Arnold Furious: Inside the case of my copy of WrestleFest ’93 is a card advertising a “free mystery gift” from Silvervision if you fill out and return the coupon. Seeing as it says “hurry, while stocks last” I think I missed the boat on that one. Too bad. Who knows what Silvervision awesomeness I could have experienced for free! The mystery part just makes it all the more enticing. Was it a photocopy of IRS’s tax return for 1992? Some of Shawn Michaels’ face glitter (used)? Was it a sample of Arrogance, the fragrance of Rick Martel? I’ll never know. Hosts for this one; Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan. The latter claiming he’s an expert mechanic. I’m an expert technician myself. During the course of the opening segment I fix the internet connection and show my daughter how to play GTA. Multi-tasking, people, multi-tasking. Heenan get laughs throughout by trying to repair the car. The segments break the tape up a bit and while they’re only sporadically funny I got a kick out of Heenan’s jokes.
The Nasty Boys & Repo Man vs. High Energy & Tito Santana
This is just crazy enough to work. Three agile and talented babyfaces and three heels that love to brawl. Of course it could immediately turn into a horrible clash of styles. Owen encourages the fans to chant “fat boys” at the heel team and waddles around mocking the beer bellies on display. Is this the WWF or the holiday camps? Repo’s three stooges bullshit tanks the opening exchanges. The Nasties complete inability to keep up with Owen kills the follow on. The heels decide to run formula on Owen, as that’s something they can understand and execute to a competent level. Owen tries his best to overcome three shitty opponents and two shitty commentators (Mooney and Hayes) but it takes at least two to tango. Group tango contests with only one willing participant usually results in a clusterfest. Or at the very least a clusterfestery feel. It grinds at me that both commentators ignore Owen’s hope spots, like forcing Knobbs into the Pit Stop. El Matador gets the hot tag and flying forearms Sags. The heels miscue with crappy double teaming and Earl Hebner gets sick and tired of this, much like Rick Martel got sick and tired of Tito Santana. One DQ later and the faces are announced winners by attractive announcer Mike McGuirk. Mostly formula and surprisingly bland. Owen was desperate to have a good match but couldn’t get anyone else interested in the concept. Koko B. Ware never even tagged in. Presumably he was injured.
Final Rating: *½
Papa Shango vs. Crush
If Papa Shango’s entrance music was ‘Live and Let Die’ then Cubby Broccoli would have sued the shit out of the WWF. Shango wasn’t a bad idea, per se, but Charles Wright is a horrible wrestler. With the right guy Shango could have been another Undertaker, in terms of popularity. Crush on the other hand is a bad gimmick, Hawaiian babyface, and a bad wrestler. So we’re all set for failure in this bout. Crush could never get his brain around playing babyface. He was this big mean biker so Vince clad him in orange and told him to be nice to all the kids. He just didn’t have a clue how to do it. Amazing mullet though. I can’t stress enough how much this match sucks. Crush does all his shit, in slow motion, and Shango chokes away and does weird karate chops. Half the crowd doesn’t care, the other half are asleep. They take it to another level by having a competition to see who can hit the worst legdrop. You can tell Hogan is leaving. Crush moves up to the A-game with an enzuigiri (HELLO!) and the rest of Hogan’s moveset (big boot, clothesline). Shango sets off his sparkler, or whatever the hell it was supposed to be, and Crush wins on DQ. Crush didn’t completely suck and the last 90-seconds were pretty cool. The rest of the match was ass.
Final Rating: ½*
Rick Martel vs. The Big Bossman
This could have been a good match too, but by 1992 Martel had stopped caring and Bossman had one foot in WCW. Martel makes no attempt to disguise how telegraphed and pre-planned the match is. It’s upsetting. Bossman smacks him with an uppercut to teach him a lesson. Model that, bitch! Martel works the ribs, Bossman works the hair. That whole model gimmick is just screwing up the psychology. Hayes is losing it on commentary because of it and at one point uses the term “runwalks”. I have no idea what it means. I even googled it. Both guys get sick of the whole match -Martel’s hair had suffered too much- and grab weapons. The ref calls it a DQ.
Final Rating: ½*
Come on tape, get a damn finish. Three matches, three DQ’s.
Earthquake vs. Repo Man
At least this one is guaranteed a finish because Repo is a jobber, though the chances of it being good are slim to none. Fans of this match include Sean Mooney, Alfred Hayes’ daughter and Marty Appelbaum, who Mooney name-drops. That’s one of the guys who worked for WWF video. He oversaw a decade of weak WWF releases. I know DVD’s allow more space for content, but some of the WWF’s tape releases sucked something fierce. Hey, speaking of which; WrestleFest ’93. Quake squashes Repo with power moves and sits on him for the win. On the upside it had a clean finish and it was short.
Final Rating: ¼*
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Virgil
Can HBK rescue the tape against Virgil? Shawn wrestles circles around him, which is unusual for a heel. To his eternal credit Shawn does make Virgil’s offence look dangerous and he bumps around and oversells as much for Virgil as anybody. They keep it fast and furious and its, by far, the most exciting match on the tape… to this point. Alfred Hayes stops off to criticise Shawn for chewing gum in the ring. Why, you could choke on that gum given the right circumstances. Given Shawn’s desperation to make every match he’s in phenomenal, this ranks high on Virgil’s all-time best list. Virgil has a whale of a time because someone is actually selling for him. Virgil misses a corner charge and they blow the finish with Virgil screwing his jump up on the side suplex. Incredibly energetic and exciting, considering the length and Virgil, and an easy tape-stealing display. Unless say Mr. Perfect is wrestling Ric Flair later…
Final Rating: **½
WWF Tag Team Championship
Money Inc. (c) vs. The Nasty Boys
IRS calls the crowd AND the Nasties tax cheats. Oh, its on now! Tax cheat? You sonofabitch. Them’s fightin’ words. The start of this bout is surprisingly energetic but Knobbs is too stupid to keep the momentum going. The Nasties ineptitude when it comes to selling and psychology kills whatever Money Inc. tries. The fans are totally into it though, so I’m going to cut it some slack. Money Inc. get the pacing right, timing the comebacks for the Nasties and drawing heat when necessary. Money Inc. bail and Earl Hebner plays the “count out = belt change” stip, which sends Alfred Hayes into a rant about how referees don’t have the power to do that. They run a strange sequence where DiBiase has the match won with the Million Dollar Dream and Knobbs has to run in and break it up. Not what you’d call a babyface escape. Knobbs decides to pick on poor Jimmy Hart as well, as they try to figure out a finish. Sags eats title belt and IRS covers to retain. Certainly a lively contest, highlighted by Money Inc.’s understanding of tag teaming and a lack of formula. I didn’t expect this to be as worthwhile as it was. The Nasties are not a good team in straight-up matches but their shtick worked here.
Final Rating: **¼
The Undertaker vs. The Berzerker
This is a terrible idea. In All-Japan it might have rocked. John Nord is prone to stiffing people and Callaway is a great talent. However, it’s 1992 and the WWF and both guys are on a ridiculous travel schedule. They’re burned out, bored and working soft as hell. Taker works in a nifty side-step to dodge a big boot. It leads directly to the chokeslam but then they meander on with a pointless match. I guess jobbing Berzerker in 3-minutes would have done him no favours, but it would have made me, and the crowd, a lot happier. 3-minutes was plenty of time. Hell, Lord Alfred even managed to work in a bizarre tangent about how The Undertaker is a sex symbol in Europe. At least they get to work on Taker’s character. Berzerker hits a trio of piledrivers, which Taker completely no sells. Everyone in Mexico just did a spit take, I hope you’re happy! Mr. Fuji figures they need to just kill him and gives Berzerker a friggin’ SWORD. Taker ignores it and finishes with a Tombstone. Tremendously dreadful and way too long. Taker gives Fuji a Tombstone too for good measure, destroying his bowler hat in the process. Nobody gets stabbed or more snowflakes would be forthcoming.
Final Rating: ¼*
Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. IRS
Awwww, balls to you Coliseum! You’ve seen this match and you’ve still put it on the tape. I guess Marty Appelbaum was a big Hacksaw fan. The match is just so lacklustre. They’re running through the motions. I know wrestling is hard and that’s what makes it great. If it was easy, everyone would do it. These are two guys who know how to structure a good match, but this is a nothing show in Edmonton and they just don’t care. Mike Rotunda isn’t much fun when he is motivated, for crying out loud. Mooney makes ridiculous claims during the bout, like when Duggan grabs IRS by the tie and he claims no one else has done that before. EVERYONE does that. It happens in literally every single IRS match. The boredom continues until the bell sounds. The referee has become too bored to continue and calls it a double something. No one wins. No one. I’m tempted to go into negative stars, but Mooney says “we thought we might see the wood” at the end and it makes me chuckle up to no stars.
Final Rating: DUD
Terry Taylor vs. Randy Savage
This is from near the end of 1992 so Savage has stopped caring. I guess he got pissed off with Vince McMahon as the WWF had literally no other options, Bret Hart aside, and Randy still wasn’t the champion. This is ‘Terrific’ Terry Taylor, as the WWF decided to give him a shot without a stupid gimmick. However the WWF has never been a company where the gimmick of “wrestler” got over, and that’s exactly how Taylor is approaching things. Taylor’s tactic during the match is to grind away, one hold after another in an attempt to wear Savage out. Unfortunately Savage eating heat makes this like every other Savage babyface squash. For a man who was so incredible as a heel, Savage’s face work was incredibly bland at times. He’d give over 90% of the match and coast by on his popularity. Taylor’s offence doesn’t win the fans over although he does nail a tidy spinebuster. Taylor was a decent worker but an awful suck-up, at least according to a few shoot interviews, and generally pissed off the boys. He misses the Vader Bomb and Savage runs through his moves until the flying elbow finishes. Macho was developing a lazy formula that he took to WCW and perfected to the point where he’d wrestle matches and literally only hit the finish. He wasn’t quite that bad here and Taylor was game for beating him up, so this was ok.
Final Rating: **
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. Kamala
This is from back in early August ’92 with Bret still holding the IC strap ahead of SummerSlam. The WWF is still interested in pushing Kamala, so Bret’s out here to showcase his skills without losing the title. Normally Bret is game to get people over for management, but this might be a bridge too far as he totally dogs the match. He mixes a long arm ringer with bits of comedy like stamping on Kamala’s feet. Kamala’s response is to get serious with bearhugs and horrible hammer blows, plus a chest massage. The latter is the worst looking submission hold in the history of wrestling. I can’t believe Bret sells it as much as he does. Don’t encourage him! Him cupping your breast is not a submission, kindly stop it. Kamala’s selling isn’t much better. He breaks out the swim after a Russian legsweep. What are you doing? I hate this rinky-dink bush league shit. Bret would finish with the Sharpshooter, but Kim Chee runs in for the bullshit DQ to protect the useless Kamala. An awful match, one of Bret’s worst from the era. Finding a bad Bret Hart match must have been a real challenge. I believe Marty Appelbaum should give himself a bonus. Bret amuses himself by stealing Kim Chee’s hat and that’s the highlight of a 10-minute match.
Final Rating: ½*
Razor Ramon vs. Tito Santana
Razor tries his sleazeball routine on Mike McGuirk. He is oozing machismo. You can get cream for that. Why did the WWF decide to dress Tito as a bullfighter? Are they implying he got bored with the pro-wrestling circuit and decided to get a dangerous, yet stereotypically Hispanic, hobby? If this gimmick didn’t fly with the fans would they have opted for another Hispanic gimmick, like drug mule, taco salesman, landscape gardener or gang member? Or just stuck a mask on him and called him El Hijo del Santana? Seeing as Tito never aged, they could have kept him going for decades. By this point he’s a JTTS and Ramon, being tall, muscular and having a full head of hair was on Vince’s push list. Although he mainly got a big push because he pitched his gimmick as Scarface but Vince doesn’t watch movies and thought it was all original stuff. Little tip for any budding wrestlers out there; just pitch your character as your favourite movie character. Vince will be none the wiser. Razor gives Tito a few hope spots before finishing with the Razor’s Edge. Cool finisher. Mostly a squash and Razor looked impressive. You can see why Vince got a hard-on for him in ’92. It wasn’t really until his feud with Shawn Michaels that Razor elevated himself to superstardom even though he was never the main event threat they hoped he’d become.
Final Rating: *¼
Loser Leaves the WWF
Ric Flair vs. Mr. Perfect
This was one of the early classics from Monday Night Raw and Flair’s last WWF match in 9 years. Flair considers his WWF run from the early 90s as his best run in wrestling after the original Four Horsemen angle. At times he was on fire during his WWF tenure, especially against Randy Savage, and it’s appropriate that he’d go out against his former running mate and closest associate; Curt Hennig. It’s a real pity one of these guys had to leave the WWF but that’s the great thing about this match, and other key matches, is that putting everything on the line makes it more intense. And both guys do a great job of selling that intensity. So they kick off with slaps and CHOPS~! Oh, the chops! It’s not quite at the Flair-Steamboat level but it isn’t far off, with Flair flopping around the ring like a fish out of water in order to sell it all. There is audible support for Flair and large sections of the crowd bow before him. Perfect, not to be outdone, almost lands headfirst on the apron while attempting a Flair corner bump. Because this is RAW, Perfect even blades off the ring post to add a thick layer of crimson on top of the existing intensity. They don’t have a great understanding like you’d think they would, but they’re both amazing at improvisation. At one point Flair, blatantly expecting a backdrop, gets punched in the jaw and adjusts his bump accordingly. There’s another, even worse, misunderstanding where Perfect is already in the air for a leapfrog only to see Flair not see it coming and swiftly adjusting into a headlock takedown. It’s incredible that they can have a massive misunderstanding and just wing through it without a mistake. Improvisation like that is the hardest thing in wrestling to do. The ref allows a lot of leeway on the punches and cheating, due to the stipulation, which also gives it the feel of an important match. Bobby Heenan’s commentary certainly adds to proceedings, because he’s so involved in Flair’s career. He’s not quite as entertaining as during Royal Rumble ’92 but he’s close. After a back-and-forth encounter, Flair focuses in on the leg and you’d think Perfect would be done, but Flair can’t stay focused. He has to go up top or sneak in a brass knuckles shot. If he just stays on the leg, he wins. Perfect kicks out of the brass knucks, and I love that he drapes a foot over the rope first to delay the kick out. A bloodied Perfect starts no selling the chops, even though he’s hobbled, and he uses moves that don’t require him to move about too much. This gives Flair a chance to come off the top, but Perfect punches him coming down. The storyline they have is great. Perfect can read Flair’s spots because of the sheer number of times he’s watched Flair wrestle and Flair famously doesn’t change. They run through near falls until Flair sets too early for a backdrop; PERFECTPLEX! Flair counts the lights and he’s done in the WWF. The way they covered for mistakes was astounding. That alone makes this a must-see for any up and coming wrestlers. I’ve never seen a match with that many mistakes that’s this good. Obviously those flaws mean it’s never a MOTY or anything like that, though given the low standards of 1993 it’s still a contender. Perfect went onto feud with Lex Luger before the back injury returned to plague him and he was once again forced into retirement. Flair went back to WCW, but thanks to a no wrestling clause he spent half of 1993 hosting a chat show. He dethroned Vader as WCW champion at the year’s end. It’s a little sad to watch this back, knowing neither man was ever quite this good again. It does however save this tape from mediocrity.
Final Rating: ****¼
Summary: It’s not totally dreadful. Flair-Perfect at the end is a big boost but there are other surprisingly decent bouts. Shawn Michaels dragged Virgil to one of his best matches and Money Inc. had a solid outing against The Nasty Boys. There is some horrific stuff in between, and Duggan vs. IRS in particular is appalling, but having a great last match leaves a good taste in the mouth. Mildly recommended.