilda] vs. Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan & The Islanders (Haku & Tama)

Heenan is wearing attack dog gear to prevent Matilda from hurting him. Too bad there’s two other Bulldogs and a bird enthusiast ready to tear him to shreds regardless. Should’ve brought a football helmet too. The Islanders aren’t on a lot of WWF PPVs, honestly this might be the only one (you can tell me I’m wrong in the comments, also props to you for sticking with this 6000 words in), so I don’t really know much about them other than Haku is a terrifying man and Tama co-starred with Roddy Piper in that Body Slam movie I remember liking as a kid but probably doesn’t hold up now.

Bell doesn’t ring but Kid doesn’t care, throwing Tama around with a hip toss and backdrop. Tama tries to goad Kid in with a handshake but Kid hates everybody and sends him out to the floor. Smith tags in and misses an elbow, Haku tags in and the two powerhouses of their respective teams are ready to lock heads. Smith gets a two-count off dueling crossbodies, another with a crucifix roll-up. To the chinlock we go! Haku easily counters with a wristlock. Crowd is CRAZY QUIET at this point, poor guys. I’m lucky I can pause and return to this whenever, people WATCHED THIS LIVE. Islanders with quick tags as they try to wear Smith down. Smith backflips out of a sidewalk slam and tags in Ware who hits Haku with a dropkick. Tama runs in, Ware takes both Islanders over with a headlock/headscissor combo. Kid tags in, belts Haku with a clothesline while a terrified Heenan watches on the apron. Haku catches a charging Kid with a kick and Heenan tags in for the first time. He stomps Kid a bunch but as soon as Kid starts fighting back he tags out to Tama. Tama tries a Vader Bomb, Kid gets his knees up. Ware gets the NO REACTION TAG, backdrop to Tama and headbutts to Haku. Haku counters a backdrop with a kick and connects with a clothesline. Matilda is bored out of her mind and she’s not alone. Islanders beat Ware down, Heenan tags in once again for more stomps and a kneelift. Ventura is in love with Heenan’s goofy get-up. Hard not to love whatever The Brain does…except when a NERVEHOLD happens and now I hate him all of a sudden. Ware escapes, Heenan rakes the eyes, Ware whips him chest-first into the buckles and dropkicks him shoulder-first into the post. Islanders come in to defend their manager, Bulldogs go after them but the ref forces them out. Islanders double-team Ware and splash Heenan on top of Ware for the 1…2…3.

Bobby Heenan & The Islanders defeated Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs when Heenan pinned Ware (7:32)

  • This match lasted longer than most of the tournament matches so far. How DEPRESSING. It was fine, but the crowd is burned out and honestly so am I so I’m just struggling to get to the end of this damn show. Props to Ware for being a professional and letting himself be pinned by Heenan. Ware really was a company guy. (*1/4)

Matilda chews on Heenan in the aisle and leads the chase up the stairs, Ware and the Bulldogs running so slow I can’t help but laugh. It honestly looked like they were running in place.

Howard Finkel introduces Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura to kill time at the announce perch. Ventura poses for the crowd, who are WAY MORE ALIVE than during the match they just sat through. Must be a crowd full of Running Man fans. That’s a trick comment, EVERY crowd is full of Running Man fans because it’s one of the best action films in history. Fink then announces that Ted DiBiase, who’s in the ring, has a bye right to the FINALS of the tournament. He faces the winner of the next contest.

WWF Championship Tournament: Semi-Finals
‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. One Man Gang [w/ ‘The Doctor of Style’ Slick]

This is Savage’s third match and Gang’s second; Gang got a bye to the semi-finals thanks to a time-limit draw between Roberts and Rude which feels like happened twelve hours ago at this point. Savage and Liz are wearing matching glittery black, keeping their couples game on point.

Savage escapes the corner and starts raking at Gang’s eyes, then grabs him by the beard and clotheslines him across the top rope. Nice. Gang squashes Savage in the corner and goes a clubberin’. Hey some of Jimmy Hart’s hair is still in the ring somehow. Nobody has a broom? Gang with a scoop slam and arrogant cover but Savage gets his foot over the rope. Gang pulls him into the center of the ring and delivers an elbowdrop for the 1…2…Savage manages to kick out again. Savage dodges a couple of splashes and sends Gang to the floor with a double axhandle, following up with a flying double axhandle from the top rope. Savage stupidly tries to slam Gang but Gang is too big and the heel takes over once again. Slick gets real creepy with Liz, scaring her and distracting the ref. Slick hands Gang his cane and Gang repeatedly tries to hit him; Savage rolls right into the ref’s view and the ref calls for the bell.

Randy Savage defeated One Man Gang via DQ (4:12)

  • Another perfectly fine match to put over Savage’s fortitude, and this time the DQ ending works. Savage rolling into the ref’s line of sight was pretty brilliant and not something I remember seeing after this making it unique. (*3/4)

Gang doesn’t care and breaks the cane across the back of Savage. Gang sad hugs Slick in the ring and Savage hits Gang from behind with a flying double axhandle, the big man squashing his skinny manager. So much for the cane attack having any impact.

‘Mean’ Gene is at the tournament bracket with Vanna White. White excuses herself and Okerlund goes over the final coming up. In runs Bob Uecker who just missed her and is all torn up about it.

WWF World Tag Team Championship
Strike Force (Rick Martel & Tito Santana) [c] vs. Demolition (Ax & Smash) [w/ Mr. Fuji]

Strike Force came about after Martel’s original tag team partner, Tom Zenk, left the WWF and The Can-Am Connection behind. Martel then joined up with Tito Santana to form STRIKE FORCE, which is also probably the name of a straight-to-video action movie starring one of the Hausers and defeated The Hart Foundation for their one and only WWF Tag Team Championship. They also rock an instrumental version of sentimental 80s WWF song ‘Girls in Cars’. Piledriver is the best wrestling album ever. Demolition debuted the year before and are the WWF’s version of The Road Warriors but with a WHOLE LOT MORE S&M going on in their ring attire. I like Demolition a lot.

Smash smashes away at Martel and catches a crossbody, but Santana comes in and dropkicks his partner to turn it into a lateral press. All four men enter the ring, Martel hits Ax with a crossbody and Strike Force belt Smash with a double clothesline for two. Martel has a Canadian flag on his tights to show his heritage while Santana has a…sombrero to show his. Awwwkward. Ax escapes a wristlock and tags out to Smash, who gets taken to the mat with a hip toss. Santana works on Smash’s arm, Smash escapes and catches Santana with a bearhug, Ax clotheslining him from the apron as the challengers take control. Demolition double-team Santana, quick tagging as they wear the man down. Smash connects with a scoop slam but misses an elbowdrop. Ax tags in, Santana counters a backdrop attempt and both men are down. Santana tries to go for a tag, Smash runs in and pulls him to the Demolition corner. Ax with some clubberin’ forearms, Santana catches him off-guard with his patented Flying Forearm. Martel gets the hot tag and goes to work, dropkicks for everybody. Martel puts Smash in the Boston Crab, Santana attacks Ax. Fuji climbs the apron, Santana clobbers him and the cane goes flying. Ax hits Martel in the back of the neck with the cane and Smash covers for the 1…2…3!

Demolition defeated Strike Force [c] to win the WWF WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP when Smash pinned Rick Martel (8:01)

  • A good match with a smart title change as Demolition was getting more and more over as the months went by, so much so that the crowd POPPED for the HEELS winning. Demolition’s schtick being theatrical jumping forearms is one of my favorite things and it was in full force here tonight, and for their part Strike Force had some fun offense as well. Only took three-plus hours for a non-tournament match to be worthwhile, goddamn. (**3/4)

Fink introduces Robin Leach back out to the ring, carrying the WWF Championship on a velvet pillow. He lets the commoners touch the belt all willy nilly and he’s VERY LUCKY no one decided to steal it. It could have easily been done. Leach’s Liberace-sounding theme rules as well. Fink then introduces Bob Uecker out to be the Guest Ring Announcer, the same role he played at last year’s show. Uecker takes control of the mic and introduces the Guest Timekeeper: Vanna White, and now the through line of Uecker trying to find her can conclude just in time. She also has like 600000 security guards around her to keep the creepy fans away from her. She pays her respects to Donald Trump (UGHHHHH) and Uecker gets a kiss on the cheek, almost passing out before he has to actually do his job. Ha.

WWF Championship Tournament: Finals
‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage [w/ Miss Elizabeth] vs. ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase [w/ Andre The Giant]

We made it to the last match on the show. I didn’t think this day would ever come, I’m so happy I could cry.

Savage blocks a couple of cheapshots but Andre trips him up to stop the momentum. Crowd immediately starts chanting for Hulk Hogan in response. Poor Macho Man. Savage builds up momentum and ONCE AGAIN Andre trips him up and takes Savage off his game. Savage and DiBiase trade wristlocks, DiBiase sends Savage into the corner, taking over and going for a lateral press after a clothesline. Only two. DiBiase goes for a sunset flip, Savage counters with a right hand and connects with a clothesline for two. DiBiase bails to the corner to regroup and get advice from Andre. DiBiase takes control again, putting the boots to Savage and dropping him with a back elbow off an Irish whip. Savage ducks a second back elbow and hits an elbow of his own followed by a clothesline across the top rope and a knee to the back that sends DiBiase to the floor. Savage goes for the flying double axhandle but Andre steps in front of him to save his employer. Savage says something to Liz, who heads towards the locker room. DiBiase drops a series of fists and covers but Savage kicks out. DiBiase slaps on a chinlock and Liz returns with Hulk Hogan as the crowd COMES ALIVE. Hogan grabs a chair and takes a seat in the corner of The Macho Man. How about you let the lady sit down? No? Grab her and walk around by the wrist instead? What a classy guy. DiBiase peppers Savage with rights, Savage fights back with an elbow. Andre tries to interfere, Hogan attacks Andre. DiBiase belts Savage with a clothesline and standing elbowdrop for the 1…2…kickout. DiBiase connects with a gutwrench suplex for the 1…2…Savage kicks out and the heels complain of a slow count. DiBiase heads to the top, Savage slams him off and immediately goes to the top but MISSES the Flying Elbow. Sensing blood in the water, DiBiase locks in the Million Dollar Dream for the first time on the show. The ref gets distracted by Andre and Hogan hits DiBiase in the back with a chair. A dazed Savage takes advantage, hitting the Flying Elbow for the 1…2…3!

Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase via pinfall with the Flying Elbow to win the vacant WWF CHAMPIONSHIP (9:17)

  • I know Andre was sort-of interfering but he didn’t HIT SOMEONE WITH A CHAIR, Hogan. Talk about escalation. Hogan’s involvement woke the crowd up and got them interested in the main event, something that had been missing due to the crowd wanting to do anything but watch more wrestling at that point, and also helped further their alliance. The alliance that will lead us all the way into next year’s WrestleMania when The Mega Powers EXPLODE. Oh right I should talk about the match: I enjoyed it. Good enough for my review? Cool. (**1/2)

Hogan raises Savage and Liz’s arms in celebration, Savage and Hogan shake hands and embrace. Show ends with Savage handing the gold to Liz and lifting her on his shoulder.

*****

Overall Thoughts: WrestleMania IV is important from a historical perspective but OH MY GOD DOES IT DRAG AND DRAG. Putting the entire tournament in one night and adding way too many undercard matches cut a lot of contests short, leading to a lot of the action never really getting a chance to get going before the finish. By the end of it I was struggling to stay interested, much like the Trump Plaza crowd. I recommend watching bits and pieces of it but the whole thing? Hell nah. I want you to like pro wrestling.

  • Match of the Night: Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine
  • Moment of the Night: Randy Savage hoists Liz on his shoulders to celebrate his WWF Championship win
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