WrestleMania 4: The one with the Tournament. Live from the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, although the WWF referred to it as the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino during the show. Gene Okerlund welcomes us to the show and introduces Gladys Knight to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ and a snippet of ‘My Country tis of thee’.

    With the WWF Heavyweight Championship having been vacated in the aftermath of the controversial finish to Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant at Saturday’s Night Main Event the majority of this show is based around a tournament for the title. Hogan & Andre headlined WrestleMania 3.

    Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura are on commentary and are briefly joined by baseball’s Bob Uecker, returning from the previous year. He mumbles something or other about meeting Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune, a running theme for him during the show.

    The venue is a step down from the massive stadium of the previous year the entrances down a long golden staircase stand out visually in the days before major stages and sets became the norm.

    WrestleMania 4: 20-Man Battle Royal

    Basically a way for everyone left on the roster to get a payday. There’s a big trophy for the winner and a wide-ranging roster featuring future legends and world champions alongside some of the usual strange gimmicks.

    As for the action itself, it’s a battle royal. Nothing interesting really happens until the field starts to thin out. There are only really 19 men involved, George Steele stands on the outside and only once or twice interjects himself. There’s some interesting history in that it’s one of only two times Bret Hart and Harley Race shared the ring, it’s a shame you can’t really see them working with each other. There’s also a brief interaction between Race and the Junkyard Dog, calling back to their feud the previous year that peaked at Mania III.

    The final four are Bad News Brown, Junkyard Dog, Bret Hart and Paul Roma. Roma is out quickly, and Junkyard Dog gets a little chance to shine. Brown and Hart team up against JYD and eventually throw him out. It looks briefly like they’re going to share the prize, but Brown turns on Hart and throws him out after a quick mini-match. Post-match though Hart destroys the trophy, probably frustrated given this is the second time he was the runner-up in a Mania Battle Royal (see Mania 2).
    It warmed the crowd up at the very least.

    Robin Leach, who’s from ‘Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous’ comes out and reads a proclamation. A bit of filler early in the show, but if you don’t understand what a single elimination tournament is, at least it might explain that.

    WrestleMania 4: Ted DiBiase vs Jim Duggan
    First-Round Tournament Match

    DiBiase is the main reason why the whole tournament is happening. It was him paying off Andre the Giant that led to the controversial title change that mean the title was vacated in the first place. He’s joined by Andre the Giant and Virgil at ringside as he faces Duggan, marking a year since his debut.
    DiBiase is a solid, and often underappreciated technician, but he’s against the cartoony brawler in Duggan which isn’t a dream opponent. After some early exchanges, DiBiase gets bounced to the outside as Duggan shows his power advantage. Lots of stalling from DiBiase, as expected given his underhanded character. Ventura says Duggan ‘isn’t a Rhodes Scholar’, a line he used the previous year about George Steele.

    Andre and Virgil on the outside don’t really do anything from their ringside positions until Duggan tries to go for a three-point stance and Andre grabs his leg. This lets DiBiase take advantage and pick up the victory to advance. A perfectly fine match that didn’t outstay its welcome, it serves little purpose beyond the tournament format though.

    We go backstage for a Brutus Beefcake promo, dressed in some ridiculous pink gear. Gene Okerlund says he has a ‘nice package’ and Beefcake rambles for a while about his sheers.

    WrestleMania 4: Don Muraco vs Dino Bravo
    First-Round Tournament Match

    More first-round action, between Canada’s Dino Bravo and ‘The Rock’ Don Muraco, who comes out with Superstar Billy Graham and a nickname that won’t stick with him long in the memory.
    Two muscular big guys, thankfully they’re wearing different colours otherwise they’d look like mirror images. Some sloppy action, both of these men could work but they don’t have much time to get in second gear. There’s a bit of submission work from Muraco but it’s primarily power moves, slams and strikes. Muraco gets kicked into the always terrifying ‘hangman’ position with his head stuck between the ropes and gets hit by a piledriver, Bravo takes time to taunt through and Muraco kicks out. Some more big collisions before the referee get knocked down.

    A strange finish as the referee stops a Bravo pinfall attempt to call the match for Muraco by disqualification. It’s not immediately clear what happened but it was Bravo who pulled the referee into harm’s way.

    Bob Uecker is backstage, looking for Vanna White. He’s interrupted by the Honky Tonk Man and Jimmy Hart. A lot of noise and sometimes is killed.

    WrestleMania 4: Greg Valentine vs Ricky Steamboat
    First-Round Tournament Match

    On paper probably the most interesting of the first-round matches. Valentine appears in the ring via teleportation before Steamboat comes out with his young child and some dubbed theme music that features a looped scream.

    Immediately this match is the best of the night so far, as soon as Steamboat arm drags Valentine there’s more action than in the previous matches. After trying to attach the nickname to Bob Orton the previous year, Gorilla Monsoon calls Steamboat ‘the Excellence of Execution’. The pace slows down a little when Valentine takes over, but it never gets dull, the action is always smooth and there’s an ebb and flow to things.

    The only thing that does briefly break the flow is the first shot of the night of a ringside Donald Trump (he is sat on the hard cam side so he’s visible all night if you’re looking). Back in the ring Valentine starts to set up for his Figure Four leglock but can’t get it in. Both men start to throw strikes and Valentine takes back over. Steamboat manages to get an opening himself and hits a few top rope moves but they prove his undoing. Valentine rolls a dive over into a pinfall and gets the win to advance. This would end up being Steamboat’s last match in this run in the WWF, he’d go over to WCW in January 1989. He does wave to the crowd in a way that suggests a goodbye.

    We go backstage to the British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware who have been reunited with the previously dognapped Matilda. She’s been trained in weasel hunting before the trios match later opposite Bobby Heenan.

    WrestleMania 4: Randy Savage vs Butch Reed
    First Round Tournament Match

    Savage had turned face since dropping the Intercontinental title the previous year and looks every inch the champion in waiting, resplendent in blue with a matching Miss Elizabeth by his side.
    There’s some stalling in the early going before Reed gets a brief run-on Savage and shows off his power for a spell. Ventura foreshadows the way the night would go by suggesting that the winner of this match could go on to wrestle four times. A lot of offense for Reed here, only some brief sparks from Savage. Reed lets himself get distracted by Elizabeth though and Savage hits a single elbow drop for the win. A quick finish to a quick match. Given the night Savage had in store, a short first round match makes sense and it’s worth seeing as part of that wider story, out of context there’s nothing interesting.

    Back again to Bob Uecker, he’s still talking about Vanna White before he’s cut off by Bobby Heenan and the Islanders. This is classic show filler of the era, you get the feeling Uecker, as funny as he is, just got a timeframe and no script.

    WrestleMania 4: One Man Gang vs Bam Bam Bigelow
    First Round Tournament Match

    Two big lads with cartoony managers. One Man Gang has Slick, straight back out after being at Butch Reed’s side. Bam Bam Bigelow has Oliver Humperdinck and gets the local hero reception, given he’s from New Jersey.
    Standard ‘irresistible force vs immovable object’ stuff. Monsoon even pulls out that line on commentary. Bigelow looks to be going for a splash, but Slick pulls the rope down and he spills out of the ring. Despite One Man Gang attacking him from inside the ring and blocking him from getting back, the referee counts him out. One Man Gang wins and moves on and we move on quickly from this pointless diversion.

    Moving on to Hulk Hogan, who’s already operating at 110% as he was wont to do. He cuts an unintentionally hilarious promo talking about slamming Andre so hard the entire East Coast of the USA cracks off the continent. Worth a watch if you’re a fan of insane promos.

    WrestleMania 4: Jake Roberts vs Rick Rude
    First Round Tournament Match

    Another good-looking match on paper. Rude is in full on ‘Ravishing’ mode, giving us a few poses to really show off his body. Roberts is intense as usual in his entrance and the match keeps that up.
    It’s not particularly rapid, that wasn’t either mans real style but its all well executed and every move plays a part in telling the wider story of the match.

    Rude begs off when he’s on the defensive and looks terrified whenever he gets near the bag containing Roberts’ snake Damien. Roberts teases going for the DDT but Rude is smart and takes a moment to slide to the outside and break Jake’s momentum. Plenty of old school sequences on show throughout. Heenan yelling at Rude not to waste time just before Rude pauses to swivel his hips for the crowd is a funny detail.

    Rude uses a long chin lock and the pace really slows down, to the extent commentary start talking about the 15 minute time limit. Is this foreshadowing? We’ll see. There are some moments of action during this long sequence, Rude even going to the top rope at one point. After the hot start though it’s a shame the action slows to a crawl to such an extent. Roberts does eventually fight out and get a run of his own and almost hits the DDT. Rude gets a pinfall, with his feet high on the ropes, and the bell rings. But it’s for a time limit draw instead of a victory for Rude. That’s what all the stalling for.
    A disappointing finish that meant the rest of the match was slow and plodding when the opening had promised a whole lot more. A real shame. These two would go on to have a long feud after this where their matches would live up to their potential.

    Gene Okerlund is backstage with the actual Vanna White in front of the tournament bracket board. She proclaims to not know Bob Uecker and gives Okerlund her picks for who she thinks will the upcoming matches.

    WrestleMania 4: The Ultimate Warrior vs Hercules

    Non tournament action for a moment as the newest body guy on the roster goes against one of the more established. The energy of Warrior’s entrance stands out even in the particularly cartoony era of the time. A lot of posing, pushing, and standing very close to each other’s face and breathing heavily. In other words it’s a Warrior match.
    It stays a typical Warrior match, with a touch of back and forth thrown in to keep Hercules looking good. Warrior does the corner ten punch spot that is fairly common these days. Hercules manages to almost lock in the full nelson hold he got over the previous year but Warrior pushes him back so both men’s shoulders are down. Warrior kicks out before three but Hercules doesn’t and Warrior is declared the winner.
    A brief post-match attack from Hercules is cut off and we move right along. You can sense Warrior was being groomed for a top role, he’d improve a little from here but not much.

    WrestleMania 4: Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant
    Quarter Final Tournament Match

    The tournament features 14 men, both Hogan and Andre get a bye into the Quarter Final but face each other. It’s a rematch of the match that begat this situation and of the main event of the previous year’s Mania. A large proportion of the video package is the same as that which built to that Mania match, before moving to highlights of that collision and the controversy of ‘Saturday Night’s Main Event’. It does a good job of catching anyone watching up and in hindsight is a precursor to the sort of package we see regularly today.

    That story is the main reason to watch this match. Andre is a year older and more broken down than he was when he could barely move the previous year. As soon as Hogan slides into the ring Andre is on the attack. Headbutts, chops and general strikes are the order of the day. Hogan gets on top and even gets a shot in on DiBiase. With Andre tied up in the ropes (a regular feature of his matches) Hogan takes the chance to remove his shirt rather than really capitalise on a downed opponent.
    DiBiase gets occasionally involved from the outside as Andre’s offense is reduced to a succession of choke and trapezius holds. Hogan fights out by hulking up but Virgil distracts the referee and DiBiase brings a chair into the ring. Hogan hits Andre first (which would normally be a disqualification) and Andre hits Hogan back, which brings about the bell. For a moment its not clear what the decision has been, even as Hogan chases DiBiase back up the aisle. Virgil takes a sloppy looking suplex on the steps as we find out both men are disqualified.

    Both men are out of the tournament, which gives the winner of Ted DiBiase vs Don Muraco (next) a bye in the semi-final. Hogan still slams Andre and gets to pose and celebrate as if he has won. Hogan must pose after all. Hogan/Andre matches were always far more momentous in terms of history and spectacle than in terms of action, but this is the weakest of the trilogy from 87/88.

    Randy Savage is backstage, in a brand-new pink outfit (matched by Elizabeth). He gives his thoughts on Hogan’s elimination and predicts his own victory in the tournament.

    WrestleMania 4: Ted DiBiase vs Don Muraco
    Quarter Final Tournament Match

    Two men who advanced in slightly controversial circumstances facing off in what is de facto a semi-final, given the winner will go straight to the final after the double disqualification in the prior match. DiBiase is right back out after having been ringside immediately before this.
    Muraco drags DiBiase into the ring after the latter appears to be stalling. It’s all Muraco in the early going, with Billy Graham on the outside managing to scare DiBiase into staying in the ring every time he looked like sneaking away for a breather. This is probably the match where the sheer number of singles matches on the night, as well as the repeated appearances from the same wrestlers, means things start to merge together. Muraco and DiBiase both look good enough but it’s their second match of the night and it shows. DiBiase picks up the win by dropping Muraco throat first onto the top rope and he advances to the final and the main event.

    It’s back to Bob Uecker, this time he’s interrupted quickly by Demolition and Mr Fuji. A very gruff, gravelly promo from Demolition, whilst Smash waves his tongue around. We then go to an in-ring ceremony where One Man Gang’s bye is announced in an unnecessary diversion.

    WrestleMania 4: Randy Savage vs Greg Valentine
    Quarter Final Tournament Match

    A good-looking match on paper. Savage has changed from this earlier appearance and still looks every inch the champion in waiting. Valentine simply walking out with no music is a strange quirk of the times and doesn’t do much to sell him as a star. It’s another fairly simple match, Valentine in control mostly with Savage taking most of the punishment. Given this is the only time these two men faced off in a singles match in their prime it’s a shame. Unless you count WCW Nitro in 1996 to be either man’s best days.

    After a long beatdown Savage wakes up and goes on the offense and gets a close near fall for his troubles. A bit more back and forth before a Valentine attempt at the Figure Four is turned into a small package and Savage wins. You can sense that Savage is being saved for future matches but it definitely doesn’t help the quality of these matches.

    More Vanna White and Gene Okerlund backstage. They update the bracket and talk a bit more about Bob Uecker. These segments are nothing special and tend to finish in a rushed fashion.

    WrestleMania 4: The Honky Tonk Man vs Brutus Beefcake
    WWF Intercontinental Championship

    The first title match diversion of the evening as we take another break from the tournament. Honky Tonk Man is in the midst of his historic Intercontinental title run and is joined by Jimmy Hart and Peggy Sue. It’s become a feature of media looking back this era to point out Peggy Sue is played by Sherri Martel but it’s still an interesting fact. She was women’s champion around the time of this alter ego and does a pretty good job of disguising herself and her mannerisms.

    Brutus Beefcake and Honky Tonk Man does not scream in ring classic, they’re both bigger on pantomime and stalling than they are on exciting action. And pantomime and stalling are exactly what we get. Beefcake messing up Honky Tonk Man’s hair is one of the most devastating moves of the early exchanges. A lot of gurning and bouncing about.

    This is exactly the kind of match that wouldn’t fly today, perhaps on a kid’s show, but even then it’s not a great example of the form. Things happen, it’s not completely devoid of movement, but each moment washes over you as the viewer without making an impression. It doesn’t help that there’s already been so many singles matches on the show.

    The finish comes when Honky Tonk Man is locked in Beefcake’s sleeper hold and Jimmy Hart knocks the referee out to stop him noticing the champion passing out. Beefcake beats up Jimmy Hart a bit and cuts some of his mullet off before the referee wakes up and calls the match by disqualifying Honky Tonk Man. Beefcake wins the match, and celebrates, but he doesn’t win the title.

    More Bob Uecker and his search for Vanna White. Andre the Giant appears and cuts a promo mocking Hogan after their match. Andre gives Uecker a quick choke to provide a classic image for decades to come and we move on.

    WrestleMania 4: The Islanders (Haku & Tama) & Bobby Heenan vs The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid) & Koko B. Ware

    A match built around the theft of an animal. Heenan and the Islanders had dognapped the Bulldogs mascot Matilda at some point. She’s back at the Bulldogs side for this match though, and Heenan is outfitted in attack dog training gear to protect himself. Heenan was a wrestler in his day but by the 80s he only very rarely got involved physically, and even then it was in matches like this where he had partners and he could play a limited role.

    The Bulldogs and the Islanders are both solid teams and there’s some work between them, particularly in some sequences between Davey Boy and Haku, both powerful men who could work at speed. After so eleven mostly indistinguishable singles matches in a row, something a bit different in a very welcome diversion. It’s functionally a 3-on-2 handicap match for the most part but Heenan does occasionally tag in when the his teammates have left an opponent down, and then he tags out the second they fight back.

    The crowd don’t seem to care for much of the action, making the most noise when Heenan gets bits and pieces of comeuppance. There are some shenanigans and Heenan actually manages to fall into a winning pinfall to get the victory for his team. As a break from singles actions, it’s fine, but it’s not a great use of these six men.

    We get a brief interlude for Jesse Ventura to pose from the rafters for the crowd before we get a repeat of the earlier ceremony to commemorate a bye, this time for Ted DiBiase.

    WrestleMania 4: Randy Savage vs One Man Gang
    Semi-Final Tournament Match

    Because of the various byes and draw finishes this is the only semi-final of the night, and it sees Randy Savage come up against the relatively fresh One Man Gang. Savage is wearing dark green this time out (matched by Elizabeth yet again).

    Savage mixing up the formula for this match and getting some early offense in, before he is once again taking a beating from his opponent. When Savage does get on top he is his usual dynamic self and those sections are the most interesting. Slick is on the outside for One Man Gang and he threatens Elizabeth, which leads to Slicks cane ending up in the ring. Gang misses with three consecutive attacks with the cane and is disqualified. He only hits Savage properly after the result has been declared. A goofy finish that ends the match before it really gets going. That’s a feature of the era, disqualification or count out finishes designed to keep people looking strong but really just making matches look meaningless.

    Vanna White leaves Gene Okerlund to head to ringside before Bob Uecker runs in. In a twist that doesn’t make sense, it turns out he’s been confusing Vanna White for someone called Vance White who wrote him a letter. Makes as much sense as you’d imagine.

    WrestleMania 4: Strike Force (Tito Santana & Rick Martel) vs Demolition (Ax & Smash)
    WWF Tag Team Championships

    Two of the better (more memorable) theme songs of the era get a full airing as we get our second title match of the evening. It’s power vs speed in a nutshell. Santana and Martel are hardly small guys but compared to Ax & Smash they’re the diminutive pair.

    These two teams get a decent amount of time, presumably to give Savage some time to recover, and as such they can get into a second gear. There’s some double teaming going on that keeps things interesting, and regular tags that keep the legal combination fresh. Jesse Ventura gets his regular digs in on Tito Santana, calling him ‘Chico’, claiming he sells tacos in Tijuana, talking about the Mexican Football League. The usual.

    Martel brings a bit of spark to the match with some high speed work before a bunch of shenanigans. Tito Santana takes his eyes of his partner to attack Mr Fuji on the outside and Demolition are able to use Fuji’s cane to secure the victory. This is the start of Demolition’s epic 478 day that would stand as a record until the 2010’s. It also eventually led to the end of Strike Force and the subsequent transformation of Rick Martel into his most memorable ‘Model’ form. It’s of interest if you want to see the start of the historic tag reign and is a decent snapshot of 80s tag wrestling but it’s not special.

    Robin Leach is back out as the official presenter of the championship belt. Bob Uecker is back as guest ring announcer. Guest timekeeper is Vanna White, to keep that thread going. The looped scream in the dubbed music from Ricky Steamboat’s entrance returns.

    WrestleMania 4: Randy Savage vs Ted DiBiase
    Tournament Final for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship

    It’s all been building to this. Savage has wrestled three times so far, DiBiase just the two. DiBiase is out first, with Andre the Giant but no Virgil (who is still laying hurt somewhere presumably). Savage and Elizabeth come out in their fourth outfits of the evening; championship white this time.
    These two are both good workers and have clearly been holding something back for this match. There’s some actual chain wrestling for a second but Andre interjects himself twice by grabbing at Savage’s leg. The crowd are periodically chanting for Hogan for some reason.

    The action is right up there in terms of quality, even if they’re both clearly half a step slower than they would be if completely fresh. DiBiase gets knocked to the outside but Andre puts his body in the way of the dive and Savage instead instructs Elizabeth to head to the back. The Hogan chants get louder and Hogan himself appears, brought down by Elizabeth to presumably even the odds against Andre.
    Hogan immediately pulls attention to himself, both the attention of the audience and that of the referee at times. His presence has at least woken the crowd back up after they threatened to go to sleep. A first diving elbow attempt from Savage misses and DiBiase tries for the sleeper hold. Andre distracts the referee and Hogan takes the opportunity to hit DiBiase from behind with a stair, leading straight to the diving elbow and the victory for Savage.

    It’s a fine match, hurt by the ending that takes all the shine off the new champion Savage and keeps it on Hogan. A great moment for Savage for sure and one that will eventually lead to the main event of the following years show and a love/hate relationship that would last decades. We at least get the iconic visual of Elizabeth on Savage’s shoulders to end the show.


    A chore of a show that showed the WWF was still trying to work out the best formula for a decent WrestleMania. It’s dragged down by the tournament. There are simply too many matches that predominantly are very short, have a rubbish finish, or both. Why they didn’t simply choose to run an 8 man tournament and cut out the first round is a puzzling decision.

    The venue is a step down from the previous year and the celebrities don’t add much. Bob Uecker is funny in small doses but he’s massively overexposed by the end of the night. The rise of Randy Savage to World Champion means this isn’t a completely meaningless show but it’s largely not worth the grind.