Welcome! With the arrival of the “Monday Night War” documentary series on the WWE Network, I decided to go back and watch the WWF pay-per-views (most of the Raws are not there yet) from the debut of Raw and beyond.
The first pay-per-view covered was the 1993 Royal Rumble. Today, it’s on to one of the worst Wrestlemania’s of all-time: Wrestlemania IX.
Wrestlemania IX marks the debut of Good Ol’ Jim Ross to WWF programming. It can’t be understated just how much better at his job Jim Ross is than just about anyone else at this point in time and beyond. Seriously, good announcing can carry your product to a higher level and the WWF had just gotten the best there is.
Of course, this is long before Ross became all shouty and indignant, calling bad guys a “no good sonuvabitch” and other fun things. Still, good to have Jim Ross in the mix.
That’s not to mention a secondary best for a commentary team involving “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Bobby “the Brain” Heenan. Between Savage’s psychotic, over-the-top ramblings and Heenan’s slimy, heel-favoring jokes, I really couldn’t ask for a much better commentary team than this.
Best: Finkus Maximus
C’mon, how could this not be a best?
Best: Shawn Michaels
Worst: the finish
Shawn is pretty good in this match, working his cowardly heel persona to its fullest here and somehow, he pulls a pretty decent match out Tatanka, who was your typical non-descript early ‘90s babyface. Hell, Sherri gets more chants than Tatanka ever does and with good reason.
Michaels helps ratchet up the drama, carrying Tatanka throughout to a few near falls and selling his ass off as only a young Shawn Michaels can. The finish, however, is awful. Michaels takes a dive on the outside, hitting his head on the ring bell. Without even really noticing, he’s counted out. But before the ref can do it, Michaels pulls him out of the ring and the action continues with Tatanka hitting a samoan drop and going for the cover. The ref feigns like he’s going for a cover before ringing the bell. Even the announcers aren’t super sure of what’s happening, with Savage saying that he thinks Shawn got disqualified. The announcement of the count out comes in and everyone just kind of goes back to normal.
Look, I’m not saying I wanted Tatanka to win, but given the fact that he was unbeaten to this point and this is the biggest show of the year, you probably shouldn’t go with a crappy, unclear count out victory over the heel even if you have much bigger plans for said heel. It just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.
Worst: I’m worsting a Steiner Brothers match
I wanted to like this. I swear, I did. I love the Steiner Brothers. They were just two dudes who trucked the shit out of you and Scott was arguably the best wrestler in the world at this time, doing absolutely crazy things like a hurricanrana and Steiner screwdriver that big guys like Scott typically didn’t do. Honestly, I wanted to best this if only for the fact that I love those ridiculous multi-color outfits the Steiners rocked in the ‘90s.
That’s not to mention the fact that the Headshrinkers were basically a racist version of that. Two guys who really just wanted to beat you up more than they even wanted to win the match. Plus, I always get a kick out of the wrestling trope that Samoans have such hard heads that you can never headbutt them or it’ll kill you (I really enjoyed the part where Rick tried to smash their heads together only for the Headshrinkers to just look at him and then headbutt him to death).
Still, this match felt five minutes too long. The pace was tedious and boring (I spent most of the match yawning). They spent far too long selling the Scott Steiner comeback, drawing it out with more and more abuse before he’s finally able to make the hot tag to Rick. There was a fantastic spot near the end where Rick is up on the shoulders of one of the Headshrinkers and counters a flying clothesline into a power slam while still in mid-air.
If that isn’t the most telling thing about how this match went, I don’t know what is. A guy countered a doomsday device into a power slam and I’m still “meh” about the match.
Worst: Doink vs Crush was a thing that happened
I feel like Doink, just trying to get away from this match.
With all due respect to Doink, who was actually kind of entertaining when he was a creepy, scary bad-guy clown, this is something that should have been headlining some crappy indie event and not something that was actually on a Wrestlemania card.
I never got the appeal of Bryan Adams, let alone when he was the incredibly bland “Crush” character. So he’s a Hawaiian that likes to squeeze things to death? That’s it? You can tell that WWF creative was at the end of a late meeting when they came up with Crush, because the effort clearly isn’t there.
They somehow manage to keep this thing going for over eight minutes without boring the crowd into actual death, but nothing of note happened here. Crush tried to be intimidating by puffing out his shoulders even though his blonde mullet blowing in the breeze killed all of his credibility. Speaking of the mullet, it says something when you can find something worse about the Crush character than his wrestling.
Of course, this ended with a second Doink showing up and bludgeoning Crush to death with a prosthetic arm before doing the mirror bit with the first Doink. I literally cannot make this stuff up even if I tried, folks.
Worst: Todd Pettingale
What was worse than this match? Oh, nothing, just Todd Pettingale in his super cool sunglasses asking Japanese photographers if they thought there were two Doinks or if that was just an illusion. Naturally, they don’t understand him so he just kind of yells before saying “what about Yokozuna?” and them confirming they love Yokozuna.
Todd Pettingale was terrible at everything he did and somehow lasted for YEARS.
Best: Archie’s jacket
Bob Backlund is just wonderful. He’s crazy and pale, wears giant jackets that look like an American flag and looks like he’s been pulled straight from the pages of Archie. Can we get Cesaro this jacket/towel combo? I feel like he’s the only one who can pull something like this off in today’s WWE.
Worst: WWF/E’s ADD
This match was pretty bad in itself: lots of missed or screwed up spots and basically Razor just punching and kicking Backlund for a little over three minutes before Razor wins with a small package to “beat the wrestler with wrestling” as Bobby puts it.
What’s really bad about this is not just that it’s so short, it’s that it doesn’t make sense in correlation to what we just saw at the Royal Rumble two months prior. Back at the Rumble, all the announce team could talk about was the fact that Backlund had been in there since the beginning and how it was so incredible that he was lasting as long as he was (he would set a record by lasting over an hour before being eliminated by eventual winner Yokozuna). To follow that up by having him lose in a couple of minutes at Wrestlemania doesn’t make any sense. Yes, I know they were pushing Razor Ramon at this point and you can hear Razor getting the crowd behind him at this point, but why not just stick him in a match with someone else and continue pushing Backlund? Letting a guy last for an hour in the rumble only to have him lose in three minutes at Wrestlemania sounds like something that would happen in WWE in 2014.
Best: Money Inc.
This is how heels work, folks. Ted DiBiase is the rich guy you love to hate: he shoves money into the mouth of his fallen opponents and slaps basketballs out of the hands of children. He is a dirtbag in every sense of the word and I.R.S. is, well, the IRS. He’s the tax man who literally beats you down instead of figuratively doing so. Plus, I took this still at the absolute perfect time. Gene’s face, my god.
Worst: The Mega-Maniacs are mega jerks
For all of the bad things I can say about early ‘90s Hulk Hogan, I’ll save those for later when they are directly applicable. Instead, I’m going to focus my hatred on Hogan’s crony and generally worthless performer Brutus “the barber” Beefcake.
Brutus is in this only because he’s friends with Hogan. Hell, Brutus only ever had a job because of Hogan and watching him do anything in the ring is evidence of that. He even looks ridiculous, which is hard to believe when someone has a mullet with highlights, I know. Making it worse, he’s sporting this weird “Phatom of the Opera meets pro wrestling” mask after getting hit in the face with a briefcase on Raw.
One thing I’ve noticed the older I get: Hulk Hogan was always a heel. Just watch this match and you’ll see what I mean. He’s constantly yelling at Ted DiBiase as he’s pummeling him, punching him in the forehead while he’s down and even throws in an eye poke for good measure before using Brutus’ mask to knock out both members of Money Inc. He’s always been the scummy Hollywood Hogan, he was just presented as a good guy and we never noticed.
On a related note: Hogan was sporting a black eye in this match and the announcers explained it away as a Jet Ski accident. The rumor has it that Randy Savage had punched Hogan in the eye after an argument over whether or not Hogan slept with Miss Elizabeth, Savage’s then-wife. That absolutely sounds like something the notoriously selfish and dickish Hogan would have done.
Anyways, the early part of this match is actually enjoyable, with Money Inc working over Brutus. Honestly, anyone beating on Brutus Beefcake will earn high marks from me, so it was pretty hard to lose with a start like this. It ends in a weird schmoz, where the ref is knocked out, Hogan and Brutus cheat to get the win and then the ref comes to and reverses the decision. Hogan, Brutus and Jimmy Hart then beat the ref up and throw him out of the ring to cheers, because that’s what good guys do, right? This was Hogan’s fault, as he had bigger plans later in the night that he cared more about instead.
Best: Lex Luger has it figured out
Sure, he may not have been the narcissist for long, but Lex Luger figured out the way to make an entrance is to basically just have a bunch of nearly-naked women come out and stand around while you do your thing. Even if you suck, no one will notice because they’re too busy staring at the ass of each woman in the ring.
Worst: Maybe not
While he certainly has it figured out in terms of an entrance, in the ring is a whole other issue. As great as Mr. Perfect was – and he was one of the best of his era in the ring – even he couldn’t get a good match out of Lex Luger.
First of all, a tangent: Luger may have had the worst finishing move in the history of televised wrestling. The backstory the WWF was painting at the time was that Luger had a motorcycle accident and had a steel plate put into his forearm. He then used said forearm, hitting his opponent in the head, as his finisher. That’s it. A running forearm was his finisher. How do you have a big, powerful guy like Luger and give him such an awful looking finisher? Then again, this is the same team that debuted him as the heel narcissist only to have him as the “All-American” just a few short months later. ADD, y’all.
Secondly, Luger was and always has been awful in the ring. He sells by screaming in pain at every move and falls to the mat stiff as a board with each move. He’s slow and clumsy, looking far less dangerous than a guy who looks like him should be. There’s no authority behind his moves; he looks like a guy trying to not hurt his opponent. Brie Bella must have been a big fan of Lex’s, because she wrestles and sells almost exactly the same. And no, that’s not a compliment.
Worst: The worst match in Wrestlemania history
In hindsight, it’s really easy to notice that the WWF/E had a bit of a fetish for really, really big guys. The Great Khali and the Giant Gonzales are a perfect example of that as both are simply really tall guys who can barely stand up without falling over.
First of all, this is ridiculous because you have a huge guy in body suit air-brushed with muscles and butt cheeks (they’d gotten rid of the fur because that was ridiculous, apparently). It’s also ridiculous because the Giant Gonzales can’t do anything except punch/club. He sells offense like he’s just caught a whiff of the worst far he’s ever smelled. He quite literally is the worst performer the WWF has had arguably ever.
The match is somehow even worse than the description of the Giant Gonzales that I just gave. It’s a lot of punching and kicking, with one spot in the middle where Undertaker does a bunch of clotheslines and knocks the big man down. The ending sees the Giant Gonzales smother the Undertaker with chloroform (yes, really), leading to the Undertaker being stretchered out only to return and send the big man fleeing. This is your semi-main event to the biggest show of the year. The rest of the show could have been spectacular and this match would have been crappy enough to ruin it all. When the WWF/E swings and connects, it’s out of the park. But when they swing and miss? The bat goes flying and kills an old woman in the crowd. This show was basically baseball bats to the face of old ladies is what I’m trying to say.
Worst: Challenging “that Jap”
So not only is Hulk Hogan a terrible person in the wrestling world, but he’s a terrible person in general and HOLY SHIT, 1993 was still a super racist time. Hogan is babbling on and on about the power of Hulkamania and how he’s questioning it or whatever before he issues a challenge to whoever wins the WWF Championship: Bret Hart or “that Jap”, Yokozuna. Seriously? This was okay that recently? Wow, man. Wow.
Best: This is how you work as an underdog
Supplementary worst: The finish
The build up to this match was obvious: Yokozuna was mammoth and no one could beat him. Since Bret Hart was the size of a regular dude, there was no realistic way he could successfully defend his title against Yokozuna at Wrestlemania.
For the bulk of the match, Yoko dominates. He casually tosses Bret around, delivers a devastating super kick (not just for a guy his size, but in general) and just controls the entire match. Bret gets in his little runs where it looks like he’s going to make his comeback only to get thwarted by Yoko. Finally, Hart gets going and even manages to slap the Sharpshooter on the big man, looking like he’d overcome the odds to defeat America’s (and Canada’s, apparently) enemy.
And then the finish happens. Instead of Yoko powering out of the Sharpshooter and getting a decisive win as a monster heel, while still allowing Bret to look strong by even having a chance to win the match, Yoko wins when Mr. Fuji throws salt in the eyes of Hart and Yoko gets the pin. I get protecting your top babyface, but doesn’t this make beating Yoko look even better for whoever does it down the line if you let him take the face’s best shot only to overpower and still win?
Worst: The worst ending in Wrestlemania history
As I was saying earlier, Hulk Hogan is one of the worst people in the history of the business and his selfishness really came to the forefront here.
He was unhappy with being in a tag team title match earlier, deeming himself too important and too big a star to be a tag team champion, and shoved his way into the main event by showing up after the match in the guise of a caring friend only to be challenged by Yokozuna. He accepts, Fuji throws salt in the eyes of Yokozuna, eats a leg drop and that’s all she wrote.
Not only does Hogan selfishly get the belt back here when he wasn’t even in the main event, he buries the biggest monster in the company by beating him in under a minute and makes the company’s biggest face (Hart) look like a weak punk by losing to the monster that Hogan just beat with literally one move. Just a complete and utter burial by the most selfish man in the wrestling business.
The kicker to this is that Hogan bitched and moaned about wanting to be champion leading into this and as soon as he won the title, he didn’t show up on Raw and dropped the belt back to Yokozuna at the King of the Ring pay-per-view. What’s wrong with that last part, you might be asking. Well he dropped it back to Yokozuna in a ridiculous fashion – instead of putting the monster over clean (Hogan was apparently on his way out to make movies), an exploding camera to the face is how Yoko was able to earn the victory. ON TOP OF THAT, the reason this match even happened is because Hogan was asked to drop the belt to Hart at Summerslam, in a passing of the torch, and refused to do so. Hulk Hogan was and will always be a self-serving scumbag.
Next on the docket: King of the Ring 1993. See you then.
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