I enjoyed last night’s Raw. I loved the Jericho segment. William Regal should become a full-time commentator. He’s very good in that role. I liked the Punk-Johnny Ace-Ziggler segments. That should be a great title match with a ton of heat. Zach Ryder is quite good in the sympathetic babyface role. I look forward to the Cena vs. Kane match. BTW, to continue these discussions on other social media outlets, please follow me on Twitter @TheDocLOP or hit me up on Facebook (Doc Lop)
Doctor's Orders: The Road to Wrestlemania Countdown #91-#120
By The Doc
Jan 24, 2012 - 8:59:49 PM
QUESTION OF THE DAY (47): Was it something Wrestlemania related that got you hooked on wrestling or was it something else?
120. Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X
119. 20-Man Battle Royal at Wrestlemania IV
118. Chris Jericho vs. William Regal at Wrestlemania X-Seven
117. Mega-Maniacs vs. Money, Inc. at Wrestlemania IX
116. Eddie Guerrero vs. Test at Wrestlemania X-Seven
115. Jake Roberts, Yokozuna, and Ahmed Johnson vs. Owen Hart, Vader, and British Bulldog at Wrestlemania XII
114. Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega at Wrestlemania XII
113. Undertaker vs. Psycho Sid at Wrestlemania 13
112. Randy Savage and Sherri vs. Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire at Wrestlemania VI
111. Randy Savage vs. Greg Valentine at Wrestlemania IV
110. Big Show vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania XX
109. Danny Davis and The Hart Foundation vs. Tito Santana and The British Bulldogs at Wrestlemania III
108. Marc Mero and Sable vs. Goldust and Luna at Wrestlemania XIV
107. The Hart Foundation vs. The Nasty Boys at Wrestlemania VII
106. Team Angle vs. Los Guerreros vs. Chris Benoit and Rhyno at Wrestlemania XIX
105. Big Bossman vs. Mr. Perfect at Wrestlemania VII
104. Randy Savage vs. Crush at Wrestlemania X
103. Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy at Wrestlemania 2
102. John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Finlay
101. Ted Dibiase vs. Jim Duggan at Wrestlemania IV
100. The British Bulldog vs. The Warlord at Wrestlemania VII
99. Rey Mysterio vs. Matt Hardy Version 1.0 at Wrestlemania XIX
98. Christian vs. Diamond Dallas Page at Wrestlemania X-8
97. Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk at Wrestlemania XXVI
96. Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Goldust at Wrestlemania 13
95. Greg Valentine vs. Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania IV
94. Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor at Wrestlemania XI
93. Triple H vs. Kane at Wrestlemania XV
92. Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts at Wrestlemania IV
91. Razor Ramon vs. Jeff Jarrett at Wrestlemania XI
Setting the stage: Hart and Yoko had wrestled the previous year’s main-event in Las Vegas, with Yoko winning the title from Bret by shady means. It took Hart a full year to get back into a position to win back the belt. The Hitman and Lex Luger were the co-winners of the Royal Rumble in ’94, so Yoko had to overcome the Lex Express to get to wrestle Bret in the main-event at Mania X. Bret went through a grueling battle with his brother, Owen, in the opening match that night and came into the title match with a bum leg. Yoko had put on a sizeable amount of weight since Mania IX, something that Bret would remember heading into the final match of the 10th Anniversary of Mania (counting the way the WWE counts).
The match: Yokozuna dominated the majority of the match, as he often did in his bouts with the much smaller Hart, but Bret made sure to try and chop down the big man as much as he could in going after his massive legs. The crowd was solidly behind the Hitman, giving him much deserved respect for wrestling a classic in the opener and coming back for the main-event despite suffering the loss to his younger brother. Roddy Piper was the special referee and he made sure to keep the outside the ring shenanigans to minimum, as not to have a repeat from the previous year. Hart eventually began to turn the tide, but Yokozuna thwarted the comeback attempt and set Bret up for the Banzai Drop. His weight and the work done to his leg by Bret proved to be his undoing, as he lost his balance on the second rope and plummeted backward to the mat, smacking his head during the fall. Bret pounced and made the cover for the pin and the win.
The reception: It’s hard to recreate the magic of a first meeting between two top stars, but Bret and Yoko did a nice job in their return match and made good use of psychology to push their match to the two-star level. Yoko’s character limitations and size prevented this from being any better, but Hart’s title win was a nice moment to more officially usher in a new era in the WWE.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Years before there were pre-show battle royals to get the guys that didn’t make the Mania card a pay day, there were battle royals that meant a little bit more. Winning a battle royal back then was a much bigger deal than it has become with all the ones we’ve seen on TV. There were a lot of Hall of Famers in this one – close to ten current and future Hall of Famers, including Bret Hart, Nikolai Volkoff, Harley Race, and Junkyard Dog. Pre-show favorites were Bad News Brown, Harley, and JYD, as they were the biggest names in the match, at the time. The Mania 2 Battle Royal we talked about a few days ago had NFL and WWE pride on the line. In addition to simple victory, this Battle Royal had a humungous trophy at stake. One historical note that must be mentioned is that Bret Hart turned babyface after the match, marking a run from 1988 to 1997 were he was a hero. He did quite well for himself in that role.
The match: It was a jumbled mess like most 20-man Battle Royals to start off, but once they got trimmed down to about 10 guys, it really started to get good. The eliminations were spaced out well. It came down the pre-match favorites Race, JYD, and Bad News, along with two tag team performers (Bret Hart and Paul Roma). Roma and Race were ousted pretty swiftly from there. Hart and News then teamed up to eliminate JYD (remember that Bret was still a heel at that very moment). Bad News quickly turned on his short-term ally and eliminated the Hitman. After the match, Bret kicked News out of the ring and broke the trophy he won for winning the match. Kind of a whiny way to become a good guy, huh? Foreshadowing his next turn, some nine years later?
The reception: I have always supported the on-air Battle Royal as long as there is something on the line. It was an easy way to give a push to someone post-Mania and get a bunch of guys that work hard for you all year onto the main card.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Regal was named Commissioner of the WWE and almost immediately became a target of Chris Jericho. Not liking the besmirchment, Regal abused his power to put Jericho in unenviable positions, often in handicap matches and such. Jericho fired back with random attacks and went so far as to go #1 in Regal’s tea. That went over like a lead balloon, leading to Regal booking himself in opposition to Jericho at Mania, with Y2J’s IC title on the line. Regal was excellent in the role of the corrupt authority figure. I always thought he could have ridden that to a run in the main-event, both in 2001 and later in 2008, but it never worked out. Perhaps the WWE has never had such a combination of ability in the ring and on the microphone not ascend any further than the Intercontinental Championship. Part of that is his fault, though. Jericho, meanwhile, was very over and well on his way to having the best year of his professional career, to that point.
The match: They had a heated contest from the outset and quickly began a rapid series of high spots, the most impressive being a Regal double under hook throw off the top rope. Regal exposed a turnbuckle to gain an advantage, but in the end it was his undoing. They botched what would’ve been a smooth finish and had to noticeably improvise, leading to a rather dull ending. Jericho was going about one-hundred miles per hour during this bout, with Regal only going at about 50. It was, therefore, kind of a mess, at times. It would’ve been forgivable had they nailed the finish, but their differences in pace ultimately hurt the match.
The reception: Most agreed that this was the right choice for opener that year and they got the crowd into their match / set the tone for the rest of the night. The ending was justly criticized, though, and hurt the rating for what otherwise would’ve been a highly regarded undercard match at arguably the greatest Mania of all-time.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Ted Dibiase and I.R.S. were the face of the tag team division for quite a while as the WWE transitioned into the New Generation. They were holdovers from a generation gone by and added credibility to the tag straps. However, it was a singles match between Dibiase and the returning Brutus Beefcake in early 1993 that kick started one of Money, Inc.’s higher profile tag title feuds (in an era where high profile tag title feuds were quickly reaching the status they’ve maintained in the modern era, in which the tag belts really don’t matter). After the match, they leveled Beefcake with I.R.S.’s briefcase – Brutus had just returned from a multi-year hiatus because of a facial injury. Their manager, Jimmy Hart, had a change of heart and sided with Brutus, eventually leading to the return of Hulk Hogan to help even the odds.
The match: Like a typical Hogan match, the heels dominated the early going leading to a big babyface comeback that saw Money, Inc. get themselves intentionally counted out. However, the referee said he would declare new champions if they did not return to the ring. Upon returning, they regained control, making Brutus the face-in-peril and removing the protective mask he was wearing due to the facial injury. It looked to actually be their undoing, as Hogan eventually gained possession of the mask and used it as a weapon while the ref was knocked out. Jimmy Hart revealed himself to be a secret guest ref and counted to three to crown new champs, but the evil Danny Davis came out and disqualified Hogan for his use of the mask, giving Dibiase and IRS the win and the title retention.
The reception: The general consensus about Mania IX was that it was poorly booked; this match was over booked. It was all over the place. However, it was one of the more hotly contested bouts of the night thanks to Hogan and Dibiase’s involvement. Interesting to note that Hogan actually injured his face in an accident shortly before Mania, thus causing him to sport a wicked black eye.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: The European title had a nice little run from 1998-2002. I kind of miss the days when a mid-card title would be defended in a match like this at Mania. It’s been a long time, now, since we’ve seen the mid-card titles defended on the same Mania card. Back in ’01, Test was the European Champion and riding a pretty solid wave of momentum that carried him through the Invasion storyline the rest of the year. Eddie was professionally doing fine, but personally heading down a road that would make his ultimate road to redemption (personally and professionally) quite compelling. I don’t remember much about a feud for these two guys.
The match: It’s a shame that Test didn’t have a more bankable personality because he was a pretty good talent in the ring. Working with a guy like Eddie certainly didn’t hurt, but Test did a great job in this match. I think he was at his best – and I remember him most fondly - in matches that were about 8-12 minutes in length, which allowed him to hit most of his big and impressive power moves and absorb the right amount of offense in return to create for a nice, well balanced, and hard hitting match. If you look at his matches with Edge (Series ’01), Taker (SS ’02), and Shane (SS ’99) in addition to a bout like this one, you’ll see a quite capable performer that could hold his own as long as the bouts played to his strengths. Eddie, of course, was a master of the in-ring performance when his body and mind were right. I don’t think either was right during this time period, but it didn’t show – perhaps thanks to the short duration of the match. Eddie ended up winning the Euro title.
The reception: There’s a reason why Mania X-Seven is considered by many to be the greatest Mania of all-time and it isn’t just because there were five matches that ranged between surprisingly awesome and generally outstanding. In part, Mania 17 is so highly regarded because the mid-card matches like Eddie vs. Test delivered and held up their end of the bargain.
CMV1 rating: **1/4
Setting the stage: Jim Cornette had co-managed Yokozuna during much of his meteoric run at the top of the WWF, but in early 1996, Cornette turned on Yoko. The other members of Camp Cornette, Owen and Bulldog, helped the newest acquisition of the Cornette stable, Vader, demolish Yokozuna in the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania. Yoko employed the help of a returning Jake the Snake and new sensation, Ahmed Johnson for this six-man tag. The stipulation was that if Yoko’s team won, then he’d get 5-minutes alone in the ring with Cornette. Essentially, the WWE was transitioning away from Yokozuna being a relevant star, as his weight gain had gotten ridiculously out of control. His one last job was to put over Vader. How awesome was Cornette, by the way?
The match: Yokozuna and Vader dominated the first part of the match, trading offense until Camp Cornette took control. Yoko eventually tagged in Ahmed, who suffered the same fate. Owen, Bulldog, and Vader worked better as a team and, thus, maintained momentum no matter which of the babyface wrestlers were in there. Roberts was the last guy to tag in and he got destroyed until making a hot tag to Yoko, but the big man tagged Jake back in to finish off the heel team with the very over “DDT” finish. Vader got involved and gave Jake the Vader Bomb for the win.
The reception: It effectively got over Vader as a powerhouse behemoth that could hang with the WWF’s previously established powerhouse behemoth, Yokozuna. Outside of that, it was a formulaic tag match. It was kind of a lousy ending to Jake’s Mania career, by the way.
CMV1 rating: **1/4
Setting the stage: Oh, how times ended up changing. “The Ringmaster” at Wrestlemania XII – well, he was Stone Cold by that point, but every action was still that of the Ringmaster, on down to holding the Million Dollar belt and being accompanied to the ring by the Million Dollar Man – is so funny to look at when you consider how quickly his fate changed. Three months after this match took place, he won the King of the Ring and delivered his “Austin 3:16” promo that sparked an entire era for the WWE. At Mania 12, though, he was just a mildly over mid-card act going nowhere fast in a match against Savio Vega. I think the matches with Savio were important, though. It wasn’t so much this bout, but the Caribbean Strap Match that came two months later, that showed what Austin was made of and gave the WWE enough confidence in him to make him KOTR.
The match: The Strap match at In Your House: Beware of Dog was a very good display of what both men could do in the ring, but the Mania bout was pretty bland by comparison. The crowd at Mania was so dead – arguably the worst crowd in Wrestlemania history – that it made it difficult for me to get invested. Neither Austin nor Savio were all that over, at the time, so part of the blame falls on their shoulders for not getting the crowd into their match, but the crowd was just a bunch of bumps on logs anyway, so I’m not sure how much blame you can assign to the wrestlers. Austin won the match with the Stunner. You remember back when Austin was still trying to learn how to hit his famous finisher in rhythm? Go back and watch the finish of this match to see how awkward it could sometimes be. It wasn’t smooth at all…
The reception: Mania 12 was a two match show and this wasn’t one of the two. They tried hard, but the dead crowd really dragged this down. There wasn’t much of a story behind this either. Nevertheless, they did a nice job and laid the ground work for one of the better mid-card feuds of 1996, in terms of in-ring performance. One big feather in Austin’s cap when it comes to making a case for him to be the #1 star in Mania history is that, performance-wise, this was his worst match.
CMV1 rating: **1/4
Setting the stage: The WWE Championship situation heading into Mania 13 was tumultuous to say the least. Sid had it when the New Year’s bell rang. HBK won it from him shortly after. Then, HBK vacated it. Bret Hart won it in the first Fatal Fourway. The Hitman lost it the next night to Sid. Taker was the most over guy not otherwise occupied or injured, so he got the title shot against Sid at Mania. There was not a huge storyline built around them, sans for the easy giant vs. giant plot. Sid’s only two matches in Wrestlemania history were main-events. You’d think, without having seen this match, that it would be an eyesore. To the contrary, the WWE handled it well.
The match: A tone was set early that let you know that the WWE wasn’t really confident that these two could carry a Mania main-event without some outside intrigue, so HBK was the guest commentator and Bret Hart got involved early and late. In the middle, Taker and Sid worked hard to warrant their spot. Taker bumped and sold better than normal for the limited, but game Sid. The champion tried as hard as he could. Sid had never been known as an in-ring stud, but Taker managed to carry him through a basic, but interesting enough title match that saw Taker endure everything that Sid could dish out. Bret got involved again at the end and Taker ended up winning the title after the Tombstone and the 1-2-3.
The reception: It will never be regarded as a classic by any stretch of the word or even what could be considered “good” and, because it was the main-event at Mania, it will always be faulted for not being better, but I thought that they had a solid match and did the best they could given the circumstances. It’s destined to be known for one thing: the night that the Undertaker won the title in his first Mania main-event.
CMV1 rating: **1/4
Setting the stage: One of the most unintentionally funny lines in the history of professional wrestling is Dusty Rhodes saying “Sweet Sapphire.” When I was in school, I had a friend that hadn’t watched wrestling in years. I credit myself (not much) for getting a bunch of professional school students to start watching wrestling again in their late twenties and early thirties. Anyhow, my friend was very knowledgeable of the old school WWE. So, I would bring up wrestling from time-to-time. We were down in one of the labs preparing for a practical exam review and someone mentioned a sapphire necklace, prompting my friend and I to each simultaneously yet unknowingly recall the same memory of the build-up to Wrestlemania VI and start saying over and over again, “Look at the SWEET SAPPH-IRE! That’s that SWEET SAPPH-IRE!”
The match: Sweet Sapphire was a colossal clump of dump in the squared circle, so it was Savage and Rhodes that were responsible for using their considerable in-ring talents and Sherri’s out of the ring abilities to get this match over with the audience. It was a change of pace for Savage to work this kind of spectacle considering he was involved in the match of the night at the two previous Manias and the two that followed this one. I enjoyed this match and thought it managed to achieve its intended goal of being entertaining – nothing more and nothing less.
The reception: My bottom line on a match like this is that as long as the non-wrestler doesn’t completely embarrass him/herself, then it’s OK to favorably review it. I thought Dusty and Randy did a good job. Sherri was always awesome in her roles. So, they did enough to overcome Sapphire and produce a solid outing that didn’t take away from this card. If anything, this card was so bad that this stood out as one of the better bouts of the night.
CMV1 rating: **1/4
Setting the stage: Two Macho Man matches in a row? Get ready to see a lot of Randy Savage over the next two months – that’s all I can say, at this point. This was a second round match in the WWE Championship tournament. In round 1, Savage defeated Butch Reed and Valentine had pulled an upset of sorts over Ricky Steamboat. Both former IC Champs, Savage and Valentine were attempting to become just the second superstars to hold both the IC and WWE titles (with Pedro Morales having been the first). By the time this match happened, it seemed almost a foregone conclusion that Savage would be in the finals against Ted Dibiase. Historically speaking, having neither Hogan nor Andre advance past round 2 eliminated the drama for the semi-finals almost completely.
The match: Talk about rapid fire action, these two went at it tooth and nail, non-stop for about 6-minutes. They wasted little time and did not spend much effort using rest holds, which was a nice change of pace from the usual style in a match of that nature. Trading momentum on several occasions, the two kept you guessing who might win – which was a bit of a chore considering that Savage was so heavily favored. Savage was caught by surprise when he went to the top rope to finish off the Hammer, only to get caught with a strong fist that put him flat on his back. Valentine pounced and went for the Figure Four, but Savage countered into a roll up for the win.
The reception: Many had hoped to see Steamboat vs. Savage in a Mania III rematch, so there was some disappointment when that didn’t happen thanks to the round 1 Valentine victory over the Dragon. Fortunately, Macho Man and the Hammer did well to have a fast-paced, high energy match to make people mostly forget about the potential for the aforementioned return match.
CMV1 rating: **1/4
Setting the stage: Show and Cena first began their feud in November ’03. Cena set his sights on winning his first championship in the WWE: Big Show’s United States title. They faced each other in a better than expected bout on Smackdown in December (the wrestling main-event of the first Tribute to the Troops), but Cena did not win the title. The two became central figures in the chase for the WWE title both at the Royal Rumble and No Way Out, even facing each other in a #1 contender’s match for Wrestlemania (also involving Kurt Angle) at the February PPV. Angle came out on top, leaving Show and Cena to reignite their feud over the US title for Mania.
The match: Cena cut a pre-match rap, ripping the larger athlete to the point that an enraged Show came out and made a few early mistakes that allowed Cena to gain momentum. It did not take long, though, for Show to start establishing his dominance. For much of the next several minutes, Show looked destined to retain, as he blasted Cena with high impact move after high impact move. Unfortunately for him, none of the moves could seemingly put Cena down for the count. With the NYC crowd firmly beyond the Doctor of Thuganomics (yes, Cena actually was once very popular with everyone), the tide began to turn late in the match as we approached the climax. Cena made his comeback and hit the FU…but Show kicked out! No one could believe it! The sheer sight of Cena lifting Show onto his shoulders seemed enough to put the big man’s shoulders to the mat for the three, but it was not to be. Cena retrieved his trusty chain as a decoy – the ref immediately took it from him – which allowed Cena to retrieve his custom knuckles and blast Show right between the eyes. Cena connected with a second FU for the win!
The reception: This would become the standard Cena match for a long time. He’d get in his early offense, get beat down for an extended period, and then make a triumphant comeback for the win. Formulaic would be the best way to describe the general critical reception to it…
CMV1 rating: **1/4
Setting the stage: The major storyline of this match revolved around Dangerous Danny Davis, the evil referee that frequently found himself the center of controversy in the finishes of babyface matches. Yet, after reading Bret Hart’s book, this bout always fascinates me because of the two tag teams and their personal history. Here you have Tom Billington, aka the Dynamite Kid, who is such a stud performer that he is revered for his in-ring performance/workrate. He’s carrying Davey Boy Smith, often portrayed for the first decade of his career as a hapless chap that can’t tell the difference between a wrist lock and wrist watch unless you separate the two using some sort of numerical system. Smith becomes the brother-in-law of Bret Hart, who already teams with one brother-in-law in Jim Neidhart. Bret and Dynamite are considered the cream of the crop of the four, having wrestled each other numerous times in other promotions like Stampede Wrestling. Ultimately, though, it turns out to be Davey Boy that ascends to great success as the lone British Bulldog after Dynamite makes stupid decision after stupid decision while his body breaks down and he ignores it. Neidhart makes a lot of bad choices, himself. Bret goes onto become one of the most famous (and infamous) personalities in wrestling history. And then there’s Tito Santana and Danny Davis…
The match: This was a good opportunity for the young Hitman. The Bulldogs were coming off a reign as tag team champions, Tito was a former IC and Tag champ, and Davis was one of those surprisingly over acts that drew a lot of heat. It was the first major match of the Hitman’s career in the WWE and he worked hard to make the most of it. At that point, Bret was still just the guy that worked really hard and carried the matches. He didn’t have much personality and wasn’t displaying much of the traits of a future world champion, but he was a damn good wrestler. He worked well with all the babyface competitors. In the end, Davis hit Davey Boy in the face with Jimmy Hart’s trusty megaphone to get the win, but it was a good showcase of his some young talents.
The reception: Mania 3 had a lot of matches like this that were above average. I have always considered this to be one of the hidden gems of Mania III, overshadowed by so many other big matches. It will always be a Bret Hart match, to me. I thought it was the first time he really got to show what he might eventually be capable of.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: Marc Mero and Sable debuted and became a pair in 1996 at Wrestlemania XII. The WWF gave Mero a nice push to the IC title in ’96, but it was Sable who got over. By 1998, she was a huge star in the making. Mero began playing the jealous guy and employed Goldust to help him make sure that Sable was not as popular. Luna joined the mix and targeted Sable’s beauty, but eventually Mero decided that only he should get to be the one keeping Sable down, so he turned on Goldust. The challenge was made on Raw for a mixed tag match at Mania – only the third one in Mania history. I’d never seen a female be quite so popular on WWE TV as Sable was in 1998. That was her year. Sex began to sell as the WWE changed its marketing strategy toward teenagers. I was a teenager. I’ll never forget Fully Loaded ’98 for as long as I live (that was the night she took her top off to reveal her bare breasts with black painted handprints on them).
The match: As per the rules, the men could only wrestle each other and the same went for the women, so Goldust and Mero carried the bulk of the match. The two of them pulled off some nice sequences, while the crowd kept chanting for Sable. She would make her presence felt and go after Luna, but Vachon ran away at every turn. Mero connected with several of his signature moves on Goldust, nearly pinning him on several occasions. He finally hit his TKO finisher, but Luna interfered. Sable blind tagged herself in and powerbombed Luna for a near fall and then hit the TKO to earn the pin and the win.
The reception: The booking of this match went over very well with both the crowd and the critics. The crowd was really into Sable and the critics enjoyed how the match was scripted. Mero and Goldust did well in doing most of the work, setting up Sable’s big comeback and finish. I, personally, thought this was a surprisingly nice addition to the card.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: 1991 was a big year for Bret Hart, as it was the start of his singles career in the Intercontinental Championship division. In the summer, he’d win the IC title from Mr. Perfect in a classic match at MSG that set the tone for the rest of his storied career. First, though, he had to drop the tag team titles. You have to think it was bittersweet for the Hitman to leave long-time partner Jim Neidhart and you know that it must have hit Jim hard to know that his career, soon after watching Bret tear the house down for a year as a singles star, would never be the same. I thought the Hart Foundation, thus, went out with a bang at Mania 7 and had one of the better matches of the night.
The match: The only major gripe I had with the match is that the Nasty Boys were so dependent upon rest holds. For those of you that grew up on Randy Orton’s chin lock of doom back in ’03 and ’04, then it would drive you nuts to watch Nobbs and Saggs trade rear chin locks on Bret for about three minutes of this match. It all fit within the context of the story being told, as the Nasties were dastardly heels attempting to dethrone the white meat champions, but it also dragged down the excitement level of the match. The crowd that night in LA was unusually excited – for an LA area crowd – and that certainly helped.
The reception: Some prominent reviewers loved this match, putting it right up there alongside the tag match that opened the show as the second best match of that evening. I, however, thought that it was a good match that could have been better. When my expectations are higher, it is easy for me to allow my disappointment to affect my ratings. It’s not an objective business, by any means. I thought it was the fifth best match behind Warrior-Savage, the Rockers match, the IC title match, and the very surprising bout between Warlord and Davey Boy Smith. Bret was surrounded by three clunkers.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: The tag team division had undergone a bit of a renaissance in the fall of 2002, with several quality tag combos sprouting up to headline a revitalized part of the show. Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas emerged as the champions leading to Mania, in large part due to their association with the WWE Champion, Kurt Angle. They were, without question, a very good young team. In my opinion, they were the blueprint for the modern tag team – you put two guys that aren’t overly charismatic, but very good in-ring performers together and allow them to grow. There are numerous good workers on the roster that never get the time of day because, after all, there is only so much time that can be dedicated to singles wrestling before people get lost in the shuffle. Anyhow, Eddie and Chavo were their top challengers, but Rhyno made his return from injury to team with Benoit. There was a high level of anticipation for this mid-card match.
The match: Triple threat rules tag matches that are given a limited about of time are destined to feature little more than a random conglomeration of spots and this was really no exception…but those spots were crisply performed and well executed. The teams took turns trading control of the bout until a melee broke loose that left the finish in doubt. Everyone hit their big finishing moves as the drama built to its crescendo. Rhyno connected with the Gore on Chavo, seemingly giving him and Benoit the tag titles…but he was pulled out of the ring before he could make the cover. Team Angle snuck in the pin and the win to retain the straps.
The reception: On any other PPV, they might have gotten 12-15 minutes and torn the house down, but since they weren’t given that kind of time, they did the best that they could and entertained the 54,000 in attendance and the hundreds of thousands watching at home. Alas, it was not memorable, but it was a solid addition to the card. I have a feeling that a few people will disagree with my rating and ranking, here.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: Big Bossman had become a pretty over babyface in 1990 and, eventually, that led to a feud with the most over heel stable, the Heenan Family. One of the shining stars of that stable was Mr. Perfect, who was the Intercontinental Champion enjoying his second title reign in a year. Bossman and Perfect were pitted against each other at Mania with the IC title on the line. In all honesty, the Heenan Family story was on its last legs and there wasn’t really a ton of interest in Bossman vs. Perfect. There’s no question that Perfect was an excellent heel and a great wrestler, but soon after this event, Heenan walked away from managing and Perfect went on hiatus to heal up a chronically aching back.
The match: There wasn’t really anything memorable about the match itself. If you enjoy the Mr. Perfect/HBK heel style of bumping like a mad man like few others ever could or ever will, then you’ll find some enjoyment in the match. The finish stunk, like many finishes back during that time period in Mania history (it was a DQ and Perfect retained the title). However, the aftermath immediately following where Andre the Giant made his final Wrestlemania appearance was certainly a historically noteworthy occurrence.
The reception: I think the rating given to it depends on how people initially saw it. I first saw Mania 7 on video tape and the entire match was not shown. I remember it as being something in the ballpark of a 6-minute match, but the official listing is that it’s a 10-minute match. I don’t recall ever having seen a version of that match that went to 10-minutes up until the WWE’s Wrestlemania Collection came out a few years back. The DVD version shows the full, ten-minute match. Time matters in match rating, so the extra four-minutes of action that we saw helped boost this above the two-star level.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: The Macho Man’s wrestling career seemed to be pretty much over in 1994. He didn’t perform at Mania 9 as a wrestler, but as an announcer. That had become his role. He wrestled occasionally, but he wasn’t involved in any major storylines until the fall of 1993 saw him begin a feud with Crush. At Mania 9, Crush was portrayed as a babyface star on the rise. Even though he lost his match, he would pick up steam and eventually earn a title shot against Yokozuna in the summer. It was the biggest opportunity of Crush’s entire career, but he lost and found himself the recipient of a vicious beat down at the hands of the mammoth champion. It turned into another big opportunity for him, though, as he went on to align with Yokozuna. Savage and Crush were supposedly friends. When Crush turned heel, he questioned Savage’s friendship since he didn’t immediately come to his aid during the Yoko attack. Savage returning to the ring for this headlining feud would’ve been similar to Triple H returning from a lengthy hiatus to face someone similar to Sheamus. It was a big deal. I think people forget how long this feud had been building by the time Mania X rolled around. It escalated at the ’93 Survivor Series and continued through the early parts of 1994 to the point that at a unique Falls Count Anywhere stipulation was placed on it.
The match: This Falls Count Anywhere gimmick was a little bit different to what we’ve become accustomed. In this match, the wrestlers had to make a pin, but then keep the opposition away from the ring for 60 seconds. So, there were multiple falls as opposed to the standard “one fall.” Savage was treated like the legend that he was by the MSG crowd, but he had to overcome quite a challenge from Crush. There was quite a bit of uncertainty, as I recall, about who would win this match. It ended up being Savage’s last major match in the WWE and it was his first major singles match on PPV in quite some time. However, Crush was a star on the rise involved in his first major angle as a singles star…against Macho Man no less. Either man could have come away with the win and no one would’ve been surprised. Savage ended up brawling with Crush back to the dressing room area, getting the pin, and tying Crush’s leg to a pulley so that he could not so easily make it back to the ring in one-minute. The idea worked for the Macho Man and he won the match.
The reception: There’s been a mixed reaction to this match over the years. Some have given it high praise. Some have not. I fall somewhere in between, as I thought it was a good match, but that it could’ve been better had they not attached the gimmick to it. The stipulation was not confusing, but it was awkward, tedious, and unnecessary. I think it would’ve gone over better if they’d just done the one fall and eliminated the 60-second return to the ring part of the stip. If they wanted to do a Last Man Standing match, then they should’ve just used that as the gimmick.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: The original Wrestlemania saw the WWE’s golden boy, Hulk Hogan, pitted against one of his arch rivals – arguably his greatest non-Mania rival – in Roddy Piper. After 1985, though, the WWE tried a new strategy that they maintained for several years with rare exceptions. They went out and found a bunch of huge guys that they figured the kids that adored Hogan would buy into as serious threats to dethrone the Hulkster from his championship perch and/or potentially end his career or life. That strategy peaked in 1987 when they put Hogan against Andre, but it really got going with King Kong Bundy in 1986. Bobby Heenan was trying to find a way to end Hogan’s reign and looked to have his solution in Bundy, a dominant force who took the wrestling world by storm when he dominated Hogan on Saturday Night’s Main-Event, effectively leading to the booking of the Cage match for Mania 2’s final showdown.
The match: The old blue cage is an impressive sight, to this day. Hell in a Cell and the Elimination Chamber have got nothing on the blue steel bars of the old school cage. It seemed foolish for Hogan to trap himself inside that monstrosity with the monstrous Bundy, but even as a kid I never thought Hogan was in jeopardy. Bundy smartly removed the tape that had been protecting Hogan’s ribs (aftermath of the attack by Bundy on SNME). He was a smart worker. Some big guys are just oafs that don’t get wrestling, but Bundy wasn’t one of them. Bundy bladed after Hogan rammed him into the (honestly) unforgiving steel. Hogan tried to slam him, but couldn’t do it on the first try, allowing Bundy to come back and nearly win the match with the Avalanche. The Hulkster, though, hulked up and slammed Bundy, following with the leg drop. Hogan tried climbing the cage, only for Bundy to grab his leg. Hulkster managed to escape and retain the title.
The reception: Very intelligently worked cage match, here. Hogan nor Bundy were fantastic workers, but they both were capable and told a nice story in this match. They made it believable that Bundy could beat Hogan, and then they turned around and made it believable that Hogan could beat Bundy. It wasn’t a lengthy match, so they didn’t have to do too much. They went back; they went forth. In the end, it was a solid piece of work.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: In 2007, the Little Bastard, Hornswoggle, was revealed to be the illegitimate son of Mr. McMahon, but when JBL came back in 2008, he revealed that Finlay was actually Hornswoggle’s dad and that Vince had been duped. JBL helped McMahon punish the little Irishman, but Horny’s father came to the rescue on multiple occasions. After JBL handcuffed Finlay to the ropes inside a steel cage, the big Texan proceeded to beat the holy hell out of the Leprechaun. Finlay challenged JBL to a Belfast Brawl…no rules; falls count anywhere. It was a horrible angle, overall, once thought to have been meant for Mr. Kennedy (to be Vince’s son), but when that potential plotline fell through and Horny became the initial payoff, it was all downhill from there. Nevertheless, once JBL got involved, it was a pretty decent from there on out. Layfield, with his mic work, made it work.
The match: It had been a little while since we had seen the WWE feature a match like this one, as it felt like an old school brawl for the Hardcore title. There were tables, trash cans, kendo sticks, and the like helping to give it an Attitude era feel. It went back and forth for the better part of ten minutes. JBL blasted Finlay in the face with a trash can lid as he was diving through the top and middle ropes. He later tossed a trash can outside the ring that connected with Hornswoggle. Finlay came back and put JBL through a table, but Bradshaw scored with the Clothesline from Hell for the win.
The reception: The majority of critics praised the Hardcore nature of the match and called it a throwback to days gone by that, when used sparingly, can still add quite a bit to a wrestling card. JBL and Finlay worked hard to warrant the time that was given to their match and they delivered a strong addition to Mania 24 to nicely support some of the bigger matches.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: The Million Dollar Man was a main reason for the controversy surrounding the WWF Championship heading into Wrestlemania IV. He tried to buy the title from both Hogan and then Andre the Giant, but the President of the WWF would not allow the integrity of the belt to be trashed by Dibiase. It was a brilliant angle, especially for that era. Million Dollar Man was just a cool character and any similar gimmick will always find a way to get over. Dibiase was one of my favorite characters of all-time and I was truly thrilled to see him get inducted into the Hall of Fame two years ago as a headliner – he deserved it. Anyhow, his action led to the premise of Wrestlemania IV, where these two former Mid-South Wrestling stars collided in the very first match of the tournament. As insurance for the Million Dollar Man’s title investment, Andre accompanied Ted to the ring for his opening round match.
The match: A back and forth and highly inspired effort started off the tournament in style, with Dibiase selling for Duggan like he was getting hit by a truck. The crowd really wanted Dibiase to lose, so they used that. It was Dibiase’s selling that made the match, as he was great at bumping around like a mad man. Duggan showed flashes of why he is a Hall of Famer, working a simple style, but getting the crowd behind him. There are two ways to look at a guy like Duggan, a former football player turned pro-wrestler; the first is to view him as bad for the sport because he didn’t make it in football and, thus, chose wrestling as a replacement (making wrestling look second rate). However, the second option is to look at Duggan as good for the sport because, as a credible athlete from a more popular and well-received sport, he lends more of a mainstream athletic style to pro-wrestling somewhat similar to how a pro football player lends more mainstream popularity to dancing by being on DWTS.
The reception: Because this was just one of sixteen matches at Mania IV, little attention was paid to a lot of the shorter matches of the various rounds. However, Dibiase was praised for his performance throughout the night. I will second that praise and also remind everyone not to forget that Duggan did well, too. This is one of those hidden gems, in my opinion, that far too often gets overlooked.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: This was the case of two guys heading in opposite directions. It’s not like the Warlord was ever a big star, but he was getting a push based on his size in the effort to potentially set him up for Hogan when he first came into the WWE. By the spring of 1991, he was about to be on his way out. The British Bulldog, on the other hand, was transitioning out of the tag team ranks and beginning the slow burn toward his Summerslam ’92 main-event at Wembley. One thing to keep in mind was that Bulldog was by no means the serviceable (actually pretty damn good) wrestler that he’d eventually be by this point. Dynamite Kid had been the worker of the Bulldogs tag team and Davey Boy the muscle.
The match: The story was basically the Bulldog’s running powerslam finishing move against the Warlord’s full nelson. If you think of the Master Lock Challenges that Chris Masters used to do, but with pinfall and submission rules, that was essentially what we were dealing with here. I know that sounds bad, but it really wasn’t given the guys involved. Bulldog’s power game actually meshed quite well with the Warlord’s. Sometimes, chemistry between two wrestlers comes at the strangest of times. I remember watching this match with very low expectations years after the initial viewing and being surprised…make that shocked. When Davey Boy powered out of the full nelson and eventually hit the powerslam for the satisfying babyface victory, it was nice…
The reception: They told their story well. It played out so that the Bulldog had to sell in the traditional big man vs. smaller man scenario, but he did well to make his comeback. The appropriate plot twist was there with the full nelson seemingly being the end of the road for Davey Boy, but then he managed to escape and hit his own finish. I liked it. Choosing a guy like Warlord to put over the Bulldog was smart, as it was a good showcase for Davey’s strength – those power moves looked twice as good against a guy as big as Warlord.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: Mysterio spent much of his first six months plus in the WWE wrestling heavyweights and wowing fans, but you knew he’d eventually vie for the Cruiserweight Championship. The man holding it as of Mania XIX was Matt Hardy during the most entertaining period of his singles career. If any of you that have followed me on LOP for a long time ever wondered, it was this version of Hardy that made me such a fan of his. I was a HUGE MHV1 fan back during the early Brand Split Era. It’s a shame what has happened to him. Like with many others, I feel that repeated crazy bumps damaged his brain. I’d love to get a look at CT scans of his core neuroanatomy. Back to 2003, Matt went through hell to “lose enough pounds to get into cruiser weight” and win the title from Billy Kidman in February ’03. Anticipation was high for potential match quality between him and Rey…
The match: With just six-minutes to work with, Hardy and Mysterio went wild with a flurry of quick-paced offense. Adding entertainment to the mix was the Mattitude-Follower, Shannon Moore, who creatively helped Matt escape a few precarious situations. The action was crisp and of very high quality, as the two traded a few believable near falls. One particularly nice sequence saw Hardy attempt a Splash Mountain Bomb from the second rope, only to see Mysterio reverse it in mid-air into a flying hurricanrana. The finish came when Shannon Moore got involved again long enough for Matt to counter a 619 into a roll-up pin with a handful of tights for the win, retaining his CW title in the process.
The reception: Most critics praised the match, but bashed the WWE for not giving it more time. Had it gotten closer to ten minutes, it would’ve likely been much higher up on this list. Alas, it was still a heck of a fun match and an added bonus to what was an incredible Wrestlemania (the best ever, in terms of overall workrate).
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: After a solid singles run and break from the tag scene in 2001, Christian had become a whiny little punk that liked to throw temper tantrums when things didn’t go his way. That’s when the self-help help guru, DDP, came along to try and steer Christian in a more positive direction. DDP eventually got Christian smiling (hilariously) like a goof and trying his best to look at things a little more “glass is half full.” Then, the future Captain of Charisma turned on DDP in an effort to become the Champion of Europe, setting the stage for a match between the two at Mania X-8.
The match: At under 7-minutes in length, DDP and Christian had to work fast and furious to get the crowd in Toronto, Canada fully behind the story that they were attempting to tell. It was a back and forth contest from the outset, with each man gaining the upper hand on one occasion or another in the first few minutes. Christian settled into a longer stretch of domination midway through the match and nearly put DDP away several times with some of his signature moves. When he could not pin Page’s shoulders to the mat for the three count despite his best efforts, though, he made a big mistake and got caught with the Diamond Cutter. DDP retained the European Title and Christian lost control of his temper, throwing a tantrum in front of 67,000 people.
The reception: Often regarded as one of the most underrated Mania matches of that era, this bout was the epitome of what an undercard match and two undercard guys should try to do at Mania to take advantage of their opportunity to shine in front of a huge audience. They worked a smart, crafty little match with tons of near falls and very limited rest holds. Subsequently, it will always be well liked and appreciated. I’d put this up against just about any mid-card match of this length in Mania history. You could tell that they wouldn’t be satisfied just being on the card – they wanted to show what they were made of and use the stage to create something memorable; I have the utmost respect for that.
CMV1 rating - **1/2
Setting the stage: Heading toward Wrestlemania, Punk and Mysterio found themselves on the outside looking in at the World Heavyweight Championship picture. Both saw Money in the Bank as their last ditch attempts to put themselves into the main-event spotlight, but they ended up costing each other their chances at qualification. Punk took it more personally and made it a point to direct his Straight Edge Society toward making Rey’s life a living hell. He even stooped so low as to interrupt Rey’s celebration of his daughter’s birthday on Smackdown. With his family in the ring, Mysterio was singing happy birthday when Punk interrupted and joined the family in the ring with the S.E.S. He berated Rey and vowed to end people’s perception of him being like a superhero at Wrestlemania and then finished singing the birthday song to Aliyah Mysterio. The dastardly act prompted Rey to accept the terms of joining the S.E.S. should he lose to Punk at Mania.
The match: Punk continued a multi-month trend of cutting a promo on his way to the ring about how much better he was than everyone else because of his lifestyle. The match itself was high octane. Punk showed his ability to work a lightning quick pace, as he and Mysterio connected crisply on several rapid sequences. It was reminiscent of the Mysterio-Hardy match from Mania XIX in that it told a good story, but in more of (what I’ve come to refer to as) an ECW-style that didn’t rely on resting much at all. The highlight of top spots was a springboard moonsault into a DDT by Mysterio. It wasn’t hit perfectly, but it was unique and exciting. Despite the outside involvement from Serena and Luke Gallows, Punk was not able to fulfill his promise of making Mysterio join his Society, though. Mysterio ended up getting the win.
The reception: Despite not being given nearly the time that the critics had hoped it might receive, Mysterio and Punk put on a good match that was worthy of its spot on the card and breathed some extra life into the feud that helped it last another couple of months afterward.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: The first Wrestlemania for HHH was not exactly something to be remembered. He got squashed in less than two-minutes. So, it was a step up for him to work with the always controversial Goldust the next year. Mania 13 was a very weak card, so this was one of the few matches to really look forward to. Hunter was young and hungry and Goldust was trying to hold onto the spot he’d earned with his strangely popular gimmick. HHH had Chyna by his side by this point and she was still in that stage where you wondered if she was a transvestite…but her physique was impressive whether she was man or woman and the way that she manhandled Marlena was always somewhat engaging to me. It added some zest to a card full of matches lacking it.
The match: This was the second best match at Mania that year, in my opinion. Trips and Goldust wrestled a smart match that never lagged and kept you guessing. I think that’s probably cliché for me after all of the matches we’ve looked at already, but that’s just about the best way to describe this. It wasn’t by any means a coming out party for Triple H. In fact, I think it was the start of a lot of performances for him that slightly underachieved from what they could have been. Goldust was up to the challenge and they had plenty of time, but they just seemingly could not put it all together quite well enough to make this any better than it was.
The reception: I’m always a little critical of Triple H; I think he’s been afforded more opportunities to shine than just about any other superstar in the history of the WWE, but he’s often managed to wilt under the pressure of the spotlight. He’s had a lot of good matches – like this one; this one was good. However, he hasn’t had that many great matches (at Wrestlemania). This shouldn’t have been great, but it should’ve been a little bit better than it was. There was no reason why these two shouldn’t have produced a 3-star or better effort.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: When the WWF hit the mainstream, Valentine had become more of a tag team specialist and even captured the coveted (serious) tag team championship. However, his split from Brutus Beefcake allowed him to get back into singles action and earn a spot in the championship tournament. Steamboat was coming off a year in which he won and lost the IC title and was considered a long shot to recreate his Mania III glory at Mania IV. This match was anticipated due to both men’s reputations. As mentioned earlier in the Countdown, part of the fan experience for this tournament was seeing Savage and Steamboat on a collision course for a Round 2, Quarterfinal match in what would’ve been an exciting return bout from the previous year. As soon as the brackets were shown – BAM! – that was what I was thinking.
The match: Because there were so many matches on the card that year, matches like this didn’t get enough time to be special, but they were given plenty of time to put together a good outing. I’d say that would describe this match almost to a “T.” It was solid, yet unspectacular wrestling from two pros that would have to struggle to NOT have a good match against each other. I’d say it was the second best match of the first round, but definitely the most exciting match. As an aside, Steamboat just had the elements as a babyface that few others in history can approach. How many babyfaces can you recall that everyone naturally liked? He was hard not to like. I can’t imagine him as a heel. That was Ricky Steamboat.
The reception: I’ve seen this rated as high as three stars and as low as two stars, but most fall somewhere in the middle. Historically speaking, this was the last Mania match that the Dragon had until 2009. A year later, he was back in the NWA winning their heavyweight title in one of the greatest series of matches ever performed (against Ric Flair). Have you noticed how big a mark I am for the Mania IV title tournament, yet? Life’s not all sunshine and roses, but Wrestlemania IV is…
CMV1 rating - **1/2
Setting the stage: Bigelow was a talented guy that was wandering aimlessly at the beginning of 1995, but he was a gifted big man that the WWE could use at any time in a big match scenario. After he and Tatanka lost the finals of a tag team title tournament, long-time Pro-Bowl Linebacker of the New York Giants, Lawrence Taylor, mocked him at ringside. Bigelow took exception and shoved L.T., starting a melee that garnered the WWE their desired mainstream media attention. Vince wanted Bigelow to apologize and publicly tore him down on WWE TV in an interview, prompting the Beast from the East to lose it again, not apologize, and challenge Taylor. Bigelow did, perhaps, his best work as a character during this feud. Taylor trained, prepared, and showed up ready at Wrestlemania, starting a good trend for celebrities involved that saw them work hard and do their best not to crap on the WWE with an embarrassing performance.
The match: You could tell that Taylor wasn’t a wrestler, but you could also tell that he had tried really hard to get ready to act like one for such a big event. L.T. was a professional and he did a nice job of taking a beating. I think he and Floyd Mayweather share the title of best celebrity ever involved in an actual match at Mania. Bigelow dominated the match, but L.T. came roaring back in the end and got the win with a flying elbow smash/clothesline. This was a good opportunity for the WWE and they capitalized on it. HBK was made their headlining heel that year, giving him a platform with a lot of exposure. I’m hoping the same is done for CM Punk this year with the mainstream friendly Rock-Cena showdown giving him a bigger stage.
The reception: L.T. was fairly well praised for his attempts and was well received as a result. Bam Bam had to be given a ton of credit, too, for carrying the match and ensuring that L.T. got through it as best as he could. Very few guys his size had the talent to do that. Bigelow is an all-time great big man.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the Stage: Kane had joined Vince McMahon’s Corporation and Triple H and DX stood against that Corporation, so when Triple H’s long-time friend, Chyna, joined the Corporation and started some sort of weird relationship with Kane, it made Triple H and Kane bitter enemies. They had a cage match a couple of months prior to Mania, but their feud re-ignited (literally) when Chyna and Kane tried to throw a fireball at Triple H. Helmsley ducked and the flame caught Chyna in the eye. The week before Mania, Triple H, dressed as Goldust, used a flame thrower to burn Kane. The Big Red Monster/Machine deserves a medal for all the dangerous crap he’s been asked to do throughout his career, in addition to another medal for all the stupid stuff he’s had to endure.
The match: Triple H came through the crowd to surprise Kane at the beginning of the match, but Kane took control for the majority from there forward. He used much of his signature power offense and countered most of Triple H’s moves, but could not get the pinfall. Triple H came back and used his facebuster and running knee lift to gain momentum. Chyna then came to ringside to seemingly support Kane. Trips proceeded to go for the win, but Kane countered and connected with the chokeslam. Chyna wanted Kane to allow her to hit Triple H with a steel chair, but she instead turned on Kane and caused him to win via DQ. Triple H and Chyna re-united, presumably as DX members, but we would later find out that Trips had joined the Corporation.
The reception: Triple H was sort of the odd man out, in terms of the hype for his match, at Mania that year, as Rock, Austin, and Foley took center stage despite Triple H’s own role in helping turn the tide in the WWF’s favor against WCW in the Monday Night War. However, he did have a major role at Mania XV and would go on to become the Corporation’s shining star. Most critics thought that this match was pretty good, but nothing more. I concur.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the Stage: While I’m fuzzy on the specific dates of what occurred when, Rick Rude picked Jake’s wife out of the crowd to kiss her as a part of his usual routine. When Jake’s wife refused the kiss and instead slapped Rude, Jake had to make a quick save to avoid having his wife being assaulted. In the midst of the early part of the storyline, Jake and Rick went at it during Wrestlemania IV’s Championship Tournament (in the first round). So, it was after their Mania match that this feud became so memorable. Both were excellent storytellers and excelled at the use of match psychology, so their work was the kind of personal feud revolving around a woman that didn’t become commonplace until much later in the WWE’s history.
The match: In many ways, you felt that these two men were instructed not to go out there and try to tear the house down or steal the show, so as not to take away from what everyone else would eventually do. I think that, had they taken the training wheels off and really let loose, then this could’ve ended up being one of the best Mania matches of the first ten years of the show’s existence. 15-minutes was a long time for a match to be given back then, so had they made the most it, this would be the kind of bout talked about in the same breath as maybe Hart vs. Piper from a few years later. Unfortunately, a ton of rest holds and only occasional flurries of major offense were featured and the match was kind of boring, at times.
The reception: Although it was slow in parts, these were still two very gifted talents that wrestled a smart match. They didn’t try to do very much, but what they did was go out and keep you guessing as to who might win the match. It was disappointing that it went to a draw, but there was an added element of intrigue thanks to the time running out that wasn’t present in any of the other matches throughout the tournament.
CMV1 rating: **1/2
Setting the stage: Kind of interesting when you consider that Scott Hall – after his masterful performance a year prior to Mania XI – would be unable to work his way into a major match on this card, especially when you consider how weak the overall roster was, at the time. Jeff Jarrett was a good opponent for him in the IC title division, but this was a considerable step down compared to where HBK was on the same show (main-eventing against Diesel). This was the biggest match that Jarrett ever had in the WWE. He had a few other featured IC title matches in his career, but none on a similar stage as Wrestlemania. This would turn out to be Scott Hall’s last Mania match until 2002’s Mania X-8.
The match: Jarrett was one of those solid performers that you knew you would get a good match out of, but that you also knew you’d rarely get a great match out of. He was basically a poor man’s HBK. He was a good wrestler and a good talker, but had no intangible to be any better. He was just an all-around above average superstar. Frankly, you have to have those kinds of guys for the overall roster to be balanced, but he always made himself out to be more than he was and other people eventually bought into it. As an IC title contender and champion, he was quite good in his role, though. He and Razor had a damn good match. On a personal note, Jarrett was one of the guys that really got me hooked on wrestling as a kid. Along with Stunning Steve Austin and Dr. Tom Pritchard, Jarrett was a featured performer on the USWA program that aired in Greensboro when I was in early elementary school. Guys like him helped me start gaining a greater appreciation for in-ring performance.
The reception: I have never been a fan of the DQ ending to this match. I thought that a clean win for the Bad Guy in the opening contest would have been the right call for this one, but I’m not the one with the book. As it stands, this was one of the better matches on the Mania XI card, which isn’t saying much, but it nonetheless stands out.
CMV1 rating: **1/2