We are less than two weeks away from the annual spectacular that has thousands, if not millions, of you stupid marks talking. An event that will have significant ramifications down the road. An event that may just live up to all hype that is being bestowed upon it. An event 25 years in the making.
But in addition my yearly parole hearing (I was set up!), it's also time for WrestleMania. And what better way to commemorate a quarter-century of "the granddaddy of 'em all" than by yours truly finding ways to make fun of it?
In addition to researching the history of each and every WrestleMania, I've also taken the liberty of "re-imagining" all 24 original WrestleMania promotional posters. We'll discuss the first 12 events this week, followed by the next dozen the week after.
After all, I've got nothing but time as I ride out (hopefully) the last weeks here in "the big house". So let's talk about
The True Wrestling Story of WrestleMania.
WrestleMania: One Night Only
Backstory: Picture it - March 31, 1985. Ronald Reagan was recently sworn in as President ("Word Life - this is Basic Reaganomics!"); The Pointer Sisters were teaching a nation how to do "The Neutron Dance"; and the world was still eight months away from seeing "Duck Hunt" debut on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Over in the World Wrestling Federation, owner Vince "My Ass Can Do Tricks" McMahon had a problem. His fledging wrestling promotion (Ring Of Honor) was starting to gain a cult following among the biggest names in pop culture, such as Cyndi Lauper, Billy Crystal and Q*Bert. But McMahon was having a tough time trying to bring the business into the "mainstream" so that wrestling would be watched by every Tom, Dick and Max Headroom.
Enter WrestleMania - one part "BeatleMania" and one part "NWA WrestleThon '82". It would be the first time that stupid fake wrestling and crappy entertainment would become tag team partners, but not the last. Wrestling fans from around the country could travel to their local arenas, armories and rec centers, and they would pay good money to kind of squint at the action via an oversized movie screen.
Two important events took place that day: wrestling became a pop culture phenomenon, and I began my unfortunate incarceration.
Main Event: WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan teamed up against television's Mr. T to take on Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Of course, that wasn't the original plan: Hogan was originally scheduled to team up with Howlin' Mad Murdoch.
Oh, You Didn't Know?: After considering several names for the spectacular (including GrappleMania; Mr. T and Friends Roll Around In Their Underwear; and Little Vinnie Mac's Travelling Freakshow), they settled on naming it after recently-deceased front-office employee Russ L. Mania.
Overheard: "I pity the fool who thinks I'm putting his mohawked ass over tonight!" - Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Celebrity Lineup: Reality-television star Muhammad Ali, legendary tough guy Liberace and possible shemale Cyndi Lauper.
WrestleMania II: Even If You Buy A Ticket At The Arena, You're Still Watching A TV Screen, Charlie
Backstory: The first WrestleMania was such a resounding success that McMahon decided to hold a sequel in not one, but three different locations. This trend would start to get old when they held WrestleMania XII at 39 different venues.
Main Event: WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan defended the championship against longtime Canadian Bulldog favorite King Kong Bundy, in the confines of a baby blue-colored steel cage match that looked like it was constructed by the folks at Ikea (with a name like BLUDKATCHER or something).
Oh, You Didn't Know?: To decide once and for all which was the better sporting league, WWF and NFL stars competed in a battle royale. Competitors included Andre The Giant, William "Refrigerator" Perry, Big John Studd, Ernie Holmes, The Hart Foundation, O.J. Simpson and "Broadway" Joe Namath. The wrestlers won, thanks to outside interference by Major League Baseball.
Overheard: "Somebody wanna explain to me what the hell Kate from Kate and Allie is doing on color commentary??" - Vince McMahon.
Celebrity Lineup: Wow, where to start? There were, like, 30 quasi-celebrities here, ranging from Ozzy "G!d(@*F!(@$lk&" Osbourne to large-breasted vampiress Elvira. But the most impressive by far were the various fast-food pitchmen: Herb from Burger King, The "Where's The Beef?" Lady from Wendy's, KFC's Colonel Sanders, the Domino's Pizza Noid and, of course, Mayor McCheese.
WrestleMania III: Bigger. Better. FAAAAAAAATTER.
Backstory: WrestleMania III was truly focused on a single match - Billy Jack Haynes versus Hercules Hernandez.
But in addition to that, WWF Champion Hulk Hogan would face the one man he'd never faced before (source: Hulk Hogan), the 7"5 foot (source: Hulk Hogan), 655-pound (source: Hulk Hogan), undefeated (source: Hulk Hogan) Andre The Giant, in front of an estimated 93 billion fans (source: Hulk Hogan) at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Main Event: Um, I just mentioned it one sentence earlier. Can't you stupid marks READ???
Oh, You Didn't Know?: Wrestlers were transported to and from the ring inside of a miniature wrestling ring. However, WMIII competitors Little Beaver and The Haiti Kid thought it was the actual ring.
Overheard: "Tell Steamboat and Savage to bring their match home already! We've gotta make sure The Killer Bees get enough ring time, too." - Backstage Agent.
Celebrity Lineup: Long-distance telephone service pitchman Alice Cooper; Inaugural Bash hat-wearer Aretha Franklin; retired Senator Bob Eucker.
WrestleMania IV: Two Words - Robin F*cking Leach!
Backstory: In the spring of 1988, the World Wrestling Federation was without a World Champion. It probably had something to do with steroids.
Figurehead WWF President Jack Tunney decided that the only way to crown a new champion would be by hosting a tournament featuring wrestling's top stars, plus Butch Reed, Jake The Snake Roberts, Greg The Hammer Valentine, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Don Muraco, One Man Gang and others.
Main Event: Randy Savage (with Elizabeth and Hulk Hogan in his corner) versus Ted DiBiase (with Legacy... I mean, Andre The Giant and Virgil in his corner).
Oh, You Didn't Know?: To protect himself against The British Bulldog's mascot Matilda, manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan dressed himself in a protective costume made entirely out of Bruno Sammartino's back hair.
Overheard: "I'm passing the torch to you, brother. I'm off to Hollywood now -- I won't need to take Vince's crap any more once No Holds Barred becomes a box-office smash." -- Hulk Hogan.
Celebrity Lineup: Future Bobby Lashley cheerleader Donald Trump was in the house (he ought to be; the show was held in his fricking basement), as were professional letter-turner Vanna White and the aforementioned Robin Leach.
WrestleMania V: The Superpowers Implode
Backstory: Submitted for your approval - two of wrestling's greatest heroes become BFF's a year earlier. Then, something comes between them. Possibly a super-hot wife. The next thing you know, you have an explosion on your hands.
No, not that kind of explosion. Get your heads out of the gutter, people!
Main Event: WWF World Champion Randy "Macho Man" Savage versus Hulk Hogan with Miss Elizabeth (the above-mentioned super-hot wife) standing in a neutral corner.
Oh, You Didn't Know?: I can benchpress about 280.
"Everyone knows I was the glue who held Strike Force together!" - Rick Martel.
Celebrity Lineup: International peacekeeping agents Run DMC; part-time gas station attendant Morton Downey Junior.
WrestleMania VI: Canadian Bulldog's Hometown, So You Know It's Gonna Be Awesome
Backstory: The first-ever international WrestleMania also featured the first ever "title for title" match between the company's two top babyfaces. And really, don't we feel extremely silly calling them "babyfaces"? I mean - what the hell - they're grown men, and one of them is balding at that.
Main Event: WWF World and NWA Western States Heritage Champion Hulk Hogan versus WWF Intercontinental and 22-time Hardcore Champion The Ultimate Warrior.
Oh, You Didn't Know?: Before his match against Bad News Brown, Rowdy Roddy Piper painted half his body black to make a political statement: that's he's a racist.
Overheard: "Fine, Bret. You don't have to do the job in Canada tonight. But remember - you owe me one." - Vince McMahon.
Celebrity Lineup: Aging comedian Steve Allen; aging lounge-singer Robert Goulet; aging actress Mary Tyler Moore.
WrestleMania VII: U.S.A.... U-U-U-U-U.S.A...... U.S.A..... Hoooooooo!
Backstory: In early 1991, America was at war with Iraq. It probably had something to do with steroids.
Because the World Wrestling Federation was a good corporate citizen, it decided to put on an ultra-patriotic WrestleMania this year, evoking images of military threats from the Middle East. And then, just to be safe, they moved it to a much smaller arena at the last minute.
Main Event: WWF World Champion Sgt. Slaughter (real name: Dave Slaughter) versus Ordinary, Everyday Average American Hulk Hogan.
Oh, You Didn't Know?: Saddam Hussein was originally scheduled to do a run-in in the main event, but was thwarted backstage by Big Boss Man.
Overheard: "Oooh yeah! Don't worry about a thing, Elizabeth. The Macho Man isn't really retiring. I'm just going to Hollywood for a while to do No Holds Barred II. Dig it!" - "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
Celebrity Lineup: The toughest S.O.B. in the World Wrestling Federation, Chuck Norris; second runner-up for that title, Willie Nelson; "Barry Good" attorney Henry Winkler.
VIII: We're Saving Hogan-Flair For Next Year
Backstory: For more than a decade, the wrestling world wanted to know, who would win in a match between Hulk Hogan and Nature Boy Ric Flair?
Instead, we got this crap.
Main Event: WWF World Champion Ric Flair versus Macho Man Randy Savage; Hulk Hogan (with Ultimate Warrior in his corner) versus Sid Justice (with Papa Shango in his c.... wait.... Papa Shango? The hell?)
Oh, You Didn't Know?: The reason they put Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Virgil, Sgt. Slaughter and Big Boss Man in an eight-man tag match was because they were trying to create the next Four Horsemen.
Overheard: "Sorry, Ric. Randy wants the naked pictures of Elizabeth back after you're done with them." - Mr. Perfect.
Celebrity Lineup: Former Family Feud host Ray Combs and CMT superstar Reba McIntyre. Seriously, that was the best they could scrape up! Maybe, just maybe, they should held the event somewhere a little more celebrity-friendly than Indianapolis?
WrestleMania IX: The (First) Screwing Of Bret Hart
Backstory: The World Wrestling Federation held its first (but definitely not its last) toga party on the Las Vegas strip. The open-air arena concept allowed for something never before seen in WrestleMania history: Hogan working the midcard.
Main Event: WWF World Champion Bret "Hitman" Hart versus Yokozuna, versus (kind of) Hulk Hogan.
Oh, You Didn't Know?: There was originally supposed to be just one Doink The Clown and two identical Crushes. Someone in the wardrobe department f*cked up badly.
Overheard: "My Giant Gonzales will destroy The Undertaker's perfect 2 and 0 WrestleMania streak tonight!" - Harvey Wippleman.
Celebrity Lineup: Who the hell do we look like - TMZ.com?
WrestleMania X: Ten Years In The Making, And This Was The Best We Could Come Up With
Backstory: To commemorate the 10th anniversary of WrestleMania, the World Wrestling Federation decided that there were two top contenders to the World Heavyweight Title. To determine the company's ultimate warrior (not to be confused with The Ultimate Warrior; his ass was already gone by then), one of the top contenders fought his brother, while the other top contender fought the World Champion, and then the first top contender also fought the World Champion.
Surprisingly, this was still less complicated than a typical episode of TNA Impact.
Main Event: WWF World Champion Yokozuna versus Bret "Hit Man" Hart. Yup, again.
Oh, You Didn't Know?: There has been much speculation on why a scheduled 10-man tag team match featuring The Smokin' Gunns, Thurman "Sparky" Plugg, the 1-2-3 Kid, Tatanka, The Headshrinkers, Irwin R. Shyster, Rick "The Model" Martel and "Double J" Jeff Jarrett didn't take place. It was because the match would have sucked worse than Aaron Wood at a virgin convention.
Overheard: "I said I could carry a broomstick to a five-star match. I never said anything about a f*cking ladder!" - Shawn Michaels.
Celebrity Lineup: Burt Reynolds, Rhonda Shear, Cy Sperling, Donnie Wahlberg and Jennie Garth - how did Hollywood survive the entire day with all those A-listers in New York?
WrestleMania XI: LT'S Big Cash Grab
Backstory: If Vince Russo has taught us anything (and he has), it's that anyone, from any walk of life, can become a wrestler and compete with the very best the sport has to offer, regardless of talent or natural ability, with little or no professional training.
But enough talk about Shane McMahon; WrestleMania XI had a legitimate NFL superstar in the show's top spot.
Main Event: Lawrence Taylor versus Bam Bam Bigelow. Um.... yeahhhhh. Makes that whole Pacman Jones thing seem kind of plausible by comparison....
Oh, You Didn't Know?: This year's event was held in Hartford, Connecticut so that Vince and company could drive back to the office immediately after the event and start counting their cash.
Overheard: "I get it, Shawn; we're 'enemies' tonight. Fine. But we're still double-teaming Pam Anderson after the show, right?" - WWF World Champion Diesel.
Celebrity Lineup: Nuclear physicist Pamela Anderson, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jonathan Taylor Thomas, environmental lobbyists Salt 'n' Pepa.
WrestleMania XII: Ran Out Of Cute Subtitles - More Next Week
Backstory: For the first time in WrestleMania history, Vince McMahon decided to ditch the Hollywood glitz and glamour and focus on pure, athletic wrestling matches.
Except that this event was held just outside of Hollywood -- and dedicated several segments to spoofing the OJ Simpson Bronco chase.
But besides that - all about the wrestling, baby....
Main Event: WWF World Champion Bret "Hitman" Hart versus "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels. No, not that match.
Oh, You Didn't Know?: Triple H was pinned in less than two minutes. At WrestleMania. No, really. He was.
Overheard: "Why the hell do I have to job to The Ringmaster?" - Savio Vega.
Celebrity Lineup: None. No, I'm completely serious. There wasn't a celebrity to be found; not even a He-Man action figure.
That does it for this week. Come back here on March 31, when we'll review the next dozen 'Manias.
For True Wrestling Stories, I'm Canadian Bulldog.
Canadian Bulldog is a borderline journalist who writes weekly for World Wrestling Insanity and has published his own book of nutty prank e-mails to wrestlers. He welcomes your feedback at email@example.com.