WWF WrestleMania 2 (4.7.86) review
April 7, 1986
We’re in Uniondale, New York for WrestleMania 2, part 1. Mania comes from three locations, so we have three different buildings, three different announce teams, three different sets of talent. So much thought went into the concept that they kinda forgot to book anything good for the shows. WWF was red hot in 1986 and this is supposed to be the biggest show in the entire year. Is it any good? Well. Let’s see shall we. I was pleasantly surprised by my re-watch of WrestleMania (1985). Can WrestleMania 2 get better with time?
Hosts here are Vince McMahon & Susan St James. I know what you’re thinking; who is Susan St James and what is she doing here? Well, she was an actress and secondly, you’d have to ask Vince McMahon. I guess it was her star power, stemming from being in Kate & Allie, a sitcom co-starring Jane Curtin. I love Jane Curtain. Was Jane Curtin not available? They outdo themselves with “America the Beautiful” though. They got RAY CHARLES! Bit of a step up from Gene Okerlund. I fucking love Ray Charles, so I end up listening to the song, which is maybe the only time I’ve ever done so.
We go to the locker room where Roddy Piper says if T knocks him out he’ll retire from boxing, wrestling and tiddlywinks.
Magnificent Muraco vs. Paul Orndorff
Man, no wonder Orndorff was hot about everything. He’s out here saving Hogan’s ass every week from beat downs and where does it get him? Opening match against Muraco. Now, Donald is hard to get a good match out of he’s not motivated. Do you think he’s motivated by being in the opening match?
With no professional to carry Vince’s commentary and with no one for him to bounce off, the commentary is a disaster. Susan isn’t dreadful but she clearly doesn’t know what she’s doing. Vince is no help at all. They’re supposed to fall outside for the DCO, but Orndorff gets tangled in the ropes. Who the fuck does Muraco have pictures of to keep dodging losses? This sucked. Crowd chants “bullshit”. Vince hears it too. I hope it keeps him awake at night. This was such an easy win too. Just have Orndorff win, pop the crowd. Why is Don Muraco so protected?
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Randy Savage (c) vs. George Steele
Oh, Savage has “Land of Hope and Glory” as his entrance music. Susan gets all fired up because Savage is an asshole and she wants Liz to be a strong independent woman, like her character on Kate & Allie. She doesn’t say that, but it is inferred. Savage’s usual tactics don’t work because Steele doesn’t chase him and doesn’t seem to get upset at anything.
Susan is pretty good during this match. This is the one she’s done her research for. She does have a vocal tick that grinds at me, which is “uh oh”, which she uses a lot. Savage tries hard to get something going but Steele’s shtick is at odds with his. It feels like a waste. Not only of Savage but also of Steele, who can be fun given the right foil. Savage does a good job here, in my opinion, of selling for the concept. He’s prepared to get flowers jammed in his face, turnbuckle stuffing rubbed in there (“Uh oh” – Susan). Steele goes after Liz. “Uh, you’re not really my type. A bit hairy”. “Uh oh” – Susan. Savage drops the big elbow. “Uh oh” – Vince. No, really. It’s contagious. Steele kicks out! What is this show? Savage has to get a sneaky pin using the ropes instead. Nobody says uh oh. This was ok for what it was. Steele bites into the turnbuckle. “Uh oh” – Susan. Steele chases the ref to the back. “Uh oh” – Susan.
Jake Roberts vs. George Wells
A JOBBER MATCH. You put a jobber match on WrestleMania? Wells is bad. I’ve seen him once before and he pissed off John Studd. Jake is feeling generous and lets Wells have the opening minute or so before raking his eyes. “Uh oh”- Susan. “Uh oh, uh oh. Uh….oh”. – Susan. DDT. Snake. “Uh oh” – Susan. “Uh oh” – Vince. “Uh oh” – Susan. Jake’s attempts to make his python kill George is impressive. As is his brief threat to toss the snake into the crowd.
Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T
Joan Rivers hosts this and introduces the judges; Daryl Dawkins (NBA player dubbed “Chocolate Thunder”), Cab Calloway (Blues Brothers represent), G. Gordon Liddy (WHAT?). Timekeeper is Herb. You don’t know Herb? He was the Burger King advert guy. “Where’s the Beef?”. But seriously, G. Gordon Liddy? Again, for those who don’t know, he was the Watergate guy. Why is WrestleMania 2 so full of weird celebrities? Cab Calloway and Ray Charles on the same show though, someone definitely loved the Blues Brothers. Aretha Franklin sang at WM3.
Piper got Lou Duva to train him. Mr. T has Smokin’ Joe Frazier in his corner. Smokin’ Joe was the referee at Starrcade ‘84 so he’s experienced in these things. Haiti Kid in T’s corner too. He played Little Mr. T in the NWA. I love Little Mr. T.
I was trying to get Piper, T and Joan Rivers in the same shot because holy shit, that’s WrestleMania in a nutshell. Apparently, Piper and T hated each other with Roddy feeling he needed to protect the business and T just thinking he was an asshole. Piper’s promos around the first two WrestleMania shows were a bit racist.
There has never been a good worked boxing match and this is no exception. In fact, it’s probably the defining ‘worked boxing matches aren’t good’ moment. “He’s got all kinds of grease all over him” complains the ref as Piper emerges for R2. “Well sure, I fuckin’ greased him up good baby” – Lou Duva*. “Uh oh” – Susan. Vince goes to his excited voice as they start throwing shitty haymakers. “Uh oh” – Susan. “Battling” “Cowboy” Bob “Ace” “Boxing” Orton chucks the water bucket over T in between rounds. “Uh oh” – Susan.
*This may be a made up quote.
Seriously, if you want a drinking game; WrestleMania 2. When Susan St James says “uh oh” you have to drink. You’ll be shitfaced. Piper takes an enormous back bump in R3 off a punch that clearly missed. You’re wearing gloves, you can wing each other and be fine.
What the hell is this? I’ve seen this show three times and I don’t remember this. “Uh oh” – Susan. I’m amazed Piper spent so much of this match ignoring traditional heel mannerisms and trying to get over on Mr. T. It made Clubber Lang look like shit. Piper starts round four by chucking his stool at Mr. T and then resorts to a slam and I’m suddenly very into Lou Duva fighting Joe Frazier. “Uh oh” – Susan. This has an aura of ‘we’re not done yet’ but there was never a part three in this feud.
And that’s the New York show over. What a pile of shit.
The New York 411:
Garbage. Everything is terrible from the matches they put on here to the production to the commentary. Just a fucking shit show.
Ok, off to venue #2. We’re in the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, Illinois. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon, Gene Okerlund and Cathy Lee Crosby. This was the smallest crowd of the three venues and, on paper, the worst card. That said, I would take this over NY but the boxing match wasn’t my bag. Cathy Lee Crosby has never been to a wrestling show before and yet she’s now on commentary for a WrestleMania. How about it? Crosby was a tennis player, turned actress. So, she probably gets the ‘sports entertainment’. She was a co-host of “That’s Incredible” on ABC. I assume that’s what got her this gig.
Ring announcer is not Gene Okerlund but rather Chet Coppock. He’s a sports radio guy in the Chicago area.
WWF Women’s Championship
Fabulous Moolah (c) vs. Velvet McIntyre
Velvet is still barefoot, so I guess that was a choice. Velvet misses off the top, Moolah pins her and Velvet has her foot on the rope. Terrible. “Is she normally that fast?” quizzes Crosby. No, love, that was bullshit.
We stop off to shill the battle royal and Gorilla is doing a fine job of holding this together. Cathy Lee says that the wrestlers she’s seen here are huge so the NFL players have no shot at the battle royal.
Nikolai Volkoff vs. Corporal Kirchner
This stinks. Kirchner blades. Blassie tries to throw his cane in but Kirchner catches it, waffles Volkoff and we’re done already. Flying through this bullshit, huh!
This has a WWF vs. NFL motif. So, there are a bunch of guys out here. Some NFL chaps I’ve probably glossed over in the past, so I’m here to do them justice. Jimbo Covert was on the Bears team that won the Superbowl in 1985. He had 8 years with Da Bears. Bill Fralic is an Atlanta Falcon. He spent 7 years with them before spending his final NFL season with Detroit. He went to four pro bowls and made the team of the decade from guard. Russ Francis (tight end) won the Superbowl in 1984 for the 49ers. He also played for the Pats, twice. Ernie Holmes won two Superbowls for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 70s. Harvey Martin won the Superbowl with the Dallas Cowboys and led the NFL in sacks in 1977. Finally, William “Refrigerator” Perry won his Superbowl with Chicago in 1985 too. He’s easily the biggest star in this thing from an NFL perspective.
Timekeeper for this is Clara Peller, who was in a Wendy’s advert. I can’t believe how many celebrities of dubious quality they got for this show. It must have cost a fortune. We’ve got special referees here too; Too Tall Jones and Dick Butkus. Some wrestlers in here; Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi, Dan Spivey*, Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga (Haku), Iron Sheik, Killer Bees, John Studd, Hart Foundation, Bruno Sammartino and Andre the Giant.
*Dan Spivey was hired to take Barry Windham’s spot in the US Express. Oh, you don’t remember the American Express tag team? There’s a reason for that.
Ernie Ladd joins Monsoon and Cathy Lee on commentary. Bill Fralic should have gone into wrestling. He feels like a slimy shit heel bastard. I miss Susan St James. Nobody has said “uh oh” for 20 minutes. Crosby is on it here, noting people getting eliminated when Monsoon inevitably misses it. Bret Hart does a good job of holding the match together, as does Iron Sheik and Sammartino. Studd throws dickhead Fralic out. Surprise face turn for Big John!
FINAL SIX (a bit unconventional, but hear me out): Andre, Studd, Perry, Hart Foundation and Russ Francis. Studd throws Perry out to a lot of heat. Perry is all “alright, fine, let’s shake on Big Man” and he pulls Studd out too. I’m surprised they never had that as a singles match given the long-term planning in this joint and Vince’s lust for cash. The Harts tie Andre up so they can throw Francis out. Too Tall Jones checking the action out with his sunglasses on. Yeah, man. The Harts try to double team but Andre throws them both out to win. Hence the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal because it was the best use of him. Bret can always claim the runner’s up spot in this though. Is it good? Of course not.
Back in New York, Roddy Piper is interviewed by Vince and he slags off Mr. T and William Perry. Gene interviews Jimbo Covert, who claims he was cheated by Bill Fralic who jumped him from behind. Maybe you should be more alert Jimbo?
WWF Tag Team Championship
Dream Team (c) vs. British Bulldogs
Bulldogs have “Rule Britannia” and have Ozzy Osbourne, in a pastel pink suit, in their corner.
ALL ABOARD! Gorilla claims Ozzy is from Manchester. Fuck off, mate. He’s from Birmingham! He also thinks Alfred Hayes is from Manchester. Ok, Gorilla is officially on my shit list. This is just pure incompetence. DK vs. Hammer is great. Valentine is fast enough, and smart enough, to keep up with Dynamite’s ideas. Whereas Davey is…dumb but strong. The weak link is Beefcake though and DK has to walk him through a lot of the spots.
Cathy Lee hasn’t soiled herself on comms, but goes off on a tangent about her grandfather watching Gorgeous George and she gets cut off a lot. We get some wacky spots in this including a fisherman suplex from Davey and an inverted Tombstone from Hammer. It’s funny to watch Valentine telling Beefcake where he needs to be. The finish is insane. DK jumps onto the buckles, Davey rams Valentine into him and DK bumps off to the floor while Hammer is pinned. Beefcake tries to jump in and break it up because no one told him it was the finish and you can see someone grab his leg and stop him. Haha. Dumbass. Anyway, this was all kinds of great. The best Mania match to this point. ***½
Gene Okerlund hops in the ring to get some comments and Ozzy says “It’s fantastic, man. British Bulldogs forever!” Yes, mate!
The Chicago 411:
They power through the crap to give us a good main event. The battle royal is fun, considering a lot of the guys in it aren’t wrestlers.
We’re at the LA Sports Arena. Hosts are Jesse Ventura, Lord Alfred Hayes and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. The lack of PBP man is a little weird so Jesse does it.
So, Elvira. For those who don’t know her; it’s a character created by Cassandra Peterson. Elvira used to host a late-night B Movie show. She would come on, introduce the movie and it got so popular she ended up in her own B Movie called “Elvira: Mistress of the Dark”. Peterson had a crazy career. She moved to Vegas to become a showgirl at 18, somehow ended up on the cover of a Tom Waits album, then moved to Italy to be a singer in a band. Elvira started hosting Movie Macabre in 1981, so she’s well known in LA. Her boobs are equally famous. WCW used her on a few Halloween Havoc shows.
Hercules Hernandez vs. Ricky Steamboat
Herc was picked up by WWF at the end of 1985. He’s a nothing wrestler. This could have been Steamboat vs. Bret Hart, but it got nixed for reasons I don’t understand. Herc would remain gainfully employed by the WWF for six years. Quite why is anyone’s guess. Good lord, he’s dogshit. He makes Steamboat look bad here. Steamboat eventually finishes a heated match with a high crossbody. It’s not a good match but a great performance from Steamboat to carry Herc to something passable.
It’s at this point I realise where I know the ring announcer from. He’s not mentioned by name, which is a bit rude, but it’s only “Stagger” Lee Marshall.
Adrian Adonis vs. Uncle Elmer
Elmer doesn’t appreciate Adonis’ flamboyance. “We don’t done got that there in the country boy”. Adonis tries to get this over by bumping around for Elmer but the match is 3:00 and that’s about three minutes too long. Heh. I’m getting very big Deliverance vibes here. “You sure do got purdy lips boy”. Elmer misses a leg drop and just lies there waiting for Adonis to splash him off the ropes. Absolute shit.
The Funk Brothers vs. Junkyard Dog & Tito Santana
This is part of a lengthy Funk-JYD feud. I could have used some Terry vs. Tito matches to set this up better. Dory, currently operating under the name “Hoss”, doesn’t seem too interested but Terry is on good form.
At one point he dives in to break a pin on Hoss and somehow ends up with Tito on his face. “All’s fair in love and war…and this is war” says Ventura to sell Elvira on Jimmy Hart putting the boots to Tito on the floor. Elvira, in response, starts wondering about the tensile strength of the wrestlers trunks. She’s hoping to see some dick here. Santana is isolated for a while but gets the hot tag to JYD. While the heat is decent, I would have loved to have seen more crazy Terry Funk bumps than we get. After the hot tag he takes an enormous back drop to the floor and a slam on a table. Terry nails JYD in the back of the head with Jimmy’s megaphone though and picks up the duke. This was good, albeit not at the level of the Bulldogs tag from earlier. Terry Funk fucking rules. ***
They spend a while setting up the blue bar cage so Jesse and Elvira chat about private dungeons. This, in turn, leads to footage of Bundy attacking Hogan on SNME #5. Hey, I reviewed that show too! Hogan keeps referring to the ambulance that took him from the arena as a coffin. I have no idea why. They show him working out and both participants cut promos because it takes time to set up a cage. If only there was a massive lull they could have put the match into. Like say, moving from one venue to another.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. King Kong Bundy
I persist they should have had Piper beat Hogan for the belt and have him win it back here. The atmosphere would have been unreal. Bundy feels like such a placeholder, which not what you need from a WrestleMania main event. The blue bar cage is supposed to be because Bundy needs a reinforced cage to climb on but I suspect it was because Hogan was so awkward and you can get better shots for TV through it. Stagger Lee brings out Tommy Lasorda to be the ring announcer for the main event. He managed the LA Dodgers for 20 years and is only halfway through at this point. Timekeeper is youngster Ricky Schroder, star of sitcom “Silver Spoons”. Robert Conrad is the guest referee. Conrad is heading towards Z-List in terms of the celebrities they had on this show. Did Hogan not want anyone more famous than him near the match or something?
Hogan has bad ribs, thanks to Bundy splashing him, and that’s the story of the match. Bundy pulls off the tape and Elvira gets excited because she thinks nudity is incoming. Bundy would have gotten incredible heat if he’d stripped Hulk Hogan buck naked at WrestleMania. I’m just saying. Bundy blades with Heenan covering it up. Or trying to anyway.
Hogan, idiot, asshole, wants to slam Bundy. Man, you have bad ribs. He does it anyway, at the second attempt, and drops the leg before strutting and climbing out of the cage. He’s so fucking slow that Bundy could easily just walk out but hey, logic and wrestling don’t always get along. I don’t understand why they went with Hogan vs. Bundy and watching all the TV around it doesn’t help to make it any clearer. It’s a poor match and it wasn’t even that over with the fans.
The LA 411:
Funks tag aside there was nothing to see here.
WrestleMania 2 was a bad idea, split between three cities diluting the product, and hasn’t held up at all. The commentary is a disaster. Given how many wrestlers they had knocking around, they still brought in guest commentators who knew nothing about the product for all three venues. Plus, there was a parade of B and C list celebs including Chet Coppock, Too Tall Jones, Susan St James, Clara Peller, Herb, Ricky Schroder and Robert Conrad. The few big hitters included Tommy Lasorda, Joan Rivers, Ray Charles and Elvira. The show was also loaded with gimmicks. The NFL battle royal, a flag match, a boxing match and a cage match. The better matches were the ones that were straight matches like the tag titles. On top of that we had a lot of bad finishes and pointless short matches clogging everything up. To add to that, we had a bad main event that was thrown together in a few weeks before the show. Vince would learn from most of these mistakes and WrestleMania 3 would go down as one of the great shows of the decade.
I can’t even imagine going to one of these three shows. What was the point? Going to a big event and getting routinely fucked over. It should have hurt their business, long term, in all three markets but the product was so hot it just didn’t matter.