Wednesday, 1 June 2005

WWF Wrestlemania V - Retro Review

To coincide with the fifth anniversary of The Two Sheds Review, I’m going back in time to 1989 for my latest retro review, and the first ever WWF pay-per-view I saw, Wrestlemania V, held at the massive Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.

The show begins with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan’s charge, King Haku, taking on the mighty Hercules. This was just after Herc finished his feud with Ted Dibiase. It’s a battle of powerhouses, a good but short opener as Herc gets the pin, pinning Haku after a bridge suplex.

David v Goliath in tag action form follows as The Twin Towers take on The Rockers. Despite brief flurries, the sheer power of Akeem and the Boss Man is far too much for Michaels and Janetty. After the Boss Man catches Michaels as he comes off the ropes with a sidewalk slam, Akeem finishes him off with a big splash.

Backstage, Fat Tony interviews Ted Dibiase about his upcoming match. The Million Dollar Man compares himself to Donald Trump, as well as the usual hyperbole stuff.

Then it’s on to the battle of the sleeper holds as Ted Dibiase goes up against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. With Virgil by his side, this was a great example of just how good a worker Dibiase was, and of how good Beefcake was as well. Both guys try their versions of the sleeper hold, but after interference from Virgil, both men are counted out while brawling at ringside. Afterwards, the Barber attacks Virgil, and goes for his tools, but the rich guy runs for cover.

Backstage, Bobby Heenan and Rick Rude talk to Mean Gene about Rude’s upcoming Intercontinental title bout with the Ultimate Warrior. Rude promises to win the belt later.

Comedy time next as the Bushwhackers go up against the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. A scrappy match sees the Rougeaus control the majority of the bout, only to lose after a battering ram/gut buster combo.

Sean Mooney then appears on the arena floor, about to talk to the fans, but gets licked by the Bushwhackers instead.

A battle of the technical masters next, as Curt Henning takes on Owen Hart, or rather, Mr. Perfect takes on The Blue Blazer. A short bout, with the Blazer dominating until he misses a splash off the top rope. Moments later Perfect gets the win with a Perfect-pled.

A recorded interview then airs, as Strike Force hype their match against the Brain Busters, before Run DMC come into the ring with the Wrestlemania rap. Time to fast forward…..

Mean Gene interviews Mr. Perfect, who tells us, well, basically how perfect he is. Perfect then hypes a future match with Bret Hart - which didn’t actually happen on pay-per-view for over two years. I guess the creative team had a change of plan.

It’s then a battle of the powerhouse teams, as Mr. Fuji and The Powers of Pain take on Demolition for the tag-team championship. It’s nothing more than a brawl, but that’s to be expected with these two teams involved. Fuji proved to be the weak link for his side. As a salt toss goes wrong, Demolition gets the win after crushing their former manager with their finisher. Good brawl here.

Mean Gene interviews Slick and The Twin Towers. Slick issues a challenge to Demolition for a future bout. Fat Tony then tries to interview the Macho Man. Guess who gets thrown out of the dressing room?

Dino Bravo, along with his manager, French Martin, then goes up against “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin. Before the bout begins, “Superbly” Jimmy Sneak makes a special guest appearance. When the match finally begins, Bravo simply overpowers Garvin, until the rugged on fights back with some hard fists. But Bravo soon fights back and gets the win with a side slam. Afterwards, Garvin attacks French, taking him out with his trademark stomp.

Tag action next as The Brain Busters take on Strike Force. This would be the mast match as a team for Rick Martel and Tito Santana, as halfway through the match Santana accidentally hammers Martel with the flying forearm. Moments later, Martel leaves his partner alone. This match had it all, great drama, and great tag action, with Arm Anderson and Tully Blanchard showing just how great a team they were, ending the bout after taking Santana out with a spiked piled river.

Afterwards, Mean Gene interviews Martel. The future Model slogs Santana, saying he carried the Strike Force team, starting a feud that would run for the rest of the year, and beyond.

Then it’s time to take a rest from the action with Piper’s Pit, with guests Brother Love and Morton Downey Jar. After humiliating the faux preacher, ripping off his kilt and sending him running to the back, the verbal exchanges between Piper and Downey are great, with the rowdy one eventually putting paid to the loud mouth’s smoke blowing by putting his lights out with a fire extinguisher.

A video package then plays, chronicling the downfall of the Mega-Powers, from their formation at Wrestlemania IV to their break-up at The Main Event in February ‘89. Mean Gene then talks to the Huckster about his feud with the Macho Man. I think you can guess what Hogan’s last line was here.

It’s the second of our David v Goliath matches next, with Jake “The Snake” Roberts taking on Andre The Giant, with “Big” John Stuff acting as special guest referee. Tons of drama in this match, and given Andre’s medical history, it was amazing that he was still competing in 1989. It was also in this bout that Roberts’ feud with Ted Dibiase began. With Andre deftly afraid of Jake’s python, the Million Dollar Man rushed down to ringside to take Damien away. As this happened, Andre attacked Stud, earning himself a disqualification. Sadly, Andre v Stud, Chapter Two, which this bout was meant to set up, never happened.

Sean Mooney then joins us from the cheap seats, interviewing the fans, namely, a Jake Roberts mark.

We go back to tag action next, as The Hart Foundation take on the future Rhythm ‘N’ Blues, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and The Honkytonks Man. A short bout, but enough to make you realise what a great team the Harts were. The Hitman pinned Honkytonks after clobbering him with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone while the reef’s back was turned.

Time for our second title bout of the show next, as “Ravishing” Rick Rude challenges The Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental Championship. The guy may take a lot of stick these days, but there’s no denying how over the Warrior was back then, or how good his series with Rude was. Although this wasn’t up to the standard of their Summer slam re-match. Rude walked out with the gold after he pinned the Warrior as he attempted to suplex him back in the ring, Rude’s manager, Bobby Heenan, tripping the champ and holding on to his leg. The Warrior then attacked the Brain for his actions after the final bell.

Brawling time next, as judo expert Bad News Brown takes on “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. If you’re looking for a technical classic, then don’t look here, as Brown and Duggan literally beat the crap out of each other. With Brown bringing a chair, and Duggan bringing in his 2X4, the ref disqualifies them both.

Then it’s one of the moments that Terry Taylor would probably want us to forget, as the Red Rooster takes on Bobby Heenan, who brings the Brooklyn Brawler down to the ring with him. Having taken a beating from the Ultimate Warrior earlier, the Rooster quickly pins the Brain after he misses a shoulder barge, and rams his shoulder into the metal post. The Brawler attacks the Rooster afterwards, but the thug is soon chased off.

Mean Gene then interviews Miss Elizabeth, who’ll be in a neutral corner during the main event. Elizabeth never really was that good at interviews.

Then it’s time for our main event, as Hulk Hogan challenges “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the WWF title. A worthy main event, and probably the best match I’ve ever seen between these two. All these years later, this match seems a lot fresher than their countless re-matches over the years. Of course, Hogan walked away with the gold, kicking out of Savage’s pin after his top rope elbow, and finishing him off with the leg drop of doom.

In conclusion - some great memories here, a show that seems as great today as it did way back in 1989. But two things really stuck in my mind while I watched this video;

Firstly, the number of stars who were on this who are sadly no longer with us, from referee Joey Marella to announcer Gorilla Monsoon, to manager Miss Elizabeth, to wrestlers John Studd, Andre The Giant, Curt Hennig, Owen Hart, Hercules, Dino Bravo and Rick Rude. Man, it’s a great shame that so many of these greats are no longer with us.

Secondly, the matches themselves. Only a handful of these bouts had an in-depth storyline behind them. If a pay-per-view like this was promoted today, 21st century wrestling fans would be up in arms about the lack of intricate back stories and sub-plots. They would demand that the wrestlers should have a reason to go up against each other. It just shows that every aspect of the wrestling business has changed so much since my fist WWF pay-per-view.

But Wrestlemania V is still a great show, and from time to time I’ll continue to dig out this old tape and relive these great memories.