It would make sense to think about WrestleMania III as the greatest wrestling pay-per-view in WWE history. But it was not necessarily the case.
When it seemed impossible to repeat the success of the previous year's wrestling extravaganza, Vince McMahon accomplished an unthinkable tour de force with WrestleMania IV.
If the show was not as big as the third installment of the show, with inflated numbers of fans in the crowd, it was without a doubt an even greater happening with a better card overall.
WrestleMania III was the stage of the most famous body slam in history and of one of the nicest wrestling clinics ever. But there was something missing. There was nothing else worthy of mention. The undercard was not very solid and not exactly memorable.
WrestleMania IV succeeded where its predecessors and its successors failed. The card was filled with top quality matches from the beginning to the closure and the fans witnessed many unique moments. It had everything a wrestling fan could dream of.
There was a Battle Royal featuring the best mid-carders ever in their prime, with only actual wrestlers. There was a memorable Intercontinental Championship match.
There was an encounter over the Tag Team Titles that launched the longest reign ever in the division. And there was the mega Tournament to crown the new WWE Champion after the Title was vacated.
The best lineup in WrestleMania history was put together by WWE on that 27th day of March 1988. All the biggest names of the time had their chance to shine. On that amazing night, 10 wrestlers, who were World Heavyweight Champions at least once in their career, shared the spotlight.
We could also count on the fingers of one hand those who never held a title in a major promotion.
Now that you get the global picture of what WrestleMania IV was all about, let's see in details why it is "THE" greatest Wrestlemania ever.
The Ultimate Lineup
Think about it: have you ever seen a wrestling show featuring 25 Hall-Of-Famers? We talk about the most impressive lineup ever assembled under the same roof. We are talking about WrestleMania IV.
The creme de la creme was there. A who's who of pro wrestling was put together on one unbelievable card to deliver the best WrestleMania ever.
They were all there: Hulk Hogan, Ted DiBiase, Bret Hart, The Ultimate Warrior, Andre The Giant, Ricky Steamboat, Rick Rude, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Randy Savage, Harley Race and the list goes on.
The greatest managers of all time were also there to support their protégés. Bobby Heenan, Oliver Humperdink, Slick, Jimmy Hart and Mr. Fuji were all at ringside.
Even the three most popular pets in the world of wrestling joined the mix. Matilda the bulldog, Frankie the macaw and Damien the snake could didn't want to miss that rendezvous.
In addition, an unmatched supporting cast was assembled to guarantee the high magnitude of the event. Howard Finkel, the best ring announcer ever, was there to present the opponents and the winners.
"Mean" Gene Okerlund was backstage to lead a series of vintage interviews like only he can do. And, as some kind of guest host, Bob Uecker came with surprisingly entertaining spots with the microphone.
Finally, at the announce table, the classic duo of Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura called the stunning action for over three and a half hours.
The Surreal Hype and the Storylines
You can have the best actors stacked in the same movie, but it won't become a blockbuster solely based on that if you don't have a great scenario. The same applies to the universe of wrestling.
WrestleMania IV was the stage of the biggest main event in WWE history, presented in 11 acts to crown the new Undisputed World Champion after the Title was vacated.
An illegal title change led to the first and biggest WWE Championship Tournament ever. A TV audience of 33 million witnessed the shocking events that opened the road to the upcoming WrestleMania. It was on the first episode of "The Main Event," the most watched wrestling show in American TV history.
After Ted DiBiase tried in vain to buy the WWE Championship from Hogan, Andre The Giant finally obtained a WrestleMania III rematch and, following an evil plot, he won the Title to immediately sell it to The Million Dollar Man.
But the transaction was declared void and DiBiase was stripped of the belt. It was also revealed that the referee, Earl Hebner, the one who officiated during the Montreal Screwjob, had been bought to give a quick count.
In fact, it went beyond just a quick count; Earl Hebner stole the place of Dave Hebner, his twin brother, as the referee for the match.
So, as you can see, the fourth installment of WrestleMania had its seeds planted a long time before, with the most talked about rivalry in pro wrestling history.
Hogan would face Andre for another rare time in singles competition as they were scheduled to face each other in the Greatest Tournament Of Them All.
Along with the main rivalry, many other ongoing feuds continued or ended. Many of them originated from the previous Survivor Series and Royal Rumble or from several months ago.
Just to name a few others, we can mention Jake "The Snake" Roberts against Rick Rude who were involved in a grudge war, or Bam Bam Bigelow who was battling the One Man Gang since Survivor Series.
We could also talk about The Islanders with Bobby Heenan who were involved in a weird angle with The British Bulldogs. Heenan and his guys abducted Matilda, the Bulldogs' mascot that was retrieved shortly before WrestleMania.
Koko B. Ware, an arch enemy of the Heenan family, joined Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid for a three-on-three tag team encounter against The Islanders and their manager.
Everything was in place for the highly anticipated wrestling spectacular, with a perfect buildup to create an uncommon hype.
The Perfect Stage
With the loud crowd present at the Trump Plaza, the show went beyond the expectations. And, if the attendance was not as big as in some other venues, the stage was perfect. The WWE production team successfully captured the magic of the happening and it still can be felt, even 23 years later on DVD.
With only 18,165 fans in the attendance, WWE proved they didn't need 70,000+ fans to get the roof rising under a thunder of cheers and boos.
It was an intimate theatre and it created a unique ambiance for the viewers at home, with an amazing sound and image quality. In fact, the venue was so great that it was used for the following WrestleMania.
The whole set was spectacular and the fans on location could touch the wrestlers on their way to the ring, to the delight of everyone. No pyrotechnics or Titantron were required to astonish the spectators.
Just a few simple banners made the job and it looked surprisingly awesome, even when we look at it more than 20 years later.
The show did not age at all and the quality of the production was irreproachable and easily met today's standards.
The Top Quality Of The Matches
WrestleMania IV was the stage of 16 matches and no other pay-per-view in history could match that number. But beyond the quantity, there was the overall outstanding quality of the matches. The intensity was tangible every time the gladiators went eye to eye in the middle of the ring.
There was no dead weight on the card. No midget or pointless women's bouts were used as fillers. There was no matches with celebrities or gimmicks. No pillow, boxing or sumo fights could be seen.
In other words, the show was about pure and actual wrestling. The creative didn't have to come with twisted ideas to hook the fans. There was no need either to have a dark match to heat the crowd.
The 20-man Battle Royal was not just an ordinary dark match or one with football players in the mix. It was not either a gimmick Battle Royal with retired wrestlers.
It was classic entertainment and it involved some of the greatest in the business in their prime, including Ken Patera, George "The Animal" Steele, The Killer Bees, The Hart Foundation, Harley Race and Hillbilly Jim.
In a shocking finish, Bad News Brown emerged victorious after he last eliminated Bret Hart. However, what eventually made history was the post-match celebration when The Hitman snapped and destroyed Brown's 7-feet tall trophy.
In addition to the opening over the rope battle and the the main event, two championship contests were presented.
The Honky Tonk Man retained the Intercontinental title with his vintage ways by losing via disqualification. But the crowd and Brutus "The Barber" got what they really wanted: A haircut for Jimmy Hart!
In what was a classic heel tag team victory, Demolition destroyed Strike Force to put their hands on the Gold. That win will be remembered as the kickoff of the longest single Tag Team Championship reign in WWE history. During that historic reign, Demolition managed to keep the Title for 478 straight days, until the summer of 1989.
Then, there was THE main event to crown their new WWE Champion after the Title was vacated for almost two months. The fans were not disappointed and the long wait was totally worthy. They were served with 11 breathtaking Tournament matches in which the wrestlers gave everything they had.
The contestants were ready to give everything they had; they brought their "A" game to the plate. The whole Tournament was a genuine tale of endurance, courage, strength and overachievement. All the fighters surpassed themselves on that day.
For example, can you imagine Jim Duggan doing a Sunset Flip? You probably never saw him doing such a move, unless it was at WrestleMania IV.
Another word that can describe the spectacle is INTENSITY. It's already huge to battle once in an evening and it's even bigger at The Showcase Of The Immortals.
But it went way further with four matches for the winner and it became the base of one of the most important legacy in pro wrestling history. Others had to wrestle two or three times in the attempt to put their hands on the most coveted belt in the industry.
There was everything for everyone on that legendary card: a clash of two titans when The Ultimate Warrior battled Hercules; two behemoths collided in the One Man Gang-Bam Bam Bigelow encounter; Rick Rude and Jake "The Snake" Roberts, two of the finest wrestlers ever, fought in a grudge match until the 15-minute time limit, for a double elimination; the worst bout on paper ended with a nice twist when Bobby Heenan surprised everyone by hitting the pinfall for the win; finally, the long awaited third confrontation between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant ended in a stunning double-disqualification.
The Classic Wrestlemania Moments
Despite the fact that Hogan did not advance in the Tournament, he delighted the fans with his signature poses. Then, beyond that, no one who saw it can forget the classic moment when Elizabeth left for backstage to get Hogan as equalizer for Andre in the finals, with Ted DiBiase vs. Randy Savage. The crowd went completely crazy when he came ringside.
At the end of the show, it was hard not to have the chills when Randy Savage's music hit the speakers. I just can't think about a stronger music than the famous "Pomp And Circumstance" march to go with such a celebration.
We could also talk about the vintage pictures of Elizabeth sitting on her man's shoulder, holding the WWE Championship. It was pure gold.
Then, everyone witnessed an historic and emotional handshake between Hogan and Savage who sealed an epic deal to give birth to The Mega Powers.
In the seconds following the conclusion of WrestleMania IV, the aftermaths were instantly felt.
Bret Hart was starting to make a name for himself and he became so popular that The Hart Foundation had to turn face. He started to wrestle more solo and, eventually, the team was disbanded. The rest is history.
The Ultimate Warrior made his pay-per-view debut with panache and he started his road to the top.
Demolition started their first legendary reign as the Champions and they eventually became one of the most dominant tag teams in history. They ended their run with the company with three reigns and with the record for the most total days as the reigning Champions with 698.
Following his bitter defeat, Ted DiBiase asked Andre to join him to form The Mega Bucks to start a crusade against The Mega Powers.
From that moment, the two biggest names of the time joined their irresistible forces to take down Andre The Giant and his rich evil associate. The tables were set for many titanic clashes to come.
In the process, Randy Savage became the new face of the WWE and he ran with the Title for 371 days. An icon was then created and a legacy was graved in stone forever.
As you could see, Wrestlemania IV was the show of shows, the epitome of what a pay-per-view should be. It was the ultimate gem of the WWE Golden Years and, unfortunately, the product could only go down from that summit.
In fact, the bar was placed so high that it required more than a decade to get shows that could match the same level of excellence.
You can try to find any WrestleMania filled with so many important matches on the card but it would be a waste of time.
Actually, I challenge you to find a wrestling show featuring more Hall Of Famers, World Champions and Legends than at WrestleMania IV. Good luck! You will have to get your coffee with an intravenous device because you will search for countless hours.
There is nothing like WrestleMania IV. Nothing!