As much as I love the WWE Network (and if you follow me on Twitter, you know I obviously do), I miss the days of my youth watching WWF PPV’s.  Inviting a group of friends over, my parents snacking us up, dragging a mattress down the stairs to have our own wrestling matches on the living room floor.

The reason I miss that so much is because with all that fun and frivolity, it didn’t matter if the wrestling wasn’t up to par.  In the case of Wrestlemania 13, this was more of a double or triple bogey.  Despite the incredible array of talent, this card was lacking.

Still, it is Wrestlemania season, and to be honest, this probably isn’t the worst card in the world.  Onward!

The Headbangers vs. The New Blackjacks vs. The Godwinns vs. Furnas and LaFon

Highlight:  Even close to 20 years later, the thing that stands out to me now is the same thing that did back in ‘97 - Phil LaFon was a fantastic wrestler.  With all the crazy characters and goofy gimmicks, I find myself drawn to the guys with serious in-ring talent.  Hence why my Twitter images are usually of Malenko, Regal and Arn Anderson.

Lowlight: Honestly, I enjoyed this match a lot.  I was sad that the Blackjacks and Furnas / LaFon got eliminated so quickly, so I guess if I had a problem, that’s it.

So What:  With Wrestlemania 31 already having multiple multi-man matches, I doubt there will be anything more than a traditional tag match for the titles in a few short weeks.  However, this was a fun way to start a show, and a KiddAro vs. Usos vs. New Day vs. . . . .

Seriously, I can’t think of another decent tag team.  Man, WWE has a lot of work to do if they want to make tandem wrestling fun again.

Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan for the IC Championship

I was all set to write about how this was a battle of two WWE Hall of Famers before realizing that The Rock hasn’t made it in yet.  Let that sink in for a minute - Rikishi will soon be in the HOF, but The Rock is not.  I know he will be eventually, but still, that’s a crazy statement.

Highlight:  Despite the credentials, this is not the greatest match I have ever witnessed.  In fact, it is easily the worst match of this Wrestlemania.  My two highlights, if I have to pick them, are the fact that Bob Backlund is on my TV screen and Rocky Maivia’s hair.  It was just so ridiculous.

Lowlight:  The fact that even in 1997, WWF would take a Samoan, put a mask over part of his face and try to pass him off as an Arabian character.

So What:  Seriously, The Rock isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet.  To quote one of my favorite superheroes  - “What’s up with that?”

So What 2:  Those who think ths IC title isn’t being valued should go back and look at this.  Comparatively, its no contest.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Goldust

So What: Besides the fact that both of these talents will likely be wrestling at this year’s Wrestlemania, some 18 years after their match here, this will be four Hall of Fame talents wrestling in back-to-back matches at WM13.  Yes, Goldust is a Hall of Famer.  No, I don’t even think its debatable.

Highlight:  Again, not a stellar match or anything, but its fun to watch these guys back then.  Goldust back when his outfit was primarily gold and HHH doing the deep bow and acting all elitist - You know, back before he married into the WWE family and actually became elitist.

Lowlight:  While I give all the credit in the world to Terri “Marlena” Runnels for being tossed around like a rag doll by Chyna at the end of this match, was it really necessary?  I think not.

Owen Hart and British Bulldog vs. Mankind and Vader for the Tag titles.

Ok, seriously, this is crazy.  Rock. Rikishi. HHH. Goldust. Owen. Bulldog. Mankind. Vader.  That’s 8 guys in the last 3 matches that either already are or will be in the Hall of Fame someday.  At least in the NAI Hall of Fame. (Not even counting Paul Bearer, another HOF guy)  I’m sure this has happened before, but I don’t remember a time when I saw a PPV card that looked to be stacked like this, even if the matches weren’t nearly as good as you would hope.

Highlight:  Owen Hart was a phenomenal wrestler.  He’s a fairly polarizing figure, but I really thought he was a special talent.

Lowlight:  I don’t remember why Foley and Vader were a tag team here (was it just because of Bearer?), but they could have been a dominant force if booked properly.

So What:  My own personal one here, but I can’t wait to get to the NWA / WCW cards on the Network that feature Vader vs. Cactus Jack.  Such brutality.

So What 2:  Do you think Owen and Bulldog ever get into the HOF?

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin in a Submission Match

Murderer’s Row of talent continues.  Seriously, has there been a better lineup in PPV history?

Highlight:  Has there been a better submission move in history?  Just this single application - Can it be beaten?  Cena passing out to the Accolade doesn’t come anywhere close to this.  From Bret’s repeated uses to Austin pushing up, screaming, blood pouring down his face; just a perfect moment.

Lowlight:  Back before WWE figured out how to properly film crowd brawls, these two get lost in the masses a couple times.  Completely nitpicking, but this match was that good.

So What:  I’m not sure if we’re seeing Cena and Rusev heading down the road to a Submission match at Wrestlemania, but after watching this, Dear God, I hope not.

Legion of Doom and Ahmed Johnson vs. Nation of Domination

OK, so the streak of Hall of Fame talents ends here, even though this features LOD, Ron Simmons and Crush, who is a guy I could probably make a HOF case for if I wanted to.

Highlight:  Might be hindsight, but I love this Nation.  The old-school one, back before The Rock got involved.  JC Ice and Wolfie D rapping the entrance, D-Lo and others dressed in Malcolm X suits and surrounding the ring, even just the look for Faarooq, Savio Vega and Crush.  This worked for me a lot.

So What:  If New Day is going to turn heel at some point (and let’s face it, it’s bound to happen), this is what they should be seeking to emulate.  Big E could pull off Faarooq’s look in this match, down to the beret and the uber-tight tanktop.

Lowlight: Well, as much as I enjoyed the build-up, the match stunk.

Undertaker vs. Psycho Sid for the World Title

I’m not an expert on Mania main events, and I know that at some point The Miz is part of the conversation, but this match was completely underwhelming.

Lowlight:  Much like Mania 25, I bet that if Vince could go back in time, the Submission match would be last (just like Taker / HBK) and he’d put the title match somewhere in the middle.  There really is a difference between the best match and the one that is supposedly most important.

So What: I’ll say that again.  There’s a difference between the best match and the one that is supposedly most important.  In other words, please don’t end my Mania with Roman Reigns. . .

Highlight:  Seeing the Old School Undertaker.  Hearing Psycho Sid’s music, which is awesome.  Watching Shawn Michaels, obviously under some sort of chemical influence, keep looking at himself in the monitors during commentary.  Bret Hart owning the whiny character.

Basically everything but the actual wrestling.

Match of the Night

Bret vs. Austin and it isn’t even close.  Honestly, if it wasn’t for that match, my favorite one would be the tag team elimination match.  Not the best Wrestlemania, despite perhaps the best cast.

Discussion Questions

Will New Day turn heel?  If so, will it work?  Should R-Truth be involved?
Should the IC ladder match go on last at Mania?  It has to be first, right?
Is there a better roster than the one we saw here?  Could it be more underwhelming?

I've made myself a deal that this month will be "Mania March" - my posting, Tweeting and WWE Network viewing will likely be focused on "The Granddaddy of them All" (despite Starrcade technically being born first), although I also will be continuing my quest to watch every NWA / WCW PPV as well.

Oh, and I want to watch NXT.

And Jason might finally talk me into trying out this Ring of Honor business.

*sigh* I guess I'll keep watching RAW, too.

Damn, how many sick days do I have left?

. . .

Moving rapidly along, today's "What If Wednesday" stemmed from a conversation Jason and I had the other day when discussing yesterday's column on Daniel Bryan.  If you remember (and how could you forget?), Savage won two WWE titles - one at Wrestlemania IV and the other at Mania VIII.  Needless to say, his second wasn't nearly as famous as the first.  In fact, I don't remember all that much about it.

What I do remember is his presence at Mania IX, where he was carried to ringside and being fed fruit, to go along with the Caesar's Palace theme, to do commentary.

Before too long, Savage, like just about every other 80's WWF star, was WCW bound, where his career, and ultimately his life, took a series of strange turns.

Which begs the question. . .

What If Randy Savage never left WWF?

I won't go into the "Did he or didn't he" rumors regarding the reasons for his departure and more importantly, his prolonged absence from the Hall of Fame.  Let's deal with the facts.

Randy Savage had been with the company since Wrestlemania 2, spending the majority of that time in a prominent to main event role.  One could even make the case that he was "Mr. WWF".   Hogan may have had the bigger name value but when you thought of the quintessential "wrestler" in the 80's McMahonLand, you really thought of Savage.

According to numerous reports, Savage did not want to end his career as an active wrestler in the early 90's - That decision was, in many ways, made for him by the WWF powers-that-be, presumably as part of their "youth movement".  This seems to be a major factor for Savage in going to WCW.  Besides. . .You know. . .The money.

So we need to go back a bit in order to truly flesh out this thought experiment.  Let's assume that in our "alternate universe", Randy Savage had continued wrestling well into the 90's.

Well, he won the World title at WM8, as a face.  He lost it to Flair who then lost it to Bret Hart, so let's cut out the middle man and assume that at some point in 1992, Savage turns heel and begins a feud with the Hitman.

Bret Hart vs. Randy Savage.  Already this alternate universe is panning out nicely.

He does the honors for Bret but continues to be active.  Perhaps in losing to Bret, he shakes his hand, earning back some cheers from the crowd.  Now he takes on some of the up-and-coming heels, namely Razor Ramon and the Heartbreak Kid.

Savage / Ramon and Savage / Michaels.  Seriously, this is good stuff.

He probably offers up some challenge to Yokozuna, much as he did in 1993, I believe.  Perhaps he even, just by being active, prevent the entire "Lex Express" thing from happening.  Or perhaps I'm just being really optimistic.

By the time Wrestlemania 11 or 12 rolls around, Savage is probably more agreeable to transitioning to a less active role.  Maybe he's the one who fights Goldust at 12 instead of Piper, maybe he actually takes on Lawrence Taylor instead of Bam Bam?  These are all open options.

By '96 or '97, Savage is "dean emeritus" of WWF, just like Flair was in WCW.  He probably gets in the way of this punk kid Steve Austin somewhere along the line, or he winds up getting beaten down by Mankind or Vader.

Hell, we could even see him pick up the American flag and defend WWF against the pro-Canadian Hart Foundation, giving us Savage vs. Bret one more time.

Whether or not he moves to commentary (would we have had Jerry Lawler if Savage was around?), he has an on-screen position in WWE until he decides he's done.

And he's in the Hall of Fame by 2002.  '04 at the latest.

Tell me that's not a world you would want to live in.

One of the most anticipated matches at this year’s Wrestlemania, at least according to the NAIbors I’ve spoken with, is the ladder match for the IC title.  Not only is it impressive because it’s received so much TV time, or its, in just a couple of weeks, seemingly revived the multiple-time-dead career of one R-Truth, but it also is going to be, it seems, the Wrestlemania spot for one Daniel Bryan.  You know, the guy who won the World Heavyweight Championship at the main event of last year’s Mania.

This got me thinking.  How does this rank among others who have won a World title at wrestling’s greatest stage?  Specifically, I looked at those who won in the main event match.  The results, as expected, were surprising.

Randy Savage - Wins title at Wrestlemania IV, in main event at V.

It’s weird to think that the World title didn’t change hands at a ‘Mania until this one, isn’t it?  Of course, these were peak Hulkamania years, so I suppose its not that unusual.  Savage held onto the belt until the following year, dropping it to. . .

Hulk Hogan - Wins title at Wrestlemania V, main event of VI.

See above - Hogan holds the belt until his match with. . .

Ultimate Warrior - Wins title at Wrestlemania VI, in retirement match with Savage at VII.

This is the first time the victorious champion “takes a step back”, as it were.  Again, knowing what we know now about Warrior’s career, this makes sense.  Still, being the one to (supposedly) retire Macho Man isn’t anything to sneeze about.

Hulk Hogan - Wins title at Wrestlemania VII, wrestles Sid in main event of VIII.

While Hogan continued his main event run, his match with Sid was not for the title, which when you add this to the fact that the World title wasn’t even DEFENDED at the initial Wrestlemania, proves that certain superstars, in the mind of Vince McMahon, eclipse the championship.  Remember that when Cena vs. Rusev or HHH vs. Sting is the final match in 27 or so days.

Side note here:  Randy Savage wins another World title at WM VIII, defeating Ric Flair.  The following year?  He’s on commentary in Las Vegas.  Mr. Macho is going to appear in tomorrow’s “What If Wednesday” as well, so stay tuned.

Yokozuna - Wins title at Wrestlemania IX, wrestles Luger and Bret for the belt at X.

Hulk Hogan - Wins title at Wrestlemania IX, is gone from the WWF months afterwards.

Most Daniel Bryan fans should take solace in this fact, though those who enjoy ROH, Japan or are excited for the prospects of GFW might be wishing the American Dragon was there instead of in the mid-card of WWE.

Bret Hart - Wins title at X, in an “I Quit” match with Bob Backlund at XI.

Many, I imagine, have forgotten (if they were aware at all) how big this feud was back in the mid-90’s.  Bob Backlund doesn’t get enough credit for completely rejuvenating his career by. . . Well, by being insane.

Shawn Michaels - Wins title at XII, is on commentary for main event of 13.

I don’t recall specifics, but I imagine injury was involved here, so HBK gets a pass.  Again, Bryan fans, be grateful DB isn’t on the sidelines.

Undertaker - Wins title at 13, faces Kane at XIV.

This was the first showdown between the two brothers, thus essentially a second main event.

Steve Austin - Wins title at XIV AND at XV - doesn’t appear at Mania 2000.

Stone Cold was rehabbing from neck surgery, so like Michaels, he gets a pass.  Winning the title at 2 consecutive Manias is quite the feat, though, only duplicated once.  Sorry, folks, you knew we were going to have to talk about Cena at some point, right?

Steve Austin - Wins title at X-7, wrestles Scott Hall at X8.

This is definitely a big step back, though to be fair, its partially Austin’s fault.  Refusing to lose to Hogan (Hogan would also refuse to lose to Austin, it should be mentioned), Austin was booked with Hall instead.  Let’s call this a self-imposed step back, with some chemical assistance.

Triple H - Wins title at X8, wrestles Booker T for a title at XIX.

Note the use of the indefinite article “a” here, for XIX is the first time there were 2 “top titles”.  HHH and Booker T was for the World Heavyweight Championship and was not the final match of the evening.  That honor was shared with Kurt Angle and. . .

Brock Lesnar - Wins title at XIX, wrestles Goldberg at XX.

The name value for the Brock and Bill showdown was huge. . . As for the match, well. . . You can ask Jason Moltov about that. . .

Chris Benoit - wins title at XX, is part of the inaugural MITB match at XXI.

This looks familiar, doesn’t it?  Keep that in mind, we have a little longer to go yet.  I’ll try to speed things up a bit, since we’re entering a more modern, Cena-filled era.

Batista - Wins title at XXI, is injured for 22.

Undertaker - wins title at 24, wrestles HBK at 25.

Having just seen this match from 25 recently, I can tell you that actually Taker had a step up in this instance.

John Cena - wins title at 29, wrestles Bray at 30.

We are lucky that most of Cena’s Wrestlemania title wins didn’t take place in show-ending matches.  In fact, I think that tells us quite a bit, don’t you?

Daniel Bryan - Wins title at 30, presumed to be in IC ladder match at 31.

 

Conclusions

So what can we learn here?  Well, aside from the fact that there’s been a whole LOT of title changes to end Wrestlemanias (this is where the Roman Empire squeals with glee), Daniel Bryan’s professional wrestling career. . . SOLELY IN TERMS OF HIS “WRESTLEMANIA MOMENT”. . . seems to be most mirroring the Canadian Crippler, Chris Benoit.

Note:  While I don’t feel like I really need this disclaimer, just to be safe, I am only referring to Benoit the wrestling talent.  I am able to distinguish between the performer and the man. . . As we all should.

Benoit had one of the more emotional and personally satisfying Mania moments in history.
Benoit overcame a series of obstacles and his fairly diminutive size to achieve wrestling glory.
Benoit’s title run was relatively short.
Following that, Benoit was back to winning mid-card titles.

Sound familiar?

This, my friends, like it or not, is what Daniel Bryan is.  He had a momentous achievement in his career. . . And he’ll almost certainly never reach that pinnacle again.  He might win 4-5 Intercontinental and US titles, he’ll likely have another couple Match of the Year candidates, and that’s going to have to satisfy us.

Let me close here by drawing yet another comparison between the American Dragon and the Rabid Wolverine.  If Twitter had existed back in 2003/2004, Chris Benoit (among others) would have been the IWC’s darling.  We’d all have been wondering when the hell this guy. . .This supremely talented guy. . . was going to get his day in the sun.  We’d have worshipped the ground he walked on while also lambasting the “chosen one” with the family history who may or may not have taken his spot.  (In this case, Randy Orton, who beat Benoit for the title 4-5 months after he won it.)

When WM 21 rolled around, we’d have howled at the audacity of WWE for putting our hero in such a “low-tier” spot. . . Until the match happened, when we’d have loved every second of it.

Daniel Bryan can still be our hero, even if he is never again our champion.  He doesn’t need a belt to be a phenomenal wrestler, and frankly, isn’t that what we want?

Plus, if the career path (and ONLY the career path) continues like this, we’ve got a Best of Seven series coming up with Bryan and Dolph Ziggler.  Admit it - you just got chills thinking about that possibility.

As almost every single pair of eyes who reads this knows, I, The Teacher, have been pretty addicted to Twitter since the birth of the Number Two Contenders.  One thing I’ve been fascinated with is how the social media age allows everyone to share their feeling right as things happen.  This gives us a primal sense of how people are feeling, since from the looks of it, most people don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about their tweets before sending them into the Inter-ether.

Which got me thinking. . . With Summer Slam around the corner, what would the history of this huge WWE event look like if Twitter had existed since its inception. . . Quite the thought experiment. . . I humbly submit some of what I believe we’d have seen in the last 20 years.

8/29/88

MegaPowersRule:  Can’t believe we’re getting a 4th #WWF PPV!  Can’t wait to see MegaPowers SLAM MegaBucks!  #Hulkamania  #OhYeah

MillionDollarBaby:  @MegaPowersRule - No way! Everybody has a price, and Dibiase and Andre can’t be stopped!  #MoneyMoneyMoney

WrestlingIsReal87:  WTF?  Time limit draw?  How boring for a PPV opener!  Bulldogs should have won!

RudeAwakeningz:  Putting somebody else’s wife on your tights is so cool; Rude is the man!

WarriorsWoman: OMG Warrior just won the IC title in 30 seconds!! He’s so amazing!!! I luv him so much!!!!

AxAndSmashYaaa:  Here comes the Ax! There go the Harts! Demolition 4 the win!

OnlySmartFanIn88: Doesn’t everyone know Virgil is Dusty Rhodes’ real name?

WrestlingIsReal87: @OnlySmartFanIn88 - Shut up, fool.  Dusty’s name is Dusty, and he’s amazing.  Stop spreading lies!

MegaPowersRule:  Here we go!  I am a real American!  I said my prayers, let’s do this!!!

PsychicGuyMcGee:  Ventura is calling this match so well, he should be a politician someday.

The Entire Twitterverse:  OMG did you just see Elizabeth’s undies!!!  SO HOTTT CAN’T HANDLE ITTT

MegaPowersRule:  Never doubt the MegaPowers, including the leggy Liz  #OHYEAHDIGIT

 

8/29/92

WWFNumber1UKFan:  #SummerSlam from #London? Can life get any better?

DCWrestlingFan:  @WWFNumber1UKFan - Shut up, you stupid Brit.

BiggestHartOnForBret:  So sad 2 c Hart family torn like this.  They may never b the same.

OnlySmartFanIn88: Hope Bulldog’s staph infection doesn’t get in the way here.

OhhhhWhatARush:  I guess Money can’t buy a victory!  #LODWins!

The Entire Twitterverse:  Nailz and Virgil made it onto a #WWF PPV?  Seriously?

MrsMartel92:  OMG did you see The Model’s butt?  Sooo hotttt.

MrsMichaels1992:  @MrsMartel92 - Ewww, no way, HBK’s tush was SO much cuter!

(Editors note:  This continued for hours and got very hostile.)

PsychicGuyMcgee: This tag title match may be bad, but at least we’re seeing the titles defended at #SummerSlam.  Looking at you, 2014!

MachoMadness17:  Flair, you dirty bastard, Randy’s going to kick your ass.  Perfect, you too!

SmartMarkLevesque:  Why is Kamala getting a World title shot?  What’s he ever done?  Why is his handler named after Korean cabbage?

WWFNumber1UKFan:  OMG Bulldog won!  Bulldog won!  This is Britain’s greatest moment!

BiggestHartOnForBret:  My guy just showed total class and honor.  #AlwaysMyChampion!

PsychicGuyMcGee:  @BiggestHartOnForBret - Yeah, Bret’s a #WWF guy for life. . .  #Sarcasm

 

8/18/96

SummerSlamSam: It’s the biggest party of the summer.  Mankind’s tough, but with Paul Bearer at his side, how can #Undertaker fail?

NotYetTheTeacher:  Love the bikini blast beach party, but why are all these guys getting in the way of Sunny and Sable?

OnlyGuyWatchingFreeForAll: OMG did u see Yoko break the ropes?  #Fatty

The Entire Twitterverse:  You know, this #SummerSlam kinda sucks.

ForAllMankind96:  Alright, Boiler Room Brawl time!   This is going to be EPIC!  #CactusJack

MistressDeadman: @ForAllMankind96 - It is, but your boy is going to get beat down!

WhatTheHellsIsECW:  You know, this match is wicked violent.  Where did this come from?

TheFirstHeymanGuy:  This match don’t got nothing on Sandman and Raven, biatches!

The Entire Twitterverse:  WTF just happened?  Paul Bearer turned on ‘Taker?  What?  BOOOOO!!

(Editors note:  Nobody bothered tweeting about Michaels and Vader after the Brawl)

 

8/3/97

The Entire Twitterverse:  OMG Owen Hart breaking Austin’s neck in the ring is the worst thing that can ever happen at a live wrestling event.

PsychicGuyMcgee: @Everyone -  Don’t say that. . . Just. . . Don’t say that. . .

 

8/21/05

The Entire Twitterverse:  OMG Cena sucks, good thing he won’t be main eventing forever.

PsychicGuyMcgee: @Everyone -  Don’t say that. . . Just. . . Don’t say that. . .  #CenaWinsLOL

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