wrestling / Columns

Csonka Reviews The Mania Main Events (1-4)

March 25, 2016 | Posted by Larry Csonka

WELCOME: Back in August, I reviewed every G1 Climax Final match. It was a project I had wanted to do and was able to do so thanks to New Japan World. And as I completed this quest of mine, I though to myself that this would be something cool to do for other major events. So I sttared to think and get some stuff together, and decided that WrestleMania would be the perfect big show to get this treatment. This is far from a revolutionary idea here, but I hope that it will be a fun series for you all to read. I plan to make it a bit more conversational, maybe even for it to have a storytellers tone to it.

So today I kick off this little feature, looking at every WrestleMania main event. I will look at them in small batches, discuss some history, how my opinions may have changed over the years, rate them, and at the end of each column update the overall rankings of Mania main event matches. For the purposes of this column, the main event is the LAST MATCH on the show. I will not get caught up in what some perceive as the main event, or co-main event bullshit; the last match on the show. Sound good to you? Cool, let’s get to work.


WrestleMania – Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/Jimmy Snuka) vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff (w/Bob Orton) [**¾]: We go back to the beginning, and in many ways the perfect match to kick things off. Many fans and writers look back on this as the culmination of the rock and wrestling expansion, and the bottom line is that it worked. You had Hulk Hogan, the biggest star in the promotion with his perfect rival Roddy Piper. Orndorff, Orton and Snuka were all top names that the audience knew and were invested in; they were perfectly placed and played their roles very well. And then you add in Mr. T, who was huge coming off of Rocky 3 (which also was great since Hogan had a role in it) and was also starring on the A-Team. They had the venue of New York City, you had celebrities involved outside of the match, you had Mohammed Ali as a special referee; they had all of the parts involved to succeed and I feel that they largely did. The match is rather average, but it’s more of a spectacle than anything else. Mr. T looks great and does well enough in his performance, gets a great hot tag and the heels make him look very good. The final product comes off as greater than the sum of its parts, it has a good crowd and is very entertaining and overall was a huge success for the show and the company. Some may not like the fact that it’s a tag team match or that it involves a celebrity, but they had to hit a homerun PR wise with the event, and with Mr. T, Cyndi Lauper and all of the ballyhoo, it worked. it worked so well that they got a bit too big for their britches the next year with the triple venue idea…

WrestleMania 2 – WWF Heavyweight Title Steel Cage Match: Champion Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy (w/Bobby Heenan) [*½]: The WrestleMania 2 main event is a match I have long hated, not because of it’s match quality (although that never helped) but because I always thought that it should have been Piper vs. Hogan. To me it made the most sense, and a match I feel should have main evented the biggest show of the year. You always hear the phrase, “this was a product of its time,” and that is exactly what this match was. This was the Hulk Hogan vs. the monster heel formula. Now, before you accuse me of being a Hogan hater I will fully admit that this was a successful formula for the company. They could build up and feed the big heels to Hogan, and he could make the big “superhero” like comebacks. The crowds ate it up during these days, and they made a lot of money doing this. This was the Hogan vs. Heenan family monster; build the monster, allow the monster to get one up on Hogan at some point and or possibly injure him, and then set up the big blow off match. And that’s exactly what this is. Bundy controls a lot here, working the injured ribs of Hogan and ripping off his bandages. It’s just not a good match or overly interesting. Bundy works over Hogan, hits his finish, Hogan Hulks up, fights back, says fuck your moves and escapes the cage before Bundy can and then works over Heenan a bit for good measure. I was never a fan of the match when I was young, and am not a fan today. But you have to respect that Hogan formula, it made a lot of money for a lot of people.

WrestleMania 3 – WWF World Heavyweight Title Match: Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant (w/Bobby Heenan) [*]: WrestleMania was the first and set the ball rolling; WrestleMania 2 was an experiment by the company, one where they got a bit ambitious. But as they worked to WrestleMania 3, everything seemed to fall into place for the company. They pulled the turn of Andre the Giant, they set him to feud with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and while it was very Hogan vs. monster feud in many ways, the build worked and sold the masses on the match. This is considered the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling, and it was certainly one of the most important ones for the company. Disputed attendance aside, putting that many bodies in the Silver Dome was impressive; it simply worked. The match is not good in any way shape or form; but is one I completely appreciate for its historical importance. I can appreciate matches that aren’t technically very good. I see that they drew a huge crowd, that the crowd hated Andre and that it was the Hogan vs. monster formula. But it is also obvious that the match suffers, mainly due to Andre’s deteriorating physical condition. Andre’s back was so bad that he was barely mobile, and the more I go back to watch the match, I have a really hard time watching it on certain viewings. Just because it was one of if not the biggest match in wrestling (certainly for WWE) that doesn’t make it good. They accomplished exactly what they wanted to with the match; Hulkamania was an even bigger phenomenon than it was going in as he defeated the mystique of the giant. It wasn’t pretty, but it made a lot of money and in reality made the WWF the undisputed big dog in wrestling.

WrestleMania 4 – WWF Heavyweight Championship Finals: Ted Dibiase (w/Andre the Giant) vs. Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) [**½]: The WWF would revisit the Hogan vs. Andre match at The Main Event, which was the match with the twin refs and the disputed quick count, which saw Andre win the title and give it to The Million Dollar Man. The finish led to the title being held up and put up for grabs in a tournament at WrestleMania 4. The event is a tedious one to get through, it is very long and feels even longer. In the end, I do feel that it was the right place, the right time and the right man winning the title. Randy Savage had lost the IC Title at WM III, and was really in limbo with some people. He went through Butch Reed, Greg Valentine and the One Man Gang en route to meeting Ted DiBiase in the finals. Savage had to wrestle one more match than DiBiase, and with Andre and Virgil at ringside he was definitely at a disadvantage. In the end with some help from Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage would capture the title and crown of “Undisputed Champion.” The match has not aged well for me, as the more I see it the less I tend to like it. It’s the culmination of a long night, and a great moment overall and I love the Savage win. But overall the match feels like a mid-card, top of the hour Raw match. In many ways I wish the tournament was a shorter one, because I feel that would have led to a higher quality match overall. It’s certainly not bad, but considering the level of talent, it was a disappointment.

Conclusion: If you’re new to wrestling, and you look back on these matches and the lack luster star ratings, you may question how the event became such a success. But it isn’t all about the match quality, it was about the build, the vibe and the spectacle of the events and that is where the early events surely succeeded. Going back and watching again, I will admit that it’s a bit rough, not just because of the age, but because I have memories of what I remember and then those change when watching again. Unfortunately not everything holds up with time, which is another reason I have decided to do this. Going back and watching is an adventure, and has been fun, but overall the first batch of matches didn’t provide a good collection of in ring action. Tomorrow we look at WrestleManias 5 through 8…

The Rankings So Far

* WrestleMania III: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant [*]
* WrestleMania II: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy [**]
* WrestleMania IV: Ted Dibiase vs. Randy Savage [**½]
* WrestleMania: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff [**¾]