Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ranking the top ten matches of the first ten WrestleManias

So, we're a third of the way through the history of WrestleMania at this point. I can guarantee you i won't make it to WMXXX before WMXXXI comes along, but i still see getting through the first 10 as some sort of accomplishment, albeit one that doesn't come with any validation other than my own sense of accomplishment. Not a lot of people are reading these and that's ok, because i'm having a great time doing this. But for those who are following along, WrestleMania X seems like a great time to take stock and look back at the matches we've seen so far. Here's a list of my top 10 matches from the first 10 WrestleManias. Huzzah. (You'll notice by some of the bottom entries that overall, we've dealt with more bad matches than good. I have a feeling the top 10 for WMXI thru WMXX will be stronger overall.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

WWE Network World Tour: WrestleMania X

Can we talk more about my unabashed Hart Family fanboy-ism? After the debacle that was WrestleMania IX, my wrestling viewing stuck almost exclusively to WCW when i happened to be in front of a television, only hearing occasional channel-surfing updates or news from the Apter mags about how Yokozuna took back the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan at the first King of the Ring PPV (because, it's been rumored in later years, that Hogan refused to drop the title back to Bret "Hitman" Hart at SummerSlam, claiming that Hart's size made a victory over him improbable to his precious fanbase). After Hogan left the WWF to retire to television, filming a cheesy crime-fighting beach show called Thunder in Paradise, the WWF attempted to turn "The Narcissist" Lex Luger into a patriotic babyface and, they hoped, the future face of the company. This led to a goofy "body slam challenge" on an aircraft carrier on Independence Day, where Yokozuna declared that no american athlete could bodyslam him...until Luger completed his face turn by standing up for his country's pride by bravely slamming the evil Samoan Japanese grappler. Meanwhile, my man Bret Hart was given the consolation prize of winning the titular King of the Ring tournament at the same PPV where Yoko regained the strap, setting off a bitter feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler that lasted the remainder of 1993 (how dare the Hitman declare himself "King of the Ring" when Lawler was the real king of wrestling? I mean, logically, wouldn't Lawler's beef be with the WWF promoters who named the tournament? Eh, that would have made sense, and this is wrestling we're talking about). In addition, a grudge was starting to develop between Bret and his brother Owen, who was becoming resentful of living in his older brother Bret's shadow.

So as WrestleMania season 1994 rolled around, the top two babyfaces in the company were the corporate-anointed face of the company--muscle-headed "patriot" Lex Luger; and the guy who, thanks to consistently putting on entertaining matches with anyone he was put in the ring with, refused to step aside as the fans' true favorite--Bret Hart. Which man would go to WrestleMania X to face the diabolical Yokozuna for the belt--the guy ostensibly standing up for his country, or the guy who got screwed out of the title last year and still had unfinished business with the sumo giant and his devious manager (who, if you'll recall, threw salt in Bret's eyes to cost him the title)?

Well, that's what the Royal Rumble match is for. The storyline angle of the Rumble winner earning a shot at the WWF World Title at WrestleMania was a hit with the fans in '93, and proved so compelling in subsequent years that every Rumble winner since has left the PPV with the title shot in their back pocket. In 1994, though, the Rumble ended in controversial fashion, when the last two men in the ring--Luger and Hart--fell out of the ring together, hitting the floor at the exact same time. Shades of Hogan-Orndorff in the steel cage on Saturday Night's Main Event!


These days, the WrestleMania main event would immediately be booked as a triple-threat match between all three wrestlers, but this was 1994, and the triple-threat had not yet entered the WWF consciousness. So it was decided that both men would receive separate title shots during the show, with a bonus match added to ensure that Luger and Hart each wrestled twice. A coin was flipped; if Hart won, he'd wrestle Yokozuna first, and the winner would then face Luger later in the night. Luger would, in turn, wrestle Crush earlier in the show. However, Luger won the coin toss and got the first title shot, meaning Hart would open the show against his brother Owen, who turned on Bret after their tag team title loss to the Quebecers at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.

So heading into WrestleMania X, the big question was: who would end the night as WWF Champ? No heel had yet emerged victorious from the final match of a WrestleMania (although Yoko came closest), so would it be the all-American, company-approved muscle man, or would it be the smaller technician--the better wrestler of the two? (If this storyline premise sounds awfully familiar to this year's main event storyline, it makes an interesting coincidence, doesn't it?) On with the show--we have a friggin' Bret/Owen match to get to, so we already know this show is gonna be worlds better than last year's! Also, there's something about a little ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon that should be at least watchable.