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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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. . .
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.
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.
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?)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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. . .
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.
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. . .
See above - Hogan holds the belt until his match with. . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was the first showdown between the two brothers, thus essentially a second main event.
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?
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.
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. . .
The name value for the Brock and Bill showdown was huge. . . As for the match, well. . . You can ask Jason Moltov about that. . .
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.
Having just seen this match from 25 recently, I can tell you that actually Taker had a step up in this instance.
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?
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.
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.
On today's installment of NAIpod, Jason and Liam discuss the unique situation regarding John Cena, and how he's NEVER GOING TO EVER GO AWAY!
Excuse me. . . Got a bit emotional. . .
In doing so, they discussed Hulk Hogan's departure from the company in mid-1993, and wondered what may have happened if the Real American never left WWF?
Sounds like the perfect "What If Wednesday" to me. . .
To set the scene for those too young to remember, Hulk had spent most of the early 90's answering the siren call of Hollywood, and Vince McMahon had used this opportunity to get a little younger, wrestling wise. Bret Hart became the flagbearer of WWF, winning the World Title from Ric Flair in 1992 and carrying it into Wrestlemania IX against Yokozuna.
Perhaps because Vince didn't have faith in Bret as company lead or perhaps just to mollify Hogan and get him out, the booking wound up with Hogan beating Yokozuna for the title at 'Mania, carrying it until King of the Ring. After losing (thanks to the mystery bearded flash-bomb photographer) to Yoko, Hogan disappeared.
So, let's start our hypothetical in the beginning of that decade. Let's presume that Hogan and Vince sign a long-term extension somewhere around Wrestlemania VII, right after Hogan beats Sgt. Slaughter. Let's see what could have happened. . .
We'll let him keep Suburban Commando, but Mr. Nanny is right out.
With Hogan staying at the top, which is frankly the only way he remains in WWE, Bret Hart has no chance of main event success. He becomes a multi-time IC title winner, but most likely just becomes Hulk Hogan's lackey. Like Randy Savage of the Mega-Powers.
Now, he could turn heel and challenge Hogan that way, but we've all seen Bret Hart as a heel, and it doesn't really work.
More than likely. . .
Without the possibility of signing the Hulkster, Bischoff and WCW wind up picking up Bret Hart, who likely wins the World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair (possibly even around the same time of late 1992, but likely not is Saskatoon, Canada.)
Bret Hart going to WCW and finding success likely sets a light bulb off in Bischoff's head, so. . .
Curt Hennig is likely a top target, as could be re-signing former WCW talent Mark Callaway (aka, The Undertaker.) Vince would of course hold on to some of these talents (for some reason, I don't see Shawn Michaels in WCW), but a lot of these guys head South with the promise of being given opportunities for career growth in WCW.
Embracing a youth movement means holding onto some of their young studs. . .
With guys like Bret and Mr. Perfect around, you need "Stunning" Steve to have good matches with them, so he stays. In fact, after Ric Flair "passes the torch", you might not even need him anymore.
If WCW is going young, WWF might try to capitalize on the nostalgia market, plus be able to book Hogan vs Flair, the feud between the 2 top wrestlers of their generation. Adding in Savage, Piper, Bossman and the like, WWF has a top card in the mid 90's that looks remarkably like WCW's did.
As you can see, Hulk Hogan staying in WWF likely turns the entire wrestling world upside down, with WCW and WWF essentially switching places, roster wise.
A couple other things that could happen.
Assuming little brother follows big brother to Atlanta, there's no need for Owen to become the Blue Blazer, which means he's not up in the rafters on that fateful day in 1999.
While Ted Turner would undoubtedly want to compete head-to-head with Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff might have other ideas. A younger, "trendier" roster might mean he wants to have a 'trendier' time slot, so he might go for a "Must See TV" spot. Thursday Night Nitro, perhaps?
Not quite free agents, but guys like Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Mick Foley and, a few years down the road, Triple H and The Rock have quite the conundrum. WWF is still the biggest name in wrestling (or is it?) and has the star power of Hogan, Flair and the like. . . But WCW is where the young talents are making a name for themselves.
I imagine Hall, Foley and Triple H stay / go to WCW, where they become part of an incredibly deep roster. Kevin Nash goes to WWF to be a Hogan-battling heel, and The Rock eventually becomes Hogan's successor in WWF, as by the late 90's, even Vince sees that its time for Hogan to ride off into the sunset.
While he would still be the lovable irritant that he is today, Paul Heyman would likely have found a role in WCW. While he and Bischoff may never have been able to work together particularly well, they both would do well with the young evolution of the roster.
If Heyman stays in WCW, then there is no ECW. The "Extreme" mindset remains in WCW, who continues to innovate and elevate the sport of wrestling.
With the aged roster in WWF, they can't keep up.
You see where I'm going with this. . .
A roster of young. hungry, talented guys with opportunities for career growth and the ability to get "extreme" trumps a group of older wrestlers still clinging to PG conventions and battling under a single top guy who doesn't know when to get out of the way.
Sound familiar, ROH and NXT fans?
Funny how random things don’t wind up seemingly random, isn’t it?
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a time or seven, I’m a bit of a nerd. And I like making lists. So, I spent some time updating my list of all the content on WWE Network. . . Because I use my time wisely.
After making sure my dork-OCD levels were topped off for the day, I went to my good friend Random.org in order to decide what I’d watch. . . Isn’t that how everyone watches WWE Network? Pull a random number off a website, look up what Network event that refers to on your spreadsheet, then watch it?
. . . I really should keep these things to myself, I think.
Anyway, the number I picked took me to Summer Slam from 1990. Conveniently enough, I had just finished the Rumble from that same year this morning. Isn’t that a weird coincidence?
. . . Let’s just get to the card.
Highlight: Up until the end, my highlight was going to be the performance of Marty Jannetty. Shawn Michaels was limping as he made his way to the ring, so obviously he had some sort of leg injury, which explains why Hercules and Roma attack before the bell and take the future HBK out of action. Marty did a good job holding his own in a glorified handicap match.
But the real highlight was Power and Glory’s finisher. Hercules hits a Superplex and them Roma hits a top rope splash. How come we don’t see things like that anymore?
Lowlight: I get weary of the “blind” referee thing. Otherwise, this was a solid match given the circumstances.
So What: The Ascension should be watching all of Power and Glory’s matches very closely - that’s about as good a comparative team as I can make for them. One muscle guy, one finesse guy. That finisher P&G uses would be 100 times better than Fall of Man right now.
Highlight: I’ll admit, I marked out a bit for the Von Erich claw. I had also forgotten that Kerry won the IC title for a bit, so that was a nice surprise.
Lowlight: All the Texas Tornado jokes. I’m all for puns, but Von Erich deserved better.
So What: I wonder if it burns Curtis Axel to wake up each morning and know Dolph Ziggler is much, MUCH better at being the heir to the Mr. Perfect legacy than Axel himself. I hope he gets a shot in NXT to turn his career around.
Since the match didn’t happen, neither will my commentary. Just go check my Twitter feed and see the picture of Sherri from this event.
Highlight: Vince and Roddy on commentary. Vince: (Warlord) is big all over.
Roddy: (After a few beats) Is that right?
Lowlight: That this match warranted being on PPV.
So What: I’m really glad Erick Rowan, Sheamus and basically every other big man in the last 24 months didn’t get this Warlord gimmick recycled.
Highlight: This was just a solid tag match start to finish. Double-team moves, quick tags, psychology. The ending built 2 stories, even with a title change. I’m going to include my So What in here too - Take note, WWE tag teams. This is how you do it.
Lowlight: Ax, Smash and Crush look nothing like each other. This is one case where Twin Magic doesn’t work.
Not exactly a wrestling clinic here, so let’s talk about everything BUT the match.
Highlight: Watching Damien the snake try to kill Jake a couple times during his promo.
Lowlight: Watching the very quick shots of the “Harlem Sewer Rat” (which looked like a stuffed opposum), and Damien “relaxing in the shower” (also immobile).
So What: Bray Wyatt needs to sit down and watch Jake’s promos over and over and over again. This is his ceiling if he plays his cards right.
Highlight: Commentary team again. Vince after one of the Express tries to hit Nikolai with a tackle. “That was a dumb move, wasn’t it?”
Piper: “Yep. . . Really dumb.”
Lowlight: This is not the greatest card I’ve ever seen. A lot of Saturday Night Main Event matches on a Sunday night PPV.
So What: There’s hope for Rusev yet. Want to see him and Swagger teaming up to sing God Bless America like Duggan and Volkoff did.
Highlight: Again, not the greatest quality match here, which is a shame because it could have been. The Dibiase promo was the best part.
Lowlight: Dusty’s entire WWF career.
So What: Why haven’t we seen an updated version of The Million Dollar Man in WWE? Is it because everybody knows all these wrestlers wind up making a decent living?
Sorry, folks, grasping at straws here. We could make a case for Tyson Kidd having good lineage, since he holds Natalya in front of opponents the same way Savage did Sherri. Or we could just move on.
Highlight: Earthquake scaling the top turnbuckle with relative ease. Watching a 400 pound man perched relatively comfortably on the top rope was my favorite point of the whole match, even if it just wound up being a weak jumping punch.
Lowlight: Noticing a random table right next to the ring for no other reason than for Earthquake to be slammed on it at the end of the match. Try a little harder, please. The blue tablecloth didn’t help.
So What: I know a lot of people don’t want to see Hogan get back in the ring. I’m not a huge fan of the idea myself. However, watching this match, there’s only 3-4 things Hogan couldn’t do now as a 61 year old. He mainly just needs to get beat up, Hulk up, go home.
Highlight: Seeing Rude standing on top of the classic blue cage. I love that cage, and had the Ravishing One not just done a jumping punch, that could have become one of the all-time classic moments.
Lowlight: Seeing a piece of Warrior’s face paint hanging from his nose like. . . You know. . . Things that hang from noses.
So What: This main event shows how far WWE has grown - While a decent match, it was in no way a climactic end to the Summer Slam event. Even at its worst, most WWE PPV’s today have some sort of ending people want to talk about.
Have to wonder if, even at this point, Vince McMahon knew the Ultimate Warrior wasn’t going to be “the guy” he had hoped he would be.
Demolition vs. Hart Foundation. While this wasn’t a banner WWF PPV in my book, that match would fit well on any card.
The Ascension should totally steal Power and Glory’s finisher, right?
Does this card make you feel better about the current state of WWE?
Welcome to the first installment of DC’s Network Diaries, where we document one insane man’s attempt to justify spending hours upon hours poring over the massive amount of #NAIstalgia that exists on the WWE Network.
If you’ve been a fan of mine from back before NAI, you know that this is not a new venture. Back before I had a name, in my Teacher days, I tried doing this over at Number Two Contenders, even including a snazzy syllabus and everything. Since trying to find “lessons” in each PPV was a difficult endeavor, and also because each of those entries seemed to be about 10+ pages, consider DC’s Network Diaries to be a streamlined version.
As I go through each PPV, I’ll share the following…
- My personal favorite moment / highlight of each match.
Note: This will not be a play by play recap, nor will I presume to “rate” matches. Wrestling, like all art, is subjective, so I will allow you to like what you like.
- In some cases, a “lowlight” - Either a problem I have or some other “ughhh” moment.
- A “so what”, in which I aspire to tie in the match with something happening in the modern WWE.
- At the conclusion of each event, I’ll offer a single recommendation (Match of the Night, if you will), along with a few discussion questions, since you can take the Teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t keep The Teacher from assigning homework.
We begin this endeavor with a topical event, going back to 1990 and exploring the third annual Royal Rumble.
Considering my previously stated views on card openers, this is a strange one, though I must admit, the crowd loved Luke and Butch.
Highlight: Jacques Rougeau, in his pre-Mountie days, does a rather exquisite jumping back elbow, then performs one of the most impressive ‘nip-ups’ I’ve ever seen.
I’ve always been a big Jacques fan, perhaps because he looks like he could be my high school wrestling coach’s twin. While both Rougeau brothers had in-ring talent, watching in hindsight, Jacques’ charisma leaps off the screen. Plus, he’s going to be the Mountie. He’s handsome, he’s brave, he’s strong!
Lowlight: Do you think the WWF fans who sat in the front row at these events were excited when they got licked by a pair of backwoods New Zealanders? I don’t.
‘So What’: Those modern fans (myself included) who complain about the lack of in-ring wrestling logic only need to watch just the opening minutes of this match to realize that it’s always been like this in the WWE. There are so many blatant double teams its not even funny, and at one point one of the Bushwhackers bites referee Danny Davis on the rump and doesn’t get DQ’ed. So I suppose you could even say in-ring logic has improved in the last quarter century.
Highlight: 1990 was before my time as a wrestling fan, so my main thoughts of The Genius are when he was the know-it-all manager of The Beverly Brothers. In fact, this might be the first singles match I’ve seen of Lanny Poffo, and its plain to see that he’s the brother of Randy Savage. Insane athletic ability, even if it doesn’t translate to the wrestling he displays. At one point, The Genius leaps over the ropes almost as easily as Finn Balor does today.
Lowlight: I know this is 24 years ago, but I was not expecting so many blatant potshots taken at homosexuality. Beefcake’s mocking of The Genius would cause some protests today, methinks.
‘So What’: I couldn’t help but quietly offer a prayer of gratitude that WWE didn’t completely rip off The Genius gimmick for one Mr. Damien Sandow. Sure, the “Intellectual Savior” wore a robe not too far off from Poffo’s academia garb, but at least Damien didn’t have to prance around the ring.
Watching the Vince-narrated introductory video for this card, I learned that Ron Garvin was using the Sharpshooter (or, as they call it, the ‘Reverse Figure Four’), hence the need for a Submission match.
Highlight: Both men are wearing braces that should, in theory, prevent the other from using their signature leg submission. Valentine puts Garvin in the Figure Four, but since Ronnie is wearing the “Hammer Jammer”, it doesn’t faze him. “Rugged” Ronnie then proceeds to break out some hilarious funny faces to prove it doesn’t hurt, including giving himself moose ears and wiggling his fingers in front of his nose. You know, like Lou Thesz did.
Lowlight: On at least half a dozen different occasions, one man tried to pin the other during a submission match. I’m sure Vince was apoplectic backstage.
‘So What’: This was an example of a gimmick match done right, even if both combatants seemed to forget the stipulations. Each man had a signature leg submission and had ways to prevent the other from using it. It made perfect sense. Take note, WWE.
I should mention here that there have been some excellent promos with Mean Gene this card. Ted Dibiase lamenting that he got #1 for the Rumble, compared to finding his way to #30 last year, a great Heenan Family interview (showing that this event is really every man for himself) and now a Mr. Perfect one. So what? Shows how much Curtis Axel needs to learn, for a start.
I specifically bring this up because the next segment is a Brother Love show featuring Sensational Sherri and Sapphire, and the less said about it, the better.
Highlight: Seeing a very young Shane McMahon in a referee’s outfit.
Lowlight: Everything else.
So what: I’m glad Total Divas didn’t exist in 1990.
Highlight: Watching how naturally athletic Bossman was. He’s one of those guys that just made things look easy.
Lowlight: At one point we can see Jim Duggan blatantly tell the referee to check his arms when placed in a Bossman bearhug.
So what: It’s a shame that Ray Traylor is more remembered for the Kennel from Hell fiasco than he is for the rest of his career.
Mental note: Future Hall of Fridays: Bossman and Jacques Rougeau
Time for the quick-fire promos before the Rumble. God, I love NAIstalgia.
It’s worth noting that this was before the winner of the Rumble automatically received a title shot, as the WWF champion is not only in this match, he wins the dang thing.
Highlight: As with every Rumble, seeing the new superstars every 2 minutes is particularly appealing. In this instance, though, there was a time where we had Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage, Jake Roberts and Roddy Piper in the ring at the same time. You rarely see so many all-time greats together, and I am not ashamed to admit I marked out.
Lowlight: Poor Andre. One of the great shames is that by the time WWF became hugely popular, Andre the Giant was already in poor physical condition. Seeing him try to manage this Rumble was painful to watch.
Obviously the Rumble. It’s always going to be the Rumble. Best gimmick match of all time.
Big Bossman: Hall of Famer?
How about Jacques Rougeau?
Which Rumble is your favorite?
Best Andre moment?