The good and bad of the older Wrestlemanias is that the chances of seeing the same match on a PPV 3-4 down the road was slim so it’s harder to compare a Wrestlemania match to a TV match.
Unfortunately Wrestlemania VIII left me with few alternatives. I just did a Savage match so I didn’t want to do Savage-Flair, and if I did which one of their millions (and millions) of WCW matches would I choose. Thought about doing Shawn Michaels – Tito Santana but I couldn’t find a second match of them plus I’m doing both ladder matches for Wrestlemania X.
So I just had to bite my tongue and work with what I had.
And in case you were worried, you won’t get two separate Hogan vs. Sid rants.
Wrestlemania Challenge: Wrestlemania VIII
From The Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana
Hosted by Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
WWF Intercontinental Title Match: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart
Yes this isn’t their only encounter. Piper won his first and only WWF singles title at the 1992 Royal Rumble when he defeated The Mountie and received a massive pop. Bret Hart held the title for much of the second half of 1991 until he got screwed (you don’t say?) out of the title by The Mountie and has worked his way back into earning another title shot.
Piper was weighing about 170 pounds for this match as doing the pre-match interview the belt barely fit him even though he had a rolled up leather strap stuck inside of it. Was there a promised cruiserweight title in his future or something? A little lockup and Piper with an armdrag and on second lock up Hart returns the favor (I’m not going to mention it often but Gorilla and Heenan were on fire for this match…and most of this card). They do some amateur stuff that Bret gets the best of and Piper spits at him. Hmmm. They try a little test of strength here, Piper with an armbar but Hart reverses it so Piper goes to the eyes but Hart won’t let go. Piper punches away but Hart won’t let go. Piper sends Hart into the buckle but Hart won’t let go and finally he wrestles Piper to the ground. Piper finally gets out of the hold with an irish whip but Hart hits a drop kick. He fakes a shoulder injury and small packages Piper for two so Piper rightfully slaps him for being a lying cheating little bitch. All right we’re properly warmed up now as Hart tries a high cross body that sends both guys to the floor. Piper holds the ropes open for Hart as the crowd applauds his sportsmanship. Hart decides to check his boots to make sure they are tied and Piper uppercuts him (Good. Protect yourself at all times dumbass. Didn’t Stu teach you that in the dungeon?). Piper lays in some punches and delivers a big bulldog as Hart is busted open. The move gets two. Piper goes to biting and then hits a massive kneelift for two. Piper sets too early and Hart gets a sunset flip for two but Piper rallies back with a punching combo that gets two. Hart battles back and hits a flying forearm that sends Piper tumbling to the floor. He comes back in the ring and a double clothesline knocks both men out.
Piper recovers first and heads to the top but Hart was playing possum again and cuts Roddy off with a facebuster. Inverted atomic drop and a beautiful suplex gets a near fall. Russian legsweep gets two. Classic side breaker and Hart goes for the sharpshooter but Piper blocks it so Hart hits a front elbow drop. Hart climbs to the middle rope and goes for another front elbow but eats boot instead (Crowd is clearly 50-50 at this point). They slug it out n their knees and both men get to their feet but Hart gets the headbutt. Headlock and Piper shoots Hart into the official and clotheslines Hart over the top. Piper follows Hart to the floor and rams him into the steel steps. Piper grabs the ringside bell and the crowd is in HORROR. Heenan continues his hot streak (USE IT! USE IT! WAFFLE HIM WITH IT! Remember the old saying ‘what the hell use the bell’). Piper thinks better of him, however, and goes for the sleeper instead so Hart climbs the ropes and gets a rollover for the pinfall. Piper admits he was outsmarted and does the right thing – awards the belt to the Hitman.
(Hart def. Piper, pinfall, ***1/2, tremendous storytelling and highly entertaining. Wasn’t super long or anything but Piper was working pretty damn stiff.)
And the Challenger
WCW Monday Nitro
February 8, 1999
Hosted by Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
U.S. Heavyweight Championship: Bret Hart vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
WCW President Ric Flair forced his nemesis at the time, Hart, to defend the title again Piper. Hart claimed a groin injury during a skit on MadTV which everyone knew was fake. There was also something going on with Will Sasso and whatever. Anyway Hart is your heel and Piper is the face in this encounter.
Piper slaps Hart to start and they brawl along the outside with Piper getting the best of the action and he sends Hart back in the ring and gives him a bell ringer. Piper corners Hart and punches but Hart goes to the eyes and slugs Piper back a few times. Piper goes back on the offensive with a heel trip and wants to stomp Hart in the “injured” groin but Hart goes to the ropes and buys some time. Hart stalls for a few minutes and then they slug it back out in the ring until Piper gets the old eye poke in. Hart goes for the choke as the crowd starts cheering for something non-related. Hart acts as if Piper kicked him low (he didn’t) and the WCW trainer (??) comes in the ring to check on Hart as Schiavone protests the fake injury. Piper turns his back and Hart jumps him and works him over in the corner.
We’re back and Hart is choking Piper on the ropes. Russian legsweep and Hart holds the leg and delivers a headbutt to the mid-section. Hart gives Piper and eye burn on the top ropes and hammers away at the challenger in the corner. Side backbreaker gets a two count. Hart clotheslines Piper to the floor and he follows him out. Hart sends Piper to the safety rail and then chokes him out with the television cable. While the referee checks on Piper, Hart runs over and attacks Will Sasso, who was sitting at ringside. Piper sends Hart into the steel steps and back in the ring. Kneelift from Piper and a suplex gets two. Back suplex gets another two count. They slug it out some more and Piper gets the sleeper. Hart backs Piper into the corner where the official was, knocking out the official. Double clothesline sends both men down and gives Hart time to get some knuckle dusters. He whacks Piper with them and goes to revive the official but Sasso pulls the official back long enough for Piper to get a rollup for three!
(Piper def. Hart, pinfall, *1/2, lots of kicking, punching and Will Sasso. No need to track this one down unless you want the full collection of what these two guys have done.)
The Match: Obviously much changed in the nearly seven years between encounters. Bret was trying to establish himself in 1992 and Piper was still pretty healthy. By 1999 Hart wasn’t motivated and Piper was working with a repaired hip. Also this was a Nitro match rather than the major PPV of the year so neither guy was expected to be on their ‘A’ game. Major Edge: Wrestlemania
The Storyline: The Wrestlemania storyline was simple and effective – former champion didn’t get immediate rematch and wanted an opportunity to get the belt back. The fact that Piper and Hart were friends added a twist but the premise was still the same. I have no clue what the WCW storyline was and why Will Sasso needed to be involved. Major Edge: Wrestlemania
Intangibles: Both matches featured title changes on clean pinfalls. You’ll be hard pressed to find many Piper matches better than his Wrestlemania match against Hart. He had quite an encounter with Jack Brisco back in the day and I loved the stuff with Snuka (no Tamina jokes, sorry) but in the interest of fairness there’s no need to compare the effort of a Wrestlemania match with that of a TV match.
Verdict: Wrestlemania by a landslide, even graded on a curve.