Survivor Series ’95

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Arnold Furious: This kicks off a run of shows that I really like. The booking was getting more intelligent, moving forward from show to show and giving people genuine reasons to care about the talent. Coherent booking (or writing, whatever you want to call it) is key to enjoying the WWF’s product. Not every company has problems with incoherent booking as they can generally cover for uneven angles with great matches. Although it’d be fair to say that, in general, the best matches are combined with a good storyline. This PPV is littered with sprouts of recovery. It’s the hope that makes the difference. By this point the WWF was becoming aware of how badly it’d been sucking. It’d take time to adapt to the modern audience and transition into the Attitude era but at least they can’t re-do King of the Ring ’95. That monstrosity is in the books.

We’re in Landover, Maryland. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and a returning Mr. Perfect. He’s been out of the WWF, and wrestling in general, since mid ’94 with his back injury. Hennig won’t compete during this WWF run, but he would become a handy extra member of the commentary team, thus denying Dok Hendrix the opportunity to ruin any more PPV’s.

 

In Your House 3: Triple Header

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Arnold Furious: As 1995 started to wind up, you could see where the WWF experiment was going. Vince had spent all year injecting new blood. The dark matches for this show included bouts for Triple H, Ahmed Johnson and Goldust. Not all the new blood were talented, but the WWF were at least coming up with ideas and switching things around. Shawn Michaels was undoubtedly part of the driving force behind some major changes. That included a big push for himself, as the showstealer, and he was edging his way into the main events. The only problem being his buddy Diesel; the WWF champion. With this IYH it was decided that gimmicks were required to market and sell the show. The gimmick here sees a main event with all the titles on the line, with Diesel & Michaels defending both of their singles honours against the tag champs; Yokozuna & Owen Hart. But Owen is injured so cue shenanigans. We’re in Saginaw, Michigan. The crowd for this event was barely over 5,000 strong, which even for the WWF at a low ebb, is pretty poor (although this is a smaller venue, it’s not full). Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross, with the Oklahoman joining the announce team officially after bumming around doing interview jobs and such. I suspect this comes about based on Vince’s lack of knowledge when it comes to PBP and he’d certainly be better off just handing over to JR right here and now. I guess Vince figures he’s a better shill man. Everyone predicts Shawn Michaels will lose his IC title so that’s not happening.

 

Tangent: The In Your House music, done all country style at IYH2, is re-done as a bluesy number here, which immediately reminds me of The Wire where they’d re-jig the theme music each series. Same song, different approach. It’s actually fairly ahead of its time and I like it. Plus it’s not country music now, which is always a bonus.

King of the Ring ’95

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Arnold Furious: Before we get started do yourself a favour and NEVER watch this tape. Ever. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Dok Hendrix. You’d think they’d learn from the catastrophe they created at IYH, but switching commentary would stop King of the Ring ’95 from being one of the worst shows, ever. So we’ll stick with them. Keeping in mind this show is in Philadelphia. You seriously don’t want to run a terrible show in Philly because those m*th*rf*ck*rs are unrelenting. To put it into perspective; John Bailey aka Hat Guy from ECW is in the front row. He hates everything.

 

(Editors note: not all comments made by Hat Guy in this review were actually made by Hat Guy, just to make that absolutely clear. But he does shout at all the heels like a champ.)

Survivor Series ’94

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Arnold Furious: The worst thing about watching tapes from 1994 is Todd Pettengill riding horses to the ring on the pre-show. I hate him SO much. I know he’s a shill man and its his job to be all excited and irritating, and he’s not even the worse guy the WWF hired for the gig, but he paved the way for all these other scum that have done the job as irritatingly since. Basically; fuck Todd Pettengill. Fuck him in both ears. To their credit the WWF show footage from waaaaay back in 1983 to preview the Backlund title shot. It is a good story: Backlund never lost the title, Arnold Skaaland threw the towel in. This PPV match comes about thanks to Bret’s outstanding abilities. Bob got a shot at the Hitman and lost, blaming a slow count on a cheeky roll up, and Backlund turned heel. Bret made him look awesome. My favourite part of the pre-show is Todd’s assertion that the WWF “doesn’t do PPV’s all the time”. Give it six months, mate. By this PPV they’d got the pre-show down, with the video packages, the interviews and such. It works. Interestingly enough this is the first PPV to have Spanish commentary recorded.

 

Hosts are Vince McMahon and Gorilla Monsoon, dressed as cowboys because we’re in San Antonio, Texas. Pity Vince insists on doing PBP as Gorilla is way better at it.

 

Royal Rumble ’94

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Arnold Furious: Desperate men do desperate things. That’s the motto behind Royal Rumble ’94. Vince McMahon had become so desperate in the midst of a personal crisis stemming from steroid allegations, that he started throwing all manner of crap onto TV. Rumble ’94 featured a bizarre solution to The Undertaker asking for time off. Plus “co-winners” of the Rumble event itself and finally pulling the trigger on an Owen Hart heel turn. The WWF were rumoured to be experimenting with all kinds of possibilities including, but not limited to, putting the WWF title on Ludvig Borga. That isn’t quite as ridiculous as Vince Russo’s suggestion that Tank Abbot become WCW champion, but it’s not far off. Vince did know he was desperately short on main event talent though and allotted time in this Rumble match that ensured a new one was born: Diesel.

 

We’re in Providence, Rhode Island. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Ted DiBiase. Bobby Heenan had left the company so Vince moved on to another former wrestler who’d recently retired to join commentary with him. It wasn’t until Jerry Lawler settled into the role that the WWF would truly replace Heenan. Heel colour guy is not an easy spot to slot into.

 

Survivor Series ’93

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Arnold Furious: 1993 was not a good year for the WWF. Business was down, talent was leaving for pastures new and Hulkamania was dead. Increasingly the WWF were relying on strong foreign markets and tours. The final nail in the WWF’s coffin, or so some thought, was Vince McMahon’s indictment on steroid distribution charges by the federal government, shortly before this show. To say his mind wasn’t on the product would be an understatement. If WCW had been as strong in 1993 as they were in the years to follow then maybe the WWF would have been run into the ground before 1994 came into view. Luckily for the WWF, 1994 is the year where the WWF shows signs of improvement, putting on one of its greatest WrestleManias.

 

Coming into this show alone, the company had a multitude of problems. Shawn Michaels had been taken off TV amid rumours of him testing positive for steroids, a major issue at the time, and was rumoured to have quit the company entirely to talk to WCW. Worried that one of their champions would show up in WCW with the belt, the WWF ran a hurried battle royal/final match, crowning Razor Ramon as the new IC champion. Things took a turn for the weird as Shawn returned to the fold to replace another problem in Jerry Lawler. The King of Memphis had been battling Bret Hart for months but was accused of statutory rape and removed from TV. Shawn returned to take Lawler’s place in the hopes that the fans wouldn’t notice. Booking on the fly isn’t easy. Given a long term solution, they worked towards a match between Michaels and Razor at WrestleMania. Another issue stemmed from Mr. Perfect’s sudden second retirement with back injuries. Randy Savage, himself feuding with the freshly turned Crush, was hurriedly inserted into the opening match in place of Hennig.

 

24th November 1993. We’re in Boston, Massachusetts. Hosts are Vince McMahon and a departing Bobby Heenan in his final WWF PPV.

SummerSlam ’93

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Arnold Furious: By August 1993, Vince McMahon was only months away from being indicted with allegations surrounding his distribution of steroids within the WWF. The company was suffering due to the negativity surrounding it, and had become creatively bankrupt. Vince couldn’t think of a way to move on from Hulkamania so just inserted a new superstar in the same gimmick and pushed him into the title picture; the former narcissist Lex Luger. The summer saw the WWF’s title picture dominated by reigning champion, and Hulk-buster, Yokozuna. The monster heel champion was something the WWF ended up doing off the back of a similar successful experiment in WCW, where Vader had earned rave reviews as heavyweight champion. The WWF rarely went with heel champions, let alone strong ones, so this was perhaps indicative of Vince’s lack of involvement at the time. He was seemingly willing to let other ideas be heard and for different angles to occur. The storyline this set up was quite simple; Yoko would dominate everyone until the right face came along to unseat him. It seemed a no-brainer that Luger would do just that, but the WWF had a swerve lined up for the fanbase…

 

30th August 1993. We’re at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Take care crossing the street folks because the Lex Express is on the way! We know this because Vince McMahon screams “The Lex Express” at every available opportunity. Hosts are Vince “THE LEX EXPRESS HAS STOPPED IN AUBURN HILLS” McMahon and Bobby Heenan.

King of the Ring ’93

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Arnold Furious: This is one of my favourite wrestling shows, ever. Coming off a disappointing WrestleMania, the WWF owed Bret Hart a bit of an apology, what with the lack of belief in his title run, and decided to build an entire PPV around him. This had a double objective with the WWF intent on finishing Hulk Hogan’s short run as WWF champion. With Vince and Hogan at loggerheads over his role within the company, Hogan’s time in the WWF was at an end. This show represents the death of Hulkamania. We’re in Dayton, Ohio. Hosts are the WMIX three-man car crash that is Jim Ross, Bobby Heenan and Randy Savage.

Rampage Bercy ’93

Lee Maughan: Comme Daniel Bryan pourrait dire: Oui! Oui! Oui! La lutte professionnelle de la France! Très grande!

 

April 8th, 1993 – Bercy Stadium, Paris, France. So this show comes from the post-WrestleMania IX, European Rampage tour, and it takes place four days after WrestleMania and three before the UK Rampage show from Sheffield, both reviewed elsewhere in this book by Arnold Furious. It originally aired as a special on the Canal+ channel and was later released by Coliseum Video in France only, making it extremely hard to track down. Obviously, all of the commentary is in French, but there are a few promos scattered throughout the show from the wrestlers in English, the first of which sees Shawn Michaels relaxing by a golden statue and calling Bob Backlund an “All-American Loser.”

Royal Rumble ’93

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Arnold Furious: 1993 must have been a worrying year for Vince McMahon. Not only was he facing increasing pressure from the US government over steroid allegations, but also his talent roster was getting thin. Going into the Royal Rumble event there were only four realistic winners. Those being Ric Flair, who won it the previous year but was on the outs, Randy Savage, the former champion, The Undertaker and Yokozuna. Savage was winding his career down and Taker was about to become embroiled in a feud with Giant Gonzalez. The lack of depth was further demonstrated by Razor Ramon securing a PPV title shot after mere months in the company. It’s not like he was setting the world on fire, either.