The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for WWF Wrestlemania IX
– Figured we might as well go whole hog and redo this one, since the buildup on the RAWs I’ve been doing has been towards this show. Plus I wanted to work in all the Anthology versions of WM anyway. Can you believe it’s been ten years since I last did this one?
– Live from Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.
– Your hosts are Bobby Heenan, Randy Savage and introducing…JIM ROSS! In a toga.
Intercontinental title: Shawn Michaels v. Tatanka
Odd choice for an opener, actually, as the buildup for Tatanka would have led you to think he’d be higher up on the card. This is the short-lived debut of Luna Vachon as Shawn’s manager in a move that was a head-scratcher even by the standards of the time. Tatanka counters with blessings from the cougar lodge — Sherri Martell. Shawn goes for the takedown to start and Tatanka fights him off. Shawn goes with the top wristlock and Tatanka powers out of that, so he goes with the headlock and has better luck there. Tatanka tries to power out, so Shawn walks the ropes to hold the move, then tries it again and gets dropped with a suplex as a result. Tatanka hits him with a dropkick and chops him to the floor, but Sherri keeps Luna from interceding. Shawn fights Tatanka off and comes in via the top rope with a sunset flip for two. That went badly. Tatanka catches him with an inverted atomic drop and a DDT, then goes to work on the arm. Shawn keeps threatening to pull hair and the ref keeps catching him, so Tatanka is able to take him down again and goes back to the armbar. Shawn slugs out, but charges and runs himself into the post, allowing Tatanka to go back to the arm again. Shawn tries to alley-oop him in the corner, but Tatanka catches him with a shoulderbreaker and goes up with a flying chop on the shoulder. Another one, but Shawn catches him with a superkick on the way down to take over. Shawn tosses him and Sherri chases Luna off again, but Shawn hits him with a clothesline off the apron anyway. Back in, Shawn gets a neckbreaker for two. Standing dropkick gets two. Shawn hits the chinlock and then slugs away in the corner, then tries a victory roll and actually gets two. I don’t know that Tatanka knew what was going on there. Shawn goes up and does it again, and this time Tatanka is hip to the room and drops him with an electric chair. That gets two. Tatanka misses an elbow and Shawn goes up with a double axehandle, but it’s the PISSED OFF RACIAL STEREOTYPE, which actually gets a good reaction from the crowd. Tatanka blocks the superkick and chops him down, which Shawn sells like gunshots. Tatanka with a high cross for two. Catapult into a rollup gets two. Papoose to Go is reversed into a rollup for two by Shawn. Shawn goes up to capitalize, but Tatanka catches him with the powerslam for two. Shawn tosses him to catch a breather, but he does a dramatic dive from the apron and hits the stairs by mistake. He pulls out the ref in frustration, and back in, Tatanka with the Papoose to Go, but the ref calls for the DQ at 18:18. That is some weak sauce. People pull out the ref just to break up a two count these days! Much longer and better match than I remember, though. ***1/2 They really booked themselves into a corner here, as they didn’t want to end the undefeated streak and they didn’t want to change the title, so you get this finish.
The Headshrinkers v. The Steiner Brothers
A sign in the crowd notes that New York City loves the Steiners and the Undertaker. Really? Just those three? And is it fair for one sign to speak for the entire city? What if some guy in Manhattan loves Mr. Perfect more? Was this sign created from a scientific poll of the city? I WANT TO KNOW.
Anyway, Scott takes Fatu down with an armbar to start and hiptosses him out of the corner, and they slug it out until Fatu goes down. The Shrinkers double-team Scott in the corner and toss Rick, but the Steiners regroup and both come off the same turnbuckle with clotheslines. That’s pretty awesome. Rick comes in against Samu, and Samu pounds him in the corner and follows with a clothesline. Rick hits him with his own and then sends him into the post in a crazy spot. Scott comes in with the butterfly bomb, but Samu drops him with a hotshot that turns into a crazy bump over the top when Fatu pulls the top rope down. Afa hits him with the big stick for good measure. Back in, the Headshrinkers take over and Fatu gets a backbreaker and a diving headbutt for two. Samu with a nice spinkick, but a blind charge hits boot. Fatu comes back in with a Randy Orton punt to put Scott on the floor, and Samu runs him into the post. Back in, Scott rams Fatu’s head into the mat, and Fatu casually no-sells it and superkicks him down. I LOVE that spot. Haku used to do that one, too, and it’s always great because the crowd pops for the initial move and then again for the heel comeback. Scott tries to fight out of the corner and they poke him in the eyes, allowing Fatu to get a backbreaker for two. They clothesline each other, but Fatu makes the tag first and Samu cuts the tag off. He goes up and misses the flying headbutt, however, and it’s HOT tag Rick. Backdrop and slam sets up a series of Steinerlines, but ramming their heads together proves to be a mistake. Shrinkers hit the double Stroke to take over again and try a Doomsday Device, but incredibly Rick catches Samu in mid-air and powerslams him off Fatu’s shoulders for two. Back to Scott, who suplexes Fatu, but runs into another superkick from Samu. Scott has had ENOUGH, however, and finishes with the Frankensteiner at 14:20. They were just beating the hell out of each other here, and again this was much better and longer than I remembered. ***1/4
Crush v. Doink the Clown
Crush attacks on the floor and sends the clown into the post, and they head in for some angry choking from Crush. Randy notes that “Crush is all over Doink like melting butter”. Can we have a drug test for Savage, please? And also a drug test for whoever though that orange, yellow and purple tights would be a good idea for Crush? Crush pounds away and gets a standing neckbreaker, then snaps the neck on the top rope. Crush pounds away on the apron, but Doink retorts with his own necksnap and comes off the top with a series of forearms to put him down. Piledriver follows and Crush bails to escape, but Doink hauls him back in. He goes up and we get my least favorite spot, as Doink goes up and lands on Crush’s foot, and Crush powerslams him to make the comeback. Clothesline puts Doink on the floor, and Doink tries to hide under the ring. Crush pulls him back into the ring for a press slam and tries to finish, but Doink nails the ref and goes under the ring again. Crush hauls him back in again and applies the head-vice, but GatorDoink hits him from behind with the fake arm and Doink gets the pin at 8:27. *1/2
Razor Ramon v. Bob Backlund
The crowd is clearly cheering for Razor, which I also noticed on the Poughkeepsie RAW as well, so the writing was on the wall there. Backlund evades him to start, but Ramon catches him and beats him down, then stomps away. Bob comes back with a hiptoss out of the corner, but misses a dropkick and comes back with a butterfly suplex instead. He follows with an atomic drop and then slingshots Ramon in from the apron, but Ramon cradles for the pin at 3:40. Big pop for that. *
WWF World tag team titles: Money Inc. v. Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake
Hogan is of course sporting a black eye here, and we’ve covered that enough for one lifetime. Beefcake’s ridiculous protective mask looks like a rejected Kyle Raynor Green Lantern design. Dibiase starts with Beefcake and elbows him down, but he comes off the top and hurts his hand when he hits Beefcake’s mask. Dibiase rams Beefcake into the turnbuckle and that has no effect either, and the faces take over on Dibiase. Hogan slugs away in the corner and clotheslines him, and Beefcake comes in for a slam. The faces pinball Dibiase in the corner and Hulk clotheslines him out, and it’s more of the same for IRS. The champs decide to take a walk, but they do the silly thing where the ref threatens to switch the titles if they walk out. So they head back in and Dibiase gets a cheapshot on Hulk and chokes away, then gets the Million Dollar Dream. Hulk basically sells it like a chinlock as Savage goes into his insane bit about how “they’re hanging from the rafters…if there were rafters…but there’s not, there’s columns, and they’re hanging from them.” OK then. Beefcake breaks up the sleeper with one of his own, and that leaves both Dibiase and Hogan out for the double count. Hulk recovers first and it’s hot tag Beefcake. High knee for IRS and Dibiase goes out via an atomic drop, but he hits Beefcake with the briefcase and IRS drops an elbow to take over again. Really? Wasn’t 15 minutes long enough for this shitty match? Dibiase tries to get the mask off and succeeds, and they go to work on his face now. Now, they already said that Beefcake was at 100% and didn’t sustain any damage from the previous attack, so I’m not sure where the suspense is supposed to be coming from. Beefer comes back and puts IRS in the sleeper, and the ref gets wiped out as a result. Now, the ref is unconscious, why would Hogan bother waiting for the tag? Hulk gets the tag, puts them down with the mask, and both faces make the cover, but the ref revives and calls for the DQ at 18:48, giving Money Inc. the win. Just an awful, awful finish to an incredibly boring match. Beefcake in particular looked out of sync and terrible. *1/4 And Hulk Hogan has been a wrestler for HOW long and still celebrates with the title belts when JIMMY HART makes the count? Are they supposed to be retarded? This one, at the time, was setting off huge alarm bells in my head because why would Hogan make his big comeback and then lose? Anyway, they do their posing (despite losing) and then Hogan breaks into Dibiase’s personal property, the briefcase, and throws his money into the crowd. Years later, Linda would do the same thing to him. Probably not even metaphorically, she probably made him fill a briefcase full of money and then gave it away to a crowd of people while he watched.
Mr. Perfect v. Lex Luger
This should have been great and just wasn’t. Although people often compare Perfect’s style with Flair’s and assume that he’d mesh well with Luger because of that, but heel Luger v. face Flair was never any good either. Perfect tries the headlock to start and they trade hammerlock attempts, but Luger makes the ropes. Perfect hits a kneelift and dropkick and Luger bails to think it over. Back in, Luger with a cheapshot to take over and he runs Perfect into the turnbuckle, but a big boot is blocked and Perfect goes to work on the leg. He chops away in the corner, but Luger whips him into the turnbuckles and Perfect bumps out of the ring. Luger works the back in the ring and gets a backbreaker, then drops an elbow for two. Pin in the corner gets two. Lex with the powerslam for two. Perfect sunset flip gets two and he comes back with a sleeper, but Luger runs him into the corner to break. Perfect slugs him down as this is going nowhere fast, and a small package gets two. Perfect catapults him into the corner and puts him down with the Ax forearm for two. Perfect with another forearm for two and a neckbreaker gets two. Ugly missile dropkick gets two, but Luger is in the ropes. He tries a backslide, but Lex hooks the ropes and reverses for the pin at 10:55, despite Perfect’s legs being in the ropes. Just goes to show: Never depend on the ref seeing you in the ropes, always kick out. They were on two different planets here for whatever reason. *1/2 Perfect chases Luger to the back to exact his revenge, but Shawn Michaels jumps him to set up that feud. Now, since Perfect never got his revenge on Luger, can it be assumed that his turn on Luger at Wrestlemania X was a very long-simmering plot on his part?
Undertaker v. Giant Gonzalez
Gonzalez hammers on Taker to no effect and then chokes him into the corner, but Taker climbs the ropes and chokes right back. Giant goes low to break, but Taker goes old school and slugs away in the corner while Giant makes faces in his sad attempts to sell. Gonzalez with a clothesline and he pounds away and hiptosses Taker, then goes to a standing chinlock of some sort. And that just goes on forever, until he tosses Taker and sends him into the stairs. Back in, Giant headbutts him down, but Taker fights back and we get more of Gonzalez selling like a moron. The managers get involved and Gonzalez smothers Taker with a chloroform-soaked cloth for the DQ at 7:37. I can’t even watch this without thinking of the Simpsons now and “You idiot, those are COLORFORMS!” These are some especially bad finishes tonight. And this was just as terrible as advertised, with Gonzalez unable to do the simplest moves properly or sell anything. –****
Meanwhile, Mean Gene interviews Hulk Hogan, who promises that regardless of whether it’s Bret Hart or “the jap”, he wants the first shot. ALARM BELLS, RINGING.
WWF World title: Bret Hart v. Yokozuna
Basically the buildup was that Bret Hart was having the worst week of his life and had no chance to beat the guy who outweighed him by 200 pounds. So you can see why this did the buyrate it did. Like, wouldn’t you at least PRETEND that Bret has a shot to beat his challenger? They spend literally the whole PPV talking about how bookmakers have Yoko as the odds-on favorite. Bret dropkicks him into the corner to start and slugs away, but Yoko tackles him to the floor. Bret trips him up and slingshots himself back in, then drops the elbow off the middle rope. Yoko comes back with a clothesline and slam, and the Hulkbuster legdrop follows. He chokes Bret out on the ropes and goes to the nerve pinch. Yoko charges and misses, allowing Bret to get a sort-of bulldog for two. Yoko puts him down again with a superkick and goes back to the nerve hold. Another charge misses again and Bret gets another bulldog for two, then the middle rope elbow for two. Clothesline puts Yoko down and Bret slugs away in the corner, but Yoko puts him down with an atomic drop, as Bret yanks the turnbuckle pad off. Bret sends him into the steel and hooks the Sharpshooter, but Fuji tosses a big ol’ handful of salt in his face, and Yoko gets the pin and the title at 8:49. Watchable, but Bret could only do so much here. *1/2 And before Yokozuna can even celebrate, Hulk Hogan comes out to protest, which results in Fuji challenging him to a title match RIGHT HERE.
WWF World title: Yokozuna v. Hulk Hogan
So Fuji throws more salt, hits Yoko by mistake, and the legdrop gives Hogan his fifth title at 0:25. And we all know how well THAT turned out.
I would actually classify this as “mildly better than I remembered”, with the first two matches being pretty darn good and the rest living down to its pedigree. I’d still call it far and away the worst Wrestlemania of all-time, though, as the atmosphere was ridiculously bad and it featured some of the worst finishes this side of Dusty Rhodes on an LCD trip.
(As noted in the past, another 10 years after I wrote this, I’ve mellowed on it significantly more and now 11 and 27 reign as worse, I’d say.)