The year was 1991. America was in the midst of a war in the Persian Gulf. One of our greatest military heroes (WWF’s, at least) had just turned his back on his country and allied with the Iraqi regime. Only a Real American could stand in his way, as DC’s Network Diaries brings you Wrestlemania VII.
Authors Note: I watched this PPV close to 2 weeks ago and in the efforts of full disclosure, I wasn’t paying intense attention. Thus, my column will be more #NAIstalgia than anything else. Apologies to those who were hoping for a real in-depth analysis.
Willie Nelson sang a song of patriotism. Pretty sure that’s the only time I’ve ever seen him not under the influence of cannabis.
The Rockers vs. Barbarian and Haku
Highpoint: What’s not to like? The Rockers were still firing on all cylinders, despite being near the end of their tag tenure. The Barbarian is wearing antlers like he’s King Cuerno from Lucha Underground on steroids. You have Haku, one of my favorite wrestlers from the 80’s, and you have Bobby Heenan, my favorite manager and overall wrestling personality of all time.
Plus, the match was good! How could I NOT love this?
Lowpoint: The fact that this card, generally considered to be among the least popular Manias in history, had such a good match on it. The crowd was hyped and then the rest of the show (with some exceptions) failed to capitalize on it.
So What: Wrestlemania VII featured four separate tag matches with 8 different fully fledged tag teams (though in hindsight, I don’t know if Kitao and Tenryu were established before their brief WWF run). It’s entirely possible Wrestlemania 31 won’t feature a single tag match, especially now that one of the Uso’s may be out for a prolonged period with a shoulder injury.
Woe to the fallen tandem division.
The Texas Tornado vs. Dino Bravo
Highpoint: The match was rather mercifully short.
Lowpoint: Within 2 years of this match, both Von Erich and Bravo would be dead, each in their own tragic way.
So What: I’m not an expert or anything, but I do get the sense than the WWE’s Wellness Program seems to be working fairly well. Bravo’s death had more to do with the Canadian mafia (Yes, you read that right) than anything else, but I’d like to think there would be more help for the Von Erich family now than there was back then.
British Bulldog vs. The Warlord
Highpoint: Man, Davey Boy Smith was a good wrestler. I forget that sometimes with all the struggles he had near the end, but he was something else. When does he get into the Hall of Fame?
Lowpoint: I’m not sure if it was the Warlord’s weird “futuristic Phantom of the Opera” mask or his manager Slick’s slightly offensive ranting or just the fact that Terry Szopinski wasn’t all that good in the ring, but let’s just put it all together and say that was the collective nadir.
So What: How many kids (if kids watched the archived stuff on WWE Network) watched Warlord and Slick’s promo before the match and wondered what in the world that strange rectangular box with the metal corded phone was? (Hint: It was a pay phone, you damn whippersnappers. People used them back before everyone had a cell phone. You paid a quarter and could make a quick phone call. #GetOffMyLawn)
The Nasty Boys vs. The Hart Foundation for the Tag title
Highpoint: A solid match between all four men, but for me, you can’t go wrong with Jim Neidhart’s choice of headgear heading to the ring.
Lowpoint: Comparatively, Jimmy Hart’s Nasty Boys motorcycle helmet needed some work and an explanation.
So What: Both of these teams are not in the WWE Hall of Fame, but in a few days, the Bushwhackers will be. Color me confused.
Jake Roberts vs. Rick Martel
Highpoint: If someone was ever to offer a graduate-level class on wrestling ring psychology, this would be on the syllabus, believe me. The Lowpoint is that there is very little in-ring action here, but there doesn’t need to be! Jake and Martel together combine to tell one of the better stories inside a wrestling ring that I can think of. Jake’s use of the crowd, pointing in a slow arc until the fans let him know what direction “The Model” is in, Martel acting like the terrified puppy for the entire time – it’s just a work of art.
So What: Dear Jason Albert at the WWE Performance Center – make your trainees watch this match. THIS is how you do it.
Undertaker vs. Jimmy Snuka
Highpoint: I hate to quote Michael Cole, but to hell with him, this was a phrase before he started using it every 5 seconds – This is VINTAGE Undertaker. He’s only 4 months or so into his run, so this is Taker 1.0. The gray gloves, the very pale face, the multiple, multiple choke holds. This is fun.
Lowpoint: I may offend some people here, but I have to ask – What’s the appeal of Jimmy Snuka? Sure, he had a great splash, especially off of a cage, but other than that, was he any good? Really?
So What: If WWE is still trying to figure out what Taker’s outfit for this year’s Mania should be, may I suggest they use his look from his first Mania for inspiration.
Actually, I suggest he become the American Bad Ass once more – that’s what I REALLY want. But if that’s not an option, then totally this.
Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage
Highpoint: As if you needed a reason why Randy Savage is one of the top 10-15 in-ring workers in history, I submit this – This retirement match garnered 4.25 stars from Dave Meltzer. Now, I don’t care much about what Meltzer has to say, but he doesn’t give out those kind of rankings often. And this match featured the Ultimate Warrior!
Lowpoint: Realizing we never really saw a good Savage vs. Bret or Savage vs. HBK series of matches.
So What: Allow me to use this opportunity to steer you to another of my columns, my “What If Wednesday” hypothesizing the ramifications if Savage had stayed in WWE. It’s good, I promise!
Tenryu and Kitao vs. Demolition
Highpoint: Knowing that WWF (and WCW, from my quest to watch all their PPV’s) had such a good working relationship with Japanese wrestling. Right now that is really ROH’s purview, but it gives me hope that we could see this again. WWE and New Japan? Go ahead and fantasize, NAIbors!
Lowpoint: The downside of having a match like Savage vs. Warrior, with such an emotional aftermath (which, it occurs to me, I didn’t even cover earlier!) is that whatever follows it has next to no shot of being something the fans care about. If WWF had a Diva’s division in 1991, you know we’d have seen them at this point.
So What: Outside of hoping for increased ties between WWE and Japan? Hmm. . . #GiveDivasAChance, I guess. . .
Big Boss Man vs. Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental title
Highpoint: Two talents arguably in some of their peak years. A decent enough storyline to justify a match. Being given 10 minutes to tell your story.
So What: While I am very excited for the ladder match at Mania this year, I do understand why some people may prefer a traditional 1-1 encounter. They can be quite good.
Lowpoint: The fact that when people think of Big Boss Man, this is not what comes to mind. No no, it’s Kennel from Hell and Pepper Steak. Ray Traylor’s Wrestlemania moment was being hung from a cell. That stinks.
Earthquake vs. Greg Valentine
Highpoint: John Tenta could move for a big man. That’s about it.
Lowpoint: Everything other than John Tenta moving well for a big man.
So What: At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any toss-in matches at this year’s Mania. Except for, you know, the entire tag team title scene.
Legion of Doom vs. Power and Glory
Highpoint: LOD’s promo and entrance, since the match wasn’t even a minute long.
Lowpoint: The match wasn’t even a minute long.
So What: I usually compare The Ascension to Power and Glory, but looking at it again, there’s one difference – Roma and Hercules were at least on this PPV as a tandem. Have fun in the Andre Battle Royal, Konnor and Viktor!
(Quick plug: In another column I wrote, I suggested that one way to rebound these two would be for them to win the Battle Royal as a team. A little outside the box, but why not?)
Virgil vs. Ted Dibiase
Highpoint: It’s Ted Dibiase in a wrestling ring; I’m always going to find something to be happy about. Today, it’s that the Million Dollar Dream is such a good move.
Lowpoint: The only African-American at Wrestlemania VII was the former bodyguard / servant who makes good by pretending to be Muhammad Ali. This card, I remind you, took place in 1991.
So What: New Day doesn’t look so bad, do they?
The Mountie vs. Tito Santana
Highpoint: Seeing The Mountie. He’s Handsome! He’s Brave! He’s Strong!
Lowpoint: Not hearing his theme music. He’s Handsome! He’s Brave! He’s Strong!
So What: I really hope none of this year’s matches get shafted, time wise. Jacques Rougeau and Tito could have had an excellent 8 minute match – Instead, it’s over in less than 2.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter for the WWF title.
Highpoint: For me, it was wondering if Slaughter’s lower jaw and chin was ever going to wind up eating the rest of his face. Seriously, I’m not a big fan of this match.
Lowpoint: This got 20 minutes and Tito / Mountie only got 81 seconds.
So What: John Cena should lose to Rusev and then turn his back on America, since the Russian sympathizer is obviously superior.
Ok, since that’s never going to happen, let me say this, and its something I’ve said time and time again – WWE needs to be very careful with their match order at Wrestlemania. Just because a match is on last doesn’t mean the crowd is going to be into it, and while I’m sure the fans at VII obviously were in Hulk’s corner (I wasn’t paying attention enough to say definitively), I’m sure they’d have rather seen Savage and Warrior in that slot as opposed to Hogan and Slaughter.
Look, I know. . . I KNOW. . . that Reigns and Lesnar are going to get the top billing, but I hope WWE, if only for a few minutes, considers going outside the box with their booking placement. Sting and HHH have been building for even longer than Brock and Roman. This is the “once in a lifetime” match that fans can’t get anywhere else. It deserves consideration for the true ‘main event’ slot.
Match of the Card
Hard to beat Warrior and Savage, especially when you factor the Miss Elizabeth reunion. That’s as good a Wrestlemania writing as you can find in its history.
Having said that, the only match I go back and watch multiple times from Wrestlemania VII is the blindfold match. Seriously, it made my ultimate Wrestlemania card, it was that good. Yes, its a good column, but no, I won’t share that link.
What do YOU think? What are your lasting memories from Wrestlemania VII? Be Heard.