This Smark Wrestlemania Rant by Scott Keith is part of a series of reposts counting down to this year’s Wrestlemania. They are re-published “as is” with relative commentary from when they were written. Enjoy!
Change of pace this time.
It seems no matter how many rants I pump out and how great everyone tells me they are, I always have one show hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles: Wrestlemania X. Oh, sure, the rest are pretty good, but what did I think of Wrestlemania X?
Well, what do you *think* I thought of Wrestlemania X? It’s the show that redefined the WWF forever. It’s probably the only instance of two ***** matches on the same WWF show. It made the careers of Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and Owen Hart. It relaunched the career of Bret Hart and sunk the career of Lex Luger with a resounding splat. It was the final proof that Hulk Hogan was not needed to blow the roof off the joint, and it was probably the only time you’ll ever see Vince McMahon apologize, albeit in his own way. It was truly a show with something for everyone — workrate freaks, sports entertainment sheep, kids and adults alike and devoted followers of the Finkel-Wippleman feud.
Hell, it’s Wrestlemania X. If you can’t love this show, you’re either dead or not a wrestling fan.
So let’s do it this way: Let’s talk about what was so great about the matches, and why they were so important in the future, and what happened to set them up, shall we? Standard rules apply otherwise.
On with the show.
The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania X
– Here’s what was happening at the time, to give an idea where everybody sat:
1993: Yokozuna was of course the WWF champion, having flattened Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring 93. The WWF was bombing under the big guy, big time. Heel champions might fly in Atlanta, but sports entertainment fans still demanded a hero. Unfortunately, the primary one of the 80s had just been turfed out of the WWF a few months previous, nearly taking the credibility of Bret Hart with him. So Vince, not being a terribly creative sort without his advisors to slap some sense into him, decided to create a new superman: Lex Luger. Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna and did an immediate face turn, dumping the infinitely superior “Narcissist” gimmick for the hackneyed “Made in the USA” one. But hey, I’m not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, what do I know? Anyway, after slamming Yoko, Luger embarked on a massive PR campaign to drum up support for a title shot, because Yokozuna was afraid of him and all. Jim Cornette (manager of the champ) finally relented, with the caveat that Luger get *one* title shot, at Summerslam 93, and no more. Luger agreed, and choked in the big match (there’s a surprise…), beating Yoko by countout and thus blowing his one shot. Luger had one chance left: Win the Royal Rumble.
Meanwhile, Bret Hart was having problems of his own with Jerry Lawler. After dropping the WWF title at the wretched Wrestlemania IX, Bret came back to win the first King of the Ring tournament. Jerry “The King” Lawler took exception and attacked him after the win, triggering a long feud between the two. Hart beat the piss out of Lawler at Summerslam, but lost the match on a reversed decision. The entire Hart family got involved, and it was going to be settled at Survivor Series 93, but Lawler was arrested for rape charges, which later turned out to be bogus, so Shawn Michaels took his place. Bret teamed with his brothers (Owen, Keith and Bruce), while Shawn teamed with three masked Knights. The Harts systematically destroyed the heels, but before bowing out, Shawn managed to eliminate Owen with a fluke pinfall. Owen was upset that Bret didn’t protect him, and began challenging him to a match. Bret constantly maintained that he didn’t want to fight his brother. Finally, the brothers reconciled and agreed to team against the Quebecers at the Royal Rumble.
Shawn Michaels: Shawn had lost and regained the Intercontinental title midway through 1993 (acquiring bodyguard Diesel in the process) but a contract dispute caused Shawn to temporarily leave the WWF. The WWF responded by not only holding him to his contract, but stripping him of the Intercontinental title, and holding a battle royale on RAW, with the final two men fighting for the title the next week. Razor Ramon and Rick Martel were the final competitors, and Ramon finished him with ease the next week to claim the belt. However, in November, Shawn re-signed with the WWF, and began appearing on TV again…with the Intercontinental title. Or rather, the belt he took with him when he was suspended. Ramon was none too pleased.
Royal Rumble 1994: Bret and Owen ended up dominating the Quebecers, but Bret injured his knee at one point, and the champions took advantage. They wore him down until he was to the point of not being able to continue, and at a crucial point where Bret could have tagged Owen, he instead chose to apply the Sharpshooter to Pierre. This cost the team the titles, as his knee collapsed and the referee stopped the match and awarded it to the Quebecers. Owen had had enough, and he stomped on Bret’s knee in frustration and stormed back to the dressing room, delivering the semi-famous “You’re Too Selfish!” interview. Bret was hurt badly, but Bastion Booger was also injured, and Bret ended up taking his place in the Rumble match itself. Razor Ramon defended the IC title against Irwin R. Shyster, with Shawn Michaels interfering to apparently give IRS the title, but the decision was reversed. In the Rumble, Both Bret and Lex Luger drew late numbers, and in the end, it was down to the two men. They both ended up tumbling over the top rope and landing at the same time, with several camera angles being inconclusive, so a tie was declared and both men were the winners and would receive the title shot.
The Buildup: It was decided that the fairest idea was to give both men a title shot at Wrestlemania: A coin would be flipped, and the winner would get the first shot, with the other man meeting the World champion in the final match of the night. If Luger won, then he would wrestle for the title first while Bret wrestled Owen Hart (as “suitable competition”). If Bret won, then he would wrestle for the title while Luger met Crush. Luger won. While this was going on, Yokozuna was busy defending his title on RAW, notably against Crush in one match. He beat Crush, then delivered a few extra Banzai drops for good measure, putting him out of wrestling for a few weeks. Randy Savage made the save, but Crush was upset that Savage didn’t call him in the hospital, and when he returned from injury, it was with an evil goatee and Mr. Fuji as his manager. Finally, the WWF decided to end to the controversy between Ramon and Michaels with a ladder match.
And with all that in mind…
– Live from Madison Square Gardens, original airdate March 20, 1994.
– Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.
– Throughout the night are “Wrestlemania Moments”, great little nods to the history of the show.
– Opening match: Bret Hart v. Owen Hart. This was not only a great match, and one of the three matches generally considered the greatest opener of all time (alongside Pillman/Liger and Mysterio/Psycosis), but it was also the match that turned Owen Hart from mid-card joke to main event threat. It also marked the debut of Owen’s current choice of tights. The heat for this match is unreal, as the fans are firmly behind Bret Hart’s side of the story. Owen gives Bret the big stink-eye, which makes Bret distinctly uncomfortable.
And now, the match:
They lockup, and Owen pushes Bret off, then celebrates. Cheap heat, but hey, you take what you can get. Owen gets the best of a wrestling sequence and celebrates. Bret retaliates by sending Owen to the floor, which pisses him off and he slaps Bret upon returning to the ring. Bret takes control, working on the arm. Bret gets two off a cradle, then goes back to the arm. After another terrific wrestling sequence, Owen ends up getting tossed to the floor again, and now Bret celebrates. Crowd is much more appreciative of this. Owen has another fit and a shoving match results, off which Bret gets a rollup for two. Bret back to work on the arm. Bret gets a crucifix for two, then back to the arm. Good psychology here. Owen takes control with his SWANK~! leg lariat and sends Bret to the floor. He rams Bret’s back into the ringpost, establishing the back injury for Bret. Owen gives Bret a cross-corner whip (first time I’ve seen Bret sell it back-first, actually) and hits a backbreaker. FIVE MOVES OF…oh, wait, wrong brother. Owen slaps on a camel clutch while trash-talking his brother. Bret escapes, but gets caught with a belly-to-belly suplex for two. Sweet sassy molassy, I love that belly to belly. Another cross-corner whip, reversed by Bret, and Owen comes off the ropes with a bodypress, which is reversed by Bret for a two count. Owen goes back to the back. Resthold from Owen, thus dropping it from *****. Owen tries to slam Bret, but Bret falls back for a two count. Owen’s kickout sends Bret to the floor. Beautiful sequence as Owen suplexes Bret from the apron, and Bret reverses to a waistlock, which Owen reverses again for a German suplex for two. Just gorgeous wrestling. Legdrop from Owen for two. He goes for a suplex, but Bret cradles for two. He goes for a backbreaker, but Owen flips through and tombstones Bret. Nasty one, too. Flying headbutt misses. Inverted atomic drop and clothesline from Bret for two. Wait for it…wait for it….FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Owen hits an enzuigiri to break it up, then goes for the Sharpshooter. Bret counters. He goes for his own, and Owen counters. Owen cradles for two, but gets kicked out of the ring. Pescado from Bret, but he f*cks up his knee. Owen circles in like a vulture, working on the knee and mocking his brother. What a jerk. Dragon screw legwhip (called “Look at that!” by the ever-astute Mr. McMahon) and a submission move of some sort follows. Another dragon screw, then a figure four, which gets a two count. Bret reverses to break the hold. Owen goes back to work on the knee. Another dragon screw legwhip attempt, but Bret counters with an enzuigiri. Crosscorner whip and legdrop gets two. Bulldog for two. Piledriver for two. Superplex, and both men are out. Bret revives long enough to get a two count. Both get up and Bret hits a sleeper. Owen breaks with a Flair uppercut (Where? Down there…) and Bret drops like a rock. Sharpshooter! Bret powers out and applies his own, but Owen makes the ropes. Bret with a cross corner whip, Owen reverses. Owen eats foot coming into the corner, and Bret goes for a victory roll, but Owen reverses the momentum and lies down on top for the pin! The crowd is in SHOCK. ****3/4…oh, hell, who am I kidding? This is the one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. *****, just because Bret continued selling the leg injury to the end of the show.
– Owen does his victory interview.
– Howard Finkel shows us his new toupee. Wow, that didn’t last long.
– Doink and Dink v. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna. And into every life a little crap must fall. Among the things that killed Bigelow’s career, this ranks pretty highly. This is the transition show, as Matt Bourne was turfed from the WWF and replaced with indy worker Ray Licachelli, who continues to use the gimmick today. Surprisingly, the match doesn’t totally suck, as Ray isn’t a bad little worker. I could’ve done without the Luna and Dink stuff here, but to paraphrase Jim Ross, they never promised a scientific classic. Bigelow finishes this with a flying headbutt on Doink. Worth about *1/2, actually.
– “Mr. President” is in the crowd, you see. Sitting beside Billy Red Lyons. Yeah, right. It is of course that Bill Clinton imitator guy.
– Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage v. Crush. In pre-hardcore WWF days, the stips were that you had to pin your opponent anywhere *but* the ring, and then the pinned guy would have 60 seconds to beat the count back to the ring. Good enough.
First fall: Crush jumps Savage in the aisle, and drops him on the railing for the pin. Savage beats the count.
Second fall: Crush tries to throw salt in Savage’s face, but he kicks it back into Crush’s face. Double axehandle, bodyslam, big elbow, then he rolls Crush onto the floor and pins him. Fuji revives Crush with a pitcher of water and Crush beats the count.
Third fall: Savage takes his last Wrestlemania MANSIZED bump, getting backdropped over the top rope, and they fight to the dressing room. Savage rams Crush into a bunch of doors, then pins him. He hogties Crush in a scaffolding (doing a shitty job of it), but Crush plays dead long enough for Savage to win the match. ** Savage’s last hurrah in the WWF.
– “Mr. President” is interviewed again. Geez, remember when the most controversial material Lawler had to use against Clinton was his love of McDonalds?
– Women’s title: Alundra Blayze v. Leilani Kai. As short as Kai is old. For those who complain about the cheap T&A of the current Women’s division, just remember: FABULOUS MOOLAH COULD COME OF RETIREMENT AT ANY TIME. Blah blah blah, Blayze hits the GERMAN SUPLEX OF DEATH and gets the pin to retain. Next. *
– WWF World tag team title: The Quebecers v. Men on a Mission. As a rough guide to what we had to put up with even before Mabel’s singles push, Oscar is not only a bad manager and generally worthless human being, but he’s also an INCREDIBLY BAD RAPPER. I mean, shit, I’m as white as they come and *I* could probably do a better job. Oh wait, before we get to the match, it’s a Sports Entertainment Moment.
– Toad Pedophile interviews Rhonda Shear (who?), but Shawn Michaels interrupts. Burt “It’s past 5 PM so I’m drunk off my ass” Reynolds makes the save. Man, that guy was going down the tubes before Boogie Nights saved his career.
Anyway, back to the match. I love the Quebecers (in a manly sort of way) and Johnny Polo is a god among men (but Raven sucks). Brother Zen points out that Johnny is wearing a Versace suit here. Quebecers get to show off a lot of their SWANK offense, as Pierre bumps around like a Mick Foley disciple. No wonder Bret Hart was able to carry the guy to a great match. Les Quebecois even manage to double suplex Mabel. He comes back with a FAT-ASSED leg lariat (Dick Togo has nothing on Mabel for sheer Fat-Assed-Ness). Mo adds his own useless offense, but the champs hit the cannonball thingie for two. MOM come back with the assisted splash, and then everyone ends up on the outside and Pierre gets splashed out there. MOM beats the count for the win. Pretty okay at times. **1/2
– WWF World title match #1: Yokozuna v. Lex Luger. Donnie “My little brother is a bigger star than I ever was” Walhberg is the guest ring announcer, and Rhonda Shear is the guest timekeeper (that would require the ability to count past ten, right?). The WWF was teasing guest referees for the two title matches, and the first one is…Mr Perfect! Good pop for that. Luger actually looks decent for the first few minutes, hitting a flying bodypress and The Elbow Which Never Hits. But Yoko, who has the superhuman ability to make ANY match suck, goes for the DREADED VULCAN NEVER PINCH OF UTTER DAMNATION, and, well, that’s pretty much the entire match. 10 minutes of Yoko applying the nervehold. FAST FORWARD!
Hi, welcome to ten minutes later. Luger makes the comeback, slamming the evil sumo wrestling, and nailing the LOADED STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DESTRUCTION, thus knocking Yoko out. BUT WAIT! Here’s Fuji…bam. Here’s Cornette…bam. Crowd is going crazy. Luger triumphantly goes for the cover…and Perfect won’t count. Still upset about WM9 or something, I guess. Luger gives him a love tap, and Perfect rings the bell, DQ’ing Lexy. Oooooooh, that’s gotta hurt. Wanna hear a LOUD “Bullshit” chant? There ya go. This pretty much marked the end of Lex’s usefulness in the main event ranks and wrestling in general, as Lex was now forever stuck with the choker label. 1/4*
– Earthquake vs. Adam Bomb. Oh, wait. Harvey Wippleman is out to lay a vicious tongue-lashing on Fink (which would in turn lead to the epic tuxedo match which I always regretted not taping…HAH!), and Fink pops him one. See, ALL the faces go over. Adam Bomb is out to defend the honor of his manager, and Earthquake follows. 10 seconds later, Earthquake has the win. DUD
– Jim Cornette delivers a classic overblown ranting interview, declaring that there’s no way in hell that Bret Hart can possibly beat Yokozuna, no way, uh uh, forgetaboutit, might as well go home right now.
– WWF Intercontinental title match: Razor Ramon v. Shawn Michaels. Oh, c’mon, it’s the FREAKIN’ LADDER MATCH. Do you REALLY need me to recap this one for you? Shawn and Razor redefine wrestling by beating the HOLY LIVING CRAP out of each other with the ladder, thus making Shawn’s career. Each guy takes about three MAN-SIZED bumps, and Shawn shows off his ass for the first time. You can’t sit there and recap this one, you just have to sit back and go “OUCH!” at the proper time to appreciate it. The famous ending is of course Shawn climbing the ladder after about 15 teased finishes, but Razor knocking it over and Shawn falling crotch-first onto the top rope and tangling himself up long enough for Ramon to climb up himself and “re-unify” the real and fake I-C belts. If you don’t like this match, you’re a retard. ***** Worth the rental right here, and the fact that it’s actually a better match than the opener just makes it all the more astonishly great. Shawn and Razor exchange hammerlocks and a hiptoss to start, but Razor gets a chokeslam. Shawn follows with a neckbreaker and stomps away. Ramon gets dumped out, and Diesel sneaks out and lays him out. Hebner objects him over Diesel’s objections that he didn’t see anything. Ramon nails Shawn and sends him upside-down in the corner, then dumps him. Brawl on the floor, where Ramon stops to pull up the padding before heading back in. He goes for the Razor’s Edge early, but Shawn backdrops him out of the ring, and onto the exposed concrete. Sick Bump #1. Shawn grabs the ladder, and Ramon steals it so Shawn heads into the ring and baseball slides it into Ramon’s face. Sick Bump #2. That also draws the first ‘Oooooooh’ from the crowd, of many. Shawn puts the ladder into the ring and nails Razor with it, then pistons it into his ribs from a standing position. He drops it on Ramon’s back, then waits for him to stand up and casually tosses it at Ramon’s back. Sick Bump #3. Shawn makes the first climb, but gets his tights pulled down. He shoves Ramon down and drops an elbow off the ladder. He sets it up in the corner and hits a flying splash off the top, another famous visual. He climbs, but Ramon pushes him over to stop him. They do a headlock/crisscross sequence for a double-KO. Shawn sets the ladder up in the corner, but gets whipped into it and goes to the floor. Ramon follows and makes a Shawn sandwich, with the ladder and the post as bread. Sick Bump #4. Ramon puts the ladder against the apron and catapults Shawn into it. Back in, he puts the butt-end of the ladder right into Shawn’s jaw and Shawn bails. Sick Bump #5. He climbs, but Shawn comes back in via the top rope and knocks him off. The ladder crashes on top of him in the process. Both guys climb and slug it out, leading to Shawn getting suplexed off the ladder. Ramon falls off and climbs back up, but Shawn dropkicks the ladder and Ramon crashes off. Shawn pushes the ladder onto him for good measure. Superkick puts Ramon down, and a piledriver follows. He climbs a folded ladder in the corner and rides it down onto Ramon. Sick Bump #6. Shawn puts the ladder in the middle with Ramon laying underneath it, just to be a jerk, but it backfires when Ramon recovers and pushes the ladder over, tying Shawn in the ropes in the process. Razor climbs unhindered and claims both the real and bogus I-C titles to become the undisputed champion at 18:47. ***** One of the best and most influential matches of the modern era.
– A big argument in the back cancels that exciting 10 man match.
– Main Event, WWF title match #2: Yokozuna v. Bret Hart. Burt Reynolds is the guest ring announcer/alcoholic, and some bimbo is the guest timekeeper. Burt slurs his way through the introductions, and oh yeah the guest referee is…Roddy Piper. The roof nearly blows off the place. Bret is STILL selling the knee injury as he enters the ring. He just can’t get it going against Yoko, who seems to be working a little harder here than earlier in the evening. Piper nails Cornette to completely send the fans home happy. Yoko nails a belly to belly and goes for the BUTT SPLASH OF DOOM, but he falls off due to being SO FAT, and Bret covers for the surprise pin. Now THAT’S a pop. Match is only about *, but who cares? What a great moment. Everyone pours into the ring to celebrate, except for Owen Hart, who stands in the aisle doing his Raven impression. End of show.
The Bottom Line: Vince isn’t very good at apologizing, as the period of time after Survivor Series 97 showed. This, however, was his own way of saying “I’m sorry for not believing in you” to Bret Hart, after taking the title off him a year previous to this. It was also a kick-ass way to retrain the WWF fans into liking wrestling rather than 2 minute Hulk Hogan matches, and it must’ve worked, because Bret and Shawn became two of the biggest stars of the 90s.
I mean, sure the rest of the card wasn’t so good, but who cares? The stuff that worked, worked BIG-TIME. This was the ultimate slap in the face to Ted Turner, as Vince watched him take his big stars en masse, and then proceeded to put on a show that would put EVERYTHING pumped out by WCW for the next three years completely to shame. That’s talent, and this quite simply is the best WWF show EVER. The best in terms of workrate, setup, hype, payoff and sheer entertainment value. Everyone who watched it left saying “Now that’s a good show”.
Now that’s a good show.
Tags: Bret Hart, Scott Keith, SmarK Rant, WrestleMania, Wrestlemania 10, WWE