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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...........

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