Mega Powers Running Wild!

The legendary 'Macho man' Randy Savage teams up with 'The Immortal' Hulk Hogan to take on Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant in the first ever WWF Summerslam!

Shawn Micahels vs. Mankind

The Heartbreak Kid defends the WWF Championship against Mankind in a thrilling main event at WWF In Your House: Mind Games.

The Birth of the nWo

From Hulk Hogan's shocking turn at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 to the addition of Ted Dibiase, THe Giant Syxx and more, relive the very beginning of the New World Order.

Austin 3:16 Says I Just Kicked Your Ass

It's one of the most famous promos of all time; Stone Cold Steve Austin wins the 1996 King of The Ring and serves notice on all the WWF superstars. Check it out in our complete review

Wrestlemania 12 Review

The boyhood dream comes true as Shawn Michaels battles champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart in a classic 1-hour iron man match. Plus, Diesel vs. Undertaker and more.

WCW Fall Brawl 1996 Review

Was Sting in cahoots with the New World Order? Would Lex Luger be able to get along with the Four Horsemen as they faced the nWo in War Games? Find out in this review

Thursday, 11 January 2018

GAME REVIEW: WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It - PS2

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Game Review
Released: November 2001 

Unlike most reviews of WWF Smackdown: Just Bring it for the PlayStation 2, this one won't be written from the perspective of a seasoned gamer. 

Truth be told, I'm not very good at video games, and I lack both the time and patience to really improve, so instead, this is exactly what you'd expect from a site like Retro Pro Wrestling:

A review of a (somewhat) old-school wrestling game written from the perspective of an old-school wrestling fan.   

Ready to dive in with me?

Let's do it.

First Impressions 

As everybody knows by now, Smackdown Just Bring It was the first game in the WWF Smackdown series to be featured on the PlayStation 2, and the last WWF game to be, well, a WWF game. 

Seven months after this was released, the World Wrestling Federation became WWE, and we all know the story from there. 

Like any good WWF Superstar, Just Bring It makes a memorable debut on this new console with an impressive intro video.



Set to the Smackdown TV theme from the time (the one with Jim Johnson randomly shouting gibberish), the video splices shots of stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Kurt Angle competing in the ring with shots of them standing around and looking broody and mean.

As first impressions go, it's a strong one. The portrayal of each superstar is much more detailed and refined than what you get in the actual game, but still, it's a good start.

After that, you press the start button and Michael Cole -of all people- yells out the name of the game.

It's annoying, but certainly not the most annoying thing you'll hear from Cole.

More of that later.

For now, let's look at the roster.

Roster 


Though there are some notable absences due to the time period of the game's development, there's a stacked roster here with all the big names from the time.

Along with the stars listed above, you've got everyone Test and Albert to Big Show, Billy Gunn, The Dudleys, Edge & Christian, The Hardys, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.

There's also a slim selection of women, including Trish Stratus, Ivory, Lita, and Molly Holly.

For a starting roster, it's pretty deep and certainly helps keep you interested in the game long after you've completed all the initial story modes.

Speaking of Story Mode, completing the game's storylines also unlocks a number of hidden characters, including Mick Foley, Tajiri, and Rhyno - the latter two you unlock by beating them in Story mode.

Match Types

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Big Show vs. Crash HollyYou can put any one of these 40+ characters through their paces in an impressive number of matches.

Along with standard singles, tag, and six-man action, you also have a Royal Rumble, Survivor Series Elimination match, and even a King of the Ring tournament.

When I tried the tournament, my custom character found himself beating Perry Saturn and Devon Dudley to face 1996 King of the Ring Winner, Triple H, in the final.

I must admit, I loved the randomness of the King of the Ring tournament.

The two qualifying matches took place at Backlash and then Wrestlemania 17, with the final randomly taking place on an episode of Sunday Night Heat.

That randomness is just one of the quirks of the game that pops up in other areas, but we'll get to those later.

Disappointingly, there's no cut scene showing you being given the crown and cape when you win the King of the Ring, so you might have as well not bother and just play three random single matches instead.

Elsewhere, you also have hardcore and Falls Count Anywhere matches, which are both pretty much the same thing but are also a lot of fun, allowing you to roam all over the arena and even outside, where you can cross the street to brawl inside WWF New York, which is all kinds of cool.

Special Matches 

Special matches are your typical gimmick matches, including
  • Cage 
  • I Quit
  • Table 
  • Ladder 
  • Special referee
  • Hell in a Cell
  • TLC
  • Iron Man
  • 3 Stages of Hell
  • Slobber Knocker.

So a pretty good selection, plus you can also unlock a Street Fight, Last Man Standing Match and one other match type as a result of completing story mode.

   

I didn't play all of these, but I admit I did play Hell in a Cell, and it looks dreadful.

The cage comes right up to the ring ropes, so there's no room for playing outside the ring, plus half the time the camera angle is so poor that the cage obscures what you're trying to do in the ring.

Now I know how Randy Orton felt in that Punjabi Prison match.

One cool feature though, is that you can smash your way through the cell wall and climb to the top for some Foleyesque antics.

Graphics and Appearance

Like I say, I'm not the biggest gaming fan in the world, so I'm not as taken with graphics as other WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It reviewers might be, but still, I can appreciate a good looking game when I see one, and for the most part I see one here.

Though the Smackdown and Raw arenas look a little boring after you've played this game for the thousandth time, special PPV arenas like the aforementioned Wrestlemania 17 set and the Summerslam set all look incredible, and really add to the enjoyment of the game.

So too do the entrances. Each superstar gets their own fully-animated entrance, complete with music, Titantron, and special moves to fully replicate here theatrics and spectacle that you'd see at a real WWF show.



Triple H spits his water and hits his signature poses, Biker 'Taker rides his Harley to the ring, and each wrestler enters the ring the way they do in real life.

Though not perfect by any stretch, they do look good and are a great addition to the game, though once you've seen your guy come to the ring once, the novelty does soon wear off.

Most of the actual wrestlers look as good as you could hope for from a PS2 game released in 2001.

Again, that doesn't mean they're perfect, but they are good for the time period and all the wrestlers do clearly look like their real-life counterparts, albeit with much less detailed facial features, square shoulders and the occasional flat nose.

I say all the wrestlers look like their real-life counterparts, but that doesn't include the women, who for the most part look terrible.

I know game developers aren't exactly known for being hugely popular with the female of the species, but you'd think they'd seen enough women in their lives to know that they don't look anything like how they're depicted here.

Ivory, for example, looks like a fat, crudely-drawn Stephanie McMahon.

In fact, I'm sure that if I just showed you a picture of her in this game, you'd swear that's it was.

Trish Stratus, meanwhile, looks even worse.

One of the most naturally beautiful women to ever grace a wrestling ring is depicted here as a beefy, flat-faced shemale with biceps almost as big as her enormous boobs.

What's worse, is that the developers didn't even bother to give Trish proper wrestling attire. Instead, she competes in a leather mini-skirt and knee-high boots.

Look,

I know this was the tail-end of the Attitude Era, a time light-years away from the 'Women's Revolution' of the last few years when women were still seen far more as eye candy than legitimate competitors, but would it have killed someone to give Trish perhaps some tights and a singlet?

Though it may not be a Del breaker, this does limit your enjoyment somewhat - it's hard to take the game seriously when you've got a woman in a miniskirt and huge-heeled boots throwing around dropkicks and suplexes.

Gameplay 

The key to success with Smackdown: Just Bring It is timing:

You need to know the right moment to strike and just the right moment to attempt a grapple move. Get it right, and you inflict damage, get it wrong and you end up lunging for thin air, leaving yourself vulnerable so that your opponent can attack you.


The good news, is that once you get the hang of the timing, you quickly develop a way of playing that enables you to smash through all your opponents with relative ease.

I say relative, because there are still a few gripes with the gameplay itself.

The first is that the bar meters across the top of the screen when you're playing are there mainly to count how close you are to landing a finishing move, so there's no clear indication as to how close you are to actually beating your opponent.

Instead, you just have to take your chances every now and again until you score a pin or submission at random.

Speaking of random, the things that will leave you groggy/stunned are likewise just as random. I could kick you in the face and you'd just hit me back as if it were nothing, but should I duck your clothesline attempt you'll be rendered unable to move for a good few moments.

I know, don't tell me, it's weird.

Damn you, Earl

My other big problem with the actual gameplay is Earl Hebner.

Yes, you read that right, Earl Hebner.

One cool thing about the referee in this game is that he will interact with you in tag team matches to try and stop you interfering and coming into the ring illegally.

During singles matches, however, he just gets in the way, literally.

I've lost count of the number of times I've charged at an opponent only for gormless Earl to get in the way, throwing my focus off so that my opponent can attack.

Likewise, if he gets too close, he gets caught up in the action and you end up attacking him. That would be fine, except whilst you're trying to turn your attention away from the ref, your opponent is kicking your ass and all you can do to retaliate is beat up on Earl.

Those grumbles aside, there is a lot to enjoy about playing Smackdown: Just Bring It.

The sheer volume of moves is impressive and makes for great fun in seeing them executed, whilst the fast-paced, arcade-style means that -whilst there may be dull moments elsewhere in the game- there certainly aren't any whilst you're in a match.

I also happen to love the reversals feature, which you trigger by pressing the square button to block and counter an opponent's attack.

Though it doesn't always work quite right, sometimes you can set off a sequence of three or four reversals all linked together that is beautiful to watch, like seeing your favourite technical wrestlers put on a five-star chain-wrestling clinic.

Finishers are another good feature, though I did find some impossible to land because I could never get into the right position.

Story Mode 

Other reviews have criticised the Story Mode element of this game, and I can totally understand why.


First of all, it's incredibly short, with each wrestler having more or less the same story, which is this:

Vince McMahon offers you a tag team title shot.

If you accept it, you fight the champions, win the titles, and that's the end of the story.

If you deny it, you then interrupt another superstar as he is challenging the Champion.

You can either then challenge that guy to a match, or pretend you were just messing, in which case Commissioner William Regal (or Vince if you're playing as Regal) calls you into his office and randomly gives you a European title shot.

Take it, you fight for, and win, the title. Deny it, and you then face Tajiri and subsequently unlock him as a character.

Meanwhile, if you choose to challenge the first guy, that sets you on a course where you can win one of three titles, Hardcore (unlocks Rhyno as a character), Intercontinental, or World.

That's it.

All stories contain at most, three matches, occasionally four, so the whole story is over in about half an hour.

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Michael Cole & Steve Austin
Sure, there are some differences, such as Kurt Angle responding to a challenge by arriving on his famous milk truck, or Austin mixing up the dialogue to add in his famous catchphrases, but that's it. Once you've played this a couple of times over and explored the limited options there's very little reason to ever play it again unless you're determined to unlock all 50+ hidden features.

That's not the biggest problem though - the actual storylines are quite fun at first. No, the biggest problem is that the cut scenes, where your wrestler interacts with other characters to get to the next plot point, are just awful.

For one thing, they're way too long, so you get moments were it takes Vince McMahon two full minutes of gesticulating and gum-flapping to say 'do you want a title shot?'

They're also really, really badly written, so you get wrestlers saying things like 'you'll never get away like this!' and other nonsense that no English speaking person has ever said ever.

The worst part is that there's simply no way to skip past these scenes. Pressing start or X or any other doesn't get you onto the next screen. Instead, you just sit there for minute after minute of crudely-animated, poorly written scenes that are a far cry from anything you'd actually see on a wrestling show.

With the exception of the world title, which does at least require you to beat two other dudes to become number one contender, title shots aren't actually earned in Just Bring It - authority figures simply offer you them for no reason, so you don't really feel like you're accomplishing much by getting a shot at the gold.

Create a Superstar 

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Psycho Storm CJ Scholes
I still remember the days when this kind of feature was so brand new to wrestling games that I would spend ages on the old PS1 games doing nothing but creating characters.

Now that I'm a grownup with responsibilities, I don't have time to do that any more, but I easily could have done, it's that indepth.

Seriously, you can change everything from the size of a guy's elbow pads to the shape of his nose and chin.

This doesn't always work out well. If you ask me, the created characters are uglier than the real-life Superstar characters and no matter what you do to them -including adding all the extra outfits you can unlock- you still end up with a weird, jobber-looking character that looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Ragin Angel Axl Diablo
Still, I did my best, and created Psycho Storm CJ Scholes (that would have been my wrestling name if I'd ever been interested in learning to wrestle)

And The Ragin' Angel Axl Diablo, who I actually think is pretty cool, so there.

Sound and Commentary 

Most of the background music here is basically stock techno-drivel that sounds like it would be more fitting as the menu theme for a game about the Matrix than the World Wrestling Federation.

It's fine though, and not really offensive, unlike the commentary, which is just the worst thing you've ever heard.

Matches are 'called' by Smackdown hosts Michael Cole and Tazz, who randomly shout out absolutely nonsense throughout the match.


'This is fine' says Cole, really demonstrating all the heart and passion you'd expect from a top-flight commentator.
'I think this is good,' agrees Tazz, before inexplicably asking 'what? That's not good?' 

Cole then tells you that your wrestler 'really is a nice person' (because that's what you really want from your tough-as-nails WWF wrestler) after which Tazz tells us that your wrestler 'was great the other day.' 

Whether he means great in the ring, in bed, at bowling remains a mystery.

My favourite Tazzism, however, comes when you're fighting as a female character.

At random points, Tazz will yell out 'I can't believe she's a woman!' with a genuine sense of surprise and alarm as though the fact that Molly Holly doesn't own a penis has come as a complete shock to him.

Now, given that the developers made Trish Stratus to look like a meaty transsexual, I can sort of understand Tazz's alarm, but still, that one makes me laugh, whereas the rest of the commentary just makes me cringe.

Other gems include 'he's the World Wrestling Federation Superstar' and -get this-

'He's the wrestling entertainment.' 

Honestly.

OK, the bad writing I can understand, but I have a hard time believing that Cole and Taz walked into a recording studio, looked at the script and said 'yep, that's completely realistic.'

Seriously, was everyone on crack the day they recorded the commentary for this thing?


Theatre 


Finally, we come to The theatre, which originally just features the trailer for another video game.

After capturing the title for the first time, however, you not only unlock the credits but also several 'movies.'

These are commercials for WWF Smackdown and Smackdown 2, plus behind-the-scenes 'making of' vignettes for each commercial.

The first behind-the-scenes clip for The Rock's commercial isn't all that interesting, but the second one featuring Kurt Angle is far better.

It's longer and much funnier because it's in character; Angle never breaks from his arrogant, egotistical heel persona, and it's a joy to watch,

Three also a clip titled 'Recent Smackdown Moments,' which is just a highlight reel of spots set to an ill-suited piece of classical music with bad graphics that look like your 12-year-old cousin had made the whole video on an early version of Windows Movie Maker.

   

Lasting Impression 

In the words of Michael Cold, this is fine. 

There's a lot to like about WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It, like those sweet-looking reversals, fun gameplay, and awesome entrances, but the short storylines, terrible commentary and Tranny Trish Stratus do let it down. 

On the whole, this is a good game to pass away a few hours, but no more than that. It's fun at first, but quickly gets repetitive and eventually boring, leaving you longing for more of a challenge. 


Thanks for reading. For more reviews of retro pro wrestling games, shows, and more, follow RPW on Twitter or like the Facebook page here.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

PPV REVIEW - WCW Spring Stampede 1997

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Event Poster
April 6, 1997
Tupelo Coliseum, Tupelo, Mississippi

After first introducing the world to Spring Stampede back in 1994, with an event which featured Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat for the World Heavyweight Championship, WCW had apparently proceeded to forget all about their April PPV show for the next three years. 

Tonight, all of that changed.

As the pro wrestling boom period of the late 1990s got underway, World Championship Wrestling dug out their stetsons and chuck wagons and brought the show back for the first time since that Flair/Steamboat showcase back in 1994.

Could a modern, nWo-led Spring Stampede compete with the greatness of Flair/Steamboat?

Let's head down to  Tupelo, Mississippi to find out.

Spring Time Has Arrived

World Championship Wrestling must have been taking notes from the WWF; their usual opening video didn't look like a reject from a late-80s kids TV show.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Dusty Rhodes, Tony Schiavone, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan
What it did do, was run down tonight's card before sending us to Tony Schiavone, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan and The American Dream Dusty Rhodes.

As always, Tony led the conversation, hyping up the big matches on the show.

He also told us that Scott Hall had been AWOL for a few weeks, so Kevin Nash had to defend the tag titles solo.

Nash, apparently, had agreed, but only if his demands were met.

Quite what these demands were, nobody knew.

Ultimo Dragon vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. 

I refuse to refer to the man from the Orient as Ultimate Dragon as he was known here.


As the former J-Crown champion locked up with Rey Mysterio Jr., Mike Tenay reminded us that this was the third time the two had met on PPV, first at WCW Hog Wild 1996 and then again at World War 3 1996.

Tenany and Heenan also reminded us of the rumour circulating at the time that Mysterio was dating Jennifer Aniston.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Ultimo Dragon
That rumour was BS. This match was not.

I'm not sure that it was the best out of the three PPV bouts that these two had, but it was certainly a very enjoyable opener that was only marred slightly by a cut away to the backstage area.

There, we saw Lee Marshall trying to get a word with Kevin Nash, only for Syxx to tell him to get lost.

Back to the match in hand, Mysterio basically got his ass handed to him by the Dragon before stealing a win.
Your Winner: Rey Mysterio Jr.

Afterwards, we went back to the nWo Locker room, where Lee Marshall once again tried to get a word with Kevin Nash.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - The Steiners get tackled by WCW Security
This time, Nash himself appeared, insisting that whilst he was happy to fight The Steiner Brothers by himself, he wanted Nick Patrick as the referee.

Whilst all this was going on, Rick and Scott turned up, and acted a little bit angry.

One member of security tackled Scott Steiner to the floor whilst  Doug Dillinger sprayed mace in his eyes. As he did so, Tony Sciavone yelled 'mace in the face!' over and over like he were dropping vocals for a dance track.

Talk about over excessive.
   

World Championship Wrestling Women's Champion
WCW Women's Champion Akira Hokuto (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. Madusa 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - WCW Women's Champion Akira Hokuto w/ Sony Onoo
After hiring Madusa for the sole purpose of putting the WWF Women's Championship in the bin, the company had to do something with her to warrant the cost of her contract, so they created the WCW women's division, which basically focussed on Madusa failing to become champion.

Tonight was no different, as the former Alundra Blayze lost to Akira Hokuto in a fun match.

After several minutes of entertaining action, Madusa looked to have the match won, but Sonny Onoo caused a distraction which allowed Luna Vachon to run in and cost her the win.
Your Winner and Still WCW women's champion: Akira Hokuto 

No Mean Gene yet, so it was straight on to our next match.

World Championship Wrestling World Television Championship
WCW TV Champion Prince Iaukea vs. Lord Steven Regal 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Steven Regal challenged Prince Iaukea for the TV title
Prince Iaukea was always a strange one. Here we had a guy that WCW was willing to put the TV title on and feature on multiple PPVs. Yet instead of using this to make him into a star, the company had their announcers basically put over the Prince's success as a fluke, as though telling us that he didn't really deserve to be where he was at.

If they'd just told us he'd earned his success by being very good, we might actually be talking about him in a whole different way today.

Here, Iukea defended his TV title against former champion Lord Steven Regal in the culmination of a several-month rivalry.

Much as you'd expect from anything involving Regal, this was a very good wrestling match, with the emphasis very much on the actual wrestling.

The only thing that tarnished it was the announcers, who apart from making the reigning champion sound like a lucky loser, often ignored him and Regal altogether in order to talk about Kevin Nash and The Steiners.

In an update, Scott Steiner had been arrested for apparently assaulting a police officer and had been hauled off to jail. That meant that tonight, the WCW Tag Team Titles would be defended in a singles match between Kevin Nash vs. Rick Steiner.

Yep, this was WCW.

Back to the match, Iukea won, the announcers told us it was a fluke.
Your Winner and Still TV Champion: Prince Iaukea 

Afterwards, Regal beat up the champ and put him in the Regal Stretch until the referee broke it off.

Ric Flair Announces His Return 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Ric Flair announced his return to action
After Mean Gene Okerlund told us to call the WCW Hotline to find out about the new backstage clique in the company, he introduced his guest, The Nature Boy Ric Flair.

Flair put over the rest of the Four Horsemen before telling us that he was cleared to compete as of May 1st.

As if that wasn't enough, The Nature Boy also revealed that the Horsemen would be joined at this year's Slamboree by Kevin Green (who they actually faced in a match at the previous year's Great American Bash).

Their opponents, should they accept the challenge, would be none other than the nWo.

The Public Enemy (Flyboy Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. The Four Horsemen (Steve 'Mongo' McMichael & Jeff Jarrett w/ Debra McMichael) 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Debra & Steve McMichael
This match had originally been scheduled for the previous month's WCW Uncensored before Steve 'Mongo' McMichael and Jeff Jarrett found themselves in the main event of that show.

The match had then been rescheduled for tonight, though why the bothered I couldn't tell you.

This was sloppy at best, mind-numbingly dull at worst, and certainly the poorest match on the show so far.

The end came when Jarrett had Johnny Grunge in figure four. Just when Jarrett looked to have the whole thing won, Rocco Rock hit him with Mongo's briefcase behind the referees back.

The ref then turned around, counted Jarrett's shoulders down for a three count and gave the match to The Public Enemy.
Your Winners: The Public Enemy  

Afterwards, Debra showed concern only for Jarrett, furthering the story that she actually liked him more than her own husband.

Hulk Hogan, Booker T is Coming For You, N***a

Yes, this was *that* promo.

Tonight, Booker T and Stevie Ray would be fighting in an every-man for-himself match against Lex Luger and The Giant in a four-way match to determine the number one contender to Hollywood Hulk Hogan's WCW title.

Booker said...

Well, you know exactly what Booker said, because this is one of the most famous promos of all time, for all the wrong reasons.


World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW United States Champion Dean Malenko vs. Chris Benoit (w/ Woman)

There were times when this one displayed all the signs of the classic you'd expect from Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko. Sadly, those times were interspersed with long periods of not much happening, making this a very disappointing match indeed.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Dean Maleno vs. Chris Benoit - US title
To make matters worse, the ending was exactly the kind of situation that the word 'clusterfuck' was invented for.

Jacqueline ran down to attack Woman on the outside whilst Jimmy Hart tried to steal the United States title, only to be stopped by Eddie Guerrero. Whilst all this was going on, Arn Anderson came out and attacked Dean Malenko, then Kevin Sullivan hit Benoit with a big stick.

In the midst of the madness, the referee threw the match out.
No Contest

Afterwards, the Dungeon of Doom members put the US belt on Eddie Guerrero's shoulder then dragged him backstage as though he were on their side and doing them a favour.

Malenko then stood by Benoit until The Crippler came round. Clearly, this whole thing was far from over.

World Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
WCW Tag Team Champion Kevin Nash (w/ Syxx & Ted Dibiase) vs. Rick Steiner

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Kevin Nash (w/ Syxx)
And so for the first -but by no means the last- time, the tag team titles were defended in a singles match.

I say match, this was really just several long minutes of Nash humiliating Rick Steiner, beating him from pillar to proverbial post without mercy or regard.

At one point Syxx exposed the top turnbuckle and Nash began dropping Steiner, snake-eyes style on the exposed steel.

He did this over and over again, so much so that even Ted Dibiase tried to convince him that enough was enough.

Eventually, Dibiase could stomach no more of this wanton abuse and left the ring. Meanwhile, nWo referee Nick Patrick began to have pity on Steiner, and was even reluctant to count the eventual pitfall, before storming off, turning his back on the nWo once and for all.
Your Winner: Kevin Nash

Out in the back, Mean Gene spoke to The Giant and Lex Luger about tonight's big four-way match.

The Giant told us that Hogan hadn't counted on he and Lex being such good friends that they'd be prepared to wrestle one another and accept that the best man had won, whilst Lex said he was ready. Repeatedly. That's all I heard from this promo; Luger saying 'we're ready.'

Anyway, that match was next.

Number One Contenders Four-Way Match
Booker T vs. Stevie Ray (w/ Sister Sherri) vs. Lex Luger vs. The Giant

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Lex Luger & The Giant interviewed by Mean Gene
This was billed as every man for himself, but given the four corners stipulation, in which a wrestler had to tag in to be legal, it was mostly a tag match between Harlem Heat and Luger/Giant.

Not that this was necessarily a bad thing.

Though this one was hardly going to win any Match of the Year awards, it was a relatively entertaining match which came to an end when The Giant looked to have Stevie Ray beat and was setting him up for a chokeslam.

Instead, the big man sacrificed his potential title shot by tagging in Luger and telling him to rack big Stevie.

Lex did just that, and a few seconds later we had a new number one contender to the WCW title.
Your Winner: Lex Luger

Prior to our main event getting started, we were shown a hype for next month's Slamboree, featuring Bobby Heenan, Tony Schiavone, and Larry Zybysko.

Mean Gene Interviews Page and Kimberley

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Gene interviews Kimberly and Diamond Dallas Page
With his opponent, Macho Man Randy Savage already in the ring, Diamond Dallas Page promised to kick some ass in their no holds barred match.

Gene then introduced Kimberly. We were apparently supposed to forget all about the rivalry she had with her husband last year, as the two were very much now on the same, ahem, page.

Kimberly told us that Page's rage was going to make all the difference here, and with that, it was on to our main event.

No Disqualification Match
Macho Man Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth) vs. Diamond Dallas Page (w/ Kimberly)

This was every bit as good as you might expect it to be, if not better.


The two bitter rivals wasted no time in beating the tar out of one another, brawling wildly around ringside, through the crowds, and eventually back to the ring, where Savage took full control over his opponent.

When DDP refused to lose, however, Savage took his frustrations out on the referee, first nailing him with a piledriver then whipping the poor guy with his own belt.

Kevin Nash then sent Nick Patrick in as a replacement, but DDP recovered, hit the Diamond Cutter, and got the three count when Patrick made a normal three count.
Your Winner: Diamond Dallas Page

Afterwards, the majority of the nWo came out to point at Patrick and look angry whilst Nash picked up the official and powerbombed him right out of the New World Order.

   

It's funny that the most memorable thing to come out of tonight's show was Booker T's N-Bomb promo. Yet whilst that may be the moment that defined the show, there was still lots to enjoy from an in-ring standpoint.

That main event was very enjoyable, whilst the opening matches also had a lot to be praised.

As PPVs go, Spring Stampede 97 wasn't exactly a game-changer, but it was certainly a decent show that should serve you well if you're looking for something to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon or something.


1997 events reviewed so far:

  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
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Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Wrestling Album (1985) - A Track by Track Review

WWF - The Wrestling Album (1985) - A Track By Track Review

Today, I thought we'd take a detour from the usual reviews of WWF and WCW PPVs to go back -far back- in time to 1995 with the release of the World Wrestling Federation's first foray into the world of rock 'n' roll with 1985's The Wrestling Album. 

Unlike today's WWE Music releases, this wasn't simply a compilation of existing themes, mainly because themes, in the way that we know them today, didn't exist.

Instead, WWF's The Wrestling Album was a compilation of material that would go on to become an integral part of some wrestler's identity.

But more of that in a moment.

Before we get into today's track-by-track review, I need to state that I won't necessarily be reviewing this album the way I would a release from actual musicians.

That used to be what I did for a job before I switched to doing what I do now (including running this blog for fun), but today I'll leave my music snobbery at home and review this in terms of what it was always intended to be - a fun, inoffensive commercial tie-in.

Ready to dive in?

Let's do it.

1: 'The Wrestlers' - Land of a Thousand Dances


Here, 'The Wrestlers,' basically refers to everyone on the World Wrestling Federation roster in 1985, including managers and announcers, and also apparently Meatloaf as the drummer.

Can you imagine Vince McMahon allowing his roster to be called 'The Wrestlers' in this day and age?

Me neither, but that's beside the point.

Kicking things off, this motley crew of sports entertainers grunt, groan, warble and wail there way through a lairy rendition of rhythm & blues classic Land of a Thousand Dances.

If you've never heard this before, do yourself a favour and never EVER track it down.

Look:

I know I said I wasn't going to judge this by the same standards as a normal wrestling album, but honestly, you'd have to be as drunk as hell to find something good to say about 'Land of a Thousand Dances.'

Which is fitting really, since most of the guys on this track actually *sound* drunk as hell.

Sure, things start well enough, with the song's famous 'na-na na na naah,' refrain playing over a jovial bassline, but as soon as various wrestlers start spitting out the lyrics one after the other, it descends into a chaotic, cringe-worthy noise that is actually painful to listen to.

"I'm glad to get away from that," says Mean Gene Okerlund in the 'tween-song commentary that follows each track.

Right, Gene, I couldn't agree with you more.
   

2: Junkyard Dog - Grab Them Cakes


Thankfully, things pick up when Junkyard Dog takes to the microphone to give us the lead single to come from The Wrestling Album.

Yes, seriously, this thing had *singles*.

Grab Them Cakes, which apparently is some kind of dance, is a fun, funky track which puts an upbeat spin on an obscure little number released in 1981 by Captain chameleon.


I mean, just listen to that - it's suave, sexy, and oh-so-seductive.

JYD's version, however, is more Ghostbusters than pottery-scene-from-Ghost.

I mean seriously, there's something about the way Dog croons the first line "well I started this dance / in my neighbourhood," that makes you 100% certain he's going to shout "WHO YOU GONNA CALL?" as the next line.

He doesn't of course, but that would be awesome.


Interesting fact: The backing vocals here were provided by disco queen Vickie Sue Robinson, who had a big hit in the 70s called 'Turn The Beat Around.'

The post-song commentary sees Vince and Mean Gene raving about how good JYD is ('as good as he can wrestle!' according to Okerlund). Jesse Ventura, naturally, isn't impressed.

Nor was The Body particularly impressed with Derringer, who Vince McMahon told us was a new artist who had written a song dedicated to Mike Rotundo and Barry Windham.

That song was next.

3: Rick Derringer - Real American 


There can't be many themes more iconic than this one.

You hear that low, droning synth, you hear the words 'I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man...'

And you know what's about to go down.

Only, it isn't The US Express.

Of course, everybody knows the story by now, Derringer's Real American was intended for Barry Windham and Rotundo, but then Windham left (he was gone before this album even saw the light of day), and some guy called Hulk Hogan ended up using it instead.

Hogan would go on to become the biggest name in the industry, and this theme, all swaggering guitars, impassioned vocals and spirited synths, would go on to be synonymous with him, the Power of Hulkamania, and in some respects, pro wrestling itself.


Yet there's another reason beyond Hogan's popularity that Real American has stood the test of time - it's a damn good song.

OK, so it's certainly a product of time and would sound out of place if it was written today, but I dare anyone not to listen to it and feel good.

Interesting Fact: Backing vocals here come courtesy of a certain Mona Flambe who was, of course, the alter-ego of Queen of the Rock 'n' Wrestling connection, Cyndi Lauper.

Post-match commentary:

Jesse: "I can't believe that's for Windham and Rotundo. Derringer should have buried himself and stayed buried!"

Vince: "Aw, eat your heart out, Jess!"

Mean Gene: "Oh, speaking of 'eat your heart out,' that just so happens to be the title of our next cut, Jesse Ventura!" (what a remarkable coincidence!")


Jesse: "That's right, Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield by The Mouth of The South Jimmy Hart, now there is true talent!"

4: Jimmy Hart - Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield 


So, here we have Jimmy Hart feeling pretty pissed off that his girlfriend had decided to go see a Rick Springfield concert rather than spend time with The Mouth of the South.

The best part?

Jimmy gives us a complete impression of how the conversation went down, which includes saying the words 'Ring ring," to pretend he's the actual telephone.

I'm not making this up. It goes like this:

Jimmy Hart: "Ring ring,"
Jimmy Hart Doing a Woman's voice: "Hello?"
Jimmy Hart: "Hello, hey! Is Cyndi in? (nervous laugh) ha!"
Jimmy Hart Doing a Woman's voice: "No, who is this?"
Jimmy Hart (irate): "What do you mean, who is this? This is Jimmy Hart, The Mouth of the South. Where is she?"
Jimmy Hart Doing a Woman's voice: "She's gone to the Rick Springfield concert!"
Jimmy Hart: "RICK SPRINGFIELD!?!?!"
Jimmy Hart: *makes a sound that I think is supposed to be the line going dead but sounds more like he's mimicking an earthquake or a thunderstorm.

OK, I get it. That could come across as cheesy, but there's something about the way Hart delivers the whole thing that not only works but works in a way that is absolutely hysterical.

Not once have I ever heard this song and not laughed my ass off when he yells "RICK SPRINGFIELD! crunchhhhhhmufflecrunchmufflechhhhh"

It's not all played for laughs though.

Once the song starts proper, The Mouth of the South delivers one of the best songs on the album, a lively pop-rock number that wouldn't sound out of place if it were covered by one of today's guitar pop bands.

The post-song commentary reveals that Jesse Ventura is a big fan of Eat Your Heart Out, Rick Springfield, even going so far as to call it the best song on the album up to this point.

Vince was -unsurprisingly- a little more reserved in his praise of Jimmy Hart, but did admit to looking forward to our next track from Captain Lou Albano.

"Captain Lou!" cries Jesse. "What's he gonna do? Strum the rubber bands on his face!?!"

Don't ask me why, but the first time I heard that, it was spit-your-drink-out funny.

5: Captain Lou Albano (ft. George 'The Animal' Steele) - Captain Lou's History of Music/Captain Lou


So, what we have here is...well, it's a disaster is what it is, but let's break this one down, shall we?

We start with George 'The Animal' Steele looking for Captain Lou as a piece of classical music that I recognise but can't identify plays int he background.

Lou responds, not by saying "Here I am, George," or anything like that, but by launching into a story that begins 'before the beginning of time.'

That's right, BEFORE the beginning of time itself.

Apparently, 'windy wind blew against the rocks,' and made a beat, which led to one of Albano's ancestors being inspired to invent the drums.

This leads us to a whole bunch of noise. I mean a seriously terrible noise that distracts from anything Lou has to say and, not unlike Land of a Thousand Dances, gives you a headache.

This leads us into Lou's version of a song written about him by a group called NRBQ, who apparently did some cross-promotion with the big guy long before The Wrestling Album ever came to be.

The song was produced by Cyndi Lauper, but it's fair to say she sucked at it because the mix is so poor that you can barely hear what Lou is saying over the deafening sound of dreadfulness.
Honestly, this was horrible.

I'd rather listen to 'Do The Mario' and over again for an hour than spend even another minute listening to this.


Jesse Ventura agrees, and in the next bout of commentary tells us that it sounds that Captain Lou was chewing on rubber bands rather than eating them.

As you might expect, Vince and Mean Gene love the song by the babyface, and are very excited about our next track by an unknown group of mysterious musicians known as the WWF All-Stars

6: WWF All-Stars - Hulk Hogan's Theme


Like something straight out of a Rocky movie, Hulk Hogan's theme is everything you could possibly want from a track intended for a larger-than-life good guy hero like the then-WWF Champion.

Pounding drums, intense synths, and a rousing chorus of "Hulk! Hulk! Hulk!" chants all come together in one fiery ball of awesome that really does have 'Hey! It's the '80s!' written all over it.

That's especially true when the dramatic guitar solos kick in, adding a sense of the epic to a track that already sounds as though it should be the soundtrack to some Hollywood montage of Hogan training, saying his prayers, and eating his vitamins.

A highlight of the album in all its chest-thumping, adrenalin-pumping glory, this was later used for the Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling cartoon - or so I'm told, I can't actually find a video to prove it and can't remember it from my childhood.

Vince McMahon liked it too, telling us afterwards that "everybody has to like that one!"

Jesse responds by barfing into the toilet, but quickly picks up when he realises that our next track is by his good friend, Rowdy Roddy Piper.

"Are you ready for this, Gene?" asks Vince, to which Okerlund can only reply by blowing a long, loud raspberry which is both absolutely ridiculous and ashamedly hysterical.

Interesting fact: Hulk Hogan's theme was written and produced by Jim Steinman, he who wrote hits for Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler, and a bunch of others.

7: Rowdy Roddy Piper - For Everybody 


So, here's a little story:

In the early 1980s, a little-known group called Mike Angelo & The Idols released a song called 'The World May Not Like Me.'

The song became better known by the title 'Fuck Everybody,' thanks to a chorus which basically repeated those two words over and over again.

Whilst Mike Angelo & The Idols wouldn't make much of a mark in the musical world (some of its members had better success playing with former Lynyrd Skynrd guitarist Allen Collins), their profanity-laden ode to nihilism and anti-socialism was chosen to feature on a family-friendly album of songs by a bunch of pro wrestlers.

Of course, some of the lyrics were changed, and the song now became 'For Everybody,' but the song's F-U, 'I Don't Care What You Think of Me,' attitude was the perfect fit for Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Never one to shy away from controversy, the man whose character seemed to spend every day of his life living on the edge was well suited to tackle this number.


Not that the whole thing makes much sense when you think about it logically.

"The world may not like me, but that's OK," sings Piper. "There's only one thing, I've got to say...

For everybody."

Wait, what?

Of course, the way Hot Rod delivers that first 'For Everybody' makes it obvious he was trying to get as close to the original lyrics as he could without getting booted off the album, but it's still a baffling lyric no matter how you look at it."

Just as baffling is the fact that Piper was forced to substitute the word 'ass' for the word 'trash' (so at one point he invites us to 'kiss my trash,) but could mention suicide in a later verse without anyone blinking an eye.

Anyway, the song itself is pretty good, replacing the punky, Clash-lite guitar sound of the original with flamboyant saxophones and a sense of joviality which lies at odds with the lyrics.

Piper's got a hell of a set of vocals too. OK, so he may not be a classically good singer, but his voice certainly works here, as it probably could if Hot Rod had founded a punk band of his own.

Apparently, jazz-pop covers of obscure, profanity-filled songs aren't to Mean Gene's liking. He fell asleep during the song and has to be woken up at the end by Vince McMahon so that he can run down to the studio and give us our next song.

8: Mean Gene Okerlund - Tutti Frutti 


The one cover song on the album that stayed true to the original, Mean Gene Okerlund's version of the rock 'n' roll classic is a super-charged, sugar-coated romp that is both exciting and wildly entertaining.

Sounding for all the world like Little Richard on amphetamines, the song's rousing tsunami of sparkling keys and jubilant basslines serve as the blistering backdrop to a performance that Mean Gene truly throws his heart and soul into.

Not the longest song on the album by any stretch, but, compared to some of what we've heard so far, Tutti Frutti offers quality on an album where quality was never taken into consideration.


Afterwards, Vince and Jesse argued not only over Mean Gene's performance but over the validity of having Hillbilly Jim perform a country song on what was supposed to be a rock 'n' roll album.

9: Hillbilly Jim - Don't Go Messin' With A Country Boy 

We all know this one - it's the song used by both Jim himself and later by The Godwins when they were under his management.


It's everything you'd expect a song by a character called Hillbilly Jim to be - a good ol' rootin, tootin' stomp around the barn that takes every hillbilly, farmer, country music stereotype you can imagine and throws it all together into a track designed to make you clap your hands and stamp your feet.

For the perennial good guy that Hillbilly Jim was, it's the perfect theme tune, even if it does happen to be one of the cheesiest things on The Wrestling Album.

Naturally, Jesse Ventura hated it too, but was more eager to listen to our last track, one performed by a man that Mean Gene informs us 'is on a first name basis with Mikhail Gorbachev.

10: Nikolai Volkoff - Cara Mia 


If you were looking for The Wrestling Album to end on a high note, you'll be very disappointed with this one.

Sounding like Abba colliding with the annoying opera guy from those UK TV commercials from Go Compare, this terrible disco version of David Whitfield's 1954 hit was very much intentionally horrible.

Nikolai Volkoff was known for annoying audiences by singing the Russian national anthem before his matches, and this whole song simply takes that to the next level.

As a gimmick, it's genius, but it's nothing you'd ever, ever want to listen to.

Afterwards, Volkoff does indeed break out the Russian national anthem whilst Vince McMahon complains to Jesse Ventura about it ('this is an American album, Jess, you know what that means!).

Once Volkoff is done, our time with the WWF Superstars ends with The Body suggesting he, McMahon, and Mean Gene do a 'duet,' together.

The good guys make a hasty retreat, leaving Ventura whine like a baby that it's his turn to sing.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of The Wrestling Album.

There's some horrible stuff on here, sure, but there's also a surprising amount of good songs on here too. 

Sure, you'd never want to load this up on your iPod and listen to it at the gym, nor would there be any situation when you would invite non-wrestling fans to listen to it, but as a novelty pop record, The Wrestling Album works.

Not only does it work, but it perfectly encapsulates the wild and wacky brand of entertainment that the World Wrestling Federation did so well back in the mid-1980s. 
   


Thanks for reading. Next time I review anything music-related, it will be a track-by-track review of this album's follow-up, Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II. 

Don't miss this, or any other Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following @Retropwrestling on Twitter or liking the Facebook page

Thursday, 21 December 2017

PPV REVIEW: WWF - Wrestlemania 13

March 23, 1997, 
Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois.

To some, Wrestlemania 13 was truly the start of a whole new modern era in the World Wrestling Federation, one that was more violent, more chaotic, and more grown-up than the family-friendly cartoonery of the ill-received New Generation days. 


So, it's either completely fitting or completely ironic that I sit down to review this dawning of a new, modern era on a medium that is anything but modern.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it's one of those rare occasions when I actually own a show on official VHS and can review it as such. Stills are from the WWE Network because, let's face it, VHS picture quality is piss poor.

Anyway, let's head down to the Illinois for Wrestlemania 13.

The Showcase of the Immortals Just Got Darker 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Jim ross, Vince McMahon, Jerry 'The King'  Lawler
And so the 13th Wrestlemania got underway with a typically awesome WWF video package which reminded us how this was The Big One, The Showcase of The Immortals and, sharing a tag line with Starrcade, The Grandaddy of them all.

This year however, our video told us that instead of pageantry and glamour, a dark cloud hung over Wrestlemania because The Undertaker was in the main event, and also because there would be lots of violence and possibly bloodshed.

This was the kind of compelling stuff that had me absolutely hooked as a child, and I still find these videos enthralling to this day.

This took us to our hosts for the evening who, as usual during this period, were Vince McMahon, Jerry 'The King' Lawler, and Jim Ross.

As the Wrestlemania/Linda McMahon theme played, the three bigged up tonight's show before we went straight to our opening contest.


The New Blackjacks Are Ready 

With their opponents in the ring, the recently-put-together team of Barry Windham and Justin 'Hawk' Bradshaw (now rechristened Blackjack Windham and Blackjack Bradshaw promised a win tonight because, in their words, that was The Blackjack tradition.

Number One Contenders 4-Way Tag Team Match
The Godwins (Henry O. Godwin & Phineas Godwin, w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. Doug Furnas & Philip Lafon vs. The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. The New Blackjacks (Blackjack Bradshaw & Blackjack Windham) 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Todd Pettengill interviews The New Blackjacks
As per the stipulation, the winner of this one would get a shot at the titles the following night on Raw.

So there was a lot to play for as every team except The Godwins made their Wrestlemania debut and Mosh & Thrasher appeared in their first WWF pay per view ever.

The resulting match was average at best, and that's probably being kinder than most would.

Early on, The New Blackjacks got into a brawl on the outside with Doug Furnas and Philip Lafon, causing both teams to be counted out.

That left The Godwins and The Headbangers to put on a passable show together before the latter picked up the win.
Your Winners and New Number One Contenders to the WWF Tag Team Titles: The Headbangers 

No between-bout fluff on this tape, so it was straight on to our next match.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia vs. The Sultan (w/ Bob Backlund  and The Iron Sheik) 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - The Iron Sheik led The Sultan into a match with Rocky Maivia
Another Wrestlemania debut next, this time for superstar-in-the-making Rocky Maivia, who put the Intercontinental Championship on the line against his cousin, Fatu, who was in his short lived gimmick as Arabian Overlord The Sultan.

The resulting match wasn't bad, but then it wasn't very good either.

Mediocre action interspersed with random flashes of excitement was the order of the day here, all delivered whilst guest announcer The Honky Tonk Man told us how he would beat Rocky and Vince McMahon spent the entire bout telling us repeatedly that Rocky Johnson was the Intercontintal Champion's father.

Somewhat predictably, Rocky retained the title and lived to fight another day.
Your Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: Rocky Maivia 

Afterwards, The Sultan, the Iron Sheik, and Bob Backlund all attacked Maivia, only for his Dad Rocky Johnson to come out to the rescue.

As Johnson was ganged up on by the dastardly trio, Vince McMahon tried to sell us on the idea that Rocky Maivia had no idea that Rocky Johnson was in the building.


   

Even taking kayfabe into consideration, that was clearly bullshit.

Rocky The Younger got up, and he and his Dad cleaned house to give us a happy moment.

Ken Shamrock Isn't Scared 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Ken Shamrock interviewed by Todd Pettengill
Backstage, our buddy Todd Pettengill who asked The World's Most Dangerous Man Ken Shamrock about his upcoming guest referee in tonight's submission match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin.

Shamrock fumbled his way through a nondescript promo in which he vowed that neither man would intimidate him, and that he would call the match right down the middle.

From there, we went to Doc Hendrix, who asked Hunter Hearst Helmsley about the nature of his relationship with Chyna.

Hunter refused to be drawn into that right now, instead focussing on his upcoming match with Goldust.

With his voice starting to sound more like the Triple H we now know and less like the Greenwich Blueblood he debuted as, Helmsley cut a compelling promo as he promised to beat The Golden One tonight.

The real loser though, according to Hunter, was Marlena, who he vowed would regret not taking him up on his offer for her to join him.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) vs. Goldust (w/ Marlena) 

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Doc Hendrix interviews Triple H (w/ Chyna)
A few months prior to tonight's show, Hunter Hearst Helmsley had been trying to convince Marlena to join him as his escort.

Naturally, she refused, choosing instead to stay loyal to her man, Goldust.

This kicked off a feud between Hunter and Goldie, which resulted in the latter getting involved in the finish of the former's Intercontinental Championship match against Rocky Maivia at he previous month's In Your House: Final 4.

That night, a mysterious, musclebound woman had reached over the guardrail from the crowd and attacked Marlena. The following night, she revealed herself to be HHH's new bodyguard, Chyna.

That took this feud to another level, resulting in tonight's contest.

With such a solid backstory behind it, and given the fact that both men were decent wrestlers at this stage of their career, I admit I was hoping for something special here.

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Goldust attempts to rescue Marlena from Chyna
Instead, we got a mediocre match with a few exciting spots interspersed here and there, all played out before a mostly silent crowd.

After a match that went at least twice as long as it needed to, Chyna went to attack Marlena on the outside.

Goldust saw this, abandoned the Curtain Call attempt he was about to hit on Hunter and instead went to lift his real-life wife out of harms way.

Hunter then ran into Goldie, who accidentally knocked Marlena into the waiting arms of Chyna. The Ninth Wonder of The World then proceeded to toss the poor little woman around like a rag doll, whilst in the ring, Helmsley hit the pedigree and this one was over.
Your Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley 

Afterwards, Goldust cradled Marlena in his arms before taking her backstage. Clearly, this feud was far from over.

World Wrestling Federation World Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Owen Hart & WWF European Champion The British Bulldog vs. Mankind & Vader (w/ Paul Bearer) 

Despite losing to his brother-in-law and tag team partner The British Bulldog in the final of the European Championship tournament, Owen Hart had recently declared himself the leader of their team. This was a move designed to further the tensions between the two that had been brewing for the past several months.

As the Champions began making their way to the ring, Jim Ross stopped them to ask Bulldog if he was offended by such comments.

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - Owen Hart & British Bulldog faced Vader & Mankind
Naturally, Owen butted in, insisting that the only thing that mattered was that he had two Slammy awards and Davey Boy Smith had two titles.

The Bulldog agreed, and headed to the ring to put the titles on the line against Mankind, and Mankind's former arch-rival, Vader.

Though it ran a little long for this writer's taste, the match turned out to be pretty good.

With the Champions taking on the babyface role in his rare heel vs. heel contest, everyone got equal time to shine before Mankind locked the Mandible Claw on Davey Boy and continued to hold it on, even when the two took a tumble to the outside.

A ten count later, and this one reached the best possible outcome that it could have done given the circumstances.

Keeping the titles on Owen/Bulldog seemed like the smart move given the break-up storyline they were teasing at the time, whilst going to a double count out with Mankind and Vader kicking ass all over the place also helped Paul Bearer's men to look invincible despite not winning the titles.
Double Countout 

Prior to our next match, we got an awesome video package recounting the recent history between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.

Submission Match (Special Guest Referee: Ken Shamrock)
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart 

This is it. This is *the* Hart/Austin match that everybody still talks about 20 years later.

Yes, their first encounter back at Survivor Series 1996 was great, but even that was nothing compared to the all-out-war that this one turned out to be.



The video reminded us that fans had recently been turning against Hart and favouring Austin. So, when people call this next one a 'double turn' I'm not entirely sure that's exactly accurate - people were already hating on The Hitman before he did what he did next.

Completely different from anything seen on World Wrestling Federation TV before, the two engaged in a wild, out of control brawl that went up into the crowd, around ringside and everywhere in between.

It was violent, it was bloody, and it was brutal, a see-saw battle that will forever live on in immortality as one of pro wrestling's greatest works of art.

After plenty of back-and-forth action, Hart locked in the Sharpshooter and refused to let go until Austin passed out, thus winning one of the greatest matches of all time.
Your Winner: Bret Hart

WWE / WWF - Wrestlemania 13 - Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
Not content to leave it there, Bret returned to the ring after his victory and continued to stomp on Austin, fully cementing his heel turn at long last.

Eventually, Ken Shamrock decided that he had seen enough and threw Hart across the ring like he was nothing.

A referee came out to help Austin but got a stunner for his trouble. Stone Cold then staggered backstage whilst the crowd chanted 'Austin! Austin!'

That whole thing was incredible.

Farooq is Bringing The Kitchen Sink 

Out in the back, Todd Pettengill was standing by with Farooq and The Nation of Domination. Pentengill noted the amount of plunder the Nation had in readiness for their upcoming Chicago Street Fight against Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom.

'There's 2x4s, there's trash cans, there's everything but the kitchen sink!' Yelled Pettengill, starting a joke that the WWF would milk for all that it was worth.

The Toddster asked Farooq about the Chicago Street Fight, to which Farooq mumbled something or other before telling us not to be so sure that he didn't actually have the kitchen sink.

That was terrible.

Chicago Street Fight
The Nation of Domination (Farooq, Crush, and Savio Vega w/ Clarence Mason, D-Lo Brown, and PG13) vs. Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) 

As it turned out, it was Hawk who brought out the kitchen sink, providing the punchline to a joke that the commentary Team would milk throughout the match, the rest of the show, the following night on Raw, and even in WWF magazine.

WWF / WWE - Wrestlemania 13 - LOD & Ahmed Johnson faced The Nation of Domination
Said kitchen sink was used in what turned out to be a very enjoyable brawl.

Offering a welcome antidote to the drama and intensity of our previous match, this was just good fun from start to finish.

After a good bit of back and forth, Hawk and Animal hit the Doomsday Device on Crush to pick up the win.
Your Winners: Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom

Post match, Animal and Ahmed Johnson lifted JC Ice and Wolfie D onto their shoulders so that Hawk could hit a Double Doomsday Device.

Shawn Michaels Is Your Guest Commentator 

Prior to our main event, The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels made his way to the ring to reprise his role from December 1996's In Your House: It's Time and do guest colour commentary for the main event.

Sycho Sid is Ready 

WWF / WWE - Todd Pettengill interviews WWF Champion Sid
From there, we went to a backstage promo in which Todd Pettengill Interviewed the reigning and defending WWF Champion, Sycho Sid.

Sid reminded Todd that this was Wrestlemania 13, the biggest event in the world, which meant he was more than ready for The Undertaker.

Tonight, said Sid, he would not be afraid of The Dead Man, but would instead go out and beat him in tonight's main event.



World Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Championship
WWF World Heavyweight Champion Sycho Sid vs. The Undertaker

To mark this important occasion, challenger The Undertaker wore the same gray-boots/gray-gloves attire that he wore when he beat Hulk Hogan for his first WWF Championship back at Survivor Series 1991, which was also the same attire he wore in his first Wrestlemania victory against Superfly Jimmy Snuka at Wrestlemania 7.

Long before The Streak became a thing, Jim Ross reminded us that since that win over The Superfly, Undertaker had remained undefeated at Wrestlemania.

WWE / WWF - Wrestlemania 13 - Bret Hart confronts Sid and Undertaker
Meanwhile, Sid was wrestling in his first Wrestlemania match since facing Hulk Hogan the following year at Wrestlemania 8.

Yet before both men could go forth and headline tonight's show, they first had to contend with a very angry Bret Hart.

The Hitman returned to a ring dirty with the blood he drew from Steve Austin earlier in the show and bitched out both Sid and Austin, as well as Shawn Michaels.

Taking his heel turn to another level, Hart told HBK to go home and find his smile, then told The Undertaker that the two of them were no longer friends.

As for Sid, the moment Hart pointed to the Champion, Sid began laughing his head off, which was just hilarious.

Hart basically told Sid he was crap and got a powerbomb for his troubles, much to the delight of the Chicago crowd.

As Hart was being carted off, Sid promised to kick Bret's ass after he got done with The Undertaker, but turning his back on The Dead Man proved to be a mistake. The Undertaker attacked and, finally, this one was on.

Funnily enough, the match actually turned out to be better than I remembered.

WWE / WWF - Wrestlemania 13 - The Undertaker bt. Sid for the WWF title
OK, so it wasn't great by any stretch, and there were periods when nothing happened. I mean literally nothing.

Whether it was Sid holding Undertaker in a bear hug, or 'Taker taking a nap with Sid in a poor excuse for a nerve hold, some parts of this match were dull as hell.

But other parts were actually pretty good, especially when things spilled to the outside and Vince McMahon decided to tell us that this was a no holds barred match.

Towards the end, Bret Hart ran out and battered Sid with a chair, but even that wasn't enough to stop The Master and The Ruler of The World.

Sid recovered and looked to have this one won before Hart once again returned to the ring, distracting Sid so that the challenger could hit the Tombstone Piledriver and win his second WWF Championship.
Your Winner and New WWF Champion: The Undertaker

Post match, Undertaker walked around the ring holding the title, pointing to the crowd and saying 'this is for you.'

   


When we think of Wrestlemania, we typically think of the grand spectacle that is today, with every wrestler on the card going all out to try and deliver the proverbial Match of the Night, but in 1997, that wasn't the case. Most of the card was bland and uninspired, with only the Bret vs. Austin match making for essential viewing. 

Fortunately, the two put on an absolute classic that more than made up for everything else on the show. That said, the Chicago Street Fight was actually pretty fun, so if you have the WWE Network, you might just want to catch those two matches then skip on to something else.


Speaking of skipping onto something else, in our next review, we'll be looking at WCW Spring Stampede 1997, afterwards we'll go to The Undertaker's first title defence at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker. 

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1997 events reviewed so far:

  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 

Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.