The Art of WWE Pay-Per-View Posters (Part 1) : The Early Years
From the first Wrestlemania in 1985 to the mid-90s, the PPV posters were very basic regarding the designs. It slowly improved and, without talking about art, we could start to see the beginning of real efforts to have nice looking and attractive posters.
Without being the worst, the main WWE pay-per-view event's posters have not established very high standards; as you can see in the opening picture, the poster for Wrestlemania III (considered as the milestone of modern pro-wrestling) doesn't have a very outstanding design. The worst posters of them all have been for the early Survivor Series.
Until 1997, there have not been real pieces of art; we could talk about primitive and/or transitional art. From the early Wrestlemanias classic wrestling posters to some interesting visual artwork, let's see where it all started.
Survivor Series 1988
The second annual event has got a revamped poster and we could say it was the classic Survivor Series poster.
It was not very good looking, but it was not so bad; at least, the kind of matches were clearly displayed and the viewers could know what to expect despite they already knew the concept.
Good basic graphics, nothing more.
More than for its poster, this PPV will be highlighted by the presence of The Mega Powers, the alliance of the two top faces in WWE.
Of course, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage have been the winning two survivors in a main event match pitting them with Hercules, Koko B. Ware and Hilbilly Jim against The Twin Towers (Akeem and Big Bossman), Ted DiBiase, Haku and The Red Rooster.
Survivor Series 1989
Great improvement from the previous year's concept. But still not what we can call ''art'.' It was more like an honest commercial poster.
The 1989 edition of the Survivor Series will be remembered as the event that made The Ultimate Warrior a main-eventer; Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage also both confirmed their top stars status by being survivors for their respective team while Mr. Perfect has been the last survivor for his alliance and won the match.
P.S. : Oh! and the 1988 and 1989 posters are awesome compared to the first edition coming next.
Survivor Series 1987
Yes this was the poster for the second longest running PPV after Wrestlemania that unfortunately won't come back in 2010.
The first Survivor Series poster could not be more basic; it really looked like a local wrestling show poster on the wall of a dark and dirty alley.
In the main event, Andre The Giant has led his team as the lone survivor to the win against Hogan's buddies.
Andre sided with The One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed and Rick Rude to face Hogan, Paul Orndorff, Ken Patera, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Don Muraco.
Even the Women's Division got its share with a rare five-on-five match at the annual ''Big One.''
Survivor Series 1993
After some difficult years, the quality of the Survivor Series posters improved a bit...if we can call that improvement.
Well, it was still better than the list looking early posters. Without being a great piece of art, it looked kind of cool.
The main event match involved The All-Americans and the Foreign Fanatics teams. While The Undertaker and Yokozuna brawled outside the ring for a double disqualification to begin their famous feud, Lex Luger survived last to give the win to the All-Americans.
P.S. : I won't talk about the 1992 poster because it will feature in another slideshow.
For its first year, the WWE can not brag too much about the poster they had to announce one of the ''Big Four'' original PPV event.
Well, it was the 80's and the technology was limited for the money the WWE could spend on promotion. With The Hulkster and The Macho Man's salaries, the company had to save money somewhere.
Fortunately, the artistic value of the posters was not proportional to the quality of the annual PPV. Without always having quality matches, Summerslam is known to create great entertaining moments.
For example, The Mega Powers won their match against The Mega Bucks (DiBiase and Andre) with outside interference from Miss Elizabeth who removed her skirt to distract Jesse ''The Body'' Ventura, the guest referee.
An other memorable moment was the conclusion of the longest Intercontinental Title reign by a less than one minute squash match, won by The Ultimate Warrior over The Honky Tonk Man.
The second Summerslam's poster looked like cartoons. It was the first primitive art attempt for a PPV poster. Without looking totally bad, it did not look very good either. Nice effort.
That show was more to promote the mega movie ''No Holds Barred'' in which Hulk Hogan was starring with Zeus. The big monster Zeus escaped from the movie to actually face Hogan...Except for the great match for the Intercontinental Title won by The Ultimate Warrior against Rick Rude, there was nothing very memorable about that evening.
Now, let's jump in the 90's with the 1992 edition of Summerslam. As you can see, the WWE didn't come with an amazing poster, but at least there was hope.
On that summer night in London, in front of 80,355 fans, one of the best match of all times took place; the battle for the Intercontinental Championship between Bret Hart and The British Bulldog (who won the title) became an instant classic.
Overall, it was one of the greatest PPV in WWE history.
Royal Rumble 1989
I could not find an actual poster for the first Royal Rumble (won by Jim Duggan), but with the second Royal Rumble came the nicest poster of the 80's.
The logo was great looking and they've came with a good primary artistic picture, a kind of blue shadow of all brawlers in a ring. Overall, that annual event innovated the PPV posters as you will see in the next pictures.
Big John Studd, who came back at the end of 1988 with a face turn, has won the 30 men elimination match.
Royal Rumble 1991
With the new decade, the WWE came with a vintage poster for the 1991 edition of the Royal Rumble. That poster, the first real artistic one, is a classic and seems to have inspired the creators for the next years.
On that evening, The Ultimate Warrior has lost the World Title against Sgt Slaughter due to Macho Man's infamous interference.
The road to Wrestlemania VII started here and, in the main event, Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble match.
Royal Rumble 1994
For the 1994 edition of the annual event, we could see a nice looking poster on which the WWE gets a ''In your House'' approach, a way to attract viewers at home and get closer to them.
Still it was not great art, but it was the beginning of the transition from the old-school days to the modern era of the WWE poster.
For the first and only time in the Royal Rumble history, two winners have been crowned for the main event when Lex Luger and Bret Hart's feet touched the floor at the same time; both then headlined the coming Wrestlemania.
The same night, The Undertaker ''died'' for the first time after he was attacked by nine wrestlers who came to help Yokozuna in the Wolrd Championship Casket Match.
In 1985, Vince McMahon revolutionized the pro-wrestling industry with the first pay-per-view extravaganza; most would think the Showcase of the Immortals have been promoted by the most amazing posters, but it was not the case.
The first Wrestlemania's poster was not outstanding, but was way nicest than the following years.
As you can see, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T featured in the main event match (they won against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff).
Wrestlemania II to V
Until Wrestlemania V in 1989, there has been no notable evolution regarding the PPV's poster.
Hulk Hogan's matches headlined all the early Wrestlemanias and he has won most of them.
From 1993, at the ninth Classic, we have finally seen new and improved posters, such as this one featuring Bret Hart.
It looks like the end of Hogan's total domination on the Biggest Stage of Them All marked the beginning of good taste regarding posters art.
However, that Wrestlemania is seen as one of the worst and, once again, Hulk Hogan has been the biggest star of the event despite Bret Hart and Yokozuna were officially scheduled for the main event.
The Hulkster, who was not scheduled, accepted Mr. Fuji's challenge and defeated Yokozuna in less than one minute to become the new WWE Champion.
The Toxic Avenger
Yup, this poster is from the cult movie called The Toxic Avenger. You probably wonder why this poster is in that slideshow. Take a last look at it and go to the next picture...
You're not dreaming; the WWE really did that in 1991. Go back at the previous slide and come back here.
Fascinating. They have reached a new low with that insane too patriotic poster. And, by the way, guess what; Hulk Hogan has defeated Sgt Slaughter for the WWE Championship. At least, in the same evening, a legendary streak has begun when The Undertaker has defeated Jimmy Snuka.
* * That's it for now. Follow me in the coming part 2 of the articles trilogy dedicated to the WWE pay-per-view poster art...