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Long before he rose to prominence, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan arrived in the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation) in 1979. He dubbed himself “The Hulk” after the Marvel Comics character – without permission – and was given the surname “Hogan” by Vincent J. McMahon. Hogan was managed by “Classy” Freddy Blassie and competed in several matches against his greatest foe, “The Eighth Wonder of the World” Andre the Giant. Hogan was unceremoniously released from the promotion in 1981 when he was cast in the film “Rocky III” because Vincent J. McMahon did not want any of his wrestlers to double as actors. Hogan then moved on to Verne Gagne’s AWA (American Wrestling Association) where “Hulkamania” was born thanks in large to his appearance in “Rocky III.” Gagne – not unlike Vincent J. McMahon – was a wrestling traditionalist and reluctant to showcase Hogan as his World Heavyweight Champion. Hogan defeated reigning AWA Champion, Nick Bockwinkel, who was managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, on at least two occasions, but the decisions were reversed both times due to the behind the scenes financial disputes between Hogan and Gagne.
History was made when Vincent K. McMahon purchased his father’s promotion, which was now known as the WWF (World Wrestling Federation). Vince Jr. saw the potential which The Hulkster possessed and resigned him in late 1983. It did not take long for Hogan to reach the zenith as he defeated The Iron Sheik for the WWF Championship on January 23, 1984. Over the next several years, the WWF went from a mere regional promotion to a national promotion to a global phenomenon. This expansion was known as “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” and Hulk Hogan was its figurehead.
1985 was especially a landmark year for both Hulk Hogan and the WWF. First, Hogan defended his championship against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper at MTV’s War to Settle the Score in a match that ended in a No Contest and setup the main event of WrestleMania. Hogan teamed with “Rocky III” costar Mr. T in a match against Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. Boxing legend Muhammed Ali was the guest enforcer. Both these events were held at Madison Square Garden. Hogan and Mr. T were victorious at WrestleMania, but the rivalry between The Hulkster and The Hot Rod continued. They squared off one more time at The Wrestling Classic and Hogan retained his title by DQ.
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan had also made the jump from the AWA to the WWF and sought to bring an end to Hulkamania. Almost every member of “The Heenan Family” would challenge Hogan for the his title at some point. King Kong Bundy lost to Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania II in Los Angeles, a Steel Cage Match for the WWF Championship, but Heenan scored a coup when he convinced Andre the Giant, who had become a friend and mentor to Hulk Hogan in recent years, to join The Heenan Family and turn his back on The Hulkster and his fans. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant for the WWF Championship in the main event of WrestleMania III was the absolute biggest match in pro wrestling history. Over ninety three thousand (alleged) fans set an indoor attendance record in Pontiac, Michigan’s Silverdome to witness this epic clash of titans. Hogan was the underdog for the first time ever, but he pulled off the upset win with the body slam heard around the world and his signature atomic leg-drop. The torched had officially been passed.
Later in 1987, on Saturday Night’s Main Event, Hulk Hogan came to the aid of “Macho Man” Randy Savage at the behest of Savage’s valet, the lovely Miss Elizabeth. This new alliance was dubbed “The Mega Powers.” In 1988, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase offered to buy the WWF Championship from Hulk Hogan, who flatly refused. DiBiase then recruited Andre the Giant to win the title on his behalf, which he did on The Main Event. Andre was not permitted to relinquish the belt to DiBiase and the title was declared vacant. Hogan and Andre squared off again at WrestleMania IV in Trump Plaza, but this rematch is less heralded because it ended in a double DQ. Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase that same night for the WWF Championship. The Mega Powers bested the duo of Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant at the inaugural SummerSlam. Jesse “The Body” Ventura was the guest referee in that match.
The Mega Powers eventually exploded as a result of Hulk Hogan’s grandstanding and Randy Savage’s manic paranoia. Hulk won the WWF Championship for a second time by defeating The Macho Man in the main event of WrestleMania V, also held in Trump Plaza. Hogan then spent the latter part of 1989 feuding with Zeus, his co-star from the film, “No Holds Barred.” At the 1990 Royal Rumble, The Hulkster crossed paths with The Ultimate Warrior, reigning WWF Intercontinental Champion. The main event was soon announced for WrestleMania VI in Toronto. Hulk Hogan vs. The Warrior, title for title. The ultimate challenge was unique with two fan favorites battling each other. The Skydome jinx established itself and The Warrior won the title, but Hogan was gracious in defeat. Hulk then filmed “Suburban Commando” while recovering from the injuries he suffered at the hands of Earthquake.
The Hulkster returned and won his second consecutive Royal Rumble in 1991, then he won his unprecedented third WWF Championship at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles from Sgt. Slaughter, who was an Iraqi sympathizer during the Gulf War. Hogan lost the title to The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991, then was announced to compete against “Nature Boy” Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII in Indianapolis, but his opponent ended up being Sid Justice instead. The Hulkster won that match via DQ with some help from The Ultimate Warrior, then apparently retired from the WWF. He made his return one year later and competed twice at WrestleMania IX in Las Vegas. First, in the WWF Tag Team Championship match, then he defeated Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in an impromptu match. Hulk Hogan’s new record of five title reigns would last for eight years.
Shockingly, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan made the jump to Ted Turner’s WCW (World Championship Wrestling) in 1994 and won the WCW Championship from Ric Flair at Bash at the Beach. “Macho Man” Randy Savage also made the jump and he and Hogan reformed their partnership. A Steel Cage Match between Hogan and Big Van Vader at Bash at the Beach 1995 was showcased on an episode of the hit TV series, Baywatch. WCW fans were nowhere near as receptive of Hulkamania as WWF fans were because of The Hulkster’s tired catchphrases and the corny matches he competed in, such as a Monster Truck Battle with The Giant (a/k/a The Big Show) at Halloween Havoc 1995. Hulk decided to shake the wrestling world to its foundation by joining The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) at Bash at Beach 1996 to found the nWo (New World Order). His signature colors changed from red and yellow to black and white. The nWo dominated WCW for the next two years and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, as he was now dubbed, did whatever was necessary to hang onto his title, aligning with Eric Bischoff, the executive producer of the company. The nWo even hosted their own pay-per-view in 1997 called Souled Out. Two major loses suffered by Hollywood Hogan during this time period were to Sting at Starcade 1997 and to Goldberg on Monday Nitro in the summer of 1998.
After a cage match between Hollywood Hogan and Randy Savage at Uncensored 1998, the nWo splintered into two different factions, nWo Hollywood and The Wolfpack. The nWo reunited in early 1999 to knock Goldberg of his pedicel, but the fans had begun to lose interest in this renegade stable. In the summer of that year, Hulkamania walked back into our lives as Hulk Hogan again donned the red and yellow for a six man tag team match on Nitro. This “second coming” was short lived however since WCW fell into financial turmoil in 2000, during the “New Blood” angle where Hogan was relegated to a feud with Billy Kidman of all people, then Hogan was publicly fired by writer Vince Russo at Bash at Beach 2000. WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon in 2001.
The three founding members of the nWo returned to the WWF at No Way Out 2002, but despite of their heels tactics, “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan was rooted for in his loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XVIII in Toronto. Hogan was booted from the nWo after the match, but Hulkamania was still running wild. Hulk won the WWF Championship for a sixth, and thus far final time, from Triple H at Backlash 2002. The name of the title was then changed to the WWE Championship since the company was now World Wrestling Entertainment. Hulk was again defeated by The Undertaker at Judgment Day 2002, then after a brief reign as WWE Tag Team Champions with Edge, The Hulkster was put out of action by Brock Lesnar. Hulk Hogan returned in 2003 and defeated Mr. McMahon in a Street Fight at WrestleMania XIX in Seattle. He has not competed at a WrestleMania since, but did appear at WrestleMania XXI in Los Angeles, the night after his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, Class of 2005. The WWE Universe was clamoring for one more match. Hogan answered the call, defeating Shawn Michaels as SummerSlam 2005 in a “Legend vs. Icon” match. Hulk made just a few sporadic appearances in the WWE over the next several years.
Once again, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan made waves by joining TNA (Total Non-Stop Action) Wrestling in 2010, not as an active wrestler, but as an executive, though he did compete in a tag team match on Impact to help bring attention to this small promotion. At Bound for Glory 2010, Hulk and Eric Bischoff formed a group called “Immortal,” which had Jeff Hardy as its figurehead. They tried to recreate the fervor of the nWo, but lost a great deal of momentum due to Jeff Hardy’s personal “demons.” Hogan stepped back into the ring at Bound for Glory 2011 to square off with “The Icon” Sting. Sting was victorious, but more importantly, helped Hulk see the light and Hulk left Immortal immediately following their match. After that, Hogan was a strict General Manager in TNA, being tormented for most of 2013 by “Aces & Eights,” a rogue gang led by Bully Ray (a/k/a Bubba Ray Dudley).
Hulkamania will undoubtedly live forever and the red and yellow is going to be running wild in the WWE once again as The Hulkster is returning as the host of WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans.
Randy Orton, the WWE’s apex predator, joined the SmackDown! roster in 2002. The third generation superstar was victorious in his debut match against Hardcore Holly, but soon suffered an elbow injury which kept him out of action for the remainder of the year. In 2003, he joined the RAW roster and was recruited along with Dave Batista by Triple H and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair to form the group “Evolution.” The objective of this faction was for Orton and Batista to be mentored by Triple H and Ric Flair and, perhaps primarily, ensure that Triple H held onto the World Heavyweight Championship.
Orton defeated Shawn Michaels at Unforgiven 2003 and adopted the moniker “Legend Killer.” Orton then won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship from Rob Van Dam at Armageddon 2003. “Hardcore Legend” Mick Foley was the special referee in that match. Orton and Foley quickly developed a rivalry which led to Evolution facing “The Rock & Sock Connection” in a Handicap Match at WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden. Evolution was triumphant with Orton scoring the winning pinfall. The one-on-one vendetta between Orton and Foley continued and Orton defeated Foley in a Hardcore Match for the Intercontinental Championship at Backlash 2004. Orton’s reign as Intercontinental Champion came to an end at Vengeance 2004 when he was bested by Edge. Orton bounced back quickly by winning a # 1 Contender’s Battle Royal on Monday Night RAW, earning a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship. Orton went on to fulfill his destiny, defeating Chris Benoit at SummerSlam 2004 to become the youngest world champion in WWE history.
Orton’s moment of glory was short-lived however as the jealous Triple H booted him from Evolution. Triple H then defeated Orton for his championship at Unforgiven 2004. Orton was not able to regain the title thanks in part to Ric Flair and Batista, who always protected Triple H. Orton picked up a win against his former mentor at Survivor Series 2004 in a traditional tag team elimination match. This was the second year in a row in which Orton was the sole survivor. Orton then took on a daunting task, challenging The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXI in Los Angeles. The Undertaker was undefeated, 12 & 0, in his career at WrestleMania. Orton challenged “The Phenom” with sole objective of breaking what had come to be known as “The Streak.” Randy Orton came closer than anyone before him, but was unable to slay the dragon and Undertaker became 13 & 0. Undertaker and Orton continued their rivalry after Orton was drafted to SmackDown! and Orton picked up a controversial victory at SummerSlam 2005 with the aid of his Hall of Fame father, “Cowboy” Bob Orton. It was both Orton’s against The Undertaker for the rest of 2005. Orton was the sole survivor for a third in year in a row at Survivor Series that year, but the “Dead Man” ensured that his celebration was short-lived by attacking not only Orton, but most of the SmackDown! roster.
Orton, wanting no more troubles with The Undertaker, set his sights on regaining the World Heavyweight Championship and entered the 2006 Royal Rumble Match at # 30, but was the runner-up to Rey Mysterio. Orton then defeated Mysterio at Now Way Out in a # 1 Contender’s Match, leading to a Triple Threat Match with World Heavyweight Champion Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XXII in Chicago. Mysterio pinned Orton in that match to become the champion and continue his Cinderella story. It was beginning to seem as if the “man of destiny” was a one hit wonder even after he rejoined the RAW roster as he was defeated by Kurt Angle at ECW One Night Stand and “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam 2006. Orton started to get his career back on track in the fall of that year when he teamed with Edge to form “Rated RKO.” Edge & Orton beat DX (Triple H and Shawn Michaels) at Cyber Sunday in a match where Eric Bischoff was the guest referee, then they won the WWE Tag Team Championships from legends Ric Flair and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper on Monday Night RAW. Rated RKO eventually went their separate ways after continuously clashing egos and losing their titles to the unlikely tag team of Shawn Michaels and John Cena in 2007.
Randy Orton was looking like the legend killer once again in the summer of 2007 with dominant victories over Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Though Orton failed to defeat John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2007, he injured Cena in an altercation on Monday Night RAW which led to Cena relinquishing the title. WWE Chairman of the Board, Vincent K. McMahon awarded Orton the vacated championship and thus began the “Age of Orton.” Orton’s title reign lasted seven months with successful title defenses against Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 2007, Jeff Hardy at Royal Rumble 2008, and both Triple H and John Cena in a Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando. Orton finally lost the championship to Triple H at Backlash, then injured his shoulder in their rematch at One Night Stand.
Randy Orton returned in the fall of 2008 and began mentoring fellow second generation superstars to be as cold and calculating as he is. He and Cody Rhodes were victorious at Survivor Series, defeating a team captained by Batista. Orton took both Rhodes and Ted Dibiase Jr. under his wing to form the group “Legacy.” With the assistance of Rhodes and Dibiase, Orton won the 2009 Royal Rumble Match. This was a must win for Orton as he had pummeled Mr. McMahon the week before on RAW. A guaranteed title shot at WrestleMania XXV protected his employment, but Orton suffered yet ANOTHER loss to Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania XXV in Houston, a match which was overshadowed by The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels. Orton eventually won the WWE Championship three times during 2009, feuding with Triple H, Batista, and John Cena along the way. He also had run-ins with rising star Kofi Kingston, who put Orton through a table on an edition of Monday Night RAW which emanated from Madison Square Garden.
The end of Legacy began at Royal Rumble 2010 when Cody Rhodes inadvertently got Orton disqualified in a match against WWE Champion Sheamus. A month later at the Elimination Chamber PPV, Ted Dibiase eliminated Orton from the chamber match for the WWE Championship. Orton washed his hands of Rhodes and Dibiase, and defeated them both in a Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania XXVI in Phoenix. That night, for the first time since 2004, Orton was embraced by the WWE Universe.
Orton continued to battle Sheamus for the WWE Championship for most of 2010. Their match at SummerSlam also ended in a DQ, then Orton won a 6-Pack Match for the title, and finally defeated Sheamus in a Hell in a Cell rematch. Orton successfully defended the championship against Wade Barrett at Survivor Series 2010 in a match where John Cena was the special guest referee, but the next night on RAW, The Miz cashed in his “Money in the Bank” contract and defeated Orton for the title. Orton never regained the title from The Miz, but did defeat CM Punk in a show stealing match at WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta. Orton was then drafted back to SmackDown! and defeated Christian for the World Heavyweight Championship a mere days after Christian had won the title at Extreme Rules 2011. Christian won the title back from Orton at Money in the Bank in a match where the title could actually change hands on a DQ. Orton then won the rubber match, a No Holds Barred Match, at Summer Slam, but lost the championship to the “World‘s Strongest Man” Mark Henry a month later at Night of Champions.
Randy Orton seemed a bit off his game for the next two years. Team Orton was beat by Team Barrett at Survivor Series 2011. Orton was one of the favorites in the 2012 Royal Rumble Match in his own hometown of St. Louis, but Sheamus was the victor. Kane defeated Orton at WrestleMania XXVIII in Miami. Orton was even left off the card for SummerSlam 2012 due to behind the scenes turmoil. Also, Orton was a charter member of Team Foley at Survivor Series 2012 ironically enough, a team which was defeated by Team Ziggler. Orton teamed with The Big Show and Sheamus at WrestleMania XXIX in New Jersey, suffering a loss to The Shield. The Big Show turned on his two partners immediately following the match. Finally, “The Viper” was able to re-ascend the ladder when he won the 2013 Money in the Bank Match for the WWE Championship. Only a month later at SummerSlam, he cashed in, defeating Daniel Bryan, who had just beat John Cena for the WWE Championship. Orton was in collusion with the guest referee, his former mentor Triple H. Randy Orton in now a ten time champion, being backed by Triple H and his in-laws, The McMahons.
Dwayne Johnson, a third generation superstar, made his WWF debut at Survivor Series 1996. This event was held in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden. He competed under the name “Rocky Maivia,” borrowing “Rocky” from his father “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson and “Maivia” from his maternal grandfather “High Chief” Peter Maivia. It was a traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match and Rocky became the sole survivor. Just a few months later, Rocky won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship on a special Thursday night edition of RAW by defeating Hunter Hearst Helmsley. These two rising stars would become bitter rivals in the years to come. Rocky made his WrestleMania debut at WrestleMania XIII in Chicago. He faced The Sultan, who in actuality was his cousin Rikishi Phatu under a mask. After the match, Rocky was saved by his father Rocky Johnson. This wholesome “goodie two shoes” routine was not embraced by the fans and they soon turned on Rocky. He was serenaded with chants like “Rocky Sucks!!!” and “Die, Rocky, Die!!!” It wasn’t long after that he lost the Intercontinental Championship to Owen Hart. Rocky then vanished from WWF programming for several months while nursing an injury.
In the fall of 1997, Rocky reinvented himself by joining the controversial faction, “The Nation of Domination,” and shortening his in-ring name to “The Rock.” The Rock was now brash and arrogant, trash talking fans as retribution for them turning their backs on him. The Rock then had a run-in with his greatest rival, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who in defiance of Vince McMahon, surrendered the Intercontinental Championship to The Rock, only to then (in typical rattlesnake fashion) toss the championship belt into a river. The Rock’s next opponent for the IC Title was the “World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock. They battled at both Royal Rumble 1998 and WrestleMania XIV, with The Rock hanging onto his title by hook or crook. During this time there was also a power struggle between The Rock and Faarooq, the leader of The Nation. The Rock eventually usurped Faarooq and led The Nation for the remainder of its existence. Ken Shamrock finally defeated The Rock in the finals of the 1998 King of the Ring tournament, then The Rock reignited his feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who was now a member of D-Generation X and known as Triple H. Triple H defeated The Rock at SummerSlam 1998 in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship.
The Rock was then booted from The Nation, bringing an end to the group, and was finally embraced by the fans, who accepted him as the “People’s Champion.” This was short lived however as The Rock defeated Mankind at Survivor Series 1998 in the finals of the “Deadly Game” tournament for the vacated WWF Championship with the aid of Mr. McMahon. The Rock had become the youngest WWF Champion in history and re-dubbed himself the “Corporate Champion.” Mankind then upset The Rock for the championship a month later in a match that helped to turn the tide of the “Monday Night War.” The Rock and Mankind continued to clash for WWF Championship in 1999. The Rock bested Mankind in an “I Quit” Match (documented in the film “Beyond the Mat”) at Royal Rumble 1999, only for Mankind to win the title back in the Halftime Heat “Empty Arena” Match. The rivalry culminated when The Rock defeated Mankind in a Ladder Match on Monday Night RAW, which led to The Rock defending the title against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the main event of WrestleMania XV. It was a “No DQ” Match and Austin won the championship for a third time in his career. The Rock gained a measure of revenge by throwing Stone Cold into a river just as Austin had submerged the IC Championship two years prior.
The alliance between The Rock and the McMahon’s quickly soured when he failed to regain the championship from Stone Cold. The Rock was on his own and again held the moniker of “People’s Champion.” In the fall of 1999, he formed an unlikely tag team with Mankind known as “The Rock & Sock Connection.” The Rock and Mankind won the WWF Tag Team Championships on three occasions. The Rock then won the 2000 Royal Rumble Match, but did not receive a one-on-one WWF Championship match at WrestleMania 2000. Instead, he, The Big Show, and Mick Foley (in what was his final match before officially retiring) all challenged Triple H for the gold in a Fatal 4-Way Match. Triple H retained the title thanks in large to his father-in-law Mr. McMahon, but The Rock won the title from Triple H twice in the next several months, first at Backlash and again at King of the Ring, making him a five time champion, tying the then record with Hulk Hogan and Bret “Hit Man” Hart. His fifth title reign was also the longest of his career. That reign was ended by Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle at No Mercy.
The Rock won the championship back from Kurt Angle at No Way Out 2001, making him a record breaking six time champion and setting up a rematch with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XVII. Once again, The Rock was screwed over by Mr. McMahon, who shockingly (and somewhat inexplicable) sided with his arch nemesis, Steve Austin. The Rock was then banished from the WWF by Mr. McMahon, allowing him to star in “The Scorpion King.” The Rock returned at the behest of Mr. McMahon to aid the WWF in defending itself from the invading WCW / ECW Alliance. The Rock won the WCW Championship from Booker T at SummerSlam 2001, but there was lots of dissention in the WWF locker room when The Rock lost and quickly regained the WCW Championship from “Y2J” Chris Jericho. Despite of this turmoil, The Rock was the sole survivor when Team WWF defeated The Alliance at Survivor Series 2001. Mr. McMahon and his then co-owner “Nature Boy” Ric Flair choose to unify the WWF and WCW Championships. The Rock and Steve Austin were odds on favorites, but Chris Jericho defeated both at Vengeance 2001, becoming the first Undisputed Champion.
Perhaps the biggest victory in The Rock’s career was at WrestleMania XVIII in Toronto when he defeated Hulk Hogan, who had returned to the WWF after a nine year absence. After WrestleMania, the WWF was divided into brands, RAW and Smackdown!, and rechristened as the WWE. The Rock was the # 1 pick for the Smackdown! brand, which was appropriate since the program was named after one of his many catchphrases. The win over Hulk Hogan may have cemented The Rock as one of the all time greats, but he spent the next two years as a part-time superstar, splitting his time between competing and making movies like “The Rundown” and “Walking Tall.” Though his appearances were sporadic, he still won the WWE Championship for a seventh time. A record that would last seven years. He lost the championship to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2002 and Lesnar became the new youngest champion in history. The fans also began to tire of The Rock around this time, feeling that he had gone “Hollywood” and abandoned them, so The Rock renounced the people in 2003 and defeated Hulk Hogan once again at No Way Out. The Rock still had once last hurdle to overcome and that was to defeat “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in their final showdown at WrestleMania XIX, which he did. The next night on RAW, The Rock hinted that he would retire, but was instead challenged by former WCW Champion Bill Goldberg, who was making his WWE debut. Goldberg defeated The Rock at Backlash and “Brahma Bull” would not compete again for almost a year. The Rock returned for WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden, the same arena where he debuted eight years earlier, reuniting with Mick Foley to take on Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista in a Handicap Match. “Evolution” defeated “The Rock & Sock Connection” and the “Great One” quietly retired.
Seven years later, the “People’s Champion” triumphantly returned to be the emcee of WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, but a war of words between himself and John Cena escaladed into The Rock costing Cena the WWE Championship in the main event against The Miz. John Cena accused The Rock of being a hypocrite for leaving the WWE while still in his prime whereas The Rock claimed that Cena was an unworthy successor to the stars of the “Attitude Era.” The Rock vs. John Cena was announced as the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII, but first they had to team together to defeat The Awesome Truth (The Miz and R-Truth) at Survivor Series 2011 in the logical venue that was Madison Square Garden. WrestleMania XXVIII emanated from The Rock’s hometown of Miami and he eventually overcame John Cena just as he had both Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin at WrestleMania’s past.
The Rock was encouraged by his victory and set his sights on the WWE Championship. CM Punk had held the gold for fourteen months, 434 day to be specific, before finally being beaten by The Rock at Royal Rumble 2013. The Rock was now a ten time world champion and a rematch with John Cena at WrestleMania XXIX in New Jersey was made possible by John Cena’s victory in the Royal Rumble Match that same night. The Rock gutted his way through the match after suffering a hernia in the opening minutes, but was finally bested by John Cena after dominated the feud for two years. Only time will tell what is on the horizon for the People’s Champion when it comes to returning to the WWE.
January 21, 1996
Whether it was the lackluster WrestleMania XI or the crowning of King Mabel, I lost interest in the WWF over the coarse of 1995, but the promotion made a turn beginning in 1996 with the Shawn Michaels concussion angle, Sunny introducing programming in provocative vignettes, and Goldust taking a “shine” to Razor Ramon. It was compelling television once again.
Vince McMahon and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig were your commentators for the Royal Rumble, a PPV which featured the first ever free-for-all match. Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. The winner would enter the Royal Rumble Match at #30 while the loser would be stuck with #1. Hunter had initially won by using an illegal foreign object, then WWF President Gorilla Monsoon reversed the decision. Jeff Jarrett vs. Ahmed Johnson was the opening match of the actually PPV. Johnson won via DQ after Jarrett broke a guitar over his head. “Double J” made the jump to WCW not long after this event.
The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) successfully defended the WWF Tag Team Titles against The Bodydonnas (Skip & Zip) w/ Sunny, despite Sunny feigning an injury in an attempt to distract the champions. Razor Ramon lost the Intercontinental Championship to Goldust, who was being joined at ringside for the first time by Marlena. The 1-2-3 Kid interfered in that match and cost “The Bad Guy” his title. Goldust now had all the gold, if I can paraphrase Mr. Perfect. Wrestling fans had never seen anyone quite like the bizarre Goldust and he clearly made some people uncomfortable.
For the first time, the Royal Rumble Match was not the main event ( I’m not counting the 1988 Royal Rumble because that was not a PPV). Hunter Hearts Helmsley was #1 and the first superstar he had to contend with was Henry Godwin, his opponent in the infamous “Hog Pen” Match. Mr. Bob Backlund and Jerry “The King” Lawler were the next two entrants, then Godwin covered all three heels in nasty slop. Jake “The Snake” Roberts returned to the WWF at entrant #7 to a huge pop and he used a new unnamed python to drive Jerry Lawler from the ring. The King then hid under the ring for about a half hour. Yokozuna, the winner of the 1993 Royal Rumble Match, entered at #9.
The 1-2-3 Kid (#10) was chased to the ring by Razor Ramon, who was not entered in the match. Actually, Scott Hall never competed in a Royal Rumble Match. Usually, he was defending the Intercontinental Championship. Vader (#13) made his WWF debut, being managed by Jim Cornette. “The Rocky Mountain Monster” was WCW’s resident monster heel in the early to mid 1990s. Shawn Michaels, returning from his kayfabe injury at entrant #18, eliminated both Vader and Yokozuna. Vader then gave Yokozuna a cheap shot, reentered the ring and cleaned house, but WWF Gorilla Monsoon allowed all grapplers to remain in the match. This setup animosity between Monsoon and Vader, which played out the next night on RAW. Vader actually Vader-Bombed Monsoon and put him out of commission until WrestleMania XII. Shawn Michaels then found Jerry Lawler hiding under the ring and eliminated The King just as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel entered the match at #22. Diesel eliminated Hunter Hearts Helmsley, who’d been in the match four nearly forty five minutes. I guess only The Kliq could eliminate one other?
“The Ringmaster” Steve Austin made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut as #24. After he received a much needed gimmick makeover several months later, this superstar would revolutionize professional wrestling. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (#29) lasted until the final four for the third time in his career, but for the second year in a row he was eliminated by Shawn Michaels. Diesel eliminated Kama (#23), then HBK super-kicked his former paid bodyguard over the top rope for his second consecutive Royal Rumble victory, tying a record with Hulk Hogan. Diesel appeared as if he was going to batter Michaels, but the two dudes with attitudes shared a high-five instead.
However, Diesel was still a sore loser as he confronted The Undertaker and Paul Bearer while they made their entrance for the main event. Diesel was peeved that he wasn’t the challenger for Bret “Hit Man” Hart’s WWF Championship. Diesel claimed that he was not afraid of the dark. When the match finally began, the crowd support was split right down the middle. Both baby-faces bent some rules and were jeered accordingly. It had been over four years since Tuesday in Texas, over four years since The Phenom was the WWF Champion, and looked like he had the title won after he planted Bret Hart with his signature Tombstone Piledriver, but Diesel returned and pulled the referee out of the ring before he could count The Hit Man’s shoulders down. The Undertaker had won the match by DQ, but obviously not the championship. Diesel also flipped Undertaker the “bird.” Such audacity from Big Daddy Cool.
On the Royal Rumble post-show (a short lived segment), The Undertaker vowed that he would have his revenge, so Gorilla Monsoon decided that Bret Hart would face Diesel in a Steel Cage Match at In Your House VI: Rage in the Cage. The Undertaker was not deterred and, in horror movie like fashion, emerged through the ring canvass and pulled Diesel down into the abyss. Bret Hart was booked almost as if he was lucky to still be champion. Regardless of that, The Hit Man had a date with destiny at WrestleMania XII with Shawn Michaels.
March 31, 1996
Shawn Michaels was living the dream, becoming the focal point of WWF programming even though Bret “Hit Man” Hart was still the WWF Champion. First, HBK put his #1 Contender’s spot on the line in a match with Owen Hart at In Your House VI: Rage in the Cage, then WWF President “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (filling in for Gorilla Monsoon) declared that the main event of WrestleMania XII would be a sixty minute Iron Man Match.
On the free-for-all, The Bodydonnas (Skip & Zip) w/ Sunny won the vacated WWF Tag Team Championships from The Godwins (Henry & Phineas) w/ Hilly Billy Jim. “The Huckster” defeated “The Nacho Man” in a farcical match with Billionaire Ted as guest referee. The joke was that WCW had nothing but old dogs who couldn’t be taught new tricks. Little did the WWF know that they were poking the bear. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler were on commentary for the Pay-Per-View. Camp Cornette (Vader, Owen Hart, & “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith) defeated Yokozuna, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, & Ahmed Johnson in the opener. If Yokozuna’s team had won, then he would’ve had five minutes alone in the ring with Jim Cornette, his former manager.
Razor Ramon had failed a drug test, conveniently right after declaring his intentions to jump to WCW, so “Rowdy” Roddy Piper took his place in the angle with Goldust. They would face-off in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl. The Intercontinental Championship was not on the line. The first half of this brutal fight was taped the day before, then footage of the O.J. Simpson chase was shown to bridge the gap between the pre-tape and their arrival at the Arrowhead Pond. The Hot Rod beat Goldust down, then tore his ring gear off, revealing lacy lingerie underneath. Though there was no way to technically win this street fight, Roddy Piper’s bagpipe music blared, so I guess he was the victor.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (w/ Ted DiBiase) defeated Savio Vega by using The Million Dollar Championship as a weapon. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, just like Steve Austin, was making his WrestleMania debut. Helmsley was escorted down to ringside by Sable. He had a different valet for every match during his blueblood gimmick, but Sable was the only one who was incorporated into a storyline. His opponent was making his return to the WWF… The Ultimate Warrior!!! Triple H is now the self-proclaimed “king of kings,” so I find it enjoyable to see him decimated by The Warrior. It was a short lived return for the man from parts unknown, but the crowd was electric to see him in action once again. An underrated WrestleMania moment. After the match, Helmsley scolded Sable and got into a scuffle with “Wildman” Marc Mero, formerly Johnny B. Badd in WCW, whose interview he’d interrupted.
The Undertaker vs. “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel was the co-main event of the evening. Diesel had gone full blown heel after turning on Shawn Michaels at a houseshow. The Undertaker’s undefeated streak was still an afterthought at this time, but Diesel was his biggest opponent in terms of star power. Jimmy Snuka and Jake Roberts were basically past their prime while The Giant Gonzales and King Kong Bundy were the monsters of the month. Diesel was the longest reigning WWF Champion of the 1990s and a soon-to-be free agent. Diesel actually dominated the match and planted The Undertaker with two Jackknife Power-Bombs. However, The Phenom rose to occasion, recovered and went 5-0 with his patented Tombstone Piledriver.
Jose Lothario, the trainer of Shawn Michaels, was on hand to witness HBK make the most daring entrance in WrestleMania history, zip-lining from the rafters and down into the crowd. Bret “Hit Man” Hart, the reigning WWF Champion, was stoic as always. A contrast in personality to say the least, but the these two world class superstars put on a wrestling clinic for sixty minutes. The Hit Man caught Michaels as he was coming off the top rope and locked in the Sharpshooter. The finish of their first title match back at Survivor Series 1992, but this time Michaels held on until the time limit ran out. Draws mean that the champion retains his gold automatically, but Gorilla Monsoon was back from his injuries and ordered the match to resume under sudden death rules. Bret Hart was clearly not happy with the decision, returned to the ring and was hit with two super-kicks. HBK scored the winning pinfall, becoming WWF Champion (and a triple crown winner) for the first time in his illustrious career. Bret Hart did not shake hands with his successor. It also appeared as if Shawn Michaels was gloating and rubbing salt in the wounds. Bret Hart went on a eight month sabbatical after this while Shawn Michaels continued to live the dream.
The WWF may not have been at its most popular in the mid-1990s due to stars jumping to WCW and steroids / sex scandals, but WrestleMania XII should be ranked as one of the best ever. A solid card, top to bottom, with many new superstars debuting alongside established ones. It’s also nice to see the Bret Hart / Shawn Michaels rivalry revolving around competition and titles as appose to petty jealousies like it would in 1997.
KING OF THE RING
June 23, 1996
After In Your House VII: Good Friends, Better Enemies, both Diesel and Razor Ramon made the jump to WCW. Hunter Hearst Helmsley was initially penciled in to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament, but his inclusion in the Madison Square Garden incident (where he and Shawn Michaels celebrated with Diesel and Razor) left him out in the cold. This was a pivotal moment in WWF history as new superstar would emerge to win the crown and set a new era in motion.
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Owen Hart (sidelined with an injury) called the action. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was no longer being managed by “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase after he lost a “Caribbean Strap” Match to Savio Vega at In Your House: Beware of Dog II. (A rematch necessitated by a blackout.) DiBiase would also join WCW with The 1-2-3 Kid. Stone Cold defeated “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable) in the semi-finals, then he went to the hospital to have his mouth stitched up. Meanwhile, Jake “The Snake” Roberts defeated Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) via disqualification in the other semi-final match.
The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) w/ Sunny successfully defended their WWF Tag Team Titles against The Godwins (Henry & Phineas) w/ Hilly Billy Jim. Sunny turned out to be some gold-digger, chasing the belts. She went from The Bodydonnas (Skip & Zip) to The Godwins to The Smokin’ Gunns in a matter of weeks. Ahmed Johnson won the Intercontinental Championship from Goldust. It seemed as if Ahmed was on the fast track to becoming the first African-American WWF Champion. The Ultimate Warrior defeated Jerry “The King” Lawler in what turned out to be The Warrior’s final PPV for the WWF. Mankind, A/K/A Cactus Jack in both WCW and ECW, made his WWF in-ring PPV debut, scoring an upset victory over The Undertaker with some “inadvertent” help from Paul Bearer.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin returned to best Jake “The Snake” Roberts in the finals of the 1996 King of the Ring tournament. Dok Hendrix was on hand for the coronation. Stone Cold wasn’t interested in wearing the crown or holding the scepter, but he did utter the phrase “Austin 3:16 says I just whopped your ass.” He wasn’t pushed right away, but his potential was now blatantly obvious.
In the main event, a rematch from In Your House: Beware of Dog, Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) defended the WWF Championship against “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (w/ Jim Cornette and Diana Hart-Smith). Obviously, Owen Hart wasn’t all that impartial on commentary. He led the cheering section for his brother-in-law. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig was originally signed as the guest referee, but Gorilla Monsoon switched him to the outside enforcer at the last minute. The British Bulldog had a long history of losing big matches to HBK. The Intercontinental Championship back in 1992 and the 1995 Royal Rumble Match. Their title match at In Your House: Beware of Dog ended in a draw since they pinned each other. Shawn Michaels was the victor yet again in this match, but was immediately jumped by Vader and Owen Hart. HBK was saved by Ahmed Johnson and The Ultimate Warrior. The WWF was setting up a six man tag team match for In Your House: International Incident.
So much for “best laid plans” as The Ultimate Warrior was indefinitely suspended from the WWF for failing to appear where advertised. Psycho Sid returned after almost an eight month absence to team with Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson against Camp Cornette. Vader scored the winning pinfall on HBK, thusly becoming #1 Contender for the WWF Championship. This was so much more interesting than the summer of 1995 with King Mabel, but it was all for not as the eyes of the wrestling world was focused on WCW after Hulk Hogan turned heel at Bash at the Beach, aligning himself with The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) to form the nWo.
August 18, 1996
The most anticipated free-for-all (at least for the male viewers) was the Bikini Beach Blastoff. The “beach” turned out to be an aboveground pool with sand sprinkled around it. At least WCW actually went to the beach for Bash at the Beach 1995. The highlight was seeing Sunny, Sable, and Marlena clad in swimwear. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the reigning King of the Ring, also defeated Yokozuna on the free-for-all in a match where the top turnbuckle snapped off when Yoko attempted his patented Bonsai Drop.
Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig called all the action. Owen Hart defeated Savio Vega in the opener. Owen was infringing on “Cowboy” Bob Orton by wrestling with a cast on his arm that he could use as a weapon. The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) w/ Sunny successfully defended their WWF Tag Team Championships in a 4-Corners Match. One of the contending teams was The New Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassidy). Cassidy would later become better known as Al Snow. Psycho Sid defeated “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. Jim Cornette was not in the corner of either Owen Hart or The British Bulldog during their matches because he was too busy preparing Vader for his title match.
Goldust (w/ Marlena) was victorious over “Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable). Mankind came down to ringside during this match and called Sable “mommy.” Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler played up on The Snake’s real life struggles with substance abuse. “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry served as the guest color commentator and tried not to laugh at The King’s drunk jokes, but he could not help himself. Lawler won the match by using a bottle of whiskey as a weapon.
Faarooq (former WCW Champion, Ron Simmons) had recently made his debut in the WWF, taking out Ahmed Johnson with a stiff kick that caused a legit injury. Johnson was forced to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship and he never truly regained his momentum. Faarooq was to be managed by Sunny and have gladiator gimmick, but that was all dropped in the fall of 1996 when the Nation of Domination was formed.
The Undertaker vs. Mankind in a Boiler Room Brawl was another match that brought us closer to the Attitude Era. The match began in the bowels of the arena and the goal was to get to the ring first and retrieve the urn from Paul Bearer. They fought with pipes and garbage cans. Mankind was even pushed off of a ladder. The Undertaker arrived at the ring first, but Paul Bearer would shockingly refuse to hand him the urn. Undertaker was dumbfounded, then Bearer bashed him over the head with urn. The same thing that had happened at King of the Ring, but this time there was no way for Bearer to pass it off as an accident. Bearer then polished up the urn before handing it to Mankind. Bearer and Mankind exited together, leaving The Phenom in a heap. The Undertaker’s druids then appeared and carried him away as if he’d been martyred.
Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) defended the WWF Championship against Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) in the main event. The match initially ended with HBK being counted out, meaning that Vader was not the champion. The match was resumed, then HBK was disqualified for using Jim Cornette’s tennis racket. Vader was still not the champion. The match was resumed once again and Shawn Michaels finally won via pinfall. Jim Cornette gripes to this day that Vader was meant to win the title and that Michaels had politicked his way into retaining the belt. Vader had been ascending the ladder since his arrival at the 1996 Royal Rumble, but it was basically downhill for him following this match, while HBK was still golden.
Backstage politics aside, of which I am sure every WWF Champion was guilty, Shawn Michaels was on top of his game in 1996. No one could really touch him. Every match was better than the last. His next title defense was against Mankind at In Your House: Mind Games. Vader, Psycho Sid, and The Undertaker all got involved. WCW was now winning the ratings war, but the quality of main event competition in the WWF was still second to none.
November 16, 1996
New York City, New York
Jim Ross (sort of) turned in heel in the fall of 1996 and claimed that he had negotiated the returns of Diesel and Razor Ramon. They turned out to be imposters. Glenn Jacobs, who had earlier portrayed Dr. Isaac Yankem and would go on to be Kane, was the fake Diesel. Bret “Hit Man” Hart returned for real though, accepting the challenge of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Psycho Sid defeated Vader in a #1 Contender’s Match at In Your House: Buried Alive, setting up the main event of the 1996 Survivor Series.
The WWF returned to Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, for a Pay-Per-View for the first time since WrestleMania X. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry “The King” Lawler were on commentary at the start of the show.
The reigning WWF Tag Team Champions (Owen Hart & “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith) teamed with The New Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassidy) to take on The Godwins (Henry & Phineas) w/ Hilly Billy Jim and the new duo of Doug Furnas & Phil Lafon. Surprisingly, the newcomers, Furnas & Lafon were the survivors. Mankind was defeated by The Undertaker in the “Buried Alive” Match at the previous In Your House, but since The Phenom was jumped by Paul Bearer’s goons following the match and buried, the perception was that he was the loser. Paul Bearer was kept in a cage for this contest. The stipulation being that Undertaker could get his hands on his former manager if he was victorious. Undertaker descended from the rafters in new, all black ring attire. This was the most tame of the four PPV matches these two superstars had in 1996, but Undertaker finally picked up the clean win. However, he did not get to Paul Bearer because he was attacked by The Executioner (Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy of The Fabulous Freebirds).
“Wildman” Marc Mero (w/ Sable) teamed with “The Stalker” Barry Windham, Rocky Maivia, & Jake “The Snake” Roberts. This was the first PPV (or closed circuit) WWF event for Barry Windham since the first WrestleMania. Jake Roberts was filling in for an injured Mark Henry. Getting injured would become the hallmark of Mark Henry’s career. And most important of all, this was the debut of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Their adversaries were captained by Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the new Intercontinental Champion. Helmsley was briefly mentored by “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, but Hennig vanished from the WWF for a third time. This time, he would jump to WCW and not return to the WWF until the 2002 Royal Rumble. Helmsley’s team was comprised of Goldust (w/ Marlena), Crush, and Jerry “The King” Lawler. Since The King was in action, Sunny joined Vince McMahon and Jim Ross on commentary. The match came down to Goldust and Crush against Rocky, who pulled off the upset, becoming the sole survivor. The fans chanted his name… even though they would soon turn on the rookie sensation.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart, like all the great champions, became synonymous with Madison Square Garden. It is where he won the Intercontinental Championship from Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1991 and the WWF Championship from Yokozuna at WrestleMania X. The only one not impressed with Bret Hart’s legacy was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Stone Cold derided Hart for his pink tights and good guy persona in general. This match has been overlooked over the years because their match at WrestleMania XIII was such an epic showdown, but the finish was quite clever, harkening back to Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania VIII, with The Hit Man countering the Million Dollar Dream into a roll-up. “The Excellence of Execution” was back, but he had not seen the last of Steve Austin.
Yokozuna competed in his final PPV, teaming with Savio Vega, Flash Funk, & Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Snuka was the surprise mystery partner. Flash Funk was making his WWF debut. Funk had previous competed as 2 Cold Scorpio in ECW. There opponents were Vader, Faarooq, Diesel, & Razor Ramon. Again, these were imposters portraying the Diesel and Razor Ramon gimmicks. Jim Cornette served as a commentator instead of staying in the corner of Vader. Perhaps due to time constraints, the match ended on a quick double DQ.
Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) defended the WWF Championship against Psycho Sid in the main event. HBK received the sort of crowd reaction that is usually reserved for John Cena nowadays. New Yorkers were ahead of the curve when it came to jeering baby-faces. Sid resorted to striking Jose Lothario with a TV camera. This was enough to divert HBK’s focus and Sid won the match and the title with a Power-Bomb. The dream was over for Shawn Michaels. I guess this was suppose to turn Sid heel, but just like the confrontation with Hulk Hogan at the 1992 Royal Rumble, the fans were vocal in their support of Sid. Vladimir the Super-Fan (look him up on Facebook) was one of the first to congratulate Sid, the new WWF Champion.
Psycho Sid successfully defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart at In Your House: It’s Time. Shawn Michaels was a guest color commentator and HBK inadvertently (?) distracted The Hit Man. Thus bringing and end to what was a bounce back year for the WWF in terms of quality storytelling even if it would take until 1998 to turn the ratings war with WCW around.
*This was the year in which the In Your House PPVs were introduced, but I will focus my retrospectives on the “classic five” and just give you readers some highlights from the B-Shows.
January 22, 1995
What’s even better than winning the Royal Rumble Match going to the main event of WrestleMania? Being escorted by Pamela Anderson, the most famous of the Baywatch babes. Trust me, back in 1995, that was a pretty big deal. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler were on commentary. The King drooled over Pamela Anderson the same way that he fawned over the WWF/WWE Divas years later.
Razor Ramon defended the Intercontinental Championship against Jeff Jarrett in the opening match. The Roadie was in the corner of Double J. He clipped Razor’s knee and “The Bad Guy” was counted out. Jarrett goaded Razor to resume the match, then won the championship with a small package. The Undertaker defeated Irwin R. Shyster, a proud member of Ted DiBiase’s “Million Dollar Corporation.” King Kong Bundy, yet another member of the Corporation attacked The Phenom after the match and Shyster was able to “repossess” The Undertaker’s urn. This storyline of the missing urn would drag out for half the year.
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart in what was comeback of sorts for the “Excellence of Execution.” He had been away for several weeks, filming a guest spot on the TV series Lonesome Dove. Both champion and challenger had accumulated their fair share of adversaries in the past several months, all of whom interfered in this title match. Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart, Mr. Bob Backlund, Jeff Jarrett, and The Roadie. Referee Earl Hebner had no choice but to declare the match a draw. Diesel and The Hit Man embraced after the match. Kevin Nash has often stated that the WWF, in his opinion, dropped the ball by softening his character’s badass persona.
The 1-2-3 Kid and Bob “Sparkplug” Holly won the vacated WWF Tag Team Titles with an upset victory over Bam Bam Bigalow and Tatanka, two more members of Ted DiBiase’s Corporation. After the match, Bigalow, embarrassed that he was the superstar who’d been pinned, shoved New York Giants great, #56, Lawrence Taylor, who was sitting front row. The WWF did a masterful job of making this seem like an unscripted incident. The wheels were turning towards WrestleMania XI.
Shawn Michaels drew #1 in the Royal Rumble Match and made WWF history by going the distance. Right there with him was “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, entrant #2. This was the shortest rumble match because the time between entrants was only one minute. There were also many jobbers participating, so this Royal Rumble was basically a showdown between HBK and The British Bulldog. I doubt anybody was betting on Duke “The Dumpster” Droese (#4).
Doink the Clown (#8) appeared in his final PPV match until the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania XVII. Rick “The Model” Martel (#10) was in his seventh consecutive and last rumble. Jerry Lawler ribbed about needing a stopwatch for The Bushwackers, Luke (#13) & Butch (#18). The King’s wisecracks are why it wasn’t until the 2007 Royal Rumble that it was clarified, courtesy of John Bradshaw Layfield, that it was The Warlord who held the record for the worst time in a rumble. The Bushwackers also did not compete in another PPV match until the Gimmick Battle Royal.
Bret Hart was still looking for retribution, so he jumped both Owen Hart (#11) and Mr. Bob Backlund (#25) before they could even enter the rumble. As a result, both were quickly eliminated. Owen by The British Bulldog and Backlund by Lex Luger (#19). Luger was the odds-on-favorite in this year’s Royal Rumble after having co-won the match in 1994. The final four were Shawn Michaels, The British Bulldog, Lex Luger, and Crush (#30). Yet again, Lex let the U.S.A. down as he was eliminated by Michaels. The British Bulldog then took out Crush with a clothesline meant for Michaels.
For the first and only time, the first two entrants were the last two standing out of thirty. It then appeared as if The Bulldog had eliminated Michaels. The referees never called for the bell, but The Bulldog’s music played. HBK desperately held onto the ropes as only one of his feet touched the arena floor. It has to be both feet for the elimination to be official. Michaels then eliminated Bulldog, who celebrated prematurely. Dramatic slow-mo replays confirmed that the officials made the correct call. Pamela Anderson joined Shawn Michaels in the ring and seemed to find the circumstances a bit foolish, but she should have considered herself quite lucky that HBK was the victor and not the likes of King Kong Bundy (#15), Mantaur (#20), or Henry O. Godwin (#22).
The athletic prowess of both Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith displayed at this event was the highlight of 1995. For the rest of the year, the WWF seemed to be a real creative drought. Things weren’t too much better over in WCW with the “Dungeon of Doom.” These were the desperate times before the Attitude Era.
April 2, 1995
The WWF went way overboard with the celebrities this time around. This event was reminiscent of the early WrestleManias with all the in-ring competition playing second fiddle to stars from Hollywood. And not all these stars were A-Listers. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler explained to the audience what sports entertainment was all about. This turned out to be unnecessary as Lawrence Taylor failed to bring in new fans the way Mr. T had back in 1985.
Lex Luger and “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith defeated The Blu Brothers (Eli & Jacob) in the opening match. The Blu Brothers were managed Uncle Zebekiah, who is now known as Zeb Colter in the WWE. Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie) defended the Intercontinental Championship against Razor Ramon (w/ The 1-2-3 Kid). Jarrett lost via DQ, so he retained his title. I really don’t think WrestleMania is the time for copout finishes.
The Undertaker defeated King Kong Bundy, a member of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, in match with Major League Baseball umpire Larry Young as the referee. The streak was now 4&0. This was Bundy’s first WrestleMania in eight years. Kama, the supreme fighting machine and former Papa Shango, stole the urn from Paul Bearer during the match after Undertaker had already retrieved it from The Million Dollar Man. This routine was getting pretty tired. Kama then vowed to Jim Ross, who was conducting post match interviews, that he would melt the urn down and turn it into a gold chain.
Owen Hart and a mystery partner would challenge The Smokin’ Gunns (Billy & Bart) for the WWF Tag Team Championships. His partner turned out to be… Yokozuna, who’d not been seen since the Survivor Series, four months earlier. The Smokin’ Gunns were overmatched and many fans were cheering for the heel team. Yokozuna and Owen won the titles. Owen was the 1994 King of the Ring, but this was his first championship belt. This was also the beginning of “Camp Cornette.”
The rivalry between Bret “Hit Man” Hart and Mr. Bob Backlund began months earlier after a highly competitive match on WWF Superstars. Backlund snapped as a result of his loss in that match. Backlund then won the WWF Championship from Hart at the Survivor Series in a Submission Match. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a surprise as the guest referee in the rubber match of this feud. This was the second WrestleMania in a row where The Hot Rod officiated Bret Hart’s match. Overall, this was weakest of the three matches between Hart and Backlund. Hart won with the Crossed Face Chicken-Wing, which was the finishing maneuver of Backlund’s. After the match, Backlund told Jim Ross that “he saw a light.” Even Bret Hart has said that this was his least favorite of all his WrestleMania matches. I’m assuming he was referring to his singles matches as The Hart Foundation squashing The Bolsheviks at WrestleMania VI wasn’t anything to place on a “best of” DVD.
Shawn Michaels hired himself a new bodyguard for the WWF Championship Match. None other than Psycho Sid, appearing at his first WWF Pay-Per-View since his match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VIII. HBK was also suppose to be escorted to the ring by Pamela Anderson, one of the perks guaranteed by his Royal Rumble victory, but MTV’s Jenny McCarthy was on his arm instead. Pamela Anderson chose to accompany the champion, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel. The title match was unique in that the smaller competitor, Shawn Michaels, was the heel and the favorite. Michaels and Sid seemed to have just as much fan support as Diesel. HBK hit Diesel with a super-kick and had him beat, but the referee was nowhere in sight. Diesel recovered and pinned Michaels after the Jackknife Power-Bomb. Big Daddy Cool celebrated with the celebrities, both Pam Anderson and Jenny McCarthy turned out to be gold-diggers, but HBK may have stolen the show.
Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigalow was the main event. The pop group, Salt-N-Pepa, preformed “Whatta Man” for the entrance of LT. This was a Lumberjack Match of sorts with the rest of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation in Bigalow’s corner and the All-Pro Team in Lawrence Taylor’s corner. One member of the All-Pro Team was Steve “Mongo” McMichael, who became a fixture on WCW Monday Nitro later in 1995. The referee was Pat Patterson, the first Intercontinental Champion and referee of the inaugural WrestleMania main event back in 1985. LT performed surprisingly well and Bigalow sold like a boss for him. LT won with a flying forearm, but he looked a little worse for the wear as he was carried from the ring to celebrate with Salt-N-Pepa. Even though Bigalow lost the match, I recall him being referred to as the “giant” killer once in ECW.
Both Shawn Michaels and Bam Bam Bigalow turned baby-face in the weeks following WrestleMania. Psycho Sid joined Ted DiBiase’s Corporation and the “In Your House” PPVs were introduced on Mother’s Day of that year. This event will always be known as the “Lawrence Taylor” WrestleMania, but most matches didn’t live up to the hype.
KING OF THE RING
June 25, 1995
At the inaugural In Your House, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel successfully defended the WWF Championship against Psycho Sid. Diesel won via DQ after Tatanka, who like Sid was part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation, interfered. Jerry “The King” Lawler scored a victory over Bret “Hit Man” Hart on Mother’s Day in a match The Hit Man had dedicated to his mom, Helen Hart. Also, Mabel (now a heel) defeated Adam Bomb in a King of the Ring tournament qualifying match. All that led up to this event. Vince McMahon and Dok Hendrix (A/K/A/ Michael P.S. Hayes) called the action.
Both Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the King of the Ring tournament. A curious booking decision. HBK wrestled Kama to a 15 minute time limit draw while Undertaker was eliminated by Mabel, who then received a bye into the finals. Savio Vega, formerly known as Kwang and filling in for an injured Razor Ramon, defeated Yokozuna and The Roadie (w/ Jeff Jarrett) to reach the finals.
Bret Hart and Jerry Lawler had reignited their feud which began at the 1993 King of the Ring. Now they would face-off in a “Kiss My Foot” Match. The King was banking on The Hit Man getting himself disqualified just as he had at SummerSlam 1993. Vince McMahon surmised that Bret Hart would retire out of sheer embarrassment if he lost this match. Hakushi and his manager, Shinja, interfered on behalf of The King. Bret Hart, pulling double duty, had also wrestled Hakushi at In Your House. Hakushi wasn’t much help though as he inadvertently struck Jerry Lawler twice. Once during the match and again after the match. The Hit Man was victorious with his patented Sharpshooter, then removed his boot and stuck his foot in The King’s face. Hart was also able to get Lawler to kiss his own foot, which in the storyline, he’d not washed in weeks.
Mabel then defeated Savio Vega to become the 1995 King of the Ring. This match is notorious for two reasons. Firstly, King Mabel did not become a long term main event superstar like most of the other King of the Ring tournament winners. Secondly, since this PPV was held in Philadelphia, an ECW chant broke out. You could see many of the loyal ECW fans, like the guy in the straw hat, sitting ringside. This was how the fans let Vince McMahon know that they were not pleased with creative direction of the WWF.
Diesel and Bam Bam Bigalow took on Psycho Sid and Tatanka (w/ Ted DiBiase) in the main event. There have been some accounts that there were behind the scenes clashes Bigalow and “The Kliq” (Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, The 1-2-3 Kid, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley). When Shawn Michaels and Diesel reunited on Monday Night RAW, it was obvious that they didn’t want to share the moment with Bigalow. Despite whatever distaste they might have had for one another backstage, Diesel and Bigalow were still victorious, with Diesel scoring the winning pinfall on Tatanka. The rivalry between Diesel and Psycho Sid continued as they battled for the WWF Championship again at In Your House II: The Lumberjacks.
August 27, 1995
The summer of King Mabel. Also, “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith turned heel for the first time in his career by betraying his tag partner, Lex Luger. Shawn Michaels won the Intercontinental Championship for the third time in his career by defeating Jeff Jarrett at In Your House II: The Lumberjacks, the same night “Double J” debuted his newest single, “With My Baby Tonight” via lip-singing. Vince McMahon started off calling SummerSlam with Jerry “The King” Lawler, then The King was relieved by Dok Hendrix towards the end of the night. The Fabulous Freebird alumnus is probably my least favorite color man of the 1990s. His sense of humor was corny and dated.
Hakushi defeated The 1-2-3 Kid in the opener. The fan support was unique as the fans cheered Hakushi for his athleticism, but booed him when he attempted to play to the crowd. Hunter Hearst Helmsley made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut, defeating Bob “Sparkplug” Holly. Barry Horowitz, a prolific jobber, defeated Skip, who was managed by the original WWF Diva, Sunny (even though the moniker Diva wasn’t popularized until after she left the promotion). Speaking of the ladies, Bertha Faye won the WWF Women’s Championship from Alundra Blaze at this show.
The Undertaker faced Kama in a Casket Match. The Phenom was still feuding with Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. It was time for Kama to pay for melting the urn down into a gold chain. The Undertaker picked up the win and was now 3&1 in Casket Matches held at Pay-Per-Views. Glenn Jacobs, now better known as Kane, also made his WWF Pay-Per-View debut under his Dr. Isaac Yankem gimmick, a sadistic dentist brought to the WWF by Jerry “The King” Lawler to target Bret “Hit Man” Hart. It was almost like the “Excellence of Execution” was being booked like a mid-carder in 1995 while members of The Kliq held all the championships.
Shawn Michaels was initially set to defend the Intercontinental Championship against Psycho Sid, but the interim WWF President, Gorilla Monsoon, decided to treat the fans and booked the rematch of the decade… Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match. The IC Title was described as a “hot potato” at SummerSlam because the belt changed hands every year at the summer classic with the exception of 1993. HBK and “The Bad Guy” were both faces, but I have to give the edge to Razor when it came to fan support in this match. Michaels wore some thick knee pads and Razor spent a good portion of the match targeting HBK’s left knee. During the finish, Michaels seemed to have some difficulty unhooking the title. Razor improvised long enough to allow HBK to retain his championship. These two superstars may have topped their performance at WrestleMania X, but there’s nothing quite like the original.
“Big Daddy Cool” Diesel defended the WWF Championship against King Mabel in the main event. Mabel had Sir Mo in his corner, so Lex Luger offered his services to Diesel as a corner man, but Diesel declined. When Lex did attempt to assist Diesel, he got a big boot in the face for his trouble. I don’t know if this was leading to a match between Diesel and Lex, but Lex shockingly made the jump to WCW on the inaugural edition of Monday Nitro. The opening shot that heralded the Monday Night War. This was only Diesel’s second legitimately successfully title defense at a Pay-Per-View. He held the belt for a year, the longest title reign of the 1990s, but with so few defining moments. Meanwhile, King Mabel never main evented another Pay-Per-View.
November 19, 1995
The Kliq was running ramped at this time. Diesel and Shawn Michaels won the WWF Tag Team Championships from Yokozuna and Owen Hart at In Your House III: Triple Header. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was filling in for his injured brother-in-law for that match. However, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon reversed the decision the next night on RAW because Owen Hart was pinned when he wasn’t officially part of the match. The British Bulldog then challenged Diesel at In Your House IV: The Great White North for the WWF Championship. Bret “Hit Man” Hart, who was serving as a guest color commentator, interfered in the match and Davey Boy won via DQ. This was the same night that Shawn Michaels relinquished the Intercontinental Championship to Dean Douglas (better known as “The Franchise” Shane Douglas). Douglas then lost the title to Razor Ramon. This was Ramon’s fourth reign as IC Champion, a record at the time. The Kliq definitely had a monopoly on these title belts.
Since Jerry “The King” Lawler was wrestling a lot in 1995, Vince McMahon needed a broadcast partner and Dok Hendrix wasn’t filling the bill. At Survivor Series 1995, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig returned to the WWF to serve as a color commentator. In the first of the tradition Survivor Series tag team elimination match, Skip (w/ Sunny) and “The Bodydonnas” defeated Marty Jannetty and “The Underdogs.” A whole bunch of jobbers in this match. The 1-2-3 Kid was the sole survivor. The Kid had turned heel by betraying Razor Ramon and joining Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. Psycho Sid interfered and was instrumental in The Kid’s victory.
Bertha Faye’s team defeated Alundra Blaze’s team in the first women’s Survivor Series Match since the inaugural Survivor Series in 1987. Goldust, formerly know as Dustin Rhodes, defeated Bam Bam Bigalow in what was Bigalow’s last WWF Pay-Per-View match. “The Beat from the East” had successful runs in ECW and WCW, but he never made a return to the WWF. Perhaps his departure had to do with his personal animosity towards The Kliq. Goldust, on the other hand, was beginning to revolutionize the WWF with his controversial, androgynous gimmick. A glimmer of the Attitude Era.
The Undertaker and “The Darkside” defeated Jerry Lawler and “The Royals” by clean sweep. The Phenom had partners, but he didn’t need them as he did all the eliminating by himself. He also wore a protective face mask, which led to the rumors that this might be another imposter, but it was the real Mark Calaway. The last of the Survivor Series matches was a “Wild Card” Match. Meaning that heels and faces were forced to team with each other. Razor Ramon was stuck with three heels, Yokozuna, Owen Hart, and Dean Douglas. Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson (making his PPV debut) teamed with Psycho Sid and The British Bulldog. Jim Cornette had charges on both sides of the ring. There was a great deal of infighting during the match. HBK, Ahmed Johnson, and The British Bulldog were the survivors.
“Diesel Power” was just about running on empty. Big Daddy Cool defended the WWF Championship against Bret “Hit Man” Hart in a “No DQ” Match. Their previous match ups at King of the Ring 1994 and Royal Rumble 1995 had no definitive winner. This title match was historic because it was the first time in WWF history that a superstar, namely Bret Hart, was driven through the Spanish announcer’s table. That happens so often now that it’s lost all cache, but it was a big deal at the time. Bret Hart played possum, Diesel went for the Jackknife Power-Bomb, then The Hit Man rolled him up for a three count and won the WWF Championship for the third time in his illustrious career. Diesel was a pretty sore loser, attacking referees and nailing Bret Hart with two Jackknifes after the match, but didn’t turn all the way heel for several months.
As 1995 wound down, Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeated Henry Godwin in a “Hog Pen” Match at In Your House V: Season’s Beatings. Alundra Blaze made the jump to WCW and famously threw the WWF Women’s Championship in the trash. Shawn Michaels collapsed in the ring during a match against Owen Hart on Monday Night RAW. The WWF was playing up on a legit concussion that HBK received in a bar fight. This angle put Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart on a collision course with each other in 1996.
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.
January 19, 1991
A new year means that it’s time to rumble and this Royal Rumble was a more complete Pay-Per-View than prior years because the WWF Championship was on the line. How does one rank a Royal Rumble? On the strength of the Royal Rumble Match itself or the Pay-Per-View as a whole? Gorilla Monsoon and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper called the action and The Gobbly Gooker was nowhere to be found.
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) vs. The New Orient Express (Tanaka & Kato) was a highly competitive, faced paced match, which still holds up after two decades. The Rockers had been bested by the original Orient Express (Tanaka & Sato) at WrestleMania VI, but Michaels and Jannetty were the victors in this rematch. The Big Boss Man then defeated The Barbarian. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan decreed that Boss Man needed a win over ever member of The Heenan Family before he could get a shot at “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and the Intercontinental Championship. Since Haku and The Barbarian were the only other members of The Heenan Family at this time, it wasn’t too daunting of a task.
Sensational “Queen” Sherri called out The Ultimate Warrior and challenged him for the WWF Championship on behalf of “Macho King” Randy Savage. Sherri even sunk to her knees while she begged, which elicited a bawdy reaction from the fans. The Warrior responded to her with an emphatic NOOOO!!!!!, which only enraged The Macho King further. How could Randy Savage be denied his well deserved title shot? This was a decision that The Warrior would rue.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and his paid bodyguard Virgil competed in tag team action against “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and his son, Dustin. DiBiase had been abusing Virgil as of late and it was revealed that Virgil worked for DiBiase so to afford care of his sickly mother. DiBiase and Virgil were victorious despite DiBiase battering Virgil during the match. Dusty Rhodes would return to WCW to be the booker soon after this and took his son with him. Dustin struggled in the shadow of his father until he reinvented himself as Goldust in 1995. Virgil finally stood up for himself after the match and struck DiBiase with his prized Million Dollar Championship. Definitely a highlight of Virgil’s career. Roddy Piper was just as elated as the fans because he was the one who shared words of wisdom with Virgil and helped to show him the light.
Roddy Piper also sounded genuinely disgusted when The Mountie, formerly Jacques Rougeau, made his entrance for a match against Koko B. Ware. Ironic as Piper and The Mountie would be opponents at the next year’s Royal Rumble.
The Ultimate Warrior, who’d already been the first WWF Champion to defend the gold at a SummerSlam, would also be the first to defend at a Royal Rumble. The internet “smart” fans don’t pay The Warrior much in way of a tribute, but he actually defended the title more than his predecessors. Sgt. Slaughter, ex-patriot turned Iraqi sympathizer, was the #1 Contender. Slaughter had promised Randy Savage a title shot, so Savage and Sherri interfered in the match multiple times and cost Warrior the championship. Sgt. Slaughter had walked out on the WWF before the first WrestleMania. Now, in only his second Pay-Per-View match back, he was the new WWF Champion. Slaughter was also being managed Gen. Adnan Al-Kaisse, who could have been used as a body double for Saddam Hussein. Slaughter was now the champion, but his patriotic G.I. Joe image was tarnished for years to come.
Bret “Hit Man” Hart began the Royal Rumble Match for the second time in his career, having also drawn #1 back in 1988. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who was no longer a heel and no longer managed by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, entered at #3 and lasted about forty-five minutes. Rick “The Model” Martel entered at #6 at lasted over fifty minutes, breaking the longevity record set by Ted DiBiase the year prior. Martel got the best of Jake “The Snake” Roberts (#9) once again by eliminating Roberts while standing on the apron. Martel was so impressive in this match that even Roddy Piper gave him the kudos which he deserved.
Both members of The Legion of Doom, Hawk (#16) and Animal (#19), were entered in this Royal Rumble. The greatest tag team of all time looked somewhat out of place in an every man for himself type match, but they did eliminate The Undertaker (#12) with a double clothesline. Entrant #18 was a no show. The first in Royal Rumble history. It turned out to be “Macho King” Randy Savage. It was surmised that Savage and Sherri had been chased out of the building by The Ultimate Warrior. This was the second Pay-Per-View in a row where Randy Savage did not compete, which is very disappointing.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, the winner of the first Royal Rumble in 1988, entered at #21, but neither Gorilla Monsoon nor Roddy Piper made mention of his past success at this event. “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan entered at #24 and had dedicated this match to the United States of America Armed Forces station all around the world, so it was almost a forgone conclusion that The Hulkster would be triumphant for a second year in a row.
Bushwacker Luke (#27) was eliminated by Earthquake (#22) in a matter of seconds. For years, it was erroneously stated that this was the record for the shortest time in a Royal Rumble. Gorilla Monsoon made that claim at the 1992 Royal Rumble. Sean Mooney said the same in the 1993 Royal Rumble pre-show. Jerry “The King” Lawler joked about it during the 1995 Royal Rumble, and Jim Ross eluded to it at the 1997 Royal Rumble. It wasn’t until the 2007 Royal Rumble when John Bradshaw Layfield would clarify that it was The Warlord who still had the record from 1989. I suppose that back in 1991, the WWF still had high hopes for The Warlord (#29) and didn’t want to saddle him with such an embarrassing record.
Tugboat came in at #30 and tried to eliminate Hulk Hogan. Hulk retaliated and dumped the big Tugboat over the top rope. Rick Martel made it to the final five before being eliminated by “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith (#14), who was competing at his first WWF Pay-Per-View in over two years. Earthquake and Brian Knobbs (#28) of The Nasty Boys (another BFF of Hulk Hogan) double teamed and eliminated Davey Boy, but no such luck against Hogan, who “Hulked Up” and won his second consecutive Royal Rumble. Hogan eliminating Earthquake was the culmination of their rivalry (not counting a tag team match on The Main Event).
As I’ve said, the appeal of the Royal Rumble is unpredictability, but with Hulk Hogan’s dedication to the troops and “Macho King” Randy Savage not competing, it was a tad too predictable that Hulk would win. I felt the same with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the 1998 Royal Rumble. Way too predictable. Without the likes of Ted DiBiase, Randy Savage, or The Ultimate Warrior, there wasn’t enough star power to rival The Hulkster. Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Mr. Perfect (#23) didn’t last as long as you would’ve expected and superstars like Bret “Hit Man” Hart and The Undertaker weren’t on that main event echelon just yet. The real star of this Royal Rumble was Rick “The Model” Martel.
March 24, 1991
Los Angeles, California
Starting at WrestleMania VI, WWF Chairman Vince McMahon hyped for almost the entire year that WrestleMania VII would emanate from the LA Coliseum, but with only a few weeks to go, the venue was switched to the much smaller LA Sports Arena. The WWF/WWE has always cited security issues as the reason for the last minute change, alluding to an alleged bomb threat. However, just like the 93,000 fans in attendance for WrestleMania III, this is Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s revisionist history. The “Rock & Wrestling” phenomenon of the 1980s was cooling off and neither fanatics nor casual fans seemed to be buying the idea of a Gulf War storyline in professional wrestling, so WrestleMania VII was never going to break any attendance records.
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary together for the first time at a Pay-Per-View, though they had successfully co-hosted WWF Prime Time for years. Others would cover for Bobby on color when members of The Heenan Family were in action. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, garbed as Uncle Sam, assisted Monsoon as The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) defeated Haku and The Barbarian. The Rockers were the ideal superstars to open a Pay-Per-View. The Hardy Boyz were often compared to The Rockers, but Michaels and Jannetty didn’t need a ladder and tables to have an exciting match.
Sadly, many wresters on this card have passed away since, many at a young age, and not all as result of natural causes. As of 2013, there are ten wrestlers on this card who have died, not counting the managers and other on-air talent. Dino Bravo took on “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich. Both these men died as a result of gunshot wounds. “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig defended the Intercontinental Championship against The Big Boss Man. They both died of heart attacks as did most of the ten wrestlers. One just has to wonder what role steroids and other drugs may have played in all these heart attacks. Earthquake is one of the few from this generation who passed from natural causes. He died of bladder cancer in 2006.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick “The Model” Martel was a Blindfold Match. This match may not stand the test of time, but it was a hoot the first time around. The WWE should bring back audience participation matches. Can you imagine John Cena in this type of match? His supporters (little kids) pointing him the right direction while all of his detractors (adult men) try to steer him off course? Either way, Roberts picked up the win and finally got his revenge on Martel for the blinding last year. This was the final PPV appearance of Damien, who was squished and cooked by Earthquake in the spring of 1991, and the last PPV before Jake Roberts’ heel turn.
The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hit Man” Hart & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart) lost the WWF Tag Team Championships to The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs). The Nasty Boys were managed by Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, who formerly managed The Hart Foundation. Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart quietly dissolved their partnership after this loss and The Hit Man embarked on his Hall of Fame singles career. The Undertaker also made his WrestleMania debut and was now managed by Paul Bearer. The Phenom defeated Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. At the time, no could have known that this was the beginning of one of (if not the) most impressive streaks in WWF/WWE history. 1&0.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. “Macho King” Randy Savage was a Career Ending Match, which one could argue was even bigger than the WWF Championship and the real main event. Warrior and Savage both challenged Hulk Hogan for the top spot in the WWF at various points and became icons in their own right. The Warrior WALKED to the ring instead of running, so you knew he meant business. It was practically a handicap match with Sensational “Queen” Sherri’s involvement. The Warrior survived five of Savage’s patented flying elbow-drops, recovered, and hit Savage with three shoulder tackles for the win. After the match, Sherri kicked Savage, who was barely conscious. Then, Miss Elizabeth jumped the guard rail and saved Savage. Savage snapped out of his daze and realized what was happening. Elizabeth had tears in her eyes as she and Savage finally embraced. In fact, there was barely a dry eye in the house. Everybody was crying. This is probably the most touching moment in professional wrestling history. Macho MAN was back and received the accolades which he so richly deserved (I believe I‘m quoting Gorilla Monsoon) from all the fans. Usually, Elizabeth would hold the ropes open for Randy, but this time he held the ropes open for her like a true gentleman.
The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) squashed Power & Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma). A lackluster WrestleMania debut for such a heralded tag team. Lord Alfred Hayes joined Gorilla Monsoon for the aforementioned Intercontinental Championship Match. Andre the Giant even made a surprise appearance and aided The Big Boss Man against The Heenan Family. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, still recovering from knee surgery, was in the corner of Virgil, who upset “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase via count out. Ted DiBiase may have lost to his former bodyguard, but Sensational Sherri was revealed as his new manager. Wow. It sure didn’t take Sherri too long to find herself a new “meal ticket.”
“The Immortal” Hulk Hogan challenged Sgt. Slaughter for the WWF Championship in the main event. Hulk had won the 1991 Royal Rumble, but this was not a guaranteed title opportunity. WWF President Jack Tunney (Vince McMahon‘s puppet) named The Hulkster as the #1 Contender on The Main Event. Sgt. Slaughter actually threatened to intentionally get himself counted out or disqualified so to keep the championship. It was a decent enough match. Regis Philbin added some humor as the celebrity guest color commentator. Just like Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy at WrestleMania II, no one was really in fear for Hulkamania. Hogan was bloodied, but tore the Iraqi flag apart and won the WWF title for a record breaking third time. He had been tied at two title reigns with the legendary Bruno Sammartino.
The war was officially over (I know I‘m quoting Gorilla Monsoon this time). Whatever you may think of Sgt. Slaughter’s brief tenure as champion and the highly controversial Gulf War angle, it was an emotional WrestleMania. “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth’s reunion is an all time great WrestleMania moment even if the WWE is too ridiculous to acknowledge it. A recent WWE magazine ranked the horrible match between John Cena and The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII, which lamely ended in a double count out, above Macho Man and Elizabeth reuniting. Really? Really? Really?
Hulk Hogan becoming WWF Champion for an unprecedented third time was brought up by Bobby Heenan, but wasn’t dwelled upon. Nowadays, almost ever WWE superstar has been a world champion a half dozen time, devaluing the belts, but there was a time when being a three time champion was an achievement that only The Hulkster and his 24-inch pythons could realize… brother!!!
August 26, 1991
New York City, New York
The WWF returns to Madison Square Garden, the location so many historic moments. A three man team called the action. Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. The Heenan Family was no more and The Brain’s focus was on color commentary.
Rick “The Dragon” Steamboat was back after a highly successful tenure in WCW. He teamed with “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith and “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich to defeat a trio managed by Slick. Steamboat was only suppose to be referred to as “The Dragon” and his past as the Intercontinental Champion was overlooked. Regardless, Roddy Piper still called him Steamboat while calling the match. Either by force of habit or just plain defiance. Andre the Giant made his final PPV appearance, in the corner of The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch), who were defeated by The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Tugboat had be rechristened and Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart now managed the largest heel stable in the WWF in the absence of The Heenan Family.
Three titles changed hands at this PPV. Bret “Hit Man” Hart won the Intercontinental Championship from “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. A great wrestling match even with Mr. Perfect suffering from a back injury. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) won the WWF Tag Team Championships from The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags & Brian Knobbs) in a No DQ Match. L.O.D. became the first and only tag team to win the gold in all three major promotions of their era. NWA, AWA, and WWF. Also, Virgil won the Million Dollar Championship from “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. This was only the second time that this non-sanctioned title was defended and the first time it changed hands.
Speaking of titles, Bobby Heenan went back to the locker room during the show with the WCW Championship belt and challenged “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan on behalf of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, the self proclaimed real world’s champion. Unbelievable! Flair was no longer associated with WCW, but was still recognized by the fans as the world champion of that promotion and owned the famous big gold belt. I followed the WWF at that age and was only vaguely familiar with WCW, but my father knew who Ric Flair was and he was very excited about his impending arrival in the WWF… Woooooo!!!
The Big Boss Man defeated The Mountie in a Jailhouse Match, stipulating that The Mountie would have to spend the night in a New York City jail. He was booked and left behind bars with an odd cellmate who wanted to know if he “loved the feel of leather on his skin?” The Mountie always gets his man.
The main event was the “Match Made in Hell,” a Handicap Match with Hulk Hogan, the reigning WWF Champion, and The Ultimate Warrior facing The Triangle of Terror (Sgt. Slaughter, Gen. Adnan, & Col. Mustapha). Mustapha was actually The Iron Sheik, the man who first lost the WWF Championship to Hulk Hogan way back in 1984 when Hulkamania arrived in the WWF. Since The Iron Sheik represented Iran, he was given a new persona so that he could signify Iraq instead. Sid Justice, formerly Sid Vicious in WCW, was the guest referee. Just like with Jesse “The Body” Ventura at SummerSlam ‘88, trust was a crucial issue. Sgt. Slaughter offered Sid a position in the Triangle of Terror, which Sid flatly refused. Hogan and Warrior were victorious after Hulk threw powder in the eyes of Slaughter. I guess Hulk Hogan is allowed to cheat? I thought at first that Slaughter must have attempted to use the powder and Hulk knocked it back in his face in an act of self defense, but nope, Hulk cheated.
The Ultimate Warrior chased Gen. Adnan and Col. Mustapha away from ringside with a steel chair just before the match ended and did not return to celebrate the win with Hulk Hogan. This was because he was fired by WWF Chairman Vince McMahon over a financial dispute. The Warrior argues the WWE’s version of this story which was presented on the “Self Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior” DVD, claiming that he was totally justified in demanded his long overdue payday for WrestleMania VII. I’ll remain neutral in this quarrel between Vince McMahon and The Warrior, because I honestly don’t know who to trust. Sid Justice instead joined Hulk Hogan in the ring to celebrate. I’m not sure why the referee would pose after a match, but it was still a good introduction for Sid.
The “Match Made in Heaven” followed, which was the wedding ceremony of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. Of course, they were already married in real life, so it was more like a renewal ceremony and this might be the only WWF wedding that went off without a hitch. Usually, these ceremonies end in utter chaos. The chaos this time was reserved for the reception, which was not shown as part of the live PPV, so for the first time in my retrospectives, I’m referring to the Coliseum Home Video. The reception was crashed by Jake “The Snake” Roberts and The Undertaker. They hid a king cobra inside one of the gifts and it nearly bit Elizabeth. Jake initially turned heel to feud with The Ultimate Warrior, which obviously wasn’t going to happen anymore, but a Roberts / Macho Man rivalry was just as good and Roberts mentoring Undertaker was epic. This why there were rumors in 1999 that Jake Roberts was The Undertaker’s “higher power.” That would have been so much cooler than Mr. McMahon. Randy Savage’s retirement was short lived because the fans would soon be petitioning WWF President Jack Tunney for The Macho Man to be reinstated, so he could get payback.
November 27, 1991
This was the year that the Survivor Series transitioned into being a Thanksgiving Eve tradition. Also, none of the teams had names, those clever puns on the team captain’s gimmick which we all love. The WWF Championship was defended for the first time at this event and Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan were on commentary.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was wrestling again and The Hot Rod captained a team which opposed “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s team. This Pay-Per-View was unlike others because the main event matches all came on early. “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was on Flair’s team, taking a backseat to the new top heel in the WWF. Ric Flair’s digitized world championship was actually a tag team title belt. He had to send the real one back to WCW, but the WWF kept the angle going. “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was the only competitor eliminated during the course of the match. Everyone else, with the exception of Ric Flair, was disqualified at the conclusion of the match, resulting in Ric Flair becoming the sole survivor in his WWF Pay-Per-View debut.
Neither “Macho Man” Randy Savage nor Jake “The Snake” Roberts competed on this show because of an angle on WWF Superstars where Roberts’ king cobra bit Savage on his bicep. Instead, they were interviewed separately by “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Seems peculiar to leave two top superstars off one of the big four PPVs. In the past year, The Macho Man has only wrestled at WrestleMania VII. What a jip.
Sgt. Slaughter had turned face, wanting to be re-embraced by the good old USA. He and his partners, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, and Tito Santana (who now had his “El Matador” gimmick) defeated a team of generic heels by clean sweep.
In what was billed as his gravest challenge, “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan defended the WWF Championship against The Undertaker. The Phenom had made his WWF debut at the previous Survivor Series. For the first time, Hulkamania wasn’t running wild. It seemed that many fans were rooting for The Undertaker. This sort of thing happens to John Cena all the time, but it was very rare for The Hulkster. Ric Flair interfered in the match numerous times. The finish was Undertaker delivering a Tombstone to Hogan on top of a steel chair which Flair slid into the ring while Paul Bearer was distracting the referee. Perhaps Bobby Heenan (who also served as Ric Flair’s financial advisor) was correct. Hulkamania may have been dead. Unlike older fans, who were somewhat sick of Hulk Hogan after seven years of prayers and vitamins, I was still a Hulkamaniac and this was a devastating moment for me.
As this show progressed, an impromptu Pay-Per-View called “Tuesday in Texas” was announced. It would be held the following week. Randy Savage would face off with Jake Roberts and The Undertaker would give Hulk Hogan a rematch for the WWF Championship. What I don’t appreciate is an incomplete Pay-Per-View. It ends on a cliffhanger and not for the Royal Rumble, but for an extra Pay-Per-View. Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair were on early so there would be time to hype Tuesday in Texas and there was little point in watching the rest of this show.
All that was remaining of any consequence was Shawn Michaels berating his tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, after a miscue that led to Shawn being eliminated from their match. The beginning of the end for The Rockers. Also, Bobby Heenan was hilarious in mocking The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch). The final match (which I won‘t refer to as the main event) was a three-on-three traditional Survivor Series Match. The Big Boss Man and The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) vs. Irwin R. Shyster and The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon). Sid Justice was suppose to be on the face team, but was injured. The Macho Man was rumored as a replacement, but he wasn’t medically cleared after the snake bite. Jake Roberts was suppose to be on the heel team, but was suspended because of the aforementioned cobra incident. L.O.D. were the survivors. Sure, they may be the greatest tag team of all time (sorry Dudley Boyz), but it was still an anti-climax.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund found The Undertaker and Paul Bearer in the bowels of the arena just before the show went off the air. They were ominously preparing a casket for the funeral of Hulkamania, which would be held this “Tuesday in Texas.” Even if the fans were being ripped off for an extra PPV, it was still an awesome segment. The WWF would do many like this with Undertaker as a face in the years to come. Perhaps the coolest gimmick ever.
Like No Holds Barred: The Match the year prior, Tuesday in Texas doesn’t warrant it’s own retrospective. The rematch between The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan can be seen on the “Hulk Hogan: The Ultimate Anthology” DVD. WWF President Jack Tunney was at ringside and saw Ric Flair interfere again. Hulk won the title for a forth time after he threw ashes from the urn in Undertaker’s face, but was stripped of the belt soon after by Jack Tunney. The WWF Championship was vacant for the first time in over three years.