– On the latest edition of VOC Nation’s Wrestling With History, Ken Resnick and Bill Apter discussed the lead-up to the very first WrestleMania and the reactions within the industry on the event. Below are some highlights.
Apter on the evolution of the wrestling product: “The moves are different now (and) the psychology is different now. (In the past) a guy or girl might work on one body part, but right now that’s not where pro wrestling is. It’s faster, they go after every body part. It used to be that killer instinct; if you hurt that guy’s leg, you went after (it) and wound up with the figure four leglock. The whole match was you going after that guy’s weak point. It doesn’t happen anymore today, even in AEW (or) Ring of Honor, you rarely see them concentrate because the matches now are faster moving. It’s a different pace…Again, they’re trying to make a TV show that’s entertaining, not a sports program.”
Apter on McMahon’s thinking leading into WrestleMania: “These other promoters tried everything they could to stop it by putting on classy wrestling, but what this did was it brought into prominence fans that had no idea what pro wrestling was about anymore – they thought it was the old seedy arenas – and (Vince) promoted this as a worldwide spectacle, not a wrestling show. Even Jim Crockett, who I used to talk to everyday, said ‘we’re not doing this stuff with all these stars, we’re a wrestling company.”
Resnick on the risk Vince McMahon took on WrestleMania: “I wasn’t involved, I was still in the AWA. But when you think about it, Vince even then with the risks he took was such a great marketer. It was at Madison Square Garden so who did he have? Billy Martin from the Yankees was involved, he had the Rockettes involved…he was really smart. That pioneered really locking in rock music and wrestling with Cyndi Lauper… If you think about what happened in terms of WWF wrestling following Wrestlemania…he had all the chips pushed into the middle of the table, but he knew exactly what his hand was… I’m not a huge Vince fan, but I don’t think he gets the credit for putting that whole package together and then what they brought out of Wrestlemania for what they moved forward with.”
Resnick on Verne Gagne’s reaction to the first WrestleMania: “It was just a spectacle, it was a one off, nobody was going to care… It was poo pooed in the beginning, it was poo pooed right after… He got a request from the New Yorker; the New Yorker Magazine wanted to do an interview with him (to get his opinion of Wrestlemania)…and Verne said ‘Yeah I turned them down; now all the sudden they want to know about wrestling. For years they wanted nothing to do with us and put us down, I’m not doing it.’ That was the difference in attitude. Vince would have sent a limo to pick up the writers.”