August 6, 2004
Location: Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut
Hosts: Vince McMahon & Jerry “the King” Lawler
Reported Attendance: 15,000
Believe it or not it was this card that caused me to become a fan of professional wrestling because at this time I was getting into the World Wrestling Federation. I had no prior history of wrestling knowledge up until 1995 when a friend got me mixed up into the fray as all I had remembered from my youth was Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Hulk Hogan. So here we go with the wrestling card that placed me in love with pro wrestling and why I write reviews like this one…
I have to say that I usually review as to the following: I rate the matches between AAAC (akin to a DUD for many people) and *****. I don’t usually go into the blow-by-blow stuff unless its key parts of the match OR when it comes to the main event if there is an exciting match. Therefore, if there is stuff for me to go off on then I’ll gladly do so and if a match is really good then I’ll do mostly blow-by-blow with some mixed commentary. Get it? ALRIGHT!
P.S.---This is the Coliseum Video Version
*A special Olympian sings the usual America the Beautiful stuff for us because I believe at this time the WWF was big on the “help special people” bandwagon to recover from the steroid scandals of the 1990s. Pretty good rendition that kicks Rockin’ Robin’s ass any day of the week
Why in the heck are we in Hartford, CT for a WrestleMania anyway? Just seems like a horrible location for a WrestleMania as opposed to NYC, Las Vegas, Chicago, and other big cities but I guess Vince knew this was going to be a poor show regardless.
-Allied Powers vs. The Blu Brothers (accompanied by Uncle Zebakiah):
I think this was the debut of the Allied Power tag team of Lex Luger and the British Bulldog (who was nearing the end of his face run) so they carry pretty flags into the ring for the United States and Great Britain. All four men brawl in the ring to begin with the Allies getting a double-powerslam and Luger bowling over one of the Blu’s with a clothesline. Allies with a double-elbow off the ropes and after a while Bulldog gets one of them with a vertical suplex for two. Chinlock hits us pretty early, albeit shortly, and the Bulldog nails the Blus with a double-clothesline. Cheating from the Blus — a knee of the Bulldog’s back in particular — turns the tide and when Bulldog counters a slam with a small package he gets a stomp to the back. Vince loves describing the Blu’s as “big and hairy” A LOT. Blu’s keep SLOOOWWLY working over the Bulldog and catch him with a double-boot off the ropes. Bulldog fights back with a clothesline and the Blu’s switch it up allowing them to retake control. You’d think that advantage alone could get you a world title reign but evidently not even when you call yourselves the Grimm Twins & the Disciples of Apocalypse after this debacle. King says Bulldog has only lost once at a WrestleMania which is WRONG because he lost in tag matches at WrestleMania’s III & IV. Second rope elbowdrop missed by one of the Blu’s allows Luger to get the momentum swinging tag and he destroys one of the twins and gets a powerslam. Luger hits the loaded forearm to little crowd reaction but that is broken up which leads to another four-way brawl. This allows the Blu’s to switch places again so Luger recovers and of course there is a weak two-count before the Blu gets up and pounds on Luger. However, when the Blu brother tries a piledriver on Luger its near the faces corner which gives Luger the chance to blind tag Bulldog (although we can’t see if the tag went down for sure) who then comes off the top with a bad sunset flip for the winning pin @ 6:35. Just not very memorable nor worthy of being the opener to this show. ½*
-Intercontinental Title: Jeff Jarrett (accompanied by the Roadie) vs. Razor Ramon (accompanied by the future Syxx & X-Pac: the 1-2-3 Kid):
Ramon charges the ring to get at Jarrett and 1-2-3 joins him in the ring for the pyro. By the way, there are A LOT of cameramen around the ring and it’s a big eye sore for all of us as the show moves on. Jarrett stalls forever on his way into the ring and Ramon decks him for two and another decking gets two. Ramon clotheslines Jarrett to the floor after giving him another stiff shot and that opens the door for more stalling. Jarrett trips Ramon from the floor as you’d find in a THQ N64 game but his advantage goes south when he tries a sunset flip and gets decked for two again. Jarrett and Roadie almost run into each other before Ramon DECKS Jarrett and the Roadie oversells a bump to the floor. Ramon rolls Jarrett up for two after that. Razor’s Edge attempt fails because Roadie pulls Jarrett to the floor in what you have to concede was a smart spot and Jarrett tries to run before being punked out by the 1-2-3 Kid. What a wimp. Ramon rolls a distracted Jarrett up for two when he re-enters the ring. Jarrett reverses a whip into the corner to turn the tide and he and Roadie try a choke-a-mania session before Jarrett crotches himself on the second rope, Ramon grabs Roadie on the apron and slams his head into the turnbuckle, and Ramon throws Jarrett over the top like he’s nobody’s business. Jarrett returns to the ring when he gets some decent offense in with a swinging neckbreaker, dropkicks, and taunts after jumping on Ramon while he’s in the ropes. Jarrett’s enzeguri misses but so does an elbowdrop from Ramon for two. Elbow from Jarrett gets two so he decides to kill the moment and go for a chinlock. Boy, do you hate to see that stuff develop as it is right now. Ramon fights out and gets a backslide for two. Jarrett falls on top of Ramon for two. Slugfest goes on until Jarrett applies a sleeper and tosses Ramon’s head back to the canvas for two. Chinlocks make me soooo slleeepppy….well up to the point where Ramon gets a side suplex to put both men down. They do another double knockdown and DO IT AGAIN when they punch each other. Geez, we get the point now someone has to seize the advantage. Ramon covers anyway for two. Ramon with a fallaway slam for two. Ramon sends Jarrett into the corner but when 1-2-3 tries to do a sneak attack Jarrett kicks him into the railing. Ramon misses a second rope bulldog which gives him a chance to argue for the hurt knee so Jarrett attacks it and applies the figure-four for a two-count and such before Ramon turns it. 1-2-3 tries to help Ramon for leverage but the referee breaks that up. Man what is up with 1-2-3 in this match? Everything he does backfires so it looks like Ramon needs a new friend. Ramon hits the side suplex off the top rope and goes for the Razor’s Edge but Roadie takes out Ramon’s leg giving us the DQ at 13:32. What a crappy finish but they were trying to achieve the Honky Tonk Man model with Jarrett’s reign, anyway. 1-2-3 charges in to prevent a beatdown but as per usual in this match he gets his butt kicked and that’s all they wrote. Fine enough match between the two but since there wasn’t a title change or such it was kind of a bummer. **½
-King Kong Bundy (accompanied by Ted DiBiase) vs. The Undertaker (accompanied by Paul Bearer):
I have to say that THIS was the match that made me want to buy this show back in 1995. Yes, I’m telling you the truth. It wasn’t Michaels-Diesel or LT-Bigelow it was THIS. If memory serves me correctly this was another “you stole the urn so let me take it back” angles. By the way, for trivia purposes Larry Young is refereeing and if you don’t know who he is he’s an umpire for the MLB because they were on strike so he had to get another job. The urn in question here is HUGE having grown like three times since its 1991 shape. Maybe it should be called in to testify in the ongoing BALCO saga. Match plods along until the Undertaker grabs the urn and gives it to Bearer which makes the crowd go wild. Kama suddenly comes along from the back, nails Bearer and gets away with the urn inducting another new Money-Undertaker feud for 1995. Notice how I’m not reviewing the match here because the match SUCKS on both sides. Quote of the night nomination as J.R. gives Kama a mini-interview in the aisle DURING THE MATCH in regards to his urn stealing and tells him in a very serious and aback tone “That doesn’t belong to you!” To the match finally as Bundy gets a kneedrop for two and gets a chinlock which takes a long time. Bundy avalanches Undertaker in the buckles but its no-sold and the Dead Man gets a slam and flying clothesline off the ropes for the win at 6:39. This is textbook for anyone out there who wants to suck the air out of my sails. AAAC rating here meaning: Avoid at all costs
*Interesting interview segment as Nicolas Taturo of NYPD Blue interviews STEVE “Mongo” MCMICHAEL (future WCW U.S. Champion) in the search for Pamela Anderson who’s gone AWOL. Moment of the night nomination in which Bob Backlund loses to Jonathan Taylor Thomas in a chess game and then answers Backlund’s history interrogation. Quote of the night nomination for Backlund: “That’s the problem with the world: they think they know it all”
-WWF Tag Championship Match: The Smoking Gunns vs. Owen Hart & Yokozuna (accompanied by James E. Cornette and Mr. Fuji):
There was great speculation as to who Owen Hart’s “mystery partner” would be for this match but it turned out to be former WWF Champion Yokozuna basically ending the Gunns’ title reign right there. I remember being so demoralized when that happened too and you can feel it in the crowd as well. King informs us that this is Owen’s six-year anniversary at WrestleMania. It’s just weird hearing King saying the historical information instead of Jim Ross. Owen and Billy start us and they push around with Owen getting in a cocky slap but Billy returns the favor moments later. Yokozuna comes in and gets a slam but his legdrop misses. However, momentum doesn’t shift as Owen is quickly tagged in but that appears to be a detriment as the Gunns get a double-reverse Russian legsweep to him and double-dropkick Yokozuna to the floor. Gunns work over Owen with their usual stuff including a cool side suplex-running neckbreaker combo. Bart whips Owen to the corner and Owen takes the chest-first bump in like his brother for two. Gunns nail the Sidewinder after Billy is tagged in but Yokozuna distracts the referee and Owen kicks out at two. Owen with a blind tag to Yokozuna and that allows Owen to trip Billy and Yokozuna to deliver a legdrop to the back of the head. Bart then inadvertently distracts the official and Owen rams Billy’s back into the ringpost. Yokozuna applies the nerve hold because he’s so big at this point he can’t do much else on the offensive end but Billy fight’s up and Owen accidentally dropkicks Yokozuna during a double-team maneuver. Momentum swinging tag to Bart and he gives Owen a gorilla-press slam and takes down Yokozuna although it appears Owen might have tried to jump the gun on the finish by pulling down the rope when he ran it. Bart tags out and the Gunns criss-cross for an attack on Yokozuna but Owen pulls down the top rope this time causing Bart to crash to the floor and Billy to get belly-to-bellied. Bonzai Drop from Yokozuna as Bart breaks the pin but Yokozuna just backdrops him to the floor and Owen is tagged in who teases a Sharpshooter but then simply covers for his first WWF title win at 9:39. Match wasn’t awful because they all kept it moving but it wasn’t very memorable either. Today this would be standard TV-fare but back in 1995 THESE matches were pay-per-view quality. **
*Another quote of the night nominee as Bam Bam Bigelow in his main event interview says “Bam Bam Bigelow isn’t going to be known as having lost to Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI”
-“I Quit” Match with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as guest referee: Bob Backlund vs. Bret Hart:
This was the return match from the 1994 Survivor Series where Bret lost his WWF title to Backlund in a submission match. A lot of people I talked to had hoped this was the main event with the title on the line and with Bret regaining it but alas, it didn’t happen that way and we got this match in its place on the card. Bret slugs away on Backlund and whips him card into the corner to start it up and the goes to work on the head with a headbutt, elbow, and fist but Sharpshooter is blocked. Bret drops an elbow and chokes Backlund in the ropes but Backlund won’t quit. Lawler alludes to WrestleMania VIII history to make it seem as if Piper is going to turn on Bret in this match ala Mr. Perfect and Lex Luger at WrestleMania X. Backlund escapes the Sharpshooter again so Bret attaches a figure-four leglock but there’s no give from Backlund and he turns the hold but Bret won’t quit either. Bret keeps working over the leg and attaches some sort of submission maneuver on the left leg but Backlund won’t give in and rakes the eyes to escape. Bret goes right back to the hold so Backlund has to use his free knee to break it up. Crowd isn’t too excited for all of this match until Backlund tries the chicken-wing but Bret maneuvers out of the way so he goes for an armbar and hammerlock but Bret says “no” to Piper’s requests for a submission. Backlund teases the chicken-wing again and goes back to the armbar as the crowd is dead silent with the heel psychology and methodical setup for the finish. Bret slams to escape the arm work of Backlund and gets the backbreaker and second rope elbowdrop as per usual but Backlund avoids ANOTHER Sharpshooter attempt. Bret takes a brutal bump in the corner on a blind charge having his shoulder collide with the ringpost and Backlund pulls Bret away from the top rope with the crossface chicken-wing. However, Bret suddenly reverses the hold on Backlund and takes him down to the canvas and Piper calls for the bell at 9:31 even though Backlund didn’t say “I quit.” Sort of a screwy finish but it ended the feud between Bret and Backlund for good and thus, served its point. Nevertheless, an “I Quit” match really requires a good amount of time allocation to pull off and this one was very rushed because of the brief time it had. In his aisle-side interview Backlund says “I saw the light. Did you see the light?” which leads me to believe that maybe this match led him to his conclusion of becoming a candidate for president and a politician. **
-WWF Championship Match: Diesel (accompanied by Pamela Anderson) vs. Shawn Michaels (accompanied by Jennifer McCarthy and Sid):
Before we get into the match it’s interesting to note that Michaels build up to this match was so strong that the WWF fan base and wrestling experts thought that he was the clear favorite to win this match and take the title. The celebrities for this match are as follows: Nicholas Taturo is the guest ring announcer, Jonathan Taylor Thomas is the guest timekeeper, and the lovely ladies mentioned above are eye candy as they accompany the wrestlers to the ring. Pamela was supposed to be in Michaels corner as his “prize” for winning the Royal Rumble but she wanted a real winner so she bailed on him and joined with Diesel, a move Michaels doesn’t like at all to start as he charges Diesel but gets backdropped to the floor. Michaels moves around Diesel to start with his quickness but that only works for a few seconds as Diesel levels him with an elbow off the ropes. Michaels shrugs it off and goes to work on the arm but Diesel tosses him around like a ragdoll and gives him a high backbodydrop and slings Michaels with such force into the turnbuckles that he flips to the floor, crashing onto a photographer whom he angrily pulls around on the floor. Thatta boy! Sid tries to distract Diesel as Michaels re-enters the ring but Diesel catches on and levels him. Michaels tries some second rope punches but Diesel keeps throwing him away. Michaels tries a suplex after a series of eye rakes but Diesel’s much taller and more powerful if we haven’t emphasized that already and Diesel counters with one of his own and knocks Michaels outside albeit after some delay because of the stupid photographers. Michaels battles back to get inside the ring but a sunset flip gets him crotched on the top rope. Yowwweee! Michaels avoids a Diesel big boot and gives him a Cactus clothesline before skinning the cat back inside. Michaels follows it up with a top rope bodypress to Diesel on the floor and gets a baseball slide to further the damage. They resume battle on the floor with Michaels running into another photographer who he pushes away before Diesel misses him with an elbow and hits the post. Michaels with a running splash off the apron onto Diesel and rolls back inside to take a breather again. Diesel grabs his ribs as Sid gives a look and shrug to Michaels as if to say “we might win this one by countout” but Michaels opts to distract the referee as Sid teases an attack on the big man earning him temporary scorn from Earl Hebner. Michaels attacks Diesel’s ribs for the psychology part of the match when he returns to the ring and does what he can to keep him down. Michaels with a second rope bulldog for a two-count. Michaels keeps up the attack and gets a second rope reverse elbow as Diesel whips him into the corner for two. Michaels focuses more on the ribs and does his trademark flying elbowdrop to Diesel’s back as the celebrities squirm for two. Unfortunately Michaels tries another suplex and another one but each time Diesel tosses him away to show who really is the dominant man in the match. Michaels pushes Diesel into the corner chest-first to add to the rib damage and then applies a sleeper which in this context makes perfect sense because the ribs have been worked over for most of the match. It takes a while for this sequence to occur but the crowd really buys into the fact that this time the match might be finished. Diesel rams Michaels into the corner to break the hold and gets the measured elbows in the corner (without the camera fixation though that we all know and are told to love) and kills Michaels with clotheslines in the corner. Snake Eyes is given to Michaels and Diesel jumps on his back in the second rope. Michaels takes another flip over the corner to the floor. Michaels runs back into the ring and tries to get away but Diesel pulls him back in causing Shawn to moon the crowd and more punishment causes Michaels to bail again. Off-camera Earl Hebner gets into an argument with Sid and sprains his ankle when he tries to jump to the floor to discipline him. Meanwhile, Michaels catches Diesel with Sweet Chin Music but when Hebner gets back into the ring its only a two-count. Sid cuts loose the corner turnbuckle exposing the steel underneath but Diesel suddenly catches the challenger with a side suplex leaving both men knocked out until Michaels rolls over and covers for two. Michaels tries the second rope bulldog again but this time Diesel is waiting for it and catches his adversary with a sidewalk slam for another double knockdown. The action resumes with Diesel catching Michaels with a slingshot but since Michaels has to go about 3/4ths of the way across the ring he hits the second buckle instead of the top exposed buckle (which would’ve been dangerous considering his speed heading in). Diesel then goes through his usual forearms and big boot as the crowd is actually SPLIT over this outcome and then he finishes with the Jackknife at 20:35. PWI rated this match the match of the year for 1995 although I thought the Bret-Diesel match from Survivor Series that year was better than this one as well as maybe the Ramon-Michaels ladder match at that year’s SummerSlam. I think Bret Hart said in his shoot interview that this match really helped Michaels more than Diesel because it built up sympathy heat for him. This was done by Michaels not doing a lot of heelish stuff like low blows and the like resulting in the crowd rooting for him to beat the bully. As we all know the next night on Monday Night Raw Sid would powerbomb Michaels leading to his face turn and overshadowing Diesel from his return foreward. This match was very good, however, combining a lot of exciting situations and elements and showing that Michaels had a legitimate chance at being a top world title contender. ****
-WWF vs. NFL: Bam Bam Bigelow (accompanied by the Million Dollar Corporation: Ted DiBiase, Tatanka, Nikolai Volkoff, Kama, and I.R.S.) vs. Lawrence Taylor (accompanied by the All-Pro Team: Ken Norton, Chris Spielman, Rickey Jackson, Carl Banks, Steve McMichael, and Reggie White):
Yes, this would be the match that forever changed the course of Bam Bam Bigelow’s wrestling career and would become engraved in the minds of wrestling fans everywhere. With all of the accompanying support both guys had coming into this match it looked like we’d have a lumberjack affair. Staredown between the two occurs as referee Pat Patterson lays down the instructions and Bigelow pushes Taylor away which results in Taylor coming back with a slap and running forearm. Taylor clotheslines Bigelow to the floor as it becomes obvious in the opening minutes that Bigelow is basically wrestling himself here. I mean he’s giving incredible bumps for Taylor and had to move himself over the top on that clothesline. Taylor catches Bigelow with a bulldog after a missed blind charge for two and then hiplocks Bigelow back to the floor. A fight almost breaks out among the Million Dollar and All-Pro teams but doesn’t quite do so to my chagrin. Bigelow pounds on Taylor after that scuffle outside when they return to the ring and gives him a slam but misses a falling headbutt. Taylor keeps going back to the same forearms so Bigelow counters by dumping him into the corner but can’t seem to move in and place an effective attack. It was at this point that I became concerned that Bigelow wasn’t walking away with the duke here which everyone knew would be disastrous for his career. Bigelow goes for a submission with the Boston Crab and then bends the knee back when Taylor nearly reaches the ropes. Such antics continue as I ponder why they maybe didn’t set up an All-Pro versus Million Dollar Team elimination match because we really didn’t get a blowoff other than this to the whole angle. Taylor hits Bigelow with a side suplex for a double knockdown but that seems to have pissed off Bigelow more as falling headbutts and a legdrop. Bigelow nails the BIG MAN moonsault but falls off of the cover at one because he appears to have injured his knee and then recovers for two. Maybe he’s just trying to set up the knee excuse like Mike Tyson has lately…I’ll have to look into it. Taylor comes back with what McMahon calls a Jackknife for two even though the move was more like “let me pick you up and turn you 360 degrees before I set you down. Bigelow hits an enzeguri and nails the flying headbutt and gets the one, two, and thr---but TAYLOR KICKS OUT?!?! What the hell is going on? That definitely should’ve been the finish right there and if it wasn’t going to then that spot didn’t deserve to be in the match. We all know Hulk Hogan would’ve kicked out of it and maybe Bret Hart on a GREAT day but Lawrence Taylor? I don’t buy it. Anyway, the worse sequence in Bigelow’s career happens as Taylor hits several forearms and then a flying forearm from the second rope to win the match at 11:43. By celebrity terms this was a good match but by pro wrestling standards it wasn’t much to be taken aback by. The original deal the WWF worked out with Bigelow was that if he lost this match then he’d be given a WWF title reign and a lengthy one but after he lost this match other wrestlers in the locker room didn’t want to put him over a serious contender. After all who wanted to lose to a guy who lost to a pro football player? So Bigelow was forced into a face-turned type of angle and by December of that year he was looking for new work elsewhere, having been effectively pushed out of the WWF and jobbed out to the incoming Goldust at that year’s Survivor Series. I remember going to a WCW Thunder taping in 1999 where Bigelow was fighting Meng and the crowd went into a big “L-T, L-T, L-T” chant and it broke my heart. It just goes to show you that one loss can change an entire career and this match makes me cringe for that reason. I think this match shouldn’t have even happened because Taylor didn’t bring much PR with him to WrestleMania and the buyrate was still pretty bad. Even if this match HAD to occur it should’ve been a match Bigelow won decisively and not the other way around but hindsight is 20/20 after all. *½
Awards of the Night
Match of the Night: Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels (****)
Worst Match of the Night: King Kong Bundy vs. The Undertaker (AAAC)
Best Quote of the Show: “Bam Bam Bigelow isn’t going to be known as having lost to Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI” -Bam Bam Bigelow
Moment of the Evening: Owen Hart winning his first title in the WWF. The expression of pure joy and career fulfillment on his face was priceless.
Wrestler of the Evening: Shawn Michaels for helping to make the main event star quality and for making himself a bigger star in the process
“What If” Award: What if Bam Bam Bigelow hadn’t agreed to lose to LT in the main event or what if he hadn’t been put in the match in the first place? Where would his career have headed? We’ll never really know…
OVERALL TAPE RATING (BUST-****): ** to place this film in the middle because of the Diesel-Michaels title match and nice reflection moments such as Owen’s first title victory, Bret’s defeat of Backlund to avenge the ’94 Survivor Series, and Bigelow’s defeat that crushed his career.