James Dixon: We only have an hour of tape to use, so let’s fill it with Todd goddamn Pettengill giving tips on how to cheat at ancient video games NBA Jam, True Lies and Warlock. For the latter, he helpfully informs us that we “will actually enter the world of darkness!” No, listening to you do this is the world of darkness. Ted DiBiase, seemingly hard on cash after a few years away from the ring, presents this tape.
Yokozuna vs. Adam Bomb
And the rib starts here. The tape is called Off The Top Rope, which would seem to imply a spiritual successor to the High Flyers tape from Volume #1.The fact that the fattest of the fatties is in action first, gives me a fair indication that top rope action will be thin on the ground. Why even call it that if you are putting matches like this on it? This comes from summer 1995, and is exactly what you would expect. The relatively speedy (for his size) Bomb, fires on Yoko for a while, then clipping takes us to Yoko in control, as he utilises his interest sapping nerve hold. There are few wrestlers who are as consistently dull to watch as Yokozuna. Of more interest to me is the slightly concerning noise that the ropes make every time one of these two monsters hits them. They creak like a large oak door, which is either an indication that they are about to snap, or someone from the WCW production crew had started working on WWF VHS releases, and brought his “sound sweetening” machine with him. Suffice to say, the ropes don’t break when Bomb delivers his top rope flying clothesline, but he is unable to capitalise after being tripped by an interfering Kwang. The “Coliseum finish” follows, and Yoko picks up the count out win. An uninspired start.
Final Rating: ¾*
Jim Neidhart vs. Davey Boy Smith
This marks the second time these two have competed in a singles match on a Coliseum release, having clashed on The British Bulldogs tape. That was an energetic affair with a sudden and surprise finish, as Neidhart went over with his feet on the ropes. Almost a decade later, I expect this might not be quite as good. Davey is certainly fired up at first, this being his return match on Raw after two years away. The family feud between the Harts was in full swing at this point, with Bret and Owen having already tore things up all year long, and now had started to include others. Neidhart was credited as the man who had been in Owen’s ear, souring him against brother Bret due to residual jealously left over from Neidhart’s Hart Foundation days with the Hitman. Davey stuck his oar in when he saved Bret from a two-on-one beatdown from the heeled up “New Foundation”. It was a good storyline, with lots of interesting reality pockets interspersed with kayfabe, as the best storylines generally are. All of that is completely irrelevant here though, because this is an overly-long rest-hold filled bore. In fact, they remain so grounded throughout, that I am now absolutely convinced that the title of this tape is a rib. I don’t know how Neidhart gets away with having such a solid reputation actually, because he has had some stinkers in his time. I recall some particularly abysmal performances against The Warlord in the UK and in a six-man at King of the Ring 1997. I guess he associated himself so much with genuine top drawer workers, that he managed to get some residual fan love off the backs of them. It’s a “they are good so he must be good too” situation. Bret and Owen are stood at ringside; they could have at least made this a tag match. The finish is atrocious, with Bob Backlund coming out to argue with Bret, and then Owen jumps in an nails Davey Boy, right in front of the referee, for a lame DQ. What was the point of that exactly? Backlund leaves and they have a donnybrook to follow. So, any chance of a finish on this tape? Match was drek.
Final Rating: ½*
Steel Cage Match
Bret Hart (c) vs. Owen Hart
This is from SummerSlam 1994 of course, and while usually I would be less than amused about getting a readily available match from elsewhere, in this case I am not. This is a great match, one of the best blue bar cage matches in WWF history. However, and this will probably cause some teeth gnashing, I think it is overrated. Not massively -like I said, it’s a wonderful match- but I don’t think it quite reaches that legendary status that a 5* match should. My niggle is with, if anything, the very nature of the blue bar steel cage match. The winner being the one to escape is baffling and confounds logic. The story of the match becomes containing your opponent and taking opportunities to run for it. It is more akin to something you would have seen on 90’s TV show Gladiators than as a way to settle a dispute. They hate each other so they get locked in the ring and have to escape first? Seriously? Others have countered the wacky psychology with copious violence, blood and drama. While this certainly has its own take on the latter, with escape attempts aplenty, it suffers from a distinct lack of the two former. That is due to the WWF’s now firmly established “no blood” policy at this point. I like my cage matches to be bloody and violent, because they are supposed to be the ultimate feud ender. Granted, this is a personal taste thing, so I have no issue with anyone who does rate this as the highest of the highs, but for me, it’s just not quite there. If I am being totally honest, the sheer amount of escape attempts actually grows a little tiresome to me. Yes, it is psychologically spot-on and some of them are believable as finishes, and yes the escapes are all they really have to work with in order to tell a story in there, but that doesn’t change things for me. Just because they do the very best they possibly can with the limitations does not make it more enjoyable to watch, and that is all that counts. If you want to read the full review of the match from a man who does think it reaches the snowflake holy grail, then check out Arnold Furious’ SummerSlam 1994 review elsewhere in this book. The version on this tape shows the majority, but not the entirety, with subtle clipping here and there. Superb match, sure, but for me, not the epic all-conquering classic that others peg it as.
Final Rating: ****¼
Tatanka vs. Lex Luger
I covered this as part of the Wham Bam Bodyslam tape. It is a complete affront to wrestling fans, such are the low levels of effort. Here are the relevant parts of that review: You have all heard the old cliché of the “proverbial broomstick match” right? Well this is the lesser known “double-broomstick match”. As in, they are both wooden and need carrying. These guys feuded from the start of time until the end of days. They didn’t manage a single “good” match in that time period. Hell, it is nearly two decades since I last watched their match at King of the Ring ’93 (I usually fast-forward through it) and the prospect of it still bores me to tears. Note to Stan Lane: Tatanka’s lame “tomahawk” chops are NOT the same thing as knife edge chops. Ric Flair would never do a tomahawk chop. The start of the match sees the two workrate beasts pissing about chasing each other around ringside. Thrilling stuff. Gorilla thinks Tatanka has become more aggressive since his heel turn a few months prior. I have a different view: I think he has become less watchable and far more lethargic and harder to sit through. He is a charisma black hole with no grasp of how to work a heat and make it entertaining. Attire tangent: Luger and Tatanka both wear very strangely cut tights, and both are frequently seen with at least one ass cheek hanging out of the side. Tatanka has been known to be almost fully thonged at times, and is one of the most moon-happy workers around, though he rarely gets the recognition for it. He is no Flair or Rude in that department, but he is on the nominees list at the very least. SHOW SOME FIRE LUGER, FOR CHRIST SAKE! At least do something to make it look like you are awake. I have seen you work good matches in WCW, I know you have it in you. Hell, I have watched you have an energetic match in this very volume with Diesel of all people. No? You’re just going to sit in a chinlock for 5-minutes? Fine; I am going to watch the rest of your “match” with my peripheral vision while drinking coffee and reading Power Slam magazine…
…still in the chinlock, huh?
…STILL in the chinlock, huh? People actually paid to see this match. The crowd is so apathetic after the snoozefest they have been forced to endure, that they don’t even pop for his comeback. Not that it lasts, because we have MORE heat. Back to my magazine I go…
…I look up upon hearing a commotion, and I can conclude that Luger is either having a fit, or he is making his comeback. The accidental glimpse I catch of a Jericho-style bulldog makes me choke on my coffee, such was the poorness of its execution. The payoff to 15-minutes of dreadful non-action? A double count out of course! Luger says he wants the match to continue after the bout, because the “fans paid their money for a ticket not to see a count out”. Yeah, they also paid their money to see some wrestling and reasonable levels of effort, but they got neither of those things from you either. Furious hated this match too, but no-where near as much as I did. I rarely stray into negatives, but that was such an abysmal and shameful level of effort, that this deserves it. Pathetic.
Final Rating: -**
Summary: The inclusion of the Bret-Owen cage match skews the rating, but don’t be fooled. The other three matches around that classic are the drizzling sh*ts, and that bout is slightly clipped anyway, so you don’t get the full experience. The laziness from Avision to throw any random matches onto what should be a high flyers tape pisses me off. A garbage tape saved by Bret and Owen Hart. Sound familiar? Do not get this, ignore the respectable rating.