In November 1983, the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions produced the first ever closed circuit television wrestling extravaganza, Starrcade.
The event was a monumental success and became an annual mega-show. Starrcade ran for 18 editions until it’s final event in December 2000.
Vince McMahon’s WWF made it’s own venture into closed circuit television with an event that was even bigger and grander than Starrcade. With mainstream celebrities such as Mr T, Muhammed Ali, Cyndi Lauper, Liberace and many others on hand, the inaugural WrestleMania was a phenomenon.
36 years later and WrestleMania is still going strong and is firmly part of the mainstream consciousness.
The first-ever Starrcade and WrestleMania shows were both monumental events. However, somewhat surprisingly, only a handful of wrestlers competed in both. This article lists them all.
‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton Jr.
‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton Jr. may be best known to today’s wrestling fans as Randy Orton’s old man but, back in the 1970s and ’80s, he was a major star in his own right.
Thus, it was no surprise that he was one of a select few who wrestled on the first ever Starrcade show. Orton Jr. teamed with Dick Slater to defeat the team of Mark Youngblood and Wahoo McDaniel.
Although Orton Jr. did not compete at the inaugural WrestleMania, he did play a pivitol role in the event. Orton Jr. flanked the heel team of ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper and ‘Mr Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff in their headline bout versus Hulk Hogan and Mr T, who had ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka in their corner.
The WWE Hall of Famer had a decisive role in the outcome of the first ever WrestleMania main-event. Orton Jr. attempted to nail Hogan with his famed plaster cast but smashed into Orndorff instead. That allowed the ‘Hulkster’ to pin ‘Mr Wonderful’ and earn victory for his team.
Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat
Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat is most famous for his WrestleMania III Intercontinental Championship victory over ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. However, he also played a major role in several WrestleMania events and the inaugural Starrcade.
Few remember now, but the first WrestleMania was a glorified house show. The event was sold on it’s star studded main event and to a lesser extent Wendi Richter’s Women’s Title match with Leilani Kai. Everything else was mainly filler; King Kong Bundy versus Special Delivery Jones anyone? Steamboat, one of the WWF’s major stars, was paired off with the nondescript Matt Borne (the future Doink the Clown). The bout clocked in at a little over four minutes and was immediately forgotten as soon as it ended.
‘The Dragon’s match at Starrcade ’83 was far more consequential. Teaming with Jay Youngblood, Steamboat and his partner defeated Jack and Gerald Brisco for the NWA World Tag Team Championship in an electric battle. It’s a shame he wasn’t given a more featured spot at WrestleMania as well.
Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine
Greg Valentine was one of the NWA’s biggest stars when he jumped ship to Vince McMahon’s WWF in 1984. It was inevitable then that Valentine would play a major role in the first ever WrestleMania event.
Heading into the card, ‘The Hammer’ was the reigning Intercontinental Champion. A superlative worker, Valentine could have contested a classic with the likes of Tito Santana or Ricky Steamboat but was instead saddled with the limited Junkyard Dog.
The bout was basic and ended when the champion was counted out in a cheap finish. It was a far cry from Valentine’s Starrcade ’83 stunner with ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. That contest was one of the very best matches of the decade. In a bloody and brutal Dog Collar match, Valentine and Piper knocked each other senseless in an 16 minute war. Piper was victorious but ‘The Hammer’ earned a measure of revenge after the bout choking Piper out with the chain.
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper played a major role in Starrcade ’83, in the aforementioned scrap with Greg Valentine. However, his role in the inaugural WrestleMania would be even greater. Every great hero needs a super villain. For Hulk Hogan, Piper was that adversary.
Oozing cockiness, the arrogant Piper was the ideal counterpoint to the “say your prayers and take your vitamins” preaching ‘Hulkster.’ Teaming with the equally obnoxious, ‘Mr Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff, Piper fought the dream team of Hogan and Mr T. in the first ever WrestleMania main event.
Although Piper tasted defeat when his partner, Orndorff was pinned by Hogan, his place in history was assured.
Piper, no doubt was the MVP of the first ever Starrcade and WrestleMania events.
Both WrestleMania 1 and Starrcade 1983 are available to view on the WWE Network.