The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania VIII
– Live from Indianapolis, Indiana. Original airdate: April 5, 1992
– Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan.
– Personal reminiscense: This was the last Wrestlemania that I had to watch on closed-circuit TV rather than PPV, because in 1992 Edmonton finally got PPV capability. In this case, the only place close that was showing it was a hotel in a rather out-of-the-way chunk of Edmonton called Sherwood Park. Sadly, I can’t even remember the name of it now. But I did get a cool Wrestlemania logo mug, which I proudly retain and use to this day. Anyway, there ended up being a couple of hundred people packed into a ballroom that was only expecting 40 or 50, and the atmosphere for the show in that room alone was pretty awesome.
– Opening match: Tito Santana v. Shawn Michaels. The more things change, the more they really, really change. This was the end of Santana’s WWF career and the beginning of Shawn’s rise to the top. Good choice for the opener. Michaels and Sherri are nowhere near over yet, despite the coolest jacket ever: “I’m too sexy for this crowd.” And “Sexy Boy” sounds so weird still being sung by Sherri. Sherri looks skanky and pudgy as ever, so nice to know some things are constant. It’s funny comparing then and now, actually — I didn’t buy Michaels as any kind of legit title threat until 1994, and I certainly didn’t buy him as a possible World champion until he almost won the thing from Diesel in 1995. Quite a bit of stalling and a few good bumps from Shawn about sum this one up. Another “then and now” moment: The main event, the show stopper, the scene stealer, the ICON…in the opening match? Side-headlocks a go-go from Tito. Shawn hits the Sweet Chin Music at one point, but the move isn’t over yet so does minimal damage. He was using the teardrop suplex at this point, btw, and for those who ask a teardrop suplex is, for lack of a better description, a released backdrop suplex. Pretty nasty if done right. The match has a hot ending, however, as Shawn sells like a champ before reversing a slam attempt into a pin. Ending looked a bit messed up for some reason. *1/2
– Mean Gene brings out the LOD and Paul Ellering for a *lengthy* interview. This was the precursor to Rocco, which I pray will never be spoken of again. By anyone.
– Jake Roberts v. The Undertaker. Now *this* is how you bury a guy whose contract is up. This is shortly after the UT’s face turn, and he’s getting mega-pops even then. This is the “final justice” match for all the bad stuff Jake did during his “Trust me” run, and boy does he *ever* get his. UT no-sells everything and then some, including the DDT, and easily pins Jake after tombstoning him on the floor. An utter and complete slaughter. DUD, but a satisfying one for those sick of Jake’s heel tactics.
– WWF Intercontinental title: Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Bret Hart. Piper had substituted for Bret at the Royal Rumble, winning the I-C title from the Mountie, who had in turn won the title from Bret a few days prior. So now Bret and Piper fight. This is a lesson in ring psychology, as Bret and Roddy play mindgames with each other the entire match. Bret debuts the “goldbricking” routine that Diesel fell victim to at Survivor Series 1995. Bret juices, just for the hell of it. Piper works very stiff here, with noticable results. Ref gets bumped and Piper teases a heel turn with the ringbell before the fans change his mind. He goes for the sleeper instead, but Bret walks the ropes and rolls through for the pin and the title. **** Piper’s best match in the WWF, IMO. Piper and Hart do the Babyface Embrace after the match.
– Bobby introduces us to “future WBF champion” Lex Luger. Whoever thought the WBF was a good idea? Oh, yeah, same guy who thought the XFL is.
– The Nasty Boys & Repo Man & The Mountie v. Jim Duggan & Sgt. Slaughter & Virgil & Big Bossman. Oh, wow, it’s the “8 suckiest guys in wrestling today in the same match” match. Okay, that’s not fair — Jacques Rougeau isn’t that bad. Ray Combs does a lame ring introduction, mocking the heels. Hold on! Shawn Michaels has left the building. Whew, I feel better now. This is not as incredibly bad as you might think it is, which is to say it’s not quite a DUD. Virgil pins Knobs after a miscommunication spot. 1/2*
– WWF World title: Ric Flair v. Randy Savage. This is the blowoff for the “She was mine before she was yours” feud. I never really cared for the “sign the match, then add the angle” approach to this, but it won Feud of the Year or Angle of the Year or something on RSPW, so I guess many disagreed with me. This is arguably Savage’s last really great match in the WWF, with the possible exception of Savage v. Warrior from Summerslam 1992. Super-hot crowd. Perfect is almost Togo-ish in his TOTAL DICKHOOD~! Flair blades, and I was half-expecting Savage to join him in a sympathy blade, but no dice. Flair dominates, but Savage makes the superhero comeback and destroys Flair, finally hitting the big elbow. But Perfect yanks him out of the ring to make the save. What a jerk (You know it’s a good character when you can still sit back years later and think he’s a total jerk for doing that). Flair tries the old brass knucks, but Savage kicks out. They cheat outrageously some more, allowing Flair to get the figure-four. He destroys Savage’s knee unmercifully, but stalls one time too many and allows Savage to roll him up out of nowhere for the pin and title. ****1/4 Great match. Flair goes after Liz and a wild brawl erupts. Savage finally gets his moment of glory, without You-Know-Who posing in the background. Good for him.
– Flair gives a classic ranting and raving interview, where he conveniently ignores the 14 or so rule violations committed by himself and focuses on Savage’s pulling of the tights.
– Savage responds with his own psychotic interview. Great feud.
– We pretty much go downhill from there.
– Rick Martel v. Tatanka. Tatanka was getting the Maivia-level push at this time, despite his near-total lack of talent. Nothing match here, only there to put Tatanka over. T-t-t-t-t-t-tanka rolls through a body block for the pin. *1/2
– WWF Tag Team Title: Money, Inc. v. The Natural Disasters. Jimmy Hart had recently swerved the Disasters and gone over to Dibiase & IRS, setting up this match. Earthquake and Typhoon basically mop the ring with the champs for a few minutes, before they run away, giving the Disasters a countout win. DUD Well, one screwjob so far ain’t bad.
– Owen Hart v. Skinner. Could’ve been good, but time constraints dictated otherwise. Skinner gets a few big moves in quickly, but Owen kicks out and rolls him up for a very quick pin. DUD
– Main Event: Hulk Hogan v. Sid Justice. Standard “Hogan gets betrayed” blowoff match. The formula was getting very old by this point. Kick and punch, heel gets the Big Move, Hogan kicks out and Hulks Up, boot, legdrop. Except he doesn’t get the pin — Papa Shango was supposed to run in and break up the count, but he didn’t make down in time and Sid was forced to kick out. Oops. It wasn’t a shoot, despite popular opinion on the ‘net. Sid & Shango put the beats on Hogan until…THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR RUNS IN! Wow, was this an electrifying moment when it happened. Incredible way to end the show, as Hogan and Warrior pose in happier times. Match is maybe 1/4* I shudder to think how bad it can get next month.
The Bottom Line: One of the most memorable Wrestlemanias, and for good reason. Two ****+ matches and the biggest surprise ending ever. Wow. Required viewing material for all wrestling fans, I think.