(This Wikipedia article was used to fill in the gaps in my memory).
In 1985, the territorial era was starting to come to a close, though nobody quite knew it yet. Previously, the wrestling business was the primary domain of a series of regional territories, which typically operated under the umbrella of a wrestling alliance to handle talent agreements and with an overall title which could then be used to help promote events at subsidiary promotions. Among the dominant umbrella organizations were Verne Gange’s American Wrestling Alliance (which tended to run shows in the Mid-west-Great Lakes area, and the National Wrestling Alliance, which was strong in the South.
However, by 1985, the subsidiary promotions were starting to become overshadowed by their parent organizations, as the parent organizations began setting up cable television deals which could get their programming available to broader markets – or to be more accurate, promotions with cable television deals getting the champion. Georgia Championship Wrestling with it’s World Championship wrestling programming got the National Wrestling Alliance title. The American Wrestling Alliance had always been focused around Verne Gange’s promotion in Minnesota, which had a television deal through ESPN.
The other major promotion to have a cable television deal was the Vincent K. McMahon Jr.’s World Wrestling Federation (formerly the World Wide Wrestling Federation), through USA. However, what Vince did that made the WWF so different is he basically ignored the territorial bounders. Rather to limiting themselves to the North-eastern area of the US, under VKM’s leadership, the WWF began poaching talent from other promotions (most notably Hulk Hogan from the AWA), as part of Vince’s broader plan to take the promotion to a national level. To do this however, would cost a lot of money… so to get that money Vince would have to take wrestling mainstream.
His plan: Wrestlemania – a national Pay-Per-View event featuring not only wrestlers, but celebreties who would be recognized by home audiences. To get those celebs, he set up a deal with MTV to run two MTV specific WWF events – The Brawl to End It All and The War to Settle The Score. The latter event featured Wendi Richter (accompanied by Cyndi Lauper) beating The Fabulous Moolah to win the Women’s Championship, only to be attacked by Lelani Kai, setting up another title match on the second event, where Kai beat Richter with assistance by Moolah.
Also, at The War To Settle The Score, Hulk Hogan (accompanied to the ring by Capt. Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper) faced Rowdy Roddy Piper, with Hogan winning by DQ due to interferance by Paul Orndorff. As Piper left, he tripped Lauper, causing Mr. T (who had a ringside seat) to jump the railing to come to her rescue, setting up the main event of Mr. T and Hogan vs. Piper and Orndorff
The event was broadcast in Pay Per View in those areas, but otherwise broadcast on Closed Circuit TV at various theaters across the country. Additional celebs taking part in the event (in one form or another) included Liberace, the Rockettes, and Mohammed Ali.
The future success of the WWF rode on this night, on Vince’s concept of a super-bowl of wrestling…
Continue reading → Recap – Wrestlemania I