With two huge WWE shows hitting the city (well, Rosemont), this week we feel inclined at WARR to look back on eventful moments from the past involving the premier wrestling promotion and its storied history in Chicago. Each day this week catch a classic
wrestling Sports Entertainment video with a little of our commentary.
Wrestlemania 2 was a weird piece of business, to say the least.
Whereas the first Wrestlemania in 1985 solidified the then-WWF as the most dominant force in professional wrestling in the 1980s, it was truly an unqualified success, which most involved in putting the show admitted it had to be in order for the WWF to even stay afloat after the cost of putting on the show.
So, a year later, everything was good — the WWF soared into the highest levels of the collective pop culture consciousness, powered by the efforts of Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant and others and a sequel to Mania was on the docket. Now, if you’re Vince McMahon do you play it safe and simply return to Madison Square Garden and put on another well-contained super show?
Hell no, this is Vince McMahon we’re talking about here.
Rolling the dice as only he could, McMahon decided to put on the second Wrestlemania in not one, not two, but three cities at once — those cities being Uniondale, NY (Nassau Coliseum), Los Angeles (LA Memorial Sports Arena) and Chicago (Rosemont Horizon), allowing Vinny Mac to make an impact not only in his home New York area but in the other top two markets in the country as well.
It was a hell of a speculative endeavor for the WWF, it succeeded in making this second super show stand apart from its predecessor but its overall success lies in the fact that the WWF never tried it again.
Wikipedia cites reviews of Wrestlemania 2 that include phrases like “not effective,” “excessive” and “ill-conceived cash grab.” Certainly, among the early run of Manias that helped define an era of big time wrestling events prior to everyone being “smart” about the business, WM 2 gets the short stick compared to 1 with its great main event featuring Hogan, Mr. T and Piper in a tag team grudge match, and 3 with its epic finale featuring Hogan versus Andre.
In Mania 2 Hogan, Andre and Piper were all in different cities, basically making sure everyone who came to the three arenas got a little less of a show than they would have got if McMahon chose to just have the show in one place.
As it were, Hogan successfully defended his WWF Championship in LA against King Kong Bundy in a cage (at least Bundy got to appear on Married With Children some time after), while T and Piper continued their long rivalry with a creaky boxing match on Long Island.
In Chicago, the main attraction was a battle royal featuring NFL stars along with a bunch of wrestlers who didn’t have a place elsewhere in the Mania card. Fortunately among those scattered wrestlers was Andre, who always elevated an event he was in. Also, having the NFLers in Chicago made a lot of sense merely months after the ’85 Bears stomped their way through Super Bowl XX, and since William “Refrigerator” Perry wasn’t turning down nothing in 1986 he appeared in the match along with fellow Bear Jimbo Covert, former Cowboy Harvey Martin, former Steeler Ernie Holmes and 49er Russ Francis.
There was no way any of the amateur wrestlers were going to win but their presence helped in making Mania 2 an accurate snapshot of that particular moment, a fun and overall harmless spectacle if not terribly memorable. By the way, Andre won the battle royal as he tended to do, he last eliminated future WWF standard-bearer Bret Hart to end things.
Even though Mania 2 wasn’t the greatest event to happen in the long history of WWE events in Rosemont, it helped prove (along with the previous November’s “Wrestling Classic”) that the biggest of WWE events can be held there and that was certainly the case when Wrestlemanias 13 and 22 were held at the Allstate Arena nee’ Rosemont Horizon.
Wrestlemania has allowed Chicago to be a part of the fun in the first three decades of its storied history but it won’t likely be the case in the fourth decade. With Mania 35 set for Metlife Stadium in New Jersey in 2019, the WWE is in an indefinite loop of hosting its biggest show in football stadiums and other such domed spaces. In fact, that Mania 22 in 2006 was the last time a Wrestlemania was held in an arena with less than 70,000 capacity. It’s attendance of 17,155 is by far the lowest number of a Mania held in the 21st century.
It doesn’t look like our city will have the chance to take on the Super Bowl of sports entertainment for much of the same reason that we aren’t going to be hosting a Super Bowl itself or a Final Four — unless someone decides to put 40,000 more seats in Allstate or put a dome over Soldier Field that won’t be happening anytime soon.
But hey, at least we’ll always have the Fridge trying to put Big John Studd over a top rope.
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