Wrestling Recap: A McMahon in Every Corner! (WrestleMania ’00)

The Date: 2 April 2000
The Venue: Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim; Anaheim, California
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Earl Hebner
The Stakes: Fatal-four-way elimination match for the WWF Championship

The Build-Up:
On March 31st, 1985, Vince McMahon changed the face of the wrestling landscape forever by bringing together the biggest names in wrestling (alongside a number of celebrity guests) for the very first WrestleMania, a pay-per-view extravaganza that became the hottest event of the calendar year for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and what better way to celebrate than by looking back at one of the event’s most historic matches. By the late-nineties, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was clawing back to prominence after being beaten in the weekly ratings by World Championship Wrestling’s (WCW) Monday Nitro for nearly two years. Amidst the adolescent antics of D-Generation X and the violent rivalry between the Undertaker and Kane, fans were caught up in the rivalry between the loud-mouthed, anti-authority “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. Unfortunately, Austin was written off television using a hit-and-run angle so that he could get much-needed neck surgery, and the main event scene of the WWF came to be dominated by Triple H. Triple H became an extremely powerful figure, both on- and offscreen, after marrying McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, and throwing his weight around as WWF Champion, crushing those with either his political power, his trusty sledgehammer, or his buddies in D-X. After Cactus Jack failed to unseat Triple H, costing the man behind the persona, Mick Foley, his career in the process, the people’s last chance laid, fittingly, in the People’s Champion himself, the Rock. However, the Rock’s path to the WrestleMania main event was disputed by the Big Show following a botched finish to the Royal Rumble; the Rock’s attempts to regain his championship match were further thwarted when the Big Show aligned himself with Vince’s son, Shane, so Vince returned to the Rock’s corner to get a measure of payback against his children. Although Chris Jericho was initially scheduled to be added to the WrestleMania main event, Linda McMahon entered the fray and announced that she would accompanying Mick Foley to the ring at the Showcase of the Immortals and the sage was set for a fatal-four-way with a member of the McMahon family in every corner!

The Match:
I should say that, while many fans and critics out there don’t think too much to this match (or this WrestleMania, there’s a very good reason that I’m choosing to review it; this was the very first WrestleMania I ever watched, and I had just started really getting into wrestling just prior to the Royal Rumble, so I was all about Mick Foley, Triple H’s dominating run as champion, and the intrigue surrounding these larger-than-life competitors. As such, considering the emotional ending to their Hell in a Cell bout at No Way Out, I was fully onboard with J. R.’s call that Foley was the “sentimental pick” for this match and had absolutely no qualms about seeing him added to the contest so close to his “retirement” because it just added a lot more emotional stakes to the match after seeing him push Triple H to the limit as Cactus Jack and knowing it could very well be his last shot at reclaiming the WWF Championship. Arguably, if there’s anyone that people didn’t seem too interested in seeing in this match, it’s the Big Show; the mammoth Paul Wight had already switched alignments a handful of times by this point, and been the WWF Champion himself and, despite the allure of his size and strength, just wasn’t as beloved, hated, or revered as the other three competitors so he kind of stands out a little bit. Once the Rock comes out, it’s pretty clear who the crowd is really behind; despite being accompanied by the hated Vince McMahon, the Rock was firmly entrenched as the most popular star on the roster at this point and the people had been begging to see him dethrone Triple H ever since he won the Royal Rumble. And then, of course, there’s the champion himself; Triple H’s big run at the top wasn’t quite as self-serving as his later reign of terror, but he had gone out of his way to make sure that he was the most hated man in the WWF at that point; from throwing his weight around, stacking the deck at every turn, to firing and the retiring Mick Foley, Triple H had every advantage at his disposal, to say nothing of being physically capable of going toe-to-toe with any man, especially each of his opponents in this match.

Despite his size and strength, the Big Show is the first to go after the others team up against him.

With no count-outs, time limits, or disqualifications in effect, and three former World Champions gunning for him, Triple H was at a distinct disadvantage here; not only did he not have to be pinned to lose the belt, he could also be eliminated from the contest entirely if he wasn’t careful, and the four wasted no time in pairing off for a slugfest that saw the Game renew his rivalry with Foley and the Rock and the Big Show go at it in the other corner. Hyped up on adrenaline and emotion, Foley was able to beat Triple H down in the corner and hit his running knee spot, but both men were soon floored by a double clothesline from the Big Show, who showcased his physical dominance in the early going by manhandling each of his opponents indiscriminately with headbutts, tosses, and huge Gorilla Press Slams. Foley’s attempt to choke out the Big Show left him crushed beneath the giant’s weight, and he easily shut down the Rock’s offense with a sidewalk slam, but surprisingly Foley saved the Game from falling victim to the big man’s patented Showstopper chokeslam with a kick to the nuts. Triple H, the Rock, and Mick Foley then got on the same page to pummel the Big Show and finally knock him down for a group stomping. It’s Foley who breaks up the alliance, attacking Triple H and sending himself and the Game to the outside with his Cactus Clothesline; while the Big Show overpowers the Rock on the inside, Foley attacks Triple H with a steel chair in front of the announcers, then wallops the big man across the spine in retaliation for Shane tripping the Rock. Stunned by the shot, the Big Show lumpers right into a Rock Bottom and is summarily eliminated from the match.

It wasn’t long before Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection were battling for victory.

Triple H offers to join forces with each of his two opponents to take out the other, and ends up getting suckered in by the Rock as a result; the former WWF Tag Team Champions stomp the shit out of Triple H, smacking him back and forth between them and flooring him with a double clothesline before dumping him to the outside. Every time Triple H attempts to mount a comeback, the Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection shut him down, but Triple H is wily enough to duck a shot from the Rock that sees Foley get blasted in the head with the ring bell! Triple H follows up by running the Rock into the steel ring steps to turn things around, dropping the Rock chest-first on the barricade, but he’s left cowering in ear with Foley pulls out his trusty barbed wire 2×4! Thanks to a kick to the dick, Triple H fells the former Hardcore Champion and then uses Foley’s own weapon against him; thankfully, the Rock interrupts before Foley can get too shredded, giving Mick the opportunity to hit the Double-Arm DDT and pull out Mister Socko for the Mandible Claw. The Rock then smashes the WWF Championship over Triple H’s face, but Foley interrupts the People’s Elbow by slapping the Mandible Claw on the Rock (which a vocal majority of the crowd are not happy about) and this dissension allows both men to fall victim to a double low blow form the Game. The Rock and Triple H make it to their feet first, and Vince surreptitiously slips a steel chair into the ring for the Rock to use, but nearly has a heart attack when Foley attacks the Rock and almost scores a pin fall off the Double-Arm DDT. Foley’s momentum is cut off, however, when he charges at the Rock with the chair and gets a face full of steel for his efforts, but Triple H breaks up the Rock’s pin attempt (which the announcers question and hastily try to explain as the Game wanting to personally eliminate Foley from the match).

After injuring himself on a risky move, Foley is eliminated and Triple H focuses his wrath on the Rock.

Triple H then clotheslines the Rock down and he and Foley agree to team up to eliminate the Rock and then settle their score, which the crowd also isn’t happy about. Suddenly fending off two men at once, the Rock is pummelled by the unlikely duo’s attacks and double teams but refuses to let himself be pinned to the mat. Foley knocks the Rock to the outside, smashing the Brahma Bull in the face with the steel stairs and leaving him helpless as Triple H lays him across the Spanish announce table. Foley ascends the nearest turnbuckle and absolutely crashes and burns on a diving elbow drop, momentarily taking himself out of the match and leaving Triple H to quickly cover up by smashing the Rock through the table himself. With the Rock incapacitated at ringside, Triple H is infuriated when the injured Foley still manages to kick out of a Pedigree s he smashes the former King of the Death Match over the head with a steel chair and finally puts his dreams to rest with a devastating Pedigree to the chair. The crowd is a sea of boos at seeing their beloved hero eliminated, but applaud his efforts, continuously respectful of his tremendous effort and the sacrifices he made not just throughout his career, but also in this match. Before he leaves, though, Foley clocks Triple H in the head with the barbed wire 2×4, busting him open in the process and allowing the match to boils down to, arguably, the two men who should’ve had the main event to themselves all along: The Champion, Triple H, and the people’s last, best hope, the Rock. After kicking out of a pin fall attempt, Triple H gets decked by the Rock’s signature right hands, and then clotheslined to the outside after a brief miscommunication; the Rock forces Triple H up the aisleway for a brawl on the concrete and, naturally, out into the crowd and back over to the announce table. Triple H uses a steel chair to smack the ring steps into the Rock’s face and pin him to the floor, attacking the steps with the chair to increase the pressure, and then plans the Rock with a piledriver onto the other steel steps! Despite J. R.’s pleas to stop the match, and that such a spot probably should’ve been the finish, the Rock not only kicks out of a pin attempt but even fires up enough to go for a Rock Bottom! Triple H countered out of it but was toss over the top rope and back to the outside when the Rock countered the Pedigree!

Vince screws the Rock out of his victory, but the People’s Champ gets the last laugh on the McMahons.

The two brawl at ringside and through the crowd a bit more, an exchange that sees the Rock slam Triple H to the padded floor with a spinebuster and then smash Triple H through the remaining announce table with a beautiful suplex! When Triple H trips the Rock into the ring steps with a drop-toe hold, Vince attacks the Game and ends up being smashed in the head by a television monitor courtesy of his son. The two McMahons brawl at ringside and Vince gets busted open from a chair shot to take the focus off the ring and give the competitors a chance to catch their breath; this results in the Rock exploding with a series of punches and scoring a near-fall off a DDT and that cool twirling powerslam he used to do around this time. Triple H turns things around with Foley’s 2×4, but the Rock is able to slingshot the Game into Triple H and then plant the champion with a Rock Bottom. Unfortunately, the Rock is too fatigued to capitalise, but is saved from Shane’s chair shot by a returning Vince, who slaps his son around to thunderous applause. Vince grabs the chair and prepares to hit Triple H, but psyche! The WWF Chairman stuns the crowd, and Stephanie, and smashes the chair over the Rock’s head instead! When the Rock kicks out of the pin fall, Vince is infuriated and hits the People’s Champion again, harder this time, and Triple H finally snags the three count, becoming the first heel to ever successfully defend the WWF Championship at WrestleMania. The Rock is left a quivering, beaten mess, the crowd is so pissed off that they’re throwing trash in the ring, and Vince embraces Stephanie and Shane to birth a new alliance in the WWF. Angered at the betrayal, the Rock hits the ring and plants all three McMahons with Rock Bottoms and then hits the People’s Elbow on Stephanie to placate the crowd somewhat.

The Aftermath:
Naturally, the Rock wasn’t finished with Triple H following the end of this match; over the next few weeks, the People’s Champion was continuously on the backfoot as the combined forces of the McMahons and D-X conspired to beat him down at every opportunity. Although the Rock was able to earn a one-on-one shot at Triple H at Backlash, the McMahons stacked the deck against him by naming Shane as the special guest referee and Vince’s stooge, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, in supporting roles. This led to Linda announcing that Steve Austin would be in the Rock’s corner at the event; although the Texas Rattlesnake wouldn’t show up until literally the very last minute during the match, his appearance not only helped the Rock to defeat Triple for the WWF Championship but also result in one of the most lauded and financially successfully pay-per-views of the year. The Rock’s issues with Triple H and the McMahons continued for a few months, with Triple H regaining the belt thanks to the return of the Undertaker, and the Rock continued to be pestered by Shane even as he faced new challengers like Chris Benoit.

Each competitor continued to play a pivotal role in the wrestling for years to come following this match.

The Big Show slid down the card after this and was reduced to a impersonator gimmick before being taken off TV completely so he could lose weight; he would make a dramatic return at the 2001 Royal Rumble, languish in the Hardcore division for a while, before finally getting renewed push to the top when he was paired up against rookie Brock Lesnar. Triple H saw out the rest of 2000 feuding with Kurt Angle and the Undertaker, before a horrific injury saw his power team with Austin disrupted. He returned to the ring to main event WrestleMania X-8 and remained in the main event picture scene for years thanks to his time in Evolution and feuds with Shawn Michaels and John Cena and transitioning into an authority figure. As for Mick Foley, he was soon back on TV as a beloved authority figure and mainly acted as a comedic figurehead or special guest referee. Foley returned to the ring in 2004 to team up with the Rock against Randy Orton, Ric Flair, and Batista of Evolution; Foley’s in-ring return was specifically to help sell Orton’s “Legend Killer” gimmick but he had a number of notable matches in the years after this against the likes of Edge, Ric Flair, and Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer in WWE, and against such names as Scott Steiner, Sting, and Kevin Nash during his time with Total Nonstop Action (TNA).

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Did you enjoy the main event of WrestleMania 2000? What did you think to the a McMahon being in every corner? Who was your pick to win this match at the time? What did you think to Mick Foley returning to the ring so soon after his retirement? Would you have liked to see Chris Jericho in this match? Did you agree with the finish? How are you celebrating WrestleMania’s anniversary this year and what’s your favourite WrestleMania moment? Drop your thoughts below by signing up or leave a comment on my social media to let me know what you think about WrestleMania 2000 and check back for more wrestling content throughout the year.

Wrestling Recap [3:16 Day]: Austin vs. McMahon (St. Valentine’s Day Massacre)

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“Talk about your psalms, talk about “John 3:16”…
Austin 3:16 says I just whupped your ass!”

With those immortal words, spoken by the legendary pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after winning the King of the Ring tournament on 23 June 1996, a momentous wrestling career unfolded that would see everyone’s favourite beer-swigging, finger-gesturing anti-hero become not just an industry icon but a mainstream icon as well. Here’s to yah, Steve!

The Date: 14 February 1999
The Venue: Memphis Pyramid; Memphis, Tennessee
The Commentary: Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Mike Chioda
The Stakes: Main event steel cage match to decide Austin’s WrestleMania fate

The Build-Up:
Ask any wrestling fan and they’ll tell you about the ratings war between the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and one of the greatest feuds of the WWF’s “Attitude Era”: the rivalry between the loud-mouthed, anti-authority “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. After the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” saw Bret “The Hitman” Hart leave the WWF, McMahon’s evil “Mr. McMahon” authority figure frequently clashed with Austin’s rebellious ways. McMahon consolidated his power by ensuring that The Rock captured the WWF Championship and reigned supreme as the “Corporate Champion”, and personally ensured that Austin’s goal of recapturing the belt at WrestleMania XV: The Ragin’ Climax wouldn’t come to fruition by winning the annual Royal Rumble for himself! However, as he was a businessman and figurehead rather than a full-time wrestler, McMahon’s victory was forfeited and Steve Austin was awarded the WrestleMania XV match by default. Enraged, McMahon had only one option left; he goaded Austin into getting what he really wanted, a one-on-one match with the WWF Chairman (inside a steel cage, no less!), if Austin would put his WrestleMania opportunity on the line. Thus, after months of drama, tension, and confrontations between the two, the stage was finally set for Steve Austin and Vince McMahon to face-off for the first time.

The Match:
It’s easy to forget these days, in an era where World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) likes to push that crowds have mixed reactions to their top guys, just how absolutely white-hot Steve Austin was back in the day; anticipation would build in arenas to a fever pitch and then the people would literally explode into rapturous applause and non-stop cheering once they heard that familiar glass shattering, and that was more than evident in this match when Austin made his way down to the ring. Interestingly, as unanimous as the crowd’s support for Austin was here, they don’t exactly descend into a chorus of boos for Mr. McMahon’s entrance; instead, there was largely a feeling of apathy, potentially because they were just itching to see the WWF Chairman finally get his ass handed to him despite the fact that he was jacked up to the nines! Something else worth noting here is that this is the old black-bar cage, before the WWE switched to the much safer and more forgiving mesh-style cages, which not only makes it a lot easier for the competitors to climb (Austin perched himself at the top of the cage to beckon McMahon in) but also much more hazardous to their health.

McMahon taunted Austin and they brawled at ringside before the chairman crashed through the announce table!

Of course, Austin was practically frothing at the mouth as McMahon approached the cage, desperate for his hated rival to get into the ring, but McMahon purposely made him wait by loitering at ringside and taking his sweet time to enter. Naturally, this whipped the crowd into an uproar and incensed Austin, who chased the chairman around the ringside area before the two get into a bit of a slap fight on the cage wall. After toying with each other for a bit, Austin took a tumble to the floor and seemed to twist his ankle. Delighted, McMahon left the cage to try and capitalise on Austin’s injury, only to walk right into a trap! Austin decked McMahon with a clothesline and pummelled him across the announce table, slamming him into the steel cage, and then choking him out with a piece of extension cord. Firmly in control, Austin dumped McMahon over the barricade and put a beating on him in the crowd, refuelling with a cheeky brewski before running McMahon into the steel stairs. McMahon mounted a comeback, however, with a cheap shot and then lured Austin into the crowd for a brawl. McMahon tried to escape amidst the sea of people, but Austin caught him and dragged him back to ringside, slamming him into the barricade and the cage bars over and over, yanking the boss down from the cage when he tried to climb to safety and stomping right on his crotch. When McMahon tried one more time to climb into the ring and escape Austin’s wrath, Austin followed him and, after a bit of back and forth, knocked Vince from the cage and sent him crashing through the Spanish announce table!

McMahon continued to goad Austin and was left a bloody, beaten mess as a result.

Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler prattled on about how shocked and concerned they were at how quickly the match had turned brutal, and the doctors and referees rushed down to ringside to strap Vince onto a stretcher; when Howard Finkel tried to announce Austin as the winner by default (despite the match not having officially started yet), Austin cut him off and demanded that the match continue. Austin commandeered the stretcher and drove the helpless McMahon into the steel cage, pummelling him with the back board, and finally tossing him into the ring so the match can officially begin. The minute the bell rang, Austin wrecked McMahon with a clothesline, ripped off his neck brace, and decimated the defenceless chairman with repeated second-rope elbow drops. Seemingly satisfied, Austin went to leave via the door but McMahon goaded his rival back into the ring by flipping him the bird, receiving Austin’s trademark mudhole stomps in the corner for his troubles. However, McMahon managed to turn things around with a low blow and tried to clamber out of the cage, but Austin recovered fast enough to stop him and fling him back into the ring from the top of the cage wall. The crowd was loving it as Austin rammed McMahon into the cage wall over and over, busting him open and leaving him a bloody mess, but Vince continued to flip Austin off and stop him from leaving the ring. Incensed, Austin returned to the ring and left the chairman a bloody, crumpled heap.

Things come to a blessed and dramatic end when Paul Wight accidentally awarded Austin the victory.

The glorified brawl started to drag a bit as McMahon was completely helpless and fell victim to a big Stone Cold Stunner. However, Austin was so distracted with taunting his bloodied foe that he didn’t notice Paul Wight literally bursting up from under the ring right behind him! The massive giant manhandled Austin, launching him into the cage walls and helping McMahon to his feet so he can taunt his surprised rival. McMahon demanded that Wight throw Austin into the cage wall one more time, desperate for some retribution, but this proved to be his downfall as Wight’s throw was of such force that the cage wall breaks open, which allowed Austin to tumble out to the floor and be declared the winner. Wight was seething and McMahon was absolutely distraught that his grand plan had failed; Austin won the match and secured his WrestleMania championship match after a pretty lacklustre contest. Obviously, I don’t expect too much from Vince McMahon; the guy’s built and clearly know how to take a bump, but his role in his matches is simply to wind up his opponent (and the crowd), take as many cheap shots and shortcuts as possible, and to get the living shit kicked out of him and that’s definitely what happens here but it’s also a whole lot of stalling and mindless brawling. The match really didn’t do too much with the steel cage, and the guys were hardly even in it that much, so the gimmick ends up being a prop for some blood and Austin’s dramatic victory at the end. I think that match might’ve been paced a bit better if we hadn’t had the whole stretcher spot and the longer brawl in the crowd, and this was little more than a drawn out beatdown of a largely defenceless middle-aged man notable primarily for being their first time in the ring together and Paul Wight’s big debut, meaning that you could probably just watch a five minute highlight and see everything this match has to offer.

The Aftermath:
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre would end up being the last In Your House event as the WWF changed to permanent pay-per-view names with Backlash the following April, and the In Your House concept wouldn’t be seen again until 2020. Of course, the big story coming out of this match was the addition of Paul Wight to McMahon’s Corporation stable; soon renamed the Big Show, Wight began a tumultuous career flip-flopping between being a good guy and a bad guy depending on the situation and storyline. The Big Show ended up getting into a rivalry with Mankind over which one of them would be the special guest referee for the WWF Championship match at WrestleMania XV, with Mankind winning the match by disqualification and the Big Show seemingly turning against McMahon after being berated for his loss. Austin, of course, went on to have the first of three WrestleMania matches against the Rock, capturing the WWF Championship in the process, and continuing to feud with the Rock, McMahon, and the Corporation in the months that followed. McMahon’s issues with Austin would continue to escalate, leading to the WWF Chairman forging an alliance with the Undertaker to try and get the belt off the Texas Rattlesnake, which ultimately saw McMahon being forced off WWF television for some time as he continued to put more and more on the line in an effort to out Austin. Ultimately, their feud would be abruptly cut off after Austin took time off for neck surgery, but their paths would continually cross as they entered an ill-advised alliance and butted heads continuously even after Austin’s official in-ring retirement.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the contest between Steve Austin and Vince McMahon at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? Which of their encounters, matches, and moments is your favourite? What did you think to Paul Wight’s shocking debut? How are you celebrating 3:16 Day this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from Austin’s illustrious career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, share them below or drop a comment on my social media to let me know what you think about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Wrestling Recap: Royal Rumble 1988

The Date: 24 January 1988
The Venue: Copps Coliseum; Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
The Commentary: Vince McMahon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura
The Stipulation: Twenty man over the top rope battle royale
Notable Competitors: “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (Winner), Bret “Hitman” Hart (#1), The Junkyard Dog (#20), and The One Man Gang (Most Eliminations)

The Build-Up:
Considering how dominating the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been in the industry, it should be no surprise that the company has been at the forefront of creativity; from their celebrated Superstars, impact on pay-per-view entertainment, to the creation of genre-defining match types. By 1988, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, as it was known then) had already stepped into the mainstream after taking a massive gamble with their inaugural WrestleMania event and added the annual Survivor Series event to their calendar. To see in the new year, WWF chairman Vince McMahon produced the first edition of another annual event, the Royal Rumble, which was headlined by the titular over-the-top-rope battle royale. The match concept was the creation of the legendary Pat Patterson and has since become a trademark event of the organisation, with winners now going on to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, though this aspect wouldn’t be introduced until the 1993 event. After trialling the concept at an untelevised house show, which was won by the Junkyard Dog, there was little rhyme or reason for the match’s debut beyond producing another pay-per-view and showcasing a bunch of WWF’s superstars in one big brawl and, as such, no real storylines leading into the titular match.

The Match:
Generally speaking, I quite enjoy a good Royal Rumble match; it’s a great excuse to debut or bring back wrestlers and can be a lot of fun with the right people in there. They can be difficult to book, however, and often the middle part can get bogged down with tag teams of B- or even C-list lower-card wrestlers who no one’s ever going to believe will win the match. For me, winning the Royal Rumble should be an accolade reserved for the company’s biggest star, preferably their biggest fan favourite; the event itself marks the first step on the Road to WrestleMania and should therefore represent a significant step up in quality. That’s not always the case, of course, and sometimes it feels like the event just takes place because it’s January and that’s what’s supposed to happen. Consequently, I was intrigued to go back to the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era and see what the inaugural Royal Rumble was like considering this period of wrestling can be a bit hit and miss in terms of match and wrestler quality and that the event didn’t have the WrestleMania stipulation tied to it. Legendary ring announcer Howard Finkel ran down the rules of the match (competitors enter the ring in two minute intervals, are eliminated after being thrown over the top rope, and the last man standing is the winner) while Bret Hart and Tito Santana were in the ring, who were introduced as though it was a one-on-one match rather than simply running to the ring and getting into it like these days.

Bret, Neidhart, Santana, and the Snake all got the match off to a pretty hot start.

Additionally, when the bell rang, the two went at it like it was a single match, pulling off actual wrestling moves as though wearing each other down for the pin fall rather than trying to heave each other over the ropes. Butch Reed came in at number three and initially targeted Bret before teaming up with him to put a beating on Santana; at least, until Butch accidentally nailed Bret. Luckily for him, fellow Hart Foundation member Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart came in next and the three of them desperately tried to force Santana out of the ring but he maintained a death grip on the ropes and refused to go over. Thankfully, Jake “The Snake” Roberts came out at number five to even the odds, dumping Butch for the first elimination of the match and attacking both Bret and Neidhart with a flurry of punches to the absolute delight of the crowd. Neidhart was able to interrupt a double DDT attempt on Bret by Jake and Santana and the former took the brunt of the Hart Foundation’s retribution thanks to a jumping piledriver from Bret. Harley Race was in next and also got in on the action against Jake, dropping a couple of elbows while Neidhart held the Snake helpless on the mat. Jim Brunzell was out next as Neidhart sold a beard pull from Jake (!); things slowed down a little as the guys tried to heff their opponents out of the ring but picked up considerably when Sam Houston sprinted to the ring and went right for the Hart Foundation but, unfortunately, Santana’s time in the match came to an end with the boys in pink tossing him out.

Things slowed and became less exciting as the ring filled up, despite Bret’s stand-out performance.

The ring really started to fill up as Danny Davis and Boris Zhukov came to the ring; slow, plodding, confused offense was the order of the day here as guys half-heartedly went at it in the corner, against the ropes, or wandered around aimlessly trying to catch their breath. There was a bit of excitement as Don “The Rock” Muraco and Nikolai Volkoff argued at ringside over the number eleven spot; Muraco simply nailed Volkoff and took to the ring to attack the Hart Foundation and, by the time Volkoff was allowed into the ring, his tag team partner, Zhukov, had been muscled out by Jake and Brunzell. Harley Race was next to be dumped and, as he was leaving and the others paired off again, the crowd exploded to life when “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan came to the ring (carrying his trademark 2×4) at number thirteen, having a brief altercation with Race along the way. More miscellaneous brawling, striking, and grappling in the corners and against the ropes followed, however, and the excitement took a nosedive as Ron Bass lumbered to the ring. Brunzell was thrown out shortly after thanks to Volkoff. B. Brian Blair, Hillbilly Jim, and Dino Bravo all joined the fray and, in the process, both Neidhart and Houston were sent packing, with the latter being muscled out by Ron Bass. The Ultimate Warrior raced to the ring and immediately started throwing chops and, in the chaos, Muraco was able to toss Bret from the ring, ending his run at almost twenty-six minutes.

In the end, Duggan outsmarted the lumbering One Man Gang to win the first ever Royal Rumble.

Again, the action slowed down and only got slowed as the One Man Gang plodded his way to the ring; the big man made an immediate impression, however, by tossing out not just Blair but also Jake Roberts with a surprising and disappointing amount of ease. The final entrant in his twenty man version of the match was the Junkyard Dog; shortly after he got into the ring, Volkoff was tossed and then the One Man Gang struck again by getting rid of Hillbilly Jim while Bravo took out the Ultimate Warrior with no fuss or fanfare. The Junkyard Dog didn’t last too long either before he was taken out by Bass, who was himself eliminated by Muraco, meaning the final four were Muraco, Duggan, Bravo, and the One Man Gang, an odd selection considering the likes of Bret Hart, Jake Roberts, and the Ultimate Warrior had been in the match. The Rock and the Gang squared off while Bravo and Duggan fought on the other side of the ring; Brave and the One Man Gang worked together to attack both men, with Muraco desperately using his speed to hold them off but a distraction from Frenchy Martin saw him on the back foot and then nudged over the top rope from a weak-ass One Man Gang clothesline that looked as though it would miss and/or take Bravo out as well, but it didn’t. Left alone in a two-on-one situation, Duggan fought back valiantly but looked to be overwhelmed following a double clothesline; however, as he was held helplessly by Brave, he managed to slip away and cause the One Man Gang to accidentally take out Bravo at the last second. Duggan and the One Man Gang brawled for a bit, with Duggan taking a beating against the ropes but, in the end, brains got the better of brawn as Duggan ducked and yanked on the ring ropes as One Man Gang charged him, sending the big man spilled to the outside and becoming the first-ever Royal Rumble winner to an explosive reaction. It may seem like an odd choice to have Hacksaw win the Royal Rumble considering some of the star power featured in the match, but the crowd were absolutely into his win and it’s not like he ended up headlining WrestleMania for winning so it was just a nice feather in the enthusiastic big man’s cap.

The Aftermath:
The main story heading into The Main Event that came out of this event was the WWF Championship rematch between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant but there was some fallout for Duggan following his big win. He and the One Man Gang went at it in a singles match at the same event, with Duggan coming out on top, though he ended up battling Bad News Brown to a double disqualification by the time WrestleMania V rolled around later that year. The Royal Rumble event ended up setting a record as the highest-viewed wrestling program on cable television and would go on to become a yearly event for the company; by the next year, the match was expanded to include the now traditional thirty men and, by 1993, the WrestleMania championship shot had been added and the match has since become one of the WWE’s most anticipated annual events.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the inaugural Royal Rumble match? Did you like that Hacksaw Jim Duggan won the match or would you have liked to see someone else take the win? Which of the competitors was your favourite? Were there any competitors you would’ve liked to see included? What’s your favourite Royal Rumble match? Whatever your thoughts on the Royal Rumble, share them below or leave a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Elimination Chamber Match (New Year’s Revolution ’05)

The Date: 9 January 2005
The Venue: Coliseo de Puerto Rico; San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Jonathan “The Coach” Coachman
The Referee: “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels
The Stakes: Six-man Elimination Chamber match for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship

The Build-Up:
By 2005, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) was the undisputed top dog in the sports entertainment industry; having bought their competition and become an indomitable multimedia juggernaut, the company decided to split their now bloated roster into two distinct brands, with both Raw and SmackDown! receiving their own exclusive wrestlers, belts, and creative teams. Under Paul Heyman, SmackDown! became known as the “wrestling show” and delivered quality matches and storylines thanks to the efforts of the fabled “SmackDown! Six”, rising stars like John Cena, and the brand-exclusive Cruiserweight division. In contrast, Eric Bischoff’s Raw was more about over-the-top storylines and was largely dominated by Triple H’s “Reign of Terror” that saw him maintain a stranglehold on the World Heavyweight Championship, backed up by his Evolution allies (“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista). Though this led to a fondly remembered feud against Triple H’s former D-Generation X running buddy Shawn Michaels and saw Chris Benoit finally capture the big one on the grandest stage of them all, it also included controversial storylines involving Kane and a disastrous main event run for Randy Orton that would lead to him adopting a “Legend Killer” gimmick but also saw his big WrestleMania coronation being usurped by Evolution’s enforcer, Batista, who gained unanimous fan support around this time. After a championship match between Triple H. Chris Benoit, and Edge ended in a double pin, the World Heavyweight Championship was declared vacant and Bischoff had the six top challengers vie for a place in an Elimination Chamber match to battle for the belt. This was only the third Elimination Chamber match so the concept was relatively new in the WWE; it debuted at the 2002 Survivor Series and forced four men to waiting in “bulletproof pods” as two others fought in the ring, with each participant joining the match at random at regular intervals, with wrestlers being eliminated by pin fall or submission until only one is left standing. The two main storylines heading into the match revolved around Triple H; Batista was showing signs of independence and had earned himself the final spot in the match, which angered The Game as he’d already been slighted by Orton and was concerned about Batista’s loyalties. Shawn Michaels being named the special guest referee also threw Triple H of as he wasn’t expected to be impartial given his bloody history with The Game. Chris Benoit’s presence was another thorn in Triple H’s side since The Game had suffered numerous losses to him and Triple H’s years of domination and oppression meant he had few allies heading into this bout.

The Match:
I remember this period of wrestling; I gather many look back on Triple H’s time with the belt more fondly now and it’s true that he eventually made some of the WWE’s biggest stars, but at the time it was absolutely frustrating to watch. What made it worse was that Chris Benoit had already knocked him off the perch (well, technically HBK and Goldberg had also beaten him for the belt but that’s neither here nor there…) and it seemed we were due some fresh faces in the Raw main event scene, but Triple H kept getting involved, basically meaning that the story leading up to WrestleMania 21 was basically the same as the previous year’s WrestleMania XX, only this time it would be the up-and-coming Batista rather than the veteran Benoit finally getting his due. The Elimination Chamber concept also hadn’t been run into the ground; the massive, dangerous steel structure had a real ominous feel to it at this point and the match is still perhaps the most inventive and interesting of the modern era despite becoming an annual event, often without any real storyline justification for it. Edge was the first man to enter a ring pod; this was the start of Edge’s push towards the top of the card and I was all for it. He had proved himself in tag team matches and runs with the Intercontinental Championship and was a much-needed fresh face in the main event scene, but he was edging into tweener territory here due to his problems with HBK. Triple H was out next and was practically livid at having to be locked into a pod by one of his worst enemies and then got into a slanging match with his former protégé, Randy Orton, when he came to the ring looking to regain the championship, though it was pretty clear that he’d lost a lot of the bite and appeal he’d had before turning against Evolution. In comparison, the crowd was much hotter for Batista, who had not only won the right to be the last man to exit his pod but had also vowed not to let the championship slip through his fingers if push came to shove. With the four sealed in their pods, it was up to Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit to kick the match off; these two were no strangers to each other by any means and could always be relied on to put on a clinic. I’ll give this to the creative team, they certainly had a lot of bad blood and crossover going on in this match; everyone had issues with each other and a reason to fight beyond just wanting to be the champion, which made for quite the powder keg as the match got underway.

What started as a wrestling clinic soon broke down into a brutal brawl using the steel trappings of the chamber.

Benoit and Jericho locked up with a series of takedowns, reverses, and tentative holds; Jericho’s attempts to take control were emphatically shut down by Benoit’s patented knife-edge chops and, when Y2J returned the favour, Benoit responded by tripping him into a Sharpshooter attempt. After fighting off the Walls of Jericho, Benoit landed a massive German Suplex, but Jericho managed to slip out of a Crippler Crossface attempt and score a couple of near falls. Benoit cut Jericho off when he went to the top rope and brought the first-ever Undisputed Champion crashing to the mat with a Superplex that saw both men struggling to recover as Triple H entered the match. Triple H went right after Benoit, beating and stomping on him in the corner and wiping out with a couple of hard whips into the corners for a two count while also taking out Jericho with his signature jumping knee strike. Jericho soon laid in the chops to The Game, though, before being taken down by a clothesline; Triple H brutally tossed Benoit out onto the steel platform surrounding the ring and ran him face-first into the thick steel chains that made up the chamber’s walls, busting him open and creating a gaping target for Hunter’s assault. Regardless, Benoit was still able to kick out at two so Triple H went for the Pedigree but, oddly, Jericho interrupted the move rather than potentially remove an obstacle from the match and then reversed another Pedigree into a back body drop that sent Triple H to the steel on the outside. Another slam continued to work over Triple H’s back and a suplex brought him back into the ring for a near fall before Edge joined the party. Edge wasted no time in taking advantage of his wounded opponents, hitting Spear-like moves on Jericho and Triple H before planting The Game with the Edgecution for a close two count and even planting Benoit with an uncharacteristic belly-to-belly suplex! Jericho tried to steal a pin, but Triple H kicked out, then Edge took a tumble to the outside courtesy of a Jericho dropkick but Y2J’s momentum was summarily cut off when Edge raked his eyes and launched him into the chain wall with a catapult and then did the same to Triple H after The Game tried to hit him with a Pedigree out on the steel!

As the match escalated, even HBK fell victim to the competitors and unlikely alliances emerged…

A diving clothesline to Benoit scored Edge a two count, then he feverishly fought out of a Crippler Crossface attempt before being knocked down by an enziguri from Jericho that was also only a two count. The bloodied Jericho and Triple H then went at it, with The Game landing his patented spinebuster for a near fall and Benoit getting the same result with a lovely Northern Lights Suplex to Edge. Triple H finally nailed the Pedigree on Jericho but was too out of it to capitalise; Orton then entered the match like a house on fire, smacking Edge’s head off the chain and leaped at Triple H with a crossbody off the top rope. Orton continued to beat Triple H down to a fair amount of applause (though they mainly chanted for his finisher…), tossing him to the outside and running him into the chain wall, slamming him with his beautiful snap powerslam, and even planting Jericho with an RKO out of nowhere! However, when he tried that shit on Benoit, he got tied up in a version of the Crippler Crossface; Triple H taunted Orton as he struggled in the hold, so Benoit hit ‘Select’ to change targets and locked a Sharpshooter on The Game, only to be hit by an RKO! Edge then tried to take Orton out with a Spear but the future Legend Killer dodged out of the way and caused HBK to take the attack instead! Consequently, there was no referee to count the pin when Edge did hit the Spear on Orton; incensed, Edge manhandled HBK and slapped him, which earned him a dose of Sweet Chin Music and left him wide open for a Lionsault from Jericho and a subsequent elimination. Benoit then saved Jericho from another Pedigree by blasting Triple H with three German Suplexes in a row; Benoit then clambered on top of a chamber pod to land a humongous diving headbutt to Triple H! He and Jericho then called back to their days as a tag team by locking in both the Walls of Jericho and the Crippler Crossface on The Game but, luckily for him, the timer ran down and Batista finally emerged from his pod after an awkward delay that I can only assume was unintentional.

Batista’s path of destruction was cut off by Orton but he was still instrumental in Triple H winning the match.

Batista’s first act was to save his mentor; he fought off Jericho and Benoit with ease, launching them out of the ring and drilling Orton with a spinebuster. He then went face-to-face with Triple H in a tense showdown that had the crowd absolutely begging for them to go at it but the two were jumped by their opponents before they could come to blows. Batista took out a camera man by Military Pressing Jericho into the poor bastard then hoisted Orton up in a wonky looking chokehold before Benoit attacked his knee and brought him to the mat. Orton and Benoit then temporarily joined forces to put the pressure on Batista before Triple H got back into the thick of it by picking each man off; he launched Orton into the chain but then got slammed into the platform by a facebuster courtesy of Jericho that properly got the blood gushing. After a bit of brawling, Benoit was emphatically shut down with a spinebuster from Batista, who then hit a spinebuster on Jericho onto Benoit that allowed him to eliminate the Rabid Wolverine. Jericho was next to go after being decimated by the Batista Bomb, meaning the match came down to a contest between Evolution! Orton struck first, tossing Triple H to the steel platform and smashing Batista off the steel before being launched into the chains from a Triple H catapult that busted him open. Triple H and Batista worked over the bleeding, helpless Orton relentlessly; despite the merciless beating, Orton continued to kick out of their pin attempts, frustrating both men. Although a lengthy onslaught clearly designed to pain Orton as a resilient underdog, this actually worked for the crowd, who were fully behind Orton as he mounted a comeback with some strikes and, indeed, when he hit a low blow and a huge RKO to eliminate Batista, the crowd came unglued! Triple H and Orton then fought on the outside, where Orton repeatedly threw him into the chain wall before hitting another massive RKO. Unfortunately, HBK was busy trying to get Batista and Ric Flair out of the ring so there was no pin fall. In the chaos, Batista blasted Orton with a clothesline; this was enough to leave Orton prone for a Pedigree that awarded Triple H yet another championship victory.

The Aftermath:
J.R said that Batista “dominated” the match but that wasn’t quite true, though it should have been; since the match went so long without any eliminations, I would’ve had Batista be the one to eliminate everyone before being upset by Orton to better paint him as this unstoppable force. Although Evolution celebrated the win, with Batista hoisting Triple H onto his shoulders, it was clear from the footage that The Game could’ve prevented Batista’s elimination and chose not to, a wrinkle that only added fuel to their issues going forward. Orton would win the right to challenge Triple H at the Royal Rumble but, where he came up short, Batista (eventually) emerged as the winner of the Royal Rumble itself. Although Triple H and Ric Flair tried to convince him to challenge JBL, Batista dramatically revealed that he’d had enough of being Hunter’s lackey and their manipulation; Batista went on to capture his first World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21 and begin his own ascension to mainstream success that remained intrinsically linked to his former mentor. Despite the good reactions he got here, Orton’s time as a fan favourite was largely a dud; to get himself back on track, he decided to challenge the Undertaker at WrestleMania 21. Although unsuccessful and injured in the bout, he did score victories over the Deadman thanks to help from his father, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, during the feud, which took up most of his 2005. Blaming HBK for his loss, Edge got into a short feud with Shawn Michaels that was over with by WrestleMania 21; there, HBK battled Kurt Angle in a dream match and Edge won the first-ever Money in the Bank ladder match, which also included Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit; Edge cashed in the briefcase at the following year’s New Year’s Revolution to win his first World Heavyweight Championship. Although the WWE would continue to produce Elimination Chamber matches, there would only be two more New Year’s Revolution events; the pay-per-view was cancelled in 2007, though the branding was briefly revived for a series of house shows in 2020.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think to the third-ever Elimination Chamber match? What did you think to the match concept? Were you a fan of Randy Orton’s face turn and would you have liked to see him win it? Did you like the narrative surrounding Batista and were you excited to see him break out on his own? What did you think to Triple H’s reign with the World Heavyweight Championship What’s your favourite Elimination Chamber match? Were you a fan of the New Year’s Revolution event and would you like to see it revived? Whatever your thoughts on the 2005 Elimination Chamber and its participants, share them below or leave a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Team Hogan vs. Team André (Survivor Series ’87)

The Date: 18 November 2001
The Venue: Greensboro Coliseum Complex; Greensboro, North Carolina
The Commentary: Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse “The Body” Ventura
The Referee: Joey Marella
The Stipulation: Ten-man elimination tag team match
The Competitors: Team Hogan (WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Don “The Rock” Muraco, Ken Patera, and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff), Team André (André the Giant, “The Natural” Butch Reed, King Kong Bundy, One Man Gang, and “Ravishing” Rick Rude)

The Build-Up:
Over its many decades as the dominating force in sports entertainment, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been known for creating some of the industry’s most successful competitors, changing the face of pay-per-view entertainment, and delivering genre-defining match types and wrestling cards. In 1987, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, as it was known then) had taken their first step towards global domination with the successful gamble that was WrestleMania, a pay-per-view showcase of their greatest talent that brought the organisation into the mainstream with celebrity cameos. With the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) due to broadcast their Starrcade event over the Thanksgiving weekend, WWF chairman Vince McMahon add the Survivor Series event to the WWF’s calendar and strong-armed many cable companies into showing his event instead of Starrcade or risk losing out on WrestleMania IV. The entire event was comprised of four ten-man elimination tag team matches, with the main event pitting WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and his team against bitter rival André the Giant and his team of bad guys (or “heels”). The motivation behind the two forming teams and squaring off came from André’s heel turn earlier that year, which saw him memorably challenge the Hulkster at WrestleMania III only to be planted with an iconic body slam. Since André was managed by one of wrestling’s greatest heel managers, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, it made sense for him to ally with Heenan’s smorgasbord of man-mountain wrestlers, though Hogan wasn’t short on allies either, with the recently debuting Bam Bam Bigelow and the now-righteous (or “babyface”) Ken Patera joining Hogan’s team to get some payback against Heenan and his goons.

The Match:
Honestly, I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Survivor Series over my many years as a wrestling fan. When there’s an actual storyline behind it and the teams make sense, it can be a fun concept but, often, the WWE cobble together teams just because the event is coming up and they even stupidly diluted the concept by having a separate Bragging Rights event that really should’ve just been merged with the traditional Survivor Series card. The WWE fluctuates its focus on tag teams at the best of times and large teams (or “stables”) of wrestlers are difficult to come by in the modern WWE landscape, which can make justifying a ten-man elimination match difficult. However, when it works and is used sparingly, it can be a unique concept and, from what I can tell from my research, it made sense to form these two massive teams and extend the Hogan/André rivalry in a way that both protected the latter, whose health was deteriorating rapidly at this point, and build anticipation for their inevitable rematch for the WWF Championship. The match began with Heenan in the ring giving a special introduction to the “Eighth Wonder of the World”, who lumbered to the ring and greeted his teammates. Jesse Venture raised the question of whether Hulk Hogan could truly trust Paul Orndorff who, until recently had been more of a heel, teasing the potential for dissention within Hogan’s team but, when interviewed by “Mean” Gene Okerlund backstage, Team Hogan seemed incredibly fired up for the match. Each man made his way to the ring to an ever-increasing rapture from the crowd, which exploded into a crescendo as the Hulkster came down the aisle way carrying Ol’ Glory, his focus squarely on André (and playing to the audience).

Although Rick Rude took the brunt of the early assault, it was Butch Reed who was the first to be eliminated.

Don Muraco and Rick Rude started the match for their respective teams, with the two exchanging blows in the corner before Rude took advantage with an eye rake. A boot to the gut cut off Rude’s attack, however, and Rude tagged in Paul Orndorff, who came off the top rope with an elbow strike. A shot to the gut and a knee strike saw Rude on the receiving end of more offense before Orndorff rammed him head-first into Hogan’s boot and tagged in the champion. Hogan planted Rude with a clothesline and then dropped three elbows in quick succession before tagging in Bam Bam Bigelow, slamming Rude and setting him up for a big body splash from Bigelow, which he followed with a military press before tagging in Ken Patera. Although Patera attacked right away, Rude was able to collapse in his corner, finally allowing another heel, Butch Reed, to get in the ring. Reed didn’t fare too well, however, easily being taken down and rolled up into the first pin attempt of the match and falling afoul of a dropkick courtesy of Don Muraco. Orndorff then showed up his teammate by tagging in and delivering two dropkicks of his own and even getting a cheap shot in on King Kong Bundy before dodging a Reed elbow shot in the corner and bringing the Hulkster back into the match for a double clothesline. Hogan then hit the Atomic Leg Drop and Reed was eliminated without even throwing a single punch; Hogan was spared from tangling with André after tagging in Patera during his celebration. Since André only wanted Hogan, though, he immediately tagged in Bundy to face the Olympian.

Thanks to eye rakes and cheap tactics, the heels scored two eliminations in quick succession.

Patera went on the attack right away, even downing Bundy with a clothesline, but he was too slow to keep the One Man Gang from tagging in to lock up with Orndorff. One Man Gang initially, very briefly, actually got to show some offense but Orndorff fired back with a slew of punches that rocked the big man; a counter in the corner shut Orndorff down, however, and allowed Rude to come back in and start working him over…until Orndorff scored with a clothesline, a body slam, and an elbow drop for a two count. Muraco came back in to hit a stiff clothesline but a thumb to the eye allowed Rude to create some separation and tag in the One Many Gang but Muraco was able to avoid a corner charge, roll over to his corner, and tag in Patera, who survived another eye rake to hit an awkward running crossbody for another near fall. Although Patera hit a running knee to the corner, another thumb to the eye allowed the One Man Gang to put a beating on the Olympian in the heel corner with the assistance of his teammates. A standing front facelock slowed the match to a crawl and then the One Man Gang managed to pin Patera for the three count following an awkward “double clothesline” for an anti-climactic elimination. Hogan immediately went after the One Man Gang, throwing hands, rushing him into a corner, and then bringing in Bam Bam Bigelow for a double Big Boot. Whatever momentum Bam Bam had built up went right out the window, however, when the two big men clumsily bumped heads off a double shoulder block, which saw Rude and Orndorff go at it again. Orndorff panted Rude with a suplex, another elbow drop, and a flapjack before Bundy ran in to interrupt a piledriver attempt; this was enough for Rude to score a roll up with a handful of tights to eliminate Mr. Wonderful from the match.

After twenty-five minutes of plodding action, Hogan and André finally squared off once more.

Rude made the mistake of flexing to rile up the crowd, meaning Muraco planted him with an atomic drop and a clothesline before bringing in Bam Bam to deliver a big side kick. A big suplex set Rude up for a rare running knee strike from Hogan, who then brought Muraco in for a powerslam and that was enough to take Rude out of the match and even the odds at three-on-three. Bundy came in and started beating on Muraco, downing him with a back elbow smash, but he missed a running knee strike; Muraco targeted Bundy’s leg with a series of attacks but Bundy was able to fight him off and bring the One Man Gang back in. The Rock’s attempts to fight off the One Man Gang saw him crushed under the big man’s weight; he was able to kick out at two, however, so the One Man Gang threw him into an inelegant headbutt from André which, when coupled with a body splash, was enough to eliminate the Rock. The One Man Gang switched his focus to Bam Bam Bigelow, crushing his chest when he went for a sunset flip pin and bringing in Bundy to hit a powerful clothesline that turned Bam Bam inside out. Hogan broke up the pin attempt but Bundy stayed in control and brought the One Man Gang back in, who shut down Bam Bam’s counterattack with, what else, but a thumb to the eye before choking him on the ring ropes. Bundy came back in for a knee to the gut and a double axehandle smash before quickly tagging the One Man Gang back in. A back elbow caught Bam Bam right in the eye and Hogan, and the crowd, were absolutely desperate for the big man to make the tag as Bundy came back for some more punishment. Bam Bam managed to avoid the elbow drop, and kick out of a pin attempt, and finally made the tag after rolling to the corner and avoiding a big chop from André. Hogan attacked his rival with a flurry of punches; they exchanged strikes and chops in the corner before Hogan slamming André’s face into the top turnbuckle, but his offense was interrupted when Bundy pulled him from the ring.

Bam Bam fought valiantly but ultimately fell, leading to Hogan to attack André after the match.

The two brawled at ringside, with Hogan slamming both Bundy and the One Man Gang on the outside, but he took so long messing about with the two that he got counted out! The crowd was incensed as Hogan was forced from the ring, leaving Bam Bam all alone in a three-on-one situation, much to Hogan’s disgust. Showing no fear, Bam Bam went right for Bundy, planting him with a clothesline and scoring a two count off an elbow drop and a falling headbutt. After dodging a Bundy charge in the corner, Bam Bam finally eliminated the big man with an impressive slingshot splash from the ring apron but he was too fatigued to fend off the One Man Gang, who immediately choked and beat him on the ropes. Still, Bam Bam easily kicked out of a clothesline (that looked to give the One Man Gang a heart attack) and had the wherewithal to dodge a splash off the top rope. This one mistake cost the One Man Gang and meant the match boiled down to Bam Bam and the lumbering André, who wasted no time smacking Bam Bam around with big chops and headbutts. Bam Bam used the ropes and his comparative quickness to avoid André’s plodding attacks but a missed splash in the corner saw him taking some shoulder blocks to the spine and being easily pinned following a half-underhook, facelock slam…suplex…thing. As André was announced the winner, Hogan stormed the ring and attacked the Giant with the WWF Championship, stealing the spotlight and entertaining the raucous crowd with his trademark flexing while André seethed on the outside. I don’t really like to rag on this era of wrestling too much; things were obviously very different back then, but this was a bit of a let-down considering some of the star power and storylines featured in it. Obviously, André couldn’t really do a lot and needed to be protected but we barely got to see him and Hogan go at it again, much less really see the Giant in any kind of action. It works on the one hand to show him as this unbeatable “final boss” but…we know he can be beaten as we saw Hogan pin him at WrestleMania III so I think I would’ve preferred to see him and Hogan as the final two and them brawl to a double count out. Interestingly, this ended up primarily being a showcase for Bam Bam; he was the last man on Team Hogan and impressed the most with his athleticism for such a big man but, on the flip side, there was way too much boring, plodding offense from the One Man Gang and King Kong Bundy was barely a factor in it as well. As a first go-around for the concept, the WWF definitely put some of their biggest names into it but it’s clear a lot of them were limited in their mobility and having Hogan get counted out only to run in for the cheap heat at the end made this a pretty mediocre affair.

The Aftermath:
Naturally, the issues between Hulk Hogan and André the Giant continued to be a focal point of the WWF’s programming; André joined forces with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and the two continued to harass Hogan until he agreed to another championship match at The Main Event. This time, André came out on top, though he immediately sold the belt to DiBiase at it was subsequently held up for grabs in a tournament at WrestleMania IV. Don Muraco, Butch Reed, the One Man Gang, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Rick Rude all made it onto the WrestleMania IV card as well, participating in the same tournament, but they would all fall short. Even Hogan and André lost the chance to regain the belt thanks to a double disqualification, so the vacant belt went to “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the first time after he defeated DiBiase in the main event. As for the Survivor Series, the event continued to be an annual part of the WWF/WWE calendar, with multi-man and woman matches taking place regularly every year. The event would be shaken up somewhat by being used as the staging ground for the final clash between the WWF and the alliance of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and also saw the first appearance of the Elimination Chamber match and clashes between the WWE’s flagship shows, Raw and SmackDown!

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the inaugural Survivor Series match? Were you excited to see Hulk Hogan and André the Giant across the ring from each other and thus disappointed that they barely interacted in the match? Who was the stand-out performer for you in this clash? Do you think André winning was the right decision? Were you also annoyed that Hogan got counted out? Which Survivor Series match or event is your favourite? How was your Thanksgiving this year? Whatever your thoughts on Survivor Series, feel free to leave them below or drop a comment on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Undertaker vs. CM Punk (WrestleMania NY/NJ)

The Date: 7 April 2013
The Venue: MetLife Stadium; East Rutherford, New Jersey
The Commentary: Michael Cole, John Bradshaw Layfield/JBL, and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Mike Chioda
The Stakes: Singles match with the Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak on the line

The Build-Up:
The Undertaker had been a force to be reckoned within the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) ever since his dramatic debut as part of the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team on this day at the 1990 Survivor Series. After a year without any televised losses, the Undertaker was named the number one contender to Hulk Hogan’s WWF Championship belt and his victory over the Immortal One cemented the Deadman as a main event star for decades. While the WWF changed and rebranded, eventually becoming World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the Undertaker grew as a character and a spectacle; transforming from a largely mute, undead monster into a Satanic overlord, a bad-ass biker, and the conscious of the WWE, the Undertaker’s legendary career came to be synonymous with his uncanny ability to secure wins on the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania.

The Undertaker’s celebrated WrestleMania streak came under attack by a vindictive CM Punk.

By this, the twenty-ninth WrestleMania, the Undertaker had twenty victories at the Showcase of the Immortals, having put away hated rivals such as Kane, Triple H, and the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels among others. In recent years, his opponents specifically sought a match against him at WrestleMania seeking to snap this winning streak but few were able to make this into such a personal vendetta than CM Punk. After winning the right to face the Undertaker, CM Punk immediately set about disrespecting the memory of William Moody, who had portrayed the Undertaker’s long-time manager Paul Bearer and who had recently passed away. Alongside his own manager, Paul Heyman (who also had a storied history with the Deadman), CM Punk regularly called out the Undertaker, stole the Deadman’s mystical urn, and even dumped its contents over Big Evil in the lead up this match, which was the closest that CM Punk ever got to main eventing a WrestleMania.

The Match:
Before the match can even begin, there are two things that need to be gotten out of the way first: the first is another of the WWE’s excellently-produced video packages that not only works as a touching tribute to the late, great Paul Bearer but also does a fantastic job of telling the story of this heated feud up until that point and really painting CM Punk as an absolutely reprehensible dick. Since the Undertaker wasn’t around each week to help build towards the match, CM Punk fell back on his unparalleled mic skills to taunt and mock both the Deadman and Bearer specifically to wind the Undertaker up since a count out or disqualification would still count as a loss and all he was concerned about was getting that win and tarnishing the Undertaker’s winning streak. The second, and biggest thing to get out of the way, are the competitor’s entrances; by this point, the Undertaker’s appearances at WrestleMania had become a spectacle all unto themselves and his entrances often went on as long as some wrestling matches! This year was no different as the Deadman’s entrance ran around five minutes long and saw him slowly, ominously stalk his way to the ring in a shroud of smoke while shadowy figures clutched at his feet in a truly spinetingling visual! However, the Undertaker wasn’t the only one to get a big entrance this year as Living Colour played CM Punk down to the ring with a live performance of “Cult of Personality”, though of course Michael Cole and his cohorts couldn’t be stopped from offering pointless and distracting commentary once the two were in the ring.

Cm Punk’s early strategy involved goading and disrespecting the Undertaker to wind him up.

As soon as the bell rang, the two went for each other, both with their hands up and looking for an opportunity to land a strike or a grapple. CM Punk, the quicker and smaller of the two, goaded the Undertaker by dodging a strike, slapping him in the face, and slipping out of the ring in order to put a quick beating on the Deadman after a short chase. Although the Undertaker tried to manhandle Punk into the corner, he easily slipped away and continued to taunt the Undertaker, kicking himself free of a Chokeslam attempt and ended up eating a big boot to the face and being unceremoniously dumped to the outside for his troubles. On the outside, the Undertaker beat CM Punk around the barricade before whipping him into it and smashing his face off the announcer’s table. The Undertaker stripped the table down and then rammed CM Punk spine-first into the ring post before rolling him back into the ring to deliver his patented leg drop across the ring apron. Once they were both back between the ropes, the Undertaker pressed his advantage, pounding on CM Punk in the corner and intimidating the referee for chastising him; working over CM Punk’s left arm, the Undertaker went for his “old school” rope walk but CM Punk jerked him off the top rope with an arm drag and, despite the pain in his arm, stomped on the Undertaker while the Deadman was down and hit a walk rope of his own in a blatant show of disrespect before landing a side Russian leg sweep and going for the first pin of the match.

CM Punk pressed his advantage at every opportunity using his quickness and agility.

Obviously, the Undertaker kicked out; the match then slowed a bit as CM Punk locked in a ground-based submission so the two could catch their breath (while also giving Paul Heyman a chance to shout encouragement and taunts to both men, respectively) before the Undertaker went back to his game plan of beating CM Punk in the corner. This backfired on the Deadman, though, when he missed a running boot and injured his knee in the process, which allowed CM Punk to kick him out of the ring and land a big diving axehandle from the top rope to the outside. Back in the ring, CM Punk scored a two-count off a neckbreaker but his attempts to work over the Undertaker’s arm got cut off by the Deadman’s trademark strikes. Again, CM Punk scored a two-count off another quick neckbreaker and slapped on a choke hold, all while Paul Heyman shouted encouragement about him being “one second away” from victory. The Undertaker battled his way up to a vertical base and hit a suplex to throw CM Punk off, then crotched his arrogant opponent on the top rope when CM Punk tried to hit another rope walk. A single punch to the jaw sent CM Punk careening to the outside again but Paul Heyman threw himself in the Undertaker’s path to stop the Deadman doing his signature dive to the outside, almost getting Chokeslammed off the apron in the process, which allowed CM Punk to recover and hit a clothesline off the top rope for another two-count. Weary (and possibly a little out of it), the Undertaker left himself wide open in the corner for a running knee and got taken down with a clothesline, which set CM Punk up for his patented Diving Elbow Drop.

Both men survived some big moves and signature offense from their opponent.

Again, the Undertaker kicked out at two, so CM Punk prepared to hit his finishing move, the Go-To-Sleep/GTS; however, the Undertaker slipped off CM Punk’s shoulders, grabbed him by the throat, and hit a massive Chokeslam for his first near-fall of the match! The two then got into a slug fest that quickly went in favour of the Undertaker, who again pummelled Punk in the ring corner with strikes, a running attack, and his signature Snake Eyes manoeuvre but CM Punk weathered the storm and surprised the Deadman with a kick for another two-count. CM Punk then sent the Undertaker to the outside again with a clothesline and went back to the announcer’s table, which he just narrowly avoided being powerbombed through when he slipped out of the Last Ride. With the Undertaker lying prone across the table, CM Punk hopped to the top rope and hit another Diving Elbow Drop…though the table didn’t break on impact. CM Punk was aghast when the Undertaker beat the referee’s count, however, and made it back into the ring before a count of ten; distraught (and hurt following his awkward landing on the table), CM Punk was easily wrapped up in the Undertaker’s Hell’s Gate submission move. Punk, however, used his technical expertise to turn it into a pinning attempt, and then wrapped the Undertaker up in the Anaconda Vice that, for all its drama, mainly served to give the Undertaker a chance to catch his breath again. Soon enough, the Undertaker was on his feet and going for another Chokeslam but CM Punk wriggled free and hit a glancing GTS that the Undertaker completely no-sold and powered through to hit a Tombstone Piledriver out of nowhere! Incredibly, CM Punk kicked out at two, much to the delight of Paul Heyman and the crowd, who began to chant “This is awesome!”

Even an urn shot couldn’t stop CM Punk being planted with the Tombstone and becoming a statistic.

Another slugfest followed; however, when the Undertaker went for the Chokeslam, Mike Chioda was sent sprawling by an errant shot, which allowed CM Punk to smash the Deadman in the back of the head with the urn and avoid the Last Ride once again. CM Punk’s decision to mock the Undertaker with his signature pin cost him almost as much as the referee’s long count, however, as the Undertaker kicked out at two, driving Punk into a frustrated frenzy at his opponent’s refusal to stay down. The two then countered each other’s attempts at hitting their finishing manoeuvres before the Undertaker scooped CM Punk into a second Tombstone Piledriver and secured his incredible WrestleMania winning streak for another year. Showered by the adulation and respect of the crowd, the Undertaker than retrieved his urn and delivered one last tribute to his friend and manager while the announcer’s refused to keep their mouths shut and let the moment speak for itself. Ultimately, while the match was very good, I couldn’t help but feel like it didn’t quite kick into gear; the story was very traditional, with the in-ring action building and escalating to both men’s strengths and their tropes (the conniving little guy against the veteran big man) but it just felt like something was missing. Maybe if CM Punk had used some more underhanded tactics, given the Undertaker a bit of a run-around, or if the Undertaker could have had a couple of big bursts of energy it would have helped but it’s still a perfectly entertaining and acceptable match and I think the crowd probably would have bought Punk winning, though it never really seemed like he was going to as he didn’t get much of a chance to hit any big moves beyond those diving elbows.

The Aftermath:
This match put an end to the feud between CM Punk and the Undertaker; the next night on Raw, a distraught CM Punk came out to address how his historic run with the WWE Championship got cut short and he was denied the WrestleMania main event in favour of the Rock and John Cena. He and Paul Heyman eventually had a falling out when Heyman returned to the side of his old client, Brock Lesnar, turning Punk face in the process. On that same episode of Raw, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins (collectively known as “The Shield”) attacked the Undertaker as he tried to pay tribute to Paul Bearer once more. He was saved by his brother, Kane, and Daniel Bryan (known as “Team Hell No”) and the three of them went on lose to the newcomers and the Undertaker’s vaulted WrestleMania winning streak was finally broken at the next year’s WrestleMania in a pretty disappointing match against Brock Lesnar.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

What did you think to the contest between CM Punk and the Undertaker at WrestleMania? How would you rate it against the Undertaker’s other WrestleMania matches? Were you a fan of CM Punk disrespecting Paul Bearer’s memory to get heat for the match? Do you think the match should have been the main event bout of the night? How are you celebrating the Undertaker’s debut this year? What are some of your favourite matches and moments from his long and distinguished career? What dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, sign up to drop a comment below and or let me know what you think about the Undertaker on my social media.

Wrestling Recap: Kane vs. X-Pac (Armageddon ’99)

The Date: 12 December 1999
The Venue: National Car Rental Center; Sunrise, Florida
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Tim White
The Stakes: Steel cage match, personal rivalry between for tag team partners

The Build-Up:
After the relationship between Paul Bearer and the Undertaker broke down, Kane made a dramatic debut in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) on October 5th, 1997 (the day after my twelfth birthday, and which sadly clashes with Global James Bond Day) at Badd Blood: In Your House. In an effort to goad his older brother into a confrontation, Kane went on a rampage, attacking and disrupting WWF programming at every opportunity until the two finally clashed at WrestleMania XIV. Having made an instant impression of the WWF audience, Kane was quickly booked more as a no-nonsense “tweener” who attacked bad guys (“heels”) and good guys (“faces”) alike, to the point where he simply did what he wanted, setting stagehands on fire and even briefly capturing the WWF Championship from white-hot champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as part of an alliance with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon’s super stable, the Corporation.

Teaming with X-Pac humanised the Big Red Machine and demonised X-Pac after the turn.

After being betrayed by his brother following a short-lived alliance between the two, Kane found himself at odds with the Corporation and allied with D-Generation X, a stable of reprobates whose childish antics clashed with McMahon’s sensibilities. Although D-X soon parted ways, Kane formed a tag team with D-X’s scrappy underdog, X-Pac, who helped him to open up, speak without the aid of his voice box, and even secured him a girlfriend in the form of Tori. However, despite the two winning the WWF Tag Team Championships twice, their partnership tragically dissolved when X-Pac turned on Kane to re-join D-X. Kane turned into a sympathetic face in the process and this not only led to a series of escalating matches between the two (with this match being the second after Kane won by disqualification at the previous month’s Survivor Series) but also earned X-Pac a lifetime of hatred from the WWF fans for his actions.

The Match:
Prior to the match actually kicking off, X-Pac laid down a few additional stipulations for the bout in an interview with Michael Cole: basically, Kane’s only method of winning would be via pinfall, whereas X-Pac arranged it so that the cage door would be chained and padlocked shut and that he could either climb out of the cage or pin his opponent to win, and he also ended the interview by mocking Kane and asking him to get Tori to stop badgering him for sex. The crowd was emphatically pro-Kane as he made his trademark dramatic entrance alongside Tori and garbed in one of my favourite outfits of his (where it’s more black than red); Tori remained outside of the cage and at ringside, where she distracted the lecherous Jerry Lawler from his commentary throughout the match. Ever the embodiment of arrogance and smugness, X-Pac sauntered to the ring with all the confidence in the world, but the crowd was having none of it; their hatred towards him, as J.R. elaborated during his entrance, was only exacerbated by the fact that X-Pac had struck Tori a few times in the build up to the match, which went a long way to destroying his previous persona of a plucky underdog.

Kane dominated the early going until X-Pac crotched him on the top rope!

Rather than get into the ring and put his money where his mouth is, X-Pac lingered on the outside and made lewd advances towards Tori, so Kane clambered up the cage and went outside to put a beating on his former friend and tag team partner. Though initially overwhelmed by Kane’s size and strength, X-Pac briefly turned the tables by blasting Kane in the face with the ring bell but Kane quickly recovered with his patented zombie sit-up and chased X-Pac into the ring by once again climbing up the cage wall. Interestingly, J.R. pointed out that X-Pac could actually use his lead to his advantage and simply clamber up the other side of the cage before Kane even made it back into the ring; however, the match wouldn’t officially start until both men were inside of the ring and X-Pac decided to rush right into Kane’s trademark uppercut rather than try and escape. Once the match was officially underway, Kane manhandled X-Pac and no-sold X-Pac’s punches to his masked face; although X-Pac was quick enough to avoid Kane’s clotheslines and big shots, it backfired massively when he flew off the ropes looking for a spinning heel kick and got caught with a big slam. Kane followed this up with a military press and, naturally, J.R. began to relate the story of the match being that X-Pac is at a huge disadvantage and needs to think of some way to incapacitate his larger opponent and get the hell out of there, while Lawler simply cracked jokes about the size of Kane’s penis.

Kane overpowered X-Pac at every turn, leading to his D-X team mates coming down to interfere.

After weathering a methodical attack in the ring corners, X-Pac delivered a boot to Kane’s face and tried to hit a cross body off the top rope but Kane caught him and tried to ram his head into the steel mesh; however, X-Pac managed to slip off, push Kane into the cage wall, and finally downed the Big Red Machine with a spinning heel kick. X-Pac clambered up to the top of the cage and desperately fought off his pursuer with his “educated feet” and only managed to save himself from being hit with a big Chokeslam from the top by causing Kane to slip and land crotch-first on the ring ropes. X-Pac pressed his advantage by repeatedly slamming Kane’s head into the cage and then landed a big leg drop from the top rope, but Kane powered out and sat up once again. X-Pac was able to shut down Kane’s attempts to take control of the match with a stiff-looking tornado DDT but, while X-Pac was again able to weasel his way out of a Chokeslam, Kane finally shut the little bastard down with a big tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and then repeatedly tossed his former friend into the cage walls. Kane looked to be in firm control and prime position to hit his signature top-rope clothesline when the New Age Outlaws (“Road Dogg” Jesse James and “Mr. Ass” Billy Gunn, the WWF Tag Team Champions) ran down to the ring with a pair of bolt cutters; despite Kane’s best efforts (which amounted to pathetically reaching through the gap between the cage door and the cage wall), Road Dogg was able to break open the door, which Mr. Ass then slammed into Kane’s head and then tossed a steel chair into the ring to his D-X comrade.

Kane survived the X-Factor, hit a huge clothesline from the top of the cage, and won with a Tombstone.

Both men scrambled to their feet at around about the same time but X-Pac was able to surprise Kane with an X-Factor right onto the steel chair! Rather than go for the cover, though, X-Pac used a pair of handcuffs that the Outlaws also tossed into the ring to cuff Kane to the cage’s wire mesh and deliver two unprotected chair shots right to the Big Red Machine’s head! As X-Pac moved to climb out of the cage (why he didn’t use the door is beyond me), Tori rushed into the ring to stop him and also got hit with an X-Factor for her troubles. Kane managed to avoid another brain-scrambling chair shot by kicking the steel chair back into X-Pac’s face and then ripped his handcuff off, slipped out through the cage door, and intercepted X-Pac as he was making his way out of the cage! Kane then manhandled X-Pac back into the ring, slammed the cage door right in his face, and then clambered up to the very top of the cage to hit a massive diving clothesline! Kane then scooped up X-Pac, hit a Tombstone Piledriver, and scored the three count for the victory. Triumphant, and with the crowd finally woken up, Kane then left the ring alongside his girlfriend. Overall, this was an okay match; the crowd started hot but soon became a bit restless and bored with the slow pace and lack of excitement. The story of Kane dominating X-Pac and X-Pac having to use his quickness and wiles to counter Kane’s strength wasn’t told very well; Kane would go down pretty easily from a kick or a trip into the cage wall, which seemed to contradict how easily he shrugged off X-Pac’s other attacks. The highlight was clearly seeing Kane break his handcuffs and then perform that massive dive from the top of the cage but I think their follow-up match at No Way Out was probably a better overall contest.

The Aftermath:
Following Armageddon, the landscape of the WWF changed quite considerably; Triple H and his wife, Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, were revealed to have been in cahoots to usurp Vince McMahon’s control over the WWF and, together, they started a reign of terror that saw Triple H capture the WWF Championship and matches being booked in favour of himself and his D-X comrades. X-Pac’s issues with Kane only escalated following their match; Tori dramatically turned on Kane and sided with X-Pac, becoming his valet and lover in the process, and Kane was so heartbroken by the betrayal that he returned to the mental hospital where he had spent much of his youth. Kane made a dramatic return in the build up to No Way Out, however; once again accompanied by his father, Paul Bearer, Kane furiously attacked X-Pac and his D-X cohorts.

The two would trade victories following this but a subsequent feud was cut short.

Although Kane was able to exact a measure of revenge against Tori by Tombstoning her, he lost to X-Pac in a No Holds Barred match at No Way Out. The feud between the former friends was finally put to anti-climatic rest at WrestleMania 2000, where Kane teamed with Rikishi to defeat X-Pac and Road Dogg in a tag team match. However, their rivalry was shortly reignited in 2002 when X-Pac joined the briefly resurrected New World Order (nWo); alongside the nWo, X-Pac attacked Kane and stole his mask, which he would often wear to the ring, though it appears as though this was merely a way to write Kane off of television following an injury and X-Pac left the company before their issues could be properly resolved upon the Big Red Machine’s dramatic return.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

What did you think to the contest between Kane and X-Pac at Armageddon 1999? How would you rate it compared to their other bouts and which of their feuds, matches, and moments is your favourite? Were you a fan of the team and friendship between Kane and X-Pac back in the day? Did X-Pac turning on Kane sour you on the plucky underdog as it did so many other fans? How are you celebrating Kane’s debut this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from Kane’s long and complex career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts about the Big Red Machine, sign up to leave a comment or let me know on my social media.

Game Corner: WWE Legends of WrestleMania (Xbox 360)

Released: 20 March 2009
Developer: Yuke’s
Also Available For: Mobile and PlayStation 3

The Background:
On March 31st, 1985, Vince McMahon changed the face of the wrestling landscape forever by bringing together the biggest names in wrestling (alongside a number of celebrity guests) for the very first WrestleMania, a pay-per-view extravaganza that became the hottest event of the calendar year for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The WWE has a long and storied history with videogames that can be traced all the way back to the very first videogame ever produced baring the initials of their previous moniker of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), MicroLeague Wrestling (MicroLeague/Various, 1987). A number of releases made their way to various home consoles and even arcades over the years, with the format slowly evolving to include more and more wrestlers and match types, but the WWE’s foray into digital entertainment largely hit its stride in the late-nineties when Asmik Ace Entertainment, AKI Corporation, and THQ joined forces to produce popular titles for the Nintendo 64 and Yuke’s took their first tentative steps into the SmackDown sub-series (2000 to 2003). Many of the games produced during this time and by these developers are considered to be some of the best wrestling games ever made and, by 2009, the WWE was represented by the multi-platform SmackDown vs. Raw series (Yuke’s, 2004 to 2011), a series which was largely regarded as mostly hit and miss in terms of value for money and year-on-year improvements. Still, the series was profitable enough to convince Yuke’s to attempt a few additional WWE videogames, with Legends of WrestleMania being one of them; pushed intro production to coincide with WrestleMania 25, and focused far more on nostalgia and giving players the chance to relive and redefine some of the company’s biggest moments, Legends of WrestleMania was met with largely lacklustre reviews that took issue with its presentation and control mechanics.

The Plot:
Take control of a WWE Legend and relive some of the biggest WrestleMania moments of all time, such as Hulk Hogan’s legendary clash with Andre the Giant and Bret “Hitman” Hart’s bloody showdown with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, or rewrite and redefine history by playing these matches, and others that never took place, from the perspective of the loser (or another WWE superstar).

WWE Legends of WrestleMania is a wrestling title that gives players the chance to select from a roster of thirty-eight WWE Legends and pit them against each other in a series of matches, many of which will be immediately familiar to fans of the WWE or anyone who’s played one of Yuke’s WWE videogames before. Unlike many of the SmackDown! videogames, the focus here is much more on fast-paced, arcade-style action rather than simulating a real-life wrestling match, which has both positive and negative impacts on the gameplay. Players can move their Legend using either the left analogue stick or the directional pad (D-pad); having grown up playing the likes of WWF No Mercy (Asmik Ace Entertainment/AKI Corporation, 2000), I generally prefer to use the D-pad for these games (and most fighting games) as it feels more intuitive, but there’s little benefits from favouring one or the other. You can double tap towards or away from your opponent to run, but I had extremely minimal success with this; in most WWE games, running is mapped to one of the shoulder buttons, making it quick and easy to use, but that’s not that case here so the majority of my matches were slower, clunkier affairs as a result.

Gameplay is heavily based around QTEs and button mashing.

You can throw a strike at your opponent with X; land a few in quick succession to perform a simple combo or hold X to charge up a powerful strike, with both knocking them to the mat and leaving them prone for a leg or elbow drop or other ground-based offense. Grappling is performed with A; again, you can either tap it for a quick, weak grapple, or hold it for a stronger grapple, and use a directional input in conjunction with A to perform different moves (though your move pool is quite limited). As you attack and mix up your offense, you’ll build up a “Chain Meter”; as it reaches three different levels, you’ll gain access to more powerful grapples, with your finisher being unlocked at Level 3 and performed by pressing X and A together. Successfully landing attacks drains your opponent’s health meter and weakens them for either a pin or submission; submission moves are generally locked in when the opponent’s on the mat and see you mashing buttons to wear your opponent down, or you can pin them with B. If either of these things happen to you, you’ll need to mash buttons or full a circular meter to hit a small target in order to stave of the attack or kick out of the pin attempt.

While reversals can be tricky to pull off, finishers are a matter of hitting onscreen button prompts.

You’ll need to mix and match your offense in order to build up your Chain Meter (though simply mashing X can work just as well), and you can sacrifice a chunk of it by taunting with B and Y and gaining temporary buffs. This can all be a little clunky but it generally works quite well; what doesn’t work quite as well is the game’s reversal system. Rather than map counters to a shoulder button, WWE Legends of WrestleMania has them performed by pressing away from your opponent and Y or holding Y to block. I found this to be incredibly unreliable, as my Legend would often just step backwards or even run away, and I really don’t understand why this wasn’t just mapped to the Right Bumper. Unlike the majority of other wrestling games, WWE Legends of WrestleMania heavily relies on button mashing, button inputs, and quick-time events (QTES); you can’t even Irish Whip your opponent without a QTE flashing on the screen and many of the event matches in the WrestleMania Tour mode start, or are punctuated by, QTE sequences that see you mashing or hitting buttons in a test of strength, chain grapple, and other similar sequences. This also extends to the finishers; after pressing X and A, you’ll need to hit the QTE prompts to land your finisher sequence and do the maximum amount of damage, which is certainly unique but it comes at the cost of severely limiting the amount of finishers available in create-a-wrestler mode

There’s not much to differentiate the wrestlers but managers add a little spice to the matches.

Contrary to other wrestling videogames; there isn’t really a weight class or detection system in WWE Legends of WrestleMania; playing as King Kong Bundy is largely the same as playing as Shawn Michaels, but there are some notable exceptions. For example, while Mr. Perfect can body slam and lift the likes of Yokozuna without issue, some Legends are noticeably more nimble than others and some superheavyweights struggle with climbing cage walls and are limited in their aerial offense. Some wrestling games like to lump their roster into categories and assign them abilities that play to their strengths, but that isn’t the case here so the majority of the roster’s differences are reflected in their move pool: Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka isn’t going to be quite as technically adept as Ric Flair but it’s not as though the Undertaker exhibits any supernatural abilities that other big men, such as the Big Boss Man, have. One major aspect of the game is the presence of managers; the likes of Paul Bearer and “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart can accompany Legends to the ring and can interfere on your behalf at the cost of your current Chain Level, which makes them super useful when they’re in your corner and quite the hindrance when they’re in your opponent’s.

All the standard match types are available, with plenty of button mashing and QTEs sprinkled about.

Wrestling matches have all the standard options you might expect; you can set the difficulty level of the CPU in the options, manipulating the computer’s use of strikes and reversals and such, and customise win conditions (such as turning pin falls and disqualifications on or off and changing the amount of time you can spend outside of the ring). There’s also a number of additional match types on offer that will be recognisable to fans of wrestling games, with most featuring a twist in the game’s new engine and mechanics that mostly boil down to button mashing. You’ll need to mash buttons to either escape from, or prevent your opponent from escaping, a cage or break up a pin fall in a tag team match, for example. Similarly, you’ll find finishers disabled in the Royal Rumble match (there aren’t even special Royal Rumble finishers like in other games) and you’ll instead have to mash buttons to try and force your opponent out of the ring or save yourself from elimination. These components are less prominent in Hell in a Cell and ladder matches, however; you can start Hell in a Cell on top of the structure, which is a nice touch, and can throw your opponent through the cage wall or down to the ring using environmental grapples. Ladder matches are actually much more enjoyable than in other wrestling games I’ve played; you pick up a ladder (or any weapon) by double tapping B and a helpful glowing target shows you where to set it up and climbing and retrieving a championship belt is quite simple compared to other wrestling titles. Retrieving a weapon from under the ring can be a little trickier, though, as can utilising the ringside area or battling into the crowd or up the aisleway, as it requires you to hit A in specific areas around the arena, which can be difficult thanks to the janky controls. You’ll also find such staples as Iron Man matches and Last Man Standing matches on offer here, which are fun ways of mixing up the gameplay, but there’s nothing to really set the game’s matches or gameplay apart from other wrestling titles and very few of these appear in WrestleMania Tour.

WrestleMania Tour sees your reliving, rewriting, and redefining classic matches.

Speaking of which, you’ll be given three single-player options here: “Relive” (where you recreate specific WrestleMania matches), “Rewrite” (where you tackle other WrestleMania matches from the perspective of the historical loser), and “Redefine” (which features unique “dream matches”). Each of these matches is proceeded by a short hype package that features clips from real-life wrestlers and the matches and feud between the competitors, and you’ll be given a series of optional objectives to fulfil in order to earn points. These range from performing a certain number of attacks, grapples, counters, and finishers, winning the match, performing taunts, winning pre-match sequences, and more specific environmental situations (such as winning Chain Grapple sequences, slamming your opponent through an announce table, or grappling up near the entrance). Earning points fills a meter and, once it fills high enough, you’ll earn a medal that will award you with unlockable match types, attires, and more. There’s nothing to gain from playing WrestleMania Tour on anything other than the easiest difficulty, with the computer’s abilities completely neutered in your favour, beyond personal pride so you may as well manipulate the game’s settings to make things easier for you. This mode is also probably the best part of the game as it lets you recreate some iconic WrestleMania moments and matches, and meeting the objectives can be fun, but things quickly get quite frustrating if you’re trying to earn all the medals and monotony sets in quite fast as there’s not much variety in terms of the match types (there are no multi-man matches in this mode, for example) beyond the odd cage or ladder match and you can completely ignore the objectives if you like since winning is all that really matters.

Graphics and Sound:
Wrestling games can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to their graphics, especially with their in-game character models. WWE Legends of WrestleMania favours a slightly exaggerated, action figure-like aesthetic for its Legends, which is typically common when bringing the WWE’s old school superstars to life, and for the most part this actually looks a lot better than in some of the SmackDown! titles. This is primarily because WWE Legends of WrestleMania is largely consistent with its presentation, rather than fluctuating wildly between hyper realistic and massively off-model. Notably, however, you won’t find any female Legends or superstars on offer here, and there’s no on-screen referee either, which is a pretty big step back for me.

While character models look pretty good, the camera and arenas leave a lot to be desired.

The number of arenas on offer isn’t exactly much to shout about either. There’s very little variety on offer as you can only fight in WrestleMania arenas; there is a Royal Rumble arena, however, (and ironically you can only ever fight a Royal Rumble match in this arena) but there’s no Raw, SmackDown!, or other pay-per-view arenas on offer. The crowds are as sub-standard as ever, sporting signs and attire tied to their favourite superstars and parting to allow you to fight over the barricade (though essentially acting as barriers to keep you enclosed), but entrances have been a bit neutered. The game does offer the old-school gondola entrances, which is kind of cool, and recreates the old-school name plates and presentation of the pre- and early-“Attitude Era” of the WWE. Unfortunately, however, the presentation does take a bit of getting used to; the camera is very zoomed in, meaning that your Legends take up a lot of screen space and this can make it a little difficult to be fully aware of your surroundings. The camera is prone to wild swings and odd positioning, which is very annoying, and there’s a noticeable delay between button presses and executing grapples, making for a much more deliberate and slower pace to the game. Though I eventually learned to live with these niggling problems, it did take me a while to adjust to the presentation and gameplay style of the game.

Video clips add some historical context but the commentary continues to be mundane and predictable.

The inclusion of video clips and real-world footage adds to the drama and intrigue of the WrestleMania Tour mode, but these are nothing you haven’t really seen before in a wrestling title. The same goes for the entrance videos and music, which is all pretty much as you’d expect (with a few inconsistencies here and there, such as the Big Boss Man utilising his Attitude Era theme), and this extends to the in-game commentary. Provided by the legendary duo of Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler, the commentary is basically exactly the same as in the SmackDown! series, though there are some specific new sound clips added in to refer to the game’s roster and the rivalries on offer in WrestleMania Tour. I don’t play these games for in-depth commentary or crowd reactions but even I was astounded by how cheap and lazy these aspects were here. The same can be said of the create-a-wrestler options, which offers clothing, body, and hair options all ripped straight from the SmackDown! games but actually have less to offer in some respects: there’s less naming options available, less moves, less finishers, and even less clothing options as everything is geared towards meeting the old-school aesthetic and altered gameplay mechanics of the title.

Enemies and Bosses:
Being a wrestling title, every single in-game Legend is potentially your enemy; however, as mentioned, it’s not really necessary to play as or fight against each of the game’s roster in order to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Once you’ve played as and against a couple of the Legends, you’ve pretty much experienced all of the variety the game’s conflicts have to offer; your biggest hurdle will be getting the timing of the weird reversal system down, but you can circumnavigate this by just attacking your opponent head-on with strikes and landing strong grapples as and when they unlock. Guys like Bam Bam Bigelow might look big and intimidating, and the Honky Tonk Man might be the ultimate opportunist, but it’s not like you have to worry about character-specific abilities so what works against one will work against all as long as you can hit the QTE prompts when your opponent does get the drop on you.

Meeting objectives is pretty simple until Steve Austin butts heads with the Rock.

In the Relive portion of WrestleMania Tour, you’ll have to battle against specific opponents in recreations or classic WrestleMania matches; this means you’re forced into assuming the role of the historical victor, or loser, of specific matches. One of the most recurring playable characters in this mode is, of course, Hulk Hogan, who must take on King Kong Bundy in a steel cage, and Andre the Giant and the Ultimate Warrior in recreations of their iconic matches. As long as you win your matches, you’re fine, but you’ll need to meet a certain amount of objectives to earn your medal; this includes stuff like kicking out of a pin attempt, causing the opponent to bleed, or winning with a specific move. As you play through these matches, the amount and difficulty of the objectives will increase; I first noticed them becoming more complex in the classic clash between Steve Austin and Bret Hart, which requires you to attack Austin’s leg five times, fight into the crowd, utilise a steel chair, and win with the Sharpshooter but the difficulty severely ramps up for Relive’s final match. This is a recreation of Austin’s WrestleMania XV bout against the Rock; to achieve this medal, you need to meet every single objective, which can be extremely laborious as one of your objectives is reversing the Rock Bottom, to say nothing of all of the many environmental grapples you need to hit on the outside of the ring. I definitely recommend turning the game’s difficulty level and sliders all the way down in your favour and making liberal use of the health regeneration taunt to increase your chances in this match.

Objectives get even simpler in Rewrite and Redefine, meaning the medals are pretty simple to earn.

In Rewrite, you tackle different WrestleMania matches in the role of the historical loser and must fulfil different objectives in order to change history. Since you’re rewriting the outcome of these matches, these objectives are far less demanding and start off as simple stuff like performing and reversing grapples, taunting, and hitting a finisher and don’t really get more complex than landing more attacks, performing more taunts, maybe making the opponent bleed, and performing multiple finishers and reversals. Honestly, these matches were an absolute breeze, with even Bret and Shawn’s infamous WrestleMania XII Iron Man match providing little challenge beyond a ten-minute time limit. This carries over to Redefine, though the matches and competitors at least have a little more variety; here, you can pick which Legends you want to play as and will witness the likes of Andre and Giant and Big John Studd in a Hell in a Cell match and Mr. Perfect and the Big Boss Man in a ladder match. Redefine culminates with a dead simple no disqualification match between the Undertaker and King Kong Bundy that might have a lot of objectives but they’re nothing compared to the Austin/Rock match (boiling down to stuff like hitting five moves in a row at the start, two top rope moves, three reversals and taunts, and two finishers, which is still laborious but nowhere near as frustrating as in that aforementioned match).

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
There are a few options available to you during matches to help turn the tide in your favour; you can toss your opponent to the outside of the ring and interact with the steel steps, announce tables, and barricades to deal more damage to your opponent and, when your opponent is positioned correctly, pull weapons out from under the ring to bust them open or beat them down. When near the aisleway, you can clunkily force them up to the entrance way where there are often other environmental grapple points on offer that let you choke your opponent with wires, toss them into the stage dressing, and even make use of a drum kit but there’s no backstage brawling here. As your Chain Meter builds up, you gain access to taunts that can provide you with temporary buffs; these include regenerating your health, upping your speed and durability, and making reversals easier to pull off for a limited time. Managers can also provide many of the same temporary buffs and also attack or distract your opponent to give you the edge in matches, though utilising these will cost you part of your meter so you’re often asked to pick between receiving a temporary buff or earning your finisher.

Additional Features:
There are a mere nineteen Achievements on offer in WWE Legends of WrestleMania, which is astoundingly low for a wrestling title. Achievements are primarily tied to obtaining medals in WrestleMania Tour or making and using a created wrestler but you can also earn them by winning matches using only grapples or with other specific moves. Sadly, in a game featuring so many WWE Legends, there aren’t more fun or notable Achievements; for example, you can use Hogan to slam Andre all you like in the WrestleMania III arena but it won’t pop a “Unstoppable Force” Achievement. As you play, however, your win/loss record and other statistics are recorded in the “Hall of Fame”, which is good for the statisticians out there, but there’s no way to compete for championships outside of the WrestleMania Tour mode, no create-a-pay-per-view mode, general manager mode, or even WWE Universe mode so you’re basically limited to exhibition matches and the WrestleMania Tour.

Create a wrestler and take on tiers of Legends or import Superstars from SmackDown vs. Raw 2009.

Well, not entirely; there is also the “Legend Killer” mode. Here, you use a created wrestler to take on six tiers, comprised of ten back-to-back singles matches and culminating in a showdown with one of six WrestleMania Legends. You’ll earn experience points (EXP) by winning matches, and even more for mixing and matching your gameplay style as you play, which you can spend upgrading your created wrestler’s attributes and earning more Achievements. The create-a-wrestler mode is basically the same as in the SmackDown! series, including many of the same hair and clothing options as in those games and you can also fully customise their entrance or even create a tag team, though there’s very little incentive without a Universe mode. While there’s no downloadable content on offer here, you can transfer basically the entire male roster of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 (Yuke’s, 2008) if you have a save file for that game on your system, which greatly expands the amount of moves and finishers available to you. While this is a cool feature, and something I wish WWE games would implement more often, it doesn’t equate to much more than adding modern superstars to the roster (which really doesn’t mean all that much as you can’t play as them in WrestleMania Tour).

The Summary:
I do enjoy a bit of a wrestling title, and quickly and easily nabbing a few Achievements, and as a big wrestling fan I enjoy revisiting some of the classic wrestlers of the past but WWE Legends of WrestleMania is a quite a bare-bones title. You can see everything the game has to offer in an hour or so and plough through the main story campaign in an afternoon; the Legend Killer mode might take a little longer but it’s hardly going to take up all your time and attention like a General Manager or Universe mode. The gameplay is a bit jarring at first thanks to the odd camera perspective and the plodding, clunky, QTE-heavy nature of the mechanics, but pretty easy to master and, before long, you’ll be winning matches in no time at all, meaning the game quickly gets boring. Yes, there’s a few other match types on offer but there’s little incentive to play these as you can’t compete for belts and I can’t imagine it’s that much fun to play against other human opponents, either. The create-a-wrestler is more lacklustre than ever and there’s a strange lack of focus on guys like the Undertaker, and some notable omissions from the roster (neither Kane nor Mankind are available, for example), though the ability to transfer the roster from WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 is a neat touch. Ultimately, it’s not bad if you pick it up cheap but probably not really worth keeping in your collection once you’ve mined all of the Achievements. I appreciate the developers trying something a little different but this clearly isn’t a Triple-A title and is really only for fans of the rock ‘n’ wrestling era of the then-WWF. If you’re really in the mood for an arcade style wrestling game from around this time, you’d potentially be better off playing something like WWE All Stars (THQ San Diego, 2011).

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Are you a fan of WWE Legends of WrestleMania? Did you like that the developers actually tried to do something a little different with this release or did the dumbed down gameplay put you off? Which of WrestleMania Tour’s matches was your favourite and did you ever achieve Legend Killer status? What did you think to the finisher system and the abundance of QTEs? How did you find the create-a-wrestler mode and were you disappointed by the lack of WWE Universe in this title? Were there any classic WWE superstars you felt were missing from the game and which of the available Legends was your go-to character? How are you celebrating WrestleMania’s anniversary this year and what’s your favourite WrestleMania moment? Drop your thoughts below by signing up or leave a comment on my social media to let me know what you think about WWE Legends of WrestleMania and check back for more wrestling content throughout the year.

Wrestling Recap [3:16 Day]: HBK vs. Austin (WrestleMania XIV)

“Talk about your psalms, talk about “John 3:16”…Austin 3:16 says I just whupped your ass!”

With those immortal words, spoken by the legendary pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after winning the King of the Ring tournament on 23 June 1996, a momentous wrestling career was about to unfold before our eyes that would see everyone’s favourite beer-swigging, finger-gesturing anti-hero become not just an industry icon but a mainstream icon as well. Here’s to yah, Steve!

The Date: 29 March 1998
The Venue: FleetCenter; Boston, Massachusetts
The Commentary: Jim “J.R.” Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler
The Referee: Mike Chioda, with “Iron” Mike Tyson as the special enforcer
The Stakes: Main event singles match for the WWF Championship

The Build-Up:
As any self-respecting wrestling fan will tell you, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was clawing back to prominence in 1999; after being beaten in the weekly ratings by World Championship Wrestling’s (WCW) Monday Nitro in the weekly television ratings for nearly two years, the WWF’s “Attitude Era” kept fans glued to the product, many of whom were deeply invested in the rivalry between the loud-mouthed, anti-authority “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. Another crucial factor in getting eyes back on McMahon’s product was the outrageous antics of D-Generation X, a group of wrestlers led by then-current champion, the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, who wielded incredible backstage influence and whose members were often involved in some of the WWF’s most controversial storylines.

The drama in the ring was reflected backstage as questions lingered regarding HBK’s professionalism.

After the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” saw Bret “The Hitman” Hart part ways with the WWF, McMahon appeared on television more frequently as the evil “Mr. McMahon” and frequently clashed with Austin’s rebellious ways. Hot off a feud with The Rock over the Intercontinental Championship, and despite McMahon’s efforts, Austin won a shot at the big belt, and a slot in the main event of WrestleMania XIV (also billed as WrestleMania X-raided) by winning the Royal Rumble event. He further raised the ire of the chairman when he publicly insulted legendary boxer Mike Tyson on an episode of Raw Is War, though the deck appeared to be stacked against Austin as Tyson revealed himself to be in league with D-Generation X. There was also a great deal of behind the scenes drama surrounding this match as, at the time, Shawn had a bit of a reputation for being unprofessional and, despite nursing a legitimate back injury that would scupper his career for some time, there was some doubt as to whether he would actually lay down for Austin as planned, to the point where the Undertaker was prepared to take matters into his own hands if necessary.

The Match:
Fans today would probably hate the promo package for this match as the majority of it was focused entirely on “The Baddest Man on the Planet” and his status as the special enforcer for the match. No doubt, Mike Tyson was a massive get back in the day and really helped to put more eyes on the product; for me, this is the kind of mainstream star you want involved in wrestling, not fly-by-night pop/rap stars, but then again what the hell for I know? Anyway, yeah, the package emphasises not only that Tyson is an absolute bad-ass but that he is D-X through-and-through and Austin barely features at all in it which, considering he was white-hot at this time, I can only assume is all part of the larger story of McMahon not wanting to put any spotlight on Austin and his rebellious ways.

The deck was stacked against Austin as HBK had every advantage going into the match.

Tyson, garbed in a D-X shirt, is the first to enter the ring and clearly seems to be enjoying his involvement with the product, which is always good to see. The crowd is, however, largely apathetic towards Tyson, especially once they catch a glimpse of Austin prowling around backstage, to say nothing of when his iconic glass shatters and he makes his way to the ring. After performing his signature rope taunt, Austin immediately gets all up in Tyson’s face, establishing right away that he isn’t afraid of or intimidated by Iron Mike. Shawn Michaels, “the greatest champion of all time” according to J.R., then makes a grandiose entrance; accompanied by some chump named Triple H (who was the WWF European Champion at the time) and Chyna and played to the ring by the Chris Warren D-X band, he expertly played the role of the cocky, arrogant heel by dancing about and wearing the smuggest grin on his face. And why not? Not only did he have the muscle in his corner, Tyson was also in his pocket so he had every advantage in the world except for the unanimous crowd support that Austin received. Tyson makes his presence known from the moment the bell rings by nonchalantly swiping at Austin’s ankles as he (as in Austin) is pacing the ring; when HBK hops about and taunts Austin, Austin gives him the traditional two-finger salute but HBK’s game plan, early on, is to wind Austin up into a frenzy by ducking and jiving away from him. Austin, however, puts a stop to that by throwing some punches in the corner, yanking down Shawn’s tights to expose his ass (much to the delight of the crowd), and finally tossing him out of the ring and into his D-X buddies.

A great deal of the match involves the two brawling on the outside.

When Austin follows to press his attack, he is assaulted by Triple H and tossed into the metal barricade. For his efforts, referee Mike Chioda has Shawn’s running buddies ejected from ringside. All of this was still enough for HBK to gain the advantage and a ringside brawl ensues that sees Shawn slam Austin with the band’s equipment and toss him into a dumpster but, the moment they get back into the ring, Austin regains control by countering HBK’s driving axe-handle and whipping the WWF Champion into a corner for Shawn’s signature flip spot. Austin starts to work on Shawn’s arm with a series of stomps; he shuts down Shawn’s speedy offense by dumping him into the ropes but, though he takes a dive to the outside and onto the table, HBK is still wily enough to avoid being hit with the Stone Cold Stunner. Austin presses his advantage, putting a beating on Shawn and going for a series of pins before wearing Shawn down with a headlock. Seems a bit early into the match for a rest hold but, considering Shawn’s injury and the bumps he’s already taken, it’s perhaps not surprising. HBK counters out of the hold and is finally able to gain some momentum by enduring a beating and walloping Austin in the face with the ring bell, which the referee conveniently misses.

The pace is a bit all over the place, possibly because of Shawn’s injury, making for quite a dull match.

Back in the ring, HBK starts working over Austin’s head despite clearing struggling with the pain of his back injury; more uninspired and slow-paced holds and moves follow before Austin springs back to life, tackles HBK, and tosses him outside again! HBK recovers and starts smacking Austin’s left leg and knee off the ring post and the steel steps, as though the match needs to slow down any more, and continues the assault when he gets back in the ring to put Austin’s leg through the wringer for a bit. Austin surprises HBK with a kick up the ass and a roll-up but this isn’t modern-day WWE so Shawn easily kicks out and continues to wear down Austin’s leg using stomps and the ring ropes. When Austin rolls to the outside for a reprieve, Shawn hits him with a baseball slide and Tyson hefts Austin back into the ring so that HBK can lock in the Figure Four Leglock. Despite HBK grabbing the ropes for additional leverage, Austin refuses to tap out and successfully reverses the hold and buy himself some breathing time. Austin almost catches HBK with a pin off a catapult into the corner and then Shawn transitions into a sleeper hold; in his desperation to get out of the hold, Mike Chioda gets squashed in the corner and taken out of the match.

Austin captures his first World Championship thanks to Tyson revealing his true colours.

The match’s pace finally picks up a bit as Austin hammers on HBK, does his Mudhole Stomp in the corner, and fires back with a flurry of offense. Shawn desperately knocks Austin down with his flying forearm/kip up spot and then clambers up to the top rope for his big elbow drop. After landing the move, Shawn begins tuning up the band for the knockout shot but, when he flies in with Sweet Chin Music, Austin ducks it, and goes for the Stunner! Shawn counters out of it, goes for the Superkick again but Austin catches his foot, spins him around, and hits the Stunner! Tyson then slides into the ring and counts a quick three count to give Austin the WWF Championship in a very sudden end to a fairly lacklustre match. Afterwards, Tyson reveals that he was an Austin 3:16 fan all along, a point he emphasises by laying HBK out with a big right hand and then leaving the ring with the new champion.

The Aftermath:
WrestleMania XIV was a monumental night in WWF history; not only was this the first of six WWF Championship runs for Austin, it was also the night that the WWF “scratch logo” became the new logo of the company; the “winged eagle” world championship belt was also replaced with a new design the following night, and Shawn Michaels took a four-year hiatus to recover from his injuries and get his shit together (which, in turn, saw Triple H succeed him as the leader of D-Generation X and truly begin his own ascent to the main event scene).

The aftermath saw some of the WWF’s greatest moments, with Austin at the heart of them.

Of course, the most prominent thing to come out of this event was Austin/McMahon feud; for the next five months or so, McMahon did everything he could to try and get the belt off Austin by either screwing him out of it or throwing challengers and obstacles his way. This led to the creation of the Corporation stable, Mankind’s transformation into Dude Love, the debut of Kane, and a series of successful title defences on Austin’s behalf before he was finally forced to vacate the belt when he was pinned by both the Undertaker and Kane. Austin and McMahon also got into a series of verbal and physical altercations, including a steel cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and the war between the two helped the WWF to overtake the competition and establish themselves as the hottest game in town. Sadly, Austin’s white-hot run came to a premature end when he was written off television to get neck surgery and, while he did reappear in the company some time later, it was clear that his career was winding down thanks to fatigue and mounting injuries.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to the contest between Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV? How would you rate it compared to their other bouts and which of their feuds, matches, and moments is your favourite? Were you a fan of HBK, D-X, and Tyson? How are you celebrating 3:16 Day this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from Austin’s illustrious career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and let me know what you think about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

Wrestling Recap: Hogan vs. Undertaker (Survivor Series ’91)

The Date: 27 November 1991
The Venue: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, Michigan
The Commentary: Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
The Referee: Earl Hebner
The Stakes: WWF Championship match

The Build-Up:
The Undertaker made his debut on this day at the 1990 at the 1990 Survivor Series as a heel; aligned with Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Team and eventually partnered up with the repulsive Paul Bearer, the Undertaker was portrayed as a zombie-like force of nature who was impervious the pain, implacable by nature, and apparently at the whim of a mysterious urn wielded by his manager. Hulk Hogan, meanwhile, was several months into his third run as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) Champion, having defeated Sergeant Slaughter earlier in the year at WrestleManiaVII. However, thanks to mostly being booked into squash matches, the Undertaker went unpinned (on television, at least) for a year and this impressive statistic was enough to plug him in as Hogan’s next opponent in what was billed as Hogan’s “Gravest Challenge” to date.

The Match:
Rather than preceding the match with one of their trademark promo packages, this particular match is preceded by a couple of pre-taped promos from each of the competitors; Hogan, basically, has taken offense to the Undertaker and Paul Bearer’s threat to bury the hopes and dreams of all the Hulkamaniacs but ‘Taker stoically threatens that Hulkamania has had its day and is long overdue for a burial.

Hogan’s bombastic showboating soon gave way to slow, plodding offense.

During his characteristically enthusiastic entrance, Hogan made a point to upturn and demolish the casket that was placed at ringside but the Undertaker maintained his stoic demeanour and remained unimpressed with Hogan’s showboating and simply set out to do what he promised: destroy Hulkamania. Unfortunately, given that it was 1991 and early ‘Taker (as well as Hogan’s limitations), this meant a lot of slow, plodding offense and an abundance of headlocks, face and beck chokes, and slow, measured strikes from the Undertaker.

Bearer’s interference and the Undertaker’s indomitable nature kept Hogan on the back foot.

Hogan, of course, was all about the superhuman energy and resolve; even though he spends the majority of the match on the back foot and seemingly unable to actually hurt the Undertaker, he continually came back time and time again even after having his head slammed off the steel ring steps and being choked by an electrical cord. Of course, Hogan had the crowd firmly in his corner right from the beginning of the match and they exploded into cheers whenever Hogan mounted some offense and showered the arena with boos every time Bearer got involved behind Hebner’s back.

Undertaker’s moveset back then mainly consisted of dull choke and claw holds.

A far cry from the later brawling and high-impact offense of his later years, the Undertaker’s plan of attack mainly consisted of punches, clotheslines, and full-face chokes; his gameplay, apparently, was to wear down Hogan and drain him of his much-vaulted energy and, every time he pressed his advantage with a Claw Hold or similar move, ‘Taker would turn to Bearer to draw power from the mysterious urn, his eyes rolling into the back of his head, and my interest and excitement draining right along with Hogan’s vigour.

Hogan’s comeback meant nothing once Flair snuck in a steel chair to give ‘Taker the win.

Of course, as relentless and dominating as the Undertaker was, Hogan is still Hogan; jacked up (and blown up) to the nines and full of passion, Hogan completely no-sold the Undertaker’s Tombstone Piledriver to mount his trademark comeback. This onslaught was enough to stagger the Undertaker and drive him to his knees but, right as Hogan looked to be setting up for the finish, Ric Flair sauntered down to ringside to distract Hogan. Flair then slid a steel chair into the ring, which the Undertaker summarily Tombstoned Hogan onto, and the match ended with the Deadman being crowned the new WWF Champion to the chagrin of Monsoon, the delight of Heenan, and a brief cheer from the crowd.

Sadly, it’s every Hogan match ever and even has a screwy finish to keep him looking strong.

It’s not an especially long of exciting match, to be honest; it’s basically every Hulk Hogan match you’ve ever seen as Hogan takes a beating, pulls out sly heel moves and tactics, and spends the majority of the match either on his back or taking a beating because he’s too gassed to work a long, involved match and is simply building up for his characteristic comeback. The story was far more interesting than the actual in-ring content as ‘Taker was more about slow, boring offense and shrugging off attacks and Hogan was only ever really good for pumping up the crowd and hitting his signature moves; the entire match was about a clash of ideals and wills and the potential death of Hulkamania but, whereas Hogan was able to overcome all his previous challenges, he failed to overcome his “Gravest Challenge”. However, he arguably only lost the match due to Flair’s interference and looked set to for a win before Flair distracted him, tainting the Undertaker’s iconic first championship win in true Hogan fashion, which is a shame as the Undertaker looked so dominant throughout the match and this should have been a clean win. Still, at least it’s a short match; the WWF was a very different time back then and, while I respect Hogan and his impact on the industry, I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of his in-ring work and he didn’t seem to have a lot of chemistry with ‘Taker, who was worked a very premeditated and limited style thanks to his commitment to the zombie aspects of his character.

The Aftermath:
Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker faced off in a rematch less than a week later at This Tuesday in Texas, which Hogan, of course, won and, by WrestleMania VIII, both men were embroiled in entirely separate feuds and the Undertaker would not win the WWF Championship again until WrestleMania 13 some six years later. Despite both being in the company at the same time for many years following this match, the two never crossed paths again and would not face off in a championship match until Judgment Day in 2002, when the Undertaker defeated Hogan (then billed as Hollywood Hulk Hogan) for the Undisputed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Championship.

My Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.


What did you think to the contest between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker at the 1991 Survivor Series? How would you rate it compared to their other bouts and which of their feuds, matches, and moments is your favourite? Were you a fan of the Undertaker’s when he debuted and were you hyped for his showdown with the Immortal Hulk Hogan? Which of the two were you rooting for, given Hogan’s incredible popularity and the Undertaker’s dominant first year? How are you celebrating the Undertaker’s debut this year, what are some of your favourite matches and moments from his long and distinguished career, and what dream match would you have liked to see him involved in? Whatever your thoughts, drop a comment below and let me know what you think about the Undertaker.