#WF114 – Smack ‘Em Whack ‘Em
The Berzerker vs. Crush
We start in Erie, Pennsylvania and it is November 1992. This is towards the end of the Berzerker’s WWF run, as he left early in 1993. Crush starts by blocking a hiptoss into a belly-to-belly, and they go to a test of strength that Crush easily wins, pushing the Berzerker over the top rope and out of the ring. Berzerker takes over back inside with a headbutt to the stomach, but Crush fires back with a big tackle, which again takes Berzerker to the outside. You know what would help this match? Selling. Neither guy seems especially interested in doing that though. That is always a problem when you have big guys like Crush as babyfaces, because they can’t generate any sympathy. Hogan got away with it, because despite what I sometimes say about him, he could sell. To a point. Crush though, is very bad at it. He just looks annoyed or dazed at best, rather than hurt. Berzerker in control, and he hits a delayed piledriver and ties Crush up in the ropes. The Berzerker’s blows stop having any effect, and Crush mounts his comeback. He hits a few moves and then kicks Berzerker’s leg away from under him, leading to him doing the splits. The head vice finishes things for Crush after around 6-minutes. Despite the lack of selling and any real structure, this wasn’t as completely terrible as I was expecting.
Final Rating: ¾*
So, the theme of this tape in between matches features our usual Coliseum segment friends, the Bushwhackers. They piss around destroying a house, which they are trying to pass off as DIY. Hayes introduces the bouts in between the laugh out loud gags. With the characters involved, you can imagine how good this is.
Repo Man vs. Earthquake
This is from the day after the first match, in Dayton, Ohio and it just screams “classic” doesn’t it? Repo Man obviously didn’t catch on at all, and he didn’t have long left at this point either. He left in March the following year, having lost to Quake’s tag partner Typhoon. Quake dominates the majority of this due to his power and size, and a brief Repo offensive assault is quickly brushed off. Quake wins in 4-minutes with his Vertical Splash in a complete squash, Quake just destroyed him.
Final Rating: ½*
Back to the house and LORD ALFRED HAYES GETS ELECTROCUTED! All of the Bushwhackers’ past sins are forgiven! Can I give this 5*? The facial expressions are ridiculously comical and over-the-top. They play it off as if Hayes is dead. Next, Yokozuna makes a pig of himself, eating enough to feed an army. This segment lasts ten minutes and goes nowhere. Yeah he is fat, we know.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels
And here it is, the WWF’s first ever ladder match, though not the first one in wrestling history. Bret had actually competed in a number of these matches back in his Stampede days, opposite Bad News Allen (Brown). According to Hart, he suggested the use of the ladder match in the WWF, originally for a match against Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam ‘92 for the IC title, when the show was going to be held in the States. Eventually, Vince went with Wembley and Davey Boy Smith, but this was a trial of sorts for the concept. It would be another 18-months before the WWF used it, in a famous match between Michaels and Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X. This first effort takes place in Portland, Maine in July 1992. Bret actually tells a few porkies in an interview segment with Gorilla Monsoon, claiming that he has never been in a ladder match before but he suspects Shawn probably has because “someone had to have come up with the concept”. Oh, the cheeky insider irony of it all! Bret beats Michaels from pillar to post in the early going, but gets stopped as he goes to head for the ladder. Michaels wears the Hitman down, and picks his moment to go for the ladder, which is positioned right up the aisle. Hart waits for him, and throws him into the post once he gets back to the ring. Smart move; it makes sense to let Shawn do the hard work lugging the ladder down the aisle. Most wrestlers would have just charged him in the aisle. Bret was smarter than that. Sherri prevents Bret from bringing the ladder in the ring, and he chases her up the aisle. Seizing the opportunity, Michaels tries to quickly climb up, but gets stopped when Bret realises. Michaels rams the ladder into Bret’s gut twice, but misses a third try and hits the post. Michaels is still in control because of the prior shots, but Bret hits a desperation kick to the face. Bret goes for a whip, but Michaels reverses it and Bret hits the ladder hard in the corner. Michaels goes up again, but Bret clings onto his leg. The way they are building from spot to spot and not just rushing ladder climbs and high risk moves, is actually rather majestic. Everything is logical and makes sense. So different to the more spotty ladder matches you see in later years, but it is a different kind of art form. This is almost like an old school cage match, teasing the climbs. The psychology is very similar. An attempt to climb the ladder from Bret is blocked, and Michaels rams him headfirst into it. He leaves it set up in the corner, but takes too long doing so and Hart hits a flying clothesline from the middle rope. Bret catches Michaels and slingshots him into the ladder, drawing a large “ooh” from the crowd. Backbreaker from Bret and he goes for the title again, but Michaels shakes the ladder until he falls off, before they run into each other and both go down. This has been wonderful. They are not really doing a great deal with the ladder, and the high spots are certainly tame in comparison to later years, but because of the clever pacing and build, everything means something and thus has far more impact. The crowd is not getting bombarded with high impact stuff with no rhyme or reason, they are getting a scientific ladder match, if such a thing exists. Both guys climb the ladder at the same time, but knock each other off, and it is Shawn who recovers first, hitting the superkick and the teardrop suplex. Michaels nearly makes it up the ladder, but Bret pushes him off and he gets crotched on the top rope and falls to the outside. Bret quickly climbs the ladder and grabs the title, winning the match. A superb story told by two of the all-time greats. Anything with Bret and Michaels is gold and this was no different. A classic bout that even with a lack of risky spots one associates with the stipulation, still holds up today.
Final Rating: ****¼
Bret Hart (c) vs. Kamala
Three months later and Bret is WWF champion. This is one of his first defences, coming just two weeks after he won the belt in October 1992, from Louisville. As usual, Coliseum have picked a real humdinger of a match to showcase him in. There may be a hint of sarcasm attached to that… Bret goes for the arm first, but doesn’t have much success. Kamala wants a test of strength and Bret goes for it, but sees the cheap shot coming and blocks it. Bret stomps on his foot and goes to the arm again, then rocks Kamala with a couple of tackles, but gets knocked down with a double chop thrust. Hayes, pre electrocution, polishes the turd that was that chop thrust. He rambles on for a good thirty seconds about how incredible and impressive it was. He follows that up by claiming a generic kick was “absolutely astoundingly brilliant”. Rather than get things over, his praise is so over-the-top and ridiculous that it just serves to make him sound like an idiot, as per usual. This match is poor by the way, just stalling and rest holds. Bret knew how to dog it and do very little with guys like this, because he realised there was little point going full tilt, it would be futile. Bret goes to his five moves combination and throws in a monkey flip before hitting the middle rope elbow. Harvey Wippleman and Kim Chee climb the apron, but Kamala runs into Kim Chee and Bret rolls him up for the win. Kamala accidentally splashes Wippleman after the match. Every match has had a clean finish so far; an incredible rarity for a Coliseum release. For Hayes to call Bret the greatest champion of all time after 16-days with the belt, is a bit much don’t you think? That was a poor effort from all involved.
Final Rating: ½*
Ric Flair (c) vs. Bret Hart
And now to a very famous match from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in October 1992, as the WWF changes its course in the most radical way since Hulk Hogan won the WWF title from the Iron Sheik in 1984. What a tape this could turn out to be! We have already seen a classic between Hart and Michaels, and from what I gather, this match is right up there with the best as well. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype. They feel each other out early on with chain wrestling, before Flair sends Hart into the buckles. Hart comes back with a suplex and a back drop, then the trademark boot to the gut. I am making a conscious effort to ignore Hayes and not let him ruin this match for me, or indeed the write-up of it. However, it is hard when he says that a match between Bret and Mr. Perfect would be a good contest. Yeah, it was, just over a year ago when Bret won the IC title in one of the great WWF matches. I will try and rise above it for the remainder. Bret tries to take out Flair’s arm and holds an armbar for a while, wrenching it and punching it now and again. Flair escapes with a drop toehold, but Hart quickly escapes that and turns things back in his favour with a hammerlock, in a smooth sequence. They have worked these holds for a long time, they are not rushing through anything. You can tell already that this is going to be a pretty long match, but that is more than fine with me. I could watch these two guys wrestle all day long. Flair buys some time by sending Hart out of the ring by his hair, and blocks an attempt to sunset flip back in with a punch, as Hart rolls to the outside again. Hart tries the sunset again, and this time it works when he pulls on the tights, exposing a full Flair moon. Hart with another backdrop and a clothesline, which sends Flair reeling to the outside. Back in and Flair goes to the eyes and then sends Hart hard into the buckles, chest first. Flair does it again, and then begins to target the knee, kicking it from under him and hitting a shin breaker. It is smart wrestling from Flair to focus on the leg, looking to soften Bret up for the figure four. Everything here is so logical. Flair misses a knee drop and Bret looks to apply a figure four of his own, but Flair pushes him off. Bret fights out of a headlock with a receipt shin breaker, and drops some elbows on Flair’s leg, before locking it in a grapevine and turning it into a figure four, using Flair’s own move against him. I love that. The way they went into it was really good as well, because Bret didn’t just do it for the sake of doing it, he went with it because he saw an opportunity once he put the grapevine on. Again, it is logical and smart wrestling. The pendulum is swinging all over the place here, with both guys trading the advantage. Bret tries a sleeper, but Flair counters with a back suplex, and a small package gets two. Flair gets another couple of near falls off a double underhook suplex, and this time he does connect with the knee drop. Bret is sent into the corner again, and a chop follows, which Flair gets another couple of two counts from. I like it when guys go for the pin a second time, with the logic being that the first kick out was perhaps their opponent’s last bit of energy. Little nuances like that separate the good wrestlers from the great. Flair puts on the figure four and keeps it applied for a while, but Bret turns it over and is able to escape. Flair continues his focus on the knee, with the first figure four having being used to wear Bret down. Bret’s knee is seriously damaged now, and Flair senses that the end is in sight. He goes for another figure four, but gets caught in a small package. Back up in the corner and they exchange blows, with Bret mounting a flurry, only to get cut off again with a boot in the corner. Flair back in control but he gets caught up top with a press slam, and Bret hits a third back drop for a two count. Bret with the five moves and a pinfall attempt, but Flair gets out. Suplex from Bret, but Flair responds with chops. They have no effect and Bret removes his straps and hits a superplex. Bret locks in the Sharpshooter and wins the match and the title after just over 26-minutes, which is very long indeed for a WWF match of the era. The crowd goes crazy for the switch, and dear god Bret was on fire in 1992. He had four or five genuine classics and was completely peerless. That match is a perfect example of Bret at the height of his powers, and is a must see for all wrestling fans. Why they didn’t save this for PPV, or at least put it on TV, is beyond me.
Final Rating: ****½
Razor Ramon vs. The Undertaker
This is the third different match between these guys to take place on tapes in this volume, all from the same era. This one comes from Beaumont, Texas in January 1993. They generally had boring matches together, slow and lacking a finish. To have three different matches between them on three different tapes, all released pretty close together, is just absolute madness. I don’t mind when they do it with Bret and Shawn of course. It is strange, because both Razor and Taker developed into top workers, capable of pulling out absolute classics in the right circumstances. Opposite each other in 1993 though, they were tough to watch. Taker chokes Razor in the corner and catches him with a boot to the face, before going up top for the rope walk and connecting. Razor comes back with a kick to the head, but it has no effect and Taker hits a slam. Razor gets an opening when Taker misses an elbow, and he hits a clothesline to the outside, but Taker drops him with a stun gun on the ropes. A short clothesline takers Razor down, but Taker misses a charge and gets hit with a bulldog. This is almost identical to the other matches they have had on these tapes. They even repeat the chair shot and whip into the steps, and back in the ring, the multiple elbow drops from Razor. Seriously, all three are so similar, it almost exposes the business. Taker comes back with his flying clothesline and a chokeslam, so Razor rolls out and leaves, giving Taker the count out win. It’s the same finish that they always do. Energetic for a Taker match in 1993, but hardly able to follow what we have just seen.
Final Rating: *¼
Summary: It is a two match tape, but both are absolutely must see. There have been better ladder matches, but this was the first and thus is essential viewing. Bret-Flair is a masterclass in technical wrestling, and a massive match for the WWF and its future direction. It’s just a shame that the rest of the tape is so woefully inadequate, dragging down the enjoyment overall. Still, two 4*+ matches makes this a definite recommendation.