The Wrestling Classic: WWE's Very First PPV Wasn't What You Might Think
The Wrestling Classic was a huge deal for the WWF back in 1985 and, technically, the first pay-per-view event for the company. The word “technically” is included here because even though the first WrestleMania occurred earlier in the same year and was available as a PPV in some markets, it was not available as such in all places. The top feud was still focused on Roddy Piper being his diabolical self and trying to take the WWF Championship away from Hulk Hogan, thus leading to the two having a match on the card for that very title. The event also featured a giant sixteen-man tournament (the namesake of the show itself) as well as a giveaway of a brand new Rolls Royce. The car was not the prize for the winner of the tournament, of course, as that would make too much sense for this to be happening in the 80’s. Instead, the prize for the tournament was… nothing. The winner won nothing except rights to say that they won a tournament. Sound exciting? Let’s get started:
- Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart) def. Corporal Kirchner. Adonis had yet to adopt the Adorable gimmick that would make him famous, while Kirchner was still running on rip-off Sgt. Slaughter fumes. Despite Adonis’s size, this match highlights his uncanny ability to perform in the ring.
- Dynamite Kid def. Nikolai Volkoff. Following Volkoff receiving tons of boos for his usual singing of the Russian National Anthem (because goodness did crowds hate Russians at the time), Kid nailed him with one dropkick and got the pin.
- Randy “Macho Man” Savage (with Elizabeth) defeated Ivan Putski. Some backstage segments were shown of wrestlers and managers drawing out the names of opponents prior to the start of the tournament, which featured Macho Man telling Elizabeth to “do the thing” and then scolding her for drawing Putski, who looks like a beast here. Savage held his feet on the ropes for a leverage pin, as this was still during his initial heel run.
- Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat defeated Davy Boy Smith. In a face-versus-face match, Steamboat won after Smith missed a dropkick and landed in the ropes, thus injuring his leg and causing the referee to stop the match. It is certainly an interesting finish to say the least, but at least it kept both men looking strong and didn’t feature a random heel turn for either man.
- Junkyard Dog defeated The Iron Sheik. Unfortunately for the Sheik, following the boom of Hulkamania he was dropped from the top in a hard way. This match exemplifies that fact in the best way, as it’s hard to even imagine that JYD is defeating a former WWF Champion even though that is precisely what is happening.
- Moondog Spot defeated Terry Funk (with Jimmy Hart). Funk and Spot initially both decided that they would simply leave and not fight each other, until Funk sneakily attacked Spot. Spot would get back in the ring first, however, and won via count out.
- Tito Santana defeated Magnificent Muraco (with Mr. Fuji). Though it initially seemed as though Muraco had pinned Santana and won, while Muraco was celebrating the referee reversed the decision and Santana was able to win with a roll-up.
- “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff defeated “Cowboy” Bob Orton. Orton was disqualified after he used his trademark cast against Orndorff, thus helping to continue the feud between these two and Orndorff’s hatred for Piper following Mr. Wonderful’s post-Mania face turn.
- Dynamite Kid def. Adrian Adonis (with Jimmy Hart). This match continued to help showcase Adrian’s ring ability for bumping as well as executing moves, but it was obvious from the start who was moving on in this match.
- Randy “Macho Man” Savage (with Elizabeth) def. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Savage used a foreign object he had concealed in his tights in order to pin Steamboat, a move he would repeat later on to win his first Intercontinental Championship.
- Junkyard Dog def. Moondog Spot. Oddly enough, JYD counted his own pin on Spot as there was no referee in the ring. What can you expect? It was the 80’s.
- “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff vs. Tito Santana ended in a double count out. In contrast to the finish of Steamboat vs. Smith from earlier, this ending made it seem as though both men had a hidden anger at the other, as they continued to brawl until the referee counted them both out. Another interesting finish to say the least. This match did give Junkyard Dog an automatic BYE into the finals match, which seems to have been a way to add more heel heat to Savage by complaining about it.
WWF Championship Match
- Hulk Hogan def. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Bob Orton interfered causing a disqualification, after which Paul Orndorff came out to assist Hogan. Typical Hogan-Piper match.
- Randy “Macho Man” Savage (with Elizabeth) defeated Dynamite Kid.
- Junkyard Dog defeated Randy “Macho Man” Savage (with Elizabeth). You would think that the final match of a massive tournament on the very first PPV would end emphatically, right? Think again. Not only does this seem like a moment in history that we should be able to bring up more often when discussing the career of Savage (I wish I could tell you that Savage won a tournament on the very first WWE pay-per-view), but it’s not even really one we need to bring up when discussing the career of Junkyard Dog. It was that disappointing. Savage lost via count-out and somehow the crowd was digging it. Different times I suppose.
Overall, the event was not that great. This feels odd to say about the first true pay-per-view created by the genius that was old school WWE, but it is unfortunately true. Thankfully, this trend of bad events didn’t continue for long and WWE soon figured out its PPV formula with the now iconic Survivor Series and Royal Rumble.