Wrestlemania Countdown 2018: The SmarK Rant for WWF Wrestlemania XV

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania XV

You people never cease to amaze me.

Over the weekend, my mailbox was pretty much filled with one of two kinds of e-mails:

– What will I/what did I think of the “new” Nitro?

– Why was there no Wrestlemania XV rant?

The first one I can answer right now: Because we don’t get Nitro until later tonight up here. The second one is for a couple of reasons. First of all, I ran out of time leading up to the show and just didn’t get the chance to re-rant. I *did* have the live rant from last year’s show, but as my more devoted fans may know, I was hosting a Wrestlemania party at the apartment and as a result there were about 30 people packed into my living room and I was, to say the least, slightly intoxicated. As a result, my ratings were even more liberal than usual and it’s not the kind of report I wanted seen on Wrestleline. Besides, I wanted to rant on the DVD version because I needed an excuse to watch it in full and there wasn’t any other reason before now. If you’re wondering, it’s a fine DVD, chock full of extras like the Wrestlemania Road Rage party, and superstar bios, and interviews with techies, and other cool stuff. The picture is awesome (albeit limited by the non-digital cameras used by the WWF) and the sound is fairly impressive, although really a wrestling crowd can be done easily enough with Dolby Pro-Logic by looping the noise in the front and back speakers without having a discrete 5.1 mix, but hey, I appreciate the extra effort made by the WWF sound guys there anyway. The layer change is pretty noticeable, though, which is pretty much the only real problem with the disc, aside from the Freddy Blassie “Legends” promo that runs in the un-skippable FBI warning slot, like Disney does. Very irritating, especially since they run the same promo AGAIN during the actual introduction for the show. Those are minor quibbles on an otherwise fine first DVD effort from the WWF, however.

Live from Philly.

Your hosts are Michael Cole the Little Goatee Wearing Bitch and Jerry Lawler.

Opening match, Hardcore title: Billy Gunn v. Hardcore Holly v. Al Snow.

The genius that is Vince Russo rears it’s unibrowed head again, as it was decided two weeks before the show that more heat would be generated by putting the Hardcore title on a hardcore icon like Mr. Ass and sticking Road Dogg into the Intercontinental title mix (which Gunn had been building into for months before). It had no effect on the buyrate because the undercard here was superfluous anyway, but boy it sure pissed off a lot of smart marks. And isn’t that what’s important: Swerving the internet fans? Think about it. Billy hits the one line he can effectively memorize after 5 years of partying with the clique before the match. You know, the one about sucking it. Kicky punchy to start. They fight at ringside with the crowd off buying nachos or “Mr. Ass” shirts or commemorative foam asses or something. I think foam asses would be a good idea – the image of the kids at ringside (who the WWF doesn’t market to) with their hands up the souvenir asses would be perversely funny enough to be worth the lawsuits that would inevitably follow. Snow gets a hockey stick, prompting the fans to chant for that hardcore icon, “Let’s Go Flyers”. The WWF should sign this “Flyers” guy, he’s pretty over. Billy Gunn, despite being the Hardcore champion, sticks out like a sore ass here. Snow controls with a broomstick. I wonder if that’s the same one that Ric Flair carried to all those great matches in the 80s? Snow hits a version of Air Sabu on Gunn, drawing “ECW” chants. That’s so banal I won’t even dignify it with a smart-ass remark. Table gets involved, and once again the bitter hand of irony interjects itself into our meaningless lives, as Snow goes through the table. Even in my increasingly drunk state a year ago I was able to call that one from 10 miles away. Gunn does a melodramatic build for the worst finisher in wrestling today, the fame-asser, hitting it on Snow on a chair. Wow, he can put his leg in the air, what a natural athlete. If THAT’S all it takes, then Kevin Nash is Bruce Freakin’ Baumgartner. Anyway, that gets two, and Holly bashes a chair over Gunn’s head (STEEL MEETS VACUUM!) and Holly pins the still-unconscious Al Snow to win his second Hardcore title at 7:06. In retrospect, obviously Bubblehead Billy wasn’t walking out with the title, and the WWF wanted to build to Snow winning the title in a match that MEANT something, so Holly was the logical choice. Match sucked though. ½*

WWF World tag title match: Owen Hart & Jeff Jarrett v. D-Lo Brown & Test.

A year later, and I’m STILL trying to figure out the point in sticking Test in here. Ivory was at ringside for D-Lo, still playing that timeworn wrestling cliché, the SPUNKY FEMALE SIDEKICK WITH ATTITUDE! Who knew Josie and the Pussycats would have such a profound impact on wrestling in later years? Rhetorical question: Test or D-Lo, who has the suckier music at this point? This was, of course, the old “two mismatched guys win a battle royale and get a shot at the tag titles” angle. I hear Vince Russo was pitching it as a sitcom (“Oreo Cookie”) to the networks behind the scenes, but it got nixed when Ed Ferrera playing the third wacky roommate, a spunky transvestite Mexican drag queen who moonlights as a black cop, was deemed too ridiculous and racially offensive, even for the WB. Although I hear they’re considering it as a mid-season replacement if that new Rosie Perez project doesn’t pan out. Anyway, Road Dogg doesn’t coin the term “puppies” until a month or so after this, so Jerry Lawler’s lecherous commentary seems unfocused somehow once Debra appears with her bikini-outfit. He WANTS to use a cutesy euphemism for breasts, but none is readily apparent. What I don’t get is why you can say “ass” but not “tits” on national TV. I mean, we’re only about half a notch away from “fuck” making it’s network debut as it is, why not go all the way? Test gets a quick powerbomb on Owen for two, but takes the enzuigiri and Sharpshooter. D-Lo saves but gets put in the Ricky Morton role. Before the match can go anywhere (like, say, past the 5-minute mark), D-Lo makes the comeback, but chaos erupts and Owen dropkicks him into a Jarrett rollup for the pin to retain at 3:58. Nice finish, not so nice match. ¾* The whole thing never ended up going anywhere, but I think it was just residual anger from Vinnie Ru because no one picked up on that sitcom idea.

Brawl for All: Butterball v. Bart “The Hammer, Lefty, the Man of 1000 Nickname and Nearly as Many Gimmicks, If We Keep Repackaging Him Maybe He Won’t Suck” Gunn.

Blink and you’ll miss Butterball knocking Bart’s head all the way to All-Japan in 30 seconds. If you listen closely, you can hear JR laughing in the back.

The Big Show v. Mankind.

Winner gets to ref the main event. Mick takes a boot to the face, and goes crashing to the floor. They fight for a bit, and Mick gets sent into the stairs. Back in, as the entire front row is treated for oxygen deprivation due to Paul Wight sucking so dramatically, Big Show unleashes his awe-inspiring offense. Why is it awe-inspiring? Because the audience goes “AW, crap, Big Show’s on offense”. Mr. Socko makes his Wrestlemania debut as Foley fights back, but Show keeps fighting the mandible claw off. Finally he does the Vader “fall back on Mick” spot to break the hold. Show abuses Mick with a chair and sets two of them up in the ring, then chokeslams him on them to draw the DQ at 6:50. All those who care, say “aye”. Thought so. ½* Vinnie Mac comes out to confront Show about letting the Corporation down, and gets nailed as a result. This would set up the awesome Union angle, complete with Tugboat “toot toot” soundbite to open up their theme music, thus making “Well It’s the Big Show” sound like Debussi by comparison. On the bright side, it turned Test babyface and thus prevented me from having to fly to Stamford and assassinate Michael Cole the Little Goatee Wearing Bitch for saying “The Corporate Team’s Hired Gun” one time too many in reference to Test. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Intercontinental title match: Road Dogg v. Ken Shamrock v. Goldust v. Val Venis.

This demonstrates the Russo philosophy in a nutshell: If you can’t satisfy ’em, confuse ’em. Are the rubes losing interest in the Shamrock v. Venis program? Then make it a three-way with Gunn, add Ken’s slutty sister Ryan, throw Goldust into the mix, sign a four-way, and swap out Gunn for Road Dogg at the last minute. Voila, SMELL THE BUYRATE! It might suck, but people will be so wrapped up in trying to remember who the fuck hates who that by the time they piece it together, the match will be over! That’s GENIUS! Quick, someone give this man another $100,000 a year down in Atlanta. Dogg’s intros during this match were as awkward as a mullet discussion on Meltzer’s radio show. It is, however, nice to know that despite all the changes leading up to the match, Ryan Shamrock is still a whore. Shamrock and Dogg start, nothing of note. Goldust and Venis go, with Val reversing the Curtain Call into a spinebuster for two. Nice little sequence leads to Shamrock and Dog DDTing both guys, giving Goldust a two. Road Dogg tags in and does his usual to Val. You know you’re in trouble when Ken Shamrock is the moral high ground of a match – I mean, you’ve got the pot-smoking junkie, the porn star, and the sexual deviant. Shamrock is merely high strung by comparison. Too much showboating from Dogg gives Val a backdrop suplex for two. Shamrock comes in and anklelocks Venis, but Val makes the ropes and they fight outside for the hella-lame double-countout. What, were they saving the match for the big blowoff on the next PPV or something? It’s friggin’ Wrestlemania, DO THE JOB. That leaves Goldust and Road Dogg, who had absolutely NO issue and were thus the logical choices for the finalists in Vince Russo World. Ryan Shamrock quickly turns on Goldust, since Road Dogg was the only guy in the match she wasn’t sleeping with and it was his turn, and Road Dogg rolls him up to retain at 9:47. That ending was weaker than D-X’s bong water on drug-testing day. *

HHH v. Kane.

For those like myself who have trouble keeping track of who hated who during the Russo Era, HHH was the degenerate, but lovable, babyface, while Kane was the Corporate, but lovable, heel. SHADES OF GREY RULE! SMELL THE BUYRATE! Kane tombstones Pete Rose, as usual, before the match. HHH backdrops Kane over the top and they brawl on the floor. Kane eats stairs. Back in and then HHH goes voer the top. Kane crotches him on the barricade, and the Mean Street Posses tosses him back to ringside. Into the ring, Kane chokes him out. Legdrop gets two, Kane tosses him back out AGAIN and hits a pescado, although only in the same sense that one would write something like “Erik Watts hits a dropkick”. That is to say, as a little joke between author and reader. Back in, HHH mounts the comeback by…USING THE KNEE! Cue the overbooking as Chyna joins us, and if you look closely you can actually SEE her turning from face to heel and back SEVENTEEN times before she makes it down to ringside. The intensity of the match picks up, as neither guy wants to be stuck with her. Pedigree is blocked and Chyna tosses the stairs into the ring. Drop toe hold onto the stairs puts Kane out, but he’s up and they brawl to the floor AGAIN. Does the term “pre-match planning” mean anything, guys? Kane reverses a Pedigree on the floor, and back in for a chokeslam. Chyna comes in (turning from face to heel 4 times on the ring apron alone) and wallops Kane with a chair, turning face for the moment, and drawing the DQ at 11:33. Yeah, they gave them 12 minutes, just accept it. Big beatdown and tearful reunion results, although in retrospect the impact was lessened somewhat when they turned heel 30 MINUTES LATER. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking last year when I gave it a decent rating. ½*

Vince appoints himself special referee for YOUR main event tonight, because Mick’s in the hospital.

WWF Women’s title: Sable v. Tori.

Tori was still recovering from her lesbian stalker period, and turned to Giant Gonzalez worship as the answer. So-called brawl outside leads to Sable hitting some sort of bodyblock off the apron. Back in and Tori hits two “running” clotheslines (which ended up in the realm of “shuffling” clotheslines after the first few steps) and a botched sunset flip gets two. I’m tempted to blame Sable, but given the god-awful nature of Tori’s matches since then, I think we can distribute the suck equally here. An embarassing wrestling sequence (and I use “wrestling sequence” in the same manner as I used “pescado” in the last match) gets two for Tori. I *think* it was a backslide, but I was too busy laughing at the bimbos to tell for sure and I can’t be bothered rewinding. Ref is bumped, because god knows this match needed SOMEONE to sell a move properly, and Tori counters the powerbomb to escape. Oh my god, she countered one of Sable’s patented moves! Someone tell Dean Malenko he’s got a new threat to his “Man of 1,000 holds” moniker. Nicole Bass does the patented Vinnie Ru Run-In and destroys Tori, and Sablebomb finishes at 5:06. The only thing more pathetic than Sable’s post-match celebration is the fact that this doesn’t even COME CLOSE to worst match of the show. -*

European title match: “Stone Cold” Shane McMahon v. X-Pac.

Common sense and fan sentiment said that X-Pac kills Shane here and goes on to have a successful European title reign. But of course, SWERVES HAVE ATTITUDE, BABEE! X-Pac survives the assault of the Stooges to start, then chases Shane around the ring. Shane runs away like Vince Russo from good ideas. Back in, X-Pac kicks his head off and tries a broncobuster, but Test pulls Shane out. He posts X-Pac for good luck. Shane-O-Mac works him in the corner and then drops…the Greenwich Elbow. X-Pac moves, but Shane lowblows him anyway. Belt-whipping follows, but Shane gets bumped over the top and X-Pac hits a pescado. In this case, the total opposite of the Kane one. It makes contact and everything. X-Pac takes out the Posse, but Test gets in a cheapshot to drop him. Back in, Shane drops a 2nd rope elbow, but gets dropkicked down from the top and superplexed. Test saves the pin, but gets taken out. X-Pac lays in his own shots with the belt, leading to the broncobuster. Test sneaks in and KO’s him with the title belt, however. It gets two. Shane misses his own broncobuster, and Test is in again. He gets a broncobuster for his troubles as HHH and Chyna are out to even the odds. However, HHH turns on X-Pac as Chyna distracts the referee by turning from face to heel 14 times in succession, and Shane retains his title at 8:41. *** However, it turned out to be an important storyline development, because without this match, Shane could never have gone on RAW and officially retired with the title after his first match. Of course, both Shane and the title were un-retired by Summerslam, but this is wrestling, and logic rarely enters into things. Eric Bischoff said so on Meltzer tonight between double-talk, so it must be true.

Heck in the Cell: Big Bossman v. Undertaker.

This one had “bad idea” written all over it as plain as the eyebrow on Vince Russo’s forehead, but that’s never stopped them before. Punchy-kicky to start. And that goes on for good long while before they fight outside. Absurdist line of the night, from (who else), Michael Cole the Little Goatee Wearing Bitch: He declares that Hell in a Cell is dangerous because you can get your fingers caught in it. Lawler does me proud by responding to that one for me. Bossman cuffs Taker to the cell as a spontaneous “boring” chant starts. Undertaker does a bladejob best described as a polite concession to the expectations of Philly fans and the match format. Bossman gets rammed to the cage and joins the Gig Club, although really it’s about 0.0000004 Muta between them and I’ve seen menstrual flows that were more inspiring. Someone get these losers some aspirin and a “Best of Muta” tape, STAT. Meanwhile, the ongoing saga of which side of the arena can do a bigger “boring” chant continues. Sadly, I’m not sitting close enough to the rear speakers to make an informed judgment on the matter. UT mercifully tombstones and pins Bossman at 9:46. Call it -***1/2, and that’s generous. The Brood rappels from the ceiling and HANGS the Bossman, which was of course forgotten by the next night, because CRASH TV = RATINGS.

WWF World title: The Rock v. Steve Austin.

“Stone Cold” Vince McMahon comes out to be special ref, but HBK follows him out and draws the biggest pop of the night. Apparently only people who can pronounce “feces” correctly are allowed to be referees at Wrestlemania, so Vince is left in the cold on that one. Some other guy gets to ref instead. Hey, if YOU care about referee names, CRZ is RIGHT THERE. As for me, anyone who gets knocked out for five minutes from ANYTHING delivered by Billy Gunn isn’t worth a name in my recaps. At this point on the DVD, it drops back to the menu and you have the option of listening to Rock or Austin’s commentary, or neither. Since both sucked, I choose the last one. Slugfest to start, and they immediately do the WWF Main Eventer Time-Wasting Brawl ™. Austin takes a nasty bump to his knee up at the entranceway, and quick switch to the Austin commentary reveals that it looked worse than it felt. What insight. Back to ringside, where Rock goes through the Spanish table. I wonder if the table is proud of Eddy, too? And I wonder what Carlos and Hugo must think when they have to play along with “LATINO HEEEEEEAT” every week? I think I think too much sometimes. Back in, Rock recovers with Rock Bottom for two. Chair gets involved, ref gets the worst of it. Rock destroys Austin’s knee with the chair as ref #2 counts two. Extended chinlock follows. Austin comeback is cut short with a Samoan drop for two. Rock Bottom on the ref takes HIM out of the picture. Stunner on Rock gets…two. Ref #3 has joined us. Vince joins us as well as Rock hits a low blow and Vince decks the ref. “Stone Cold” McMahon beats Austin down in the corner until Mick Foley makes the save and takes over as ref. Austin rolls Rock up for two. Thesz press and running elbow follow, but Rock comes back with another Rock Bottom. People’s Elbow misses, Stunner, sayonara. Good enough match, although Backlash was much better. ***1/4

The Bottom Line: Boy, the alcohol was sure kind to THIS show last year in the original rant. Sobriety and perspective reveals what a load of crap this one really was. Still, X-Pac v. Shane is pretty darn good for a guy who only worked two matches total last year, and Rock v. Austin is solid by default, so it’s not a total stinkeroo.

Besides, you just gotta vent sometimes.

Recommended to buy as a DVD, but not for the show, if that makes sense.