#WS916 – Wrestling’s Greatest Champions
James Dixon: Lord Alfred Hayes introduces the tape from Titan Towers, telling us how it will profile some of the greatest champions in WWF history. We cut to extended highlights of the Ultimate Warrior’s feud with Hulk Hogan leading up to and including WrestleMania VI. We get the last few minutes of the (excellent) match at Mania, starting from the bearhug. Arnold Furious covers the match elsewhere in this book. We then go to highlights of Randy Savage winning the WWF title in the tournament at WrestleMania IV. Again, the full review of the show can be found elsewhere in this book.
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Andre the Giant
Finally, a full match! Though, we start in progress and we are at MSG in September ‘88. Savage controls the early going and clotheslines Andre into the ropes for his usual spot, but he eventually powers back and takes over. This is where Savage is really great, because he was one of the all time best sellers in the business. He is getting a little more here than in other matches between these two that I have seen, but I guess that is because he is the champion and needs protecting more. We go to the outside and Andre grabs Elizabeth by the leg. Savage gives chase and they end up both getting counted out. Andre poses with the belt afterwards. That was short and uninspiring. Hardly a great representation of Savage as champion.
Final Rating: ¼*
Another highlight package, this time of the Hart Foundation’s two WWF tag team title victories, the first over The British Bulldogs and the second against Demolition.
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Hart Foundation (c) vs. Power & Glory
In progress again here! Just give us a full match! Power & Glory were always a combo that fans struggled to take seriously. There were a few teams like that in the WWF over its history. The likes of The Beverly Brothers, Rhythm & Blues and The Orient Express being some other examples. Decent tandems, but they never got the credit or the pushes they maybe should have. Compared to the likes of the Bushwhackers and Natural Disasters, they looked world class! After some Harts dominance, the challengers take over, maybe surprisingly working the heat on Neidhart. Bret was on the cusp of a singles push by now though. They knew that he was going to be going solo and thus shouldn’t be selling too much for jobbers like Paul Roma. I do prefer Roma as a heel though, because he was one of the worst babyfaces ever and is generally unlikeable, as I have discussed at length before. Formula stuff here, with P&G cutting off the ring and using cheap double team tactics. Neidhart gets the tag to Bret, but the ref doesn’t see it and the heat continues. Neidhart ducks a double team and Roma clocks his partner with a clothesline, leading to the tag to Bret. He dismantles P&G, running through some of what would become his trademark routine. Slingshot tackle leads to Bret getting a cradle, only for Herc to roll them over and then Neidhart to roll them back again, for the Harts to pick up the win. Nothing much to this. Very standard tag wrestling. Nothing wrong with it as such, it just kind of happened.
Final Rating: *¼
Next, Mr. Perfect is profiled. Here we run through some of his memorable moments as Intercontinental champion. I am actually quite enjoying these highlight packages. With their truncated match highlights, they have for the most part been better than the full matches that follow.
WWF Intercontinental Championship
Mr. Perfect (c) vs. The British Bulldog
This match also features on the Rampage 91 tape, coming from June 1991 in California. Fast start, with Bulldog using his power and Perfect his technical ability. Perfect gets a brief advantage with a punch to the balls, and then counters a Davey flurry with a kick to the same area. Hey, working the cock is an effective strategy. Everyone can empathise with that! I think it would be good if more wrestlers worked the cock! Erm, perhaps thankfully, Perfect changes his focus, instead going for the legs and back as he locks in the Boston crab. Perfect uses the ropes for leverage, but Bulldog uses his leg strength to flip him right out of the ring. Coach gets involved on the outside, and despite his wrestling acumen he was a waste of time in this role and Perfect didn’t need him. He was just a tacked on detriment to Perfect’s character. Bret Hart comes out to even the score because of course, he and Perfect have an issue as they will soon be facing off (in a bona fide classic) at SummerSlam ‘91. Perfect hits the rolling neck snap and goes for the cover, but Bulldog kicks out with such authority that Perfect lands on the referee! It’s a nice spot. Perfect’s matches always feature awesome and unique things. He’s one of my all-time favourites, and the greatest seller and taker of moves of all time, bar none. Perfect locks on an eccentrically applied sleeper, but Bulldog fights out and gives Perfect a military press, crotching him on the top rope. Perfect then absolutely flies on a clothesline, adding further credence to what I just said. He was truly without equal in that regard. Bulldog accidentally wipes out the ref with a shoulder tackle, but then rolls up Perfect as Bret Hart counts the three. Of course, it won’t count. This turns into a Bret and Perfect brawl, with Perfect taking a bunch of atomic drops before bailing. The official decision is a Perfect victory via DQ because of Bret Hart interfering. I could happily have watched another ten minutes of that. Bulldog was working hard to impress in this period, and Perfect was always superb throughout his first WWF run.
Final Rating: **¾
US VERSION ONLY:
Desert Storm Match
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Sgt. Slaughter
This comes from June 1991 in Fresno, California. The rules are… there are no rules! Hogan comes out dressed like a cross between Jason Voorhees and a Navy SEAL. He starts off by throwing powder in Slaughter’s face and then whacking him with the title belt. For once, I won’t complain about these tactics, because this is anything goes. Hogan makes use of the lack of rules further by nailing Slaughter across the back with a chair on the outside and then with the belt again on the inside. He goes to the eyes and chokes Slaughter over the ropes, digging his fingers into his face in the process. It is just Hogan’s usual offence, only it is not illegal for once. The referee is not even inside the ring, which makes this even more unique. I like this so far, it has been completely different to anything the WWF did in this time period. This is more like an Attitude era main event. It has definitely been a nice alternative to the usual Hogan nonsense. Slaughter and General Adnan work over Hogan, but Slaughter slips as he tries a move from the top. It’s an awful botch, though Slaughter does cover it by doing an over the top pratfall. Still, he regroups and goes up again, but it was hardly worth the wait, because the resulting top rope knee roll (drop) was poor. I can’t stand that move, it always looks so fake and lacking in any impact. Slaughter puts on the camel clutch, but Hogan powers out, sending Slaughter into the buckles. Slaughter stays on top and Adnan loosens Slaughter’s boot so he can use it as a weapon, but Hogan prevents it, with FIRE. It sounds impressive, but it was Hogan-Warrior II levels of bad. It hit Slaughter pathetically in the stomach, and then he sold his face. Come on Sarge, I expect better from you than that. Hogan throws the world’s lamest clothesline to follow up, and suddenly my enjoyment of this has been flushed down the toilet. Hogan put’s on the camel clutch after using Slaughter’s own boot against him, and General Adnan throws in the towel, giving Hogan the win. This started well and was certainly a refreshing change of pace from the normal routine. Discussion of this series often results in yawns from wrestling fans, but Slaughter actually got some pretty decent bouts out of Hogan. Shame about the suspension of disbelief shattering finish here, but it is worth a look for novelty value.
Final Rating: **
UK VERSION ONLY:
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. The Undertaker
Once again, the Hogan-Slaughter Desert Storm match is replaced on a UK release, and instead we get a random house show match between Hogan and Taker from 1991. The phantom Desert Storm match is finally covered on the Best of WWF Most Unusual Matches tape. They start fast here, as Taker jumps Hogan before the bell and chokes him with his own shirt, but I can bet good money that it won’t remain a fast pace. Every match I have seen between these two from this time period has been slow and unpleasant to watch. Taker does inevitably slow the pace, choking Hogan out as Paul Bearer distracts the ref. Taker misses a big leg drop and Hogan turns the tables, using his shirt around Takers neck to ram him into the buckles. Taker then no sells an atomic drop, and uses another Bearer distraction to take over. Taker looks so green and almost lost in there at times. Tombstone already! Hogan spasms. Is there any reason you are not going for the cover, Taker? Stupid! Seriously, he just left him laying there writhing around like a freshly caught fish. Hogan kicks out and Hulks Up, but the big boot doesn’t even rock Taker. Taker goes for a high knee, but misses and hits Bearer, allowing Hogan to roll him up for the clean win. Did I just see that right? Taker just lost clean? Hey, that wouldn’t have happened at WrestleMania! That was really, really short, though I am not complaining.
Final Rating: ¼*
Summary: This is a hard tape to judge, because the highlight packages were really well put together and entertaining, but the matches were nearly all short or just pointless, and thus entirely missable. The US release is better, with the spirited Desert Storm match vastly superior to Hogan-Taker. It is not as bad as the low score might suggest because a lot of the content is the highlight videos. The 45-minute run-time makes it a fun, albeit brief trip down memory lane, but not really worth the effort. Avoidable, but not terrible.
UK Verdict: 24
US Verdict: 34