What happened to the Superstars of WrestleMania 1?
What started out as the biggest gamble in the wrestling industry, is one of the biggest wrestling pay-per-view events in the world right now. On March 31, 1985, Vince McMahon Jr. presented the first-ever WrestleMania. The-then World Wrestling Federation was experiencing a national expansion, and Vince decided to make a big bet on this new event which was written off by many people who believed that the event wouldn’t succeed in being the pop culture phenomenon that he had envisioned.
WrestleMania went live before a sold-out crowd of 19,121 fans at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City. In addition, to the near 20 thousand fans in attendance, over one million viewers tuned in via closed-circuit television, making it the largest showing of any event on closed-circuit television in the United States at the time.
With WrestleMania 35 in the WWE news these days, superstars like Ronda Rousey, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, and Roman Reigns will be raring to go. But what happened to stars of the very first WrestleMania? Let’s take a look at the stars from WrestleMania 1 and find out where they are today.
A respectable name in the WWE industry, he is widely remembered for being the two time WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion. An upper mid-card in the company at the time, Santana defeated The Executioner via submission in about five minutes. The match would turn out to be the only main card WrestleMania victory in Santana’s career.
Santana is still very much present in wrestling scene and pops up at the odd independent wrestling promotions primarily in the North-Eastern US. He also serves as a Spanish teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in Roxbury Township, New Jersey, where he also serves as the school’s basketball coach.
King Kong Bundy
In a match that lasted barely 23 seconds, King Kong Bundy defeated Special Delivery Jones. Possessing a monstrous figure, he clearly outmatched SD Jones sheerly with his size. Bundy flattened his much smaller foe with corner charges and an emphatic big splash to write the match into the-then WWF record books. He went on to headline WrestleMania the following year against Hulk Hogan.
Bundy gained pop culture acclaim for appearing in the Richard Pryor film, Moving (1988) and the American sitcom Married with Children. He retired from wrestling in 2007 and made conventional appearances since then. He died recently in March this year.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Steamboat had merely debuted just weeks before WrestleMania and was hardly known at the time. However, his victory over Matt Borne marked the beginning of a glittering career where he won tons of titles and innumerable fans with his grace and flawless execution inside the ring. After a career marked by brilliance, Steamboat retired due to back injuries in 1994.
He continued to be involved in Vince McMahon’s company, at times as a producer, developmental trainer or as an occasional guest referee. Steamboat would work with NXT talent for several years until recently stepping down to accept his new role as a company ambassador.
Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake & David Sammartino
Another wrestler who was on the fringes of a glorious career at WrestleMania, Brutus would go on to win the WWF World Tag Team titles with Dream Team partner Greg Valentine, the first among numerous milestones that would propel him to the upper card before his career ended unfortunately with a parasailing accident in 1990, which almost killed him. David, on the other hand, was the son of the legendary Bruno Sammartino but didn’t even come close to the iconography of his father. He would go on to wrestle sporadically for the company up until 1988. The highly contested bout between the two at WrestleMania would end in a double disqualification.
After his accident, Brutus went into semi-retirement and appeared at any independent shows willing to book him. While working for the Boston Transportation Authority in 2004, Brutus accidentally left a bag of cocaine behind at the Downtown Crossing location. Shortly after the incident, he checked into rehab. He released his memoir “Struttin’ & Cuttin’” in early 2018.
Similar to Beefcake, David also went into semi-retirement after his term with the company and struggled with his addiction problems. He works today as a personal trainer.
A real fan favorite at the time, Junkyard Dog is remembered for his charisma and his two time-tested theme songs, Another One Bites the Dust and Grab Them Cakes. He defeated Greg Valentine, the Intercontinental Champion but sadly didn’t win the title due to count-out victory. He would not reach the same heights as the company again and left in 1988.
On June 2, 1998, JYD was involved in a single vehicle accident while driving along Interstate 20 in Central Mississippi. Unfortunately, JYD was not able to survive the accident.
Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik
With the Cold War tensions still lingering, the US Express dropped their Tag Team title to “The Foreign Legion”, a move which gained intense heat. For the following 2 years, Volkoff and Sheik would dominate the tag team division and bring relevancy to the division at a time when tag team wrestling was really being overshadowed by major singles stars.
In 2014, The Iron Sheik released his documentary film entitled "The Sheik." The film would actually do quite well and would gain a ton of great reviews by critics and fans alike. Volkoff, on the other hand, would remain a part of the business for over 30 years while also working as a code enforcement officer in Baltimore County, Maryland. Volkoff passed away in July 2018 at the age of 70.
Andre The Giant
One of the most beloved and revered superstars of the company, Andre wagered his own career in the $15,000 Body Slam match against Big John Studd. He came out victorious but would remain second to his appearance at WrestleMania 3 against Hulk Hogan.
Andre passed away in January 1993, dying due to congestive heart failure in his sleep. A mere paragraph couldn’t do justice to his importance, popularity, and legacy but he remains unquestionably one of the greatest stars that the company ever had.
Enjoying the support of pop star icon Cyndi Lauper, Richter defeated Leilani Kai to win back the gold at WrestleMania. Later that year, she left the company in what is known as the ‘original screwjob’ and her wrestling celebrity would never reach the same height.
Wendi returned to school, eventually earning her degree in physical therapy, as well as her masters in occupational therapy. She explored various occupational avenues in real estate, physical therapy and is an active participant professional dog shows appearing even in the prestigious Westminster Kennel Dog Show.
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T defeated Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in tag action with Muhammad Ali and Pat Patterson serving as special guest referees. Hogan deservedly took center stage in the WrestleMania and sent the Garden crown into a frenzy with his match-winning pinfall.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, then you are well aware of the controversy that has surrounded Hulk Hogan. Not only has he battled the drama stemming from the sex-tape fiasco, but there was also the leaked audio, which ultimately resulted in Hulk being terminated by WWE.
In the years since Hogan has indeed been on his own road to redemption. Hogan has publicly denounced his remarks that were made in the leaked audio.
Mr. T, on the other hand, has pretty much retired from on-screen performing. Mr. T has dedicated most of his life to his ministry and his renewed Faith in Christianity.