Let’s be blunt. This weekend has the potential to be the worst Wrestlemania ever with everything going on. Usually, I like to stay positive, but I’ve been locked at home with nothing but booze and time. Neither of these things have been kind to me thus far. In the spirit of misery, I started thinking about that infamous Wrestlemania 9, long considered the worst Wrestlemania (or one of the worst) of all time.
This is a special PPV for me because it was the first PPV I ever saw as a child. All my first substantial memories of wrestling were the storylines going on in the WWF at the time. I remember not liking most of it, but Hulkamania kinda saved it for little kids like me. The question is, how would I view the PPV now that I’m older, wiser, and more jaded than a Tarantino character?
So, I’ve decided for your pleasure I’d suffer through and do a full review of Wrestlemania 9. My only stipulation was that I be allowed to drink heavily while doing this. So, I’ve got a bottle of Shieldaig and I’m ready to go… I think.
The show starts off with Jim ross in a toga showing off his legs. This, of course, kicks off a long career of pseudo-humiliation with the company. JR introduces a call girl and an out of work actor playing Cleopatra and Julius Caesar respectively. They come out on an elephant and JR keeps calling it a pachyderm for some reason. No one cares. All I could think about was that South Park episode where Honey Boo Boo gets the pig heart. Next out is Macho Man (the only person not dressed in Roman attire) being carried on a litter. For some reason, he had an alpaca with him… I don’t know. The WWE was always insane. Finally, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan made his famous entrance riding backward on a camel.
What made Bobby great was that he was always willing to sacrifice his dignity in order to entertain the fans. It’s the same reason the Mr. McMahon character was so popular in the Attitude Era. Both Vince and Bobby were never above humiliating themselves for the sake of the fans’ pleasure. This first drink is for ‘The Brain.’ Slàinte mhath.
Tatanka w/ Sensational Sherry vs Shawn Michaels (c) w/ Luna Vachon – IC Title Match
The event starts off with what should be a strong match. Tatanka vs Shawn Michaels for the IC Title. The audience was hot for Tatanka and the opening match. You could argue that it was because the whole crowd was day-drunk, what with it being Las Vegas, but at the time Tatanka was a big deal. Going into the match Tatanka was undefeated and had beaten Shawn twice already. We were all poised for him to take the next step… but then this match happened.
Sensational Sherry was out there in Tatanka’s corner and Luna Vachon was in Michael’s. Sherry and Michaels had parted ways recently in the storyline, so she was there to see him get his comeuppance. I guess Luna was Shawn’s new squeeze, proving that he has a thing for women who learned how to do their make-up from Tom Savini.
Before the match even started Shawn does some brilliant but subtle heel work by taking his time removing off his entrance attire and mugging with the belt. Tatanka is fuming to start the match and so are the fans. It’s such a simple thing but it riled up the fans and Tatanka played it well.
The match though is rather slow and plodding with a lot of rest holds while Tatanka works over Shawn’s injured shoulder. Tatanka is like Goldberg with a fraction of the fan support. He was undefeated forever, a fan favorite, and kinda limited in the ring. Tatanka isn’t as bad as the Ultimate Warrior but he is better suited for hitting his big moves and being done.
Shawn isn’t at the height of his self-destructive behavior at this time, but it’s ramping up. He puts on a good match and even carries Tatanka through some moves that almost look botched. However, it’s obvious that for much of the match Shawn is just going through the motions. Now, even a Shawn Michaels just going through the motions can execute an above-average match, but this one was… passable. Shawn pulls out this weird top rope, flipping armbar into a roll-up. It looks a little botched, but it’s certainly unique. Watching now, the match is a little boring if I’m being honest. Though, as a child I was so stoked to see Tatanka and hopeful for his victory that I was enthralled.
An especially odd moment was Tatanka coming off the top rope for a chop. Shawn counters and connects with what we now call a ‘superkick.’ However, it hadn’t been established back then. So, it doesn’t end or even slow down the match, and, of course, no one pops for it. If Shawn caught someone off the top rope with a superkick now, we’d all cheer and the match would end. Seeing it be nothing here is kinda weird.
Of course, JR, Macho Man and ‘The Brain’ are brilliant on commentary. Best line of the match from commentary:
MM: “You’re right, Weasel.”
JR: “You are right, Weasel.”
Brain: “I am right we… knock it off.”
Toward the end of the match Tatanka started doing his version of “hulking up” where he’d do a “war dance” around the ring and no-sell his opponents’ punches. What with Hogan being back in the company at the time it was a wonder he was allowed to do this. Seems like the kinda thing Hulk would complain about to Vince ‘cause it was “his thing.”
The match went on a little long for Tatanka’s limited offense leading the commentary team to say:
MM: “This match should be over now.”
Brian: “This match shoulda been over 30 moves ago.”
Ok, they were referring to how hard the men had fought, but honestly, I was just bored and wished the damn thing had ended already. Two drinks down.
Luna tries to get involved whenever one of the combatants goes to the outside, but Sherry is there each time to ward her off. Without any help, Shawn gets frustrated and pulls the ref to the outside. Then, he gets in the ring but is hit by an ‘End of the Trail.’ Tatanka goes for the pin, but the ref ends the match by count-out for some reason. This should have been a DQ finish, and I think the ring announcer botched the call. In the end, it amounts to the same thing: Tatanka keeps his streak, but Shawn keeps his title.
The crap finisher kinda deflates the crowd, but Luna attacks Sherry after the match and gets them right back into it.
The Steiner Brothers vs The Headshrinkers
The Headshrinkers, for those who don’t remember, are part of the Anoa’I legacy. Rikishi, known only as Fatu at this point is one of the members, and the famous Afa Anoa’i (of Wild Samoans fame) is managing the team. Their big gimmick is that they have hard heads, impervious to damage and can deliver a wicked headbutt. Wrestling in the 90s is so simple.
As to the Steiner Brothers, all you need to know is this is the period Scott Steiner was rocking a mullet but hasn’t gone completely insane yet. They are still doing the college, amateur wrestler gimmick but somehow it works. It’s like American Alpha except the fans care. So, nothing like American Alpha.
Scott and Fatu start off the match. It’s weird seeing Rikishi at a normal size and not rocking that epic backside. There’s some back and forth between the two before Scott lands a big clothesline and Fatu does his famous spin-in-the-air sell. Though, he doesn’t quite pull it off here. Weird how he flips through the air easier when he’s the size of a sumo wrestler. Maybe the momentum from his ass-girth is what helps him spin.
As the match goes on Scott is Irish Whipped into the ropes and Samu then dumps him to the outside in one of the most terrifying-looking bumps I haven’t seen. I say that ‘cause we don’t see the landing but Samu throws Scott headfirst over the top rope in a way that should end Steiner’s career. I mean the man does a swan dive onto the floor, head-first. With wrestling moves being much tamer back then on the whole, seeing a bump like this is jarring.
Afa follows this up with a shot from a bamboo cane while the ref was distracted. I guess it’s a kendo stick, but they aren’t much in vogue until Sandman.
The Headshrinkers work Scott over after the big bump. While they do ‘The Brian’ starts giving JR a hard time about Oklahoma and asks if it’s a suburb of Kentucky. JR tells him that it’s next to Arkansas, leading to the best line of the night:
Brain: “I don’t know anybody that ever came out of Arkansas that made anything of themselves.”
(Bill Clinton had been elected to his first term as President just four months earlier.)
Rick gets the hot tag after Samu misses a diving headbutt. The ‘Dog-Faced Gremlin’ wrecks shop for a bit until he tries to slam the Headshrinkers’ heads together. This has no effect and the two Samoans headbutt Rick. After this follows the most epic move of the night. The Headshrinkers set Rick up in a Doomsday Device, but Rick is able to catch Samu off the top rope and turn it into a powerslam. Damn. I’ll drink to that. I know this PPV sucks, but just go watch that spot.
Scott tags in and goes back and forth with Samu for a few seconds before hitting the worst Frankensteiner ever. Then, he pinned him the win. Yeah. That was it. Kinda ended outta nowhere. Like this segment.
Kuna Crush vs Doink the Clown
Not a lot to say about this one. Crush failed in Demolition and now he’s doing this Hawaiian gimmick and calling himself Kona Crush because surfing and beach culture is cool in the early 90s. I don’t know… we thought rat-tails were cool too. Speaking of bad hair, Crush has a glorious mullet. That adds nothing to the match, just thought I’d mention it.
I remember liking Kona Crush as a kid and hating/fearing Doink. He was capable of more than any other heel. As a child, he was the first wildcard heel that may go too far. This would turn out to be Vader, but Matt Borne’s portrayal of the character has never been matched since. He brought a menacing presence to the character that reminds me, watching it now, of Jack Nicholson’s Joker.
Crush dominates most of this match, though Doink gets in a little offense. Eventually, though Crush puts Doink in his head-crusher submission and Doink causes a ref bump. While the ref is selling like a Premier League player (see, Andy. I can make soccer jokes too), Crush works over Doink and applies the head-crusher again. During this, a second Doink comes out and nails Crush from behind with a loaded prosthetic arm. I really don’t have time to explain this one… Just know it made sense at the time. Doink #1 and Doink #2 do a wonderful Marx Brothers routine before Doink #1 pins Crush for the win.
I remember hating this as a child, but now as an adult I appreciate Matt Borne more and only wish this match had more offense from him. It may not have pleased fans but it was right to give him the win here.
Also, Crush had this “pineapple head” gimmick going on… I don’t know if it was cool slang or an insult he called people. I just saw someone with a sign that said it, and the commentators mentioned it. If you go back and watch this, just know I’m as confused as you are and I lived through it. Obviously, this was not a popular slogan.
Razor Ramon vs Bob Backlund
Next up is Razor Ramon vs Bob Backlund. This is a nothing-match with a nothing-ending. The only novelty for me is seeing an in-shape Scott Hall that seems to care. Also, Backlund came out second with no intro music. I know he’s the ‘old-school’ guy but it took away from his entrance; he just kinda appears draped in an American Flag (another Hogan lawsuit waiting to happen).
Backlund tries to do the sportsmanlike thing and shake hands only to be met by Razor’s trademark toothpick flick. Classic. So, even though Razor is clearly the bad guy, the crowd chants for him from the beginning. The problem with Backlund is that no one remembers him. He is supposed to be from my parents’ generation, but the only person they remember is Rick Flair. It wouldn’t be until a year later, when Bob snaps on Bret that any of us take him seriously.
Backlund does put on a pretty good match but some of the moves are awkward due to the size difference between him (6’1”) and the 6’7” Ramon. Backlund shines with some technical offense then Ramon rolls up Bob with the most devastating move in all of wrestling (admit it, you read that in Simon’s voice): the surprise roll-up.
Not much here at all, really. I don’t remember this match from my childhood and was kinda surprised to see it come up. It was nice to see Razor in his prime again though. I’ve lost track of my drinks though. Let’s call it five.
Hulk Hogan and Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake vs Money Inc (c): Tag Team Title Match
Next up is the Tag Team Title match, and the crowd pops pretty good for Hogan. However, his and Beefcake’s entrance is proof that outdoor events during the day ruin everything. They come out with some red smoke to jazz up the entrance a bit, but what’s the point? Not just to the smoke, but to any of this? Why did I agree to do this review? Oh yeah… Andy bought the alcohol. 6.
Brutus had been attacked but Money Inc. previously with their steel briefcase. In kayfabe, this severely injures Beefcake and he is wearing a protective mask he got out of the back of a Highlights magazine and colored with Crayola markers.
It takes forever for the match to start with the heels waiting on the outside, and I pour myself another scotch. Money Inc. works over Beefcake until they target his head which is protected by that Burger King Kid’s Club mask. Eventually, Hogan gets the tag and just punches DiBiase a bunch, but the fans are hot and counting along so as long as their having a good time…
Money Inc gets treated like geeks for a bit then they leave. You think they’re counted out for another nothing-finish. However, because crap just happens for Hogan, the ref announces that if Money Inc. does not return to the ring by a 10-count they’ll lose the match and the titles. Surprisingly, it’s Earl Hebner who does this, and he never makes controversial calls. Weird. The whole thing doesn’t make sense and is ultimately unnecessary, but it keeps things going for the moment. At least ‘The Brain’ had the presence of mind to question how the ref can make up the rules as he goes along.
Hogan finally takes some offense, no bumps but some chokes with a rope. This causes Brutus to do the stupid face thing of inadvertently distracting the ref by trying to run in. DiBiase locks in the Million Dollar Dream, Hogan tries to Hulk out, but surprisingly, Teddy Boy keeps it locked in tight. I’m mildly surprised. Or maybe the booze has lowered my expectations. Eventually, Brutus breaks the hold while the ref’s back is turned by locking a sleeper in on Dibiase.
Both men are down and, in the theme of the evening, Hogan steals the Undertaker’s sit-up gimmick and makes the hot tag to Beefcake. Eventually, though, Dibiase hits Brutus with IRS’s steel briefcase and then rips off Beefcake’s Mardi Gras mask. Brutus gets a hope spot which leads to a ref bump and all men down. Hogan and DiBiase are tagged in and Hogan hits Money Inc. with the ‘titanium’ mask. Hogan and Beefcake pin both men, Jimmy Hart throws on a ref jacket, makes the count, and our heroes celebrate with the belts like they won. Someone tell them that’s now how things work.
Of course, a ref comes down to DQ Hogan & Beefcake, because we haven’t devolved into driveling lunacy just yet. That comes at the main event. Hogan and Beefcake run off Money Inc., then disperse the money from their briefcase into the crowd, still celebrating like they won.
Nothing really happens in this match and it feels like it goes on forever. I don’t think there’s a single bump taken by anyone in this match. It’s mostly striking and chokeholds/sleepers. I feel bad for calling Tatanka limited earlier because he’s Bret Hart compared to Brutus and Hogan.
It doesn’t matter though. Hogan has just returned, and the novelty is still fresh. The storyline of Brutus being attacked by Money Inc. and Hogan returning to save him is enthralling to a little kid. At least I remember being really into it, and the crowd seems behind Hogan despite the boring match. In fact, Hulk and Brutus mug and pose with the fans longer than the damn match went on. However, this is the fifth match of the night and four of them have had screwy endings. It doesn’t get any better, either, kids.
Mr. Perfect. Vs Lex Luger
Luger makes his way out dressed as a cross between Liberace and the villain from Superman V. I remember being scared for Perfect because Luger had done nothing to this point but knock people out in one shot with his forearm. During the press conference for Wrestlemania, Luger even took out the champ, Bret Hart. What chance did Mr. Perfect have?
Surprisingly, this is a decent bout with Luger keeping up with Mr. Perfect through most of it. If Lex is in the ring with an adept hand, he can put on a good match. Though, you can see him call a spot at one point. There’s decent back and forth throughout. Perfect worked Luger’s leg a bit, and Luger worked Perfect’s previously injured, lower back.
The match doesn’t go on too long, which is welcome since the rest of this crap feels like an eternity. We get another screwy finish, though, with a backslide spot. Both men fight for leverage, but Luger uses the ropes to his advantage and pins Perfect. However, Perfect’s legs are on the rope. Despite this, the ref doesn’t see it and makes the three-count.
Perfect argues with the ref and Luger hits him with his “steel” forearm, poses with his foot on Perfect, and leaves. When Perfect gets up, he figures out that he was blind-sided, and he goes to the back to attack Lex. During the melee, Shawn Michaels (who had been talking to Lex) gets involved and beats up Perfect. Anyone else getting those warm Wrestlemania feelings yet?
One for six on clean endings if you’re keeping count. And seven drinks if you’re counting those, but who the hell are you?! My wife?! Get off my back, I know my own limits.
This is a passable match, but another crappy finish. Plus, Mr. Perfect getting beat down twice does not a good show make. Also, it’s weird seeing so many chops without hearing a single “woooo” from the crowd.
Giant Gonzales vs Undertaker
No… I won’t. I can’t. Screw you, Andy and Oli and all of you… you don’t know my pain. No amount of Scotch is worth this…
All I can do is pour another and weep into it as the Giant Gonzales makes his way to ringside dressed as a hairy, naked Ken doll (with all the anatomical correctness that implies). I mean wrestlers have to wear goofy crap all the time, but dammit, Vince. You wrap a barely mobile behemoth in a leotard and airbrush it to look like a dickless sasquatch. They even airbrush a complete ass-crack on the thing, but it just looks like skid-marks.
Then ‘Taker comes out in a cart with a vulture… during the daytime. Again, why bother? ‘Taker enters the ring, and Gonzales tries to be intimidating. Remember how he’s dressed, though; it’s an uphill battle. I think the greatest acting performance from the Undertaker had to be keeping a straight face during all of this. Gonzales throws some big strikes with all the grace of a dinosaur in a Ray Harryhausen movie, and I creep closer to the sweet release of alcohol poisoning.
This is a slog to get through, and the only redeeming thing about it is the goofy way Gonzales sells ‘Taker’s punches. He looks like he’s short-circuiting, or maybe the drugs kicked in. I’m not really sure. I just know I’ve seen drunks make the same movements while walking down the street mumbling to themselves. Which is where I’ll be if I have to watch another minute of this.
Gonzales, then, whips out a rag with chloroform on it and causes the DQ. The officials come down to check on the Undertaker, but the gravitas of the situation was kinda undercut by half of them wearing togas.
Gonzales gives the ref the worst chokeslam ever while the cast of Animal House carts the Undertaker out on a gurney. The fans chant for Hogan, and I chant for it all to end. The gong sounds and ‘Taker stumbles out to get some heat back by knocking down Gonzales once. Security breaks them up and thank merciful God, it’s finally over.
as in F this match
Bret Hart (c) vs Yokozuna: WWF Championship Match
Before most matches, Mean Gene is interviewing one of the wrestlers involved. This time around, though, he’s going to Hulk Hogan for his opinion on the championship match. Before this, they show a clip of Yokozuna destroying the champ, Bret Hart. Knowing what we know now, it’s blatantly obvious this night was designed to put Hogan back on top and move Bret out of the way. Seriously, why is Hogan cutting a promo for a match he’s not even in?
So, it’s the main event and still daylight while they make their entrances. The good news is that despite the fact the sun has killed the atmosphere, it has allowed me to play a new game. I take a shot every time I see a perm of a mullet in the crowd. 10.
Yokozuna does his sumo salt ceremony, and I start to wonder if having a Samoan dude pretend to be Japanese is something the current generation would find “problematic.” We didn’t really notice back then ‘cause we were too caught up in the xenophobia to care.
Bret starts the match aggressively with a running dropkick and flurry of punches in the corner. Yokozuna powers back and tosses ‘The Hitman’ to the outside. Yokozuna tries to kick Bret as he attempts to get back in the ring. Hart catches the big man’s foot, however, and does this cool move where he ties the foot up in the ropes, then trips Yokozuna by grabbing his free leg.
It’s kinda cool and I haven’t seen it since. It’s what makes Bret Hart matches so great. It always feels real, like he’s innovating and adapting on the fly to overcome his opponents. Then the crowd chants USA for Bret… who’s Canadian… against Yokozuna… who’s from San Francisco. I… I’m at a loss.
The match is actually a masterclass on big hoss vs technical wrestler. Yoko’s size is limiting in most of his matches, but it doesn’t feel that way here. Hell, he gives Bret a better superkick than Michaels gave Tatanka earlier. After some good back and forth, Bret rips off the turnbuckle pad and slams Yokozuna’s head into it. With the big guy down, Bret locks in one of the most awkward sharpshooters ever. However, while the ref is asking Yokozuna if he wants to quit, Mr. Fuji throws salt in Bret’s eyes. If you’ve ever heard any backstage stories about Mr. Fuji, though, you’ll realize this is the least terrible thing he’s ever done. Look up the neighbors’ dog incident.
Yokozuna wins the title and we all know what happens next…
C+, The whole thing gets brought down by being the 7th BS finish of the night and what happens next.
Hulk Hogan vs Yokozuna (c): WWF Championship Match
I think everyone has covered this farce a million times. But screw it we’ve come this far, and I’ve still got some alcohol left.
Hogan comes out to “support Bret” and Fuji challenges him to a match then and there, never mind the fact that his fat fighter is gassed. Bret tells Hogan to go get ‘em, and the whole thing is cringier than a weeaboo’s dating profile. I’d roll my eyes at this tragedy but I’m afraid they won’t come back out for fear of seeing this trash.
I’m not gonna recap what happens. Some Fuji salt and a leg-drop later and Hogan has worked his way back into the main spot of the company only to leave for WCW shortly after.
Honestly, I’m surprised I rated it this high, but that is the average total for the matches. Screw it. I’m bumping it down to a D. Only one out of nine matches have a clean finish. When it comes to Hogan’s matches, Earl Hebner just seems to be making it up as he goes. Bret and Tatanka both got screwed, and in Tatanka’s case, his momentum never recovers. The wrestling is bad, the daytime atmosphere is bad, and the writing is bad… There’s no possible way to express just what a train wreck this thing is. I don’t think my liver will ever be the same again.