Friday, March 15, 2024

The History of WWE WrestleMania: XI

This here WrestleMania is what you might call "half-assed."

Hartford Civic Center - 4/2/95

Here's one of those WrestleMania shows that felt nothing like a supercard should.  The HCC was probably the worst venue ever chosen for 'Mania, and while there was nothing out-and-out offensive on the card, it also didn't seem special in any way.

The WWF tried to create a media blitz by featuring Bam Bam Bigelow against NY Giants superstar Lawrence Taylor, much like they featured Mr. T a decade earlier.  The only problem was #1 LT wasn't a household name like Mr. T, and Bam Bam was a midcard heel with little main event credibility.  The fact that this match went on last is astounding.  It was an ok bout, and LT did the best with what little wrestling acumen he possessed.  But this is a perfect example of why non-wrestling celebrities should not be given an in-ring role, especially if they're supposed to be the babyface.  It leads to a no-win situation, as the non-wrestler basically has to win the match to keep the audience happy, but it makes the actual wrestler look incredibly weak when he loses to an untrained guest star.  If anyone with even a modicum of athletic ability can train for a month and beat an established veteran wrestler, what's so difficult about being a trained veteran wrestler?

So.  You're goin' with that as the main event?  Alright then.

The real main event of the show was also the only real bright spot on the card, as former friends Diesel and Shawn Michaels battled for the WWF Title.  Diesel's sudden main event push was the WWF's attempt to recreate the success of Hulk Hogan.  Sadly Kevin Nash had nowhere near the overwhelming fan support Hogan did, and the Hartford crowd actually ended up cheering the breathtaking athletic abilities of Shawn Michaels.  Even in losing the match, Shawn positioned himself as the next main event babyface.
The rest of the show was mired in mediocrity, with the pairing of Owen Hart and the returning Yokozuna winning the Tag Titles being the only noteworthy moment.  The match itself wasn't great but I loved this new heel team.

Bret Hart and Bob Backlund had their blowoff I Quit match, and somehow managed to stink up the place.  It didn't help that they were only given around nine minutes, but where I Quit matches are supposed to be hate-filled and brutal, this was goofy and forgettable, and Backlund's final "I Quit" moment consisted of him yelling incoherently.

Other than that we got a throwaway opener between The Blu Brothers and new superteam The Allied Powers (Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith - a pretty cool idea for a tandem that unfortunately went nowhere), a weak Intercontinental Title match between Jeff Jarrett and Razor Ramon, and a nigh unwatchable Undertaker-King Kong Bundy showdown.  I had been a Bundy fan in the 80s and was glad to see him return, but quickly realized his in-ring ability didn't at all cut it in this new era.

Surprisingly this match did much more for Shawn than for Diesel

'Mania 11 illustrated what a low point 1995 was for the WWF.  Several midcarders showed they were ready to become upper tier players, but the Diesel experiment clearly wasn't working, and Bret Hart was seemingly being fed scraps for most of the year while the Kliq took center stage.

Best Match: Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels
Worst Match: Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy
What I'd Change: First off, this show needed a better venue.  Nothing screams "B-show" like the Hartford Civic Center.  Next I'd put Diesel vs. Shawn in the main event slot.  LT vs. Bam Bam wasn't nearly important enough to go on last.
Most Disappointing Match: Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund.  How'd they screw that one up?
Most Pleasant Surprise: Yokozuna being Owen's mystery tag team partner.
Overall Rating: 4.5/10

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