30th Jun2020

Ten Best: WrestleMania Matches of the 1980’s

by Chris Cummings

Following my list of the Ten Best WrestleMania Matches of the 1990s, I was sent down a rabbit-hole of watching every WrestleMania again and figured it might be cool to do the same for the 80s (and so-on, and so-forth). Now, the 80s doesn’t have as many matches to choose from like the 90s did, and the 00s and 2010s will, but there’s still five WrestleMania events to dive into, so I thought it would be cool either way. Plus… there are some damn fine matches to be found in those first five Mania events. Sure… the workrate in many areas of the WWF during that time wasn’t as great as it would become, but there’s still plenty of iconic and entertaining matches, many featuring the same group of guys. So, here it is, my top ten of the best WrestleMania Matches of the 1980s.

10. Hulk Hogan & Mr. T (w/Jimmy Snuka) vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff (w/Bob Orton) – WrestleMania 1

Now this isn’t the BEST match around, but the importance of it, the iconic edge it has, and the glamour and hype around it made it a shoe-in for this list, but the quality of the action itself made me plop it in the tenth spot. The first WrestleMania was built around this match, the whole future of the WWF depended on the success of the first WrestleMania event, and that success, for the most-part, was on the shoulders of Hogan and Mr. T taking on the heel tandem of Orndorff and Piper. There were celebrities at ringside, there were guys in the corners of each team, and the Madison Square Garden crowd were exploding their energy into the air. It was, regardless of how great the in-ring was, a vitally important match in the annals of WWE, and it featured one of the greatest heels and greatest babyfaces in the history of the company, too. We’re still watching WrestleMania annually to this day, and a big reason is that this match gained the interest of the public and took WrestleMania to the level it needed to reach.

9. The British Bulldogs vs. The Dream Team – WrestleMania 2

WrestleMania 2, for my money, was the worst of the first five WrestleMania shows. It wasn’t the best card, but when I go back and watch it, which I do from time-to-time, I always get a kick out of this match. Tag Team Wrestling has always been something I’ve loved, and The Bulldogs were simply one of the best tag teams of the 80s (and of all-time, for that matter). This match, which saw Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid face off with the team of Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake, was a lot of fun. It wasn’t, by any means, the best match that the Bulldogs would have in WWF (and not even their best on a WrestleMania card) but it was still a shining star on an otherwise disappointing show. I like this one.

8. Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude – WrestleMania 4

WrestleMania 4 is an odd show. A one-night tournament for the WWF Title was at the heart of the show, with a few other matches thrown in to break up the brackets. Jake Roberts and Rick Rude, then, at the height of their famous 80s feud, decided to put on one of the most enjoyable moments of the whole show. Rude was such a great heel. Smarmy, arrogant and talented so he could back up his condescending words, he was the perfect bad-guy to face the beloved Roberts. Jake was one of those guys who could be bad or good, but when he was a babyface, man was he over. The crowd loved “The Snake” and it made this match-up all the more enjoyable. The ultra-heel agains the ultra-face in a grudge match for the ages. Good stuff.

7. The Brain Busters vs. Strike Force – WrestleMania 5

Man, I wish The Brain Busters had been able to stick around and become a bigger deal in WWF. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard were legendary wrestlers, most famous for their spots in The Four Horsemen, but their WWF run, which saw the two join forces with manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, was very good. It just paled in comparison to the other things they did in their careers, sadly. This match, which saw the two influential technical wizards take on Tito Santana and Rick Martel, is an underrated tag classic of WWF in the 80s. It doesn’t get enough love, and while I’d have loved for it to have gone longer, and had a better build-up, I still really like this one. Santana was always solid, Martel was great and the Busters are one of the best tandems of all time. Easy to see why this is on this list.

6. Mr. Perfect vs. The Blue Blazer – WrestleMania 5

A short match but still one I recall fondly from my childhood because it was a burst of energy and excitement at a time where high-flying and flips weren’t going on all that much in WWF. Curt Hennig is one of the best ever, and was in the early stages of his run as Mr. Perfect. The Blue Blazer, who we would later see have a legendary run in the WWF as Owen Hart, was also in the early stage of his WWF run. This, then, was a way for the two talented technical stars to make a statement on the biggest wrestling show of the year. It was one of the standout matches of the show. It didn’t get enough time, sure… but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a blast.

5. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage – WrestleMania 4

The finals of the WWF Championship Tournament at WrestleMania 4 saw one of the biggest heels of the 80s, Ted DiBiase, against the second-biggest babyface at the time, and the best wrestler in the company, Randy Savage. This was Savage’s moment at glory and saw “Macho Man” pick up his first WWF Title. The match was entertaining, featuring great heel-face psychology, and the right man won. I loved Savage and this was one of his big moments. I do, however, still get irked by Hulk Hogan’s hogging of the spotlight after the match. Thankfully, Hogan’s behaviour would become a storyline of jealousy and rage later on when… as we know… The Mega Powers would EXPLODE. More on that later.

4. British Bulldogs & Tito Santana vs. The Hart Foundation & “Dangerous” Danny David – WrestleMania 3

This is, in my view, the best tag team match to feature on a WrestleMania card in the 1980s. Davey Boy and Dynamite, teaming with career-babyface Tito Santana, taking on Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart and crooked-referee-turned-wrestler, Danny Davis. The storyline was on point, the talent was wonderful, and the match was a blast. The Bulldogs and The Foundation had a great chemistry for obvious reasons, and Santana and Davis offered a change in pace and tone from time to time. It’s not surprising, when you go back to this match, that Bret and Davey would go on to become the mega-stars. Damn, they were good. Yes, Dynamite was too, but still… what a match. What a group of talent… and Danny.

3. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan – WrestleMania 5

I must have watched this match a hundred times as a kid. My favourite wrestler, Randy Savage, against the biggest draw of the 80s, Hulk Hogan. Savage was the heel (although I never understood why, as a kid. I was full-on supporting “Macho Man”) and Hogan was the All-American baby-face who wanted to shut the mouth of Savage and win the WWF Title again in the process. The Mega Powers exploding was a great match with excellent build and hype, with Savage jealous of Hogan and the way he approached Miss Elizabeth and stole the spotlight every time they were together. Hogan, innocent of all he was accused of, obviously, was ready to fight for the good, and stop this guy from… telling such… erm… lies and stuff. A fun match with Savage showing just how great he was as a bad-guy. Lovely, brother.

2. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant – WrestleMania 3

It’s iconic. It’s perhaps the MOST iconic match in WWF history. “The Irresistible Force meeting the Immovable Object” hollered Gorilla Monsoon on commentary as Hogan and Andre stood, face-to-chest, in the middle of 93,000 fans in the Pontiac Silverdome. Sure, it’s a slow-moving encounter but it’s not about that. It’s a huge match. The fans were rabid. Hogan was the beloved good-guy. Andre was the despicable turncoat heel. Heenan, the perfect manager. Could Hogan slam the Giant? Could he defeat the “Eighth Wonder of the World”? It was the headline match of a massively successful event, and there isn’t a wrestling fan alive, surely, that hasn’t at least seen that face-off moment. Huge.

1. “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – WrestleMania 3

Was there really ever any doubt? Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat, fighting over the WWF Intercontinental Title, put on the greatest match of the 80s in the WWF. Hell… this could be argued to be the best match ever for that title. Some could argue that it’s the best WrestleMania match ever, to this day. It’s that good. The bad-guy, Savage against one of the best babyface wrestlers of all-time, Streamboat, this featured technical exchanges, moments of high-risk flying, shenanigans, outside brawling and everything else you could want. As time has gone by, and the in-ring of wrestling has become more fast-paced and work-rate based, this match still stands up as being perfect. Two of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots, this is why the Intercontinental Title was thought of in such a positive way for a long time. Damn. So good.
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So there you have it. The Ten Best WrestleMania matches of the 80s. As always, this is a subjective list. It’s my opinion, so feel free to disagree, and let us know what you think should have made the list. Still, hope you enjoyed this. Let’s all go watch some wrestling!

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