8 Wild Facts About WrestleMania I

Hulk Hogan gets his hand raised by Muhammad Ali during the first WrestleMania in 1985.
Hulk Hogan gets his hand raised by Muhammad Ali during the first WrestleMania in 1985.
Amazon

Every spring since 1985, World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the World Wrestling Federation) puts on a sporting spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. WrestleMania brings together contemporary (John Cena) and vintage (Hulk Hogan) pro wrestlers in the WWE for an extravaganza of athletic and theatrical melodrama. With WrestleMania 36 broadcasting from Tampa, Florida on April 5, we’re taking a look back at some of the more intriguing facts behind the event that started it all, held 35 years ago in Madison Square Garden.

1. The WrestleMania name was inspired by the Beatles.

Unlike other wrestling promoters of the 1980s, who promoted in regional territories across the United States and Canada, WWE (née WWF) promoter Vince McMahon had larger aspirations. After signing a number of top stars from across the country like Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and the Iron Sheik, McMahon wanted to promote an event via closed-circuit television that would be available nationally and emulate large sporting attractions like the Super Bowl. Originally, McMahon was going to call it The Colossal Tussle. According to ring announcer Howard Finkel, it was Finkel himself who suggested the name WrestleMania based on a pop culture phenomenon of the 1960s.

“[McMahon] was trying to come up with a name for what we could call the event,” Finkel told Bleacher Report in 2013. “And I said, ‘The Beatles, when they came to the United States in back in 1964, their phenomenon was dubbed Beatlemania. Why can’t we call our event WrestleMania?’” (WWE employee George Scott, who was a matchmaker for the company at the time, has claimed he was the one who came up with the name.)

2. MTV and Cyndi Lauper helped promote WrestleMania.

In order to make WrestleMania a success, McMahon knew he would have to reach audiences beyond wrestling fans. Fortunately, he had a point of contact thanks to wrestling manager Captain Lou Albano, who appeared in Lauper's 1983 music video for the song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Lauper and Albano struck up a friendship encouraged by Lauper’s manager and boyfriend, David Wolff, a wrestling fan. The partnership eventually evolved into a marketing strategy known as the Rock ‘N Wrestling Connection, with Lauper making appearances in WWE programming and MTV airing WWE specials like The War to Settle the Score, which helped raise awareness for WrestleMania. Lauper even solicited feminist icon Gloria Steinem and politician Geraldine Ferraro to insult Roddy Piper in taped comments that aired on MTV. (Lauper occasionally got physical inside the ring and later appeared during WrestleMania.)

3. Mr. T was not necessarily a welcome participant at WrestleMania.

In order to maximize the general public’s interest in his event, McMahon enlisted actor Mr. T, who appeared as the villainous boxer Clubber Lung in 1982’s Rocky III and was a regular on the NBC action drama The A-Team. (Mr. T's talent agent, Peter Young, also worked with Hulk Hogan, who had also appeared in Rocky III.) With no pro wrestling experience, Mr. T met with a mixed reception in the locker room, with some wrestlers resenting his presence—and large paycheck. “The wrestlers whose minds worked old-school, they didn’t like Mr. T,” wrestler Nikolai Volkoff told Bleacher Report in 2013. “They felt he didn’t belong there. But, as entertainment, he was perfect.”

Mr. T was apparently aware of the friction his presence was causing and even contemplated dropping out the day of the show because he allegedly feared one of the wrestlers going rogue and hurting him in an unscripted assault. While Mr. T went through with it, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper—who was wrestling opposite Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in a tag-team match during the main event—insisted that Mr. T never pin his shoulders to the mat. “I wasn’t being difficult,” Piper later said. “I’m not going to let someone come into my business and treat me like a clown.” Instead, Hogan pinned Paul Orndorff, Piper’s partner, to win the match.

4. Liberace was the guest timekeeper at WrestleMania I.

WrestleMania had no shortage of recognizable faces. In addition to Cyndi Lauper, McMahon invited possibly the most famous athlete in the world, then-retired boxer Muhammad Ali, to be a guest referee for the main event. To fill the role of timekeeper, he enlisted singer Liberace. “If my mother was alive today, she would say, ‘Son, you’re finally a man,” Liberace told reporters during a press conference in 1985 to promote the show. “Because she was a great fan of wrestling.” Liberace took to the ring to dance to “New York, New York” with another group of guests: the Rockettes.

5. “Mean” Gene Okerlund sang the National Anthem at WrestleMania.

Subsequent WrestleMania events were notable for enlisting A-list talent like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But for the first WrestleMania, no performer was able or willing to step into the ring. Instead, the WWE asked ring announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund to sing the song. Okerlund wrote some of the lyrics on his hand.

6. Hulk Hogan and Mr. T hosted Saturday Night Live before WrestleMania I.

McMahon got a significant amount of publicity when Hogan and Mr. T hosted Saturday Night Live the night prior to the March 31, 1985 date for WrestleMania. They were late fill-ins for comedian Steve Landesberg, who couldn’t appear in the entire show due to a family illness. The episode is probably best remembered for cast member Billy Crystal commenting while in character as talk show host Fernando on Hogan’s heaving pectoral muscles, causing Hogan and Mr. T to begin laughing.

7. Hulk Hogan got sued for promoting WrestleMania.

As Hogan and Mr. T made the press rounds, it was a spot on cable talk show Hot Properties that garnered the most attention—from lawyers. Demonstrating a choke hold on host and future Law & Order actor Richard Belzer, Hogan squeezed too hard and rendered Belzer legitimately unconscious. Belzer popped up, blood trickling from his head, and went to a commercial. In 1987, he filed a lawsuit for $5 million against both Hogan and Mr. T, who encouraged Hogan to put him in a submission hold, or what he called a “pipsqueak sandwich.” The case was settled before going to trial in 1990.

8. A technical glitch angered a lot of WrestleMania fans.

Before pay-per-view on home cable boxes was common, major premium sporting events like boxing matches were broadcast on closed-circuit, which meant theaters or other locations would pay for the signal and screen it for customers. WrestleMania went out to 200 locations, with an estimated 400,000 people watching. Not all of them went away happy. Roughly 11,443 fans entered the Civic Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to watch the show, with tickets priced at $8 to $10 each. Unfortunately, a technical glitch prevented the signal from being unscrambled, and they were met with a blank screen. After hearing an announcement that the show would not go on as planned, fans pushed over a television and began throwing folding chairs. All attendees were refunded. Three were cited for disorderly conduct. Pittsburgh fans were able to see the show a week later on local station WTAE.

The refunds didn’t hurt McMahon. WrestleMania grossed a reported $12 million, including ticket and merchandise sales, and has been an annual tradition for the WWE ever since.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

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Roomba/Amazon

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Video games

Sony

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Microsoft/Amazon

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Apple/Amazon

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Beats/Amazon

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HBO/Amazon

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Amazon

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Casper/Amazon

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Ganni/Amazon

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.