wrestling / Columns

Csonka Reviews The Mania Main Events (9-12)

March 27, 2016 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Hulk Hogan WrestleMania 9 LOL

WELCOME: Welcome back to day three of my countdown to WrestleMania series. You can read the first two parts here (part one) and here (part two). In this edition we head into uncharted waters, as the Hogan Era comes to an end and the WWF has to move on without him as the main draw and Mania main event mainstay. The deal here is simple, I will be looking at every WrestleMania main event. I will look at them in small batches, discuss some history, how my opinions may have changed over the years, rate them, and at the end of each column update the overall rankings of Mania main event matches. For the purposes of this column, the main event is the LAST MATCH on the show. I will not get caught up in what some perceive as the main event, or co-main event bullshit; the last match on the show is the focus. I plan to make it a bit more conversational, maybe even for it to have a storyteller’s tone to it. We’ve seen these matches, we’re read blow by blow recaps and other forms of analysis; I hope to do a little something different. Sound good to you? Cool, let’s get to work.

WRESTLEMANIA 9-12

WrestleMania 9 – WWF Title Match: Champion Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan [The Dirt Fucking Worst]: Now if we all recall, I was not a fan at the WrestleMania 8 main event. The choice of the match, the match itself or the finish; it all sucked to me and lacked any sense. So now we come to WrestleMania 9, Hogan was reportedly on the way out around Mania 8, but was really going to be leaving this time around. We head into WrestleMania 9 with Bret Hart as champion, defending against Yokozuna, the first man to win the title shot by winning the Royal Rumble match. Hogan is in a midcard match with Beefcake vs. Money Inc in a LONG and not good match, where Hogan’s team gets DQ’d. Now I will talk a little Bret vs. Yoko, even though the main event ends up being Hogan vs. Yoko. Yoko beating Bret isn’t what I dislike here, because Yoko winning after his Rumble win makes sense to set that stipulation up as something major and to set Yoko as the monster heel. The match isn’t great, hell it isn’t even really all that good; it’s short but logically booked to protect Bret (Fuji has to cheat) and crown the new monster champion. All is well and good, and then, then Mr. Fucking America has to come down to save the day. He checks on his little buddy Bret and gets the “OK” to go at it with Yoko, in what becomes an impromptu match. They go 30-seconds, Hogan wins and walks out with the title. This was so moronic; I almost can’t form the proper words to express myself. Hogan was leaving, he really didn’t want to be there, but he couldn’t keep his ass out of the spotlight and WWF couldn’t help but to put him back there. He basically held up Vince saying he wouldn’t come to the show; so he gets the DQ in the tag match and somehow gets a title win. Vince is just as much to blame here and he never should have given in on this one. Hogan leaves as champion, Bret ends up looking bad because the big guy gets the win when he didn’t need it, Yoko and Fuji then look stupid for challenging him and losing in such short order, and then when they do the big rematch at KOTR, we have the flashbulb finish from the fake cameraman because Yoko couldn’t beat him clean, seriously Hogan didn’t want to lose clean and got his way. WrestleMania 9 is a horrible event, but it’s made even worse with the main event booking; for a company preparing for life without Hogan, they sure bent over and took it in the ass to make him happy. Did I mention that this was stupid? The fact that they actually went with putting the title on Hogan, on the biggest show off the year, and then couldn’t get a clean job out of him on the way out is complete insanity. Maybe if he had done the clean job to set Bret or Yoko up you can look past some of this, but he didn’t and it made it harder for that next generation to get their momentum.

WrestleMania 10 – WWF Title Match: Champion Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart [*¾]: It was a new era for the company because it was a WWF without Hulk Hogan. In my opinion Bret was heavily damaged at WM 9 after his loss and The Hulkster coming out to “save him.” It was like, “awww the little guy couldn’t win on his own and the big Hulk had to save him.” I always hated that ending, and I still do to this day for the reasons I spoke about above. So one of the stories between WM 9 and 10 was Bret’s redemption and getting back to the title, a story that almost got derailed because of Lex Luger. Luger left WCW in 1992, and was signed to Vince’s WBF (World Bodybuilding Federation). He was going to be a big part of that, but he gets injured in the motorcycle accident (leading to the bionic forearm) and when he returns, WBF is shutdown. He comes in as the Narcissist, and then as Hogan leaves the company he becomes the all American boy, body slams Yoko and is primed to become the “next Hogan,” a position he was in when he was in WCW; it’s exactly what they hoped he’d become. There are a ton of stories involved with Bret and Luger as they got pushed; Luger never got over as they had hoped, Bret got more fan mail, Luger talked to a reporter and spoiled shit (which most say is bullshit, but it was out there) the night before, you know the usual shit that comes with wrestling. Anyway, this was the Royal Rumble “photo finish” where Bret and Luger were eliminated at the same time, so the call was made that both men and Yoko could wrestle multiple times at WrestleMania 10. This was Luger challenging Yoko for the title and Bret vs. Owen, and then Bret vs. the winner of Luger vs. Yoko. Bret and Owen have the greatest opener in Mania history, with Owen taking the win from big brother and Bret having to battle tired and injured in the main event. Yoko of course retains, and we have the Mania 9 rematch. When it came to WrestleMania 10, the big thing was that Bret got back to the top. He went in hurt, the true underdog and had another somewhat passable (but not really good in any way) match out of Yoko while winning the title. He cemented himself again as not only champion, but also deserving of his stardom. The match is about as good as it could be, Bret and Yoko were a clash of styles; Yoko had his moments, but really needed someone to not only sell but to bump around big for him to make it really exciting. The finish is really the shits though, as Yoko climbs for the Banzai drop but loses his balance and falls off like a complete goof. Bret then covers and wins in as anticlimactic fashion as possible. However, the end of the show is a great moment, as Bret celebrated and the faces came out to lift him high, but then Owen was right there staring him down. This was a great moment because everyone really understood that Owen not only beat Bret, he beat the champ. Owen gets legitimized as the victory earlier cemented him as a star and set up for the post WM title feud. As for Bret, for the time being, he was crowned the new guy in the post Hogan era.

WrestleMania 11 – Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow [**¾]: Bret is crowned the man at Mania 10, and rolls along to feud with Owen and then the insane Bob Backlund. Bret worked well with both, so I personally did not mind; but at the Survivor Series Backlund would win the title in a “Throw in the Towel” submission match as Owen tricked Helen Hart to throw in the towel for her son when Davey Boy Smith was rendered unconscious. Three days later, Diesel pins Backlund in seconds and becomes the new champion, and starts one of the worst drawing reigns in the company’s history. They wanted the title on the big man, and had strapped the rocket to Diesel’s ass, but didn’t want him beating Bret. So Bret gets screwed, Backlund becomes champion and returns to MSG, and then loses in seconds to make Diesel look like a complete badass. But what about Bret you may ask, well fuck Bret because this isn’t about him. Ok, so onto Diesel! Nope, it’s not about him or the Rumble winner Shawn Michaels either. Why? Because this is about Bam Bam Bigelow and Lawrence Taylor! I know, I was all, “what the fuck” too at the time, but as the story goes Lex Luger was friends with Taylor. So he pitches him the angle, LT loves it and WWF loves it. So at the 1995 Rumble, Bob Holly and the 1–2–3 Kid faced Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka and won the titles from them, After the match Bigelow and Taylor have a shove, and it comes off as a SportsCenter moment, but went on to become the main event of Mania 11. The feeling was that with Taylor’s NFL success, the location of the PPV being in the North East and the fact that Taylor’s NFL success was in New York (the WWF “home base”) that all of these things would make for a huge success. But they ran a smaller arena, and did less PPV buys than the year previous, so the experiment really did not deliver at the gate or with the media as they had hoped. Back in the day I had a lot of anger in regards to this match. I don’t mind celebrity involvement, it’s always been there, but I am of the feeling that if the world title is defended, it is the main event, especially at WrestleMania. But, this was what WWF thought was the hot angle going in; mainstream publicity and the marquee of having Lawrence Taylor wrestling. So after letting all of that go, and sitting back and “turning my brain off” so to speak, what you have is a damn fun match. They played up the Football Players and how they and the Million Dollar Corporation had picked individual feuds so to speak so they could talk trash. You had Salt and Pepper there live to bring in LT; it felt big time. It’s a fun match with LT working hard and Bam Bam doing one of the best carry jobs in wrestling history. Overall, what we ended up with was an entertaining match, Bam Bam making a reported $250 large and then getting heat from the Kliq. It’s far from the worst Mania main event, that’s for sure.

WrestleMania 12 – WWF Title Iron Man Match: Champion Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels [****¼]: This is something that for one-time at WrestleMania was great, an Iron Man match for the WWF Title. The two best wrestlers in the company battling for a one guaranteed hour over the gold. This was cool because the longest WWF Title match, at a WrestleMania, was at WrestleMania VI: Hogan vs. Warrior, which went for 22-minutes and 54-seconds. The iron man match is a match that has happened since, but not at a WrestleMania and I doubt it ever will again. That being said, I am a big fan of this match. A lot of people dislike this match because there was only one pin and because there are a few lapses in the ring psychology. I will agree with that, because at times there were some places where the psychology didn’t hold and it had some issues. But you know what? In the grand scheme of things those are very small points because of all the awesome stuff that they do in the match. The match played up a lot of things. The first 10-15 minutes was a ton of mat work. The thing going in was “Could HBK match Hart’s wrestling expertise?” This was to show that they were “surprisingly” equal to the task. Bret also starts to get his heat going on the heel as he doesn’t give a clean break early on. This also helps things. As we build to half way through the match they keep a good pace, stick to the plan of “working” a clean and good old fashioned match, and have the crowd right where they want them at about 50/50, some times a little more one way or the other depending on what they are working. As we get to about 45-minutes in Bret has totally established that he is working the back, for the obvious sharpshooter. But simple is sometimes better, still great stuff. The last 10-minutes really were some kick ass stuff as they really kicked it all up a notch. Shawn was turning it all up until a missed RANA/Missile dropkick, and Bret got the Sharpshooter with 20 or so seconds left. Time ran out and it looked as if Bret would retain. Part of me hates that they did things this way, with the sudden death and all since I was raised on NWA rules, if it is a draw the champ retains. To me it just takes away a little bit, but in my eyes it’s still one of the top Mania main events, and one I still personally enjoy. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Conclusion: And that ends out look at WrestleMania 9 through 12. it was a time of change within the company as they moved from the Hogan era (dragged kicking and screaming away from it) to the New Generation. We have the Mania 9 bullshit with Hogan, and a rough Bret vs. Yoko encounter, but then rebound with LT vs. Bam Bam and end with the great Bret vs. HBK encounter. Tomorrow we look at WrestleManias 13 through 16, as the New Generation gets some attitude…

The Rankings So Far

* WrestleMania 9: Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna [The Dirt Fucking Worst]

* WrestleMania 8: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice [*]
* WrestleMania 3: Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant [*]

* WrestleMania 10: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna []

* WrestleMania 2: Hulk Hogan vs. King Kong Bundy [**]

* WrestleMania 7: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter [**½]
* WrestleMania 4: Ted Dibiase vs. Randy Savage [**½]

* WrestleMania: Hulk Hogan & Mr. T vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff [**¾]
* WrestleMania 11: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow [**¾]

* WrestleMania 12: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels [****¼]
* WrestleMania 6: Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior [****¼]

* WrestleMania 5: Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage [****½]