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