1) Vader/ Owen Hart/ Davey Boy Smith v. Jake Roberts/ Ahmed Johnson/ Yokozuna- 5
2) Roddy Piper v. Goldust (Hollywood Backlot Brawl)- 4
3) Steve Austin v. Savio Vega- 4
4) HHH v. Ultimate Warrior- 1
5) Diesel v. Undertaker- 5
6) Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels (WWF Title 60 Minute Iron Man Match)- 7
Opener is your classic 6man, ppv style. Opening brawl more than made me pay attention. Ahmed got hops on a plancha. You couldn't pay me enough to take those Vader swipes in the corner, im' actually lying, i'd probably get some grim pleasure out of taking them, but damn they look rough! Yoko hits a rock bottom that literally shakes the arena. Ahmed is disgusting me, he sells like an exhumed corpse. Owen and Jake have good chemistry, with Owen doing most of the work. I hate Davey's terrible punches and why the hell did Jake kick out of his powerslam in the middle of the match with no build? Vader's just a murderer in this, Davey looks like a rookie here and I'm sure that Samoan drop he took from Yoko probably knocked him back to 1982 when Dynamite sliced his head open for him in Stampede. Crowd really loved this match, it's the last 6 man tag at Mania since 1988. The Backlot Brawl is a unique piece of business that I can't for sake of length and content rate very high, but should be sought out by those who have not seen it. Yes, Piper punches Goldust's face like he just fingered his wife, yes he beats him with a fire hose, and yes Hot Rod gets hit with a car. The first part is shorter than I remembered but basically you can skip the 2nd section later on in the show, where Goldust just works over a tired Piper until he plays his best Bugs Bunny and lays a big kiss on another dude. .
Austin looks motivated, solid strikes, body work makes sense and the pace and story of the match is working in their favor, but crowd seems really dead for this. You also have the intercuts to the "OJ chase scene" that ruin the continuity of the match. They would go on to have better matches and I don't really see the point of using a title belt shot to set up a submission move. Warrior's comeback elicits quite a loud eruption from the fans, if only they knew it would lead to his very own misanthropic comic book and money laundering University scam, they probably would have been more indifferent. Effective in establishing he's still unbeatable and freakishly ape-like, it also effectively killed the Pedigree as a finisher for quite a while. Some fun brawling starts our Semi-main, but i don't know why Nash is selling the ribs? Did I miss a backstage segment where Hall drunkenly dropped a bucket of chicken on a sleeping Nash in the dressing room floor? Cross body, okay I'm digging it, Nash kind of dwarfs Taker but his whole attitude kind of kills the momentum and drags this into extra innings when it didn't need to. Taker not doing his undead comebacks, just pathetically slithering around. At least they're not mailing it in, there's some solid strikes here. Nash slaps on the bearhug, good timing on that. Cool visual seeing Taker powerbombed, awesome reversal from the chokehold, Nash just hoists him backwards for a Japanese backdrop, that's the spot of the match for me. Both guys bumped well for their size so can't complain too much. Could have trimmed some time off though for optimum performance.
Okay, the Iron Man Match. Probably a pretty risky venture for McMahon, especially considering the company's lean towards "sports entertainment." Being a Michaels fan when I was a young kid, this was THE MATCH OF MATCHES. Being a fan of technical wrestling, is there a better example of the most pure way to show your love than to spin this match? Before NHO, before ratings, this has always been one of the greatest matches of all time to me, and in a way, still is one of my favorites. But it also marked the end of my "fandom" as you could say. Shortly after this match, Brian started getting Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and we used to read about all the Michaels antics, which made me think twice about him being my favorite superstar. But, when I knew I would start the Mania project, if I had a sure fire "10'" in the bunch, it had to be the Iron Man, but I usually go with my gut after I watch a match, and "9" was what my gut was telling me. Let me give you some of my notes, then some final thoughts on this one:
0:00- 10:00- Not much happens here, they work simple ground holds, building a slow pace as the crowd pops appropriately, probably not knowing how slow match will be. not one hold has been lazy though all looked rough and worked well
10:01- 20:00- Some stiff clotheslines here, more rest holds, both guys half-ass attempt their finishes but nothing, crowd growing more quiet, they stretcher out tony chimel after superkick spot which I was never a fan of, I think a high spot should involve the wrestlers in the match
20:01- 30:00- intensity is turned up, Bret takes a brutal posting, Michaels' well known prick side surfaces as he cusses out a cameraman, 1st punch is thrown at 26 mintues in (by Bret), Mostly all Shawn working Bret's shoulder, which ultimately leads to nowhere,so why waste so much time on it? Bret literally eating turnbuckles as michaels rams' his face hard into them with delight, Pointless ref bump and a powerslam near fall end this section
30:01- 40:00- Bret hits his patented piledriver, which was sicker than the mind of Trey Parker, that wakes the crowd up too. Highlight reel dive from the top by HBK, one of the reasons he has the rep he does, they went with a lot of near falls here, but not getting huge reaction they want, sleeper applied sucks the wind out of the crowd and the clock, big backdrop spot outside, Shawn with a nasty landing, def. highlight reel material there. Both guys broke countouts which is interesting considering they're in an Iron Man, Bret starts working back for his eventual sharpshooter. 1st miscue is 40 minutes in and belongs to Shawn, pretty good though
40:01- 50:00- Love Bret following Michaels up corner with a back suplex off the top, Back still worked over, dont' know why it's taking him so long to try and hook the sharpshooter, Jose Lothario goes down in a comical spot, Michaels viciously hits steel stairs on his back, i'm sure someone got cussed out later for that spot, Bret taunts the crowd to a big mixed reaction, Some stiff jabs from Shawn and mean lifters from Bret, can see some anger welling up in both men, tame suicido by Bret followed by awesome Everest-like German, match is so even God couldn't have engineered it better, oh well guess he did
50:01- 60:00- Chinlock wears away time in a pointless effort, Top rope superplex didn't seem to have the snap as usual, but crazy to try that so late in a match, Bret's sternum bump 56 minutes in, damn I love that man. Crowd digging Shawn's comeback, moonsault didn't make sense there. Botched Rana they shouldn't have tried in final minute then set up to Sharp shooter takes forever. Match ends with Bret looking like the clear cut winner. Crazy pop for finish, would have done huge business as a rematch, IMO
OT- this always left a bad taste in my mouth, the way they did this. leaves Bret strong, he eats the final superkick like a moose steak, suprised his jaw wasn't broken.
In the end, I'm torn on this match. The work in it, superb, unparalleled, both men give great efforts and maintain the utmost professionalism during it. I think some of the body work was way too drawn out and didn't lead anywhere and there was a lot of stuff done to kill the clock since it was a draw. I look at this match as a love letter to the feud I wished they had, but personal differences ruined that, and the fans suffered for it. Both men were at their peak here and together, wove a brilliant tapestry of wrestling art. But, alas, I stick with my grade of "9" and simply say this is a phenomenal match that any fan should watch. I'd be remissed if I didn't mention that there's a moment after Michaels secures victory and is handed the Title belt by Earl Hebner, which Bret pointed out in his amazing biography and yes, WWF cameras pick it up clear as day. Michaels tells Earl "to get Bret's ass out of the fucking ring, because this is his moment." You see Earl whisper something to Bret, who looks up, completely not selling now and looks a little stunned. He somberly leaves the ring, and throws Michaels a death stare as he trots down the aisle, pissed off and rightly so.