With the first five WWE WrestleMania events, the company paid little to no attention to what match would open up the show. The crowd would be enthusiastic no matter what, but hopefully with the matches we had in our last block, that mentality would change.
It’s going to be tough topping our previous five matches and I’ll be honest, this set of matches has more in the common with part one. The company is back in the mentality of throwing any match out there, instead of a match that’ll be good. You could say that the thin roster is an excuse, but The Harris Bros, New Blackjacks, Godwinns, Headbangers, and all of the tag team battle royal (Yep, another one) pale in comparison to Shawn, Bret, Owen, Tito, Jannetty, Haku, Barbarian and Tatanaka. While I don’t mind making fun of bad wrestling if it has some type of unintentional comedy to it like The Dungeon of Doom, this is boring and clunky wrestling that has me reaching for the remote.
WrestleMania XI: The Allied Powers (Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith) over The Blu Brothers w/Uncle Zebekiah in 6:34
This was the first WrestleMania since the steroid controversy died down and Vince went all-out trying to recapture the magic of the first WrestleMania. He brought in a big non-wrestler to headline, brought in a ton of celebrities and held the card on the east coast again (Hartford is a bit of a stretch). Since WrestleMania X was taken place at the height of the steroid controversy, Vince had to tone down the celebrity content and couldn’t touch Lawrence Taylor with a ten foot pole. It was the first pitch of the night, it’s a home run swing and Vinny Mac swung so hard he hit himself in the head and knocked himself out. The card was a critical disaster and a production disaster with numerous production errors and the commentary track having to be rerecorded for home video. The Allied Powers had been formed since January once the Bret/Backlund feud was stalled and Davey Boy was given little to do. Luger’s main event run was sent off the cliff so this is a pretty big fall from grace. Half of this match is dedicated to Jacob and Eli using twin magic and I don’t even think Vince which brother is which. This is one you can avoid, the two teams lack chemistry, and Luger botches the opening dual powerslam and Lawler kills him for it. It’s the highlight of a match full of lowlights. I wrote an article rebooking this card and put The Heavenly Bodies in place on The Blu Brothers, since they could have make The Allied Powers look great and Cornette was a heat magnet. This is a clunker and a dud in my mind, the worst since the battle royal in 88.
WrestleMania XII: Camp Cornette (Vader, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith) w/Jim Cornette over Ahmed Johnson, Jake Roberts and Yokozuna w/Mr. Fuji in 13:08
This was originally scheduled to be Vader vs Yokozuna with Yoko getting Cornette for five minutes if he won. Vader was coming back from shoulder surgery (Thus why he was suspended for attacking Monsoon) and was supposed to be gone for a significant period of time. Imagine how cool if the “suspended” Vader just ran out from the crowd and brutalized Michaels or Taker at the end of a random Raw. Yet, Vince was Vince and decided to have Vader come back from surgery early and the six man was a way to make things easier for the big man. I don’t know how booking him with Ahmed Johnson is a way to make things easy, but I’m not Vince. Yoko’s face turn was tough for me to swallow as a kid, the man killed Hulkamania, took part in the semi-killing of The Undertaker and injured numerous faces including Crush, Duggan and Savage. Ahmed hits a dive early in the match that he doesn’t botch and the crowd is hot right away. Yoko and Vader just whaling on each-other will always get positive points from me thanks to my love of hoss fights. Yoko looks like he ate the Yokozuna that competed at WrestleMania IX, but he still moves well despite weighing in at 600 pounds. Laugh of the night comes when Ahmed tags him, hits a powerslam on Bulldog and Vader just walks in and clubs him in the back of the head. Jake gets the hot tag and the crowd still loves old Jake but he quickly falls to the tactics of Camp Cornette. I must admit that Vader/Bulldog/Hart had pretty good chemistry for a three man group, and I think Vader was an upgrade over Yoko. It’s a solid six man tag with all six men playing their roles well and it showed that Vader had real potential to be a force in the main event scene.
Ahmed Johnson Botch Count: 0
WrestleMania 13: Four Team Elimination Match: The Headbangers over The New Blackjacks, The Godwinns, and Doug Furnas and Phl LaFaon in 10:39 (The Headbangers receive a tag team title shot)
Holy crap, the tag team division was in a state of despair at this point. While Owen and Bulldog were a great team along with Mankind and Vader, this was the cream of the crap. No wonder Vince brought the LOD back despite Hawk disappearing after Summerslam 1992. A multi-man match with the dredges of the tag division is nor the best way to open WrestleMania, it works about as well as a battle royal. Luckily, we’ll never have that happen again! Phineas Godwinn does something that I’ve never seen in one of these matches and tags Mosh in while he was in the ring with Thrasher. Thrasher tags LaFon in and they start double teaming him, another smart moment in the match. That’s it for the smart moments as the Blackjacks and Furnas/LaFon are thrown out, rendering their presence in the match absolutely pointless. Headbangers pick up the number one contender spot in an absolutely pointless match. The highlight of the match was Furnas hitting a beautiful Frankensteiner on Windham, the lowlight was everything else. Much like the tag match at XI, this is a clunker and a dud in my book.
WrestleMania XIV: LOD 2000 w/Sunny win a 15-team battle royal, last eliminating The New Midnight Express in 8:19 (LOD receive a tag team title shot)
Let’s talk about what type of match should never and I mean never open a PPV. The Battle Royal! Nothing’s worse in a fans mind than getting pumped up for the card and then watching a whole bunch of guys punch each-other and struggle to throw somebody over the top rope. Open with Taka vs Aguila or even the Sable/Mero vs Luna/Goldust match, but not the frigging battle royal. It didn’t work in 1988 with an already dead crowd in New Jersey and it doesn’t work with a hot Boston crowd. It doesn’t help that this match is filled with some of the crappier midcard storylines from late 1997 to spring 1998: The Truth Commission, Gang Wars (With honorary DOA member Bradshaw) and the god awful NWA angle. You also have The Quebeccers except they’re not Mounties anymore, The Headbangers, The Godwinns, Too Much (Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor) and the most random tag team ever: Steve Blackman and Flash Funk! Capping it off you have the return of The Legion of Doom, albeit with new attire, theme and manager, and hair. My dad called them LOD: Midlife Crisis Edition and while the crowd loved it at first, the team was on life support sadly. We have random cameos from Kurrgan and Barry Windham and the best bump awards goes to Savio Vega.
WrestleMania XV: Hardcore Championship Match: Hardcore Holly over Billy Gunn (Champion) and Al Snow in 7:07
Vince Russo at his best: Build Billy Gunn into a legitimate Intercontinental Championship contender and then have him win the Hardcore Championship. Then have Road Dogg who was doing rather well in the hardcore division win the Intercontinental Championship. I presume this was the original idea until Vince Russo storms in the room with his Iron Man knockoff theme and baseball bat, says bro a bunch of times and gives us this wonderful idea. “BRO, THE FANS WILL NEVER SEE THIS COMING BRO, IT’S A SWERVE!” I forgot what the opening match of this card was, a great endorsement of the overall awfulness of this card. This is truly a one-match WrestleMania, so take that WrestleMania VII! Gunn sticks out like a sore thumb as he was just an awful fit for the hardcore division. The crowd is hot for Snow’s antic since it takes place in Philly and comes alive when Gunn kills Holly with a chair to head and putting Snow through a table. The finish is just bad with Gunn delivering a Fameasser to Snow on a chair and Holly hitting Gunn with when Gunn is pinning Snow to get the win himself. Blah match.
Well, that was not fun. In fact, that was awful. The only decent match in our third batch is the six-man tag and that gets the coveted best match award. When it comes to the worst match, it’s a tie between Allied Powers/Blu Brothers, the tag team battle royal and the multi-man tag match. All three matches were a chore to sit through while the hardcore match was just forgettable. We managed to land on a batch of matches when the tag division was awful and when Russo had the book. Luckily, the next batch of matches include Jericho, Regal, RVD and Mysterio so it’s a definite upgrade.
At least Ahmed didn’t botch anything!