With WrestleMania only a matter of days away now, it’s only fitting that this week’s Random Reviews takes a look at some of the lesser-remembered matches that have taken place on the “Showcase of the Immortals”.
That’s not to say that any of these are necessarily good matches, but someone thought that these would be worth putting on a WrestleMania. Of course, all of these are currently available on the WWE Network, so there’ll be no YouTube links here!
Mr. Perfect vs. Blue Blazer (WrestleMania 5)
Of course, WrestleMania 5 was where the MegaPowers exploded, with Hulk Hogan defeating “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the WWE title. There was an incredible fourteen matches crammed into the three-and-a-half hour show – which wouldn’t even be considered today, and led to a lot of matches barely getting started before they had to wrap up.
Held in 1989, I saw this WrestleMania years later on a friend’s, shall we say, not entirely legitimate VHS tape, which cut out shortly after this match, which was the WrestleMania debut of both Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) and Blue Blazer (Owen Hart). This was in the era where not everyone had theme music, as Perfect came down in a yellow singlet to the sound of silence, whilst the Blazer had his superhero-esque music.
The Blazer starts by climbing the ropes and moonsaulting back into the ring, before Perfect locks in a headlock before being pushed into the ropes, and rebounding with a hiptoss on the Blazer. Perfect shoves the Blazer into the corner, who replies with a slap and a leg trip, before Perfect takes the Blazer into the ropes for a stiff chop. Another whip into the ropes sees Perfect try for a hiptoss, but the Blazer does a 360 flip to get out of it, before connecting with a pair of bodyslams, then a dropkick that sends Perfect sailing out of the ring.
Blazer follows up with a baseball slide dropkick on his way to the floor, with some uppercuts before sending Perfect back in. An arm-wringer assisted chop keeps the Blazer on top, but Perfect pushes him back into the corner, only for the Blazer to finally connect with a hiptoss after a block and a back-flip caught Perfect off guard. Another dropkick sends Perfect to his feet, as does a backbreaker, but Blazer only gets a one-count from that.
The Blazer bodyslams Perfect and goes up top for a big splash, but Perfect gets up both feet to block it. Back on his feet, Perfect fires away with some body shots, before locking in a seated reverse chinlock on the Blazer. Perfect relinquishes the hold and whips Blazer into the corner, but the Blazer gets his feet up, and hits another powerslam for a one count, following up with an overhead belly-to-belly for a near fall. A crucifix attempt gets the Blazer another near fall, but as he argues the referee’s count, Perfect suckerpunches him, and hits the Perfectplex for the win.
A perfectly acceptable match in the late 80s WWE (pun intended), but not quite WrestleMania quality. A fun five minutes, nevertheless!
Owen Hart vs. Skinner (WrestleMania 8)
We fast-forward three years to Owen Hart’s next WrestleMania appearance, albeit in a position that would later become known as the “buffer match”, sandwiched between a tag team title match with the Natural Disasters and Money Inc., and the main event of Sid Justice against Hulk Hogan in what was billed as the latter’s farewell match. Yeah…
Skinner was already in the ring when Owen entered, and was ready to greet him with a spray of chewing tobacco, before laying out Owen with a shoulderbreaker. A headbutt dazes Owen, as Skinner traps him in the ropes so he can… stomp on his arm. Not sure how effective that’d be! A kick to the gut sets up Skinner for a reverse DDT, but Owen kicks out at two as he walks into a few more headbutts, before Skinner tosses him out of the ring. Owen skins the cat (pun not intended this time!), then charges Skinner into the ropes, and rolling him up for the win.
This match was way too short to be anything meaningful, and served as little else as a way to get the crowd ready for the main event. Definitely not a match that anyone would remember as taking place, let alone on a WrestleMania!
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. The Ultimate Warrior (WrestleMania 12)
From one squash to another, as the Ultimate Warrior made his return to the WWE, following a falling out with the company in late 1992. This was the future Triple H’s WrestleMania debut, and also the debut of the future Sable, who was valeting Helmsley that night.
During Helmsley’s entrance, Jerry Lawler on commentary joked that the Warrior had ballooned to around 400lbs and had shaved his head bald. One of those would turn out to be true in Warrior’s later life, but needless to say, it was not his weight! For some reason, a lighting rig lowered from the ceiling for Warrior’s entrance, as the crowd’s reaction started to die down after about the fifth rope shake.
Helmsley jumps Warrior from behind at the bell, before Warrior even took his coat off, connecting with some forearms before whipping the Warrior into the ropes. Ultimate Warrior ducks a clothesline, but walks straight into the Pedigree… which he promptly stands up from and no-sells. Warrior removes his coat and continues to pound on the Warrior, but he’s hulking up, connects with a hattrick of clotheslines, followed by a running shoulder block, before his finishing combo of the military press slam and running body splash for the win.
Again, way too short to be anything meaningful, but this match wasn’t designed to be anything other than a vehicle for the returning Warrior.
Hardcore Battle Royal (WrestleMania 2000)
If that wasn’t an introductory header that screamed “Attitude era”, I don’t know what is! WWE decided to rename WrestleMania 16 as WrestleMania 2000, because everything was (something) 2000 back then (apart from Tekno Team 2000, who were five years ahead of the trend); and it’ll be a funny footnote if WWE is still around in the year 3984.
This was the WrestleMania headlined by a four-way match, with “a McMahon in every corner”, but way down the card was something else from the era that perhaps hasn’t aged as well. Hardcore.
This was a 13-man match advertised as a battle royal, featuring Hardcore Holly, Crash Holly, Faarooq, Bradshaw, Mosh, Thrasher, TAKA Michinoku, Funaki, Viscera, Tazz, Pete Gas, Rodney and Joey Abs. Before the match, referees Tim White, Jimmy Korderas and current champion Crash Holly addressed the rest of the entrants to lay down the rules. Poor TAKA looked so out of place here. So, this has a 15 minute time limit, with unlimited “belt changes” during that period, with the guy who was champion at the end leaving with the title. You can only pin the champion to get the title, rather unlike any other multi-way match where WWE likes to remind us that “the champion’s advantage goes out of the window”.
Crash enters last, and goes straight into a brawl with Tazz… twenty-eight seconds later, Tazz hits a capture suplex and becomes the new Hardcore champion. Tazz then jumps outside and goes after Viscera, before promptly being picked up for a bodyslam and charged into the post. Less than sixty seconds in, Viscera becomes the second new champion in this match. The Attitude era, everybody!
Viscera plods away as the headshots start coming in, as Hardcore Holly waffles “cousin” Crash, as these become too fast to mention. Joey Abs and Rodney team up on Viscera, before Bradshaw bends a stop sign over Big Vis’ back. Strangely, despite Vis being the biggest dog in the fight, everyone else largely avoids him. They do know that they need to pin Vis to get the title, right?
Sixteen years on, this match is really uncomfortable to watch – Crash is bleeding (presumably after an unprotected shot to the head), and Hardcore gets a similar result after Bradshaw smashes a cookie sheet to his head. After taking out a bunch of guys, Bradshaw gets a taste of his own medicine with a tray to his own head. Hardcore Holly hits a trashcan lid to Viscera and gets a two count, before Mosh gets a similar result from another weapon shot. Mosh runs in with a kendo stick the back of Viscera, who then targets Kaientai.
Thrasher lays into Viscera with a cookie sheet, as we see Joey Abs bleeding badly. Pete Gas drills Tazz with some more headshots, as we see Viscera trying to re-enter the ring. A hard shot to the head sends Thrasher into the corner, before Vis lays out Rodney, Funaki and TAKA with the same sheet. Mosh jumps on Viscera’s back with a sleeperhold, but a swift overhead shot with a cookie sheet gets rid of the Headbanger.
Viscera then enters uncharted territory by climbing up to the top rope. as Bradshaw flattens TAKA with a powerbomb, before the two Acolytes throw Vis to the mat a la Ric Flair. Faarooq breaks a 2 by 4 over Viscera’s back, before Vis turns into a shoulder block off the top by Bradshaw, who then dumps both TAKA and Funaki on Viscera, making Sho Funaki the new champion with 7:44 left on the clock.
TAKA immediately turns on Funaki, who goes to run out of the arena… as the rest of the group give chase. Rodney catches up with him backstage, and after he and Joey Abs toss Funaki into some guard rails, Rodney gets the pin and gets the title… for about fifteen seconds as Abs quickly clotheslines his Mean Street Posse buddy, then connects with a gutwrench suplex to get the pin.
As Abs celebrates, he turns into a catering trolley from Trasher, and a pipeshot from Mosh. Thrasher throws Abs into some steel shutters, and the Headbanger becomes the latest champion. Thrasher eats a pipe shot by Mosh and a load of tray shots as the crew head back out to ringside. Pete Gas finds a fire extinguisher in the aisle, sprays Thrasher with it and drills Thrasher in the head as the bloodied Gas becomes the final Posse member to win the title. Literally as soon as Gas celebrated, Tazz grabs his head and drags him into the ringpost, then connects with a T-bone suplex on the floor for the win – despite Hardcore Holly booting him in the head.
Hardcore Holly goes after Taz now, and immediately throws him into the ring steps for a two-count on the floor. With around four minutes left, the timer disappears from the screen, and we’re back to the weapon shots. Mosh gets a two count, which Tazz then rolls up into a two-count of his own, just because. I think it’d be easier to say at this stage who isn’t bleeding….
Back in the ring again, the Holly Cousins go to double-team on Tazz as the timer re-appears, but Crash turns on Hardcore for a spell. Tazz smashes a trash can lid in the head of Crash, and again goes for a pin which the referee gets a two count on. Hardcore smashes Tazz with a piece of the 2 by 4 which was broken over Viscera earlier, but his pinfall attempt was broken up by Crash. Hardcore chokes Crash in the ropes with his boot, which Tazz breaks up as they enter the final two minutes.
A Tazzplex takes out Crash, but Hardcore catches Tazz with a powerslam for a near fall as the cousins take their turns changing pins. Hardcore Holly connects with his trademark dropkick and gets a two-count, before Tazz connects with a Northern Lights suplex. Crash comes in with a cookie sheet, smashing Tazz over the head and gets the pin with 38 seconds remaining.
Crash sells for the final thirty seconds, but staggers into a Tazzmission as the game turns into “can Crash last that long?” The crowd counts down from ten, and with six seconds left, Hardcore Holly runs in with a glass jar of sweets, smashing it over Crash’s head, but despite Crash’s shoulder staying down, Tim White stops the count at two as the time limit expires. Crash grabs leaves the ring with glass clearly in his back, and goes to leave with the belt, but announcer Howard Finkel announces Hardcore Holly as the champion. That was a bit of a cluster finish… and with the benefit of hindsight, extremely uncomfortable to watch.
Akebono vs. Big Show (WrestleMania 21)
From the ridiculous… to the ridiculous. WWE by this point was firmly into attracting celebrities to WrestleMania, and with WrestleMania 21 “going Hollywood”, we were all treated to a variety of “trailers” for the big event, spoofing big movies such as “When Harry Met Sally” and “Braveheart”. It then makes sense, that the big name brought in for WrestleMania that year was… Akebono?!
Akebono was a legitimate former Yokozuna, having fought in sumo for thirteen years, before retiring through injury in 2001. His decision to fight for the K-1 promotion in Japan saw him start a career in kickboxing and MMA (which, at time of writing, had Akebono go 1-9 in kickboxing and 4-4 in MMA). Come 2005 though, when WWE came calling, they decided that they’d make the most of Akebono by having him fight one more sumo match. In that well known sumo hotbed of Los Angeles.
That meant that we were forced to see the Big Show in a sumo thong (a mawashi); a sight that has since scarred thousands of fans.
The Los Angeles crowd quickly got impatient as they ran through the traditional sumo introductions, with Michael Cole and Tazz trying their hardest to sell this to the viewers at home. Unfortunately, you could hear boos and the odd “boring” heckle as they aborted several starts, instead going to throw more salt into the ring.
They finally get underway, with the pair barging into each other shoulder first, before engaging in the typical sumo slap-fight as they jostled for position. After an initial flurry, the two men backed off to get a reaction – which is not something I’ve seen in the odd sumo bouts I saw back when Eurosport used to televise it in the UK. Once they resume battle, they go for each other mawashis to try and throw the other guy out.
Big Show teeters on the edge of the circle, then barges back into Akebono. Show lifts up Akebono and switches him around, but Akebono takes advantage of the unbalanced Show and with a hiptoss-like move tosses Show out of the dojo, and out of the ring in fact, sending him crashing to the floor.
As a spectacle it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t need to exist. At all. Perhaps if WrestleMania ever went to Japan, then there’d be a reason for it, but this served no purpose apart from to get Big Show into a featured match.
We’ll be back just before WrestleMania with another set of Random Reviews, this time looking at some of the better matches from the history of the show!
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