We’re going old school. Check out our SummerSlam 1989 review. Continue reading
One of the greatest compliments you can say of any performer is that their work is timeless. This is especially the case in a trade as evolving, and at times fickle, as pro wrestling. Curt Hennig, at his best, was timeless – a great worker in an era of great workers.
Hennig understood the makings of a heel. He knew his job was to make whoever he was paired with look great, and he knew sometimes that meant making himself look silly. He knew when to sell, when to back off, when to cower – Hennig just got it. Seeing Mr. Perfect’s name on the card was a guarantee of quality.
While Perfect could bump like a boss and carry inferior opponents to matches few felt they were capable of, it was only when he wrestled guys like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart that you truly saw the best of him. That was the type of level he was at and it was a level only a select few could match. While injury issues cost him ring time, he transitioned seamlessly between roles of wrestler, manager and commentator – his performance in each case; always perfect. During his entire stint with WWE, he could do no wrong.
We’re going to do a four part preview for the Royal Rumble. The first two parts will be historical while the last two parts will be about this year’s show.
In this first part, I asked the FGB crew about their favorite Royal Rumble moments ever.
Here are the memories:
Alan: Benoit winning in 2004. Sure it’s been tainted by non-wrestling stuff but at the time it happened I was over the moon. It was such a well crafted Rumble from beginning to end, and the finish by taking over Big Show with the guillotine was incredible. I remember really not wanting Goldberg to win and freaking out when Brock caused him to get eliminated.
Duan: Austin’s entrance in 1998. If I was to point to the one time when I was most invested in the WWE product, it would probably be that first quarter of 1998. Stone Cold had picked fights with pretty much everybody in WWE leading up to the Rumble. Watching the packed ring fall deathly still as Austin’s music hit, and he prepared to face down his ten on one odds, was one of the most tense moments the company ever created.
Cactus Jim: The show where the Rock just bashed the shit out of Foley with unprotected chair shots. That was pretty memorable.
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.
Alan and I have differing opinions on this show. He actually liked it while I hated it. I’ll sprinkle in some of his thoughts as we go.
The Hulk Hogan era was supposed to be over. The WWF was slowly changing the guard. They were trying to change what they had ingrained into fans on what wrestling was supposed to be. Bigger than life characters. Huge muscle bound guys are always better than smaller, faster guys. And Hulk Hogan was the best of them all. However, there was going to be a time when Hogan wasn’t going to be around. And during 1993, they were trying to change what they had been teaching fans for 10 years. Bret Hart beat Ric Flair for the championship to get his first WWF World Title reign in late 1992. I remember the day when I heard Hart won the championship. My friend told me to guess who had just beat Flair for the belt, and because I never expected the WWF to get behind Hart, I must’ve went through five guys before I guessed Hart. And I expected him to be nothing more than a transitional champion. However, it showed that the WWF was trying to find someone new to carry the torch so to speak. However, Hogan came back into the picture. It was supposed to be the first Wrestlemania without Hogan. Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Wrestlemania preview didn’t even list Hogan as being on the card. Hogan came back into the picture quickly as Vince probably didn’t see Wrestlemania being big without him. Hogan held all the cards back then, which is a far cry from where he is today. Of course, Hogan reportedly wanted to win the belt immediately, but if Bret Hart was ever going to be anything, losing it to Hogan in a squash would’ve killed any steam he had. Hogan was then put into a quick feud with Money Inc. where he saved his good friend Ed Leslie, better known as Brutus Beefecake, from a beat down and they played up on the true story of Beefcake having to get reconstructive surgery on his face in a para sailing accident. Hogan and Beefcake were now to challenge Ted DiBiase and IRS (Mike Rotunda) for the tag team championship. They were terribly called The Mega-Maniacs.
(I seem to remember them announcing this terrible name on RAW. They were trying to come up with a name and all of a sudden, Hogan said the name The Mega-Maniacs. However, I believe Jimmy Hart’s jacket already had the name on the back before they were trying to come up with the name. Oops.)
It was a very boring match, but the crowd popped like crazy for it. Hogan was up to his usual antics very much so through the entire match playing up to the crowd. With DiBiase and IRS in the ring, it made the match at least watchable, but the fans very much so wanted a title change. The finish was extremely silly with Jimmy Hart counting a double pin fall that was later overturned by the referee. When Hogan and Beefecake didn’t get the belts, that should have told the viewers something, considering Hogan had never been in anything short of the main event in Wrestlemania.