Friday, August 13, 2010

WWF Review: Wrestlemania IX (Re-Post)

NOTE: For the big PPVs (RR, WM, KOTR, SSL, SSE) I will be doing individual show notes rather than lumping them in with the monthly review. I am starting this format with this show and may retroactively review the Royal Rumble, but I'm not sure. Enjoy.

Caesars Palace. Nice.
I've been dreading reviewing Wrestlemania IX since I began this project last week because I remembered the show being pretty terrible. After watching the build-up to the show I was somewhat more optimistic. After all, I hadn't seen the show in years based solely on what I assumed was a skewed memory of how bad the show really was. The WWF hype machine was in full motion beginning in early January, and with superstars like Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, The Steiner Brothers, The Headshrinkers, Taker, Yoko, DiBiase/IRS and Hogan/Beefcake, I really didn't think this show could be as bad as I remembered. I was wrong.

To start, Caesars Palace was a terrible place to hold Wrestlemania. Compared to Mania's past settings, it looked very small and the Roman theme really didn't seem to fit with the world of wrestling, regardless of the connection between wrestlers and gladiators. Combine the setting with the over-the-top togas and entrances (minus Heenan's, because he could turn anything into gold) and it just felt cheesy and campy, words that should never be associated with "the showcase of the immortals."

On an extremely positive note, I did love that WWF held this event outdoors. I think it really adds to the atmosphere as day changes to night over the course of the event. It's just too bad that this wonderful idea was wasted on such a poor show. Also, this show marked Jim Ross's debut announcing gig with WWF. Even under the toga, Good Ol' JR did a hell of a job calling this disaster, as did Heenan. Macho Man...not so much.

Let's get to some thoughts on the matches themselves:

HBK v. Tatanka for Michaels' intercontinental championship was easily match of the night. These two athletes put on a great show. While it started slow, the match gained a lot of momentum as it continued and both men put on a great performance. While the match ending was disappointing (Tatanka victorious by countout), the result wasn't terrible and Michaels, easily the better wrestler of the two, was able to hold onto his IC championship. One thing I really didn't like about this match, however, was the inclusion of Luna Vachon and Sherri Martel. Perhaps this feud will go somewhere over the next few months, but it seems like a strange way to debut Luna and I'm already tired of the Martel/Michaels situation.

The Steiner Brothers v. The Headshrinkers was another solid match on the card. Both teams had a good amount of talent and it really shows in this match-up. The Samoans were good at building heat and truly looked menacing while the Steiners had that clean-cut American image (even with the dog-face gremlin being present). This match was really a clash of styles - Samoan wildmen against All-American wrestlers from Michigan. The match ended with a badass Frankensteiner from Scott Steiner, which is always a fun way to conclude a match.

Doink vs. Crush was a terrible match. I'm glad that Doink won because I'd rather watch Barry Horowitz face Steve Lombardi than watch Crush do anything. Also, the double Doink was a stupid idea, and even Todd Pettengill in a toga and a backwards cap couldn't convince me that it was somehow an "illusion." Worthless match.

Razor Ramon v. Bob Backlund was another squadoosh of a performance. Backlund was back after who knows how long away from the company. Though he had a strong showing at the '93 Rumble (lasting an impressive 60+ minutes before eventually being eliminated), Backlund's Opie-like personality just wasn't working in this gimmick-driven environment. Thankfully, Razor beat him quickly.

Money, Inc. v. Mega Maniacs (Hogan/Beefcake) was a decent match, mainly because of DiBiase and Rotunda. Hogan and Beefcake spent most of the match posing and applying sleeper holds. DiBiase and Rotunda, on the other hand, kept trying to whack the Mega Morons with a gold attaché case, eventually succeding against Beefcake and ripping off his ridiculous titanium face mask, which would then be used by Hogan to beat up on Money, Inc. Luckily, referee "Dangerous" Danny Davis saw this and awarded the match to Money, Inc. via disqualification. This also helped to right an earlier wrong when another referee decided DiBiase and Rotunda would forfeit their titles in the event of a count-out. It would later become apparent why this "grudge match" was left entirely unresolved.

"The Narcissist" Lex Luger v. Mr. Perfect was a pretty good match-up between two really talented wrestlers. There was some good bank-and-forth action in this match, and though the ending wasn't clean it was still a nice way to conclude the match, especially if the feud is going to continue. Unfortunately, Shawn Michaels' attack of Mr. Perfect after the match pretty much guarantees that Lex/Perfect will be put on the backburner, perhaps indefintely. One of the few bright spots of the night. Also, steel-plated forearm? Hmph.

Undertaker v. Giant Gonzales is maybe the worst match in Wrestlemania history. Giant Gonzales was a seven foot goomba who couldn't wrestle to save his life. Unfortunately, he also couldn't play the monster heel role to save his life either. This match brought Harvey Wippleman's latest acquisition to the table, and Undertaker did all that he could against the big man. In a strange turn of events, Giant Gonzales chloroformed "The Deadman" and was disqualified. I still don't know why this match happened.

Bret Hart v. Yokozuna was actually a pretty solid match that pitted the technical wrestling prowess of "The Hitman" against the brute force of Yokozuna. Each man used his strengths to take control of the match at different points, and in the end it looked like Hart had done the impossible when he locked in his signature Sharpshooter submission hold. Just then, Mr. Fuji threw salt in Hart's eyes, enabling Yoko to get the pin and steal the victory for his first WWF Championship. This would have been a great place to end this atrocity of a wrestling show, but no wrestling atrocity is complete until "The Hulkster" has his say.

Hulk Hogan came to the ring at this point to check on Bret. This makes no sense. For some idiotic reason, Mr. Fuji, whose protégé had only just won a hard-fought match due to outside interference, decided to challenge Hogan to a title match with Yokozuna right then and there. This makes no sense. Hogan accepts, but only after checking with Hart (ain't he a nice fellow?), and goes on to defeat Yoko in 20+ seconds with an atomic leg drop after Fuji's salt-throw backfires. Miraculously, Hulk Hogan walks out of Wrestlemania IX as WWF Champion. This makes no sense.

This PPV was terrible, but there are certainly worse shows. What makes this particular show stand out is that it was Wrestlemania, the grandest stage of them all, and it really failed to deliver. Oh well, hopefully the rest of April will not dissapoint.

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