Vol. 32: WrestleMania (1985)

A look at the original WrestleMania and the Rock & Wrestling Connection that built up to it.

7:08 – The WWF Goes National

Vince McMahon began his national expansion for The World Wrestling Federation in 1984. He spent the year assembling an all-star roster from several of the competing territories. The biggest acquisition, of course, was Hulk Hogan. Hogan had already established himself as an international star by working in Verne Gagne’s AWA and New Japan Pro Wrestling, and by having a memorable role as Thunderlips in Rocky III.

13:53 – The Rock n’ Wrestling Connection

It’s common knowledge that Vince used the “Rock n’ Wrestling Connection” branding during the expansion. Live specials aired on MTV that utilized Cyndi Lauper. Hogan made media appearances all over the country. Vince created Tuesday Night Titans for USA Network. He even bought the coveted 6:05 PM Saturday Night timeslot that had become a staple on TBS. Legendary manager Lou Albano appeared in Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” music video. This lead to an onscreen confrontation between the two. Albano was a heel at this time, and he played the part of a male chauvinist. The two agreed to a match with each one hand-picking their wrestlers. Albano chose WWF Women’s Champion The Fabulous Moolah, while Lauper backed Wendi Richter.

24:42 – Enter Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper debuted in the WWF in early 1984. However, he did not wrestle regularly for several months. This was due to an ear injury suffered at Starrcade in a match with Greg Valentine. Since he couldn’t wrestle, he acted as “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff’s manager. He also hosted Piper’s Pit, his talk show which often led to matches and angles on TV. By the end of 1984, Piper had become the top heel in the promotion. The Rock n’ Wrestling Connection was in full swing, so Piper naturally claimed that he hated rock music and insisted on playing bagpipe music. In December of 1984, the first shot was fired which would lead to WrestleMania. Dick Clark, another legit A-Lister in the entertainment world, presented Albano with a gold record award at Madison Square Garden. Piper, Orndorff, and Bob Orton Jr. crashed the party and smashed Albano with his own award. During the melee, Piper also managed to kick Lauper in the head. Hogan ran out to make the save.

39:43 – The War To Settle The Score

The biggest angle leading into Wrestlemania happened on February 15th, 1985 on MTV called The War To Settle The Score. This saw Piper and Hogan collide with the WWF Championship on the line. Hogan brought his friend Mr. T to sit at ringside. The match erupted into strikes right off the bat. No lockups. No staredowns. Orndorff and Orton again interfered, resulting in a disqualification. Mr. T ran in to make the save.

45:37 – The Road To WrestleMania

By this time, The WWF had gathered considerable national attention. There was this nexus or dichotomy, whatever you want to call it, with the top babyface in Hogan, and a legit top Hollywood star in Mr. T, against the two top heels. It made pages of Sports Illustrated. Hogan and T hosted Saturday Night Live.

On the heel side, what was real and what was worked may be clouded but there were countless stories of Roddy Piper not liking the outsider in Mr. T coming into the wrestling world. T went on record saying that he didn’t hate Roddy, but there was animosity between the two.

55:00 – Filling Out The Undercard

The main event of Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff was set. As was the semi-main of Wendi Richter challenging Leilani Kai for the Women’s Championship. As for the undercard, Bobby Heenan had recently made his WWF alongside Big John Studd to feud with Andre The Giant. The US Express of Barry Windham & Mike Rotunda (years before he was I.R.S.) defending the tag titles against Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik (w/ Freddie Blassie). Junkyard Dog challenged Greg Valentine for the IC Title, despite Valentine’s feud being with Tito Santana. Brutus Beefcake faced David Sammartino, who was accompanied by his legendary father Bruno. Ricky Steamboat faced a pre-Doink Matt Borne. King Kong Budy (fresh of his run in Mid-South) facing SD Jones in the longest nine seconds in the history of time.

Vol. 22: Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase for the WWF Championship

This episode of Classic Wrestling Memories focuses on the rise of “Macho Man” Randy Savage to Main Event Status, and his feud with “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase over the WWF Championship. The story of Savage turning babyface and allying with top hero Hulk Hogan can be considered the apex of the company’s national popularity during the “Rock and Wrestling” Era.

Prologue: Macho Madness

After the legendary Intercontinental Championship match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at WrestleMania III, Savage finished his year long feud with George “The Animal” Steele. In June, The Honky Tonk Man defeated Steamboat for the IC strap. Honky then began referring to himself as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time. Since Savage was at that time the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion, he took offense at this claim.

October 3rd, 1987 – Savage challenged Honky for the IC Title. Rumors over the years claim that Honky refused to drop the title to Savage. Whether this was true or not, it was one of the biggest angles at the time. During the match, Savage landed the Elbow, but Bret Hart ran in and broke the count. The Hart Foundation and Honky triple-teamed Savage until Elizabeth ran backstage and brought Hogan in to save the day.

The Set Up: Everybody Has A Price

December 1987 – Ted Dibiase boldly proclaimed that he will buy the WWF Heavyweight Championship from Hulk Hogan. Hogan considered this offer but then gives a resounding “Hell No”. If Dibiase wants the championship, he can win it in the ring like everybody else.

January 1988 – Dibiase, frustrated at not being able to purchase the championship, reveals to the world that the WWF Championship will still be delivered to him. He then introduced the man that will do it, Andre The Giant.

Act One: The Pin Heard Round The World

February 5th, 1988 – One of the most famous angles of all time, and also the most-watched wrestling match of all time in the US, saw Hulk Hogan lose the WWF Championship to Andre The Giant after a crooked referee made a bad count. The match scored a 15.2 rating and 33 million viewers. To put that into perspective, that’s like “America Idol in its prime” type numbers. In real life, WWE had quietly hired Earl Hebner, the twin brother of referee Dave Hebner. Earl had actually been working in the Carolina territories. Since this was 1988, long before the internet was commonplace, almost nobody knew who he was. In fact, Earl had been working for the Crocketts as late as the previous week. So Earl counted a pinfall for Andre, even though Hogan’s left shoulder was clearly up. Andre then immediately relinquished the belt to Dibiase. The plan had worked!

Fans were bewildered! A world without Hulk Hogan as the champion? Dave Meltzer wrote in the Wrestling Observer newsletter dated February 15th, “All I can say is that I hope whoever came up with that finish got a nice bonus in this week’s paycheck”.

What some fans may not know, Dibiase was billed as the WWF Champion for a few weeks.

Act Two: WrestleMania IV

Jack Tunney made the decision a few weeks later to vacate the WWF Championship since none of the three major players had a valid claim to the title. He then declared a new champion would be crowned at WrestleMania IV in a 14-man tournament. Hogan and Andre drew automatic byes into the second round due to them both being former champions.

Andre’s mission this time around wasn’t to win the tournament, but to ensure Hogan did not advance. Andre accomplished this by causing the match to end in a double-disqualification. This also caused Dibiase to draw a bye into the finals. Savage was not so lucky. He had to defeat three opponents to secure his spot in the finals. In the end, Hogan stood in Savage’s corner to keep Andre at bay so Savage could finally pin Dibiase to win the title.

Act Three: The Mega Powers vs. The Megabucks

The next several months saw Savage defend the title on the house show circuit against Dibiase. Hogan took time off after four years on the road to be with his family for the birth of his daughter Brooke. He also filmed No Holds Barred during this time. Then in August of 1988, Savage and Hogan headlined the inaugural SummerSlam event against Dibiase and Andre. Heel commentator Jesse “The Body” Ventura served as guest referee. Despite the obvious payoff of Ventura to be a biased referee, the babyfaces secured the win to end the feud.

Vol. 8: The NWO

It was arguably one of the greatest angles in wrestling history… At least for a while. Join Seth and Crazy Train as they discuss the background and formation of WCW’s New World Order.

Hear what inspired the concept and what laid the groundwork for the creation of the stable. How could the beloved “Training, Prayers, & Vitamins” Hulk Hogan turn evil and join a hideous villain group? And how could he, in real life, be convinced to make what was such a daring move at the time? What makes this podcast unique is you’ll get the opinion of somebody who was just a fan, and the opinion of a wrestler who was already active in the business while this was going on.

If you’re a fan of WCW, The Monday Night War, or especially the NWO, this show is a must listen!