wrestling / Columns

Csonka Reviews The Mania Main Events (5-8)

March 26, 2016 | Posted by Larry Csonka

WELCOME: Yesterday I started my countdown to WrestleMania, looking at every WrestleMania main event. I hope that you enjoyed that and are looking forward to more installments. As a reminder, I will be 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 is the focus. I plan to make it a bit more conversational, maybe even for it to have a storyteller’s tone to it. We’ve seen these matches, we’re read blow by blow recaps and other forms of analysis; I hope to do a little something different. Sound good to you? Cool, let’s get to work.


WrestleMania 5 – WWF Title Match: Champion Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan [****½]: When you bring up Hogan vs. Savage, the first thing that pops into my mind is that they are part of one of the best and one of my favorite match builds ever. I absolutely love the story arc between WrestleMania 4 and 5; Savage won the title at WM 4 and went on for a year as the champion. He had teamed with Hogan as the Mega-Powers, a true super team playing off of the mania 4 finish, and one that just worked on several levels. But in storyline, their egos and Savage’s jealousy in regards to Elizabeth were too much for them to overcome, and the team couldn’t survive. One year after Savage won the title, he would return to Trump Plaza, the site of his title victory, this time defending the title against the man that helped him win it, his former partner Hulk Hogan. It just worked so well, and was an example of great storytelling, when WWE had a vision and planned things out very well. The match itself is excellent, and one of Hogan’s top tier matches. It was laid out well; it had great action and the feeling that everything they did had a purpose. While the ending feels anticlimactic (a lot of Hogan’s matches do, kick out of finish, Hulk up, big boot and leg drop) it worked overall and this was a great match to go back and watch. So many matches lose something over time, but I feel this one is still very strong. This was the first great WrestleMania main event, and in a way it is no surprise. These men had great chemistry and this match was an excellent example of it. They had the crowd where they wanted them and the hatred poured out in everything they did. The dynamic was perfect.


WrestleMania 6 – Title vs. Title Match: WWF Champion Hulk Hogan vs. WWE IC Champion Ultimate Warrior [****¼]: Regardless of what happened after WrestleMania 6 with Warrior’s push and all, the fact was that this was the very essence of a “WrestleMania Feud.” In the same vain as Hulk vs. Andre and Hulk vs. Savage, this had that “big match” feel to it, and it delivered. This was Hogan’s only real effort to build and put over a new star, and for one night we had that. It’s just a shame that it didn’t stick, as the booking let Warrior down because Hogan was still in the spotlight way too much. This was champion vs. champion, one match for it all, a match that today means nothing overall (the stipulation) because WWE ran non-title champion vs. champion matches into the ground. Imagine how much more Cena and Rollins would have meant if we hadn’t seen so many of these meaningless matches over the years. The question here was would Hogan continue to dominate the WWF, or would a new champion emerge? The important thing here is that this was the one time, the one time where Hogan honestly gave up his position because he really thought he was leaving. The pre-match promos were CLASSIC Hogan and Warrior, in that they were comical to a point in today’s eyes, but intense, fun and really selling the match. They were a product of the time, but I still find enjoyment from them. The match, which many fans today wouldn’t expect much was a really good one, and probably about as perfect as you could hope from these guys. They had incredible crowd heat, two men working hard in a smartly booked match and the final fall of the “hero” to the new one was well done. This meant something, and it felt as if they meant something. It’s not quite as good as Savage vs. Hogan, but it was the second truly great Mania main event.

WrestleMania 7 – WWE Champion Sgt. Slaughter vs. Hulk Hogan [**½]: While the build between WrestleMania 4 and 5 was excellent, and the crowing of Warrior at WrestleMania 6 was a great moment, things got sketchy between WrestleMania 6 and 7. As mentioned, making Warrior the next “guy, brother” didn’t work out well. He wasn’t booked well, which led to him not being fully accepted in the role and that led to the title change to Iraqi turncoat, Sgt. Slaughter. The best thing that came from this entire angle was the fact that Savage cost Warrior the title, which led to their awesome match at this same event. So with Warrior dethroned and the Iraqi turncoat in control, there was only one man to turn to, the real American, Hulk Hogan. Hogan had an ability to work up to great opponents, and of course had great charisma. The dynamic for the match was great, with the long time American hero fighting to get the title back, but Slaughter was well past his expiration date and a good performer, and on top of that it was hard to buy into him being on Hogan’s level. He was the heel of the month really, but this was a time where Hogan was the challenger. It lacked the sizzle of the Savage match, because at least there, there was some doubt (due to the work) that Savage could retain. There was none of that here. Sure they tried, but after two great main events, this felt as if we were going through the motions to get Hogan to his third title run. I wouldn’t call it a bad match, but it comes across poorly following the matches from WrestleMania 5 and 6.

WrestleMania 8 – Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice [*]: So we had a lot happening to get here. As we saw at WrestleMania 7, (March 24th, 1991) Hulk Hogan regains the title and you know, runs wild as he does. In May of 1991 Sid Justice makes his WWF debut, then in August of 1991, Ric Flair jumps to the WWF; all during this time The Undertaker was on the rise. There were a lot of kids in the pool here. We have Hogan vs. Taker, where Taker wins the title (at Survivor Series with a little help from Flair) and then Hogan wins back the title back at This Tuesday in Texas just days later; Flair once again played a part in the finish. Now most would be thinking that this was all a grand plan to build to Hogan vs. Flair, but that was not the case. WWE President Jack Tunney makes the call to strip the title due to all of the shenanigans, and things go in different directions. WWF reportedly tested Flair vs. Hogan, felt it didn’t draw and wasn’t a great pairing, so they avoid the dream match (to fans at that time) and Flair wins the Rumble, and the vacated title. It’s amazing that just a few years later, Hogan jumps to WCW and WCW pulls off Flair vs. Hogan and has great live and PPV success with it. Anyway, we now we arrive at WrestleMania 8 (April 5, 1992) and we get “co-main events” of Savage challenging Flair in the midcard and the “real” main event ends up as Hogan vs. Sid. This enraged me so much at the time, and even more so now. I felt it was dumb as a fan back in the day, and now feel that it devalued the main event spot by not having the title match there. This wasn’t Bret Hart vs. Skinner for the title; it was fucking Flair vs. Savage. Rant aside, the Hogan vs. Sid feud had its moments, and worked as a WrestleMania match in some ways (teasing Hogan’s retirement), but as a main event it felt like a complete joke. Young Larry could not understand why the real world champ wasn’t getting the chance to take out that chump Hogan (remember, I was a huge NWA fan). The absolute best part of this match his the beginning, where Hogan makes his way to the ring with a purpose and they just brawl right away. The music keeps playing as Hogan makes a comeback, sends Sid to the floor and the crowd was just into this stuff. But it was all down hill from there. The match is bad, not good in any way after that opening section; Hogan tries to work the monster formula, Sid sucks, and no one really cares as much as they should. To recap, we get a shitty match with a DQ ENDING AT WRESTLEFUCKINGMANIA; this was just horrible. If that wasn’t bad enough, we get the extracurricular activities. Papa Shango runs in and helps Sid beat down Hogan, missing his cue and making a bad match even worse when Sid has to kick out of the leg drop, and then the WARRIOR runs in to save the day. And then he and Hogan pose like they are best friends to close the show. Sid gets shit on because he doesn’t get the clean win, and Hogan still gets the glory in the end. It’s a great moment, because the crowd is going insane, but the match is horrible and it never made sense to me as a main event. Now, the WWF was looking to make a big star because Hogan is on his way out. But the company still felt that he needed to be the main event, he didn’t want to lose and so we got this. This was bad news and booking for a company that was trying to prepare for life without Hogan. Sid came away damaged, and while they had plans for another shot with Warrior, the steroid crackdown happened and he would get suspended until 1996 (ok, it just seemed that way).

Conclusion: For the first four WrestleMania main events, the spectacle was the draw, as the matches were far from great. They are rough to get through, but certainly have their place in history. But this set comes off much better overall. We have the continuation of the Hogan era, but we now have the added bonus of witnessing the first two great Mania main events from Hogan, Savage and Warrior. The first four set the stage, and then 4 and 5 showed us what the show’s main events could be. They weren’t all winners, but it was certainly an upswing. Tomorrow we look at WrestleManias 9 through 12…

The Rankings So Far

* WrestleMania 8: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice[*]
* WrestleMania 3: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant [*]

* WrestleMania 2: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy [**]

* WrestleMania 7: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter [**½]
* WrestleMania 4: Ted Dibiase vs. Randy Savage [**½]

* WrestleMania: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff [**¾]

* WrestleMania 6: Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior [****¼]

* WrestleMania 5: Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage [****½]