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.

We start with a dreamy piano-scored flashback to the first WrestleMania. Remember when Hulk Hogan and an actor beat Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff using a foreign object? Remember when Cyndi Lauper managed Wendi Richter? Remember when Doink the Clown wasn't a clown, and was just a guy named Matt Borne and was jobbing to Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat? Ah, how times have changed. Steamboat's over in WCW, with Hulk Hogan soon to follow (have i mentioned this is the first WrestleMania without Hulk Hogan? FUCKING FINALLY), and Doink isn't even Matt Borne anymore, but some guy named Ray Apollo! MEMORIES.

The trippy title graphic settles on an image of a coin with two heads--one Luger, one Hart, and as it floats away and disintegrates into pixie dust (so, what, Yoko's gonna win? I'm already confused), we arrive in Madison Square Garden, back where all this WrestleMania nonsense started! "WELCOME TO WRESTLEMANIA X!" growls Vince McMahon, and he immediately throws it to this year's "America the Beautiful" performer, Little Richard! Richard is lip-syncing his ASS off, and it's really bad looking, so they immediately cut to the montage of fruited plains and flags and shit before coming back to the ring, where Richard is still barely synced up with his own vocals. Even busting out a full choir in church robes ain't gonna save this (especially since they're supposedly singing along, even though not a single one is wearing a mic). Can we keep the camera on the Asian dude in the front row with the tiger-striped leather jacket? That dude rules.

Hey wait...that's a Shawn Michaels jacket, isn't it? Never mind, fuck this dude. Long-haired guy with Hitman shades, though? Mint.

Our commentators for the evening's proceedings are Vince McMahon and Jerry "The King" Lawler, making his first appearance at a WrestleMania and immediately asking "was that Little Richard's real voice or was his underwear too tight?" I dunno, does tight underwear cause one's mouth to fall out of sync with the words one is forming? A question for another time perhaps, as Vince immediately frames the narrative of the night, sending us to a highlight montage of the events leading up to our opening contest, Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. We see Owen get pinned at the Survivor Series after colliding with Bret on the apron, leading Owen to immediately challenge his brother to a match (which Bret refuses, stating that in no way will he ever step into the ring against his own flesh and blood). We then see the brothers apparently reconcile, only to have Owen blame Bret and his injured knee for their losing a Royal Rumble tag title match to the Quebecers and attack him immediately after! Come on down, Richard Dawson--it's time for the Family Feud!

Match 1: Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. "The Rocket" Owen Hart

Wait, who the hell is this ring announcer? WHERE IS HOWARD FINKEL? Wikipedia tells me this guy with the crewcut/mullet combo is "Bill Dunn." When i click on his name to learn more, i get this:

"'Bill Dunn' may refer to:
  • Bill Dunn (American politician) (born 1961), American politician and member of the Tennessee House of Representatives
  • Bill Dunn (Australian politician) (1877–1951), Australian politician and member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
  • Bill Newton Dunn (born 1941), British politician
  • Bill Dunn, main character in the short story "The Reign of the Superman"
...So, that tells me nothing. Anyway, he's not Howard Finkel, so i don't like him. Owen Hart is coming down to ringside with his very unfortunate early 90s-Casio keyboard entrance music and some Hitman shades, so maybe the Asian guy with the Hitman shades is actually an Owen Hart fan instead? Vince advises us to look for a classic wrestling match, while Lawler is sure we're gonna get a brawl. Out comes the Hitman to a loud ovation, killing it in a thigh-length leather jacket as Vince rattles off his credentials: two-time Tag Team Champ. Two-time Intercontinental Champ. Former WWF World Champ (and at this point only the second man to win all three titles, after Pedro Morales). 1993 King of the Ring (which Lawler predictably scoffs at). Lawler, by the way, is completely grating in his first outing as 'Mania color man. "What do you think is going through the minds of Stu and Helen Hart right now, McMahon? I was hoping we'd see Stu here tonight in his orthopedic tuxedo." Huh? At least when Ventura or Heenan heel it up on the mic, A) they do it under the guise of "legit" commentary, and B) they're actually clever. Lawler's just a braying jackass so far, and it's not simply because he's heeling on the Hitman. 

Both men lock up, and Owen immediately breaks out of it and throws his hands in the air, yelling "YEAH!" as the boos rain down. The competitors pace the ring and lock up again, Owen connecting with a fireman's carry that Bret immediately counters into a headscissors which Owen kips up out of, playing to the crowd all the while. "I'm the best!" 

The storytelling is subtle here in the early goings, but when Bret connects with a takedown behind Owen that sends the younger Hart crawling to the ropes to break it, the Rocket immediately springs to his feet and yells at Bret to back off when he's in the ropes. When Owen then connects with the same exact takedown, Bret crawls to the ropes as well, but his momentum carries Owen all the way out of the ring. Owen keeps trying to show up his brother, mockingly matching him hold for hold, but Bret gets the upper hand, frustrating Owen outside the ring and leading Lawler to condemn the throw out of the ring as a "cheap" move. Owen storms back into the ring, walks right up to his brother, and slaps him defiantly across the face. 

More chain wrestling as a hammerlock by Owen leads him into a headlock on Bret, which the Hitman reverses into a hammerlock of his own. Soon, Owen's breaking the first rules of the match by using a hair pull to drag Bret to the ground so Owen can exploit the hammerlock he's using on Bret's wrist. It's a slow escalation of moves, speed, and rulebreaking that's quietly establishing how this match is going to gradually quicken its pace as it tells the story unfolding in the ring. To wit: Bret scores a roll-up into the first two-count of the match, following it up with an armdrag, and Owen tries to escape by grabbing the hair, which the ref forces Owen to let go. After another chain sequence, Owen escapes another wristlock with an elbow to Bret's head, upping the stakes once again and leading to a rope-bouncing sequence that ends with Bret's retaliation: a monkeyflip that sends Owen into the ropes and then out to the floor courtesy of a follow-up clothesline. The fans pop as Owen hits the turf and Bret plays to the crowd, getting fired up now and forgetting that the guy swinging elbows at his head is his little brother. Owen, momentarily overwhelmed, starts to head back to the lockers, but is caught by Bret, who tosses Owen back into the ring, then follows him in and opens his arms to say, "what about it, Owen? You're the one that wanted this. Now you wanna fight or not?" This match is 100% Owen's story, and it's already gold.

A few shoves back and forth and this time it's Bret who slaps Owen across the face, rolling him up for another two-count that Owen kicks out of just in time. Bret continues to work Owen's arm, scoring another two-count with a crucifix and going back to the armbar. Owen, though, eventually fights free and connects with a leg kick off the ropes, kicking Bret out of the ring and taking the advantage, upping the violence by slamming Bret's back into the ring post. He throws Bret back into the ring and continues the attack, whipping Bret into the turnbuckles and following up with a backbreaker, continuing to soften the back with a reverse chinlock as Vince and Lawler discuss the familial implications of the match. "I hear Helen Hart just got out of the hospital and this match might put her back in!" cackles Lawler. Owen hits a belly-to-belly suplex on Bret as the Hitman rebounds off the ropes, and The Rocket scores his first two-count of the match. Owen gets whipped to the turnbuckles but leaps onto them, springs backward, and connects with a cross-bodyblock that Bret flips into a two-count. Owen, enraged, kicks out and immediately clocks his brother in the back of the head, following up with more knees in the back. And it's right back to the reverse chinlock.

As Owen tosses Bret out of the ring, Lawler continues to crow: "with each minute that goes by in this match, all of these fans can see Owen gaining more confidence!" He scores a vicious back suplex for a two-count and a legdrop to the back of the neck for another two, and Owen is surely smelling blood in the water. Bret's not out of it yet, though, as he blocks a suplex into a small package rollup for two. Owen, though, catches Bret with a NASTY looking piledriver, and attempts to finish things off with a flying headbutt, shades of old cousin-by-marriage Dynamite Kid. But it's a swing and a miss as Bret moves out of the way!

This is the Hitman's opening as he goes back on the offensive, connecting with a clothesline, punch to the breadbasket, and a Russian leg sweep for another nearfall. Bret's hitting all his signature stuff now, scoring with a crisp backbreaker into an elbow from the second rope for two. The crowd's solidly in Bret's corner as Owen backs into his, stunning Bret out of nowhere with an enzuigiri to the back of the head. And suddenly, we've got a battle of Sharpshooters as Owen tries to slap his brother's hold on him, only to have Bret counter immediately and try to cinch it in himself, which Owen immediately punches his way out of. A thumb to the eye and reverse victory roll VERY nearly scores the three as Bret barely kicks out, sending Owen onto the floor where Bret meets him by vaulting over the ropes into a cross-body block. The action's moving at a comparatively blistering pace now. 

Bret gets up limping as the landing hurt the same knee that Bret injured at the Rumble, and both men slide back into the ring as Owen smells blood. He starts working on Bret's knee, slamming it repeatedly into the ringpost as Bret sells extreme pain. Bret comes up limping and Owen limps mockingly behind him, ever the petulant little brother. A dragon screw-style legwhip into a modified figure-four style pressure lock, and the crowd is loudly chanting "Let's go Bret!" while Owen continues to punish the knee. Owen locks the full figure-four leglock into place and Bret is screaming. Owen gets two nearfalls on Bret until the Hitman manages to reverse the hold, putting the pressure on Owen's legs (so the mythology of the hold would have us believe) and rolling into the ropes.  As soon as they're back up, though, Owen's back on the attack, backing Bret into a corner and grabbing the leg, working it over until Bret stuns Owen with a desperation enzuigiri! 

Bret fights back with a headbutt and whips Owen HARD into the turnbuckles. Owen collapses and Bret instinctively follows up with a legdrop, using his injured leg, which he immediately sells as hurting himself just as much. He still manages to get the cover, though, and Owen kicks out at two. Hart connects with his signature bulldog and hits a doozy, scoring yet another two as Bret continues to limp. A piledriver on Owen scores another two-count as Vince exclaims that "watching this match is exhausting!" A top-rope superplex scores a two-and-three-quarters count and every indication is that Bret is on a roll now. He's exhausted, though, and is swinging heavy fists at Owen's head, eventually slapping on a sleeperhold that Owen immediately breaks by heading to the ropes and sneaking in a low blow behind the ref's back. And NOW Owen locks in the sharpshooter--"the hold he invented!" exclaims Lawler. Bret powers out, though, and locks in his version, but they're too close to the ropes and Owen immediately forces a break. 

Both men fight into the corner and Bret sends Owen reeling, hopping onto the turnbuckles and onto Owen's shoulders for a victory roll--which Owen counters into a pin that's good for the one, two, three! Owen scores the victory from almost out of nowhere, but because both men are completely exhausted it's totally believable. Owen sells complete disbelief, holding up three fingers to the ref as if to ask "are you sure?" Meanwhile, Bret sits dejected on the mat, disappointed as Owen limps out of the ring to the back, still not really celebrating and seeming more stunned that he actually pulled off the victory. 

Everything about this match is art. After the near-complete shitshow that was WrestleMania IX, to have the show start with two men so adept at the subtleties of in-ring storytelling is almost an apology to the fans for last year's nonsense. In fact, this is so good that when Dixie came home from work while i was in the middle of recapping this, i insisted on rewinding it so she could watch it from the beginning. An absolute clinic.

Winner: Owen Hart via pinall in 20:21

Todd Massengill Pettengill catches up to Owen backstage, where the Rocket crows about his victory over his brother (while constantly glancing off-camera to his cue cards), and i can't pay attention to anything he's saying because he has yet to tend to the incredibly gross gob of spittle that's been sitting on the corner of his mouth since the end of the match. Owen's all "i take nothing away from him, but after taking me on, i don't think he has a hope in hell of winning a World Title match later on," and all i can think is DUDE, WIPE YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH. I mean, i know Val Venis isn't due on the scene for a few years yet, but all i can think is "money shot." Owen, i love you, but you just broke the glass ceiling, man. It's time to up your spittle game.

Owen took many shots to the face during his match with his bro-ugh, i can't

So how do you follow one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history? Apparently with Hair Club For Men President Sy Sperling. No, really. The fuck is he doing here? Were Donald Trump and his wig off pretending they were above the WWF this year? Oh, son of a bitch--Sperling's here to introduce Howard Finkel, who is sporting the second worst hairpiece in the history of this event. You fools! You've ruined Howard Finkel! You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Goddamn you all to hell! "What do you think?" Finkel asks the crowd. They cheer, for fear that if they boo, the wig shall leap from Howard's head and attack the crowd, growing in size as it devours audience members until it is more fearsome than Gossamer, Marvin the Martian's prized pet. At least Howard's announcing the next match. On the other hand, your next match is

Match 2: Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna Vachon vs. Doink the Clown & Dink (mixed tag team match)

Oh, Bam Bam. You wanna talk about a guy who got some serious shafting at WrestleMania? Bam Bam Bigelow broke ground for guys like Big Van Vader as one of the first agile, high-flying big men and was a borderline wrestling legend based on his look alone, but what did he do at the showcase of the immortals? An awful countout loss in the first round in IV's title tournament, a mixed tag against a clown and a midget clown, and let's not even discuss WrestleMania XI until we absolutely have to. At least here he has the saving grace of working with Luna Vachon, who is introduced here as Bam Bam's "main squeeze." Goddammit, that's adorable.

Meanwhile, a cheer erupts from the crowd as Doink and Dink are introduced, for fuck's sake. A cheer. This isn't even the same Doink that wrestled last year! Matt Borne was fired by the WWF for substance abuse issues and replaced by Hunico--er, i mean Ray Apollo (sorry, for a second there i was confusing this Doink nonsense with the whole Sin Cara thing from last year). Anyway, for some reason the goddamn clowns are the babyfaces here, while legit badasses Bam Bam and Luna are being booed. Sometimes the WWE Universe is estupido.

Well, hold up--Doink just sprayed Sy Sperling with water from his gag flower pin, and now Sy's shooting the camera the most fake "get me back to my hotel room so i can hang myself in peace" smile i've seen since John Norris interviewed Art Paul Schlosser on State Street. (I'm pretty sure no one's gonna get that but me--Christ, i just checked YouTube for a clip of it and there's nothing.) So there's one redeeming thing Doink's done in his career. One.

Bam Bam takes control immediately as the bell rings, connecting with a pair of shoulder tackles but whiffing on a back splash as the clown dodges, whips Bigelow into the corner, then slaps on an armbar. Huh--the wrestling clown's actually wrestling. Go fig.

...Man, I dunno what's more garishly colored, the wrestlers in this match or the red wine i vomited all over the Church of Murray bathroom New Year's Eve 2006.

Doink tags out to Dink, and while he's raring to rip into Bam Bam, we're not going to get a repeat of King Kong Bundy and Little Beaver at Bigelow tags to Luna Vachon, because in mixed tag rules, a woman wrestler is equivalent to a male little person. Sigh. Luna tries to grab Dink, faceplants, and then Dink slaps her ass, because sexual harassment is funny when the girl is ugly and has a voice like she's been gargling staples. Luna gets the upper hand, though, choking Dink on the ropes and crashing her ass into his back after a bounce off the ropes, but when she tries it again, he moves, she hits the mat, and Dink drops an elbow for a two-count. If you think this all sounds hilarious, YOU'RE WRONG, despite Vince's forced chucklings on commentary. He's starting to speculate what Sy Sperling thinks about the clowns' hair, which should tell you all you need to know about how interesting this is.

Eventually Luna misses a top rope splash and tags out to Bam Bam, which means Doink also has to come in, and after a drop toehold on Bigelow, gets tossed out of the ring by the Beast from the East. More comedy hijinks from Dink as he distracts Luna and Bam Bam, but when Doink gets back in the ring and tries to connect on a sunset flip, Bam Bam just sits down and squashes Doink with his big ol' Bam Bam butt. Cool, can we end this soon?

Finally, Bam Bam connects with his top rope flying headbutt and scores the pin after knocking Dink off the apron, and mercifully, this has ended. Man, this show's gonna be peaks and valleys, isn't it? You start with a Hart Family classic and follow it up with Flying Fat Fire vs. Rainbow Shite. At least the right team went over.

Winners: Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna Vachon via pinfall in 6:09

There's some shit after the match where Dink tries to fight Bam Bam, and Bam Bam almost gives him the big splash, but it doesn't happen, and the legacy of King Kong Bundy remains his own, to live in shame eternally. I'm so done with this. NEXT.

Suddenly, "Hail to the Chief" plays, and a spotlight points us to a random spot in the crowd where a Bill Clinton impersonator is shooting the camera a thumbs-up for absolutely no reason. Vince McMahon is all "Wowee! I was wondering what could possibly happen next! I don't believe it! Right here in MSG! Wow! Well, let's take you back to WrestleMania III for another highlight..." Seriously, he's all "woah! It's Bill Clinton! Crazy! Well, anyway, let's go down memory lane..." Apparently this WrestleMania is the Showcase of the Non-Sequiturs. (The WMIII highlight, by the way, is of Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan looking at each other. Thrills!)

Howard Finkel announces that in our next contest, falls count anywhere, and everyone knows that means it's time for the "Macho Man," Randy Savage, in what will ultimately be his final WrestleMania appearance. The crowd's popping huge for the two-time former champ as he twirls in the the ring, twirling, twirling towards his freedom (to go to WCW and continue to be Hulk Hogan's punching bag, but never mind that now). His opponent in his final 'Mania contest? Um, well...OK, it's Crush. Crush, who is now managed by Mr. Fuji and is no longer the fun-loving "Kona Crush" kid-friendly Hawaiian, but some sort of hybrid of that and his original Demolition Crush persona. He's even back to wearing a little bit of face paint. He doesn't get to the ring, though, as Savage bails from the ring to tear into Konalition Crush as the bell rings to signal the start of this falls-count-anywhere contest. So i suppose i should put up the header:

Match 3: Randy "Macho Man" Savage vs. Crush (w/Mr. Fuji) (falls count anywhere)

Crush connects with a nice spinning backbreaker, then presses Savage over his head and drops him throat-first across the ring railing. Finally, karmic retribution for Ricky Steamboat! (I mean, other than that time when Steamboat beat Savage and took his title.) Crush still has a shitty mullet, by the way, and it's even worse because he's been growing out his frosted dye job so the party in the back is a different color than the business in the front. Crush drops onto Savage and covers him for the one-two-three. Wait, it's over already? No one's ringing the bell. No one will tell me what the hell is happening. Crush rolls into the ring and Howard Finkel clears up the awful, awful rules for this match. "Randy Savage has sixty seconds to re-enter the ring," or else he then loses. What the what? What kind of bullshit "falls-count-anywhere" rule is that? Call me a traditionalist, but i always thought that if the match stipulation is "falls count anywhere," maybe the winner should be the first person that scores a pinfall, no matter where it is? Maybe? Or would that make too much logical sense?

So Savage just makes it back into the ring with two seconds left, and he's ready to take another beating from Crush, so that's fun. Jerry Lawler declares that for Randy Savage, it's a dog eat dog world, and Randy's wearing Milk Bone underwear. Way to steal your material from Norm from Cheers, King. Crush hangs Savage in the Tree of Woe and lands some kicks and punches to the upside-down Macho Man before the ref forces a break. So, if there's a pinfall in the ring, does the losing party have 60 seconds to get...back...right where he is? I'm very confused.

As the ref tries to pull Savage down off the turnbuckle, Fuji deviously hands Crush a handful of ceremonial salt, but when Crush tries to throw it in Randy's face, Savage knocks it up into Crush's eyes, blinding him and allowing Savage to take the upper hand. A series of jabs to the face, and Savage bounces off the ropes and connects with an elbow. A top rope axehandle into a body slam, and Savage climbs to the top a second time, connecting with his trademark flying elbow! "Cover him, Randy!" says Vince, as Savage begins to pick Crush up off the canvas. He rolls Crush onto the ring floor, covers him, and scores a three-count, which means that Crush now has sixty seconds to get back into the ring. So...what, Randy wasn't sure what would happen if he actually pinned his opponent in the ring? Would the rulebook have just spontaneously combusted in Jack Tunney's office? This is beyond stupid. This is Savage's last WrestleMania match? Seriously? He could have sat this out and his last 'Mania match would have been against Ric Effing Flair at VIII. Now our last memories of him are gonna include illogical stipulations and that lame two-tone cowboy hat he wore to the ring. This sucks!

Crush gets back in the ring when Fuji dumps a pitcher of water over his face to wake him up, so this match will unfortunately continue. Crush eventually dumps Savage over the top rope and both men start to fight at ringside, including a fairly sick collision of Crush's head with the ringpost that actually makes an audible thunk on camera. Either that was some impressive live foley work, or Savage just gave Crush a legit concussion. Crush gets clotheslined over the rail, and both men are in an aisle now as Crush recovers with a superkick but then gets backdropped by the Macho Man. It's garbage wrestling as Savage drags Crush out of the arena and into a back room to score a three count, then ties Crush's feet together, hanging him upside-down underneath some scaffolding so he can't get back to the ring, which will mercifully end this abortion of a wrestling match. So, yeah.

Pictured: WWE legend and two-time World Champion "Macho Man" Randy Savage's final WrestleMania match

Winner: "Macho Man" Randy Savage via...countout? Pinfall? Who the hell knows. In 9:49.

Todd Pettingill is interviewing Fake Bill Clinton, who says he would never miss a WrestleMania (other than the first nine), and that he and Irwin R. Shyster have worked out their differences. Wait, what? The camera pans back to show IRS in the "presidential" box, at which point he shakes FBC's hand and thanks him for raising all the taxes on the tax cheats out there in the country, forcing them to pay their fair share. But if they're cheating on their taxes, does it matter how much the taxes actually are? I think for the first time ever, Pettingill and i are on the same page, as we deliver TODD PETTINGILL STUPID FACE #1:

I really wish my camera could have taken a better capture of this face

Match 4: Alundra Blayze(c) vs. Leilani Kai for the WWF Women's Championship 

Well, isn't that nice. The WWF signed Madusa Miceli and went so far as to reactivate the dormant women's title for her. Too bad the talent pool for "name" female wrestlers at the time was apparently shallower than most puddles, as they have plucked Leilani Kai from wherever she was hanging out to challenge for the title she lost to Wendi Richter at the first WrestleMania. Leilani Kai--jobber to the stars. 

Madusa--oh, excuse me--Alundra Blayze--makes her way to ringside, and i suddenly realize that Jerry Lawler is on commentary for this match. Oh, no. He's already made one crack about Leilani's looks and the match hasn't even started. This is going to be a worse cringer than the one He-Man rides. 

The bell rings and Kai starts in control, knocking Blayze down a couple times before Alundra recovers and hits a pair of sunset flips, scoring a two-count with each. Kai is going the power wrestling route here--i guess--picking up Blayze and choking her until the ref forces a break. "She's stronger and much more powerful than Alundra Blayze," Lawler says. "Prettier too." Sigh. An uncomfortable silence as Vince isn't sure what to say in response until Lawler elaborates. "Well, i mean, look at her--she's got a million-dollar body but a ten-cent face." I can't imagine how the women's division didn't catch on right away with Jerry's scintillating commentary there to get the wrestlers over. Vince's response: "here's a cover and one, two, no." Blayze stuns Kai with a hurricanrana for two, and Kai responds the only way she knows how: hair pull snapmares and tossing Blayze over the top rope. It's a crying shame that Madusa--ugh, Alundra--had no one to work with in the WWF until Bull Nakano came along. A two-woman division is not a women's division. (So why she eventually jumped ship to WCW, which never even bothered to create a title for her to fight for, is beyond me. Grass, greener, etc., i suppose.) 

As Alundra rallies and gets ready to put Leilani away, Vince spits out a cursory "Leilani Kai was involved in the first WrestleMania, i believe." You believe? I dunno, Vince, that show was only one of the biggest gambles of your adult life--the least you could do is remember who was on the goddamn show. Finally Alundra Blayze connects with a German suplex and bridges into a pinfall and retains her title, as the Fabulous Moolah and Nikolai Volkoff watch in the audience. Nikolai's wearing a pretty sweet pinstripe suit, and that's about the most interesting thing i can tell you about this match.

Winner: Madusa--goddammit, ALUNDRA BLAYZE--via pinfall in 3:20

Your WrestleMania moment from WrestleMania V--"Rowdy" Roddy Piper blasting Morton Downey, Jr. with a fire extinguisher. Not Bobby Heenan losing to the Red Rooster? An outrage.

Oh, good--Men on a Mission (or M.O.M. if you're nasty) are rapping their way to ringside. Because they're black, and black people rap. Let's go backstage to Todd Pettingill, who is inexplicably with Rhonda Shear of USA's Up All Night, and is providing us with TODD PETTINGILL STUPID FACE #2:

Honestly--every time i pause the screen and it happens to land on his stupid face, his face ends up looking effing stupid. Also, dig the 10-cent earring he grabbed off his keychain earlier. Anyway, he is immediately pushed out of the frame by Shawn Michaels, who has arrived to get his picture taken with Rhonda Shear's rack, but the cameraman is then shoved out of the way by Burt Reynolds, who tells Shawn to shave his chest before dismissing him and listening to Rhonda tell him he keeps her "up all night." In classic Norm-MacDonald-doing-Burt-Reynolds fashion, Burt says, "you keep me up all night too. I, uh, wish there was somethin' we could do about that." Burt Reynolds would like to have sex with Rhonda Shear. Here's a photo of Burt Reynolds and Shawn Michaels comparing penises:

Match 5: Men on a Mission (Mo & Mabel w/Oscar) vs. The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre w/Johnny Polo)(c) for the WWF World Tag Team Champions.

Johnny Fucking Polo! Oh my god. Scott Levy's pre-Raven characters are the pro wrestling equivalent of that kid who tried doing the preppy thing in junior high, then discovered Nirvana around the same time as some shitty neighbor TP'd his house on Devil's Night and then got all dark and broody. Why he's managing the Quebecers (who hilariously are coming to ringside to a version of Jacques Rougeau's "I'm the Mountie" theme music, called "We're Not the Mounties") i have no idea, but i already know that if you put them up against one of the lamest "kid friendly rapper" gimmicks in history, i'm automatically actually find myself forced to root for the Fucking Non-Mounties, despite how much i HATE the whole Mountie gimmick. That must be a pretty shitty rapping tag team. Well:

CTWA: Circus Tents With Attitude

The Quebecers get things started by jumping M.O.M. before the bell, tossing Mo (the smaller one) out of the ring as the bell sounds and double-teaming Mabel (aka Bedazzla The Hutt) until the big fan bounces off the ropes and floors both non-Mounties with a double clothesline. He immediately tags out to Mo, who starts working over Pierre while i notice that Mabel's wrestling...getup...says "Whoomp There it is" on the front. That pretty much speaks for itself, i think. Mo scores with a cross-bodyblock off the ropes before tagging in Mabel, who follows up Mo's drop toehold on Pierre with a gross looking legdrop. "He's so big, when he was baptized they had to have it done at SeaWorld!" says Lawler. I wonder if he hired a writer aggregator to steal all these jokes for him. Mo comes back in, but the Quebecers steal back the advantage behind the ref's back and start double-teaming Mo in their corner, with a little tag rope choke for good measure (hey, remember tag ropes? Hey, remember when you actually had to tag a dude's hand to come into the match, and not just any random part of his body? Hey, remember when there was logic and consistency to tag team rules?). The Quebecers pull off a bit of a double-team when one backdrops the other on top of Mo for a two-count, and i swear, i canNOT tell the two Quebecers apart, even though i've been stuck watching Jacques Rougeau matches since 'Mania III at least. Mo gets tossed out of the ring and the Quebecers do the exact same double-team they pulled earlier, only out onto the ring floor. Ah, so they only have the one move. Got it.

The Quebecers keep working over Mo while the crowd gets behind the rapper, chanting "let's go Mo!" until he pulls off a desperation bicycle kick that floors whichever Quebecer just whipped him into the ropes (it wasn't really a bicycle kick but that's the closest legit name i can assign to a move that basically involves doing a running flip and hoping your foot lands on your opponent's head). Mabel gets a hot tag and, well, i wouldn't say he comes in like a house afire, but he does connect with a pair of clotheslines that basically look like shitty shoulder tackles, then hits the legal Quebecer (Jacques, Pierre, who fucking knows) with a sidewalk slam that jars some fillings loose. The Quebecers rebound, though, and eventually manage to double-suplex Mabel, which pops the crowd and caused Johnny Polo on the outside to launch into a series of ecstatic "yes!" chants that are about 20 years before Daniel Bryan's time. That Scott Levy always was ahead of the curve. HE IS VERY EXCITED:


The Quebecers set up a finisher where one dude launches the other off the top rope into a flip that ends in a back splash on their opponent (these guys apparently LOVE using their backs as weapons. I dunno, maybe Canadians have especially sharp spines or something) that scores a two count before Mabel throws Jacque (Pierre?) into the air with authority

Eventually, Mabel hits a clumsy back spin kick on one of the non-Mounties, and M.O.M. connect with a real clusterfuck of a splash-style double-team finisher while simultaneously leading the crowd in a "Whoomp! There it is!" chant. If these guys don't urge Alundra Blayze to let them see that thong during their eventual heel turn, i smell a rat. Anyway, Polo drags both of his men out of the ring, triggering a countout, which is about as lame a non-finish as the IC title match from WrestleMania IX. Man, the tag team scene is really going downhill at this point. (Fun fact: a little over a week after this match, M.O.M. won the tag titles and held them for two whole days, which were two days too many.)

Winners: Men on a Mission via countout in 7:41; The Quebecers retain the tag team titles

The rapping tag team starts bustin' out rhymes in the middle of the ring while holding the tag team titles that they TOTALLY DID NOT WIN due to the countout rule. When will these teams learn that you have to pin your opponent or make them submit in order to win the belts? Eh, in about nine days, i suppose. 

Your WrestleMania IV moment: Mr. Perfect hate-fucks his way through a match with Brutus Beefcake, overselling every piece of offense the Beefer throws at him in what amounts to an overly-animated "fuck you" to the whole situation. No, just kidding, it's The Ultimate Warrior beating Hulk Hogan to win the WWF Title. Way less cool. 

It's time for Howard Finkel to introduce our guest "celebrities," guest timekeeper Rhonda Shear ("OH MY!" exclaims Vince), and the "head" of the group "N.K.O.T.B.," guest ring announcer Donnie Fucking Wahlberg. That's "N.K.O.T.B.," by the way, NOT "New Kids on the Block." Once they got past 30 and could no longer pass for 17, i guess they needed to present a more "mature" image for their choreographed bubblegum boy band. Before Donnie gets in the ring to announce the first of our two WWF World Title matches, i distinctly see Rhonda mouthing "Up! All Night" to the official timekeeper, which begs the question of why the hell she was speaking in character when the mic wasn't on her. I'll bet a shiny quarter than it was in response to the question, "so who the fuck are you again?"

Match 6: Yokozuna (w/Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette)(c) vs. Lex Luger (w/America) for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship

Wahlberg starts things off by introducing the guest referee, for this bout: "Mistah Perfect!" I'm so glad they asked someone with a Boston accent to be guest ring announcer. This shit is almost as rich as the black and white striped parachute pants Perfect is wearing into the ring. What the fuck, man? Are you the guest referee or are you playing a prisoner in a Rogers & Hammerstein musical?

"No-baaaahdy knows, the trouble i seen..."

This is Perfect's return to the WWF after taking loads of time to recuperate from injuries, and Lawler is indignant that Luger pulled strings to make Perfect the ref. Vince, however, reminds Lawler (and the audience by proxy) that both parties must agree to the guest referee (a rule that conveniently and quietly goes away during the Attitude era, it occurs to me). Wahlberg introduces the 568-pound World Champ by dropping so many consonants from the ends of words that you'd think he was being paid by the letter and Vince trimmed his script. "And his opponent and challengah! From Atlanta, G.A.! Made in the USA! The one and only...LEX LUGAH!" Lex comes to the ring in his star-spangled trunks, the handpicked super-babyface company man, as fireworks pop and Rhonda Shear clumsily rings the bell with a look of true accomplishment on her face. 

We are underway as Luger paces the ring while Yokozuna receives last-minute instructions from Mr. Fuji. "Look at Lex with his red, white, and blue, as if that's the American way," snarks Lawler. "Lemme tellya what the American way is--it's putting Arabian oil into Japanese cars, and Yokozuna's about to prove that point!" Well, bully for the American citizen from Samoa! We start with Yokozuna poking his finger in Lex's chest as Luger slaps it away repeatedly, leading to an exchange of punches that the presumptive good guy gets the better of, eventually connecting with a clothesline that temporarily rocks the sumo-gimmicked champ. Lex's attempt at a second clothesline bouncing off the ropes, however, results in him flat on his back as Yoko returns the favor with a clothesline of his own. Yoko tries to follow up with am elbowdrop and misses, leading to Lex wholloping Yoko and sending him tumbling out of the ring to a crowd pop. Both men fight outside for a bit before Lex rolls the champ back into the ring (yeah, he could do that without Yokozuna going along with it, i'm sure), then connects with a flying cross-bodyblock from the top rope for a two count. Another two count after a leaping elbowdrop, and Lawler claims Perfect is counting fast. (He's not.) Yoko takes control, choking Lex's armpits across the middle rope, but Lex fights back and attempts a bodyslam that...yikes, that didn't work. Splat. One, two, and...kickout! Shades of Hogan-Andre! Wait, shit, are they really following the old "go for the bodyslam early and fail" plotline? Looks like, as Yokozuna takes control, slamming craniums with a vicious headbutt and then blasting Luger's head into the turnbuckle, which Lex sells with one of his trademark exclamations of "OW!" Yoko then removes the turnbuckle padding from the corner, which i'm sure will come into play later, because it always does. Just once, i'd like to see someone remove the turnbuckle padding and then have it be completely ignored throughout the rest of the match. 

Well, shit's real exciting now: after a few punches and chops, Yoko straddles an on-his-knees Luger and begins applying pressure to his trapezius muscles. Just what every match between superheavyweights and muscleheads needs--a rest hold! (Shades of Andre's scintillating bearhug on Hogan!) The fans loudly chant "USA! USA!" as Fuji defiantly waves the Japanese flag, but eventually both sides get bored with the exchange because Yoko's still working on those sweet trapz. "USA! USA!...u..s....really, you're still on this hold?" Finally, after like three minutes, Luger fights out of the hold, bouncing off the ropes and running smack dab into another Yakozuna clothesline. Yup, they've totally cast Lex here in Hulk Hogan's old "fight from behind against a superheavyweight" role, because it was just HOGAN everyone was tired of, not the routine nature of his in-ring work. Just throw a different big man into the same storyline and bam! I SMELL MONEY. Sure!

Yoko hammers Luger back down to the mat like he's chopping down a tree, and then it's right back to the nervehold on the trapezius. Can't imagine why this crowd is so quiet. This is riveting stuff. the way, can we talk about Jim Cornette's AMAZING ring jacket? Check this shit out:

That is some trailer-park-dude-saw-the-Sgt.-Pepper's-album-cover-and-decided-that-it-was-PIMP-AS-FUCK shit. Well played, sir. 

Finally, both men decide they've been fucking around with the nervehold shit for long enough, and Yoko tosses Lex out of the ring, to which Lex responds by throwing himself into the ring barricade for some reason? Like, he literally gets up and tosses himself into the barricade. I assume he was trying to make it look like he didn't have his balance, but it just looks like a 7-year-old selling getting hit by his buddy's imaginary laser beams or something. Even Vince has to try to cover for it with a "what was that?," implying that Fuji attacked him or something. Silly. Lex eventually gets back into the ring's back to the nervehold. Fuck! Lex fights out of it, lands some punches, and then Yoko knocks him back to the ground and it's back to the fucking nervehold. Man, there's effective storytelling, and then there's making sure your 568-pound champ doesn't exert himself into a heart attack. At least bitching about this match has distracted me from Mr. Perfect's outfit. OH, GODDAMMIT.

(Someone in the crowd is waving a Canadian flag during this match. Bless.)

Finally, Lex is fighting back! Elbows to the chest of Yokozuna, and he bounces off the ropes aaaaand completely eats a belly-to-belly suplex from the champ. Ow. Yoko signals that he's getting ready for the Bonzai drop corner butt-splash, dragging Lex to the pad-less turnbuckle corner (remember?), only Lex blocks it and slams Yoko's head into the buckle! The crowd starts to come alive as Lawler protests Lex's obvious cheating! Now, the rally is fully on (Jesus, finally), as Lex connects with three clotheslines, the third prompting Yokozuna to leap into the air as if the force of the blow carried him off his feet! Aaaaaand THERE'S THE BODYSLAM. "It's a hiptoss!" Lawler protests, which is the funniest thing he's said this entire show. Yoko staggers to his feet, and Luger connects with his "controversial" forearm with the nonexistent "metal plate" inserted in it from his motorcycle accident. "Illegal! Illegal!" Lawler shrieks. 

As Yokozuna collapses to the mat, Cornette leaps to the apron, prompting Luger to slingshot him into the ring to get decked. Fuji wanders into the ring on the other side, so Luger waltzes over and gives him his medicine, too. The crowd's come to life as the evil chickenshit managers are getting their comeuppance, but when Luger covers Yokozuna for the pin, Mr. Perfect ignores it, opting instead to try to push Cornette and Fuji out of the ring. Luger gets up and yells at Perfect, shoving him as he drops back down on Yokozuna and pleads for Perfect to count the pin. Instead, Perfect, incensed that Luger put his hands on him--a respected WWF official!--signals for the bell. Yokozuna wins by disqualification in an even worse copout finish than the tag title match! 

Winner: Yokozuna via disqualification at 14:40; Yokozuna retains the WWF World Championship

The crowd chants "bullshit!", which i'm assuming is less for Luger losing than it is for the ridiculously convoluted method in which he lost. Todd Pettingill is backstage with Perfect, and unfortunately has his back to the camera most of the time so i can't screen-grab another dumb look from his face. Perfect is adamantly explaining that, hey, you don't put your hands on a referee, man. That's just a rule. Luger makes his way backstage to Perfect, though, and the two begin to exchange very heated words until the backstage officials pull them apart. So, they'll be feuding again, then. That's nice.

Hey! Another WrestleMania Moment! This one from WrestleMania VII: Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Rick Martel in a blindfold match! Remember how awesome it was to see two really good workers engage in a complete shitshow by pretending to stagger around the ring searching for each other? Nah, just kidding; the actual moment they showed was....wait, no, it was the blindfold match. Man, when the event you're highlighting is so shitty that the most memorable moment was chosen because it was shittier that any of the other shit on the card, well...that's pretty shitty.

And speaking of shitty, here comes the Earthquake to face off with Adam Bomb! Oh, Jesus Christ. Adam Bomb. What a mess of a gimmick that was. Here you have a nuclear-powered survivor of Three Mile Island, who wears, like, those round protective shades you see in photos of people watching an atomic bomb test, except Adam Bomb is the one with atomic super powers or whatever, so what is he shielding his eyes from? Here's a photo of Atom Bomb:, shit, that's Nuclear Man, the villain from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. When your wrestling gimmick is jacked from Golan-Globus, it might be time to question why you didn't get into carpentry or construction. 

Anyway, here's what happens next: Howard Finkel introduces Bomb's manager Harvey Whippleman first, who goes into his usual rundown of Finkel's appearance, noting that the only new thing is that he now has hair, but otherwise he's still a big-eared, monkey-faced piece of garbage in a shitty tux, which Whippleman then grabs and tears. Finkel's finally had enough and shoves him to the ground, to the delight of the crowd, but that prompts Adam Bomb to run to the ring before his intro and grab Finkel, threatening to smack him down for laying hands on his manager. 

Then Earthquake runs to the ring, attacks Adam Bomb, and as the bell rings, proceeds to squash Adam Bomb in a 35-second altercation that basically involves a belly-to-bely suplex, a powerslam, and an Earthquake butt-splash. 1, 2, 3. Why was this on the show, exactly?

Match 7: Earthquake vs. S.D. Jones Adam Bomb (w/Harvey Whippleman)

Winner: Earthquake via pinfall in 35 seconds

Pettingill is backstage with Jim Cornette and the World Champ, and his volley of "Yokozuna was on the ground--you've gotta admit that!" is met with "Who's still the champ? That's all you've gotta know, Pettingzoo!" Ha! Cornette is on fire. "Lex Luger! You thought you had everything in hand like a purring kitten, but in the words of philosopher Ian Anderson, he who makes kittens puts snakes in the grass!" Wait, what? Not resting to let that Jethro Tull reference sink in, Cornette launches right into a glorious tirade about Bret Hart. It's no longer about whether or not he'll leave with the WWF Championship, it's about whether he'll leave in one piece. He's been humiliated on worldwide pay-per-view by losing to his brother, and don't think Yokozuna and his handlers haven't noticed that Bret injured his knee in that match. It's all about degradation and humiliation and getting out in one piece. Cornette is selling more tickets for a show that's two hours old! He's amazing here. Meanwhile, Todd Pettingill looks on in abject befuddlement, bestowing upon us TODD PETTINGILL STUPID FACE #3:

And Jim Cornette Awesome Face #5036

YOUR WRESTLEMANIA MOMENT FROM WRESTLEMANIA VIII: The Undertaker walking to the ring. Seriously. That's it. I guess to remind us that the Undertaker exists, since he was out nursing a back injury during this event. Undertaker's WrestleMania winning streak: still 3-0. THE STREAK IS INTACT! THE STREAK IS INTACT! 

OK, so here's the story with this next match: WWF President Jack Tunney had stripped Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels of his title for refusing to drop the title not defending the belt within a 30-day period (yes, that used to be a pretty well-established kayfabe rule. Don't tell that to Brock Lesnar, whatever you do). Razor Ramon then won the vacant title after defeating Rick Martel after the two of them were the final entrants in a battle royal (yes, while the WWF used to use battle royals to crown champions, they at least believed in the sanctity of titles changing hands by pinfall or submission. Don't tell that to current US Champ Sheamus). However, Shawn Michaels refused to acknowledge that he was stripped of the title, carrying his own copy of the IC belt to matches and referring to himself as the "real" IC champ. This led to the upcoming title match here at WrestleMania X, where Shawn proposed that the score be settled in a match that he just brought to the WWF--the first-ever ladder match, wherein both belts would be hung over the ring, waiting to be grabbed by the first wrestler that could climb the ladder to retrieve them. (In reality, this match was introduced to the WWF in 1992 by Bret Hart, who successfully defended the IC belt against Michaels in the actual first WWF ladder match ever, but was not broadcast on television, even though there were cameras present. The match was basically a showcase for Vince McMahon to see what the gimmick was all about, but it was not put to use until WMX. Just one more example of Shawn Michaels stealing Bret Hart's thunder, amirite?)

So, here we are, as the camera pulls in on a shot of both IC titles, as the ring announcer explains the rules and Shawn Michaels' music hits. Shawn is accompanied by his "bodyguard," "Big Daddy Cool" Diesel, whom everyone knows is the future Kevin Nash, but more importantly, is the former Master Blaster Steel, Vinnie Vegas, and OZ.

 Pictured: "Big Daddy Cool"

McMahon points out that this will be the first ever ladder match at a WrestleMania, skirting the issue that there's been one before in a WWF ring. And as the sound of a car screeches into an accident, the crowd pops for "The Bad Guy," Razor Ramon, who cockily walks under the ladder as he walks to the ring, his gold necklaces "dripping" from his body, as McMahon so evocatively describes it. So, here we go: the ladder match that Dave Meltzer gave five stars to--the first time ever a WWF match was awarded this prestigious (among nerds like me) honor. Meltzer opted to award five stars to Bret and Owen's SummerSlam '94 cage match sequel instead of giving it to this evening's opening match, so this shit must be BANANAS (fun fact: somehow, in all these years, i've never seen this ladder match). So let's do this.

Match 8: Razor Ramon(c) vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Diesel)(fake c) for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

I'd still like to be in disbelief that the guy who essentially walked around in brownface as a fake Cuban could have ever been a babyface, but then, i've been around your average wrestling fan enough times to know that of course he was. At least when the WWE finally got around to making Scarface knockoff t-shirts, they were for Eddie Guerrero and not, ya know, SCOTT HALL. 

We start with a solid exchange of hammerlocks, leading to Shawn attempting a hiptoss that Razor blocks. Shawn pokes him in the eye, drapes a leg behind his back, does a backflip to reposition himself for the hiptoss, then ends up eating a Razor Ramon chokeslam that looks more painful than most of what the Big Show or Kane is dishing out these days. Both men bounce off the ropes until Shawn catches Razor with a swinging neckbreaker, which Razor answers with a clothesline before getting tossed out of the ring. Solid back-and-forth action until Diesel interjects himself with a clothesline that knocks Ramon to the turf. Diesel stands over him, staring down as we are essentially witnessing the germination of what will eventually be, after a detour as the "Kliq," the nWo and D-Generation X in a few years. Referee Dave (Earl?) Hebner doesn't see the clothesline, but he's pretty sure it happened, so he kicks Diesel back to the locker room, which is just and fair, since there are technically no disqualifications in the match and this is the best way to ensure the best man wins. Also, Kevin Nash looks like an idiot as Diesel, so the sooner he's off my screen, the better. 

Razor's recovered and catches Michaels from the apron with guillotine that drapes shawn's neck across the top rope and springs him backwards to the mat, which Michaels, of course, sells with airborne aplomb. Razor whips Michaels hard upside-down into the turnbuckle, then clotheslines Shawn out of the ring as Michaels makes all of Razor's offense look virtually decapitating. Razor follows him out of the ring and lifts some of the ringside padding to expose the concrete. Michaels gets back into the ring before Razor can slam him onto the floor, though, and they trade some blows again until Razor catches Shawn between his legs (heh) for what could be his Razor's Edge finisher. But no--Michaels reverses it by backdropping Razor onto the exposed concrete floor. Shawn takes the opportunity to walk back to the ladder, introducing it into the match as Razor greets Shawn with a punch to the chops. Razor puts the ladder on the apron, intending to slide it under the bottom rope, but instead, Michaels bounces off the opposite ropes and baseball slides into the ladder, kicking it into Razor's guts! The crowd "ooohs" as we've now seen the first ladder spot on WWF pay-per-view. History! Razor's selling it like a rifle shot as Michaels follows him to the outside, throwing him into the ring as Shawn takes control of the ladder. Michaels jams it into Razor's midsection, then jabs it into Ramon's chest from above. He follows that up by lifting the ladder over his head and dropping it onto Razor's back. He's not done yet; as Ramon leans against the ropes to catch his breath, Shawn actually throws the ladder into his back. Brutal.

Razor's crumpled on the ground as Shawn opens the ladder, taking the match's first attempt to retrieve the belts. Razor manages to grab Shawn's ankle, though, eventually pulling himself to his feet enough to disrupt Shawn's climb by, well...

If you think it took ANY convincing to get Shawn to agree to this, i've got a bridge to sell you. Free shipping! Shawn kicks Razor off the ladder, connecting with a full moon flying elbow drop off the ladder. Razor sells pain on the floor while Shawn (mercifully) pulls his pants back up, stands the ladder in a corner, and climbs the ropes to the top of the ladder. This match is basically a showcase for everything you can do with a ladder at this point. Michaels connects with a splash from near the top of the ladder as McMahon exclaims "unbelievable!" Shawn repositions the ladder and climbs again, reaching for and getting his fingertips on the belts before Razor recovers enough to tip the ladder over, sending Shawn neck-first onto the top rope, which he again bounces off with near-cartoonish exaggeration. Again, McMahon finds this "unbelievable!" "I've never seen anything like this, ever!" Backstage, Bret Hart is thinking, "did you even WATCH that tape from '92?" 

Both men sell exhaustion on the mat after a double-collision, but Shawn's first to his feet, grabbing the ladder yet again and positioning it in the corner once more. This time, he collapses the ladder and leans it in the corner, hoping to whip Razor into it. Instead, Razor reverses the Irish whip and sends Michaels colliding in absolutely sick fashion with the ladder, tumbling over it and the turnbuckle onto the arena floor. It looks NASTY. But instead of opening the ladder and climbing toward victory, Razor elects to exact revenge for the earlier ladder spots, taking the prop outside and sandwiching Shawn between it and the ring post. "Unbelievable!" He continues to chase Michaels around the ring, slamming the ladder into Shawn's back, then leaning the ladder against the ring apron and catapulting Shawn into it. Shawn dutifully throws himself into the ladder, then hangs onto it as it collapses backward onto the floor. The catapult/slinghot is, by far, the fakiest-looking move in all of wrestling, so Shawn gets mad propers here for making it at least look like a painful trainwreck. 

All three combatants (both men and the ladder) are back in the ring, when Razor takes the prop and solidly cracks Michaels in the jaw with it, sending Shawn flying back to the floor. The crowd is going nuts as Razor begins to look upward at both title belts hanging in midair above the ring. As he climbs, though, Michaels climbs to the top turnbuckle and launches himself at Razor in desperation, knocking Razor and the ladder to the ground. HEY, I WONDER WHAT VINCE MCMAHON THINKS OF THAT MOVE. "Unbelievable!" he exclaims. Go figure. Michaels is underneath the ladder as both men lay on the mat, selling extreme exhaustion. He's up first, though, standing the ladder back up and beginning to climb--but Razor is climbing the other side as well! The two men approach the top and exchange punches until Razor grabs Shawn in a suplex position, tossing him off the ladder before falling to the ground himself when the ladder gives way to gravity once again. Razor sets the ladder up and climbs yet again, climbing, climbing...swatting at the belts and actually opening one of them up (how it didn't just fall to the ring during the match, i have no idea--that would have been awkward) before Shawn dropkicks the ladder, knocking it out of balance enough to send Razor flying off it once again. Drama!

Both men reset while lying on the mat once again. Michaels recovers first and simply tips the ladder over onto Razor, then whipping him to the ropes and delivering a superkick. He mocks Razor's "that's it" arm taunt before picking Razor up and delivering a jumping piledriver, which he follows up by climbing the ropes, standing the ladder in front of him, then just jumping onto the ladder and riding it down across Razor's prone body as the crowd "ooohs" and recoils with horror. Let's be fair--in 2014, none of this looks particularly gruesome, but in 1994, when no casual WWF fan had ever seen a ladder match before, this had to have looked positively brutal. 

Michaels set the ladder up directly over Ramon's body as he climbs once again, and it's time for the big finish. He climbs a rung and reaches up, but can't grab the belts! He climbs another rung and reaches up again! He's still too far away! It's a good thing he didn't just race to the top of the ladder right away, because it gave Razor enough time to once again recover and throw his shoulder into the ladder! It tips over yet again, sending Shawn onto the top rope, crotching himself right in the dick. If Gorilla Monsoon were on commentary, he'd have exclaimed that Shawn would be singing soprano in the shower later in the evening. Because he said that after, like, EVERY nut shot ever. Michaels drops to the floor, but! His foot is caught between the top and middle ropes! He's hung like a piece of laundry out to dry! (How he managed to hang himself up like that in mid-air is nothing short of incredible, really.) Ramon climbs, climbs, climbs...and just as Shawn gets himself free, Razor grabs the belts and falls to the mat in complete exhaustion. Razor Ramon is your undisputed Intercontinental Champion! Razor climbs the ladder one last time to strike a pose, holding the belts high as the ref stands on the bottom rung to stabilize him. Well, that's really nice of whichever Hebner that is.

Winner: Razor Ramon in 18:47

So, was this match better than the opener? I feel like, watching this match 20 years on, that it was given its five-star rating from Meltzer partially for its sheer chutzpah. Bret vs. Owen told the better story, had better action, and set things in motion for the rest of the evening, but this match still told a pretty good story and had the added car-crash element of the then stakes-raising first-ever ladder gimmick. There have been better ladder matches since, but pointing that out's probably not fair to this match, especially since most ladder matches since have been can-you-top-this spotfests that aren't as invested in storytelling as even this was, so there's that. Still. The opening match was better. Nyeah nyeah.

Vince says something about a 10-man tag team match being scheduled next, but we go backstage, where five wrestlers--The Headshrinkers, Rick Martel, IRS, and "Double J" Jeff Jarrett, looking like a damn buffoon in his LED-light sunglasses and cowboy hat, are arguing over who gets to be captain. Apparently they can't agree on who's going to be captain of the team, so they're not going to have the match. Um, ok? (According to the Wikipedia page for this event, it was canceled due to time constraints because Michaels and Razor wrestled longer than they were supposed to. Hey, for once the Kliq's selfish behavior actually benefitted the audience! How about that!)

That means we have one match left--Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Yokozuna for the WWF Title. Yoko was just out here, so Bret's had more time to rest, but then, Bret also banged up his knee pretty badly against Owen, so let's call it either a draw, or slight edge to the champion, because you can't have the babyface wrestle a heel that's more beat up than he is. That's bad storytelling.

Todd Pettingill is in the Presidential Box and Ted DiBiase is asking Bill Clinton if it's true that everyone has a price for the Million Dollar Man. Who fucking cares. 

WRESTLEMANIA IX MOMENT: When it was finally over? Oh, i see--they waited until now to show the bullshit ending of last year's main event, when Fuji threw salt into Bret's eyes, costing him the title. Conspicuous by its deletion is Hulk Hogan pulling his "i'm just here to help my buddy Bret Hart" bullshit and parlaying that into an impromptu title match where he squashed Yokozune in 21 seconds and i'm getting angry all over again just typing this sentence so let's just get back to the ring, ok?

Before the main event, we get a nice little video package encapsulating Bret Hart's career up to this point, showing highlights from his career interspersed with footage of him tussling with one of his brothers as a kid in Stu Hart's Dungeon, with dad coaching both of them. That's adorable. Also, we get a video package of Yokozuna dropping his huge ass on all the dudes ever. Less adorable. Let's go to the ring.

Oh good, more guest celebrities. Your guest timekeeper is Jennie Garth--yep, Kelly from Beverly Hills, 90210. She's being walked to the ring by the star of Evening Shade himself, Burt Fucking Reynolds. Both huge wrestling fans, i'm sure. Hoo boy. They couldn't get Gabrielle Carteris? Ya know, someone closer to Burt's age?

Burt is putting NO effort whatsoever into this, and it's awesome. "Hey! I'm happier to be here than you are!" Yeah, sure. "The following contest," he states, matter-of-factly (read this in a yadda-yadda singsong voice and you'll get the gist. It's awesome), "is our second World Wrestling Federation championship match." You don't even hear the word "match" as he's pulled the mic away from his face in order to flip his cue cards. He introduces our special guest referee--"Rowdy" Roddy Piper! Hey! The crowd goes nuts! And finally, it's time to introduce our combatants.

Match 9: Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Yokozuna (w/Mr. Fuji & Jim Cornette)(c) for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship

After the champ makes his way to the ring, the crowd erupts as Burt introduces the challenger, "and in my opinion, one of the best athletes in wrestling today--Bret "Hitman" Hart!" (that was nice of the WWF to write that down on the cue card for him.) Bret is limping to the ring, selling the knee injury hard, and is savagely jumped by Yokozuna as he makes his way into the ring. Off we go! Bret fights back with a few kicks in the corner, but Yokozuna is taking it to him early, connecting with several punches and kicks while Bret hobble on one leg, eventually collapsing to the mat. A chop and a bodyslam, and Yokozuna taunts Bret to "get up!" before pulling him up himself. Bret fights back with some punches and a dropkick, but the second dropkick finds only air as Bret hits the mat again. Yoko continues to work over Bret, choking his armpits in the middle rope until Piper forces the break with a pretty fast five-count. Lawler starts to sew the seeds of doubt when it comes to Piper's objectivity, pointing out that a few years ago, Piper lost to Bret at WM8. Meanwhile, Yokozuna gnaws at Bret's nose, drawing a fierce rebuke from Hot Rod. "NO BITING! NO!" A back rake and another choke, and Piper is screaming at Yokozuna to wrestle cleanly. Jim Cornette hops onto the apron to yell at Piper and almost gets taken out as Piper doesn't hesitate to charge right at Cornette, sending him scurrying back to the floor. Nice. A headbutt into an attempted splash, but Bret rolls out of the way as Yoko eats the mat. Yoko's to his feet first, but Bret connects with several right hands, then connects with a headbutt that stuns the champ, but also leaves Bret crumpling to the mat, selling intense pain. Because Samoans Japanese sumo wrestlers have thick skulls, you see. Or something. To be fair, Bret's still in pretty rough shape from his first match, so headbutting the 1-2-3 Kid could have knocked him just as silly. Yeah, let's go with that, while Yokozuna drops to the mat.

Both men are crawling on the mat--Bret slamming Yokozuna's head into the mat, Yoko responding with a rake to the eyes. When they get back to their feet, Bret gains the upper hand with a corner kick, then repeatedly punching, punching, and driving an axehandle into the champ's back, forcing him back to the mat. Bret's not exactly working his usual scientific style here, but it's not like he could Russian leg sweep a 500-plus-pound dude, so let's give him the benefit of the doubt here. Also, again--he's gassed, he's in pain, and he's already wrestled one 20-minute match. The story is he's desperately fighting for his life, and while the results in the ring are less than stellar, it's like Hedwig's angry inch--it's what he's got to work with. 

Bret covers Yokozuna for a two-count, and as Piper's hand goes for the three, Cornette pulls him out of the ring. Of course, Piper responds to that in the only logical way, by clocking Cornette in the face and knocking his ass cold to the floor. The crowd chants "Roddy!" as Yoko gets to his feet over a prone Hitman, dropping a headbutt that totally misses, but Bret sort of sells it, so we'll call it a "glancing blow," because why not. Yoko starts choking Bret and gets admonished for it by Piper, and when Yoko tries to get in Piper's face, Hot Rod does not back down. He stares down the gigantic champ and says one word: "wrestle!" Yoko answers by dropping a big leg on Bret, sending the Hitman rolling away in pain. Loud chants of "Let's go Bret!" as Yokozuna launches him over the top rope and onto the floor, and Roddy starts the 10-count. It's a fast count, like all his counting in this match, but Bret rolls back in at nine and gets an eye rake for his trouble. 

Yoko continues to work over the Hitman, backing him into the corner and then backing up himself for a huge avalanche in the corner. He takes off running, but Bret dodges and Yoko smashes his back into the corner! He stands dazed as Bret hops to the second turnbuckle behind him, connecting with a bulldog that drives 'Zuna's face into the mat! Bret covers him and it's 1...2...ALMOST 3 as Yoko just gets a shoulder up. Bret connects with a second-rope elbow, and again it's 1...2...kickout. A running clothesline and Yokozuna is down again for yet another two-and-a-half count. Meanwhile, Bret continues to hold his knee as he climbs to the second turnbuckle again and is caught flying off as Yoko counters into a brutal belly-to-belly suplex! Yoko drags the Hitman to the corner and climbs to the second turnbuckle, looking to hit the crushing Bonzai drop. He winds up, signals to the crowd...and loses his balance on the ropes! Bret gets out of the way as Yoko crashes to the mat, back-first! Bret covers him and it's 1...2...3! Bret Hart finally regains the world championship he was screwed out of a year ago! Hot damn! Kind of a cheap finish, as Bret won due to a stroke of luck, but hey--it was consistent with the story of both men being exhausted after two matches, and it sort of protected Yokozuna in his loss to potentially remain a strong contender for the title. I'll take it.

Winner: Bret "Hitman" Hart via pinfall in 10:38 to win the WWF World Title

Yokozuna chases Piper to the back as fireworks pop in the top of the arena and the crowd celebrates their new WWF champion. Suddenly, Lex Luger is in the ring, staring down the Hitman, and eventually shaking his head and giving him a congratulatory hug. The locker room empties and all the babyfaces come out to congratulate Bret and carry him around the ring. Hell, even Burt Reynolds and Rhonda Shear are in the ring to celebrate! Lex and Razor hoist Bret onto their shoulders, parading him around to the delight of the fans. Even Gorilla Monsoon's in the ring applauding! Aw!

But as everyone celebrates, a lone figure appears in the aisle, staring daggers at the party in the ring--Owen. The younger brother of the Hitman. Long stuck in the "younger brother" role, seemingly overshadowed by his more successful big brother. Just earlier tonight, Owen finally broke the glass ceiling and got one over on his older brother, and in Owen's eyes, finally surpassed him. No longer would he have to worry about feeling upstaged or living in his brother's shadow--that is, until just now. They wrestled a five-star match the open the show and tear the house down, and Owen won. But seeing his older brother get paraded around the ring with the World Heavyweight Championship around his's like everyone has already forgotten. Owen points to Bret and barks something that the mic's not picking up. Bret stares him down and yells something back, and eventually, Owen is instructed to head back to the locker room. But not before the seeds are planted for the feud of the summer. Bottom line--Bret's the champ now. But Owen beat the champ before he was the champ again. Before it's all said and done, will 1994 end up the year of Owen Hart?


In a word: no. Bret and Owen go on to have a classic steel cage match in the main event at SummerSlam. This is the match that Meltzer gives five stars to--only the second WWF match he's ever awarded the honor to, and it happens in the same year as Michaels/Ramon. But this time, Bret catches a break from Owen catching his foot in the cage, and he manages to escape with his title, holding it until Survivor Series, where he loses it to...oy...Bob Backlund, and the seeds begin to sprout for WrestleMania XI. But we'll get to that next time. Because i'd rather not think about Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow just yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment