ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... The WWE held its 10th edition of its annual supershow dubbed Wrestlemania X (or Wrestlemania 10, for those who don't know roman numerals). For the first time since Wrestlemania was created, there was NO Hulk Hogan featured on this show. The Hulkster helped put Wrestlemania on the map since 1985's Wrestlemania 1 at Madison Square Garden yet he was not on the Wrestlemania 10 show 9 years later also at Madison Square Garden. Hogan's previous Wrestlemania, the heavily disliked Wrestlemania 9, probably gave the WWE some indication that Hulkamania had worn out its welcome. But also at Wrestlemania 9, Hulk Hogan was looking thinner...
Through late 1992, allegations began to fly that WWE promoter Vince McMahon not only oversaw a wrestling promotion where wrestlers reportedly abused anabolic steroids, but that Vince encouraged their use and that his WWE wrestling company was distributing the performance enhancer drugs to its wrestlers. Several wrestlers during late 1992 were reportedly let go due to suspected performance enhancer use and through 1993, many wrestlers looked smaller across the industry. Vince was indicted during 1993 and put on trial during early 1994. Hulk Hogan was called upon by the prosecution to testify and while Hogan admitted to his own steroid use, he did not allege that Vince gave him the illegal performance enhancing drugs. The waning popularity of Hogan in the WWE combined with the tension of the trial probably cut off ties until Hogan and WWE would do business again during 2002.
The 1994 steroids trial of Vince McMahon, however, cast as shadow over what appeared to be a trying time for the WWE due to a sudden loss in star power. As 1992 wore on, following both Wrestlemania 8 and SummerSlam 1992, two superb events by the WWE, many wrestlers moved on. Gone were Sid Justice, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Jake "the Snake" Roberts, Ultimate Warrior, and British Bulldog, while Hulk Hogan took some time off. After Ric Flair left the company, the WWE began putting "Macho Man" Randy Savage" in the announcer's booth more often. This left the door wide open for new superstars to walk through and succeed quickly to make up for a declining business. In particular, 2 former tag team wrestlers who would collide for the next 4-5 years: Bret "the Hitman" Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Bret got out of the tag team scene earlier, as he was a former Hart Foundation tag team member along with Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart. Bret had HUGE wins at SummerSlam 1991 against "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and then against "Rowdy" Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 8. As a strong Intercontinental Champion, he seemed fit for a World Title run. After dropping his IC Title to British Bulldog at SummerSlam 1992 in England in a great match, Bret defeated "Nature Boy" Ric Flair for the WWE Title during October 1992. Through early 1993, Hart would run into a massive human being named Yokozuna, a sumo wrestler gimmick and a WWE Hall of Famer that dominated during the mid-1990's as a heel. Hart would actually lose the WWE Title at Wrestlemania 9 to Yokozuna, thanks to interference... But of course, the WWE couldn't give up on Hulkamania, as Hogan challenged Yokozuna to a match and actually beat Yokozuna for the title to end the show. That's why many dislike Wrestlemania 9....
Yokozuna would get the WWE Title back from Hogan at King of the Ring 1993 and hold onto the title through Wrestlemania 10. But who would get to challenge Yoko? Certainly, Bret Hart as the former WWE Champ. But Vince McMahon, before he was put on trial, tried to make another Hulk Hogan. Debuting during early 1993 as a heel with the gimmick of the "Narcissist", former World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Lex Luger joined the WWE. Possibly observing the shell shock of Hart after Wrestlemania 9, the WWE repackaged Lex Luger as a babyface and dubbed him "All American". Playing against Yokozuna hailing out of Japan, Lex Luger would actually bodyslam the 600 pound sumo wrestler on an aircraft carrier on July 4th, 1993. This thrust Luger as the top babyface and the WWE pushed him HARD. Most remember the "Lex Express" all American painted bus. But, like several hard pushes of Lex Luger tried in WCW, the "All American" gimmick wasn't setting the world on fire.
For Royal Rumble 1994, the WWE had a choice... Consider the former WWE Champion, Bret Hart who was embarrassed at Wrestlemania 9 or the All American Lex Luger whose push wasn't catching on. When in doubt, why not have both? And at Royal Rumble 1993, that's exactly what the WWE did! Both Hart and Luger eliminated each other and landed at the exact same time. Both were #1 contenders heading into Wrestlemania and this situation would place Bret Hart in arguably the greatest Wrestlemania hot opener of all time. There were NO "Triple Threat" matches in 1994. Instead, figurehead WWE President Jack Tunney would flip a coin to see which wrestler would face Yokozuna first. The other wrestler had to fight another opponent beforehand to make things fair for the WWE Champion wrestling a 2nd match. Lex Luger won the coin toss and fought Yokozuna first. Yokozuna won the match against Luger... To ensure Yokozuna wasn't wrestling a fresh wrestler, Bret Hart had to wrestle an opponent beforehand.
And Bret Hart wrestled his little brother, Owen Hart. During late 1993, the Harts were involved in tag matches where Owen was disappointed in his brother Bret's performance. Owen actually turned heel on his own brother and thus set up Bret's first match at Wrestlemania 10 before Bret could wrestle for the WWE Title. This match was AMAZING. You could tell that Bret Hart put extra care in this match, knowing that it would be very beneficial to his brother. However, Owen Hart brought it in return. Owen debuted in 1986 and actually traveled the world as a performer to inject various wrestling styles into his matches. He was an in-ring gem waiting to be unleashed and Wrestlemania 10 opened many eyes. This epic match, which made the already hot Madison Square Garden crowd pumped up to the 10th degree, saw Owen Hart getting the surprising clean win. Bret had just put his own brother on the map, although Owen would endure mostly as a midcarder in the upcoming years until his tragic death in 1999. Bret Hart would defeat Yokozuna later in the night to win the WWE Title.
The other former tag team wrestler, Shawn Michaels, would attempt to defeat Owen vs. Bret for "Match of the Night" honors at Wrestlemania 10 with the awesome Ladder Match against Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) to become the undisputed Intercontinental Champion. Michaels ended his time as a babyface tag team wrestlers as part of the Rockers by turning on his partner, Marty Jannetty during December 1991. During Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake's Barber Shop segment, Michaels turned on Jannety and tossed him through the barber shop window in a classic moment that put an exclamation point on Michaels's turn. Michaels climbed up the WWE ladder quickly and was lucky to have great sidekicks along the way with manager "Sensational" or "Scary" Sherri Martel and a bodyguard just discarded by WCW named Diesel (Kevin Nash). Michaels, like Bret Hart, became a big player in the Intercontinental Title early in his singles career.
Through September 1993, Michaels was Intercontinental Champion until he was stripped of the title. Storyline wise, it was sold that Michaels didn't defend the title timely (within 30 days?) and thus the Intercontinental Title was vacated. A battle royal and the last 2 remaining wrestlers would then fight over a vacated title. Razor Ramon and "The Model" Rick Martel would be the last 2 entrants and 1 week later, Razor Ramon would become Intercontinental Champion by defeating Martel. Reportedly backstage, however, Michaels tested positive for steroids. If you read Shawn Michaels book, it's a charge that he very much denies. Remember, Vince McMahon was indicted during late 1993. Chances are that any supplemental could have been diagnosed for some performance enhancer or tests were mishandled in attempt to get a positive result. Michaels would return during November at Survivor Series 1993 despite the WWE drug test he denies and reported offerings from WCW at that time.
Razor won the vacated Intercontinental Title and yet Michaels returned to WWE television, bitter that he was stripped of the title. Michaels sported his old Intercontinental Belt which he didn't return to the WWE and thus created controversy as to WHO was truly the Intercontinental Champion. For Wrestlemania 10, the WWE and Shawn Michaels went BIG for this undisputed Intercontinental Title match. During July 1992, Shawn Michaels wrestled Bret Hart in a unique match for the Intercontinental Title known as the "Ladder Match". Hart brought the match from his Canadian stomping grounds, the Stampede Wrestling promotion. Bret Hart actually wrestled in a Ladder Match during 1983 against "Bad News" Allen or as you'd know him in the WWE, "Bad News" Brown. Bret Hart would defeat Shawn Michaels during July 1992 and the match probably inspired Michaels to utilize the match idea to unite the Intercontinental Titles. The Ladder Match, of course, involves wrestlers using a ladder to obtain a Title (or other object) hanging from the rafters.
The Ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon was epic and not only won "Match of the Year" awards for 1994, but continues to be considered one of the greatest matches of all time. Difference between Bret vs. Shawn during July 1992 and Razor vs. Shawn Wrestlemania 10 was that Shawn/Razor utlized the Ladder more as an offensive weapon or as a means to attempt high risk moves. Bret was more controlling of the tempo during July 1992 but for Wrestlemania 10, Shawn Michaels was unleashed as a high flying bumping machine and really broke out as a star. Razor Ramon was certainly glad to deliver the punishment. Razor doesn't get credit for this match as Michaels did, but Razor helped Michaels execute the high risk moves to perfection. Michaels wasn't wrestling himself and Razor was a solid performer during the mid-1990's to prove that. Razor would win the match in a spectacular finish (Michaels tied up in the ropes and Razor falling off the ladder after grabbing the titles) and become the undisputed Intercontinental Champion (when the belt meant something!). This match would help to inspire the classic No Mercy 1999 battle between the Hardy Boys and Edge/Christian that would spark many Tables, Ladders, and Chairs tag matches for years to come.
And finally... Wrestlemania 10 was the final Wrestlemania for Randy "Macho Man" Savage in his last ever Pay Per View for the WWE. Savage took on his former friend Crush or Bryan Adams as he was later in WCW in a fun Falls Count Anywhere match. Randy Savage would win that match and it was his last great moment with the WWE. Savage had been with the WWE for most of the Wrestlemanias, just missing the first Wrestlemania in 1985 and was a color commentator for Wrestlemania 9. Otherwise, Savage was a highly successful Wrestlemania performer with 2 WWE Title victories (4 & 8) and several all-time classic match-ups (Steamboat at 3, Hogan at 5, Warrior at 7, and Flair at 8). After Wrestlemania 10, however, Savage was mostly a color commentator and remained there until October 1994 when his WWE contract expired and Savage would then join WCW during December 1994 for a nice run there (4 time WCW Champion). Savage would NEVER return to a WWE ring after 1994 and remains an outstanding WWE Hall of Fame snub.
Wrestlemania 10 would usher in the "New Generation" of superstars. However, the show's success of putting the WWE Title back on Bret Hart, establishing Owen Hart as a new star, and Shawn Michaels as a show-stopper could be short lived. Reportedly, much of late 1993 and early 1994 was booked by Vince's backstage back-ups as Vince McMahon prepared and endured the 1994 steroid trial. The Lex Luger push was reportedly a project of Vince's, yet it was suddenly cutoff in favor of the WWE going back to Bret Hart to be champion. There is a story going around that Lex Luger, on the night before Wrestlemania 10, bragged to people at a bar that he was going to be WWE Champion and was denied the title once WWE management heard about this. Seems like the headwinds were there during late 1993 and early 1994 to deny Luger the title and go back to the WWE loyalist Bret Hart instead.
However, Vince McMahon took the reigns back and was soon star-struck by a wrestler who was about 7 foot tall in Diesel (Kevin Nash). After Bret Hart lost the WWE Title to the returning Bob Backlund (WWE Hall of Famer this year!) at Survivor Series 1994, Backlund was destroyed 3 days later at a houseshow by Diesel in 8 freakin' seconds. WWE then marketed Diesel as the next great babyface despite him portraying a heel for much of his WWE career thus far. It just didn't work, and Diesel would prove himself later as Kevin Nash of the NWO in the years to come with WCW to prove how bad booking the WWE booking was during 1994-1995. WWE kept the title on Diesel for an entire year until they went back to the Bret Hart well again at Survivor Series 1995. This Diesel title reign, at the very least, could have served a purpose and let Shawn Michaels continue to grow as a probable main eventer. By 1996, he was ready to be the Main Eventer even if the WWE business model wouldn't help him succeed. Late 1997 was an entirely different matter.
ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... One of the greatest Wrestlemanias of all time was held and it helped put wrestling fans on notice that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were the best WWE performers remaining after the Hulkamania era ended, like it or not. Their Wrestlemania 10 matches were 5 star classics and still hold up to this day. Both matches occurred at a time when the WWE needed to create new stars after struggling to recognize starpower after Wrestlemania 8 in 1992. Michaels and Hart brought it and on the biggest stage. Will any wrestlers step it up in the New York City area this year?
Oh, and fun fact here... NO Undertaker at Wrestlemania 10. After losing to Yokozuna at Royal Rumble 1994 in a Casket Match that saw other villains attack to help Yokozuna win, the Undertaker sold the injury and did not officially return until SummerSlam 1994 (a "fake" Undertaker began appearing after Wrestlemania 10). In truth, Undertaker needed time off to heal a back injury. Since the Undertaker's late 1990 debut, Wrestlemania 10 (back injury) and Wrestlemania 16 (torn groin), remain the only Wrestlemanias missed by the Undertaker during his career. Should be 22-0?