The WWF’s 1985 pay-per-view The Wrestling Classic remains a curiosity for wrestling fans as it featured a 16-man tournament with WWF Superstars competing for well… nothing at all except bragging rights. Unlike traditional wrestling tournaments where the winner received a big (literally and figuratively) check for a fictional cash prize or a new car, this one didn’t bother wasting the fans’ time with a phony prize, which in hindsight is one reason why the tournament was only held once. However, The Wrestling Classic did have its moments, including some a few rare heel vs. heel and face vs. face matches, something unheard of in the WWF at the time. Throw in a main event WWF Championship Match with Hulk Hogan defending the title against arch-rival, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and you had a card that the WWF hoped was good enough to get fans to order it on pay-per-view (or buy the subsequent home video release).
I’ve always thought The Wrestling Classic was a good idea that wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. The idea of bragging rights has never been much of a draw in pro sports and it’s certainly not for professional wrestling where a shrewd promoter can create pretty much anything they want for the winner. While the tournament had some good match-ups (Ricky Steamboat vs. Davey Boy Smith, Tito Santana vs. Don Muraco, Randy Savage vs. the Dynamite Kid, Paul Orndorff vs. Tito Santana, and Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage), the matches were far too short, even by the 1985 standards of the WWF. Worst of all, the booking was horrendous at times with the babyface Junkyard Dog having a relatively easy path to the finals, including a bye in the semi-finals. As any wrestling fan worth their salt knows, a heel will typically get a bye in order to have an advantage over their opponent (much as Ted DiBiase did at WrestleMania IV’s tournament for the WWF Championship).
Despite its shortcomings, I’ve often wondered what the tournament could have been like with some adjustments. In reality, the WWF did just that when it created its King of the Ring tournament, an idea that’s been brought back a few times in the last decade. Still, what about the original Wrestling Classic? What if the WWF held a tournament that not only included WWF stars, but stars from the American Wrestling Association, the National Wrestling Alliance, and Japan? While the idea might seem as far-fetched as the idea of a Jinder Mahal title reign, let’s pretend it happened in an alternate universe. Recently, I wrote up an imaginary 1985 Crockett Cup where 48 of the world’s greatest tag teams competed for $1,000,000 and the prestigious Crockett Cup trophy so why not continue the craziness with a reimagined Wrestling Classic? As I mentioned in the 1985 Crockett Cup, the reasons why Vince McMahon decided to cooperate with other promotions could be anything from WrestleMania failing to Vince getting hit by a bus and someone else taking over. Feel free to insert your own theories into this one.
32 wrestlers will compete in a tournament to determine the winner. Let’s also up the stakes by stating that the winner of the match receives a Rolls Royce (much like one lucky fan who ordered the pay-per-view did) along with a title shot against the NWA, WWF, or AWA World Heavyweight Champion. The match also features a main event tag team match with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair teaming up to take on Magnum T.A. and WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. Hogan, who is scheduled to meet Flair at Starrcade ’85, will meet Flair in the ring for the first time.
The matches will be held under traditional WWF rules which means you can win by count-out, disqualification, pinfall, or submission. There is no disqualification for throwing your opponent over the top rope, unlike other promotions. The matches in rounds one and two matches have a 20-minute time limit while rounds three and four have a 30-minute time limit. The fifth and final round will be a one-hour time limit. Just as was the case with the 1985 Crockett Cup, the tournament will feature randomly selected referees from a pool of referees from every promotion that is sending competitors.
Join us next time as we look at the 32 wrestlers who will be competing for much more than bragging rights as the WWF Wrestling Classic What If Tournament continues.