Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: VIII

WrestleMania returns to a stadium for a show that was half-great....

HoosierDome - 4/5/92

'Mania returned to a more fitting venue in 1992, as the WWF took over the HoosierDome in Indianapolis.  This stadium actually resembles a smaller Silverdome, so it made 'Mania 8 feel like a big deal.  The influx of new headliners, fresh matchups, and the double main event certainly didn't hurt either.

Seemingly the obvious main event for the 8th edition was Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title.  It was the biggest dream match in the business, and throughout the 80s fans speculated on who was the bigger star.  Unfortunately the WWF somehow blew the whole thing by presenting this gigantic matchup with little fanfare, on a series of 1991 house shows.  And the match evidently didn't blow anyone's skirt up.  Couple that with Hogan deciding to take some time off in 1992, and the big dream match was off for WrestleMania.

Instead Flair defended the Title against a much more skilled opponent in Randy Savage, and Hogan once again tried to duplicate the Hogan-Andre dynamic by wrestling Sid Justice.

The WWF Title match was excellent and became the strongest WWF Title match in WrestleMania history at that time.  Flair and Savage put on a classic seesaw match that would launch the Macho Man back to the top of the roster.  Bafflingly, this match was not put in the main event slot, which sort of robbed Savage of his glorious WrestleMania moment.  Flair-Savage was fifth on the card of nine matches, and unfortunately everything that followed it was mediocre or worse.

Great shot.  Great match too.

Hogan vs. Justice closed the show and failed to capture the magic of Hogan-Andre while simultaneously not being as entertaining a match as Hogan-Warrior.  It also ended in a disqualification, further illustrating how unfit the bout was for the main event slot.  Sid's manager Harvey Whippleman interfered after a Hogan legdrop (which Sid actually kicked out of), and for some reason Papa Shango ran to the ring to attack Hogan before a returning (and noticeably smaller) Ultimate Warrior made the save.

The match that stole the show (pretty amazingly considering Flair vs. Savage was on the card) was the I-C Title match between Roddy Piper and Bret Hart.  These two put on a 13-minute classic that had more action, crisper wrestling, and even a better blade job than the WWF Title match.  Bret Hart recounted the story in his autobiography - the WWF had a no-blading policy at that point, and Bret's bladejob was so subtle and realistic, Vince thought he was legitimately cut and took no action against him.  Flair's bladejob on the other hand was very obvious and earned him a fine.

"What the hell, use the bell!"

'Mania 8 also spotlighted the newly-turned Shawn Michaels as he garnered his first high-profile singles win, and the newly-turned Undertaker defeated Jake Roberts in Jake's final WWF match of his prime years.  The rest of the show was entirely forgettable: a brief Rick Martel-Tatanka match, a dull Tag Team Title match pitting newly crowned Champions Money Inc. against The Natural Disasters, an 8-man tag with The Big Bossman, Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter and Virgil against The Mountie, The Repo Man and The Nasty Boys, and a bafflingly short Owen Hart-Skinner squash.

Overall though, 'Mania 8 was a return to form that featured two classic Title matches, a fresh roster, and only 9 matches to avoid cluttering up the card.  It was also the first 'Mania since III to have a 3-hour running time so the show never dragged.  My biggest gripe is how weak the second act of the show is - four of the first five matches are worth a watch or better, while the last four matches aren't very good.  The show needed a stronger climax.

Best Match: Roddy Piper vs. Bret Hart
Worst Match: Owen Hart vs. Skinner (they probably should've skipped this match if it was only getting a minute)
What I'd Change: That's easy - swap the two main event matches.  Hogan-Sid had no business going on last since a) it wasn't for the Title, b) it ended in a DQ, and c) it was anticlimactic.  Flair vs. Savage should've ended the show, giving Savage's Title win the significance it deserved.
Most Disappointing Match: Undertaker vs. Jake Roberts - this needed more time, and the Tombstone Piledriver on the outside looked terrible as Jake's head was clearly about six inches away from the floor.
Most Pleasant Surprise: That Bret and Piper were able to upstage even Savage and Flair.
Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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