Thursday, 5 December 2013

PPV REVIEW: WWF Wrestlemania 8

April 5th, 1992
Hoosier Dome, 
Indianapolis, Indiana.

By 1992, the World Wrestling Federation was in a state of transition. At WWF Wrestlemania 8, the company was a different place than just the year before, though not half as different as it would be at the ill-fated Wrestlemania 9.

Hell, even by the time of that year's Survivor Series, many of the company's main players were gone, paving the way for a new generation of Superstars to lead the company into the 1990s.

If anything, Wrestlemania VIII was a passing of the proverbial torch, a fond farewell for the old guard of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior et al, and a change for fledgling midcarders like Shawn Michaels and Bret 'The Hitman' Hart to establish themselves as the ones to watch in the years to come.

Here's what went down.

The Obligatory Vince McMahon Growl Intro
As in previous years, Wrestlemania opened with the sound of Vince McMahon growling like a man possessed over a video package introducing our main event. This year's video looked for all the world as though Ric Flair and his colleagues were guest staring in an episode of Saved by The Bell.


With such fun and games out of the way, it was down to Gorilla Monsoon (calling his last ever Wrestlemania) and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan to welcome us to the Hoosier Dome, and to Reba McEntire, who performed the best version of The Star Spangled Banner to be heard at a Wrestlemania thus far.

As Tito Santana made his way to the ring, Bobby Heenan mistook the superstar and country singer Ariba McEntire, for siblings. Hillarious.

'El Matador' Tito Santana vs. Shawn Michaels (w/ Sensational Sherri)

WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - Shawn Michaels and Sensational Sherri
In as solid a choice for an opener as you could have asked for on this card, a post-rockers, pre-Showstopper Shawn Michaels took on the only man besides Hogan to have appeared at all eight Wrestemania shows.

Though hardly the greatest Wrestlemania match of all time, this was nonetheless a fun contest made all the more enjoyable by the hilarious commentary (were Monsoon and Heenan ever more on form than they were here?) and Michaels' manager Sensational Sherri looking particularly foxy at ringside.

Somewhat predictably, eventual Main Event Superstar Shawn Michaels triumphed over a Tito Santana playing out the last few years of his WWF career.
Your winner: Shawn Michaels

Gorilla Monsoon then invited us to view Mean Gene Okerlund 'in the locker room.' The only thing was, Monsoon was actually out in the arena, awaiting the arrival of his interview guests The Legion of Doom with their new/old manager Paul Ellering.

An interview with the L.O.D
WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby 'The Brain'' Heenan hosted the show
Ellering, who had been by the former Road Warriors side in their pre-WWF career, was freshly reunited with his charges, and insisted that he had rejoined them not for money, but for revenge. Revenge against what, or whom, he never quite said.

Hawk and Animal then joined in, expressing their general dislike of Money Inc. and vowing to beat them for the tag team championships,  thus pretty much telling everybody how the upcoming tag team title match between Money Inc. and the Natural Disasters was going to end.

This was a good, engrossing promo for the first few minutes. Then all three men continued to ramble on for so long that everything ceased to make sense and your writer was bored beyond belief.

The Snake is ready
Backstage, Sean Mooney spoke to the villainous Jake 'The Snake' Roberts about his upcoming match against The Undertaker.

Long time fan-favourite Roberts was, for this fan's money, always more suited to playing the bad guy, and he excelled on the mic here.

Unfortunately, he wouldn't fair so well in the ring.

Jake 'The Snake' Roberts vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)
With Jake on his way to World Championship Wrestling in order to spin the wheel and make the deal with Sting, it was unlikely he'd be getting past the man who would go on to become one of the WWF's most respected superstars.

Yet whilst the outcome may have been somewhat telegraphed, what was surprising was just how much Roberts was killed by 'Taker.

The Dead Man beat up on Jake, sat up from a DDT, absorbed another DDT, had a breather whilst Roberts went outside to beat up on Paul Bearer, got up again, tombstoned his opponent on the outside, rolled him in the ring and scored the win.

In terms of action, this was neither good nor bad.
Your winner: The Undertaker

WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - Rowdy Roddy Piper and Bret 'The Hitman' Hart exchange a few final words before their classic Intercontinental Championship match
Backstage, Mean Gene stood by with both Intercontinental Champion 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper and his challenger Bret 'The Hitman' Hart. 

Piper poked fun at a stone-faced Hitman in hysterical fashion before Hart had enough and warned Piper to keep his hands to himself. The two almost came to blows before Hart stormed off, ready for one of his most memorable Wrestlemania encounters.

Now that was awesome.

WWF Intercontinental Championship match:
World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart
Everything you've heard about this match is true. Unless you heard that it was a pile of crap or something, in which case it's not true at all.

Mixing crisp wrestling with wild brawling and a good dose of passion and raw emotion, this well-paced title felt special right from the opening bell, and both men worked hard to ensure it was.

Piper teased a return to his heelish ways of old (at one point threatening to clock The Hitman with the ring bell before having a change of heart) and beat on Hart with the kind of wild-eyed intensity which made him a star.

Bret, for his part, became a star with this match, absorbing some wicked punishment before finally counting a Piper suplex attempt to reclaim his title.

For the third match in a row, the long-time veteran was pinned by the rising star.
Your winner and NEW Intercontinental Champion: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

Post-match, Piper wrapped the championship belt around the waist of a battered and bloody Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, symbolic of the continuation of the torch-passing taking place at Wrestlemania VIII.

Lex Luger promotes the World Bodybuilding Federation
Former WCW star Lex Luger, who couldn't compete as a wrestler in the WWF for reasons which now escape your review, was instead competing in Vince McMahon's short-lived bodybuilding promotion, the WBF.

In a pre-recorded segment masquerading as a live-satellite link-up, Luger belittled his fellow World Bodybuilding Federation stars and promised to win his next bodybuilding event.

 All the while, Bobby Heenan gushed over Luger and begged him to take his shirt off. It was, at least, not quite as erotic as the exhange the two would have when Luger debuted as The Narcissus at the following year's Royal Rumble.

Eight man tag time
WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - Sgt. Slaughter and Virgil teamed up with The Big Boss Man and Jim Duggan in an eight-man tag match
Prior to our next contest, we got some pre-recorded comments from the competitors. Backstage, Repo Man, The Mountie and The Nasty Boys, who cackled wildly like the evil beings they were and yet ultimately said nothing you could remember a second later.

Offering a retort, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, a face-mask wearing Virgil, The Big Boss Man and Sgt. Slaughter (you know, the guy who headlined the previous years' Wrestlemania as a bad guy) yelled a lot of nonsense about how they were going to beat up their opponents. Nothing they said could be remembered a second later, either.

Eight man tag team match
The Mountie, The Repo Man and The Nasty Boys (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Virgil, The Big Boss Man and Sgt. Slaughter
Before the action got underway, Family Feud host Ray Combs took advantage of his role as special guest ring announcer to make some unfunny gags at the heels' expense. When one of his jabs finally pushed Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags too far, the bad guys went after Combs, who promptly ran out of the ring, not to be seen again until Survivor Series 1993.

The match itself was at least a little better than you might expect; a short slug-fest designed to give the crowds a breather between two epic title matches.

In previous years, when Wrestlemanias ran for up to four hours and were stuffed so full of filler that you began to lose the will to live half way through, the eight men involved here would have probably been doing battle in at leas three separate matches.

Instead, we got a quick little contest which served its purpose well.

In case you cared, the good guys won.
Your winners: Jim Duggan, Virgil, Big Boss Man, Sgt. Slaughter

WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - The Nature Boy Ric Flair after his defeat at the hands of Randy Savage
Backstage, Mr. Perfect and WWF Champion Ric Flair promised to destroy Randy Savage, not only by defeating him in their upcoming title clash, but by placing an apparently revealing picture of Miss. Elizabeth.

Mean Gene, standing outside the challenger's dressing room, then informed us that Savage would not be granting interviews, leaving Okerlund to instead hype our big title fight.

WWF Championship match
World Wrestling Federation Champion 'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair (w/ Mr. Perfect) vs. Macho Man Randy Savage
With The Nature Boy making his way to ringside, an over-excited Bobby Heenan rambled on about being fair to Flair' until Gorilla Monsoon finally yelled 'WILL YOU STOP!?!' Trust me on this one, it was hilarious.

Randy Savage then raced to the ring moments later and chased the champion half way up the isle, only for Perfect to intervene on behalf of his charge and drag Savage back to ringside.

Eventually, both men wound up back in the ring and proceeded to make magic together.

Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to ever see a match featuring two all-time greats without thinking it was good, but this was beyond good, it was awesome.

Both champ and challenger gave it their all for the best part of twenty minutes in a compelling contest which featured much interference from Perfect.

To the delight of the Hoosier Dome faithful, Savage finally overcame the odds, not to mention the weeks of being harassed by Flair and Perfect leading up to the match to roll-up Flair with a handful of tights and claim his second world title.
Your winner and NEW World Wrestling Federation Champion: The Macho Man Randy Savage

Afterwards, an irate Flair yelled at Miss. Elizabeth, who had made her way down to the ring towards the end of the match, despite the insistence of a handful of officials (including a young Shane McMahon), causing Savage to attack.

WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - Sid Justice battled Hulk Hogan in the main event
Flair and Perfect then got the upperhand again, and Savage's big title victory seemed unimportant compared to the ongoing rivalry between himself and Flair.

Backstage, Ric Flair refused to get upset and promised Sean Mooney that he would get his belt back and finish Savage once and for all.

The new champion, for his part, relented to giving Gene Okerlund and interview and, in his usual bat-shit crazy fashion, insisted he would fight Flair on the parking lot if that's what it took to finish off The Nature Boy.

The whole thing was so epic that Wrestlemania VIII should have ended there and everybody would have been happy.

Instead, we were presented with a lackluster second half.

Hype for the main event
Before we went any further, we were reminded of how the feud between Hulk Hogan and Sid Justice, which had been teased at the 1992 Royal Rumble came to be in place of the originally planned Hogan/Flair clash.

An interview with 'The Model' 
As Tatanka's tribe danced in the middle of the ring, the native American's arch nemesis, Rick 'The Model' Martel mocked and scorned them in a backstage interview. Martel, who seemed more comfortable in his role as the cocky model than he had at previous shows, claimed he would have to infect the ring with his Arrogance cologne before battling Tatanka.

Tatanka vs. Rick 'The Model' Martel
Not even the announce team gave much of a damn about this one, instead spending most of the contest discussing the ramifications of the previous bout.

Still, at just under five minutes long and with enough decent action between the ropes, it wasn't too offensive.

Another rising star defeated a veteran performer as Tatanka walked away with his famous winning stream intact.
Your winner: Tatanka

WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - Money Incorporated (Ted Dibiase and IRS) defended their titles against The Natural Disasters
Backstage, tag team champions Ted Dibiase and I.R.S, along with their manager Jimmy Hart, hyped their upcoming battle with the Natural Disasters. The three put on their best evil laughs as they insisted Earthquake and Typhoon would be no match for them.

The challengers felt differently, and responded with a promo in which they basically yelled and slobbered all over the place and said nothing of note.

WWF Tag Team Championship match
World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Champions Money Incorporated (Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase and I.R.S w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. The Natural Disasters (Earthquake and Typhoon)
Other reviewers out there on the web seem to have looked at this match, with its over-sized challengers and count-out finish, and immediately dismissed it as no good.

That doesn't seem very fair (to Flair, or anybody else), since if you actually watch the the match, it turns out to be pretty entertaining.

OK, so we're not talking Hart Foundation/British Bulldogs brilliant, but then, this wasn't supposed to be that kind of match.

This was supposed to be the dastardly Money Inc. finally getting what was coming to them at the hands of the mighty Natural Disasters, only to take the cheap way out twhen they knew there was no chance of coming out on top..

That's exactly what we got too, and the results were fairly enjoyable.
Your winners via count-out: The Natural Disasters (Money Inc. retain the titles)

WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - The Natural Disasters were irate about not winning the titles Money Incorporated (Ted Dibiase and IRS)
Backstage, Brutus 'The Barber' Beefcake, out of action due to a facial injury, played up his friendship with Hulk Hogan and gave an interview to Gene Okerlund in which he essentially served as Hogan's hype man. Hulkamania will live forever, oh yeah!

'The Rocket' Owen Hart vs. Skinner
Making his second Wrestlemania appearance (his first was as The Blue Blazer at Wrestlemania 5), The Rocket made short work of swamp-man Skinner.

In fact, this match was so short that, at the opening bell, your writer receieved a text message. By the time I'd replied (it was a short conversation), the match was over.

Owen picked up the win in just over 60 seconds.
Your winner: The Rocket Owen Hart

As we edged closer to our main event, we went back to the locker room again for final comments from Sid Justice and his manager, Harvey Wippleman.

Between Sid's insane ramblings and an earnest, pre-recorded segment with Vince McMahon and Hogan, the idea was played up that Hogan may well have been retiring. This storyline had been trotted out ina  failed attempt to boost buy-rates. As history would go to show, Hogan wouldn't retire from active competition for almost 20 years.

Sid Justice (w/ Harvey Wippleman) vs. Hulk Hogan
When you've seen one Hulk Hogan main event, you've seen them all, and this was none different than any number of Hogan classics.

The two played to their strengths, pitting strength against strength in a match which wasn't that bad if you kept your expectations low.

After thirteen minutes of action, Hogan nailed the Legdrop of Doom. Justice kicked out of the pin attempt, only to lose the match by DQ when Wippleman leapt into the ring.

WWF / WWE: WRESTLEMANIA 8 - The Ultimate Warrior embraces Hulk Hogan after coming to his aid against Sid Justice and Papa Shango
The confusing finish came about as a result of Papa Shango's late arrival. Originally supposed to interfere in the finish, the voodoo warrior (better known in later years as The Godfather) instead got involved in a post-match beatdown, helping Sid lay waste to Hogan.
Your winner via disqualification: Hulk Hogan

Just when you thought it was all over for Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior made his return to the World Wrestling Federation, clearing house and joining Hogan in a pose-down to end the show.

And so it was that WWF Wrestlemania 8 came to an end and the torch was passed. By the end of the year, Sid, Warrior, Piper and Flair would be gone, Hogan would take a leave of absence in the wake of the WWF Steroid Scanal, Randy Savage would be demoted back to commentary (not withstanding an in-ring cameo at 1993 Survivor Series) and long time veterans like Tito Santana and Rick Martel would find themselves dwelling in the lower regions of the card.
In their place, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and a new generation of performers would rise to the top, bridging the gap between the Hogan era and the Attitude era. 
In that case, Wrestlemania 8 was the end of an era, and the beginning of a brand new one.

1 comments:

Before the steroid and sex scandals reared their ugly heads, the original planned card for WrestleMania 8 would've included these matches:

Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair

Randy Savage vs. Jake Roberts

Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty

The Undertaker vs. Sid Justice

The Legion of Doom vs. The Natural Disasters

Money Inc. vs. Jim Duggan & Sgt. Slaughter

Also, Davey Boy Smith vs. The Berzerker was supposed to have taken place on this card, but was cut due to time constraints.

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