Nothing says red, white, and blue like good ol’ professional rasslin! World leaders would search far and wide for the biggest, creepiest, and most sadistic men to invade America and challenge wrestling’s biggest heroes. In celebration of July 4, I present America’s Most Patriotic Wrestlers.
Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, let me remind you that this is all for fun. While wrestling has always thrived on feuds, the feuds in wrestling used to be much different. Taking pages out of current foreign disputes, promoters would generally book heels from the world’s axis of evil to take on the current top star. Wrestlers “from” Iran, Russia, Germany, France, Vietnam, Japan, China, Mongolia, and others would come to America to destroy wrestling’s hero.
The following wrestlers wore their love for America on their sleeves. Some of these wrestlers would make their careers fighting a foreign villain or villains. For some on the list, it would be a multitude of challenges from the outside world that would challenge their patriotism. Some wrestlers made their reputations as America’s hero with one war. Without further a due, I present the American warriors of professional wrestling.
Sgt. Slaughter – There isn’t another pro wrestler in the history of the business that represents America the way that Sgt. Slaughter did. As a former drill sergeant in the marine corps, Slaughter brought that same tenacity with him into the ring. One man, one country, and one war turned Slaughter from evil to good in one night. Slaughter’s challenge would come from Tehran, Iran’s the Iron Sheik.
Slaughter truly made his reputation with this one feud against the Iron Sheik. Over twenty-years later, the feud is still remembered as one of the all time greats. The timing, just a few years away from the Iran hostage crisis was crucial. Slaughter would go from being showered with boos to leading 15,000 people in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Slaughter would later make the move from wrestling to popular culture. Slaughter became a fictional part of the G.I. Joe series. Slaughter would appear in the cartoon, as well as have his figure included in the popular set. Kids who never heard of the Iron Sheik were now playing with Sgt. Slaughter figures. Everyone knew Sgt. Slaughter in 1986.
Even Sgt. Slaughter’s brief turn in the early 1990s couldn’t tarnish his legacy. Most fans forgive Slaughter’s allegiance to Iraq during the Gulf War. Sgt. Slaughter reigns today as wrestling’s most patriotic wrestler and will hold on to that legacy for decades to come.
Hulk Hogan –He may be accused of domestic violence today by his ex-wife, but that wasn’t the Hogan I grew up in the 1980s. Hulkamania was real and swept the world in the mid-1980s. In the 1980s, Hogan would make the song, “Real American” his trademark theme song. Hogan would live up to that song with some fierce battles against some of the world’s toughest villains.
It wasn’t uncommon for Hogan to walk to the ring swinging a big American flag. Hogan never had one monumental feud with a foreign athlete. However, it was Hogan that ended the short title reign of the evil Iron Sheik. Hogan would later go on to battle numerous foreign villains including; Nikolai Volkoff, Kamala, Killer Khan, Mr. Fuji, Andre the Giant, Zeus, Roddy Piper (Hey, he was from Scotland), Yokozuna, and countless others. Hogan was truly Mr. America in the 1980s and deserves a top spot on the list.
Hacksaw Duggan –Before he was turned into a cartoon character on WWF television, Duggan was one tough cookie. Duggan made his reputation as one of America’s soldiers was actually made on a smaller scale. America’s hero was born in the mid-south of all areas for Cowboy Bill Watts.
Duggan’s wars in Mid-South Wrestling with the nasty foreigners put him on the cover of several national wrestling magazines. The pictures of Hacksaw Duggan slugging it out with Russian villains, earned his reputation amongst readers from all over the country.
Like Slaughter, one man would change boos to cheers from fans all over the country. Duggan’s termination of his association with Arab Skandor Akbar that turned things around for him and the fans. Duggan would go on to face foreign and turncoat villains managed by Akbar. Duggan began wearing American bandanas and bringing flags with him long before Hogan did.
Duggan brought his patriotic love with him to the WWF when he left Bill Watts’ promotion. Duggan immediately jumped into a war with the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Duggan would also wage battles with Kamala, Andre the Giant, Boris Zhukov, and other foreign villains in the WWF.
Old Hacksaw was also inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
The Patriot - Finally after a couple of years of updating this blog I have given in to reader pressure. Yes The Patriot finally makes the list of America’s Most Patriotic Wrestlers. He didn’t have a long career fighting for freedom in the WWE but he certainly left a memorable impression.
The Patriot debuted in Global Championship Wrestling and represented America against…The Dark Patriot! The Patriot also waived our flag overseas for All Japan Pro Wrestling teaming with Eagle. Next he went to WCW and teamed with Marcus Bagwell to form Stars & Stripes. I am still not sure exactly who was the star and who was the stripe.
However, most pro wrestling fans remember The Patriot for his shortest run of all which was in the WWE. The Patriot stood tall for the red, white, and blue against those evil Canadian the Hart Foundation. He even got a win over the leader of the Harts, Bret Hart on RAW thanks to Shawn Michaels (and you thought the Hart vs. Michaels rivalry was over the Montreal Screwjob?). Unfortunately The Patriot would suffer a torn tricep and never return to action in the WWE.
Jack Swagger - The Real American Jack Swagger is about as patriotic as you are going to get in 2014. Swagger and manager Uncle Zeb Coulter recently stood up for our country against the menacing Alexander Rusev. Swagger never had the same kind of passion about our country that the others had but you can’t deny his patriotism.
Dusty Rhodes –Dusty Rhodes was the son of a plumber and represented the “American Dream” of the country every time he stepped into the ring. There weren’t many fans in the audience who couldn’t relate with the blue collar persona of Dusty Rhodes.
It wasn’t one war with a villain that prompted to Dusty Rhodes to patriotic greatness. Rhodes, like all of the other wrestlers on the list was a former villain. On a Florida night in May 1974, Dusty finally had enough and turned on his partner Pak Song. That turn has been called one of the greatest angles in wrestling history.
Dusty would defend the honor of America against numerous foreign villains for decades. Dusty would travel throughout the country waging wars against the likes of the Koloffs, the Iron Sheik, Kamala, Krusher Khruschev, The Sheik, Abdullah the Butcher, and countless others. Dusty was always successful and would bleed and crawl his way to victory. For this, Dusty Rhodes is one of America’s most patriotic pro wrestlers.
Seth Rollins’ betrayal of his Shield teammates in favor of Evolution has drawn both shocked reactions and lukewarm reception from viewers. While it’s too early to stamp Rollins’ turn as a success or a failure, here’s a look at some of the wrestling history he’s up against, the twenty-five best shifts to the dark side ever.
25. Shawn Michaels Superkicks Hulk Hogan (July 4, 2005)
Would’ve meant more if WWE had stuck to Michaels’ heel run, but Hogan’s alleged refusal to lay down (ironic if you’re Michaels) killed the impact. Independence Day Raw ends with Hogan and Michaels passively celebrating a win, and Michaels landing Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere.
24. Terry Taylor Gradually Betrays Chris Adams (May 1987)
With UWF’s excitable Jim Ross calling each turn of the key, Taylor was conveniently absent for Hot Stuff International’s assaults on Adams, culminating with Taylor subtly allowing Adams to be pinned in a Tag Team Title defense. In a later singles match, Taylor piledrove an injured Adams on the floor, solidifying the turn.
23. Scott Steiner Lays Out Brother Rick (February 22, 1998)
It seemed as though by 1998, everyone on the planet save for Steve Lombardi had joined the nWo. That the eventual “Big Poppa Pump” did so by mauling brother Rick during a Tag Team Title defense against The Outsiders is only diluted by the notion that everyone seemed to turn in this era.
22. Sgt. Slaughter Spits on America, Sides with Iraq (August 1990)
A rather silly grab at kick-starting jingoism and Hulkamania in one swipe, Slaughter (now departed from the dying AWA) returned to WWE as a Saddam Hussein-sympathizer in the midst of the Gulf conflict, as Iraq invaded Kuwait. Bad taste, but it drew its share of heat.
21. Triple H Joins the Corporation (March 28, 1999)
Chyna’s two turns in one night was dizzying enough against the backdrop of a time-period where somebody turned every week. Still, Triple H Pedigree’ing X-Pac at WrestleMania XV was the launching pad of Paul Levesque’s rise to the highest office in WWE, via a relentless main event push for the next decade.
20. Bret Hart Condemns America (March 24, 1997)
With crowds divided between heroic Hart and anti-hero Steve Austin, ‘The Hitman’ goes on a post-WrestleMania tirade against American values, and what he felt was a decline in decency and morals. Shortly thereafter, Hart assaulted rival Shawn Michaels, solidifying a heel turn in America, while remaining a hero around the world.
19. Chris Jericho Wounds Shawn Michaels’ Eye (June 9, 2008)
After pointing out Michaels’ bouts of unfair play, and insinuating that Michaels enjoyed retiring Ric Flair at WrestleMania, Jericho attacks his long-time rival on the set of The Highlight Reel, and sends him face-first into his Jeri-Tron 6000 set piece, igniting the last WWE feud to intentionally feature blood.
18. Ted Dibiase Chooses Skandor Akbar Over Jim Duggan (May 1983)
Although more of a face turn for Duggan than anything, Dibiase gets heel-turn credit for sinking lower than the rule-breaking Rat Pack. Akbar’s “Devastation Inc” was anti-American and inherently more nefarious than anything Duggan and Dibiase had done with Matt Borne, so when Dibiase accepted Akbar’s offer, it kicked off a heated feud between sell-out Dibiase and proud patriot Duggan, foreshadowing their WWE personas.
17. Stone Cold Sells His Soul (April 1, 2001)
Would’ve ranked higher had Austin’s 2001 not been so creatively bankrupt and ill-received (to be fair, a lot of that’s on Austin for still wrestling like an outlaw ass-kicker). But the story is memorable: Austin enlists sworn enemy Vince McMahon to help him beat The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania X7, a match that Austin claimed he ‘had to win’.
16. Paul Bearer Betrays The Undertaker (August 18, 1996)
For nearly six years, Undertaker did not exist without Paul Bearer. Not a manager who needed a stable, Bearer happily co-existed with Undertaker as a package deal. That’s why during Undertaker’s Boiler Room Brawl with Mankind at SummerSlam, Bearer’s sudden turn, punctuated with an urn to Taker’s skull, was so shocking.
15. The Horsemen Leave Sting for Dead (February 6, 1990)
Sting found himself part of a babyface version of The Horsemen with Ric Flair and The Andersons, set to combat Gary Hart’s J-Tex Corporation. Sting, naive as he always was, made the mistake of challenging Flair for a World Title match, and was promptly beaten by his so-called friends. Sting injured his knee that night attempting to get revenge, but would go over on Flair for the gold at that year’s Great American Bash.
14. The Authority Excommunicates Daniel Bryan (August 18, 2013)
After cleanly going over on John Cena to become WWE Champion at SummerSlam, Bryan was faced with an eager Randy Orton, who was set to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Then referee Triple H (a babyface at this point) Pedigreed Bryan, enabling Orton (also a babyface before these actions) to score the title. Thus, The Authority was born.
13. Owen Hart Kicks Bret’s Leg (Out of His Leg) (January 22, 1994)
Simmering since Survivor Series, Owen Hart stewed in brother Bret’s shadow, claiming to have been held back out of jealousy. Cooler heads seemed to prevail, and the brothers faced the Quebecers for the Tag Team Titles at the Royal Rumble. When the Harts lost by stoppage due to Bret’s injured knee, Owen engaged in the ultimate meltdown, concluding by kicking Bret’s bad knee and leaving in a huff.
12. Austin Idol Bloodies Jerry Lawler (January 4, 1987)
Moments before Lawler was set to challenge AWA Champion Nick Bockwinkel for the gold, friend Idol entered the ring and demanded that “The King” step aside. Lawler refused, and Idol busted him open. A week later, Idol and new friend Tommy Rich continued the onslaught, ending with Idol cradling Lawler’s head and passively bitch-slapping him. The payoff was a cage match in April 1987 where the loser got their head shaved, and a near-riot ensued.
11. The Rock and Shane McMahon Go Corporate (November 15, 1998)
Shane’s heel turn ranks as one of the most unexpected in the jaded internet era, as he refused to impartially count Steve Austin’s pin of Mankind in the World Title Tournament. Less than an hour later, Shane and father Vince screwed simpleton lackey Mankind in the finals in favor of their new corporate champion, The Rock.
A different sort of ‘heel turn’, as Flair would hardly qualify as a babyface in this instance. As a tweener, NWA Champion Flair retained the gold over Nikita Koloff inside a cage, and Koloff’s comrades laid a beatdown afterward. Rhodes made the save on his enemy’s behalf as an act of conciliation. Rather than accept the gesture, Flair allowed Ole and Arn Anderson to jump Dusty, and the three broke his ankle inside the locked cage. If Flair’s allegiance was on the fence before the day, he ended it as the top heel once more.
9. Marty Jannetty Eats Glass (December 3, 1991)
Legendary for the unique moment of Shawn Michaels propelling Jannetty through the window of The Barber Shop, and Jannetty blading on what was generally family programming. Had Jannetty not been temporarily let go after a police altercation in early 1992, the planned blowoff at WrestleMania VIII could’ve been epic. Still, it set Michaels in motion to become one of wrestling’s greatest stars.
8. Vince McMahon Embraces the Hate (April 13, 1998)
Hard to pin down the exact moment Vince became classified as ‘heel’, but post-Montreal, McMahon started to dance around the fire with simple remarks toward Steve Austin, including his wish that Austin not become the WWE Champion. After a pair of run-ins with Austin post-WrestleMania, McMahon accepted Austin’s challenge for a match on the Raw that turned the ratings tide against WCW, and “Mr. McMahon” became one of wrestling’s greatest villains.
7. Larry Zbyszko Betrays Bruno Sammartino (January 22, 1980)
Sammartino was wrestling royalty in WWE, and protege Zbyszko couldn’t get out of his shadow. During an exhibition match between teacher and student, Sammartino gamely outwrestled his younger opponent, much to Zbyszko’s frustration. Once thrown to the floor, Zbyszko returned with a chair, and bashed it over Bruno’s head, leaving him laying in his own blood. In real life, Zbyszko had his life threatened by numerous fans in the Northeast, before paying off the feud with a cage match at Shea Stadium.
6. The Freebirds Annihilate Kerry Von Erich (December 25, 1982)
Michael Hayes was chosen to be guest enforcer for Ric Flair’s NWA World Title defense against Von Erich, held inside a steel cage in Dallas, TX; true Von Erich territory. Late in the match, Hayes laid out Flair for Von Erich’s benefit, but Kerry wouldn’t accept the cheap win. Von Erich went for the door, only for Hayes’ cohort Terry Gordy to slam the door on his head. Von Erich failed to win the gold, and the Freebirds-Von Erichs long rivalry was ignited.
5. Paul Orndorff Clotheslines Hulk Hogan (June 24, 1986)
Friends ever since Orndorff turned face in the spring of 1985, Hogan and Orndorff would team a number of times in rivalry with Roddy Piper, Bob Orton, and others. When Orndorff began to show signs of jealousy, and a missed phone call to Hulk made Orndorff look bad, the two put aside differences for a match with King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. Post-match, Orndorff clotheslined Hogan, and then piledrove him, kicking off a mega-feud for the WWE Championship.
4. Terry Funk Murders Ric Flair (May 7, 1989)
Flair was just minutes removed from regaining the NWA Title, concluding his iconic trilogy with Ricky Steamboat, when Funk (serving as a ringside judge in the event of a draw) forcibly asked for a title shot. When Flair dismissed him, albeit with some regard, as not among the next batch of contenders, Funk’s ‘apology’ for the intrusion was to wallop Flair, and piledrive him through the judge’s table at ringside. The two would war through the remainder of 1989.
3. The Mega Powers Explode (February 3, 1989)
In one of the most extensively-subtle performances in wrestling history, Savage would show slight discomfort at Hogan’s kind treatment of Miss Elizabeth, no matter how innocent. Additonally, jealousy of Hogan’s popularity factored into Savage’s deteriorating mental state. Finally, during a match with the Twin Towers, Hogan tended to the injured valet, and Savage finally lost it, exploding with a hate-filled tirade at a stunned Hulk, before nailing him with the WWE belt in front of a pained Liz.
2. Andre the Giant Confronts Hulk Hogan (January 26, 1987)
Upset at playing second fiddle to a ceremony for Hogan’s three-year championship reign, Andre walks off, only to return weeks later on Piper’s Pit with Bobby Heenan as his new manager. Andre calmly told an astonished Hogan that he had only one thing to demand: a World Title match at WrestleMania III. Hogan tried to reason with Andre, who callously ripped Hogan’s shirt and crucifix jewel off in response. The result was one of the most historic and important wrestling matches in history.
1. Hulk Hogan is “The Third Man” (July 7, 1996)
This time, it’s Hogan doing the turning. After Scott Hall and Kevin Nash invaded WCW in the spring of 1996, they promised a hostile takeover, and the addition of a third man. At Bash at the Beach, during the anticipated main event where that man would be revealed, Lex Luger was injured, leaving Sting and Randy Savage alone with The Outsiders. Hulk Hogan appeared to make the save, only to leg drop Savage, and reveal his treachery. Hogan’s post-match speech, denouncing WCW and the fans that turned on him, while announcing the formation of the New World Order, is the greatest promo of his iconic career, and that’s saying something.
-For the remaining nine reviews, since they’re all 4 hours (and one is 5), I’ll be chopping out a little bit of quantity to make it my standard 4000+ word format. Which is a shame because for this show, I want to rant forever.
-Who was the April Fool on April 1, 2001 as we come to you from the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, TX for WWEWrestleMania X-Seven? Well, Vince had just bought WCW so they were finished, and ECW was days away from its bankruptcy hearing, so the biggest non-fool was Vince. Wait, why am I wasting time? I only have 4000 words to tell you that this is the greatest wrestling show in the history of time, so let’s just do it!
-Your hosts are Jim Ross and Paul Heyman, who had taken over for Jerry Lawler one month prior when Lawler quit the company. He quit in protest because WWE fired his girlfriend, the one who three months later ran off with an indie guy and publically disgraced “The King”. Boy, you can imagine THAT was embarrassing.
-No America the Beautiful or national anthem. Given the events that occurred five months later, do you really think WWE is a patriotic company, or just cashing in on jingoistic trends? You can guess my point of view.
-We start with the IC Title match, as Chris Jericho defends against then-commissioner William Regal. Jericho besmirched Regal by peeing in his tea, so Regal besmirched him back by kicking the snot out of him. That’s exactly how Magnum TA and Tully Blanchard got started.
-I miss the days before Regal discovered tanning, when every babyface opponent he had would light him up with chops just to redden his chest. Hunter can try that now with Sheamus, to see if the chest will match the hair.
-A lot of fan pinfall attempts, which leads one to think that this isn’t going to be a very long match. Everybody get your stuff in now!
-Regal slams Jericho into the exposed turnbuckle a couple of times, but Jericho basically shakes the pain off and hits the run-up enzuigiri. Of the eleven matches on this card, I think this is definitely the best opener choice. You can cut it short, and nobody gets upset about it. It’s also two pros that can bring the massive crowd to life in the early going, so good choices all around.
-Jericho lands a lionsault and remembers that his shoulder’s supposed to be hurt before covering Regal to keep the gold. Good seven minute opener that did what it had to do, and we’re off to a good start.
-Shane McMahon arrives in a limo. Forget Triple H and Stephanie, is Shane the biggest Jericho hater in the McMahon army? He can’t even show up in time for his match on the biggest night of the year, and he owns STOCK in the company!
-Next up, in a moderate “Get everybody on the show” attraction, Tazz and the APA take on Right to Censor members Val Venis, The Goodfather, and Bull Buchanan. Remember when Bradshaw used to have to get heat with his patriotic Texas boy suck-up rants? He has to namedrop Nolan Ryan here to get the crowd behind him, even though he’s fighting three tools in dress clothes who want to get rid of sex and violence. Tough times for JBL.
-Match is basically just an exhibition to keep the crowd noise on life support as we progress into the bigger matches. The only real spot of note is Tazz missing the top rope on a whip because he’s about 4’7”. Tazz can speak in that angry voice all he wants, but I still laughed.
-Bradshaw finishes a quick one with the Clothesline From Hell on Goodfather. At least the faces won, which keeps the fans happy. Can you believe that on the face team, you have a WWE Champion, WCW Champion, and ECW Champion? I couldn’t believe it either.
-Just a quick side note: the greatest character in wrestling history is comatose Linda McMahon. Seriously, she’s so lifeless, how does she DO it? Oh, that’s just how she really is?
-To give the crowd a violence appetizer before TLC later, Raven defends the Hardcore Title against Kane and Big Show. This is notable because Show’s late getting to the ring, and JR goes on a worked-shoot tangent about how Show can’t make a living off of potential, that he has to get it done in the ring. Man, when a guy who’s known for making barbecue references in every third sentence calls you a lazy mook, then maybe you should get ye a treadmill.
-After brawling backstage through the sea of people, Kane and Raven keep the tempo alive while Show sulks behind. Alright, JR, you were right.
-Show tries to lock himself and Raven in an enclosure, but Kane just rips the door off. Hey Show, if Kane can tear off the Hell in a Cell door, this should be a cinch. For a bonus, Kane throws Raven through a window. That’s enough to earn Kane the Mike Mizanin “I Came to Play” award.
-Then comes the golf cart chase, as Raven tries to drive off and he and Show barrel into the chain link fence, then Kane follows with the referee and proves to be a smooth driver, not unlike Mike Myers in the original Halloween. Then he runs over Raven’s leg. Well, ouch.
-Finally, Raven gets put out of his misery when the fight spills back onto the stage, and Kane kicks him and Show off through a side platform. Then Kane leaps off and covers Show for the win and the title. It seemed like it was just going to be filler at first, but it turned into quite the exciting little match. I enjoyed it.
-Kurt Angle’s too busy watching a match with he and Chris Benoit to have seen Raven’s effort in the last match. Well, that’s just selfish. Also, The Rock arrives now, just to spite the undercard. Screw Bull Buchanan, who’d he ever beat?
-Up next is the European Title, as Test defends against Eddie Guerrero. Hoo boy, is this match just plain creepy now. At least Perry Saturn’s hat cheers me up.
-Eddie does what he does best, and he sells for Test and his power display. Question: Why do we refer to Eddie Guerrero as “Eddie” but Chris Benoit as “Benoit”? Is it because “Guerrero” is too complicated to spell for some people? It’s a surname, for chrissakes, let’s just learn it. GUERRERO does what he does best. There, I broke the habit.
-Now to spice things up a bit, Test gets his ankle caught in the ropes, and they have to spend 60 seconds figuring out how to free him, getting a big ovation when they finally do. It’s the biggest pop Test got post-1999, so it’s definitely a banner night for all.
-Dean Malenko runs out to speed things things along, since he wants to see the Benoit/Angle match, so he helps Saturn distract Test, allowing Guerrero to hit Test with the European title for the win and the gold. Decent match, but just was there to get everyone involved. First heel win of the night.
-Mick Foley promises to call tonight’s Vince and Shane match right down the middle. Yeah, like Mick has a reason to be biased against Vince.
-Now for something a little more serious: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit in a straight up one on one match. This is the first time in WWE history that I can recall two men doing the mat-wrestling stalemate sequence to begin a match, and getting a tremendous ovation for it. I like the story here, as Benoit keeps scaring Angle with the Crossface, and Kurt’s nerves lead to him falling into other Benoit moves. The psychology’s always sound with these two.
-Angle takes control, dominating Benoit on the outside and then pummeling him with suplexes inside. They were really beginning to get Angle over as a mat machine, you know, before he and Austin became unlikely best friends. Badges?
-Angle gets his belly to belly suplexes, and Benoit comes back with the rolling Germans. I think we have the first match of the night candidate. Sorry, Raven and Jericho, you’re out of the running.
-Now for a staple of WWE at the time: mind-screw submission holds, as Benoit applies Angle’s own anklelock, and Angle manages to get his own version of the Crossface. Crowd’s enjoying themselves too. Maybe there’s hope for Daniel Bryan yet.
-After a ref bump, Benoit gets Angle in his own Crossface, and Angle of course taps without an official. Story of Benoit’s life. As Benoit goes to maybe blow a snot rocket on the dead ref, Angle gets an Angle Slam for 2. After Benoit gets the diving headbutt, but when Benoit tries for a German, Angle goes low and gets a complicated rollover to win. Great match, and it told the characters’ stories to a tee: one is great, but the other is greater when he cheats. I’m enjoying myself all over again.
-Psuedo intermission segment where the following happens: Kamala destroys Regal’s office, footage is shown at the Fort Hood rally (RIP to those who perished in the recent shooting), and Benoit beats up Angle backstage and makes him tap.
-Ivory defends the Women’s title against Chyna, and since I have disdain for both performers, let’s just say that Chyna dresses like some demented version of a Bratz doll and beats Ivory in three minutes to win the title. Remember when Chyna said that belt was beneath her? So do I. She’d be gone within months to realize her true calling: incomprehensible walking meltdown for the Howard Stern fringe crowd. Always good to see someone realize their potential.
-Vince promises that tonight, we’re going to get “shocking”. I hate it when he promises surprises. He’d be a great evil dad in horror movies, though. “You wanna go for a ride? I’ll take you….for a ride….heh heh heh heh….”
-So it’s Vince and Shane in a street fight, which began when Shane defended Linda’s honor after Vince cheated on her publicly with Trish. Stephanie sided with Vince because of the whole Elektra complex. Shane then bought WCW before his dad could, just to show that he could run something as doomed to fail as the XFL. Foley’s the ref, just because. Linda’s in a wheelchair doing her best acting over. Trish is here too. Got all that?
-Shane gives a shoutout to his WCW homies in the skybox. LANCE STORM! HE FINALLY MADE IT TO WrestleMania! I wonder if he’s writing down notes on how horrible this show is. He’s like Comic Book Guy with a six pack.
-The brawl spills to the floor, where Shane bashes his dead with a metal sign, and then some SICK shots with a kendo stick that was under the ring. Good God, can Vince take a beating or what? Say what you will, but in these matches, he seems to have some sort of endurance level that can’t be obtained by mere mortals. I mean, Shane is just PASTING him, not even holding back. I’m loving it.
-By the way, Heyman’s unabashed devotion to cheering Vince is insanely funny, and it sounds like the ranting of someone who desperately needs money. Funny because it’s true.
-So Shane wipes out through the Spanish commentary table as Stephanie pulls her dad off of it. Shane gets to play dead for the next five minutes or so as Trish brings Linda out in the wheelchair. Now comes the fun stuff.
-Trish slaps Vince to signal a face turn, and then she and Stephanie get into a fun catfight that Foley tries to break up. Scrooge. Trish finally chases Steph to the locker room, and that’s when Vince spots Linda at ringside. His mouthing of a certain obscenity is a great moment.
-Vince smashes Mick with a chair as Foley tries to get Linda to safety. He brings Linda inside and sits her in the corner, so she can watch as he punishes Shane further. After landing a couple trash can shots, Vince gets cocky before doing the third, and is oblivious to Linda standing up (to a CRAZY pop). Vince turns and she kicks him right in the Genetic Jackhammer. Then Foley beats Vince up, and then Shane lands the Shane Terminator (corner to corner dropkick, into a trash can into Vince’s face) for the win. THIS is the template for “overbooked crap” that we need more of. Just insanely fun stuff, and it still holds up even today. Hell, the whole SHOW is holding up.
-Backstage, Undertaker warms up for his eventual match by shadow boxing. That’ll work off the pork rinds if you do enough of them.
-In case that the last match wasn’t enough of an insane spotfest, here’s something to take things up another notch: the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match between Tag Team Champions The Dudley Boyz, The Hardy Boyz, and Edge and Christian. Difference between this and last year is that this year, there’s no crappy show to have to kick into high gear.
-Much like last year, they get the poetry in motion and the Wazzzzzup drops out of the way, just to get to the bigger stuff in a flurry. I wholeheartedly support this idea.
-Here’s a sick one for you: both Hardyz slide into a ladder, knocking the Dudleyz against the guardrail. I have to say, the dark sky peeking in through the dome makes it feel like that this match is taking place at WrestleMania VI. I’d love to see the Rockers, Harts, and Demolition in one of these matches. Crap, I just blew my own mind.
-“D-VON…..GET THE TABLES!” And with that, a two wide, two high stack of four tables is set up in the aisleway. Anyone else think they’ll get used? I do.
-And just like last year, all six men climb a set of three ladders for a race-spot, and all six men tumble off in painful fashion. It was times like this when WWE really knew their audience.
-To add a new wrinkle to this year’s match, all three teams have an ally that makes his or her presence felt. As Edge climbs to get the belts, Spike Dudley runs in and nails him with the Dudley Dog. After Spike gives Christian one as well, Rhyno comes in and accosts Jeff Hardy on behalf of E&C. Then Edge tries going up again, and Lita runs in to pull him down. Jim Ross utters “Lita….jerkin’ Edge off” and then pauses before saying “the ladder!”. I’m immature, I know, but what are you going to do about it?
-Lita creams Spike with a sickening chair shot and then removes her top, just get hit with 3D. Anybody else miss her protruding thong?
-Jeff decides that now is a good time to be insane, as he uses the painter’s ladder to Swanton off and put Rhyno and Spike through at ringside. That whacky Jeff, always living for the moment.
-Then with Bubba and Matt on another painter’s ladder, Rhyno shoves it, sending both men flying through the table tower in the aisle in what I feel is the greatest table bump EVER. Prove me wrong, readers.
-Finally, Edge prevents D-Von from climbing, and Rhyno lifts Christian in an electric chair lift, pushing him up the ladder so that he can grab the belts for the win. Off the charts insanity that topped last year’s match, and the truncated length definitely helped. Great effort from everyone involved.
-Howard Finkel (#17!) announces the crowd at 67,925 which makes me feel all nostalgic for 1990 and WrestleMania VI. Then Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” plays. Well, that ruined the feeling. Still, it’s Fred Durst’s best song, so huzzah.
-And now for the gimmick battle royal, with Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan returning to do commentary. The participants are The Bushwhackers, Duke Droese, Iron Sheik, Earthquake, Doink, The Goon, Kamala, Kim Chee, Repo Man, Jim Cornette, Nikolai Volkoff, Michael PS Hayes, One Man Gang, Gobbeldy Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, and Sgt. Slaughter. Somewhere, RD Reynolds had a tear in his eye. And it wasn’t because he knew he’d one day employ Blade Braxton.
-What follows is three minutes of bad brawling, but who cares? It was FUN. Sheik finally wins it after dumping Hillbilly, and then Slaughter runs in to apply the Cobra Clutch on the winner. Watch out Slaughter, he’ll do a Youtube shoot on you for that one.
-Hooray for the patron saint of camelclutchblog.com. YOU VILL BE HUM-BELLED!
-MOTORHEAD! Sure, Lemmy can’t do the words to Triple H‘s theme right, but it’s ok. Chill-inducing rendition of “The Game”, as we lead into the semi-main event of The Undertaker and Triple H, streak vs. nostrils. The feud featured Hunter’s most bad ass moment ever, when he took Taker down backstage, put a chair over his throat, and then sat on it while taunting him. Good stuff.
-Spanish announce table #2 goes in a hurry, thanks to HHH. Good to see Hunter keep his dad-in-law’s pro American stance alive.
-Back inside, after a SMALL ref bump, Taker is pissed when Mike Chioda counts slow, so Taker simply destroys him and knocks him out. With an elbow drop. For 10 minutes. If you heard two sounds of gunfire at this point, that was tranq darts being fired at Cornette backstage and Storm in the skybox. Just shut up, you two.
-The two men then brawl through the crowd and over to the production tower, which is a unique situation for a wrestling match. The two men fight in there, and Undertaker proceeds to chokeslam him out of it. SICKNESS! Well, until they show the replay, where Hunter landed on about 7 feet of padded foam. Eh well, looked nice at first.
-Back to the ring after the extended crowd brawl, and Chioda is still out. That was some elbow drop.
-After some tomfoolery with the sledgehammer, Taker is unable to connect after a low blow. Then to get all nostalgic, Taker lands a tombstone for 2. CHIODA’S ALIVE! I’m relieved.
-Taker then tries for the Last Ride, but Hunter grabs the sledge and bashed the Dead Man’s scalp on the way up. He busts him open, but it only gets 2. Hunter then tries to punch Taker in the corner, but puts himself in position for his Last Ride to make Taker 9-0. Really great brawl, as you’d expect from these two. Ten matches in, and I haven’t even stopped for a piss break. And I’m watching this at 11 PM at night, with work the next day at 1 PM. Ya rly!
-Austin-Rock highlight package set to “My Way”. Austin said he HAD to win this match. Question is, just what will Austin do to ensure victory?
-Crowd is 80-20 in favor of Steve Austin, who is the home state hero. The Rock was the WWE Champion, and you wondered how they were going to end this. I’ll bet nobody watching guessed it right.
-Finkel did announce that it was no DQ, which is apparently shocking. You mean after a match where Taker flagrantly beats up the referee, they just threw the rulebook out? Absurd!
-Both men slug it out early and they bust out the classic moves, namely Austin with his Thesz press and middle finger elbow. You can sense the desperation from Austin here.
-They brawl into the crowd, like everyone else has done tonight. I think even Finkel and timekeeper Mark Yeaton went over the railing at one point.
-Austin dominates in the early going, which is consistent with the “I need to win” motif that he has, believing that it’s all over for himself if he loses. It’s those subtle character hints that WWE does better than anyone else. Are you listening, Dixie?
-Austin gets a superplex for 2 and then removes the turnbuckle pad, but Rock comes back to shift the momentum. They fight to the outside and Austin busts him open with the ringbell. Austin’s not going down without a fight.
-Austin works the cut as much as he can, and brings Rock back in to try and bash him into the exposed buckle, but Rock blocks and fires with lefts and rights to stop Austin in his tracks. After the two men jostle for control, it’s Austin who, ironically, eats the steel buckle. Then Rock repays him by waffling him with the ring bell. Tremendous, cerebral stuff, with a big time feel.
-With Austin now bleeding and Rocky now firmly in charge, the champ works the open cut and both men are fighting to stay alive. On the outside, Austin shifts the momentum yet again and slingshots Rock into the post, before bashing him with a TV monitor. At this point, the eventual winner was still not evident.
-Austin tries for a Stunner, but Rock takes him down and slaps on the sharpshooter. Reminiscent of four years earlier, Austin is bloodied, but will not give up. Austin uses the ropes for escape, and then wraps Rock up with his own Sharpshooter. The implied one-upsmanship on display here is incredible, and is a testament to both’s men abilities.
-Austin manages to get a Million Dollar Dream, but Rock uses the Bret Hart pushoff counter to get 2. Then Vince McMahon comes to ringside. But….but why?
-Rock takes down Austin with a spinebuster and then lands the People’s Elbow, but it only gets 2 when….Vince breaks up the pin? This was all so fresh and baffling. Why would Vince be helping Austin in the World Title match?
-Then after Austin lands a Rock Bottom on its owner, he gets 2, and then gives Rock an emphatic low blow. Then Austin….requests a chair from Vince? Vince….obliges?
-From here, Austin and Vince proceed to double team Rock in a truly surreal sequence. After Rock manages a kickout, he gives Austin a Rock Bottom, but Vince prevents a count. Rock pulls Vince into the ring, but Austin stuns Rock, getting only 2! AMAZING.
-Now we get the big finish: Austin destroys Rock with chair shot after chair shot while Vince barks out encouragement. In all, Rock takes about two dozen chair shots to the chest, gut, back, and hips as his body just simply gives out and Austin pins him to win the title. Austin and Vince celebrate with a beer, a handshake, and then Austin lays out Rock with the title to pull the trigger on his shocking heel turn. Excellent match to cap off an excellent show and, although the heel turn proved to be ineffective, the concept was interesting, and it added a new dimension to the character’s psyche: Austin felt his end was coming soon, and he had to do everything he could to hold his main event spot to prevent becoming an afterthought. Brilliant idea, but it just didn’t work.
-Limp Bizkit plays us out of here with a beautiful montage to “My Way”. I have to say, that might be my favorite WrestleMania song ever. And I HATE Fred Durst!
-CYNIC SAYS: Ho. Lee. Crap. I don’t think Vince McMahon, even with a perfect roster and a huge wave of momentum, could ever top this show. It was perfect from start to finish, and everything had a purpose. Those purposes were thusly served to perfection. Four matches you could make an argument were four stars are better: the technical masterpiece (Benoit/Angle), the wild soap opera (Vince/Shane), the insane spotfest (TLC), the mano y mano brawl (HHH/Taker), and the battle of the larger than life immortals (Rock/Austin).
This show is regarded as the end of the Attitude era, but what a way for it to go out. WWEE has not seen heights like this since, and although it may again one day, it’ll take a lot to convince me that it’s as good as this card. What’s left to say?
Oh, I know.
POSITIVE. FIVE. STARS!
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
After two straight WrestleManias in which the WWF held a sizeable lead over WCW in the Monday Night Wars, the Monday before WrestleMania X7 would see Vince McMahon pull the plug for good.
On Friday, March 23, 2001, McMahon purchased selected assets of World Championship Wrestling from parent company AOL-Time Warner, ending WCW’s 13 year existence. After gutting the corpse of talent contracts and the film library, McMahon left WCW for dead, effectively monopolizing the wrestling industry for himself.
On Monday, March 26, wrestling fans were treated to a surreality of Vince McMahon being the first face seen as Nitro hit the airwaves for the final time. Raw and Nitro would be simulcast , with the WWF overseeing both shows. As Nitro came to a close at the 10 o’clock hour, Shane McMahon revealed, in story terms, that he swooped in and bought the WCW entity from under his dad’s nose. The WCW acquisition by Shane would lead to a faux-interpromotional war between Vince’s WWF and Shane’s WCW, which, while highly anticipated by fans the world over, fizzled to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Meanwhile, McMahon’s ill-fated Xtreme Football League was limping to its demise after one lone season, due to poor play, a lack of name players, and generally polarizing publicity stunts.
However, in the World Wrestling Federation, life remained grand. After taking their programming to Viacom in September 2000 (Raw on TNN, Heat on MTV), the WWF was helped along by Stone Cold Steve Austin’s return that month, after a ten months injured.
The main event scene was clogged with the usual pieces like Austin, The Rock, Triple H, and Undertaker, while clearing space for the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.
As WrestleMania X7 was built to perfection, few knew that things would change drastically afterward.
THE EVENT Stone Cold Steve Austin won the 2001 Royal Rumble, becoming the event’s only three time winner, and earning a main event match at WrestleMania. The Rock, one month later, would defeat Kurt Angle to regain the WWF Championship, setting the stage for a highly-anticipated encounter between he and Austin, would both men as faces.
The two men did a sitdown interview weeks before the match, giving legitimate compliments to each other, while throwing in some backhanded remarks to heighten the tension. In a curious tidbit that was overlooked by the majority of fans, Austin repeatedly stated that he “needed” to win this match. Austin didn’t elaborate too much on why victory was of the utmost necessity, but the phrasing seemed to be his central point.
Rock and Austin would spend the waning weeks saving each other from double team assaults featuring the likes of Angle, Rikishi, Haku, and others, while using each other’s vulnerable state to plant each other with their finishing moves, as well as lifting the other man’s move (Rock performing the Stone Cold Stunner, Austin the Rock Bottom) to try and gain a psychological edge on the other man.
Although built up as a match of equals with a mutual respect in spite of their over competitive meddles, Austin’s “needing” to win would lead to an unforgettable decision.
Shadowing the main event was an encounter between The Undertaker and Triple H, ten years before they’d face off at WrestleMania XXVII. At this point, however, Triple H was more of an inconsiderate hatemonger, while Undertaker had put his ghoulish attire away in exchange for his biker duds. The story began when Triple H lamented not being in the WrestleMania main event (after beating Austin one month prior at No Way Out). “The Game” claimed to have beaten everyone in WWE there was to beat, drawing Undertaker’s ire.
The two men would exchange instances of brutality over the next several weeks, with Undertaker being busted open with a sledgehammer shot, and then returning the favor by destroying Helmsley’s limo with a lead pipe. Undertaker even had brother Kane hold Stephanie McMahon hostage, threatening to toss her from a balcony, if William Regal wouldn’t give him Triple H for WrestleMania. The commissioner relented, and the match was on.
As mentioned earlier, Vince and Shane McMahon were in the midst of another spat over WCW’s ownership, and the two would sign to face off in a street fight. Mick Foley, whom Vince canned in December, would return to be the guest referee.
The underlying saga at hand was Vince’s intent to divorce wife, Linda, during a fit of anger in the same time period. Linda was stricken by grief and shock, and lapsed into a catatonic state, resulting in institutionalization. McMahon then began cavorting around with Trish Stratus, while embarrassing her as well at will, and promised to bring wheelchair-bound Linda to ringside for the street fight.
Jim Ross and Paul Heyman (fresh from the wreckage of ECW) would call the action in WWF’s first domed Wrestlemania in nine years. Members of the WCW roster such as Lance Storm, Mike Awesome, Stacy Keibler, and others would appear in a skybox as onlookers. Legendary metal warriors Motorhead would also appear, to play Triple H to the ring with his popular theme “The Game”.
WWF Intercontinental: Chris Jericho def. William Regal in 7:08
(Jericho lamented this match in his latest book, thinking it was too short, but it served the purpose of getting the show going. Jericho would be repaid for his hard work later, obviously)
Tazz/APA def. Right to Censor in 3:53
(You know what’s amazing? Everyone on the face team can claim a World Title. And two of them became good color commentators, while the other became known for “DAMN!”)
WWF Hardcore: Kane def. Raven and Big Show in 9:18 to win the title
(Insane fun, especially the golf cart chase, as well as Jim Ross’ cryptic remark at Big Show: “Show has all the potential in the world, but you can’t make a living off potential! You gotta get it done!” That means you’re useless, Show)
WWF European: Eddie Guerrero def. Test in 8:30 to win the belt
(It’s depressing that both men are dead, so I’ll just lighten the mood by complimenting Perry Saturn and his awesome furry hat. I want one)
Kurt Angle def. Chris Benoit in 14:02
(The first true technical classic since Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels faced off five years earlier in the Iron Man match, and this one was merely one quarter the length of that. Good wrestling is always welcome in the eclectic blend that is WrestleMania)
WWF Women’s: Chyna def. Ivory in 2:39 to win the title
(If you hate Chyna, fear not: she won’t appear in these WrestleMania portraits anymore)
Street Fight: Shane McMahon def. Vince McMahon in 14:12
(Geez, where to begin? Well, there was a kendo stick, a cat fight between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon, Shane missing a flying elbow through a table, Linda coming out of her pseudo-coma to kick Vince in the nuts, and Shane hit the Van Terminator to win. Overbooked insanity at its finest)
WWF World Tag Team/Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Edge/Christian def. The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in 15:53 to win the titles
(Rarely would a TLC match have its work cut out for it after any match, but Vince and Shane pulled out all the stops. TLC did as well, adding each team’s respective ally (Rhyno, Lita, and Spike Dudley) to up the ante. Next to Summerslam 2000, this is the greatest TLC match ever. All six men would still have greater career heights ahead of them as well)
Gimmick Battle Royal: The Iron Sheik won, last eliminating Hillbilly Jim in 3:05
(Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan were on commentary, Repo Man showed up, and Iron Sheik humbled his way to victory. My cable could have went out after this match, and it still would have won “Best Show Ever” from me)
The Undertaker def. Triple H in 18:17
(That’s nine. Crazy brawl that featured an improbable ten minute ref bump (after a frigging stomp and elbow drop from Taker), but it was still intense throughout. Undertaker also kicked out of a sledgehammer shot, so there were still traces of his zombie gimmick there)
WWF World Heavyweight: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. The Rock in 28:06 to win the title
(And then it happened: a classic back-and-forth war between two of the greatest ever sees Vince McMahon storm the ring and assist Austin in bloodying and battering Rock, leading to Austin winning the title, shaking hands with McMahon, and turning heel. Mind blowing at the time, head scratching in hindsight, the show ended with Austin and McMahon aligned, ending the Attitude Era)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
At this time, the WWF began to use music from contemporary artists as the themes for their pay per views. For WrestleMania X7, Limp Bizkit’s “My Way” provided a goosebump-inducing soundtrack to one of the most dramatic and exciting events in wrestling history.
“My Way” is appropriate, because that’s what Vince McMahon had to do to get to this point. His way brought WCW to its knees and made wrestling mainstream, after all. But on the other blade of the double edged sword, McMahon’s penchant for not listening to naysayers saw him curiously turn Austin heel, sending a shockwave through the industry.
Austin’s neutering into an non-confident, insecure villain, not to mention The Rock’s hiatus to film The Scorpion King, resulted in a WWF that felt drastically different. When Triple H tore his quadriceps in May, and that was followed by the horrid Invasion angle, the WWF had completely lost the aura of “cool” that Attitude afforded them.
As a show, it’s the greatest single event that the WWF has produced from a quality standpoint. The ending, however, is like a black mark on a white wedding dress. It’s glaring ugliness stands out just as much as the quality event.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
The latest Camel Clutch Blog Extra podcast covers the recently published blog covering the top 10 babyface turns in WWE history. My old STRU podcast partner Jeff Peck and I go back in time and relive all of the excitement and impact surrounding these historic WWE moments.
Here is the list as it originally appeared on the CCB. Check out the blog for a more detailed description.
I’m writing this from my trusty couch, a mere twelve hours after the conclusion of Elimination Chamber 2010. Jericho-Edge? Cena-Batista? Shawn-Taker? I’m AOK with all of this.
-So it’s March 24, 1991, and we’re located in Los Angeles at the Sports Arena, just mere days after the Rodney King beating. Initially, the show was booked for the LA Coliseum, but poor ticket sales moved the show to a venue 1/5 of the size. WWE internally claimed that it was a “bomb threat” that moved the show indoors, supposedly directed toward Sgt. Slaughter and his anti-American gimmick. Because, you know, moving the show indoors removes the threat of an explosive. If by “bomb threat”, they meant that the show was going to bomb due to the tasteless storyline, then yeah, I understand.
-Vince is really feeling it during the intro video. Sounds like his colon is lined with blisters and he just drank a gallon of Swiss Miss.
-Howard Finkel (#7!) welcomes Willie Nelson, who sings America the Beautiful. I should note that Willie looks splendid in his foam WWF Title belt, Bret Hart sunglasses, and Hulk Hogan bandana. I wore the same outfit around the house when I was eight.
-Since Bobby Heenan has two matches that he has to manage, Gorilla Monsoon is joined on commentary for the opener by Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Call me crazy, but watch this match and I dare you to tell me that Duggan is not competent in the booth. He was clichéd at times, but he never sounded out of place, and kept making solid points. If he’s still in WWE’s employ, cut ties with Lawler, move Striker to Raw, and stick Duggan on Smackdown with Grisham. You can do worse.
-Anyway, the opener features The Rockers taking on Haku and Barbarian, who of course have Heenan in their corner. Lesson to modern tag teams (both of them): just watch the Rockers. They had a tremendous plus (flawless double team moves) and a tremendous negative (easily pummeled by larger foes). They exploited both qualities fully, and they were able to establish the story of their matches without having to detract from their in ring capabilities. Then again, this also explains why Shawn Michaels is as great as he is, singles or tag.
-Case in point: Barbarian turns both Rockers inside out with a double clothesline, and the crowd awwwed accordingly. Bravo.
-One of the best double team moves ever: Haku has Jannetty seated on his shoulders in a powerbomb lift, but Barbarian runs in, grabs Marty by the hair and DIVES over the top rope, throating Marty! LUCHA BARBARIAN! I think I may be a fan of his now, seriously.
-Rockers win it as Shawn lands the Ricky Steamboat Memorial “Cross Body FTW” on Haku. You could kind of sense in hindsight that they were getting ready to do more with Shawn. I don’t think anyone has a problem with this.
-Meanwhile, Mean Gene is with the celebrities: Regis Philbin (whom he calls “beautiful”), Marla Maples (whom he shamelessly flirts with), and Alex Trebek. Know what would be hilarious? Imagine those SNL Celebrity Jeopardy skits, but with Hulk Hogan in place of Connery. “I’LL TAKE CATCH THE SEMEN FOR $400, BROTHER!”. Hulk can make anything funny.
-Now to the opposite of “funny”. Dino Bravo and Kerry Von Erich face off in a match of two men who would be dead within two years. Bravo looks like he’s aged about ten years in the previous 365 days here. This is just sad.
-The match sucks as well, as Von Erich wins with the Tornado Punch. I’m just going to move on now. Is that ok?
-Slick cuts a promo with the Warlord backstage, which lifts my spirits. Sadly, Warlord doesn’t have Jive Soul Bro as his theme. It’s like the WWF WANTS to hurt my feelings.
-Meanwhile, Davey Boy Smith gets advice from his bulldog, Winston. Winston just never seemed to have the subtle mannerisms of Matilda, and it stunted his growth as a performer. Where does Winston rank on the scale of wrestling pets? I think the hierarchy goes Damian, Matilda, Lucifer, the cobra that bit Randy Savage, Winston, Frankie, Poison the Tarantula, Pepper the Chihuahua, Ralph the Rabbit, and Brutus Beefcake.
-Warlord vs. Smith bats third in this line-up and, if you listen closely, you can almost hear the Federal Government taking notes during this match.
-Decent power match, as Bulldog was just in a unique place: strong enough to work with the hosses, agile enough to work with the real workers. There’s no telling how far he could have made it if he had a brain in that dreadlocked head of his.
-Heenan cracks a joke about the LAPD, just to provide a ‘sign of the times’ for this card. Shame Big Bossman wasn’t a heel at this point. He could have gotten the push of his career if he’d faced a serious of black jobbers and excessively beat them after the match. Then they could stick him with Virgil and have Virgil get revenge on corrupt law enforcement and win the feud. Hey, it’s not like Vince was above exploiting the news at this point.
-Davey Boy spends two minutes powering out of Warlord’s full nelson, and wins it with the Powerslam. Monsoon states that Bulldog has no quit in him. Unless his brother-in-law gets embarrassed in Montreal. Then, yeah, he’s a quitter. He’ll even pay a penalty fee just to quit. That’s EPIC quit.
-Hart Foundation and Nasty Boys up next in the first title match of the evening. KNOBS IS IN SHAPE! I feel bad for Bret, having to work with three confirmed whackos, but then he rattles off the line “We don’t think you’re nasty, we think you’re scum!”. Get that man a thesaurus!
-Has anyone ever thought to use the Nasty Boys theme for rap remixes?
-Hey, look, Macaulay Culkin is in the crowd! Monsoon says that he wouldn’t want to be “Home Alone with the Nasty Boys” and I get the funny visual of Knobs being hit in the face with a clothing iron.
-Heenan calls Neidhart “Captain Schizo”. That may explain the “Who?” gimmick.
-Who do I feel worse for: Jimmy Hart, who worked in this building at WrestleMania five years prior and still has to take harsh bumps on his frail body, or Jim Neidhart, whose days of leeching off of the Hitman are over when this match ends? It’s a toss-up.
-Sags waffles Neidhart with the motorcycle helmet to give the Nastys the belts. The real winner: Bret Hart, who just lost 280 lbs of increasingly useless fat. I’m sure his sister Ellie was thrilled.
-Next up, Jake Roberts and Rick Martel in a “blindfold” match. Story here is that Jake was blinded by Rick Martel’s atomizer months before, and we even get video of Jake in a treatment room. All of those gritty medical shows on Discovery Health should be giving Vince royalties. I’m not kidding.
-Jake lets us know that he “does it better in the dark”. Great, now I’m blind too.
-So each man is wearing a burlap hood to increase the difficulty of finding your opponent. Some call this a bad match, but it’s actually an exercise in crowd participation. Jake points with his finger and the crowd goes wild when he points directly at Martel. It gets the fans involved, how can it be bad?
-A lot of comedy involves Martel being way off the mark in his attempts to find Jake. For example, he performs an Irish whip, but Jake runs “out of the basepath” on the rebound, and Martel is left waiting like an idiot. Good stuff.
-I like Bobby Heenan, but here’s what annoys me: he tries too hard to pretend that the crowd is deafening. He repeats everything Monsoon says and then acts like he didn’t hear Gorilla say it the first time. It wears thin, and it makes me miss Jesse even more.
-After a lot of non-action, Jake hits the DDT and wins. It’s a better match to watch, than read. Actually, most matches are. I don’t even know why I said it.
-Marla Maples interviews the triumphant Nastys, and gets doused by champagne. Must have had a negative effect, because I believe she dissolved into obscurity after this.
-Next up, Jimmy Snuka wrestles in what really should have been a meaningless squash against….The Undertaker. Yes, this would be the debut of the “streak” that Undertaker would hang much of his resume upon. The crowd is awed as Taker walks out to the ring. Oddly enough, his girlfriend gets the same kind of wooshed ‘hush’ nearly twenty years later, but mostly it’s the sound of 12,000 fans turning on their Droids and Blackberries to see if anyone laughed at the dirty joke they forwarded (“So then Pinocchio says ‘Who needs a girlfriend when you have sandpaper?”).
-You just know that if this match took place in the Attitude era, Undertaker and Paul Bearer would have taunted Snuka with a headstone with the name “Nancy Argentino” on it. Controversy equals ratings, you know.
-Crowd pops for all of Taker’s big moves, like the walking suplex and leaping clothesline. I have a theory that during this match, Vince was backstage writing down possible merchandise ideas to expand upon the money he planned to make off of this guy. Did they ever have Undertaker condoms? Imagine the commercial with Taker’s voice: “COVER YOUR STIFF AND BURY HIM DEEEEEEEEEEEEEP”. Admit it, you smiled.
-Tombstone and Taker wins it. Oddly enough, Monsoon doesn’t declare him “1-0″. What’s with him?
-Next up is one of my all time favorites, with Macho King Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior, where the loser has to lay low for a few months and detox himself before the government can subpoena—er, loser has to retire. Oddly enough, when they show the history package before the match, the last entry between them in terms of conflict was over two months prior at the Royal Rumble. Two months with no direct build? Yeah, like THAT would fly now.
-To sweeten the story, Miss Elizabeth is in the crowd, after having been split with Savage for two years. She can’t even get front row ringside. All the good scalpers must’ve finished early.
-If you’re one of the jobbers who has to carry the throne sedan that Savage sits on, do you just give up on your career now? I mean, CM Punk may have had the intestinal fortitude to go from being one of John Cena’s mafia henchmen at WrestleMania 22 to main event level performer, but not everyone does. Clearly not.
-For once, Ultimate Warrior walks to the ring instead of running like a maniac. Psychology? It’s there, believe it or not. I’m doubly sad that Savage’s crown was not at stake. If Warrior won, can you imagine him wearing it? I consoled myself with my old Hasbro figures by putting Savage’s crown on Warrior’s head. Sadly, he didn’t have a hole in his fist to slide the scepter into. Damn it all.
-As a nice change of pace, although both men are going back and forth, they’re doing so deliberately and with caution. It’s not the frenzied fight you’d expect, and certainly not your typical Warrior match. Let’s hear it for the amazing carrying abilities of Macho Man!
-Neat moment, as Warrior has a chance to gorilla press Savage, then simply sets him down just to slap him. That might be the only move of Warrior’s career that’s involved forethought, other than “hook the leg” and “don’t run to the ring like an idiot”.
-Sherri bends over at one point to attack Warrior, and Monsoon bellows “OOOH”. It’s not what you think. It’s not what I think. Is it what I think? Maybe. Speaking of Monsoon, he notes that the news is in: this is the largest PPV audience ever. See? WWF is cutting edge. They can figure out a buyrate DURING the show. Take THAT….uh….people who determine buyrates…..
-Hebner gets bumped and it all breaks down, including Sherri trying a top rope move while shoeless. THAT is one tough woman. But when Warrior’s incapacitated, Savage lands FIVE elbows onto him and Warrior….KICKS OUT! Huh, imagine that.
-Then Warrior gets HIS finishing sequence and SAVAGE kicks out. Crazy good stuff. Then Warrior begins to openly question the Gods in the Heavens above (“Pat Patterson says he CAN make the world work. He can’t be RIGHT, can he?!”) and Savage jumps the epiphanal moment. However, Savage crashes and burns on an ax handle attempt to the floor, and the tide has finally turned.
-Warrior brings Savage in and nails three shoulder blocks to an already dead Savage to end his career. But the aftermath is greater: with Liz distraught in the crowd (having still loved him), she watches as a stunned Sherri berates, and then assaults, the injured Savage. Liz can take no more and finally interjects herself, running in and throwing Sherri to the floor. She tries to help Savage up, and he pushes her away before realizing just who it is. Hebner dragged a screaming Sherri away, and Savage finally pieces it together, realizing that the now-crying Elizabeth was there for him and didn’t want to see him lose his career, let alone be humiliated afterward. The crowd implores Savage to take her back, and, after much deliberation, they embrace in the middle of the ring to an ungodly ovation. I admit, given Savage’s loyalty to her during their marriage, I get a tad bit misty eyed at this part. A number of fans are shown crying their eyes out, proving that this moment definitely struck a chord. Then, to top off the greatness, Savage waves Liz off when she holds the ropes open for him, and then, ironically enough, holds the ropes open for her in a nice touch. This stands alone as the most touchingly beautiful moment in wrestling history, and I pretty much refuse to change my mind.
-Here to kill the mood of the previous moment, Vince McMahon to have a pointless debate about instant replay with George Steinbrenner and Paul McGuire. The only notable occurrence here is Vince being appalled over George’s notion that you just simply fire people. Callously firing others? What LANGUAGE are you speaking, George?
-Bobby Heenan on Savage and Liz’s reunion: “I’d rather have money than a skirt”. No doubt Heenan was an influence on John Mayer, who gets both with little effort.
-To fully let the crowd settle in from the Randy-Liz saga, we go to backstage segments where Undertaker measures Regis for his burial suit (which Taker should do as a backstage prank on wrestlers that are leading the dead pool), and Jake Roberts torments Trebek with Damian (“CAN’T HANDLE A SNAKE, CAN YA TREBEK?! HAW HAW HAW!”). The best part is Jake letting slip that he and Damian play the home version of Jeopardy. Wouldn’t that be great? Drunk Jeopardy? You record everyone’s answers, and then you go on Wikipedia and make the answers fit. That’s just good fun.
-Filler time! Due to WWF’s ties with Genichiro Tenryu’s budding SWS promotion, we have Tenryu and sumo star Koji Kitao facing Demolition. If Demolition were Three’s Company, Ax is Suzanne Somers and Crush is Priscilla Barnes. “COME AND KNOCK ON OUR DOOR, AND WE’LL KICK YOUR TEETH IN!”. Kitao’s famous for backing down from Earthquake after trying to start a shoot with him one week later in Japan. Kitao openly declared wrestling to be fake and was then dismissed from SWS. What’s real, however, is the fact that Kitao has a losing record in MMA. Take that, Sensei No Fun.
-This tag team match is so important that Donald Trump and his cronies have vacated their front row seats. No doubt Tenryu was displeased. You see why Trump never acquired Mitsubishi.
-Other than Heenan making dated stereotype jokes, it’s a nothing match until Tenryu drops Smash with a powerbomb to end it. Monsoon used the word “methodical” twice during the match, which is Gorilla Speak for “slow and sucky”.
-Next, we have the IC Title encounter between Big Bossman and Mr. Perfect. Bossman dedicates the fight to his mother. They missed out by not making Bossman the Norman Bates of pro wrestling. He could have stabbed wrestlers in the shower while dressed in drag. Meanwhile, Perfect and Heenan make Rodney King jokes. I think the footage of the King beating inspired ECW fancam. Note to self: ask Gargiulo to ask Feinstein or Sapolsky if that was the inspiration or not.
-Alfred Hayes joins Monsoon on commentary, and a kid in the front row is wearing a Dick Tracy shirt. Excuse me while I take a moment and try and remember how long my childhood ponytail was as these events took place.
-Know what’s great? Bossman wipes his rump with Perfect’s towel and throws it in his face. Then Bossman proceeds to beat the ever loving crap out of him, with Perfect doing about 25 sells where he spins 360 degrees. I’m enjoying myself too much. I’m almost ashamed.
-Bossman takes his belt off. I’ve made enough Pat Patterson jokes for these reviews, so you can make your own here. Hell, e-mail it to me and I’ll put it in a future rant! I see Trump returned for this match. Way to show your racist tendencies there, Donnie. Should we just ethnically cleanse the crowd while you’re at it?
-Alfred Hayes has no chemistry at all with Monsoon, or anyone for that matter. He keeps making these points, but it just sounds like he was dubbed in over somebody else. Couldn’t we just bring Duggan back out here?
-Andre lumbers down to the ring to counter Heenan’s interference, and gets a sizeable pop doing it. Know what’s sad? Both wrestlers, both commentators, the referee (Joey Marella), and the man running interference are all dead. All that remains is Bobby Heenan, and he’s nearing death with these multiple surgeries. I’m depressed.
-Haku and Barbarian run in to cause the DQ, letting Perfect live to fight another day. Backstage, Bret watched the match while Neidhart openly stated “I think we’re a great team Bret, and we shouldn’t split up! I love you man!”.
-Okerlund interviews some celebrities to kill time: Trump first, and Okerlund asks if we’ll see another Atlantic City WrestleMania (DEAR GOD NO). Then he interviews these three men: Chuck Norris, Henry Winkler, and Lou Ferrigno. Wow. Chuck, The Fonz, and The Hulk. Chuck Norris Fact: Chuck Norris would have not only no-sold Undertaker’s faulty pyro from Elimination Chamber, but would have still been engulfed in flames when he showed up to Raw the next night to beat up Ty Murray for being such a sissy cowboy. It’s true.
-Earthquake and Greg Valentine make their entrances during the celeb lovefest, and a generic four minute match ensues. Earthquake ends it with the sitdown splash. I’m still having daydreams of Norris catching the Earthquake splash, standing up, and powerbombing Quake. I need to stop it with the man-crushes.
-LOD vs. Power and Glory follows, and Sean Mooney is scared of Hawk. Seriously, look at his eyes. He looks like he’s just been dared to pick pocket New Jack while he sleeps.
-It’s over in a minute and Paul Roma gets pinned! Best show ever! Find this match and tell me you don’t laugh when Hercules basically refuses to save Roma from the pin. Even his kayfabe allies hated Paul Roma.
-Now for a match with a story: Ted Dibiase vs. the emancipated Virgil. We get the video of Virgil cleaning Dibiase’s toes (directed by Mel Phillips), as well as obscure jobber Kevin Greeno beating Dibiase by countout. Clearly, this show has everything. I always loved in the freeze-frame promo pictures where it shows the participants in each match, how Dibiase is always laughing loudly with his mouth open. He looks like something out of the final scene of each episode of CHiPs.
-Virgil is over like a mamma jamma, and I wonder why he didn’t add a last name? I mean, just a simple first name sounds like he’s still a faceless lackey. Would “Virgil Harris” be too much to ask?
-Basic heel-face dynamic and the crowd is into it, especially when Dibiase shoves down an injured Roddy Piper (Virgil’s mentor). This gives Heenan a chance to work in “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”. Way to time stamp the show, Brain.
-Dibiase gets counted out as he tussles with Piper, and then the Million Dollar Man goes nuts on both men, with the help of Sensational Sherri (keeping herself employed). After they ravage Piper and leave, Roddy goes nuts. Speaking of nuts, Piper launches his crutch right in the nuts of Danny Davis. See what happens when you screw over the British Bulldogs? Doctor Virgil Harris, MD, orders Piper to his feet. Who are we to question a career jobber that hasn’t had hair since 1990?
-Meanwhile, Sgt. Slaughter and General Adnan get interviewed. While Adnan rants incoherently, Slaughter bugs his eyes, presumably to hold in his laughter. When Slaughter bugs his eyes out and screams, he’s two blue eyes away from resembling a Garbage Pail Kid. I recommend for a name Mili-TERRY, alias Mess Hall PAUL.
-Got a minute? Good. The Mountie just beat Tito Santana with use of his cattle prod. They didn’t even use the cartoony sound effect for the electrocution! Way to step it up for the biggest show of the year, guys!
-Main event time. Hulk Hogan says he has “new technology” that will enable him to lie without any dignity on Arsenio Hall in a few months.
-Serious question: what’s the criterion for choosing timekeepers for WrestleMania main events? Is it a three question test? “Can you ring a bell? Can you work a stopwatch? Are you reasonably hot?”. Then again, Jonathan Taylor Thomas was a timekeeper once, but there’s a chance that WWE just thought he was Valerie Bertinelli.
-While I’m being sardonic, I love how Slaughter’s theme is just a drum beat. Did they do the drumroll for three minutes, or did they record seven seconds and just loop it? It’s a reasonable question.
-Match is fairly generic in the early going, but then Slaughter tries to stomp the hand and misses completely. It’s a metaphor for WWF in general: they had a simple idea (booking Hogan/Warrior for WM7) and failed completely, and thus looked bad.
-Regis joins the commentary team and says “I think the Brain is for Slaughter!”. Somebody clue him in on the intricate subtleties of face/heel bias?
-Hogan goes for a middle rope move, Adnan grabs his leg, and then lets go when Hogan stares him down. Then Hogan tries a top rope move, Adnan grabs the leg, and they incorporate it into the match. This is what happens when you rely on a make-believe Indian wrestler from the 1970′s to get spots right in a WrestleMania main event. There’s a reason Adnan was gone by the end of the year.
-Hey look, Hulk blades on camera! Or the pain from the chair shot was so bad that he chose to gouge at his own forehead in agony.
-Slaughter tries to pin Hogan with the Iraqi flag draped overtop, but then Hulk kicks out and destroys the flag. I guess Hogan was against liberating the country in 2003? Hogan finishes with the usual for his third World Title, and then uses an American flag given to him by a fan to wipe the blood off. Does Hogan hate America too? Is he a sovereign county with his own laws? Probably.
-CYNIC SAYS: A damn fine show, actually. Two great tag team matches, two good singles title matches (Yes, Hogan/Slaughter was “good”), and Warrior/Savage was a memorable half hour. With a minimum of fodder, WrestleMania VII is extremely watchable, once you get past the tasteless Iraq storyline.
Next time, Justin lives out his dream of reviewing a Skinner match, and Ric Flair does a crappy bladejob. It’s WrestleMania VIII!
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
From The Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles, CA
March 24, 1991
It’s easy to look back at ideas and events with the benefit of hindsight, and be able to say “Ahh, well, they shouldn’t have done that.”
With business dropping off in WWF in the early 1990′s, due mostly to waning interest, as well as public loss of favorability thanks to the steroid allegations, Vince McMahon wasn’t willing to rest on his laurels and accept a slide into pop culture obscurity. Instead, since he had originally booked the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum for WrestleMania VII, he needed to find a way to fill a venue that would surpass the record crowd in Pontiac, Michigan from four years prior.
Logic seems to dictate that a rematch with WWF Champion The Ultimate Warrior and the man he felled one year before to claim the championship, Hulk Hogan, would be the right course of action. There’s a ready-made draw for the match as well: Hogan wins the 1991 Royal Rumble, challenges Warrior, Warrior says “I already beat you, so forget it”, and Hogan puts his career on the line as collateral, making Warrior accept.
Intriguing, no? Hogan’s hypothetical swan song might have sold out the Coliseum.
At least, it had a better chance than what McMahon actually did go with.
With conflict in the Persian Gulf, WWF made over longtime patriot Sgt Slaughter into a disgusting Iraqi sympathizer, aligning him with Saddam Hussein in an attempt to push the jingoistic buttons of every American fan watching.
The goal: have Hogan defend the honor of America by taking down the fascistic sadist known as Slaughter, and restore America’s dignity.
Slaughter defeated Warrior for the championship at the Royal Rumble, and the idea of Hogan-Slaughter headlining WrestleMania VII did little for ticket sales. By mid-February, only 20,000 seats had been sold.
Hindsight is indeed 20/20.
After winning the championship in January 1991, Slaughter stepped up his ludicrous façade of hating America. Slaughter won the belt four days after Iraq was to have pulled out of Kuwait, a deadline set by then US President George H.W. Bush, so patriotic fervor was running high.
With the very real possibility of young Americans (not to mention soldiers from other nations, but merely giving an American perspective) going off to war in order to liberate Kuwait, it was astonishing that the WWF was cashing in by wanting to have Slaughter burn the American flag (which he refused to do), but settled instead for having him set fire to Hulk Hogan merchandise.
The build continued, with Hogan spouting American aphorisms and clutching to Americana like heroes of folklore, while Slaughter threatened to take the championship back to Baghdad, in order to present it to his hero, Saddam Hussein.
The WWF made the decision to move the event indoors to the much smaller Los Angeles Sports Arena, with the official reason involving security concerns. Slaughter was, allegedly, the target of several death threats over his character, although the horrid ticket sales were likely a big reason as well.
While the Ultimate Warrior would not be main eventing, he was given quite the interesting match-up to work with. Macho King Randy Savage had cost Warrior the championship at the Royal Rumble, after Warrior refused to grant Savage a shot, and now the two were pitted head to head.
But the match wouldn’t just be any old encounter; instead, it would be a “Career Ending” match, in which the loser would have to retire. The WWF was no longer big enough for both of their explosive personalities, and the build made up for the lack of intrigue from the Hogan-Slaughter contest.
Also on the card, The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase would tangle with his ex-bodyguard of over three years, Virgil. Virgil, after months of increased humiliation at his boss’ hands, turned on him at the Royal Rumble. Rowdy Roddy Piper, proud of Virgil for his showing of pride, offered to train him in an attempt to defeat Dibiase and embarrass the snobby villain.
The Big Bossman had a chance to complete a gauntlet AND win a championship. After months of verbal abuse from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who frequently insulted his mother, Bossman began to run through Heenan’s “Family” of wrestlers, before getting to the crown jewel, WWF Intercontinental Champion Mr. Perfect. A win would give Bossman personal satisfaction, and championship gold, while shutting Heenan up for good.
Also on the line, the WWF World Tag Team Championship, as The Hart Foundation would be defending against The Nasty Boys, who’d won the right to challenge weeks before by winning a seven team battle royal. The Harts wouldn’t go down without a fight, but a loss might do wonders for one member of the team.
In addition to all of this, a certain superstar made his WrestleMania debut at this event, and let’s just say it was win #1 in his long streak.
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan called the action, with guest commentators filling in for when Heenan had to manage. Willie Nelson sang the Star Spangled Banner, and celebrities Regis Philbin, Alex Trebek, and Marla Maples were on hand as well.
The Rockers def. Haku/The Barbarian in 10:41
(Underrated opener, and a good showcase of how Shawn Michaels could elevate wrestlers to a level above their usual performances. It’s no surprise that the Rockers would split up within the year)
The Texas Tornado def. Dino Bravo in 3:11
(This was most depressing moment in WrestleMania history before the ending to WrestleMania XX. Bad match, both men dead within two years, and Tornado’s “gun” celebration mirrored his suicide)
The British Bulldog def. The Warlord in 8:15
(This was actually a major feud in 1991, even if the crowd wasn’t buying Warlord. At least Bulldog proved valuable as a draw on European tours)
WWF World Tag Team: The Nasty Boys def. The Hart Foundation in 12:10 to win the titles
(A longtime friend of mine is one of the biggest Bret Hart marks I know. He nearly cried at the ending of this match. Of course, nobody told him that the Harts would split, and Bret would go on to become multiple time champion. Then he may have danced)
Blindfold match: Jake Roberts def. Rick Martel in 8:34
(Both men wore hoods so they couldn’t see each other, and the match was as slow as you’d expect. Still, it was less awkward than watching Mason Ryan wrestle)
Career Ending Match: The Ultimate Warrior def. Macho King Randy Savage in 20:48
(Warrior’s best match ever, dramatic as Hell throughout, and the postmatch segment of Miss Elizabeth saving Savage from an irate Queen Sherri, and then reuniting with her lost love is one of the greatest WrestleMania moments ever. You’re allowed to cry if you want to, it’s ok)
Genichiro Tenryu/Koji Kitao def. Demolition in 4:44
(Awkward match, and it was the death of Demolition. Let’s just move on)
WWF Intercontinental: The Big Bossman def. Mr. Perfect by disqualification in 10:47
(The last WWF appearance of Andre the Giant, who came to aid Bossman, and the last time that Bobby Heenan would be a manager on a WWF PPV. God, this is starting to get depressing!)
Earthquake def. Greg Valentine in 3:14
(In 2011, this is like booking Husky Harris vs. Finlay at WrestleMania XXVII)
Legion of Doom def. Power & Glory in 59 seconds
(Paul Roma: WrestleMania Icon)
Virgil def. Ted Dibiase by count out in 7:41
(Highlight: Rowdy Roddy Piper sells the pain of a post-match beatdown by Dibiase, and, in a rage, throws a crutch into referee Danny Davis’ nuts. That’s what he gets for screwing the British Bulldogs over)
The Mountie def. Tito Santana in 1:21
(The phrase “def. Tito Santana” is getting as much face time as “Hulk Hogan def.” in these things)
WWF World Championship: Hulk Hogan def. Sgt. Slaughter in 20:26 to win the title
(Despite the crappy storyline, the need to break an Iraqi flag during the match, Hogan blading on camera, the fact that Slaughter was in the main event, and Regis Philbin being on commentary, this actually wasn’t a bad match. Really)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
For the first time in the annals of WrestleMania, a match in the middle of the show completely overshadowed the main event. Sure, WrestleMania III had Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage delivering a classic, but at least Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant created an immortal moment. Other than Hogan’s on-camera forehead butchering, not many fans recall this main event with great detail.
WrestleMania VII was not a bad show by any means. Rather, it’s a show with a number of great matches, but leaves a rather sour taste in your mouth with the exploitation of the Gulf War.
The conflict in the Gulf was largely settled by the time the show took place, and Hussein’s army was simply no match for the opposition. To have Slaughter go on television and declare such a paltry regime to be so great only served to make him look foolish, and it didn’t make for an enticing attraction for wrestling’s biggest annual show.
WrestleMania VII will be remembered just as much for the tearful reunion that took place in the middle of the card, as it will be for the vile inducing of xenophobia that the main event was supposed to bring out.
One of the most popular blogs in the history of the CCB was a piece last year on the top 10 WWE heel turns. So it only makes sense to come back with a companion piece which takes a look back at the top 10 babyface turns in WWE history.
Babyface turns aren’t generally as dramatic as a great heel turn but there are some notable turns that were just as exciting as the great heel turns in WWE history. There is certainly a different kind of emotion evoked with a great babyface turn. The drama, intensity, and the sympathy are what separate the classics from the rudimentary. In no particular order here is a look back at what I felt are the WWE 10 all-time best.
Sgt. Slaughter turns babyface (1984) - My memories as a kid growing up in the 1980s watching wrestling don’t get much better than this one. The Sarge was a real bad dude who wrecked havoc on two different tours of duties into the lives of the WWE’s great 80s heroes. That is why it was both shocking and refreshing when he crossed the line against the Iron Sheik in 1983. The magic moment in which Slaughter led the fans threw the Pledge of Allegiance is a moment I’ll never forget as a wrestling fan. Unfortunately many have as it didn’t even rank in WWE’s own top 10 list of great babyface turns.
Hulk Hogan turns babyface (1984) - Here is one that is often overlooked yet changed the entire course of business. Hulk Hogan left the WWE as a bad guy in the early 1980s only to randomly appear out of nowhere in 1984. Instead of picking up where he left off feuding with the likes of Andre the Giant and Tony Atlas, Hogan came to the aid of his former foe Bob Backlund. Backlund vouched for Hogan when he told the fans that the Hulkster wouldn’t have Freddie Blassie around anymore and that he was a changed man. It doesn’t get much better than getting an endorsement from the guy whose spot you are taking. The rest is history and a lot of it.
The Undertaker turns babyface (1992) - The Undertaker was certainly not a wrestler you thought of in 1992 as a babyface hero. Yet the time came for Taker to do the first of many turns and fight for the fans. The turn came when Jake Roberts tried to attack Randy Savage’s manager Miss Elizabeth with a chair. The Dead Man came to the rescue of the damsel in distress. Roberts questioned his protege’s allegiance which was answered by The Undertaker shutting the casket on Roberts’ hand during a segment on the Funeral Parlor. Roberts wound up jamming Taker’s hand in the casket allowing him to beat up Paul Bearer, solidifying the end of the relationship and Taker’s place on the dark side. The turn was huge at the time and one of the bigger ones in WWE history when you look back at The Undertaker’s run up to that point.
Steve Austin turns babyface (1997) - The Stone Cold babyface turn is right up there with Hogan’s in regards to the impact that the angle had on the business. Austin was already hot but he was red hot with this turn. The big event took place in the famous double-turn match at WrestleMania 13 with Bret Hart. Austin’s turn simply came by passing out to the sharpshooter, blood running down his face, and never quitting. Most have ranked this as the top babyface turn of all-time. I’d probably put it second behind Hogan’s 1984 turn.
Superfly Snuka turns babyface (1982) – This was the first big angle that grabbed me as a wrestling fan. Jimmy Snuka was an animal as a heel. Snuka was a sadistic, maniacal, savage heel that fans cheered at a time when that rarely happened. Snuka’s leap off attempt of the top of the steel cage onto Bob Backlund sealed the deal with the fans. The turn started with an appearance in Buddy Rodgers’ Corner. Rodgers accused Cpt. Lou Albano of mismanaging Jimmy’s finances. Jimmy in turn fired Albano who didn’t go away quietly. Albano made a deal with Freddie Blassie and hired Ray Stevens to deliver a devastating piledriver to the Superfly outside of the ring on the concrete floor. Snuka returned to seek revenge and take his place as one of the most popular WWE stars for this time period in WWE history.
Batista turns babyface (2005) - This was a great one and an angle that simmered for months. Batista’s unhappiness with Triple H in Evolution was evident far before he finally had enough. Hunter saw a rising star and suggested that Batista not enter the Royal Rumble. Hunter’s motive was that he didn’t want Batista to threaten Triple H’s title reign. Batista entered anyway and won a shot at the world heavyweight championship. Hunter tried to have Batista run over by a limousine but that couldn’t stop the big man from coming after him. Batista finally swerved Hunter in one of the greatest RAW segments in history in which he signed a contract to face Triple H and not JBL, thus turning babyface and endearing himself to the hearts of WWE fans.
Lex Luger turns babyface (1993) – I completely forgot about this one until I read fellow CCB writer Seth Guttenplan’s list from a while back. Lex wasn’t what I’d call a monster heel in the WWE but he was certainly one of the top villains. The narcissist was the last guy you’d expect the fans to root for. That all changed when Jim Cornette held a bobyslam challenge on July 4th for Yokozuna. Lex surprised Cornette and company when he came in via helicopter and slammed the big man. The body slam launched the Lex Express and while the express quickly ran out of gas, the turn was a big one for its time.
John Cena turns babyface (2003) - If you want to talk about the historic impact of a babyface turn you have to put John Cena’s right up near the top of the list. In 2003 Cena was rumored to be joining Team Lesnar at the Survivor Series. Cena was confronted by SmackDown G.M. Paul Heyman and the team after pulling off an upset against Rey Mysterio. Heyman declared Cena as the fifth member of Team Lesnar at Survivor Series. Cena told Heyman that he had a problem with being told what to do and started running down the team. A-Train jumped Cena and pretty soon members of Team Lesnar were all taking their shots at Cena. Lesnar capped off the turn by nailing Cena with a steel chair. Hey, it only took 9 years but Cena would eventually get his revenge on Lesnar.
Randy Savage turns babyface (1991) - When I threw this question out on the CCB Facebook fan page many responses pointed to Savage and Elizabeth’s reunion as the best babyface turn ever. Savage’s heel turn of course made the last list. Savage lost to The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII in an emotional retirement match. Savage’s manager Queen Sherri berated Savage after the match for losing when out of nowhere Elizabeth ran down the aisle and disposed of Sherri to a rousing ovation. The courtship between Savage and Liz at that point was one of the most memorable in WWE history. I can’t think of a more over love story in pro wrestling history.
Roddy Piper turns babyface (1986) - This was an odd angle only because on paper it seems pretty mundane, yet the angle played out brilliantly. Piper was the notorious top heel in the company that ironically began getting cheered. Piper was the “cool heel” to fans like me who had enough of Hulkamania and the cartoon babyfaces. The timing for the turn was perfect. Piper took a hiatus from Piper’s Pit which opened up the door for Adrian Adonis’ Flower Shop. Adonis not only took the spot but also took Piper’s bodyguard, Ace Orton. Piper finally returned after being away for months and was disgusted at what had become of his Piper’s Pit segment. Piper confronted the crew who returned the favor by beating up Hot Rod. Piper later appeared on the show in crutches with a baseball bat declaring war on Adonis and his crew. The angle was awesome and it culminated over the next few months into one of the most anticipated grudge matches in WrestleMania history.