James Dixon: This is the first of the Goodtimes Home Video releases, and another WWF WrestleMania release with a very similar name to others that already exist. It makes chronicling these things confusing, believe you me.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Andre the Giant
We start with the most recycled match in history, and probably the most famous, and it is of course from WrestleMania III. The commentary has been replaced, and now we get retrospective announcing from Gorilla Monsoon and Stan Lane. Well, sort of, because Gorilla does it in the past tense but Lane starts commentating as if it were live: “this might be it, Gorilla” he says after the first slam attempt from Hogan fails. Lane later admits to never having seen the match because he was wrestling. For once calling this the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling is not just hype. The stare down at the start alone is dripping with intensity. This level of match has never been recreated, because it was the two biggest stars of the decade, on the biggest stage, in front of the largest crowd. Nothing has come close in terms of spectacle since, and probably never will. Stars are created in different ways than they were in the 70s and 80s. Andre and Hogan had both been around the circuit, all over the world, for many years before this match. People believed that Andre had never been beaten in fifteen years, even if it was revisionist history on the part of the WWF. Hogan had an aura of being unbeatable as well, he had been the WWF champion for three years, which again is a reign length that will not be matched again. When you combine their respective histories and legendary statuses with the personal issue in kayfabe world that they used to be friends and no-one ever expected Andre to turn on Hogan, you have magic. Other matches since have been huge, epic and historical, but none to the level of this. The slam at the end from Hogan is also something that they have tried and failed to recreate, but it can never happen. Having Kane slam Great Khali at WrestleMania XXIII was not even on the same planet. This is obviously a horrid match for workrate fans, but that is not what it is about. Indeed, most wrestling fans can probably watch this match with their eyes closed and recite every spot. The match content didn’t matter, it was all about the spectacle. We get slightly clipped here, but nothing that damages the effect of the match. Required viewing for all wrestling fans, but you can certainly get hold of this in countless other places.
Final Rating: **½
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Headshrinkers
No Jesse Ventura on WrestleMania IX, so we keep the original commentary here, and JR busts out the term “slobberknocker” on his WWF debut. This is an odd choice for inclusion, I have to say. There is nothing wrong with the match, and it is one of the better things on an awful card, but it is hardly one for the ages, and certainly not worthy of the company it is keeping on this tape. The exchanges between Scott and Fatu are good, with the two just laying into each other, though Fatu makes a bit of a balls of his 360 clothesline sell. The Steiners then pop the crowd by hitting an impressive top rope double clothesline from the same buckle, before Rick pairs off with Samu. The Steiners are probably my favourite team to watch of all-time, because their offence is so vicious, unpredictable and different to everyone else’s, and when they take heat they do it with plenty of life and fire, and throw in enough to keep things interesting. Basically, the exact opposite of Lex Luger. Scott Steiner earns his stripes when the Headshrinkers send him headfirst to the outside in what looked like a botched clothesline on the ropes. The bump Scott takes is insane. I am not sure it was a botch through, because the subsequent spot outside the ring suggests he was supposed to end up out there anyway, and also; Scott Steiner is insane. Either way, it is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous bumps you are likely to see in 1993, whether it was planned or not. Scott takes the heat following that, and the Headshrinkers do a good job of beating him up, albeit for a little too long. The Steiners are easily good enough not to adhere to predictable formula, so it is a disappointment that they are forced to work that way here. At one point Samu really kills the excitement with a long, drawn out nerve hold, which is among the least popular of all wrestling moves in our offices. The crowd completely loses interest because of the length of the heat segment, which is a shame because they were really into it at first. Rick finally gets the hot tag but foolishly tries a noggin knocker, but the Headshrinkers are Samoan so it doesn’t work, and Rick eats a double headbutt. Rick impressively reverses a Doomsday Device IN MID-AIR for a near fall, and then Scott comes back in and throws in a belly-to-belly suplex, but gets caught with a superkick. A dangerous looking Frankensteiner wins it for the Steiners. Good start, good finish, awful middle section. I understand them wanting to put something from the present on here, but it still baffles me why they chose this. It is not like the WWF has an aversion to dodgy finishes on its tape releases, and thus that is why they avoided Tatanka-Michaels. I guess they wanted a babyface win, and didn’t want to show Hogan derailing Bret Hart and Yokozuna’s careers, or Lex Luger as a heel, and thus decided against those two. Not using the Undertaker-Gonzalez debacle is self-explanatory. Perhaps they would have been better not using anything from WrestleMania IX at all. It’s their own fault the show was such a frigging mess.
Final Rating: **¼
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
Back to WrestleMania III and one of the greatest matches in history. Sadly, we revert to the idiotic Stan Lane and retrospective Gorilla. “Whose back is that?” asks Lane of George Steele, and then references Bastion Booger… IN THIS MATCH! Anyway, let’s try and ignore ‘Sweet’ Stan and concentrate on this match, which is of course perfect. Much like the Hogan-Andre bout, this is absolutely required viewing for any fan, and anyone who has not seen this can’t consider themselves a true fan of the sport. That might sound almost elitist, but to me it is a fact. Sadly, I worry that the quality of this will slowly fade in the eyes of the newer generation of wrestling fans, due to its lack of dangerous and needless high spots and pointless bumps, but then, the true art of wrestling is being eroded weekly anyway, so I guess it is inevitable. Make no mistake, this is the art of wrestling at its absolute finest. If this were art, it would be the Mona Lisa, a once in a lifetime piece that cannot be matched, duplicated or surpassed. Grandiose praise maybe, but that is my take on it, and a view shared by pretty much any long-time wrestling fan. There are countless things that make it so great, from the incredible pace to the perfectly smooth execution, the realistic and believable selling, the strong story going in, the timing and placement of the moves and the monster crowd that witnessed it. None are more important than the other, but all are equally vital in making this the only match that we scored as 5* in Volume #1. Sadly we get a little clipping here, which is a travesty when you consider we just had to sit through the monotonous heat in the pointless Headshrinkers match that precedes this. “It’s going to take more than cradles and hooks to win this” says clueless Stan Lane, who thinks an impact move is needed instead. Well, you are going to look like even more of an imbecile when the finish comes, aren’t you? How can someone who performed wrestling so well be so utterly clueless when it comes to watching it? Steamboat of course wins when he reverses a slam into a cradle. Is that egg on your face there Stan? As stated previously, the only word to sum this up would be: “perfect”.
Final Rating: *****
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Roddy Piper (c) vs. Bret Hart
Thankfully Stan Lane can’t ruin this one, as we get the original Gorilla and Heenan commentary team. This is Piper’s greatest match, without question. It is a superb effort from both guys, with Piper determined to get his friend over in a big way. The story they tell is a masterpiece, crafted wonderfully and playing off the morals of Piper and the emotions of the crowd. Bret Hart was not yet a megastar, but was well on his way and was certainly hugely popular with the fans, whereas Piper had been at the very top of the profession, and still carried major name value. This was old generation against new generation, before that became a WWF buzz phrase. Piper gets Bret more and more over with each passing minute by letting him match him and in many cases surpass him when it comes to the psychological mind-games and wrestling exchanges. The character stuff is brilliant too, with Piper at one point holding the ropes open for Bret to a round of applause and then asking the referee to check the Hitman’s injured leg, before clocking him with a cheap shot that causes the fans to turn on him instantly. Piper was a puppet master of the highest order when it came to controlling an audience. Like in two of the other matches, we get some clipping again, and when we resume Bret is juicing a gusher. This was famously when blading was banned by the WWF, but Bret managed to convince them that it was a hardway cut, whereas Ric Flair got fined for blading in his match later on. To me the blood was needed here, and it adds a further layer of drama to proceedings. Even more drama is to be had when Piper contemplates using the ring bell as a weapon while the referee is out. Even though he is positioned as a babyface, he has a famous nefarious past, and you know he has it in him. When he decides against it, the Hoosier Dome erupts. It is superb storytelling. The finish comes with an exhausted Bret desperately pushing off the buckles while locked in Piper’s sleeper and getting the pin, as Piper does one of his very rare televised jobs. It is a finish that has been recycled many times since, often by Bret himself (see his match with Steve Austin at Survivor Series ‘96). Hart is a bloody mess and looks like he has been through hell. Piper straps the belt on him after the match and the two leave as friends, brought even closer by the intense war of attrition they have just contested. There are few finer examples of a veteran passing the torch for someone than this, and this is pro-wrestling storytelling at its absolute finest.
Final Rating: ****¾
Summary: How can you argue with this tape? It features a 5* match and one that was a fraction away from being one, and then the biggest match in history on top of that. Ok, the WrestleMania IX match lets the side down a little, but it is not exactly terrible, just unnecessary and out of place. The clipping too is frustrating, but it is only snippets and doesn’t take away from the quality of what is on display. This tape could have scored nearer to 200 points if not for the score cap, and it is one of the finest hours of wrestling you are likely to find on any of these releases. It’s a wonderful start for Goodtimes and a worthy addition to any collection. The highest of high recommendations for a 5* tape.