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Turn Heel Retro: WrestleMania 2 - Hulk Hogan
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Turn Heel Retro

Turn Heel Retro: WrestleMania 2 (1986) Recap

Lou Albano & Ozzy Osbourne become surrogate tag champs and Hulkamania runs wild on King Kong Bundy.

After the largely uneventful Wrestling Class, beyond making Lord Alfred Hayes out to be a major creeper, we now move out of 1985 and into 1986 for WrestleMania 2. After winning the Classic, logic would say that the Junkyard Dog would factor in huge here, but not so much. One guy that had a big WrestleMania I moment that pays off here is King Kong Bundy. After squashing SD Jones in record time, Bundy started feuding on and off with Hogan, culminating in an attack that led to this show’s main event steel cage match. Besides that we get more celebrity guests and a battle royal featuring wrestlers and NFL football players… oh joy! Lastly, this WrestleMania is unique insofar that WWF decided to run the event from three venues, starting in New York at the Nassau Coliseum, then moving to the Rosemont Horizon in Illinois, and concluding in Los Angeles at the LA Memorial Sports Arena. I’m sure the idea was to have to have the East Coast stuff early and finish up in the West Coast and make some sort of statement on 1986 level technology. We’ll see how this all pans out though. Considering WWF/E never did this again I’m already assuming this is problematic. So, let’s take a look back at WrestleMania 2.

You can watch WrestleMania 2 on the WWE Network here.

Turn Heel Retro: WrestleMania 2 Recap

We open with a fade in on the original WrestleMania logo, a brief voice over with this year’s WrestleMania slogan, and then a neon light looking “2” appearing in red behind the WrestleMania logo. The logo then becomes 3-D computer graphics that look and rotate surprisingly well for 1986. We then see small stills of each city the event is happening in. Kudos for them not removing the Twin Towers from the NY segment and we’re then sent to Vince McMahon, that wacky young announcer, in the ring at the Nassau Coliseum. Vince welcomes us to WrestleMania and then introduces his “color co-host” of the show, the “#1 actress in the world”, Susan Saint James. Susan waves to the crowd and then Vince introduces Ray Charles (or Ray Chawwwwwws as Vince pronounces it) to sing ‘America the Beautiful’. Wow, Ray Charles is a pretty good get for WrestleMania. Charles sings the song and still images of “scenes of America” are faded in over his live performance. We of course finish on stills of Hulk Hogan and Hogan pointing at the American flag, because it is 1986 after all. Most of this show doesn’t exist on YouTube, unfortunately, so this recap will be pretty light on clips.

We then fade out to a more distant shot of the ring and someone is in there climbing the corners getting a crowd reaction… but who? We’re then sent to Mean Gene Okerlund out in Chicago. Gene then sends us back to New York where Rowdy Roddy Piper is preparing for his boxing match with Mr. T. Lou Duva cuts a promo, while Cowboy Bob Orton gives Roddy a shoulder massage. Piper then cuts a promo saying he grew his hair long so you could “tell the difference between him and Mr. T”. Piper talks about this training and says if he loses tonight, he’ll quit professional boxing, professional wrestling, tiddly winks, and dating girls. He then hugs Orton and says he’d stick with him. Roddy references Mr. T wearing a kilt to mock him and says he’d never “cut his hair like an Indian” or “paint himself black”. Well, in a few years we can prove him half wrong.
We’re then sent back to the ring with Howard Finkel introducing the first match.

Match #1: Paul Orndorff vs. The Magnificent Muraco (w/ Mr. Fuji)

Well, this is an odd choice. The match starts and we hear voice over promos each guy cut “earlier in the day”. I supposed the technology may not have been there yet in 1986 to do a “picture in picture” type display so we get audio only. Vince does the majority of the commentary here and Susan Saint James is his essentially his Byron Saxton. She chimes in every once in a while, agrees with Vince, and likes the babyfaces. Anyway, this match is nothing special. Vince even puts out the fact this is the first time Orndorff and Muraco have faced one another. We have a pretty standard match until both guys spill out of the ring. They then brawl on the outside until the bell rings. We start the show off with a double count out between two guys who have no real reason to be fighting each other. Okay, then.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – The crowd seems really into Orndorff so this outcome makes no real sense.

Right after the bell rings, Orndorff slams Muraco into the post and then goes to hit him with a chair. That’s a quick escalation. The fans chant “bull$h1t” and no one seems to know what is going on. Like seriously, Finkel is just standing there, we see a replay, then we’re sent back to the ring with George Steele and a new ref in the ring, and then sent to Mr. T’s dressing room. Go home, WWF, you’re drunk! This entire time we just see a shot of Finkel looking down at something. We finally see Mr. T cut a promo in his dressing room. Mr. T says he plans to fight dirty and references Piper shaving his friend’s hair (The Haiti Kid) to look like Mr. T’s. Mr. T’s trainer, boxer Joe Frazier rubs his arm and Finkel’s announcement of the result of the first match competes with the end of T’s promo. Not a shining production moment.

As Savage makes his way to the ring, Susan starts cutting a promo on Savage on commentary. We then see Savage cut one of his standard amazing promos “earlier today” as picture in picture, meaning it was a production gaffe earlier and not a technology issue.

Match #2: Randy “Macho Man” Savage (c) (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs. George “The Animal” Steele (WWF Intercontinental Championship match)

This is basically a hardcore match before such a thing existed. Savage hits Steele with a bouquet of flowers, then Steele turns the flowers around as a weapon. After that, Steele bites into the turnbuckle pad and uses the stuffing as a weapon. Steele’s remaining offense consists of him biting Savage. The ref is okay with all of this. A key moment comes when Savage hits his elbow drop finisher, but Steele kicks out. However, not long after, Savage uses the ropes for leverage and gets a cheap win.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – A fun match that was definitely the kind of spectacle this show needed after the boring, double count out they kicked the show off with.

Post-match, Steele bites open another turnbuckle pad. I’m not sure why we have to wait minutes from the bell ringing to the actual announcement of who won or lost the match. Like here, Steele leaves, but we never hear anything about who won and get sent to Mean Gene in Chicago. Gene is with NFL player Bill Fralic and Big John Studd. Fralic cuts a promo on Studd calling him a “dud”, which infuriates Studd, and Okerlund tries to restore order. Studd produces a football and flattens it in his hands while cutting a promo on football players. Like with Mr. T earlier, Studd’s promo conflicts with the audio from New York of Finkel announcing the winner of the IC title match about four minutes after the bell rings. This is rough to watch.

We’re sent back to New York and Vince McMahon and Susan Saint James are sitting in talk show style chairs in what looks like a skybox or something in the arena. Vince wants to know if Susan likes snakes and she hopes that Jake “The Snake” Roberts loses and we don’t have to see the snake.

Back to the ring for the announcements and George Wells looks like he’s wearing baseball pants for this match.

Match #3: Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. George Wells

Jake rushes Wells to start the match and that doesn’t end well for Jake. Wells goes on a run getting in a ton of offense, including a nice powerslam. Jake slides out of the ring, catches Wells with a knee lift as he re-enters, and then hits the DDT. And it’s over.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – Kind of a short match. Also, after mounting a ton of offense, all it takes is one knee lift to set Wells up for a finisher.

Post-match, Jake gets his snake out of the bag and wraps the snake around Wells’s neck. Wells sells like he’s dying and starts to froth at the mouth. Finally, Jake pulls the snake off of Wells.

We’re then back up with Vince and Susan because announcing the winner of a match right after it ends is not what you do in 1986 apparently. We’re then sent to “videotaped footage” that serves to document the Roddy Piper and Mr. T feud up to tonight. The footage appears to solely be from a Saturday Night’s Main Event episode where Piper and Orton assault T after a boxing match he had on the show. There’s a little more to this feud, like say the WrestleMania I match they all had, but maybe we’ve already begun the “if it happened over a year ago it didn’t happen” thing with WWE at this point. We’re then sent to Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Hulk Hogan in Los Angeles. Ventura is wearing a golden Cleopatra wig, a beret, and a feather boa because of course he is. Ventura mentions that Hogan’s ribs are injured going into the match. Hogan cuts a promo that implies that beating King Kong Bundy is what is best for America and he makes a prediction that Mr. T will defeat Piper. Shockingly, we get through that entire promo without hearing Finkel tell us that Jake Roberts won the previous match.

We’re then sent to the ring where Finkel is going to introduce the celebrities for the New York main event. The guest ring announcer is Joan Rivers. Rivers then announces the guest judges, “Chocolate Thunder” Darryl Dawkins, Cab Calloway, and G. Gordon Liddy. The guest timekeeper is Herb, proving that WWE’s ties to Burger King for promotions go back 30 years. We then see shots of the crowd while Vince clearly tries to stall for time with Susan because nothing is happening in the ring. Piper finally enters with no music.

Match #4: Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T (Boxing match)

Well, I’m not much a boxing fan, but even I get the impression this isn’t a good boxing match. Of course the entire thing ends in the fourth round with Piper shoving the ref and bodyslamming Mr. T to earn a DQ.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – If I paid to go see WrestleMania 2 in New York, I’d be pretty upset.

After the match, a pull apart brawl ensues. While the brawl is still going on, Finkel breaks tradition and almost immediately announces Mr. T as the winner. T gets a decent pop but this crowd hasn’t seemed to be that into anything else but Paul Orndorff. Vince then sends us to Chicago where Gorilla Monsoon is at ringside with Mean Gene Okerlund. Monsoon then introduces his color commentary partner, Cathy Lee Crosby. Monsoon then sends us to ring announcer Chet Coppock for our first match.

Match #5: The Fabulous Moolah (c) vs. Velvet McIntyre (WWF Women’s Championship match)

So, Moolah starts out brutalizing McIntyre. Velvet his a few dropkicks and misses with a splash off the ropes by a mile. She then, seemingly intentionally, positions herself by the ropes, and puts her foot on the ropes, Moolah covers her, Velvet removes her foot and then puts it back. Three count.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Why do the foot on the rope spot if the ref isn’t going to react to it? Also, this match barely lasts two minutes. The only positive is Moolah gets amazing heel heat from the crowd.

We’re then sent back to the announce booth. Okerlund implies that Crosby has hooked up with some football players, but, Crosby is now siding with the wrestlers in the battle royal after having seen a one minute and twenty-second match. There are massive boos during this segment because Nikolai Volkoff has made his way to the ring. He’s facing Corporal Kirchner in a “flag match” where the winner gets to raise their flag. Yeah, 1986 USA… I think Volkoff has a chance here. Nikolai sings the Soviet National Anthem to nuclear heat. Kirchner then comes out to carousel music to a huge pop.

Match #6: Nikolai Volkoff (w/ Classy Freddie Blassie) vs. Corporal Kirchner

Total garbage match. This barely lasts two minutes and features a ref bump so Kirchner can use Blassie’s cane. I’ve seen Kirchner wrestle a few times now and assume he just doesn’t have a finisher.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – I think something like this could only work in 1986 in America. Kirchner’s win is over huge with the crowd, but this match is otherwise a waste of time.

Post-match, a bloody Kirchner hoists the USA flag aloft. I’m assuming he must have gotten hard-wayed with a ring post spot, because blading in that match would make no sense at all. We then see a replay with no audio, just the carousel music, because Kirchner probably had “Born in the USA” as his music still.

We’re sent to the ring where Mean Gene explains the rules for the 20 man battle royal. Our guest timekeeper is Clara Peller. The guest refs are Dick Butkus and Too Tall Jones. Wait those are both NFL guys. Oh well, probably won’t matter. Here’s the list of who is in this match: Jimbo Covert, Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi, Harvey Martin, Dan Spivey, Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga, The Iron Sheik, Ernie Holmes, The Killer Bees, Big John Studd, Bill Fralic, The Hart Foundation, Russ Francis, Bruno Sammartino, William “Refrigerator” Perry, and Andre the Giant.

Match #7: 20 Man NFL vs. WWF Battle Royal

It’s a battle royal. It’s going to be garbage. This one has the bonus of about 1/3 of the people in it being non-wrestlers. I get why this happened, since having NFL players working a match at your show gets even more media attention. But, I can still call it garbage for what it is independent of all of those other factors. So, anyway, your final four is Andre, Bret, Neidhart, and… Russ Francis. LOL. The Hart Foundation tie Andre up in the ropes and use that as a chance to eliminate Francis. Andre then eliminates Neidhart, and picks Hart off the ropes and throws him onto Neidhart on the outside. Andre wins.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Super predictable. I didn’t remember this match, but the minute I saw Andre as the final entrant I knew exactly who would win. Having non-wrestlers in there must have been a booking nightmare, and I’m actually surprised they had Perry eliminate Studd like that since I imagine that likely didn’t sit too well with the kayfabe-era locker room. This was one of those spectacle WrestleMania matches and goes to show why the battle royal is now featured on the Kickoff show.

We’re then sent back to New York, where Vince, Susan, and a sweaty Roddy Piper have a sit down interview. Piper cuts a promo on Mr. T saying he cheats like Perry did in the battle royal. Piper then defends his actions in the boxing match and passively hits on Susan.

Back in Chicago, Okerlund is with Jimbo Covert. Jimbo cuts a promo on Bill Fralic. The Iron Sheik then lets Gene Mean know that if his partner “Nikola” was there they’d win the battle royal. Sheik then poses for the camera man.

Next, Monsoon shows us some highlights from the battle royal again.

In the ring, the announcer lets us know that the tag team title match will have two officials. The Bulldogs are accompanied to the ring by Ozzy Osbourne… for reasons.

Match #8: The Dream Team (c) (w/ Johnny Valiant) vs. The British Bulldogs (w/ Lou Albano & Ozzy Osbourne)

Well, I’m going to call this one early and say this is the match of the night. I had forgotten how good the Bulldogs were and this probably isn’t even one of their best matches during their prime. The finish is kind of weird, but the build was great and having Valentine take most of the bumps was a good idea because he really knows how to sell. It breaks down for the Dream Team when Valentine has Smith pinned but pulls him up to break the count at two. Dynamite Kid is perched on the corner and Valentine flies into Kid’s head and Smith covers Valentine. The ref then fast counts three before Beefcake can break up the pin. New tag champs!

Verdict: Thumbs Up – On a show that has been otherwise a bunch of junk, this is the shining diamond.

Post-match, Valiant punches the in ring ref and the outside ref hands Lou Albano and Ozzy Osbourne the tag titles. Lou and Ozzy pose with the belts, which is kind of messed up since they touched them before the Bulldogs even did. And why is Ozzy Osbourne here again? He’s said and done nothing. Cathy Lee Crosby then gets in the ring while the Bulldogs are announced as the tag champs and Ozzy and Lou continue to pose with the belts inside the ring. Dynamite Kid got busted open and likely got a concussion from colliding with Valentine so while Davey Boy and a ref attend to him, Albano cuts a promo in the ring. Finally Ozzy speaks and stops chewing his gum long enough to scream “British Bulldogs Forever!”. Meanwhile, Dynamite Kid appears to have regained enough consciousness that Okerlund is going to try to talk to the Bulldogs. Finally, Davey Boy gets to hold one of the belts and he cuts a promo saying they’re going to stay in the USA since they won the titles. Meanwhile, Dynamite is about to fall over again outside the ring.

Monsoon sends it back to Vince and Susan in New York. I assume in each city, the fans there are watching the rest of the matches on Closed Circuit TV or something? Otherwise, that’d be pretty boring for them. While Vince sells us on the steel cage match main event, random smooth jazz music starts playing. We’re then sent to Los Angeles where our commentary team is Jesse Ventura, Lord Alfred Hayes, and Elvira. Well, I already know what portion of WrestleMania 2 is going to be my favorite.

Match #9: Hercules Hernandez vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat

Definitely the runner-up for match of the night. Steamboat sells great here and works great as usual. Hernandez does some good heel stuff like posing when tries to cover Steamboat and gets to show off his strength a bit. I also like that Elvira is basically a second heel announcer and agrees with Ventura when he starts to bury Steamboat’s wardrobe choices. Ultimately, Steamboat wins with a flying cross body.

Verdict: Thumbs Up – Steamboat looks great. On a show with a bunch of bad matches, this is another good one.

Post-match, we awkwardly cut to a still of the WrestleMania 2 logo. Uncle Elmer comes out to some general MIDI sounding banjo music replacing whatever music he originally came out to here. Elmer chases Jimmy Hart and Adonis around the ring. They may as well be playing “Yakety Sax“, but likely wouldn’t want to pay to license that for streaming either.

Match #10: Adorable Adrian Adonis (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Uncle Elmer

A total junk match, but it exists to help get Adonis more heat with his “adorable” character. Otherwise, this is a junk match with a barely mobile giant and adds nothing to the show.

Verdict: Thumbs Down – Continuing the trend of matches I’ll never watch again after filing this recap.

Post-match, Adonis attacks Elmer and Elvira let’s us know that she’ll never trust a man wearing pink leg warmers.

Now, we’re sent to Alfred Hayes interviewing Hogan. I guess Hogan has to cut two promos if the show is longer than two hours? The concept of this promo is the same. Is Hogan 100% for this match? No one but Hogan seems to think so.

Back in the ring, the Funk Brothers are shoving the ring announcer around while Jimmy Hart’s megaphone is playing a siren sound. Total chaos.

Match #11: Terry Funk & Hoss Funk (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Junkyard Dog & Tito Santana

A perfectly okay tag match that just seems to go on a bit too long, especially in this point of the show. At one point on commentary, Elvira says that she hopes the guys trunks are strong, implying that they might rip on a suplex. Maybe that is what Cyndi Lauper’s “keep your trunks strong” advice to Wendi Richter meant on the first Saturday Night’s Main Event episode. Wow, it’s all coming together. Anyway, this is your standard tag match. Santana plays the face in peril and eventually makes the hot tag to Dog. Things break down and Terry Funk gets slammed onto a card table outside the ring. Santana puts the Figure Four on Hoss in the ring even though they’re not the legal men. JYD gets into an exchange with Hoss on the apron, Jimmy Hart tosses the megaphone (or infernal instrument if you’re Lord Hayes) to Terry Funk, and Funk smashes JYD with it. The ref doesn’t see this and counts three.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – A much better match than much of this card has been. It just goes on a bit too long and is an odd choice for a “cool down” match before Hogan blows the roof off the place.

Up next, we get to watch the road crew build the “specially reinforced cage” for the main event. We’re not quite at the point where they can just lower it from the ceiling. This is also the famous 1980s WWF blue bars cage and not the chain link fence cage a lot of the other territories used at the time. Ventura makes a joke that the cage looks like Elvira’s house and she says it’s more like a room in her house. Ventura then realizes this is going to take a while so we’re sent to videotape to hype up the main event.

Mean Gene is at Hogan’s “secret training facility” where he is lifting weights, taped up ribs and all, with Hillbilly Jim and some random guy watching him. We then see footage of a Hogan / Muraco match on Saturday Night’s Main Event where Bundy showed up and attacked Hogan. After seeing that footage, we learn the random guy is Hogan’s doctor who has recommended he not work the match at WrestleMania. Ah, just give Hogan a Z-Pak, he’ll be fine. Apparently, Hogan has herniated a disc in his back, even though they mentioned something about his ribs earlier. Hogan now cuts his third (!) promo of this show saying how he’s going to still work the match despite being injured. Hogan then does some “heavy chins” to show he’s going to be able to handle Bundy.

We then abruptly cut to Ventura with Bobby Heenan and Bundy. Heenan cuts a promo saying Bundy is the next champion. Bundy then cuts a promo saying he’s going to send Hogan to the hospital again. We’re then sent to Elvira, who in turn sends us to New York to Vince and Susan. Vince and Susan discuss the main event and Susan doesn’t think “Bundymania” will become a thing.

We’re then sent back to Los Angeles and the announcer introduces the L.A. celebs. The guest ring announcer is Tommy Lasorda, who then announces the timekeeper, Ricky Schroder, who gets booed. Robert Conrad is the guest referee and he gets a better reception than Schroder did. Bundy is announced to boos and Hogan comes out to a huge pop. Hogan climbs the cage, rips off his shirt, and then enters the ring that way. His ribs, or back, or whatever is still taped up but he totally no sold that injury on the entrance.

Match #12: Hulk Hogan (c) vs. King Kong Bundy (w/ Bobby Heenan) (Steel Cage match for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship)

So, it’s a steel cage match between Hogan and Bundy. It’s not going to be a five-star workrate heavy match. That said, it is 1986 and it’s Hulk Hogan so the crowd is eating out of Vince McMahon’s hand. Hogan swings between selling the injuries from Bundy and no selling them several times throughout the match. Bundy blades about 2/3 of the way through and gets a decent crimson mask. Hogan goes to slam Bundy early on and fails, but later on he’s able to do it after “Hulking up”. We also get to see the Leg Drop even though Hogan wins by climbing out of the cage.

Verdict: Thumbs In The Middle – It’s not much to watch, but clearly the crowd loved the match because this is essentially the sweet spot for Hulkamania.

Post-match, Hogan chases Heenan outside of the ring. Heenan escapes into the ring and closes the door of the cage. Hogan tosses Heenan into the cage bars and then atomic drops him out the cage door. Hogan poses in the ring while Ventura talks about the match. Elvira calls it the “wrestling match of the decade”, but that actually happens at the next WrestleMania. We then briefly go back to Vince and Susan in New York. Hogan is shaking hands with Lasorda when the feed ends.

Well, I think WrestleMania 2 is a little weaker than WrestleMania I overall. Clearly the multiple locations thing didn’t work out since they never did that again. The tag title match was not bad and a few of the other matches were okay, but I don’t think this is really an essential show to watch.

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