TOO MUCH BOOTY IN THE PANTS
(THE ONE WITH THE BLUE CAGE)
The year was 1985. Your humble writer was a wee, one year old lad. Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant were teaming up against King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd on Saturday Night's Main Event. It was a tag match with the kind of star power rarely seen on free TV.
These were the days before Teddy "playaplayaplaya" Long was booking them every other Friday night.
Things moved slower back then: The seeds to the feud that would culminate in a WrestleMania 2 main event was planted here but would not sprout until the following March (about a month away from the big show). After a successful title defense against Don Muraco, Hogan was attacked by King Kong Bundy. The Rock and Bundy double teamed the Hulkster and laid him out on the mat. Fans in the crowd, marks, the lot of them, watched in horror as Bundy slammed his mammoth frame onto Hogan, "breaking his ribs."
With Hogan reeling, Bundy challenged the champ to a title match at WrestleMania 2. Hogan was never one to follow the axiom "living well is the best revenge." He wasn't even down with the "living well" part as he ignored doctor's advice and agreed to face Bundy inside a steel cage.
But before we get to that we should talk a little about this PPV in general.
This was the great experiment. Every second-edition has one. Mario 2 had you throwing vegetables around SubCon, Zelda 2 had you side-scrolling through Final Fantasy-looking environments, and Metroid 2 put you underground in SR388. Those are all products of creators not being sure what worked and what didn't in the first go-round. Usually by the third iteration they know what they want to do with the franchise (look at the critical acclaim Mario 3, Super Metroid and A Link to the Past got, and if you don't know what any of this paragraph is talking about then just skip down to the next one).
Vince knew he needed to go bigger after the success of WrestleMania 1 but how to do that was up in the air. WrestleMania hadn't become a franchise yet, so there was no "conventional wisdom" to fall back on. The plan to go big was to spread the show out across the three major media markets. A show would be held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, each one featuring a marquee match and an undercard. The main event would, of course, be the steel cage match held in Los Angeles.
The show ended up being a financial loss for Vince (the only WrestleMania to lose money in history), but that's not an indictment on the title match. The financial loss was entirely due to running three shows at once. The show was simply stretched too thin; it couldn't sustain itself (as the subtitle to this article implies).
The real MVP of the match is the steel cage, however. Man, I love those blue bars. Every now and then I will daydream about a modern match held in that old cage, but then I will decide against it. It's really a product of the time. You wouldn't want Hogan to host WrestleMania XXX wearing his yellow short trunks, would you? No.
Best leave those in the bygone era.
As for the contest itself, whether or not you can sit through it is dependent on how big of a Hogan mark you are (or can allow yourself to be). If you can get into a typical 80's Hogan match you will enjoy it, though looking back you can see how it basically was a poor man's WrestleMania 3 main event.
Still, for what it was I enjoy watching it. It has that old school drama and cartoon danger that you need when watching Titan Era heavyweight fights. Hogan had taped ribs to sell Bundy's earlier attacks and while that added to the drama it also hindered how much Hogan was allowed to do offensively. Still, the bell-to-bell action was only about 10 minutes long and it hardly dragged. The finish was fun, with Bundy going for another crippling body drop, Hogan hulking up and hitting a slam and leg drop before climbing the cage to victory.
Is it the worst WrestleMania match? Not even close. We're getting to the point in the countdown where matches aren't offensive; they're just kind of "there." This main event belongs to an era where workrate was not a priority in heavyweight bouts. If you remember that as you watch it you will enjoy it more.
Was there a better match for the show? Someone might argue Hogan vs. Piper but that match was pretty well played out by 1986. Big John Studd is another one some fans fantasize about, but if you're going to go that route (the big threat to the champ) then Bundy is the better bet.
I actually think this WrestleMania is underrated. If you hold the entire event in Chicago or Los Angeles, and climax it with a steel cage Hogan victory, I think it goes down as maybe a top tier WrestleMania, especially among the early shows. Instead, the disjointed nature of the event, some lackluster announcing, and knowing that everything about the main event was improved one year later, makes this one that is often overlooked.
Sound off, Cagesiders. There's not much to say about this early main event in WrestleMania history. It's not great by any means but it's not offensive either. What do you think? Was there a better match that you would have put as the main event instead of Hogan vs. Bundy? Was the match better or worse than its ranking indicates?
Let us know in the comments below.
Tomorrow: The main event comedown match that was not as bad as the poor fans treated it.
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