With this year’s instalment just around the corner, Matthew Roberts steps into the TWM Time Machine, sets the co-ordinates for thirty years ago and takes a look at WrestleMania V.
Thirty years ago the wrestling landscape was a lot different; but there’s always a WrestleMania. The fifth instalment was the first complete Mania I ever watched (courtesy of WWE Home Video) and whilst I have fond memories of it would it look so good in 2019, through the prism of three plus decades of watching Wrestling.
Of course in some ways the more things change the more they stay the same. With current “complaints” about recurring venues for Mania, WrestleMania V emanated from the same venue that the previous year’s event had, Trump Tower. On a similar note, whatever happened to Donald Trump…? And whilst a four hour Mania might seem a blessing today, at the time, where shows of three hours or less were the norm, were people concerned about overkill? On the flip side, a year long episodic storyline that started at the previous show and would culminate at this years WrestleMania would be something of an anomaly in the current climate.
Things don’t’ start off too promisingly. If you are thinking Asuka is hard done to in 2019 bear in mind that the WWF Women’s Champion Rockin Robin was reduced to performing the traditional opening number of America The Beautiful. As she can’t sing, judging by this performance anyway, that’s quite a comedown. Even Jesse Ventura has to acknowledge how awful it is.
The opening match doesn’t really leap out of the listings as one that will set the evening going on a fast-paced note as Hercules takes on King Haku. But all things considered it’s not bad. Bobby Heenan at ringside gets the heat, both men put forward an effort befitting the occasion and at less than seven minutes it doesn’t out stay it’s welcome. A Rockers interview that certainly seems to back up the tales that they spent the previous night getting wasted is followed by a little bit of history; the first WM match of Shawn Michaels famed career. The opponents for Shawn and Marty come in the form of the Twin Towers of Big Boss Man and Akeem (the latter of which is one of the most racist gimmicks history really) and this does provide an appealing little guys/big guys match-up. Of course in strict terms it’s one of the “worst” matches of Shawn’s WM career but it’s still pretty good.
On paper, Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake seems a decent matchup but then you remember half of it is Brutus Beefcake. DiBiase seems to realise this too as he puts in something of a half-hearted effort; or maybe the knowledge that this ten minute match would be going to a double count-out meant that he decided it wasn’t worth the effort. There would be riots these days for any non-decision at Mania, and rightly so. Some things do change for the better you know. Sadly the card itself doesn’t. Five minutes of the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers against The Bushwhackers feels like fifty and makes you realise that maybe DiBiase/Beefcake wasn’t that bad after al. It’s unfunny comedy and slapstick that has to be on the shortlist for worst Mania matches ever.
Luckily help is at hand in the form of Mr Perfect and the Blue Blazer; ok they are only given six minutes or so but they make the most of every second of it, assembling the closest thing we’ve seen to something that would pass the muster today. It’s fast-paced, crisp and light years ahead of anything we’ve seen so far outside of Shawn Michaels bumping. After a WrestleMania Rap from DMC (see, guest musical acts at Mania are not a new thing) we get our first title match of the evening as Demolition defend their tag team titles against The Powers of Pain & Mr Fuji. At the time handicap matches were still a novelty and whilst there was nothing much to the match beyond punching it passes the time reasonably enough and in the terms of the ongoing story-lines at the time it’s nice to see Demolition get their “revenge” on Fuji on the biggest stage of the year.
If a Dino Bravo / Ronnie Garvin match that takes up all of four minutes, but only after being interrupted by Jimmy Snuka’s impersonation of Lacey Evans , sounds like your kind of thing then I feel sorry for you. It’s awful, but at least it is short. And at least it’s followed up by The Brainbusters making an appearance, as Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard take on the Strike Force duo of Rick Martel and Tito Santana. This is another ecample of a long-running storyline, as the year previously Strike Force had lost the belts to Demolition and after Martel had suffered an injury the team got back together to try again. This played into the story of the match itself as mis-communication led Martel to walking away, leaving Santana to his fate. A post-match interview with Martel is pretty bad, but he would get better at those as time went on. And it’s still better than an interminable “Piper’s Pit” segment that also included appearances from Brother Love and Moron Downey Jr (no, me neither). There are some funny lines and Bruce Pritchard’s impression of Piper is spot on but a long, drawn out interview segment is the last thing this long, drawn out show requires at this point.
To cover for the “interval” we get a look at No Holds Barred, the WWF financed Hulk Hogan movie that shockingly didn’t win an Oscar (though is a great watch today in a “it’s so bad it’s good” way)and also a brilliant video package look at the Megapowers feud. Jake Roberts against Andre The Giant is another one of those that seems a good idea on paper but then you remember that Andre was a shell of his former self at this point and ten minutes to get to a DQ finish that sees special guest referee Big John Studd get involved and Ted DiBiase run-in feels very depressing. The appearance of the Hart Foundation next raises things but unfortunately half of their opponents are the Honky Tonk Man. It’s not a bad match against the Rhythm N Blues pairing of him and Greg Valentine but it doesn’t match the excitement of the previous tag matches involving the Rockers and the Brainbusters.
By now modern fans might be amazed that we’re only getting our second title match of the evening as The Ultimate Warrior defends his Intercontinental Title against “Ravishing” Rick Rude. Many would say that in terms of dragging good matches out of the limited (but very over) Warrior, Rude was his greatest ever opponent and this is backed up here. It’s a Warrior match that even has psychology in it for goodness sake! And the ending is a memorable one too, with Bobby Heenan lending a helping hand in Rude’s victory before suffering as a result afterwards. The two matches that follow are just pure filler before the main event; Bad News Brown and Jim Duggan punch each other for four minutes before a Double DQ is declared and Bobby Heenan gets defeated in Thirty seconds by Terry “The Red Rooster” Taylor. Ho hum.
But then it’s time for the main event. And as we’ve said earlier, what an episodic and perfectly woven storyline it was. It’s the kind of thing that couldn’t really be done these days, with weekly TV and monthly PPV’s. Even if the WWE planned something like this you’d be almost certain that “plans would change” before it was ever seen through. But ignore that and just bathe in the super-storytelling that is Hulk Hogan against Randy Savage. Two men at the top of their game, giving it all and laying on a minor classic that kind of gets forgotten about in-between Hogan’s matches with Andre at WM III and Warrior at WM VI. This, however, is the best of the lot. Super heated, super dramatic and a match that gave the fans exactly what they wanted.
WrestleMania V will not be remembered in the upper echelon of WM’s but whilst it’s true to say that there’s a lot of filler on the card a sprinkling of good tag team action, a fast-paced Mr Perfect match, a thrilling IC title match and an epic main event mean that, with a judicious use of the skip button, this is a rewarding show for its time.