240. Sable and Torrie Wilson vs. Stacy Keibler and Jackie Gayda at Wrestlemania XX
Setting the stage: We had Sable and Torrie famous for their boobs in Playboy. We had Gayda famous for her boobs (w/ tassles) on Raw. We had Stacy famous for her legs and butt. Let’s have a wrestling match where the goal is to have all of these women show what made them famous! This was a “Playboy Evening Gown Match” and it was as bad as it reads. I subscribe to the theory that there should be only one match dedicated to the women at each PPV, especially at one as big as Wrestlemania. Molly Holly and Victoria had that on lock in 2004, so this was unnecessary to me. I get that the WWE higher ups think that boobs sell PPVs and they’re right, but I’m pretty sure they don’t sell wrestling PPVs. I would love to see some stats on that.
The match: Not a single one of them, circa 2004, could work a match to save their lives, so they focused on the “getting out of their clothes” aspect and left the wrestling to the wrestlers. I had a poster of Stacy in my college days. People who didn’t watch wrestling worshiped it. That’s the lasting legacy of Stacy Keibler…not being on “Dancing with the Stars,” not being in a relationship with George Clooney, but being on the Doc’s wall in college. I might point out, though, that said poster was often noted after repeated viewing for Stacy’s man hand covering her small breasts.
The reception: By this point, everyone knew that there would always be a certain amount of this kind of stuff until the TV rating changed. Usually, though, it was the kind of trash kept to the confines of Raw, but the WWE thought that it might help earn a buy or two to have some boobies flying around.
CMV1 rating: ½ *
239. Adrian Adonis vs. Uncle Elmer at Wrestlemania 2
Setting the stage: Adonis was a flamboyant character when such things were wildly unaccepted in the general public. Elmer was part of the Hillbillies group with Hillbilly Jim. Did this match matter at all? Not really. Or perhaps I could put it better by saying that it wasn’t memorable at all. When I look back and try to rank a lot of these matches, especially ones that don’t rate well, I have to have some sort of way of differentiating them. To me, the simplest way is to ask myself if it was memorable in any way. This match doesn’t stand out to me in any discernable way.
The match: It’s actually kind of amusing when you look back on it. I live in the south and some of the most closed-minded people that I know are from my area. So, you put a Hillbilly against a flamboyant guy. Do you smell what the Doc is cooking? Adonis was underrated in the execution of his character, by the way. This match wasn’t memorable, but he had some memorable matches. It was almost hilarious watching him be so over the top. Goldust, years later, just made it look so easy to be controversial. Adonis looked like he was trying really hard, but in a good, 80s era kind of way. He won with a headbutt.
The reception: This was one of the afterthought matches of the L.A. portion of Mania 2; a warm-up to the main-event cage match. I’ve never been a fan of this match, but Adonis redeemed himself with a great performance a year later. I didn’t look forward to reflecting on this match, but I do look forward to reflecting on his next one.
CMV1: ½ *
238. Earthquake vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine at Wrestlemania VII
Setting the stage: There wasn’t much to set the stage for. What build-up? Quake was coming off a big year and needed another convincing win to keep his hopes of being relevant alive in the singles division, but that’s not what he got. He was one of many guys that got the push against Hogan, lost, and had trouble finding something else to do. He ended up being a tag team champion with Typhoon, though. The Hammer was long past his days of being a major player.
The match: I felt bad for the Hammer. He was big in the 80’s, but his run in the sun was long gone by 1991. There was a rumor that he was the inspiration behind the movie, “The Wrestler,” and it was times like these that made me think it could be true. Obviously, competing at Mania and competing at an indy show for $50 are not comparable, but sticking around for a squash match like this late in your career after your glory days are over shows a sign of desperation that you hope to never see from one of your childhood favorites.
The reception: Hogan sure did mow through a bunch of guys didn’t he? If you look back at the first seven Manias, you’re sure to find a match between guys that were once Hogan’s challengers that found themselves without purpose. Sadly, Valentine got his feud with Hogan early, before the Manias and PPVs came about.
CMV1 rating: ½ *
237. Kane vs. The Great Khali at Wrestlemania 23
Setting the stage: When Mark Henry sent Khali packing earlier this year, I was quite happy. I have never been a fan of Khali’s and, from the day he debuted, I was looking forward to his retirement or release. He’s got to be considered one of the worst wrestlers of all-time. He was just so bad. Of course, he got a lot of opportunities in his first two years to make a major impact in the main-event. He would face Cena later in 2007 (after this gem occurred at Mania), but needed a few big wins to get him ready. So, Kane was fed to him in the weeks leading to Mania to get him back up to the upper echelon.
The match: It was a bowling shoe ugly match, but Kane did his best to at least make it watchable. Mission accomplished, I thought. A lot of credit goes to the Big Red Monster for pulling something that wasn’t the worst match of all-time out of a guy that probably has more than a few candidates for worst match of all-time. Did I mention that I didn’t like Khali? I’d like to re-iterate it, just so there’s no mistaking it, that I really didn’t like the Great Khali. “YAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGH” – that’s his legacy.
The reception: Nobody pulled any punches…it was not a good match. After watching a handful of Khali matches in ’06, I was just glad – from that point forward – when his opponent made it out a match with him with their body intact. Sad, as Mania 23, at the top, stands tall amongst some of the best Manias ever. Undercard matches like these drag it down tremendously.
CMV1 rating: ½ *
236. Corporal Kirchner vs. Nikolai Volkoff at Wrestlemania 2
Setting the stage: You gotta love patriotism! Kirchner representing the gold old U-S of A against the dastardly remnant of the Cold War. I think I’m going to try to use the word dastardly as many times as possible in this column series. It’s such a great way to describe the old school heels that were so black-and-white in their bad guy characters.
The match: This was a flag match and Volkoff was seconded to the ring by the incomparable “Classy” Fred Blassie. When you look back at the old days, stories like these were such a simple way to get a rise out of the crowds. Characters like these in today’s time would get either no reaction or heavily criticized by the IWC, which would then translate to them getting shat on by the major market crowds. Who says the internet doesn’t have influence, huh? Anyhow, Kirchner caught Blassie’s cane when he tossed it in Volkoff’s direction. He used it to blast the Hall of Famer, Volkoff, right between the eyes to get the win.
The reception: Don’t you love the simplicity of the 1980s? You could just slap a military name on a guy and give him a flag and he’d be, at least, somewhat over with the audience. I don’t feel like we’ve got much patriotism these days. People would rather blame everybody and their brother for how bad things are than actually rally as a country and do something about it.
CMV1 rating: ½ *
235. Dino Bravo vs. Ronnie Garvin at Wrestlemania V
Setting the stage: Garvin had some great matches in the NWA against Ric Flair, even winning the World Championship over there. Bravo obviously wasn’t Flair and Garvin didn’t fare so well against the Canadian Strong Man. Bravo was bowling shoe ugly in the ring. Thank you, Jim Ross, for giving me something to say about a guy who had several bad matches at Wrestlemania. If you go back and do a comparison between 80s WWE and 80s NWA, you’ll notice how much flashier (in general) were the superstars of sports entertainment versus the rugged, old school quality held by most the NWA roster. “Rugged” was, therefore, a fitting nickname for Ronnie. He looked out of place in the WWE…he was out of place in the WWE. Yet, money was there to be made and, as Harley Race put it, it was smart to go out there and make some of it.
The match: As Bravo often did during the pushes he received (for some odd reason considering he couldn’t wrestle or talk), he dominated the small wrestler and showed us that he was strong but nothing more. For those of you wondering where Randy Orton got his multiple stomps all over a person’s body, look no further than Garvin. Rugged Ronnie was famous for his “Garvin Stomp.”
The reception: Garvin never stood a chance, neither in actually winning nor in getting a good match out Bravo. God rest his soul, but I’ll never fail to take a chance to mention how bad I thought he was in the ring. Just a sloppy goof (was Bravo)…not his fault; McMahon’s fault for pushing him, as far as I’m concerned…
CMV1 rating: ½ *
234. Giant Gonzalez vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania IX
Setting the stage: It’s not so much a miracle that Taker managed to become a great worker despite all of the bad wrestlers he was forced to take on during his career, so much that it’s more of a miracle that he is still alive. Guys like Gonzalez were so awful that they were an accident waiting to happen. It was actually comical how they dressed up Gonzalez to make him look like a threat. He was Manute Bol skinny. If you breathed on that guy, he’d probably have fallen over. However, to a nine year old fan boy watching his first Wrestlemania, this was absolutely one of the most anticipated matches. I’m surprised there aren’t more useless big guys around today, given the WWE’s target market these days seems to be those very nine year old types like was back in 1993.
The match: The Deadman facing off against huge wrestlers followed the Hogan formula to a “t” and tried to draw money. I’m honestly not sure if it ever did after Hogan left. Taker was popular back then, but his character was not a mainstream act. Taker won via DQ and this feud went on for another painful couple of months.
The reception: You have to credit Taker for taking in stride the numerous bad opponents he had. Without a doubt, he has put up with more crap than any wrestler in history, with his storyline brother, Kane, a close second. Sean Taylor recently wondered on the Teacher’s Lounge why I had not yet written about this match and how I could’ve included so many other watchable matches ahead of it on what has essentially been the “worst of” portion of this countdown. Simple – I still can’t help but look at it from the perspective of a 9-year old kid completely bewildered by his first Wrestlemania and all the (bad) that came with it.
CMV1 rating: ½ *
233. Big Bossman vs. Akeem at Wrestlemania VI
Setting the stage: Bossman went from the big man of the couple months that feuded with Hogan to feuding with is former tag team partner. He and Akeem formed the Twin Towers and were a force in the tag team division, in addition to being massive thorns in Hogan’s side. But then Bossman became a defender of “Law, Order, and Justice!” Many an unintentionally funny promo full of intensity came as the result of the babyface Bossman. Anyhow, he locked horns with Akeem at Mania 6. This was back in the day where Bossman was carrying a lot of excess weight on his frame, so for those of you that remember him from the Attitude era, you ought to watch either this (or better yet his cage matches with Hogan).
The match: Akeem was once the One Man Gang, another monstrously unfit wrestler that was seemingly brought in to combat the Hogans and Andres of the world. He was no longer needed after facing (and losing to) Hogan, so Bossman got the convincing win and became a semi-top level good guy. To this day, the thought of Bossman makes me think of his feud with Nailz, the ex-con that got out of jail and tried to get payback on the Bossman. Specifically, I think of Bossman’s promos that would usually begin with him animatedly yelling “Nailz!” Sorry, that wasn’t about this Mania match…but this bout was so short it left me with little to talk about.
The reception: At less than two minutes in length, this never had a chance to be a good match. Considering the talent involved, it had even less a chance. No offense, Bossman…
CMV1 rating: ½ *
232. Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania XXVI
Setting the stage: It was a thrill to see the Hitman return to WWE television, make up with Shawn Michaels, and re-ignite his feud with Vince after nearly 13 years. The story was intriguing, sometimes frustrating, and ultimately satisfying heading into the PPV, as it looked as if the WWE was going to give us Bret – despite a stroke that limited what he could do – coming out one last time in the pink and black and beating the crap out of Vince in a short match.
The match: Remember that scene from one of the Austin Powers movies when Fat Bastard is trying to describe his fart and he talks about it being so bad that it was like a mixture of carrots and throw-up; or the smell you get when you walk into an apartment building and someone has died, plus crap? Well, that would fairly adequately describe the massive dump that Bret and Vince took in the ring at Mania 26. It was not satisfying. It was horribly long. It was painfully booked. And to top it all off, Bret didn’t even wear his old tights and boots. The involvement of his family was bad, too.
The reception: Someone needed to remind whatever agent helped put this together that Bret couldn’t do anything and that Vince was an old man who also couldn’t do anything. It’s as if they failed to realize that someone getting beat with a chair for 10-minutes was not going to be entertaining past the 3-minute mark…but they didn’t. I’m sure it was satisfying to the Hart family after many years of grief that began with the Screwjob, but as a long-time Hitman fan, I was left wanting. Still, it was cool to have Bret back in the WWE – can’t gloss that over.
CMV1 rating: ½ *
231. Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules at Wrestlemania IV
Setting the stage: This holds the historical significance of being the Warrior’s first Wrestlemania match. Giving credit where it’s due, the Warrior was a major player in the WWE for several years and while history looks back on him as a head case with roid rage that wasn’t very good and cut insane promos, I’ll always remember him as the man with wild intensity that captured my young imagination and turned me into a WWF fan after being brought up on the less flashy NWA. Warrior was pure energy and had a lot of natural charisma. Hercules, by the way, was underrated…
The match: Hercules was actually a pretty damn good worker and had some matches that flew under the radar in Mania history in the mid-card. He added solid work to the cards, but Warrior was just so bad (at that point) that it was difficult for anyone to do much with him, especially when he was booked to dominate and beat you in just a few minutes of action.
The reception: After watching so many bad Warrior matches for that first year that he was around, you kind of have to give him credit for getting good enough to be carried to some really strong work (with the right opponents) from 1989-1992. Maybe that’s the Warrior mark talking, but if this same match takes place with 1991 Warrior facing 1988 Hercules, then I think we’re talking about a step-up in quality if it was allowed to be of a higher quality.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
230. Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger at Wrestlemania X
Setting the stage: Luger and Bret both winning the 1994 Royal Rumble match was cool. I really enjoyed the story of how there would be two title matches and all that jazz. Luger had done a nice job as that era’s version of Hulk Hogan (for a short run), the All-American who could power his way to the top and hoist the weight of a nation on his back. Unfortunately, 1994 was not 1984 and the world had changed from wanting to see that, so Luger didn’t really get over the way that they’d hoped…
The match: If you’re a fan of a big fat guy doing a trap grab for 5-minutes, then this is the match for you. Yokozuna was so out of shape by Mania X that it’s a wonder he didn’t go ahead and die in that ring on that night. I’m surprised that they had him wrestle twice when he could barely move. Sadly, it only got twice as bad by 1996.
The reception: So, imagine Lex Luger is laying in bed with his wife (or whoever) the night before Wrestlemania and he gets the call that they’re going with Bret winning back the WWE title in the main-event at Mania X. Luger rolls over, frustrated, and tells his wife that he’s just going to phone it in the next night when he gets his match with Yoko and not try to steal the show to display why he should’ve been the one to become champion. I can only imagine that some similar scenario took place.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
229. Lex Luger and British Bulldog vs. Jacob and Eli Blue at Wrestlemania XI
Setting the stage: If there are any “WWE only” fans reading this right now, I would advise that you go back and watch Luger while he was in WCW. Luger was nowhere near as bad as his run in the WWE made him out to be. I don’t think his heart was really in wrestling at this point. The decreased use of steroids probably played a role in how much he shrank (although he was still ripped as hell) from his WCW days and he came to the WWE to be a part of the failed World Bodybuilding Federation (not to wrestle). He had three Wrestlemania matches and only the one with the wildly awesome Mr. Perfect stayed away from #229 or below. Luger headlined in 1994 and was a non-factor a year later.
The match: Let’s call a spade a spade…this was a match to get Bulldog and Luger on the card. I was actually a little surprised that Bulldog wasn’t given more to do at this show. He was very over and he was the runner-up in the Rumble match. Given the limitations of the roster and how well he was pushed at non-Mania times, it’s actually surprising he never had a major Wrestlemania match.
The reception: This bout was the definition of forgettable. I could watch it right now and not remember anything about it ten minutes later. The depleted roster really struggled to put on quality matches in the mid-card from about 1993-1997 before picking back up in the Attitude era. I’d say this was the type of match that we can call the “case in point” for that argument.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
228. Bam Bam Bigelow and Luna Vachon vs. Doink and Dink the Clowns at Wrestlemania X
Setting the stage: Bigelow ranks as one of the strangest cases of where a wrestler goes from one year to the next in Wrestlemania history. A year after Mania X, he was in the main-event in one of the biggest mainstream angles that the WWE has ever done against Lawrence Taylor. At the 10th Mania, though, he was involved in a mixed tag team match involving a woman, a midget, and a clown. Only King Kong Bundy is on par with that kind of cosmic shift of importance.
The match: Alright, I won’t lie to you. I actually was entertained by this. Doink was a fun character and Luna was so bat shit crazy that it made her worth watching. I could’ve done without the Dink involvement, as that’s just not something that I’ve ever much cared for, but the whole thing played out fine. Bigelow could have been used much better, though.
The reception: Bigelow was one of the most talented big man workers I’d ever seen (I’d put him right there with Vader in terms of guys of that body type). Back in ’93, his matches in the King of the Ring tournament, particularly the final with Bret Hart, were fantastic. So, I’m not sure why he was saddled with this load of monkey crap, but he made up for it a year later. Horribly underappreciated performer that a lot of you younger fans ought to go back and view more extensively. Check out some of his work in ECW and against Bret Hart in the WWE.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
227. Owen Hart vs. Skinner at Wrestlemania VIII
Setting the stage: If you’re looking for a laugh and/or an example of how ridiculous the overly gimmicky era of the WWE was in the early to mid-90s, please go watch a video of the alligator swamp man, Skinner. Owen was strapped with facing him in his Wrestlemania debut (as himself; not the Blue Blazer). For your information, Skinner was portrayed by Steve Keirn, the storyline president of Florida Championship Wrestling and one of the WWE’s trainers/agents. By the way, you know you’re an excessive wrestling fan when you immediately find a wrestling connection to just about everything. My wife and I have been watching True Blood as of late and the opening theme always makes me think of Skinner.
The match: This was actually the first of two matches in Skinner’s Wrestlemania career, as he was the second Doink during the next year’s Crush vs. Doink match. At Mania IX, the Doink clone helped the real Doink get the win. At Mania VIII, though, he got his tail whipped by Owen in about 80 seconds. As awesome as Owen was, not even he could have a match higher than the 200s in under a minute-and-a-half.
The reception: If you want more comedy, watch this match and get a load of Owen’s outfit. Think a white MC Hammer with bigger muscles. It was what he wore in the tag team, High Energy, also featuring Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware. By looking at it, you’d have never have been able to guess that Owen would headline PPVs two years later. Just no way…
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
226. Legion of Doom vs. Power and Glory at Wrestlemania VII
Setting the stage: Hawk and Animal will be remembered as one of the greatest tag teams in history, but it won’t really be because of what they did in the WWE. I would recommend that you go out and watch their DVD that came out several years ago or just Youtube some of their stuff in late 80s NWA. That will give you a better idea of what they brought to the table. See, the trend of WCW guys getting misused in the WWE started long before the Monday Night Wars. Power and Glory were fed to them to give the L.O.D. a convincing win.
The match: It only lasted about a minute, so it was hard to get invested. L.O.D. went onto win the tag titles at Summerslam that year, so this match served its purpose in getting the Road Warriors a victory that they needed to look strong going into the eventual match with the Nasty Boys. Mania VII was a strong one for tag teams. Not again have we seen such strong work in the tag scene at a Wrestlemania.
The reception: I usually don’t like short matches, but I didn’t have a problem with this one because LOD was so far and away ahead of P&G that it wouldn’t have made a ton of sense for the LOD to give up much to them. This was a squash that worked very well…but it’s still hard to give it much of a rating.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
225. Doug Furnas/Phil Lafon vs. The Headbangers vs. The New Blackjacks vs. The Godwinns at Wrestlemania 13
Setting the stage: This was JBL’s Wrestlemania debut as a member of the revised Blackjack tag team alongside an aging Barry Windham (another guy you should watch from the NWA to get an idea of what he brought to the table, which was considerable). The match was an elimination bout with the #1 contendership to the tag titles on the line. In reality, it was just a way to get some of the guys on their roster onto the card. Recently, we had Money in the Bank to fill that role at Wrestlemania, but back then we had random tag team matches.
The match: Being the opener, it was supposed to get the fans excited to see the rest of the show, but it really didn’t accomplish that goal. It was sloppy and all over the place and a real eyesore of a match. It really went to show how limited a roster that the WWE had back in early 1997, making it less of a wonder that this Mania drew the poorest buyrate in the history of the Show of Shows.
The reception: I hated the match, plain and simple. It looked like it would be OK on paper, but I’ve never had a viewing of Wrestlemania 13 that didn’t remind me why I hated this. Hate is a strong word, I know, but when your match is given 10-minutes, you should be far higher up a list than this. This is the area of the column that should be reserved for 3-minute throwaways and ugly big man matches.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
224. Tito Santana vs. The Executioner at Wrestlemania
Setting the stage: If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching some of the Shawn Michaels DVDs, then you’ve inevitably heard the name, “Playboy” Buddy Rose. He was an AWA Tag Team Champion with Doug Summers, whose name popped up recently on LOP. Rose was the Executioner at Wrestlemania. His opponent was Tito Santana, who unfortunately peaked before the Wrestlemania era began. Tito was one of the bigger stars – a former IC Champion – just prior to Mania 1. I still have his old Hasbro action figure, by the way. I found it while going through some old stuff at my mom’s house.
The match: This holds the distinction of being the first match in Wrestlemania history, with Tito getting the win in about 5-minutes. Unfortunately, it’s one of those old school matches that doesn’t stand the test of time. The style was a little different back then, with more emphasis on the ground game and a lack of exciting moves weaved in with the numerous rest holds. For a five-minute match, that just doesn’t fly anymore.
The reception: I’m not sure how I would’ve rated it back then – but looking back on it, it becomes very difficult to give it much of a rating. It was just flat out boring. That being said, Dave Meltzer is one prominent writer who rated it favorably, by my recollection. It kind of makes you wonder what a match like, say, Matt Hardy vs. Rey Mysterio would rate in fifteen years or so. It was of similar length and I rate it much like Meltzer did the opening match in Mania history.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
223. Bam Bam Bigelow vs. One Man Gang at Wrestlemania IV
Setting the stage: This was one of the first round match-ups in the awesome title tournament. The Gang was one of those guys that had to be considered a prohibitive favorite to reach the latter rounds due to his size. Guys with size back then were a dime a dozen, but the tournament wasn’t exactly filled to the brim with them. Bigelow was far more talented, but I digress.
The match: One thing that was always very impressive about Bam Bam was how well he could move around the ring for his size. A guy like Taker or Kane can do it just as well, but they have athletic frames that make it not altogether surprising. Bigelow was overweight, so it was a little more worthy of applause that he could do what he could do for as long as he could do it (his cardio was great for that sized wrestler). I remember back in the 80s to the old Nintendo (NES) games featuring WWF superstars. Bigelow was one of my favorite characters from the “Wrestlemania” game and, believe it or not, that was my first exposure to Bam Bam was in that game. I was like four years old and Bigelow could do a cartwheel to knock over Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. That was kind of the coolest thing ever, at that age. Naturally, I got excited to then see him on TV.
The reception: Gang winning via count-out was not the most exciting finish, but it got OMG into the next round and the next round. He had a good showing for himself as a monster big man that would eventually have several matches with Hogan.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
222. Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Dino Bravo at Wrestlemania VI
Setting the stage: Do you remember the WWF wrestling cassette tape that came out in the early 90’s (during the Hitman era) that featured original songs being sung by the wrestlers themselves? Duggan had one on there that I’ve always found comically awesome and that I most recently listened to on a road trip to watch Missouri vs. Oklahoma (football) about 5 years ago. USA! U-U-U-U-USA! USA! HOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Wrestlemania: the soundtrack or something like that. I just recently went to a Virginia Tech football game and the guy behind me was continually yelling “HOOOOOOOO” (as in “HOKIES” – the team’s mascot – and sounded just like Hacksaw. I got home and posted that on my newly found Twitter account and some guy whose account says he’s Hacksaw tweeted to me. I thought it was the real one! I thought Twitter was awesome! Yeah, Twitter’s OK…….
The match: If you’ve seen one Bravo match, you’ve seen every Bravo match. RIP, Dino. I was just not a fan. Duggan had his moments, but this wasn’t one of them. He was more than capable of having good matches with solid opponents, but he was not much if he wasn’t in there with someone better than him. So, if you’re looking for an example of why Duggan is in the Hall of Fame…look elsewhere…
The reception: In the unwritten wrestling encyclopedia for “random strong man,” there’s a picture of Dino Bravo. I just realized that my recollection of the Duggan original song fits pretty nicely given how they always played up Bravo as the bad guy from Canada, as if the States have some massive huge historical beef with our neighbors to the north. Anything but the USA = bad in the world of wrestling, I guess. USA! U-U-U-U-USA! USA! HOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
221. Butch Reed vs. Koko B. Ware at Wrestlemania III
Setting the stage: Reed was, perhaps, famous for just two things in his wrestling career. The first was being an NWA Tag Team Champion with Ron Simmons – a memorable tag team from my childhood, I might add. The second was his feud with Junkyard Dog in Mid-South wrestling in the mid-80s. So, obviously neither of those things happened in the WWE. Reed was fairly forgettable in the biggest league. Koko was an exciting talent and stood out with his bird man gimmick and the parrot on his arm, Frankie.
The match: I would liken Koko to a Marty Jannetty or a Matt Hardy type of mid-card act that could entertain in the ring with his high energy, pun intended, style and have a better than usual match. More or less, this bout was intended to make Reed look good, but I always thought that Koko looked good by making other people look good.
The reception: A match that lasts 3:30 isn’t going to garner much of a rating and the overall critical reception didn’t give it much of one, but Ware made it fun as he often did. A lot of people had a problem with his Hall of Fame induction, but I think it gives hope to mid-card talents in the future. Look at Santino Marella…he’s a mid-carder with a gimmick that keeps him over and makes him stand out amongst a slew of other mid-carders who aren’t nearly as entertaining. That was Koko…and guys like that matter.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
220. King Kong Bundy vs. Undertaker at Wrestlemania XI
Setting the stage: Earlier, I made the comparison between Hogan and Taker by looking at the big guys thrown their way. Bundy just so happened to be a mutual opponent in that formula. The Deadman had been feuding with the Million Dollar Corporation, the pre-cursor to Mr. McMahon’s more polished version from the Attitude era. Ted Dibiase was the leader of the original incarnation and he made a habit out of throwing monsters in the Taker’s path…even a fake Undertaker. Bundy was brought back into the fold based on the success he had earlier in his career against Hogan.
The match: This was long before the Streak was even a factor, but it was one of the few times, in my opinion, when it was actually vulnerable. It wasn’t so much Bundy, as he was a shrunken version of his late 80’s self, but rather the longstanding feud with the Corporation. Taker had successfully endured most of the challenges, so if it was to continue then they needed to have a reason for it to continue. A Bundy victory via Corporation shenanigans would have accomplished that, but Taker disposed of him pretty easily…
The reception: The first good match of the Taker’s Wrestlemania Streak wouldn’t come until the next year, as this was another in the early days of the Deadman’s lousy matches against big dudes. Here’s an interesting stat for you. Of the Undertaker’s 19 matches at Wrestlemania, 12 of them were against guys who either main-evented or headlined other Wrestlemanias in the last match or a title match.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
219. Vickie Guerrero, Michelle McCool, Layla, Maryse, and Alicia Fox beat Mickie James, Beth Phoenix, Kelly Kelly, Eve, & Gail Kim
Setting the stage: Since the departure of Trish Stratus, the Divas division has nose-dived especially in terms of its importance come Mania time. With Stratus, you could guarantee that some sort of major program would be written for the women revolving around her. Some of them, like the ones with Mickie James and Lita, were started several months in advance and were a highlight of long-term booking during an era where such a thing was rare. In 2010, we got a good example of life in the diva’s division A.S. (After Stratus).
The match: I don’t even remember who were the women’s and diva’s champions at the time and it’s not important enough to look it up. Mickie and Michelle McCool were feuding, I think. I believe that was during the time where the “Mickie is fat” story was going. Anyhow, Vickie Guerrero wrestled and was actually the highlight of this match. She was helped up to the top rope and did her late husband’s old shimmy that he used to do when the momentum was swinging his way. Vickie hit the Frog Splash, which “The King” referred to as the “Hog Splash,” which I just don’t get. Does calling into question a woman’s weight really help sell PPVs or make people want to watch TV programming?
The reception: Another important role for some matches is to be the filler in between the bigger matches. This bout was the filler between the two title matches. I give it credit for being full of rapid action without much resting, topped off by the nice tribute to Eddie by Vickie.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
218. The APA and Tazz vs. The Right to Censor at Wrestlemania X-Seven
Setting the stage: Censorship by the FCA was becoming a bigger issue for the WWE when 2001 rolled around. The WWE had become pretty liberal with the foul language (thanks to Austin) and had stretched what they could get away with in some of their more over-the-top storylines like Mark Henry impregnating Mae Young and her giving birth to a hand or Kaientai chopping off Val Venis’s penis or the Godfather strutting out to the ring with a bunch of scantily clad women (his “hoes”). Steven Richards led the WWE’s way of mocking the FCA, the faction called the Right to Censor. Richards recruited Venis and Godfather – who became the Goodfather – to the group.
The match: Tazz was one helluva performer in ECW and I’m not sure if it was injuries or what that made him so out of shape roughly one year after his WWE debut, but he was a train wreck in this match and one of the main reasons why it is such a bad match. If you take out his stumbles and bumbles in the first few minutes, then this actually would have turned out OK. Bull Buchanan, Bradshaw, Farooq, Venis, and Goodfather did just fine in their roles and worked hard and fast. Tazz was so sloppy, though, that it was just terrible.
The reception: This was one of the few low points of a tremendous Wrestlemania. This match is one of the reasons why I think Mania 19 is better and why Mania 24 is right on its level instead of confidently calling Mania 17 the best of all-time.
CMV1 rating: ¾ *
217. Jake Roberts vs. George Wells at Wrestlemania 2
Setting the stage: Wells, a former football player, was little more than enhancement talent during his run in the WWF. 1986 was a big year for the Snake, as he broke into the upper echelon in a hurry during a feud with Ricky Steamboat (famous for Jake giving the Dragon a DDT on the outside floor that legitimately knocked Steamboat out cold and gave him a wicked concussion). Wells was fed to Jake to give the Snake a convincing win. The Snake would go on to much better things in the years that followed, as he was one of the WWE’s top performers from 1987-1992.
The match: At only three-minutes in length, there really was not much to see. Wells was a nobody in the WWF and Jake was about six months away from really starting to get over and stake has claim as one of the top acts of the Hogan era. I wrote a column about him earlier in the year, but I highly recommend that the younger fans reading this go back and watch Jake’s work both on the mic and in the ring. He was never given the chance to be a guy that went out and produced 4-5 star matches consistently, but his understanding of the psychological aspect of wrestling was unmatched. Everything he did was with a purpose. He didn’t ramble on – he said what he needed to say in a way that got the audience invested and that was that. He didn’t perform – he carefully selected moves that looked legitimate. Jake Roberts was an artist and the wrestling ring his canvas.
The reception: No one really cares, but it did have a clean, decisive finish, which was not always guaranteed at Mania back then. Someone needs to bring back the DDT as a legit finisher.
CMV1 rating: *
216. Rick Martel vs. Koko B. Ware at Wrestlemania VI
Setting the stage: “The Model” was an underrated character and Rick Martel was an underrated wrestler. He had the ability to effectively get the job done in the ring. His gimmick was never going to get him to the main-event, but it did help lead him to the biggest match of his singles career at Wrestlemania VII. Remember that, back then, feuds tended to last a lot longer because there were not as many PPVs, so at Wrestlemania VI, Martel needed a convincing win heading into his feud later in the year against Jake Roberts.
The match: The opening contest is an important one, as it has the important task of getting the crowd sufficiently energized. Koko was always a good choice for that position with his offensive style. Martel was capable of working fast and quick, so despite this being just shy of four-minutes long, he and Ware were able to have an entertaining match that effectively jumpstarted the emotions of 67,000 people.
The reception: It was good, but it wasn’t long enough to be any better than that. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’m admittedly a mark for both guys. Martel, in my eyes, is one of those mid-card performers from that era that could be called up for a major angle at any time…he just wasn’t called up all that often. Sort of like a modern day Dolph Ziggler, at least to this point. The star rating you see below was established at a time in my life where reviewing matches became its own separate hobby from just watching pro-wrestling. So, while I enjoy it today, I stuck with the rating I gave it during the height of my critical days.
CMV1 rating: *
215. John Morrison, Trish Stratus, and Snooki vs. Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool, and Layla at Wrestlemania XXVII
Setting the stage: Mania 27’s main celebrity was the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but they also tried to capitalize on the unexpected success of the “Jersey Shore” and one of its main stars, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi. Trish Stratus was set to be a trainer on the reboot of Tough Enough, so she was incorporated to help Snooki make the wrestling transition. Morrison was thrown into the fold because he and Ziggler were feuding and needed a match on the show.
The match: One of the backstage rumors about this match was that Morrison refused to listen to any of Trish’s suggestions because he felt that she had taken the Mania spot of his girlfriend and royal pain in his ass, Melina. I swear if he would dump her – that is, if any of these rumors are true – his career would have a better chance. She wouldn’t have been on the card, anyway. Trish essentially took the spot that looked likely for Kelly Kelly. Rumors can take on a life of their own, though, so you’re always best served to try and steer clear of that kind of controversy in a business. Morrison made a bad choice. Anyhow, Morrison did Starship Pain to the outside, which was cool. Snooki did some somersaults that she learned as a cheerleader and got the pin to win the match.
The reception: The crowd booed the hell out of Snooki, but she did a nice job in her role, allowing the other five professionals to carry the main part of the match before getting her in there for the finish.
CMV1 rating: *
214. Undertaker vs. Superfly Jimmy Snuka at Wrestlemania VII
Setting the stage: Everything has a beginning…and an end. The Streak began in 1991 and may end in 2012. Undertaker had debuted at the Survivor Series in 1990 and had instantly been portrayed as an impervious monster. It was, therefore, easy to assume that he’d eventually clash with the top guys later in 1991. First off, though, he needed a credible opponent to defeat and they fed him the legendary Jimmy Snuka. Many of you likely remember Snuka for random appearances in recent years, but back in the day, he could be counted on for a “moment” or two. He was quite popular. His leap off the cage at MSG was, perhaps, to 80s audiences what Foley being thrown off the Cell became to 90s audiences.
The match: The Deadman dominated virtually the entire match, with straightforward offense that he became known for in his early career. He also showed an athleticism, in flashes, that was flat out brilliant for a man of his size. Snuka got a few licks in, but was quickly KO-ed with the Tombstone to get the first of his amazing 19 wins at Mania.
The reception: No one really made mention of the match quality, as it wasn’t supposed to be good…rather, it was supposed to get over Taker’s dominance over a future Hall of Famer and it did that. By that year’s end, Taker had already earned the first of many World title runs. It’s hard to believe that Taker’s career could soon be over. We better damn sure appreciate this guy while he’s still around, especially considering how amazing he’s been at the last 5 Wrestlemanias.
CMV1 rating: *
213. Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan at Wrestlemania 13
Setting the stage: The Rock was a polarizing figure right from the get-go in his career. He debuted just four months prior to Mania 13, but already the fans were turning on him for his bland, white meat, vanilla babyface character. Chicago crowds are notorious for crapping all over someone like that and they lambasted him pretty good. I love Chi-town crowds for that reason. They tell it like it is and are usually the barometer for the more mature wrestling fan that doesn’t just follow what the WWE asks them to do. Rocky was IC Champ at the time, having beaten a young Triple H on Raw in February. Sultan was Rikishi under a mask.
The match: To continue the trend of the undercard matches seeming just a bit off that year, this match was clunky and fairly boring for the most part and featured a lame finish. I’m sure it was a thrill for Rock to have his dad come to his aid after a non-finish, but I think he was probably the only one who cared. With all due respect to Rocky Johnson, the Soul Man – without his athleticism – was about as interesting as my watch. It would be fair to describe Rocky Maivia in that way, as well, up until he got pissed off and morphed into The Rock.
The reception: I am a historian of wrestling, so I enjoy going back in time to see the evolution of characters from their infant stages to when they became great. So, in that context, it’s worth watching to see where the Rock came from. Interesting that these last two matches have featured two all-time greats making their Mania debuts.
CMV1 rating: *
212. Randy Savage vs. One Man Gang at Wrestlemania IV
Setting the stage: Savage was coming off wins over Butch Reed and Greg Valentine to reach the semi-finals of the WWF Title tournament, where his opponent was the much larger One Man Gang. OMG had the luxury of a quarterfinal bye thanks to Jake Roberts and Rick Rude going to a time limit draw in the first round. Gang, as mentioned before, was merely a big fat guy that was glorified enhancement talent for the top babyfaces. Since Dibiase had a bye to the finals, though, it was pretty obvious who was going to win this one.
The match: The story of the match was essentially to see if Savage, despite having wrestled one fewer match, could outlast the Gang. To keep Gang credible moving forward so that they could throw him in Hogan’s path eventually, they worked a disqualification finish that saw OMG wield his manager, Slick’s cane to bash Savage repeatedly and keep in question if the babyface would be able to overcome the dastardly heel challenger in the main-event final. I think I’d rather win the World title, psychologically, but I guess the allure of being evil meant more to the Gang.
The reception: I love Wrestlemania IV. That title tournament is one of the items that I mark most for in Mania history. By and large, the match quality was pretty solid and this was no exception, really. Unfortunately, the basic story that they told didn’t require it to last for very long – which had its advantages since Gang was limited, but also handcuffed the match from achieving a higher rating.
CMV1 rating: *
211. Junkyard Dog vs. Greg Valentine at Wrestlemania
Setting the stage: JYD was one of the biggest superstars in the WWF during the early Wrestlemania years. He had made a name for himself in the south and was brought up north to try and duplicate that success. I would say he successfully made the transition, as he became a huge star just short of the main-event level during a time when the roster was so stacked that it was difficult to achieve a top spot. Valentine was a workhorse and the IC Champion when Mania went down in 1985. The Hammer had once been a challenger to Hogan, so he was no stranger to the spotlight.
The match: Valentine was still very much in the prime of his career and he had a few more nice years ahead of him after this match, but for some reason things just did not click on that night. This match was not absolutely unwatchable, but it was not the greatest thing you’ll ever see either. The chemistry just wasn’t there and, while I’m sure that they tried, the effort really didn’t seem to be there, either. I suppose you could say that the concept of stealing the show was a couple of years away from becoming defined in the WWF.
The reception: Most of the prominent match rating gurus felt that this bout did not even warrant a single star, but I like to take into account the generation of when the match took place. I thought this match was right on par with a lot of what we saw back then. So, I rated it a little higher than many…