*This was the year in which the In Your House PPVs were introduced, but I will focus my retrospectives on the “classic five” and just give you readers some highlights from the B-Shows.
January 22, 1995
What’s even better than winning the Royal Rumble Match going to the main event of WrestleMania? Being escorted by Pamela Anderson, the most famous of the Baywatch babes. Trust me, back in 1995, that was a pretty big deal. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler were on commentary. The King drooled over Pamela Anderson the same way that he fawned over the WWF/WWE Divas years later.
Razor Ramon defended the Intercontinental Championship against Jeff Jarrett in the opening match. The Roadie was in the corner of Double J. He clipped Razor’s knee and “The Bad Guy” was counted out. Jarrett goaded Razor to resume the match, then won the championship with a small package. The Undertaker defeated Irwin R. Shyster, a proud member of Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Corporation.” King Kong Bundy, yet another member of the Corporation attacked The Phenom after the match and Shyster was able to “repossess” The Undertaker’s urn. This storyline of the missing urn would drag out for half the year.
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart in what was comeback of sorts for the “Excellence of Execution.” He had been away for several weeks, filming a guest spot on the TV series Lonesome Dove. Both champion and challenger had accumulated their fair share of adversaries in the past several months, all of whom interfered in this title match. Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Mr. Bob Backlund, Jeff Jarrett, and The Roadie. Referee Earl Hebner had no choice but to declare the match a draw. Diesel and The Hit Man embraced after the match. Kevin Nash has often stated that the WWF, in his opinion, dropped the ball by softening his character’s badass persona.
The 1-2-3 Kid and Bob “Sparkplug” Holly won the vacated WWF Tag Team Titles with an upset victory over Bam Bam Bigalow and Tatanka, two more members of Ted DiBiase’s Corporation. After the match, Bigalow, embarrassed that he was the superstar who’d been pinned, shoved New York Giants great, #56, Lawrence Taylor, who was sitting front row. The WWF did a masterful job of making this seem like an unscripted incident. The wheels were turning towards WrestleMania XI.
Shawn Michaels drew #1 in the Royal Rumble Match and made WWF history by going the distance. Right there with him was “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, entrant #2. This was the shortest rumble match because the time between entrants was only one minute. There were also many jobbers participating, so this Royal Rumble was basically a showdown between HBK and The British Bulldog. I doubt anybody was betting on Duke “The Dumpster” Droese (#4).
Doink the Clown (#8) appeared in his final PPV match until the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania XVII. Rick “The Model” Martel (#10) was in his seventh consecutive and last rumble. Jerry Lawler ribbed about needing a stopwatch for The Bushwackers, Luke (#13) & Butch (#18). The King’s wisecracks are why it wasn’t until the 2007 Royal Rumble that it was clarified, courtesy of John Bradshaw Layfield, that it was The Warlord who held the record for the worst time in a rumble. The Bushwackers also did not compete in another PPV match until the Gimmick Battle Royal.
Bret Hart was still looking for retribution, so he jumped both Owen Hart (#11) and Mr. Bob Backlund (#25) before they could even enter the rumble. As a result, both were quickly eliminated. Owen by The British Bulldog and Backlund by Lex Luger (#19). Luger was the odds-on-favorite in this year’s Royal Rumble after having co-won the match in 1994. The final four were Shawn Michaels, The British Bulldog, Lex Luger, and Crush (#30). Yet again, Lex let the U.S.A. down as he was eliminated by Michaels. The British Bulldog then took out Crush with a clothesline meant for Michaels.
For the first and only time, the first two entrants were the last two standing out of thirty. It then appeared as if The Bulldog had eliminated Michaels. The referees never called for the bell, but The Bulldog’s music played. HBK desperately held onto the ropes as only one of his feet touched the arena floor. It has to be both feet for the elimination to be official. Michaels then eliminated Bulldog, who celebrated prematurely. Dramatic slow-mo replays confirmed that the officials made the correct call. Pamela Anderson joined Shawn Michaels in the ring and seemed to find the circumstances a bit foolish, but she should have considered herself quite lucky that HBK was the victor and not the likes of King Kong Bundy (#15), Mantaur (#20), or Henry O. Godwin (#22).
The athletic prowess of both Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith displayed at this event was the highlight of 1995. For the rest of the year, the WWF seemed to be a real creative drought. Things weren’t too much better over in WCW with the “Dungeon of Doom.” These were the desperate times before the Attitude Era.
April 2, 1995
The WWF went way overboard with the celebrities this time around. This event was reminiscent of the early WrestleManias with all the in-ring competition playing second fiddle to stars from Hollywood. And not all these stars were A-Listers. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler explained to the audience what sports entertainment was all about. This turned out to be unnecessary as Lawrence Taylor failed to bring in new fans the way Mr. T had back in 1985.
Lex Luger and “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith defeated The Blu Brothers (Eli & Jacob) in the opening match. The Blu Brothers were managed Uncle Zebekiah, who is now known as Zeb Colter in the WWE. Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie) defended the Intercontinental Championship against Razor Ramon (w/ The 1-2-3 Kid). Jarrett lost via DQ, so he retained his title. I really don’t think WrestleMania is the time for copout finishes.
The Undertaker defeated King Kong Bundy, a member of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, in match with Major League Baseball umpire Larry Young as the referee. The streak was now 4&0. This was Bundy’s first WrestleMania in eight years. Kama, the supreme fighting machine and former Papa Shango, stole the urn from Paul Bearer during the match after Undertaker had already retrieved it from The Million Dollar Man. This routine was getting pretty tired. Kama then vowed to Jim Ross, who was conducting post match interviews, that he would melt the urn down and turn it into a gold chain.
Owen Hart and a mystery partner would challenge The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) for the WWF Tag Team Championships. His partner turned out to be… Yokozuna, who’d not been seen since the Survivor Series, four months earlier. The Smokin’ Gunns were overmatched and many fans were cheering for the heel team. Yokozuna and Owen won the titles. Owen was the 1994 King of the Ring, but this was his first championship belt. This was also the beginning of “Camp Cornette.”
The rivalry between Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Mr. Bob Backlund began months earlier after a highly competitive match on WWF Superstars. Backlund snapped as a result of his loss in that match. Backlund then won the WWF Championship from Hart at the Survivor Series in a Submission Match. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a surprise as the guest referee in the rubber match of this feud. This was the second WrestleMania in a row where The Hot Rod officiated Bret Hart’s match. Overall, this was weakest of the three matches between Hart and Backlund. Hart won with the Crossed Face Chicken-Wing, which was the finishing maneuver of Backlund’s. After the match, Backlund told Jim Ross that “he saw a light.” Even Bret Hart has said that this was his least favorite of all his WrestleMania matches. I’m assuming he was referring to his singles matches as The Hart Foundation squashing The Bolsheviks at WrestleMania VI wasn’t anything to place on a “best of” DVD.
Shawn Michaels hired himself a new bodyguard for the WWF Championship Match. None other than Psycho Sid, appearing at his first WWF Pay-Per-View since his match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VIII. HBK was also suppose to be escorted to the ring by Pamela Anderson, one of the perks guaranteed by his Royal Rumble victory, but MTV’s Jenny McCarthy was on his arm instead. Pamela Anderson chose to accompany the champion, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel. The title match was unique in that the smaller competitor, Shawn Michaels, was the heel and the favorite. Michaels and Sid seemed to have just as much fan support as Diesel. HBK hit Diesel with a super-kick and had him beat, but the referee was nowhere in sight. Diesel recovered and pinned Michaels after the Jackknife Power-Bomb. Big Daddy Cool celebrated with the celebrities, both Pam Anderson and Jenny McCarthy turned out to be gold-diggers, but HBK may have stolen the show.
Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigalow was the main event. The pop group, Salt-N-Pepa, preformed “Whatta Man” for the entrance of LT. This was a Lumberjack Match of sorts with the rest of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation in Bigalow’s corner and the All-Pro Team in Lawrence Taylor’s corner. One member of the All-Pro Team was Steve “Mongo” McMichael, who became a fixture on WCW Monday Nitro later in 1995. The referee was Pat Patterson, the first Intercontinental Champion and referee of the inaugural WrestleMania main event back in 1985. LT performed surprisingly well and Bigalow sold like a boss for him. LT won with a flying forearm, but he looked a little worse for the wear as he was carried from the ring to celebrate with Salt-N-Pepa. Even though Bigalow lost the match, I recall him being referred to as the “giant” killer once in ECW.
Both Shawn Michaels and Bam Bam Bigalow turned baby-face in the weeks following WrestleMania. Psycho Sid joined Ted DiBiase’s Corporation and the “In Your House” PPVs were introduced on Mother’s Day of that year. This event will always be known as the “Lawrence Taylor” WrestleMania, but most matches didn’t live up to the hype.
KING OF THE RING
June 25, 1995
At the inaugural In Your House, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel successfully defended the WWF Championship against Psycho Sid. Diesel won via DQ after Tatanka, who like Sid was part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, interfered. Jerry “The King” Lawler scored a victory over Bret “Hit Man” Hart on Mother’s Day in a match The Hit Man had dedicated to his mom, Helen Hart. Also, Mabel (now a heel) defeated Adam Bomb in a King of the Ring tournament qualifying match. All that led up to this event. Vince McMahon and Dok Hendrix (A/K/A/ Michael P.S. Hayes) called the action.
Both Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the King of the Ring tournament. A curious booking decision. HBK wrestled Kama to a 15 minute time limit draw while Undertaker was eliminated by Mabel, who then received a bye into the finals. Savio Vega, formerly known as Kwang and filling in for an injured Razor Ramon, defeated Yokozuna and The Roadie (w/ Jeff Jarrett) to reach the finals.
Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler had reignited their feud which began at the 1993 King of the Ring. Now they would face-off in a “Kiss My Foot” Match. The King was banking on The Hit Man getting himself disqualified just as he had at SummerSlam 1993. Vince McMahon surmised that Bret Hart would retire out of sheer embarrassment if he lost this match. Hakushi and his manager, Shinja, interfered on behalf of The King. Bret Hart, pulling double duty, had also wrestled Hakushi at In Your House. Hakushi wasn’t much help though as he inadvertently struck Jerry Lawler twice. Once during the match and again after the match. The Hit Man was victorious with his patented Sharpshooter, then removed his boot and stuck his foot in The King’s face. Hart was also able to get Lawler to kiss his own foot, which in the storyline, he’d not washed in weeks.
Mabel then defeated Savio Vega to become the 1995 King of the Ring. This match is notorious for two reasons. Firstly, King Mabel did not become a long term main event superstar like most of the other King of the Ring tournament winners. Secondly, since this PPV was held in Philadelphia, an ECW chant broke out. You could see many of the loyal ECW fans, like the guy in the straw hat, sitting ringside. This was how the fans let Vince McMahon know that they were not pleased with creative direction of the WWF.
Diesel and Bam Bam Bigalow took on Psycho Sid and Tatanka (w/ Ted DiBiase) in the main event. There have been some accounts that there were behind the scenes clashes Bigalow and “The Kliq” (Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, The 1-2-3 Kid, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley). When Shawn Michaels and Diesel reunited on Monday Night RAW, it was obvious that they didn’t want to share the moment with Bigalow. Despite whatever distaste they might have had for one another backstage, Diesel and Bigalow were still victorious, with Diesel scoring the winning pinfall on Tatanka. The rivalry between Diesel and Psycho Sid continued as they battled for the WWF Championship again at In Your House II: The Lumberjacks.
August 27, 1995
The summer of King Mabel. Also, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith turned heel for the first time in his career by betraying his tag partner, Lex Luger. Shawn Michaels won the Intercontinental Championship for the third time in his career by defeating Jeff Jarrett at In Your House II: The Lumberjacks, the same night “Double J” debuted his newest single, “With My Baby Tonight” via lip-singing. Vince McMahon started off calling SummerSlam with Jerry “The King” Lawler, then The King was relieved by Dok Hendrix towards the end of the night. The Fabulous Freebird alumnus is probably my least favorite color man of the 1990s. His sense of humor was corny and dated.
Hakushi defeated The 1-2-3 Kid in the opener. The fan support was unique as the fans cheered Hakushi for his athleticism, but booed him when he attempted to play to the crowd. Hunter Hearst Helmsley made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut, defeating Bob “Sparkplug” Holly. Barry Horowitz, a prolific jobber, defeated Skip, who was managed by the original WWF Diva, Sunny (even though the moniker Diva wasn’t popularized until after she left the promotion). Speaking of the ladies, Bertha Faye won the WWF Women’s Championship from Alundra Blaze at this show.
The Undertaker faced Kama in a Casket Match. The Phenom was still feuding with Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. It was time for Kama to pay for melting the urn down into a gold chain. The Undertaker picked up the win and was now 3&1 in Casket Matches held at Pay-Per-Views. Glenn Jacobs, now better known as Kane, also made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut under his Dr. Isaac Yankem gimmick, a sadistic dentist brought to the WWF by Jerry “The King” Lawler to target Bret “Hit Man” Hart. It was almost like the “Excellence of Execution” was being booked like a mid-carder in 1995 while members of The Kliq held all the championships.
Shawn Michaels was initially set to defend the Intercontinental Championship against Psycho Sid, but the interim WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon, decided to treat the fans and booked the rematch of the decade… Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match. The IC Title was described as a “hot potato” at SummerSlam because the belt changed hands every year at the summer classic with the exception of 1993. HBK and “The Bad Guy” were both faces, but I have to give the edge to Razor when it came to fan support in this match. Michaels wore some thick knee pads and Razor spent a good portion of the match targeting HBK’s left knee. During the finish, Michaels seemed to have some difficulty unhooking the title. Razor improvised long enough to allow HBK to retain his championship. These two superstars may have topped their performance at WrestleMania X, but there’s nothing quite like the original.
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel defended the WWF Championship against King Mabel in the main event. Mabel had Sir Mo in his corner, so Lex Luger offered his services to Diesel as a corner man, but Diesel declined. When Lex did attempt to assist Diesel, he got a big boot in the face for his trouble. I don’t know if this was leading to a match between Diesel and Lex, but Lex shockingly made the jump to WCW on the inaugural edition of Monday Nitro. The opening shot that heralded the Monday Night War. This was only Diesel’s second legitimately successfully title defense at a Pay-Per-View. He held the belt for a year, the longest title reign of the 1990s, but with so few defining moments. Meanwhile, King Mabel never main evented another Pay-Per-View.
November 19, 1995
The Kliq was running ramped at this time. Diesel and Shawn Michaels won the WWF Tag Team Championships from Yokozuna and Owen Hart at In Your House III: Triple Header. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was filling in for his injured brother-in-law for that match. However, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon reversed the decision the next night on RAW because Owen Hart was pinned when he wasn’t officially part of the match. The British Bulldog then challenged Diesel at In Your House IV: The Great White North for the WWF Championship. Bret “Hit Man” Hart, who was serving as a guest color commentator, interfered in the match and Davey Boy won via DQ. This was the same night that Shawn Michaels relinquished the Intercontinental Championship to Dean Douglas (better known as “The Franchise” Shane Douglas). Douglas then lost the title to Razor Ramon. This was Ramon’s fourth reign as IC Champion, a record at the time. The Kliq definitely had a monopoly on these title belts.
Since Jerry “The King” Lawler was wrestling a lot in 1995, Vince McMahon needed a broadcast partner and Dok Hendrix wasn’t filling the bill. At Survivor Series 1995, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig returned to the WWF to serve as a color commentator. In the first of the tradition Survivor Series tag team elimination match, Skip (w/ Sunny) and “The Bodydonnas” defeated Marty Jannetty and “The Underdogs.” A whole bunch of jobbers in this match. The 1-2-3 Kid was the sole survivor. The Kid had turned heel by betraying Razor Ramon and joining Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. Psycho Sid interfered and was instrumental in The Kid’s victory.
Bertha Faye’s team defeated Alundra Blaze’s team in the first women’s Survivor Series Match since the inaugural Survivor Series in 1987. Goldust, formerly know as Dustin Rhodes, defeated Bam Bam Bigalow in what was Bigalow’s last WWF Pay-Per-View match. “The Beat from the East” had successful runs in ECW and WCW, but he never made a return to the WWF. Perhaps his departure had to do with his personal animosity towards The Kliq. Goldust, on the other hand, was beginning to revolutionize the WWF with his controversial, androgynous gimmick. A glimmer of the Attitude Era.
The Undertaker and “The Darkside” defeated Jerry Lawler and “The Royals” by clean sweep. The Phenom had partners, but he didn’t need them as he did all the eliminating by himself. He also wore a protective face mask, which led to the rumors that this might be another imposter, but it was the real Mark Calaway. The last of the Survivor Series matches was a “Wild Card” Match. Meaning that heels and faces were forced to team with each other. Razor Ramon was stuck with three heels, Yokozuna, Owen Hart, and Dean Douglas. Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson (making his PPV debut) teamed with Psycho Sid and The British Bulldog. Jim Cornette had charges on both sides of the ring. There was a great deal of infighting during the match. HBK, Ahmed Johnson, and The British Bulldog were the survivors.
“Diesel Power” was just about running on empty. Big Daddy Cool defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart in a “No DQ” Match. Their previous match ups at King of the Ring 1994 and Royal Rumble 1995 had no definitive winner. This title match was historic because it was the first time in WWF history that a superstar, namely Bret Hart, was driven through the Spanish announcer’s table. That happens so often now that it’s lost all cache, but it was a big deal at the time. Bret Hart played possum, Diesel went for the Jackknife Power-Bomb, then The Hit Man rolled him up for a three count and won the WWF Championship for the third time in his illustrious career. Diesel was a pretty sore loser, attacking referees and nailing Bret Hart with two Jackknifes after the match, but didn’t turn all the way heel for several months.
As 1995 wound down, Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeated Henry Godwin in a “Hog Pen” Match at In Your House V: Season’s Beatings. Alundra Blaze made the jump to WCW and famously threw the WWF Women’s Championship in the trash. Shawn Michaels collapsed in the ring during a match against Owen Hart on Monday Night RAW. The WWF was playing up on a legit concussion that HBK received in a bar fight. This angle put Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart on a collision course with each other in 1996.
January 22, 1994
Providence, Rhode Island
This was the first year that the WWF New Generation was able to shine uninterrupted. “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan did not make a comeback, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was retired from in-ring competition, The Ultimate Warrior was still exiled to “parts unknown,” and “Macho Man” Randy Savage was booked as a commentator and part time wrestler until departing after SummerSlam. Vince McMahon called the play-by-play at this PPV, with The Million Dollar Man serving as the color commentator.
“Native American” Tatanka defeated Bam Bam Bigalow in the opener. Bigalow was a substitute for Ludwig Borga, who was out of action with a knee injury. The crowd was behind Tatanka, but Bigalow received a hand for hitting an enziguri and mocking the “war dance” of Tatanka. Every once and while, you have to give a heel some accolades.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart and his brother, “The Rocket” Owen Hart, had seemingly patched things up over the holidays after some pushing and shoving at the Survivor Series. They would now challenge The Quebecers (Jacques & Piere) for the WWF Tag Team Titles. The Quebecers had recently lost the championships on Monday Night RAW to Marty Jannetty and The 1-2-3 Kid, then won the belts back at a houseshow in Madison Square Garden. The Quebecers were managed by Johnny Polo, who today is better known as Raven. The Hart Brothers functioned as a unit until The Hit Man injured his knee and was unable to continue. Referee Tim White stopped the match and awarded the victory to The Quebecers. This was Owen Hart’s first title opportunity and he was left irate. He blamed his brother for being selfish and not tagging out after getting hurt. Instead of helping his brother, Owen kicked Bret in his injured leg. The Hit Man anguished in pain while being stretchered back to the locker room. Would he return for the Royal Rumble Match?
Gorilla Monsoon and Jim Ross got a nice reprieve from Radio WWF and called Razor Ramon defending the Intercontinental Championship against Irwin R. Shyster. Shawn Michaels, the former and still self proclaimed IC title holder, interfered and used his bogus championship belt as a weapon against Razor after there was a referee bump. I.R.S. actually pinned Razor and apparently won the title, but the match was restarted and Razor pinned I.R.S. after hitting The Razor’s Edge, his finishing maneuver.
The Undertaker challenged Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in a Casket Match, a stipulation that clearly favored Undertaker. Yokozuna appeared truly intimidated by an opponent for the first time. Undertaker had the match won, then Crush, Genichiro Tenyru, The Great Kabuki, Bam Bam Bigalow, Adam Bomb, Diesel, “Double J” Jeff Jarrett, and The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu) all interfered on behalf of Yokozuna. It was almost like a preview of the Royal Rumble Match, but no baby-faces came to Undertaker’s aid. I heard “Luger” chants, but Lex was nowhere in sight. Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji stole the urn from Paul Bearer. The urn was then busted open and green mist poured out, symbolic of The Phenom losing his power. Yokozuna and company got Undertaker into the casket and sealed the lid. The heels took a victory lap, then more mist started seeping from the casket itself. The Undertaker appeared on the big screen and vowed to NOT rest in peace. This supernatural aspect of his gimmick makes The Undertaker the coolest character in WWF/WWE history. He is also a great in-ring performer, an athlete who is very agile for his size. There is a lot more to The Phenom then just his WrestleMania undefeated streak. Actually, he would miss WrestleMania X while recuperating from this beat down.
Scott Steiner drew #1 in the Royal Rumble Match. This year, the time between entrants was shortened from two minutes to ninety seconds. Rick Steiner drew #3 and after they eliminated Samu (#2), it looked liked the brothers could control the ring, but Kwang (#4) spit green mist into the face of Rick Steiner. Kwang would start competing as Savio Vega in 1995. Owen Hart (#5) had so much heat with the fans. Diesel (#7) then came in and he cleaned house. He then eliminated the next three entrants. No one had ever dominated the Royal Rumble like this. Though he was heel, fans were cheering him on. He tossed out a total of seven superstars, which didn’t break the record set by Hulk Hogan in 1989, but it was seven consecutive eliminations. A record which was tied by The Great Khali in 2007. As Diesel caught a breather, footage was show of Lex Luger getting battered in the locker room by Tenyru and The Great Kabuki, Mr. Fuji’s henchmen. Luger, like Bret Hart, was now questionable for the Royal Rumble Match.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage (#11) was the only superstar who was able to go toe-to-toe with Diesel. Savage also made quick work of “Double J” Jeff Jarrett (#12). Savage was then eliminated by Crush (#13) after he was double-teamed by Crush and Diesel. The ring finally began to fill up again. Shawn Michaels was entrant #18 and he backed off from his bodyguard, Diesel. HBK played nice and he and Diesel shook hands. This was a mistake on Diesel’s part because as soon as he dropped his guard, the other competitors in the ring ganged up and eliminated him. Shawn Michaels, according to Vince McMahon, helped to dump out his bodyguard, but the cameras missed it.
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (#20) and Rick “The Model” Martel (#26) were both in this match. These were the two iron men of the 1991 Royal Rumble. Lex Luger came in at #23, showing no ill-effects from the locker room scuffle. Entrant #25 was a no-show. It was presumed to be Bret “Hit Man” Hart, but lo-and-behold, The Hit Man limped his way to ring at entrant #27, the lucky spot. It turned out to be Bastion Booger who was the no-show. Marty Jannetty (#29) went straight for Shawn Michaels and the crowd popped big for this Rockers rematch. The final four were Lex Luger, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Fatu (#28). Luger and Hart worked together to simultaneously eliminate HBK and Fatu. Never before had two baby-faces been the last two standing in a rumble. They locked up, went over the top rope, and apparently hit the floor at the exact same time.
First, Lex Luger’s music played, then Bret Hart’s as the referees continued to argue. The replays were inconclusive. If there wasn’t enough disorder already, WWF President Jack Tunney arrived to help and settle the dispute. Has Jack Tunney ever done anything accept make matters worse? The fans also weighed in, with Hart’s fans out cheering Luger’s. I think this crowd reaction helped to convince Vince McMahon which one should win the title at WrestleMania. The official ruling was explained to a perplexed Howard Finkel. The Fink announced that Bret Hart and Lex Luger were the “co-winners” of the 1994 Royal Rumble. Not a popular decision.
The WrestleMania theme played as Bret Hart and Lex Luger shook hands. Something similar happened in 2005 with John Cena and Batista, but that match was restarted. The 1994 Royal Rumble probably ended in upheaval because Vince McMahon was torn. He wanted to push Lex Luger, but the fans wanted Bret Hart… Did this compromise please anyone?
March 20, 1994
New York City, New York
Ten years in the making (it was actually nine, but who’s counting). The WWF returns to Madison Square Garden, the venue of the first WrestleMania and the first SummerSlam. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler called all the action. This was The King’s first appearance in several months. I guess his legal troubles had been resolved. Lawler is still a color analyst for the WWE, nineteen years later. His tenure has eclipsed Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan combined.
WWF President Jack Tunney devised an unusual method of choosing the #1 Contender after Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Lex Luger co-won the 1994 Royal Rumble Match. A coin toss. The winner to get the first crack at Yokozuna and the WWF Championship, while the loser competes in an unrelated match, then challenges the champion irregardless of the result in his match. Lex Luger won the toss, so The Hit Man was now set to face his brother, “The Rocker” Owen Hart. If Bret Hart had won the toss, then Lex Luger would have fought Crush. This was the first time since WrestleMania IV that the main event was “to be determined.”
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart opened the show. Not only was it an “excellent” match from a technical wrestling standpoint, but there was great drama, telling the story of big brother reluctant to grapple with his younger brother. According to Bret Hart, he had advised his brother to not use too much of his high-flying arsenal and rely on dirty heel tactics, so the fans would not be compelled to root for The Rocket. Nowadays, many superstars have become utterly obsessed with “stealing the show,” but that feat can be achieved without expending your entire repertoire. Bret put his brother over clean, with Owen countering his victory-roll attempt. Vince McMahon said that Bret’s heart wasn’t in the match. No pun intended. It also appeared as if The Hit Man re-aggravated his knee injury from the Royal Rumble.
Bam Bam Bigalow & Luna Vachon defeated Doink & Dink in a mixed tag team match. Alundra Blaze successfully defended the WWF Women’s Championship against Leilani Kai. The first time since Royal Rumble 1989 that there was a women’s championship match at a PPV. “Macho Man” Randy Savaged defeated Crush in a wild “Falls Count Anywhere” Match, the final PPV match for Randy Savage in the WWF even though he remained with the promotion for several more months. Men on a Mission (Mo & Mabel) w/ Oscar defeated The Quebecers (Jacques & Piere) w/ Johnny Polo via count out. This was for the WWF Tag Team Championships, which obviously do not change hands on a count out, but Men on a Mission still celebrated with the belts. Adam Bomb (w/ Harvey Wippleman) lost to Earthquake in a quick match. One of the shortest at a WrestleMania since King Kong Bundy vs. S.D. Jones way back at the inaugural WrestleMania. This was Earthquake’s last WWF PPV match until SummerSlam in 1998 (also in MSG), when he was known as Golga and a member of The Oddities.
Lex Luger challenged Yokozuna in the first WWF Championship Match of the evening. Their rivalry started in NYC the year before on the 4th of July, so it was fitting that the feud would culminate in the Big Apple. This was as close to the WWF Championship as the “Lex Express” would get, but the surprise guest referee turned out to be “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, Lex Luger’s opponent from WrestleMania IX. No mention at all was made of their past animosity, obviously in attempt to make the finish as shocking as possible. Lex Luger walloped Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji, then nailed Yokozuna with his loaded elbow. Mr. Perfect was reluctant to count Yokozuna’s shoulders down, then inexplicably disqualified Lex Luger. Apparently, revenge for Lex stealing the victory at WrestleMania IX. Mr. Perfect and Lex were separated by officials backstage. Yet again, Mr. Perfect left the WWF because of chronic back problems and there was no closure to this rivalry. Lex Luger never received another WWF Title shot at a PPV.
There were two Intercontinental Championship belts hanging above the ring for the first WrestleMania Ladder Match. Shawn Michaels was stripped of the title and suspended in the fall of 1993. Razor Ramon won the vacated championship, then HBK returned with his original title belt. “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel was in the corner of Shawn Michaels, but was ejected from ringside early in the match despite there being no disqualifications. This contest was ahead of its time, setting the stage for the later TLC and Money in the Bank matches. Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon told a story with the ladder as appose to it being a demolition derby. I was in high school during the Attitude Era and my classmates who had recently embraced pro wrestling would ask me about the famous WrestleMania X Ladder Match. I would warn them that they might not enjoy the match because it was tame by ECW standards and employed actual wrestling psychology. Nowadays, whenever the WWE references this match, it is implied that Shawn Michaels was the victory, but it was “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon who won this epic match for the ages, proving that he was the undisputed Intercontinental Champion.
Because of the length of the Ladder Match, a ten man tag team match had to be nixed from the show. The heel team (Rick “The Model” Martel, “Double J” Jeff Jarrett, Irwin R. Shyster, & The Headshrinkers) were shown arguing backstage. This dissension in the ranks was given as the reason for the match being bumped to the next night on RAW.
Yokozuna returned to defend his title one more time against the man he’d bested the year before at WrestleMania IX, Bret “Hit Man” Hart. This being the first time that the WWF/WWE featured the same main event at two consecutive WrestleManias. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper appeared for the first since he played the bagpipes at SummerSlam 1992 to be the guest referee. Unlike Mr. Perfect, The Hot Rod called the match down the middle and showed no favoritism. Yokozuna dominated, but he slipped when he went for his patented bonsai drop and landed on the back of his head. The Hit Man capitalized, hooked the big man’s leg and won the WWF Champion for the second time in his career. Bret Hart was now a WWF triple crown winner two times over. Livid, Yokozuna chased Roddy Piper back to the locker room even though the three count was fair and square.
A dejected Lex Luger was the first superstar out to congratulate the new champion. You could see the disappointment in his eyes, but he and The Hit Man shook hands just as they did at the Royal Rumble. Roddy Piper returned and joined in the celebration. Just about every baby-face in the WWF also entered the ring to applaud Bret Hart. Among them were “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Razor Ramon, Tatanka, and Gorilla Monsoon. All the guest celebrities (including Burt Reynolds!!!) even got in on the act. Owen Hart watched this from the aisle. He had finally stepped out of the shadow of his brother with his victory earlier in the show, but Bret Hart was back in the spotlight with the title. You could read Owen’s lips as he said the words “What about me?”
When Bret Hart won the WWF Championship from Ric Flair in 1992, it was at a home video taping, so WrestleMania X was his real crowning moment, being carried up on the shoulders of his peers in Madison Square Garden as his synthesizer theme music blared.
KING OF THE RING
June 19, 1994
A PPV which will live in infamy for “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Gorilla Monsoon being joined on commentary by Art Donovan, a retired professional football player turned outlandish TV personality, who was mystified and bothersome throughout the show. Why was this man booked if he knew nothing about the WWF? “Road Dogg” Jesse James has recently made a few wise cracks at the expense of Art Donovan on “Are you Serious?,” a humorous WWE Youtube show. WWF Chairman Vince McMahon was absent from this show because he was testifying at the notorious steroid trial and nursing a sore neck.
“The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon defeated “The Beast from the East” Bam Bam Bigalow in a solid opening match. At one point, Bigalow had Razor locked in the torture rack and Art Donovan absurdly asked if Razor was dead? Gorilla Monsoon politely explained to Art that these matches were not to the death. Bigalow had made it all the way to the finals in 1993, but this year he was eliminated right off the bat, disappointing Luna Vachon. Razor Ramon also bested Irwin R. Shyster to reach the finals. His opponent there would be “The Rocket” Owen Hart, who defeated “Native American” Tatanka and The 1-2-3 Kid along the way.
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart returned after a two year absence (and brief tenure in WCW) to be in the corner of Bret “Hit Man” Hart as the “Excellence of Execution” defended the WWF Championship against “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, who was the now reigning Intercontinental Champion. Diesel had defeated Razor Ramon for the IC strap. This was like a transitional period in the career of Diesel, where he became a much more active in-ring competitor as appose to just being bodyguard for Shawn Michaels. HBK acted as a manager for Diesel during the summer of 1994. Art Donovan was very confused by the presence of Shawn Michaels at ringside. Bret Hart lost by disqualification thanks to the outside interference of Jim Neidhart. A championship cannot change hands in that fashion and it would soon be revealed that The Anvil had ulterior motives for insuring that The Hit Man’s title reign continued.
The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu) successfully defended their WWF Tag Team Titles in a match against Yokozuna and Crush, both charges of Mr. Fuji. Yokozuna had just about dominated the promotion for almost an entire year, but it would be a while before he regained any real momentum.
As I mentioned, Owen Hart squared off with Razor Ramon in the finals of the King of the Ring tournament. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart made another appearance and attacked Razor outside the ring while Owen had the referee distracted. Owen then hit a flying elbow drop for the victory. Art Donovan was bewildered once again. After the match was over, The Rocket and The Anvil hit Razor with the “Hart-Attack,” the finishing maneuver of The Hart Foundation. During the coronation, Owen Hart told WWF President Jack Tunney to take a hike and Jim Neidhart presented his brother-in-law with the scepter, kingly robe, and crown. Owen Hart declared himself to be the “King of Harts.” Gorilla Monsoon and Randy Savage surmised that Owen Hart and The Anvil were cahoots the whole the time.
The main event was “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler in a match which was instigated by Jerry Lawler on his interview segment, “The King’s Court,” another in a long line of “Piper’s Pit” imitators. As was documented on the Roddy Piper “Born to Controversy” DVD, neither superstar thinks all too highly of this particular match. Roddy Piper won his first PPV match since WrestleMania VIII with a very awkward roll-up.
This mediocre main event peppered with Art Donovan’s completely inane commentary should be overlooked because the star of this show was Owen Hart. However, The 1994 King of the Ring was out grossed by WCW’s Bash at the Beach, which was headlined by “Nature Boy” Ric Flair defending the WCW Championship against “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, who was making his WCW in-ring debut… The war had begun.
August 29, 1994
Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler called all the action. “Macho Man” Randy Savage was the emcee of his last WWF Pay-Per-View and the entire Hart Family was in attendance, including “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, who had spent two years in WCW. Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy, the stars of the “Naked Gun” movies were searching for The Undertaker, who had not been seen since the Royal Rumble. Lastly, Shawn Michaels and Diesel had recently won the WWF Tag Team Championships from The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu) at a houseshow. Everybody got that?
Bam Bam Bigalow and Irwin R. Shyster, two members of Ted DiBiase’s new heel stable, “The Million Dollar Corporation,” defeated The Headshrinkers via DQ in the opener. This match would have been for the tag team titles had HBK and Big Daddy Cool not won the belts. Alundra Blaze successfully defended the WWF Women’s Championship against Bull Nakano. Luna Vachon was in the corner of the challenger. Bull Nakano would eventually win the championship in her native Japan before the Survivor Series.
Razor Ramon challenged Diesel for the Intercontinental Championship. Walter Peyton, an NFL great formerly of the Chicago Bears, was in the corner of Razor to keep an eye on Shawn Michaels, who had a tendency of interfering in Diesel’s matches. Big Daddy Cool was now the holder of two championships, but he would lose one thanks to HBK, who inadvertently struck Diesel with his patented super-kick. Razor Ramon was now a three time IC Champion. A record at the time. Also, the seeds had been sown for the break up of Shawn Michaels and Diesel, a future WrestleMania main event.
Throughout the summer, the WWF teased that Lex Luger would “sell out” and join Ted DiBiase’s Corporation. Lex Luger’s former good friend, “Native American” Tatanka, led the smear campaign against the man who was “made in the U.S.A.,” but at the conclusion of their match, it was revealed to be a swerve. Tatanka had “sold out” and beat down Lex, taking his cues from The Million Dollar Man. “Double J” Jeff Jarrett then defeated Mabel in showdown between country music and rap.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart defended the WWF Championship against his brother, “The King of Harts” Owen Hart in a Steel Cage Match. Unlike other steel cage matches, this was not a bloody contest. The excitement was built upon many near escapes from the cage. Owen’s leg was caught in the cage as Bret dropped to the arena floor, retaining his title. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart was sitting with the rest of the Harts and as soon as the match was over, he clotheslined The British Bulldog over the guardrail, also wiping out Diana Hart-Smith. Owen and The Anvil dragged Bret back into the cage and padlocked it shut as Bulldog and the other brothers tried climbing to Bret’s rescue. Eventually, they all made it inside while Owen and Neidhart tucked their tales and ran. Every 1994 PPV was telling another chapter in this Hart Family saga. Classic matches coupled with dramatic storylines is why I’ve qualified Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart as one of the best feuds of 1990s.
The main event “looked good on paper.” The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker. After many weeks of alleged (Bigfoot like) sightings, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, who had introduced The Phenom to the WWF back at Survivor Series 1990, would facilitate the return of the Dead Man. Paul Bearer disagreed, but on an edition of Heartbreak Hotel (Shawn Michaels’ version of Piper’s Pit) Ted DiBiase unveiled a man who he claimed to be The Undertaker, but his was not Mark Calaway, this was an imposter, Brian Lee. Paul Bearer knew that he was fake and promised that his true Undertaker would make a return at SummerSlam. Evil Undertaker made his entrance first, garbed in the traditional black and grey ring gear, then the real Undertaker emerged in new black and purple gear. The crowd was so exuberant during the entrances, then they fell flat when the bell rang. It was quite obvious which of the two was the original Undertaker, so the actual wrestling match was anti-climatic. It was a dominant victory for the one and only Undertaker. He then had a drawn out, year long feud with Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. The imposter wouldn’t return to the WWF until 1997, when he was known as Chainz and a member of DOA.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage introduced the final comedy segment with Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy. Again, this would be The Macho Man’s last WWF Pay-Per-View appearance. He joined WCW in the fall of 1994 and reunited with “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan (they were called The Monster Maniacs instead of The Mega Powers). Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy never actually crossed paths with The Undertaker, but they declared the case closed just before the show went off the air. Job well done.
November 23, 1994
San Antonio, Texas
Vince McMahon and Gorilla Monsoon were on commentary for this Thanksgiving Eve tradition. So, no heel commentator? Since this show emanated from the Lone Star State, the whole cowboy theme was played up. Chuck Norris, the star of Walker, Texas Ranger, was even on hand to serve as the special guest enforcer in the main event. Nobody would dare to cross Chuck Norris.
Shawn Michaels and “The Teamsters” faced Razor Ramon and “The Bad Guys” in the opening traditional Survivor Series elimination match. HBK lingered on the apron and let “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel do the heavy lifting. He eliminated The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Sione), The 1-2-3 Kid, and “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (via a count out). Despite of this dominate performance, Shawn Michaels was still not pleased. He wanted Diesel to hold Razor Ramon for the super-kick. HBK inadvertently nailed Diesel with the kick just as when he’d cost Diesel the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam. This was the last straw. Diesel lost his cool and chased Shawn Michaels out of the arena. The rest of Teamsters (Owen Hart, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, & “Double J” Jeff Jarrett) tried to play peacemaker, but were all counted out, making Razor Ramon the sole survivor. It’s a good thing that the WWF was in San Antonio because Shawn Michaels probably didn’t have a long drive home after he threw down his WWF Tag Team Championship belt.
Not a Survivor Series goes by without a shout out to The Royal Family vs. Clowns “R” Us. It’s referenced as often as The Undertaker’s 1990 debut and the Montreal Screw Job. Jerry “The King” Lawler teamed up with Sleazy, Queasy, and Cheesy to take on Doink, Dink, Wink, and Pink. The Royal Family did survive intact, but Jerry Lawler’s tiny partners turned on him after the match and The King received a pie in the face courtesy of Doink.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart defended the WWF Championship against Mr. Bob Backlund. It had been eleven years since Bob Backlund had lost the title to The Iron Sheik. His manager, Arnold Skaaland, threw in the towel on his behalf when he was trapped in the dreaded Camel Clutch. The stipulation in this championship match harkened back to that with both superstars choosing corner men to carry their towel. Bret Hart chose his brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith, while Mr. Backlund chose Owen Hart. Owen blatantly interfered because the match couldn’t end on a DQ. Davey Boy injured himself while chasing Owen around the ring, leaving no one to toss in the towel for The Hit Man when Mr. Backlund cinched in the Crossed Face Chicken-Wing, his patented submission hold. Bret Hart was in a great deal of pain and it appeared as if Owen was now regretting his actions. Stu and Helen Hart were at in the front row and Owen begged his parents to throw in the towel, but Stu refused even though Bret was suffering just a few feet away. Helen couldn’t stand seeing her son in such agony and she threw in the towel and cost Bret Hart the WWF Championship. As soon as the bell rang, Owen gleefully ran back to the locker room. He had actually manipulated his mother into helping Bob Backlund regain the coveted title after eleven years. Another chapter in Hart Family saga was written. Score one for Owen.
Bob Backlund is the only superstar to be heavyweight champion for both Vincent J. McMahon and Vincent K. McMahon. One of the greatest comebacks in professional wrestling history, even him his adulation was short lived. Three days later, he lost the WWF Championship to Diesel at a Madison Square Garden houseshow. It took Bret Hart about eight years to become a triple crown winner. Big Daddy Cool only needed one year to accomplish that feet and needed less than ten seconds to beat Mr. Backlund. Diesel had taken the WWF by storm in 1994.
Lex Luger and “Guts & Glory” faced Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Team” in the final of the traditional Survivor Series elimination matches. The match came down Lex vs. Bam Bam Bigalow, Tatanka, and King Kong Bundy. This was Bundy’s first PPV appearance since Survivor Series 1987. Lex eliminated Tatanka, which was measure of retribution for the betrayal back at SummerSlam, but Lex was pinned right afterwards. Bigalow and Bundy, behemoths as Gorilla Monsoon would say, were your survivors. Lex Luger was being pushed as the new Hulk Hogan in 1993, now he was the guy who had a reputation of not being able to win the “big one.”
The Undertaker vs. Yokozuna in a Casket Match was the main event. A rematch from the Royal Rumble, but this time, Chuck Norris was on hand to insure that there wouldn’t be any outside interference. Bam Bam Bigalow, King Kong Bundy, and Jeff Jarrett all came down to ringside and a standoff with Chuck Norris ensued. Irwin R. Shyster, obviously on the orders of Ted DiBiase, then attacked The Undertaker behind Chuck Norris’ back. Jeff Jarrett was feeling strong and decided to challenge Chuck. Double J received a kick to chops for his troubles. The Undertaker soon recovered from the Shyster’s back jump and dumped Yokozuna into the casket for the win. Yokozuna would only main event one more PPV in his career while Undertaker would have to wait over a year before he was granted a WWF Championship opportunity. Heading into 1995, the WWF was running solely on “Diesel Power.”
January 24, 1993
The latter half of 1992 was a transitional period in the World Wrestling Federation, with “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior leaving the promotion and “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair taking a backseat to Bret “Hit Man” Hart, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker. “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon was also being showcased and “The Mighty” Yokozuna would make his mark at this PPV. Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were together on commentary for the final time at a PPV even though The Brain wouldn’t leave the WWF until the end of the year.
The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) made their WWF Pay-Per-View debut with a win over The Beverley Brothers (Beau & Blake). I cannot believe I’m mentioning Beau and Blake again. They weren’t managed by The Genius anymore, so what good where they? There must have been technical difficulties because there was no commentary for the first few minutes of this match during the live show. I’m sure it was fixed for the home video release. Irregardless, The Steiner Brothers were victorious.
After a year of anticipation, Shawn Michaels would finally have to face the music and go one-on-one with his former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty. HBK would also have to defend his Intercontinental Championship. Sensational Sherri was back at ringside for the first time since Michaels used her as a human shield and a mirror (wielded by Jannetty) was shattered over her head. It was a good match despite Jannetty selling the wrong shoulder after he was rammed into the steel post. Sherri intended to strike her ex-Boy Toy with her high heel shoe, but she inadvertently hit Jannetty. Michaels picked up the win, but a melee ensued backstage immediately following the match.
“The Beast from the East” Bam Bam Bigalow appeared at a WWF Pay-Per-View for the first time since WrestleMania IV. He defeated The Big Boss Man, who would soon make the jump to WCW. Bobby Heenan unveiled his newest charge, “The Narcissist” Lex Luger, who had orders to make “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig pay for turning his back on Heenan. People find a lot of humor in this segment because The Brain went so nuts while hyping Lex, but that was his intent, to make as big a deal out of Lex as he could.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart defended his WWF Championship against Razor Ramon, who was competing in only his second Pay-Per-View. Razor was one of the fastest rising stars in the WWF. The Bad Guy also attacked The Hit Man’s younger brother, “The Rocket” Owen Hart as part of the build to the match. Stu and Helen Hart sat in the front row and cheered their son on. Stu and Helen would put in many appearances over the next few years. The Harts became the first family of wrestling. The title match itself was pretty pedestrian and Bret Hart retained his championship with his patented Sharpshooter.
This was the first Royal Rumble Match that guaranteed the winner a title opportunity at WrestleMania IX. Ric Flair was entrant #1. Could the “Nature Boy” go the distance for the second year in a row? Bobby Heenan didn’t panic since Flair had already proven to the world what he was capable of. Bob Backlund, another former WWF Champion, was entrant #2. Backlund had left the WWF soon after losing the championship to The Iron Sheik in 1983. His comeback in wrestling was compared to George Foreman’s return in boxing. Papa Shango (#3) was eliminated right off the bat. This voodoo priest superstar had actually interfered in the main event of WrestleMania VIII. I guess he didn’t live up to expectations since was booked like a jobber? “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (#4) lasted about a half hour, making up for his brief appearance in last year’s rumble.
Jerry “The King” Lawler (#7) made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig (#10) eliminated Ric Flair. The next night on Monday Night RAW, Mr. Perfect would defeat Ric Flair in a Career Ending Match. Flair returned to WCW and remained with the promotion until it closed down in early 2001. Mr. Perfect also eliminated Jerry Lawler, who then helped eliminate Mr. Perfect from the outside. I was a big fan of Mr. Perfect and was very upset by this at the time, but I’ve forgiven The King since.
The Undertaker (#15) was the odds on favorite in this Royal Rumble. He cleaned house, eliminating all but Bob Backlund, who was battered outside the ring by The Berzerker (#14). Then, The Giant Gonzales, who was not even an entrant in this match, entered the ring and dwarfed The Undertaker. Harvey Wippleman was with Gonzales. This was retribution for The Undertaker’s decimation of Kamala. As a kid, I was in awe of Giant Gonzales, who had previously competed in WCW as El Gigante. Gonzales manhandled and eliminated The Undertaker. “A miscarriage of justice,” as Gorilla Monsoon would say. This was the first time that The Undertaker was ever beaten down like this. WWE tried to recreate this moment in 2006 with The Great Khali, but it didn’t have the same effect.
The ring filled up again with basically mid-card talent. Business didn’t pick up, if I can paraphrase Jim Ross, until Yokozuna (#27) entered. Big John Studd had won the 1989 Royal Rumble having drawn #27. This number has produced more winners than any. After Yokozuna eliminated Earthquake (#23), it looked like there was no stopping him. Everyone in the ring ganged up on the behemoth, but they just couldn’t get him over the top rope. The last hope was #30, “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The final four were The Macho Man, Yokozuna, Bob Backlund, & Rick “The Model” Martel (#26). Martel had made it to the final fray before, but never was the last man standing. This time he was eliminated by Bob Backlund. Today, Rick Martel is ranked with “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and The Big Show as the superstars who have almost won the Royal Rumble the most times.
Amazingly, Bob Backlund lasted over an hour, breaking the longevity record set by Ric Flair the previous year. Backlund’s record lasted until 2006, when it was broken by Rey Mysterio. It was all for not though, as Backlund was then eliminated by Yokozuna. It was Randy Savage left to contend with 500 pounds of Yokozuna. These two wrestled longer than any other final two in prior Royal Rumbles. Mr. Fuji came down to ringside even though managers are banned and waved the Japanese flag. Savage hit his patented flying elbow-drop, then inexplicable went for a pin. Perhaps he was going on instinct? Yokozuna countered, pressing him over the top rope for the win. Yokozuna was then congratulated by performers guised as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. This was because WrestleMania IX would emanate from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. There were audio issues once again as Bret Hart confronted Yokozuna backstage and shoved the WWF Championship in his face. All you could hear was Bobby Heenan asking, “Are we on?”
Despite of Yokozuna’s meteoric rise to prominence, the 1993 Royal Rumble Match is denounced for it’s perceived lack of star power. There were “boring” chants from the fans and even some “Hogan” chants mixed in. I find that interesting because internet “smart” fans like to rag on Hulk Hogan’s return at WrestleMania IX, but it seems that the people were actually clamoring for the return of Hulkamania.
April 4, 1993
Las Vegas, Nevada
The world’s largest toga party and the first outdoor WrestleMania. This show definitely stood out from an ascetic point of view. Modern WrestleManias seem to blend together, indistinguishable from one year to the next. Gorilla Monsoon served as the emcee, with Jim Ross, a WCW alumnus, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage joining Bobby “The Brain” Heenan on commentary. The Macho Man was accompanied to the ring by vestal virgins while The Brain rode a camel backwards down the aisle.
In the opener, Shawn Michaels defended his Intercontinental Championship against “Native American” Tatanka. Michaels had Luna Vachon in his corner while his former valet and on-camera love interest, Sensational Sherri, was with Tatanka. This was the third year in a row that HBK competed in the first match at WrestleMania. He lost the match by count out, so he retained his title. Luna attacked Sherri after the match, but I don’t recall the ladies having much of a rivalry afterwards because Sherri left the WWF. She had tenures in both ECW and WCW. Sherri was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, then sadly passed away in 2007.
The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) defeated The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu) in what could be qualified a show-stealing match. Scott Steiner was flap-jacked over the top rope, then was struck by Afa (one of the original Wild Samoans and manager of The Headshrinkers) with a Singapore cane. Crush, formerly of Demolition, was portrayed as a baby-face surfer from Hawaii. His opponent was Doink the Clown, who guaranteed that Crush would be seeing double vision. Doink has come to represent the flawed, too kid friendly concept the WWF marketed in the mid-1990s, but the original heel Doink (Matt Borne) was sadistic and reminiscent of Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. The awesome finish of this match saw an imposter Doink (Steve Keirn) emerge from under the ring and attacked Crush with a prosthetic arm. The referees searched underneath the ring for the interloper afterwards, but he was nowhere to be found. Razor Ramon then defeated Bob Backlund in a quick match. The Bad Guy was way over with the crowd in Las Vegas.
What cha’ gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild again? It all began on Monday Night RAW, with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake coming out of retirement two years after the parasailing accident that necessitated facial reconstructive surgery. His big return was mired by him being double teamed by Money Inc. (“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Shyster). It was so abhorrent, that their manager Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart refused to associate himself with them any further. The next week on RAW, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan announced that he was back in the WWF to form a tag team with Brutus Beefcake called “The Mega Maniacs,” with Jimmy Hart as their manager. The Mega Maniacs looked a little worse for the wear when they arrived in Las Vegas to challenged Money Inc. for the WWF Tag Team Championships. Beefcake had a protective facemask, while Hogan’s eye was practically swollen shut. According to a urban legend, “Macho Man” Randy Savage was responsible for The Hulkster’s black eye, but I never bought that story. It probably was just a jet skiing accident as Hogan claimed. Ted DiBiase became to the only superstar to compete against Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam, Survivor Series, and WrestleMania. Money Inc. tried to get themselves counted out, the same trick they pulled at WrestleMania the year before, but they were forced to return to the ring. DiBiase and I.R.S. eventually won the convoluted match by disqualification. The Mega Maniacs celebrated irregardless and gave away DiBiase’s money to the fans at ringside.
“The Narcissist” Lex Luger made his in-ring WWF Pay-Per-View debut, escorted down the aisle by scantily clad ladies. His loaded (surgically repaired) elbow was hyped. No footage was shown, but apparently he knocked out Bret “Hit Man” Hart at a charity brunch earlier in the day. Lex pulled out a bit of an upset by pinning “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, whose feet were in the ropes. Lex knocked Mr. Perfect out cold after the match. Mr. Perfect recovered and gave chase, but he was blindsided by Shawn Michaels.
The Undertaker rode to the ring on a black chariot with a vulture perched on it. He was seemingly the underdog for the first time in his career. The Giant Gonzales got himself disqualified for using a chloroform soaked rag to smother The Phenom. Undertaker was stretchered away from the ring as officials tried to corral Gonzales. Keep an eye out for Bill Alfonso, future manager of Rob Van Dam in ECW, as one of the referees. The fans chanted for Hulk Hogan, but The Undertaker returned and took Gonzales down with a flying clothesline. This DQ victory is the only blemish on Undertaker’s WrestleMania résumé. The undefeated streak was now 3&0.
The main event of WrestleMania IX was another match showcasing the WWF “New Generation.” The first WrestleMania main event that didn’t involve either Hulk Hogan or “Macho Man” Randy Savage… or so we thought. “Mean” Gene Okerlund conducted a pre-match interview with Hulk Hogan, who wasn’t in the match… or so we thought. Bret “Hit Man” Hart defended his WWF Championship against Yokozuna, the winner of the 1993 Royal Rumble. Somehow, The Hit Man managed to get the massive legs of Yokozuna in the Sharpshooter, but Mr. Fuji threw salt in his eyes, allowing Yokozuna to pin The Hit Man and win the WWF Championship. For the first time ever, a heel had won the main event of WrestleMania… or so we thought.
Hulk Hogan came down to ringside to check on the condition of Bret Hart, his “good friend,” then Mr. Fuji offered Hulk a shot at the title in an impromptu match. With the blessing of The Hit Man, Hulk went for it. I never heard a bell ring, then Mr. Fuji went for some more salt, but this time he accidentally threw it in Yokozuna’s eyes. Hulk hit the atomic leg drop and won the WWF Championship for a fifth time!!! A lot has been said and written about this additional title change. In hindsight, Hulk did steal attention away from Bret Hart and Yokozuna, but at the time, the fans were elated. It was the last hurrah for Hulkamania in the WWF for a long time. Hogan’s record of five title reigns would be tied by Bret Hart in 1997 and broken by The Rock in 2001.
KING OF THE RING
June 13, 1993
Unlike No Holds Barred: The Match and Tuesday in Texas, the King of the Ring was a Pay-Per-View worthy of joining the “big four.” Jim Ross, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary. An eight man single elimination tournament was the focal point of the show.
A rematch from the Royal Rumble, Bret “Hit Man” Hart defeated Razor Ramon in the opener. The Hit Man then faced “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig in the semifinals. It was a five star match. Hard to say which was better, this or the Intercontinental Championship Match back at SummerSlam 1991. The Hit Man won with a roll-up, but I’m not sure Mr. Perfect’s shoulders were down. Either way, Mr. Perfect gave The Hit Man a quick hand shake in sign of respect and good sportsmanship. Bam Bam Bigalow received a bye into the finals because the prior match between “The Narcissist” Lex Luger and “Native American” Tatanka ended in a time limit draw.
In an eight man tag team match, The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) and The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) defeated Money Inc. (“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Shyster) and The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu). Shawn Michaels successfully defended the Intercontinental Championship against Crush. Not one, but two Doinks, distracted Crush, allowing HBK to pick up the win.
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan competed in his final WWF Pay-Per-View for almost nine years, defending the WWF Championship against Yokozuna. Bret “Hit Man” Hart has claimed that he and Hulk were suppose to wrestle for the title at SummerSlam, but Hulk balked after they already posed for the poster, having a tug-of-war over the title belt. I’ll try to overlook the backstage drama and focus on the action. The Hulkster had Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart in his corner, so it was like a preview of Hulk’s early WCW run. Yokozuna looked like an absolute monster in this match, dominating Hogan. After the obligatory “Hulking Up,” it took three big boots to drop Yokozuna, who kicked out after being hit with the atomic leg drop. Then, a photographer in a phony beard climbed up on the ring apron and blew a fireball into Hulk’s face with his camera. Yokozuna hit a leg drop of his own, the ultimate insult, and won back the WWF Championship.
Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji dragged a temporarily blinded Hulk Hogan to the corner and Yoko administered a bonsai drop, his finishing maneuver. Hulkster was helped back to the locker room while selling his injuries. He joined WCW the next year and wouldn’t return to the WWF until No Way Out 2002. For whatever reason, the WWF never really trumpeted Yokozuna as the man who killed Hulkamania, which would’ve been serious bragging rights.
Bret Hart and Bam Bam Bigalow squared off in the finals of the King of the Ring. The match ended initially after Luna Vachon interfered and struck The Hit Man with a steel chair. Luna became Bigalow’s “main squeeze.” Bigalow then pinned The Hit Man after a flying head-butt, but the officials conferred and decided to restart the match. The Hit Man took advantage of his reprieve and won with a victory-roll. There had been several King of the Ring tournaments in the WWF prior to this PPV, Bret Hart even won it in 1991, but the WWF choose to proclaim this as the first King of the Ring.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund was on hand for the coronation ceremony. Hart was awarded a crown and a kingly robe, but the proceedings were crashed by Jerry “The King” Lawler, who felt slighted that anyone else would dare wear a crown in the WWF. The Hit Man called him “Burger King,” which was a juvenile, yet popular slur used against Lawler. The self professed king battered The Hit Man from behind and left him laying. Jerry Lawler’s first big moment in the WWF set up a new feud for Bret Hart since the dream match with Hulk Hogan wasn’t going to happen.
August 30, 1993
Auburn Hills, Michigan
On July 4, 1993, the WWF held a body-slam challenge on the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City. The objective was for someone to body-slam Yokozuna, the massive WWF Champion. Who would step up to answer this challenge? None other than Lex Luger, who was no longer “The Narcissist.” Lex successfully slammed the big man and from then on was announced as “Made in the U.S.A.” Luger embarked on the infamous “Lex Express,” a cross country tour, campaigning for a championship match. WWF President Jack Tunney listened to the people and ranked Lex Luger the #1 Contender. Obviously, with Hulk Hogan gone, WWF Chairman Vince McMahon felt more comfortable trying to turn Lex into the new Hulk as appose to fully supporting Bret “Hit Man” Hart. This would be the most patriotic Pay-Per-View since WrestleMania VII.
Vince McMahon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan called the action. Gorilla Monsoon and Jim Ross were relegated to Radio WWF. Razor Ramon faced “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase in the opener. Razor had reformed his bad guy ways in a roundabout fashion. He lost to The 1-2-3 Kid on Monday Night RAW, one of the biggest upsets in pro wrestling history. At first, he was peeved, but the loss humbled him and he and The 1-2-3 Kid eventually became allies. Razor defeated Ted DiBiase in what would be The Million Dollar Man’s final PPV match. He retired due to a back injury, but remained a part of the WWF until 1996.
The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) successfully defended the WWF Tag Team Titles against The Heavenly Bodies (Jimmy Del Ray & Dr. Tom Prichard). Shawn Michaels successfully defended the Intercontinental Championship against “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. This was expected to be an all time classic match, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype. HBK won via count out. His new, near seven foot tall bodyguard, Diesel, was instrumental in getting Mr. Perfect counted out. Diesel debuted when Shawn Michaels won the title back from his former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty. Bobby Heenan claimed that Diesel was just there “to keep the chicks off Shawn Michaels.” This was the last WWF Pay-Per-View match for Mr. Perfect until the 2002 Royal Rumble. He, like Ted DiBiase, remained with the WWF until 1996, then made the jump to WCW.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart was set to wrestle Jerry “The King” Lawler after the incident at the King of the Ring, but Lawler feigned a leg injury and named Doink the Clown as his substitute. This was the last time that Doink was portrayed by Matt Borne at a major event. Lawler miraculous healed during that match and nailed The Hit Man with his crutch. Jack Tunney then forced Lawler to compete was scheduled. Bret Hart won this match, but since he kept The King locked in the Sharpshooter after the match was over, the referee reversed his decision and Jerry Lawler won via DQ.
Ludvig Borga, the hell-raiser from Helsinki, who was projected to be a top heel, made his PPV debut, defeating Marty Jannetty. The Undertaker defeated The Giant Gonzales in a “Rest in Peace” Match. This was the end of their feud and the final PPV appearance for The Giant Gonzales. He passed away in 2010. Undertaker had gone a year without a quality opponent, but he would soon find his way back into the WWF Title hunt.
The final stop for the Lex Express was the WWF Championship Match. Yokozuna had added James E. Cornette to his entourage. Cornette’s label was “spokesperson” while Mr. Fuji stayed on as Yokozuna’s manager. Cornette had it put in the contract that this would be Lex Luger’s only shot at the title. Luger was draped in red, white, and blue. I feel this gimmick represents Vince McMahon’s ideal personification of a baby-face. A blonde haired, blue eyed, quintessential hero, waving the American flag. It wasn’t until “Stone Cold” Steve Austin came along that Vinny-Mac would begrudgingly embrace the notion of an anti-hero. Mr. Fuji tried the old salt in the eyes routine, but with no success. Lex nailed Yokozuna with his loaded elbow, knocking him through the ropes. The match ended in a count out and Yokozuna retained his title.
Even though Lex Luger won by count out, a victory celebration ensued with balloons and confetti. Much adieu about nothing. The Lex Express is now an idiom that can be used when a superstar is pushed to the championship, then doesn’t win it. It can happen in promotions besides WWF/WWE. Over in TNA Wrestling, Robert Roode was “Lex Expressed” at Bound for Glory 2011. Though I will admit, that back in 1993, when I was in elementary school, I was totally onboard with the Lex Express. Something had to fill the void left by Hulkamania.
November 24, 1993
The traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination matches were back!!! Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Vince McMahon were on commentary. This was the final WWF Pay-Per-View for Bobby Heenan as he joined WCW in 1994. He returned to the WWF at WrestleMania XVII to call the “Gimmick” Battle Royal and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
Razor Ramon, the new Intercontinental Champion, and his team faced a team captained by Irwin R. Shyster. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was suppose to be on Razor’s team, but bowed out, likely because of his bad back. He was replaced by “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who had not competed at a PPV since the Royal Rumble earlier that year. The Macho Man was spurred back into action when he was betrayed by Crush, whom he attempted to mentor. Crush wasn’t in this match, but Savage needed an excuse to enter the building. There were five superstars in this match who became part of the nWo, Razor, Savage, The 1-2-3 Kid, Diesel, and Shyster. The 1-2-3 Kid and Mart Jannetty were the survivors in this match.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart teamed three of his brothers, Bruce Hart, Keith Hart, and “The Rocker” Owen Hart. They were scheduled to face Jerry “The King” Lawler and three mercenaries known as The Knights, but The King ran into some troubles with the law, so Shawn Michaels was brought back early from his suspension for failing a drug test to be the captain of the heel team. This booking made sense as The Hit Man and HBK had been opponents in the main event of the previous Survivor Series. There’s always been great speculation as to whom The Knights were? It’s obvious that The Blue Knight was Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Some say The Black Knight was Glenn Jacobs (Kane), but I don’t think he was tall enough. The Red Knight was allegedly Barry Horowitz. It’s hard to tell. I’m only confident that The Blue Knight was The Hammer. The Knights, whoever they were, were overpaid as they were eliminating, leaving Shawn Michaels all by his lonesome. Stu Hart was in the corner of his sons and even walloped Michaels during the match. HBK was only able to eliminate Owen Hart, who had inadvertently collided with Bret Hart on the apron, and was then rolled up. The Rocket was not happy with his big brother for causing the elimination. Michaels fought valiantly, especially for a heel, then decided to throw in the towel and got himself counted out. Owen Hart returned to the ring, but not to celebrate. He shoved Bret Hart and screamed in his face. He had been referred to as the “shadow” of his big brother Bret and was sick of it. This was the beginning of perhaps the best feud of the 1990s.
The Rock “N” Roll Express (Robert Gibson & Ricky Morton) defended the Smokey Mountain Wrestling Tag Team Championships against The Heavenly Bodies (Jimmy Del Ray & Dr. Tom Prichard). This was the first time that titles from another promotion were defended at a WWF Pay-Per-View. James E. Cornette was the promoter of SMW, a minor league of sorts for the WWF. Cornette also managed The Heavenly Bodies, who won the tag team gold in a convoluted finish. The Rock “N” Roll Express thought that they’d won by DQ because there was an intentional throw over the top rope, which was an automatic DQ in SMW. No such luck in the WWF. That hadn’t been a DQ in the big leagues for many years. This was the only match the Gorilla Monson and Jim Ross were permitted to call. Then they were banished back to Radio WWF.
Bam Bam Bigalow (w/ Luna Vachon), Bastion Booger, and The Headshrinkers (Fatu & Samu) were set to face four Doinks, who were The Bushwhackers (Luke & Butch) and Men on a Mission (Mo & Mabel). Good lord. The Doink team survived intact, but the real Doink, if there was a real Doink at this point, only appeared after the match on the big screen to taunt Bigalow and Luna.
The main event was Lex Luger & The All Americans against Yokozuna & The Foreign Fanatics. The first time in three years that Survivor Series teams were given names. The team lineups were altered prior to the PPV. “Native American” Tatanka was suppose to be on The All Americans, but he was taken out by Yokozuna and Ludvig Borga. Lex Luger then choose The Undertaker to join himself and The Steiner Brothers (Scott & Rick). Luger also injured Piere, who was one half of the WWF Tag Team Champions, The Quebecers. Crush was named his replacement, joining Yokozuna, Ludvig Borga, and Quebecer Jacques (Yes, that is The Mountie). Crush was again wearing face paint and being managed by Mr. Fuji, but no one made the connection to Demolition.
Rick Steiner might have been legitimately injured early in the match up. “Macho Man” Randy Savage kept trying to interfere, but was held at bay by security. Though, Crush was distracted enough to be counted out. The Undertaker lingered on the apron. When he was finally tagged in, he had an epic encounter with Yokozuna. The Phenom even survived the bonsai drop. Bobby Heenan was losing his mind on commentary like when The Undertaker survived a DDT from Jake “The Snake” Roberts at WrestleMania VIII. Yokozuna and The Undertaker were both counted out, wetting our appetite for a one-on-one title match. Lex Luger then defeated Ludvig Borga to become the sole survivor.
Lex Luger celebrated his win with Santa Claus. This was probably the biggest victory for the Lex Express. It was also the last PPV appearance of Ludwig Borga, whose brief career in the WWF was ruined by a knee injury. This show was a return to the spirit of the Survivor Series, a Thanksgiving Eve tradition.