Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vintage WWF Review: September 1993

Finland produces some scary characters
NOTE: Sorry this took me so long to get up. My sister got engaged last week so I ended up taking a trip to Chicago to visit her and celebrate. Unfortunately, she doesn't have the internet and didn't want to watch vintage wrestling as part of the celebration (shocking, I know), so I was out of  touch for a while. I'm working today, but I will have the rest of the year up in the next two days. Thanks for your patience and enjoy!

Coming off of the success of August's Summer Slam, the WWF had a bit of a drop off in the month of September. While the month as a whole was still entertaining, many of the feuds that had been running throughout the summer had come to a close at the August pay-per-view, so the company is in the process of building some new feuds to lead into November's Survivor Series. The seeds of such feuds were planted as early as the end of Summerslam, when Ludvig Borga, the Finnish Nightmare, confronted Lex Luger after his Summer Slam victory. As mentioned earlier, Borga hates America and takes a special exception to Luger's pro-America gimmick. This seems to be leading to a confrontation at Survivor Series, if my memory serves right.

One of my favorite things about this month was the match between the Steiner Brothers and the Quebecers for the WWF Tag Team Titles. This match was fought under "Quebec Province Rules," which made the match more entertaining than I was expecting. For those unfamiliar with how wrestling is supposedly fought in Quebec, here's a summary of the rules:

1) Piledrivers are illegal
2) Top rope maneuvers are illegal
3) Throwing an opponent over the top rope is illegal
4) Titles can change hands in the even of a countout
5) Titles can change hands in the event of disqualification

Quebec: Awesome wrestlers, terrible rules
These ridiculous rules led to a very entertaining match between the two teams that the Quebecers would eventually win due to disqualification. I'm glad they won, partially because they get  the titles of the godawful Steiners (love 'em in the ring, but they're annoying on the mic) and also because Johnny Polo is their manager. Everybody likes Johnny Polo!

September saw quite a few changes in the WWF landscape. New champions, wrestler debuts, and character shifts are just some of the surprises in store for viewers this month, and it made for a pretty entertaining month of wrestling, if not as entertaining as the few months prior. Anyway, let's get to some awards for more thoughts on this month in WWF history:


Superstar(s) of the Month: The Quebecers. There is absolutely nothing I don't enjoy about Jacques and Pierre, the Quebecers. This is the first time I've seen the Quebecers on RAW (though they debuted in July), so I am also awarding them with Debut of the Month. Older fans will remember Jacques as one of the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers with his brother Ray, as well as his stint as the Mountie. He's basically still the Mountie in this gimmick, but he found a fatter French Canadian with whom to pal around. The best part about this gimmick is that the Quebecers sing their own theme song and it is hilarious. Seriously, if you don't love this you suck:

Match of the Month: Scott Steiner v. Pierre. After losing the titles in controversial fashion due to some funky French Canadian rules, Scott Stiener was huffin' and puffin' until he got the chance to put a hurting on Pierre of the Quebecers. This match gave us all of the spots their "Quebec Province Rules" match denied us earlier in the month, as Scott hit a piledriver, threw Pierre over the top, and hit a nice top rope maneuver. Add that to his impressive arsenal of power moves and throw in the presence of Jacques, Rick and Johnny Polo and you've got a great match filled with entertaining characters.

Promo of the Month: IRS. To be fair, there really weren't many memorable promos this month, so IRS wins by default. I think he was calling out Razor Ramon, but I honestly wasn't paying that close of attention. All I know is, Rotunda was hanging out in some sleazy office crunching the numbers and talking shit, and that's good enough for me.

Jobber of the Month: PJ Walker. PJ Walker wins this month's dubious distinction for pulling off an upset victory over IRS. What the fuck is happening to my WWF when IRS is losing to PJ Walker?

Bullshit Face Turn: Doink. Doink's evil clown gimmick has, sadly, come to end. It was fun while it lasted. He turned by predictably throwing water on Heenan, who sold the turn brilliantly, slipping on the water and pretending to have a cold the next week on RAW. This looks like the beginning of the end for the Doink character, and I for one will miss his zany antics and solid wrestling skills.

Jack Tunney Sucks Award: Jack suspends Shawn Michaels. As I've discussed before, Jack Tunney is the WWF president and occasionally makes idiotic rulings. This month, Tunney decided to suspend Shawn Michaels and strip him of his WWF Intercontinental Championship. This is an outrage for all of us fans. Tunney is obviously on some sort of strange power trip after threatening to suspend Jerry Lawler for apparently being a heel at Summer Slam, so now he's moving onto bigger fish. I don't know what Shawn did in real life to get suspended, but I'm going to assume it's some combination of drugs and behavioral issues. Hopefully he'll be back soon to claim his spot as the real Intercontinental champion.

Random Appearance Award: Rick Martel. While it was definitely nice to see Jimmy Snuka show up this month, "The Model" Rick Martel is even more awesome than the "Superfly." I haven't seen Martel in a while and I was always a fan as a kid. I really enjoyed he and Tito Santana as Strike Force and thought he was hilarious in his model persona. For those who never got to see Rick in this incarnation, here's a clip of what you missed:

Bump of the Month: 1-2-3 Kid. Waltman took another nasty bump this month in a match with immortal jobber Barry Horowitz against the Quebecers. Waltman attempted a running spinning heel kick, but one of the Quebecers pulled down the top rope and Waltman sailed over, essentially spinning his way to his death. What a great bump!

Quote of the Month: "If you want to do something to work up a sweat, honey, why don't you do the dishes or run the vac?" - Bobby Heenan on females

Reflections: This month was definitely a little slower than the months past, and suffered from a lack of big-name stars, but the company still did a good job of recharging from an action packed summer and planting the seeds for feuds to finish out the year. Hopefully October and November will pick things up for what I remember to be a really great Survivor Series, at least in my memory. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vintage WWF Review: Summer Slam 1993

Yokozuna fatting the hell out of America
WWF Summer Slam 1993 was a sad day for everyone who follows WWF: this marks the last wrestling appearance of "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. DiBiase was injured early in 1994 and would no longer wrestle on a regular basis. I figurd I might as well get the bad news out of the way first...

Anyway, Summer Slam '93 was one hell of an event and finished off the summer in sizzling style for the World Wrestling Federation. Taking place August 30 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan, Summer Slam saw the culmination of a number of feuds as well as the beginning of one or two. The build-up was phenomenal; there were personal grudges, a promotional invasion, and a national conflict. Without any further hesitation, let's get right to the action!

This is where I was planning on putting a highlight video from the PPV. Unfortunately, the ones I found on Youtube had shitty alternative music in them and I figured no one wanted to hear that (and I apologize for the post-80s U2 bullshit in my KotR review - never again). I like my music the way I like my wrestling: VINTAGE!
The opening match of the night featured two of my favorite wrestlers - Razor Ramon v. Ted DiBiase. The two had been feuding ever since Razor was defeated by the 1-2-3 Kid, something I still don't understand. Anyway, after weeks of verbally sparring and interfering in matches, these two finally got the chance to solve their problems in the squared circle. I just want to note real quick that this is the second PPV in a row that Razor has opened, which I think is kind of strange considering he was so over and such a great worker. He would go on to achieve great success relatively soon in the WWF, so I'm surprised this match went on so early, especially with some clunkers coming later in the evening. All that bullshit aside, the match served its purpose, entertained millions, and ended with what is still the best crucifix powerbomb in the business. In honor of DiBiase's last appearance as a full-time wrestler with WWF, here is the match in its entirety:

The Steiner Brothers v. The Heavenly Bodies was next, and it was the big homecoming match for the All-American Steiner boys. This match was actually a great match and I was really surprised by the work of "Doctor" Tom Prichard and his partner, "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Ray. There was a lot of back-and-forth action between the two teams, and it looked like the Heavenly Bodies were about to win after some interference from James E. Cornette's flamboyant tennis racket. In the end, however, the Steiner Bros. went crazy on the Bodies and finished them up with another ugly Frankensteiner.

I really have to comment on the Steiners right here. Rick Steiner is basically worthless. While he isn't a bad performer, it seems like he's just there because of Scott. Scott is the standout talent of the team and that's obvious both in fan reaction and booking decisions. And though I love Steiner's arsenal of devastating power moves, the Frankensteiner is ugly as sin. I'm surprised Scott never broke his neck performing the move.

My match of the night was probably Shawn Michaels (c) v. Mr. Perfect for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. The two men have been feuding on-and-off since Wrestlemania IX, and this would also mark the last time Perfect would wrestle on a WWF PPV until something like 2002. After months of confrontations, including Perfect at one point costing Michaels his IC Title, the two finally get their hands on each other in some sort of payoff match. The match was a technically sound barn burner until Diesel decided to get involved. As Diesel began interfering, the match devolved into an all-out slugfest between the three men and eventually ended, disappointingly, in a countout win for Michaels. While I assume the feud is supposed to continue into the fall, Michaels gets suspended in late '93 and Perfect doesn't wrestle on PPV for another nine years, so who knows what's going to happen with this feud. That's too bad, really, because these two guys are great performers and with Diesel in the mix anything could have happened in this feud.

The next match, IRS v. 1-2-3 Kid, was a fucking joke. Sure, the match was decent, but its placement on the card is baffling (I assume they wanted to give the crowd time to recover) and I really don't understand the outcome. IRS goes over Kid with a Write Off (Heenan's brain scan after the match was priceless) and becomes quite possibly the first man to kick out of Waltman's moonsault on WWF television. I love Rotunda, but unless they're planning on continuing this Money, Inc. v. Razor/Kid angle, I don't get why he went over at this juncture. And Waltman's mullet is still fucking disgusting.

I was really looking forward to the next match, and after watching Bret Hart v. Jerry Lawler (scheduled) for the title of "King of the WWF", I honestly don't know how to feel about it. Lawler came to the ring on crutches and built heat by ripping on Hart's family and saying he had been in an automobile accident earlier that day and was instructed by doctors not to compete that night. Normally I hate the old bait-and-switch, and I really wasn't excited about this turn on events. I figured it was the best case scenario, however, when Lawler announced his replacement: his court jester, Doink. As I've mentioned before, I love me some 1993 Doink. Unfortunately, this is probably Doink's last match as a heel based on my fuzzy memory, though there may be one or two more. Bret Hart and his family (brothers Bruce and Owen are in attendance at ringside) are understandably perturbed, and Bret takes his frustration and anger out on Doink.

After quite a bit of good wrestling action, Bret looks to finish the match with his signature Sharpshooter submission hold. This is where shit starts to get a little weird for me. Lawler, who was faking his injury, attacked Bret from behind with his crutch. For some damn reason, there are like eight refs/officials out at ringside holding back Bruce and Owen Hart but letting Lawler beat on Bret with a foreign object for minutes in the ring. Then Jack Tunney comes out and announces that Lawler must face Hart or he is suspended for a month, so Lawler and Hart start brawling and kicking the crap out of each other with various weapons. Aapparently there's no DQ, even though both try hide it, because there are eight officials out here and one of them must be aware that they are hitting each other with water pails and crutches. Anyway, Hart wins by submission with the Sharpshooter and refuses to let go of the move. Instead of the ref and other nine officials that are down at ring forcefully removing Hart from Lawler, they stand there asking him to let go for like five full minutes. Eventually, Hart lets go, but the ref then reverses his decision and announces Lawler is the victor by disqualification for not letting go of the hold, even though the match was officially over when Lawler submitted.

If this sounds like the biggest clusterfuck this side of WCW 2000, you're absolutely correct. And I apologize if my analysis seems a little disjointed, but I watched the entire thing and I still don't understand why the hell they didn't just have a proper match with Lawler and Hart instead of this bullshit. What a disappointment, though still fairly entertaining.

Ludvig Borga v. Marty Jannetty is the first time I've seen Borga actually wrestle (he hasn't been on RAW yet) and I'm not terribly impressed. He basically squashes Marty here and wins with some sort of torture-rack derivative. This wasn't a bad match for what it was, but it also wasn't anything spectacular. Still, his promos were hilarious:

"You call this the 'land of milk and honey'? Well down here it stinks funny" - Classic Ludvig Borga

 Undertaker v. Giant Gonzalez was another match that was entertaining for what it was, and it also featured the return of Paul Bearer (alright!). The match was pretty much a no-DQ match that saw both men take advantage of the stipulation before Undertaker won with a nice flying clothesline off the top rope. This match may not have been a five-star classic, but both men worked well and Taker looked great going against the limited Gonzalez. This was much better than their match at Wrestlemania. The only negative thing about this match was Gonzalez hitting a chokeslam on everyone's favorite manager, Harvey Wippleman! Seriously, who would do that to such a class act? Disappointing...

The match I was least looking forward to, Bam Bam Bigelow/Headshrinkers v. Tatanka/Smoking Gunns, was actually more entertaining than I was expecting. Both teams worked relatively well together and there was a great spot that saw a triple headbutt on Tatanka lead to an attempted triple top-rope headbutt from Bam Bam and the Headshrinkers. Unfortunately, the big boys missed and the match ended with a disappointing roll-up by Tatanka. I cannot tell you how much I want this man to finally lose.

The final match of the night, Yokozuna (c) v. Lex Luger for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, was so much better than I ever thought the match could be. I like Luger, but I wasn't totally sold on him in the ring from what I had seen so far. He had a great match with Tatanka at King of the Ring in June, but Yokozuna can be a hard match for anyone to work considering his size and limitations. That said, these two men put on a great performance in a surprise candidate for match of the night.

Randy Savage at some point jumped on Lex's American dick and became a super Lex fan, so he came out rocking a ridiculous Old Glory outfit. Even better, he was accompanied by Aaron Neville. If you'll recall, I made a comment in the July review about some drunk-ass Aaron Neville singing the national anthem on the USS Intrepid at the body slam challenge. Little did I know that the real Aaron Neville would appear to sing the national anthem one month later at Summer Slam. I am awesome! Unfortunately, I cannot find video footage of this.

The match contained most of the spots you would expect: the failed body slam, the salt bucket schtick, and a whole bunch of awesome Fuji. Just when things looked most dire for Luger, he rolled out of the way of the Banzai Drop and started an amazing comeback that would lead to the win for Lex Luger!!!! countout. That's right, folks, all of this build-up only to pull an Irvine and fail to pull the trigger. And for some ungodly reason, the Steiners and Macho Man then come in to raise Lex onto their shoulders as if he had somehow achieved something. Quick note to these morons: the title doesn't change hands on a countout, for fuck's sake. Here's this spectacular sequence of events:

While I am good with this outcome, I also don't understand it. There was so much build-up here with Lex Luger and this patriotic gimmick, I can't believe they didn't give him the ball and let him roll with it. More importantly, they also added in (for no good reason) the stipulation that no matter the outcome, Luger won't get a rematch. So here we are after one of the biggest events of the year and our biggest face just defeated our monster heel champion and we're going to let the program die. Who booked this shit? I'm going to assume they didn't put the strap on Luger for two reasons, and if anyone has any ideas feel free to add in your two cents:

1) The company simply didn't buy into Luger as the top face.

This is certainly possible, but it doesn't explain why they spent so much time building the man up. Perhaps they didn't like the numbers or weren't impressed by fan reaction during this period and that made up their minds, but I really don't know.

2) The company did not view Luger as a reliable champion.

I think this is a real possibility. The company decided to give Luger a run, but his battles with drugs, steroids and alcohol throughout his career are common knowledge to us now. I wouldn't be surprised if they played a role in WWF's decision to withhold the strap from Luger at this point in time.

Whatever the reason, Luger would never really recover from this and never held the WWF World Heavyweight Championship (though he did get another crack at it at WM X).

Reflections: This was really another great PPV. I forgot how awesome the World Wrestling Federation was in 1993, but shows like Summer Slam '93 speak for themselves and show  the product at a great time in its history. I would recommend finding and watching this show if you can, as it was extremely entertaining from both a nostalgia and wrestling point of view. For those who might follow wrestling today but have never seen some of these older shows/wrestlers, this PPV is a great place to jump in and get started.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Vintage WWF Review: August 1993

Lex Luger - American as shit
August of 1993 was another stellar month in WWF history. This month was the build-up to Summer Slam, the annual summer spectacular, and it really delivered in every way. From killer promos to outstanding matches, this is what made me a fan of wrestling in my younger years and has kept me coming back since my childhood. I made a number of notes as I watched through everything I could find, and there are a number of things that caught my eye this month.

The first thing I need to discuss is the fact that I love Bastion Booger. The once Friar Ferguson has won me over with his extreme nastiness, super ridiculous attire and awesomely bad dance moves. I've always remembered the character being atrociously bad, but upon further review he was absolutely hilarious. Watching him shake his ass while standing over Marty Jannetty had me rolling, and he wasn't a terrible wrestler to boot. Good on you, Booger. Here's the amazing Booger/Jannetty match from 8/16/93:

This month saw the in-ring return of Macho Man Randy Savage. While Savage has been stuck at the announce table for quite some time, here we see him starting a mini feud with Doink. Unfortunately, while this would provide some laughter because of Macho Man's Macho Midget being introduced into the angle, I fear this is the beginning of the end for the Doink we have all come to love. From here it is only a matter of time until we see a Doink face turn and the introduction of Dink, something I'm honestly not looking forward to despite how much I have grown to enjoy the current character. Macho Man really didn't do too much this month, though the match was good, and the Macho Midget showed up to hang out with the Bushwhackers, so I guess it wasn't all bad.

One question I can't seem to answer is why Marty Jannetty failed so badly in the WWF. Jannetty certainly had most of the tools required to make it big in the business, with mic-work being his only real Achilles heel. I don't know if it was the drugs or the personal behavior or backstage politicking, but Marty's ringwork, despite how much I have criticized him in the past, is exceptional. He has put on entertaining matches with a vast array of superstars including Michaels, Doink and Bastion Booger. He was extremely over with the crowd, so I really have a hard time figuring out why he was such a failure and always has been. Perhaps it's simply that he is stuck in Michaels' shadow, or maybe he was just not good enough on the stick, but Jannetty seems to have the pieces required for at least a successful, long-term career as a WWF mid-carder.

Another thing I cannot for the life of me figure out is this: why in the world is Hacksaw Jim Duggan so over? The crowd loves this man. He's a decent brawler and a fun guy, but he never steals the show and the only thing he ever says is "USA!" Barring some sort of super patriotism from wrestling fans, I just don't get this man's appeal. I'll be the first to admit that I loved him as a kid, but the only reason I can think of is because I thought it was cool he carried a 2x4 and he was my good friend's cousin. Other than that, I have no idea what is going on with this man.

There was another fantastic surprise this month, but I will save that for the awards section. It was truly phenomenal.

Anyway, while I focused on perhaps some negative aspects of the product there, let's get to some awards from this month (and don't forget, Summer Slam was a big part of this month and will have its own column later):


Superstar of the Month: Lex Luger. The focus of this whole month was on Lex Luger and his feud with Yokozuna, which was really just a feud between America and Japan. Outside of the Summer Slam main event, I don't recall Luger even fighting a match this month, but combining his "Lex Express" tour across America with his candid sit-down interviews really puts him ahead of anyone else this month.

Promo of the Month: Lex Luger. Again, Luger was the focus of the WWF at the time with his new found patriot gimmick. While Luger was not on television wrestling, he was featured in a number of candid sit-down interviews in which he discussed a number of topics ranging from his childhood to the use of steroids in professional sports. Lex detailed (and downplayed) his own steroid use as well as his expulsion from the University of Miami (or something like that). The interviews were done very well and showed a side of Luger the fans had yet to see since his debut earlier in the year.

Match of the Month: Steiner Brothers v. Money, Inc. (Cage Match, WWF Tag Team Titles). This match was awesome. My love for Rotunda and DiBiase is well documented, and I ought to mention that while I find Scott Steiner absolutely hilarious on the mic, I also think he's a tremendous athlete and a great performer. Getting these two teams into a cage match just prior to Summer Slam for the WWF Tag Team titles was a great idea. This match saw both teams get a man outside the cage who then came back into the ring to help their respective partners. I was able to find this match on youtube, so I hope you guys and gals can enjoy it (part two is in the related videos section):

Brilliant Idea of the Month: Summer Slam Spectacular. Just days prior to the Summer Slam pay-per-view extravaganza, Vinnie Mac and the boys put on the "Summer Slam Spectacular." This hour-long evening was a warm-up for the event and featured the classic match shown above. This was a great way to get fans pumped up for the ppv and I absolutely loved it.

Surprise Debut of the Month: Jim Cornette. Forget the team or the promotion he came to promote (Heavenly Bodies/Smoky Mountain Wrestling), the real catch of the month was none other than James E. Cornette. Cornette is one of the best I have ever seen on the mic, and within a week he was not only verbally fellating "Doctor" Tom Prichard and "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Rey, but he was also Yokozuna's American representative. This began a great career for Cornette with WWF and this was just the tip of the iceberg. Also, here's one simple reason why Jim Cornette is amazing (expect more in subsequent reviews):

Worst Promo of the Month: Jerry Lawler. I love Lawler, but the promo he cut this month with a fake Elvis Presley was just bad. It's almost as bad as listening to Kona Crush. I was seriously disappointed.

Reflections: This was a great month for the WWF and we've only scratched the surface. I'll be back with some insight into Summer Slam in my next installment!