Walking along the trash-ridden streets of Indianopolis last year on our way to Summerslam, surrounded by Colts fans and derelicts, we happened by the now defunct (and I believe, destroyed) Hoosier Dome, nestled away in it's massive corner downtown. Adam remarked that Mania 8 took place there, my first reaction was "which one was that?" My memory is becoming horrible with dates and shows now, (not like when we used to do our fictional wrestling radio show and my name was "The Man Who Knows it all." Then he reminded us and I remembered that I fucking loved that show! I actually still have the original VHS tape we used as we pirated it right off of PPV. Still has my usual chicken scratch writing on the side label, although I tried to neatly and slowly print it out (at the ripe old age of 10 years old). I believe it also includes a tv version of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure alongside it. But, now in the midst of this massive Mania project, it gives me great pleasure to relive this show once again, for at a time, I knew most of the spots and commentary by heart and it's fun to see and hear it all again and know what's coming next, to a certain degree. I think memories like these are what truly makes someone a fan for life.
1) El Matador v. Shawn Michaels- 5
This is Shawn's 1st big rodeo, and they put him in there with a really capable hand so probably expecting good things here. This is the first Mania also where the card is not completely overstacked, less than 10 matches, first one since the original. So, everything gets a bit more time and I think it works out for the better that way. Tito is using near falls early, combined with his usual headlock routine. Funny watching Shawn hit a superkick halfway through with not even a count following. He used to do that old Orton spin sell a lot, although he more than likely stole that from Hennig. Pace was fast throughout and Michaels was doing exactly as he should have, bumping big, really selling that he's about to lose any moment then pulls it out in the end. Strange ending though, as he just holds onto the rope as Tito tries to bodyslam him. Commentary is fantastic on this whole show too.
2) Jake Roberts v. Undertaker- 3
The story going into this is pretty good, with both guys really creepy and mysterious. Roberts, i think , left the company shortly after this so it's surprising he's put over so strongly here. Smart heel, hits and runs and sinks 2 DDT's in near the end, but never covers. Taker hits a really exposing Tombstone on the floor where Jake's head was a good foot off the ground, kind of hurts the score with that unbelievable finish. Taker was super over as a face here as well.
3) Roddy Piper v. Bret Hart (Intercontinental Title Match)- 7
All the haters out there on this one can kiss Mrs. Hart's bologna sandwhiches! (see prematch int.) Even as the guys come out, this emits that big match feel. Piper has more than enough charisma to carry this with the crowd and Bret has the ability, it's a perfect combination. Also, has Roddy ever been in better shape, or more motivated? Some decent amateur stuff, just as Heenan calls Piper's Golden Gloves championships "Amatuer punk stuff" after he asks Monsoon if people get paid for that. They blew a spot trying to flip over the ropes but that's the only one I've spotted. Piper opens Bret up with a short jab, not sure if it was hardway or what but gives this match a little extra drama quotient. The Crowd is just ballooning with joy over this one, loud, raucous cheers and screams fill that Dome. Imainge how hyped those two must have been. Piper eats a stiff forearm that sends him outside that I really liked. Story fits too, didn't use the ring bell and it cost him whereas he would have normally. The chemistry is leagues better than most probably expected and the finish is a Bret signature. Please, people, get on the nuts of this match!
4) The Mountie/ Nasty Boys/ Repo Man v. Sgt. Slaughter/ Hacksaw Duggan/ Virgil/ Big Bossman- 3
Call me nostalgic for a local celeb, but I always loved the intros by Ray Combs at the beginning. We start out with a quadruple clothesline spot that looks like a drug rehab center's version of "Red Rover." I like seeing the Nastys take some receipts here, including a stomach breaker from Sarge that surely made Brian Knobs vomit out his X later that night and a crescent kick from Bossman that possibly made Jerry Sags even uglier than he already was....possibly. Just a lot of run-ins and no sells from everyone, heels try to slow it down but just keeps breaking apart, like when you buy those Dollar store Band-aids, those f'n things don't really work! Virgil loses his face guard and gets hit, subsequently selling it as if he was being killed off dramatically in a work of Shakespeares. Face go over for another fun crowd pop.
5) Ric Flair v. Randy Savage (WWF Title)- 8
this is just going to be verbatim from my notes......pure emotion here.....Savage is a nut, Flair takes a vicious high knee....Monsoon & Heenan are putting on performances of a career......giant backdrop outside, crazy, crazy bump.....Flair setting pace, beautiful vertical suplex.....working back over well, all Flair's strikes (chops, punches) accentuate his performance....Flair on defense, getting over an opponent, there's no equal......Flair over the top rope, down into clothesline awaiting, awesome near fall......Flair flop outside, nice to see some classic Flair, incl. floor bump w/ suplex.......Flair bleeds, heard Vince had heat over it, telling Flair not to bleed in big match is like making Deadpool a fucking scarred freak with combined powers; it just shouldn't be..........Perfect throws in knucks, old school heel tactics......Liz comes to ringside, emotional factor ratchted up even higher.....Shane O Mac, young and spiffy, already ejaculating to sister's budlings, tries to convince her to locker room......Flair winks at her, Heenan sees it and says she winked back.......Savage selling the knee is phenomenal.......Savage wins out of nowhere, fans buy it........after match stuff with Flair kissing Savage's lady all works.........Savage one of all time Mania legends, in my book.......2 outstanding aftermatch promos with both men.......should have been one of Flair's all time great programs, Vince dropped ball on this one........This match carries the rest of the show.........announcers reference it remainder of show............fuckin A'
I do want to say this is one of the rare instances in wrestling where the announcing really pushes this match into another level- Ross can do it on occasion but here Heenan, since he's supposed to be financially invested in Flair's career in WWF, just makes this one- so many ups and downs and he follows it with his emotional and hilarious commentary. Gorilla is also a great foil for him, just rubbing it in Heenan's face, and he references Flair losing the rest of the show.
6) Tatanka v. Rick Martel- 3
Really bad humor w/ Martel & Sean Mooney, saying Tatanka might not be in the match because he's still "scalping" tickets. Starts off with a brisk exchange and hiptoss leads to outside, gives you a small glimpse of the worker Martel used to be before he became a mailman. Crowd noticeably deflated after the last match and all it's hoopla, even though the Lumbee (or "Lumpy" as Brain calls them) are doing their war cries as they leave ringside. Tatanka's offense is solid, if not uniform and bland. Crossbody out of nowhere gets the duke. These two will have better matches later.
7) Money Inc. v. Natural Disasters (WWF Tag Title)- 4
Dibiase is a good ham, would have like to seen more, too bad he didn't come along in '99 so he could have gotten dropped in dog shit by the Rock, or in '09 where he could be in a singing contest with fake Britney Spears......on 2nd thought, glad he was in the era he was in. Quake's got a great lariat and he knows it because he breaks it out often here. Typhoon is supposed to go over the top rope but he looks like an idiot trying to hoist his massive frame over the top; and you thought Carrot Top looks stupid doing......well most anything. Typhoon was a wreck, falling the reverse way after double clothesline, guy never got it I don't think. Deliberate CO, instant blazing white heat. Also would have better matches than this.
8) Skinner v. Owen Hart- 2
Poor Owen, had to take that juicy chaw right in the face! God, hope his payoff was worth it. Skinner looks more like a homeless bum than an alligator hunter. Steve Irwin always dressed pretty nice. Stiff shoulder breaker, but Owen rebounds by skinning the cat and getting the win. They always have these quick matches right before the main, guess they ran out of time again.
9) Sid Justice v. Hulk Hogan- 4
so, there's footage of an interview with McMahon & Hulk beforehand with all these blown up pics from his career and it's a severly understated Hulk doing the interview, not the usual rampant psycho that talks about blowing up Trump Towers and back stroking to safety with the Trump family riding his back like a sperm whale. He doesn't even have a live interview on the show, but Sid does and he ridicules Hogan to no end. Hulk's entrance, there's this long crane shot that swoops right in on Hulk and he's just standing there enjoying the moment, after all this was billed as Hogan's last match. But, in the ring he's all business, he's more trim and cut than any year prior since Mania's been in business. He has good movement, hopping Sid over several times, crisp punches and takes meaty bumps like the awesome one handed Chokeslam Sid deals out. He even lets Sid overtake him in a test of strength and makes no comeback. Of all things, Sid kicks out of the legdrop too, never been done at Mania before. So, this is an interesting match, it's not long, or deep with content or story, it's like a free-form painting left up to Hogan to decide what will happen, as he does have his usual comeback spot but it doesn't end like every other one. Papa Shango meanders his way down to ringside, and the comeback of Warrior finishes the show off with no big sendoff for Hogan. There's a short pose down but that's it. If this was Hogan's last match, at least in his head, it was a completely modest send off which is really unlike the Hulkster. I think we all could have remembered his career a lot more positively if this perhaps was his last moment, and he still would have been a huge star, while helping to mold new ones, such as Sid and perhaps Warrior for a 2nd run. Not a stellar match to end this Mania, but a muted one that didn't try to over take some of the classics on earlier in the show.