By James Dixon:
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Mr. Perfect (c) vs. British Bulldog
This match also features on the Wrestling’s Greatest Champions tape, coming from June 1991 in California. Fast start, with Bulldog using his power and Perfect his technical ability. Perfect gets a brief advantage with a punch to the balls, and then counters a Davey flurry with a kick to the same area. Hey, working the cock is an effective strategy. Everyone can empathise with that! I think it would be good if more wrestlers worked the cock! Erm, perhaps thankfully, Perfect changes his focus, instead going for the legs and back as he locks in the Boston crab. Perfect uses the ropes for leverage, but Bulldog uses his leg strength to flip him right out of the ring. Coach gets involved on the outside, and despite his wrestling acumen he was a waste of time in this role and Perfect didn’t need him. He was just a tacked on detriment to Perfect’s character. Bret Hart comes out to even the score because of course, he and Perfect have an issue as they will soon be facing off (in a bona fide classic) at SummerSlam ‘91. Perfect hits the rolling neck snap and goes for the cover, but Bulldog kicks out with such authority that Perfect lands on the referee! It’s a nice spot. Perfect’s matches always feature awesome and unique things. He’s one of my all-time favourites, and the greatest seller and taker of moves of all time, bar none. Perfect locks on an eccentrically applied sleeper, but Bulldog fights out and gives Perfect a military press, crotching him on the top rope. Perfect then absolutely flies on a clothesline, adding further credence to what I just said. He was truly without equal in that regard. Bulldog accidentally wipes out the ref with a shoulder tackle, but then rolls up Perfect as Bret Hart counts the three. Of course, it won’t count. This turns into a Bret and Perfect brawl, with Perfect taking a bunch of atomic drops before bailing. The official decision is a Perfect victory via DQ because of Bret Hart interfering. I could happily have watched another ten minutes of that. Bulldog was working hard to impress in this period, and Perfect was always superb throughout his first WWF run.
Final Rating: **¾
The Texas Tornado vs. The Warlord
This comes from MSG in April 1991. Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan and Jim Neidhart are the commentators. This will be awful. Warlord was incredibly dire, despite his phenomenal look. I am sure I have said this before, but it is stunning how much bigger Warlord is here compared to his Powers of Pain days. Kerry Von Eric was a shadow of his former self in the ring by 1991, though he wasn’t helped by being programmed with a lot of terrible lugs around this time, coming off a stinker with Dino Bravo at WrestleMania VII. After some stalling we go to a test of strength, which Warlord wins fairly easily. Tornado fires back and hits the Tornado Punch early, but it only staggers Warlord, who goes to a bearhug. Tornado used to kill his finish every match by overusing it. I am racking my brain trying to think of another move I have seen him do that isn’t a punch and I am struggling to come up with anything. In all the Von Erich matches I have seen from this era, he often gets a kicking right from the off, with little in the way of a hot opening sequence, as is usually the norm for a babyface. Missing out key elements like that in his higher profile matches, probably played a part in him not getting over in as big a way as was expected. Warlord has controlled the majority of the match right from the opening bell. Tornado tries to fire back with a quick slam, but Warlord uses leverage to take him over for a two count. Backbreaker from Warlord, but he misses a falling headbutt and Tornado comes back with a series of clotheslines. Tornado Punch again, but Warlord gets his foot to the ropes. When your finisher can’t beat a guy who lost as frequently as the Warlord, you know you are in trouble. Both go hurtling over the top while Kerry has a sleeper on, and the subsequent fight outside the ring results in a double count out. Lame finish to a drab match. I was expecting even worse, but it was still a waste of time.
Final Rating: ¼*
Paul Roma vs. Animal
What a strange match; two tag team specialists here, going one-on-one at the Garden, this time in June. I do think Animal had potential as a singles guy though, but this was just before the LOD won the tag belts, so I doubt this was a dry run for that or anything. Animal starts with power, but gets cut off when Herc interferes. Roma rams Animal back-first into the ring and then goes to work on him back inside. Standing dropkick from Roma and then he hits a trio of backbreakers, keeping hold in between. As stated often enough, I hate Roma, but that was an impressive feat of strength. He made it look effortless as well. Piledriver from Roma but it only serves to annoy Animal, who gets up and beats on him with ease. Roma is accidentally whipped into the ref, but that doesn’t stop Animal, who hits a dropkick and a flying tackle. Hercules takes advantage of the felled ref and attacks Animal, but miscommunication results in Roma nailing Herc with a missile dropkick, and Animal catches him with a powerslam to win. It was brief and didn’t really stop at all. No boring rest holds either, so another pyrrhic victory for us. Hey, you take what you can get with these things.
Final Rating: *
Mene Gene tries to teach Bobby Heenan how to play golf. Heenan is involved, so it is richly comic. Gene tells Heenan to address the ball. “Hello ball!” says Heenan. Gold.
The Rockers & The Big Bossman vs. The Nasty Boys & The Mountie
This is from the same show in Fresno, CA as the opening match. The Nasty Boys were the tag champions at this point. On paper at least it is half of a good match. Shame the talent is all on the same side of the ring. The more I watch the Mountie wrestle, the more I grow to hate his work and think he is one of the worst things ever in the WWF, in that role at least. The most frustrating thing is knowing how good he could be from his days in the Rougeaus and the Quebecers. The florescent green baseball cap that Michaels is wearing backwards on his head is quite the fashion statement! Sags and Bossman start things off and the latter hits a powerslam early on. It soon breaks down to everyone in the ring, and the faces come out on top. Back inside after a regrouping from the Nasties and Mountie, Bossman hits an enzuigiri on Knobbs. The Rockers take turns out-manoeuvring Knobbs with their pace, but when Bossman comes in he gets caught while running the ropes by Sags, and we go to the heat. Generic formula six-man here, though they are working it exactly like a normal tag, which I don’t like. A strange choice that Bossman takes the heat, considering he is by far the biggest guy on his team. It’s a fairly long heat too. Hot tag to Michaels who takes out all of the opposing team, hitting superkicks, backdrops and a noggin knocker. All three heels collide centre ring, as we have a pier sixer. Knobbs gets nailed by Jimmy Hart’s helmet, and despite Michaels getting electrocuted with the shock stick, his team still wins it as Jannetty pins Knobbs. Nothing to write home about, and it featured very little from the Rockers, which didn’t help.
Final Rating: *¼
Smash vs. Ricky Steamboat
We are back is MSG, from the same show as the Animal-Roma match, and what a weird show that must have been, with tag wrestlers all doing singles matches by the look of it. I guess they had another show that day, and had a thin talent pool for the event or something. A quick bit of research reveals that they did indeed have another event in Hershey, PA the same day, headlined by Warrior-Undertaker. They wouldn’t dare put that shitfest on at the Garden. Steamboat in the 80s could have made this great, but he was a different worker during his WWF run in ‘91 due to apathy towards the shitty cartoon ‘Dragon’ gimmick that was forced upon him. He was still great, as proven by his WCW run after this, but just not in the WWF. Not that he really got the chance. Why Vince wanted to ruin a potential money guy over a petty dispute from the past and because he was successful elsewhere, was a crazy booking decision that will never make sense. Steamboat gets the better of the early exchanges on the mat, and works over the arm, occasionally throwing in a tackle or an armdrag to quicken the pace. The commentators were clearly instructed not to even mention Steamboat’s past and to only refer to him as ‘The Dragon’ during this. They claim Smash is his biggest opponent so far since arriving in the WWF. I must have dreamt the match with Savage at Mania III then. I mean jeez, it is only the best match in the company’s history at this point. Smash takes over and introduces Steamboat to the post, before slamming him on the outside. He brings him back in the hard way and then hits a backbreaker, before putting on the neck vice. Steamboat fires back with chops but gets caught with a flurry of back elbows and clotheslines, before Smash puts on a sleeper. Steamboat is trying, he really is, but Smash was a waste of time by ’91 and he was no singles wrestler. His run later on as Repo Man further emphasised that. Boy, he was the shits! Steamboat comes back again with strikes and then kicks Smash in the head. Standing dropkick sends Smash outside the ring and Steamboat follows him with a crossbody to the outside. Smash recovers enough to bring Steamboat back in with a nasty looking suplex for a two count, but he misses a charge and Steamboat hits a crossbody from the top to win it. Three matches in a row with finishes! That was ok, but it is still sad to see Steamboat forced into working as a gimmick, even over twenty years after the fact.
Final Rating: *½
The Barbarian vs. Jake Roberts
We are in Grand Rapids, MI in May 1991. Jake was fast approaching a heel turn that would briefly revitalise his character, though sadly a year from now he was gone from the WWF. Barbarian is someone I refer to as a “one star wonder” because his singles matches rarely if ever get rated beyond that. Jake is probably not the opponent to get much more out of him either. Incredible charisma and wrestling brain, but not an especially exciting guy to watch in the ring. Barbarian struggles early on and seeks advice from Heenan, who tells him to avoid the DDT, because Jake can’t hurt him if he can’t put it on. Jake as if to prove him wrong, rams Barbarian’s arm into the post. Barbarian uses his strength to take over and whips Jake hard into the post, before choking him behind the referees back. Barbarian lumbers around slowly, doing very little as Alfred Hayes laments the fact that this could be the demise of Jake Roberts. I think calling him a drama queen would be an understatement. Jake gets his knees up in the corner, but misses a clothesline and gets nailed with a vicious looking big boot, sending him into the ropes where he gets tied up. Barbarian wastes time posing and Jake hits the DDT out of no-where, but is too dazed to go for the cover. Earthquake runs out and Jake spots him, chasing him off with Lucifer. The bell rings and Barbarian is declared the winner by count out, and there goes the run of finishes. That was as expected.
Final Rating: ½*
Haku vs. Greg Valentine
It is April 1991 and we are in London, England for this one. The match comes from UK Rampage, and the whole event is covered elsewhere in this book. Both guys are hard hitting and have styles that should complement each other. It is just a shame the crowd couldn’t care less. Back-and-forth early on, and they exchange hard chops in the corner. Haku gets a foot up in the opposite corner and then two backbreakers get a two count. After a few stomps, he locks on a chinlock. The crowd is so dead it’s almost sad. The UK crowds were always hot as hell in the 90s because the WWF came over so infrequently, but neither of these guys was doing anything by 1991 to make them care. A long, boring chinlock will not win them over, that’s for sure. You can tell Vince and Piper feel the same on commentary, because they are talking about poll tax. Jesus, Haku nearly kills Valentine on a back suplex though, that was vicious. Despite that, Valentine manages to fire back and rams Haku into the buckles, then hits a back elbow, but misses an elbow drop. Watching Valentine attempt to play babyface is almost cringe-worthy. He tries to fire up as if he is one of the Rockers, but he is greeted with indifference. He mounts a second comeback, but is unable to put on the figure four, so he instead hits a sunset flip to win the match. It was an ok match, but the crowd’s silence ruined it. I should point out how moronic it is to have a match from London from a show called UK Rampage, on a tape released as US Rampage in the UK.
Final Rating: *¼
Power & Glory vs. The Orient Express
We are in Tucson, Arizona and it is May 1991. We have a rarity here, as two heel teams square off. What a unique and bizarre match. I cannot for the life of me fathom why they put on an all-heel bout, but I am not complaining, because it should at least be intriguing. It shows the lack of depth the tag division had by then; they must have been out of matches. It is strength against speed when Kato is in with Herc, and Kato slightly gets the better of it. Herc has more success with Tanaka. Roma comes in and he leaps Tanaka twice before getting nailed with a reverse crescent kick. Tanaka rolls over the back of a Roma back body drop attempt, but gets turned inside out with a clothesline. The problem they have is that there is no real formula to work with, because neither side has taken on the babyface role, so this is a bit different to watch. The action has been quite quick, and for a Power & Glory match it has been ok. Just as I say that, Kato puts on a sleeper… Roma breaks free and Fuji trips him with the cane, leading to Fuji and Slick having an argument. The Express take the upper hand with double teams, and cut off the ring completely. Roma leaps over a double clothesline attempt, and Herc has seen enough and charges in to take both of the Express out. Roma takes over on Kato with a standing dropkick, and now P&G have taken control of Kato. Things end up outside of the ring and the bell rings for a double count out. For once a non-finish was probably right. An interesting bout because they were both heels and the lack of formula made it seem fresher than most of the tag matches from the time.
Final Rating: *¾
Before wrestling, we gets “Cribs” with Paul Bearer. Disturbed laughs are to be had when a cadaver nearly falls out of his closet and Bearer says he needs to “tidy up”, then later on he tries to decide between a Bloody Mary and a “Bloody Tom”.
The Undertaker vs. The Ultimate Warrior
These two feuded all over the country on the house show circuit, and this is one of those matches, from Toronto, in June 1991. Unfortunately, most of the matches they had were bloody awful. The spectacle is good because both are top tier stars, but neither could work a lick in this era. I hope this is short, because if not it will be all rest-holds and Warrior’s absurd wild selling. Warrior goes straight for Taker and hits a barrage of moves at speed, knocking him to the outside with a clothesline. Taker catches Warrior with a stun gun over the ropes, then he puts on a face claw. Basically, Taker is “smooshing” Warrior’s face. This has gone on for an awful long time, and it’s just minutes of Warrior on his knees and Taker standing still while the face claw is locked on. They should be ashamed of themselves. Warrior tries a comeback. but Taker swats him back down like a fly and hits his flying clothesline. Warrior moves out of the way of an elbow drop and Taker stands around looking grumpy rather than doing any moves. The time wasting spurs Warrior on, but he gets caught with a Tombstone. Surprisingly, Warrior kicks out. Taker brings the urn in as the bell rings, and then puts Warrior in a body bag after the bell. Warrior escapes and sends Taker reeling out of the ring. Most of the match was a face smoosh, and that does not lead to high scores. No chemistry at all and this was really tough to sit through. Very, very bad, but thankfully it was brief.
Final Rating: DUD
Summary: Nothing stands out here as good or even approaching it, other than Perfect-Bulldog at the very start, and you can get that elsewhere anyway as it is featured on at least two other video releases. Most of the action sums up the year, and it was slow, boring and generally quite bad. Not a tape worth seeing at all. So very average!