PPV REVIEW: WWF Wrestlemania 4

WWF / WWE Wrestlemania 4 Review - Event Poster

March 27, 1988

Trump Plaza, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Back at Wrestlemania III, Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation presented us with the biggest professional wrestling event of all time, the repercussions of which were still being felt a year later as Wrestlemania IV rolled into Atlantic City.

To recap, the previous year's show saw Hulk Hogan defeat a recently-turned Andre the Giant after a controversial nearfall early in the match.

It was this controversial fall, which Andre swore had won him the match, which led the two to a second encounter at the February 1988 installment of Saturday Night's Main Event. There, Andre pinned Hogan for a three count (despite Hulk's shoulder being off the mat), won the title, then promptly handed the World Wrestling Federation Championship over to The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase.

This raised the ire of WWF President Jack Tunney, who then declared the title vacant, with a new champion to be crowned in a 14-man elimination tournament at Wrestlemania 4.

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: The live Wrestlemania crowd

Throw in two title matches, a battle royal and a couple of other matches in between the tournament bouts, and wrestling fans were in for one long night in New Jersey.

Here's what went down.

Welcome to the show

Following the usual intro graphics and a welcome from Mean Gene Okerlundwe got a patriotic sing-a-long from Gladys Knight and a friendly greeting from everybody's favourite commentary duo, Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse 'The Body' Ventura

With that out of the way, it was on to the action.

20 Man Battle Royal featuring: Bad News Brown, The Hart Foundation, Sam Houston, Junkyard Dog, Hillbilly Jim, Harley Race, The Killer Bees and more.

In a move typical of the 'get everybody on the card' mentality which usually leads fans to fantasy booking of seven multi-man matches on a single card (all of which would suck if they were to ever actually happen), we tonight's card got underway with a fairly pointless battle royal match.

Much like all battle royals, this one wasn't particularly interesting until the finish.

Bodies toppled over the top rope until only Junkyard Dog, Bad News Brown and Bret Hart remained. The latter two agreed to join forces to eliminate the former, then proceeded to celebrate as though both were co-winners.

However, in a dastardly heel move, Bad News double-crossed The Hitman and hurled him out of the ring.
Your Winner: Bad News Brown

Returning to the ring, an enraged Hart beat down on Brown and destroyed his trophy, making his long-awaited babyface turn in the process.

Cutting away from the commentator's table, Bob Uecker, in his second year as Wrestlemania-goofball-in-residence,  raced off to find fellow celebrity guest, Wheel of Fortune star, Vanna White

Much as he was at WM3, Bob Uecker was quite awesome here, and would continue to be so throughout the show.

WWF Championship Tournament: Round 1 - Match 1
'Hacksaw' Jim Duggan vs. 'The Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase (w/ Virgil and Andre The Giant)

And so the man who's greed-driven actions resulted in this whole tournament taking place took to the ring for the first opening round match against Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

Both men went through your pretty standard match without ever really raising the bar very high. Still, it was fairly entertaining for a throwaway match and resulted in a first round win for Dibiase.
Your Winner: Ted Dibiase
WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: Mean Gene Okerlund talks about Brutus Beefcake's "package"

Cutting to the backstage area, Mean Gene Okerlund had some pre-recorded words with the number one contender to the Intercontinental Championship, Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake. 

In his opening line, Okerlund literally pointed at Beefcake's crotch and said 'what a package.'  

Beefcake's impressive bulge aside, the man marked the first anniversary of his transformation into 'The Barber' by vowing to cut some hair and kick some ass.

WWF Championship Tournament: Round 1 - Match 2
Dino Bravo (w/ Frenchie Martin) vs. Don 'The Rock' Muraco (w/ 'Superstar' Billy Graham)

Round one continued with another passable outing, this time between the man who sent everybody to sleep at the first ever Royal Rumble, Dino Bravo, and Mr. Fuji's former buddy, Don Muraco

This wasn't the worst match in the world, and was actually a pretty decent effort by the two musclebound combatants. That said, it won't make any difference in your life if you never see this match.

The whole thing ended on a DQ when Bravo pulled the referee in front of him to stop The Rock from hitting Canada's Strongest Man.
Your Winner: Don Muraco  

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: Honky Tonk Man & Jimmy Hart torment Bob Uecker

Back in the interview area, the ever-hilarious Bob Uecker waffled on about finding Vanna White for so long that The Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart, both of whom had done a terrible job of hiding off screen, interrupted the baseball legend to offer a response to Brutus Beefcake.

Honky, in the midst of his Longest Intercontinental Championship Reign Ever promised victory in his upcoming match against The Barber.

WWF Championship Tournament: Round 1 - Match 3
Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine vs. Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat

Yes, this is the one where Ricky Steamboat came to the ring carrying a young baby who would grow up to become Richie Steamboat.

Unsurprisingly given who was involved, this opening round contest actually evolved into the best in-ring encounter of the whole card.

A compelling contest from bell to bell, Steamboat and Greg Valentine made putting on a good math seem effortless, and did so right up to the point at which The Hammer scored the victory.
Your Winner: Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine

In a nice post-match moment, an NWA-bound Steamboat waved goodbye to the World Wrestling Federation fans.

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: The British Bulldogs, Matilda and Koko B. Ware

Backstage once again, The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware told Mean Gene that the Bulldogs' mascot, Matilda was now a certified 'Weasel Dog' (which to this writer sounds like some kind of botched mutation) and that they would all be going on a weasel hunt when they faced Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan and The Islanders in six-man action later on in the show.

WWF Championship Tournament: Round 1 - Match 4
'Macho Man' Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth) vs. 'The Natural' Butch Reed (w/ Slick)

Ah, so many matches, so few ways to say 'yeah, this wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything special'

Alas, that was definitely the case with this final first round match up as Reed dominated most of the bout before eventually succumbing to the Macho Man a few minutes in.
Your Winner: Randy Savage

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: The Islanders hype their upcoming match against The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware

In the back, Bob Uecker caught up with Bobby Heenan and The Islanders ahead of their six-man outing later in the show. 

The only thing of note from this was that Heenan promised to bring a surprise to ringside with him.

WWF Championship Tournament: Round 1 - Match 5
The One Man Gang (w/ Slick) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Oliver Humperdink)

This was not a good match at all, which was surprising given that Bam Bam Bigelow was a particularly gifted big man and his popularity in the WWF at this time was off the charts.

Still, perhaps the bizarre ending had something to do with it;

After Slick pulled the top rope down in front of the referee, Bam Bam toppled over the ropes and, when he tried to re-enter, was beaten down on the apron by OMG, leading to his count-out defeat.
Your Winner: The One Man Gang

Back in the interview area, Mean Gene caught up with former champion Hulk Hogan ahead of his much-anticipated Wrestlemania III rematch against Andre The Giant.

In one of the most demented promos ever, The Hulkster went from vowing to slam Andre the Giant to going swimming with Donald Trump (owner of The Trump Plaza) in a matter of seconds.

Honest to God, people make fun of The Ultimate Warrior's nonsensical promos, but I don't think many realise that Hogan was often even more insane than Warrior when it came to the microphone.

WWF Championship Tournament: Round 1 - Match 6
'Ravishing' Rick Rude (w/ Bobby Heenan) vs. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: 'Ravishing' Rick Rude gets ready for battle against Jake 'The Snake' Roberts

When the announcers spend as much time talking about the 'short' (ie: 15 minute) time-limit of a match as Gorilla and 'The Body' did here, it's a fairly safe bet that they've just given away the ending.

Low and behold, they did. From the early moments of the match it was clear that we were heading for time-limit draw, and thus both men wrestled accordingly.

This was not the greatest match the two could have produced given a different set of circumstances. Indeed, the abundance of chin locks drew a noticeable 'Boring!' chant from the New Jersey crowd at one point mid-match. That said, it wasn't half as bad as some critics would have you believe and was -unlike a number of matches on the same card- at least captivating from start to finish.
Time Limit Draw

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: Mean Gene Okerlund w/ Wheel of Fortune star Vanna White

Backstage, Mean Gene had better luck then fellow interviewer Uecker in catching up with the lovely Vanna White, as the Wheel of Fortune star assisted Okerlund in recapping the tournament results so far.

As nice as White may have been, she did some across as a little dimwitted, especially when Okerlund asked her for her pick between Hogan and Andre, and she merely pointed to Hogan's name and mumbled 'Hulk' with a perfectly stupid grin.

The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules (w/ Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan)

Making his pay per view debut, Ultimate Warrior 'treated' fans to a break from the WWF Championship tournament by taking on the mighty Hercules in a fairly dull affair which continued the Warrior's never-ending feud against various members of the Heenan Family.

Following several minutes of inaction, Warrior countered Herc's full nelson attempt by pushing off the middle rope, causing his aggressor to slam down with a German Suplex. With both men's shoulders pinned to the mat, Warrior got his arm up just in time to claim a victory.
Your Winner: The Ultimate Warrior

Prior to the next match, we got a great look back at the rivalry between Hogan and Andre.

WWF Championship Tournament: Quarter Finals - Match 1
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant (w/ The Million Dollar Man and Virgil)

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: Andre The Giant battles Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania's first rematch

With both men getting a pass directly to the quarter finals for reasons which were never fully explained at this event, Hogan and Andre finally met in their much-hyped Wrestlemania rematch.

With much of the spectacle of their previous 'Mania outing diminished, what we had here instead was basically a bunch of stuff which killed time towards the finish, when both men struck each other with steel chairshots, earning a double DQ.
Double Disqualification

After the match, Hogan chased after Ted Dibiase and Virgil, suplexing Dibiase's bodyguard onto the concrete and ensuring that Virgil would not be seen again for the rest of the night (he would eventually turn up years later in a New York subway). Hogan then posed for the live crowd for the next thousand years as though he'd just won the match, the title, a million dollars and everything that could ever be won on the face of Planet Earth.

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: 'Macho Man' Randy Savage cuts a promo en route to his championship tournament win

Out in the back, Randy Savage gave an interview to Mean Gene Okerlund. 

Curiously, Savage spent more time talking about Hulk Hogan in his promo than he did his own chances of winning the competition.

WWF Championship Tournament: Quarter Finals - Match 2
Don Muraco (w/ 'Superstar' Billy Graham) vs. Ted Dibiase 

With Virgil nowhere in sight, I'll admit I was expecting some kind of surprise run in from the man who would one-day be known as Curly Bill.

Alas, Virgil was nowhere in sight as his boss got his ass handed to him by The Rock before finally coming up with the goods to claim victory in a forgettable encounter.
Your Winner: Ted Dibiase 

Backstage, Demolition interrupted Bob Uecker from pining over Vanna White by promising to beat up Strike Force in their upcoming match.

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: One Man Gang is happy with getting a bye to the semi-final

Back at ringside, it was then announced that the One Man Gang would have a bye into the semi-finals as a result of the Roberts/Rude time-limit draw. Thus, 'Gang would face the winner between our upcoming contest.

WWF Championship Tournament: Quarter Finals - Match 3
Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Randy 'Macho Man' Savage

Not quite up to par with Valentine's prior effort against Steamboat, this was nonetheless a good match between two men who were arguably already considered veterans at this stage in the game.

After a seesaw battle, Savage snared victory from the jaws of defeat to advance to the next round and end another good Wrestlemania performance.
Your Winner: Macho Man Randy Savage

Out in the back, Mean Gene and Vanna White ran through the tournament standings to this point, informing us that Ted Dibiase now had a bye straight to the final due to the shenanigans in the Hogan/Andre match.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship 
WWF Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man (w/ Jimmy Hart & Peggy Sue) vs. Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake

For Peggy Sue, see Sensational Sherri in an awful blonde wig.

Anyway, in this IC title match, we basically had a great example of two men who were insanely over at this point in their career despite not being anything remarkable between the ropes.

The match they gave us here was thus typical of such a calibre of athlete, both champ and challenger doing their all to keep the crowd riled up throughout the match.

Towards the finish, the referee took a dive thanks to shenanigans from Honky, Bruti put the champion to sleep and gave Hart a haircut.

Finally, an official had the sense to end the match and gave the result, though not the title, to the flamboyant hairdresser.
Your Winner by disqualification: Brutus Beefcake

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: Andre The Giant with Bob Uecker

You know that scene you've seen a thousand times in which Andre The Giant chokes out some old guy? That happened next when The Giant interrupted Bob Uecker (still worried about Vanna White's whereabouts), claimed that he'd done exactly what Dibiase had paid him to do (keep Hogan out of the tournament), and then choked out Uecker and yelled something incomprehensible at him.

Six Man Tag
Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid) vs. Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan & The Islanders (Haku & Tama)

For the second year in a row then, the Bulldogs found themselves in a part-comedy six man match. Much like last year's outing involving Tito Santana, The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis, this was actually a pretty fun, enjoyable outing by all involved.

Heenan's big surprise turned out to be an 'attack dog handler's outfit' to stop him being attacked by the rather docile Matilda (an actual Bulldog, who acted as the mascot of Davey Boy and Dynamite). It must have somehow worked for The Brain, as he was able to pick up the three count over Dave Boy following several fun minutes of action.
Your Winner: Bobby Heenan and The Islanders

Recouping pretty quickly, The Bulldogs, Matilda and Koko chased off the bad guys.

WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura

For absolutely no reason, Jesse 'The Body' Ventura was given a grand introduction from Howard Finkle before indulging in a pose down for the Atlantic City crowd. It may have been entirely pointless, but it's hard to deny that Ventura was insanely over in Trump Land.

The Million Dollar Man was then introduced to officially receive his pass in to the finals, before we went back to the action for our semi final match.

WWF Championship Tournament: Semi Final
'Macho Man' Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth) vs. One Man Gang (w/ Slick)

Despite a fairly short exchange, Savage and Gang managed to pull off a pretty entertaining match, though if you haven't figured it out already, the outcome was pretty inevitable.

Another disqualification came around when the referee caught OMG using Slick's cane on Savage.
Your Winner by Disqualification: Macho Man Randy Savage

In a brief respite from the in-ring action, Mean Gene looked back over the tournament brackets before Bob Uecker turned up once again looking for Vanna White. Even when this show began to sag at times, Uecker always came good with the entertainment.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Strike Force (Tito Santana & Rick Martel) vs. Demolition (Ax & Smash w/ Mr. Fuji)
This is one of those matches that, on paper, has 'dull' written all over it. Yet when these two teams met up to battle over the tag belts, what actually transpired was a pretty good match in which Martel & Santana used their speed and wrestling prowess to overcome the brute force of Demolition.

Alas, for the second match in a row, a walking cane led to the finish. This time, the weapon in question belonged to Mr. Fuji and allowed Demolition to counter a Rick Martel boston crab with a cane-shot. Smash made the cover and we had new tag team champions.
Your Winners and NEW WWF Tag Team Champions: Demolition

And so began Demolition's dominance over the WWF tag ranks which would last for the rest of the 1980s.

Finally, with Uecker as our guest ring announcer and White as our guest timekeeper, along with some guy called Robin Leach (from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) as the Guy Who Will Present the Title, it was on to our final.

WWF Championship Tournament: Final
'Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase (w/ Andre The Giant) vs. 'Macho Man' Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth)
WWF / WWE WRESTLEMANIA 4: Hulk Hogan and Elizabeth help Macho Man randy Savage celebrate his title victory
After what felt like an eternity then, we were finally down to our final match, in which a four-match weary Savage tried to hold his own against a two-matcher in Dibiase and Official Outside Interference Runner, Andre.

Unsurprisingly, Savage spent most of the match getting his ass kicked by Dibiase thanks to The Giant's interference before beckoning Elizabeth to go and fetch Hulk Hogan.

Dressed in red tights, The Hulkster made his way out to ringside to even the scores, and even helped Savage pick up the win by planting Dibiase with a chairshot behind the referees back.
Your Winner and NEW World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion: Macho Man Randy Savage

Afterwards, Savage, Hogan and Elizabeth celebrated for several millennia.

And there goes the show you never thought would end. Seriously, there's probably nothing wrong with a wrestling pay per view running nigh on four hours, but when about three and a half of those hours don't actually feature much in the way of entertainment, it often feels like you've spent your entire weekend just watching this one show.
A good one for the historians then, though casual fans will get little enjoyment from an event that legitimately felt like a chore to watch.

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  1. So Warrior and Hercules weren't good enough for the Championship Tournament?!?

  2. Even in a time when PPVs were few and far between, this one was long, really long.