The SmarK Retro Rant for King of the Ring 93
(Originally written June of 2001)
This would be one of the most frequent recipients of the “PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE” type of request from people, for reasons that still elude me. But hey, the 2001 edition of KOTR is in a week, so let’s get to ‘er.
Live from Dayton, OH, home of The Rick.
Your hosts are Jim Ross, Bobby Heenan and Randy Savage, which is about as much of an announcing car crash as you can have without Vince McMahon in there. Speaking of which, Vince was a little busy getting indicted by the federal government at this point, which is why JR is doing commentary.
Quarterfinal match: Razor Ramon v. Bret Hart.
Bret is the #1 seed, Ramon is fresh off getting beaten by Sean Waltman and thus beginning his eventual face turn. You know, I’d hate to put stupid ideas into the WWF’s head, but if they’re looking for a big guy to play The Stalker who Undertaker might actually be willing to sell for, there’s far worse choices than Scott Hall, assuming he’s cleaned up. I’m not condoning bringing him back in, but look at this way: What are the odds that somewhere deep in Vince’s mind he wants to make it be Big Show, Kane or Rikishi? I mean, since at this point we can pretty much give up on Undertaker selling for anyone under 6 feet tall until he goes away, they might as well use a known guy with an already-over character. And Razor Ramon was never what you’d call a paragon of virtue to begin with. Ramon overpowers Bret to start, but Bret works the arm. Ramon counters with a clothesline, but Bret stays on the arm. That lasts a while. Bret hits knee on a blind charge and gets posted, then Razor lays in the boots and hits the blockbuster slam for two. Running powerslam gets two. Huh, that’s a different trick for him. A couple of elbows and a sideslam but Bret down, but Bret comes back and dodges an elbow to come back. FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! In this case, atomic drop, clothesline, russian legsweep, backbreaker and second rope elbow. Bret even mixes things up, working in a rollup for two and then pulling the bulldog out of mothballs, which Ramon blocks. Razor’s Edge is reversed to a small package, for a close two. Ramon decks him from behind and goes for a superplex, but Bret falls on top for the pin at 10:23. I would have went with the small package finish myself, but the match was still solid. **3/4
Quarterfinal match: Mr. Hughes v. Mr. Perfect.
Winner gets to keep both “Mr”. And “Curt”. Hughes was in the midst of that Undertaker urn-stealing feud that drew those huge 15,000 person houses all over the country. I mean, really, can you think of any more timeless storyline than the big black guy who steals the zombie’s life-giving urn and uses it to aid the 8 foot tall giant dressed in a Bigfoot suit? Vince McMahon is a marketing GENIUS, you know, because he has his employees tell us so all the time. Anyway, Hughes shrugs Perfect off a couple of times, but gets armdragged. Perfect dropkick is no-sold. Hughes dumps Perfect on a punch oversell job, and pounds away back in the ring. Well, when you need someone to bounce around the ring like a superball, call Hennig. He fights back, but eats a big boot. Hughes hits the chinlock. He continues the beating as Hennig bounces from one end of the ring to the other. Hughes blows a bodypress (and hard is THAT? Catch the guy, fall backwards), and covers up with some choking. He crotches himself, however, and Perfect comes back with a hiptoss and backdrop where it was blatantly obvious that Hughes was essentially wrestling himself. Slugfest and Hughes grabs the URN OF DEATH for the DQ at 5:59. I understand the mentality behind keeping Hughes strong so they could feed him to the Undertaker, but since there didn’t end up ever being a Hughes-Undertaker match on PPV, it kind of renders the whole exercise pretty stupid. ½*
Quarterfinal match: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Hacksaw Duggan.
With Hogan on the way out, so were most of his friends, and so we had Duggan entered into the tournament with the expressed purpose of putting Bigelow over. They get nowhere on a power match to start, so Duggan goes with three clotheslines to drop him. Bigelow bails and they slug it out. Bigelow misses a blind charge, but blocks a slam and stomps away. Bearhuggitude follows, but Duggan breaks, and again can’t slam Bammer. Back to the bearhug. Duggan escapes and finally gets that elusive slam, but misses the three-point stance and jobs to the headbutt at 4:55. And that was that for Duggan meaning anything in the WWF. ¼*
Quarterfinal match: Lex Luger v. Tatanka.
In a bit of booking that makes sense from a booking standpoint but not from a quality standpoint, they put the two undefeated guys against each other so as to force a draw and give Bigelow the easy trip to the finals. However, I guess no one took into consideration giving Luger and Tatanka 15 minutes and just what that would mean. We go through a little pathos play to start, as evil Narcissist Luger has to cover up the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF HIDEOUS TORTURE with an elbowpad. Ooo, an elbowpad. You’d think the layers of skin and muscle over the steel plate would do a better job of padding it than an elbowpad would, but the crowd bought the psychology, so what the hey. Luger dumps Tatanka for interrupting his posing, but Tanaka pushes the mirror onto him and chops him out. Brawl outside, and back in for a Tatanka clothesline that gets two. He goes to the arm as the announcers make as many references to the time limit as are humanly possible. Armbar lasts a while, just like everything else in this match. Crossbody gets two, and back to the arm. Luger escapes and pounds away in the corner to take over. Elbowdrop gets two and Luger does some stalling to kill time. Another elbow gets two, as does the leaping elbow which only seems to hit once every 5 years. Luger hits the chinlock. Elbowdrop gets two, but Tatanka cradles for two, and gets a sunset flip for two. Luger walks around and kills more time. Tatanka comes back with the CHOPS OF DOOM for two. Powerslam gets two. FLYING CHOP OF FACIAL DISFIGURATION AND HORROR gets two. Again, but it misses and Jim Ross is nearly popping a vein at the thought of the time limit expiring, BY GAWD. Luger seems totally oblivious to Ross’ state of mind, because he’s just taking his time and leisurely hits a lariat for two. Powerslam gets two, suplex gets two, backbreaker gets two and the time limit expires at 15:00. Luger looks about as concerned as someone not very concerned at all, then attacks with the uncovered forearm to KO Tatanka. *
Semifinal match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Perfect.
Bret starts with a headlock and Hennig counters, they exchange slams, and Bret goes back to the headlock again. Good fast-paced start. Bret gets a crucifix for two, back to the headlock. He gets put out, but sunset flips back in for two. Back to the headlock, but now Hennig goes low to go heel. Standing dropkick and Bret bails as the crowd starts to turn on Perfect, right on cue. He decks Bret on the way in after holding the ropes, and lays down some smack in the corner. Kneelift gets two. Brawl outside, where Perfect dominates. Bret crawls onto the apron, and Perfect snaps the ropes and sends him crashing into the railing. Bret would modify that spot at Survivor Series 95 with Diesel, putting himself through a table instead. Bret makes it back in and gets kneelifted for two, as the Curt Hennig I know and love re-emerges from the wimpy exterior that his face turn had put on him. Missile dropkick gets two. Now Perfect gets downright vicious, whipping Bret into the corner with GUSTO and sneering while he does it. He goes up again, but gets crotched again and superplexed for two. Bret kicks his leg out from under his leg and goes to a figure-four as the crowd gets more and more into it. Perfect makes the ropes, and Bret works the knee. Perfect goes to the eyes and uses a hairtoss, a definite heel move. Sleeper, but Bret makes the ropes. Perfect continues selling the knee as he releases, but he manages to go back to the move and use the ropes to boot. CHEAT TO WIN~! Bret breaks on the top rope and makes the comeback by going tit-for-tat and hairtossing Perfect right back. We get another variant of the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, this time they’re atomic drop, legsweep, legdrop, backbreaker and 2nd rope elbow. Sharpshooter is blocked by Perfect as he grabs the bad hand of Bret (something established by JR’s commentary early in the match), but Bret blocks the Perfectplex and suplexes both of them to the floor. Back in, Perfect fakes him out with his “knee injury” and cradles for two, but Bret reverses for the pin at 18:49. MORE, MORE, I WANT MORE! Man, there was more psychology than Sigmund Freud v. Carl Jung in a submissive match. ****1/2 Yup, I liked this one more than their Summerslam 91 classic, mainly because Hennig wasn’t crippled here. They make up after the match like good babyfaces, although I would have had infinitely more respect for Curt if he’d decked Bret and gone full heel again.
WWF title match: Hulk Hogan v. Yokozuna.
So here it is – Hogan, much like everyone else in North America, was no longer drawing numbers high enough to justify his salary, and when he decided that he wasn’t gonna put over Bret Hart after all, Vince pulled the trigger on the decision that changed the landscape of American wrestling once and for all and nearly came back to destroy him 3 years later. Jim Ross offers a little “shut up” to the smart fans, noting that many people were complaining that Bret Hart should have gotten this rematch, but he didn’t, so there. Yokozuna, at this point, wasn’t really that over as a monster heel, but he had plenty of freakshow appeal so I guess Vince decided that he’d be The Guy until a new Hogan could be found. The formula seemed pretty obvious at the time: Beat Hogan with a Big Fat Monster, find a new Hogan, and have the New Hogan do what the Old Hogan couldn’t do and thus everyone loves him and life is good and everyone makes millions. I’m not gonna sit here and fault Vince for trying – I’d have personally gone with Crush instead of Lex Luger, but you had to at least make the attempt, no matter how horribly wrong it ended up being in the long run. If Hogan isn’t gonna put Bret Hart over, then putting Bret over Yokozuna isn’t gonna work. Bret already beat Yokozuna in the eyes of the fans, but Hogan still had a rub to give that Yoko didn’t. Anyway, to the match, as Hogan is stopped cold right away by Yoko’s overwhelming bulk. Yoko pounds away and Hogan goes right into 80s oversell mode, crawling around the ring like Jake Roberts after one too many hits. Yoko…very…slowly pounds Hogan, as JR makes his mandatory “methodical pace” comment, but misses an avalanche. Hogan punches away, but can’t slam him. More punches, still can’t slam him. Three clotheslines, but on the third one Hogan gets decked. He misses the Big Fat Splash, but Hogan still can’t knock him down by himself. Yoko goes to the bearhug, but Hulk punches out…and walks into an elbow. Belly to belly gets two, and Hulk hulks up. Hogan has just had absolutely no offense in this match. Punches and the big boot…is no-sold. Again, nada. Three times, Yoko goes down, legdrop…gets two. And that’s it for Hogan’s offense, as a photographer (played by Marty Jannetty, Harvey Wippleman or Akio Sato depending on who you ask) jumps onto the apron, takes a picture of Hulk that results in a fireball coming from his camera, and Yoko hits the Hulkbuster Legdrop for the pin and the WWF title at 13:08. Hey, let’s add a Banzai drop to nail the coffin securely shut, why don’t we? Very importantly: Hogan never got to slam him, so as not to wreck it for when Luger DID slam him shortly after. The announcers bemoan the death of Hulkamania and promise updates on his condition later on that would never come. In fact, Hulk Hogan was erased from history the very next night, never to be officially mentioned again until after kayfabe died in 1998. Makes you want to write a Haiku or something, doesn’t it? ¼*
The Smoking Gunns & The Steiner Brothers v. Money Inc. & The Headshrinkers.
Well, to say that the crowd is in shock after that is a bit of an understatement, so they basically sent these eight guys out there to die a slow and painful death. You know, it’s weird that people don’t associate Scott Steiner with the WWF in the slightest anymore, even though he’s a former two-time WWF tag champion and almost got the Jesus Push in 1994. That’s actually a testiment to how well WCW rebuilt a whole new character for him when he joined the nWo in 1998. It wasn’t a particularly GOOD character for the first few years, mind you, but it was certainly effective in erasing his old image. Dibiase and Scott start, and trade armdrags. Steiner dropkicks him and clotheslines him out, but Rick tosses him back in, where Scott clotheslines him out again. Dibiase regroups and Fatu tries with Bart. Bart gets a dropkick, but Fatu comes back with a superkick and the Shrinkers double-team Bart. Money Inc. add their own double-teams and Dibiase gets a suplex. Shrinkers double-backdrop Bart for two. Fatu backbreaker gets two. IRS legdrop gets two. Lariat from Irwin, but it’s a double-KO spot for some reason. Hot tag Billy, and he gives Ted two clotheslines…and walks into a hotshot. Million-dollar Dream looks to finish, but Dibiase releases for an inadequately-explored reason and gets cradled for the pin at 7:02. Um, that’s the finish? Were the Steiners on disability or something? *1/4
Intercontinental title match: Shawn Michaels v. Crush.
This is the first PPV appearance for Diesel in the WWF. Crush grabs a headlock and shoulderblocks Shawn right out of the ring. Back to the headlock, but Shawn escapes. Crush leapfrogs him twice and dropkicks him out of the ring. Back in, Crush bumps Shawn around and military presses him. Tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and Shawn bails and hides behind Big Sexy. Kevin Nash not saying anything is just so…wrong. Crush chases like a moron and gets decked from behind, then Shawn rams the back of his head into the ringpost five times. Okay, OUCH. Shawn tosses him in and gets two. Shawn goes up with a double-axehandle and stomps away, for two. We HIT THE CHINLOCK, and that goes on a while. Crush powers out in dramatic fashion, and dumps Shawn. Crush makes the comeback with a backdrop. Backbreaker gets two. Big boot and legdrop get two. Geez, they’re already burying Hogan’s finish. Shawn gets dumped as the Doink Twins come to ringside, where Crush stupidly yells at them and gets superkicked from behind for the pin at 11:13. No one to blame but himself for that one. Match had the fans rallying behind some new wrestler named “Boring” for most of it. You know, I’m actually kinda shocked that some indy promoter hasn’t named a talentless slug “Joe Boring” or the like, and then sent him out there to chinlock some guy for 10 minutes. The fans would chant “Boring!” and the guy could act like he was getting a babyface pop. Anyway… *1/4
King of the Ring: Bret Hart v. Bam Bam Bigelow.
Bret hammers away, but loses that battle pretty quick. Bret counters a press-slam for two, and works the arm. Bammer overpowers him and presses him onto the floor. Ouch. Back in, Bigelow drops a pair of headbutts and whips him into the corner. Another headbutt gets two, and Bigelow works the back. Backdrop suplex gets two. Hart comes back, but he gets whipped into the corner again. Another headbutt gets two, and it’s Huggy Bear time! Oh, wait, sorry, TNN has infested my brain with Starsky & Hutch, that’s actually “bearhug”, my mistake. Another backdrop suplex gets two, and they brawl outside, which Bret actually wins. He walks into Bigelow’s arms, however, and gets posted. So much for that rally. Bigelow slams him on the floor, Luna chairshots him, and Bigelow finishes with the flying headbutt to win King of the Ring. Well, that’s certainly different from the finish I remembered. Oh, wait, here’s another ref, so that’s my cue to say…
The match must continue, as apparently this is the first time in wrestling history where interference has been noticed and something will be done about it. Bigelow keeps beating on him and goes back to the bearhug. Into the body vice, which Bret reverses into a suplex. Bigelow misses a senton and Bret tries to come back, but gets whipped into the corner again. He’s been taking a lot of that bump tonight. Another body vice, but Bret wriggles into a sleeper. Bammer shrugs him off, but Bret dropkicks him out. Pescado follows, and Bret heads back in for a 2nd rope clothesline for two. Russian legsweep and bulldog follow, but he can’t get the Sharpshooter. Bigelow counters a suplex for two. Blind charge hits boot, and Bret finishes with the famous victory roll at 18:18. Standard David & Goliath stuff elevated by Bret working his ass off in order to get over as the big dog in the WWF. Sadly, this did nothing to help Bigelow’s WWF career, as he was feuding with Doink by the same time the next year. ***1/2
Bret of course heads over to be coronated, but gets blindsided by Jerry Lawler. Bret later revealed that Lawler hit him too hard with the sceptre and messed up his back for a while.
The Bottom Line:
Not a bad show by any means, but it’s all thanks to Bret Hart. Were it not for Bret providing the only three good matches of the show, it certainly wouldn’t have given KOTR enough of a reputation for the WWF to continue with it every year. Watching Hogan’s last WWF match is as much sad as funny in some ways, and if you want more bang for your Hogan-hating buck, I’d actually recommend his humiliating loss to Undertaker in 1991 over this one.