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!
(Note: Once again, The Curse of Scott strikes, as I go on hiatus while moving for a week and we lose Bam Bam Bigelow and 11 guys get fired. Last year, I went on vacation for a week and Eddie Guerrero died. The lesson here: I should never leave home.)
The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania XI
– Live from Hartford, CT
– Your hosts are Vinnie Mac and Jerry Lawler
– Sure, this is one of the lesser Wrestlemanias, but of course the untimely death of Bam Bam Bigelow made it a natural tribute to him.
The Allied Powers (Lex Luger & British Bulldog) v. The Blu Twins
The Blu Twins are of course the Harris Brothers, back when they had hair. The Blus attack to start, but the forces of democracy clean house and then stop to invade Iraq. Bulldog starts proper with, I dunno, Jacob and gets a delayed suplex for two. Clothesline for both Blus clears the ring again and he grabs a headlock, but a cheapshot turns the tide. The Twins switch off with some uneventful double-teaming and a sideslam, which sets up a double boot to the Bulldog. The Twins do the switch and Eli gets two. Jacob goes up and misses whatever, and it’s hot tag Luger. Wow! A kneelift! Why didn’t they just put the World title on him right then? Powerslam and the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DOOM get two, and it’s a donnybrook. Luger might as well be calling in his half of things from a cell phone in the corner. Another switch and Jacob tries a piledriver in the babyface corner, but Bulldog comes in with a sunset flip to finish. You’ll note that once Luger jumped back to WCW in time for Nitro to begin, he became motivated again.
(The Allied Powers d. The Blu Twins, Bulldog sunset flip — pin Jacob, 6:37, *1/4) Not one of the more stellar openers in Wrestlemania history, for sure.
Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Razor Ramon
The presence of 1-2-3 Kid at ringside, in his pajamas, reminds me of a show about Hollywood marriages gone bad, which I guess came from the E! Network, and one of the segments focused on the happy life of Sean Waltman and Joanie Laurer, which actually resulted in Waltman being involved in a serious interview about life as a celebrity. What next, an interview with Joanie about life as a woman? Ramon and his bitch clear the ring to start, and Ramon slugs Jarrett down for two. That’s quite the punch. Another one gets two. Maybe it’s the smell of hooch on his breath? God knows that Hall and Waltman together in the same room is a recipe for disaster…
Ramon blocks a sunset flip for two and sends Jarrett into the Roadie for two, but an attempt at the Razor’s Edge is stopped by the Roadie and they regroup on the floor. The Kid does his scary karate moves at Jarrett to chase him back in the ring, and Ramon gets two. I wonder if he did that before beating Joanie…
Ramon clears the ring, but walks into a dropkick from Jarrett, who proceeds to take over. We hit the chinlock, but Ramon blocks a hiptoss with a backslide for two. Jarrett slugs away and grabs a sleeper, then takes him down by the hair for two. We hit the chinlock and Ramon escapes with a backdrop suplex, but it’s a double-KO. Although it could just be that only Jarrett was supposed to be out and Ramon partied too hard the night before. Kid rallies the crowd, but I’m sorry, I just can’t seriously get behind a guy wearing silk dragon pajamas. Ramon recovers first with a fallaway slam for two. Discus punch and Kid gets involved, but it backfires on him, like making a porno video with his girlfriend. Jarrett, now on a roll, takes out the knee and goes to a figure-four, but Ramon fights out of it, because I guess he got the really GOOD drugs that night…
Ramon comes back with a backdrop superplex, but his knee is injured. Razor’s Edge, but the Roadie runs in for the DQ. Kid tries to save, but the forces of evil are too much, and Lawler notes that “The Kid just got hammered!” Truer words have never been spoken.
(Razor Ramon d. Jeff Jarrett, interference — DQ, 13:29, **1/2) Technically competent, but it did nothing for me and felt like they were repeating the script from Royal Rumble.
King Kong Bundy v. The Undertaker
Hey, remember that angle where a heel stole the urn and then Undertaker fought him to get it back? Well, this was one of them. The special referee is baseball umpire Larry Young, so at least the steroid use won’t shock him or anything. Taker goes old school right away and tries to clothesline Bundy down, but takes three times to get him down. Bundy responds with his own, and Taker bails and steals the urn back. He stops to worship the almighty flashlight contained within. Let us all pay homage to Eveready, provider of light and AA batteries! Kama runs out and steals the urn right back, but Undertaker is remarkably nonplussed by the situation and goes right back to beating on Bundy. Bundy comes back with a slam, which UT no-sells, and another clothesline puts him on the floor again. Back in, Bundy chokes away and they have an epic slugfest, which ends when Bundy drops a knee for two. We hit the chinlock, as apparently the drama of people stealing the urn and other people stealing it back has been exhausted and now we have to actually watch these guys wrestle…
Taker fights up, but gets Avalanched, which he no-sells. He slams Bundy and gets the jumping clothesline for the pin. A clothesline? What is this, Survivor Series?
(Undertaker d. King Kong Bundy, clothesline — pin, 6:38, 1/4*) This was more one of those matches that sounded like a dream match on paper, rather than something anyone in their right mind would want to sit through.
WWF World tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & Yokozuna
Owen and Jim Neidhart were eliminated from the tag title tournament under dubious circumstances, so now Owen gets a title shot with a partner of his choice. Billy Gunn slugs it out with Owen to start, and the Gunns work on his arm in the corner. Owen brings in Yokozuna, who quickly slams Bart, but misses an elbow. Owen comes in with a criss-cross, but Bart takes him down with an armbar and the Gunns double-team him with a double legsweep, then clear the ring. A nice double-team sees Billy hitting a neckbreaker on Owen out of a backdrop suplex position by Bart, and Bart sends Owen into the corner for two. A sideslam/legdrop combo gets two for Billy. Owen makes the blind tag to Yokozuna, and a legdrop kills Billy dead. Not even his gigantic mullet could protect him from that one. Owen rams him into the ringpost for good measure. Back in, we hit the chinlock. Owen tries to come in with a missile dropkick, but it hits Yoko instead and it’s hot tag Bart. Press slam for Owen, but Billy comes in and runs into a belly-to-belly from Yoko. Banzai drop and Billy is a pancake, so Owen takes the pin and the titles himself.
(Owen Hart & Yokozuna d. The Smoking Gunns, Owen pin Billy, 5:47, **1/4) This was an oddly structured tag match, with no real heat segment, and really just a sense of the inevitable title change to it.
“I Quit” match: Bret Hart v. Mr. Bob Backlund
This was the final blowoff of a rather underappreciated feud in the 90s — that of Bob Backlund taking on the forces of sanity and losing. Although Bob never really drew any money as champion, it still stands as testimony that someone, anyone, can reinvent himself into something of value given a chance. Except for Paul Roma, f*ck him. Bret and Bob actually had very good chemistry together, as Bret was the kind of guy who could effortlessly work Bob’s ultra-old school style and make it look believable for the era in which he was competing.
Bret hammers away to start, and drops elbows, to no avail. He chokes away in the corner and Bob still won’t quit. I’m as shocked as you. Bret tries the Sharpshooter already, but Bob counters out, so it’s a figure-four instead. Bob reverses and then makes the ropes, but Bret stays on the leg. This part is not very exciting, so Piper clowns it up by asking both Bob and then Bret if they quit. Bob recovers and starts to work on the arm, but Bret avoids the chickenwing. Bob hammerlocks him on the mat and works on a weak Fujiwara armbar and then a standing armbar. This whole portion drags on so long that I have time to write a haiku about my feelings:
Gave Shawn Michaels the title.
Fuck you, Vince McMahon.
Bret comes back with a backbreaker, but misses the blind charge and splats into the ringpost, which sets up the crossface chickenwing, Bob’s deadly and unbreakable submission hold. Bret, however, reverses the move into his own, and Bob quits.
(Bret Hart d. Bob Backlund, chickenwing — submission, 9:34, **) This was really much more boring than I remembered, basically coming down to Backlund working an armbar and then quitting from his own hold.
WWF World title: Diesel v. Shawn Michaels
This is one of those matches where it was the logical blowoff for the long-simmering feud between them, and makes perfect sense in hindsight (and mostly at the time as well), but it didn’t draw worth shit and they so completely overcompensated in trying to make Shawn look like a threat that it actually became sort of an assumption that Shawn would win the title here. The big swerve here is that Diesel has Pam Anderson in his corner, back when people gave a shit about her. Remember when she used to be considered classy? Homemade porno and Hep C is a bad combination for your public image, kids.
Shawn slugs away to start and gets a rollup, but Diesel escapes and clotheslines that crap out of him. Shawn, in his first shot at the bigtime, sells it like death before coming back to work on the arm. Diesel casually tosses him into the corner and follows with a backdrop, and then Shawn takes a nasty bump out of the ring and takes out an innocent photographer in the process. Back in, Shawn dodges an elbow and slugs away in the corner, but walks into the original elbow. Diesel follows with a suplex and big boot, and Shawn bumps out again. Back in, they both get crotched on the top rope and Shawn clotheslines him out and follows with a bodypress to the floor. He follows that with a baseball slide as they keep cutting a bored-looking Pamela at ringside.
Shawn goes to work on the injured ribs, splashing him from the apron, and distracting the ref long enough for Sid to sneak over…although not long enough for Sid to do anything. Back in, Shawn starts slugging him down, not really working on anything in particular. Top rope bulldog gets two. He slugs Diesel down again and springboards out of the corner with an elbow for two. He keeps pounding away and goes up with a flying elbow to the back, which gets two. Diesel keeps fighting off a facelock attempt, as this match has a really bizarre psychology about it, with the little guy dominating with speed instead of acting as an underdog. Their 1996 rematch told a much better story, with heel Diesel kicking the everloving shit out of babyface champion Shawn, but Shawn using that speed and brains to overcome the giant. This is just…weird.
Shawn grabs a sleeper, and Diesel miraculously recovers and chases him out of the ring, taking out the referee in process while making the comeback as they brawl outside. Back in, Shawn gets the superkick out of nowhere, but the ref is out of it. Sid undoes the turnbuckle, but once again irony proves ironic and Diesel counters with a backdrop suplex for the double KO. Shawn recovers first and gets two. Another bulldog attempt is countered into a sideslam by Diesel, and he catapults Shawn into the exposed turnbuckle. Sort of, as Shawn actually miscalculates and lands on the middle one instead, thus defeating the purpose of the spot. Diesel, oblivious to anal retentive wrestling fans snickering at the faux pas, powerbombs Shawn anyway and gets the pin.
(Diesel d. Shawn Michaels, powerbomb — pin, 20:40, ***1/2) Eh, it had a beat and I could dance to it, but it was pretty much 110% Shawn bumping his ass off to carry the match, and they had far better matches later on. Diesel and all the pathetic C-list celebrities from this show (The kid from Home Improvement! Some guy from NYPD Blue!) celebrate at the end as they desperately try to give Kevin Nash every rub possible.
Bam Bam Bigelow v. Lawrence Taylor
This of course was the apex of Bigelow’s career, as he main evented a Wrestlemania and fought a celebrity. LT attacks to start and Bigelow bumps around for him, including a clothesline that puts him on the floor. Back in, Taylor catches a bulldog for two. He throws forearms, which is smart for someone who can’t do worked punches, and Bigelow bails. After some trashtalk between the two entourages, Bigelow gives Taylor a cheapshot and starts working him over in the ring. He pounds away. Powerslam sets up a headbutt, which misses. Taylor tries to fight back with another forearm, but gets sent into the corner by Bam Bam and choked down. Bigelow slugs him down, into a Boston Crab, but LT can’t sell it properly and Bigelow turns it into a leglock instead. Taylor makes the ropes, so Bigelow reapplies and LT makes the ropes again. Taylor keeps throwing the forearms, and suddenly comes back with a backdrop suplex. Bigelow recovers first and pounds him down again, then follows with the moonsault. He suffers an apparent knee injury on the move and can’t cover right away, and thus only gets two. Nice bit of disbelief-suspension there. Taylor catches Bigelow with his head down and tries a powerbomb, but only gets kind of a half-one. They explain that Diesel trained him, so no wonder it was half-assed. That gets two. Bigelow comes back with an enzuigiri and goes up to finish, as the diving headbutt gets two. Taylor comes back again and works him over in the corner, then throws another forearm to take him down. To the top, and a flying forearm gets the upset pin.
(Lawrence Taylor d. Bam Bam Bigelow, forearm — pin, 11:42, ***) Actually quite a decent match, with LT throwing effective forearms and consistently going back to them because they worked. The selling was hit-or-miss, to say the least, but for a celebrity match it was quite worthwhile. The Horsemen v. Mongo/Greene match at Great American Bash 96 would easily top it, however, and Bigelow’s career revival ended up flaming out soon after this. Still, he got to have his moment, and didn’t disappoint when put in the spotlight, so that’s all you can ask of him.
The Pulse: Not the WORST Wrestlemania ever, but certainly one of the dullest, as they trumped it up with silly celebrities to disguise the total lack of direction that the promotion was suffering through at that point. Nitro really was the kick in the ass that Vince needed.
Recommendation to avoid.
Tags: lawrence taylor, Scott Keith, SmarK Rant, WrestleMania, Wrestlemania 11, WWE