After over four full years as World Wrestling Federation Champion, Hulk Hogan had been beaten under questionable circumstances by Andre the Giant. In an episode of Saturday Night's Main Event on February 5th, 1988, Andre won the WWF Championship when Earl Hebner, the twin of scheduled referee Dave Hebner, counted a pinfall even though Hogan lifted his shoulder before the count of three.
Andre gave the title to his manager, Ted DiBiase, but WWF President Jack Tunney ruled that the WWF Championship was non-transferable and ruled the title vacant.
It was decided that a 14-man tournament would be held, with the victor being declared the new champion. The place? Wrestlemania IV.
March 27, 1988. Live from Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Your hosts are Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon. Vanna White and Mean Gene Okerland appear often backstage ogling the tournament brackets.
Battle Royale (George Steele, Sam Houston, Sika, Jim Neidhart, The Fabulous Rougeaus, The Killer Bees, Ron Bass, The Junkyard Dog, Hillbilly Jim, Jim Powers, Ken Patera, Harley Race, Boris Zukhov, Nikolai Volkoff, Paul Roma, Bad News Brown, Bret Hart): Bad News Brown and Bret Hart are the last two left, and they decide to split the trophy. Brown double-crosses him, of course, dumping him out of the ring to win. This was the catalyst for Hart's babyface turn, and he destroys the trophy after the match.
Robin Leach comes out to officially open the tournament. The brackets:
Round 1 Tournament Match: Hacksaw Jim Duggan v. Ted DiBiase w/Andre the Giant & Virgil. Interference from Andre allows DiBiase to advance easily in a three minute match.
Round 1 Tournament Match: Dino Bravo v. Don Muraco. Muraco wins by DQ after Bravo pulls the referee in front of him to avoid a shot.
Round 1 Tournament Match: Greg Valentine v. Ricky Steamboat. This was Steamboat's last big match in the WWF before leaving for the NWA. A really good match--it's a shame it was only given five minutes due to time constraints. Valentine wins with a roll-up.
Round 1 Tournament Match: Randy Savage w/Elizabeth v. Butch Reed. Savage and Liz are in matching royal blue--they change outfits every match. Savage is freshly face-turned at this point and is just insanely over. Savage wins with the big elbow from the top rope. Crowd loves it, match sucks.
Round 1 Tournament Match: One Man Gang v. Bam Bam Bigelow. One Man Gang wins by count-out. Pretty awful match.
Round 1 Tournament Match: Jake Roberts v. Rick Rude. After 12 boring minutes, the time limit expires to eliminate both men from the tournament.
Non-Tournament Match: The Mighty Hercules v. The Ultimate Warrior. This is Warrior's PPV debut. Awful, awful match. Ugh. Warrior wins with the big splash.
Quarterfinal Tournament Match: Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant w/Ted DiBiase & Virgil. Awful, awful AWFUL match that's even worse from a technical point of view than the one they had at Wrestlemania III. Ends in the worse possible way, in a double disqualification after both men use chairs on each other. UGH.
Quarterfinal Tournament Match: Don Muraco v. Ted Dibiase. Winner gets a bye to the finals due to the Hogan/Andre debacle. DiBiase wins a short match with a stungun.
Quarterfinal Tournament Match: Randy Savage w/Elizabeth v. Greg Valentine. Savage and Liz are in matching hot pink this time. Bad match, but not overly so. Savage wins with a small package after reversing Valentine's Figure Four attempt.
WWF Intercontinental Championship: Honky Tonk Man w/Peggy Sue & Jimmy Hart v. Brutus Beefcake. Just like EVERY OTHER MATCH during HTM's 18-month IC reign, Jimmy Hart interferes to disqualify Honky Tonk and allow him to keep the title.
Non-Tournament Match: Bobby Heenan & The Islanders v. Koko B. Ware & The British Bulldogs. Heenan is dressed in a dog-proof suit to protect him from Matilda, the Bulldogs' mascot. It's not totally awful, but maybe that's just because I live to see Heenan get the crap kicked out of him. The heels win when a limp Heenan gets dragged on top of Koko.
Semifinal Tournament Match: Randy Savage w/Elizabeth v. One Man Gang. Savage is obviously resting up for his final match later in the evening. Matching black outfits for Savage and Liz this time. Gang to grabs Slick's cane and nail Savage, drawing a DQ.
WWF Tag Team Championship: Strike Force v. Demolition. Demolition are the heels here, but are cheered for HUGE by the fans. Strike Force, the supposed babyfaces, get no reaction. Demolition win their first tag team titles here, and they'd go on to hold them for an incredible 18 months before losing them to Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson.
TOURNAMENT FINALS, for the WWF Championship: Ted Dibiase w/Andre the Giant & Virgil v. Randy Savage. Robin Leach brings out the newly refurbished WWF title belt. Bob Uecker is YOUR guest ring announcer. Vanna White is the guest timekeeper. Matching white outfits for Savage and Liz. DiBiase cheats outrageously with the help of Andre and Virgil, so midway through the match, Savage
sends Liz running back to the dressing room to fetch the Big Orange Goblin (that's Hulk Hogan for you non-wrestling types). Hogan grabs a chair and takes a seat at ringside while DiBiase applies a chinlock. More interference and tomfoolery, and Hogan nails DiBiase with the chair while the referee is distracted dealing with Andre. One big elbow later, and Randy Savage is the NEW WWF Champion. Hogan can't resist trying to steal Savage's thunder, standing in the ring celebrating with Savage and Liz after the match.
The WWF tried to make this even bigger than Wrestlemania III and failed miserably—clocking in at four hours long with sixteen matches, it was just too long and with too many filler matches to be any good whatsoever. The main event is worth watching because of the historical value (and it's also a pretty good match, to be fair), but that's about it.