WRESTLEMANIA IX: Finkus Maximus

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WrestleMania IX (April 4, 1993) – Caesars Palace (Las Vegas, NV) – Main Event: Yokozuna vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart (WWF Championship) – Announcers: Jim Ross, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Bobby Heenan, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, and Todd Pettengill – Host: Gorilla Monsoon.

Welcome to the WrestleMania we wish we could forget.

In an event that has now lasted thirty years, there’s going to be a few clunkers in the mix, and this is one of the worst. Replicating the nine-match, 2.5 hour format of the previous year’s mostly excellent WrestleMania VIII, WrestleMania IX feels more like a regional wrestling exhibition at the county fair than it does the biggest event of the year.

Let’s start with the decision to hold WrestleMania outdoors at Caesars Palace. Las Vegas is a great place to hold almost any event because it’s a place people love to visit, but holding a wrestling event during the day is kinda dumb as it puts all the focus on the ring and takes away the possibility of theatrics.

Well, except for all the togas and elephants and camels.

There’s a reason, though, why rock concerts largely take place in the dark with a concentrated set of lights on the stage, and that same nod to theatrics applies to wrestling, too. You can do it in the light of day, but it takes something away from the experience.

Look, seeing Bobby Heenan enter the arena area by sitting backwards on a camel is kinda funny, but the opening, separate entrances of new play-by-play man Jim Ross, Randy Savage, and Heenan just takes forever. Jim Ross is one of the greats, of course, but he seems completely out of place in his toga, trying to keep Savage and Heenan somewhat on script. It’s a thankless job.

The night- er, the day gets off to a solid start, as we open with a battle between the two best mullets from last year’s WrestleMania. Shawn Michaels is given the task of kicking off the show for the second-year running, and just as he did the previous year with Tito Santana, Michaels puts on a solid match. The WWF was still puffing up the “undefeated” Tatanka, and it’s fun now to look back at a time when a wrestler could go an entire year without losing on television.

What’s disturbing about the WWF’s use of a guy like Tatanka, though, is that the company seems to think bringing in an ethnic wrestler allows it to make free use of cultural stereotypes and insults, as when Ross casually mentions that while he’ll try to be impartial, he is from Oklahoma, “the land of the Red Man” and he’s rooting for Tatanka. We saw more of this the previous year, too, when Rick Martel cut a promo talking about “dirty Indians” and suggesting Tatanka might not show for the match because he was outside “scalping tickets.” This use of cultural and ethnic stereotypes has long been part of wrestling (and part of the country, too, it’s not like wrestling is alone in this), of course, but that doesn’t make it easier to listen to, especially in hindsight.

Tatanka and Michaels put on a good match, though the use of Luna Vachon and Sensational Sherri doesn’t add much to the match. There’s some good back and forth, though Tatanka has incorporated some Hogan-esque Hulking out and pointing moves into his repertoire and not to good effect. Tanaka wins by count out, meaning he’s still undefeated but without the title. That kind of ending is fine for an episode of Monday Night Raw (which had debuted three months earlier), but not WrestleMania.

The Steiner Brothers make their WrestleMania debut in the event’s second match, taking on the Headshrinkers. There’s some decent physicality between the two teams, but it goes on way too long and I got bored one time for every time Rick Steiner barked.

Next, a Doink the Clown match against Crush because the WWF hates you.

I do have to admit, however, that while Michaels and Tatanka was the battle of last year’s best mullets, no one can touch the masterpiece that is Crush’s hair. Brian Adams’ mullet is such a magnificent nightmare that it must have been grown in the beauty shop of Doctor Moreau.

What’s really too bad about this match is that Crush does have some actual talent and Doink’s use of a double is sorta entertaining, but just like the Steiner/Headshrinkers match, there’s not much team chemistry and it goes on far too long. Who booked this? Who approved it? Who thought a Doink/Crush matched needed over eight minutes and why didn’t he have anyone to tell them to stop huffing cans of spray paint?

Just when you think WrestleMania IX can’t get any worse, the company tosses you a bowl of hope in the form of Razor Ramon and Bob Backlund. How can a match featuring the WrestleMania debuts of two wrestling legends disappoint?

By spending four minutes botching moves and serving as a squash match to get Scott Hall a victory over a dude who had been the WWF Champ for over 2,000 straight days (thanks, in part, to the WWE not recognizing the less-than-a-weak reign by Antonio Inoki in 1979) between 1978 and 1983.

The Tag Team titles are on the line next as Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster) take on the Mega Maniacs (Brutus Beefcake and the returning Hulk Hogan, managed by Jimmy Hart). The match itself isn’t bad, and there’s a nice twist on last year’s Tag Title match; once again, Money Inc. tries to walk out to save their title, but referee Earl Hebner decides to change the rules, ordering DiBiase and IRS back into the ring by a count of ten or they’ll forfeit the titles. I love that Heenan openly wonders how the ref can do this, and that’s about the only thing lovable about this match. There’s some decent action but it ends in a ridiculously stupid manner. With the ref knocked out, Jimmy Hart turns his coat inside out and counts a double pin for his team, which Hogan and Beefcake think should totally count.

Because Hogan.

A noticeably slimmer Hogan comes out with a huge black eye that is explained to have been caused by some of DiBiase’s paid operatives, but in reality might have been anything from Savage punching him in the face to a jet ski accident to something else entirely. It doesn’t effect the match, but there’s not much to effect. After the match is over, Beefcake goads a “reluctant” Hogan into posing and posing and strutting and soaking up the crowd’s adoration.

It’s one of Hogan’s worst moments in the ring, though it’s one of Beefcake’s most sycophantic moment.

Luckily, there’s a Mr. Perfect match up next, and they never disappoint … except, of course, when it’s against an early incarnation of Lex Luger, the Narcissist. The match largely sucks because Luger can’t do a whole lot. Minutes go by with the two men looking at each other and tossing one another into the ropes or turnbuckles. It’s pretty dreadful. Hennig eventually picks up the pace but there’s not a lot he can do with Luger. After the match, Perfect goes looking for Luger backstage and jumps him, and is then jumped in turn by Shawn Michaels, kicking off their feud that would run through the summer.

Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez at WrestleMania IX.

Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez at WrestleMania IX.

Something called Giant Gonzalez comes out next to blaze the trail the Great Khali would one day muddle down. After plodding around the ring with the Undertaker, Gonzalez uses a chloroform-soaked towel to knock Taker out. It’s awful, awful stuff, made worse by Gonzalez wearing the worst costume in WrestleMania history. Gonzalez is the kind of guy that would have killed if this really was taking place at the country fair, because he’s seven-foot-six and people could gawk at how tall he is. For WrestleMania, though, it’s all kinds of painful.

The one area where WrestleMania IX clearly outdoes WrestleMania VIII is the complete suckage of the ending. Bret “Hitman” Hart puts his WWF title up against another WrestleMania debutant, Yokozuna. Like Giant Gonzalez, Yokozuna’s primary attribute is his size. Unlike Gonzalez, Yokozuna can put it to some actual use in the ring. The final twenty minutes of the event actually starts with a promo from Hulk Hogan with “Mean” Gene in which Hogan’s ego runs amok. He proclaims that all the Hulkamaniacs are rooting for Hart. Heck, he claims Hitman is a Hulkamaniac. Incredibly, Hogan then issues a challenge to whichever guy wins, whether it’s Hitman or “the Jap,” because being friends with Hogan means you only have the title in order to give Hogan a title shot. He’s also sure Hitman will win and keep the title in the USA

The match is another dud, though it stands above most of the rest of the card. Yokozuna wins after Mister Fuji tosses something in Hart’s eye, and then because Hogan Rules and stuff, Fuji immediately puts the WWF title on the line against Hogan (because he’s a Hulkamaniac, too, apparently) and Hogan takes out Yokazuna in about twenty seconds.

It’s the perfect crappy ending to the perfect crappy WrestleMania.

Yokozuna vs. Bret "Hitman" Hart at WrestleMania IX.

Yokozuna vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart at WrestleMania IX.

__________

FULL CARD RESULTS

1. Tatanka defeated Shawn Michaels (c) w/ Luna Vachon by count-out (Intercontinental Championship)
2. The Steiner Brothers defeated The Headshrinkers w/ Afa
3. Doink defeated Crush
4. Razor Ramon defeated Bob Backlund
5. Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster) (c) defeated Mega Maniacs (Hulk Hogan & Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake) w/ Jimmy Hart by DQ (Tag Team Championship)
6. “The Narcissist” Lex Luger defeated Mr. Perfect
7. Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer defeated Giant Gonzales w/ Harvey Wippleman by DQ
8. Yokozuna w/ Mr. Fuji defeated Bret “Hitman” Hart (c) (WWF Championship)
9. Hulk Hogan defeated Yokozuna (c) w/ Mr. Fuji (WWF Championship)

__________

MATCH OF THE NIGHT: Bobby Heenan vs. the camel that delivered him to the ring.

STAR OF THE NIGHT: The camel that delivered Bobby Heenan to the ring.

MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: The camel delivering Bobby Heenan to the ring.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: Bobby Heenan: “It’s an attack camel!”

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