WWE: WrestleMania 5 Recap – April 2, 1989 | MatMagMania

WrestleMania 5: The One Where the Mega Powers Explode. It’s back to the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall (again called the Trump Plaza). The main event feud dominates this show, it’s been building ever since Hogan helped Savage win the World Title the previous year. It’s the only time the same venue has the event in two consecutive years, so if you have bad memories of Mania IV, then the opening panning shots will immediately bring them back.

We start the show with the now traditional ‘America the Beautiful’, this time sang by Women’s Champion Rockin’ Robin. The fact this is the best they have for her to do on the show tells you all you need to know about where women’s wrestling stood in the company’s hierarchy at the time. There’s no big theme uniting this show like the previous year so we’re straight into the first match of WrestleMania 5!

WrestleMania 5: Hercules vs King Haku

King Haku gets a rare special entrance for this era of shows, coming down carried on a throne by four men. His manager Bobby Heenan gets the crowd a bit riled up before Haku’s opponent appears. It’s a former Heenan client, and the man with the longest chain in wrestling, Hercules.

A sneak attack from Haku as Hercules puts his chain to one side but he doesn’t gain a long advantage. The action is nothing spectacular, mostly just strikes etc., but it’s got a decent intensity and Heenan’s presence means there is at least a story to things. Hercules lets his former manager distract him and Haku gets on top for a while. Much like the previous year we get an interlude on commentary for Jesse Ventura to point out Donal Trump.

A long bear hug that resembles a nice cuddle of a while, even as Hercules starts to thrash about to fight out. This, and the trapezius hold that follows, are the sort of bland, somewhat goofy sequences that look quaint to modern eyes. A lot of fairly ordinary-looking clotheslines from Hercules lead into a powerslam and then a surprising top-rope dive for the big man. Haku cuts him off and then misses his own dive. The finish comes in the form of a very old-school sequence. Both men have their shoulders on the mat after a back suplex, but Hercules gets a shoulder up first. An inoffensive way to start the show but nothing memorable.

WrestleMania 5: The Twin Towers (Akeem & The Big Boss Man) vs The Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Shawn Michaels)

The first appearance of the man who would become ‘Mr WrestleMania’ as Shawn Michaels and his partner Marty Jannetty face two of the most memorable gimmicks of the era. The Big Boss Man is cartoony for sure but it’s Akeem, the shucking and jiving former One Man Gang, that has aged terribly. The Rockers got a pre-match promo where they were hyped, and also probably hungover.
Almost straight into the action as the Twin Towers try and go for a sneak attack but the faster Rockers get away and some structure prevails. In the first minute or so Michaels has already moved faster than 90% of matches in Mania history to this point. He and Jannetty work well together, they’d be teaming for three years by this point, and it shows.

The early story of the match is the Twin Towers having no real answer to the sheer speed of the Rockers. Eventually, though the Towers manage to get Jannetty isolated and slow things down to their speed. There are a lot of splashes and squashing in store for Jannetty with the Towers in control. When Michaels gets tagged back in the Rockers get a brief run to show off some double-teaming but they can’t get enough of an advantage to pick up a win. The Towers isolate Michaels and pick him off, getting the pin and the victory.

There’s little time to soak the match in but it’s a good signpost towards the direction tag team wrestling would increasingly take in the future. Worth going back to watch for a glimpse of one of the greatest in-ring performers of all time in an early form.

We cut away to Tony Schiavone backstage, on a short stint with the WWF. He interviews Ted DiBiase before his match with Brutus Beefcake, flanked by Virgil and showing off the Million Dollar Championship.

WrestleMania 5: Brutus Beefcake vs Ted DiBiase

We go straight into that match. Beefcake gets a major reaction that belies the fact he almost never has a decent match, the hedge trimmers he brings with him are beloved it seems. A lot of standing about and mouthing off before the bell and a sneak attack from babyface Beefcake starts things off decently enough. DiBiase straight to the outside to slow it down. It’s going to one of those sorts of matches, slams, and pantomiming. Brief moments of action punctuate a lot of stalling and standing about.

DiBiase finally gets on top after Virgil manages to sneakily hold Beefcake’s leg. He takes a long time to go for a second rope axe handle strike, then wastes some more time arguing with the referee. The two men fight over a suplex that Beefcake manages to hit, going on a brief run of offense. The ‘Million Dollar Dream’ Submission is locked in by DiBiase at one point but Beefcake makes the ropes.
There are some moments of interesting action, but it’s all punctuated with long slow stalling sections. Beefcake ends up on the outside, where he scares of Virgil and we get a disappointing, and very 80s, double count out. Under no circumstances can Beefcake lose seemingly. Even though neither man won, Beefcake gets to beat up both DiBiase and Virgil after the bell but he can’t get to cut anyone’s hair. It’s a very dated finish that was obviously trying to keep everyone strong but doesn’t fit on a major show from a modern viewpoint.

Lord Alfred Hayes appears in a pre-taped segment where he attempts to interview the Bushwhackers, who have mouthfuls of food. Hayes can’t seem to keep himself from smiling and the segment is over fairly quickly.

WrestleMania 5: The Bushwhackers (Luke & Butch) vs The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond)

The Bushwhackers are their typical goofy selves on the way to the ring. It’s very over with the crowd and a crazy contrast to their previous lives as the bloody brawling Sheepherders in the territories.
There’s some brawling between all four men before the bell, including Jimmy Hart getting squashed. The action starts off fairly simply, the Bushwhackers using their unorthodox tactics to put the Rougeaus on the back foot. Monsoon & Ventura argue on commentary about nationality and the relative positives of each team, as well as mixing up the two Bushwhackers. The Rougeaus control most of the back and forth, taking advantage of an easily distracted referee to get plenty of double-teaming in.  Lots of strutting and grandstanding from the Rougeaus until the Whackers manage to hit some double team moves of their own and pick up a quick pinfall victory. Goofy, basic stuff that feels like a TV time killer.

Post-match, Sean Mooney is trying to get some words from the crowd but instead gets licked by the Bushwhackers as they were wont to do.

WrestleMania 5: Mr. Perfect vs The Blue Blazer

Two of the best in ring performers of their generation, even if the Blue Blazer is a silly gimmick, hiding Owen Hart behind a mask. Perfect stumbles on his way down the steps, in the same place that one of the Bushwhackers did moments earlier. Perfect is still undefeated at this point in his WWF Career. Ventura makes an interesting prediction on commentary saying it could one of the matches of the night, just as we see the Blue Blazer do a somersault from the top rope.

Smooth and technically sound right from the off is the name of the game. Perfect with a vicious, cocky streak, and Blazer countering with some nice pace. There’s a feeling out process but it doesn’t take long to ramp up into some modern looking sequences of holds and dives. Blazer gets a lot of offense in on Perfect and shows off the high flying that made him so memorable at the time. It doesn’t always come off and Perfect manages to take back over.

The prestige of the event and the fact it might cause some wrestlers to have butterflies comes up as Perfect almost loses the match and his streak. A perfect-plex and Perfect wins. A perfunctory finish that came just as the match was kicking on. But you can certainly tell the quality these two men possess in the ring. Plenty more to come at this point in their careers for sure.

Jesse Ventura claims he has a surprise for everyone. It’s just him being introduced to the crowd. No posing like the previous year but Monsoon does warn him about falling off the balcony for the second year running. We then see Alfred Hayes again for a glimpse at a 5k run that happened earlier for fans. Mr Fuji appears and enters. He tries to cheat a victory by setting off early but is quickly caught and passed. A glimpse at what would later become the WrestleMania Axxess event. Run-DMC are out to perform their ‘WrestleMania rap’, the first true musical interlude in the show’s history. It’s not their best work but it’s a decent break.

WrestleMania 5: Demolition (Ax & Smash) vs The Powers of Pain (The Warlord & The Barbarian) & Mr Fuji | 3-on-2 handicap match for the WWF Tag Team Championships

The Demolition duo are still in the midst of their epic 400+ day title reign. Except now they’re firmly the babyface team, having been betrayed by Mr Fuji in favour of the Powers of Pain. With Fuji having shown how in shape he is by running in the 5k, he’s joining his team in this 3-on-2 handicap match. A good little video package catches us up with the action, a rarity at this point in the show’s history.
Demolition cut a very shouty, very gruff, pre match promo. In an interesting detail, Mr Fuji’s five previous reigns as tag team champion aren’t mentioned until the match is well underway.

When it comes to the action, it’s four very big power wrestlers, and one 55 year old semi-retired wrestler. The bell rings well before anyone is actually ready to wrestle. Once they do start, it’s slams and clubbing blows and lots of stereotypical ‘big guy’ moves of the era. Demolition control things early as commentary bring up the ‘Mania jitters’ they mentioned in the previous match. With all four of the main competitors wrestling a similar style there’s no real difference depending on who is on top.
Fuji’s role is primarily to cheat from the outside, he does get his licks in when the Powers are on top. He does head to the top rope at one point but he misses the dive in almost comical fashion. There’s a brief bit of chaos as Fuji tries to throw salt in Smash’s eyes but misses and leaves himself open for a double team move from Demolition, who pin to retain. A fairly orthodox big guy match. Two teams of big and fairly immobile men going against each other isn’t a recipe for a particularly compelling match in this or any era.

Tony Schiavone has tracked down Randy Savage, who is practically rabid in a brief appearance that ends with him pushing the cameraman over.

WrestleMania 5: Dino Bravo vs Ronnie Garvin

Garvin was still early into his run in the WWF, a run that ultimately didn’t really come to anything. A shame given he was a former NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion. It wasn’t a fantastic reign, but he was a big enough name (and a solid enough worker) that a decent run could have been expected.
He’s facing off here with Dino Bravo, another solid hand, but there’s real clear build or stakes. Garvin doesn’t even get a proper entrance.

With both men ready to go we instead cut to the entrance of Jimmy Snuka, who comes down to the ring for ‘reasons’, and then disappears. Weird little segment.

The match starts with Garvin getting distracted by throwing his towel into the crowd. Bravo dominates in the early going, standard power moves for a while until Garvin gets a comeback. A bit more pace from Garvin but it’s still mostly kicks and punches, with a teased piledriver sprinkled in. This doesn’t last long before a side suplex puts Garvin down for the pinfall and the win for Bravo. Garvin gets a bit of his shine back by fighting off both Bravo and manager Frenchy Martin. A filler match if ever there was one.

WrestleMania 5: The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) vs Strike Force (Tito Santana & Rick Martel)

In contrast to the tag title match earlier, this is four dynamic wrestlers with a bit of speed and fluidity about them. Strike Force had managed to stay together despite losing their tag titles the previous year but they’re on their last legs as a team.

Arn & Tully are one of the best tag teams of this or any generation and right from the moment the bell rings, their internal chemistry is on show. They both look good and give plenty to Strike Force.
A lot of quick tags from the Brain Busters and plenty of seamless sequences between the two teams. Strike Force almost take control but Anderson ducks a Santana forearm, who hits his own partner Martel. It’s left for Santana to fight the Brain Busters two on one, they cut the ring in half to isolate him as Martel struggles back to the apron. The Brain Busters show their brilliant grasp of tag team psychology and Anderson gets to show off his hilarious facial expressions when on the defence.
Santana goes to tag Martel in but Martel turns him down and after a moment, leaves the ringside area and abandons his partner completely. The Brain Busters take advantage of the lone Santana, who does show some fire to try and fight back but is overwhelmed by the numbers advantage. The assisted Spike Piledriver to Santana and the Brain Busters are victorious.

A well-executed, smooth tag team match that leads to the end of Strike Force and the start of Rick Martel as a true singles wrestler. A breathless Martel underscores this in an interview with Okerlund backstage. Eventually Martel would morph after this into his most famous incarnation as ‘The Model’.

WrestleMania 5: Piper’s Pit with Roddy Piper, Brother Love and Morten Downey Jr

We then get an extended edition of ‘Piper’s Pit’ with Roddy Piper. Instead of Piper coming out, it’s Brother Love dressed as Piper. He turns it into the ‘Brother Love Show’ and starts his interview, playing both himself and Piper. If you thought weird comedy was a modern company hallmark, then this proves it’s been around for a long time. The actual guest for the show, talk show host Morten Downey Jr. comes out. The looped dubbed music with a scream in that we heard the previous year returns.

The two men insult each other for a while before the actual Roddy Piper comes out. He insults Brother Love for a while in his usual manic way, eventually pulling off Love’s kilt and causing him to run away. Piper then turns his attention to Downey Jr. who does nothing but blow cigarette smoke in his face whilst they trade insults. This kind of thing doesn’t make a tonne of sense out of historical context and lasts over 15 minutes. Downey Jr. won’t stop blowing smoke at Piper, who ends the segment by spraying him with a fire extinguisher. Protracted nonsense with no real reason to go back and watch. It is a precursor to some of the strange diversions Mania has taken over the years but it’s time you’ll want back if you bother to watch it.

We move on to a brief plug for the upcoming Hulk Hogan vehicle ‘No Holds Barred’. This movie would eventually lead to one of the films characters coming to life and wrestling in the company and the trailer is the first time WWF used the Mania platform to promote their non-wrestling diversions.

We then stay in the toilet break portion of the evening as Sean Mooney gets an interview with Donald Trump at ringside. Mooney stumbles a bit and Trump doesn’t say anything interesting. Ventura then gets a chance to kick off about Hogan going into movies. And then there’s a video package throwing back to the story of the Mega Powers from WrestleMania IV to this event, at least this is useful context for the main event. And there’s even more, a Hulk Hogan promo backstage. Bearing in mind there are still six matches left, this stuff could have been spread out a bit better. All this stuff is a near half hour diversion in the middle of the show. It’s essentially an intermission for the people present to have a break but it’s boring as sin to sit through today.

WrestleMania 5: Andre the Giant vs Jake Roberts

A match built around Andre’s primordial fear of Jake’s snake. Jake had used said snake to scare Andre into eliminating himself from the Royal Rumble earlier that year. Former Andre rival Big John Studd is back in the company and is special guest referee for the show. This was his prize for winning that years Royal Rumble match, a far cry from the World Title match that has become the norm since.
Andre is already arguing with Studd even before Roberts’ comes down and takes quick advantage of an exposed turnbuckle to take control of Roberts. Given how slow and beaten up Andre was by this point, his offense is mostly big strikes and stomps, with the occasional use of his giant frame to simply crush Roberts in the corner.

Roberts brings the relative speed when he takes control and manages to get Andre hooked up in the ropes, teasing that he is thinking about bringing the snake into play. Most of the match has Andre in control, it was probably the best way to protect him at this point. It is more about the spectacle with Andre, the action only picks up when Roberts is in control. Roberts spends a lot of time on the outside but Studd takes his eyes off him and doesn’t count him out. For this Andre attacks Studd from behind and distracts him. Ted DiBiase appears and tries to steal the snake as Andre snaps and properly attacks Studd. Roberts gets back to ringside and scares Andre away with the snake. The match is declared a disqualification victory for Jake. The final thirty seconds are at least interesting with so many moving pieces.

A brief bit of Sean Mooney before we go to Tony Schiavone, who’s with Sensational Sherri. She runs down Rockin’ Robin and threatens to take the Women’s title back. She then plants some seeds for her future run alongside Randy Savage by running down Miss Elizabeth.

WrestleMania 5: The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) vs Greg Valentine & The Honky Tonk Man

The former, longest reigning, Intercontinental champion, Honky Tonk Man, has pivoted into a tag team with Greg Valentine since losing the title. Valentine has yet to dye his hair black and join Honky Tonk Man as an Elvis clone, so the team still somewhat resembles a thrown together duo.

The Hart Foundation had turned face over the previous year and begun a feud with their now former manager Jimmy Hart. There are three good to great workers involved, and a tag team is the best way for the Honky Tonk Man to be portioned out into small doses. Smooth double teaming from the Hart Foundation contrasts nicely with the underhanded tactics of their opponents.

Honky Tonk Man looks to have things won with his ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ finisher but chooses to tag Valentine in for the ‘Figure Four Leglock’ instead and they lose the advantage. Jim Neidhart manages to get in and the Hart Foundation take over. Neidhart scares off Jimmy Hart at ringside and throws Bret the megaphone. Bret hits Honky Tonk Man whilst the referee is distracted by Valentine and pins to win.
It’s a bit of a sneaky underhanded win for a newly face tag team but it’s a decent match all told.

WrestleMania 5: The Ultimate Warrior vs Rick Rude – WWF Intercontinental Championship

Warrior had ended the historic Intercontinental title reign of the Honky Tonk Man in legendarily quick fashion at the previous year’s SummerSlam. With Bobby Heenan in Rude’s corner, and more determined than ever to finally manage a champion, this was a big test for the champion. They had faced off in a ‘pose-down’ that turned physical at the Royal Rumble earlier in the year but now it’s time for a match.

With this match featuring Warrior the hope is that the match can work up to the skill of Rude rather than down to the Warrior’s level. Rude reveals his airbrushed tights already featuring the image of the Intercontinental title. Warrior is wearing Hogan colours, yellow and red.

Warrior manhandling Rude around the ring in the early going, a lot of Irish whips into a bear hug. A brief spell of Rude on the offensive before we get another extended cuddle that Rude bites his way out of. Warrior goes for his splash but Rude manages to get his knees up and Rude finally gets a chance to take charge. He hits a piledriver but takes too long to capitalise. It’s still all Rude though, slow paced because of Warrior but better than when Warrior himself was in charge. Warrior looks sloppy in his work, and thankfully for him Rude does a great job of making that offense look decent with his reactions.

Rude almost hits his finisher but instead gets dumped to the outside. Warrior goes to suplex Rude from the apron but Heenan grabs his ankle. Warrior stumbles and Rude falls on top of him, Heenan in a historic image, holding on to the leg of Warrior whilst Rude pins to win. It’s an iconic finish to an otherwise average match. Warrior would eventually win the title back, leading into the following years Main Event.

WrestleMania 5: Bad News Brown vs Jim Duggan

Oh, it’s a palette cleanser folks. Given that Bad News won the Battle Royal the previous year it’s a shame there’s not more for him to be doing than facing Jim Duggan in a pre-main event toilet break match. It’s a brawl, nothing fancy. Brown misses his ‘Ghetto Blaster’ kick and gets clocked by the ‘Three point stance’ by Duggan. Brown brings a chair into the ring and he and Duggan fight chair vs two-by-four and both get disqualified. Pointless filler.

WrestleMania 5: The Red Rooster vs Bobby Heenan

Putting Terry Taylor, a decent worker, under a daft gimmick, is one of the strangest creative decisions of the era. The Red Rooster was previously managed by Heenan and now they’re wrestling. The best part is Heenan wearing the classic single strapped Andre the Giant singlet. It begins, and it ends. Moving on.

We hear from Miss Elizabeth in a slow promo that shows her strength was never as a talker. We then head to Sean Mooney polling some fans.

WrestleMania 5: Randy Savage vs Hulk Hogan – WWF World Heavyweight Championship

A year and a bit in the making. Savage and Hogan had teamed up as the ‘Mega Powers’ and dominate the company but were eventually pulled apart by jealousies surrounding both the title and Miss Elizabeth. Ventura makes a telling point when he questions why Savage as the champion comes out first instead of Hogan as the challenger.

It’s all about the spectacle. But with Savage opposite him, it’s nice to see Hogan as the relatively slow man in the ring. Lots of cat and mouse stalling. Savage using Elizabeth as a human shied at one point to block Hogan chasing him on the outside. Once both men settle back into the match proper the action is fairly compelling, not a technical dream or anything, but well executed and suitably ‘big’ feeling. Hogan is even bleeding at one point. Neither man really takes any huge risks or anything like that, it’s all fairly simple but compelling.

Savage gets dumped to the outside and Elizabeth allows concern to override her and she goes to check on him, he brushes her off though and the fight spills to the outside. Even after the almost hit her moments earlier, Elizabeth saves Hogan from being run into the ring post. It all gets a touch uncomfortable as Savage puts his hands on Elizabeth, who is sent to the back to get her out of the way. First big high spot of the match comes with Savage hitting a double axe handle dive to the outside. Hogan looks weakened with a damaged throat that Savage targets well with some chokes and strikes.

Savage manages to his diving elbow from the corner but Hogan kicks out and Hulks Up. Big Boot. Leg Drop. Hogan wins. Hogan regains the title. For the most part it’s a good match, probably the best main event in Mania history to this point. The ending is underwhelming but that’s the psychology of Hogan matches at this point.


It’s a step up from the previous year but there are still some issues that mean it doesn’t reach the highest level. Still a bunch of meaningless matches, most of which proceed to last a couple of minutes and/or have a disappointing finish. The half-hour intermission portion in the middle of the show is an egregious waste of time but there are a few matches worth watching. The Twin Towers vs The Rockers, Blue Blazer vs Mr Perfect, The Brain Busters vs Strike Force, the Hart Foundation match and the main event are all interesting in their own way. Add the Rude/Warrior contest if you’re interested in a bit of history, but the rest of the night isn’t worth much effort.

Most people do get music or proper entrances this year, which is something. As a bit of history the ‘Mega Powers’ stuff is worth watching but if you’re pushed for time, skip this one.

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