A friendly reminder: because the current product is so boring and terrible, I decided to use the wonderful WWE Network (cost unknown) to take a peek into history. I started back with the 1993 Royal Rumble, the first pay-per-view after Monday Night Raw began airing and decided I would keep going, picking up WCW’s pay-per-views right after Monday Nitro debuts. We’re to the summer of 1993 and the biggest even that isn’t Wrestlemania: Summerslam.
Worst: Commentator Vince McMahon
He literally does not know how to say things like a normal person. To open the show, we see “The Lex Express”, Lex Luger’s bus that’s been touring the United States for some reason. Instead of saying “hey, there’s the Lex Express. Tonight, Lex Luger will take on Yokozuna for the WWF Title” like a relatively normal announcer, it ended up being this:
“THE LAX EXPRESS HAS STOPPED IN DETROIT THE LAX EXPRESS HAS STOPPED AT THE PALACE OF AUBURN HILLS THE LAX EXPRESS…HAS STOPPED AT SUMMERSLAAAAAAAAAAAM.”
He has to tell you everything in incredibly tedious detail, he has to yell it at the top of his lungs and he has to look surprised by every event that takes place. I get you’re pretending you don’t own this thing, but open your damn eyes and calm the hell down.
Best: Ted DiBiase
With all due respect to Razor Ramon here, who is clearly starting to come into his own as a performer after being “that big guy with some power” for a good chunk of his career, this match works because of “The Million Dollar Man”.
DiBiase wasn’t much of a mat technician at this point, but he could reach into his bag of dastardly heel tricks for days and days. Realistically, it would be difficult for a guy like DiBiase (who at this point looked like someone’s affluent dad more than a wrestler, to really put a beating on someone like Ramon. So instead of merely pounding on him, he gets the advantage by jumping Razor from behind, choking him and about a million other things that good heels do.
Not only that, but he does the things heels sometimes forget to do. Yeah, he plays to the crowd, but when he has Razor in a choke, he not only gets the crowd chanting for Razor but he reacts appropriately. He gets that “oh shit, what are you guys doing be quiet” look on his face that a good heel does, making the crowd chant harder because they believe it can lift their favorite guy out of this awful move.
They don’t make ‘em like Ted DiBiase anymore.
Worst: The Razor’s Edge
I know, I know, but let me be that guy for a second. When Razor first debuted this move, it was vicious. He was straight up throwing guys, folding them in half and making the move look like a legitimate lethal weapon.
Here, he basically lays DiBiase down as gently as possible. I get trying to protect a guy so as to not hurt him, but the whole point of wrestling is to make the moves look like they hurt while not actually hurting someone. Softly placing a guy on the mat does not convey that.
Best: The Steiner girls are just as incoherent as Rick and Scott
The mom is basically just like “yeah, whatever you say” while the sister cuts a Steiner-esque promo where she just screams about nothing in general. I’m not saying they missed the boat here, but she could’ve easily been their mouth-piece. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where Scott Steiner learned math.
Best: The Steiners get to hoss people
Since they are the tag team chances and performing in front of their hometown crowd (aside from growing up in Michigan, they both went to the University of Michigan), so the bulk of this match is just the Steiners running roughshod. Their opponents, the Heavenly Bodies, look like I would if I lost 10 pounds and started waxing. Giggilo Jimmy Del Ray was a thinner Big Dick Johnson and just goes to show that Vince thinks it’s great when fat dudes gyrate.
Aside from the typical “heels take over and isolate” part of the match right in the middle, the Steiners mostly just get to hoss the shit out of people, throwing suplexes, vicious clotheslines and just about everything else into the mix. Their stint in the WWF was way too short, but the Steiners brought realism and intensity that was sorely needed.
Worst: Shawn Michaels vs Mr. Perfect
How is this even possible that I’m worsting this right now? These are two of the best performers ever, with Perfect in his prime and Shawn really starting to find his sweet spot as “The Heartbreak Kid”. Still, this match comes off as though there was no preparation at all. There were several blown spots, the match looked sloppy on the whole and the ending (a count out loss for Perfect) felt like a cheap out to not make either guy look weak.
This is supposed to be the second biggest show of the year and you’re going to end the big Intercontinental Championship match with a freakin’ count out? I hate thinking this, but having hindsight to fall back on, you can’t help but wonder if Perfect was in his right state of mind at times, especially matches like this.
Best: 1-2-3 Kid
Aren’t there laws against child labor?
In all seriousness, it’s really hard to not like the 1-2-3 Kid gimmick even having seen what a turd of a person Sean Waltman can be at times. He’s smaller than most normal folks, let alone the behemoths of the wrestling world. He flies around the ring as fast he can, getting thrown and bounced off of much bigger wrestlers and generally looking like he doesn’t belong.
More than anything, he looks so innocent. How can you root for this kid to get his ass beat? He was like Mikey Whipwreck before Mikey Whipwreck was Mikey Whipwreck, except Waltman was actually a good wrestler and not just some sloppy-looking guy who looked like he’d wandered into a wrestling ring and was somehow allowed to wrestle.
Worst: The Harts can’t talk
During the break, we cut to Todd Pettingale at ringside talking to Owen and Bruce Hart, both sporting terrible ‘90s mops on their heads. They babble on and on about how their dad, the legendary Stu, wouldn’t be there because he’d had knee surgery and yadda yadda yadda. Bruce calling Jerry Lawler “Joey” was supposed to be this huge zinger, and it came off like the rest of the segment: boring.
Best: Early ‘90s Jerry Lawler
Before he was the creepy, babbling old man in Ed Hardy t-shirts every week on Raw, Lawler was one of the slimiest, most underhanded heels in the business. A brief recap: after Bret Hart won the inaugural King of the Ring tournament, Lawler came out to say that he was the only king in professional wrestler before sneak-attacking Hart and leaving him lying.
Here, Lawler feigns a knee injury to get out of having to face a very irate Hart, who had had to listen to Lawler bad-mouth his family non-stop leading up to the match. One quick tangent: I love heel logic here. Lawler talks about getting into this terrible car accident that mangled his leg, but sells this by strapping an ice pack to his leg and hobbling out on crutches. I just love the logic that an ice pack makes it seem like this career-ending injury that will keep Lawler out of the ring forever.
Best of all, he continues to crap-talk Hart as the referees hold him back, insisting that he could beat Bret Hart with one leg and insinuating that everyone in the locker room hates Bret, bringing out Doink the Clown to face him. Lawler naturally gets in the ring at the end to bash his crutch over the head of Bret as the rest of the Hart family tries desperately to get into the ring. Just scumbaggery at its finest: talk the biggest game you can and then slink away when it gets tough.
Another best to this is the use of authority figures in the WWF. There wasn’t this random pandering like there is by authority figures now; they just showed up to announce matches or right any wrongs that the ref may have missed. Here, Jack Tunney comes out to declare that if Lawler doesn’t get into the ring with Bret, he’ll be banned from the WWF forever. Simple and to the point is all you need sometimes.
Also Best: this match
The match itself isn’t a technical masterpiece, but it works in the context of the story and helps further it. Bret finally gets his hands on Lawler and beats him from pillar to post, slapping on the Sharpshooter and getting the victory.
Or so we think.
Turns out Bret is sufficiently enraged and won’t release the hold. He keeps it on for seriously five minutes, bringing out a slew of officials and his brothers before releasing the hold. The Fink then announces that the ref has reversed his decision, proclaiming Lawler the winner and the one true “King of the WWF”. It keeps the story going for the next pay-per-view, lets Hart look strong (as he should) and makes Lawler look even slimier without even having to do anything.
Worst: Brock Lesnar Ludvig Borga does the entitled foreigner bit
It’s been done to death and far better than Ludvig Borga is doing his “America sucks” gimmick. Next, please.
Borga looks like some weird mash-up of Lesnar and Dolph Lundgren, wearing an awful Finnish flag-inspired outfit and fights like a big, slow MMA striker. In this match, he’s facing “what do I do after the Rockers?” Marty Jannety, who will keep that look for three more years until falling off the face of the Earth. I can’t wait to forget this match and these performers.
Worst: Enough of the Giant Gonzales
For the last six months, this guy has been sauntering his way around WWF rings, barely capable of doing anything other than raising his arms in the air and throwing clubbing forearms to the back of the Undertaker. He might be the worst performer in WWF/E history and that is a history which includes the Great Khali and Ashley Massaro.
This match is just like the one they had at Wrestlemania: the Undertaker does everything in his power to try to take Gonzales down and Gonzales just kind of swats at him like an annoyed gorilla. Even sells like a gorilla probably would.
The only difference between this and Wrestlemania is the lack of chloroform. That and Undertaker winning with a freakin’ clothesline. How impressive is a huge guy if he’s dead the second he falls to the mat? Thankfully, this feud would rest in peace (har har).
Worst: Here’s your throwaway match of the evening
This six-man tag match featuring the Smoking Gunns and Tatanka taking on the Headshrinkers and Bam Bam Bigelow is the epitome of just throwing guys onto a card because you’ve got nothing else going for them. The best part of this match is Bobby Heenan declaring that Shawn Michaels has left the building.
Worst: Hank Carter, Lex Express bus driver
It doesn’t even matter at this point who Lex Luger is or what he’s about, because the WWF has beaten the “Lex Express” to death in the last two hours. This is capped off by interviewing Hank Carter, the bus driver of the Lex Express.
When he’s not talking about what a great wraslter Luger is, he’s stumbling and mumbling through just why Lex Luger is the All-American hero even though six months ago he was just this arrogant dick who came out to the ring to look at himself in the mirror. That’s an American if I’ve ever heard one.
Best: The Opening Ceremonies
Prior to the big main event match between Yokozuna and Lex Luger for the WWF Title, they trot out representatives from both sides to add to the pomp and circumstance. For Japan, that includes the Japanese national anthem. I’m not making fun of the anthem itself because every country has it, it’s just the singer who sounds like William Hung butchering “She Bangs”. Just an awful voice, making words we already couldn’t decipher that much more indecipherable.
For the American festivities, “Macho Man” Randy Savage leads out Aaron Neville (music sensation, according to The Fink) who is waving an American flag and alternately sings the American national anthem. He somehow does a WORSE job with this anthem, sounding like Kermit the Frog if Kermit were pretending to be a singer. And it’s topped off by a shot of Savage with a tear rolling down his cheek. I can’t make this stuff up even if I tried.
For all the stupid things they do, you have to hand it to the WWF: they at least try to make their main events seem like a big deal whether they are or not.
Worst: The match itself
This should surprise no one. Yokozuna was always pretty impressive for his size when it came to in-ring work, but he was still a great big fat dude at heart and he could only move so fast. Lex Luger was born a board and could never learn how to behave and fall like a real boy, opting to instead hit the mat as stiffly as possible every time he sold a move.
Another sub-par effort from the WWF in 1993. It’s little wonder they were struggling mightily as a company at this point. Hopefully our next pay-per-view, Survivor Series, will be better but I’m not holding out hope at this point.
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