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  • Connor Ewens

Fantasy Booking: Wrestlemania IV (WWE Championship Tournament)

Let's jump into our wrestling time machine and venture back in time to the 1980s. Commercialism & materialism is in full swing, MTV has brought visuals to music in pioneering fashion, and wrestling is in its biggest boom period. We're going to take a look at Wrestlemania 4, the fourth installment of Wrestlemania for Vinnie Mac's House of Crack. It took place in March of '88 and was billed around the vacant World Championship. After everyone's famous 'Real American' Hulk Hogan managed to conquer the 8th wonder of the world Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3, their rivalry continued all the way through to the next Wrestlemania. At the inaugural Survivor Series, Andre's team defeated Hogan's team setting the stage for a big rematch. They signed the contract at the first Royal Rumble event, for a rematch in February on 'The Main Event'. Andre defeated Hogan in a cheap finish when Earl Hebner made the count instead of his twin who was the official referee, Dave Hebner. Upon victory, Andre "sold" the title to the million dollar man Ted DiBiase, but WWF president Jack Tunney vacated the title as he refused to accept the title change in the unsanctioned circumstances. It's unfortunate that Ted's reign is not acknowledged in the titles lineage.


So far, the storyline is good and it all makes sense, building up to an unpredictable 14 man tournament at the showcase of the immortals. Hogan & Andre got byes to the quarter finals because they were former champions, they would face each other whilst the other 12 worked their way in single elimination rounds. We have all the greats in this tournament. We have DiBiase, we have the Macho Man Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Jake Roberts... Then some of the less greats like Butch Reed, One Man Gang, Jim fucking Duggan. At Wrestlemania we had 11 tournament matches because DiBiase & One Man Gang both recieved byes due to DQ and draw finishes. Add in a battle royal, and Ultimate Warrior match, an IC title match, a 6-man tag and a tag title match, giving us a grand total of 16 BLOODY MATCHES. In the immortal words of Sarah Lynn, that's too much MAN. The stacked card meant that only 2 matches exceed 10 minutes, 3 matches had DQ finishes, 1 match went to a 15 minute time limit and it was a boring stinker of a match.


This was the worst Wrestlemania to date, which is really sad because it comes with an excellent finale when Randy Savage finally wins his first World Championship, thanks to interference from his best friend the Hulkster. The world title tournament could have been booked so much better, as could this entire show. Now I'm going to show WWE how it should have even done. Its time to fantasy book Wrestlemania 4.


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The reason I'm booking the full Wrestlemania card and not just the WWE Championship tournament, is because the tournament should be the full show. Remember Survivor Series 1998? From an in-ring stance it wasn't great but as a full story told throughout a tournament its an amazing show. Well booked matches and well told stories. That is what this card should be all about. I mean, it's the 1980s for fuck sake expecting a full card of banging matches is impossible when most of their biggest drawers aren't exactly what I'd call work rate wrestlers. So we scrap the battle royal, we don't need it BUT it did turn Bret Hart face so I will circle back to that a little later on. We don't need to see Ultimate Warrior squash Hercules in 4 minutes, we just don't. Honk Tonky Man vs Brutus Beefcake? That was shit wasn't it? Let's bin that match too. The Islanders & Bobby Heenan vs British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware? A feud over a dog, that was rubbish. Out the window you go. Then we have the tag title match between Demolition & Strike Force. This was fine, inoffensive and I think it's a nice match to have a respite from the tournament, giving the wrestlers a little time to recover so we will keep that in.


Now that the fat has been trimmed, let's make some changes to the tournament. I'm happy to keep it as a 14-person tournament, I think Hogan vs Andre 3 is a big selling point and I don't want to force even more matches into an already bloated card. So, here are the 14 participants I'd have; Andre the Giant, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Greg Valentine, Honky Tonk Man, Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Randy Savage, Rick Rude, Ricky Steamboat, Ted DiBiase, Ultimate Warrior, and a mystery entrant. I want commentary and the announcers to really big up this surprise entrant, not knowing who it is but being told it's a global mega star. All that's let's now, is to book the show.


Welcome...to Wrestlemania!!!

We're welcomed to the event by Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse 'the Body's Ventura who hype the show as a once in a lifetime event, because you can get away with that in the old days. They introduce Gene Okerlund who's backstage with Vanna White and they run through the tournament bracket, which looks like this:

Round 1-

Ted DiBiase vs Rick Rude

Bret Hart vs Davey Boy Smith

Bam Bam Bigelow vs Jake Roberts

Honky Tonk Man vs Ultimate Warrior

Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat

Greg Valentine vs Mystery Opponent


Quarter Finals-

Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan


I think that makes for a FAR more intriguing bracket than what they did for real. Most of them could be seriously considered as a future world champion, with a few thrown in their purposefully to be put over with the fans. We start with DiBiase vs Rude though. Rick comes down first and does his usual posing and insulting to the crowd. He calls New Jersey so disgusting that he doesn't even want to perform in front of them tonight. Ted DiBiase then comes down and agrees with him and he doesn't want to wrestle either. Ted asks Rude how much is this match worth to him, and how much would it cost for him to forfeit and head home for a nice early night. Everyone has a price. Rude whispers in Ted's ear. Ted does his maniacal laugh, says that amount of money is pocket change to him. He offers to double it and extends a hand. Rude shakes, and his assistant Virgil hands Rude a briefcase of cash on his way out. The referee rules the match a Ted DiBiase victory via forfeit. Character development for DiBiase, Rude is enough of a heel to accept the bribe. Also, Rick Rude is boring to watch sometimes, at least this provides something to his character and the overarching story of the event. Monsoon calls this a complete injustice, Ventura calls this an excellent strategic move by the million dollar man.


Next up, heel Bret Hart vs Davey Boy Smith. They're both still young and not at their peaks yet but I imagine they can still put on an enjoyable 10 minute match together. Smith puts in a Valiant effort but Hart submits him with a sharpshooter. Davey offers a handshake to Hart, who thinks about it and accepts it. Small signs of a possible face turn for the Hitman. Next up, Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat, a highly anticipated rematch from the previous Wrestlemania. Give these the full 15 minutes, Savage trying EVERYTHING to put Steamboat away but failing. Eventually in the closing seconds of the match Savage steals a victory holding on to the tights a little, because he desperately wants that victory. He apologises to Steamboat afterwards, saying he had to do what he had to do and Ricky understands. They shake hands, raise each others arms and Randy celebrates. Surely this match would be match of the night. Savage shouldn't look like a heel for doing anything he can to win, it's better to cheat and win rather than draw and be eliminated right? Also he clearly looks fatigued after such a gruelling performance.


Next we have a prelude to their Summerslam match, Honky Tonk Man vs Ultimate Warrior. Honky brags about how he will be the first man to ever hold both the world title and the intercontinental title. Out comes the Warrior and HTM instantly keeps away. He tries cheap shots but the Warrior no sells them. After a flurry of offence, Jimmy Hart interferes to distract the referee. Honky swings with a guitar but Warrior catches his arm, snatches it off him and decks him with it. Hart gets the referee to turn around, the referee calls fir the bell and the IC champion wins via disqualification. Yeah it's a cheap finish, but they were common in the early days. This begins the feud heading towards Summerslam. Honky Tonk Man bragging about his victory against Warrior but refusing to fight him again. He can have a series of open challenges, answered by jobbers he has planted there for easy wins. Then at Summerslam we can have the injury angle to writes out Beefcake and instead of having a replacement, he demands he be announced as the winner. Jack Tunney can then enforce a replacement opponent, out comes the Warrior, iconic squash finish to the lengthy reign. Back to this show, this finish keeps Warrior strong, ignites the feud and builds up Honky's character. After the bell Warrior hits the splash on him anyways to pop the crowd.


Next we have Bam Bam Bigelow vs Jake Roberts. Roberts puts in a Valiant effort trying to fight the behemoth but Bam Bam dominates most of this match, demonstrating his impressive power and agility. Bam Bam wins convingly in just over 5 minutes. Our final round 1 match, Greg Valentine comes first. Commentary and the announcers have HYPED this mystery opponent all night. Howard Finkel says "and his opponent..." into a dramatic pause...then we hear bagpipes. 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper returns. I know he took 2 years off to heal and to film & TV work, but this is a special 1 night only appearance and I'm sure his love for the business (and a juice paycheck) will bring him in. Unannounced, unadvertised, what a pop he would get. This match doesn't have to go long. A fast start with brawling from Piper. Valentine takes control and begins working the leg. Piper has a babyface comeback, powering out of the figure four, eventually getting his sleeper locked in and Valentine passes out. Piper goes through to the next round.


We're back with Okerlund & Vana White who discuss the action so far. Then we hear from Roddy Piper, who cuts a passionate promo about never being the world champion and being more deserving than anyone. He's here tonight to slay everyone in his path and finally be acknowledged as the best in the world.


Quarter-Finals

So, a quick update on the bracket heading into the next stage, we have our final 8 competitors and it looks like this:


Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan

Ted DiBiase vs Bret Hart

Bam Bam Bigelow vs Honky Tonk Man

Randy Savage vs Roddy Piper


Again, my bracket looks far more tantalising than what we really got. Who wants to see One Man Gang make it to the bloody semi-finals!? So, our first quarter final match, the anticipated third showdown between Andre & Hogan. Honestly, it's not going to be good because of course it won't. Hogan isn't the best worker anyways and Andre is barely mobile. So we'll keep this very short. Hogan goes after Andre straight away and knocks him to the floor, they brawl around the outside whilst the referee counts. On the count of 9 Hogan tries to roll in and break the count but Virgil is there to sneakily hold his foot and cause a double count-out. This match should go just under 5 minutes. It's the best way to keep both guys strong whilst eliminating them. It didn't really make sense that Ted paid Andre to cause a double DQ, because that relies in Hogan also being liable for cheating. It makes much more sense for Andre to be paid to cause a double count out. Also, it's a finish we haven't already seen on the card yet, which is more than what WWE could achieve.


Next up, Ted DiBiase vs Bret Hart. Like the last round, Ted tries to use his money to buy out the heel from competing. Hart shakes Ted's hand, before sucker punching him and starting the match. This should generate a loud crowd reaction, thus turning our Goldberg-hating Canadian a face. This can be a good match falling just under 10 minutes. DiBiase is a great character but am underrated wrestler. Hart puts in a valiant effort but Virgil makes himself present, helping his boss earn a cheap victory. Next scheduled is Bam Bam Bigelow vs Honky Tonk Man. Before the match, a promo from Jimmy Hart & Honky Tonk Man targets the Ultimate Warrior as being a cheat and a bully. Due to injuries sustained at his hands, the HTM withdraws from the tournament so that he can focus on being healthy to defend his Intercontinental belt. Its another forfeit yes BUT its booked differently. First it was a bribe, this time it's Honky Tonk being a chicken shit heel who could be injured but realistically doesn't want to step in the ring with Bam Bam. I think this keeps the flow going without having too many short matches, meaning we can have more time for the good matches. Also Bam Bam gets a rest period, in theory making him a tougher opponent in the next round.


Our last quarter final matchup is a dream show down between the Macho Man & the Rowdy one. Randy Savage vs Roddy Piper. Savage tries to out wrestle Piper, but Piper just wants to fight. Piper keeps going for that sleeper hold, Savage almost fades each time but he keeps showing signs of life. He finally manages to nail a big elbow drop for a 1-2-kick out. He can't believe it. He doesn't know how to beat Piper. Piper dodges a second one and again locks in the sleeper hold. Savage looks defeated, but in a last gasp he runs to the ropes and bounces off them, both men fall back and Savage pins Piper whilst still in the hold. Piper is disappointed, Savage is barely conscious. Piper gives Savage a "good job" pat on the shoulder before leaving and thanking the crowd. A 10-15 match here that should be great to watch. As much as I'd love for this to be a way for Piper to finally win a much deserved world title, this isn't his moment. Maybe I'll do a Roddy Piper fantasy booking one day. Another longer match to further show fatigue building for Savage.


We can have a respite moment here where we can hear promos from all the guys who've taken part thus far and their thoughts and feelings. Also we can still have that moment Andre the Giant chokes Robin Leach because its fucking hilarious to watch. Killing time here to give the wrestlers a respite and the crowd some time to not get burnt out.


The Final Third

Before we continue with the tournament, we have a match for the Tag Team Championships as Strike Force defends against Demolition, which happened in real life. I wouldn't change much, Demolition should still win for two reasons. A) they're good and over as heels and B) time for Strike Force to implode and feud together soon. All I'd do is trim the edges a bit, have it run just below 10 minutes again. I'm sure no one would mind. Sorry to all the hardcore Strike Force fans out there. Back to the tournament now. There's a specific reason why I put the tag match before the semis. I'll explain a little later.


Our first semi-final is Ted DiBiase with no opponent due to the Hogan vs Andre draw. Just like in real life, Ted gets a bye into the finals. Our other semi-final is a tired and battered Randy Savage vs a relatively fresh and imposing Bam Bam Bigelow. Triple B just dominates Randy here, throwing him around with suplexes. Savage has little left but manages to keep kicking out of all of the big moves. Savage is in position for the Bam Bam moonsault, but Randy manages to roll out of the way and pick up a fluke pinfall to win. This doesn't go long and it won't be much of a match but it's an important angle. Bigelow looks like a killer, Savage looks like a survivor and again manages to survive another challenge. Bam Bam is pissed and he attacks Savage with a clothesline followed by the moonsault. Whilst this happens, Ted DiBiase comes down with his entourage of Virgil & Andre the Giant. Ted gets in and demands the referee ring the bell. Savage pulls himself onto his feet with the ropes and the referee checks Jim before reluctantly ringing the bell.


Back to back matches for Savage here to further add to the clear narrative that has been told from start to finish. Savage is the amazingly talented iron man, overcoming challenging matches and tough opponents. He comes up against the opportunistic heel, who has bribed his way out of a match, cheated a victory with help from his allies then got a semi-final bye, also thanks to his allies. The deck is stacked against Randy who just eats offence from DiBiase. After 5 minutes on the back foot Savage shows signs of life but Virgil & Andre interfere to swing the match back in Ted's favour. This brings out the Hulkster, big Terry wielding a chair comes out and clatters Virgil with it, knocking him out. He hits Andre with it and ushers him to the back away from the ring. DiBiase goes for his sleeper hold, Savage tries to do what he did to Piper earlier in the night, however this time DiBiase releases the hold and breaks the pin. DiBiase goes for a big suplex but Randy knocks him down, manages to land the elbow drop for a 1-2-3. And newwwww, WWE Champion, Randy Savage. He and Elizabeth celebrste in the ring. You can have Hogan come out and celebrate with him, usually I'd steer away from that but I think it adds to the upcoming feud between the Mega Powers.


So, why is my booking far superior to WWE's? I'll tell you! Most of the tournament entries are legitimate contenders for the title, if not they're up and coming talent deserving of the spotlight. The match card has been trimmed from 16 matches to 11, two other matches are decided via forfeit so they're more like segments. Less time is given to less interesting matches and more time is given to plausible best matches. The booking is more consistent and complimentary to all the characters involved. Bret Hart has a more effective face turn. Storyline build for future feuds is established. Honestly, this is the most confident I've been that I've done a significantly better job than WWE. I mean, not exactly a giant feat considering the state of Wrestlemania 4.


Thank you for reading, let me know your thoughts and if I should book anything else particularly. I've got a lot more ideas for some retro fantasy booking. Until next time, see ya.

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