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

Saturday, 13 September 2014

PPV REVIEW: WWF Wrestlemania XI

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Event poster

April 2, 1995

Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, Connecticut 

Depending on who you speak to, the eleventh annual Wrestlemania was either among the best or the worst of the World Wrestling Federation's flagship event. 

Featuring a pro football player in the main event and perhaps more focus on the celebrity guests than any of the actual in-ring competitors, Wrestlemania 11 certainly provided enough opportunity for criticism. Though by the same token, there was enough to enjoy here to prevent it from slipping into Worst. Show. Ever territory.

What went down? Let's find out.

Wrestlemania XI....Staring a Bunch of Non-Wrestlers

To cement the idea that tonight was less about the wrestlers themselves and more about the involvement of singers, actors, sportsmen, and other celebrities, our opening video package told us that 'the revolutionary force in sports entertainment continues, with Wrestlemania.' whilst we were treated to a look back at some of the stars who had graced the World Wrestling Federation with their presence over the last ten years.

So we had shots of Cyndi Lauper running backstage with Wendi Richter, Muhamed Ali and Liberace from Wrestlemania 1, folks too vast and numerous to name from Manias two and three, Bob Barker and Vanna White's appearance at Wrestlemania 4, Run DMC busting out their Wrestlemania Rap at the fifth event, Donald Trump, Willie Nelson, Chuck Norris and others from six and seven and so on.

Since Wrestlemania 9 was so devoid of star power, our video here had Jim Ross and an elephant in place of any bonafide celebs.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Home Improvement's Jonathan Taylor Thomas with Lex Luger and British Bulldog

Then, just to hammer home what this event was really about, we were informed that Wrestlemania 11 would be staring (not featuring, but staring), the likes of Royal Rumble 1995 beauty Pamela Anderson, Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement, Jenny McCartney, and Nicholas Turturro. 

Salt-n-Pepa were our musical guests (shown backstage fawning over Bret 'The Hitman' Hart), and Lawrence Taylor's All-Pro Team (including none other than future WCW United States Champion Steve 'Mongo' McMichael) was also in the house.

Our stars of the show fully introduced, it was time to pan into the Hartford Civic Centre and a haunting rendition of America the Beautiful by a Special Olympian whose name I couldn't quite catch and haven't been able to find since. 

Whoever she was, she did one of the best versions of the song ever heard at a pro wrestling event.

What is Wrestlemania?

It was a much more somber Vince McMahon who welcomed us to tonight's show along with broadcast colleague Jerry 'The King' Lawler. The trademark Welcome every-wan! growl was gone, replaced by Vince explaining just what Wrestlemania actually was.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon were our commentators for the show

Clearly appealing to the casual observers drawn to the show by the celebrity involvement, Vince told us that Wrestlemania was 'the standard of excellence in sports entertainment' rather than, you know, a pro wrestling event.

Lawler also explained the show for "those joining us for the very first time" by likening the company's biggest event to a Broadway show.

With all that out of the way then, it was on to the ring for our opening match.

The Allied Powers (British Bulldog & Leg Luger) vs. The Blu Brothers (Jacob & Eli Blu w/ Uncle Zebekiah)

As far removed from his run as The Next Big Thing as he would ever get in the World Wrestling Federation, Lex Luger was about to see out his final days in the WWF in a makeshift tag team with Davey Boy Smith.

Sure, this team had promise and could have added some much-needed levity to the company's flailing tag scene had the Bulldog not soon turned heel and Luger gone back to WCW, but alas, it wasn't to be.

Tonight, The Allied Powers, complete with their admittedly awesome theme music, made their official debut in a match against The Blu Brothers, who later fans might remember better as Skull & 8-Ball, The Harris Brothers, or whatever they were called when they had Vince Russo's back in WCW.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Davey Boy Smith The British Bulldog celebrates after The Allied Power beat The Blu Brothers

As the Blu twins' manager Uncle Zebekiah (known today as the guy who manages Jack Swagger) looked on at ringside, all four men went at it in a decent, if hardly spectacular, opening affair.

Over in less than seven minutes, the bulk of the match saw the good guys take control before Davey Boy rolled up one of the twins for a quick three count.
Your Winners: The Allied Powers

As Bulldog and Luger celebrated a victorious debut, Jim Ross caught up with a frustrated Uncle Zeb and The Blu Brothers making their way backstage.

'Well, it looks like your plan backfired,' Ross goaded, prompting Zeb to say something about being hornswoggled before storming backstage.

Technical Difficulties #1

Vince and Lawler next told us we were going backstage where Nicholas Turturro was with Pam Anderson in her dressing room.

Instead, we got Turturro backstage in the Million Dollar Corporation's dressing room, (Gerald Brisco was there too for some reason). As the corporation laughed and joked among themselves, Jenny McCartney swooned on screen and wrapped herself around the guy from NYPD Blue.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Jenny McCartney and NYPD Blue's Nicholas Turturro backstage with The Million Dollar Corporation

The kicker? 

There was no sound to any of this, so we had no idea what was actually supposed to be happening or why Turturro and McCartney were hanging out with Ted Dibiase and his men.

That took us back to Vince and Jerry, who hyped the appearance of Lawrence Taylor and his football player buddies at tonight's event.

'Football,' explained Lawler. 'Is where eleven men spend a lot of hours trying to move a small object a hundred yards. It's just like the Post Office.'

All the while, The Allied Powers' theme music continued to play.

It's as this point that we should mention the sheer abundance of ringside photographers at this event.

Not since King of the Ring 1993, when their presence was merely a gimmick in the Hulk Hogan/Yokozuna title match, has this writer seen so many snappers circling the ring. Clearly, the celebrity effect was working.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship Match
WWF Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie) vs. Razor Ramon

As reigning champion Jeff Jarrett and his Roadie made their way to the ring, McMahon reminded us just how the country music wannabe won the gold at the 1995 Royal Rumble.

That took us to a pre-match promo, again with dodgy sound quality, in which 123 Kid spoke on Razor Ramon's behalf. The Kid claimed that Razor was ready, and that if the Roadie got involved, the 123 Kid would be there to see him off.

Heading to the ring, The Bad Guy and his cornerman wasted no time in charging after the heels, clearning the ring long enough for Razor's trademark pyro before the match really got under way.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - 123 Kid and Razor Ramon prepare for Razor's Intercontinental title match against Jeff Jarrett

And it was, much as their initial Rumble encounter, a pretty solid contest.

The involvement of 123 Kid and the Roadie on the outside only added to the excitement generating between the ropes by both champion and challenger, who had the crowd eating out of the palm of their collective hand.

In the second longest match on the show, Razor took the fight to his opponent with a flury of aggressive tactics, only to be thwarted at every turn by The Roadie.

Jarrett was no slouch either, using skill and speed to counter the brash brawling style of his challenger.

Towards the end of this utterly enjoyable title match, The Bad Guy looked set to reclaim his title, setting up J-E-DOUBLE-F for the Razor's Edge. That was enough to prompt a Roadie run-in, and a disqualification courtesy of referee Tim White.

Ramon won the match, but Jarrett would live to defend his title another day.
Your Winner by Disqualification: Razor Ramon (Jeff Jarrett retains the Intercontinental Championship)

In the post-match, Jarrett and his lackey delivered an epic beatdown to Razor and The Kid until a gaggle of zebras broke it up.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Jim Ross interviews Jeff Jarrett following the latter's Intercontinental title match against Razor Ramon

Jarrett then made his way towards the back, but not before being railroaded by an antagonistic Jim Ross, who declared that Jarrett should be ashamed of himself.

On the contrary, a bloody Jarrett declared himself to be the greatest Intercontinental champion of all time, then marched off backstage, probably to deal with a gimmick infringement lawsuit filed by The Honky Tonk Man.

Backstage we went once again, where finally the audio problems had been taken care of and Nicholas Turturro, still in the Corporation locker room, was able to explain that Pamela Anderson was nowhere to be found. 

Instead, he was hanging out with Jenny McCartney.

Even though McCartney must have clearly been in the room the whole time in order to come on camera at the right moment, Dibiase's goons acted like it was the first time they'd seen her. 

Almost immediately, Kama The Surpreme Fighting Machine came over, standing uncomfortably close to the MTV beauty and ogling her in a way that cried SEX PEST. Then again, given Charles Wright's later gimmick, that probably shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

Anyway, Karma was soon joined by the likes of Nikolai Volkoff and King Kong Bundy, not that McCartney was pleased to see any of them.

A smile did fall across her face however at the sight of the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, who claimed that, despite rumours to the contrary, everything was fine, Pamela Anderson would be later walking to the ring with HBK, and walking out with the new World Wrestling Federation Champion.

Sid Justice, or just plain old Sid as he was known at this point, was there too. 

Michaels had introduced The Master and The Ruler of the World as his new bodyguard sometime between his Royal Rumble victory and his title shot tonight.

For his part, Sid basically yelled down the camera about Big Daddy Cool Diesel having nightmares. 

The Streak Continues...
King Kong Bundy (w/ The Million Dollar Man) vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - The Undertaker goes 'old school' on King Kong Bundy

As you may recall, Bundy and 'Taker had a staredown for the ages following the latter's battle with I.R.S at the Royal Rumble that January. It was this same event where Paul Bearer's urn had fallen into the hands of the Million Dollar Man.

That was enough to lead us to tonight, where the colossal Bundy made his first 'Mania appearance since Wrestlemania 3.

Most of the in-ring action here was your typical Undertaker vs. Big Dude affair, meaning it sucked pretty bad, but the story involving the urn was at least enough, for a couple of seconds at least, to prevent this from being a total dud.

Having beat up on his opponent a bit, 'Taker went outside and reclaimed the urn from the clutches of Ted Dibiase. Taking his time, he then strolled over to Bearer and returned the prop to its rightful owner, then went down on one knee and saluted Bearer, who raised the urn (complete with flashlight) high above his head.

Rather than take advantage of this distraction to, you know, attack his opponent or something, King Kong Bundy simply stood in the middle of the ring and watched on gormlessly.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Kama stole Paul Bearer's urn during the Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy match

Whilst this one going on, Dibiase stormed off backstage and returned seconds later with Kama The Surpreme Sex Pest. With The Phenom back in the ring trading sluggish offence with Mr. Five Count, Kama kicked Paul Bearer in the belly, took the urn back and stormed off again, telling Jim Ross that he was going to melt it down and make a chain out of it.

'That doesn't belong to you!' cried Ross, sounding like a parent scolding a child as Kama took his new toy backstage to go oggle over Jenny McCartney some more.

Back in the ring, absolutely nothing interesting happened. After a bit of kicking and punching, 'Taker delivered a clothesline to his opponent and went 4-0 at Wrestlemania.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

Backstage, the guy from NYPD Blue told us that the hot girl from Baywatch had fallen out with Shawn Michaels and was currently nowhere to be found. 

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Steve 'Mongo' McMichael and the All Pro Team were gunning for the Million Dollar Corporation

Unable to interview Pamela Anderson, Turturro gave us absolutely the next best thing, an interview with Mongo McMichael.

Of course, he wasn't Mongo here, just plain old football star Steve McMichael, The future member of The Four Horsemen claimed he was looking for Kama (or baby doll, as Mongo called him), then stood back as the rest of his football buddies talked smack about the Million Dollar Corporation. 

One guy, whose  name I'm unsure of, asked if anybody had seen Tonka Toy, better known to you and me as Tatanka.

That out of the way, Turturro wondered into a darkened room where Johnathan Taylor Thomas was busy whooping Mr. Bob Backlund at a game of chess.

'How can you play chess at a time like this?' shrieked Turturro.

I'll give you one thing, this segment was actually laugh-out-loud funny.

'Who's Pamela Anderson!?!' Backlund cried when Turturro asked if either chess player had seen the missing beauty. 

A second later, Thomas declared checkmate.

'That's what's wrong with society today!' Backlund screamed in response. 'All these young people, taking advantage of their elders.'

In an attempt to save face, the former two time WWF Champion quizzed his young adversary on the name of the 34th president of the United States and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. 

Unsurprisingly, the Home Improvement star answered correctly, further infuriating Mr. Backlund.

'That's what's wrong with the WORLD! They think they know it all!' he yelled, before heading off to see if he'd have any better luck in a wrestling match against Bret Hart later on in the show.

Speaking of  whom,The Hitman's younger brother Owen Hart was up next, with the unveiling of his mystery partner.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship match
WWF Tag Team Champions The Smoking Gunns (Billy & Bart Gunn) vs. Owen Hart and Yokozuna (w/ Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji)

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - WWF Tag team champions The Smoking Gunns react to the announcement that Yokozuna was Owen Hart's mystery partner

In the weeks leading up to tonight's event, The King of Hart's had been promising a mystery partner to aid him in his attempt to dethrone reigning tag team champions.

Who should he pick? None other than another two-time former champion, Yokozuna. Boasting a lot more weight, and facial hair, than the last time we saw him (at Survivor Series 1994) Yoko waddled to the ring to engage in a great tag team title match with Owen and the Brothers Gunn.

Before he did though, we went backstage, where the champions gave their reaction to Yoko's surprise appearance. Both men admitted that the sumo star was the last person they thought they'd be facing that night.

Regardless, they were ready for a fight, and headed to the ring as Jerry Lawler reminded us that it was six years to the day that Owen made his Wrestlemania debut as The Blue Blazer (against Mr. Perfect at Wrestlemania 5).

Owen had come a long way since then, and played his part perfectly here, adding speed and agility in short bursts between his larger partner's brute strength and power. On the opposite side, The Smoking Gunns certainly held their own, but it wasn't to be their night.

Following nine-plus minutes of engrossing action, Yokozuna flattened the future Mr. Ass with the Banzai Drop, then tug out to allow Owen to claim the victory.
Your Winners and NEW WWF Tag Team Champions: Yokozuna and Owen Hart

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Owen Hart and Yokozuna beat The Smoking Gunns for the WWF tag team titles

After such an enjoyable match, Yoko looked visibly worn out, and spent much of the team's post-match celebration hanging out on the ropes trying to catch his breath, leaving Owen to jump up and down like an excited school boy and parade the first WWF championship he'd won since coming to the company seven years ago.

After a spot of promotional consideration courtesy of the Stridex Blimp (prompting Lawler to claim that the 123 Kid had acne), we went backstage to Todd Pettengill and Bam Bam Bigelow.

Pettengil reminded Bam Bam about his confrontation with Lawrence Taylor at the Royal Rumble, then insisted that most of the country were behind LT, who, according to The Toddster,  had friends 'all over the arena.'

In response, Bigelow called LT 'a flash in the pan,' who wasn't going to make a fool out of him.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Todd Pettengill interviewed Bam Bam Bigelow about his match against Lawrence Taylor

See, even though this was 'one of the only times [He] has to look over [his] shoulder,' The Beast from the East wasn't worried. 'Mr. Dibiase' would take care of the All Pro Team, leaving him to care of, and defeat, the football player.

From there, we went -via McMahon & Lawler- to Howard Finkle, who gave us the rules of our upcoming submission match between Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and the pyschotic Mr. Bob Backlund.

Finkle also introduced WWF legend Rowdy Roddy Piper who, for the second year in a row, put in an appearance as the special guest referee in a Bret Hart Wrestlemania match. (Piper officiated the main event of Wrestlemania 10)

Submission match
Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Bob Backlund (Special referee: Rowdy Roddy Piper)

Your writer may  be in the minority when I say this, but the second Hart/Backlund wasn't half as memorable as their now infamous 'towel match.' at the previous years' Survivor Series.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Bret 'The Hitman' Hart makes his way to the ring for a submission match against Bob Backlund

I'm not saying it wasn't as good (though to be fair, it wasn't), but it just seemed like two of the best technically-solid wrestlers on the roster at the time weren't given nearly enough time to really have the kind of match they were capable of.

As Bret got to work apparently trying to rip Backlund's face off, Jerry Lawler asked Vince McMahon who The Hitman had defeated for the Intercontinental Championship back at Wrestlemania 8.

After much goading, the owner of the World Wrestling Federation couldn't remember the match he himself had booked, and yelled 'BRITISH BULLDOG!' 

Lawler, naturally corrected the boss, reminding him that it was none other than our special guest referee for this match, Mr. Piper.

With that out of the way, we had a lot of time on our hands in which Bret basically dragged his opponent around the ring by the ankle and occasionally applied a submission hold.

That's all that seemed to happen for the longest time other than Piper thrusting the mic into Backlund's face to see if he wanted to quit.

Bob eventually made a comeback, and even went as far as to stalk The Hitman with his famous cross-face chickenwing, only for Hart to apply one of his own and get the win after Backlund garbled something into the microphone.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Bob Backlund told Jim Ross that he had 'seen the light' after his submission match loss to Bret Hart
ure, this was fine for what it was, but with the majority of what little time they had spent on the mat, it was a far, far cry from their riveting Survivor Series match.
Your Winner: Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

As The Hitman celebrated, Backlund staggered, dazed and confused, away from the ring, where he told Jim Ross that he had 'seen the light,' whatever that meant.

From there, we rejoined Nicholas Turturro, who said that Pamela Anderson had in fact left the building, and that some 'celebrity changes' had been made for tonight's WWF title match.

Speaking of which, that was next, but not before we had a word from the champion. 

After a few audio difficulties, Big Daddy Cool told Todd Pettengill that he was going to walk out of Wrestlemania still the WW Champion, despite any involvement from Sid.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Todd Pettengill talks to WWF Champion Diesel about his title defence against Shawn Michaels

Back to the ring, the celebrities got their official introduction tot the live crowd. Jonathan Taylor Thomas was our special guest timekeeper, and Nicholas Turturro, who had enjoyed more screen time on this show than anybody else, was revealed as the special guest ring announcer.

World Wrestling Federation championship match
WWF Champion Diesel (accompanied by Pamela Anderson) vs. Shawn Michaels (w/ Sid and accompanied by Jenny McCartney)

With his planned escort having apparently vacated the Hartford Civic Centre, Shawn Michaels went with Plan B, making his way to the ring arm-in-arm with Jenny McCartney as Sid followed close behind.

When the champion was announced, it turned out that he had found Pamela Anderson, and brought her to the ring with him.

Before Diesel's music had even finished playing, he threw HBK out of the ring, then brought Pam back between the ropes for a bit of pre-match posing.

WWF / WWE: Wrestlemania 11 - Shawn Michaels was accompanied to the ring for his WWF title match by Sid and MTV's Jenny McCartney

The bell rang, the match was on, and oh, was it ever on.

In what would prove to be Nash's only Wrestlemania title match, and the first of several for his buddy HBK, the two former tag team champions went at it in an absolute fantastic twenty minute barnstormer.

Things started pretty slowly, with the champion tossing his smaller adversary around the ring and back over the ropes, where Shawn almost flattened one of the many ringside photographers before dragging him out of the way, presumably for the snapper's own safety.

Heading back to the ring, HBK took control, but not for long.

Both men went back and forth several times, dragging the crowd along for one hell of a ride that was halted only occasionally by big Sid jumping up on the apron to distract Big Daddy Cool.

As the match went on, more photographers took a mauling at the hands of HBK, but again, whenever he did, it was pretty obvious he was trying to move the guy out of the way before he got seriously hurt.

After one of the best matches we'd see from the WWF all year (which isn't really saying much), the challenger delivered a superkick to the champion, and looked to have the match won, only to find that his own bodyguard had injured referee Earl Hebner outside the ring.

By the time Hebner got back to the ring, Diesel was able to kick out of Michaels' pin attempt and regain the advantage, taking him down with some heavy impact moves before hitting the Jackknife Powerbomb.

A three count later, and Kevin Nash was the first man since Hulk Hogan at 1987's Wrestlemania III to walk into Wrestlemania as champion, and walk out the same way.
Your winner and still WWF Champion: Big Daddy Cool Diesel

Michaels was carried to the back by Sid, who told Jim Ross that Diesel had not seen the last of the Heartbreak Kid. Meanwhile, Diesel invited all the celebs into the ring for some post-match celebrations.

Backstage, Todd Pettengill caught up with an irate Shawn Michaels and Sid. 

HBK reminded us all that he had in fact knocked Big Daddy Cool down for a three count, even though the referee was unable to administer the official pin fall.

Sid, for his part, kind of ranted and raved a lot and again promised that his man would get his day in the WWF soon.

Finally, it was on to our main event.

We first got the introductions of the Million Dollar Corporation and the All Pro Team, the latter of whom took over the ring and saw off a potential attack from the heels.

Bam Bam Bigelow (w/ The Million Dollar Corporation) vs. Lawrence Taylor (with the All Pro Team)

When the excitement died down, Bam Bam swaggered out, wearing a leather jacket which he then took off, waved at Salt-n-Peppa, put back on for about five seconds, then took off again once he got to the ring.


LT then made his way out to the ring with the same dude who so hilariously yelled out 'HE'S CRAZY THAT GUY!'  back at the Royal Rumble.  All the while, the girls from Salt-N-Peppa kind of just danced around, and at this point, I'm not even sure why they were there.

Let's be honest, this was not a technical wrestling classic, but then it was never supposed to be. As pure spectacle though, it was nothing short of thoroughly entertaining.

With Pat Patterson officiating, Taylor kept most of his offence to nothing more complex than a series of shoulder barges and flying forearms. Nor was he afraid to absorb a fair amount of punishment from The Beast from The East, most of which he sold believably.

Add in a few outside skirmishes between the Million Dollar Corporation and Taylor's All Pro Team, and what we had here was a fun main event.

Towards the finish, Bam Bam jumped off the top rope with a moonsault, only to 'hurt his knee' on impact, rendering him unable to make an adequate cover.

He tried again, this time with a flying headbutt, only for Taylor to kick out and mount a comeback with more fists and flying forearms, including one from the second rope that earned him the three count.
Your Winner: Lawrence Taylor

As Taylor's men (and his son), got the victor back to his feet, Ted Dibiase derided Bam Bam Bigelow all the way to the lockroom, calling him an embarrassment and a disappointment.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, my copy of WWF Wrestlemania 11 came to an end.

So, was this one of the best or worst Wrestlemania's of all time? It was hardly either. Though certainly not a show I'd recommend you run out and watch right this moment, it nonetheless had its moments, including the WWF Championship match, our football vs. wrestling main event, and that funny bit with Bob Backlund. I don't think the idea of an NFL star going over a pro wrestler was all that bad either, at least not the way it was executed here. Taylor took a good whupin' from Bigelow, and only narrowly emerged with his hand raised. 
One thing that does puzzle me, is that I clearly remember watching this show when it took place, and recall Salt-N-Peppa singing 'What a Man' as LT's theme music. I'm assuming that since that isn't on this WWE edited version that I have, it was a separate segment that they cut out altogether, or they simple couldn't get a license to use it beyond the big event.

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Friday, 5 September 2014

PPV REVIEW: WWF Royal Rumble 1995

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Event poster

All content in this review is copyright of Christopher Skoyles. 

January 22, 1995, 
USF Sun Dome, Tampa, Florida.

A brand new year was upon us, and much had already changed since the last time the World Wrestling Federation took to the Pay Per View airwaves.

Big Daddy Cool Diesel had turned on one-time ally Shawn Michaels at the 1994 Survivor Series, becoming the company's premier babyface and its world champion almost immediately afterwards.

Speaking of champions, erstwhile two-time holder of The Winged Eagle Belt, Yokozuna, hadn't been seen since Undertaker stuffed him in a casket, though the sumo-sized void he left in his wake had been filled up with a raft of big men such as Henry O. Godwin and Wrestlecrap favourite Man Mountain Rock.

What did that mean for the WWF as a whole? 

Well, it ultimately meant that, whilst 1994 had been a pretty stellar year in terms of big-time match ups, 1995 sank to all new lows. 

That said, the company did at least get off to a good start with that year's edition of the annual Royal Rumble.

Here's what went down.

Pamela Anderson Arrives

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - The WWF roster welcomes Pamela Anderson

Much like most of the world in general, professional wrestling was practically obsessed with the TV show Baywatch back in the mid-90s.

Whilst WCW would take it to the extreme later in the year, it all began in earnest with the much-hyped arrival of Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson to Florida's Sun Dome, where she was greeted by pretty much the entire WWF roster, all competing for her attention.

Big Mabel was especially enthusiastic about Pammy's arrival, though, of course, she snubbed him and everybody else, instead heading straight to her dressing room, conveniently situated about a foot away from her parked limousine.

One can only deduce that getting the brush off from Pamela Anderson ate away at the late Nelson Frazier for years, so much so that it eventually drove him to remodel himself as The World's Largest Love Machine.

Or not.

On with the show
WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler were our commentary team

We get our opening graphic and intro next, mostly just a static shot of the Royal Rumble logo and some honky tonk music that was so far behind the times it made Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler seem like the height of modern entertainment.

Speaking of Lawler, he and Vince McMahon were our hosts for the evening, welcoming us to the show with the usual hype about who may, or may not, win that night's 30-man battle royal.

With that out of the way, it was right down to our opening match.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship match
WWF Champion Razor Ramon vs Jeff Jarrett (w/ The Roadie)

As Razor Ramon made his way to the ring, Vince took the time to remind us that the figure-four leglock, the finisher of choice for challenger Jeff Jarrett, was invented by the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers.

Whether this was a thinly-veiled dig at former WWF champion and WCW mainstay Ric Flair, or whether it's just something Vince happened to mention just for the sake of it is something your writer may never really know.

What I do know, however, is that this was another solid Royal Rumble opener.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Jeff Jarrett faced -and defeated- Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship

Throughout the last couple of years, Razor had established himself as a performer perfectly suited to getting live audiences in the right frame of mind, and this was no exception.

An enjoyable match made all the more entertaining by the hyper presence of The Roadie on the outside.

Proving his worth long before he found fame as part of the New Age Outlaws, Roadie worked just as hard as the competitors here and was instrumental in the finish.

With The Bad Guy on the outside, Roadie clocked the champ's knee from behind, rendering him unable to beat the ten count.

Not content to win the match but not the title, Jarrett coerced Razor back into the ring and finished the match properly. Never one to back out of a challenge, Ramon obliged and even got the upper hand over his competitor.

Yet the damage had already been done. Lifting Double J for the Razor's Edge, Ramon's knee gave out, and he crumpled to the mat. Jarrett made the cover, and three seconds later, we had a new Intercontinental Champion.
Your Winner and NEW WWF Intercontinental Champion: Jeff Jarrett

As Jarrett celebrated, Vince threw it to Stephanie Wiand, who was expecting to interview the new champion, even though we'd all just seen that he was still out in the ring.

With nothing doing there, Steph instead handed the reigns to our buddy Todd Pettengill, who was busy being something of a sex pest in Pam Anderson's locker room.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble - Todd Pettengill interviews Pamela Anderson

The two discussed the many and various gifts Anderson had been sent from WWF Superstars, including a shrunken head from The Headshrinkers (who else?), a piggy bank from Henry Godwin, and a cuddly toy shaped like a bulldog from a very-much-married Davey Boy Smith.

Unfortunately, something happened to the horseshoe-shaped gift of roses Todd himself had sent her. Not getting the hint, Pettengill then tried to force candy upon the star guest before giving up and sending it back to Wiand.

Whether there was something going on between the WWF's two main interviewers that caused pangs of jealousy in Wiand or whether she was just bad at her job is something else we'll probably never know for sure.

What we do know is this:

For no reason, Steph said: "Well, I guess Todd is the man...and I'm here with new Intercontinental Champion, Razor Ramon.'

She quickly corrected herself of course (about the champion, not about Todd being 'the man'), and proceeded to hold the stick in front of Double J's face as he waxed jubilant about how 1995 was going to be his year.

Not that Jarrett had much time for interviews. He had to, and I quote, 'go see Pammy-Sue'.

I.R.S (w/ 'The Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase vs. The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer)

It started with the whole Undertaker vs. Undertaker debacle at Summerslam '94, continued with Irwin R. Schyster's involvement in The Deadman's casket match against Yokozuna at the following Survivor Series, and was now about to be taken further as The Phenom squared off against one of this fan's favourite early-90s grapplers.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: 

I'm a big fan of I.R.S. 

Despite a gimmick that has no right being any good, the former Varsity Club member more or less always entertained in the ring, as he did so tonight by giving The Undertaker one of his best pay-per-view matches of the past several years of his career.

OK, so that's not really saying much when you consider that Undertaker was gone for a chunk of 1994 and spent some of 1993 at war with Giant Gonzales, but still.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - I.R.S took the fight to The Undertaker, but lost the match

This might not have been the greatest match of the year or even of the night, but compared to some of the Undertaker's recent marquee battles, it wasn't really that bad.

I.R.S. kicked things off by claiming that nobody would rest in peace until they paid their taxes (because that's a big concern of the dead) before Paul Bearer led his charge on a slow march to the ring.

Following a slow start (and I mean a really slow start), things gradually picked up into a decent match which was interrupted by the arrival of an anonymous group of druids, who looked for all the world like Ku Klux Klan members clad in black.

Yet despite the best efforts of his masked companions, Schyster couldn't get the job done and was ultimately tombstoned into oblivion for his troubles.
Your winner: The Undertaker

Post-match, Undertaker saw off an attack by the druids, only to be confronted by Million Dollar Corporation man King Kong Bundy. As the two stared down, Schyster regained his composure, beat up Paul Bearer and stole the urn. The distraction was enough to leave 'Taker prone to an assault at the hands of Bundy, and low we had our first Wrestlemania XI match booked.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - King Kong Bundy and The Undertaker have their first staredown

Hype for Hitman vs. Diesel

Earlier in the day on The Action Zone, Todd Pettengill interviewed both World Wrestling Federation Champion Diesel and his upcoming challenger, former champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.

In those interviews, both champ and challenger were in fairly good spirits, passive-aggressively mocking one another, smiling with Todd and seeming hardly affected by the pressures of a big-match environment.

Not so later on, when the Toddster returned for follow-up interviews. This time, Hart and BDC were nothing but 100% serious. The latter didn't even have anything to say to Pettengill, whilst the former went into the typical 'This is business' spiel wielded out by countless superstars before and since.

The idea here, obviously, was that as bell time drew closer, both men fully realised what was at stake. Nerves kicked in, adrenaline kicked in, and it was all about to kick off.

World Wrestling Federation Championship match
WWF Champion Diesel vs. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart

Every time Big Daddy Cool and The Hitman locked up, something pretty magical happened. This was the second of their three championship clashes between 1994 and 1995, the first taking place at the 1994 King of the Ring with Bret as your champion and the third at the '95 Survivor Series, the only one of the three matches to see a title change hands.

I'm not going to lie to you, dear readers. Back in 1995, as a 10/11-year-old who still wasn't entirely convinced that wrestling was 'fake' (or scripted, or whatever you want to call it), I was the biggest Diesel mark in the world.

This guy was my absolute hero, and even though I appreciated what Bret did in the ring, I was rooting for Big Daddy Cool to win right from the minute his music cued up, and he got that awesome entrance where the truck would drive towards the screen before the glass broke (ala Stone Cold), and the champ, to paraphrase a later WWE Superstar, was here.

Now, some 20+ years later, I can simply sit back and enjoy this for what it was, namely, a thrilling championship match that didn't deviate too far from Bret and Diesel's tried and tested formula.

As you might expect, we had a lot of Hart working over Nash's legs and a lot of Nash generally overpowering Bret and beating him up.

When neither strategy seemed to work, each babyface reverted to more violent tactics, adding to the enjoyment factor of what was probably -despite everything- the least entertaining of the Bret/Diesel series.

We had Bret taking off his wrist tape and tying his foe's legs around the ring post, Diesel stalking his opponent with a chair, and a generally much more aggressive approach from the company's top two fan favourites.

Of course, the babyface status of both champ and challenger opened them up to the possibility of an outside assault from some of the World Wrestling Federation's less-friendly stars.

To that end, we had a run-in from Shawn Michaels and a bizarre decision from referee Earl Hebner. Despite HBK running in and only attacking arch-nemesis Diesel, Hebner opted not to disqualify Bret but to instead order the match to continue.

Why? I have no idea.

The same thing happened a moment later when Owen Hart made an appearance, thwarting his older brother's Sharpshooter attempt.

The match continued, but not for much longer. As Owen and his ally/Bret's enemy Bob Backlund resumed the assault on the challenger, HBK returned to the fray to beat down the champion. In this endeavor, Michaels was joined -for no particular reason- by The Roadie and new Intercontinental Champion, Jeff Jarrett.

Hebner lost all control, and this one was all over.
Match declared a draw. 

Following the bell, The Hitman and Big Daddy Cool somehow managed to regain their composure and see off the bad guys (not the Bad Guy) before embracing in a sign of babyface solidarity.

With that one over, it was almost time for our penultimate bout of the evening.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Bob Holly and 123 Kid faced Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka for the WWF tag team titles

Before we got to that, however, we had Todd Pettengill getting flustered as Pamela Anderson changed and Stephanie Wiand interviewing the tag team combination of 123 Kid and Bob 'Spark Plug' Holly.

The story here was that the WWF titles were vacated when previous champions HBK & BDC had their big falling out at the end of 1994. To determine new champions, we had a tournament, with the Million Dollar Corporation team of Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka and The Smoking Gunns reaching the finals. Unfortunately for the cowboys, Bart suffered an injury, forcing them to withdraw from the competition.

Enter the 123 Plugs, or the Spark Kids or whatever they'd be called in today's WWE, who spoke to Stephanie Wiand about their fill-in spot at the tournament finals, where, inn typical babyface fashion, they promised to try their best in overcoming their larger opponents.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship tournament Final
123 Kid and Bob 'Spark Plug' Holly vs. Tatanka and Bam Bam Bigelow

There's something I forgot to mention earlier: the appearance of football player Lawrence Taylor at ringside. 

Taylor had been invited to the Royal Rumble by none other than Diesel himself and had greeted the WWF Champion at the start of our proceeding match. As we got to the tag team championship tournament final, LT was still at ringside.

Keep that in mind for later.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - 123 Kid and Bob Holly captured the WWF tag team title

Making his WWF Pay Per View debut, Bob Holly practically flew around the ring with almost as much speed and agility as the lighter 123 Kid, though despite their best efforts and those of the Million Dollar Team, they garnered pretty much zero action.

With the crowd drained in the wake of the previous match, greeting both teams with something close to silence as they battled in an otherwise decent -if hardly spectacular- contest.

The end came when Bigelow, who had mauled both opponents throughout the match, took to the turnbuckles for his famous moonsault. Before he could leap into the air, however, Tatanka goofed up and knocked his partner to the canvas.

123 Kid made the cover, and we had new champions for the second time that night.

Your winners and NEW WWF Tag Team Champions: Bob Holly & The 123 Kid

Not that it would last, of course. On the following night's WWF Raw, The Smoking Gunns would return and claim the titles for themselves. Yet for now, Holly and the Kid were delighted with their victory, embracing all the way back to the locker room and leaving an irate and embarrassed Bam Bam Bigelow to face the taunts of the Florida faithful.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Bam Bam Bigelow confronts Lawrence Taylor

Among them, one Lawrence Taylor, who though highly amused at the upset victory, did at least extend the hand of friendship to Bam Bam, who had either been busted open around the mouth or else snuck in a rather messy hot dog whilst the camera was focussed elsewhere.

Rather than accept the handshake of course, Bigelow shoved Taylor, prompting one of the football star's friends to cry out, 'HEY! HE'S CRAZY, THAT GUY!' 

No idea why, but your easily-amused reviewer found that hysterical.

With our Wrestlemania 11 match booked, it was time for the main event.

First, though, Todd Pettengill took us back to the 1994 Royal Rumble to remind us that Big Daddy Cool was being primed for a colossal push even then,

More than that, the point was to also remind us that Shawn Michaels played a crucial role in eliminating Diesel, leading us nicely into a pre-taped promo from ol' HB-shizzle.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Shawn Michaels promo

In his usual brash, arrogant style, Michaels vowed to eliminate even the biggest of the big men en route to victory.

After this, Lex Luger also cut a promo that cut a little too close to the bone as he bemoaned his fate in previous title matches and claimed that 1995 would be his year. A few months later, Luger would be back in World Championship Wrestling.

Back to the arena, Vince McMahon apologised to us, and Lawrence Taylor for Bam Bam's 'despicable' actions, before Howard Finkle introduced 'the lovely and talented' Pamela Anderson to the ring.

Pamela took her seat at ringisde to see who she'd be accompanying to the ring at Wrestlemania XI, and with that, it was on.

Royal Rumble Match: 
30-man Battle Royal featuring: Shawn Michaels, British Bulldog, The Blus Brothers, Lex Luger, Adam Bomb, Well Done, The Heavenly Bodies, Mantaur, Aldo Montoya, Henry Godwin, Dick Murdoch, Rick Martel and more....
The World Wrestling Federation changed things around a little this year, cutting the time between entrants down to only 60 seconds, though in all honesty, I doubt even half a minute passed between some entrants.

Though we promised this would make for a faster, much more action-packed rumble, the actual result was that the whole thing came across as incredibly rushed.

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog were the first, and last, two men in the 1995 match

Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog kicked things off with barely a minute of enjoyable action, before being joined by a plethora of crud including one of The Blus Brothers, Duke 'The Dumpster' Drosse and babyface Doink.

The ring filled up pretty good in no time at all, with HBK and the Bulldog repeatedly going back to one another in between facing the likes of Rick Martel (making an unprecedented -at the time- seventh Rumble appearance), Kwang and Sionne.

Not that they had much choice than face one another at certain points. Around the half-way mark, the ring was cleared leaving only the first two entrants to duke it out further. In a spot of deja vu, the other Blus Brother turned up, and the whole process kicked off again.

Other highlights included:

  • Bret Hart gaining a measure of revenge n brother Owen by attacking The King of Harts as he made his way to the ring. Thanks to the beating, Owen was quickly eliminated when he did make it to the ring.
  • Hart returning to the match again later on, this time to deal with Bob Backlund
  • A surprise appearance from veteran star Dick Murdoch, who outperformed half of his younger adversaries
  • A big boy showdown between Mabel and King Kong Bundy.
After what has to be the quickest Royal Rumble ever (I'm not inclined to go out and check), Michaels, Luger, Davey Boy and Crush stood tall as our final four. Not long after, Luger and Crush were gone, leaving the task of ending this thing to the two men who started it. 

WWF / WWE: Royal Rumble 1995 - The British Bulldog thought he'd won the Royal Rumble, but hadn't

Following a gripping finale, Davey Boy tossed Michaels over the top rope. His music struck, and we had ourselves a winner in The British Bulldog.

Or did we?

No, we didn't. Apparently, only one of Shawn's feet had touched the floor, giving him the chance to re-enter the match, throw the Bulldog over the top rope, and win his first of two back-to-back Royal Rumbles. 
Your winner: Shawn Michaels

As Michaels celebrated, we got a number of replays to prove the whole one-foot thing, before Pamela Anderson joined the Heartbreak Kid in the ring and Shawn tried to hump her (I kid you not.)

And that was all she wrote. All in all, not the worst show in the world, though the whole 60-second entrant thing did kind of take some of the magic away from the actual Royal Rumble match itself. Still, we got what we needed from the show, with no less than four Wrestlemania 11 matches (Bundy/Taker, Bret/Backlund, Diesel/Michaels and Bigelow/Taylor) stemming from this one event.
In terms of quality, this isn't one you really need to track down in its entirety, though I would recommend the Bret/Diesel match.

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.