This is part two of our list ranking all of the Royal Rumble matches.
Check out the final part of our series of posts ranking WrestleMania.
This could be very a fascinating story. I’m a big fan of stories where somebody hits rock bottom and then climbs back up, and I often wondered what was going through Luger’s head during the time of his big fame, including the Lex Express and during the Elizabeth tragedy. How often do we get a VIDEO promo for a book, let alone a Lex Luger book?
For only the second time in Wrestlemania history, the WWF/WWE champion was not in the main event in Wrestlemania XI. You had a former champion in Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels, the future champion, and neither guy was in the main event. Well just who was in the main event for this Wrestlemania? The first guy was Bam Bam Bigelow. And the second? Old LT himself, Lawrence Taylor. This program was initially supposed to help Bigelow’s career. Even by losing to an NFL superstar, Bigelow was supposed to actually gain from the rub and become a regular main eventer.
It was one of the least inspired Wrestlemania cards at least as far as ring work was concerned. Usually there is one “showstopper” match that carries the rest of the card. Sometimes, there’s more than one. But this year, there wasn’t one quality wrestling match. The one expected to at least be half decent was the Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund “I Quit/Submission” grudge match. Roddy Piper was announced as the surprise guest referee. Here’s where this match went wrong. Originally announced as a submission match where the only way you can win is to submit your opponent, Piper, on the fly, turned the match into an “I Quit” match. Hart wouldn’t even have Backlund in a submission hold and Piper would yell, “Whaddya say?” and you’d hear a pissed off Backlund yell, “no!” as if to say, “If you understood the rules, you wouldn’t be asking me this question.” It was a garbled mess and one of the few matches in his career where it seemed Bret Hart didn’t really have control. There’s another more famous match where he didn’t have control, but we won’t go there. The match ended with Hart finally submitting Backlund in his own chicken wing submission finisher, but to the audience, you couldn’t really tell if Backlund submitted or not. It was just an awful match.
Just blame it on Lex Luger. Blame it on the fact that he was such an uncharismatic person that he was on the yellow brick road to the WWF championship and still didn’t win it. When Hulk Hogan left the WWF after losing the belt to Yokozuna, Vince McMahon had his replacement. He was tall like Hogan. He was blond like Hogan (well maybe a young Hogan with more hair). And he was more muscular than Hogan. Vinnie Mac’s kind of guy right? He was going to be the one to take the torch that Hogan left and he was going to run with it. There were some problems though. He couldn’t connect with the fans. He couldn’t wrestle an entertaining match. And after McMahon pushed him as hard as he could, he pulled the plug. It was the SummerSlam of 1993 where the Lex Express was going to ride into town and snatch that championship belt from the dreaded Yokozuna. When Lex didn’t win the belt that night, I knew McMahon didn’t think he was going to be the guy. They put all that marketing effort into a guy who WCW wouldn’t even put their money behind. It was a mistake for McMahon, but hey, he gave it his best to try to replace Hogan.
If not for Lex being terrible, history could’ve changed, and not for the better.
The guy who was supposed to be passed the torch from Hogan before Hogan decided he would only lose to someone bigger than him (Yokozuna) was Bret Hart. He was already given a small reign as champion when it was time to take the title off Ric Flair. But he lost it in that horrible match on a horrible PPV (Wrestlemania IX unless you’re Alan) with a horrible ending in which Yoko won the title, only to lose it to Hogan in an impromptu match. Let’s just say that Bret was the back-up plan. It didn’t need to be like this had Hogan only lost the belt to Bret at SummerSlam in 1993 before he balked at doing a job to someone as small as Hart. It probably didn’t even cross his mind that Bret would’ve probably carried him to the best match of his career, thus making him look strong in losing.
The WWF was struggling at the time to try and connect again with the fans. They started Monday Night Raw the year before and were drawing nice ratings even if house shows were struggling. But this was Wrestlemania, and for one night, all was forgotten. And where better to have it than Madison Square Garden in New York where the original Wrestlemania was held.