ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... 20 years ago, the WWE held what was arguably the WORST Wrestlemania of all time on April 4th, 1993. Wrestlemania 9 was a show stuck in the middle of the Hulkamania Era and the New Generation Era, but with the WWE giving the Hulkamania Era one last chance to resurrect itself. The show would prove to be Hulk Hogan's last Wrestlemania until his incredible return 9 years later at Wrestlemania 18.
The Hulkamania Era for the WWE probably peaked through Wrestlemania 6 in 1990 when Hulk Hogan put over the Ultimate Warrior for the WWE Title. Whether the Ultimate Warrior wasn't a WWE Title draw, the wrestling business was in a cycle with younger fans growing up, or the WWE felt the effects of the United States Economy hitting an actual recession (July 1990 to March 1991, as dated by the National Bureau of Economic Research), the WWE peaked as financial numbers and trends would show. WWE tried to spark interest with an in-ring Desert Storm war between Iraqi sympathizer Sgt. Slaughter becoming WWE Champion and Hulk Hogan defeating Slaughter at Wrestlemania 7. After winning Desert Storm in the ring, what was left for Hulk Hogan to accomplish?
One way to top Desert Storm in the ring was to stack the WWE roster. In addition to WWE's deep talent roster through 1991, the WWE added Ric Flair and Sid Eudy (Vicious/Justice/Sycho) from WCW and both Ric Flair/Sid Justice would help co-headline Wrestlemania 8. "Retirements" for Rowdy Roddy Piper and Macho Man Randy Savage wouldn't last long. The WWE would also begin to push several midcarders upward, such as Bret "the Hitman" Hart and eventually begin to push Shawn Michaels for a singles career. Royal Rumble 1992, Wrestlemania 8, and SummerSlam 1992 saw this deep roster put on some great shows during that year. But after SummerSlam 1992, the WWE roster thinned out of big names. Piper disappeared from the ring again, Ric Flair endured an eardrum injury and negotiated a release from the WWE, Ultimate Warrior/British Bulldog were terminated by the WWE, and Hulk Hogan took a leave of absence.
When others leave, other wrestlers are pushed... Bret Hart became WWE champion by defeating Ric Flair during late 1992 and was set to headline Wrestlemania 9 against a new heel named Yokozuna. Even though the wrestler behind the gimmick was truly of Samoan origin, Yokozuna was convincing in the role as a Japanese Sumo Wrestler due to his massive 500+ size and since he was a decent wrestler for his size. Debuting during October 1992, he was pushed hard from the start and won Royal Rumble 1993. This was set to be the main event of Wrestlemania 9, the first Wrestlemania since Wrestlemania 4 not to feature Hulk Hogan wrestling in the main event. It was quite a change for the WWE...
But then Hulk Hogan snuck into the Main Event.
A noticeably thin Hulk Hogan returned from his post-Wrestlemania 8 leave of absence (WWE steroid allegations ramped up during the time) to join his real life friend, Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake to feud with Money Inc. (Ted Dibiase, Irwin R. Schyster - IRS). Hogan and Beefcake would actually wrestle Money Inc. for the WWE Tag Titles at Wrestlemania 9 but lose via disqualification. But Hogan wasn't done wrestling for the night... During the Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna, Bret Hart had salt thrown in his eyes and it would help cost him the WWE Title against Yokozuna. After the match, Hulk Hogan came down to the ring to check on Bret Hart. For whatever reason, Yokozuna challenged Hulk Hogan to a match there on the spot and in 22 seconds, Hogan won yet another WWE Championship. Hulkamania lives!
Well, not really. Hogan would lose the WWE Title back to Yokozuna at King of the Ring 1993 and would soon exit the WWE. Could be a mixture of the poorly received Wrestlemania 9 finish or that the Vince McMahon steroid trial was about to begin and Hogan was called to testify by the prosecution. For the rest of the year, Yokozuna had the privilege of feuding with the newly turned "All American" Lex Luger while Bret Hart required many months of recovery after failing to beat a Yokozuna that only took 22 seconds for Hulk Hogan to defeat. Brother.
But Wrestlemania 8 had a disappointing main event in Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice. However with Wrestlemania 8, the rest of the card was good...
First of all, this show outdoor in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. It made the show look odd to begin with and things were made worse with the WWE pushing the Roman Empire stuff hard. The announcers wore togas and Bobby Heenan rode in on a camel backwards! Har har. Macho Man Randy Savage was commentating for this event and NOT wrestling, despite being runner-up at Royal Rumble 1993.
Wrestlemania 9 started off OK with Tatanka vs. Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Title. Tatanka claims that he was scheduled to win the Intercontinental Title from Shawn in this match but the early days of HBK politics kicked in. Possibly the match of the night... Steiners vs. Headshrinkers was OK, but both seemed to be off their game compared to WCW years of battle. Doink the Clown vs. Crush (Bryan Adams)... Meh. Crush would have a better Wrestlemania match 1 year later against Savage. If you blinked, you would have missed Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) defeating Bob Backlund. Over a year later, Backlund would make a major comeback with the Cross Face Chickenwing as a submission hold, thankfully for him. To my amazement, Curt Hennig was an active wrestler and fighting former WCW Superstar, Lex Luger. Luger was the "Narcissist" back then and Hennig continued to be kept away from the WWE Title.
Hogan/Beefcake vs. Money Inc. was decent but felt like a rehash of a match-up during the 1980's. For Wrestlemania 9, Hulk Hogan is sporting quite a black eye. How that happened is the stuff of legends, but the official story is a jet skiing accident. The WWE storyline is that Ted Dibiase hired people to attack Hogan. Rumor has it that Macho Man Randy Savage punched Hogan before Wrestlemania 9 over something regarding his now ex-wife Miss Elizabeth. So many rumors about this scenario have been told throughout the years, but Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were able to perform together without problem during 1994-1998 to negate any rumored heat about Elizabeth at the time. Thus, chalk up the injury to jet skiing until proven otherwise. Just another Macho Man rumor that continues to ramp up speculation to this day.
But the biggest dumpster fire of them all was the Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez. Everybody is talking about the 20-0 streak of the Undertaker but there appears to be a silence by the WWE regarding match #3 of this streak. The WWE acquired the Undertaker from World Championship Wrestling where he wrestled as "Mean Mark Callous" there before the WWE signed him during late 1990 and repackaged him as the nearly immortal Undertaker. After winning the WWE Title at Survivor Series 1991, the Undertaker was put in HOSS MATCH after HOSS MATCH with freakshow type wrestlers that would dominate the Undertaker's 1990's decade until the WWE began taking the Undertaker seriously during 1997 and giving him GOOD opponents and another WWE Title run. But the HOSS MATCH for Wrestlemania 9 is the worst of them all..
Vince McMahon loves his HOSS wrestlers. On the WCW junk heap, he found a huge one in Jorge "Giant" Gonzalez, formerly wrestling in WCW as "El Gigante". Gonzalez was a legitimate 7'7" human being who started off trying to make it as a basketball star. Hailing from Argentina, he would be drafted by the Atlanta Hawks NBA franchise in 1988 but was prone to injury in the league. The Atlanta Hawks, at the time, were owned by Ted Turner who also owned WCW through 1989. Gonzalez found his second career. He debuted in 1990 and tried to live up to WCW's "8 feet tall" billing, while also working as a face. Loving size, the WWE gave Gonzalez a chance in 1993 and fed him to the Undertaker.
Giant Gonzalez was HUGE but was made to look like a cartoon character by the ridiculous tights given to him by the WWE. In WCW, he wore tights that were the equivalent to bicycle shorts, but in the WWE, he wore a full body suit with muscles and patches of hair airbrushed on it. Seriously. It's as if the WWE were pushing him to be a massive caveman and/or Sasquatch live in a pro wrestling ring. And the Undertaker got to wrestle him at Wrestlemania 9, on this day in pro wrestling history.
The match was AWFUL. It was like the Undertaker was attempting to climb a tree for the entire match. The match remains the only Wrestlemania streak match of the Undertaker's to end in a Disqualification. The 7'7" Giant Gonzalez required a rag soaked with Chloroform to knock out the Undertaker... 7'7" and requiring Chloroform... Amazing.
Wrestlemania 9 has been claimed by most publications to be the "WORST" Wrestlemania of all time. If you go through the WWE Video releases over the years, you won't find any mentions of Wrestlemania 9, let alone any matches featured on "best of" collections. The show was an absolute bomb as it was the WWE trying new wrestlers at the top (Bret Hart, Yokozuna) but refusing to let go of its past (Hulk Hogan). Meanwhile, the mass exodus of talent through late 1992 really shows with regards to the thinner roster remaining. The bad card made the first ever outdoor Wrestlemania look bad and the WWE would avoid outdoor events until retrying them again in 2008 with Wrestlemania 24, 15 years later.
In hindsight, the WWE needed this event... They had to convince themselves that Hulk Hogan's time had passed and that new stars needed pushed. Without Wrestlemania 9, who knows what we would have had 1 year later with Wrestlemania 10. With Hogan out of the way, stars like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels go grow and give the WWE viable performers during the mid-1990's. Wrestlemania 10 helped make both Michaels and Hart into major superstars and would set the stage for both to collide over the next 3 years for both a professional and personal feud. Even if Wrestlemania 9 did it 1 year later, it was the event to convince the WWE that Hulkamania was over.
Certainly, Hogan would join WCW in 1994 and prove that he still had worth through 1998... But the WWE had to begin to think about the long-term health of the company and Hogan just wasn't working in the WWE through 1993. However, the WWE didn't try Hogan as a heel during the early 1990's and instead kept pushing him hard as a face. Many wrestling fans are convinced that we're reliving the same scenario with John Cena right now. Hulk Hogan was pushed hard to start in 1984 and after Wrestlemania 7 in 1991, he was beginning to get booed... 7 years later. John Cena's first WWE Title reign began in 2005 and has been a babyface ever since, possibly winning the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 29 here in 2013... 8 years later.
"Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it."