James Dixon: I swear, those guys make me do these fan favourites tapes as a rib. Things don’t start well, with Mean Gene singing at us. ‘Tutti Frutti’ was enough. Pal.
Bret Hart (c) vs. Fatu
This comes from March 1993 in New York, at the famous Manhattan Centre. It also appears on the Columbia House release The Best Of Bret Hitman Hart. Coliseum have basically just given up the pretence that people wanted to see these matches, and instead just plucked random stuff from anywhere. False advertising! Fatu was still part of The Headshrinkers at this point, and I am sure no-one predicted he would go onto have the singles success he did as Rikishi years later. His longevity in the WWF is surprising, because he became utterly worthless around 1995 when he was “time to make a difference” Fatu, complete with cheesy grin, positive attitude and bright red tights. For those who are not aware that Fatu and Rikishi are the same person, they would be very surprised at how comparatively lean he is here, and how well he can move around. Bret ends up bleeding hardway from the nose, and they go for a long time considering it is the WWF Champion against a tag wrestler. Once again the comparisons to Hogan are inevitable, and it is safe to say this would have been over within a few minutes if it were Hogan in Bret’s place. Bret was always put into long matches with lesser opponents, giving the impression that he had to really work for every victory, which I think hurt him during his first title run. Fatu (well actually, Samu) nearly wins the title after the ‘Shrinkers pull “twin magic”, but Bret kicks out in an exciting near fall. When you can get the crowd to buy that one of The Headshrinkers is going to win the WWF title, I guess you are doing something right. Samu ends up getting caught in the hangman in the ropes and Bret polishes off Fatu with a Sharpshooter. It was a handicap match at times, but a well worked one. Bret making Fatu look like a credible challenger was impressive. Actually there was some good stuff from both guys, and the match is much better than you might expect.
Final Rating: **¾
Mr. Perfect vs. Terry Taylor
We have a rematch of sorts here from the aborted match these two had at SummerSlam ‘89, when Taylor was working under the ‘Red Rooster’ gimmick. The match was truncated due to an injury. Obviously, no reference is made to Taylor being the Rooster. This is also in the Manhattan Centre and was on Monday Night Raw. Gorilla calls Taylor “cocky”, which is amusing. Cock. Cockerel. Rooster! Nice one, Gorilla. See I could believe this match would be one that fans would want to see, because Taylor was pretty solid in the ring. They didn’t even bother reading out the “letter” for this though, they just went straight to it. The façade is shattered. Both guys trade the advantage for the majority of the early going, and we get a brief clipping, presumably because they cut to commercial when this was shown on Raw. Taylor has the upper hand when we return. He is aggressive, sending Perfect into the rails then taking him out with a backbreaker back inside the ring. As Scott Keith would say, this has been perfectly acceptable wrestling, but Perfect just isn’t capable of taking the crazy bumps he used to as a heel due to his back injury. Mind you he still has no issues taking plenty of moves, as Taylor pops the crowd with a spinebuster and a gutwrench powerbomb, both of which Jim Ross calls “slams”. Ric Flair turns up in the aisle, and the distraction allows Taylor to take advantage, and he gives Perfect a knee to the back which sends him outside. Flair lays the chops on him and sends him back in, but Perfect reverses a suplex attempt into a Perfectplex to win it. Taylor: buried! Poor guy. Decent enough, but Perfect is nowhere near as effective as a babyface.
Final Rating: **¼
Mean Gene is singing again. The same line from the same song as he was singing before. He and Heenan take the piss out of Hull, which redeems the segment somewhat.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. The Undertaker
This is from March 1993, from Fayetteville, NC. It also features on Columbia release Best Of Battle Of The WWF Superstars. It’s two of the all time great big men in history here, though Taker didn’t come good until his series with Mankind in 1996. Though, he does do a drop toehold! A wrestling move! It doesn’t have much effect on Bigelow, who comes back with his trademark headbutts, before getting caught with a DDT. Taker chokes Bam Bam out and connects with the rope walk, but misses a flying clothesline and falls all the way to the outside, where Bigelow slams him. This is a staple of Taker matches from around this era, and the heat on him usually started on the outside of the ring. Bigelow is giving him a bit of a beating here. This would have been a far better feud for Taker than the disgraceful affair he was involved in at the time opposite Giant Gonzalez. Bigelow with a back suplex, but Taker sits up. A slam sees the same results. Bam Bam clubs away, and this time follows a slam with a falling headbutt, but Taker sits up again. More strikes and headbutts can’t keep the dead man down either. Taker from this era often gets criticised for no-selling, but I actually think he was a great seller. He might not sell the effects of the moves long-term, but he does sell in keeping with his gimmick, and always looks like he has had the shit kicked out of him, even if it ends up having no effect. I know it seems almost oxymoronic, but I think there is an art to what he did that has never been matched. Taker hits a chokeslam and Bigelow decides he has had enough, and walks out, giving Taker a win via count out. After the decision, Giant Gonzalez turns up in the aisle for a stare down. Gonzalez was awful, but there is no denying that he was an incredibly intimidating figure due to his sheer size. It is just a shame it all went to hell as soon as he stepped in the ring. That was actually not bad for a Taker match, it was all impact moves with no resting at all, which is about the best you can hope for. Shame they did the finish they always do in Taker matches, when they don’t want the heel to lose. I would wager that Taker was involved in more non finishes than anyone in the early 90s.
Final Rating: **
Tito Santana vs. Rick Martel
These two also had a (different) match with each other on the original Fan Favourites tape that we covered in Volume #1. This one comes from Mobile, Alabama, two days after the previous match on the tape. Santana is ‘El Matador’ by this point, but some years prior he was of course the teammate of Martel, and the duo won the tag titles as Strike Force, though there has been no reference to that whatsoever. Gorilla even mentions Santana being a former tag champion with various partners, but doesn’t mention Martel. Why do they hate their own history!? Any fans of the company at this point would know that they used to be a team, so why try and pretend otherwise. They really wind me up when they do things like that. It is insulting to the viewer. I love Gorilla, but he really pisses me off as he implies that this took place in the UK. Why must they make things up? What does it achieve? They didn’t try and pass off the Manhattan Centre as being in the UK, so why do it for this? It is an idiotic practice and it riles me. It assumes the fans are ignorant. Idiocy of the announcing aside, obviously these guys do know each other well, and it shows in their work. They are fluid and solid, and trade periods of control. Oh, now Jim Ross has joined the idiot club! He just said how he remembers Martel and Santana had a number of matches with each other whilst the other was IC champion. Ok, this is flat out WRONG. Firstly, JR wasn’t even with the company then. Secondly, Santana was a babyface when he held the title in the 80s, and Martel was in the fucking AWA at the time, holding their heavyweight title for over a year. Thirdly, Martel has never even BEEN the Intercontinental champion. My intelligence has been thoroughly insulted, I am pissed off, and I now don’t care about the match, even though I wanted to see it. The commentary has achieved the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do, I expect better from two of the all-time best play-by-play guys. Even though it has been deemed irrelevant, for the sake of clarification Santana wins this on a DQ after Martel sprays him in the eyes with his “Arrogance” cologne. The match was ok, but watch it without the commentary on. I swear, the WWF would call a goddamn spade a banana until you believed them. For all the match was alright, it still wasn’t a patch on what they could do pre-cartoonification.
Final Rating: *¾
Heenan puts a smile on my face by ridiculing Stoke-on-Trent. “I thought they spoke English in England!” Not in Stoke they don’t, mate!
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Oh goodie, Duggan! This is singlet-era Duggan, long after he stopped being relevant or taken seriously. What did Michaels do to deserve this? This was the true litmus test for HBK; seeing if he could get a decent match out of Duggan. It doesn’t look promising at first, because Duggan just stalls for an age, running through his usual tired routine. Eventually they lock up and Duggan bumps Michaels a few times, sending him out of the ring. Michaels was often better on the defensive, and he bumps all over for Hacksaw before trying to leave, but Duggan prevents it. Duggan’s selling is not exactly on the same level as his opponent’s. Michaels makes Duggan’s sloppy offence look semi-decent, conversely Duggan makes Michaels’ look weak. Michaels gives up and goes to a chinlock. I don’t blame him. Right on cue, Duggan does another supremely awful sell job, as a drop toehold bizarrely sends him to the outside. Michaels is content to take the count out win, but Duggan is buoyed by the crowd’s support and beats the count. Vince on commentary asks how to keep Duggan down, and Heenan responds: “stun gun”. As in the weapon, not the wrestling move. Vince, brilliantly, says “maybe”. Oh, if only… Duggan makes a comeback and hits his Three Point Stance, but it knocks Michaels to the outside. He tries to leave but Duggan stops him and clotheslines him over the barrier and into the crowd. This being a Coliseum tape, this of course ends on a double count out. Duggan, like a petulant child, stages a sit-down protest at the result. Michaels did a good job there, because that was actually pretty watchable. He had to resort to chinlocks now and again, but hey, it was Duggan!
Final Rating: **
The Berzerker vs. Virgil
Ok, this match makes it perfectly clear that the fan favourites concept has been completely abandoned and this is just an obvious rib. I think Video Control picked the least appealing matches on purpose. There is no other feasible reason for this match to be on a tape otherwise. Virgil starts jogging down the aisle, then gives up when he remembers who he is up against, and instead ambles slowly and dejectedly to the ring. Hey, if he can’t be bothered, neither can I. Jim Ross is talking about milk and cheese, he doesn’t care either! Neither of these guys are terrible, but they were barely over, and the crowd doesn’t give a damn about this. It is as generic as they come. Virgil goes over via DQ when Berzerker grabs his sword, presumably to cut off Virgil’s reportedly massive member, which must be threatening to him.
Final Rating: *
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Ric Flair
Now, this is more like a fan favourites match! A genuine exclusive too no less, coming from June 1992 in Ottawa, Ontario. A lot of other matches from this taping have turned up on these videos, but this match is exclusive to this tape, and presumably never released in the US. Delightfully, the camera catches a dumbass fan trying to get in the ring as Savage makes his entrance. He gets as far as the apron before referee Earl Hebner tackles him. It is always Savage matches that provoke this behaviour; the same happened when he did a cage match with Ted DiBiase in 1988. Speaking of getting on the apron, Mr. Perfect at ringside does just that, distracting Savage, who was in control and giving Flair an opening. Savage comes back and takes Flair down with an elbow to the head, but Flair goes to the eyes, in front of the referee no less, and slows Savage’s momentum. Hebner is a great security guy, but a lax referee, at least on today’s showing. There is a funny shot of the crowd, who are ALL turned around looking the other way, not watching the match at all. I am guessing that they were watching our ring invading friend getting carted away. If you are going to turn your back on a match, it shouldn’t be this one. Oh hey, Hebner has woken up! Flair tries to nail Savage with a chair on the outside, but Hebner jumps from the apron and dives on the chair, pulling it out of his hands. This leads to a crazy back-and-forth shoving contest between Flair and Hebner, and then Savage exposing Flair’s ass. What is going on here!? Gorilla criticises Hebner for making so many mistakes. Hey, at least we havent had a lame DQ finish, yet, so he is ok with me. Outside of the rather odd shenanigans, the match has been Flair and Savage’s usual “not WrestleMania VIII” bout, with Savage selling his leg and Flair running through his trademark spots. There is nothing wrong with it, I have just seen it a million times before. For those who haven’t, Flair uses cheating tactics to garner an advantage, utilising Mr. Perfect on the outside and using the ropes for leverage at every given opportunity. Savage mounts his comeback with a clothesline to the outside but gets distracted by Mr. Perfect again, and Flair takes over once more in the ring. Only briefly mind, as Savage connects with the press slam from the top and a double axe handle, followed by clotheslines. Savage goes to the well again, and another double axe from the top has Flair beat, but Perfect puts his leg on the rope. Flair to the eyes, and Perfect throws Flair an unidentified foreign object. He nails Savage in the gut and between the eyes with it, but Savage kicks out. They have a slugfest and Savage wins it, connecting with a slam and then the top rope elbow, but surprisingly, Flair kicks out. This has become an epic! Kicking out of weapon shots and finishers rarely happened in the early 90s. Sadly, Hebner eventually does his job and stops Perfect and Flair from nailing Savage with the WWF title belt and calls for the shitty DQ. Shame, that was starting to really pick up. Good little match, way off their WrestleMania encounter of course, but much better than the Flair title win a few months after this.
Final Rating: ***¼
Lex Luger vs. Tito Santana
We go forward to March 1993 for this bout from Augusta, Georgia and a fairly rare Lex Luger Coliseum Video appearance from this time period. This is not a bad match on paper. Santana is always good, even though the ‘El Matador’ gimmick inexplicably makes him a far worse wrestler, as has been said many times in this tome. Luger was always carryable, though I am not a fan of his ‘Narcissist’ run. Too many tassels. Luger cuts a deliberate pace, and Santana tries to speed things up with a crossbody and an armdrag, but he goes to the mat with an armbar. Luger escapes and then gets caught with the same move again. Luger struggles to bump armdrags, and he looks a little cumbersome here. Luger’s hair is astonishing too, it is almost silver. He looks about 60-years old. He must have dyed his hair when he turned babyface and during his WCW run. This is power against quickness, and Luger is starting to boss it now, until Santana rams him face-first into the buckles. Hayes says “that move was close to his face” which is a new level of idiocy, even for him. What is with this tape? Everyone is kicking out of finishers, as Luger gets out of Santana’s flying forearm, then hits a loaded one of his own to knock Santana out and win the match. Cleanly. Thank you! Decent enough contest for what is was, though nothing special.
Final Rating: *¾
Papa Shango vs. Tatanka
We roll along with this from Louisville, Kentucky in October 1992. Tatanka was undefeated at this point. Shango is a strange one for me, because he had a great gimmick (for the cartoon era) but his ring work just didn’t match the persona. While the likes of the Undertaker and Kamala were entirely believable as their characters and played their roles to a tee, Shango was just a tedious, generic wrestler once the match got going. There is nothing to this match at all, just boring heat from Shango, primarily rest holds, and then a Tatanka comeback before a DQ is called for Shango using his fire stick. Considering how protected guys were on the tapes from this era, Shango loses an awful lot of matches. That was 5-minutes that felt like 15, and thus is the first real stinker on the tape.
Final Rating: ½*
The Mountie vs. The Undertaker
You know what I wonder? Would The Undertaker have been subjected to the same level of worker and smark disdain as The Ultimate Warrior, had he left the company in 1992/93? The thing with Taker is; he was dreadful in the ring for pretty much the first five or six years he was with the WWF, probably even worse that Warrior was. At least Warrior had a number of really good matches, carried or not, whereas I cannot recall a single quality Taker match until about 1996. Even though a lot of the criticisms directed towards Warrior were about his apparent attitude as much as his in-ring work, I still think that Taker would have been looked back on as a bad worker with a lame gimmick, who just happened to get fairly over for a few years. I would say he was less over than Warrior during this time period. I mean, I get that Taker was playing a character and had to wrestle a certain way to fit the gimmick, but you could almost argue the same about Warrior. I mean, he would lose a lot of his lustre if he wrestled like Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels. It wouldn’t have fit. Hey, if Warrior had stayed with the company for 20-years, he might have improved significantly and became a good worker too. I bet Mankind could have got some good matches out of him. I guess a lot of Warrior’s problems could be blamed on who he was booked with too. If you put someone like Warrior in with Hercules or Earthquake, what do you expect? I would guess Taker would do no better, and would probably have even more boring matches with the same opponents. At least Warrior was exciting and explosive. Taker was just slow. Just imagine for a moment if it was Warrior and not Taker who lasted twenty plus years with the company. It could have been a very different landscape. Austin-Warrior at SummerSlam ‘98, Warrior-Michaels in Hell in a Cell and Warrior-Sid at WrestleMania XIII… Ok, the last one gives me nightmares. Tangent aside, the Mountie is not a realistic challenge for Taker, but he makes a good fist of it and a chair shot and three piledrivers keep Taker down. He is nothing if not a braggart though, and instead of pinning Taker for a huge career win, he instead cuts a promo on the crowd as Taker sits up. Foolish man! Mountie tries to leave the ring and get counted out, but Sgt. Slaughter appears in the aisle and sends him back. Taker quickly pins him after the Tombstone, winning the match. Mountie’s over the top selling of fear made this far better than I expected. Maybe I am going soft, but I quite enjoyed that. Well, it’s all relative of course, I enjoyed it for a Mountie-Taker match.
Final Rating: *½
Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Repo Man
Repo Man stole Savage’s hat, and apparently that is enough for a feud in 1993, so we have to suffer through this. We have seen these two have a match on a different tape from when Savage was WWF champ, and I have no desire to see it again. It is the same match just slightly more intense, but longer and more boring. Savage over with the flying elbow. Goodbye Repo Man.
Final Rating: *
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
An early match from a famous rivalry here, as we go right back to April 1992 in Syracuse, New York. Bret had won the IC belt just a few weeks earlier from Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII. Savage pops me early, by saying Sherri must have a cold because her chest is swollen. Her waps are certainly looking full today! Savage quickly goes from amusing me to annoying me, by commenting on how the referees have changed for each match due to the intensity of the bouts. Surely it is obvious to EVERYONE watching that this tape features matches from over the span of a year. Hell, I knew this match was out of synch when I was little, because I knew Yokozuna was never around while Bret was IC champion. Why they had to retroactively try and alter reality on these Coliseum tapes is beyond me. How is Savage going to explain when Taker works again later? We get some smooth chain wrestling to start, which Bret inevitably gets the better off, sending Shawn to the outside to regroup with Sherri. Bret brings Shawn back in and zeroes in on the arm, then takes him down with a vicious clothesline for two. You really appreciate just how good these guys are when they are shoehorned onto the same tape as the likes of Typhoon. Shawn gets a foothold in the match by sending Bret hard into the buckles, and Sherri gets a cheap shot in as well. A high knee gets a two for Michaels, and he goes to the chinlock to slow the pace down. The difference between a chinlock in a Michaels and Bret match compared to in the Typhoon match, is that they fight to make it interesting, with Bret showing signs of life and fighting out with intensity, and Shawn cheating to stay in control. Shawn hits the superkick to derail a Hart comeback, but it still wasn’t his finisher at the time so he doesn’t get a fall. Hart fights back with a reverse atomic drop, bulldog, backbreaker and elbow from the middle rope, getting a two count. There was a great intensity to the five moves sequence there, a lot of snap and speed on them, helped of course by Shawn’s great selling and movement. Both guys tumble through the ropes while Bret has a sleeper locked on, and as the Hitman is trying to return to the ring, Michaels knocks him off the apron into the rail, and thus wins by count out. I hate the spot where the challenger poses with the belt after winning on a count out or a DQ, which Michaesl does; it just makes everyone involved look stupid. I do enjoy Michaels twatting the referee for having the gall to disagree with him though. Great 10-minute match, fast and furious throughout.
Final Rating: ***½
Summary: For a fan favourites tape, it’s not actually that bad. The matches all fall within passable and above, with no stand-out stinkers to really drag things down. It could have done with being a few matches shorter, because over two hours is tough to sit through in one sitting. Still, you get value for money, and there is some good wrestling to be found in places. A surprising mild recommendation from us.