Wrestlemania Countdown: 13

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania 13

(2012 Scott sez:  I had thought there was a later version of this rant, but apparently I’ve only done it once.  This was definitely an off-year for the show in general, as it was promoted essentially like just another PPV on the schedule and as such made it easy for me to pass up.)  

– Here’s an interesting bit: Before Zen’s copy of WM13, there’s a copy of Bret Hart’s tirade from Albany where he loses to Sid and then goes off on a curse-filled rant about getting screwed while Vince looks on. Eerily prescient of what would happen at Survivor Series later that year.

– Live from Chicago, Illinois.  Original airdate:  March 24, 1997

– Your hosts are Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon.

Free-For-All match: Flash Funk v. Billy Gunn.

This is only included here because I find it amazing that Gunn went from nothing low-midcarder to “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn, DX member and major star with catchphrase. (And then back to midcarder again) This is a total nothing time-waster as Gunn spends most of it chinlocking Scorpio. I make sure to bug my roommate about wearing his hair exactly like Gunn. This was pre-Rockabilly, btw. That would be the *next* PPV. Match gets moderately good at the end as Scorp makes the comeback with a victory roll off the top rope, something which I haven’t seen before or since. A moonsault hits the knees, however. Gunn goes to the top and gets crotched, yet pulls out a tornado DDT for the pin. Now *there’s* a good finisher for him today. Not a bad match. **

Opening match proper: The Headbangers v. The Blackjacks v. Furnas & Lafon v. The Godwinns.

The winners get a tag title shot at some indeterminate time in the future, which never comes into play. Hmm, there’s two members of the Ministry of Darkness here: Phineas Godwinn, who would become known as Mideon, and Bradshaw, who would become known as Bradshaw. No one in the ring is over in the standard sense of the word. As a rough guide, the periods with {Furnas or Lafon or Mosh or Thrasher} v. {Not Godwinns} are quite watchable, and the rest is not. Blackjacks and Furnas/Lafon get themselves disqualified fairly quickly, leaving the epic Headbangers/Godwinns feud to reach it’s zenith. Mosh should jump to WCW and become Saturn’s partner. He’s got the look and the music…hey, this *is* a little coincidental, isn’t it? (In fact, Mosh got repackaged as Beaver Cleavage and then as D-Lo Brown’s loser partner, so maybe he should have done that after all.)  Crowd is dead for this. The Headbangers have the gall to work in a highspot to boost it a 1/2*, with Mosh doing a springboard bodypress to send Henry to the floor, then Rocket-Launching Thrasher onto Henry on the floor. Thrasher tries a moonsault back in the ring but misses. A pier-six erupts and Mosh hits a cannonball on Phineas for the pin. Oddly enough, at Badd Blood, Mosh would try that very spot and get powerbombed to lose the tag titles to the Godwinns. Ah, yes, the announcers refresh my memory by pointing out that the Bangers will meet Owen and Bulldog the next night on RAW. The match ended up being nothing. (Much like all four teams in the match, no disrespect to the dead, of course.)  **

– Brian Pillman and Sunny hype the hotline. Man, life turned to shit for both of them, didn’t it?

– The Honky Tonk Man is out to remind us he’s here and do commentary for…

Intercontinental title match: Rocky Maivia v. The Sultan. Wow, welcome to Bizarro World. (Isn’t that Toronto?) Who would have EVER, I mean, EVER thought that Rocky would end up main-eventing what should turn out to be the biggest Wrestlemania ever?  (Well, 15 wasn’t the biggest ever, but Rock WOULD end up doing it at X-7 and then probably again this year to break the record of the Trump show.)  And a three-time WWF champion with a huge following? And that the Sultan would get successfully repackaged as a dancing sumo wrestler and get almost equally over?  (Yeah, by 2001 had far surpassed Rikishi, of course.)  Rocky gets *no* pop. For the record, this was supposed to be Rocky getting beaten like a dog by “Wildman” Marc Mero, but the injury to Mero that put him out for almost a year prevented it, and so we get the Sultan, evil Arab.  (I don’t actually remember if the Mero theory was ever proven, but it certainly sounds logical given his push at the time, win streak, and impending heel turn.  All the pieces would fit.)  Rocky tries more stuff here than today (dropkick and a couple of other moves) but it doesn’t look very good. The dreaded “Rocky Sucks” chant makes it’s PPV debut here. Several times, and very loud. (“Let’s go Rocky! / Rocky Sucks!”) Terrible match. The Sultan is former Headshinker Fatu, for those who don’t know. (Wow, thanks, doofus.)  The Sultan hits a headbutt off the top but only gets two. Sultan…moves…so…slow. Lots of resting. I’m soooo glad Rocky had a personality transplant in late 97. Faarooq is probably less glad, of course. (I’m sure he got over it after all the APA merchandise cheques came in.)  The crowd is downright hostile towards the Rock, even booing him as he powers out of a chinlock. Rocky makes the superman comeback, hulking up and drawing no reaction from the crowd. He nails a belly-to-belly for two and hits his “Layin the Smack Down” DDT, setting up a flying bodypress, but the Iron Shiek is distracting the ref. (The world needs Iron Sheik managing Jinder Mahal if they want to get him over.  That would be GOLD.)  Sultan gets a superkick and a piledriver for a couple of two counts, but Rocky rolls Sultan up out of nowhere for three. Crowd isn’t appreciative. Vince, who is many things, is not stupid. He heard the crowd reaction and took the title off Maivia soon after, then re-tooled him into The Rock a few months later. The rest is history. The Evil Foreigners work over Rocky, but Rocky Johnson makes the save. -* A horrible match.  (Rock got a bit better.)  

Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Goldust.

Geez, who’s the chick with no breasts, a huge jaw, and thin hair? (HHH in 2002 after the HGH kicked in?) Oh, wait, it’s Chyna. And since when is “Amazonian” a word? HHH gets no heat. Goldust gets less. Man, if you were in the crowd for this show, I’m sorry for you.  (Plus if you live in Chicago in general.)  This is the less-than-enthralling blowoff for the feud that introduced Chyna. The more I watch these old HHH matches, I more I’m amazed that he’s currently one of the most popular wrestlers in the world. HHH gets beat on for a while, which is Good, because The Mantra of the Smark says that Hunter is a good seller but has lousy offense. (That of course changed drastically.)  Fabulous bump from Goldust, as they fight on the top rope and HHH shoves him to the floor. The bump is less impressive on replay as you can see Goldust slamming the mat for effect on the way down. HHH goes into his punch and kick offense (and knee, can’t forget the knee). Oh my GOD, Hunter uses a swinging neckbreaker AND an abdominal stretch, and that’s TWO moves which don’t involve his knee. (That used to be the easiest running joke in wrestling before HHH totally changed his character and offense in 1999.)   Doesn’t last long as Helmsley pulls out the high knee and kneedrop. They exchange some two counts and Goldust makes a comeback with a buttbutt. He gets a bulldog for two. Chyna starts to go after Marlena. Goldust goes for the Curtain Call, but Hunter reverses to the Pedigree. Goldust reverses that and slingshots him, but tries to save Marlena, only to accidentally send her into the arms of Chyna, and then get Pedigreed for the HHH win. Oh, the crushing jaws of irony. Crowd couldn’t possibly be less excited. *1/2, mostly for the last sequence and Goldust’s bump.

WWF World tag team title match: Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith v. Vader & Mankind.

(What a strangely random tag match for Wrestlemania.)  This is just before the tearful Hart family reunion on RAW. Vader and Mankind were both managed by Paul Bearer at this point. Vader pulverizes Owen to start, not selling anything of consequence. It gets really ugly and disjointed from there, as Bulldog does a lot of kicking and punching. Everyone is a heel here, so the crowd chants for Owen. Go fig. Bulldog gets hit with the urn and becomes heel in peril. This is a very dull match. Mick is looking downright skinny here. Vader does his patented “try something off the second rope and get powerslammed” spot and Davey tags Owen. Owen with a flying bodypress for two, but gets nailed by Vader and becomes heel in peril #2. Vader and Mankind do Demolition Decapitation on Owen on the floor. Cool. Boring “beat up Owen” segment, although Owen does a nice bit with Mankind in the corner. Then a nice belly-to-belly on Mankind on the floor. Owen and Mick really need to do a feud. (They did one later at the house shows and it was indeed legendary, featuring the infamous “sell the bag of popcorn” spot.)  Owen gets the hot tag and Bulldog cleans house…but get Mandible Claw’d. Both guys fall to the floor and get counted out. Yawn. *1/2 Again, some nice spots, nothing else. For those who don’t know, Mankind and Vader were originally promised the tag titles here, but Bret Hart pulled a power play and demanded that the Harts keep the belts to set up the Hart Foundation angle.  (I’m pretty sure that was incorrect, actually.  I forget what I was basing that one on but it was debunked.)  

– We see a review of the Hart-Austin storyline, and it’s SOOOOOOOO precognizant that it’s SCARY. Bret becomes increasingly paranoid and worried about being screwed over by his friends, he’s bitter towards Shawn Michaels, he thinks Steve Austin is taking his place and the WWF is turning into a bunch of degenerates…I mean, my god, it couldn’t have been any more perfect if you had written it to turn out like it did. Watching this footage really undermines Bret’s case and makes him look like the Boy Who Cried Wolf with regards to Montreal. I mean, he’s been crying about being screwed for months before right? Wow. Vince is an evil genius.  (Now he’s just evil.)  

Submission match: Bret Hart v. Steve Austin.

Ken Shamrock is the guest referee. Brawl outside the ring to start, with Austin crotching Hart on the STEEL railing and clotheslining him to the floor. They brawl into the crowd, with Austin ramming Bret into the boards and pounding on him. Hitman comes back and they brawl up the stairs. Back to the ring, and Hart takes a MAN-SIZED bump to the stairs. Austin clotheslines him off the apron. Austin tries to use the steel steps but Bret kicks them out of his hands. Austin rams Bret to the post. We actually go the ring. Austin stomps on Bret, but Bret pulls out a neckbreaker and an elbow off the second rope. Vince starts badmouthing Bret, nothing that he’ll probably have an excuse if he loses. Wow, I mean, WOW, this shit is brilliant in retrospect. I stand in awe of Vincent K. McMahon. Bret works on Austin’s knee viciously. Austin suddenly hits the stunner out of nowhere, but can’t capitilize fast enough. Big Austin chant. Bret goes back to the knee. The ringpost figure-four makes it’s PPV debut to a monster pop. Bret grabs the bell and a chair, and opts to try the Brian Pillman Maneuver (Now known as “Pillmanizing”) on Austin, to a big pop. Austin gets loose and WHACKS Hart with the chair, to a big pop. Another monster shot and a monster pop. Crowd is INTO Austin, big time. Austin with a slam, cross-corner whip and a suplex. Elbow off the second rope. Austin hits a russian legsweep and applies an odd cross-armbreaker. Crowd is 50/50. Boston crab from Austin to a big pop. Bret makes the ropes, so Austin goes for a Sharpshooter instead. Jerry: “Wouldn’t that have been incredible, to have to submit to the Sharpshooter?” Vince: “Hey, it could happen.” No shit. Bret escapes and Austin tosses him to the floor. Whip reversal sends Austin crashing into the timekeeper. Austin rips open a huge gash on his head. Now that’s some high-quality blading. Austin gets rammed to the stairs and the ringpost. Austin is literally dripping blood on the ring. Hart drops an elbow and stomps away. Crowd doesn’t feel so good about Bret now. He grabs a chair and smashes it into Austin’s knee. You can almost feel the crowd changing sides. (Here’s the brilliance — Bret Hart was doing the same storyline as Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 8, but unlike Piper, Bret GAVE IN TO THE DARK SIDE and couldn’t resist the temptation to be evil.  Kind of neat.)  Bret goes for the Sharpshooter but Austin blocks. Bret pounds Austin in the corner, but Steve counters with a greco-roman ballshot. Austin whips Bret to the corner, then does some stomping of his own. Austin with a superplex. Austin’s face is literally covered in blood. Austin grabs a cable from ringside and chokes out Bret, but Bret grabs the bell that he brought in 10 minutes earlier and rings it on Austin’s head. Sharpshooter. We get the famous shot of Austin bleeding all over the ring and screaming in pain. (And that’s the moment that truly turned Austin into the biggest superstar ever.)  Austin fights the pain and powers out…but Bret hangs on. He reapplies the move and moves to the center of the ring. Austin passes out and Shamrock stops the match. Crowd is less than thrilled. Austin is DEAD. Bret soaks in some cheers, then goes back to pounding on Austin. Shamrock takes him down and gets a big pop. Hart leaves to huge boos. Austin leaves to the crowd chanting his name. Hogan and Flair WISH they could pull this off. (Well, they used to be able to, and Hogan certainly pulled it off 5 years after this…)  This would set off the Steve Austin v. Hart Foundation war that carried the WWF through all of 1997, and was supposed to culminate in Bret returning the job to Austin at Wrestlemania XIV, but, well, you know…shit happens. *****

Chicago Street Fight: The Legion of Doom & Ahmed Johnson v. Faaaarrrooqqq, Crush & Savio Vega.

Did I get the spelling right? That many double letters always throws me off. I miss PG-13 as the white boy rappers. (I believe WWE mashed them together in a car crusher and created John Cena, just like Clark Kent and Evil Superman in the third Superman movie.)  D-Lo Brown makes his Wrestlemania debut, albeit as a non-speaking flunky in a suit. The NOD brings plunder with them. Total brawl, of course. Ahmed has a SWEET spot, doing a plancha over the railing onto Crush. Animal tries to piledrive Faarooq through a table, but blows the spot. There’s just too much going on here to follow. Faarooq gets slammed through a table by Ahmed, causing him internal damage. Fire extinguishers get used a couple of times. Savio puts a noose around Ahmed’s neck and the NOD B-Team tries to hang him. Y’know what’s really sad and ironic: Out of everyone involved in this match, the one with the most success and respect is D-Lo Brown, and he’s not even wrestling here. (Well, Faarooq is the guy in the Hall of Fame now whereas D-Lo basically got himself Miz’d, so I’d dispute that now.)  There’s a point there somewhere, but I don’t know what it is. Faarooq takes a sweet bump, getting yanked over the top to the floor by Hawk. His huge ass padded him. The match starts to drag, indicating it’s about 3 minutes too long. Ahmed goes for the Pearl River Plunge on Faarooq, but the NOD B-Team attacks. LOD finish Crush with the Doomsday Device and a 2×4 shot for good measure. Ahmed gives the unnamed D-Lo two PRPs and the PG-13 gets Doomsday Deviced simultaneously. Pretty good garbage match. ***1/2

WWF World title match: Sid v. The Undertaker.

Because it’s a special occasion, UT is wearing his original “grey rubber gloves and torn sleeves” outfit. HBK is doing commentary, working through the pain of the smile-ectomy he went through which put him out. Undertaker has gone through a year of shitkickings from Mankind, and this is his reward for loyalty. Sid gets the clear-cut heel pop. Bret Hart makes his way to the ring and grabs a mike, sending threats to Shawn, telling off Undertaker, and claiming Sid screwed him. So Sid powerbombs him. Served him right. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your heel turn. Undertaker attacks Sid from behind and we’re underway. Undertaker hammers Sid a few time and slams him for a two count. Ropewalk shot, but Sid won’t sell. UT charges the corner but gets caught in a bearhug for resthold #1. And that uses up a couple of minutes. Big boot and Sid pushes him over the top rope, then into the Spanish announce table. Bad night for the foreign announcers. Sid drops UT on the railing a couple of times, then slams him through the table. Vince announces that this was changed to a no-DQ match beforehand. Sid rolls UT in for two. CAMEL CLUTCH OF DEATH is resthold #2. Double axehandle off the 2nd rope, and Sid stalls. Ugly powerslam gets two. And a couple more. Sid drops the leg for two. And a couple more. I like that he keeps trying for the pin, forcing UT to keep kicking out. UT hits the flying clothesline, but Sid no-sells. They fight to the floor. Back in the ring, UT misses an elbowdrop. Sid goes into resthold #3. UT breaks and powerslams Sid for two. UT applies a VULCAN NERVEGRIP OF DOOM for resthold #4. Sid escapes and they both hit a big boot at the same time for a double KO spot. Sid is up first for a two count. Another double axehandle. A sort of clothesline-like type thing off the second rope gets two. Match…..moving……so……slow. UT blocks another 2nd rope attempt, but Sid no-sells again and slams UT, then heads to the top rope. UT does the zombie situp and crotches Sid. Slam off the top, and UT goes to the top. Flying clothesline gets two. UT goes for the tombstone, but Sid reverses to his own. It only gets two. Sid dumps UT, and Bret is back. He wallops Sid with a chair from behind and gets dragged off by referees. UT takes advantage and rams Sid into the steel. Back in the ring, UT chokeslams Sid for two. UT misses…whatever…coming off the ropes and Sid powerbombs him. Nope, here’s Bret again. Sid knocks him off the apron, but walks right into the tombstone and gets pinned. Way screwy ending. UT wins his second World title. Crap match. 1/2* This was, for all intents and purposes, the last appearance of Sid.

The Bottom Line: I’d suggest picking up a copy of “Cause Stone Cold Said So”, which has the Austin-Hart match on it and can be bought for $6 at Wal-Mart. I wasn’t terribly into the WWF at this point, and remained so until the Hart Foundation angle went through the roof shortly after this. Wrestlemania 9 was the worst, but this is second. The big highlight is available elsewhere, so don’t bother checking this dog out.