The New Generation campaign had been launched to coincide with Hulk Hogan’s signing with rival World Championship Wrestling. The company choose the 1994 edition of the King of Ring as the official start of the New Generation with commercials running down The Hulkster. Coincidentally , Hogan had made his first appearance on WCW TV a week before the show. That show was headlined by the spry 45-year-old Jerry Lawler taking on the 40-year-old spring chicken, Roddy Piper. Despite that, King of the Ring 1994 is a decent show but how’s the New Generation doing a year later? It’s not going well. Diesel is struggling to draw fans in as the newest incarnation of Hulk Hogan, morale is down and business is down across the board. King of the Ring 1995 could have been a turning point for the New Generation but everything went wrong. From the main event to the awful tournament and the crowd turning on the show, there’s a reason why it’s considered to be one of the worst PPVs in company history.
- The Underdog Story Nobody Wanted
A wrench was thrown into the booking of the tournament when Razor Ramon injured his ribs and couldn’t compete. Vince McMahon decided to build the tournament around newcomer Savio Vega and turning him into an underdog by having him wrestle four times in one night and making it to the finals. That sounds great in theory but you should remember that Savio had only debuted about a month ago and the fans didn’t have the same emotional attachment to Savio like they did for Undertaker or Michaels. Plus, Savio wasn’t the greatest worker unless he’s whipping the crap out of Austin with a leather strap. The 1-2-3 Kid would have been perfect for this spot since being an underdog was his gimmick since he debuted but he was injured. I’ll admit, he got a pretty good reaction when he defeated IRS and scoring an upset over Yokozuna but that changes when he comes out for his third match. When he comes out to face and then The Roadie, it’s more of a polite applause than a thunderous ovation for making it to the finals. When he comes out to face Mabel in the finals, he doesn’t get much of a reaction at all. Vince tries on commentary to shoehorn a comparison to Rocky Balboa and they even show a shot of the famous statue but it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work when you have two immensely popular faces (Taker and Michaels) are in the tournament and they go out early.
- A Kiss My Foot Match? Seriously?
The Bret Hart/Jerry Lawler feud was a change of course when it first started in 1993. It was personal with Lawler attacking Bret numerous times and taking pot shots at his family during the feud. It was a hot feud and people were waiting for Lawler to get his comeuppance at the Survivor Series but it never happened. Lawler became involved in a sexual assault scandal and the feud was shelved. In 1995, the company decided to revive the feud with Lawler accusing Bret of being racist and bringing in Hakushi to take out Bret. While it did give us some great Bret/Hakushi matches, it felt more cartoony than anything. When the time came for the “blow off” match, a Kiss My Foot Match was booked a first in company history. I use that word lightly because this feud continued for four more months. Why? This might have worked for Memphis but in the WWF, the go-to blowoff match was a steel cage match and this show is in Philadelphia. With the ECW faithful in attendance making their distaste for the show known, you need something better than a hokey gimmick match. It’s not a bad match but it’s a disappointment considering the workers involved. Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler had classic matches over the years with many wrestlers but this just felt off. If this had been a cage match or even a falls count anywhere match, this could have been great.
- The Awful Tournament Field
Participating in this tournament: Savio Vega, IRS, Kama, Mabel, Bob Holly and The Roadie. Wrestlers who took part in qualifying matches: Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Lex Luger and Jeff Jarrett. Only wrestlers with star power in this tournament: Undertaker, Michaels, Yokozuna. Those three would be eliminated in the first round. The first two events had quarterfinal matches packed with stars and maybe one or two job guys. The 1993 edition had Bret, Luger, Perfect, Bigelow, Razor and Tatanka. All of them were receiving significant pushes on television and the 1994 edition had Razor, Owen, Jarrett, Bigelow and 1-2-3 Kid carrying the load. In this tournament, the only wrestlers with any shred of star power were Undertaker, Yokozuna and Shawn Michaels with the other wrestlers were lower card guys. With this show being headlined by a tag match, they could have booked an All-Star King of The Ring tournament to sell the show. Bulldog, Luger, Michaels, Undertaker, Owen, Yokozuna, Jarrett and throw Backlund in there. Sell the fans that we might see a dream match like Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker in the finals or The Allied Powers exploding. The winner gets a title shot at Summerslam or a future IYH and you can set up the Jarrett vs Michaels feud at this show. Shawn defeats Jarrett in the quarterfinal and Jeff costs Michaels his semifinal match. It’d go a long way to making this show watchable.
- Dok Hendrix
When Bobby Heenan and Mean Gene left for WCW, Jerry Lawler took his position as heel commentator and did a pretty good job. In 1995, Michael Hayes was brought in for some reason and given the new name of Dok Hendrix. My guess is that Vince saw old Dok as an newer, better, hipper version of Mean Gene. When I think of hip, I think of Michael Hayes, the same man who thought the Freebirds with a glam rock gimmick was with the times back in 1991. I presume Jimmy Garvin was out of their price range. Hendrix also served as Raw cohost every once in a while, PPV announcer. Hendrix is slotted into commentary beause Lawler is wrestling and Vince hates us. With somebody like Jim Ross who could work off Hayes and wrangle him in, Hayes wasn’t a bad commentater. However, Doc is commentating with Vince McMahon and Vince is no Jim Ross, so Vince lets Doc do his thing and chimes in with the occasional Vince laugh. Hendrix does a piss poor Bobby Heenan impression with jokes about Puerto Ricans, the Spanish announce team stealing hubcaps and just being awful in-gerneal. What about Jim Ross? Or even Jim Cornette? Brother Love? Superstar Billy Graham? Monsoon? Piper? Anybody but Michael frigging PS Hayes with his terrible racist jokes and purple suitcoat. His commentary makes me yearn for Art Donovan from last years King of the Ring. I’d take Bob Backlund in full on Mr. Bob Backlund mode, now that would have been hilarious.
- Running on Fumes
You know the last PPV that was headlined bya straight-up tag team match? Summerslam 1989. That show did over a half million PPV buys while this show just comes up rather short of that mark. By about 362,063 buys. Give or take, my math might be off. That show is enjoyable slice of nostalgia pie while this show is somehow worse than the macaraoni and cheese they sell in the hot deli at the supermarket. Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow vs Sid and Tatanka is more a house show main event that for a town like Milwaukee, which happens to be my hometown. Or a Raw main event during sweeps. Nothing amazing but it could draw a solid rating in the pre-Nitro days. As a PPV main event for one of the Big Five? Well, it’s the perfect example of a New Generation main event if Bret or Shawn isn’t in the main event. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just a nondrescipt wrestling match. Bigelow takes a nice bump when Sid chokeslams him when he’s standing on the second rope but that’s it. Let’s be honest, there was a reason why they benched Tatanka for The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1993. The guy doesn’t scream main event wrestler. Even in a Survivor Series match, when he was replaced by a much more popular wrestler. Now if the company had kept Bigelow in DiBiase’s and built the group around him and Sid, you easily could’ve done Diesel vs Bigelow here. Keep Sid on the bench for that epic lumberjack match that Sid and Diesel are scheduled to have at In Your House 2. Nope, instead we get Tatanka.
Oh jeez. Listen, I don’t hate Mabel like many fans do. When Mabel is killing job guys on TV, I like him. He’s good in that role but as a main event heel? Yeah, not the greatest choice. For one, his attire is awful for somebody that is poised to be a monster main event heel. The purple/black/gold combo screens goofy babyface, especially if you want this guy to be the next top monster. Look at Vader, he’s dressed in red and black and looks like a boss in Final Fight. He wears an elephant helmet that spews smoke for gods sake! Mabel might have a mohawk that could look intimidating but in reality the King gimmick he’d adopted, he just looks like a goof. Number two, Mabel is an awful wrestler, even for big fat guy standards. This was a period when Vader and Bigelow were killing it with great matches and the much bigger Yokozuna could still go despite his weight gain. Most of the big guy wrestlers were safe workers whose offense looked killer but didn’t hurt the opponent and Mabel, well the big guy was incapable of doing that. He would go onto injure Diesel and Undertaker in the next few months plus he had put Fatu on the shelf because of his sloppiness. Finally, this push to main event status came out of nowhere. One day, he’s a bad guy with Sir Mo and suddenly he’s propelled to a main event push in months. Undertaker was his first big win and it came that night, at-least give him a win over Luger or something. So, do the fans accept Mabel as their new top monster? I think the ECW chants and being pelted with trash are a good indicator that the Philadelphia fateful were not accepting of the big guy. Buckle up readers, we have six more months of Mabel being a top heel.
Financially, this show a success in-terms of the gate with 16,590 fans (14,181 paid) and the gate being a healthy $311,680. The 200,000 buys while not a great number did around six million in revenue for the WWE and PPV providers. Critically, well this show is just an absolute mess from beginning to end. The commentary is putrid with Hayes cracking “jokes”, the matches are dull and kill a hot crowd. Mabel winning the tournament was a tipping point in the booking philososphy of the WWE. Vince was going back to his comfort zone of the superhero babyface going up against the unbeatable monster. The Sid vs Diesel feud was built on Diesel going after Sid to avenge what happened to Shawn Michaels. It was a horrible feud but at-least it made sense from a booking perspective. Mabel was an out of nowhere pick to win the tournament and most of all, it didn’t make sense. The guy couldn’t talk, couldn’t work and his gimmick was terrible. But he’s big and that was good enough for Vince. Who should have won?