The Best And Worst WrestleMania Matches: Part 1 – Wrestlemania I To Wrestlemania VIII
Remembering the greatest matches, and the most questionable matches, in Wrestlemania history.
With Wrestlemania 33 on the horizon, and excitement or trepidation mounting as to what we will see on the night, we take a look at the best and worst match at each year’s “Showcase Of The Immortals”. In the first of a four part series we take a look at the first eight Wrestlemanias, an era defined by shows with too many matches on them and, of course, Hulk Hogan.
Best – Hulk Hogan & Mr T vs ‘Mr Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff & ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper
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The very first Wrestlemania main event. This was by no means a wrestling classic but it didn’t need to be as the build up was so perfectly executed that by the time the bell rang the crowd was at a fever pitch. The pop for Hogan’s entrance music is deafening and the crowd stays electric throughout. The biggest accolade that can be given to this match though is that if it hadn’t succeeded the professional wrestling industry as we know it would be very different. As a piece of wrestling history it is essential viewing.
Worst – King Kong Bundy vs SD Jones
The thing that is often forgotten about the early Wrestlemanias is that they are full of short, relatively meaningless matches, and this is the worst of Wrestlemania 1‘s offerings. It is, after all, a 24 second squash match. A splash in the corner followed by another splash on the floor and we’re done. The most entertaining aspect of this is the fact Mr Jones gets a backstage interview before his destruction.
Best – The British Bulldogs vs The Dream Team (WWF Tag Team Titles)
When people talk about the best matches from the early Wrestlemanias this one is often overlooked, and that’s a shame as it is a great tag match. It has everything you could want from a tag title match. Good tag team wrestling, the focus on one body part and, of course, Ozzy Osbourne. The only downside is that the finish comes out of nowhere. Find it on the WWE Network and appreciate how good The British Bulldogs were.
Worst – ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper vs Mr T (Boxing Match)
The problem with booking a worked boxing match is that it inevitably looks awkward and unrealistic. At the start of the match Mr T’s punches just look terrible, and a few rounds in both men are throwing comical haymakers. Thankfully it ends when Piper decides he’s had enough and powerslams Mr T. I’m guessing he was as bored as everyone else.
Best – ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage vs Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat (WWF Intercontinental Title)
This is the first of what could be termed the “Wrestlemania classics”. By all accounts both men planned out every aspect of this match in advance, even running through parts of it on house shows, and it worked, in the best possible way. They worked a fast paced, flawlessly executed, technical masterpiece the level of which hadn’t been seen in the WWF at this time. It was also the culmination of a 6 month feud that started when Savage injured Steamboat’s larynx, and they played into this throughout the match. The crowd is white hot and they buy into every near fall, which just adds to the overall atmosphere. This really is a must see match.
Worst – Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver & The Haiti Kid vs King Kong Bundy, Little Tokyo & Lord Littlebrook
‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund describes this match as Hillbilly Jim and his two midgets against King Kong Bundy and his two midgets, which at least means I don’t have to try to describe it. It’s played for laughs but there really aren’t any to be found. The one thing this match has going in it’s favour is that it’s short, no pun intended. It ends when Bundy destroys Little Beaver so if that’s your thing then this match is for you.
Best – ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage vs ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase (WWF Title)
This was the Wrestlemania structured around a 14 man tournament for the WWF Title, and as such the match quality was not great. In fact, as far as match quality goes, this is the worst Wrestlemania. The one bright spot in the darkness though, is Randy Savage, who wrestles four times on this show. It’s nice to see him get the win, even if it is because Hogan turns up and hits DiBiase with a chair and steals all the limelight. All in a days work for babyface Hogan. This match also sets up the year long build for Wrestlemania V.
Worst – Bam Bam Bigelow vs One Man Gang
As I previously mentioned, there are some terrible matches on this show. Don Muraco vs Dino Bravo, Ultimate Warrior vs Hercules, Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant and Brutus Beefcake vs Honky Tonk Man are all terrible but this one takes home the prize. It’s an absolute mess. Roughly half of the moves are botched in some way and it ends abruptly in a count-out, even though Bigelow was on the apron with part of his body in the ring. The crowd just seems bewildered by the whole thing.
Best – ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage vs Hulk Hogan (WWF Title)
This is the culmination of the year long build that started at Wrestlemania IV. Following the main event of that show these 2 men formed a tag team called the Mega Powers and wrestled together regularly, with Miss Elizabeth becoming Hogan’s valet for his singles matches. As the year progressed Savage became increasingly aggravated by the actions of Hogan, mostly with respect to how affectionate he was to Elizabeth, before eventually attacking Hogan and setting up this match. It’s a great build up to what was essentially the only match of importance on the whole card and the crowd treated it as such, adding to the big fight feel.
Worst – Andre The Giant vs Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts
I could have easily put the Red Rooster vs Bobby Heenan squash match or the Bushwhackers vs Fabulous Rougeaus match in this spot, but I’m going for this Jake Roberts vs Andre The Giant effort. At this stage Andre could barely move so most of the match became one long rest hold and when it stopped being a rest hold it descended into utter chaos. Firstly, Ted DiBiase stole Jake’s snake and so Jake chased him to get it back. Instead of taking the countout victory, like a sensible person, Andre decides he is going to fight special referee Big John Studd, thus getting disqualified.
Best – Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior (WWF Title)
The first face vs face main event to take place at Wrestlemania. I remember watching the Silver Vision VHS of this show when I was a child and just being in awe that these two men were finally going to go at it, and not really knowing who I wanted to win. This is a sentiment that is clearly echoed by the crowd as they cheer both men throughout. The match plays in to the strengths of both men and is much better than you would expect from a match between these two. A fitting match for the biggest stars of the era.
Worst – Hart Foundation vs The Bolsheviks
Big Bossman vs Akeem is an abysmal match, but this one is a senseless waste. The show was held in Canada and instead of having crowd favourite Canadians the Hart Foundation in a meaningful match someone decided it would be better to have them in a 19 second squash match. At least they won, so that’s something.
Best – Ultimate Warrior vs ‘Macho King’ Randy Savage (Retirement Match)
As good as Warrior’s match was at Wrestlemania VI, this was better. This is the best match of Ultimate Warrior’s career. It also has what might be the most fantastic, outlandish collection of attires in wrestling history. Warrior walks to the ring, as opposed to his usual sprint, showing the importance of the match. The match itself has a similar structure to modern PPV main events with a fast pace maintained throughout and each man kicking out of the other man’s finish. Warrior, in fact, goes one step further than that and kicks out of 5 consecutive top rope elbows. That may be a step too far but it takes nothing away from the quality of the match. Sensational Sherri deserves a lot of credit too for her role in the match. Her managerial work is spot on and she is integral to the post match reunion of Savage and Miss Elizabeth. It’s a really well told story all round.
Worst – ‘The Model’ Rick Martel vs Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts (Blindfold Match)
Blindfold matches are quite possibly the stupidest gimmick matches ever conceived. It’s not really possible to put on a good one, as by their very nature they involve a lot of walking about aimlessly acting like you are trying to find your opponent. This is exactly how this match plays out. There are roughly 5 moves in the entire match and it lasts over 8 minutes. It really is one of the most boring matches in WWF/WWE history.
Best – Ric Flair vs ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage (WWF Title)
There is an argument to be made that Bret Hart handing Roddy Piper his first clean TV loss in 8 years deserves this spot, but I prefer this match. The story of Savage defending the honour of Miss Elizabeth is a simple but effective one as it is one that most can relate to. The match is wonderfully structured and, as the men involved are two of the best ever, it is superbly executed. Flair has the upper hand for large portions of the match and in the end Savage has to take a page from Flair’s book and cheat to win.
Worst – Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice
This match should not have headlined this show. I know Hogan was the biggest draw on the roster but they had a well built WWF Title match that would have fit the bill much better. In addition to this, ending Wrestlemania on a DQ finish is just horrible. The match was supposed to end when Papa Shango did a run in, but he missed his cue forcing Sid to kick out of the Leg Drop Of Doom before Sid was disqualified after his manager, Harvey Wippleman, interfered. Papa Shango finally came out to beat down Hogan only to be run off by a returning Ultimate Warrior. It was a mess and left the main event feeling more like an episode of Superstars than Wrestlemania.