Wrestlemania Count-Up – #4: Savage’s Moment In The Sun

Wrestlemania 4
Date: March 27, 1988
Location: Trump Plaza, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Attendance: 18,165
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, Jesse Ventura
America The Beautiful: Gladys Knight

This show was in a way a turning point and in a way a step backwards for the WWF. There was no way that Wrestlemania 3 was going to be topped. The problem was, after Hogan had beaten Andre the previous year, there was no one left to challenge him that would be seen as a legitimate contender. The only option was a rematch with Hogan and Andre, but Andre was hurting badly here and would need time off after the match.

Also, the title had to be taken off of Hogan for awhile to refresh his character. Now this whole show is based around one incident that took place two days after I was born on a live broadcast called The Main Event. After everyone had seen Hogan allegedly get pinned the previous year, we all needed a rematch. In between there was a new PPV developed called the Survivor Series that was established solely to continue Hogan and Andre’s feud. Now that is a sign of a huge feud.

So, on February 5, 1988, we got one. Hulk Hogan against Andre the Giant for the World’s Heavyweight Championship on free television. You may hear about Raw getting a 4.3 and it being huge. This show got a 15.8. That is a record that has never even been remotely approached and never will be. Anyway, this time around Andre had Ted DiBiase in his corner. Hogan knocks Andre down and leg drops him, but there’s no referee because of Virgil, DiBiase’s body guard.

Hogan goes after Virgil as Andre gets up. Andre headbutts Hogan a few times and lands a butterfly suplex and covers him. Hogan clearly gets his shoulder up at two but the referee doesn’t stop his count. Andre is declared the champion and immediately hands the belt to DiBiase, who had spent months trying to buy the title from Hogan. Immediately after this, another referee comes down that is literally identical to the referee that just called the match.

It’s the Hebners, that no one ever knew were identical twins. On Sunday, the President of the WWF Jack Tunney declares the title vacant and announces a one night, single elimination, 14 man tournament to determine the undisputed champion. Hogan and Andre both get byes into the second round as they were the two that started all this.

If you can handle anymore history about this show, this was also one of the first true battles in what would become WCW vs. WWF. WCW (the NWA but for the sake of sanity we’ll call it what it would become), had a PPV in November called Bunkhouse Stampede. Vince had come up with the Survivor Series and wanted to force WCW out of the spot.

He threatened to not allow the PPV companies to air Wrestlemania if they didn’t air the Survivor Series instead of Bunkhouse Stampede. The PPV companies gave in and a huge majority aired Survivor Series while only a handful aired WCW’s show, which they had initially agreed to show. Fast forward five months and it’s time for Wrestlemania 4. WCW is still ticked off about November.

One thing you have to factor in is PPV was a VERY different thing back then. In 1986 there was 1 WWF PPV which was Wrestlemania 2. In 87 there were two, 88 had 3 with the introduction of Summerslam and 89 had 4 which I believe was the standard until 1991 or 1992. It wasn’t until about 1996 that the PPV schedule became what it is today. But anyway, WCW had to retaliate so they came up with what was called the Clash of the Champions.

What this was more or less was a PPV on free television. Beginning at the same time as WM 4 but ending almost two hours earlier, COTC clearly pulled away a lot of viewers. It was headlined by Sting vs. Ric Flair for the World Title in what just about everyone agrees was the night Sting established himself as a legitimate superstar. The war was on and it would heat up soon but we’ll get to that later. Let’s get to it.

20 Man Battle Royal

Boris Zhukov, Brian Blair, Danny Davis, George Steele, Harley Race, Hillbilly Jim, Jacques Rougeau, Jim Brunzell, Jim Neidhart, Jim Powers, Junkyard Dog, Ken Patera, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Roma, Bad News Brown, Raymond Rougeau, Ron Bass, Sam Houston, and Sika.

After that long winded explanation, the show is underway in a completely unrelated 20 man battle royal. There’s a huge trophy for the winner which just looks out of place in a wrestling match. Before the match Bob Uecker joins up with Gorilla and Jesse for the first match. Also on the show is Vanna White but she won’t be seen until later. Anyway back to the match.

Big names in this include Bret Hart, Bad News Brown who I always was a mark for, JYD and Harley Race. It’s really a who’s who of the midcard and not much more. This is the first of 16 matches on the card so this is going to be a LONG night. A subplot in this match is George Steel who is in the match but never actually gets in the ring. Pretty standard battle royal with various people punching and kicking each other as people are randomly eliminated.

The final three are the JYD, Bad News Brown and Bret Hart. The heels team up on JYD and eventually eliminate him. The pair agree to split the winnings but Bad News hits an enziguri on Bret and throws him out. Post match, Bret comes in and beats up Brown before destroying the trophy.

Rating: C. It’s hard to rate battle royals as it’s really just waiting until the end. Not much here but the post match stuff is fun to see. It’s time for the first match of the tournament which has time limits of 15 minutes. Robin Leech reads a proclamation that no one cares about to kick us off.

First Round Match: Jim Duggan vs. Ted DiBiase

Before the match, Jesse explains that only winners advance and that in the case of a draw both are eliminated. First round matches have 15 minute time limits, second are 20 minutes, third are 30 minutes, and the final has no limit.

DiBiase has Andre and Virgil with him for this match. Pretty simple match as we have a power brawler against a technician. Pretty back and forth which is fun but you knew the way this was ending before it starts. Duggan goes for his finisher and Andre grabs his foot and punches him as DiBiase hits him with a knee and pins him to advance.

Rating: C-. Fine for what it was, but predictable. Duggan was more or less a walking definition of cannon fodder here as DiBiase was destined to go on to the finals here and continue to be the top heel in the company. This was a decent enough match but it really wasn’t anything special at all.

Beefcake talks about winning the IC title tonight.

First Round Match: Don Muraco vs. Dino Bravo

Bravo has Frenchy Martin with him who was a pointless manager that was around for a year or two. Muraco has Billy Graham who has him wearing tye dye. This leads to Jesse continuing one of his running jokes that Graham stole the idea from him. Gorilla counters with “Graham was world champion once too.”

Jesse says that he never went for it that hard and Graham beat a weak champion. Funny antics always. Anyway, this is power vs. power here and not incredibly great. They trade power moves and holds for awhile until Muraco starts to get the advantage. End comes when Muraco hits the ropes and Bravo pulls the referee in leading to the DQ.

Rating: D+. Nothing of note here in a rather boring match. Muraco was again just filling in space and not really worth much. Bravo was floundering around for the vast majority of his WWF career and this was certainly no exception. Pretty boring match and it never went anywhere at all.

Bob Uecker is with the Honky Tonk Man who says Brutus isn’t going to cut any hair tonight.

First Round Match: Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg Valentine

Now this match is a match that changed Steamboat’s career. Allegedly he asked for some time off to be with his newborn son and Vince said no way. Dragon was gone a few months later and was in the NWA again, although he would up as a world champion there, so take it however you want it.

What are you expecting here? Of course the match is solid. It’s back and forth all match with Dragon chopping the heck out of Valentine and then bumping like a madman. We see a shot of Donald Trump at ringside. Dragon and Valentine go back and forth and put on a solid match with Dragon pulling away at the end. He goes up for a high cross body but Valentine rolls through it and uses the tights for a pin.

Rating:C. Not bad but not great, could have been very good with another 7-8 minutes. These two are the epitome of old school and the match more or less was as well. Valentine could have been something very special if not for Hogan coming in and changing wrestling for all time. Steamboat was gone very soon after this.

Bulldogs and Koko have trained Matilda to be a weasel dog. Heenan’s nickname was Weasel in case that made no sense at all.

First Round Match: Randy Savage vs. Butch Reed

Reed has a great chance for the upset here don’t you think?

*steps on all the crickets*

Reed was supposed to be a big deal but that never came to pass. He was even scheduled to be a Horseman but again it didn’t happen. I never got the appeal of him but that’s just me. Liz looks GREAT in blue. Reed struts to start and Savage can’t get anything going for the most part. Again I ask those that say Savage was a power guy: when was this ever the case? I’ve never seen it.

Jesse and Gorilla agree that Steamboat losing to Valentine is an upset. That’s rather odd indeed. This is rather boring to put it mildly. Reed hits a fist drop off the middle rope for no cover as it’s all Reed here. Savage gets some punches in but gets his head taken off with a clothesline. Reed goes up to the top like an idiot and talks FOREVER before getting slammed off. Elbow sends Savage to the semis.

Rating: D. Too short to get anything going but the elbow is always as sweet. Reed’s jawing was just kind of stupid and I don’t get the point in having him dominate the vast majority of this one only to have a pair of moves end this. It wasn’t horrible but it needed more going on than what it had if that makes sense.

Heenan and the Islanders say that they’re not worried about Matilda or the Bulldogs.

First Round Match: One Man Gang vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

I can feel Irish’s jaw hitting the floor from here. Bigelow has Oliver Humperdink with him while Gang has Slick. Those might be the best manager names ever. Gang continues to be one of the worst big men of all time. Bammer is impressing me here, even throwing up a cross body block. For a guy weighing 393, that’s quite impressive. Bam Bam dominates and is going for something but Slick pulls the rope down sending him to the floor for a count out in a cheap finish.

Rating: N/A. Decent clash of titans but the ending was just awful. Bigelow was supposed to get a huge push soon after this and it just never came, which I believe was due to a knee injury. Again though with less than three minutes, how into it can I get when almost a minute of that is brawling on the floor?

Hulk Hogan then says that he’s going to slam Andre in one of the most insane promos I’ve ever seen. He talks about the fault line breaking off and everyone falling into the ocean and how Donald Trump would be smart enough to let go of his materialistic possessions and dog paddle with his wife and kids to safety.

Then Hogan talks about taking all of the Hulkamaniacs on the largest back in the world and dog paddling and backstroking all the way to safety. If they’re on his back and he backstrokes, wouldn’t they kind of drown? God bless cocaine.

First Round Match: Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts

Rude is about as perfectly evil as you can be and he plays it beautifully. Jake’s music was just awesome always. This match is solid but a tad boring. One of the great things about it though was you had no idea at all who was going to win it which to me is what makes a match better. What’s the point in watching a predictable match barring being a diehard fan of either person in it?

There was a red hot feud between these two a few months before this and it didn’t ever get the proper blowoff that it should. This match is about fifteen minutes long and maybe 5 minutes or more is chinlock. Jake escapes and goes for the DDT but can’t get it and then back to the chinlock. The draw is clearer than any draw should possibly be. They might as well just have a big sign advertising it.

These two go back and forth but the pace is just too slow. Crowd breaks out a boring chant more than once. Jake keeps wanting the DDT the whole match and Rude keeps trying to get out of it. Finally we get down late in the match and the draw looms over us. After a much better ending, we get to that point and the One Man Gang is in the semifinals.

Rating: D. Solid ending but getting there was a bit painful. I think this match is 40% chinlock. Don’t like the draw either. There were stretches of probably five minutes where I had ZERO to talk about due to it being nothing but bare basics and chinlocks. The crowd is officially dead now so hopefully we get something to perk them up again.

We go to a big bracket to see Vanna White give her limited thought on the tournament. Nothing special here. Vanna looks better with straight hair.

In case you got lost, here’s the updated brackets

Hogan vs. Andre

Dibiase vs. Murago

Savage vs. Valentine

Gang gets a bye and is into the third round already

Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules

Nothing special to this feud at all as they’re simply fighting over who is stronger than who. Nothing more to it than that. No entrance for Herc here. Warrior is nothing special at all here and is just a guy that destroys jobbers and runs to the ring. They ram into each other which gets them nowhere and then lock up.

Three clotheslines from Hercules take down Warrior which stuns Jesse. This is a lot of striking and the occasional power move. In short, it’s very boring indeed. They fight on the floor and tease a countout but get back in in time.

Warrior gets the punches in the corner but Herc gets an atomic drop out of the corner. Full nelson goes on mostly but Hercules can’t get the fingers locked so Warrior can walk up the turnbuckle and drop backwards before shooting a shoulder up for the pin. Warrior clears the ring with the chain post match.

Rating: D. Oh man this was bad. Neither guy was worth anything but at least it was short. This was a rather boring match and somehow Warrior would be in the big undercard match the following year and the main event the year after that. This was pretty bad though but like I said it was only about five minutes long.

REALLY long recap of the Hogan Andre feud.

Second Round Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant

Andre has DiBiase and Virgil with him for this. Much faster pace than last year’s match which to me is an improvement. Andre just goes off to start this match. Hogan breaks it up with some running punches/forearms but DiBiase gets on the apron. Hogan rams them together with the all time best name move: the Double Noggin Knocker. Andre’s offense here is just so simple that it’s great.

This is one of those matches where you can tell Andre just has nothing left so they’re going with REALLY basic stuff to make it look like he’s still awesome when he can barely move. It says a lot that he wrestled at two more Manias and appeared at #7.

Hogan gets in control, Andre chokes him. Hogan gets knocked down, Andre sits on him. Hogan starts running, Andre turns his back to him and Hogan falls down. It’s so simple yet so effective. Hogan comes back and signals for a slam but DiBiase cracks him with a chair as the ref is distracted. Hogan nails Andre with the chair, Andre hits Hogan with it in one of the worst chair shots I’ve ever seen. Not because of how Andre swung but Hogan just looks awful taking it.

Someone with Hogan swinging first it’s a double DQ and both men are eliminated, meaning the winner of DiBiase and Muraco is in the finals. Hogan hits a running chair shot to knock Andre down then chases off Virgil and DiBiase before going back to slam Andre and pose.

Rating: C. These two getting together is always awesome and the faster pace made it a lot better this time. That being said, the match wasn’t much at all. Andre was DONE at this point and everyone knew it. He was trying though so I’ll give him a ton of credit for that. The ending was the only real way to get rid of both of them to set up a new champion so that’s fine too. Just not long enough to be a great match though.

Randy Savage says good things about Hogan but says one of the Mega Powers will win the title.

Second Round Match: Ted DiBiase vs. Don Muraco

Winner goes to the finals. Muraco tries hard here but absolutely no one thinks he has a chance in this match. This is one of those matches that you could easily have cut out and no one would have really cared at all. It’s ok and Muraco used to be awesome. The problem is that now he’s nothing special at all and everyone knows it.

DiBiase gets dominated early on but catches Muraco in the corner with a slingshot kind of move to break the momentum. Matches like this show me just how good DiBiase is in the ring. He’s simply a master out there. His bumping is just amazing. I wish he would have gotten a run with the title around this time as he certainly was at the top of his game as a heel.

I’m still trying to figure out why this match is getting PPV time. Do we need five minutes for this match? It’s Don Muraco for crying out loud. Muraco charges at him but is picked up and lands a great stun gun to get the three count. Good finish.

Rating: C+. As short as it was I liked this match. It showed what DiBiase could do when he was on his own and that he really was indeed a solid wrestler. Muraco is a great foil for him as he’s trying hard but is just outmatched. Fun little match all around and very few if any mistakes in it. Really liked it.

Mr. Fuji and Demolition don’t like Uecker or Strike Force. Demolition was just awesome in all regards. Their promos were no exceptions at all.

The Fink reminds us that because Snake and Rude went to a draw that the Gang is in the semifinals already.

Second Round Match: Greg Valentine vs. Randy Savage

Same idea here as in Steamboat and Valentine. Do you really expect a bad match from these two? The battle of the elbows begins and it’s pretty solid the whole way though. There’s almost no wasted movement in this match which is just awesome. As expected, it’s all Valentine to start.

Hammer was a guy that could have been a lot better and something really special if not for the whole Hogan changes wrestling forever deal. He was that good back in the day and a world title contender. Time passed him by though and it showed badly.

He works over all of Savage without much of an emphasis on the knee. Valentine was the resident Figure Four dude at this time so it would make sense for him to go after. I guess that’s why he’s going to lose here.

Savage just starts going off on him from out of nowhere which is just kind of cool for some reason. It’s finally broken up when Savage goes for an axe handle from the top and gets punched in the stomach. Savage reverses the figure four into a small package even with Valentine’s should clearly up.

Rating: C+. Seriously, what did you expect here? Of course it’s a solid match. Fast paced with a good ending means a good grade. It was a bit too short to get anything going but they tried at least. Savage would obviously go onto bigger things but Valentine’s career had pretty much peaked by this point.

Vanna White is back again. She’s still annoying.

Intercontinental Title: Brutus Beefcake vs. Honky Tonk Man

Standard Honky Tonk match with him just getting beaten to death as the face looks like there’s no way he can lose. Here’s a few reasons why Honky is miles ahead of Santino. The commentators talk about how he’s the luckiest wrestler alive. He also gets some offense in. A big reason is because Santino tries to be funny. Honky tries to be serious and comes off as funny. Subtle, yet a key difference that made Honky better.

Finally, Honky had a signature move that won him matches. Honky was just much more believable as IC champion and this is a prime example of it. Brutus runs Honky around to start and nothing comes out of it. Jimmy gets involved and Honky takes over. His offense was shall we say limited? This goes on for far longer than it’s possible to stay interested for. Gorilla and Jesse crack jokes to fight the boredom.

Brutus puts on the sleeper but Hart hits the ref with the megaphone. Peggy Sue, Honky’s girlfriend (played amazingly by Sherri Martel) pours water on Honky to wake him up after Brutus chases Jimmy Hart under the ring and is seriously looks as if he’s trying to rape Hart. Just a bad image. He pins him down to the stairs and cuts his hair. Honky wakes up and runs with Hart.

Rating: D+. Decent match, but standard for Honky. He never really got away from that one formula of his which is kind of good actually. It worked, so why change it? When you blow the roof off the Garden like they did when he finally lost the title you must be doing something right. Match was nothing you wouldn’t expect from a Honky IC Title defense.

In for some reason one of the most famous promos of all time, Andre runs into Bob Uecker and reveals that DiBiase’s master plan centered around Andre eliminating Hogan. Uecker tries to mention something and Andre chokes him in what I believe was an unplanned spot.

Islanders and Heenan against Koko B. Ware and the British Bulldogs

Backstory-the Islanders had dog napped Matilda a few weeks ago for no good reason. This is the Bulldogs’ chance to get revenge. Koko is there because they needed a third face that could fill up a spot. Heenan comes out in an attack dog handler’s outfit which looks like an untied straight jacket. Cool idea actually.

This is more or less seven and a half minutes of this: the heels beat down a face, Heenan gets in like two kicks, the face gets up because Heenan only got in like two kicks, Heenan runs and tags out, we repeat that.

Pretty bland match here that is a filler. Heenan does a little but nothing of significance. Islanders launch Heenan into the air to slam him down onto Koko for the pin. Exact same thing they did last year with the Bulldogs.

Rating: D+. Filler that was the same match that happened in the previous year’s six man. Did they really think that little of the Bulldogs? Can you tell I’m getting bored with this show? This is another great example of a match that had no business being on this show. It wasn’t any good anyway and the dog did nothing between the beginning and ending.

Jesse Ventura poses for the crowd. DiBiase is announced as having a bye into the finals.

Semi-Final Match: Randy Savage vs. One Man Gang

You know the drill by now. Savage gets beaten up, comes back, gets beaten up a little more, Slick throws in the cane, ref sees it, DQ.

Rating: D. This match was more or less nothing. We knew almost as soon as Hogan and Andre got eliminated what the finals would be. Why should I care about this match when there’s not even an elbow?

For some reason we see Vanna White talking about the tournament AGAIN and still no one cares.

Tag Titles: Strike Force vs. Demolition

Strike Force had been champions for six months at this point but are somehow still considered transitional champions. Demolition had been around a little over a year at this point but were just now the dominant force that they became famous for being. Martel and Smash start us off. Jesse thinks that the Boston Crab, the move that won the titles for Strike Force, won’t work on Demolition because they’re too big. The hold beat Jim Neidhart though. That’s kind of an odd statement to make Mr. Governor.

Jesse can’t tell Demolition apart. We get a big brawl seconds in and finally get back to the starters. Does that make Tito the first guy off the bench? Strike Force hits double teaming to start which causes Jesse and Gorilla to fight a bit. Tito plays Ricky Morton for a bit as the big guys pound on him.

Tito gets the forearm out of nowhere to put Axe down. Jesse says he learned that in the MFL: the Mexican Football League. I give up. Off to Martel who cleans house. He manages to get the Boston Crab on Smash who is screaming. Fuji gets up to distract the referee and drops the cane, which promptly is wrapped around Martel’s cranium. Smash crawls on top to win the titles.

Rating: C-. This was about as formula based as you could get but the pop at the end sends it over the peak a bit. Demolition looked awesome here and would go on to hold the titles for a mind blowing year and a half which is never going to be touched. Strike Force was more or less done here as they lost the rematch and Martel was out for about 8 months and he turned heel in his first match back with Santana. Nothing great here, but certainly historic.

WWF World Title: Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase

This was a very interesting match at the time because no one knew who was going to win it. That to me will always make a match better. From what I’ve heard the original plan was to have Hogan get to the finals with DiBiase and lose thanks to Andre, eventually getting the title back at Summerslam while Savage would win the IC title from Honky either here or at Summerslam. However, Honky refused to do it and they made this the plan. I like the first one better I think.

Anyway, Andre and DiBiase are here against Savage and Liz. Andre keeps cheating so Savage whispers to Liz and everyone knows what’s coming as for about two minutes no one is watching the ring. This is about as simple of an explanation as you could ask for regarding the problems that would plague Savage’s reign.

What possible reason do we need Hogan out there for? Rather than having him out there and taking part of the spotlight, why not have Savage make the Superman comeback and get the title on a rollup when Andre can’t make the save? Instead we have Hogan coming out there, making himself the focus or at least half of it. This right away makes Savage look like a weak champion because Hogan made the save and Savage would have lost without him.

This is the kind of stuff that Savage would be paranoid about and have big delusions over over time. They’re proven right as Hogan comes through the curtain to even the odds. Savage looks dead in the ring which is what he’s supposed to do. The fans are all looking at him now because he’s the new thing they see out there. Anyway, DiBiase mostly destroys Savage with nothing too special as Savage is just dead.

Great false finish as Savage goes for the elbow and the place goes nuts but he misses it. Million Dollar Dream and Savage tries to get to the ropes but Andre pulls it back. Ref warns him and Hogan comes in and nails DiBiase with a chair leading to the elbow and a new champion! Post match sees something very interesting as Hogan, Savage and Liz celebrate. For those that can read lips, you can see Savage say to Hogan, “Please let me have my moment.” Hogan doesn’t leave, and that my friends, started the real life feud between these two.

Rating: B. We had seen these guys WAY too much tonight which is the problem with tournaments. We just get sick of these guys. Savage had 4 matches at this show. He’s one of the best ever but four times in a show is just too much.

Overall Rating: D+. The big problem is how predictable it is once Andre and Hogan are gone. After that you knew it would be Savage or DiBiase. Overall, this Mania is just too long. Ringing in at about 4 hours, there just isn’t enough here to warrant such a time. Savage winning was indeed mind blowing at the time and this show sets up a year’s worth of feuds including the first ever Summerslam where Hogan and Savage faced DiBiase and Andre.

The main issue here is that there were sixteen matches on this. Think about that for a minute. SIXTEEN MATCHES. That’s the vast problem here. Did we really need to see guys like Muraco and Bravo in the tournament? Or did we need to have the six man? This show really could have used 30-60 minutes cut out of it and then it would have been far more watchable.

The other thing this leads to is Hogan and Savage trying to share the spotlight as the Mega Powers which ultimately leads to their split and the main event of next year’s Wrestlemania. Other than that, not a lot really comes out of this show. It’s a decent PPV if you want to see just about every 80s wrestler alive perform but if you’re looking for solid matches, just watch a handful of them or you’ll be asleep by the middle of the show.

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1 comment

  1. Mando>Eddie says:

    London & Kendrick almost caught up to Demolition’s title reign