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.
January 19, 1992
Albany, New York
Arguable, this was the greatest Royal Rumble. The Pay-Per-View as a whole may not be the strongest, but the actual Royal Rumble Match featured a supreme array of talent. Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary. The Brain was always biased, but his favoritism towards “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, whom he served as a financial advisor, made for some marvelously desperate heel color commentary… You have to be “fair to Flair.”
The New Foundation (Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart & “The Rocket” Owen Hart) defeated The New Orient Express (Tanaka & Kato) in the opener. An okay match, but didn’t live up to the match The Orient Express had with The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) at the previous Royal Rumble. Speaking of the Hart Family, the only marquee talent absent from this PPV was Bret “Hit Man” Hart, who had lost the Intercontinental Championship to The Mountie at a non-televised event. However, The Mountie would be a short-lived title holder, losing the belt to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper on this show. Hard to believe, but this was the first championship won by The Hot Rod in the WWF. Piper would also be pulling double duty, wrestling in singles action and competing in the Royal Rumble Match.
The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch) w/ Jamison in their corner defeated The Beverley Brothers (Beau & Blake) w/ The Genius in their corner. Talk about a jobber match. This Jamison guy was a slimy imbecile and I still don‘t know which Beverley Brother was which. It was agreeable to see The Genius back at a PPV for the first time since almost two years, but this is still a match that warrants pressing the fast-forward button on your remote control. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) lost to The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon) via count out, so the L.O.D. held onto the WWF Tag Team Championships. A copout of a finish and I don’t believe the referee counted out the legal superstars, so technically this match should have ended on a draw. Either way, Animal & Hawk retained their gold.
Atypically, Sean Mooney conducted an interview of importance, which were usually reserved for “Mean” Gene Okerlund. He was roaming the locker room (set) and crossed paths with Shawn Michaels, who had recently dumped Mart Jannetty and brought an end to The Rockers. Footage was then shown of Michaels super-kicking Jannetty on an edition of The Barbershop (Brutus Beefcake’s interview segment). Michaels followed up on the super-kick by throwing Jannetty face first through a plate-glass window, that was part of the set. Shawn Michaels, who was not yet known as the “Heart Break Kid,” sported new threads and a new attitude. The wrester of the ‘90s had arrived.
Now, on to the greatest Royal Rumble Match of them all. WWF President Jack Tunney was booed heavily as he made the proclamation that the winner would be crowned the new and undisputed WWF Champion. Hulk Hogan had been referring to the president as “that no good” Jack Tunney. Bobby Heenan called him Jack “on the take” Tunney, so for the first time, the faces and the heels could agree on something. They all thought that their boss was a schmuck.
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith drew #1 and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase drew #2. DiBiase had been a stellar performer in past rumbles, but Davey Boy eliminated him rather quickly. As DiBiase headed back to the locker room, he passed by entrant #3, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. It was almost a visual cue, signifying Ric Flair as the new top heel in the WWF. Bobby Heenan was irate that Ric Flair drew such a low number. Actually, The Brain should’ve won some award for outstanding achievements in broadcasting because of his terrific commentary during this match. This is why this Royal Rumble was included on the Bobby Heenan DVD released in 2011.
The ring began to fill up with the likes of Shawn Michaels (#6), Tito Santana (#7), “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich (#9), Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (#11), and The Big Boss Man (#13). Eventually everyone but Ric Flair was eliminated, then “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the new Intercontinental Champion, entered the match at #15. The crowd was buzzing as Piper had the opportunity to win both WWF singles championships on the same night. Jake “The Snake” Roberts came in at #16 and attacked both Piper and Flair, showing that a snake plays no favorites.
Both The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan received “preferential treatment,” getting to draw between #’s 20 & 30. The Undertaker pulled #20. If you look closely, you can see Jake Roberts waving Undertaker to the ring. Neither Gorilla Monsoon nor Bobby Heenan pointed this out, almost as if they had forgotten that Roberts and Undertaker were in cahoots just a few months prior. “Macho Man” Randy Savage was entrant #21. Savage was semi-retired for most of 1991, so it was good to see him back in action. Savage eliminated Roberts, then jumped over the top rope, but the referees allowed him to reenter the match. Every other time something like this has happened in Royal Rumble history, the superstar was eliminated, but I guess that Randy Savage deserves special treatment. Chalk it up to referee’s discretion.
Even though The Iron Sheik was billed as Col. Mustapha (#24), there were five former WWF Champions in this Royal Rumble. “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, the winner of the past two rumbles, entered at #26. Sgt. Slaughter was #28, but his standing had fallen off big time since turning face and was eliminated (or should I say propelled over the top turnbuckle) by Sid Justice (#29). Ric Flair stayed in the ring for an hour, breaking the longevity record set by Rick “The Model” Martel (#25) the year prior. The Warlord drew #30, which should‘ve been to his distinct advantage, but he was eliminated almost immediately by Hogan and Sid. Bushwhacker Luke gets a bad wrap, but The Warlord should be ranked as one of the worst Royal Rumble participants of all time.
The final four were Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, and Randy Savage. Savage was eliminated without much fanfare, then Sid dumped Hogan over the top rope. Just like when Hulk lost the WWF Championship to The Undertaker at Survivor Series ‘91, the anti-Hulkamania fans were elated. Hulk, in heel like fashion, then pulled Sid over the top rope, allowing Ric Flair to win the match and the title. Flair didn’t stick around to celebrate as Hulk and Sid got into a shoving match in the ring. Once again, Hogan was being booed. If the intent was to turn Sid heel, then he should’ve been the one to pull Hulk out from the floor. This was already a transitional period in Hulkster’s career, with the initial wave of Hulkamania dieing down, so the WWF made a mistake by having him portray the sore loser. And one has to give Sid credit. He’s always been criticized for his limited technical wrestling ability, but he was always over with the fans. He was rarely booed even when feuding with the top baby-face in a promotion. A similar set of circumstances occurred when he defeated Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series ‘96.
Backstage, “Mean” Gene Okerlund interviewed Ric Flair and his esteemed entourage (“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and Bobby Heenan) after scolding an unseen individual for smoking while an interview was being conducted. Jack Tunney had a smug smile on his face when presenting the championship belt to Flair. The grinning seemed out of place, almost as if Tunney was in cahoots with Flair in this scheme to steal the championship from Hulk Hogan. Flair gave a great victory speech, subtly denouncing the WCW title and putting himself over as “the man” in the WWF… Woooooo!!!
April 5, 1992
A lot went down in between Pay-Per-Views. WWF President Jack Tunney announced Hulk Hogan as the #1 Contender. A decision that didn’t sit well with Sid Justice. There was an important edition of the Saturday Night’s Main Event which changed the shape of WrestleMania. Coliseum Home Video footage of the Royal Rumble was played, but with the audio tampered with to make it appear as if the fans were cheering Hogan and booing Sid. Hogan and Sid then teamed up to face Ric Flair and The Undertaker. Sid, apparently jealous of Hulk Hogan, walked out on The Hulkster. Angered by the double-cross, Hulk would eventually relinquish his spot in the WWF Championship Match at WrestleMania VIII in favor of a grudge match with Sid. “Macho Man” Randy Savage defeated Jake “The Snake” Roberts later on this same telecast, bringing an end to their rivalry. Roberts remained lurking backstage, ready to attack Savage and Miss Elizabeth with a steel chair, but The Undertaker came to their rescue. Apparently, Undertaker was done being a minion. Savage was now available to be ranked the new #1 Contender for Ric Flair’s WWF Championship.
I saw Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair on the Madison Square Garden Channel a few days after Survivor Series 1991 because the MSG houseshows received limited TV coverage, but those who didn’t live in New York City had to wait until WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1994 to see the clash of titans. Any criticism of WrestleMania VIII seems to be directed solely of the fact that Hulk Hogan didn’t wrestle Ric Flair, but I still give this PPV high marks. Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan called all the action, and The Brain was in rare form, excited to see an alleged centerfold of Miss Elizabeth, but more on that later.
Shawn Michaels defeated Tito Santana in the opener. Shawn was now being managed by Sensational Sherri and had adopted the moniker, “Boy Toy.” He wasn’t exactly “Mr. WrestleMania” yet, but it was still a solid match. Tito was a two time Intercontinental Champion and a one time WWF Tag Team Champion, who had impressively competed at every WrestleMania. The only superstar to do so besides Hulk Hogan. This was his final WrestleMania and he did a good job of putting Shawn over. Next, it was Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. The Undertaker. It was a slow paced match that may not hold up today, but it was unprecedented at the time to see Undertaker survive not one, but two DDTs. Undertaker recovered and hit Roberts with a Tombstone on floor for the win. His undefeated streak was 2&0. Roberts left the WWF after this match and had a brief stint in WCW. He wouldn’t return to the WWF until the 1996 Royal Rumble.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, reigning Intercontinental Champion, verbally ran down the #1 Contender, Bret “Hit Man” Hart during the pre-match interview. Bret was no match for The Hot Rod when it came to trash talking, but the match itself was probably the best IC title match since Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III. The finish (Bret countering the sleeper) was so great that the spot would be recreated by The Hit Man and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at Survivor Series 1996. Then, it was a false finish in The Rock / Steve Austin match at WrestleMania XVII. Bret was bloodied, but won the Intercontinental Championship for the second time in his career. Roddy Piper was leaving the WWF once again and, in a way, passed the torch to The Hit Man.
Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Bret “Hit Man” Hart would be three of the top stars during the WWF’s “New Generation.” WrestleMania VIII helped to pave the way for their ascension.
The eight man tag team match was only noteworthy for Bobby Heenan ignoring the action to urgently inform us that “Shawn Michaels has left the building.” In the non-wrestling segments, The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) announced that they were once again being managed by Paul Ellering, who had guided them in the NWA. Bobby Heenan also introduced the newest star of the WBF (World Bodybuilding Federation), that being “The Total Package” Lex Luger, but the WBF fizzled quickly and Lex Luger would not join the WWF roster until the 1993 Royal Rumble.
The first half of the advertised double main event was next. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/ “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig in his corner) defending the WWF Championship against “Macho Man” Randy Savage. As soon as Savage was ranked the #1 Contender, Flair made the audacious claim that he had been intimate with Miss Elizabeth in the past. He really knew how to push Savage’s buttons. Flair was bloodied just as Bret Hart was in the Intercontinental Championship Match. It’s hard to say which was the better match since they told very different stories. Mr. Perfect, who was unable to compete due to a back injury, interfered throughout the match. Miss Elizabeth came down to ringside and was surrounded by officials, including a young Shane McMahon. Savage won with a roll-up and handful of trunks. It may seem odd for the face to cheat, but it was Ric Flair getting his “comeupins” for always being the dirtiest player in the game. The physicality continued after the match with Flair and Perfect attacking Savage’s injured knee. The officials pinned Savage down, allowing the heels some free shots. Why wasn’t anyone restraining them? It took three years, but Randy Savage was again the WWF Champion. Both Savage and Flair gave great post-match interviews. This feud was so good that is was rekindled in WCW. This was the final WWF Pay-Per-View for Miss Elizabeth as she and Randy Savage divorced later in 1992. Elizabeth spent time in WCW like all the other past WWF stars, managing Ric Flair for a period. She died of a drug overdose in 2003 😦
“Native American” Tatanka, in his PPV debut, defeated Rick “The Model” Martel. This was before they feuded over Tatanka’s sacred feather. Money Inc. (“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Shyster) defended the WWF Tag Team Championships against The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Again, a lot had changed since the Royal Rumble. Ted DiBiase had allowed Sensational Sherri to leave him for Shawn Michaels, which was out of character of him, stepping aside for the happiness of others. DiBiase then formed a partnership with I.R.S. and they stole The Natural Disasters’ title shot and manager, Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, turning The Disasters face. None of this was really explained to the audience and you needed to piece it together yourself. Money Inc. intentionally got counted out, losing the match, but retaining the gold. This was the first time that Ted DiBiase held a recognized championship.
The second half of the advertised double main event was hyped a “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan’s potential “farewell” match. The WWF did a masterful job of getting the fans back on Hulk’s bandwagon after a rough couple of months. The reason that Hulk didn’t wrestle Ric Flair and was leaving the WWF was because a steroid scandal was heating up and Hulk needed to get out of dodge. Randy Savage had been laying off the juice for over a year, so he was the logical candidate to take the title from Flair. Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice was decent match, but nothing spectacular. The wild finish is what saved the match. Sid actually kicked out of Hogan’s atomic leg-drop, because Papa Shango, who was suppose to break up the pinfall, missed his cue. Dr. Harvey Wippleman entered the ring and bought some time until Papa Shango finally arrived. Sid and Papa Shango beat down Hulk Hogan and it looked like it was the end of Hulkamania… until The Ultimate Warrior reemerged from “parts unknown” to make the save!!! Opponents from two years ago, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior stood triumphant. Of course, Warrior looked somewhat different than last we saw him. He had lost weight (from also cutting back on the steroids) and cut his hair short. This began the urban legend that this wasn’t the real Ultimate Warrior.
What I enjoy about this WrestleMania is that the stars of 1980s were showcased along with who would be the stars of the 1990s. We didn’t get Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair, but there were two great championship matches and an awesome surprise return. This was also the end of Hulk Hogan’s first run in the WWF. He had main-evented seven of the first eight WrestleManias and won the WWF Championship a record four times. The Hulkster would be considered somewhat passé for the next several years, but that first decade of Hulkamania will never be recreated. Even the “Austin Era” only lasted three years. John Cena has been the face of the WWE for about eight years, but during this time, the WWE has not reached the heights of the Rock & Wrestling Era or the Attitude Era. Hulkamania will live forever… brother!!!
August 29, 1992
This was the first WWF Pay-Per-View that I didn’t watch live since I’d begun to follow the promotion back in 1988. It aired two days later here in the USA and the results had already been printed in the local newspapers, so my father didn’t want to spend money on a show when he already knew the outcome of all the matches. I rented a VHS copy about five years later. It was like visiting with some old friends. Vince McMahon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan called the action from Wembley Stadium. This was the first and, thus far, only international SummerSlam.
Three dark matches were included on the video release, but the opening match on the live show was The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) w/ Paul Ellering in their corner vs. Money Inc. (“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Shyster) w/ Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart in their corner. The L.O.D. rode motorcycles to the ring, one of the most famous entrances in pro-wrestling history. The Million Dollar Man wore white ring gear for the only time at a PPV, which I thought looked pretty cool. More bad guys should wear white. Animal and Hawk were victorious. I falsely remembered that this match was for the WWF Tag Team Championships, but The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon) were the reigning champions at this time, defending against The Beverley Brothers (Beau & Blake). It’s good know that Earthquake held at least one major title in his career.
Shawn Michaels vs. Rick “The Model” Martel was rare heel vs. heel match. Sensational Sherri was with Shawn, but also crushing on The Model, so she stipulated that neither man could strike the other in the face. These two had a lot in common. They had both betrayed their tag team partners and taken on “pretty boy” gimmicks. The match ended in a double count out. Martel played to the crowd more. I guess the more experienced heel is, by default, the baby-face. Crush defeated Repo Man, who was his former tag team partner. They had been members of Demolition back when Repo Man was known as Smash.
The Undertaker vs. “The Ugandan Giant” Kamala was a “bowling shoe ugly” match, but Undertaker also made a famous entrance, riding a hearse to the ring. The following match, however, was atrociously bad. I think the fault may lie more with Kamala than it does The Undertaker. The match ended in a DQ, meaning that the feud wasn’t over.
Curiously, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair did not have a match. He was on hand and in his ring gear, but was only there to be the straw that stirs the drink. Flair claimed to have struck a deal with either “Macho Man” Randy Savage or The Ultimate Warrior. Only time would tell which. I don’t why Flair couldn’t have a match of his own and still interject himself in the title match?
“Macho Man” Randy Savage defended the WWF Championship against The Ultimate Warrior in a rematch from WrestleMania VII. Shockingly, the fans in England were not only rooting for The Warrior, but I heard some boos for The Macho Man. I thought that the fans across the pond were more sophisticated than us yanks? There’s nothing wrong with supporting The Warrior, but why jeer Randy Savage? You’d assume that Savage would win this match since The Warrior won their prior confrontation at WrestleMania VII, but Warrior was victorious once again, via count out. Ric Flair and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig attacked both champion and challenger, playing mind games, but no one wanted their help. The Ultimate Warrior won the match, but not the title. Randy Savage suffered a knee injury which would come into play in his next championship defense.
For the first and only time, the Intercontinental Championship Match would be the main event of a PPV (not counting the title-for-title match at WrestleMania VI). Bret “Hit Man” Hart defending against his own brother-in-law, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. Diana Hart-Smith was torn as to whom to root for. Her brother or her husband? The first time that Hart Family drama played out as a WWF storyline. Lennox Lewis, a world boxing champion, accompanied Davey Boy to the ring. Vince McMahon tried to make to seem as if the crowd was split down the middle, but they were clearly rooting for their hometown hero, Davey Boy. The match itself is considered one of the great (if not the greatest) IC title matches. The British Bulldog won with a roll-up, perhaps the crowning achievement of his career. The Hit Man was dejected, but his sister helped to smooth things over between the two superstars.
Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI was for both the WWF and Intercontinental Championships. Diesel and Shawn Michaels vs. Yokozuna and Davey Boy Smith (filling in for Owen Hart) at In Your House III was for all three titles, same with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Triple H vs. The Undertaker and Kane at Judgment Day 2001. SummerSlam 1992 was the only time that the prestigious Intercontinental Championship held the main event spotlight by itself. It was also the only international SummerSlam, the only SummerSlam held in an open-air venue, and it may have had a higher attendance that WrestleMania III, even if Vince McMahon is too proud to admit it. Why is he so protective of WrestleMania? What’s wrong with SummerSlam holding an attendance record?
November 25, 1992
The Thanksgiving Eve tradition continued, but the traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination matches were nowhere to be found. I could harp on that, but instead I will illustrate how this was the beginning of a new era in the World Wrestling Federation.
The trend that started a year prior, having big moments occur between PPVs as oppose to at them, also continued. On WWF Prime Time, “Macho Man” Randy Savage lost the WWF Championship to “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. A newcomer, “The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon interfered in that match. Ric Flair then lost the title to Bret “Hit Man” Hart at a Coliseum Home Video taping in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (say that five times fast). At the Saturday Night’s Main Event, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith lost the Intercontinental Championship to Shawn Michaels. Michaels did not have Sensational Sherri in his corner because he had used her as a human shield when Marty Jannetty made his triumphant return. Jannetty accidentally struck Sherri with a mirror intended for Michaels. If that wasn’t enough madness, Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior formed a tag team called “The Ultimate Maniacs” and they were to square off with Ric Flair and Razor Ramon at Survivor Series, but The Warrior abruptly left the WWF. It is possible that steroids were a factor in his departure. Steroids were definitely the reason that The British Bulldog dropped the IC title to Shawn Michaels and was subsequently released.
Randy Savage needed a replacement for The Ultimate Warrior and he would shockingly choose the “perfect” tag team partner, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan disrespected Mr. Perfect by refusing on his behalf. They weren’t called “The Heenan Family,” but Mr. Perfect was part of a clique with Ric Flair and Razor Ramon who were guided by The Brain. Mr. Perfect poured a pitcher of ice water onto Heenan and agreed to Randy Savage’s proposition, turning face for the first time in his WWF run. This was a time when the phrase “card subject to change” really meant something.
Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan were on commentary. The Big Boss Man defeated Nailz in a “Nightstick on a Pole” Match. Nailz, who had an ex-con gimmick, allegedly attacked Vince McMahon after this show over a pay dispute and was immediately fired. “Native American” Tatanka defeated Rick “The Model” Martel once again in a rematch from WrestleMania VIII. This time they were feuding over Tatanka’s sacred feather.
“Macho Man” Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect defeated Ric Flair and Razor Ramon via disqualification. A quality match and the fans really embraced Mr. Perfect as good guy. “The Mighty” Yokozuna, managed by Mr. Fuji, made his PPV debut, defeating Virgil. Yokozuna would a force to be reckoned with in the mid-1990s the same way that Andre the Giant was in the 1980s.
There was only one traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match on the card, Money Inc. (“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Shyster) teaming with The Beverley Brothers (Beau & Blake) to take on The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs) and The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Like The Disasters, The Nasty Boys had left Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart’s stable and turned face, but who really cares? And I can’t believe that I’m mentioning The Beverley Brothers for a third time. The Nasty Boys were the survivors.
The Undertaker defeated “The Ugandan Giant” Kamala in a “Coffin” Match, which was slightly better than their match at SummerSlam, but the bar wasn’t set too high. Since then, this type of match has been called a “Casket” Match. Kamala was managed by Dr. Harvey Wippleman, who promised that there would reprisals for The Undertaker.
In the evening’s main event, Bret “Hit Man” Hart defended the WWF Championship against Shawn Michaels, the reigning Intercontinental Champion. Definitely, this was the beginning of the “New Generation.” The last time that the WWF Champion fought the Intercontinental Champion, it was “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI. They were both gone now. Ric Flair would be returning to WCW after the 1993 Royal Rumble and Randy Savage would split his time between in-ring competition and color commentary for the next two years. Vince McMahon made the decision to showcase younger talent. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels would spend the next five years battling for the soul of the WWF. The “Excellence of Execution” vs. the “Showstopper.”
HBK’s IC title was not on the line, only The Hit Man’s WWF Championship. Round one of their storied rivalry went to Bret Hart, who caught Shawn Michaels coming off the top rope and locked in the Sharpshooter, his patented submission hold. This spot was used as a false finish during the Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII. Everyone dwells on the infamous Montreal “Screw-job,” but their first main event showdown is also noteworthy. It’s ironic that The Hit Man’s first WWF Pay-Per-View main event was against Shawn Michaels at the Survivor Series, just as his last would be five years later. Almost as if it was destined.
January 19, 1991
A new year means that it’s time to rumble and this Royal Rumble was a more complete Pay-Per-View than prior years because the WWF Championship was on the line. How does one rank a Royal Rumble? On the strength of the Royal Rumble Match itself or the Pay-Per-View as a whole? Gorilla Monsoon and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper called the action and The Gobbly Gooker was nowhere to be found.
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) vs. The New Orient Express (Tanaka & Kato) was a highly competitive, faced paced match, which still holds up after two decades. The Rockers had been bested by the original Orient Express (Tanaka & Sato) at WrestleMania VI, but Michaels and Jannetty were the victors in this rematch. The Big Boss Man then defeated The Barbarian. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan decreed that Boss Man needed a win over ever member of The Heenan Family before he could get a shot at “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and the Intercontinental Championship. Since Haku and The Barbarian were the only other members of The Heenan Family at this time, it wasn’t too daunting of a task.
Sensational “Queen” Sherri called out The Ultimate Warrior and challenged him for the WWF Championship on behalf of “Macho King” Randy Savage. Sherri even sunk to her knees while she begged, which elicited a bawdy reaction from the fans. The Warrior responded to her with an emphatic NOOOO!!!!!, which only enraged The Macho King further. How could Randy Savage be denied his well deserved title shot? This was a decision that The Warrior would rue.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and his paid bodyguard Virgil competed in tag team action against “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and his son, Dustin. DiBiase had been abusing Virgil as of late and it was revealed that Virgil worked for DiBiase so to afford care of his sickly mother. DiBiase and Virgil were victorious despite DiBiase battering Virgil during the match. Dusty Rhodes would return to WCW to be the booker soon after this and took his son with him. Dustin struggled in the shadow of his father until he reinvented himself as Goldust in 1995. Virgil finally stood up for himself after the match and struck DiBiase with his prized Million Dollar Championship. Definitely a highlight of Virgil’s career. Roddy Piper was just as elated as the fans because he was the one who shared words of wisdom with Virgil and helped to show him the light.
Roddy Piper also sounded genuinely disgusted when The Mountie, formerly Jacques Rougeau, made his entrance for a match against Koko B. Ware. Ironic as Piper and The Mountie would be opponents at the next year’s Royal Rumble.
The Ultimate Warrior, who’d already been the first WWF Champion to defend the gold at a SummerSlam, would also be the first to defend at a Royal Rumble. The internet “smart” fans don’t pay The Warrior much in way of a tribute, but he actually defended the title more than his predecessors. Sgt. Slaughter, ex-patriot turned Iraqi sympathizer, was the #1 Contender. Slaughter had promised Randy Savage a title shot, so Savage and Sherri interfered in the match multiple times and cost Warrior the championship. Sgt. Slaughter had walked out on the WWF before the first WrestleMania. Now, in only his second Pay-Per-View match back, he was the new WWF Champion. Slaughter was also being managed Gen. Adnan Al-Kaisse, who could have been used as a body double for Saddam Hussein. Slaughter was now the champion, but his patriotic G.I. Joe image was tarnished for years to come.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart began the Royal Rumble Match for the second time in his career, having also drawn #1 back in 1988. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who was no longer a heel and no longer managed by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, entered at #3 and lasted about forty-five minutes. Rick “The Model” Martel entered at #6 at lasted over fifty minutes, breaking the longevity record set by Ted DiBiase the year prior. Martel got the best of Jake “The Snake” Roberts (#9) once again by eliminating Roberts while standing on the apron. Martel was so impressive in this match that even Roddy Piper gave him the kudos which he deserved.
Both members of The Legion of Doom, Hawk (#16) and Animal (#19), were entered in this Royal Rumble. The greatest tag team of all time looked somewhat out of place in an every man for himself type match, but they did eliminate The Undertaker (#12) with a double clothesline. Entrant #18 was a no show. The first in Royal Rumble history. It turned out to be “Macho King” Randy Savage. It was surmised that Savage and Sherri had been chased out of the building by The Ultimate Warrior. This was the second Pay-Per-View in a row where Randy Savage did not compete, which is very disappointing.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, the winner of the first Royal Rumble in 1988, entered at #21, but neither Gorilla Monsoon nor Roddy Piper made mention of his past success at this event. “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan entered at #24 and had dedicated this match to the United States of America Armed Forces station all around the world, so it was almost a forgone conclusion that The Hulkster would be triumphant for a second year in a row.
Bushwacker Luke (#27) was eliminated by Earthquake (#22) in a matter of seconds. For years, it was erroneously stated that this was the record for the shortest time in a Royal Rumble. Gorilla Monsoon made that claim at the 1992 Royal Rumble. Sean Mooney said the same in the 1993 Royal Rumble pre-show. Jerry “The King” Lawler joked about it during the 1995 Royal Rumble, and Jim Ross eluded to it at the 1997 Royal Rumble. It wasn’t until the 2007 Royal Rumble when John Bradshaw Layfield would clarify that it was The Warlord who still had the record from 1989. I suppose that back in 1991, the WWF still had high hopes for The Warlord (#29) and didn’t want to saddle him with such an embarrassing record.
Tugboat came in at #30 and tried to eliminate Hulk Hogan. Hulk retaliated and dumped the big Tugboat over the top rope. Rick Martel made it to the final five before being eliminated by “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (#14), who was competing at his first WWF Pay-Per-View in over two years. Earthquake and Brian Knobbs (#28) of The Nasty Boys (another BFF of Hulk Hogan) double teamed and eliminated Davey Boy, but no such luck against Hogan, who “Hulked Up” and won his second consecutive Royal Rumble. Hogan eliminating Earthquake was the culmination of their rivalry (not counting a tag team match on The Main Event).
As I’ve said, the appeal of the Royal Rumble is unpredictability, but with Hulk Hogan’s dedication to the troops and “Macho King” Randy Savage not competing, it was a tad too predictable that Hulk would win. I felt the same with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the 1998 Royal Rumble. Way too predictable. Without the likes of Ted DiBiase, Randy Savage, or The Ultimate Warrior, there wasn’t enough star power to rival The Hulkster. Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Mr. Perfect (#23) didn’t last as long as you would’ve expected and superstars like Bret “Hit Man” Hart and The Undertaker weren’t on that main event echelon just yet. The real star of this Royal Rumble was Rick “The Model” Martel.
March 24, 1991
Los Angeles, California
Starting at WrestleMania VI, WWF Chairman Vince McMahon hyped for almost the entire year that WrestleMania VII would emanate from the LA Coliseum, but with only a few weeks to go, the venue was switched to the much smaller LA Sports Arena. The WWF/WWE has always cited security issues as the reason for the last minute change, alluding to an alleged bomb threat. However, just like the 93,000 fans in attendance for WrestleMania III, this is Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s revisionist history. The “Rock & Wrestling” phenomenon of the 1980s was cooling off and neither fanatics nor casual fans seemed to be buying the idea of a Gulf War storyline in professional wrestling, so WrestleMania VII was never going to break any attendance records.
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary together for the first time at a Pay-Per-View, though they had successfully co-hosted WWF Prime Time for years. Others would cover for Bobby on color when members of The Heenan Family were in action. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, garbed as Uncle Sam, assisted Monsoon as The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) defeated Haku and The Barbarian. The Rockers were the ideal superstars to open a Pay-Per-View. The Hardy Boyz were often compared to The Rockers, but Michaels and Jannetty didn’t need a ladder and tables to have an exciting match.
Sadly, many wresters on this card have passed away since, many at a young age, and not all as result of natural causes. As of 2013, there are ten wrestlers on this card who have died, not counting the managers and other on-air talent. Dino Bravo took on “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich. Both these men died as a result of gunshot wounds. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig defended the Intercontinental Championship against The Big Boss Man. They both died of heart attacks as did most of the ten wrestlers. One just has to wonder what role steroids and other drugs may have played in all these heart attacks. Earthquake is one of the few from this generation who passed from natural causes. He died of bladder cancer in 2006.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick “The Model” Martel was a Blindfold Match. This match may not stand the test of time, but it was a hoot the first time around. The WWE should bring back audience participation matches. Can you imagine John Cena in this type of match? His supporters (little kids) pointing him the right direction while all of his detractors (adult men) try to steer him off course? Either way, Roberts picked up the win and finally got his revenge on Martel for the blinding last year. This was the final PPV appearance of Damien, who was squished and cooked by Earthquake in the spring of 1991, and the last PPV before Jake Roberts’ heel turn.
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) lost the WWF Tag Team Championships to The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs). The Nasty Boys were managed by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, who formerly managed The Hart Foundation. Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart quietly dissolved their partnership after this loss and The Hit Man embarked on his Hall of Fame singles career. The Undertaker also made his WrestleMania debut and was now managed by Paul Bearer. The Phenom defeated Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. At the time, no could have known that this was the beginning of one of (if not the) most impressive streaks in WWF/WWE history. 1&0.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. “Macho King” Randy Savage was a Career Ending Match, which one could argue was even bigger than the WWF Championship and the real main event. Warrior and Savage both challenged Hulk Hogan for the top spot in the WWF at various points and became icons in their own right. The Warrior WALKED to the ring instead of running, so you knew he meant business. It was practically a handicap match with Sensational “Queen” Sherri’s involvement. The Warrior survived five of Savage’s patented flying elbow-drops, recovered, and hit Savage with three shoulder tackles for the win. After the match, Sherri kicked Savage, who was barely conscious. Then, Miss Elizabeth jumped the guard rail and saved Savage. Savage snapped out of his daze and realized what was happening. Elizabeth had tears in her eyes as she and Savage finally embraced. In fact, there was barely a dry eye in the house. Everybody was crying. This is probably the most touching moment in professional wrestling history. Macho MAN was back and received the accolades which he so richly deserved (I believe I‘m quoting Gorilla Monsoon) from all the fans. Usually, Elizabeth would hold the ropes open for Randy, but this time he held the ropes open for her like a true gentleman.
The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) squashed Power & Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma). A lackluster WrestleMania debut for such a heralded tag team. Lord Alfred Hayes joined Gorilla Monsoon for the aforementioned Intercontinental Championship Match. Andre the Giant even made a surprise appearance and aided The Big Boss Man against The Heenan Family. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, still recovering from knee surgery, was in the corner of Virgil, who upset “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase via count out. Ted DiBiase may have lost to his former bodyguard, but Sensational Sherri was revealed as his new manager. Wow. It sure didn’t take Sherri too long to find herself a new “meal ticket.”
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan challenged Sgt. Slaughter for the WWF Championship in the main event. Hulk had won the 1991 Royal Rumble, but this was not a guaranteed title opportunity. WWF President Jack Tunney (Vince McMahon‘s puppet) named The Hulkster as the #1 Contender on The Main Event. Sgt. Slaughter actually threatened to intentionally get himself counted out or disqualified so to keep the championship. It was a decent enough match. Regis Philbin added some humor as the celebrity guest color commentator. Just like Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania II, no one was really in fear for Hulkamania. Hogan was bloodied, but tore the Iraqi flag apart and won the WWF title for a record breaking third time. He had been tied at two title reigns with the legendary Bruno Sammartino.
The war was officially over (I know I‘m quoting Gorilla Monsoon this time). Whatever you may think of Sgt. Slaughter’s brief tenure as champion and the highly controversial Gulf War angle, it was an emotional WrestleMania. “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth’s reunion is an all time great WrestleMania moment even if the WWE is too ridiculous to acknowledge it. A recent WWE magazine ranked the horrible match between John Cena and The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII, which lamely ended in a double count out, above Macho Man and Elizabeth reuniting. Really? Really? Really?
Hulk Hogan becoming WWF Champion for an unprecedented third time was brought up by Bobby Heenan, but wasn’t dwelled upon. Nowadays, almost ever WWE superstar has been a world champion a half dozen time, devaluing the belts, but there was a time when being a three time champion was an achievement that only The Hulkster and his 24-inch pythons could realize… brother!!!
August 26, 1991
New York City, New York
The WWF returns to Madison Square Garden, the location so many historic moments. A three man team called the action. Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. The Heenan Family was no more and The Brain’s focus was on color commentary.
Rick “The Dragon” Steamboat was back after a highly successful tenure in WCW. He teamed with “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich to defeat a trio managed by Slick. Steamboat was only suppose to be referred to as “The Dragon” and his past as the Intercontinental Champion was overlooked. Regardless, Roddy Piper still called him Steamboat while calling the match. Either by force of habit or just plain defiance. Andre the Giant made his final PPV appearance, in the corner of The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch), who were defeated by The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Tugboat had be rechristened and Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart now managed the largest heel stable in the WWF in the absence of The Heenan Family.
Three titles changed hands at this PPV. Bret “Hit Man” Hart won the Intercontinental Championship from “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. A great wrestling match even with Mr. Perfect suffering from a back injury. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) won the WWF Tag Team Championships from The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs) in a No DQ Match. L.O.D. became the first and only tag team to win the gold in all three major promotions of their era. NWA, AWA, and WWF. Also, Virgil won the Million Dollar Championship from “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. This was only the second time that this non-sanctioned title was defended and the first time it changed hands.
Speaking of titles, Bobby Heenan went back to the locker room during the show with the WCW Championship belt and challenged “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan on behalf of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, the self proclaimed real world’s champion. Unbelievable! Flair was no longer associated with WCW, but was still recognized by the fans as the world champion of that promotion and owned the famous big gold belt. I followed the WWF at that age and was only vaguely familiar with WCW, but my father knew who Ric Flair was and he was very excited about his impending arrival in the WWF… Woooooo!!!
The Big Boss Man defeated The Mountie in a Jailhouse Match, stipulating that The Mountie would have to spend the night in a New York City jail. He was booked and left behind bars with an odd cellmate who wanted to know if he “loved the feel of leather on his skin?” The Mountie always gets his man.
The main event was the “Match Made in Hell,” a Handicap Match with Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Champion, and The Ultimate Warrior facing The Triangle of Terror (Sgt. Slaughter, Gen. Adnan, & Col. Mustapha). Mustapha was actually The Iron Sheik, the man who first lost the WWF Championship to Hulk Hogan way back in 1984 when Hulkamania arrived in the WWF. Since The Iron Sheik represented Iran, he was given a new persona so that he could signify Iraq instead. Sid Justice, formerly Sid Vicious in WCW, was the guest referee. Just like with Jesse “The Body” Ventura at SummerSlam ‘88, trust was a crucial issue. Sgt. Slaughter offered Sid a position in the Triangle of Terror, which Sid flatly refused. Hogan and Warrior were victorious after Hulk threw powder in the eyes of Slaughter. I guess Hulk Hogan is allowed to cheat? I thought at first that Slaughter must have attempted to use the powder and Hulk knocked it back in his face in an act of self defense, but nope, Hulk cheated.
The Ultimate Warrior chased Gen. Adnan and Col. Mustapha away from ringside with a steel chair just before the match ended and did not return to celebrate the win with Hulk Hogan. This was because he was fired by WWF Chairman Vince McMahon over a financial dispute. The Warrior argues the WWE’s version of this story which was presented on the “Self Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior” DVD, claiming that he was totally justified in demanded his long overdue payday for WrestleMania VII. I’ll remain neutral in this quarrel between Vince McMahon and The Warrior, because I honestly don’t know who to trust. Sid Justice instead joined Hulk Hogan in the ring to celebrate. I’m not sure why the referee would pose after a match, but it was still a good introduction for Sid.
The “Match Made in Heaven” followed, which was the wedding ceremony of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Of course, they were already married in real life, so it was more like a renewal ceremony and this might be the only WWF wedding that went off without a hitch. Usually, these ceremonies end in utter chaos. The chaos this time was reserved for the reception, which was not shown as part of the live PPV, so for the first time in my retrospectives, I’m referring to the Coliseum Home Video. The reception was crashed by Jake “The Snake” Roberts and The Undertaker. They hid a king cobra inside one of the gifts and it nearly bit Elizabeth. Jake initially turned heel to feud with The Ultimate Warrior, which obviously wasn’t going to happen anymore, but a Roberts / Macho Man rivalry was just as good and Roberts mentoring Undertaker was epic. This why there were rumors in 1999 that Jake Roberts was The Undertaker’s “higher power.” That would have been so much cooler than Mr. McMahon. Randy Savage’s retirement was short lived because the fans would soon be petitioning WWF President Jack Tunney for The Macho Man to be reinstated, so he could get payback.
November 27, 1991
This was the year that the Survivor Series transitioned into being a Thanksgiving Eve tradition. Also, none of the teams had names, those clever puns on the team captain’s gimmick which we all love. The WWF Championship was defended for the first time at this event and Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was wrestling again and The Hot Rod captained a team which opposed “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s team. This Pay-Per-View was unlike others because the main event matches all came on early. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was on Flair’s team, taking a backseat to the new top heel in the WWF. Ric Flair’s digitized world championship was actually a tag team title belt. He had to send the real one back to WCW, but the WWF kept the angle going. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was the only competitor eliminated during the course of the match. Everyone else, with the exception of Ric Flair, was disqualified at the conclusion of the match, resulting in Ric Flair becoming the sole survivor in his WWF Pay-Per-View debut.
Neither “Macho Man” Randy Savage nor Jake “The Snake” Roberts competed on this show because of an angle on WWF Superstars where Roberts’ king cobra bit Savage on his bicep. Instead, they were interviewed separately by “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Seems peculiar to leave two top superstars off one of the big four PPVs. In the past year, The Macho Man has only wrestled at WrestleMania VII. What a jip.
Sgt. Slaughter had turned face, wanting to be re-embraced by the good old USA. He and his partners, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, and Tito Santana (who now had his “El Matador” gimmick) defeated a team of generic heels by clean sweep.
In what was billed as his gravest challenge, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan defended the WWF Championship against The Undertaker. The Phenom had made his WWF debut at the previous Survivor Series. For the first time, Hulkamania wasn’t running wild. It seemed that many fans were rooting for The Undertaker. This sort of thing happens to John Cena all the time, but it was very rare for The Hulkster. Ric Flair interfered in the match numerous times. The finish was Undertaker delivering a Tombstone to Hogan on top of a steel chair which Flair slid into the ring while Paul Bearer was distracting the referee. Perhaps Bobby Heenan (who also served as Ric Flair’s financial advisor) was correct. Hulkamania may have been dead. Unlike older fans, who were somewhat sick of Hulk Hogan after seven years of prayers and vitamins, I was still a Hulkamaniac and this was a devastating moment for me.
As this show progressed, an impromptu Pay-Per-View called “Tuesday in Texas” was announced. It would be held the following week. Randy Savage would face off with Jake Roberts and The Undertaker would give Hulk Hogan a rematch for the WWF Championship. What I don’t appreciate is an incomplete Pay-Per-View. It ends on a cliffhanger and not for the Royal Rumble, but for an extra Pay-Per-View. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair were on early so there would be time to hype Tuesday in Texas and there was little point in watching the rest of this show.
All that was remaining of any consequence was Shawn Michaels berating his tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, after a miscue that led to Shawn being eliminated from their match. The beginning of the end for The Rockers. Also, Bobby Heenan was hilarious in mocking The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch). The final match (which I won‘t refer to as the main event) was a three-on-three traditional Survivor Series Match. The Big Boss Man and The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) vs. Irwin R. Shyster and The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Sid Justice was suppose to be on the face team, but was injured. The Macho Man was rumored as a replacement, but he wasn’t medically cleared after the snake bite. Jake Roberts was suppose to be on the heel team, but was suspended because of the aforementioned cobra incident. L.O.D. were the survivors. Sure, they may be the greatest tag team of all time (sorry Dudley Boyz), but it was still an anti-climax.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund found The Undertaker and Paul Bearer in the bowels of the arena just before the show went off the air. They were ominously preparing a casket for the funeral of Hulkamania, which would be held this “Tuesday in Texas.” Even if the fans were being ripped off for an extra PPV, it was still an awesome segment. The WWF would do many like this with Undertaker as a face in the years to come. Perhaps the coolest gimmick ever.
Like No Holds Barred: The Match the year prior, Tuesday in Texas doesn’t warrant it’s own retrospective. The rematch between The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan can be seen on the “Hulk Hogan: The Ultimate Anthology” DVD. WWF President Jack Tunney was at ringside and saw Ric Flair interfere again. Hulk won the title for a forth time after he threw ashes from the urn in Undertaker’s face, but was stripped of the belt soon after by Jack Tunney. The WWF Championship was vacant for the first time in over three years.
January 21, 1990
No better way to kick off the year than with the Royal Rumble, setting the stage for WrestleMania. Tony Schiavone calls his second and final WWF Pay-Per-View. Though I always prefer Gorilla Monsoon, after years of Michael Cole, I guess Schiavone wasn’t so bad in retrospect. Jesse “The Body” Ventura was awesome as always, sporting some fashionable Mickey Mouse ears.
In the opener, The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch) defeated The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond). Though it wasn’t mentioned, this contest was a rematch from WrestleMania V. We’ll see a lot of The Bushwackers at Royal Rumbles over the years because the entire roster is needed to fill up the card, but this is the last we’ll see of The Rougeaus until Jacques reemerges as The Mountie a year later. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake then faced The Genius. The Genius was the brother of “Macho King” Randy Savage and had formerly competed as “Leaping” Lanny Poffo. Now he was managing “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. Mr. Perfect had recently assisted The Genius in picking up a count out victory over Hulk Hogan on The Main Event. Mr. Perfect also made the save in this match when Beefcake had The Genius locked in his patented sleeper hold and battered Beefcake with a steel chair. Mr. Perfect was now being pushed as one of the top heels. Randy Savage’s brother vs. Hulk Hogan’s best friend was like a battle of the sidekicks. Nepotism running wild.
Brother Love had as guests on his interview segment, Sensational “Queen” Sherri and Sweet Sapphire, the respective managers of “Macho King” Randy Savage and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Brother Love and Sherri berated Sapphire until both Savage and Rhodes interjected themselves and the interview became a melee. This set the stage for an inter-gender tag team match at WrestleMania VI.
“Rugged” Ronnie Garvin then defeated Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in a Submission Match. Garvin used a maneuver which was referred to as a reverse figure-four leg lock, but was actually what would come to be known as the Sharpshooter (or Scorpion Death Lock for you WCW fans). “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan also defeated The Big Boss Man via disqualification. Duggan was now 3&0 at Royal Rumble events.
Part of the excitement of the Royal Rumble Match is anticipating who the next entrant is, but this year it was revealed that “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was the #1 entrant and Mr. Perfect was #30. I don’t mind knowing who #1 is, but I’d prefer that #30 be a surprise. DiBiase beginning the match was almost karmic retribution for him allegedly purchasing #30 the prior year. DiBiase eliminated Koko B. Ware (#2) and Marty Jannetty (#3) before being confronted by Jake “The Snake” Roberts (#4). The WWF had been teasing a major feud between these two for months. Randy Savage came in at #5 and sided with DiBiase against Roberts. And since when are these two friends? I understand that they are both heels, but what about all the bad blood form 1988? “Rowdy” Roddy Piper entered at #6 and teamed with Roberts against DiBiase and Savage. The ring continued to fill up and Savage kept saving DiBiase, eventually eliminating Roberts. Dusty Rhodes then entered at #10 and eliminated Savage. Bad News Brown (#9) was eliminated by Piper, so he pulled Piper over the top rope, which is an illegal elimination, but the officials (including Shane McMahon) allowed it. Piper and Bad News brawled back to the locker room, setting up their match at WrestleMania VI.
Andre the Giant entered at #11. “The Eighth Wonder of the World” was now one half of the WWF Tag Team Champions with Haku (#14). This duo was known as “The Colossal Connection.” They feuded with Demolition (Ax & Smash) now that The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) were no longer in the WWF. Ax (#13) and Smash (#15) double teamed Andre just like the year before, but this time they were able to eliminate the giant with a double clothesline. Earthquake (#19) competed in his first Royal Rumble and it took half a dozen superstars to eliminate the big man. The career of Andre was winding down, so Earthquake was becoming the new resident monster heel in the WWF.
The Ultimate Warrior, reigning Intercontinental Champion, entered at #21. The Warrior had been in the 1988 Royal Rumble, but he was now a much bigger star. Warrior was the one finally able to eliminated Ted DiBiase, who’d lasted nearly forty-five minutes. Tito Santana (#23) tried desperately to eliminate his former partner, Rick “The Model” Martel (#22), but was unsuccessful. Will Tito ever get his payback? Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Champion, entered at #25. Shawn Michaels came in at #26 and was immediately tossed out by Warrior. Michaels wasn’t an icon yet. Hogan and Warrior cleaned house and were left in the ring together, the most enduring image of this Pay-Per-View. It was the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. They knocked each other down with a double clothesline, only wetting our appetite for WrestleMania VI. The ring began to fill up again and after “Ravishing” Rick Rude (#28) entered, Hulk “accidentally” eliminated The Warrior. Déjà vu? Warrior then reentered the ring and attacked everyone but The Hulkster.
Mr. Perfect came in at #30, the perfect number, and the final four were Hogan, Perfect, Rude, and Hercules (#29). Hercules was eliminated quickly and Hogan was then double teamed until a miscommunication where Mr. Perfect eliminated Rick Rude. Mr. Perfect hit Hogan with the Perfect-Plex, his finishing maneuver, but The Hulkster “Hulked Up” and threw Mr. Perfect over the top turnbuckle for the win.
Apparently, Mr. Perfect had initially been booked to win this Royal Rumble, but Hulk Hogan decided it would better for him to win and used his stroke to make it happen. He is the only reigning WWF Champion to ever win a Royal Rumble. Since the title shot at WrestleMania stipulation wasn’t added for another three years, it didn’t have too much of a negative effect on Mr. Perfect’s career and it was yet another feather in the cap for Hulk Hogan. All the key matches at WrestleMania had been set up. Hogan vs. Warrior, Roberts vs. DiBiase, Piper vs. Bad News, Savage vs. Dusty, Perfect vs. Beefcake, and the tag team title match, so this Pay-Per-View did it’s job quite well. The term “Road to WrestleMania” has become such a lousy cliché, but it was apt in 1990.
April 1, 1990
The first international WrestleMania. Skydome (now lamely known as Rogers Centre) was the location of the “Ultimate Challenge,” where “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan put his WWF Championship on the line against The Ultimate Warrior’s Intercontinental Championship in a title-for-title match. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were together on commentary for the last time and the “mini ring” entrance carts from WrestleMania III were back.
This WrestleMania was also the swansong for Andre the Giant. Andre and Haku, The Colossal Connection, lost the WWF Tag Team Championships to Demolition (Ax & Smash). This was the third time in which Demolition captured the titles. A record at the time and they are still the longest reigning tag team champions in the history of the promotion. The health of Andre was clearly on the decline as he never actually tagged into the match. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan severely scolded Andre following the match and after three years of taking orders, Andre smacked The Brain across the face, turning face and walking out on The Heenan Family. It was appropriate that Andre would leave as a good guy and receive a standing ovation from the fans. Andre would make sporadic appearances before he passed away in 1993 and the WWF Hall of Fame was christened with his induction that same year.
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig had a perfect record going into WrestleMania VI, meaning that he had not been pinned or made to submit on national television, though I’m aware he was pinned by The Ultimate Warrior in Madison Square Garden just a couple weeks before WrestleMania VI. Mr. Perfect’s first high profile loss occurred at this Pay-Per-View and was at the hands of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. I must take umbrage with this booking. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but Mr. Perfect had all the potential in the world. I don’t care if Beefcake was Hulk Hogan’s BFF, Mr. Perfect was clearly the superstar to push. This was also the Pay-Per-View where “Rowdy” Roddy Piper infamously painted half of his body black to psych out his opponent, Bad News Brown. The match itself ended in a double count out. Piper and Bad News brawled back to the locker room just as they did at the Royal Rumble, so nothing was settled.
“Macho King” Randy Savage and Sensational “Queen” Sherri took on “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and Sweet Sapphire in the first ever inter-gender tag team match. Dusty claimed to have a secret weapon, a crown jewel, who turned out to be the lovely Miss Elizabeth, who’d not been seen since SummerSlam ‘89. Savage and Sherri were furious that Elizabeth was on hand. Dusty and Sapphire were victorious with some help from Elizabeth and all three celebrated. It’s very disappointing to view this match on a DVD or a Blu-ray because Dusty’s hip entrance music is tampered with. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase defended his Million Dollar Championship for the first time. His challenger was Jake “The Snake” Roberts. DiBiase won the match by count out, but received a taste of his own medicine when Roberts shoved a $100 bill down his throat.
Rhythm & Blues (The Honky Tonk Man & Greg “The Hammer” Valentine) performed a concert, which was crashed by The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch). The Hammer was now an Elvis Presley impersonator just like Honky. Rhythm & Blues were accompanied by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart and The Honkettes. Their chauffer was none other than Diamond Dallas Page, a future WCW Champion.
The main event of WrestleMania VI was one of the biggest ever. Two titles were on the line and it was face vs. face. Seeing Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior at that age was just as good as seeing Superman vs. Batman. I always liked The Warrior, but I was a die hard Hulkamaniac and rooting for The Hulkster all the way. The last time we’d seen the irresistible force meeting the immovable object was at WrestleMania III. Back in 1987, Andre the Giant was the immovable object and Hulk Hogan was the irresistible force. In 1990, Hulk was the immovable object and Warrior was the irresistible force. Holy cow. Over two decades later, this is still an exciting match to watch.
The test of strength between the two champions is such an iconic image. Jesse Ventura called the match down the middle, showing no bitterness towards Hogan. “Ravishing” Rick Rude spent most of 1989 preparing Warrior for this level of competition and it showed. Warrior was able to hang with Hogan, who dictated the pace of the match as the more experienced grappler should. The match went back and forth, both champions doing their no-selling power up routines until Warrior hit his big slash. Hogan kicked out at three and a half and Warrior was the new WWF Champion. This is such a vivid memory from my childhood. I honestly believed that Hulk Hogan was unbeatable, but he did the classy thing and was the first to congratulate the new champion.
Yes, Hulk Hogan also shared in the adulation when Randy Savage won the title two years prior, but the internet “smart” fans have blown out of proportion how devious he was in spoiling the crowning moments of others. The urban legend is that The Ultimate Warrior had no clue that Hulk was going to present him with the WWF Championship, but if you look at the tape, referee Earl Hebner hands Warrior BOTH championships and Warrior accepts the Intercontinental Championship while shoving away the WWF Championship. The cameras cut away and the commentators ignored it, so it seems that the only person who didn’t know (or just forgot) was Earl Hebner, but somehow Hulk is accused of going into business for himself when the footage does not support that at all.
Jesse Ventura, Hulk Hogan’s biggest detractor, even praised him for how he went out as a former champion and begrudgingly admitted that “Hulkamania” would live forever. This was Jesse’s final WWF Pay-Per-View for over nine years, so it was fitting that he finally endorsed Hogan on the way out. As far as The Ultimate Warrior goes, he will always be the man who beat The Hulkster in is prime, clean, and for the title. That is a WrestleMania moment. The Warrior is also the first competitor to hold both the WWF Championship and Intercontinental Championship at the same time. WWF President Jack Tunney, who signed the title-for-title match, then stripped Warrior of the IC title because no one could meet the contractual obligations of both championships. So, then why’d you book the match? WWF Chairman Vince McMahon had an “out” for every storyline because plot-holes could easily be attributed to Jack Tunney’s incompetence.
August 27, 1990
This summer classic is the first Pay-Per-View without Jesse “The Body” Ventura. The Hot Rod, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper assumed the position of color commentator and Vince McMahon himself handled the play-by-play instead of Gorilla Monsoon. Roddy wasn’t exactly a heel, but he was still quite harsh and unsympathetic throughout the show.
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) opened the show and were upset by Power & Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma). Michaels had a legitimate knee injury and was unable to compete, so Jannetty was left in a glorified Handicap Match. What was more shocking than Hercules & Roma winning, was that the Philadelphia fans were cheering them on. No love for the pretty boy Rockers. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was the new Intercontinental Champion and newest member of The Heenan Family. What a major coup for Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Mr. Perfect had defeated Tito Santana in the finals of a tournament after The Ultimate Warrior relinquished the title. Mr. Perfect then traded up from The Genius to The Brain, the perfect manager. Originally, Perfect was to lose the title to Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake here at SummerSlam. I won’t rag on Beefcake for being Hulk Hogan’s BFF again because this was the second time that he was booked to win the IC title, but missed out because of an injury. This injury was a parasailing accident which kept him out of action for over two years. Kerry Von Erich, a star in WCCW, had recently joined the WWF and was billed as “The Texas Tornado.” Von Erich replaced Beefcake as #1 Contender and beat Mr. Perfect for the title. A bad start to what had the potential to be a big night for The Heenan Family.
The Big Boss Man was now a face, turning before WrestleMania VI, and was pulling double duty at this Pay-Per-View. First, he was the guest referee in a match between Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Bad News Brown. Bad News had Harlem sewer rats in his corner to combat Damien. Boss Man awarded the match to Roberts via DQ and this was the last WWF Pay-Per-View for Bad News Brown. Demolition defended the WWF Tag Team Championships against The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) in a rematch from the first SummerSlam in 1988. Demolition was now a trio, appose to a tag team, with Crush joining Ax and Smash. It was Smash and Crush defending the titles in a 2/3 Falls Match. Ax came down to the ring and did the old tag team partner switch, but The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) were now in the WWF and arrived to tipped the scales in favor of The Harts, who won tag team gold for the second time their careers. This tag team attraction was definitely the match of the night, beginning a tradition of Bret Hart competing in the show stealing match almost every year at SummerSlam.
Sgt. Slaughter also arrived in the WWF. He had left before the first WrestleMania and been floundering in the AWA. He was back to award Brother Love with a medal for outstanding achievement in something unimportant. The whole point was that Sgt. Slaughter, who’d been initiated into the G.I. Joes back in the 1980s, was now a heel. He would even become an Iraqi sympathizer during the first Gulf War, one of the most (if not the most) controversial angles in WWF history.
A running storyline throughout the Pay-Per-View was that Sapphire was missing, much to the anguish of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, who was facing “Macho King” Randy Savage. Dusty couldn’t even concentrate on the match, then “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase arrived with Sapphire to reveal that she had been lured away with luxurious gifts, proving that everybody has a price for The Million Dollar Man. Dusty was left heartbroken and easily defeated by The Macho King. Dusty then chased after DiBiase and Sapphire, but it was too late as DiBiase’s limousine pulled away. Dusty later vowed that it was time to get nasty. This was the last time in which he wore the trademark polka-dots at a WWF Pay-Per-View. Longtime fans always saw the polka-dots as an insult to Dusty Rhodes and Vince McMahon’s way of castigating the former NWA/WCW booker, so it was probably a relief to many to see the polka-dots go.
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan returned to action after months away filming “Suburban Commando.” The Hulkster had been written off TV with an attack by Earthquake. It was a big push for Earthquake to be given credit for taking out Hogan. Earthquake had Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart and Dino Bravo in his corner. The Big Boss Man of all people was in Hulk’s corner, taking the place of Tugboat. Just like the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin / Triple H “Two Man Power Trip” of 2001, I just didn’t buy that Hogan and Boss Man were buddies after years of animosity. Hogan won the match by count out, but Earthquake was still booked strong, enduring being slammed on top of a table and being beaten and bruised by a steel chair. Roddy Piper referred to this as a “hollow victory” for Hogan. All the current WWE commentators shill for John Cena, but back in the glory days, the color commentators would berate The Hulkster. More proof that John Cena is NOT the modern equivalent of Hulk Hogan, but rather a pale imitation.
The Ultimate Warrior became the first ever WWF Champion to defend the title at a SummerSlam. His challenger was “Ravishing” Rick Rude, who had defeated Warrior for the Intercontinental Championship back at WrestleMania V, so he was a legitimate threat to The Warrior’s reign as WWF Champion. The Intercontinental Championship should be used as a steppingstone to the WWF Championship, so mid-card level feuds can be reignited down the road in the main event. It’s so rare for the heel to make a valid point, but in this instance, no one could deny that Rick Rude had the capability of beating The Warrior because he’d done it before. The same happened five years later when “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith challenged Bret “Hit Man” Hart for the WWF Championship at an In Your House. Everybody remembered that Davey Boy had defeated The Hit Man at Wembley Stadium for the Intercontinental Championship back at SummerSlam 1992 and wondered if history would repeat itself.
Not only was this the first WWF Championship match in SummerSlam history, it was a Steel Cage Match. Nowadays, with the Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chambers, an old fashioned steel cage seems quaint, but at the time, there was no match more dreaded. Rude had cut his hair short, perhaps a symbolic gesture to show that he was taking this match as the most imperative of his career. Roddy Piper was just as judgmental of The Warrior as he was of Hulk Hogan in calling the contest. The match was solid, but not quite as good as their match from SummerSlam ‘89. Warrior retained the title, so The Heenan Family had lost two important title matches on the same show. Rick Rude left the WWF soon after and joined WCW, so I always associate his short haircut with his WCW tenure.
And in an odd way, this was already the last hurrah for The Ultimate Warrior as the top dog in the WWF because Hulk Hogan would begin easing his way back into the main event picture now that he was done filming his movie.
November 22, 1990
This is my favorite Survivor Series because of the “Grand Finale Match of Survival.” All of the survivors from earlier in the Pay-Per-View returned to compete in the main event. Just like the epic WrestleMania IV tournament, I love when wrestling is booked like a legitimate sporting event with brackets, rounds, and playoffs. Gorilla Monsoon and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper called all the action. And, of course, this was the debut of the greatest superstar of all time… The Gobbly Gooker!!!
Just messing around… It’s the debut of The Undertaker!!!
“The Warriors” (captained by none other than reigning WWF Champion, The Ultimate Warrior) defeated “The Perfect Team” (captained by “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig) in the opening contest. Between Demolition, The Legion of Doom, and The Warrior, there were six face painters in this match. Possibly a record. Demolition had reunited with Mr. Fuji, but Ax soon left the WWF and Demolition lost most of their momentum without him. After a double DQ, Mr. Perfect was left alone to face both The Warrior and “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, the Intercontinental Champion. Mr. Perfect eliminated The Tornado with some help from the exposed turnbuckle, but that same tactic failed against The Warrior and Warrior became the sole survivor for the third year in a row.
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’ “Dream Team” took on “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Team,” which had a mystery partner. The mystery partner would go on to become “The Phenom” of the World Wrestling Federation, The Undertaker. Brother Love was the original manager of “The Dead Man” and not Paul Bearer. The first superstar to oppose The Undertaker was Bret “Hit Man” Hart and no member of The Dream Team did well against ‘Taker. Koko B. Ware had the distinction of receiving the first ever Tombstone Piledriver. The Honky Tonk Man was also on The Million Dollar Team in what was his final WWF Pay-Per-View for nearly seven years. Undertaker was eventually counted out and the match came down to Ted DiBiase and Bret Hart. They both showed off great technical prowess until DiBiase countered Hart for the victory.
“The Vipers” (captained by Jake “The Snake” Roberts) were utterly decimated by “The Visionaries” (captained by Rick “The Model” Martel). Martel had blinded Roberts with his trademark cologne, called “Arrogance,” but Roberts wasn’t able to gain any form of retribution. Roddy Piper did call Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty The “Plymouth” Rockers, which I thought was cool. The Visionaries became the first team in Survivor Series history to survive intact, not losing a single member throughout the course of the match. The heel team was now stacked for the grand finale, while The Ultimate Warrior was all alone on the face team.
“The Hulkamaniacs” (captained by “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan) defeated “The Natural Disasters” (captained by Earthquake). Earthquake and Tugboat were eliminated by way of a double count out, so there was still no closure to the Hogan / Earthquake rivalry. Hogan survived after hitting The Barbarian with the big boot / atomic leg drop combo. The Hulkster would now join The Ultimate Warrior on the face team. Hulk also took a swing at Bobby “The Brain” Heenan for old times’ sake. The Warrior had also battered The Brain earlier, so it was a tough night for Bobby.
Surprisingly, “Macho King” Randy Savage did not compete at this Pay-Per-View. He was instead interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund and demanded a title shot from The Ultimate Warrior. I can only surmise that Savage was injured because his match against Dusty Rhodes at SummerSlam was pretty short and he was now sitting out this major event.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund would also have the honor of introducing The Gobbly Gooker, portrayed by Hector Guerrero. The mystery of the giant egg was hyped even more than Ted DiBiase’s mystery tag partner. What a let down this was. You could hear children jeering this lame turkey. Wow. It’s probably a toss up between the Gooker and The Shockmaster from WCW for the most shoddy debut in pro wrestling history.
The last qualifying match for the grand finale was “The Mercenaries” (captained by Sgt. Slaughter) vs. “The Alliance” (captained by Nikolai Volkoff). Nikolai was now a face because the Cold War had come to an end, but the fans in America still didn’t like him. This might have been the sloppiest match in WWF Pay-Per-View history. None of the competitors seemed to know which corner to stand in and all the eliminations seemed rushed. Tito Santana was the sole survivor after Sgt. Slaughter was disqualified. Tito didn’t have that many PPV victories, so good for him even if the match sucked. It was almost like watching a modern WWE Diva tag team match. Botchamania.
Arriba!!! Tito Santana made it to the “Grand Finale Match of Survival,” teaming with Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior to battle “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and “The Visionaries.” 3 vs. 5. Even though Tito had virtually no time to recuperate from his match, he started this match while Hulk and Warrior lingered on the apron. You gotta be kidding me? Tito finally makes it to the main event and he’s used as a human shield? Despite the valiant effort from Tito, the match came down to Hulk and Warrior against The Million Dollar Man. This was the third year in a row that Hulk and DiBiase were on opposing teams at Survivor Series. Warrior scored the winning pinfall and the two “uber” baby faces celebrated, even holding the ropes open for each other in a show of mutual respect.
There was never another grand finale match at a Survivor Series, so I must be in the minority who thought it was a great idea. Shucks. Every year I have my fingers crossed that the Survivor Series will return to its original format with all traditional tag team elimination matches, but I guess I’ll have to settle for just one or two.
January 15, 1989
Let’s get ready to rumble. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan won the first Royal Rumble in 1988, but that was not a Pay-Per-View. It was a special which aired on the USA Network and featured only twenty superstars. Every Royal Rumble since (with the exception of 2011) has featured thirty superstars. It was like a teaser for the WWF’s next big Pay-Per-View extravaganza. The Royal Rumble joined WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and the Survivor Series as the “Classic Four,” also known as the “Big Four.” Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were again on commentary. Three other matches and a posedown accompanied the Royal Rumble Match on the card.
In the opener, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan & The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) defeated Dino Bravo & The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond) in a 2/3 Falls Match. Dino Bravo, who I believe holds the world record for missing elbow drops, was originally billed as “Canada’s Strongest Man,” then he was promoted to the “World’s Strongest Man.” I actually think it would have been better for his gimmick to always be qualified as a Canadian strongman. “World’s Strongest Man” sounds so generic. My sincere apologies to Mark Henry. The Rougeaus had very catchy entrance music. Annoyingly catchy enough to garner heat from the fans. Speaking of the fans, they would chant USA even when Bret Hart was in the ring. Jim Duggan used his trusty 2×4 piece of lumber to pick up the victory. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura debated whether or not to was fair for the face team to use an illegal foreign object. It was always great to hear these two argue. Nowadays, Michael Cole makes me want to watch WWE with the volume turned all the way down.
Rockin’ Robin defended the WWF Women’s Championship against Judy Martin, but I never had much interest in women’s wrestling. Even with the multi-talented Sensational Sherri on color commentary, this is a match to skim through. The Ultimate Warrior did not defend the Intercontinental Championship against “Ravishing” Rick Rude, instead they competed in a “Super Posedown.” Perhaps it was a way to have The Warrior be a part of the show, but not actually have him wrestle? Or was it just an awesome way to build up to their match at WrestleMania V? Either way, it made for a real entertaining segment. “Smart” fans must despise this baby oil / pumping iron exhibition, but it was so ludicrous that it was epic. “Mean” Gene Okerlund was the emcee and the fans were the judges. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan pleaded with the people to remain unbiased, but that was obviously never going to happen. Rick Rude was arguably the crown jewel of The Heenan Family, but the fans were decidedly rooting for The Warrior. Rude gave The Warrior a cheap-shot just as Warrior was about to be declared the winner. Keep an eye out for Nick Bockwinkel, a former AWA Champion, as one of the officials who try to break up the melee.
Between matches, grapplers would be shown backstage selecting their numbers for the Royal Rumble from a tumbler. Some seemed to be happy with their numbers, others not so much. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase did not appear happy with the number he drew, so he consulted with Slick as to which numbers he drew for The Twin Towers (The Big Boss Man & Akeem). Foreshadowing?
Harley Race competed in his final WWF Pay-Per-View. He had been the “King of the WWF” back when the King of the Ring winner would have to defend his crown on occasion as if it were a championship belt. Haku, who like Race was a member of The Heenan Family, assumed the thrown when Race was out of action with an injury. So, this was a rare heel vs. heel match. Bobby Heenan was at ringside and supported both superstars, so that he could easily side with the winner and discard the loser. Haku won with a devastating super-kick. Almost every time I listen to shoot interview given by a wrestler of this generation, Haku’s name is mentioned as one of the toughest men in all of wrestling. Haku may not have the gravitas of a Harley Race, but he was someone you definitely didn’t want to mess with.
The undercard was serviceable, but everyone orders this Pay-Per-View to watch thirty superstars in an hour long, every man for himself, rumble. Ax of Demolition was the #1 entrant, so it didn’t take a real road scholar to figure out who #2 would be. Smash of Demolition. It was the first time in WWF history that the Tag Team Champions wrestled each other. Andre the Giant, the king of the Battle Royals and odds-on-favorite in this match, entered at #3. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig entered at #4 and lasted almost a half hour, longer than anyone else in this Royal Rumble. Andre did all of the eliminating early on, tossing out both Smash and “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin (#5). Jake “The Snake” Roberts entered at #7 and was quickly eliminated by Andre. Roberts returned to the ring with Damien, his pet python, and Andre jumped out of the ring in a state of panic. I suppose that the bookers didn’t want anyone to eliminate Andre, so they just had him eliminate himself. Some of the notable entrants to follow this were Shawn Michaels (#9), The Honky Tonk Man (#11), Tito Santana (#12), Bad News Brown (#13), Marty Jannetty (#14), and “Macho Man” Randy Savage (#15). Savage was the reigning WWF Champion, but the guaranteed title shot at WrestleMania stipulation wasn’t added until the 1993 Royal Rumble. These first few rumbles were for the bragging rights only. The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) entered back to back at #’s 16 & 17 respectively. So, that’s now two tag teams who drew consecutive numbers. What are the odds?
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan entered at #18 and eliminated ten superstars, a record which would stand for twelve years, being broken by Kane in 2001. One of the ten was The Warlord (#21), who lasted just over one second, a dubious record which would last twenty whole years before being broken by Santino Marella in 2009. The Hulkster then “accidentally” eliminated Randy Savage. The Macho Man was left fuming and it looked like The Mega Powers were just about ready to explode. No managers were allowed at ringside for the Royal Rumble, but Miss Elizabeth came down to the ring and played peacemaker. Hogan and Savage shook hands and Hogan was left alone to face both The Big Boss Man (#22) and Akeem (#23). Gorilla Monsoon then theorized that The Million Dollar Man had to be responsible for the Big Boss Man and Akeem having consecutive numbers. Funny how no one thought it was suspicious that Demolition and The Brain Busters drew consecutive numbers? The Twin Towers double teamed and shockingly eliminated The Hulkster. The beauty of the Royal Rumble is its unpredictability. If you were going to bet on the 1989 Royal Rumble, your money probably would’ve been on either Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant. Now, they were both out of the running.
As time ticked away, it was quite apparent that Ted DiBiase had traded up for a higher number. Classic heel tactics. He was the biggest star left and thusly the new favorite. The only real opposition he’d have to contend with was Big John Studd (#27). Studd was a former member of The Heenan Family, who’d been absent from the WWF for almost three years. He was now a face and pummeled Akeem as soon as he entered the match. Ted DiBiase finally entered at #30 and his bodyguard Virgil stayed at ringside despite the rules. Jesse Ventura justified his presence by pointing out that it is managers and not bodyguards who are in fact banned from ringside. The final four were DiBiase, Studd, Akeem, and Rick Martel (#29). Akeem eliminated Martel, then assisted DiBiase against Studd. Gorilla Monsoon’s paranoia was now vindicated as it was obvious that Slickster had taken a payoff from DiBiase earlier in Pay-Per-View. Studd fought back, eliminating Akeem first, then DiBiase. Virgil entered the ring after the bell had already rung and feebly attempted to attack Studd. Too little, too late. Studd also tossed Virgil over the top rope as if was one of the participates in the Royal Rumble.
Besides guest refereeing duties at WrestleMania V, this was the swansong for Big John Studd. He never won a title, so this was his highest accolade. He retired from the WWF later in 1989, passed away in 1995, and was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. Just like WrestleMania IV, The Million Dollar Man tried to spend money instead of striving for his success. It’s a shame that Ted DiBiase never became WWF Champion, but the purpose of his character was to demonstrate that money can’t buy everything. It was a morality tale. Nowadays, I watch The Miz and I struggle to understand what purpose he serves? DiBiase wouldn’t be without a title for long though as he created the “Million Dollar Championship” before WrestleMania V and declared himself the reigning champion. Some people argue that this title doesn’t count because it wasn’t “real.” Well, none of the titles are “real.” DiBiase didn’t beat anyone for it, but whom did Triple H defeat to become World Heavyweight Champion in 2002? Nobody. See my point?
April 2, 1989
Atlantic City, New Jersey
This is it. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The Mega Powers EXPLODE!!! The turning point occurred at The Main Event. It was “Macho Man” Randy Savage & “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan vs. The Twin Towers (The Big Boss Man & Akeem). Savage was thrown out of the ring and he landed on top of the lovely Miss Elizabeth. Hogan brought Elizabeth to the trainer’s room and abandoned Savage in a glorified Handicap Match. Elizabeth assured Hogan that she was well enough for him to return to the ring, but it was too late. Savage was now fed up with Hogan’s grandstanding and slapped The Hulkster across the face. The roles were then reversed as Savage left the ringside area and Hogan had to fight both Big Boss Man and Akeem. Hogan still managed to win the match and confronted Savage as Elizabeth looked on helplessly. Savage accused Hogan of having “jealous eyes” regarding both Elizabeth and the WWF Championship. Hogan protested his innocence, but Savage wasn’t convinced and struck Hogan with the title belt. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake (Hogan’s real life best friend) came to his aid, but Savage beat him down too. Later in the show, Hogan was on a rampage, crossing paths with future legends Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Shawn Michaels.
What was clever about Macho Man’s heel turn was that he was perfectly justified from his own point of view. Hulk was always hogging the spotlight and spent too much time around Elizabeth. Not the ideal tag team partner. Hogan on the other hand was able to defend his actions. He didn’t intentionally leave Savage alone in the ring at the Survivor Series, he was handcuffed outside the ring. Hogan also claimed that eliminating Savage from the Royal Rumble was unintentional and even if it was intentional, the match was meant to be every man for himself. And was Hogan just suppose to leave Elizabeth in a heap outside the ring and not seek medical assistance for her? A glory hog such as Hulk Hogan and a manically paranoid individual like Randy Savage cannot coexist for long without having a confrontation.
There were other matches on the card besides the highly anticipated main event. Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura were on commentary. Shawn Michaels, who is now known as “Mr. WrestleMania,” made his WrestleMania debut as The Rockers took on The Big Boss Man and Akeem. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were innovative high-flyers and very popular amongst kids my age. I actually preferred Marty to Shawn back then and got to chat with him for a couple minutes during the intermission of an independent show in 2012. Since Shawn Michaels became such an icon, it is forgotten that Marty Jannetty was a talented in-ring performer. Also in tag team action, The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) took on Strikeforce (Rick Martel & Tito Santana). Martel turned heel by walking out on Santana during the match. I met Tito at an autograph signing in 2008 and we discussed this moment. The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) defeated The Honky Tonk Man and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Honky and Valentine were both part of Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart’s stable, but not yet known as “Rhythm & Blues.”
Andre the Giant faced Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Big John Studd was the special guest referee. Studd had been Andre’s WrestleMania I opponent in the $15,000 “Body Slam Challenge.” Usually, a guest referee is either celebrity or a heel who is out to screw over the babyface. When the guest referee is also a babyface, it probably means he will turn heel at the conclusion of the match. In this case, there was no heel turn and the odds were stacked against Andre. During the contest, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Virgil snuck down to ringside and attempted to steal Jake’s python, Damien. Andre attacked Studd and this awkward match ended in a DQ, setting up a showdown between Ted DiBiase and Jake Roberts at the next year’s WrestleMania.
The Ultimate Warrior had his first proper Pay-Per-View match, defending the coveted Intercontinental Championship against “Ravishing” Rick Rude. The Warrior showed signs of improvement, but still wasn’t at that level where he needed to be to contend with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage as he soon would. Rick Rude won the title with aid of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. This was a big moment because Rude was the first member of The Heenan Family to actually win a championship (Not counting Andre the Giant’s cup of coffee with the WWF Championship).
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper, also known as “The Hot Rod,” returned to WWF Pay-Per-View for the first time since WrestleMania III. He had left professional wrestling to star in such films as John Carpenter’s “They Live.” Roddy was back to host his controversial interview segment, “Piper’s Pit.” His guest was 1980’s talk show sleaze-ball and chain smoker, Morton Downey Jr.. Brother Love attempted to hijack the show and even wore kilt to mock Roddy, but he was unsuccessful and Roddy gleefully doused Mr. Downey with a fire extinguisher. The boss was back.
On to the main event, which had a year long build. There was a year long build to The Rock vs. John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII, but those two basically traded insults on social media sites in what was tantamount to cyber bullying, whereas Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage was an ongoing saga. Not unlike a soap opera. Wrestling purists reject the notion that these two superstars were fighting more over Miss Elizabeth than the WWF Championship. But which would you rather have? A title belt or the love of beautiful woman? Therein lays the drama. Savage was returning to Trump Plaza, the location of his WrestleMania IV triumph, but now he was the villain. Hogan was main-eventing his fourth WrestleMania. Miss Elizabeth was at ringside and tried to remain neutral. Jesse Ventura criticized her for this while Gorilla Monsoon naturally defended her. Referee Earl Hebner ejected Elizabeth when she became nuisance. Savage bloodied Hogan, but Hogan “Hulked Up” after being nailed with Savage’s patented flying elbow-drop. The Hulkster hit the big boot and atomic leg-drop combo, winning the WWF Championship for the second time in his storied career, tying the then record with the legendary Bruno Sammartino.
The Mega Powers wouldn’t reunite until both Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage made the jump to WCW in 1994. Of course, they couldn’t legally be called by that name since it was a different promotion. I recall WCW billed them as “The Monster Maniacs.” I kept waiting for a reunion to happen in the WWF, but it wasn’t meant to be. I am aware that there were real life ego clashes between the two, but I try not to harp on that. They are legends who made the WWF into a global phenomenon and were solely responsible for getting me hooked on professional wrestling as a kid.
Miss Elizabeth was also a part of The Mega Powers. Unlike the WWE Divas of today, she came across as more elegant. A natural beauty as appose to a fitness model. Miss Elizabeth wasn’t a “Diva,” she was the “First Lady of the World Wrestling Federation.”
August 28, 1989
East Rutherford, New Jersey
Sure, 1989 may have been the summer of “Batman” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” but did either of those films effect the main event of SummerSlam? No, that honor goes to “No Holds Barred.” Zeus, the human wrecking machine, stepped out of the cinemas (I guess he had a magic ticket or something) to combat his co-star, Hulk Hogan. SummerSlam ‘89 gets a bad wrap because of Zeus’ involvement in the main event, but the Pay-Per-View as a whole is still worth watching. Tony Schiavone was the play-by-play man instead of Gorilla Monsoon. What? Schiavone may have spent a year in the WWF and Jesse “The Body” Ventura did make the jump to WCW in 1992, but Schiavone will always be a WCW guy in the eyes of the fans and Jesse will always be a WWF guy. Also, the early part of this show had a real WCW invasion type vibe to it.
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) took on The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard) in the opener. Arn and Tully were two of “The Four Horsemen” back in the NWA/WCW before they made the jump in 1988 and were now proud members of The Heenan Family and reigning WWF Tag Team Champions, but this was a non-title match. I’m not sure why since The Brain Busters won the match. I could envision an angle where The Harts win the match, only to then be informed by an official that because of some contractual loophole, the titles stay with Arn and Tully, but if the champions were booked to win anyway, why not just make this a title match? “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, the booker in NWA/WCW, also made the jump to the WWF. He faced the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, The Honky Tonk Man. Dusty had competed in the WWF in the late 1970s and Honky would have a brief stint in WCW in the mid 1990s, but just like the opener, this match had that WWF vs. WCW vibe, which was only enhanced by Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura calling the action just as they would on WCW Worldwide. The first hour of this Pay-Per-View feels more like an invasion than the actual Invasion Pay-Per-View from 2001.
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig competed against The Red Rooster. I find this match a tad humorous because the crowd support was seemingly with Mr. Perfect. He was a heel that you just had to respect while The Rooster was a pitiful gimmick. The story goes that both Curt Hennig and Terry Taylor were signed by the WWF at the same time the Mr. Perfect and The Red Rooster gimmicks were being cultivated. Thank the heavens that the right guy was pushed. Can you imagine some alternate timeline where Curt Hennig clucked his was to the ring? The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) teamed with Tito Santana to take on The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques & Raymond) and Rick Martel in the first six man tag team match of the evening. Martel was a heel, but not yet “The Model.”
The Ultimate Warrior finally had a true main event caliber Pay-Per-View performance by winning back the prestigious Intercontinental Championship from “Ravishing” Rick Rude in a rematch from WrestleMania V. I have always considered this match to be a hidden gem and was pleased that it was included on the “History of the Intercontinental Championship” DVD in 2008. Rick Rude may have carried The Warrior to a point, but it still takes two to have a good match. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper inexplicably came down to ringside and pulled up his kilt, mooning and distracting Rude, allowing The Warrior to pick up the win. The Heenan Family lost the Intercontinental Championship, but still had the WWF Tag Team Championships.
Andre the Giant teamed with The Twin Towers (The Big Boss Man & Akeem) to take on “Hacksaw” King Duggan and Demolition (Ax & Smash) in the second six man tag team match of the evening. That’s a lot of beef in the ring and Jim Duggan was the new King of the WWF, having defeated Haku. He even had a tiny crown for his 2×4. Also, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka appeared at his first WWF Pay-Per-View extravaganza since WrestleMania I, in a losing effort against “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were now on opposing teams in the main event. Savage teamed with Zeus, who was actually an actor playing the part of a wrestler. Sensational Sherri, Savage’s new manager, was in their corner. Hogan teamed with his bionic blood brother, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. The lovely Miss Elizabeth was in the corner of Hogan and Beefcake. I never thought that Hogan needed a manager, especially at this stage of his career, but Elizabeth was on hand to fuel the fire that is Macho Madness. It wasn’t much of a match and Zeus’ no-selling came across a little hokey. Also, Hogan got physical with Sensational Sherri. I thought he was our hero? Even if provoked by a one as tough as Sherri, The Hulkster shouldn’t put his hands on a woman. Though the crowd loved it. Sherri’s loaded purse was used several times and it became a tad repetitive. Hogan and Beefcake (who would not be known as “The Mega Maniacs” until WrestleMania IX) were the victors and Sherri got a haircut after the match, but I think it was clearly hair extensions which were snipped.
The Macho Man was now 0&2 against his former Mega Power tag team partner, but his athleticism and charisma, along with adding Sensational Sherri to his entourage helped to keep his star from fading, especially when they were crowned the king and queen. Hulk Hogan had the WWF Championship and snuck his real life best friend, Brutus Beefcake into the main event scene. Hogan was also able to have Miss Elizabeth in his corner for one night only, reminding Savage who the biggest star was and who had the most stroke. It was an entertaining main event, but The Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude was surely the match of night. Hogan and Savage would soon have some competition from The Warrior for that top spot in the WWF.
November 23, 1989
The Thanksgiving night tradition continued and the heck with Tony Schiavone because Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Pilgrim” Ventura were back together to call the action. All the longtime fans already know how this Pay-Per-View operates. An entire card of tag team elimination matches. What more could you be thankful for? Just ask the WWF superstars because they opened the show by telling the world what they were thankful for. The Genius was thankful for being so intelligent. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was thankful for all the members of The Heenan family. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was thankful that he wasn’t “Ravishing” Rick Rude, and “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan was thankful for all his Hulkamaniacs.
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes’ “Dream Team” defeated The Big Boss Man’s “Enforcers” to open the Pay-Per-View. This was the first year in which all the teams had catchy designated names. Bad News Brown walked out on The Enforcers after a slight miscommunication. The same routine from the year before. Rick “The Model” Martel eliminated Tito Santana. Tito was still looking for some retribution for the backstabbing at WrestleMania V. Dusty Rhodes and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake were survivors, but The Big Boss Man battered them both after the match with his trademark nightstick. They were serving hard time.
Next, it was “Macho King” Randy Savage and “The King’s Court” against “The 4x4s,” captained by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Savage had defeated Duggan for the crown and was arguably the finest king the WWF ever had. “The Kingdom of the Madness.” Bret “Hit Man” Hart was on a separate team from Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Perhaps it was management’s way of testing whether or not The Hit Man was ready for a singles push? When Bret tagged into the match, The Macho King appeared reluctant to lock-up and the crowd was buzzing. Apparently, Bret’s potential was obvious to the fans and superstars alike. The King’s Court suffered only one elimination, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. Savage survived along with Dino Bravo and Earthquake after Duggan was counted out. This was the Pay-Per-View debut of Earthquake.
Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Champion, and his “Hulkamaniacs” squared off with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and his “Million Dollar Team” in what was essentially the main event, even if it wasn’t the last match. DiBiase was borrowing Zeus from The Macho King for the night, but the human wrecking machine was disqualified for using a blatant choke hold on Hogan. Then, both The Powers of Pain (The Warlord & The Barbarian) were disqualified for illegally double teaming Hogan. Jesse Ventura was absolutely irate because he felt the referee was showing favoritism towards Hogan. DiBiase (with some help from Virgil) eliminated Jake “The Snake” Roberts, but once it came down to Hogan and DiBiase, Hulkamania ran wild and The Hulkster became the sole survivor. Ventura gave Hogan absolutely no credit because the referee disqualified most of the opposition.
Hulk Hogan wasn’t in the last match so that he and Brutus Beefcake could participate in a segment where they were viciously attacked by Randy Savage and Zeus in the locker room, hyping the “No Holds Barred” Pay-Per-View, which was the movie coupled with a Steel Cage Match with these same four superstars.
“Roddy’s Rowdies” vs. “The Rude Brood” was an instance of brawlers facing technical wrestlers. The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch) were comic relief. Their main offense was biting. Roddy Piper and Rick Rude, the respective team captains, were eliminated by way of a double count out. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig then became the sole survivor by defeating Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Mr. Perfect was the only heel that I rooted for as a kid. It’s kind of a New York thing to cheer for the bad guy and his entrance music was epic. Mr. Perfect was another wrestler whose death genuinely bummed me out as if he was someone I’d known personally.
The show closed with “The Ultimate Warriors” vs. “The Heenan Family.” Bobby “The Brain” Heenan actually competed because Tully Blanchard failed a drug test. Andre the Giant was clotheslined out of the ring by The Ultimate Warrior and counted out in the opening seconds of the contest, so The Heenan Family was behind the eight-ball early on. It was essentially Arn Anderson and Haku against The Warrior, Jim Neidhart, and The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) in a glorified Handicap Match. Bobby didn’t tag in too often, but did manage to eliminate Marty Jannetty. Arn Anderson was impressive in his last match before returning to WCW, carrying the ball for his team. The Warrior and Bobby Heenan were the final two competitors and Warrior made short work of The Brain, becoming the sole survivor.
Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect, Dino Bravo, & The Ultimate Warrior were all survivors for the second year in a row (if anyone’s keeping track). Having The Hulkster compete early in the Pay-Per-View not only set up “No Holds Barred,” but allowed The Warrior to participate in his first Pay-Per-View main event. The WWF Champion and the Intercontinental Champion were now on a collision course, even if they didn’t know it yet.
“No Holds Barred: The Match” aired December 27, 1989 and had just the one match, so I won’t bother doing a retrospective. It was paired with the unsuccessful movie of the same name. Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake defeated “Macho King” Randy Savage and Zeus in a Steel Cage Match. Sensational Sherri was at ringside, but Miss Elizabeth was not. Savage was now 0&3 against his former Mega Power tag team partner and they would not interaction with each other again too often until they joined WCW. The cage match was also the last appearance of Zeus before also popping up in WCW under the name “Z-Gangsta.”
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