Macho Man’ Randy Savage (c) vs. IRS
What a pleasant surprise this was. You’ve got Savage who when he was truly “on” was one of wrestling’s all time top five workers, no question, but around this period did develop a tendency to dog it when he wasn’t feeling particularly motivated by his opposition. He does at least seem more interested in the match here than you might expect, given his opponent is IRS. Though it’s still an IRS match and comes with some of his usual tedium, like generous helpings of pre-action stalling from the taxman. Once it gets going, Savage is at least game for it, and when IRS breaks out his go-to rest holds, he does use them as visual devices to draw heat from the crowd, grabbing the ropes on his abdominal stretch and resting his feet on them once he slaps on his dreaded chinlock, all behind the referee’s back. The fact he liked to do that in every match he was ever in made it a particularly mind-numbing cliché, but it does make me wonder why more wrestlers never employed such similar strategy. You can moan about rest holds being an excuse for wrestlers to not have to do anything, but at least IRS did something with his to keep the crowd engaged. Is it really that hard to cheat and use the ropes when you’re chinlocking someone? At least it gets the live crowd involved when they try to point it out to the referee, who in this case is Dave Hebner according to play-by-play man Sean Mooney, though I was under the impression he’d retired and become a road agent due to his knee surgery by this point, which would make the actual referee his twin brother Earl. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention. Perhaps Mooney wasn’t. Either wouldn’t surprise me. “Bang, bang, bang! It’s like the sock exchange!” belts out Lord Alfred Hayes from the announcers table, as Savage and IRS trade punches. Hayes is at his scatterbrained worst here, calling Savage “uncouth” and claiming that he didn’t want to defend the title against IRS and instead wanted to choose an easier opponent (wow, way to put over the fighting spirit of your top star), and that IRS “at the moment, is the most logical and number one contender”. What on earth did IRS ever do to earn that status? I know pickings were slim with Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Jake Roberts all leaving the WWF immediately after WrestleMania VIII, but you still had Ric Flair, Sid Justice, Bret Hart and The Undertaker waiting in the wings. And if you’re going to base top contendership on IRS’ status as a co-holder of the tag team titles, then surely Ted DiBiase would still rank higher than him on past achievements alone? Then again, perhaps the WWF Championship Committee used the same corrupt ranking system that FIFA uses, who knows? Hayes also says that President Jack Tunney is “always on the job” but whether that means he’s off bonking secretaries or he’s simply got loose bowels is never expounded upon. Ultimately, the match reaches it’s never-in-doubt conclusion as Savage runs IRS head-first into his own briefcase, held up at ringside by IRS’ manager Jimmy Hart. Hart takes his obligatory bump off the apron to the floor (and in the process puts to shame both of the guys in the match), and Savage finishes with a bodyslam and the big elbow to retain the title. There was actually plenty of motion and energy from both guys, particularly towards the end, making this one of the better singles matches from Mike Rotunda’s entire run as IRS.
Final Rating: **¾
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Mr. Perfect (c) vs. The British Bulldog
Alfred Hayes talks yet more nonsense during this match, claiming that Davey Boy “can often be seen campaigning in Hong Kong”, which leads me to an odd point – the same announce team of Mooney and Hayes did commentary for this match twice for differing releases, which is pretty remarkable considering how lazily slapdash these budget compilation tapes from Coliseum Video usually were, often just cut and pasting together matches allegedly “exclusive” to other releases. To be fair, I think they dubbed their commentary on twice because in once case, the match was joined in progress which causes you to miss some of the psychology with Davey Boy working over Perfect’s arm, but the majority of the stuff that was cut was mostly just posturing instead of actual wrestling anyway, and at least kicks in once the bulk of the action has begun. Sadly, “action” is spoken in somewhat looser terms than usual here, as Perfect’s back was completely shot by this point and in fact, barring a couple of short squash matches taped to keep him visible on television, this was actually his last match until he dropped the Intercontinental title to Bret Hart in their classic SummerSlam encounter. Unfortunately, Davey by this point in his career had developed a huge reliance on physique-enhancing steroids to ensure his 5’11 frame stood out in the WWF’s land of the giants. It’s not that Davey hadn’t already been a heavy steroid user for the best of a decade, but his massively ballooned physique had caught up with him by the time he’d rejoined the WWF in 1990, severely limiting his formerly vibrant, forward-thinking ring style. Once a powerful mat marvel, ‘the Bulldog’ by the turn of the decade had become someone who was still capable of working up to the level of his opponent, but little more. And with Perfect wrestling in a state of complete agony, what likely would have been a match for the ages in 1986 was by 1991 just a sad hint at what might have been. In also considering what might have been, this match is from the fairly brief period after Bobby Heenan had stopped managing Perfect and handed his contract over to Coach, a whistle-blowing, sweatpants-clad gym and fitness instructor played by wrestling great John Tolos. The Coach gimmick was actually a perfect fit for the Perfect character (naturally), but Tolos, a former WWWF United States Tag Team champion along with his brother Chris, just didn’t click in the role. Some would speculate that while Tolos made for a superb ‘Golden Greek’ when waging his legendary war with ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie in the LeBell family’s Los Angeles promotion in the early 70s, the Coach role ultimately wasn’t the real him. It’s possible things might have been different had Perfect not been in such a crippling state, as Coach also began managing the newly-hired Beverly Brothers tandem on post-SummerSlam television tapings, but had already quit the promotion by the time those matches made air. Despite his largely ineffectual run, it’s Coach whose actions trigger the sequence of events that lead to the finish here, as Davey Boy takes control of the match and bounces Perfect around the ring like a pinball. Despite himself, Perfect just can’t help but take those ridiculously overstated bumps he was famous for. Amidst all that, the referee goes down, giving Davey the chance to score a visual pin on Perfect which is the signal for Coach to jump into the ring and go after him. That leads to an appearance from Bret Hart who decks Coach then counts the pinfall for Davey himself. Eventually, a revived referee sees Bret beating the life out of Perfect and calls a disqualification against Smith, though I’m still not sure why he didn’t call one earlier in the match when Perfect punched then kicked Davey in the balls. Best guess is ‘the Bulldog’ had already been neutered. Not to worry though, Davey would eventually get another crack at the gold, ironically enough against Hart. Overall, a decent but disappointing match given what these two in full health could have produced.
Final Rating: **½
The Mountie & The Nasty Boys vs. The Bushwhackers & Rowdy Roddy Piper
Not exactly a promising pair of trios here, as you’ve got a guy in Jacques Rougeau who’s Mountie gimmick has completely enveloped his talent and who’s greatest contribution at this point is his cracking “I’m the Mountie!” theme tune (which might well end up being the highlight of the match actually) teaming up with two brutish brawling slugs in the Nasty Boys. They’re going up against the interminably bad Bushwhackers, and Roddy Piper, who was a great promo, a great character, and a great brawler when he had the right opponent. Unfortunately, “the right opponent” does not constitute The Mountie or The Nasty Boys. At least there are laughs to be had, as Sean Mooney asks what could possibly depress The Bushwhackers. I might suggest watching back their own matches would do the trick. It’s sad really to think just how far the team had regressed from their pre-WWF days as the fearsome Sheepherders, where bloody brawls and barbed-wire matches were the norm. Those boys sure could scrap, but I guess when the big leagues come calling and you can trade in the blood n’ guts for a bigger pay cheque just by moronically flinging your arms about and licking strangers in the front row (much safer than licking strangers in the cheap seats I suppose) then you’d be a fool not to. Toss another reputation on the barbie, mate! To be honest though, this match wasn’t all that bad. Not that I’m saying it was good, mind you. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it average, but it was a shade better than another Nasty Boys and Mountie six-man I’ve reviewed in this book, that one opposite The British Bulldog and The Legion of Doom from Germany. It is strange really, since you’d think Davey Boy and the LOD would be a much stronger on-paper proposition than Piper and the Bushwhackers. Then again, I possibly just enjoyed this match more because The Bushwhackers got electrocuted, Mountie using his shock stick illegally for the victory. That’s actually quite a surprising result given the heel team meant close to nothing and Piper was by far the biggest star in the match, and a champion to boot, though I guess with WrestleMania VIII on the horizon, he wasn’t that far off bailing on the promotion anyway and you might as well put over the guys who are staying.
Final Rating: *¾
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. IRS
Please Sir, may I have another? And thus it was to be, the second match on a 60-minute tape to be besieged with an appearance from IRS, he of arguably pro wrestling’s worst gimmick, this one re-hashed from Supertape ’92. Have I made myself clear on what a dumb gimmick IRS really was? You market your entire promotion to children who don’t have to deal with paying taxes so none of them really get the gimmick to begin with, and you’ve got their parents sat in the crowd with them who can see what bullshit this all is because really, who’s the idiot who actually wrestles in a tie and suspenders? It’s just nonsense. Still, Mike Rotunda was a pretty workable wrestler in the 80s until this terrible gimmick completely overcame him, but here he’s in the ring opposite Bret Hart, a guy who obviously loves to really craft together a great grappling battle against any capable wrestler he can find. Yet he is someone who always looks disinterested when he’s in there with a goofy cartoon character, such as a taxman, so this could really go either way. Actually, it’s precisely the match you’d expect it to be, as Bret carries things in the early going before IRS takes over and runs through his usual repertoire; the abdominal stretch using the ropes for leverage, the series of elbow drops and the always-electrifying chinlock, before Bret comes back rally with his own usual sequence of much more exciting moves. And then IRS belts him across the bonce with his briefcase after escaping the Sharpshooter, resulting in a DQ. What a horrendous ending to an otherwise solid match.
Final Rating: **½
Summary: This isn’t such an awful tape truth be told, but 50% of the matches on offer here feature the interminable IRS, and another match has The Bushwhackers in it. Nothing hits ***, and the only bout with any real on-paper name value, Perfect vs. Bulldog, is probably easier to track down at garage sales or Amazon’s marketplace as part of the older but much more common Rampage ’91 release. Take a big, fat pass on this one.