Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#4 - The Emotion of WrestleMania 7

Superstars and Stripes Forever ... was the catchphrase for this event. The United States was at a fever pitch in patriotism thanks to Desert Storm. So ... what does the WWF do? They re-hire the beloved patriot Sgt. Slaughter to play an Iraq sympathizer, in effort to build a credible heel for Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 7.

By the point I remember Slaughter returning to the WWF (August 1990), the Warrior experiment had failed. Vince was probably looking for someone to take the title off of Warrior to get it back to Hogan. He couldn't do the Face vs Face between Hogan and Warrior two years in a row. So, Slaughter was built over the fall, leading to a WWF title win at the Royal Rumble.

Slaughter had incredible heat at this time, with stories of death threats have become apart of WrestleMania history, thanks to it effectively causing Vince and Company to move the event from the L.A. Coliseum to the neighboring L.A. Sports Arena. Then you had Hulk Hogan ... who had once defended the United States against the Iron Sheik and saved the WWF title once before. He was called upon again to do the same against Slaughter. This storyline has been credited for making WrestleMania 7 the most emotional event in WWF history. But I wouldn't give all the credit to Hogan-Slaughter. I'm going to give you two more examples of why this event is emotional for Wrestling Fans.

Starting, in countdown fashion, the three reasons why this event was filled with emotion.

3. The Hart Foundation ends their tag team run

It was attempted in 1988 ... It was attempted in 1989 ... But in 1991, it finally happened. Bret Hart was set to become a singles star after this match.  Jim Neidhart ... well he had to find a new role. However, we didn't know this back at WrestleMania 7 and for many months after, that we had saw the last true Hart Foundation match at WrestleMania 7. It can be compared to Stone Cold's retirement match with the Rock at WrestleMania 19. It wasn't publicized that it was the finale. What was publicized was that the Harts were defending against the Nasty Boys, ultimately losing a nice match.

Unlike today, we didn't see any angle that the Hart Foundation broke up .. They just drifted away from each other, never to be seen together on TV until King of the Ring 1994 three years after this event. But for fans of tag team wrestling, it was the end of an era in WWE. Demolition was reduced to jabroni's in order to repackage them later. The Bulldogs were gone. Killer Bees ... Gone. Rougeaus ... gone. All the great teams that had ruled the WWF from 1985-1991 were disbanded and the Harts were the final ones, the Last Outlaws to use current WWE theory with the Undertaker - HHH match at WM 27.

Wouldn't it have been nice if the Harts had a chance to mutually go their separate ways on television, even with a promo after this match ... it could have lead to yet another emotional WrestleMania 7 moment, for fans to thank the Harts for the years of great tag matches that thanks to Bret's newfound relationship with WWE, we can enjoy on DVD releases!

2. Macho Man - Liz storyline

I just finished watching this angle off the new "True Story of WrestleMania" DVD (cheap plug) and started to wonder if this was where they wanted to end up when Macho and Liz first split back at WrestleMania V. Did the WWF actually have an idea that they would eventually bring them back together and have them marry? I would love to know if this was planned now or thought of in 1991 when they needed a way to turn Macho face.

Nevertheless, it was the greatest love story ever portrayed in wrestling.
  • Macho's jealousy leads to Liz leaving him back at WrestleMania V. 
  • She manages Hogan until SummerSlam 1989 when Hogan's storyline with Macho finishes. 
  • She returns to WrestleMania VI to manage Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire, helping them beat Macho and Sherri. 
  • Savage engages in a feud with the Warrior, leading to the career match.
  • Liz returns again at WrestleMania VII to watch the match between Warrior and Savage from ringside
  • After losing the career, Sherri turns on Macho, leading to Liz hitting the ring and saving Macho
  • After several intense looks and minutes, they finally embrace! Leaving the audience in tears after watching this relationship play out over
  • They bring back the Macho - Liz shoulder lift, an invention of theirs in Wrestling
  • THEN!!!! in the final story twist, Liz goes to open the ropes for Macho as she always did, when she managed him as a face or a heel ... Macho says No and opens the ropes for her. MAN! It doesn't get any better than that!
This moment is just plain amazing, and truly shows how GOOD wrestling can be when written correctly

1. Hogan vs Slaughter

When I opened this blog, I discussed the history of this match and I won't bore you with that again. But this match was where the true emotion was shown. It was properly booked, with Slaughter pulling out every stop imaginable to try and beat Hogan. Countless chairs (actually ... about three chairs I think), dirty tactics, and brutality were all used by Slaughter in this match. It also remains the one of two times Hogan bladed during a Mania match. No different then Rocky IV, Hogan played the metaphoric United States, being beaten down by his enemy, to near submission. Fans were took on the emotional roller coaster, wondering if Slaughter was too much for their American hero. You could see fans sink back into their seats after every failed Hogan comeback ... Then you see the emotion return when Hogan kicks out after having the Iraq flag draped over him. Classic Hogan finish after and you hear one of WrestleMania's bigger pops in history. I still think this match was probably the most emotional match in WrestleMania

With these three examples, it goes to show how much emotion GOOD professional wrestling can draw out of an audience. I recommend this event to anybody and to any of my friends, I got the Coliseum Video VHS if you want it. It's worth the watch!

#3 - Ricky Steamboat's Return

In August 1994, During a Clash of the Champions bout against "Stunning" Steve Austin, Steamboat falls from the top rope awkwardly and injures his back. An injury he decided was debilitating enough from him to retire.

From there, Steamboat wasn't heard or mentioned much until 2002. He became the on-air authority figure for NWA-TNA in it's inaugural pay per view offering. Steamboat is apart of TNA history because he refereed the first ever X Division Title Match and can be seen in many TNA video packages handing the Title to AJ Styles.

After leaving TNA, he next appeared in Ring of Honor, feuding with CM Punk which saw them reenact the throat injury angle Steamboat did in 1986 with Randy Savage

In 2005, the internet fans like myself were enjoyed that the Dragon had signed on to become a road agent for World Wrestling Entertainment, the great knowledge he could pass on to the next generation of WWE superstars. We also wondered when we would see the Dragon back on WWE TV in some fashion. His first appearance as the Dragon character came during the Legends dancing segment at WrestleMania 23. While his role was minor, it did enjoy fans. Steamboat faded into the backstage for another few years until 2009. In March 2009, he was announced as a member of that year's Hall of Fame and began the storyline with Chris Jericho.

This is when the true potential of Steamboat's WWE career began and in my opinion, may have overshadowed WrestleMania 3 as Steamboat's WWE career highlight. The match was Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Steamboat vs Jericho in a handicap match. Fans wondered how much gas these legends had left, and how bad their match would be at WrestleMania. What we did get was a WrestleMania moment that will stand the test of time.

Sure, Snuka had lost a few steps. Piper went into this match full of piss and vinegar that made up for his lost steps. But then, Steamboat got the tag. With every arm drag, "skin the cat", and cross body block, we were amazed. In wrestling, we have seen many superstars go past their prime and tarnish their legacy. But on this one night, he might have been slower than he was in 1994. He might have lost some spring in his jump. But the psychology that Ricky Steamboat possessed was unmatched. In terms of WrestleMania 25, it's in the shadow of the first Undertaker - HBK match but Steamboat truly stole the show. We expected the Undertaker and HBK to go out and deliver. What we doubted was if a guy retired for 15 years could perform? ... and he did. He delivered a WrestleMania classic! He shocked the world and even though he had gone into the Hall of Fame the night before this match, he "poured the cement" on his career at WrestleMania 25.

Steamboat done something rarely seen in professional wrestling. He left in his prime, to save himself from permanent injury but when called upon, even at an older age, he delivered the career match of a lifetime and showed a new audience why Old School is so beloved, for their ability to make fans believe ONE MORE TIME

Saturday, March 26, 2011

#2 - Ten Matches Every Fan Should Have Watched - Part 2

6. The Rock vs Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania X8

Man, did this match ever prove how much the fans control wrestling! The WWE tried their hardest to make Hollywood Hulk Hogan the heel in this match but it couldn't happen. This match holds specialness for me because I was at WrestleMania X8. You hear people talk all the time about moments they'll never forget ... this was one of those times for me. My pop took me to Toronto for the event.

Here's a time line of my own Road to WrestleMania

  • September 2001 - The WWF announced that WrestleMania 18 would be in Toronto at the Skydome
  • November 3rd 2001 - Spent one full hour on the phone, attempting to buy tickets, only to find out that the event had been sold out! The dream was on hold
  • December 2001 - WrestleZone had a headline that said "More WrestleMania tickets released". I quickly called my mom and within 20 minutes, the dream became a reality...
    I was going to WrestleMania!
  • January 2002 - I believe I heard from Lee Fleming that I should read an article on ...
    It was the announcement that Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had signed with the World Wrestling Federation ... I would get to see Hulkamania live and in person!
  • February 18th 2002 - Hulk Hogan is challenged by the Rock for a match at WrestleMania ... I was going to see history!
  • March 11th 2002 - After visiting a bed-ridden Chris Harris a few days prior, I woke up in the middle of the night, vomiting as I had caught the stomach flu. I spent the day on the couch, eating Popsicles and watching RAW
  • March 12th 2002 - Still sick but drove to St. John's to fly to Toronto
  • March 17th 2002 - The dream becomes true ... I walked down the many stairs to the floor of Skydome. Where Joe Carter won the world series for the Bluejays. Where the Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan some 12 years before. People talk about times in their lives that felt like time stood still. I remember walking down the stairs and just looking around and realizing that ten years of watching wrestling was culminating that night. It's hard to explain what it's like to know that one of your life goals had been accomplished!

This match has become legendary for the fan reaction. Hulk was written to play the heel but the fans in the SkyDome had a different idea. We wanted Hulkamania ... one more time! The Rock, probably the biggest face in wrestling during that time, was forced to become a heel for one night to satisfy the 67 237 in attendence. This match, again, didn't do anything flashy because well, Hogan was wore out. He had knee replacements in 2001. But the psychology of the match was amazing. Everything just seemed to click and Hulk gave us one more WrestleMania moment.

7. Shawn Michaels vs Bret Hart - WrestleMania 12

It was the first televised and promoted one hour match, and both men delivered a career highlight. For a fan in 1996 that I was, being 7 years old at the time, to keep my attention for 60 straight minutes was simply amazing. I sat there, watching every second of the match. This match should be shown to anybody who doubts wrestlers as athletes because there never has or will be a performance like this match again.

8. The Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels - WrestleMania 25

In the previous WrestleMania matches the Undertaker had ...  there has been only two men who seemed like they could beat the streak

  1. Randy Orton @ 21, 
  2. Batista @ 23

    Shawn Michaels made us believe that he could beat the Streak ... so much that the fans demanded an encore the next year. The match remains the only match ever to be repeated on back to back WrestleMania cards. This match may have been the greatest match of the 2000's ... and that is saying a great deal about this match. The match felt like a never ending roller-coaster of high spots, high energy and great psychology. These three elements was then mixed with the commentary of genius of Jim Ross and we got a match that I can only compare this match to the first Rocky movie. You weren't expecting a hit but damn, did they knock the ball out of the park.

9. Ric Flair vs Terry Funk - Clash of the Champions IX

To quote Jon Parsons, this match looked like a real fight. It was violent and brutality at it's finest. For those who trash the PG era, they should go watch this match. There was no blood. Funk or Flair didn't utter a foul word during their promos or their match. There was no massive chair shots. This match was built upon psychology. I personally think that this match is the prototype for the blowoff to a feud. Its amazing actually that while WWF was giving us Hulk-Zeus, Flair-Funk were tearing apart the NWA. They didn't do a lot of wrestling in this match but they told a story that has been unmatched, even to this day!

10. Triple H vs Cactus Jack - Royal Rumble 2000

I sat in on seminar on pro wrestling psychology held by Scott "Raven" Levy a few weeks ago which is probably why I chose most of these matches for their psychology. This match/feud is a great example of what Raven spoke about. Both Triple H and Mick Foley told a great story. The story was that Mick Foley was pushed to his mental limits and resorted to bringing his Cactus Jack persona back to fight Triple H. This match proved to be very violent and bloody but unlike ECW, it wasn't violent for the sake of being violent. The story of Cactus being sadistic and the violence he intended on administering to Triple H to become the WWF Champion was nothing short of amazing. A match that showed what two talented workers could do when given the right material to work with!

Those are my top ten matches that all fans should watch before stating that they are a Wrestling fan ... Some of you may disagree with me because I put a nice few matches on here from WrestleMania's but I leave you with a quote from Chris Jericho when interviewed for the new "True Story of WrestleMania" dvd.

"You can have a match in Peoria, Illinois in front of 4000 people and tear the house down. But the next day, it's like it never happened. You can have a match on RAW in front of 4 Million people, it lasts alittle longer but at WrestleMania ... WrestleMania is where classic matches are made"

Friday, March 25, 2011

#1 - Ten Matches Every Fan Should Have Watched - Part 1

1. Ricky Steamboat vs Randy Savage - WrestleMania 3
2. Hulk Hogan vs Andre The Giant - WrestleMania 3

You cannot call yourself a wrestling fan if you have not watched WrestleMania 3 from start to finish. It's the most historic event in wrestling history just for setting the all time North American pro wrestling attendance record that also gave us the most hyped match in history and the best worked storyline in wrestling history. As many critics have stated, Hogan - Andre sold the show but Steamboat - Savage stole it! Personally, I love both matches for very different reasons. Hogan - Andre never needed any story to build this match. The Hogan-Andre storyline just did not have the depth that Steamboat - Savage. I think Hogan - Andre would have drawn 93,173 people just on name recognition and the fan’s curiosity on if Hogan could beat the Giant. However, Steamboat-Savage feud was masterfully done, here's an outline ... 

  • The throat injury storyline, beginning in November 1986 with a TV match 
  • Steamboat's "rumored" retirement and vignettes with his doctors in December 
  • His TV return on Saturday Night's Main Event in January during a George Steele-Savage title match
  • Two months of straight build to their meeting in the Silverdome.

    I think Steamboat and Savage was on par in terms of selling that WrestleMania as Hogan - Andre, in my opinion.

3. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect - SummerSlam 1991

In my 20 years of watching professional wrestling, this is the match I have re-watched the most! This event is historic and important to WWF history because it was the beginning of Bret Hart's singles push in the WWF. As for the match, it was pretty basic in terms of story-telling and in-ring action. They didn't do anything too flashy yet the match was so exciting thanks to both Hennig and Hart’s storytelling ability. As I got older and read articles from this era, it was amazing to find out how injured the back of Curt Hennig was during this match. I recommend this match to anybody who wants to see wrestling at its finest!

4. Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter - WrestleMania 7

While this match may not have be on your all-time greatest matches lists, it’s because I am biased in this selection. 1991 was my first year that I saw wrestling and fell in love with the business. The story goes that I was sitting in the playpen and my aunt was flicking channels and passed the Canadian version of Superstars known as Maple Leaf Wrestling. I instantly was drawn to it, and my one true love was born, my love for wrestling, a phase my mom thought would end that is in its 20th year this year! Anyway, this match is textbook for the emotion it evokes. The fact former beloved patriot Sgt. Slaughter turned on America and sided with Iraq during Desert Storm and that the "Real American" hero Hulk Hogan was now going to take him down. You watch this match and tell me that it wasn't the most emotional you've ever seen a wrestling crowd get? It just doesn’t get any better than this match.

5. Ricky Steamboat vs Ric Flair - WrestleWar 1989

No decision on this list was tougher than this pick. Having to choose their best match from the 1989 series was like choosing which Metallica song to listen to from their 1991 "Black Album". 40 Minutes of the purest form of professional wrestling you will ever find. All three matches was great but this one just edges them out for me. Back and forth, Flair on top, followed by Steamboat. It was just amazing to sit down and watch that match and just be amazed. Again, like Perfect-Hart, they didn't do anything flashy, they held the fans in the palm of their hands and entertain us. Steamboat-Flair was like Spagahetti and Meatballs, just goes together so well!