Date: March 20th, 1994
Location: Madison Square Garden
Commentary: Vince McMahon, Jerry “The King” Lawler.

Background notes: Lex Luger and Bret Hart became co-#1 contenders for the WWF Championship after they became the simultaneous final eliminations of the Rumble. Commissioner Jack Tunney ruled that both men would get a singles shot at then champion Yokozuna, with a coin toss deciding who got a shot first (Lex won). Further Bret had also been feuding with his brother, Owen, after a collision between Bret and Owen caused Owen to be eliminated at the Survivor Series the previous year. Other notable feuds were between Bam Bam Bigelow and (sigh) Doink the Clown, Randy Savage and Crush, and a feud between “HBK” Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon over who was the proper WWF Intercontinental Champion.

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Wrestlemania VIII

Date: April 5, 1992
Location: The Hoosier Dome – Indianapolis, Indiana.
Our hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby The Brain Heenan.

A little background: “HBK” Shawn Michaels has finally, and dramatically, split off from The Rockers by super-kicking Marty Janetty through a plate-glass window during Brutus Beefcake’s talk-show segment, “The Barber Shop”. Also, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair jumped ship from WCW to the WWF, with the Big Gold Belt, and won the WWF Championship, ultimately leading to Randy Savage coming out of enforced retirement to try and win the belt back – well, that and the nekkid pictures of Miss Elizabeth that Flair said he had.

Champions:

  • WWF Heavyweight Champion: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair

  • WWF Intercontinental Champion: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

  • WWF Tag Team Champions: Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Shyster w/ Jimmy Hart)

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Wrestlemania VII

The Time: March 24th, 1991
The Place: The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
The Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon, to be joined by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, a couple of guest commentators.
The Champions:

  • WWF Heavyweight Champion: Sgt. Slaughter (heel)
  • WWF Tag Team Champions: The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) (faces)
  • WWF Intercontinetal Champion: “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig (heel)
  • WWF Womens Championship: Inactive

Being that Wrestlemania is stateside again, we start off the show with a performance of “America The Beautiful,” this time by Willie Nelson. Jesse Ventura split ties for the WWF between the last Wrestlemania and this one, leading to Monsoon going with a series of Guest Commentators over the evening – sort of, we do get one color guy for most of the show, but we have a few guests pop in, like our first match of the evening – with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan on commentary.

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Wrestlemania V

I’m doing a few different things with this Wrestlemania recap. By this time Wrestlemania had become a big deal, as had Wrestlemania Debuts, so from here on I’ll be keeping track of Wrestlemania Debuts. A few people of note who debuted at Wrestlemanias prior to this: Bret Hart and “Macho Man” Randy Savage at Wrestlemania II, Ted DiBiase & The Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania IV.

Prior to Wrestlemania V, the gold had gotten between the Mega Powers, with the two men’s egos both backstage and on screen colliding, leading to a heel turn by Savage. Furthermore, the Intercontinental Title, once held by Honky Tonk Man in his legendary title reign, was lost to the Ultimate Warrior in about 45 seconds, completely burying HTM. Finally, the Hart Foundation turned face, and turned on their former manager, Jimmy Hart. Furthermore, Ted DiBiase, after continually failing to win or buy the WWF Heavyweight Championship, decided to introduce his own belt instead – the diamond-encrusted Million Dollar Championship. Also, Demolition turned face when Mr. Fuji turned on them, instead siding with the tag team of the Powers of Pain (The Barbarian and The Warlord).

Now, we come to April 2, 1989, and Wrestlemania V, again returning to Trump Plaza at Atlantic City. Leading us in, singing “America The Beautiful” is WWF Women’s Champion, Rockin’ Robin. While she works her way through the song the song, let’s think for a moment. Rockin’ Robin is the WWF Women’s Champion. She’s not defending the belt. She is, however, singing “America The Beautiful” which has previously been sung by Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

Our hosts this evening are once again Jesse “The Body” Ventura on color commentary and Gorilla Monsoon doing Play-by-play announcing, as we go to our opening match. (more…)

After Wrestlemania III, Andre stayed heel, but changed his loyalties from the camp of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to the corporation of wrestler and manager “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase. Meanwhile, Randy Savage turned face and gained as a close friend and ally Hulk Hogan, forming the Mega Powers. Additionally, Ricky Steamboat lost the IC title to Honky Tonk Man, and the Hart Foundation lost the belts to Strike Force (made up of Tito Santana and Rick Martel).

Now, prior to Wrestlemania IV, in a stunning upset, Andre beat Hogan, winning the WWF Heavyweight title, ending Hogan’s 3+ year reign. In an even bigger swerve for the time, Andre turned around and sold the title to Ted Dibiase. However, coming to the rescue was Jack Tunney, WWF Commissioner, who declared the title change invalid and vacated the title. The new WWF champion would be determined at a Wrestlemania IV in a tournament.

I’ve already given my thoughts on tournaments, with my ROH “Road to the Title” review, and I’ve already mentioned there that they tend to suck, by the nature of the setup – since the wrestlers have to hold back to avoid burning out. That said, “Road to the Title” only got ***. Wrestlemania III, which had Steamboat vs. Savage, only got *** because of the crappy undercard. Yeah. This is going to suck – and I’m all out of booze.

So, kick back and relax, because there’s schadenfreude ahead. (more…)

Wrestlemania III

As of Wrestlemania III, our champions coming in were

  • WWF World Champion: Hulk Hogan – still champion without any breaks in his reign.
  • WWF Intercontinental Champion: “Macho Man” Randy Savage – Randy (which I failed to note in my Wrestlemania II review) won the belt through shenangans involving then-referee Danny Davis.
  • WWF Tag Team Champions: The Hart Foundation (Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart & Bret “Hitman” Hart) – managed by “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. The Hart Foundation won the belts from the British Bulldogs through shenanigans involving ref Danny Davis. The two aforementioned incidents lead to Danny being suspended as a referee for “Life + 10 years” (kayfabe) with Danny becoming a heel wrestler, managed by Jimmy Hart.
  • WWF Woman’s Champion: Fabulous Moolah.

Also, the feuds of note, coming in.

  • Hercules and Billy Jack Hayes got in a feud over the Full Nelson, with the dispute being over which wrestler was better than the other at performing the hold.
  • Harley Race won the first King of the Ring tournament, started calling himself “King Harley Race” and started demanding that wrestlers bow to him. Junkyard Dog refused, this lead to a Loser Must Bow match between the 2.
  • After taking a leave of absence for a movie, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper found that Piper’s Pit had been replaced by Adrian Adonis’s “Flower Shop” Segment. Piper trashed the set, restarted the pit, and became embroiled in a feud with Adonis and his manager, Jimmy Hart.
  • Last, but certainly not least – in a surprising shock, Andre The Giant turned heel, aligning himself with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and with Andre attacking Hogan, ripping off his shirt and crucifix necklace.

Anyway, this year the event is being held at the Pontiac Silverdome, and, if I recall correctly, introduced the chariot thingies that would be used to carry wrestlers to the ring, rather then having to walk the long distance from the entrance area to the ring. Vince McMahon is in the ring, wearing his Mandelbrot Set tuxedo again, to introduce us to Wrestlemania 3 and introduce Aretha Franklin, who perform’s “America The Beautiful.” (more…)

Wrestlemania II
Part 1: New York

Much slicker opening video package this time, and we go first to Vince McMahon in the ring at the Nassau County Colosseum, in a subtle yet gaudy (if that’s possible) tux, and he introduces his co-color commentator, Susan Saint James. Oh God, this (Mrs. Saint James’ commentary) can’t end well. We then go to Ray Charles singing America The Beautiful.

Then, we go to Chicago and “Mean” Gene Oakerlund at the Rosemont Horizon arena, who introduces our next interview, back in New York, with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (with “Cowboy” Bob Orton) prepping for his boxing match with Mr. T. Piper promises that if Mr. T knocks him out he will retire from boxing, wrestling, twiddly-winks, and dating girls. Being that this is Piper we’re talking about, he’d probably get himself DQ’d before he let himself get KO’d. Finally, we go back to the ring for our first match. (more…)

The Background

(This Wikipedia article was used to fill in the gaps in my memory).

In 1985, the territorial era was starting to come to a close, though nobody quite knew it yet. Previously, the wrestling business was the primary domain of a series of regional territories, which typically operated under the umbrella of a wrestling alliance to handle talent agreements and with an overall title which could then be used to help promote events at subsidiary promotions. Among the dominant umbrella organizations were Verne Gange’s American Wrestling Alliance (which tended to run shows in the Mid-west-Great Lakes area, and the National Wrestling Alliance, which was strong in the South.

However, by 1985, the subsidiary promotions were starting to become overshadowed by their parent organizations, as the parent organizations began setting up cable television deals which could get their programming available to broader markets – or to be more accurate, promotions with cable television deals getting the champion. Georgia Championship Wrestling with it’s World Championship wrestling programming got the National Wrestling Alliance title. The American Wrestling Alliance had always been focused around Verne Gange’s promotion in Minnesota, which had a television deal through ESPN.

The other major promotion to have a cable television deal was the Vincent K. McMahon Jr.’s World Wrestling Federation (formerly the World Wide Wrestling Federation), through USA. However, what Vince did that made the WWF so different is he basically ignored the territorial bounders. Rather to limiting themselves to the North-eastern area of the US, under VKM’s leadership, the WWF began poaching talent from other promotions (most notably Hulk Hogan from the AWA), as part of Vince’s broader plan to take the promotion to a national level. To do this however, would cost a lot of money… so to get that money Vince would have to take wrestling mainstream.

His plan: Wrestlemania – a national Pay-Per-View event featuring not only wrestlers, but celebreties who would be recognized by home audiences. To get those celebs, he set up a deal with MTV to run two MTV specific WWF events – The Brawl to End It All and The War to Settle The Score. The latter event featured Wendi Richter (accompanied by Cyndi Lauper) beating The Fabulous Moolah to win the Women’s Championship, only to be attacked by Lelani Kai, setting up another title match on the second event, where Kai beat Richter with assistance by Moolah.

Also, at The War To Settle The Score, Hulk Hogan (accompanied to the ring by Capt. Lou Albano and Cyndi Lauper) faced Rowdy Roddy Piper, with Hogan winning by DQ due to interferance by Paul Orndorff. As Piper left, he tripped Lauper, causing Mr. T (who had a ringside seat) to jump the railing to come to her rescue, setting up the main event of Mr. T and Hogan vs. Piper and Orndorff

The event was broadcast in Pay Per View in those areas, but otherwise broadcast on Closed Circuit TV at various theaters across the country. Additional celebs taking part in the event (in one form or another) included Liberace, the Rockettes, and Mohammed Ali.

The future success of the WWF rode on this night, on Vince’s concept of a super-bowl of wrestling…

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