WWF/WWE WrestleMania VI (6): The Ultimate Challenge (1990) – A Retrospective Review

Wrestlemania 6 - Wrestling Review

WrestleMania VI: The Ultimate Challenge – A Complete Retrospective

On April 1, 1990, the World Wrestling Federation presented WrestleMania VI at the SkyDome in Toronto, Canada. Dubbed “The Ultimate Challenge,” this event is particularly famous for its main event where two of the biggest stars of that era faced off in a title-for-title match. The night was filled with memorable bouts that showcased a blend of storyline culmination, athletic prowess, and entertainment. Here’s a detailed look at each match and the stories behind them.

“The Model” Rick Martel vs. Koko B. Ware

The event opened with “The Model” Rick Martel facing off against Koko B. Ware. Martel, having recently embraced a narcissistic fashion model gimmick complete with a trademark arrogance, was at his charismatic best, using psychological tactics and technical skill to dominate the fan-favorite Ware. Ware, known for his high energy and colorful attire, provided stiff competition with his aerial maneuvers and fast-paced style, but Martel’s experience and cunning allowed him to secure a victory. This match set the tone for the night, highlighting the clash of vibrant personalities that characterized the early ’90s WWF scene.

World Tag Team Championship: Demolition vs. Colossal Connection

In a highly anticipated tag team match, Demolition (Ax and Smash) challenged the Colossal Connection (André the Giant and Haku), managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, for the World Tag Team Championship. This match was significant not only for its outcome but also for marking one of André the Giant’s last major appearances in a WWF ring. Demolition’s victory, reclaiming the tag team titles, was a moment of high drama, complete with powerful displays of strength and strategy. The match concluded with an emotional scene where André, feeling betrayed by Heenan’s scolding post-match, turned against his manager, reasserting his beloved face status among fans.

Earthquake vs. Hercules

Earthquake, managed by Jimmy Hart, faced off against Hercules in a match that showcased Earthquake’s dominance as a new powerhouse in the WWF. With his immense size and strength, Earthquake was booked to decimate opponents, and this match was no exception. Hercules, known for his powerful physique and heroic persona, was overwhelmed by Earthquake’s attacks, leading to a decisive victory for the colossal wrestler. This bout helped establish Earthquake as a formidable force in the wrestling world.

Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. Mr. Perfect

One of the night’s standout matches featured Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake going up against Mr. Perfect, who was then undefeated in televised singles competition. Beefcake’s flamboyant and charismatic style contrasted sharply with Mr. Perfect’s technical precision and arrogance. The match was a back-and-forth affair, with both men gaining and losing the upper hand. Ultimately, Beefcake ended Mr. Perfect’s undefeated streak, marking a significant moment in both wrestlers’ careers. The aftermath was memorable as well, with Beefcake attempting to give Mr. Perfect a haircut, adding a comedic yet vengeful twist to their rivalry.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Bad News Brown

This grudge match between “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Bad News Brown ended in a no-contest, but it was notorious for reasons beyond the wrestling. Piper, in a controversial move, painted half his body black to taunt Brown, which led to significant backstage discussions about racial sensitivity. The match itself was intense and physical, reflecting the genuine animosity portrayed between the two. Both competitors fought fiercely, and the double count-out finish kept both wrestlers strong in kayfabe terms while leaving the feud unresolved.

The Hart Foundation vs. The Bolsheviks

In a short but dynamic match, The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) faced The Bolsheviks (Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov). The Hart Foundation, one of the most technically proficient and beloved tag teams in WWF history, quickly dispatched their opponents, demonstrating their skill and teamwork. This match was more than just a win; it was a showcase for Bret Hart’s emerging status as a potential singles competitor.

The Barbarian vs. Tito Santana

The Barbarian, accompanied by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, took on Tito Santana in a solid mid-card match. The Barbarian’s raw power and imposing presence were on full display, countering Santana’s technical skill and speed. The match was a hard-hitting affair, with The Barbarian securing a victory through a combination of brute strength and timely interference by Heenan, which was a common theme in matches involving Heenan’s Family.

Mixed Tag Team Match: Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire vs. Randy Savage & Queen Sherri

This mixed tag team match was as much about the characters as it was about the in-ring action. Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire, with Miss Elizabeth in their corner, faced “Macho King” Randy Savage and Queen Sherri in a match filled with drama and comedic elements. Rhodes and Sapphire’s win was a crowd-pleaser and highlighted the ongoing feud between Rhodes and Savage, which was one of the more personal and emotionally charged narratives at the time.

The Orient Express vs. The Rockers

The match between The Orient Express (managed by Mr. Fuji) and The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) ended in a count-out victory for The Orient Express. This bout was a fast-paced, high-flying display from both teams, showcasing the incredible athleticism and chemistry of The Rockers, despite the loss. The match’s ending, involving Mr. Fuji’s interference, left the audience wanting more from this dynamic rivalry.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Dino Bravo

Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s patriotic character clashed with the villainous Canadian strongman Dino Bravo, accompanied by Earthquake. Duggan’s popularity and charismatic “USA” chants resonated with the crowd, making this match a lively affair. Duggan’s victory was well-received, and the match reinforced his status as a beloved American hero, though it was more about character work than technical wrestling prowess.

Million Dollar Championship: “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Ted DiBiase defended his self-created Million Dollar Championship against Jake “The Snake” Roberts in a match that was rich in storytelling and psychological warfare. DiBiase’s character as a corrupt, wealthy villain contrasted sharply with Roberts’s darker, more enigmatic persona. The match ended with Roberts being counted out, allowing DiBiase to retain his title and further their feud, which was centered around themes of greed and vengeance.

Big Boss Man vs. Akeem

This match featured former tag team partners turned enemies, with Big Boss Man squaring off against Akeem. Following his face turn, Big Boss Man had become an enforcer of justice, aiming to cleanse the WWF of its corrupt elements, which now included his former partner. The match was a symbolic victory for law and order, with Big Boss Man securing a quick and decisive win, underscoring his role as a reformed character fighting against his past associations.

“Ravishing” Rick Rude vs. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka

Rick Rude, accompanied by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, faced Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in a match that highlighted Rude’s impeccable in-ring skills and Snuka’s high-flying style. Rude’s arrogance and physicality made him a perfect heel, and his victory over Snuka was both a testament to his abilities and his character’s cunning nature, further establishing him as one of the top villains in the company.

Main Event – Title vs. Title Match: Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan

The main event, a title-for-title match between the Intercontinental Champion Ultimate Warrior and the WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, was a historic encounter. Known as “The Ultimate Challenge,” this match was the culmination of a massive build-up, pitting the unstoppable force against the immovable object. Both icons performed at their peak, delivering a match filled with drama, emotion, and a passing of the torch moment. Warrior’s victory was not just a win but a symbol of a new era in the WWF. It was a match that celebrated the old guard (Hogan) and welcomed the new (Warrior), and it was executed with a storybook perfection that left a lasting legacy on the industry.

Behind the Scenes and Legacy

WrestleMania VI was a significant event behind the scenes as well. It marked one of the first times the WWF held such a large event outside the United States, testing international waters in Canada, which proved to be a hugely successful venture, setting the stage for more global events. The production was a massive undertaking, with the SkyDome providing a futuristic backdrop that added to the spectacle.

The event also underscored the WWF’s creative directions at the time, transitioning from the golden age of the 80s to the new challenges of the 90s. The passing of the torch from Hogan to Warrior was meant to signify this change, although Warrior’s reign would not fulfill the expectations set by Hogan’s charismatic leadership.

WrestleMania VI remains one of the most fondly remembered events in wrestling history, not just for its iconic main event but for the breadth of its card and the quality of its execution, solidifying its place as a pivotal moment in professional wrestling’s storied history.

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