Wrestlemania Anthology Rants Part 1: WM VI

The SmarK Retro Rant for WWF Wrestlemania VI – Anthology Edition!

– So after years of only having the Coliseum version of this show, I finally got the Wrestlemania Anthology, giving me the full bloated PPV versions of 6-10 on five glorious double-sided DVDs. I actually did see this show live on the big screen in Edmonton at the arena, which was the last time WM was available in that form. So I was taken aback when the tape came out and several matches were several minutes shorter than I remembered. I think they actually remastered the video for these as well, because it’s far crisper than the VHS versions, even considering the superior DVD format. So prepare for another couple of weeks of Wrestlemania redos!

– Live from Toronto’s Skydome, with the AWESOME ring carts that they need to bring back again.

– Your hosts are Gorilla & Jesse.

– Robert Goulet sings the Canadian national anthem to start, so you know it’s the full version.

Rick Martel v. Koko B. Ware

Koko is using "Piledriver" here, but it’s the dubbed version of Fink’s intro (synched very well to his past self) so I dunno what the hell the music situation was. Gorilla and Jesse talk freely over the music so it must be the original track and maybe Fink just sounded weird. Anyway, Martel attacks to start, but runs into a boot in the corner, and Koko gets a bodypress out of the corner for two. He follows with a pair of dropkicks and a backdrop, and Martel bumps to the floor. Slingshot back in and Koko tries shoulderblocking him, but ends up on the floor as a result. Back in, Martel stomps away and gets a suplex for two. Martel pounds the back with an axehandle off the middle rope, then goes for the Boston crab. The original Coliseum video slickly cuts from this attempt into the actual finish, but Koko makes the ropes here. Martel rams Koko into the turnbuckle, but Gorilla notes that Martel "didn’t do his homework", which I guess means he should have known in advance that all black people have hard heads. Koko makes the comeback and tries another bodypress out of the corner, but whiffs on it and Martel finishes with the Boston crab at 5:27. Nothing special. *1/2 Makes you wonder, though — how come Koko is a hall of famer and Martel isn’t?

WWF World tag team titles: Haku & Andre the Giant v. Demolition

Andre and Haku don’t even get an entrance here, instead getting to be "in the ring to my right". Ouch. And unbelievably, "Demolition" is edited out and replaced with a generic rock song. They couldn’t even use the original theme instead of the Derringer song? Haku attacks Smash to start, but the Demos trap him in the corner and hammer him down. Ax and Haku slug it out and Haku goes down, but comes back on Smash with a thumb to the eye. They fight over a backslide and Smash gets two, but Andre breaks it up. Back to Ax, but Haku hits him with the POLYNESIAN MARTIAL ARTS~! Haku with a backbreaker for two and a thrust kick, and Haku chokes away on the ropes. Andre gets a cheap headbutt from the apron and Haku gets two. More double-teaming in the corner gets two for Haku, as Andre is limited to standing on the apron for the match. Haku headbutt gets two. Ax tries to fight back and Haku thumbs him in the eye again and goes to the nerve hold. Ax fights up again and Haku pounds him down and gets a shoulderbreaker for two. Even the announcers are wondering now why Andre won’t tag in. Blind charge misses and Ax comes back with a clothesline, and it’s hot tag Smash. Elbow and backdrop for Haku and a crossbody gets two. The Demos double-clothesline both of the heels, pound Haku down, and that finally brings Andre in. The double-team misses, however, Andre gets tied in the ropes, and the Demolition elbow gives them their third tag titles at 9:09. Gigantic pop for that, although it’s less impressive with the music dubbing and the terrible new Finkel call. You don’t mess with the Fink’s "NEEWWWWWW!" Pretty decent for a glorified handicap match. ** Bobby Heenan gives Andre the gears afterwards and gets beaten up as a result, turning Andre face one last time to end his career. Andre casually catching Haku’s thrust kick and then beating the hell out of him as well is great stuff.

Earthquake v. Hercules

Herc evades the Quake to start and slugs away in the corner, so Earthquake bails and consults with Jimmy Hart. Funny to think of the time when John Tenta was the hottest heel in the company. Back in, Quake wants the test of strength, and Herc obliges him but loses. Quake pounds him in the corner and works him over with shoulderblocks, but puts his head down and gets caught. Herc comes back with shoulder tackles and clotheslines that have little effect, and he stupidly goes for the backbreaker. What universe would THAT work in? Quake casually elbows him down and squashes him dead to finish at 4:50. This was actually a fairly entertaining little match. **1/4 I love the camera work where they make sure to shake it in time with Earthquake’s "tremors".

Meanwhile, Rona Barrett interviews Elizabeth, who promises that she’ll get more physically involved should she ever return to ringside.

Mr. Perfect v. Brutus Beefcake

This is a bit of a rarity for the early Wrestlemanias, an honest-to-goodness midcard blowoff match instead of a random matchup or a silly non-finish. Perfect jumps him in the corner and they slug it out there, with Perfect winning that one before Beefcake makes the comeback and we get our first Perfect bump over the top. Back in, Beefcake gets an atomic drop and Perfect goes flying out again. Perfect gets a cheapshot and hammers away, but Beefcake whips him into the corner and we get another great bump from Mr. P. Brutus slugs away and Perfect bumps out of the corner AGAIN, so Brutus clotheslines him (complete with overblown sell from Hennig) and goes for the sleeper. The Genius distracts him and gives Perfect the SCROLL OF DEATH, which Perfect uses for a quality shot to the face to take over. Perfect stomps away and gets the rolling necksnap for two. Perfect pounds him down as Jesse and Gorilla get into a funny discussion about the difference between "doing a 360" and "doing a 180", which is one of the nice touches you’d get with them. Perfect with a SWEET kneelift (done, well, you know) and he fires away on the fallen Beefcake, but the trashtalk takes too long and Beefcake catapults him into the corner. Perfect hits the post and Beefcake gets the upset win at 7:47. Great bumps from Perfect here, although the finish was stolen almost frame-for-frame from the Jerry Lawler match in 1988. But it’s a great finish, so huzzah. **3/4 This really marked Beefcake coming into his own as a worker and would have set up the rematch for the IC title at Summerslam 90 before the boating accident almost ended Beefcake’s career.

Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Bad News Brown

This should have been one hell of a crazy brawl, but instead it goes down in history for Piper dressing in half-blackface. A detail I just noticed — in the pre-match interview, Piper’s blackface covers the entire side of his face, but here there’s a circle left uncovered around his eye, so I guess the interview was pre-taped in advance of the show. Way to shatter my illusions, WWF production crew. They brawl to start and the ref keeps separating them for some reason, and finally Bad News gets a cheapshot from behind to take over. He rams Piper into the turnbuckles, but apparently blackface also gives you a hard head (you might want to remember that in case of an emergency, readers) because Piper no-sells it. Brown goes to the nerve hold, but Piper slugs out of it and no-sells a headbutt, but Bad News puts him down and drops a fist for two. Bad News elbow gets two. Piper uses the EYEPOKE OF DOOM and comes back for the slugfest, but Bad News also goes to the eyes and undoes a turnbuckle. Irony strikes again as Piper whips him into the STEEL bolt, and then produces a white glove from his tights. Presumably loaded. He slugs Brown down and goes up with a fistdrop from the middle rope, and Bad News bumps to the floor. They fight outside and brawl for the lame double countout at 6:44. This was all potential and no payoff. *

Meanwhile, Steve Allen is in the bathroom with the Bolsheviks and can’t quite get the Russian national anthem right.

The Hart Foundation v. The Bolsheviks

The Harts attack during the singing of the Russian anthem and finish Boris at 0:25, which of course sets them up as the next challengers for Demolition. DUD

The Barbarian v. Tito Santana

This was the beginning of Barbarian’s epic singles run that went nowhere. Tito tries to overpower him and gets nowhere, so he goes with a bodypress for two instead and works a headlock. Barbarian levels him with a boot, however, and follows with a shoulderbreaker, but misses an elbow off the second rope. Tito hits the flying forearm for two, but Bobby puts the foot on the ropes. Tito goes after him, but Barbarian finishes with the flying clothesline at 4:28. You need a guy to do a somersault bump off a clothesline and make your heel look like a killer? Call Tito. Kind of sad to watch Tito get destroyed here given my recent new appreciation for his work. * If Barbarian had fuzzy boots I’d go higher because they’re clearly the key to any good heel’s success, but he doesn’t yet.

Randy Savage & Queen Sherri v. Dusty Rhodes & Sapphire

Amazingly, "Common Man" is edited out and replaced here. Was this DVD released during a period when they were pissed off at Jimmy Hart, too? Dusty elbows Savage down to start and gets an earful from Sherri, but sends the heels into each other and out of the ring. Over to Sapphire, who of course makes the current Divas look like Trish Stratus as far as ring skills go, and she gets an airplane spin on Sherri for two. Sherri comes back with a slam, but Sapphire falls on top for two. Back to Dusty (thankfully, and when would I ever say THAT otherwise?) and he holds Savage for a slap from Sapphire, but falls victim to a knee from behind. Savage pounds away on the floor and drops the axehandle from the top, but Sapphire comes over and begs for mercy. Savage gives NO MERCY and throws her down because he’s the friggin’ MACHO MAN, then hits the flying axehandle in the ring for two on Dusty. Suplex gets two. Savage grabs his scepter and nails Dusty from the top (Jesse: "Ding!") but stalls instead of covering and tags Sherri in. She gets a flying splash for two and Dusty makes the comeback, elbowing Savage in the corner, and Sapphire comes in with a snapmare on Sherri for two. Sapphire gets all fired up and Sherri is amused by it, but Sherri leaves the ring and gets thrown back in by Elizabeth for two. Sherri mouths off at Liz again and Sapphire rolls her up for the pin at 7:30. Goofy but fun, and they kept the Sapphire portions short. **1/4 I try not to think about how all three women are dead now, because that kind of brings it down.

Meanwhile, Mean Gene interviews a shaken and sweaty Bobby Heenan about Andre leaving the Family, although that’s a pretty big continuity glitch because he was out there for Barbarian’s match and looked fine. Bobby promises to replace Andre with new members who will listen to him, and that of course proved prophetic and brought him the Intercontinental title. It must be intermission time, because we get further interviews from Rona Barrett, Randy Savage, Demolition, Gorilla and Jesse, Hulk Hogan, …

OK gotta stop here and talk about Hogan’s promo, as he talks about offering Warrior the chance to live forever by saving his Little Warriors with the training and vitamins and breathing his last breath into Hogan’s mouth. That’s a tad svengali-ish.

And then we jump to the other dressing room for Warrior’s insane reply, as he points out that no one can actually live forever, that’s just not physically possible! The darkness is nothing to fear, it’s about taking a leap of faith and accepting all challenges, and merging the power of Hulkamania with the power of the Warriors. I’ve been watching this shit too long because these promos are actually starting to make sense to me.

The Orient Express v. The Rockers

What music could the Orients have possibly been using that needed editing? They already had the most generic Asian-themed elevator music possible! Now it’s some sort of weird Polynesian tribal music. At least the Rocker theme is intact, so Jim Johnston hasn’t been erased from history. Yet. Funny to see "Mr. Wrestlemania" in this kind of nothing filler match. This is the shitty Akio Sato version of the Orient Express, for those who have forgotten. This was supposed to be the show-stealing classic, I’m thinking, but Shawn and Marty were REALLY messed up here after a night of partying according to most accounts, including Shawn. The Orients try the double-team to start, but the Rockers elbow them down and out, and follow with stereo dives. Marty grabs a headlock on Tanaka and gets dumped as a result, and Sato sends him into the post. Back in, the Express works Marty over in the corner, but Shawn comes in for a sloppy superkick on Tanaka. It’s pretty funny to hear Jesse going on about how the Express speaks "a little bit of English" when only the markiest marks didn’t know that Tanaka is from the US and had been cutting perfectly normal-sounding promos for his entire career, including the AWA gig that got him this job. Like, I never got that attitude — why sign guys based on a run elsewhere and then totally ignore everything that got them over? If you want to ignore history, then just sign some no-name indy guy and build a gimmick around them, ala Mark Callaway. Shawn falls victim to a cheapshot and Tanaka gets a flying forearm to take over, then Sato comes off the top with a kneedrop for two. Shawn just looks totally fried and disinterested out there. Even Gorilla points out how shitty the Rockers look here. Hot tag Marty and they try the double fistdrop on Tanaka, but Fuji trips up Marty and Sato throws salt in his eyes for the countout at 7:33. That was a giant disappointment from a workrate perspective, even in the days when I had no idea what a good worker and a bad worker were. Still, hungover and bored Rockers are still better than many other teams at 100%. **1/2

Meanwhile, Steve Allen introduces the world to Rhythm and Blues, as Valentine’s dignity hits rock bottom. Funny line here as Greg says "We’re on our way to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame" and Steve gets the exit line with "I’ll call ahead and warn them you’re coming." This was definitely cut from the home video release.

Dino Bravo v. Hacksaw Jim Duggan

At least there’s no music to cut here. Duggan slugs away to start and backdrops Bravo, then clotheslines him out of the ring. Back in, he slugs away in the corner, but Bravo fires back to put him down and chokes away on the mat. Elbowdrop gets two. Duggan slugs back, but puts his head down and gets stomped down. Bravo charges and hits knee, but Jimmy Hart gets involved, allowing Quake to tussle with him at ringside. Jimmy tosses in the 2×4, but Duggan hits Bravo with it and gets the pin at 4:15. DUD Amazingly, they STILL pushed Bravo as a main event heel after this, which made for some of the most boring house shows you’d ever have the misfortune of attending.

Jake Roberts v. Ted Dibiase

This was another hot blowoff back in the day, as Jake stole the Million Dollar Belt this match was the first sanctioned one for it. I don’t get why they don’t make a new one and give it to Randy Orton’s version of Ted Dibiase, because god knows ANYTHING would make him a more interesting wrestler than he is now. It’s not like you could fault him for ripping off the gimmick, it’s HIS DAD! But I digress. Some guy holding the REALLY old version of the Canadian $20 bill at ringside kind of dates this show.

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I prefer the current one myself:

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They’re much more fun to play with using the UV banknote testers. But I digress again.

Jake goes for a quick DDT and Dibiase slips out, then grabs a headlock. Jake escapes with a hiptoss and tries another DDT, but Dibiase slips away again. Another try, and Dibiase slides out of the ring. Back in, Roberts takes him down with a hammerlock and works on the arm, then reverses Dibiase out of the ring again. Back in, Jake puts his head down and pays for it, but Dibiase charges and hits knee. Jake tries the kneelift, but Dibiase was goldbricking him and moves out of the way to put Jake on his ass. The crowd is giving this one a HHH-Orton reaction, which isn’t surprising because it’s pretty dull going so far. Dibiase pounds the neck and hooks a facelock, which gives us the only notable part of the match (which was cut out of the home video) as the Skydome does THE WAVE~! Jake and Ted are smart enough to let this one ride itself out, and they continue with the resthold while the crowd amuses themselves. The wave is actually a very interesting social phenomenon if you stop to think about it for a few minutes (which we’ve got) as it requires a great deal of coordination amongst tens of thousands of people. Otherwise it can just look silly. Dibiase shifts into the Million Dollar Dream, but Jake makes the ropes and Dibiase gets two. Dibiase drags him to the middle and gets two. He goes up and gets caught coming down, as usual, and Jake comes back with a clothesline and the short clothesline that sets up the DDT. Jake stops to do the wrestling equivalent of monologuing and gets yanked out by Virgil as a result, which gives Dibiase the chance to attack from behind and beat the count back in at 11:50. Two countout finishes on a major show? Since this isn’t an official title, it changes hands on a countout and Dibiase gets it back. So boring I had a chance to download images of Canadian currency to kill time. **1/2 I should also note the following awesome exchange between Gorilla and Jesse:

Gorilla: "He doesn’t deserve that belt, Jesse!"

Jesse: "But he paid for it!"

Gorilla: "Doesn’t matter."

Jesse: "So people don’t deserve what they pay for?!"

Classic Jesse, and he’s got a point.

Big Bossman v. Akeem

NOT JIVE SOUL BRO! You bastards! This was quite the piece of business, as Dibiase had hidden under the ring from the last match and attacked Bossman to catch everyone off-guard and kick off their feud. "Hard Time" is now replaced by Bossman’s 1998 theme, which is just so bizarre and sad. So anyway, Dibiase kicks the crap out of Bossman, giving Akeem a distinct advantage to start, and he gets a corner splash for two. Akeem runs him into the corner and slugs away, but Bossman gets a horrible atomic drop to come back and clotheslines him. Bossman Slam finishes at 1:45. I’ve seen worse. 1/2*

Rhythm & Blues debut their new song (complete with an amused DDP acting as chauffeur for the Cadillac) and sadly they don’t edit it out and replace it with a good song. The Bushwackers interrupt and smash the instruments to wrap up side one.

PLEASE FLIP OVER THE DISC TO CONTINUE THIS RANT.

Fuck this is a long show in unedited form. Side one was three hours and there’s still two matches to go.

Ravishing Rick Rude v. Jimmy Snuka

Rude’s got the slicked back hair here instead of the perm, the first sign of a change in his character. They even cut Snuka’s theme out. Without "Su-su-superfly" he might as well just be a midcard jobber! Hmm, bad example. Snuka slugs away to start and gets a pair of backdrops and a headbutt to the abs, which shouldn’t have any effect. Rude bails and comes back in with a sunset flip, but Snuka blocks, so Rude suplexes him and shows him how to properly swivel. They criss-cross and Snuka headbutts him down as commentator Steve Allen notes that he likes Snuka because he’s wearing his wife’s underwear. Gorilla: "He is? How nice." Snuka goes up and then changes his mind and slams Rude instead, only to miss the eventual flying headbutt. Rude Awakening ends it at 3:48. And so Rude goes from comedy heel to main event threat, just like that. *

And finally…

WWF World title v. Intercontinental title: Hulk Hogan v. Ultimate Warrior

Unlike some OTHER Wrestlemania main events, this is the one that lived up to every bit of the hype and gave the fans exactly what they wanted to see. The heat for this is UNREAL, with the crowd divided 50/50. Staredown to start and they do the shoving match, and then the lockup, which Warrior wins to start. Another lockup, and Hogan wins that one. The crowd is popping for everything. Warrior wants a test of strength, so they do that, and Warrior gets the advantage, but Hulk fights up from one knee and powers him down again. Warrior fights it off, so Hogan legsweeps him and drops an elbow for one. They do the CRISS-CROSS OF DOOM and Hogan slams him, but Warrior no-sells it. So they try it again, and this time Warrior slams him, and Hogan stays down. Clothesline to the floor, and Hogan whines to Hebner about hurting his knee. Hulk Hogan: Bumping Maniac. The selling is Oscar-worthy material. Warrior smartly goes right after the knee, as Hogan bravely fights off the fake pain and they head back in. Warrior goes for the knee, but Hogan rakes the face to hold him off, and they choke each other as the knee injury disappears for good. Hogan slugs Warrior from behind and clotheslines him in the corner, then hammers away on him. Hogan drops a pair of elbows for two. Front facelock, as Warrior is now blown up and Hogan has to carry the match. Let me repeat that: HOGAN has to CARRY a match. He gets the small package for two and hits the chinlock. He hammers on Warrior while down there, and then slugs away in the corner and chops him down. Axe Bomber gets two. Shoulderbreaker gets two. Back to the chinlock, as Warrior is sucking wind. Hogan works on the back and gets a backdrop suplex for two. Back to the chinlock, as we wait patiently for Warrior to join us back in the world of oxygen-breathing mammals again. Warrior fights out with elbows and they clothesline each other and both guys are out. Warrior is the first up, as he shakes the ropes to recharge his batteries, and Hogan is FLUMMOXED. Warrior slugs away on him and gets the THREE CLOTHESLINES OF DEATH and some chops in the corner, and Hogan is begging for mercy. Suplex gets two. Guess he’s feeling better. And now it’s bearhug time. But man, once you’re not watching it live with a coliseum full of people on closed-circuit TV, the drama is reduced a lot. Ref is bumped on another criss-cross, and Warrior goes AERIAL, baby, hitting Hogan with a double axehandle. He misses a shoulderblock, however, and Hogan faceplants him, but there’s no ref. Warrior recovers with a backdrop suplex, and the ref is still out. Man, criss-crosses are a hazard to referees everywhere. The ref finally recovers and Warrior gets two. Hogan gets a rollup for two. Hogan slugs away and elbows him out of the ring, and they brawl outside. I was getting visions of a double-countout at this point in 1990, but it just ends with Hogan hitting the post as they head back into the ring. Warrior hits him with a clothesline and botches the gorilla slam (I mean, how do you screw that up?) and the big splash gets two, as it’s Hulk Up Time. Punch punch punch, big boot…but the legdrop misses, and Warrior splashes him for the pin and both titles at 22:46. I can actually appreciate Hogan’s efforts in carrying, and really the rest spots don’t hurt it that much compared to the awesome drama of Pat Patterson’s intricately booked spots here. And after all these years it’s still one of my personal favorite matches of all-time, regardless of the star rating. ***1/2

The Pulse:

Although the show is a tad more bloated in the full version, it doesn’t hurt things as much as Wrestlemania V did and I still really like this one and can watch Hogan do a clean job over and over again without ever losing any of the magic. Good mix of stuff on the show, nothing horrible, great stadium atmosphere…it’s definitely one of the better of the early WMs.

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