Mike Reviews Every WrestleMania Opening Match (XI to XV)

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

After a brief break last week with Mania X, let’s pick these up again. I’m not really looking forward to this one because I don’t think any of these matches are what you could class as “good” based on my memory, but maybe they’ll surprise me?

WrestleMania XI

Opening Match
Jacob & Eli Blu w/ Uncle Zeb Vs The Allied Powers (Lex Luger and British Bulldog)

This was a bit of a drop off for Luger, as he’d been part of the WWF Title picture a year before and now he’s in the opener scrapping with The Harris Brothers, who are managed by Dutch Mantel. Luger and Bulldog could have probably been a decent option to win the WWF Tag Titles, but it just never happened for whatever reason, even though they both looked the part and were a solid enough mid-level tag team who could believably take on anyone.

The Allied Powers get the babyface shine to start, with Bulldog getting to show off some impressive power by flinging the big Heels about with unerring ease. Luger is barely in there at the start actually, with his main contribution being a moment where he and Bulldog go for stereo powerslams and end up bonking the two Blu Twins into one another. Eventually though Bulldog takes a cheap shot from the Heels and gets worked over for a bit.

The Harris Brothers are two pretty generic big dudes from an in-ring perspective, but they’re solid enough as lower to mid-card Heels in the tag ranks, especially when in there with a talented team. There is a notable botch at one stage where Bulldog clotheslines down both Twins and could easily make the cover, but it’s not time for the hot tag yet so he has to stand around and wait for them to cut him off again, thus making everyone look dumb.

One of the Twins eventually misses an elbow off the second rope and its hot tag Luger, who does a decent comeback, his rubbish punches aside. Things break down following that, with Zeb distracting Luger so the Twins can do the old switcheroo. That doesn’t end up going anywhere though as Bulldog catches the switched Twin with a sunset flip for three.

WINNERS: THE ALLIED POWERS
RATING: *

This had decent energy from Bulldog, but it was also super sloppy and Luger didn’t seem entirely thrilled with his new position in the company. The Blu’s would end up in ECW by the time 96 came along as The Bruise Brothers. Luger would jump to WCW in the autumn of 1995, whilst Bulldog would go Heel in the summer for an ill-fated feud with Diesel that led to a terrible pay per view match in October.

WrestleMania XII

Opening Match
If The Babyface Trio Wins then Yoko gets 5 Minutes with Jim Cornette
Camp Cornette (British Bulldog, Owen Hart and Vader) w/ Jim Cornette Vs Jake Roberts, Ahmed Johnson and Yokozuna

Yoko had been one of Cornette’s clients but Vader had pushed him out of the fold, leading to Yoko getting beaten down at the February pay per view. Yoko has since teamed up with Jake and Ahmed so that he can earn himself a chance to squish Cornette.

The babyfaces start this one hot by clearing the ring, with Ahmed even busting out a TOPE SUICIDA onto Vader. The fans do seem into the idea of Vader and Yoko having a big man collision, although by this stage in his career Yoko was something like 600+ pounds, so he just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to really deliver the big match with Vader that the fans would have liked to see.

Surprisingly Yoko is in there for a quite a while fighting all three Heels, which leads to him becoming the babyface in peril. I suppose he wasn’t going to have the spring in his step for a hot tag so selling and then tagging someone else was probably the best idea; it’s just strange seeing the biggest dude in the match being the one who is cut off and worked over.

Ahmed is sloppy but has great energy, so the crowd gets into his hot tag segment, especially when he leaps around with things like clotheslines. Ahmed takes our second heat segment when Owen cuts him off with a Missile Dropkick behind the refs back, as this has been pretty watchable thus far. My memory of this match was that it was quite dull, but from an action perspective it’s had some fun stuff in it and the crowd has mostly got into it.

Jake gets our second hot tag of the contest and runs wild with punches and clotheslines. The difference between Jake’s punches and Luger’s in the previous match is night and day. Jake also gets cut off though, after barely doing anything, which was probably a mistake as the crowd was up and willing to get into the action and two heat segments is probably enough. You don’t really need three heat segments in your opening six man tag match.

Jake of course sells really well, as he was want to do, and the Heels do some nice stuff, including Owen coming off the ropes with an elbow drop and Bulldog delivering his Running Powerslam. It definitely feels like the match is starting to drag a bit though. Yoko gets our third hot tag of the match, clobbering Vader with punches to pop the crowd. They did a good job getting fans into the idea of Vader Vs Yoko I must say. Things break down and that leads to Jake trying to DDT Cornette, only for Vader to get a cheap shot followed by a Pump Splash for three.

WINNERS: CAMP CORNETTE
RATING: **

The babyfaces not winning was a pretty flat finish, as usually when you do the 5 minute stipulation the babyfaces win so as to give the fans the fun of seeing the manager get killed. If you’re going to tease that stip then you probably need to deliver on it. The match itself was fine but it probably went on for too long with the three heat segments, even if some of the wrestling from the Heels was well executed. Vader and Yoko would have their big pay per view singles match in May, where Vader would beat Yoko to take his place as the premier big man in the company. Jake would end up in a terrible feud with Jerry Lawler over the summer. Bulldog got a brief run with Shawn Michaels over King of the Ring season. Ahmed would win the IC Title but then suffer from injury issues.

WrestleMania 13

Opening Match
Four Corner Elimination Match
The Head Bangers (Mosh and Thrasher) Vs The New Blackjacks (Bradshaw and Windham) Vs Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon Vs The Godwinns (Henry O and Phineas I) w/ Hillbilly Jim

The winning team here gets a tag team title shot on the following evenings Raw. Big schmoz to start with everyone brawling. Eventually Bradshaw and H.O.G end up in the ring and commence smashing mouths, much to Ross’s enjoyment I’m sure. Frequent tags are made, with none of the teams gaining a clear advantage. At one point both Headbangers get tagged in against one another, so they mosh together in a cute bit before tagging out. LaFon and Furnas are clearly the two best pure wrestlers in this, and Furnas even delivers a standing rana to Windham for two. However, it’s not long before the Blackjacks and Furnas/LaFon brawl outside the ring and both teams are disqualified, leaving us with a traditional tag match between the remaining teams. That was one heck of a way to waste one of your more talented teams.

Thrasher gets worked over by The Godwinns for a while and the work is pretty sloppy. At one point Thrasher just randomly decides to stop selling and tag in Mosh, which looked really bad. H.O.G gets a Cactus Clothesline to send him and Mosh tumbling outside, but Mosh shakes it off and then throws Thrasher off the top rope onto H.O.G on the outside. Lawler mocks Vince for not knowing who White Zombie are and Vince states that he prefers the musical stylings of Tony Bennett. Wow, even in 1997 Vince was waaaaaaaaay out of touch with popular culture.

P.I.G gets a tag and runs wild before setting up Mosh for a reverse DDT. Thrasher puts a stop to that with a clothesline however and, whilst he scuffles with H.O.G, Mosh comes off the top rope with a Thesz Press onto P.I.G to give the Head Bangers the win.

WINNERS: THE HEAD BANGERS
RATING: *

A sloppy and heatless match with a few good spots, mostly from LaFon and Furnas. The Bangers would not win the titles the following night but would enjoy a month’s title reign later on in the year before losing them to, you guessed it, The Godwinns when P.I.G would counter that same Thesz Press into a Powerbomb. Foreshadowing or an accidental call back? I’ll leave it to you to decide…

WrestleMania XIV

Opening Match
Tag Team Battle Royal for #1 Contender to WWF Tag Team Titles
The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk) (w/Sunny) Vs Bradshaw & Chainz Vs Flash Funk & Steve Blackman Vs Los Boricuas #1 (Miguel Perez & Savio Vega) Vs Los Boricuas #2 (Jesus Castillo & Jose Estrada) Vs The Disciples Of Apocalypse (8-Ball & Skull) Vs The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) Vs The Head Bangers (Mosh & Thrasher) Vs The Nation Of Domination (D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry) #1 Vs The Nation Of Domination #2 (Faarooq & Kama Mustafa) Vs The Midnight Express (Bodacious Bart & Bombastic Bob) (w/Jim Cornette) Vs The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre) Vs The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) Vs The Truth Commission (Recon & Sniper) Vs Too Much (Brian Christopher & Scott Taylor)

Hawk and Animal had teased splitting up in the weeks prior to Mania, but now they’re back with a makeover and Sunny as their manager. They get the big pop of course and that pretty much guarantees that they’ll be picking up the win. This match happened just so they could get everyone on the show so that they could all share in a WrestleMania payday.

It’s pretty hard to keep track of all of these guys going at it in there. Kurrgan and Barry Windham make cameo appearances as well, even though they aren’t in the match, with Kurrgan causing Truth Commission to be eliminated as he was feuding with them at the time whilst Windham causes Bradshaw’s team to be eliminated because he was feuding with him.

It comes down to The Godwinns, Midnights and Road Warriors, with The Godwinns getting eliminated but then coming back in to lay out The Road Warriors so that The Midnights can have an advantage. That leads to a decent closing section, as The Road Warriors make the big comeback and end up winning to pop the crowd.

WINNERS: THE ROAD WARRIORS
RATING: *1/2

Not the hottest opener outside of The Road Warriors being over, but it was watchable at least. This run for The Road Warriors would soon run out of steam and by the end of the year they were doing stuff like having a drug dependant Hawk threatening suicide from the top of the Titan Tron in an effort to give them something to do from a storyline perspective.

WrestleMania XV

Opening Match
WWF Hardcore Title
Champ: Billy Gunn Vs Hardcore Holly Vs Al Snow w/ Head

This match was a glaring example of Vince Russo enjoying SWERVES far too much for his own good. Road Dogg, Holly and Snow had an interesting three way rivalry over the Hardcore Title going, whilst Gunn was embroiled in a four way issue for the IC Title with Goldust, Val Venis and Shamrock. It was all building to Road Dogg Vs Holly Vs Snow at Mania, which would have been a logical pay off to the whole thing and could have been a big singles win for Road Dogg to get him cooking on that front whilst Gunn won the IC Title in the four way later on.

However, Russo being Russo, he decided to have Gunn win the Hardcore Title and Road Dogg win the IC Title just days out from Mania, thus destroying two well-built stories and leaving us with two, now, flat matches at Mania, just so the fans could be swerved with something they weren’t expecting. Of course, the reason they wouldn’t expect it was because it made absolutely zero sense to do those Title switches and ruined storylines that fans had been invested in for the past 3-4 months, but trivial stuff like that tended not to bother Russo or his acolytes.

This one is all-action, with all three guys going at it from the opening bell. Gunn doesn’t even get to do his catchphrase, and that was 85% of his act at the time! The expected weaponry gets introduced, which leads to Snow hitting both guys with a hockey stick so that the fans start chanting for the local NHL team. Aside from that, the crowd isn’t really into the match that much. As far as Hardcore Title matches from this Era go it’s decent, with Snow being the star of the match when it comes to big bumps.

Holly probably does the least, as he spends most of the match either getting beaten up or lying around selling whilst Snow and Gunn do the more interesting stuff together. I don’t know if he was injured or if the match result meant that they felt he didn’t need to do as much in the match itself because he was eventually going to win. We get the traditional WWF/E spot of someone stealing the pin in a 3 way match, this time with Holly pinning Snow after Gunn had already taken him out with a Fame-Asser on a chair.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: HARDCORE HOLLY
RATING: **

This was inoffensive WWF Hardcore stuff, and due to Gunn inexplicably getting added to it the match didn’t really have much heat either because it went from being a match with an actual story to just being a throwaway opener with an even more throwaway result. Holly and Snow would face one another at Backlash in April whilst Gunn would eventually win the King of the Ring in June.

Not much going on this week. Thankfully there’s at least an historically significant match next week that I’ll be able to get my teeth into.