Best: King of the Ring
I’m a stickler for wrestling tournaments and the King of the Ring was one of the first shows where the concept was exclusively built around a one-night tournament. On top of that, the winner gets a crown, robe and scepter? Yes and please.
Not only that, but this show is filled with quality wrestling. Sure, most of that comes from Bret Hart, but can you really go wrong in a card that also involves Bam Bam Bigelow, Razor Ramon and Mr. Perfect? Well, yeah, actually as Wrestlemania IX showed, you can go horribly wrong.
Best: Razor Ramon
In the opening match on the card, it’s Bret Hart vs Razor Ramon in the King of the Ring tournament. As Bret comes to the ring, he does that thing he did while he was a baby face where he would take off those mirrored pink shades and give them to a kid.
So what does Razor do? He makes a bunch of faces and then launches his tooth pick at that same kid. It’s such a dick-ish heel move and I absolutely love it. What better way to get heat than to take that thing your good guy opponent just did and basically spit on it? Razor was vastly underrated in those days.
Best: There’s a reason Bret Hart is called “the best there is, was and ever will be”
On top of that, he shows why he’s a technical marvel. He controls the pace in a way that makes sense: Ramon is much bigger and stronger than him, so he tries to keep Ramon on the mat and limit that power. It’s what someone in a fight with a bigger guy would do: limit what he can do and try to beat him that way. It’s incredible that so few guys, especially certain stars, don’t understand the logic behind a wrestling match.
Lastly, he makes Ramon look like a million bucks. At that point, Razor was getting a strong push and improving in the ring on a consistent basis. When he’s in there with Hart, he looks like the big powerhouse that he is and gets the crowd to play into his heel persona by chanting “1-2-3!” (Ramon had just taken his historic loss to the 1-2-3 Kid on Raw). Hart makes Ramon look like a million bucks even when he’s not winning by letting him control the match and making him look strong. Not only that, but it goes to show you that a match can end with something other than a finisher. Bret counters a back suplex from the top and steals the win just as Razor seems to be in control. That’s how you do pro wrestling.
Worst: Mr. Hughes
There are times when Vince McMahon’s love of huge guys becomes bothersome and annoying. This is one of those times.
In the second King of the Ring match, Mr. Hughes takes on Mr. Perfect. If you wanted an entire match of rest holds and Mr. Hughes standing around and selling by just sneering, then this is the match for you. Hughes can barely move, sauntering around the ring like he’s trying to be intimidating, but really he looks like he’s just incapable of normal movement.
Hughes was the epitome of the ‘90s WWF, when Vince would put a guy out there for simply being big and not caring if he was actually interesting or if the guy could wrestle. “Just be big”, Vince would say and expect millions of fans to love him. Not even Perfect’s ridiculous over-selling could save this match from being a stinker.
Worst: Bret Hart still needed to learn to talk
They cut to a picture-in-picture during the Hughes/Perfect match, asking Bret Hart who he’d like to face in the next round. This is a paraphrasing of that conversation:
“Well, uh, it’s a tough thing to say ‘cuz, uh, I think Mr. Perfect goes with endurance and he can go all night. As for Mr. Hughes, ya know, he’s big and powerful so I think I’d rather face the guy with the endurance and the…and the wrestling holds.”
There’s a reason we all talk about Bret’s in-ring ability and not his microphone skills. At least he kept practicing.
This gets a best from me for the simple fact that Mr. Fuji can’t say “Yokozuna”. Also, that face. YOKOZUMA FOREVER.
Worst: Bam Bam Bigelow vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Supplementary worst: USA! USA!
I’ve never, ever been a fan of Hacksaw. Other than him screaming “HOOOOOOOOO!”, I’ve never seen a redeemable quality about him as a character or in the ring. He can barely speak, with his only coherent words being “tough guy” and he says them about 47 times per promo. Not only that, but he was AWFUL in the ring. Big, slow and uninteresting. He just kind of goes through the motions until he can say “HOOOOOOO!” or get the crowd to chant for America. Bam Bam is an awesome heavyweight, but he kind of does nothing here. He’s just there until it’s time to hit his flying headbutt and win.
Speaking of that chant. “USA! USA!” is usually reserved when facing foreign-born opponents, but Bam Bam is from New Jersey. Are people just chanting for their country because they love the USA? Because they love chanting? Because they think it’ll make the bad guy mad? I really don’t get some chants or when they’re used.
Worst: Billy Gunn couldn’t speak even before his only words were “suck it”
Billy, sporting the worst southern accent I’ve ever heard, babbles on about how he’s lucky to have his brother Bart and the Steiner brothers in his corner and blah blah blah. I can’t focus on anything other than Billy’s awful mustache and curly blonde locks. I didn’t realize growing thin mustaches made you a tough guy in the south. They usually do unkindly things to those folks.
Best: Bobby Heenan
During Lex Luger’s entrance, where he poses in front of a full-length mirror, “The Brain” starts drawing on his telecaster once again and I’m not sure what in the hell he’s doing here. He was originally trying to point out the forearm with the steel plate in it and just ended up making a bunch of weird lines on a flexing Lex Luger. I’m not sure why they stopped Bobby from doing this in the future, but he absolutely should’ve had this forever.
Tiny best for a young Mike Chioda refereeing this match with the worst mullet I’ve ever seen. 1993 was a weird time, you guys.
Worst: Another cruddy King of the Ring match
The first round matchups have been pretty bad so far, with only Bret Hart vs Razor Ramon being remotely entertaining. Frankly, they had bad pairings to start and it was no wonder these matches were awful.
Putting Lex Luger, king of the stiffest most unrealistic looking sells, against the generally uninteresting Tatanka was a mistake both on paper and in execution. It becomes a battle of rest holds, with Luger screaming “OH!” after every little thing like someone’s stuck him with a cattle prod. On offense, he’s even worse. He executes each move slowly and then takes 10 minutes to posture before slowly doing something else. And this went on for 15 of the longest minutes of my life. Your typical Lex Luger match during his narcissist run; I’m just glad that run only lasted a few months.
The best part of this match is that it ends in a draw, something that was becoming rarer and rarer in those days. It protects both Luger and Tatanka (who hadn’t lost yet), but it added drama to the finals by giving the monsterous Bigelow a buy into the finals, making him fresh for whichever baby face he had to go up against.
Also a worst: a picture-in-picture interview with Bam Bam where he calls Tatanka “the Indian”. Cumong, man.
Best: Bret Hart vs Mr. Perfect
Finally, we wade through all of the crap, all of the Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Mr. Hughes, Tatanka garbage to get a classic. Two of the best in the world in the ring going at it in one of the best matches in both of their careers.
Perfect controls the match, showing his heel characteristics once again as a show of revenge for his loss to Bret two years ago at Summerslam 1991. He does little heel things like kicking Hart as he comes through the ropes, grabbing him by the hair (and subsequently tossing him by it) and throwing him outside while sneering the entire time. There really weren’t many better heels during that time than Perfect, who was that obnoxious asshole that you hated but secretly wanted to be. Except for the curly blonde mullet, I mean.
Hart fights back as the valiant face, working over the knee of Perfect in hopes that he can eventually set him up for the Sharpshooter later on. It continues in a wonderful back and forth, with Perfect gaining the decided advantage with a nasty looking sleeper hold before Hart battles back and steals a victory with a small package after reversing a small package. Just an absolute clinic from these two.
Worst: The greatest hero in the history of the planet.
Goddamn you, Mean Gene. Goddamn you.
Secondary, just as equal a worst goes to Hulk Hogan for implying Yokozuna can only win via Pearl Harbor-like sneak attack. This isn’t quite as bad as his “that jap” comment at Wrestlemania, but it’s pretty damn bad. Hulk Hogan was always the worst.
Worst: Hulk Hogan is the worst
This is multi-layered worst, so bear with me here. First and foremost, this match is the epitome of Hulk Hogna’s career: no matter who he faces, no matter how big or unstoppable they might seem, Hogan will never lose to them decisively. He did it to Sting at Starrcade 1997 and he did it here. Hogan couldn’t lose to the unstoppable monster Yokozuna cleanly because that’s not what Hogan does. No, he could only lose after gaining the upper hand and then having a camera explode in his face. Because cameras just explode all the time and only incredible occurrences like that could ever stop Hulkamania.
The second part of this worst also goes to Hogan, but for an entirely different reason. Hogan was on his way out in 1993, seemingly done with wrestling and off to go make a bunch of crappy movies people would laugh at for decades. Instead of dropping the title to the top face in the company, Bret Hart, as Vince McMahon had wanted, Hogan refused to do so and instead chose to drop the belt in this King of the Ring match in the aforementioned dubious way. It’s bad enough Hogan showed up at the end of Wrestlemania to effectively make Hart and Yokozuna look like shit, but then he power plays so he won’t have to lose to Hart? What a shady, crappy thing to do by Hogan and it’s just one in a long line of shady, crappy things Hogan has done to others in his career.
Best: Cocky heel Shawn Michaels
It should be no coincidence that Michaels has become most known for playing a cocky prick and he’s at his best here, especially with the newly-debuted “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel who is at his best when he just stands and sneers and doesn’t blow out his quads every time he moves. Bonus points to Shawn for calling Hogan a dinosaur because it’s true and f**k Hulk Hogan.
Worst: And now here’s a bunch of guys we needed to fit on the card!
The next thing up is an eight-man tag team match with the Steiner Brothers and the Smoking Gunn’s taking on the Headshrinkers and Money Inc. It featured the Steiners doing their normal hoss act and the Headshrinkers just straight up beating the ass off of Bart Gunn for a while, but it just doesn’t feel like there’s any real point to this.
That might not have been a problem if it were just two teams squaring off for nothing more than a victory, but this match lulls and drags and tries to fit too much into it. Everyone has to get their spots in, everyone has to look good and it just feels like something that would’ve been better suited in a regular tag match or hey, I don’t know, a tag team titles match considering Money Inc. was still the tag champs? Even the Steiners shoot-destroying people couldn’t make this something I’d like to see again. Where this went wrong is in trying to make Bart Gunn a character you sympathize with while he’s getting beaten when really, people just want Bart Gunn to go away. He just gets beat on for a while and then, boom, a roll up and it’s over.
My god, what an awful gimmick. Bryan Adams went from this weird, face-painted, S&M-wearing bad guy in Demolition to becoming this generic guy from Hawaii with a really hideous mullet and tropical-colored singlet. That’s all you could do to describe what Crush was. And somehow, he kept getting television time and title matches. For all the times we praise Vince McMahon for the brilliant things he’s done for the business, you see someone like Crush and wonder just how the hell Vince made it as far as he did.
Best: This match
Worst: The ending
Before I go on, let me just say that it’s no thanks to Crush; Michaels is at his best here. He knows he’s at a size disadvantage here, so he darts around to start the match until he realizes Crush isn’t just this big, plodding guy. So after getting dominated for a brief bit, he gets an opening thanks to Diesel and uses underhanded tactics (like slamming the back of Crush’s head against the ring post repeatedly) to get the advantage. The announce team does its job in selling this by acknowledging logic: Michaels could’ve conceivably left Crush out on the floor, gotten the count out and retained his belt. Instead, they explain that Michaels had to drag Crush back in because of his ego: Michaels wants to beat you, not get some lucky win. Excellent job by the announce team.
And to really sell how great Michaels was this early on, he makes Crush look good. Crush huffs and puffs his way through this match, his mullet waving in the wind and Michaels sells all of his power moves like he’s just been shot. He makes Crush look like a powerhouse when people like me are going “ugh Crush”.
Of course, this match has to end with two Doinks showing up to distract Crush and Bobby Heenan proclaiming that he only sees one because some announcers have to treat their audience like the biggest idiots ever.
Best: The most 1990s outfit ever
Best: There’s no touching Bret Hart at this time
A little bit of a refresher heading into the King of the Ring final: Bam Bam Bigelow had only wrestled once, a relatively short match against Hacksaw Jim Duggan and then got a bye into the finals when Lex Luger and Tatanka wrestled to a draw. Bret Hart, meanwhile, wrestled over a half hour in two matches with Razor Ramon and Mr. Perfect to get here. It would’ve been easy to paint Hart as the underdog without that, but heading into the match, the selling point was “Bam Bam is a heavy favorite both literally and figuratively”.
Unsurprisingly, this match basically revolves around Bam Bam beating the ever-loving shit out of Hart for just about the entire match, with Bret battling back every once in a while before Bam Bam snuffs out his momentum once again. What really makes this work (and I’ve said this before) is the fact that Bret Hart could sell a beating better than anyone else at that time. You sympathized with Bret because it felt like he really was getting the tar beaten out of him every time he went out there. The main difference here is that while someone like John Cena would pop up, hit his finisher and then no-sell all the damage he just took to celebrate, Bret gets momentum going and tries his finisher only to realize he just can’t put it on, instead winning the match with a friggin’ victory roll. John Cena doesn’t even know what that is.
Worst: That was unnecessary
At one point during this match, Luna Vachon comes out to hit Bret with a chair before scampering off to the back. Bam Bam gets him back into the ring, hits his diving headbutt and gets the three much to the surprise of the crowd. The refs have a meeting and the match continues. It just felt like a really unnecessary plot point and something that didn’t need to be there to make Bret’s win seem bigger. Him winning three matches in one night and overcoming a fresh Bam Bam Bigelow in the finals is a big enough deal without this twist.
Best: Early ‘90s Jerry Lawler
Before he became a rambling, somewhat-racist, definitely-perverted old man wearing terrible Ed Hardy shirts, Lawler was legitimately one of the best heels in the business. Here, he shows up to tell Bret Hart that he’s not really the king. It leads to Bret starting an awful “Burger King” chant that Jerry manages to sell like a pro before he cheap shots Hart and beats him down, starting their feud that would extend through 1993 (and beyond, really, as Lawler would make snide remarks on commentary about Hart throughout the years). Lawler comes off looking like a huge, jealous prick and Bret comes off looking even more sympathetic than he did by winning his third match of the night against a behemoth with flames tattooed on his skull. A job well done.
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