Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: 2

For the first and only time, WrestleMania emanates from multiple venues....

Nassau Coliseum/Rosemont Horizon/L.A. Sports Arena - 4/7/86

'Mania 2 was possibly the strangest of them all.  It took place from three different locations on a Monday(!) night.  The multi-venue format was clearly in response to Jim Crockett's Starrcade '85 being broadcast from two venues a few months earlier.  Three is bigger than two I guess, so Vince opted for a live one-hour card from three different time zones.  Unfortunately this made for a rather uneven show, and worse, the commentary suffered as the A-crew was split up and paired with B-level commentators and/or celebrities who knew nothing about the product.

Each hour of the show featured a main event match, preceded by three undercard matches (some of which were oddly truncated to the point that their inclusion at all is rather baffling).

The Nassau portion of the show was easily the weakest, headlined by a worked boxing match between Piper and Mr. T.  There is little in the sports-entertainment business that is less exciting to me than pretend boxing.  It simply doesn't work, especially when neither participant is particularly good at it.  Neither of them looked like legitimate fighters and the match was little more than a barrage of pulled punches.  An actual wrestling match could have been much more entertaining.

Wow, this stunk...

The first third of the show was notable for the WrestleMania debuts of Randy Savage and Jake Roberts, neither of whom really got to show what they were capable of.  The opening match on this show was probably the most disappointing, as on paper Don Muraco vs. Paul Orndorff looks pretty good.  Sadly they were only given about 4 minutes and they went to a rushed double countout.  Savage's match was by default the best of the Nassau portion, but it was little more than a comedic spectacle as his opponent George "The Animal" Steele was so uncontrollable.
The middle third of 'Mania 2 had two incredibly short, blink-and-you-miss-them squashes, but the other two Chicago matches were fun.  Andre the Giant won a 20-man battle royal featuring several NFL players, a sloppy match to be sure, but one that had some memorable moments.  William "Refrigerator" Perry and Big John Studd had a mini-feud that culminated in Studd tossing Perry but falling for a handshake and getting pulled out of the ring himself.  Andre survived a double-team from the Hart Foundation to win the whole thing.   The Chicago main event saw the British Bulldogs take the WWF Tag Titles from Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake, in an oddly structured bout where the Bulldogs dominated and won very suddenly when Davey Boy rammed Valentine headfirst into a waiting Dynamite before scoring the pin.  This was a solid tag team match, but their previous bout three weeks earlier on Saturday Night's Main Event was actually better (track that one down on The Network).  Still The Bulldogs and the Dream Team pretty handily stole the show at 'Mania 2.

I think this was the first steel cage match I ever watched.  I think.

The L.A. section of the show was fittingly the strongest overall, opening with Ricky Steamboat vs. Hercules (Steamboat was originally penciled in to wrestle Bret Hart which surely would've outclassed everything else on this show - look for their March 8th, 1986 house show match and you'll see what I mean.), continuing with a quick Adrian Adonis squash, and probably climaxing with the forgotten gem of Terry and Dory (Hoss) Funk vs. Tito Santana & the Junkyard Dog, an unruly, exciting brawl that was much better than it had any right to be, which ended when Terry Funk smashed JYD with Jimmy Hart's megaphone to steal a win.

The main event, which unlike its predecessor actually felt worthy of being atop a WrestleMania card, was Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a steel cage.  It was certainly no mat classic but it had that big-match feel and the cage gimmick made it stand out.  Bundy had attacked Hogan on Saturday Night's Main Event weeks earlier and "injured" his ribs, so the WWF added several hype segments on this show to build suspense over Hogan's match readiness.  For a WWF supercard in 1986 this was a fitting headliner.  Hogan won after 10 minutes, no-selling Bundy's Avalanche before hitting a powerslam and legdrop.  Bundy tried to stop Hogan from climbing the cage, but Hogan kicked him off and climbed out to retain.  He then proceeded to beat up Bobby Heenan for some reason.  Hardly sportsmanlike conduct....

The WWF still hadn't knocked one out of the park with 'Mania 2, but I still find parts of this show a lot of fun to watch.  It's a good time capsule of where the WWF was at the time and features a strong cast of characters.

Best Match: Dream Team vs. British Bulldogs
Worst Match: Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T
What I'd Change: Cut the abbreviated matches and add Bret Hart vs. Ricky Steamboat
Most Disappointing Match: Paul Orndorff vs. Don Muraco
Most Pleasant Surprise: Tito's match again!  Santana/JYD vs. The Funks is loads of fun.
Overall Rating: 5.5/10


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