Sports

WrestleMania IX: You Don’t Deserve A Subtitle

-Getting right into things, the event took place outdoors at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on April 4, 1993. What made this day significant, besides being WWE WrestleMania Sunday, was that it was the day we’d celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We’d celebrated it at a hunting club. I’m serious. Other than important events like the big family picture that was taken and such, us kids spent the festivities by running around outside, picking up empty bullet shells to throw at each other, and playing hide and seek in the woods where the was a chance that some drunken hunter might think that I, dressed in a blue sweater with a Kevin McAlister haircut, was a deer and plant some buckshot into me.

-I share this anecdote for two reasons: to give you, the reader, a glimpse of ‘typical’ New Jersey life, and to indicate to you, the reader, that things on April 4, 1993 were abnormal all around. This is especially true for the wrestling event in which I am about to review.

-Having made it home an hour before showtime, my brother and I each rushed through our showers (Justin’s first ‘whore’s bath’!) to witness the proceedings. They went something like this.

-Gorilla Monsoon (in toga) welcomes us to the show, but this is, however, the first WrestleMania that he does not commentate for. Instead, the role is turned over to….JIM ROSS. This was shocking to Josh and I, who were more shocked to find JR in a toga. Having just jumped from WCW, Ross had just left Bischoff in the dust for Vince McMahon. That’s like your dad going to jail for child abuse, and then you get adopted by Ryan O’Neal. You lose either way.

-Did I mention the tag line for this show is “The Epic Encounter?” I’ll mention it now, since there’s no way in Hell that you’ll believe me later.

-We do get an impressive opening with something similar to a Carnival parade, complete with animals, harem girls, a mock Caesar and Cleopatra, Randy Savage on a sedan being catered to by beauties (well, he IS divorced now, oh yeah), and Bobby Heenan riding an elephant. Know what’s more impressive? Howard Finkel at his 9th straight WrestleMania! I didn’t mention him in the WrestleMania 8 rant, so here it is: a double mention! I’m trying to stay cheery while I still can!

-As Ross, Heenan, and Savage settle in on commentary, we jump right into the opener: the reliable Shawn Michaels defending his IC Title against Tatanka. Tatanka is seconded by Sherri, who is upset with Shawn after he allowed her to be injured six months earlier. Shawn has brought an equalizer: the debuting Luna Vachon, who looks out of place and the fans have no idea who she is. Michelle McCool’s been with WWE for five years and it still holds true for her, actually.

-Match starts off good, with Shawn bumping off of everything Tatanka throws his way. The other story here is that Tatanka was undefeated and had pinned Shawn twice, once in a non title match and the other in a six man tag, where Tatanka had teamed with the Nasty Boys. What would have been funnier is if the Nastys turned on Tatanka by littering at his feet and making him cry. Well, not funny but….uh….let’s just move on.

-As Shawn slows things down with a chin lock, I realize that Tatanka never had a chance. It’s kinda hard to get behind an Indian character. It’s hard to say without sounding prejudiced, but they’re just portrayed as being so serious and honorable. Fans get behind good guys with a sense of humor and ones that they can relate to. Wrestling’s never had an Indian that lusted after divas and listened to thrash metal. Hard to connect with the crowd, you know.

-See what I mean? Shawn beats on Tatanka, who no sells it by going into a war dance. We’re supposed to take him seriously with this? He’s so rigid and serious, but then he goes into a dance and can’t be hurt? If the dance deflects all pain, why doesn’t he do it at the START of the match? I have more gripes coming, don’t worry.

-Shawn gets himself DQ’d when he has a run in with the ref, giving us a bad ending, but it keeps the gold on Shawn, so hooray. Also, Luna beats up Sherri to start a feud that had no ending. No, I don’t think Russo worked here yet, actually.

-Next up, The Steiner Brothers take on the Headshrinkers, in a match that was booked to make Jim Ross feel right at home. Sadly, WWF was unwilling to meet the appearance fees of J.W. Storm and The Mulkeys. If you’re a young fan who has never seen Scott Steiner before 1998, then I assure you that the man on your screen is, in fact, him. He just reached a point in 1997-98 when he said “You know, I hate walking normally and finding clothes that fit. I’m gonna screw myself up….”

-It’s a brawl to start and JR works in a certain word that may be familiar to all of us, what could….it….be. SLOBBERKNOCKER, YES! Good guess. It sounds like you’ve seen a Jim Ross match before.

-So Fatu attempts a hotshot on Scotty, and Samu pulls the ropes down, causing Scott to take a MONSTER header onto the concrete. Sick. Horrible. Outrageously bad. I loved it. Chris Benoit nods and says “That’s how I woulda done it”.

-For a bonus, Afa whacks Scotty across the back with a rattan bamboo stick. Usually, I would make a joke here that ECW stole this idea for Sandman, and thus makes them look less cutting edge, but, since this was a full year before Michael Faye got caned over in Singapore, then I’d like to say that Southeastern Asian corporate punishment advocates stole their ideas from WWF. No wonder Vince gets so mad: everybody steals his ideas, and he never gets credit for them! Like the overhead cameras in the XFL that the NFL stole! Jerks.

-I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rick Steiner’s incredible move where he was seated on Samu’s shoulders and Fatu dove off the top rope at him, only for Rick to catch him and power slam him in mid air! Why is this match not mentioned among the all time WrestleMania classics? We shouldn’t disqualify it for being on such a lousy show. If we did, we’d have to disqualify Taker-Shawn from WM25 as well.

-Scotty ends it with the Frankensteiner. He’d get four more years out of that move before he’d spend the remainder of his life buying socks to put on baseball bats so that he could wipe himself.

-We get a backstage promo from one of the all time great underrated characters ever, Doink the Clown: Version Heel. Can you imagine if this Doink existed in the Attitude era? He could lure kids to his house with lollipops and then build a crawlspace…..wait, good God, what is this show doing to me? I feel like I should apologize in advance for any levels of disturbia that I display from here on out, but then that would dilute any fun I have punishing this event.

-So up next is Doink vs. Crush, and the story was that Doink decided to beat Crush with a fake arm filled with lead and other blunt objects. Laugh all you want, but it’s a better story than “I BURNED DOWN MAH BROTHER’S HOUSE BECAUSE PEOPLE LOVE HIM MAHR FAHR BEING A FACE PAINTED WEIRDO AND I’M JUST FAT”. Much better story.

-Was Crush being punished? He got beaten up by a clown and dispatched off the card for a couple months. I don’t get it; he had everything needed to be a main eventer in WWF: the body, the color scheme, the look, the hard rock theme music. I’m still mystified as to why Vince never pulled the trigger on him.

-Speaking of ‘pulling the trigger’, somebody put this match out of its misery. It’s a boring brawl when the characters are supposed to be a hyper-strong hero and a treacherous clown, and it comes off as amateur night. If you want tips on how to do it right, just watch the interrogation scene from Dark Knight. Crush should be yelling “WHERE IS HE?!?”

-Ref gets bumped and Crush manages to apply the Jason Voorhees Memorial Head Crush, which is broken up by another Doink! Fat Tony was watching the show and was like “I’m seeing’ double! Dere’s four of em!” The second Doink beats Crush with another loaded arm and the two Doinks perform an uncoordinated ‘man in the mirror’ routine. Uncoordinated and loaded. Two words that can describe what the booking meeting was like.

-Doink gets the pin and Bill Alfonso tries to reverse it by hitting the ring and telling Joey Marella that the second Doink went back under the ring. So they check and there’s…..nobody there? I’d laugh if they pulled up the skirting and found him still crawling. How would they handle that live? No wonder Fonzie lost his job: he made up crazy things and swore they were true. Come to think of it, he DID seem kinda crazed in ECW.

-Meanwhile, Todd Pettengill (In a toga, ballcap, and blue blockers) interviews two Japanese cameramen. As bad as you’d expect.

-Next up, Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund as we near the end of the “meaningless matches to get everyone involved” era. At this point, nobody cared for virtuous Bob, and ultra-slick Razor was getting over as a heel. So the match should be Razor beating the crap out of Opie, right?

-Well, you’re wrong. Bob torments him with classic wrestling, and Razor pins him four minutes in with a cradle. Yup. Whatever.

-Now we get to the meat(?) of the card, as Money Inc defend their Tag Team gold against Hulk Hogan and an increasingly fat Brutus Beefcake. Story here is that Money Inc attacked Beefcake’s face with a Haliburton and Jimmy Hart, then a heel, had a change of heart and tried to save Beefcake. The most memorable part of this was earlier that night on Raw when Beefcake was giving his sob story about his facial injuries, and a fan yelled “JUST KILL YOURSELF”. Good times.

-Money Inc cut their promo beforehand, indicating that Hogan may have “had an accident”. What could it mean?!?

-So out come the Mega Maniacs, with Beefcake wearing a crappy X-cross face mask and Hogan….wow, somebody gave him the shiner from Hell. Word was it was Randy Savage popping him over a slight involving Elizabeth, but it was never fully confirmed. All I know is this: Savage kept changing the subject on commentary in regards to the injury when Heenan and Ross would bring it up, and the “official” story was that Hogan had a jet ski accident. Right. Jet ski accident. You know, I had a jet ski accident once, and I have to side with Hulk on this. I slammed hard into a pier piling and the wreck was horrible. Fortunately, the only thing that I sustained injury-wise was a gash near my eye. Despite hitting that beam at 65 MPH, my limbs and torso were A-OK and I was able to work a backyard wrestling match the following day. Yup.

-Heenan tries to cover Money Inc’s alibi by saying that he was up till 4 AM “shooting the breeze” with them. That’s wrestler jargon for “up all night snorting cocaine”. Remember in Bret Hart’s book: you stay up all night doing drugs and/or sleeping with loose women to stay OUT of trouble. He said it. Meanwhile, I’m trying to imagine what Money Inc and Heenan do while high. “Hey Irwin…hee hee….tell us again about the time WCW made you a SHIP CAPTAIN”.

-Beefcake’s mask is super annoying. Come to think of it, Beefcake himself was super annoying at this point. Whatever coolness that Hogan had left, Beefcake eradicated the lot of it. He and Jimmy were like Scrappy Doo at this stage.

-After the early “dominate the heels” portion, things settle in and Beefcake becomes the face in peril, which is the only “face” joke that HASN’T been made about Ed Leslie yet. So there you go.

-Crowd’s rallying for Hogan to get the tag, so the show’s eventual ending might not sound TOO dumb, but….well, we’ll get there.

-Savage still ducking the injury, Savage still ducking the injury, Savage still ducking the injury…..

-Hogan’s in and the craziness starts, but sheesh, wouldn’t you know it, ANOTHER ref bump. Two in the last three matches is a weeeee bit lazy, unless the Vegas nightlife has made them vulnerable.

-After Dibiase and IRS each get knocked out, the Maniacs cover and Jimmy Hart reverses his jacket to reveal referee stripes! Yeah, because Jimmy knew going in that the ref was going to collapse like Enron, and wanted to be there to make the pin. So he counts, and the Maniacs celebrate like they just won the belts. Idiots. Danny Davis comes out to reverse the decision to Money Inc, and Jimmy, now a babyface remember, fires his former ally in Davis out of the ring. What a role model that Jimmy Hart is.

-Speaking of role models, Hogan, Beefcake, and Jimmy paw through IRS’ briefcase and begin to throw their money to the fans. Theft on camera? Beating up officials? Cheating? No wonder so many kids my age grew up to be degenerates. Not me, of course.

-Now the show begins to REALLY drag, as Pettengill interviews the lone celebrity that bothered to show up in Natalie Cole. Seriously, Vince couldn’t give her $5000 just to do the national anthem at the show’s opening? Or at least a big credit line inside Caesar’s? Wait, she’s not the ONLY celebrity: Dan Reitchartz is here! You know him, right? Dan Reitchartz? He’s the CEO of Caesar’s and…oh screw it.

-Up next, a potential silver lining between Mr. Perfect and The Narcissist Lex Luger. During his pre-match banter, Perfect calls Luger “The Lexercist”. Well sure, I get it. I projectile vomit every time I see a Luger match as well. Funny how Perfect always seems to have a botch or two on the grandest of stages. Not quite Perfect, now is he?

-Luger is accompanied to the ring by four women in thongs who hold up mirrors for him to admire himself in. I admit, I laughed at Savage’s “Have you met the Mach-o Man?” line, because I’m wondering if that’s what he said to Stepha—er, let’s just move on.

-I just realized that both men here, as well as Savage at ringside, would be eventual members of the now Wolfpack. Incredible. No wonder WCW’s dead.

-I have to say, I love Luger’s bad selling. Perfect works the leg, and Luger screams like he just had a live piranha bite his sphincter. This is the same man who sold spray paint to the eyes at Uncensored 1997 by playing dead. Luger’s tremendous. I think his spinal stroke was worse than it had to be because he sold it by laughing and everybody assumed he was ok.

-Man, despite being a wreck on painkillers and booze, Perfect was carrying things here. Shame that he was such a mess, though. Post King of the Ring, when he had that disappointing match with Michaels at SummerSlam, it was all downhill, sadly. Did he ever even have surgery after his back fell apart in 1991? Because after his comeback, he was grimacing a lot more. This is sad to watch.

-So here’s a weird finish: Luger gets the backslide and Perfect’s legs fall over the middle rope, which the referee ignores to give Luger the win. I have no idea how you miss that, but I’m going to assume that the referee just wanted to get this show over with. I’m with reffy.

-Afterward, Perfect runs backstage to get Luger, only to be inexplicably jumped by Shawn Michaels to set up their feud. The trash can shot looked nasty. Am I the only one who’s watching this that’s laughing at the fact that the fight is being separated by men in togas, as well as the fact that they look like they’re fighting at a flea market? Billy Kidman couldn’t headline this drek either.

-Now it gets good.

-And by good, I mean crap.

-Next on the docket, The Undertaker goes one on one with perhaps the worst wrestler in the history of civilization, one Giant Gonzalez. Gonzalez, for the unaware, is 7’7″, and about as thin as a Kotex tube. He has no mobility, no desire, no timing, and no skill. How is Undertaker going to get a good match out of this goof?

-Spoiler: he doesn’t.

-Undertaker at least makes a cool entrance, coming to the ring on a chariot with a vulture, indicating that this show is about to die very soon. I have to say, Gonzalez looks totally natural out there, wearing a bodysuit with a butt crack airbrushed on it. If I could find that outfit on e-bay, I’m certain I’d buy it just to have it. I’m just rambling now, because I’m face to face with absolute crap. Somebody save me.

-Remember when I said that Luger couldn’t sell? GONZALEZ IS WORSE. He just makes the face you would make when you twist your head trying to stay awake. It’s like a sympathy move. I’m trying to stay awake also.

-Taker keeps striking. Gonzalez keeps trying to sell. Justin is considering throwing in the towel.

-Gonzalez on offense. Taker is trying. Justin bashes his head into the coffee table to stay awake.

-Speaking of sleepiness, here’s the finish, are you ready? Gonzalez gets a rag covered in ETHER and gags Taker into unconsciousness for the DQ. Reread it, I have time. So Taker gets carted away and Gonzalez celebrates the demise of Undertaker. From ether.

-BONG

-Taker’s music hits, so he can come back out and beat up Gonzalez. I always liked that. “Hit my music so I can go back out there and beat the crap outta him!”. Good stuff. Not the match.

-Where’s Bryan Alvarez to yell “MINUS FIVE STARS!” like a 10 year old girl?

-FINALLY, we get the silver lining we needed: Bret Hart and Yokozuna for the WWF Title. Logic would dictate that Bret goes over here to establish him as the ultimate champion. Logic would dictate that, yes.

-Oddly enough, Hogan cuts the promo backstage instead of Bret, challenging the winner of Bret and “The Jap”. Ever get that uneasy feeling?

-Crowd is resoundingly for the Hitman, who was a great champion in the ring, even if the numbers don’t back him up. Yokozuna’s game, however, and the crowd is antsy to see just how The Hitman’s going to overcome the odds (Copyright John Cena, 2005).

-The first big hope spot comes when Yoko gets his ankle twisted in the ropes and Bret lands his impact moves quickly. It’s the first time Yoko’s been in such a position and the crowd eats it up.

-For as limited as Yoko was, Bret’s dragging a good match out of him. Not great, but reasonable. The crowd’s firmly behind the underdog champion, but they deflate when Yoko crushes him in the corner. That’s a good advantage for all fat heels: a crushing spot like that can work the crowd in so many ways.

-So now for the big sequence as Yoko tries to pull Bret from the corner, but Bret’s holding onto the turnbuckle pad with all of his strength. Yoko yanks him off, and the turnbuckle pad goes with him. The tide turns, however, and the sumo man hits the exposed steel! Yoko goes down! Is this the break that Bret needs?

-Bret stands over Yoko’s legs and manages to snare him into the Sharpshooter, which many thought was impossible. Then it happens: Mr Fuji spends seven years looking for his pack of salt to throw into Bret’s eyes, and then finally does. Bret collapses and Yoko simply covers him (no splash or anything to knock him out) to score the pin and the gold. The ref doesn’t even ask himself why Bret would just fall over like that. Maybe he figured “Musta been up all night with Money Inc and Heenan”.

-So Hogan hits the ring at about 145 MPH to protest this decision, and Mr Fuji takes the mic, saying that the winded, tired, and blown up Yokozuna immediately issued a challenge to Hogan to defend the belt RIGHT NOW. Yep, really. Bret implores Hogan to “do the right thing” and go get the belt back. Hogan better do it for America!

-So Hogan slides in and Fuji tries the salt toss, but this time Yoko gets hit! Bye bye Fuji, clothesline for Yokozuna, big leg drop and Hogan’s the champion for the fifth time.

-Hogan celebrates like a jerk and the crowd actually does eat it up, but it’s just such a sour way to treat Bret’s fans, who ordered the show to see him in the main event. This created a major discontent backstage between Hogan, Bret, and Vince, and it’s very fascinating if you believe Bret’s hinted theory that this was Vince’s way of painting Hogan as a bad guy to all the boys in the locker room and thus devaluing him before ridding WWF of the Hulkster in the following summer.

-Me? I’m just glad it’s over.

-CYNIC SAYS: Wow, where to even begin? The first two matches were good, but there were so many unsatisfying endings on this show that it boggles the mind. You do a bait and switch with the World Title match, apparently to kowtow to Hogan, and the rest of the show comes off as un-WrestleMania-worthy. There’s a reason that this show is reviled as the worst of all time, and it’s no surprise 17 years later that it still holds up as being just as bad.

Watch this one with low expectations, unless you’re a sucker for crap like I am.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Justin Henry

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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