WM PPV Countdown: #15 – WrestleMania VIII

After years of stacking the WrestleMania card with a massive amount of matches in order to get the entire roster on the card at WrestleMania VIII it was decided that less is more as the card featured only eight pay per view matches and only half of the company’s main roster. Thus everything on the roster served a purpose, whether it be blowing off a long-standing rivalry, introducing a new star or a main event designed to sell pay per views.

WrestleMania VIII was built on the backs of a phenomenal Royal Rumble pay per view that saw “Nature Boy” Ric Flair win the vacant WWF World Championship in what was easily the best Royal Rumble match in company history. With Flair as Champion he had an amazing stack of worthy contenders chasing him, namely former WWF World Champions Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Undertaker, as well as Sid Justice and then-WWF Intercontinental Champion Rowdy Roddy Piper. Originally all eyes pointed to the long awaited mega-dream match between Flair and Hogan, but when Hogan decided to take some time off to work on his movie career things were changed to a double main event featuring Savage challenging Flair for the WWF Championship while Hogan battled Sid in his “retirement match.”

Justice and Hogan had been having problems since the Royal Rumble, but once Sid fully turned on Hogan on an episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event the story for the match was set. As for Savage-Flair, after the match was announced, a story was concocted that Flair had been with Savage’s wife Miss Elizabeth before Savage had, complete with doctored photos. As for the rest of the main players, The Undertaker, who was set to face Sid before the card change-up, turned “good” and battled his former mentor Jake “The Snake” Roberts in another passing of the torch moment for Undertaker as he took the mantle of “dark side enigma” from a departing Roberts. As for Piper he took on Bret Hart, former Intercontinental Champion, in a hero versus hero battle based on respect and the Championship.

In addition The Natural Disasters were looking for revenge against Money Inc. and their former Jimmy Hart, who turned on the Disasters, sided with the new team of DiBiase and IRS, and quickly led them to the WWF Tag Team Championships by beating The Legion of Doom. Thus the proposed LOD-Disasters rematch from the Royal Rumble was scratched. The Natural Disasters got the Tag Title shot. Hacksaw Jim Duggan & Sgt. Slaughter (Money Inc.’s original opponents) were shuffled into the “get the boys on the card” eight-man tag, and The Legion of Doom were left off the card without opponents.

The rest of the card was padded out with showcases for new talent. Shawn Michaels, fresh off his turn against his former Rockers tag team partner Marty Jannetty, opened the show with a victory over the man who slid comfortably into that hero stepping stone role, “El Matador” Tito Santana. Meanwhile, Santana’s former tag team partner and long-time rival Rick “The Model” was tasked into the role of working with newcomer and rookie Tatanka. In addition to putting Tatanka over here, Martel spent the majority of 1992 working with the young Native American preparing for stardom. And in quick palette cleanser before the main event, Owen Hart beat the veteran Skinner to showcase his skills.

In addition to the solid top-to-bottom card, the show will be remembered for the return of The Ultimate Warrior. The Savage-Flair WWF World Championship match went on in the middle of the card so that Hogan could have his spotlight at the end of the show. The Macho Man went on to beat Flair to win the WWF Championship to solidify himself as the new lead good guy in Hogan’s absence and at the end of the show Hogan beat Sid by disqualification, but was attacked by Sid and his new cohort Papa Shango. A returning Ultimate Warrior saved Hogan from the bad guys, and Warrior and Hogan celebrated as the show went off the air. Knowing that the company’s hero Hulk Hogan was leaving the company it was important to end the show on a high note by having a returning favorite come back, and to have another good guy reign as WWF Champion. It was a way to show that young fans would still have heroes to believe in.

With Hogan now out of the picture, the company could now set the stage for a new era in WWF lore, with “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior leading the good guys against Ric Flair at the top of the card for the time being, while new stars like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Undertaker were being developed in order to one day take over the mantle of the company, which they would in the months and years to come after.

It was a night to show that the WWF would and could go on without the hype machine of Hulk Hogan leading it, and could reinvent itself into something completely different while setting groundwork for new main-event level stars.

Match Results:
– The Bushwackers (Luke & Butch) beat Beau & Blake Beverly in a dark match before the pay per view went live on the air.
– Shawn Michaels pinned Tito Santana.
– The Undertaker pinned Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
– Bret “Hit Man” Hart pinned Rowdy Roddy Piper (c) to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
– The Big Boss Man, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter & Virgil beat The Mountie, Repo Man & The Nasty Boys.
– “The Macho Man” Randy Savage pinned Ric Flair (c) to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.
– Tatanka pinned “The Model” Rick Martel.
– The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon) beat Money Inc. (IRS & “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase) (c) by count out in a WWF World Tag Title match.
– Owen Hart pinned Skinner.
– Hulk Hogan beat Sid Justice by disqualification.

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