Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Ramblemania Rewind 04 - WWF Wrestlemania IV (1988)

Date: March 27, 1988
Trump Plaza (a.k.a. Boardwalk Hall), Atlantic City, NJ
Attendance: 19,199

(Note: The following post was written prior to the McMahon lawsuit from January 2024.)

So you've just booked perhaps the greatest main-event in wrestling history. Where do you go from here? Proper logic suggests that you build for the eventual rematch for the next big show. And certainly with Hogan and Andre leading 5-man teams in the inaugural Survivor Series PPV, you'd think that would be the logical course of action to take.

Unfortunately, the rematch to the most important match in wrestling history took place not at a grand stage or big-time PPV such as, oh I don't know, Wrestlemania IV where it should have been, but instead it took place on The Main Event, a free show airing at NBC. Andre won the match and the title, but circumstances vacated the title and it was decided that the new WWF champion would be crowned at 'Mania via a tournament that would be determined at the show.

Single-night tournaments are a tricky thing because it requires that every match taking place holds the audience's interest through the duration of the show, lest they get bored and uninterested. Survivor Series 98 had a pretty entertaining tournament that flowed through nicely throughout three hours. Wrestlemania IV did not.

A lot of the matches often fell into two categories; too short to actually go anywhere or not good. There are seldom few gems to be found here and chances are they'll be missed by whoever is watching this because they will have passed out. Subsequently, the show was just a chore to sit through, with some going so far as to call this Wrestlemania BORE. And no, kids. Not even the Ultimate Warrior's match with Hercules Hernandez could save this show.

On the bright side, Macho winning the title at the end is actually pretty touching. A shame it would all go crashing down afterwards...

Normally, whenever I do a PPV that features a tournament as its main gimmick, I'd cover the tournament first and then do the non-tourney stuff later. I'm flipping the script, so to speak, and covering the non-tourney matches first because the tournament, even with most of its matches being a whole bunch of nothing matches, tells such a fascinating story at times and does feel like a significantly bigger deal that tossing that aside to talk about some nothing matches afterwards seems like a bit of a waste.

So here are your non-tourney matches.
Bad News Brown won a 20 Man Battle Royal by last eliminating Bret Hart, who was such a sore loser that he broke Bad News' newly won trophy. This was supposed to be Bret breaking out to be a singles star, but it didn't quite pan out... and as far as Bad News Brown is concerned... well, we'll get to that eventually.

The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hercules (w/Bobby Heenan) in a ho-hum match. This is not yet the Ultimate Warrior who ran in and beat guys in less than two minutes. Here, he was still trying to be the typical muscle-bound big man wrestler much like Hercules over there. It is what it is and

Brutus Beefcake defeated WWF Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man (w/Jimmy Hart) by disqualification when Jimmy whacks the ref while Brutus has Honky in the sleeper and then Bruti, rather than try to revive the ref, tries to cut Honky's hair. He fails and gets DQ'ed. Oh well.

The Islanders (Haku and Tama) and Bobby Heenan defeated The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid) and Koko B. Ware in a thing that happened.

Demolition (Ax and Smash) (w/Mr. Fuji) defeated WWF Tag-Team Champions Strike Force (Rick Martel and Tito Santana) to win the titles. Perfectly acceptable tag-match. Nothing special other than the beginning of Demolition's year-plus-long reign as Tag champs.

And now the tournament:

Tournament First Round: Ted DiBiase (w/Virgil and André the Giant) defeated Jim Duggan.
Tournament First Round: Don Muraco (w/Billy Graham) defeated Dino Bravo (w/Frenchy Martin).
Tournament First Round: Randy Savage (w/Miss Elizabeth) defeated Butch Reed (w/Slick).
Tournament First Round: Greg Valentine defeated Ricky Steamboat.
Tournament First Round: One Man Gang (w/Slick) defeated Bam Bam Bigelow (w/Oliver Humperdink).
Tournament First Round: Rick Rude (w/Bobby Heenan) fought Jake Roberts to a time-limit draw. Yes, WWF actually had time limit draws. Go figure.

Out of all the first round matches, only Steamboat/Valentine stands out as a truly good match. Although I did get a kick out of DiBiase/Hacksaw, which had hints of their Mid-South days... I should probably check those out one of these days.

Tournament Quarter-Final: Hulk Hogan fought André the Giant (w/Ted DiBiase and Virgil) to a double disqualification due to outside shenanigans.
Tournament Quarter-Final: Ted DiBiase defeated Don Muraco (w/Superstar Billy Graham).
Tournament Quarter-Final: Randy Savage (w/Miss Elizabeth) defeated Greg Valentine.
One Man Gang gets a BYE

The Hogan/Andre match had more stuff going on, but to call it a better match than their Mania III encounter is pushing it. The rest of the quarter finals were nothing to write home about, with the only thing of note being the continued story of Savage getting further injured and beaten down on his way to the finals.

Tournament Semi-Final: Randy Savage (w/Miss Elizabeth) defeated One Man Gang (w/Slick) via DQ when the ref spots Gang with a cane and calls for the DQ.
Ted DiBiase gets a BYE

Tournament Final: Randy Savage (w/Miss Elizabeth and Hulk Hogan) defeated Ted DiBiase (w/André the Giant) to win the vacant WWF Championship... and you know what? Let's cut 'em some slack; it's not the best match to close out the show, but they've been had a bunch of matches beforehand, they're both tired, and clearly if they were much fresher, we'd have a much better match. Apparently, the original ending was going to see DiBiase win the title here and while that would've been an interesting angle, having a heel win the title at Wrestlemania might've put a damper on the whole thing and it's probably for the best that they didn't go that route. After all, the rest of the show could absolutely blow, but if you deliver on the one big happy moment, it'd be all worth it.

Well, that didn't quite work here... but it's the thought that counts.

Wrestlemania IV suffers from excess. It ran four hours and unfortunately, the one thing that was supposed to carry the show - the World title tourney - ended up being a total sloth that dragged the whole thing down. There's a couple noteworthy moments here and there, but as a whole, this was just plain ol' boring. Better luck next time...

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