Writer’s Note: ‘Sup, Lords of Pain? It’s your old buddy Mazza back again to drop some knowledge. So today was originally scheduled as a day trip to see you guys thanks to me winning July’s Columnist of the Month award in the Columns Forum of www.lopforums.tv however, this is in fact going to be the first column in my permanent return to the main page of Lords of Pain. For those of you who don’t remember my last stint, I mainly did reviews of old and new WWE pay-per-views (Classic/Current Paper Review) and the Smarks Court series. This time around however I have a few different titles up my sleeve. I plan on starting a new "once a month" series in September as well as a different type of interactive “predictions” column before Night of Champions. Today however I shall be bringing a different type of review that I call Ranking the Talent. As you can probably work out, what I do here is review the individual performances of the event rather than the matches or PPV as a whole. But enough of the explanations, let’s get on with the show.
Ranking the Talent - SummerSlam 2012: It's My Party (CPR Productions)
Aug 20, 2012 - 9:07:32 AM
RANKING THE TALENT
IT’S MY PARTY
The Event: SummerSlam 2012
The Date: 19 August 2012
The Place: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
So ladies and gents, the biggest party of the summer is officially behind us. I thought it was a pretty good night of wrestling and even though the undercard outperformed the big matches, nothing on the card was bad. Well, nothing aside from the singing fatty and terribly dancing divas which seems to be becoming an unfortunate SummerSlam tradition. But as I said earlier, I am not here to review the event as a whole or the matches, I am here to countdown the best performances of the night. And I will start out by see just who was the...
13. The Big Show
I sat down last night trying to work out in my mind exactly where the issue is with Show at the moment. I think he is a lot better when he is being booked as a big bad giant yet his addition to the WWE title match just meant it went from an intriguing rematch to a hot mess. Then I realised what the problem is. The years of inconsistent booking have finally caught up to him. Not that long ago he always remained a believable threat despite his long CV of embarrassing losses but he just doesn’t have credibility at the top level any more. On top of that he adds nothing but his size, his chops and those kayfabe breaking grins that just make me want to turn the channel. He is still a long way from the worst wrestler around but there are only a certain amount of times he can go back and forth between Big Nasty Bastard and Knucklehead and have people caring.
CPR Grade: D
We are just going to have to accept that Sheamus is rarely going to add much to his matches and the quality will usually be down to his opponent. He has basically taken that Batista role in that he is dominating the blue brand and is more than carryable to a great match, but is also at risk of putting on a stinker. His match with Alberto Del Rio was neither but it is time for the WWE to realise that these guys really don’t mesh well. A solid outing by the World Heavyweight Champion but nothing more. The sooner he gets a new challenger, the better. It is unfortunate that it doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.
CPR Grade: C-
=10. The Miz/Alberto Del Rio
I am pooling these two guys in together as I see them both in a very similar fashion at the moment. They just do absolutely nothing to hold my interest even though I can’t really pin point anything they do particularly poorly. The Miz has been enough of a heat magnet in the past to earn a main event win at WrestleMania, and whilst he was the spare wheel in that scenario, it was still huge. I think it might be that he just struggles to come across as a legitimately strong heel now and relies purely on a handful of ridiculous facial expressions. ADR on the other hand, repetitive promos aside, seems to do everything right but he just can’t connect. He has the gimmick, the look, the skill and I can understand why WWE want him to get over but it just isn’t happening. What isn’t going to work however is to keep throwing him at Sheamus and hoping it sticks. He may be best off turning a heel on the brink (possibly Ziggler) and trying to ride that wave of heat. It might be cheap but that can work long term.
CPR Grade: C-
9. John Cena
It’s been a strange old year for Cena but I think when we look back at 2012 in his history, it will be seen as wasting time before his rematch with The Rock. This WWE title match was another one of those but it could have been so much more. Another feud and big match with Punk really could have worked well and would have raised the profile of SummerSlam but the pointless continuation of his feud with the Big Show running along side just diluted the whole thing. As a result, instead of getting another potential classic, we just got to see Cena’s Superman act of FU’ing a giant for the one millioneth time. Let’s put this one right at Night of Champions, WWE.
CPR Grade: C
8. Rey Mysterio
The return of Rey Rey has to be a good thing for the company even if it does look like he has had a few too many tacos whilst he has been on the shelf. He made a decent fist of it against The Miz. It was a fun short match and although it won’t stand up to any of his classics, it was perfectly acceptable bout for two guys who haven’t wrestled much at all recently. It will be interesting to see just where Rey fits into the grand scheme of things next.
CPR Grade: C+
7. CM Punk
For Punk you can pretty much say the same thing I said for Cena. After some great matches with Ziggler, Jericho and Bryan this year, Cena would have made for an interesting change in styles but unfortunately John brought his rather substantial excess baggage with him. Did as well as you could have hoped for but didn’t have much chance to do anything special. On a positive note, his trunks were pretty cool and he pulls off pink a lot better than Titus O’Neil.
CPR Grade: C+
6. Triple H
As usual the haters were in full effect before the match, convinced that the Game wouldn’t do the job that may or may not have been necessary (depending on what is next for Brock). Not only did he do the job, he did it pretty emphatically, tapping out once again to close a major PPV. Just like he has done with Taker at the last two Manias, he kept a slow and deliberate pace to the match and that made sense in the end. Going back to basic psychology was a good move and it was fun to see him really go to town on Lesnar’s gut. On a slightly negative note, he didn’t do a great job of selling the arm whilst he was on the offensive but he proved once again that he is still that big time player when the occasion calls for it.
CPR Grade: B-
In my No Way Out version of this column, Kane actually took top spot in being able to hang with guys who can legitimately claim to be the best in the business. He showed here once again that with the right opponent, Glenn Jacobs still has a lot more gas in the tank. Whilst his career has mirrored The Big Show’s over the last decade, Kane still seems to have the in-ring ability to really mix it up with the younger guys rather than solely being reliant on his size. That said, the poor guy has taken so many stiff kicks this year he surely deserves a holiday.
CPR Grade: B
4. Chris Jericho
If, as rumoured, Jericho is doing the offs soon, he certainly wanted to go out with a bang. His opener with Ziggler was really good but maybe not quite as great as some (myself included) would have hoped for. Whilst the action was exciting and generally crisp, they didn’t quite gel as well as they have with others over the years. As the senior partner, Y2J has to take his fair share of the blame for that but we are talking about a margin between great and phenomenal. He also made up for it a bit with a Frankensteiner and using the Liontamer to pick up the win. In hindsight he was the right man to win too, otherwise his credibility would have been shot to shit.
CPR Grade: B+
3. Dolph Ziggler
With the Money in the Bank briefcase at his side, he could afford to lose this one. He is still a cash-in away from a world title and hopefully will have another match with Y2J to pass the time. As for his performance, it is what we have come to expect from the Show Off. He flew around the ring, showed excellent athleticism and sold like his life depended on it. There may come a time where it gets boring and there will definitely come a time where he will need to adapt his style to avoid dying but that time isn’t now and he remains the most exciting talent on the roster.
CPR Grade: B+
2. Brock Lesnar
Once upon a time there was a big ol’ hoss who could go hold for hold with the best of them. Sure, he couldn’t talk very well but WWE booked him to perfection by pairing him up with the right mouthpiece. There is no doubt the business would have been all about him but he decided he wanted to chase eggs instead. A decade later Brock Lesnar is back and despite clearly not being in the same shape and having dealt with major health issues, he showed plenty of signs last night of why he was once the future of the company. Alistair Overeem may have ended his credibility in the octagon but he still looks a legit badass in the squared circle. The pace was slow which definitely helped (he looks like the tank will get to empty very quickly) and he showed off an arsenal of crisp and deadly looking moves. Whilst the build up to this match has been questionable, his dominance (aside from one high profile weakness) of Triple H has made him look immense. In fact I don’t think anyone has had the privilege of no-selling a Pedigree since WrestleMania 12.
CPR Grade: B+
1. Daniel Bryan
Once again however, there is one man that is head and shoulders above the pack right now. D-Bry continues to be the ultimate sports entertainer in the game today and I honestly can’t point to a weakness in his game at the moment. He put on a very strong match with Kane whilst having the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand once again. I said it recently in feedback to Hustle’s Raw Running Diary and I will say it again here... WWE would be foolish not to make the most of the reactions that Bryan is getting. It is a massive opportunity to establish D-Bry as a main eventer and top star. Whilst the “YES!” and “NO!” chants have been likened to Austin’s “WHAT?” phenomenon, I think it fits in more with Angle’s “You Suck” phase. In fact, it is the Olympic Gold Medalist’s career I see Bryan emulating. He can shift effortlessly from goofy to intense, can go with the best of them in the ring and I think will soon become a go-to guy for the company.
CPR Grade: A-
So there you have it, ladies and gents. Daniel Bryan takes the star of the night award for SummerSlam 2012 and to be honest, will probably be hot favourite to do so again come Night of Champions. This was somewhat of an odd edition in that nobody performed particularly poorly. I guess no Sin Cara match helped with that and there was very little in the way of filler just to get people on the card. In fact my biggest criticism of the event was that it seemed very short. Probably could have done with an extra match or a bit more time for a couple of the encounters. Overall it was an enjoyable night’s action, even if it won’t be able to match-up to the better SummerSlams over the years.
That brings me to the end of my re-debut. I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the performances of SummerSlam. I shall be back soon but in the meantime please feel free to let me know your thoughts. Was someone else other than D-Bry the standout performer? Have I criminally underrated or overrated somebody’s night? You can use the handy little comments boxes below, shoot me an email >>>here<<< or hit me up on my Twitter @MazzaLOP. Until next time... Peace!
‘Sup, Lords of Pain…
Mazza: So last time out we gave you the rundown of where the WWF was in March 1997 and what we intend to do during this year long series. It’s hard to choose an exact start and end date for the Attitude Era but we have decided to bookend the series with a couple of editions of the company’s biggest PPV of the year. I will pass over to my co-host who will tell you a little bit about what we will be looking at today.
Maverick: Well, as the old saying goes, thirteen is an unlucky number, and it’s certainly true that the situation in March 1997 was not ideal for the WWF. WCW had been riding the wave of creative and commercial success brought about by the white hot ‘Outsiders’ angle, and Vince and co. were finding it hard to come up with an answer. Shawn Michaels’ run atop the totem pole had not helped the numbers, and the hot potato played with the WWF title from November to February really didn’t help matters. Worse, Michaels himself became pathologically opposed to doing a job to Bret Hart in the main event of the forthcoming Wrestlemania XIII and instead “lost his smile” due to a knee injury. Early internet commenters and traditional paper dirtsheet writers poured scorn upon the legitimacy of HBK’s injury in one of the first big instances of a significant number of smart fans detecting backstage heat. However, there were bright spots too; a fantastic storyline had been constructed to cover for Michaels’ absence, and the roster had huge amounts of potential if used in such a way as to excite the wrestling audience. Wrestlemania XIII, despite the ultimately low buy rate, would go some way to setting the company on the right path.
The Event: WrestleMania 13
The Date: 23 March 1997
The Place: Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
The company’s priorities are easily detectable when we look at the undercard. The tag team division of the time was underrated and got a showcase in the opening number one contenders bout. The tag champions of the time were Owen and Davey Boy, and they’d been displaying signs of friction for some time, even wrestling in the final of a European Championship tournament. Their opponents for the Granddaddy were Mankind and Vader, a thrown together duo with Paul Bearer in common. The strength of the division was further reinforced by the six man affair which featured LOD, three members of the Nation of Domination- an African-American stable loosely based on the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers- and popular midcarder Ahmed Johnson. The Chicago Street Fight stipulation would help these guys to construct one of Attitude’s first cluster-you-know-what brawls...more of which later. In the singles ranks, two up and coming midcarders, Hunter Hearst Helmsley (slated to meet era-lynchpin Goldust in one of those “don’t touch my valet!” stories) and Rocky Maivia (against The Sultan in one of those “argh! FOREIGNER!” stories), were poised to make an impact in preparation for their huge futures. If anything, these undercard stories were fairly safe New Gen style tales, recognisable from countless previous Wrestlemanias even if their content was getting more “modern”.
On the other hand, the build to Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s legendary submission match was white hot, and at the very vanguard of this change to a spikier product. Hart dropped an F-Bomb on Vince McMahon, and even went so far as to put his hands on said lead announcer (who would soon, of course, be outed as the owner of the whole damn company). In retrospect, you could smell the Hart heel turn in the air, and the incredible heat he and Austin were able to generate before their match even began was a sure sign of the era-birthing moment to come. Interestingly, both main events only came about because of HBK’s loss of his smile, as ‘Mania had to be hastily re-booked due to his yawning absence. Bret was compelled to seek vengeance on Austin after the bald assassin had cost him a Rumble win and his title in consecutive months, while Sid, who was the beneficiary of Austin screwing over Hart, had to defend his newly won title against the Deadman, who at this time stood 5 and 0 at Wrestlemania. While the Streak was not yet a storyline, or even the germ of a storyline, it was certainly a fact that The Undertaker was not often booked to lose, perhaps taking some heat from the show closer, at least to an extent...it ended up being a simple hoss vs. hoss feud. More of which later, but now here’s Maz to review the undercard!
The Headbangers defeated The Godwinns, The New Blackjacks and Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon in 10:39 in a Four Way Elimination Tag Team Match
The night starts off with a number one contender’s match in the tag team division. Coming out we have four very distinct teams in The Godwinns, The Headbangers, The New Blackjacks as well as Furnas & Lafon. There really is a story to be told simply by the teams involved and what happened to them but there will be more on that later. Things kick off in a huge brawl. Something we will see more and more as time goes on over the next few years. Whilst I am not a fan of a lot of the teams involved, there is definitely an interesting blend of styles on show. There are often issues with the rules in multi-team tag matches but here it was clear. Two men in the ring and you could tag in anyone. This led to the obligatory team members have to face off with the Headbangers. Unfortunately the two more proficient teams get eliminated early. I am not quite sure if it was for a double countout, double DQ or a mixture of the two but the Blackjacks and Furnas/Lafon were brawling outside the ring and the ref got pushed. This leads to two of my least favourite tag teams of all time battling it out. To be fair to the Headbangers and the Godwinns, the action isn’t bad. The match is smoother as 2-on-2 even if it isn’t quite as exciting. Eventually it is the Headbangers who pick up the victory thanks to Mosh hitting a Stage Dive on Phineas. Not the most awful match considering who was involved but it was wrestled at a decent pace, which is what you want really from an opener.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *3/4
Rocky Maivia defeated The Sultan (With Bob Backlund and The Iron Sheik) in 9:45 to retain the Intercontinental Championship
Before the IC title match can get underway, we are graced by the presence of the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time - The Honky Tonk Man. The match will see a pair of cousins go at it who will lock horns again later in the Attitude Era under much higher profile circumstances. Champion Maivia was beginning to show a couple of signs of gravitating towards The Rock character we would all come to know and love (and hate again in some cases) but was still a little green and vomit worthy as a bland babyface the company were clearly looking to push to the moon. The Sultan was Rikishi under a mask and judging by the fact he was paired with legends Bob Backlund and The Iron Sheik, you’d have to think he had some supporters in high places too. The match itself was something we’ve seen a million times before. Plucky hero overcomes evil monster. It wasn’t a particularly good version of it either due to the fact nobody really seemed to care a great deal about either guy. The amount of rest holds didn’t help, neither did the corniness of Maivia’s comeback. There wasn’t a great deal of difference between his work here and as The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment but the slight switch in mannerisms and facial expressions can change perception a great deal. There was a moment which we will all come to recognise as the set up to the People’s Elbow but the exclamation was infact a top rope crossbody. The Sheik interferes and hits Maivia with a piledriver but the champ kicks out and rolls the Sultan up for a three count. After the match there is a 3-on-1 beatdown until Rocky Johnson (porn name anyone?) runs in to make the save. It is actually a nice moment as father and son eventually clean house. It’s just it would have been that much more of a WrestleMania moment had there been a bit more heat to what went on before it.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (With Chyna) defeated Goldust (With Marlena) in 14:28
Before the match gets underway Doc Hendrix (aka Michael Hayes) interviews Hunter and Chyna. HHH dodges questions about their but does say that he can “take Goldust any way he wants”. Ooooookaaaaaay. This is definitely a Hunter at the start of transition into The Game we all know and hate. He is still curtseying and poncing about in the blueblood gimmick but the edge is starting to come into his work and Chyna brings the attitude. This had the makings of a very good midcard feud. There was hatred between the men involved and that translated into the match from the get-go. The changes of pace throughout are well timed and I loved the way they didn’t overdo the Chyna-Marlena situation. Chyna stood statuesque throughout proceedings until it looked like Goldust had things in hand. Then she began stalking Marlena. Goldust sees what is going on and lifts his missus onto the ring apron and out of danger. Hunter attacks from behind however and the future Terri is thrown into the future “adult actress”. The visual of Marlena being tossed around in Chyna’s bearhug is tremendous and the distraction allows HHH to hit the Pedigree and pick up the victory. An emotional Goldust carries Marlena to the back after the match. For me this is the perfect midcard match for a WrestleMania. A decent story and solid performance even if nothing earth shattering.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **1/2
Backstage Shawn Michaels attempts to find his smile by learning how to use a laptop. Very cutting edge for ‘97 I must say.
The British Bulldog & Owen Hart and Mankind & Vader (With Paul Bearer) fought to a Double Countout in 16:08 in a Match for the Tag Team Championship
One of the characteristics as we came into the Attitude Era was the blurring of lines. Wrestling in the WWF had always been a battle between good and evil but shades of grey were starting to come into things. Vader and Mankind were the heels here but the champs were also on the bad guy end of the spectrum. A split between Davey Boy and Owen was hinted at on the way to the ring as Jim Ross tried to cause a little tension in an “on-the-move” interview with Owen stating he is the leader of the team. It surprisingly didn’t come into play in a match which started out with your typical speed vs power battle between Hart and Vader. Things soon get out of control as the ref tries to keep just the legal men in the ring. This is not a match that follows your typical tag formula for large parts but we see some good action from four talented wrestlers before Owen finally adopts the face in peril role. It’s interesting that despite nothing coming of the potential issues between the brothers-in-law, Bulldog still wrestles the match very much in a babyface role from start to finish whilst Owen drifts between goodie and tweener. The hot tag to Davey doesn’t take long and leads everything to break down. Mankind locks in the Mandible Claw on Bulldog. They go over the top rope to the outside but this particular face of Foley is relentless in keeping his finishing hold attached, and both men are counted out. The brawl continues after the bell with Owen eventually getting his partner away from the deranged Mankind. I don’t get as annoyed as most when it comes to non-finishes at big events but I really wasn’t a fan of how this one ended. With new number one contenders established earlier in the show (and their shot coming the next day) we could have really used something a tad more decisive. Aside from that I thought the action was great. A hectic, unorthodox mishmash of styles which showcased four guys who could have had a great influence on the era we were entering. It is a shame only one of them really managed it.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
Bret Hart defeated Steve Austin in 22:05 in a Submission Match
Now how do you review a match like this. I am sure almost everyone reading has watched this match, even though some of you will have barely been out of nappies when it happened. The match was a brawl. When you consider you had a great technician in Bret going up against a health Austin, who was much more proficient on the technical side of things, that is a bit of a surprise, especially considering the submission stipulation. The fact is though, it isn’t so much the physical action that makes this a classic, it’s the storytelling. It starts even before the match. The video package shows a feud that has arrived just at the right time for the double turn. Austin doesn’t give anything away in his entrance though. He comes down like a classic heel. Hart shows a contrast. He acts like Bret the Good Guy but his face tells a different story. That isn’t something new for The Hitman but you could tell he was all business. The crowd are very much mixed for both men but I’d say there is still a slight preference for Bret at this stage. The pace is hectic from the get go as they fight through the arena and back to the ring. It settles with Bret in control. He works the leg methodically. Once again it is heel like but not particularly out of the ordinary from Hart. The crowd are beginning to take notice and a Stunner out of nowhere gets a big pop. Austin can’t capitalise however and The Hitman takes control again and goes for the figure four around the ring post, which the crowd also react positively to. Whilst Austin probably now has more of the fans, it is still pretty even but the boos and cheers are getting louder. Stone Cold soon gets busted open going into the barriers which will set up the iconic image we will get later on. The cut becomes a bullseye for Bret and the crowd turn against him some more. Austin gives a last flurry of bravery but it is Sharpshooter time. The Hitman locks it in and despite struggling, Stone Cold passes out and the ref calls the match. Bret is visibly unhappy with how the match ended and cements the heel turn by continuing the attack on a knocked out Austin. Shamrock, who did a good job as ref throughout, takes Bret down and evens it up. Austin eventually comes to and takes a ref out with a Stunner before walking to the back a fully fledged babyface. This goes down as an all time great match and deservedly so. It was absolutely intriguing and everyone involved played their part to perfection. Obviously both men in the ring, but also Shamrock in an understated performance, the announce team on driving home the story and the Chicago crowd in playing ball. Storytelling at its very best.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ****3/4
The Legion of Doom & Ahmed Johnson defeated Faarooq, Crush & Savio Vega (With The Nation of Domination) in 10:45 in a Chicago Street Fight
Next up we have a crowd pleasing cluster**** of a match. The Nation of Domination were still in their original carnation here with Farooq heading up a monster faction which boasted Savio Vega and Crush as wrestlers in addition to D’Lo Brown, Clarence Mason and PG 13 as a couple of hypemen types. Legion of Doom were the hometown heroes in this one with NoD nemesis Ahmed Johnson made an honorary Road Warrior for the night. This wasn’t pretty at all. In fact it was very reminiscent of what would become the hardcore division, a year and a half before the title would be introduced. The teams just beat the hell out of each other with everything and anything they could get their hands on, including road signs, fire extinguishers and, amusingly, the kitchen sink. There was a horribly messed up piledriver on the announce table in there which Faarooq was lucky to walk away from. The Nation also tried to hand both Ahmed and Hawk with a noose, something somebody backstage had a hard-on for (my guess would be Russo) as it would make another Mania appearance a couple of years later. Anyway, LOD pick up the win with a 2x4 clothesline to Crush. The crowd goes nuts but the war isn’t over. PG 13 take a double Doomsday Device and the faces celebrate by having Ahmed walk around with a half-wedgie. Context is everything here. It doesn’t age well but in the moment I think it goes down as Mania great. Whilst all the debris around ringside would become the norm in parts of the WWF card over the next few years, this was pretty unique for the company at the time. The crowd lapped up every last part of it. We know how Chicago natives love to react to their own and make no mistake, LOD are one of the most over teams ever even away from home. Time specific but still fun.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
So there we have a busy undercard but I will now hand you back to Mav as he takes a look at...
THE MAIN EVENT
The Undertaker defeated Sycho Sid in 21:19 in a No Disqualification Match to win the WWF Championship
I always enjoy Wrestlemania matches more when they are a part of the larger story of the evening and of the company’s story moving forward. Considering that Sid and ‘Taker were thrown together to cover for the lack of Shawn Michaels in the picture, the way in which the short and long term narratives play out here is very satisfying indeed. With the Bret vs. Austin feud having played out on the largest stage possible with epic results, the two hosses were left to close the show in the title match, but the influence of Hart would hang heavy throughout the evening, as he had forgiven neither Sid (who took his title) nor ‘Taker (who was made number one contender) for their trespasses on his territory. Essentially, The Hitman had snapped and he was going to let nobody steal what he felt was his rightful place in the spotlight.
A few facts that you may find interesting; this was Mark Callaway’s very first Granddaddy main event, while Sid Eudy was in his second, the first taking place at Wrestlemania VIII. The Undertaker would, of course, go on to close the show at Wrestlemanias XXIV and XXVI in the later years of his career, once “the streak” had been established as March’s most vital spectacle. With his win over Sid here, The Phenom embarked upon his second reign as WWF champion, his first being all the way back in 1991, which shows you just how much he had been used as a special attraction competitor; despite being an undisputed top name for almost seven years, he had barely been in the title picture bar a brief dalliance with Hogan and a match with Bret Hart at Royal Rumble ‘96. Interestingly, in the Attitude and Brand Extension years to come, he would be used as a championship wrestler far more, before settling back down into the special attraction role over recent years. As for Sid, he would never again ascend the heights he reached through ’96 and ’97, leaving the company and declining in skills and popularity in WCW and ECW before suffering a gruesome career ending injury.
The entrances for this match are a lot of fun; it’s immediately obvious that The Undertaker has reverted to the original costume he first used upon debut in 1990; that’s some very interesting symbolism, since that version of the character was nigh on invincible, no selling offense and stuffing Tombstoned victims into body bags. Sid, meanwhile, looks more and more the part with that belt around his waist, wearing the black leather waistcoat, staring bug eyed out into the crowd as the pyro behind him traces a giant “SID” in the air of the Rosemont Center. It’s great theatre, it’s what ‘Mania is about, and the opening stare down between two seven foot goliaths only increases that feeling of anticipation.
The actual wrestling that follows is not classic by any means; there’s no Shawn or Bret helping a larger guy to a faster paced match, just two massive men slugging away at each other, but it’s fun what it is and as I mentioned earlier, this one is all about the over-arching company story anyway. The two main eventers from the year before, Hart and Michaels, are prominent at ringside, with The Hitman fresh from a heel turn on Stone Cold in the match of the decade, and The Heartbreak Kid on commentary detail, rocking a kind of tweener vibe. Both have an interest in the match, that much is clear, and once again an Attitude trope is surfacing, in terms of the sheer amount of outside influence on the contest. There’s a trace of the wonderful mic work the Pink and Black Attack would do over the course of the next six months when he berates Sycho and ‘Taker for the wrongs that they have done him, and although he gets a powerbomb for his troubles, the new super heel will be back later on for his revenge. You can think about it this way; the heel turn only began during the Austin match. His actions in the main event well and truly cemented it. I love that sort of thing. The WWF really did make the best out of a bad situation in the way they booked Wrestlemania XIII, and that’s something that extends all the way to the finish, where Hart’s repeated interference in a No DQ setting costs Sid the match and his gold.
Yes, the action is slow and plodding; yes the two men wrestling each other struggle for chemistry and yes there’s more strikes than wrestling moves, but hey, this match serves a fine purpose in moving things forward and developing key characters for the months to come. I think it’s well worth your time, and anyway, we’re wrestling fans; we all owe it to ourselves to understand each and every Wrestlemania main event and their respective merits. This one isn’t as lame as some would have you think it is.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **1/2
WrestleMania 13 had gone down in history as a one match show. In a way that is an understandable assessment. You had a match that many call the greatest in Mania history and nothing else on the card comes close to that. At the same time however, there was a lot of intriguing wrestling from top to bottom and it is probably an underrated event. As a spectacle and from a historical perspective, there is plenty to take away from the main event. Aside from that we had a lot of decent midcard matches. Sure there was nothing groundbreaking on show (except for maybe the kitchen sink) but the wind of change was blowing within the booking and the characters themselves.
Watching it again in full from start to finish with no breaks, I was most struck by how well it stands up to modern scrutiny. It’s a very well balanced Wrestlemania and enjoyable all the way through, even down to the backstage skits and the interaction between the commentators. The match quality is more than solid all the way through and it does, of course, contain one of the most heralded wrestling matches of all time. Definitely an underrated Wrestlemania. Put it this way, I enjoyed it a whole lot more than half the ‘Manias of the past decade. There’s just something about it when watched as a complete event; it flows so well, in the way that an experienced rock band knows how to put together a set list for maximum audience manipulation. Well worth another look, not just for historical importance, but because it’s a heck of a lot of fun.
WrestleMania 13 Overall ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
MVP - BRET HART
By 1997, it had been such a long time since Bret Hart had played a villain that prior to February of that year, it seemed impossible that he ever would again. Even in his heel days, he and Neidhart had Jimmy Hart as a mouthpiece, so the idea of the Hitman stepping up as the company’s top heel seemed almost bizarre. And yet, at this show, on that night, he put on a bravura performance, the primary mover in the most celebrated double turn of all time and the deciding factor in the title match. Take a bow son! The only choice for MVP of Wrestlemania XIII.
Without a doubt. There is a good case that the star being made should get the MVP spot but people forget that the submission match is as much about making Bret a heel as it was making Austin a face. You could flip a coin to find the better man in the semi-main event but it is Hart’s interactions in the title match that push him over the edge. Interesting that you could say that Bret saved the streak before it even became a thing, distracting Sid when he was about to hit his finisher and allowing The Deadman to land the Tombstone.
But we need to move on from Bret now and take a deeper look at one thing we took from watching WrestleMania 13.
THE ONE TO WATCH
What fascinates me about the build up to and execution of the thirteenth annual edition of the Showcase of the Immortals is the way in which the transition between the themes and tropes of the New Generation and those of the Attitude Era is so easily detectable when you view the event and its construction within its proper historical context. The participating teams in the opening tag team fourway number one contenders bout include hillbillies in dungarees (The Godwinns), a tag team of heavy metal fans (The Headbangers) and a revival version of a team of cowboys (The New Blackjacks), and thus seems to fit neatly with the tendency of the undercard of New Gen shows to be filled with performers rocking silly, cartoonish gimmicks. We can also see The Sultan (Rikishi under a mask) and Rocky Maivia (boring identikit babyface stock character) as evidence for the New Generation’s lingering influence.
However, when you think about it, by the end of this show, most of the ingredients and major players of the early Attitude explosion were in place. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s inexorable rise had begun, Bret Hart’s awesome heel character was about to throw down some truth bombs, Michaels would ultimately return from his “injury”, ‘Taker was poised to go on the first lengthy title reign of his career, while Mankind, Rocky, Helmsley and the man who’d become Rikishi were proving their worth in the midcard. All the Fed needed to do was to start to put these great ingredients together properly...
I found that opening tag team match absolutely fascinating. The symbolism of what is going on is almost too good not to be deliberate. The first team you have is The New Blackjacks, which is essentially a rehash of the original tag team from the 70s. Windham and Bradshaw were at different ends of the their careers but both are very oldschool. The was definitely representative of the past. You also had Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon, a team so gimmick-free that they didn’t even have a proper team name. If ever there was a team who peaked in the wrong era it was these guys. They would have been a brilliant fit in the Ruthless Aggression era, in particular the SmackDown brand. Whilst their tag team and technical prowess would also have not seemed out of place in the late 80s, they are definitely representative of the future. And they both got kicked out of the match at the halfway stage. When I think about the New Gen, the first thing that comes to mind are the Godwinns. They are highly representative of a lot of the bad things the era gave us, in particular awful gimmicks and the downslide of tag wrestling. A pair of big old pig farmers with horrible square dance ring music and a bucket of slop. You could also say the exact same thing about The Headbangers and Attitude. The gimmick was they were a couple of metal fans. A hell of a lot edgier than what had come in the New Gen and that came through in all aspects of their characters and their wrestling. There would be wearing skirts and bras and even vomiting on TV. Fortunately they would get outshadowed by better duos during the early stages of Attitude but they were extremely representative of incoming era. It is interesting that they got the win here over the Godwinns, signalling a wind of change that would continue throughout the show.
Whereas the show started with a subtle look at eras, the main event was an in-your-face look at what to come on a regular basis during Attitude. It’s funny how the show built. The tag title match showed quite a bit of the norm of the Era and then we had the double turn which was a brawl hiding behind the submission match gimmick. There was no hiding in the Chicago Street Fight but it was the main event where the cluster****itude and blurring of lines really came into play. Watched in isolation, trying to work out who was heel and who was face was next to impossible and that battle between good and evil was the very foundation pro-wrestling was built on. Taker and Sid would both act like tweeners throughout and both felt the wrath of Bret who was doing everything he could to keep the traditional heel alive, even if he’d only been one for an hour or so. Then, of course, you had Shawn Michaels at the announce booth. Everything pointed towards HBK being face. He was giving props to the guys in the ring and really putting them over. Bret on the other hand was on the receiving end of one hell of a burying. Even though he was the heel, Shawn’s tongue seemed particularly poisoned when flapping in Hart’s direction. No whether that is just knowing how much real heat there was between the two in hindsight, I am not sure, but there seemed to be just as much venom flying back and forth between Michaels and Lawler at the booth. The King, of course, was also a card carrying member of Club Baddy so maybe I am reading too much into the Hart situation. But that is where the blurred lines come into play. You just couldn’t be sure how real the bitterness on display was. One thing was for sure though, you wanted to tune in the next day to find out just what would happen next, something that would be key in the war with WCW.
While the buy rate for Wrestlemania XIII was poor (around 308,000 buys), it was essentially a “reset” show that put the wheels of Attitude in motion. A year later, Wrestlemania XIV would improve on that buyrate by over 600,000 buys, so the first year of Attitude will be fascinating to break down. What went so right in that timeframe?
I think the answer to that is a lot. The seeds had be sown and were beginning to flourish. Some, like Austin, were really blooming, whereas others were just starting to have petals break through. It happens one step a time though. We will be back next week as we look at just what came next in the WWF. The tag team scene would take a few turns post Mania, and the making of the team that would become the linchpin of the division would be set in motion. Maivia would start a relationship with a stable that would be highly important in his growth. The Undertaker would cross paths with a couple of old foes whilst Austin and Hart would raise the stakes in their feud. Make sure you tune in to Attitude! next week to read about all of this and more.
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