Tournament of Tournaments – Wrestlemania IV
When I was a kid, I would take a Monopoly game board and place it on the table. See, the properties on the outside made for a perfect ring apron for tag partners to stand on. I’d take 16-30 of my He-Man figurines, and name them after wrestlers who were similar to the figure, and let them wrestle using the board as the ring. King Randor was perfect as Macho King, He-Man being Ultimate Warrior, Leech would be Earthquake…etc.
The point is that I’d have recreations of 2 of WWF’s events: The Royal Rumble, or Wrestlemania (hence 16 or 30 figures). Early in my youth, due to my appreciation of WrestleMania IV, I associated the title Wrestlemania with tournaments. I can’t explain it. I think that’s why I didn’t enjoy any other Wrestlemanias when I’d rent the VHS cassettes from my local video store.
Wrestlemania IV was the epitome of a wrestling event. I didn’t understand PPV. I only knew of the 60 minute jobber shows at noon on Saturdays, and the VHS that would show up in the new release section at “Le Video Club International” and later on “VideoGie” (pronounced with the crap Quebec French accent). I think the double VHS is what sold me on WM4, because I felt I got more for my money (too bad I didn’t feel the same way when I rented Godfather Part 3). I must have rented that VHS combo a dozen times.
I don’t know if WM4 made me a wrestling fan, but it’s the event I most fondly reflect on, and I still watch the most. No matter how much my taste has matured, and how I now compare my favorite classic matches of all time, to the shorter tournament matches during this event, it’s still my favorite. It’s not the best. But it’s my favorite. It’s the same way Friday the 13th part 4 is my favorite horror movie, but it doesn’t scare me in the slightest, nor is it good. It’s schlock, but I love it. And I love Wrestlemania IV.
Here are my memories.
The perfect opener in my opinion. Wrestlemania has a rather strong history of awesome opening matches. Unlike any other PPV event in WWF/E history, Wrestlemania seems to find a way to kick things off just right, almost everytime. But how can anything compare to a Battle Royale? There’s a reason WWE still has a Battle Royale opening up most Wrestlemanias these days as a dark match. You can give ANYONE a victory, without the worry of protecting the others. Yoshi Tatsu won a Wrestlemania battle royale, for fucks sake.
But this Battle Royale was during the actual event, and featured a lot of great talent. Having Bob Uecker in the commentary booth, along with my favorite broadcast team of all time of Jesse The Body and Gorilla Monsoon… it was an awesome match. Uecker was no Art Donovan. He seemed to know his stuff, having picks, a great repoire with Ventura, and just made the match all the more fun.
The ending was tremendous too, as it had the Bret Hart/Bad News Brown team up on Junkyard Dog, leading to the backstab by judo master Allen on the Hitman. The face turn by Hart afterwards was tremendous, and delivered a great way to start the show with cheap entertainment with a bit of shock value (WM28 could have taken a lesson from this).
Tag Team Championship
“Girls in Cars.”
I still have that song on my iPod. I also have Rick Derringer’s “Demotion” theme. I marked out for Demolition as a kid, they really intimidated me like no other team (I knew not of Road Warriors until 1990 in their WWF debut). I marked out for them when they were a face team, especially when they won the titles 2 years later from Haku and Andre. But at this event, they frightened the shit out of me. And they brutalized the tag champs Strike Force. It was an awesome display of brute strength. Everytime I mention the tag division in the current WWE, I think of how they need a modern day Demolition. Desperately. I marked out when I saw Titus O’Neil and Darren Young use the Demolition Decapitation, but it doesn’t leave the same impression without the size and weight of Ax and Smash.
Essentially, I see this match as a jobber squash. Demolition tore down the tag team division in this victory, and changed the tag team landscape in WWF forever. They completely annihilated the smaller champs, and STILL cheated to win. You can’t get more heel than that.
Never a match of the night contender, it was awesome to see the Warrior in the ring with another dumb brick like Hercules. This was his first match on WWF cassette (or PPV,) and my favorite wrestler (until Stone Cold) made his first impression on me here.
Matilda vs Attack Dog Suit
Today, I would appreciate a contest like the Bulldogs vs Islanders. Both teams were tremendous in the ring, but as will be a theme with this entire event, at 7-8 years old I didn’t know better. But what I always think of was the backstage segment of Bobby Heenan getting a package, and then appearing on his way to the ring looking like a total tool as Jesse Ventura praised his intelligence for wearing this attack dog suit. Watching the Bulldogs use Matilda as a scare tactic, such as carrying her and putting her on Heenan, feel straight out of a Wolfman movie. Well, a bad one. It’s a terrible segment today, but I loved it so much back then.
While I’ll defend the idea of no longer airing a King of the Ring tournament on PPV in this modern age, this worked perfectly in 1988. The storylines flowed perfectly throughout - starting with the first match between Roberts vs Rude feud that was only beginning of their solid angle, to Million $ Man’s heel goons by his side, to Hogan vs Andre, and the ascension of Macho Man Randy Savage to main event status. It was perfect. No tournament since has encapsulated the magnitude of this one.
After nearly a half decade of Hulkamania running wild over the WWF, and watching him defeat the Sheik, Orndorff, Bundy, and Andre, it was time to change it up. So, 14 men were put in the ring to help develop a new generation of main event stars. Ted DiBiase was put on the map in this angle, Macho Man took his first steps into becoming a legend, and Hulk Hogan helped make it all happen in kayfabe and reality. It’s truly a huge moment in wrestling history.
And I don’t care that no match was all too exciting, or that several of them were downright brutal (Gang vs Bigelow was terribly executed). I don’t care that the Intercontinental Title was involved in a mediocre match between overrated talents. I don’t care that there’s no classic match to fondly proclaim as an all time great. As we all know, sometimes it’s the moments that count more than the matches. And looking at the list above, along with the image of Elizabeth crying on Randy’s shoulder, with Hogan by their side… Wrestlemania IV is my favorite wrestling event, still to this day.
And on that note, peace out.
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