Arnold Furious: This tape was also released as UK Fan Favourites in the United Kingdom in 1995, which is identical in every way other than a bonus match featuring Diesel against Owen Hart. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Stan Lane.
The Undertaker vs. Jerry Lawler
This is the same match the used to conclude Undertaker’s tape He Buries Them Alive. Lawler predictably stalls a lot, then gets all sneaky with a hidden foreign object, which he doesn’t actually need to because it’s a casket match and there aren’t any DQ’s. He could literally just walk out there and crack Undertaker in the face with a baseball bat if he felt the urge to do so. Lots of punching, lots of zombie sit-ups. Lawler eventually realises there aren’t any rules and he punches Undertaker in the bollocks. That obviously agitates the ‘Dead Man’ as he hits the tombstone immediately afterwards and throws Lawler into the casket to win a thoroughly one-dimensional match. Lawler looked determined to do the bare minimum, whilst Undertaker slept through most of the bout.
Final Rating: ¾*
Bret Hart & British Bulldog vs. Owen Hart & Jim Neidhart
This was apparently requested by former Nottingham Forest winger Steve Stone, and Gorilla keeps referring to Owen as “the rocket king”, which sounds like a song from an all-girl Guns n’ Roses cover band. This is from the midst of the Hart family feud and everyone is comfortable with each other. They run a clever opening where Owen refuses to start but agrees to it so Neidhart can jump Bret from behind. Bret’s wise to it though and points out the set-up, all within a matter of seconds but without making it obvious. Storytelling can be that simple. All the characters make decisions based on who they are and what we’ve seen from them in the past. Given their previous experience together, Bret vs. Owen makes for a terrific match, then Bret demands his former tag team partner. Bret-Anvil is slower paced and more deliberate but the action is still good. Bret could generally work around other people’s shortcomings. As a rule though, this match is usually better when Owen is in the ring for his team as both Bret and Davey Boy can work a phenomenal match with him. If anything, Owen might even have better chemistry with Davey than he does with Bret, which is evident on a series of quick Irish whips into suplexes, or the foot-catch enzuigiri. Bulldog gets picked off and double-teamed and Bret has to prevent a pinfall from a Hart Attack. They run some decent formula, as you’d expect from three guys with a load of tag team experience, and Bret gets the hot tag, working in the Five Moves of Doom on Owen. That buys Davey enough time to recover and he pulls the old “flip the pin over” to put Bret on top for the win. Neidhart had slowed a touch by this point and was mostly a weak link, but the other three were incredible.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Adam Bomb vs. IRS
Canadian Idiot Steve Clish requested this. IRS was in the midst of his Undertaker feud so Ted DiBiase has a gang of druids with him. The matches is from Raw so I can tell you this is dated November 28th, 1994. The match is horrific, so boring that Vince McMahon feels the need to chat to Jerry Lawler about news stories instead of calling the action. “Say, did you hear about that guy who got caught in a chimney for two days?” That’s a direct quote. IRS hits the chinlock and that just kills my Hart brothers buzz. Bomb takes over with a few clotheslines but a druid pushes him off the top and IRS finishes with a lame elbow drop. The heels look to put a beating on Bomb but Lex Luger makes the save. That was painfully dreary, IRS seemed devoid of ideas and Bomb didn’t look particularly enthused about having to do the job.
Final Rating: DUD
British Bulldog vs. Tatanka
This is the opening match from the 1994 Boxing Day edition of Raw, with Shawn Michaels guesting on commentary. He’s okay in the role because he’s got no weird agendas here, unlike a few years later when he just buried Bret Hart’s technique. Bulldog usually only works up to the level of his opponents, but he seems up for it here and this is one of those rare outings where he carries the opponent to a better match. Tatanka isn’t bad when he’s motivated, so you’ve got two carriable guys working well together. It’s a pleasant surprise. As the heel, Tatanka slows things up on his offence, and DiBiase tries to interfere with help from Bam Bam Bigelow so out comes Bulldog’s partner Lex Luger to even the sides. That draws a DQ because Luger just jumps into the ring and starts throwing punches which I guess was to set up the Allied Powers against the Million Dollar Corporation. The match was going great until Tatanka’s heat segment slowed things up.
Final Rating: **1/4
Owen Hart vs. 1-2-3 Kid
This isn’t the famous King of the Ring ‘94 match, but a match from Raw. Kid opens with a spinning heel kick before they run some great counter wrestling, the kind you got all the time on independent cards from 2002-onwards, before Owen slows it down by working the arm. That leads into a sequence of counters on the mat and Kid grabbing a headlock. Owen’s counters are freakish because Kid is so light, like when he bridges out of a pin by kicking out. That should be extremely difficult to do but Owen makes it look easy. They run double kip-ups and its amazing how many spots they pull off that became cruiserweight staples in the years that followed. Kid seems to make a point of hitting Owen in the face with everything, like all his dropkicks and baseball slides. Owen gets a receipt by suplexing him out of the ring and following with a pescado. It’s crazy, and I love it. Why didn’t the WWF ever go for cruiserweight style more when they had their steroid problems? It seems like a total no-brainer. Owen misses a knee drop off the top and Kid exploits that, then there’s a callback to earlier in the match when Owen clocked Kid with an enzuigiri; this time, Owen goes for it as a defensive move but Kid, now smart to it, ducks and goes straight into a half crab, cranking on the injured knee. Oh, it is glorious! Jim Neidhart jumps in to break it up and save Owen the embarrassment of submitting, which would be an unfortunate disqualification. Kid makes the mistake of celebrating his victory so Owen boots him the ribs and puts him the sharpshooter. I’m gutted there’s no finish on this match, but it’s every bit as good as their King of the Ring micro-classic.
Final Rating: ****
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Razor Ramon (c) vs. Bob Backlund
These two never had any chemistry. Razor is all about punches and ‘WWF Main Event Style’ while Backlund has amateur takedowns and mat skill. On paper it sounds a bit like Steve Austin and Kurt Angle, which worked tremendously, but unlike Austin, Razor has so very little in terms of mat work that they just don’t mesh. Backlund dominates Ramon on the mat but doesn’t stay on top of him, instead embarrassing him then standing around to celebrate until Razor just punches him in the face. They story is right there for them yet they can’t quite grasp it. Why is Backlund letting Razor back up, and why is he leaving space for Razor’s strengths? You could argue he’s crazy but surely he knows the title is on the line? Razor sticks to what he’s good at and wrestles a much smarter match until he runs that Razor’s Edge by the ropes spot. Hey, you think that might get reversed? They run a horrible count-out sequence where Backlund atomic drops Razor back in when he could have just back suplexed and murdered the ‘Bad Guy’, then grabs the crossface chickenwing, only for the referee to remind him he just got counted out. Silly match with flashes of brilliance and a bad finish.
Final Rating: **
Tatanka vs. Lex Luger
The WWF couldn’t quite figure out what to do with the feud after Tatanka’s shocking heel turn. He could have been an awesome heel if he’d just gotten a handle on the angrier side of Native America. Keep in mind that Luger was running around claiming to be “Made in the USA”, surely Tatanka could have thought up a half-decent promo based on that? I do think there are some guys who would have benefitted enormously from having TV writers script their promos for them and Tatanka is near the top of that list. I could say the same for Luger too, who was hardly compelling without a great heel like Ric Flair to bounce off. All of his matches with Tatanka were poor, mainly because there’s no personal investment from him. You don’t feel his anger, or the pain of Tatanka’s betrayal. It’s just another match with both guys suffering an emotional disconnect from the fans. It’s an intangible you can’t measure, but you can feel it, much like I can feel my eyelids getting heavy into the fourth minute of Tatanka’s chinlock. Stan Lane makes a bizarre call during it, labelling Luger a “rebel” and a “renegade” but in what sense? He’s about as conformist as they get in his Old Glory tights. Luger brings a craptastic comeback, hitting a bunch of low-impact moves, expending way more energy shakes the ropes in between shots. Lane starts referring to Luger’s finish as the “Rebel Rack.” What the hell? Did I miss a memo? They have a terrible brawl at ringside, one of the least enthusiastic in wrestling history, and both guys get counted out in a typically awful finish for a typically awful match. Luger rebels after the match by rebelliously strapping Tatanka in the rebel rack. What a rebel.
Final Rating: ¼*
Yokozuna vs. 1-2-3 Kid
This is a peculiar choice, with the biggest guy in the company against the smallest. I guess they figured it’d make for a fun visual. Kid brings speedy kicks which are incredibly effective, Yokozuna being too slow to even make contact. When Kid wrestles smart he dominates, but he gets too confident and tries to brawl, leading to a protracted beat-down that kills the mood. It’s a pity because I find the sight of Kid kicking a fat man in the face remarkably entertaining, every time he lands a kick I mark out. It’s beautiful. His comeback is cut short by a belly-to-belly slam and Yokozuna scores the pin. If there’s ever a match that demonstrates how entertaining the 1-2-3 Kid was…well, it’s the Owen Hart match, but this one shows how close he really was to the big guns. From 1993 to 1995, Sean Waltman was a fantastic wrestler, something you might find hard to believe if you only jumped on to the WWF’s bandwagon during the Attitude era.
Final Rating: **
UK VERSION ONLY:
Diesel (c) vs. Owen Hart
James Dixon: This match is the only difference between the Canadian and UK versions of this tape, with this tacked onto the end of the latter. It comes from the Action Zone show in early 1995, not long before WrestleMania XI. Diesel overpowers Owen to start and throws him all over the ring. Owen steals Bret’s chest-first sell of a posting and does it justice. Diesel looks to have things wrapped up early on, but Shawn Michaels comes out for the distraction, giving Owen an opportunity to finally mount some offense. A dropkick sends Diesel to the outside, and Shawn lays in a few cheap shots. Owen targets the leg, which is sound strategy on Diesel, because is tall with long spindly legs. This is just your standard “pick a body part and work it” match, but that is fine. Realistically, what else can Owen do against someone who has such a size advantage? Diesel powers out of the Sharpshooter and we get clipped to Owen back in control of the leg. Owen is relentless in his assault and he hits a perfect missile dropkick from the top, which Diesel bumps like crazy. Kudos indeed, Mr. Nash. Owen goes to the well once too many times and Diesel shakes the ropes to crotch him. Nash remembers to sell the leg during the home straight, and finishes Owen off with the Jacknife. Big bumping from both and some sound strategy psychologically made this a really fun watch, especially for a TV match. A worth inclusion on the UK release of the tape.
Final Rating: ***
Summary: As per usual, 1995 has gems galore, but they’re inserted around dreadful matches. The finally tally here has three good ones, two bad, and two middling. Seeing as I found enjoyment in those average Razor-Backlund and Yokozuna-Kid outings, we’ll call this one a win. This whole era’s worth of tapes are loaded with great examples of Owen Hart and 1-2-3 Kid as two of the decade’s best performers. If only the WWF had chosen to push them as hard as they pushed Shawn Michaels. I guess you have to make compromises though, and the fans were still conditioned to support big muscleheads, hence the Lex Luger push. The tape is a fine example of the conflicting approaches to booking the mid 90s. It always frustrates me that you see all these great wrestlers in bad angles in the mid 90s and then right afterwards, into the Attitude years, you have all the bad wrestlers in great angles. This, unfortunately, is life.
UK Verdict: 56
US Verdict: 53