I continue my look back at every WrestleMania in SoCal with a look back at WrestleMania VII on March 24th, 1991 in Los Angeles. Featuring Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, the beginning of Undertaker‘s streak, and more.
The original vision
After WrestleMania V in 1989, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena event manager Joe Furin embarked on a mission to bring WrestleMania to the Coliseum. He originally attempted to bring WrestleMania VI to Los Angeles with a video package he produced looking to sway WWF officials. However, the event was set to take place in Toronto, Canada. While he wasn’t successful in getting WrestleMania VI in Los Angeles, Vince McMahon decided to hold WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles after watching the pitch video.
This story has been told by ESPN Senior Writer Arash Markazi way better than I could retell it. Give that a look. I’m sure ESPN could use the hits…
Anyways, WrestleMania VII was supposed to be the biggest WrestleMania ever. The aim was to get 106,000 fans into the stadium that night to witness the event. There was even a commercial that aired during WrestleMania VI advertising the event as taking place at the Coliseum in front of 100,000 fans. But as the old saying goes, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.
What ended up happening
Depending on who you ask, there are a number of reasons why WrestleMania VII went from being held at the 100,000 seat Coliseum, to the 16,000 seat Sports Arena next door. The narrative World Wrestling Entertainment has always wanted you to believe was that safety security issues were to blame due to a military conflict that had been going on with Iraq at the time. With an Iraqi sympathizer in the main event, there were claims of death threats being made and fears of assassination attempts taking place.
During an episode of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard that covered WrestleMania VII, the former WWF executive (who is now working with the promotion again) claimed that the company had been dealing with bomb threats every night at the time due to the nature of the creative direction of the product and one of the main event performers of WrestleMania VII. Prichard also claimed that because the Coliseum was an open-air stadium, the costs of securing it would’ve been too expensive.
Even though fears of violence due to the ongoing military conflicts going on at the time might’ve been a factor for the venue switch, the truth is WrestleMania VII hadn’t been doing well when it came to ticket sales. Around 16,000 tickets for the event were sold two months prior to the event. In early February, ticket sales were stopped. A few weeks later, the event was being advertised as sold out after the venue had changed. Many people believe the slow ticket sales were the main reason behind the change in venues.
While the slow ticket sales could’ve been attributed to safety concerns over the war at the time, many people also believed this due to the WWF’s usage of the military conflict with Iraq as part of their main storyline. The portrayal of the Iraq-U.S. conflict, as well as a performer portraying an Iraqi sympathizer, caused some controversy for the WWF at the time.
Due to the nature of the angle, NBC sports announcer and late-night talk show host Bob Costas withdrew from the event. Comedienne Roseanne Barr, who was also scheduled to take part in the event, did not appear at the event. The storyline was also named the Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic of 1991 by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
The Gulf War and the WWF
On August 2nd, 1990, around 100,000 Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, resulting in a seven-month occupation of the country. Shortly after, the United States launched Operation Desert Shield to prevent Iraqi forces from invading Saudi Arabia. As the conflict went on, troops from 33 nations joined the United States as part of a coalition to take on the Iraqi military. On January 16th, 1991, US president George H. W. Bush announced a declaration of war on Iraq. On January 17th, Operation Desert Storm was launched.
As this was going on, the WWF began to run a storyline in 1990 involving the returning Sgt. Slaughter becoming an Iraqi sympathizer. In the storyline, Slaughter aligned himself with “General Adnan” (Adnan Al-Kaissie), who was portraying an Iraqi military general. In real life, Al-Kaissie had actually grown up with Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Slaughter went on to become the WWF Heavyweight Champion at the 1991 Royal Rumble on January 19th after beating the Ultimate Warrior. This would officially begin the start of the build for the eventual Slaughter vs. Hogan match at WrestleMania that year. During the episode of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard that covered WrestleMania VII, Prichard incorrectly stated that as the Royal Rumble was going on and Slaughter was winning the title, George H. W. Bush went on television and declared war on Iraq.
To build up the match and Slaughter’s disapproval of America, he began to burn Hulk Hogan merchandise because he felt it symbolized America. The original idea pitched to Slaughter involved him burning the American flag, but Slaughter refused to do so.
On February 24th, 1991, about a month before WrestleMania, the Liberation of Kuwait campaign was launched. Over the next few days, coalition forces began to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. On February 28th, President Bush announced a ceasefire after the withdrawal of Iraqi forces, that Kuwait was free, and that Iraq had been defeated.
There’s more to the conflict than what I wrote. To learn more about the Gulf War conflict, click here.
While the conflict in Kuwait had subsided, the WWF continued with the feud between Hogan and Slaughter. It would later be voted Worst Feud of the Year for 1991 by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
The actual show
The theme of the event was very patriotic. The show’s tagline for the show was “Superstars And Stripes Forever.” In the opening video, we saw a bunch of Red, White, and Blue graphics with stars flying around. Hulk Hogan was also wearing an American flag bandana during it. After the opening video, shots of the crowd were shown. Nearly every crowd shot had someone with some type of clothing with the American flag on it, holding the actual flag, or some type of Hulk Hogan merchandise. The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena was even decked out with patriotic decorations.
Willie Nelson entered the ring for the singing of the national anthem to start the show. He was dressed up in WWF merchandise. It was like watching a walking plug for the souvenir stand. For those wondering what he had on, he was wearing a WrestleMania VII long sleeve shirt with Hulk Hogan holding the American flag, silver Bret Hart replica shades, a Hulk Hogan bandana, and one of those old foam WWF titles. Either Vince was extremely shameless when it came to marketing his merchandise, or Willie was that big of a fan of the product that he bought the merch and wore it in the ring.
After the anthem, Gorilla Monsoon welcomed the fans to the show. Fans in the arena chanted USA in the background. Monsoon then introduced “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who was dressed as Uncle Sam and commentating on the first match. Duggan joined Monsoon at ringside and they went over a few matches on the card. They kicked it over to Sean Mooney who was with The Rockers, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels. The Rockers cut a promo about their match with The Barbarian and Haku. If you watch this promo, you’ll see why the term Marty Jannetty is actually a thing on Urban Dictionary. Barbarian and Haku got the “currently in the ring” treatment. The Rockers got an entrance though.
The Barbarian and Haku w/ Bobby Heenan vs. The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty)
This was a fun match and a good way to start the show. Michaels and Jannetty got some double team offense in the opening moments of this match. Later on, Jannetty and Barbarian had a sequence that led to Jannetty getting worked over for heat. The fans were into this and tried to rally behind Jannetty. They also kept giving Heenan a lot of heat. Jannetty eventually made the hot tag to Shawn Michaels. Shawn got a flurry of offense and outsmarted his opponents. The Rockers hit a few double team moves during the finishing stretch of the match. Jannetty hit a missile dropkick from the top rope on Haku, followed by a crossbody splash from Shawn Michaels for the win.
After the match, Monsoon said Heenan would be joining him on commentary. Duggan then excused himself. What a great start to the show.
Backstage, “Mean” Gene Okerlund interviewed Regis Philbin, Alex Trebek, and Marla Maples about their roles on the show. If you don’t know who Marla Maples is, she is most famous for being Donald Trump’s future second wife. She supposedly got with Donald while he was still married to his first wife. I’m still blown away at how Evangelic Christians support that guy. In 1996, she was caught with Trump’s bodyguard at the time under a lifeguard tower. The bodyguard would later claim the two were having an affair.
Dino Bravo w/ Jimmy Hart vs. “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich
Did you know Kerry Von Erich had his right foot amputated years before this match? This was something he tried to keep a secret for years. In 1986, his foot was badly injured after a motorcycle accident. Five hours after surgery, he tried to walk down a hall to get a cheeseburger according to his brother Kevin. This resulted in his foot being amputated because of all the damage he did to it.
This was a quick and boring match. It started off with Dino attacking Von Erich as he entered the ring. Dino controlled the match while Von Erich got some hope spots in. The match came to an end after Von Erich countered a middle rope move with The Claw and won with a running tornado punch. I’m very glad this was kept short. It wasn’t very good.
After the match, Sean Mooney interviewed Slick and the Warlord. Slick and the Warlord cut a promo about their match against Davey Boy Smith. Mooney then sent it to Mean Gene with Davey Boy Smith. Davey Boy had a bulldog named Winston with him.
The Warlord w/ Slick vs. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/ Winston the Bulldog
During the match, a platform was placed next to the ring for Winston. It looked like he was trying to get away from the ring when the action started. Warlord controlled things early on, with the Bulldog getting some hope spots from time-to-time. Bulldog kept trying to rally the crowd behind him. The story of the match was that Warlord had an inescapable Full Nelson. When he tried to apply it, the Bulldog overpowered him. The Bulldog then hit a running powerslam for the win. This wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t bad. It was just filler.
Backstage, Mene Gene interviewed the Nasty Boys and Jimmy Hart. They’re facing Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart for the tag team titles. This was short, but yet also very exhausting to watch. After that, Sean Mooney interviewed the Hart Foundation. During this, I tried to recover from the headache I got thanks to the Nasty Boys promo.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) (c) vs. The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags w/ Jimmy Hart)
Before the match, Macaulay Culkin was shown at ringside and Bobby Heenan trashed him on commentary. The crowd was really hot for this match early on when Hart Foundation was on offense. it seemed like anytime they hit a move, they reacted. After the Hart Foundation got some momentum, the Nasty Boys began to work over Bret for heat. The Nasty Boys tried to use Jimmy Hart’s helmet on Bret, but Bret was able to move out of the way and tagged in Neidhart. Neidhart then came in and clean house to get his team back in the match.
The finish saw the Hart Foundation hit the Hart Attack on Knobbs. Neidhart pinned Knobbs, but the referee tried to get Bret out of the ring. This allowed Sags to hit Neidhart with Jimmy Hart’s helmet. Knobbs then rolled over and pinned Neidhart with his arm. Even though Dave Meltzer rated this match ***1/2, I thought this was really boring. Standards in wrestling must’ve been lower than I thought back then.
Blindfold Match: “The Model” Rick Martel vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Before the match, a video package highlighting the events leading up to this match was played. A clip from the October 6th, 1990 episode of Superstars was played where Martel sprayed “Arrogance” into Roberts’ eyes. This caused him to be blind for several months. During this time, Jake made several unsuccessful attempts to exact revenge on Martel. This would all lead to this match.
The premise of the match was both men put on hoods to “blind” them. As Jake was having his put on and had his hand under it, you could tell there was an area that allowed him to see what was going. The two spent the match pretending to try to find each other. Jake tried to use the crowd’s reactions to try to find Martel. This seriously sucked, but for some reason, the crowd was into it. I know things were more simple then, but jeez. The highlight of the match was seeing some yuppie have an usher kick out a family that was sitting in his front row seats. It was like he was too afraid to do it himself. Jake won after eight minutes. This was such a waste of time and so stupid.
After the match, Jake pulled out his snake, Damien, and freaked out Martel with it.
Backstage, Marla Maples tried to interview the Nasty Boys. They were celebrating their win with a few other heels.
Jimmy Snuka vs. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
This was the beginning of the Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania winning streak. There were a lot of shots of kids in the crowd with shocked faces. Times were so simple back then. Paul Bearer was also shown several times making goofy faces. The match itself was a one-sided squash. Undertaker controlled everything and no-sold Snuka’s offense. The coolest spot of the match was Undertaker catching Snuka as he went for a springboard move from the ring apron. Undertaker got the win in about four minutes.
This was boring. Unless you’re a completist who wants to see every Taker, Snuka, or WrestleMania match ever, this is worth skipping.
Retirement Match: “Macho King” Randy Savage w/ Queen Sherri (Sherri Martel) vs. The Ultimate Warrior
Before the match, showed clips of the events that led up to this match were shown. After the video and back to ringside, Heenan and Monsoon introduced the next match. Heenan spotted Miss Elizabeth in the crowd and began going crazy. At this point, Savage and Liz had been broken up just short of two years. Savage and Sherri entered the ring sitting on a throne being carried by a bunch of men. Warrior, who usually runs to the ring, walked during his entrance.
While this match has a lot of historical significance and gets a lot of praise, I was pretty bored by it. It went back-and-forth, had a lot of antics, and the crowd was into it. Sherri also got involved in the match several times. But for the most part, I found this to be a chore to watch. I’ll admit, it is mostly a generational thing. On top of that, I wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters. It’s hard to get into a story if I’m not into the plot. I will say that Savage hit some really nice elbow drops from the top rope. Eventually, Warrior won the match. Savage had to retire. None of this is why this match is iconic though.
After the match, Sherri berated Randy Savage for losing. She began to verbally and physically attack Savage as he was on the mat. Finally, Miss Elizabeth had enough. She jumped the guardrail, rushed the ring, grabbed Sherri and threw her out of the ring. Savage would have no idea what happened until the referee told him Sherri attacked him. Finally, after almost two years apart, the two hugged and reunited for what is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in pro wrestling history. The crowd went crazy for this, and shots of women crying in the crowd were shown.
Following the angle, Heenan and Monsoon were at ringside for intermission. After talking about the card, Monsoon sent it to Regis Philbin. Regis tried to interview the Undertaker and Paul Bearer. Undertaker began to measure Regis. I assume he was plotting to kill him. Regis tried to joke his way out. Alex Trebek then interviewed Demolition.
Then we went back to Regis who tried to interview Genichiro Tenryu and Koji Kitao. They said nothing because they didn’t understand him until he started naming Japanese car companies. THEN we go back to Alex Trebek. This time he interviewed Jake Roberts. If you think all the skits involving celebrity guests that WWE does these days are awful…
Demolition (Crush & Smash w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. Genichiro Tenryu & Koji Kitao
Yes, this is THAT Tenryu. This was one of two matches he had in WWF that year. Spoiler alert: he won them both. The match itself was an obvious popcorn match. Most of the seats were noticeably empty. Those fans weren’t missing much. Demolition worked over Kitao early on before he tagged in Tenryu. During the match, a fan with a mohawk and Ultimate Warrior face paint could be seen in the stands stomp the stairs and cut a promo on another fan. Tenryu and Kitao won. This wasn’t very special. Mohawk guy was awesome though.
After the match, we went backstage to Mean Gene. He interviewed the Big Boss Man before his Intercontinental title match against Mr. Perfect. Then Sean Mooney interviewed Bobby Heenan and Mr. Perfect. Heenan made a reference to the Rodney King beating. The WWF was edgier than the WWE is now.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match: Mr. Perfect (c) w/ Bobby Heenan vs. The Big Boss Man
With Heenan managing Mr. Perfect, Lord Alfred Hayes joined Monsoon on commentary. The match started off with a lot of energy and a good pace. Mr. Perfect began to slow things down midway through the match and worked over Boss Man for some heat. Bobby Heenan also gets involved at times. Andre The Giant ended up making his way to ringside to even things up for Big Boss Man. Andre stalked Heenan, grabbed the Intercontinental title and stood at ringside for a bit. At one point, Mr. Perfect tried to grab the belt from Andre but was caught with a shot to the head by Andre. The finish saw Haku and Barbarian attack Boss Man for the disqualification. This started out good but ended up being very underwhelming.
After the match, Boss Man and Andre fought off the Heenan Family. Andre and Boss Man then shook hands and left.
Before the next, Mean Gene interviewed professional scumbag, Donald Trump. Remember the yuppie I mentioned who had an usher kick kids out of his seat? Turns out he was with Trump. Figures! Trump’s portion of the segment sucked, just like his presidency does. Gene also interviewed Chuck Norris, Henry Winkler, and Lou Ferrigno. Chuck Norris was really into this and came off as genuine.
Earthquake w/ Jimmy Hart vs. Greg Valentine
This wasn’t very eventful. It was a basic early 1990s heavyweight heel vs. face match. Jimmy Hart got involved by distracting Valentine at one point, allowing Earthquake to make a comeback. Earthquake won after three minutes. People always complain about how long WWE events are now, and rightfully so. But at least the marathon WWE events usually have good matches from time-to-time. This show, while shorter, has been packed with so much useless and awful stuff like this match.
Backstage, Sean Mooney interviewed the Legion of Doom. The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) They talked about their upcoming match with Power and Glory.
Power and Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma w/Slick)
Power and Glory attacked the L.O.D. to start the match. After that, they did some quick brawling. L.O.D. won the match after hitting the Doomsday Device in less than a minute. Even though the match was short, this show is still dragging on and on.
Ted DiBiase vs. Virgil w/ Roddy Piper
Before the match, we see a video recapping the angle with Virgil turning his back on Ted DiBiase. One of the clips showed Virgil costing DiBiase a match by count out. Foreshadowing perhaps? Roddy Piper was at ringside in Virgil’s corner. Gorilla Monsoon said he was on crutches due to an injury he suffered from a motorcycle accident. Bobby Heenan made a joke wondering what Virgil would say to his “brothers and sisters” if he lost the match because he “got some bad advice from a guy in a skirt.” Heenan was cooler back in the day than every WWE announcer is now.
Virgil got the advantage by out-boxing DiBiase. Yup. I wrote that. He had the crowd behind him and was in control for most of the match. DiBiase mounted a comeback and began to control things midway into this. At one point, DiBiase started to beat on Virgil in front of Donald Trump. Unsurprisingly, Trump had a big smile on his face during it. DiBiase also shoved Piper off his crutches, which got a lot of heat from the crowd. Moments later, Piper used his crutch to pull the top rope down and cause DiBiase to fall outside the ring. This led to DiBiase getting counted out and Virgil getting the victory.
After the match, DiBiase attacked Virgil before Piper made the save by hitting DiBiase with a crutch. Sensational Sherri ran out to save DiBiase. DiBiase began to attack Piper’s injured leg with a crutch before Virgil made the save and chased them off. Once DiBiase left, Virgil got on the mic and encourage Piper to get up. Then two then embraced and left the ring.
Backstage, Sean Mooney interviewed General Adnan and Sgt. Slaughter. They cut a promo for the match with Hulk Hogan. Clips from the weeks leading up to the match were played as Slaughter spoke. He hinted that he might get himself counted out of disqualified to keep the title.
The Mountie w/Jimmy Hart vs. Tito Santana
This was very quick and uneventful. Tito was in control for a bit. Then The Mountie won after hitting Tito with a cattle prod given to him by Jimmy Hart. Yup. That was the match. A massive waste of time.
Backstage, Mene Gene interviews Hulk Hogan. He cut a promo about how Slaughter only knows hand-to-hand combat, and that this is new technology. The Hulk Hogan of 1991 also had “secret weapons” according to him. Yeah, because there was nothing more cutting edge than Hulk Hogan in 1991.
WWF Heavyweight Championship Match: Sgt. Slaughter w/ General Adnan (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
Before the main event, Howard Finkel brought out Alex Trebek, Marla Maples, and Regis Philbin. Trump could be seen at ringside ogling his mistress.
Hogan made his way to the ring waving an American flag. The crowd was really behind him. The match itself was pretty boring. It started out with some stalling, followed by Hulk being in control for a good amount of time. General Adnan kept trying to get involved as well, but Hogan fought him off most of the time. Midway into the match, General Adnan grabbed Hogan’s foot as he went to the top rope, allowing Slaughter to make a comeback. Slaughter then spent several minutes working over Hogan’s back for heat. In the final moments, Hogan rallied back and won the match in typical Hulk Hogan fashion. So basically this “new” at the time Hulk Hogan was the same as the old one.
After the match, Hogan waved the American flag inside the ring to celebrate his win to close the show. If you’ve ever seen a Hulk Hogan match from this era, you know what you’re going to get. This was more of the same. If you’ve never seen a Hulk Hogan match, you’re not missing anything.
When I was a kid, my dad took me to this video store down the street from our house in Glendale. It was on the southwest corner of Broadway and Pacific. While it was a smaller store compared to Blockbuster Video was, it had a wide variety of WWF tapes from the 1980s and 1990s. WrestleMania VII was one of the first tapes my dad rented for me at this place. As a kid, I liked it. Watching this show now as an adult though was exhausting. As I said before, the marathon shows WWE runs now are way more tolerable than this was. While it was only three and a half hours, it felt like it was six hours. The Rockers vs. Haku & Barbarian was fun, and I thought the Savage and Elizabeth reunion was great.
Besides those two highlights, this wasn’t worth rewatching. If you’ve never seen WrestleMania VII and aren’t one of those people obsessed with seeing everything WWF/WWE has ever done, don’t waste your time.
Up next: WrestleMania 12!