1wrestling.com Article – Memories of Wrestlemania IV
When wrestling fans look back on the rich, prolific history of Wrestlemania, certain events are continually brought up as examples of when WWE get it right on their self-styled grand stage. The first incarnation of the now-historic event is generally looked on fondly, mainly because it was so radically different to anything else in 1985 and kicked off a series of shows which have become professional wrestling’s annual highlight. Similarly, Wrestlemania III is mentioned often, surely due to the incredible in-ring exploits of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, as well as the titanic collision between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. Incarnations 6, 14, 17 and 20 are also given similar treatment from fans, as the debate rages on in regards to which event was the best Wrestlemania supershow.
Certainly one ‘Mania show which doesn’t receive the proverbial rose-tinted spectacle treatment is Wrestlemania IV. Taking place at Donald Trump’s ‘Trump Plaza’ hotel and casino, the convention centre which hosts our topic looks the part right away. Bear in mind this was 1988, long before the glorious dawn of High Definition television, yet somehow the production looks superb. Of course, Vince McMahon would ensure even before such technology that his events have a classier-than-normal touch, but credit must go to the entire crew; a venue which had never hosted pro wrestling comes across as being utterly vast on-screen, and entirely fitting for such an event.
Sadly, throughout the entire show (which runs in at a colossal four hours – something which definitely peaked my interest when picking out a new wrestling video to buy as a kid!), the crowd can’t match up to either the spectacle of Wrestlemania or the arena. Many have pointed to the lack of action on hand as reasoning for this, but the front few rows are busily packed by Trump and his friends, employees and acquaintances. Clearly, these people are not pro wrestling fans. Due to the location of Atlantic City, New Jersey, it’s likely many other non-wrestling folks were in attendance. This is merely guesswork, but it’d offer a valid reason for the overall atmosphere falling flatter than Ric Flair regularly does on his face.
Another point often brought up by those who feel this was a poor Wrestlemania, is the 14-man WWF Championship tournament which dominates proceedings. Brought on by an angle involving Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant and the “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, which led to the belt being vacated, this tournament has received considerable flak over the years. Personally, this fan has always loved the tournament concept, perhaps due to a fondness of ‘real sports’. By the same token, the King of the Ring events produced from 1993-2002 are missed greatly.
Despite these mis-givings, I’ve never fully understood the venom directed at this event by so many. Sure, there were an incredible 16 matches on hand, with only a handful of those lasting over the 10-minute mark. Yes, the show opened with a 20-man Battle Royal, during which it appeared there were actually around fifty wrestlers in the ring. All that in mind, was the event really all that bad? Some of the in-ring content may not hold up to modern standards, or even other events of the time, but Wrestlemania has always flirted with sizzle over steak; hyperbole and ceremony are the rule when it comes time for this Spring spectacular.
Gratefully having my grandmother buy me the tape during a regular trip to a local shopping centre, or mall as North American friends may call it, I simply couldn’t wait to get home and stuff both VHS tapes into the player. Having been born in November, 1987, I obviously didn’t see this event (taking place on March 27, 1988) firsthand. Being just shy of 5 months old when it took place, I’d have to wait until years later to take in Wrestlemania IV. I believe I was around 9 when this fateful purchase was made, mainly for the aforementioned length of the double-tape and the fact I could see there were so many matches, so it’d be around late-1996, possibly very close to Christmas! That would have been incredibly ironic, because a young me felt like all those 25ths had come at once when I stepped up the counter with my granny and received the John Menzies (the store in question) bag containing the tape!
The quest of the babyface Randy Savage to win the WWF Title was followed ferociously, with the cheers growing louder as he defeated Butch Reed, Greg Valentine and the One Man Gang to set-up a final showdown with the nefarious Ted Dibiase. Even as a kid, I loved the heels, and watched their mannerisms and intricacies carefully. Nothing could take my mind off Savage’s quest, however, and so my adoration of the bad guy was forgotten come main event time. The ‘pop’ in the Kennedy household when Savage had his hand raised in victory, around 9 years on from the night on which this event was held, was likely comparable to that in the Trump Plaza itself! I fondly remember running through to my mother and father, excitedly proclaiming that the “Macho Man” had done it! He had defied the odds, seen off all comers and captured the WWF Title! Better yet, his good friend Hulk Hogan was there to watch him do it! Well, we all know how that one turned out…