Mega Powers Running Wild!

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

Shawn Micahels vs. Mankind

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

The Birth of the nWo

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

Austin 3:16 Says I Just Kicked Your Ass

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

Wrestlemania 12 Review

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

WCW Fall Brawl 1996 Review

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

Thursday, 22 February 2018

GAME REVIEW: WWE Smackdown - Shut Your Mouth - PS2

Released: October/November 2002
WWF Smackdown - Shut Your Mouth PlayStation 2 Review
I've been looking forward to spending some time with WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth for some time now, not because I had any preconceived ideas about what the game may be like, nor because I had such a good time playing WWF Smackdown!  Just Bring It, but for another reason entirely: 

This particular game comes from a time when I wasn't watching pro wrestling at all.

You see, whilst I do consider myself a life-long fan of this weird and wonderful world we call the professional wrestling industry, there was a time in the early 2000s when watching grown men roll around in their underpants was the last thing on my mind.

Funnily enough, that time period just so happened to coincide with the period of my life when I discovered girls and alcohol and rock 'n' roll concerts. So whilst the likes of Brock Lesnar, the Smackdown Six, and the ill-fated Invasion angle were all dominating TV screens, I was out getting drunk and mostly failing to get any action.

So I've got a lot of catching up to do, which is one of the reasons why I started Retro Pro Wrestling in the first place, and the reason why I'm so looking forward to playing a game that will give me some insight as to what WWE was like during our time apart.

Still, you're not here to read about me, you're here to read about WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth, so let's get on with that, shall we?

First Impressions 

As you'll tell from the image above, we're playing with the European version of the game here, so we've got a vastly different cover from the one you're probably used to if you're in North America. 

Still, as far as I'm aware, that's the only difference between the two versions, meaning we should be on the same page for the rest of this game review. 

As is the norm with wrestling games, we get a brief opening clip featuring clips of the WWE Superstars at their most athletic and menacing best, all soundtracked to Marilyn Manson's 1990s anthem, The Beautiful People. 

As intros go, this manically frantic opening lacks the dramatic feel that Just Bring It had, but it's still the perfect way to introduce us to what would be the first Smackdown game since the World Wrestling Federation lost its battle with the panda people and became WWE. 

So far, so good. 


As I've said before in these pro wrestling game reviews, I'm not the most serious gamer in the world, so things like graphics aren't high on my list of priorities when deciding what to play.

Still, even as a novice gamer, I can immediately notice a stark improvement in the way that this game looks compared to its predecessor. 

Equally as noticeable is the difference between graphics in each part of the game, too. 

Fire things up, and you're presented with menus that are as distracting as they are horrendous, with a huge Smackdown! logo flashing in the background as though determined to give you a seizure. 

Start a match, however, and things get instantly better. 

Photo-realistic detail on every wrestler, combined with the vibrant, polished sets and locations make the whole thing look tremendous. I may have missed a good few years of WWE game releases, but so far this is the best-looking one I've ever played, and that includes Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 for the X-box

Based on looks alone, I was already falling in love with this game, and that's before I got to the entrances. 


To familiarise myself with the gameplay, I picked a random exhibition match in which I was X-Pac taking on the Immortal one himself, Hulk Hogan.

The game was released during the brief tenure of WWE's version of the New World Order. That means that 'Pac and his good buddy Kevin Nash both get a super special nWo entrance that just looks awesome.

Much like the original nWo intro, we cut from shots of the nWo video to black and white shots of the Clique members walking to the ring in a presentation that is undeniably impressive. 

Curiously, Shawn Michaels comes to the ring wearing an nWo t-shirt but doesn't have the music, whilst nWo leader Hogan is an interesting mix of nWo and Red and Yellow. 

He struts to the ring wearing the tights and feather boa ensemble that was such a big part of his post-millennium character, all whilst Voodoo Chille plays him to the ring. 

Those are my favourite entrances and made me instantly fall in love with the game, though in fairness, every Superstar gets an impressive-looking entrance that perfectly replicates the way they'd enter the ring in real life. 


The nWo aren't the only new additions to the roster.

As the first WWE game to be developed in the wake of WCW's demise, we get a number of characters that old-school, Attitude-Era fans might best remember from Turner Land. 

Lance Storm, Hurricane Helms, Diamond Dallas Page and Booker T are all present and correct, as is the one and only Nature Boy Ric Flair, who plays a prominent role as Raw General Manager (opposite Vince McMahon as head of Smackdown) but also appears as a playable character. 

On top of all the names mentioned so far, we've also got a deep roster which includes all the heavy hitters like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Kane, plus a supporting cast of midcarders, making for what I believe to be one of the broadest selection of playable characters to date. 

Along with Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Jazz, and several other notable figures make their gaming debuts here too.

Over all, the roster selection is a strong part of the game, appealing to fans of all types of Superstar.

Match Types 

Much as with Just Bring It, WWE Smackdown! Just Bring It features an agreeable choice of playable match types. 

Single, tag, and six-man options all come as standard, though if you're looking for something a little more extreme, you can take your pick from all of the following:
  • Hardcore (general go-anywhere-use-anything)
  • Cage
  • Elimination
  • Hell in a Cell
  • I Quit
  • Iron Man
  • Ladder
  • Last Man Standing 
  • Lumber Jack
  • Slobber Knocker (how many opponents can you beat in a set period of time) 
  • Special Referee
  • Street Fight
  • Submission 
  • Table
  • TLC
  • Three Stages of Hell
As far as I can tell, the lumber jack option is a new addition to this game. 

A nice touch also comes in the form of the cage match, where you're able to choose between the classic 'Escape The Cage' rules, or normal pinfall and submission rules. 

I can't claim to have played all math types, but the ones I did (TLC, Hell in a Cell, Street Fight, tables) were all very enjoyable and added a new dimension to the same old, standard singles match. 

Hell in a Cell, in particular, is greatly improved. If you remember from Just Bring It, the cage was attached to the ring and not only made it difficult to see what you were doing, but also meant you couldn't recreate one of the most fun parts of any Hell in a Cell - brawling around ringside and tossing your opponent into the cage. 

This time, you can do just that, and it looks great, though there are a few hilarious glitches, such as if you try a move too close to the edge of the cage (when you're on the ceiling), you simply "slip" and fall off, bouncing off on the way down in a gloriously-funny, over-the-top fashion. 

On a completely different note, count outs have been completely removed from this game, so even in a normal match you can brawl around ringside and up the entrance way as much as you like. Just don't use any weapons in a normal match - Earl Hebner will show no mercy and quickly disqualify you. 

Game Play

Speaking of our friend Earl, he's at it again in this game - always getting himself in the way of the action and taking more ref bumps than your average Dusty Rhodes booked match. 

Hebner's awkward presence does create some interesting cluster-fucks, particularly in multi-man matches when one of the AI grapplers will get confused and start beating the ever-loving crud out of the referee. 

Still, Hebner is not as in-the-way as he was in WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It, so  I suppose that's only a good thing. 

On another positive note, the controls are the same as in the previous game, so there's no steep learning curve to endure. 

If you can remember that X is strike, O is grapple, and so on, you can pretty much pick this one up and start winning matches straight away.

Interestingly, the square 'reverse' button isn't half as sensitive as it was in the previous game, and often doesn't work at all. 

Whilst it's true that it was a little overly sensitive in the last game, it did result in some pretty sweet-looking spots, whereas now it's just an annoyance. 

That aside, actually playing Shut Your Mouth is a hugely enjoyable experience, especially when you master the timing of things and intuitively know when to strike, when to grapple and, yes, when to button-mash like mad to regain control after an opponent begins a beat down. 

Create a Character 

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Maven
Create a Character is always one of my favourite parts of any pro wrestling game. I just like the idea of creating a brand new character and setting off on a journey towards the title (more of which later). 

So you can imagine how happy I was to see that this mode has been greatly improved upon since Just Bring It. 

Your bespoke superstar actually looks like an actual human being now and not some horribly disfigured creature, whilst the array of costumes and accessories are not only numerous but also of a very high quality. 

Speaking of costumes and accessories, there's a whole bunch of stuff here that would allow you to create a number of wrestlers not featured in the game, even those who had nothing to do with WWE at that point. 

For example, there's the mask of Japanese legend Hayabusa and the complete outfit for Jushin 'Thunder' Liger (it's cleverly disguised in a different colour, but you can edit that and have your very own Liger character). 

Elsewhere, I found Sting's Crow attire, and -my favourite thing of all- a 1996 New Rockers costume. 

I can only assume that this is alternative attire for Al Snow, because there's actually a lot of alternative attire here, particularly for Kane and X-Pac. 

In the end, however, I ignored all of that and went back to my own usual character - CJ Scholes. this time I gave him the Ragin' Angel nickname that I bestowed upon Axl Diabo back in Just Bring It. 

Season Mode 

With my character all ready to go, it was time to put him through his paces en route to the WWE Undisputed title. To do that, you enter season mode, which is a remarkable improvement on the lacklustre 'storyline' offering from Just Bring It.

Instead of a few short vignettes and a couple of matches, Shut Your Mouth offers a comprehensive two-year storyline, complete with a brand split.

When I played the Created Superstar, we began with Linda McMahon explaining to us that there's about to be a draft, with twenty superstars picked on the show and the rest being picked in a lottery afterwards. 

However, the Undisputed Champion (Undertaker at the time I began) and Stone Cold Steve Austin were both ineligible to be drafted and could wrestle on both brands - Undertaker presumedly to give everyone on the roster a fair crack at the title, and Austin for vague 'contractual' reasons. 

You then set about trying to make a name for yourself by competing on Sunday Night Heat where Maven -of all people- takes a liking to you and saves you from a beat down by a wrestler who takes umbrage with you for no given reason.

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Maven
Maven even offers to teach you "a thing or two" despite admitting that you did better in your debut match than he did.

After teaming with Maven, you're allowed to either form a proper tag team with him on a regular basis, team with the guy you've been feuding with, pick a manager, or just carry on aimlessly for a while.

This variety of options does enhance the appeal of Season Mode greatly, and though I experimented with a few different routes, I eventually settled on picking a manager, at which point Stacy Keibler offers her services. 

Win a few matches with Stacy in your corner, and you're then attacked by another wrestler who says that asking her to manage you was "his idea" - after some back and forth, you end up in a match with the dude - Winner Takes Stacy.

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Stacy Keibler
Beat him, and it turns out that Stacy says you don't need her anymore, and you go onto Smackdown without her. 

From there, it's a King of The Ring tournament win and on to face the Undisputed Champion a Vengence. 

The awesome thing is that the storyline doesn't simply end when you win the title, you keep going, and not just with random defences either. 

Immediately after defeating Kurt Angle for the title, I ended up being courted by Raw GM Ric Flair and asked to join his brand. After leaving Nature Boy hanging for a few weeks, I eventually gave him my answer by attacking him. I couldn't very well join Raw after all, it would upset new best friend, Al Snow

And that's another wonderful thing about this season mode - you can wonder around seriously detailed and vast backstage area, interacting with other characters you meet en route. 

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Linda McMahon
In the course of my story, I not only got pally with Maven and Stacy Keibler, but I also pissed off  The Undertaker, had Reverand D-Von begging me for money for his D-Von Building Fund and upset an already bad-tempered Jazz by asking her about Trish Stratus. 

Fortunately, though, I did make friends with good ol' Al snow, who -I've got to admit- at first glance I thought was Bradshaw. 

All that being said, other storylines are equally as enjoyable, especially when they recreate actual events which took place during that time period. You could, for example, relive the introduction of the New World Order into WWE, or experience what it was like to be Hulk Hogan or The Rock during their legendary match at Wrestlemania 18. 


Playing through season mode wins you a number of unlockable items at certain key points, such as when you win a title or compete at a PPV. 

However, rather than winning a whole bunch of unlockable stuff every time - you're presented with options and have to pick, forcing you to choose between things like new tights for Lance Storm or access to the King of the Ring arena for exhibition matches. 

There's a huge amount of stuff to unlock, which really helps you enjoy more game time, as you go through multiple seasons with multiple characters to unlock everything there is to offer.

Needless to say, reality beckoned and I didn't get to unlock absolutely everything, but I'll certainly let you know when (if) I ever do. 

Music and Sound 

All the wrestlers ahve their usual entrance music with a few notable exceptions. My good buddy Maven, for example, comes out to the ring like a jobber with the Smackdown Beautiful People entrance and you have to unlock his actual theme later on down the line.

Meanwhile, custom wrestler music is also of a great quality. Sure, there's some weird and some terrible cuts in there as there was with Just Bring It, but on the whole, the 'generic' entrance music is as good as anything you could hope for from Jim Johnston himself.
In case you're wondering, I gave CJ Scholes 'Track 18' which sounds like a Slipknot demo in the best possible way.

The best part of although, is that there's no Micahel Cole & Tazz

WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth - Michael Cole & Tazz
Well, there is. The duo who did such a horrible job of the commentary on Just Bring It appear in the game conducting a weird, Abraham Washington Show type interview segment, but they don't speak, which is a blessing. 

Instead, the commentary is handled by Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler , and though it isn't perfect, it is minimal, meaning you hardly ever hear the two except for when they call out certain moves. The Side Russian Legsweep seems to be a favourite call of JR's, as does calling Lance Storm an idiot for some reason. 

Lasting Impression

It's difficult to express in words just how much better WWE Smackdown! Shut Your Mouth is to the earleir WWF Smackdown! Just Bring it Game. 

From the smoother gameplay to the improved, photo-realistic graphics and that incredibly-immersive Season Mode, there's a hell of a lot to enjoy here. 

OK, so I may not be the world's biggest gaming fan, but even I can appreciate that Shut Your Mouth had to be -up to that point- the best WWE wrestling game ever released. 

Even now, I can see me playing this one for a long time after this review goes live. I just hope me and Al Snow are buddies by the time I'm done. 

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

More WWE Wrestling games from Retro Pro Wrestling. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

PPV REVIEW: WCW Slamboree 1997

May 18, 1997
Independence Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina.

One of the negative aspects of reviewing pro wrestling shows that took place at the height of the 90s boom period is that you don't experience quite the same level of excitement as you did when you originally lived through it. 

Sure, we can talk over and over again about what a great time 1997 was to be a fan -and it was, trust me, I lived it- but you don't really feel it the way you used to.

Thankfully, WCW Slamboree 1997 looked set to change that by presenting a stacked card that combined all the best elements of the companies product at the time, from adrenalin charged cruiserweight matches and top international talent to legendary gimmicks like The Four Horsemen and the New World Order.

Was all that enough to create a show that really stood the test of time and delivered the same level of excitement 20 years later?

Some Footballers Are Here 

Tonight's opening video focussed on the rivalry between Steve 'Mongo' McMichael and Reggie White, and tonight's main event, which saw Kevin Greene team up with the man he faced a year earlier, Ric Flair, and Rowdy Roddy Piper to take on Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Syxx.

That took us to Tony Schiavone, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan, who also gave plenty of attention to the two matches featuring football players.

World Championship Wrestling World Television Championship
WCW Television Champion Ultimo Dragon (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. Steven Regal 

WCW Slamboree 1997 - Steven Regal bt. Ultimo Dragon for the TV title
Apparently, Steven Regal no longer wanted to be called a lord, because his nobility should be taken as a given, or something to that effect.

Here, he challenged Ultimo (not Ultimate) Dragon for the Television Championship which Dragon won from Prince Iaukea on the Monday Nitro following last month's Spring Stampede 1997.

As opening matches go, they don't come much better than this one.

With a red hot crowd firmly into every single move, Regal played the babyface role against the defending champion in an absolute belter of a match.

The action went back and forth several times before spilling to the outside, where Dragon nailed the challenger with the Asaii Moonsault.

From there, Sonny Onoo got a couple of shots on Regal before 'accidentally' nailing Ultimo Dragon with a round-house kick.

As the announcers debated whether or not Onoo had intended to kick his own man or not, Regal slapped on the Regal Stretch and won his fourth television championship.
Your Winner and New Television Champion: Steven Regal 

Post match, Regal celebrated whilst Onoo addressed the camera, claiming that he could break Champions just as easy as he could make them.

Women's Grudge Match
Luna Vachon vs. Madusa 

Here, Luna Vachon was billed as hailing from 'The Other Side of Darkness,' which I'm assuming was somewhere near 'The Outer Reaches Of Your Mind,' just left of Parts Unknown.

By the way, isn't the other side of darkness just, you know, light?

Anyway, Luna went after Madusa in a reasonably fun, yet short and instantly forgettable match.

The two put on a good show for the time they were allotted before Madusa nailed her rival with a truly beautiful bridging German Suplex for the three count.

Weirdly, Madusa slapped Luna's ass as the ref counted three.
Your Winner: Madusa 

Out in the entrance way, Mean Gene Okerlund urged us to call the WCW Hotline to find out who might be leaving WCW before he was rudely interrupted by Macho Man Randy Savage and Elizabeth.

Savage and DDP Want to Kill Each Other 

The nWo power couple stormed to ringside, where Savage, in his usual manic style, put over his fellow stablemates and claimed that Diamond Dallas Page wanted no part of him.

Page argued otherwise, coming through the crowd wielding the same damaged crutch that Savage had previously used to attack DDP with.

Savage bailed, but after consorting with his nWo colleagues, charged into the ring, quickly followed by VincentEric Bischoff, and Buff Bagwell.

Page took out all three, but was felled by a kidney shot courtesy of Scott Norton.

The New World Order then attacked, only for The Giant to come out for the big save.

Talk about intense, that was a terrific angle that really made you want to see Page and Savage tear into each other one more time.

Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Yuji Yasuraoka

I'm not the biggest fan of Japanese wrestling, so I hadn't heard of Yuji Yasuraoka before watching this show, but apparently, he tagged with Lance Storm in WAR and retired after a short career to become a motorcycle mechanic.

Here, he went up against Rey Mysterio Jr. in a match that went a little too long and dragged in some parts but was very good in others.

Naturally, Mysterio picked up the win, moving one step closer to another shot against Syxx for the Cruiserweight title.
Your Winner: Rey Mysterio Jr.

Wasting no time, we went straight to our next match.

Mortis (w/ James Vanderberg) vs. Glacier 

This rematch from Uncensored 1997 didn't last long before Wrath came out and destroyed Glacier, leading to the disqualification.
Your Winner via DQ: Glacier 

Afterwards, Wrath and Mortis spent about three decades beating down on Glacier until a 'fan' (later revealed to be karate champion Ernest Miller) came out for the save.

This was boring as hell.

Mean Gene shilled the Hotline some more before it was on to our next match.

World Championship Wrestling United States Heavyweight Championship
WCW United States Champion Dean Malenko vs. Jeff Jarrett (w/ Debra McMichael) 

WCW Slamboree 1997 - Jeff Jarrett (w/ Debra) faced Dean Malenko
As with most matches on the card so far, this one was given plenty of time to deliver and deliver it did.

Trading hold after hold and counter after counter, both Jeff Jarrett and champion Dean Malenko put on a very good performance in a match which only got better the longer it went on.

After an epic battle, Steve 'Mongo' McMichael came to ringside to tend to Jarrett, who was writhing in agony at ringside.

Mongo took his wife by the hand and escorted her backstage, but not before throwing Double J back in the ring, where he quickly succumbed to Malenko's Texas Cloverleaf.
Your Winner and Still United States Champion: Dean Malenko 

Let's keep going...

Death Match
Meng vs. Chris Benoit (w/ Woman) 

WCW Slamboree 1997 - Meng (w/ Jimmy Hart) faced Chris Benoit in a death match
The rules here were non-existent. No pinfalls, no DQ, no count out, the match continues until one man can no longer continue.

If you were expecting such a stipulation to result in an ECW style, weapon-filled brawl to rival Chris Benoit's epic matches with Kevin Sullivan, you may be disappointed.

This wasn't that kind of match, but it was very good; a solid outing from two hard-hitters who basically just beat the crap out of each other until it was time to go home.

At that point, Meng grabbed Benoit in the Tongan Death Grip and won the match.
Your Winner: Meng 

Afterwards, Woman and a bunch of officials checked in on Benoit, who was totally out of it.

A promo for next month's Great American Bash followed before we went back to ringside for our next match.

The Dungeon of Doom (Konnan and Hugh Morrus w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner) 

WCW Slamboree 1997 - The Steiner Brothers faced Konnan & Hugh Morrus
By this point, I'm starting to think that there isn't a bad match on this card.

Sure, Dungeon of Doom vs. The Steiners wasn't the highlight of the night, but it was still a very fun tag bout which certainly deserved a place on this show.

After several minutes of enjoyable action, Scott Steiner planted Hugh Morrus with the Frankensteiner. Rick made the cover, and that was that.
Your Winners: The Steiner Brothers 

Afterwards, Konnan turned on his partner and beat him up, much to the confusion and frustration of Jimmy Hart.

Battle of the Super Bowl Champions
Steve 'Mongo' McMichael (w/ Debra McMichael) vs. Reggie White (w/ Some Guy) 

WCW Slamboree 1997 - Debra McMichael, Steve McMichael, Jeff JarrettThe best thing I can say about this is that it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Sure, Reggie White's offence looked like garbage, but when it was left to Mongo to control the match, it was actually reasonably entertaining for a while.

In fact, if they'd just made this about five minutes or so shorter, I would have told you I'd enjoyed the whole thing. Instead, it went on too long and I quickly lost interest.

Mongo won when one of Reggie's team mates stopped him from using the metal briefcase on Reggie, so Jeff Jarrett came out and give him another one, because apparently they just carried a whole bunch of them around with them.

A three count later, and this one was over.
Your Winner: Steve 'Mongo' McMichael 

The Four Horsemen members celebrated before we cut to Michael Buffer for our main event, or what Buffer called our 'Super Match of the Evening.' 

Anything Goes Six Man Match
The NWO Wolfpac (WCW Tag Team Champions Scott Hall & Kevin Nash, and WCW Cruiserweight Champion Syxx) vs. Kevin Greene, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and The Nature Boy Ric Flair

WCW Slamboree 1997 - Ric Flair teamed with Roddy Piper & Kevin Greene to face the nWo Wolfpac
With a white hot crowd solidly behind him, hometown hero Ric Flair wrestled his first match of 1997 in a genuinely enthralling main event.

Teaming with Rowdy Roddy Piper and pro footballer Kevin Greene, Flair led his men into battle against Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Syxx, and the results were brilliant.

Things were kept relatively simple, but that worked perfectly for this one.

After a veg enjoyable contest, referee Randy Anderson took a tumble, causing former nWo referee Nick Patrick to come out.

Flair slapped Hall in figure four, Piper put Nash to sleep, and Greene hit Syxx with a running shoulder breaker.

Patrick counted to three, and this one was over.
Your Winners: Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Kevin Greene

So, did WCW Slamboree 1997 stand the test of time? Was it enough to rekindle that passion and excitement that we all felt back in the late-90s pro wrestling boom? 

Close enough. 

This was a very fun show from start to finish and one of the best PPVs of 1997 up to that point. There was barely a bad match on the card, whilst the variety of styles and the perfect blend of all the things that made WCW such a hot commodity in the 1990s took centre stage. 

I feel like I haven't said this in a long time, but this one was definitely worth watching. 

1997 events reviewed so far:

  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1997
  8. WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
  9. WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell

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Thursday, 8 February 2018

WWF Superstars: Wrestlemania - The Album (1993) - A Track by Track Review

WWF Superstars - Wrestlemania - The Album (1993) Album cover

Today is a sad day for me. After the longest time, I'm finally getting rid of the two vintage cassette recorders from the late 70s/early 80s that I've held onto forever for no apparent reason.

I can't tell you it has anything to do with sentimental value - I wasn't born until 1984.

Nor can I tell you that it has anything to do with sound quality. Trust me, vinyl this is not.

But for some reason, I've held onto these things forever, and now it's time to let go.

Before I do, however, I just had to do one thing - give my official Wrestlemania - The Album cassette -yes, cassette, look it up kids- one last listen.

WWF Superstars - Wrestlemania - The Album (1993) on cassette

Bizarrely, given how utterly terrible it is (and we'll get to that in a moment), Wrestlemania - The Album, was a top ten hit here in the UK, despite going nowhere in the US Billboard charts.

Perhaps it's success on British shores had as much to do with the company's popularity over here at the time (this was, remember, not that long after Summerslam 1992 at Wembley Arena), as well as the names behind the product.

Simon Cowell, better known today for being mean to crappy singers on The X-Factor and American Idol served as your executive producer, whilst Mike Stock and Pete Waterman (of the famous Stock, Aitken, and Waterman songwriting trio) put the same talents to work that had previously helped them develop hits for Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, and a slew of other 80s/early 90s popsters.

The resulting album was, quite frankly, odd as hell, but don't just take my word for it.

Join me, as I take one last listen to Wrestlemania - The Album in this track-by-track review.

1) Wrestlemania - WWF Superstars

And so, in a reverse from tradition, we get our main event of the evening first.

Wrestlemania wasn't only one of the two singles from the album, nor was it merely the one song  nor was it the one song that -in its instrumental form- would go on to become synonymous with Wrestlemania all the way through to 1998 (and later enjoy a second life as Linda McMahon's theme tune).

It was also -and I say this with complete sincerity- the best song on the album.

Look, I know that's not saying much, but here's the thing:

It simply isn't fair to review Wrestlemania in the same way as you might review say, Michael Jackson's Thriller or Metallica's Master of Puppets. This isn't music created for purposes of artistic expression or anything like that.

No, it's a straight-up novelty pop record designed to cash in on whatever popularity the World Wrestling Federation had left at the end of 1992 when this was recorded, and early 1993 when it was released.

As novelty pop records go, I have to admit, Wrestlemania is a pretty catchy little number, with a memorable chorus and the kind of guitar riff that, once you've heard it, you can never quite get out of your head completely.

Lyrically, this one is obviously nothing to write home about.

Apart from random catchphrases and threats shouted out by a crew including WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, The Nasty Boys, Macho Man Randy Savage, The Big Boss Man, and Tatanka, all we got here was a refrain of "Wrestlemania, yeah, this is our lives," which is meaningless and dumb, and also a brief bit of equally meaningless rapping.

To be fair though, a cameo from some no-name rapper was required by law to be in every pop song ever back in the early 1990s, so you have to cut them some slack.

Of note here, of course, is that this song about Wrestlemania starts off with a guy asking us if we're ready for The Survivor Series, and The Nasty Boys telling us that we were gonna get 'nasty stuff' down our throats throughout 1993.

Quite apart from being gross, Sags and Knobs would be gone from the WWF by April of that year.

2) Slam Jam - WWF Superstars

Our second single follows a very similar formula to the first one: Take one lively guitar track, add some generic backing singers chanting "woah-oh" and sprinkle a bunch of wrestlers shouting at each other. Finish off with that legally-required rapping we talked about, and apparently, that was enough to create a single.

This time, our wrestling group included The Hitman, Savage, The Undertaker, and The British Bulldog, who had gone from the company by the time of the record's release.

Slam Jam may not be as memorable as the more well-known Wrestlemania theme, but compared to what was about to follow, it was certainly the best thing on the entire album.

And yes, for those of you wondering if I'd mention it - there was indeed a Slam Jam album released by WCW in 1992, and I'll be getting to that in a few weeks time.

Don't want to miss it? Follow Retro Pro Wrestling on Twitter and I'll let you know when the WCW Slam Jam review is published! 

3) USA - Hacksaw Jim Duggan 

What I think happened here, is that the producers had taken one of Hacksaw Jim Duggan's promos (in which he talks about being nervous backstage but then going out to the ring and beating people up), recorded it, spliced it up and loaded it into a sampler, then blindfolded each other and slapped the sampler at random intervals.

If you want a better way to describe this one, try this:

Remember that time Peter Griffin became a club DJ on Family Guy? It's like that, except twice as cringeworthy and not half as funny.

I mean OK, I know I said that this was basically a novelty pop record and shouldn't be judged by the same standards of, well, an actual album, but even by novelty pop record standards, this was terrible.

4) The Nasty Boys - Nasty Boys Stomp

"The Nasty Boys are just plain nasty," says Bobby Heenan as this obvious Janet Jackson rip-off gets underway.

You know, as I've been reviewing old pro wrestling shows for Retro Pro Wrestling, I've always had to stop myself from making off-colour comments about The Nasty Boys and all their talk of being 'nasty.'

But here, I can no longer contain myself. As an adult, I have a whole different idea of what the word 'nasty' means, and to hear two grown-ups spouting it off as often as Knobs and Saggs do is both hilarious and disgusting in equal measure.

As for the song itself, despite the blatant attempt to get as close to Miss. Jackson's big hit as they can without paying her anything, this actually turns out to be one of the better pop songs on the album.

Again, however, that's not actually saying very much.

5) Bret 'The Hitman' Hart - Never Been a Right Time to Say Goodbye 

Here, we get Stock/Aitken/Waterman's typical fare:

Synth-heavy pop concerning matters of the heart. This time, however, the vocals are delivered by a sombre-sounding Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.

I can't even begin to describe how many things are wrong with this song.

For one thing, it sounds incredibly dated, even for 1993. It's as though the producers dug out something they'd discarded back in the mid-1980s, polished it up and had Bret Hart talk all over it.

Even back in the 1980s, this would have been terrible, but here on a wrestling album, it served only as a complete WTF moment -and yes, that's after several minutes of two grown men promising to do -ahem- nasty stuff to you.

This was obviously an attempt to make top babyface Bret Hart sound like a caring, sensitive kinda guy.

Instead, it made him sound like a complete doofus.

6) The Undertaker - The Man in Black 

Honestly, I've just sat here for the last couple of minutes laughing my ass off at this so-bad-its-brilliant track.

Bringing side one of this cassette to an end, this is part Addams family, part Nintendo game soundtrack, but 100% funky.

Yes, funky.

For a song about The Undertaker.

You know, Mr. Doom And Gloom?

The Dead Man?

The guy who goes on and on about harvesting souls and rising from the dead and all that stuff?

Yep, here The Man in Black tries to be as frightening as he can be, even going so far as to threaten us with embalming, but the music is just so darn lively and upbeat that it's hard to take this one seriously.

It's like the intro to the Addams Family if said intro had been recorded on LSD by a bunch of happy hippies.

I might not recommend Wrestlemania - The Album for much, but I do recommend you get this song just for the comedy value. Hillarious.

Side two....

7) Randy Savage (Macho Man) - Speaking From The Heart

What? Don't look at me, Randy Savage (Macho Man) is exactly how his name is written in all the liner notes for the album.

Here, Randy Savage (Macho Man) cuts a bunch of his typically out-there promos over a hip-hop beat and a gushing chorus which goes a little something like this:

He gets your heart up pumping, he gets the party jumping, he’s the Macho Man! Everybody saying, he’s really quite amazing, he’s the Macho Man!

All the while the music comes across like something left over from The Bart Man (remember that?).

I'm not even sure what to make of this song. I don't get why it's called Speaking From The Heart, especially when you've got Bret Hart right there to make the obvious pun, but hey, we'll let that go and leave with this:

This is actually fun in a typically early-90s cheesy fashion.

8) Tatanka - Tatanka Native America

You'll notice that this is called Tatanka Native America, and not American. Quite why it wasn't just called Tatanka - Buffalo! is beyond me, because that's basically all you get here for a couple of minutes.

Of course, this song needs no introduction. Tatanka (BUFFALO!) has become a running joke on one of my favourite websites, Wrestlecrap, and it's all because of this one song, this one, long song, this one, long, repetitive song.

This one, long, repetitive, boring song.

This one, long...well, you get the picture right?

It's as if the producers already begun to lose the will to live here and were just trying to hurry up, get it done, and go home.

9) Mr. Perfect - I'm Perfect

"Mr. Perfect, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Perfect, I'm perfect!"

Imagine that, repeated for a couple of minutes over a disco remix of Hennig's famous WWF theme, and that's basically what you've got here. Just that, over and over again with Perfect occasionally bragging about being perfect.

I swear, this album just gets harder and harder to listen to as it goes on.

10) Crush - Cold Crush 

This ode to the former Demolition member followed the exact same formula used throughout this album:

Drop a funky disco beat and randomly play soundbites of the wrestler in question over the top of it.

This time, the soundbites had Crush telling us that the competition was getting tougher in the World Wrestling Federation, but that he was loving every minute of it.

To put it bluntly, it was stupid and instantly forgettable.

11) The Big Boss Man - Hard Times

I was actually looking forward to this one, believing that this was going to be just the Boss Man's original theme.

Instead, it was a disco remix of it with a random guitar solo just dumped haphazardly over the top of it. Of course, we got some Bossman soundbites, with the big man telling us about the importance of respecting law and order and such.

Again, you start to get the distinct impression that the record makers were rapidly running out of what few ideas they'd had to begin with here, making the second half of this album almost intolerable.

12) Slam Jam 12"

I'm not making any jokes about a 12-inch slam jam, that stuff writes itself.

Here, we get the greatest evidence which exists that those involved in making this record had just about had enough of it. Instead of a new track or even a different version of Slam Jam, we get a slightly -and I do mean slightly- modified version of the original.

And that, my friends, is that.

Remember, that this was a cash-in, not a straight-up music album, so you have to cut it some slack, but apart from the catchy Wrestlemania single and that hilariously upbeat Undertaker track (why they didn't call it The Dead Man Jam is anyone's guess), this was largely terrible.

What I don't get is who would listen to this and when?

I mean, it's not 'driving in the car' music and it's certainly not 'rocking out at home' music. It's more 'play once and go LOL' music. Now that I'm finally getting rid of my old tape recorders, I guess it will be played no more. 

Thanks for reading. If you're looking for more pro wrestling album reviews, you might enjoy: 

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

Thursday, 1 February 2018

PPV REVIEW: WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day In Hell

WWE / WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell - Event poster May 11, 1997, 
Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia

Since breaking free from the shackles of The Ringmaster gimmick, Stone Cold Steve Austin had been a slow and steady rise through the ranks of the World Wrestling Federation. 

By the spring of 1997, the absolute pinnacle of Austin's meteoric rise to stardom was still the better part of a year away.

Yet if there was ever a sign that the WWF was considering Austin as 'the man,' it came tonight, as he headlined his first pay per view against reigning champion, The Undertaker.

How did Austin do in his first high profile title match?

Let's head down to Richmond, Virginia to find out.

It's a Cold Day in Hell 

WWE/ WWF - In Your House 15: Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler
We started with the obligatory awesome video package, this one making tonight's world title fight between WWF Champion The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin seem like something straight out of the most macabre horror movie you ever read.

The video did a great job of getting us psyched for the big main event tonight. Afterwards, Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler hyped not only the main event, but the In-ring debut of Ken Shamrock, and Ahmed Johnson running the gauntlet against the Nation of Domination.

With that, it was onto our opening match.

Flash Funk vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) 

WWE/ WWF - In Your House 15: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna) faced Flas Funk
According to the announcers, Flash Funk hadn't bought The Funkettes to ringside because they were afraid of Chyna.

Not that it made much of a difference. The outcome of this one was always inevitable, with Hunter Hearst Helmsley regaining his momentum following his post-Curtain Call spell in the company dog house and Flash Funk being, well, Flash Funk.

Still, whilst the result may have been predictable, the two men did at least give us a reasonable show before we got there.

Hunter was at the phase of his career in which he was evolving -ever so slowly and ever so subtly- away from the Greenwich Snob gimmick he'd debuted with, and beginning to show some of the smarmy arrogance that was the stock-in-trade of the original D-Generation-X.

Tonight, the former Intercontinental Champion dominated proceedings, giving his opponent a few opportunities to dazzle us with some unique -for 1997 WWF- offence before cutting him off with a crappy looking Pedigree for the three count.
Your Winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley 

Afterwards, Chyna picked up he defeated Funk and dropped him onto the ropes like a sack of crap. Funk sold his poor, aching crotch, then collapsed to the outside in comically over-the-top fashion.

Ken Shamrock is In the Zone 

WWE/ WWF - In Your House 15: Ken Shamrock cuts a backstage promo on Vader
Earlier tonight, Vader and Mankind had attacked Ken Shamrock.

Now, Shamrock -in the most monotone, lifeless promo ever, told us that he didn't really care about that. He was in his zone and ready to go to war.

Prior to the promo, JR and King showed us some footage of Shamrock in the 'Ultimate Fighting World,' which was always how the WWF referred to the UFC, as though it were some magical realm where guys just randomly beat each other up in cages all the time.

Rocky Sucks 

Displaying none of the confidence natural charisma that would eventually make him famous, Rocky Maivia flubbed his way through a terrible promo in which he spoke to Todd Pettengill about losing the Intercontinental title to Owen Hart.

Rocky told us that he'd learned a lot since joining the World Wrestling Federation, though apparently, he hadn't learned that it's generally a good idea to hype your upcoming match in a pre-match promo because he didn't here.

Mankind vs. Rocky Maivia

Mankind was without Paul Bearer here as Bearer was still out of commission, selling the fireball
WWE / WWF - In Your House: A Cold day in Hell - Todd Pettengill interviews Rocky Maivia
to the face that he received from The Undertaker at the previous month's In Your House: Revenge Of The Taker.

Much as with Rocky's pre-match promo, this match was nothing like the kind of thing we'd get when the two were the biggest stars in the company.

Rather, it was a whole bunch of 'meh' broken up by one cool spot when Rocky drilled Mankind with the Rock Bottom on the steel entrance ramp.

Speaking of the ramp, this was the first PPV to feature it as part of the set.

Anyway, Mankind won with the mandible claw and nobody cared.
Your Winner: Mankind 

Prior to our next match, Ahmed Johnson garbled out some kind of promo in which he said that he really just wanted to fight Farooq tonight and didn't care about fighting Crush and Savio Vega as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the same man who issued a challenge to all three men only a few weeks ago.

Gauntlet Match
Ahmed Johnson vs. Savio Vega, Crush, and Farooq (w/ The Nation of Domination) 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell - Ahmed Johnson interviewed by Todd Pettengill
Prior to this one getting underway, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon ordered the Nation to leave ringside, but allowed to stay at the top of the ramp, a difference of probably no more than 20ft.

Crush was up first and held his own against the Man Whose Trunks Would Always Ride Up His Ass, putting on a reasonable show before Ahmed inevitably picked up the first win.

Savio Vega then hobbled to ringside, selling an ankle injury which he immediately forgot about when he hit the ring.

Vega too was eliminated, but this time by Disqualification after beating up Ahmed with a steel chair.

The damage was enough for Farooq to come down and pick up the pieces, eventually winning the match after surviving a Pearl River Plunge, kicking out and hitting his own finisher, whatever that was called.
Your Winner: Farooq 

Before our next match, we were reminded of the rivalry between Vader and Ken Shamrock. Vader that spoke with Todd Pettengill backstage, saying that even though ABC had called Shamrock 'The World's Most Dangerous Man,' they didn't say anything about the World Wrestling Federation, because apparently, the WWF was a separate entity from the actual planet or something.

Vader also said that Shamrock knew nothing of pain and that it was time, Vader Time, and time for our next match.

No Holds Barred
Vader vs. Ken Shamrock 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell - Shamrock vs. Vader
Taking their cues directly from MMA -sorry, Ultimate Fighting World- a win here was by knockout or submission only.

As such, the match was fought more in the style of an MMA fight than a pro wrestling match and suffered because of it.

It was too long, had no flow to it, and delivered barely any excitement.

If you're genuinely a fan of UFC and the like, you'll probably enjoy this. If you're like me and just enjoy pro wrestling, you probably won't.

Unsurprisingly, Ken Shamrock won with the ankle lock.
Your Winner: Ken Shamrock 

Before we got to our main event, Stone Cold Steve Austin said that he didn't give a damn that there were five empty seats at ringside, reserved for The Hart Foundation, because that would just make it easier for all of them to get their asses kicked.

World Wrestling Federation Championship.
WWF Champion The Undertaker vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin 

WWF / WWE - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell - The Undertaker vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Naturally, The Hart Foundation made their presence felt here, taking their seats for what I'm told was a very good match.

You see, even though I've read a lot of praise for this match, there was a spot where Austin had the Champion in a headlock for what felt like about 10 minutes that just killed it for me.

From there, no matter what these two did, this fan just couldn't get back into it.

In the end, Austin nailed 'Taker with he Stone Cold Stunner and looked to have the match won until Brian Pillman caused the distraction by ringing the bell.

The Undertaker recovered, hit the Tombstone Piledriver, and that was all she wrote.
Your Winner and Still WWF Champion: The Undertaker 

Afterwards, The Hart Foundation ran in and attacked The Undertaker, leaving Stone Cold free to go after Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, who was still sat in the crowd in a wheelchair after recently having knee surgery.

Austin pushed Bret out of his chair, stole his crutch, and then cleaned house with it.

To finish, he drilled Undertaker with the Stone Cold Stunner, then went after the Hart Foundation as they high-tailed it backstage.

Like many In Your House events, this one wasn't the most important one in the world. Every match was immediately forgettable, all with one notable exception:

The main event. Even still, for whatever reason, Undertaker/Austin I didn't quite do it for this writer. 

Still, that's not to say there's no reason at all to watch this show. If for nothing else, it's worth at least a casual glance to see the continuing evolution of Triple H and The Rock. 

I'll have some more of them at another time. Until then, thanks for reading. 

1997 events reviewed so far:
  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1997
  8. WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
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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.