Vincent Kennedy McMahon assumed control of the WWF from his ailing father at the age of 37 in 1982. Upon becoming the federation’s owner, chairman and CEO, McMahon ditched decades worth of tradition and invaded other wrestling promoters’ territories to expand his company. McMahon formally withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance in 1983 in an effort to firmly establish his promotion as the world’s premier rasslin' brand.
McMahon’s next priority was to acquire a charismatic, Herculean-like figure to elevate his organization to prominence. Somewhat ironically, McMahon’s father, Vincent J. McMahon, fired the ideal person to play that role because he portrayed Thunderlips in Sylvester Stallone's 1982 movie “Rocky III.” This individual, Hulk Hogan, quickly rebounded from getting terminated and starred in the Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association (AWA). Consequently, McMahon began to aggressively lure the 6-foot-7, 300-pound Hogan away from Verne Gagne’s outfit. McMahon’s ingenious maneuvering worked and Hogan deserted the AWA and rejoined the WWE in December 1983.
As WWE’s centerpiece, Hogan proceeded to main event six of the first seven WrestleManias and help McMahon’s company attain unprecedented levels of popularity. However, a month before the conclusion of McMahon’s federal trial for conspiring to distribute steroids to his grapplers, Hogan vacated the WWE and debuted with Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling in July 1994. Despite Hogan’s prolonged absence, and a few rocky years in the mid-1990s, McMahon’s company survived and WrestleMania remains the Super Bowl of professional wrestling.
Before WrestleMania 34 transpires on April 8th at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, let’s review 15 facts that many fans may be unaware of regarding the “Showcase of the Immortals.”
15 WrestleMania II Took Place On A Monday From 3 Different Venues
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, Rosemont Horizon Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, and Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles all hosted WrestleMania 2 on Monday, April 7, 1986. The marquee attraction at the Nassau Coliseum pitted “Rowdy” Roddy Piper against Mr. T in a scripted boxing match. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Piper, a Golden Gloves champion, controlled the 5-foot-10, 230-pound Mr. T from the outset. In the fourth round, Piper fatigued and got disqualified after he body slammed Mr. T.
In the Windy City, the featured bout saw The British Bulldogs trump The Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine for the tag-team titles.
Lastly, from the City of Angels, Hulk Hogan successfully defended the WWE title by conquering King Kong Bundy in a steel cage match. Unlike the original extravaganza and unforgettable WrestleMania III, both fans and scribes roundly bashed WWF’s three-city affair.
14 Ricky Steamboat's IC Title Reign Was Cut Short Due To Family Priorities
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat overcame Randy Savage to win the WWE Intercontinental championship at WrestleMania III in March 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. A few weeks following the legendary dustup, the 5-foot-10, 235-pound Steamboat asked Vince McMahon if he could use vacation time to be with his wife while she gave birth to their son. McMahon envisioned Steamboat’s character as a lasting babyface with a long title reign and he was livid at his request. To punish “The Dragon,” The Honky Tonk Man prevailed over Steamboat to take the strap a couple of months later on June 13.
“Of course, if you have a championship belt, you don't go home and spend time with your wife and children,” said The Honky Tonk Man.
“You have to be on the road and [Vince] said, ‘This guy wants to go and do this and I got to have the belt in a town.’ I said, ‘Listen, if you give me that belt, I don't want a day off.’ And I ran with that belt for 64 weeks.”
The extremely gifted and beloved Steamboat never again received a meaningful push in the WWE.
13 The Undertaker Was Ready To Teach HBK A Lesson
With Mike Tyson serving as the main event’s ring enforcer, Stone Cold Steve Austin vanquished Shawn Michaels to capture the WWF World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XIV in Boston on March 29, 1998. Many people believe that Austin’s triumph launched the Attitude Era. However, some of WWE’s writers, executives and performers were worried that Michaels would refuse to fall to Austin. One of those performers, The Undertaker, wrapped his hands with tape and keenly watched the bout. According to multiple individuals, if Michaels declined to follow the script, The Undertaker was going to pummel Michaels.
"Back then, Mark (The Undertaker) didn't like me,” Michaels told Sports Illustrated.
“Mark went to everybody and told them, 'If this doesn't go down the way it should, I'm going to have a big problem and Shawn is going to have a big problem. I'll go over there and beat the heck out of him.' But he never had to say anything to me."
12 Andre The Giant Trained At Vince's House For WMIII
Hulk Hogan pinned André the Giant to successfully defend the WWE Championship at the Pontiac Silverdome. However, in the years preceding one of the biggest matches in professional wrestling history, the 7-foot-4, 520-pound Frenchman was battling an array of physical ailments. In particular, André’s back was in terrible condition. Vince McMahon offered to let André train at his home to rehabilitate and strengthen his large posterior area.
“Obviously, going into WrestleMania 3, and I don't know if lots of people know this or not, but André was in not-so-great health,” recalled Shane McMahon.
“His back was really messed up and Andre was shooting a movie with Billy Crystal called ‘The Princess Bride.’ And my dad specifically had the idea to go 'oh my gosh,’ something, and Vince being the visionary that he is, he says, 'I want to take the largest indoor stadium ever and fill it with 93,173 people for WrestleMania 3 at the Pontiac Silverdome' at that time."
Vince sold Andre on the idea of facing Hogan to fill up the huge stadium, and André agreed to undergo back surgery, which was necessary for André to return.
“He basically came to our house every day. My dad, obviously being very heavy into fitness, had a huge gym and André came there every day and trained and rehabbed and got stronger and stronger and then was able to, obviously, get in very good physical shape and prepare for that one amazing match. And, obviously, the rest is history."
André the Giant passed away roughly six years later at the age of 46 on February 27, 1993.
11 Triple H Was Originally Planned To Face Batista At WM31
Vince McMahon’s creative team had tentatively scheduled a bout between Triple H and Batista at WrestleMania 31 in Santa Clara, California. Batista has said in various interviews that he wants to face Triple H in his final match, and this seemed like it would be WWE's way of giving Batista the retirement he initially wanted. However, plans changed when the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Batista landed the role of Mr. Jinx in “Spectre” and declined to step into the squared circle.
Sting replaced Batista and made his WWE in-ring debut against Triple H in a no-disqualification match. As we all know, that led to the messy booking we saw and Hunter surprisingly getting the win over Sting, much to the dismay of fans everywhere.
10 The Undertaker Was Initially Planned To Lose To King Kong Bundy
Following 21 consecutive victories at the “Showcase of the Immortals,” The Undertaker’s streak was snapped when Brock Lesnar pinned him at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans on April 6, 2014. Bafflingly, Vince McMahon wanted King Kong Bundy to upset a 29-year-old Deadman via outside interference at WrestleMania XI in April 1995. A 37-year-old Bundy, who fought Hulk Hogan in the main event at WrestleMania II, received a major push when he returned to the federation in October 1994 as a member of Ted DiBiase's “Million Dollar Corporation.”
McMahon ultimately regained his wits and The Undertaker secured a clean pinfall to finish Bundy. While The Undertaker proceeded to compile 17 more triumphs at wrestling’s Super Bowl, Bundy became a glorified jobber.
9 McMahon Almost Ended The Streak Again... With Diesel
Evidently, Vince McMahon didn't realize the magnitude The Undertaker's streak would eventually reach. Only a year after McMahon contemplated pushing King Kong Bundy, the 6-foot-10, 295-pound Diesel was initially slated to outdo the 6-foot-10, 310-pound Taker at WrestleMania XII in Anaheim, California. Diesel was a part of the notorious Kliq and he’d starred in the WWE since arriving in June 1993.
However, thanks to Ted Turner’s extreme prosperity and mission to lure away McMahon’s premier talent, Diesel was preparing to depart for the WCW. Thus, McMahon ensured that The Undertaker would defeat Diesel to extend his streak to 5-0 at “The Grandest Stage of Them All.” Roughly three months later, on June 10, 1996, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall invaded the WCW as the original members of The Outsiders (NWO).
8 Mike Tyson Was Furious That Floyd Mayweather Beat The Big Show
Mike Tyson, primarily for his performance at WrestleMania XIV and the events preceding it, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on March 31, 2012. As previously noted, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Tyson served as an enforcer and never actually competed inside the squared circle. Unlike “Iron Mike,” Floyd Mayweather did battle the Big Show in a no-disqualification match at WrestleMania XXIV at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The 5-foot-8, 150-pound Mayweather used brass knuckles to render the 7-foot, 400-pound giant unconscious to emerge triumphant.
Despite using a weapon, Tyson was reportedly furious that Mayweather beat the Big Show. Regardless of circumstances, “Iron Mike” felt that a grappler should always be booked to beat a boxer in a professional wrestling contest.
7 Stone Cold Turned Down A Match With Hulk Hogan
Stone Cold Steve Austin was originally scheduled to meet Hollywood Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8 at the SkyDome in Toronto on March 17, 2002. However, a 37-year-old Austin refused to meet a 48-year-old Hogan because he was convinced the nWo leader’s skills had dramatically declined. He was convinced the match wouldn't live up to the starpower in the match.
“No I don’t have any regrets (about not wrestling Hulk Hogan). Obviously on paper it’s ‘Stone Cold’ vs. Hulk Hogan, so that would draw money. But as far as the execution of the match, I just don’t think it would have been what I would have wanted it to be, or what people would have wanted it to be. So I don’t have any regrets about it whatsoever.”
So, rather than Austin, The Rock scrapped Hogan north of the border. Hogan and The Rock proceeded to have an iconic match that ended with the younger legend prevailing after a memorable, captivating affair.
6 Ryback Was Chris Jericho's Original Opponent For WM XXIX
Chris Jericho is a future WWE Hall of Famer. In stark contrast to Jericho, Fandango is a mediocre talent who currently competes on SmackDown alongside his tag-team partner, Tyler Breeze. After a hiatus, the 6-foot, 225-pound Jericho returned to WWE as a surprise entrant at the 2012 Royal Rumble in St. Louis. Jericho performed admirably and was only outlasted by Sheamus. Jericho was expected to embark on a high-profile feud with Ryback that would culminate in a fight at WrestleMania XXIX.
However, Vince McMahon was bizarrely smitten with the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Fandango and he decided to book a match between him and Jericho. Although infuriated, Jericho used McMahon’s decision as motivation and he had a solid scrap with Fandango before losing via pinfall. Jericho was widely praised by his peers for acting with such professionalism.
5 Vince Scrapped Hogan Vs. Flair For Sid Justice
Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan are two of the preeminent grapplers in the history of sports entertainment. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Flair was the NWA’s answer to the powerhouse combination of Hogan and the WWF. In September 1991, a 42-year-old Flair premiered in Vince McMahon’s organization. The WWF’s creative team was poised to promote a rivalry between the two megastars that would conclude at WrestleMania VIII at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
Regrettably, Vince McMahon was sorely disappointed by the crowds’ responses to the matches between Hogan and Flair at a handful of house shows. Thus, McMahon altered the original plans and had Hogan face Sid Justice and Flair to meet Randy Savage. Hogan and Flair never competed against each other at “The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment.”
4 Many Were Worried Mr. T Would Back Out Of WM Main Event
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T trounced Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper in the main event at WrestleMania I. However, in the days leading up to the extravaganza, WWF executives were mortified that Mr. T would cower and refuse to appear. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Piper was a legitimate bruiser who loathed the notion of an actor like Mr. T headlining a marquee event. Piper was outspoken about his opposition and Mr. T was concerned that he’d get manhandled during the match.
Due to Mr. T’s uneasiness, many speculate that Jimmy Snuka was not booked to perform at the original WrestleMania in case he needed to serve as a last-minute replacement. Mr. T honored his commitment and, with Muhammad Ali and Pat Patterson as special guest referees, he and Hogan prevailed over the villainous duo at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
3 Vince Almost Fired Ric Flair After WrestleMania VIII For Blading
As previously noted, Ric Flair premiered in the WWE in September 1991. Roughly seven months later, Flair fought Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII on April 5, 1992. The bout between the two industry heavyweights is almost universally deemed one of the best tussles in the annals of professional wrestling. Savage prevailed and gained the world heavyweight championship. However, despite the tremendous showing,
Vince McMahon was irate at Flair because he was caught blading on camera. McMahon was so incensed that he was reportedly on the brink of terminating the Nature Boy in a backstage section of the Hoosier Dome. Rather than firing Flair, McMahon severely fined the legend. Flair returned to the WCW as a babyface less than a year later in February 1993.
2 Randy Savage Planned Out Entire Match With Steamboat
While Hulk Hogan’s clash with André the Giant may be the most important one in wrestling history, the bout pitting Randy Savage versus Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III is frequently lauded as its best one. Savage was famously meticulous at his craft and he admired Steamboat’s abilities. Accordingly, because he sensed potential greatness, Savage created a precise blueprint for their entire contest.
"We were using the yellow legal pad and writing down steps,” said Steamboat.
“And it got into like 100-something steps. Finally, when we got the match top to bottom, we would then meet and quiz ourselves, and I would say, ‘OK, I'm at step No. 55, it's this and this. Now tell me the rest of the match.’ And he would go, ‘Step No. 56 is this, and No. 57 is this.’ We would go back and forth."
The impeccable match concluded with Steamboat pinning Savage to procure the WWE Intercontinental belt. Steamboat has admitted he wasn't a fan of planning matches out in advance, as he preferred feeding off the live crowd.
1 Hulk Hogan Was Expected To Face Zeus Instead Of The Ultimate Warrior
Hulk Hogan portrayed Rip Thomas in the 1989 movie “No Holds Barred.” In this cinematic masterpiece, Thomas fought a muscle-bound ex-convict named Zeus (Tiny Lister). Although Lister’s character lost to Thomas, he garnered a significant amount of attention for his menacing look. Approximately 10 months after the film debuted, Hogan met The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI in Toronto on April 1, 1990. The Ultimate Warrior outdid Hogan and pinned him cleanly to capture the WWE championship.
Somewhat astoundingly, according to Lister, one of the most influential affairs in professional wrestling wasn’t the first plan. Lister claims that Vince McMahon wanted him to wrestle Hogan at that spring’s “Showcase of the Immortals.” For unknown reasons, McMahon nixed his vision and an indelible bout between Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior occurred in Canada’s largest city.