Past stars recall WrestleManias
By GREG OLIVER -- SLAM! Wrestling
Bundy vs Hogan, WrestleMania II.
Just as the fans have their favourite WrestleMania moments, so do the wrestlers.
Cowboy Bob Orton was in the first three WrestleManias, including being in the corner of Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in the main event of the first show against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Going into WrestleMania I, he had no idea that it would be that big a deal.
"I think Vince kind of knew that it was going to be real, real big," he told SLAM! Wrestling recently. "Really, I didn't give that a whole lot of thought. It was really a great thing. [Mr.] T was there, Ali was there, Liberace."
The other highlight for Orton was opening the card at WrestleMania III in a tag team match with Don Muraco against The Can-Am Connection of Tom Zenk and Rick Martel. "Walking into the Pontiac Silverdome with 93, or 94,000 people, whatever it was, that's probably one of the biggest thrills of my career," Orton said. "We had a helluva match, for sure."
One of his opponents that night, Rick Martel, also fondly remembers WrestleMania III. "Without even thinking about it, WrestleMania III in the Silverdome in front of 93,000 people. Definitely, it was a thrill of a lifetime to be a part of such an event."
Martel fought in six different Manias, from III to VIII, and saw his career go from being a part of a hugely popular babyface team destined to greatness with the Can-Am Connection, to Strike Force with Tito Santana, to the evil perfume-spraying Model character.
As a singles wrestler, he said his highlight was WrestleMania VII in the infamous blindfold match against Jake 'The Snake' Roberts. "There was definitely an energy, it felt different."
King Kong Bundy said that WrestleMania is "like the World Series -- the biggest thing there is." Bundymania ran wild in the first three Manias, and re-appeared in WrestleMania XI.
He was relatively new to the WWF in 1985, but made it in time for the first big show, and made real short work of S.D. Jones. " I'd never heard of pay-per-view at the time," Bundy said, adding that he certainly didn't expect wrestling to turn into a PPV business.
Bundy is reluctant to take credit for the wrestling boom following the second WrestleMania, and his main event loss to Hogan. "I can't take credit for that. We had a decent match."
WrestleMania III, however, made him a star. He appeared on more TV sports shows following his slam and elbow on Little Beaver
than at any other time in his career.
Bad News Brown, who appeared in WrestleManias IV, V, and VI, claimed his three Mania appearances each were "just another match" to him. The first show he appeared on, WrestleMania IV, where he won the battle royale, is the only one that he really remembers fondly, though he was able to name his opponents in the other two (Hacksaw Duggan, and Roddy Piper
"After being in the Olympics, nothing tops that," he explained.
Of course, the other big thing about WrestleMania for the wrestlers was that it meant a bigger payday -- sometimes.
Back in 1995, wrestling wasn't the huge success that it is today. Bundy called the time "depressing". His biggest memory from facing The Undertaker at WrestleMania XI? "I remember being disappointed how small the payoff was!"