*** Scott & JT’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! ***
WrestleMania XI: A Giant Main Event
April 2, 1995
Hartford Civic Center
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler
Fun Fact: The band Fishbone was supposed to perform the National Anthem but they were replaced by a representative from the Special Olympics with no reason given. It was later revealed that they no showed the event and Olympian Kathy Huey stepped in at the last minute. The WWF and Special Olympics had a strong relationship at the time and Connecticut was home to both companies.
Fun Fact II: The attendance at this event is the second lowest attended WrestleMania in history. Only WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles had a lower attendance.
1) The Allied Powers defeat the Blu Brothers when the British Bulldog pins Jacob Blu with a sunset flip at 6:33
Fun Fact: The Blu Brothers are the first of the three names the Harris Brothers would go under in WWF. The Harris’ plied their trade in Portland, where they wrestled as the Bruise Brothers and held the PNW Tag Titles on six occasions. Ron Harris was also PNW World Champion on two occasions having defeated Brian Adams (Crush) and Steve Doll (Steven Dunn). In mid 1993, the Bruise Brothers made their way down South where they spent time in Smokey Mountain Wrestling. They continued to bounce around the Indies, even making a stop in ECW, before getting the call to come up North to Stamford.
Fun Fact II: The Allied Powers were made up of Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith. The tag team was born on the January 2 edition of Monday Night Raw, although they were not given the Allied Powers name until a couple of months later. That evening they defeated Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka, two members of the Million Dollar Corporation that Luger had been feuding with. The name was to symbolize the USA (Luger) and UK (Smith) being brought together.
Scott: We open the 11th edition of WrestleMania with a tag match that pairs two babyfaces with no real direction. Lex Luger started 1994 strong with a co-win at the Rumble, but then it was one disappointment after another, leading to him being jobbed out at Survivor Series against the Corporation. In fact if it wasn’t for Luger, the Corporation would be a bunch of loser jobbers as they can’t really win anything else. Bulldog just got back in the WWF groove in the fall, so now he’s back in the tag team division. In fact, Vince actually acknowledges his title run with Dynamite Kid, as well as him being a former Intercontinental Champion. They open the show against the twins we will get to know for many, many years in different promotions around North America. The Harris Brothers are two long-haired bruisers managed by one of my favorite guys ever, Dutch Mantell. In this incarnation he is Uncle Zebekiah. The match is pretty dull, standard tag team fare that brings some charge from the fans but otherwise really not much. Luger looks so pathetic being a curtain jerker in a show that one year earlier he was the co-main eventer for. At least he gets the win here and maybe it will be a boost of his sagging push in the tag team division. Otherwise our show starts off pretty flat. Grade: *1/2
JT: For the eleventh time in this review series, it is time for WrestleMania. After celebrating the tenth installment in its birthplace a year ago, we head a quick ride up 95 North to beautiful…Hartford, CT? I get that business was a bit shaky during this time and they couldn’t run any sort of massive arena or anything, but surely there had to be a better option out there. Unless it was just a loyalty thing for Northeast fans, but even then there had to be better locations to choose from. As a result, this is one of the few Manias to really look like just another generic arena show as a result, despite their efforts to dress it up in celebrities, much of which we will cover as we go along. And it starts right with the opening video package, which recaps the celebrities from every past WrestleMania and then runs down all the ones in attendance tonight. It was an interesting direction to go, and one not all fans were too thrilled about. Anyway, our opener is a tag match featuring the Blu Brothers, who had debuted a few months earlier, facing off against the superpower team of Lex Luger and British Bulldog. It has been a pretty quick trip back down the card for Lex since a year ago, when he blew his big title match with Yokozuna. Since then, he has slipped to the mid card and now is opening the show in a throwaway tag match. In some ways, it feels like Bulldog is carrying him, which something you would not have thought possible for quite a while. I will say their mashup theme is pretty fantastic though and their coordinated look was a nice touch as well. The Blu Brothers were a pair of hosses, flanked by Uncle Zebekiah, portrayed by the legendary Dutch Mantell. I liked their look and thought they had some promise as a big man heel team, a needed role on the roster. Bulldog & Luger started hot, mowing through both twins with clotheslines and then settling into control as the match reset. Bulldog would hit a really impressive delayed suplex on one of them and kept the heat on until he got clubbed from behind. The Blus picked up a couple of near falls as Vince McMahon actually discussed some of Bulldog’s past teaming with Dynamite Kid. Bulldog would finally avoid a splash and make the tag, with Luger entering the match for the first time. He would land a powerslam but not tag, earning some snide remarks from both announcers. He would follow with his forearm blow but things broke down from there with Zeb running some interference, allowing for the twins to switch in and out, surpassing Lex by kicking out of the forearm. A moment later, Bulldog tagged in and came off the top with a sunset flip for the victory. Well, this was fine, albeit fairly sloppy, but definitely a very far cry from last year’s opener. Luger and Bulldog make for a good team and it isn’t the worst idea by any means. I think their debut here could have meant more if they had faced off with bigger names as part of a legit feud instead of a throwaway like this. Grade: *1/2
2) Razor Ramon defeats Jeff Jarrett by disqualification at 13:30; Jarrett retains WWF Intercontinental Title
Fun Fact: This match is a continuation of the feud between Razor Ramon and Jeff Jarrett that saw the IC title change hands at the Royal Rumble due to interference by the Roadie. To counter this threat of interference again, Ramon is accompanied to the ring by the 1-2-3- Kid.
Scott: For the second year in a row, Razor Ramon will be involved in a quest for the Intercontinental Title. You can tell right off the bat that things are going to be rough as we have audio problems during a 1-2-3 Kid and Razor interview from the back. Just a few minutes earlier the audio on the replay for the first match was non-existent. Not a good thing, as the WWF prides itself on its technical performance. After letting his “machismo” get in the way of common sense at the Royal Rumble, Razor tries to get back his title against Double J. Adding the Roadie to the situation gives this feud, and Jarrett in particular, more juice as he indirectly cost Razor the title with the chop block at the Rumble. Early on the match goes that route as Jarrett tries to jump on the legs but instead Razor really gets aggressive and hits punches and power moves to win the battle. He tries to hit a fast Razor’s Edge but Roadie grabs Jarrett’s legs and pulls him out of the ring. As the match progresses I notice that even though there’s no real flow to it and both guys keep going back and forth (Razor rocking the aqua tights/boots here), it fits the way the match should be worked as both men really don’t care about beating each other up. They just want to be IC Champion, which is why Razor going for the quick Edge made perfect sense. Jarrett finally gets to the leg and ratchets up the figure four. Great commentary by Lawler here as he’s been consistently saying Jarrett isn’t going after the leg until he does. Razor continues to battle until he gets out of it. The knee is in really bad shape, but Razor gets enough strength to attempt a Razor’s Edge. Would we get the same result as at the Royal Rumble, where Razor’s leg collapses and he loses? Well we won’t get to see it as Roadie hits another chop block and Jarrett gets disqualified. That was a surprise to me originally because I was sure Razor was going to win the title back. We have post match chaos as 1-2-3 Kid and Roadie get involved, leading to Kid getting put in the figure four and officials filling up the ring. The match was fun but the ending was disappointing. Grade: **1/2
JT: Up next is a rematch from January with the Intercontinental Title on the line. Jeff Jarrett has really started to hone his character and act and also be positioned as a much stronger and legitimate threat since he won the gold. The Roadie is with him as always, and this seemed like an obvious spot of Razor Ramon to regain his strap, leaving Jarrett with a brief run to his resume and the feud in their rearview mirrors. Razor got a huge pop as always and also has the 1-2-3 Kid in his corner to help balance out the Roadie. Kid is wearing his ninja pajamas which was an interesting choice. Razor has has some bad ass blue tights on though. He mowed through Jarrett to start the match, picking up a near fall before sending him to regroup on the floor. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the absurd number of photographers at ringside. It is cool to see and makes the show feel really important but it also kind of distracting. Ramon would hoist the champ up for the Razor’s Edge, but Jarrett’s feet were dangling near the ropes and Roadie pulled him to safety. Double J would tease walking out, but Kid chased him back to the ring where Razor went right back to work. After another near fall, Razor chucked Jarrett over the top rope where he crashed right into the Roadie. Jarrett slid in and caught the challenger with a swinging neckbreaker to bust his momentum and gain control. The champ honed in on the neck of the Bad Guy, working a chinlock and fending off a comeback attempt to hook in a sleeper hold. Razor kept breaking out of the holds, but they were collectively taking their toll on his neck, slowing his comebacks quite a bit.
After the two smacked heads and were both down, Razor got hot with a flurry but that crashed hard when Kid tried to get involved but got shoved into the guard rail instead. Razor then tried a bulldog off the middle rope but he came up empty, giving Jarrett the chance to go right at the knee once again. After a shinbreaker, Jarrett locked in the figure four and things looked grim. Razor battled hard in the hold and eventually turned it around to break the hold and followed with a super back suplex, however he was too dinged up to cover. He quickly lifted Jarrett up and went for the Razor’s Edge again, but Roadie came in and clipped the challenger, drawing the obvious DQ. Kid immediately crashed into the ring as well and started landing spin kicks until Jarrett pancaked him and locked him the figure four. Razor broke that up and a quick brawl triggered that was eventually broken up by officials. Well, that was pretty fun once again, even though it was a notch below their Rumble match as it didn’t have nearly the psychology that one did. Plus, this one had a much worse finish, but I get it. They clearly thought Jarrett still needed the strap and didn’t want to beat Ramon again. I let it slide as well because the Roadie has been such a key part of Jarrett’s success that hm making the save made sense. Jarrett’s reign rolls on and the Bad Guy has to regroup yet again. Grade: **1/2
*** Nicholas Tuturro of NYPD Blue visits the green room where he stumbles upon the Million Dollar Corporation, Jenny McCarthy, Shawn Michaels and Sid. Tuturro first mentions the notion that Pamela Anderson can’t be found. Also, everyone in the room is in a jovial mood except Sid, who screams about Diesel’s impending nightmare. ***
3) Undertaker defeats King Kong Bundy with a clothesline at 6:37
Fun Fact: This is King Kong Bundy’s first WrestleMania appearance since 1987. It is also his last. Bundy’s all time PPV record is 2-4. He was 1-3 at WrestleMania, 1-0 at Survivor Series and 0-1 at the Royal Rumble. Bundy does stick around on TV until the end of 1995, but does not appear on PPV.
Fun Fact II: Major League Baseball umpire Larry Young was refereeing this match.
Fun Fact III: Undertaker is still seeking to regain his urn from the Million Dollar Corporation, which was stolen from him at the Royal Rumble. Bundy became the target of Taker following the Rumble since he interfered in the match, allowing IRS to steal the urn. At the WrestleMania Public Workout, Bundy and Undertaker faced off with Taker vowing that he would be taking back the urn and would take Bundy’s soul at WrestleMania.
Fun Fact IV: According to the book Titan Sinking, Razor Ramon was supposed to turn heel and face the Undertaker in this match.
Scott: We continue the historical continuity by acknowledging that Bundy holds the WrestleMania record for shortest match with the kayfabe :09 against SD Jones. It’s very strange that Vince mentions the Deadman is undefeated at WrestleMania. It’s only 3-0, but it’s worth noting that Vince says something about it. We continue the “urn stealing” storyline as DiBiase is holding onto it after IRS took it back at the Rumble. Bundy hasn’t been relevant since squishing Little Beaver at the Silverdome eight years earlier, but again the simple booking philosophy in the mid-90s was “Just throw all big dudes at Taker and let him defy the odds.” That would be fine if the guys he’s facing were formidable heels people care about. Bundy isn’t that at all. Early on Taker just swipes the urn back from DiBiase and hands it to Paul Bearer but then Kama takes it back and leaves with it. The match then ho-hums along with boring offense and little heat from the crowd. Fortunately the Undertaker is a crowd favorite so the denizens at the Hartford Civic Center (no I wasn’t at this show) are moderately invested. Bundy leans on a boring headlock, but then out of nowhere Taker comes back, slams him and gets the win. The match seemed like something you’d watch on free TV. So Taker is 4-0 at WrestleMania, the urn is still stolen but we do get cool effects at the end. Otherwise this was a waste of Taker’s time; get used to that. Grade: *
JT: Back at the Royal Rumble, King King Bundy attacked the Undertaker after his match with IRS, allowing IRS to steal the urn from Paul Bearer. Ted DiBiase would have the urn in his clutches as he led Bundy down to the ring for his first WrestleMania matchup since he squashed the shit out of Little Beaver at the Pontiac Silverdome. Undertaker’s entrance was chilling as always, bringing the fans to their feet. MLB umpire Larry Young referees this one for some random reason, but why the hell not. Taker hammered away to start and then hit the axehandle off the top rope to rattle the big man. He followed with three clotheslines to finally put Bundy on his back. Bundy struggled to his feet but clotheslined Taker over the top, however even that backfired as the Deadman landed on his feet and yanked the urn away from DiBiase. He would raise it high and then hand it back to Bearer and it looked like this feud may finally be winding to a close. A desperate DiBiase then waved toward the locker room and his newest charge, Kama, jogged out and yanked the urn back from Bearer and then bolted to the locker room with it. But first he stopped in the aisle to chat with Jim Ross and promised to melt the urn down and wear it as a chain around his neck. So, the feud is not over. Taker would hammer Bundy a bit more until he got clotheslined to the floor again. Bundy would slow this match down even more by slapping on a rear chinlock, which was really the last thing we needed here. Just when Bundy thought he had things in hand, Taker came back with a bodyslam and leaping clothesline to win the match and move to 4-0 all time at WrestleMania. This was a real mess. Taker worked hard as always, but Bundy had nothing in the tank besides his name and look by this point. Kama taking the urn was the key here as the Taker/DiBiase feud continues on once again. Grade: 1/2*
*** Nicholas Tuturro continues to look for Pamela Anderson, who he hears had a big fight with Shawn Michaels and went missing. He then runs into LT’s All Pro team, who each call out members of the Corporation. He then walks into a locker room where Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Bob Backlund are playing chess. Backlund, who doesn’t know who Pam Anderson is, tries to stump JTT with history trivia but fails and snaps. ***
4) Owen Hart & Yokozuna defeat Smoking Gunns to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Owen pins Billy after Yoko’s Banzai Drop at 9:38
Fun Fact II: After losing in the Tag Team tournament and following Jim Neidhart leaving the WWF, Owen Hart claimed he was going to find a mystery partner to take on the Smoking Gunns. He also claimed he would be bringing in one of Bret’s biggest enemies to help him win his first ever WWF gold.
Scott: One year after the greatest match of his career, Owen Hart arrives in Hartford with another chance at his first championship. The Gunns won the titles the night after the Royal Rumble but coming in they have no idea who Owen’s partner was. What a huge shock it was when the former WWF Champion came down the aisle. After two straight years of WWF Title matches at WrestleMania, Yokozuna returns for another shot at gold. The last time we saw Yoko was at Survivor Series when he was shoved into a casket by Undertaker. Yoko comes out in a beard and with new determination, and this new tandem quickly becomes a favorite of mine. The tag division has been sagging of late and needed a boost, so we already saw one new tag team earlier in the night so why not have another team put together, this time comprised of heels. Lawler was on top of his game here, really putting over this new alliance. Most of the jokes are corny, but he is putting over this group. Yoko’s big return may have tipped off that a title change was going to take place. The match is standard tag team fare but Lawler’s commentary really helps carry it. While Owen had one Gunn in the Sharpshooter, Yokozuna drops the Banzai on the other and we indeed have new Tag Team Champions. Owen Hart looks so elated. After an unbelievable performance at last year’s WrestleMania, Owen is rewarded for a great 1994 with his first championship. I loved Yoko’s quiet confidence after the match, acting like he’s done it before. This was my favorite moment of the night so far, as we have new tag team champions and a huge moment for Owen Hart. Grade: **1/2
JT: We continue to hum along with our second title match on the night. Owen Hart was still on a quest to match everything his brother Bret had accomplished. After winning King of the Ring, he wanted to garner his first taste of gold and set out to win the tag team titles. After Jim Neidhart left the promotion at the very end of 1994, Owen issued a challenge to the new champion Smoking Gunns to battle himself and a mystery partner at Mania. Rumors flew and one guy mentioned as a possibility was Chris Benoit, a rising star that had been competing in Japan and had a brief stint in WCW in 1993. Benoit would eventually have a few dark match tryouts after this show. However, when Owen made his big announcement, it was the massive former champion Yokozuna that appeared. It was a good call because it reestablished Yoko as a major threat and legit beast after a soft back end of 1994. The night after the Royal Rumble, the Smoking Gunns defeated the upstart champions Bob Holly and the 1-2-3 Kid to win the titles for the first time and be positioned as the top dogs of the division. It was a good leap for them after blending into the background since their debut in mid-1993. Jerry Lawler was delivering some strong facts and notes throughout the show and here informs us that Owen had made his WrestleMania debut six years to the day in Trump Plaza as the Blue Blazer. Vince notes how much bigger Yoko looks and he wasn’t lying. Yoko definitely wasn’t dieting during his sabbatical. He also grew a beard, which looked kind of cool. Billy outsmarted Owen early and he and Bart worked the arm briefly until Owen went to the eyes and then tagged in Yoko. The former champ spiked Bart hard to the mat and landed a chop before tagging Owen back in. I really dig the concept of this team as Yoko was virtually unbeatable, making it a really shrewd move for Owen to give him a strong chance to finally win a strap. The Gunns worked some double teams to regain control, even sending Yoko to the floor with a double dropkick. They kept working the arm and tagging in and out but Owen wouldn’t give in, even after the champs with their Sidewinder finish. Momentum swung with a thud when Owen snuck a tag into Yoko and set up the big man to drop a massif leg across the back of Billy’s head. After getting rammed into the post by Owen, Billy got locked into a classic Yoko nerve hold to slow things down.
The Gunns got a glimmer of hope when Owen accidentally dropkicked Yoko from the top rope, the first mistake they made as a team, as noted by Vince. Billy made the tag and Bart went to work on the weaker link in Hart, a sound strategy. Then he went at Yoko and did alright there as well, but the good feelings ended quickly with a Yoko belly-to-belly to Billy. He then squashed the shit out of him with a vicious Banzai Drop. Yoko would tag in Owen, who teased a Sharpshooter, but instead just covered Billy to win the match and the titles. And his celebration was epic and one of the highlights of the show. He marked out big time, leaping around the ring and hugging his new best buddy. This was a fun little tag match with hard work all around and it is pretty clear the dynamic and chemistry between Owen Hart and Yokozuna is going to be fun to watch. Grade: **1/2
5) Bret Hart defeats Bob Backlund in an I Quit match when Backlund submits as Hart has him in the Crossface Chicken Wing at 9:32
Fun Fact: This is the second straight year that Roddy Piper would be the special referee for a Bret Hart WrestleMania match. He would not remain with the promotion after this surprise appearance.
Fun Fact II: This will be Bob Backlund’s final PPV singles match. His final record (including eventual appearances at the 1996 and 2000 Royal Rumbles) is 1-7. His only victory was defeating Bret Hart for the WWF Title at Survivor Series 1994.
Fun Fact III: This match is a rematch of the Bret Hart/Bob Backlund match from Survivor Series 1994, where Hart was caught in Backlund’s Crossface Chicken Wing hold and Bret’s mother threw in the towel at the advice of Owen Hart.
Scott: This is a match I was looking most forward to, because they are two expert workers in the ring and they had a great match back at Survivor Series. Backlund has been an awesome heel since turning last summer and after having a cup of coffee reign as champion, reignites his run with the man who he took the title from. For the second consecutive year Bret Hart brings his own personal referee as Roddy Piper calls the shots in the ring. Piper beat Jerry Lawler at King of the Ring last year and vanished but he’s returned briefly here. Lawler mentions Bret and Piper’s match at WrestleMania VIII but he also did that the previous year so that angle hook lost its luster. The match consists mostly of both men going at each other’s legs to try and submit with figure fours and other leg submissions, with Piper asking if either man wants to quit. The annoying part of the match is that we know there is a cordless mike somewhere around the building, we saw Owen Hart use it earlier, so why does Piper have to walk around with a mike that has a cord and trying to avoid screwing the match up with it. The bout was about two thirds shorter than their Survivor Series match but the premise was still the same. It has a different feel to it because unlike the first match, which had the WWF Title attached to it, this one was just about quitting. It was ok, but not as good as the previous match. I had a good feeling that Bret Hart was going to get his win back and indeed Backlund tried to get the Hitman to quit with the chicken wing. He didn’t do it in November but the situation was different, as it wasn’t in Bret’s control. Bret actually reverses the move and hooks the chicken wing on Backlund and somehow (amongst a lot of squirming and yelling) told Piper he quit and the happy Hartford crowd goes crazy. It might be a forgettable match for Bret but it got one of the hottest pops from the crowd all night. Still, it was a big moment for Bret and another feud vanquished. Grade: **1/2
JT: These two have been embroiled in hatred since last July, when Bob Backlund snapped after losing a WWF Title match and leaving Bret Hart laid out in pain. In November, Backlund ended Hart’s dream title reign thanks to an assist from Owen Hart. His reign was brief, but the bad blood lingered into January when Backlund got involved in Hart’s title match with Diesel and the Hitman got revenge by roughing up Backlund and leading to his quick elimination in the Royal Rumble. So, that leads us here, to an I Quit match to play off their Submission Match at Survivor Series. Roddy Piper is announced as the special guest referee before the match, the second year in a row he is officiating a Bret Hart WrestleMania match. This go around definitely is lacking the juice from November but the beloved Hart gets a very warm welcome as always. And even though he isn’t in the title picture, Hart is still slotted in a strong position on this card and the match makes sense from a storyline perspective. Hart took Backlund to the mat off the bell, popping him with elbows to the skull. Piper wasted no time in jamming a microphone into Backlund’s face, asking him if he wanted to quit. And he would do it over and over, really breaking the flow of the proceedings. Backlund would avoid the Sharpshooter, but Hart hooked in a figure four instead. Backlund refused to submit and eventually reversed the hold to break it. Bret kept working the leg and Piper kept yelling “Whattaya Say” and not much else was going on. Backlund took over after smashing Hart with a leg across the face and then started softening the neck and arm to set up the CFCW. Bret came back with a backbreaker, leading to a Sharpshooter attempt that Backlund wiggled free from. A shot to the shoulder of Hart followed, leading to the CFCW. However, Backlund was unable to hook the legs and take Bret to the mat like he did in November, which allowed Hart to reverse the hold and hook in his own version of it. The Hitman was able to drag Backlund to the mat and after struggling for a minute, Backlund yelled “YAAAAH” to signal that he quit. Bah, that was disappointing. I mean, I know there was no way to match the intensity of Survivor Series, but this felt really paint by numbers. Backlund got very little offense in and there wasn’t nearly as much psychology as their previous bouts. This is easily Hart’s worst WrestleMania match since 1990 and it is sad to see Backlund’s epic renaissance end such with a thud. Hart is definitely starting to feel a little lost in the shuffle so it will be interesting to see where he heads next. Grade: **
*** Nicholas Tuturro still can’t find Pamela Anderson and informs Vince that there have been changes to the celebrity assignments as a result. ***
6) Diesel defeats Shawn Michaels to retain WWF World Title with a Jackknife at 20:31
Fun Fact: Pamela Anderson was supposed to accompany Michaels to the ring, as part of the Royal Rumble prize, but she was nowhere to be found leading up to the match, allegedly due to a disagreement or argument with Michaels, at least according to Todd Pettingill. So, Michaels instead walks down with MTV star Jenny McCarthy, only to see Pam come out with Diesel instead. Also, Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the guest timekeeper and NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Tuturro is the guest ring announcer.
Fun Fact II: After the Rumble, Shawn Michaels claimed he needed a bodyguard to protect him from all the superstars that were gunning for him. On the 2/20 Raw Shawn brought “the big, the bad, the vicious” Sid back to the WWF for protection. This is his first PPV appearance since his DQ loss to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VIII. Sid, of course, spent all of 1993 in WCW where he was set to win the World Championship, but he ended up being fired for stabbing Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors. Sid putted around the USWA in 1994, even winning the USWA Heavyweight Title from Jerry Lawler, before being brought back by Michaels in February.
Fun Fact III: Going into Survivor Series 1994, Shawn Michaels and Diesel were tag team champions. Following a misplaced superkick to Diesel’s chin, Shawn dropped his belt in the trash, vacating the titles. Three nights later at MSG, Diesel would win the World Championship from Bob Backlund in eight seconds. The plot thickened with Michaels winning the Royal Rumble (by one foot), setting up this match between former friends for the title.
Scott: The first half of our co-main event pits former friends, or I guess at this point business associates, facing each other for the top prize in the business. Shawn Michaels was really starting to get big time face pops from the crowd, but to obviously keep him heel for the duration of this build we get the return of Sid to the WWF as Diesel’s replacement. We last saw Sid in that bizarre mess of a main event at WrestleMania VIII with Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Papa Shango and all that. He was set to become WCW Champion in 1993 but then the infamous scissors fight with Arn Anderson occurred and Sid went into exile for a bit but Vince brings him back here with two purposes: Keep the heel heat on Shawn for this match, and have a future opponent for Diesel to feud for the Title with. We started getting a Sid chant early on in the match, but I think it was more to get the referee’s attention on some heel chicanery going on at that moment. The matchup could work out great because they are both Kliq buddies so they will work great together and Michaels is just a great bumper of big man offense. Early on he takes some big bumps, but then Diesel takes a shot to the ring post, softening up the rib area. There’s a multitude of photographers around ringside, not kayfabe photographers like during Yokozuna’s WWF Title run, but actual sports photographers that are there for our last match. After the shot to the ribs, Shawn spends the next several minutes working Diesel over with quick strikes and eventually a sleeper, hoping the painful ribs will hinder Diesel’s breathing. Big Daddy Cool continues to battle back and forth and eventually referee Earl Hebner hurt his leg stopping Sid on the outside. A tipping point of the match comes when Michaels actually hits the Superkick on Diesel and had the three count but Sid tries to throw the ref back in the ring and Hebner takes forever to go for the count and Diesel kicked out. Both guys continue to battle in what has been the match of the night. A few minutes earlier Sid took one of the turnbuckle pads off, and a few seconds later Diesel slingshots Michaels into that corner, but he was too far away from the corner and Shawn missed it, hitting the second turnbuckle instead. After a big boot and a Jackknife, Diesel retains his WWF Title. Both Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson come in to celebrate with the champion. On a side note, this is probably the worst collection of celebrities in WrestleMania history (although II had their share of stiff, if you remember Herb from Burger King). PWI voted this Match of the Year and although I thought it was a fantastic match I wouldn’t consider it match of the year. Perhaps it won because there weren’t many other choices but as top notch as the match was, it wasn’t perfect. Grade: ****
JT: And we have arrived. In June 1993, Diesel quietly debuted along Shawn Michaels as his bodyguard. In early 1994, he broke out and started to gain steam as he built confidence and a resume. He won Intercontinental gold, Tag Team gold and eventually the WWF Title. Along the way, he and Michaels had issues and went separate ways but you knew they were destined to meet up sooner than later. With Michaels winning the Royal Rumble, the big title match was official. After all the celebrities take their spots at ringside, Michaels skipped down to the ring with his new bodyguard, Sid. Sid was last seen at WrestleMania VIII and since had spent time in WCW and on the softball field. It was a cool return and a great role for the big man, whose charisma was still off the charts. Of course, WrestleMania VIII was also an important one for Michaels, as it was his first singles Mania match. And in three years, he has come a long way, finally fulfilling the promise everyone saw in him at that time. He spent much of 1993 in sluggish matches before bottoming out in September. He returned later that year refocused and worked himself into great shape. Throughout 1994, he seemed poised for a break out and as 1995 dawned, many were ready to claim him as one of the best in the business. This would be a major test for him and a big chance to legitimize what has been a strong reign. Diesel has been red hot and has had great matches with Bret Hart and Razor Ramon, but a WrestleMania WWF Title match was a whole different bag of grapefruits. And speaking of grapefruits Pamela Anderson in that pleather dress, hache mache! She accompanies Diesel here after sandbagging Michaels. I will say this, they did a great job of making Diesel seem like a big deal thanks to shipping him around to various celebrity sporting events and TV shows. They showed him as a peer and friend to many athletes and celebs and that helped him seem like a megastar in his own right, even if he was not quite there yet.
Shawn would try to jump Diesel before the bell with some help from Sid, but Diesel turned in time and sent him flying to the floor before bringing Pam back in to parade around the ring. Things settled back down as the match officially began and Michaels aggressively went on the attack, targeting the arm. The champ fended him off by using his power, at one point flinging Michaels high into the air with ah huge back drop. He followed by chucking the challenger over the top rope, but Shawn landed right on a cameraman, who he then dragged out of the way by his collar. He certainly did not look pleased at all after the collision. Things remained a bit sloppy as you could tell both guys were just amped to be in this spot and were almost moving too fast at times. Sid started to run interference, buying Shawn time to regroup. Back inside, Diesel blocked a sunset flip by deadlifting Shawn up into a choke, but Michaels regained his balance and clotheslined Diesel over the top and to the floor. He brought the heavy artillery from there, launching himself off the top with a cross body outside. Michaels stayed aggressive, shoving the champ into the post while using a dopey looking photographer as a shield. With Diesel flat on the floor, Michaels dove off the apron onto him with a splash, levying damage to the champ’s ribs. Shawn kept the pressure on, using splashes and strikes to target the ribs some more and picking up his first near fall off a bulldog. As Vince wondered if the referee would stop the match, Michaels crashed into Diesel’s side with a beautiful flying elbow. Vince also points out that Diesel is an underdog, despite being WWF Champion, really pushing the experience factor. The champ kept using his power to shrug Michaels off, but was too injured to build any momentum. The fans would rally Big Daddy Cool out of a sleeper hold, and the big fought to his feet and ran Shawn back into the corner.
Diesel would land a pair of still charging clotheslines before connecting on Snake Eyes. He started to weaken Shawn with right hands and that battle spilled to the floor, where they continued to battle. As Sid stalked near, Earl Hebner hopped off the apron to stop him, but twisted his ankle and fell to the floor. Back inside, Michaels cracked Diesel with the superkick and had the match won but there was no ref to count. By the time Sid tossed him back in the ring, Diesel kicked out. Tough break there. Sid would then pull out a knife and cut the turnbuckle pad off, but that backfired too as Diesel blocked it and hit a back suplex instead. Michaels would try to leap off the middle rope, but Diesel caught him and spiked him down with a sidewalk slam. Another sloppy spot happened here as Diesel sent Shawn flying to the exposed buckle with a slingshot, but they undershot it a bit and he instead smacked the middle buckle. Diesel got the crowd fired up from there, including Pam and Jenny, and then planted Michaels with an awkward looking Jackknife for the win. It was really awkward, in that Shawn almost spun around and landed on his feet. Michaels has since said that he worked his ass off in an attempt to both push Diesel and outshine him, and he did in some ways. But, in others he almost came off as pushing too fast and it made it look like Diesel was more in control. Regardless, it was a very good showing from both and a fun match that did not slow down at all. It was a strong win for Diesel too, despite the visual pinfall he ate, especially since he was positioned as the underdog. Sid played a vital role and the fallout from his missteps would lead to major changes. After the match, Diesel and the celebrities hung in the ring to party, proving that the company was banking on diesel power to push them ahead through 1995. Grade: ***1/2
7) Lawrence Taylor defeats Bam Bam Bigelow with a forearm off the second rope at 11:43
Fun Fact: There was a lot of interaction between Bam Bam Bigelow and Lawrence Taylor leading into the big match. A couple of weeks after the Rumble, Bigelow was forced to publicly apologize and the incident was seemingly behind him. However, a week or so later, Bigelow retracted his apology and said he wanted LT in the ring and that LT had no right coming to the Rumble, despite being as an invited guest of Diesel, and laughing at Bigelow on his home turf. Bigelow kept insulting and challenging LT week after week. And, week after week, LT’s manager and lawyer kept showing up on TV to tell Bigelow to stop defaming LT and challenging him, as nothing was going to come of it. Eventually, after a month of goading, LT caved and accepted the Mania match. It was revealed that Diesel was working with LT and prepping him for the match. LT and Bigelow had a big showdown at the WrestleMania Press Conference and had a physical altercation at the public workout in Times Square the week before the big match. This was actually some pretty good press for the WWF, as coverage of the LT/Bigelow feud was everywhere, for better or for worse.
Fun Fact II: Bam Bam Bigelow was reportedly promised a huge face run if he went through with this and lost to a football player.
Fun Fact III: Obviously this is Lawrence Taylor’s only PPV match, so his final record is 1-0.
Fun Fact IV: Part of the pageantry of this match were the entourages at ringside. After rap band Salt-n-Peppa sing a tribute to LT set to the tune of Whatta Man, each team was introduced member by member by Vince McMahon. First up was the Million Dollar Team (with Ted DiBiase’s music), comprised of Tatanka, Nikolai Volkoff, Kama, King Kong Bundy, IRS and Ted DiBiase. They are followed by LT’s All Star Team (with Monday Night Football theme music), comprised of Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Ken Norton Jr., Chris Speilman, Ricky Jackson, Carl Banks and Reggie White. Both teams would surround ringside and root on their man throughout the match. Also, the special referee for this match was WWF Hall of Famer Pat Patterson.
Scott: We shall first ask ourselves if this should have been the main event. Sure it was the highlight of the public workout in Times Square leading up the show, but couldn’t Diesel/Shawn Michaels bring enough juice to be the main event? Maybe due to the mainstream press with the NFL players and such, it had to be the main event. The next question to ask is was LT ready? I mean we’ve had plenty of celebrities dating back to Muhammad Ali in the late 1970s tangling with wrestlers in big matches but boxers at least are close to wrestlers in specific abilities. We are talking about one of the greatest players in NFL history. Will he be able to pull this off without it being a complete disaster? With it being the main event, the WWF put itself in a position where it can’t be a disaster. Bigelow had a tall order ahead of him to keep this match legit without getting hurt. I’m sure LT was taught some basic maneuvers and indeed he doesn’t look totally uncomfortable while Bigelow works LT over with basic power moves. It looked like some of his punches were kind of stiff but Bigelow’s the kind of guy who can take shots like that. The crowd seems 50/50 during the match in terms of energy. They all definitely wanted LT to win, but for a true WrestleMania main event it just didn’t have that real electricity. Bigelow worked him over but when LT took control and hit some crazy moves like a Jackknife (the storyline being Diesel was training him) and a couple of suplexes. Finally LT goes to the second turnbuckle and belts Bigelow with a forearm to the jaw. Three seconds later the place goes nuts, for about thirty seconds. We do get an LT chant but the end of the show just seemed so flat. LT gets the win, but of course he’s gone now and Bigelow is left to clean up his dignity. DiBiase bitches Bigelow out for losing and that looks to be leading to some character changes. Was this a serviceable wrestler/celebrity match? Yes it was good, but should it have ended the show? Probably not. Grade: **1/2
JT: And it is finally main event time, and for the first time since WrestleMania VIII (yet again) and third time overall, we have a non-World Title match closing out the show. Back in Tampa, an angry and embarrassed Bam Bam Bigelow shoved NFL legend Lawrence Taylor. After weeks of discussion and teases, the two finally agreed to throw down here. There was tons of hype by the company and the match earned a good deal of mainstream coverage, both good and bad. Sticking with the concept of over pushing celebrities and pageantry, we are loaded with bodies around the ring here as Bigelow is flanked by his Corporation teammates and LT has a gaggle of former football stars backing him. They all get individual entrances, highlighted by Nikolai Volkoff jogging to the ring while shadow boxing. With ringside completely tricked out with the stables and photographers, this certainly carried a big time feel around it. The crowd was really into LT and the football players as well, which makes sense since a good chunk of Connecticut is New York Giants country. Since the roster was fairly soft at this point, I can’t blame them for going the super celebrity main event route, and it did work as it brought eyes to the product. You can make the argument that this shouldn’t close the show, but I always felt differently. It was a big time marquee match and at a time like this, where the company was struggling, it made sense to go crazy with the promotion and positioning of it to see if it clicked and brought in new eyeballs. The fireworks started early as Mongo McMichael shoved Kama to the floor, triggering a mini skirmish that finally ended when Bigelow made his way out. Pat Patterson is the referee here as his job was to help keep LT moving through the match with little incident. And LT did look good as he hit the ring, decked out in customized football jersey and tights. After the big staredown, Bigelow shoved LT, making one last statement before the match officially kicked off. LT responded with a smack across the face, a big shoulder tackle and a clothesline to light up the crowd and send Bigelow reeling to the floor. When Bammer made it back inside, LT hit a big bulldog takedown for the first near fall of the match before rattling Bigelow with strikes and a hiptoss that sent him back to the floor. LT’s offense has looked good and much crisper than you would expect.
LT would hop over the top and confront the whole Corporation, bringing the All Pro Team around for a fun showdown. Bigelow would finally take over back inside, hammering LT with heavy blows to the back. Bigelow followed with some stomps and a big bodyslam but LT dodged a splash and hit a big forearm smash to the face. Bammer weathered the storm and went back to work on the midsection, burying heavy shoulder thrusts into LT’s gut. He would follow that up with a single crab, turned really basic leglock, broken when LT got the ropes. Taylor was clearly gassed here, but he did a good job of hanging in there and keeping up with Bigelow. LT would hit a desperation back suplex but couldn’t take advantage, allowing Bigelow to hammer the ribs some more. He would then hit the big top rope moonsault, but was unable to cover due to slamming his knee hard on the mat when he landed. LT lived to fight on. In an impressive show of strength from someone completely on E, LT floated Bigelow over with a gutwrench suplex that was sold by Vince as a Jackknife. Either way, good on LT to pull that off at this point. Bigelow came back with an enziguri and hit his top rope headbutt but LT actually kicked out. I am not a fan of that spot, they should have used All Pro Team interference to bust that pin up. LT bounded up and emptied his tank, burying shoulders into Bigelow’s abdomen and cracking him with a pair of running forearms. He would then head to the middle rope and blast Bigelow with one last forearm smash to steal the big upset win. In the aisle after the match, DiBiase berated Bigelow as they all headed to the back. LT and his crew celebrated in the ring as we closed out the show. I have always enjoyed this match as it is a lot of fun and LT does a hell of a job in it. And so does Bigelow for carrying him. My only gripe is how they buried Bigelow’s finisher. There was really no need for that spot. Also, we never got the big brawl between the teams at ringside. Otherwise, it was as good of a celebrity match as you could ever hope for. From all reports, LT was very respectful of the business and worked his ass off to be ready to go, and it showed. Good on Bigelow for being a company man and he got the match that would define his career. The question now is…where does he go from here? Grade: **1/2
Scott: I know that I’m on a much “higher high” for the mid-1990s than I used to be. 1994 is easy to love because almost every show is solid. We started 1995 with a decent Royal Rumble, even if the result was mildly predicable. So I went into this show that I historically hated wanting to like it more. And…I do, but just a little. A lot of this show is still crap, but as I’ve mentioned before a lot of 1995 is cherry picking. Beside the MOTY of Diesel/Michaels, Hart/Backlund is a fun little match that’s more of a track meet than their Survivor Series meeting. The Razor/Jarrett stuff was fun even though the ending was trash. The main event was a fun carnival match but it shouldn’t have ended the show. Diesel/Michaels would have been a fine main event that ended the show and you could argue the pop at the end of both matches was pretty equal. On the other hand, that tag opener was boring and the Bundy/Taker stuff was utter garbage. And as the year progresses you will see that it really doesn’t get much better for him. So the reality of this show is that it may not be the worst WrestleMania ever, and if you watch it piece by piece there are some gems. However, those who say this show saved the company in a dark time needs to stop drinking Gorilla Monsoon’s “joy juice.” Final Grade: C-
JT: Man, this WrestleMania. It holds a special place in my heart just because of how super hard into the product I was at this time. I really liked the show live and will always defend it, mainly because the roster was thinned out and everyone worked hard throughout the night. That said, for a WrestleMania it doesn’t quite make the grade. I mean, just look at the lack of snowflakes and it is clear the show was lacking in marquee action. The WWF Title match was the best of the night but even that checked in at under four stars. There were enough pieces here that this show could have popped a bit more if they were arranged differently. For everything that went right back at the Rumble, it all seemed to just miss on this night. Even the audio was a mess, with tons of technical issues plaguing things to the point that the announcers called it out on commentary. It was clear they knew the card was weak, which is why they heavily overcompensated with the celebrities and presentation, which included the photographers, media and in aisle interviews, all attempting to give the show a legitimate feel to it. As I said above, I am fine with Bigelow/LT closing the show and I am even fine with LT winning, I just think they could have protected Bigelow a bit more in it all. Overall, this is clearly a bottom tier WrestleMania, from the basic arena, to the lack of quality workrate to the soft undercard, it was lacking across the board. Final Grade: C-