From Madison Square Garden in New York, NY
March 20, 1994
Nine years after WrestleMania was created inside the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, the concept with the fresh face and nubile body returned home a gutted spirit, heart blackened by declining business, a cartoonish output, and the very real possibility that Vince McMahon, because of the steroid trial, might wind up behind bars for a rather long time.
It’s been a cliché in movies, literature, and fable to feature a character that is, perhaps, beyond redemption. However, a cosmic force of some kind bestows an opportunity onto him, allowing him a chance to do some celibate deed that supersedes his mistakes.
Vince McMahon had a chance to right some previous wrongs with WrestleMania X.
WrestleMania IX from a year prior was akin to the wreckage of the Titanic. What was supposed to be so majestic, so glorious, ended up a widely panned mess of an event that ended with Hulk Hogan being given the World Championship in a bizarre power play.
While Hogan was all about money and power, Bret Hart was all about respect. Hart carried the WWF flag for six months in 1992 and 1993, before his unseating at the hands of Yokozuna. Yoko had all of two minutes to enjoy being champion, because Hogan was about to use his bloated body as a steppingstone to play the king again.
Yokozuna, however, had the misgivings made up to him, as he would crush Hogan two months later to regain the title. The faux sumo wrestler would carry the gold all the way into WrestleMania X, boasting a nine month reign that would more than make up for the indignations at WrestleMania IX.
Now it was time to make things up to Hart, and repay his unwavering loyalty and hard work.
Would Vince McMahon make things right?
Yokozuna retained the WWF Championship at the 1994 Royal Rumble by defeating The Undertaker in a casket match (with circumstances so outlandishly bizarre, that a wellness policy should have been ordained for the booking committee immediately afterward). Undertaker needed time off to heal nagging injuries, putting his young winning streak on hold.
Both men were announced the winner after the match separately, as the referees argued with each other. First Luger was declared the winner to a reasonable cheer, and then the decision was reversed to Hart winning, which got a bigger ovation. According to legend, McMahon wanted to base his decision for WrestleMania over who got the greater reception. If that’s the case, Hart was the clear winner.
To set up WrestleMania from a storyline standpoint, WWF President Jack Tunney would hold a coin flip. The idea was that Yokozuna would face both men in two different matches at the event. The winner of the toss would face Yoko first, while the man who got him second had to face a designated opponent earlier in the night to make it fair. Luger won the toss, earning the first shot. Had Hart won the toss, Luger’s designated opponent would have been Crush.
But since Luger would, Hart would have to face his own brother, Owen. Bret and Owen Hart had experienced a rift beginning at Survivor Series 1993, in which four Hart brothers comprised a team and, through a mishap, Owen was the only non-survivor. Owen confronted Bret angrily after the match, which led to Owen spending several weeks challenging him to matches, with Bret declining with regards to family unity.
Finally, the two patched things up and challenged for the WWF World Tag Team Titles at the Royal Rumble against the Quebecers. Bret badly injured his knee during the match, and instead of tagging out, The Hitman tried to finish the match himself. Referee Tim White halted the match, and Owen tore into his brother for costing him a belt. The younger Hart punctuated his rage by attacking Bret’s injured knee, severing the brotherly bond.
Bret Hart was looking to leave WrestleMania X as champion, but brother Owen Hart was looking to leave having proved to the world who the superior sibling was.
Certainly of note was the WWF Intercontinental Title match between champion Razor Ramon and self-declared champion Shawn Michaels. Michaels forfeited the belt in September 1993 after a vaguely defined dispute (alleged to be a failed steroid test), and Razor filled the vacancy. Michaels began carrying a bogus title belt with him, and the two would be suspended above the ring in the first PPV ladder match in wrestling history.
Little did anyone know how the match would change the future of wrestling.
Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler called the action from ringside. Little Richard sang “America the Beautiful” with a choir. A cornucopia of odd celebrity guests filled the rest of the show, with Burt Reynolds, Rhonda Shear, Donnie Wahlberg, and Jennie Garth, as well as a fake Bill Clinton.
Owen Hart def. Bret Hart in 20:21
(No chicanery, no non-sensical action .Just two men wrestling a see-saw battle, with Owen outsmarting his brother in the last instant. It’s the match that proved that Owen could work with the big boys, and was more than just a goofy midcarder with parachute pants. This match is a technical classic, and a good primer for young wrestlers to enhance their craft)
Mixed Tag Team Match: Bam Bam Bigelow/Luna Vachon def. Doink/Dink in 6:09
(Not a bad match, really. It was better than what it should have been, given it was just supposed to be dumbed down humor after Bret and Owen cut a killer pace)
Falls Count Anywhere: Macho Man Randy Savage def. Crush in 9:49
(This would be Savage’s last pay per view match in the WWF, and, while not his best match, it was a chaotic brawl that featured some signature Savage moments. Miss ya, Macho)
WWF Women’s Championship: Alundra Blayze def. Leilani Kai in 3:20
(I have nothing to add to this, except that Kai looks like any overstuffed moo-cow that ever walked into Al Bundy’s shoe store)
WWF World Tag Team: Men on a Mission def. The Quebecers by count out in 7:41
(Decent match to bridge the show a bit. The Quebecers were fun heels, MOM were fun babyfaces, and you had an overly cheerful Raven at ringside. Good times)
WWF World Championship: Yokozuna def. Lex Luger by disqualification in 14:40
(Mr. Perfect was the special referee, and disqualified Luger for convoluted reasons, with the idea of setting up a feud between the two. Perfect left the company shortly after. Bad match, and it just added to Luger’s onerous “choker” label)
Earthquake def. Adam Bomb in 32 seconds
(Before the match, Harvey Whippleman told Howard Finkel that he had a “monkey face” and a “banana nose”. Fans today who think John Cena’s remarks are too tame didn’t watch in 1994)
WWF Intercontinental/Ladder Match: Razor Ramon def. Shawn Michaels in 18:47
(You may have heard of this one. Ric Flair claims in his book that Michaels merely had a great match with the ladder, and Razor was just in the area. Flair needs to get stuffed, because Razor’s timing and power moves made the match unique. Of course, Shawn stole the show with his dynamic selling and daredevil tactics. This is the match that spawned the spotfest in the big leagues)
WWF World Heavyweight: Bret Hart def. Yokozuna in 10:38 to win the title
(One year later and WWF gets it right. Decent match with Rowdy Roddy Piper serving as referee, and with a bit more drama than the WrestleMania IX offering of mediocrity. The crowd pop for Bret regaining the title makes up for the absent-mindedness in Las Vegas)
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY
After Hart won the championship, Vince McMahon raved on commentary about Hart “helping the WWF blast off into the next decade”, implying very heavily whom the torch now resided with.
But bigger than the impending storyline between the Brothers Hart was McMahon, who joined the celebration in the ring, personally shaking Hart’s hand. Vince never did that, even in character, and leads me to believe that his endorsement was a symbolic gesture, meant to show that he had seen the error of his ways, and would never overlook his hardest workers again.
The images of WrestleMania X surround two men: Bret Hart on top of the world again, and Shawn Michaels “making himself”.
Remember these two names, they become important later.