Introduction - And so, my personal challenge begins. WWF in 1994 is touted as one of the worst eras in wrestling. Now, even with just two fill-in shows to do to actually complete WWF in 1994, the question is can I stomach it?
Location shots of Baltimore while Gorilla narrates - Whether it be WCW in 1989 or WWF in 1994, no one can find a flattering location shot of Baltimore, Maryland. Gorilla tells us that some unexpected guests arrive while the cameras were tuning up. This throws to
The heels in the King of the Ring tournament bicker and mess with the tournament bracket - In theory I like the whole idea of seeing something you aren't supposed to see/wasn't a planned part of the show, but what we essentially get is kindergartners bickering in front of a sticky board, theatrically moving their names through the bracket to the winners slot. Jarrett is the only one smart enough to put his name near the KotR symbol, everyone else's names stack and eventually just fall off.
Opening package - It's more or less the same as 1993's, with the lions, the logo, and someone running down the names. Doing the honors this year is Todd Pettengill, who tries to do what Vince did last year in adding extra flourishes to people's names, except he sounds like a morning radio DJ as opposed to Vince McMahon the carnival barker.
Rickey Medlocke sings the National Anthem - This popped me because I love Blackfoot, Rickey's band.. He does a beautiful job I thought.
Time with the commentators/a word on Art Donovan - So I watched this twice, because after hearing it, and bits of Art's commentary on the first match, I was convinced he was suffering from CTE or Alzheimer's. This obviously would effect the levity with which I would treat Art's disastrous commentary. Research on Art showed that, not only was he not known to have suffered from that, he was known as being quick-witted, so much so he'd been on TV shows, and hosted some before. So let the japes begin!
Gorilla screws up Art's name, and you can tell this visibly throws Art. And then it hit me, In addition to knowing nothing about wrestling, Art is connected to the same headset as Gorilla and Macho. Poor guy probably never had a director screaming and cursing in his ear while he tries to process something he knows nothing about. Anyway, they wax philosophical about their predictions, and it seems like they're just saying it to appear that they're saying thoughtful, sports caster things. Also you can see the section directly behind the King of the Ring throne is empty. Anyway this segues into our first match, which is...
King of the Ring Quarter Final
Bam Bam Bigelow (w/Luna Vachon) vs Razor Ramon - 5.25/10
Razor throws his toothpick at Luna, who refuses to leave, this gives Bam Bam the opening to immediately get the heat. Razor gets some hope spots and gets to show how agile he is when he dodges a "knees up Irish Whip reversal spot, and slides out of the ring to pull Bam Bam ass first into the corner. Razor gets a big bump out of the ring when the momentum swings back. Bam Bam gets Razor in a torture rack, and Art asks, "Gorilla, is he dead?" which got a laugh out of me. Razor fires back, but Bam Bam gets the momentum again. Razor slams Bam Bam off the top rope for the win.
On the surface, this was a very fun opener, but Razor was on the defense for most of the match and advances, which I didn't like.
Mabel and IRS interview with Todd Pettengill - IRS fumbles through his promo and leaves. Mabel on the other hand cuts a good babyface promo, as does Oscar.
King of the Ring Quarter Final
Mabel (w/ Oscar) vs IRS - .25/10
IRS jobs forever, and then gets the momentum with a missed corner charge and knee to the outside. Mabel does a boring comeback, and IRS shakes the ropes, knocking Mabel off the ropes and hooks his legs in the ropes for the pin. When we get into the .5 range, usually that means they told a story in a bad match. I'd go even lower than that because IRS BARELY got over as a crafty technician, and that alone saves it from a dud. Mable looked terrible.
Fuji, Cornette, Crush, and Yokozuna segment - The Coliseum Video crew was invited to watch Fuji prepare the wrestlers. Fuji yells at them like a cartoon villain, and Crush/Yoko intimidate the cameraman into leaving. This was AWESOME.
King of the Ring Quarter Final
"The Rocket" Owen Hart vs Tatanka - 7.25/10
It's weird how three dimensional and vibrant a character Owen Hart is in this land of one dimensional cartoon characters. We're three matches in and Gorilla is just sandbagging all of Art's commentary, Macho is a trooper though actively trying to help.
Owen starts bumping like a boss for Tatanka. The two some crazy arm drags. Tatanka lands on his feet from being thrown over the top rope, which looked cool. They brawl on the outside, and Tatanka gets whipped shoulder first into the ring post. After some more shine for Owen, we get a long resthold. Tatanka fires up, and has the momentum, and all Owen can do is worm out of it, and block a sunset flip with a huricanrana pin for the 3. You get the idea that Owen barely won. This match was AWESOME.
Shawn Michaels and Diesel interview with Todd Pettengill - AWESOME. Shawn comes across like a prick, and Diesel comes across like a generic, tough heel, which fits the character.
King of the Ring Quarter Final
"Double J" Jeff Jarrett vs. The 1-2-3 Kid - 4.5/10
The story of the match is that Jarrett is cockily beating the crap out of Kid, underestimating him, but Kid will fire back. Kid botches a corner dropkick, which allows Jarrett to signal for the figure four, but he gets rolled up for the 1-2-3 Kid win.
This felt like a trimmed down version of a much longer match, which obviously is a symptom of a one night tournament, but still this match comes out below average at best.
Post-match - Awesome. Jarrett hits Kid with three piledrivers, which seems like something an unhinged Jeff Jarrett would actually do if he got beat. He also does some wacky looking second rope diving punches because he can.
"The New Generation" Commercial - Old things are janky and silly. New things are fast, sleek, cool, and full of ROCK N ROLL. This feels like such a hamfisted attempt to be cool it hurts.
Bret Hart interview with Todd Pettengill - We get the old school southern rasslin trope of wrestlers describing how moves hurt as we see footage of that move being done to them. This is a generic babyface Bret promo beyond that. Bret teases who his mystery corner man is
WWF Championship Match
Diesel (w/Shawn Michaels) vs Bret Hart (c) (w/ Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart) - 7.5/10
Diesel's theme is just truck noises, and terrible. Bret's corner man shocked me, I could've sworn it was Bulldog. People barely pop for poor Anvil Bret has white paint spillage on his gear for some reason and it looks horrible.
Diesel immediately overpowers Hitman, and Hitman immediately has to tap into his babyface fire which pops the crowd.. In addition to generic babyface fire, Bret is excellent at appearing more cunning than his opponent. Diesel misses a corner charge and hurts his leg, which causes Bret to work the leg. Diesel kicks Bret to the outside, but Shawn is tepid about interfering because of the Anvil. This allows Bret to actually recover and go back to work, which was awesome. When Michaels does interfere, the Anvil chases him around. Diesel is botching now, botching catching Bret in a bearhug and botching taking a over-the-top-rope bump on a dropkick. Bret whiffs a crossbody to the outside, now Diesel can power around Bret and work his back. while Shawn takes potshots. More babyface fire but Diesel takes the momentum again. They spend a very long time teasing the turnbuckle pad being removed, and when the heels finally do, it's immediately reversed by Bret, awesome. Shawn gets knocked off the apron and the people erupt. Sharpshooters are broken with the ropes, belt shots are kicked out of. Anvil gets attacked on the outside, which leads to him snapping and attacking Diesel just as he's about to make the cover for the DQ
This was like a classical music piece. It was long and slow, but it built, and it built to...all the instruments falling out of tune and a wacky finish.
Post-match - Interesting. Anvil stomps to the back, screaming and ranting like a crazy person while the heels stay behind to work over Bret. This isn't played like a heel turn, but a crazy person having snapped and forgotten what he was supposed to be doing.
Jerry Lawler interview with Todd Pettengill: AWESOME heel promo by Lawler.
King of the Ring Semi-Final
Razor Ramon vs IRS - 5/10
Momentum swings back and forth, and Razor hits the Razor's Edge for the 3. Nothing to report here.
Bret Hart looks for Jim Neidhart - Great. Bret looks and sounds legitimately pissed
Todd Pettengill is supposed to interview 1-2-3 Kid but he isn't there - I don't know how I feel about this. Like I get in real sports a guy who's gravely injured wouldn't show up for an interview, but I've always thought the trope of the wrestler soldiering out, refusing to be interviewed was just as effective.
King of the Ring Semi-Final
The 1-2-3 Kid vs "The Rocket Owen Hart" - 4.5/10
Owen baseball slides Kid immediately and starts beating him up. The tease some quick pins, and then Kid goes into some lucha counters which are lost on the crowd. The guys do moves and Kid even gets a phantom three count , Owen counters a hurricanrana into a powerbomb into the Sharpshooter for the win.
I didn't like this match. I wish that this had been a first round match so these guys could've gone full tilt without it breaking psychology. Psychology aside though the moves were great.
Roddy Piper promo from earlier today - %50 cocaine induced rambling, %50 percent coherent wrestling promo. He also bullies the poor cameramn
WWF Tag Team Championship
Yokozuna and Crush (w/James E. Cornette and Mr. Fuji) vs The Headshrinkers (w/ Afa and Captain Lou Albano) - 4.75/10
Wacky Headshrinkers spots with all four guys to start and the heels very very slowly powder out. Some interesting work between Samu and Yoko to start. Crush gets his turn at the wacky Headshrinker spots. Fuji gets the heat and Crush takes control. The Headshrinkers make the hot tag and fight back, but a brawl on the outside causes the legal Headshrinker to get crotched on the top rope. Lex Luger shows up because Crush screwed him out of the King of the Ring, , and they tease a distraction finish, only for Lou to distract the ref so the other Headshrinker could interfere and the babyfaces pick up the duke.
This was a by-the-book tag team match that fell apart ever so slightly in the finish.
Post-match - Good. Lex and Crush get into it, and the Headshrinkers assist Lex, Crush, despite being outnumbered, throws himself back into it and has to be pulled out by Yoko, which is a surprisingly effective way to distinguish Crush from other heels.
Owen Hart interview with Todd Pettengill - Awesome smarmy bastard heel promo by Owen.
King of the Ring final
"The Rocket" Owen Hart vs Razor Ramon - 6.75/10
It's weird to see Razor have to work Owen's more technical pace and do it well. Owen gets the heat and gets extra leverage on an abdominal stretch. Razor tries to out-power Owen but fails, and only barely gets a Taue style chokeslam out of it. Owen fires back again but Razor fires back when Owen takes a long time setting up for a moonsault. Owen gets backdropped off the top for his trouble. Razor gets backdropped out of the ring in the setup for the Razors Edge. Jim Neidhart comes out, and teases helping Razor but screws him instead, giving Owen the win via a top rope elbow.
This was a good match with an appropriate finish. It really sets up Owen as someone who's good, but is still wormy enough to need help.
Post-match - Owen and Jim hit the Hart Attack on Razor because they are heels
Bret Hart interview with Raymond Rougeau - Again, Bret is great selling anger and disgust
Some one on one time with the commentary team - Now everyone is ignoring poor Art. Randy thinks that Jim saved Bret's title earlier to set up Owen vs Bret.
1994 King of the Ring coronation ceremony - AMAZING. Owen is a complete asshole to everyone, demanding Jim be the one to present him with the king garb, making Todd take a knee to bow to the king, and demanding he be called "The King of Hearts". This segment makes the show worth watching on its own.
Jerry Lawler vs Roddy Piper video package - Cutting edge for the time. It starts with Jerry roasting Piper, but Piper has his own commentary spliced in, transitioning between them with fuzzy TV static. Also the guy they got to impersonate Piper in the King's Court segment was AMAZING at it. This feud is about funds raised for a children's hospital and Lawler being a dick about it.
Jerry Lawler in Ring promo - Entirely too long and completely unnecessary at this point.
Roddy Piper and The Roddy Piper Impersonator in ring promo - They trade Piperisms. This was cute.
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper (w/ The Roddy Piper Impersonator) vs Jerry "The King" Lawler - 4/10
I think people dog a bit unfairly on this match. Sure, Piper is a relic main eventing a "New Generation" Pay-Per-View, but in the eyes of the WWF fans, Jerry had only been around for about a year and a half now, so he's a relatively new character.
Piper starts out like a house of fire and the people love it. I know I say this every review, but it's amazing to watch a show where two old timers are given the main event and people eat it up and are happy to be there. Roddy kicks Jerry's ass for a while, and Jerry gets some stuff in but it's pretty succinctly countered. Jerry has to use the Piper Impersonator to get the heat. Lawler gets the sleeper, and I like the fact that the sleeper is enough for Piper to have to sell like he's punch drunk, but my workrate brain is screaming that we've seen all of three moves so far and Piper is selling like Rocky Balboa. Lawler hits a Piledriver and gloats about it, and gets a 2 1/2. It sucks that this was meant to be a big spot but the crowd don't buy it. Piper does a super realistic hulk up on some Lawler punches which just looks cool. The two trade punches, Piper hits two bulldogs, we get a ref bump, the Impersonator prevents a rope leverage spot, and we get a backdrop for Piper to pick up the win.
This match really won me over. I wasn't happy with Lawler having to use the Impersonator to get the heat, instead of just doing it himself, but that's really the only thing that knocks this below average, and it really did improve in the end
I would say watch Owen's path through the tournament, the WWF Title match and the amazing coronation that follows, but the rest of this show has a benchmark for it that's "painfully average" and thus, is not worth your time.