Friday, March 10, 2017

WrestleMania XI: The One that No One Likes

The worst Mania main ever is still interesting to look at through the lens of history
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If you're like me and you spend the month of March going back and catching up on WrestleManias of the past, don't watch WrestleMania XI. Don't do it. You will have a bad time. Your time will be better spent cleaning your gutters or doing your taxes (with the help of Irwin R. Schyster, of course). Seriously. Don't do it. But please let me tell you about the show.

The year 1995 was one of the worst ones for the WWF, both financially and creatively. Houses were down, PPV buys were down and the cultural relevancy of the company was almost non-existent. On the creative side, there was a dearth of true talent. The WWF had to make do with what they had, which involved people like Duke "The Dumpster" Droese, a guy who would be 100 percent forgotten today if he didn't have such a perfectly mockable gimmick. They also employed Techno Team 2000, a team just as dumb as their name.

Thankfully, even those guys were too awful to make the WrestleMania card. However, Vince McMahon was still of the mind that WrestleMania needed to bring in the big names in order to keep their stature and importance in American culture. They did just that by pulling Lawrence Taylor, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, all legitimate celebrities who are still recognizable names even today. The only failure was the inclusion of NYPD Blue's Nicholas Turturro, a horrible wind-up toy brought to life, given a microphone and told to confusedly interview wrestlers in a manner that helps no one. Turturro is not famous today, and this is deserved.

Basically everything on this show sucks in one form or another, but I don't want to leave anything out, so come along with me on a journey:

Lex Luger and The British Bulldog vs. The Blu Brothers
You don't remember the Blu Brothers because you shouldn't. You don't remember that the British Bulldog and Lex Luger were a tag team because it sucked. This whole segment was only saved by the sick-ass mash-up of Luger and Bulldog's theme music, and their tandem posing. Luger and Bulldog's team should have just been called "The Two Guys With Muscles Are a Team Now Because We Have No Other Ideas."

Razor Ramon vs. Jeff Jarrett
No one has ever actually enjoyed watching a Jeff Jarrett match. His very presence makes me want to headbutt my TV. Ramon has always been good, but he won in a lame DQ and didn't get the Intercontinental Title back. Ugh.

Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy
Bundy came from the era when big guys didn't have to be good at any aspect of pro wrestling, as evidenced by this utter pile of a match. And Bundy's stupid body was too big to be Tombstoned, so Taker won with a flying clothesline. Second worst match of Undertaker's streak, only behind the Giant Gonzalez atrocity.

Owen Hart and Yokozuna vs. The Smoking Gunns
Okay, if Owen Hart is on your television, especially Gleeful Heel Owen, you should be ecstatic. He was in fine form here, completely carrying a 1200-pound Yokozuna to their first Tag Team Championships. The Smoking Gunns had been around for almost two years at this point and hadn't convinced one single person to give a shit about them.

Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund
Unquestionably the worst match of Bret's WWF career, this thing was ruined by its I Quit stipulation and the inclusion of Roddy Piper as the referee who sticks the microphone in each guy's face after EVERY move they do to each other, even after clotheslines and punches. It was beyond excruciating. The crowd was openly laughing at the match. Bret looked like he wanted to run screaming from the ring when it was done.

Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels
In a pre-match promo, Diesel talked like he was about to put stamps on envelopes until he flubbed his words and then suddenly STARTED SHOUTING TO MAKE YOU FORGET THAT HE JUST MESSED UP. This was after a bunch of audio problems that caused him to just stand there waiting while Todd Pettengill tried to get things working (that part is cut out of the Network version, but you can find it online and it's very sad).

Michaels came out with Jenny McCarthy, but then Diesel came out with Pamela Anderson because he was the champion and the champion is better and Anderson was hotter than McCarthy (sorry, that's just empirical fact). This infuriated HBK, and it turned him into just about the only truly motivated guy on this show. But he was motivated for purely selfish reasons and not necessarily to make anyone else look good. He and Diesel had a decent match, but decent was all it was. That's your World Title match, barely three stars.

Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
While not exactly good, this was kind of interesting to view through the lens of today. Just imagine someone like Von Miller coming into WWE and getting to have a match with, let's say, Cesaro. And even though his movements are all herky-jerky and he looks like he barely knows what he's doing, Von Miller ends up just kind of throwing jumping forearms until he pins Cesaro clean. Today's wrestling fans would lose their mind if that happened, purely over the disrespect to a proven worker like Cesaro, and over the message saying, "A non-professional can come in and dominate this stupid sport."

That was pretty much what happened here. Bigelow was so obviously good, and Taylor was so obviously not, but business is business. LT had to win. Even sadder was the mismatch of the big NFL stars who accompanied LT, compared to the dregs of the Million Dollar Corporation (I.R.S., Tatanka, King Kong Bundy, Kama and Nikolai Volkoff). WOOF.

And of course, this was the introduction to pro wrestling for Steve "Pepe's Dad" McMichael. That guy becoming a Horseman can be directly related back to this show.

Thanks for nothing, WrestleMania XI.