Friday, March 6, 2020

The History of WWE WrestleMania: V

The first WrestleMania I was able to watch live as it happened, via closed-circuit television....

Trump Plaza - 4/2/89

Oh we're still in this weird convention center, are we?  The fifth installment marked the first and only time the supercard was held in the same arena two years in a row.  'Mania 5 was also a 4-hour card and featured 14 matches.  This show succeeded where IV failed however in showcasing a mammoth featured bout, as former allies Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage collided for the WWF Title.

Hogan-Savage was the first WrestleMania main event that was actually a strong wrestling match, and also the first to exceed the fifteen minute mark.  If Savage-Steamboat was the prototypical WWF workrate clinic, Hogan-Savage was the model for how to do an epic WWF main event match.  It was full of action, reversals, drama and intrique, and until the inevitably stupid "hulk-up" comeback/no-sell in the final minute, it was one of the best matches of 1989.  It was also the 18-month culmination of one of the best story arcs in wrestling history: the formation, ascension, and eventual implosion of the MegaPowers.  This was a brilliantly executed angle from start to finish.  Unfortunately Savage's stock was pretty damaged by this feud and he spent the next couple years as just another guy.

Savage looks less than thrilled about being tossed out of the main event picture.

The WrestleMania Intercontinental Title match somewhat returned to form as the Ultimate Warrior faced Rick Rude in a near show-stealer.  Their Summerslam rematch five months later would overshadow the initial clash, but this is still a fine undercard match with a great cheap ending - Warrior went to suplex Rude from the apron into the ring when Bobby Heenan tripped Warrior and held his leg down, allowing Rude to fall on top of him for the pin.

WrestleMania V was another show that simply had too much going on (a pattern that would continue for a couple more years), and a few trims to the lineup could've made this a much stronger overall card (Did we really need Heenan vs. Red Rooster, Dino Bravo vs. Ronnie Garvin, or Jim Duggan vs. Bad News Brown?).  Still there were a lot of fun little matches.  The opener, Hercules vs. King Haku was better than it had any right to be, Mr. Perfect vs. Blue Blazer was a solid showcase of unorthodox offense, the Hart Foundation vs. Honky Tonk & Valentine was a nice tag match, and the Rockers' 'Mania debut against the Twin Towers ended up as a very enjoyable size mismatch and one of the best bouts of the night.

Shawn's first WrestleMania

Also of note was the breakup of Strike Force.  Rick Martel had recently returned from injury and along with partner Tito Santana faced WWF newcomers Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard.  Halfway through the match Santana accidentally hit Martel with a flying forearm, and Martel took it personally, abandoning Santana to be brutally double-teamed by Arn and Tully on their way to a decisive win.  Martel would spend a few months as a pretty great heel with a mean streak (who by all rights should've gotten an I-C Title run) before being saddled with the goofy "Model" gimmick and floundering at the bottom of the card.

Additionally this show had a couple disappointments.  Tag Champions Demolition faced The Powers of Pain, but the match was dragged down by the inclusion of Mr. Fuji.  A straight-up two-on-two match would've undoubtedly been stronger.  Also Brutus Beefcake and Ted Dibiase slogged through a dull ten-minute affair which ended in a double countout, and Jake Roberts and Andre the Giant had an unwatchably terrible brawl officiated by Big John Studd.  I daresay this was the worst match of 1989.

Despite its obvious shortcomings 'Mania 5 holds a lot of nostalgia for me, as it was the first WrestleMania I watched live (via closed-circuit to be exact).  It was far from a great show but it boasted easily the best main event of the series thus far (and beyond), and multiple good undercard matches.  It just suffered from too much filler (which was the norm during this era).

Best Match: Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan
Worst Match: Andre the Giant vs. Jake Roberts
What I'd Change: Trim the fat and present a streamlined 10-11 match card
Most Disappointing Match: Brutus Beefcake vs. Ted Dibiase - for two hugely over uppercard guys to have such a forgettable match was pretty shocking
Most Pleasant Surprise: Twin Towers vs. The Rockers
Overall Rating: 6.5/10


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