#WF136 – WrestleFest 94

Arnold Furious: The Video Event! Screams the spine of this wondrous tape. Before we even got around to the claiming stage of planning this book, I yelled across the office: “I’m doing WrestleFest ‘94!” and got a chorus of “awwwwww” back from the other guys. They know what that means. Steiners vs. Harts, baby! Woo hoo! Hosts for this one are Stan Lane and Johnny Polo.

 

Adam Bomb vs. The Undertaker
More Johnny Polo as he’s Bomb’s manager. For those who’ve only ever seen Scott Levy as Raven, Polo is a bit of an eye-opener. I really liked the gimmick and Levy was eloquent enough to pull it off. Obviously with the grunge music taking over pop culture, this shtick was years out of date. Like everything else in the WWF. In retrospect it’s a lot easier to enjoy the WWF’s stuff from this era. Bomb gets a few minutes to beat Taker up until he gets bored and starts no selling. Taker feels the need to only use one offensive move to win the match; the chokeslam. That was literally the only move he hit in the entire match. Polo jumps in to try and break the pin, which earns him a chokeslam too. This is how I like my Undertaker matches from 91-95; under three minutes.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Coliseum King’s Corner
This was Jerry Lawler’s chat show bit, a’la Piper’s Pit, and his guest is Bret Hart. He points out he’s gotten a lawyer to write up a contract so Bret can’t touch him. Lawler goes off on a rampage of verbal abuse, assured of no retribution. I love how he calls everyone in the Hart family cowards while Ted DiBiase chuckles away on commentary. Jerry has a tonne of old jokes including his implication that Helen Hart was on the jury when Cain killed Abel. Bret comes out to take some abuse in person but decides to punch Lawler in the eye regardless of the legal ramifications.

 

Diesel vs. Bret Hart
Incidentally this match has commentary from “Uncle” Gorilla Monsoon and yet more Johnny Polo, which was one of my favourite commentary combinations from the time. Polo used to have so much fun bouncing off Gorilla’s straight man routine. This is from February 1994 so it is early in Diesel’s singles push, but after his massive performance at the Rumble. The crowd haven’t quite bought into him as a main event star just yet, but if you need a guy to get your midcarder over as a main event threat, call the Hitman. He actually solidified Diesel’s singles push during 1994 before jobbing the WWF title to him (via Bob Backlund). This however, isn’t one of the matches that made Diesel a star. Bret picks off his leg and methodically works at it. I guess it was a learning curve for Dies to see if he could sell an injured body part properly. Shawn Michaels is the difference maker for Diesel as he jumps Bret on the floor as Polo lists off the things he could beat Bret Hart at. Diesel promptly forgets the knee injury and works a heat segment. Bret almost scores a win with an inside cradle, which is how he’d eventually regain the title from Diesel way off in the future world of 1995. Shawn continues the interference only to get booted off the apron by a miscuing Diesel. SHARPSHOOTER! Owen Hart runs in to clock Bret blindside and Diesel scores the, then, upset pin. Diesel really struggled to keep pace with Bret, but you can see he’s learning and later in the year he’d be a better wrestler because of matches like this. Shawn’s contribution from ringside improved things and between him and Owen the timing of the spots was impeccable. Diesel earns himself bonus points by selling the knee all the way to that back, like a champ.
Final Rating: **½

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
Marty Jannetty & 1-2-3 Kid (c) vs. The Headshrinkers
This was during Marty and Kid’s cup of coffee title run early in ’94. Polo continues his commentary showboating by counting to three in German before Gorilla tells him to shut up. You can tell they’re having fun because both guys are laughing the whole time. Polo even manages to draw a classic “will you stop” from Monsoon after suggesting Kid’s head had already been shrunk, as he had a little “peanut head”. They start out with some mirroring with the heels attempting to repeat face spots and failing. Fatu stops that by just smacking Kid in the face and powerslamming the little pipsqueak. Kid gets a measure of revenge with a springboard pescado! The Headshrinkers bring the hard head psychology to Marty, so he just superkicks Fatu instead. Polo starts into the casual islanders racism by implying they get paid in coconuts and bananas. This match is great fun until The Headshrinkers run extended heat on Jannetty. They do a ring step repeat of the hard head gimmick, only this time Fatu hits his own superkick. Just to round out the awesomeness of this match, we have Fonzie as the ref. Perfect cadence on his counts, terrific ring positioning, but sadly no whistle yet. Kid gets a hot tag and fires off with the kicks as my 13 year old daughter starts to get into the match. How about that? The universal drawing power of Sean Waltman. Afa gets a kicking too, but sneaks in for the Samoan drop and The Headshrinkers score the pin. Mike Chioda runs in to point out the infringements to the short-sighted Alfonso, and thus the decision is reversed. Solid tag match with some interesting teaming from Marty and Kid. It’s a shame they didn’t get a longer run with the belts. It’s not like the WWF had anything else going in the division apart from the Harts vs. Steiners one-shot.
Final Rating: ***¼

 

WWF Championship
Yokozuna (c) vs. Mr. Perfect
The precocious youngster, my daughter, not the champ, chuckles her way through Yoko’s goofy selling. My cynicism is sometimes swept away by the joyousness of youth. The big man spends a lot of time stalling, which could possibly be to cover for Perfect’s back injury. He wasn’t far from retirement, again, so can’t be in good shape. He can’t get good rotation on his flippier bumps. The effort is certainly there regardless, but the pain is etched across his face after every one of his trademark bumps. Yoko heads into nerve pinch territory for more time-killing and Perfect is clearly struggling with his back. Mr. Fuji interjects but Perfect remains speedy enough to side step the avalanche. They repeat the spot with Yoko connecting and then finishing with the Banzai drop. Game over. Perfect retired, again, the following month, thus screwing up Survivor Series. Fat boy Yoko was not the man to cover for the injuries. Considering both things the match didn’t totally blow.
Final Rating: *

 

Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Rick Martel
This is from early ’94 with Martel reduced to jobber duty and Savage on his last legs in the WWF. They rely on their years of wrestling experience rather than planning anything out. I’m surprised Savage doesn’t go for his “take heat for the entire match before winning with the elbow” tactic. Instead, it’s Martel who takes a whuppin’. This is sufficiently boring for my daughter to get up and walk out of the room. No words needed. I guess the intricacies of headlocks are lost on some people. They work some nice stuff around a Savage headlock, which all builds to Mach getting a backslide. Clearly this is enough to piss Martel off and we hit the trademark heat segment. Savage used to roll these out every week in WCW. Watch early Nitro’s for approximately a hundred of the suckers. Luckily this match hasn’t dropped entirely into Savage formula. Martel misses in the corner, gets slammed and the big elbow finishes. A back-and-forth encounter between two veteran pros, neither of whom had any future in the WWF.
Final Rating: **

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Razor Ramon
This is from back in September ’93 before Shawn quit and left the WWF having to find a new IC champ, and selected his opponent from this bout. Great little bit at the start of this one. Razor tags Shawn in the face with the toothpick and Shawn is so FURIOUS that he picks up that toothpick and snaps the son of a bitch IN HALF. Shawn 1 Razor 0. These guys know how to do speed vs. power and Shawn was just starting to do it his way, rather than Ric Flair’s way. Shawn’s way suits him better. They have a good time with it and play to Shawn’s strengths. Razor was easy to work with during his WWF run, especially against fellow Kliq members. Shawn always seems prepared to take more ridiculous bumps against his buddies too. One in this match is a flat back over the top rope. It makes me gasp at the sheer insanity of it. He’s still not the finished article but the ladder re-match, at ‘Mania X, gave him the confidence to believe he could do it his way and be a superstar as well. Here you can see he has doubts and wants to work some traditional heat in there to make him seem like a normal heel. It’s when he’s being HBK that the match gets better. Like flipping over to avoid one move only to land into a chokeslam, or when he’s doing 360 flip bumps to put Ramon over. Shawn takes another massive bump over the top, a’la Flair, and decides to get counted out. The ref orders him back in or the title is gone too. Shawn responds with a hearty “fuck you”, so Razor retrieves the champ himself. Nobody tells Shawn Michaels what to do, damn it! Shawn hits a moonsault press immediately, only for Razor to roll through it. FALLAWAY SLAM… FOR 3! Shawn is counted down. Razor thinks he’s won, BUT Shawn’s foot is on the rope and out comes Tim White, former Andre handler, to order a continuation. Razor turns right into the SUPERKICK… FOR 2. Shawn sets early for a backdrop and the RAZOR’S EDGE would finish, but Diesel pulls Shawn out of the ring for the DQ. Shawn was just starting into his “broomstick” phase, where he didn’t even need a good opponent to have a good match, just a warm body. The booking heavy finish was actually very entertaining but give Shawn six months and he wouldn’t need any booking to make his matches this much fun.
Final Rating: ***½

 

The Hart Brothers vs. The Steiner Brothers
11th January 1994. Florence, South Carolina and one of the hottest matches of the decade. Four great wrestlers in a babyface tag match; the fans are spoiled. I’m surprised this wasn’t in MSG or a bigger venue, especially with Bret and Scott determined to out-amateur wrestle each other in the early going. Then they switch to telling a speed vs. power match. There are not many wrestlers who can switch it up like that, except maybe Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle. Bret is all about flash pins, armdrags and such. Owen appreciates the team taking the speedy approach and we get a rare smirk from him. So in tag Rick and Owen who do amateur counters, and although Rick starts out confident, Owen is amazing at mat counters. He tries for a leapfrog and gets powerslammed as they switch to the power vs. speed match themselves. Owen won’t be outdone and plants Rick with a German suplex. Now Owen is showing his technical proficiency based on his tours of Japan. Scott tags in, as if to say: “suplexes, eh? Yes, please”, only for Owen to throw him around too. Rick is the weak link in this match as he’s the only guy who’s not incredible, but when you’ve got three outstanding talents in a match, the fourth guy only needs to be serviceable. Rick was, at the time. He doesn’t have much in the way of ideas but is willing to take a dropkick to the face like a boss. The great thing about this match is there’s no real storyline to speak of. It’s just a phenomenal wrestling match and Gorilla Monsoon treats it as such. Speaking of storyline though, there are a few moments where Bret stays in too long and doesn’t make a tag, thus teasing the Rumble ’94 finish. Scott takes advantage with the satellite slam, which gets the South Carolinians all geared up. Owen is showing concern, rather than getting pissed off with the injured Bret during this match. Bret nearly gets counted out but recovers to suplex Scott to the floor. I wish we had this Scott Steiner forever. The January 1994 Scott Steiner as WCW champion would have been fantastic. Of course, some of his sillier bumps from the period probably hurt him later in his career with the injuries. Hot tag to Owen and he brings more of the suplexes. He gets amazing snap on a belly-to-belly. It’s beautiful. During the match the fans have remained largely neutral. Sometimes babyface matches don’t get reactions like promoters hope for. I think that’s been less the case since Attitude and the areas of grey, but here in 1994 they need a hero or a villain. Bret volunteers for the latter by kneeing Scott cheap from the outside before The Steiners take over and Owen takes heat (sort of, the face-face nature of the match makes heat non-existent). Rick pancakes a Tombstone and Scott brings the pain with a DRAGON SUPLEX. The great thing about Owen was his Japan work allowed him to bump moves that most American guys didn’t even know about. Speaking of moves American guys don’t know about; Scott busts out the STEINER SCREWDRIVER, which you hardly ever see, ever, anywhere. Let alone in the WWF. Owen takes it like a champ, it’s glorious. Bret, naturally, has to make the save because nobody kicks out of that. Owen recovers by slingshotting Scott to the floor, before hot tagging to Bret. Scott is struggling so Rick has to save him from the Sharpshooter. Bret prevents the doomsday bulldog and Owen sneaks in a victory roll for 2. It breaks down with a great collision spot that sends Bret and Rick to the floor. That leaves Scott and Owen inside who both hit dives and everyone gets counted out. Awww. No fair. The only world in which this isn’t five stars is All-Japan, where they were putting on matches light years better than this in 1994. I’m not even kidding about that, either. Probably my favourite match of all time was happening when this tape was released: Misawa vs. Kawada. For wrestling in the USA, this was incredible stuff for ’94. Scott grabs a mic because he wants to beat the Harts and we get an extra curricular brawl. The Steiners end up walking off but Bret grabs the mic and demands more before referees break it up and we call it a draw. They hug it out and Owen turned heel before they could ever do a re-match. Everything about this match was fun from the amazing competition to Gorilla Monsoon bagging on Pat Patterson’s weight during the scuffle, and it’s not even the WWF’s match of the year. Hell, it’s not even Bret or Owen’s best match that quarter!
Final Rating: *****

 

Tangent: On the US version of the exact same tape the tag match drops into the midcard, but the UK version has the matches re-jigged, which sees Harts vs. Steiners go on last. That is how it should be. End on a high.

 

Summary: I have a soft spot for this tape. The WWF might have been struggling at the time and the production is slack, but the wrestling delivers fairly consistently. You can see Shawn Michaels is on the cusp of something with his boys, Diesel and Razor. Meanwhile Bret Hart is on the very top of his game and Owen is on fire too. You want all of this but you should especially check out the Harts vs. Steiners match. Once in a lifetime bout.
Verdict: 87

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