Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh: King of the Ring 1993

KOTR 1993 Bret Hart

*** Scott & Justin’s Vintage Vault Refresh reviews are a chronological look back at WWE PPV history that began with a review of WrestleMania I. The PICs have revisited these events and refreshed all of their fun facts that provide insight into the match, competitors and state of the company as well as their overviews of the match action and opinions and thoughts on the outcomes. In addition, Jeff Jarvis assists in compiling historical information and the Fun Facts in each of the reviews. Also, be sure to leave feedback on the reviews at our Facebook page. Enjoy! ***

King of the Ring 1993: Crowning of the Hitman

June 13, 1993
Nutter Center
Dayton, Ohio
Attendance: 6,500
Buy Rate: 1.1
Announcers: Jim Ross, Randy Savage, and Bobby Heenan

Dark Match

1) Papa Shango defeated Owen Hart to retain USWA Unified Title

Pay-Per-View

Fun Fact: Between 1985 and 1991, the WWF held six King of the Ring Tournaments that occurred at house shows in Foxborough, MA (1985-86) and Providence, RI (1987-89, 1991). The winners are as follows: Don Muraco, Harley Race, Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Tito Santana and Bret Hart.

Quarterfinals

1) Bret Hart defeats Razor Ramon with a reverse superplex at 10:26

Qualifying Matches: Bret Hart received a bye; Razor Ramon defeated Tito Santana 

Fun Fact: This match was a few weeks after Ramon was upset by jobber The Kid on Monday Night Raw. At this point, Razor kept challenging the now dubbed 1-2-3 Kid to a rematch by offering him a large amount of money, an amount that increased with every week. Finally, Ramon offered $10,000 and the Kid accepted. As the match wound down. the Kid knocked down Ramon, grabbed the money and ran off to his getaway car.

Scott: Our first tournament match for this fresh PPV concept is a rematch from the Royal Rumble. No World Title on the line, but just as big a match here for this tournament. We have the same commentary team as we had at WrestleMania IX, but I feel in the three months since the chemistry between them got much better. Razor, wearing green, was being heckled by the Dayton fans for losing to the 1-2-3 Kid on Raw about a month earlier. He had been chasing the Kid since and as the summer begins it leads to a change in attitude for the Bad Guy. As for the Hitman, well after getting the creative shaft at WrestleMania he embarks on what will be one of the most historic nights of his career. I definitely believe the purpose of this PPV was threefold. First off, we definitely needed a show to bridge the long gap between WrestleMania and SummerSlam. That’s been needed since SummerSlam debuted in 1988. Second, a creative cleansing needs to occur. More on that later in the show. Third, it’s a chance for Vince to showcase the athleticism and talent of his entire roster of smaller guys. That’s to distract from the growing steroids scandal in the business. The match is great, a shorter snapshot from their match at the Rumble but still really good. Razor is deliberate in his beating of Bret, but the Hitman recovers late to get the victory and move on to the Semifinals. This is a solid opener and a great way to start the show. Grade: ***

Justin: Since 1988, the large summer gap between pay-per-views had led to some bland stretches for the company. It also led to some hot feuds tapering off and never making it to a big stage blowoff. By 1993, the brass was ready to mix things up and add a bridge show into fill in that gaping hole. The decision was made to import a yearly gimmick from a house show and stick it on PPV. Plus, everyone loves a tournament! So, here we have King of the Ring. Sandwiched around a pair of title matches and an eight man tag, we have a robust eight man tournament set up to determine the King of the WWF. After a round of qualifiers on TV, the field was looking pretty good heading into the PPV itself. It is also fitting that Jim Ross had arrived just in time to call this event, as it is very sports based and he was perfect to call that type of show. Razor Ramon saunters out first and he had been mired in a real embarrassingly rough stretch after he had been upset by the 1-2-3 Kid on Raw a few weeks before this show. The crowd is all over him right away here and Razor was doing everything he could to lure Kid back into the ring. After being screwed out of the WWF Title at WrestleMania, Bret Hart was positioned as the number one seed of the tournament, despite there being no seeding, and did not have to wrestle in a qualifying match as a result. He was clearly one of the heavy favorites as this show kicked off. Hart worked Razor over on the mat early on, focusing on the arm, knowing that he has to grind him down or else Razor will overpower him like he did for most of their Royal Rumble tilt. This commentary team has really gelled nicely and is doing a good job establishing the goals of the match as well as the importance of paying attention to the time limits in place. Hart made his first mistake of the match with a wild charge to the corner, which allowed Razor to catch him in his face with a kneelift. Ramon followed by swiftly shooting Bret shoulder first into the ringpost. Ramon really whipped him in there with some velocity. As Ramon went to work on Hart, viciously stomping his hands, the crowd get really revved up with the “1-2-3” chants. Hart survived a fallaway slam and a big running powerslam but Razor booted him in the face and chest to keep him grounded while he came up with his next point of attack. Hart was able to block him and forge a comeback, flashing through a flurry of near falls that ended violently when he crashed chest first into the corner. After a battle over a backslide, Hart grabbed a hot near fall on a small package. That definitely felt like the end. A minute later, Razor went for a superplex, but Bret shifted his weight and collapsed on top of the Bad Guy to pick up the win and advance. That was a really fun opener for sure. A notch below their Rumble title tussle, but still well worked and kept a crisp pace. Ramon is in a really weird spot right now and is clearly in need of a change because he is working hard and getting over but is forced to job in these spots due to his allegiances. The Hitman moves on. Grade: **1/2

2) Mr. Perfect beats Mr. Hughes by disqualification at 6:00

Qualifying Matches: Mr. Perfect defeated Doink; Mr. Hughes defeated Kamala

Fun Fact: A little background information on Mr. Hughes. Curtis Hughes began his wrestling career training under Sonny Myers and Bob Geigel and debuting in 1987 in Central States Wrestling. He moved on to the AWA where he wrestled under the name Curtis “the Cat” Hughes. He signed on with WCW in late 1990 where he became a heel enforcer, dressed in a suit with a constant frown on his face. He came to the WWF in early 1993 after a brief stint in the USWA. The highlight of his short stay in the Federation was the above mentioned altercation with the Undertaker.

Fun Fact II: Prior to this show, Mr. Hughes and Giant Gonzalez attacked the Undertaker and Paul Bearer on Superstars. they stole the urn and put both men out of action for a few weeks. To keep the feud simmering, ominous black wreaths were delivered to ringside during Hughes’ matches. The Hughes/Undertaker feud would end abruptly as Hughes left the company late in the summer. He would debut in ECW in October.

Scott: Is this the first match in WWF history to have both guys named Mister? You can tell this match wasn’t going to be as good as our first match or any of the others in the tournament. At one point during this match, Jim Ross talks about Mr. Hughes’ background in college football at Kansas State. As great as that information is, the WWF fans aren’t programmed to know (or care) about characters’ backgrounds. That’s Ross’ expertise and in the old NWA/WCW that was fun, but it seemed not to fit here. This match is utter crap sadly, which wasn’t fair to Perfect. He wins by disqualification, and we get the dream rematch that everybody wanted. Hughes is more involved in another storyline with Undertaker so really he was just filler here to get Perfect a win. Not a great match, but we are in line for a possible classic in the next round. Grade: *

Justin: Our second opening round bout features the PPV debut of the giant Mr. Hughes, flanked by Harvey Wippleman, he was brought in to assist Giant Gonzalez in their war with the Undertaker. On Superstars, Hughes and Gonzalez beat down Taker and Paul Bearer, which is why he is in possession of the urn here. Hughes was an interesting dude, having had a tepid run in WCW prior to this, but also had a very different look to him, mainly that he wrestled with sunglasses on. His opponent is the beloved Mr. Perfect, who has been looking to break through since his return to the ring but hasn’t quite found a way to do so. He ran Ric Flair off but took a tough loss to Lex Luger at WrestleMania. He looks to get back on track by becoming King here. I always enjoyed that both of these guys were named Curt and went by “Mister” in the ring. As the match kicks off, Savage confirms that he is picking Perfect to win the tournament. Hughes sent a message immediately by chucking Perfect into the corner but Perfect retaliated with a big armdrag followed by a dropkick that rocked Hughes into the ropes. Hughes leaned on Perfect to slow him down and started to go to work on the neck, hooking in a standing vise. He kept on it with clubs and a clothesline and really took his time twisting and torquing the neck. As Hughes worked Perfect over in the corner, we had an inset promo from Hart who said he would rather Perfect win because he prefers a wrestling match over a brawl. Interesting take. Perfect absorbed the abuse and battled back with another armdrag that led to a neck snap and some right hands in the corner. Just as Perfect had Hughes on the run a bit, the big man grabbed the urn and decked Perfect in the head with it for the DQ. Well, that didn’t make a whole lot of sense for Hughes. I mean, Perfect got like zero offense in and Hughes takes some punches and goes for the obvious DQ? Not bright. Perfect wins without having to exhaust much offense, but we will see if the urn shot hampers him at all in the next round. The match was really no good at all. Grade: 1/2*

3) Bam Bam Bigelow pinned Jim Duggan at 4:58 with the diving headbutt

Qualifying Matches: Bam Bam Bigelow defeated Typhoon; Jim Duggan defeated Papa Shango.

Fun Fact: This is Jim Duggan’s final PPV match of his initial run. He would hang around through the summer, continuing his feud with Yokozuna, before leaving the company. He popped up on WCW TV in the summer of 1994 and became an active competitor there that fall. Duggan would remain with the company through its demise in 2001. During his stint there, he successfully battled kidney cancer. He will eventually return to WWE in 2005. Duggan’s final WWF PPV Record of this run, including dark matches, Rumbles and Survivor Series matches, was: 9-8-1. Not counting Rumbles or Survivor matches, his straight up match record was 7-2. He was undefeated at SummerSlam and won one Royal Rumble match. Also, most of his losses were by count-out or DQ, as he was only pinned twice on PPV: once by Ted DiBiase at WrestleMania IV and by Bigelow in this match.

Scott: Maybe the most anticipated matchup in this entire show. Ok, maybe for just me. This, just like his match with Big Boss Man at the Royal Rumble, is a chance for Bigelow to vanquish another of the Federation Era stalwarts. Duggan has clearly been lapped by the rest of the roster and it was time for him to go off into the sunset. Bigelow is slowly being built into a monster heel, even though he was left off WrestleMania due to time reasons. The match is a glorified squash to kick Duggan out the door and set Bigelow up for later in the evening. So long Hacksaw. Millions of fans will miss you, but I won’t. Grade: *1/2

Justin: The first round rolls on with a pretty big mismatch on paper. Bam Bam Bigelow has been pretty hot since his return to the company and definitely had to be looked at as a favorite in this end of the bracket. He battles the always marching Jim Duggan, who is still stomping around the promotion waving the American flag. Duggan had missed a couple of months of action thanks to Yokozuna but came back and was active on weekly TV heading in here. Still, it was pretty obvious that just like at the Rumble, this was looking to be a real passing of the torch situation. Duggan rocked Bammer with heavy right hands and a clothesline to open the match up. The crowd really got fired up here, rocking for Duggan and rallying him the whole way through. After missing a charge into the corner, Duggan started to favor his still healing ribs. He also tried a bodyslam but that didn’t work and allowed Bigelow to lay more blows into the midsection before hooking in a bear hug. Duggan fired back with right hands but again tried to slam Bigelow and again he collapsed backwards. After working out of another bear hug, Duggan finally did hit that slam. He tried to capitalize with his three point stance, but Bigelow ducked him and he crashed into the corner. Bigelow quickly scooted up to the top rope and hit his diving headbutt for the victory. That was a fine little power match that told a decent story with Duggan’s ribs. This is it for Duggan as far as PPV goes. He will hang around on TV for a bit, but by the summer he was toast. He has certainly been interesting to follow throughout these reviews, as his matches always had a ton of crowd heat if nothing else. We will see Hacksaw again eventually, but not for a long time. Bigelow looks good as he marches to the second round. Grade: *

4) Lex Luger and Tatanka wrestle to a time limit draw at 15:00; Both men are eliminated from the tournament

Qualifying Matches: Lex Luger defeated Bob Backlund; Tatanka defeated Giant Gonzales

Fun Fact: Tatanka is still undefeated at this point, with his streak reaching sixteen months. Luger’s record also remains unblemished since his debut in January.

Scott: Our last quarterfinal bout pits two superstars moving up the ranks here. Now I’m harkening back to the World Title tournament at WrestleMania IV for why this match is placed here. With Bigelow facing the winner in the semifinals and these two guys in the midst of well-documented undefeated streaks, Tatanka in particular, there’s a good chance this match won’t have a definitive winner. Luger had a decent match at WrestleMania with Mr. Perfect and was looking to stay hot with a win. The match is pretty good considering they had to fill the full 15 minutes and long restholds weren’t going to fly based on the philosophy of the match. Luger was getting quick pin attempts, while Tatanka was wasting time early on long grapple holds. At the 11 minute mark Jim Ross mentions the time and now the pace really picks up and it’s a much better last four minutes than anybody expected. The match ends in a draw, but Luger actually wants five more minutes. The crowd goes crazy, but Luger exposes his bionic forearm and knocks the Native American out. So Bigelow moves on to the finals, and both men are still undefeated. Bigelow now sits back and waits for the winner of the REAL most anticipated match of the night. Regardless of the outcome, this was a much better match than anybody probably expected. Grade: **1/2

Justin: The first round closes out with a battle of undefeated stars. Tatanka has been without blemish on his record for a really long time now and that has always opened some logic gaps with me, as you would assume he would be some sort of legit WWF Title contender at this point. Anyway, he is still very over with the crowd and positioned as a strong upper mid card star. The man across the ring is in the same boat but is clearly being fast tracked for something more. Lex Luger continues his run as narcissistic asshole and it fits him so well. On paper, this looked like the most interesting opening round matchup heading in because you really wondered if they had have one of these guys actually lose and end their streak or if we would get a screwy finish. Before the bell, the referee forced Luger to put a pad over his loaded forearm. The forearm gimmick was such a good one and was easy heat and worked so well. Tatanka hit the ring and couldn’t care less about posing so he shoved the mirror on top of Luger and then chopped him right out of the ring. As Heenan went into his usual racist Native American jokes, Tatanka worked the arm over. Savage tops Heenan’s absurdity by proclaiming the KOTR crown to be equally prestigious to the WWF Title. At least he is putting it over, I guess. As Luger starts to turn the tide, we hear from Bigelow who claims “I want to get my hands on the Indian” in the next round. Luger would go to work on the midsection, using a pretty straightforward attack at a fairly slow pace. Any time Tatanka started to fight back, Luger hammered him down and went to a reverse chinlock to eat some more time up. Ross was gushing about Luger’s attack but really it was quite bland. As we hit the eleven minute mark, Luger was just slowly lining up kicks and booting Tatanka in the ribs over and over. With time winding down, Tatanka went to his war dance and came back hot, laying in some chops and grabbing a pair of near falls. His roll came to a halt when he came up empty on a top rope chop attempt, drawing things even with less than two minutes to go. Luger would slam Tatanka down but took way too long to cover and time expired as he went for the cover. Well, that was especially bland. Looks like they didn’t want those streaks to end after all. Luger is pissed and demands five more minutes and then cracks Tatanka with his now-exposed forearm, ensuring it then wouldn’t happen. Luger leaves, both men are out and Bigelow is into the finals with a bye. These two just never got going and the way they wrestled totally telegraphed a draw. The match was really just boring outside of the start and finish and it is too bad because I was hoping for something a bit hotter from them. Grade: *1/2

Semifinals

5) Bret Hart pins Mr. Perfect with a Small Package at 18:54

Fun Fact: This match is preceded by an interview segment where Mean Gene interviews both guys before they head to the ring. The interviews starts amicably, but Gene stirs it up by saying that Bret said earlier that he would rather face Mr. Perfect than Mr. Hughes, which Gene twists as meaning Bret thinks Perfect is an easier opponent. As they start to argue, Gene yells at them to calm down. He then asks if their fathers, Stu Hart and Larry “the Ax” Hennig, ever fought, which leads to an exchange of “my father beat you father,” “your father could never beat my father.” To further increase the tension, Perfect references their previous PPV match, telling Bret that he “owes him from SummerSlam.” 

Scott: So here we are. The long awaited rematch from SummerSlam 1991. Except this time Perfect is healthy, unlike two years earlier when he still put on a five-star match with a debilitating back injury. The interview before this match is awesome, as the little weasel Mean Gene stirs come classic shit about Bret saying he wanted to face Perfect over Mr. Hughes earlier in the show but then tells them to calm down. Then right before the interview ends, Perfect says “You owe me from SummerSlam”. That is tremendous psychology and storytelling leading into this rematch. Early on they focus on grappling moves to establish position. Savage made good points saying as great technicians as both men are, wanting to win this match very badly may lead both men to possibly throw the rulebook out the window. Almost a lesser example of what Jesse Ventura was thinking during the Hogan/Warrior match at WrestleMania VI. After a few minutes the match gets crazy with both men pulling out all the stops. They even attempt a suplex over the top rope, and usually when it’s attempted by someone, it is reversed to avoid injury. This time the reverse doesn’t happen and both men flop down to the floor in a giant heap. The brawling continues, and then when Perfect goes for a small package the Hitman reverses it and gets the three count. What a fantastic match of great storytelling and psychology. The fact that Perfect wanted revenge for SummerSlam, and that Bret Hart needed to prove once and for all he is the better wrestler. After the match the frustrated Perfect gets in the ring, and the possibility that he was going to sucker punch Bret and turn heel again was definitely there. Instead he begrudgingly shakes Bret Hart’s hand and acknowledges on this day he was the better man.Some may think the SummerSlam ’91 match is five stars, and if that is so, then I think this one is five and a half. A healthy Perfect makes this a much better match for me. Bret moves on to the final to face the Beast from the East. Grade: *****

Justin: We get to the second round immediately and are certainly set up for a real treat with this SummerSlam 1991 rematch. Only this time, Hart is more seasoned and Perfect is healthy. Buckle up. Before they locked up, Bret was caught shaking his taped up hand and the commentators discuss the possibility of him having some busted fingers thanks to Ramon stomping on them earlier. As you would expect, we got a balanced start with each man trading off during a rapid fire exchange that ended in a Hart side headlock. As Hart worked the hold, Savage and Heenan discussed Bigelow’s big advantage thanks to the bye. The pace was great here, as they would transition and dance around the ring but it kept leading back to the Hart side headlock takeover. Perfect turned the tide by getting a little dirty and catching Hart coming in the ring by kicking the ropes into his groin. That turned the crowd on him a bit, but Savage and Heenan both backed the decision as Perfect gave the warning in the interview. Hart would favor the hand as Perfect mauled him around the ring, using the ring apron as a weapon. Hart would stagger on to the apron but Perfect capitalized and shoved him hard, sending him flying into the barricade in a great looking bump. Hart eventually made it back in but Perfect kept pouring it on, hitting a big missile dropkick that made even the announcers pop big. He tried to go to the well again, but Bret pounced up and slugged him in the face and took him down with a big superplex for a near fall. The crowd is really into this and the announcers are completely locked in too. In a callback to SummerSlam, Hart started to attack the legs of Perfect, kicking them viciously before hooking in a figure four. In funny bit, Heenan sounded exasperated that he found himself rooting for Perfect, even offering to manage him again if he were to win the crown. Perfect battled right back, shoving Hart into the corner and then bealing him out by the hair followed by a tight sleeper in the middle of the ring. Hart got to his feet, but perfect gave him no room to breathe, leveling him with a big chop and going back to the sleeper. As Perfect wrenched it tighter, Ross noted that we were halfway through the time limit, which was a nice touch to plant that seed again. Hart used a last gasp to run hard Perfect into the corner to break the hold. Hart rocked Perfect with a big forearm and then chucked Perfect across the ring, leading to Perfect crotching himself against the ringpost. From there, the Hitman dove into his standard bag of offensive tricks to pick up a couple of near falls. Hart went for the sharpshooter, but Perfect went to the fingers, twisting them around to bust up the hold. Perfect would go for the perfectplex, but Hart blocked in and suplexed Perfect to the floor, but the momentum brought Bret out as well, leading to both landing hard on the floor. Both made it back inside, where Perfect hooked an inside cradle, but Bret rolled it back over and grabbed the win to advance to the finals. Man, what a sprint that was. An instant classic. Both men went balls out, non stop, bell to bell and beat the crap out of each other. It was hard fought with some memorable spots and some nice psychology too. The commentary was great too, as was the crowd. After the bell, Perfect would tease some dissension but ended up shaking hands with the Hitman, endorsing him to win it all. Grade: ****1/2

***At this point, we have the greatest crowd interview of all time, as Terry Taylor interviews a very excited family about their attendance at the show. First up is Dad, who shows his loyalty in backing “Hulk Hogan all the way!” Up next is mom, who exposes her legitimate lust for Bret Hart. After we get a view of the young daughter, who is barefoot in the arena, we close with the pumped up son Wesley, who expresses his excitement with a wild “YEAH!”. Decades later, we would catch up with the extremely fun and laid back Mayle family to talk about their experiences that night. ***

6) Yokozuna pinned Hulk Hogan with a legdrop to win the WWF Title at 13:09

Fun Fact: This is Hulk Hogan’s last PPV match until March 2002. Including Rumble and Survivor matches, his record was: 17-7-1. He was only pinned on PPV three times: Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI, Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991 and Yokozuna here. He was only pinned cleanly once, at WrestleMania VI. He would remain with the company for their European summer tour before severing ties with the company to focus on his Hollywood career. While working on his TV show Thunder in Paradise, he was lured back to the ring by Eric Bischoff. After negotiations with both Bischoff and Vince McMahon, Hogan signed with WCW in the spring of 1994.

Fun Fact II: According to legend, this match happened because Hogan would not agree to drop the title to Bret Hart at SummerSlam.

Fun Fact III: This would also be Jimmy Hart’s final PPV appearance. He would accompany Hogan for the European tour in July, and then disappear. He would joined WCW with Hogan in 1994 and manage him until October 1995, when he would turn on him at the Halloween Havoc PPV. He would then manage the Dungeon of Doom until its demise. Hart would create the First Family, which consisted of Brian Knobbs, the Barbarian, Hugh Morrus, and Jerry Flynn. After the Family disbanded, Hart would take a backstage job with WCW, and would stick around until its demise in 2001. Hart then joined with a group of investors and created the short lived XWF promotion. He would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. Hart then joined TNA later in the year, managing the Naturals and even the Nasty Boyz for a short time before their release. He would eventually return to WWE in an ambassador role.

Scott: So before we get into the match, right off the bat Randy Savage says (probably not authorized to) that Bret Hart should have gotten the first title shot against Hulk Hogan. That’s interesting, considering the rumored fight Savage and Hogan had in Las Vegas on WrestleMania weekend. Hogan was told that he would hold the championship until SummerSlam and lose it to Bret Hart, putting him over on his way out. Well Hogan apparently didn’t like the idea. I guess he also didn’t like the idea of having to actually come on TV and conduct interviews, or perhaps work while he’s champion? So Vince, probably realizing he made a big mistake at WrestleMania, decides enough is enough and has Hogan drop it here. After a stellar eight year run (1984-1992) as the face of the WWF and one of the icons of professional wrestling, the business was changing and fans were enjoying more mat-based matches and smaller athletic superstars. Hogan had indicated he wanted to walk away from wrestling and get into TV and movies full time. So he was willing to come back and get involved in the tag feud with Money Inc. to spike buyrates for WrestleMania. But the ego wasn’t being stroked enough, so after that horrendous ending to Mania and the title is shoe-horned to him, he doesn’t show up for months on TV and won’t drop the strap to the proper guy. So here in Dayton we see possibly the final match of Hulk Hogan’s WWF career. The match is about what you’d expect it to be. Yoko beats Hogan down and the champ makes his big comeback, however a strange guy with a camera comes up to the apron and shoots a fireball in Hogan’s face. Yokozuna recovers for the pinfall and is once again WWF Champion. To really hammer the point home, Yokozuna Bonzai Drops the former champion right out of the company. We are supposed to get medical updates on Hogan’s condition, but they never come. Hogan is gone from the WWF for almost a decade. Frankly it needed to happen. Hogan was the face of the company during the very lucrative “Federation Era”. However times were changing and Hogan was a bigger liability than an asset. Not passing the torch to the very deserving Bret Hart pretty much showed how much Hogan’s grip on the company was slipping and he didn’t want to let it go. So Vince made him let it go. Yoko is once again champion, and the Rock n Wrestling era is over. What does Vince do now? Does he go back to his plan from late-1992? Sadly, no he doesn’t. Grade: **

Justin: Well, after two and a half months of no title defenses or TV appearances, Hulk Hogan is back on our screens, ready to defend his WWF Title against the giant former champion. Before the match, Hogan vowed to slam Yoko and have Brutus Beefcake cut his hair afterward. I bought it and assumed this would be a standard title defense for sure. As Yoko made his solemn entrance, Heenan discussed Hogan’s strategy to slim down so he could outwork Yoko but also noted that Yoko was now fresh this time around. Of course, he says Yoko and Hart went thirty minutes at Mania a couple times, which was not even close to true, but I appreciate the effort. The Dayton crowd was quite into Hogan here, chanting his name during Yoko’s prematch ceremony and then blowing up when the champ marched to the ring. I thought it was cool looking that Hogan had a red shirt here, something a little different to mark this run. Also of note, there are a bunch of photographers around the ring, adding to the big match feel here. Also adding to that feel is Ross talking about how Hogan requested this match so he could beat Yoko in the “Heartland of America” to defend the honor of his country. Savage notes that many felt Bret Hart should have gotten this title shot, but Jack Tunney went with Yoko instead. After some feeling out, we finally got the first lockup and that was won by the challenger, who Savage thinks looks 100 pounds heavier since Mania. Yoko won another lockup and Hogan looked a bit perplexed about how to go after the big man. Yoko methodically hammered on the champion, not giving Hogan any chance to even get to his feet or reestablish any position. Yoko slammed Hogan to the mat and then shot him hard into the corner followed by another whip, but this time Yoko came up empty on a charge. Hogan unleashed some right hands and finally had the challenger rocking for the first time. The booking of Yoko has been so good thus far that he really has a strong mystique around him, which makes any offense he takes feel like a big deal. Hogan landed a clothesline and tried for a slam but had no chance as Yoko clubbed him to the mat. Hogan followed up with more right hands and tried another slam, but could only get Yoko’s leg slightly off the mat. That didn’t look promising, but we have seen Hogan pull it off before. Hogan came back again with some clotheslines but Yoko blocked a third one and spiked Hogan back to the mat. However, Hulk dodged a big splash and Yoko was down and hurt for the first time.

Back to their feet, Yoko was able to catch Hogan on a charge and lock him in a long bear hug. The crowd was heated up here, really rooting on Hogan to break the hold, which he eventually did with a series of right hands. Hogan’s back was clearly in rough shape though and he couldn’t follow up, leading to a Yoko back elbow that pasted him in the mush. Yoko followed that with a huge belly-to-belly but Hogan blew out of the cover and Hulked Up, like we have seen so many times before. The fan confidence level was now high, as we all waited for Hogan to finish off and vanquish yet another challenger. Yoko looked at a loss as Hogan charged up and rocked him with right hands and a big boot. Yoko stayed on his feet, so Hogan continued to unload with fists and boots until he finally tumbled backwards. Hulk would drop the leg…but Yoko kicked out at two! The crowd was shocked there. Hogan would knock Fuji off the apron and started to prep for a slam, but a photographer hopped on the apron. Hogan went to confront him, but his camera blew a fireball in Hogan’s face. The champion crumbled to the mat as Yoko dropped a leg on him to win the match and the title. I was shocked at the time. Hogan never slammed him and couldn’t beat him and the title was back with the monster sumo warrior. As Hogan writhed on the mat, rubbing his eye, Yoko pounced and finished him off with a Banzai Drop. That was a statement and a passing of the torch, not from Hogan to Yoko but from Hogan to the future state of the WWF. His time has come and has now gone, and that is hammered home by Heenan yelling “Hulkamania is Dead!” As children looked on sadly, Hogan was carried to the back while Yoko celebrated his win. So, how do we wrap this all up? The match was pretty solid, a good battle of psychology with Hogan trying to figure out how to wrestle a different style while also trying to slam the monster challenger. Yoko’s goal was to survive the big comeback and find a way to outlast the now svelte champion, which he eventually did. The crowd was fantastic here, as were the announcers yet again. Between the hype, the build and the delivery, this definitely had a big match feel and felt like a huge deal when Yoko finished him off and took the belt. Hogan had a pretty useless fifth reign and was shitty to not show up on TV at all, but he did what he had to do here, laying down and letting Yoko look strong in the win before riding off into the sunset. The fuck finish doesn’t bother me much, since Yoko never got slammer and also pasted him with the Banzai Drop after the bell. After a brief detour in April, we are now back on track to get the future of the company in place. Yoko has the gold and Hogan is once again gone, nothing more but a memory going forward. He barely even gets mentioned in the aftermath of this show. He and Jimmy Hart have been longtime mainstays on these shows, so it will take some adjusting to both being gone for good, but the time has come for the company to finally break off the Hulkamania relationship and move on. Grade: **

*** Gene Okerlund promises an update on condition of Hulk Hogan as soon as it is available. That update never comes. ***

7) Steiner Brothers & Smoking Gunns defeat Money, Inc & Headshrinkers when Billy Gunn pinned Ted DiBiase with an inside cradle at 7:00

Fun Fact: The Smoking Gunns were a tag team made up of Billy Gunn (Monty Sopp) and Bart Gunn (Mike Polchlopek). The duo began teaming with each other in the International Wrestling Federation where they became two-time IWF World Tag Team Champions before signing with the WWF. They made their debut at a Wrestling Challenge taping on April 5, 1993 in Phoenix, Arizona. The duo would have a long run with the WWF, staying as a team from 1993 until the fall of 1996. As part of their entrance, the Gunns would fire guns containing blanks on their way to the ring. After complaints from parents that the gunfire was frightening their children, this part of their entrance was removed in January, 1994.

Scott: After the drama and tension of the last two matches, we get a respite with an eight-man tag match involving the top four teams in the WWF. Money, Inc has survived all comers to this point, but there’s no doubt the Steiners are being prepped to be the top team in the company and win the straps. The Smoking Gunns are fresh on the block but have been prepped with many vignettes on Raw. The match ends abruptly when Ted DiBiase lazily lets go of the Million Dollar Dream, which allows Billy Gunn to surprise DiBiase with a small package and the win. We get some jawjacking with all four teams afterwards, which continues the build to who will dethrone Money, Inc. We get that answer the next night on Raw. Nothing more here, just a filler to get the tag teams on the show. Grade: **

Justin: Next up we have a rather innocuous eight man tag that empties out the current top level of the tag team division. The Steiner Brothers had easily usurped the top slot on the face side of the ledger while Money, Inc. are still our champions. The Headshrinkers align with the champs despite some recent issues between the teams on Raw, but money speaks regardless of perceived intellect I guess. Teaming with the Steiners is a new duo, the Smoking Gunns. It has been quite a while since we have had a cowboy gimmick in the company, and these two go all out with the look, catchphrases and style. They were pretty good as a team though, working a quicker style and using some nice double team moves. In a way, this match seems to exist solely to give the announcers time to continue digesting what happened in the World Title match. DiBiase and Scott opened things up with some basic back and forth ending with a Steinerline to send Ted out to the floor. After Rick pitched him back in, Scott sent him crashing right back out and Rick sent him right back in. Bart and Fatu were next up and again, it was just a quick tradeoff to show off some offense. And for the first time on PPV, Ross mentions that Bart Gunn went to school on a rodeo scholarship, which leads to some good Heenan lines. The Shrinkers tagged in and out and worked over Bart, setting up for IRS to beat him up a bit. We got more talk about Yokozuna’s huge win as the champs punished Bart, including a nice DiBiase vertical suplex. Bart was in some real trouble as all four men tagged in and out fluidly to stay fresh. He would eventually tag Billy, who also fell to the same fate. DiBiase would eventually lock in the Million Dollar Dream as Heenan sang “Happy Trails” to him. That made me chuckle. For some reason, DiBiase let go of the hold just as Billy was fading. That was a bad idea, as Billy hooked a desperation small package on him and took the win. That was a pretty odd match and since they only got seven minutes, I am not sure why they bothered with having all eight men out there. I mean, Rick doesn’t even get in the ring at all. I get why they didn’t want to do any type of title switch here, but they have just done Gunns/Headshrinkers to get the Gunns a win. I guess if nothing else it shows all the top contenders in play for the titles. Ah well, it was a nothing match across the board. Grade: *

*** Gene Okerlund interviews Yokozuna. Jack Tunney is on hand and congratulates the new champion and Mr. Fuji vows to celebrate the big win on the Fourth of July. Jim Ross then gives the final update on Hulk Hogan we would hear for a long time. ***

8) Shawn Michaels pins Crush with a superkick at 11:12 to retain WWF Intercontinental Title

Fun Fact: Shawn Michaels had actually lost the Intercontinental Title on May 17, when Marty Jannetty made his surprise return on Raw and defeated Michaels for the title. On June 6, Michaels regained the strap at a house show in Albany with the help of his debuting bodyguard who was unnamed for one week. Michaels officially names him Diesel in the pre-match interview here.

Fun Fact II: This match was signed originally as a non-title match because they fought to a double disqualification in their KOTR Qualifier, thus eliminating both men from the competition. When Michaels won the belt back from Jannetty, it was changed to an Intercontinental Title Match.

Fun Fact III: Diesel is portrayed by Kevin Nash. Nash played basketball in college, and was highly rated as a hoops player during high school. After some issues at the University of Tennessee, Nash gave it a go in Europe, but eventually he tore his ACL and had to retire from the game. He would spend some time working at a NATO facility, a Ford Motor Company assembly line and a strip club before taking a shot at a wrestling career. After toiling in the independents, he spent time in WCW under the forgotten cult characters of Master Blaster Steel, Oz and Vinnie Vegas before Shawn Michaels noticed him on TV and mentioned his name to Vince McMahon. He would make his debut on the Albany house show where he assisted his new charge in regained his prized gold.

Scott: The stability in the company’s mid-card continues as our IC Champion spends his third straight PPV defending his white strapped gold against the Hawaiian powerhouse. Michaels is two for two in title defenses, with solid matches against Marty Jannetty at the Rumble and Tatanka at WrestleMania. Now for the first time he faces a bigger opponent. I thought at the time that Crush was going to win the title for sure. He had to lose to Doink at Mania, but I felt that was a red herring to set you up for Crush winning here. A big addition to Michaels’ character is the big bodyguard. Diesel is Kevin Nash, who spent his early years in WCW toiling as atrocious characters like Oz and Master Blaster. He comes up to the Northeast and is at the IC champ’s side helping him out. The match started with a lot of cheating by Michaels, including bashing Crush’s head into the post. Michaels seems to be moving a little slower than his previous title matches. Crush started to recover and maybe was about to get the win when the two Doinks come out to ringside. The distraction was just enough to allow Michaels to hit the superkick and retain the title. This match isn’t as good as the others as Michaels seems sluggish and Crush can only go so far. Michaels keeps the title, but the question is who is next on the list of contenders? Grade: **

Justin: After a shaky showing back at WrestleMania, Crush has been doing his best to ignore his clown problem so he can focus on winning gold and getting his career back on track here. Shawn Michaels had a very interesting spring, warring with both Jim Duggan and Marty Jannetty on Raw as well as Crush in a King of the Ring qualifier. Michaels had lost and won back his belt, regaining it with an assist from his new bodyguard, Diesel. It was a great idea to add some muscle to Shawn’s act as it allowed him to amp up his arrogance as he knew he had a big ass dude watching his back at all times. For the third time in three PPVs, I was very confident that Michaels was going to lose his strap. Crush seemed to be back on a roll and set for a run, and what better way to do it than win some gold? The big man controlled early, working a side headlock until Michaels slipped free and peppered him with a right hand. Crush showed off some quickness of his own, leap frogging Michaels twice before ducking a superkick and sending Michaels to the floor with a dropkick. Crush continued to manhandle the champ, bouncing him around the ring before showing off his power with a big military press slam. That show of strength prompted Savage to proclaim that Crush could slam Yokozuna. We shall see. After a Crush tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, Diesel yanked his charge out of the ring to allow him a chance to recover. That set up a cool staredown between the two big men and it also allowed Michaels to nail his challenger from behind. Diesel followed by shoving Crush into the post and then Michaels slid out and repeatedly slammed the back of Crush’s head into the post as well. Instead of taking a countout victory, Michaels slid outside and impressively hoisted Crush back into the ring. Shawn kept targeting the head and neck, locking in a front facelock and trying to render Crush unconscious. Crush found the strength to power out of it and chuck Michaels across the ring and eventually over the top to the floor. Back inside, Crush hit another backbreaker for a near fall and it was starting to look like Shawn’s time was up. Crush would clothesline Shawn to the floor, but after he did, he worst nightmare appeared in the aisle as two Doinks marched down to the ring, puffing on stogies. As they distracted the big man, Shawn snuck in and nailed Crush with a superkick to the back of the head to steal the win. I was digging the psychology of that match and the work was fine but the end really ruined it. It was a bit annoying that Crush still had to deal with Doink but the choppy finish cut short a match that was building to a good finish. Michaels escapes yet again and lives to see another day. Crush still has a major clown problem on his hands. Grade: **

Finals

9) Bret Hart pins Bam Bam Bigelow with a Victory Roll at 18:17 to win King of the Ring

Fun Fact: Bret Hart becomes the first man to become a repeat King of the Ring winner.

Scott: Our finals match pits a man who’s been rested for quite a while, facing a guy who’s wrestled twice totaling almost half an hour. Bret Hart was hosed out of the title match on this evening (a fact Randy Savage mentioned earlier) but now can stake claim to being pretty much the best wrestler in the company. He has a third match against a third different type of opponent. We had Razor Ramon, who’s a power guy with mobility, then Mr. Perfect who’s an expert technician, and now Bret faces a pure power guy who simply leans on you with his girth. Although Bigelow is pretty nimble, it’s all about power and size. The match is really good; even with the Dusty finish midway through. Out came Shawn Michaels’ old valet Luna Vachon, who pasted Bret with a chair and Bigelow got the three count out of it. A second referee came out and revealed the chicanery. So the match was restarted and Bigelow was relentless with his attack, including a long and draining backbreaker. Bret gets a second wind and hits move after move, including a very crisp bulldog off the second rope. Bret does struggle trying to ratchet the Sharpshooter on the big man, so he keeps trying to hit big strikes to weaken him. For the third straight PPV, Bret comes up with an ingenious way to win a match when he turns the big man up in a victory oll to win the inaugural PPV KOTR tournament. What a performance by the Hitman, wrestling almost 47 minutes on this night and proving he is a guy who can carry this promotion. However, just when you thought he would get in Yokozuna’s face and we have his return title match at SummerSlam, out comes Jerry Lawler to protest this phony coronation and then attack Bret before we go off the air. That proved to me that Bret was not going to be in Yokozuna’s crosshairs and he was going to be preoccupied. Was Hogan getting the rematch? Didn’t know at the time, but someone would step up. Rev up the bus! Grade: ***

Justin: With a long night of action behind us, it was finally time to crown the first PPV King of the Ring. And we had a very cool final lined up as Bret Hart now has to wrestle his third distinct opponent on the night. Bigelow dispatched Jim Duggan fairly easily and was set up nicely to earn the crown. Bammer wasted no time beating on Hart off the bell, clubbing him with heavy blows. A Bam Bam press slam went awry as Hart shifted his way and collapsed on top of him. Hart would go to work on the arm but you could tell he was still hurting from his previous bouts. Bigelow easily broke an armbar before press slamming Hart to the floor. Bigelow kept on the back, shooting Hart hard into the corners and using his giant head as a weapon. That was followed by a big bear hug, and it looked like Hart may just be too beat up to fight through it at this point. In a great spot, Bigelow broke the hold and creamed Hart with a high angle back suplex for a close near fall. The two ended up back outside, where Hart swung momentum and used the steel barricade to his advantage. For the first time in the match, Bigelow was vulnerable but a mistake by Hart gave him new life. With Bigelow staggered on the floor, the Hitman dove off the apron, but Bammer caught him and drove him into the apron. Bigelow followed that with a big bodyslam on the aisle floor. Bigelow slid back in and distracted the referee which allowed Luna Vachon to sneak out and bash Hart with a chair to the back. Bigelow pitched Hart back inside, slammed him hard to the mat and dropped his top rope headbutt for the dominant and shocking win. Or so we thought. Earl Hebner charged out and filled in Joey Marella as to what happened, leading to Marella restarting the match. That was pretty unnecessary, and that mainly hinges on my issues with that occasional booking mechanism. Why can referees randomly get involved like that? Why didn’t it happen in the Hogan/Yoko match earlier? It didn’t really add anything to the match here at all.

Anyway, the match restarted and Bigelow picked up where he left off, going right back to his bear hug. He followed that up with an old school hanging backbreaker. Hart was eventually able to wiggle his way down and then took Bigelow over hard with a back sulplex. Bigelow recovered and went to the back yet again, really wearing down the already worn out Hitman. Bigelow went for another hanging backbreaker, but Hart broke it by going to the eyes and hooking a sleeper on. In a smart spot, Hart caught Bigelow near the ropes and dumped him to the floor. I thought maybe he did that to catch his breath, but instead he flew over the top with a plancha to rock the big man. Back inside, Hart hit a clothesline and bulldog, both off the middle rope. He tried for the sharpshooter but Bigelow powered out. Bam Bam also used his size to shift momentum on a Hart back suplex, crashing on to the Hitman for a two count. A moment later, Hart would end up on Bigelow’s shoulders and rolled forward, hooking Bigelow in a victory roll for the victory. That was a damn good match and Bigelow worked his ass off throughout. Hart’s selling was on point and you could feel how drained he was the whole time through. I also like how Hart won all three matches in different ways, none with the sharpshooter. It showed how resourceful he was and how he was always thinking in the ring. It was a banner night for the Hitman, a night nobody could take away from him. It was the night he proved he was the company workhorse and deserved a prominent role in its future. Of course, Jerry Lawler would try to take it away from him, and after a stiff scepter shot to the back, a brand new feud is launched. For now, though, we honor Hart’s career night. Grade: ***

*** After the match, Bret Hart was escorted over to the podium, where he received his crown and cape. As he celebrated, Jerry Lawler showed up to assert himself as the only King of Wrestling. After some arguing, Lawler clubbed Hart with his scepter, knocking him to the ground in agony. Lawler followed that up by slamming the throne down onto Hart and choking him with the scepter. Lawler would stand tall over the Hitman and then kick him down the podium steps as the show faded out. ***

Final Analysis

Scott: An idea that was finally executed came off extremely well. A PPV to bridge the WrestleMania-SummerSlam gap is filled with expert wrestling and big moments. Yokozuna cleans up Hogan and Vince’s Las Vegas mess by splatting the Hulkster and sending him off to Paradise. The tournament was fun, with Bret Hart wrestling over 45 minutes through three different types of competitors to show he is the face of the company, even if he isn’t the WWF Champion. Including the fantastic Mayle family appearance, this may be one of the most enjoyable PPVs I’ve ever watched. There may not be a KOTR show as good as this one but it’s still a great watch. Enjoy a night where Bret Hart proved to everyone he can be the face of the company and where a clearly out of place Hulk Hogan exits stage left. Final Grade: A-

Justin: Well, this was certainly quite the interesting show. Thanks to Bret Hart, it was filled up with some real damn good wrestling that ate up over 45 minutes of action, meaning a third of this show was Bret Hart wrestling. And that is fine by me. We also had some strong historical significance with Yokozuna ending the initial run of Hulkamania and driving Hulk Hogan from the promotion with a tough loss. The rest of the card was just OK, but when you had it sandwiched with three very strong tournament matches and a major World Title tilt, it is hard not to look at this as a thumbs up. Tack on the finish, and this show really hit all the major points it set out to nail. Also, I want to give props to the announce team and crowd, as both were great the whole night through and it really added to the overall presentation of the show. In many ways, this was a major night of transition and after a couple of false starts, it was finally the one that would stick. Final Grade: A-

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