The Chrononaut Chronicles: WrestleVania

Hey guys, I’m the Chrononaut, a traveler of time and space, reviewing wrestling shows from different eras of the past. Thanks to Scott for giving me the opportunity to share my retro reviews with all of you. Let’s begin with a Halloween-tinged trip back to WWE 24/7 and the October 2006 offering of Shorties, entitled WrestleVania!

The Chrononaut Chronicles: WWE 24/7 Shorties – “WrestleVania”

– “Shorties” was a category on the old WWE 24/7 on-demand service featuring a number of segments (matches, promos, angles) that tied in with the theme of the month, usually ranging anywhere between three minutes and a half-hour. The theme for October of 2006 was called “WrestleVania” – a look at the creepiest, scariest, and strangest events in wrestling history. So in the spirit of the Halloween season, I figured I’d throw them all into a recap and rate each one a “trick” or a “treat” accordingly.

– “Snakes On A Warrior”

There isn’t a date on this, but it must be sometime in mid-1991. Paul Bearer welcomes us to his Funeral Parlor talk show and introduces his guest as Jake Roberts, who talks about feeling death’s cold hand when Earthquake squashed Damian and claims that he’ll spit in death’s face when the time comes because he has Lucifer on his shoulder… but he doesn’t mean the snake. When Paul mentions the Undertaker, Jake suggests that the Dead Man has his hands full with the Ultimate Warrior and Bearer says that Warrior isn’t a problem, so Jake offers to share the secrets of the darkness with Warrior. The Snake states that if the Warrior wants his help, all he has to do is “trust me,” and walks off as Paul freaks out.

Lord Alfred Hayes hosts a WWF Update segment and introduces a vignette that sees Jake convince Warrior to lay down in a casket as we see footage of WWF officials trying to free Warrior from a casket on the Funeral Parlor. Jake explains that you have to go through hell to get to heaven and Warrior finally lays back as the Snake locks the casket and tells him it’s the first piece of the puzzle. When Jake opens the casket, he proclaims that Warrior has the “look of the Undertaker” in his eyes. In the next vignette, Jake takes us through a cemetery as Warrior digs up a grave and holds up a skull before Jake buries Warrior up to his neck in the same grave, leaving him eye-to-eye-socket with the skull. The final vignette features Jake leading Warrior to a snake-filled room and locking him inside as Warrior opens a small casket in the center of the room and a cobra pops up. The cobra bites him in the neck and the Warrior slowly collapses to the floor as he breaks the door down to get out. Once Warrior makes it into the hallway, he finds the Undertaker and Paul Bearer standing over him as Jake reminds him that he should “never trust a snake.” I loved these vignettes as a kid and still find them pretty effective today. It’s too bad that Jake self-destructed over the next year-and-a-half because he had finally found his ticket to the main event, in my opinion, with a very strong heel character. At least we got the angle with Macho Man and Elizabeth after Warrior bailed out of the WWF following SummerSlam ’91.

– “Who’s Your Papa?”

From May 16, 1992, Lord Alfred Hayes hosts the WWF Update and talks about a mysterious “voodoo curse” that Papa Shango had placed on the Ultimate Warrior. For evidence, we go back to last week’s WWF Superstars with Vince and Mr. Perfect on commentary as Shango wanders down to ringside during a Warrior/Knobbs match and steals a discarded wristband. We clip forward to the postmatch activities after the Warrior beat the Nasty Boy, as Shango returns to ringside and goes into a trance, a dance that the Boogeyman would steal nearly 15 years later. The funniest part is the big fat mark (can’t tell if it be man or woman) in a Hogan shirt who keeps trying to point out Shango to Warrior with a deadly serious look on his/her face. Warrior suddenly collapses off the apron to the floor clutching his stomach as JJ Dillon, Chief Jay Strongbow, Rene Goulet, & Tony Garea come out to help him and Vince hopes it’s not appendicitis, but Perfect is convinced that it’s a voodoo curse and explains why, which is unintentionally funny. Back to the Update studio, Lord Alfred warns that the backstage footage is only for those with a “strong constitution” as we see the Warrior projectile-vomiting all over the poor medic. Saturday mornings were never the same after that. We were willing to believe in an undead mortician rising from the grave, but voodoo curses? What did the WWF think we were, a bunch of rubes?

– “That’s So Raven”

From ECW TV (no date given but I’m guessing this was sometime in 1995 or early ’96?) Joey Styles looks disgusted as he introduces a home movie of Tyler Fullington’s 7th birthday party, featuring the Sandman’s young son in a small apartment with Raven. Tyler says the party sucks, so Raven calls out the Blue Meanie, who is wearing clown makeup and a lifejacket as he tries to entertain the kid, but Tyler says that sucks too and throws things at Meanie. Sandman’s ex-wife sits on the floor staring at the TV the whole time. Styles wonders why we’re watching this before we go back to the video as Tyler finds a present from his dad in the closet and opens it, but Raven takes it away because the kid likes it and Tyler strikes the Raven crucifix pose. I’m not overly familiar with the storyline other than what I’ve read about it, but it was a tad disturbing and you can see the influence that ECW would have on the WWF in the future by using wrestlers’ real-life family members in angles like this. Although it was unique and innovative, I disdained the involvement of such a young child in an angle like this.

– “Sullivan Completes His Task”

Oh yes, yes yes yes. While I would have prefered to see the Satanic Sullivan vignettes from Florida in the ’80s, here is the true gem of this whole Shorties collection – the vignettes that led to the formation of the Dungeon Of Doom from WCW in 1995. We begin with Kevin Sullivan running through a forest in his wrestling gear while a superimposed image of King Curtis Iaukea in zombie-style makeup as “The Master” floats around, calling to him. Sullivan finally makes it to the spot and the Master zaps him into his lair as he rants about Hulkamania and refers to Sullivan as the “last remaining link to darkness.” Sullivan whines that he can’t defeat Hulk Hogan, but the Master makes faces and informs him it is “etched in stone” that Sullivan will lead the Dungeon Of Doom to victory over Hulkamania. In the next vignette, the Master explains that Sullivan must take the final step and he runs down a corridor in a puff of smoke. When Sullivan returns, he has transformed into “The Taskmaster” wearing a red tracksuit with yellow lightning bolts and some facepaint as Sullivan states that now he understands and cackles with the Master.

In the next vignette, Sullivan has drank from the Goblet of Darkness and in a scene reminiscent of the original Power Rangers series, the Master conjures up Kamala as a member of the Dungeon. The next Dungeon member produced by the Master comes “on a tidal wave from the South China Sea to the sands of Waikiki” as John “Earthquake/Avalanche” Tenta emerges as… THE SHARK! Clad in one of the more ridiculous-looking outfits of all time, Shark explains that he’s on our territory now, that being land, and can hardly wait to bite all the little Hulkamaniacs as the villains share a laugh. The next vignette introduces the “Brother of Lightness himself,” none other than Ed “Brutus Beefcake” Leslie as “The Zodiac,” with some crazy facepaint, wide eyes, and messy hair. Sullivan shouts “YES!” so Zodiac responds “NO!” and Sullivan says “NO!” so Zodiac replies “YES!”, and so on. I have no idea what the point is supposed to be, but it’s some of the funniest shit ever. “NO! YES! YES! NO!” The next vignette sees Sullivan bringing out each character and the Master telling him that the one who will defeat Hogan has yet to arrive.

The Hulkster himself appears in the next vignette as he pops through the wall and collapses on the ground, confused about where he is because there are no Hulkamaniacs around. Hogan touches the water and recoils in repulsion as he hilariously declares, “AGH, IT’S NOT HOT!” Hogan recognizes the Master and Taskmaster and says he knows all about Zodiac, Shark, & Kamala, but Sullivan informs him that his demise is etched in stone as the wall explodes and THE GIANT makes his first appearance, choking down the Hulkster. Giant claims that the power lies with him and he is the one true Immortal. The next vignette includes Vader, as the Master summons him because he is the #1 Contender to Hogan’s WCW World Title, but Vader says he fears nothing and randomly walks away while Sullivan notes that they will see how great Vader’s power is. In yet another vignette, Vader appears in a cloud of smoke wearing his old badass helmet as he announces that he passed to another dimension and “now and forever” will be known as Big Van Vader. The Master claims that the world will be watching Vader rip the stripes off the “rare White Bengal Tiger” and they all cackle. The final vignette features Sullivan informing Vader that his destiny is to destroy Hogan in the cage at Bash At The Beach and Vader promises that he will get the job done. The Master offers him the power, but Vader states that he must walk this road alone and disappears in a puff of smoke. When the Master and Sullivan realize neither of them made him disappear, they decide that maybe Vader does have the power. Wow… what can you really say? This is the stuff of legend. I actually like the concept behind them (although I’d stopped watching WCW when Hogan arrived) and if it had been 10 years earlier in the WWF, it might have gotten over pretty big, but WCW in 1995? No fucking way. At least everybody played their parts pretty well (other than Hogan… his “acting” here just sucked) and King Curtis was awesome as the Master. IT IS ETCHED…IN…STONE!

– “A Stone Cold Undertaking”

From November 23, 1998, on Monday Night Raw with Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler on commentary as the Undertaker and Paul Bearer pull up in a hearse at a cemetery. The Dead Man drags a “sedated” Steve Austin out of the back of the hearse and lays him on a pile of dirt while he digs the grave a bit deeper. Paul stands over Stone Cold and taunts him until Austin wakes up and grabs Paul, but Undertaker chokes him out and decides that being buried alive is too good for Austin, so they’re going to embalm him alive and he loads Austin back into the hearse. We cut forward to the embalming room as Paul prepares Austin on the table and Undertaker chants over him, but Kane breaks in and makes the save. Meanwhile, Austin awakens and staggers off as Bearer waddles after him and cries that he’s gone. I forgot all about this angle. Not one of my favorites, but I dig the “satanic mortician/cult leader” vibe.

– “A Brood Awakening” – WWF Tag Team Title: Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett [champions] vs. The Brood (Gangrel & Edge)

From March 22, 1999, on Monday Night Raw with Michael Cole and Lawler on commentary. Christian is at ringside with the Brood while Debra is with the Blond Bombers. Gangrel pounds Owen to start, but Hart comes back with a spinning heelkick as we get a “Nugget” chant. I always hated that chant; it’s just gross. Gangrel slams Owen with a double-arm overhead suplex and tags Edge, who powerslams Owen for a two-count, but Owen catches him in his smooth belly-to-belly off the ropes and makes the tag as the champs execute a double-team. Edge drops Jeff with a semi-Michinoku Driver (really more of a sitout bodyslam) and Gangrel distracts the referee as Christian sneaks in and helps Edge plant Jarrett with an inverted DDT/sideslam double-team. In a bit of trickery, Edge slides out to ringside and Christian covers Double J for a two-count even though he isn’t supposed to be in the match. Jarrett drives Christian down with a single-arm DDT and misses a charge in the corner, as Christian leaves when the ref turns his back and Edge dives off the top turnbuckle with a flying bodypress for two. All four official participants slug it out in the ring as Owen locks Edge in the Sharpshooter until Public Enemy storm the ring, but everybody joins forces to kick PE’s asses and dump them to the floor. Suddenly the lights go out as the Brood’s music plays and when the lights come back on, Debra has been the victim of a bloodbath at ringside. I’m sure there’s a “that time of the month” joke in there somewhere, but I’m not touching it.

– “The Corpse Bride”

From April 26, 1999, on Monday Night Raw with JR and Jim Cornette on commentary. They discuss how the Ministry Of Darkness kidnapped Stephanie McMahon at Backlash and the Undertaker held her ransom in exchange for ownership of the company, but the Dead Man wasn’t at the prearranged location when Vince went to make the transaction. The Acolytes, Mideon, & Viscera carry Steph, strapped to the Undertaker’s “symbol,” down the ramp to the ring as Paul Bearer holds the mic for Undertaker, who claims that Vince didn’t live up to his end of the bargain and tells Paul to begin the ceremony. Steph continues to scream as Paul recites a dark wedding ceremony from a book and Ken Shamrock runs in to make the save with a baseball bat, but he is quickly overwhelmed by Faarooq & Bradshaw and splashed by Vis. Backstage, Shane McMahon assures the Mean Street Posse, HHH, & Big Boss Man that if it gets any worse, they’ll do something about it. Paul continues the ceremony until the Big Show runs out and unloads on the Ministry, but the Undertaker knocks him over the top rope with Shamrock’s baseball bat. Paul declares Undertaker and Steph man and wife and ‘Taker is about to kiss his new bride when the glass shatters and Stone Cold charges down to clean house. After driving the Ministry away, Austin frees Steph from the symbol and she squeezes him in a hug as JR and Cornette note that he didn’t do it for Vince, he did it because it was the right thing to do. Vince shows up and hugs his daughter as he nods in thanks to Austin to end Raw. Although the storyline got all muddled up a few weeks later with Vince as the “Higher Power,” I loved this angle because it added depth to Austin’s character and made him a real person for rescuing his hated enemy’s innocent daughter.

– “A Grave Encounter” – Graveyard Match: The Demon vs. Vampiro

From July 9, 2000, at WCW Bash At The Beach with Tony Schiavone, Mark Madden, and Scott Hudson on commentary. The Demon enters the shadowy, badly-lit graveyard carrying a torch and warns his girlfriend Asya to stay back, but she insists on coming with him, so Demon orders referee Charles Robinson to keep an eye on her. They search the cemetery but can’t find Vampiro until he leaps out of a tree and Demon moves out of the way. The Demon slams Vampiro with a uranage on the ground, but Vampiro comes back with a flurry of kicks and applies a chinlock as he implores the Demon to join him. A resthold in a match like this looks pretty silly; like, can you imagine Christopher Lee’s Dracula chinlocking Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing in a climactic scene? Schiavone informs us that the winner will be the man who can escape the graveyard and return to the arena first as Demon throws Vampiro into an open grave and tells him to stay there, but Vampiro whacks him in the leg with a shovel and lays him out in the grave. Vampiro grabs Asya by the hair and drags her out of the cemetery. Meanwhile, Demon crawls out of the grave and Charles offers to wait there, but looks around and decides to follow the Demon instead. Demon finds Asya sitting beside a nearby swamp and asks her what happened, but Vampiro emerges from the water and pulls the Demon in. They slug it out in the water and Vampiro slams Demon’s head on the riverbank before taking off with Asya again, but Charles helps Demon out of the pond and he finds Asya laying on the ground beside a coffin. The casket opens as Vampiro sits up and spews some liquid in the Demon’s face, asking “Dale” if he wants to live or die. Torborg screams that he will never join Vampiro, so the undead star busts a tombstone over Demon’s head and stuffs him into the casket. Vampiro dumps the coffin into the grave and throws the torch down too as he spits on his grave and tells Demon to say hi to Sting in hell. That’s the end… I guess Vampiro won? Interesting idea, as gimmick matches like this are kind of my guilty pleasure. Come on, it’s Halloween!

– “Kane Puts JR On The Hot Seat”

From July 14, 2003, on Monday Night Raw, it’s the infamous WWE Studios sitdown interview with Kane shortly after he lost his mask. Jim Ross kisses Kane’s ass because the Big Red Machine has a can of gasoline sitting on the table beside him and shows footage of Stone Cold Steve Austin trying to turn Kane back into a monster, including a sick chokeslam off the stage on Eric Bischoff. Kane mentions his childhood and how cruel it is that Stone Cold and Rob Van Dam want him to expose his burned face to the world, but JR points out that Kane doesn’t appear to be deformed. Kane claims that JR is just like the doctors who told him that the scars were superficial and wanted him to seek psychiatric help, but he had to hurt them. JR agrees that Kane needs help and gives him a pep talk since he knows what it’s like to be made fun of, but Kane doesn’t believe him and stands up as he gets in JR’s face until the glass shatters in the arena and Stone Cold comes out to the ring. Austin pleads with Kane to settle down because they’re just trying to help him, but Kane punches JR and pours gasoline on him as he fights off one guy who tries to stop him. We hear disembodied voices begging Kane not to do it as he lights a match and sets Ross on fire, kicking him as he fries like bacon on a grill. Finally, a bunch of production assistants or something use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire (where were all these people a minute ago and why didn’t they help Jim then?) and Austin calls for help from the ring while rather calmly watching on the TitanTron. Eric Bischoff appears on the stage and blames Austin, informing him that Linda McMahon will be firing him next week and damning him straight to hell. Damn, now I remember why I hated 2003 so much. The interview started off well by explaining why Kane doesn’t have any scars, but the whole “setting JR on fire” thing was beyond ridiculous on so many levels. Ugh.

– “An Early Halloween Treat” – WWE Women’s Title – Fulfill Your Fantasy Battle Royal: Trish Stratus [champion], Jazz, Nidia, Gail Kim, Molly Holly, Victoria, Stacy Keibler

From (MY 25TH BIRTHDAY) October 19, 2004, at Taboo Tuesday with JR and Lawler on commentary. Lawler makes some pedophilish comments about wishing he could go back to kindergarten (?!) because the costume the fans voted for is the schoolgirl uniform. I have to admit that’s what I voted for, too. Nidia is the first elimination when Jazz rips off her top and dumps her through the ropes, as this is not over-the-top-rope rules since they’re only women, apparently. Victoria scores the second elimination with a sliding dropkick to knock Jazz out under the bottom rope and makes Gail the third elimination by dumping her out when she goes for a HuraKimrana. Stacy does the Nash Choke on Trish in the corner for a nice pop and tries to push her out, but Molly makes the save for some reason and they try to double-suplex Stacy over the top. However, Victoria makes the save for her (how come everybody turns stupid in a battle royal?) and they unload on the heels until Trish takes control and helps Molly double-catapult Victoria over the top for elimination #4, leaving Stacy alone to be dominated by the more experienced women. She fights valiantly, but Molly knocks her off the apron for the 5th elimination and Trish sneaks up from behind to dump Molly out and win the battle royal, retaining the WWE Women’s Championship. Points scored for the costumes, but it was still just another battle royal.
TRICK OR TREAT: You decide!

By my count, that’s 5 treats out of 10, depending on your tastes. They might not have all been gems, but they made for enjoyable holiday viewing and are worth seeking out to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back tomorrow with more Halloween-oriented content. You can also find my reviews on my own blog as I have just begun posting them at The Chrononaut Chronicles.