May 2, 2007
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

Wrestlemania XI
April 2, 1995
Hartford Civic Center
Hartford, Connecticut
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler
Attendance: 15,000
Buy Rate: 1.3
Celebrities: Salt-n-Peppa, Nicholas Turturro, Pamela Anderson, Jennifer McCarthy, Jonathan Taylor Tho-mas, Reggie White, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Ken Norton Jr., Chris Speilman, Ricky Jackson, Carl Banks, Larry Young

1) The Allied Powers defeat the Blu Brothers when the British Bulldog (David Smith) pins Jacob Blu (Don Harris) with a Sunset Flip at 6:33

Fun Fact: The Blu Brothers are the first of the three names the Harris Brothers would go under in WWF. In 1996 they would reappear briefly as the Grimm Twins, and in 1997 they would return as their most famous incarnation: the Disciples of Apocalypse. The Harris’ plied their trade in Portland, where they wrestled as the Bruise Brothers and held the PNW Tag Titles on 6 occasions. Ron Harris was also PNW World Champion on 2 occasions having defeated Brian Adams (Crush) and Steve Doll (Steven Dunn). In late 1993, the Bruise Brothers made their way down South where they spent time in Smokey Mountain Wrestling. They continued to bounce around the Indies, even making a stop in ECW, before getting the call to come up North to Stamford.

Scott: This is probably one of the worst openers in Wrestlemania history. Lex Luger continues to just drop off the map. World Title Match one year, crappy opener the next. There are a couple of blown spots, including a double power slam where the 4 men get all entangled in each other. Luger gets the hot tag, hits the loaded forearm, and appears to have won, but then the Blus do the ol' switcheroo ala Demolition or old school Killer Bees. However, Bulldog then sunset flips over the top rope, and gets the pin. The only high-light of this match is one of my personal favorites: Dirty Dutch Mantel, the Blus’ manager, named Zebekiah. Otherwise, this absolutely sucks. Grade: 1.5

Justin: This match is pretty poor, but the crowd is surprisingly excited and into Luger and Bull-dog (which may be why Vince ended up keeping them together following this show). Luger’s fall from grace is really amazing, as he was main eventing the big show just one year earlier. The Blus would stick around for a while and then take some time off before returning as the oft-forgotten Grimm Twins. I am curious as to why Luger didn’t have some sort of blowoff against the Million Dollar Corporation at this show instead of being involved in a meaningless tag match. They could have easily done Luger vs. Tatanka or even Luger/Bulldog vs. Tatanka/IRS or some combination that makes more sense than what we saw. Oh well, hindsight and all. There is not much here besides a poorly wrestled, yet energetic opener. Grade: 1.5

2) Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) defeats Jeff Jarrett by disqualification at 13:30; Jarrett retains WWF Intercontinental Title

Scott: This was one of the better matches at this show. Razor lost the title due to an injured knee at the Royal Rumble. Jarrett, along with the Roadie, are establishing themselves as pretty good heels (consider-ing Jarrett's from Memphis, this isn't a surprise), and this is a great match to showcase that. After some good action and near falls, a weak DQ finish as Roadie comes in to stop the Razor's Edge. I also enjoyed the conti-nuity as they played up Razor’s bad knee from Roadie’s chop block at the Rumble. Two points from this match: 123-Kid and his funny-looking pajamas, and the first crotch chop from him, pre-dating when it was cool by a couple of years. This was a really good match, with a weak ending. Grade: 3.5

Justin: A pretty solid match here, as usual for Ramon and Jarrett. A lot of the action is focused on the interference of Roadie and the Kid, but the action inside the ring is fast paced and flows well. Jarrett was really settling into his upper-mid card heel nicely here, and it did nothing but help having the always-over Ramon chasing his title. This was the 2nd of three straight PPV matches between these two, as they had a pretty nice run in early 1995, with Jarrett usually getting the better of the Bad Guy. Ramon continues to be over huge with the crowds as well, which adds some nice heat to the match. After a lackluster first year in the WWF, JJ has stepped it up a notch and is getting into a nice upper mid card groove. A lot of credit goes to the Roadie for adding some classic cheap managerial heat, but Jarrett was also stepping it up inside the ring as well. Grade: 3

3) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats King Kong Bundy (Chris Pailles) with a clothesline at 6:37

Fun Fact: This is Bundy’s first WM appearance since WM3. It is also his last. Bundy’s all time PPV record is 2-4. He was 1-3 at Wrestlemania, 1-0 at Survivor Series and 0-1 at the Royal Rumble. Bundy does stick around on TV until the end of 1995, but does not appear on PPV. Undertaker now moves to 4-0 in Wrestlemania matches at this point. Also of note, Major League Baseball umpire Larry Young was refereeing this match.

Scott: Oh, god this was dreadful. I don't know what to say, it was just awful. I don't care if you're the Undertaker or Bruno Sammartino, you don't win a match with a clothesline. I know Taker couldn’t hit the Tombstone, but I would have taken a half-assed Chokeslam over a clothesline. Just when you think the “Urn-stealing” storyline ends when Taker just grabs it from Ted DiBiase and hands it back to Paul Bearer, in comes the newest member of Ted DiBiase’s stable: Kama. The Supreme Fighting Machine says he’s going to melt the Urn down into a chain. Oh my god, this is pitiful. Bundy never makes it to a PPV match again, thank God, but this pathetic storyline continues as the heat goes from IRS, to Bundy, to Kama. Well, at least Taker’s entrance and post-match is still entertaining, because what was in the middle wasn’t. Grade: 1

Justin: A pretty piss-poor match here, which is the standard for Taker’s early WM appearances. UT is still mired in the insipid Million Dollar Corporation Urn-stealing angle, as the urn gets passed around the Corporation members from PPV to PPV. Kama is next in line, and he mugs Paul Bearer half way through the match (after Taker had recovered the urn from DiBiase at the start and gave it to Bearer). Kama would then threaten to melt it down into a gold chain. Not Taker’s best WM moment by any means as the match just plods along and makes 7 minutes feel like 27. Bundy would stick around for a while and basically fall into the role of jobber to the stars while Undertaker would sputter forward with a very weird and unin-spired feud. Grade: 1

4) Owen Hart & Yokozuna (Rodney Anoia) defeat Smoking Gunns to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Owen pins Billy (Monte Sop) after Yoko’s Bonsai Drop at 9:38

Fun Fact: After losing in the Tag Team tournament and following Jim Neidhart leaving the WWF, Owen Hart claimed he was going to find a mystery partner to take on the Smoking Gunns. He also claimed he would be bringing in one of Bret’s biggest enemies to help him win his first ever WWF gold.

Scott: Not a bad match, as Owen finally gets his first strap, which is well deserved after his im-pressive 1994. Yokozuna is the mystery partner, having not been seen since losing the Casket match at Survi-vor Series. After the Gunns put their big moves on Owen, he tags off to Yoko, and that was pretty much the end of that. He smacks Billy around, and then does the infamous lazy nerve hold. Other than that I actually liked the back and forth action. What’s the matter with me? I used to hate everything about this show, and now I’m giving 3s? Guess some of these mid-90s shows are like wine, they get better with age. Anyway Yoko Bonzai Drops Billy, and tags in Owen who makes the pin, and wins his first title. Nice effort by both teams, and the Gunns begin their run at or near the top of the tag team ranks. Grade: 3

Justin: A decent match here, as it was just a formality to get Owen his first WWF gold. The build up for Owen to finally win a title was pretty big here and pretty much carried the storyline aspect of the match. Internet rumors have said that Owen’s partner was almost going to be Chris Benoit (he would have some tryout matches after this show) but they ended up going with Yokozuna instead. This is actually the foundation of Camp Cornette as he and Fuji return alongside Yoko, and continue to manage the team even after this show. Yoko doesn’t do much except polish off ole’ Kip to finish off the Gunns for the time being. Anyway, not too much here, but it is a cool moment to see Owen celebrate his first title and the match is actu-ally a fun little tag bout. Grade: 3

5) Bret Hart defeats Bob Backlund in an "I Quit" match when Backlund submits as Hart has him in the Crossface Chicken Wing at 9:32

Fun Fact: This will be the second straight year that Roddy Piper would be the special referee for a Bret Hart Wrestlemania match. After 10, he stuck around through June, but here he disappears as quickly as he showed up.

Fun Fact II: This will be Bob Backlund’s final PPV match (outside of a pair of Rumbles). His final record (including appearances at the 1996 and 2000 Royal Rumbles) is 1-4.

Scott: Roddy Piper was the guest referee (it was a Bret match, plus bagpipes bring a cheap pop, anyway). This was much worse than the Survivor Series match, it was 24 minutes shorter, there was no title on the line, and the drama was just not there. The match itself wasn’t bad, although Piper was getting irri-tating as he was asking the participants if they were quitting after every move, and that included punches and kicks. Sure a wrestler could quit after being hit with a punch, but usually that doesn’t happen. On top of the fact they’re using a mike with a cord, and it causes the flow of the match to stagger a bit. Bob finally submits, and Bret finishes that feud off. Backlund never wrestles in a one-on-one PPV match again, but pops in from time to time on TV when you need a good laugh. Obviously you’d want to see Bret in a better match on the card than this, but at least he won and the crowd got to see the Pink and Black have his hand raised in vic-tory. Starting with the next show, however, is where you start to see Bret be completely misused while the top of the card is a workrate disaster. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Just a payback match really to make sure Bret polished off his feud with Backlund. It is nice that Bret gets on the show, but it sucks that it was in such a low profile match and feud. He really should have been given more at this point, as he busted his ass to legitimize the World Title in 1994, but now he forced to sit on the sidelines and watch Diesel begin to rip down the credibility he built up match by match. Backlund would pop up here and there throughout the rest of 1995 and would become a reoccurring charac-ter throughout the years, showing up whenever his services were needed. He would never wrestle regularly again, though, after 1995. Backlund “sees the light” after the match, and announced that he was running for President a few weeks later. Bret would now forge ahead in mid card feud after mid card feud while he awaits another turn at the top of the promotion. Despite being misused in 1995, he remains a good soldier and busts his ass to make sure his matches would steal the show. As Scott said, this match is choppy, especially with Piper’s annoying tactic of jamming the mike in each guys’ face after every move. The heat was pretty much gone at this point for Backlund (despite a pretty loud chorus of boos during his entrance) so, other when Bret was dominating, the match just came off flat. Bret has had some stellar Mania moments, but this would not rank among them. Grade: 2.5

6) Diesel (Kevin Nash) defeats Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) to retain WWF World Title with a Jackknife at 20:31

Fun Fact: Pamela Anderson was supposed to accompany Michaels to the ring (as part of the Royal Rumble prize) but she was nowhere to be found leading up to the match, allegedly due to a disagreement or argument with Michaels according to Todd Pettingill. So, Michaels instead walks down with Jenny McCar-thy, only to see Pam come out with Diesel instead. Ah 1995, what great drama!

Fun Fact II: After the Rumble, Shawn claimed he needed a bodyguard to protect him from all the superstars that were gunning for him. On the 2/20 Raw Shawn brought “the big, the bad, the vicious” Sid back to the WWF for protection. This is his first PPV appearance since his DQ loss to Hulk Hogan at Wres-tlemania VIII. Sid, of course, spent all of 1993 in WCW where he was set to win the World Championship, but he ended up being fired for stabbing Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors. Sid putted around the USWA in 1994, even winning the USWA Heavyweight Title from Jerry Lawler, before being brought back by Michaels in February.

Scott: The highlight match of the show, but then again, it's two clique members, so both men actually put some tremendous effort into it: enough effort that it was Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Match of the Year for 1995. Jenny McCarthy is blazing hot when brought in by Shawn, then Diesel brings Pamela Ander-son in, and the two sit there and do nothing. They’re giggling and smiling and trying to look like they care. There were way too many photographers around the ring, which caused quite a bit of clutter. Michaels actu-ally drags a cameraman by the lens because he's too close. The crowd gets into the match at some points, and Shawn looks like he's about to win the match more than once, so the drama built throughout also. The big moment is when Shawn hits the Superkick on Big Daddy Cool and has the 3-count, but Earl Hebner appar-ently hurt his leg outside the ring and takes forever getting into the ring. Then the part of the match that gets botched is actually one of the linchpins of the future storyline. Earlier in the match Sid undid the top turn-buckle pad in a corner, exposing the metal ring. Later on in the match Diesel slingshots HBK into that exact corner, but the move was executed too far from the corner and Shawn lands on the second turnbuckle which had the padding on it. It’s a small point in the whole scope of things, but since it’s a point that leads to what happens the next night on Raw, it really looks bad. Diesel then hits the Jackknife for the win. The crowd is really into Diesel in the end as he celebrates with all the celebrities. Big Sexy is now 2 for 2 in PPV World Title matches, but as we see with the next show it all goes downhill from here. Shawn Michaels also had his share of babyface pops, and the next night is turned from arrogant heel to arrogant, but likeable face. A great match, but not perfect. Grade: 4

Justin: This was the first blow-off to the Diesel-Shawn feud that saw them more as friends then enemies, but when they split, it was worth it. It was actually a really good feud, and I always liked the slow burn build to their matches. The tension is always there when they are friends, so you know they will explode at any time, and when they do, they always capped it off with a great match. In addition to the slingshot into what should have been the exposed turnbuckle, Sid was also the reason that Earl Hebner couldn’t make the 3 count after the Superkick. Earl was injured climbing out of the ring trying to keep Sid away from Diesel. After the match, Michaels is interviewed backstage and he issues the challenge for a rematch and then sees the footage of Earl out of the ring during what should have been the end of the match. Things would come to a head the next night on Raw when Michaels gave the big man “the night off” next time he and Diesel fought for the title. Sid would snap…but we will get into that more in our next review. This was a really good match, as usual for two Clique members, with some high impact offense and a lot of near falls and is definitely Die-sel’s last great match as champion for quite a while. These two are quite stiff with each other, and Michaels, as always, delivers on the big stage. The hype before the match is pretty good with all the celebrities coming to ringside beforehand and the King pumping up how this is Michaels’ big moment. Vince even goes as far as to proclaim Michaels the favorite due to experience, athleticism and his bodyguard. Of course, Michaels’ time is yet to arrive and the WWF, for better or worse, continues to run on Diesel Power. Grade: 3.5

7) Lawrence Taylor defeats Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Charles Bigelow) with a forearm off the second rope at 11:43

Fun Fact: There was a lot of interaction between Bigelow and LT leading into the big match. A cou-ple of weeks after the Rumble, Bigelow was forced to publicly apologize and the incident was seemingly be-hind him. However, a week or so later, Bigelow retracted his apology and said he wanted LT in the ring and that LT had no right coming to the Rumble (as an invited guest of Diesel) and laughing at Bigelow on his home turf. Bigelow kept insulting and challenging LT week after week. And, week after week, LT’s manager and lawyer kept showing up on TV to tell Bigelow to stop defaming LT and challenging him, as nothing was going to come of it. Eventually, after a month of goading, LT caved and accepted the WM match. LT and Bigelow had a big showdown at the WM Press Conference and had a physical altercation at the public work-out in Times Square the week before Wrestlemania. This was actually some pretty good press for the WWF, as the LT-Bigelow feud was everywhere. Vince would take this general idea and really make it work in 1998 when he brought in Mike Tyson, but more on that when we get there.

Fun Fact II: Bigelow was promised a huge face run if he went through with this and lost to a football player. The push started, and Bigelow was main eventing alongside Diesel. As we will see, his big run, however, would be short-lived.

Fun Fact III: Obviously this is Lawrence Taylor’s only PPV match, so his final record is 1-0.

Fun Fact IV: Part of the pageantry of this match was the two teams at ringside. After Salt-n-Peppa sing a tribute to LT (set to the tune of Whatta Man) each team was introduced member by member by Vince. First up was the Million Dollar Team (with Ted DiBiase’s music), comprised of Tatanka, Nikolai Volkoff, Kama, King Kong Bundy, IRS and Ted DiBiase. They are followed by LT’s All Star Team (with Monday Night Football theme music), comprised of Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Ken Norton Jr., Chris Speilman, Ricky Jackson, Carl Banks and Reggie White. Both teams would surround ringside and root on their man throughout the match. Also, the special referee for this match was WWF Hall of Famer Pat Patter-son.

Scott: Now the first time I wrote my half of this review I totally crapped on this match. Never should a celebrity gimmick match be the main event of Wrestlemania. It should be a title match, or something involving 2 wrestlers and a big build and storyline. I still agree with that, but in this specific case I’m soften-ing my stance. The match itself is actually OK for a celebrity gimmick match. LT actually seemed to take this seriously and put a lot of effort into getting the match over, plus the aura of the Million Dollar Corporation and LT’s All-Star teammates does indeed give this a nice buzz around the Hartford Civic Center. The match is particularly stiff as LT pulls no shots back on the big bad Beast from the East. This was a believable brawl that ends the show on a high note, one that had many of them. Bigelow is berated by DiBiase as the show ends, effectively kicking him out of the Corporation. I can’t give this an awesome grade, but not crap either. Grade: 2

Justin: If you take this in the context that it is: a celebrity facing an upper-mid card heel, it is really quite good. LT’s offense is solid enough to look credible, and he obviously respected the business enough to put in the effort to look credible. I always enjoyed this match and all the hoopla surrounding it (the two teams brawling on the outside of the ring) as it had a fresh feel to it. Also, the entrances of each team were great, as we see the aging Nikolai Volkoff coming charging to the ring like a badass. A good match that put Bigelow on the map as a big star, at least in the mainstream, but is a real shame that Vince didn’t capi-talize on all the build up. I remember in PWI after this show the rumors that LT would be returning to help Bigelow take out the Corporation, but that obviously never happened. As Scott mentioned, DiBiase berates Bigelow in the aisle after the match, which would lead to his being turfed from the Corporation and turning face. The match is actually pretty damn good for what it is, as Bigelow sold well enough to make LT look credible, and LT sold well enough to really gain some good sympathy heat. The only thing that still surprises me to this day is not that Bigelow lost, but that he hit LT with both the moonsault and the headbutt and couldn’t get the pin. A lot of people thought Bigelow losing was a mistake in the long run, but it was really the only ending you could go with. It would have been worse if he lost to someone who exposed the business and made a joke of it, but LT came across pretty as being legit and respectful, so I don’t see the big problem with the job. It could be played off as a fluke anyway (which it sort of was) so it didn’t hurt the business at all in the long run, but did help gain some nice attention at the time. Grade: 2.5

FINAL ANALYSIS

Scott: This was for a long time, in my eyes, the worst Wrestlemania of all time. However with age, experience, and a better look at IX, this was the maybe the third or fourth worst Wrestlemania ever. Vince tried here, but he had a very limited roster of true stars. IX had good stars, but was poisoned by Egomania. Here, the show was fairly straight-forward, there just wasn't anything to look forward to. Storylines were weak, and talent was very average. It would have been a great Summerslam or secondary PPV (which Vince starts with our next show), but for a Wrestlemania it’s a little weak. Some stars are fading (Lex Luger), oth-ers are stagnant (Bret Hart), and others would go through a change (Shawn Michaels). Even the Undertaker couldn't save this from being a bottom-level Wrestlemania. Diesel impresses for the second straight show, but unfortunately begins a 6-month downward spiral of bad main events and ungodly workrate. Taker and Bret Hart are mired in the mid-card and nowhere to go. Taker has Kama to deal with, and Bret has…uh…who can they put Bret with at the moment? Well with the next show the Hitman goes back to unfinished business from 1993. Yes things were so bad they had to dig up a storyline from over 2 years ago for Bret. I used to give this show a D+, but on its merit and 3 matches over 3 stars, I really can’t leave it there. Unfortunately a gim-mick main event and a couple of unwatchable messes (opening tag match, Taker/Bundy) doesn’t bring it up too much. Final Grade: C

Justin: This really isn’t as bad as its reputation would lead you to believe. Vince’s talent pool was just depleted, as he was still in the midst of sorting through his roster so he could rebuild in 1996. The matches (except UT-Bundy) are all solid enough and Diesel-Shawn is really good, as is LT-Bigelow. I think Vince knew he needed LT and the media circus because he didn’t have the roster he needed to get the show done, so it was actually a shrewd move that added a big mainstream feel to a very average card. I don’t blame Vince for this one like I did in 1993, because there wasn’t much he could do at this point. LT could have been as beneficial as Tyson if Vince had the product that he would have 1998 when Tyson showed up. Here is the point I’m trying to make. WWF was already awesome in 1997 and early 1998, but no one knew to tune in and watch (as WCW was still very strong). By bringing in Tyson, Vince was able to get everyone to stop and look at what was going on, and once they started watching to see Tyson, they got hooked on the awesome product he was presenting. In 1995, LT brought that same attention, but the problem was all the mainstream watch-ers and non-fans who tuned in didn’t care for what they saw (and who can blame them?) so they didn’t stick around. That is why the LT run is looked upon as a mistake in some ways and Tyson was such a success. Anyway, a decent show that would have been better as a Summerslam or In Your House, but as a Wrestle-mania, it is just a cut or two below the rest. Final Grade: C

MVP: Diesel/Shawn Michaels
Co-MVP: Lawrence Taylor/Bam Bam Bigelow
Non-MVP: Undertaker/Bundy
Non-MVP Runner-Up: Lex Luger (For continuing to drop down the ladder)

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