Wrestlemania Countdown: 12

(2012 Scott sez:  And now, the worst rant I’ve ever written.  I hate posting this one because it’s from 1996, written live after the show shortly after I had just moved out on my own for the first time, and before I was even writing on a full-time basis.  I find it embarrassing and amateurish, to be honest.  Mostly Live from the Pond in Anaheim. WWF Wrestlemania XII, hosted by Vince MacMahon and Jerry Lawler. Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna and Jake Roberts v. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith and The Man They Call Vader: I would personally have preferred to see the proffered singles match between Yoko and Vader (WHY?!?), but none of these guys is why we’re here tonight anyways, so I’ll live. Of note here: Mr. Fuji is carrying an American flag. (Well he is American.)  Pretty standard opening match, with the added stipulation that the Butt Who Walks Like A Man gets 5 minutes with Jim Cornette should the faces win. I’m not really into play-by-play, so I’ll spare you the details and just mention that the heels win after a Cornette racketshot to the noggin of Jake Roberts. Montage of history between Roddy Piper and Goldust, which, really, isn’t that much. (Real history:  Scott Hall got into yet another spot of trouble and Piper was an emergency replacement.)  Roddy Piper v. Goldust (Backlot Brawl): Well, they’re out in a backlot, and they fight. And fight. And fight. Then Goldust runs Piper over. Man, these lovers’ tiffs can get ugly, can’t they? Piper uses everything but the kitchen sink here, hitting what looked like legit punches to the face of the Gold One. Goldust runs off in his gold Cadillac and Piper pursues in a white Bronco. That last part is important. Steve Austin v. Savio Vega: Jerry Lawler makes sure to note this is a non-title match. Okay, fine. Steve Austin v. Savio Vega (non-title): There, happy? Okay, well, I hate to say this, but it’s a pretty boring match for Steve Austin. but then it’s mainly the backdrop for the ongoing Piper-Goldust thing, which is continuing as we speak. Or type. Or whatever. (AAAAAAAGH.  There’s conversational style and there’s fucking annoying.)  During the course of the match, Piper calls on his cellular phone from the freeway, where he’s in hot pursuit of the Bizarre One. Then, for a topper, we get an aerial shot of what is supposed to be Piper, in his white Bronco, on the freeways of Los Angeles. Great line from MacMahon here… “This footage looks awfully familiar…” Yes, folks, it’s the new low in WWF history: using recycled OJ footage for a Wrestlemania match. (That wasn’t even the new low for 1996.) Sorry, but cute as this idea was, OJ jokes ceased being funny about as long ago as Steve DiSalvo jokes did. Oh, yeah, there’s a match, too. Austin wallops Vega with the Million Dollar Belt and gets the win with the Dream. The sleeper, not Dusty Rhodes, of course. Curt Hennig interviews Diesel, who threatens both the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in the same interview. Hey, that’s called career suicide, my friend. 🙂 (AAAAAAGHH.  Emoticons.) More OJ footage. Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. You Know Who. The Warrior is like a drum solo: you know it’s coming and you know what’s coming, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. HHH hits the Pedigree about a minute in after a sneak attack, but Warrior no-sells, hits the clotheslines, the shoulderblock, the press-slam and the splash for the quick win. The Ultimate Warrior is back. I’ll refrain from comment until I see him win the Intercontinental title from Goldust. Merchandising plug. Pettingzoo interviews…”Wildman” Marc Mero! YAH! He has arrived! And not only that, but he’s interrupted by Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and the two fight. Cool, a program with these two. (1996 Scott makes me want to bash my head into my keyboard.)  Btw, Mero even gets a Great Line ™ in… “Hey, I’m doing an interview here!” Hmm, Marc the Midnight Cowboy? Well, bad movie references aside… More OJ footage. Diesel v. The Undertaker. *Big* heel pop for Big Daddy Cool. The heel turn was definitely a good idea, this is the most over he’s been in months. (And then he left.)  Lawler attempts to make this match out to be of biblical proportions during the match, but really the WWF was better booked so it’s no comparison. Undertaker is practically moving at the speed of light in this one, compared to most of his matches. Diesel basically dominates this one, doing what he does best: Being a badass. Might I repeat: Diesel is *over*. People seem to hate him now. (And then he left.)  Cute spot with a double-boot to the head near the end, resulting in a double-knockout. (That one seems to defy the laws of physics, actually.  You pretty much have to stop and put your foot in the air, and given you’re ceasing motion in the process, I’m not certain how you’d continue moving forward and run into the other guy’s foot.)  Someone, who I assume is Eric Chmiel, holds up an Eric Chmiel sign during the match. Okay, so Undertaker comes back, but Diesel hits the Jackknife. He wastes too much time, of course, and Undertaker does the zombie situp. Another Jackknife, but when he goes for the cover, Undertaker shoots out a hand and chokes Diesel. They stand up and Diesel does a belly-to-back, but Undertaker sits up. Chokeslam, and the Undertaker grins. Not a pretty sight, folks. If I was Diesel I’d be pissing myself with the Undertaker standing across the ring *grinning* at me. Tombstone, three count. Warrior online. Goldust v. Roddy Piper (part 2): Yes, there’s more. (This rant makes me feel the same way.) Piper pursues Goldust in their cars back to the Pond, and Goldust runs out of the car and back into the arena. Piper chases, and they make their way down to the ring to finish things off. Great spot with Goldust going for a supposed piledriver, which in fact was just an excuse to fondle Piper’s ass. 🙂 (How is that a great spot?  It’s fucking stupid.  AND STOP USING EMOTICONS, JACKASS.)  Crowd absolutely hates this guy. Goldust kisses Piper on the lips and Piper goes berserk. Gives him about 4 crotchshots (good ones, too.) and then rips the outfit right off him, revealing pantyhose, a girdle and a G-String. Really, folks, this was funnier than anything you’ll ever see and ranks as one of my favorite moments in wrestling now. (Sadly, I wasn’t even drunk while I was writing this.)  Goldust retreats back to the dressing room with Marlena as Piper basks in the crowd’s cheers. Words can’t really describe this one, it was just great. (For me to poop on.)  Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart. History Package first of all. Comments from Shawn, uncharacteristically brief. Comments from Bret, just as brief. Gorilla Monsoon is declared official, no longer interim president of the WWF. Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s try it again. Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: Shawn enters first and…no, wait, that’s Jose Lothario. Okay…now he’s pointing to the roof. And there’s Shawn. On the roof. He slides down on a pulley and wire combo, landing in the crowd. Zoiks. Bret enters, and now, finally… Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: No, now the referee is giving instructions. What is this, boxing? (Or UFC?) Bret gives his son, Blaine (BLADE!  God!  End this rant now!), the glasses. Okay, enough already. Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: And this time I mean it. Okay, we get a scoreboard and timer in the lower right corner, which is a nice touch. Bret and Shawn pace themselves to start, and the crowd seems split fairly evenly between the two of them, but that’ll change. Bret seems to be playing the subtle heel here. About 15 minutes in, Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, and Shawn tries a superkick, but Bret moves. The timekeeper takes a wicked shot right in the mouth, and is carried out on a stretcher. And that wasn’t even the best spot in this match. 🙂 (STOP WITH THE SMILIES!) About 25 minutes in, the cameraman outside the ring gets in Shawn’s way, causing Shawn to quip, on camera, “Get the fuck out of the way” quite clearly. Oops. About halfway through, Shawn tries the Chin Music twice, but Bret duck-and-runs twice. Crowd is *not* impressed. 35 minutes in, and Michaels redoes the Holy Shit Bump from In Your House II. You know how it goes…Shawn goes over the top after a backdrop, and we go “Holy Shit!” Bret and Shawn are engaging in rather a lot of restholds here, though. Bret badmouths and uses Michaels to manhandle the Supersock at various intervals. Bret is fully playing heel at that point. Great sign in the crowd: “Bite Me, WCW!” Short but sweet. Okay, five minutes left, and no pinfalls or anything yet. Bret Hart does some of the Bret Hart Stuff (aka The Five Moves of Doom before I had the name for them, which stemmed from a sign in the crowd that said “Same Five Moves” on one show), but Michaels comes back and does the Shawn Michaels Stuff. Moonsault included. One minute left, and still no pins. Michaels off the top rope, Bret catches him and hooks the Sharpshooter. Crowd is going berserk, but Michaels hangs on until time expires. It’s a draw, folks. Well, this was really good, but… What? You mean there’s more? Yes, Gorilla Monsoon orders overtime, and Bret is *pissed* as he walks back to the dressing room, and is forced to come back. (He was kind of pissed about it in real life, too.)  That would probably explain why he was so distracted and let Shawn hit the superkick a minute into overtime. Ah, but it’s not enough to put him away. Another one, however, is a different story entirely. Well, we’ve had some great lines tonight, but the best one of all follows: “The winner, and NEW World Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion…The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels!” (That line wouldn’t be so great 18 months from then.)  Shawn gives us the image we’ve been waiting for since WM 11: Posing with the WWF title in the ring. Closing highlight montage. Well, it’s kinda hard to be objective about any show that features Shawn winning the title and Goldust getting humiliated, so I’ll refrain from giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up until the dust has cleared a bit. The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XII – For those who have read the original rant from 1996 and cringed as much as I do when I read it, here’s a version that DOESN’T suck… (Relatively speaking.  This is still pre-2000 and thus desperately in need of updating one day.)  – Live from Anaheim, CA. Original airdate March 31, 1996 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. – Somewhat notable pre-game show sees the, ahem, long-awaited blowoff for the Huckster v. Nacho Man feud and the Bodydonnas beating the Godwinns in the finals of the WWF tag title tournament. Which was the bigger parody? You decide. – .Opening match: Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson v. Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog Yoko sends Vader over the top to start, and Ahmed follows with a tope con hilo that pops the crowd. Back in, Yoko gets caught in the corner, and Bulldog & Owen double-team him. Vader punches him down but gets caught with a Rock Bottom and Ahmed tags in. Powerslam to Bulldog, but a cheapshot from Vader slows him down and he plays face-in-peril for a bit. Owen gets a missile dropkick to stop a tiger bomb attempt during a comeback, and hits the enzuigiri for fun. Ahmed tags in Jake, who teases the DDT, but Owen blocks and Jakes gets worked over in enemy territory. Vader demolishes Snake, and Owen gets two with a flying elbowdrop. Bulldog powerslams him for two. Vader splash gets two. Yoko finally gets the hot tag, and beats Vader down in the corner, then everyone else. Jake comes in for the DDT again, and a brawl erupts. The ref is elsewhere, allowing Cornette to work his magic and Vader to use that advantage to Vaderbomb Roberts for the pin at 13:07. Major yawner. *1/2 – Hollywood Backalley Brawl: Goldust v. Rowdy Roddy Piper. This was supposed to be Ramon’s match, but he was in rehab and on his way to WCW, so it’s noted homophobe Piper who gets moved into the feud. This is a pre-taped segment that takes place in an alley in “Hollywood”. Goldust pulls up in a gold Cadillac, where Piper is waiting. Piper smashes in his windows with a baseball bat and basically mugs him. He rams Goldust into a dumpster and tosses garbage cans at him. The editing here is pretty obvious. He whips out his firehose and sprays Goldust down. Geez, that’s not Freudian AT ALL, Roddy. Piper lays in some stiff shots, but gets low-blowed. Goldust runs him over with the Caddy (cue stuntman!) and drives away. Piper follows in a white Ford Bronco as we head back to the arena, where we find a dead crowd as a result of a long pre-taped segment. (Although this was kind of a precursor to the Vince Russo-era hardcore matches, so it’s got that going on.)  Steve Austin v. Savio Vega. This was Austin’s first real feud in the WWF. Savio gets a quick side-slam and they brawl outside. Back in, Austin sends Vega to the ringpost and hammers him for two. Vega flips out of a hammerlock and spinkicks Austin for two. Meanwhile, Piper is on the cell phone. Austin works the arm. Funny watching Austin the Master Technician given what he turned into. Vega tries that flip counter again, so Austin drops him on his arm. Ee-yowch. Vega hits a cross-body for two, but Austin gets a Thesz press and they go into a series of pinfall reversals and fight over a backslide. Austin’s doing an admirable job of carrying Savio on his back here. We go to a split screen of the Bronco being chased by police on the LA freeway. If you don’t get it, it’s an OJ Simpson reference and believe me, it had ceased being funny by the time the WWF made it and is even less so today. (Now it’s kind of funny again because OJ’s in jail.  Hey, speaking of people who killed their significant other and got away with it, this would be a tremendous place for a Tamina reference!)  Vega hits a quick side-kick, but Austin goes back to the arm. Austin heads to the top and eats boot coming down. Slugfest, won by Vega. He mounts the comeback but the ref is bumped on a leg lariat. Dibiase slips the Million Dollar belt to Austin, who KO’s Savio with it, then goes that extra mile and smashes it into his head once he’s down. Now THAT’S a heel. Dibiase revives the ref by dumping a glass of soda on his head, then Austin puts on a half-assed chinlock for the submission at 10:08. Crowd was silent throughout, but man that was one HELL of a match. ***1/2 I miss the real Austin. – Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. The Ultimate Warrior. The Bimbo of the Week for HHH is some blonde…I think her name is Rena-something. (Oo!  Oo!  I know!  It’s Sable!) This was the Warrior’s big return, and HHH got to be the sacrificial lamb. And this was BEFORE his big punishment, oddly enough. Better days would of course be ahead. Warrior gets an anaemic pop, despite piles of pyro and weeks of hype. He would disappear back to his hole in the ground four months later. Usual Warrior squash here as he no-sells a very quick Pedigree and finishes with his usual array of scientific maneuvers (shoulderblock, gorilla slam, splash) for the pin at 1:36. DUD – Backstage, we meet a debuting “Wildman” Marc Mero for the first time, as he gets into a Verbal Confrontation with HHH. – Diesel v. The Undertaker. This was built up by months of mindgames, and was one of the last true “dream matches” left for the WWF. (Until John Cena v. The Rock, of course)  They slug it out to start and brawl outside. Diesel goes headfirst to the stairs. Back in, UT gets a bodypress for two. Ropewalk is no-sold and Diesel dodges the flying clothesline and dumps Taker to the floor. UT comes back in and returns the favor. He posts Diesel and takes a swing with a chair, but Diesel ducks and then rams UT into the post. Back in, Diesel hits the big boot and pummels him. Sideslam gets two. Snake Eyes puts UT down, but he fights back. They do a really nice double-boot that knocks both guys out. Diesel goes to the bearhug but gets backdropped. Top rope clothesline gets two for Undertaker. Diesel suddenly gets the Jackknife out of nowhere, however, but refuses the pin. He picks Undertaker up and Jackknifes him again. UT suddenly revives, chokes him down, and no-sells a suplex. Flying clothesline, chokeslam, and tombstone is enough to kill Diesel dead for the pin at 16:42. Good match for both. **3/4 (I think it was better than that but it’s been a while since I watched it.)  – Piper & Goldust arrive back at the arena and fight to the ring. Goldust works on the knee and gropes him a bunch. Goldust hits the LIPLOCK OF DOOM, causing Piper to go berserk and apply a groin claw and knee to the groin (does anyone else see the scathing irony there?) and finishes by ripping Goldust’s clothes off to reveal S&M gear. Goldust flees, I guess essentially conceding the match. Total junk, but the crowd loved it. – WWF World title: Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels. This is, of course, a 60-minute Iron Man match. Most falls win. A clock in the corner helpfully counts down the time and falls won by each. Mat wrestling to start. Bret works the headlock, burning up 7 minutes. Shawn tries the armbar as his time-waster of choice, working the arm. – 10 minutes gone. Michaels takes Bret to the floor with a flying headscissors and Bret takes a breather. Back in, Shawn goes back to the arm. Matches like these make for easy recapping with all the slow stretches. Bret gets the headbutt to the groin and legdrop, then goes to the chinlock. I’m gonna resist fast-forwarding as long as possible. Shawn goes into a vicious wristlock but Bret doesn’t watch UFC, I guess, because he sells it like a resthold. Bret comes back and tries the Sharpshooter, then clotheslines Shawn to the floor. Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, but ducks a superkick and the poor timekeeper is down for the count (nyuk nyuk). (At least Vince can’t come down and yell at him to stop the match.)  Back in, to the chinlock. Bret is working the neck, Shawn the arm. Shawn clotheslines Bret, Bret returns the favor. Back to the chinlock. Must…not…fast-forward. – 20 minutes gone. Shawn dropkicks him down, and back to the armbar. That turns into another cross-armbreaker and AGAIN Bret won’t sell. Hmph. To the hammerlock. Bret hammers him in the corner, but Shawn gives him a pissed-off knee to the gut and sends him shoulder-first to the ringpost. I sense some hostility there. Shoulderbreaker and double-axehandle to the shoulder, then hammerlock slam. Shawn “AA” Michaels? Bret fights back but Shawn hits a single-arm DDT and cross-armbreaker. Again, Bret won’t sell. Shawn goes into a NASTY standing armbar, but Bret hits a stungun to escape. Bret catapults him into the ringpost for two. Voila!, the arm injury is magically gone. That is SO unlike Bret. Something’s gotta be up there. I’ve seen him sell knee injuries for WEEKS, and within the story here Bret’s arm should be hanging dead at this point. (Yeah, the story is that both guys were being prissy princesses who wouldn’t sell for each other.)  Shawn misses a blind charge and gets pounded with an atomic drop and lariat for two. Bret gets a bulldog and goes to the top. Shawn tries to stop him, but Bret counters by driving his knee to Shawn’s head down to the mat, bumping the ref in the process. – 30 minutes gone. Shawn powerslam gets two. Bret gets a piledriver for two. Shawn takes him down with a rana and sidebreaker gets two. Bret takes the pussy route to escape a superkick, running to the floor. That draws boos. Shawn follows with a SWEET tope. Back in, bodypress-reversal gets two for Bret. Backslide into small package gets two for Shawn. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. Sleeper uses up more time. Shawn puts Bret in the corner and charges, but Bret backdrops him over the top and Shawn takes his patented “HOLY SHIT” bump to the floor in suicidal fashion. Bret tosses him back in and wisely starts working on the back. He drives an elbow from the 2nd rope, then hits the backbreaker and legdrop. – 40 minutes gone. Bret banzai drops him on the back and hits a backdrop superplex for two. Bret goes to the rear chinlock. Shawn sunset flips him for two. Bret puts him on top and tries another superplex, but Shawn blocks, then gets nailed coming down. Bret cross-corner whips him and Shawn goes over the top and nails Jose accidentally on the way down. They brawl on the floor and Bret whips Shawn into Jose again, and yells at Jose. What’s up with that? Back in, Bret gets a belly-to-belly for two. Bret hammers him down. Shawn escapes a suplex with a rollup for two. Bret kicks out and sends him to the outside, then follows with his tope suicida. Bret allows the ref to count Shawn out, but then changes his mind and suplexes him. Shawn reverses mid-move, but Bret reverses that and hits a nasty german suplex for two, then does a good ol’ beatdown. – 50 minutes gone. Back to the chinlock. Double KO, and Bret gets a quick superplex and goes for the Sharpshooter. He changes his mind and goes into a half-crab instead. He starts the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, but Shawn kicks him in the face to block the elbowdrop. Standing dropkick sends Bret to the corner, and Shawn comes off with a fivearm. Running elbow and double axehandle get two. Flying elbowdrop gets two. Doctorbomb and moonsault press get two. Flying rana gets two. Shawn goes up with one minute left, but gets caught with the Sharpshooter on the way down, and Bret holds on until the 60 minute time limit expires. The match is a draw. – BUT WAIT! Gorilla Monsoon declares that there MUST BE A WINNER, so Bret comes back… – Overtime: Bret continues hammering the back, hitting a backbreaker, but Shawn gets Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere. He’s too tired to capitalize, and Bret does a half-hearted selling job. Shawn hits it again and that’s enough to put Bret out, and Shawn gets the pin and the WWF World title at 1:47 of overtime. ****3/4 Can’t go the full monty for this one because of Bret’s attitude problems, and the fact that there was about 5 different points where a pin or submission could have feasibly occurred, but neither guy wanted to job first. But the rest is AWESOME. (Eh…I’ve gone lower each time I’ve watched it.  I’m down around ****-****1/4 at this point.  It just doesn’t hold up.)  The Bottom Line: A pretty blasé show in terms of fan interest and storyline, but there’s actually some good quality wrestling here, and with only 5 official matches and three of them being good, you can’t really beat that. Still, the Bret-Shawn match is definitely an acquired taste, and prepare to be bored if you’re not into the storyline of the match. It should be noted that this match set the stage for the next year and a half of real-life soap opera, so it definitely has historical value. Bret Hart took six months off after the show to pout while Vince went with Shawn as his champion, before doing a monster heel turn thanks to Steve Austin. The promised rematch would not occur until Survivor Series 97, and we all know what happened there. Mildly recommended.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 12

(2012 Scott sez:  And now, the worst rant I’ve ever written.  I hate posting this one because it’s from 1996, written live after the show shortly after I had just moved out on my own for the first time, and before I was even writing on a full-time basis.  I find it embarrassing and amateurish, to be honest.  Mostly Live from the Pond in Anaheim. WWF Wrestlemania XII, hosted by Vince MacMahon and Jerry Lawler. Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna and Jake Roberts v. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith and The Man They Call Vader: I would personally have preferred to see the proffered singles match between Yoko and Vader (WHY?!?), but none of these guys is why we’re here tonight anyways, so I’ll live. Of note here: Mr. Fuji is carrying an American flag. (Well he is American.)  Pretty standard opening match, with the added stipulation that the Butt Who Walks Like A Man gets 5 minutes with Jim Cornette should the faces win. I’m not really into play-by-play, so I’ll spare you the details and just mention that the heels win after a Cornette racketshot to the noggin of Jake Roberts. Montage of history between Roddy Piper and Goldust, which, really, isn’t that much. (Real history:  Scott Hall got into yet another spot of trouble and Piper was an emergency replacement.)  Roddy Piper v. Goldust (Backlot Brawl): Well, they’re out in a backlot, and they fight. And fight. And fight. Then Goldust runs Piper over. Man, these lovers’ tiffs can get ugly, can’t they? Piper uses everything but the kitchen sink here, hitting what looked like legit punches to the face of the Gold One. Goldust runs off in his gold Cadillac and Piper pursues in a white Bronco. That last part is important. Steve Austin v. Savio Vega: Jerry Lawler makes sure to note this is a non-title match. Okay, fine. Steve Austin v. Savio Vega (non-title): There, happy? Okay, well, I hate to say this, but it’s a pretty boring match for Steve Austin. but then it’s mainly the backdrop for the ongoing Piper-Goldust thing, which is continuing as we speak. Or type. Or whatever. (AAAAAAAGH.  There’s conversational style and there’s fucking annoying.)  During the course of the match, Piper calls on his cellular phone from the freeway, where he’s in hot pursuit of the Bizarre One. Then, for a topper, we get an aerial shot of what is supposed to be Piper, in his white Bronco, on the freeways of Los Angeles. Great line from MacMahon here… “This footage looks awfully familiar…” Yes, folks, it’s the new low in WWF history: using recycled OJ footage for a Wrestlemania match. (That wasn’t even the new low for 1996.) Sorry, but cute as this idea was, OJ jokes ceased being funny about as long ago as Steve DiSalvo jokes did. Oh, yeah, there’s a match, too. Austin wallops Vega with the Million Dollar Belt and gets the win with the Dream. The sleeper, not Dusty Rhodes, of course. Curt Hennig interviews Diesel, who threatens both the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in the same interview. Hey, that’s called career suicide, my friend. 🙂 (AAAAAAGHH.  Emoticons.) More OJ footage. Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. You Know Who. The Warrior is like a drum solo: you know it’s coming and you know what’s coming, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. HHH hits the Pedigree about a minute in after a sneak attack, but Warrior no-sells, hits the clotheslines, the shoulderblock, the press-slam and the splash for the quick win. The Ultimate Warrior is back. I’ll refrain from comment until I see him win the Intercontinental title from Goldust. Merchandising plug. Pettingzoo interviews…”Wildman” Marc Mero! YAH! He has arrived! And not only that, but he’s interrupted by Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and the two fight. Cool, a program with these two. (1996 Scott makes me want to bash my head into my keyboard.)  Btw, Mero even gets a Great Line ™ in… “Hey, I’m doing an interview here!” Hmm, Marc the Midnight Cowboy? Well, bad movie references aside… More OJ footage. Diesel v. The Undertaker. *Big* heel pop for Big Daddy Cool. The heel turn was definitely a good idea, this is the most over he’s been in months. (And then he left.)  Lawler attempts to make this match out to be of biblical proportions during the match, but really the WWF was better booked so it’s no comparison. Undertaker is practically moving at the speed of light in this one, compared to most of his matches. Diesel basically dominates this one, doing what he does best: Being a badass. Might I repeat: Diesel is *over*. People seem to hate him now. (And then he left.)  Cute spot with a double-boot to the head near the end, resulting in a double-knockout. (That one seems to defy the laws of physics, actually.  You pretty much have to stop and put your foot in the air, and given you’re ceasing motion in the process, I’m not certain how you’d continue moving forward and run into the other guy’s foot.)  Someone, who I assume is Eric Chmiel, holds up an Eric Chmiel sign during the match. Okay, so Undertaker comes back, but Diesel hits the Jackknife. He wastes too much time, of course, and Undertaker does the zombie situp. Another Jackknife, but when he goes for the cover, Undertaker shoots out a hand and chokes Diesel. They stand up and Diesel does a belly-to-back, but Undertaker sits up. Chokeslam, and the Undertaker grins. Not a pretty sight, folks. If I was Diesel I’d be pissing myself with the Undertaker standing across the ring *grinning* at me. Tombstone, three count. Warrior online. Goldust v. Roddy Piper (part 2): Yes, there’s more. (This rant makes me feel the same way.) Piper pursues Goldust in their cars back to the Pond, and Goldust runs out of the car and back into the arena. Piper chases, and they make their way down to the ring to finish things off. Great spot with Goldust going for a supposed piledriver, which in fact was just an excuse to fondle Piper’s ass. 🙂 (How is that a great spot?  It’s fucking stupid.  AND STOP USING EMOTICONS, JACKASS.)  Crowd absolutely hates this guy. Goldust kisses Piper on the lips and Piper goes berserk. Gives him about 4 crotchshots (good ones, too.) and then rips the outfit right off him, revealing pantyhose, a girdle and a G-String. Really, folks, this was funnier than anything you’ll ever see and ranks as one of my favorite moments in wrestling now. (Sadly, I wasn’t even drunk while I was writing this.)  Goldust retreats back to the dressing room with Marlena as Piper basks in the crowd’s cheers. Words can’t really describe this one, it was just great. (For me to poop on.)  Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart. History Package first of all. Comments from Shawn, uncharacteristically brief. Comments from Bret, just as brief. Gorilla Monsoon is declared official, no longer interim president of the WWF. Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s try it again. Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: Shawn enters first and…no, wait, that’s Jose Lothario. Okay…now he’s pointing to the roof. And there’s Shawn. On the roof. He slides down on a pulley and wire combo, landing in the crowd. Zoiks. Bret enters, and now, finally… Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: No, now the referee is giving instructions. What is this, boxing? (Or UFC?) Bret gives his son, Blaine (BLADE!  God!  End this rant now!), the glasses. Okay, enough already. Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: And this time I mean it. Okay, we get a scoreboard and timer in the lower right corner, which is a nice touch. Bret and Shawn pace themselves to start, and the crowd seems split fairly evenly between the two of them, but that’ll change. Bret seems to be playing the subtle heel here. About 15 minutes in, Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, and Shawn tries a superkick, but Bret moves. The timekeeper takes a wicked shot right in the mouth, and is carried out on a stretcher. And that wasn’t even the best spot in this match. 🙂 (STOP WITH THE SMILIES!) About 25 minutes in, the cameraman outside the ring gets in Shawn’s way, causing Shawn to quip, on camera, “Get the fuck out of the way” quite clearly. Oops. About halfway through, Shawn tries the Chin Music twice, but Bret duck-and-runs twice. Crowd is *not* impressed. 35 minutes in, and Michaels redoes the Holy Shit Bump from In Your House II. You know how it goes…Shawn goes over the top after a backdrop, and we go “Holy Shit!” Bret and Shawn are engaging in rather a lot of restholds here, though. Bret badmouths and uses Michaels to manhandle the Supersock at various intervals. Bret is fully playing heel at that point. Great sign in the crowd: “Bite Me, WCW!” Short but sweet. Okay, five minutes left, and no pinfalls or anything yet. Bret Hart does some of the Bret Hart Stuff (aka The Five Moves of Doom before I had the name for them, which stemmed from a sign in the crowd that said “Same Five Moves” on one show), but Michaels comes back and does the Shawn Michaels Stuff. Moonsault included. One minute left, and still no pins. Michaels off the top rope, Bret catches him and hooks the Sharpshooter. Crowd is going berserk, but Michaels hangs on until time expires. It’s a draw, folks. Well, this was really good, but… What? You mean there’s more? Yes, Gorilla Monsoon orders overtime, and Bret is *pissed* as he walks back to the dressing room, and is forced to come back. (He was kind of pissed about it in real life, too.)  That would probably explain why he was so distracted and let Shawn hit the superkick a minute into overtime. Ah, but it’s not enough to put him away. Another one, however, is a different story entirely. Well, we’ve had some great lines tonight, but the best one of all follows: “The winner, and NEW World Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion…The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels!” (That line wouldn’t be so great 18 months from then.)  Shawn gives us the image we’ve been waiting for since WM 11: Posing with the WWF title in the ring. Closing highlight montage. Well, it’s kinda hard to be objective about any show that features Shawn winning the title and Goldust getting humiliated, so I’ll refrain from giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up until the dust has cleared a bit. The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XII – For those who have read the original rant from 1996 and cringed as much as I do when I read it, here’s a version that DOESN’T suck… (Relatively speaking.  This is still pre-2000 and thus desperately in need of updating one day.)  – Live from Anaheim, CA. Original airdate March 31, 1996 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. – Somewhat notable pre-game show sees the, ahem, long-awaited blowoff for the Huckster v. Nacho Man feud and the Bodydonnas beating the Godwinns in the finals of the WWF tag title tournament. Which was the bigger parody? You decide. – .Opening match: Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson v. Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog Yoko sends Vader over the top to start, and Ahmed follows with a tope con hilo that pops the crowd. Back in, Yoko gets caught in the corner, and Bulldog & Owen double-team him. Vader punches him down but gets caught with a Rock Bottom and Ahmed tags in. Powerslam to Bulldog, but a cheapshot from Vader slows him down and he plays face-in-peril for a bit. Owen gets a missile dropkick to stop a tiger bomb attempt during a comeback, and hits the enzuigiri for fun. Ahmed tags in Jake, who teases the DDT, but Owen blocks and Jakes gets worked over in enemy territory. Vader demolishes Snake, and Owen gets two with a flying elbowdrop. Bulldog powerslams him for two. Vader splash gets two. Yoko finally gets the hot tag, and beats Vader down in the corner, then everyone else. Jake comes in for the DDT again, and a brawl erupts. The ref is elsewhere, allowing Cornette to work his magic and Vader to use that advantage to Vaderbomb Roberts for the pin at 13:07. Major yawner. *1/2 – Hollywood Backalley Brawl: Goldust v. Rowdy Roddy Piper. This was supposed to be Ramon’s match, but he was in rehab and on his way to WCW, so it’s noted homophobe Piper who gets moved into the feud. This is a pre-taped segment that takes place in an alley in “Hollywood”. Goldust pulls up in a gold Cadillac, where Piper is waiting. Piper smashes in his windows with a baseball bat and basically mugs him. He rams Goldust into a dumpster and tosses garbage cans at him. The editing here is pretty obvious. He whips out his firehose and sprays Goldust down. Geez, that’s not Freudian AT ALL, Roddy. Piper lays in some stiff shots, but gets low-blowed. Goldust runs him over with the Caddy (cue stuntman!) and drives away. Piper follows in a white Ford Bronco as we head back to the arena, where we find a dead crowd as a result of a long pre-taped segment. (Although this was kind of a precursor to the Vince Russo-era hardcore matches, so it’s got that going on.)  Steve Austin v. Savio Vega. This was Austin’s first real feud in the WWF. Savio gets a quick side-slam and they brawl outside. Back in, Austin sends Vega to the ringpost and hammers him for two. Vega flips out of a hammerlock and spinkicks Austin for two. Meanwhile, Piper is on the cell phone. Austin works the arm. Funny watching Austin the Master Technician given what he turned into. Vega tries that flip counter again, so Austin drops him on his arm. Ee-yowch. Vega hits a cross-body for two, but Austin gets a Thesz press and they go into a series of pinfall reversals and fight over a backslide. Austin’s doing an admirable job of carrying Savio on his back here. We go to a split screen of the Bronco being chased by police on the LA freeway. If you don’t get it, it’s an OJ Simpson reference and believe me, it had ceased being funny by the time the WWF made it and is even less so today. (Now it’s kind of funny again because OJ’s in jail.  Hey, speaking of people who killed their significant other and got away with it, this would be a tremendous place for a Tamina reference!)  Vega hits a quick side-kick, but Austin goes back to the arm. Austin heads to the top and eats boot coming down. Slugfest, won by Vega. He mounts the comeback but the ref is bumped on a leg lariat. Dibiase slips the Million Dollar belt to Austin, who KO’s Savio with it, then goes that extra mile and smashes it into his head once he’s down. Now THAT’S a heel. Dibiase revives the ref by dumping a glass of soda on his head, then Austin puts on a half-assed chinlock for the submission at 10:08. Crowd was silent throughout, but man that was one HELL of a match. ***1/2 I miss the real Austin. – Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. The Ultimate Warrior. The Bimbo of the Week for HHH is some blonde…I think her name is Rena-something. (Oo!  Oo!  I know!  It’s Sable!) This was the Warrior’s big return, and HHH got to be the sacrificial lamb. And this was BEFORE his big punishment, oddly enough. Better days would of course be ahead. Warrior gets an anaemic pop, despite piles of pyro and weeks of hype. He would disappear back to his hole in the ground four months later. Usual Warrior squash here as he no-sells a very quick Pedigree and finishes with his usual array of scientific maneuvers (shoulderblock, gorilla slam, splash) for the pin at 1:36. DUD – Backstage, we meet a debuting “Wildman” Marc Mero for the first time, as he gets into a Verbal Confrontation with HHH. – Diesel v. The Undertaker. This was built up by months of mindgames, and was one of the last true “dream matches” left for the WWF. (Until John Cena v. The Rock, of course)  They slug it out to start and brawl outside. Diesel goes headfirst to the stairs. Back in, UT gets a bodypress for two. Ropewalk is no-sold and Diesel dodges the flying clothesline and dumps Taker to the floor. UT comes back in and returns the favor. He posts Diesel and takes a swing with a chair, but Diesel ducks and then rams UT into the post. Back in, Diesel hits the big boot and pummels him. Sideslam gets two. Snake Eyes puts UT down, but he fights back. They do a really nice double-boot that knocks both guys out. Diesel goes to the bearhug but gets backdropped. Top rope clothesline gets two for Undertaker. Diesel suddenly gets the Jackknife out of nowhere, however, but refuses the pin. He picks Undertaker up and Jackknifes him again. UT suddenly revives, chokes him down, and no-sells a suplex. Flying clothesline, chokeslam, and tombstone is enough to kill Diesel dead for the pin at 16:42. Good match for both. **3/4 (I think it was better than that but it’s been a while since I watched it.)  – Piper & Goldust arrive back at the arena and fight to the ring. Goldust works on the knee and gropes him a bunch. Goldust hits the LIPLOCK OF DOOM, causing Piper to go berserk and apply a groin claw and knee to the groin (does anyone else see the scathing irony there?) and finishes by ripping Goldust’s clothes off to reveal S&M gear. Goldust flees, I guess essentially conceding the match. Total junk, but the crowd loved it. – WWF World title: Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels. This is, of course, a 60-minute Iron Man match. Most falls win. A clock in the corner helpfully counts down the time and falls won by each. Mat wrestling to start. Bret works the headlock, burning up 7 minutes. Shawn tries the armbar as his time-waster of choice, working the arm. – 10 minutes gone. Michaels takes Bret to the floor with a flying headscissors and Bret takes a breather. Back in, Shawn goes back to the arm. Matches like these make for easy recapping with all the slow stretches. Bret gets the headbutt to the groin and legdrop, then goes to the chinlock. I’m gonna resist fast-forwarding as long as possible. Shawn goes into a vicious wristlock but Bret doesn’t watch UFC, I guess, because he sells it like a resthold. Bret comes back and tries the Sharpshooter, then clotheslines Shawn to the floor. Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, but ducks a superkick and the poor timekeeper is down for the count (nyuk nyuk). (At least Vince can’t come down and yell at him to stop the match.)  Back in, to the chinlock. Bret is working the neck, Shawn the arm. Shawn clotheslines Bret, Bret returns the favor. Back to the chinlock. Must…not…fast-forward. – 20 minutes gone. Shawn dropkicks him down, and back to the armbar. That turns into another cross-armbreaker and AGAIN Bret won’t sell. Hmph. To the hammerlock. Bret hammers him in the corner, but Shawn gives him a pissed-off knee to the gut and sends him shoulder-first to the ringpost. I sense some hostility there. Shoulderbreaker and double-axehandle to the shoulder, then hammerlock slam. Shawn “AA” Michaels? Bret fights back but Shawn hits a single-arm DDT and cross-armbreaker. Again, Bret won’t sell. Shawn goes into a NASTY standing armbar, but Bret hits a stungun to escape. Bret catapults him into the ringpost for two. Voila!, the arm injury is magically gone. That is SO unlike Bret. Something’s gotta be up there. I’ve seen him sell knee injuries for WEEKS, and within the story here Bret’s arm should be hanging dead at this point. (Yeah, the story is that both guys were being prissy princesses who wouldn’t sell for each other.)  Shawn misses a blind charge and gets pounded with an atomic drop and lariat for two. Bret gets a bulldog and goes to the top. Shawn tries to stop him, but Bret counters by driving his knee to Shawn’s head down to the mat, bumping the ref in the process. – 30 minutes gone. Shawn powerslam gets two. Bret gets a piledriver for two. Shawn takes him down with a rana and sidebreaker gets two. Bret takes the pussy route to escape a superkick, running to the floor. That draws boos. Shawn follows with a SWEET tope. Back in, bodypress-reversal gets two for Bret. Backslide into small package gets two for Shawn. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. Sleeper uses up more time. Shawn puts Bret in the corner and charges, but Bret backdrops him over the top and Shawn takes his patented “HOLY SHIT” bump to the floor in suicidal fashion. Bret tosses him back in and wisely starts working on the back. He drives an elbow from the 2nd rope, then hits the backbreaker and legdrop. – 40 minutes gone. Bret banzai drops him on the back and hits a backdrop superplex for two. Bret goes to the rear chinlock. Shawn sunset flips him for two. Bret puts him on top and tries another superplex, but Shawn blocks, then gets nailed coming down. Bret cross-corner whips him and Shawn goes over the top and nails Jose accidentally on the way down. They brawl on the floor and Bret whips Shawn into Jose again, and yells at Jose. What’s up with that? Back in, Bret gets a belly-to-belly for two. Bret hammers him down. Shawn escapes a suplex with a rollup for two. Bret kicks out and sends him to the outside, then follows with his tope suicida. Bret allows the ref to count Shawn out, but then changes his mind and suplexes him. Shawn reverses mid-move, but Bret reverses that and hits a nasty german suplex for two, then does a good ol’ beatdown. – 50 minutes gone. Back to the chinlock. Double KO, and Bret gets a quick superplex and goes for the Sharpshooter. He changes his mind and goes into a half-crab instead. He starts the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, but Shawn kicks him in the face to block the elbowdrop. Standing dropkick sends Bret to the corner, and Shawn comes off with a fivearm. Running elbow and double axehandle get two. Flying elbowdrop gets two. Doctorbomb and moonsault press get two. Flying rana gets two. Shawn goes up with one minute left, but gets caught with the Sharpshooter on the way down, and Bret holds on until the 60 minute time limit expires. The match is a draw. – BUT WAIT! Gorilla Monsoon declares that there MUST BE A WINNER, so Bret comes back… – Overtime: Bret continues hammering the back, hitting a backbreaker, but Shawn gets Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere. He’s too tired to capitalize, and Bret does a half-hearted selling job. Shawn hits it again and that’s enough to put Bret out, and Shawn gets the pin and the WWF World title at 1:47 of overtime. ****3/4 Can’t go the full monty for this one because of Bret’s attitude problems, and the fact that there was about 5 different points where a pin or submission could have feasibly occurred, but neither guy wanted to job first. But the rest is AWESOME. (Eh…I’ve gone lower each time I’ve watched it.  I’m down around ****-****1/4 at this point.  It just doesn’t hold up.)  The Bottom Line: A pretty blasé show in terms of fan interest and storyline, but there’s actually some good quality wrestling here, and with only 5 official matches and three of them being good, you can’t really beat that. Still, the Bret-Shawn match is definitely an acquired taste, and prepare to be bored if you’re not into the storyline of the match. It should be noted that this match set the stage for the next year and a half of real-life soap opera, so it definitely has historical value. Bret Hart took six months off after the show to pout while Vince went with Shawn as his champion, before doing a monster heel turn thanks to Steve Austin. The promised rematch would not occur until Survivor Series 97, and we all know what happened there. Mildly recommended.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 12

(2012 Scott sez:  And now, the worst rant I’ve ever written.  I hate posting this one because it’s from 1996, written live after the show shortly after I had just moved out on my own for the first time, and before I was even writing on a full-time basis.  I find it embarrassing and amateurish, to be honest.  Mostly Live from the Pond in Anaheim. WWF Wrestlemania XII, hosted by Vince MacMahon and Jerry Lawler. Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna and Jake Roberts v. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith and The Man They Call Vader: I would personally have preferred to see the proffered singles match between Yoko and Vader (WHY?!?), but none of these guys is why we’re here tonight anyways, so I’ll live. Of note here: Mr. Fuji is carrying an American flag. (Well he is American.)  Pretty standard opening match, with the added stipulation that the Butt Who Walks Like A Man gets 5 minutes with Jim Cornette should the faces win. I’m not really into play-by-play, so I’ll spare you the details and just mention that the heels win after a Cornette racketshot to the noggin of Jake Roberts. Montage of history between Roddy Piper and Goldust, which, really, isn’t that much. (Real history:  Scott Hall got into yet another spot of trouble and Piper was an emergency replacement.)  Roddy Piper v. Goldust (Backlot Brawl): Well, they’re out in a backlot, and they fight. And fight. And fight. Then Goldust runs Piper over. Man, these lovers’ tiffs can get ugly, can’t they? Piper uses everything but the kitchen sink here, hitting what looked like legit punches to the face of the Gold One. Goldust runs off in his gold Cadillac and Piper pursues in a white Bronco. That last part is important. Steve Austin v. Savio Vega: Jerry Lawler makes sure to note this is a non-title match. Okay, fine. Steve Austin v. Savio Vega (non-title): There, happy? Okay, well, I hate to say this, but it’s a pretty boring match for Steve Austin. but then it’s mainly the backdrop for the ongoing Piper-Goldust thing, which is continuing as we speak. Or type. Or whatever. (AAAAAAAGH.  There’s conversational style and there’s fucking annoying.)  During the course of the match, Piper calls on his cellular phone from the freeway, where he’s in hot pursuit of the Bizarre One. Then, for a topper, we get an aerial shot of what is supposed to be Piper, in his white Bronco, on the freeways of Los Angeles. Great line from MacMahon here… “This footage looks awfully familiar…” Yes, folks, it’s the new low in WWF history: using recycled OJ footage for a Wrestlemania match. (That wasn’t even the new low for 1996.) Sorry, but cute as this idea was, OJ jokes ceased being funny about as long ago as Steve DiSalvo jokes did. Oh, yeah, there’s a match, too. Austin wallops Vega with the Million Dollar Belt and gets the win with the Dream. The sleeper, not Dusty Rhodes, of course. Curt Hennig interviews Diesel, who threatens both the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels in the same interview. Hey, that’s called career suicide, my friend. 🙂 (AAAAAAGHH.  Emoticons.) More OJ footage. Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. You Know Who. The Warrior is like a drum solo: you know it’s coming and you know what’s coming, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. HHH hits the Pedigree about a minute in after a sneak attack, but Warrior no-sells, hits the clotheslines, the shoulderblock, the press-slam and the splash for the quick win. The Ultimate Warrior is back. I’ll refrain from comment until I see him win the Intercontinental title from Goldust. Merchandising plug. Pettingzoo interviews…”Wildman” Marc Mero! YAH! He has arrived! And not only that, but he’s interrupted by Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and the two fight. Cool, a program with these two. (1996 Scott makes me want to bash my head into my keyboard.)  Btw, Mero even gets a Great Line ™ in… “Hey, I’m doing an interview here!” Hmm, Marc the Midnight Cowboy? Well, bad movie references aside… More OJ footage. Diesel v. The Undertaker. *Big* heel pop for Big Daddy Cool. The heel turn was definitely a good idea, this is the most over he’s been in months. (And then he left.)  Lawler attempts to make this match out to be of biblical proportions during the match, but really the WWF was better booked so it’s no comparison. Undertaker is practically moving at the speed of light in this one, compared to most of his matches. Diesel basically dominates this one, doing what he does best: Being a badass. Might I repeat: Diesel is *over*. People seem to hate him now. (And then he left.)  Cute spot with a double-boot to the head near the end, resulting in a double-knockout. (That one seems to defy the laws of physics, actually.  You pretty much have to stop and put your foot in the air, and given you’re ceasing motion in the process, I’m not certain how you’d continue moving forward and run into the other guy’s foot.)  Someone, who I assume is Eric Chmiel, holds up an Eric Chmiel sign during the match. Okay, so Undertaker comes back, but Diesel hits the Jackknife. He wastes too much time, of course, and Undertaker does the zombie situp. Another Jackknife, but when he goes for the cover, Undertaker shoots out a hand and chokes Diesel. They stand up and Diesel does a belly-to-back, but Undertaker sits up. Chokeslam, and the Undertaker grins. Not a pretty sight, folks. If I was Diesel I’d be pissing myself with the Undertaker standing across the ring *grinning* at me. Tombstone, three count. Warrior online. Goldust v. Roddy Piper (part 2): Yes, there’s more. (This rant makes me feel the same way.) Piper pursues Goldust in their cars back to the Pond, and Goldust runs out of the car and back into the arena. Piper chases, and they make their way down to the ring to finish things off. Great spot with Goldust going for a supposed piledriver, which in fact was just an excuse to fondle Piper’s ass. 🙂 (How is that a great spot?  It’s fucking stupid.  AND STOP USING EMOTICONS, JACKASS.)  Crowd absolutely hates this guy. Goldust kisses Piper on the lips and Piper goes berserk. Gives him about 4 crotchshots (good ones, too.) and then rips the outfit right off him, revealing pantyhose, a girdle and a G-String. Really, folks, this was funnier than anything you’ll ever see and ranks as one of my favorite moments in wrestling now. (Sadly, I wasn’t even drunk while I was writing this.)  Goldust retreats back to the dressing room with Marlena as Piper basks in the crowd’s cheers. Words can’t really describe this one, it was just great. (For me to poop on.)  Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart. History Package first of all. Comments from Shawn, uncharacteristically brief. Comments from Bret, just as brief. Gorilla Monsoon is declared official, no longer interim president of the WWF. Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s try it again. Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: Shawn enters first and…no, wait, that’s Jose Lothario. Okay…now he’s pointing to the roof. And there’s Shawn. On the roof. He slides down on a pulley and wire combo, landing in the crowd. Zoiks. Bret enters, and now, finally… Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: No, now the referee is giving instructions. What is this, boxing? (Or UFC?) Bret gives his son, Blaine (BLADE!  God!  End this rant now!), the glasses. Okay, enough already. Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart: And this time I mean it. Okay, we get a scoreboard and timer in the lower right corner, which is a nice touch. Bret and Shawn pace themselves to start, and the crowd seems split fairly evenly between the two of them, but that’ll change. Bret seems to be playing the subtle heel here. About 15 minutes in, Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, and Shawn tries a superkick, but Bret moves. The timekeeper takes a wicked shot right in the mouth, and is carried out on a stretcher. And that wasn’t even the best spot in this match. 🙂 (STOP WITH THE SMILIES!) About 25 minutes in, the cameraman outside the ring gets in Shawn’s way, causing Shawn to quip, on camera, “Get the fuck out of the way” quite clearly. Oops. About halfway through, Shawn tries the Chin Music twice, but Bret duck-and-runs twice. Crowd is *not* impressed. 35 minutes in, and Michaels redoes the Holy Shit Bump from In Your House II. You know how it goes…Shawn goes over the top after a backdrop, and we go “Holy Shit!” Bret and Shawn are engaging in rather a lot of restholds here, though. Bret badmouths and uses Michaels to manhandle the Supersock at various intervals. Bret is fully playing heel at that point. Great sign in the crowd: “Bite Me, WCW!” Short but sweet. Okay, five minutes left, and no pinfalls or anything yet. Bret Hart does some of the Bret Hart Stuff (aka The Five Moves of Doom before I had the name for them, which stemmed from a sign in the crowd that said “Same Five Moves” on one show), but Michaels comes back and does the Shawn Michaels Stuff. Moonsault included. One minute left, and still no pins. Michaels off the top rope, Bret catches him and hooks the Sharpshooter. Crowd is going berserk, but Michaels hangs on until time expires. It’s a draw, folks. Well, this was really good, but… What? You mean there’s more? Yes, Gorilla Monsoon orders overtime, and Bret is *pissed* as he walks back to the dressing room, and is forced to come back. (He was kind of pissed about it in real life, too.)  That would probably explain why he was so distracted and let Shawn hit the superkick a minute into overtime. Ah, but it’s not enough to put him away. Another one, however, is a different story entirely. Well, we’ve had some great lines tonight, but the best one of all follows: “The winner, and NEW World Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion…The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels!” (That line wouldn’t be so great 18 months from then.)  Shawn gives us the image we’ve been waiting for since WM 11: Posing with the WWF title in the ring. Closing highlight montage. Well, it’s kinda hard to be objective about any show that features Shawn winning the title and Goldust getting humiliated, so I’ll refrain from giving it an enthusiastic thumbs up until the dust has cleared a bit. The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XII – For those who have read the original rant from 1996 and cringed as much as I do when I read it, here’s a version that DOESN’T suck… (Relatively speaking.  This is still pre-2000 and thus desperately in need of updating one day.)  – Live from Anaheim, CA. Original airdate March 31, 1996 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. – Somewhat notable pre-game show sees the, ahem, long-awaited blowoff for the Huckster v. Nacho Man feud and the Bodydonnas beating the Godwinns in the finals of the WWF tag title tournament. Which was the bigger parody? You decide. – .Opening match: Yokozuna, Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson v. Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog Yoko sends Vader over the top to start, and Ahmed follows with a tope con hilo that pops the crowd. Back in, Yoko gets caught in the corner, and Bulldog & Owen double-team him. Vader punches him down but gets caught with a Rock Bottom and Ahmed tags in. Powerslam to Bulldog, but a cheapshot from Vader slows him down and he plays face-in-peril for a bit. Owen gets a missile dropkick to stop a tiger bomb attempt during a comeback, and hits the enzuigiri for fun. Ahmed tags in Jake, who teases the DDT, but Owen blocks and Jakes gets worked over in enemy territory. Vader demolishes Snake, and Owen gets two with a flying elbowdrop. Bulldog powerslams him for two. Vader splash gets two. Yoko finally gets the hot tag, and beats Vader down in the corner, then everyone else. Jake comes in for the DDT again, and a brawl erupts. The ref is elsewhere, allowing Cornette to work his magic and Vader to use that advantage to Vaderbomb Roberts for the pin at 13:07. Major yawner. *1/2 – Hollywood Backalley Brawl: Goldust v. Rowdy Roddy Piper. This was supposed to be Ramon’s match, but he was in rehab and on his way to WCW, so it’s noted homophobe Piper who gets moved into the feud. This is a pre-taped segment that takes place in an alley in “Hollywood”. Goldust pulls up in a gold Cadillac, where Piper is waiting. Piper smashes in his windows with a baseball bat and basically mugs him. He rams Goldust into a dumpster and tosses garbage cans at him. The editing here is pretty obvious. He whips out his firehose and sprays Goldust down. Geez, that’s not Freudian AT ALL, Roddy. Piper lays in some stiff shots, but gets low-blowed. Goldust runs him over with the Caddy (cue stuntman!) and drives away. Piper follows in a white Ford Bronco as we head back to the arena, where we find a dead crowd as a result of a long pre-taped segment. (Although this was kind of a precursor to the Vince Russo-era hardcore matches, so it’s got that going on.)  Steve Austin v. Savio Vega. This was Austin’s first real feud in the WWF. Savio gets a quick side-slam and they brawl outside. Back in, Austin sends Vega to the ringpost and hammers him for two. Vega flips out of a hammerlock and spinkicks Austin for two. Meanwhile, Piper is on the cell phone. Austin works the arm. Funny watching Austin the Master Technician given what he turned into. Vega tries that flip counter again, so Austin drops him on his arm. Ee-yowch. Vega hits a cross-body for two, but Austin gets a Thesz press and they go into a series of pinfall reversals and fight over a backslide. Austin’s doing an admirable job of carrying Savio on his back here. We go to a split screen of the Bronco being chased by police on the LA freeway. If you don’t get it, it’s an OJ Simpson reference and believe me, it had ceased being funny by the time the WWF made it and is even less so today. (Now it’s kind of funny again because OJ’s in jail.  Hey, speaking of people who killed their significant other and got away with it, this would be a tremendous place for a Tamina reference!)  Vega hits a quick side-kick, but Austin goes back to the arm. Austin heads to the top and eats boot coming down. Slugfest, won by Vega. He mounts the comeback but the ref is bumped on a leg lariat. Dibiase slips the Million Dollar belt to Austin, who KO’s Savio with it, then goes that extra mile and smashes it into his head once he’s down. Now THAT’S a heel. Dibiase revives the ref by dumping a glass of soda on his head, then Austin puts on a half-assed chinlock for the submission at 10:08. Crowd was silent throughout, but man that was one HELL of a match. ***1/2 I miss the real Austin. – Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. The Ultimate Warrior. The Bimbo of the Week for HHH is some blonde…I think her name is Rena-something. (Oo!  Oo!  I know!  It’s Sable!) This was the Warrior’s big return, and HHH got to be the sacrificial lamb. And this was BEFORE his big punishment, oddly enough. Better days would of course be ahead. Warrior gets an anaemic pop, despite piles of pyro and weeks of hype. He would disappear back to his hole in the ground four months later. Usual Warrior squash here as he no-sells a very quick Pedigree and finishes with his usual array of scientific maneuvers (shoulderblock, gorilla slam, splash) for the pin at 1:36. DUD – Backstage, we meet a debuting “Wildman” Marc Mero for the first time, as he gets into a Verbal Confrontation with HHH. – Diesel v. The Undertaker. This was built up by months of mindgames, and was one of the last true “dream matches” left for the WWF. (Until John Cena v. The Rock, of course)  They slug it out to start and brawl outside. Diesel goes headfirst to the stairs. Back in, UT gets a bodypress for two. Ropewalk is no-sold and Diesel dodges the flying clothesline and dumps Taker to the floor. UT comes back in and returns the favor. He posts Diesel and takes a swing with a chair, but Diesel ducks and then rams UT into the post. Back in, Diesel hits the big boot and pummels him. Sideslam gets two. Snake Eyes puts UT down, but he fights back. They do a really nice double-boot that knocks both guys out. Diesel goes to the bearhug but gets backdropped. Top rope clothesline gets two for Undertaker. Diesel suddenly gets the Jackknife out of nowhere, however, but refuses the pin. He picks Undertaker up and Jackknifes him again. UT suddenly revives, chokes him down, and no-sells a suplex. Flying clothesline, chokeslam, and tombstone is enough to kill Diesel dead for the pin at 16:42. Good match for both. **3/4 (I think it was better than that but it’s been a while since I watched it.)  – Piper & Goldust arrive back at the arena and fight to the ring. Goldust works on the knee and gropes him a bunch. Goldust hits the LIPLOCK OF DOOM, causing Piper to go berserk and apply a groin claw and knee to the groin (does anyone else see the scathing irony there?) and finishes by ripping Goldust’s clothes off to reveal S&M gear. Goldust flees, I guess essentially conceding the match. Total junk, but the crowd loved it. – WWF World title: Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels. This is, of course, a 60-minute Iron Man match. Most falls win. A clock in the corner helpfully counts down the time and falls won by each. Mat wrestling to start. Bret works the headlock, burning up 7 minutes. Shawn tries the armbar as his time-waster of choice, working the arm. – 10 minutes gone. Michaels takes Bret to the floor with a flying headscissors and Bret takes a breather. Back in, Shawn goes back to the arm. Matches like these make for easy recapping with all the slow stretches. Bret gets the headbutt to the groin and legdrop, then goes to the chinlock. I’m gonna resist fast-forwarding as long as possible. Shawn goes into a vicious wristlock but Bret doesn’t watch UFC, I guess, because he sells it like a resthold. Bret comes back and tries the Sharpshooter, then clotheslines Shawn to the floor. Bret lands in the lap of the timekeeper, but ducks a superkick and the poor timekeeper is down for the count (nyuk nyuk). (At least Vince can’t come down and yell at him to stop the match.)  Back in, to the chinlock. Bret is working the neck, Shawn the arm. Shawn clotheslines Bret, Bret returns the favor. Back to the chinlock. Must…not…fast-forward. – 20 minutes gone. Shawn dropkicks him down, and back to the armbar. That turns into another cross-armbreaker and AGAIN Bret won’t sell. Hmph. To the hammerlock. Bret hammers him in the corner, but Shawn gives him a pissed-off knee to the gut and sends him shoulder-first to the ringpost. I sense some hostility there. Shoulderbreaker and double-axehandle to the shoulder, then hammerlock slam. Shawn “AA” Michaels? Bret fights back but Shawn hits a single-arm DDT and cross-armbreaker. Again, Bret won’t sell. Shawn goes into a NASTY standing armbar, but Bret hits a stungun to escape. Bret catapults him into the ringpost for two. Voila!, the arm injury is magically gone. That is SO unlike Bret. Something’s gotta be up there. I’ve seen him sell knee injuries for WEEKS, and within the story here Bret’s arm should be hanging dead at this point. (Yeah, the story is that both guys were being prissy princesses who wouldn’t sell for each other.)  Shawn misses a blind charge and gets pounded with an atomic drop and lariat for two. Bret gets a bulldog and goes to the top. Shawn tries to stop him, but Bret counters by driving his knee to Shawn’s head down to the mat, bumping the ref in the process. – 30 minutes gone. Shawn powerslam gets two. Bret gets a piledriver for two. Shawn takes him down with a rana and sidebreaker gets two. Bret takes the pussy route to escape a superkick, running to the floor. That draws boos. Shawn follows with a SWEET tope. Back in, bodypress-reversal gets two for Bret. Backslide into small package gets two for Shawn. Fisherman’s suplex gets two. Sleeper uses up more time. Shawn puts Bret in the corner and charges, but Bret backdrops him over the top and Shawn takes his patented “HOLY SHIT” bump to the floor in suicidal fashion. Bret tosses him back in and wisely starts working on the back. He drives an elbow from the 2nd rope, then hits the backbreaker and legdrop. – 40 minutes gone. Bret banzai drops him on the back and hits a backdrop superplex for two. Bret goes to the rear chinlock. Shawn sunset flips him for two. Bret puts him on top and tries another superplex, but Shawn blocks, then gets nailed coming down. Bret cross-corner whips him and Shawn goes over the top and nails Jose accidentally on the way down. They brawl on the floor and Bret whips Shawn into Jose again, and yells at Jose. What’s up with that? Back in, Bret gets a belly-to-belly for two. Bret hammers him down. Shawn escapes a suplex with a rollup for two. Bret kicks out and sends him to the outside, then follows with his tope suicida. Bret allows the ref to count Shawn out, but then changes his mind and suplexes him. Shawn reverses mid-move, but Bret reverses that and hits a nasty german suplex for two, then does a good ol’ beatdown. – 50 minutes gone. Back to the chinlock. Double KO, and Bret gets a quick superplex and goes for the Sharpshooter. He changes his mind and goes into a half-crab instead. He starts the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, but Shawn kicks him in the face to block the elbowdrop. Standing dropkick sends Bret to the corner, and Shawn comes off with a fivearm. Running elbow and double axehandle get two. Flying elbowdrop gets two. Doctorbomb and moonsault press get two. Flying rana gets two. Shawn goes up with one minute left, but gets caught with the Sharpshooter on the way down, and Bret holds on until the 60 minute time limit expires. The match is a draw. – BUT WAIT! Gorilla Monsoon declares that there MUST BE A WINNER, so Bret comes back… – Overtime: Bret continues hammering the back, hitting a backbreaker, but Shawn gets Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere. He’s too tired to capitalize, and Bret does a half-hearted selling job. Shawn hits it again and that’s enough to put Bret out, and Shawn gets the pin and the WWF World title at 1:47 of overtime. ****3/4 Can’t go the full monty for this one because of Bret’s attitude problems, and the fact that there was about 5 different points where a pin or submission could have feasibly occurred, but neither guy wanted to job first. But the rest is AWESOME. (Eh…I’ve gone lower each time I’ve watched it.  I’m down around ****-****1/4 at this point.  It just doesn’t hold up.)  The Bottom Line: A pretty blasé show in terms of fan interest and storyline, but there’s actually some good quality wrestling here, and with only 5 official matches and three of them being good, you can’t really beat that. Still, the Bret-Shawn match is definitely an acquired taste, and prepare to be bored if you’re not into the storyline of the match. It should be noted that this match set the stage for the next year and a half of real-life soap opera, so it definitely has historical value. Bret Hart took six months off after the show to pout while Vince went with Shawn as his champion, before doing a monster heel turn thanks to Steve Austin. The promised rematch would not occur until Survivor Series 97, and we all know what happened there. Mildly recommended.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 11

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, Connecticut. Original airdate: April 2/1995 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler.Opening match: The Blu Twins v. The Allied Powers. And who the HELL thought of this one as the opener? For those who haven’t seen the show, there are a MILLION photographers surrounding the ring, which gets into the way of a highspot on at least one occasion. (Insecure much, Vince?) And wow, what a drop for Luger: Main eventer one year, opening match the next. (Add him to the list of biggest Wrestlemania downfalls, I guess.)  The Blu Twins are Ron and Don Harris. With WAY more hair. Luger and Bulldog blow a double powerslam spot right off the bat. Davey Boy jumps right into the Ricky Morton spot, getting beat on by the Blus. The gimmick for the Blus is that they’re brawling mountain men with their inbred uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel). (And yet WWE can’t find a spot for the Briscoes.)  Zebekiah, being an all-purpose redneck stereotype, moved to Texas in 96 and became Bradshaw’s manager. This is a horrible match. Luger gets the hot tag and nails one of the Blus with the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM but they pull the ol’ switcheroo. Jacob goes for a piledriver and Bulldog sunset flips in (the only nice spot of the match) and pins him. No tag, but they’re faces so it’s okay, I guess. (That’s one of the rules of wrestling, dummy.)  1/4* – NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro is doing interviews in the back. Vince knew the show would suck, so he loaded up with celebs, I guess. (I would hardly call him a celebrity now.)  Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon. Ramon is seconded by 1-2-3 Kid, and Jarrett is seconded by the Road Dog. Stalling from Jarrett to start, then Ramon reverses a sloppy sunset flip for a two count. Some comedy spots from Jarrett and Roadie sew the seeds of dissention. Ramon goes for the Edge but Roadie pulls Jarrett out, who is then chased into the ring by Sean “What the HELL am I wearing tonight?” Waltman. Ramon takes out both Roadie and JJ, which pretty much shows that this was just building to the tag match that was supposed to happen at the first In Your House. Jarrett controls with some decent stuff, showing he’s not a totally incompetent wrestler at this point. (I don’t think he ever was.  He’s just boring.)  Ramon gets a two off a backslide, and they trade twos. Jarrett seems to have the same problem Shawn Michaels does: His managers go on to become bigger than him. Ramon makes the big comeback with a blockbuster slam, and the Kid tries to post Jarrett but gets kicked off. Ramon makes a tactical error and Jarrett slaps on the figure-four. Roadie assists. Ramon reverses the move, and Kid assists *him*. Cute. Ramon hits a superplex and goes for the Edge. Roadie runs in for the weak DQ. The Kid cleans house, and in a “holy shit” moment for me, he does the kick combo in the corner…then CROTCH CHOPS! I didn’t even realize he was doing it back then! Anyway, pretty good match. **3/4 – Nick Turturro interviews the Corporation (the Million Dollar one) and Shawn Michaels. Jenny McCarthy wanders in and Kama checks her out. Scouting hos? – King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker. Yes, it’s another “Heel manager steals the urn angle”. It occurs to me that Mankind has the distinction of being the last guy to do that angle, and the only one to be successful, since UT never got it back. (I think Paul Bearer had possession of it in 2010 for that horrid Kane feud) Baseball umpire Larry Young is the referee, causing me to wonder if visual impairment is a prerequisite to being a ref. Midway through the match, Paul Bearer steals the urn back, but Kama runs out and steals it from *him*. Man, what an engaging storyline. He would melt it down into a chain, which he may still be wearing today as the Godfather. (Or maybe he took to Vegas and sold it to the Pawn Stars.)  Undertaker gets the pin…with a clothesline. Uh, yeah. DUD – Nicolas Turturro is searching for Pam Anderson…and finds Mongo! Yup, he’s part of “Team Taylor”, the group of football players who will be seconding Lawrence Taylor in the main event. He moves on to find Bob Backlund playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Pretty funny bit. – The first In Your House promo. There’s WAY too much filler here.  (That’s nothing compared to what you have to sit through today.)  WWF World tag team title match: The Smokin Gunns v. Owen Hart & A Mystery Partner. You see, Owen and Neidhart (father of current Diva Natalya, who is a frequent victim of Tamina, daughter of Jimmy Snuka!) were eliminated in the first round of the tag title tournament, but Owen claimed it was unfair circumstances, so the Gunns gave Owen & a partner a match here. So Owen brings out Yokozuna, and you might as well have handed the belts over right there. Both Billy and Bart ended up wrestling at Wrestlemania XV, although in drastically different types of matches. Who would have thought that either guy would end up being in the WWF years after the split occurred? The Gunns do all sorts of cool double team stuff, which begs the question: Why did the New Age Outlaws suck so bad in the ring?  (Because Bart was the good worker and Billy wasn’t, duh.) The backdrop/neckbreaker combo is killer, for instance. The Gunns hit the sidewinder (Bart does a side slam and Billy legdrops him in the air), but Owen tags in Yokozuna and everything the Gunns built while working on Owen goes BUH-BYE faster than you can say “Fat Ass Legdrop”. Yoko does about 30 seconds worth of work and then applies the VULCAN NERVE HOLD OF DEATH. Yoko, you fat pile of shit, it’s a TAG TEAM match. If you’re tired, tag Owen. The Gunns make the hot tag, but Billy promptly gets belly-to-bellied and Banzai Dropped. And that’s that. No, wait, Owen wants the honors, so makes the academic pin to FINALLY win his first title. *1/2 – Adam Bomb cuts a promo with the WCW Booking Committee, who are prepping for the Special Olympics. – “I Quit” match: Mr. Bob Backlund v. Bret Hart. Roddy Piper is the special referee. Okay, anyway, this match was setup because Backlund made Hart submit at Survivor Series 94 to win the WWF title. And yes, I know his mother threw in the towel, but history says he submitted. So now I guess Bret wanted the job back. Bret gets a figure-four about a minute in, showing how compressed this match is. Of course, the match at Survivor Series ran about 40 minutes, so anything would be compressed. They trade a couple of more submission moves on the mat, boring the crowd. Backlund works some psychology in, working on the arm and shoulder. Yawn. Backlund was always *vastly* overrated. I mean, he was technically proficient and a great heel in 1994, but he never really clued into the fact that it wasn’t the 70s anymore. Bret comes back with a couple of the MOVES OF DOOM, but Backlund rolls out of the Sharpshooter attempt. Bret misses a corner charge and messes up his shoulder. This sets up the Katihaj—er, I mean the Cross Face Chicken Wing. But Bret reverses the move and hooks his own for the submission. Backlund said during his big heel push that if anyone did that to him, he’d retire. Of course, Backlund never actually said “I Quit” here, so I guess you could say that Bob screwed…oh, never mind. **  (Bret really had nothing to work with on this show.)  WWF World title match: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the timekeeper and Nicolas Turturro is the ring announcer. Shawn brings Jenny McCarthy (and Sid) with him. Shawn takes a bump before the match even starts, getting backdropped over the top rope by Diesel so Diesel can pose with Pam Anderson, who makes Sable look like Olive Oyl. The Shawn Show begins as Diesel takes his head off with a clothesline after a wrestling sequence. He gets bumped over the top rope and runs into a photographer, so he shoves him down the aisle in frustration. Michaels keeps on Diesel, and keeps getting beat up. Diesel is moving faster than usual here, but the match is all Shawn. They end up outside the ring, and the photographers help screw up a spot again, this one being Diesel getting run into the ringpost. The bloodthirsty fans begin chanting for Sid. Wild. Shawn splashes Big Sexy from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring and Shawn continues working on the back, with a Randy Savage elbow for a two count. Diesel makes the comeback with some elbows, then Snake Eyes. They fight outside the ring and Hebner jumps down to stop them, but twists his ankle. Shawn and Diesel roll in the ring, and Shawn hits the superkick. Sid tosses the ref back in the ring for a two count. Sid cuts the top turnbuckle pad off. They do the double-KO spot and then Shawn tries a bulldog off the top, but gets caught with a side slam. Diesel hulks up (to big boos) and hits the big boot and powerbomb for the pin. Crowd is not entirely appreciative, which was acknowledged the next night when Sid turns on Shawn, beginning Shawn’s push to superstardom. This was voted Match of the Year by PWI, continuing Shawn’s MOTY streak (which ran from 1993-1997) but there were easily much better matches in North America alone in 1995. *** – Main event: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor. This of course came about because Bigelow shoved LT at Royal Rumble 95. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and both the Corporation and LT’s football friends (including future WCW “wrestlers” Steve MacMichael and Reggie White) are at ringside. LT dominates Bam Bam to start, with a clothesline over the top rope, a few hiptosses and a bulldog, making this better than almost any other celebrity matches to date. Bam Bam takes over with some kicks and punches. LT throws a wicked forearm, I’ll give him that. Bigelow applies a Boston Crab, and LT does a pretty respectable selling job. LT suplexes Bigelow out of a headlock, but gets the worst of it and Bigelow actually hits a sort-of moonsault. Bigelow comes back with a half-powerbomb half-gut wrench for a two count. Bigelow pulls out an enzuigiri and goes back to the top. His FLYING HEADBUTT OF DOOM only gets two. Why would he agree to kill his own finisher like that? ($$$) LT comes back with forearms and some shoulderblocks, then a big forearm. Bigelow is staggered, and Taylor comes off the second rope with a flying forearm to the head that looked as though it hit solid, and it gets the pin! **1/2 on the regular scale, ****1/2 on the “celebrity match” scale. End of show. The Bottom Line: Certainly not a *bad* Wrestlemania. Bundy-UT sucked the meat missile, but everything else was okay. This was just lacklustre more than anything else. Weak storyline buildup, mediocre wrestling, and an ill-advised celebrity main event that killed Bigelow’s career. But Shawn puts in a good performance, and Bigelow-LT is the Savage-Steamboat of celebrity matches, so the show is worth a look. Very, very mildly recommended. The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, CT – Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler – Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him. The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. (They’d probably record the conversation and air that call as a smear campaign against him.)  Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again. (The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure. Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster… …allegedly. Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie… …allegedly. Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. (Now if it was a dragon fighting a TIGER, shit’s on!) Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. (He should have done the Hogan play and claimed he didn’t know the girl or remember making the video.)  Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night… …allegedly. Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken. (Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble. King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. (He was probably all “Ha ha, fuck you, the batteries are almost dead anyway!”) Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle… …allegedly. Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series? (Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through. WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself. (Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it. “I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. (Vince McMahon has been fighting that battle for a few years now with similar results.)  Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, fuck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing. Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings: Montreal screwjob Gave Shawn Michaels the title. Fuck you, Vince McMahon. Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits. (Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold. WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. (He probably should have.)  The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.  (Just ask Chyna.  Although I have no proof of any diseases carried by her.)  Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting to a bored-looking Pamela at ringside. Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird. Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. (Shawn had the turnbuckle fired the next day.  it’s currently working in a McDonalds in Newark.)  Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin. (Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible. Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin. (Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.  (Taylor, on the other hand, is now a registered sex offender and was probably a bigger drug user than anyone on this entire show.  Yet he’s still around and so many from this show are dead.  The world is a strange place.)  The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed. Recommendation to avoid.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 11

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, Connecticut. Original airdate: April 2/1995 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler.Opening match: The Blu Twins v. The Allied Powers. And who the HELL thought of this one as the opener? For those who haven’t seen the show, there are a MILLION photographers surrounding the ring, which gets into the way of a highspot on at least one occasion. (Insecure much, Vince?) And wow, what a drop for Luger: Main eventer one year, opening match the next. (Add him to the list of biggest Wrestlemania downfalls, I guess.)  The Blu Twins are Ron and Don Harris. With WAY more hair. Luger and Bulldog blow a double powerslam spot right off the bat. Davey Boy jumps right into the Ricky Morton spot, getting beat on by the Blus. The gimmick for the Blus is that they’re brawling mountain men with their inbred uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel). (And yet WWE can’t find a spot for the Briscoes.)  Zebekiah, being an all-purpose redneck stereotype, moved to Texas in 96 and became Bradshaw’s manager. This is a horrible match. Luger gets the hot tag and nails one of the Blus with the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM but they pull the ol’ switcheroo. Jacob goes for a piledriver and Bulldog sunset flips in (the only nice spot of the match) and pins him. No tag, but they’re faces so it’s okay, I guess. (That’s one of the rules of wrestling, dummy.)  1/4* – NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro is doing interviews in the back. Vince knew the show would suck, so he loaded up with celebs, I guess. (I would hardly call him a celebrity now.)  Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon. Ramon is seconded by 1-2-3 Kid, and Jarrett is seconded by the Road Dog. Stalling from Jarrett to start, then Ramon reverses a sloppy sunset flip for a two count. Some comedy spots from Jarrett and Roadie sew the seeds of dissention. Ramon goes for the Edge but Roadie pulls Jarrett out, who is then chased into the ring by Sean “What the HELL am I wearing tonight?” Waltman. Ramon takes out both Roadie and JJ, which pretty much shows that this was just building to the tag match that was supposed to happen at the first In Your House. Jarrett controls with some decent stuff, showing he’s not a totally incompetent wrestler at this point. (I don’t think he ever was.  He’s just boring.)  Ramon gets a two off a backslide, and they trade twos. Jarrett seems to have the same problem Shawn Michaels does: His managers go on to become bigger than him. Ramon makes the big comeback with a blockbuster slam, and the Kid tries to post Jarrett but gets kicked off. Ramon makes a tactical error and Jarrett slaps on the figure-four. Roadie assists. Ramon reverses the move, and Kid assists *him*. Cute. Ramon hits a superplex and goes for the Edge. Roadie runs in for the weak DQ. The Kid cleans house, and in a “holy shit” moment for me, he does the kick combo in the corner…then CROTCH CHOPS! I didn’t even realize he was doing it back then! Anyway, pretty good match. **3/4 – Nick Turturro interviews the Corporation (the Million Dollar one) and Shawn Michaels. Jenny McCarthy wanders in and Kama checks her out. Scouting hos? – King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker. Yes, it’s another “Heel manager steals the urn angle”. It occurs to me that Mankind has the distinction of being the last guy to do that angle, and the only one to be successful, since UT never got it back. (I think Paul Bearer had possession of it in 2010 for that horrid Kane feud) Baseball umpire Larry Young is the referee, causing me to wonder if visual impairment is a prerequisite to being a ref. Midway through the match, Paul Bearer steals the urn back, but Kama runs out and steals it from *him*. Man, what an engaging storyline. He would melt it down into a chain, which he may still be wearing today as the Godfather. (Or maybe he took to Vegas and sold it to the Pawn Stars.)  Undertaker gets the pin…with a clothesline. Uh, yeah. DUD – Nicolas Turturro is searching for Pam Anderson…and finds Mongo! Yup, he’s part of “Team Taylor”, the group of football players who will be seconding Lawrence Taylor in the main event. He moves on to find Bob Backlund playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Pretty funny bit. – The first In Your House promo. There’s WAY too much filler here.  (That’s nothing compared to what you have to sit through today.)  WWF World tag team title match: The Smokin Gunns v. Owen Hart & A Mystery Partner. You see, Owen and Neidhart (father of current Diva Natalya, who is a frequent victim of Tamina, daughter of Jimmy Snuka!) were eliminated in the first round of the tag title tournament, but Owen claimed it was unfair circumstances, so the Gunns gave Owen & a partner a match here. So Owen brings out Yokozuna, and you might as well have handed the belts over right there. Both Billy and Bart ended up wrestling at Wrestlemania XV, although in drastically different types of matches. Who would have thought that either guy would end up being in the WWF years after the split occurred? The Gunns do all sorts of cool double team stuff, which begs the question: Why did the New Age Outlaws suck so bad in the ring?  (Because Bart was the good worker and Billy wasn’t, duh.) The backdrop/neckbreaker combo is killer, for instance. The Gunns hit the sidewinder (Bart does a side slam and Billy legdrops him in the air), but Owen tags in Yokozuna and everything the Gunns built while working on Owen goes BUH-BYE faster than you can say “Fat Ass Legdrop”. Yoko does about 30 seconds worth of work and then applies the VULCAN NERVE HOLD OF DEATH. Yoko, you fat pile of shit, it’s a TAG TEAM match. If you’re tired, tag Owen. The Gunns make the hot tag, but Billy promptly gets belly-to-bellied and Banzai Dropped. And that’s that. No, wait, Owen wants the honors, so makes the academic pin to FINALLY win his first title. *1/2 – Adam Bomb cuts a promo with the WCW Booking Committee, who are prepping for the Special Olympics. – “I Quit” match: Mr. Bob Backlund v. Bret Hart. Roddy Piper is the special referee. Okay, anyway, this match was setup because Backlund made Hart submit at Survivor Series 94 to win the WWF title. And yes, I know his mother threw in the towel, but history says he submitted. So now I guess Bret wanted the job back. Bret gets a figure-four about a minute in, showing how compressed this match is. Of course, the match at Survivor Series ran about 40 minutes, so anything would be compressed. They trade a couple of more submission moves on the mat, boring the crowd. Backlund works some psychology in, working on the arm and shoulder. Yawn. Backlund was always *vastly* overrated. I mean, he was technically proficient and a great heel in 1994, but he never really clued into the fact that it wasn’t the 70s anymore. Bret comes back with a couple of the MOVES OF DOOM, but Backlund rolls out of the Sharpshooter attempt. Bret misses a corner charge and messes up his shoulder. This sets up the Katihaj—er, I mean the Cross Face Chicken Wing. But Bret reverses the move and hooks his own for the submission. Backlund said during his big heel push that if anyone did that to him, he’d retire. Of course, Backlund never actually said “I Quit” here, so I guess you could say that Bob screwed…oh, never mind. **  (Bret really had nothing to work with on this show.)  WWF World title match: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the timekeeper and Nicolas Turturro is the ring announcer. Shawn brings Jenny McCarthy (and Sid) with him. Shawn takes a bump before the match even starts, getting backdropped over the top rope by Diesel so Diesel can pose with Pam Anderson, who makes Sable look like Olive Oyl. The Shawn Show begins as Diesel takes his head off with a clothesline after a wrestling sequence. He gets bumped over the top rope and runs into a photographer, so he shoves him down the aisle in frustration. Michaels keeps on Diesel, and keeps getting beat up. Diesel is moving faster than usual here, but the match is all Shawn. They end up outside the ring, and the photographers help screw up a spot again, this one being Diesel getting run into the ringpost. The bloodthirsty fans begin chanting for Sid. Wild. Shawn splashes Big Sexy from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring and Shawn continues working on the back, with a Randy Savage elbow for a two count. Diesel makes the comeback with some elbows, then Snake Eyes. They fight outside the ring and Hebner jumps down to stop them, but twists his ankle. Shawn and Diesel roll in the ring, and Shawn hits the superkick. Sid tosses the ref back in the ring for a two count. Sid cuts the top turnbuckle pad off. They do the double-KO spot and then Shawn tries a bulldog off the top, but gets caught with a side slam. Diesel hulks up (to big boos) and hits the big boot and powerbomb for the pin. Crowd is not entirely appreciative, which was acknowledged the next night when Sid turns on Shawn, beginning Shawn’s push to superstardom. This was voted Match of the Year by PWI, continuing Shawn’s MOTY streak (which ran from 1993-1997) but there were easily much better matches in North America alone in 1995. *** – Main event: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor. This of course came about because Bigelow shoved LT at Royal Rumble 95. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and both the Corporation and LT’s football friends (including future WCW “wrestlers” Steve MacMichael and Reggie White) are at ringside. LT dominates Bam Bam to start, with a clothesline over the top rope, a few hiptosses and a bulldog, making this better than almost any other celebrity matches to date. Bam Bam takes over with some kicks and punches. LT throws a wicked forearm, I’ll give him that. Bigelow applies a Boston Crab, and LT does a pretty respectable selling job. LT suplexes Bigelow out of a headlock, but gets the worst of it and Bigelow actually hits a sort-of moonsault. Bigelow comes back with a half-powerbomb half-gut wrench for a two count. Bigelow pulls out an enzuigiri and goes back to the top. His FLYING HEADBUTT OF DOOM only gets two. Why would he agree to kill his own finisher like that? ($$$) LT comes back with forearms and some shoulderblocks, then a big forearm. Bigelow is staggered, and Taylor comes off the second rope with a flying forearm to the head that looked as though it hit solid, and it gets the pin! **1/2 on the regular scale, ****1/2 on the “celebrity match” scale. End of show. The Bottom Line: Certainly not a *bad* Wrestlemania. Bundy-UT sucked the meat missile, but everything else was okay. This was just lacklustre more than anything else. Weak storyline buildup, mediocre wrestling, and an ill-advised celebrity main event that killed Bigelow’s career. But Shawn puts in a good performance, and Bigelow-LT is the Savage-Steamboat of celebrity matches, so the show is worth a look. Very, very mildly recommended. The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, CT – Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler – Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him. The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. (They’d probably record the conversation and air that call as a smear campaign against him.)  Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again. (The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure. Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster… …allegedly. Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie… …allegedly. Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. (Now if it was a dragon fighting a TIGER, shit’s on!) Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. (He should have done the Hogan play and claimed he didn’t know the girl or remember making the video.)  Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night… …allegedly. Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken. (Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble. King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. (He was probably all “Ha ha, fuck you, the batteries are almost dead anyway!”) Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle… …allegedly. Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series? (Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through. WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself. (Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it. “I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. (Vince McMahon has been fighting that battle for a few years now with similar results.)  Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, fuck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing. Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings: Montreal screwjob Gave Shawn Michaels the title. Fuck you, Vince McMahon. Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits. (Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold. WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. (He probably should have.)  The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.  (Just ask Chyna.  Although I have no proof of any diseases carried by her.)  Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting to a bored-looking Pamela at ringside. Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird. Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. (Shawn had the turnbuckle fired the next day.  it’s currently working in a McDonalds in Newark.)  Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin. (Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible. Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin. (Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.  (Taylor, on the other hand, is now a registered sex offender and was probably a bigger drug user than anyone on this entire show.  Yet he’s still around and so many from this show are dead.  The world is a strange place.)  The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed. Recommendation to avoid.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 11

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, Connecticut. Original airdate: April 2/1995 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler.Opening match: The Blu Twins v. The Allied Powers. And who the HELL thought of this one as the opener? For those who haven’t seen the show, there are a MILLION photographers surrounding the ring, which gets into the way of a highspot on at least one occasion. (Insecure much, Vince?) And wow, what a drop for Luger: Main eventer one year, opening match the next. (Add him to the list of biggest Wrestlemania downfalls, I guess.)  The Blu Twins are Ron and Don Harris. With WAY more hair. Luger and Bulldog blow a double powerslam spot right off the bat. Davey Boy jumps right into the Ricky Morton spot, getting beat on by the Blus. The gimmick for the Blus is that they’re brawling mountain men with their inbred uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel). (And yet WWE can’t find a spot for the Briscoes.)  Zebekiah, being an all-purpose redneck stereotype, moved to Texas in 96 and became Bradshaw’s manager. This is a horrible match. Luger gets the hot tag and nails one of the Blus with the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM but they pull the ol’ switcheroo. Jacob goes for a piledriver and Bulldog sunset flips in (the only nice spot of the match) and pins him. No tag, but they’re faces so it’s okay, I guess. (That’s one of the rules of wrestling, dummy.)  1/4* – NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro is doing interviews in the back. Vince knew the show would suck, so he loaded up with celebs, I guess. (I would hardly call him a celebrity now.)  Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon. Ramon is seconded by 1-2-3 Kid, and Jarrett is seconded by the Road Dog. Stalling from Jarrett to start, then Ramon reverses a sloppy sunset flip for a two count. Some comedy spots from Jarrett and Roadie sew the seeds of dissention. Ramon goes for the Edge but Roadie pulls Jarrett out, who is then chased into the ring by Sean “What the HELL am I wearing tonight?” Waltman. Ramon takes out both Roadie and JJ, which pretty much shows that this was just building to the tag match that was supposed to happen at the first In Your House. Jarrett controls with some decent stuff, showing he’s not a totally incompetent wrestler at this point. (I don’t think he ever was.  He’s just boring.)  Ramon gets a two off a backslide, and they trade twos. Jarrett seems to have the same problem Shawn Michaels does: His managers go on to become bigger than him. Ramon makes the big comeback with a blockbuster slam, and the Kid tries to post Jarrett but gets kicked off. Ramon makes a tactical error and Jarrett slaps on the figure-four. Roadie assists. Ramon reverses the move, and Kid assists *him*. Cute. Ramon hits a superplex and goes for the Edge. Roadie runs in for the weak DQ. The Kid cleans house, and in a “holy shit” moment for me, he does the kick combo in the corner…then CROTCH CHOPS! I didn’t even realize he was doing it back then! Anyway, pretty good match. **3/4 – Nick Turturro interviews the Corporation (the Million Dollar one) and Shawn Michaels. Jenny McCarthy wanders in and Kama checks her out. Scouting hos? – King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker. Yes, it’s another “Heel manager steals the urn angle”. It occurs to me that Mankind has the distinction of being the last guy to do that angle, and the only one to be successful, since UT never got it back. (I think Paul Bearer had possession of it in 2010 for that horrid Kane feud) Baseball umpire Larry Young is the referee, causing me to wonder if visual impairment is a prerequisite to being a ref. Midway through the match, Paul Bearer steals the urn back, but Kama runs out and steals it from *him*. Man, what an engaging storyline. He would melt it down into a chain, which he may still be wearing today as the Godfather. (Or maybe he took to Vegas and sold it to the Pawn Stars.)  Undertaker gets the pin…with a clothesline. Uh, yeah. DUD – Nicolas Turturro is searching for Pam Anderson…and finds Mongo! Yup, he’s part of “Team Taylor”, the group of football players who will be seconding Lawrence Taylor in the main event. He moves on to find Bob Backlund playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Pretty funny bit. – The first In Your House promo. There’s WAY too much filler here.  (That’s nothing compared to what you have to sit through today.)  WWF World tag team title match: The Smokin Gunns v. Owen Hart & A Mystery Partner. You see, Owen and Neidhart (father of current Diva Natalya, who is a frequent victim of Tamina, daughter of Jimmy Snuka!) were eliminated in the first round of the tag title tournament, but Owen claimed it was unfair circumstances, so the Gunns gave Owen & a partner a match here. So Owen brings out Yokozuna, and you might as well have handed the belts over right there. Both Billy and Bart ended up wrestling at Wrestlemania XV, although in drastically different types of matches. Who would have thought that either guy would end up being in the WWF years after the split occurred? The Gunns do all sorts of cool double team stuff, which begs the question: Why did the New Age Outlaws suck so bad in the ring?  (Because Bart was the good worker and Billy wasn’t, duh.) The backdrop/neckbreaker combo is killer, for instance. The Gunns hit the sidewinder (Bart does a side slam and Billy legdrops him in the air), but Owen tags in Yokozuna and everything the Gunns built while working on Owen goes BUH-BYE faster than you can say “Fat Ass Legdrop”. Yoko does about 30 seconds worth of work and then applies the VULCAN NERVE HOLD OF DEATH. Yoko, you fat pile of shit, it’s a TAG TEAM match. If you’re tired, tag Owen. The Gunns make the hot tag, but Billy promptly gets belly-to-bellied and Banzai Dropped. And that’s that. No, wait, Owen wants the honors, so makes the academic pin to FINALLY win his first title. *1/2 – Adam Bomb cuts a promo with the WCW Booking Committee, who are prepping for the Special Olympics. – “I Quit” match: Mr. Bob Backlund v. Bret Hart. Roddy Piper is the special referee. Okay, anyway, this match was setup because Backlund made Hart submit at Survivor Series 94 to win the WWF title. And yes, I know his mother threw in the towel, but history says he submitted. So now I guess Bret wanted the job back. Bret gets a figure-four about a minute in, showing how compressed this match is. Of course, the match at Survivor Series ran about 40 minutes, so anything would be compressed. They trade a couple of more submission moves on the mat, boring the crowd. Backlund works some psychology in, working on the arm and shoulder. Yawn. Backlund was always *vastly* overrated. I mean, he was technically proficient and a great heel in 1994, but he never really clued into the fact that it wasn’t the 70s anymore. Bret comes back with a couple of the MOVES OF DOOM, but Backlund rolls out of the Sharpshooter attempt. Bret misses a corner charge and messes up his shoulder. This sets up the Katihaj—er, I mean the Cross Face Chicken Wing. But Bret reverses the move and hooks his own for the submission. Backlund said during his big heel push that if anyone did that to him, he’d retire. Of course, Backlund never actually said “I Quit” here, so I guess you could say that Bob screwed…oh, never mind. **  (Bret really had nothing to work with on this show.)  WWF World title match: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the timekeeper and Nicolas Turturro is the ring announcer. Shawn brings Jenny McCarthy (and Sid) with him. Shawn takes a bump before the match even starts, getting backdropped over the top rope by Diesel so Diesel can pose with Pam Anderson, who makes Sable look like Olive Oyl. The Shawn Show begins as Diesel takes his head off with a clothesline after a wrestling sequence. He gets bumped over the top rope and runs into a photographer, so he shoves him down the aisle in frustration. Michaels keeps on Diesel, and keeps getting beat up. Diesel is moving faster than usual here, but the match is all Shawn. They end up outside the ring, and the photographers help screw up a spot again, this one being Diesel getting run into the ringpost. The bloodthirsty fans begin chanting for Sid. Wild. Shawn splashes Big Sexy from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring and Shawn continues working on the back, with a Randy Savage elbow for a two count. Diesel makes the comeback with some elbows, then Snake Eyes. They fight outside the ring and Hebner jumps down to stop them, but twists his ankle. Shawn and Diesel roll in the ring, and Shawn hits the superkick. Sid tosses the ref back in the ring for a two count. Sid cuts the top turnbuckle pad off. They do the double-KO spot and then Shawn tries a bulldog off the top, but gets caught with a side slam. Diesel hulks up (to big boos) and hits the big boot and powerbomb for the pin. Crowd is not entirely appreciative, which was acknowledged the next night when Sid turns on Shawn, beginning Shawn’s push to superstardom. This was voted Match of the Year by PWI, continuing Shawn’s MOTY streak (which ran from 1993-1997) but there were easily much better matches in North America alone in 1995. *** – Main event: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor. This of course came about because Bigelow shoved LT at Royal Rumble 95. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and both the Corporation and LT’s football friends (including future WCW “wrestlers” Steve MacMichael and Reggie White) are at ringside. LT dominates Bam Bam to start, with a clothesline over the top rope, a few hiptosses and a bulldog, making this better than almost any other celebrity matches to date. Bam Bam takes over with some kicks and punches. LT throws a wicked forearm, I’ll give him that. Bigelow applies a Boston Crab, and LT does a pretty respectable selling job. LT suplexes Bigelow out of a headlock, but gets the worst of it and Bigelow actually hits a sort-of moonsault. Bigelow comes back with a half-powerbomb half-gut wrench for a two count. Bigelow pulls out an enzuigiri and goes back to the top. His FLYING HEADBUTT OF DOOM only gets two. Why would he agree to kill his own finisher like that? ($$$) LT comes back with forearms and some shoulderblocks, then a big forearm. Bigelow is staggered, and Taylor comes off the second rope with a flying forearm to the head that looked as though it hit solid, and it gets the pin! **1/2 on the regular scale, ****1/2 on the “celebrity match” scale. End of show. The Bottom Line: Certainly not a *bad* Wrestlemania. Bundy-UT sucked the meat missile, but everything else was okay. This was just lacklustre more than anything else. Weak storyline buildup, mediocre wrestling, and an ill-advised celebrity main event that killed Bigelow’s career. But Shawn puts in a good performance, and Bigelow-LT is the Savage-Steamboat of celebrity matches, so the show is worth a look. Very, very mildly recommended. The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, CT – Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler – Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him. The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. (They’d probably record the conversation and air that call as a smear campaign against him.)  Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again. (The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure. Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster… …allegedly. Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie… …allegedly. Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. (Now if it was a dragon fighting a TIGER, shit’s on!) Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. (He should have done the Hogan play and claimed he didn’t know the girl or remember making the video.)  Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night… …allegedly. Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken. (Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble. King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. (He was probably all “Ha ha, fuck you, the batteries are almost dead anyway!”) Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle… …allegedly. Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series? (Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through. WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself. (Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it. “I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. (Vince McMahon has been fighting that battle for a few years now with similar results.)  Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, fuck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing. Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings: Montreal screwjob Gave Shawn Michaels the title. Fuck you, Vince McMahon. Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits. (Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold. WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. (He probably should have.)  The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.  (Just ask Chyna.  Although I have no proof of any diseases carried by her.)  Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting to a bored-looking Pamela at ringside. Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird. Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. (Shawn had the turnbuckle fired the next day.  it’s currently working in a McDonalds in Newark.)  Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin. (Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible. Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin. (Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.  (Taylor, on the other hand, is now a registered sex offender and was probably a bigger drug user than anyone on this entire show.  Yet he’s still around and so many from this show are dead.  The world is a strange place.)  The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed. Recommendation to avoid.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 11

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, Connecticut. Original airdate: April 2/1995 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler.Opening match: The Blu Twins v. The Allied Powers. And who the HELL thought of this one as the opener? For those who haven’t seen the show, there are a MILLION photographers surrounding the ring, which gets into the way of a highspot on at least one occasion. (Insecure much, Vince?) And wow, what a drop for Luger: Main eventer one year, opening match the next. (Add him to the list of biggest Wrestlemania downfalls, I guess.)  The Blu Twins are Ron and Don Harris. With WAY more hair. Luger and Bulldog blow a double powerslam spot right off the bat. Davey Boy jumps right into the Ricky Morton spot, getting beat on by the Blus. The gimmick for the Blus is that they’re brawling mountain men with their inbred uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel). (And yet WWE can’t find a spot for the Briscoes.)  Zebekiah, being an all-purpose redneck stereotype, moved to Texas in 96 and became Bradshaw’s manager. This is a horrible match. Luger gets the hot tag and nails one of the Blus with the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM but they pull the ol’ switcheroo. Jacob goes for a piledriver and Bulldog sunset flips in (the only nice spot of the match) and pins him. No tag, but they’re faces so it’s okay, I guess. (That’s one of the rules of wrestling, dummy.)  1/4* – NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro is doing interviews in the back. Vince knew the show would suck, so he loaded up with celebs, I guess. (I would hardly call him a celebrity now.)  Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon. Ramon is seconded by 1-2-3 Kid, and Jarrett is seconded by the Road Dog. Stalling from Jarrett to start, then Ramon reverses a sloppy sunset flip for a two count. Some comedy spots from Jarrett and Roadie sew the seeds of dissention. Ramon goes for the Edge but Roadie pulls Jarrett out, who is then chased into the ring by Sean “What the HELL am I wearing tonight?” Waltman. Ramon takes out both Roadie and JJ, which pretty much shows that this was just building to the tag match that was supposed to happen at the first In Your House. Jarrett controls with some decent stuff, showing he’s not a totally incompetent wrestler at this point. (I don’t think he ever was.  He’s just boring.)  Ramon gets a two off a backslide, and they trade twos. Jarrett seems to have the same problem Shawn Michaels does: His managers go on to become bigger than him. Ramon makes the big comeback with a blockbuster slam, and the Kid tries to post Jarrett but gets kicked off. Ramon makes a tactical error and Jarrett slaps on the figure-four. Roadie assists. Ramon reverses the move, and Kid assists *him*. Cute. Ramon hits a superplex and goes for the Edge. Roadie runs in for the weak DQ. The Kid cleans house, and in a “holy shit” moment for me, he does the kick combo in the corner…then CROTCH CHOPS! I didn’t even realize he was doing it back then! Anyway, pretty good match. **3/4 – Nick Turturro interviews the Corporation (the Million Dollar one) and Shawn Michaels. Jenny McCarthy wanders in and Kama checks her out. Scouting hos? – King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker. Yes, it’s another “Heel manager steals the urn angle”. It occurs to me that Mankind has the distinction of being the last guy to do that angle, and the only one to be successful, since UT never got it back. (I think Paul Bearer had possession of it in 2010 for that horrid Kane feud) Baseball umpire Larry Young is the referee, causing me to wonder if visual impairment is a prerequisite to being a ref. Midway through the match, Paul Bearer steals the urn back, but Kama runs out and steals it from *him*. Man, what an engaging storyline. He would melt it down into a chain, which he may still be wearing today as the Godfather. (Or maybe he took to Vegas and sold it to the Pawn Stars.)  Undertaker gets the pin…with a clothesline. Uh, yeah. DUD – Nicolas Turturro is searching for Pam Anderson…and finds Mongo! Yup, he’s part of “Team Taylor”, the group of football players who will be seconding Lawrence Taylor in the main event. He moves on to find Bob Backlund playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Pretty funny bit. – The first In Your House promo. There’s WAY too much filler here.  (That’s nothing compared to what you have to sit through today.)  WWF World tag team title match: The Smokin Gunns v. Owen Hart & A Mystery Partner. You see, Owen and Neidhart (father of current Diva Natalya, who is a frequent victim of Tamina, daughter of Jimmy Snuka!) were eliminated in the first round of the tag title tournament, but Owen claimed it was unfair circumstances, so the Gunns gave Owen & a partner a match here. So Owen brings out Yokozuna, and you might as well have handed the belts over right there. Both Billy and Bart ended up wrestling at Wrestlemania XV, although in drastically different types of matches. Who would have thought that either guy would end up being in the WWF years after the split occurred? The Gunns do all sorts of cool double team stuff, which begs the question: Why did the New Age Outlaws suck so bad in the ring?  (Because Bart was the good worker and Billy wasn’t, duh.) The backdrop/neckbreaker combo is killer, for instance. The Gunns hit the sidewinder (Bart does a side slam and Billy legdrops him in the air), but Owen tags in Yokozuna and everything the Gunns built while working on Owen goes BUH-BYE faster than you can say “Fat Ass Legdrop”. Yoko does about 30 seconds worth of work and then applies the VULCAN NERVE HOLD OF DEATH. Yoko, you fat pile of shit, it’s a TAG TEAM match. If you’re tired, tag Owen. The Gunns make the hot tag, but Billy promptly gets belly-to-bellied and Banzai Dropped. And that’s that. No, wait, Owen wants the honors, so makes the academic pin to FINALLY win his first title. *1/2 – Adam Bomb cuts a promo with the WCW Booking Committee, who are prepping for the Special Olympics. – “I Quit” match: Mr. Bob Backlund v. Bret Hart. Roddy Piper is the special referee. Okay, anyway, this match was setup because Backlund made Hart submit at Survivor Series 94 to win the WWF title. And yes, I know his mother threw in the towel, but history says he submitted. So now I guess Bret wanted the job back. Bret gets a figure-four about a minute in, showing how compressed this match is. Of course, the match at Survivor Series ran about 40 minutes, so anything would be compressed. They trade a couple of more submission moves on the mat, boring the crowd. Backlund works some psychology in, working on the arm and shoulder. Yawn. Backlund was always *vastly* overrated. I mean, he was technically proficient and a great heel in 1994, but he never really clued into the fact that it wasn’t the 70s anymore. Bret comes back with a couple of the MOVES OF DOOM, but Backlund rolls out of the Sharpshooter attempt. Bret misses a corner charge and messes up his shoulder. This sets up the Katihaj—er, I mean the Cross Face Chicken Wing. But Bret reverses the move and hooks his own for the submission. Backlund said during his big heel push that if anyone did that to him, he’d retire. Of course, Backlund never actually said “I Quit” here, so I guess you could say that Bob screwed…oh, never mind. **  (Bret really had nothing to work with on this show.)  WWF World title match: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the timekeeper and Nicolas Turturro is the ring announcer. Shawn brings Jenny McCarthy (and Sid) with him. Shawn takes a bump before the match even starts, getting backdropped over the top rope by Diesel so Diesel can pose with Pam Anderson, who makes Sable look like Olive Oyl. The Shawn Show begins as Diesel takes his head off with a clothesline after a wrestling sequence. He gets bumped over the top rope and runs into a photographer, so he shoves him down the aisle in frustration. Michaels keeps on Diesel, and keeps getting beat up. Diesel is moving faster than usual here, but the match is all Shawn. They end up outside the ring, and the photographers help screw up a spot again, this one being Diesel getting run into the ringpost. The bloodthirsty fans begin chanting for Sid. Wild. Shawn splashes Big Sexy from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring and Shawn continues working on the back, with a Randy Savage elbow for a two count. Diesel makes the comeback with some elbows, then Snake Eyes. They fight outside the ring and Hebner jumps down to stop them, but twists his ankle. Shawn and Diesel roll in the ring, and Shawn hits the superkick. Sid tosses the ref back in the ring for a two count. Sid cuts the top turnbuckle pad off. They do the double-KO spot and then Shawn tries a bulldog off the top, but gets caught with a side slam. Diesel hulks up (to big boos) and hits the big boot and powerbomb for the pin. Crowd is not entirely appreciative, which was acknowledged the next night when Sid turns on Shawn, beginning Shawn’s push to superstardom. This was voted Match of the Year by PWI, continuing Shawn’s MOTY streak (which ran from 1993-1997) but there were easily much better matches in North America alone in 1995. *** – Main event: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor. This of course came about because Bigelow shoved LT at Royal Rumble 95. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and both the Corporation and LT’s football friends (including future WCW “wrestlers” Steve MacMichael and Reggie White) are at ringside. LT dominates Bam Bam to start, with a clothesline over the top rope, a few hiptosses and a bulldog, making this better than almost any other celebrity matches to date. Bam Bam takes over with some kicks and punches. LT throws a wicked forearm, I’ll give him that. Bigelow applies a Boston Crab, and LT does a pretty respectable selling job. LT suplexes Bigelow out of a headlock, but gets the worst of it and Bigelow actually hits a sort-of moonsault. Bigelow comes back with a half-powerbomb half-gut wrench for a two count. Bigelow pulls out an enzuigiri and goes back to the top. His FLYING HEADBUTT OF DOOM only gets two. Why would he agree to kill his own finisher like that? ($$$) LT comes back with forearms and some shoulderblocks, then a big forearm. Bigelow is staggered, and Taylor comes off the second rope with a flying forearm to the head that looked as though it hit solid, and it gets the pin! **1/2 on the regular scale, ****1/2 on the “celebrity match” scale. End of show. The Bottom Line: Certainly not a *bad* Wrestlemania. Bundy-UT sucked the meat missile, but everything else was okay. This was just lacklustre more than anything else. Weak storyline buildup, mediocre wrestling, and an ill-advised celebrity main event that killed Bigelow’s career. But Shawn puts in a good performance, and Bigelow-LT is the Savage-Steamboat of celebrity matches, so the show is worth a look. Very, very mildly recommended. The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, CT – Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler – Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him. The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. (They’d probably record the conversation and air that call as a smear campaign against him.)  Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again. (The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure. Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster… …allegedly. Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie… …allegedly. Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. (Now if it was a dragon fighting a TIGER, shit’s on!) Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. (He should have done the Hogan play and claimed he didn’t know the girl or remember making the video.)  Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night… …allegedly. Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken. (Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble. King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. (He was probably all “Ha ha, fuck you, the batteries are almost dead anyway!”) Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle… …allegedly. Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series? (Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through. WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself. (Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it. “I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. (Vince McMahon has been fighting that battle for a few years now with similar results.)  Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, fuck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing. Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings: Montreal screwjob Gave Shawn Michaels the title. Fuck you, Vince McMahon. Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits. (Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold. WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. (He probably should have.)  The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.  (Just ask Chyna.  Although I have no proof of any diseases carried by her.)  Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting to a bored-looking Pamela at ringside. Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird. Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. (Shawn had the turnbuckle fired the next day.  it’s currently working in a McDonalds in Newark.)  Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin. (Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible. Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin. (Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.  (Taylor, on the other hand, is now a registered sex offender and was probably a bigger drug user than anyone on this entire show.  Yet he’s still around and so many from this show are dead.  The world is a strange place.)  The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed. Recommendation to avoid.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 11

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, Connecticut. Original airdate: April 2/1995 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler.Opening match: The Blu Twins v. The Allied Powers. And who the HELL thought of this one as the opener? For those who haven’t seen the show, there are a MILLION photographers surrounding the ring, which gets into the way of a highspot on at least one occasion. (Insecure much, Vince?) And wow, what a drop for Luger: Main eventer one year, opening match the next. (Add him to the list of biggest Wrestlemania downfalls, I guess.)  The Blu Twins are Ron and Don Harris. With WAY more hair. Luger and Bulldog blow a double powerslam spot right off the bat. Davey Boy jumps right into the Ricky Morton spot, getting beat on by the Blus. The gimmick for the Blus is that they’re brawling mountain men with their inbred uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel). (And yet WWE can’t find a spot for the Briscoes.)  Zebekiah, being an all-purpose redneck stereotype, moved to Texas in 96 and became Bradshaw’s manager. This is a horrible match. Luger gets the hot tag and nails one of the Blus with the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM but they pull the ol’ switcheroo. Jacob goes for a piledriver and Bulldog sunset flips in (the only nice spot of the match) and pins him. No tag, but they’re faces so it’s okay, I guess. (That’s one of the rules of wrestling, dummy.)  1/4* – NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro is doing interviews in the back. Vince knew the show would suck, so he loaded up with celebs, I guess. (I would hardly call him a celebrity now.)  Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon. Ramon is seconded by 1-2-3 Kid, and Jarrett is seconded by the Road Dog. Stalling from Jarrett to start, then Ramon reverses a sloppy sunset flip for a two count. Some comedy spots from Jarrett and Roadie sew the seeds of dissention. Ramon goes for the Edge but Roadie pulls Jarrett out, who is then chased into the ring by Sean “What the HELL am I wearing tonight?” Waltman. Ramon takes out both Roadie and JJ, which pretty much shows that this was just building to the tag match that was supposed to happen at the first In Your House. Jarrett controls with some decent stuff, showing he’s not a totally incompetent wrestler at this point. (I don’t think he ever was.  He’s just boring.)  Ramon gets a two off a backslide, and they trade twos. Jarrett seems to have the same problem Shawn Michaels does: His managers go on to become bigger than him. Ramon makes the big comeback with a blockbuster slam, and the Kid tries to post Jarrett but gets kicked off. Ramon makes a tactical error and Jarrett slaps on the figure-four. Roadie assists. Ramon reverses the move, and Kid assists *him*. Cute. Ramon hits a superplex and goes for the Edge. Roadie runs in for the weak DQ. The Kid cleans house, and in a “holy shit” moment for me, he does the kick combo in the corner…then CROTCH CHOPS! I didn’t even realize he was doing it back then! Anyway, pretty good match. **3/4 – Nick Turturro interviews the Corporation (the Million Dollar one) and Shawn Michaels. Jenny McCarthy wanders in and Kama checks her out. Scouting hos? – King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker. Yes, it’s another “Heel manager steals the urn angle”. It occurs to me that Mankind has the distinction of being the last guy to do that angle, and the only one to be successful, since UT never got it back. (I think Paul Bearer had possession of it in 2010 for that horrid Kane feud) Baseball umpire Larry Young is the referee, causing me to wonder if visual impairment is a prerequisite to being a ref. Midway through the match, Paul Bearer steals the urn back, but Kama runs out and steals it from *him*. Man, what an engaging storyline. He would melt it down into a chain, which he may still be wearing today as the Godfather. (Or maybe he took to Vegas and sold it to the Pawn Stars.)  Undertaker gets the pin…with a clothesline. Uh, yeah. DUD – Nicolas Turturro is searching for Pam Anderson…and finds Mongo! Yup, he’s part of “Team Taylor”, the group of football players who will be seconding Lawrence Taylor in the main event. He moves on to find Bob Backlund playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Pretty funny bit. – The first In Your House promo. There’s WAY too much filler here.  (That’s nothing compared to what you have to sit through today.)  WWF World tag team title match: The Smokin Gunns v. Owen Hart & A Mystery Partner. You see, Owen and Neidhart (father of current Diva Natalya, who is a frequent victim of Tamina, daughter of Jimmy Snuka!) were eliminated in the first round of the tag title tournament, but Owen claimed it was unfair circumstances, so the Gunns gave Owen & a partner a match here. So Owen brings out Yokozuna, and you might as well have handed the belts over right there. Both Billy and Bart ended up wrestling at Wrestlemania XV, although in drastically different types of matches. Who would have thought that either guy would end up being in the WWF years after the split occurred? The Gunns do all sorts of cool double team stuff, which begs the question: Why did the New Age Outlaws suck so bad in the ring?  (Because Bart was the good worker and Billy wasn’t, duh.) The backdrop/neckbreaker combo is killer, for instance. The Gunns hit the sidewinder (Bart does a side slam and Billy legdrops him in the air), but Owen tags in Yokozuna and everything the Gunns built while working on Owen goes BUH-BYE faster than you can say “Fat Ass Legdrop”. Yoko does about 30 seconds worth of work and then applies the VULCAN NERVE HOLD OF DEATH. Yoko, you fat pile of shit, it’s a TAG TEAM match. If you’re tired, tag Owen. The Gunns make the hot tag, but Billy promptly gets belly-to-bellied and Banzai Dropped. And that’s that. No, wait, Owen wants the honors, so makes the academic pin to FINALLY win his first title. *1/2 – Adam Bomb cuts a promo with the WCW Booking Committee, who are prepping for the Special Olympics. – “I Quit” match: Mr. Bob Backlund v. Bret Hart. Roddy Piper is the special referee. Okay, anyway, this match was setup because Backlund made Hart submit at Survivor Series 94 to win the WWF title. And yes, I know his mother threw in the towel, but history says he submitted. So now I guess Bret wanted the job back. Bret gets a figure-four about a minute in, showing how compressed this match is. Of course, the match at Survivor Series ran about 40 minutes, so anything would be compressed. They trade a couple of more submission moves on the mat, boring the crowd. Backlund works some psychology in, working on the arm and shoulder. Yawn. Backlund was always *vastly* overrated. I mean, he was technically proficient and a great heel in 1994, but he never really clued into the fact that it wasn’t the 70s anymore. Bret comes back with a couple of the MOVES OF DOOM, but Backlund rolls out of the Sharpshooter attempt. Bret misses a corner charge and messes up his shoulder. This sets up the Katihaj—er, I mean the Cross Face Chicken Wing. But Bret reverses the move and hooks his own for the submission. Backlund said during his big heel push that if anyone did that to him, he’d retire. Of course, Backlund never actually said “I Quit” here, so I guess you could say that Bob screwed…oh, never mind. **  (Bret really had nothing to work with on this show.)  WWF World title match: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the timekeeper and Nicolas Turturro is the ring announcer. Shawn brings Jenny McCarthy (and Sid) with him. Shawn takes a bump before the match even starts, getting backdropped over the top rope by Diesel so Diesel can pose with Pam Anderson, who makes Sable look like Olive Oyl. The Shawn Show begins as Diesel takes his head off with a clothesline after a wrestling sequence. He gets bumped over the top rope and runs into a photographer, so he shoves him down the aisle in frustration. Michaels keeps on Diesel, and keeps getting beat up. Diesel is moving faster than usual here, but the match is all Shawn. They end up outside the ring, and the photographers help screw up a spot again, this one being Diesel getting run into the ringpost. The bloodthirsty fans begin chanting for Sid. Wild. Shawn splashes Big Sexy from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring and Shawn continues working on the back, with a Randy Savage elbow for a two count. Diesel makes the comeback with some elbows, then Snake Eyes. They fight outside the ring and Hebner jumps down to stop them, but twists his ankle. Shawn and Diesel roll in the ring, and Shawn hits the superkick. Sid tosses the ref back in the ring for a two count. Sid cuts the top turnbuckle pad off. They do the double-KO spot and then Shawn tries a bulldog off the top, but gets caught with a side slam. Diesel hulks up (to big boos) and hits the big boot and powerbomb for the pin. Crowd is not entirely appreciative, which was acknowledged the next night when Sid turns on Shawn, beginning Shawn’s push to superstardom. This was voted Match of the Year by PWI, continuing Shawn’s MOTY streak (which ran from 1993-1997) but there were easily much better matches in North America alone in 1995. *** – Main event: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor. This of course came about because Bigelow shoved LT at Royal Rumble 95. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and both the Corporation and LT’s football friends (including future WCW “wrestlers” Steve MacMichael and Reggie White) are at ringside. LT dominates Bam Bam to start, with a clothesline over the top rope, a few hiptosses and a bulldog, making this better than almost any other celebrity matches to date. Bam Bam takes over with some kicks and punches. LT throws a wicked forearm, I’ll give him that. Bigelow applies a Boston Crab, and LT does a pretty respectable selling job. LT suplexes Bigelow out of a headlock, but gets the worst of it and Bigelow actually hits a sort-of moonsault. Bigelow comes back with a half-powerbomb half-gut wrench for a two count. Bigelow pulls out an enzuigiri and goes back to the top. His FLYING HEADBUTT OF DOOM only gets two. Why would he agree to kill his own finisher like that? ($$$) LT comes back with forearms and some shoulderblocks, then a big forearm. Bigelow is staggered, and Taylor comes off the second rope with a flying forearm to the head that looked as though it hit solid, and it gets the pin! **1/2 on the regular scale, ****1/2 on the “celebrity match” scale. End of show. The Bottom Line: Certainly not a *bad* Wrestlemania. Bundy-UT sucked the meat missile, but everything else was okay. This was just lacklustre more than anything else. Weak storyline buildup, mediocre wrestling, and an ill-advised celebrity main event that killed Bigelow’s career. But Shawn puts in a good performance, and Bigelow-LT is the Savage-Steamboat of celebrity matches, so the show is worth a look. Very, very mildly recommended. The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, CT – Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler – Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him. The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. (They’d probably record the conversation and air that call as a smear campaign against him.)  Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again. (The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure. Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster… …allegedly. Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie… …allegedly. Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. (Now if it was a dragon fighting a TIGER, shit’s on!) Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. (He should have done the Hogan play and claimed he didn’t know the girl or remember making the video.)  Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night… …allegedly. Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken. (Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble. King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. (He was probably all “Ha ha, fuck you, the batteries are almost dead anyway!”) Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle… …allegedly. Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series? (Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through. WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself. (Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it. “I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. (Vince McMahon has been fighting that battle for a few years now with similar results.)  Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, fuck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing. Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings: Montreal screwjob Gave Shawn Michaels the title. Fuck you, Vince McMahon. Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits. (Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold. WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. (He probably should have.)  The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.  (Just ask Chyna.  Although I have no proof of any diseases carried by her.)  Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting to a bored-looking Pamela at ringside. Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird. Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. (Shawn had the turnbuckle fired the next day.  it’s currently working in a McDonalds in Newark.)  Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin. (Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible. Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin. (Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.  (Taylor, on the other hand, is now a registered sex offender and was probably a bigger drug user than anyone on this entire show.  Yet he’s still around and so many from this show are dead.  The world is a strange place.)  The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed. Recommendation to avoid.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 11

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, Connecticut. Original airdate: April 2/1995 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler.Opening match: The Blu Twins v. The Allied Powers. And who the HELL thought of this one as the opener? For those who haven’t seen the show, there are a MILLION photographers surrounding the ring, which gets into the way of a highspot on at least one occasion. (Insecure much, Vince?) And wow, what a drop for Luger: Main eventer one year, opening match the next. (Add him to the list of biggest Wrestlemania downfalls, I guess.)  The Blu Twins are Ron and Don Harris. With WAY more hair. Luger and Bulldog blow a double powerslam spot right off the bat. Davey Boy jumps right into the Ricky Morton spot, getting beat on by the Blus. The gimmick for the Blus is that they’re brawling mountain men with their inbred uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel). (And yet WWE can’t find a spot for the Briscoes.)  Zebekiah, being an all-purpose redneck stereotype, moved to Texas in 96 and became Bradshaw’s manager. This is a horrible match. Luger gets the hot tag and nails one of the Blus with the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM but they pull the ol’ switcheroo. Jacob goes for a piledriver and Bulldog sunset flips in (the only nice spot of the match) and pins him. No tag, but they’re faces so it’s okay, I guess. (That’s one of the rules of wrestling, dummy.)  1/4* – NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro is doing interviews in the back. Vince knew the show would suck, so he loaded up with celebs, I guess. (I would hardly call him a celebrity now.)  Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon. Ramon is seconded by 1-2-3 Kid, and Jarrett is seconded by the Road Dog. Stalling from Jarrett to start, then Ramon reverses a sloppy sunset flip for a two count. Some comedy spots from Jarrett and Roadie sew the seeds of dissention. Ramon goes for the Edge but Roadie pulls Jarrett out, who is then chased into the ring by Sean “What the HELL am I wearing tonight?” Waltman. Ramon takes out both Roadie and JJ, which pretty much shows that this was just building to the tag match that was supposed to happen at the first In Your House. Jarrett controls with some decent stuff, showing he’s not a totally incompetent wrestler at this point. (I don’t think he ever was.  He’s just boring.)  Ramon gets a two off a backslide, and they trade twos. Jarrett seems to have the same problem Shawn Michaels does: His managers go on to become bigger than him. Ramon makes the big comeback with a blockbuster slam, and the Kid tries to post Jarrett but gets kicked off. Ramon makes a tactical error and Jarrett slaps on the figure-four. Roadie assists. Ramon reverses the move, and Kid assists *him*. Cute. Ramon hits a superplex and goes for the Edge. Roadie runs in for the weak DQ. The Kid cleans house, and in a “holy shit” moment for me, he does the kick combo in the corner…then CROTCH CHOPS! I didn’t even realize he was doing it back then! Anyway, pretty good match. **3/4 – Nick Turturro interviews the Corporation (the Million Dollar one) and Shawn Michaels. Jenny McCarthy wanders in and Kama checks her out. Scouting hos? – King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker. Yes, it’s another “Heel manager steals the urn angle”. It occurs to me that Mankind has the distinction of being the last guy to do that angle, and the only one to be successful, since UT never got it back. (I think Paul Bearer had possession of it in 2010 for that horrid Kane feud) Baseball umpire Larry Young is the referee, causing me to wonder if visual impairment is a prerequisite to being a ref. Midway through the match, Paul Bearer steals the urn back, but Kama runs out and steals it from *him*. Man, what an engaging storyline. He would melt it down into a chain, which he may still be wearing today as the Godfather. (Or maybe he took to Vegas and sold it to the Pawn Stars.)  Undertaker gets the pin…with a clothesline. Uh, yeah. DUD – Nicolas Turturro is searching for Pam Anderson…and finds Mongo! Yup, he’s part of “Team Taylor”, the group of football players who will be seconding Lawrence Taylor in the main event. He moves on to find Bob Backlund playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Pretty funny bit. – The first In Your House promo. There’s WAY too much filler here.  (That’s nothing compared to what you have to sit through today.)  WWF World tag team title match: The Smokin Gunns v. Owen Hart & A Mystery Partner. You see, Owen and Neidhart (father of current Diva Natalya, who is a frequent victim of Tamina, daughter of Jimmy Snuka!) were eliminated in the first round of the tag title tournament, but Owen claimed it was unfair circumstances, so the Gunns gave Owen & a partner a match here. So Owen brings out Yokozuna, and you might as well have handed the belts over right there. Both Billy and Bart ended up wrestling at Wrestlemania XV, although in drastically different types of matches. Who would have thought that either guy would end up being in the WWF years after the split occurred? The Gunns do all sorts of cool double team stuff, which begs the question: Why did the New Age Outlaws suck so bad in the ring?  (Because Bart was the good worker and Billy wasn’t, duh.) The backdrop/neckbreaker combo is killer, for instance. The Gunns hit the sidewinder (Bart does a side slam and Billy legdrops him in the air), but Owen tags in Yokozuna and everything the Gunns built while working on Owen goes BUH-BYE faster than you can say “Fat Ass Legdrop”. Yoko does about 30 seconds worth of work and then applies the VULCAN NERVE HOLD OF DEATH. Yoko, you fat pile of shit, it’s a TAG TEAM match. If you’re tired, tag Owen. The Gunns make the hot tag, but Billy promptly gets belly-to-bellied and Banzai Dropped. And that’s that. No, wait, Owen wants the honors, so makes the academic pin to FINALLY win his first title. *1/2 – Adam Bomb cuts a promo with the WCW Booking Committee, who are prepping for the Special Olympics. – “I Quit” match: Mr. Bob Backlund v. Bret Hart. Roddy Piper is the special referee. Okay, anyway, this match was setup because Backlund made Hart submit at Survivor Series 94 to win the WWF title. And yes, I know his mother threw in the towel, but history says he submitted. So now I guess Bret wanted the job back. Bret gets a figure-four about a minute in, showing how compressed this match is. Of course, the match at Survivor Series ran about 40 minutes, so anything would be compressed. They trade a couple of more submission moves on the mat, boring the crowd. Backlund works some psychology in, working on the arm and shoulder. Yawn. Backlund was always *vastly* overrated. I mean, he was technically proficient and a great heel in 1994, but he never really clued into the fact that it wasn’t the 70s anymore. Bret comes back with a couple of the MOVES OF DOOM, but Backlund rolls out of the Sharpshooter attempt. Bret misses a corner charge and messes up his shoulder. This sets up the Katihaj—er, I mean the Cross Face Chicken Wing. But Bret reverses the move and hooks his own for the submission. Backlund said during his big heel push that if anyone did that to him, he’d retire. Of course, Backlund never actually said “I Quit” here, so I guess you could say that Bob screwed…oh, never mind. **  (Bret really had nothing to work with on this show.)  WWF World title match: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the timekeeper and Nicolas Turturro is the ring announcer. Shawn brings Jenny McCarthy (and Sid) with him. Shawn takes a bump before the match even starts, getting backdropped over the top rope by Diesel so Diesel can pose with Pam Anderson, who makes Sable look like Olive Oyl. The Shawn Show begins as Diesel takes his head off with a clothesline after a wrestling sequence. He gets bumped over the top rope and runs into a photographer, so he shoves him down the aisle in frustration. Michaels keeps on Diesel, and keeps getting beat up. Diesel is moving faster than usual here, but the match is all Shawn. They end up outside the ring, and the photographers help screw up a spot again, this one being Diesel getting run into the ringpost. The bloodthirsty fans begin chanting for Sid. Wild. Shawn splashes Big Sexy from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring and Shawn continues working on the back, with a Randy Savage elbow for a two count. Diesel makes the comeback with some elbows, then Snake Eyes. They fight outside the ring and Hebner jumps down to stop them, but twists his ankle. Shawn and Diesel roll in the ring, and Shawn hits the superkick. Sid tosses the ref back in the ring for a two count. Sid cuts the top turnbuckle pad off. They do the double-KO spot and then Shawn tries a bulldog off the top, but gets caught with a side slam. Diesel hulks up (to big boos) and hits the big boot and powerbomb for the pin. Crowd is not entirely appreciative, which was acknowledged the next night when Sid turns on Shawn, beginning Shawn’s push to superstardom. This was voted Match of the Year by PWI, continuing Shawn’s MOTY streak (which ran from 1993-1997) but there were easily much better matches in North America alone in 1995. *** – Main event: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor. This of course came about because Bigelow shoved LT at Royal Rumble 95. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and both the Corporation and LT’s football friends (including future WCW “wrestlers” Steve MacMichael and Reggie White) are at ringside. LT dominates Bam Bam to start, with a clothesline over the top rope, a few hiptosses and a bulldog, making this better than almost any other celebrity matches to date. Bam Bam takes over with some kicks and punches. LT throws a wicked forearm, I’ll give him that. Bigelow applies a Boston Crab, and LT does a pretty respectable selling job. LT suplexes Bigelow out of a headlock, but gets the worst of it and Bigelow actually hits a sort-of moonsault. Bigelow comes back with a half-powerbomb half-gut wrench for a two count. Bigelow pulls out an enzuigiri and goes back to the top. His FLYING HEADBUTT OF DOOM only gets two. Why would he agree to kill his own finisher like that? ($$$) LT comes back with forearms and some shoulderblocks, then a big forearm. Bigelow is staggered, and Taylor comes off the second rope with a flying forearm to the head that looked as though it hit solid, and it gets the pin! **1/2 on the regular scale, ****1/2 on the “celebrity match” scale. End of show. The Bottom Line: Certainly not a *bad* Wrestlemania. Bundy-UT sucked the meat missile, but everything else was okay. This was just lacklustre more than anything else. Weak storyline buildup, mediocre wrestling, and an ill-advised celebrity main event that killed Bigelow’s career. But Shawn puts in a good performance, and Bigelow-LT is the Savage-Steamboat of celebrity matches, so the show is worth a look. Very, very mildly recommended. The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, CT – Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler – Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him. The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. (They’d probably record the conversation and air that call as a smear campaign against him.)  Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again. (The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure. Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster… …allegedly. Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie… …allegedly. Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. (Now if it was a dragon fighting a TIGER, shit’s on!) Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. (He should have done the Hogan play and claimed he didn’t know the girl or remember making the video.)  Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night… …allegedly. Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken. (Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble. King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. (He was probably all “Ha ha, fuck you, the batteries are almost dead anyway!”) Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle… …allegedly. Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series? (Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through. WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself. (Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it. “I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. (Vince McMahon has been fighting that battle for a few years now with similar results.)  Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, fuck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing. Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings: Montreal screwjob Gave Shawn Michaels the title. Fuck you, Vince McMahon. Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits. (Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold. WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. (He probably should have.)  The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.  (Just ask Chyna.  Although I have no proof of any diseases carried by her.)  Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting to a bored-looking Pamela at ringside. Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird. Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. (Shawn had the turnbuckle fired the next day.  it’s currently working in a McDonalds in Newark.)  Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin. (Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible. Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin. (Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.  (Taylor, on the other hand, is now a registered sex offender and was probably a bigger drug user than anyone on this entire show.  Yet he’s still around and so many from this show are dead.  The world is a strange place.)  The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed. Recommendation to avoid.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 11

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, Connecticut. Original airdate: April 2/1995 – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler.Opening match: The Blu Twins v. The Allied Powers. And who the HELL thought of this one as the opener? For those who haven’t seen the show, there are a MILLION photographers surrounding the ring, which gets into the way of a highspot on at least one occasion. (Insecure much, Vince?) And wow, what a drop for Luger: Main eventer one year, opening match the next. (Add him to the list of biggest Wrestlemania downfalls, I guess.)  The Blu Twins are Ron and Don Harris. With WAY more hair. Luger and Bulldog blow a double powerslam spot right off the bat. Davey Boy jumps right into the Ricky Morton spot, getting beat on by the Blus. The gimmick for the Blus is that they’re brawling mountain men with their inbred uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel). (And yet WWE can’t find a spot for the Briscoes.)  Zebekiah, being an all-purpose redneck stereotype, moved to Texas in 96 and became Bradshaw’s manager. This is a horrible match. Luger gets the hot tag and nails one of the Blus with the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM but they pull the ol’ switcheroo. Jacob goes for a piledriver and Bulldog sunset flips in (the only nice spot of the match) and pins him. No tag, but they’re faces so it’s okay, I guess. (That’s one of the rules of wrestling, dummy.)  1/4* – NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro is doing interviews in the back. Vince knew the show would suck, so he loaded up with celebs, I guess. (I would hardly call him a celebrity now.)  Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon. Ramon is seconded by 1-2-3 Kid, and Jarrett is seconded by the Road Dog. Stalling from Jarrett to start, then Ramon reverses a sloppy sunset flip for a two count. Some comedy spots from Jarrett and Roadie sew the seeds of dissention. Ramon goes for the Edge but Roadie pulls Jarrett out, who is then chased into the ring by Sean “What the HELL am I wearing tonight?” Waltman. Ramon takes out both Roadie and JJ, which pretty much shows that this was just building to the tag match that was supposed to happen at the first In Your House. Jarrett controls with some decent stuff, showing he’s not a totally incompetent wrestler at this point. (I don’t think he ever was.  He’s just boring.)  Ramon gets a two off a backslide, and they trade twos. Jarrett seems to have the same problem Shawn Michaels does: His managers go on to become bigger than him. Ramon makes the big comeback with a blockbuster slam, and the Kid tries to post Jarrett but gets kicked off. Ramon makes a tactical error and Jarrett slaps on the figure-four. Roadie assists. Ramon reverses the move, and Kid assists *him*. Cute. Ramon hits a superplex and goes for the Edge. Roadie runs in for the weak DQ. The Kid cleans house, and in a “holy shit” moment for me, he does the kick combo in the corner…then CROTCH CHOPS! I didn’t even realize he was doing it back then! Anyway, pretty good match. **3/4 – Nick Turturro interviews the Corporation (the Million Dollar one) and Shawn Michaels. Jenny McCarthy wanders in and Kama checks her out. Scouting hos? – King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker. Yes, it’s another “Heel manager steals the urn angle”. It occurs to me that Mankind has the distinction of being the last guy to do that angle, and the only one to be successful, since UT never got it back. (I think Paul Bearer had possession of it in 2010 for that horrid Kane feud) Baseball umpire Larry Young is the referee, causing me to wonder if visual impairment is a prerequisite to being a ref. Midway through the match, Paul Bearer steals the urn back, but Kama runs out and steals it from *him*. Man, what an engaging storyline. He would melt it down into a chain, which he may still be wearing today as the Godfather. (Or maybe he took to Vegas and sold it to the Pawn Stars.)  Undertaker gets the pin…with a clothesline. Uh, yeah. DUD – Nicolas Turturro is searching for Pam Anderson…and finds Mongo! Yup, he’s part of “Team Taylor”, the group of football players who will be seconding Lawrence Taylor in the main event. He moves on to find Bob Backlund playing chess with Jonathan Taylor Thomas. Pretty funny bit. – The first In Your House promo. There’s WAY too much filler here.  (That’s nothing compared to what you have to sit through today.)  WWF World tag team title match: The Smokin Gunns v. Owen Hart & A Mystery Partner. You see, Owen and Neidhart (father of current Diva Natalya, who is a frequent victim of Tamina, daughter of Jimmy Snuka!) were eliminated in the first round of the tag title tournament, but Owen claimed it was unfair circumstances, so the Gunns gave Owen & a partner a match here. So Owen brings out Yokozuna, and you might as well have handed the belts over right there. Both Billy and Bart ended up wrestling at Wrestlemania XV, although in drastically different types of matches. Who would have thought that either guy would end up being in the WWF years after the split occurred? The Gunns do all sorts of cool double team stuff, which begs the question: Why did the New Age Outlaws suck so bad in the ring?  (Because Bart was the good worker and Billy wasn’t, duh.) The backdrop/neckbreaker combo is killer, for instance. The Gunns hit the sidewinder (Bart does a side slam and Billy legdrops him in the air), but Owen tags in Yokozuna and everything the Gunns built while working on Owen goes BUH-BYE faster than you can say “Fat Ass Legdrop”. Yoko does about 30 seconds worth of work and then applies the VULCAN NERVE HOLD OF DEATH. Yoko, you fat pile of shit, it’s a TAG TEAM match. If you’re tired, tag Owen. The Gunns make the hot tag, but Billy promptly gets belly-to-bellied and Banzai Dropped. And that’s that. No, wait, Owen wants the honors, so makes the academic pin to FINALLY win his first title. *1/2 – Adam Bomb cuts a promo with the WCW Booking Committee, who are prepping for the Special Olympics. – “I Quit” match: Mr. Bob Backlund v. Bret Hart. Roddy Piper is the special referee. Okay, anyway, this match was setup because Backlund made Hart submit at Survivor Series 94 to win the WWF title. And yes, I know his mother threw in the towel, but history says he submitted. So now I guess Bret wanted the job back. Bret gets a figure-four about a minute in, showing how compressed this match is. Of course, the match at Survivor Series ran about 40 minutes, so anything would be compressed. They trade a couple of more submission moves on the mat, boring the crowd. Backlund works some psychology in, working on the arm and shoulder. Yawn. Backlund was always *vastly* overrated. I mean, he was technically proficient and a great heel in 1994, but he never really clued into the fact that it wasn’t the 70s anymore. Bret comes back with a couple of the MOVES OF DOOM, but Backlund rolls out of the Sharpshooter attempt. Bret misses a corner charge and messes up his shoulder. This sets up the Katihaj—er, I mean the Cross Face Chicken Wing. But Bret reverses the move and hooks his own for the submission. Backlund said during his big heel push that if anyone did that to him, he’d retire. Of course, Backlund never actually said “I Quit” here, so I guess you could say that Bob screwed…oh, never mind. **  (Bret really had nothing to work with on this show.)  WWF World title match: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels. Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the timekeeper and Nicolas Turturro is the ring announcer. Shawn brings Jenny McCarthy (and Sid) with him. Shawn takes a bump before the match even starts, getting backdropped over the top rope by Diesel so Diesel can pose with Pam Anderson, who makes Sable look like Olive Oyl. The Shawn Show begins as Diesel takes his head off with a clothesline after a wrestling sequence. He gets bumped over the top rope and runs into a photographer, so he shoves him down the aisle in frustration. Michaels keeps on Diesel, and keeps getting beat up. Diesel is moving faster than usual here, but the match is all Shawn. They end up outside the ring, and the photographers help screw up a spot again, this one being Diesel getting run into the ringpost. The bloodthirsty fans begin chanting for Sid. Wild. Shawn splashes Big Sexy from the apron to the floor. Back in the ring and Shawn continues working on the back, with a Randy Savage elbow for a two count. Diesel makes the comeback with some elbows, then Snake Eyes. They fight outside the ring and Hebner jumps down to stop them, but twists his ankle. Shawn and Diesel roll in the ring, and Shawn hits the superkick. Sid tosses the ref back in the ring for a two count. Sid cuts the top turnbuckle pad off. They do the double-KO spot and then Shawn tries a bulldog off the top, but gets caught with a side slam. Diesel hulks up (to big boos) and hits the big boot and powerbomb for the pin. Crowd is not entirely appreciative, which was acknowledged the next night when Sid turns on Shawn, beginning Shawn’s push to superstardom. This was voted Match of the Year by PWI, continuing Shawn’s MOTY streak (which ran from 1993-1997) but there were easily much better matches in North America alone in 1995. *** – Main event: Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor. This of course came about because Bigelow shoved LT at Royal Rumble 95. Pat Patterson is the special referee, and both the Corporation and LT’s football friends (including future WCW “wrestlers” Steve MacMichael and Reggie White) are at ringside. LT dominates Bam Bam to start, with a clothesline over the top rope, a few hiptosses and a bulldog, making this better than almost any other celebrity matches to date. Bam Bam takes over with some kicks and punches. LT throws a wicked forearm, I’ll give him that. Bigelow applies a Boston Crab, and LT does a pretty respectable selling job. LT suplexes Bigelow out of a headlock, but gets the worst of it and Bigelow actually hits a sort-of moonsault. Bigelow comes back with a half-powerbomb half-gut wrench for a two count. Bigelow pulls out an enzuigiri and goes back to the top. His FLYING HEADBUTT OF DOOM only gets two. Why would he agree to kill his own finisher like that? ($$$) LT comes back with forearms and some shoulderblocks, then a big forearm. Bigelow is staggered, and Taylor comes off the second rope with a flying forearm to the head that looked as though it hit solid, and it gets the pin! **1/2 on the regular scale, ****1/2 on the “celebrity match” scale. End of show. The Bottom Line: Certainly not a *bad* Wrestlemania. Bundy-UT sucked the meat missile, but everything else was okay. This was just lacklustre more than anything else. Weak storyline buildup, mediocre wrestling, and an ill-advised celebrity main event that killed Bigelow’s career. But Shawn puts in a good performance, and Bigelow-LT is the Savage-Steamboat of celebrity matches, so the show is worth a look. Very, very mildly recommended. The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI – Live from Hartford, CT – Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler – Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him. The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. (They’d probably record the conversation and air that call as a smear campaign against him.)  Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again. (The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure. Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster… …allegedly. Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie… …allegedly. Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. (Now if it was a dragon fighting a TIGER, shit’s on!) Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. (He should have done the Hogan play and claimed he didn’t know the girl or remember making the video.)  Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night… …allegedly. Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken. (Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble. King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. (He was probably all “Ha ha, fuck you, the batteries are almost dead anyway!”) Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle… …allegedly. Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series? (Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through. WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself. (Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it. “I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. (Vince McMahon has been fighting that battle for a few years now with similar results.)  Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, fuck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing. Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings: Montreal screwjob Gave Shawn Michaels the title. Fuck you, Vince McMahon. Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits. (Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold. WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. (He probably should have.)  The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.  (Just ask Chyna.  Although I have no proof of any diseases carried by her.)  Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting to a bored-looking Pamela at ringside. Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird. Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. (Shawn had the turnbuckle fired the next day.  it’s currently working in a McDonalds in Newark.)  Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin. (Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible. Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin. (Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.  (Taylor, on the other hand, is now a registered sex offender and was probably a bigger drug user than anyone on this entire show.  Yet he’s still around and so many from this show are dead.  The world is a strange place.)  The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed. Recommendation to avoid.

10 Scariest Moments on Sesame Street

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/bt/dn/fmd/34061-top-10-scariest-moments-on-sesame-street Given that I have to watch a LOT of Sesame Street these days (and Special Agent Oso, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) this is a timely topic for me.  I totally remember the Count sleeping over and turning Ernie into a zombie the next morning, although I don’t see what’s so terrifying about the I-Beam sketch.  People on the internet get freaked out by weird things, I guess.

10 Scariest Moments on Sesame Street

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/bt/dn/fmd/34061-top-10-scariest-moments-on-sesame-street Given that I have to watch a LOT of Sesame Street these days (and Special Agent Oso, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) this is a timely topic for me.  I totally remember the Count sleeping over and turning Ernie into a zombie the next morning, although I don’t see what’s so terrifying about the I-Beam sketch.  People on the internet get freaked out by weird things, I guess.

10 Scariest Moments on Sesame Street

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/bt/dn/fmd/34061-top-10-scariest-moments-on-sesame-street Given that I have to watch a LOT of Sesame Street these days (and Special Agent Oso, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) this is a timely topic for me.  I totally remember the Count sleeping over and turning Ernie into a zombie the next morning, although I don’t see what’s so terrifying about the I-Beam sketch.  People on the internet get freaked out by weird things, I guess.

10 Scariest Moments on Sesame Street

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/bt/dn/fmd/34061-top-10-scariest-moments-on-sesame-street Given that I have to watch a LOT of Sesame Street these days (and Special Agent Oso, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) this is a timely topic for me.  I totally remember the Count sleeping over and turning Ernie into a zombie the next morning, although I don’t see what’s so terrifying about the I-Beam sketch.  People on the internet get freaked out by weird things, I guess.

10 Scariest Moments on Sesame Street

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/bt/dn/fmd/34061-top-10-scariest-moments-on-sesame-street Given that I have to watch a LOT of Sesame Street these days (and Special Agent Oso, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) this is a timely topic for me.  I totally remember the Count sleeping over and turning Ernie into a zombie the next morning, although I don’t see what’s so terrifying about the I-Beam sketch.  People on the internet get freaked out by weird things, I guess.

10 Scariest Moments on Sesame Street

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/bt/dn/fmd/34061-top-10-scariest-moments-on-sesame-street Given that I have to watch a LOT of Sesame Street these days (and Special Agent Oso, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) this is a timely topic for me.  I totally remember the Count sleeping over and turning Ernie into a zombie the next morning, although I don’t see what’s so terrifying about the I-Beam sketch.  People on the internet get freaked out by weird things, I guess.

10 Scariest Moments on Sesame Street

http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/bt/dn/fmd/34061-top-10-scariest-moments-on-sesame-street Given that I have to watch a LOT of Sesame Street these days (and Special Agent Oso, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) this is a timely topic for me.  I totally remember the Count sleeping over and turning Ernie into a zombie the next morning, although I don’t see what’s so terrifying about the I-Beam sketch.  People on the internet get freaked out by weird things, I guess.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 10

Change of pace this time. It seems no matter how many rants I pump out and how great everyone tells me they are, I always have one show hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles: Wrestlemania X. Oh, sure, the rest are pretty good, but what did I think of Wrestlemania X?  (These days it’s “When are you gonna redo Wrestlemania XIX?” or “Are you going to do Wrestlemania XXVII?”) Well, what do you *think* I thought of Wrestlemania X? It’s the show that redefined the WWF forever. It’s probably the only instance of two ***** matches on the same WWF show. It made the careers of Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and Owen Hart. It relaunched the career of Bret Hart and sunk the career of Lex Luger with a resounding splat. It was the final proof that Hulk Hogan was not needed to blow the roof off the joint, and it was probably the only time you’ll ever see Vince McMahon apologize, albeit in his own way. It was truly a show with something for everyone — workrate freaks, sports entertainment sheep, kids and adults alike and devoted followers of the Finkel-Wippleman feud. Hell, it’s Wrestlemania X. If you can’t love this show, you’re either dead or not a wrestling fan. So let’s do it this way: Let’s talk about what was so great about the matches, and why they were so important in the future, and what happened to set them up, shall we? Standard rules apply otherwise. On with the show. The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X – Here’s what was happening at the time, to give an idea where everybody sat: 1993: Yokozuna was of course the WWF champion, having flattened Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring 93. The WWF was bombing under the big guy, big time. Heel champions might fly in Atlanta, but sports entertainment fans still demanded a hero. (More or less.  Yokozuna did pretty good on the house show circuit in the summer, but obviously Summerslam was a giant disappointment, as was Survivor Series.)  Unfortunately, the primary one of the 80s had just been turfed out of the WWF a few months previous, nearly taking the credibility of Bret Hart with him. So Vince, not being a terribly creative sort without his advisors to slap some sense into him, decided to create a new superman: Lex Luger. Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna and did an immediate face turn, dumping the infinitely superior “Narcissist” gimmick for the hackneyed “Made in the USA” one. But hey, I’m not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, what do I know? Anyway, after slamming Yoko, Luger embarked on a massive PR campaign to drum up support for a title shot, because Yokozuna was afraid of him and all. Jim Cornette (manager of the champ) finally relented, with the caveat that Luger get *one* title shot, at Summerslam 93, and no more. Luger agreed, and choked in the big match (there’s a surprise…), beating Yoko by countout and thus blowing his one shot. Luger had one chance left: Win the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile, Bret Hart was having problems of his own with Jerry Lawler. After dropping the WWF title at the wretched Wrestlemania IX, Bret came back to win the first King of the Ring tournament. Jerry “The King” Lawler took exception and attacked him after the win, triggering a long feud between the two. Hart beat the piss out of Lawler at Summerslam, but lost the match on a reversed decision. The entire Hart family got involved, and it was going to be settled at Survivor Series 93, but Lawler was arrested for rape charges, which later turned out to be bogus, so Shawn Michaels took his place. Bret teamed with his brothers (Owen, Keith and Bruce), while Shawn teamed with three masked Knights. The Harts systematically destroyed the heels, but before bowing out, Shawn managed to eliminate Owen with a fluke pinfall. Owen was upset that Bret didn’t protect him, and began challenging him to a match. Bret constantly maintained that he didn’t want to fight his brother. Finally, the brothers reconciled and agreed to team against the Quebecers at the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile… Shawn Michaels: Shawn had lost and regained the Intercontinental title midway through 1993 (acquiring bodyguard Diesel in the process) but a contract dispute caused Shawn to temporarily leave the WWF. The WWF responded by not only holding him to his contract, but stripping him of the Intercontinental title, and holding a battle royale on RAW, with the final two men fighting for the title the next week. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel were the final competitors, and Ramon finished him with ease the next week to claim the belt. However, in November, Shawn re-signed with the WWF, and began appearing on TV again…with the Intercontinental title. Or rather, the belt he took with him when he was suspended. Ramon was none too pleased. Royal Rumble 1994: Bret and Owen ended up dominating the Quebecers, but Bret injured his knee at one point, and the champions took advantage. They wore him down until he was to the point of not being able to continue, and at a crucial point where Bret could have tagged Owen, he instead chose to apply the Sharpshooter to Pierre. This cost the team the titles, as his knee collapsed and the referee stopped the match and awarded it to the Quebecers. Owen had had enough, and he stomped on Bret’s knee in frustration and stormed back to the dressing room, delivering the semi-famous “You’re Too Selfish!” interview. Bret was hurt badly, but Bastion Booger was also injured, and Bret ended up taking his place in the Rumble match itself. Razor Ramon defended the IC title against Irwin R. Shyster, with Shawn Michaels interfering to apparently give IRS the title, but the decision was reversed. In the Rumble, Both Bret and Lex Luger drew late numbers, and in the end, it was down to the two men. They both ended up tumbling over the top rope and landing at the same time, with several camera angles being inconclusive, so a tie was declared and both men were the winners and would receive the title shot. Then… The Buildup: It was decided that the fairest idea was to give both men a title shot at Wrestlemania: A coin would be flipped, and the winner would get the first shot, with the other man meeting the World champion in the final match of the night. If Luger won, then he would wrestle for the title first while Bret wrestled Owen Hart (as “suitable competition”). If Bret won, then he would wrestle for the title while Luger met Crush. Luger won. While this was going on, Yokozuna was busy defending his title on RAW, notably against Crush in one match. He beat Crush, then delivered a few extra Banzai drops for good measure, putting him out of wrestling for a few weeks. Randy Savage made the save, but Crush was upset that Savage didn’t call him in the hospital, and when he returned from injury, it was with an evil goatee and Mr. Fuji as his manager. Finally, the WWF decided to end to the controversy between Ramon and Michaels with a ladder match. And with all that in mind… – Live from Madison Square Gardens, original airdate March 20, 1994. – Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. – Throughout the night are “Wrestlemania Moments”, great little nods to the history of the show.  (Yeah, this was only the tenth show and they were already up their own ass, what a shock.)  Opening match: Bret Hart v. Owen Hart. This was not only a great match, and one of the three matches generally considered the greatest opener of all time (alongside Pillman/Liger and Mysterio/Psycosis), but it was also the match that turned Owen Hart from mid-card joke to main event threat. It also marked the debut of Owen’s current choice of tights. The heat for this match is unreal, as the fans are firmly behind Bret Hart’s side of the story. Owen gives Bret the big stink-eye, which makes Bret distinctly uncomfortable. And now, the match: They lockup, and Owen pushes Bret off, then celebrates. Cheap heat, but hey, you take what you can get. Owen gets the best of a wrestling sequence and celebrates. Bret retaliates by sending Owen to the floor, which pisses him off and he slaps Bret upon returning to the ring. Bret takes control, working on the arm. Bret gets two off a cradle, then goes back to the arm. After another terrific wrestling sequence, Owen ends up getting tossed to the floor again, and now Bret celebrates. Crowd is much more appreciative of this. Owen has another fit and a shoving match results, off which Bret gets a rollup for two. Bret back to work on the arm. Bret gets a crucifix for two, then back to the arm. Good psychology here. Owen takes control with his SWANK~! leg lariat and sends Bret to the floor. He rams Bret’s back into the ringpost, establishing the back injury for Bret. Owen gives Bret a cross-corner whip (first time I’ve seen Bret sell it back-first, actually) and hits a backbreaker. FIVE MOVES OF…oh, wait, wrong brother. Owen slaps on a camel clutch while trash-talking his brother. Bret escapes, but gets caught with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Sweet sassy molassy, I love that belly to belly. Another cross-corner whip, reversed by Bret, and Owen comes off the ropes with a bodypress, which is reversed by Bret for a two count. Owen goes back to the back. Resthold from Owen, thus dropping it from *****. Owen tries to slam Bret, but Bret falls back for a two count. Owen’s kickout sends Bret to the floor. Beautiful sequence as Owen suplexes Bret from the apron, and Bret reverses to a waistlock, which Owen reverses again for a German suplex for two. Just gorgeous wrestling. Legdrop from Owen for two. He goes for a suplex, but Bret cradles for two. He goes for a backbreaker, but Owen flips through and tombstones Bret. Nasty one, too. Flying headbutt misses. Inverted atomic drop and clothesline from Bret for two. Wait for it…wait for it….FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Owen hits an enzuigiri to break it up, then goes for the Sharpshooter. Bret counters. He goes for his own, and Owen counters. Owen cradles for two, but gets kicked out of the ring. Pescado from Bret, but he fucks up his knee. Owen circles in like a vulture, working on the knee and mocking his brother. What a jerk. Dragon screw legwhip (called “Look at that!” by the ever-astute Mr. McMahon) and a submission move of some sort follows. Another dragon screw, then a figure four, which gets a two count. Bret reverses to break the hold. Owen goes back to work on the knee. Another dragon screw legwhip attempt, but Bret counters with an enzuigiri. Crosscorner whip and legdrop gets two. Bulldog for two. Piledriver for two. Superplex, and both men are out. Bret revives long enough to get a two count. Both get up and Bret hits a sleeper. Owen breaks with a Flair uppercut (Where? Down there…) (Jesus, a Scott Hall reference?  REALLY?)  and Bret drops like a rock. Sharpshooter! Bret powers out and applies his own, but Owen makes the ropes. Bret with a cross corner whip, Owen reverses. Owen eats foot coming into the corner, and Bret goes for a victory roll, but Owen reverses the momentum and lies down on top for the pin! The crowd is in SHOCK. ****3/4…oh, hell, who am I kidding? This is the one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. *****, just because Bret continued selling the leg injury to the end of the show. – Owen does his victory interview. – Howard Finkel shows us his new toupee. Wow, that didn’t last long. – Doink and Dink v. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna. And into every life a little crap must fall. Among the things that killed Bigelow’s career, this ranks pretty highly. This is the transition show, as Matt Bourne was turfed from the WWF (“Turfed” is the wrong word as no one is really sure what happened to cause his departure or exactly when it happened.)  and replaced with indy worker Ray Licachelli, who continues to use the gimmick today. (Now it’s back to Bourne and a host of others who rent the gimmick on a nightly basis.)  Surprisingly, the match doesn’t totally suck, as Ray isn’t a bad little worker. I could’ve done without the Luna and Dink stuff here, but to paraphrase Jim Ross, they never promised a scientific classic. Bigelow finishes this with a flying headbutt on Doink. Worth about *1/2, actually. – “Mr. President” is in the crowd, you see. Sitting beside Billy Red Lyons. Yeah, right. It is of course that Bill Clinton imitator guy. – Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage v. Crush. In pre-hardcore WWF days, the stips were that you had to pin your opponent anywhere *but* the ring, and then the pinned guy would have 60 seconds to beat the count back to the ring. Good enough. First fall: Crush jumps Savage in the aisle, and drops him on the railing for the pin. Savage beats the count. Second fall: Crush tries to throw salt in Savage’s face, but he kicks it back into Crush’s face. Double axehandle, bodyslam, big elbow, then he rolls Crush onto the floor and pins him. Fuji revives Crush with a pitcher of water and Crush beats the count. Third fall: Savage takes his last Wrestlemania MANSIZED bump, getting backdropped over the top rope, and they fight to the dressing room. Savage rams Crush into a bunch of doors, then pins him. He hogties Crush in a scaffolding (doing a shitty job of it), but Crush plays dead long enough for Savage to win the match. ** Savage’s last hurrah in the WWF. – “Mr. President” is interviewed again. Geez, remember when the most controversial material Lawler had to use against Clinton was his love of McDonalds? – Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v. Leilani Kai. As short as Kai is old. For those who complain about the cheap T&A of the current Women’s division, just remember: FABULOUS MOOLAH COULD COME OF RETIREMENT AT ANY TIME. (Sadly, that is no longer true.)  Blah blah blah, Blayze hits the GERMAN SUPLEX OF DEATH and gets the pin to retain. Next. * – WWF World tag team title: The Quebecers v. Men on a Mission. As a rough guide to what we had to put up with even before Mabel’s singles push, Oscar is not only a bad manager and generally worthless human being, (That seems a tad harsh.)  but he’s also an INCREDIBLY BAD RAPPER. I mean, shit, I’m as white as they come and *I* could probably do a better job. (Or John Cena!) Oh wait, before we get to the match, it’s a Sports Entertainment Moment. – Toad Pedophile interviews Rhonda Shear (who?), but Shawn Michaels interrupts. Burt “It’s past 5 PM so I’m drunk off my ass” Reynolds makes the save. Man, that guy was going down the tubes before Boogie Nights saved his career.  (I wouldn’t say “saved” so much as “prolonged the inevitable”, since he didn’t do anything notable after that.)  Anyway, back to the match. I love the Quebecers (in a manly sort of way) and Johnny Polo is a god among men (but Raven sucks). Brother Zen points out that Johnny is wearing a Versace suit here. (Zen was a bit metrosexual before we knew the term for it.  A hipster ahead of his time, if you will.)  Quebecers get to show off a lot of their SWANK offense, as Pierre bumps around like a Mick Foley disciple. No wonder Bret Hart was able to carry the guy to a great match. Les Quebecois even manage to double suplex Mabel. He comes back with a FAT-ASSED leg lariat (Dick Togo has nothing on Mabel for sheer Fat-Assed-Ness). Mo adds his own useless offense, but the champs hit the cannonball thingie for two. MOM come back with the assisted splash, and then everyone ends up on the outside and Pierre gets splashed out there. MOM beats the count for the win. Pretty okay at times. **1/2 – WWF World title match #1: Yokozuna v. Lex Luger. Donnie “My little brother is a bigger star than I ever was” Walhberg is the guest ring announcer (Although Donnie is making some good bank now with NKOTBSB and their middle-aged housewife nostalgia tour), and Rhonda Shear is the guest timekeeper (that would require the ability to count past ten, right?). The WWF was teasing guest referees for the two title matches, and the first one is…Mr Perfect! Good pop for that. Luger actually looks decent for the first few minutes, hitting a flying bodypress and The Elbow Which Never Hits. But Yoko, who has the superhuman ability to make ANY match suck, goes for the DREADED VULCAN NEVER PINCH OF UTTER DAMNATION, and, well, that’s pretty much the entire match. 10 minutes of Yoko applying the nervehold. FAST FORWARD! Hi, welcome to ten minutes later. (Time travel is so confusing.)  Luger makes the comeback, slamming the evil sumo wrestling, and nailing the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DESTRUCTION, thus knocking Yoko out. BUT WAIT! Here’s Fuji…bam. Here’s Cornette…bam. Crowd is going crazy. Luger triumphantly goes for the cover…and Perfect won’t count. Still upset about WM9 or something, I guess. (Aha, I even had it figured out there.)  Luger gives him a love tap, and Perfect rings the bell, DQ’ing Lexy. Oooooooh, that’s gotta hurt. Wanna hear a LOUD “Bullshit” chant? There ya go. This pretty much marked the end of Lex’s usefulness in the main event ranks and wrestling in general, as Lex was now forever stuck with the choker label. 1/4* (That’s not fair.  Luger was a choke artist well before this.)  Earthquake v. Adam Bomb. Oh, wait. Harvey Wippleman is out to lay a vicious tongue-lashing on Fink (which would in turn lead to the epic tuxedo match which I always regretted not taping…HAH!), and Fink pops him one. See, ALL the faces go over. Adam Bomb is out to defend the honor of his manager, and Earthquake follows. 10 seconds later, Earthquake has the win. DUD – Jim Cornette delivers a classic overblown ranting interview, declaring that there’s no way in hell that Bret Hart can possibly beat Yokozuna, no way, uh uh, forgetaboutit, might as well go home right now. – WWF Intercontinental title match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels. Oh, c’mon, it’s the FREAKIN’ LADDER MATCH. Do you REALLY need me to recap this one for you? Shawn and Razor redefine wrestling by beating the HOLY LIVING CRAP out of each other with the ladder, thus making Shawn’s career. Each guy takes about three MAN-SIZED bumps, and Shawn shows off his ass for the first time. You can’t sit there and recap this one, you just have to sit back and go “OUCH!” at the proper time to appreciate it. The famous ending is of course Shawn climbing the ladder after about 15 teased finishes, but Razor knocking it over and Shawn falling crotch-first onto the top rope and tangling himself up long enough for Ramon to climb up himself and “re-unify” the real and fake I-C belts. If you don’t like this match, you’re a retard. (Ah, my younger and angrier days.)  ***** Worth the rental right here, and the fact that it’s actually a better match than the opener just makes it all the more astonishingly great. Shawn and Razor exchange hammerlocks and a hiptoss to start, but Razor gets a chokeslam. Shawn follows with a neckbreaker and stomps away. Ramon gets dumped out, and Diesel sneaks out and lays him out. Hebner objects him over Diesel’s objections that he didn’t see anything. Ramon nails Shawn and sends him upside-down in the corner, then dumps him. Brawl on the floor, where Ramon stops to pull up the padding before heading back in. He goes for the Razor’s Edge early, but Shawn backdrops him out of the ring, and onto the exposed concrete. Sick Bump #1. Shawn grabs the ladder, and Ramon steals it so Shawn heads into the ring and baseball slides it into Ramon’s face. Sick Bump #2. That also draws the first “Oooooooh” from the crowd, of many. Shawn puts the ladder into the ring and nails Razor with it, then pistons it into his ribs from a standing position. He drops it on Ramon’s back, then waits for him to stand up and casually tosses it at Ramon’s back. Sick Bump #3. Shawn makes the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down. He shoves Ramon down and drops an elbow off the ladder. He sets it up in the corner and hits a flying splash off the top, another famous visual. He climbs, but Ramon pushes him over to stop him. They do a headlock/crisscross sequence for a double-KO. Shawn sets the ladder up in the corner, but gets whipped into it and goes to the floor. Ramon follows and makes a Shawn sandwich, with the ladder and the post as bread. Sick Bump #4. Ramon puts the ladder against the apron and catapults Shawn into it. Back in, he puts the butt-end of the ladder right into Shawn’s jaw and Shawn bails. Sick Bump #5. He climbs, but Shawn comes back in via the top rope and knocks him off. The ladder crashes on top of him in the process. Both guys climb and slug it out, leading to Shawn getting suplexed off the ladder. Ramon falls off and climbs back up, but Shawn dropkicks the ladder and Ramon crashes off. Shawn pushes the ladder onto him for good measure. Superkick puts Ramon down, and a piledriver follows. He climbs a folded ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Ramon. Sick Bump #6. Shawn puts the ladder in the middle with Ramon laying underneath it, just to be a jerk, but it backfires when Ramon recovers and pushes the ladder over, tying Shawn in the ropes in the process. Razor climbs unhindered and claims both the real and bogus I-C titles to become the undisputed champion at 18:47. ***** One of the best and most influential matches of the modern era.  (But Summerslam 95 was still better.)  – A big argument in the back cancels that exciting 10 man match. – Main Event, WWF title match #2: Yokozuna v. Bret Hart. Burt Reynolds is the guest ring announcer/alcoholic, and some bimbo is the guest timekeeper. Burt slurs his way through the introductions, and oh yeah the guest referee is…Roddy Piper. (That’s a nice touch, actually, as the previous match featured Perfect screwing over Piper due to a long-simmering grudge, and this match mirrored that dynamic by making you wonder if Piper also held that grudge.)  The roof nearly blows off the place. Bret is STILL selling the knee injury as he enters the ring. He just can’t get it going against Yoko, who seems to be working a little harder here than earlier in the evening. Piper nails Cornette to completely send the fans home happy. Yoko nails a belly to belly and goes for the BUTT SPLASH OF DOOM, but he falls off due to being SO FAT, and Bret covers for the surprise pin. Now THAT’S a pop. Match is only about *, but who cares? What a great moment. Everyone pours into the ring to celebrate, except for Owen Hart, who stands in the aisle doing his Raven impression. (Shooting heroin and playing video games?) End of show. The Bottom Line: Vince isn’t very good at apologizing, as the period of time after Survivor Series 97 showed. This, however, was his own way of saying “I’m sorry for not believing in you” to Bret Hart, after taking the title off him a year previous to this. It was also a kick-ass way to retrain the WWF fans into liking wrestling rather than 2 minute Hulk Hogan matches, and it must’ve worked, because Bret and Shawn became two of the biggest stars of the 90s. I mean, sure the rest of the card wasn’t so good, but who cares? The stuff that worked, worked BIG-TIME. This was the ultimate slap in the face to Ted Turner, as Vince watched him take his big stars en masse, and then proceeded to put on a show that would put EVERYTHING pumped out by WCW for the next three years completely to shame. That’s talent, and this quite simply is the best WWF show EVER. The best in terms of workrate, setup, hype, payoff and sheer entertainment value. Everyone who watched it left saying “Now that’s a good show”. Now that’s a good show. (And now the GOOD version…) The SmarK Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X – Given we’re at that point in the RAW Legacy rants, now is as good a time as any to redo this show, what with Shawn Michaels’ final match coming up this weekend. – Live from Madison Square Garden. – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Owen Hart v. Bret Hart They trade takedowns to start and Owen whines about it while making the ropes. Owen gets his takedown and Bret puts him out of the ring, so Owen comes back with a bitchslap and hides in the corner. Bret had a good point about this match in an interview, where he talked about walking a fine line between a heel getting his comeuppance from his brother and big brother outright beating up on his own little brother. They trade wristlocks and Owen takes him down, but Bret reverses and works the arm, then rolls Owen up for two. Back to the arm, but Owen escapes with a cheapshot and they criss-cross into a monkey-flip from Bret before a clothesline puts Owen on the floor again. Back in, they shove it out and Bret rolls him up for two and goes back to the armbar. I like the little undertone here of Bret fighting the temptation to revert to teenaged squabbling while Owen does everything to push big brother’s buttons and piss him off. Bret goes to the arm again and they criss-cross again, and this time Owen hits the leg lariat to put him down. He tosses Bret and they head back in, where Owen gets a backbreaker and goes to a camel clutch to work on the back. He gets two, but Bret whips him into the corner and Owen comes out with a bodypress, reversed by Bret for two. Owen takes him down with a chinlock, but tries a slam and Bret reverses for two. Owen dumps him and Bret tries to sneak in with a rollup, but Owen reverses to a bridged german suplex for two. NICE. Legdrop gets two. Bret reverses a suplex with a small package for two, but Owen reverses a piledriver attempt into his own tombstone. He goes up and misses a flying splash. Bret comes back with a clothesline for two. Legsweep gets two. Owen takes him down for a Sharpshooter, but Bret counters to his own and Owen goes to the eyes to break. Owen with a rollup for two. Another great theme here: Two guys who know each other so well that they can reverse anything the other can throw out. They head out and Bret hurts his knee on the way out, and Owen is all over that. He goes right for it and Vince is shocked that someone wouldn’t exhibit fair play. Yeah, we know Vince McMahon is all about a fair fight. (Hey, he let Shawn Michaels have God as a tag team partner that one time.)  Owen wraps the knee around the post and heads back in for more punishment, taking him down with a legdrag and pounding on the knee. This leads to the figure-four, but Bret reverses and Owen has to make the ropes. Owen goes back to the leg, but Bret hits him with an enzuigiri and pounds away in the corner. Owen gets sent into the turnbuckles and Bret drops a leg for two and even remembers to sell the pain of using the bad leg! Bulldog gets two. Piledriver gets two. Superplex gets two. Bret pounds him with forearms and grabs a sleeper, but Owen goes low to break and gets the Sharpshooter. Bret quickly reverses, but Owen falls into the ropes. Owen charges and hits boot and Bret tries the victory roll, but Owen blocks for the pin at 20:19 and the Garden is in SHOCK. Without a doubt, the best opening match in company history. ***** It’s got a nuanced backstory, amazing work, the perfect finish and solid psychology from both guys, and not just the usual selling of injury type. – Sy Sperling introduces Howard Finkel’s new toupee, a makeover that thankfully only lasted one show. Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna Vachon v. Doink & Dink This marks the first major visual change for Ray Apollo as Doink, as the outfit is now totally redesigned and it’s obviously a different guy. Bigelow lays out Doink and follows with a dropkick, but misses a senton. Doink comes back and works the arm, and brings Dink in. So Luna chokes out the midget, but misses a charge to give Dink two. You know, as stupid as this seemed back then (and still seems now) these days if you put a show about pro wrestling midget clowns on TLC, you’d probably have a hit. (Wasn’t there actually a show along those lines recently?)  Make them hoarders who do tattoos on the side and you’ll make millions. Luna slams Dink and goes up, but misses a splash and it’s tags on both sides. Bigelow clotheslines Doink out of the ring, giving us more time for “comedy” with Dink’s wacky antics. Back in, Bigelow blocks a sunset flip with a butt splash, but Doink comes back and goes up. Whoopie Cushion misses, and Bigelow knocks Dink off the apron and blocks a backdrop suplex attempt for two. Flying headbutt finishes this mess at 6:09. This one ranks pretty low both on the list of Wrestlemania mixed tag matches AND Wrestlemania midget matches. This was pretty much Doink getting squashed to end this feud for good. 1/2* Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage v. Crush This is more accurately described as a Last Man Standing match. Savage attacks at the entrance and gets dropped on the railing for his efforts, and Crush gets the first pin at 0:42. Macho is able to make it back into the ring within the arbitrary 60 seconds, so the match continues. Crush pounds away and hangs Savage in the Tree of Woe, but gets a handful of salt from Fuji. That allows Savage enough time to escape and kick it back in Crush’s face, and he drops the big elbow, pushes him to the floor, and gets the pin at 4:25. Fuji is forced to dump a pitcher on water on his man to revive him, but he beats the count back in. (Does that ever work outside of a Bugs Bunny cartoon?)  Savage chokes away on the ropes, but charges and gets backdropped to the floor in a great bump. They brawl on the floor and Savage clotheslines him into the crowd, but walks into a superkick. Savage blocks a piledriver attempt and they fight into the backstage area, where Savage runs him into scaffolding and pins him at 8:00. And then in a smart move, he trusses Crush up (although his knot-tying could use work, as Crush falls down before Savage even leaves for the ring) and makes it back to the ring for the win at 9:36. Would have been better without the “beat the count” gimmick, but this was still fun and featured a creative finish. **3/4 Meanwhile, Todd Pettingill interviews a Bill Clinton impersonator. WWF Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v. Leilani Kai Where did they pull Kai out of mothballs from for this? And whoever thought “Alundra” would be a good name, anyway? (The same people who came up with “Kassius Ohno”) Kai attacks to start, but Blayze gets a rollup in the corner for two. Sunset flip gets two. Kai comes back with a slam for two, but Blayze hits a rana for two. Kai tosses her and back in for a hair toss that gets two. Blayze makes the comeback and gets a suplex for two, and the german suplex finishes at 3:23. 1/2* WWF World tag titles: The Quebecers v. Men on a Mission But first, we cut backstage to super-drunk Burt Reynolds cock-blocking Shawn Michaels. Big brawl to start and the champs double-team Mabel, but walk into a double-clothesline. MOM work on Pierre in the corner, as Mabel drops a leg and they hit a double elbow, but Jacques interferes to make Mo your face-in-peril. They toss him and Jacques cannonballs Pierre onto him to follow, and back in that gets two. Hotshot gets two for Jacques. Mo fights back with a somersault kick, but can’t tag Mabel. Pierre misses a top rope legdrop and it’s hot tag Mabel. Bossman slam for Jacques, but he misses a corner splash. The Quebecers take advantage with a double suplex and the Cannonball, but it only gets two. That should have been the finish. The Quebecers keep double-teaming Mabel, but he fights them off and MOM hits their double-team splash on Jacques. Johnny Polo is busy distracting the ref, however, so MOM pulls the champs out of the ring and settles for a countout win at 7:59 instead. Terrible finish. *1/2  (At least Mabel didn’t accidentally fall on a Quebecer and force a title change this time.)  WWF World title: Yokozuna v. Lex Luger Mr. Perfect returns after a lengthy insurance-related absence to be special referee here, having never quite settled his issue with Lex Luger. Makes you wonder if that will factor into the match. I should note that the most obnoxious thing about this match is guest ring announcer Donnie Wahlberg constantly getting introduced as a member of “NKOTB” as if anyone was actually going to call them that. Although now I guess New Kids on the Block are part of a whole nostalgia comeback thing, which makes me both depressed and very old. (I used to date a girl who was OBSESSED with Backstreet Boys.  And we were both in our 20s at this point, keep in mind.  She’d get all excited because they were going to be on Saturday Night Live one time doing “the chair routine” and I basically had to memorize their names and characteristics as part of the deal.  Turned out she was kinda nutso, in case you couldn’t guess.  I know how to pick ‘em.)  Slugfest to start and Luger gets a clothesline, but walks into one from Yoko. Lex comes back with a shot to put Yoko on the floor and follows with an axehandle off the apron, and back in for a flying bodypress that gets two. Elbowdrop gets two. Yoko chokes him out on the ropes and blocks a slam for two. Yoko pounds away in the corner and takes the turnbuckle off, but doesn’t use it. He goes to the nerve pinch so as to slow down the torrid pace. Sign in the crowd: “Lex Loser”. A bit on-the-nose, but yes. The nerve pinch goes on FOREVER, literally more than four minutes. Yoko finally dumps Luger to break up the monotony and then hauls him back in for…ANOTHER NERVE PINCH. FML. (I had just learned that one off Facebook when I wrote this rant and couldn’t wait for the chance to work it in.  Of course Facebook would give you the most annoying usage of it from people metaphorically complaining about spilling champagne on their diamond-soled shoes.)  Finally, after something like 7 total minutes of having his shoulders gently massaged, Luger makes the comeback, only to walk into a belly to belly suplex. Lex fights back with clotheslines to knock Yoko down, and he gets the slam. STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DEATH looks to finish, but Perfect won’t count. Luger gets in his face and shoves him, and that’s a DQ at 14:35. So just like the sun rising and the tides coming in, Lex Luger blows another title shot. This started OK, but ran off the rails once it got to that awful nerve pinch sequence. 1/4* Adam Bomb v. Earthquake Harvey Wippleman lays the badmouth on the Fink, prompting an attack from Adam Bomb, but Quake saves and finishes with the butt splash at 0:28. Obviously they were running a bit late at this point. Could a fucking 7 minute nerve hold in the previous match have anything to do with it, I wonder? DUD WWF Intercontinental title, ladder match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels People question a lot whether this match “holds up”, although thinking about, I think that’s the wrong question to ask. Wrestling as an artform is very in-the-moment and as a rule never truly intended to say the same thing to fans in 2010 as it did in 1994. So anyway, I’ve seen this match a million times, but here’s one more go, probably the last one. For me, this was the match where my worldview switched for good to “getting it”. The first time I watched it, I admired the beating delivered by Razor Ramon. Every time after that, I admired the bumps taken by Shawn. Shawn blocks a hiptoss and pokes Ramon in the eye, but gets chokeslammed as a result, then comes back with a neckbreaker. Razor puts him down with a shoulderblock, but Shawn tosses him for some abuse by Diesel. The referee sends him back to the dressing room, thus fulfilling the purpose for both of them on the night and leaving Shawn and Razor alone to do their thing. Razor slugs away in the corner and clotheslines Shawn to the floor, but they fight back in again. Razor sets up for a Razor’s Edge onto the floor, but Shawn backdrops him out instead and retrieves the ladder for the first time. Razor gets it and puts it on the apron, so Shawn baseball slides it for our first ladder spot. Back in, Shawn rams it into Razor’s chest and then tosses it at his back. Given Razor wasn’t looking and took it square in the back, that HAD to hurt. Shawn does the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down by Razor to stop him. So he drops the elbow on Razor and then climbs the ladder in the corner, hitting a flying splash off it for one of the iconic images of his career. (Another iconic flying splash?  The Superfly leap, as performed by Jimmy Snuka.  And did you know that he has a daughter named Tamina?  I sure didn’t at the time I wrote this, because otherwise I would have certainly mentioned such a noteworthy fact!)  Another try for the belts, but Razor pushes the ladder over and Shawn clotheslines himself on the top rope. They collide and Shawn recovers first, setting up the ladder in the corner for more bad news. Razor whips him into it, allowing Shawn to bump to the floor in dramatic fashion, and then follows and uses the ladder to ram Shawn into the post. He catapults Shawn into the ladder for another crazy bump, and then spears him out of the ring with the ladder for good measure. That seems to be enough to allow Razor to climb, but Shawn dives in from the top rope and knocks him off again. They both climb the ladder and slug it out on top, leading to Razor slamming Shawn off the top and then bumping off himself. The ladder almost breaks, leading to a weird moment as we have to ponder a time when there WASN’T 17 ladders under the ring, just in case. Razor manages to climb again, but Shawn dropkicks him off and adds a superkick. Razor is out, so Shawn adds a piledriver for good measure. Then another iconic moment, as he climbs the ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Razor in a bump that was likely totally safe but looked awesome. So Shawn puts the ladder over top of Razor for one last bit of humiliation, and climbs, but that allows Razor to shake the ladder and knock Shawn off. And he gets tied into the ropes, the victim of his own hubris, allowing Razor to climb unstopped and reunify the Intercontinental title at 18:45. Still tells a great story, still has amazing bumps, still one of the greatest matches of all time. ***** WWF World title: Yokozuna v. Bret Hart Your special referee this time: Rowdy Roddy Piper. Guest ring announcer Burt Reynolds is literally so drunk he’s on the verge of falling down. Bret Hart is still selling the leg, which is awesome. Yoko attacks him on the way in and chops him down. Bret slugs back, but misses a dropkick, allowing Yoko to choke away on the ropes. Yoko misses the big fat splash, but Bret tries a headbutt and knocks himself down. Bret keeps slugging on him until he goes down, and that gets two. Cornette pulls out Piper, so Piper puts his lights out. More choking from Yokozuna, which sets up the Hulkbuster, but he doesn’t cover. He tosses Bret, who beats the rather brisk count back in. Yoko misses the corner splash and Bret comes back with a bulldog for two. Middle rope elbow gets two. Clothesline gets two. Piper is just right into this referee gig. Bret dives off the second rope, and gets caught with a belly to belly. Yoko sets up to finish with the butt drop, but he slips off the ropes and Bret regains the WWF title at 10:38. Talk about your “slip on a banana peel” finish. Kind of a weird ending, but it got the belt back where it belonged. **1/4 The Pulse: Really, this show doesn’t pretend to be about anything other than the two awesome matches and feelgood finish, and that’s exactly what it delivers. Of course, both great matches are available elsewhere (and in the case of the ladder match, READILY available elsewhere) so as a show you’re not missing much if you haven’t seen anything else out of those. But it all works as a show, so strongly recommended.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 10

Change of pace this time. It seems no matter how many rants I pump out and how great everyone tells me they are, I always have one show hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles: Wrestlemania X. Oh, sure, the rest are pretty good, but what did I think of Wrestlemania X?  (These days it’s “When are you gonna redo Wrestlemania XIX?” or “Are you going to do Wrestlemania XXVII?”) Well, what do you *think* I thought of Wrestlemania X? It’s the show that redefined the WWF forever. It’s probably the only instance of two ***** matches on the same WWF show. It made the careers of Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and Owen Hart. It relaunched the career of Bret Hart and sunk the career of Lex Luger with a resounding splat. It was the final proof that Hulk Hogan was not needed to blow the roof off the joint, and it was probably the only time you’ll ever see Vince McMahon apologize, albeit in his own way. It was truly a show with something for everyone — workrate freaks, sports entertainment sheep, kids and adults alike and devoted followers of the Finkel-Wippleman feud. Hell, it’s Wrestlemania X. If you can’t love this show, you’re either dead or not a wrestling fan. So let’s do it this way: Let’s talk about what was so great about the matches, and why they were so important in the future, and what happened to set them up, shall we? Standard rules apply otherwise. On with the show. The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X – Here’s what was happening at the time, to give an idea where everybody sat: 1993: Yokozuna was of course the WWF champion, having flattened Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring 93. The WWF was bombing under the big guy, big time. Heel champions might fly in Atlanta, but sports entertainment fans still demanded a hero. (More or less.  Yokozuna did pretty good on the house show circuit in the summer, but obviously Summerslam was a giant disappointment, as was Survivor Series.)  Unfortunately, the primary one of the 80s had just been turfed out of the WWF a few months previous, nearly taking the credibility of Bret Hart with him. So Vince, not being a terribly creative sort without his advisors to slap some sense into him, decided to create a new superman: Lex Luger. Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna and did an immediate face turn, dumping the infinitely superior “Narcissist” gimmick for the hackneyed “Made in the USA” one. But hey, I’m not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, what do I know? Anyway, after slamming Yoko, Luger embarked on a massive PR campaign to drum up support for a title shot, because Yokozuna was afraid of him and all. Jim Cornette (manager of the champ) finally relented, with the caveat that Luger get *one* title shot, at Summerslam 93, and no more. Luger agreed, and choked in the big match (there’s a surprise…), beating Yoko by countout and thus blowing his one shot. Luger had one chance left: Win the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile, Bret Hart was having problems of his own with Jerry Lawler. After dropping the WWF title at the wretched Wrestlemania IX, Bret came back to win the first King of the Ring tournament. Jerry “The King” Lawler took exception and attacked him after the win, triggering a long feud between the two. Hart beat the piss out of Lawler at Summerslam, but lost the match on a reversed decision. The entire Hart family got involved, and it was going to be settled at Survivor Series 93, but Lawler was arrested for rape charges, which later turned out to be bogus, so Shawn Michaels took his place. Bret teamed with his brothers (Owen, Keith and Bruce), while Shawn teamed with three masked Knights. The Harts systematically destroyed the heels, but before bowing out, Shawn managed to eliminate Owen with a fluke pinfall. Owen was upset that Bret didn’t protect him, and began challenging him to a match. Bret constantly maintained that he didn’t want to fight his brother. Finally, the brothers reconciled and agreed to team against the Quebecers at the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile… Shawn Michaels: Shawn had lost and regained the Intercontinental title midway through 1993 (acquiring bodyguard Diesel in the process) but a contract dispute caused Shawn to temporarily leave the WWF. The WWF responded by not only holding him to his contract, but stripping him of the Intercontinental title, and holding a battle royale on RAW, with the final two men fighting for the title the next week. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel were the final competitors, and Ramon finished him with ease the next week to claim the belt. However, in November, Shawn re-signed with the WWF, and began appearing on TV again…with the Intercontinental title. Or rather, the belt he took with him when he was suspended. Ramon was none too pleased. Royal Rumble 1994: Bret and Owen ended up dominating the Quebecers, but Bret injured his knee at one point, and the champions took advantage. They wore him down until he was to the point of not being able to continue, and at a crucial point where Bret could have tagged Owen, he instead chose to apply the Sharpshooter to Pierre. This cost the team the titles, as his knee collapsed and the referee stopped the match and awarded it to the Quebecers. Owen had had enough, and he stomped on Bret’s knee in frustration and stormed back to the dressing room, delivering the semi-famous “You’re Too Selfish!” interview. Bret was hurt badly, but Bastion Booger was also injured, and Bret ended up taking his place in the Rumble match itself. Razor Ramon defended the IC title against Irwin R. Shyster, with Shawn Michaels interfering to apparently give IRS the title, but the decision was reversed. In the Rumble, Both Bret and Lex Luger drew late numbers, and in the end, it was down to the two men. They both ended up tumbling over the top rope and landing at the same time, with several camera angles being inconclusive, so a tie was declared and both men were the winners and would receive the title shot. Then… The Buildup: It was decided that the fairest idea was to give both men a title shot at Wrestlemania: A coin would be flipped, and the winner would get the first shot, with the other man meeting the World champion in the final match of the night. If Luger won, then he would wrestle for the title first while Bret wrestled Owen Hart (as “suitable competition”). If Bret won, then he would wrestle for the title while Luger met Crush. Luger won. While this was going on, Yokozuna was busy defending his title on RAW, notably against Crush in one match. He beat Crush, then delivered a few extra Banzai drops for good measure, putting him out of wrestling for a few weeks. Randy Savage made the save, but Crush was upset that Savage didn’t call him in the hospital, and when he returned from injury, it was with an evil goatee and Mr. Fuji as his manager. Finally, the WWF decided to end to the controversy between Ramon and Michaels with a ladder match. And with all that in mind… – Live from Madison Square Gardens, original airdate March 20, 1994. – Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. – Throughout the night are “Wrestlemania Moments”, great little nods to the history of the show.  (Yeah, this was only the tenth show and they were already up their own ass, what a shock.)  Opening match: Bret Hart v. Owen Hart. This was not only a great match, and one of the three matches generally considered the greatest opener of all time (alongside Pillman/Liger and Mysterio/Psycosis), but it was also the match that turned Owen Hart from mid-card joke to main event threat. It also marked the debut of Owen’s current choice of tights. The heat for this match is unreal, as the fans are firmly behind Bret Hart’s side of the story. Owen gives Bret the big stink-eye, which makes Bret distinctly uncomfortable. And now, the match: They lockup, and Owen pushes Bret off, then celebrates. Cheap heat, but hey, you take what you can get. Owen gets the best of a wrestling sequence and celebrates. Bret retaliates by sending Owen to the floor, which pisses him off and he slaps Bret upon returning to the ring. Bret takes control, working on the arm. Bret gets two off a cradle, then goes back to the arm. After another terrific wrestling sequence, Owen ends up getting tossed to the floor again, and now Bret celebrates. Crowd is much more appreciative of this. Owen has another fit and a shoving match results, off which Bret gets a rollup for two. Bret back to work on the arm. Bret gets a crucifix for two, then back to the arm. Good psychology here. Owen takes control with his SWANK~! leg lariat and sends Bret to the floor. He rams Bret’s back into the ringpost, establishing the back injury for Bret. Owen gives Bret a cross-corner whip (first time I’ve seen Bret sell it back-first, actually) and hits a backbreaker. FIVE MOVES OF…oh, wait, wrong brother. Owen slaps on a camel clutch while trash-talking his brother. Bret escapes, but gets caught with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Sweet sassy molassy, I love that belly to belly. Another cross-corner whip, reversed by Bret, and Owen comes off the ropes with a bodypress, which is reversed by Bret for a two count. Owen goes back to the back. Resthold from Owen, thus dropping it from *****. Owen tries to slam Bret, but Bret falls back for a two count. Owen’s kickout sends Bret to the floor. Beautiful sequence as Owen suplexes Bret from the apron, and Bret reverses to a waistlock, which Owen reverses again for a German suplex for two. Just gorgeous wrestling. Legdrop from Owen for two. He goes for a suplex, but Bret cradles for two. He goes for a backbreaker, but Owen flips through and tombstones Bret. Nasty one, too. Flying headbutt misses. Inverted atomic drop and clothesline from Bret for two. Wait for it…wait for it….FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Owen hits an enzuigiri to break it up, then goes for the Sharpshooter. Bret counters. He goes for his own, and Owen counters. Owen cradles for two, but gets kicked out of the ring. Pescado from Bret, but he fucks up his knee. Owen circles in like a vulture, working on the knee and mocking his brother. What a jerk. Dragon screw legwhip (called “Look at that!” by the ever-astute Mr. McMahon) and a submission move of some sort follows. Another dragon screw, then a figure four, which gets a two count. Bret reverses to break the hold. Owen goes back to work on the knee. Another dragon screw legwhip attempt, but Bret counters with an enzuigiri. Crosscorner whip and legdrop gets two. Bulldog for two. Piledriver for two. Superplex, and both men are out. Bret revives long enough to get a two count. Both get up and Bret hits a sleeper. Owen breaks with a Flair uppercut (Where? Down there…) (Jesus, a Scott Hall reference?  REALLY?)  and Bret drops like a rock. Sharpshooter! Bret powers out and applies his own, but Owen makes the ropes. Bret with a cross corner whip, Owen reverses. Owen eats foot coming into the corner, and Bret goes for a victory roll, but Owen reverses the momentum and lies down on top for the pin! The crowd is in SHOCK. ****3/4…oh, hell, who am I kidding? This is the one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. *****, just because Bret continued selling the leg injury to the end of the show. – Owen does his victory interview. – Howard Finkel shows us his new toupee. Wow, that didn’t last long. – Doink and Dink v. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna. And into every life a little crap must fall. Among the things that killed Bigelow’s career, this ranks pretty highly. This is the transition show, as Matt Bourne was turfed from the WWF (“Turfed” is the wrong word as no one is really sure what happened to cause his departure or exactly when it happened.)  and replaced with indy worker Ray Licachelli, who continues to use the gimmick today. (Now it’s back to Bourne and a host of others who rent the gimmick on a nightly basis.)  Surprisingly, the match doesn’t totally suck, as Ray isn’t a bad little worker. I could’ve done without the Luna and Dink stuff here, but to paraphrase Jim Ross, they never promised a scientific classic. Bigelow finishes this with a flying headbutt on Doink. Worth about *1/2, actually. – “Mr. President” is in the crowd, you see. Sitting beside Billy Red Lyons. Yeah, right. It is of course that Bill Clinton imitator guy. – Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage v. Crush. In pre-hardcore WWF days, the stips were that you had to pin your opponent anywhere *but* the ring, and then the pinned guy would have 60 seconds to beat the count back to the ring. Good enough. First fall: Crush jumps Savage in the aisle, and drops him on the railing for the pin. Savage beats the count. Second fall: Crush tries to throw salt in Savage’s face, but he kicks it back into Crush’s face. Double axehandle, bodyslam, big elbow, then he rolls Crush onto the floor and pins him. Fuji revives Crush with a pitcher of water and Crush beats the count. Third fall: Savage takes his last Wrestlemania MANSIZED bump, getting backdropped over the top rope, and they fight to the dressing room. Savage rams Crush into a bunch of doors, then pins him. He hogties Crush in a scaffolding (doing a shitty job of it), but Crush plays dead long enough for Savage to win the match. ** Savage’s last hurrah in the WWF. – “Mr. President” is interviewed again. Geez, remember when the most controversial material Lawler had to use against Clinton was his love of McDonalds? – Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v. Leilani Kai. As short as Kai is old. For those who complain about the cheap T&A of the current Women’s division, just remember: FABULOUS MOOLAH COULD COME OF RETIREMENT AT ANY TIME. (Sadly, that is no longer true.)  Blah blah blah, Blayze hits the GERMAN SUPLEX OF DEATH and gets the pin to retain. Next. * – WWF World tag team title: The Quebecers v. Men on a Mission. As a rough guide to what we had to put up with even before Mabel’s singles push, Oscar is not only a bad manager and generally worthless human being, (That seems a tad harsh.)  but he’s also an INCREDIBLY BAD RAPPER. I mean, shit, I’m as white as they come and *I* could probably do a better job. (Or John Cena!) Oh wait, before we get to the match, it’s a Sports Entertainment Moment. – Toad Pedophile interviews Rhonda Shear (who?), but Shawn Michaels interrupts. Burt “It’s past 5 PM so I’m drunk off my ass” Reynolds makes the save. Man, that guy was going down the tubes before Boogie Nights saved his career.  (I wouldn’t say “saved” so much as “prolonged the inevitable”, since he didn’t do anything notable after that.)  Anyway, back to the match. I love the Quebecers (in a manly sort of way) and Johnny Polo is a god among men (but Raven sucks). Brother Zen points out that Johnny is wearing a Versace suit here. (Zen was a bit metrosexual before we knew the term for it.  A hipster ahead of his time, if you will.)  Quebecers get to show off a lot of their SWANK offense, as Pierre bumps around like a Mick Foley disciple. No wonder Bret Hart was able to carry the guy to a great match. Les Quebecois even manage to double suplex Mabel. He comes back with a FAT-ASSED leg lariat (Dick Togo has nothing on Mabel for sheer Fat-Assed-Ness). Mo adds his own useless offense, but the champs hit the cannonball thingie for two. MOM come back with the assisted splash, and then everyone ends up on the outside and Pierre gets splashed out there. MOM beats the count for the win. Pretty okay at times. **1/2 – WWF World title match #1: Yokozuna v. Lex Luger. Donnie “My little brother is a bigger star than I ever was” Walhberg is the guest ring announcer (Although Donnie is making some good bank now with NKOTBSB and their middle-aged housewife nostalgia tour), and Rhonda Shear is the guest timekeeper (that would require the ability to count past ten, right?). The WWF was teasing guest referees for the two title matches, and the first one is…Mr Perfect! Good pop for that. Luger actually looks decent for the first few minutes, hitting a flying bodypress and The Elbow Which Never Hits. But Yoko, who has the superhuman ability to make ANY match suck, goes for the DREADED VULCAN NEVER PINCH OF UTTER DAMNATION, and, well, that’s pretty much the entire match. 10 minutes of Yoko applying the nervehold. FAST FORWARD! Hi, welcome to ten minutes later. (Time travel is so confusing.)  Luger makes the comeback, slamming the evil sumo wrestling, and nailing the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DESTRUCTION, thus knocking Yoko out. BUT WAIT! Here’s Fuji…bam. Here’s Cornette…bam. Crowd is going crazy. Luger triumphantly goes for the cover…and Perfect won’t count. Still upset about WM9 or something, I guess. (Aha, I even had it figured out there.)  Luger gives him a love tap, and Perfect rings the bell, DQ’ing Lexy. Oooooooh, that’s gotta hurt. Wanna hear a LOUD “Bullshit” chant? There ya go. This pretty much marked the end of Lex’s usefulness in the main event ranks and wrestling in general, as Lex was now forever stuck with the choker label. 1/4* (That’s not fair.  Luger was a choke artist well before this.)  Earthquake v. Adam Bomb. Oh, wait. Harvey Wippleman is out to lay a vicious tongue-lashing on Fink (which would in turn lead to the epic tuxedo match which I always regretted not taping…HAH!), and Fink pops him one. See, ALL the faces go over. Adam Bomb is out to defend the honor of his manager, and Earthquake follows. 10 seconds later, Earthquake has the win. DUD – Jim Cornette delivers a classic overblown ranting interview, declaring that there’s no way in hell that Bret Hart can possibly beat Yokozuna, no way, uh uh, forgetaboutit, might as well go home right now. – WWF Intercontinental title match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels. Oh, c’mon, it’s the FREAKIN’ LADDER MATCH. Do you REALLY need me to recap this one for you? Shawn and Razor redefine wrestling by beating the HOLY LIVING CRAP out of each other with the ladder, thus making Shawn’s career. Each guy takes about three MAN-SIZED bumps, and Shawn shows off his ass for the first time. You can’t sit there and recap this one, you just have to sit back and go “OUCH!” at the proper time to appreciate it. The famous ending is of course Shawn climbing the ladder after about 15 teased finishes, but Razor knocking it over and Shawn falling crotch-first onto the top rope and tangling himself up long enough for Ramon to climb up himself and “re-unify” the real and fake I-C belts. If you don’t like this match, you’re a retard. (Ah, my younger and angrier days.)  ***** Worth the rental right here, and the fact that it’s actually a better match than the opener just makes it all the more astonishingly great. Shawn and Razor exchange hammerlocks and a hiptoss to start, but Razor gets a chokeslam. Shawn follows with a neckbreaker and stomps away. Ramon gets dumped out, and Diesel sneaks out and lays him out. Hebner objects him over Diesel’s objections that he didn’t see anything. Ramon nails Shawn and sends him upside-down in the corner, then dumps him. Brawl on the floor, where Ramon stops to pull up the padding before heading back in. He goes for the Razor’s Edge early, but Shawn backdrops him out of the ring, and onto the exposed concrete. Sick Bump #1. Shawn grabs the ladder, and Ramon steals it so Shawn heads into the ring and baseball slides it into Ramon’s face. Sick Bump #2. That also draws the first “Oooooooh” from the crowd, of many. Shawn puts the ladder into the ring and nails Razor with it, then pistons it into his ribs from a standing position. He drops it on Ramon’s back, then waits for him to stand up and casually tosses it at Ramon’s back. Sick Bump #3. Shawn makes the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down. He shoves Ramon down and drops an elbow off the ladder. He sets it up in the corner and hits a flying splash off the top, another famous visual. He climbs, but Ramon pushes him over to stop him. They do a headlock/crisscross sequence for a double-KO. Shawn sets the ladder up in the corner, but gets whipped into it and goes to the floor. Ramon follows and makes a Shawn sandwich, with the ladder and the post as bread. Sick Bump #4. Ramon puts the ladder against the apron and catapults Shawn into it. Back in, he puts the butt-end of the ladder right into Shawn’s jaw and Shawn bails. Sick Bump #5. He climbs, but Shawn comes back in via the top rope and knocks him off. The ladder crashes on top of him in the process. Both guys climb and slug it out, leading to Shawn getting suplexed off the ladder. Ramon falls off and climbs back up, but Shawn dropkicks the ladder and Ramon crashes off. Shawn pushes the ladder onto him for good measure. Superkick puts Ramon down, and a piledriver follows. He climbs a folded ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Ramon. Sick Bump #6. Shawn puts the ladder in the middle with Ramon laying underneath it, just to be a jerk, but it backfires when Ramon recovers and pushes the ladder over, tying Shawn in the ropes in the process. Razor climbs unhindered and claims both the real and bogus I-C titles to become the undisputed champion at 18:47. ***** One of the best and most influential matches of the modern era.  (But Summerslam 95 was still better.)  – A big argument in the back cancels that exciting 10 man match. – Main Event, WWF title match #2: Yokozuna v. Bret Hart. Burt Reynolds is the guest ring announcer/alcoholic, and some bimbo is the guest timekeeper. Burt slurs his way through the introductions, and oh yeah the guest referee is…Roddy Piper. (That’s a nice touch, actually, as the previous match featured Perfect screwing over Piper due to a long-simmering grudge, and this match mirrored that dynamic by making you wonder if Piper also held that grudge.)  The roof nearly blows off the place. Bret is STILL selling the knee injury as he enters the ring. He just can’t get it going against Yoko, who seems to be working a little harder here than earlier in the evening. Piper nails Cornette to completely send the fans home happy. Yoko nails a belly to belly and goes for the BUTT SPLASH OF DOOM, but he falls off due to being SO FAT, and Bret covers for the surprise pin. Now THAT’S a pop. Match is only about *, but who cares? What a great moment. Everyone pours into the ring to celebrate, except for Owen Hart, who stands in the aisle doing his Raven impression. (Shooting heroin and playing video games?) End of show. The Bottom Line: Vince isn’t very good at apologizing, as the period of time after Survivor Series 97 showed. This, however, was his own way of saying “I’m sorry for not believing in you” to Bret Hart, after taking the title off him a year previous to this. It was also a kick-ass way to retrain the WWF fans into liking wrestling rather than 2 minute Hulk Hogan matches, and it must’ve worked, because Bret and Shawn became two of the biggest stars of the 90s. I mean, sure the rest of the card wasn’t so good, but who cares? The stuff that worked, worked BIG-TIME. This was the ultimate slap in the face to Ted Turner, as Vince watched him take his big stars en masse, and then proceeded to put on a show that would put EVERYTHING pumped out by WCW for the next three years completely to shame. That’s talent, and this quite simply is the best WWF show EVER. The best in terms of workrate, setup, hype, payoff and sheer entertainment value. Everyone who watched it left saying “Now that’s a good show”. Now that’s a good show. (And now the GOOD version…) The SmarK Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X – Given we’re at that point in the RAW Legacy rants, now is as good a time as any to redo this show, what with Shawn Michaels’ final match coming up this weekend. – Live from Madison Square Garden. – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Owen Hart v. Bret Hart They trade takedowns to start and Owen whines about it while making the ropes. Owen gets his takedown and Bret puts him out of the ring, so Owen comes back with a bitchslap and hides in the corner. Bret had a good point about this match in an interview, where he talked about walking a fine line between a heel getting his comeuppance from his brother and big brother outright beating up on his own little brother. They trade wristlocks and Owen takes him down, but Bret reverses and works the arm, then rolls Owen up for two. Back to the arm, but Owen escapes with a cheapshot and they criss-cross into a monkey-flip from Bret before a clothesline puts Owen on the floor again. Back in, they shove it out and Bret rolls him up for two and goes back to the armbar. I like the little undertone here of Bret fighting the temptation to revert to teenaged squabbling while Owen does everything to push big brother’s buttons and piss him off. Bret goes to the arm again and they criss-cross again, and this time Owen hits the leg lariat to put him down. He tosses Bret and they head back in, where Owen gets a backbreaker and goes to a camel clutch to work on the back. He gets two, but Bret whips him into the corner and Owen comes out with a bodypress, reversed by Bret for two. Owen takes him down with a chinlock, but tries a slam and Bret reverses for two. Owen dumps him and Bret tries to sneak in with a rollup, but Owen reverses to a bridged german suplex for two. NICE. Legdrop gets two. Bret reverses a suplex with a small package for two, but Owen reverses a piledriver attempt into his own tombstone. He goes up and misses a flying splash. Bret comes back with a clothesline for two. Legsweep gets two. Owen takes him down for a Sharpshooter, but Bret counters to his own and Owen goes to the eyes to break. Owen with a rollup for two. Another great theme here: Two guys who know each other so well that they can reverse anything the other can throw out. They head out and Bret hurts his knee on the way out, and Owen is all over that. He goes right for it and Vince is shocked that someone wouldn’t exhibit fair play. Yeah, we know Vince McMahon is all about a fair fight. (Hey, he let Shawn Michaels have God as a tag team partner that one time.)  Owen wraps the knee around the post and heads back in for more punishment, taking him down with a legdrag and pounding on the knee. This leads to the figure-four, but Bret reverses and Owen has to make the ropes. Owen goes back to the leg, but Bret hits him with an enzuigiri and pounds away in the corner. Owen gets sent into the turnbuckles and Bret drops a leg for two and even remembers to sell the pain of using the bad leg! Bulldog gets two. Piledriver gets two. Superplex gets two. Bret pounds him with forearms and grabs a sleeper, but Owen goes low to break and gets the Sharpshooter. Bret quickly reverses, but Owen falls into the ropes. Owen charges and hits boot and Bret tries the victory roll, but Owen blocks for the pin at 20:19 and the Garden is in SHOCK. Without a doubt, the best opening match in company history. ***** It’s got a nuanced backstory, amazing work, the perfect finish and solid psychology from both guys, and not just the usual selling of injury type. – Sy Sperling introduces Howard Finkel’s new toupee, a makeover that thankfully only lasted one show. Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna Vachon v. Doink & Dink This marks the first major visual change for Ray Apollo as Doink, as the outfit is now totally redesigned and it’s obviously a different guy. Bigelow lays out Doink and follows with a dropkick, but misses a senton. Doink comes back and works the arm, and brings Dink in. So Luna chokes out the midget, but misses a charge to give Dink two. You know, as stupid as this seemed back then (and still seems now) these days if you put a show about pro wrestling midget clowns on TLC, you’d probably have a hit. (Wasn’t there actually a show along those lines recently?)  Make them hoarders who do tattoos on the side and you’ll make millions. Luna slams Dink and goes up, but misses a splash and it’s tags on both sides. Bigelow clotheslines Doink out of the ring, giving us more time for “comedy” with Dink’s wacky antics. Back in, Bigelow blocks a sunset flip with a butt splash, but Doink comes back and goes up. Whoopie Cushion misses, and Bigelow knocks Dink off the apron and blocks a backdrop suplex attempt for two. Flying headbutt finishes this mess at 6:09. This one ranks pretty low both on the list of Wrestlemania mixed tag matches AND Wrestlemania midget matches. This was pretty much Doink getting squashed to end this feud for good. 1/2* Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage v. Crush This is more accurately described as a Last Man Standing match. Savage attacks at the entrance and gets dropped on the railing for his efforts, and Crush gets the first pin at 0:42. Macho is able to make it back into the ring within the arbitrary 60 seconds, so the match continues. Crush pounds away and hangs Savage in the Tree of Woe, but gets a handful of salt from Fuji. That allows Savage enough time to escape and kick it back in Crush’s face, and he drops the big elbow, pushes him to the floor, and gets the pin at 4:25. Fuji is forced to dump a pitcher on water on his man to revive him, but he beats the count back in. (Does that ever work outside of a Bugs Bunny cartoon?)  Savage chokes away on the ropes, but charges and gets backdropped to the floor in a great bump. They brawl on the floor and Savage clotheslines him into the crowd, but walks into a superkick. Savage blocks a piledriver attempt and they fight into the backstage area, where Savage runs him into scaffolding and pins him at 8:00. And then in a smart move, he trusses Crush up (although his knot-tying could use work, as Crush falls down before Savage even leaves for the ring) and makes it back to the ring for the win at 9:36. Would have been better without the “beat the count” gimmick, but this was still fun and featured a creative finish. **3/4 Meanwhile, Todd Pettingill interviews a Bill Clinton impersonator. WWF Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v. Leilani Kai Where did they pull Kai out of mothballs from for this? And whoever thought “Alundra” would be a good name, anyway? (The same people who came up with “Kassius Ohno”) Kai attacks to start, but Blayze gets a rollup in the corner for two. Sunset flip gets two. Kai comes back with a slam for two, but Blayze hits a rana for two. Kai tosses her and back in for a hair toss that gets two. Blayze makes the comeback and gets a suplex for two, and the german suplex finishes at 3:23. 1/2* WWF World tag titles: The Quebecers v. Men on a Mission But first, we cut backstage to super-drunk Burt Reynolds cock-blocking Shawn Michaels. Big brawl to start and the champs double-team Mabel, but walk into a double-clothesline. MOM work on Pierre in the corner, as Mabel drops a leg and they hit a double elbow, but Jacques interferes to make Mo your face-in-peril. They toss him and Jacques cannonballs Pierre onto him to follow, and back in that gets two. Hotshot gets two for Jacques. Mo fights back with a somersault kick, but can’t tag Mabel. Pierre misses a top rope legdrop and it’s hot tag Mabel. Bossman slam for Jacques, but he misses a corner splash. The Quebecers take advantage with a double suplex and the Cannonball, but it only gets two. That should have been the finish. The Quebecers keep double-teaming Mabel, but he fights them off and MOM hits their double-team splash on Jacques. Johnny Polo is busy distracting the ref, however, so MOM pulls the champs out of the ring and settles for a countout win at 7:59 instead. Terrible finish. *1/2  (At least Mabel didn’t accidentally fall on a Quebecer and force a title change this time.)  WWF World title: Yokozuna v. Lex Luger Mr. Perfect returns after a lengthy insurance-related absence to be special referee here, having never quite settled his issue with Lex Luger. Makes you wonder if that will factor into the match. I should note that the most obnoxious thing about this match is guest ring announcer Donnie Wahlberg constantly getting introduced as a member of “NKOTB” as if anyone was actually going to call them that. Although now I guess New Kids on the Block are part of a whole nostalgia comeback thing, which makes me both depressed and very old. (I used to date a girl who was OBSESSED with Backstreet Boys.  And we were both in our 20s at this point, keep in mind.  She’d get all excited because they were going to be on Saturday Night Live one time doing “the chair routine” and I basically had to memorize their names and characteristics as part of the deal.  Turned out she was kinda nutso, in case you couldn’t guess.  I know how to pick ‘em.)  Slugfest to start and Luger gets a clothesline, but walks into one from Yoko. Lex comes back with a shot to put Yoko on the floor and follows with an axehandle off the apron, and back in for a flying bodypress that gets two. Elbowdrop gets two. Yoko chokes him out on the ropes and blocks a slam for two. Yoko pounds away in the corner and takes the turnbuckle off, but doesn’t use it. He goes to the nerve pinch so as to slow down the torrid pace. Sign in the crowd: “Lex Loser”. A bit on-the-nose, but yes. The nerve pinch goes on FOREVER, literally more than four minutes. Yoko finally dumps Luger to break up the monotony and then hauls him back in for…ANOTHER NERVE PINCH. FML. (I had just learned that one off Facebook when I wrote this rant and couldn’t wait for the chance to work it in.  Of course Facebook would give you the most annoying usage of it from people metaphorically complaining about spilling champagne on their diamond-soled shoes.)  Finally, after something like 7 total minutes of having his shoulders gently massaged, Luger makes the comeback, only to walk into a belly to belly suplex. Lex fights back with clotheslines to knock Yoko down, and he gets the slam. STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DEATH looks to finish, but Perfect won’t count. Luger gets in his face and shoves him, and that’s a DQ at 14:35. So just like the sun rising and the tides coming in, Lex Luger blows another title shot. This started OK, but ran off the rails once it got to that awful nerve pinch sequence. 1/4* Adam Bomb v. Earthquake Harvey Wippleman lays the badmouth on the Fink, prompting an attack from Adam Bomb, but Quake saves and finishes with the butt splash at 0:28. Obviously they were running a bit late at this point. Could a fucking 7 minute nerve hold in the previous match have anything to do with it, I wonder? DUD WWF Intercontinental title, ladder match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels People question a lot whether this match “holds up”, although thinking about, I think that’s the wrong question to ask. Wrestling as an artform is very in-the-moment and as a rule never truly intended to say the same thing to fans in 2010 as it did in 1994. So anyway, I’ve seen this match a million times, but here’s one more go, probably the last one. For me, this was the match where my worldview switched for good to “getting it”. The first time I watched it, I admired the beating delivered by Razor Ramon. Every time after that, I admired the bumps taken by Shawn. Shawn blocks a hiptoss and pokes Ramon in the eye, but gets chokeslammed as a result, then comes back with a neckbreaker. Razor puts him down with a shoulderblock, but Shawn tosses him for some abuse by Diesel. The referee sends him back to the dressing room, thus fulfilling the purpose for both of them on the night and leaving Shawn and Razor alone to do their thing. Razor slugs away in the corner and clotheslines Shawn to the floor, but they fight back in again. Razor sets up for a Razor’s Edge onto the floor, but Shawn backdrops him out instead and retrieves the ladder for the first time. Razor gets it and puts it on the apron, so Shawn baseball slides it for our first ladder spot. Back in, Shawn rams it into Razor’s chest and then tosses it at his back. Given Razor wasn’t looking and took it square in the back, that HAD to hurt. Shawn does the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down by Razor to stop him. So he drops the elbow on Razor and then climbs the ladder in the corner, hitting a flying splash off it for one of the iconic images of his career. (Another iconic flying splash?  The Superfly leap, as performed by Jimmy Snuka.  And did you know that he has a daughter named Tamina?  I sure didn’t at the time I wrote this, because otherwise I would have certainly mentioned such a noteworthy fact!)  Another try for the belts, but Razor pushes the ladder over and Shawn clotheslines himself on the top rope. They collide and Shawn recovers first, setting up the ladder in the corner for more bad news. Razor whips him into it, allowing Shawn to bump to the floor in dramatic fashion, and then follows and uses the ladder to ram Shawn into the post. He catapults Shawn into the ladder for another crazy bump, and then spears him out of the ring with the ladder for good measure. That seems to be enough to allow Razor to climb, but Shawn dives in from the top rope and knocks him off again. They both climb the ladder and slug it out on top, leading to Razor slamming Shawn off the top and then bumping off himself. The ladder almost breaks, leading to a weird moment as we have to ponder a time when there WASN’T 17 ladders under the ring, just in case. Razor manages to climb again, but Shawn dropkicks him off and adds a superkick. Razor is out, so Shawn adds a piledriver for good measure. Then another iconic moment, as he climbs the ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Razor in a bump that was likely totally safe but looked awesome. So Shawn puts the ladder over top of Razor for one last bit of humiliation, and climbs, but that allows Razor to shake the ladder and knock Shawn off. And he gets tied into the ropes, the victim of his own hubris, allowing Razor to climb unstopped and reunify the Intercontinental title at 18:45. Still tells a great story, still has amazing bumps, still one of the greatest matches of all time. ***** WWF World title: Yokozuna v. Bret Hart Your special referee this time: Rowdy Roddy Piper. Guest ring announcer Burt Reynolds is literally so drunk he’s on the verge of falling down. Bret Hart is still selling the leg, which is awesome. Yoko attacks him on the way in and chops him down. Bret slugs back, but misses a dropkick, allowing Yoko to choke away on the ropes. Yoko misses the big fat splash, but Bret tries a headbutt and knocks himself down. Bret keeps slugging on him until he goes down, and that gets two. Cornette pulls out Piper, so Piper puts his lights out. More choking from Yokozuna, which sets up the Hulkbuster, but he doesn’t cover. He tosses Bret, who beats the rather brisk count back in. Yoko misses the corner splash and Bret comes back with a bulldog for two. Middle rope elbow gets two. Clothesline gets two. Piper is just right into this referee gig. Bret dives off the second rope, and gets caught with a belly to belly. Yoko sets up to finish with the butt drop, but he slips off the ropes and Bret regains the WWF title at 10:38. Talk about your “slip on a banana peel” finish. Kind of a weird ending, but it got the belt back where it belonged. **1/4 The Pulse: Really, this show doesn’t pretend to be about anything other than the two awesome matches and feelgood finish, and that’s exactly what it delivers. Of course, both great matches are available elsewhere (and in the case of the ladder match, READILY available elsewhere) so as a show you’re not missing much if you haven’t seen anything else out of those. But it all works as a show, so strongly recommended.

Wrestlemania Countdown: 10

Change of pace this time. It seems no matter how many rants I pump out and how great everyone tells me they are, I always have one show hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles: Wrestlemania X. Oh, sure, the rest are pretty good, but what did I think of Wrestlemania X?  (These days it’s “When are you gonna redo Wrestlemania XIX?” or “Are you going to do Wrestlemania XXVII?”) Well, what do you *think* I thought of Wrestlemania X? It’s the show that redefined the WWF forever. It’s probably the only instance of two ***** matches on the same WWF show. It made the careers of Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and Owen Hart. It relaunched the career of Bret Hart and sunk the career of Lex Luger with a resounding splat. It was the final proof that Hulk Hogan was not needed to blow the roof off the joint, and it was probably the only time you’ll ever see Vince McMahon apologize, albeit in his own way. It was truly a show with something for everyone — workrate freaks, sports entertainment sheep, kids and adults alike and devoted followers of the Finkel-Wippleman feud. Hell, it’s Wrestlemania X. If you can’t love this show, you’re either dead or not a wrestling fan. So let’s do it this way: Let’s talk about what was so great about the matches, and why they were so important in the future, and what happened to set them up, shall we? Standard rules apply otherwise. On with the show. The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X – Here’s what was happening at the time, to give an idea where everybody sat: 1993: Yokozuna was of course the WWF champion, having flattened Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring 93. The WWF was bombing under the big guy, big time. Heel champions might fly in Atlanta, but sports entertainment fans still demanded a hero. (More or less.  Yokozuna did pretty good on the house show circuit in the summer, but obviously Summerslam was a giant disappointment, as was Survivor Series.)  Unfortunately, the primary one of the 80s had just been turfed out of the WWF a few months previous, nearly taking the credibility of Bret Hart with him. So Vince, not being a terribly creative sort without his advisors to slap some sense into him, decided to create a new superman: Lex Luger. Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna and did an immediate face turn, dumping the infinitely superior “Narcissist” gimmick for the hackneyed “Made in the USA” one. But hey, I’m not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, what do I know? Anyway, after slamming Yoko, Luger embarked on a massive PR campaign to drum up support for a title shot, because Yokozuna was afraid of him and all. Jim Cornette (manager of the champ) finally relented, with the caveat that Luger get *one* title shot, at Summerslam 93, and no more. Luger agreed, and choked in the big match (there’s a surprise…), beating Yoko by countout and thus blowing his one shot. Luger had one chance left: Win the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile, Bret Hart was having problems of his own with Jerry Lawler. After dropping the WWF title at the wretched Wrestlemania IX, Bret came back to win the first King of the Ring tournament. Jerry “The King” Lawler took exception and attacked him after the win, triggering a long feud between the two. Hart beat the piss out of Lawler at Summerslam, but lost the match on a reversed decision. The entire Hart family got involved, and it was going to be settled at Survivor Series 93, but Lawler was arrested for rape charges, which later turned out to be bogus, so Shawn Michaels took his place. Bret teamed with his brothers (Owen, Keith and Bruce), while Shawn teamed with three masked Knights. The Harts systematically destroyed the heels, but before bowing out, Shawn managed to eliminate Owen with a fluke pinfall. Owen was upset that Bret didn’t protect him, and began challenging him to a match. Bret constantly maintained that he didn’t want to fight his brother. Finally, the brothers reconciled and agreed to team against the Quebecers at the Royal Rumble. Meanwhile… Shawn Michaels: Shawn had lost and regained the Intercontinental title midway through 1993 (acquiring bodyguard Diesel in the process) but a contract dispute caused Shawn to temporarily leave the WWF. The WWF responded by not only holding him to his contract, but stripping him of the Intercontinental title, and holding a battle royale on RAW, with the final two men fighting for the title the next week. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel were the final competitors, and Ramon finished him with ease the next week to claim the belt. However, in November, Shawn re-signed with the WWF, and began appearing on TV again…with the Intercontinental title. Or rather, the belt he took with him when he was suspended. Ramon was none too pleased. Royal Rumble 1994: Bret and Owen ended up dominating the Quebecers, but Bret injured his knee at one point, and the champions took advantage. They wore him down until he was to the point of not being able to continue, and at a crucial point where Bret could have tagged Owen, he instead chose to apply the Sharpshooter to Pierre. This cost the team the titles, as his knee collapsed and the referee stopped the match and awarded it to the Quebecers. Owen had had enough, and he stomped on Bret’s knee in frustration and stormed back to the dressing room, delivering the semi-famous “You’re Too Selfish!” interview. Bret was hurt badly, but Bastion Booger was also injured, and Bret ended up taking his place in the Rumble match itself. Razor Ramon defended the IC title against Irwin R. Shyster, with Shawn Michaels interfering to apparently give IRS the title, but the decision was reversed. In the Rumble, Both Bret and Lex Luger drew late numbers, and in the end, it was down to the two men. They both ended up tumbling over the top rope and landing at the same time, with several camera angles being inconclusive, so a tie was declared and both men were the winners and would receive the title shot. Then… The Buildup: It was decided that the fairest idea was to give both men a title shot at Wrestlemania: A coin would be flipped, and the winner would get the first shot, with the other man meeting the World champion in the final match of the night. If Luger won, then he would wrestle for the title first while Bret wrestled Owen Hart (as “suitable competition”). If Bret won, then he would wrestle for the title while Luger met Crush. Luger won. While this was going on, Yokozuna was busy defending his title on RAW, notably against Crush in one match. He beat Crush, then delivered a few extra Banzai drops for good measure, putting him out of wrestling for a few weeks. Randy Savage made the save, but Crush was upset that Savage didn’t call him in the hospital, and when he returned from injury, it was with an evil goatee and Mr. Fuji as his manager. Finally, the WWF decided to end to the controversy between Ramon and Michaels with a ladder match. And with all that in mind… – Live from Madison Square Gardens, original airdate March 20, 1994. – Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. – Throughout the night are “Wrestlemania Moments”, great little nods to the history of the show.  (Yeah, this was only the tenth show and they were already up their own ass, what a shock.)  Opening match: Bret Hart v. Owen Hart. This was not only a great match, and one of the three matches generally considered the greatest opener of all time (alongside Pillman/Liger and Mysterio/Psycosis), but it was also the match that turned Owen Hart from mid-card joke to main event threat. It also marked the debut of Owen’s current choice of tights. The heat for this match is unreal, as the fans are firmly behind Bret Hart’s side of the story. Owen gives Bret the big stink-eye, which makes Bret distinctly uncomfortable. And now, the match: They lockup, and Owen pushes Bret off, then celebrates. Cheap heat, but hey, you take what you can get. Owen gets the best of a wrestling sequence and celebrates. Bret retaliates by sending Owen to the floor, which pisses him off and he slaps Bret upon returning to the ring. Bret takes control, working on the arm. Bret gets two off a cradle, then goes back to the arm. After another terrific wrestling sequence, Owen ends up getting tossed to the floor again, and now Bret celebrates. Crowd is much more appreciative of this. Owen has another fit and a shoving match results, off which Bret gets a rollup for two. Bret back to work on the arm. Bret gets a crucifix for two, then back to the arm. Good psychology here. Owen takes control with his SWANK~! leg lariat and sends Bret to the floor. He rams Bret’s back into the ringpost, establishing the back injury for Bret. Owen gives Bret a cross-corner whip (first time I’ve seen Bret sell it back-first, actually) and hits a backbreaker. FIVE MOVES OF…oh, wait, wrong brother. Owen slaps on a camel clutch while trash-talking his brother. Bret escapes, but gets caught with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Sweet sassy molassy, I love that belly to belly. Another cross-corner whip, reversed by Bret, and Owen comes off the ropes with a bodypress, which is reversed by Bret for a two count. Owen goes back to the back. Resthold from Owen, thus dropping it from *****. Owen tries to slam Bret, but Bret falls back for a two count. Owen’s kickout sends Bret to the floor. Beautiful sequence as Owen suplexes Bret from the apron, and Bret reverses to a waistlock, which Owen reverses again for a German suplex for two. Just gorgeous wrestling. Legdrop from Owen for two. He goes for a suplex, but Bret cradles for two. He goes for a backbreaker, but Owen flips through and tombstones Bret. Nasty one, too. Flying headbutt misses. Inverted atomic drop and clothesline from Bret for two. Wait for it…wait for it….FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Owen hits an enzuigiri to break it up, then goes for the Sharpshooter. Bret counters. He goes for his own, and Owen counters. Owen cradles for two, but gets kicked out of the ring. Pescado from Bret, but he fucks up his knee. Owen circles in like a vulture, working on the knee and mocking his brother. What a jerk. Dragon screw legwhip (called “Look at that!” by the ever-astute Mr. McMahon) and a submission move of some sort follows. Another dragon screw, then a figure four, which gets a two count. Bret reverses to break the hold. Owen goes back to work on the knee. Another dragon screw legwhip attempt, but Bret counters with an enzuigiri. Crosscorner whip and legdrop gets two. Bulldog for two. Piledriver for two. Superplex, and both men are out. Bret revives long enough to get a two count. Both get up and Bret hits a sleeper. Owen breaks with a Flair uppercut (Where? Down there…) (Jesus, a Scott Hall reference?  REALLY?)  and Bret drops like a rock. Sharpshooter! Bret powers out and applies his own, but Owen makes the ropes. Bret with a cross corner whip, Owen reverses. Owen eats foot coming into the corner, and Bret goes for a victory roll, but Owen reverses the momentum and lies down on top for the pin! The crowd is in SHOCK. ****3/4…oh, hell, who am I kidding? This is the one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. *****, just because Bret continued selling the leg injury to the end of the show. – Owen does his victory interview. – Howard Finkel shows us his new toupee. Wow, that didn’t last long. – Doink and Dink v. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna. And into every life a little crap must fall. Among the things that killed Bigelow’s career, this ranks pretty highly. This is the transition show, as Matt Bourne was turfed from the WWF (“Turfed” is the wrong word as no one is really sure what happened to cause his departure or exactly when it happened.)  and replaced with indy worker Ray Licachelli, who continues to use the gimmick today. (Now it’s back to Bourne and a host of others who rent the gimmick on a nightly basis.)  Surprisingly, the match doesn’t totally suck, as Ray isn’t a bad little worker. I could’ve done without the Luna and Dink stuff here, but to paraphrase Jim Ross, they never promised a scientific classic. Bigelow finishes this with a flying headbutt on Doink. Worth about *1/2, actually. – “Mr. President” is in the crowd, you see. Sitting beside Billy Red Lyons. Yeah, right. It is of course that Bill Clinton imitator guy. – Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage v. Crush. In pre-hardcore WWF days, the stips were that you had to pin your opponent anywhere *but* the ring, and then the pinned guy would have 60 seconds to beat the count back to the ring. Good enough. First fall: Crush jumps Savage in the aisle, and drops him on the railing for the pin. Savage beats the count. Second fall: Crush tries to throw salt in Savage’s face, but he kicks it back into Crush’s face. Double axehandle, bodyslam, big elbow, then he rolls Crush onto the floor and pins him. Fuji revives Crush with a pitcher of water and Crush beats the count. Third fall: Savage takes his last Wrestlemania MANSIZED bump, getting backdropped over the top rope, and they fight to the dressing room. Savage rams Crush into a bunch of doors, then pins him. He hogties Crush in a scaffolding (doing a shitty job of it), but Crush plays dead long enough for Savage to win the match. ** Savage’s last hurrah in the WWF. – “Mr. President” is interviewed again. Geez, remember when the most controversial material Lawler had to use against Clinton was his love of McDonalds? – Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v. Leilani Kai. As short as Kai is old. For those who complain about the cheap T&A of the current Women’s division, just remember: FABULOUS MOOLAH COULD COME OF RETIREMENT AT ANY TIME. (Sadly, that is no longer true.)  Blah blah blah, Blayze hits the GERMAN SUPLEX OF DEATH and gets the pin to retain. Next. * – WWF World tag team title: The Quebecers v. Men on a Mission. As a rough guide to what we had to put up with even before Mabel’s singles push, Oscar is not only a bad manager and generally worthless human being, (That seems a tad harsh.)  but he’s also an INCREDIBLY BAD RAPPER. I mean, shit, I’m as white as they come and *I* could probably do a better job. (Or John Cena!) Oh wait, before we get to the match, it’s a Sports Entertainment Moment. – Toad Pedophile interviews Rhonda Shear (who?), but Shawn Michaels interrupts. Burt “It’s past 5 PM so I’m drunk off my ass” Reynolds makes the save. Man, that guy was going down the tubes before Boogie Nights saved his career.  (I wouldn’t say “saved” so much as “prolonged the inevitable”, since he didn’t do anything notable after that.)  Anyway, back to the match. I love the Quebecers (in a manly sort of way) and Johnny Polo is a god among men (but Raven sucks). Brother Zen points out that Johnny is wearing a Versace suit here. (Zen was a bit metrosexual before we knew the term for it.  A hipster ahead of his time, if you will.)  Quebecers get to show off a lot of their SWANK offense, as Pierre bumps around like a Mick Foley disciple. No wonder Bret Hart was able to carry the guy to a great match. Les Quebecois even manage to double suplex Mabel. He comes back with a FAT-ASSED leg lariat (Dick Togo has nothing on Mabel for sheer Fat-Assed-Ness). Mo adds his own useless offense, but the champs hit the cannonball thingie for two. MOM come back with the assisted splash, and then everyone ends up on the outside and Pierre gets splashed out there. MOM beats the count for the win. Pretty okay at times. **1/2 – WWF World title match #1: Yokozuna v. Lex Luger. Donnie “My little brother is a bigger star than I ever was” Walhberg is the guest ring announcer (Although Donnie is making some good bank now with NKOTBSB and their middle-aged housewife nostalgia tour), and Rhonda Shear is the guest timekeeper (that would require the ability to count past ten, right?). The WWF was teasing guest referees for the two title matches, and the first one is…Mr Perfect! Good pop for that. Luger actually looks decent for the first few minutes, hitting a flying bodypress and The Elbow Which Never Hits. But Yoko, who has the superhuman ability to make ANY match suck, goes for the DREADED VULCAN NEVER PINCH OF UTTER DAMNATION, and, well, that’s pretty much the entire match. 10 minutes of Yoko applying the nervehold. FAST FORWARD! Hi, welcome to ten minutes later. (Time travel is so confusing.)  Luger makes the comeback, slamming the evil sumo wrestling, and nailing the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DESTRUCTION, thus knocking Yoko out. BUT WAIT! Here’s Fuji…bam. Here’s Cornette…bam. Crowd is going crazy. Luger triumphantly goes for the cover…and Perfect won’t count. Still upset about WM9 or something, I guess. (Aha, I even had it figured out there.)  Luger gives him a love tap, and Perfect rings the bell, DQ’ing Lexy. Oooooooh, that’s gotta hurt. Wanna hear a LOUD “Bullshit” chant? There ya go. This pretty much marked the end of Lex’s usefulness in the main event ranks and wrestling in general, as Lex was now forever stuck with the choker label. 1/4* (That’s not fair.  Luger was a choke artist well before this.)  Earthquake v. Adam Bomb. Oh, wait. Harvey Wippleman is out to lay a vicious tongue-lashing on Fink (which would in turn lead to the epic tuxedo match which I always regretted not taping…HAH!), and Fink pops him one. See, ALL the faces go over. Adam Bomb is out to defend the honor of his manager, and Earthquake follows. 10 seconds later, Earthquake has the win. DUD – Jim Cornette delivers a classic overblown ranting interview, declaring that there’s no way in hell that Bret Hart can possibly beat Yokozuna, no way, uh uh, forgetaboutit, might as well go home right now. – WWF Intercontinental title match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels. Oh, c’mon, it’s the FREAKIN’ LADDER MATCH. Do you REALLY need me to recap this one for you? Shawn and Razor redefine wrestling by beating the HOLY LIVING CRAP out of each other with the ladder, thus making Shawn’s career. Each guy takes about three MAN-SIZED bumps, and Shawn shows off his ass for the first time. You can’t sit there and recap this one, you just have to sit back and go “OUCH!” at the proper time to appreciate it. The famous ending is of course Shawn climbing the ladder after about 15 teased finishes, but Razor knocking it over and Shawn falling crotch-first onto the top rope and tangling himself up long enough for Ramon to climb up himself and “re-unify” the real and fake I-C belts. If you don’t like this match, you’re a retard. (Ah, my younger and angrier days.)  ***** Worth the rental right here, and the fact that it’s actually a better match than the opener just makes it all the more astonishingly great. Shawn and Razor exchange hammerlocks and a hiptoss to start, but Razor gets a chokeslam. Shawn follows with a neckbreaker and stomps away. Ramon gets dumped out, and Diesel sneaks out and lays him out. Hebner objects him over Diesel’s objections that he didn’t see anything. Ramon nails Shawn and sends him upside-down in the corner, then dumps him. Brawl on the floor, where Ramon stops to pull up the padding before heading back in. He goes for the Razor’s Edge early, but Shawn backdrops him out of the ring, and onto the exposed concrete. Sick Bump #1. Shawn grabs the ladder, and Ramon steals it so Shawn heads into the ring and baseball slides it into Ramon’s face. Sick Bump #2. That also draws the first “Oooooooh” from the crowd, of many. Shawn puts the ladder into the ring and nails Razor with it, then pistons it into his ribs from a standing position. He drops it on Ramon’s back, then waits for him to stand up and casually tosses it at Ramon’s back. Sick Bump #3. Shawn makes the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down. He shoves Ramon down and drops an elbow off the ladder. He sets it up in the corner and hits a flying splash off the top, another famous visual. He climbs, but Ramon pushes him over to stop him. They do a headlock/crisscross sequence for a double-KO. Shawn sets the ladder up in the corner, but gets whipped into it and goes to the floor. Ramon follows and makes a Shawn sandwich, with the ladder and the post as bread. Sick Bump #4. Ramon puts the ladder against the apron and catapults Shawn into it. Back in, he puts the butt-end of the ladder right into Shawn’s jaw and Shawn bails. Sick Bump #5. He climbs, but Shawn comes back in via the top rope and knocks him off. The ladder crashes on top of him in the process. Both guys climb and slug it out, leading to Shawn getting suplexed off the ladder. Ramon falls off and climbs back up, but Shawn dropkicks the ladder and Ramon crashes off. Shawn pushes the ladder onto him for good measure. Superkick puts Ramon down, and a piledriver follows. He climbs a folded ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Ramon. Sick Bump #6. Shawn puts the ladder in the middle with Ramon laying underneath it, just to be a jerk, but it backfires when Ramon recovers and pushes the ladder over, tying Shawn in the ropes in the process. Razor climbs unhindered and claims both the real and bogus I-C titles to become the undisputed champion at 18:47. ***** One of the best and most influential matches of the modern era.  (But Summerslam 95 was still better.)  – A big argument in the back cancels that exciting 10 man match. – Main Event, WWF title match #2: Yokozuna v. Bret Hart. Burt Reynolds is the guest ring announcer/alcoholic, and some bimbo is the guest timekeeper. Burt slurs his way through the introductions, and oh yeah the guest referee is…Roddy Piper. (That’s a nice touch, actually, as the previous match featured Perfect screwing over Piper due to a long-simmering grudge, and this match mirrored that dynamic by making you wonder if Piper also held that grudge.)  The roof nearly blows off the place. Bret is STILL selling the knee injury as he enters the ring. He just can’t get it going against Yoko, who seems to be working a little harder here than earlier in the evening. Piper nails Cornette to completely send the fans home happy. Yoko nails a belly to belly and goes for the BUTT SPLASH OF DOOM, but he falls off due to being SO FAT, and Bret covers for the surprise pin. Now THAT’S a pop. Match is only about *, but who cares? What a great moment. Everyone pours into the ring to celebrate, except for Owen Hart, who stands in the aisle doing his Raven impression. (Shooting heroin and playing video games?) End of show. The Bottom Line: Vince isn’t very good at apologizing, as the period of time after Survivor Series 97 showed. This, however, was his own way of saying “I’m sorry for not believing in you” to Bret Hart, after taking the title off him a year previous to this. It was also a kick-ass way to retrain the WWF fans into liking wrestling rather than 2 minute Hulk Hogan matches, and it must’ve worked, because Bret and Shawn became two of the biggest stars of the 90s. I mean, sure the rest of the card wasn’t so good, but who cares? The stuff that worked, worked BIG-TIME. This was the ultimate slap in the face to Ted Turner, as Vince watched him take his big stars en masse, and then proceeded to put on a show that would put EVERYTHING pumped out by WCW for the next three years completely to shame. That’s talent, and this quite simply is the best WWF show EVER. The best in terms of workrate, setup, hype, payoff and sheer entertainment value. Everyone who watched it left saying “Now that’s a good show”. Now that’s a good show. (And now the GOOD version…) The SmarK Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X – Given we’re at that point in the RAW Legacy rants, now is as good a time as any to redo this show, what with Shawn Michaels’ final match coming up this weekend. – Live from Madison Square Garden. – Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler Owen Hart v. Bret Hart They trade takedowns to start and Owen whines about it while making the ropes. Owen gets his takedown and Bret puts him out of the ring, so Owen comes back with a bitchslap and hides in the corner. Bret had a good point about this match in an interview, where he talked about walking a fine line between a heel getting his comeuppance from his brother and big brother outright beating up on his own little brother. They trade wristlocks and Owen takes him down, but Bret reverses and works the arm, then rolls Owen up for two. Back to the arm, but Owen escapes with a cheapshot and they criss-cross into a monkey-flip from Bret before a clothesline puts Owen on the floor again. Back in, they shove it out and Bret rolls him up for two and goes back to the armbar. I like the little undertone here of Bret fighting the temptation to revert to teenaged squabbling while Owen does everything to push big brother’s buttons and piss him off. Bret goes to the arm again and they criss-cross again, and this time Owen hits the leg lariat to put him down. He tosses Bret and they head back in, where Owen gets a backbreaker and goes to a camel clutch to work on the back. He gets two, but Bret whips him into the corner and Owen comes out with a bodypress, reversed by Bret for two. Owen takes him down with a chinlock, but tries a slam and Bret reverses for two. Owen dumps him and Bret tries to sneak in with a rollup, but Owen reverses to a bridged german suplex for two. NICE. Legdrop gets two. Bret reverses a suplex with a small package for two, but Owen reverses a piledriver attempt into his own tombstone. He goes up and misses a flying splash. Bret comes back with a clothesline for two. Legsweep gets two. Owen takes him down for a Sharpshooter, but Bret counters to his own and Owen goes to the eyes to break. Owen with a rollup for two. Another great theme here: Two guys who know each other so well that they can reverse anything the other can throw out. They head out and Bret hurts his knee on the way out, and Owen is all over that. He goes right for it and Vince is shocked that someone wouldn’t exhibit fair play. Yeah, we know Vince McMahon is all about a fair fight. (Hey, he let Shawn Michaels have God as a tag team partner that one time.)  Owen wraps the knee around the post and heads back in for more punishment, taking him down with a legdrag and pounding on the knee. This leads to the figure-four, but Bret reverses and Owen has to make the ropes. Owen goes back to the leg, but Bret hits him with an enzuigiri and pounds away in the corner. Owen gets sent into the turnbuckles and Bret drops a leg for two and even remembers to sell the pain of using the bad leg! Bulldog gets two. Piledriver gets two. Superplex gets two. Bret pounds him with forearms and grabs a sleeper, but Owen goes low to break and gets the Sharpshooter. Bret quickly reverses, but Owen falls into the ropes. Owen charges and hits boot and Bret tries the victory roll, but Owen blocks for the pin at 20:19 and the Garden is in SHOCK. Without a doubt, the best opening match in company history. ***** It’s got a nuanced backstory, amazing work, the perfect finish and solid psychology from both guys, and not just the usual selling of injury type. – Sy Sperling introduces Howard Finkel’s new toupee, a makeover that thankfully only lasted one show. Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna Vachon v. Doink & Dink This marks the first major visual change for Ray Apollo as Doink, as the outfit is now totally redesigned and it’s obviously a different guy. Bigelow lays out Doink and follows with a dropkick, but misses a senton. Doink comes back and works the arm, and brings Dink in. So Luna chokes out the midget, but misses a charge to give Dink two. You know, as stupid as this seemed back then (and still seems now) these days if you put a show about pro wrestling midget clowns on TLC, you’d probably have a hit. (Wasn’t there actually a show along those lines recently?)  Make them hoarders who do tattoos on the side and you’ll make millions. Luna slams Dink and goes up, but misses a splash and it’s tags on both sides. Bigelow clotheslines Doink out of the ring, giving us more time for “comedy” with Dink’s wacky antics. Back in, Bigelow blocks a sunset flip with a butt splash, but Doink comes back and goes up. Whoopie Cushion misses, and Bigelow knocks Dink off the apron and blocks a backdrop suplex attempt for two. Flying headbutt finishes this mess at 6:09. This one ranks pretty low both on the list of Wrestlemania mixed tag matches AND Wrestlemania midget matches. This was pretty much Doink getting squashed to end this feud for good. 1/2* Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage v. Crush This is more accurately described as a Last Man Standing match. Savage attacks at the entrance and gets dropped on the railing for his efforts, and Crush gets the first pin at 0:42. Macho is able to make it back into the ring within the arbitrary 60 seconds, so the match continues. Crush pounds away and hangs Savage in the Tree of Woe, but gets a handful of salt from Fuji. That allows Savage enough time to escape and kick it back in Crush’s face, and he drops the big elbow, pushes him to the floor, and gets the pin at 4:25. Fuji is forced to dump a pitcher on water on his man to revive him, but he beats the count back in. (Does that ever work outside of a Bugs Bunny cartoon?)  Savage chokes away on the ropes, but charges and gets backdropped to the floor in a great bump. They brawl on the floor and Savage clotheslines him into the crowd, but walks into a superkick. Savage blocks a piledriver attempt and they fight into the backstage area, where Savage runs him into scaffolding and pins him at 8:00. And then in a smart move, he trusses Crush up (although his knot-tying could use work, as Crush falls down before Savage even leaves for the ring) and makes it back to the ring for the win at 9:36. Would have been better without the “beat the count” gimmick, but this was still fun and featured a creative finish. **3/4 Meanwhile, Todd Pettingill interviews a Bill Clinton impersonator. WWF Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v. Leilani Kai Where did they pull Kai out of mothballs from for this? And whoever thought “Alundra” would be a good name, anyway? (The same people who came up with “Kassius Ohno”) Kai attacks to start, but Blayze gets a rollup in the corner for two. Sunset flip gets two. Kai comes back with a slam for two, but Blayze hits a rana for two. Kai tosses her and back in for a hair toss that gets two. Blayze makes the comeback and gets a suplex for two, and the german suplex finishes at 3:23. 1/2* WWF World tag titles: The Quebecers v. Men on a Mission But first, we cut backstage to super-drunk Burt Reynolds cock-blocking Shawn Michaels. Big brawl to start and the champs double-team Mabel, but walk into a double-clothesline. MOM work on Pierre in the corner, as Mabel drops a leg and they hit a double elbow, but Jacques interferes to make Mo your face-in-peril. They toss him and Jacques cannonballs Pierre onto him to follow, and back in that gets two. Hotshot gets two for Jacques. Mo fights back with a somersault kick, but can’t tag Mabel. Pierre misses a top rope legdrop and it’s hot tag Mabel. Bossman slam for Jacques, but he misses a corner splash. The Quebecers take advantage with a double suplex and the Cannonball, but it only gets two. That should have been the finish. The Quebecers keep double-teaming Mabel, but he fights them off and MOM hits their double-team splash on Jacques. Johnny Polo is busy distracting the ref, however, so MOM pulls the champs out of the ring and settles for a countout win at 7:59 instead. Terrible finish. *1/2  (At least Mabel didn’t accidentally fall on a Quebecer and force a title change this time.)  WWF World title: Yokozuna v. Lex Luger Mr. Perfect returns after a lengthy insurance-related absence to be special referee here, having never quite settled his issue with Lex Luger. Makes you wonder if that will factor into the match. I should note that the most obnoxious thing about this match is guest ring announcer Donnie Wahlberg constantly getting introduced as a member of “NKOTB” as if anyone was actually going to call them that. Although now I guess New Kids on the Block are part of a whole nostalgia comeback thing, which makes me both depressed and very old. (I used to date a girl who was OBSESSED with Backstreet Boys.  And we were both in our 20s at this point, keep in mind.  She’d get all excited because they were going to be on Saturday Night Live one time doing “the chair routine” and I basically had to memorize their names and characteristics as part of the deal.  Turned out she was kinda nutso, in case you couldn’t guess.  I know how to pick ‘em.)  Slugfest to start and Luger gets a clothesline, but walks into one from Yoko. Lex comes back with a shot to put Yoko on the floor and follows with an axehandle off the apron, and back in for a flying bodypress that gets two. Elbowdrop gets two. Yoko chokes him out on the ropes and blocks a slam for two. Yoko pounds away in the corner and takes the turnbuckle off, but doesn’t use it. He goes to the nerve pinch so as to slow down the torrid pace. Sign in the crowd: “Lex Loser”. A bit on-the-nose, but yes. The nerve pinch goes on FOREVER, literally more than four minutes. Yoko finally dumps Luger to break up the monotony and then hauls him back in for…ANOTHER NERVE PINCH. FML. (I had just learned that one off Facebook when I wrote this rant and couldn’t wait for the chance to work it in.  Of course Facebook would give you the most annoying usage of it from people metaphorically complaining about spilling champagne on their diamond-soled shoes.)  Finally, after something like 7 total minutes of having his shoulders gently massaged, Luger makes the comeback, only to walk into a belly to belly suplex. Lex fights back with clotheslines to knock Yoko down, and he gets the slam. STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DEATH looks to finish, but Perfect won’t count. Luger gets in his face and shoves him, and that’s a DQ at 14:35. So just like the sun rising and the tides coming in, Lex Luger blows another title shot. This started OK, but ran off the rails once it got to that awful nerve pinch sequence. 1/4* Adam Bomb v. Earthquake Harvey Wippleman lays the badmouth on the Fink, prompting an attack from Adam Bomb, but Quake saves and finishes with the butt splash at 0:28. Obviously they were running a bit late at this point. Could a fucking 7 minute nerve hold in the previous match have anything to do with it, I wonder? DUD WWF Intercontinental title, ladder match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels People question a lot whether this match “holds up”, although thinking about, I think that’s the wrong question to ask. Wrestling as an artform is very in-the-moment and as a rule never truly intended to say the same thing to fans in 2010 as it did in 1994. So anyway, I’ve seen this match a million times, but here’s one more go, probably the last one. For me, this was the match where my worldview switched for good to “getting it”. The first time I watched it, I admired the beating delivered by Razor Ramon. Every time after that, I admired the bumps taken by Shawn. Shawn blocks a hiptoss and pokes Ramon in the eye, but gets chokeslammed as a result, then comes back with a neckbreaker. Razor puts him down with a shoulderblock, but Shawn tosses him for some abuse by Diesel. The referee sends him back to the dressing room, thus fulfilling the purpose for both of them on the night and leaving Shawn and Razor alone to do their thing. Razor slugs away in the corner and clotheslines Shawn to the floor, but they fight back in again. Razor sets up for a Razor’s Edge onto the floor, but Shawn backdrops him out instead and retrieves the ladder for the first time. Razor gets it and puts it on the apron, so Shawn baseball slides it for our first ladder spot. Back in, Shawn rams it into Razor’s chest and then tosses it at his back. Given Razor wasn’t looking and took it square in the back, that HAD to hurt. Shawn does the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down by Razor to stop him. So he drops the elbow on Razor and then climbs the ladder in the corner, hitting a flying splash off it for one of the iconic images of his career. (Another iconic flying splash?  The Superfly leap, as performed by Jimmy Snuka.  And did you know that he has a daughter named Tamina?  I sure didn’t at the time I wrote this, because otherwise I would have certainly mentioned such a noteworthy fact!)  Another try for the belts, but Razor pushes the ladder over and Shawn clotheslines himself on the top rope. They collide and Shawn recovers first, setting up the ladder in the corner for more bad news. Razor whips him into it, allowing Shawn to bump to the floor in dramatic fashion, and then follows and uses the ladder to ram Shawn into the post. He catapults Shawn into the ladder for another crazy bump, and then spears him out of the ring with the ladder for good measure. That seems to be enough to allow Razor to climb, but Shawn dives in from the top rope and knocks him off again. They both climb the ladder and slug it out on top, leading to Razor slamming Shawn off the top and then bumping off himself. The ladder almost breaks, leading to a weird moment as we have to ponder a time when there WASN’T 17 ladders under the ring, just in case. Razor manages to climb again, but Shawn dropkicks him off and adds a superkick. Razor is out, so Shawn adds a piledriver for good measure. Then another iconic moment, as he climbs the ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Razor in a bump that was likely totally safe but looked awesome. So Shawn puts the ladder over top of Razor for one last bit of humiliation, and climbs, but that allows Razor to shake the ladder and knock Shawn off. And he gets tied into the ropes, the victim of his own hubris, allowing Razor to climb unstopped and reunify the Intercontinental title at 18:45. Still tells a great story, still has amazing bumps, still one of the greatest matches of all time. ***** WWF World title: Yokozuna v. Bret Hart Your special referee this time: Rowdy Roddy Piper. Guest ring announcer Burt Reynolds is literally so drunk he’s on the verge of falling down. Bret Hart is still selling the leg, which is awesome. Yoko attacks him on the way in and chops him down. Bret slugs back, but misses a dropkick, allowing Yoko to choke away on the ropes. Yoko misses the big fat splash, but Bret tries a headbutt and knocks himself down. Bret keeps slugging on him until he goes down, and that gets two. Cornette pulls out Piper, so Piper puts his lights out. More choking from Yokozuna, which sets up the Hulkbuster, but he doesn’t cover. He tosses Bret, who beats the rather brisk count back in. Yoko misses the corner splash and Bret comes back with a bulldog for two. Middle rope elbow gets two. Clothesline gets two. Piper is just right into this referee gig. Bret dives off the second rope, and gets caught with a belly to belly. Yoko sets up to finish with the butt drop, but he slips off the ropes and Bret regains the WWF title at 10:38. Talk about your “slip on a banana peel” finish. Kind of a weird ending, but it got the belt back where it belonged. **1/4 The Pulse: Really, this show doesn’t pretend to be about anything other than the two awesome matches and feelgood finish, and that’s exactly what it delivers. Of course, both great matches are available elsewhere (and in the case of the ladder match, READILY available elsewhere) so as a show you’re not missing much if you haven’t seen anything else out of those. But it all works as a show, so strongly recommended.