Pulse Wrestling Answers #018

The truly crazy-busy week comes to an end with WRESTLEMANIA and good heavens even I am excited about this show. That’s more down to the party antics accompanying it than the show itself but still, it makes a pleasant change for WWE events and me to get along.

I am quite certain that this column will go up after Mania and thus be promptly buried like a black guy taking on Triple H in his hometown but allow me to pimp the pre-Mania columns and features here at Pulse Wrestling one last time:

Mike Fitzgerald recaps the greatest upsets in WrestleMania history and inadvertantly calls me a bare faced liar.

Scott Keith does his reposting thang…

GRUT Does Detroit. Film at eleven.

PK marches his mad figures along to the Final Four…

Pulse Glazer has his own WrestleMania special up. It would have included me had I found a way to add extra hours to the clock. Next time, I’m in.

Rabblecast.

Dream Matches are always worth a ponderin’, and some of the staff have hooffed theirs into being for your glorious benefit. Rob Blatt stuck to the bare essentials but Grut has the best idea, methinks.

And don’t dare miss our Rasslin’ Roundtable or HYPNOTOAD will blink all over you.

Now, onto queries and the like:

Here comes the one and only Flannigan:

”Hey, like the column. Just had a quickie in regards to last week’s WM hype and such What do you think is the most important match in WrestleMania history? I’d be tempted to go with Rock/Austin at X-7, taking into account the prestige, money, attention involved or Hogan/Andre for the WOW factor… or even Michaels/Hall for a totally other sorta WOW… dunno, thoughts?”

Rock/Austin? Nah. Allow me to present the official:

Top Ten Most Important WrestleMania Matches:

10/ Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan [WM9]

I should start off by again pointing out that this is a list of the most important Mania matches, not the most enjoyable ones. It isn’t even a match in any real sense of the word, only twenty-something seconds of salt-throwing, leg-dropping and pin-counting. Meanwhile, halfway around the world, I finish watching my very first live televised wrestling event by embarking on some name-calling, tantrum-throwing and object-hurling. Thankfully the TV survived but my interest in the WWF almost didn’t. It wouldn’t be until over a year later, when I spotted a cover of WWF Magazine with Bret Hart hoisting the title belt at WrestleMania X, that I felt compelled to watch again. Maybe my reaction was a bit extreme (XTREEEM~~! LOL!1) but judging from the fall-out most other fans felt equally irritated with Hogan. Looking back now, it seems blindingly obvious what was going to happen but at the time it did seem like we were going to get the first WrestleMania to not include Hogan in the main event. Instead, a confused Vince McMahon thrust the title back onto him for lack of any better ideas. The decision tanked and was an insulting ending to an insulting show. Hogan made just one appearance in a WWF ring for the next ten years, lowering himself to actually losing the belt, and McMahon was forced into taking a different approach… it involved Lex Luger driving a bus. Eventually, as was common for the period, McMahon turned to Bret Hart and freed the promotion from the spectre of Hulkamania. The ‘New Generation’ hardly set the world alight but they were a necessary step on the road to a recovery Attitude and it was this match that enforced that transformation.

9/ Wendi Richter vs. Leilani Kai [WM1]

A match that gets overlooked far too often, no doubt in large part thanks to WWE giving it such little respect in their ever-changing retroactive history. The first WrestleMania would probably have still turned a profit had this match not taken place but it’s doubtful that the WWF would have become quite so ingrained into popular culture without the involvement of MTV via Cyndi Lauper. Really, the only other celebrities to have had a bigger Mania presence were Mike Tyson and – perhaps – Donald Trump. Even Mr T at the same event hadn’t quite as big an impact, since most of the attention in his segments went to Hogan anyway. Unfortunately, neither Richter nor Kai were able to benefit much from all the heat surrounding their match. Long-term events have diminished its stature with a lot of people, as Lauper drifted from the music scene, Richter was booted from the wrestling scene, Kai became persona non grata and women’s wrestling never became anywhere near as big until they stopped just wanting to have fun and resorted to taking their clothes off. Makes it a wonder that any male wrestling fan is capable of having a healthy and happy relationship with a woman, really. Ultimately, whilst far from the be-all and end-all of Mania matches, this more than accomplished everything it set out to do and was pivotal to the Rock N Wrestling movement that conquered the North American wrestling scene. Boobies.

8/ The Undertaker vs. Jimmy Snuka [WM7]

It’s important for one reason and one reason only – beginning Taker’s winning streak. How a winning streak could attain such importance at a predetermined sporting event will escape all but the least sensible of minds, so allow me to explain. Pick any of us self-important online fans and ask us what we think of the WWE Championship, or even the World Heavyweight Title, and chances are we would just roll our eyes and spout out some convoluted nonsense about how to put them onto the right people so that they seem important again. If we’re in a hurry we’ll just mutter something about spinning, or how the other one was just made up a few years ago. Nobody needs to make the streak seem important again. It already is and that’s because it is both a measure of the character and of the man. By WM7 the character had not yet even been around for more than six months and nobody could possibly have imagined it would outlive such idiotic contemporaries as The Mountie or Tugboat. To those in the know, the Undertaker was just another repackaged WCW reject with a daft gimmick. To the rest, he was either addicted to no-selling or a freaky-looking enigma. Of course, the enigmatic part soon shone through and lit up a path that will one day lead him into the Hall of Fame. People can point to the make-up, the costumes, the lighting, the outlandish storylines, Paul Bearer or even the nostalgia factor that came to prominence recently but the fact is that the character was kept strong because of the man behind it. Calaway invested himself in the role, developed it over time, persisted through years as a sideshow attraction, proved an exceptionally loyal company man and turned into a strong locker room leader when the Michaels/Hart factions threatened to explode over everyone else. That’s why nobody begrudges the streak. Consider the response to someone like Hogan going 14-0 at Mania – hellfire and brimstone indeed. Even people that want to see the streak end so somebody else can get over on the back of it recognise its monumental nature. Those who never want to see it end recognise that nobody else is ever likely to match it and don’t begrudge Calaway retiring with a truly unique honour for his years of service. It’s probably fair to say that neither of these groups want it to end by Taker losing to an overexposed, ageing, unreliable and stale Batista. Besides, logic dictates an encounter with 5-0 Edge next year – should he become Mr MITB again. Anyway, it all began here, a match whose only non-retrospective feature was scaring the piss out of wee Macauley Culkin. It was far from Taker’s best Mania match (HHH), or his worst (Gonzalez), or even his funniest (Orton), instead being little more than filler material of WWF Superstars quality. At least it gave Snuka one last Mania appearance to try and better his random “somebody love me” cameo at WM5.

7/ Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels [WM10]

This one firmly established the Clique as a dominant force in the WWF, both backstage and in the ring. The match is a classic, a Savage/Steamboat for the ‘90s, though I’m still in the minority that sees the Bret/Owen cage match from SummerSlam ’94 as the best match of that year. Still, there is no denying that as the first (major) Ladder Match it was a tremendous precedent, one which inspired the TLC crew as well as countless other would-be spot-monkeys/show-stealers. It occurred on a card that was book-ended by the triumphant Harts, yet the majority of the audience no doubt left talking about this match. Over the course of the ensuing year the WWF became concerned not with sustaining Bret’s momentum but with pushing the Michaels/Hall/Nash tandem, which would soon add a certain triumvirate of Hs to their group. Building on the momentum of this encounter, the Clique were able to bend the ear of those in charge. Subsequently, the WWF hand-picked Nash and then Michaels as their figureheads, all the while frustrating the popular and talented Bret as a chain of events unravelled along a road that would soon crack into Montreal. As the match that made everybody view Michaels as more than just ‘that guy from the Rockers’, not to mention the fact that it just plain rocked, this one is truly noteworthy.

6/ Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat [WM3]

The first true Mania classic. Personally, it was the match that got me hooked on the crazy little so-called sport of ours as WM3 was the first wrestling event I watched, borrowing a bootleg VHS tape from a kid in the playground. The main event, which we’ll get to in a bit, was one hell of a spectacle but it was the lure of seeing more flawless battles like Savage/Steamboat that made me stick around. More generally, this was the match that began a veritable Golden Age for the Intercontinental Title. Savage’s performance during this feud made his ascension to the main event undeniable, while Steamboat also went on to scale new heights in the NWA. After 1987 the IC belt passed onto great talents, draws and spectacles such as Rude, WOYAH, Hennig, Hart, Bulldog, Piper, Michaels and Hall before the company forgot just how beneficial it could be to their future headline acts. It still played a big part in establishing Austin, Rock and HHH in the mid ‘90s but by the turn of the century its stature had indeed diminished. Although still held by some great men with some great matches – such as Benoit, Jericho, Angle, Guerrero, Van Dam and Orton – it became a case of the holder making the title rather than the title making the holder. Now we’re at the fifth Mania in a row with an Intercontinental Title defence and the only reign in recent years to have meant anything was the token gesture of Ric Flair winning one last singles title. Shameful as the current state of affairs might be, it doesn’t lessen the impact of Savage/Steamboat any. To the generation of fans, including future wrestlers, who include this as one of their fondest early memories of the business it remains just as potent as Transformers did for all those fat, sweaty, hairy fanboy types. To the company, it was a sign that having a strong undercard presence could lead to nothing but good. To Savage, it set him on a path that led inexorably towards Hogan and thus changed his life forever, at first for the better but ultimately for the worse. That it still holds up 20 years later is testament to just how phenomenal it felt in 1987.

5/ Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage [WM7]

Great match, sure, but it was the aftermath that had the greatest effect. You all know the score by now – Sherri gets the penis envy, Macho gets the emasculating, Liz gets to make the rescue, they reunite, Blue Dress Woman bursts into tears. Meanwhile, a young Stephanie McMahon watches on and has her heartstrings tugged so damn hard by all of this she decides that the WWF really ought to have more soap opera. Years later we get the uber-soap of the McMahon-Helmsley Era, the convoluted swerves of Vince Russo, the glorious trite of Al Wilson, the unfortunate blank of Billy & Chuck, the unfathomable Katie Vick, live sex celebrations and even Stephanie drawing the line at incest angles. There was even a near-perfect love-triangle storyline involving her, HHH and Angle that was sadly botched at the very end due to egotism. Meanwhile, road agents become TV producers, wrestling bookers are nowhere near as favourable as failed Hollywood writers and WWE starts its own movie production company in the hope that they might, finally, get it out of their system. The weird thing is that, when Elizabeth and Savage did get back together, nobody saw it coming. If a similar angle was done nowadays then they’d probably bring her back on Raw, have her turn on Savage, have her try to suck off WOYAH, then blow the whole thing off by sticking her on a pole for the duration of the match. What made it so memorable, other than the genuine fondness people had for Liz & Macho back in the day, was that old adage of ‘so simple, so effective’. It is a lost art. Perhaps one day people will find it again. Lord knows that they keep on searching, and not just in Steph-fuelled WWE as the likes of Lost in Cleveland and Ric Flair: Asylum attest.

4/ Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin [WM14]

It was as clear-cut a generation-marker as Hogan/Shiek in ’84, only this one had a shite band attached to it. Oh, and a shite boxer. There was a whole lot of shite about this event, such as that guy who dumped that other guy in that match and then there was some blonde chick and I WAS NOT PAYING ATTENTION CAPS LOck but then Locke got a hatch and I wanted a hatch and there was a Scotsman in the hatch so it was fitting and Tito Santana got beaten by a travelling vacuum cleaner salesman and lal lal lal Venis, old gen, next gen, not console, Austin, whatever. TYSON RIGHT HAND RIGHT HAND RIGHT HAND, tug, tug, tug, splat, BAM right to the moon w/ JR. Kennedy. Lol.

3/ Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin [WM13]

Michaels/Austin was where the final transition happened and Stone Cold went supernova, but it was Hart/Austin, one year earlier, which made Austin into a bona fide headliner. Whether his rise could have been derailed had Bret Hart not gone out of his way to make him look like a star, a process that began at Survivor Series ’96 in a worthy encounter, is neither here nor there. The fact is that after WM13 the fans could see Austin was indeed the real deal, while Bret embarked upon a truly unique and nation-specific heel turn, both of which made for some truly exciting shows for the rest of 1997. The seeds for the Montreal screwjob, Jim Ross yelling “Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” in numerous main events, and even the creation of groups like DX and the Nation of Domination – all huge elements in the WWF beating WCW – were planted in the wake of this phenomenally popular match. And let’s not forget that it was really, really, REALLY good. The image of a defiant Austin screaming but not submitting in the Sharpshooter as his blood drips down his face will remain just as potent as Hogan body-slamming Andre ten years earlier. And let’s not forget to show some love to Ken Shamrock. I’m not sure why we should but it seems like the nice thing to do.

2/ Hulk Hogan & Mr T vs. Rowdy Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff [WM1]

Where it all began… originally. It is as bland a match as you would expect from one featuring Hogan in mid ’80s WWF but hugely important nonetheless. In truth, they probably could have just had Hogan merely turn up and still have turned a profit. The match itself was almost a formality as the hard work had already been done by the swathes of publicity given to Hulkamania and Rock N Wrestling over the past year. Where it was effective was in showcasing not just the figurehead of the WWF but the involvement of genuine stars (Muhammad Ali), household names (Liberace and The Rockettes), people I don’t know but Americans probably do (Billy Martin), a major contemporary pop culture icon (Mr T), two of the hottest non-Hogan acts in the WWF (Piper and Snuka), and even two of the old guard in Orndorff and Orton Jr. As their very first PPV supercard they entered this unknown commodity of the new era intent on providing the audience with an entertaining enough spectacle to keep ’em coming back. They did. Job done. Hogan not only proved himself worthy of keeping the headline act spot but showed that the promotion could use him and their new ventures to make a bigger profit than any other group in the history of the business had done. Hell, even twelve years later the legacy of the Hogan/T team was enough to get WCW to try a heel version in Hogan/Rodman. And it worked then too! Could have worked the second time around too had they not been so bloody stupid about it, but I digress. Sure, the first WrestleMania was not wholly dependent on its main event match (see Richter/Kai above) and some maintain that a straightforward Hogan/Piper match would have made more sense, yet the show was not designed to blow-off feuds in the way Mania came to be. It was all about fun and, in 1985, it delivered in spades.

1/ Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant [WM3]

I would hope that nobody is surprised by this one topping the list. It is, quite simply, the biggest match in North American wrestling history. Inflation has seen other matches pull bigger numbers, most notably Rock/Austin pt II, but none will ever equal this one in status. The ‘bodyslam heard round the world’ was Luke blowing up the Death Star, Indy grabbing his hat, E.T. coming back to life and Ray creating Stay-Puft all rolled into one for a generation of wrestling fans. Maybe that’s a bit much but hyperbole is unavoidable when dealing with an event in the sold-out Pontiac Silverdome, as you may have gathered from each and every time Hogan talks about it in an interview, but that’s just the way it is. Everything the WWF has strived for since has been geared at duplicating this moment – Chasing Andre, if you like – from WOYAH winning the Ultimate Challenge to the Luger/Yokozuna ‘bodyslam ignored round the world’ to Triple H tapping out to John Cena’s cuddle and everything in between. This was when the promotion modified its position, seeking not just spectacle but moments to boot. It wasn’t my cup of tea since I was always more of a Savage/Steamboat person. Numerous other fans had similar opinions and were more enamoured with the NWA product but, well, look who won the war. Hogan/Andre – many better, none bigger, and the most important match in WrestleMania history.

Hmm, conclusive.

Next

DDTDingo – excellent name, by the way, ponders losing:

”So, Undertaker has his winning streak going on but who has the biggest WM losing streak ever? Who is the biggest anti-streaker?”

Triple H – 5 wins, 6 losses

Far from the worst record in the world but it’s still fun to provide ammunition to that elite band of brothers intent of disproving the Hs Always Win theory. His victories came against Goldust, Owen, Kane, The Rock, Jericho and Booker. His defeats came from Cena, Batista, Undertaker and, of course, in what was perhaps the single funniest 80 seconds in Mania history, WOYAH. It’s hard not to think that the humiliation of that match was what inspired the Hs to reach the powerful and paranoid heights of later years. Thankfully, he has yet to become as high as Hogan and bring WOYAH back to return the job… yet…

Shawn Michaels – 5 wins, 8 losses

The hickiest bottom that ever there was began as the blonde half of The Rockers, losing to the Twin Towers at WMV when Akeem pinned Michaels, then to the Orient Express at WMVI when Marty Jannetty was counted out and perhaps fired for a couple of hours. Third time around they were able to beat Haku and The Barbarian, with Michaels getting the pin, before everything changed, the Boy Toy arrived, and he got to beat Tito Santana the following year. Marty Jannetty may or may not have been fired by that point. I like to think he was hired specifically to test the temperature of the nacho cheese and then released again following the show. Michaels opened the show for the third year running at WMIX, losing to Tatanka via count-out. Moving swiftly on to WMX he lost again, this time to Razor Ramon and a ladder, but still wound up winning as it helped him get to the main event the next time around… only for him to lose that one to Diesel. WMXII saw him emerge triumphant from the longest match in Mania history, picking up the title to boot, then he skipped WMXIII to go make lasagne at home because cheese makes him smile. After that came his definitive defeat to Austin at WMXIV, followed by many years of lasagne, before getting to beat Jericho at WMXIX. He lost to somebody or other at WMXX and a crazy man at WMXXI before mugging an old man last year. All signs would point to this being a 5-9 record by now but I guess by the time this goes up we’ll all know…

Vince McMahon – 0 win, 3 losses

On par with such luminaries as Raymond Rougeau, Jeff Hardy, Bart Gunn and Koko B Ware, the man with the most iconic strut of all time has fared badly at the event he created. First he jobbed to his own son as penance for f*cking Trish Stratus, then he jobbed to Hogan as punishment for daring to suggest that he invented Hulkamania, and then he was thoroughly twatted by Shawn Michaels, despite having six people run-in on his behalf, to atone for trying to re-corrupt the reborn Heart Break Khristian. Then they followed that storyline up by having Michaels willingly corrupt himself to reform DX, which Vince now didn’t want to happen for some reason. WWE has plot holes like black holes. The sweet souring of time means Vince probably won’t get around to jobbing to anybody else at Mania (he was originally going to be beaten by Foley this year) and so retires non-victorious at the event. He’s still involved of course, and this year saw him actually try to use his name-value to elevate a new star rather than merely piddling about with family and friends. A step in the right direction, methinks.

Crush – 0 wins, 4 losses

Ax and Smash had racked up three successful Mania appearances in a row then Crush replaced Ax and they were jobbed out to Tenryu & Kitao at WMVII, truly signalling the end of Demolition. If you’re wondering what became of the Japanese guys, Tenryu is currently pursuing a voice acting career and hopes to be considered for the role of Maggie Simpson in the upcoming movie, while Kitao is working at a private airport in upstate New York as a ticket tout.

It didn’t get any better for Mr Adams next time either, as he swapped jobbing to jobbers for jobbing to clowns, with Doink beating him at WMIX thanks to an assist from a fake arm and Doink. Oh, and instead of being a gimp he was now Hawaiian. Makes sense.

Next came a defeat to Randy Savage in Macho Man’s last WWF match to date (I CAN DREAM, DAMMIT! JARR-ETT! JARR-ETT! FUCK HIM UP GOLDBERG FUCK HIM UP! WHATWHATWHATWHATSHUTTHEHELLUPANDCLOSETHE BRACKETS) at WMX. They did get to experiment with S&M during the fight though, which might have made Crush feel a bit better.

By WMXIII he had stopped being Hawaiian and became black instead, joining the Nation of Domination just in time to get the ever lovin’ piss kicked out of him by Ahmed Johnson and the Legion of Doom. Good to see a member of Demolition, albeit the wrong one, taking on the Road Warriors, albeit six years too late.

Thankfully, Kronik did not appear at Mania.

Goldust – 0 wins, 4 losses

Never one to disappoint, Dustin switched from losing to Razor Ramon at WMXII to losing to Roddy Piper instead. He was even kind enough to provide a car chase sequence. It was the notorious Hollywood Back Lot Brawl and the first Mania where the Intercontinental Champion was not involved in a title match – a sure sign of things to come. I can’t remember if Piper ever technically won the ‘match’ or not, but Goldust certainly came out of it looking like a loser and that’s all that matters.

He was back the next year to lose to Triple H in the days when Dustin actually had a greater wrestling family than the Hs. He also had the hotter woman, although Marlena/Terri wound up being thoroughly wasted by Chyna/Nutjob.

Next time around it was still all about the couples and Goldust still wound up on the losing side, only more emphatically this time since he had now shacked up with Luna Vachon. It was to get even worse in later years when he turned to the Blue Meanie. For now, it was up to Sable to defeat the TAFKA couple. Oh, and Marc Mero.

Of course, soon after Bluedust was forged the unfortunate Ryan Shamrock walked in on it all and became deeply embroiled in the sticky, sticky mess. This led to Goldust losing at WMXIV, getting pinned by a guy not even meant to be in the four-way match originally, Road Dogg.

And then there was just time for a Hardcore Title match at WMXVIII which he neither won nor lost. Good for him.

The Dudley Boys – 0 wins, 4 losses

Bubba and D-Von, Ray and Devon, Tubby and Darky, Fatarse and Caffeinevein, whatever you want to call them, began their far-from-stellar Mania run by losing to Edge and Christian alongside the Hardys at WMXVI and WMXVII in TLC 0 and TLC 1. Then came the piffling irritation of failing to take the tag belts from Billy & Chuck at WMXVIII, or from RVD & Booker at WMXX. So there you have it, the only team in history who can claim to have held the WWE, WCW and ECW tag belts, as well as one day the NWA and/or TNA titles, have never won at WrestleMania. Also, acronyms kick arse.

Jacques Rougeau – 1 win, 6 losses

Contrary to popular belief, he very rarely got his man. As part of the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers alongside Raymond, he lost to the unintentionally hilariously named Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine at WMIII, failed to win the Battle Royal the following year, and suffered the indignity of losing to the Bushwhackers at WMV. To be fair, it was Raymond who took the falls in those tag matches.

When the Mountie came along to improve all of our lives just by being there it was WMVII and he got to beat Tito Santana. When the only person you can beat at WrestleMania is Tito Santana, you know you’re in trouble.

He still got to squeeze a two-day IC title reign into his hectic and law-abiding schedule in early 1992 though, yet by WMVIII he was back on the losing side of a tag match as the Super Friends (Bossman, Virgil, Slaughter, Duggan) defeated the Injustice League (Mountie, Knobbs, Saggs, Repo) in an epic bout of inanity.

A couple of years later he was back in the tag ranks alongside future wrestling pirate Pierre and was good enough to lose to Men on a Mission. Yes, he lost to Viscera, and to the guy who was deemed less useful than Viscera. Again, Jacques avoided getting pinned. Many years after that, as I am quite certain you don’t remember, the Quebecers entered a Tag Team Battle Royal at WMXIV and lost.

All of which hinders Jacques’ win-loss record, yet also means he has never been pinned at WrestleMania. In TNA culture this would make him the perfect guy to get the rub from Taker.

The Big Show – 1 win, 6 losses

Perhaps the fattest man with a bad back in the world right now, the civilian known as Paul Wight had an innocuous beginning to his Mania involvement when he lost the right to referee the main event of WMXV to Mankind. It was also his first PPV match in the WWF, having debuted the month before at No Way Out to throw a bald man through a cage. That act wound up giving said bald man the Mania title shot against The Rock, which Vince McMahon was none too happy about. He was none too happy about Foley getting the referee spot either, which resulted in him slapping the piss out of the big man. In fact, Wight’s initial run in the company seemed to revolve around having him look like a f*cking chump an awful lot. For crying out loud, before the end of the year he had been in a stable with Test, been bitched at by Taker and even put in his place by Bossman. Bizarrely, he still managed to squeeze in a world title run, thus beginning his schizophrenic levels of success in the promotion.

Second time around he wound up getting another crack at the title in the infamous four-way McMahonathon against Rocky, HHH and Foley. By this time he had turned heel at least twice, which had the effect of making the audience constipate all over him. He had even made himself a real special friend in Shane McMahon, but it couldn’t prevent him from being the first person eliminated from the disappointing match. Even the quasi-retired and wholly fat Foley got to last longer.

Next time around he was challenging for a belt a hell of a lot further down the card – the Hardcore Title, against Kane and Raven. Humourous antics with golf carts were involved, then he lost after Kane fell on him from a great height, perhaps after thinking he saw his teddy bear.

His fourth appearance saw him join the motley pantheon of jobbers who make up Taker’s winning streak, teaming with A-Train in a Handicap Match. Nathan Jones was kind enough to turn up and spin around, inadvertently kicking someone in the face whilst doing so. Show didn’t get pinned but, like the rest of us, had to suffer through Limp Bizkit playing live and so could not truly be called a winner. I can’t be arsed remembering why Show and Train were buddies at this point but a small part of me likes to think it had something to do with sexual deviance. Only a small part, mind. A few inches, that’s all. And they’re kept round back. Waiting always waiting

I lost my A-Train of thought HAHAHA THAT IS THE GREATEST PUN OF ALL TIME, HIRE ME STEPH

Next, he dropped the US title to John Cena. Some people laughed at this being the opening match after Cena had promised one year earlier to be headlining the show. Those people have bitterness for blood. Weirdly, by giving Cena his first Mania Moment, this was probably Show’s least useless appearance there.

I mean, sixth time around he lost a f*cking sumo contest. Y’see?

At his seventh and so-far last Mania appearance he teamed up with Kane, maybe after helping him to find his teddy bear at long last, and defeated Carlito and Chris Masters to become World Tag Team Champions. The next night they lost them to the Spirit Squad. Yeah, WWE was scared to have the Spirit Squad defeat DX but they put them over the two so-called monsters. Inconsistency! Mmmm!

And thus ended the far from stellar WrestleMania stint of the man with no relation to Andre the Giant. Ho-hum.

JBL – 2 wins, 6 losses

Before he was John Bradshaw Layfield, colour commentator extraordinaire, he was John Bradshaw Layfield, lame duck world champion. And before that he was a glorified jobber in the tag team ranks. At WMXIII this meant pretending to be a Blackjack with Barry Windham and losing a four-team elimination match due to Windham getting counted out. At WMXIV this meant teaming with Chainz for no earthly reason and losing the Get LOD2000 Over Battle Royal Special. By WMXVI he had settled on Faarooq as his one true love but neither of them experienced any joy in the Hardcore Battle Royal.

Finally, at WMXVII, he managed to pull a victory out of his beer-grown buttocks by lumping the pimp out of the Godfather to maintain Texas’ right to alcohol and crack-whores or something. The next year the APA even got themselves a title match, only for Faarooq to get pinned and, of all people, Billy & Chuck to go over. WMXX saw them in a very similar situation, only they lost after Rikishi pinned Danny Basham in the fatal four-way to retain the belts for him and Scotty (the other team was the greatest in the world).

A seismic shift in sensibility meant that JBL got to defend the WWE Championship at the next Mania, putting over John Cena in one of the biggest anti-climaxes since the end of The X-Files (really, who can even remember how that finished?). It was also JBL’s first pinfall defeat at Mania, so hopefully it didn’t drive him to drink. Next year he got to take the US title from Chris Benoit, despite being in horrible shape, being lined up for another world title reign, and being forced to retire months later anyway. Booking is fun!

Tito Santana – 1 win, 7 losses

And here he is, the man himself, with the worst WrestleMania record ever. He got off to a flyer, beating the Executioner in the very first ever WrestleMania match ever of all time ever inaugural match ever after that it went to poop. He jobbed to Terry Funk and Hoss Funk, a.k.a. Whole Lotta Funk, but not Flash Funk, at the second Mania ever. He tried teaming up with the Bulldogs at the third ever Mania but lost after the BIZARRE Davey Boy was twatted with a megaphone and jobbed to the Hart Foundation and the last-ever Danny Davis. He teamed up with Rick Martel at the fourth-ever and fifth-ever Manias, losing to Demolition and the Brain Busters in due course. Sixth time around he was back on his own to lose to the ever-smelly Barbarian, but not the Berzerker, and to Jacques the Mountie at the seventh version. No. VIII saw him dress up as Chris Jericho to lose to Shawn Michaels in the opener and that was the end of it all. To his credit, he did get to beat Papa Shango in the dark match preceding WMIX. But that was Papa Shango and anything that rhymes with Mama Mango deserves scorn.

So, there you go, human.

By the way, Cena is 3-0, presumably 4-0 by now, at Mania. Don’t think they won’t push him to 15-0 in due course if they can get away with it…

Next…

Some poor unnamed bastard chimes in for a three-count:

”1. What ever happened to Ross Williams?

2. Aside from Jerry Lynn, have any other wrestlers won a title in their debut match for a company?

3. What are “dragon gate rules” in tag matches?”

1. I lack the security clearance to divulge any information about Ross Williams but I can assure you that he is alive and kicking and currently eating spaghetti carbonara on my couch – hopefully not off it. If anybody is unfamiliar with the Burnside/Williams tandem, go here and educate thyself.

2. Sure. Christian won the WWF Light-Heavyweight Title in his debut match against Taka Michinoku at Judgement Day ’98, before unfortunately jobbing it to Gillberg the following month. That was of course the same belt that Jerry Lynn won in his debut on Sunday Night Heat in April 2001, defeating Crash Holly and doing little of note until Jeff Hardy took the belt away from him two months later. And let’s not forget the little matter of Hulk Hogan getting the WCW World Title from Ric Flair in his debut at Bash at the Beach ’94, later dropping it to The Giant via DQ. If there are other examples feel free to send ’em in, I’ve got to move onto number three…

3. Basically, it means that no tags are needed. This makes it less like a tag match and more like a medley of jumping, flipping, rolling and spinning, which we all enjoy in our own little way.

Next…

Greg Guity develops trios:

”Hey Iain, been a little while since I sent a question your way, but this time I’ve got three:

1) We all know about the Montreal Screwjob, and I’ve also heard about a time that Wendy Richter was actually screwed out of the WWF Women’s Title back in the 80s when she refused a contract she was offered…but has there been any other known screwjobs like that? I’ve not heard of any other such situations, but I could swear on WCW Beach Blast 93, when Ric Flair beat Barry Windham for the NWA title, Barry looked pretty shocked when his shoulders were counted down in that figure four situation.

2) When watching a wrestler on TV, have you ever gotten the vibe from them that the wrestler REALLY wants you to want them? That they REALLY want to be “That Guy,” even though on some level…they may not deserve such a classification? I think about that a lot lately – especially whenever I see Triple H and Shawn Michaels on TV in particular. Maybe it’s just me, but I really get a sense of neediness off of them…like they want the fans to think of them in the same way that they might have or used to think of Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair or Randy Savage, or Bret Hart, Austin, the Rock, Sting, Foley…even Benoit, Guerrero or CM Punk today. My opinion of HHH and HBK specifically is neither here nor there of course, but do you ever get that feeling from a wrestler when you watch them on TV? And if so, who?

3) There’s no question that, in the last ten years the Internet has played a major part in shaping the industry, in reporting about the different goings-on behind the scenes, in the locker room and whatnot…the question here is, is it possible for the quality of the product we get on TV every week to be such that fans would cease to care so much about what happens behind the scenes?”

1. Well, Hogan maintains that the Russo/Jarrett/Booker angle from Bash at the Beach 2000 was a shoot designed to get Hogan out of the title picture and even the company altogether. You can watch it here. Bob Backlund has been trying to convince people ever since 1984 that he didn’t know Skaaland would throw the towel in to give the WWF title to Iron Shiek but he is crazy and nobody has any reason to believe him. Years and years and years ago, or more precisely, 1911, Frank Gotch, perhaps the first truly popular star in professional wrestling, held the world title and screwed over George Hackenschmidt to retain it. Gotch had won the belt from Hackenschmidt in 1908 and was training for a rematch when, apparently, he paid one of Hackenschmidt’s trainers to deliberately injure his knee. Hackenschmidt came close to pulling out of the match but instead pressed ahead with it. The plan was for him to win one fall and look strong in defeat but Gotch defeated him in two straight falls – quickly. The huge crowd was not amused. Gotch retired undefeated as champion in 1913. Gotch, Richter and Bret are the most well-known title-based screwjobs in North American wrestling. There were various other occasions, especially in the old territory days, when the champions would go into business for themselves in order to keep an over-eager challenger from making them look bad. This happened a great deal in Japan too. Windham/Flair at ’93 was according to plan.

2. Wrestling is all about the ego. Perhaps, say, nine-tenths of everybody in the business wants and needs the fans to get into them. The others, like Carlito, tend to not get very far or flake out rather quickly, like Lesnar. Of course, as you say, there are some who can come across as far more desperate than guys like Eddie Guerrero, who simply acted like everybody already knew they needed him and so generated a far cooler aura around himself than the love-me-love-me of Jeff Jarrett. I don’t really see that same thing in Triple H and Michaels, or at least not recently. The Hs were all about needing the love back in 2002 but calmed down considerably once Evolution was formed and he actually had a set goal in mind (get Orton and Batista over) instead of merely wondering what people thought of him. Similarly, Michaels might have needed that same confidence boost in 2002 upon returning to action but now just plain seems to be having fun. I’d say Jarrett is the worst for needing the fans to appreciate him. After all, he started a bloody promotion with that objective in mind!

3. Nope. It has nothing to do with the quality of the show. If it’s good, the fans will want to know what is making it good. If it’s bad, they’ll want to know who to blame. Since the show is invariably a mixture of both good and bad segments, they’ll do both at once. Then there is the curiousity factor of wanting to know what might happen next, what will get booked for upcoming shows, what guest stars might turn up, etc. It’s exactly the same as what happens with the involved fans of other TV shows, especially Lost, 24 and anything with a cult aspect to the fanbase.

Next…

Next comes WRESTLEMANIA!

Or it came yesterday. Who knows when this gets posted anyway? I hope you all had fun with it in any event, and that somehow everybody involved wound up bald and John Cena got to go over in every single match.

If you had any questions for the column or comments about all of the above, send them in for next weekend. Now, I’m off to prepare myself for Mania by watching a shitload of wrestling, getting the beers nice and chilled and having a strategically-timed nap. We’re napping in shifts so that someone is always awake to keep the Jarrett vigil alive. Sweet times.

AIM: KingKongBurnside

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