Powell's WrestleMania 2 review: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a cage match for the WWF Championship, Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T in a boxing match

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Powell's WrestleMania 2 review: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a cage match for the WWF Championship, Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T in a boxing match
Apr 1, 2014 - 12:45 PM

WrestleMania 2 took place on April 7, 1986. This review was written in March 2014. We will continue to post reviews of past WrestleMania events throughout the week.

WrestleMania 2
Uniondale, New York at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Rosemont, Illinois at the Rosemont Horizon
Los Angeles, California at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena
Aired on closed-circuit television

Vince McMahon stood in the ring and welcomed viewers to "the greatest sports entertainment spectacular of all time, welcome to WrestleMania." Vince welcomed actress Susan Saint James as his co-host. Vince emphatically introduced Ray Charles, who sang "America The Beautiful" as music played in the background...

Powell's POV: There were a few WrestleMania firsts in that brief segment. It was the first time Vince McMahon appeared on camera at WrestleMania. I believe it was the first time the term "sports entertainment" was uttered. And it was the first time "America The Beautiful" was performed. The audio was a little low, but getting the great Ray Charles to perform makes up for Gene Okerlund singing the national anthem at the original WrestleMania. And, yes, the show actually was broadcast from three locations.

Gene Okerlund checked in from Chicago (close enough), then turned it over to New York, where boxing trainer Lou Duva and Bob Orton Jr. were with Roddy Piper. Roddy said he grew his hair long so people could tell the difference between him and Mr. T. He said he has the best trainer, and noted that Mr. T had Joe Frazier. Piper said that if Mr. T can knock him out, he would quit boxing, pro wrestling, tiddlywinks, and dating girls.

Powell's POV: The first Piper promo to air during a WrestleMania. It wasn't his greatest work or anything, but it was still fun...

1. Paul Orndorff vs. Don Muraco (w/Mr. Fuji). The match was held in New York, so Vince and Saint James were on commentary. Orndroff was in babyface mode after being one of the top heels at the first WrestleMania. Vince set up footage of both wrestlers delivering promos, however only the audio feed played as the match got underway.

It took just under 11 minutes of air time for Vince to make his first comment about physiques, as he raved about Orndroff's compared to Muraco's. Orndroff worked Muraco's arm quite a bit. Muraco came back and then they fought to ringside, where the intensity picked up and Orndroff shoved Muraco into the ring post.

Ordorff picked up a chair, but the ref stopped him from using it. Vince said Orndroff would be disqualified if he used the chair. Orndroff threw the chair inside the ring. Muraco started to leave and Vince said he had no idea what the referee had ruled. The fans chanted bullshit. A replay showed the referee counting out both men...

Paul Orndroff fought Don Muraco to a double count out in 4:10.

Powell's POV: Saint James was a popular actress who co-starred with Jane Curtain in the sitcom "Kate & Allie" when this event took place. More importantly, she is married to Dick Ebersol, the NBC executive and longtime business ally of Vince McMahon. She added nothing to the broadcast. She served as a cheerleader for the babyfaces and asked bad questions. The match was disappointing. The double count out finish

Vince threw it to a pre-taped Mr. T promo. Joe Frazier rubbed T-s shoulders, and The Haiti Kid stood by. Finkel announced the ruling of the previous match over the top of the promo in a production error. Ouch...

2. Randy Savage (w/Elizabeth) vs. George "The Animal" Steele for the Intercontinental Title. Savage ran away from Steele early, and Steele eventually caught him and bit his leg. Steele picked up Savage by the neck and the fans popped. Steele turned his attention to Elizabeth, and Savage used this to twist up Steele in the ropes. Savage performed a long distance and sloppy cross body block off the top rope for a two count.

Steele threw Savage to the floor, then Savage climbed underneath the ring. Steele looked for him and Savage emerged from the other side of the ring and attacked Steele from behind. Later, Savage grabbed a bouquet of flowers from a fan at ringside and slapped Steele with them, but Steele came back and returned the favor with the flowers. Steele bit the turnbuckle open and threw stuffing at Savage.

Steele went to the floor and made a play for Liz's hand, but Savage went to the top rope and hit him from behind. Back inside the ring, Savage slammed Steele and performed the top rope elbow drop, but Steele kicked out at two. Vince said it was the first time he saw anyone kick out from Savage's usual finisher. Steele had a brief comeback, but Savage tripped him up and put his feet on the ropes for leverage while scoring the pin. Steele ripped open another turnbuckle pad afterward and then chased the referee on his way out...

Randy Savage defeated George Steele in 5:10 to retain the Intercontinental Title.

Powell's POV: Savage was a heel due in part to the way he mistreated Elizabeth, and Steele was a popular comedy babyface who was smitten with Elizabeth. I'm not sure how it plays to fans who didn't see the buildup, but this was actually a very popular program at the time. Both guys played their parts very well and I love the way the matches were laid out. Everything from Steele getting on a run and then becoming distracted by Elizabeth, who was merely standing there, and Savage outsmarting him at various points really worked. Steele played that part to perfection and clearly extended his career as the lovable Animal character.

In Chicago, Okerlund interviewed Big John Studd and Bill Fralic, who were at odds heading into the battle royal. Studd smashed a football, Fralic went face-to-face with him...

Powell's POV: The WWF loaded up the battle royal with NFL players in addition to their own talent. Fralic actually had a natural heel charisma and a good look. He actually made Studd look normal sized when they stood face to face. The key to the battle royal was getting members of the Chicago Bears, who were fresh off their Super Bowl win.

3. Jake Roberts vs. George Wells. Wells went after Roberts aggressively to start the match. Wells, a former CFL player, wore powder blue football pants and socks. Roberts gouged the eyes of Wells and then begged off. Roberts bowed to ringside, Wells followed, then Jake caught him with a knee on the way back inside the ring. Moments later, Jake hit the DDT for the win.

Afterward, Jake pulled Damien the snake out of the army green bag and dumped it in the ring. Roberts wrapped the snake around Wells, who had all sorts of mucus coming out of his mouth, which made for quiet the visual. Roberts teased throwing the snake into the crowd...

Jake Roberts beat George Wells in 3:15.

Powell's POV: This was one of the early Roberts matches in the WWF, as he debuted just a month earlier. Wells was mostly a prelim guy, and this was merely a showcase match for Roberts.

Footage aired of a Roddy Piper and Mr. T angle from Saturday Night's Main Event... In Los Angeles, Jesse Ventura interviewed Hulk Hogan and questioned the idea of him defending his title while working with bad ribs. Hogan cut his promo, but it was actually Ventura who got the last word. "I'll just say this, good guys don't always finish first," Ventura concluded...

Ring announcer Howard Finkel introduced comedian Joan Rivers as the guest ring announcer for the New York main event. Rivers introduced NBA player Darryl Dawkins, jazz singer Cab Calloway, and G. Gordon Liddy (convicted of burglary, conspiracy, and refusing to testify as part of the Watergate scandal) as the judges for the boxing match. Herb was introduced as the timekeeper.

Powell's POV: If you ever wondered what Rivers looked like before plastic surgery turned her into an alien, this is your chance. She was lousy in this role. Herb was someone from a Burger King ad. I'd completely forgotten that he even existed. The amount of money wasted on bad celebrities must have been insane.

4. Roddy Piper (w/Lou Duva, Bob Orton, Jr.) vs. Mr. T (w/Joe Frazier, The Haiti Kid) in a boxing match. Piper jawed at T during the introductions. T wore one white sock and one red sock for God knows what reason. Piper wore plaid boxing shorts. After the first round, Piper stood up and jawed at T's corner. T was breathing heavily as he sat on his stool.

The referee wiped vaseline from the forehead of Piper as round two got underway. Piper threw a flurry at T, none of which really connected. T spun him around and threw punches. Piper came back and ended up knocking T to the mat for an eight count from the referee. As they fought again, a loud "Roddy" chant broke out. Piper shoved T to the ground and then stomped on him after the bell sounded to end the round. Orton came over and threw water at Mr. T. in between rounds. T just kind of took it, as he appeared to be blown up.

Piper came out to confidently to start the third, but it was T's time to shine. T threw a combination that Piper sold by sitting down in the corner, and he got up at the ref's eight count. T shoved Piper into the corner and it was time for the big knockout punch, which grazed Piper at best. Piper sold it by going through the ropes and down to the floor at ringside. Piper got back inside the ring at the nine count. Vince said the fight would be over if Piper was knocked down again. T caught Piper with one shot to the face, but they mostly held on until the round ended.

T got up and jawed at Piper, who sat on his stool this time. Before the bell, Piper stood up and threw his chair at T in the corner aggressively (which he has stated was a shoot). They traded big knockout punches in the middle of the ring. Piper ended up shoving the referee down and then bodyslammed T for the DQ. The corners intervened and there was a big pileup in the middle before they pulled the fighters apart. The announcement of T as the winner drew a mixed reaction at best...

Mr. T defeated Roddy Piper by DQ in a boxing match in the fourth round (13:15).

Powell's POV: Piper tried hard and blew away T in terms of charisma and effort. He has has vented about this fight quite a bit. There was legit friction between him and T, and he claims they put a ridiculous amount of tape over his fists so that it was like he was hitting T with cushions. The gloves were thumb-less, so he couldn't grab the ropes to take the bump he planned following a big uppercut from T. Worse yet, he said T missed the punch by a mile. The whole thing was a mess, yet somehow fascinating to watch all these years later. I feel bad for the New York fans. They got a double count out, a fun Intercontinental Title match, a squash match, a worked boxing match, and a bunch of bad celebrities. I remember feeling like Mr. T didn't mean nearly as much the second rime around. I suspect his star was fading, though it's possible it just didn't feel as big the second time.

Gorilla Monsoon and Gene Okerlund checked in to set up the Chicago portion of the show. They introduced Cathy Lee Crosby, who didn't get to say much. Chet Coppock, a radio and TV sports personality, served as ring announcer...

5. WWF Women's Champion The Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre. Velvet worked barefoot and received some cheers, while Moolah was booed loudly. McIntyre threw a couple of one-footed dropkicks and an elbow to the face of Moolah. She bodyslammed Moolah and then missed a second rope splash. Moolah covered her off the miss and got the win. Monsoon played up the possibility that it was done in record time...

The Fabulous Moolah defeated Velvet McIntyre in 1:25 to retain the WWF Women's Championship.

Powell's POV: That was quick. I don't know if they were running long and needed to keep it short, but this was short even by modern day Diva standards.

6. Nikolai Volkoff (w/Freddie Blassie) vs. Corporal Kirchner in a flag match. The flags were merely set up in a stand by the ring posts on the floor. Volkoff dominated early in the match and rammed Kirchner into the post. Back inside the ring, the ref was bumped. Blassie tried to throw his cane to Volkoff, but Kirchner intercepted it and struck Volkoff with it, which led to the pin...

Corporal Kirchner defeated Nikolai Volkoff in a flag match in 2:05.

Powell's POV: Kirchner was Vince McMahon's attempt to create a new Sgt. Slaughter. It didn't work, though you wouldn't have known it here because the crowd was receptive to him. The part was played by Michael Penzel, who was a U.S. Army paratrooper. He went on to work as Leatherface in Japan. The match was odd as the goal wasn't to get the flag. Rather, it was simply to win by pinfall and then you had the right to wave your flag.

Coppock, who was pretty good in his understated ring announcer delivery, introduced Gene Okerlund to serve as the ring announcer for the 20-man battle royal. The timekeeper was Claire Peller, who tried to say her "Where's The Beef?" line that was really over back in the day, but her mic wasn't on. Oops. NFL great Dick Butkus was the ringside enforcer, as was NFL great Ed "Too Tall" Jones.

The battle royal participants were Jimbo Covert (Bears), Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi, Harvey Martin (Cowboys), Dan Spivey, Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga, Iron Sheik, Ernie Holmes (Steelers), Jim Brunzell, B. Brian Blair, Big John Studd, Bill Fralic (Falcons), Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Russ Francis (49ers), Bruno Sammartino, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, and Andre the Giant.

Powell's POV: Perry was the biggest name of the NFL players. He was an overweight defensive lineman who became a star because Bears coach Mike Ditka started giving him goal line carries. Brunzell and Blair were teaming as The Killer Bees, and Hart and Neidhart were together as The Hart Foundation.

7. 20-Man Battle Royal. Monsoon and Crosby were joined on commentary by Erie Ladd, who loved saying "going at it tooth and nail." People ganged up on Perry early, but Covert came over to save his teammate. Covert and Tonga were eliminated simultaneously. Holmes was out next. Brunzell was eliminated. The Fridge eliminated Atlas.

Studd worked over The Fridge. All eyes seemed to be on Fridge. Martin and Morales were eliminated, but the fans were glued to Fridge. Arcidi was eliminated very gingerly by several wrestlers. Sheik eliminated Spivey. Fralic was bounced by Studd and Sheik, then Sammartino eliminated Sheik. Studd eliminated Sammartino.

Fridge threw a big shoulder block that nearly eliminated The Hart Foundation. Fridge charged into a Studd elbow, and then Studd tossed him to the floor. Fridge offered Studd a handshake. Studd accepted, and Fridge pulled him to the floor to eliminate him. The fans popped. The match came down to Andre, Francis, and The Hart Foundation.

The Hart Foundation threw a Rock-n-Roll Express double dropkick at Andre, which tied him up in the ropes somehow. The Hart Foundation eliminated Francis, who managed to clothesline himself on the bottom rope on the way out. The Hart Foundation worked over Andre. Neidhart whipped Hart into Andre, who lifted his boot, and Hart sold it big time. Andre eliminated Neidhart with a big boot (horrible elimination), and then Andre caught Bret on the top rope and threw him onto Neidhart on the floor to win the match...

Andre the Giant won a 20-man battle royal. in 9:13

Powell's POV: Francis had the most indy-riffic gear in WrestleMania history with his wife-beater top and ball-hugging black trunks. From a distance, Francis looked like Borat was in the battle royal. The fans loved the two Bears. They didn't seem to care about the other NFL players. As far as the veterans, the fans liked Sammartino, but Morales got a non-reaction. The fans came away happy with Andre winning, but they would have come unglued had Fridge won.

In New York, Piper joined Vince and Susan Saint James at their set. Vince called Piper on his behavior, then Piper responded with a promo. He said he doesn't have to cut his hair like an Indian, nor paint himself black. Um, okay. Vince claimed Piper shoved the ref because he was losing, he said he wasn't losing anything, but he had to fight the entire Nassau Coliseum. He said he nearly slipped on T's tongue...

Back in Chicago, Okerlund interviewed Jimbo Covert, who said he got cheated. He said Bill Fralic blindsided him and eliminated him from the match while he was eliminating Tonga. Whiner. Iron Sheik entered as Covert left and boasted that wrestling is better than football, and Iran is number one... Monsoon and Crosby recapped the battle royal...

8. Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake (w/Johnny Valiant) vs. The British Bulldogs (w/Lou Albano, Ozzy Osbourne) for the WWF Tag Team Championship. The ring announcer noted that there were two referees for the match. He neglected to mention that the older ref apparently stopped eating six months before the show. Crosby opted to inform the world that this was the first time she's been to a wrestling show, but her grandfather watched Gorgeous George. Thank you for that, Cathy.

Valentine worked the majority of the match for his team. The crowd popped big for the Bulldogs and bought into several near falls. During the match, Valentine went up top and Dynamite Kid was there to press slam him to the mat. Davey performed a great power slam on Valentine for a big pop.

Later, Valentine had Davey pinned, but picked him up in an arrogant move. Dynamite stood on the second rope in his corner, and Davey whipped Valentine into Dynamite's head, and then pinned Valentine off of that. Dynamite took a hell of a bump off the headbutt from the second rope and down to the floor at ringside.

Albano and Ozzy held up the title belts. Albano cut a promo afterward, and Ozzy screamed something about the bulldogs forever. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were still selling. Davey entered the ring while Dynamite remained on the floor selling the headbutt. Davey said they told the fans they would say in the United States if they could win the tag titles and so they would...

The British Bulldogs defeated Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship in 13:03.

Powell's POV: The Bulldogs were just a great team that stood out as unique in WWE. Valentine carried his partner in "The Dream Team" and worked really well with the Bulldogs (or pretty much anyone else). Beefcake's involvement in the match was limited, but Davey made him look really good with one unique bump. The finish was odd considering all of the great moves the Bulldogs had, but it worked. The crowd was really hot for the title change and this was definitely the right choice to headline the Chicago portion of the show over the battle royal.

Vince and Saint James gushed over the title change and shifted the focus to the Los Angeles portion of the show and hyped the main event... In Los Angeles, Jesse Ventura, Elvira, and Lord Alfred Hayes stood at ringside and previewed their portion of the show... Lee Marshall, who later was an AWA broadcast team member (and had quite the cheese ball mustache), was the ring announcer for the Los Angeles end of the show...

9. Ricky Steamboat vs. Hercules Hernandez. Steamboat came out with some quick arm drags that popped the crowd. Hercules took over the offense and slowed things down a bit while using power moves. Hercules went for a top rope splash, and Steamboat put his knees up. Steamboat came back late with the cross body block off the top rope for the win. Jesse tried to protect Hercules by saying he thought the referee's count was quick...

Ricky Steamboat defeated Hercules in 7:27.

Powell's POV: A good live opener for the Los Angeles crowd. Steamboat sold well for Hercules' power and his own crowd pleasing offense got the crowd going. The match was laid out a little oddly in that Steamboat didn't really have the hot comeback to set up the finish. Instead, he got the win off a Hernandez splash attempt. By the way, I don't recall Hernandez going for many top rope splashes. My memory of him is that he was more of a power guy during his WWF run.

10. Adrian Adonis (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Uncle Elmer. Hart had the megaphone unlike at the first Wrestlemania. Adonis worked the match in a moo moo and leg warmers, and his face was made up Brother Love red. Elmer got off to the fast start and tore the moo moo. Adonis took a belly bump and tied himself up in the ropes, allowing Elmer to threw a couple punches. Elmer caught Adonis wish a splash in the corner and missed a leg drop. Adrian went to the top rope and performed a head butt or a splash (the camera was focussed on Hart) and got the win...

Adrian Adonis pinned Uncle Elmer in 3:00.

Powell's POV: As out of shape as Adonis appeared to be, he worked really well for a guy his size. He was the longtime tag partner of Jesse Ventura in the AWA and had more of a NYC biker gimmick. The flamboyantly gay heel gimmick would never fly today, but it was easy and cheap heat back then. Elmer worked as Plowboy Frazier in Memphis. He was just a big, slow guy that worked in the Hillbilly Jim family spot, which had run its course by this point. He was also married on Saturday Night's Main Event at one point.

Hayes interviewed Hulk Hogan, who expressed frustration over the ambulance ride he took (in reference to an injury angle they did to set up his match with King Kong Bundy). He said he would compete with one arm if he had to, so the bad ribs wouldn't stop him...

11. Terry Funk and Hoss Funk (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog. Terry threw a chair inside the ring and slammed another one on the floor before the the bell. Terry sold like mad for both babyfaces early on and jawed at the crowd to keep them engaged. Santana threw dropkicks at Hoss. They worked together a bit and ended up doing a cross cross spot that resulted in Terry kicking Santana to give his team offensive control. Hart snuck in a few kicks on Tito at ringside.

The Funks isolated Tito, which ultimately led to JYD taking the hot tag. He roughed up both heels. Terry wrapped a piece of tape around JYD's neck, but he head-butted his way out of it, then sent Terry flying over the top rope to ringside. JYD slammed Funk onto some chairs at ringside. Later, Tito, the illegal man, applied the Figure Four on Hoss. As the referee got Santana out of the ring, Hart tossed the megaphone to Terry, show slammed it over JYD's head and pinned him...

Terry Funk and Hoss Funk defeated Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana in 11:40.

Powell's POV: Of course, Hoss Funk was Dory Funk, Jr. Terry was hands down the MVP of this match. His over the top selling, wild bumps, and playing to the crowd was all phenomenal.

The ring crew set up the big blue cage. Meanwhile, Ventura and Elvira talked, then set up a pre-tape...

Gene Okerlund, wearing a tuxedo, checked in from "Hulk Hogan's private gym." Hogan was lifting weights while a doctor (wearing a Hulkamania shirt) and Hillbilly Jim stood by. Footage aired from Saturday Night's Main Event of King Kong Bundy performing an Avalanche splash while Don Muraco held Hogan's arms in the corner. Muraco let Hogan go and Bundy performed two more splashes. Once Hogan fell to the mat, Muraco placed his arms over his chest and then Bundy splashed Hogan a couple times until the British Bulldogs came out and ran them off.

Back in the gym, Okerlund spoke with "Dr. Bob", who put over the severity of Hogan's rib injuries. Hogan was shown strapping weight around his neck, then performing pull-ups. Okerlund questioned whether Hogan was putting too much strain on his lower back. Okerlund claimed Hogan was lifting over four hundred pounds. A raspy-voiced Hogan, who had been selling the pain, now said he felt no pain and feared no man...

At the building, Ventura interviewed King Kong Bundy and Bobby Heenan. They were confident about taking the title from Hogan and spoke about "Bundy-Mania"... At ringside, Elvira shifted things back to Vince McMahon and Susan Saint James, who babbled briefly...

Lee Marshall introduced guest ring announcer Tommy Lasorda, then manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lasorda introduced actor Ricky Schroder as the guest timekeeper. He was booed. Lasorda introduced actor Robert Conrad as the special referee.

Powell's POV: Lasorda was a terrible ring announcer, and I have no idea why Robert Conrad was the special referee. Conrad was doing a bunch of shitty TV movies at that point in his career, and I honestly forgot he was even at this show let alone the special referee. Of course, the special referee for the early WrestleMania shows meant the guy stood at ringside and did nothing.

12. Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy in a cage match for the WWF Championship. Hogan wore white tape under his yellow trunks to sell his injuries. Bundy dominated early on and removed the white tape. Hogan made an early comeback and Bundy bladed. Hogan raked Bundy's back and then rammed him into the cage a couple times. Bundy came back and tried to exit through the cage door, but Hogan used the leftover tape from his ribs to wrap around Bundy's neck to keep him in the ring.

Bundy stormed back with an Avalanche splash in the corner and then performed a big splash in the middle of the ring. Bundy headed for the cage door, but Hogan shot up and grabbed his leg to keep him in the cage. Hogan came back with a bodyslam and the big leg. Hogan strutted to the corner and then climbed the cage. Heenan tried to stop Hogan, and Bundy eventually caught up to him. Hogan kicked Bundy down and dropped to the floor before Bundy could escape through the door.

Afterward, Hogan locked Heenan inside the cage. Hogan whipped Heenan into the cage. Heenan took a big over the top rope and full body into the cage bump. Hogan gave Heenan an atomic drop that sent him through the cage door. Lasorda named Hogan the winner, and Hogan posed to close the show...

Hulk Hogan defeated King Kong Bundy in a cage match in 10:15 to retain the WWF Championship.

Powell's POV: A typical Hogan vs. big man match. They really played up the injury angle going into this show, but even 13-year-old, Hogan-loving me didn't think he was at risk of losing the title in this match. Bundy felt more like a monthly challenger than a strong WrestleMania opponent. Granted, the term WrestleMania dream match hadn't even been invented yet, but it was a letdown from the big money tag match from the year before.

Overall, WrestleMania 2 was excessive. The idea of running the show in three separate markets was an ill-conceived cash grab and I'm happy they never went down that road again. I was surprised to hear Howard Finkel and Renee Young express their desire in a recent WWE podcast to have the company try something like this again.

The broadcast teams were a mess thanks to the celebrity involvement. Ventura was a great color commentator, but he was forced into the role of play-by-play voice. The celebrity broadcasters were awful. I don't know if Vince was trying to lure in the housewives with Saint James and Cathy Lee, but they were awful. The show had some decent moments, but they were spread too thin. To close on a positive note, it was pretty wild to see how much glitzier everything was from a production standpoint compared to the first WrestleMania.



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