The Ultimate Challenge
WrestleMania VI took place on April 1st, 1990 at the Skydome in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It set an attendance record for the arena with a total of 67,678. The Main Event for the evening was the eponymous Ultimate Challenge, laid out by Hulk Hogan to the Ultimate Warrior.
The Hulkster issued the Ultimate Challenge a week after the 1990 Royal Rumble, a match that saw Hogan and Warrior cross paths for the first time. Fans were noticeably enthralled. The reaction in the building that night was thunderous. Putting the two larger than life figures in match at WrestleMania was a no-brainer.
I hate to gloss over the rest of the work done at this particular Showcase of the Immortals, but my word there are a lot of matches. This was a fourteen match card, and only two of them lasted more than ten minutes. How much could I really talk about without this becoming a 10,000 word epic?
The broadcast began with a match between Rick Martel and Koko B. Ware that lasted an impressive three minutes and fifty one seconds. Up next was the only other one to get close to ten minutes long: Demolition (Ax and Smash) vs. The Colossal Connection (Andre The Giant and Haku). This got by entirely on charisma. Everyone involved was over with the fans, including Bobby the Brain Heenan, who was on the outside the whole time. After that, Earthquake and Hercules came out to torture everyone watching for five minutes.
Now we come to the underrated bouts on the card. While short, everyone involved made them work. First, there was Mr. Perfect vs. Brutus Beefcake in Perfect’s first loss on live television. He had suffered a couple at house shows, but that was it. With that out of the way, it was time for Rowdy Roddy Piper and Bad News Brown to take the stage. Anything with Roddy Piper is gold as far as I’m concerned, and this was no different. Same goes for Bret Hart, who went on after Roddy with Jim the Anvil Neidhart as the Hart Foundation to face The Bolsheviks (Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukoff). Bret and the Anvil were one of the best tag teams ever and their tandem offense is always a joy to watch.
NOTE: This was also when Roddy Piper, never one to avoid controversy, painted half of his body black to get a bit of a psychological edge over his African American opponent. Little did he know, the makeup he used was not one that washed off with just soap and water. No, it took some hardcore scrubbing over a few weeks to get the Rowdy One clean of this particular mistake.
So many matches. I have to speed this along, so I’m going to lay out the rest of the matches for you to go and form your own opinion on. Keep in mind, the majority of them are pretty f–king boring.
The Barbarian vs. Tito Santana, Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire vs. Macho Man Randy Savage and Queen Sherri, The Orient Express vs. The Rockers in Shawn Michaels first WrestleMania match, Jim Duggan vs. Dino Bravo, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase vs. Jake the Snake Roberts, Big Boss Man vs. Hakeem, and Rick Rude vs. Jimmy Snuka.
There it is. Countless talented names, all barely given any time to shine. Thing is, nobody was there to see them! They were there for Warrior vs. Hogan.
Both men were white hot at this time. A variety of celebrities attended the affair, including Mary Tyler Moore, Robert Goulet, Steve Allen, as well as future star of Arrow, Stephen Amell and future WWE employees Edge, Christian, Lance Storm, and Renee Young. This was the kind of WrestleMania that made lifetime fans out of people.
It was like watching two superheroes go at it. In one corner, you had the red and yellow, ol’ faithful, telling kids to eat their vegetables, take their vitamins, and say their prayers. In the other corner, you had the flashy neon colors and eye catching face paint. He told kids to do some stuff do, but I’m sure none of them understood what on earth he was talking about. That was Warrior’s thing. He’d cut an intense, babbling, gibberish filled promo and fans would eat it up. I was one of them – when I was older, that is. I was all of one year old when this went down.
I first became familiar with Warrior when he returned six years later at WrestleMania 12. I found this WrestleMania when I bought the VHS. I was sold on the Ultimate Warrior from that moment on. This, however, was the pinnacle of his career. He was one of the only people who ever beat Hulk Hogan clean at the Granddaddy of Them All. [The other is the Rock at WrestleMania 18, which also happened at the Skydome]. That alone is an achievement worthy of the Hall of Fame status that Warrior reached last year.
You have to understand: that was the passing of the torch. At the time, Vince McMahon was convinced that Warrior would unseat Hulk as the most popular babyface in his company. As we all know, that didn’t quite happen. Warrior self destructed, eventually leaving the company; which ended up securing Hogan’s place at the top for at least a few more years.
Nine years later, Warrior and Hogan had their rematch at the WCW Pay-per-view, Halloween Havoc. It was an unmitigated disaster and it’s going to be so much fun to write about.