Your hosts are Gorilla Monsoon, Randy Savage and former Baltimore NFLer Art Donovan (the Grandpa Simpson of announcers).
Miscellaneous musings brought on by the presences of Art Donovan, Bret & Owen Hart and the city of Baltimore: In 1984, the Irsay family promised, absolutely, "hand to God," "cross my heart," that they would NOT move the Colts to Indianapolis, and what's more, anyone who says otherwise is a filthy lying **YOINK!** The Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis literally in the middle of the night. So, Baltimore fans were rightly pissed.
Right around the the time of this show (or maybe a few years earlier), the Canadian Football League decided to expand into the United States for some reason. Canadians get free meds, right? Anyway, the CFL expanded into Las Vegas, Sacramento, Birmingham and…Baltimore. The Baltimore Colts were reborn! Except that the NFL owned the trademark "Baltimore Colts" for marketing reasons. There was a big lawsuit, so the braintrust of the CFL version had to change the name of the franchise. One suggestion was "Baltimore Colt .45s." Okay, problem solved, albeit in a very Jim "Ultimate Warrior Warrior" Hellwig sort of way. Except that "Colt .45" was a trademark of the Colt Manufacturing Corporation as well as the former name of the Houston Astros. In the end, the Baltimore CFL franchise simply changed their name to the Baltimore CFL Football Team before finally settling on Stallions, which is a pretty cool variation on what they wanted to be called anyway. Then, in an ironic twist, Art Modell moved the longtime Cleveland franchise to Baltimore to become the Ravens and pushed the CFL franchise out. Eventually, they wound up being sold off and are now the Montreal Allouettes.
So, you see, the Fake Razor and Fake Diesel lawsuit doesn't look so bad now, does it?
Opening Match, Quarterfinals: Bam Bam Bigelow (w/Luna) vs. Razor Ramon
Ramon defeated Kwang (Savio Vega) to qualify while Bam Bam defeated "Sparky" Thurman Plugg (Hardcore Holly). And if those two names don't tell you how bad things were on the undercard, nothing will. And if you want an example of booking autopilot, guess what the dark match for this PPV was – yep, Kwang vs. Sparky Plugg. Razor gets distracted by Luna, and Bammer blindsides him. The flying headbutt misses. Razor slides out and crotches Bam Bam on the post. He bulldogs Bigelow, but Bigelow shrugs off his clotheslines and tosses him to the floor. Back in, Bigelow hits an enzuigiri and goes with a Torture Rack (?!). Razor fades but slips out and backdrops him. Bammer heads up top for the moonsault, but Razor catches him and schoolboy bombs him for the win at 8:25. About what you'd expect from an opening round match. **
Quarterfinal Match: Irwin R. Shyster vs. Mabel (w/Oscar).
In the qualifier, IRS defeated Scott Steiner (who was on his way out anyway). Mabel defeated Quebecer Pierre. Donovan gem: "Who's this guy (IRS)? Is he one of the wrasslers? He looks like a businessman!" I won't bother play-by-play on this one other than to say IRS goes for a bodyslam (hey, he's a tax collector, not a brain surgeon), and Mabel REVERSES TO A SMALL PACKAGE! Crazy. The match is unintentionally hilarious because IRS can't physically kick out, so the ref has to pretend he's getting his shoulder up half the time. Mabel goes to the second-rope, but IRS shakes the ropes and knocks him off. IRS covers and grabs a handful of ropes to pick up the upset at 5:40. That's about five minutes too long. 1/2*
In the back, Camp Cornette plots strategy.
Quarterfinal Match: Owen Hart vs. Tatanka.
Owen defeated Doink (the inferior Ray Liachelli version), while Tatanka went over Crush. Tatanka actually blindsides Owen, which is a rare case of a babyface showing a brain. They fight to the floor where Owen shoves Tatanka into the post. We get a picture-in-picture of Razor and IRS getting into a fight backstage. Back in, Owen gutwrenches him over and hits a missile dropkick for two. Tatanka hulks up with the POWER OF TURQUOISE! A Tatanka DDT gets two. A flying chop gets two more. Powerslam…for two. Tatanka stops to argue with the ref (which is odd because that would be his gimmick during his 2006 comeback). He avoids an Owen sneak attack, but Owen blocks his sunset flip and grabs the legs for the win at 8:18. Very not bad. **1/4
At this point, I just have to point out the hilarious exchange between Donovan and Savage. See, at this point, both Gorilla and Randy realize that "The Donovan Experiment" isn't working, so they just adopt the strategy of ignoring him. But Donovan doesn't take the hint, so he just keeps asking his inane questions until they're forced to answer him. It's like one of those Family Guy jokes where what's going on is not actually funny, but they keep repeating it over and over again until you laugh. And then it gets irritating. And then it goes back to being funny.
Donovan: Randy, how much does this guy (Tatanka) weigh?
Randy? How much does this guy weigh?
Savage: Uh…if I had to gay-uesssssss…I would say 260-280 pounds.
(later, while Tatanka is in a chinlock) Donovan: Is Tatanka getting any oxygen, Gorilla? Gorilla: Sorry, I couldn't hear you, Art. Savage: That's okay.
Quarterfinals: Jeff Jarrett vs. The 1-2-3 Kid.
The Kid beat Adam Bomb. Jarrett defeated Luger. The Kid was still in underdog mode, which means all his matches involve him getting his ass kicked for 3-4 minutes and then getting in a few fluke moves. Jarrett avoids a flipping senton but crotches himself on the ropes. Kid blocks a superplex and gets two off a crossbody. Kid misses a charge and apparently injures his knee. Jarrett goes for a figure-four to finish, but Kid small packages him for the win at 4:40. After the match, a dysphoric Jarrett gives the kid THREE piledrivers. Kid would be okay, though. He's tough. He's a wrestler. Pretty good stuff for the time they had. Interestingly, Jarrett came in with virtually no heat, but he left as one of the biggest heels of the night. That tells me if he had a little more control over his character, he might have had more success in the WWF. And yes, I know he was the Intercontinental Champ several times. **3/4
Bret Hart says he's concerned about taking the Jackknife Powerbomb because he's not sure if he can kick out, but he has a surprise to neutralize Shawn Michaels.
WWF Heavyweight Title: Bret Hart (w/Jim Neidhart) vs. Diesel (w/Shawn Michaels).
Bret's old partner, Jim Neidhart, is his secret weapon to neutralize Shawn. Pretty big markout moment for me (and a lot of others, judging by the reaction). Diesel is the IC Champ at this point, but he's looking to trade up. Diesel misses a big boot early and crotches himself. Gorilla: "It's David and Goliath. You know what happened in that story." Donovan: "Yeah, he hit him with a rock." Well said, Arthur. The early story of the match is Diesel overpowering Bret but missing a move and hurting his own leg, so Bret goes after the leg to neutralize the whole height thing. Bret figure-fours him, but Diesel is powerful enough to pull himself to the ropes. The tide turns as Bret heads outside to wrap Diesel's leg around the post, but Shawn cheapshots him. Neidhart gives chase, but he only serves to distract the ref while Shawn delivers another cheapshot. Bret makes a comeback, and Diesel botches the spot where he's supposed to catch Bret in a bearhug, but in the context of the match, it actually works better because Bret has been working over the leg. Bret dropkicks him to the floor but misses his pescado, and that turns the tide again. Diesel methodically works Bret over and sends him into the corner for the "Bret Bump." Shawn tricks Neidhart into distracting the ref and then undoes the buckle. Bret wriggles out of a Canadian Backbreaker and reverses it to a sleeper. NICE! Diesel rams Bret into the corner and takes off the turnbuckle pad, but Bret blocks and sends Diesel into it. Bret hits a series of clothesline and gets two. FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Shawn is on the apron, so he stops to knock his dick in the dirt. Hey, any opportunity to hit Shawn Michaels, you take it. Bret flips over Diesel's shoulder and small packages him in a great spot. That gets two. Bret avoids a Snake Eyes but runs right into a boot. Turns out he's just goldbricking because he pops up and turns Diesel into the Sharpshooter. Diesel makes the ropes and gets dropkicked to the floor. He takes a shot at Neidhart. That distracts the ref long enough for Shawn to sneak in and blindside Bret with the belt. Diesel's back in. ONE, TWO, THR-NO! Bret kicks out. Diesel signals for the Jackknife, but Neidhart hops in and LEVELS him with a clothesline for the DQ at 22:52, saving Bret's title. Neidhart storms out of the ring and back to the locker room. That leaves Bret at the mercy of Shawn and Diesel who deliver the beating of a lifetime to the Hitman. Great storytelling throughout. The match itself is probably in the three-and-a-half star range, but the overall storytelling – from the build to this match and the ramifications of everything that happened here (which we'll find out later) – bump this up to something special. ****
Bret actually wound up slitting his own throat (metaphorically speaking, of course) because he showed that Diesel was entirely carryable by someone who knew what they were doing, and of course, that's all Vince was waiting for. Diesel would be champ by the end of the year, and Bret was sent back down to the midcard.
Semi-Finals: Razor Ramon vs. IRS.
These guys had been feuding off and on as a secondary feud to the one between Razor and Shawn Michaels. The WWF booking was very odd at this point (and much more interesting) because you had guys feuding with each other in the short term (like IRS and Razor, Bret/Diesel) while engaged in long-term feuds (Owen/Bret, Bret/Shawn, Razor/Shawn) that resurfaced every few months in some form or another. This is a near total squash. IRS gets in a few shots but misses a charge and goes tumbling hard over the ropes. Razor beats on him for a few minutes and finishes with the Razor's Edge at 5:14. 1/2*
In the back, Bret is looking for the Anvil, demanding an explanation.
Semi-Finals: Owen Hart vs. The 1-2-3 Kid
There was intrigue over whether or not the Kid would even show, given the beating he took earlier. Owen jumps him right away and hits a splash for two. Kid comes back with a series of counters, and they do some beautiful wrestling. Kid gets a Northern Lights for three, but Owen had his foot on the ropes. Owen stops for a breather, so Kid flies out on him with a somersault plancha. Back in, Owen catches the Kid in mid-air and hits a German Suplex. Owen's belly-to-belly gets two, and they reverse Victory Rolls. Kid goes for a rana, but Owen counters to a powerbomb to knock Kid silly. The Sharpshooter finishes at 3:35. WAY too short. The work outclassed anything else on the show (including the title match), so of course these guys wouldn't meet again in a significant match until 1998. As good as you can get in three-and-a-half minutes. ***1/2
In the back, Roddy Piper talks about Jerry Lawler's infamous King's Court where he brought out a Roddy Piper impersonator (who did a *great* job, btw) and made fun of Piper's awful movie "Hell Comes to Frogtown," saying they were making a sequel called "Hell Comes to Dogtown" with Piper's family. Actually, they did make a sequel to "Hell Comes to Frogtown" called "Frogtown 2: Return to Frogtown." It starred one of my favorite B-movie actresses – Denice Duff.
WWF Tag Team Titles: The Headshrinkers (w/Afa & Lou Albano) vs. Yokozuna & Crush (w/Mr. Fuji & Jim Cornette).
The Headshrinkers turned face just after WrestleMania X and took on Captain Lou as their manager, which is interesting because Lou managed the original Wild Samoans over ten years earlier. Just to recap, for all of you who can't keep it straight: Fatu, Samu and Afa are all related, are actually Samoan, and are portrayed as Samoan. Yoko is actually Samoan, actually related to Afa, Samu, and Fatu but is sold as being from Japan. Mr. Fuji actually is from Japan and is portrayed as coming from Japan. Crush looks like a regular white guy but is from Hawaii and is portrayed as coming from Hawaii. Albano is an Italian guy portraying an Italian, and Cornette is a pasty redneck portraying a pasty redneck. Samu tries a bodyslam on Yoko, which does not go well. He dropkicks him to the floor instead. Fatu (Rikishi) piledrives Crush and hits a diving headbutt for two. Fatu plays face-in-peril after Fuji interferes. Lex Luger comes down after being cheated out of a King of the Ring appearance by Crush. That was a rather awkward feud because Lex had been feuding with Mr. Perfect, but Hennig didn't want to return to the ring, so they stuck Luger in there with Crush. Crush gets distracted by Luger and turns around into a kick from Samu at (9:33). The Headshrinkers looked okay, but the match was horribly sloppy, and it looked like they botched the finish. 3/4*
King of the Ring Finals: Razor Ramon vs. Owen Hart.
Interesting note: Owen has not cheated to any real degree thus far. He doesn't even cheat that much here early on. Instead, he just relies on being a prick to get heel heat. It works too. Art cleverly changes his pick from Razor to Owen near the opening. Okay, we have Gorilla, Savage, Todd Pettingill, and Johnny Polo all predicting winners – AND ART DONOVAN PICKS IT RIGHT?! Owen gets a rope-assisted abdominal stretch. Ah, there's the cheating. Razor blocks a hiptoss and chokeslams him for two. Owen goes up for a moonsault but gets caught with a backdrop superplex. That's actually close to the finish of the opener. Razor signals for the Razor's Edge, but he's too close to the edge, so Owen backdrops him over. Jim Neidhart runs down and clotheslines Razor to the shock and horror of the fans. Owen drops an elbow off the top and picks up the win at 6:35. The New Foundation puts the boots to Ramon and gives him the Hart Attack. This was actually brilliant booking on the part of the WWF because Owen had been under the radar throughout most of the show, quickly and quietly beating his opponents without much of a fuss. Then, Neidhart comes down and sneak attacks Ramon, and it all makes sense in retrospect. Neidhart attacked Diesel so that Bret would have the title when he and Owen met at Summerslam because Neidhart was working with Owen all along. Why? Because Neidhart blamed Bret for throwing him overboard when Bret went off on his singles career. See, this is what we call a completely logical swerve, Vince Russo. *3/4
Owen's coronation: He would hype the "King of Harts" gimmick to the hilt. Owen is such a jerk during his coronation that it's almost worth the tape on its own.
Unfortunately, it doesn't end the show…
Legend's Match: Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler.
Welcome to the WWF's "New Generation!" This is Roddy Piper's one-time only "coming out of retirement match" after last appearing at WrestleMania to drop the Intercontinental Title to Bret. Twelve years later, he would be a co-holder of the WWE Tag Team titles. Piper brings with him the kid that imitated him on Monday Night Raw, who is now a babyface because he was used by Lawler. Piper blitzes Lawler early and lets the kid poke the King in the eyes. Lawler exercises every bit of old-style Memphis comedy technique he can think of, but this is Baltimore in 1994, not Hillsboro in 1974. Lawler takes over, and the crowd interest just dies off. Piper kicks out of the piledriver and slugs his way back. Piper hits a pair of bulldogs, but Lawler shoves him into the ref on the third. He nails Roddy with a foreign object as the ref recovers. Lawler puts his feet on the ropes. ONE…TWO…THR-the kid pushes Lawler's feet off the ropes. Lawler is irate and goes after him, allowing Piper to schoolboy Lawler for the win at 12:20. It might have been at home a decade earlier in Memphis, but in 1994 it was just sad. 1/4*
The 411: It features Owen's win, Anvil's swerve, a great match between Bret and Diesel, and the immortal commentary of Art "I had to catch the ferry to Shelbyville, so I tied an onion to my belt" Donovan. What more could you want? Well, okay, outside of the people you expect to bring it, the wrestling leaves a lot to be desired, but what's good is really good.