In 1987, a spaceship which had departed from parts unknown arrived in the World Wrestling Federation. From this ship emerged… THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!!! He first appeared on the grand stage as an entrant into the 1988 Royal Rumble Match, but he was not yet an icon and was eliminated quickly. He then defeated Hercules Hernandez, of The Heenan Family, at WrestleMania IV in Atlantic City.
The Ultimate Warrior first made his mark when Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake was injured by “The Outlaw” Ron Bass. Beefcake was the #1 Contender for The Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental Championship, so Honky was now without an opponent for SummerSlam 1988. The Warrior substituted and defeated The Honky Tonk Man in a record time to win the prestigious Intercontinental Championship. The Warrior was also the sole survivor in the opening match of Survivor Series 1988.
The Ultimate Warrior competed against “Ravishing” Rick Rude in a super pose-down at Royal Rumble 1989, which ended in a no contest after Rude gave The Warrior a cheap-shot. The Ravishing One then defeated The Warrior at WrestleMania V for his title with assistance from Rick Rude’s manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Their rematch as SummerSlam 1989 was one of the greatest matches in the career of The Warrior. With assistance from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, The Warrior regained his title. The Warrior was a sole survivor once again, this time in the main event of Survivor Series 1989.
At Royal Rumble 1990, The Ultimate Warrior crossed paths with “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan, the WWF Champion. The Hulkster inadvertently eliminated The Warrior and set the stage for the “ultimate challenge” at WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Champion vs. champion. Title for title. The Warrior made history by becoming the first superstar since the birth of Hulkamania to score a legit victory over Hulk Hogan, also becoming the first superstar to hold both the Intercontinental and WWF Championships. The Warrior was then forced to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship by Jack Tunney, president of the WWF, so he could focus on the defending the WWF World Title.
The Ultimate Warrior successfully defended the gold at SummerSlam 1990 against his long time nemesis, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, in a Steel Cage Match. The Warrior was a sole survivor yet again at Survivor Series 1990, earing his way into the grand finale match of survival, where he and Hulk Hogan were victorious. The Warrior refused to defend his title against “Macho King” Randy Savage, likely because The Macho King had his manager, Sensational “Queen” Sherri, issue the challenge on his behalf, so Savage interfered in The Warrior’s match with Sgt. Slaughter at Royal Rumble 1991, costing Warrior the WWF Championship.
The Ultimate Warrior and “Macho King” Randy Savage, two of the top stars of their era, faced off in a Career Ending Match at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles. The Warrior was victorious in this show stealing match and (temporarily) retired Randy Savage. The Warrior then resumed his feud with Sgt. Slaughter, teaming with Hulk Hogan in a Handicap Match at SummerSlam 1991 against The Triangle of Terror: Sgt. Slaughter, Col. Mustapha, & Gen. Adnan. Sid Justice was the special guest referee. Hogan and The Warrior were the winners, but The Warrior disappeared from the WWF immediately following the match. Warrior had, just prior to SummerSlam, been double crossed by Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who aligned with The Undertaker and Paul Bearer, but there was no resolution to this rivalry.
The Ultimate Warrior made his surprise return to the WWF at WrestleMania VIII in Indianapolis, saving Hulk Hogan from Sid Justice and Papa Shango. The Warrior then challenged “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the reigning WWF Champion, at SummerSlam 1992. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig interfered in the match and The Warrior won via count out, but titles cannot change hands on a count out. Warrior and Savage formed “The Ultimate Maniacs” alliance and were set to face Ric Flair and Razor Ramon in a tag team match at Survivor Series 1992, but Warrior again vanished from WWF programming. He was replaced by Mr. Perfect in the match.
This time, The Ultimate Warrior remained gone for over three years before returning at WrestleMania XII in Anaheim to decimate Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He was set to face Goldust for the Intercontinental Championship at In Your House a month later, but Goldust had injured his knee earlier in the night and intentionally got himself counted out to retain his title. After defeating Jerry “The King” Lawler at King of the Ring 1996, The Warrior was to team up with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson against Camp Cornette: Vader, Owen Hart, & The British Bulldog at the next In Your House, but abruptly left the WWF for a third time and was replaced by Sycho Sid.
The Ultimate Warrior resurfaced two years later in World Championship Wrestling, confronting “Hollywod” Hulk Hogan on Monday Nitro. The Warrior participated in a #1 Contenders’ War Games Match at Fall Brawl 1998, then was defeated by Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998. Members of the New World Order interfered in the match and The Warrior’s brief tenure in WCW came to and end soon after.
The Ultimate Warrior came out of retirement in 2008 for a match against Orlando Jordan in Nu-Wrestling Evolution. The Warrior won and relinquished the NWE Championship all on the same night. The Warrior will soon be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on the eve of WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans.
Randy Orton (c) vs. The Big Show
*Randy Orton, but match has no sizzle.
John Cena (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
*Can never bet against Super-Cena. This match has even less sizzle.
*Punk & Bryan because Wyatts have upper hand heading into PPV.
Goldust, Cody Rhodes, Rey Mysterio, & The Usos vs.
The Shield & The Real Americans (w/ Zeb Colter)
*The Shield & Real Americans, but match is really a toss up.
Big E Langston (c) vs. Curtis Axel
*Big E. WWE is done pushing Axel.
The True Divas vs. The Total Divas
*The Total Divas, but I’m rooting for AJ Lee’s team.
*The Miz. He has a crummy TV movie to promote.
*Here are scenarios where these grapplers could have become champion.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
The Hot Rod could have won the title at The Wrestling Classic in November of 1985, then lost it back to Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania II. How that changes history: King Kong Bundy’s push is aborted and there is no boxing match with Mr. T at WrestleMania II. No great loss. Roddy Piper competed in WCW in the late 1990s, but even when the WCW Championship changed hands like a hot potato, The Hot Rod still could not capture the gold.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
The Dragon revolutionized pro wrestling with his Intercontinental Championship Match against “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania III, but asked to take the summer of 1987 off to tend to his family. That is not the way to get in Vince McMahon’s good graces. Had he put the needs of the promotion ahead of his personal life, he might have challenged Hulk Hogan for his spot as top baby-face circa WrestleMania IV just as The Ultimate Warrior did at WrestleMania VI. How that changes history: Ricky Steamboat would have been booked as one of the elite along side Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. There might not have been room at the top for The Ultimate Warrior. Ricky Steamboat did win the WCW Championship from “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in 1989.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
Andre the Giant could have been allowed to sell the title to The Million Dollar Man on The Main Event after his controversial win over Hulk Hogan. Ted DiBiase then loses the belt to “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania IV. How that changes history: There is no title tournament at WrestleMania IV, but the big matches that were part of the tournament like Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant and Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude could still be booked. The main event also remains the same.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
After turning heel over the summer, Jake Roberts could have defeated Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 1991 instead of The Undertaker. How that changes history: Since The Undertaker’s first title reign was short and barely even acknowledged for several years, his career would not have suffered much. The Undertaker was a protégé of Jake Roberts at the time, so The Phenom could still be part of the angle and the title would probably still be declared vacant before the 1992 Royal Rumble.
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig
Tough to say as, unfortunately, Mr. Perfect was not involved in many angles with WWF Champions save for a brief feud with Hulk Hogan circa the 1990 Royal Rumble. Maybe he could have ended The Ultimate Warrior’s reign at Royal Rumble 1991 and then been in the main event of WrestleMania VII against Hulk Hogan? How that changes history: Sgt. Slaughter gets shafted big time, which I am not advocating. I am trying to come up with scenarios which do not alter history too much. Curt Hennig was at least the AWA Champion before joining the WWF in 1988.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude
Another tough one. Rick Rude departed for WCW while The Ultimate Warrior was the WWF Champion. He would have been another candidate to bridge the gap between The Warrior and Hulk Hogan in 1991 since he already beat The Warrior at WrestleMania V for the Intercontinental Championship. How that changes history: It was not my intent to pick on Sgt. Slaughter’s title reign, but erasing a reign of Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, or The Ultimate Warrior would alter WWF history to such a degree that it would be total fantasy booking without any link to reality. Rick Rude had three reigns as the WCW International Heavyweight Champion during the transitional period when the promotion showcased two heavyweight champions.
Owen could have defeated Bob Backlund at the Madison Square Garden houseshow the weekend after Survivor Series 1994 instead of Diesel. Owen had helped Backlund win the title. Betraying Backlund and taking the belt from him could have been phase two of Owen’s plan. Owen loses the belt to Diesel at Royal Rumble 1995. Bret “Hit Man” Hart interferes in that match. How that changes history: Diesel still faces Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XI, but Bret and Owen’s respective matches are a bit more tricky. Even with Yokozuna as his mystery tag team partner, Owen may not have challenged for the WWF Tag Team Championships. Owen could have fought Bret in the “I Quit” Match with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as guest referee, taking the place of Bob Backlund. Bret vs. Backlund at WrestleMania XI was the weakest of the matches they competed in during their 1994-1995 rivalry anyway, but I do not enjoy leaving Yokozuna without a match. The roster was real thin at the time and I cannot think of worthy adversary for Yoko.
The Lex Express steadily derailed after he failed to take the gold from Yokozuna in the main event of SummerSlam 1993. In my own humble opinion, it was for the best that Yokozuna was booked as this unstoppable heel champion until WrestleMania X. Vince McMahon also chose wisely by having Bret “Hit Man” Hart be the hero who slayed the monster. The only other opportunity I can think of to make Lex champion would be to interrupt Diesel’s year long title reign in 1995. Lex could win the belt at the King of the Ring and lose it back to Diesel at SummerSlam. How that changes history: King Mabel never main events a pay-per-view and perhaps Lex does not jump to WCW and appear on the inaugural Monday Nitro, effecting the early days of the Monday Night War.
Not unlike Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon was a perennial contender for the Intercontinental Championship. The only WWF Championship Match I can recall him competing in was against Bret “Hit Man” Hart at Royal Rumble 1993. That was not the right time for him to become champion, nor should he have ended Diesel’s 1995 reign. A likely scenario would have been for Scott Hall to not join WCW in 1996, remain with the WWF, turn heel, and feud with Shawn Michaels. They could have had another Ladder Match? They were tied at one a piece, so a rubber match to settle things? How that changes history: Scott Hall appearing announced on Nitro caused the Monday Night War to escalate in a big way. Scott Hall and subsequently Kevin Nash changed the industry forever in 1996. Like Roddy Piper, Scott Hall was one of the few WCW main event talents to not have a run with the WCW Championship in the late 1990s.
The Honky Tonk Man
He had the charisma, but not quite the wrestling skills to be the WWF Champion.
“The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich
He had the body builder physique the WWF loves, but lacked the promo ability.
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith
The same situation as with Kerry Von Erich. Great physique, generic promos.
An Intercontinental Champion who became WCW and TNA World Champion.
With his androgynous gimmick, he could have challenged Shawn Michaels in 1996.
Had he not returned to ultimate fighting, he may have become the WWF Champion.
January 21, 1996
Whether it was the lackluster WrestleMania XI or the crowning of King Mabel, I lost interest in the WWF over the coarse of 1995, but the promotion made a turn beginning in 1996 with the Shawn Michaels concussion angle, Sunny introducing programming in provocative vignettes, and Goldust taking a “shine” to Razor Ramon. It was compelling television once again.
Vince McMahon and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig were your commentators for the Royal Rumble, a PPV which featured the first ever free-for-all match. Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. The winner would enter the Royal Rumble Match at #30 while the loser would be stuck with #1. Hunter had initially won by using an illegal foreign object, then WWF President Gorilla Monsoon reversed the decision. Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson was the opening match of the actually PPV. Johnson won via DQ after Jarrett broke a guitar over his head. “Double J” made the jump to WCW not long after this event.
The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) successfully defended the WWF Tag Team Titles against The Bodydonnas (Skip & Zip) w/ Sunny, despite Sunny feigning an injury in an attempt to distract the champions. Razor Ramon lost the Intercontinental Championship to Goldust, who was being joined at ringside for the first time by Marlena. The 1-2-3 Kid interfered in that match and cost “The Bad Guy” his title. Goldust now had all the gold, if I can paraphrase Mr. Perfect. Wrestling fans had never seen anyone quite like the bizarre Goldust and he clearly made some people uncomfortable.
For the first time, the Royal Rumble Match was not the main event ( I’m not counting the 1988 Royal Rumble because that was not a PPV). Hunter Hearts Helmsley was #1 and the first superstar he had to contend with was Henry Godwin, his opponent in the infamous “Hog Pen” Match. Mr. Bob Backlund and Jerry “The King” Lawler were the next two entrants, then Godwin covered all three heels in nasty slop. Jake “The Snake” Roberts returned to the WWF at entrant #7 to a huge pop and he used a new unnamed python to drive Jerry Lawler from the ring. The King then hid under the ring for about a half hour. Yokozuna, the winner of the 1993 Royal Rumble Match, entered at #9.
The 1-2-3 Kid (#10) was chased to the ring by Razor Ramon, who was not entered in the match. Actually, Scott Hall never competed in a Royal Rumble Match. Usually, he was defending the Intercontinental Championship. Vader (#13) made his WWF debut, being managed by Jim Cornette. “The Rocky Mountain Monster” was WCW’s resident monster heel in the early to mid 1990s. Shawn Michaels, returning from his kayfabe injury at entrant #18, eliminated both Vader and Yokozuna. Vader then gave Yokozuna a cheap shot, reentered the ring and cleaned house, but WWF Gorilla Monsoon allowed all grapplers to remain in the match. This setup animosity between Monsoon and Vader, which played out the next night on RAW. Vader actually Vader-Bombed Monsoon and put him out of commission until WrestleMania XII. Shawn Michaels then found Jerry Lawler hiding under the ring and eliminated The King just as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel entered the match at #22. Diesel eliminated Hunter Hearts Helmsley, who’d been in the match four nearly forty five minutes. I guess only The Kliq could eliminate one other?
“The Ringmaster” Steve Austin made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut as #24. After he received a much needed gimmick makeover several months later, this superstar would revolutionize professional wrestling. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (#29) lasted until the final four for the third time in his career, but for the second year in a row he was eliminated by Shawn Michaels. Diesel eliminated Kama (#23), then HBK super-kicked his former paid bodyguard over the top rope for his second consecutive Royal Rumble victory, tying a record with Hulk Hogan. Diesel appeared as if he was going to batter Michaels, but the two dudes with attitudes shared a high-five instead.
However, Diesel was still a sore loser as he confronted The Undertaker and Paul Bearer while they made their entrance for the main event. Diesel was peeved that he wasn’t the challenger for Bret “Hit Man” Hart’s WWF Championship. Diesel claimed that he was not afraid of the dark. When the match finally began, the crowd support was split right down the middle. Both baby-faces bent some rules and were jeered accordingly. It had been over four years since Tuesday in Texas, over four years since The Phenom was the WWF Champion, and looked like he had the title won after he planted Bret Hart with his signature Tombstone Piledriver, but Diesel returned and pulled the referee out of the ring before he could count The Hit Man’s shoulders down. The Undertaker had won the match by DQ, but obviously not the championship. Diesel also flipped Undertaker the “bird.” Such audacity from Big Daddy Cool.
On the Royal Rumble post-show (a short lived segment), The Undertaker vowed that he would have his revenge, so Gorilla Monsoon decided that Bret Hart would face Diesel in a Steel Cage Match at In Your House VI: Rage in the Cage. The Undertaker was not deterred and, in horror movie like fashion, emerged through the ring canvass and pulled Diesel down into the abyss. Bret Hart was booked almost as if he was lucky to still be champion. Regardless of that, The Hit Man had a date with destiny at WrestleMania XII with Shawn Michaels.
March 31, 1996
Shawn Michaels was living the dream, becoming the focal point of WWF programming even though Bret “Hit Man” Hart was still the WWF Champion. First, HBK put his #1 Contender’s spot on the line in a match with Owen Hart at In Your House VI: Rage in the Cage, then WWF President “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (filling in for Gorilla Monsoon) declared that the main event of WrestleMania XII would be a sixty minute Iron Man Match.
On the free-for-all, The Bodydonnas (Skip & Zip) w/ Sunny won the vacated WWF Tag Team Championships from The Godwins (Henry & Phineas) w/ Hilly Billy Jim. “The Huckster” defeated “The Nacho Man” in a farcical match with Billionaire Ted as guest referee. The joke was that WCW had nothing but old dogs who couldn’t be taught new tricks. Little did the WWF know that they were poking the bear. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler were on commentary for the Pay-Per-View. Camp Cornette (Vader, Owen Hart, & “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith) defeated Yokozuna, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, & Ahmed Johnson in the opener. If Yokozuna’s team had won, then he would’ve had five minutes alone in the ring with Jim Cornette, his former manager.
Razor Ramon had failed a drug test, conveniently right after declaring his intentions to jump to WCW, so “Rowdy” Roddy Piper took his place in the angle with Goldust. They would face-off in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl. The Intercontinental Championship was not on the line. The first half of this brutal fight was taped the day before, then footage of the O.J. Simpson chase was shown to bridge the gap between the pre-tape and their arrival at the Arrowhead Pond. The Hot Rod beat Goldust down, then tore his ring gear off, revealing lacy lingerie underneath. Though there was no way to technically win this street fight, Roddy Piper’s bagpipe music blared, so I guess he was the victor.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ Ted DiBiase) defeated Savio Vega by using The Million Dollar Championship as a weapon. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, just like Steve Austin, was making his WrestleMania debut. Helmsley was escorted down to ringside by Sable. He had a different valet for every match during his blueblood gimmick, but Sable was the only one who was incorporated into a storyline. His opponent was making his return to the WWF… The Ultimate Warrior!!! Triple H is now the self-proclaimed “king of kings,” so I find it enjoyable to see him decimated by The Warrior. It was a short lived return for the man from parts unknown, but the crowd was electric to see him in action once again. An underrated WrestleMania moment. After the match, Helmsley scolded Sable and got into a scuffle with “Wildman” Marc Mero, formerly Johnny B. Badd in WCW, whose interview he’d interrupted.
The Undertaker vs. “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel was the co-main event of the evening. Diesel had gone full blown heel after turning on Shawn Michaels at a houseshow. The Undertaker’s undefeated streak was still an afterthought at this time, but Diesel was his biggest opponent in terms of star power. Jimmy Snuka and Jake Roberts were basically past their prime while The Giant Gonzales and King Kong Bundy were the monsters of the month. Diesel was the longest reigning WWF Champion of the 1990s and a soon-to-be free agent. Diesel actually dominated the match and planted The Undertaker with two Jackknife Power-Bombs. However, The Phenom rose to occasion, recovered and went 5-0 with his patented Tombstone Piledriver.
Jose Lothario, the trainer of Shawn Michaels, was on hand to witness HBK make the most daring entrance in WrestleMania history, zip-lining from the rafters and down into the crowd. Bret “Hit Man” Hart, the reigning WWF Champion, was stoic as always. A contrast in personality to say the least, but the these two world class superstars put on a wrestling clinic for sixty minutes. The Hit Man caught Michaels as he was coming off the top rope and locked in the Sharpshooter. The finish of their first title match back at Survivor Series 1992, but this time Michaels held on until the time limit ran out. Draws mean that the champion retains his gold automatically, but Gorilla Monsoon was back from his injuries and ordered the match to resume under sudden death rules. Bret Hart was clearly not happy with the decision, returned to the ring and was hit with two super-kicks. HBK scored the winning pinfall, becoming WWF Champion (and a triple crown winner) for the first time in his illustrious career. Bret Hart did not shake hands with his successor. It also appeared as if Shawn Michaels was gloating and rubbing salt in the wounds. Bret Hart went on a eight month sabbatical after this while Shawn Michaels continued to live the dream.
The WWF may not have been at its most popular in the mid-1990s due to stars jumping to WCW and steroids / sex scandals, but WrestleMania XII should be ranked as one of the best ever. A solid card, top to bottom, with many new superstars debuting alongside established ones. It’s also nice to see the Bret Hart / Shawn Michaels rivalry revolving around competition and titles as appose to petty jealousies like it would in 1997.
KING OF THE RING
June 23, 1996
After In Your House VII: Good Friends, Better Enemies, both Diesel and Razor Ramon made the jump to WCW. Hunter Hearst Helmsley was initially penciled in to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament, but his inclusion in the Madison Square Garden incident (where he and Shawn Michaels celebrated with Diesel and Razor) left him out in the cold. This was a pivotal moment in WWF history as new superstar would emerge to win the crown and set a new era in motion.
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Owen Hart (sidelined with an injury) called the action. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was no longer being managed by “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase after he lost a “Caribbean Strap” Match to Savio Vega at In Your House: Beware of Dog II. (A rematch necessitated by a blackout.) DiBiase would also join WCW with The 1-2-3 Kid. Stone Cold defeated “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable) in the semi-finals, then he went to the hospital to have his mouth stitched up. Meanwhile, Jake “The Snake” Roberts defeated Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) via disqualification in the other semi-final match.
The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) w/ Sunny successfully defended their WWF Tag Team Titles against The Godwins (Henry & Phineas) w/ Hilly Billy Jim. Sunny turned out to be some gold-digger, chasing the belts. She went from The Bodydonnas (Skip & Zip) to The Godwins to The Smokin’ Gunns in a matter of weeks. Ahmed Johnson won the Intercontinental Championship from Goldust. It seemed as if Ahmed was on the fast track to becoming the first African-American WWF Champion. The Ultimate Warrior defeated Jerry “The King” Lawler in what turned out to be The Warrior’s final PPV for the WWF. Mankind, A/K/A Cactus Jack in both WCW and ECW, made his WWF in-ring PPV debut, scoring an upset victory over The Undertaker with some “inadvertent” help from Paul Bearer.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin returned to best Jake “The Snake” Roberts in the finals of the 1996 King of the Ring tournament. Dok Hendrix was on hand for the coronation. Stone Cold wasn’t interested in wearing the crown or holding the scepter, but he did utter the phrase “Austin 3:16 says I just whopped your ass.” He wasn’t pushed right away, but his potential was now blatantly obvious.
In the main event, a rematch from In Your House: Beware of Dog, Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) defended the WWF Championship against “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (w/ Jim Cornette and Diana Hart-Smith). Obviously, Owen Hart wasn’t all that impartial on commentary. He led the cheering section for his brother-in-law. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was originally signed as the guest referee, but Gorilla Monsoon switched him to the outside enforcer at the last minute. The British Bulldog had a long history of losing big matches to HBK. The Intercontinental Championship back in 1992 and the 1995 Royal Rumble Match. Their title match at In Your House: Beware of Dog ended in a draw since they pinned each other. Shawn Michaels was the victor yet again in this match, but was immediately jumped by Vader and Owen Hart. HBK was saved by Ahmed Johnson and The Ultimate Warrior. The WWF was setting up a six man tag team match for In Your House: International Incident.
So much for “best laid plans” as The Ultimate Warrior was indefinitely suspended from the WWF for failing to appear where advertised. Psycho Sid returned after almost an eight month absence to team with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson against Camp Cornette. Vader scored the winning pinfall on HBK, thusly becoming #1 Contender for the WWF Championship. This was so much more interesting than the summer of 1995 with King Mabel, but it was all for not as the eyes of the wrestling world was focused on WCW after Hulk Hogan turned heel at Bash at the Beach, aligning himself with The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) to form the nWo.
August 18, 1996
The most anticipated free-for-all (at least for the male viewers) was the Bikini Beach Blastoff. The “beach” turned out to be an aboveground pool with sand sprinkled around it. At least WCW actually went to the beach for Bash at the Beach 1995. The highlight was seeing Sunny, Sable, and Marlena clad in swimwear. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the reigning King of the Ring, also defeated Yokozuna on the free-for-all in a match where the top turnbuckle snapped off when Yoko attempted his patented Bonsai Drop.
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig called all the action. Owen Hart defeated Savio Vega in the opener. Owen was infringing on “Cowboy” Bob Orton by wrestling with a cast on his arm that he could use as a weapon. The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) w/ Sunny successfully defended their WWF Tag Team Championships in a 4-Corners Match. One of the contending teams was The New Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassidy). Cassidy would later become better known as Al Snow. Psycho Sid defeated “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. Jim Cornette was not in the corner of either Owen Hart or The British Bulldog during their matches because he was too busy preparing Vader for his title match.
Goldust (w/ Marlena) was victorious over “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable). Mankind came down to ringside during this match and called Sable “mommy.” Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler played up on The Snake’s real life struggles with substance abuse. “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry served as the guest color commentator and tried not to laugh at The King’s drunk jokes, but he could not help himself. Lawler won the match by using a bottle of whiskey as a weapon.
Faarooq (former WCW Champion, Ron Simmons) had recently made his debut in the WWF, taking out Ahmed Johnson with a stiff kick that caused a legit injury. Johnson was forced to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship and he never truly regained his momentum. Faarooq was to be managed by Sunny and have gladiator gimmick, but that was all dropped in the fall of 1996 when the Nation of Domination was formed.
The Undertaker vs. Mankind in a Boiler Room Brawl was another match that brought us closer to the Attitude Era. The match began in the bowels of the arena and the goal was to get to the ring first and retrieve the urn from Paul Bearer. They fought with pipes and garbage cans. Mankind was even pushed off of a ladder. The Undertaker arrived at the ring first, but Paul Bearer would shockingly refuse to hand him the urn. Undertaker was dumbfounded, then Bearer bashed him over the head with urn. The same thing that had happened at King of the Ring, but this time there was no way for Bearer to pass it off as an accident. Bearer then polished up the urn before handing it to Mankind. Bearer and Mankind exited together, leaving The Phenom in a heap. The Undertaker’s druids then appeared and carried him away as if he’d been martyred.
Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) defended the WWF Championship against Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) in the main event. The match initially ended with HBK being counted out, meaning that Vader was not the champion. The match was resumed, then HBK was disqualified for using Jim Cornette’s tennis racket. Vader was still not the champion. The match was resumed once again and Shawn Michaels finally won via pinfall. Jim Cornette gripes to this day that Vader was meant to win the title and that Michaels had politicked his way into retaining the belt. Vader had been ascending the ladder since his arrival at the 1996 Royal Rumble, but it was basically downhill for him following this match, while HBK was still golden.
Backstage politics aside, of which I am sure every WWF Champion was guilty, Shawn Michaels was on top of his game in 1996. No one could really touch him. Every match was better than the last. His next title defense was against Mankind at In Your House: Mind Games. Vader, Psycho Sid, and The Undertaker all got involved. WCW was now winning the ratings war, but the quality of main event competition in the WWF was still second to none.
November 16, 1996
New York City, New York
Jim Ross (sort of) turned in heel in the fall of 1996 and claimed that he had negotiated the returns of Diesel and Razor Ramon. They turned out to be imposters. Glenn Jacobs, who had earlier portrayed Dr. Isaac Yankem and would go on to be Kane, was the fake Diesel. Bret “Hit Man” Hart returned for real though, accepting the challenge of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Psycho Sid defeated Vader in a #1 Contender’s Match at In Your House: Buried Alive, setting up the main event of the 1996 Survivor Series.
The WWF returned to Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, for a Pay-Per-View for the first time since WrestleMania X. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry “The King” Lawler were on commentary at the start of the show.
The reigning WWF Tag Team Champions (Owen Hart & “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith) teamed with The New Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassidy) to take on The Godwins (Henry & Phineas) w/ Hilly Billy Jim and the new duo of Doug Furnas & Phil Lafon. Surprisingly, the newcomers, Furnas & Lafon were the survivors. Mankind was defeated by The Undertaker in the “Buried Alive” Match at the previous In Your House, but since The Phenom was jumped by Paul Bearer’s goons following the match and buried, the perception was that he was the loser. Paul Bearer was kept in a cage for this contest. The stipulation being that Undertaker could get his hands on his former manager if he was victorious. Undertaker descended from the rafters in new, all black ring attire. This was the most tame of the four PPV matches these two superstars had in 1996, but Undertaker finally picked up the clean win. However, he did not get to Paul Bearer because he was attacked by The Executioner (Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy of The Fabulous Freebirds).
“Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable) teamed with “The Stalker” Barry Windham, Rocky Maivia, & Jake “The Snake” Roberts. This was the first PPV (or closed circuit) WWF event for Barry Windham since the first WrestleMania. Jake Roberts was filling in for an injured Mark Henry. Getting injured would become the hallmark of Mark Henry’s career. And most important of all, this was the debut of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Their adversaries were captained by Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the new Intercontinental Champion. Helmsley was briefly mentored by “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, but Hennig vanished from the WWF for a third time. This time, he would jump to WCW and not return to the WWF until the 2002 Royal Rumble. Helmsley’s team was comprised of Goldust (w/ Marlena), Crush, and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Since The King was in action, Sunny joined Vince McMahon and Jim Ross on commentary. The match came down to Goldust and Crush against Rocky, who pulled off the upset, becoming the sole survivor. The fans chanted his name… even though they would soon turn on the rookie sensation.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart, like all the great champions, became synonymous with Madison Square Garden. It is where he won the Intercontinental Championship from Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1991 and the WWF Championship from Yokozuna at WrestleMania X. The only one not impressed with Bret Hart’s legacy was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Stone Cold derided Hart for his pink tights and good guy persona in general. This match has been overlooked over the years because their match at WrestleMania XIII was such an epic showdown, but the finish was quite clever, harkening back to Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII, with The Hit Man countering the Million Dollar Dream into a roll-up. “The Excellence of Execution” was back, but he had not seen the last of Steve Austin.
Yokozuna competed in his final PPV, teaming with Savio Vega, Flash Funk, & Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Snuka was the surprise mystery partner. Flash Funk was making his WWF debut. Funk had previous competed as 2 Cold Scorpio in ECW. There opponents were Vader, Faarooq, Diesel, & Razor Ramon. Again, these were imposters portraying the Diesel and Razor Ramon gimmicks. Jim Cornette served as a commentator instead of staying in the corner of Vader. Perhaps due to time constraints, the match ended on a quick double DQ.
Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) defended the WWF Championship against Psycho Sid in the main event. HBK received the sort of crowd reaction that is usually reserved for John Cena nowadays. New Yorkers were ahead of the curve when it came to jeering baby-faces. Sid resorted to striking Jose Lothario with a TV camera. This was enough to divert HBK’s focus and Sid won the match and the title with a Power-Bomb. The dream was over for Shawn Michaels. I guess this was suppose to turn Sid heel, but just like the confrontation with Hulk Hogan at the 1992 Royal Rumble, the fans were vocal in their support of Sid. Vladimir the Super-Fan (look him up on Facebook) was one of the first to congratulate Sid, the new WWF Champion.
Psycho Sid successfully defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart at In Your House: It’s Time. Shawn Michaels was a guest color commentator and HBK inadvertently (?) distracted The Hit Man. Thus bringing and end to what was a bounce back year for the WWF in terms of quality storytelling even if it would take until 1998 to turn the ratings war with WCW around.
*This was the year in which the In Your House PPVs were introduced, but I will focus my retrospectives on the “classic five” and just give you readers some highlights from the B-Shows.
January 22, 1995
What’s even better than winning the Royal Rumble Match going to the main event of WrestleMania? Being escorted by Pamela Anderson, the most famous of the Baywatch babes. Trust me, back in 1995, that was a pretty big deal. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler were on commentary. The King drooled over Pamela Anderson the same way that he fawned over the WWF/WWE Divas years later.
Razor Ramon defended the Intercontinental Championship against Jeff Jarrett in the opening match. The Roadie was in the corner of Double J. He clipped Razor’s knee and “The Bad Guy” was counted out. Jarrett goaded Razor to resume the match, then won the championship with a small package. The Undertaker defeated Irwin R. Shyster, a proud member of Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Corporation.” King Kong Bundy, yet another member of the Corporation attacked The Phenom after the match and Shyster was able to “repossess” The Undertaker’s urn. This storyline of the missing urn would drag out for half the year.
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart in what was comeback of sorts for the “Excellence of Execution.” He had been away for several weeks, filming a guest spot on the TV series Lonesome Dove. Both champion and challenger had accumulated their fair share of adversaries in the past several months, all of whom interfered in this title match. Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Mr. Bob Backlund, Jeff Jarrett, and The Roadie. Referee Earl Hebner had no choice but to declare the match a draw. Diesel and The Hit Man embraced after the match. Kevin Nash has often stated that the WWF, in his opinion, dropped the ball by softening his character’s badass persona.
The 1-2-3 Kid and Bob “Sparkplug” Holly won the vacated WWF Tag Team Titles with an upset victory over Bam Bam Bigalow and Tatanka, two more members of Ted DiBiase’s Corporation. After the match, Bigalow, embarrassed that he was the superstar who’d been pinned, shoved New York Giants great, #56, Lawrence Taylor, who was sitting front row. The WWF did a masterful job of making this seem like an unscripted incident. The wheels were turning towards WrestleMania XI.
Shawn Michaels drew #1 in the Royal Rumble Match and made WWF history by going the distance. Right there with him was “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, entrant #2. This was the shortest rumble match because the time between entrants was only one minute. There were also many jobbers participating, so this Royal Rumble was basically a showdown between HBK and The British Bulldog. I doubt anybody was betting on Duke “The Dumpster” Droese (#4).
Doink the Clown (#8) appeared in his final PPV match until the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania XVII. Rick “The Model” Martel (#10) was in his seventh consecutive and last rumble. Jerry Lawler ribbed about needing a stopwatch for The Bushwackers, Luke (#13) & Butch (#18). The King’s wisecracks are why it wasn’t until the 2007 Royal Rumble that it was clarified, courtesy of John Bradshaw Layfield, that it was The Warlord who held the record for the worst time in a rumble. The Bushwackers also did not compete in another PPV match until the Gimmick Battle Royal.
Bret Hart was still looking for retribution, so he jumped both Owen Hart (#11) and Mr. Bob Backlund (#25) before they could even enter the rumble. As a result, both were quickly eliminated. Owen by The British Bulldog and Backlund by Lex Luger (#19). Luger was the odds-on-favorite in this year’s Royal Rumble after having co-won the match in 1994. The final four were Shawn Michaels, The British Bulldog, Lex Luger, and Crush (#30). Yet again, Lex let the U.S.A. down as he was eliminated by Michaels. The British Bulldog then took out Crush with a clothesline meant for Michaels.
For the first and only time, the first two entrants were the last two standing out of thirty. It then appeared as if The Bulldog had eliminated Michaels. The referees never called for the bell, but The Bulldog’s music played. HBK desperately held onto the ropes as only one of his feet touched the arena floor. It has to be both feet for the elimination to be official. Michaels then eliminated Bulldog, who celebrated prematurely. Dramatic slow-mo replays confirmed that the officials made the correct call. Pamela Anderson joined Shawn Michaels in the ring and seemed to find the circumstances a bit foolish, but she should have considered herself quite lucky that HBK was the victor and not the likes of King Kong Bundy (#15), Mantaur (#20), or Henry O. Godwin (#22).
The athletic prowess of both Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith displayed at this event was the highlight of 1995. For the rest of the year, the WWF seemed to be a real creative drought. Things weren’t too much better over in WCW with the “Dungeon of Doom.” These were the desperate times before the Attitude Era.
April 2, 1995
The WWF went way overboard with the celebrities this time around. This event was reminiscent of the early WrestleManias with all the in-ring competition playing second fiddle to stars from Hollywood. And not all these stars were A-Listers. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler explained to the audience what sports entertainment was all about. This turned out to be unnecessary as Lawrence Taylor failed to bring in new fans the way Mr. T had back in 1985.
Lex Luger and “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith defeated The Blu Brothers (Eli & Jacob) in the opening match. The Blu Brothers were managed Uncle Zebekiah, who is now known as Zeb Colter in the WWE. Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie) defended the Intercontinental Championship against Razor Ramon (w/ The 1-2-3 Kid). Jarrett lost via DQ, so he retained his title. I really don’t think WrestleMania is the time for copout finishes.
The Undertaker defeated King Kong Bundy, a member of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, in match with Major League Baseball umpire Larry Young as the referee. The streak was now 4&0. This was Bundy’s first WrestleMania in eight years. Kama, the supreme fighting machine and former Papa Shango, stole the urn from Paul Bearer during the match after Undertaker had already retrieved it from The Million Dollar Man. This routine was getting pretty tired. Kama then vowed to Jim Ross, who was conducting post match interviews, that he would melt the urn down and turn it into a gold chain.
Owen Hart and a mystery partner would challenge The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) for the WWF Tag Team Championships. His partner turned out to be… Yokozuna, who’d not been seen since the Survivor Series, four months earlier. The Smokin’ Gunns were overmatched and many fans were cheering for the heel team. Yokozuna and Owen won the titles. Owen was the 1994 King of the Ring, but this was his first championship belt. This was also the beginning of “Camp Cornette.”
The rivalry between Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Mr. Bob Backlund began months earlier after a highly competitive match on WWF Superstars. Backlund snapped as a result of his loss in that match. Backlund then won the WWF Championship from Hart at the Survivor Series in a Submission Match. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a surprise as the guest referee in the rubber match of this feud. This was the second WrestleMania in a row where The Hot Rod officiated Bret Hart’s match. Overall, this was weakest of the three matches between Hart and Backlund. Hart won with the Crossed Face Chicken-Wing, which was the finishing maneuver of Backlund’s. After the match, Backlund told Jim Ross that “he saw a light.” Even Bret Hart has said that this was his least favorite of all his WrestleMania matches. I’m assuming he was referring to his singles matches as The Hart Foundation squashing The Bolsheviks at WrestleMania VI wasn’t anything to place on a “best of” DVD.
Shawn Michaels hired himself a new bodyguard for the WWF Championship Match. None other than Psycho Sid, appearing at his first WWF Pay-Per-View since his match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VIII. HBK was also suppose to be escorted to the ring by Pamela Anderson, one of the perks guaranteed by his Royal Rumble victory, but MTV’s Jenny McCarthy was on his arm instead. Pamela Anderson chose to accompany the champion, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel. The title match was unique in that the smaller competitor, Shawn Michaels, was the heel and the favorite. Michaels and Sid seemed to have just as much fan support as Diesel. HBK hit Diesel with a super-kick and had him beat, but the referee was nowhere in sight. Diesel recovered and pinned Michaels after the Jackknife Power-Bomb. Big Daddy Cool celebrated with the celebrities, both Pam Anderson and Jenny McCarthy turned out to be gold-diggers, but HBK may have stolen the show.
Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigalow was the main event. The pop group, Salt-N-Pepa, preformed “Whatta Man” for the entrance of LT. This was a Lumberjack Match of sorts with the rest of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation in Bigalow’s corner and the All-Pro Team in Lawrence Taylor’s corner. One member of the All-Pro Team was Steve “Mongo” McMichael, who became a fixture on WCW Monday Nitro later in 1995. The referee was Pat Patterson, the first Intercontinental Champion and referee of the inaugural WrestleMania main event back in 1985. LT performed surprisingly well and Bigalow sold like a boss for him. LT won with a flying forearm, but he looked a little worse for the wear as he was carried from the ring to celebrate with Salt-N-Pepa. Even though Bigalow lost the match, I recall him being referred to as the “giant” killer once in ECW.
Both Shawn Michaels and Bam Bam Bigalow turned baby-face in the weeks following WrestleMania. Psycho Sid joined Ted DiBiase’s Corporation and the “In Your House” PPVs were introduced on Mother’s Day of that year. This event will always be known as the “Lawrence Taylor” WrestleMania, but most matches didn’t live up to the hype.
KING OF THE RING
June 25, 1995
At the inaugural In Your House, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel successfully defended the WWF Championship against Psycho Sid. Diesel won via DQ after Tatanka, who like Sid was part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, interfered. Jerry “The King” Lawler scored a victory over Bret “Hit Man” Hart on Mother’s Day in a match The Hit Man had dedicated to his mom, Helen Hart. Also, Mabel (now a heel) defeated Adam Bomb in a King of the Ring tournament qualifying match. All that led up to this event. Vince McMahon and Dok Hendrix (A/K/A/ Michael P.S. Hayes) called the action.
Both Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the King of the Ring tournament. A curious booking decision. HBK wrestled Kama to a 15 minute time limit draw while Undertaker was eliminated by Mabel, who then received a bye into the finals. Savio Vega, formerly known as Kwang and filling in for an injured Razor Ramon, defeated Yokozuna and The Roadie (w/ Jeff Jarrett) to reach the finals.
Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler had reignited their feud which began at the 1993 King of the Ring. Now they would face-off in a “Kiss My Foot” Match. The King was banking on The Hit Man getting himself disqualified just as he had at SummerSlam 1993. Vince McMahon surmised that Bret Hart would retire out of sheer embarrassment if he lost this match. Hakushi and his manager, Shinja, interfered on behalf of The King. Bret Hart, pulling double duty, had also wrestled Hakushi at In Your House. Hakushi wasn’t much help though as he inadvertently struck Jerry Lawler twice. Once during the match and again after the match. The Hit Man was victorious with his patented Sharpshooter, then removed his boot and stuck his foot in The King’s face. Hart was also able to get Lawler to kiss his own foot, which in the storyline, he’d not washed in weeks.
Mabel then defeated Savio Vega to become the 1995 King of the Ring. This match is notorious for two reasons. Firstly, King Mabel did not become a long term main event superstar like most of the other King of the Ring tournament winners. Secondly, since this PPV was held in Philadelphia, an ECW chant broke out. You could see many of the loyal ECW fans, like the guy in the straw hat, sitting ringside. This was how the fans let Vince McMahon know that they were not pleased with creative direction of the WWF.
Diesel and Bam Bam Bigalow took on Psycho Sid and Tatanka (w/ Ted DiBiase) in the main event. There have been some accounts that there were behind the scenes clashes Bigalow and “The Kliq” (Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, The 1-2-3 Kid, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley). When Shawn Michaels and Diesel reunited on Monday Night RAW, it was obvious that they didn’t want to share the moment with Bigalow. Despite whatever distaste they might have had for one another backstage, Diesel and Bigalow were still victorious, with Diesel scoring the winning pinfall on Tatanka. The rivalry between Diesel and Psycho Sid continued as they battled for the WWF Championship again at In Your House II: The Lumberjacks.
August 27, 1995
The summer of King Mabel. Also, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith turned heel for the first time in his career by betraying his tag partner, Lex Luger. Shawn Michaels won the Intercontinental Championship for the third time in his career by defeating Jeff Jarrett at In Your House II: The Lumberjacks, the same night “Double J” debuted his newest single, “With My Baby Tonight” via lip-singing. Vince McMahon started off calling SummerSlam with Jerry “The King” Lawler, then The King was relieved by Dok Hendrix towards the end of the night. The Fabulous Freebird alumnus is probably my least favorite color man of the 1990s. His sense of humor was corny and dated.
Hakushi defeated The 1-2-3 Kid in the opener. The fan support was unique as the fans cheered Hakushi for his athleticism, but booed him when he attempted to play to the crowd. Hunter Hearst Helmsley made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut, defeating Bob “Sparkplug” Holly. Barry Horowitz, a prolific jobber, defeated Skip, who was managed by the original WWF Diva, Sunny (even though the moniker Diva wasn’t popularized until after she left the promotion). Speaking of the ladies, Bertha Faye won the WWF Women’s Championship from Alundra Blaze at this show.
The Undertaker faced Kama in a Casket Match. The Phenom was still feuding with Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. It was time for Kama to pay for melting the urn down into a gold chain. The Undertaker picked up the win and was now 3&1 in Casket Matches held at Pay-Per-Views. Glenn Jacobs, now better known as Kane, also made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut under his Dr. Isaac Yankem gimmick, a sadistic dentist brought to the WWF by Jerry “The King” Lawler to target Bret “Hit Man” Hart. It was almost like the “Excellence of Execution” was being booked like a mid-carder in 1995 while members of The Kliq held all the championships.
Shawn Michaels was initially set to defend the Intercontinental Championship against Psycho Sid, but the interim WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon, decided to treat the fans and booked the rematch of the decade… Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match. The IC Title was described as a “hot potato” at SummerSlam because the belt changed hands every year at the summer classic with the exception of 1993. HBK and “The Bad Guy” were both faces, but I have to give the edge to Razor when it came to fan support in this match. Michaels wore some thick knee pads and Razor spent a good portion of the match targeting HBK’s left knee. During the finish, Michaels seemed to have some difficulty unhooking the title. Razor improvised long enough to allow HBK to retain his championship. These two superstars may have topped their performance at WrestleMania X, but there’s nothing quite like the original.
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel defended the WWF Championship against King Mabel in the main event. Mabel had Sir Mo in his corner, so Lex Luger offered his services to Diesel as a corner man, but Diesel declined. When Lex did attempt to assist Diesel, he got a big boot in the face for his trouble. I don’t know if this was leading to a match between Diesel and Lex, but Lex shockingly made the jump to WCW on the inaugural edition of Monday Nitro. The opening shot that heralded the Monday Night War. This was only Diesel’s second legitimately successfully title defense at a Pay-Per-View. He held the belt for a year, the longest title reign of the 1990s, but with so few defining moments. Meanwhile, King Mabel never main evented another Pay-Per-View.
November 19, 1995
The Kliq was running ramped at this time. Diesel and Shawn Michaels won the WWF Tag Team Championships from Yokozuna and Owen Hart at In Your House III: Triple Header. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was filling in for his injured brother-in-law for that match. However, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon reversed the decision the next night on RAW because Owen Hart was pinned when he wasn’t officially part of the match. The British Bulldog then challenged Diesel at In Your House IV: The Great White North for the WWF Championship. Bret “Hit Man” Hart, who was serving as a guest color commentator, interfered in the match and Davey Boy won via DQ. This was the same night that Shawn Michaels relinquished the Intercontinental Championship to Dean Douglas (better known as “The Franchise” Shane Douglas). Douglas then lost the title to Razor Ramon. This was Ramon’s fourth reign as IC Champion, a record at the time. The Kliq definitely had a monopoly on these title belts.
Since Jerry “The King” Lawler was wrestling a lot in 1995, Vince McMahon needed a broadcast partner and Dok Hendrix wasn’t filling the bill. At Survivor Series 1995, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig returned to the WWF to serve as a color commentator. In the first of the tradition Survivor Series tag team elimination match, Skip (w/ Sunny) and “The Bodydonnas” defeated Marty Jannetty and “The Underdogs.” A whole bunch of jobbers in this match. The 1-2-3 Kid was the sole survivor. The Kid had turned heel by betraying Razor Ramon and joining Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. Psycho Sid interfered and was instrumental in The Kid’s victory.
Bertha Faye’s team defeated Alundra Blaze’s team in the first women’s Survivor Series Match since the inaugural Survivor Series in 1987. Goldust, formerly know as Dustin Rhodes, defeated Bam Bam Bigalow in what was Bigalow’s last WWF Pay-Per-View match. “The Beat from the East” had successful runs in ECW and WCW, but he never made a return to the WWF. Perhaps his departure had to do with his personal animosity towards The Kliq. Goldust, on the other hand, was beginning to revolutionize the WWF with his controversial, androgynous gimmick. A glimmer of the Attitude Era.
The Undertaker and “The Darkside” defeated Jerry Lawler and “The Royals” by clean sweep. The Phenom had partners, but he didn’t need them as he did all the eliminating by himself. He also wore a protective face mask, which led to the rumors that this might be another imposter, but it was the real Mark Calaway. The last of the Survivor Series matches was a “Wild Card” Match. Meaning that heels and faces were forced to team with each other. Razor Ramon was stuck with three heels, Yokozuna, Owen Hart, and Dean Douglas. Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson (making his PPV debut) teamed with Psycho Sid and The British Bulldog. Jim Cornette had charges on both sides of the ring. There was a great deal of infighting during the match. HBK, Ahmed Johnson, and The British Bulldog were the survivors.
“Diesel Power” was just about running on empty. Big Daddy Cool defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart in a “No DQ” Match. Their previous match ups at King of the Ring 1994 and Royal Rumble 1995 had no definitive winner. This title match was historic because it was the first time in WWF history that a superstar, namely Bret Hart, was driven through the Spanish announcer’s table. That happens so often now that it’s lost all cache, but it was a big deal at the time. Bret Hart played possum, Diesel went for the Jackknife Power-Bomb, then The Hit Man rolled him up for a three count and won the WWF Championship for the third time in his illustrious career. Diesel was a pretty sore loser, attacking referees and nailing Bret Hart with two Jackknifes after the match, but didn’t turn all the way heel for several months.
As 1995 wound down, Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeated Henry Godwin in a “Hog Pen” Match at In Your House V: Season’s Beatings. Alundra Blaze made the jump to WCW and famously threw the WWF Women’s Championship in the trash. Shawn Michaels collapsed in the ring during a match against Owen Hart on Monday Night RAW. The WWF was playing up on a legit concussion that HBK received in a bar fight. This angle put Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart on a collision course with each other in 1996.