Let’s start off by saying that to be a wrestling fan you must be able to suspend belief. It’s true. If you got body slammed, would you just lie there waiting to be elbow-dropped? Would you be completely knocked out cold 99.9% of the time if you were hit in the forehead with a gold belt? If you got punched three times in a row, would you stand there, in a daze, whilst the person beating on you did a little dance, grabbed his crotch, and elbowed you? No. You wouldn’t. Belief must be suspended to enjoy our favorite sport.
With that point made, I’d like to talk about Wrestlemania. All good wrestling fans should know their Mania history. They should know who competed in the main event of Wrestlemania I (Hulk Hogan/Mr. T v. Roddy Piper/Paul Orndorff). Most do. As a matter of fact, they should know who faced who in every Mania main event, and who was the champion and who was the challenger.
II – Hogan (c) v. King Kong Bundy in a steel cage III – Hogan (c) v. Andre the Giant IV – Randy Savage v. Ted DiBiase in the finals of the championship tournament V – Savage (c) v. Hogan VI – Hogan (c) v. The Ultimate Warrior VII – Sgt. Slaughter (c) v. Hogan VIII – Ric Flair (c) v. Savage IX – Bret Hart (c) v. Yokozuna X – Yokozuna (c) v. Hart XI – Diesel (c) v. Shawn Michaels XII – Hart (c) v. Michaels XIII – Sid (c) v. Undertaker XIV – Michaels (c) v. Steve Austin XV – The Rock (c) v. Austin XVI (or Wrestlemania 2000) – HHH (c) v. Rock v. The Big Show v. Mick Foley XVII (or Wrestlemania X7) – Rock (c) v. Austin XVIII (or Wrestlemania X8) – Chris Jericho (c) v. HHH
That is important stuff to know. History is made at Wrestlemania. It is where you become a legend. It is also a place where you can fail miserably. Ask Bart Gunn about his match at XV versus Butterbean. For those who don’t know, Bart Gunn had been built up to be a legit toughman through the Brawl For All tournament. 30 seconds after the match began, it ended with a knockout, and Bart Gunn was no more.
There have been historic moments over the past 19 years. However, everyone has their favorite. The standard smark answer is Steamboat/Savage at III. While this match is fantastic, it is by no means my favorite moment. I would even say that it doesn’t even approach the top five for me. I’m here to talk about my favorite WM moment of all time. An angle six (6!) years in the making. An angle that covered love, loss, betrayal, hope, and redemption. All of this happened in the single greatest Wrestlemania moment of all time. The apex of Wrestlemania.
In 1991, the WWF held it’s annual Wrestlemania (this one being #7) on March 24. Riding a wave of patriotism, it featured a main event that had fervent patriot Hulk Hogan against evil Iraqi sympathizer, the vile Sgt. Slaughter. The undercard featured an Intercontinental match between the late Mr. Perfect and the Big Boss Man. Another match that was interesting was the blindfold match between Rick Martel and Jake Roberts. A lot of people hate that match, but if you suspend belief and actually believe they can’t see each other, it was a lot of fun. The highlight (of this and all Wrestlemanias to come) happened in the undercard.
For months, a feud between the Ultimate Warrior and “Macho King” Randy Savage had been brewing. At the Royal Rumble on January 19, 1991, Savage had sent “Macho Queen” Sherri Martel out to plead with the then-champion Warrior for a title shot. Sherri actually begged Warrior, getting down on her knees. Warrior grunted a “NOO!” to her and sent her packing. Savage became enraged in the backstage area. Savage got pissed off like no one ever could. Maybe it was his voice. Maybe it was the way his eyes bugged out of his head. When Randy Savage was mad, you knew someone was going to pay.
During the Ultimate Warrior’s match with Slaughter, the Warrior was caught in the ropes, quite like someone who is getting set up for Rey Misterio’s 619. The Macho King ran down the aisle and full out busted his scepter over the head of the Warrior. A short 3 count later and Sgt. Slaughter had his first ever WWF World Title. The damage had been done. The WWF Title was held by an Iraqi sympathizer. Later that night, Hulk Hogan won the Royal Rumble, setting him up to face Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII. Hogan eventually triumphed and sent the fan home happy. But this article is not about that match.
As we drew closer to Wrestlemania, we found out that the Macho King would face the Ultimate Warrior. This match, however, was not just any match. It was a retirement match. Whoever lost would lose his last match ever. This showed the fans how important and how desperate these men were to get their hands on each other.
This match more than any others tore my brother and I apart. I was a Macho Man fan through and through while my brother was a Little Warrior. We beat the hell out of each other with our official Wrestling Buddies. In case you don’t know what those were, they were hard pillows that looked like wrestlers. I think the four that they made were Hogan, The Big Boss Man, The Warrior, and the Macho King. In the weeks leading up to the match, I actually broke my nose trying to imitate the Macho King as I tried to drop an elbow onto my brother while he was laying on his bed. I misjudged, and my nose hit his headboard.
Needless to say, we, along with fans all over the world, tuned in to see this match. What a match it was, as well. The Warrior, for one, didn’t do his trademark run to the ring. He slowly stalked down the aisle to face his destiny. Warrior absolutely destroyed Savage until at one point Savage fought back. Then out of nowhere, he dropped the big elbow on the Warrior. I was going crazy. I was screaming at the TV “PIN HIM!”. Then, Savage went up to the top turnbuckle and did it again. And again. AND AGAIN. AND AGAIN! Randy Savage dropped 5 big elbows onto the Warrior. This should have been enough to kill a man. I was jumping up and down, because I knew this had to be the end. I just knew that the Ultimate Warrior was done for. I counted along with the ref. One! Two! THR—
It wasn’t meant to be. The Warrior tossed Savage off of him, and did his own version of the Hulk-up. The crowd was going absolutely nuts. Savage didn’t know what to do. The Warrior gorilla slammed Savage and hit him with the big kidney splash. I sat down with my head in my hand, knowing it was over. But it wasn’t. Savage kicked out. He kicked out of the move that had put everyone else away. Even the mighty Hogan at Wrestlemania VI.
The Warrior looked into the sky, “questioning his gods”. He then did something that freaked my brother and I both out. He walked away. He started walking away. I remember Gorilla Monsoon saying “He’s questioning his destiny…maybe he’s not supposed to win this one”. Savage, seeing the opportunity, went after him. Mistake. This woke the Warrior up. A shoulderblock later, the Warrior put his foot on Macho’s chest and the ref counted to three. The Ultimate Warrior had vanquished his greatest foe, the Macho King.
This match was the Ultimate Warrior’s shining moment. He wrestled his absolute best match ever here. His pacing, his moves….all of it fit and worked. Savage bumped all over the place for him and they created a classic. I like the match 100 times more than the Steamboat/Savage match because it was much more intense. They weren’t fighting for a belt, they were fighting for their career.
If it were all over there, I still would have called it my favorite match. But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.
Earlier in the match, Gorilla had pointed out that the lovely Miss Elizabeth, Savage’s former valet, was sitting in the crowd. Elizabeth was once known as the “first lady of wrestling”. She was there ever since Macho had come into the WWF around 1986. She was mistreated initially by Savage. The storyline was that he was insanely jealous over her. When Savage became a face, he began to respect her and treated her better. When Savage won his first WWF Heavyweight title at Wrestlemania IV, he gave the belt to Elizabeth and put her on his shoulder. This was the high point of the Macho/Liz relationship. But it was about to go downhill….
Liz had split with Macho after he wrestled Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania V. She was in both of their corners at the match, but ended up walking out on Savage afterwards. Appearing sporadically throughout the two years, she always came around when someone needed to get into the head of the Macho Man. The fans always welcomed her back warmly. Seeing Elizabeth was like seeing the good half of Savage that they used to cheer for.
Anyway, with that bit of history out of the way, we go back to the match. After the Warrior left, the dejected Macho Man was left lying in the ring. Sherri, who was not happy now that she had no one to manage, got into the ring and started screaming at Savage. “She’s lost her meal ticket!”, Gorilla told us. He apologized, but she would have none of it. She started kicking him while she berated him. That’s when it happened. Elizabeth decided she had had enough and jumped the barrier and ran down to the ring. She grabbed Sherri by the hair and threw her out. The crowd was absolutely insane right now, because they had never seen this side of Elizabeth. Savage turned around ready to hit Sherri and almost punched Elizabeth.
She pleaded with him, telling him what happened. Savage looked confused. He pointed at her and then looked to the crowd. He grabbed his head as she continued to tell him that it was OK. Then, he opened his arms and hugged Elizabeth. The crowd cheered and cheered. They showed close-ups of women (and a few men) crying in the crowd. I cannot say that I got through that one with dry eyes. He then put her up on his shoulder just like the good old days. Right before they left, she went to hold the ropes open for him like she always did when she was his valet. Savage stopped her, and held the ropes open for her. Just like that, we knew that it was all going to be OK between them.
Later on in the year, the Macho Man and Elizabeth tied the knot at Summerslam. Happiness was fleeting, though, because they were attacked at the reception by the Undertaker and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Roberts eventually got a snake to bite Savage and shortly after the Survivor Series, Savage was reinstated. Savage’s retirement, which he had fought so brutally for, was over six months later.
Barring that, the match at Wrestlemania was historic. I got chills just writing about it. That is a testament of how well this was done. 12 years later and the angle still gives me chills. Name one angle that’s ever made anyone cry. This was the point when wrestling REALLY could have been compared to a soap opera. It was so much more, though. It was history. It was the shining moment of the WWF.
We suspend belief because we watch pro-wrestling. We believe that a plastic scepter can knock out a man just like that. We believe that the babyface will one day get his revenge and retire his worst enemy. We believe that no matter how evil the heel is, we’ll support him if he turns his beliefs around. We believe because we are pro-wrestling fans.
Willful ignorance of science is not commendable. Refusing to learn the difference between a credible source and a shill is criminally stupid.
Good column. I don’t care about womens wrestling, so I didn’t read your last column.
To nitpick, the matches you listed for Mania 8, 9, and 11 weren’t really the main events (last match on card).
Going into that Wrestlemania, I wasn’t expecting much. Everyone knew Sgt. Slaughter was a G.I. Joke. I thought it would be a letdown. The Hogan match was actually pretty good. He sold a lot and bled like a pig. It was the first time Hogan bladed in a long time. The blindfold match was also good in that the live crowd loved it. Every time Jake came close to Martel, they screamed to help him out. It had an unusual crowd participation aspect to it.
I’ve seen every Wrestlemania except the first 2 and I can agree that the Warrior/Savage match was the best match I’ve ever seen. They were evenly matched opponents. The story had everything you could ask for: ambition, betrayal, destiny, love, loss, redemption, etc. The announcers did a great job explaining it. Best of all it sent everyone home happy. The Warrior got to continue his career. Savage got to ride off in the sunset and spend time with his true love. Fans of both wrestlers were happy.
It's funny, but before I read what your favorite WM moment was, I started to think about mine, and that was it. Personally, I was cheering for Savage all the way through that one, but damned if Warrior's pin wasn't the coolest one I've ever seen, pumping his arms while he walks over Savage's chest. That was awesome.
I know that those matches weren't technically the main event, but I'm a purist, and I think anything where the Heavyweight belt is defended is the main event. Just call me old fashioned. At WM VIII Sid/Hogan was the last match on the card, but it didn't hold a candle to the Flair/Savage match. The main event at IX was advertised as Bret/Yoko. The Hogan match wasn't really a main event as it was an afterthought. The last match at XI was the LT/Bam Bam match. That was more of a sideshow match than anything. Hopefully the WWE will do the right thing and let the World title or the WWE Championship match be the last one at XIX.
A few things... First, the Shawn Michaels November Jukebox is nearly done and will be posted in a couple of days. Second, go read Bryon Frazier’s most recent column because it’s hysterical and I told you to. Third...