James Dixon: With WrestleMania having made the ill-fitting Trump Plaza its home for the previous two years, the WWF looked to expand for their first edition of the supercard in the nineties. Not only did they want to run a large arena again, but they also wanted to take the show outside of the United States and into their key secondary market of Canada. They found the perfect venue with the SkyDome, a 68,000 capacity venue (in the skewered world of the WWF) that sat directly beneath the iconic CN Tower in Toronto.
The WWF had a long history of success in Canada, thanks to a relationship forged with the Tunney family and their promotion company Tunney Sports, who controlled wrestling north of the border. The Tunneys had helped McMahon build a strong foundation in the country, including a Toronto house show in 1986 that drew in excess of 75,000 people for a match between Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff. The card was filmed and eventually released on Coliseum Video as The Big Event.
The success of that show, followed by a number of rewarding forays into the market led Vince McMahon to the decision that WrestleMania too could do very well in Canada. There was a brief snag though, caused by Eddie Tunney. It was Eddie who booked the Toronto SkyDome for WrestleMania VI, laying down a deposit in 1989 and trade marking the name “WrestleMania” in Canada, something McMahon had otherwise neglected to do. When McMahon then dropped his partnership with Tunney Sports but retained Jack – the onscreen WWF President – as the head of Titan Sports Canada, Eddie was furious.
Legal issues immediately arose. He hadn’t realised that Eddie had been the one to sign the check securing WrestleMania, rather than Jack, and knew that the lawsuits could torpedo the supershow and cause him a lot of financial problems. Under duress, he agreed to settle with Eddie out of court. Some view it as the beginning of the end for Jack, who McMahon blamed for the mix up and never truly forgave.
To sell out the cavernous SkyDome, the WWF promoted something it rarely had previously, and never before for its WrestleMania main event: a babyface match. It was dubbed “The Ultimate Challenge”, the first ever confrontation between reigning WWF Champion and long-time company kingpin Hulk Hogan, and the man many felt was his successor, The Ultimate Warrior. It was a battle for the ages, a match where fans genuinely couldn’t predict the outcome. And it was a classic.
Side note: Before we commence I will note that this was the first WrestleMania that I ever saw, and it has always held a special place for me. I reviewed the VHS tape of the event so many times that it wore out and I had to buy a new copy. Thus, I may be slightly more forgiving of what takes place than I might have been otherwise.
Additional: There are a number of different cuts of this show available. Fans who have only seen the Coliseum Video version are missing out, because the tape clips around forty minutes off the broadcast in order to fit the whole thing onto a single tape. The Anthology DVD version is the one to track down if you want to own the show, though it does suffer from the use of horrible theme music replacing some of the originals due to copyright issues. The one of the WWE Network is the best of both worlds; the full show and with the music intact.
After a dark match between Paul Roma and the Brooklyn Brawler, which must have been a thriller, the show starts proper with an introduction from Vince McMahon. He does the voiceover for a gloriously tacky and so very early nineties montage of cosmic asterisms, with Hogan and Warrior outlined in the stars and claimed to be the two most powerful icons in the universe! God yes. Robert Goulet then sings a glorious rendition of ‘O Canada’ (with a little help from the massive SkyDome big screen acting as an autocue and providing the words) before our hosts for the evening, the perfect team of Jesse Ventura and Gorilla Monsoon, welcome us to the show. Jesse says it is bigger than the SuperBowl. It certainly is to me!