WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. Rick Martel
I actually remember the original broadcast of this on Sky Sports in the UK, which came with a promotional contest (as most WWF programming on Sky in the UK did at that time) to win a trip courtesy of Sky and Adventure USA for a family of four to fly to Washington D.C. for a week in August with complimentary tickets to see SummerSlam ’92. Presumably it was complimentary tickets to see it on pay-per-view or at a closed-circuit theatre given the show was moved from Washington to Wembley. Oh, such irony! This is actually a pretty strange match because although Martel blatantly cheats with closed fists and chokes, it’s Bret who gets the heat on ‘the Model’, constantly working over his leg. It’s certainly different to what you’d usually expect to see in a match, whereby the heel is generally the one to dish out most of the punishment, with Martel doing just enough dastardly stuff to maintain his status as the self-absorbed asshole rather than the poor sod who’s getting his ass handed to him. He eventually does take control of the match after that wholly unexpected 6-minutes. Babyfaces don’t usually dominate match openings for quite so long, but I’m actually pretty glad they chose to mix things up that way with the cameras on, rather than just experimenting with mixing up the formula on an unseen house show in the middle of nowhere. Plus, there’s plenty of matches with these two out there anyway, why not have some fun and make things a little different once in a while? Sadly though, all of Bret’s leg work is for nought when he simply scores a small package out of nowhere for the match-winning pin. Then again, I’ve never strictly been of the opinion that layering something like that in HAS to go somewhere, because if you think about the psychology of a wrestling match as if it were real sporting combat, chances are you’d eventually have that match where you work to a game plan but see an opening for something else and take it. That’s kind of what happened here. Bret was clearly softening Martel up for the Sharpshooter, but when the opportunity for the small package opened up, he took it and got the duke. Pretty interesting stuff overall with the unusual, reversed psychology, and the match also didn’t feel anywhere near as long as it actually was, which is always a positive.
Final Rating: ***¼
Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Papa Shango
Before we begin, a rather ludicrously amusing exchange during the bout from commentators Monsoon and Hayes:
Hayes: “(Shango is) miraculous, if not horrible.”
Monsoon: “After what I saw he did to the Warrior and a couple of youngsters, he raised my expectations to what a big part voodoo plays in this 20th century.”
Hayes: “He also worked some of that black magic on our colleague Gene Okerlund.”
Monsoon: “Well, he needed it. I would have liked to have seen him turn him into something else!”
For such a short and crappy match, this one sure got some seriously home video airplay, having also appeared on two other “best of” tapes, Best of WWF Mega Matches and Best of WWF Battle of the WWF Superstars. Previously it was included on the Wrestling Grudge Matches home video too! Although, I don’t see what exactly the grudge is supposed to be between these two, unless Savage is defending the honour of The Ultimate Warrior or something. Sadly, the match is typical of Savage’s worst, as they skip all of the nonsense and go immediately into the heat, which itself isn’t particularly interesting to watch as Shango has absolutely nothing to offer beyond punches, kicks and bearhugs, which is always a red flag in a match as short as this one. Savage simply pops up after about 4-minutes of sluggery, with a backdrop, a bodyslam and the bombs away axe handle from the top to the floor, before dropping the big elbow for the rather unsatisfying pin. At least he didn’t just go straight to the elbow in lieu of an actual comeback.
Final Rating: *
Tatanka vs. The Berzerker
This might not seem like a particularly inspired choice from a card that boasts both Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith and Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior, but viewed in isolation without either of those classic matches overshadowing it, it’s not a bad little match at all. Berzerker’s falling powerslam was really nice, as was his doing the splits to sell a kick to the legs, not to mention his awesome backwards tumble over the top rope off a simple shove. He then takes a huge backdrop over the top to the floor where on the outside, both guys take bodyslams on the rock-hard plasterboard floor that’s covering up the football pitch. Both guys here, Berzerker in particular, just seem to be completely energised by the monstrous 80,000+ crowd on hand. And why not? They’ve got barely 5-minutes to work with, why not go all out on the biggest card you’ll ever be a part of? Bobby Heenan on colour commentary is on fire too, referring to Berzerker’s furry boots as “Hair Jordans”. Guffaw! The one thing I’ll always get from watching Berzerker stomp around the ring shouting “Huss! Huss!” is what a huge shame it was that the WWF never hired Bruiser Brody, which was something he was apparently intent on making happen once his body gave out and he could no longer keep up with the vigorous Japanese ring style. Even for him to have just come to put Hulk Hogan over in the usual Hogan-style match, that still would have made for a pretty mouth-watering on-paper prospect. Hulk Hogan vs. Bruiser Brody, it certainly would have made for a stronger marquee match than Hogan vs. Kamala or Hogan vs. One Man Gang did. Back to the match; Tatanka comes off the top with a tomahawk chop then polishes things off with the End of the Trail (fallaway slam) in a fairly short but very energetic little match that Berzerker was totally game for.
Final Rating: **
Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Repo Man
This comes from the same show as the earlier Bret Hart-Rick Martel match, and it’s a pretty lame choice given that show also boasts much better matches with Randy Savage against Shawn Michaels and Davey Boy Smith against IRS. Then again, since Smith had already left the promotion and there’s already a different Savage-Michaels match on the tape, I guess pickings were slim. Still, if there’s one major positive to be said about Duggan, it’s that he sure knows how to get a crowd going. I mean, it takes some serious talent to get an arena full of Brits chanting “USA! USA!” What doesn’t take talent are the bumps Duggan takes, dropping to his right leg and rolling flat off every punch. Yes, I’m sure it was much easier on his back in the long run, but it just looks completely rotten. Save it for the untelevised house shows and have some pride in your work dude, this one’s being taped for posterity. The match itself is completely bland, bland enough to the point that commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan have to amuse themselves by mashing up proverbs: “You can lead a gift horse to water, but you can’t make a duck out of him”, and getting into a comical debate as to the true identity of the Sheriff of Nottingham, Heenan claiming his real name to have been “Herb Schwartz”. Then, after a few minutes of mostly non-action, Repo Man just blasts Duggan in the face with his steel tow rope for the disqualification ending. What an awful finish that is. Seriously, if you can’t book a clean finish between Duggan and Repo Man then why bother booking the match at all? Nobody could have possibly sat down and said: “You know, this is going to be a classic match and we’d be stupid not to at least run it once, finish or not”. It’s Duggan and Repo Man! fuck off. Repo chokes out Duggan with the rope afterwards but Duggan sells the choking by sticking his tongue out like he does in all his promos, which just makes it look like he’s enjoying himself, not being throttled. Woeful stuff.
Final Rating: ½*
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
This is from the WWF’s second show in Germany, during the same European Rampage Again tour as the earlier two matches from Sheffield, but you guessed that, right? This was actually supposed to be Savage defending the title against Jake Roberts, but ‘the Snake’ had quit the promotion immediately following WrestleMania VIII having felt slighted by the WWF’s refusal to give him a job as a road agent in return for him losing so strongly to The Undertaker on that card. Roberts apparently felt that with all the drugs and sex scandals going around at the time and the resultant resignations/firings (delete as you find appropriate) of agents Terry Garvin and Pat Patterson, and with his own contract coming due for renewal, that the time was right for the promotion to exploit his mind as arguably wrestling’s premiere psychologist in a cushy (and lucrative) backstage role. When the WWF refused to acquiesce to his desires, Roberts instead turned tail and signed with WCW instead, where his father Grizzly Smith was a high ranking agent himself. The upshot of all of this is Savage instead defending his newly won WWF title against Shawn Michaels instead, which sounds like a dream on paper until you remember that this is April, 1992, and Michaels isn’t really a legitimate title contender yet. Still, even without the history of the red hot Savage-Roberts dispute to heat things up, Savage yet again proves himself the king of all wrestling by layering in an injury storyline to the flow of the match before things even get underway, limping out to the ring, still selling a bum knee he got courtesy of Ric Flair figure four leglocking the absolute shit of him some nine days earlier at WrestleMania VIII. That’s not just commitment, that’s not just continuity, and that’s not just a total dedication to your craft, but in carrying plot points over from one event to the next, suddenly you’re imparting upon your audience that things actually matter and matches have consequences. On top of that, you’ve already clued the crowd in to the psychology of the match – the young upstart Michaels, not yet considered a genuine contender for the title, might actually have a chance against the veteran champion who’s clearly wrestling at something less than one hundred percent. The opening bell has yet to chime, but Savage has already done the bulk of the legwork (so to speak.) A ninety-second limp to the ring, and he’s already built all his sympathy heat. What an absolute credit to the business Savage truly was. It would probably then seem quite churlish having espoused the virtues of Savage’s masterful grasp on ring psychology to declare his insistence on selling the injury as something of a detriment to the match, but when you see the names “Savage” and “Michaels” opposite one another on a pro wrestling line-up sheet, you can’t help but hope for flat out, balls to the wall action. But here the principal offering is Michaels methodically working over Savage’s knee while Savage rolls around grimacing, unable to fight back with his usual insanity-driven intensity. And that’s a real shame because Michaels at this point just isn’t quite the great worker he’d eventually become. Certainly you can point to his run as one half of The Rockers as proof the guy was already supremely talented, but he’d spent over half-a-decade honing himself as a babyface tag team specialist to suddenly, for the first time in his eight year career, be thrust into a narcissistic heel role, a gig which required him to carry the bulk of the work in his matches, and with no reliance on any tag team partners. Make no mistake; Michaels in 1992 was good. Very good, in fact. But he wasn’t quite great. Consequently, this match wasn’t quite great either, merely good. At points, very good. But never great. I do like the interplay between Savage and Michaels’ valet ‘Sensational’ Sherri, particularly given their history together as the former King and Queen of the WWF, though whether our friends on the German announce team actually pick up on that is lost on me entirely. Sprechen sie Deutsch? That said, I don’t much care for the finish as Michaels, having spent several minutes working over Savage’s leg, gets booted off into the corner, following which Savage slams him and drops the big elbow for the win. Obviously with Savage still selling the knee like a pro, there wasn’t a lot he could do in terms of action, but I just think with all the work laid in to get the injury over, it makes Michaels look pretty weak to just have him lay down for so long off a single bodyslam, especially given how long it took Savage to drag himself up to the top rope. Even if that was some spectacular acting on Savage’s part.
Final Rating: ***¼
Summary: A bit of a rag tag selection of matches here, with a surprisingly decent, albeit short, match in the middle, two really crappy matches either side of it, and two really good ones to bookend things. At 63-minutes, it does at least fly past. It is all stuff that is available extensively elsewhere, but this is still mildly recommended, at least if you’re not planning on watching full copies of any of those European-exclusive live events.