Posted in: Doctor's Orders Doctor's Orders: The Road to Wrestlemania Countdown (#181-#210)
By The Doc
Dec 23, 2011 - 8:52:49 PM
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. This will be the last of the Countdown until the end of next week. We’ll pick back up and cruise through ‘til April 1st. If you wish to continue reminiscing, then please leave comments in the Facebook feedback area below, email me, or reach on Twitter @TheDocLOP
QUESTION OF THE DAY (20): Macho Man may have been the original Mr. Wrestlemania. Who are your top 5 performers in Mania history?
Setting the stage: Bravo was a raw powerhouse who had just come onto the scene in the WWE and was given a spot in the tournament to crown the next World Champion. Muraco was on the other side of his prime by this point, and had taken Superstar Billy Graham as his manager. The original Rock was still over with the crowds. I’ve made it known how much I disliked Bravo, but I haven’t had a chance to write about Muraco, yet. Only long time fans probably remember him and the only time I can recall seeing him on WWE programming in recent years was backstage, briefly, during more famous Rock’s promo at Wrestlemania XX. Make no mistake about it, though, Muraco was a star. He was the recipient of that top of the cage splash from Snuka at MSG. He was an upper echelon talent in the 80s and that’s what made him a Hall of Famer.
The match: Several momentum shifts occurred during the course of this match. Muraco did his best to get the Canadian strongman through the match. Bravo did fine, so they actually had an entertaining contest. The crowd was so into the tournament, so that helped elevate a match like this. Muraco eventually got the win, advancing to face Million Dollar Man in the quarterfinals.
The reception: Definitely a “lost in the shuffle” kind of match, but a testament to Muraco for being able to get something average out of Bravo, who was known for being clunky. It didn’t last very long, though, hence the single star rating. It was good for what it was…
CMV1 rating: *
209. Alundra Blayze vs. Leilani Kai at Wrestlemania X
Setting the stage: Alundra aka Medusa was the type of women’s star that the WWE could build around back in that era and I always found her to be a bit underrated, historically. She was a good performer and was really the last of the non-diva type women to be the focal point of the division. How fitting, then, that she faced Kai – the former Women’s Champion – for the title ten years after Kai was a part of one of the biggest matches at the original Mania. Women’s wrestling has not mattered much in Mania history, but there have been a few women that have been around for some of its finer moments. Kai is one of those women.
The match: Like most women’s matches, this was not afforded much time. Some might have been happy about that, but I think that if they had gotten more of a chance, then they might have produced something quite good. Instead, they produced something solid and gave the women’s division something to build on. Nothing ever became of it because Blayze jumped over to WCW and did that classic bit from Nitro where she dropped the Women’s title into the trash can. She’s most famous for that moment, but she was also a good wrestler and retained her title at Mania X.
The reception: This is a match that you’ll find a varied opinion on because of how little time it received. To some reviewers, that’s a kiss of death and it won’t make it above a star. For me, I enjoyed it so I rated it favorably, but didn’t go overboard, as time still matters to me as a reviewer.
CMV1 rating: *
208. Don Muraco vs. Paul Orndorff at Wrestlemania 2
Setting the stage: Orndorff had come off a big year in 1985 in which he was involved in the main-event at the inaugural Wrestlemania. I think people forget how big of a star that he was during that era. He was not as talented on the microphone as Roddy Piper, so he often got overshadowed, but he eventually had a cage match with Hogan at Saturday Night’s Main-Event and a huge match that drew over 70,000 fans in Toronto. The feud with Hogan made a lot of money, but it never translated to PPV outside of the first Mania. Instead, Orndorff was an afterthought at Mania 2 in the opening match of the New York portion. Muraco was best known for his work prior to the Mania era’s beginning. He was a long-time fixture in the IC title division.
The match: Both men were talented, so the match was pretty good despite being short and having a double count out ending. Such non-finishes were common back then, so it’s more difficult to dock a match for a finish of that variety back when it was so readily done. The fact of the matter was that the WWE used DQ to protect someone from loss and count out to protect both guys from loss. It’s just the way that they did things. Nowadays, those finishes are not as common, so we don’t look on them so favorably.
The reception: Mania 2 was rushed, albeit unique. If you remember the old In Your House PPVs that were two hours each…Mania 2 reminded me of three of those smashed into one. It was cool to do three different venues and I hope that they do that one day for a Mania based in North Carolina (we deserve one, damn it! We don’t have a huge venue – at least not one suitable in late March/early April – but we have three tradition rich wrestling areas in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh). However, it made it a little bit clustered. Overall, the New York part failed, in my opinion.
CMV1 rating: *
207. Tito Santana vs. The Barbarian at Wrestlemania VI
Setting the stage: I will always remember Tito Santana fondly as a helluva wrestler that could really get it done when given the opportunity. Historically, his significance at Wrestlemania is that he wrestled in the very first match and then also was the only guy other than Hogan to compete at the first eight of them. As mentioned previously, once he was reaching the tail end of that run, he started to become little more than enhancement talent to have good matches with and/or get over the new heels on the rise. Barbarian was a big guy from the tag team scene that they were testing the waters with in early 1990 to see how he’d fair in singles. Interestingly, Tito had allied with Barbarian when the big man first debuted as part of the Powers of Pain team. Barbarian was part of the watered down version of the Heenan Family.
The match: The in-ring action was nothing to write home about. This wasn’t looked at as a competitive match, but rather an opportunity to try and get Barbarian some momentum so that maybe he could one day step up the ladder and tackle the Warrior or Hogan. He never got nearly that far, but he breezed his way through the former IC and Tag Team Champion just the same.
The reception: Tito did what he always did…he worked hard and had a decent match despite being given very little time. Barbarian was pretty physically imposing. I think he came about a couple of years too late.
CMV1 rating: *
206. Hercules vs. Earthquake at Wrestlemania VI
Setting the stage: You know, every time that I go to watch this match, I think about how bad it is going to be. While it is still completely forgettable – hence why I have the same reaction to it every time that I begin to view it – it isn’t actually all that bad. Let’s make no mistake about it…John Tenta aka Earthquake is one of the 80s/90s fat guys that somehow manages to go from what was sure to be a career as a truck driver and became a professional wrestler. Therefore, he was not very good and I can’t recall any of the matches in his career being above average – not a single one comes to mind. Keep in mind that wrestling was not really just for the sculpted athlete like it is today (for the most part). Back then, you could be a big fat and ugly dude and make a lot of money facing Hogan; that’s what Quake did. I still mark for the guy, though, due to the childhood memories.
The match: Converse to Earthquake, here you’ve got Hercules, who was in many ways underrated. He had very good matches at both Wrestlemania 2 and 3 before pulling virtual squash duty against Quake and Warrior in two of his final three Wrestlemanias, but if you go back and watch what he did at Mania 2 and 3, you’ll see that the guy was more than capable of being a contributor when given the chance. That’s how I remember Hercules. Unfortunately, he was not the kind of guy that had enough skills to have the longevity that would have kept him away from matches like he had at Mania VI. He did get just enough offense in to keep this one entertaining, though, before Quake did his stomp and sit routine to end the match.
The reception: Like I mentioned earlier, this was not nearly as bad as it reads on paper – at least not in my mind. I have probably watched Mania VI in its entirety about 10 times in my life and it never ceases to amaze me how lousy I expect this match to be before it ends up turning my frown upside down into a half smile. Still, it’s not good. One last thing about Quake…I loved watching his promos. He could spit talk with the best of them. You remember that skit where HBK and HHH wore face guards to dodge the spit from Sgt. Slaughter’s promos in 1997? I’ll bet they had to clean off the camera if it got close enough to Quake when taping his interviews…
CMV1 rating: *
205. Doink the Clown vs. Crush at Wrestlemania IX
Setting the stage: Call me crazy, but I really dug the evil clown gimmick when I was a kid. I didn’t so much care for him as a babyface, but I liked Doink as a heel. The feud with Crush was actually pretty good. Crush had morphed from heel into one of several of the WWE’s attempts to recreate Hogan (a hero to the kids). He came to the rescue of a kid at ringside that Doink had thrown a ball at. Crush grabbed Doink’s arm, prompting the clown to show up a few weeks later with a cast. Doink actually took the arm off, revealing it to be prosthetic, and proceeded to beat the hell out of Crush. As a 9 year old kid preparing for his first live Mania (on PPV), this was one of the matches I was most looking forward to.
The match: One of the added elements that made the Doink-Crush feud interesting was the video messages that Doink displayed featuring two clowns. It left you wondering what was going on inside the evil mind. Think about that…the WWE was geared toward kids and here we had an evil clown running around playing pranks on people. He had great theme music to coincide with the character, too. Crush was a noticeable guy from the Demolition days, so it all just worked. Unfortunately, the match – like most of the bouts at Mania IX – wasn’t very good. The second clown came out to give Doink the advantage, using the prosthetic arm to clock Crush and eventually earn him the win.
The reception: Doink was an engaging enough character to face the WWE’s top guy at the time, Bret Hart, in a match at Summerslam that year, so we’re talking about a gimmick that reached a pretty decent peak. Crush never really amounted to much more than a tag team champion, but he had a nice career. The Doink-Crush match was pretty bad, but it’s almost as if Mania IX was cursed, so I give the match a little bit of credit in the overall context.
CMV1 rating: *
204. Hardcore Holly vs. Billy Gunn vs. Al Snow at Wrestlemania XV
Setting the stage: Billy Gunn was, in my opinion, a highly underrated part of the Attitude era’s wheel. It was not necessarily that he was the most talented performer in the world, but he had the look and the body style that would afford him numerous chances to succeed. He was more of a tag team specialist throughout his career, but when DX hit their peak, he and Road Dogg often split off into singles competition. He became Intercontinental Champion and then Hardcore Champion. Al Snow was a major factor in the Hardcore division, having come from ECW with the “Head” gimmick (genius for its time). Hardcore Holly was aptly named for his penchant for that style, as well.
The match: This was the first Hardcore title match in WWE history. Like most of the Hardcore title matches, this bout featured lots of weapons, in addition to a table. I never much cared for the majority of the Hardcore matches in the WWE, as I thought that they were overused garbage brawls that never really told much of a story. I’ll admit, though, that this bout while sloppy did do its job in getting the crowd sufficiently hyped, as both Snow and Gunn were over enough to carry it. Holly ended up winning the match and the title, though.
The reception: It turned out to be one of those matches simply designed to get the popular DX member and the leader of the “Head” movement onto the card. Gunn was protected in loss and headed for the biggest singles push of his career that culminated in a match with The Rock at Summerslam ’99. Snow never really amounted to much more than a hardcore division performer and peaked during that era. Holly peaked years later after getting injured and coming back to face Brock Lesnar in a title match at the Royal Rumble.
CMV1 rating: *1/4
203. Virgil vs. The Million Dollar Man at Wrestlemania VII
Setting the stage: During the height of Ted Dibiase’s main-event run as the Million Dollar Man from 1987-1990, his bodyguard, Virgil, was never far behind. No matter how vicious the money related scheme, Virgil was there by his boss’s side doing his bidding. However, during the latter part of 1990, Virgil became frustrated with being a hired hand (much like Batista got tired of being Evolution’s muscle some 15 years later) and turned on Dibiase. It was one of those classic, basic stories that will always work well in the WWE as long as there are characters that rely on others to do their dirty work. People get tired of taking a backseat and will eventually revolt. It’s that simple. Virgil was just one of many to turn on their evil boss, but it worked well because Dibiase was such an over act as a heel. I always hoped that Virgil enjoyed his run during 1991 facing off against Ted because he wasn’t all that talented and you knew it was over for him as soon as that feud was over.
The match: It was one of the bigger matches of the upper mid-card at Mania 7, but more in the way that the break-up of the Legacy was in 2010 than the way that Evolution broke up in 2005. Of the matches that year, I’d say it probably took 5th billing (which is not bad at all). They worked pretty well together, but Virgil was not an overly talented guy. Dibiase carried the entire feud and it was on his merits that the feud got over and worked with the audience. Virgil ended up getting the count-out victory.
The reception: I thought it was a decent match, but their shining moment didn’t really come until Summerslam that year, when Virgil beat Dibiase in a much better match with the Million Dollar title on the line. They just seemed to click better at Summerslam than at Mania and the clean finish certainly helped things along.
CMV1 rating: *1/4
202. Harley Race vs. Junkyard Dog at Wrestlemania III
Setting the stage: By 1987, the WWE was rolling from the momentum that Hulkamania had generated. Wrestlemania and Saturday Night’s Main-Event were big cash cows for the WWE and they were doing business that put the NWA to shame. The WWE had gone mainstream and one of the NWA’s long-time champions, Race, decided to go make some money while the gettin’ was good. Hard to blame the guy, right? He was long past his prime and he was not the NWA’s top act anymore (Flair was). The WWE were complimentary of his past and made him the King of the Ring and gave him a gimmick where his opponents would have to bow and kneel before him after a match. Junkyard Dog called BS on the gimmick and refused to bow and kneel despite a loss at SNME.
The match: The stipulation of the match was that the “Loser Must Bow.” It was a competitive match that put over how over JYD was with the general audience, while also making Race out to be a star despite his advancing age and his limitations as a worker circa the late 80s. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining match that ended with Race getting the win over a distracted JYD with a belly-to-belly suplex. JYD did bow, but then he hit Race with a chair and stole his robe. It was a good ending to the segment.
The reception: Mania III was a well-rounded show; the first Mania to really feel like a super card thanks to matches like this that were a big deal. Even though it did not have the time needed to be that good (and it probably wouldn’t have been that good anyway given the talent involved), it was still an interesting match that stands the test of time when it comes to intrigue generated by name value alone.
CMV1 rating: *1/4
201. Show Miz vs. John Morrison and R-Truth at Wrestlemania XXVI
Setting the stage: Big Show and Miz continued the impressive run of the tag team division from mid-2009 and actually got the tag titles featured in a match at Mania for the first time in four years in 2010. Morrison and Truth were thrown together because they were both popular enough to be on the card but not important enough to be given singles matches (although Morrison would’ve potentially stolen the show in the Money in the Bank ladder match). The tag scene was hanging on by a thread and would soon after Mania return to its usual irrelevance. However, it did at least get a chance to shine in the months leading up to Mania. Show Miz was a damn good tandem that was entertaining and made the most of the mic time that they received to keep the tag titles elevated at the level previously set by Jeri-Show and DX.
The match: This was the opening match at Wrestlemania 26 and the entrances lasted longer than the match itself. Morrison played the face-in-peril before getting the lukewarm tag to Truth. It was a lot of rapid fire action from there, with the match breaking down into a brawl involving all four men. Morrison went to hit Miz with the Flying Chuck kick, but Big Show caught him with his ever-so-powerful punch, knocking him out. Show Miz retained the titles.
The reception: Obviously, it was too short to amount to much, but you reach a point in the modern era where you come to expect a really short match or two to make way for all the pageantry of the event. What would you rather see? The tag title match get two-five more minutes or not get to see the Hall of Fame class get one more shining moment on the stage to a rousing applause? I think the answers would vary on that and I’m neither here nor there on the issue, but certainly a backstage segment involving Santino and Melina could have been cut or a few minutes shaved off Bret vs. Vince.
CMV1 rating: *1/4
200. Umaga vs. Batista at Wrestlemania XXIV
Setting the stage: Between 2005 and 2010, Batista wrestled in three main-event level matches at Wrestlemania. He missed Mania in 2006 and 2009 due to injury, but it often worked to his advantage. Frankly, Batista (up until his final run as a heel) was a dish best served in increments. He was not the kind of character or wrestler that could sustain a run of three or four years at a time. Injuries help big names build momentum for their returns and keep them fresh. He had a hell of a run at the top and at Mania, but 2008 was a year where he got lost in the shuffle. The match with Umaga was set as a Raw vs. SD match and it was interesting on paper, but not much time was spent on the feud and it came across as an afterthought.
The match: Because Batista was a top 5 star in the WWE at the time, they treated this match as a big deal in the presentation and entrances, but once the match began you could really tell that these guys weren’t working with much of a story. Umaga was a good wrestler, God rest his soul, but because no time was spent building this match, he and Bats just had a clunky little match with a bad finish. The Samoan Bulldozer was a big dude with a huge backside, so when Batista tried to get him up for his sit out powerbomb, he lost his balance, tumbled backwards, and it just didn’t come off all that nicely. It wasn’t Scott Steiner bad, but it didn’t look particularly good.
The reception: This is case in point of why the modern WWE really doesn’t do the mid-card justice. Even when their top level guys drift down the card, they aren’t treated like stars anymore and their matches and feuds suffer. It’s one of those few things that really bug me. Had they spent a little bit of time giving these guys something to fight over besides the non-existent brand loyalty, it might have actually been a lot better. 8-minutes is not much time, but past wrestlers did far more with far less time, in part because the mid-card was treated like something that mattered. Nowadays, the main-events get all of the major attention and mic time and the mid-card gets 4-6 minute matches on television.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
199. Maria and Ashley vs. Beth Phoenix and Melina at Wrestlemania XXIV
Setting the stage: For the most part, women’s matches in WWE history have been little more than a good chance to go take a bathroom break or refill the beer mug (or both). I’ve praised and will continue to praise those few women that were able to buck that trend, but I don’t think many people care about the women’s division. It’s the WNBA of the WWE. Sure, technically it’s the same sport, but the level of athleticism is so far below the level of the men. Women’s wrestling reached its peak in 2006 with Trish Stratus and Mickie James tearing it up and being given a monster reaction from the Chicago crowd. From 2007 and beyond, it’s been back to the status quo of women’s matches being afterthoughts best kept on Raw and left off the biggest show of the year.
The match: To give credit where credit is due, the WWE decided to make sure there was a lot of entertainment surrounding the women’s match at Mania 24, inserting Snoop Dogg (a huge wrestling fan) into the mix to use his natural skills as an entertainer to boost the interest factor a couple of notches. They also were smart enough to put two women who could actually wrestle in the match. Granted, they were on the same team and it would have been nice to have at least one of the babyface divas be competent enough to hold up their end of the match, but I digress. Maria and Ashley did their best to act like wrestlers, even though they were little more than Playboy cover girls pretending to be something that they wanted to be but never really could quite be.
The reception: It was much better than the previous year’s effort, which was a big turd stain on the Mania 23 card. Again, some of the credit goes to Snoop, but also some of it goes to Santino and his always hilarious antics. Phoenix should have been the star of the match and, to a certain degree, you could tell that she was the one woman involved that really had much of a future moving forward, but she got overshadowed by the guys.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
198. Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 2
Setting the stage: Let’s make one thing perfectly clear about the mid-1980s when the WWE was expanding like wildfire and becoming as mainstream as they’d ever be. Back then, wrestling – in terms of the locker room side – was still very secretive and protective of their sport and they didn’t so much like outsiders coming and taking their paychecks. Mr. T was brought in to make Wrestlemania 1 huge and it was a success, but some of the guys didn’t particularly like his cocky attitude and his penchant for coming across as a little too good for it all. Roddy Piper didn’t care for him at all, so they decided to do what has worked wonders in wrestling from its inception: they made a storyline out of it. T couldn’t wrestle, so they brought him in for a series of boxing exhibitions leading up to a boxing match against Bob Orton at Saturday Night’s Main-Event. Piper got involved after the match and helped Orton beat the hell out of T.
The (boxing) match: It was about as legit a boxing exhibition in the world of pro-wrestling as you’ll ever get. They certainly looked to be boxing. Your enjoyment of the match would, then, largely depend on how much you could appreciate the WWE’s attempt at continuing the mainstream upswing that they’d begun the previous year with the use of Mr. T in one of the main-events. Rumor has it that they were legitimately trying to knock each other out due to the real life dislike. That certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Piper was a bad boy and it was a different era, so it would not shock me if a lot of what we saw was pent up aggression unleashed. It will always be funny to see Piper get frustrated and just body slam T, thus getting disqualified. It was the perfect move for a heel wrestler in a boxing match to do.
The reception: Most critics hate this match. One prominent reviewer gave it a negative rating. I don’t think such things are possible, but I actually found this to be quite entertaining. Most of the matches that the WWE presented on big events like this never got much time anyway. So, it’s not like it is today when we’re setting back and evaluating work rate. When you watch Mania 2, you’re just hoping that there’s something that will stand the test of time and entertain you. I was entertained by the boxing match. It is, however, very difficult to rate.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
197. Sid Justice vs. Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VIII
Setting the stage: In one of those classic moments that sets the stage for a Mania match at the Royal Rumble, Sid eliminated Hogan in arguably the greatest Rumble match of all-time. A stunned Hogan could not believe it, so he helped Ric Flair eliminate Sid. The rest, as they say, is history. Hogan was supposed to wrestle Flair for the WWE Championship in the main-event at Mania 8 – a dream match later capitalized on by WCW. However, the storyline fell through and the WWE decided to rush things with just 3 weeks remaining until show time. They changed most of the top matches around. Hogan vs. Flair was scrapped. Undertaker vs. Ultimate Warrior had to be scrapped (a good thing for the Streak, probably). Jake Roberts vs. Macho Man was scrapped. It just all got blown up and re-written (or so the story goes).
The match: The big story surrounding the revised main-event schedule was that Hogan might be retiring from wrestling. Legitimately, that was the plan. He was going to go make movies and try to do what the Rock eventually did. Unfortunately, that meant that the biggest star in WWE history (at the time and maybe ever) could be having his last match. So, they booked Sid vs. Hogan as the last match on the card ahead of Flair vs. Savage (a classic for the title that went on 5th). Hogan was supposed to win with the leg drop, but Sid kicked out of it. This was supposedly due to a missed cue by Papa Shango (later known as Kama and the Godfather). Papa was going to help Sid double team Hogan until the Ultimate Warrior came out, making his return to the WWE and giving them a replacement for Hogan once he retired. It ended up going to a disqualification finish. Papa meandered to the ring soon after and then Warrior came out.
The reception: The ending to the match was without question one of the biggest mistakes in the history of wrestling. With the world watching and 68,000 people in the stands, the WWE completely botched the finish to what was essentially the year’s biggest match (any Mania main-event should be considered as such in most cases). I can’t even describe how bad it was. It was like watching a train wreck. Up to that point, though, I didn’t really mind it.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
196. Undertaker vs. Big Bossman at Wrestlemania XV
Setting the stage: It’s unbelievable when you watch the hype video for this match and see how compelling the storyline was that the match itself – the payoff to one of the top Mania matches – was so bad. The Deadman was in a war with Vince McMahon’s Corporation and was jockeying to take over ownership of the WWE. He went to great lengths to make McMahon give in to his demands, crucifying the Bossman on his symbol, igniting a burning symbol in the McMahon family yard, kidnapping Shane, and showing up on McMahon’s doorstep with threats to attack the rest of the family. Back then, it was very exciting television. McMahon was fighting two different fronts in his Corporation; one against Austin and one against Taker. The Deadman had his own faction, the Ministry of Darkness, to go against the Corporation. He faced the Big Bossman in a Hell in a Cell match at Mania because Bossman was the Corporation’s hired hand. At the time, the Hell in a Cell was still a brand new gimmick that had only been featured four times, so it was a big deal that they had one at Mania. It’s the only one to have occurred at Mania. I’m rather surprised that the WWE hasn’t used that gimmick at Mania more often, especially in years where they haven’t had something as compelling to bank on to get the usual (near) one million buys. I guess with it having its own PPV, now, that is likely not going to happen.
The match: After showing the hype video to get everyone excited to see this match, they introduced the wrestlers and closed the Cell around them. You’d be hard pressed to actually come up with anything noteworthy to say about it until it was over. It was the least eventful Cell match of all-time. I’ll always be curious to know what went wrong here. I know that Bossman wasn’t exactly a dynamite worker, but there wasn’t much excuse for this being booked to be so damn boring. The most memorable thing about it was, after the match had ended with Taker winning, the Brood (Edge, Christian, and Gangel) emerged on top of the Cell and rigged up a noose. They tossed it down to the Taker, who proceeded to hang the Bossman while raising the Cell.
The reception: I think this will probably get a lot of votes for worst Mania match of all-time due to the build-up equating to such a lousy payoff, but time has helped me look at this match with at least a tiny light of positivity. It was booked poorly and it was boring, but it was more or less just a basic match that would fit much better with the modern Cell matches that don’t rely on going crazy with stunts. They used the Cell to confine their fight.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
195. Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme at Wrestlemania 21
Setting the stage: One of the greatest feuds in women’s wrestling in the modern era was Trish Stratus vs. Lita in 2004. They had a heated story that was driven by the surprising heel brilliance of Stratus. She was absolutely phenomenal in her role, exhibiting a charisma that allowed her to do what no other woman that I can ever recall has done – she was given a live microphone on the top wrestling TV program in the world and cut lengthy promos to build her matches. Lita was not a very engaging character, but she was wildly popular due to her time with the Hardys in Team Xtreme. Their matches were some of the most heated I’ve seen from the ladies, but then Lita got hurt before they reached the payoff. Enter the Playboy Bunny of the year (for WWE), Christy Hemme. She stepped in with Lita by her side.
The match: I don’t think the WWE realized how serious the “You Screwed Matt” thing had gotten until they brought Lita back to presumably boost Hemme’s reputation only to see Lita get crucified by half the crowds across the United States. Dare I say that wrestling fans have a higher rate of getting cheated on than other people? Anyhow, Trish was at her peak between 2004-2006, so she managed to make this match watchable and deserves a ton of credit. There’s a reason why Hemme hasn’t really resumed her wrestling career over in TNA and remains there more or less as a personality only. She was a solid talker and brought a lot of energy, but she just did not have wrestling skills. Stratus made her look good before beating her.
The reception: This is never going to be a match that any generation will praise, but credit should always be given where it is due…and it where it is due is in the direction of Trish Stratus. That girl was on fire throughout that peak period of her career and gave us some of the most memorable women’s matches that we’ll ever see. This wasn’t one of those matches, but she managed to be the only woman in WWE history to have most of her top level women’s title feuds (during that peak period) be worthy of hype videos to ensure that they were showcased.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
194. John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Rey Mysterio at the 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania
Setting the stage: I remember that, back during the months leading up to Mania 25, LOP got hold of a leaked script for Raw. On that particular episode, JBL was supposed to come out and talk about his goal of coming home to Texas as the conquering hero. It looked like it would’ve been a great JBL promo to lift the IC title match against Mysterio to a new level. Unfortunately, they scrapped that plan. JBL ended up cutting that promo on the way to the ring in Houston. It was a classic JBL diatribe laced with digs at his home state and favoring his transplanted home in NYC. Mysterio came dressed as the Joker. I like how Mysterio does that, by the way. His coming out in a different superhero costume every year is a poor man’s John Cena entrance; it costs about 99.9% less and it’s just as interesting. If the WWE wants to cut costs, why not save the $10-50K plus they spend on Cena’s entrance every year.
The match: I think it would be safe to say that this was much more of a segment than a match. JBL’s promo got heat on him and set the stage for Mysterio to come out and win the bout in roughly 20-seconds. In that light, it worked really well. Of course, the underlying story here was that this was JBL’s final match in his career. After the match, he quit the WWE and legitimately retired from wrestling. Mania has sort of become the place that careers end. This was the second match in a four year period that marked Wrestlemania seeing the final match (in the WWE) for a particular superstar. We’ve now seen Ric Flair, JBL, HBK, and Edge all have retirement matches or pseudo-retirement matches at Wrestlemania in the last four events.
The reception: If you rate it as a match, then you obviously have to dock it pretty strong for the fact that it only lasted 20-seconds. However, if you rate it more as a segment (like I did) then it gets a stronger rating. I think the presentation was very interesting and memorable. You had JBL come out and cut a good promo that set the stage for Mysterio to beat him for the IC title in just a few seconds, which led to JBL ultimately quitting/retiring. Put in the proper context, this was quite enjoyable.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
193. The Islanders and Bobby Heenan vs. The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware at Wrestlemania IV
Setting the stage: The Islanders were a damn good team back in the day. Featuring Haku and the Tonga Kid, the Islanders started out as babyfaces and then turned heel under the guidance of Bobby Heenan. Haku appeared in plenty of Manias, but the Tonga Kid is worth mentioning because of his lineage. If I’m not mistaken, he was the brother of both Umaga and Rikishi. So, his family would then feature the most brothers to ever compete at Wrestlemanias. Anyhow, once the Islanders turned heel, they became a target of the British Bulldogs because they stole the British bulldog, Matilda. Koko was thrown into the mix because he was a popular mid-carder and they needed to get him on the show.
The match: Matilda accompanied the Bulldogs and Koko to the ring. Big deal, ya know. Anything that Heenan was involved in was entertaining and this was no exception. There were some good wrestlers in this match, so the effort was solid. As was often the case with a match featuring the Brain, the crowd really just kind of waited for him to get in there and get beat up. He was such an excellent heel, but he was so over that he often overshadowed the guys that he was managing (despite that not being his intent – he was so awesome at being a manager that he was about as over a heel as you’ll find from that era).
The reception: The overall presentation was fine, but it wasn’t all that high in quality. I really don’t have anything else to say about it. It was just fine.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
192. Owen Hart and Jeff Jarrett vs. D-Lo Brown and Test at Wrestlemania XV
Setting the stage: To show you how far down the totem pole that the tag titles had fallen before being resurrected later in the year with the tag team ladder match at No Mercy, I urge you to look no further than 1999’s tag title match at Wrestlemania. Jarrett and Hart were talented in-ring performers on the downturn in their careers as the business was heading toward newer stars, but they became the tag team champions. They did not, however, have challengers going into the day of Wrestlemania. On Sunday Night Heat, there was a battle royal held where the last two guys in the ring would be the #1 contenders to the tag titles. So, two random guys, Brown and Test, wound up challenging for the “prestigious” titles just an hour after a battle royal. They weren’t a team…I guess maybe that was supposed to be the drawing point.
The match: I dug Test. I thought he was a talented big man. I dug Brown. I thought he was a talented guy, too. So, it should come as no surprise, then, that this little match, while short, was actually quite good while it lasted. Four men that were solid at least and excellent at best in the squared circle managed to have about as exciting a WWE match as can be had in all of three-minutes and change. The key with a match of this length is to make it feel like it wasn’t just three-minutes by firing away with action and not holding much back. That was the philosophy I always noticed with ECW. A three-minute match there seemed more like a 7-minute WWE match because it wasn’t full of rest holds (which, in a 3-minute match, are pointless – why would you need to rest or wear down your opponent if you were going to the finish in 3-minutes? Just go balls to the wall and make it worthwhile!).
The reception: I liked it well enough to rate it much, much higher than most other 3-minute matches in Mania history. I think it came down to the combination of four talented men who wanted to remembered for more than just a nothing match. I’m not sure they accomplished that since history shows it was still a nothing match, but at least they tried.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
191. Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. Honky Tonk Man at Wrestlemania IV
Setting the stage: Beefcake’s split with Greg Valentine allowed him to branch out into the Barber gimmick and actually become pretty popular. His gimmick was entertaining, if not tailor made for the mid-card, as he always was a threat to cut someone’s hair. There were a lot more wrestlers with a lot more hair back in those days, so there was plenty of hair to be cut. At the time, the IC title was the ultimate in the mid-card and about all that a singles performer of Beefcake’s stature could ever hope to achieve. Since he was over and Honky needed an opponent outside the confines of the title tournament at Mania IV, Beefcake became the challenger. Brutus vowed to take both the title and Honky’s hair. Their feud would continue through the middle part of 1988.
The match: Honky Tonk’s manager, Jimmy Hart, helped the IC champ retain his title via DQ, but the Barber got the last laugh when he cut some of the Mouth of the South’s hair. The match was pretty decent, but it came across flat. Had it been featured on a different card under different circumstances, then it might have been better received, but let’s face it…the title tournament to crown the World champ was what everyone came to see. I sort of looked at it as the top 14 wrestlers in the WWE at that time. If you weren’t involved in that, then you weren’t considered to be one of the better singles wrestlers.
The reception: Dave Meltzer called it a “DUD.” I don’t necessarily agree with that. I thought it was a solid match that had no chance, be it by lack of time given to it, lack of crowd enthusiasm for it, or lack of a quality finish, to be any better than it was.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
190. The Gimmick Battle Royal at Wrestlemania X-Seven
Setting the stage: One of the better ideas that the WWE ever had to give us a nostalgic moment came in 2001, when the WWE decided to poke fun at an era long since passed and bring back some of the goofier gimmick wrestlers that they’d produced in the old days, sprinkled in with some legitimate former superstars like Sgt. Slaughter and Iron Sheik (both former World Champs). The fact that they had Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund call the match was the icing on the cake.
The match: This was how you do a nostalgic battle royal. If your remember that abomination of a battle royal that the women had in 2009, then you ought to go back and watch the gimmick B.R. – as the WWE should have – to remind yourself of what one of those things can be like if booked properly. In no way did it take away time from the other top matches on the card; it was just a great way to take a breather between major matches and have a little fun in the process while seeing guys like the Bushwhackers, the Gobbledygooker, Earthquake, Kamala, Repo Man, and Hillbilly Jim. One of my personal favorite additions was Brother Love. When I was a kid watching wrestling on TV, my mom would often come into the room and catch Brother Love hosting his show. That was one of the few times during my wrestling watching life that my mom legitimately laughed out loud at one of the WWE’s comedic segments. It became somewhat of an inside joke between us. She’d like to tell me that she “LLLLUUUUUVVVED” me. Ha. Good times.
The reception: Largely, the critical response was negative, but the general fan response was positive. It wasn’t designed to be a “Good match” or anything of the sort. I somewhat wish that the WWE did such things more often instead of wasting our time with a diva match that virtually nobody will care about. At least a gimmick battle royal is an opportunity to get a laugh for a good reason.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
189. Bad News Brown vs. Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania VI
Setting the stage: Roddy Piper had retired from the WWE at Wrestlemania III, but came back to do commentary in 1989. The commentary bit didn’t last very long, as he eventually got back into the squared circle in a heated rivalry with Rick Rude. Piper entered the Royal Rumble in 1990 and eliminated Bad News Brown – a guy that the WWE had brought in with high hopes of potentially being a main-event player, but who just simply didn’t have the tools to go that far. In what was one of the first of what became a classic way to ignite a feud for Mania, Brown pulled Piper over the top and eliminated him, despite having already been eliminated. Bad News didn’t have a very good reputation, but all things considered this was a damn good feud that led to one of the featured matches at Mania VI.
The match: It was not much of a match at all, but rather a big brawl that saw the two of them slug it out for a few minutes before they both got counted out. What it will be remembered for the most will likely be the moment that Roddy Piper came to the ring with half his body painted black in a psychological move used to get inside the head of his opponent. It was one of those little things that Piper did to elevate his matches near the status of some of the stars that eclipsed him throughout the Hogan era (like Savage, Warrior, Andre, and of course, Hogan).
The reception: I have not found many reviewers that didn’t enjoy this match for what it was, but it was never going to garner much of a rating due to its length and finish. I liked it, personally. I will simply stand by my feelings that Mania should be the place where feuds end, but that wasn’t necessarily the mindset back then so you can’t fault it for that too much.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
188. Goldust vs. Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania XII
Setting the stage: Today and the mid-90s are such different times, in terms of our society, especially as it pertains to homosexuality. I’m not sure how the homosexual population, at large, feels about the progress that has been made in the last 15 years, but from the standpoint of a bystander, it would seem to me that there’s been a massive leap in general acceptance. Of course, there are still some very outspoken people that are going to say what they’re going to say, but back in 1996, homosexuality was not understood and was generally feared. That’s why Goldust was so controversial. He was way out there and some of his sexual overtones toward his male opponents pushed the envelope well past the level of social comfortability. Roddy Piper was the voice of the common American, who ridiculed guys like Goldust at every turn for how radically different they were from the established norm. That was OK back then; today, the controversy might be just as strong with how Piper reacted to Goldust. One of the most fascinating things about wrestling is looking back at what tricks that the WWE tried to pull to get a reaction.
The match: This was the infamous Hollywood Back Lot Brawl. I can still hear Vince McMahon’s announcer voice in my head saying that term “Hollywood Back Lot Brawl” over and over again. It started out behind the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim and was more or less your garbage brawl hardcore match from the Attitude era until the WWE decided to bank on OJ Simpson’s Bronco chase on the highway. Goldust jumped in a car and took off (Piper gave chase), thus putting the match on hold for an hour. Updates were shown before, during, and after other matches on the card that showed Goldust eventually making his way back to the arena. Once they got back, the match resumed in the ring. Goldust dominated until Piper made his comeback, stripped Goldust down to his skivvies, and beat the tar out of him until he was able to pin him for the 1-2-3.
The reception: Everything about Goldust was ripe with controversy. The guy just exuded that quality and the WWE tried to push it as far as they could short of putting him in the main-event. He was actually the reigning IC champion during that time and was supposed to have faced Scott Hall/Razor Ramon, but that fell through. The Piper match was designed to give the crazy, wild, homosexual “predator” his comeuppance and it worked in that regard, but it was over booked. It was more a spectacle than a match.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
187. Randy Savage vs. George “The Animal” Steele
Setting the stage: Do you remember the old WWE action figures from the 80’s? The kind of hard rubber ones that could barely move? I remember setting in my room as a kid having matches between George Steele and Randy Savage. Anyhow, Savage and Steele had a match for the IC title at Wrestlemania 2, bringing to life the matches that I had in my room. In all honestly, the matches that I put together were better. Savage was in the midst of a great run as the IC Champion and feuded with the awkward and strange Animal, who was really a sight to see when you were a youngster. For you younger fans reading this, think of a loveable A-Train/Albert complete with massive body hair and a green tongue.
The match: Steele was kind of a goofy wrestler circa 1986. I can’t say that I really enjoyed Steele’s matches, but Savage was just so high energy that pretty much all of his matches were entertaining. Macho Man had a motor like few in the history of the business. You know the way he talked in that kind of “I’m all over the place” manner? That’s the way he worked in the ring; he brought that same kind of energy to the physical part of wrestling. To me, that’s one of the enduring things about the legend of Randy Savage. He was a wrestler in a state of perpetual motion. For that time period, when most matches were significantly shorter, it helped him stand out amongst the considerably talented roster ripe with future Hall of Famers.
The reception: You aren’t likely to find a reviewer that will push this match to the two-star level; hell, you probably aren’t likely to find a reviewer that will be as kind as I was. However, I did find the match to be engaging enough to hold my attention and keep my interest up for the eventual finish. That credit goes to Savage, who is one of my all-time favorites and the kind of character that really jumped off the screen back then. I remember watching his work from WCW and thinking, “This guy was made for the original wrestling boom and looks out of place in the mid-90s and beyond.” This match, however below average thanks to his dance partner, was classic Macho Man.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
186. Molly Holly vs. Victoria at Wrestlemania XX
Setting the stage: There was a time where Victoria was given the chance to be one of the faces of the women’s division. Trish Stratus was becoming the lead heel through a storyline featured at the same event that Victoria had her most high profile match as a babyface. Victoria was the women’s champion and Molly Holly her challenger. In real life, Holly had agreed to cut off her hair for a charity (I believe). It was a nice gesture, so they made the match at Mania a Hair vs. Title match. I thought that it added a nice bit of pizzazz to what otherwise would’ve been an afterthought. Gimmicks like that help boost a match’s interest factor.
The match: Since both were such good wrestlers, it stood to reason that this was going to be one of the better women’s title matches in Mania history – not that there was some long track record of good women’s matches or anything. Unfortunately, I think that maybe they got a little overwhelmed or something to that effect, as this just wasn’t the really solid bout that I was expecting. The crowd didn’t really seem to care, as Victoria just wasn’t that over with a PPV audience (i.e. one that pays more to be there and only reacts to what they came to see). Nevertheless, it was certainly not a bad match. It just didn’t meet my expectations. I was expecting Mickie vs. Trish quality and I got half of that.
The reception: Holly lost her hair and I think the lack of effort might have contributed to her eventual ouster from the WWE. If you ever wondered why women’s wrestling never made it in the WWE, it’s because of girls like this. The WWE has conditioned its audience to want T&A and to view women’s wrestling as a showcase for models to roll around and complete a male fantasy. When two actual wrestlers get in there, the crowds sit on their hands like they did for this one.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
185. Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter, Virgil, and Big Bossman vs. The Nasty Boys, The Mountie, and Repo Man at Wrestlemania VIII
Setting the stage: The modern era has utilized Money in the Bank to get several mid-card wrestlers and upper mid-card talent floating down from the main-event onto the Mania card to get them their paydays. We saw this past year that an 8-man tag team match can be used to do the same, but unfortunately the one at Mania 27 was a joke given just 90 seconds to play out. After all, we have to make sure that the Rock gets to interact with half the roster. Back in 1992, they tended to handle these matters with a little more tact. Battle royals and 8-man tags were given enough time to actually look like they were featuring the wrestlers rather than just parading them out for a few seconds.
The match: Quite frankly, I don’t remember many specifics of the match. I just remember that it effectively got several talents that were involved in bigger storylines throughout the previous year onto the card. Sgt. Slaughter had been in the main-event a year earlier, Bossman had wrestled for the IC title, Virgil had wrestled Million Dollar Man, and Duggan…well, he had an American flag. The heel side featured the team that won the tag titles the previous year, the recent former IC champion in Mountie, and…well, the Repo Man – what a stupid gimmick. I loved the beginning of his theme song, though. RE-PO…RE-PO….RE-PO MAN.
The reception: To me, this is the way that you do an 8-man tag team match at Mania. Everyone is going to be amped up because it’s Mania, so you don’t need to give it 10-minutes for it to work. You just need to give it enough time to allow each guy to come in, hit a few of their signature moves, and work toward a logical, entertaining finish. It’s really that simple. I want to see a 6-7 minute match like this at each Mania to adequately replace what MITB brought to the table. People forget that MITB wasn’t exactly featuring the best of each of its participants. It was dangerous and cluttered. Why not let them show their stuff in a match like this and be more careful?
CMV1 rating: *1/2
184. Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff vs. The Killer Bees at Wrestlemania III
Setting the stage: Sheik and Volkoff were quite the duo for the first few years of the Wrestlemania era. Sheik was carrying over his heat from his run as the dastardly anti-American villain and it was strong enough to earn him and Volkoff the tag team titles at Wrestlemania 1. By Mania III, they weren’t anywhere near the level that they’d been two years prior. Their heat had simply worn down and they’d been replaced by newer, fresher talents, but the pro-America babyfaces were still running rampant, so they still had their place. The Bees were a talented tag team that many of the top teams of that era had faced in lengthy house show feuds, but never really made it to the big time on PPVs and other major events.
The match: All things being equal, this match seemed more like a vehicle to debut a new wrestler than to actually have a heated match between Americans and foreigners. This was the match in which “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan made his first appearance on WWE PPV. He came out before the match wielding his American flag and stopped Volkoff from doing his usual rendition of the Soviet national anthem. The Hall of Famer later got involved in the finish of the match. When Sheik locked on the Camel Clutch and nearly had the match won, Duggan came in with his patented 2X4 and clocked the Iranian former WWE Champion. So, again, this match was all about Hacksaw.
The reception: For all intents and purposes, this was the actual debut for Duggan, so what better way to make your debut than at arguably the greatest Wrestlemania of all-time? Duggan did a great job in his role. For that era, it was a perfect debut. Today, it wouldn’t really be that big of a deal, but back then it was more impactful to play that character.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
183. Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania
Setting the stage: Who was the true giant of the WWE? Andre had been one of the biggest draws in the WWE for a long time and arguably the most recognizable face that they had next to Hogan. Studd was a big man, but nowhere near the size of Andre. Nevertheless, Studd claimed that he was the more dominant of the two, leading to numerous matches throughout the mid-80s. It seemed a logical feud to culminate in a Wrestlemania match. So, with Bobby Heenan leading the charge, Studd challenged Andre to a “Body Slam Challenge” worth $15,000 should Andre be able to slam the Studd. However, if Andre couldn’t do it, he’d have to retire.
The match: I’ve always thought that, in the right context, these types of matches could be very entertaining. That is, in essence, how I felt about this match. Andre started out defensively and took it from there. It was pretty much obvious that Andre wasn’t going to lose a match like this to a guy that was ¾ his size, but they did a good job of making it work. The spectacle of the match was spot on. After Andre won the match, he started to throw the $15K out into the crowd, but Heenan came and ripped the bag full of money away.
The reception: It was never going to be a great match based on the stipulation, but it was an entertaining piece of work. Since it was for entertainment purposes rather than sport, it will be often criticized from a match rating perspective, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for working well within its confines.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
182. The Natural Disasters vs. Money, Inc. at Wrestlemania VIII
Setting the stage: Earthquake and Typhoon were put together with IRS in the main-event of the 1991 Survivor Series, where their budding feud with the Legion of Doom over the tag team titles was taking center stage. IRS led to Typhoon getting eliminated, so Quake left IRS to get manhandled by the LOD. The Disasters and LOD feuded from late ’91 to early ’92, maintaining their status as heels. However, when LOD left the WWE for a couple of months, they dropped the tag titles to the team of Money, Incorporated (IRS and Million Dollar Man). The fishy thing was that Jimmy Hart, the manager for the Disasters, helped Money, Inc. get a title shot. So, the Disasters turned babyface to go after the new champs at Wrestlemania VIII.
The match: Mania 8 was more like one of the modern Manias in that it featured just 9 matches. So, quality had at least the chance to overtake quantity. The Disasters were very large men in the mold of Mark Henry. They didn’t move very fast or very fluidly, but they were serviceable in their roles. Unfortunately, they hadn’t really had time to truly get over as babyfaces since their turn had come just before Mania. That was the other thing about Mania 8 – it was thrown together very quickly (perhaps more than any other Mania in history). Flair vs. Hogan was scrapped, Macho vs. Jake was scrapped, Taker vs. Warrior was scrapped…everything changed in a hurry. LOD leaving for a short time was another unexpected occurrence that led to last-minute changes.
The reception: All things considered, I somewhat enjoyed the match. History won’t look back on it all that kindly, but it was a decent enough match for the tag titles that at least got the time to play out. It was around 9-minutes long, which actually might have been a little long for the Disasters.
CMV1 rating: *1/2
181. Randy Savage vs. Butch Reed at Wrestlemania IV
Setting the stage: I often wonder just how popular Randy Savage might have been had he peaked in an era where the internet wrestling community was around. The common trends that I have noticed over the last nine years since joining this great, but often far too critical group are that most of its members stress work rate, versatility of character, and an underdog mentality. Savage was one of the better workers of his era, having exploded onto the scene at Wrestlemania III with his classic against Ricky Steamboat. He’d have other awesome matches down the road, but he always had the versatility to play the face or the heel and he was always #2 behind Hulk Hogan, so I think the IWC would have championed Savage much like the majority love guys like CM Punk.
The match: We’re almost 100 matches into this countdown and we’re still stuck below the 2-star level. I think that goes to show that a lot of the quality at the early Wrestlemanias was fairly low. There were far too many short matches. In a setting like Mania IV, where you had a 14-man tournament going, then it would make sense – as it did for this opening round contest between Savage and Butch Reed. The fact of the matter, though, was that quantity was often placed over quality because the WWE had such a massive roster. I thought that, for the most part, they did a nice job of presenting a really solid effort throughout Wrestlemania IV (as they did with Mania III), but that most of the early Manias suffered from trying to fit too much in.
The reception: There were little touches that Savage employed that helped make each of his matches during the tournament different. Since he was wrestling four times in one night, that was an important element in the overall success of the presentation (an area in which no one could touch Savage during that era). Savage wore a different color scheme with his ring attire for each match. This being the first match, he did a nice job of putting forth the right amount of effort to put over that a guy going all the way would have to pace himself, but not to the point that it would throw off his usual game.