Thursday, March 14, 2024

Wrestling Do-Overs: WrestleMania IX

Welcome to another edition of Wrestling Do-Overs, where I'll examine a wrestling show or angle and reshape it as I think it should've been (For other examples see my WrestleMania IV and Starrcade '89 editions).  Today I'll be going back and retroactively fixing what is the most widely reviled of all WrestleManias, the ninth edition!

Now let me preface this by saying 'Mania 9 is not my least favorite of them all.  It's certainly not a good show but it had a few decent matches and despite the worst-booked ending ever in the history of wrestling-- nay, entertainment-- nay, humankind, there have been worse installments in WrestleMania history.

But don't think I'm letting this show off the hook.  It was quite clearly a mess and could've been fixed up pretty nicely with only a few adjustments.  So let's first take a look at the lineup and see why it didn't work.

Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka - 18:13
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Headshrinkers - 14:22
Doink the Clown vs. Crush - 8:28
Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund - 3:45
Tag Team Championship: Money Inc. vs. The Mega-Maniacs - 18:27
Lex Luger vs. Mr. Perfect - 10:56
The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez - 7:33
WWF Championship: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna - 8:55
WWF Championship: Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan - 0:22

Yeesh, that's what passed for a WrestleMania lineup in 1993?  Okay, first let's look at what did work.

To start with, I kinda liked the Roman Colosseum theme - I know, it was corny and led to way too many cheap laughs, but overall I enjoyed the idea of dressing up Caesar's Palace as a Roman arena.  It gave the show a nice sense of pageantry and made it look different from other PPVs and even other WrestleManias.  Could they have left out some of the window dressing, like making the announcers dress up in togas?  Yes.  But overall I didn't have a problem with the theme, and holding the event outside made it feel special.  By the way, the officially announced attendance figure was 16,891.  I call bullshit on that.  Look at this pic below.  No chance in hell did they fit more than 8,000 in that little venue, and that's being generous.

17 thousand people my ass

A few of the matches were good, as I said before.

The opening Shawn Michaels-Tatanka match was solid stuff, and while certainly not one of Shawn's career highlights, was easily the best match Tatanka ever had.  This got a good amount of time (though I would've shortened it to maybe 15 minutes) and Shawn got to steal the show (by default, but still).  The countout ending was weak, but I still like this match.

The Steiners-Headshrinkers bout was another good one.  Rick and Scott had burst on the WWF scene a few months earlier and were way over, and these two teams meshed quite well actually.  I'll never forget the spot where Rick reversed a Doomsday Device-type move by catching Samu in midair and suplexing him off Fatu's shoulders.  Just a sick spot.

This was both craze-balls and amaze-balls

I found Crush vs. Doink inoffensive and mildly entertaining, so I'll leave that one alone.  Doink's psycho clown character was great, and so of course they turned him babyface six months later and he became a throwaway comedy act.  Dipshits.  Anywho, this match can stay just because it furthered a feud.
The advertised main event of Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna, while ranking very low in the pantheon of WrestleMania main events, was a cleverly worked little match where Bret had to get really creative in battling such a huge opponent.  Yes, the ending sucked - why would salt to the eyes be enough to pin the WWF Champion?  Maybe hit a legdrop or something, huh Yoko?  But otherwise this was a fun match that made a new monster heel.  And had that actually ended the show it would've been the first WrestleMania to end with a heel Champion.  It would've been historic.  But no, they fucked it all up in a way that made both participants look like chumps.

So those are the things that worked for me.  The rest of the show didn't.  So we're gonna change it.

The first match to get the magical do-over is Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund.  Razor was the hot new monster heel, having already co-headlined the previous two PPVs, including a helluva good WWF Title match with Bret Hart at the Royal Rumble.  Bob Backlund had just returned to the WWF after a decade-long absence and turned in a 61-minute showing at said Rumble, and it seemed like they were repushing him.  But they didn't.  He lost to Razor here in under four minutes and was forgotten about until over a year later when he unsuccessfully challenged Bret, snapped, and turned heel.  So rather than waste everyone's time with a guy most fans in 1993 weren't even that familiar with, how 'bout instead Mr. Perfect is the guy to last 61 minutes in the Rumble, while Randy Savage continues his feud with Razor from the previous fall?

That's right, in late 1992 Savage dropped the WWF Title back to Ric Flair with Razor's help, and at Survivor Series Savage and Perfect faced Flair and Razor in a tag match with no conclusive ending.  Flair and Perfect feuded until January (more on that in a bit), while Savage and Razor went their separate ways.  What should've happened was a big one-on-one feud between the two, culminating in a huge WrestleMania match that would've utilized Savage's still-considerable talents in putting Razor over.  By the way, Vince's reasoning for not featuring Savage in an in-ring role in 1993 was that he was too old, right?  Savage had just turned 40.  Bob Backlund was 43.  For fuck's sake Vince, do a little math!

So it's Razor Ramon vs. Randy Savage in a blazing 15-minute fight, with Razor going over clean.

Savage deserved a match

Next up, the Tag Team Title match gets fixed.  Look, I totally understand them bringing back Hulk Hogan, as he was the company's biggest-ever draw at the time and giving him a match at WrestleMania is a no-brainer.  But the Money Inc. vs. MegaManiacs bout was soooooooo boring and overlong.  Giving this eighteen minutes is fucking insane, and having it end in a DQ was even weirder.  This should've gone ten minutes and ended with Hogan and Beefcake winning the straps.  I mean why not?  It would've been a big feel-good moment and they could've dropped them back to Money Inc. a few weeks later in some kinda screwjob finish.  Then this match would've had a purpose at least.

Mr. Perfect vs. Lex Luger.  Few matches in the history of WrestleMania have been as disappointing as this one.  Luger had his WWF debut at the Rumble, with a stupid Narcissist gimmick, and soon targeted Bobby Heenan's former protege.  The match here was a completely forgettable 11-minute bore.  What's strange though is Perfect had just wrapped up a big feud against Ric Flair, by defeating him in a Loser Leaves the WWF match on free television the night after the Rumble.  The reason Flair opted to leave was because Vince told him he was no longer going to be used as a top talent (I'm guessing due to age, but again Vince, BOB BACKLUND).  But if you're gonna unload a huge draw like Ric Flair, why wouldn't you book his swan song for the biggest show of the year??  So instead of Flair vs. Perfect on RAW (which was a great match, don't get me wrong), now it takes place at the Showcase of the Immortals.  Because logic.  Add this match to the show, essentially exactly as it took place on RAW, and you have a Match of the Year candidate on your biggest PPV of the year.  I'd also put it second-to-last.  Done.

This deserved to happen at WrestleMania

Now, back to Luger.  His debut at the Rumble was treated like a big moment, but aside from showing up and posing in front of a mirror he didn't do anything.  Meanwhile in the Rumble match another former WCW star made his debut by destroying The Undertaker, leading to one of the worst feuds of all time.  Anyone of sound mind could've foreseen that the Undertaker-Giant Gonzales feud would yield nothing but cringeworthy, unwatchable matches, and this fiasco went on for EIGHT MONTHS.  Oh, and when it was over, GG disappeared from WWF TV, never to be seen again.  So instead of again wasting everyone's time with a feud no one wanted, how 'bout Lex Luger makes an impact at the Rumble by attacking Taker and costing him the match?  Then Taker challenges him to a match at WrestleMania, and BOOM, you have a monumental first-time pairing (which to my knowledge Vince bafflingly never booked in real life).  Give these two eleven minutes and you'd have something infinitely better than the Taker match we actually got.  Luger gets disqualified after using a chair, thus setting up a rematch.  Luger could win that match in a RAW main event or something, and the blow-off would take place at King of the Ring, after which Luger turns babyface and challenges Yokozuna (as he did in real life).

Finally, we're scrubbing from the history books Hulk Hogan's post-main event appearance, which I think we can all agree was the worst thing since Vietnam.  Hogan and Bret had no prior interaction, so the idea of Hogan coming to Bret's aid and protesting his Title loss made no sense, nor did Bret giving Hogan his blessing to answer Yokozuna's challenge (nor for that matter did a brand-new heel Champion challenging a fresh opponent to an impromptu match).  So none of that shit happened.  Yokozuna beat Bret with a devastating legdrop after Fuji threw salt in Bret's eyes, then held aloft his new WWF Title to close the show.  End of story.

Unlike Hogan's legdrop, this would actually put someone away.

So let's take a step back and look at our new WrestleMania IX lineup, and I think you'll agree (How could you not?) that it bitchslaps the fuck out of the show we saw in real life.

Intercontinental Championship: Tatanka defeats Shawn Michaels by countout - 15:13

The Steiner Brothers defeat The Headshrinkers - 14:22

Doink the Clown defeats Crush - 6:28

Razor Ramon defeats Randy Savage - 14:54

Tag Team Championship: The MegaManiacs defeat Money Inc. - 10:27

The Undertaker defeats Lex Luger by disqualification - 10:56

Loser Leaves WWF: Mr. Perfect defeats Ric Flair - 18:45

WWF Championship: Yokozuna defeats Bret Hart - 8:55

That there is a WrestleMania lineup I'd be proud to put my name to (ya know, if my name were Vincent Kennedy McMahon).  Let's get in the ol' Delorean, go back to 1993, and fix this shit, huh?

Thanks for reading!  Comment below with your thoughts....

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