Jericho is back, bay-bay! Apparently, my opinion on his return is in the minority. I thought that segment was awesome and thought-provoking. It’s nice to see someone return and make you wait to learn of his intentions from time-to-time. I look forward to seeing how this new character plays out on TV leading to Mania. BTW, follow me on Twitter @TheDocLOP or feedback in the Facebook area below to answer the QOTD or discuss other wrestling matters…
Doctor's Orders: The Road to Wrestlemania Countdown (#151-#180)
By The Doc
Jan 3, 2012 - 9:21:24 PM
QUESTION OF THE DAY (27): If you could go back time and attend one Wrestlemania, which one would it be?
180. The Rock vs. Ken Shamrock at Wrestlemania XIV
179. John Cena vs. JBL at Wrestlemania 21
178. Rikishi and Kane vs. X-Pac and Road Dogg at Wrestlemania 2000
177. Ted Dibiase vs. Brutus Beefcake at Wrestlemania V
176. Tag Team Battle Royal at Wrestlemania XIV
175. The ECW Originals vs. The New Breed at Wrestlemania 23
174. Mankind vs. Big Show at Wrestlemania XV
173 AND 172. Rikishi and Scotty 2 Hotty vs. The World’s Greatest Tag Team vs. The Basham Brothers vs. The APA at Wrestlemania XX AND #172 – RVD and Booker T vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Mark Jindrak and Garrison Cade vs. La Resistance at Wrestlemania XX
171. David Sammartino vs. Brutus Beefcake at Wrestlemania
170. Trish Stratus vs. Jazz vs. Lita at Wrestlemania X-8
169. The Dream Team vs. The Fabulous Rougeaus at Wrestlemania III
168. King Haku vs. Hercules at Wrestlemania V
167. “Ravishing” Rick Rude vs. “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka at Wrestlemania VI
166. Big Bossman and Bull Buchanan vs. D’Lo Brown and Godfather at Wrestlemania 2000
165. Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania V
164. Undertaker vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts at Wrestlemania VIII
163. Hart Foundation vs. Rhythm and Blues at Wrestlemania V
162. The Rockers vs. The Orient Express at Wrestlemania VI
161. Ricky Steamboat vs. Matt Borne at Wrestlemania
160. The Brainbusters vs. Strike Force at Wrestlemania V
159. Mr. Perfect vs. Brutus Beefcake at Wrestlemania VI
158. Jake Roberts vs. Honky Tonk Man Wrestlemania III
157. Trish Stratus vs. Jazz vs. Victoria at Wrestlemania XIX
156. The Radicalz vs. Chyna and Too Cool at Wrestlemania 2000
155. Billy Jack Haynes vs. Hercules at Wrestlemania III
154. Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at Wrestlemania XX
153. Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila at Wrestlemania XIV
152. Undertaker vs. A-Train and Big Show at Wrestlemania XIX
151. The Can-Am Connection vs. “Cowboy” Bob Orton and Don Muraco
Setting the stage: Ken Shamrock was brought in from the UFC to be a tough guy babyface and he performed his role admirably well. The Rock was a budding mega-star IC champion and member of the Nation of Domination. Shamrock went after his title. Rock won via DQ at the Royal Rumble two months earlier, so Shamrock got another shot. My how the tables have turned, huh? Shamrock left the UFC to go to the WWE in order to gain better exposure and make more money. Back then, the UFC was struggling to overcome its critics that thought it was too violent to sanction, but now it’s quickly becoming one of the more popular sports in America and top WWE stars are leaving to start careers in MMA with hopes of becoming UFC fighters.
The match: It was not a very lengthy match, but it was very intense during its short duration. Nation members surrounded the ring, but did not get actively involved. Shamrock dominated the majority of the match and grabbed a chair from the outside. Rock got hold of it and used it to bash Ken’s face in, but Shamrock kicked out of the subsequent pin attempt. Shamrock came back and synched in the ankle lock to make Rock tap out. After a post-match scuffle that saw Shamrock take out the ringside Nation members and then re-apply the ankle lock on the Rock, the ref reversed his decision, so Rock retained the title.
The reception: Not much was said because there was not much to say, but people did not generally like the reverse decision. It was a good way to keep the title on Rock, however, without having to have Shamrock lose the big match at Mania. At that time, I’m not sure anyone was quite sure what Shamrock could be. Was there potential there for a main-event run? Sure. Was it just as likely that he’d just be a mid-card guy until his contract ran out? Absolutely. I didn’t like the finish, but I can understand why they went that direction.
CMV1 rating - *1/2
Setting the stage: John “Bradshaw” Layfield was the WWE Champion for 280 days by the time Mania 21 rolled around and he was supremely confident that he’d make it at least to day #281. John Cena became the number one contender to his title at No Way Out ’05, but JBL didn’t really take him seriously at first. Cena did his best to get his attention, spray painting his limo and dumping water into his cowboy hat, as well as spray painting a yellow stripe down his back. The challenger also gave SD General Manager, Teddy Long, an FU, prompting the man-in-charge to state that Cena couldn’t touch JBL prior to Mania unless the champion touched him first.
The match: JBL came out to the ring with money featuring his face raining down from the rafters. In what would become the usual formula match for Cena, JBL dominated the majority of the match using a variety of power moves. Cena tried many times to turn the tide, but JBL cut him off at the pass at every turn. Eventually, Cena hit the majority of his signature offense, but JBL seemed poised to regain control and win the match. Just when it seemed the champion might come through on his guarantee to retain, though, Cena caught him by surprise, hoisted him up onto his shoulders, and delivered an FU to get the pin and win his first WWE title.
The reception: Going into the match, a lot of critics had quiet confidence that these two would produce a good match, but it got short-changed a bit on time and ended up being very formulaic without any interesting twists or turns. The resulting effort seemed half-assed for a Mania main-event. I’ve often wondered what went through the minds of those involved in putting this together. If they had gotten short-changed on time, you’d think they still could’ve put together something far more compelling.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
Setting the stage: Kane and X-Pac had been tag team champions together, but times changed and the two became foes leading up to a match at No Way Out 2000, where X-Pac defeated the Big Red Machine. The Road Dogg and Rikishi came along for the ride for this tag match. Rikishi was actually in the midst of a pretty good push, as he would go on to have a helluva year in 2000 that culminated in his being involved in the main-event of Armageddon (in the 6-man HIAC). He was also pegged as the guy who ran down Steve Austin at Survivor Series in 1999. Pac and Road Dogg’s pushes had rightfully dwindled tremendously after their two best years preceding 2000.
The match: The crowd was into it throughout, which helped tremendously. X-Pac got good heat and the combo of Kane and Rikishi did well to receive a good reaction. Rikishi got the Stink Face on both Dogg and X-Pac’s girlfriend, Tori. Kane eventually got the win with the chokeslam on X-Pac and then got the best of Pete Rose for the third straight year. The enduring legacy of Kane’s character will be that he put up with a lot of stuff during his lengthy career. I have a feeling that Kane is on the brink of calling it quits after this year’s Mania. I kind of hope that he’s involved in some sort of major angle because he’s been involved in two major angles despite 14 straight Wrestlemania matches (both with Taker).
The reception: Thanks to the crowd’s positive reception to everything that happened in the ring, the match was fairly well received despite its short duration. Crowd reactions do wonders for the shelf life of a match that took place years prior.
CMV1 rating - *1/2
Setting the stage: The Million Dollar Man was arguably the top heel in the WWE during the year 1988. He main-evented Wrestlemania and spent the summer and winter feuding with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. He learned pretty quickly that there’s nowhere to go but down after feuding with the Hulkster. He fell all the way down to Brutus Beefcake and the third match on the card. To keep himself relevant, Dibiase created his own title – the Million Dollar Championship – claiming it to be worth one million dollars. Mania V was the first PPV that the title appeared on, although it was not on the line in this match.
The match: The “feud” with Beefcake was more or less a transition for Ted to one of his greatest storylines with Jake Roberts that led to a match at Mania VI the following year. Thus, this wasn’t the most inspired effort in the world. Ted did his usual thing and Beefcake tried hard, but it wasn’t too long after the match began that they brawled to the outside and got counted out. Later in the night, Ted attacked Jake during his match.
The reception: You aren’t likely to find many people that will favorably review Dibiase vs. Beefcake. It was just a throwaway match, more or less. It would’ve been like Edge facing John Morrison at a recent Mania. Dibiase was a big star, but with Warrior, Hogan, and Savage all tied up in other angles, he got lost in the shuffle. I would’ve liked to have seen Ricky Steamboat feud with him that year, but Steamboat was busy winning his only World title after returning to the NWA. Dibiase was having a throwaway match with Beefcake…Steamboat was having three straight 5-star matches with Ric Flair.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
Setting the stage: This was mainly a way for multiple men to be added to the card, but it also served to crown the #1 contenders for the tag titles at the PPV after Mania. Several teams that had once feuded, like the D.O.A., Los Boricuas, and the Nation of Domination, were involved, but the mystery team was probably the match’s biggest selling point. It turned out to be the Legion of Doom making their return, with Sunny by their side, as “L.O.D. 2000.” They had been feuding with the New Age Outlaws who, by Mania XIV’s end, would once again be the WWE Tag Team Champions.
The match: It was a big mess with 30 guys in the ring at one time. Many eliminations occurred off camera, like Farooq of the NOD (which I found rather odd given that he was one of the biggest names involved after having spent the previous couple of years as one of the lead upper mid-card heels on the program). That was my one main gripe about it. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it was just kind of there. The LOD got the win, last eliminating the new Midnight Express (led by manager Jim Cornette and featuring a young Bob Holly).
The reception: Neither the crowd, the PPV audience, nor the critics cared about it, but it was still a solid battle royal. You’ll see later on, though, that I’m a major mark for battle royals. I feel they’re a great way to get a bunch of guys on a show that otherwise would’ve been left off the card. Sure, it may sometimes get guys on the card that don’t necessarily belong at the biggest show of the year, but it also gets guys on there that definitely do belong. Also, they almost always have something on the line – like a title shot or a trophy or whatever.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
Setting the stage: At the beginning of 2007, Mr. McMahon showed up on the ECW brand and said that it was time for a change…for a new breed, if you will. He anointed Elijah Burke the leader of the new ECW. Understandably, the original guys that helped build the non-WWE ECW were less than thrilled and stood up to the fresh talent trying to take from them what they worked hard to restore. Former WWE/ECW Champion Rob Van Dam led the way for the Originals, which also included Tommy Dreamer, Sabu, and Sandman. The New Breed featured, in addition to Burke, Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von, and Kevin Thorn.
The match: If there is one thing that (original) ECW guys know how to do, it is to make the most of a limited amount of time. They were not brought up on short matches featuring rest holds and then the finish, so there was a stark contrast in styles at play. The ECW Originals tried hard to make the match as entertaining as possible. Burke and Thorn were pretty talented, so they did well to accept the predictably dangerous offense. The finish came when RVD hit Striker with the Five Star Frog Splash for the win.
The reception: I thought highly of Thorne and figured he would find a way to eventually become a relevant TV character, but he was saddled with some serious crap. He debuted as Mordecai – a “light” version of the darker Undertaker-type character. That flopped and I, personally, saw him written off TV at a SD TV taping approximately 3 months after he showed up. Then, he was the vampire-like Thorn. Geez. Burke had a lot of potential, as well, showing a combination of in-ring savvy and microphone charisma. Anyhow, this wasn’t a very highly regarded match, perhaps due to the rapid fire nature and the lack of psychology used. I, however, can appreciate a match like this that is really nothing but spots for 6+ minutes. It’s better to be entertaining and spotty than psychologically sound and boring (within the confines of a short match).
CMV1 rating: *1/2
Setting the stage: Although Mick Foley is not remembered as one of the focal point performers of Wrestlemania XV, he was certainly a huge part of the build-up. People may forget that he was in contention for the WWE title just weeks before the event. It was during his classic feud with Rock that he won and lost the championship and established himself as a top guy for the final 16 months of his career. His last title shot to get to Mania came on Raw in a ladder match. Big Show cost Foley the title in another memorable appearance shortly after debuting at the February PPV, which saw him come out through the bottom of the ring and toss Austin around like a rag doll. The Corporation was trying to fix the Austin-Rock title match at Mania and appoint Show the referee, but Foley was trying to be involved, too, setting up this match. Thus, this was essentially one of the bigger matches on the card.
The match: Foley had quite a task on his hands. Show was not exactly a seasoned in-ring performer. He was, like many that made the transition to the WWE from WCW, struggling to “get it” between the ropes. Foley was a great, unique wrestler, but he was trying to make something magic happen on a night where magic was hard to come by. They ended up working a DQ finish and a post-match angle. Show dominated Foley and chokeslammed him through two chairs. Vince came out afterward and verbally berated Show for getting disqualified and losing the chance to be the ref in the main-event. Show then used the knockout punch for one of the first times on Vince.
The reception: They kept it simple and managed to have a decent match, but it was nothing to write home about. The time it was given was almost laughable for a big time match with so much on the line, but that turned out to be a recurring theme. There was a lot of questionable booking at Mania 15.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
Setting the stage: I will talk about these two matches together because, in reality, they were virtually the same match with different participants. The WWE did not have anything going for either of the tag team titles back then. The Raw titles were ahead on the totem pole and popular mid-carders Booker T and RVD were given the belts because they didn’t have anything else for them to do. The other seven teams involved in these matches were, at that point, nobodies going nowhere – with the exception of JBL, of course, who would quickly change characters and move onto becoming one of the most exceptional surprises in WWE main-event history. Both of these matches lasted roughly 7-minutes, but neither of them mattered. The tag titles did not change hands in either bout and I’m not sure anyone would have cared if they had. In the WWE tag title bout, won by reigning champs Rikishi and Scotty, the after the match “dance” was the most entertaining moment…but it was one of those moments that showed you how out of touch the WWE could be with their audience, which had not cared about the “Too Cool” dance in years.
The matches: Neither of the matches were bad; neither of the matches were good. What they did was usher out two randomly thrown together tag team matches to try and get as many of the guys on the card as possible. Quantity wise and paycheck wise and “thank you” to your roster wise, it was a great move and I applaud them for it. Quality wise, though, only a few of these guys actually meant anything to the overall landscape in the WWE and matches like Taker vs. Kane or the Cruiserweight Open could have used the extra time. Instead, 14-25 minutes were used to present something that nobody really wanted to see. I don’t mean to be overly critical, but it’s not like these 16 guys used this match as an opportunity to show why the tag titles should’ve been more prominently featured. They all just went through the motions, collected their paychecks, and acted like it didn’t matter to be on the card.
The reception: As they should have been, the two matches were called “uninspired.” I was certainly one of the many making that claim. I had hoped that they would go out and try to tear it up; non-stop, rapid-fire action that showed that the tag titles could matter if the WWE chose to push them. Yet, when you watch these matches, you’ll see rest holds taking up two-minutes of each bout – completely unnecessary given the time and circumstances – and just a general lack of heart and energy that you’d expect from Wrestlemania matches, especially for the 20th edition.
CMV1 ratings: *1/2
Setting the stage: One of my favorite things to do when I watch an old Wrestlemania is to try to immerse myself in the historical context of the show. When you think back to Wrestlemania – the original – and think about just how big a risk that was for the WWE…wow…if that event isn’t a success, then there’s a good chance that wrestling never makes it big. If WWE doesn’t hit it big, then Ted Turner may not buy WCW in order to compete. If that doesn’t happen, there’s no Monday Night War, possibly no Austin and the Attitude era, and everything since. They bet the farm on Mania being a success and it was. I think that helps make the show more enjoyable to view some 27 years later. I thought it was nice, looking back on it, that they got Bruno’s kid on the card.
The match: I’ve never been the biggest fan of Brutus Beefcake, but I do think he too often gets a bad rap as if he were a terrible wrestler. I think he can thank Hulk Hogan for that. People don’t like guys like Beefcake riding Hogan’s coattails into spots at the top of the card that they don’t deserve. Beefcake was a solid performer, but never the type that deserved a big push. It would’ve been like Aldo Montoya getting a bunch of Mania matches because he was friends with Shawn Michaels. Different era and HBK was never as big as Hogan, obviously, but think about that for a second.
The reception: It was a fairly weak night, wrestling wise, for the WWE roster, so this was a bout that actually challenged for match of the night honors. It was just a mid-card singles match, but it delivered enough that it shined above most of the lackluster performances.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: This was part of the golden age of women’s wrestling of the Wrestlemania era, in my opinion. Trish was not yet great, but she was getting much better with each major opportunity. Her and Lita were very over with the audience, giving the WWE two bankable women to center the division around. Jazz was just a hard-nosed worker that you could buy as a top heel for the ladies. She was so opposite of the diva that was Trish. She certainly wasn’t much of a looker. If anything, she looked like a guy, but that helped her set a different tone in the women’s division and make it mean more when Trish or Lita beat her. Lita added some extra spice with her unique character. It’s kind of hard to believe that, despite her being around for six years, she only had one Mania match. I will always think it a shame that she and Trish never got to finish off their 2005 feud at Wrestlemania. I’m not sure that could’ve ever worked out given the Matt-Edge situation, but it’s still a shame.
The match: This was a nice mesh of their three styles. It wasn’t a perfect blend, but it worked well enough that they didn’t embarrass themselves following some of the bigger matches on the show (recall that it had the unenviable task of immediately following Hogan vs. Rock). Instead, they gave us the best women’s match at Mania in a long time. This was something to build on for future Manias. Jazz won the match, postponing Trish’s first big win at Mania for another year.
The reception: Trish was the foundation of the women’s division when it was its most entertaining. This was match 1 for her Mania career and one of her first big in-ring moments, performing in front of a hometown audience in Toronto. Good match. I’m surprised that the WWE has not further utilized the 3-4-way formula for the current crop of Divas in recent years. There are some talented ladies in the division, but they get thrown in tag matches that don’t allow them a showcase. Perhaps this coming year will bring that old, slightly successful formula back into play until they find a Diva that they’re comfortable that they can build around in the long-term.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: Beefcake and Valentine (the Dream Team) were in one of the headlining matches at Wrestlemania 2 the previous year, so it was a big step down for them to be involved in a throwaway match at Mania 3 in front of the largest wrestling audience in American history. I thought that they took it in stride, but this was pretty much the end of the line for Valentine’s career as a relevant performer. He was a big time star during the early Hogan era. Beefcake went onto more success. The Rougeaus were one of those teams from the 80s that had good matches, but never really got anywhere or had major PPV feuds.
The match: Despite being placed in a random spot on the card, these guys did well for themselves in not much time. All four could hold their own in the tag team environment, so we shouldn’t have expected anything less than a solid outing. The Dream Team ended up getting the win to continue their push on life support.
The reception: This was lost in the shuffle amongst a slew of other solid, but unspectacular bouts. I think the only thing holding Mania III back from standing the test of time against some of the best Manias in history is matches like these that were solidly unspectacular. If they had trimmed the fat a little bit and given a tad more time to some of the higher profile mid-card matches, then I really think Mania III – with all its intangibles – would still be in the conversation for best of all-time against Manias 17, 19, 24, and others.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: I dig me some Haku, folks. I’ve always felt the guy was quite underrated. You don’t think of him much when you think back to the late 80s and early 90s, but he was always around in some capacity. He took the title of “King” from Harley Race and was confirmed at the ’89 Rumble by beating Race. That’s when he turned his attention toward another underrated performer in Hercules. I always get pumped when I watch Mania V and see these two wander out for the opening match. I forget it about it every time, but I like it. You WCW fans that weren’t WWE fans back in the day might remember Haku as “Meng.”
The match: They gave them longer than usual to work an opening match for that time period, so it gave them a chance to do their thing and show what they could do. Haku must have impressed more than Hercules to the higher ups, as he got to go on and form a WWE tag title winning duo with Andre the Giant while Hercules was saddled with Paul Roma to form Power and Glory. Interestingly enough, it was Hercules that won the match.
The reception: I’ve seen some rate this really poorly, but I did a massive project similar to this prior to attending my first Mania back in 2006 and rated it favorably. I’ve only watched Mania V once since then, but I don’t recall there being anything offensive enough about it to make me change me stance that it was a solid opening match.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: Speaking of underrated…is there a more underrated wrestler in WWE history than Rick Rude? History has been kind to the Ravishing One, portraying him in a light that would make him a natural fit amongst IWC favorites. All you must do to back up the considerable hype is watch a match of his with Ultimate Warrior. Only Macho Man worked better with Warrior. There was not much hype for this bout with Snuka because Rude waiting in the wings for a feud with the new WWE Champion, the aforementioned Ultimate Warrior. Snuka had come back to the WWE to put over some newer stars. Rude needed a strong win against a guy with a good name and Snuka fit the bill.
The match: The bout lasted less than four-minutes, but it was rapid fire action with very little down time. It was an athletic showcase that saw the two of them fly all around the ring before Rude got the win with the Rude Awakening. I commend Snuka his Mania VI and VII role of simply putting over others. He did it long enough for it to matter, but not long enough to make himself irrelevant (a lesson to be learned for older stars past their prime).
The reception: It would depend on your taste to gauge where you’d rate and rank this one. Those that enjoy a fast pace might dig it, like I did. However, it was void of a story. It takes a lot for me to rate such a short match two stars. The fast pace helped.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: Do you remember when that WWE hip hop album came out? You know, back when the WWE thought its (you know what) didn’t stink and that they could get away with anything, including having a bunch of random hip hop stars remix all of the WWE entrance themes into new and original rap songs? One of my favorite tracks on that album was “Pimpin’ ain’t easy” by Ice T. At Wrestlemania 16, Godfather and his partner were rapped out to the ring by Ice T for the opening match to that very song. A buddy of mine and I were in high school at the time and we made a custom CD called “The Booty Mix.” Ice T’s song was one of the tracks. Hey, pimpin’ wasn’t easy, mane…
The match: So, in this match you had the following mix of talent: Godfather was very over with an amusing gimmick that wouldn’t have gotten over in any other era; D-Lo was a talented performer still recovering from nearly killing a fellow wrestler and it showed; Buchanan was a bigger guy who could move around and do things aerially that some smaller guys couldn’t (you may recall that he showed up on Raw during the “This is your life” Cena segment as B-squared); and Bossman was a guy who found a niche in the two most profitable eras in wrestling history. The bottom line was that these guys all brought something to the table in this match and worked hard.
The reception: Sometimes, I feel like the only writer in the IWC that actually liked this match. I always have. Even dating back to the most cynical period of my wrestling fandom – the mid 2000s – I reviewed this bout favorably. It was entertaining, featured flashes of athleticism, and accomplished its opening match goal of getting me intrigued for the rest of the night. However, it was throwaway, so I can see the knock on it in that aspect.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: Roberts was always in the thick of things from about 1988-1992 when it came to Mania. He was one of the bigger stars of that era and was matched up against other top level talents. I thought one of his most entertaining feuds – at least to a kid – was against Andre. Jake was playing the babyface role at the time and had just come off the classic feud with Rick Rude. Andre tried to help Rude win one of their last matches and it sparked a new feud for Jake, in which Roberts used his snake, Damien, to scare the holy hell out of the Giant. It was actually pretty awesome to see this monster of a man cowering to someone (or, more specifically, to something).
The match: Even though we’d seen Andre tackle fellow giants and even stand toe-to-toe with the Immortal Hulk Hogan, he’d always been the dominant party. Jake managed to humble him with the snake. Andre could never quite fully get the upper hand because, always lurking in the corner, was Damien. In the Omen, Damien was the name of the devil in child form. Andre may not have been frightened by much, but the devilish snake certainly got the best of him. The Giant may have dominated the physical part of the match, but the psychological battle was won before the match even started. Each time he inched toward Damien’s corner, Andre was reminded that all that separated he and the snake was a brown burlap bag. Ultimately, the snake was Andre’s demise, as he lost the match via count out and drove his Wrestlemania losing/drawing streak to three.
The reception: People have absolutely crapped on this match over the years. I’ll talk a firm stance that the psychology of the match was so good that it made up for much of the physical limitations. Andre was too broken down to do much in the way of movement, but the story told in the ring does not always require moves. All it takes, in many cases, is too consummate pros with a clear cut goal in mind and the know-how to execute it. It wasn’t a great match, but it was a cool feud and a memorable match.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: Original plans for Mania 8 called for Jake to wrestle Macho Man to end their feud with a zinger and for Taker to battle the Ultimate Warrior. Luckily for the Streak, Warrior had other plans. Like everything that he did, Jake turned the short feud into a major happening. He was such an awesome character that he made gold out of copper. Slamming the Taker’s hand in a casket, Jake provided the Deadman with another impressive resume builder early in his career. Of course, this was a nice opportunity for Jake, as well, to face Taker just a few months after he became WWE champion. Unfortunately, Jake decided to leave the WWE after this.
The match: Jake did a great promo before the match that psychologically set up this match perfectly. He controlled the majority of it, smartly using his experience to his advantage and making it believable that he could possibly get the win. His strategy, mentioned pre-match, was to hit the DDT and end it. He did hit the DDT, but the Taker showed off his invincibility – after all, he’s dead – and won the match with the Tombstone.
The reception: I was very impressed with Jake’s use of psychology throughout this feud. Watching some of his old feuds should be a pre-requisite for any young wrestler, as it would show them a master of the craft that could make everyone believe that he could beat anyone. I do think that people overrate this match a bit, though. I am of the mindset that it was a really nice piece of work on Jake’s part, but that it was still a bit on the boring side to be called much better than “solid.” It almost feels criminal to have cycled through much of Jake’s resume already (and in back-to-back matches, here). However, we’re going to soon be separating the pack and Jake, for all his brilliance, was never given much of a chance to have classic matches in any WWE scenario.
CMV1 rating: *3/4
Setting the stage: Late the previous year, the Hitman and the Anvil split away from their manager, Jimmy, and entered into a feud with the Mouth of the South that went off and on for several years. Jimmy had aligned with the Fabulous Rougeaus, who the Harts had been having great tag team matches with at house shows. After moving past the Rougeaus, the Harts teamed up to face Jimmy’s new team of Greg Valentine and Honky Tonk Man (who eventually adopted the name Rhythm and Blues).
The match: The match itself featured typical back and forth action that you’d see in a short TV or PPV tag team match in the WWE, with Bret playing the face in peril and eventually getting the hot tag. The melee occurred with Jimmy Hart, as per usual, tossing his trusty megaphone into the ring, only for the Anvil to take control of it and knock out the Honky Tonk Man. Bret pinned HTM for the win.
The reception: Like many of the tag matches on PPV during that era, it was not given the time or the treatment to be much better than average. So, you could say that this was a cookie cutter tag match for the first several years at Mania, in some way. I liked it a little bit better than the matches that we’ve pegged to be in that same “throwaway” category, though. Honky was winding down after his great run in the IC title division in the late 80s. There’s only so far that gimmick could’ve ever gone, but cheers to him for making the most of it. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Mr. Fuji needed a new tag team after the Powers of Pain split up in early 1990, so he brought in the Japanese duo Sato and Tanaka. There was really not much back story to their match with the Rockers, but rather it was the start of a lengthy series of matches. Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels were dazzling crowds around the country with their athletic style and the Orient Express provided them with good “dance” partners, eventually culminating in a classic match at the Royal Rumble ten months later. Had that same tag match from 1991 took place at Mania, it would likely be regarded as one of the best tag team matches in WWE history. Alas, this was an early Wrestlemania and no such tag matches got that kind of time to play out.
The match: This was but a preview of things to come, as it did not get much time on this night but still managed to showcase some of the brilliance that they would later put on display. The Rockers showed off their aerial skills and the Express took their offense as good as anyone in that era. They worked well together and it looked as if Marty and Shawn would come away victorious, but Mr. Fuji lured Jannetty outside. The Express threw salt in his eyes. Michaels took off after Fuji as he was running away. The Rockers were counted out, giving the Orient the victory.
The reception: The match was just under 8-minutes in length, so it was given the kind of credit that a solid match within that time frame would receive. Isn’t it interesting some of the things that you associate with wrestling? In college, I wrote a sociology paper and included the term “oriental.” I was told that it was a politically incorrect term and offensive to those from the Far East. The first thing I thought of was the Orient Express. “Well, hell, there was a WWF tag team with ‘Orient’ in the title,” I wondered. “It can’t be that offensive.” I never found out the truth. Sato, Tanaka…you guys reading this? Is it offensive? Are you guys even really Asian?
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: You might know Borne better as the evil clown, Doink, from the “let’s turn ourselves into a crazy collection of characters” era. He was a pretty good wrestler, as you’ll remember, but back in 1985 he was just plain old Matt Borne. I sat here for ten minutes trying to think of something to say about this. I thought maybe I’d just talk about how awesome Ricky Steamboat was, but I didn’t think this was a very good example of that awesomeness, so I decided to just write what I was thinking.
The match: Much like I mentioned when discussing the Sammartino-Beefcake match earlier, it is important to take into account the context of when this took place. Madison Square Garden being the host of this event and the overall atmosphere of this being the first Mania added a little extra zest to a match like this. Nevertheless, it came across as a showcase for Steamboat without the luxury of much of a feud behind it to get someone like myself watching it years later any kind of context as to why they were fighting. You can’t have it both ways. If you want to be a sport, then you can get away with regular matches without build-up because wins and losses matter more and victory can be enough. If you want to steer closer to entertainment, then you can’t just throw two guys out there for a match without ensuring that there’s a reason that they’re wrestling. Wins and losses don’t count for as much. In a soap opera, Victor killing Jack doesn’t mean Jack without context. I wish I had greater context for this match.
The reception: There have been some reviewers that rated this above the 3-star level. I guess you had to view it live to get to that point. I just couldn’t imagine rating it that high. I’ll say it was an enjoyable effort and leave it at that. It was one of the better matches at an event far more about spectacle than match quality.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: I’m a mark for three guys that were involved in this match. Only Rick Martel is a guy that I won’t readily admit to being a mark for. I grew up in prime NWA country, where Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard were two of the top acts in the game in the 80s. I don’t think you guys that just saw Arn and Tully in the WWE can really appreciate how good they both were. We’re talking about two guys that, in tag team matches, headlined and main-evented big drawing cards. Tito Santana is a guy that was a pretty big star in his day, having captured the IC and tag titles when they both mattered. So, this is a match that I always look forward to when re-watching Mania 5 for nostalgic purposes.
The match: I won’t sit here and say that this was the kind of match that would knock your socks off or anything, but much like several matches of Mania 5, it was a good match that just didn’t get enough time to be anything more than that. All four were good workers, so what they did seemed fairly effortless. I think it’s fascinating to look at the mindsets back then. If four good workers get even this much time at a modern Mania, they might try to go out and steal the show. Back then, you didn’t see that kind of effort. They went about their business in workman-like fashion. This was the last big year of Tully’s career. He got caught doing cocaine later in ’89 and, because of it, was not able to return to the NWA/WCW. Sad end to a very good career.
The reception: This was definitely a good match that I would say was a bare minimum quality for tag team matches back during that era where there were so many great tag teams. I would’ve liked to have seen the titles be on the line in this match instead of the handicap match.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Mr. Perfect burst onto the scene in 1989 and went on a lengthy undefeated streak that included a short feud with WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, culminating in a showdown on Saturday Night’s Main-Event back in 1990. He remained undefeated on television and PPV and was a hot commodity by the time Wrestlemania VI rolled around. However, he was not put in a high profile match for the show, instead facing mid-card act Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. To Beefcake’s credit, he got over the “Barber” gimmick. A reader asked me earlier today if I thought there was anyone that got saddled with more crap gimmicks than Beefcake. If you include some of the junk he was given in WCW, then I can’t think of anyone (although Tugboat/Typhoon/Shockmaster certainly is up there)
The match: As per the typical Perfect match, Hennig did well to make Brutus look good and bump around the ring for him. I watch Dolph Ziggler and there’s just got to be some Hennig influence there (or HBK). Perfect’s selling was second to none at the time and if you never got to see him wrestle, then I’ll point you to Shawn Michaels to get an idea of what kind of a style he had with his superior selling. It was a little over the top, but it made his opponents look like a million. Beefcake actually got the pin to officially end the undefeated streak, which was kind of a shocker. Perfect took it in stride.
The reception: Not many matches on the Mania VI card got a lot of time to develop and this was no exception, but Perfect was good enough to still produce a solid match that added to the card. It was not well received that his first loss on TV came to Beefcake. His loss to the Warrior that aired a few weeks later would have been better for his resume, but he did go on to win the IC title soon after.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Late in 1986, Jake Roberts was becoming way too popular than any heel should be, so he was turned babyface when Honky Tonk Man smashed a guitar over his head during the Snake’s interview segment called “The Snake Pit.” The guitar was real, so the shot hurt Jake’s neck and kept him out of action until he healthily returned for Wrestlemania. Alice Cooper was in Jake’s corner, along with Damien, of course, to help keep HTM’s manager, Jimmy Hart, at bay. Interestingly enough for all of you Jake the Snake fans, Roberts was originally supposed to feud with Hulk Hogan in what would’ve been a tremendous feud. However, Jake was getting so popular despite his dastardly heel antics that Hogan got booed and Jake cheered at a few of the live events that they were doing with Jake vs. Hulk as the main-event.
The match: It certainly was no barn burner, but it was entertaining. Alice Cooper was a good celebrity guest that understood his role and played it well. Roberts showed signs of being a really strong babyface and used his psychology to get the crowd into the match. The match did not last long enough to be special, but it was good enough to push the presentation to the average level. The image of Cooper holding Jimmy Hart as Jake brought forth the snake is a “Wrestlemania moment.” The Mouth of the South was undoubtedly scared out of his mind, as I’m not sure a pro-wrestling act is capable of “performing” such fear for snakes.
The reception: It’s really neither here nor there and difficult to rate based on the strong quality mixed with the short duration. You probably won’t find much opinion on it if you don’t go digging for awhile. I think it’s sad that the Hogan-Roberts feud never materialized, as one of the big knocks on Jake’s legacy is his lack of main-event matches. The only PPV main-event he ever had (one-on-one) was against Sting in WCW.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Victoria debuted in the latter part of 2002 to take out her frustrations on Trish. She felt that Trish embodied all that was wrong with the modern woman. In many ways, she was the precursor to the Divas of Doom. At the Survivor Series that year, Victoria beat Trish to win the Women’s Championship in one of the better women’s matches of that era. It showed a fiery side that put over a personal rivalry much better than the usual diva storyline. Jazz had been a contender. She was so vastly different from each and every other female wrestler, even from Victoria, that she always would be (a contender). Jazz and Victoria are the kind of women that the division needs today to offset the cookie cutter, “I’m a model and I want to be on TV” divas that we see today.
The match: The women were able to keep up with the other lower card matches on the show, executing a quick paced bout with a lot of near falls that still fit within the context of the stories on display. Jazz was just an impressive female specimen in the ring with her combination of speed and power. Victoria will always be underrated, especially for the character work she did during that time period. She brought something different out of Trish and really helped her up her in-ring game. Trish winning the title was well-deserved.
The reception: Many a Mania women’s match has been thought of as a chance to go to the bathroom, but Trish usually provided an exception to that rule. She did good character work and she improved to the point in the ring that her match could be counted upon to add quality to a card.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko came to the WWE as the Radicalz after leaving WCW. Guerrero and Benoit were the major coups, but Malenko was one of the glue-guys in WCW that added the substance in the ring that the NWO and other former WWE stars brought outside of it. Saturn was just there; I never much cared for him. The foursome would take a few months to get going, but they eventually were involved in some big angles. Guerrero, in the lead-up to Wrestlemania, had begun making sexual advances toward Chyna. They had some amusing exchanges, as she denied his moves, setting up a match between him and her in this inter-gender tag bout.
The match: It was a nice back and forth contest that showcased the fast working abilities of the five men involved. Malenko, Saturn, and Guerrero hit the majority of their big moves and Too Cool entertained as always, but the purpose of the match was to get over the Chyna-Eddie storyline. Chyna got the hot tag toward the end of the match and beat the tar out of Guerrero, eventually pinning him.
The reception: Guerrero and Chyna played their parts well and quickly became allies after this match. It was clearly a mid-card feud, but that’s a rarity these days. At least there was some sort of story behind it. You look at the mid-card in the modern era and it is virtually unwritten, in terms of the amount of TV time dedicated to building its feuds. Unless there is a celebrity involved, then the mid-card matches at Mania in recent years are given a tiny little bit of story to work with and its otherwise just paint-by-the-numbers stuff.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: I’ve seen Mania 3 at least thirty times during the course of my life, but there was a particular viewing when I was in high school that really stands out, as it pertains to this match. This was the second match on the card and everyone I was watching with that night was basically tuned in for Steamboat-Savage and Hogan-Andre. Of course, there were numerous other stars that everyone recognized and were excited to see throughout the PPV. We read through the card listed on the back of the VHS box and pointed out which bouts we were pumped up about. No one mentioned Hercules vs. Billy Jack Haynes. I’m not sure anyone, by 2000, really remembered who they were.
The match: There are moments in wrestling, particularly when you are watching with friends, where no one really says anything because they are engaged in what is happening in the ring. Most recently, CM Punk’s promo last June was one of those moments. I was watching that with my wife one morning and I looked over at her once it was finished and said, “Woah…I think that might’ve been the most important promo I’ve seen in ten years.” Now, obviously, the second match on the card at Mania 3 is nowhere near as significant in the grand scheme of things. BUT…here we all are watching Haynes vs. Hercules. These two guys are busting their asses. Less than ten-minutes later, it’s over and no one is talking. I look around and then say, “Well, damn, that was actually really good.” Everyone either nods or says, “Yeah it really was…”
The reception: I think it puts over the importance of Mania when two guys like this go out there and have a match that absolutely adds to the overall quality of the card. This wasn’t a major match. Nothing I ever saw or I have ever read about Setting the stage suggests otherwise. I compare this to a match that we’ll discuss a little further down the road at Wrestlemania X-8 – a European title bout that really meant very little but featured two guys that “got it” and tried their best to give us something special.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: It began with a backstage altercation at Survivor Series in 2003 and then was escalated by another at the Royal Rumble, which prompted Lesnar to attack Goldberg during the Rumble match and ultimately cause him to be eliminated. In retaliation, Goldberg got a front-row ticket to No Way Out (given to him by Steve Austin) to view the Lesnar-Eddie Guerrero title match. While Goldberg got thrown out of the arena in handcuffs, he was able to escape custody and spear Lesnar at the climax of the championship bout. Lesnar lost the title and blamed it all on Goldberg, targeting him for a match at Wrestlemania to settle the score. Mr. McMahon didn’t think there was anyone that could maintain order in the match until Austin volunteered to be guest referee. Goldberg wasn’t around much leading up to Mania, with the focus more on Lesnar and Austin. The most interesting news was that Lesnar and Goldberg were both leaving after the match and the smart marks in the crowd at MSG let everyone know it.
The match: The story of the match never really got to happen, as it was replaced immediately by an overwhelmingly negative reaction to both men. The MSG IWC members made sure to spread the rumors of Lesnar and Goldberg’s departures like a wild fire and it seemed that not a single member in the crowd failed to let the two wrestlers knew how they felt. The crowd taunted Lesnar, especially, since he wasn’t expected to leave up until it became known just days before the event. Goldberg, on the other hand, had only been signed to a one-year contract. The match itself was an afterthought to the wild reaction by the audience, which chanted and chastised them right out of the building. Lesnar got frustrated, but Goldberg set him straight and they had their match. Goldberg won with the Spear and Jackhammer combination.
The reception: It wasn’t much of a match, although it wasn’t bad by any means; yet, it was one of the most memorable matches in Wrestlemania history thanks to the crowd. I can name maybe 5 matches that had a better crowd reaction.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: The WWE had launched its Lightweight division in 1997 to counter the excellent WCW Cruiserweight division. Taka Michinoku was the WWF’s top light heavyweight and the champion. Aguila was a random challenger and went on to become Essa Rios. The Light heavyweight title, which eventually became the WWE Cruiserweight title, was just never something that the WWE brass got fully behind and, thus, it never took off like it could have. Unlike the women’s division, which suffers from the same lack of commitment, the CW/LHW division usually managed matches that added to the overall cards. So, it’s a shame…
The match: It was a unique match featuring a mix of high flying wrestling that was virtually unknown to the WWF’s core audience. Looking back, it was just a random conglomeration of spots, but it was very entertaining for that era. Moonsaults and planchas galore allowed these two to do something that no one else in the WWF was going to do in their matches, thus making them stand out. Taka won with his finisher. It would have been interesting to see what Taka could have done in what I’d call the height of the CW division in the WWE – 2002 with Mysterio, Kidman, Tajiri, and Jamie Noble.
The reception: It was hailed as something completely different from the usual WWF style, but there was a noticeable lack of psychology that the critics didn’t necessarily appreciate. Looking back, I certainly didn’t appreciate that aspect of it.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Back in the fall of 2002, Big Show re-debuted as a member of the Smackdown brand and decimated the Deadman to help write him off TV for awhile. When Taker came back in early 2003, he immediately set his sights on Show. The two had a surprisingly good match at No Way Out in February, but they had unfinished business. Taker began tutoring a young Nathan Jones around the same time. When Show got A-Train to lend him a hand against Taker, Jones stepped in to even the odds, setting up the tag match for Mania. On Sunday Night Heat prior to Mania, the F.B.I. took out Jones, leaving Taker to fend for himself.
The match: Taker was played to the ring by a raucous rendition of “Rollin” by Limp Bizkit and he used that momentum to dominate the early part of the match despite being outnumbered. Eventually, the numbers game started to wear on him, though. Train and Show dominated from there. They took turns hitting some of their bigger power moves until Taker got it going again and realized that his Streak was in jeopardy. Jones would recover from his backstage beat down and join the fray late in the match, taking out Show with a giant roundhouse kick and making sure that Train never regained momentum. Taker finished off the master of the Baldo Bomb with the Tombstone.
The reception: Without a doubt, most were expecting this match to stink thanks to Jones’s involvement, so he was taken out for a reason. Taker, in the ring with two guys he’d worked decent matches with, managed to gut out a solid performance. Show, it must be noted, was not nearly the worker in 2003 that he is in 2012.
CMV1 rating: **
Setting the stage: Roddy Piper returned to the WWF in 1986 after a hiatus and was promptly betrayed by his former running mate, Bob Orton. The Cowboy and the Hot Rod feuded for a little while, during which time Orton began tagging with the Magnificent Muraco under the management of Mr. Fuji. They were not a team for very long. Meanwhile, Rick Martel – a former WWF Tag Team Champion – was looking for a new partner and found one in Tom Zenk. They were not a team for very long either, as Martel found a new partner in Tito Santana soon after. This was an exhibition bout between the two budding teams.
The match: It was the opening match at Wrestlemania III and had the responsibility of keeping a cool 93,173 fans from sitting on their hands. The crowd was abuzz throughout the match with three noteworthy superstars in the ring. Certainly a point of interest was the direction that those three (not including Zenk) would take following this match. Orton and Muraco were certainly never too far from heavyweight title contention and Martel was, as mentioned, a champion in a tag team division that mattered. Martel ended up getting the win with a flying cross body block to pin Muraco.
The reception: Certainly served its purpose, but no one was ever expecting it to do much more than it did given that it was only a 6-minute match. Martel went onto win the tag titles again as a part of Strike Force, while Orton and Muraco toiled around in the mid-card. It was a solid, opening contest. This seems like a good place to mention the 93K crowd in Detroit. Some claim that it was actually 78,000. I’ve been in a crowd of 78K…I’ve also been in a crowd of 90K. I wasn’t live in Detroit for Mania 3, but I have developed a decent eye for crowd sizes after all these years of pro-wrestling spectacles and college football games. Mania 3’s crowd looked a lot more like 90,000. Plus, if you watch the WWE DVDs that discuss the matter, everyone that speaks of that crowd size states with such conviction that it was 93,000 people.
CMV1 rating: **