Monday, 28 March 2011

WWF Wrestlemania VII - Retro Review

The world was deep in crisis. A coalition of armed forces from around the world had ejected Saddam Hussein’s forces from neighbouring Kuwait. Meanwhile, WWF Champion Sgt. Slaughter had been praising the “brave Iraqi nation” as he prepared for his big title defence in the main event of the heavily patriotic Wrestlemania VII, switched from it’s original location at the Los Angeles Coliseum to the small L.A. Sports Arena because of “security concerns”. As a well loved British sit-com character would say: “Security concerns my arse!”
The show began with tag team action as the future Faces of Fear, Haku and the Barbarian, managed by Bobby Heenan, faced off against the Rockers, Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty.

This was a great opener, not the usual quick match that we’d become accustomed to on previous WWF pay-per-views.

I’d forgotten just how good Haku and the Barbarian looked in this match. They put in a great effort as they took Janetty apart early on.

But after the Barbarian missed a top rope head butt the Rockers came back into the match, with Janetty and Michaels putting on some great double team moves before Janetty took Haku out with a top rope dropkick, Michaels getting the pin after a top rope body block, giving the Rockers their first Wrestlemania victory.

The singles action began with Dino Bravo, accompanied by Jimmy Hart, taking on “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich.

This one began when Bravo attacked Von Erich as he was getting into the ring, and from there it developed into a slugfest, Von Erich quickly recovered, slapping on the claw before finishing Bravo off with the tornado punch. Well, it wasn’t bad, but how many of you actually remember this match?

Then it was on to the battle of the powerhouses as “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith faced Slick’s big guy the Warlord.

The story surrounding this one was whether the Bulldog could break out of the Warlord’s full nelson, and after these two beat on each other for a while the Warlord finally locked in the hold.

The only thing was that Davey Boy did managed to break the hold, taking the Warlord down with his trademark power slam for the pin to end an entertaining encounter.

The first title match of the show saw Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags, the Nasty Boys, accompanied by Jimmy Hart, challenging the Hart Foundation, Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart for the Tag Team titles, the Nasties having earned their shot be winning a tag team battle royal.

The crowd went wild during this one, including a young Macaulay Culkin. Referred to by Gorilla Monsoon as “that youngster”. I guess he wasn’t a fan of Home Alone.

Twenty years ago I didn’t really like this match, but viewing it now made me realise that this was actually quite good, a well thought out encounter which made sense in every way.

The Nasties spent a great deal of time working over the Hitman’s back, but after he managed to get the hot tag to Neidhart the Anvil cleaned house.

The challengers made several mistakes as the Harts took control, taking Knobs down with the Hart attack clothesline.

But as the Anvil made the cover Sags clobbered him with his manager’s crash helmet while the referee was otherwise distracted. A three count later and new champions were crowned.

The infamous blindfold match between “The Model” Rick Martel and Jake “The Snake” Roberts followed, set up months before after Martel almost blinded Roberts with his “Arrogance” perfume during an edition of the Brother Love Show.

This has to be one of the dumbest matches I’ve ever seen. It was basically two hooded guys staggering around the ring, with the fans cheering Roberts whenever he pointed to Martel.

There were a few moves, and Martel even managed to get the Boston crab on at one point, but moments later Roberts bumped into him and took him out with a DDT for the winning pin.

Jake The Snake staggering around the ring? Now where have I seen that before?

Normal action resumed as “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka took on the Undertaker, accompanied by Paul Bearer.

Yep, this is where the streak began. The dead man dominated from the outset, and whenever Snuka managed any offence it had no effect. It wasn’t long before ‘Taker took him out with the tombstone for the win. Seeing this match again reminds me why I became such a big fan of the big guy in the first place.

Then it was on to the big grudge match as “Macho King” Randy Savage, accompanied by Sensational Queen Sherri, took on the Ultimate Warrior in a retirement match.

Before the match began commentator Bobby Heenan saw a familiar face sitting in the crowd, none other that Savage’s former manager Miss Elizabeth. Remember this kids as it will be important later.

This was a masterful piece of storytelling between two wrestlers at the top of their game. With so much on the line these two gave their all as they attempted to protect their careers.

There were so many great moments here it would take too long to list them all. Savage connected with five top rope elbows, and the Warrior still kicked out of the pin. Warrior connected with the gorilla press/big splash combination, and Savage kicked out.

Then Savage attacked Warrior after he’d left the ring, unsure if it was his destiny to continue, returning after Savage missed his top rope attack.

After a series of rope to rope shoulder blocks it was all over. The Warrior placed his foot on Savage’s chest and got the career saving pin.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. After realising that her meal ticket was done Sherri attacked Savage as he lay on the mat. It was then that Elizabeth jumped the guardrail and charged the ring, throwing Sherri through the ropes. Moments later Savage and Elizabeth were tearfully reunited before they left the ring to a standing ovation.

It was back to tag action as Tenryu and Kitao took on Smash and Crush of Demolition, managed by Mr. Fuji.

This match came about as a result of the WWF’s relationship with Japan’s Superworld Sports. Don’t remember that particular promotion? Well, it didn’t last long, and went out of business the following year.

The match wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that special either, and it didn’t help that it was on after the best match of the show.

Tenryu got the pin for his team after taking Smash down with a power bomb.

The second title match of the evening saw the Big Boss Man challenging Mr. Perfect, accompanied by Bobby Heenan, for the Intercontinental title.

This feud had been going on for months, beginning when Rick Rude began insulting the Boss Man’s mother, actions which earned him a suspension from paper president Jack Tunney. Yep, back then you just had to say a few words about a fat guy’s mother to be in the dog house.

Then we saw the Boss Man working his way through the Heenan family until he got his shot at Perfect’s title.

This one had some nice opening sequences, but it was completely overshadowed by the surprise appearance of Andre the Giant, who came down to ringside to negate Heenan’s interference.

It kind of broke down from there. The Boss Man went for the pin after Andre clobbered Perfect with the title belt. Moments later Haku and the Barbarian rushed in and attacked the Boss Man, with the referee calling for the bell and giving the challenger the disqualification win. Andre and the Boss Man proceeded to clean house before leaving together.

The next match saw Greg “The Hammer” Valentine taking on Earthquake, managed by Jimmy Hart.

If memory serves this one was set up by events at a house show. Valentine had vanished from our television , returning in a tape segment in which he turned on Hart, becoming a beloved baby face on his return to the screen.

This was another of those throwaway matches which saw the big guy go down after Valentine clobbered him several times.

The Hammer was about to go for the figure four when Hart jumped on to the ring apron. Earthquake quickly recovered, getting the pin seconds later with the sit down splash.

The blink and you’ll miss it of the show saw Slick’s Power and Glory team of Hercules and Paul Roma facing Hawk and Animal of the Legion of Doom.

Herc and Roma attacked their foes before the bell, but it wasn’t long before Hawk and Animal took control, getting the pin in just under a minute after they took Roma out with the doomsday device.

The battle between master and former servant followed as Ted Dibiase took on Virgil, accompanied by Roddy Piper, hobbling around the ring after injuring his knee in a motorcycle accident.

Virgil began by peppering Dibiase with a few jabs, until the Million Dollar Man took- him to the wood shed with his far superior wrestling skills.

But after Piper used his crutch to pull down the top rope, which send Dibiase flying out the ring, our Ted seemed more intent on attacking the rowdy one.

It proved to be his downfall as the referee counted him out, giving Virgil the count out win.

Dibiase was irate and attacked Virgil, putting him in the million dollar dream until Piper managed to stagger into the ring so he could clobber Dibiase with his crutch.

Dibiase soon regained his senses, and with the surprising help of Sensational former Queen Sherri he inflicted further damage on Piper’s injured knee until Virgil came back in to make the save.

The penultimate match saw the Mountie, accompanied by Jimmy Hart, taking on Tito Santana.

This was an early pay-per-view outing for Jacque Rougeau’s newest gimmick, and who better to make him look good than the veteran Santana?

Not much action here though. While the Mountie was holding onto the ropes the referee tried to usher Santana away. Hart then handed the Mountie his trusty cattle prod, and one electric shock later Santana was out if it, giving the Mountie the easy win.

The main event saw Hulk Hogan challenging Sgt. Slaughter, accompanied by General Adnan, for the WWF title.

This was your typical Hogan early 90’s affair. With thousands of flag patriotic Americans cheering him on Hogan dominated the early stages, throwing Slaughter around the ring like he was a stuffed toy.

Slaughter eventually worked his way back with some underhanded tactics, including a couple of chair shots, one of which busted Hogan open, all of this before he finally went for the camel clutch.

After a while Hogan managed to get back to his feet but was soon taken back down by the Sarge. But instead of going for the pin the champion went for his Iraqi flag, draping it over Hogan before going for the cover.

Then, the inevitable happened. Hogan kicked out and hulked up, tearing the Iraqi flag in two before taking Slaughter out quickly with the leg drop for the title winning pin.

In conclusion - this was only the third Wrestlemania I had seen, and it won’t got down as one of my favourites.

There’s some good matches here, but the move away from the Coliseum to the Sports Arena for “security reasons” hurt the atmosphere of the big event. It just didn’t feel that special.

It was also pretty obvious that Hogan was going to win. It was the only way they could go after Slaughter continued his pro-Iraqi ramblings while the coalition forces were fighting Saddam’s men.

So in all while this show gets the thumbs up, it’s not a big thumbs up. It’s an okay show3, but it will never go down as one of the best Wrestlemanias in history.

But think about this. What would have happened if Vince McMahon hadn’t decided to capitalise on Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait? How would things have played out if the WWF had gone with their original plan, the re-match between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Would the show have been moved due to lack of ticket sales I mean security reasons?

I think we all know the answer to this one, don’t we?

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