Monday, June 6, 2022

Wrestling Moments: WrestleMania I, March 31 1985- Madison Square Garden

The original WrestleMania was a huge gamble and THE big turning point for Professional Wrestling as a whole shifting away from self contained regions, called territories, it worked under for many years.

Vince McMahon was trying to buck the old system and take what had been his father's  Territory which featured New York (originally the World Wide Wrestling Federation, WWWF) nation wide.

The first wrestling pay per view/ closed-circuit broadcast event was filled with celebrity and spectacle. It was, naturally, held in Madison Square Garden.

Granted, that was just the start and it was nowhere near the heights it grew to. For the initial outing, announcer Mean Gene Okerlund sang the national anthem.

I didn't see it live, but saw the lead up, and highlights over and over again from the feuds and storylines that created and spun out of it.

To open the show, the eventual "Mr. McMahon" trusted a known worker who could provide excellent matches and get the audience riled up for the evening: Tito Santana

That trust, and his work ethic, is likely why Tito Santana is the only one besides popularity powerhouse Hulk Hogan who had bouts in all of the first nine WrestleManias. 
(Tito's final one was a dark match to get the crowd amped up before the cameras rolled. 
I'm still bitter that wasn't included as a DVD extra.)

Tito's opponent was "The Executioner." (Seasoned performer Buddy Rose in a mask.)

The two delivered an exciting opening match that prepped the crowds' thrill level for the night, with Tito defeating the Executioner by submission, using a figure four leg lock.

That isn't the memorable moment, though it did add to it.

Later that evening intercontinental champion Greg "the Hammer" Valentine put the belt on the line against the Junkyard Dog.

Valentine won the match, gaining a pin by illegally putting his feet up on the ropes out of the referee's view for added leverage.

Or so it seemed!

where one can do ANYTHING to their opponent:
Throw salt in their eyes,
Have a manager, friend or bystander pummel them into unconsciousness,
Smash 'em with a chair, the bell, a guitar a megaphone...whatever,
and even if the announcers, the camera crew, the boys in the locker room and all nineteen-thousand fans in the arena saw it-

If the referee did not see it, it did not happen.

However, on this day - and on that grand, star studded stage - my mind was blown (when they replayed it on free TV) as the unbelievable happened.

Tito Santana came running out of the locker room in civilian clothes (after changing following his match) and dutifully explained 
"The Hammer"'s infraction to the referee, cementing his reputation for fair play as a face among faces.

The ref immediately cancelled his previous ruling and restarted the match.  
Junkyard Dog won by count out, meaning the Intercontinental Title stayed with Valentine.

Some behind the scenes (and maybe one in front of the scenes) facts:
A) Tito winning his opening match with Valentine's finishing move of the figure four leg lock added insult to...more insult I guess, as being victorious in that match earned him a shot at the Intercontinental Title.
B) Santana and Valentine had worked together before in another territory, and were friends who knew they could work well with each other in the ring.
C) Both men had excellent microphone and in ring skills (including the ability to take a bump -[sell their opponents attacks: as in making them look powerful and painful]  like nobody's business) ensuring their barbs and battles would be huge crowd pleasers. 

Therefore, these two matches led to a crowd thrilling story line and performances over the next bunch of months between Tito Santana and Greg the Hammer Valentine. The storyline included some tag team matches featuring Valentine with his current "Dream Team" partner of Brutus (pre- "The Barber") Beefcake and Santana with the grateful Junk Yard Dog.  

The Intercontinental Title finally fell to Tito in an impressive Steel Cage match. 

Don't feel too bad for Valentine. 
The "Dream Team" picked up the Tag Team belts at around the same time.

Next Week: I had to start with Tito, but you can't talk Eighties wrestling without Hulk Hogan

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