Wrestlemania Challenge Day 11

After Wrestlemania 10 helped redeem the franchise with the stellar performances of Bret, Owen, HBK, and Razor, Wrestlemania XI was a reminder of the low point of the industry in the era. Obviously, this is the year known for NFL Hall of Famer, Lawrence Taylor’s main event bout against Bam Bam Bigelow. Considering it was a one-off for LT, you have to wonder if his appearance, along with the other celebrity involvement, was a way to get any type of buzz for the company that was extremely stagnant at the time.

The show opened with the Allied Powers, a combination of Lex Luger and The British Bulldog, against Jacob and Eli Blu, the pair that were better known as the Harris brothers later on. Uncle Zeb is their manager, although it would be several more years before “we the people” became his catch phrase. The tag match is very basic and nothing spectacular. The more important point here is what it said about the status of The Bulldog and Lex. After the steroid scandal a few years earlier, the Bulldog was released when he had steroids sent to him, and he spent a year in WCW before he eventually returned to the WWF. In truth, his release from the company was more damage control than anything else. Make no mistake about it, Davey Boy Smith was a tremendous performer, and that wasn’t because of steroids. In fact, I think Bulldog would’ve still been a quality wrestler without them. It’s very sad that he passed away at such a young age, especially because he struggled with substances problems from the injuries he sustained in the ring. As far as 1995, I think this tag team was more of a way for management to test the waters so to speak before they invested major TV time into another British Bulldog push. As far as Lex, this was basically a way to get something from the promotional push he had with the Lex Express gimmick the year earlier. Management tried to shoehorn Luger into the role of the next Hulk Hogan and it flopped so he was more of less floundering in 1995. As a comparison, Lex went from one of the title matches on the card at WM 10 to the opening match the following year.

Razor Ramon beat Jeff Jarrett via DQ, allowing for Double J to retain the IC title. I have to be honest, this contest was decent, but I expected more from it on this stage because these two had better matches against each other at smaller events. The Undertaker pinned King Kong Bundy in a less than memorable bout. In my opinion, guys like Bundy and Volkoff were a decade past their prime at this point and their involvement in a product that was labeled “the New Generation” is almost comical. Don’t get me wrong, both had a solid career in their heyday, but this seems to be another example of the company using anything they could to try to get fans to tune into the show. Bundy’s clunky selling and diminished name value didn’t bring much to this match.

On the flip side, the Owen Hart and Yokozuna vs. The Smoking Gunns for the tag team titles was a solid match with a lot of good action. Yoko was Owen’s surprise partner and they won the tag belts here. Considering they made such a great team, it’s a little disappointing that they didn’t have a longer run. More than anything, this speaks volumes to Owen’s versatility as a performer because he transitioned so well between division and various roles during the majority of his career.

The Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund match, and quite frankly nearly all of Backlund’s in-ring comeback at this time was rather odd. In a similar fashion to Bundy and Volkoff, Backlund just didn’t fit the direction of the product. On paper, Bret/Backlund sounds like it might have the potential to be a solid technical match, but that just wasn’t the case. Backlund tries to work a 70s style and the crowd didn’t follow it at all. His selling was almost laughable and his rather odd behavior made it difficult to take him seriously as a heel. Bret won and thankfully would be scheduled for a much bigger spot on the card next year. This was actually the second job that Backlund did on the show, as he lost a game of chess to Johnathan Taylor Thomas earlier in the show.

Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels was a quality WWF title match. It seems like because the Monday Night wars was such a major part of the history of the industry that the narrative that Kevin Nash couldn’t go somehow became the story of his career, but that simply isn’t true. Granted, Nash wasn’t going to wrestle circles around Dean Malenko on Nitro, but specifically his run as champion and this match in particular show that Nash could keep pace bell-to-bell as he keeps up with Shawn Micheals at this show. I’m not sure why, but there was a ridiculous amount of photographers at ringside and they get in the way of the action several times. Diesel won and celebrated in the ring with Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Johnathan Taylor Thomas, and Nicholas Turturro.

Salt-n-Pepper rapped LT to the ring for the main event, and he was joined by several other NFL stars, including Mongo McMicheal before we had to watch any of his clumsy WCW matches. The biggest takeaway from this contest was mostly importantly, the ability of Bam Bam to carry the match, and also the faith that the company put in him to make sure this match was at least decent. Bigelow, despite his stellar work throughout his career, probably still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. The match is kept basic, but Bam Bam makes LT look like a million dollars. LT’s selling isn’t great, but to be fair, he was put in the main event of WM without any experience. At certain points, you can see that Bam Bam basically has to wrestle around LT because about half way through the match, Taylor looks legitimately exhausted. LT gets the win to send the fans home happy, but this entire match is a credit to Bam Bam Bigelow as a performer at this event.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta