WrestleMania VIII

July 10, 2010

This is the next in my string of commentaries looking back and reviewing WrestleManias. It’s been a few months since I did Mania VII and I’ll try no to be so long before I get to IX. The fun part for me will be once I get to 11 because 12 thru 16, I haven’t seen before so it should be a lot more interesting.

I don’t remember where I watched this show but I know I saw it live somewhere. April of 1992 my career was still moving along fairly slowly so I was still able to keep up with all the big shows in WCW and WWF. The biggest thing I remember about this show from back then was how astronomically stupid I thought it was for WWF to pass up the WrestleMania Main Event of Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan. To me this would have been the biggest match of all time and they changed their minds and didn’t do it. I believe the problem was that WWF had already committed the Main Event match to Sid (in his contract) and had to honour that, which is why they switched to the double main event and did Savage – Flair, and Hogan – Sid.

This was the second Mania without Jesse Ventura but at least they had Bobby Heenan as the full time replacement. I didn’t like Heenan as much as Ventura but Bobby is always great so I cant’ really complain.

Shawn Michaels – “El Matador” Tito Santana: This was the start of the Shawn Michaels singles push when he was managed by the Sensational Sherri. I had forgotten that in the beginning Sherri sang Shawn’s entrance music, which actually made a lot more sense, seeing that it was a girl calling him a sexy boy and a boy toy rather than Shawn saying that about himself. I still laugh at the fact that a Baby Face Shawn still used that music years later considering the ridiculous lyrics. The match itself was a very basic but solid match both guys just went out there and wrestled. I really miss this era of working, where matches weren’t just spots and things looked a lot more real. Shawn even used a Super Kick just as a move; his finish back then was a suplex which would be a cross between a Saito Suplex and an Angle Slam. Finish was incredibly lame as Tito just tried to slam Shawn in from the apron and Shawn just grabbed the top rope and fell on top of Tito for the pin. Sherri didn’t even grab Tito’s leg from the floor. A perfectly fine opener for the time but by today’s standards would probably be considered a lazy house show match.

The Undertaker – Jake Roberts: #2 in the Streak although it certainly wasn’t a streak yet. Jake did a pre-match promo and was awesome; my God this man could talk. Not a great match but this match was more about Taker’s gimmick as the dead man and he moved and worked incredibly slow back then. I was surprised to notice that Jake was almost the exact same size as the Undertaker here. I guess because of the Undertaker aura I always picture him as bigger but Jake was a big dude. I guess it started the previous year at Mania VII with Warrior kicking out of multiple Savage elbow drops but kicking out of big moves is now officially how WWF is getting guys over. The Undertaker did the sit up deal after 2 DDTs, which would have been unheard of. Undertaker hits the Tombstone on the floor (Very Safely) and pins Jake to go to 2-0.

Roddy Piper – Bret Hart (IC Title match): This match I remember as being a big deal back then. I was a Bret Hart fan and this was when the IC Title still meant something. I think this was also one of the first big baby face matches WWF presented. This match was all about the story, which was fantastic. It wasn’t about moves and holds these guys told the emotional story of 2 “good guys” having to battle over something more important than their friendship. This was freakin awesome. In the end Piper teased hitting Bret with the ring bell, but chose the high road instead, which ended up costing him the math and the title. This story was so clear and obvious that Piper came off looking like a hero in defeat and both men came out winners in this one. This match is what working is all about.

Next up was a Lex Luger WBF (World Bodybuilding Federation) promo. I mention it only because it sucked and Luger was freakin HUGE. No wellness policy back then.

Nasty Boys, Mountie, Repo Man – Duggan, Slaughter, Virgil, Bossman: What a cluster F—K this thing was. Ray Combs (the host of Family Feud back then) did ring introductions and did some of the worst “Survey Says” comedy I’ve ever heard. This was brutal and set the tone for a pointless 8 Man tag match. The guys were over but there was nothing of note in this match, faces win, crowd popped end of story. Likely just meant to be a buffer match between the 2 title matches.

Ric Flair – Randy Savage (WWF Title): I hated this match being in the middle of the show. I was never a Hogan fan so putting the World Title in the undercard for a Hogan Main Event pissed me off. This was a fun match to watch and had a bit of an unconventional structure to it. Flair cut Savage off early and beat the hell out of him forever. I don’t think Savage made even the slightest comeback until his big one heading into some big near falls. This match too was the start of bigger near falls and kickouts with Savage kicking out of a foreign object shot by Flair. They told a great story post comeback leading to Savage getting the surprise roll up out of no where to an insanely huge pop from the crowd. Match was slow early but ended great, there was even a Shane McMahon cameo late in the match when Miss Elizabeth ran down to ringside.

Rick Martel – Tatanka: This match even more so than the opener was a basic, lazy house show match by today’s standards, type match. Absolutely nothing of note Tatanka wins with a normal cross body, not even one of the turnbuckle, just running off the ropes. I think this was the first of 3 matches designed to just bring the crowd down and lower the work rate expectations going into the Main Event.

Money Inc. – Natural Disasters (Tag Title Match): Boy this match sucked. Money Inc. tried but working with 2 400 pounders did not appear an easy task. Typhoon botched the heat spot and ended up just jump over the top rope himself for the cut off. He also managed to take a double clothesline by running off the ropes turning his back and bumping into the clothesline. One of the weirdest bumps I’ve ever seen. To make the match worse we got the heels walking away for the intentional Count Out. If their role was to bring down expectations going into the main these guys deserved a bonus.

Skinner – Owen Hart: This match too was a complete dude. Skinner spit tobacco juice in Owen’s face before the bell and beat him up for maybe 1 minute and then Owen rolled him up out of no where for the win. Crowd should be sufficiently bored by this point to pop for the work rate of the Main Event, which they did.

Hulk Hogan – Sid Justice: This match was over 18 years ago and they aired a Hogan sit down interview before the match where Hogan discussed that this could be his last match as he was contemplating retirement. Hogan is a slow decision maker because he must still be contemplating today because he’s still going. This was one slow nothing happening 12-minute match, but to their credit the crowd was super into it. Sid did the same exact spot twice and I laughed my ass off at the absurdity of it both times. After cutting Hogan off and beating him up for a while Sid whipped Hogan off the ropes and did a drop down, which Hogan jumped over, stopped, and then fired back on Sid with punches. The spot got the desired reaction but I just laughed at the absurdity of the 6’ 10” Sid beating the hell out of someone, whipping him off the ropes and just drop down to avoid contact. He didn’t try to hit him and have him duck he just dropped down on his belly, and he did it twice in the match, AWESOME. Crowd was super into this match so more power to them. Sid kicked out of the Hogan leg drop finisher, which I’m told was not the original plan, but Popashango was a about a day late on his run in. There was a post match beat down which lead to the big Ultimate Warrior run in for the save, which I remember thinking at the time, was ridiculous because he hadn’t been in the company for quite a while yet he did the run in, in full gear with entrance music.

In the end this was a passable but not particularly great show. It was really only a 3 match show. The Intercontinental Title match was a big deal and great, Flair – Savage was a big deal and also very good, and then Hogan and Sid while technically quite bad, was a big deal and the crowd loved it. Everything else on the show completely forgettable, and would likely be considered below RAW standards of today. In a great coincidence looking back at the card I got to work with 8 of the people on the WrestleMania VII card during my career: Hogan, Sid, Typhoon, Martel, Flair, The Mountie, Duggan, and The Undertaker.

Lance