WrestleMania 6: It’s the one with the Ultimate Challenge. The first International WrestleMania as we finally move out of the Boardwalk hall and back into a stadium for the first time since WrestleMania III. The bulk of the show is built around that Ultimate Challenge as two of the biggest stars in company history to that point go into battle for all the gold in the main event.
A crazy video package to start. Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior are constellations and the most powerful forces in the galaxy. Apparently. The SkyDome looks even more epic coming off the back of two straight shows in the relatively tiny Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall.
As we’re in Canada this year, it’s ‘O, Canada’ to kick the show off, sung by Robert Goulet, who was a well-known singer and actor at the time. The entrance carts from WrestleMania III have made their return too!
WrestleMania 6: Koko B. Ware vs Rick Martel
Having broken up Strike Force at the previous year’s show Rick Martel is now is full on ‘Model’ mode. A good looking contest on paper with two defined characters.
Martel straight on the attack from the bell but Koko doesn’t let him get too much of advantage before he fights back. Both men take a spill to the outside in the early going. The momentum changes relatively often with both men getting some shine. There’s a long struggle over Martel’s Boston Crab submission, a struggle that bares a lot of resemblance to what would become a memorable sequence for Chris Jericho in later years.
Ware gets some good moments but once Martel does manage to lock in the Boston Crab, it’s a quick submission and a win for Martel. The bones of a good match that didn’t really break out.
We go backstage to Gene Okerlund who introduces the ‘the Colostomy (Colossal) Connection’. A lot of poo jokes. Demolition responds, the third straight year they’ve needed a throat lozenge. They talk about crashing a car featuring the Colossal Connection off a cliff and some other vivid nonsense.
WrestleMania 6: The Colossal Connection (Andre the Giant & Haku) vs Demolition (Ax & Smash)
WWF Tag Team Championships
The WWF had finally twigged that the best way to protect Andre the Giant by this point in his career was to put him in a tag team with a younger guy who can do the bulk of the work. Here, his partner is Haku and they are already the Tag Team Champions, defending against the previous champions in Demolition.
The bulk of the action is between Demolition and Haku, with Andre serving a walk on cameo role rather than taking a 50/50 split with his partner. Andre comes in to break up various moments of Demolition control and Heenan throws in some cheap shots from the outside when he’s near enough to the ring. A lot of cheap tactics from the Colossal Connection but the pace is high, it never really turns into a stall-fest. It’s a big showcase for Haku really, given that he is pretty much contesting a handicap match. Andre does get into the ring but ends up in his regular position of ‘tied up In the ropes’ and Demolition take advantage to win. Another pretty good match, this one got to tell a full story.
Post-match, Heenan starts to berate Andre for losing the match and dares to get physical with the Giant. Andre snaps and fights back, breaking his alliance with Heenan, and then fighting off Haku who tries to sneak attack him. This would mark Andre’s final appearance in a WWF ring before his death 3 years later and he gets to ride off into the sunset on a ring cart the way he spent most of his career, as a beloved fan favourite.
A pre match promo from Jimmy Hart and Earthquake sees Earthquake shaking around like he really needs the toilet, and Hart talking about Richter Scales and other similar natural disasters.
WrestleMania 6: Earthquake vs Hercules
The newest big man in the company takes a man that he surprisingly dwarfs as Earthquake faces Hercules. When a man who is 6ft 1 and 270 lbs is the smaller of the two by a significant margin, that gives you an idea of the size on show here.
A lot of pretty basic power moves, tests of strength and such like. Earthquake is in charge mostly but Hercules gets a good run going, where he takes four attempts to try and knock the bigger man down, and succeeds in knocking him to his knees at best. The big running sit down from Earthquake, and the win. A nothing match in the grand scheme but the manner of victory sets Earthquake up for a big feud opposite Hulk Hogan later in the year.
We get a sit down interview with Miss Elizabeth, the format works better than some previous live interviews where she wasn’t too fluid. Elizabeth promises that when she returns to ringside she will more active than before.
WrestleMania 6: Mr. Perfect vs Brutus Beefcake
Perfect goes into this match with a still allegedly unblemished record, going against the always protected, and surprisingly over, Brutus Beefcake. Perfect is joined by The Genius (Lanny Poffo) who doesn’t really do much early on. Both Beefcake and Perfect get some decent time in charge, Perfect bumping about like a madman and really making Beefcakes fairly bland offense look good. The Genius interjects finally and lets Perfect take over. Some very smooth and athletic offense for Perfect picks the pace up as Ventura and Monsoon argue about the difference between 180 degrees and 360.
Commentary also bring up Hennig’s status as a second generation wrestler. They don’t name Larry Hennig but it’s a small recognition of the man behind the character.
Beefcake slingshots Perfect into the corner, knocking him out on the ring post, a pinfall and Beefcake wins to hand Perfect his first official loss in the company. Post-match Beefcake goes after The Genius, puts him to sleep and cuts a few chunks out of his hair. Beefcake’s protected status in the WWF is remarkable in hindsight given he was never brilliant, he gets good reactions but he’s far too basic to win as often as he did. And snapping the undefeated streak of Mr. Perfect
We go backstage to Steve Allen, who is yucking it up with the Bolsheviks playing the piano in a bathroom. An entertaining little diversion.
WrestleMania 6: Roddy Piper vs Bad News Brown
The match where Roddy Piper painted half his face black. That’s probably the most memorable thing about it. This match isn’t on the WWE Network version of the show, so if you wish to watch it, for some reason, then a quick YouTube search might find it. But you don’t really need to… Double Count Out. Not Roddys’ finest hour.
WrestleMania 6: The Hart Foundation vs The Bolsheviks
It’s the usual Nikolai Volkoff start to a match, singing the Soviet National Anthem. He and Boris Zhukov are cut off pretty quickly, the bell rings, a ‘Hart Attack’ and the match is over.
It’s officially a 19-second match but feels quicker.
We get a quick advert for the following year’s show, announced for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, it would be downgraded before the show itself.
WrestleMania 6: Tito Santana vs The Barbarian
Santana has been on every WrestleMania up to this point and after a couple of years teaming with Rick Martel as Strike Force, he’s back in singles action against the beefy Barbarian. Ventura gets his usual cracks at Santana in, calling him ‘Chico’, talking about Mexican food etc.
Despite this being billed, and fought, as size vs speed, there isn’t really much of a size difference between the two men. Barbarian is wider for sure but they’re pretty much the same height and Santana is hardly a skinny guy. Santana brings the bulk of the exciting offense, when Barbarian is on top it boils down to slams and strikes. He attempts a move off the ropes and misses. Santana hits a second rope axe-handle and his diving forearm and almost gets the pin but Heenan sneakily puts the Barbarian’s foot onto the rope. A big diving clothesline from the top rope from the Barbarian and he wins. Didn’t really get out of a lower gear, fairly basic stuff in general.
WrestleMania 6: Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire vs Randy Savage & Queen Sherri
The first mixed gender tag match in Mania history actually comes as the culmination of a fairly lengthy feud. Savage had teamed up with Sherri over the previous year and had become King of the Ring as consolation for no longer being the World Champion.
This is also the first time since Mania II that women wrestled on the show, Sherri was a previous champion and an experienced worker but it’s a hell of stage for someone as inexperienced as Sapphire. Rhodes and Savage are both top tier workers so there’s plenty of talent involved to help cover for that. Savage and Sherri’s entrance feels like a precursor to the incredibly overblown entrances of the likes of Triple H in more recent years, even if the outfits are far more colourful.
Dusty not only gets a pre match promo backstage but he gets some time on the microphone once he makes it to the ring. After making some references to ‘Crown Jewels’ Rhodes brings out his surprise, It’s Miss Elizabeth.
It’s a lot of pomp (and circumstance) before the match itself begins, but it suits the personalities involved. Ventura in the early going shows some support for true intergender wrestling, as well as taking shots at Sapphire’s weight, something for everyone. Most of Sapphire’s offense is very basic but the layout doesn’t leave her exposed for too long at any point. Dusty and Sapphire get some double team moves in and Savage and Sherri do a fantastic job of making them look great. There’s also plenty of work between men and women despite the rules apparently disallowing that.
Savage uses his Macho King Sceptre as a weapon behind the referees back and Sherri manages to hit a splash on Rhodes before Rhodes fights back. Good back and forth flow to things, not always the cleanest, especially when Sapphire is involved, but it’s generally good fun. Elizabeth even lives up to her promise earlier in the night by throwing Sherri back into the ring and even setting her up for Sapphire to pin Sherri for the win.
A nice feel-good win for Rhodes and Sapphire. Even if they were mostly a comedy act, Rhodes in particular was always classy in any position. The ongoing tensions between Savage and his former manager Elizabeth would keep bubbling along until their reunion the following year.
It’s intermission time. Bobby Heenan is backstage, in a segment seemingly filmed straight after Andre the Giant’s match earlier. He’s breathlessly yelling about Andre and threatening to start a new family with new wrestlers. Rona Barrett is live and in person, up with Monsoon & Ventura in their booth. She makes some reference to having possession of an x-rated tape of Jesse Ventura before we quickly move on. Straight along to Savage and Sherri backstage. A typically manic Savage is almost outshone by Sherri, who is simply pacing around in the background and screaming constantly.
More interviews next, this time Demolition are celebrating their tag team title win. Okerlund points out that the Hart Foundation will be chasing them down before we move on. It’s Hulk Hogan time. He cuts a Hulk Hogan promo, the usual mixture of surrealist non-sequiturs and quasi-spiritual motivational aphorisms. Some of it verges on romantic, Hogan asking Warrior to breathe his breath into him and suchlike. The response from the Ultimate Warrior makes Hogan’s promo look calm and normal. Unhinged stuff. Unintentionally hilarious.
WrestleMania 6: The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) vs The Orient Express (Sato & Pat Tanaka)
Mr Fuji is back at WrestleMania, not wrestling this time but instead bringing Sato and Pat Tanaka with him to challenge the always exciting, ahead of their time, Rockers. The Orient Express, as you could expect from the name, are presented fairly stereotypically but they’re a pair of good grapplers. And style-wise, are as similarly forward thinking as the Rockers.
It’s a pretty flashy, fast paced contest. Some early double teaming sets an exciting tone with Mr Fuji getting involved to good effect, slowing down the Rockers. Good back and forth, it feels a lot more modern than other tag matches we’ve seen earlier in the show. Both teams bring plenty to the match, the Orient Express largely controlling things but the Rockers getting a great reaction every time they fight back.
In hindsight it’s very interesting to watch the Rockers, because Michaels doesn’t clearly stand out. The narrative often gets unfairly told that Jannetty was being carried by Michaels the whole time, that’s patently untrue. The finish comes when Jannetty is blinded by some salt being thrown in his eyes, leading to him falling into the crowd and being counted out. It’s a bit of a disappointing finish to what was a good match to that point.
More Steve Allen, this time with Greg Valentine & The Honky Tonk Man, Rhythm & Blues. Genuinely fun stuff from Allen. He’s just riffing at 90 miles an hour but it all hits.
WrestleMania 6: Dino Bravo vs Jim Duggan
Two mainstays of the early WrestleMania era collide as the USA faces off with Canada. Duggan is usually the big American hero and it’s quite funny to hear the mixed reception he gets in Canada, even if Bravo is the heel, he’s still Canadian.
The action is fairly simple. It’s laid out like a patriotic hero beating up the foreign menace for the most part, a pretty funny layout given the venue. Bravo shows off his power but Duggan manages to take control. Jimmy Hart and Earthquake try to interfere on Bravo’s behalf but Duggan gets a sneaky shot in with his two-by-four to pin and win a short match.
Earthquake squashes Duggan post-match with a series of splashes. In the grand scheme, this seems like part two of Earthquakes’ win earlier in the night, further making the big man look like a monster.
WrestleMania 6: Ted DiBiase vs Jake Roberts – Million Dollar Championship
One of the matches with a decent amount of build going in to this event. It’s been about 6 months of tension between the two men by this point, a story told pretty well in a video package pre-match. These weren’t anywhere near as common as they are in the modern era so it’s always nice to see them on these shows, it always elevates a match.
After the earlier promo’s on this show mostly being the typical shouted nonsense of the day, Roberts’ calm and collected, verbose promo pre-match, is a breath of fresh air.
Within seconds the intensity on show is already off the charts. Roberts’ going for the DDT very early and DiBiase being forced to flee the ring to recompose himself. The moves aren’t flashy or anything like that but the way everything is executed is so smooth, and meaningful that everything hangs together so well. The momentum shifts back and forth with neither man being in control for too long. The crowd seem to lose interest at points but the match doesn’t deserve that.
DiBiase doesn’t take advantage when he could, going for a cocky pin and nearly getting egg on his face when Roberts turns it around. He does get the ‘Million Dollar Dream’ submission locked in, Roberts fades but gets his foot to the ropes to break both the submission, and then a follow up pinfall. It’s a clever way of showing the folly of DiBiase’s hubris because Roberts is able to take charge right after. Roberts’ looks like hitting his DDT but is taken out of his flow by an interfering Virgil, who eventually causes Roberts to get counted out by helping DiBiase back into the ring.
A slightly disappointing finish to a very well-put-together match. Roberts gets some heat back post-match by hitting DiBiase with the DDT and giving away some of his money to fans. Virgil manages to save DiBiase from Damien the Snake.
Sean Mooney is backstage with Akeem and Slick. A running theme in these promos is wrestlers jigging about in strange ways. The earthquake did it earlier, Sapphire was up to it, and Akeem is doing the same here. Okerlund brings us Big Boss Man’s response. Okerlund calls his remarks ‘off the cuff’, which they certainly sounded.
WrestleMania 6: Big Boss Man vs Akeem
The Twin Towers Explode. Except without anywhere near as much ceremony or attention as when the same thing happened to the Mega Powers a year earlier. Akeem is one of the stupider gimmicks of the era, but at least he uses Slick’s entrance music, which is undeniably catchy. Opposite Big Boss Man’s own great theme, it’s the battle of the entrance classics.
Ted DiBiase was one of the causes of the breakup of Boss Man and Akeem and he’s still ringside from his match. He attacks Boss Man for a while before throwing him into the ring so the match can start. That attack leaves Boss Man open for Akeem to dominate early on. But here’s the comeback from Boss Man, the slam, and it’s over. Big Boss Man wins and gets his hands on Slick to get some more revenge. Useful for a break before the Main Event.
We go to Sean Mooney in the crowd, he chats with some fans before having a very awkward chat with Mary Tyler Moore. She gives the kind of responses that sound like she’s either terrified or can’t hear Sean Mooney at all.
It’s time for a musical interlude. Honky Tonk Man & Greg Valentine are here to perform their new song ‘Hunka Hunka Honky Love’. The best thing about the segment is that Gorilla Monsoon keeps getting the name of the song wrong, and Diamond Dallas Page makes an uncredited appearance as their chauffeur (it was apparently his car). The performance itself is hilariously awkward, the miming is just off enough to be comical and no one in the ring seems to be able to hear the backing music properly. After one performance of the song, they’re interrupted by the Bushwhackers, who chase them all away and trash the equipment. Daft, entertaining, nonsense.
Howard Finkel announces that the show has set a SkyDome attendance record to wrap up this interlude.
WrestleMania 6: Rick Rude vs Jimmy Snuka
Steve Allen joins the announce team for this sort-of battle of the generations. He’s a delight, as are Rude’s airbrushed tights. Snuka is less interesting, nowhere near his prime and difficult to watch given knowledge of his out of the ring behaviour. If you’re unaware, look up Nancy Argentino. Rude straight on the offensive, but he’s quickly cut off by Snuka, who does show add some interest by mocking Rude’s hip swivel. The match settles into a decent pace and doesn’t dip, meaning that although it’s low stakes it’s still got interesting action.
There were a couple of bright spots for Snuka but Rude hits the ‘Rude Awakening’ to pin and win.
WrestleMania 6: Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior
The first time WrestleMania featured two babyface wrestlers going against one another. And the first time two championships were both on the line. World Champion Hulk Hogan vs Intercontinental Champion was not only a battle of the incoherent promos, it was a test for Warrior to see if he could become the companies top star. These two had first collided at the Royal Rumble and had saved one another in the months since, also occasionally coming to blows, deliberately or inadvertently.
Neither man is anything approaching a technical genius, Hogan is by default the better worker of the two given how limited Warrior was. Where they both clearly shone is in their larger-than-life superhero personas. The reactions they get on the way to the ring probably justify the SkyDome booking alone, it is very much a spectacle.
The bell rings well before either man has taken their title off and we enter a long tense stare-down. It’s punctuated by some pushes before they lock up for the first time. It’s a big test of strength dressed up as a match essentially. There’s a lot of stalling as Jesse Ventura makes what must be an early reference to the ‘Greco Roman knuckle lock’. This is a long test of strength, Hogan down to his knees first before it’s Warriors turn. The crowd are electric, even as Warrior on his knees in front of Hogan is an objectively funny image. They break away from that and start running into each other and the ropes instead. A scoop slam from Hogan is no-sold by Warrior, who gives him one right back.
Hogan spills to the outside and we get a tease that he is too injured to continue with a hurt knee but Hogan fights on. Warrior and Hogan then trade some of the classic underhanded tactics that were always somehow part of babyface offense of the time. The action is very basic, as you’d expect from these two, but the crowd are undoubtedly eating it up.
Far and away the longest match Mania had seen to this point, for the era (and the men involved) this is an epic at over 20 minutes. As mentioned the action is slow and basic, but it didn’t need to be to keep the crowd in the SkyDome entertained. Warrior gets a big run of offense after being worn down, managing to look stranger with his face paint having rubbed off that he did with it on. They move into a bear hug or, as it appears, a big sweaty cuddle. Once Hogan gets out the referee ends up down and Warrior really ramps up his move-set by going to the top rope for some double axe handles. Hogan fights back and goes for a pinfall that would have been three had the referee been awake. Warrior then gets the same treatment. More pinfalls that are visually a three count but the referee is out of position.
Warrior finally manages to hit his patented ‘Gorilla Press’ and a splash before Hogan Hulks up and starts to no-sell the Warriors attacks. A big run for Hogan is cut off by Warrior, who hits another splash and pins Hogan to win. Hogan kicks out at 3.1 just so you know he’s still strong.
It’s by no means a fantastic match from a technical standpoint. But it is a spectacle. Some of it is unintentionally hilarious, a lot of it is very corny. But it probably sets the groundworks for far better matches in future years. As for the experiment with passing the torch to the Ultimate Warrior, it wouldn’t really work, Hogan would be back in the Main Event picture by the following year.
A decent show. The spectacle level has been ramped up to levels that feel more appropriate for the scale of the level. There are still a few too many matches that go nowhere but that feels like a symptom of the general style of wrestling as much as anything. There’s a reason that WrestleMania in a stadium feels so much more impressive than in an arena, and after Mania III, this shows exactly why. The formula hasn’t been cracked yet but it’s getting there. And the Main Event, whilst not fantastic, does at least feel like a major moment and a fitting closer for the biggest show of the year.