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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wrestlemania IX Retro Review

Yeah, it's Wrestlemania time, baby! The pomp, the pagentry......the togas, the bad matches - it's all here. Wrestlemania IX, Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas Nevada. April 4, 1993. Let's go......

(I'd like to point out that I'm watching my DVD version of the show which came with Wrestlemania anthology box set I bought about five years ago. It may feature some differences to the actual broadcast and to DVDs released more recently.)

We start with some cheesy 80s graphics (it was the nineties) and a screeching Vince, who off screen welcomes us, and hands to our host, Gorilla Monsoon. Gorilla, it epic Roman gear, welcomes us. And hands us on to - making his debut - Jim Ross. It's like the pass the parcel-style announcing. Ross mentions that he is from Oklahoma within seconds, notes that it is his first time in a toga too, mocks a centurion, and hands over to "Finkus Maximus".

Remember that Impact where Bischoff opened the show with mood lighting playing a guitar. Feels like Y2J/Rock compared to this. The Fink announces Caesar and Cleopatra, and out come the same pair - same guy anyone - that we saw at the Rumble. Their entourage includes and elephant, which draws a cheer when is (deliberately) stands on two feet. JR says 'isn't that great' or something to that effect. Well, not really Jim, it's more like animal cruelty, really, but we'll let you off since it's 17 years ago.

Fink announces Macho Man Randy Savage, who last year was in the WWF title match, and this year is announcing. Quite the fall from grace. His part is led by a couple of guys with feathers on poles, a llama, some women (who JR calls Vestal Virgins - sounds like a Russo name for a female tag team. There s still time) spreading rose petals, and then Savage on a Sedan chair. He enters the ring to an ovation. (The time on my DVD player says 5 minutes now. In your own time, guys.)

JR says he thought Heenan was going to be on the chair. He welcomes Savage to the broadcast position, and Savage's first pearl of wisdom is that "we have a lock and load type situation." Thanks Randy, ever to the point.

Back to the entrance aisle, and we get an Ostrich (which may or may not have been led by Bill Alfonso - looked a little like him) some belly dancers, a guy with a falcon, then some fellas leading a camel. Heenan enters on the camel, seated backwards. Amidst all this stupidity, I can't help but laugh at Heenan shouting "stop this camel" then basically falling off it. Heenan could read the telephone directory and still be funny.

Savage shouts "Wrestlemania 9! Do the thing! Lock and load if you've got the guts. Less the Macho Man, more the Non Sequitur man today. Mind you if Heenan was pissed off at this, he'd soon be working with Steve McMichael, so he'd look on this as halcyon days. Heenan ha a go at Oklahoma (get used it).

Common sense and awesomeness finally prevails, nearly nine minutes into the show (no national anthem or America the Beautiful by the way) as Shawn Michaels' music hits. JR asks 'what' is behind Shawn, and Heenan very eloquently explains that it is Luna Vachon, and puts over her family credentials. Tatanka is Shawn's opponent, and Sensational Sherri follows close behind. This is the third year in succession that Shawn was in the opener. He's end that run at WM10 with a man that legitimately may have changed wrestling history.

The match starts, and Michaels soon works into an extended headlock. Tatanka counters with a back suplex (That's HBK's finisher at this point, remember.) and then botches an irish whip and follow up. Eventually Shawn does his piƱata on acid routine and flops to the outside, where Sherri and Luna have a little face-off. Michaels tries to re-enter the ring several times to no avail. Eventually he comes off the top rope with a sunset flip, but this goes pretty wrong too. Two botches already. Tatanka, when you watch him back, had a really lack of natural athleticism. Or maybe compared the Michaels that's unfair.

Tatanka takes charge with an armbar. For a long time. Eventually Shawn turns the tide, and the match settles in to the expected pattern of the heel building up the heat. Michaels hits what was either a lousy victory roll or a partially disguised rolling armbreaker, then Tatanka hits an Electric Chair drop leading to both men being down. A series of double axe handles by Shawn leads to the Native American "Tanking up", and he comes back with poor looking offence. Sorry, but that's how it is. An admittedly solid flying bodypress gets two.

A brief Shawn flurry leads to a top rope dive into a powerslam, which looked great. The match spills outside, and the crowd start to chat for Sherri. Michaels misses a dive from the apron, and kayfabe hits the steel steps. He then pulls the ref (Joey Marella) to the outside, ostensibly drawing a DQ. Shawn rolls back in, Tatanka hits End of the Trail, but the ref doesn't count. He signals for the bell. Finkel actually calls the finish as a count out. There has been suggestions over the years that Shawn was supposed to be counted out, probably fuelled by by Finkel's call, but unless they improvised really well, I thought it looked like all parties knew what they were doing.

Luna attacks Sherri post match. JR says that Sherri needs help. Heenan says she always did. Nice one. Tatanka carries Sherri out as Luna runs away.

Gene Mean backstage with the Steiners, who do a generic promo on the Headshrinkers. Rock says they are going to make Julius Caesar proud. Yes, the guy with the headgear and the big moustache is a Ancient Roman sympathiser. Who knew?

A sign says that New York City loves The Steiners. Interesting, given they are from Detroit and the show is in Nevada. JR says that in Oklahoma they call this a slobberknocker. WWE debut for that term.

The match begins, and it's very general stuff to begin with. Scott Steiner hits a clothesline on Fatu, who does a very impressive twisting bump. Well, impressive if you only ever see it once, but he did it every match, which rendered it pretty stupid. Scott hits a modified butterfly suplex, but then gets hit with a terrifying looking bump.With the ref distracted the headshrinker that isn't legal pulls down the top rope, while the other basically throws him over head first. I don't think it went exactly as planned. Afa then smacks Scott with a cane he brought with, completing a pretty unpleasant twenty seconds or so for the man who would become Big Poppa Pump someday.

Headshrinkers dominate for several minutes after this. It's ok but nothing more. Eventually, Samu misses a flying headbutt, and Scott makes the hot tag to Rick. Rick nails a couple of moves, but idiotically tries to bang the Samoan heads together, and the Shrinkers take over. Things build to the Samoans going for a version of the Doomsday device, which Rick sort of reverses into a belly to belly suplex. Wow. I don't recall seeing that before or since. It wasn't clean, but it was sure innovative.

Scott eventually gets a tag in, and wins with a Frankensteiner. He didn't get all of it, but it was a 3-count nonetheless. That wasn't a bad match, especially given some of the limitations involved with some participants, but it never gripped you. Both matches so far fall right in the average range.

Backstage to Doink, who has defaced the Julius Caesar statue. He talks with Gene Mean, they show a clip of the fake arm attack from a couple of weeks previous, and leave us with a promise that by the end of Wrestlemania 9, Crush will be seeing double. Hmm.

Crush hits the ring to face Doink, and right away the big guy takes charge. I'm not sure how long Bryan Adams had been wrestling at this point, but he looks green as grass here. Doink has a brief flurry, but coming off the top rope he meets a foot in the face. The clown is soon clotheslined to the outside, and tries to climb under the ring. Crush stops him. That's important, remember that. Crush press slams Doink in the ring, and goes for his head vice finisher. Doink gets to the ropes, swings an elbow, and down goes the referee.

The clown once again tries to go under the ring, and is stopped again. I like that attention to detail, even if the payoff to follow was lousy. Crush locks in the vice grip, but with the ref still down, another guy in a Doink outfit (I think it was Steve Keirn (Skinner) on this occasion) rolls in the ring and smacks Crush with the fake arm. The two Doinks do a little pantomime mirror routine, as Heenan says this is an illusion. The original Doink covers, and the ref recovers enough to count three.

Fonzie emerges to tell ref in charge Joey Marella what happened, but a look under the ring elicits nothing. Good lord. Can you imagine them doing that these days? Actually, yes, I probably can. Maybe there will be two Abyss's at Lockdown.

To the stands, where Todd Pettengill has attempted to mix a toga with shades and a baseball cap, and predictably he looks a complete berk. He wonders aloud about the two Doinks, then decides (and what a decision this turns out to be) to talk to a Japanese photographer. He speaks Japanese, and the words we anglophones can recognise are 'Doink' and 'Yokozuna'. He then asks another photographer, who laughs like an idiot. Going well this. He goes back to Snapper A, asking him if he is enjoying his stay. "Caesar's Palace number one" he says. That's more like it. Todd, learning nothing, goes back to the laughing photo guy, who says "Yokozuna number one". Uh oh, I sense a rumble between the camera guys about what exactly is 'number one'. Yoko, or the Palace. (Cue Harry Hill - only one way to find out......) Todd says 'unbelievable. Two Doinks, or an illusion. We'll leave it up to you.' Get Savage up there, see if we can make this any more random.

Not content, Todd explains that seats go way back. Uh, thanks. He says "I've been drenched with beer, I've been drenched with soda. But I've never had a better time in my life." (He actually says "why life" but you know what he means.) All this begs the question of what Todd is usually drenched with which makes Beer and Soda preferably. Actually, you know what, I don't want to know.

Back to the ring, and it's Razor Ramon time. He enters while the announcers still talk about Doink. Bob Backlund is his opponent - still no music -and it's his first Wrestlemania. It's Razor's too, but they don't mention that for some reason. Ramon is still a heel at this point, but there is a big Razor chant.

This doesn't last long. Think an average match on Raw. Or a feature match between two upper midcarders on Impact. i.e. about three minutes. Razor wins with an inside cradle.

To Gene Mean, with Money Inc. Clips are shown of Brutus getting battered by the briefcase, and Irwin says that if we thought Brutus' face is bad, wait until we see Hogan's. He insinuated that they paid for Hogan to get beat up outside of the gym. What really happened was.......actually, it's disputed. The official reason was a jet-ski accident. Some will have you believe that Savage did it, believing that Hogan was having an affair with Elizabeth.

Anyway, Hogan and Beefcake largely dominate the match for much of the opening exchanges, and Money Inc decide to walk out (they did this the year previously, though that isn't mentioned). Somehow, Earl Hebner has authority to make the call that if they walk out, they'll forfeit the titles, so DiBiase and IRS run back. They soon get the advantage, and beat Hogan down. With the ref distracted, Beefcake enters to put sleeper on Ted, and the count is on. Hogan plays the moron card, and goes to two wrong corners to make the tag. Beefcake makes a hot tag, and hit a high knee on IRS (that was his finisher in WCW at one point). DiBiase stops this short-lived resurgence with a briefcase to the back.

DiBiase pulls off Beefcake's mask, and Money start punching him. Beefcake hits a double clothesline, and puts the sleeper on Irwin. DiBiase interrupting knocks the ref down, and Hogan takes a hot tag. He smacks both Money Inc members with Brutus's mask, but Hebner is still down. Jimmy Hart turns his jacket inside out, and it's striped. He makes a count, and gives Beefcake and Hogan the belts. Another ref runs in, and raises the hands of Money Inc. Finkel (without being told anything) announces Money Inc as winners by DQ. So re we to assume the ref who ran down influenced the decision? In that case why didn't that happen with Doink and Crush? Is it wrong for me to get so annoyed about something over a decade and a half after it happened?

Post match, Hogan and Beefcake chase Money Inc off, and Jimmy Hart throws the ref (Danny Davis) over the top rope. You know what I never got? I never understood why Hogan did so many heelish things in his career. Obviously they worked, as he's the biggest babyface of all time, but he was always at it. Hogan and Beefcake cheated way more than Money Inc in that match. There is no injustice at the result - they deserved to be DQed.

Hogan poses for an age, then the trio find Money Inc's briefcase. They find a brick inside, as well as a bunch of money. How symbolic. Hogan finds money. He gives a bunch away to fans at ringside. Don't do that - if they can afford ringside seats at Mania they don't need a handout.

Todd Pettingill has Natalie Cole at ringside, and briefly chat to her "Good luck with your net project" before the CEO of Caesars puts over their venue and WWF. Todd asks for a deal on his room, which the CEO no-sells, and puts everyone over one more time. Todd hugs him. CEO looks appalled - and we're off to Gene Mean.

Okerlund is with Mr Perfect. Nothing much to the interview, except to note that Okerlund botches the word 'athleticism' straight away, and Hennig eventually botches Lex Luger's name - "The Lexercist".

Out comes Lex, with some staggeringly skimpily dresses ladies. I'm not complaining, but we're talking full on thongs here, years before the attitude era kicked in. The girls lift some mirrors up for Lex to pose in, and they produce the worst firework effect ever (It's outdoor and windy.) The girls leave, and pass Curt Henning in the aisleway. He has a has a cheeky peek, while the audience gives Perfect their biggest reaction of the show so far, with the exception of Hogan. And I know I say it often, but Mr Perfect's theme music was awesome.

I forgot to mention earlier, but the announcers are playing up that Luger took out Bret Hart at an earlier Wrestlemania function.

Perfect gets most of the early exchanges of the match, before Luger switches the momentum and works on Hennig's lower back.

Perfect fights back, and I'm reminded of how ridiculous Luger's selling is. Bizarre facial expressions and over-the-top shouting. Hennig performs the big babyface comeback, but this match has never got going - and it's not Curt's fault.

Hennig goes for a cover off a missile dropkick, but Luger gets a foot on the ropes. Lex reverses a backslide attempt, Perfect's feet roll onto the ropes, but the ref counts anyway. If you are keeping count, that's two clean finishes in six matches, and one of them was in a match which went three minutes.

Luger hits his loaded forearm post match, knocking Perfect silly, and leaves. Perfect eventually comes round, as announcers speculate about why Luger is able to knock people out like this. I suspect the big reveal will happen on Raw very soon. Perfect chases Luger to the back, where the Narcissist is chatting to Shawn Michaels. Perfect jumps Lex, but Luger escapes and Michaels attacks Perfect.

All twenty-six feet of Jorge Gonzalez lumbers to the ring, with the useless Harvey Wippleman, and an even more ridiculous bodysuit. Out comes Taker next, with a vulture for company. The vulture is a better manager than Wippleman. (Bearer is there too, but I wanted to get the chep shot in at Harvey!)

I won't walk you through the match, but suffice to say, with an eight foot man and a bloke portraying a zombie, it isn't quick. Just assume combinations of punch, kick, choke, Irish whip, resthold and Old School (although it was new school then).

Gonzales dominates for a while, before Taker starts to come back with.....well, punches. Wippleman throws the Giant a cloth,and Gonzales presses it into Taker's face. JR, Heenan and Savage sell that they smell something, and identify it as chloroform. Well, JR and Heenan do. Savage can't say it.

The match is thrown out, and officials come to tend to Taker, wheeling him out on a stretcher. It's funny to watch many dressed in ref's gear and suits, and then Rene Goulet and Jack Doan in togas. Gonzales chokeslams Fonzie, and the announcers sell shock and claim he'll get fined/suspended. Remember when that used to matter, and commentators used to do that properly?

Gonzales parades in the ring, and the fans actually start chanting for Hogan. Heenan acknowledges this, too. The gong sounds, and Taker returns to clean house. The announcement is finally given that Taker has won by DQ. Another non-clean finish.

Back to Gene Mean, who talks us through the rise of Yokozuna, and plays clips of the big guy attacking Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Bret Hart. He brings in Hogan, who says all his Hulkamaniacs are behind Bret. He's very supportive of Bret. Hmm, not an accurate portrayal of true feelings there, since Hogan was supposed to put Bret over and never did.

Hogan displays the rampant Xenophobia many Americans display, mistakingly thinking it is patriotism, by referring to Yokozuna as "The Jap" and then saying the title is staying "right here in the US of A". Uh, Bret's Canadian, Terry. Have you not met him before?

Off to ringside, where Todd Pettengill makes fun of a small child's ears. He asks the kid where he is from - and the kid totally no sells him. Not a single word in response. He pushes another small child out the way, then talks to two morons who have (admittedly quite creatively) made togas from curtains or bedding. They talk nonsense and pretend to fight. Mind you that's what wrestling was in 1993.

Cue up the pipes of the Orient, and the almost spherical Yokozuna. Bret follows, and the match starts at a reasonable pace. Bret hits and runs, and Yoko is a much underrated seller. He sells what he needs to do look imposing but also give his opponent something.

Yoko dominates, with Bret coming through with the odd flurry to get the crowd going and keep them interested. It's not a classic, but it's probably as good you could expect given the obvious limitations of a man with the girth of Yokozuna.

Bret rallies late on, and hit the big man into an exposed turnbuckle. Yoko falls, and Bret engineers a Sharpshooter. Fuji throws dust into Hart's eyes, and Bret relinquishes the hold. And then starts the run of ridiculous occurrences. Firstly, Yoko just hooks the leg and gets the three-count - so apparently it is dust renders your whole body immobile. He could at least have hit a move.

Then out comes Hogan, ranting about an injustice. Fuji grabs the mic, and here are his words, verbatim.

"Hogan. Hogan, you big man. My Hogan, my Yokozuma issue a challenge. If you have intestinal fortitude you'll accept my Yokozuma's challenge. Come on! Come on you yellow belly."

He then says something about putting up the Heavyweight belt, and something else I don't quite catch. The upshot is that Fuji instantly becomes the dumbest heel manager of all time by challenging the biggest star in wrestling to a match seconds after winning the title. Moron.

Hogan sells concern for Bret for while, and eventually Bret waves him to the ring. Yoko holds Hogan for the dust, The Hulkster moves, and the dust hits Yoko. A punch to Fuji, a clothesline to Yoko, a legdrop, and we have a new champion. Posing, fireworks, and a celebration close what in my opinion is definitely the worst Wrestlemania of all time.

Heenan has the last word, as the shows end with him selling misunderstanding about who is the champion. Thank goodness Bobby never got confused at the end of a PPV involving Hulk Hogan. That would have been embarrassing.........

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