Lee Maughan: Als Daniel Bryan könnte man sagen: Ja! Ja! Ja! Wrestling Spiele von Deutschland! Sehr toll!
This is the second live WWF event held in Germany (the first two days earlier at the Ostehalle in Kiel, co-headlined by an Undertaker-Sid double count-out and Money Inc. retaining the tag team titles against The Bushwhackers), expanding what was rapidly becoming the promotion’s annual post-WrestleMania European tour. Traditionally, the WWF would hit a funk following WrestleMania, as the nights would get lighter and the days would get longer. With the impending arrival of summer, indoor events would take a hit as people made the most of the warm weather and took part in outdoor activities, which is why WrestleMania falls where it does on the calendar. No, it’s no coincidence that WWE holds the event at the beginning of springtime, but what the promotion discovered to it’s uttermost delight in the late 80s/early 90s, was that action-starved fans in Europe would fill arenas during the traditionally lean months, as the WWF coming to town was such a unique treat. Of course, they would milk that for all it was worth, making one-off visits annual, and then bi-annual tours, leading to declining crowds and enthusiasm once the product began to oversaturate. But still, this is a first-time ever visit and there’s a packed house, despite the absence of many of the promotion’s major names (Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Jake Roberts had all left the promotion days earlier, and there’s no Sid Justice, nor are The Ultimate Warrior or The Undertaker anywhere to be found). The show was held on Tuesday, April 14th, 1992 and broadcast on the commercial Tele 5 station at 10:00pm the following Saturday, with announcers Carsten Schaefer and Uli Fesseler, who incidentally don’t get along in real life. Fesseler in one interview years later called Schaefer a “little Napoleon” and said he was “like a naughty little boy.” Schaefer (the WWF’s programming editor in Germany) had himself been upset when Fesseler became the German language commentator for New Japan Pro Wrestling in the country, and had taken it upon herself to spoil WWF results on the program, including giving out the news that Shawn Michaels had won the 1995 Royal Rumble several weeks before it was due to air in Germany. Perhaps that’s where Eric Bischoff got his idea for spoiling taped Raw results on those early live editions of Nitro?
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. Dino Bravo
Bret must have been beyond ecstatic by the time the summer of 1992 rolled around. Having beaten Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental title in a classic match back at SummerSlam ’91, he’d largely been presented with a parade of stiffs like The Barbarian and Skinner as alleged top contenders. Better times would be ahead as Bret would eventually be matched up with Shawn Michaels, but here in Germany, it’s yet another slug for ‘The Hitman’ to try to craft a watchable match around in Dino Bravo, a guy who hadn’t meant anything of significance in the WWF for over a year and who was winding his career down on the way to retirement. Proof of that could be seen in the fact he’d let his blonde dye job lapse, allowing his hair to return to its natural brunette state, with his physique beginning to look visibly smaller. What Bravo was doing contending for a title of any kind by this point is anyone’s guess. Yes, he still had a modicum of name value and he was on the way out so perhaps better to sacrifice him than anyone higher up the totem pole, but in kayfabe terms, the guy had done absolutely nothing to be presented with this crack at the gold, making the result largely a foregone conclusion. Still, despite any loss of drama that might have been achieved if the fans had felt the title was actually in jeopardy, the match itself wasn’t actually that bad, which shouldn’t really be surprising given how often Hart and Bravo wrestled each other over the years. It was something of a pleasant surprise that Bravo appeared to have his working boots on here for the most part, and he was certainly more game for it than some of Hart’s other opponents from this period. To his considerable credit, Hart even tried to breathe some life into the interminable 1970s-style side headlocks that Bravo couldn’t help but employ, squirming and constantly attempting to find a way to fight out of them. It’s just a shame that for all the good work both guys did in the early parts of the match, it had to be brought down a couple of notches by just a few too many slow-paced arm bars, chinlocks and bearhugs, and Bravo’s complete lack of credibility as a championship contender really serving to make the result entirely predictable. I did like how it picked back up just in time for the finish though, with Hart’s usual array of well executed moves being broken up with a reversal of a whip, and the unexpected conclusion of Hart scoring the pinfall after dropping his standard second rope elbow. Criticism that Hart made the finishes of his matches too predictable by employing the same holds and manoeuvres every time out can be counterbalanced by his own theory that of course he would save his best sequence of moves to try and kill off an opponent, and this match stands as one of the finer examples of what he was trying to get across, as he didn’t even need to resort to the Sharpshooter to polish Bravo off. Hart was truly a master of ring psychology.
Final Rating: **¾
Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Col. Mustafa
Whilst the wrestling business was flat on it’s arse back in the US thanks to a combination of the steroid trials, a changing of the guard and the 80s wrestling boom coming well and truly to a close, over in the UK and Europe, things couldn’t have been hotter for the WWF. Still largely the new “in thing” across the continent at the time, the promotion played to packed houses of rabid fans who went crazy no matter how lousy the action. Case in point, this match, with the decrepit Mustafa and the sluggish Duggan. Two guys who in 1987 got caught speeding down a highway in possession of marijuana by a group of cops in New Jersey whilst supposedly the worst of enemies, here getting away with another crime; that of total intent to do utterly sod all because that’s all they needed to. Fair play I suppose, I mean there’s worse ways to get monster payoffs than ten minutes of stalling and a couple of back rakes and clotheslines in front of a red hot, jam packed house that hangs on your every half-hearted bump, because it’s all so new and exciting to them. And you can’t really hold it against either guy for not having the forethought to recognise that in twenty years time, some guy just might one day sit down and review their efforts. But what you can hold against them is a spot in which Duggan’s buttocks drop out of his trunks. I mean, seriously, how past it do you have to be to mess up a back rake so badly that you accidentally pull your opponent’s tights down and expose his ample Ric Flair to the entire world? Captured on film for all eternity. And not just any backside mind you, but DUGGAN’S backside. I can’t think of a single pro wrestler who’s gluteus maximus I’d rather see less. DUGGAN. Nobody wants to see that! Not even Duggan’s wife! In fact, I’d rather look at The Honky Tonk Man’s back passage again than that. What? Anyway, what a total pile of arse this all was.
Final Rating: DUD
Repo Man vs. Sgt. Slaughter
This was yet another example of a first-time crowd going absolutely bonkers for something that didn’t really matter, as you’ve got Sgt. Slaughter in the sunset of his full-time career (he’d become an on-screen authority figure not long after) and Repo Man who was playing the role in such a ridiculous, over-the-top way that you could never take him seriously as anything but a low card comedy goofball. And yet the fans are just totally into the action. In fairness, there’s a lot more than you might expect, though nothing out of the ordinary – clotheslines, clubbering, arm bars, that kind of thing. But at least the action was pretty consistent and both guys worked hard. Really, the only significant problem the match had was that it was so long. These two characters, at this point in their careers, should not have been exceeding ten minutes, and the result was a great deal of slowdown as things wore on. Still, at least they kept the fans guessing with the finish, as Slaughter’s first cobra clutch attempt was thwarted only by Repo’s hand conveniently dropping across the bottom rope on the third check by the referee, which had me convinced would have been the finish when Repo sold it like he’d completely passed out. You’d think that should stop the match immediately if you really think about a guy’s safety in there, but perhaps that’s a modern UFC influence talking. Of course, Slaughter’s errant jubilation in thinking he’d won allowed Repo the chance to recover, leading to the real finish, which was actually pretty ridiculous having stopped to think about it: Slaughter got the cobra clutch on for a second time, but Repo got to the ropes, so Slaughter really should have broken the hold but didn’t. Because of that, the referee decided to get physically involved and grabbed Slaughter by what little he had left of his hair and dragged him across the ring, which as you know, is really a big no-no in the oft-cited wrestling rulebook. It’s on page 119, subsection C if you want to check. Finally, that distraction allowed Repo Man to clonk Slaughter on the head with the steel bolt at the end of his tow rope and score the match-winning pin. I mean kayfabe-wise, that was some pretty serious bullshit on the part of all three guys, right there.
Final Rating: *¼
Meanwhile, Vince McMahon, Cameo Kneuer and Lex Luger are in Essen to promote the WBF, where Vince goes bungee jumping. I can’t even begin to imagine how wacky this might have been if only it had been a TNT skit, circa 1985.
This British Bulldog & The Legion of Doom vs. The Nasty Boys & The Mountie
What a disappointment this was; the first match with some genuine star power on both sides (at least to an extent) and a veritable dream team of sorts with Davey Boy Smith and the LOD, yet even with a red hot amped-up crowd, they still couldn’t cobble together anything more than a passable match. Which is pretty unusual considering the combination of the Nasties and The Mountie did exactly that with the trio of Rowdy Roddy Piper and The Bushwhackers on WWF Wrestling’s Hottest Matches, and I’d even go as far as to say that match was slightly better than this one. Weighing up those two babyface teams, there shouldn’t really be any competition. Piper’s a great character to be sure, but he was a total brawler, not a technical-meets-power wrestler like Davey Boy, and there’s no mistaking which is the better team between the LOD and The Bushwhackers. I suppose that Piper’s tendency to trade fists (and eye pokes) plays more into the stylistic conventions of the Nasties, whilst his tomfoolery better meshes with Mountie’s cowardly ways. As for The Bushwhackers? Well, they’re at least so low on the WWF tag team totem pole that you can at least believe they might get their asses kicked by these clowns, whereas it’s tough to give the Nasties/Mountie trio much hope against the LOD and the Bulldog, and whilst it doesn’t hurt the reaction of the live crowd, it does kill a lot of the suspension of disbelief. If there was one thing to be said for the prior Repo Man-Slaughter match, it’s that at least that had a fairly unpredictable outcome since both guys were on a similar level (albeit with Slaughter having had a much more successful past). Here, things are clearly one-sided, making the heat segment on Hawk little more than an inconvenience rather than a genuine threat. Something else that’s interesting (if indeed there is anything about this match that one could call “interesting”) is that Davey Boy, clearly positioned as the star of the WWF in Europe, does practically nothing. He has one short exchange with The Mountie early on, but the rest of the match is set up like a regular Nasty Boys-LOD tag match until the inevitable “pier-six” finish kicks in, and Davey grabs the glory, pinning Brian Knobbs with the running powerslam. Always leave them wanting more I guess.
Final Rating: *½
Papa Shango vs. Tito Santana
These two had quite the “secret” little series of matches on somewhat major cards in 1992-93, with Shango defeating El Matador in one of the dark matches at SummerSlam ’92 (which aired on Prime Time Wrestling in the States and was available on the uncut UK VHS release of the event). The pair also contested the pre-show dark match at WrestleMania IX, which, if you count dark matches, was actually Tito Santana’s final WrestleMania match, and only his second win at the grand event having won the opening match of the original WrestleMania against Buddy Rose’s ‘Executioner’. As far as this initial entry in their epic trilogy went, the undoubted highlight was Matador’s sell job off Shango’s flying clothesline, which just looked absolutely beautiful, so much so that he took it again off a corner reversal later in the match. Remember when the poor sod got practically decapitated by The Barbarian at WrestleMania VI? It was that good. The other really notable moment came when Matador clonked Shango with his flying forearm finisher and Shango kicked out at one. I’m not sure if the still relatively-new Shango didn’t know it was Tito’s finisher, or if he screwed up, or if it was just planned that way with him getting a monster push and Matador being perpetually on his way down the card. But it was unusual to see in a midcard house show match of little consequence, in the days before kicking out of your opponent’s finishing moves became the standard short-cut to getting an easy pop out of a crowd. The rest of the match was entirely acceptable, if not particularly interesting, with Shango scoring the pin after rolling through a top rope crossbody block from Santana.
Final Rating: **
Elsewhere, Randy Savage lets us know that being the WWF champion is “very, very, very brilliant” before promising that if ‘Sensational’ Sherri gets involved in the match, then he’ll get involved too, and if you don’t know what that means “read between the lines”. I read between the lines, I read the lines, I re-read between the lines, and I still have no idea what he was actually supposed to be on about there. But hey, that was Randy Savage, so c’est la vie.
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
You know why Randy Savage was just the absolute king of all pro wrestling? This match took place over a week after Savage’s WrestleMania VIII match with Ric Flair, in which Flair figure four leg-locked the shit out of Savage’s knee, and yet there he was, hobbling down to the ring, still selling the injury some nine days later. That’s not just commitment, that’s not just continuity, and that’s not just a total dedication to his craft, but in carrying plot points over from one event to the next, suddenly you’re imparting upon your audience that things matter and matches have consequence. On top of that, you’ve already clued the audience in to the psychology of this match: young upstart Michaels, not yet considered a genuine contender for the title, might actually have a chance against the veteran champion who’s clearly at less than a hundred percent. The opening bell had yet to chime, but Savage had already done the bulk of the legwork (so to speak.) A ninety-second limp to the ring, and he’d already built his sympathy heat. What an absolute master Savage truly was. It would then probably seem quite churlish having espoused the virtues of Savage’s grasp on psychology, to declare it as something of a detriment to the match. But when you see the names Savage and Michaels opposite one another on a pro wrestling line-up sheet, you can’t help but hope for flat out, balls to the wall action, but here the principal offering was Michaels methodically working over Savage’s bum knee while Savage rolled around grimacing, unable to fight back with his unusual insanity-driven intensity. And it’s a shame because Shawn at this point wasn’t the worker he’d eventually become. Certainly one could point to his run as one half of The Rockers as proof the guy was already supremely talented, but he’d spent over half-a-decade honing himself as a babyface tag team specialist, only to suddenly, for the first time in his eight career, be thrust into a heel role, a spot requiring him to carry the bulk of a match with no reliance on any tag team partners. Make no mistake; Shawn in 1992 was good. Very good, in fact. But he wasn’t great. And, consequently, this match isn’t great, merely good. At points, very good. But never great. I also liked the interplay between Savage and Michaels’ valet ‘Sensational’ Sherri, particularly given their history together as former King and Queen of the WWF, though whether our friends on the German announce team picked up on that is lost on me entirely. Sprechen sie Deutsch? That said, what I didn’t much care for was the finish, with Michaels having spent several minutes working over Savage’s leg, only for Savage to boot him off into the post, slam him and drop the big elbow for the win. Obviously with Savage selling the injury there wasn’t a lot he could do, but I just thought it made Michaels look piss-weak to lay down for so long off the bodyslam, especially given how long it took Savage to drag himself up to the top turnbuckle with the bad wheel. Even if that was some spectacular acting on Savage’s part.
Final Rating: ***¼
Elsewhere, Hawk calls the upcoming 16-man battle royal (reduced to 15 with the injury to Savage’s knee) the Legion of Doom’s “bowl of soup, our bowl of chilli.” For hilarious metaphors and insane imagery, Hawk might just be pro wrestling’s most underrated promo guy ever.
15-Man Battle Royal
If ever there was something to highlight the changing demands of the ardent fandom of the curious circus known as professional wrestling, it might perhaps be the battle royal. In more modern times (“post kayfabe” in extremely general terms), most fans can see right through the lazy non-action a battle royal breeds. But it was at one time the chief gimmick match of many a promotion, guaranteed to draw a reactive crowd on the basis of seeing all that meat shuffling about the ring to find out who truly stood the tallest of them all. And since it is 1992, with home internet largely the pursuit of hardcore nerdlingers and smarkdom at large still an “era” away, the crowd were completely buzzed for the spectacle of it all, despite the painful snails pace and lack of genuine excitement on offer. It was slow. It was meandering. It was every battle royal you’ve ever seen, right down to the predictable (albeit predictable for a reason) finish, in which an outnumbered Davey Boy Smith triumphed over The Mountie and Jerry Sags after Mountie zapped Sags with his shock stick and ‘the Bulldog’ overcame all the odds to eliminate both of them. Yeah, like a cartoon such as The Mountie or a tag wrestler like Sags was ever going to win this. Suspension of disbelief, we hardly knew ye.
Final Rating: ½*
And finally, Randy Savage hobbles out to give Davey Boy a hug to celebrate the win, but that’s not all… it’s time for the DVD bonus extra features, years before DVDs even existed! It’s just a bunch of interview questions tacked on at the end of the show, but for posterity you’ll be intrigued to know that Savage keeps his body in good shape with swimming, running, weightlifting and “stretching of all kinds.” Asked about what he likes to eat, he mentions that Elizabeth does a mean beef stroganoff before derailing into an insane train of thought about how he’s not as big as Andre the Giant and to once again “read between the lines.” If only Savage had written an autobiography. “Second best after wrestling”, Savage likes “the beach scene type situation” and “getting into the sound system and getting into the vibrations” of music. Apparently, Elizabeth helps him decide on that at different times of the day and if you don’t know what that means, “read between the lines.” In case you aren’t aware: Savage was utterly insane. And you didn’t need to read between and lines to figure that one out. Next, Savage gets asked about what the characteristics of a good wrestler are – “I don’t know.” He says that wrestling, not cooking, is his number one forté. Well thanks for clearing that up for us, “Macho Chef”. Well, I guess he did like wearing big hats. He’s the WWF champion, and he’s perceptive. “Don’t wear the same colour!”
Bret Hart reveals that he had no aspirations to become a wrestler, then gives a hell of an answer when quizzed about what he likes second best after wrestling, as the interviewer suggests his answer might be his wife, and Bret responds “Uhh…I dunno” before grinning a coy, embarrassed grin and instead talking about his road schedule. Anyone who’s read Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling should probably get a kick out of that answer. He eventually picks travelling. He likes to eat beef, and he trains 90-minutes a day, six days a week on free weights and bicycles. The interviewer asks him what his message to the fans is, “especially your female fans”, and given she already brought up his wife, Bret is clearly banging her. Bret tells them “don’t do drugs” and lets all his girlfriends know that they’ve “got to live with it”. He calls himself a sex symbol and suddenly, he’s cutting every 1992-1994 Shawn Michaels promo you ever heard. Utterly bizarre. Also, he needs an accountant, “maybe a German one.” Okay then.
Addendum: The card that ended up being presented here was not the same as the one that was actually advertised ahead of time. The Intercontinental title match had originally been pegged as Bret Hart defending against Shawn Michaels, but Dino Bravo subbed for Michaels when HBK was inserted into the WWF title match, after Randy Savage’s originally scheduled opponent, Jake Roberts, quit the promotion after WrestleMania VIII. Jim Duggan meanwhile was subbing for Crush in the match with Col. Mustafa (I’ve no idea why he didn’t make the tour as he’d been working dark matches in preparation for his repackaging later in the year, although he didn’t return to television until the May 31st edition of WWF Wrestling Challenge) and Sgt. Slaughter took Davey Boy Smith’s place as the opponent for Repo Man. What’s interesting about that is that during the interval on the Tele5 airing of WrestleMania VIII, Duggan and Slaughter had implied they were coming to Germany to challenge Money Inc. for the tag team titles (which had been the original plan for WrestleMania incidentally enough), but with the WWF and Intercontinental champions both on this show, Money Inc. were switched to another group touring Europe. Finally, El Matador came in as substitute for Kerry Von Erich in the match against Papa Shango, which oddly enough ended up being the same substitution that led to the Shango-Matador match at SummerSlam ’92. Von Erich also wound up on the same touring circuit as Money Inc.
Summary: So that was the WWF’s first major stop in Germany, though like with most of these televised European house shows, you’ve got a depleted roster and a stack of matches that don’t mean much of anything. The Randy Savage-Shawn Michaels match might be worth seeking out as a rarity, and makes a nice companion piece to their other major singles match, a bout from the Sheffield Arena some five days later, which you can at least find on the highly recommended Macho Madness: The Randy Savage Ultimate Collection DVD. I’d probably recommend that clash ahead of this one, and interestingly enough, the body of that match is entirely different to this one, with a different storyline, an appearance from Miss Elizabeth, and a much more energised finishing sequence. As for the rest of this card, the Bret Hart-Dino Bravo match might be worth a look if you happen to have it lying around, but it’s nothing I’d go out of my way to see. The rest is bog standard house show fare, albeit with a large and enthusiastic menschenmenge. Im allgemeinen nicht empfohlen.