#WS921 – WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches
James Dixon & Lee Maughan:
JD – I are joined once again by Lee Maughan for this review. Sadly the commentary has been changed to Lord Alfred Hayes and Sean Mooney for the first two matches. This tape is the cause of much confusion on the internet and any lists that have tried to chronicle the WWF’s video releases. Some call this “WrestleMania’s Greatest Hits” but this is inaccurate, and is actually an earlier tape. In fact, three tapes came out under that name, and there was also another with the same name as this in Volume #1 of this series of books. Confused yet?
LM – Very.
JD – Well don’t be. This is basically the follow up to the first WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches tape, which covered the I-IV shows, and we are focusing on V-VIII here.
Macho Man Randy Savage (c) vs. Hulk Hogan
JD – This is from WrestleMania V, and is covered fully by Arnold Furious elsewhere in this book. We also cover it as part of the Best of Hulkamania release by Columbia House.
LM – Hogan-Savage at WrestleMania V had the wrong finish. If you look at the numbers, Hogan was on the A-shows and doing 18-20,000 a night, and Savage-Honky or Warrior-Rude or whoever would main event the B-shows and do 10-15,000 a night. Savage got the belt because Hogan was doing No Holds Barred, and suddenly, Savage-DiBiase and Savage-Andre were doing Hogan numbers. Then Hogan came back and his matches against Bossman would draw 18-20,000 sell out crowds, but Savage vs. DiBiase would do the same. They had A and B house shows doing comparable numbers all summer long. Even when Savage turned, he worked with Warrior and did 18-20,000 houses with the title, and Hogan did it without the title. Then Hogan beat him and the B-shows went immediately back down to 10-15,000. They put the title on Hogan, who didn’t need it and took it off Savage, who the numbers proved was a bigger draw as the champion than not. If they’d put Savage over on a screwjob and not just beaten Hogan flat out, they could have had a second summer with two mega-draws, and come back with a cage match, for SummerSlam perhaps. Instead they jobbed out Savage and lost a ton of house show ticket and merchandise revenue, and tried to put ZEUS over instead!
JD– Yeah, but remember, Hogan had never really lost then. If he was beaten, he might have lost his star power and aura, as he did a little when Warrior beat him. Plus, it was a different world in ’89. Vince had to end Mania on a babyface win.
LM – I don’t think he did really. He already wanted DiBiase to leave Mania IV with the title.
JD – Yes, but he didn’t do it in the end. In fact, he didn’t do it until WrestleMania XVI!
LM – Yeah, but that’s adding another eleven years of history to a decision that was made in 1989. I mean, they still hit big numbers after Mania, but that period with Savage as champion and Hogan back working was their peak, and they never got there again. If worst came to worst and Hogan stopped drawing after a screwjob, which he hadn’t done after Andre beat him, they could easily put the title back on him at SummerSlam.
JD – I think there is more to it than that. The ethos of WrestleMania might have been damaged by it. Although, I guess that doesn’t really matter, especially if Savage is still a draw. He might have become an even bigger draw after screwing Hogan, because the fans would have been desperate for him to lose. I am coming around to your logic to a point, for business it could have been good. I think it would have been very bold in ’89 to do that finish at Mania though.
LM – Well, certainly by the standards of the WWF insisting on long-term face champions. Sammartino, Backlund and Hogan set the precedent really, but they were actually an anomaly, the NWA always had heel champions.
JD – Sure, but NWA was different because the heel champion toured the territories and worked the top local babyface. The WWF was self contained, and with them touring the country, it made sense to have a face champion for the fans to come and see, rather than a heel champ they wanted to see get beat. They were completely different business models.
LM – Yeah, but a lot of the territories would have top heel champions locally. It’s gotta be easier to book a “thrill of the chase” angle too. But saying that, I get Hogan being champion for so long, what with being a cartoon show and all. Plus, how can Superman NOT be the champion?
JD – Well, that is the exact argument against Hogan losing.
LM – Yeah, and that’s probably why they did it. Although, I honestly think they could have held off, especially because No Holds Barred was about to come out. They didn’t have to promote Hogan as “WWF Champion”, just call him “the star of No Holds Barred”. In fact, there’s your gimmick: Hogan gets his rematches at house shows and Savage takes count out wins, so on the second go around, they run No Holds Barred matches that are non-title and Hogan wins.
JD – I wouldn’t drag it out quite as long. I think if you have Savage win, then Hogan can go right into the Zeus program on the house show circuit and SNME, keeping him away from the title picture, but still drawing because of the film. That feud didn’t need the belt. Let Savage work with someone else on top for a few months and do Savage-Hogan in a cage at SummerSlam. After that they can go to the Ultimate Challenge at Mania VI just as they did. I don’t know who Savage could work between Mania and SummerSlam though.
LM – Beefcake.
JD – Beefcake!?
LM – Beefcake in 89 man, he was over and he was having good matches at that point with Rude and Savage. Other than that it’s Duggan or Jake I guess.
JD – Tito even, if they had booked him better. They could have had great matches in ’89, and they had a lot of history too.
LM – I’d probably do Savage-Tito on SNME or something, except they wouldn’t play up their history. Isn’t it a piss-take how they try and sell you all these historical DVDs, when they’ve spent a lifetime programming you to ignore it?
JD – Anyway the match is over, what did you think of it?
LM – I would probably rate that higher than Furious did because I really liked it, but that is romanticising it probably. The rating is probably spot on.
JD – I agree, it was really good, but not quite great.
Final Rating: ***½
Mr. Perfect vs. Brutus Beefcake
JD – We are about to see Hogan’s egomania running wild…
LM – There were rumours that Perfect was being considered as Hogan’s opponent for this show actually. Then again, there were also rumours that Zeus was in line for that spot too.
JD – Wow. I would have taken Hogan-Perfect, with Warrior-Zeus as a trade-off. Can you imagine that match?
LM – Warrior vs. Zeus?! You should be shot! Although if you really are feeling sadistic, there’s a Zeus vs. Abdullah the Butcher “classic” from the Puerto Rican World Wrestling Council’s 1990 Anniversario event.
JD – I bet it is not a patch on the Thunderdome match… Back to the point though: I don’t think Perfect-Hogan would have drawn a crowd this size, nor done well on PPV. Hogan had cut his legs from under him too often already.
LM – That might be true, but would he have done so had they decided to go with Perfect? Obviously if Perfect was being considered it was already switched to Ultimate Warrior by the Royal Rumble, as they did the angle there to set up Hogan-Warrior. Presumably if they’d gone with Perfect, he would have won the Rumble, not Hogan. Then again, this was Hogan in 1990 so perhaps not.
JD – Even then, I still don’t think it could have worked. Don’t get me wrong, I love Perfect, he is one of my all time favourite guys to watch, but he was the wrong kind of opponent for Hogan to make money with. Have good matches with, sure, but not to draw. Not at WrestleMania anyway. SummerSlam, sure.
LM – Going by the WWF’s theory that Hogan needed a monster to work with then sure, but don’t forget he drew massive houses and huge buy-rates with Paul Orndorff and Randy Savage, two guys significantly smaller than him.
JD – It is not even about size, really. Perfect was great in the ring, but he didn’t have the heat that either of those guys did, and no strong storyline going in either. Like I say, I think he could have main evented with Hogan on a different show, but not WrestleMania and not in 1990.
LM – Yeah, but again, if he was the opponent he should have won the Royal Rumble to got more heat on him, not to mention he was undefeated, AND he smashed Hogan’s belt up on Saturday Night’s Main Event.
JD – Well, we will never know unfortunately. Either way, there was no excuse for Perfect to lose here. Why ruin one of your credible main event challengers by having him job to the worthless Bruti? I mean, we could have had Perfect-Warrior at SummerSlam. Can you see any logic in that finish at all?
LM – A happy ending to the feud? And not to worry, Perfect would win the vacant Intercontinental title a few weeks later anyway. Thinking about it actually, this probably would have set Beefcake up to challenge Perfect for that title at SummerSlam, had Beefer not suffered his parasailing accident that crushed his face.
JD – He probably would have won the title too! Jeez. Just to clarify, the finish sees Beefcake hit a slingshot into the buckles, but Perfect flies over the top of the turnbuckle pad and headfirst into the post, purportedly knocking him out clean and giving Perfect the win. That finish is a good one, and have you noticed that Dolph Ziggler liberally ripped it off in all of his matches? Only he used it as a transition spot rather than a finish. The way it is taken, where they go right up and hit the post, that should be the end. If it was enough to end Mr. Perfect’s unbeaten streak, it should be enough to keep anyone down!
LM – You know what’s funny? This wasn’t even really the end of Perfect’s undefeated streak, as he’d already lost it at Madison Square Garden on a locally televised card against… well, Hulk Hogan, obviously. Boy, it was weird to watch those matches with Sean Mooney and Alfred Hayes announcing it, instead of the original commentary from Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. All down to Jesse’s lawsuit over voice over royalties of course.
Final Rating: **
WWF Tag Team Championship
The Hart Foundation (c) vs. The Nasty Boys
JD – Next up is WrestleMania VII, with this tag team title defence.
LM – I love how Jimmy Hart always coordinates with whoever he manages. Look at that motorcycle helmet! I bet that doesn’t come into play though. Ahem.
JD – But there is NO excuse for the camp pink beret that Neidhart is wearing. Though, Macaulay Culkin, sat in the crowd, approves. Maybe Neidhart and Jimmy Hart were having a contest to see who could wear the most absurd headwear? So, wrestling: Bret Hart was becoming a little long in the tooth as a tag wrestler by this point, so the WWF had to pull the trigger on a title change. Do you think the Nasty Boys were the right option, Lee?
LM – Actually, I think the plan long term had been for The Rockers to take the titles and then drop them to Power & Glory. Obviously, a whole bunch of stuff happened that changed that. The Hart Foundation to Rockers title switch was excised from history due to a combination of things: a broken rope hampering the quality of the match, the Saturday Night’s Main Event special it was taped for being moved into prime time as a Main Event special instead, necessitating 30-minutes be cut from the show and that match being the obvious trim, and Vince McMahon changing his mind on firing Jim Neidhart, so the match never made air until it was released on a Shawn Michaels DVD many years later. Around the same time, The Nasty Boys were taking WCW by storm, highlighted by a particularly brutal match with The Steiner Brothers at Halloween Havoc ’90. WCW, being WCW, didn’t have them under long term contract despite being in the middle of a program, and Vince gleefully snapped them up in December 1990. It’s fair to say they were hotter than Power & Glory at the time, and somebody was needed to eventually put the titles on The Legion of Doom, so The Nasty Boys got the nod. I figure had history been different, the LOD-Power & Glory match on this show could have been the title change. But what I also find really interesting is how Vince McMahon, notorious for tweaking gimmicks to claim them as his own creations, did precisely nothing to the Nasties. They were exactly the same here as they were on the Florida Indies and WCW. Vince just took them at face value and honestly, character-wise, they were a great fit for the WWF at this time. Look at them! A couple of Allentown toughs, street fighting slob punks without a brain cell between them. They’re like wrestling’s answer to Rocksteady and Bebop!
JD – I always hated the Nasty Boys, and I still don’t enjoy their work to this day and it is down to this match. I always hated it as a kid, because I was a huge Hart Foundation fan, so it was devastating to me when they lost the titles.
LM – To be fair, I think that was probably one of the five or six best Nasty Boys matches I’ve ever seen. This, the previously-mentioned Steiners match, the street fight with LOD at SummerSlam ’91, and back in WCW, the two crazy matches against Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne, and a legitimate ***** blow off to end all blow offs against Cactus & Kevin Sullivan at Slamboree ’94.
JD – Oh, I don’t doubt it’s a good match. The Nasties are up for it and it make it a good contest, I just always hated the result as a kid and it resonates still. The thing is, it shows how lazy they became once their title run was over, because they didn’t bother even trying for the rest of their WWF run after they dropped the straps. The fact that Neidhart loses the match made the WWF’s intentions with Bret very clear.
Final Rating: ***¼
Ric Flair (c) vs. Macho Man Randy Savage
JD – One of the all-time great storylines going into this, and indeed a classic rivalry that carried on pretty much for the rest of Savage’s career. How would you rank this match alongside the countless others they had?
LM – The best they ever had together, easily.
JD – Did anything else come close?
LM – Well, it’s not that they didn’t have other good matches together, but I don’t think any were as highly charged or important as this. Certainly none played in front of a larger crowd, and all those matches they had in WCW kind of run together for me a little, as never ending as they seemed in 1995-1996, even when Savage’s father Angelo Poffo became involved.
JD – I actually hated their WCW feud. This was a great match and clearly the peak of what they were ever going to achieve together, especially with the super angle behind it. The WCW stuff just seemed rehashed and pointless, much like much of the company and its ex-WWF roster at the time. I mean, their match on the beach that time? Wow, what a pile of toss.
LM – Yeah, that Baywatch lifeguard match was definitely a low point, but some of the others were good. Although this is great, in a league of its own.
JD – It is not even that I think the others were bad, it is more; why bother watching when you have already seen the best they can do, and you know it won’t come close? Ok, here is another question for you… Just how important was Elizabeth to the success of Randy Savage, particularly at WrestleMania? Because all of Savage’s classic matches and moments, involve her.
LM – You know what? I’ve never noticed that before but you’re right. With the except of the falls count anywhere match with Crush at WrestleMania X and the Ricky Steamboat match at WrestleMania III, all of his matches seemed to be built around Elizabeth. You can make a case for ‘Mania III having Elizabeth as an important part of the storyline too, given the lingering spectre of the George Steel infatuation hanging over proceedings. WrestleManias VI and VII didn’t have any Elizabeth involvement leading into those matches, but she was there for both of them and played into the storyline significantly, so perhaps she does deserve a lot of credit for that, even if her role was mostly just to stand there looking pretty. She was obviously a very intrinsic part of his overall package, even if it was quite subtly so.
JD – Absolutely. Would you say her ‘Mania VII angle was the greatest she was involved in, or does this trump it?
LM – I think VII might be my favourite, just because it’s all about the redemption of Savage as a man, whereas this is just a classic revenge issue.
JD – This is of course Elizabeth’s last ever WrestleMania appearance, and Savage himself only had one more in him as a wrestler after this. The case could possibly be made that Savage became less of a draw when Elizabeth left, because part of the package was missing.
LM – I think the loss of Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Jake Roberts all on the same day (the same day as this very match in fact) and the loss just a short time later of Sid Justice, plus all the negative publicity from the sex scandals and steroid trials probably hurt the WWF’s ability to draw more than Elizabeth’s real-life marriage to Savage breaking down. Although, it’s funny. 1992 is generally regarded as the decline of the promotion to fans in the U.S., but over in Europe where it was still fresh and fairly new, the WWF was bigger than ever, so you’ll often get a different perspective on things depending on which side of the Atlantic ocean you hail from.
JD – I used to perceive it that way when I was younger actually, but looking back over it now, the change is very clear to see. You can feel the downward shift, just in the guys they use, the size and volume of the crowds and the quality of the tapes and shows they put out.
LM – Oh, you can certainly see a vastly dwindling crowd in those matches taped in the U.S. from this time period. Just look at how small some of the arenas they were taping Raw in from 1993-1996 became.
JD – Despite what was to follow for the company, I still think we all agree that this was a classic WrestleMania match, and fully worthy of inclusion on this release. Savage almost could have had his own WrestleMania tape, such was the consistent quality of his performances at the big event. He is the MVP as far as quality performer goes for the first decade of the supercard. I can’t think of anyone who performed better. He had three genuine all-time classics.
LM – Without question, he had classic matches at III, V, VII and VIII, and had the title tournament at IV largely built around him. The Crush match from X wasn’t a bad way to bow out either.
Final Rating: ****½
Summary: For the hardcore collector this tape won’t hold much value, unless you really consider having the Hogan-Savage and Perfect-Beefcake matches with Sean Mooney and Al Hayes dubbing on commentary, a worthwhile addition to your collection. With that said, it’s tough to slate a tape where the worst match clocks in at ** with the remainder being eaten up with three very good-to-great matches. Sure, it might not truly be “WrestleMania’s Greatest Matches” without Savage’s match against Warrior, or the Roddy Piper-Bret Hart match, but you might as well just consider this almost like a sampler, kind of like those old compilation CDs that labels like Fat Wreck Chords or Deep Elm used to put out to showcase all their different bands, before the advent of the mp3 made them obsolete. And as far as that goes, it’s perfect.