Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Raw Thoughts, March 30th - Final Raw before Wrestlemania delivers, big style

· So that’s 18 Divas in the opening contest. Was there anyone from WWE (other than those injured) who was not represented? I guess that means 7 guest spots open.
· Vaguely pointless match. But Santino’s appearance got a huge pop in the arena and in my house for the Jack Tunney reference. Daft stuff, but mildly amusing.
· Jericho and Lawler serves as a passable piece of TV to continue the build to Jericho’s Mania match, but showed exactly why the thought of these two facing each other at the big one itself was rightly ditched at an early stage.
· Another nice little touch by Michaels. Didn’t ham it up, but just appearing and saying “expecting someone else”. I’ve loved this build-up, and can’t wait for the match.
· They showed Lawler coming back to ringside, and I couldn’t help but think that Jericho should have attacked him from behind. That would have been just perfect. Jericho backs out of a fight after the match, and then cracks Lawler from behind like a coward. Makes sense to me.
· I don’t like showing a match on Raw that will feature on the Wrestlemania card, especially since it basically went nowhere, had a break in it, and featured some action at the start of the match you would expect to see near the end.
· I would suggest the idea will be that the Rey winning means a few people will tale this to mean that he’ll win at Mania and thus will buy the show for the joy of seeing Myserio win a title.
· Dull match with Cena and Show, but interesting to see Show win clean and perfect character booking for Edge to appear and feast on Cena’s carcass post-match. I really don’t know who’ll take this match, you know.
· Another tremendous HBK/Undertaker segment. Although there were a few extra points I’d like to make:
o Kudos to Shawn for mentioning 24 years and not 25.
o Where did he get that black eye and cut on the nose from?
o Nice nod to history in that the attacked always comes from the casket, and this time it looked that way twice and didn’t happen.
o Shame the Superkick missed.
· Fun little Battle Royal. Common sense to have Kane win it as he has traditionally been good in that kind of match. I was disappointed they didn’t reference Punk’s elimination of Kofi, seeing as they won the Tag Titles together not long ago and now Punk is throwing him out of the ring.
· That final segment - the final segment of Raw before the biggest show of the year, remember -was absolutely tremendous.
· I thought Orton’s structure explanation of all his actions was cold, calculating and well put to get the fans to strongly book him. Then, the Limo arrival, which I have to admit had me fooled. I fancied a Triple H sneak through the crowd, a demolition of Rhodes and DiBiase before an RKO and a closing scene of Orton standing tall over Hunter with the title belt. Instead, we got Shane and Vince, with a crowd going batshit insane.
· Perfect pacing, beautiful setup, and I couldn’t be more ready for Wrestlemania.
· Taxi! London Heathrow airport, please. I’ve a plane to catch.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Raw Thoughts - March 23rd

· Should I point out the irony in Chris Jericho talking about this being real and not a movie as he walked round a corner to the second, pre-prepared camera waiting to track his every move? Great promo, though. I love Jericho’s tone when he does those promos, so calculated. It’s more menacing in a voice almost a whisper than it would be as a shout.
· The Jericho build to the legends match at Mania doesn’t quite resonate as it should. I think it’s because it’s a three-on-one contest and the heel is the one with odds stacked against him. Also, the brutal beating of Flair doesn’t quite feel like the setup to a big revenge hit because Flair isn’t wrestling.
· A vicious and bloody start to Raw. A ‘crimson mask’ from the Nature Boy, and an extreme rules match with plenty of chair shots and violence. Not helping the PG rating, there, Vince.
· Did I hear Ric Flair shout during the Money in the Bank tag match?
· And even more roughhousing, as Finlay (heel for a night but still with the diddly-dee music) smashes up some of his Mania opponents with a ladder. Quite a fun tag match, with an ending which the crowd really popped for.
· They’ve got there too early with Edge, Show and Vickie. There is nowhere to go with it now, and they’ve still got three more shows to fill. I felt this week’s was superfluous really, with little happening other than Show getting to leave Raw with the upper hand after Edge did last week.
· Rey and Regal was way too short. I see what it was leading to with JBL on commentary helping it out, but the match, between two guys who can do much better, was a non-event.
· Plenty will say it was ridiculous, but I thought the Santino/Mickie thing was hilarious. “I’m like a snake” They better find a way of getting him some mic time at Wrestlemania.
· I really liked the Shawn vignette. I love stuff like that, makes it have a really special feel. I like the fact that Michaels is getting the psychological upper hand over the usually-in-charge Undertaker. This is the match I’m looking forward to at Mania.
· Many will disagree with me, and suggest that it was bad taste, but I thought the final segment was tremendous. The characterisation was perfect. Orton is once again a vicious, despicable heel and Triple H actually showed some vulnerability. I loved the tension of Orton kissing Steph, and being just far enough away from Triple H that Hunter could just about touch him, but do nothing about it. There is enough tension now for people to pay money to see Triple H destroy Randy Orton.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Raw Thoughts - 16th March

aw T· It was great watching that Edge/Show/Vickie/Cena segment again to kick off Raw. Show’s face and the slap on the ass are just hilarious. I think I like that idea more now than I did last week.
· Michaels and Undertaker as a team to start off Raw, Cena v Edge with Vickie as ref, presumably to close. Wow, that’s a heck of a line up.
· Phenomenal work from Undertaker and Shawn Michaels.
· I loved the use of conventions and then the subversion of them, taking UT’s reach back in preparation for a Goozle as a precursor for a tag, and then his look back to the ring to set up for a Superkick.
· It’s a very nice build from these two. It’s really feeling like something special. The subtle looks between the two were quality, and I loved the attempted stomp by Taker after Michaels got the pin. Fantastic opening segment.
· Nice Edge and Vickie backstage seg, and a good old-fashioned set up for a stacking of the odds against the babyface in the main event of the show.
· At least they explained the Triple H and Orton situation to sufficient lengths that we aren’t all wondering why he isn’t locked up. It’s not the most watertight of explanations, but it’ll do. I can see a “No DQ” clause, or something similar, being added for the Mania match. I just hope that, after all this aggression by each man towards the other, they don’t end up doing a face off then locking up at the start of the match, as opposed to launching into one another and scrapping straight away.
· Nice stuff with Santino and Rosa, did you see it? Beth handed Santino the slammy, and he acted deferential, but then surreptitiously handed it to Rosa. That’s obviously the Glamourella hierarchy.
· Ah, a cage. That’ll likely be the extra stip for Mania, then. Not that I want to see that.
· Ridiculously call, though, by Cole. “Orton and DiBiase have no way in.” Can’t they climb over?
· Okay, they have to stop doing stuff to contradict me after I’ve typed it! Now they are trying to climb, but Trips is stopping them. I quite like that.
· I enjoyed that whole segment, once it got going. Nice setup to show Trips as smarter, not tougher, than Legacy. That works nicely. I’d assume DiBiase will be picked off in due course, leaving just the participants in the title match.
· I’m not crazy about the idea of JBL v Rey just for the hell of it. Rey is best to watch when putting on great, high-flying encounters with guys like Edge who can move and keep up. He has spent the last six months with Kane, Mike Knox, and now he may have to wrestle JBL. Poor Rey.
· Jericho – the Narcissist????? Is the legend he faces going to be Luger? J
· I think I’d have had Flair come out in the robe and then take off to reveal a suit. Just to play the moment.
· So it’s going to be, what? Steamboat, Piper and Snuka in a Handicap match? I’m not sure I really care for that. I think the WWE have been a bit unlucky, because they’ve set up for Jericho and Rourke, then Jericho and Hogan, and then Jericho and Flair. All have fallen through, and they are going to gamble on a payoff to hot feud with a not-so-hot match.
· Throwaway tag match building for the Money in the Bank match, but nice work on commentary by the whole team, talking up the hopes of the individuals involved. I would doubt that Kane, Henry or Finlay would win, but Christian, Punk, MVP, Kofi and Shelton are all possible. I may have to upgrade the McNichol Eliminator to be able to cope with the decision come Wrestlemania.
· Another nice piece of extra storytelling, having Stephanie be the explanation for why Triple H was able to call for the cage to be lowered........but if she was there and fit, why isn’t she GM
· A bit of a soft ending, really. A non-match with a little action after the bell, but token gestures really. To be fair, both this and the other title match are ready to be taken to Pay Per View, really. Because of the nature of PPVs coming thick and fast these days, build-ups are generally quicker, and actually they are probably ready to go right now. The next couple of weeks will be quite a challenge to create interesting TV, with little left to achieve.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Retro Mania - Five

It’s the same intro as last year, and the same arena last year, for Wrestlemania V. This year Vince yells at us that The Mega Powers will explode, and then it’s Gorilla. It’ll be him and Jesse again this year.

Rockin’ Robin, women’s champion sings a version of America the Beautiful, and it’s mercifully short. Let’s just be kind and say that Aretha Frankling or Gladys Knight she ain’t!

King music, and it’s not Harley Race, and not Jerry Lawler, but King Haku. Bobby Heenan wants you to bow to Haku, and my advice is to do it. Sometimes you get mixed vibes and reports on wrestlers, but everyone I’ve ever spoken to says that Haku (or Tonga, as they call him. Well, it is his name.) is one of the nicest guys around. But you don’t cross him, because he’s a tough SOB who will tear your eye right out if you get on his bad side.

His opponent is Hercules, now a babyface it seems, and sans Hernandez.

This is actually a pretty good contest. It’s not fast paced, but it has a decent ebb and flow, and considering the standard of last year, it’s admirable. It’s traditional heel gets the upper hand and babyface struggles to get a comeback stuff, but eventually Herc hits a big move or two. His ascent to the top is met with a kick, but Haku’s second rope follow up also misses.

Herc then hits a back suplex into a pin, and – nice attention to detail – gets a shoulder up and pins Haku. Decent stuff, and a nice babyface pop to start the show.

Backstage to Gene Mean, and he’s with Marty Jannetty, and the first appearance at the big one Mr Wrestlemania himself, Michael Shawn Hickenbottom.

The Rockers....wait, I just have to say, that’s a really lame name, you know. The Midnight Rockers has some ring to it. These guys are party animals, they are still rocking at midnight. “The Rockers” sounds at best a couple of guys with bad ‘dos who like very ordinary metal music, and at worst like two rocking chairs. I guess Midnight was dropped due to similarity with the Express of that ilk, but what it left was horrible.

Anyway, The Rockers are to take on Akeem and Big Boss man. Good lord, you can’t believe that that’s the One Man Gang in that blue and yellow Easter egg costume. Poor sod, I wonder who he pissed off to get that assignment?

This is another surprisingly good match, meaning Mr Wrestlemania gets one notch in his positive column right from the start. Boss Man could really move for a big guy, and The Rockers were unlike any team that WWF had had until that point.

The Twin Towers, as Akeem and Boss Man were known, get the win, after an awesome finish. I’m not sure what Shawn was supposed to be attempting with a jump from the top that left his legs straddling the standing Boss Man, but the big guy turned him in mid air and hits a devastating powerbomb. An Akeem splash, and this one is over. I enjoyed that. Good start to this show so far.

To the back, and oh my, it’s the Greatst Announcer in the History of Our Sport, Tony Schiavone. I didn’t realise he got to contribute to a Wrestlemania. Why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?

Tony is with Ted DiBiase and Virgil, in front of absolutely-not-a-set-but-the-locker-room, honest. It is so the locker room, even though no-one ever was in the same room and the lockers appeared to be in the toilet.

Next sees the aforementioned DiBiase wrestle Brutus Beefcake, and as I say each time Brutus was really over back then. I wouldn’t think it’s to with his music, which sounds like a Midi file of the Wrestlemania theme. In fact, that was a joke, but the more I listen, I really do think that might be an early working of said theme. Slacking, Jim Johnson, slacking.

Another decent effort here. Not enthralling, but taking into account the time in which they are wrestling (I mean the year, not length of time) it’s ok. Midway through the commentators start talking about each man losing their hair. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a hair match – first I’ve heard of it – or whether they are just speculating as to what could happen.

In the end, it’s a hark back to the year previous, as we get a double count out for the two of them fighting outside, with Virgil also getting involved. They have a bit of a fight back inside, Brutus gets the upper hand, and Virgil and Ted scram when he reaches for some shears. Actually, why the hell has he got shears. Can you imagine going to get your haircut and your barber brings out garden shears? You’d run a mile.

To footage of the Wrestlemania weekend brunch, with Lord Alfred Hayes talking to the Bushwhackers. Its silly stuff of the Kiwis talking with their mouthful and showing no table manners, but their target audience were kids, so it’s more than forgiven. What isn’t is the woeful questioning of Hayes, who stumbles over words and makes an idiot of himself. Why didn’t they do another take, for goodness sake?

Bushwhackers wrestle their usual nonsense with the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers to begin with, and then things ease up so that the “All American Boys” take over. I understood the gimmick of them pretending to be American but not making a good job of it, but why did they have the Fleur du Lis on their tights?

Rougeaus dominate for a bit, then celebrate for a while, allowing the Bushwhackers to get up, hit their Battering Ram move, and win. Hmm, ok.

To Shaun Mooney, the Adamle of twenty years ago, who does nothing but get licked by the Bushwhackers, then we go back to Gorilla and Jesse. I supposed Mooney can’t “Pull an Adamle” if he doesn’t get time to say anything.

Next, we have, to no fanfare, Mr Perfect. Hennig’s here? Now we’re talking. A reasonable start to this Mania, and now one of the best wrestlers (that’s w-r-e-s-t-l-e-r) I have ever seen.

Speaking of which, it’s the Blue Blazer. For those unaware, this is Owen Hart in his first shot at the big time. And what a shot it was. This is a match which shows the genius of Curt Hennig. He bumped like a mad thing almost throughout in a match that was essentially a showpiece for Owen/Blazer. Perfect wins with his Perfectplex, but 90% of the match was Owen showing what he can do. It was terrific stuff.

Jesse promises a surprise, but it’s really just him waving to the crowd. Then to Lord Alfred who is at the site of a 5k race which was part of Mania’s festivities. Mr Fuji runs it (well, he starts and finishes) and he says it is to prove that his Powers of Pain will win the tag team titles. Yep, if running five kilometres in a suit doesn’t prove that Warlord and Barbarian are good wrestlers, then nothing will.

This just in..........nothing will.

Run DMC get in the ring and shout “ho” and “Wrestlemania” a lot for no apparent reason, before we go to highlights of Survivor Series the previous year. It seems that Demolition were managed by Fuji and were heel, while Powers of Pain were babyface, and during this match they did a double turn.

This one is two on three, with Fuji actually wrestling alongside his team against Demolition. This, predictably, brings the average of this show down a notch or two. All four regular competitors are big power guys, and Fuji had been retired for quite some time.

At least the right result is achieved. Demolition win by pinning Fuji, after the evil manager missed his throw of Fuji Dust.

Next, after Schiavone fails to interview Macho Man, it’s the French National anthem played for.......Dino Bravo. What is it about these French Canadians that forget that Quebec is actually IN Canada? He will face Ronnie Garvin, who is announced like a jobber. Out of nowhere, Fink introduces Jimmy Snuka, I guess to be in Garvin’s corner.

Garvin looks like Lance Storm spent a long time at the buffet line and then fell asleep in the sun.

Staggeringly tedious match, here, which Dino eventually wins with a Sidewalk Slam, referenced here as a side suplex Of course, he hit this move right at the point where Jesse and Gorilla were talking up Garvin’s stamina. Hmm. I agree with Jesse next, though, because Garvin attacks Bravo’s manager, Frenchie Martin (why isn’t it pronounced Mar-Tan?) for little reason. I hate when babyfaces do that.

Time for WCW legends on a WWF show, as Tully and Arn hit the ring. They’ll face Strike Force, and it’s frantic early stuff because there is barely a time where only two wrestlers are in the ring. Eventually Tito attempts his flying forearm and hits Martel.

This turns out to be the moment where Strike Force split up. Santana battles on effectively alone for a while, but when Martel is finally back on his feet he refuses a tag and walks out. Tito of course gets beaten, and Martel cuts a promo with Gene Mean saying that Tito was riding his coattails and he’s happy to get rid of him.

In the ring, Finkel talks about someone controversial who has his own talk show, and that “when you hear the word ‘Rowdy’ there is only one.........” Cue bagpipes. It’s Piper’s music, but very little reaction for him. The curtain goes up and it’s actually Brother Love. I’m guessing Piper was advertised, then, because the way Finkel talked it up it sounded like a surprise, but the reaction is very lukewarm.

I always found Brother Love extremely annoying, and although his Piper impression isn’t that bad, we get a couple of tedious minutes of him squawking. Next out is Morten Downey Jnr, who was a talk show host at the time, famous for smoking on TV. Apparently. He is rude briefly to Brother Love, but then Piper appears. This is dull so far. Piper insults Love when gets there, for quite some time. Yawn......and no-one in the arena is caring either.

Eventually Piper turns attention to Downey, who keeps blowing smoke from his cigarette in Piper’s face. Roddy continually asks him to stop, while they trade childish insults. “Where did you get your skirt?” “From a Polish warthog.” “I didn’t know your girlfriend was Polish.”..........and so forth.

Eventually Piper gets Downey to turn round, and when he turns back blasts him with a fire extinguisher. This is an iconic moment, but it takes forever to get there. ZZZZZZZZZZ segment.

Gene Mean then takes us to a preview of Hogan’s debut lead role in a movie, No Holds Barred. The film was of course terrible and a huge flop. Made the Marine look like Full Metal Jacket. Next, Sean Mooney conducts a supremely boring interview with Donald Trump, and then it’s back to Gorilla and Jesse. It’s all talking now, what’s happened to the wrestling?

Jesse wakes things up by cutting a great promo on Hogan for invading his territory. Shame he’d retired. Ito highlights of how the Mega Powers, Savage and Hogan, fell out over the course of a year. To be fair, it was pretty well done.

Hogan cuts a standard promo on Savage and........wait a second, he just said WWE? Was that an amzing mistake/coincidence? I have to rewind several times to see that, but they’ve dubbed Hogan saying WWE, presumably on a more recent appearance, over the WWF reference. Clever. I nearly didn’t even notice.

John Studd heads to the ring to the music that Hacksaw Jim Duggan has no, only without the “Hooooo” noises over the top. I think that’s in the arena and not dubbed onto the DVD. It’s very hard to tell now. Studd is a special referee for a match between Andre the Giant and Jake Roberts.

It’s not a technical classic, but it’s actually quite a lot of fun. It starts with Andre pushing Jake into a mysteriously open turnbuckle, and takes over the match. The story is essentially Andre dominating until doing his usual stuck-in-the-ropes routine. Jake keeps teasing getting his slithery pal involved, and when eventually he thinks about it, he gets jumped by Ted DiBiase, who kidnaps (Snakenaps?) Damien.

Back in the ring Studd is attacked by Andre. Jake gets the better of DiBiase, Andre spills to the floor, Jake gets in the ring..........and I guess it’s a DQ. A bit odd, but quite enjoyable. The crowd were hot for Jake.

To Mooney, who is up the Gods with an idiot fan shouting for Jake. He’s either drunk or an idiot. R maybe both. Don’t know why Mooney even spoke to him. Maybe his colleagues on the floor simply sent him to the back seats to get him out the way for five minutes.

Next, it’s Schiavone who forgets Sensational Sherri’s name. She talks about how Rockin’ Robin can’t sing (true) and that she’ll beat her later. She also laughs at Elizabeth’s predicament and says she is more beautiful. Yeah, and Colin Delaney was more built than Chris Masters.

Out come Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine (I don’t know if this is before they called themselves Rhythm and Blues and had Hammer dress like Honky or after) and they face the Hart Foundation. Very standard stuff, although an interesting reference mid match.

Jesse talks about Honky being the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, and Gorilla counters with Pat Patterson. Jesse calls him a relic.

Patterson, a relic? Maybe he’s thinking about Rellik, the TNA gimmick of Johnny ‘the bull’ Stamboli, who was originally going the same gimmick but calling himself “Redrum”. It’s Murder backwards – although Patterson doesn’t think so.

That may be the most contrived joke I’ve ever done.

Hart Foundation win, but it’s not a classic by any stretch.

Rude and Warrior are up next, a match which came out of their “Super Posedown” at that year’s Royal Rumble, which was a terrible thing to charge people Pay Per View money. Warrior is IC champ at this point, and on a mega push. He dominates the early part of the match, then there is a period where Rude gets on top. The match is very formulaic. A few big moves, then a rest hold, and repeat.

Credit to Rude, he flies around this ring making look Warrior’s every move look devastating. Either that or Warrior isn’t taking a whole amount of care over his opponent. Probably a bit of both.

The match ends when Warrior tries to suplex Rude and Heenan grabs the ankles, allowing the Ravishing one to fall on top of his tassled opponent. Heenan holds one, and Rude steals one. Fair enough finish, as it allows Warrior to retain dignity (stop laughing) and drop the IC title to go after the big one.

Post match Warrior chases Heenan, eventually catching him and hitting him a couple of times. He picks The Brain up and promptly drops him, and only quick reactions from Bobby stop him getting hurt. You can see why guys didn’t like wrestling Warrior.

Next is Bad News Brown against Hacksaw Jim Duggan, in what is to all intents and purposes a time filler. Having said that, we are over three hours already here. Nothing really happens before Duggan hits his finisher, which knocks Brown to the outside. Bad News gets a chair, Duggan picks up his plank (I know what it’s called, but I like calling it plank) and they scrap. Double DQ. Pointless.

Maybe the point was simply to have a gap between Heenan appearances. After getting dropped by Warrior, it’s Bobby the Brain v Terry the Chicken. This is Terry taylor in his ridiculous “Red Rooster” gimmick, which I’m sure has never, ever been brought up by any guys who Terry has worked with backstage over the years.

After entering to the strains of Cock a Doodle Doo, bound to strike fear into any opponent, Rooster takes on the already hurt Heenan and beats him in seconds. Wow, that sure helped his career. To show what level he is on, he is attacked after the match by the Brooklyn Brawler. No, I’m not joking.

I think it’s the main event next. Liz talks to Gene Mean, and says that she hopes neither Macho Man nor the Hulkster gets hurt. Nt only was she mighty fine looking, she wasn’t a bad talker either. She is truly a very sad loss, and it’s a shame she got tangled up in wrestling really.

First in, after pointless bits with Schiavone and Mooney which I ignore, it’s the Champ, the still-to-enter the Hall of Fame Macho Man Randy Savage. After he has entered, they play his music again to welcome Elizabeth. She’ll go to a neutral corner. Today, you just know she’d cost Hogan the match, but back then not so much.

Real American (quietly) hits and out comes Hogan. Jesse wonders why the champ came out first. What do you expect, Jess? It’s Hogan. I really liked Jesse’s distaste for Hogan all the time. It added something that people on commentary could actually hate people and not have to have a feud with them. I know he got involved from time to time, but it reminded me of Lawler saying how much he hated Bret for years and years. He didn’t have to keep wrestling him, but it just gave things a different dynamic.

This isn’t a great match, not one for the ages, but it’s perfectly acceptable when you consider the combatants (well, one of the them) and the era. The fans are completely into this, so the slow. Staccato nature of the match isn’t a hindrance really. There is a nice ebb and flow to the match, even if Hogan’s comebacks are a little bit out of nowhere, and the fact that Liz tries to help both guys makes things interesting. Savage is able to get a ton more heat by mistreating her.

He forces her away from ringside, and a backstage guy escorts her out. Uh-oh, the guy puts his arm around her, Savage is going to kill him when he gets back beca......oh, wait now, it’s Patterson, it’s fine. Definitely no danger Randy, back to the match.

Savage takes over, and builds to the big elbow. He hits it, and of course Hogan kicks out at two and begins the “hulking up” process. Right hands, big boot, legdrop, it’s history. No false finishes for Hulk, no sirree!

A decent enough show, that, for me. There were plenty of decent matches on the card, and Perfect v Owen is a huge treat, especially since I’d forgotten this was part of the menu.

I think this is possibly the best mania so far, in terms of overall match quality. Many will point to Wrestlemania 3, and I’ll agree that the spectacle was immense, but apart from Savage and Steamboat it wasn’t stacked with great wrestling. The famous Andre v Hogan may well have been the most important match in wrestling history, but it’s not exciting to watch again.

Five down, (nearly) twenty to go...........

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Retro Mania - Four

It’s 1988, and some more funky graphics and weak 80’s ‘rock’ herald the start of Wrestlemania 4, live (well, 21 years ago) from Trump Plaza, Atlantic City. Yup, old wiggy from The Apprentice was involved with Mania even way back then.

This year, Gene Mean greets us from the middle of the ring, welcomes us to Wrestlemania, and hands over to Gladys Knight to sing us into the show.

America is Beautiful, shining seas, cutaway shots of famous buildings and bald eagle, grace being shined, and we’re out.

The biggest trophy in the world ever is brought out, which is apparently for an Invitational Battle Royal, and we all know the rules about big trophies. If they are presented, they get smashed on someone’s head. It’s the law.

Gorilla (he’s said ‘happening’ twice) is with Jesse, dressed like Crocodile Dundee’s camp brother, and Bob Uecker is back. In fairness, he was pretty good the year previous, so inviting him back and not Susan “Uh-oh” St James is a good call.

Battle Royal participants – Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart (The Hart Foundation), Jim Powers, Paul Roma (The Young Stallions), Sika, Danny Davis, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell (Killer Bees), Bad News Brown, Sam Heuston, Jacques and Ray Rougeau, Ken Patera, Ron Bass, Junkyard Dog, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zhukov (The Bolsheviks), Hillbilly Jim, Harley Race and George Steele.

Steele starts on the outside for some reason, and starts by grabbing the Anvil on the leg. Sam Heuston is out first, and Sika follows soon after. The announcers missed the first one because they were talking Baseball, and then Uecker worryingly says “Uh-oh” three times. Steele hasn’t got in the ring yet.

Steele pulls Anvil out while Jesse and Uecker talk about Vanna White, a glamourous TV show........person. I don’t really know. The Rougeaus and Killer Bees start eliminating each other, with only Jacques surviving. JYD slings Bass, and Steele glares at him. The Animal still on the outside, and Gorilla thinks he has been eliminated, while Jesse thinks he has been outside all the time. I agree with The Body, for example.

Hillbilly Jim is next out, and in the ring Davis is getting the most heat. He is thrown out to the crowd’s delight, and then Jim Powers exits stage left. Nikolai is flicked over by Patera, Zhukov comes in to avenge him partner, and he in turn is thrown out. Five left – JYD, Bret, Harley, Paul Roma and Bad News Brown.

Harley disappears and has run his race after a shot from JYD, and then Brown rids the ring of Roma. Bret and Bad News, both out of Stampede and both heels at this point, double up on the Dog as is traditional at the end of a Battle Royal. But usually the face gets rid of one heel after a mix-up –in this case they just throw him out. After the heels celebrate, Bad News hits Bret with a blind inzugiri.

Bret now begins to do what he did best, which is sell like a mad thing, and make the big guy look good. He does this very well, because Bad News throws him out in short order. We get so used to clever and elaborate finishes to Battle Royals these days that this seems really tame.

Bret isn’t happy. So much so that he comes back in the ring and dropkicks Bad News out of there and then (surprise, surprise) kicks the trophy to pieces. The crowd cheer for this – was this the start of the babyface turn?

Ueck is then off to find Vanna, and we’re left with Gorilla (who says happening again) and Jesse, who talk over Howard Finkel. They’d get fired for that now.

Howard is basically explaining the rules of the tournament, and hands over to Robin Leach (I don’t know) to give a proclamation. Howard says Leach is from the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I guess that is a TV show. I thought it was a Good Charlotte song. Leach (who I’m pleased to note is English) waffles for a bit and says “whereas” a lot.

Hacksaw Jim Duggan then emerges as the first competitor in the tournament, followed by Ted DiBiase, who has Virgil and Andre with him. The announcers seem surprised to see Andre, I guess because Andre is in the tournament.

I should explain that the tourney is a King of the Ring like setup to decide the champion, since the belt was vacant after an Andre v Hogan match on Saturday Night Main Event ended in a BS finish. Andre has sort of won, and handed the belt to DiBiase, who had supposedly “bought” it. But the ref was screwy, and this was actually a scripted Hebner double-cross, and not like in Montreal nine years later.

Duggan basically punches and kicks for a bit while Ted overbumps, and in the end DiBiase (who was a terrific wrestler) basically is dragged down to Duggan’s level and does little but the same, with the odd elbow drop and clothesline.

Eventually Duggan takes control and readies himself in his famous three-point stance, but Andre casually trips his ankle. That was genuinely the best piece of outside interference I’ve ever seen, as Andre just tripped Duggan and then looked totally nonchalant. The ending is a bit off, because Andre punches Hacksaw who gets kneed in the back and fistdropped by DiBiase, but the ref saw the Andre punch, so should have simply DQ-ed Ted. Oh well. Duggan is gone, DiBiase progresses, and will later face the winner of the next match.

Brief interview with a rambling Brutus Beefcake, who apparently will be wrestling Honky Tonk Man later. Maybe that’s for the title of “Greg Valentine’s worst ever partner”. Or maybe the IC belt. One of the two.

Dino Bravo – an Italian born Canadian entering to the strains of the French national anthem, with the ridiculous-looking Frenchie Martin as his manager. He will face Don Muraco, accompanied by Superstar Billy Graham.

The match is very 1980s WWF. Two big guys wrestling slowly and hitting power moves. It’s fine for what it is, but you get the feeling that the biggest start involved in Graham, so it’s quite off-putting. Bravo hits his signature Side Slam after a ref bump, and when the ref comes to he disqualifies Dino. It’s hard to see why on first glance, and Gorilla starts to say it is because he pulled the ref in front of him to take the bump from Muraco rather than him. This is indeed the case, as we see after a replay, but shouldn’t it have been made to look more obvious? Never mind.

To Uecker, still talking about Vanna White backstage, and about interview Jimmy Hart and the Honky Tonk Man. It’s standard stuff, with Uecker saying that Hart will lose his hair. Is it a hair match, or is it just because Brutus has a Barber gimmick?

Steamboat against Valentine next. The Dragon has Rey Mysterio with him, I think. Oh wait, no, it’s a very small child. Not sure why, must be his son.

The match is decent, and midway through Jesse says that a friend of his in California thinks that Steamboat will win it all. He then name checks this wrestling expert as Barry Blaustein. This goes no further, but Barry Blaustein is the guy who made Beyond the Mat.

The match ends when Ricky hits his trademark flying cross-body but Hammer rolls it through for the pin. Nice finish. I like seeing stuff like that that is clean, but sneaky, and comes out of nowhere.

Gene Mean has The Bulldogs and Koko B Ware with him. Davey and Dynamite seem to have their dog with them, but Koko is sans Frankie. They all basically say they are going to get Heenan.

Butch Reed is in the ring with his manager Slick, and then Macho Man’s awesome music hits. Savage is babyface at this point, and gets a major cheer.

I like Reed and Slick in this one. They nicely play their schtick over the top to make it like a pantomime, and draw some nice heat to contrast the very over Savage. Reed dominates with power moves early but Savage turns the tables after Reed takes an eternity getting to the top rope. Macho Man throws him off and then quickly hits (well, he missed, but pretended he hit) his big elbow, and that’s it. He progresses by hitting about three moves.

Uecker keeps on talking about Vanna white backstage, when Heenan shows up with The Islanders. I don’t really listen to what Bobby says, because the actions of Haku are interesting me. He simply rubs his hands together and stares at the screen, but does it so unflinchingly it is very odd.

In the ring is One Man Gang, once again with Slick, and his opponent is one of my favourite big guys of all time Bam Bam Bigelow. Bigelow works as a babyface here, which was a rarity for him. He is also the smaller man here, because One Man Gang was huge.

Bigelow’s manager seems to be Moolah with a fake beard. Oh wait, it’s Oliver Humperdinck. Bigelow generally dominates, but loses via a count-out after Slick low bridged him and Gang didn’t let him back in the ring.

Hogan talks at Gene Mean is probably his best Wrestlemania interview thus far, ranting about Andre and explaining why he’ll win the tournament.

Bobby Heenan leads Rick Rude to the ring next for another Tournament match. Rude grabs the mic and explains that “the odds are in my favourite”. Ok Rick, whatever you say (or said).

Familiar eerie music can only mean the imminent arrival of Jake the Snake, and this oughta be good. Both guys had their character off pat, and it shows right at the start when they lock up, only for Jake to simply stand aside and let the Ravishing one fall on his face. Quality.

The match is full of holds, counters and mat wrestling, which I enjoy but some of the crowd don’t buy into. Eventually Rude settles into a pattern of sitting on a reverse chin lock, but Jake hits the big comeback. He often tries to get to a DDT but can’t lock it in. They haven’t picked up the pace and the match is suffering.

In the end both men hit each other and look exhausted. I’m just thinking that the commentators could make more of the fact that both guys look out of it, and should they go through this would hinder them. However, Rude pops his feet on the ropes for a pin. The ref counts one, then rings for the bell. So Rude wins and the ref can’t count? Or maybe Jake is awarded the match because the ref catches Rude cheating?

Nope, draw. No explanation, no reasoning, just a draw. Both men are out. Even then, Jake doesn’t get the natural post-match revenge, as Rude and Heenan escape Damien’s clutches. That was a let down.

After Gene Mean tries in vain to make Vanna White sound interesting (I’m sure she was terrific on Wheel of Fortune, and she’s very pretty, but isn’t able to sound like she knows anything about wrestling) we go to Ultimate Warrior v Hercules in a “wrestling” match. This ought to be a “HGH on a Pole” match.

This gives new meaning to word ‘boring’, and very slowly these two bumped into each other and pretended they were clotheslines. In the end, Hercules had Warrior in his full nelson, and Warrior flipped backwards off the turnbuckle with the agility of a cat, and looked phenomenal in cradling Herc in a pinning situation.

Of course I’m joking.

Warrior sort of bounces off the corner, falls backwards onto Hercules, and the pair of them lie there as though Herc has Dragon Suplexed Warrior. The ref begins to count and Warrior raises a shoulder at two, with Herc still down. The bell rings, Herc thinks he has won, but Warrior’s arm is raised. That was hardly a squash from Warrior, so it’s interesting to see that he didn’t get a consistent monster push from the off.

Extensive Hogan/Andre video package follows this, which is both good and bad. It is very detailed, going back over a year to when their animosity started, but the clips shown aren’t very clear. You don’t see Hogan winning at Mania 3, the famous Saturday Night Main Event controversial finish which led to tournament isn’t fully explained, and all this would be helped by a clarifying voiceover. Exposition was never Gorilla Monsoon’s strongpoint, so all this build-up is kind of pointless as people either know why things have got to where they are without the video, or are no confused because of it.

Anyway, it’s as you would expect for Hogan v Andre. Hogan has to sell for much of the match, which he of course isn’t totally adept at. Andre was nigh-on immobile by this point, and the mystique of this match must have gone after two previous high-profile encounters in the previous 12 months.

Andre doesn’t seem to have much heat from audience, but Hogan is met with a decent reception. This crowd is one of the quietest Wrestlemania crowd ever. DiBiase and Virgil accompany Andre, and interfere to such an extent that a chair ends up in the ring. Use by both men means that we get a double DQ. Hogan attacks Virgil on the outside and hits the weakest suplex ever, in the aisle. Basically it looks like crap because Virgil put his feet down before he hit the deck and Hogan didn’t fall back and take the necessary bump either.

Hogan slams Andre for the hell of it, and celebrates.......erm....for no good reason but to pop the crowd a little, I guess. This takes like five minutes, with even the commentators getting bored.

Savage promo next, and he bigs up Hogan before stating that he’ll win the tournament. I think he did, anyway, he isn’t always easy to understand.

Muraco v DiBiase now, officially a quarter final match but since Hogan and Andre are gone it’s basically a semi, because the winner would get a bye in the next round. Winner of this is straight to the final.

In the end, DiBiase wins it reasonably cleanly, catching Muraco from the ropes and hitting him with a move we would now call a Hot Shot, used to call a Stun Gun, and back then they called a clothesline.

One Man Gang is forced t come to the ring to get his hand raised in a forfeit, and then it’s Valentine v Savage for a chance to meet the future Akeem.

Midway through the match Valentine hits a shoulder-breaker, now there is a move you don’t see often anymore.

Savage’s intensity is good in this match, and he looks like he is desperate to win. He does, rolling Valentine up in an inside having blocked the figure 4.

More Vanna nonsense and then out comes Honky Tonk Man, dancing to his famous music and accompanied by “Peggy Sue” and Jimmy Hart. Brutus is out to take him on, and however you want to knock both Ed Leslie and Wayne Ferris these two guys were pretty over.

Monsoon, as ever, calls him Bruti, which I never understood.

The match is satisfactory. It’s hardly a work of art, but it has enough little dips and peaks to make it reasonable. However, it’s yet another BS finish, because Brutus has the sleeper on Honky, having avoided HTM’s dreaded neckbreaker, but Jimmy Hart levels the ref. Some dull post-match activity is highlighted by Brutus cutting Hart’s hair. DQ means Brutus wins but doesn’t get the title.

Backstage to Bob Uecker, who speaks to Andre, who seems happy to have dealt with Hogan. He then throttles Uecker in that now-famous scene.

Generic jungle drums and birds tweeting means it’s a vaguely racist, or at least offensively stereotypical, south pacific gimmick. Heenan leads to the ring Tama and Haku, The Islanders, who along with Heenan with wrestle The British Bulldogs and Koko B Ware with their respective pets. Heenan has some sort straight-jacket-like top on, presumably to defend against the bite of Matilda the Bulldog.

Savage battles One Man Gang next, and, guess what, another DQ. The Gang goes after Savage with a cane soon enough, and although a distraction means the ref misses the first couple of swings, he catches the big guy cheating and this one is over. Savage is in the final.

Backstage to Gene Mean and Vanna, who excuses herself because she has to go to the ring. Cue Uecker to turn up looking for her seconds later. He says that she wrote letters to him, and when questioned by Gene, says “yeah, a guy called Vance White.” What, a guy called Vance White? He thinks a guy was writing to him? My God, if this had been picked up on he caught have been brought back to manage Billy and Chuck. Nice to know the comedy was lame even so long before Gerwitz turned up.

Back to the ring, and shoddy dubbed in music greets Demolition, who will take on the Strike Force team of Rick Martel and Tito Santana. Demolition get the upper hand until Tito hits “the patented flying forearm” according to Gorilla. Where do wrestlers go to patent moves? How do you even get that passed?

Demolition (heels) win after manager Mr Fuji creates a distraction and allows Martel to get clobbered by a cane. New champs, and yet another match which doesn’t have a satisfactory flow to it. Maybe I’m being harsh. What is becoming evident is that a late 80s PPV contained matches very similar to a modern-day TV show. Mania now is so much more fulfilling, and WWE should be given credit for creating compelling PPV TV that both satisfies and intrigues.

Main event time, and here come the celebs. Bringing the belt to the ring is Robin Leach, to irritating piano music. He is either trying to show the belt off either side of the aisle or he’s drunk, because his path to the ring is not a straight one.

Next is Uecker to “Take me out to the Ball game” to be the announcer. He humorously swings at a pretend pitch and then looks behind as if he missed it. That’s pretty funny. Then a drunk guy (not Leach) appears in the aisle and hugs Uecker. Bob doesn’t mind, but security do. Heeeeeeeeeeee’s Outta Here!!

Here comes Vanna to a bigger pop than some of the babyfaces on the roster. Probably because half of the audience are high-rollers at the casino and not wrestling fans. Uecker looks happy, which is strange because Vanna is hot, and very much not a dude.

Andre grabs the ankle of Savage early in the match to the annoyance of the audience, who start to cheer for Hogan. That would actually make sense, although it’s quite annoying for Savage that he is the new guy trying to be put over as top dog but people still want Hulk.

To be fair, the match is very slow. It’s understandable since the guys have already worked, especially Savage, and would be legitimately tired and would have to sell it anyway. Savage goes to jump onto DiBiase on the outside but Andre stands in the way. Randy goes over to Liz and tells her something. The crowd understand what is happening as while she is disappearing up the aisle they start cheering for Hogan.

Sure enough, she re-emerges with the Hulkster to be in Randy’s corner. I know it was years too early and would have made no business sense, but wouldn’t it have been cool for Hogan to join DiBiase at this time?

Decent psychology here by wrestlers and commentators as they position Savage as trying to end things quickly and DiBiase trying to wear Savage down even more. To this end, DiBiase avoids a top rope elbow and slaps on his Million Dollar Dream. The ref is bizarrely distracted by Andre, though, and this allows Hogan to come in and slam DiBiase with a chair. What the f.....? Damn that was a heelish manoeuvre, and hardly makes Savage look like a worthy champ does it?

Elizabeth is either genuinely overcome with emotion or does a great job acting like she is crying. Gorilla is also emotive, as he says he has “Goosebumples”, whatever they are.

They celebrate, and we’re out for Mania number four. A poor show, it has to be said. Star power at a premium in the tournament, and way too many dodgy finishes. Would it have killed One Man Gang or DiBiase, or many other folks for that matter, to simply lose cleanly? Really?

Bizarrely, with such a dead crowd, we’d head to Trump Plaza again the following year, where once again Savage and Hogan featured heavily in the main event.......

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Raw Thoughts: March 10

· We will be going live Randy Orton’s home, apparently. I think I could stake fairly decent money on the fact that Triple H may just show up, and it won’t be with a neighbourly cup of sugar.
· Just top class verbiage from Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Genuinely made me want to see the match even more, and I already have my ticket! I actually quite liked the fact that they occasionally stumbled over a word or two because it heightened the tension and emphasised the emotion.
· I’m also really glad the writers didn’t choose to undermine the importance of the Mania match by having Michaels superkick Taker or the Deadman chokeslamming HBK, because that would have been cheap.
· Oh, and Michael Cole saying “Vintage Shawn Michaels” straight after the promo was just so plastic and felt tacked on. I know I sound like a broken record, but Raw is supposed to be the flagship show and has the third best announce team.
· A pretty good match between JBL and Punk for what it was, and the fact that he’ll be presumably defending this at Mania makes sense, and Punk will be MITB anyway. It’s just a shame this was not a surprise because of the leaked script.
· A word on that actually. Despite being part of the hated Internet Wrestling media, I really don’t like things like the leaked script. I like to speculate and to guess on what will happen, and yeah a little inside information here and there is nice and helps me, but mostly I don’t like to know the score. I was at Bound for Glory and watched it sat two seats from Dixie Carter, and surrounded by company writers, wrestlers and agents. I watched the participants in matches go through spots and organise their matches, and it was a very cool experience. However, when we sat down to watch the matches, the three of us that were there as journalists had a competition to guess who would win. Admitted we did quite well, even guessing the manner of certain victories, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment, and the fact that we were kept guessing made it more fun.
· Things like the leaked script make Vince McMahon and the like more paranoid and I don’t blame them, because although it’s cool to know what Chris Irvine, rather than Chris Jericho, is like, or learn bits about how the show is put together, I don’t think people ought to see such explicit detail. Admittedly, that makes me sound a hypocrite because I have seen a script such as this before, but to the majority these things should be kept secret to heighten the magic, in my eyes.
· Back to Raw, and to Randy Orton speaking from his house. Interesting that they introduced his wife. Didn’t he confess to sleeping with Kelly Kelly about six weeks ago? Bet she’s happy with that one.
· Divas lumberjacks.........the high angle shot does neither Jillian nor Rosa Mendes any favours.
· That’s frustrating. Far too short and a weak ending. For what is was, that was pretty good divas action, but how can the alleged best two divas in the company be taken seriously if their match lasts about four minutes, if that?
· To her credit, I think Maryse is as improved as anybody in the last 6-12 months.
· Edge, Show, Cena, Vickie.........what........the hell........was that?
· Ought to comment really, didn’t I? Well, it was very contrived and ought really to have been a show-ender, but while Triple H and Orton are about they are going to be the focus. I don’t know why Cena did the “I love Vickie” thing, because it really just served to confuse people, and then it was abandoned anyway. I think Cena could have just shown the “GTV” footage and had done with it. Still, they have to work it in somehow, and I’m all for having more Edge and Vickie soap opera stuff, because it’s a riot.
· Vickie better throw Alicia Fox in Edge’s face, because he has done exactly the same thing. I imagine it’s supposed to be a mirror of that incident. I would doubt this is the end of the Vickie/Edge partnership. In fact I’d suggest Edge will win the Triple Threat with Vickie’s help, and this will be revealed to have all been a plot.
· The Jericho thing worked fair enough, although I hope against all hope that Flair doesn’t come out of retirement. It was the best retirement angle of all time, and to sully that would be criminal.
· Christian working a six-man filler match. My God, what terrible use of him. Even if you are going to have him brought back in that miserable way on ECW, surely for his return to Raw you could have a 10 second vignette from backstage. Have Edge on the phone, or talking to a backstage lackey, ranting about first Cena interfering, Show being around and now his wife letting him down, then saying you should be able to trust family. Edge then looks shocked, Christian walks by, smiles, and walks away. It would just make him feel like a slightly bigger deal, and would be an impactful announcement to the Raw audience that he is back. Simples.
· The match utterly worthless, lasting only a few seconds and further watering down the Rey Mysterio act. I’ve often said that I’m not his hugest fan, but he’s a talented and over dude who was the star of the best match at No Way Out about three weeks ago. Why isn’t he front and centre of Raw right now? I’m begging for his to go back to Smackdown and have Michael hayes lay out thered (well, blue) carpet for him
· I didn’t care for that final segment. I’m ok with the overall concept, but I thought the camera work was a little too clean. The cameras were really well positioned – too much so. You need that edgy feel as though everything is live and happening for real so you can lose the reality bubble for a second. That was impossible because it felt like a movie. Especially the camera waiting outside the window.
· Orton shouldn’t have been so agile after being thrown through the window. Within 30 seconds of being thrown through several panes of glass he got up, no sign of a cut on him, and tried to a attack a handcuffed Triple H. Come Wrestlemania, ninety seconds into the match he’ll stay down for longer after a right hand.
· Sometimes less is more. I know they were going for the full effect, but they could have left more to the imagination. The reason people will instantly compare this to Austin v Pillman is testament to how that angle worked. It felt real. Both men’s characters were nutcases at the time and the camera feed broke. You wondered what the hell had happened. Would it have been the worst thing in the world for Hunter to have stormed into the living room to interrupt the interview, stand in front of the camera and smash it? Raw would then cut to Cody and Ted looking petrified for their cohort and Cole and Lawler could squeal “what the hell happened?” as Raw goes off the air.
· You then have a hook for more footage from a second camera being played on Smackdown, and a better cliffhanger feel to it.
· I don’t like the fact that Triple H has two (legitimate) reasons to be in jail and that Cena was a prick to Edge and Show. Like Bret Hart I could be accused of being stuck in the past, but I think a babyface should be in essence virtuous and heroic. Not psychotic and a piss-taker.
· An ‘eh’ Raw. Plenty of good stuff (Flair’s teasing return, the intrigue of where JBL will take the IC title, the announcement of the divas match, even if the seg was probably too short, and of course HBK/Taker) but the big title segments felt forced or out of place. Much of Edge/Cena/Show was ok, but it didn’t flow and didn’t suit characters. Triple H has gone crazy because Orton put his hands on The Game’s wife, so wouldn’t Edge want to immediately go after Big Show and knock his block off.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Retro Mania - Wrestlemania III

Wrestlemania III is often talked up as being the best of the early Wrestlemanias, and this is likely due to two things. One a quality wrestling match, the other an iconic moment. We will get to them in due course.

We start this event, which took place in March 1987, with some delightful cheesy 80s graphics and music, and in the ring is Vince, with his famous “Welcome to Wrestlemania III”. He hands over to Aretha Franklin to sing America the Beautiful. She would show up for Wrestlemania twenty years later looking like Rikishi, but even as a non-American I have to admit this version is pretty stirring stuff.

Over to Gorillia, who has Jesse dressed like Jake the snake’s gay friend, and two celebs. They are “Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart” as Gorilla says with a petrified look on his face, as if he didn’t know who she was and was desperately making sure he didn’t forget. Also with them is Bob Uecker, who my research tells me is a baseball player-turned-actor-turned-broadcaster, who starred in a series of adverts. Ok.

Can-Am connection (Rick Martel and Tom Zenk) are up first in the daylight of the Pontiac Silverdome, in Michigan, to face Don Muraco and Bob Orton, with Fuji in their corner.

Before the first bell rings, Gorilla has called Wrestlemania “This happening” four times.

The babyfaces (Zenk and Martel) are in control early on, and Monsoon says that Zenk has “the excellence of execution”. Wrong Canadian, Gino.

This match doesn’t last long, and considering the prestige of the individuals in the heel corner, they get very little offence in. Can-Am wins in short order, with the old playground trick of one guy bending over behind someone who is reversing. In this case, it’s not a push but a cross-body that topples Muraco.

Off to Gene Mean for a chat with Bobby Heenan, who brings in his charge, Hercules Hernandez. Herc says that he brought Samson and Atlas down, which is mixing all kinds of things up, because Hercules was a Roman mythological figure, Atlas from Greek mythology and Samson biblical.

He faces Billy Jack Haynes, he of the big tall black hat and the only man I’ve heard of from Oregon, or at least that talks about Oregon.

The combatants come to the ring in those little carts shaped like a wrestling ring, which I’d completely forgotten about. I’d love to see those return for one time only.

This is allegedly the battle of the full nelsons, since each man had the move in his repertoire. That doesn’t fill you with confidence since that tends to be a move used by lumbering (allegedly) roided up monsters – Warlord, Chris Masters etc.

As expected, this is a slow on, full of slow, ponderous power moves, and not even one with a satisfactory ending. Haynes eventually slapped on his full nelson, but both men fell to the outside, and Haynes turned out to be from that stupid brand of babyfaces that can’t count, because he didn’t release the hold and they both got counted-out. Swell.

Heenan interjects after the bell, causing Haynes to be distracted and for Herc to nail his adversary with a chain. Bizarrely, Haynes – remember this is a relatively low-interest second match with a draw ending – blades heavily. Hercules puts the full nelson on, and then leaves. Very dull, and very puzzling.

And to make matters worse, a replay of the first chain shot is shown, and you can see Haynes blading if you look closely.

Uecker is with Gorilla and Jesse for this next match, and for one competitor it’s quite the fall from grace. King Kong Bundy was in the main event with Hogan last year, and now he’s accompanied by two midgets (Little Toyko and Lord Littlebrook) to face Hillbilly Jim and his two partners of restricted size, Haiti Kid and Little Beaver.

Imagine if Lawler got to call a match involving a little Beaver. Carnage.

This ‘contest’ is basically midgets running around and bumping into each other quite a lot, then Bundy tagging in and them running around him. Jesse is constantly calling for Bundy to squash the little guys, with Monsoon typically sounding shocked.

I was expecting to see Bundy chase them to no avail and see Hillbilly Jim stop him, but instead Bundy gets fed up of Little Beaver tormenting him, so slams him and drops an elbow. That was hilarious. Bundy gets DQ-ed and all the midget show their scorn for him. How dare he. So that’s three matches, and only own clean finish so far.

Next is Harley Race v Junkyard Dog. Heenan is back along with Harley, who is King of Wrestling at this point, and has the music we now associate with Jerry Lawler. Moolah is with Race and Heenan, proclaimed as the queen of pro wrestling, and Uecker excuses himself from the announce position because he wants to get with Moolah. Ohhhhh-kayyyyy.

The stipulation, says Gorilla, is that the loser must bow down to the other man. Now, people far more learned than I wax lyrical about these two, both hall of famers. All I’ll say is that I’ve seen little of both guys, but in what I have they don’t seem to be up to much in my eyes. It looks like two sixty year olds fighting, and it ends after Harley hits a very soft belly to belly and the ref does an unconvincing count.

JYD is supposed to bow down post match, and although he does, he then grabs a chair and blasts Race. I hate that, I never think a babyface should do this unless majorly provoked. Otherwise what distinquishes between good guys and bad?

Back to Vince backstage with Hogan, who yammers on about riding a bike and having people say he’ll lose, but it’s generally nonsense with “brother”, “man” and “Dude” liberally sprinkled within the dialogue. Even Vince looks at Hulk as if to say “what the hell are you on about?” The message is essentially that he’ll beat Andre, I think.

Back in the ring are Jacques and Raymond Rougeau, who are talked about in positive terms by Gorilla and vaguely cheered, so they must be face at this point. I liked them when they did the All-American Boys heel gimmick. They are against Greg Valentine and Brutus Beefcake, the Dream Team, accompanied by manager Johnny Valiant and, for some reason, Dino Bravo. Better to have Bravo doing this than wrestling. TNA love him, though, they are always talking up Bravo when I speak to them.

Ray Rougeau is the guy with the moustache who was on the French broadcast table when it still existed, and Jacques was later The Mountie. I’m not listing all the characters Brutus Beefcake has been because this site only has so much bandwidth and I’m going away in five weeks.

Midway through the match, just as the heels get the upper hand, Bobby Heenan appears alongside Gorilla and Jesse. The Brain claims two victories out of two, and Gorilla explains it is one from three.

In the ring, Rougeaus hit a double team move on Valentine, but with the ref distracted Dino Bravo nails Raymond and rolls the Hammer on top for the win. For some, not really explained reason, Brutus isn’t happy with this. Valiant, Bravo and Valentine celebrate outside, and Beefcake looked pissed off. The other three leave Brutus behind for no good reason. Was this a babyface turn?

Next up is Adrian Adonis v Roddy Piper, and nice to see Adorable Adrian get a match with Piper rather than Uncle Elmer like last year. Piper admonishes Adonis for wearing a dress, but seems to miss the irony that he wears a skirt.

Adonis has big shears and Jimmy Hart a mirror, with the premise being that the loser of this match has a haircut. Piper is now a babyface, as you can probably tell. The commentators talk up the fact this is Piper’s last hurrah, and that he is leaving wrestling after this match. Ironic given that this is twenty two years ago, and we was on Raw three weeks ago.

Adonis and Piper start the match trading shots with a leather belt before Piper gets the upper hand, frequently using Jimmy Hart as a weapon and sending the crowd into raptures. Man, Piper just has always had a connection with the fans. Two years prior to this he was a staggeringly good heel against Hogan, and now he is being cheered hugely.

Adonis gets the upper hand, and the commentators keep talking about him getting “Goodnight Irene” on Piper, which is a sleeperhold. Another match where both men have the same finisher. Hart sprays some perfume in Roddy’s face, and Adonis puts on his sleeper.

Adonis and Hart celebrate when they think they have won, but Piper didn’t drop his arm. That actually makes far more sense that the usual miraculous comeback which makes no real sense. If the move is applied and puts a guy mostly to sleep, how would he comeback while the hold is still on?

Anyway, while Hart and Adonis celebrate, Brutus Beefacke appears to massage Piper’s shoulders, and Roddy slaps on the sleeper and gets the win. Brutus begins to shave the Adorable One’s hair, while Piper stands on Jimmy Hart. I guess this is the start of the “barber” gimmick, and explains why Brutus meekly turned face in the previous match.

Beefcake does a terrible job, since Adonis loses very little hair, but the crowd go nuts for Piper, who would then depart to go and make a few average to poor films.

A fan runs in to celebrate with Roddy, and Piper seems delighted to shake his hand. Then two security guys come in and kick the shit out of the intruder. Oh well.

Next, Ventura heads to ringside to be introduced to the crowd, and to wish the heel team in this next six-man tag match. They are The Hart Foundations, tag champs at the time, along with Danny Davis. This was Davis’s debut, after he had been an evil referee for some time. He had been allegedly suspended forever at this point, as an official, but he’d be back soon after his brief wrestling tenure. The story was that he’d cost The British Bulldogs the tag titles, with the Hart Foundation profiting.

The Bulldogs are two-thirds of the opposing team, along with Tito Santana. The trio in the commentary booth are Gorilla with the two celeb guests, Mary Hart and Bob Uecker. They have to be given credit, actually because they are a million miles from Susan “uh-oh” St James, and actually add a little to proceedings. They let Gorilla do the talking and chip in where necessary.

It turns out Davis is quite the heel , because the crowd, although entertained by the fun tag team exchanges with the other five, go nuts when Tito starts hammering him. Davey Boy takes over, even hitting a early Tombstone (Taker was in World Class at the time) and having the former ref beaten before Anvil breaks it up.

Typically, though, the dastardly heel gets the decision, as while the other four are fighting, Davis procures Jimmy’s megaphone and cracks Davey Boy in the head. Strangely, the commentators don’t actually see this, and it takes a replay for them to realise.

Backstage, Gene Mean has Andre and Heenan with him, and Bobby is superb here. This is where great managers came to the fore, because he talks his man up something terrific here, and Andre’s frame says the rest.

Slick is in the ring with Butch Reed, and he’ll face Koko B Ware. Creature number two at ringside, after we’ve already seen the Bulldogs with, erm, a Bulldog. Why isn’t Koko the Macaw Man, and not the Birdman?

This, unfortunately, is another match of big guys doing basically the same punch, kick, slam, backdrop match. Reed wins after Koko’s cross body is rolled through. Slick lays into Koko post match, but Tito makes the save and for some reason tries to take Slick’s clothes off. The Doctor of Style runs away, and the two babyfaces dropkick Reed out of the ring.

Next is Randy Savage v Rick Steamboat. Footage of Savage attacking The Dragon is shown, and then a doctor, apparently Dr. R Jeremy, says that Steamboat’s recuperative powers are amazing.

Savage was IC champ at this point, so these two will be tangling in a title match. He hits the ring first, and I don’t care how many times I hear it, I will always love Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, otherwise known as Land of Hope and Glory. It is one of the finest pieces of music I know, and I believe contributed majorly to one of Savage’s babyface turns, which we will witness in about four Manias time.

This was, as it is always said to be, is a classic. Savage is perfect as the arrogant misogynistic heel, the Dragon the virtuous, athletic babyface. The match is based on a storyline with feeling, and is performed with such precision timing one cannot help but marvel. It goes to and fro so many times, I cannot possibly explain it in linear fashion.

Basically, if you have never seen this match, find it, watch it then rewind it and watch it again. It’s terrific. Steamboat wins with a small package.

Jake Roberts, with Alice Cooper, takes on Honky Tonk Man next. No sign of his brilliant theme song we’d come to know and love.

This is quite a fun one. It’s not a classic wrestling match like the one before, but Honky’s infectious personality gives the bout a flow, and the roll up victory by HTM with the aid of the ropes is redeemed when Alice Cooper and Jake pour the python over Hart.

Gene Mean announces the dubious indoor attendance record, and then it’s time for....Gorilla to call it a happening again.

Tag team action next, and it’s flag waving nasty foreign bad guys Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. The big Lithuanian starts to do the Soviet anthem as usual, but Hacksaw Jim Duggan heads out to give Americans a bad name like he normally does. He isn’t wrestling, though, he’s just interrupting. The Killer Bees those charged with taking on the Sheik and Volkoff.

It’s typical tag action for several minutes before Duggan decides to go chasing Volkoff. Sheik has one of the Bees in a Camel Clutch when Volkoff runs through the ring, Duggan in pursuit. Hacksaw smacks Sheik with the wooden plank, and this one is over, with the Killer Bees disqualified. More idiocy to have good guys cheating and acting like morons. Never understand this.

Back to Bobby and Andre, who predict victory, and then some background on the feud. More ‘wise’ words from Hogan, and then Bob Uecker is brought out as special guest ring announcer. Mary Hart is timekeeper, and then Heenan, resplendent in white, seconds Andre to the ring for the biggest match of The Boss’ life.

Jesse calls it the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling. You are used to hearing that kind of hyperbole from Tony Schiovane, or Michael Cole, or Jerry Lawler, but in this case Jesse Ventura is probably right. At this point, this may well have been the biggest match ever.

Hogan hits a right hand, goes for a slam and Andre falls on him. The Frenchman then dominates for the next five minutes or so. Hogan briefly rallies with a few right hands which elicit the biggest response of the night, only for Andre to boot the champ and then clamp on a bearhug.

Hogan makes a vague comeback and the action spills to the outside. He removes padding to expose concrete, and laughably tries to piledrive Andre on the concrete. Andre of course counters, and Hogan takes one of the weakest backdrops of all time. Back in the ring Hogan basically runs into Andre who bumbles backwards. On their feet Hogan slams Andre, and a legdrop later it’s over.

Frankly, it wasn’t good to watch, but it is completely wrong to judge this by aesthetics. Just one look (and a listen) at the crowd and you can hear what they think. Hogan was just so over at this point that he was almost the sole attraction. As long as Hogan was winning it was all that mattered to people, so if Steamboat and Savage entertained on the undercard then cool, but as long as the people went home happy with a Hogan victory, as was becoming Wrestlemania tradition, that was what mattered.

Overall, this was not a great PPV. It had one great match, an entertaining six man and a half decent Jake v Honky match, but most other matches were slow and ponderous.

Not it’s cracked up to be, frankly, but the Macho Man v Steamboat match is everything people say it is and more.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Raw Thoughts - March 2

· As Jerry said, a blockbuster announcement to start Raw, but it is a worrying thing that I don’t for a second think they will wrestle? Are they people out there who will hear this announcement but think the same as me, and not bother watching to the end?
· Nice touch with Piper’s Pit leading to Jericho’s music. As soon as Lilian paused I guessed it would happen, but I still like it. Good tease and easy heat.
· What’s been striking about this Jericho/Legends thing is that it’s actually been really respectful. Jericho does a good job of talking up the legends’ achievements before berating them for clinging onto stardom, and in turn they big Jericho up and ask him what went wrong.
· Another good Jericho segment, although not as strong as previous, it is understandable because Snuka was never the talker that Flair or Piper were, or even Steamboat come to that. Good work by Chris, though, to continue his character development.
· Mind you, if he is supposed to be on the roster, shouldn’t Sim Snuka have put in an appearance? Either to challenge Jericho or to support him, depending on what side of the heel/face line she is on?
· Will Rey ever get to have a match which doesn’t have Mike Knox in?
· Or Kane for that matter?
· I would have thought Rey was a shoo-in for Money in the Bank. Surprised to see Kane get his hand raised. I quite like the fact that they are going with triple threat matches to qualify, thus far. I think that it is good to see something different like that.
· Haha! The debut of Triple H on the big stage. Didn’t he get trounced in seconds by the Ultimate Warrior?
· I think I see where they were going with Melina and Maryse, but basically no Santino? Signor Marella has been criminally underused the last couple of weeks.
· Actually, I quite like “Signor Marella”. Maybe he should have a brief programme with Mr Kennedy. I could see that yielding some pretty funny stuff.
· Strong stuff from Orton and The Game. I like the different dynamic, because it’s usually the challenger trying to get a title match – like in Cena’s case – rather than the usual other way around. The ‘no physical contact’ thing also allows great scope for heeling. Orton can say what he wants and Triple H can’t attack. Legacy can attack at will and won’t affect the deal. Perfect set up.
· Great to see Taker. Always nice to have genuine big name surprises like that.
· However this programme goes, probably a good decision to have Cena fight for the title (nearly) in his home town. Not the usual mixed reaction for him, it was pretty partisan.
· I really liked that match, and I loved the ending to Raw. The match had plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, and although the DQ finish was always favourite, I was really unsure how this match would conclude.
· The Big Show appearing at the end, and standing over Edge menacingly was a brilliant piece of what the film industry would call “Mise-en-scene” which basically means the positioning of what you see on the screen. The fact that Edge was sitting was a masterstroke, as it made him seem more vulnerable.
· Seems likely we’ll see a Triple threat, which I have to say is a disappointment to me. Triple Threats with Big Show in are very formulaic. Looks like they are scrambling for a way of keeping the belt on Edge.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Retro Mania - Wrestlemania 2

After the success of Wrestlemania, Vince and co. knew that it would not be a one-time-only deal, and set abut plans for the sequel.

Rather than settle for one big arena, they decided that Wrestlemania 2 would take place in three venues. In New York, Chicago and LA they would have an hours worth each, giving the show a very different feel.

Frankly, it was a mistake, and this show did not live up to the first edition. However, that shouldn’t stop us taking a look at his historical significance.

And making fun of it, of course.

We start by heading to New York and Vince in the ring, where he announces his co-commentator. Bruno Sammartino? No. Maybe Pat Patterson will do a stint? Nope, not even him.

“The number on actress in the United States today.” Susan St James. She was, and indeed is, married to Dick Ebersol who has been one of the biggest names in American TV, an important executive for NBC, and a personal friend of Vince McMahon. St James was legitimately a big-name American TV actress, earning tons of Emmy Award nominations.

Those credentials do not translate to wrestling commentary, though.

Ray Charles sings America the Beautiful for about seventeen minutes, then Gene Mean says hi from Chicago. Quickly they send it to Piper, who does a characteristically mad promo about Mr T, who he will have a boxing match with in New York’s main event.

First in the ring, we have Mr Fuji and Don Muraco, stars of the wonderful skits such as Fuji Vice on the TNT programme, who will face Paul Orndorff. Orndorff was in the main event as a heel last year, but is now jerking the curtain as a babyface.

Some comments play from each man, but they are not shown in screen, which actually makes it a bit creepy. Susan says her first words on commentary, but frankly I’m watching Orndorff do the ‘slitty eyes’ gesture to the Japanese Mr Fuji. Hmm, how cosmopolitan. They’d probably get sued if he did that now.

Anyway, the fact that I didn’t listen to Ms St James to begin with was a blessing, because she seems to be saying “woah” and “That’s going to make him mad” like a Susan St James doll with a pull string in the back.

Orndorff has a wristlock applied for several minutes, to which our expert suggest he is “using some ancient Chinese techniques”. Erm, ok, if you say so Susan.

The match is pretty slow. Two (allegedly) jacked up guys who are not very mobile. Eventually they spill to the outside and get counted out. Paul throws a chair into the ring, prompting Vince to suggest he might get DQ-ed. But he doesn’t, apparently, notice Howard Finkel in the ring, because this one is over – double count out.

Howard takes a week to announce the decision, while the crowd chant bullshit. Vince panics, and sends it backstage to Mr T, along with Joe Frazier and a midget. T is talking rubbish, and Finkel now gives the verdict over the top. This hasn’t been the most technical show so far.

Next we have IC title action, with George “the Animal” Steele challenging Macho Man Randy Savage for the gold. It’s the old-fashioned “idiot babyface love beautiful valet of nefarious heel” story. Susan is really up for this, explaining how Macho Man needs to be taught a lesson and that she is rooting for the animal.

She has, by the way, added “uh-oh” to her pull-string vocabulary, and as the simian-like Steele gnaws on, well, the boot of Macho Man, she utters the immortal lines “Yey, George, eat her leg.” I actually miss Gorilla’s lateral collaterals and all that jazz.

If you are upset that I am not talking about wrestling, it’s because very little is happening, and Susan St James is so staggeringly inept. To be fair, she is stunningly out of the depth, and she shouldn’t be blamed for not calling wrestling very well. I’d be no good on the runways of Milan during fashion week, but no-one would ask me to.

Anyway, as I type, George Steele has ripped up the turnbuckle pad and eaten some of it, then rubbed it in Savage’s face. Very little action. Meanwhile, the “Uh-oh” level has gone through the roof.

Steele is distracted by Elizabeth, allowing Randy to capitalise, and even hit his big elbow. Steele kicks out, but Savage soon pins him using the ropes. The Animal attacks another turnbuckle and the ref, and we’re done.

Over to Chicago, where Atlanta Falcon’s footballer Bill Frenic calls John Studd “the dud”, and the big man proves he’ll win a wrestling match by squashing a football.

Back to Vinny and Suse, who seem to have armchairs. Seriously, armchairs. Like its a daytime chat show. Next up is George Wells, and he will face a man keeping the anuimal theme going, Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

And this is more like it. The match is pretty high octane from the start, with Wells looking good, including an impressive headscissor-like takedown. Jake cuts him off with a thumb to the eye. One knee-lift and a DDT later, and this is over.

Jake pours his python over Wells, and Vince and Susan make all kind of noises to indicate that they disapprove.

Or do they? Maybe those grunts and groans mean something else is going on inside that commentary box. “Put that thing back inside it’s bag” Says Susan. Is she talking to Vince?

“Does he remind you of anyone you know, Susan?” Says Vinny Mac. Maybe he is talking about a snake. Who knows?

Vince throws it to Jesse in LA, who is with Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster is sporting the worst bandanna/headband I have ever seen. They play up the fact that Hogan’s ribs are hurt, but Hulk says he’ll be fine, essentially.

From LA and Hogan to NYC and......Joan Rivers? Ok, whatever. Rivers says this is wonderful, just incredible. She does this apparently from a position standing on a roundabout. She is guest ring announcer, it seems, and she introduces the judges......eventually. Also some guy called Herb, who I think was from an advert in the States for Burger King or Wendys or something.

When you think of how slick proceedings are for WWE events these days, this looks so shoddy it is untrue. Joan Rivers doesn’t know who people are, the commentators speak over her, there is no music for the participants to emerge to, Mr T was shown while Piper was getting announced – general chaos.

The match isn’t wildly better. It’s one thing to work an arm bar or learn how to receive a suplex, and sell it to make it look as though it hurts. When you have to make it look like a legit boxing contest, with essentially a wrestler and an actor, it isn’t so easy.

It is basically a hugging contest with the occasional weak punch. Piper tries a few heel tactics such as hitting T when the ref is trying to separate them, but the crowd aren’t that keen on Mr T. Midway through round two Piper (sort of) lands some blows and down goes T. These people are cheering Piper. A “Roddy” chant starts up.

Round ends, and during time Bob Orton, seconding Piper, throws water over T. Round 3 sees a comeback, with T landing a huge left which causes Piper to powder. One other knockdown (although Roddy just sat in a neutral corner, really)means T has two knockdowns, so Vince starts playing up the idea that one more ends the match.

Round four starts with Piper throwing his stool (the one he sits one, not the dirty one) at T, and they start trading punches without covering up. Piper soon throws the ref down and bodyslams Mr T. It’s chaos.

And Susan says “Uh-Oh”

That’s it for NYC, and we’re with Gorilla, who will be commentating with Gene Mean. Or will he, we now have Cathy Lee Crosby, in an outfit that Max Moon and Techno Team 2000 both rejected. Another American TV actress, this time one that says “this is my first ever wrestling match in person” – we have quite the expert.

We start with Velvet McInitye v Fabulous Moolah, and it lasts but a short while. Moolah wins after Ms McInyre misses a splash, and then covers her in a very worrying manner. If you are watching the footage along with this review, you will see just how bizarre this image is.

Gene Mean, in between matches, asks Cathy Lee what she thinks about the upcoming Wrestlers v Football players battle royal because “Cathy Lee, you’ve been aligned with a football player or two.” I have no idea of Ms Crosby’s relationship history, but Gene seems to be suggesting she is sleeping her way through the NFL. How nice.

Flag match next, with Corporal Kirchner getting the biggest reaction of the night so far for interrupting Nikolai Volkoff’s rendition of the Soviet anthem. Not enough people sing their own anthems any more. Maybe Koslov could try that.

Kirchner emerges to the strains of the Army Goes Rolling Along song that I know better from Hoover adverts, and makes short work of Volkoff. Nikolai’s manager Freddie Blassie throws his charge a cane, but the Corporal intercepts, and larrups the Russian with it. The ref was down, by the way.

The Flag match rules just mean that Kirchner is allowed to wave his flag by way of celebration. It has to be reiterated that the crowd go wild for this win.

Gene Mean takes over the ring announcing duties for the battle royal. Firstly, he announces a lady called Clare Peller, who has one line to say, and fails to say it into the microphone. Dick Butkus and Ed “Too tall” Jones are introduced as guest referees. What a great nickname, that is. “Too Tall”. I bet they were up all night thinking of that one, his team mates.

“Hey, this Ed Jones guy, what shall we call him?”
“Maybe we could call him shorty?”
“Nah, he’s too tall.”
“Yeah, that’s the one! We’ll call him Too Tall.”

The combatants are announced by Gene Mean, and I’m afraid I can’t keep up with all the footballers, but from the wrestling side of the equation we have Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi (interestingly Tony Atlas immediately preceded Arcidi to the ring. Arcidi at this point was billed as the strongest man in the world), Danny Spivey (Waylon Mercy), Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga (Haku), Iron Sheik, B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Big John Studd, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Bruno Sammartino and Andre the Giant.

William Perry, of the Chicago Bears, in announced second to last. “The Refrigerator”, as he was known, was one of the biggest stars of Pro Football in the 80s, and the Bears had just won the Superbowl, so this was a clever piece of booking. Perry is one of the celebrity inductees in the WWE Hall of Fame (with Pete Rose) and was a big deal here.

A footballer and Haku are gone first, as commentary is provided by Ernie Ladd, also a hall of famer. Bruno slings another footballer, while Andre and Studd lock up in a rematch from last year. Brunzell is next to go, and meanwhile it should be pointed out that Cathy Lee is doing a far better job than Susan St James. Mainly because she knows to say very little apart from wonder about how big people are or say “look, they’re out.”

Perry eliminates Atlas to a big cheer, and Morales takes a footballer out and goes himself. Hillbilly Jim throws Arcidi, and Sheik drops the shoulder on “Golden Boy” Spivey. The Iranian then topples Hillbilly and Brian Blair. Iran, Number one!

Studd gets rid of Fralic, who he faced off with on camera earlier. Bruno gets rid of Sheiky, but the camera misses it. Seven guys left – a footballer, Andre, Studd, Bruno, The Hart Foundation and Perry.

Bruno is next out thanks to Big John, and a big tackle by the Fridge knocks Bret and Anvil over the ropes, but not to the floor. Studd gets rid of Perry, and Perry offers a hand of friendship. Double cross, and Perry pulls Studd out.

The sole remaining footballer is called Russ Francis, it seems, and Andre gets tied up while Francis is beaten by Bret and Anvil.

They sling Russ, and it’s two on one. Andre, of course, is man enough to hold both Hart Foundation members off. Andre hits a big boot and Neidhart takes the most stupid bump over the top you’ve ever seen. Andre then lifts Bret over and throws him onto Anvil. Andre wins.

That was fun. It wasn’t superb, but the crowd ate it up, especially the sideshow involving Perry. Andre built a career on winning Battle Royals, so it’s fitting he got to win one at Wrestlemania.

Back to Vince and Susan (oh joy) who are with Piper. They’d obviously realised at this point that you can give Piper air time for as long as is necessary and he’ll just go off on one. Standard cocky heel rhetoric really, but when Piper does it, it is simply more entertaining than most.

Back in Chi-Town, a footballer from the Bears says he got cheated, while the Iron Sheik talks his usual sense. He’d have won f Nikolai was there, he says.

Next up, it’s a tag team match, pitting Luscious Johnny Valiant’s team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine. They are champs here. Poorly piped in Rule Britannia signals the fact that the opponents are the British Bulldogs. Their manager is Capt Lou, and they have Ozzy Osbourne with them.

Gene Mean says that Ozzy is from Manchester (he is from Birmingham). Monsoon asks if that is where Lord Alfred is from. Gene says that’s Windermere. In fairness, Lord Alfred was billed from Windermere, but was actually from Luton. At least he went to school in Luton. I know this because it’s where my entire family are from.

Anyway, back to the match, and the incomparable Dynamite Kid is all over Valentine. Dynamite, real name Tom Billington, was light years ahead of his time. So great to watch.

This is a fun match. A proper tag affair with the momentum switching from one side to the other. Eventually the heels get the upper hand, with sporadic comebacks keeping the crowd alive. Gene Mean says “At ringside Ozzy Osbourne is literally shaking” – that will be some sort of downer he is on, I would expect.

Dynamite tags Bulldog in, who hits the running powerslam, but I guess it’s before he was an established finisher, because the Hammer kicks out and nothing much is made of it.

Hammer goes for a pin but pulls Davey up before the three, in another heel manoeuvre you see little of nowadays. Soon, the match is over, but in a strange way. Dynamite climbs up a rope or two, and Davey manages to fling Greg into the corner. Valentine and Dynamite slam heads, Davey covers, and it’s three. Wow. That was unexpected.

General nonsense from Albano, stoned out one-liner from Ozzy, then Davey Boy promises they;ll stay in America. Of course you will, you moron, you’re the champs, you can hardly bugger off home now.

Back to Vince for a moment, and Susan expresses her love for that last match in a voice I would imagine a castrated Road Warrior Hawk to speak in. Vince asks her who’ll win the main event. She says “Well, Hulk, come on. For sure. Definitely.” Wow, Susan must have been in the booking meeting.

Vince’s eyes are all over the place, and I get the feeling he is being told to stall in his headphones. Vince must hate that – people being annoying in headphones is not his style, I wouldn’t think.

Jesse Ventura welcomes us to LA, and he has Elvira, a glamourous, risqué character of the time. She has a low cut dress on, showing off her obvious charms. Ironically, the other side of Jesse is Lord Alfred, who was a big tit.

Ricky Steamboat takes on Hercules Hernandez first off, and it’s always a pleasure to watch Steamboat. He has a scarf tied around his knee, and Elvira shows she is playing heel a little, suggesting it makes Ricky look like “a wimp”. Jesse agrees, and seems happy that he might have something to work with here.

Impressive early stuff from Steamboat, before a cheap one from Hercules turns the tables. The match slows right down so he can hit some power moves and build some sympathy for The Dragon.

Herc goes aerial and flies into Steamboat’s knees, so Ricky dives up top and hits his signature flying bodypress. A very quick count and it’s over. Jesse bemoans the fast count, and he’s right. Lord Alfred says that the ref could have counted four.

A cut on the DVD there, as maybe a local promotion spot or something was deliberately left out.

In the ring is Adorable Adrian Adonis, resplendent in a dress and make up. The crowd chant “Faggot”. Oh, these were enlightened days, weren’t they? Orndorff making fun on Mr Fuji’s eyes, Piper talking about blacking up and now ‘faggot’ chants. Hmmm. Thank God we’ve moved on (well, most of us. WWE are a little bit behind on occasions)

Adonis will face “Uncle Elmer”, who is one of a proliferation of Hillbillies that abounded at this time. Like most of them, he had no talent. Adonis was a huge man, but could bump like a mad thing, and the opening exchanges look ridiculous as Elmer hits weak looking Irish whips and punches, one of which is so terrible he falls down himself.

Adonis wins, which is only right, since he was the only worker in the match. Elvira says she never trusts a man in pink legwarmers. That’s a very good rule to live by. Although it’s only really this match and the movie Fame in which that tends to apply.

Elvira suggests it’s a shame that such a big guy (Elmer) has to suffer such pain. Jesse says he doesn’t mind it, and Elvira says “so I’ve heard”. Alfred doesn’t like this flirtation, so coldly (and hilariously) says that he is a wrestler and that’s what he signs up for.

Backstage, it’s Lord Alfred with Hogan, for no apparent reason, because we’ve already seen Hogan talk trash to Bundy once. Hogan still has the same stupid headband/bandanna on, and even Alfred gets bored of him and talks over the last bit of the interview.

Back ringside, Jesse and Alfred (man, he can move quick) talk about The Funk brothers, Terry and Hoss. Hoss is Dory, by the way, and this is the combination who will be indicted into this year’s Hall of Fame class. Not Jimmy Jack. Not Flash, either.

They will face Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog, who start off like the proverbial House of fire. It takes Terry to break up a pin after Tito hits his flying forearm, and then he nails Santana in the back when the future El Matador runs the ropes.

From here its the Funks all the way until Tito gets the hot tag to JYD. Then it’s havoc. Terry Funk starts to show his hardcore colours, taking a big clothesline over the top (no mats on the floor) then gets slammed onto a combination of chairs and tables on the outside. Jimmy Hart gets a slap from the Dog and Tito gets a figure four on Hoss. While the ref tries to get Tito out, Jimmy throws Terry his megaphone, and the younger Funk smacks JYD with it. The fans chant ‘bullshit’ as the Funks get the win. Terry would be gone a few weeks later.

More Hogan stuff, as they are really bigging up his back and ribs injury. They show footage of Bundy attacking Hogan on Saturday Night Main Event, and then Hogan working out in his private gym. It now seems a bit overkill, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Hogan was such a major star at this point that all this was done to make sure there was doubt amongst the Hulkamaniacs that Hulkster might not retain.

Bobby Heenan and King Kong Bundy confidently predict victory in an interview with Jesse Ventura. Vince and Susan waffle for a bit. They are stalling a bit here because of the time taken to set the cage up.

Finally we are ready for the match. The timekeeper is a young actor called Ricky Schroeder, while the ref is Wild Wild West star Robert Conrad.

This is a cage match, and I’ve always thought it odd that these matches have the clause that you can win by walking out the door. Climbing over the top I’d let slide, but through the door? Imagine having a match without a cage that you could win by falling through the ropes.

Hogan is on top early, pummelling with punches, big boots, clothelines and so forth. Bundy catches Hogan in ribs, and from here the formula is Bundy knocks Hogan down and goes for the door, then Hogan fights back. Then repeat process. Bundy pulls Hogan’s bandages protecting his ribs off at one point and Elvira excitedly thinks clothes are being shed.

Hogan comes back and rams Bundy into the bars. Bundy blades and Hogan is all over him. Hulk climbs and chokes Bundy as he goes. Deciding against escaping, he descends and tries to slam Bundy. No dice and he falls back. Lord Alfred makes a logical call and says it was the rib injury that stopped Hogan.

Bundy goes for the door but Hogan chokes him with the bandages. Bundy turns tables and hits an avalanche. Bundy follows up with a splash which is caught by a terrific camera angle. Hogan just makes it to stop Bundy. Second avalanche is met by the Hulk-up eyes. Reversal of a whip into a corner followed by a powerslam. Leg drop, and Hogan ascends the bars. Bundy stops him but Hogan kicks him back down. Heenan stops Hogan, and Bundy crawls for the door. Hulk makes it first, and it’s over.

It, of course, was not a great wrestling match, but it had plenty of excitement. The crowd were completely into it, and it had the right pay off. Hogan bashes Heenan around a bit, and the announcer says “.....of the world, Hulk Hogan.” I assume that should have been “winner, and still champion......” and not “news” or “King” or “His favourite Carpenters song is top......”

Hogan poses while Jesse exclaims disgust. They send it back to Vince and Susan, who says virtually nothing, and this one is over.

The important aspects to look at here are really the developments in character and presentation. This was far inferior to the previous year’s show, but you’ve only got to look at the crowd reactions to certain elements to tell Vince where he needed to go. T and Piper got shit on from a great height by the New York crowd, but anything with Hogan, a celeb with as high a profile as William Perry, and pro-USA sentiment went over big. Steamboat, Savage and Jake Roberts all looked impressive in their encounters, as did the British Bulldogs.

There were far too many boring filler matches, and the celebrity involvement for the most part was embarrassing and made little sense.

Onto Number three, and the Pontiac Silverdome.......