Welcome once again to Shades of Wrestlemania, the countdown to the biggest wrestling day of the year!!! We only have 6 more sleeps until The Mania, and let me tell you I'm excited. In order to get us excited here is the promotional poster from last years event. It really was an epic day featuring such huge matches as Triple H challenging WWE Champion John Glena (pronounced Glea-nah), World Champion Kurt Angle defending his title against underdog Rey Mysterio and cocky prick Randy Korton in a triple threat match, and The TraverTaker goes one on one with Ryan "Sexual Chocolate" McNutt in a casket match. Can you say epic?
I realized that the last post was beyond epic, so I am going to try and space the entries out a bit more. In todays entry I will just post three blurbs, sorry Kory, but you snooze you loose!!!
So tday we will hear from:
Ryan McNutt, who linked to the earlier part in his blog, something I very much appreciate. That will not stop me from photoshopping his head onto the fattest people on the poster.
Travis Smith, who continues his heel love today. If he gets out of line I will hit him with a chair and throw him off of a roof...again.
And of course, me, The Whole Glenin' Show.
Last time, I looked at the Intercontinental Title Match from Wrestlemania VIII. This time Travis looks at a different match from that card and one of the best built feuds that the WWF/E has ever put together.
April 5, 1992
World Title Match - Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage
In the fall of 1991 WCW World Champ Ric Flair entered the WWF with the "Big Gold Belt,” calling himself "The Real World Heavyweight Champion." Led by his "financial advisor" Bobby Heenan and his "executive consultant" Mr. Perfect, Flair challenged WWF superstars like Piper and Hogan, wrestling a team led by Piper at Survivor Series 1991 and helping The Undertaker defeat Hogan for his WWF Title that same night. He caused so much interference in The Undertaker vs Hulk Hogan title matches that Jack Tunney declared the title vacant.
At the 1992 Royal Rumble, Flair won the Rumble Match to claim the vacant WWF Championship. Flair drew number three in the match, and lasted a then-record 59 minutes, last eliminating Sid Justice with help from Hulk Hogan, who had been eliminated by Justice seconds earlier. The match would be one of the greatest Royal Rumbles ever produced by the WWF and would stand as a highlight of Flair’s first run in the promotion. With the win everyone was now expecting the main event of WrestleMania VIII to be the dream match of Hogan vs Flair.
The planned program with Hogan was scrapped due to Hogan's hiatus following the WWF's steroid scandal, however. So then, Randy Savage challenged Flair for the WWF title at WrestleMania VIII. To build for the match, Flair ridiculed Savage by claiming that he had a prior relationship with Savage's wife, Elizabeth. Flair even had the pictures to prove it, having them published in the bastion of fine journalism, WWF Magazine. Following the match, however, the photos would be deemed to be fake, with the Nature Boy having been superimposed over Savage’s body.
At the Mania, in a classic encounter, Savage defeated Flair for the title following a tights-assisted roll-up. The match itself ran almost twenty minutes and showed the ring prowess of two of wrestling’s finest figures. WWF showed their lack of interest in the feud, however, having the title match not featured in the main event. It was the first time in history this had been done.
It was a fine match, and a decent story. The feud was overshadowed that night by The Undertaker, Bret Hart, and, as always, Hulk Hogan. That match is still a classic, though, and not just for the wrestling.
The match served to cement two legends in the history of wrestling. Their paths would forever be linked. Savage would hold the championship until September of that year, until losing it back to Flair at a WWF TV taping in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Savage and Flair later swapped the WCW World Heavyweight Championship during their 1995–96 feud making them the only duo to win and lose both the WWF/E and WCW versions of the world title to each other.
Furthermore, in a piece of trivia, Savage's two WWF and four WCW World Heavyweight Championship reigns were all ended with Savage losing the title to either Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair.
It was an epic encounter, Savage launching his second run as champ and the Nature Boy amidst what he would later call “the greatest year and a half of my career, outside the time I spent with Arn and the Four Horsemen.” It’s no question that Ric Flair is the greatest professional wrestler of all time, and only a matter of time until he is a Hall of Fame inductee. Only time will tell if Savage’s legacy in matches such as this one earn him the same spot.
In the last entry, McNutt wrote about Bret Hart losing the Title at Wrestlemania IX. In the second part of his epic two part entry, he talks about a night that every Canadian should remember...
March 20, 1994
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
World Title Match - Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart
So let’s flash forward almost a year later to the next Royal Rumble, where once again the winner was to get a shot at the championship at Wrestlemania, held at the time by Yokozuna (who won the belt back from Hogan as he left the WWF “for good”). Here was a chance for Hart to earn himself another title shot after spending a year facing competitors that, really, he was too good for. But even with Hogan out of the picture, there was another obstacle in the way: Lex Luger, another All-American muscleman that the WWF had hopes of turning into another Hogan. He was the first wrestler to ever bodyslam Yokozuna, and almost won the belt from him six months earlier. In the storylines of the wrestling world, the All-American hero returning to win the Royal Rumble and then the title simply made the most sense in my head for a storyline. Plus, earlier in the night Bret’s brother Owen had turned on him in their tag-team match and left Bret injured, barely unable to stand. So much for the Hitman winning the Rumble…
But then something weird and wonderful happened: uncertain if Luger was “the guy,” the WWF decided to book a bizarre finish to the Rumble. Luger was to end up as one of the last two men left in the ring. The other? That’s right, hobbling down to the ring right at the end of the show, the Hitman (who got one of the biggest cheers I’ve ever heard as he walked through the curtain). The crowd went nuts as the two biggest good guys in wrestling fought one another and all of a sudden…they BOTH tumbled over the ropes at the same time. The rules state that the person whose feet touched the ground first should have been eliminated, but there was no conclusive camera angle available (smart, eh?). The referees on the ground disagreed over the outcome, and the show ended uncertain as to who would get the title shot against Yokozuna.
Why was this wonderful? Because the WWF big wigs could tell that the crowd was WAY more behind the Hitman than they were Luger. One suspects that this might have completely altered the direction that Wrestlemania was headed.
The solution that the storyline put forth was to give both Luger and Hart a title shot at Wrestlemania. A coin toss decided who got the first shot (Luger) while the other wrestled a grudge match of their own so there would be on an even playing field going into the second title bout (Hart faced his turncoat brother Owen, actually to him losing in one of the best matches of all time…but not what we’re talking about here).
Now, I can’t remember for the life of me if we watched or listened to Wrestlemania that year, but unlike WMIX it’s the visuals that stand out about this one for me. I fully expected that Luger would beat Yokozuna, leading to an ultimate face-versus-face matchup between the company’s two biggest stars, but Luger ended up losing in a cheap finish via disqualification, setting up a feud with Mr. Perfect that never really happened. But this meant that, gloriously, we got a chance to rewrite history. Here it was: Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart versus Yokozuna, round two, with no Hulk Hogan in sight. An opportunity to right the great wrong that took place on year earlier.
I won’t pretend that the match was any good – Yoko never had a good match in his life, really. But as Yokozuna went for his finishing banzai drop and Hart cagily moved out of the way, and as Hart crawled over and pinned the behemoth with a 1, 2, 3…the championship belonged to the Hitman. And as Hart’s fellow good guys filled the ring and hoisted him on their shoulders, the universe had righted itself once again.
Fake? Who gives a shit when the drama’s this good?
Now we're going to move ahead three years and talk about the one match that not only saved Wrestlemania 13 from being the worst ever, but may have saved the WWF from bankruptcy...
March 23, 1997
Submission Match - Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
When I got the idea for this blog feature this was the match that I wanted to talk about. With the only possible exception of the Montreal Screwjob, this may just be THE most influential match in the history of WWE and perhaps all of wrestling. This is the match that ended the era of the “New Generation” and started the WWF Attitude. This is the match that allowed that made one of the most popular wrestlers in history and began the decline of one of the others.
Ironic fact about this match #1: The wrestler that gained the most from this match was not the man who won.
Ironic fact about this match #2: It was never supposed to happen.
Back at Wrestlemania XII, then Champion, Bret Hart wrestled a 60 minute Iron Man Match (where the winner is the person who has the most pinfalls or submissions after the 60 minutes) with Shawn Michaels. Now both men absolutely hated each other in real life so the only way that they could go book a finish was to allow it to be a 0-0 tie after the 60 minutes and have Shawn win in Sudden Death Overtime. Afterwards Bret Hart took some time off and revaluated his career, and even considered a jump to WCW.
In the meantime, Steve Austin, then a hated heel, won the 1996 King of the Ring Tournament. Something that was originally supposed to go to Triple H, but it was changed at the last minute to due the infamous “Curtain Call” (where Triple H and Shawn Michaels said goodbye to their real life friends, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, at a non-televised event at Madison Square Garden. This was not looked too kindly by McMahonagment and Triple H took some on air punishment for it). After his big win Austin began calling out Bret Hart (a former King of the Ring winner himself), even calling him the Shitman at one point I do believe.
Bret returned for a huge match with Austin at Survivor Series ’96, where he won an amazing scientific wrestling match. These two continued to feud through the fall and winter. Then at the 97 Royal Rumble Steve Austin had perhaps the greatest Rumble performance of all time as he was tossing wrestlers out left and right. Some familiar music hit and out came Bret Hart. The fans were so excited to see their hero get a chance to eliminate the hated villain from the Royal Rumble and go on to get a rematch against then World Champion Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania.
But then things got interesting. Bret Hart threw Steve Austin over the top rope, but the referees didn’t see it. Austin then snuck back into the ring, eliminated Bret Hart (along with Vader and The Undertaker), and won the Royal Rumble. Bret began to complain that he deserved to win the Rumble since Austin had no right to return to the match. A Number 1 Contenders match was booked for the next PPV between Austin and the three people he illegally eliminated to determine who would get the shot at Wrestlemania. Meanwhile, Psycho Sid (who had briefly won the Title from Michaels before losing it back to him at the Royal Rumble) would get a match with Shawn Michaels and everything would be hunky dory. The apparent plan was to have Bret win the contenders match and go on to have a rematch with Shawn where he would reclaim the title. But then things got even more interesting.
Shawn Michaels came out on RAW and cut a promo saying that he “lost his smile” and needed to take some time off of wrestling for a while. Backstage he claimed to have suffered a career threatening knee injury, however many wonder if he was just avoiding losing to Bret Hart. As a result, the title was vacated and put at stake in the Four Corners Match involving Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Vader and The Undertaker. It was also ruled that Psycho Sid would get his promised title shot the next night on RAW.
In another bit of backstage lore/rumours, Steve Austin was originally scheduled to win the title that night, however during the match he suffered an injury and they quickly changed plans and gave the title to Bret, who last eliminated The Undertaker.
The next night, Bret Hart lost the title to Psycho Sid after interference from Steve Austin (who was fine despite the injury). The match was then set for Wrestlemania 13, Austin-Hart, and this time in an I Quit Match, where the only way to win was to make your opponent say “I Quit”, a truly humbling experience. The stage was set for what would go down as one of the greatest wrestling matches in history.
Their first big match at Survivor Series was an amazing technical contest. This one would be an all out brawl. They even brought in UFC legend, Ken Shamrock (before he turned pro) to referee this match, adding a more legit feel.
There is no way that I can possibly explain this match, it is just too amazing. The two showed an intense brutality and fought in and around the ring for a grueling 20 minutes. If you have not seen this match then you really can not call yourself a wrestling fan and if you are not a wrestling fan then you really should watch this match and it may just make you one. Trust me.
Going into this match Steve Austin, a dirty, cheating, swearing, rule breaker was starting to get the odd cheer, and Bret Hart, the ultimate good guy was starting to get the odd boo. During the match Bret Hart, enraged at the man who cost him the title, showed no mercy and once again proved that he deserves to be called “The Excellence of Execution” as he methodically attacked Austin. Austin, the beer swilling, stubborn Son of a Bitch, refused to give in. No matter what Bret threw at him Austin took it. This endeared the Chicago crowd to Steve Austin even more as the cheers kept coming, and coming.
Then came the second most famous visual in Wrestlemania history (after Hogan slamming Andre of course). Bret had a bloodied Austin locked in his trademark hold, the Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring. Austin screamed in agony as he tried to crawl to the ropes, only for Bret to drag him back into the middle of the ring. The fans cheered for their new found favourite to break the hold. But then, yet another funny thing happened. Austin did not quit. Instead the blood loss and pain were too much and he passed out. Guest referee Ken Shamrock ruled Bret the winner. Bret was not satisfied, he held on to the hold. He continued to beat down on Austin, taking his frustrations out on him. Bret then heard something that he had not heard in a very long time, a full crowd booing his actions.
This fueled two of the most important character changes in recent memory. Bret Hart had one of the best heel characters ever, he always said “I haven’t changed. You (the fans) have changed”. The best part, it was all true. The fans had grown tired of cheering for the ultimate good guy and wanted someone with more edge. Here they found their new breed of hero, Steve Austin. He still broke the rules, he still swore, he still gave people the finger, but the fans loved him.
Ironic fact about this match #3: It was supposed to happen again. Apparently, the plan was to have Austin loose this match, and Bret go on to reclaim the title sometime that year and have Austin challenge him for the belt at Wrestlemania XIV where he would win. But unfortunately, Montreal happened and we were robbed of Austin getting a big win on Bret Hart.
Steve Austin went on to rise through the ranks before winning his first title at the next year’s Wrestlemania from Bret’s other arch-nemesis, Shawn Michaels (who had long since recovered from that pesky “knee-injury”), and bring wrestling to a level of popularity that had not been seen since the late 1980s. It really was all thanks to this match that it was able to happen.
Tune back in later on this week to get some more Shades of Wretlemania.
Until next time,