The SmarK Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X
– Given we’re at that point in the RAW Legacy rants (and now the Observer recaps!), now is as good a time as any to redo this show, what with Shawn Michaels’ final match coming up this weekend. (Well that gives you a pretty exact date for this redo, then.)
– Live from Madison Square Garden.
– Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler (Aha, so this was actually the big surprise appearance for Lawler that Dave was mentioning in the Observers. I totally didn’t put together at the time that he had been gone due to the legal problems.)
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. 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. 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. 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? 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* (And as we learned recently in the Observers, it was supposed to be Bull Nakano here, but she pulled out at the last minute.)
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
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. 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. 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 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
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.