Classic Wrestling Review: WrestleMania IX

(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)

WrestleMania IX

April 4, 1993

Caesar’s Palace

Las Vegas, Nevada

Before I begin the review, I wanted to tell you all that I’ve opened a t-shirt store on prowrestlingtees.com! You can buy your Classic Wrestling Review merchandise by clicking here. There will be a sale starting May 21st and running through May 27th. Enter the code SPRING to get 20% off your purchase! Now, on with the review!

Hulk Hogan is back. He managed to stay away for an entire year in his supposed retirement, but he has returned for that WrestleMania payday. The story of his return centered around the return of another wrestler, Brutus Beefcake. He returned after taking a few years off to heal from his horrific accident. The commentators played up the fact that his face had to be reconstructed with plates and screws. This fact would come to play when Money Inc. attacked him. They threatened to smash his face with their briefcase, but then Jimmy Hart had a sudden change of—heart. He attempted to stop them, so they shoved him aside and did it anyway. (Beefcake would return with a metal protective mask that looks utterly ridiculous.) It was possibly the first time ever that Jimmy Hart became a babyface. Hulk Hogan, who watched the attack at home, would return the following week and agree to team with Beefcake against Money Inc. at WrestleMania. The Mega Maniacs were together again and now they had Jimmy Hart as their manager. However, there’s no way Hogan would return for just a Tag Team Title Match. You know he has other plans.

Meanwhile, Bret Hart is set to defend his WWF Title against the winner of the Rumble Match, Yokozuna. They built the match by having Yoko attack multiple people with his Banzai Drop. He gave Hacksaw Jim Duggan two of them and put him out of action. He even gave one to Bret himself during a contract signing. (One of those ended in violence!? No way!) They’re doing a good job of building Yoko as an unstoppable monster. (It would be a shame if someone were to squash that.) Also, this show will see the continuation of the Doink/Crush, Luger/Perfect, and Undertaker/Gonzalez feuds.

This Mania is also unique for being the first one held outdoors. They are at Caesar’s Palace, but Vince decided to construct a small stadium in the parking lot for the event. The actual Caesar’s Palace arena is quite small, so I don’t blame him. However, it would still be one of the smaller Mania crowds in some time. It’s clear that business is on a downturn. (There will be an even smaller crowd for Mania in the future.) They did their best to make it look like a coliseum, but it’s pretty cheap looking. (It doesn’t help that you can see power lines in the background.) This show is also the first time they used different color ropes. They went with a black and gold look, which I quite like. It would be used one more time after this.

The show opens with a 3D artist rendering of Las Vegas. Images of wrestlers are projected on the side of Caesar’s Palace, while Vince screams about WrestleMania. He then introduces the host, Gorilla Monsoon. He’s dressed in a black toga and calls Mania the biggest toga party in the world. Then, he introduces the newest member of the broadcast team, Jim Ross. J.R. speaks about how it’s his first Mania and his first time wearing a toga. (He pretends to be happy, but he’s said he hated it.) He speaks a mile a minute, says he can get used to the toga, and then compliments the centurion next to him for being in good shape. (Tell us where he played football, Jim!) He also talks about the two main events and then introduces Howard Finkel, who has apparently been renamed, “Finkus Maximus.”

Fink introduces Caesar and Cleopatra, who enter on an elephant. Cleopatra is riding on the trunk. Ross then provides some historical facts about elephants, Caesar, and Cleopatra. (I’m halfway surprised he didn’t tell us the elephant played college ball at Alabama.) Then, Randy Savage enters the arena. He’s carried on a sedan and vestal virgins feed him grapes. Ross is confused because he thought Heenan was getting the virgins. Randy then joins Ross and says the grapes were great and the chicks were cool. Next, Bobby Heenan arrives on a camel, but he’s riding backward. He’s scared for his life and begs them to stop the thing. He even falls over when he dismounts, so Savage lifts Heenan’s toga to reveal his underwear and gives the camera a big thumbs-up gesture. Bobby complains about the smell and says it was an attack camel. Savage, on the other hand, simply yells, “WrestleMania 9! Go for it! Lock and load! Do the thing, if you’ve got the guts!! OOH YEAH!” (What’s the thing and how do I do it?)

Intercontinental Title Match: Tatanka (w/ Sensational Sherri) vs. Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ Luna Vachon)

This was originally going to be a rematch between Shawn and Marty, but Marty got fired again. Tatanka is an understandable replacement, as he still has his undefeated streak. The WWF decided to pair Shawn with a new manager, so they chose Luna Vachon (daughter of Butcher Vachon and niece of Mad Dog Vachon). She’s known for her wild Mad Max meets Punk Rock look, raspy voice, and awesome facial expressions. However, Shawn hated this pairing and spends the entire match ignoring her. Also, Shawn has now switched to his traditional theme where he sings the vocals. Meanwhile, Sensational Sherri isn’t done with Shawn. She joins Tatanka for this match to make sure Luna doesn’t interfere.

Tatanka keeps thwarting Shawn’s attempts at takedowns, so Savage claims that Tatanka is doing the thing! (Oh, is that what the thing is?) He even catches Shawn with an arm drag on a flying cross body attempt. Then, he whips Michaels around and out of the ring, where Sherri glares at Luna. Shawn fights back and hits a sloppy flying sunset flip before both men trade leapfrogs. Tatanka then catches Shawn in an inverted atomic drop and hits a DDT before focusing his attack on Michaels’ shoulder. (Heenan says that Shawn recently injured it.) Tatanka also hits some flying chops, but Shawn superkicks him when he tries one too many. He follows it up by throwing Tatanka to the floor, but Sherri stops Luna from attacking him. Both men then trade momentum and Shawn starts hitting flying axehandles, but Tatanka Pow-Wow-ers Up. (I’m so sorry for that one!) He catches Shawn with multiple flying chops, a flying cross body, and a catapult into the post, but it’s not enough. Michaels fights back and attempts a flying cross body, but Tatanka catches him in a powerslam. Tatanka gets multiple near-falls, but Shawn pulls him through the ropes. He then attempts a jumping clothesline, but Shawn misses and crashes onto the steps. The ref starts counting and reaches ten, but Shawn pulls him out of the ring before he can call for the bell. Shawn returns to his attack and Tatanka hits the Papoose to Go, but referee, Joey Marella, recovers and signals that the match is over.

This was a fairly solid bout until that lame finish. I get that they don’t want either man to outright lose, but this is an Intercontinental Title Match on WrestleMania. They were setting a good pace and had some exciting near-falls. I was enjoying this, but the finish brought it down a notch. The crowd was into the closing sequences, but you could tell the end deflated them.

Winner: Tatanka (by Count Out) (18:13)

After the match, Shawn collects his belt and leaves while a frustrated Tatanka celebrates the fact that he at least won. Sherri applauds him, but then Luna pulls her off the apron and slams her. Tatanka comes to Sherri’s aid, so Luna high-tails it to the backstage area. Tatanka then lifts Sherri and helps her walk, while Savage says it was a bad ending to a great match. (I agree with him!) The attack would set up a small feud between Sherri and Luna, but that feud is mostly a backdrop to Luna becoming the manager for someone else. (We will discuss that in the future.)

Mean Gene is backstage in his best Caesar cosplay and he says Caesar would be proud of this WrestleMania. (Why doesn’t Gene ask him? He’s probably wandering around backstage still.) Gene then talks about the upcoming match between the Steiner Brothers and the Headshrinkers before introducing Rick & Scott. Scott says they’re excited about their first Mania and tells the Headshrinkers it will be one to be remembered. Rick then says the Headshrinkers are unpredictable and no one knows where they’re coming from. (I’m pretty sure they come from Samoa.) He also says that they’re going to make Julius Caesar proud and then Rick barks to end the segment. (I was hoping Scott would talk about odds and percentages. This was a fairly bland and straightforward promo.)

The Steiner Brothers vs. The Headshrinkers (w/ Afa)

These two teams have faced before in WCW. Ross isn’t allowed to mention that, but he does mention the Steiner’s alma mater, Michigan, doing well in basketball. Savage, on the other hand, decides to warn the world that—this will probably be a great match. (Why is he warning them? Does Randy know what warn means?) Then, Ross says the match will be a slobberknocker. (Get used to that word.) Heenan says he thought that was what you called the waitress at the Tip-Top Cafe in Tulsa. Then, before the match, Afa collects the bamboo canes from Samu & Fatu, but a young Jack Doan nearly hits Afa in the face with one. You can tell Afa wasn’t happy about that. (On a side note, Ross mentions during this match that Luna attacked Sherri in the first-aid station and Heenan thinks that’s super.)

Fatu and Scott start the match and Scott frustrates him with takedowns. Fatu responds with headbutts until both men trade fists. Scott then hits a Steinerline and we see the first instance of Fatu’s 360 bump. However, the Shrinkers soon begin double teaming Scott in their corner. They throw him to the floor, but he recovers and both Steiners come off the same turnbuckle with double Steinerlines. The Headshrinkers regroup by having Afa give them a double noggin’ knocker. Rick and Samu then clash and trade clotheslines before Scott returns to hit a Tiger Bomb and a dropkick. The Shrinkers answer by attempting to kill Scott! They hold down the rope and dump Scott over it—right onto his head!! They also hit him with canes and start double teaming him again. Scott’s comebacks are ineffective because of the Shrinkers’ hard heads, but he finally makes a hot tag after Samu misses a flying headbutt. Rick cleans house until he mistakenly goes for a double noggin’ knocker and the Shrinkers headbutt him. Then, they attempt a Doomsday Device, but Rick catches Samu in a powerslam. Scott then makes a blind tag and hits a belly-to-belly. Samu tries to stop him, but Scott hits a sloppy Frankensteiner for the win.

This was a great hard-hitting match. There were some dangerous looking spots, but everyone was okay. It added to the excitement. Plus, there was some good tag team psychology and the heat spots didn’t go on too long. Even Heenan was impressed by the match. He doesn’t usually praise the faces, but the Steiners had him practically marking-out on commentary. This was a good way to build the tag division and both teams looked strong.

Winners: The Steiner Brothers (14:22)

Mean Gene is backstage, where Doink has defaced the bust of Caesar. He calls it art and claims he has a sense of humor, but Gene calls out Doink for playing sick tricks on kids. He also berates him for his attack on Crush. They show footage of Doink hitting Crush with the plaster arm, which makes Doink laugh. However, Gene says Crush might have the last laugh because he’s vowed revenge. Doink replies that revenge would be sweet, but Crush might be seeing double vision after Mania. (Hmm, I wonder what he means by that.) Doink then sprays Gene in the face with his joke flower, so Gene tells him to get lost.

Doink the Clown vs. Crush

Crush enters the arena and the commentators speculate about whether or not he’s recovered from his concussion. (I’m surprised Vince didn’t edit out that comment after the lawsuit.) Then, Doink enters to his amazing theme. It starts off jovial, but it quickly becomes creepy. (I always thought they could have gone darker with this character.) Heenan says that he thinks he recognizes Doink, but he can’t put a finger on who he is. (That’s a nice touch because Heenan would know Matt Borne.) Doink then sprays Crush with his flower, so Crush chases him around the ring.

He catches him and slams Doink before ramming him into the post and the guardrail. Then, he sends Doink inside and throws him around, but Doink bails outside and pulls Crush to the floor. They brawl, but Crush shakes off the attack and posts Doink again before taking him back inside and attacking his neck. Crush hits a neckbreaker and a hotshot, as well as a backbreaker. He also clubs Doink at the ropes, but Doink hits a hotshot of his own and some flying axehandles. He then gives Crush a dangerous looking piledriver. (He probably shouldn’t do that to someone taller than him.) Doink follows that up by ramming Crush into the post and attempting the Whoopie Cushion (flying sit-out senton), but Crush raises his boot into Doink’s face. However, Crush can’t capitalize until he catches Doink on a cross body and hits a powerslam. He also clotheslines Doink outside and Doink attempts to hide under the ring, but Crush stops him. He brings Doink back inside and goes for the head vice, but Doink reaches the ropes. The ref attempts to break them up, but he gets clocked. Doink attempts to hide again, but Crush returns to the head vice—only for a second Doink to appear and hit Crush with a plaster arm! The two Doinks knock Crush out cold and then pretend they’re looking in a mirror at each other. They have a good laugh after their little Vaudeville performance and the impostor hides again before the ref recovers and counts the three.

The match wasn’t much, but this was more about the story and the character work. The finish was great and did a lot to build the Doink gimmick. Plus, it was a cool visual. There were a couple of cool spots in the match, but it dragged when Crush was in control. However, the antics bumped it up a notch. I’m a firm believer that wrestling is best when it’s a variety show. Not every match needs to be a technical classic. You need good character work and this did its job. Also, if you were wondering, the second Doink was played by Steve Keirn (Skinner).

Winner: Doink (8:28)

Doink feigns innocence for the camera before leaving, while Heenan says it was an illusion. He compares Doink to David Copperfield, so Savage accuses Bobby of being a figment of his own imagination. (How would that be possible?) Doink then leaves, but referee, Bill Alfonso, arrives and tells Joey Marella what happened. They attempt to look under the ring for the other Doink, but they find nothing.

Then, they go to a newcomer in the WWF, Todd Pettengill. (He’s the replacement for Sean Mooney, who has sadly left the company.) He asks some Japanese photographers if there were two Doinks, but they don’t understand him. They start acting like stereotypes and talk about Yokozuna. One of them laughs and says, “Yokozuna, number one! Ahahahaha!!” Todd can’t get any answers, so he says, “Two Doinks, or an illusion? We’ll leave it up to you!” He then joins the fans and jokes that he’s in the Uecker seats. He also claims he’s drenched in beer. (Why would anyone want to throw beer on Pettengill? It’s not like he’s annoying, or anything.) Razor Ramon’s music starts playing, so Todd sends it back to the ring.

Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund

I’m not sure why this match is happening, other than to give Razor a big victory. You would think they would play up the fact that Ramon is facing a former WWF Champion, but it’s not really mentioned. It feels like Razor is in a holding pattern until his next big storyline, but don’t worry, he has something big soon enough. Backlund doesn’t get any music. He simply jogs to the ring and does a weird squat walk and a waddle. Meanwhile, Ross gives an update on Sherri and says order has been restored. Savage jokes that the first-aid station is the best place to get beaten because you get immediate attention. Heenan sarcastically calls him clever, but Savage responds that it’s cleaver. (What is Randy on during this show? I’ll take some of what he’s having because he is out there!) Also, I should point out that the crowd chants Razor’s name during this match. It’s clear the WWF will have to turn him face soon and they’ve got a plan in place for that.

Razor shoves Backlund around, but Bob counters by repeatedly tripping him and doing his weird waddle again. Razor answers with punches, slams, and stomps until Backlund hits some hip tosses and grazes him with a dropkick. He also hits a butterfly suplex and a stalling atomic drop that sends Razor to the apron. Bob continues with a slingshot, but Razor surprises him with a roll-up for the win.

I’m not sure why this victory wasn’t more decisive. I’m guessing that Backlund wasn’t comfortable taking the Razors Edge, but the finish could have been stronger. They brought Backlund in to help make their younger stars look strong, but this didn’t do that. They should have put over the fact that Razor beat a former champion. This could have been a big win for Ramon, but instead, it seemed like a fluke.

Winner: Razor Ramon (3:45)

Next, Mean Gene is with Money Incorporated. Gene says their tag titles are in jeopardy for the first time in a while because they’re facing Hogan, Beefcake, and their former manager, Jimmy Hart. They show footage of Money Inc. attacking Brutus, and Jimmy’s face turn. Gene says he couldn’t believe what he saw and neither could Hogan. DiBiase accuses everyone of crying and says it’s time to put up or shut up because the stakes are high. He then says that the higher the stakes, the bigger the bankroll and they don’t make bets they can’t win. He then talks about Hogan & Beefcake claiming they will bankrupt Money Inc., but he says you can’t bankrupt a company with an unlimited credit line. Then, IRS talks about Beefcake’s protective mask and says they’re going to remove it and beat his face until it looks like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing. He also says that Hogan got into an accident coming out of the gym last night and says Beefcake’s face is nothing compared to Hogan’s. (I’ll explain in a moment.)

Tag Team Title Match: Money Inc. (c) vs. The Mega Maniacs (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Money Inc. enters first because Hogan has to enter second, I guess. (I guess I’m too old-fashioned.) Ross asks what IRS meant about Hogan’s accident and Heenan says he was with Money Inc. all night, so it wasn’t them. The Mega Maniacs then make their entrance through red and yellow smoke and we see what IRS meant. Hogan has a nasty black eye. (That’s an understatement. His entire eye is dark red. It’s horrifying. Hogan claims it was a jet ski accident, but the prevailing rumor is that Randy Savage punched him. Randy apparently blamed Hogan for his divorce. I’m pretty sure the jet ski story is true, but Savage punching him is a nice thought.) Money Inc. then attempt to jump the Maniacs, but they fight them off and pose for a bit.

Beefcake and IRS begin the match and Brutus quickly falls victim to double teaming and ref distractions. DiBiase attempts a flying axehandle, but he hurts his hand on Beefcake’s mask, so Brutus hits a double noggin’ knocker. The mask also allows him to no-sell rams into the turnbuckle, so the Maniacs start double teaming both members of Money Incorporated. They have enough and attempt to leave, so the ref tells Fink to announce they’ll lose their titles if they don’t return. They reluctantly oblige, but DiBiase takes control with some cheap shots and Money Inc. choke Hogan with the tag rope. Then, DiBiase locks Hogan in the Million Dollar Dream. It goes on for a while until Beefcake finally enters the ring while the ref is distracted and puts DiBiase in a sleeper. Both men are down, but Hogan sits up before the ten-count and makes the hot tag. Beefcake cleans house and hits a high-knee, but DiBiase hits him in the back with the briefcase and eventually removes the mask. Money Inc. then attacks Beefcake’s face until Brutus hits a double clothesline and locks IRS in a sleeper hold. DiBiase manages to break it, but he sends IRS into the ref. Both men then tag and Hogan uses Beefcake’s mask as a weapon, but there’s no ref. Jimmy Hart enters the ring and turns his jacket inside out to reveal ref stripes. He counts a three-count and the Maniacs celebrate, but referee, Danny Davis arrives to declare Money Inc. win by DQ.

This was a fairly fun tag match, but that ending was lame. I get that they didn’t want to switch the titles and Hogan certainly wasn’t jobbing, but it’s still disappointing. However, the crowd loved it, so it did its job. Now, if only this were the last time we saw Hogan on this show. (More on that in a bit.)

Winners: Money Inc. (by DQ) (18:27)

After the match, Hogan & Beefcake threaten Danny Davis. (That’s not a very babyface move.) Money Inc. attempt to attack, but the Maniacs send them packing. Then, Jimmy Hart tosses Davis over the ropes. (Geez, did Jimmy Hart turn face or did the Maniacs turn heel?) Hogan & Beefcake then pose and strut for an eternity. They eventually spot Money Inc.’s briefcase and open it to find tax forms, money, and a brick. Hogan celebrates with the money and ends up giving it to the fans.

Next, Pettengill is in the crowd with Natalie Cole. He asks her if she got any of the money. She says no, but she is enjoying herself. Todd then turns to interview the CEO of Caesar’s Palace, Dan Reichartz. He says he’s delighted to have WrestleMania in Las Vegas. He claims it’s the highest energy level they’ve ever had and praises the WWF staff and wrestlers. Todd then asks if he can get a deal on his room, but Dan avoids the question. Pettengill responds by aggressively hugging him, which makes Dan uncomfortable.

Then, Mean Gene is backstage with Mr. Perfect. He jokes about gambling with him the previous night and then says that Perfect epitomizes athleticism and perfection. Then, Gene talks about Perfect’s opponent, The Narcissist, Lex Luger. Gene says that Luger has been knocking out people with his forearm, including Bret Hart at a Mania press conference. Perfect calls Luger a knock-out artist and then asks what’s wrong with him. He mocks Lex for carrying around mirrors and thinking he’s a great person. Then, Perfect claims he’s on a roll and says he got a hole-in-one in golf. However, this promo isn’t on a roll because Perfect badly flubs Luger’s name by calling him, “The Larcissist.” He tries to cover for the botch by saying he’s too excited.

The Narcissist Lex Luger vs. Mr. Perfect

Luger makes his entrance with some scantily-clad women in thongs. The commentators all begin drooling and Heenan compares Luger to Apollo. Savage starts to mock him, but he becomes distracted by a shot of one of the thongs. Luger then poses, while the women hold up mirrors that shoot fireworks. (The wind blows the sparks into their faces, so they have to hide behind the mirrors.) Mr. Perfect then enters the arena and one of the women rubs his chest. He pretends not to care, but you can see him grinning. Luger and Perfect then get in each other’s faces and Perfect apparently spits his gum at him, but the cameraman misses it.

The two men trade arm wringers and hammerlocks, but Perfect keeps getting the advantage. He then hits a knee-lift, shoulder block, and a beautiful dropkick, so Luger regroups. Lex then returns and tries a cheap shot, but Perfect catches a kick and slaps Luger. He then attacks Lex’s leg and Luger begins his usual yelling. Perfect even chops the hell out of him, so Savage says, “He’s not just perfect, he’s poifect!” (What!?) However, Luger responds by whipping Perfect hard into the corner and sending him to the floor. He then focuses his attack on Perfect’s bad back and tries to pin Perfect with his feet on the ropes, but the ref catches him. Perfect answers with a surprise sunset flip and a sleeper, but Lex backs him into a corner. Then, Perfect surprises him with a cradle, back drop, and a catapult. He also hits Lex with forearms to the head. (It’s a nice touch that he’s using Luger’s move, but the commentators don’t acknowledge it.) Perfect then gets some near-falls with a swinging neckbreaker and a missile dropkick before attempting a backslide. Luger blocks it with his foot and reverses it for the win, but the ref doesn’t see Perfect’s feet in the ropes.

I thought this was a fairly solid match. It dragged a little when Luger was in control, but the storytelling of working Perfect’s back was good. I’m even okay with the finish because it makes Luger look crafty and keeps the door open for more. It wasn’t a great match, but it did what it needed to do and gave Luger a big win.

Winner: Lex Luger (10:56)

Perfect complains to the ref, so Luger blindsides him with a running forearm and poses with his foot on Perfect’s chest. He then leaves, but Perfect recovers and gives chase. The cameraman follows him until Perfect finds Luger talking to Shawn Michaels. Perfect and Luger begin fighting, but Shawn apparently takes offense to being interrupted and attacks Perfect. He hits him with trashcans and brooms, while Luger escapes. The officials break up the fight, but not before Shawn gets in a few more kicks. (This does a good job of furthering the feud and also setting up Perfect’s next one.) Then, they go back to the commentators. Savage and Heenan start arguing about the attack, so Randy stands and threatens Bobby until Ross calms them.

Next, Gorilla Monsoon talks about the remaining matches. He says that Giant Gonzalez might be the only one who can beat the seemingly unbeatable grim reaper. He also talks about the main event and calls Bret Hart the quintessential underdog.

The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Giant Gonzalez (w/ Harvey Wippleman)

Gonzalez makes his entrance and a fan takes a swipe at him, so Gonzalez glares. They’ve modified his suit since the Rumble. It no longer has fur on it. Now, it’s airbrushed to look like muscles and fur, but for some reason, they also added a butt-crack. Then, the Undertaker makes his entrance on a funeral chariot with a vulture at his side. (It’s a cool entrance and it makes up for the fact that he’s entering during broad daylight, but it’s sadly the only cool thing about this match.)

They immediately go face-to-face and Gonzalez clubs him, but Taker shakes off the attacks and returns to stare at him. Taker then answers with some throat chops, but Gonzalez makes them look awful by selling too early and too over-the-top. Gonzalez then answers by choking Taker, but Taker climbs onto the turnbuckles and chokes him in return. However, Gonzalez hits a low-blow and tries some clotheslines. Taker ducks and moves, but he has to remind Gonzalez to turn around before he can hit Old School. Gonzalez answers with a clothesline and I’ll give Taker credit for bumping to try and make him look good. (It doesn’t work.) He then locks Taker in a long chinlock until Bearer rallies Taker with the urn. Then, they end up fighting to the floor and Wippleman distracts the ref. Gonzalez takes advantage by ramming Taker into the steps and sending him back inside. He hits multiple headbutts, but Taker keeps sitting up, which frustrates Gonzalez. Taker takes control again, so Wippleman distracts the ref and tosses a rag to Gonzalez. He uses it to smother Taker, while the commentators say they smell chloroform. The ref sees him, but Gonzalez refuses to stop. The ref has no choice but to call for the bell.

This was an awful match with a terrible ending. Gonzalez can’t wrestle and he can’t even sell properly. Also, why would they build their unstoppable monster by having him chloroform wrestlers? It makes him look inept. They killed what little mystique he might have had left. I can see why the Undertaker considers this one of his worst matches. (He reportedly glares at Vince any time they show footage of it on TV.)

Winner: The Undertaker (by DQ) (7:33)

After the match, officials come to the ring and load Undertaker onto a gurney. Gonzalez poses while fans boo and he even chokeslams one of the refs. The commentators say there will be fines and suspensions for his actions. The officials then wheel Taker to the back, while Gonzalez continues gloating, but then the gong sounds. Taker stumbles back through the curtain and Gonzalez is in disbelief. Paul Bearer tries to stop Taker, but he heads to the ring and takes down Gonzalez with multiple clotheslines. Bearer is finally able to stop him, so Gonzalez leaves while yelling, “What happened!?”

Next, Mean Gene is backstage and he jokes about Heenan finding an underwear salesman. (That joke might have worked better earlier while people were still thinking about Savage humiliating Heenan, but it’s a bit late now.) Gene then talks about Yokozuna and shows footage of him attacking Jim Duggan. He also shows footage of the contract signing between Bret and Yoko. He says he can’t get used to seeing that, but he does know someone who can give some perspective on the situation. He introduces—Hogan? (Wouldn’t Bret have made more sense? Wait, what’s happening here?) Gene asks about Hogan’s eye, but Hulk doesn’t immediately answer. First, he says he came from Bret’s locker room and he reassured him that everyone’s on Bret’s side. Then, he talks about the eye and says DiBiase paid someone to attack him. (Was it Savage?) He then goes back to the subject of Bret and claims Bret is a Hulkamaniac. He warns him to watch his back, but he also says that looking into Bret’s eyes made him question the power of Hulkamania. He then issues a challenge to the winner of the WWF Title Match and says, “To either you, or the Jap, brother!” (Whoa!! Hulk Hogan said something racist!? That’s unheard of!) Finally, Hogan predicts that the WWF Title will stay in the WWF and the United States, but he doesn’t specifically say it will stay with Bret. (Uh, oh.)

Then, Todd is in the crowd again. He mocks a kid for having big ears and then doesn’t let him speak. He also talks to a couple of frat bros in homemade togas. They claim they stole them from Motel 6 and then pretend to fight. Todd admonishes them for spilling beer.

WWF Title Match: Yokozuna (w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. Bret Hart (c)

Yoko makes his entrance and is greeted by two Geisha girls who give him flowers. He doesn’t seem impressed. He simply stands in the corner and waits for Bret. Heenan points out that clouds have formed over the arena and says it’s a bad omen for the champion. Then, Bret enters to a decent reaction and they show some fan signs and even a Bret Hart teddy bear. Bret then kisses the belt before handing it to Earl Hebner. (Make sure Earl doesn’t take it and sell it in the parking lot later.) He then gives his shades to a fan, while Yoko does his salt ceremony. Heenan jokes about Bret’s family and claims that Helen Hart had 11 kids in her first litter, which seems to genuinely offend Ross. (Just wait until Ross hears some of Lawler’s jokes about Bret’s family.)

Yoko does some sumo poses, so Bret surprises him with a running dropkick. He also hits punches in the corner, but Yoko responds with a chop and a shoulder block that sends Bret to the floor. However, Bret answers by tangling Yoko’s foot in the ropes and hitting a slingshot splash. He also hits a diving elbow, but the ref finally untangles Yoko. Then, both men trade clotheslines and Yoko gets the advantage before hitting a leg drop. (The fans start chanting USA, so Heenan rightfully points out that Bret is Canadian.) Yoko follows up with a nerve hold. Bret eventually surprises Yoko with a boot and hits a sloppy bulldog, but Yoko soon returns to the hold. Yoko then attempts a corner splash, but he misses and Bret hits a much better bulldog. He follows that with some clotheslines and punches in the corner. Yoko attempts to reverse it, but Bret latches onto the turnbuckle pad for dear life. Yoko manages to pull him free, but the pad comes loose. Then, he tries to ram Bret into the exposed buckle, but Bret reverses him and locks Yoko in a Sharpshooter. However, Fuji throws salt in Bret’s eyes while the ref checks on Yoko. Bret is blinded, so Yoko rolls him up for a three-count.

This was on its way to being a pretty good match until that finish. Bret crafted a pretty good fight that told a good story, but it was cut short. Bret says in his book that the match was supposed to go five minutes longer, but Yoko was gassed and called for them to go home early. Bret told him that was five minutes he would never get back again. Also, I’m surprised they went with a cheating finish. They’re building Yoko as a monster and I’m sure Bret would have been okay with a clean ending.

Winner: Yokozuna (New Champion) (8:55)

Yoko celebrates with the belt, but Hogan immediately arrives to protest the finish. He checks on Bret, but Fuji grabs the microphone and taunts Hogan. He then issues a challenge, but Hulk seems more concerned with Bret. Fuji decides to up the ante and tells Hogan they will put the title on the line if he accepts. Bret still can’t see, but he motions for Hogan to go for it. (You know Bret had to hate pretending to be okay with this. Also, on a side note, you can see Oscar from Men on a Mission behind Bret in this segment. Vince reportedly met him over Mania weekend and offered him a job.)

WWF Title Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna (c) (w/ Mr. Fuji)

Hogan accepts the challenge and enters the ring, but Yoko immediately grabs him from behind. Fuji gets more salt and goes to throw it in Hogan’s eyes, but he ducks and the salt hits Yoko. Hogan then hits a clothesline and a leg drop for the win. (Hebner watched the entire exchange. Shouldn’t that be a DQ?)

This is too short to judge on quality, so I’ll talk about the story surrounding this. This was the first PPV to feature an encore presentation during the week, so the WWF wanted to pop a second buyrate by using RAW to sell the replay on the surprise ending. (This information comes from Bruce Prichard’s podcast, so take it with a grain of salt. He claims the encore showings were a brand new thing, so they wanted a big surprise, but I’ve been told it wasn’t new. Either Bruce is remembering wrong or he’s making up BS again. The latter is no surprise.) I get that and I’m okay with the idea, but I’m not okay with Hogan’s behavior backstage. The original plan was for Hogan to eventually drop the title to Bret at SummerSlam as a passing the torch moment. Bret says that Hogan even told him he’d be happy to do the honors, but that match never happens. Hogan would later tell Bret he wasn’t on his level. I get what the WWF was doing here, but it’s a step in the wrong direction. Hogan would completely phone-in his reign. He barely appeared on TV and even called the WWF title a toy while on a tour of Japan. It’s time for the WWF to move beyond Hogan and this was the wrong move in the long run.

Winner: Hulk Hogan (New Champion) (00:22)

Hogan then poses with the belt and acts all surprised at what happened. The fans cheer, so they got their surprise pop. Heenan is beside himself with shock, while Hogan yells something about not messing with mother nature. (What does that even mean?) Jim Ross then talks about how the WWF Title has never changed hands twice in one night. (Technically it did when Andre won the title and then handed it to DiBiase.) Then, fireworks explode while Ross says goodnight.

The Good:

– The Heenan stuff was amusing.

– The Steiners/Headshrinkers match was good.

– The character work with Doink was great.

– Perfect/Luger was decent.

– The Tag Title Match was fun, except for the ending.

The Bad:

– Hogan’s ego.

– Taker/Gonzalez was awful.

– Some of the matches didn’t feel Mania-worthy.

– The Bret/Yoko match was disappointingly cut short.

– Some of the match finishes weren’t good.

Performer of the Night:

I’m giving it to the Steiner Brothers. Their match was great and Scott nearly broke his neck in the process.

Final Thoughts:

Some people call this the worst Mania of all-time. I disagree with that sentiment. It’s not a good show, but it’s far from the worst. There’s a certain charm to the ridiculousness of this event. It’s a surprisingly easy watch and there is an amusement to be found in the bad parts. My philosophy has always been to find the humor when something is bad and there is humor in this PPV. That’s not to say this isn’t the weakest Mania I’ve covered, but there will be weaker ones. (I have one last side note that I almost forgot. There was originally supposed to be a Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Kamala match on this show, but it was cut due to time constraints. I feel bad for Bam Bam, but I doubt that would have been a good match.)

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My next review will be WCW’s Slamboree ‘93. Look for it next Saturday!

 

Written by Paul Matthews

I am chronologically reviewing all the pre-network era WWF/WCW/ECW PPVs from Starrcade '83 to WrestleMania 30. Join me on this journey every Saturday!
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