I should explain why Donald Trump and Wrestlemania 7 are connected. Trump sat front row but of course did not host the event which was its own debacle with the attempt to have the show at the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and moving the event to the nearby LA Sports Arena. The Donald’s then-girlfriend Marla Maples appeared on the show as one of the celebrities, which is supposedly her 3rd Mania appearance since she is said to have sat four rows behind Trump at WM4 and WM5. Hell at WM4, Trump’s then-wife was there too. How are Republicans supposed to attack a guy who is so brazen that he brought his wife AND mistress to Wrestlemania? The Donald is a mere footnote in this event, so before getting to the show itself I will answer some questions about the event.
Why did the WWF not run the Coliseum with its 100,000 seats?
They say that it was moved because of security concerns around the Gulf War and threats made. While there definitely were threats against Sgt. Slaughter, the event wasn’t moved for that reason. They had only sold about 15% of the stadium at the time and moved it to avoid the catastrophe of a mostly empty football stadium. What’s funny is that certain MMA promoters 16 years later would not learn that lesson for Brock Lesnar’s MMA debut.
Why didn’t they ever try the Coliseum again?
Because the stadium is mostly a shithole and not in the nicest area of LA. There’s a reason why the Raiders left Los Angeles in 1994 and the Coliseum is a big reason why. Also they were probably scared off by this experience. Back in 1991, you didn’t have people travelling to Wrestlemania the way it is now.
What celebrities were at this Wrestlemania?
The aforementioned Marla Maples was a backstage interviewer, but the big celebrities were Alex Trebek as ring announcer, Willie Nelson, and Regis Philbin. Bob Costas was also going to take part but he cancelled weeks before the event citing his discomfort with the exploitation of the Gulf War for use in a wrestling angle. Costas would not have issues appearing in Baseketball a few years later though.
Oh right, the Iraq thing. What the hell was that all about?
In the summer of 1990, Iraq (led by Saddam Hussein) invaded oil-rich Kuwait and…
No, I mean the angle. Sgt. Slaughter? With a guy who looks like Saddam?
Well if you listened to Bruce Prichard on the Wooooo Nation Podcast, he said the original idea was to turn Tugboat and make him Sheik Tugboat. I bet that never got past the “saying it out loud once” stage. As the story goes: Slaughter was dying a slow death in the AWA and called Vince looking for work and was shocked when Vince pitched the anti-USA angle to him.
Slaughter was NOT a pro-Iraq character originally because he debuted before the invasion of Kuwait. His vignettes started in July 1990 where he said America was now weak because Nikolai Volkoff was being welcomed with open arms. General Adnan did not enter the picture until after Summerslam, by which point Operation Desert Shield was underway.
Slaughter did have to wear a bulletproof vest during this period, including during the Mania match.
How did the Iraq angle impact other areas of the business?
For one, ratings for national TV dropped to the point where NBC cancelled Saturday Night’s Main Event, airing the last one at the end of April 1991. They would find a home at FOX in 1992 but the show would then disappear from network TV for over a decade. I also suspect advertisers were quite queasy about being affiliated with the WWF at this point. That attitude exists to this day where advertising rates on wrestling shows remain far lower than even the dumbest low-rated sitcom you can find.
Why didn’t they just do Warrior-Hogan II?
Warrior was tanking as champion, in part due to a lack of opponents but also because he lacked the intangibles that Hulk Hogan had. I know that I stopped watching for a bit after Hogan lost the title because I didn’t care much for Warrior and his nonsensical promos. I preferred Hogan and his nonsensical promos. The thought was by not running the rematch you could get two hot matches instead. The shame is that by giving Hogan his win back here, perhaps the 1998 Halloween Havoc debacle could have been avoided.
What’s the deal with Randy Savage and the retirement?
This one is simple and well-known. He and Elizabeth (still married) wanted to have children so Macho Man wanted to get off steroids to improve the chances of that since a side effect of anabolic steroids is a lower sperm count. Unfortunately, they did not have children, but they got divorced in 1992. The idea all along was for Savage to become a broadcaster in the meantime and return to the ring at some undetermined point.
Virgil said his breakup with the Million Dollar Man was planned as far back as 1987. Is that true?
Don’t listen to anything Virgil tells you.
Is the blindfold match between Jake Roberts and Rick Martel as bad as people say?
No, of course not. Dave Meltzer hated it and people somehow lose the ability to think for themselves sometimes. It’s not the best use of Section 309 Hero Rick Martel, but it was an excellent use of Jake because he wouldn’t have been able to hang with the Model in a traditional match, and because Roberts was a master of wrestling psychology.
Why the hell was Demolition facing two seemingly random Japanese guys?
The WWF was in a working agreement with Japanese promotion SWS, which was founded by an eyeglass manufacturer in Japan to challenge the hegemony of All Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling. The WWF and SWS ran co-promoted shows in Japan after WM7. Genichiro Tenryu was the main star of the promotion. As for Kitao, there’s a much more interesting story about him that will be covered later.
A lot of people on this show are deceased, huh?
That’s the sad reality of this show. Particularly depressing are three matches: Bravo-Tornado (both died in early 1993), Mr. Perfect vs Big Bossman (both died in early 2000s, and Andre the Giant passed in 1993), and Savage-Warrior (everyone involved in that match except for the referee is dead).
I heard that this even didn’t even sell out the Sports Arena. Is that true?
Yeah, they were trying to give away tickets like crazy up to the end. They show a lot of celebrities in the crowd during the broadcast but some were there only because their kids wanted to go.
If the WWF in 1991 was so kid-oriented, why was this show rated TV-14?
The biggest reason is probably the blood in the Hogan-Slaughter match. But I consider the period from WM7 to WM8 to be something of a mini-Attitude Era. Think of the edgy storylines they did during the period: Earthquake kills Damien and serves it up as food later (lifted by Bossman-Al Snow later), Warrior being locked in a coffin, Ric Flair bringing the NWA belt to the WWF, Vince McMahon getting physically involved for the first time ever by getting decked with a chair by accident, and the entire Jake Roberts-Macho Man angle.
Where did you watch this event?
This was a fun show for me personally because I was 11 years old and I had about a half-dozen guys from my youth hockey team at the house to watch the show. Because we were young and stupid, we did wrestling moves and someone (not me) ended up with a bloody nose. In my house we worked strong style. No question about it.
Onto the show proper:
Willie Nelson is here to sing America the Beautiful to open the show and he’s wearing a championship belt. Not a real one, one of the toy ones that hasn’t fit me since 1990. It’s pretty incredible to see, probably his second greatest achievement behind smoking marijuana on the roof of the White House.
Onto the show and our hosts Gorilla Monsoon and….Hacksaw Jim Duggan? Duggan is introduced and comes down to his music that was originally Big John Studd’s music in 1989. Hacksaw is wearing an Uncle Sam outfit. This is during the era where Heenan was still managing but also doing color on non-Heenan Family matches.
The Rockers are with Sean Mooney. They do a generic babyface promo but Shawn’s hair here is quite a sight. So full of volume and mullet-ness.
The Rockers vs Proto-Faces of Fear Haku and Barbarian (w/Bobby Heenan)
The build: The Rockers were on fire in early 1991 coming off a fantastic match at the Royal Rumble against the Orient Express. Their 1990 was not so good, with injuries, lethargic performances, and the SNME title win over the Hart Foundation that got taken away. Haku and Barbarian were not winning much at this point.
The match: There’s something really funny to me about Shawn Michaels wailing away on Haku, aka the toughest man in history if you believe the stories. It is noticeable that Haku and Barbarian are a bit slow and have trouble keeping up. Haku hits a stun gun/hot shot which Gorilla calls a “leverage move”. Haku also has this annoying habit of jumping into the air when someone goes for a crossbody on him, but who was going to go up to him and tell him to stop doing it? The guy bit someone’s nose off in a fight! (Wonder if Haku ever met the Asian woman from the movie Dirty Work who bit Chris Farley’s nose off…) Then Haku does the backbreaker spot where he holds the guy and does it multiple times. Marty gets a hope spot and comes off the 2nd rope but Barbarian hits a cool looking powerslam. He then missing a headbutt off the top rope allowing Marty to tag Shawn in. I must note that Duggan was talking a lot during this match, and had a habit of talking over Gorilla. Shawn does a sunset flip and Marty comes in with a clothesline to finish off the move. If Jesse Ventura was here, he’d be going crazy saying the ref should not count that. The finish is a missile dropkick from Marty into a flying bodypress from Shawn, and the Rockers finally get their first Mania win in three tries.
Verdict: Solid opener here. The heels were on top for much of this match and Marty did a good job of selling. The Rockers would continue to team until the end of the year before their famous breakup. Interestingly, they tagged with Andre the Giant on the April European tour against the Orient Express and Mr. Fuji. Andre got the pin on Fuji in the WWF’s Ireland debut. But the Rockers would always be stuck behind the Harts and LOD as a team. Haku and Barbarian would be linked together all the way into WCW at the end of the 90s.
Gene Okerlund is with the celebrities for tonight: Regis Philbin, Marla Maples, and Alex Trebek. Regis talks about how he’s had all the WWF guys on his show then goes into a jag about Earthquake hijacking a Pizza Hut delivery truck and eating everything in sight. Marla, who is looking very much like a Simpsons Malibu Stacy doll here, is excited about doing backstage interviews. Trebek and Okerlund do a “Who’s on first?” bit around the whole “answering in the form of a question” thing.
Texas Tornado vs Dino Bravo (w/Jimmy Hart)
The build: This match is the very definition of “stuff to do” for both guys. Bravo of course sucks. Tornado lost the IC title back to Mr. Perfect in late 1990 and was aimlessly floating around the midcard while dealing with his internal demons.
The match: Dino Bravo is in the ring and actually makes me laugh as he’s running around in circles. It reminds me of the Home Improvement opening theme where the three kids are shown aimlessly running in circles. This match is sloppy as hell and Bravo looks fat in spite of his pre-match cardio work. Bravo hits his side suplex finisher and Tornado kicks out! Wow, forgot that happened. Claw by Tornado is stopped when Bravo gets to the ropes, but the discus punch ends it.
Verdict: Not a good match, and I hate Texas Tornado’s music. It always just struck me as store-brand cola of WWF music in that time period.
Warlord and Slick are with Sean Mooney. Slick alludes to dogs knowing when their time is up, then Warlord talks! “There’s no wrestler who has escaped my full nelson, and Bulldog <awkward pause> you will be no exception to that <pause> rule!” <Laughter> No wonder why he needed a manager.
Gene Okerlund is with the British Bulldog and he says he will break the full nelson which makes me wonder: why the hell wouldn’t he try to avoid the move entirely? He then kneels down to “listen” to his dog Winston and says “There’s no bull in this British bulldog.” Oh my goodness.
British Bulldog vs The Warlord (w/Slick)
The build: After trying to get back in for over a year, Bulldog returned to WWF in late 1990 reinvented as more of a muscle guy. His feud with the Warlord was a pretty generic strongman battle with Warlord claiming that no one can get out of his full nelson. These guys had matches forever in part because they were close friends and workout partners in real life.
The match: Gorilla says not to look for dropkicks in this one, which is funny because Bulldog kept a bunch of his junior heavyweight offense in his early musclehead days. Here’s a pointless debate: better Bulldog-Warlord match, here or Tuesday in Texas PPV? Bulldog tries a crucifix (which would be the finish at Tuesday in Texas) but Warlord does a fallaway slam off that. Heenan says he’s been knighted and Gorilla responds by saying he’ll crown him. Brain says he has friends on the LAPD, which was in the news because the Rodney King incident happened earlier in the month. Hotshot by Warlord is now called a clothesline by Monsoon. Warlord then pulls out a belly to belly suplex. Wow, Warlord is emptying the arsenal tonight. Heenan declares that the former Power of Pain is “ahead on points” and Gorilla agrees. Full nelson is applied but fingers are not locked so Bulldog powers out. Then the Bulldog gets Warlord up for the running powerslam for the win. Babyfaces are now 3 for 3. Heenan says Bulldog pulled the trunks when it is clear he didn’t. I love when the heel announcers do that.
Verdict: I think I like this one better than Tuesday in Texas, which had to follow Jake vs Savage which was unenviable.
Okerlund is with the Nasty Boys and Jimmy Hart, who vow to take down the “Stink and Pink” and crack the Foundation. Knobbs and Sags steal Mean Gene’s pocket square and blow their noses in it and give it back in a funny bit.
Mooney is with the Harts and Jim Neidhart is insane. Anvil screams, “NASTY BOYS!!! KNOBBS! SAGS! You say you’re gonna ROCK the foundation? You say you’re gonna move the foundation? You say you’re gonna CRACK the foundation??” He then says that to do that you have to be at the bottom, and that’s where they are. He then hilariously loses his train of thought and says “tell ’em Hitman!” Bret says they are scum and are going to stay at the bottom. Bret was getting better at talking but had yet to truly hit his stride.
The Nasty Boys (w/Jimmy Hart) vs The Hart Foundation (C) for the WWF tag team titles
The build: The Nasty Boys were still relatively new at this point and won a tag team battle royal on Superstars to get the shot. It was a screwy finish with Power and Glory eliminating the Legion of Doom from the outside, which would lead to its own Mania match.
The match: The Nasty Boys are billed from Allentown, PA and not “somewhere outside of New York City” as they would be in WCW. They must be attracted to cities Billy Joel has sung about. Gorilla says “that youngster” in reference to Macaulay Culkin. Come on Gorilla, he was only the biggest under-18 movie star in the world in 1991. Bret Hart channels his inner Steve Austin by doing a Thesz Press early on. The singles push was coming, so the shine at the start of the match was a nice sneak preview. Brian Knobbs is bumping like crazy for the Anvil, so you can tell they are hyper motivated. Gee, I wonder why? Idle thought: I like Bret Hart’s working punch. The Hitman is put in peril by some sneaky tactics, as Anvil chases Jimmy Hart and his motorcycle helmet. Funny moment during rest hold as Heenan suggests he should manage the Nasties, and Gorilla says talk to Jimmy Hart. “That pipsqueak?” says Heenan, who then claims the guy behind him yelled it.
A couple of false tags before Anvil is back in to take care of both Nasties, who seem to run into each other a lot. Set up for the Hart Attack clothesline which connects. But referee escorts Bret out of the ring and the motorcycle helmet is tossed in to clobber Neidhart and we have new champions.
Verdict: Not a lot of offense for the Nasty Boys, who were clearly being set up as the transitional guys to get the titles to the LOD. My childhood memory of 1991 WWF is that the Nasty Boys were on TV every single week in the spring and summer, which I know is false. Bret would become IC champ by the end of summer, and Anvil would be the 3rd announcer on Wrestling Challenge, which isn’t so bad since I think you got health benefits that way.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs Rick “The Model” Martel in a blindfold match
The build: In the fall of 1990, Roberts was on the Brother Love Show when Martel came out and sprayed his “Arrogance” fragrance everywhere including at the snake bag. When Jake objected, Martel sprayed him in the face to blind him. Roberts then appeared on TV for months with a white contact to make it appear he was blind and would try and attack Martel to no avail. Martel’s entire team won at Survivor Series and he eliminated Jake at the Royal Rumble in the Model’s greatest performance from the era. So Jake didn’t have much going and needed a big win in the blowoff, and what’s better for him than a blindfold match? Snakes have better senses, etc. Eh, it made sense at the time. Martel looked AWESOME in a suit, better than that Jericho gimmick.
The match: Before this gets going, Jake cuts one of his classic promos. A snake has six senses, and he does it better in the dark. Speaking of dark, you can tell in retrospect Jake is slowly easing toward a heel turn though that became more apparent after Damien the snake was killed by Earthquake after Wrestlemania. This match gets a ton of crap from some corners of the internet, but the truth is it isn’t as bad as everyone says. It really did make sense given the genesis of the feud and it really got the crowd going after the heel tag title win. Martel plays his role perfectly, which should come as no surprise. This also played to Jake’s strengths since it was a psychology-based match and less to do with actual wrestling. Jake quickly gets out of the Boston Crab, then hits the DDT for the win. Martel mostly gets out of there before the snake is laid on him and has a priceless reaction. Jake destroys the Arrogance atomizer after the match.
Verdict: This was certainly memorable, though it kind of killed off Martel for a while. But it’s Wrestlemania and the good guys generally win. Jake would have an ultra-memorable 1991 with his gradual heel turn and feud for the ages with Randy Savage.
Marla Maples is in the locker room with the celebrating Nasty Boys. Back in 1991, the topic of women in locker rooms was a huge story as it was on the heels of the infamous Lisa Olson incident with the New England Patriots, where a few players exposed themselves to the Boston Herald reporter and made lewd remarks.
The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) vs “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka
The build: Undertaker came in at the 1990 Survivor Series and was pushed very strongly. He didn’t have a feud at this point but that would change after this show when he was tossed into a program with Ultimate Warrior. Snuka was not doing very much since his 1989 return other than putting guys over.
The match: And boy did he put this guy over. Snuka is wearing boots at this point. The crowd pops pretty big for the Undertaker here in his Wrestlemania debut, but they show some spooked children with bad haircuts in the crowd. Heenan speculates on what’s in the urn and when Gorilla tells him to find out like a good journalist, the Brain says he really doesn’t care that much. Undertaker hits a flying clothesline off a whip and again the crowd is digging this. It is startling to hear a 1991 WWF crowd cheering for a heel. Snuka’s offense in this match is literally a headbutt and a shoulder to the gut. Crossbody attempt by the Superfly is caught and turned into a Tombstone with a massive spike. So now he’s 1-0 at Mania, not that anyone would ever keep track.
Verdict: This was the most effective squash match in Wrestlemania history to that point. Bundy’s quick WM1 win took way too long for the announcement of 9 seconds and this is more memorable than the Harts being the Bolsheviks at WM6.
The Ultimate Warrior vs “Macho King” Randy Savage (w/Queen Sherri) in career vs career match
The build: Savage unsuccessfully challenged for the title in the fall but clamored for more title shots. At the Royal Rumble, Sherri confronted Warrior in very uncomfortable fashion, coming on to him and dropping to her knees in front of him. Yeah. Well, Warrior refused to give a title shot, so Savage snapped and cost Warrior the title in his match against Sgt. Slaughter. This did make sense because Savage was promised a shot by Slaughter if he won the title. Sadly, that never happened.
The match: This is Ultimate Warrior’s best match ever but can be somewhat overshadowed by the story of Savage, Sherri, and Elizabeth, who just happened to be in the stands for this one. Heenan spots her before the match, even though there is zero chance he could have seen her from where he was sitting. Fine, I’ll suspend disbelief. Warrior walks to the ring in a change from his usual, because blowing up in 3 minutes would make this a very long night. His attire is interesting as he’s commemorating the match: pictures of himself and Savage on the knee pads, and the image of the world title on his trunks with message “means much more than this”. Savage is in the white and purple and eventually removes the shirt, which he would wear all the time after his return later in the year. Not to be Captain Bringdown but: Warrior, Sherri, Elizabeth are all dead now.
The Warrior controls early before Sherri wanders into the ring for some reason, so the Macho King is throw into her. Heenan says the referee will be lenient because of the stakes. Savage tries a high cross body but is caught. Warrior sets him down and slaps him. Savage is so enraged he leaves the ring and grabs a chair and tosses it into the ring in either an effort to distract or a tribute to future state Terry Funk. Probably the former, but he can’t capitalize until the Warrior misses a charge and ends up outside. Sherri gets in her cheap shots and Savage sends Warrior into the ringpost as I wonder if anyone has ever lost a career match via countout. Probably not.
Gorilla now tells us out of nowhere that this is the largest PPV audience in the history of pay-per-view. Alrighty then, but my bullshit detector has gone off because Mike Tyson existed in the 1980s. Warrior misses a shoulder tackle because he was unable to shift course ever so slightly as he ran the ropes five times. He kept running straight and missed the mark. Chinlock by Savage is followed by a double clothesline for the mid-match de facto rest period. Small package by Warrior gets a two count, because Sherri distracted on the apron. Referee Earl Hebner is knocked down, so now is the time for Sherri to get involved. The heels come off and she comes off the top rope at Warrior, but hits her man instead. Warrior chases the Queen, who gets away. Ref has come to and Savage gets a rollup for two, and I remember watching live buying that as the finish.
After controlling for a bit longer, Savage decides to get down to business and do FIVE of his famous top rope elbow smashes. You can see even Donald Trump is impressed by this. Savage pin attempt only gets two. Warrior is without face paint now, but hulks up and gets his Gorilla press slam and splash combo. But Savage kicks out at two! This was well before the era of kicking out of finishers and made a ton of sense given what was on the line. Warrior is so shocked by this he starts talking to his hands as Gorilla ably tells the story of him “talking to the Gods” and all that. Monsoon did a fine job here despite calling him The Warlord at one point. Warrior steps to the apron and Savage gets up and knocks him to the floor. He goes for the double axe handle with Warrior draped on the guard rail, but Warrior moves and nails the Macho King in the gut and gets a shot of adrenaline. Back inside, Warrior hits three flying tackles on Savage, each knocking Macho out of the ring and when he is dragged back in the final time, Warrior pins him 1-2-3 with a foot on the chest. Cut to Sherri in disbelief.
But now it is time for some good old fashioned wrestling storytelling. Warrior grabs his jacket and leaves and Sherri is in, and she is PISSED. Even Heenan, the great wiseass, is like “come on Sherri, he tried his best”. The Queen lays in kicks to the gut, and Elizabeth in the crowd has seen enough, so she hops the barricade and hits the ring as the crowd is going bonkers. Sherri is quickly dispatched in the first time Liz has ever gotten physical in six years in the WWF. So now it is just Randy and Liz. “Everyone is standing” says Gorilla as Trump remains seated because he will not be seen marking out. Savage can’t figure out what happened but slowly realizes Liz came down to save him. Heenan’s flip-flopping is hilarious: “She loves him!” he exclaims, then 10 seconds later is like “This makes me sick!” Finally Randy and Liz hug and let the crying begin. Women are shown crying in the crowd, and Heenan suggests that maybe their shoes are too tight, or they ate the wrong thing. Shades of Wrestlemania 4 as Savage puts Liz on his shoulder as he soaks in the accolades. Remember, he was the #2 heel in the company 20 minutes ago and now he’s a top babyface, though one that would be moving into a role as announcer on Superstars.
Verdict: This is the greatest example of storytelling making the match, though the match was good too. Given that Warrior would end up fired after Summerslam 1991, I always wondered why they couldn’t have done a reversal of the outcome. Savage wanted to stop wrestling during this time because he was trying to have children with Elizabeth who was still his wife. He got off steroids (because of the side effects) to try and make it happen but it never did. He would come back, but things were never quite the same in the Macho Man’s WWF run. Meanwhile the Warrior would be moved into a feud with the Undertaker that involved a Jake Roberts heel turn and Warrior being locked in a coffin. Watch that clip, it’s hilarious how Savage is cheerleading the Undertaker, as well as Tony Garea’s attempt to open a coffin by hand.
Gorilla and the Brain review the card and preview the match with Mr. Perfect and the Big Bossman later. Looking back at the last match, Heenan says he’d rather have money than a skirt.
An old Wrestlemania staple: the intermission interviews!
Regis Philbin is with the Undertaker and Paul Bearer, who won’t talk to him. Instead, Taker starts measuring Regis for a coffin with a tape measure and reads out the figures to Bearer. Funny stuff and the first time we can ever hear Undertaker say something other than “rest in peace”.
Alex Trebek is with Demolition and Mr. Fuji and is admonished for saying Mister instead of Master. Fuji knows all, Smash says. Alright then. But the shocking part is when Fuji refers to their “Jap opponents” which seems very out of line even for that time. Oddly, Trebek repeats it!
Regis is with Tenryu and Kitao and they don’t speak English. So Regis says the names of Japanese companies to try and connect. Very odd. They recognize Regis by saying “Kathie Lee!” Regis then pinches their cheeks like they are children. Strangest interview in Wrestlemania history to that point.
Trebek is with Jake Roberts, who says that Damien wants to be on Jeopardy! and that Reptiles of the World is his favorite category. Trebek bails when the snake gets too close. Back at ringside, we get our punchline as it turns out Heenan was the one who set up the interviews. Well, he DID say he was the host of Wrestlemania 7 earlier.
Genichiro Tenryu and Koji Kitao vs Demolition (w/Mr. Fuji)
The build: As mentioned at the top, there was no build, just a way to get a couple of SWS stars on the card in accordance with the working agreement between the promotions. This was the end of the Smash and Crush version of Demolition on TV.
The match: Gorilla with another senior moment calling Demolition “Ax and Smash”. Not much going on, though Heenan is funny calling Kitao “hand towel”, though “total prick” might be a better name for Kitao. The former sumo went into wrestling and was notorious for being difficult and it wouldn’t take long for him to cross a WWF superstar. A match with Earthquake a few weeks later would devolve into an actual honest to God shoot. Meanwhile, Tenryu is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Demolition is on offense much of the match, but Tenryu ends it with a power bomb.
Verdict: What a strange match this was, the end of Demolition and this one off appearance of the Japanese stars. Tenryu would be back for future Royal Rumbles.
Okerlund is with the Bossman, who cuts a very intense promo on Perfect and Heenan, who had insulted his mother time and again. Sean Mooney is with Mr. Perfect and Heenan, who references the Rodney King incident that has happened only three weeks earlier in Los Angeles. Perfect is awesome here, explaining why he’s the best and says “I am what I say I am, and I say I’m…” and doesn’t even say the word. “There’s only one, you’re looking at him.” Damn that back injury.
Big Bossman vs Mr. Perfect (C) (w/Bobby Heenan) for the WWF Intercontinental Championship
The build: This was a long slow burn feud that started with the Heenan Family insulting the Bossman’s mother. Rick Rude was “suspended” for what he said, but he actually left the promotion scuttling that part of the feud. So the Bossman went through Family members one by one, including the Barbarian in a shockingly good big man match at the 1991 Royal Rumble. This was the end of the road, with Perfect as the IC champ.
The match: Lord Alfred Hayes is on color, which may or may not be an upgrade on Duggan. Bossman gets Perfect’s towel and wipes his ass with it and tosses it back. Perfect gets worked over early, getting swung by his hair, gets sent to the corner buckle and flips over after bouncing off, and is whipped by Bossman’s belt. Guess this ref is gonna be lenient too.
But Perfect goes on offense with an abdominal stretch. Standing dropkick by Perfect gets me out of my seat as I give a standing ovation for that. Running neck snap move out of the corner by the champion. But the Perfectplex is countered to an inside cradle for two, but Perfect stays in control with a reverse of the earlier neck snap. He goes up top, but eats a boot on the way down. Bossman sends Perfect to the corner and the champ bounces off and does another flip to the mat. Bossman crotches him on the post but then is distracted by Heenan, who honestly didn’t really do anything. Perfect recovers and throws Bossman into the steps, and now is when Heenan will get in some cheap shots.
This is the cue for Andre the Giant who makes his way down. Lord Al’s comment: “WHOOOOOA!” when seeing Andre. In the ring, Perfect undoes a turnbuckle as Andre stalks Heenan and steals the IC title. The timing on this seems way off for some reason as nothing is happening for a bit. Perfect reaches as Andre for the belt and Andre decks him. Bossman covers for a dramatic near fall. Suddenly Haku and the Barbarian hit the ring for the DQ. Well, that’s a sucky finish. Bossman tries to Irish whip Barbarian but Andre just grabs the leg anyway. As Andre goes to leave, Bossman startles the Giant in the aisle and they have a moment and Andre endorses the Bossman. Hey, they teamed at Summerslam 1989, they were already good pals.
Verdict: The conventional wisdom is that Bossman should have won here, but Perfect was still very hot and at the peak of his powers. I might have given Perfect a DQ win here with Bossman just beating him down illegally, and do the same Haku/Barbarian run in, then have Andre with a save.
After some technical issues, Okerlund is with Donald Trump, who says he wants Mania to come back to Atlantic City. Yeah, I don’t think that’s happening. It’s kinda funny how you can see Chuck Norris lurking in the background. Chuck famously endorsed Mike Huckabee in the 2008 GOP Presidential primary race, and Ted Cruz lied about having the endorsement in 2016. Norris is interviewed next and says the wrestlers are great athletes. Henry Winkler was there because his kids wanted to go, but he says he’s glad the Warrior won. Lou Ferrigno is next and is less comprehensible than an Ahmed Johnson promo. Heenan later said he had 15 pounds of crackers in his mouth.
Earthquake (w/Jimmy Hart) vs Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
The build: This is largely forgotten, but Valentine actually turned face after a falling out with Jimmy Hart on a show at Madison Square Garden. He was to feud with former tag team partner the Honky Tonk Man, but Honky left the WWF and the Hammer was left without a feud. Earthquake was coming off a program with Hulk Hogan and was the rare example of a guy who left a Hogan program with his heat still intact. So this is Valentine trying to overcome long odds against Hart’s biggest guy, but I don’t think crowds could quite get used to cheering for Valentine, who had been a heel for over a decade.
The match: Power slam early by Quake, as Gorilla says it takes Hammer 12 to 15 minutes to warm up. Hammer had only had one Mania match last at least 12 minutes, at WM2 and he ate the pin in the 14th minute. Valentine is all elbows and forearms on offense and even gets Quake down but he can’t get the figure four. I wonder who the largest guy to take a figure four is. Never seen Andre in one. Jimmy Hart distracts, and Quake gets his splash for the win. He tries a second after the bell but Valentine rolls away.
Verdict: Just a quick squash but Earthquake was pretty giving in the three minutes. He deserves kudos because he survived the 1990 program with Hogan and still came out looking like a beast.
The Legion of Doom vs Power and Glory (w/Slick)
The build: Power and Glory cost the LOD a shot at the tag titles in that battle royal. The Legion of Doom is going to actually murder them as revenge. No, it was not an actual murder but it would have kept Paul Roma out of the Horsemen two years down the road.
The match: That’s pretty much what happened since this was over in 59 seconds. Roma took the Doomsday Device, just like Arn Anderson at Starrcade 1987.
Verdict: A lot of people think the LOD should have faced the Harts, but you needed a transition to a heel team first. The LOD didn’t need the tag belts anyway and were always better positioned as chasing the belts.
Virgil (w/Roddy Piper) vs “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
The build: In late 1990, vignettes started airing of DiBiase making Virgil do all sorts of disgusting and demeaning things like wiping excrement off his shoes and picking the fungus out of his toenails. Lovely visuals, one and all. This led to the two tagging against Dusty and Dustin Rhodes at the Rumble. DiBiase beat up Virgil during the match and finished off Dusty himself. Afterward, he demanded Virgil put the Million Dollar Belt around his waist, but instead Virgil decked him with it. On commentary during the match, Roddy Piper was talking about how he had lunch with Virgil (at Olive Garden, I presume) and encouraged him to go off on his own. This was such a good build that Virgil was hugely over in 1991. Yes, Wrestling Superstar Virgil. In a very memorably moment on Superstars the day airing the day before WM7, Virgil lured DiBiase out of the ring for an argument, leading to a countout win for the immortal Kevin Greeno.
The match: Piper comes down on crutches with his own entrance as he was in a motorcycle wreck shortly before this, though he would be wrestling on house shows in April which I know because I was there and made a “Hot Rod” sign. Yes, I brought a sign to a house show in 1991, but that’s not the point here. Piper comes off a little condescending in calling Virgil to the ring, “Virgil, come on down it’s time to fight!” like he’s calling his 12 year old son to dinner. Heenan says Virgil looks like George Foreman on NutriSystem which is pretty funny for those who know what those are. Virgil was a wrestler years before as Soul Train Jones, but he’s playing a boxer gimmick here so DiBiase will be carrying the wrestling here. With all the carrying Ted did, it’s no wonder his back went out in 1993. The King of Meat Sauce controls early with just jabs and Ted takes a powder and has a staredown with Piper outside. Virgil really does look like a converted boxer, even though he had matches in the past against the likes of Randy Savage on TV in 1988.
After lots of stalling, Heenan claims that the dumbbell was named after Virgil. Ted finally gets control with a drop toe hold and starts laying it in. Nothing too complicated though, just clotheslines and back elbows. Piledriver gets a two count as Gorilla threatens to bring back Lord Al to replace Heenan. Please don’t do that. Love that DiBiase gut wrench suplex, then he just dumps Virgil to the floor. Just to be a dick, Ted shoves Piper down before re-entering the ring. Heenan mocks Piper with “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” from the LifeLine Alert TV ads of the time. Piper responds by pulling down the top rope and DiBiase goes flying out as he runs the ropes. Ted gets distracted by beating on Piper, so he is counted out. Very strange finish.
Lot of post-match activity here: DiBiase puts the Million Dollar Dream on his former bodyguard and Piper finally gets in the ring and whacks Ted with the crutch. But wait, here’s Sensational Sherri again to steal the crutch and she joins DiBiase in beating up Piper, as Heenan says Piper doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Awesome heel beatdown by DiBiase and Sherri before Virgil gets the crutch and chases them off. Piper wants no help from anyone and tosses the crutch….and hits referee Danny Davis in the balls! Finally the evil referee gets his comeuppance about 4 years too late. Oh no, they gave Virgil a microphone and he announces at 8X10s are $15. Actually, he tells Piper to get up, like he told him. This was very awkward and doesn’t come off so well in the shadow of Randy and Liz and Sherri earlier.
Verdict: This match was far less than I remembered, because the Summerslam match later in the year is really good. My guess is they were short on time and needed to rush things.
Sean Mooney is in the fake locker room to throw to a package recapping the Slaughter-Hogan feud. More on that build later. Slaughter and Gen. Adnan are here to cut a promo and Adnan says something presumably in Arabic and I am dying to get a translation. It just sounds like “falalalalalala….Sgt. Slaughter…..falalala” to me because my command of Arabic is nil. I do think he says something about halibut. Mooney asks for a translation and Slaughter calls him human waste. The champ says everything is under his rules and raises the possibility of him getting counted out or DQ’d. The angle itself might be distasteful, but Slaughter’s character work is so good.
The Mountie (w/Jimmy Hart) vs Tito Santana
The build: The Mountie Jacques Rougeau had returned to the WWF and the gimmick caused such a stir with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that it was banned in Canada. His “I am the Mountie!” catchphrase would have to be edited to “I am….Jacques Rougeau!” in Canada. Hilarious. Of course, Jimmy Hart would slip up and say “Mountie” on this Canada-only promo. Many matches from The Mountie were taken off Coliseum Video releases because of the issues in Canada.
The match: Speaking of short on time, this thing is over in a flash. Mountie jabs Tito with the cattle prod and gets the win. No cheesy sound effect for the shock stick at this point. Heenan says it must be something Tito ate.
Verdict: Nothing match, but I love me some of the Mountie’s original theme song which was later recycled for Ludvig Borga.
Gene Okerlund is with Hulk Hogan, who does not reference Donald Trump or fault lines. He says it’s a new Hulkster in 1991 with updated technology. This is actually a normal and sane promo from the Hulkster, evoking patriotism and all that jazz.
Alex Trebek, Marla Maples, and Regis Philbin are introduced for their roles as ring announcer, timekeeper, and guest commentator respectively. Heenan says they don’t need Regis and that Philbin said some bad things about Monsoon earlier.
Hulk Hogan vs Sgt. Slaughter (C) (w/Gen. Adnan) for the WWF World Title
The build: Hogan didn’t enter the Iraq angle picture until around the Royal Rumble, with his infamous promo where he forgot Saddam Hussein’s name. After winning the Rumble, he got the shot at Mania though it was not officially announced until The Main Event in February. As for Slaughter, the original idea was for him to burn the American flag on WWF TV which would have caused a bunch of people to shit bricks. So they used a Hulk Hogan t-shirt as a euphemism, which STILL pissed people off. Slaughter also received new boots “from Saddam Hussein himself” as a reward. As if people weren’t offended enough, we also got a Hogan-Adnan match as part of the deal on the pre-Mania Stars and Stripes Forever special on USA. And THAT ended with Hogan being buried in the Iraqi flag. Not quite on the level of Bill Watts being buried in the Soviet flag in Mid-South.
The match: As mentioned, Slaughter is wearing a bulletproof vest under his outfit which he did for all his matches during this time. This one takes a while to get going and they end up outside. Hogan goes after Adnan and Slaughter gets a chair, complete with someone’s jacket still on it and hits Hogan to no effect. Sarge gets control back in the ring with a thumb to the eye and a back elbow, but misses another elbow and Hogan scores with a clothesline that was very close to his Axe Bomber finisher from Japan. Heenan says he doesn’t like Hogan because he never gave his guys title shots, which is hilarious because 1984-1988 was all Hogan vs Heenan. Hogan leads Sarge around to all the corners and Slaughter bumps into the post on the last one. You can never accuse Slaughter of not bumping; for a guy his size nobody threw himself around like he did until Mick Foley hit his prime.
As Hogan controls, Gorilla says this is the Hulkster of the 90s. Think of how that ended up. In this decade he would lie about steroids on the Arsenio Hall Show, push The Giant off a building, turn heel, and win the WCW title on a finger poke. Hogan goes to the top rope here, but Adnan grabs the foot and I smell a transition because Hulk on the top rope is so far out of character. Slaughter hits Hogan with a chair in the back multiple times, and chokes Hulk with a TV cable. Close two count and the Sarge thinks he’s won. He works over Hogan’s back presumably to set up for the Camel Clutch, but actually gets a Boston Crab but is literally right next to the ropes. Regis says Hogan will never get out of it, even though Jake Roberts did against Martel earlier. Hogan finally grabs the rope to break. Slaughter comes off the top with a foot to Hogan’s back which while effective is not exactly Finn Balor’s Coup de Grace.
After a two count, Sarge goes outside for another chair as Adnan distracts the ref and hits Hogan over the head with it and it’s time for some Hulk blood at Mania. Hogan does that lazy one leg kickout at two, which he always did. If I ever meet Hogan I am totally asking him about that specific trademarked spot. Hulkster caught a gusher as this is a five alarm Mexico-style bladejob for 1991 WWF. Camel clutch is applied in the center of the ring and it is cinched in good. Shades of the Iron Sheik in 1984 and as he did then, Hulk lifts Sarge on his back. But Slaughter counters by shoving Hulk to the corner. Instead of a pin, Slaughter grabs the Iraqi flag and covers Hogan in it for the pin attempt. Hulk kicks out then tears the flag as part of the Hulk up. Three right hands, big boot, leg drop. You know the deal. Of course, Slaughter kicks out at 3.1 to keep himself strong.
Hogan waves the flag of the United States in celebration then does the pose routine. Broadcast even cuts to Trump in the front row with a big smile on his face because he wanted blood. Hulk then WIPES BLOOD OFF HIS FACE WITH THE FLAG? That seems like it’s against flag etiquette, then tosses it to someone at ringside.
Verdict: This took a while to get going and was okay in terms of drama but we all knew what was going to happen. Slaughter was very good in the match as usual because he’s maybe the most underappreciated big man in the history of wrestling. Everyone remembers this run and even the mid-80s stuff but his work in the early 1980s against the likes of Andre the Giant and Pat Patterson is superb. For an even better Hogan-Slaughter match, check out the June 1991 MSG show on the Network under Old School for their “Desert Storm Match” which is effectively no DQ.
Summary: If you can get past the grim specter of death that permeates many of the matches, this is a very fun show to watch. Warrior-Savage is an all-time classic for the story that was told. Everyone craps on Martel-Roberts but unless you are a complete curmudgeon you have to appreciate the use of psychology there. The start of Undertaker’s streak is must-see as well. I think this is also the last hurrah for Hulk Hogan as we knew him in the original run because by Wrestlemania 8 he looks like a fossil against Sid Justice. And nobody can deny the comedy of Gorilla and the Brain. They aren’t going to call all the holds, but they managed to make meaningless bad matches watchable. It is just a shame that the tastelessness of exploiting a war overshadows what was a fun show with so many memorable figures in wrestling history.