Wrestlemania 1 was the first part of WWE’s big expansion into turning the company into a nationwide phenomena. Vince McMahon risked everything to put on the show, headlined by big star including Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper. He also included all of the biggest stars of the day, like Andre The Giant and Bruno Sammartino.
However, the show could not be sold just on the big names in wrestling. While the likes of Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant were big stars in the world of wrestling, the world outside of wrestling did not see them as such. Despite his appearance in Rocky III, Hogan had not yet broken into the mainstream and was not the man who could carry the WWE into the wider world and make it one of America’s favourite sports.
No. The WWE needed help. Outside star power was sought to try and plug the gap between “wrestling fans” and “the general public”. Nobody was going to buy a wrestling show when they had never heard of anybody on the card, the same way that nobody is buying a boxing pay per view between two nobodies who they’d never heard of.
To counter this, Vince McMahon and idea. He spent big, bringing in a host of mainstream stars to appear at the show to bring eyes to the brand. This included celebrities wrestling in matches, helping keep the peace in fights and even performing as a manager. The celebrities appearing at Wrestlemania 1 got the attention of the mainstream press and got a huge amount of eyes on the show. It drew over one million fans, which was the largest audience on closed circuit television up to that point. It was a huge hit and in huge part thanks to the involvement of multiple celebrities from across the USA.
Celebrities Who Appeared At Wrestlemania 1
Mr T was one of the biggest celebrities to appear at Wrestlemania 1. He was brought in on the back of his incredible break-out success in Rocky III and The A-Team, and was considered one of the most popular actors in America at the moment.
While the main event of the show likely should have been Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper, that would not have sold a million pay per view buys. Mr T was brought in to wrestle in a tag team match, bringing his immense star power into the main event. Mr T teamed with Hulk Hogan to take on the tag team of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper & “Mr Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. It was a huge bout and the eyes of the United States were peeled to see just how Mr T would do inside a wrestling ring.
As celebrity matches go, Mr T at Wrestlemania 1 wasn’t too bad. He performed admirably and helped his side to victory. The Wrestlemania 1 main event ended when “Cowboy” Bob Orton accidently hit Orndorff when trying to attack Hogan, to which Hulk Hogan followed it up with a pin fall and won the bout for his side. Mr T’s celebrity wrestling endeavour would not end there. He wrestled a handful of matches, including a boxing match with Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 2 and a sole match against Kevin Sullivan at WCW’s Starrcade 1994.
While Mr T took part in the main event of Wrestlemania 1, another celebrity was close at ringside to help make sure the action was staying in the ring.
Muhammad Ali was a guest official for the main event that night. While Mr T was the most famous man in the match, there was nobody with as much star power on the show than the Boxing great, Oft considered the greatest of all time, Ali had fought discrimination throughout his career and come out of it as the most recognisable sportsperson around the world.
He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s some years prior, meaning he was not able to wrestle in a match. He had previously taken on Antonio Inoki in NJPW, wrestling in front of what was claimed the be the biggest audience in wrestling history (some claim that over a billion people saw the match on TV).
Pop sensation Cyndi Lauper was incredibly important in bringing wrestling into the mainstream. Her role at Wrestlemania 1 as a celebrity guest was a huge coup for the WWE, as without her the future of the event hung in the balance. She had been a wrestling fan before her time in the WWE and met up with “Captain” Lou Albano on a flight, introducing her behind the curtain for the first time.
Cyndi Lauper appeared as a manager at Wrestlemania 1. She accompanied Wendi Richter to the ring and stayed at ringside for her match against Leilani Kai. Kai was managed by The Fabulous Moolah, who many thought should be in the match instead of her client. Richter won the WWF Women’s Championship in the match, rolling up Kai to win the match.
Another celebrity addition to the main event of Wrestlemania 1 was the inclusion of famous entertainer Liberace. The flamboyant singer, actor and entertainer was known in the United States for his outrageous style of dress and extravagant performances, perfect for the world of professional wrestling.
Liberace was employed as the guest timekeeper for the main event of the show. He was also accompanied to ringside by The Rockettes. who were best known for their synchronized dance routines in the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The combination of the two created a spectacle that many fans would never forget.
The manager of the New York Yankees, Billy Martin, was brought in as one of the local celebrities for Wrestlemania 1. With the event held in the WWE’s home base in New York City, Madison Square Garden was well aware of the exploits of Billy Martin in New York.
While he was a much more low-key celebrity inclusion in Wrestlemania – especially for fans outside the US – he was brought in as the guest ring announcer for the main event, introducing Hogan, Mr T, Piper and Orndorff before their incredible main event bout.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.