#WS939 – Greatest Matches! Ever!

James Dixon: This tape is exceedingly rare and is often listed erroneously as Greatest Moments Ever. I have no idea why, seeing as though the cover of the box says “matches”. Due to the hour run time and the fact that some of these matches would be nearly half that in full form, everything is clipped. I will give you the ratings for the full matches, but just bear in mind that this tape doesn’t have them on, and the final score will take that into account.

 

Ladder Match
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Razor Ramon
An often forgotten classic starts us off. Obviously they were looking to capture lightning in a bottle for the second time with this, following their legendary contest at WrestleMania X some 16-months prior. The difference here is that they are not allowed to directly use the ladder as an offensive weapon. That makes for some really clever spots, such as Shawn accidentally clocking Razor when he picks it up and ‘The Bad Guy’ doing the same, only far more intentionally, later on. They can use the ladder as a landing pad though, and take turns slamming, throwing and whipping each other into it. A little known fact is that it was actually Triple H who pieced most of the match together, as Michaels and Razor were out of ideas due to the stip, and Trips came up with a lot of it in their hotel room prior to the show. Michaels’ presence in this far surpasses his position on the card, and you can tangibly feel his stock rising as the match progresses. It was obvious for most of 1995, but certainly after this performance, that he was destined to be the WWF’s top star. In reality, he probably should have been passed the torch a year earlier than he was, because he was untouchable from 1994 onwards. The high spots in this are no-where near the same ridiculous levels as in ladder matches of the Attitude era and beyond, but the match doesn’t need them because two more important things are there: selling and psychology. There are still high spots of course, but they are all logical to the match and make sense when they occur, without contrived selling and setting them up beforehand. You can do as many silly flips off a ladder and through a table as you want, but what is the point if none of it means anything? Thankfully, everything in this means something and it is an absolutely barnstorming affair because of it. Razor brings a second ladder into play and the drama really cranks up a notch, then elevates further when Razor hits the Razor’s Edge to prevent Shawn climbing the ladder. Both are exhausted as they climb ladders parallel to each other, with Shawn knocking Razor off of his and making a dive for the belt… and missing. Some think this is a botched spot and he was supposed to get it there, but I am not sure. Even if that was the case, so what? It added to the drama and the realism of the contest, with Shawn unable to make it due to exhaustion. Razor gets backdropped out of the ring on a Razor’s Edge attempt and Michaels climbs again, but this time he is out of position, and can’t reach the belt. Ok, that was supposed to be the finish. Vince covers it well by saying “he can’t do it” and again to me, that adds to the realism of it all. Shawn has a temper tantrum because he was a bit of a prick in 1995, and then climbs the repositioned ladder to grab the title to retain. I think it is a very pernickety and incredibly harsh to give this a lower rating because of a slightly mistimed finish. Like I say, it added to the drama and made sense, even if it wasn’t perfect. It doesn’t matter that one spot was slightly out, because the rest of the action was a 25-minute thrill ride that broke new ground as far as what is expected in a ladder match. I have said before that I don’t believe in the theory that a match has to be “perfect” to hit 5* and I stand by that. Anyway, maybe they planned the finish that way, and all the smarks have been worked this whole time? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, this is a stunning effort and a match I have always been a huge fan of, and to me it deserves to be up there as one of the greatest. For that it gets full marks from me. Just think; the WWF nearly ran Michaels vs. Sid instead…
Final Rating: *****

 

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Mr. Perfect (c) vs. Bret Hart
This is a genuine classic, with both guys mirroring each other and matching each other hold for hold. After an entertaining heat section, Bret kicks out of the Perfectplex, which outside of Hogan and Warrior was pretty much unheard of. Bret comes back with atomic drops, and then biels Perfect across the ring so hard that he slides crotch-first under the ropes and into the post. A suplex gets a close two count, as does a subsequent small package. The Russian legsweep gets another near fall for Bret and he goes to the backbreaker and elbow from the middle. Again, he only gets two. The crowd is ELECTRIC and there is a feeling of every single person in the arena willing Hart to win the match. Bret kicks Perfect’s legs from under him and he goes for the Sharpshooter, but gets distracted by Coach and Perfect kicks the rope into his balls. Perfect continues to go low with a kick and a legdrop to the groin. He tries the legdrop again, but Bret catches his foot and turns it into the Sharpshooter for the win. A certain Earl Hebner rang the bell VERY quickly indeed. Honestly, you could sub that in for Montreal and not know the difference, that’s how fast he called for it. The unclipped version is an incredible bout, one of the best of its generation, and even more impressive considering Perfect was injured. Like in other instances of this match appearing in clipped form; if you are looking to get this tape because you saw this on the listing, don’t bother. If you have somehow never seen it before, you won’t get the full experience like this. What was on offer here is still excellent of course, but the clipping kills it as a competitive contest.
Final Rating: ****½

 

Casket Match
WWF Championship
Yokozuna (c) vs. The Undertaker
This is one of the WWF’s greatest matches ever!? Who put this compilation together!? It is of course from Royal Rumble 1994 and holds the distinction of being one of the most overbooked and ridiculous matches I have ever seen. The action between Yoko and Taker is not the issue, even though it is horrendously dull, but rather the finish and post-match make this a bout that will live long in infamy. After some plodding action, pretty much the entire midcard heel roster comes out to beat the shit out of The Undertaker, with ‘the Dead Man’ losing his urn in the process. Obviously that takes away his “power” and means he is able to feel pain, and the heels take him out with a bunch of moves and place him in the casket, giving Yoko the least convincing win that any WWF champion has ever recorded. If it ended there, it would have been silly overkill and nothing more, but oh no. As Taker’s casket is being wheeled away, it begins smoking and the lights in the arena start going peculiar. Then Taker appears on the video wall, from inside the casket. Even though that is ridiculous (there was no camera in the casket) it is made even more obviously fake by the fact that it’s a full profile shot of Taker, meaning the camera would have had to be some ten feet plus in the air. Taker spouts some of his usual nonsense and then dies. Live on pay-per-view. The camera image of Taker flashes and inverts its colours, as his ethereal body (or some shit) ascends to the heavens, as everyone watching wonders what the hell kind of macabre theatre they have just suffered through. The ultimate entry into the annals of WrestleCrap, and one that will always be remembered as one of the WWF’s stupidest moments. It was probably the lowest point in the history of the WWF at that point, the proof that they had well and truly lost their way and had become the most idiotic cartoonish nonsense on television. It was no longer “cool” to be a wrestling fan. The match is not as bad as the rating I am going to give this, but, you cannot separate the match from the shenanigans and the post-match stuff, they are a package and thus they have to suffer as one.
Final Rating: -*****

 

Alley Fight
Pat Patterson vs. Sgt. Slaughter
This is a legendary match which doesn’t get a great deal of love from the WWE Home Video division, as it only turns up on one or two DVDs. The match is from way back in 1981 at MSG, and it is actually very rare that a WWF tape from this time showed something from more than two or three years ago, and unheard of for them to show pre-WrestleMania stuff. Earlier tapes did, sure, but not by 1996. Both guys were involved in an epic feud in the 80s, and are clad in street clothes for this. There is no referee and no rules, it just goes until one man can’t go any longer. Vince McMahon is on commentary, but there is no over-the-top hyperbole and screams of “whatamanoeuvre” here, instead he picks and chooses when to speak, and only commentates when he has something to say. It is a very old style, pre-razzmatazz way of doing things. The match itself is fairly slow by current standards but is a vicious brawl for something that happened over 30 years ago. For those who haven’t seen it, Slaughter is actually the heel here and Patterson the face. This is not Iraqi-heel Slaughter of course, that is a full decade away. Slaughter has the better of the first ten minutes or so, but things really come to life when Patterson slingshots Slaughter into the post, and he juices an absolute gusher. Seriously, he is pouring and as well as the crimson mask, his whole shirt is red. He looks like he was in the car for the scene in Pulp Fiction when Vincent Vega shot Marvin in the face. The sight of blood gets the crowd all pumped up, and they can feel the momentum shift towards Patterson. Slaughter uses brass knuckles to try and return the favour, but Pat doesn’t bleed, he doesn’t need to! Slaughter is taking care of the crimson side of things more than adequately on his own. The knuckles don’t work for the woozy Slaughter, and Patterson takes his cowboy boot off and leathers Sarge with it over and over and over again until his manager The Grand Wizard throws in the towel. Slaughter is still on his feet and throwing wild haymakers as the bell rings to declare Patterson the winner. An utterly violent 15-minute slugfest, with plenty of intensity, and it is easy to see why it won the WON Match of the Year award at the time. This wasn’t even the blowoff, as they took this match around the horn over the rest of the summer, though this is by far the most famous one. At the time is would have blown me away I am sure, but it is the old desensitised solider walking through the battlefield situation, in that I am desensitised because of what has happened since. It is still an excellent street fight, but for me it doesn’t hold up quite as well as you might be led to believe.
Final Rating: ***

 

Hollywood Backlot Brawl
Goldust vs. Roddy Piper
So, the point of this match was for the manly Roddy Piper, to beat the “gay” out of resident WWF weirdo Goldust. Yeah. There were no rules, and in fact it was not even a match (there is no referee) and no way of winning. So the point is? Queer bashing. The WWF thought fans would love to tune in and watch the effeminate gold-clad fruit getting the shit kicked out of him by a man who made a career out of racism (Snuka, Bad News) and is now adding homophobia to his repertoire. I love Piper, I think he is one of the all-time great characters and is almost unmatched behind the mic, but sometimes he did stupid, baffling and downright offensive stuff. This “match” is one of them. It doesn’t even take place in the ring, at least not at first, with Piper just beating the tar out of Goldust with stiff potato shots in an alleyway. Goldust’s only offensive “moves” are running Piper over and hitting him in the balls, and after that he hightails it away in his gold car, as WWF splices in footage of the famous OJ Simpson car chase. I am not making this up, I promise. As bad, ridiculous and unfathomable as all of this sounds so far, it gets even worse. We cut to live footage (the outdoor brawl was filmed the day before) as Piper and Goldust arrive at the Arrowhead Pond and continue to fight to the ring. The next few minutes consist of Goldust kissing Piper (to boos of disgust), and Piper returning the favour (to cheers of approval) as well as Piper grabbing Goldust by the balls, presumably to confirm that he had them. Piper strips Goldust of his gold suit and reveals him to be a lingerie wearing cross dresser. Somewhere in Texas, Dusty Rhodes was having an embolism. Just the most insane thing that the WWF did in this time period, and if they did it today there would be a major backlash from the likes of GLAAD and other PC groups. I guess in 1996, beating on gays to “make them into men” was considered acceptable. Either that or Vince Russo and his poisoned pen had wormed his way onto the writing team and was beginning to pollute WWF programming with his anti-wrestling nonsense. I cannot possibly rate this, because it is not a match in any sense of the word. I don’t know what it is; I just know it is horrid.
Final Rating: N/A (Unfathomable)

 

Summary: This tape is a tough one, because three of the matches are excellent and two of them are about the most offensively stupid (for different reasons) that you could ever hope to find. Obviously the clipped nature means this is just highlights of three classic matches (which hurts them), but equally also shorter versions of the bad bouts (which improves them). To me there is no point watching a classic bout in highlight form, so for that reason alone I cannot recommend this. Also, who is their right mind would ever want to sit through Yoko-Taker again? Of course all of this is moot, because the tape is among the rarest Coliseum releases out there. If you are tempted to spend a few hundred dollars on acquiring it; don’t! Invest in something better and leave this one on the eBay shelf.
Verdict: 56

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