Welcome! With the arrival of the “Monday Night War” documentary series on the WWE Network, I decided to go back and watch the WWF pay-per-views (most of the Raws are not there yet) from the debut of Raw and beyond.
We just covered the 1994 Royal Rumble, featuring the first (and only) dual winners in the history of the event: Lex Luger and Bret Hart. That leads us into the biggest shows of the year: Wrestlemania X.
Worst: Here’s all the celebs we’ve had!
Normally, WWE can deliver some truly great video packages, but this was basically a montage of all the famous people that have been at Wrestlemania in some capacity and it lasts all of a minute. It served the point of getting across that this is a big enough event that some kind of famous people show up, but no one really famous.
Speaking of someone not really all that famous…
Worst: Little Richard
This is the big musical guest here to sing “America the Beautiful”. Look, maybe I shouldn’t be complaining. At least it’s not Aaron Neville, but MY GOD, Little Richard clearly thought he was Michael Jackson with all those girlish grunts and noises after he’d finish words.
Look, you’ve got the creepy skin tone and hair that Michael does, but only the King of Pop can pull off those weird noises without seeing like a total creep. You just look some angry transvestite.
Also worst: this was preceded by Vince McMahon screaming everything. I’m getting to a point where I can’t handle Vince talking anymore.
Best: Brother vs Brother
This was undoubtedly one of my favorite feuds not only of the mid-‘90s, but possibly ever. The backstory: Bret Hart was the WWF’s baby face, the golden boy that everyone loved who got all the big opportunities. His brother Owen felt trapped under the shadow cast by Bret and began to lash out at his older brother, feeling as though Bret was holding him down.
The tension built and built, with them seemingly patching things up only to have it split apart at the Royal Rumble when an apparent knee injury to Bret resulted in their tag team championship match against the Quebecers being stopped. Owen had enough, attacking Bret and setting this match in motion.
This match is everything wrestling can be. There were no crazy spots with chairs or tables, no need for constant finishers and finisher attempts, just good old fashioned mat wrestling. The two trade momentum, with both displaying their technical abilities while Owen hammers home that he is the superior Hart coming off the top rope.
Even better, this doesn’t end as a typical WWE match today would. Now adays, it ends with a wildly predictable finisher and, at Wrestlemania, with the good guy trumping the bad guy. Here, Owen counters a victory roll attempt by Bret, sitting down on it and getting the win that should have catapulted him to greatness. It didn’t hurt or diminish Bret in any way (as we’d see later), it had a surprising finish in terms of how it was excecuted and it took the opportunity to try and make a new star in Owen.
Sure, the company would make “nugget” jokes at Owen’s expense and eventually play a huge hand in his death, but here they actually pushed “the King of Harts” like the champion he should have been.
Worst: That’s a Wrestlemania moment?
Here I thought this was going to be some cool look back at one of the great Wrestlemania’s of the past, but instead it was basically “look at all of the celebrities at Wrestlemania 2! Oh, and the battle royal!” with two seconds of said battle royal shown. Y’know, the one that Andre the Giant won. The one that spawned the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
No wonder things were in such despair for the WWF in the 1990s. Efforts like this will chase off even the die-hard fans.
Worst: Sy Sperling
This is one of the big celebrities they were telling you all about! That’s right, the guy who invented the Hair Club for Men! What? No, I’m not kidding, that’s the guy they trotted out here to introduce The Fink with a hair piece. And sure, he may have faced away from the hard camera the entire time, but it was probably for the best anyway.
Thank goodness the WWE would grow out of this “crappy celebrity” phase. Wait…
Worst: Nothing to do with Bam Bam
I have no recollection of the Bam Bam/Doink fud that led to this mixed tag match, but it feels like a huge waste of Bam Bam. This isn’t some hatred for Doink – when he was a heel, he was kind of awesome and evil clowns are always creepy. But face Doink was absolutely, 100% awful. And when they gave him Dink, the midget version of Doink, it only got that much worse.
Bam Bam had the kind of crazy athleticism that you just don’t see in big guys and the WWF failed to exploit that to the fullest. Instead, we get stupid comedy matches where a midget slaps Luna Vachon on the ass and makes her look like an idiot. Even worse is hearing Vince call this thing because, seriously, if you haven’t ever heard Vince McMahon on commentary, consider yourself fortunate.
Worst: Now that’s a celebrity
Ito be fair, the guy doing this is a hell of an impersonator, but c’mon.
Worst: I don’t think this is how Falls Count Anywhere works
The next up is “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs the suddenly evil Crush (he’s wearing dark clothes, that’s how you know he’s evil) in a “falls count anywhere” match. Usually, that means you can pin someone anywhere in the arena.
In this instance, it means that if you are pinned outside of the ring, you have 60 seconds to get back into the ring. Wait, what? That’s not at all how this works! Naturally, Crush pins Savage on the outside almost immediately and Savage needs most of the 60 seconds to just get back into the ring.
This goes back and forth and holy crap, 60 seconds is FOREVER. Laying on the floor or a full minute isn’t building drama, it’s just wasting time. Ultimately, this ends with Savage literally hanging Crush upside down so that he can’t get back to the ring. He immediately falls back to the ground and then just lays there because this is obviously the finish. Some WCW level shit here.
Best: They actually tried with women’s wrestling
Sure, it was for all of 10 seconds, but they built up Alundra Blayze as the baddest chick on the planet and actually put her up against quality talent. Like, internationally acclaimed talent. And they gave her pyro, too!
Here, though, she faces Leilani Kei who is a non-descript Hawaiian woman in all black. She looks like Crush after a bad sex change surgery. Blayze was the female Bret Hart at this point: she would take a thorough beating, selling it to the best of her ability, before firing back at the end to pick up the win. Today, a match like this would last about 48 seconds before devolving into something to further a Total Divas storyline.
Worst: ENOUGH WITH THE CELEBRITIES
We cut to a backstage segment where Shawn Michaels is hitting on Rhonda Shear because she has cleavage before being interrupted by Burt Reynolds. Somewhere in this show is wrestling, I think, but you’d never find it with all these “celebrity” sightings.
Worst: Men on a Mission vs The Quebecers
Let’s put two awful, slow, plodding teams together in a match because one is famous. My God, this show has been one good match and a bunch of awful, hot garbage. Even worse, this ends in a freakin’ count out, so the faces win but don’t get the belts.
Worst: Seriously, you guys, enough with the friggin’ celebrities
Back is Ms. Shear, escorted by legendary New Kids On The Block singer Donnie Wahlberg. I’m fairly certain my eyes have started to bleed and at least half of my brain has melted at this point. It’s like a race to see just how many crappy celebrities they can fit into this show.
Donnie does the ring announcing and I swear, if I close my eyes, I can hear Shane Helms. This is not a good thing.
Worst: Have I mentioned Vince is terrible?
Okay, I’ve tried to ignore him, but enough is enough. It’s bad enough that Vince screams everything he sees in the least coherent way possible – HERE HE IS JERLAWLER THE NARSSIST LEX LUGERRRRR THE NEXT WWF CHAMPION – but he’s horribly biased.
The whole night, not just in the WWF title match where the popular American faces the big, mean foreigner, Vince is openly rooting for certain people. Every pinfall attempt is met with a “ONE, TWO, THREE COME ON”.
This version of Vince is basically Will Ferrell’s SNL character that can’t stop screaming and he’s also biased towards certain people which makes him even worse than Michael Cole. That’s saying something, folks.
Worst: I’d like to best something besides the two obvious matches
Lex Luger vs Yokozuna is exactly what you’d think it is: slow, slow, slow. Luger is at his best when he has a smaller guy to bounce off of him, making him look like the powerhouse he’s supposed to be. When he’s asked to play the resilient underdog, as he is in this instance, it just doesn’t work. Luger can’t sell and convey the emotion needed to be really effective in this role.
Not only that, but you take a guy like Yokozuna, a tremendous athlete for a guy that big, and mitigate him to “boring big guy” for 10 minutes. It’s awful. Throw in Mr. Perfect in prison pajamas (he’s supposed to be a ref, but he looks like he just escaped Shawnshank) and this is awful from start to finish, with Yoko winning to set up the main event. Even worse? The ending made NO SENSE. Luger hits his finish, knocks out Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette and goes for the pin. Mr. Perfect ambles around the ring ignoring the count, checking on Fuji and Cornette and then disqualifies Luger when he pushes Perfect. And that’s it. The champ looks weak, but retains and the crowd rightfully chants “bullshit!”
Best: Earthquake splash
After this, there’s a little schmoz where Harvey Whippleman comes out to insult The Fink and brings his muscle, Adam Bomb, with him. Out comes EARTHQUAKE, fat man extraordinaire, to save the day. He immediate gets Adam Bomb down and starts his finishing sequence, which is basically him jumping around like a madman to the point where his victim is literally bouncing up and down on the mat. Then jumps on their chest and kills them. Something like that. Either way, it’s the best ass-based offense there’s ever been.
Best: The match we were all waiting for
One of the two things everyone mentions when talking about this Wrestlemania is the ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramond. That’s for good reason. First of all, it made the ladder match famous (it’s not the first ladder match as it was long considered to be) and proved as a springboard for Michaels.
The match flows beautifully. They don’t just rush into using the ladder for the sake of it and this match gives the crowd the first real idea of just what you can do with a ladder. More importantly, it isn’t gratuitous violence for the sake of being violent. Each and every move makes sense and has purpose.
Even more importantly, the finish is PERFECT. Instead of some drawn out, ridiculous-looking sequence where two men slowly climb the ladder, Michaels becomes entangled in the ropes and can’t get out before Razor reaches the top. It makes sense, it adds a shit ton of drama and it just flat out works.
Best: now that’s how you do video packages
Where has this been all night? Finally, the WWF busts out a pair of great video packages to illustrate their main event match, Bret Hart vs Yokozuna. Bret is portrayed with upbeat music as the scrappy fan favorite who comes from a famous wrestling family. Yoko is presented as the vicious monster out to crush everything with his giant ass. It really brings a little gravitas to the whole thing.
Worst: and now here are more %**(@ing celebrities
Jenny Garth of 90210 fame is your special time keeper, Burt Reynolds is your ring announcer and for no reason whatsoever, Rowdy Roddy Piper is your special guest referee. There are so many unnecessary people here, it feels comical to have mentioned all these people. And none of them was famous for more than five minutes other than Reynolds. Again, it’s a wonder this company struggled like it did during the 1990s.
Best: This is how underdogs work
Unlike Lex Luger, who can’t function as an underdog simply because he doesn’t have the ability to get sympathy from the crowd, Bret Hart is the master at playing the underdog. He’s good enough that even if he weren’t sporting a knee injury from earlier in the night, he’d still play the part perfectly.
He fights off the giant valiantly, getting in little bursts of offense here and there before being stifled. Yoko ambles around like the big man he is, swatting Bret down as he gains momentum while Roddy Piper screams at him for some reason.
Most importantly, this gets the belt back on the best performer in the company and the top baby face. It doesn’t make up for all the BS with Hulk Hogan in the summer of 1993, but it’s something. The good guys carrying Bret around the ring for triumphing over the evil foreigner is great, but a bitter Owen standing in the entrance way glaring makes this even better.
The Randy Savage Story DVD
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WWE The Paul Heyman Story
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