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Wrestlemania Countdown: 8

(2012 Scott sez:  OK, I’m pretty sure we’ve reached the point where there’s a maximum of two versions of each rant to slog through.) 

The Netcop Retro Rant for Wrestlemania VIII

- Live from Indianapolis, Indiana. Original airdate: April 5, 1992

- Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan.

- Personal reminiscence: This was the last Wrestlemania that I had to watch on closed-circuit TV rather than PPV, because in 1992 Edmonton finally got PPV capability. In this case, the only place close that was showing it was a hotel in a rather out-of-the-way chunk of Edmonton called Sherwood Park. Sadly, I can’t even remember the name of it now. But I did get a cool Wrestlemania logo mug, which I proudly retain and use to this day.  (Sadly, that mug disappeared sometime in 2004 during my move from Edmonton to Saskatoon.  I suspect someone tried to mix painkillers and alcohol in it.)  Anyway, there ended up being a couple of hundred people packed into a ballroom that was only expecting 40 or 50, and the atmosphere for the show in that room alone was pretty awesome.

- Opening match: Tito Santana v. Shawn Michaels.

The more things change, the more they really, really change. This was the end of Santana's WWF career and the beginning of Shawn's rise to the top. Good choice for the opener. Michaels and Sherri are nowhere near over yet, despite the coolest jacket ever: "I'm too sexy for this crowd." (You’ll note my perspective on that jacket changes with about 5 years of hindsight.)  And "Sexy Boy" sounds so weird still being sung by Sherri. Sherri looks skanky and pudgy as ever, so nice to know some things are constant. It's funny comparing then and now, actually -- I didn't buy Michaels as any kind of legit title threat until 1994, and I certainly didn't buy him as a possible World champion until he almost won the thing from Diesel in 1995. Quite a bit of stalling and a few good bumps from Shawn about sum this one up. Another "then and now" moment: The main event, the show stopper, the scene stealer, the the opening match? Side-headlocks a go-go from Tito. Shawn hits the Sweet Chin Music at one point, but the move isn't over yet so does minimal damage. He was using the teardrop suplex at this point, btw, and for those who ask a teardrop suplex is, for lack of a better description, a released backdrop suplex. Pretty nasty if done right. (Generally lame, though.)  The match has a hot ending, however, as Shawn sells like a champ before reversing a slam attempt into a pin. Ending looked a bit messed up for some reason. *1/2

- Mean Gene brings out the LOD and Paul Ellering for a *lengthy* interview. This was the precursor to Rocco, which I pray will never be spoken of again. By anyone.

- Jake Roberts v. The Undertaker.

Now *this* is how you bury a guy whose contract is up. This is shortly after the UT's face turn, and he's getting mega-pops even then. This is the "final justice" match for all the bad stuff Jake did during his "Trust me" run, and boy does he *ever* get his. UT no-sells everything and then some, including the DDT, and easily pins Jake after tombstoning him on the floor. An utter and complete slaughter. DUD, but a satisfying one for those sick of Jake's heel tactics.  (In hindsight, Jake made the worst decision of his career when he decided to hold up Vince for more money and jump to WCW. 2-0 for Undertaker!)

- WWF Intercontinental title: Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Bret Hart.

Piper had substituted for Bret at the Royal Rumble, winning the I-C title from the Mountie, who had in turn won the title from Bret a few days prior. So now Bret and Piper fight. (I definitely used to take “Brevity is the soul of wit” to heart.)  This is a lesson in ring psychology, as Bret and Roddy play mindgames with each other the entire match. Bret debuts the "goldbricking" routine that Diesel fell victim to at Survivor Series 1995. Bret juices, just for the hell of it. (Although he told everyone that it was accidental, wink wink.)  Piper works very stiff here, with noticeable results. Ref gets bumped and Piper teases a heel turn with the ringbell before the fans change his mind. He goes for the sleeper instead, but Bret walks the ropes and rolls through for the pin and the title. **** Piper's best match in the WWF, IMO. Piper and Hart do the Babyface Embrace after the match.  (Way to short-shrift this match, Scott.) 

- Bobby introduces us to "future WBF champion" Lex Luger. Whoever thought the WBF was a good idea? Oh, yeah, same guy who thought the XFL is.  (And the WWE Network.  And WWE Films.  Although now I’m wondering when I wrote this, because it’s lacking match times and meaningful recapping, but I’m making XFL jokes here which would place it in 2001 when I should have been doing both of those things.) 

- The Nasty Boys & Repo Man & The Mountie v. Jim Duggan & Sgt. Slaughter & Virgil & Big Bossman.

Oh, wow, it's the "8 suckiest guys in wrestling today in the same match" match. Okay, that's not fair -- Jacques Rougeau isn't that bad. Ray Combs does a lame ring introduction, mocking the heels. Hold on! Shawn Michaels has left the building. Whew, I feel better now. This is not as incredibly bad as you might think it is, which is to say it's not quite a DUD. Virgil pins Knobs after a miscommunication spot. 1/2*

- WWF World title: Ric Flair v. Randy Savage.

This is the blowoff for the "She was mine before she was yours" feud. I never really cared for the "sign the match, then add the angle" approach to this, but it won Feud of the Year or Angle of the Year or something on RSPW, so I guess many disagreed with me. This is arguably Savage's last really great match in the WWF, with the possible exception of Savage v. Warrior from Summerslam 1992. Super-hot crowd. Perfect is almost Togo-ish in his TOTAL DICKHOOD~! (See, again, I’m all over Dick Togo’s jock here, which would place this in my Michinoku Pro fanboy phase around 1999.  I’m confused.)  Flair blades, and I was half-expecting Savage to join him in a sympathy blade, but no dice.  (Yeah, and Flair got REAMED by Vince after the match for doing that, so no wonder Savage didn’t follow suit.)  Flair dominates, but Savage makes the superhero comeback and destroys Flair, finally hitting the big elbow. But Perfect yanks him out of the ring to make the save. What a jerk (You know it's a good character when you can still sit back years later and think he's a total jerk for doing that). Flair tries the old brass knucks, but Savage kicks out. They cheat outrageously some more, allowing Flair to get the figure-four. He destroys Savage's knee unmercifully, but stalls one time too many and allows Savage to roll him up out of nowhere for the pin and title. ****1/4 Great match. Flair goes after Liz and a wild brawl erupts. Savage finally gets his moment of glory, without You-Know-Who posing in the background. Good for him.

- Flair gives a classic ranting and raving interview, where he conveniently ignores the 14 or so rule violations committed by himself and focuses on Savage's pulling of the tights.

- Savage responds with his own psychotic interview. Great feud.

- We pretty much go downhill from there.

- Rick Martel v. Tatanka.

Tatanka was getting the Maivia-level push at this time, despite his near-total lack of talent. (Again, Rocky Maivia references, so this would be 98-99.  I wonder if I edited that XFL joke in later?)  Nothing match here, only there to put Tatanka over. T-t-t-t-t-t-tanka rolls through a body block for the pin. *1/2

- WWF Tag Team Title: Money, Inc. v. The Natural Disasters.

Jimmy Hart had recently swerved the Disasters and gone over to Dibiase & IRS, setting up this match. Earthquake and Typhoon basically mop the ring with the champs for a few minutes, before they run away, giving the Disasters a countout win. DUD Well, one screwjob so far ain't bad.  (This was supposed to be Money Inc v. Legion of Doom as I recall, but Hawk was falling fast.) 

- Owen Hart v. Skinner.

Could've been good, but time constraints dictated otherwise. (Much like this rant, apparently.  Was I rushing through this or what?)  Skinner gets a few big moves in quickly, but Owen kicks out and rolls him up for a very quick pin. DUD

- Main Event: Hulk Hogan v. Sid Justice.

Standard "Hogan gets betrayed" blowoff match. The formula was getting very old by this point. Kick and punch, heel gets the Big Move, Hogan kicks out and Hulks Up, boot, legdrop. Except he doesn't get the pin -- Papa Shango was supposed to run in and break up the count, but he didn't make down in time and Sid was forced to kick out. Oops. It wasn't a shoot, despite popular opinion on the 'net. Sid & Shango put the beats on Hogan until...THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR RUNS IN! Wow, was this an electrifying moment when it happened. Incredible way to end the show, as Hogan and Warrior pose in happier times. Match is maybe 1/4* I shudder to think how bad it can get next month.  (See, there I’m referencing the impending Hogan v. Warrior match at Halloween Havoc 98, so I must have edited that XFL line in at a later date.  I hate it when people mess with my mind, especially when it’s me.) 

The Bottom Line: One of the most memorable Wrestlemanias, and for good reason. Two ****+ matches and the biggest surprise ending ever. Wow. Required viewing material for all wrestling fans, I think.

The SmarK Retro Re-Rant for Wrestlemania VIII

- Live from Indianapolis, IN.

- Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan.

- Opening match: Shawn Michaels v. Tito Santana.

Shawn brings new meaning to “classy” by wearing a jacket that says “I’m too sexy for this crowd”, thus not only being a jerk, but also making an incredibly dated reference. Very weird hearing Sherri sing “Sexy Boy” instead of Shawn. Shoving match to start and Tito wins a slugfest and gets a quick crossbody for two. He grabs a headlock on Shawn and holds on, but Shawn slugs out and they criss-cross until Tito clotheslines him to the floor. Back in, Tito goes back to the headlock, but Shawn pounds him in the corner to escape and slugs away. Tito reverses him into the other corner and outsmarts Shawn, going back to the headlock. He gets two off that a few times, hanging on tight. Small package gets two. Back to the headlock for two. Shawn tosses him to escape, as Tito takes a good bump over the top and Shawn pounds him on the apron. Back in, backbreaker gets two. We hit the chinlock, and Tito fights out of it, but walks into the superkick. Since that didn’t get established as his finisher until 1995, it’s not over yet. Shawn goes for his real finisher, the teardrop suplex, but Tito fights out of it. He puts his head down too soon and gets nailed, but comes back with the flying jalapeno and Shawn goes for a ride right out of the ring. They brawl on the floor and Tito brings him back in for a slingshot shoulderblock. Kneelift sends Shawn flying into the corner, and an atomic drop sets up El Pace With Extra Piquante, but Shawn takes a powder to the floor. Back to the apron and Tito goes to slam him back in, but Shawn shifts his weight and gets the pin at 10:37. I assume Sherri was supposed to be cheating there or something, but it didn’t work out that way. Still, good match, although not “HBK” level good. ***  (Same basic match recap as before, with the same observations and beats, but much more expanded now.  And usually I’m not sitting there reading my old stuff and copying it, I just make the same observations again and think I’m saying something fresh and original.) 

- Mean Gene re-introduces the LOD, in the storyline that would bring Paul Ellering to the WWF…and Rocco the dummy. Don’t ask.  (See?) 

- Jake Roberts v. Undertaker.

This was just after Undertaker’s face turn, as he saved Elizabeth from Roberts, and it was Jake’s last match in the WWF before jumping to WCW. Jake evades him to start and slugs away, to no effect. Another shot puts Taker on the floor, but he pulls Jake out with him and proceeds to ass-kicking. Back in, Jake kneelifts him coming through the ropes and keeps punching, but that gets him nowhere, as UT calmly chokes him out in the corner and won’t let him leave. Well, it’s no TRIANGLE choke, but you could see the MMA influence already starting! Okay, I made that up. Yeah, more choking. Taker drops an elbow and gets the flying clothesline, but Jake DDTs him. Taker no-sells and keeps choking, so Jake hits him with a short clothesline and another DDT. And it’s zombie sit-up #2 while Jake goes after Paul Bearer, which pisses Undertaker off enough that he tombstones Jake on the floor, and tosses him back in for the pin at 6:41. That was basically Jake passing the “creepy babyface” torch to Undertaker, and I guess it worked. ½*

- Intercontinental title: Roddy Piper v. Bret Hart.

This was of course set up by the Mountie being an unlikely transition champion, beating Bret at a house show and losing the title to Piper at Royal Rumble, so with Bret demanding his mandatory rematch, this was the result. They fight over a lockup and Piper armdrags him. Another lockup, and now Bret gets the armdrag. Piper takes him down to the mat and Bret sends him to the floor to escape, and a shoving match results. Piper asks for the test of strength, although considering Piper looks like he weighs a buck-fifty as this point I don’t know how smart that is. (Yeah, Piper suddenly going off the roids in 92 made for quite the visual contrast to his younger and juicier days.)  They trade wristlocks off that and Piper throws a chop, but can’t break free. He rams Bret into the corner to get out, but Bret goes back to it again and yanks Piper to the mat for an armbar. Piper escapes, so Bret dropkicks him, and hurts his shoulder on the bump. Piper is concerned…until Bret cradles for two. Ha! Piper gives him a slap for being sneakier than him, and now it’s on. Criss-cross and they tumble out on a Bret crossbody. Piper offers him save haven back in, and Bret takes it. But then Piper suckerpunches him. He stomps away as Bret blades (and later lied about it to prevent punishment for it) and Piper bulldogs him for two. Piper works on the cut and kneelifts him for two. He socks Bret right in the cut, but Bret gets a sunset flip for two. Piper keeps on the cut and peppers it with punches, for two. They slug it out and Bret forearms him out to the floor, but he heads right back in and they clothesline each other. Piper recovers first and goes up, but Bret was also goldbricking and crotches him, then brings him down by the hair. Atomic drop and suplex get two. Russian legsweep gets two. Backbreaker and he goes for the Sharpshooter, but Piper blocks it, so Bret drops an elbow on him and goes up, hitting boot on the way down. They slug it out and Bret headlocks him, but the ref is bumped. They fight outside and Bret eats stairs, and Piper grabs the bell. The crowd completely freaks out, not wanting to see Piper turn heel on him, but Piper shows mercy and leaves it alone, opting for the sleeper instead. However, that costs him the title, as Bret pushes off the ropes and rolls over for the pin and the title at 13:49, a move that he would later bring back to beat Steve Austin in 1996. Piper teases another heel turn, and then does the right thing and straps the title on Bret. This was not only a great match, but one of the only clean jobs Piper did in his WWF career. ****  (You know who else he did a clean job to?  Jimmy Superfly Snuka!  Yes, that’s right, the father of current diva Tamina Snuka, in case you hadn’t heard.)

(Yeah, I got another Snuka joke in there.  Because I’m a PROFESSIONAL.) 

- Bobby Heenan introduces us to the newest WBF superstar, Lex Luger. Never heard of him.

- Big Bossman, Sgt. Slaughter, Virgil & Hacksaw Duggan v. Mountie, The Nasty Boys & Repo Man.

Our running dead people tally continues, as Ray Combs does the ring introductions here. Big brawl to start, as the faces send the heels running and quadruple-team Repo Man. We start proper with Sags and Duggan, as Sags attacks him from behind and rams him into the turnbuckle, but Duggan comes back with a pair of clotheslines and an atomic drop. Slaughter, a year removed from being an Iraqi turncoat in the main event (Biggest fall from main event glory:  This, Bundy at Wrestlemania III, or Savage at Wrestlemania VI?), gets a gutbuster on Knobs and Bossman follows with a big boot. He slugs away in the corner, but misses a charge, and Repo Man comes in and dodges a splash. He jumps on the back a few times, but lands on Bossman’s fist in an awkward place and Bossman slugs him down and brings in Virgil. Dropkick and he goes up with a high cross for two. The Mountie lays him out from behind and Repo gets a backdrop suplex and suckers Duggan in, allowing for some shenanigans. Sags gets a pumphandle slam for two. Mountie comes in and gets caught by Bossman with a spinebuster, and it’s breaking loose in Tulsa! Knobs punches Virgil in the broken nose, but heel miscommunication results in Virgil pinning him at 6:31. Total mess. ½*

- WWF title match: Ric Flair v. Randy Savage.

This is the famous “she was mine before she was yours” angle that would have been 100x better (and that’s saying something) if they had come up with it BEFORE the match was booked. On the other hand, you could just argue that Flair was playing mindgames with Savage after he found out he’d be defending against him. Savage beats on Flair outside to start, but gets distracted by Perfect, allowing Flair to start chopping. Savage hits him with a clothesline and knees him into the corner, then follows with a clothesline and a back elbow for two. He goes to the eyes, drawing the attention of the ref, but charges Flair and gets backdropped to the floor as a result. Flair follows and stomps on the knee, and back in he keeps stomping on Savage. Into the corner for some chops to set up a delayed suplex, which gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. He whips Savage around and into a chop for two. Kneedrop and Savage bails to take a breather, so Flair follows and rams the back into the apron. Back in, suplex gets two. Flair whips him into the corner again to stay on the back, and stomps him down in the corner. They slug it out as Savage comes back, and a neckbreaker draws the double count. Flair goes for a running punch, but Savage blocks and slugs him into the corner, allowing Flair to go up, but Savage slams him off and makes the comeback. Backdrop out of the corner and a pair of clotheslines, and it’s a Flair Flip, as Savage slams him off the top for two. Savage comes back with a clothesline to put Flair on the floor, and follows with a double axehandle that sends Flair into the railing, and he blades. Flair wasn’t smart enough to claim it was hardway, like Bret did, so he was fined and very nearly fired for it. Savage suplexes him on the floor and pounds on him back in the ring, then follows with the double axehandle for two. Up top for the flying elbow, but Perfect pulls out Savage at two. Savage, understandably, is upset and chases after him, but that allows Flair to grab an international object and nail Savage with it for two. Flair gets frustrated and pounds away, then chokes him down, allowing Perfect to ram a chair into his knee behind the ref’s back. And now, WHOO, we go to school, but Elizabeth heads down to ringside to provide support as Flair gets the figure-four. The heat is just insane at this point. Flair slaps him around when he won’t stay down, but Savage fights back and reverses it. Flair breaks the hold, but stays on the knee, until Savage gets a small package for two. Into the corner, as Flair hits on Liz and beats on the knee, into a kneecrusher, but he gives one “whoo” too many and Savage rolls him up for the pin with a handful of tights at 18:01 to win his second WWF title. Started slow, but once they got into the groove, they had the crowd in the palm of their hands with great near-falls and crazy heat. ****1/4 Flair gives Liz a goodbye kiss, and Savage goes nuts on him, triggering a huge brawl until the refs pull them apart. Sadly, we would never see the naked centerfold of Elizabeth promised in the buildup by Perfect & Flair. (The guy next to me in the lounge, after witnessing one of the great Wrestlemania matches in history up to that point, got upset and ranted to me about how the match was too short and Flair had only ever lost the title in 30 minute marathons up to that point, as though the WWF was regularly in the habit of giving ANYONE 20 minutes at a time.) 

- Rick Martel v. Tatanka.

This was fairly early in Tatanka’s run, although he would go on to draw pretty decent money against Yokozuna of all people in 1993, before self-destructing. Tatanka slams Martel and chases him from the ring while Bobby Heenan goes ballistic on Monsoon over the last match. Martel misses a charge back in the ring and Tatanka works on the arm, but gets taken down by Martel with a choke. He tosses Tatanka and they head back in, as Martel uses the CLUBBING FOREARMS and a backbreaker, but goes up and gets crotched for his troubles. Tatanka comes back with chops and a backdrop, chopping him down. Martel catches him with slam, however, and clotheslines him, but Tatanka finishes with a crossbody at 4:30. Weak. ¾*

- WWF tag title match: Money Inc. v. The Natural Disasters.

Dibiase starts with Quake and gets overpowered. The Disasters clean house on them and the champs regroup. Back in, and the Disasters work on IRS’s arm, and Typhoon hiptosses him. IRS tries to bail, but gets caught by the tie and rammed into the turnbuckles. Typhoon charges and misses, however, and Dibiase comes in, but gets whipped into the corner, too. Typhoon charges and hits the floor, however, and Dibiase hammers away in the corner, and Money Inc gets the double-team clothesline for two. Double back elbow and IRS goes to the front facelock, and it’s a false tag to Earthquake. Dibiase gets two on Typhoon in the meantime. Double clothesline, crowd still doesn’t care. I never got why the Disasters were turned into the big babyface team of 1992, since they were never particularly over and didn’t have particularly good matches. “Hot” tag Earthquake, and he clotheslines everyone and dumps Dibiase. Typhoon splashes IRS and Quake goes for the butt splash, but Dibiase pulls IRS out and they take a walk at 8:37. Slow, dull match with a really bad finish. *

- Owen Hart v. Skinner.

Skinner sprays him with tobacco juice to catch him off-guard, and gets a shoulderbreaker. Inverted DDT gets two. He adds some headbutts, but Owen skins the cat after getting tossed, and rolls him up for the pin at 1:10. Not one of Owen’s best matches. DUD

- Hulk Hogan v. Sid Justice.

This was SUPPOSED to be Hogan’s retirement match, but he just kept coming back. The show is running long at this point, too. Sid attacks him to start, and Hogan punches him out of the ring and finishes his posing. We start proper as Sid knees him in the gut and pounds away in the corner. Hogan slugs him out of the ring. Back in, Sid calls for the test of strength like every other idiot heel in WWF history, and gets Hogan down to his knees, but he fights back up again. Sid takes him into the corner with knees, and chokeslams him. Sid stops to give his “Do unto the man…” line to the camera and the match is suddenly 10x better, since Sid isn’t doing anything. He uses the CLUBBING FOREARMS and Hogan bails, so Sid follows and hits him with Harvey’s medical bag. Wonder if that was George Zahorian’s bag? Back in, Sid uses the VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DOOM as I go change my laundry. Hogan fights out, so Sid sideslams him and powerbombs him, but it’s Hulk Up Time, punch punch punch big boot legdrop…and then a very interesting moment as Papa Shango was supposed to run in and break up the count, but misses his cue, forcing Sid to kick out. (That was a double-cross on Hogan, in fact.  Obviously they backed the wrong horse in retrospect.)  That was to protect Sid, but in retrospect they needn’t have bothered, since he was gone weeks later anyway. It’s a DQ at 12:26 for no adequately explored reason, and Papa Shango finally gets out there for the beatdown…until Ultimate Warrior makes a shocking return and blows the roof off the place. Good thing they had his music ready. Well, Hogan’s good Wrestlemania match streak ends at 3. ¼* Some cosmetic changes to Warrior had people guessing that it wasn’t Jim Hellwig, but believe me, I wasn’t that lucky.

- By the way, the tape closes with an apology from Coliseum video for advertising a Bulldog v. Berzerker match on the box that didn’t happen. While it’s nice they would actually acknowledge their own false advertising for once (the show was running long and the match was ditched), there’s not really any apology needed for THAT cut.

The Bottom Line:

Another one of my favorite Wrestlemanias, with two great matches and one stinker of a main event that at least had one of the biggest surprise endings in WM history to bail it out somewhat. But it’s definitely worth a look.

Highly recommended.