Lee Maughan: Hosted by Randy Savage in a horrifically garish lime green jacket.
Yokozuna vs. Bill Jordan
This is from the taping where Bret Hart won the WWF Title from Ric Flair, coincidental given this match is Yokozuna’s official debut in the promotion and he would go on to unseat Hart for the belt at WrestleMania IX. And what an odd choice for inclusion considering this not only took place in 1992, but also aired before the Survivor Series that was featured on last year’s Year in Review tape! Infuriatingly, it is erroneously listed on the tape as coming from December 1992, despite being noted as Yokozuna’s debut. I guess the Survivor Series doesn’t count on Year in Review tapes. Urinage suplex, legdrop, belly-to-belly suplex, running butt splash, banzai drop, somebody call Jordan’s kids and tell them daddy won’t be coming home. Ever. Total squash here, as you might expect, even from a Yokozuna who looks positively anorexic compared to what he would become even just a few months later.
Final Rating: *¼
In late 1992, a clown began appearing in the crowd at WWF events, playing tricks and entertaining the fans. Before long though, those tricks turned sinister. Marty Jannetty was doused with water (“He needed a bath anyway!), the Big Boss Man was caught on a tripwire, Tatanka had a mop slung into his eyes, and Bob Backlund was goofy enough that actually had trouble stepping over banana skins without slipping, presumably because he was being presented as just about old enough to have actually starred in some old Abbott and Costello sketches. Problems arose however when, having revealed his name to be Doink, the clown sprayed water from a flower onto some kids in the crowd during a routine Crush squash match, with Crush grabbing Doink by the arm and warning him to cut it out.
Crush vs. W.T. Jones
This is joined in progress as Crush slaps on the Cranium Crunch head vice for the win, as Doink arrives at ringside with his arm in a sling and an oversized novelty flower in his hand. Accepting the flower by way of apparent apology, Crush turns his back as Doink pulls his own arm out of the socket and belts Crush over the back of the noggin with it. Egad! Twas but another illusion! The prosthetic arm encased in a cast was later revealed to have contained a lead pipe, with the dreaded deed taking Crush out of the upcoming Royal Rumble and setting up his feud with Doink. Crush does a stretcher job as the director finds shots of tired kids rubbing their eyes to splice in, giving the impression that they’re crying. Sly bastards.
Another wrestler who debuted around this time was Giant Gonzalez, although to call him a “wrestler” would be a severe stretch. The former El Gigante of WCW made his WWF debut at the Royal Rumble, where, clad in a ridiculous airbrushed bodysuit covered in fur, he arrived unannounced and annihilated the Undertaker in admittedly memorable fashion. Unfortunately, that meant having to watch the guy wrestle.
Randy Savage vs. Giant Gonzalez
The tall guy chokes the old guy until he gets disqualified. There, I just saved you nine boring, boobless minutes.
Final Rating: -**
Sadly, January saw the death of the legendary Andre the Giant, leading directly to the creation of the WWF’s Hall of Fame specifically just to induct him, which is quite the honour to bestow upon someone. The promotion would go on to justify the presence of its Hall of Fame by inducting such industry luminaries as Koko B. Ware, James Dudley and Drew Carey. Andre must be so proud. Oddly, Savage makes no mention of the deaths of two other former WWF stars whose lives also came to an end around the same time of the Giant’s passing, ‘Texas Tornado’ Kerry Von Erich (suicide by shotgun) and Dino Bravo (gunned down by a mystery assailant whilst watching television at home, having been part of a cigarette smuggling syndicate in Montreal). I wonder why? Savage says Andre “made a hell of an impression in me”, which he probably meant literally if you know anything about Andre’s personal distaste for him.
Ted DiBiase vs. Brutus Beefcake
And if you weren’t saddened enough by that last segment, oh look ma, Brutus Beefcake’s back! Well, it’s still better than his front. Beefcake was back in the ring for the first time since a horrific parasailing accident in the summer of 1990 had resulted in his needing 100 steel plates implanted in his face, curtailing his career at its arguable peak, save for a brief trial run in early 1991 that saw an unidentified Beefcake jump into the ring with a mask and headbutt a selection of heels. That gimmick remains an eternal curiosity, but there’s no mistaking ‘the Barber’ in this one, as he outwrestles DiBiase to show he hasn’t lost a step before IRS strolls out and smashes him with a briefcase in one of the big angles to build to WrestleMania. That’s not all though, as the treacherous twosome smash Beefcake clean in the face with said briefcase, busting him wide open, before they shove their manager Jimmy Hart to the floor, because Hart had shown compassion in attempting to aid Beefcake. Match was joined in progress so there’s no rating here, but it was a very strong angle to build to the return of the Lord Hulk Almighty, just in time for him to muscle his way through the backdoor and into the main event of WrestleMania.
From Wrestling Challenge in March, springtime is here and it’s time for a good old fashioned contract signing between Bret Hart and Yokozuna for their WWF Title match at WrestleMania. As you might guess, Yokozuna rams the table into Hart’s knee, then crushes him with a Banzai Drop. The officials usher Yokozuna away from the ring, but none of them bother to check on the champion. No wonder Bret felt aggrieved with the promotion, given treatment like that. He was also pushed as practically a no-hoper going up against enormous odds at WrestleMania, and to the surprise of nobody except perhaps Vince McMahon, the buyrate tanked. Fairly standard angle, and not much fun to sit through all these years later, at least until the inevitable destruction job kicked in.
On to one of the worst WrestleMania’s in history as Savage revels in “the glitz, the glamour and the gayline.” Alrighty then.
Doink vs. Crush
Must we? This is joined in progress, which is perfectly fine by me as the match is just as lame as almost every Crush singles match ever, and then the real fun kicks off as the referee gets bumped and Crush catches Doink in the head vice, creating the opening for the first appearance of the second Doink, allowing the WWF to have Doink appear on separate, concurrent house show tours thousands of miles apart, usually with Steve Keirn (Skinner) or Steve Lombardi (the Brooklyn Brawler) under the makeup. Doink 2: Deliverance from Evil bops Crush with the fake arm, and the two clowns run a magical mirror routine straight out of a black-and-white movie before the referee revives and original Doink scores the pin. And for their next trick, the WWF shall make Matt Borne disappear and have him replaced with Ray Apollo.
Final Rating: *
Bret Hart (c) vs. Yokozuna
More action mercifully joined in progress, although it’s joined to the most tedious of Yokozuna nerve pinches. What a stellar editing job. Bret does the best he can with his big comeback, but Mr. Fuji hurls a fistfull of salt into his eyes after slapping Yokozuna in the Sharpshooter, and we’ve got a new WWF Champion. That brings out Hulk Hogan to disingenuously check on Hart, as Fuji throws out a challenge to ‘the Hulkster’ for the title right here, right now. Bret unenthusiastically tells Hogan to go for it, and we’ve got another match…
Final Rating: **
Yokozuna (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
I was happy in the haze of a Hogan-free promotion, but heaven knows I’m miserable now.
Final Rating: DUD
Switching gears, we go to Ray Rougeau on the podium for an interview. “My guest this week is ruthless, and he weighs 400 pounds! Bam Bam Bigelow!” Out instead comes ‘Sensational’ Sherri and her enormous cleavage that would put even Lita circa-2006 to shame, to throw out threats to Luna Vachon. Bigelow comes out to protest, but Sherri refuses to back down so Bigelow grabs her by the hair, and that brings out Tatanka to make the save. Later in the show, Tatanka fails to appear for his squash match and a camera in the back finds him flat out unconscious with Bigelow cutting off his dyed red Lumbee Indian hair.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Tatanka
This is the second of two exclusive matches on this tape, and it’s almost as dreadful as the first with an unforgivable amount of chinlocks from the usually exciting Bigelow. I’m not sure if he was blown up from working multiple TV matches that night or he was just unmotivated by this feud in general, but he really sucks the life out of this one. Tatanka does catch a fallaway slam on the floor to wake the crowd up, but that’s actually the end of the match as he rolls right back inside for a count-out win. Bigelow was still fairly new and receiving a solid push so he couldn’t lose by pinfall, and Tatanka had an undefeated streak going so he couldn’t lose either, which makes me wonder why they even bothered booking this feud. Post-match, Bigelow wallops Tatanka with a chair then cuts some more of his hair, which might suggest a hair match somewhere down the line, except Bigelow is bald, so again I question the point.
Final Rating: ¼*
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Marty Jannetty
This comes from one of the most famous episodes in Monday Night RAW history as Vince McMahon looked to boost ratings during the May sweeps with two major surprise moments during a single live episode. The second was the Kid’s shocking upset victory over Razor Ramon which we’ll get to later. The first occurred earlier in the show as a hooded figure emerged from the crowd during a standard Shawn Michaels promo in which ‘the Heartbreak Kid’ bragged about being the kind of guy who would defend the Intercontinental Title “anywhere, any time, against anybody”, and revealed himself to be none other than Michaels’ rival and former tag team partner, Marty Jannetty. The upshot was the WWF finally delivering the long-awaited blowoff to the Barbershop window-smashing angle after a pair of false starts owing to Jannetty’s 1992 house arrest and early 1993 firing by the WWF over his alleged drug problems. Never let it be said that McMahon wouldn’t brush problems with talent aside for the betterment of his product, as was the case with this match. Unfortunately, this is joined in progress from just after the commercial break, with Mr. Perfect taking up a spot at ringside, and cutting out a good chunk of the action that made the match so great. Even at this point though the two cut a breakneck pace, never missing a beat, never hesitating on a single spot. Beyond the awesome action, the reason I think the match remains so fondly remembered owes much to the entirely unexpected nature of Jannetty actually winning the title. True, Michaels would get the belt back less than three weeks later at a house show in Albany in order to to set up his long-awaited title defence against Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam, but the fact he and Perfect had already been feuding for months and their match had been all but set in stone, not to mention that Michaels had also seen off the challenge of Jim Duggan in the previous weeks, made Jannetty’s win all that more unexpected in the minds of the fans. NOBODY saw it coming and, coupled with Jannetty’s return having not being announced ahead of time in addition to the overall quality of the match, you have one of the most memorable moments in Federation history, with the star rating only coming down due to the unfortunate clipping.
Final Rating: ***½
The Kid vs. Razor Ramon
Speaking of legendary moments, the Kid had joined the WWF fresh off a stint on the Global Wrestling Federation’s ESPN show where, as the Lightning Kid, he’d assembled a series of much talked about matches with a young Jerry Lynn. Kid at the time was very highly regarded by smart fans and insider newsletters, but sported such a lean, diminutive frame that his signing to Titan came as huge surprise to most, with many fearing the worst when he was shoved out on television week after week under a variety of different names such as the Kamikaze Kid, the Cannonball Kid, etc. and routinely beaten in short squash matches like any other nondescript enhancement talent. That was, at least, until this match. What looked to be yet another destruction job of the hapless youngster, turned into one of the most memorable scenes in WWF history. With Ramon absolutely battering the Kid from pillar to post, he whiffed on a running charge into the corner, allowing Kid to scoot up to the top rope and catch Ramon with a moonsault for a stunning pinfall victory. Never before had the WWF introduced a new star in such a fashion, by establishing someone as dead-set loser before giving them the most unexpected of upset victories. The Manhattan Center crowd responded in kind, figuratively blowing the roof off the joint in a cacophony of excitement and disbelief. Overnight, Sean Waltman was a made man in professional wrestling, recast as a plucky underdog who dared to dream big and made it. The trick worked so well that the WWF/WWE would recycle it again with Barry Horowitz in 1995 (having already been established as a TV loser for close to a decade before pinning Bodydonna Skip), and Santino Marella in 2005 (who was “plucked from the crowd” after an open challenge from Mr. McMahon, only to unseat Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship in the so-called “Milan Miracle.”) Razor and the Kid may not have been much more than your standard squash match, but it was truly an unforgettable moment in time.
Final Rating: ***
Razor Ramon vs. 1-2-3 Kid
Following on from that stunning upset came this largely forgotten follow-up. In an attempt to get the Kid back in the ring, Ramon appeared on television offering the Kid a sack of money to take on a rematch, increasing his offers in increments of $2,500 until the rechristened 1-2-3 Kid finally accepted with the pot set at ten grand. That resulted in this, a fairly decent match in which Razor gleefully gets his licks in on the guy who so humiliatingly bruised his ego last time out, only now a Kid growing in confidence scores a few extra hope spots to circumvent a complete massacre. The result is an enormous collective heart attack from the audience when he bags a near fall early in the bout, but Ramon soon begins to dominate. The story then becomes about Razor’s ego, for as much as he desires victory, he feeds off the extended punishment. He was humiliated once, and this is his ten thousand dollar payback. That payback includes a Razor’s Edge on the floor, with Ramon having exposed the concrete only for Kid to reverse it into a back bodydrop. Up top, he goes for a dive to the floor which I figure would have led directly to the finish if not for the fact he slips (legitimately) and hits the concrete hard in a fall that looked like it should by rights have broken his neck. Veteran Ramon then has to improvise a new finish, which actually works really well in the context of things as they repeat the finish from the first match, only for Razor to kick out this time, leading to something of a cop-out ending as the Kid, thinking he’s won, grabs the sack of money and legs it out of the building, straight into a getaway car parked outside. Admittedly, the involvement of the cash led directly to Ramon’s babyface turn after Money Inc. stuck their nose in his business, so it’s not like I could call it a bad finish per se, and the reality is a loss wouldn’t have done either guy any favours at that point anyway. Razor losing two on the bounce would have pegged him as a geek rather than as a guy who happened to get fluked, and a loss for the Kid would only have established that he got lucky the first time, rather than his being a guy who was actually good enough to hang with genuine stars like Razor.
Final Rating: **¼
King of the Ring Qualifying Match
Mr. Perfect vs. Doink the Clown
Joined in progress again. Perfect and Doink had already clashed twice in King of the Ring qualifying matches on various WWF television programs, going to a 6 minute, 39 second time-limit draw on Superstars and a 7 minute, 3 second time-limit draw on Wrestling Challenge before engaging in this third bout. In the years that followed, a draw in a qualifying match would eliminate both guys from the tournament with no rematches to be had, but then the WWF never did care for consistency, or even bothered to explain that the format had been revised. Sometimes, it’s the little things, you know? And speaking of the little things, wasn’t Matt Borne as the original heel Doink just an absolute riot? It’s too bad his demons got a hold of him, because he had such a winning formula with the evil clown character, and was an excellent mechanical wrestler to boot. Case in point this match which, if you take away all that make-up and the wacky finish (Perfect pins the second Doink with a Perfectplex after the masters of mirth pull the ol’ switcheroo under the ring), is just a really good, straight-up late 80s style wrestling match. Afterwards, Doink and Doink destroy Perfect until Crush makes the save. Doink would go on to cost Crush his chance at the Intercontinental Title at the King of the Ring, and Crush never did get his revenge on the green-haired goon, diverting as he did into an injury angle following a match with Yokozuna that led to his heel turn, feud with Randy Savage, and rebirth as the most boring wrestler on the planet.
Final Rating: ***¼
King of the Ring Tournament Final
Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Arguably Bret’s single greatest night as a performer was the 1993 King of the Ring pay-per-view, where he wrestled three quality bouts against three very different opponents; Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and this bout with Bam Bam Bigelow. Like most of the matches on this tape, this is joined in progress with Bam Bam polishing Hart off with the diving headbutt to win the tournament, only for referee Earl Hebner to dive into the ring and plead Bret’s cause. If only he could have upheld such morals at the ‘97 Survivor Series. The reason for the restart owed to the outside interference of Luna Vachon, who battering Bret with a chair behind the referee’s back in the grand reveal of her alliance with Bigelow. Unfortunately, this is deep into the heavyset Bam Bam’s second match of the night, so he racks Bret in an over-the-shoulder backbreaker which is just tedious to deal with when taken out of the context of the show as a whole. At least unlike a lot of other guys who resort to rest holds because they’ve got nothing left to give, Bigelow at least employs it from a psychological standpoint, and so he can catch a breath before taking a handful more of his monster-sized bumps, allowing Bret to finally catch him on a victory roll to claim the King of the Ring crown. Bret was excellent as usual here and Bigelow put forth a terrific effort, but this was still just half of the third act of a trilogy of matches, so it loses something on that end of things.
Final Rating: ***½
After the match, Bret gets crowned King of the WWF, and crowned upside the head by Jerry Lawler, who Hart accuses of being gutless for not entering the tournament. Calling him the “Burger King” (which is something of a shoot actually, owing to Lawler’s penchant for fast food), Lawler attacks ‘the Hitman’ after his three exhausting matches and dumps his coronational throne arms-first across Bret’s back before choking him out full force with a sceptre, leading to genuine heat between the two.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Yokozuna
You guessed it, joined in progress once again, and just in time for Yokozuna to slap on an interminable bearhug. In defence of the match, the crowd is absolutely molten for it and decidedly pro-Hogan to boot, despite popular convention at the time suggesting WWF fans were absolutely sick of ‘the Hulkster.’ Hogan’s comeback is his standard stuff, whilst Yokozuna’s movement is so impressive for a guy of his size that it’s really a shame he was instructed to bulk up so heavily to play the gargantuan sumo role, because of how severely it limited his mobility. A lot of workrate fans came to the conclusion that he was no good because of his over reliance on chinlocks, nerve pinches and bearhugs, which made it easy to overlook the height he got on his legdrops, the enormous flat back bumps he would occasionally take (as he does here), and the urinage suplexes he would bust out. At 250-350 pounds, the business might have had another Bam Bam Bigelow on its hands, but no, Vince McMahon’s obsession with size got the best of him yet again, and ultimately, got the best of Yokozuna in a much more depressing way when, in October 2000, he was found dead from a weight-related lung blockage at his Moat House hotel room in Liverpool, England, aged just 34. Meanwhile, back to the match, and Yokozuna kicks out of Hogan’s legdrop and you can hear the audible gasp of silenced shock at that. Nobody ever kicked out of Hogan’s legdrop without some kind of shenanigan on offer. Fear not, ye of little faith, shenanigans are forthcoming! A ringside photographer in a fake beard jumps up onto the ring apron and, as Hogan heads over to get him out of the way, a fireball shoots out of his flash and torches Hogan’s face! A fireball! In the WWF! In 1993! Pretty insane stuff, and to really ram home the exclamation point, Yokozuna finishes Hogan off with a legdrop of his own, colloquially dubbed the “Hulkbuster” by online fans. The match was shockingly good when they weren’t standing around cuddling each other, and it had a very hot finish (in more ways that one), which makes it somewhat of a shame that Hogan left the promotion following a UK tour shortly after this match, given it resulted in yet another WWF storyline that lacked a conclusion. Then again, when you consider the knowledge that the mystery photographer was Harvey Wippleman, one must assume that would have led to Hogan squaring off with one of his charges, either Mr. Hughes or, much more likely, Giant Gonzalez. Yikes! Hogan wouldn’t return to the WWF until February 2002.
Final Rating: **½
On to the July 4th celebrations aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid next as Mr. Fuji challenges the pro athletes of America to bodyslam Yokozuna. Peter Taglianetti of the Pittsburgh Penguins is the first failure, and Scott Burrell of the Charlotte Hornets decides not to bother with it at all. Rick Steiner clobbers Yokozuna with a pair of Steinerlines, which you would think is against the rules, then tries to belly-to-belly suplex him, which is just absurd but at least fits in with Rick’s goofy persona. Keith Sims of the Miami Dolphins and Gary Baldinger of the Buffalo Bills fare no better before Crush gets Yokozuna up but blows out his back, setting up their Monday Night RAW match a few weeks later. WrestleMania II star and Detroit Lion Bill Fralic gets a leg up, and given the natural ability he showed back in 1986 as a smirking heel, he might not have been a bad choice for the gig had the promotion opted to go with a celebrity in the SummerSlam main event. Randy Savage spits in Yokozuna’s face, gets shoved down… and fails to slam Yokozuna, and that’s it. Or is it? Of course it isn’t, as here comes Lex Luger, helicoptered in with the same stars and bars shirt as WWF newcomer Todd Pettengill is sporting. What a social faux-pas. Yokozuna charges Luger, so Lex belts him with his steel forearm then lands a mighty bodyslam to restore America’s pride the old fashioned way: via nefarious means. Sure, clobbering opponents with a steel plated forearm is a terrible thing to do when you’re a selfish, self-absorbed narcissus, but it’s fair game when you’re a selfish, self-absorbed narcissus defending the honour of your country’s flag!
Up next, an overblown “musical tribute” fit for any fan of Luther Vandross, depicting American icons like Neil Armstrong, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as Luger travels these grand United States, flexing his biceps coast-to-coast on a custom built bus, all while draped in what can only be described as pure Americana – red, white and blue Zubaz pants. Baseball! Fuck yeah! Shopping malls! Fuck yeah! Fanny packs! Fuck yeah! Coming again to save the motherfucking day, yeah! “What does it take to be a hero?” warbles Vandross-lite. I don’t know, how about winning the title at SummerSlam?
During a Bret Hart-Bam Bam Bigelow rematch on RAW, Jerry Lawler appears in the crowd with Hart’s parents Stu and Helen. “Can you mumble a little louder there? I wanted to come down here and meet the couple who produced more tragedies than Shakespeare! I got a clue, why don’t you put your false teeth in backwards and eat yourself to death?” Some classic lines from Lawler there.
On to SummerSlam now for the big Hart-Lawler grudge match but unfortunately, Lawler can’t wrestle due to an injury suffered earlier today when an elderly woman pulled out in front of Lawler’s rented limousine and caused a ten car pile-up. Pulling himself out of the fiery wreckage, Lawler hobbled to the arena on one leg, only to be told by the doctors in the back that under no circumstance could he wrestle tonight. And taking his place against Hart tonight? His very own self-appointed court jester, Doink the Clown.
Bret Hart vs. Doink the Clown
Clipped to the very finish as Hart has Doink trapped in the Sharpshooter, and Lawler slips in from behind, revealing to have faked his leg injury (obviously), and literally breaks his crutch over the side of Bret’s face. No wonder Bret held legitimate resentment towards Lawler for such a long time, he didn’t half take some liberties in smashing Hart about with foreign objects. With the gimp knee a fraud, President Jack Tunney orders Lawler into the ring to face Bret.
King of the WWF
Jerry Lawler vs. Bret Hart
Bret completely destroys Lawler to start, then we clip ahead to Lawler being trapped in the Sharpshooter and quitting. Looking for revenge (in more ways than one), Bret keeps the hold locked in for a few extra minutes before finally releasing it… only to be disqualified for refusing to listen to the referee and break it, giving the decision to Lawler, with Bret’s brothers Owen and Bruce beating up ‘the King’ some more for good measure. Obviously that was all Bret’s revenge in storyline, but Hart was actually seeking payback in real life, stemming from the angle at King of the Ring. As Hart wrote in his autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling;
“It was payback time and he was in trouble! It’d been two and a half months since [Lawler had] jumped me with the sceptre at King of the Ring, and it still hurt me to take a breath. I unloaded on him, potatoing him (intentionally hitting him for real) with every punch… When I stepped into the Sharpshooter I almost bent him in half – for real. He begged and pleaded for me to ease up… The ring filled with referees and agents who pretended not to be able to pull me off Lawler; many of them had trouble keeping straight faces as they actually leaned their weight on me – they didn’t like him either! After subjecting him to four minutes of excruciating agony I released Lawler, who was so pained he couldn’t move… When I came back through the curtain I smiled as I watched Lawler crawling like an alligator to his dressing room.”
From the hilarious pre-match Lawler spiel, through the twists and turns on the mystery opponent, the intensity of the brawl, the intensity of the angle and the genuinely shocking finish, this was WWF pantomime wrestling gold from start to finish. It remains one of the very best things Lawler was ever involved with during his entire run in the promotion, alongside his WWE Title TLC match with The Miz in November, 2010.
Yokozuna (c) vs. Lex Luger
Joined in progress again (I’m as shocked as you), here’s the grand conclusion of Vince McMahon’s attempt to reinvent Lex Luger as a flag-waving All-American hero, a Hulk Hogan for the 1990s, something many in the industry had long-pegged him to become. Nationalistic pride in wrestling in such a strange thing because either you tap into real world politics and end up with an influx of Russians during a Cold War or a Sgt. Slaughter Iraqi sympathiser-style debacle, which inevitably appears tacky and exploitative. Otherwise you just have to manufacture your own conflict like the USA vs. Japan issue here that ultimately fails to resonate since there hasn’t been a major issue between the two nations since the days of Pearl Harbor. It’s so weird because SummerSlam‘s entire theme that year was essentially “USA is A-okay!” but there wasn’t any overt sense of patriotism sweeping the nation at that point as far as the real world went, so the whole thing is really just an exercise in futility. Add to that the WWF’s continued growth outside of America, particularly in Europe, and a huge chunk of the audience becomes completely alienated by the whole angle.
Still the match had far greater problems to it than any of that, namely McMahon’s refusal to actually pull the trigger on his loaded gun. Booking genius that he is, McMahon in the build-up to the show had advertised the fact that, contractually, Luger had one shot and one shot only at Yokozuna’s title, and wouldn’t receive another should he fail. Luger himself all but guaranteed victory, like any good American would, saying he didn’t need any more than one shot to capture the title. And then Vince had the bright idea to hold off Luger’s win until WrestleMania X, so his new megastar could take the big one at Madison Square Garden on the biggest show of the year instead. It’s really too bad he only came up with that plan after the SummerSlam match had been announced, because it necessitated an ending in which Luger left the Palace without the WWF Title. Yes, he still won the match, but he won it on a count-out after decking Yokozuna with the same steel-plated forearm he’d belted him with aboard the Intrepid. What an All-American Hero.
For anyone who’d been following Luger’s career prior to the WWF, they knew him as a guy who couldn’t quite make it when it came to establishing himself as the top guy. For years he’d attempted to win the NWA Title from Ric Flair and time after time after time, he’d come up short. Now with the WWF marketing machine behind him… he’d failed yet again. To really hammer home what a colossal blunder it all was, the lack of a title change gets completely ignored as Luger, Savage, Tatanka and the Steiners celebrate a great victory for the United States under a sea of red, white and blue balloons, as confetti falls from the ceiling. No wonder the rest of the world look at Americans as a caricature of arrogant, bombastic, overblown loudmouths when that kind of celebration greets such a dismal failure. Then again, perhaps the celebration was in recognition of the fact that what looked on paper like it was going to be a rotten match actually turned out to be something of a minor miracle.
Final Rating: **¼
Backstage, Joe Fowler interviews Luger, but Ludvig Borga interrupts the victory party, vowing to crush him (Luger, not Fowler) “like America is crumbling, piece by piece.”
For some reason, Savage has a pile of tapes spread out across the floor, but we’re rapidly running out of time.
Quebec Province Rules
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Steiner Brothers (c) vs. The Quebecers
Joined in… well, you know. This match is under “Quebec Province Rules”, which means the titles can change hands on a disqualification or a count-out, and piledrivers, jumping off the top rope, or throwing an opponent over the top rope are all grounds for a big, fat DQ. That should set some alarm bells ringing. In reality, the rule changes were likely down to the fact that the Steiners were a strongly established team who didn’t much like doing clean jobs on TV, whilst the Quebecers had only been on the WWF scene for about two months by this point, and were essentially made up of midcard joke the Mountie and his chunky apprentice. Although, Jacques Rougeau seems pretty reinvigorated not to be quite so smothered by such a one-dimensional cartoon gimmick, even if he is still wearing his old togs. Perhaps his heightened enthusiasm comes from his younger, enthused partner, Pierre. Either way, the Quebecers were a hell of a team, at least during their first WWF run. As you might expect, there’s a lot of teasing in terms of piledrivers, over the top throws and that sort of thing given the parameters of the bout, but the big decision comes when the Quebecers piss the Steiners off one time too many and Scott blasts Jacques with Johnny Polo’s hockey stick, drawing the disqualification and gifting the titles to Jacques and Pierre. A clean win probably would have done more to establish the Quebecers here, but the result did at least set up months of rematches on the house show circuit. The Steiners never really got any televised revenge on the Quebecers though, as they were on the outs with the promotion by early 1994, having been suspended in late 1993 owing to disagreements over the WWF’s promises to allow the team to continue taking bookings with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Good match, though the Quebecers would go on to have even better ones throughout 1994 against Bret & Owen Hart, Marty Jannetty & the 1-2-3 Kid, and the Headshrinkers. Nice to see them win their own match too, unlike say, the Undertaker, whose record in casket matches is utterly abysmal.
Final Rating: ***½
Back in the studio, Savage is upset about ending things on such a down note so he insists on kicking up the jams, with reworked clips from those classic WrestleMania: the Album music videos for the songs ‘WrestleMania, Speaking From the Heart’, ‘Slam Jam’ and ‘USA’. Incidentally, that musical monstrosity was the brainchild of media mogul Simon Cowell. He used the project as a means to prove that you could foist any old rubbish on the paying public and score a hit with it as long as you had a decent push behind it, a tie-in campaign and a Stock, Aitken and Waterman-style Italo disco/dancepop/Hi-NRG beat behind it (Mike Stock and Pete Waterman are credited producers on the album). So for any of you out there who detest all that turgid, Syco-related hogwash such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, force-fed to you by gormless, suited executive fat cats, you’ll be pleased to learn that it all grew out of the WWF inking that agreement to allow Cowell to license a record off the back of the mass market popularity of the promotion at its UK peak in the summer of 1992. Thanks a LOT, Vince.
Savage rounds things out by kicking over all the tapes like a stack of dominoes, and I bet he wasn’t the one who had to clean that colossal mess up. What an absolute pain.
Summary: 1993: The Year in Review is an absolute rollercoaster of a three hour tape, hitting quite a few fantastic peaks, and a number of horrendous valleys. 1993 gets a terrible rap from fans owing to its underwhelming pay-per-view output (WrestleMania IX, I’m looking at you) and influx of dreadful talent (Giant Gonzalez, I’m looking at you), but this was a year that saw the WWF undergo a significant change. With many of the bulky monsters of previous years gone thanks to the steroid investigations, smaller, more talented workers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were able to shine brighter under the spotlight than ever before, and the addition of Monday Night RAW, soon to become a wrestling dynasty in its own right, resulted in the promotion taking steps towards becoming an exciting, unpredictable outfit for the 90s, far removed from the stale predictability of the canned television it had been producing in the years prior. Unfortunately, the transition was to be a long one, so for all the greatness of the Steiners, the 1-2-3 Kid, Marty Jannetty, Doink, et al, you still had to put up with nonsense like the aborted Lex Luger push and lunks like Gonzalez, Crush and others. The other bothersome thing about the tape is that it seems to perpetuate the myth that 1993 actually started in 1992, and ended in September. Perhaps the WWF wanted the tape on the market in time for Christmas and simply had to end things early, or perhaps they felt there was little of value to add during those winter months. Curious calendar choices aside, this release really is about as good as a single tape year in review of the promotion could ever hope to have been in those days, although it does make one wish the Blu-ray format had been around at the time so they could have really gone to town on things.