March 27, 1988
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Announcers: Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse "The Body" Ventura
In 1988 Wrestlemania was in its fourth year and coming off the uncomparable Wrestlemania III, Vince and company had to do something to top the untoppable. Last year, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant had battled it out for the World Title in the biggest match in wrestling history to date. So what was in store for Wrestlemania IV? Knowing that no other match could live up to Hulk and Andre and a rematch wouldnít be of the same magnitude or importance, we got a fourteen man single elimination World Title Tournament, the first time the Title would ever be up for grabs in a tourney.
Months earlier, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase set the wheels in motion as he revealed his plan to purchase the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan. Hogan answered with a resounding "Hell no" much to the dismay of DiBiase. So what did Teddy do? He bought Andre the Giantís contract from Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and got Andre a rematch against Hogan for the Title on Saturday Nightís Main Event on February 5, 1988. Andre pinned Hogan in controversial manner (Hulkís shoulder was clearly off the mat after the count of one, but the ref counted three anyway) to become the new Champion. Directly after the match, Andre handed the belt over to DiBiase who had finally accomplished his mission of buying the WWF Title. Right? Wrong.
President Jack Tunney ruled that Titles must be won in the ring and cannot be given away (despite the fact that this has happened many times since) and declared the Title vacant. He made the tournament for Wrestlemania with Hulk and Andre receiving a first round bye since they were the last two Champions, only to face each other in the first match of the second round. Other participants in the tournament would include, Ted DiBiase, Jim Duggan, Don Muraco, Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, Butch Reed, Bam Bam Bigelow, One Man Gang, Rick Rude, and Jake Roberts.
And with that we can start Wrestlemania IV...
Oh, but we canít. See, thereís more.
On January 24, 1988, the NWA was all set to hold its "Bunkhouse Stampede" PPV. So what does the WWF do? Run its own show on regular cable TV on the USA network. Thus the Royal Rumble was born and fans of both promotions were forced to decide whether to watch the free Rumble or pay for the NWA show. So in March with Wrestlemania IV set to air on PPV, the NWA was out for revenge. They aired their first ever Clash Of The Champions on TBS head to head with Wrestlemania and as a result many opted to watch that show, which featured a Ric Flair/Sting main event (a match which can still be seen on WCW today, thirteen years later) instead of the costly Wrestlemania IV. Some reports have maintained that this ended up costing the WWF almost four million dollars.
And now weíre set for Wrestlemania IV.
20 Man Battle Royale
Participants include The Hart Foundation, Young Stallions, Sika, "Dangerous" Danny Davis, The Killer Bees, Bad News Brown, Sam Houston, The Rougeaus, Ken Patera, "Outlaw" Ron Bass, Junkyard Dog, Bolsheiviks, Hillbilly Jim, Harley Race, and George "The Animal" Steele.
Mayhem ensues and Mr. Baseball Bob Uecker joins Gorilla and Ventura in the booth for commentary. He begins to talk about Vanna White, who is in attendance and starts the show long gag of Bob searching the building up and down to find her. Standard Battle Royale goes down in the ring and the last three men are JYD, Bad News, and one half of the former Tag Team Champion Hart Foundation, Bret "Hitman" Hart. Bad News and Bret, being heels, team up on fan favorite JYD and eventually dump him over the top. They embrace and it looks as if theyíre ready to split the money and declare themselves co-winners, but Bad News pulls out the Ghettoblaster and levels Bret from behind. Bret is then easy pickings as Brown eliminates him for the win at 9:47. Bad News is awarded an oversized trophy, which is about eight feet tall, and Bret storms the ring, sending Bad News tumbling with a dropkick. He then proceeds to throw a major league hissy fit, smash apart the trophy, breaking it into several pieces, and hurl whatís left of it out of the ring to huge face pops. Itís kind of impossible to judge battle royales, but what the hell, Iíll give it ** for the fact that it was a wide open field and this was the start of Bretís, and subsequently Niedhartís, face turn.
First Round Tournament Match: "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
Aristocratic second generation classic wrestler vs. low-class brawler. DiBiase is accompanied to the ring by his bodyguard Virgil, and business associate Andre the Giant. Duggan tries to make it his kind of match; a brawl, but DiBiase takes over with wrestling. At one point, Hacksaw is forced to try to adjust and gets two with an awful attempt at pulling off a sunset flip. Now I know why he sticks to the brawling. Duggan sets up for the three point stance clothesline, but Andre grabs his foot, allowing DiBiase to grab the advantage, hit a knee to the kidneys and drop a fist to get the pin at 5:02 and advance to the next round. 3/4*
Mean Gene is backstage with the challenger in the upcoming Intecontinental Title Match, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. Okerlund compliments him on his nice package and then comments on the fishnet material Brutus is wearing on his legs. He seems impressed. Seriously. Of course Beefcake canít cut any of Geneís hair because, well, there is none.
First Round Tournament Match: "The Rock" Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo
Yes, when Dwayne Johnson was in high school, there was another Rock in the WWF. This is just about at the end of former Intercontinental Titlist, Don Muracoís run in the WWF and he actually has cool music at this point. "Superstar" Billy Graham is his manager while Dino has good olí Frenchy Martin at his side. The bell rings, and it should be noted that both participants are pretty noticabely roided up. Muraco starts off hot but then both guys botch a pump splash in the corner as Bravo is in the wrong position and to compensate Muraco changes flight in mid air, slipping on the rope in the process. But both recover and the match isnít too bad until Bravo misses a charge with his knee and Muraco attempts to capatalize. The last thing these two guys really need is a match that focuses on a knee injury, especially when it doesnít even factor into the finish. Once Bravo has Muraco down, he ignores the previous two minutes of the match by not selling the knee at all, and executes a piledriver for two. He goes for it again but Muraco backdrops out. Muraco has Bravo reeling and goes off the ropes to try a flying forearm, but at the last second Bravo pulls the ref in the way causing him to absorb the blow instead. Bravo then hits his pattened side suplex on Muraco and the ref crawls to Dino and taps him on the shoulder three times. Bravo celebrates as the ref calls for the bell, but alas, Bravo has not scored the pinfall but rather been DQíed. Time of the match is 4:55. Muraco wins and advances to the second round. Iíll give it *1/4 which is better than I remembered it as being.
Bob Uecker is backstage with Intercontinental Champion, Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart.
We cut to the ring with Greg Valentine standing right next to... Jimmy Hart. I hate the crappy Wrestlemania "boxset" version I have. They keep all the matches, but cut up everything in between. Ugh.
First Round Tournament Match: Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
Two former IC Champions. Steamboat was on his way out at this point, ready to make the jump to the NWA. He comes to the ring with his baby son in his arms. Had Steamboat won this weíd have the chance to see Steamboat/Savage II in the next round, but thatís just a tease. Gorilla reminds us that itís a fifteen minute time limit but, "sometimes it takes fifteen minutes just for the Hammer to get warmed up." Jesse then works in a mention of Barry Blaustein who you might recognize as the director of the Beyond The Mat documentary. Valentine and Steamboat wrestle a good match, trading chops. When Steamboat is on offense the pace is quick, but when Valentine is in control it slows down considerably. Steamboat goes for the crossbody of the top but Valentine rolls through for the pin at 9:11. **1/2
Gene is with The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware and Koko kisses the Bulldogsí mascot, Matilda, squarely on the lips.
First Round Tournament Match: Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. "The Natural" Butch Reed
Iím telling you, the best music ever is Slickís theme, used here by Reed and later by Akeem. Savage and Elizabeth are in matching blue. In an uneventful 4:09, Macho finishes Reed off with the Flying Elbow. 1/2*
First Round Tournament Match: Bam Bam Bigelow vs. The One Man Gang
Not quite the standard big man vs. big man match because at least Bam Bam is agile, but close to it. We get some quickness out of Bigelow but soon they resort to punches and headbutts. Bigelow goes off the ropes and Slick pulls them down, sending Bam Bam to go spilling to the floor. Bigelow gets back in and takes it to the Gang only to find out that heís been counted out at 3:00. Gang advances. 1/4*
First Round Tournament Match: Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude
Rude does his shtick on the mic, which if you think about it is years ahead of his time as nobody spoke on the house mic right before their match in 1988, but it is now commonplace. Match is underway. Arm ringers, criss-crosses, and you just know theyíre stalling. Rude poses instead of going for the cover right away and Monsoon says heís wasting time. Thatís the point, Gorilla. Reverse chinlock. Jesse mentions the fifteen minute time limit but itís only SIX MINUTES IN and Valentine/Steamboat went nine plus without anyone fearing the time limit would expire. As result, it doesnít take a genius to see where this is going. Rude controls despite the fact that he has no offensive moves and the crowd is dead. Thirteen minutes elapse before we cue the Jake comeback. He hits a backdrop and a short clothesline, but the DDT is countered. Double clothesline spot with twenty seconds left- they shouldíve done that earlier. Rude goes for the Flair pin in the corner, the ref counts two, and the bell rings. Time limit draw and both men are eliminated. The timekeeper let it go an extra fourteen seconds so they could do the finish. Itís hard for two wrestlers and a referree to work within such a precise timeframe and end the match the second itís supposed to finish. *1/4 with a real time of 15:14.
Mean Gene is at the big novelty tournament board with the Uecker-less Vanna White.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules
This is a non-tournament match. There was some sort of feud going on here about Herculesí chain, so you can imagine the excitement. They trade clotheslines and punches and for a long time nothing happens. Finally Herc hooks the full nelson, but the Warrior moves him towards the corner, walks the ropes, and flips over so that both mensí shoulders are down. Warrior lifts his at two, but Herc fails to do so and the Warrior gets the pin at 4:38, though Herc initially thinks he has won. This marks the third time in seven matches that the heel has thought they won (Bravo, Rude) but havenít. After the match, Herc jumps Warrior with the chain but Warrior powers out and swings the chain around wildly like the raving lunatic he is. Pretty bad match, but the finish was at least creative. 1/4*
Second Round Tournament Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant
Andre is nearing the end here and the poor guy canít move with any sort of continuity. He dominates with his usual slow, plodding stuff but Hogan starts to make the big comeback. Virgil gets up on the apron to distract the ref while DiBiase comes in and levels Hulk with a chair to the back. But it doesnít phase Hogan who turns around and stares at DiBiase, which is enough to get him to flee. Hogan picks up the chair and in FULL VIEW OF THE REF smacks Andre with it. The ref DOES NOTHING except take the chair from Hogan. Andre then grabs it from the ref and nails Hogan with it and THEN the ref calls for the bell. Double DQ at 5:21, though it shouldíve been over the second Hogan used the chair. Iíll be generous and give the match 1/4* because this was Hulk and Andre after all. Aftermath sees Hogan hit Andre again with the chair after the bell because, you know, heís a good sportsman and excellent role model. Hulk then chases Virgil and suplexes the defenseless bodyguard on the arena floor. He gives chase to DiBiase goes back to the ring, bodyslams Andre and poses for the crowd for about five minutes before finally leaving.
Mean Gene is backstage with Savage and Liz, now in matching pink. I bet she chose that color. Savage vows to go all the way.
Second Round Tournament Match: "The Rock" Don Muraco vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
The winner has a bye to the finals as a result of the Hulk/Andre match. DiBiase is alone here as Andre just wrestled and Hogan put Virgil out of comission with the suplex on the floor. Finish comes when DiBiase catches the Rock coming off the ropes, lifts him up and clotheslines his throat across the top rope for the pin. DiBiase advances to the finals at 5:35. *1/4
The One Man Gang has a bye to the semifinals courtesy of the Jake/Rude time limit draw. Is it really necessary to bring him out to the ring for that announcement?
Second Round Tournament Match: Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
Two former IC Champions. Macho is the only face left at this point. Hammer controls with a lot of elbows and roughs him up on the outside, taking a page out of Savageís book. In the ring he tries to soften him up for the Figure Four but when Valentine turns the leg, Savage grabs him and rolls him into a small package for the quick pin at 6:07. Decent match. *1/2
Gene is again at the tournament board with Vanna.
Intercontinental Title: Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake vs. Honky Tonk Man (Champion)
And the Champion is out first, but this is only the Intercontinental Title so I wonít make too big of a deal out of it. Though it does seem a little strange when Beefcake comes out second with no entrance music. Jesse works in his obligatory hello to Terry, Tyrell, and Jake back home in Minnesota, as is per PPV. Honky and Beefer wrestle a pretty sad match. The ending is chaotic as Beefer gets Honky in the sleeper but Jimmy Hart comes up on the apron and knocks out the ref from behind with his megaphone. Beefcake releases the hold and chases Jimmy outside the ring and starts giving him a haircut. Meanwhile, Peggy Sue revives Honky by pouring a pitcher of water on his head. Two other refs come out and try to revive the original ref but canít. Honky and Jimmy start making their way back to the dressing room while Fink announces that Beefcake wins the match via DQ. How he got that announcement Iíll never know since the ref is still OUT COLD! Howís that one work? Time of the match is an unofficial 8:56 1/2*
Uecker is with Andre, who reveals to us that DiBiase paid him to eliminate himself and Hogan so that the Million Dollar Man would have a clear path to the Title. Famous moment as Andre wraps his hands around Ueck and comically chokes him out.
The British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware vs. The Islanders & Bobby "The Brain" Heenan
The Brain and the Islanders had kidnapped Matilda, the Bulldogsí bulldog, to start this feud, though she was now back with the Bulldogs. Heenan is wearing some sort of padded protective gear to prevent Matilda from getting to him and thatís why they call him the Brain. The Islanders and Bulldogs go at it to start and put on a pretty good display. The Isles are a tough, strong team and the Bulldogs are a quicker, faster team, though Davey Boy Smith is also very powerful and Haku is very agile, so every combination of the four of them clicks well together. Heenan tags in only when his team has the overwhelming advantage, gets a few shots in, then tags out again. He does this when Koko is seemingly out of it, but Koko sucks it up and clobbers Heenan. Sensing trouble, the Islanders get in the ring and a pier-six erupts. Amidst the mayhem, the Isles double slam Heenan on top of a fallen Koko and the Brain scores the winning fall at 7:38. After the match Matilda and the Bulldogs chase him to the back. *3/4
Jesse Ventura poses for the crowd and despite being a heel announcer, gets one of the biggest face pops of the night.
Ted DiBiase has a bye to the finals and again I question why he has to be in the ring for that announcement to take place.
Third Round Tournament Match: Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. The One Man Gang
Savage and Liz are now in matching black. After a few minutes Gang takes Slickís cane and attempts to smash Savage with it in full view of the ref. He is, of course, disqualified. Gang tries to hit Savage with a cane and misses and itís an automatic DQ, but Hogan levels Andre with a chair and thatís OK. Savage moves on to the finals at 4:11. 1/2* match, but only because Macho hit the axehandle to the floor for the first and only time all night.
Gene is with Vanna yet again at the Tournament Board.
Tag Team Titles: Strike Force (Champions) vs. Demolition
Demolition had only been around a few months but they were quickly on their way to the top. Martel and Santana had scored a fluke upset over the Hart Foundation to win the Titles. You can tell itís Demolitionís early days because Smash still has some yellow face paint at this point. Ax and Smash work over Santana the whole match until Martel gets the hot tag and gets the Boston Crab on Smash. Fuji gets on the apron and Tito starts nailing him as the ref attempts to separate them. Fuji drops the cane and Ax picks it up and whacks Martel across the back with it. Smash covers Martel and Demolition wins their first Tag Team Titles at 8:09. ** Demolition would hold the belts for the better part of the next two and a half years.
Weíre ready for the Tournament Finals next, and Robin Leach makes his way down to present the World Championship Belt.
The Fink introduces the guest ring announcer, Bob Uecker. On the way down the aisle a drunken fan with a cigarette in his mouth hops the rail and hugs him. But pro that he is, Uecker plays it off and continues to the ring to introduce the guest timekeeper, Vanna White. The two finally meet thus ending Ueckís show long search for her, and needless to say, Ueck is absolutely thrilled.
Tournament Finals for the vacant World Title: "Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase
Andre is back with DiBiase and Savage and Liz are now in matching white. Twice in the first minute, Andre trips up Savage. He later blocks him from nailing DiBiase off the top. Savage, frustrated, whispers something in Lizís ear and she goes back to the locker room. DiBiase takes control of Savage and Liz returns minutes later with Hulk Hogan. Hulk grabs a chair and takes a ringside seat. Andre readies himself to hit Savage, but Hogan beats him to the punch and hits Andre before the big man can do a thing. DiBiase goes upstairs and Savage slams him off the top. He goes for the quick Flying Elbow but DiBiase moves then slaps on the Million Dollar Dream. Andre swipes at Savage for no explicable reason (I mean heís already in the Dream) and the ref admonishes him. Hogan seizes the opportunity and in true babyfaced fashion gets in the ring behind the refís back and hammers DiBiase with the chair. Both men down as the ref turns back to the action. Savage quickly climbs to the top and hits the Flying Elbow. 1-2-3. 9:17, **1/2 Randy Savage is the new WWF Heavyweight Champion. He, Hogan, and Liz celebrate and itís the Megapowers in all their glory. In a famous pose, Savage hoists Elizabeth on his shoulder with the Title belt over her shoulder as Hogan points to them.
To this day, this remains as one of the longest Wrestlemanias of all time. As far as wrestling is concerned, the action was certainly nothing special, but the fact that the Title was on the line in an unprecedented fourteen man tournament did create a large amount of interest around the event. Wrestlemania IV isn't extremely memorable, but it did create a new megastar in Randy Savage, and the ending even planted the seeds for the main event of the next year's Wrestlemania, which coincidentally would be held at the Trump Plaza once again.
Wrestlemania IV Key Stats Matches: 16
Total Wrestling: 111:12
Average Match: 6:57
Average Match Rating: *1/4
Top Moments: Bob Uecker, Bret's face turn, DiBiase's chicanery, Savage's quest for the Title, The Megapowers celebrating