Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ranking the WrestleManias: 26 to 20

By Kyle Ross (posted by Rick Morris)

26. WrestleMania 9 (1993): Not only was this show the unofficial kickoff to the company's "bad period" (1993-96) and features one of its more boneheaded booking decisions in history (putting title back on Hogan), but it also had no good matches. The big angle, which was the return of Hulk Hogan, would have really fallen flat without the impromptu title change as he was placed in a mid-card Tag Title match w/ Brutus Beefcake against Money Inc. The only criticism of this show that I really don't agree with is the venue as I didn't mind Caesar's Palace, as it was definitely different. Obviously, "the Worlds Largest Toga Party" theme was dumb. The HBK-Tatanka IC Title opener was probably the best match on the card, but had a horrible (and predictable) finish w/the unbeaten Tatanka winning via countout so to protect the streak -- but they couldn't justify putting the title on him. Steiners-Headshrinkers was fine, but underwhelming like the Steiners’ whole WWF run. I actually enjoyed the finish of Doink-Crush, but some would argue that it completely sunk the career of a potential top babyface. I really didn't see Crush succeeding though in that role. From there, the show goes totally downhill. Who the fu%& booked Bob Backlund vs. Razor Ramon? Crowd was cheering supposed heel Razor, who thankfully went over clean as he was turning face soon anyways. As mentioned earlier, Money Inc-Mega Maniacs was terrible and made worse by a non-finish. In retrospect, it's kind of obvious something bigger had to be planned for Hogan as that kind of return would have been pointless. Perfect-Luger was another disappointment with another bad finish. It seemed as if the announcers were teasing a Bret-Narcissist post-WM program, but that never happened. Undertaker-Giant Gonzales was obviously terrible, a negative star affair with ANOTHER non-finish (fu%&ing ether?)! Then, we got to Bret-Yoko. Funny how in other eras, they had the babyface go over the supposed monster heel. Not here. The original plan was for Hogan to put over Bret Hart clean at Summer Slam (w/Bret still going over at KOTR to re-establish him as #1 contender), but Hogan vetoed that, so Vince buried him at KOTR. Unfortunately, this all really set back Bret Hart, who thankfully by the following year would become champion. If not for some funny interplay between the debuting JR and Bobby Heenan, this would have been one of the worst shows in wrestling history.

25. WrestleMania 15 (1999): Because this show falls into the Vince Russo booking period, it is a convenient WM to bury. But the reality of the show is that it doesn't hold up well at all, despite the fact that it did a big number on PPV at the time. It features the first ever Austin-Rock PPV main event, but other than that **** match, this show blows. For whatever reason, people always focus on what was considered a terrible booking decision at the time to swap the Road Dog and Billy Gunn in multi-person matches. Gunn was involved at the time in a decent IC Title program w/ Ken Shamrock and Val Venis. But for some reason, he won the Hardcore Title six days before the show and thus defended that title against Al Snow and Hardcore Holly, who were feuding with Road Dog at the time – but James then inexplicably won the IC Title right before this show too! Vintage Russo, as was a Tag Title match featuring the challengers of D-lo Brown and Test, the former a face & the latter a heel, b/c Mark Henry was hurt and Test won a battle royal on the pre-show. More Russo goodness saw Chyna (a heel) turn on Kane (a heel) to reunite with Triple H (a face) only for the reunited Triple H and Chyna (faces) then to turn back heel in the next match on X-Pac against Shane McMahon. Sadly, Shane/X-Pac was the second best match on the card. Triple H/Kane is a dog just like all their matches were. Then, you have the confusing saga of Mick Foley, who goes over the recently debuting Big Show by DQ so that he can be the special ref in the main event. That booking did NO ONE any favors. Then, you have one of the worst WM matches ever w/ Undertaker-Bossman, a heel vs. heel match that is easily the worst Hell in a Cell match ever. My god, just typing all this makes me realize this show deserves all the sh%& it gets. Austin-Rock easily makes it better than WM9 though.

24. WrestleMania 2 (1986): 1986 was an awesome year for WWF. You just wouldn't have known it by watching this show, which is famous for emanating from three different cities as a reaction to NWA Starrcade 85, which was presented from both Atlanta and Greensboro. It is universally understood that the idea didn't work and there was definitely no Magnum-Tully here. However, it really isn't the three-city gimmick that ruins this show, it's the rushed and bad wrestling. None of the first six matches break one star. Starting in NY, there is a phoned-in opener of Orndorff-Muraco. Only good part there is Orndorff making the "oriental eyes" pose at Fuji. Then you have Part 2 of the never-ending Savage-Animal Steele saga and Savage doesn't go over clean and Steele kicks out of the elbow drop. Jake Roberts then wins a squash over George Wells in the kind of match that would never make a major show today. The NY main event was a worked boxing match between Piper and Mr T where the Nassau crowd turns on supposed babyface T. Chicago starts out with two real "blink and you'll miss it" affairs of Moolah-McInytre (why?) and Kirschner-Volkoff. Then comes the battle royal with NFL players, which is the kind of mainstream attention the company would die for today. It's pretty bad though, save for Bill Fralic and Refrigerator Perry getting into it with John Studd. The fact that the Bears were coming off a Super Bowl win helped. Then, you have the first great Wrestlemania match with a Tag Title switch of Bulldogs over Dream Team (****). No way that today they could have held off Bulldogs winning the belts for so long. If there was an Internet in 1985, the IWC would have demanded the Bulldogs get the belts six months earlier and that's not a good thing. Los Angeles might be the best of the three host cities with Steamboat going over Hercules (could have been Bret Hart, but they did the match in Boston the month earlier!) and Adonis bumping like a mother fu%&er for Uncle Elmer before thankfully going over. Then there is a really underrated brawl between Santana/JYD and the Funks, which is almost as good as the Tag Title match. The Hogan-Bundy angle pretty much set the template for every Hogan feud vs. a monster heel that would follow. Unfortunately, no one really bought the idea of Bundy winning, so doing a Steel Cage match was probably a good idea.

23. WrestleMania 11 (1995): This occurred right in the middle of the dead period for the company. It also took place in Hartford, of all places. Anytime you have a show so celebrity heavy and main evented by Lawrence Taylor, a man who followed his recent conviction of soliciting a 16 year-old prostitute by saying "I don't ask for no birth certificate," you know it’s a rough time. The angle with Bigelow at the Rumble was actually pretty good; it just shouldn't have been a main event match as Bigelow's loss pretty much cemented the fact it would be his last ever main event – as who could take him seriously again? Then you had a really messed-up dynamic in the World Title match of Diesel vs. HBK. For the first time since WM 3, you had a babyface go into WM as champ and retain. Needless to say, this didn't draw the money of Hogan-Andre. Also, the crowd pretty clearly wanted HBK to win as they were booing Diesel towards the finish. That's probably why they had HBK turn face the following night on RAW after being turned on by bodyguard Sid. Funny, I promised myself I was gonna give up watching wrestling after this show and skipped that RAW. When I found out HBK turned face, I immediately got sucked back in. It's sad when Pam Anderson overshadows your World Title Match. Too much J.T.T. as well. The rest of this show is just plain uneventful. Luger/Bulldog vs. the Blu Brothers as an opener? Geez, I know Lex didn't work out as a main event babyface, but no wonder he left! Razor-Jarrett was a fine IC-level title program, but wouldn't you have guessed that no one gave a sh%& about champ JJ at this point? Bret Hart vs. Backlund, which was a good match and a World Title change just five months earlier, was way disappointing and a formality that Bret was getting his win back. Roddy Piper was also a very annoying referee. One thing I did like was Owen Hart bringing out the returning Yokozuna as a mystery partner and the two squashing the not-over Smoking Gunns for the Tag Titles. Still, wrestling in general was just so bad and unpopular at this time.

22. WrestleMania (1985): The best thing I can say about the original WrestleMania is "well, it was the first one." Like WM11, this was a celebrity-heavy show featuring the wrestling debut of Mr T alongside Hogan – who was just immensely over by this point and had an excellent foil in Roddy Piper (who just awesome during this period) to play off of. Paul Orndorff was just kind of "there," as his apex would come in 1986 after turning face, then turning heel on Hogan. I do admit that, historically speaking, this is a very important show and most would probably rank it a few spots higher. My bone of contention, however, is that this is a glorified MSG house show with a celebrity main event (which was the key). And I know it was only 1985, but the production value here was very low for a WWF show. The first three matches are all throwaways to put over guys they wanted to push later in the year. That's not a criticism per se (I wish we'd see more of it today actually), but, again, it was very house show-esque. Tito returns from injury (Valentine) to defeat the Masked Executioner (Buddy Rose). King Kong Bundy sets a fake record by squashing SD Jones as he was getting programmed for Andre, then Hogan. Ricky Steamboat wins an overrated squash against Matt Borne, which is only interesting b/c Borne was Doink I. David Sammartino-Brutus Beefcake looked dreadful on paper, but is actually not bad -- despite the fact it was just there to set up a tag match the following month at MSG with Bruno/David vs. Beefcake/Johnny V. Funny how the crowd totally woke up when Bruno got involved. The IC Title match of Valentine-JYD is total RAW material these days as the Hammer was actually feuding with Santana at the time. And of course it's a schmozz finish with Tito figuring in. JYD was really over here and was not yet Junkfood Dog. The tag title switch of Shiek/Volkoff over Windham/Rotundo was considered shocking at the time, but would be predictable today. The Andre/Studd bodyslam challenge is pretty bad. A women's title change featured this high on the card will never happen again (Richter over Kai). Funny that women's matches always get this spot on the WM card these days, but just as a buffer between a hot match and the main event. The Main Event here is definitely the best match on the card, but when Hogan and Mr T earn workers of the night honors, that's not a good thing.

21. WrestleMania 6 (1990): At the time, this show drew some favorable reviews, particularly compared to its two predecessors, WM 4 and 5. I don't know why. Other than what I must admit is an excellent face vs face World Title Match of Hogan vs. Warrior, this show pretty much blows. Some of the major feuds coming in (Jake-Dibiase, Piper-Brown) resulted in really disappointing matches with horrid countout finishes. As to who was doing more coke before the show between Jake/Dibiase (two notorious users) and Piper (came out painted half black), that is a question I would like answered. Also, I could argue that Randy Savage was Mr Wrestlemania before Shawn Michaels took that moniker and Macho Man was totally miscast here, bumping around for Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire in a mixed tag match. As for the rest of the show, it is a bunch of matches where the results were often obvious and there was no build up beforehand. Martel-Koko, Earthquake-Hercules, Barbarian-Tito and Rude-Snuka were all throwaways to put over the heels, none of whom would be in a prominent position within the company by 1991. I do have to admit I marked out big at the time for Demolition's 3rd Tag Title win, which was super over with the live crowd at Skydome. The Colossal Connection were not exactly the finest Tag Champs of a generation though, but it was nice to see Andre getting a face turn following the loss considering Vince kept using him so shamelessly for years. I'd be angrier about Beefcake getting the first pinfall win over Perfect on TV, if not for the fact that Henning got the IC Title shortly thereafter. Harts-Bolsheviks was kind of an amusing way to put over your next champs strong as opposed to today when they'd job for weeks, then get the straps. It's been oft-rumored that the Rockers were not sober for a head scratching countout loss to the Orient Express. Speaking of things that would never happen today, how about Jim Duggan waving an American flag, chanting "USA, USA" in Canada, and getting over as a babyface vs. canuck Dino Bravo? The match is just a backdrop for the push of Earthquake, who squashes Hacksaw after. They really put Bossman over strong against Akeem, even having him jumped by the Million Dollar Man beforehand, and that's fine as I had no issue whatsoever with Ray Traylor during this time period. As for the main event, no matter what revisionist history may say, putting Warrior over Hogan was absolutely the right move at the time as the latter's act was getting stale (see the next two years!) and they needed to try something new. The match was well laid out (thank you Pat Patterson!) and drew a ton of heat. Hogan does deserve credit for carrying it. It's not the promotion's fault that Warrior turned out to be a headcase, but it is their fault for booking him so poorly after the title win. A rehashed Rick Rude feud was not the answer, particularly considering Hogan continued to be the focus with the Earthquake angle.

20. WrestleMania 18 (2002): The "other" SkyDome WrestleMania. Again, other than a Hogan match, this show is not good. And in this case, the Hogan match with Rock actually isn't as good as the one with Warrior, but the rest of the show is slightly better than the undercard of the 1990 show. Funny how there have been two instances of Triple H going into a Wrestlemania as a babyface chasing the World Title and both times the match came up underwhelming. In this case, it was considered a formality that he would go over Chris Jericho and there have been enough jokes made about Lucy the dog, so let's move on. As for Hogan-Rock, I probably like this match less than "you" the reader. To this day, I just don't "get it" as to why this Toronto crowd was so smitten with Hogan. I thought the whole point of the Attitude Era was a reaction to the dead 1980's and what was going on during the Monday Night Wars in WCW. Oh well. The match does have ungodly heat and would rank higher than say Hogan-Andre on the sliding scale of "important wrestling matches with subpar wrestling." It did put over Rock (in spite of the Toronto crowd), who had to tone down his act in near-embarrassing fashion so that Hogan could keep up. The rest of this show almost doesn't matter save for a decent Undertaker-Ric Flair match. This was during the period when the ‘Net was pulling its collective hair out over the booking of Taker, who was squashing almost everyone and never should have been turned heel in the first place. Loved that Arn Anderson spinebuster though! Both Steve Austin and Kurt Angle are wasted on this show and not in the sense Austin's opponent Scott Hall probably was. Austin being the "odd man out" on this card in part began the ill-will that would cause him to temporarily leave the company in the summer. Angle had a better match with Kane on a prior Smackdown than what they did here. Given how over he was at the time, it is criminal that RVD curtain-jerked here, but at least he wins the IC Title. Dallas Page and Christian deserved better as did Edge-Booker, who were feuding over a shampoo commercial. It was all downhill for Maven after that dropkick in the Royal Rumble as he wasn't ready despite the crowd wanting him to be. I have no idea why he was wrestling Goldust here. The tag title situation with Billy and Chuck as champs was really lame. Trish not going over in her hometown vs. Jazz would be sad if it wasn't so predictable.

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