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, 23 July 2016

PPV REVIEW: WWF - In Your House 8: Beware of Dog

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Original VHS video cassette
May 26, 1996 / May 28, 1996 
Florence Civic Center, Florence, South Carolina / North Charleston Coliseum, North Charleston, South Carolina.

In Your House 8: Beware of Dog is an event that will go down in WWE history, though not necessarily for anything that went down in the ring. 

Instead, the show is perhaps best remembered for the raging thunderstorm which plunged the Florence Civic Centre into darkness and cut off the Pay Per View feed.

As such, fans watching at home only got to see the opening contest and the main event, with the matches in between taking place in the dark for the live audience only.

Making things up to the PPV crowd, those missed matches were basically done over two nights later at the Charleston Coliseum in an event dubbed Beware of Dog 2. 

It's at this point that I feel like mentioning that this is the first Retro Pro Wrestling review that I've done from the original VHS cassette tape which, I can tell you, was an experience of its own.
Before we even get as far as the opening signature, my trusty VHS comes with a helpful reminder not to try and order the PPV because the telephone lines won't work. Phew, thanks Silvervision.

The World Wrestling Federation, for over 50 years, the revolutionary sports entertainment.

Free for All

Tonight's opening pre-show segment wasted no time in getting right down to the action, with Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler introducing our first match.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship 

WWF Tag Team Champiions The Godwins (Henry O. & Phineas I. Godwin w/ Hillbilly Jim and Sunny) 

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Sunny declared herself the new co-manager of WWF Tag Team Champions The Godwins
This was during the time when Sunny was switching allegiances to whichever team had the titles, so, as The Smoking Gunns made their entrance, we got a pre-taped segment in which Mr. Perfect's interview with new champions The Godwins was interrupted by the former Body Donna, who declared that Phineas had officially signed a contract at Madison square garden to make her the new co-manager of the champs.

Not that the pig farmers' reign would last all that long.

Following a relatively mediocre match which Lawler and McMahon completely ignored (focusing instead on shilling the PPV), Sunny hopped up onto the apron looking to cause a distraction.

Instead, it was the Original Diva who wound up distracted, finding herself on the receiving end of a big, drawn out kiss from not-yet-bad-ass Billy Gunn.

The smooch was enough to put Phineas into a state of shock, allowing Bart to roll him up for the cover, the count, and the victory.
Your Winners and New Tag Team Champions: The Smoking Gunns

Post match, Sunny sat on the apron, flashing thigh and looking like the proverbial smitten kitten.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Billy Gunn kissed Sunny before winning the WWF Tag Team Titles from The GodwinsMeanwhile, backstage, Billy and Bart spoke to Doc Hendrix, boasting about their third tag team title reign and claiming that their new aggressive style was due to nobody visiting Billy during his recent stay in hospital. It was a pretty horrible promo, designed to subtly turn the Brothers Gunn heel but only really resulting in Billy looking like a goof who couldn't remember his lines.

Recapping Shawn vs. Davey

Up next, my In Your House VHS tape quickly cut to a lengthy hype video for tonight's big championship match between Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog.

For those needing to refresh their memories, here's the story in brief:

At the previous pay per view, In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies, an irate Bulldog was found searching for HBK after learning that the WWF Champion had -allegedly- tried to sleep with Bulldog's wife, Diana Smith.

The two had a confrontation on Raw, a melee on the WWF 1996 Kuwait tour in which Davey hurled Michaels into the ocean, and several other altercations, all resulting in both tonight's match, and a restraining order against Michaels being taken out by Diana.

Recapping the Undertaker vs. Goldust match

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - The Undertaker challenged Goldust for the WWF Intercontinental Title
More video followed, this one telling us how we got to tonight's casket match between the Bizarre One and the Phenom. Namely, the match was signed, mind games ensued, and Mankind got involved, leading to his memorable feud with Undertaker which proved to be one of the highlights of 1996.

Goldust was ready for action tonight, interrupting Doc's crowd hype and demanding that the Undertaker meet him in the ring at that Instant.

The lights flickered, teasing the arrival of The Phenom. Instead, we cut to another Shawn/Davey promo, and the start of tonight's show proper.

Marc Mero is Wild

Kicking things off, we got a quick recap of the rivalry between Marc Mero and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, which started back at Wrestlemania 12 when Mero saved Sable from a tongue lashing by Hunter.

Over the past couple of weeks, Mero had fallen victim to several HHH attacks and even eaten a couple of pedigrees. Backstage, Doc Hendrix asked the former Johnny B. Badd what strategy he had in place to avoid being pedigreed again.

In response, the Wildman completely ignored the question and instead cut the same basic promo he always cut during this run; talking about how wild he was and yelling something about a jungle.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. 'Wildman Marc Mero' w/ Sable

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Wildman Marc Mero beat Triple H in an awesome opening match
Somewhat surprisingly, this turned into a damn fun match, with Hunter bringing his A -erm- game to make sure every moment counted.

For his part, Mero spent most of the time getting his previously injured shoulder worked over before mounting an admittedly enjoyable comeback in the closing moments.

Unfortunately for the Wildman, a failed attempt at a somersault to the outside was missed, causing him to bust he knee and almost fall prey to a third pedigree. Instead, Hunter's who got the better of him, and he made his way to the outside, forcing Sable to watch him finish off her husband.

This gave Mero just enough time to get his act together, and counter another Pedigree attempt into a catapult for the win.
Your Winner: Marc Mero

It was round about this point that the storms I mentioned at the top of this review began to really take their toll, plunging the arena into darkness and causing the live PPV feed to cut off right up to the time of the scheduled main event.

As such, that bout was next up on my In Your House VHS tape.

Owen Hart: Manager for the Night

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Jim Cornette got Owen Hart a manager's license for the Bulldog vs. HBK match
Backstage, Mr. Perfect stood by with Davey Boy Smith, Owen Hart, Diana Smith, Clarence Mason, Jim Cornette and some fat guy with glasses who basically stood in the background looking gormless.

Cornette declared that -since he had his hands full managing Vader in a match against Yokozuna- he had acquired a one-night's managers license for Owen.

Cutting to another part of the arena, Michaels told Hendrix that it wasn't he who needed to beware of the Bulldog, but rather the Bulldog who needed to be aware of The Clique.

Shawn and manager Jose Lothario then made their way to the curtain, bumping into Mr. Perfect en route in a move which seemed pointless, but was in all likelihood just a case of Hennig accidentally getting caught on camera at the wrong moment. With that, it was finally onto the match...

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) vs. The British Bulldog (w/ Owen Hart, Diana Smith, and Clarence Mason)

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Shawn Michaels defended the World Wrestling Federation title against Davey Boy Smith
Although it wasn't quite...

Before the bell, attorney Clarence Mason served The Heartbreak Kid with a summons, ordering him to court to face charges of some made-up offence which was so ridiculous I didn't even name it properly.

In true pro wrestling fashion, good guy Michaels promptly ripped up the court order to the delight of the audience, only to get attacked from behind by Davey Boy.

Michaels soon regained control, and the two went back and forth, trading the advantage on several occasions in what proved to be a good, main-event caliber match, at least for the time period.

I've read rumours that Michaels threw one of his famous temper tantrums part way through this one, and there was a point when the champ was locked in a Bulldog chinlock where he appeared to have forgotten all about selling to vent his frustrations towards the referee.

It wasn't long after this that said referee took a tumble, leading us into the finish. With the Bulldog in control, Michaels slipped out of a running powerslam attempt and sent the challenger careering face first into the corner. Davey staggered back, Shawn hit a bridging German suplex, and the replacement referee counted to three.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Diana Smith's husband British Bulldog faced Shawn Michaels for the WWF title
Yet things weren't as clear cut as they should have been. It turned out that the replacement ref had counted Michaels' shoulders as being down, leading Bulldog's music to strike, and Diana Smith to parade around holding the WWF title upside down.

The original ref then argued that Bulldog's shoulders had been down, prompting WWF President Gorilla Monsoon to make his way out and declare the whole thing a draw.
Result: Draw (Shawn Michaels retains the WWF Championship)

It was at this point that the show took a decidedly different turn. Fast forwarding two days to the Tuesday after Raw, we were about to get the re-doing of the matches which took place during the power outage at the original pay per view.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Ted Dibiase promised to leave the WWF if Stone Cold Steve Austin didn't beat Savio VegaThis took place at what looked to be a standard WWF TV taping, and for the most part it felt like one, despite the best efforts of our new commentary team, Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect, to make it seem important.

Prior to the first match of what the company had dubbed In Your House: Beware of Dog 2, we got a clip from the previous evening's Monday Night Raw broadcast, in which the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase vowed to leave the World Wrestling Federation if his man, Stone Cold Steve Austin didn't beat Savio Vega in their upcoming Caribbean strap match.

Caribbean Strap Match
Savio Vega vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (w/ Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase) 

Throughout the original PPV broadcast, McMahon and Lawler had hyped up the stipulation that if Savio lost the match, he would be forced to become Dibiase's personal chauffeur. The new self-imposed stipulation by Dibiase certainly added something to the drama of the match, though to be fair, this would have been just as enjoyable even if there'd been nothing on the line. 

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Stone Cold Steve Austin lost to Savio Vega in an awesome strap match
Indeed, despite lacking the big time pay per view feel, both Savio and Stone Cold worked hard to deliver a very fun match, laying into each other both inside and outside the ring and using the strap to come up with unique -for the mid-90s WWF at least- spots. 

After pummeling each other for the better part of fifteen minutes, Austin looked to set to have the whole thing won, dragging Savio behind him as he went from corner to corner, touching each top turnbuckle pad as per the rules of the bout. 

Unbeknownst the future WWF Champion, Vega was actually tapping the 'buckles to, and when Austin hurled his rival into the fourth corner, he cost himself the match, and Ted Dibiase his WWF career. 
Your Winner: Savio Vega 

Post match, Savio led the South Carolina faithful in a terrible rendition of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" as Ted Dibiase walked off World Wrestling Federation television following an incredible career through the late 80s and early 90s. 

Yokozuna vs. Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) 

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Yokozuna lost to Vader
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why Mr. Fuji wasn't with Yokozuna here, though to be honest, I seem to remember him just gradually disappearing from television early into Yoko's face run. 

Fuji or not, Yoko put forth an entertaining effort here; both he and Vader really got the crowd into the match in the early going before the former battered the latter from pillar to post in a fun -albeit brief- match. 

Despite dominating for much of the contest, former two time WWF Champion Yokozuna lost the bout after attempting to hit the Banzai Drop on Jim Cornette. 

Vader rolled his manager out of harms way, causing Yoko to hit the canvas hard. A couple of attacks to Yoko's previously injured leg was then all it took for the Mastadon to pick up a victory. 
Your Winner: Vader

Before our next match, we were shown a brief recap of the slow-burning feud between Goldust and Ahmed Johnson, a feud which turned out to have practically nothing to do with our final bout of the evening. 

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship Casket Match
WWF Intercontinental Champion Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer 
Though it should be pretty obvious to anyone who's ever read my WWF reviews in the past, I rate matches solely on whether or not I personally enjoyed them. As such, whilst this mostly forgotten casket match may have its fans, I can't say I'm one of them. 

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 8 - BEWARE OF DOG - Goldust narrowly beat The Undertaker with help from Mankind
Running at only eight minutes, most of those minutes were pretty tedious, and saw the champion dominating the bulk of the contest with a few crowd-popping comebacks from The Dead Man. 

Speaking of comebacks, Undertaker looked set to win his first Intercontinental Championship by landing his trademark Tombstone Piledriver and rolling his opponent towards the casket. Instead, Mankind popped up out of said casket, knocked 'Taker out with the Mandible Claw and rolled him inside. The lid slammed shut, and this one was over. 
Your Winner and Still WWF Intercontinental Champion: Goldust

With Mankind still sat on top of it, the casket began to emit smoke. Mankind then made his way backstage as to the shock of nobody besides Paul Bearer, the casket was now revealed to be empty. The lights went out, The Undertaker Gong erm, gonged, and Beware of Dog 2 was off the air. 

Despite the final match on the tape, Beware of Dog was actually a damn fine show from start to finish. The Caribbean Strap Match has been referred to be some as an oft-forgotten classic, and I tend to agree. It was by far the best match on the show, and that's with a solid effort from Michaels/Bulldog and an entertaining opener between HHH/Mero competing for the MOTN award. 
Definitly track this one down if you can. 

Monday, 4 July 2016


April 28, 1996
Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska

The World Wrestling Federation of early 1996 was certainly an interesting place, one that saw the company slowly -oh so very slowly- moving away from the outlandish cartoon characters which had tarnished the early days of the New Generation, without quite going far enough into the edgy territory which would make the start of the Attitude Era.

Instead, In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies found the company somewhere in between, with Shawn Michaels leading the charge and best friends Kevin Nash and Scott Hall putting in their last appearances on WWF television for six years.

Shortly after this event, the two would jump ship to World Championship Wrestling, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

For now however, let's focus on this often forgotten, but actually quite enjoyable In Your House offering, featuring Nash and Michaels in a brutal main event, Ultimate Warrior and Goldust in a match that was brutal for all the wrong reasons, and this pre-show Free for All: 

"The World Wrestling Federation, for over fifty years, the revolutionary sports...entertainment."

Ah, the sound of my childhood.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon were our commentators for tonight's show
Following the opening signature, tonight's show began with a video look back at the friendship-turned-rivalry-turned-friendship-turned-rivalry between our new WWF Champion, The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, and the former champ, Big Daddy Cool Diesel. 

Tonight, the two would square off in a no-holds barred match which to this day remains one of this writer's personal favourites from the 1990s. Before that however, we had our usual welcome from commentators Jerry 'The King' Lawler and Vince McMahon, both of whom were interrupted by the music of Davey Boy Smith in readiness for our opening contest.

The Bulldog is afraid of snakes
As the two made their way to the ring, we got a look back to a house show in Germany, in which Jake 'The Snake' Roberts freaked out Davey Boy with a snake. This lead to tonight's match, to Camp Cornette attorney Clarence Mason issuing a writ banning Roberts' snake from ringside, and Roberts cutting a brief pre-match promo in which he vowed to ignore said writ and bring the snake out anyway.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Jake Roberts promises to bring his snake out for a match against British Bulldog
Which, as you probably guessed, he did, unleashing the python in the middle of the ring and causing most of Camp Cornette to hightail it out of the ring. I say most, because Cornette himself never actually made it, instead passing out in the corner of the ring until Mason came to revive him.

Eventually playing by the rules (he was a pre-Attitude Era babyface after all) Roberts eventually took the snake backstage, only to return with Ahmed Johnson, changing what seemed like it was going to be a Bulldog/Roberts singles clash, into a tag bout.

British Bulldog & Owen Hart  (w/ Jim Cornette and Clarence Mason) vs. Jake 'The Snake' Roberts & Ahmed Johnson 
From the proceeding angle to the early moments of the match, this whole thing was played up for laughs and laughs alone.

In the first few minutes, both Davey and Owen tried to get the other one to do step up for a showdown with the Pearl River Powerhouse, Ahmed Johnson. It was, if not necessarily hilarious, at least very well played by both men, and proof -if ever proof were needed- that the two were among the best all-rounders the World Wrestling Federation had at the time.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Jake Roberts works over Owen Hart
Inevitably, the heels managed to gain the upperhand, taking control in what was a very fun opening match.

Towards the finish, Ahmed Johnson turned the tables for his team, going on a rampage which -whilst it certainly revealed some of the flaws in his skill set- also revealed a raw charisma and highlighted his popularity with the crowd, both of which made him seem like a sure-fire main eventer in the making back in 1996.

Alas, tonight wasn't to be Johsnon & Robert's day. With the referee distracted by Owen and Ahmed, Bulldog took out Jake's knee with Jim Cornette's tennis racket, then wrenched the battered joint for a quick submission victory.
Your Winners: British Bulldog & Owen Hart 

Still with the Intercontinental Championship around his waist after defeating Razor Ramon several months ago (a fact I totally forgot about during my Wrestlemania 12 review because the announcers never once mentioned it), Goldust was up next to defend the title in one of the most farcical non-matches to ever take place.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Goldust (w/ Marlena and Unnamed Bodyguard)
WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Ultimate Warrior smokes Marlena's cigar in his 'match' against Goldust
For the record, the 'Unnamed Bodyguard' was -as most long-time fans know by now- Mike Halac, better known for his ill-fated 1995 run as half-man/half-beast Mantaur. 

Also for the record, this was terrible.

Having made his big return to the company at Wrestlemania 12 in a squash-match outing against Hunter Hearst Helmsley, former Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior was looking to take back the title he last won way back at Summerslam 1988, not that he seemed to be taking things all that seriously.

Taking just as long with his entrance as your typical Undertaker arrival at Wrestlemania, Warrior's pre-match rope shaking made this writer realise that the late legend's 1996 run was less about having him compete in matches, and more about the true spectacle of the Ultimate Warrior. Which was perhaps just as well, because this really was no match at all.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Ultimate Warrior generally being awesome in a match against Goldust
The majority of this extended angle saw Goldust too afraid to step inside the ring against the Warrior who, for his part, spent most of the time smoking Marlena's cigar and inviting Goldie to step 'tween the ropes and take a seat on his director's chair, which had been set up in the ring.

The champ finally acquiesced, only to have his hand burned with the cigar and to be clotheslined directly out of his chair by the Warrior.

Once again, Goldust escaped, only this time he was finally counted out, giving the match -but not the title- to the Ultimate one.
Your Winner via countout: Ultimate Warrior (Goldust retains the Intercontinental Championship) 

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - British Bulldog wanted to break into Shawn Michaels locker room after the champ upset his wife
Backstage, Doc Hendrix brought us word that a seriously irate British Bulldog was trying to get into Shawn Michaels' dressing room. Apparently, Michaels had said something untoward about Bulldog's wife Diana, and Davey Boy was not happy. Though nothing would come of this tonight, it would lead us to next month's main event, as the two squared off for the title at In Your House: Beware of Dog.

Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Razor Ramon
In his last WWF pay per view appearance until the new millennium, Razor Ramon got his ass handed to him by Vader in a hard-hitting, though not terribly exciting match.

Razor did get his time to shine, pummeling The Mastadon into the corner, clobbering him with several clotheslines, and eventually driving him over the ropes to the outside, but this match -which was about 90% fists and clotheslines- belonged to Vader, and wasn't very good because of it.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Scott 'Razor Ramon' Hall wouldn't be seen on WWF TV again until 6 years after losing to Vader
Sure, there were a few highlights, particularly during The Bad Guy's big comeback towards the finish, but this was one of those plodding brawls that was just a chore to watch, and when Vader finally put Ramon out of his misery, yours truly was very glad that this one was over.
Your Winner: Vader

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the last time we would ever see the Razor Ramon character compete on a World Wrestling Federation pay per view.

Post-match, Doc Hendrix told Jim Cornette and Vader that because of the latter's victory tonight, he would be facing Yokozuna at next month's In Your House pay per view.

Mr. Perfect interviews Sunny
"Sunny, I just have to say that you have the greatest pair of...tag team wrestlers I have ever seen in the World Wrestling Federation," began wrestler-turned-interviewer Mr. Perfect. 

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Mr. Perfect interviews Sunny and the Body Donnas
Tonight, the Perfect One was on-hand to interview Sunny about how she'd basically used her smoking hot body to distract Phineas Godwin enough to allow the Body Donnas to beat the Godwins for the WWF Tag Team Championship back in the Wrestlemania 12 Free-For-All.

The two teams would meet in a rematch next.

World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions The Body Donnas (Skip & Zip, w/ Sunny) vs. The Godwins (Henry  & Phineas Godwin, w/ Hillbilly Jim)

Back in the 90s, the Body Donnas were on of my favourite tag teams for the sole reason that they had Sunny in their corner. Watching these shows back some 20 years later, it occurs to me that Skip & Zip are still one of my favourite teams from that period, albeit for a completely different reason; namely, that they could put on an awesome tag match given half the chance.

Coupled with a Godwins team who played their parts perfectly well, the champions pulled off another entertaining content and took the win when shennanigans on the outside (Sunny gave Phineas a signed picture, causing Hillbilly Jim to threaten her with the slop bucket) allowed Zip to switch places with a beaten up skip, and to ultimately roll up Henry O. for a quick pinfall.

Not the longest match by any means, but certainly a very enjoyable outing.
Your Winners and Still WWF Tag Team Champions: The Body Donnas

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Wildman Marc Mero and Sable weren't happy with Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Backstage, Doc Hendrix showed us a clip from the earlier Free For All show, reminding us how Triple H and the 123 Kid had earlier beaten up Wildman Marc Mero. Hendrix was now standing by with the Wildman and Sable. The latter said nothing, the former told Hunter that he would regret the attack, and would eventually answer to the 'call of the wild.'


Shawn and Diesel - Good Friends, Better Enemies 
Before we got to tonight's big time main event, we were given another look at the storied history between Big Daddy Cool and the Heartbreak Kid. This was followed by brief, pre-taped promos from both men. The champ promised that one way or another, he and the Kliq (HBK's fans, not the infamous backstage group) would dance all over Diesel's face. The challenger responded by threatening to destroy Shawn and promising that he had something special for Vince McMahon.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Diesel destroyed former friend Shawn Michaels in their No Holds Barred match for the WWF title
No Holds Barred Match for the World Wrestling Federation Champion
WWF Champion The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario) vs. Big Daddy Cool Diesel
Before the match got underway, that 'something special' seemed to be nothing more than Diesel's ring jacket, which he threw at McMahon just seconds before the cameras panned over to Mad Dog Vachon. For all intents and purposes, Vachon was merely a 'legend in the crowd,' but would play a much greater role later on in this very good main event.

Neither man wasted any time in laying right into each other, but it was the challenger who took the upperhand in the early going, and then continued to dominate for the bulk of the contest.

No, this wasn't the fastest paced match in history, but it was dramatic, intense, somewhat emotional and -at least by WWF's standards at the time- incredibly brutal.

WWF / WWE - IN YOUR HOUSE 7 - GOOD FRIENDS BETTER ENEMIES - Shawn Michaels was powerbombed through the announce table by Diesel in their No Holds Barred match for the WWF title
Diesel basically destroyed his rival, along with Earl Hebner, McMahon and Lawler's announce table, and -here it is folks- Mad Dog Vachon, ripping the future Hall of Famer's artificial leg off and bringing it to the ring.

Unfortunately for BDC, that was to be his downfall. After taking an absolute beating at the hands of his former bodyguard, Michaels recovered just long enough to nail Diesel with Vachon's leg. A quick Sweet Chin Music later, and this one was over.
Your Winner and STILL WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels 

Honestly, going into that match, I didn't anticipate enjoying it as much today as I did a 12 year-old kid, so I'm actually very happy that I was proven wrong. No, it might not be the greatest of all time, but for my money, Diesel vs. Shawn at Good Friends, Better Enemies is an oft-forgotten highlight of the mid-90s.

As for the rest of the card, there honestly isn't much to rave about. Sure, the opening segments with Owen, Bulldog, Ahmed Johnson, and Jake Roberts were entertaining in their own way, and the tag team title contest was fun to watch, but they were hardly extraordinary, and don't exactly make this throw-away event a must-see for anyone other than the most ardent of fans. 

Saturday, 2 July 2016


Boston, Massachusetts

Finally..The Rock, has come back to Smackdown. Well, in video form at least; delivering a special message to wrestlers and wrestling fans alike as part of the ten year anniversary of WWE Smackdown. Celebrating in style, all three brands are on hand for a very special edition of the best wrestling show on TV that culminates with an epic eight-man tag team main event.

Here's what went down when the stars of Smackdown celebrated their birthday.

*Note. This review was written live at the time back in December 2009. I found it recently whilst going through my writing portfolio and decided to post it here.* 

Batista vs. Kane 

Following an exciting video highlighting some of Smackdown's most memorable moments, two of the brand's biggest men collide in the ring.

As Big Dave makes his way to the ring, we're treated a flashback of the time he and Rey Mysterio defeated MNM for the tag team titles, and whilst he'll no doubt be hoping that a similar scene plays out come Hell in the Cell this Sunday, right now 'The Animal' has his hands full with 'The Big Red Machine'.

It's a decent effort from both men which produces a reasonably entertaining match, at least by their individual standards. After some hard-hitting, back-and-forth action, a Bastita Bomb puts Kane away for the three count.

Your Winner: Batista

Out in the back, the entire WWE roster is on hand for one giant party, celebrating ten years of Smackdown. Michael Cole pokes fun of himself by over-using his 'vintage' catchphrase (it's funny the first time, but soon gets just as annoying as when he uses it at the commentator's table) before Finlay orders some Irish whiskey and proposes a toast to Smackdown. Not surprisingly, CM Punk arrives on the scene to denounce the debauchery.

There's a cameo from Santino who, under the impression that it's a fancy-dress party, is decked in Undertaker attire and thus scares the life out of Teddy Long, but the highlight of the whole segment is the appearance of a returning Vickie Guerrero.

After lambasting Teddy for reinstating The Undertaker's Hell's Gate, the nuclear heat machine herself announces that she'll be returning to the brand to manage newcomer, Eric Escobar. Whether Escobar is much good remains to be seen, but this writer welcomes the return of one of the most entertaining women the show has ever seen.

After a quick commercial, we've got more from the big party. There are some things in life that this reporter never thought he'd have to commit to writing and 'a drunken Michael Cole eats shrimp with Finlay' is certainly one of them. Vintage Cole makes a joke about Hornswoggle's height, causing the little leprechaun to kick him in the shin.

Over on the other side of the room, Zack Ryder is denied access to MVP's V.I.P Lounge, whilst everyone from Charlie Haas to The Iron Sheik are allowed inside.

A Tribute to Eddie...

Smackdown fades into an emotional tribute video to the late, great Eddie Guerrero, and your reporter isn't ashamed to admit that it brought a tear to the eye.

Tag Team Match: Intercontinental Champion John Morrison & United States Champion Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler & The Miz

Building towards their respective title matches at Hell in a Cell, Ziggler and Miz take it to their opponents in a very entertaining tag team contest as Jack Swagger watches on from ringside.

Meeting in the ring for the first time since they were separated, The Miz and John Morrison elicit a rave response from the Boston crowd as they kick things off, before things explode into an exciting, fast-paced bout which ends when Ziggler hits the Zig Zag on Morrison to pick up the win for his team.

Your Winners: Dolph Ziggler & The Miz 

Back at the party, racial stereotyping is in full effect as Yoshi Tatsu and Kung Fu Naki indulge in a spot of karaoke, singing Shawn Michael's theme tune. Jillian Hall takes over and the party comes screeching to a halt as her voice sends a disturbing chill up your writer's spine.

Whilst all this is going on, Sgt. Slaughter and the Iron Sheik get into a less-than-eloquent argument over which is better; the USA or Iran. The Sheik chokes on a piece of food, causing The Hurricane to come to the rescue.

Elsewhere, Michael Cole throws up on Chris Jericho's shoe, setting off a chain reaction as The Big Show also hurls. The look on Jericho's face deserves several awards.

Finally, The Rock has Come Back to Smackdown...

You could argue that the reason The Rock's appearance on tonight's show is such fun is all down to nostalgia. You could even argue that the reason his appearance makes for such a good segment is simply down to the novelty factor. You could, but you'd be wrong.

The reason why The Rock's segment on the tenth anniversary of Smackdown show is so good, is because The Rock himself is so good. Despite his years away from the business, 'The Great One' manages to deliver an incredible promo that puts most of today's current stars to shame. It's a hilarious, exciting performance from one of the most popular superstars in WWE history as The Rock brings out all his old catchphrases, puts over the Hell in a Cell pay per view and even hints at a possible guest host spot on Raw.

WWE Women's Championship Lumberjack Match: Michelle McCool defends against Melina 

With what looks like every WWE Diva in the company surrounding the ring, McCool defends her title against Melina in a fun little match that eventually breaks down into a full-scale diva riot.

As the lumberjacks, or jills, if you will, lay into each other on the outside, Beth Phoenix gives McCool the assist in keeping hold of her gold.

Your Winner and still WWE Divas Champion:

In a silly promo complete with creepy music, The Undertaker cuts his usual 'you will burn in the depths of hell' promo on CM Punk, and promises to make the champion need pills and alcohol. Yeah, great message for the PG crowd, 'Taker.

From the Vault: Matt Hardy vs. Chavo Guerrero, Smackdown 2002.

Is it just me, or is Chavo becoming something of a FTV regular? Not that anyone's complaining; going up against another FTV regular in Matt Hardy, the Mexican warrior takes it to his opponent in a very enjoyable, hard-hitting contest which is interrupted towards the finish by Kane...not the actual person, just, as Michael Cole describes it, his 'presence being felt'. This distraction is enough to allow Chavo to drill his opponent and pick up the win.

Your Winner: Chavo Guerrero

Heading to the back, the party is in full flow when Drew McIntyre takes up the microphone and proposes a toast; to Smackdown, to the future World Champion, to himself, and to the party just getting started. This brings out R-Truth, who ruins everybody's evening, and the cake, by brawling with McIntyre. The WWE Superstars come together to break things up, and the party is pretty much over.

Eight-Man Tag Team Match: DX, WWE Champion John Cena & The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton, Legacy and CM Punk

Billed as  'the biggest eight man tag team match in Smackdown history', this one certainly isn't short of star power as the top performers of both the red and blue brands do battle in a solid, action-packed main event.

A particularly nice touch comes in the form of lingering tension between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, still playing up the rivalry that led to their MOTY candidate at Wrestlemania 25.

The two legends aside, everybody plays their part well, creating a very enjoyable match which brings an equally enjoyable show to a close when The Undertaker pops Orton with the Tombstone for the win.

Your Winners: DX, John Cena and The Undertaker

In the post-match, the winners celebrate, each star posing to their own theme music as blue confetti falls from the rafters.

Final Thoughts:
For the last ten years, Smackdown has consistently proved its worth as an entertaining show and tonight's anniversary celebrations were a fitting tribute to a program which rarely fails to deliver. Despite not achieving very much (other than reaffirming the beliefs of most people that Michael Cole is some sort of idiot), the backstage party skits were entertaining, whilst the in-ring action ranged from good to great.

The return of Vickie Guerrero is most welcomed by this writer, and even after months away from the spot-light the former General Manager didn't miss a beat.

Yet for all that was great about tonight's show, one thing stood head and shoulders above the rest as the greatest; that spine-tingling promo from The Rock. If any one of Smackdown's current stars could develop even half the skill and charisma possessed by 'The Great One' in his prime, then the Friday night show may well continue to impress for many more years to come.

Happy tenth anniversary, Smackdown. Here's to ten more great years.

Saturday, 25 June 2016


WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Event Poster
Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California
March 31st, 1996

Would Shawn Michaels finally realise his boyhood dream of becoming the World Wrestling Federation Champion, or would reigning champion Bret Hart leave California with the his beloved title still around his waist? Tonight, we were set to find out in one of the highly anticipated matches of 1996. 

Other matches were set to take place too, but for all intents and purposes, this entire show was built around two of the biggest stars of the 1990s. 

Let's head to the video and take a look at what went down, shall we? 

Our event tonight begins with a dramatic hype video for tonight's WWF Championship Iron Man Match between Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and 'The Heartbreak Kid' Shawn Michaels. Shown entirely in black-and-white, the video (which I sadly can't find on Youtube), did a great job of making the hotly-anticipated match feel like not only the most important wrestling match ever, but also a legitimate sporting contest in which both men would really lay it all on the line for the most prestigious title in pro wrestling.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon were our commentary team
The video was followed by the famous Wrestlemania theme, and a welcome from our hosts, Jerry 'The King' Lawler and Vince McMahon. Lawer and McMahon ran down some of tonight's matches, including the upcoming Diesel/Undertaker clash, and the Hollywood Backlot Brawl between Goldust and Rowdy Roddy Piper. 

Yet it was neither of those matches which would get us underway tonight. That honour went to a six man tag team bout which heralded the first of just a few pay per view appearances for Yokozuna as a baby face, and also the pay per view debut of Ahmed Johnson. 

Six Man Tag: Vader, Owen Hart & British Bulldog (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Yokozuna, Ahmed Johnson, & Jake 'The Snake' Roberts (w/ Mr. Fuji) 
Despite featuring the usually conform talents of Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart, this opening contest failed to live up to what it could have been. 

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) teamed with Owen Hart and British Bulldog to Face Ahmed Johnson, Yokozuna, and Jake 'The Snake' Roberts
Though it was saved from being a total snooze-fest thanks to the opening six-man melee and a couple of smashmouth exchanges between Vader and Yoko, the majority of the match saw the heels beating mercilessly on Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, much to the general apathy of the Anaheim faithful. 

Yoko did eventually turn the tables for his team, but it was too little, too late. The former two-time WWF Champion got himself beat up at ringside whilst Vader -who to be fair looked excellent in this match- finished off Roberts for the three count.

The stipulation that Yokozuna would get five minutes alone with Jim Cornette if his team won the match was ignored and never spoken of again. 
Your Winners: Vader, Owen Hart, and British Bulldog

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Marlena watching her man Goldust in a Hollywood Backlot Brawl against Rowdy Roddy Piper
With the victors making their way backstage, Vince and King began to hype up our next match, pitting Goldust and Roddy Piper in what McMahon very clearly referred to as a Hollywood Backlot Bra. 

A clip of Marlena settling in to watch the action from her dressing room was shown, and with that, it was on to the fight. 

Hollywood Backlot Brawl
Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Goldust (PART 1)
In a pre-taped opening segment, cameras panned to the erm, Hollywood backlot, where a visibly pissed-off Roddy Piper stood waiting, baseball bat in hand. Godie arrived a few seconds later in a golden (what else?) Cadillac, and was promptly beaten every which way by an incensed Hot Rod. 

I remember quite clearly that as a 12  year-old kid I thought this match was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen, simply because it was -for a child who grew up on New Generation WWF- so different from anything else I'd seen. 

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Rowdy Roddy Piper waits for Goldust in their Hollywood Backlot Brawl
With the benefit of hindsight (or perhaps its just old age cynicism), I'm willing to call this segment what it was; a mildly entertaining brawl which served as a nice change of pace from the evening's in-ring action. 

Speaking of action, the majority of the "match" so far largely saw Roddy kicking seven shades of holy moly out of his rival until The Golden One returned to his car and ran Piper over. Making a miraculous recovery just seconds later, Piper returned to his own vehicle, and chased Goldust out onto the highway. 

Ladies and gentlemen, this match WILL continue..albeit not just yet...

A word from Savio 
In a typically cheesy babyface promo that was still somehow strangely effective, Carribean Sensation Savio Vega spoke to Doc Hendrix about his joy at finally making it to Wrestlemania, and how the occasion was made all the sweeter by the opportunity to even the score with Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Stone Cold Steve Austin (w/ Ted Dibiase) vs. Savio Vega 
Tonight's match finds the man who would go on to be the biggest star of the Attitude Era in a weird, transitional phase of his WWF tenure.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Stone Cold Steve Austin (w/ Ted Dibiase) made his Wrestlemania debut
Despite dropping the  'Ringmaster' moniker, in favour of the now-famous 'Stone Cold' tag and displaying early signs of the permanently-pissed-off attitude that would make him such a star, Austin was still accompanied by his old Ringmaster music, The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase as his manager, and the Million Dollar Championship.

It's also worth noting that this was the better part of 18 months prior to being dropped on his head and changing his style to that of a brawler, meaning this version of Stone Cold Steve Austin could go with all the skill and agility displayed in his WCW heydey.

And man, did he go.

Though largely ignored given the remainder of his body of work, Austin's Wrestlemania debut was nonetheless an impressive outing, taking the mediocre Vega through a fun little match before putting him out of his misery courtesy of the Million Dollar Dream.
Your Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin. 

What I didn't mention during the above recap, was that during the bout, Vince McMahon managed to get hold of Roddy Piper on the phone as cameras showed us the WWF President chasing Goldust through the highways of California. Another clip of this was shown prior to our next interview.

Mr. Perfect interviews Diesel
WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Diesel gave a backstage interview to Mr. Perfect about his upcoming match against Undertaker
Back in the locker room, Mr. Perfect reminded Big Daddy Cool Diesel of his recent rivalry with The Undertaker. For his part, Diesel -now a fully-fledged heel- declared that despite Undertaker's size, he would defeat him, before going on to challenge Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship. This despite Shawn not yet having the belt.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Sable) vs. The Ultimate Warrior 
Another debut next, as Sable made her first appearance on our screens on the arm of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who was also putting in his first of many Wrestlemania appearances. Yet it was neither the future Attitude Era pin-up nor the future multi-time world champion that was the star attraction here.

No sir, that honour went to the highly anticipated return of The Ultimate Warrior, a man not seen on WWF telivision since before the 1992 Survivor Series.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Triple H and Sable made their Wrestlemania debuts together
I'd say that this match was garbage, but let's be honest, this one was never supposed to be about having a competitive pro wrestling match, it was all about the spectacle of the Warrior's return, and to that end, it delivered.

In the opening seconds, Triple H got in his only bout of offence by drilling Warrior with a Pedigree, only for the former World and Intercontinental Champion to completely no-sell the move.

A few clobbering blows, clotheslines, and the inevitable Big Splash of Doom later, and that was all she wrote.
Your Winner: The Ultimate Warrior

Marc Mero made his first WWF appearance in a promo with your mate and mine, Todd Pettingill. Mero claimed that he'd waited 'five long years' to get to the World Wrestling Federation without once mentioning his time as Johnny B. Badd, then said some other stuff about the fire which burns in his eyes that made little sense.
WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - The Ultimate Warrior returned to the WWF and squashed Triple H
The debuts continued next, as Sable's real-life husband

Mero's promo was interrupted by an irate Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who first took out his frustrations by yelling at Sable, before turning his attention to the 'Wild Man.' A short brawl ensured, before we cut back to the roads of Anaheim, with Vince McMahon telling us that Goldust was on his way to the arena to see Marlena, and Roddy Piper was on his way to, well, presumably to beat the stuffing out of Goldie.

Big Daddy Cool Diesel vs. The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer 
I'll admit to being a little disappointed whenever I criticism's of Kevin Nash' in-ring performance. Sure, he was no Eddie Guerrero, Bryan Danielson, or Shawn Michaels, and sure his WCW run left a lot to be desired in terms of bell-to-bell action, but during his WWF run, Big Daddy Cool more often than not came up with a decent offering when it came to big-time Pay Per View bouts.

And whilst this match wasn't as good as his earlier encounters with Bret Hart and the aforementioned Heartbreak Kid, with both he and Undertaker playing to their strengths here, this was at least an entertaining battle of the big men.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - The Undertaker continued the streak by defeating Big Daddy Cool Diesel
After a ferocious brawl in the early moments, the match did admittedly slow down tremendously for a spell, though even then, Nash's natural heel charisma and the fan's unwavering devotion to The Phenom were enough to maintain this writer's interest.

As you may expect, Big Daddy Cool controlled much of the contest, and, given the legend of The Streak, you don't need me to tell you that The Dead Man eventually made a comeback, planting Diesel with a chokeslam and a rather wobbly Tombstone piledriver to pick up the win.
Your Winner: The Undertaker (5-0 at Wrestlemania)

Backstage, Todd Pettingill just happened to be conveniently watching Roddy Piper and Goldust's big chase on the security monitors as the two men arrived at the arena.

Hollywood Backlot Brawl
Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Goldust (PART 2)
In the culmination of this unique match-that-wasn't-really-a-match, Piper stalked Goldust through the backstage area and out to the ring. There, Goldust took the advantage, pummeling Piper into the corner, working over his leg, and eventually choking him out with Hot Rod's own t-shirt.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - Roddy Piper stripped Goldust to reveal his women's underwear in their Hollywood Backlot Brawll
"This one started in a Holywood Backlot Bra," McMahon reminded us on at least two occasions, making this fan wonder whether he wasn't actually making some inside joke rather than repeatedly failing to pronounce the word brawl.

With the crowds firmly behind him, Piper eventually turned the tables, beating up on his adversary and stripping him of his gold suit, revealing that Goldie had been wearing stockings, suspenders, and a corset the whole time.

Sort of brings new meaning to the phrase backlot bra, doesn't it?
Your Winner (sort of): Rowdy Roddy Piper 

With that out of the way, there was only one thing left on tonight's show; an epic, hour-long showdown between two of the biggest stars of the 1990s.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - WWF Champion Bret Hart gave a backstage promo before facing Shawn Michaels
Before we got to the action, we saw pre-taped interviews in which both champ and challenger appeared calm, focused and ready, each man separately agreeing that the only thing left to do was to make it happen.

World Wrestling Federation Championship 60 Minute Iron Man Match
WWF Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. 'The Heartbreak Kid' Shawn Michaels (w/ Jose Lothario)
Over the years, I've seen various people give mixed reviews of this epic main event, with some declaring it close to a full-on masterpiece and others deriding it as little more than a slow, long-winded, and not terribly exciting affair.

It's fair to say I fall somewhere in the former camp. No, I don't think this is a five star, grade A, perfect match, but I do admit to thoroughly enjoying it, even if I do wonder whether part of that enjoyment has to do with a certain nostalgia factor.

The moment that Shawn Michaels descends from the rafters on a zip line in a moment played literally thousands of times on WWE television since, a little chill of excitement rushed through my spine.

WWE / WWF - WRESTLEMANIA 12 - WWF Champion Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels get instructions from Earl Hebner before their Iron Man Match
This is the pro wrestling of my childhood, and I can't help but enjoy it for that reason, but with age and experience comes the benefit of a certain appreciation for just how talented both Michaels and Hart were. Together, the two delivered a fantastic performance.

Admittedly, the bout did drag on a little through the 20 - 40 minute mark, but the closing moments were as good as anything this fan has ever seen, and when Shawn Michaels finally fulfilled The Boy Hood Dream during the sudden-death overtime period, it was both the culmination of a terrific bout and -at the time- the start of my lifelong admiration of The Heartbreak Kid.
Your Winner and NEW World Wrestling Federation Champion: Shawn Michaels 

And that was another Wrestlemania in the bag. On the whole, this was far from the worst 'Mania in history, though it was abundantly obvious that tonight was all about one thing and one thing only; finally putting the WWF Championship around the waist of Shawn Michaels.

On the undercard, the Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega was a surprise highlight, whilst the Hollywood Back Lot Bra Brawl served as a welcome change of pace, even if the whole thing does seem a little ridiculous in hindsight.

On a final note, thanks for sticking with me and reading this Wrestlemania 12 review. A combination of real life responsibilities and a lack of enthusiasm for the current WWE product means I just haven't been able to commit to the Retro Pro Wrestling Blog as much as I would like, but, as ever, I will keep plugging away in the hopes that I can recapture some of that magic that I felt when I first watched Wrestlemania 12 back in my childhood. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

BOOK REVIEW: William Regal - Walking a Golden Mile

From the fairgrounds and holiday camps of working class England to the heights of WWE Stardom, William Regal's journey to one of pro wrestling's most respected -if not necessarily successful- figures certainly makes for an interesting read. 

In all honesty, I had my reservations about this book, not necesarily because of Regal himself, but because I've found some of the more heavily-branded WWE books, especially smaller ones like this one, to be somewhat lacking.

So it was a nice surprise to open the book and find that, although there is a certain brisk pace to this one, it was a very well-written read that chronicles the life of Darren Matthews from his early days growing up as a fan to his then-current role in the WWE, striking just the right balance between humour, heartbreak, and hope.

Indeed, the mid-section of the book, in which the British superstar recounts his battle with drug and alcohol addition were particularly hard-hitting, and it's refreshing to read an open, honest account of how quickly addiction can spiral out of control without the writer blaming anyone -or anything- but themselves.

But to focus on just that section of the book is to do the whole thing a discredit. As someone living only a few miles down the road from Blackpool (and having spent a lot of time there drunk out of my ass), I found the tales about the British wrestling scene particularly insightful, whilst the latter part - a sober William Regal enjoying life as a WWE Superstar- to be nothing but full of gratitude and humility for the opportunities that being a famous pro wrestler affords him.

Sure, it could have been a little longer, sure it would have been nicer to expand on a few things rather than the this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened, the end approach that Regal and his co-writer, Neil Chandler, take, but on the whole, I enjoyed Walking a Golden Mile, and certainly recommend at least taking a look at it.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Mick Foley - Hardcore Diaries

First things first; as both a life-long pro wrestling fan and somebody who's only life ambition since being a kid was to work as a writer, I've got nothing but admiration for Mick Foley.

As I mentioned in my review of his groundbreaking opus, Have a Nice Day, I find the very fact that Foley succeeded in a business where by all accounts he shouldn't have done, to be pretty inspiring. In documenting the journey to that success over the course of several autobiographies, it's got to be said that the Hardcore Legend -despite the own jabs at his own work- has certainly got a talent for putting pen to paper and making readers engage with whatever story he happens to be telling.

So it was with some excitement then that I finally picked up Hardcore Diaries, the only Mick Foley memoir I hadn't yet read. Sure, like I suspect many people, I was a little put off by the number of times he deviated from the world of wrestling in his second book Foley is Good, but I didn't really think too much of that for two reasons:

1: I'd only just put down Have a Nice Day, and was on something of a Foley kick
2: This was going to be a book about his thoughts leading into a big pro wrestling match, so lots of wrestling, right?

Right, and yet somehow also wrong.

Yes, the build-up to his big match tagging with Edge to take on Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk at One Night Stand is pretty well documented, and there are a couple of stories when Foley drops back to bring up other memories from his several-decade-spanning career, but it was precisely these flashbacks and the whole non-linear approach to this book that kind of soured me on it.

In a word, I found Hardcore Diaries to be quite an erratic book, one that was at times pretty hard to follow. One minute you're getting into the mindset of a veteran performer gearing up for one more great match, the next you're delving into his time writing a novel or rubbing shoulders with famous athletes at a charity event.

There's nothing wrong with these things in and of themselves of course -no matter what criticisms I may have of this particular book, I do at least find that Foley comes across as completely genuine- it's just that they were so liberally thrown into the book that it made for a confused, sometimes messy read.

I'm still a fan of Mick's work, just not necessarily this book, and probably wouldn't recommend it unless you're a diehard fan of the Hardcore Legend.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

BOOK REVIEW - Mick Foley - Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks

BOOK REVIEW - Mick Foley - Have a Nice Day - A Tale of Blood and SweatsocksAs you may have noticed by some of my more recent posts, I've been on a bit of a reading kick lately, ploughing my way through wrestling autobiographies, so it made perfect sense to me to go back to the original and -arguably- the best of the bunch. 

Sure, Foley's best-selling tome may not have been the first wrestling autobiography out there (of all things, I remember reading You Grunt, I'll Groan by British World of Sport star Jackie Pallo back when I was a kid), but it was the one that kick-started the trend of major US stars chronicling their career in book form.

Released at the peak of the Attitude Era, Have a Nice Day was perhaps like nothing else that had come along before it, and deserves every ounce of the praise that was heaped upon it at the time. 17 years later (wow, do I feel old!), the book remains a fascinating insight into not only pro wrestling's most popular and profitable period, but also the life, career, and thought-process of one it's -dare I say it- unique performers.

That said, this book is more than just a bloody and brutal trip down memory lane, it's a dramatic, captivating, and thoroughly engrossing story all of its own. It's the story of a man who, for all intents and purposes, never looked set to become one of the biggest stars yet did anyway thanks to a lot of hard work, determination, and sacrifice.

It's the story of a somewhat weird guy with one ear, multiple scars, and missing teeth who thrived in an industry where chiseled, picture-perfect looks were often lauded as factors critical to a star's success, a story of a man who enjoyed success anyway by bringing his strengths to the fore and being as creative as he was courageous in taking every physical and political obstacle hurled in his path and turning it to his advantage.

Physical injuries, ears and teeth missing? Foley made them part of his character. Screwed over by WCW? Foley turned that into one of the hottest angles ECW had going in the mid-1990s. Lumbered with the Lost in Cleveland sketches this fan still vividly remembers watching on Saturday afternoons as a kid? Yeah well, I suppose there's obstacles so bad even the Hardcore Legend couldn't make work for him.

What I found just as fascinating about reading this book two decades after it was published was just how popular wrestling used to be back in the late 90s. Though I was glued to my TV screen for every hardcore match, every crotch-chop, every Steve Austin Beer Bash and every ass whooping Mick Foley was served, the passing of time has naturally made me forget that I was watching all this at a time when wrestling wasn't just popular, but was as mainstream and globally famous as the industry has ever been.

So, though he'll likely never read this review, I guess I should say thank you to Mick Foley, for reminding me of the days when I was perhaps at my happiest as a fan at a time when I just can't seem to care about the WWE's current product, for entertaining me through those years, and the years before it, and for providing me with one hell of a read, seventeen years after Have a Nice Day was first published.

One more thing: If you want some more Foley, check out my review of the legendary IWA: King of Death Match Tournament from 1995.

Other Mick Foley book reviews: 

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.