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Saturday, March 28, 2015

WrestleMania IX Cynical Review

Because somebody asked me to review it. I'm nothing if not giving.

-The WrestleMania IX Cynical Review

-If I recall the events of that day, I was nine years old and I had attended a family reunion at this wooded-area hunting lodge (don't judge us, we're from New Jersey). The gathering was actually fun, although my older brother kept clock-watching and prodding our parents to ensure we were home for WrestleMania. To this day, the irony of rushing home in order to watch this shit-show makes me chuckle.

-Live from Las Vegas, air date April 4, 1993. The venue was pretty awesome, with the alternate color scheme and open air atmosphere.

-On the call: Randy Savage, Bobby Heenan, and a debuting Jim Ross, all in Roman attire, sans Savage, who's dressed in his usual color-blind early 1990s regalia. Heenan enters on a camel which, along with his commentary, is the only intentional comedy we're getting today.

Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka (WWE Intercontinental)

Tatanka had only beaten Michaels 400 times on TV prior to this, so conventional wisdom at the time had him capturing the gold. Of course, in today's wrestling world, we immediately realize that a win on TV equates to a loss on PPV, because it's a 50/50 booking world, and we're just watching it. Luna Vachon makes her WWE debut in Shawn's corner for some reason, presumably to counter Sherri in Tatanka's. In terms of logical corner-(wo)men, this makes Linda managing Foley at 2000 look like Heyman seconding Lesnar. Tatanka chops Michaels down, almost literally, in the early going, and Sherri prevents Luna from getting involved. Lots of Tatanka arm-work in the early portion, and it's expected as Tatanka never really worked a fast paced style; he was only as good as his opponent. Michaels did manage to catch Tatanka coming off the top with a nice superkick, wouldn't become his knockout finisher until the following year. Down the stretch, Michaels sells Tatanka's war-dance chops with the sort of gusto that clearly left an impression on young Dolph Ziggler, Michaels ends up getting himself disqualified by getting physical with the referee prior to Tatanka's End of the Trail, which was a pretty weak finish. Tatanka was still undefeated, but they didn't want Shawn dropping the belt, so this is what we got. Decent enough match, mostly thanks to Shawn in the larval stage of his Mr. WrestleMania ascent.

Rating: ***

Steiner Brothers vs. Headshrinkers

Oddly enough, the only WrestleMania match for either Steiner. Had Flair stuck around, this WrestleMania would have had Flair, Luger, The Steiners, and Jim Ross. The cross-pollination between WWE and WCW in the mid-nineties was something. This match was about on par with the opener in terms of being match-of-the-night, which is kinda sad, actually. There are two notable bumps: Scott clearing the top-rope on a hotshot attempt and landing badly on the outside, and Rick sitting on Fatu's shoulders, catching a diving Samu in a powerslam in mid-air. That's one of the top ten spots in Mania history, and among the top five that don't involve a ladder. The match was wonderfully brutal, ending with a Scott Frankensteiner on Samu, and I wish they'd had about 10 more minutes. At 14 minutes as it was, it still felt short.

Rating: ***

Crush vs. Doink the Clown

Ahh, heel Doink, a character with no boundaries. You have to love any feud that begins with a homicidal clown bludgeoning a surfer with a fake arm that's filled with D-batteries. Heenan's just eating up Doink's hijinks with a spoon here. Naturally, the match is Crush trying to rip Doink apart like a chew-toy, and Doink using his smarts to outwit the big man, periodically checking under the ring for some unknown reason. Ref gets bumped, and Crush lands the world's laziest roundhouse kick on Doink prior to applying the Jason Voorhees Head Crush, which if this were the Attitude Era, would've had the victim slowly spewing fake blood to sell his skull being cracked. Then he'd wrestle on next week's show, no sign of damage. Of course, the ref bump is just the prelude to a second Doink entering and attacking Crush with the loaded arm, which draws a mild face reaction. Crush is out of it, the Doinks do a mistimed man-in-the-mirror trick, and Borne Doink scores the pin. It's a nothing match, but as a fan of heel Doink, I got my jollies from it.

Rating: *

Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund

This doubles our Hall of Fame count to four, with Michaels and Fatu having previously competed. The crowd is way too into Razor, whose cheers dwarf the near-silence for outdated Backlund. A year and a half later, you'd have Ramon as the made-man babyface and Backlund as a compulsively-psychotic heel. You'd have guessed Razor's turn, sure, but Backlund's? It's another nothing match, as old WrestleManias tended to have one-on-one filler between wrestlers with no issue, just to get everyone on the card. I miss that, really. Not everything has to be a 25 minute epic with an entrance out of Cirque de Soleil. Ramon wins with an inside cradle, which Heenan notes was The Bad Guy beating the wrestler with wrestling. McMahon would electroshock him today if he said that on headset.

Rating: 3/4*

Money Inc vs. Hulk Hogan/Brutus Beefcake (WWE World Tag Team Championship)

Somewhat funny bit as Hogan enters with one eye nearly swollen shut, played off as Dibiase and IRS orchestrating an attack on him the night before the show. The sheets at the time alleged that Savage had struck Hogan legitimately during an argument, which makes Jim Ross' inquiry as to the injured eye funnier when Savage snipes, "Had ta be uh cheapshot!" It's much funnier with the slight pause before Savage's response. The match itself was set up when Money Inc attacked Beefcake's injured face on an episode of Raw, and Hogan returned after a year away to aid his "Bionic Brother", who now wears what appears to be a tribal mask that Aldo Montoya's jock-strap head gear would be later fashioned after. The match itself is quite boring, which is a bit surprising given the participants. Hogan was coming off a layoff, so you can understand that, but it doesn't help the match. Beefcake was worse, looking out-of-shape and lost, even with two seasoned veterans across the ring. Another ref bump here during Beefcake's sleeper, and when he comes to, he disqualifies Hogan and Beefcake to keep the belts with Money Inc. That followed Hogan and Beefcake making dual covers and Jimmy Hart, with zebra-striped jacket, making the count himself. Then like buffoons, all of the faces celebrated, which only piles on to my spite toward this match. Way too long for this kind of silliness. Amazing fact: Hogan is one of just two men to lose a WWE Title match, an Intercontinental Title match, and a Tag Team Title match at WrestleMania. The other? Bradshaw.

Rating: *1/2

Mr. Perfect vs. The Narcissist

Luger's first PPV match in WWE, and one of two where he wasn't built up to be a patriotic choke-job. This year-run for Perfect was an odd one, as he had great matches with Flair and Bret, but a disappointing SummerSlam clash with Michaels, and this equally-disappointing bout. Babyface Perfect was never much fun, but you could also see the ravages of choice taking their toll on him throughout this stretch. Doing me proud was Luger's classic overselling while Perfect worked his leg, screaming as though he were Max Cady taking a fireball to the face in Cape Fear. The ending was an odd one, almost a three-part plan to make Perfect look uncharacteristically dumb. Luger hooked a backslide and got the pin, despite Perfect's feet laying across the middle rope. Then for an encore, Perfect bitches to the referee (the show of shoddy officiating!) and Luger blasts him with the ununoctium-plated forearm. To beat the band, Perfect runs after Luger backstage and gets beaten up by Michaels. WWE couldn't even make Zach Ryder look that bad intentionally.

Rating: **

The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. All you need to know is that the fun stops with Undertaker's chariot entrance. Gonzalez, rest his soul, was just awful, and the ass-crack-painted bodysuit didn't evoke any sympathy towards him. Let's just say Gonzalez tries to chloroform Taker and gets disqualified, Why would an Argentinian wildebeest need chloroform and a rag? I'd say, "Well, maybe that's how they get their prey," but that makes it sound worse. Not worse than this horseshit, though.

Rating: -****

Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna (WWE World Championship)

Even at nine years old, I thought Bret was winning over the 550-lb monster. I've never been in Vince's target demo, I don't think. Hart crafted a pretty good match that called for a few tricks (the turnbuckle being pulled from its socket), and he paced it exceptionally well, although it was still criminally short, not even nine minutes. To that degree, at least the bout was never boring. Hart chastises Yoko in his book for 'going home' too early, but given the farce that was about to occur, this was the least of their problems. Hart manages to hook Yoko's gams into the Sharpshooter, but ends up with a fistful of Fuji salt to the eyes, which apparently knocks him unconscious because Yoko scores the pin, no leg drop, no splash, nothing of the sort.

Rating: **1/4

And then Hogan comes out to aid his 'friend' Bret, and Fuji challenges Hogan on the spot to a title match. Totally believable, just like Jenny Curran dying of HIV in Forrest Gump when the disease didn't exist yet, or Lawler having pyro for his entrance in Man on the Moon.

Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan (WWE World Championship)

Yeah, fuck this.

Rating: -*****

OVERALL: It's the worst WrestleMania ever, not just for the ending (which is pretty damn ridiculous), but for many of the match endings, and the lack of any real blowaway matches. It's an uninspired show with the dark cloud of Hogan looming over it, washing acid rain all over the mess as the show draws to a merciful end.

Thumbs way down.

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