Thursday, 24 July 2014

PPV Review: WWF King of the Ring 1994

WWF / WWE: King of the Ring 1994 - Event poster
June 19, 1994
Baltimore Arena, Baltimore, Maryland


In the wake of the epic Wrestlemania X, the World Wrestling Federation rolled into Baltimore with its second annual King of the Ring pay per view, a show which accomplished the impressive task of simultaneously presenting some of the best and worst moments of wrestling in 1994.

In many ways an official launch of the company's New Generation brand, an attempt to sever the last ties to the Hogan era and focus on younger talent, the 1994 King of the Ring was headlined by Wrestlemania I star Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jerry 'The King' Lawler, who made his pro debut in 1970.

As if that wasn't enough to cause some serious head-scratching, the show also featured former football player Art Donovan and his now infamous job on commentary.


How much does this guy weigh? Let's find out.

King of the Ring pre-show
I've already posted a video of the 1994 King of the Ring PPV pre-show, but in case you've got better things to do with your life than watch all that (and let's face it, you do), here's a few highlights:

Vince McMahon and Randy Savage showed us how each of the eight tournament competitors made their way into the finals. Savage predicted that Bam Bam Bigelow would use osmosis of all things to defeat Razor Ramon, and that Jeff Jarrett would get the better of the 123 Kid.

I thought you had money on the 123 Kid,' McMahon reminded Savage.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Randy Savage and Vince McMahon predict the winners
'I did,' admitted the Macho Man. 'I lost.'

A fresh-faced Johnny Polo interviewed Mabel, who promised to win the tournament (maybe next year, big guy), and we got a look at the back-story between Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and his challenger, Diesel.

With little else of note going on, besides Art Donovan predicting a win for Razor Ramon, it was on with the show.

Welcome to King of the Ring 1994
As the camera took us on a brief tour of Baltimore, Gorilla Monsoon set the scene for tonight's show and introduced a scene in which all eight competitors in tonight's tournament argued against over who would be crowned King of the Ring 1994, each man moving his name around a board containing tonight's brackets.

Todd Peckenpaw (Johnny Polo's name for our favourite goofy mic-man) then gave us a run down of tonight's show before we had a 'very special rendition' of the Star Spangled Banner by Blackfoot frontman Rickey Medlocke which was actually pretty terrible right to the very end. I haven't listened to much Blackfoot, and if that's the kind of vocal performance I can expect, I don't think I want to.

With that out the way, our commentary trio of Savage, Monsoon and Donovan welcomed us properly, and it was on with the action.

King of the Ring Quarter Final - Match 1
Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ Luna Vachon) vs. Razor Ramon
Appearing in the opening match for the second year in a row, Razor Ramon clashed with King of the Ring 1993 finalist, Bam Bam Bigelow in first round action.

Repeating their efforts of the previous year, both men delivered a solid performance to create a good opening round match.

Having punished The Bad Guy in a torture rack, The Beast From the East scaled the top rope, only to be hauled off by his opponent and pinned for a three count.
Your winner: Razor Ramon (advances to the semi-finals)

Backstage, Mabel gave his second backstage interview of the evening, this time joined by Pettengill and his first-round opponent, I.R.S. Each man vowed to be the other in a standard pre-match spat.

King of the Ring Quarter Final - Match 2
'Randy, is this one of the wrestlers? He looks like a business man!' exclaimed Art Donovan as I.R.S made his way to the ring and berated the Baltimore tax cheats.

Presenting our first How much does this guy weight? of the evening, the actual in-ring action was far better than you might imagine, mostly thanks to the efforts of the always-impressive tax man.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, gimmick aside, Schyster normally gave us a good show when he stepped between the rings, and I'd be perfectly happy to watch any match he's involved in.

Speaking or Irwin, he went over much-hyped favourite Mabel by using a finish far too similiar to the one used in the previous match. Mabel climbed the turnbuckles, Irwin shook the ropes, Mabel fell, Irwin pinned him.
Your winner: I.R.S (advances to the semi-finals)

Up next, we saw a pre-taped Colliseum Home Video exclusive in which Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji told the camera men to hurry up in their locker room to hype the upcoming tag team title match pitting Crush & Yokozuna against reigning champions The Headshrinkers.

Cornette shooed then shooed the camera men away just as quickly, and that was that.

King of the Ring Quarter Final - Match 3
Tatanka vs. Owen Hart

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Owen Hart battled Tatanka in the first round
The problem with trying to cram a three-round tournament along with other key matches on to one card, is that many of the actual tournament matches go too short to actually stand out as being anything special.

Still, each competitor so far did the best they could with what they had, and both Tatanka and Owen Hart were no exception.

In a little over eight minutes, The Rocket took the fight to his Native American opponent in an exciting battle that had the crowds hooked.

Part way through this one, we got a cut-away to the backstage area, where Razor Ramon and I.R.S were eager to kick off their semi-final match early. It was, thankfully, only a momentary distraction from the contest in the ring.

Following a gripping burst of action, the younger Hart sibling reversed a sunset flip attempt to make it to the next round.
Your winner: Owen Hart (advances to the semi-finals)

Backstage, Todd Pettengill spoke with Intercontinental Champion Diesel and his buddy Shawn Michaels.

'I got two words to say to you Bret Hart,' Big Daddy Cool bellowed 'JACK KNIFE! It's happened before, and it'll happen again.'

Questioned over whether they were concerned about the hyped appeearance of a Hart family member in the champion's corner, HBK dismissed any anxiety by claiming that nobody in Bret's family liked him anyway.

King of the Ring Quarter Final - Match 4
123 Kid vs. Jeff Jarrett

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Jeff Jarrett lost to the 123 Kid, then beat him up!Our fourth and final Quarter Final match saw plucky underdog 123 Kid taking on country singer Jeff Jarrett in another short-yet-enjoyable affair.

Lighting up the crowd with a few impassioned bursts of offence, the future X-Pac spent the majority of the contest absorbing punishment from the future TNA Wrestling founder.

Sensing victory, a cocky Double J went for the figure four leglock, only to be rolled up in a small package and pinned.
Your winner: 123 Kid (advances to the semi-final)

Irate at this loss, Jarrett yelled at the referee before taking out his frustrations on the Kid, drilling him with three piledrivers and several splashes from the top rope, despite the involvement of several referees and road agents.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: The results after the first round
With the crowd hot at the despicable Jarrett's actions, Double J stormed backstage, leaving the commentators to wonder whether 123 Kid would be able to compete in the semi-final against Owen Hart.

The New Generation
Touting their New Generation campaign, we were next shown a video comparing old cars to new cars, and old superstars such as Hulk Hogan and the Iron Shiek to newer talent like Ramon and Owen Hart.

I'll remind you again, not that you need reminding, that this show was headlined by Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler. More of that later

Pettengill interviews Bret Hart
World Wrestling Federation Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart fluffed his way through another promo in which he claimed to have the perfect move to defeat any superstar, and refused to reveal which member of his family would be in his corner.

Rare has been the time I've seen a Hitman promo that he didn't manage to mess up in some way.

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart (w/ Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart) vs. WWF Intercontinental Champion Diesel (w/ Shawn Michaels)
I have to say, there's something surreal, and almost comical, about seeing Shawn Michaels going through his whole 'Sexy Boy' routine to the sound of roaring engines and shrieking horns that was Diesel's first WWF theme music.

Not that the announcers paid much attention to him, they were far too busy speculating on which member of the champion's family would be in his corner. Keith Hart? Nope? Bruce Hart? Nope.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Todd Pettengill interviews WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart
Try Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart, The Hitman's brother-in-law and former tag team partner made his return to the WWF to level the playing field in our title contest.

With that out of the way, what we were left with was a thrilling main event match heavy on both impact and drama.

As you might expect, it was a story in which the wily champion put his skill and quickness against the brute force of the giant challenger. A simple story maybe, but one that worked, especially with the added delight of watching Shawn Michaels dash around the ringside area in his role of Diesel's second, and in seeing The Anvil exhaust himself by chasing the cocky Michaels around the ring.

With the crowd lapping up their every move, all four men worked together to produce a thoroughly entertaining bout that must surely count among Kevin Nash's finest moments.

Just when it looked like Big Daddy Cool might become our new champion following an impressive Jackknife Powerbomb, The Anvil stormed the ring and clobbered him with a clothesline, awarding the challenger the match by DQ.
Your winner by disqualification: Diesel (Bret Hart retains the title)

His deed done, Neidhart stormed to the back, leaving his erstwhile Hart Foundation partner to suffer a beating at the hands of Michaels and Diesel.

Pettengill interviews The King
Given that Roddy Piper failed to appear before a live crowd in the build-up to tonight's main event (a factor that many claim played a key part in the show's abysmal buyrate), most of the hype was left up to Jerry Lawler.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Jerry Lawler rants about his opponent Roddy Piper
Having taunted and mocked his rival for weeks on WWF programming, Lawler told Pettengill that Piper had retired once, and would be forced to do so again after The King had finished with him. Lawler also mocked Piper's vow to donate his winnings to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canda.

King of the Ring Semi Final - Match 1
Razor Ramon vs. I.R.S
In a rematch from their Intercontinental Championship clash earlier that year at the Royal Rumble, Razor and I.R.S started their semi-final contest on the outside, with The Bad guy getting the upperhand before his opponent turned things around with some dirty tactics.

With the crowd somewhat burned out from our previous encounter, this short bout felt completely flat, not that both men didn't do their best to turn things around.

After an uninspiring five minutes, Ramon advanced to the finals thanks to the Razor's Edge.
Your winner: Razor Ramon (advances to the final)

Backstage, a ticked-off Bret Hart stormed the corridors in search of Jim Neidhart. He was unable to find him, nor did anybody have much luck in finding the 123 Kid. The Toddster was supposed to have a pre-match interview with our semi-finalist, but having suffered at the hands of Jeff Jarrett earlier in the match, we were led to believe that the Kid might not make it to his upcoming clash with The Rocket.

Would he or wouldn't he?
King of the Ring Semi Final - Match 2
Owen Hart vs. 123 Kid
After stalling for what felt like forever, his music blaring over the PA with no sight of him, 123 Kid finally emerged, dragging his beaten up body down the ilse with a face that was a contorted mix of determination and pain.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: After a great, if short, match, Owen Hart defeated 123 Kid with a sharpshooter
The crowd were evidently happy to see the youngster, though not so much when Owen Hart dove over the top rope before the bell and splashed the crap out of his rival.

It took Hart less than four minutes to pick up the win, but damn what a four minutes they were. Relentless in their pace and holding nothing back, the two flipped, flopped and flew all over the ring in a brilliant little match well worth tracking down.

A Sharpshooter sent The Rocket through to the final.
Your winner: Owen Hart (advances to the final)

Cutting to the back, we finally got a live appearance from Rowdy Roddy Piper, in the process of pulling down his drawers.

'That's why I've got six kids,' scoffed Piper. 'First thing I do, take off my pants!' 

'there's no such thing as a king.'
WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Roddy Piper loves Hersheys chocolate
After a cheesy and bizarre plug for Hershey's chocolate, Piper finally addressed his upcoming opponent. Promising to first find the young fan who Lawler supposedly bullied into impersonating the Hot Rod on a recent show, Piper then promised to finish off Jerry, and claimed that

Let's hope Felipe VI of Spain doesn't hear about this.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship match
WWF Tag Team Champions The Headshrinkers (Samu & Fatu w/ Captain Lou Albano and Afa) vs. Yokozuna and Crush (w/ Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji)
Yokozuna never really recovered after losing the WWF title at Wrestlemania 10, did he?

Here, he teamed Crush (another man who this writer believes could have achieved bigger things) in a tag team title match which, whilst entertaining for what it was, was a obvious demotion for Yoko, who had spent most of the previous year at the top of the card.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Afa leads WWF Tag Team Champions The Headshrinkers down to the ring for a match against Yokozuna and Crush
As was par for the course with this show, everybody brought their A-game, and though the bout did seem to drag at parts, there were enough bright spots to make it a decent watch.

With the heels taking charge Lex Luger, yet another guy whose WWF career didn't quite pan out as expected, made his way to ringside, distracting the challengers and allowing The Headshrinkers to retain the belts.
Your winners and still WWF Tag Team Champions: The Headshrinkers

Crush sought revenge by attacking Lex on the outside, only for the Headshrinkers to make the save and celebrate with Lex and his ghastly red, white and blue striped Lyrca outfit.

Back once more to our mate Todd, Pettengill interviewed Owen Hart, who promised to outdo his brother (1993's King of the Ring winner) by winning this year's competition.

King of the Ring Final
Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon
WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Owen Hart vowed to become King
And so we made it to the final at last, as Owen Hart and Razor Ramon locked up to determine who would be crowned king.

Disappointingly, this was neither man's best outing on the show (that honour goes to Razor/Bam Bam and Owen/Kid), but was nonetheless a decent way to cap off the feud and put The Rocket over.

With Razor looking set for victory, Jim Neidhart returned to the ring, aligning himself with his former New Foundation partner by attacking Ramon on the outside.

A three count later, and Owen Hart was your new King of the Ring.
Your Winner and 1994 King of the Ring: Owen Hart

Owen and Jim celebrated by double-teaming The Bad Guy before heading for the coronation area (for lack of anything better to call it), where Todd Pettengill and WWF President Jack Tunney awaited.

As they made their way there, we cut to a reaction from Owen's brother Bret, standing by with fellow Canadian Ray Rougeau. 

'I can't believe what just happened, I don't have any comment,' was all The Hitman could say.

'I'm just thinking that the only motive [Neidhart] had for being in Bret's corner was to keep the title on Bret, hoping that Owen would get a shot in the future,' gushed Randy Savage, giving the whole point of the story away.

Hail to the king, baby
WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Owen Hart  became King
The memorable King of the Ring coronation ceremony then began, with Owen refusing to be crowned by Jack Tunney, and instead asked for 'the only person in my family that I can trust, my main man Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart' to do the honours.

With the power quickly going to his head, Hart ordered Todd to get down on one knee whilst The Anvil handed Owen his crown, cape and scepter.

Adopting a monicker that would serve him for most of his run, Owen declared that his first proclamation as King was that from now on, we should refer to him as The King of Harts.

After what felt like the 10th recap of the Piper/Lawler feud, we finally got to our main event, where Roddy Piper hoped to win some money for the sick kids and shut Jerry Lawler up once and for all.

Rowdy Roddy Piper (w/ a 'fan' dressed up like him) vs. Jerry 'The King' Lawler
If this had been centered somewhere in the mid-card, or at least before the tournament final, it might have gone down a little better. Instead, with both your writer and the Baltimore crowd en route to burn out, it felt like a poor way to end a show.




Doing his best to build up the heat before the bell, Lawler took to the microphone to insult the crowd and the 'sick brats' in Canada.

'I'm not going to give any of my winnings to those brats, or any of you peons' Lawler boasted in the most disposable act ever committed in a wrestling ring. Ooh, Jerry, you evil bastard.

Of course, Piper had a nice reception for his first WWF PPV match since his Intercontinental classic against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania VIII. Not only did Piper bring a full bagpipe band with him, he also had the 'fan' who did such a spot on impression of impersonating him on Raw.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1994: Roddy Piper and the 'fan' who did a great impression of him
Entering the ring, Piper took to the mic himself to quote his famous line from They Live.

'Lawler, I came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum,' he began before turning to the mic to the fan.
'And I'm all outa bubblegum Lawler, you ugly son-of-a-god-damn-goat.' 

The 'kid' (as the commentary team referred to him), was often the most entertaining thing about this match, getting involved here and there and distracting Lawler from the action.

Ten minutes of whatever later, the fan helped Piper pin The King, and earn some money for those poor, sick kids.
Your winner: Rowdy Roddy Piper

Cutting backstage, HBK consoled a distraught Diesel by promising him that he would win the WWF title eventually. By the time the year was out, Michaels' prediction would come true.

Though the Diesel/Hart title clash stood out by a mile as the highlight of the show, followed by the short exchange between eventual King of the Ring winner Owen Hart and his opponent the 123 Kid, there was a lot of enjoyable stuff on this show to make it well worth watching. Heck, i you feel like it, switch off after Owen declares himself the 'King of Harts.' Unless of course, you're the kind of old-school fan you have to believe the WWF were attempting to lure back with their Piper/Lawler main event.
As for Art Donovan's contributions to the commentary team, truth be told I found it more funny than outright bad, and had to wonder if his blatant lack of knowledge about the product could have actually served some purpose on a free TV show. 
Think about it, what a better way to simply and clearly explain the characters and the structure of professional wrestling by having guys like Savage and Monsoon answer such riveting questions as 'Who's the guy with the American flag?'
Maybe I'm alone on that one, but that's another matter for another day. Right now, it's on to Summerslam 1994. 

3 comments:

You never mentioned how the Headshrinkers originally won the Tag-Team Championship, so I will:

After WrestleMania 10, the Quebecers were the reigning WWF Tag-Team Champions. After a brief title trade on the house show circuit with Men on a Mission, Johnny Polo’s champions ultimately lost the titles to the Headshrinkers on the May 2nd episode of Monday Night Raw. Prior to that match, shortly after WrestleMania, the Headshrinkers had taken on Captain Lou Albano as their mentor and turned babyface in the process, while Jacques Rougeau left the WWF soon after dropping the belts, while Pierre would be repackaged the following year.

Also, the Shrinkers vs. Yoko & Crush match was a backdrop to set up a feud between Luger and Crush, which ended abruptly when Crush was arrested for purchasing steroids and a gun.

Thanks Deep,

Insightful as always!

You're welcome.

Y'know, I would've prefered the Headshrinkers' big title victory over the Quebecers to take place on this PPV.

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