wrestling / Video Reviews

Kevin’s RestrospectiveMania Series: WrestleMania 1

April 21, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
WrestleMania 1 I

WWF WrestleMania
March 31st, 1985 | Madison Square Garden in New York, New York | Attendance: 19,121

Recently, I reviewed WrestleMania 35 and called it the best WrestleMania in history. And let me tell you, that claim was met with all sorts of bashing. The 411mania.com comments were filled with people saying I should give up reviewing, questioning if I was on drugs, and some flat out bashing me. While I’m not taking back that statement, I do understand that maybe I was excited in the moment. I really enjoyed the show and got plenty of moments I craved. What if I took a step back and re-evaluated WrestleMania?

That’s where this series comes in. I’m going to watch and review every single WrestleMania. As I finish them, I will rank them based on a variety of factors, from a 1-10 scale and use the total for a final score.

• Match quality – Self-explanatory. Will always be the longest section.
• Memorability – How memorable is the show?
• Historical significance – The impact the show had on wrestling
• Booking decisions – Were there logical booking decisions for the stories they told?
• Presentation – Things like stage setup, video packages, commentary, etc.
• Pacing/Flow – How well is the show laid out? Does it drag or move along smoothly?
• Entertainment – The non-wrestling elements like promos, celebrity use, concerts, etc.

Here we go with WrestleMania 1 from way back in 1985!

Match Quality

The Executioner vs. Tito Santana ~ The Executioner was played by Buddy Rose. I feel like this was a weird choice for an opener. The Executioner is such a generic character and Tito was clearly the guy billed as the star. That made it so this felt much more like a squash that you would see on Prime Time Wrestling and not a major show like this. And that’s even with the Execution’s “undefeated” record. Tito won in 4:49 with a Figure Four submission. A fine little win for a guy like Tito. I was generous last time I reviewed this match. [*½]

King Kong Bundy vs. SD Jones ~ This was just here to get King Kong Bundy over. He avalanched Jones and splashed to win in about 23 seconds. The WWF tried selling this as a record win in 9 seconds but they were way off with that. [NR]

Matt Borne vs. Ricky Steamboat ~ I loved Borne as 1993 Doink. He was a blast. Here, he’s just a dude. Hey, we’ve got a match I somewhat enjoyed. It was to the point, which was to get Ricky Steamboat over, but they made it entertaining. Borne was able to keep up with Steamboat at some points and make this more competitive than I expected. Ricky’s suplexes and chops looked great. He won with a flying cross body because he’s the ultimate babyface in 4:37. Solid stuff. [**¼]

Brutus Beefcake vs. David Sammartino ~ I’ve never liked Brutus Beefcake in any role and I honestly haven’t seen much of David Sammartino. Bruno was out with David and it just feels right to have him in Madison Square Garden. He got the biggest pop of the night to this point. For some reason, this got more time than any match on the card outside of the main event. That’s nuts. It involved a lot of Beefcake stalling, probably because they didn’t have enough to fill the time it was given. Johnny Valiant had to get involved so Bruno could put him in his place. That woke the crowd up. Because of the pandemonium, a double DQ was called after a LONG 12:43. Inexplicable to go this long. Keep it to five with the same finish. [½*]

WWF Intercontinental Championship: Greg Valentine [c] vs. Junkyard Dog ~ On the graphic, it was listed as the Inter-Continental Champion. Eww. People harp on the mid card titles now, but this is terrible. I get the title had more prestige back then because there wasn’t weekly TV that put the champions in danger to lose often. But man, I’ll take pretty much every recent IC Title match at Mania over this. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Most of this was Greg Valentine trying to work the leg to set up the Figure Four. JYD killed time before making his comeback. Valentine won with a cheap rollup using the ropes for leverage, only for Tito Santana to run out and explain what happened. He’s such a good guy that the referee believes him. But Valentine just decided not to compete and take a countout loss in 7:05. Okay. Waste of time. [¾*]

WWF Tag Team Championship: The US Express [c] vs. The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff ~ The idea behind this match seemed to be that the US Express was the far better tag team, but the heels were willing to take all the shortcuts to win. It’s a tried and true formula that works. Speaking of formula, this match followed tag formula. After a solid start by the faces, the heels took over and isolated Mike Rotunda. It set up the hot tag to Barry Windham and the fans ate it up. Despite that, a cheap shot with a Tag Title led to new champions in 6:55. You know what? I quite enjoyed that. Nothing special, but some solid tag formula in front of a good crowd. [**½]

$15,000 Body Slam Challenge: Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd ~ Our first real spectacle match. The novelty of someone possibly body slamming Andre the Giant was really cool. That made for a slow paced match, but I appreciated how it made sense. Both men would go for the body slam and fail, so they’d have to wear the other one down. Not exciting, but logical. After plenty of plodding moments, Andre slammed Studd to win in 5:53. As I said, pure spectacle. That kept it from being dire. [½*]

WWF Women’s Championship: Leilani Kai [c] vs. Wendi Richter ~ The semi-main event or the death spot in the card? It’s more of the former thanks to the inclusion of Cyndi Lauper at ringside. So, women’s wrestling wasn’t exactly doing so well in the company at this time. These two went out and wrestled a sloppy match with next to no heat. It’s as if the crowd was just waiting to see if Lauper and Moolah would get involved at ringside. It never happened. Instead, Richter rolled through on a cross body to win the title in 6:13. As a match, this sucked. As a moment involving a celebrity, it worked. [¾*]

Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs. Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper ~ The reason everyone came to the show. Mr. T was a massive star at the time as part of The A-Team, Hulk Hogan was the biggest star in wrestling, and you had two great heels. Just seeing Mr. T come face to face with Roddy Piper and exchange slaps was great. Like the Tag Title match earlier, this followed a smart formula. The faces were too much early on, so the heels resorted to using a chair that set Hogan up as the face in peril. Credit to Mr. T for playing his role so well. He did all the cheesy babyface stuff like trying to run in and help only to accidentally distract the referee. Mr. T got the hot tag but didn’t do much with it. I like that as it showed this wasn’t his element. It set up a real hot tag to Hogan, who won it after Bob Orton accidentally hit Orndorff with his cast in 13:13. The match of the night. It was precisely what it needed to be and benefitted from everyone playing their roles so well. It got messy at points, but worked enough. [***]

No matter how much you may enjoy this first WrestleMania, I don’t think anyone believes it is an excellent show from a pure in-ring perspective. With only one match reaching three stars and capping out there, this isn’t where the show excels.

SCORE: 2.5



As the first WrestleMania, this show obviously has some stuff that makes it memorable. To be fair, it’s more of a historic show than one with many individual moments. Everyone recalls the main event, the celebrities, and Andre throwing the money, but the rest of the show is pretty forgettable. It gets a solid score here.

SCORE: 7.5


Historical Significance

Okay, this was the most straightforward section to score. It’s the inaugural WrestleMania. Without this, we wouldn’t have the annual event we all know, love, and look forward to each year. When you take into consideration how much was on the line and what could’ve happened if this show failed, it adds even more. Regardless of your feelings on wrestling from the 1980s, you can’t deny how important this show was to the history of the industry. It’s arguably the most important and historic show ever held in wrestling.

SCORE: 10.0


Booking Decisions

I will admit, these first few WrestleManias may be tougher to score here than the later ones. My earliest memories of wrestling are from 1993, so it’s not like I was invested in the stories from this time to fully gauge the booking. However, I have gone back and watched other shows from around this era and read as much as I could about the rivalries. From what I can tell, they mostly made the right calls. The babyfaces won the main event, Andre hit the body slam, Richter won with a star at her side, studs like Steamboat won, and they even made sure a heel team got the Tag Titles to mix things up a bit. I didn’t like the anti-climactic IC Title finish or the Beefcake match going so long for a DQ, though.

SCORE: 8.0



When looking at the presentation, I take the time period into consideration. It’s only fair as nothing from 1985 will ever look as good as something in 2019. This was fine for the time. I dug the lighting in the arena. It gave the show a dark, intimate feeling. Probably the idea for the era. One bit of presentation I hated was the bell ringing. It sounds weird, but they would introduce someone and ring the bell a ton. It got annoying. I liked Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura on commentary. Ventura wasn’t only supporting heels here, so it made for a team that just sold the matches. They’d talk about how a loss on a show this big would set someone’s career back a few months. Things like that are perfect and adds a lot to the feel of the show.

SCORE: 7.0



One thing this show did really well was handle the pacing. It moved along quickly. They’d go from match to backstage interviews and back to a match without much fluff in between. I appreciated that. I do think things would’ve gone smoother if they mixed up the card a bit. I understand backloading the card with the important stuff, but it makes the first half of the show feel pretty useless.

SCORE: 7.0



Mean freaking Gene singing the National Anthem was a neat little quirk but he’s not very good. Then, it took a while to get there, but there are some well done celebrity appearances. Cyndi Lauper added a lot to the Women’s Title match, which otherwise would’ve been incredibly forgettable. They brought out the big guns for the main event, though. They got Billy Martin as the ring announcer and Liberace for a charismatic dance number with the Rockettes, It all felt very New York, which was perfect for MSG. Muhammad Ali as the special referee was the icing on the cake. It wasn’t overdone, featured big stars, and fit the theme of the city.

SCORE: 8.0



This legendary show scores pretty high in all but one category. It was a memorable show with a massive imprint on history. I think it was well paced, the presentation was nice, and the fans got sent home happy with some solid booking and fun celebrity interaction. But the show gets held back by some really rough in-ring stuff. And it’s hard to be considered one of the greatest shows ever when that crucial element is missing. Still, a solid score overall.

TOTAL: 50/70


WrestleMania Rankings

1. WrestleMania 1 – 50/70

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Kevin Pantoja