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.