As we start part two, WrestleMania has settled into a comfortable formula. You have Hogan in the main event either challenging or defending for the belt, the IC and Tag Team belts are on the line and the card is gigantic. Seriously, WrestleMania VI is fifteen matches, sixteen if you count the mat classic between Paul Roma and The Brooklyn Brawler. I don’t. Obviously it helped that most of the talent came from the territories and the company would find itself having to change things up once we enter the steroid controversy. Our first edition saw mostly alright matches, nothing special with the exception of a fun Muraco and Orton vs Can-Am Connection match at WrestleMania III. Will our luck change our next five matches?
We have Owen vs Bret, so the answer is yes.
WreslteMania VI: Rick Martel over Koko B. Ware in 3:51
I always wondered why they didn’t go with Tito vs Martel in this spot, considering Koko would have been better to go against Barbarian. Oh well, at least we had the yearly tradition of the former tag champs fighting each other at the Rumble. This Mania is a swan song for Jesse Ventura, he’d find himself out of the company by the time Summerslam arrived. We also see the return and sadly last appearance of the motorized ring cart and I badly wanted one when I was a kid. With the short length, there isn’t much here and it’s a way to showcase Martel. The crowd despises Martel from the get-go and we have one memorable spot. Koko is making his comeback with a series of a flying headbutts and Martel falls to the mat before Koko can hit the third one. It’s hilarious. Martel gets the victory with The Boston Crab in a match that would main event one of the many WWE syndicated shows or one of the C-cards the company used to run. I feel bad for Martel, while the model gimmick was over, he ended up being overshadowed by Mr. Perfect getting hot at the right time.
Wrestlemania VII: The Rockers over Haku and The Barbarian with Bobby Heenan in 10:41
Anybody who says that WrestleMania VII is a one match card may be right, but I’d recommend they watch it again. Yes, Warrior and Savage is a WrestleMania classic but the card has some solid title matches on it. Hogan and Slaughter is dumb fun, Hart Foundation against The Nasty Boys is pretty good, and Perfect against Bossman is a solid match in my mind. The crowd even eats up the blindfold match. Even the British Bulldog and Warlord match is watchable! This match however, is the underrated gem of the card and if you were making a list of underappreciated WrestleMania matches, this would be top three. This is a great big guy team against little guy team with The Rockers trying to use their quickness and getting killed whenever they go toe-to-toe with the duo. They bump around like pinballs for every big blow and even Haku is taking big bumps to make The Rockers look good. Marty does a great Ricky Morton impression taking the good majority of the beating. I’m going to list some of the more memorable moments from the match, but please watch it. Barbarian absolutely murders Shawn and Marty with a clothesline in the beginning, a Franksentsiner by Marty with a Shawn dropkick assist and when Marty goes for it again, Haku and Barbarian counter by driving Marty throat first into the ropes. I would call it a powerbomb/stun-gun combo and it makes me wish Haku and Barbarian had been a force in the tag division. Barbarian catches a Jannetty cross body and drills him with a power slam and it’s just an awesome tag match. Watch it!
WrestleMania VIII: Shawn Michaels with Sensational Sherri over Tito Santana in 10:38
When it comes to the Sherri sung vs Shawn sung version of “Sexy Boy”, I’m down the middle. I would have preferred to hear Diesel try his hand at belting out a version of “Sexy Boy”. It has to be better than the version Vince sang in 1997 *shudders*. I do wonder how people today would reaction to Monsoon making fun of Sherri’s looks, maybe a #FireMonsoon hashtag on Twitter. I also realize that Twitter would have been the destruction of kayfabe and probably the industry if it had been invented in the 80’s. The match came about when both men simultaneously eliminated each other at the Rumble and I used to think this was for an Intercontinental Title shot as a kid. I was rooting for old Tito to get one last moment in the sun as a kid, and I despised Shawn. I like this match overall, it’s a nice veteran vs cocky upstart and both men play their roles well. I’m not forgetting Sherri either, she’s perfect in her role also. Tito relies on his accrued years of ring experience to school Michaels in wrestling 101 and Shawn relies on underhanded tactics and brawling to gain the advantage. Shawn’s selling of the Flying Forearm is great (We see some classic overselling) with him sliding to the outside and Tito losing it and relying on brawling tactics against Michaels. Both guys look pretty good coming out of this match with Shawn escaping with a victory by the skin of his teeth.
WrestleMania IX: Intercontinental Championship Match: Tatanka w/Sensational Sherri over Shawn Michaels w/Luna Vachon in 18:13 (Countout victory, Shawn retains the title)
Ah, 1993. The roster has been gutted thanks to the steroid scandal, Jim Ross makes his WrestleMania debut and Hogan weasels his way into the main event. This is the first year a title is defended in the opening match, something that we wouldn’t see again until WrestleMania XV. I didn’t get to see WrestleMania IX till my dad rented it from Blockbuster, so I didn’t know much about the backstory going into this match. I thought it was weird that Sherri was suddenly with Tatanka and remember I didn’t get to watch Raw in bed full-time until 1995. Tatanka pinned Michaels twice, once on Superstars and a six man teaming with The Nasty Boys defeating Michaels and the pride of Shaker Heights: The Beverly Brothers! I had written about this in a previous article, praising it as a good but not great match. Upon a second viewing, my opinion hasn’t changed. The interaction between Sherri and Luna is great and the fight they had on Raw a few weeks later was indeed…raw. That’s not a slight against the match, the finish brings it down and the company booked themselves into a corner with this one. Shawn was too hot of a heel and was being prepped for a feud with Perfect and they didn’t want to end the undefeated streak. If Tatanka was given a cup of coffee with the belt, I presume his run would have ended at the hands of evil Finnish environmentalist and all around crazy man Ludvig Borga. As long as we would get Luger killing Mounties with his steel plate forearm as a form of retribution.
WrestleMania X: Owen Hart over Bret Hart in 20:21
Until Daniel Bryan and Triple H delivered a classic twenty years later, there was no debate on what the greatest opening match in WrestleMania history was. While Triple H vs Daniel Bryan comes close, no opening match will ever top Owen vs Bret. There is one minor problem however. Where the heck is Howard Finkel? We have some Bill Dunn guy announcing this match and boy is he…related to Kevin Dunn? He has to be considering that Vince saw this man a successor to The Fink along with Manny Garcia, but nothing can top Howard. What can I say that hasn’t been said? This is fantastic all around from the crowd to the commentary and the slow build-up. It’s also the first opening match to have a video package attached to it! It’s fantastic, showing the events leading up to this match with Owen being the little brother sick of being in the shadow of big brother, Bret refusing to fight him, reconciliation and the eventual betrayal by Owen. I’m so happy that Bret pushed for Owen for this spot rather than Bruce “The Deuce” Hart. You have the slow build-up with fantastic technical wrestling with Bret outclassing Owen at first leading to Owen getting frustrated. After that, the match plays out like a beautiful piece of music, Owen getting away with the victory is the crescendo, the perfect finish. I’ve seen this match dozens of times and I would put it up there as one of the top ten matches in WrestleMania history. It’s a showcase of what Bret could do in the ring but most of all, it is the coming out party for Owen Hart. After being booked as a white-meat babyface for years, he’s a natural playing a heel. Everything about his heel character is perfect from breaking a lock-up to put his arms up in the air and screaming “YEAH” at the top of his lungs to viciously attacking Bret when he’s down and giving Bret the finger after he won. Best of all, it was a clean victory, you would have expected Owen to use the tights or brass knuckles to give Bret an out. The clean victory establishes Owen as a major player in the main event scene and you know the brothers will be meeting after WrestleMania. Absolutely Perfect.
Ten down, twenty-one more matches to go and this ended up being an enjoyable batch of opening matches. If there was a worst match award, it has to be Rick Martel vs Koko B. Ware, but even then, it’s not a bad match at all. It just happens to be in the same set of opening matches with Rockers vs Haku and Barbarian and Owen vs Bret. When it comes to the best match award, it’s a no brainer that Owen vs Bret takes the award. As much as I love Rockers vs Haku and Barbarian, nothing can top Bret vs Owen. The next batch of opening matches will have a very tough time topping this batch of matches and judging by the matches, that isn’t happening. I don’t have any optimism for The Allied Powers vs Jacob and Eli Blu. Can you blame me?
As a kid, I wanted a job at wherever the WWE stored it’s props just so I could ride around the building in the ring cart.