Wrestlemania VIII: Ric Flair vs Macho Man Randy Savage for the WWF Championship

Without a doubt, my favourite Wrestlemania match, and one of my favourite matches of all time, took place at Wrestlemania VIII when Ric Flair took on “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the WWE Championship.

The story going into this match stemmed from just 7 words said by Flair: “Elizabeth was mine before she was yours!” It is something that everyone can relate to and it makes you support Savage more. Flair, at this time, had won the WWF Championship after the 1992 Royal Rumble match. With his “Executive Consultant” Mr Perfect and the support of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Flair was borderline unstoppable and was getting into Savage’s head with those words and threatening to reveal (doctored) photos of Elizabeth.

I don’t normally do this but I want to write about the interviews that took place before and after the match. Before the match, Mooney interviews Flair and Perfect and they go on about the picture of Elizabeth that they are going to put up on the big screen. Then we go to Mean Gene Okerlund interviewing Savage. At least we would have if Savage was granting interviews. Okerlund instead talks about Savage’s mind going into the match.

We start with Flair coming down the aisle and I got slightly pissed off with WWE’s revisionist history. I had the original VHS tape of this until recently and Flair’s theme music was majestic yet not the one he is famous for which is from 2001: A Space Odyssey. When I saw this match again on YouTube, it was the 2001 film music, which I found annoying. Anyway, bitch over. During Flair’s entrance, we cut to Lord Alfred Hayes who had managed to grab a hold of Savage (this was only seen on the original VHS version), in which Savage was up for the match. Savage then makes his entrance, in which he runs into the ring. Flair and Perfect go out of the ring and Savage takes off his jacket and hat and goes after Flair. Flair throws the title belt into the ring and starts to go up the aisle. Savage attacks him from behind and is pulled off by Perfect. Savage and Flair get into the ring to officially start the match and it starts with Savage being all over Flair before Flair sends Savage over the top rope to the floor outside.

Flair starts to take advantage of the match then Savage once again gets the momentum resulting in hitting Flair against the barricade, busting him open. Savage completely dominates hitting a double axehandle followed by the patented elbowdrop. Savage covers Flair but is pulled off by Mr Perfect. If you look at it very carefully, you see Savage move his leg so that Perfect is able to grab it and pull Savage off Flair. I also like the way that Heenan ignores what had happened by saying that it was a 2 count. Savage goes after Perfect and Perfect manages to sneak some brass knuckles to Flair. Flair uses them and starts to be dominant in the match with a lot of help from Perfect. Perfect uses a steel chair to attack Savage with a hit to the knee, severely injuring him. This prompts Elizabeth to come down the aisle, followed by WWF officials (including Dave Hebner and Shane McMahon). Flair slaps on the Figure Four Leg Lock and gets occasional help from Perfect by getting leverage, all the while the WWF officials are trying to convince Elizabeth to go back to no avail. Eventually, Savage manages to reverse the pressure and, despite some help from Perfect which the referee stops, Flair is forced to break the hold. Flair continues to attack Savage’s knee while boasting to Elizabeth. However, it all comes back to haunt Flair as, while he is boasting, he gets hit by Savage and gets rolled up for the 3, even though Savage had the tights. Heenan goes ballistic on commentary and goes to leave the booth to get to Flair. Meanwhile, Flair grabs Elizabeth and goes mental on her before kissing her. Understandably, Elizabeth doesn’t take that too well and starts hitting Flair before Savage joins in, resulting in chaos for a few minutes. Eventually, Flair and Perfect leave the ring and Savage and Elizabeth celebrate the victory.

Now we get to the post match interviews and it’s the complete opposite to what had happened before the match. Sean Mooney tries to interview Flair and Perfect and is told to shut up. Perfect is not happy about the fact that Savage cheated to get the victory, obviously ignoring the blantant cheating that Perfect himself did. Heenan arrives and is hysterical about the whole situation and then we get to Flair. I think this moment is brilliant as Flair, who lost the most, is the most calm in this scenario. Flair, whilst angry, is saying that the team will take stock of what happened and regroup and Flair says: “You did it once, now let’s see you do it again!” On the other side of the coin, Mean Gene interviews Savage with Savage saying the WWF Championship is only a bit of what he wanted from Flair.

There are so many reasons why I enjoy this match. I especially loved Heenan’s commentary on this. If you want to see a PhD level class on biased wrestling commentary, you have to watch the match as Heenan is completely biased in this match. I loved the story of this match. I think that Savage’s role in this is that he wanted to beat Flair, regardless of whether it was for the WWF Championship or not. Flair and Perfect were absolutely brilliant in this role as well; and Elizabeth coming down to support Savage really added to the tension of the match. I also thought the interviews before and after the match were great as well.

This is one of those rare matches where every aspect was played to perfection. It’s unfortunate that it is a massively underrated match; but if there was a university course on professional wrestling, this match has to be required reading.

Royal Rumble 1999: Mankind vs The Rock “I Quit” Match

One of my favourite matches that ever took place at a Royal Rumble was in 1999 between The Rock and Mankind. This was one of the most brutal matches that I have ever seen at the time and, because of the documentary “Beyond the Mat” and Mick Foley writing about it in his second book, “Foley is Good”, it’s one of the most memorable.

The story going into this match was that the WWF Championship had been vacated and a 14 man tournament called “Deadly Games” was formed to determine the new Champion at Survivor Series 1998. Vince McMahon was supporting Mankind, who had taken a shine to Vince, and was getting some help in getting through the tournament. The final was between Mankind and The Rock and Vince turns on Mankind and helps Rock win the WWF Championship. The Rock becomes “The Corporate Champion” and joins the Corporation.  Mankind then wins the Championship on RAW at the beginning of the year. Rock demanded a rematch and, despite giving Mankind concessions of making the match no disqualification, no count outs and no interference from The Corporation; Mankind didn’t want to give The Rock a match. The Rock then says that he will not quit until he gets a rematch and Mankind takes that as a challenge of an “I Quit” match and accepts.

Both the wrestlers came out and The Rock attacks Mankind straight away. However, Mankind is able to deal with it and dominate the match at the beginning. There are so many memorable moments during the first 5-10 minutes of the match. One of the things that I liked was that, instead of just saying “no” when asked if they quit, they would come up with unique answers. Especially in The Rock’s case where he would say things like: “The Rock says you can kiss his ass” which I found really amusing. Another great bit was when Rock took Michael Cole’s headset and started boasting and slagging off Jerry Lawler. Despite Lawler’s warnings, Mankind sneaks up behind and clotheslines Rock onto the announce table, with Lawler going “I tried to warn you”. The match goes back inside the ring and Mankind hits the Mandible Claw and continues his assault. The match goes into the crowd (I forgot how much this happened in the Attitude Era) and there’s a nice bit when Mankind was going to hit Rock over the barricade but Rock countered it into a powerslam. They go back to the announce tables and Rock hits Mankind with the bell, while taking a second to sing a little song, then attempts to Rock Bottom Mankind through the Spanish Announcer’s Table but it collapsed before that happened. 

The match continues up the entrance way and then quite high up into the crowd when Rock hits Mankind off the second level onto a massive electrical box, resulting in the lights temporarily going out. The match stops for a while with paramedics and Shane McMahon coming to check on Mankind. However, Rock was determined to make Mankind quit, despite Shane’s pleads for the match to stop, so he dragged Mankind back to the ring then tied his hands behind his back with handcuffs. Despite a brief fightback by Mankind, Rock managed to put a chair on Mankind’s face and hit the Corporate Elbow.

Now we get to the end, and I want to mention Foley’s account of the match in his second book “Foley is Good”. The president of the USA Network (who were showing RAW at the time) was concerned about the level of violence. Therefore, as a kind of compromise, the match would end in the entrance with Mankind only taking 4-5 chair shots with a approximate 2 minute gap inbetween. The idea was to build the tension of when the next chair shot will happen. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The gap between the first two was something like 7 seconds and Foley ended up taking 11 unprotected chair shots to the head. The match ends in the entrance way with Foley saying “I Quit!” (this actually was a recording used by the Corporation as Foley was (legitimately) unconscious). This makes The Rock the WWF Champion.

This was one of the most brutal matches that I had ever seen at the time (I didn’t see the Hell in a Cell match between Mankind and the Undertaker til a couple of years later) and it really how good the two wrestlers were. Mankind really helped The Rock stay at the main event level and it showed how entertaining The Rock can be. It’s slightly unfortunate that his Corporate Champion gimmick wasn’t as successful as it could have been (I think his heel run in 2003 was some of the best stuff that The Rock ever did). Despite that, it’s a great match and was my favourite match of 1999.

1992 Royal Rumble

As we approach the week of the Royal Rumble, without a doubt my favourite Rumble match was the one that took place in 1992 at the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, New York. I didn’t watch the match live as it was before I started to become a wrestling fan. However, after watching it about 7 years later, it still remains such a great match because, unlike the previous Rumbles, this one had a great story going into it.

The main story going into the match was about the WWF Championship. The Championship  had been vacated by after 2 controversial title changes between Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker, first at the 1991 Survivor Series and then at the Tuesday in Texas PPV which took place 8 days later. WWF President Jack Tunney decided that the winner of the Rumble would become the new WWF Champion and he gave Hogan and Undertaker a slight advantage by promising them that they would get a number between 20 and 30.

The first two to enter the Rumble were The British Bulldog and The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. DiBiase didn’t last too long and was eliminated just before number 3 arrived, who was Ric Flair. Flair had arrived in September 1991 and was allied with his “financial advisor” Bobby Heenan and his “executive consultant” Mr. Perfect. Heenan, who was on commentary along with Gorilla Monsoon, was not happy that Flair was number 3 and said that he needed to apologise to the viewers because he might be not objective. This prompts Gorilla to go: “When have you ever been objective?!”

This match had a lot of really good moments. For the early part of the match it was between Bulldog and Flair as other wrestlers came in and were eliminated within 2 minutes. Shawn Michaels came in at number 6, which was when the match started to develop into a proper Rumble match. Eventually, Flair managed to eliminate Bulldog. Then Flair temporarily allied himself with the Barbarian before turning on him. Barbarian tried to send Flair over the top rope; Hercules took advantage and tried to eliminate both of them. However, only Barbarian was eliminated as Flair managed to hold on to the top rope. Hercules was then eliminated by the Big Boss Man, leaving just him and Flair. Big Boss Man accidentally eliminated himself, leaving Flair as the only person in the ring…for about 30 seconds when Rowdy Roddy Piper (who won the Intercontinental Championship earlier by defeating The Mountie) came in. Piper destroys Flair and puts him in a sleeper hold, which I don’t quite get considering that you can’t get them to submit. Luckily for Flair, he is saved by Jake “The Snake” Roberts. All during the match, the other wrestlers kept on targeting Flair, prompting Heenan to say the line “This isn’t fair to Flair!!” numerous times.

As we got towards the end, Undertaker came in at number 20, followed by Macho Man Randy Savage at number 21, who started to look for Jake Roberts and eliminated him with a high knee to the back. Savage then goes out and continues attacking Jake Roberts before getting thrown back into the ring by the Undertaker. This is an interesting point in the match as Savage went over the top rope in order to attack Jake Roberts. However, this was before the rule in which you can eliminate yourself was made. It’s one of those times in Rumble history when rules were made because of certain situations that had taken place (the end of the 1995 Rumble being a prime example). There was a nice moment when “The Model” Rick Martel came in at number 25. The year before, Martel was in the Rumble for a record 53 minutes and 6 seconds before being eliminated. Martel goes in and goes after Flair, who at this point was in the Rumble for just over 50 minutes. I like the fact that Martel goes after the one person who had the chance to break his record.

Hulk Hogan comes in at number 26 and eliminates the Undertaker, quickly followed by the Berserker. Sgt Slaughter comes in at number 28 followed by Sid Justice at number 29 and The Warlord at number 30. Flair and Hogan have a brief fight outside the ring before going back in the ring. Meanwhile, Sid Justice does one of the coolest eliminations that I have ever seen when he Irish whips Sgt Slaughter with so much force that Slaughter goes flying over the top turnbuckle. Justice then goes to eliminate Rick Martel and Roddy Piper at the same time, leaving Savage, Justice, Flair and Hogan.

The end had Savage eliminated by Justice with a little inadvertent help from Flair. Justice then shockingly eliminates Hogan. Hogan, feeling betrayed and forgetting that it’s every man for himself at the Rumble, holds on to Justice’s arm. This allows Flair to take advantage and eliminate Justice, winning the match and becoming WWF Champion to ecstatic cheers from Bobby Heenan . This ending is an example of the WWF revising their history. In the version that I saw, there were no boos when Hogan grabbed Justice’s arm. However, in the original version, there were boos directed at Hogan for his actions.

This match really shows how tremendous of a talent that Ric Flair was at the time. Flair was the story of the match. It was Heenan’s suggestion that Flair come in at number 3 in order to show his technical skills. He was brilliant throughout the match and what surprised me when I saw it for the first time was the way that he went through the match. Flair didn’t eliminate that many people and took advantage of opportunities to eliminate people when they came up. Flair also showed that you need luck to win the Rumble as he was saved from elimination quite a few times by other wrestlers. The commentary, as was the case with Monsoon and Heenan, was excellent with Heenan constantly checking to see how Flair is doing. It was a great case of biased commentary and yet Heenan would surpass that in his commentary for the Savage Flair match at Wrestlemania VIII (another one of my favourite matches).

To end this article, I want to talk about the interview with Flair, Perfect and Heenan conducted by Mean Gene Okerlund. I don’t really like it when they end Pay-Per-Views with an interview but this was a perfect time for it. This was an opportunity for the three of them to really rub the victory in the faces of those wrestlers (and mainly fans) who didn’t think that Flair could do it. Flair was excellent in this interview and I especially like the end when Perfect says: “We’re not the kind of guys that say ‘we told you so’ but…” then Heenan joins in and they both say: “We told you so”.

I hope you enjoyed my first article in “My Favourite Matches” Series. The next one will be published during the weekend where I write about my one of my non-Rumble matches that took place at the Royal Rumble.

Welcome

Hello everybody and welcome to my new Lo-Down Wrestling site. I’ve decided to use tumblr to publish my new series on My Favourite Matches.

I have been a wrestling fan (on and off) for about 20 years now and I have many matches that I really enjoy. They may not be matches that are considered to be excellent but they are matches that I enjoy for some reason or another.

In honour of it being the 25th Royal Rumble this week, I have done two matches: the 1992 Royal Rumble and the “I Quit” match between Mankind and The Rock from Royal Rumble 1999.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog and don’t forget to look my at normal website.