Between February 1st and March 27th I'll be posting recaps of every WrestleMania event over at thejohnreport.net. I'll also post some of them here. For recaps of the first nine WrestleManias, use the links at the bottom of this piece. Enjoy.
WWE WrestleMania X
The tenth WrestleMania saw Vince McMahon bring back the granddaddy of them all back "home" to New York City's Madison Square Garden, which was the site of the first WrestleMania. A lot of things had changed in the company over the course of ten years and this was the first Mania that would take place without Hulk Hogan as part of the show.
This event presented an interesting scenario that saw two World Title matches on the show. Due to Bret Hart and Lex Luger tying as the winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble, each man would be given a World Title match at WrestleMania. They did a coin toss won by Lex Luger, so he got the first title shot at Yokozuna. Whoever won that match would face Bret Hart in the main event of the show. Meanwhile, Bret had to face his younger brother Owen who had turned on Bret at the Royal Rumble. The reason they did that was because whoever won Lex/Yoko had to wrestle twice, so it was only fair for Bret to wrestle twice as well.
The other big story surrounded the Intercontinental Title. Shawn Michaels was the champion, but due to a contract dispute he was stripped of the title. Razor Ramon won the newly vacated title. Then Shawn came back, so they had two Intercontinental Titles. How would they settle it? In a ladder match where both titles would hang above the ring and the first man to pull them down would be the IC champ.
There was no Undertaker on this show due to injury. At the Royal Rumble, he lost to Yokozuna in a Casket Match due to the interference of 48 guys (okay so maybe it was less than that) and he didn't come back until Summerslam 1994 to face the fake Undertaker. Both of those matches were truly awful. It was not a great year for Undertaker. He'd be back, of course.
I've seen the two great matches on this card many times over the years. I doubt I'm alone in saying that. I've never had the chance to write about them in terms of play by play style, so it's time to get this one started.
The video package to open the show highlighted the first WrestleMania from 1985 to give it a nostalgic feel, but then we saw images of Bret Hart, Lex Luger & Yokozuna before giving way to the generic WrestleMania music. At least they improved the intro a bit.
We got a nice arena shot of Madison Square Garden with the crowd erupting. In the ring, Vince McMahon welcomed us to WrestleMania 10. Vince introduced Little Richard to sing America the Beautiful. Take that, Johnny B Badd.
The announce team for the event was Vince McMahon and Jerry "The King" Lawler, who was making his WrestleMania debut. He put over Yokozuna because he was in full heel mode here. Heel Lawler as an announcer was awesome. This was Vince's first WrestleMania as the main play by play guy. He was a part of the team at WrestleMania 2, but that's when they had three commentary teams on one show. Also keep in mind that Vince wasn't acknowledged as being the owner when he was announcing.
They showed clips to set up the Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart match. The video from Survivor Series 1993 focused in on Owen being the only member of his Hart Brothers team being eliminated. He was mad at Bret for it because he accidentally ran into him when he ran the ropes, which caused Owen to get pinned. Owen challenged Bret to match after that. Bret refused, saying he didn't want to fight his brother. Later, they tried to get back together at Royal Rumble 1994 in a tag title match against the Quebecers. Bret had a knee injury, so the team lost and Owen attacked him after it while giving the awesome selfish speech towards Bret and the infamous "kicked your leg out of your leg" line. We got another promo from Owen saying that just because Bret was older didn't make him better. I loved both guys, but I was rooting on Owen because I was a younger brother too. I wanted to see him win even though I didn't think he would because Bret was already a top guy.
A fireworks display that included about five fireworks started us off. Way to go all out, Vince. Ring announcer Bill Dunn welcomed us to the first match. No Howard Finkel to start, but he was there. When he said "from Calgary, Alberta, Canada" the crowd was all excited. Instead of Bret, it was Owen. Owen ripped up some cheap Hitman shades. Bret's music didn't have the guitar riff at the beginning yet, but it was still a good song. His pop here was noticeably bigger than it was a year earlier in the main event in Las Vegas because he was a more established top guy at this point. Plus, the New York crowd was awesome.
Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart
After Bret went to the floor momentarily, Owen hit him with a perfect bridging German Suplex for two. Owen went for a suplex. Bret countered it with an inside cradle for two. Another awesome sequence of moves saw Owen catch Bret and he gave him a tombstone piledriver. He dropped to his knees in this instance, unlike the Summerslam 1997 match against Steve Austin where he dropped to his butt and injured Austin. It was safer to do the move on your knees. Owen went to the top, went for a headbutt and Bret moved as both guys were down while ref Earl Hebner counted them down. Bret hit an atomic drop followed by a clothesline for two. Russian legsweep gets two for Bret. Backbreaker for Bret followed by his elbow off the second rope. Those were the patented moves of Bret Hart. He thought that was it, but the pinfall only got him two. Bret hit him with an enziguiri. Each guy went for a Sharpshooter. Neither one worked. The idea was they knew how to get out of the hold. Owen got another nearfall. Bret kicked him out of the ring and he followed up with a pescado to the floor, which is when you use the ropes to propel yourself over the top into a crossbody. Bret grabbed his knee in pain. It was the same knee that Bret had hurt at the Royal Rumble, so it was great storytelling to have the injury return. Owen focused on the knee. He rammed it into the ring post multiple times. Owen continued to work on the knee, hitting a nice dragon screw legwhip and then he talked trash while Bret was screaming in pain. The crowd chanted "Let's Go Bret" in support of their hero. Owen slapped on the Figure Four Leglock. He had his arms raised in the air while he did it too. I loved all the heel mannerisms Owen did where he would celebrate every little thing. Bret was able to get to the ropes. Owen kicked away at the knee, but Bret came back with an enziguiri of his own. The crowd loved that. Vince didn't call many of the moves. He just said "what a matchup" every once in a while. Bret whipped Owen in and Owen did the Bret-like sternum first bump into the corner that led to a two count for Bret. Bulldog for the Hitman for two. Piledriver for Bret gets two. This was an awesome comeback sequence. It made the match even again. Bret put Owen on the top rope and gave him a superplex, which was a very big spot in these days. That got another nearfall. I should have counted the nearfalls here like I did for Savage/Steamboat because there have been a lot. Bret grabbed a sleeper, Owen made it to the ropes, the ref tried to break it up and while he was looking up, Owen hit his brother with a low blow using his right foot in a backwards kicking motion. Awesome spot! Sharpshooter for Owen! Bret powered out and he put the Sharpshooter on Owen, but Owen was able to get to the ropes quickly. Bret whipped Owen into the corner, Bret booted him in the face and jumped on Owen's shoulders. Bret went for a victory roll, but Owen dropped down, covered, put his hands on the mat and the ref counted the one...two...three! Owen wins at 20:21!
Lawler put it best after the match ended: "The world is in shock right now!" He was right. This was a huge upset. Owen celebrated by trash talking right in Bret's face. It's a shame nobody told Owen that he had a gob of spit on the side of his mouth because it would have made his shining moment that much better. Post match, Bret was frustrated about the loss and was still selling the knee injury because nobody sold injuries better than Bret.
Analysis: ***** Five stars out of five. This was the defining match for me as a smart fan. I wasn’t even 14 yet, but I had an older cousin that smartened me up to the business. I started to pay more attention to the spots in the match, the timing of the moves, the pacing and the chemistry of the combatants. It’s what we call workrate. I thought for sure Bret was going to win. Owen was still a midcarder who hadn’t even cracked the IC title level yet while Bret had already main evented the previous WrestleMania and been a World Champion. What we got was a 20 minute technical wrestling clinic that was contested mostly in the ring (there were a couple of out of ring moments) providing us with a match that will live on forever as a classic. My favorite part was the finish when Owen countered Bret for the win. I was so happy for Owen. I’m a younger brother. My older brother and I fought quite a bit as a lot of kids do. It felt like Owen’s victory was a victory for me too, as cheesy as that sounds. It’s like rooting for an underdog sports team that comes through in the biggest game of their life. That’s what this was because Owen won the biggest match of his life. I’ll never get tired of watching this match. Best opening match in WrestleMania history.
Backstage, Todd Pettengill talked to Owen. "I'm feeling great. I'm up on cloud nine. Bret Hart, brother, I said it all along. Now I am the best there is, the best there was and I am gonna be the best there ever will be brother. I beat you tonight...Madison Square Garden. I said it all along, Bret. And now...now maybe I'll start getting the recognition I deserve because I'm a better man than you Hitman! Here at WrestleMania I beat you and this is a great moment for me, Bret." Todd asked Owen if he thought Bret could come back later on to win the World Title. Owen said he didn't think he could because of the beating he just gave Bret. A fun promo although like I said I wish somebody told him about the spit on the side of his mouth. Owen would go on to win King of the Ring and main event Summerslam after this. It was the best year of his career.
They showed a video of WrestleMania 2. It was short. That's for the best. It was not a very good show.
The president of the Hair Club for Men was introduced. He turned his back to the hard camera. Oops. He introduced us to his latest creation, Howard Finkel. The Fink had hair. It looked hilarious.
Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna Vachon vs. Doink & Dink
Post match, the heels worked on Dink. Bam Bam missed a splash, but Luna didn't miss Dink. I think Vince enjoyed saying "Dink" too much. Doink got back and everybody left. That was an odd post match attack. Somebody messed up there.
Analysis: *1/2 It was an okay match that would have been better if it was just Bam Bam vs. Doink. They had some good chemistry. The Luna and Dink spots weren't that bad, though.
Immediately after the match, a Bill Clinton imposter was shown in the crowd. Irwin R. Schyster was sitting behind him while WWF President Jack Tunney was sitting beside him.
They had a quick clip of WrestleMania 3, showing the Andre/Hogan faceoff. The clips were only about 30 seconds long as Gorilla Monsoon talked over them.
The next match was a Falls Count Anywhere match. Randy Savage entered to a very loud pop. Well deserved. He was the biggest legend in the company at the time, so the MSG crowd showed him a lot of respect. The rules for the match were that you had to pin your opponent and then your opponent had 60 seconds to get back into the ring.
Falls Count Anywhere: Randy Savage vs. Crush w/Mr. Fuji
Analysis: **1/4 On paper, it sounded like a good idea for a match. In execution, the concept was flawed a bit. They worked hard though. The crowd loved Savage and I liked the finish because it was unique. Randy would never wrestle at a WrestleMania again after competing at 8 of the first 10 WrestleManias.
In the crowd, Todd Pettengill talked to impostor Bill Clinton. He said he'd work things out with IRS. The crowd reacted more to IRS speaking than it did for fake Clinton. Irwin congratulated Clinton for raising the taxes.
We got clips of the fanfest from the weekend. Then they showed Savage celebrating with the fans.
They had clips of WrestleMania 4 and the story of Randy Savage winning his first World Title.
Women's Title: Alundra Blayze vs. Leilani Kai
Analysis: * A basic match to put the focus on Blayze as the champion of the women's division. She hit some impressive moves.
They showed the clips of WrestleMania 5, which focused on the Piper/Downey segment that was painful because of how long it went.
Vince: "Somebody's going to rock the house, I can tell you that." That's his way of telling us that Men on a Mission were in the building. They walked to the ring with Oscar singing a rap while Mo & Mabel were the wrestlers. Mabel was later known as Viscera. He was a giant man. The crowd loved them while Vince acted like he was hip.
Backstage, Pettengill talked to actress Ronda "Cleavage" Shear who starred on "Up All Night" on USA Network. I added her nickname because that's all I enjoyed about her. Shawn Michaels hit on her. Then Burt Reynolds showed up, so she fawned all over him.
Tag Team Titles: The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre) w/Johnny Polo vs. Men on a Mission (Mabel & Mo) w/Oscar
Analysis: *1/4 Bad match. The crowd didn't care for most of it. I don't blame them. They did wake up after Mabel got the hot tag, but the finish was awful. The timing seemed off there too.
The WrestleMania 6 clip focused on the Hogan/Warrior match.
They brought out some celebrities like Ronda Shear as the guest time keeper and Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids of the Block as the ring announcer. He brought out the guest referee for the match, Mr. Perfect. Perfect was cheered here. The champion Yokozuna entered along with Jim Cornette & Mr. Fuji at a weight of 568 pounds apparently. Vince was yelling for Luger, who was sporting the USA tights. The Lex Express gimmick didn't really work in the summer of 1993, but they sure tried hard. He got fireworks during his entrance.
WWF World Heavyweight Title: Yokozuna w/Mr. Fuji & Jim Cornette vs. Lex Luger
The crowd was chanting "bullshit" after the match. That result meant that it would be Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart in the main event later in the show. Post match, Pettengill talked to Perfect. He said Luger shouldn't be touching an official. Luger showed up asking him for an explanation. Perfect said Luger threw the managers into the ring and touched Perfect. A bunch of officials broke it up as they continued to argue. I noticed a young Tony Chimel back there.
Analysis: 1/2* That was a difficult match to watch. You could tell Yoko wanted to take it easy because he was working twice in one night and that wasn't going to be easy for a guy his size. The only good part was the last two minutes when Lex made his comeback, but it wasn't enough to save this terrible match. These two never had good matches together.
The clip of WrestleMania 7 focused on the Roberts/Martel Blindfold Match. Yawn. Should have been about Savage reuniting with Elizabeth.
Prior to the next match, manager Harvey Wippleman ripped on ring announcer Howard Finkel. Fink shoved Wippleman down. Adam Bomb ran down to the ring. Earthquake showed up. Match began.
Earthquake vs. Adam Bomb w/Harvey Wippleman
Analysis: NR Thanks for making it so short.
In the locker room, Cornette spoke for Yokozuna. He thought Perfect did a wonderful job of refereeing, pointing out that the refs were agreed to by both guys. Cornette cut a great promo about how Bret had to come back after losing to his own brother and from a painful knee injury. The camera focused in on Yokozuna's face as he stared into it with a lot of intensity. Yoko looked winded just standing there.
The WrestleMania 8 clip focused on the Undertaker. I guess they didn't want to put over Ultimate Warrior's return huh?
This wasn’t technically the first ladder match in WWF history (Shawn and Bret had one at a TV taping that’s now on some DVDs), but it was the first one that would be seen by a worldwide audience at a show like WrestleMania. Michaels walked out with his bodyguard Diesel, who you might know as Kevin Nash. Michaels theme song lasted nearly 20 years. That's impressive. I loved Razor Ramon's theme music. Shawn walked around the ladder while Razor walked under it, not fearing the jinx of walking under a ladder.
Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon
Back to their feet, Michaels propped the ladder in the corner. Razor reversed a whip, so Michaels took the bump by going face first into the ladder and flying over the top to the floor. Not too many could take that bump like Michaels. Ramon brought the ladder outside the ring where he used it as a weapon to attack Michaels again. Razor hit a slingshot into the ladder that was propped up against the ring and Michaels took the bump all the way to the floor just to show off even more. In the ring, Razor hit Shawn in the face with the edge of the ladder. The crowd was going wild while Razor struggled to open up the ladder. Razor climbed up the ladder, Michaels got up to the top rope and hit a double axe off the top. Then the ladder fell on top of Michaels. I doubt that last part was the plan, but it was a nice accident. Each guy climbed the ladder on opposite sides. They slugged it out. Razor gave him a suplex off the ladder. Great spot there. Razor climbed again so Michaels dropkicked the ladder and Razor fell off while the ladder was still up with both guys down on the mat. Just for fun, Michaels threw the ladder onto Razor one more time. After a whip into the ropes, Michaels hit a superkick. Michaels hit a sick piledriver. Michaels used the ladder as the weapon by putting his weight on one side and driving it down on Razor's body. Michaels climbed the ladder while Ramon was under it, which wasn't the greatest strategy when you think about it. Here's the finish. Ramon gave a shoulderblock to the ladder while Michaels was on it and Michaels crotched himself on the top rope. Then Shawn casually put his right foot between the ropes, used his hand to pull the top rope down and magically his right foot was tied in the top rope. Now you know why they took Diesel out of the match. He wasn't there to save him. When Shawn got his leg free, his hand was tied up. That was probably his way of delaying it while Razor climbed. The crowd was cheering wildly while Razor climbed and he grabbed both titles to win the match at 18:47 as Shawn finally freed himself just a few seconds too late.
Analysis: ***** Another five star match on this show. I think it's one of those matches that every wrestling fan has seen or should see. They took some crazy bumps considering it was 1994. I know that 18 years later we're used to some of these more extreme bumps, but if you think of what they did here it was pretty incredible. They really worked the match in a back and forth way with each guy getting the advantage at different times. Michaels' bumping was incredible, but you have to give it to Razor too. He worked his ass off and kept up with Michaels' pace. It was such an innovative match because the majority of the audience had not seen anything like it before. They used the ladder as a weapon in a lot of different ways. Shawn bounced off that thing as if it was the most painful object known to man, which helped push the match as a physically painful match. It got the right amount of time too. There were no flaws in this match. It set the template for all future ladder matches and most would argue that it has never been topped. Every wrestler should study this match. Every fan should watch it. Simply put, this ladder match is one of the most iconic matches in the history of the wrestling business and it always will be.
For me personally, this match was a huge deal because it was the moment where Shawn Michaels became my favorite wrestler and he ended up becoming my favorite wrestler ever. His athleticism wowed me. The risks he would take were spectacular. My favorite wrestler was always Randy Savage prior to this, but I knew Randy was old and it was time for me to pick a new favorite. After this match, that favorite became Shawn Michaels.
There was going to be a ten man tag match, but it got cut due to time. They did a backstage segment where the heel team was arguing with eachother. The match was supposed to be The Smoking Gunns, 1-2-3 Kid, Sparky Plugg & Tatanka vs. Jeff Jarrett, IRS, The Headshrinkers and Rick Martel. I don't think anybody was too sad that it was cut.
In the crowd, Pettengill talked to fake Clinton as well as Ted Dibiase, who showed up.
The WrestleMania 9 clip focused on the Yokozuna win over Bret Hart. They didn't show the Hulk Hogan title win.
Prior to the main event, they aired a video package on Bret Hart's rise to the top of the company as well as Yokozuna's success. Let's just say their video packages would improve a lot over the years.
They introduced Burt Reynolds as the ring announcer, who could have been drunk here, and Jennie Garth of Beverly Hills 90210 was the guest timekeeper. The special ref for the match was Roddy Piper. Piper was a babyface ref here. The crowd loved him, popping huge for the Hot Rod. It was one of the biggest pops of the night for sure. The World Champion Yokozuna was introduced first, which was rare because usually the champion goes last. Huge ovation for Bret Hart, who was still limping due to the left knee injury. Like I said, nobody sold an injury better.
WWF World Heavyweight Title: Yokozuna w/Mr. Fuji & Jim Cornette vs. Bret Hart
Analysis: *1/4 It wasn't great as a match. Yoko was legit tired while Hart was selling that he was hurt, so the pace of the match was really slow. The response when Bret won was pretty awesome and it made up for the match being below standard.
Post match, Yokozuna ran after Roddy Piper. Bret was still down on the mat with the WWE Title on his chest. Vince went into his speech about how this was a new generation (no more Hogan so it was true) as his way of putting Bret over as the top guy. Lex Luger showed up in the ring while Lawler wondered what they would do. Lex shook his hand. Piper showed up to raise Bret's hand. The other babyface wrestlers entered the ring to celebrate with Bret. When Macho Man came out, he gave Bret a big hug. Great moment there. Vince got excited for Ronda Shear's boobs coming back out there. He probably had no idea who she was either, but then somebody must have shown him a pic and he decided to put her on the show. Razor & Lex put Bret on their shoulders to celebrate. There's Pat Patterson in the ring too. Then we saw Owen Hart standing in the aisle way looking at his brother in the ring as the World Champion. He stared at Bret, who continued to celebrate. There's your Summerslam main event in a steel cage or at least that cheaper blue cage. Bret continued to celebrate with the other wrestlers while fireworks went off. Great moment.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
- It was great that Bret lost clean to his brother. If it was a tainted win it would have meant less. It gave Owen the credibility he needed to be taken as a top guy later in the year. I'm glad there wasn't a shady finish to it. That means so much when the underdog loses clean to the more established guy.
- I've probably seen the ladder match over ten times in my life. I can recite most of the spots off the top of my head. There's a match at WrestleMania 13 where I can say the same thing. It's like watching my favorite episode of Seinfeld or The Simpsons dozens of times while never getting sick of it. Every time I watch I learn to appreciate it even more. This was the match that really put Shawn Michaels on the map and made people really take notice of him if they weren't already. It did a lot for Razor too because it raised his star power, which helped him when he jumped to WCW two years later.
- The Luger/Yokozuna match did not feel like a major match. It was a stinker. Yoko was never a great worker by any means, but he had a rough night here. You could tell he had a tough time moving around.
- The NYC crowd was awesome. There's something right when it comes to New York City hosting a WrestleMania. They're the best.
Worst Match: Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna - I honestly think that Yoko had him in that trapezius nerve hold for about 8 minutes. So boring.
Most Memorable Moment: Bret Hart's World Title win - I could have picked Owen's upset win, Shawn's splash off the ladder or Razor's win after Shawn got tied in the ropes, but I went with Bret's win because he put on such a great performance the whole night.
How can I really rank the top four? I put Shawn at the top because I said their match was better, but I had to honor the others too.
Show rating (out of 10): 7.5
The tenth WrestleMania earned the highest rating among the first ten events. Believe it or not, I forgot how much I loved this show. As mentioned, I've watched the two five star matches a lot of times over the years. I usually just skipped the rest of the show. It's not that bad as a whole. Sure, some of the matches stunk, but they weren't that bad really. There aren't many shows in the history of the business where you can say there were two five star matches. In my opinion, WrestleMania 10 delivered two of them.
Lastly, to Randy Savage I say thank you for all of the WrestleMania memories. It's a shame that he never got to return for a Hall of Fame send-off when he was alive, but it is what it is. Without him, WrestleMania wouldn't be the special event it has become. Rest in peace, Macho Man. Dig it.
Here's a good video package that highlights the key moments from WrestleMania 10.
Previous recaps listed in order with main event(s) and ranking out of 10:
You can check out all of my WrestleMania Reviews here too.
The matches that have received ratings of ****+ on the five star scale: