Tuesday, 16 December 2014

PPV REVIEW: WWF King of the Ring 1995

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Video cover
June 25, 1995
CoreStates Spectrum 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

For this writer, going back to the 1995 WWF King of the Ring brings about mixed feelings. This was the year that my childhood markdom reached an all-time high, a time when I believed Big Daddy Cool Diesel was the coolest thing on Earth, second only to perhaps the White Power Ranger. Yet even then, I knew that Mabel in a prominent role on WWF was something I definitely did not want to see.

Now 30 years-old, I'm almost dreading what we're about to watch tonight. Still, we're here now, so let's take a look at what went down.

Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love
That old familiar sound of Vince McMahon's Growl of the Gods kicked things off, telling us all about what a wonderful place Philadelphia is over a birds-eye-view of the city courtesy of the WWF Blimp.

This might have been where the Declration of Independence was signed, but tonight, McMahon claimed Philadelpha was all about something called monARCHY, which we can only assume was his impassioned attempt at making monarchy and anarchy sound like the same thing.

Stephanie Wiand kills the mood
After such a dramatic, dynamic introduction from Vince, you'd probably expect the air of excitement to continue, perhaps with the familiar sweeping shot of the live crowd, or at the very least more McMahon growling.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Stephanie Wiand introduced our last qualifying match between Savio Vega and IRS
Instead, after the opening graphic, we went to a rather subdued Stephanie Wiand stood in front of a curtain for a Colliseum Home Video exclusive.

'As you know,' said Steph. 'The last King of the Ring Qualifying Match' took place right here at the CoreStates Spectrum before tonight's show, and as a special treat to you, here it is.'

I mean nothing against Ms. Wiand personally, but after leaping around like a bit of a loon at the first In Your House back in May, it was a tad disappointing to see Stephanie doing her best to make a match between IRS and Savio Vega sound about as appealing as contracting an incurable disease.

Regardless, let's go check it out, shall we?

King of the Ring Qualifying match:
IRS (w/ The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) vs. Savio Vega (w/ Razor Ramon)
In the weeks leading up to the show, Razor Ramon was set to appear in the quarter finals until a legitimate injury suffered in a house show match against arch-rival Jeff Jarrett took him out of action. Instead, The Bad Guy lead his buddy to the ring for a short, snappy little match against veteran IRS, the winner filling the vacant spot left behind by Ramon.

With the crowd firmly on his side, the man once known as Kwang dominated most of the action, constantly keeping on top of his opponent with near falls and take downs galore before finally landing the three count.

OK, so it would have been nice to see a more balanced match, but that's just the opinion of one IRS fan, and all in all, tonight's opening contest was fine for what it was.
Your Winner (advances to the quarter finals): Savio Vega

Afterwards, Vega celebrated like he'd already won the entire tournament.

The King of the Ring begins
WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Doc Hendrix and Vince McMahon were commentators for the show
Finally, we got more McMahon growling and the usual 'WELCOME EVERY-WAN!' introduction, complete with the sweep through the crowd, and the 1995 King of the Ring was underway.

Along with his commentary partner Doc Hendrix, McMahon did a sterling job of making tonight's show sound like one of the most important event in the history of pro wrestling, and with that, it was on to the competition proper.

Pettengill interviews Savio
Backstage, our old buddy Todd Pettengill caught up with a lively Savio Vega. The question, how does one prepare for the King of the Ring having only qualified minutes earlier?

The answer: An over-excited, flag-waving, wide-eyed ramble about being the first Peurto Rican King of the Ring. All the while, Razor Ramon stood by, smiling and nodding like he either didn't know, or didn't care, what was going on.

Imagine the Ultimate Warrior cutting a promo whilst on happy pills, and you've got some idea of what this one was like.

King of the Ring Quarter Final
WWF Tag Team Champion Yokozuna (w/ Mr. Fuji & Jim Cornette) vs. Savio Vega (w/ Razor Ramon) 
As the behemoth Yokozuna made his way to the ring, we reminded of how he made his way into the competition be beating off old rival Lex Luger, thanks to a well-placed leg-drop on the outside of the ring.

Following the aforementioned promo from Savio, we went back to the entrance, for our first glimpse of a really young Matt and Jeff Hardy opening up the doors for Mr. Vega and Razor to head to the ring.

The bell rang, and after a bunch of flag-waving and crowd baiting, our 1995 King of the Ring tourmament was properly underway.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Razor Ramon helps Savio Vega celebrate his win over Yokozuna
A forgettable, if not necessarily bad opening round match saw Savio triumph over a former two time WWF Champion who would never again enjoy the kind of prominence he had known just two short years ago.

Indeed, it's curious that Yokozuna was never again a serious fixture in the WWF main event scene, especially when he'd proved -in this writer's mind at least- to be an efficient monster heel.

Instead, the sumo star was currently enjoying a tag team run with 1994 King of the Ring winner Owen Hart, whose attempt to attack Savio backfired, ultimately resulting in a countout win for Vega.
Your winner (advances to the semi-final): Savio Vega

Backstage, Jerry 'The King' Lawler had some choice words for long-time enemy, Bret 'The Hitman' Hart. In the build up to their upcoming Kiss My Foot match, Lawler had been doing everything he could to make his foot as nasty as possible, and was now promising to ram it down to the throat of The Hitman after they got done with their match.


WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Jerry Lawler made his foot as nasty as possible ready for his 'Kiss My Foot' match against Bret Hart
Even as an 11 year-old boy, I knew this was ridiculous, and trust me, it hasn't gotten any better with age.

King of the Ring Quarter Final
The Roadie (w/ WWF Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett) vs. Bob 'Spark Plug' Holly
I'm going to say this now and stand by it forever: The Roadie versus Bob Holly was the most enjoyable match on this whole show.

Though neither man were perhaps in serious contention for the throne, they nonetheless made the most of what they had with an utterly entertaining outing.

Going all out from the beginning, this was a fast paced affair that really caught the attention -and received the approval- of the Philly faithful.

After a valiant effort, Holly's combination of speed and strength was no match for the cunning of The Road Dog, who countered Bob's dive from the ropes with a boot to the face to score a dodgy three count, dodgy in the sense that Holly actually kicked out on two, not that the referee seemed to care.
Your Winner (advances to the semi-final): The Roadie 

Backstage we went once again, this time with the man McMahon referred to as one of the 'odd's on favourites' for the competition: Shawn Michaels.

King Kong Bundy, and promised to go all the way by topping Supreme Fighting Machine Kama in our next content.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Bob Holly vs. The Roadie was match of the night
The Heartbreak Kid spoke to Todd Pettengill about qualifying for the competition with a win over

King of the Ring Quarter Final match
Kama (w/ The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) vs. Shawn Michaels
If you were expecting your usual HBK classic here, your reviewer has some bad news: This wasn't such a match.

OK, so even at his worst, The Showstopper could deliver a match better than many others' best, but this just wasn't on a level you'd expect from the man who could have a decent match with just about anybody.

Nor was it all Kama's fault. The former Papa Shango laid on the offence thick, making the best use of his somewhat limited skills to play the role of the aggressor whilst Michaels -who had marked his recent babyface turn by growing the most unkempt of facial hair- did as little as he could possibly get away with.

Thus we had 15 minutes of one of the best workers in the business lying around on the floor doing nothing. Whilst this may have achieved the aim of making Kama look like something of a bad ass, it hardly made for the most exciting of matches.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Shawn Michaels w/ Todd Pettengil. HBK faced Kama in a time limit draw
Having spent most of the match killing time, Michaels almost scored the pinfall right at the last possible second, only for the time limit to elapse, resulting in what the ring announcer declared to be a double draw.

Even McMahon and Hendrix questioned that announcement, neither being quite sure how it was possible for one match to reach a draw twice.
Time limit draw - neither man advances to the semi finals

Afterwards, an irate HBK uttered a very clear BULL SHIT, before posing for the live crowd, which was about the only time he put any effort in throughout the entire thing.

Following the fiftieth camera shot of the Stridex Blimp, we went backstage once more to Todd Pettengill, who hyped up our last quarter final match of the evening, pitting The Undertaker against Mabel.

To remind you, Mabel made his way into the tournament by squashing Adam Bomb at In Your House 1, whilst The Undertaker earned his spot by toppling Jeff Jarrett.

The interval continued with Vince and Doc chatting about the show so far before throwing us to a pre-recorded video featuring Bob Backlund.

The Backlund Campaign Train goes to Philly
WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Bob Backlund on the campaign trail to become US President
Like many long-term fans, this reviewer is a big fan of Backlund's mid-90s heel run, but there was something about this video, in which the former WWF Champion went around Philadelphia as part of his presidential campaign, that was just awkward.

Not necessarily bad, or wrong, or anything like that, just awkward, as though neither here, nor anybody involved with this segment, had any idea what they were supposed to be doing.

With that over, we went back to Doc and Vince for yet another look at the Spanish and French commentators. Vince especially seemed a tad obsessed with showing us the other commentary teams on this show, probably because it was more interesting than anything actually taking place in the ring.

Speaking of which.

King of the Ring Quarter Final
Mabel (w/ Mo) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)
En route the ring, Mabel took the time to talk to Stephanie Wiand about how he planned to become this year's King of the Ring. After vowing to destroy The Undertaker, Mabel signed off by calling his interviewer 'Pretty Stephanie,' a sign, perhaps, that The World's Largest Love Machine was still gaining momentum after his attempts to charm Pamela Anderson back at the Royal Rumble.

True to his word, the big man dominated the early going of this slow, mediocre affair, thwarting the Dead Man's speed and agility with brute force.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Mabel beat Undertaker in the last quarter final match
Much to the delight of the Rest in Peace chanting crowd, The Phenom did mount a spirited comeback, but his every effort was constantly met with resistance from the former tag team champion. All the while, McMahon suggested that not having the Urn to hand had much to do with Undertaker's struggles.

The supposed source of the Dead Man's power had been stolen back at Wrestlemania 11 by Kama, who subsequently melted it down into a gold chain.

Speaking of Kama, following a ref bump towards the end of the match, it was the Million Dollar Corporation member who played a role in the finish. Undertaker planted Mabel with a chokeslam, only for the Supreme Fighting Machine to clock 'Taker round the back of the head.

Mo revived the referee, and one three count later, Mabel had advanced to the King of the Ring final.
Your Winner (advances straight to the final as a result of the draw between HBK and Kama): Mabel

Post-match, Kama's plans to further punish his rival were halted when The Undertaker rose to his feet and chased the Urn-destroyer to the back at a speed only marginally slower than the snails-pace set by the preceeding match.

WWF Hall of Fame Ceremony 1995
WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - WWF Hall of Fame Class of 1995
In a break from all that non-stop action, we next took a look back at the previous night's Hall of Fame ceremony. Unlike the grand ceremony, complete with lavish production values and overall sense of spectacle that we all know and love today, back in 1995, the Hall of Fame took place in the function suite of a nearby Mariot Hotel.

In a weird way, the low-budget affair seemed to somehow add a greater air of legitimacy  to the event, as though this really was all about the WWF honouring stars like The Big Cat, Ernie Ladd, The Fabulous Moolah, George 'The Animal' Steele and Pedro Morales, rather than just another WWE show designed to squeeze more money out of fans during Wrestlemania weekend.

Forget the big stage, bright lights and big-time event feel of today's ceremonies, here we had a simple table with seats for the full WWF Hall of Fame Class of 1995, along notable figures such as Alundra Blayze (who inducted Moolah), Gorilla Monsoon (inducted Pedro Morales) and Vince McMahon.

Among clips of the inductions (during which Ivan Putski decided to forgo the usual acceptance speech in favour of leading the audience in a sing-song), we also got shots of the pre-event activities.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - The Undertaker at the 1995 Hall of Fame
Among the more memorable moments, we had Razor Ramon wearing the world's worst bright blue slacks-and-blazer get-up whilst playing tug-of-war with a kid in a wheelchair over a toy IC title, and The Undertaker looking for all the world like Satan's Pimp in an admittedly cool (for the 90s) black-and-purple number.

The Road Dogg is ready for action
Back to tonight's proceedings, Todd Pettengill was backstage for an interview with Jeff Jarrett and The Roadie. Though it's hard to say if this is the first time the King of the Ring semi-finalist had referred to himself as the Road Dogg, it's certainly fair to say that Mr. Armstrong did his damndest to get it over as his new moniker.

'The Road Dogg is going to win the King of the Ring. Who's going the Win the King of the Ring? The Road D-O-Double-G, that's who. And you're doggity dog-gone right the Road Dogg is gonna win the King of the Ring.'

OK, so that's hardly a word-for-word dictation of this promo, but it isn't far off.

King of the Ring Semi-Final:
The Roadie (w/ Double J) vs. Savio Vega (w/ Razor Ramon)
Having told us countless times in the space of a few minutes that he (the Road D-O-Double-G) was going all the way, it was time for Roadie to finish talking the talk and start walking the walk in our one and only semi-final match of the evening.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - The Road Dogg and Jeff Jarrett with Todd Pettengill
As matches go, this one was yet another mediocre King of the Ring outing with very little working in its favour. Too short to really pick up momentum and with a practically dead crowd watching on, this one came and went in a fairly unspectacular fashion.

Not that Roadie and Savio didn't do their best. To give them their credit, they did at least put some effort in, though it wasn't enough to save this from being a passable, if immediately forgettable encounter.

After just a few minutes of back and forth action, Double J hopped up on the apron to distract the referee. One push-Roadie-into-Jarrett-and-send-the-latter-flying-off-the-apron move later, and Savio was able to roll up his opponent and score a date with Mabel in the process.
Your  Winner (advances to the final): Savio Vega

'I can't believe this is happening here tonight!' exclaimed Vince McMahon, who had the final say over everything that happened tonight.

Meanwhile, Carlos Cabera prepared to catch up with Savio for a ringside interview. Trying to be helpful, Doc Hendrix got in on the act, claiming to 'translate' the Spanish-language interview for English-speaking Audiences.

As Savio spoke jubilantly to Cabera, Hendrix mistranslated his obvious words of hope and enthusiasm as 'I don't know what I'm doing here..I can't beat Mabel...Mabel is going to wipe the floor with me.' before telling us that Cabera had urged Vega to give up now, and that that the Carribean sensation was seriously contemplating it.

Though it doesn't sound all that funny written down, thanks to Hendrix's perfect comic timing, and some awesome facial expressions from Razor Ramon, this one little moment had your writer laughing out loud and giggling long into the next match.

Bret Hart's pre-match promo
WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Bret Hart faced Jerry Lawler in a Kiss My Foot match
By the summer of 1995, the rivalry between Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart had  been going on for two years and counting. It began at the 1993 King of the Ring, continued at that year's Summerslam PPV and had featured infrequently on WWF programming ever since.

With seemingly no end in sight for this feud, the two had squared off the previous month, with Lawler upsetting Hart at In Your House 1 thanks to interference from Hakushi and Shinja, leading to Hart demanding one more match against the King.  Lawler agreed, but only with the provision that the loser of the match had to kiss the winner's feet.

With the stipulation set, The King had spent the last several weeks covering his feet in all kinds of dirt, and refusing to watch them afterwards.

Not that The Hitman was concerned.

Standing in the same glamorous backstage area used by Stephanie Wiand earlier (IE, in front of a curtain), Bret delivered a pre-taped promo in which he claimed tonight was all about redemption.

The Excellence of Execution was loathe to admit that he'd been training hard for a match against Lawler, but admitted that he'd done so in order to avoid making any mistakes in his pursuit for revenge against his long-term tormentor.

Offering a retort, Jerry gave an interview to Stephanie Wiand on his way to the ring, claiming that Bret didn't stand a chance in their upcoming match, and that those nasty, foul-smelling feet of his would definitely be kissed.

Kiss My Foot Match
Jerry 'The King' Lawler vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart
Having been so subdued in the previous match, the Philly crowd really came alive for Hart vs. Lawler, reacting to every big spot like they were witnessing a genuine five-star classic.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Jerry Lawler speaks to Stephanie Wiand before his match against Bret HartNot that anyone would actually class this match as such. Enjoyable, sure. Entertaining, certainly, though far from a must-see attraction.

After coming out all guns blazing, The Hitman took a spill into the ring steps in the early going and spent much of the remainder of the content absorbing the punishment -including three trademark piledrivers- from The King.

Just when it looked like a proper comeback was iminent, Lawler took off his boot -exposing that disgusting foot in the process- and used it to regain the upperhand.

Indeed, it was Jerry's cowardly heel schtick that really made this one such fun to watch, though despite dominating for the majority of the contest, he wouldn't be walking away with a win.

Towards the finale, the action once again spilled to the outside, providing an opportunity for Shinja and Hakushi to rush ringside in an attempted repeat of Hart and Lawler's In Your House outing. This time however, 'Kushi struck the wrong man and laid out his ally with a swift thrust to the throat.

Seizing the advantage, Bret took the fight back to the ring, where a side Russian legsweep, backbreaker and second-rope forearm smash ultimately led to the match-winning Sharpshooter.
Your Winner: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

'Now, Jerry 'The King' Lawler must kiss Bret Hart's foot!' declared the ring announcer as The Hitman sat on the ropes and took off both boot and sock. Hoping to make the save, Hakushi and Shinja returned, setting up The Excellence of Execution for another attack. Once again, their plans backfired, Hakushi lept off the ropes, Bret moved out of harms way and The King was drilled by his own back-up plan.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Bret Hart made Jerry Lawler kiss his own feet
After cleaning house, Bret shoved his barefoot into his opponent's mouth before making Jerry Lawler kiss his own feet.

Disgusting? Absolutely. If I wanted to see grown men put their bare feet in each other's mouths, I'd be watching a completely different kind of video right now.

The end of the Hitman/King rivalry? Absolutely not. This whole thing would lead us to something much worse: The introduction of Isaac Yankem DDS. 

Time for the final
After a short video promoting the World Wrestling Federation's involvement with the Special Olympics, we were reminded that, whilst talented performers Bret and Owen Hart had won the last two tournaments, this year, our King of the Ring would either be Mabel or Savio Vega.

King of the Ring Final
Mabel (w/ Mo) vs. Savio Vega (w/ Razor Ramon)
If you thought reading about four Savio Vega matches in three hours was bad, imagine how the crowd felt. Having come to life for the Kiss my Foot match, they -quite rightly- went back to sleep for what proved to be an utterly tedious King of the Ring Final.

At one point, this one became so boring that the crowds completely stopped caring on the action and amused themselves with arena-wide ECW! ECW! chants.

Taking the message to heart, the two men did pick it up in the final moments, with Vega scoring a succession of crowd-popping near-falls before being ultimately caught, squashed, and pinned by your 1995 King of the Ring winner.
Your Winner and King of the Ring: Mabel


WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Mo declares Mabel the new king
Afterwards, Razor Ramon confronted Men on A Mission, only to recieve a serious beat down for his troubles. This brought out a returning 123 Kid, who likewise took a pasting from Mo and Mabel.

King Mabel is crowned
Reaching the winner's podium, Mabel took his cape and sword, plonked his ginourmous rump in the throne, then sat by as Mo delivered a promo almost as a slow as our final, telling us all to bow down to King Mabel.

As an irate crowd began hurling garbage at our devious duo, Razor, Savio and the Kid made a second attempt to seek redemption, only to be held away by the referees, never -as far as I'm aware- to fully get their revenge.

A word with the Million Dollar Corporation
In another pre-recorded interview with Miss. Wiand, Sid gloated about injuring the elbow of WWF Champion Diesel in their title match a month earlier. Promising to do yet more damage tonight, big Sid was backed up by his tag team partner and Million Dollar Corporation cohort Tatanka, who was all fired up about taking on former team mate Bam Bam Bigelow. 

In response, Diesel told Todd Pettengill that even a Big Daddy Cool at 50% was more than Sid could handle. Backing up his new ally, Bigelow promised that he and the WWF Champion would set the place on fire.

Sid & Tatanka (w/ The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) vs. World Wrestling Federation Champion Diesel & Bam Bam Bigelow
It's likely that even the worst of main events would look pretty good when coming after the snooze-fest that was Mabel vs. Vega, but for the first few minutes of this tag team contest, it did look like we'd get a main event way beyond expectations.

WWF / WWE - King of the Ring 1995 - Million Dollar Corporation members Sid and Tatanka w/ Ted DibiaseBoth teams came out swinging in what looked set to be a pretty good main event, right up until the moment Bam Bam began to play the role of babyface in peril. From that moment on, things disintegrated into a slow, sluggish affair interspersed with the occasional rare flesh of excitement.

It's not that this was particularly bad, it's just that, after watching Bigelow take yet another beat down at the hands of Tatanka and Sid, things became so dull that you began begging for it to just be over.

Thankfully, things did eventually come to an end. After hitting Tatanka with the Jackknife powerbomb, Diesel refused to complete the three count, instead demanding that Sid tag in for another showdown.

Deciding against it, Sid dropped from the apron and made his way backstage, setting up our Lumberjack Match main event at In Your House two and leaving Tatanka to eat the match-deciding pinfall.
Your Winners: Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow

And that, my friends, is pretty much that. Following the bell, we got the usual pyro-and-smoke celebration which followed Big Daddy Cool around for much of 1995, and then the video cut out, and all we're left with is a sigh of relief that this one is finally over.

Though it may have looked bad on paper, King of the Ring 1995 did have the potential to prove everybody wrong and actually deliver something worthwhile. Unfortunately, it failed on pretty much all accounts. Not to take away from the talents of either man, but when the best match on a major Pay Per View event is between midcard acts Bob Holly and The Roadie, it's probably fair to say that something went wrong somewhere. 
Speaking of things going wrong, looking back, it's hard to fathom just what the long-term plan was supposed to be regarding Savio Vega. 
Pushed as The Underdog That Could in his four King of the Ring matches, and then squaring off against Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship on the following night's Monday Night Raw, the future looked bright for the former Kwang, yet beyond that title shot, can anyone really remember one significant thing he did until his eventual heel turn and siding with the Nation of Domination? 
All in all, a lackluster show that offered nothing any of us need ever witness again....apart from maybe the Undertaker's Hall of Fame suit.

1 comments:

On the original PPV broadcast, Shawn went over to the throne and tried on the crown, only to find out that it was too big for his head, while Barry Didinsky (the WWF's merchandise salesman, and best described as a worst version of Todd Pettengill) shilled some t-shirts. That bit was cut from all home video releases of the event, and I'm not sure if it's on the WWE Network version.

Also, this was Stephanie Wiand's final WWF pay-per-view, as she left sometime before In Your House 2. I say good riddance, because Miss Wiand was such an ugly ass woman!

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