Monday, March 11, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: IV

Continuing with's History of WrestleMania, today I'll be covering the one edition that featured a championship tournament.  And it ended up kind of a bloated mess....

Trump Plaza - 3/27/88

'Mania IV was assembled with the intent of giving us the biggest edition to date, with the centerpiece being the first-ever WWF World Title tournament, the result of a controversial Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant match on NBC that saw Hogan screwed out of the Championship only for Andre to turn around and sell the belt to Ted Dibiase.  WrestleMania IV featured a huge roster and was expanded to three-and-a-half hours to accommodate the sprawling 16-match card.

Unfortunately this show suffered from simply having too much going on, not to mention some absolutely terrible booking.  The tournament involved 14 men and all by itself necessitated 11 matches.  As a result almost none of the tourney matches, including the final, were given enough time to be very memorable.  The venue is also a far cry from the Silverdome, Trump Plaza being a rather cavernous arena where the crowd consisted largely of Donald Trump's business associates who showed almost no enthusiasm for the four-hour wrestling bonanza.

This was goofy fun

The undercard featured a battle royal (which was fun but of little importance except as a way to turn Bret Hart babyface after he was doublecrossed by Bad News Brown), Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules in a clash of powerhouses (which was so short as to barely warrant a mention), a British Bulldogs/Koko vs. Islanders/Bobby Heenan six-man tag, nowhere near as good as the previous year's Bulldogs-Harts match, which ended in similar fashion with the non-wrestler pinning one of the Bulldogs.  Those poor Bulldogs....

There were also two title matches - I-C Champion The Honky Tonk Man faced the wildly popular Brutus Beefcake in a brief and forgettable DQ loss, while Strike Force and Demolition was one of the few strong matches on the card, ending with Ax murdering Rick Martel with Mr. Fuji's cane in a finish very similar to the WrestleMania I Tag Title match.  Thus began Demolition's record-breaking title run.

The WWF Title tournament itself was fine in theory but very poor in execution.  Only four of the 14 participants really had a chance of leaving 'Mania as the Champion, and two of them were eliminated in their first match.  The Hogan vs. Andre quarterfinal bout marked the first time a WrestleMania featured a rematch from the previous year.  Sadly where their 1987 encounter was extremely memorable and has achieved legendary status, its 1988 threequel was little more than a throwaway designed to get both men out of the tournament (via a clumsy-as-shit double disqualification after Hogan hit Andre with a chair, then Andre hit Hogan with the same chair).  Really the only standout match in this entire tourney was the first-round match between Ricky Steamboat and Greg Valentine.  Everything else was either too short (Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang for example, which ended when OMG refused to let Bam Bam back into the ring and the referee inexplicably counted Bigelow out), inoffensive but instantly forgettable (Dibiase vs. Don Muraco), or yawn-inducing (Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude, which took place after their feud-inciting angle involving Jake's wife was taped, but before it aired).
Even more of a letdown was the tournament final between Randy Savage and Ted Dibiase.  What should have been a 15-20 minute clinic amounted to a nine-minute schmozz that seemed to focus more on Hogan and Andre on the outside of the ring.  Worst of all was the booking decision to have Hogan cost Dibiase the match by hitting him with a chair.  Hardly a way to get Savage's main event face run off to a strong start.  But win Savage did, after a spectacular-looking elbow off the top rope.

A truly iconic WrestleMania moment.

The aftermath was arguably worth it, as the sight of Savage hoisting Elizabeth onto his shoulder as she held the WWF Title aloft is an iconic 'Mania moment.  But strangely Savage's championship run featured very few great matches - a far cry from his workhorse Intercontinental stint.

Best Match: Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine
Worst Match: Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude (a shocking fifteen minute snorefest)
What I'd Change: A lot - click HERE for my detailed Wrestling Do-Overs column about this show...
Most Disappointing Match: Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase (seriously, this should've been one of the best matches of 1988)
Most Pleasant Surprise: The Battle Royal was probably better than it should've been
Overall Rating: 3/10

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