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Wrestlemania V Review (4.2.1989)

May 30, 2019 | Posted by Adam Nedeff
WrestleMania V
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Wrestlemania V Review (4.2.1989)  

-Originally wrote this in 2013. Adding stuff when it pops into my head.

-It’s April 2, 1989.

-We’re once again in Trump Plaza: free valuum taped to every seat in the house!

-This is from the 1997 VHS box set release, which in this case means that only Rockin’ Robin’s bungled National Anthem has been removed, but everything else from the show is 100% intact. Robin actually pretty much vanished after this show, and the Women’s Title went with her.

HERCULES vs KING HAKU (with Bobby Heenan)
-This is the blow-off for Hercules’ pursuit of vengeance for being sold into slavery. It’s also honestly his peak as a babyface, as they had the angle to turn him and get crowd sympathy, but absolutely nothing to follow it up with, so once Hercules got his revenge, they were done with him and he just drifted for a year and a half before they finally turned him again.

-Haku attacks from behind but Herc gets fired up and mounts a comeback while Donald Trump and his entourage show up ten minutes late and get seated on camera. God knows it’s his complex and he can do whatever he wants, but Donald Trump coming back to Wrestlemania V a year later and sitting in exactly the same seat and wearing the same suit is a disquieting visual.

-Action goes out to the floor and Hercules works over the back. He heads inside and a backbreaker gets an audible “oooooooh”, but Hercules manages to kick out. I think the crowd was expecting that to finish. Bearhug by Haku wears out Hercules, kills the crowd, and kills one of the handheld cameras at ringside. Hercules escapes and ducks a second rope bodypress. He mounts a comeback from there with a series of clotheslines and a powerslam. Herc comes off the top but eats a crescent kick. Haku comes off the second rope with a splash, which misses, and again, the crowd seemed to be expecting that to finish.

-Herc finishes with a back suplex, and they seem to be going for the “suspenseful” double-pin spot, but the audio guy says “Fuck it” and fires up Herc’s music immediately after the bell to wreck that. Hercules gets the win. 1 for 1. Good match; behold the magic of Wrestlemania. If this had been just another show, it would have been “eh,” but stick these two guys out there to open the biggest show of the year and they show some extra fire and give you something good.

-The Rockers talk with Gene Okerlund about their big challenge tonight.

-The Akeem gimmick is already odd as it is, but I really think it’s weird that they gave him that gimmick and then immediately paired him up with Bossman, whereas gang member and nasty prison guard seem a more logical pairing; you could have even given them a backstory about One Man Gang buddying up to Bossman while he was doing time for something.

-Rockers use some pretty slick distracting and dodging to handle Bossman early on. Shawn sucker-punches Akeem on the apron, catching him off-guard. Rockers work the arm of Akeem, but a sneaky tag from Bossman leads to Marty getting trapped in a bearhug and then sandwiched between his opponents. Double avalanche in the corner by the Towers, one of those moves that looks cool but falls apart if you take five seconds to think about it (wouldn’t it hurt Bossman, too?)

-Bossman continues dominating while Slick complains that the match needs a black referee. Towers attempt another double-team on the apron, but Marty finally ducks and gets a hot tag. Rockers unleash their whole double-teaming arsenal on Akeem, but Shawn pays for it when Akeem stiffs the shit out of him on a clothesline (Jesse: “I believe he irritated Akeem.”)

-Bossman comes off the top rope but misses. Shawn attempts a rana at Bossman, but Bossman holds onto him and Marty schoolboys Bossman to take him off his feet. Marty gets knocked out of the ring as Shawn heads off the top rope, and Bossman catches him in a spinebuster, which might as well end the match right there, but Akeem hits a splash to put an exclamation point on it, and it’s a decisive win for the Towers. 2 for 2. Great match. The Towers were a pretty underrated team. I mean, yes, their opponents deserve a lot of credit, too, but I’ve seen them against Demolition, the Mega-Powers, the Hart Foundation, and the Rockers, and off-hand I can’t think of a Twin Towers match that I disliked.

BRUTUS “The Barber” BEEFCAKE vs “Million Dollar Man” TED DIBIASE (with Virgil)
-Brutus is about to get a main event push and DiBiase just got a renewed push stemming from the Million Dollar Belt, which means that these two men…probably should have been booked against different opponents.

-Beefcake takes control early on with a series of bodyslams and a clothesline that sends DiBiase out to the floor. DiBiase stalls a bit before heading back into the ring. Fistfight is a stalemate until Virgil trips Beefcake and DiBiase takes advantage. DiBiase heads to the second rope but can’t put Beefcake away. Double clothesline wipes out both men. DiBiase recovers first and goes for the Million Dollar Dream, but Beefcake makes the ropes.

-A series of turnbuckle shots puts Beefcake back in the driver’s seat. Beefcake tries to finish with a sleeper and Virgil distracts im. DiBiase knocks Beefcake out to the floor, a brawl ensues, and bingo-bango, double-countout. 2 for 3. First thumbs-down of the night; really lethargic offering, with the “we’ve been in a marathon” selling starting really early. These guys never really found their groove, or found a story to tell. It wasn’t AGGRESSIVELY bad, but I can definitely see why these two guys never got paired up again.

-We go to the Wrestlemania V brunch earlier this morning, where Lord Alfred Hayes interrupts the Bushwhackers while they’re eating and can’t get much out of them.


-This was kind of a weird feud looking back because these two teams were never given a real issue and never crossed paths in any real way, but they just kept getting thrown in the ring together over and over again. I’ll simply say that I’m amused by the cost-cutting “Wrestlemania V” banners throughout the arena, which are just the Wrestlemania IV banners with all the I’s peeled off.

-Bushwhackers destroy Jimmy Hart’s jacket and then Irish-whip the Rougeaus into him. Bushwhackers clear the ring and the Rougeaus need to regroup. Cute bit by Jacques, who wrestles with an untied boot and that bothers the referee enough that Raymond can sneak in and attack while the referee is dealing with it.

-Rougeaus control for a little bit and celebrate prematurely, which allows the Whackers to sneak in with a battering ram and a double-stomachbreaker to get an abrupt win. 2 for 4. This match’s entire legacy is Raymond getting jerked off in the ring as a rib, and that’s about as much as it’s worth. This was the kind of match that they’d normally bury in the middle of a “Prime Time” episode.

-Curt Hennig is being relaunched here, with his real name getting cast aside altogether and the style of singlet that he wore forever after. He still didn’t really gain any traction, honestly, and it took one more bit of tweaking and vignettes in the autumn for him to finally break through. The amazing thing, looking back, was that they kept booking him with a “perfect record” through the whole time and didn’t give up on that, they just kept giving him win after win after win just in case he finally DID get over. Jesse gushes “He looks perfect!” right as he trips on the stairs in the Trump Plaza aisle.

-Slaps and taunts are exchanged. Blazer lands on his feet after a hiptoss and dropkicks Perfect out to the floor, meeting him with a baseball slide after the landing. Blazer works the arm and then slams Perfect into position. He heads to the top rope, which is pretty cursed territory so far tonight, and he doesn’t have much better luck, getting a gutful of knee on his way down.

-Hello to Terry, Tyrell, and Jade…and Jeremiah.

-Belly-to-belly by Blazer gets two. Crucifix by Blazer gets another two. Blazer argues with the referee and pays for it, getting blindsided by a hard forearm. Perfectplex finishes for the Perfect one. 3 for 5. Some fans sort of regard this match as an undiscovered gem in Wrestlemania history; it really isn’t, but it’s still a pretty good match.

-Jesse Ventura poses for the fans to kill a little time.

-We look at Mister Fuji running a 5k in his tux earlier today to kill a little time.

-Run-DMC performs a special Wrestlemania rap to kill a lot of time. Gorilla very diplomatically calls it shit after they’re done.

-We recap the Demolition-Powers of Pain feud to kill a little time. If you haven’t finished peeing yet, you really have no one to blame but yourself.

-Demolition is ready to finish off Fuj the Stooge.

-Ax and Warlord start. Ax clubbers away and Smash tags in to take a more scientific approach. The crowd is just silent for this match, which is a bad sign because they were reacting to earlier matches with no issue leading up to them.

-Demolition controls the match pretty well until he goes after Fuji on the apron and suddenly the Powers of Pain take control. Fuji tags in and gets a little offense in, but gets out of town the moment trouble starts back up. Hottish tag to Smash and he clears the ring. Brawl erupts, but Smash ducks a fistful of salt and that leaves Fuji all alone with Demolition. Decapitator gets the win for Demolition. 3 for 6. Even Gorilla and Jesse noticed how sluggish this was in the early going, and they shifted gears from “sluggish” to “finish” pretty abruptly.

-Randy Savage chases Tony Schiavone out of his dressing room.

-In the most oddly-timed announcement ever, Howard Finkel proclaims that Superfly Jimmy Snuka is returning to the WWF. Then Snuka comes to the ring, waves to the people, and then leaves. Really weird.

-Dino attacks from behind and controls the match pretty handily with power moves. Garvin finally gets some offense with a series of fists. Chops by Garvin as Gorilla says his “we’re not going to see many (actual wrestling stuff)” line. Piledriver is countered by Dino, which is countered by a roll-up from Garvin for two. Side suplex by Dino wraps up shortly after. Garvin stares at the lights for several seconds, contemplating the past 365 days of his wrestling career, and then takes it out on Frenchy Martin, ending his run as a manager. 3 for 7. Man, the wheels fell off this Wrestlemania after a hot start.

-This was touted as Strike Force’s “reunion” after ten months apart, with Rick Martel building toward the match with a couple of promos implying that he’d really rather be a singles wrestler. Hmm…

-Martel gets trapped in the wrong corner but fires away at everything that moves. A brawl erupts and Strike Force clears the ring. Mat wrestling with Arn Anderson goes Rick’s way, too. He applies the Boston crab early, but Tully breaks it with a thumb to the eye. Tito tags in behind Tully’s back and Strike Force takes control with dual figure-fours. Tito handles both Busters even as they keep trying their sneaky stuff.

-Tito accidentally wallops his own partner with a flying forearm and fights off the Busters by himself for a few minutes. Martel recovers but when Tito tries to tag in, Martel walks away and calls it a night, leaving Tito to die, and the Busters have an easy night with Tito before finishing with the spike piledriver. 4 for 8. More of a story than an actual match, but a good story and a good match for what it was.

-Roddy Piper returns after two years off. This was actually just a one-shot for him at the time, and in fact at this same time, he was negotiating with Jim Herd for a run in the NWA. He didn’t really return to the WWF fully until the summer.

-Brother Love, wearing a kilt, shows up first and does a hilarious Piper impression, interviewing himself. Controversial talk show host Morton Downey, Jr. shows up next and trades insults with Brother Love. Roddy Piper finally shows up, rips off Brother Love’s kilt and then blasts a fire extinguisher in Downey’s face. 5 for 9. Ehh, I’m giving it a thumbs-up because Piper was my first favorite wrestler, this was my introduction to him, and as a six-year-old, this entertained me, so sentimental value. But if you think this segment is shit, that’s absolutely fine, too. It goes on forever…seriously, the description makes it sound reasonably short, but Jesus, is really does just keep going…and it hasn’t aged well. If you show this to a younger fan who doesn’t know or get who Morton Downey, Jr. was, there’s not much to this bit at all. But still…it got me hooked on Roddy Piper. Bruce Prichard, by the way, told a funny story on one of the DVDs about doing a “dry run” of this bit with Piper at a house show and getting absolutely walloped at the end because Piper apparently didn’t appreciate the impression. So you gotta hand it to Brother Love for doing it again anyway when the big day came.

-Gene Okerlund announces that Hulk Hogan is going to star in a major motion picture, titled No, Hold the Phone or something. We see a trailer, after which Jesse goes batshit crazy about Hulk invading his territory, Hollywood. Given that Jesse’s in the movie, he must have some serious short-term memory issues.

-We revisit the whole Mega-Powers soap opera leading up to tonight’s main event. It’s a good recap, but I’d enjoy it more if it took 45 minutes and included an unexpected shot of Vince McMahon in a speedo.

-Hulk Hogan says that the Mania is bigger than the madness.

JAKE “The Snake” ROBERTS vs ANDRE THE GIANT (with Bobby Heenan)
-Big John Studd is the special guest referee.

-Andre attacks at the bell and rams Jake into an exposed turnbuckle for a big advantage early in the match. Jake escapes and bolts straight to Damien, but Andre cuts him off and clamps on a chokehold. He traps Jake into a corner and back-rams him a few times. I kind of wish we hadn’t been given the opportunity to hear shoot interview stories about Andre for the past twenty years, because now whenever I watch an Andre match and he does that move, my only thought is “I wonder if Andre is farting right now.”

-Jake gets a second wind and goes fter Andre with kicks and punches. A clothesline gets Andre tangled in the ropes. Big John actually does the good referee thing and stops Jake from taking advantage and attacking.

-Andre gets free and clamps on a nerve hold. He backs Jake into a corner, and we get a weird moment where Jake connects with a short knee, but he does such a lazy version of the move that NOBODY—not the crowd, not the commentators—catches it, and the sell just looks like Andre is having a stroke midmatch.

-Jake gets knocked out to the floor and gets Damien. Andre, meanwhile, picks a fight with Studd. Overbooking takes over as Ted DiBiase shows up for no adequately explored reason and attacks Jake from behind and runs away with Damien. Jake leaves to retrieve him as Andre chokes out Studd. Jake gets the snake back, scares Andre, who breaks the chokehold, and Big John gives the win to Jake. 5 for 10. Holy shit, what WAS this match? Jake let Andre carry the match, Andre was totally on fumes, and the finish was a mess. Good god, if you need a split screen, you need to come up with a better finish.

-They won’t be Rhythm & Blues for another year. This one actually has a little bit of an issue to it, as these two teams squared off on Superstars a while back and the megaphone got involved.

-Honky and Bret start and Bret gets an early roll-up for two. Bret goes to town on both opponents and slingshots Anvil on top of Valentine for a two-count. Bret gets trapped in the wrong corner and Valentine needs seven or eight minutes to get warmed up, according to Gorilla. He usually says fifteen minutes, so apparently Valentine has been doing some heavy training for this match.

-Stomachbreaker by Valentine gets two. Anvil finally gets the hot tag and cleans house with short tackles. Honky breaks an attempted pinfall and then misses a fistdrop, and now Honky is trapped in the wrong corner. Suplex by Bret looks to finish, but Valentine breaks the pin. Jimmy Hart thoughtlessly puts down his megaphone at one point, and as soon as Anvil sees it, he chases Jimmy to another side of the ring and Bret KOs Honky with the megaphone to get the win. 6 for 11. Good match, dead crowd.

-Rude debuts the greatest tights ever, his tights with the title belt airbrushed directly the front. Rude tries to attack before the bell with a kneelift, but Warrior is still wearing the belt so Rude hurts his own leg. Rude gets whipped back and forth before getting caught in a bearhug by the Warrior. Rude FINALLY gets in a little offense, and Ventura immediately calls the match for him and declares it a major upset, which is pretty funny because Ventura was usually the more level-headed and rational among heel commentators.

-Piledriver by Rude gets two. Rude keeps dishing out punishment and going for pins immediately, and Warrior keeps reviving. Rude turns to a wear-down approach, trying a surfboard. Warrior breaks free with a move that I can only adequately describe as a butt thrust. Warrior goes to the Irish whips again since they worked early, but he misses a corner charge and Rude goes for the Awakening. Warrior muscles out of it before Rude has a chance to drop him. Rude goes out to the floor and Warrior tries to bring him back in with a suplex, but Bobby Heenan clutches Warrior’s leg and holds the fuck onto it so Rude can fall on top to get the pin and the title. 7 for 12. Solid little match that showed what Rude was made of. Having captured the Intercontinental Title, Rude spent the next five months criss-crossing the country losing over and over and over again to Warrior at house shows despite being champion, before losing to Warrior at a PPV to drop the belt. So Rude was actually pretty ahead of his time.

-This match was set up when somebody decided that these two should have a match at Wrestlemania V. Here’s the thing about the Trump Plaza Wrestlemanias. The battle royal was done in the wrong year. Wrestlemania IV was already the most bloated show they had ever done and it didn’t need a battle royal piled onto it. Wrestlemania V was a bloated show in its finished form, and they actually should have just put everybody with no issue into a battle royal, give the win to Beefcake to kick off his push, and book some key spots to give everybody else some house shows to aim for.

-Duggan and Bad News brawl around, and Jesse gets in a good line, saying that if either one of them tried using an actual hold, they’d probably win it right then and there. Bad News goes for the ghetto blaster and misses. Duggan’s three-point stance connects and Brown totally no-sells it and rolls out to the floor to grab a chair. They dual with the chair and the 2×4 until the referee calls for the bell. 7 for 13. Just awful.

RED ROOSTER vs BOBBY “The Brain” HEENAN (with Brooklyn Brawler)
-Heenan misses a charge and gets pinned in 30 seconds. 7 for 14. This was actually booked to go five minutes but they’re pressed for time now.

-Savage stalls a little bit early on and yells at Elizabeth, standing in the neutral corner. Savage clamps on a side headlock and hangs onto it. Hulk sends Savage into the ropes and Savage heads to the floor. Hulk gets fed up and chases him around the floor, leading Savage to use Elizabeth as a human shield. Back in, Hogan gets his own side headlock and then works the arm, which Savage stops with a thumb to the eye.

-Savage connects with a double axehandle off the top rope. Savage works the arm himself and when Hogan starts to make a comeback, Savage pulls the hair. Turnabout is fair play, so Hogan gets a handful of tights and launches Savage out to the floor that way. Back in, Savage gets the edge back and Hulk gets a cut above the eye, leading Jesse to speculate that the match might be stopped. Gorilla is incredulous, saying that a championship match will not be stopped for a cut above the eye. Because when you have a riveting storyline and two workers with good chemistry who can put on a great match together, your FIRST priority should be giving your competition the finger.

-Hogan gets his second wind and hits an atomic drop, but an elbow misses. Knee to the back by Savage and even with a handful of tights, he can only get two. Savage gets distracted with screaming at Elizabeth and Hulk attacks from behind, then bodyslams Savage over the top rope and clear out to the floor. Hogan tries to ram Savage into a post, but Elizabeth actually stops him and Savage manages to wriggle free and ram Hulk into the post without Elizabeth’s intervention. And then Savage starts yelling at Elizabeth, and the referee finally gets fed up and makes Elizabeth leave.

Savage comes off the top rope with the double axehandle onto the floor, and Hogan goes throat first into the barricade. Savage seizes the opportunity and snaps Hogan’s neck over the top rope to work it more. Bossman leg drop by Macho and a short elbow to the throat. He slams Hulk into position…but chokes him with his wrist tape. Hulk appears to pass out, so Savage calls it a night and drops the big elbow…which doesn’t end well. Big boot, legdrop, title change. 8 for 15. In their prime, these two could do no wrong.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
This is weird for me, because this was the first Wrestlemania I ever saw (VHS, a few weeks after the fact) and it turned me into a fan for life, so clearly there was something there, and yet, looking at it now, I really didn't get into it. Definitely recommended if you're a fan of the era, but not for anybody else. I mean, it's not a show I would recommend screening for somebody that you want to get hooked on the kind of stuff that YOU like. The matches worth salvaging have found their way onto other DVD sets, so I'd honestly say that if "sentimental value" never figures into your way of thinking, you should take a pass.

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WrestleMania 5, Adam Nedeff