Koko B. Ware vs. Rick Martel
This comes from March 1991 in Pensacola, Florida, and is a warm up match for Martel’s bout with Jake Roberts at WrestleMania VII, which is also a blindfold match. I hate the gimmick, it is completely ridiculous. There is no artistic merit to a blindfold match, even one done well. Koko agrees and jumps Martel before the bell, sending him out of the ring with a dropkick. Eventually Koko has the blindfold put on, so Martel attacks him and gives him a kicking. These referees are completely useless, and Martel still doesn’t have the blindfold on as he rams Koko back-first into the post on the outside of the ring. Surely this should be a DQ? I guess technically it hasn’t started yet because both guys don’t have the blindfolds on. Martel is eventually restrained enough for the refs to put the hood on him, and we are properly underway under the rules of the bout, and now it is rotten, as Martel searches around the ring but can’t find Koko. It is really dumb though, because he was facing Koko when the blindfold went on, but then instantly started searching for him in the other direction. Horrible. Martel finds Koko and locks on the Boston crab, and that is that, as Koko submits. An awful match and a terrible gimmick. What a dreadful start.
Final Rating: DUD
The Mountie vs. The Big Bossman
This comes from SummerSlam ‘91 and features on a few other releases. It is the culmination of a feud between two guys with law enforcement gimmicks. The stipulation is that the loser spends the night in jail. A lot of love is being showed to a mostly average SummerSlam ‘91 card, it has to be said. Ok, the last match was a title change and this one is somewhat unique, but there were better things that could have been featured. The Hart Foundation winning the tag titles at SummerSlam ‘90 or the superb Brainbusters-Hart Foundation match in ‘89 would have made this tape a true classic. I guess it would have become “The Bret Hart Show”, though that is hardly a bad thing. Bossman has the best of the early exchanges, until Mountie goes to the ideas. But it doesn’t slow Bossman for long, and he catches Mountie as he comes off the top and drops him with a spinebuster, before going to the neck vice. He breaks the hold when he is distracted by Jimmy Hart, allowing Mountie to nail him from behind with a double axe handle. It is just the usual spots between these two, and like I have said before; the Mountie was a boring wrestler. Even when he does something vaguely good, it still seems dull. He is exhausting to watch. Mountie hits a piledriver after a few attempts, and then goes to zap Bossman with his cattle prod while Jimmy Hart has the ref distracted, but Bossman moves out of the way. Bossman fires back and hits the Bossman Slam, but Mountie kicks out! It is surprising that they let Mountie kick out of that, it usually does the job. I guess it is a blood feud though. Mountie goes for a piledriver again, but Bossman stands up out of it an hits an Alabama slam for the win. The NYPD come to the ring post match and handcuff Mountie, leading him off to jail. It picked up at the finish, but the majority of the match was deathly dull because of The Mountie’s dire offense. He does sell getting taken to prison very well though.
Final Rating: ¾*
Kamala vs. The Undertaker
This is the blow off match to the feud between these guys, and took place at Survivor Series ‘92. Like all PPV events, it is covered in full elsewhere in this book by Arnold Furious. I get why they went with Taker against Kamala on paper, because in the 80s the latter was a fearsome monster who cleanly beat the likes of Ricky Steamboat and Tito Santana, and even worked with Hogan for the title. But in 1992 he suffered the same treatment that all of the roster did, in that he became an overblown cartoon. He has gone from eating a live chicken to hyperventilating over the sight of a casket. This ranks low on the list of casket matches, and that is bad when you consider that Taker has contested some stinkers under this gimmick with the likes of Yokozuna, Mabel, Kama and Mark Henry. The casket match does not lend itself to quality wrestling matches. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the difference between WWF shows in early 1992 to the ones at the back end of the year, is huge. I don’t mean show quality wise, I mean just the general look and feel of them. The group used to feel so massive prior to this, with loads going on, but the roster was so depleted and the crowds were bored to tears by what they were seeing. The whole thing just has a very dark and dingy feel to it. I guess they did lose a lot of guys over the course of the year as the likes of Warrior, Hogan, Bulldog, Warlord, Hercules, Marty Jannetty, Sid, Bravo, Valentine, Snuka, Barbarian, Ax, LOD and a number of others all departed. The people brought in to replace them were pretty bad too. The steroid trial is largely to blame of course, because it meant the departure of all the muscle guys and also a loss of concentration from Vince. Anyway, this is over thank god. Don’t ever let Undertaker do any DIY for you, his hammering ability is sloppy. Tony Garea looks on in disgust, I can only assume having realised that the birdhouse Taker built for him probably wasn’t going to last.
Final Rating: ¼*
Desert Storm Match
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Sgt. Slaughter
Good lord, it is the famous phantom match! Perhaps I should explain: this match has been listed on a number of tapes that we have covered, and some video sleeves have even had pictures from the bout on them. However, it has never actually turned up on the UK versions of the tapes that we have reviewed. I hope it is worth the wait, otherwise this tape is in serious trouble. This comes from June 1991 in Fresno, California. The rules are… there are no rules! Hogan comes out dressed like a cross between Jason Voorhees and a Navy SEAL. He starts off by throwing powder in Slaughter’s face and then whacking him with the title belt. For once, I won’t complain about these tactics, because this is anything goes. Hogan makes use of the lack of rules further by nailing Slaughter across the back with a chair on the outside and then with the belt again on the inside. He goes to the eyes and chokes Slaughter over the ropes, digging his fingers into his face in the process. It is just Hogan’s usual offence, only it is not illegal for once. The referee is not even inside the ring, which makes this even more unique. I like this so far, it has been completely different to anything the WWF did in this time period. This is more like an Attitude era main event. It has definitely been a nice alternative to the usual Hogan nonsense. Slaughter and General Adnan work over Hogan, but Slaughter slips as he tries a move from the top. It’s an awful botch, though Slaughter does cover it by doing an over the top pratfall. Still, he regroups and goes up again, but it was hardly worth the wait, because the resulting top rope knee roll (drop) was poor. I can’t stand that move, it always looks so fake and lacking in any impact. Slaughter puts on the camel clutch, but Hogan powers out, sending Slaughter into the buckles. Slaughter stays on top and Adnan loosens Slaughter’s boot so he can use it as a weapon, but Hogan prevents it, with FIRE. It sounds impressive, but it was Hogan-Warrior II levels of bad. It hit Slaughter pathetically in the stomach, and then he sold his face. Come on Sarge, I expect better from you than that. Hogan throws the world’s lamest clothesline to follow up, and suddenly my enjoyment of this has been flushed down the toilet. Hogan put’s on the camel clutch after using Slaughter’s own boot against him, and General Adnan throws in the towel, giving Hogan the win. This started well and was certainly a refreshing change of pace from the normal routine. Discussion of this series often results in yawns from wrestling fans, but Slaughter actually got some pretty decent bouts out of Hogan. Shame about the suspension of disbelief shattering finish here, but it is worth a look for novelty value.
Final Rating: **
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
At least we are ending things on a high note! I have covered this classic encounter already on the Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em tape, elsewhere in this book. It is of course, the WWF’s first ever ladder match, though not the first one in wrestling history. Bret had actually competed in a number of these matches back in his Stampede days, opposite Bad News Allen (Brown). According to Hart, he suggested the use of the ladder match in the WWF, originally for a match against Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam ‘92 for the IC title, when the show was going to be held in the States. Eventually, Vince went with Wembley and Davey Boy Smith, but this was a trial of sorts for the concept. It would be another 18-months before the WWF used it, in a famous match between Michaels and Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X. This first effort takes place in Portland, Maine in July 1992. Bret actually tells a few porkies in an interview segment with Gorilla Monsoon, claiming that he has never been in a ladder match before but he suspects Shawn probably has because “someone had to have come up with the concept”. Oh, the cheeky insider irony of it all! Bret beats Michaels from pillar to post in the early going, but gets stopped as he goes to head for the ladder. Michaels wears the Hitman down, and picks his moment to go for the ladder, which is positioned right up the aisle. Hart waits for him, and throws him into the post once he gets back to the ring. Smart move; it makes sense to let Shawn do the hard work lugging the ladder down the aisle. Most wrestlers would have just charged him in the aisle. Bret was smarter than that. Sherri prevents Bret from bringing the ladder in the ring, and he chases her up the aisle. Seizing the opportunity, Michaels tries to quickly climb up, but gets stopped when Bret realises. Michaels rams the ladder into Bret’s gut twice, but misses a third try and hits the post. Michaels is still in control because of the prior shots, but Bret hits a desperation kick to the face. Bret goes for a whip, but Michaels reverses it and Bret hits the ladder hard in the corner. Michaels goes up again, but Bret clings onto his leg. The way they are building from spot to spot and not just rushing ladder climbs and high risk moves, is actually rather majestic. Everything is logical and makes sense. So different to the more spotty ladder matches you see in later years, but it is a different kind of art form. This is almost like an old school cage match, teasing the climbs. The psychology is very similar. An attempt to climb the ladder from Bret is blocked, and Michaels rams him headfirst into it. He leaves it set up in the corner, but takes too long doing so and Hart hits a flying clothesline from the middle rope. Bret catches Michaels and slingshots him into the ladder, drawing a large “ooh” from the crowd. Backbreaker from Bret and he goes for the title again, but Michaels shakes the ladder until he falls off, before they run into each other and both go down. This has been wonderful. They are not really doing a great deal with the ladder, and the high spots are certainly tame in comparison to later years, but because of the clever pacing and build, everything means something and thus has far more impact. The crowd is not getting bombarded with high impact stuff with no rhyme or reason, they are getting a scientific ladder match, if such a thing exists. Both guys climb the ladder at the same time, but knock each other off, and it is Shawn who recovers first, hitting the superkick and the teardrop suplex. Michaels nearly makes it up the ladder, but Bret pushes him off and he gets crotched on the top rope and falls to the outside. Bret quickly climbs the ladder and grabs the title, winning the match. A superb story told by two of the all-time greats. Anything with Bret and Michaels is gold and this was no different. A classic bout that even with a lack of risky spots one associates with the stipulation, still holds up today.
Final Rating: ****¼
Summary: Gimmick matches often don’t lead to good wrestling, and this was shaping up to be a giant wet dog of a tape until the last two matches came along. Slaughter-Hogan was a novelty and is worth seeing once just for how different it is to anything else the company did at the time. The ladder match is a classic, but you are better off with Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em, which also has the superb Flair-Hart match on it, rather than this. Any short tape with a ****+ match on it is going to get a decent overall score, but because the bout is available elsewhere, don’t bother with this.