Happy Wednesday Everyone!
I decided that before I move on to the less-than-stellar opening matches of WrestleMania’s XI-XV, I would instead review WrestleMania X first, because I’ve already reviewed two of the bigger matches from it and it’s a show I generally enjoy watching, so watching the matches I haven’t reviewed yet shouldn’t take too long and I’ll likely enjoy myself in the process, so why not?
The big storylines coming into this Mania were that Crush had betrayed his friend Randy Savage to align himself with Yokozuna, leading to Savage coming into this show looking for vengeance. Bret Hart had an issue going on with his brother Owen, but he’d also co-won the Royal Rumble with Lex Luger, so after wrestling Owen he’s then got to come out and wrestle again against the winner of Yoko/Luger.
And if all that wasn’t big enough to contend with, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had a feud going on that saw the ladder match make its way to WWF pay per view for the first time (Shawn and Bret had done a ladder match previously exclusively for Home Video back in 1992).
The event is emanating from Madison Square Garden on the 20th of March 1994
Calling the action are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler
Little Richard opens things up with America The Beautiful
Owen Hart Vs Bret Hart
This one had quite the layered backstory. Bret and Owen had been on the same Survivor Series team at the 93 event, where Bret had accidentally collided with Owen leading to Owen getting eliminated. It looked like the two brothers were set to feud, but Bret didn’t want that and they were able to reconcile over Christmas, leading to them getting a Tag Title shot against The Quebecers at the Royal Rumble. The brothers ended up losing that match though when Bret’s knee gave out on him, leading to a bitter Owen kicking out Bret’s leg from under his leg because he felt Bret should have tagged him in. Bret would go on to win the Rumble match itself later on along with Lex Luger when they both went over at the same time, meaning he would get a WWF Title shot later on in the show after he had already faced Owen in the opener. Apparently Bruce Hart originally pitched the idea with himself in the Owen role, but Owen ended up getting it because Bret wanted to give him a boost.
In a funny bit the crowd thinks that Owen’s entrance will be for Bret at first, leading to them briefly cheering before switching to outright hatred. Being the younger brother, Owen has decided to play this as cocky arrogant little toe rag so that the fans don’t ever feel sorry for him that his bigger brother is beating him up. It was a genius move on his part, as apparently the matches between the two were getting mixed reactions from crowds at house shows at first when Owen was trying to play it a bit differently. The way they work this match here would make it near impossible to cheer for Owen due to how much of a berk he is being.
We get some excellent technical wresting to start and they build nicely to things getting more aggressive as the two brothers eventually start scrapping more with things like strikes and clotheslines. They have the crowd in the palm of their hands as well, with them popping for Bret finally getting a big offensive flurry on Owen during the shine, including when he clotheslines Owen out to the floor at one stage. Whenever Owen ever gets a chance to control things he always berates and yells at Bret to get across the story of how frustrated he is at having to take a backseat to Bret in recent years.
The storytelling in general in this match is great and they combine it with some great wrestling as well. Bret really sells big for Owen’s offence as well, which instantly gives Owen credibility as more than just the lower mid-card act he’d been portrayed as previously up to this point, especially when Owen actively gets the better of Bret with counters on certain occasions. Things become a real back and forth battle at one stage, with both men getting near falls and the crowd being completely engrossed with the action that is going on in the ring.
The big twist in the match comes when Bret gets a dive to the floor on Owen and comes up limping, thus giving him a target for Owen to focus on. Bret of course sells that really well and the crowd instantly picks up that things aren’t right with his leg. The crowd has been following every single story point in this match and have reacted exactly as you’d want them to. It’s been a masterful job from Bret and Owen to tell the story they are telling. This match is a great example of using a wrestling match itself to really advance and develop an ongoing feud or storyline.
Bret eventually makes a comeback but his leg injury is visibly slowing him down in the process. Bret gives the perfect example here of how to fight back whilst still consistently selling an injured body part. It’s a skill some wrestlers don’t have, but it’s so important when it comes to immersion from a storytelling perspective. It can be super annoying to see a wrestler sell a body part for a period of time only to then shrug it all off when it’s their turn to fight back. Bret gets the balance just right here with his comeback. It’s an underappreciated skill I think sometimes.
The finish is done superbly as well, with Owen trying The Sharpshooter on Bret, only for Bret to counter it to his own. His leg not being right means he can’t really cinch in it though, so the match continues with Bret trying to go for the Victory Roll he used to defeat Bam Bam Bigelow at King of the Ring 1993. Owen has his brother scouted though and counters the move into a pinning hold of his own, which leads to him picking up the clean three count to the shock of everyone. Not only does that actually give the fans a finish but it also gives Owen instant credibility and leaves the door open for a rematch, whilst also taking nothing away from Bret as it was a great match and he just happened to get caught.
WINNER: OWEN HART
This is still one of the best WrestleMania matches of all-time in my opinion. What I loved about this match is that not only was the wrestling executed perfectly but they nailed the storytelling aspect as well and the character work from Owen in particular was exactly what it needed to be. The crowd played a big part as well, as they were totally into the story being told and really appreciated the good wrestling that was going on as well. This is a must-see match if you’ve never seen it before. It still absolutely holds up.
Owen brags about his win post-match backstage with Todd Pettengill. He also thinks that Bret won’t be able to come out and win the WWF Title later.
WrestleMania Moment: The Big Battle Royal at Mania 2 with all the football players.
Howard Finkel joins us with a new hair-do courtesy of Sy Sperling. Anyone else think they were stretching for celebrities at this Mania? Whose next “Ladies and Gentleman, give it up for the janitor who worked at the Konami offices when ISS Deluxe was being made!”
Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon Vs Doink The Clown and Dink
Bammer and Doink had been feuding since the autumn of 1993, with the feud leading to the Doink character going babyface and Matt Borne quitting as a result. Heel Doink was a nefarious and entertaining character, but babyface Doink was super lame and the character soon became hated by everyone outside of kids. The Doink character got played by a few different people once Borne left, but according to CageMatch.net it was currently Ray Apollo under the face paint when this show took place.
Doink doesn’t even get to take his jacket off in the early going due to the match starting quick. Dink is a little person played by Tiger Jackson and the crowd seems to like him more than they do Doink, especially whenever he’s able to get some offence in on his bigger opponents. Luna gives him quite a kicking at points and Dink sells that well. It’s mostly played for comedy and works well enough as a cool down match following the hot opener.
They of course tease Bammer doing a King Kong Bundy job on Dink at one stage, but that doesn’t end up happening and Dink mostly just works spots with Luna. Luna actually takes some good bumps here, including when she misses a splash off the top rope onto Dink. Doink doesn’t really have much luck with Bigelow, who mostly gets the better of him in their exchanges. Doink does manage to catch Bammer with a big Mickie James styled DDT at one stage though, which did look cool. Bigelow comes back though and head butts Doink off the top for three.
WINNERS: BIGELOW & LUNA
This wasn’t especially good or anything but I didn’t hate it and it worked well as a brief comedy break
There’s a notable botch in the post-match as Dink is supposed to dodge a splash from both Bigelow and Luna but he can’t get out of the way of Luna and ends up having to essentially no sell the splash. Doink and Dink do end up standing tall in the ring but it’s pretty flat.
Fake Bill Clinton is in the arena. Thankfully it wasn’t the real Clinton or Christopher Hitchens would have likely written a long polemic in Vanity Fair about how the WWF had sunk even lower than it already had by bringing William Jefferson Clinton in to watch the show.
WrestleMania Moment: A disputed number of people come and watch WrestleMania III
Falls Count Anywhere
Crush w/ Mr. Fuji Vs Randy Savage
This one has a weird stipulation in that you have to pin your opponent outside of the ring and then they have 60 seconds to get back into the ring. I’m not sure why they didn’t just do a wild brawl with one fall to finish it, as these stipulations take away from the drama a bit due to all the pin falls that take place in such a short period of time, such as Crush pinning Savage something like 20 seconds in by dropping him on the guardrails when Savage tries to start things hot. There’s also a lot of waiting around whilst guys take 50-60 seconds to get back into the ring.
Savage sells the dramatic climb back into the ring really well at least, and the crowd do get into it when it looks like he won’t make it back in. The match itself is a decent brawl for the most part, with good energy from Savage, who seems really jazzed to have a feature match on such a big show like this and he really puts the WrestleMania Effort™ in. Each man gets a fall each, with Savage only just making it in following a Fuji cheap shot, whilst Crush only makes it back in due to Fuji reviving him with some iced tea when he’s knocked out on the floor.
Both men eventually Memphis/FMW/ECW things up a bit by brawling through the crowd into the backstage area, which I don’t think was something that happened a lot back in the WWF during this period, so it makes this particular match feel special. Sadly the finish ends up going a bit skewwhiff, as Savage tries to hogtie Crush to something backstage and then winches him up. However, Savage can’t get the winch to hold and that leads to Crush tumbling back down to the floor and having to pretend that he can’t undo his legs, leading to Savage winning.
WINNER: RANDY SAVAGE
Issues with the stipulation and finish aside, this has some good energy and I had fun with it.
Savage gets a great reaction following that in the post-match celebration, showing that there was still some juice in the Savagemobile if he was used correctly, something WCW learned when they poached him later in the year.
Fake Bill Clinton enjoyed that match. IRS shows up and thanks Clinton for raising taxes.
We get clips of WestleMania Fanfest, narrated by Todd. Todd was very smooth with the voice-over here. You can see why he kept his job for as long as he did.
Randy Savage celebrates amongst the fans in the closed circuit area.
WrestleMania Moment: Randy Savage wins the WWF Title at Mania IV. Hulk Hogan is obviously absent from the highlights because they were trying to push that Savage was the bigger star of the two at the time due to Hogan being on the outs with the WWF.
WWF Women’s Title
Champ: Alundra Blayze Vs Lelani Kai
Kai of course wrestled for the Women’s Title on the first WrestleMania event at MSG, so it’s nice symmetry that she’s getting a shot here. Blayze didn’t really have a lot of competition at this time but Bull Nakano would beef the division up somewhat later in the year. The crowd doesn’t really get that in to this and they don’t seem to gel that well as opponents, but it’s mostly all-action and it’s not terrible or anything. Blayze gets some nice rana’s and then ends it with a German Suplex after Kai takes most of the match with basic offence.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: ALUNDRA BLAYZE
Kind of just two people having a match
Fabulous Moolah was watching that one, probably pondering how she could politic her way into defeating Blayze for the belt.
WrestleMania Moment: Roddy Piper and Morton Downey Jr
WWF Tag Team Titles
Champs: Les Québécois (Jacques et Pierre) avec Johnny Polo Vs Men on a Mission (Mabel and Mo) w/ Oscar
The Quebecers had defeated The Steiner Brothers for the belts and had briefly dropped them to 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty before winning them back. Men on a Mission would actually get a quick reign at some point as well, which Maffew has covered in this excellent video. They don’t win them tonight though, even though it would have been an easy pop and it’s not like it would have hurt The Quebecers much.
Men on a Mission are pretty over with the crowd and they enjoy the opening babyface shine until Mo gets cheap shotted behind the refs back and worked over in the Heel corner. Mo sells that well and the Champs do some decent tandem offence. Lawler of course has fun at Mabel’s expense on commentary, talking about how he had to be baptised at Sea World etc.
We actually get a “Let’s Go Mo” chant from the crowd at one stage, which is pretty impressive that he was able to garner that kind of crowd support. Mabel’s hot tag segment doesn’t get the reaction you’d expect following it though for some reason, even though he does a good comeback and the Champs bump around nicely for it.
The Champs manage to reply by giving him a very impressive double suplex though, but he kicks out of the follow up Cannon Ball off the top. They’ve worked hard here and it’s been an entertaining match. Sadly the finish is a bit of a damp squib, as Mabel squishes Pierre outside the ring and he can’t get back in, leading to Men on a Mission winning by count out in a pretty flat ending.
WINNERS: MEN ON A MISSION (QUEBECERS RETAIN)
I actually enjoyed that match outside of the flat finish. They should have just changed the belts here to pop the crowd
WrestleMania Moment: Ultimate Warrior Vs Hulk Hogan, which they include mainly because Hogan lost it seems.
Guest Timekeeper: Rhonda Shear of Up All Night on USA Network
Guest Ring Announcer: Donnie Wahlberg of N.K.O.T.B
Guest Referee: Mr. Perfect
WWF Title Double Header Part One
Champ: Yokozuna w/ Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette Vs Lex Luger
N.K.O.T.B was a bit before my time but I do remember Beef Wellington using “Hanging Tough” as entrance music on the indies in the 00’s. Vince stresses on commentary that BOTH parties have to agree to the guest referee, meaning the Yoko camp knew Perfect was going to be here and signed off on it. Lawler is appalled by that, but it’s actually foreshadowing as to what is about to happen. Luger already had a big Count Out win over Yoko at SummerSlam 93, so he’s looking to go one better tonight and get a pin to win the belt.
Luger had actually paraded around the WWF Title at a TV taping prior to Mania, which led to those who found it thinking it meant that Luger was going to leave Mania with the belt. They decide to give these guys nearly 15 minutes, which is probably 8-10 more that Yoko could give you at this stage in his career. Yoko was actually a very good big man worker, he just had the cardio of an asthmatic gerbil due to his considerable girth and it meant most of his matches past the 5 minute mark ended up being rest-hold city.
Luger gets a decent babyface shine to start, coming off the top with a cross body and dropping a big elbow for two, but when he goes for a bodyslam it ends up going awry and Yoko lands on top of him to begin the Heel heat portion of the match. Things kind of grind to a halt at that point as Yoko is already drenched in sweat and positively knackered following the reasonably hot opening section. This means he busts out his favourite trope of the dreaded nerve pinch, the rest hold that requires the absolute least amount of effort in all of wrestling.
Yoko goes to the hold on at least four separate occasions, as this match is going nowhere fast. I mean, at least mix the rest holds up a bit. You’re a big dude; stick him in a camel clutch or a bear hug or something. Anything than another 7-8 minutes of you just sitting on the mat in a nerve pinch whilst the crowd thinks about what it wants for dinner. Luger does finally manage to fight out of the hold and mount a brief comeback, which leads to a body slam on Yoko followed by a running forearm smash. Luger beats up the managers instead of making a pin though, which leads to Perfect not wanting to count until they are cleared out of the ring, which leads to Luger shoving him and getting DQ’ed.
WINNER BY DQ AND STILL CHAMPION: YOKOZUNA
A staggeringly boring match with a crappy finish to boot, although the finish at least had a point of setting up a Luger Vs Perfect feud. Those who remember WrestleMania IX will know that Luger and Perfect were not friends or allies prior to this, so Perfect essentially screwing Luger shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Perfect tells Todd that Luger has no one to blame but himself for shoving him and getting DQ’ed. Luger comes over to yell at him, which leads to officials getting between them so that they can’t fight. I believe they did book a House Show run between the two but none of the matches ended up happening.
WrestleMania Moment: The blindfold match between Jake Roberts and Rick Martel at WrestleMania VII. That’s a weird choice to be honest. Why not show Shawn Michaels pinning Haku to get his first big WrestleMania victory?
Howard Finkel and Harvey Whippleman get into an argument, which leads to Fink knocking him down to get a pop from the crowd. Now THAT was a WrestleMania Moment! This leads us into the next match when Adam Bomb runs down to help his manager.
Adam Bomb w/ Harvey Whippleman Vs The Earthquake
Quake quickly puts Bomb away with The Aftershock for a quick pop.
Vince pushes on commentary that Quake could be an opponent for Yokozuna going forward, and indeed they did work a bit of a feud together which saw Quake actually defeating Yoko in a Sumo Match.
Todd Pettengill is backstage with Yokozuna, Fuji and Cornette. Cornette cuts a good promo hyping up the Main Event, stressing that Bret won’t be able to win later on due to his leg injury. Cornette put Yoko over big time there and was a very important part of making this act work.
WrestleMania Moment: Undertaker’s entrance at Mania VIII. Oh come on, is that the best moment they could take from that event. Why not show Savage winning another belt? You can cut around Ric Flair if needed.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: Razor Ramon Vs Shawn Michaels w/ Diesel
Shawn had been suspended in the autumn of 93 for failing a steroid test, leading to Razor Ramon defeating Rick Martel for the vacant Title. Shawn was back now though and had been carrying around his own version of the IC Title, feeling that as he had never been defeated for it he was still the rightful Champion. After a brutal attack where Shawn gave Razor three Razor’s Edges on the concrete floor, a ladder match was set up, with the winner being the man who would climb the ladder to claim both belts.
Diesel is quickly kicked out of there, leaving us with a one on one match between Shawn and Razor. And what a match it is! Because the match hadn’t been overdone as a concept at this yet, the fans feel every bump and weapon shot that little bit more due to it being a genuinely special match that you don’t see all the time. It helps that both Shawn and Razor sell everything big, with there being nothing wasted when it comes to the ladder spots and nothing getting easily shrugged off either. When each man hits the other with the ladder it’s designed as something of consequence rather than a throwaway spot.
You could have this match today and it would still be one of the best matches on any given show. Not only does it have big spots of people falling off ladders, but it also has sustained selling and a genuine intensity to it. Razor’s contribution is often unfairly downplayed when it comes to this match. Yes, it is Shawn who takes the bigger bumps, but Razor plays his part well and doesn’t look out of place in the same ring with Michaels at all. His overness as a babyface really helps with getting the fans into the new concept.
Shawn coming off the ladder with a big splash is probably the spot the match is best remembered for, and not only does it look spectacular but it’s also executed perfectly. By comparison to some of the big ladder spots you’d get today it’s almost tame by comparison, but less can be more in the hand of the right person, and that one splash has probably stood the test of time better than many other wackier or more dangerous spots that have come along since. The selling is really what makes the match work, as it turns the match from just being a collection of spots into an actual match that just happens to have a ladder involved in it.
There’s a great moment at one stage where Razor sends Shawn out of the ring after taking some sustained offence and he has a chance to try and climb, but instead he chases Shawn to the outside and clobbers him with the ladder some more because now Shawn has really made him mad and it’s payback time. I love little things like that. Some of the climb teases are done fantastically well, such as when Razor starts to climb but Shawn climbs the turnbuckle behind him, leading to real buzz in the crowd as they can see Razor is about to be foiled but know they can’t do anything to help him.
One of the biggest reactions in the whole match comes from Razor powerslamming Shawn off the ladder to the floor, only for the ladder to topple over to send Razor down to the mat anyway, meaning he has to climb up again and that brief delay gives Shawn just enough time to dropkick him off the ladder again. That not only got a great reaction from the crowd but it also made complete sense within the story of the match. Eventually Razor is able to knock Shawn off the ladder with one last gasp attack and that leads to Shawn getting first his foot and then his arm trapped in the ropes, meaning Razor is able to climb and claim the belts just as Shawn breaks free. The timing on that finish was superb.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: RAZOR RAMON
This still definitely holds up for me and completes the one-two knock-out punch combo this show has. Shawn probably gained more from this in defeat than he would have gained from victory due to his performance being so great. Razor carried his end well and the match was a great mix of wild high spots and storytelling. I’d be shocked if you’re reading this and have never seen this match, but on the off chance that’s the case I strongly suggest you go and check this one out.
Razor celebrates atop the ladder with his two belts in an iconic image.
The Heels in the upcoming 10 man tag can’t get along, so that match is cancelled. In reality the show had ran long so they held the match on Raw instead.
Ted Dibiase tries to buy Fake Clinton, who isn’t on board with that.
WrestleMania Moment: Yoko defeats Bret Hart for the WWF Title.
We get a video package to hype up both Bret Hart and Yokozuna ahead of the next match. I always liked Bret’s thumbs up at the end of his section. That should really be a meme in all honesty.
Guest Timekeeper: Jennie Garth of 90210
Guest Ring Announcer: Burt Reynolds of Burt Freakin’ Reynolds
Guest Referee: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
WWF Title Double Header Part Two
Champ: Yokozuna w/ Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette Vs Bret Hart
Yoko jumpstarts things and starts working Bret over right away, with Bret selling it all well and making the odd sporadic comeback. Yoko always regains control however, and keeps the pressure up on Bret, moving slowly so as to conserve energy. Piper shows that he is not going be biased like Perfect was earlier, by telling off Yoko’s managers when they try to cheat and just generally calling it the match fairly. Bret eventually manages to club Yoko down with great difficulty, which leads to Cornette pulling Piper out of the ring to remonstrate with him, thus leading to Piper popping him in the mush with a big punch.
Piper and Yoko have an argument, but Yoko regains control of the match and drops a big leg on Bret. Man, Yoko is absolutely frazzled here. He probably needed a couple of days in an iron lung following this pay per view after being forced to wrestle twice in one night. They do a count out tease by having Yoko throw Bret outside, mainly to allow Yoko to get a breather, but Bret makes it back in. Yoko misses a charge in the corner, which allows Bret to get the bulldog from the second rope like he did from the previous year, which gets him a two count.
Fans were totally buying that near fall, and are gutted that Yoko managed to kick out. Talk about getting the most out of everything. Bret gets a couple more near falls on Yoko off basic stuff, which gives the crowd the ominous feeling that Bret might not be able to put the monster away. Bret heads up to the second rope for what looks like an axe handle smash, but Yoko catches him on the way down and delivers a nice belly to belly suplex before dragging Bret into the corner for the Bonzai Drop. Yoko stops to taunt however, which proves to be his undoing as he loses his footing and tumbles down to the mat, which allows Bret to get the cover and the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BRET HART
Yokozuna being absolutely goosed ahead of this match meant it was fought at quite a lethargic pace and the crowd really didn’t pick up until Bret started getting the near falls. I know the way the match ended is unpopular with some, and I understand why, but I quite like it. It’s almost poetic that Yoko’s big monster Title reign came to an end because he allowed himself to get overconfident and essentially cause his own undoing. Sometimes it’s great to see villains done in by their own hubris.
Most of the babyface roster comes down to celebrate with Bret following the match, whilst Owen Hart glares from the entrance way that his brother Bret has overshadowed him once again. This would lead to an awesome cage match at Summer Slam between the two brothers.
This is a two match show, but those two matches are two of the best matches I’ve ever seen, so the show is a thumbs up based on that alone. The rest of the show is mostly inoffensive and is really just the side salad that accompanies the surf and turf main course, and I like me some surf and turf.