wrestling / Video Reviews

Kev’s RetrospectiveMania Series: WrestleMania IV

May 18, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Ted DiBiase Randy Savage WrestleMania IV Image Credit: WWE
WWF WrestleMania IV
March 27th, 1988 | Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey | Attendance: 19,199

WrestleMania III marked an uptick in quality, giving us the best show to that point. We’re now reaching the era I’m most familiar with. 1988 is usually the furthest back I go to watch stuff for fun. This WrestleMania scaled back from the record crowd the previous year and into the small Trump Plaza. Yes, the guy who is our President hosted WrestleMania. Twice. The theme of this event was a one night tournament to crown a new WWF Champion because it was held up in controversy. Andre the Giant beat Hulk Hogan for the title in a Mania rematch but due to some referee issues and him giving the title to Ted Dibiase, it was vacated. That has led us here.

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Where will it rank among the rest of the WrestleManias so far? We’ll find out here. As a reminder, I’m reliving these WrestleManias and rating them on a 1-10 scale in these seven categories. They’ll be ranked by their total 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 – Did the event have 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 interaction, concerts, etc.


Match Quality


Battle Royal ~ The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal! I mean, they literally just threw in everyone not involved in the tournament or one of the title matches here. Notable names included the Hart Foundation, Harley Race, JYD, Bad News Brown, Nikolai Volkoff, and various tag teams. With each guy in the ring, they were given a little introduction which was cool. Sam Houston had the dubious honor of being the first man eliminated. I loved Jesse Ventura explaining that it happened because Houston is light and that doesn’t bode well for this kind of match. George Steele went the cheap route and pulled Neidhart out by the goatee from the floor. The final four were Brown, Roma, JYD, and Bret. Brown and Bret, the heels, teamed up to be the final two. Like a dummy, Bret celebrated as if they’d split the winnings. Brown quickly broke the alliance and eliminated him at 9:47. Your run of the mill battle royal. [*½]

WWF Championship Tournament First Round: Jim Duggan vs. Ted Dibiase ~ The Million Dollar Man had Andre the Giant in his corner. Also, Virgil. The crowd was hot for this given Duggan’s popularity and Dibiase being a top heel. They had a history outside of WWF, so the chemistry was there. Duggan hit all the good old babyface stuff as you’d expect. When he seemed to be on the verge of winning, Andre tripped him up. Dibiase pounced and won with the fist drop in 4:54. A decent way to start the tournament. Fine little match with a hot crowd. [**]

WWF Championship Tournament First Round: Dino Bravo vs. Don Muraco ~ The steroid era at its fines. Two powerhouses, though Bravo wasn’t quite on the level of Muraco. The work was sloppy throughout. Botched spots and slow offense all over the place. Muraco got his neck trapped in the ropes in a spot I never enjoy seeing. And it all led to a ref bump where Bravo pulled him in the way of a Muraco forearm. Bravo seemed to win but the bell was called as the referee miraculously recovered and called a DQ on Bravo in 4:53. A really bad match with an even worse finish. Yuck. [DUD]


WWF Championship Tournament First Round: Greg Valentine vs. Ricky Steamboat ~ THE WRESTLEMANIA DEBUT OF RICHIE STEAMBOAT! Ricky came out with his baby son, who would ultimately end up in NXT. Right off the bat, this match felt different from the rest. It was worked at a quicker pace, which I didn’t expect from Valentine. I popped for Valentine selling a chop like death. The same happened when Ricky hit a flying tomahawk chop. Like Steamboat’s match at the previous Mania, this was filled with near falls. It didn’t have nearly that amount of drama, but still worked. Surprisingly, Valentine rolled through a cross body with a handful of tights to steal this in 9:12. The best match on the show so far. It had good action and kind of worked as a preview for Steamboat/Flair in NWA that year, but in a much less successful fashion. [***]

WWF Championship Tournament First Round: Butch Reed vs. Randy Savage ~ The first time we’re seeing babyface Randy Savage at WrestleMania. Had Steamboat won, we’d have gotten the Savage/Steamboat Mania rematch. At the start, Butch Reed used his power advantage to wear down Savage. Of course, this was more about Savage. Reed made mistakes like stopping to talk trash and taking too long to capitalize on chances. Savage hit the elbow to advance in 4:07. Not much to this one. Kind of a way to Savage to chill before a big night. [*]


WWF Championship Tournament First Round: Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang ~ Bigelow had some awfully unfitting music here. I always forget that he was around in 88. BIG LADS WRESTLING. I can appreciate a good hoss fight but this wasn’t it. They lumbered around and bored me outside of Bigelow busting out a cool cartwheel. Slick pulled down the top rope, sending Bigelow crashing outside. Bigelow got back to the apron and brawled with Gang but was somehow counted out in 2:56. What? That was an awful finish. The only reason this doesn’t get a lower rating is because it was at least short. [¼*]

WWF Championship Tournament First Round: Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude ~ Two guys who I usually enjoy from this era. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those times. It seems like this company only does time limit draws during one night tournaments (think KOTR 93 and 95). It’s a weird decision considering how much time would get used up on a show featuring over 14 matches. Anyway, knowing they were going quite long, they worked a match fitting of that story. Lots of rest holds and stuff that would logically lead to this kind of finish. However, it doesn’t make much sense in this kind of tournament. You should try to come out firing because time is of the essence. The draw came at 15:10 or so. A disappointing, boring match that should’ve ended in a double countout or something around five minutes. [*¼]


Hercules vs. The Ultimate Warrior ~ Weird that this is on the card with nothing on the line. Commentary billed this as a battle of the powerhouses. So you know, an 80s WWF match. It was surprisingly evenly matched with Hercules getting in way more offense than I expected. I know Warrior was relatively new, but still. Hercules slapped on the Full Nelson and both went down. Warrior got lucky that he was on top and got the three in 4:29. A really weak finish to a lame match. [¾*]

WWF Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Andre The Giant vs. Hulk Hogan ~ Last year’s massive main event going on in the midcard. What a time. Hogan went right after Andre, looking for revenge after losing the title. That advantage didn’t last long and Andre put him on the defensive. He wore him down with rest holds and as much as I don’t like it, I understand that Andre was getting less mobile by the year. Ultimately, Ted Dibiase brought a chair into play from ringside. Both Hogan and Andre used it and the official called a double DQ in 5:22. Hogan used it first so he should get DQed. The crowd was hot but the match was bad and didn’t have the historical context that saved it last time. [½*]


WWF Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Don Muraco vs. Ted Dibiase ~ Winner gets a bye. I’d say these two worked this about as basically as they could have. They didn’t do anything special from a spot standpoint. However, Dibiase made this styles clash work more than it should have because he was game to bump. Even on his own stuff. He missed a stalling elbow off the top and basically flipped on his head in entertaining fashion. Muraco used his power for most of his offense, but fell to a stun gun after 5:44. A simple, yet relatively effective match. Still below average, but I’ll take that on this show. [*¾]

WWF Championship Tournament Quarterfinals: Greg Valentine vs. Randy Savage ~ A battle of elbows. Savage ruled and Valentine had a good match in the first round. And yet, this never clicked. Savage spent most of the match getting worn down and Valentine’s offense nearly put me to sleep at times. Instead of a big, entertaining comeback by the Macho Man, he just pulled Valentine into a small package when he tried the Figure Four to advance in 6:06. I liked the idea of Savage getting beat up and winning on something of a fluke. It plays great in a tournament like this. But the match suffered because of Valentine’s dull offense. [*]


WWF Intercontinental Championship: The Honky Tonk Man [c] vs. Brutus Beefcake ~ Since this is before his big accident, Beefcake was moving around well. He seemed much more energetic than I’m used to and it felt like he was putting in one of his better efforts. Granted, that’s not saying much, but still. Like the Valentine/Savage match, this one had the heel in control for a lot and it wasn’t all that interesting. It was a bit better than Valentine’s, though Beefcake’s selling was less believable than Savage. Split the difference. Beefcake had it won with the Sleeper Hold but Jimmy Hart jumped on the apron and cracked the referee with the megaphone. Honky Tonk Man went to sleep but no official was there to call it. Beefcake ended up chasing Hart around and cut his hair, but the match was called a DQ win for Beefcake. It went about 6:30 and was kind of just there. [*¼]

Bobby Heenan and The Islanders vs. The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware ~ If this were 2019, this would be a random Raw six man tag or something. Anyway, this was the blowoff to a dognapping angle that many consider to be terrible. Obviously, the Islanders handled most of the in ring stuff here. Heenan would only enter when the faces were already damaged and he still did poorly. Koko played the face in peril but never really got to make the hot tag. Instead, The Islanders hit him from behind and dropped Heenan on him for the three in 7:31. I didn’t really like this. Not even Heenan was as entertaining as he usually is. [¾*]


WWF Championship Tournament Semi-Finals: One Man Gang vs. Randy Savage ~ For a babyface to pull off this kind of tournament effort, they usually have to go through at least one big guy. Bret did it with Bigelow in 1993 and Savage did it here. Instead of telling any kind of compelling David vs. Goliath story, they opted to just do a lot of nothing. Slick and Elizabeth had a weird altercation before OMG tried using Slick’s cane as a weapon. The referee caught him and that was a DQ in 4:06. This was bad. [¼*]

WWF Tag Team Championship: Strike Force [c] vs. Demolition ~ On paper, this should work wonderfully. You have the overpowering heel tag team against the fiery underdog babyfaces. It writes itself. Tito Santana played the face in peril for most of this and Rick Martel’s hot tag saw him nearly win with the Boston Crab. Of course, that’s when Tito inadvertently distracted the referee. Mr. Fuji also had a hand. Demolition used his cane to hit Martel and win the titles in 12:33. Oh. So another cheap finish with the cane. Why not just have Demolition win clean? Even as heels, they were overpowering. Anyway, a disappointment that followed generic formula and got overbooked late. [*¾]


WWF Championship Tournament Finals: Randy Savage vs. Ted Dibiase ~ We’re finally at the end of this absurdly long card. Almost instantly, Andre the Giant tripped Savage at ringside. That sparked “Hogan” chants. That put Savage in immediate trouble. Even when Savage got going, Andre would do something to stall his momentum. It caused Savage to send Liz to the back for help in the form of Hulk Hogan. That is one absolute glory hog of a man. With the odds evened, Savage got going, only to miss the big elbow. Dibiase put on the Million Dollar Dream and Andre knocked Savage’s hand away from the ropes. Hogan hit Dibiase with a chair like a cheater and Savage won with the elbow in 9:27. A solid main event. I don’t believe it needed all the Hogan/Andre stuff, but whatever. [**¾]

There are a whopping 16 matches on this show and only one of them cracked three stars and two others passed two stars. That’s it. That’s a horrible number. There’s just so much to get through on this show and almost none of it works from an in-ring standpoint.


SCORE: 2.5





We all remember one thing from this show. The moment of Randy Savage winning the WWF Title and celebrating with Miss Elizabeth. Other than Hulk Hogan’s grandstanding, that’s such a beautiful moment. The only other thing that I think is memorable is the simple fact that this was a WrestleMania dedicated to a tournament, even if it wasn’t good. But yeah, that Savage stuff is a huge deal.


SCORE: 6.0



Historical Significance


Again, the Macho Man championship win is the most historic thing to happen on this show. It’s going to be the focal point of most of these topics. There are a few other bits that stood out. The fact that this is the one tournament to fully take place at a WrestleMania gives it points there. This show also marked the start of the record setting Tag Team Title run for Demolition. All in all, a better than expected score here.


SCORE: 7.0



Booking Decisions

Obviously, they got it right when they chose to put the title on Randy Savage. He was fresh off some great years with the company, was super popular, and marked something different. The Tag Titles going to Demolition was a good move, as was booking Ted Dibiase to make it to the finals of the tournament. However, they missed the boat on a lot. Not giving us Steamboat/Savage II was a missed opportunity. And those finishes. There were so many bad finishes on this show. The stupid countout of Bigelow, the use of a cane as a weapon in back to back matches, something dirty happening in most of the card. It was rough.


SCORE: 3.5





This had no chance to look as good or epic as its predecessor. Moving to Trump Plaza cut things down to under 20,000 in attendance. In that respect, it felt like a regular show and not the spectacle you want from a Mania. I do believe the venue actually looked pretty good. The ceiling was set up with some cool looking colors. The intro video looked cheap even for the 80s. I do believe the commentary was solid again. I’ve always been a fan of the Gorilla Monsoon/Jesse Ventura pairing. They play well off each other and do all the little things to add to a match. Also, it’s a small thing, but I really liked Macho Man and Elizabeth wearing different outfits for each match.


SCORE: 6.0





Here’s a place this show really struggled. At three and a half hours, it was a long show. That’s okay if you can keep things moving smoothly. This show wasted a lot of time. There’s literally a point where they just have Jesse Ventura pose and flex for no reason for a minute or two. Why? Robin Leach came out and read a “tournament proclamation” which just felt like more time being wasted. I also didn’t get the idea of starting with the battle royal, as it felt awkward. With so many matches to get through, many of them didn’t develop the way they should have, while others went on for too long. This was a slog to get through.


SCORE: 2.0





There was a surprising amount of non-wrestling portions throughout this. The celebrities involved were used in decent fashion. Gladys Knight was another good choice to sing at the start, while Bob Uecker was his witty self. I didn’t care much for Robin Leach’s uses and then there’s the Vanna White stuff. Uecker and Ventura kept making these sexual jokes about her throughout the show and they were just never funny. Meanwhile, White spoke as if she had never seen wrestling before. None of the promos on the show stood out either.


SCORE: 5.0




There was potential on this show. I think if you cut down the tournament from 14 participants to 8, it would allow things to run smoother. As is, there were too many matches and if only one or two are solid, then the show is going to suffer. It did well in presentation, memorability, and historical significance, which kept it out above the last spot.


TOTAL: 32/70


WrestleMania Rankings
1. WrestleMania III – 55/70
2. WrestleMania – 50/70
3. WrestleMania IV – 32/70
4. WrestleMania 2 – 29/70


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WrestleMania 4, Kevin Pantoja