Sunday, March 16, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania 2

What needs to be understood about Vince McMahon is that he's one of the great risk-takers in all of show business. While a lot of people, including me, thought of the WWE Network as a slam-dunk no-brainer, there were a lot of questions surrounding it. How would cable companies react to PPVs included at $9.99/month? How would the Network affect the roster's PPV bonuses? Would wrestling fans be able to grasp the concept of a network not available on traditional cable?

It's not the first insane risk McMahon has taken, and it's not the first that he's struck gold on (at least, based on the WWE's stock hitting an all-time high not long after the Network's debut). The first WrestleMania, at the time, was a tremendous risk, as was his decision to up the production stakes the following year, holding WrestleMania 2 in three different cities: New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Sure, the lack of subsequent WrestleManias being held in multiple locations is evidence that this gamble went the way of the World Bodybuilding Federation and the XFL, but no one can ever say Vince McMahon's scared to roll the dice. Now, maybe the main issue with this show wasn't the ridiculous production, but the near-complete lack of quality wrestling. Who knows? But here's what happened in 1986, regardless.

We start with an announcer saying "WrestleMania 2: what the world has come to," and some smooth Saturday Night Live sax jams, and it's sent into Vinnie Mac introducing his fellow commentator Susan St. James (whose extensive wrestling credentials include a starring role as "Kate" on Kate & Allie) and throwing it to Ray Charles for his liberal yet badass rendition of "America the Beautiful," complete with still shots of everyday, hardworking American folks, who at this point likely also represent the majority of wrestling fans in America. I'd love to see one of these montages with wrestling fans of the 2010s--just image after image of angry dudes typing on their bedroom computers drinking all the Mountain Dew.

They throw it to Mean Gene in Chicago, who introduces an interview segment with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, preparing for what is sure to be a dynamite boxing match between Mr. T and him. Hot Rod rants about how medicine balls are bouncing off his chest and how if Mr. T knocks him out, he'll retire from boxing, wrestling, Tiddlywinks and dating girls. Dude, if you're spending time playing Tiddlywinks professionally, i'm guessing you're long done with dating anyone, but that's neither here nor there. Hot Rod's in rare form and as racist as ever, foreshadowing his jaw-dropping blackface promo at WrestleMania VI by pointing out that unlike Mr. T, he'll never shave his hair like an Indian and paint himself black. What. In. The. Hell.

Let's finally get to the slam-bang wrestling action!

Match 1: "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff vs. The Magnificent Muraco (w/Mr. Fuji)

Speaking of pro wrestling's rich history of racist stereotypes, Mr. Fuji and his Oddjob bowler cap and cane proudly introduce the original "Rock," Don Muraco as Mr. Wonderful removes his robe to the delight of the screaming ladies in the Nassau Coliseum. It's interesting to see what's changed in a year of WWF storylines (and will get really crazy in the 1990s and 2000s), as just a year ago Orndorff was a despised heel executing twice as many wrestling moves as anyone else in the WrestleMania I main event (and by "twice as many," i mean "two").

Well, this is weird. Over the initial collar-and elbow tie-ups, they play audio of each wrestler's pre-match interview. "Guys, give it about 30 seconds before either of you do anything in the ring, ok?" Susan St. James is killing it on color commentary, with an "all right!" when Orndorff scores a body slam and an "Uh oh, what's gonna happen here?" with both men in the corner. Scintillating analysis, indeed. 

Some not terrible action here, but Orndorff and Muraco only have four minutes with which to work, as they fight to a double-countout after some back-and-forth power wrestling. Knowing the talent level of these two, i'm sure they could have worked a pretty decent match (of, ya know, power moves and clotheslines and stuff) were they given 10-15 minutes to play with, but instead, we get Orndorff threatening Muraco wth a plastic yellow chair that doesn't even fold (ah, the evolution of our time-honored pro wrestling cliches) and Vince stating on commentary that Orndorff better not use that chair "or else he'll be disqualified," even though the bell to end the match has already been rung. No, Vince, he's past the point of DQ, but i'm sure he could still be arrested for attempted assault if Muraco wanted to really heel things up. Fans chanting "bullshit" for the double-countout! Nice, we officially have our first-ever crowd-swearing in a WrestleMania. No wonder WWE Network rated this TV-PG for "language." I thought it was just because of Piper's racist tirade.

Winner: Double-Countout at 4:13

While Nassau waits for the official word on the double-countout, we get Mr. T's pre-match interview hyping the upcoming boxing match. He's accompanied by Joe Frazier and midget wrestler The Haiti Kid, whose hair has been shaved into a mohawk by Roddy Piper (something i managed to impressively glean from Mr. T's motormouth high-speed interview). I like how Piper's seconds are known White People Lou Duva and "Cowboy" Bob Orton, but Mr. T is accompanied by two Black dudes. What was the first example of Miscegenation in pro wrestling, anyway? The Acolytes? The Dudley Boyz?

Match 2: George "The Animal" Steele vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

I know that this feud was based on Steele having an unhealthy "girl pretty" fixation on Elizabeth and Savage being insanely jealous over it, but even as a youngster the idea of a supposed simpleton like The Animal contending for a championship never made any sense to me. I suppose i was destined from an early age to question booking decisions. Savage cuts an insert promo on Steele while Elizabeth leads the Macho Man to the ring, and of course it's great. Susan St. James is SUPER vocal about this match, ranting about how terribly Savage treats Elizabeth and suggesting that Liz should "switch boyfriends" and hook up with George "The Animal" Steele. I have no issue with seeing the inherent inner beauty of all human beings, but St. James seems to be going the extra mile to get the babyface over here. "Yeah, George! Eat his leg!" Um.

Early domination by George "The Stalker" Steele with kicks and chokes, but he stops interacting with Randy "Domestic Abuser" Savage long enough to stare at Elizabeth and give Randy an opening to briefly fight back. At one point Steele tosses Savage out of the ring near Liz, and Savage crawls under the ring to sneak up on Steele from the other side. "No one ever said the Animal was a mental giant," says Vince, subtly calling into question Susan St. James' taste in dudes. "Lots of brawling moves here; you won't see much in the way of wrestling holds." Ya think, Vince? Is that why George is gnawing away on Savage's arm like it's a Slim Jim, ya think? (THIS HAS BEEN TONIGHT'S LAZY RANDY SAVAGE SLIM JIM REFERENCE. SLIM JIMS FOR SALE IN THE LOBBY.)

Savage smacks Steele with a bouquet of flowers that "someone" in the crowd wanted to give to Elizabeth, because wrestling fans are creepers (which, now that i think of it, explains why Steele is the babyface in this match). Steele simply thinks Savage is trying to feed him a nutritious salad, so he grabs the bouquet and attempts to share by bashing it across Savage's forehead, which is not how you get someone to eat their vegetables in my household, but this is The Animal, so let's not question it. "He really has respect for women," says St. James about The Animal, which is incredible, considering how Elizabeth is basically being treated as a trophy during this whole feud. Man, i get that it's 1986 and professional wrestling storylines at this point are about as enlightened as Adam Lavine running a frat house (not that they've advanced all that much, but at least AJ Lee's a stereotypical "crazy chick" and kicks ass on her own) but jeez o pete. This is pretty dire. But hey, i've heard that even today SHIMMER audiences are filled with weirdos trying to buy the wrestlers' used underwear, so have we really come that far as a subculture?

Savage hits the flying elbow after your standard "The Animal eats the turnbuckle" spot and Steele kicks out at one. After getting forced into a corner, Savage scores a three-count on Steele with his feet on the ropes. Savage retains and Steels comforts himself with food, namely another turnbuckle. I will say this--at least this wrestler nicknamed "The Animal" can get people to cheer for him when he's supposed to play the babyface.

Winner: Randy Savage via cheating-ass pinfall to retain the Intercontinental title in 5:10

We go to Mean Gene interviewing a member of the Atlanta Falcons and Big John Studd, getting ready for the 20-man football/wrestling battle royal, which i am anticipating with all the excitement of impending dental work. Also sure to be exciting: our next match, pitting Jake "The Snake" Roberts against some jobber named George Wells. It's 1986, Hulkamania is at peak potency, Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling is selling WWF ice cream bars and action figures nationwide, and someone named George Wells is competing at WrestleMania. Sort out your roster, Vince. Come on.

Match 3: George Wells vs. Jake "The Snake" Roberts

After looking at Jake's Wikipedia page, i now realize that Jake The Snake was in the WWF for a whole month before WrestleMania 2, so this was probably just an opportunity to get his new star in front of a huge audience in an enhancement match. Regardless, it's a painless and quick Jake Roberts victory with a vicious DDT after about three minutes. Man, remember when the DDT was believable as a finisher all by its lonesome? Seeing Jake deliver this one, you can see why. It's easily as badass as Dean Ambrose's forward Snap DDT or Edge's Impaler DDT. Out comes Damien the snake, who is not yet referenced by name on WWF TV, and he's wrapped around Wells' neck, "causing" him to froth at the mouth, which is totally a thing that happens with domesticated pythons. Good work getting the heel over, Wells, i guess. That was totally worth the 1986 wrestling fan's PPV dollar.

Winner: Jake Roberts via pinfall in 3:05

Here we get a recap of the Mr. T/Roddy Piper feud, a continuation of the scientific grapplefest that was the WMI main event, which then leads to a Jesse "The Body" Ventura interview with Hulk Hogan in LA. Hogan's ribs are taped up because Bundy injured him previously, but that doesn't stop Hogan because title reign stands for America...or something. The interviews are much stronger than they were last year, i'll say that much.

Match 4: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T (Boxing match, sigh)

Our guest ring announcer is Joan Rivers, who announces the celebrity "judges" for this boxing match, certainly a murderer's row of students of the sweet science. Let's see here, we've got Darryl Dawkins of the New Jersey Nets, Cab Calloway, and G. Gordon Liddy (to offset the obvious racial bias of the previous two judges, i assume? I guess?). The guest timekeeper is "Herb," the Burger King pitchman from the mid-80s who was featured in a serious of commercials attempting to locate him as the one man in America who had never tasted the flame-broiled juiciness of a Burger King Whopper. I'm not sure why i remember that, but there you go.

Piper comes out in a plaid boxing robe, which is sure to be the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of this match. Piper does his best to talk shit and get T fired up as the ref explains the rules of boxing to the star of The A-Team and the star of Hell Comes to Frogtown. There's really not much to recap here other than pro wrestling's desperate desire in 1986 to be viewed as a legitimate sport on the level of boxing, a sport where rich white dudes wear tuxedos to watch two black guys beat the piss out of each other for their amusement. After about 13 minutes of Piper sneaking punches around the ref during corner tie-ups and talking still more smack during round breaks in order to get heat from the crowd, Piper finally snaps and bodyslams T in Round 4, earning a DQ. Too bad, because Liddy had him ahead on points. Thank god the WWE eventually copped to being a scripted exhibition so we could be spared future bullshit boxing matches like this (EDITOR'S NOTE: just let the author stumble across WrestleMania XV and XXIV by himself. Shhhh).

Winner: Mr. T via DQ in the 4th round after a Piper bodyslam

We now head to Chicago, where Gorilla Monsoon takes over lead commentary with an assist from Mean Gene Okerlund and Cathy Lee Crosby, who excitedly is looking forward to her first live wrestling match ever. Will she offer the same level of insight as Susan St. James? Signs point to "who cares?"

Match 5: Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre for the WWF Women's Title

Velvet McIntyre stalks the ring during the introductions sporting the best feathered blonde hair this side of Tonya Harding, which Moolah uses with great effect as she whips McIntyre around the ring with it. McIntyre (no relation to Drew, since he's Scottish and she's Irish, so they tell me) fights back with a dropkick and some slams, but misses from the top rope and gets pinned by Moolah once she's able to stagger across the ring and belly-flop onto Velvet for the three-count. A little extra controversy at the end as McIntyre's foot was on the ropes, but who gives a shit. Moolah wins in a minute-long stinker as Crosby excitedly proclaims "the Fabulous Moolah was just that!" She was just something, all right.

Winner: Fabulous Moolah by pinfall in 1:25

Match 6: Nikolai Volkoff (w/"Classie" Freddie Blassie) vs. Corporal Kirchner (flag match)

So apparently this "flag match" is just a regular match, but the winner is allowed to fly the colors of his favorite country, not that the vanquished opponent would be able to stop him anyway? Corporal Kirchner was a former Army paratrooper who was apparently the resident USA propagandist in the WWF (aside from Hogan) for a hot minute. Dude is pretty ripped, but i guess eventually it made more sense for ol' booger-face "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan to take the mantle of shameless patriot.

Anyway, Kirchner gets the victory after displaying multiple honorable American qualities: interrupting another country's national anthem and using a foreign object (Blassie's cane, which was thrown into the ring for use by Volkoff). Like a true American, Kirchner exploits the foreign object for cheap labor instead of turning it over to INS, leading to instant gratification and a pinfall in 2 minutes. USA! USA! USA!

Winner: Corporal Kirchner by tainted pinfall in 2:05

Match 7: 20-man wrestler and football player over-the-top-rope battle royal

Not to be outdone by Nassau, the guest timekeeper for this match is Clara Peller, the "Where's the Beef?" lady of Wendy's ads from the same era. My money's on Grimace for guest timekeeper for Hogan/Bundy. The guest referee is former Chicago Bear Dick Butkus, which calls into question the impartiality of this match, since the Fridge is involved. Oh wait, Ed "Too Tall" Jones is a ref too, so i suppose that'll keep Butkus honest. YOUR LIST OF COMBATANTS:

Jimbo Covert of the Chicago Bears, Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi, Harvey Martin of the Cowboys, "Golden Boy" Danny Spivey, Hilbilly Jim, King Tonga (aka Haku, or Meng in WCW), The Iron Sheik, Ernie Holmes of the Steelers, The Killer Bees, Big John Studd, Atlanta Falcon Bill Fralic, The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, making their WrestleMania debut!), 49er tight end Russ Francis, Bruno Sammartino, William "The Refigerator" Perry, and Andre the Giant.

Football players aside, this is an interesting roster as it includes no less than three former WWF World Champs (Morales, Sammartino, and the Sheik) in an era where only nine people have held the strap. Two future champs in Bret Hart and Andre are in the ring as well. The combatants know to immediately pick on the Fridge, since he's at the height of his powers, fresh off Super Bowl XX with his team yet to be derailed by Green Bay Packer hitman Charles Martin. Studd eliminated the Fridge to boos, but like a good Chicago Bear, Fridge feigns sportsmanship by offering his hand in congratulations to Studd, only to grab him and pull him over the top rope as well. Eventually it's just the Hart Foundation and Andre, and Bret Hart begins his WrestleMania battle royal runner-up streak by becoming the last man eliminated. Andre wins, keeping his bullshit 14-year "undefeated" streak intact for next year's big show. FASHION NOTE: The Hart Foundation are wearing blue trunks, which confused the hell out of me when i watched this in the 80s. This is obviously before the story in Hart's autobiography where they showed up to catering in pink tights, causing Vince to lose his shit and say "THAT's your gimmick! Don't you dare wear any other colors again!" Vince McMahon: sartorial and marketing genius.

Winner: Andre the Giant in about 9:01

The broadcast throws back to New York, where Roddy Piper calls Fridge out for cheating and reiterates his racist tirade from earlier, adding something about Joe Frazier looking great from the waist down, which i really don't understand. Back to Chicago where Jimbo Covert yells about getting cheated in the battle royal. "I was helping out William 'the Refrigerator' Perry and eliminated King Tonga, and then that guy came up from behind me and threw me out when i wasn't looking. HE CHEATED." Typical Bear, to grouse about losing while not understanding the rules. The Iron Sheik comes out and yells that Iran and Russia are number one, which is really disparaging to his home country, considering he's putting his country on the level of a republic that's merely part of a larger nation. OK, enough lame political jokes--it's time for the one decent match on this entire card:

Match 8: The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine w/Jimmy Valiant)(c) vs. The British Bulldogs for the WWF World Tag Team Championship

Brutus Beefcake is now billed from San Francisco and is in full Chippendale's zebra stripe tights mode, which he can get away with because "Ravishing" Rick Rude is not yet in the WWF and doing this character 1000x as well. The Bulldogs come out with their manager, Captain Lou Albano and OZZY EFFING OSBOURNE. "Aside from being British himself, what is Ozzy Osbourne gonna do for the British Bulldogs?" asks Gorilla, hilariously leading to several seconds of silence from Mean Gene. We don't know either Gene, but jeez, make something up. "If one of the wrestlers accidentally pees at ringside, he'll be there to lap it up." "Perhaps all three gain their powers from barking at the moon." I dunno, man, it's 1986. Gene eventually recovers and answers by saying "well, Ozzy is of course from Manchester, in the north of England, their stomping grounds." "Isn't that where Lord Alfred Hayes is also from?" "No, he's from Windermere." Insight!

This match works so well because Greg Valentine does pretty much all the work for his team, Beefcake tagging in a whopping two times during the match. Thank god, because Valentine sells like a hero for the Bulldogs, faceplanting like it's his job, which i suppose it is. Suplexes galore from the Bulldogs as the Dynamite Kid shows off his picture-perfect snap suplex and Davey hits his signature delayed suplex on The Hammer. Greg takes a powder as Johnny V rubs his shoulders. After a falling headbutt to Davey Boy's crotch, Beefcake is tagged in. Wristlock by Beefcake! Davey Boy recovers and press-slams Brutus and tags Dynamite, and Beefcake's offense is done. Ha. Cradle suplex from Davey Boy for a two-count, and Beefcake tags Valentine back in, who gives a pretty suplex of his own to Davey Boy. Ozzy looks on, either concerned, confused, or both.

Hot tag to Dynamite Kid and more killer selling from The Hammer. Beefcake at this point starts running interference, breaking up two-counts and trying to distract the ref. "Ozzy Osbourne is shaking at ringside!" says Mean Gene, which is about 20 years away from being tastelessly hilarious. A piledriver from Valentine gets a two-count, and Dynamite recovers with a crotch shot to The Hammer. As Dynamite continues to lie on the mat, Valentine climbs the ropes but is tossed onto the mat by the Kid. All four men storm the ring and it's pandemonium! Eventually order is restored and Davey Boy hits a running powerslam and another smooth suplex, both for two-counts. Man, poor Valentine, having to carry his entire team. Finally Brutus gets a tag and gets in some classic Beefcake offense: a kick to the head and a hammerlock rammed into the corner. Having run out of moves, he tags Valentine back in, who hits a shoulderbreaker and then cockily pulls Davey Boy off the mat at the two-count! Uh, dude, you've been absorbing damage this entire match; what makes you think you've got this in the bag suddenly? It's a costly mistake as Davey Boy rams Valentine's head into Dynamite Kid, who is perched on the top rope and waiting for the running headbutt. Dynamite caroms to the floor, Davey makes the cover, and new champions are crowned!

It's Captain Lou Albano's 16th tag team title victory, which is absolutely insane, especially before an era where wrestlers were routinely winning a dozen tag titles like it wasn't a thing. Captain Lou rambles into the mic with glee before Mean Gene asks Ozzy his thoughts. "BRITISH BULLDOGS FOREVERRRR!" he screams, then stares at Gene like a puppy looking for a treat. Ozzy do good job? Good job?

Winners: The British Bulldogs at 13:03 to win the WWF Tag Team Titles

Gorilla signs off and Vince McMahon uses smooth sax jams to throw the broadcast to Los Angeles, where it's Jessie Ventura, Lord Al Hayes, and FUCKING ELVIRA. YES. She's excited to be here with "so much flesh and violence!"

Match 9: Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Hercules Hernandez

Herc's wearing some goofy He-Man chest piece, which he has the class to remove before cheap-shotting Steamboat with a running knee during Ricky's introduction. Naturally, Steamboat makes this watchable, keeping the tempo up with running chops and the sweetest armdrags in wrestling history. Elvira seems to be on the heel side of the commentary, saying Steamboat looks like a "wimp" because he has a red ribbon tied below one knee. Man, talk about the last person that should be criticizing dress code. Herc gets in some impressive power moves in, including a vicious clothesline and a drape of Steamboat's neck across the top rope. Softening up Steamboat's throat for Randy Savage down the road, to be sure. After a few minutes of Herculean dominance, Steamboat eventually mounts a comeback after catching Herc off the top rope with his knees. Ricky hits his flying bodypress and it's all over. Steamboat makes the match tolerable because he's an artist.

Winner: Ricky Steamboat via pinfall at 7:19

Match 10: "Adorable" Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Uncle Elmer (w/fleas)

So not only do we get questionable gender politics with Savage/Steele, but we also get an arena full of fans chanting “faggot” at “Adorable” Adrian, looking like the world's laziest transvestite in a shitty pink dress and blush smeared all over his face. If they had pushed him as a babyface, you think they would have made him prettier? Ha! Trick question! In 1986, gender-bending wrestlers are always heels. Uncle Elmer comes out (of the dressing room, not the closet) to a thunderous ovation and immediately makes mocking “mincing” hand gestures at Adonis. Needless to say, i'm totally rooting for Adonis in this one. Elmer eventually rips the dress off the obese Adonis, prompting Elvira to yell "put the dress back on!" Lord Al: "Elmer's had enough of that finery. He's going to show Adonis how a country boy does it." I could type "with his cousin?" here, but fighting stereotypes with stereotypes is no kind of solution, so let's pretend i never even hinted at that. Elmer hits an avalanche and misses a legdrop, which allows Adonis to connect with a top rope splash and get the quick three-count. Elvira: "One thing i can say is that i never trust a man who wears pink leg warmers." Homophobe, or fashion critic? 

Winner: Adrian Adonis via pinfall at 3:01

Off we go to a pre-taped Lord Al interview with Hulk Hogan, who calls Hayes "Awful Alfred." Uh, Hulk, i don't think Hayes has been a heel for a while at this point. He says he's going to slap Bundy's feelings around, and we're back to ringside with Jimmy Hart and his tag team, Terry and "Hoss" Funk, which, fuck that. It's Dory Jr. I refuse to call him "Hoss." That's stupid.

Match 11: Terry and Dory Funk (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Tito Santana & Junkyard Dog

Early comedic spots from the Funks, who get whipped into each other by JYD, who proceeds to hit his headbutt-based offense before tagging to Tito Santana, who hits some pretty clotheslines and dropkicks on the Funks. Ya gotta admit: Tito in his prime had some moves. JYD, meanwhile, is all about the repeated turnbuckle hits, which are entertaining if unscientific. Credit where it's due: Junkyard Dog isn't much in the ring, but he's got charisma for days. Tito hits a gorgeous flying forearm on Dory and gets a two-count that's broken up by some Terry Funk shenanigans. Elvira is stellar on commentary as Jimmy Hart gets some cheap kicks in on Santana: "get that manager out of there! Is he allowed to be out there? He was kickin' that guy!" She has no idea what any of these guys' names are, but she hopes they rip each other's trunks off. Yep, even Dory's. Why not. 

The Funks take over on offense and Terry hits a legdrop for a two-count, but goes to the well once too often and misses a second one. Tito hits a hot tag and JYD double-headbutts the Funks, obviously. JYD flips Terry over the top rope, then eventually slams him into a table, which does not break in two, because it's not the Attitude Era yet. JYD pulls Hart up to the apron and decks him for an audience pop, but not a minute later Jimmy gets his revenge by delivering his megaphone to Terry with the ref's back turned. Apparently JYD's head can withstand several collisions with other heads, but not with a megaphone, as he crumples to the ground and is covered by Terry for the pin. Loud "bullshit" chants from the fans, and the Funk brothers bail. Hey! This was actually a fairly entertaining tag match! Maybe this show has lowered the bar of expectations, but that was pretty ok! Well done, guys.

Winners: Terry and Dory Funk via pinfall at 13:00

As the cage is set up, Ventura throws it to a vignette where Mean Gene interviews Hogan in his "personal gym" as he trains with Hillbilly Jim and his doctor, who is wearing his own Hulkamania t-shirt and is pleading with Hogan to not take the match. Dear god, Hogan, your ribs, they can't take more abuse from Bundy, etc. etc. They show a clip of Saturday Night's Main Event, where we see King Kong Bundy and Magnificent Muraco viciously attacking Hogan and injuring those ribs. As a kid, i was pretty grateful for these recaps, as i hadn't seen the original storyline. Way to take valuable lessons from daytime television, Vince, and make sure that the storyline is recapped once every five minutes on WWF TV. Hogan's doing chin-ups with an extra barbell tied around his neck. "I'll do a thousand to beat King Kong Bundy!" Hogan's so driven! 

We go to a pre-taped interview that Ventura conducts with King Kong Bundy and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and of course it's glorious. Jesse tells Bundy that he's nervous because it's a cage match, and Bundy's beautiful face may get messed up. Legit LOLs. Bundy is gold on the microphone here, and he's a whopping 26 years old. Dude looks 40. 

Our guest ring announcer for this match is Tommy Lasorda. The guest timekeeper is Ricky Schroeder, who is not in a Grimace costume. Bullshit. Guest referee is Robert Conrad, who is not wearing a referee shirt, possibly because it's a cage match and referees don't have to do shit in cage matches. Bundy comes in to no music; Hogan theoretically comes out to "Real American." However, Joey Pink sagely reminded me after the last blog that Hogan actually came out to "Eye of the Tiger" at WMI; they just replaced it with "Real American" for modern audiences. So i don't know what to believe here. Geez, Vince, you couldn't throw Survivor a bone? I guess Vince didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks. OK, here we go finally.

Match 12: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan) for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship

Bundy may be able to talk, but too bad he wrestles like an overweight sloth. Punches! Slaps! Chops! Elvira hasn't seen this much exposed flesh since she was at a massage show in Vegas! That's a terrible line, Elvira! This match fits the classic Hogan template. He gets the early advantage, but Bundy gets control with some shots to the injured ribs. Hogan fights back and slams Bundy into the cage, who proceeds to blade right on camera, although it's slightly less obvious than Flair's blade job at WrestleMania VIII. Still, it's so obvious that if Joy Division were on the soundtrack i'd think it was a cry for attention. 

Classic steel cage booking here, by the way: in a WWF cage match, the only ways to win are to exit the cage through the door or over the top. While Bundy is in control, he tries repeatedly to leave through the door, as it's the easier route of the two. The babyface, of course, almost always takes the more difficult over-the-top route. Hogan goes for the bodyslam before its time, as is often the way with Hogan title defenses. Just once i'd have loved to see Hogan try to bodyslam Randy Savage too early and have Savage collapse on him. Woulda been hilarious. Bundy tries again for the door but Hogan stops him and gets an avalanche in the corner and a big splash for his trouble. Bundy heads for the door one last time, and Hogan suddenly Hulks up, and we know where this is leading now. Hogan no-sells an avalanche, whips Bundy into the corner, and hits the bodyslam on the rebound. He hits the legdrop and climbs over the top of the cage. Heenan makes a half-hearted attempt to stop Hogan, but it's too late, as Hogan hits the floor and retains the title. Bundy leaves the cage and Heenan runs into it to avoid Hogan, Hogan goes into the ring and beats the shit out of Heenan even though he didn't really interfere in the match, the crowd goes wild, etc. etc. blah blah. Garbage match. It could be argued that since this was merely two years into his title reign that the Hogan template wasn't quite a cliche just yet, but on the other hand, this was already two years into his title reign! Elvira calls this the wrestling match of the decade, because this is the only match she's seen this decade. Hogan poses and we fade to black as Jesse and Vince sign off.

Well, we're done with the first two WrestleManias. The wrestling finally gets better at number III, but we're still a long way away from regular Bret Hart title defenses or anything like that. At least Vince got the multi-venue thing out of his system. His next gamble, trying to pack the Pontiac Silverdome with over 93,000 fans, paid off like gangbusters. In many ways, WrestleMania 2 was a trainwreck, but let's all be happy that it didn't stop Vince from trying to find a winning pay-per-view formula. In the next year, he'll get it right.

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