WWE Tall Tales: 27 Stories from WrestleMania History
WrestleMania. The title alone is a household name, yet the "Showcase of the Immortals" hasn't always been the focal point of the wrestling industry.
Over the past 27 years, the Vince McMahon-led WWF/WWE has gone from being a major property to a global phenomenon, and no event personifies the lineage and love of the business quite the way WrestleMania does.
As we enter our 27th installment of the Super Bowl of Wrestling, so many vivid matches and memories come to mind. Each and every year, fans are treated to some of the biggest and best moments in sports entertainment.
But every dark cloud has a silver lining, and sometimes it is the untold stories, the myths, magic and mayhem behind the scenes that make the Mania so dynamic.
So sit back, dear reader, and enjoy the following 27 stories from WrestleManias past to the present and future of the biggest show of the year. From urban legends to mythical encounters and lost matches, this is the definitive list of WrestleMania's Greatest Tall Tales.
Bruiser Brody's Bounty, WrestleMania I
Standing nearly 6'6" tall, Bruiser Brody was the spitting image of a powerhouse who possessed all the strength and skill of the essential '80s wrestler. Brody earned the nickname "Bruiser" as one of wrestling's first athletes to endorse an all-out style of brawling while sporting his caveman good looks.
Brody was incredibly well-known during the '80s, but hadn't really made the national spotlight his own, as he wasn't a WWF mainstay at the time of WrestleMania in 1985.
All that was about to change, however, as Brody was reportedly offered a large sum of money to run in during the main event of the inaugural Mania and attack the competitors.
But he wasn't supposed to attack just any of the four combatants involved. No, Brody's shoot assault was to be focused solely on one of the biggest draws the company had at the time. Not Hulk Hogan, but his tag team partner, Mr. T.
As a television and movie star with a bad attitude and super-bad appearance, Mr. T was making quite the mark as Hogan's running buddy heading into WrestleMania.
The run-in, however, never occurred, as Brody allegedly rebuked any and all offers to perform such an unadvertised and unwanted stunt.
The incident was just the first in a string of bizarre occurrences for Brody's career, which ended tragically in 1988 when Brody was stabbed to death by wrestler/booker Jose Huertas Gonzalez backstage at a World Wrestling Council event in Puerto Rico.
David Sammartino: Nothing Like Dad, WrestleMania I
Bruno Sammartino was, perhaps, the greatest champion in the history of professional wrestling. But Bruno was long past the point of being the go-to guy when his son David went against his father's best wishes and chose to pursue a career in the ring as well.
Already apprehensive at the idea of his son competing for the WWF instead of getting a college degree, Bruno reluctantly agreed to become his son's manager in the fall of 1984.
When WrestleMania came around in March 1985, David found himself booked in his biggest match to date: a one-on-one clash with Brutus Beefcake.
But behind the scenes, David and Bruno's constant clashes with the administration, particularly Vince McMahon, led to the almost immediate demise of both of their careers.
Lacking the charisma and poise of his father, David floundered during the contest until both men were disqualified thanks to eventual interference from Bruno and Beefcake's colleague, Luscious Johnny Valiant.
The idea was that having the match end in such a train-wreck fashion would convince the fans that the only way David Sammartino could get even was to bring his father out of retirement to battle alongside him.
And so, following the double disqualification (still one of the only non-finishes in WrestleMania history), Bruno returned for a little while to help elevate David.
Not only did the experiment fail, but it also created irreconcilable differences between the Sammartinos and Vince McMahon, so much so that Bruno still isn't acknowledged in the supposedly prestigious WWE Hall of Fame.
Bruno even went as far as to accuse McMahon of hiring a fan to get into an altercation with his son so he could use the incident as a means for termination.
Rowdy Roddy Piper, WrestleMania 2
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper pulled no proverbial punches during his feud with actor Mr. T. He genuinely didn't like T, and T didn't like him one bit. Their on-screen hostility was a manifestation of an actual hatred that was at a boiling point when the two were to engage in a boxing match at WrestleMania 2.
Everything started out normally, except that Piper was actually taking the whole thing seriously, leading to several "grapples" by Mr. T wherein he and Piper would exchange words over the direction of the match.
Though the finish was to see T win after a big fiasco involving Bob Orton at ringside, it didn't go exactly that way.
Piper retrospectively discussed how he would tease Mr. T with actual wrestling moves and shoot fighting moves to throw him off-guard.
This situation was seemingly no different, as Piper literally body slammed B.A. Baracus to the mat before officially being disqualified.
T no-sold the move and made a beeline for the Rowdy one, all the while failing to realize that the crowd was eating it up.
The real-life tension became too much to handle as the WWF dropped the angle after Mania, thus leaving us with an inconclusive result and no Piper for the next few months, as his antics forced him to be removed from television.
McIntyre's Malfunction, WrestleMania 2
In case you weren't aware, the WWF Women's Division was hurting horribly at the conclusion of 1985. Despite being the biggest face on the women's roster, Wendi Richter was nowhere to be seen when WrestleMania 2 came about as she had left the company following the "Original Screwjob."
Richter was forced to job to a disguised Fabulous Moolah in a shoot finish that would turn out to be Richter's last appearance for the company.
Left with few other options, the WWF decided to book an up-and-coming Velvet McIntyre as the heir to the throne in an effort to duplicate their previous success with Richter. So, at WrestleMania 2, McIntyre tangled with the champion Moolah in a match that was booked for McIntyre to go over.
But within a minute of starting, McIntyre missed a high cross-body from the top rope that broke the strap of her singlet from her shoulder.
Attempting to avoid a massive wardrobe malfunction and rework the ending, Moolah quickly sprawled on top of McIntyre and scored the pin, thus retaining her title. The finish was as fast as the match and twice as devastating to McIntyre's career.
Velvet would eventually win the championship from Moolah on July 3 of that year, only to lose it right back six days later. Despite being one of the most talented wrestlers the division had ever seen, McIntyre simply couldn't get over after the accidental squash match at Mania.
Francis Makes the Final Four, WrestleMania 2
It was to be an epic encounter at WrestleMania 2 when NFL players and pro wrestlers collided in a 20-man over-the-top-rope battle royal.
Some of the NFL's top stars of the day along with perennial WWF superstars would attempt to rock Chicago on this evening, but there was one thing none of them counted on: Russ Francis.
Francis, son of former promoter Ed Francis and, at the time, tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, entered the match as probably the fourth or fifth most notable NFLer in the ring.
After all, the WWF had spent the entire pre-match building up a cocky, pretty boy named Bill Fralic and the superhero known as William "The Refrigerator" Perry as competent opposition for the likes of Big John Studd.
So when Fralic was ousted and Perry and Studd canceled each other out, the match fizzled down to four competitors: Andre the Giant, both members of the Hart Foundation and Russ Francis.
Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart quickly targeted Francis, knowing that the finish of the contest was to involve them and Andre exclusively. Yet whenever they encroached on Francis' territory, he would somersault across the ring or duck a simple grapple.
Francis was shooting, but not in the typical bad guy style. If anything, he was just trying to show that he had what it took to make it with these guys, and after a few minutes he gave in and allowed himself to be eliminated.
Following his playing career, Francis did begin wrestling in both the AWA and NWA, but nothing could compare to his performance in the star-studded battle royal.
WrestleMania Math: 78,000 = 93,000, WrestleMania III
For 23 years it stood alone as one of the greatest achievements in the history of live events. With a recorded attendance of 93,173, WrestleMania III from the Pontiac Silverdome was the largest crowd for any indoor sporting event in history.
And who could argue with the greatest headlining match of that time between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant? Or how about the classic undercard clash between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat?
WrestleMania III is remembered for at least a dozen reasons, but the indoor attendance record is easily the most flaunted one of them. Too bad the number isn't really what it seems.
It has long been rumored, confirmed, denied and then confirmed again that the World Wrestling Federation inflated the attendance figure as a means for publicizing the event as a greater success than it was already going to be.
Wrestling is funny like that. Though the actual number, which was more like 78,000 people, was still incredibly impressive, 93,000 looked that much better.
In 2010, the record, fictional or otherwise, was broken by a crowd of well over 100,000 folks at the NBA All-Star Game in Cowboys Stadium.
Exit the Dragon, WrestleMania IV
Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant at WrestleMania IV was the first major rematch in the event's history, but it wasn't supposed to be the first. Actually, that honor looked, for the longest time, to be going to another classic encounter between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat.
After WrestleMania III, Ricky Steamboat was walking on sunshine. He had been booked to remain Intercontinental Champion for a long time and was expecting a child with his wife, Bonnie.
Little did he know that one would sabotage the other as he asked for time off to be with his wife soon after beginning his title run.
Offended that Steamboat would throw away this golden opportunity for the miracle of childbirth, Vince McMahon punished Steamboat by having him drop the title to the laughable Honky Tonk Man.
And while Honky went on to become the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, a designation that was likely supposed to be Steamboat's, the Dragon pressed on, eventually returning to the company just in time for the WrestleMania IV Championship Tournament.
The bracket had been set where Steamboat would have the opportunity to face Randy Savage in the opening round, a contest that was sure to tear the roof off of Trump Plaza. But management was still out to punish Steamboat for his previous choice, and thus forced him to lose to Greg Valentine.
Steamboat quickly "retired" from the business, only to resurface in the NWA the following year. His next WWF stint was just as embarrassing as he wasn't allowed to be known as Ricky Steamboat.
He was simply The Dragon, and was forced to do things that a dragon would do, like breathe fire. Steamboat has said it was the worst part of his career.
Studd vs. Andre, Part 2: The Cancellation, WrestleMania V
The WWF was riding a WrestleMania high after the third installment. After all, it was the biggest event in the history of the business and helped to do more for pay-per-view than any event ever had before.
WrestleMania IV was to keep the success rolling with the first ever WrestleMania rematch between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.
But Andre's career was already in the twilight stages when he wrestled at the Silverdome in '87. By 1988, Andre could barely compete in this ill-fated rematch and so plans went to Randy Savage to hold the strap by defeating Ted DiBiase.
Then, at WrestleMania V, with Randy Savage already slated to face Hulk Hogan in a clash of the Mega Powers, Andre was looking to have another rematch with a familiar foe.
After nearly three years on the shelf, Big John Studd made a full-time return to the ring in his first big face role, even going as far as to win the 1989 Royal Rumble.
It was no secret that Studd had a score to settle with Andre dating back to the first WrestleMania, when Bobby Heenan was by his side. Now, the tables had turned and Studd was the one looking to get even with one of the Heenan Family members.
But neither man was really up to the task when it came time to book the event, so the WWF went back to their first creative idea of having Andre hook up with Jake Roberts while Studd provided the officiating duties.
Overall, it was an incredibly anti-climactic finish to a career that showed such promise with the comeback win at the Rumble.
Studd's comeback lasted just about six months before he permanently retired. Andre, on the other hand, continued to diminish in his in-ring role from singles competitor to tag team foe to sporadic manager until his death after an illustrious career.
Zeus Bombs (Thankfully), WrestleMania VI
It was no secret that Vince McMahon wanted to do more than promote wrestling, and by 1989, he was going to takeover Hollywood.
At least, that's what McMahon had in mind when he cast his biggest intellectual property, Hulk Hogan, in the ill-fated production No Holds Barred.
Hogan starred as the most popular wrestler ever who would have to defend his friends and family from an evil network executive, his cronies and a cross-eyed monster named Zeus.
Though the movie was panned universally, it managed to make back its budget and was substantially beneficial in bringing more attention to the WWF product.
So naturally, McMahon believed that the Hogan/Zeus battles could transcend the silver screen and become big bank for his company.
It was then that Zeus, better known as typecast actor Tiny Lister, was brought in to work several events against the Hulkster.
Zeus appeared to face Hogan at SummerSlam and Survivor Series that year, and was even featured in a steel cage match that was just an appetizer for a special pay-per-view event which delivered the feature presentation, No Holds Barred, as a package.
All of these matches were tag team affairs that failed to showcase a solo confrontation for the two titans.
Perhaps it was for the best, as all of these matches had the appeal of pineapple on pizza and were twice as awkward.
Zeus was slated to appear at the 1990 Royal Rumble and make a statement that would force Hulkamania into challenging him for the main event of WrestleMania VI at SkyDome.
Finally, a one-on-one encounter between the stars of No Holds Barred, just as Vince and envisioned it. The crowd, however, had other ideas.
Fans had quickly become disenchanted with the whole angle and were instead flocking to the rising stocks in the midcard of competitors like the Ultimate Warrior.
Since Lister was being paid on a per-appearance basis, McMahon dismissed his original plans and instead went with Hogan vs. Warrior in the Ultimate Challenge. The rest is wrestling history.
Piper's Permanent Paint Job, WrestleMania VI
For weeks leading up to WrestleMania VI, Bad News Brown called out "Rowdy" Roddy Piper as a critical white man that was working to keep his kind down and was nothing but a stupid clown. How did the WWE Hall of Famer respond? In spades, of course.
In one of his most memorable career moments, Piper appeared for the contest by painting half his body entirely black, thus presenting the image of a divided man who was half-black and half-white.
The statement that he wasn't going to take any guff from any man, black or white, was one that Piper was famous for, and he pulled it off with such bravado that it was hard to find the whole circumstance controversial.
But not everything went perfectly for the Rowdy one that evening, as the paint job was a little more emphatic than Piper realized. He had been covered with a special paint that was designed to last through intense conditions like sweat and water.
Such a concoction required a special solvent to wash off, and when the time came to do just that, Piper relinquished more blood than paint.
So he remained painted for the better part of the next three weeks, using traditional methods like rinse, lather, repeat and various saunas while attempting to go about his everyday life.
Piper was even stopped in the airport on his way home to Oregon due to the situations he caused while not only being painted so oddly, but also because he was carrying a large, stuffed Mickey Mouse onto the plane for his child.
Piper would end up buying two first-class tickets for the Mouse, all the while still painted like a goon.
The "Security Issues," WrestleMania VII
Never one to shy away from a timely controversy, the WWF often enjoys the art-imitates-life style of doing things. So when America went to war in the early 90's, the WWF acted swiftly in bringing back Sgt. Slaughter to increase fan morale. Except that Slaughter wasn't back to be good ol' G.I. Joe.
Instead, Slaughter returned as an Iraqi sympathizer that would spew venom at the crowd about how he and Saddam Hussein were best friends. While all this was in terrible taste, the decision to book Slaughter into the WWF Championship was equally controversial.
With WrestleMania VII just around the corner, the WWF decided to forgo a potential moneymaking rematch between the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan in favor of Slaughter against Hulkamania.
Vince McMahon even had the bright idea to book the event in the massive Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in hopes that this show of incredibly patriotic heroism would motivate over 100,000 fans to attend, thus shattering WrestleMania III's already questionable record.
Vince McMahon honestly believed that Hogan/Slaughter would outdraw Hogan/Andre.
Then, just weeks before the event, the WWF changed the venue from the Coliseum to the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena due to increasing "security issues" with Slaughter's character as an Iraqi turncoat.
Such a citation was immediately noting as being suspicious, and sure enough, it was confirmed that the WWF simply hadn't sold near enough tickets to fill the Coliseum.
In fact, had the event gone on as planned, there was a better than 90 percent chance that the venue would have been less than half full.
Ticket sales were projected to be around 30,000 when the change took place, leaving still around 70,000 seats to be claimed.
The Arena, however, would be full at a capacity of almost 17,000, which was more than enough for the WWF to make the switch and claim ulterior motives.
Blading for Dollars, WrestleMania VIII
Bret Hart has a plethora to say about his wrestling career in his autobiography, Hitman. And though all of his stories are certainly insightful, his WrestleMania tales are perhaps the most intriguing.
As part of a gala affair at WrestleMania VIII, Hart was to challenge the current Intercontinental Champion Roddy Piper to a match for the strap. It made sense, seeing as how Piper had won the title during a contest with the Mountie where he was an emergency substitute for Bret.
During the planning of the contest, Bret and Piper agreed that there needed to be an extra level of depth and violence to keep the fans hot.
The only problem was the WWF was practicing a strict, no-tolerance policy on blood, particularly if stars were partaking in the act of "blading."
See, if a wrestler was legitimately cut in the ring and began to bleed, he was instantly forgiven. But Vince McMahon was becoming increasingly displeased with an intentional use of blood and put the locker room on notice that cutting oneself would not be acceptable.
When it came time for Piper and Hart to clash, they cleverly devised a series of moves that would allow Bret to blade but convince others that his cut was legit. One exposed turnbuckle later and the Hitman was gashed profusely. The match was a hit, made more so by the addition of an extreme edge.
Meanwhile, in the WWF Championship contest later that evening, Ric Flair was seen blading on camera in a fairly obvious show of disregard for the backstage policy. Flair suffered a heavy fine for the job, while Hart never revealed he had gotten away with murder until 2007.
Voodoo, Warriors and No-Selling, WrestleMania VIII
The Main Event of WrestleMania VIII from Indianapolis was confusing for many reasons. Perhaps the most obvious was that the main event was actually billed as a double main event in which the WWF Championship match between Ric Flair and Randy Savage would share the stage with a final clash between Sid Justice and Hulk Hogan.
Debating whether Hogan used backstage politics to get the position is better saved for another time.
What is known is that the finish of the contest was a complete and total smorgasbord of mistakes. Sid's contract with the company was up after the match and he was already unhappy having to do the job to Hogan.
Making matters worse, Papa Shango was scheduled to do a run-in that would cause the whole thing to go into disarray until the Ultimate Warrior showed up and cleaned house in his re-debut.
It seemed easy enough. Hogan would hit the leg drop on Sid, Shango would interfere and Warrior would save the day. Then the match would somehow end, not in a disqualification, but with another leg drop and Hogan pinning Sid. Too bad that isn't even close to what happened.
Hogan hit the leg drop, that part went according to plan. But Shango missed his cue, leaving Sid's manager Harvey Whippleman to try and get involved in a fruitless effort.
Left with few other options, Sid kicked out of the Hogan leg drop instead of selling the pin, as was the original ending plan. If you're going to go out, might as well no-sell the biggest move of the biggest star in the industry.
Once Shango finally hit the ring and Warrior made his return, the match ended in confusion and disqualification. It didn't help that the contest went on last, meaning that the true main event of the biggest show in wrestling ended with a total cop out.
Such a Bad Idea, WrestleMania IX
Sometimes, booking matches is an art. Other times, it is a complete crap shoot. And sometimes, you just can't book two men together without epically horrible results.
WrestleMania IX wasn't a very good event for the WWF. The choice of an outdoor venue combined with silly twists and turns in the main event and a card that was lacking in overall star power didn't help matters. Neither did a simple undercard battle between Razor Ramon and Bob Backlund.
Razor Ramon was still a newcomer to the Federation and was cutting his teeth as a top heel. He had already competed in two main event level matches on pay-per-view, so this battle, buried in the undercard, was easily a demotion.
Backstage, Scott Hall didn't take too kindly to anybody and would be the first to tell you that it was all "business." Though he had yet to form any real allegiances with people like Shawn Michaels, he still sported a "holier than thou" attitude.
Hall's opponent, Bob Backlund, was incredibly intelligent both inside and outside the ring. But his later persona as a rambling psycho on the brink of genius was a little too accurate to his actual persona.
Backlund believed he was better than this and was willing to show Hall just how foolish he could look with a smarter, uncooperative opponent.
Booking the two together should have been an unmitigated disaster, and to some extent, it was. They battled for fewer than four minutes with Hall angrily trying power moves and potatoes to get his point across while Backlund stuck to mat wrestling and hip tosses to keep Hall on his toes and taking unnecessary bumps.
To the untrained eye, the match went according to plan, but upon further examination, it was a horrible mistake that almost cost both men their jobs.
Bret vs. Hogan: What Never Was, WrestleMania IX
Two years in a row with a Bret Hart story? Why not? By 1993, Bret Hart had been established as one of the biggest stars the WWF had to offer. He was the World Champion for the second time and was about to face the challenge of the titanic Yokozuna.
But throwing a monkey wrench into the plans was the ever-working mind of Hulk Hogan, who wanted another run at the top before he ended his run in the business.
You see, Hogan was actually contemplating leaving wrestling in favor of an acting career and was well on his way before the Mania drew him back in.
So the plan was simple: Yokozuna would beat Bret Hart thanks to interference from Mr. Fuji, then, when things looked their worst, Hogan would make the save and challenge Yoko to an impromptu title match that Hogan would win. Now, depending on which story you read, the whole thing blows up.
The most common report is that Hogan was slated to drop the title that year at SummerSlam to Bret in a match that would truly signify the "passing of the torch."
Hart even claims to have taken press photos and magazine stills that would be used to market the contest. But sooner rather than later, Hogan's ego war with Vince McMahon got in the way, and Hart was thrown by the wayside.
An agreement was reached where Hogan would instead drop the belt to Yokozuna, but of course, not without some sort of interference.
So Hart was written out of the title picture for almost a year before his surprising comeback win at WrestleMania X. All of it started a year earlier in one of the most bizarre and quite possibly worst WrestleManias in memory.
Imperfect Rivalry, WrestleMania IX and X
Right around 1993, the WWF was looking for new rivalries to make the company some substantial money. With Hulk Hogan on his way out and the potential for new heroes limited to Bret Hart, the WWF decided to make a go of it with the Narcissist and Mr. Perfect.
Lex Luger and Curt Hennig were booked into a one-on-one affair at WrestleMania IX in an effort to elevate both men to the next level. Following a quick heel finish, they ran backstage, where Perfect encountered the breakthrough star, Shawn Michaels.
It was simple, Perfect would feud with both Luger and Michaels throughout 1993, making all three the top tier of stars alongside Yokozuna and Bret Hart.
But Perfect's feud with HBK was short-lived, and his feud with Luger never continued as the Lex Express was just about to take off. By Survivor Series, Perfect cited back issues as reason enough to bail on the opening contest, a fact that Scott Hall would shoot on to open the pay-per-view.
By 1994, Hennig was formulating another return and was again thrust into the spotlight with Luger. This time, though, Perfect was to play the heel to Luger's super-American face, costing him the WWF Championship at WrestleMania X.
What was to follow was a series of matches that would culminate at SummerSlam and again establish Perfect as a top draw.
But the back pains and the head pains were just too much as the rivalry never came to fruition. He would stop wrestling on a regular basis for the company, making sporadic appearances before departing for WCW.
And they didn't even attempt to make Hennig feud with Luger, likely out of fear that Hennig's back would go out.
Overbooked, Part 1, WrestleMania X
The 10th WrestleMania was an instant classic. Competition in the form of brother vs. brother, the memorable ladder match and an intense falls-count-anywhere affair were just the tip of the iceberg. The card from Madison Square Garden was quite an impressive one, if not altogether too crowded to keep the action going.
And so, with 10 matches to get through at WrestleMania X, it looked like something was going to hit the cutting room floor. It would end up being a 10-man tag match that bit the dust as it was scheduled to fill the gap between the ladder match and the WWF Championship match.
On screen, the reason given was that the heel team, comprised of Jeff Jarrett, Rick Martel, IRS and the Headshrinkers, could not actively decide on a team captain and therefore disbanded.
Thus their opponents, a team comprised of the Smoking Gunns, Tatanka, Sparky Plugg and the 1-2-3 Kid, were without competition.
Surprisingly, the majority of these 10 men would remain ultimately undeterred by the snub, becoming some of the biggest draws for the company over the next year-and-a-half. With the exception of Martel, each of them would make future Mania appearances.
Overbooked, Part 2, WrestleMania X
Of course, losing your spot on the card may not be the worst thing after all. Just ask Adam Bomb, who, at the very same WrestleMania, fell victim to horrible timing.
Bomb was an up-and-coming villain in the company who had a great look (albeit cartoonish) and decent skills. He was even managed by Harvey Whippleman, giving him that extra bump to stardom.
Bomb was scheduled to face the massive Earthquake, who was well on his way out of the WWF by this point. A win for Bomb and subsequent push up the card as a big-time threat was a lock. But with time pressing against them, the WWF went a completely different direction.
Bomb came to the ring as planned but stood off to the side whilst Whippleman picked a fight with ring announcer Howard Finkel.
Earthquake then hit the ring with a vengeance and flattened Bomb in 32 seconds. He then left the company as expected, but Bomb failed to ever make an impact thanks to one of the worst squash matches in Mania history.
Within the next year, Bomb's career sat idle while Whippleman entered into a dubious feud with the Fink that ended with an infamous Tuxedo Match. The Adam Bomb character was last seen tossing miniature "Bomb Squad" footballs into the audience for cheap pops. Seriously.
Supreme Stealing Machine, WrestleMania XI
WrestleMania XI had a lot going for it but didn't really give off that "Big Match" feel to fans in the Hartford Civic Center. Perhaps one reason was that the Undertaker, easily one of the top three draws the company had at that time, was feuding with Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Corporation.
Though DiBiase had been a top draw in his day, he was no longer an active competitor and his stable consisted mostly of over-the-hill performers and budding mid-carders. The crown jewel of the Corporation was King Kong Bundy, who was in the midst of his own miniature comeback.
Bundy was a fraction the size he had been in his heyday, yet since he was once a sizable foe, he was put into a match with the Taker.
Backstage, the WWF wanted to milk the feud for all it was worth and felt that Bundy could go over Undertaker with the right interference.
Others were in an uproar, claiming that in no uncertain terms, Bundy would never draw like he had with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 2. For one reason or another, the finish was permanently decided to be Undertaker taking the win.
But WWF creative and Vince McMahon were still stubborn to hammer home the continuation of this feud, since they really didn't have anything else for the Undertaker to do. Despite handily defeating Bundy, the Undertaker lost his precious urn to another member of the Corporation, Kama.
Kama, the Supreme Fighting Machine, was actually Charles Wright, who had previously been booked to do the run-in as Papa Shango, who you might remember about six slides ago.
He was booked to steal the urn specifically to continue the feud, which Undertaker continued to dominate throughout 1995 despite Kama going as far as to melt Taker's urn into a gold chain.
Attempting to explain the Undertaker's urn is hard enough, much less why Charles Wright was booked to do TWO run-ins on WrestleMania nights.
Bam Bam Gets Slammed, WrestleMania XI
Bam Bam Bigelow had the unenviable task of working one of the biggest angles of the year with someone who wasn't even a wrestler in 1995.
Long before the days of Akebono and "Money" Mayweather, Bigelow was appointed to play the top heel in a feud with former football star Lawrence Taylor.
The idea was that Bigelow would put an incredibly green Taylor over in the final contest of the evening and that, in doing so, Bigelow would be launched back to the top of the card for one final run towards the belt.
Bam Bam had never really had such an opportunity, but with such a dearth of talent during 1995, the WWF was looking to him to turn it around.
Pat Patterson was even booked to referee the contest so everything went smoothly.
And so, Bigelow put himself through a surprisingly decent match that saw Taylor thrust from the second rope and through the Beast from the East for the win. After a few months away, Bigelow would return stronger than ever and ready to fight for the championship. What he didn't count on, however, was the Kliq.
While Bigelow was building towards his breakthrough, he watched as other big men like Mabel got pushes that failed miserably.
After he would attempt to cash in on his own fortunes for doing the LT job, he would be thwarted by the likes of Shawn Michaels, WWF Champion Diesel and Razor Ramon.
With them controlling the interests of WWF Creative, Bigelow basically got the shaft.
He would leave the company shortly before the 1996 Royal Rumble thanks to the creative differences, eventually aligning himself for a huge career boost in ECW before another ill-fated trip to the big time and WCW.
Bigelow never did get that opportunity he was almost outright promised.
Razor on the Edge, WrestleMania XII
More Scott Hall stories coming your way. The year was 1996, Hall's last as Razor Ramon. Though the popularity of "The Bad Guy" was still sky high, Hall had been regulated to putting over opponents like newcomer Goldust for his Intercontinental Championship.
A rematch was set for Mania at the Arrowhead Pond, a contest that many believed would seal Razor's fate as a make-or-break main eventer in the company.
With Hall's contract expiration being well-documented in the information age that wrestling was entering, a win was pivotal to keeping him around for years to come and maybe even making him a World Champion.
Unfortunately, the match never happened, as Hall was suspended weeks earlier due to drug and alcohol abuse.
Despite being plastered all over the promotional material for the event, Hall was nowhere to be seen on the night of WrestleMania, instead being replaced by the now infamous Hollywood Backlot Brawl (Goldust vs. Roddy Piper).
He only competed on one more WWF pay-per-view event before departing for WCW and becoming a major player in the Monday Night War. Sadly, the drug and alcohol abuse would follow him as well.
Ultimately Unprepared, WrestleMania XII
Triple H will likely go down as one of the greatest wrestlers of a generation, but he probably wants to forget about his WrestleMania Moment in 1996. You see, it was at this WrestleMania that Hunter Hearst Helmsley would be fed to the wood chipper known as the Ultimate Warrior.
Warrior was making a major comeback with the company and was seen as a big strike in the WWF's effort to keep fans from jumping to WCW. Certainly his appearance and return at WrestleMania would help sell more pay-per-views and, indeed, it did.
But the match Warrior competed in with Helmsley was far less than good, if not only because Triple H had no idea what to do coming in. Warrior and HHH had been introduced backstage, but witness reports indicate that it was the entire conversation they had going into the contest.
That's right, the only thing they really prepared during the 90-second squash match was that Warrior was going to win. This is probably the reason that Triple H doesn't enjoy discussing Warrior's no-sell of the pedigree. And if you haven't figured it out quite yet, squashes and WrestleMania don't make the world work.
Get the F--- out of My Ring, WrestleMania XII
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were at the top of their respective games when they clashed at WrestleMania XII in the fabled Iron Man match. Sixty minutes of incredible endurance, skill and strength made for one of the most memorable contests ever.
What was still a secret at the time, however, was the growing animosity between Hart and Michaels that spilled over into the finish of this contest. Michaels was to defeat Hart, that much was true. But with 30 seconds to go, Hart locked in the sharpshooter and refused to let go. The idea was that Michaels would last the entire time without submitting, thus ending the contest in a draw until a mandatory overtime could be enforced.
All went that way, except that Hart began to exit the ring and make his way backstage with the belt. He seemingly wanted no more to do with the Heartbreak Kid or the match, attempting to force a draw. When he was summoned back to the ring for a five-minute overtime, Hart obliged begrudgingly and was pinned in just about 90 seconds.
As Michaels rolled over to embrace the moment, Hart lay defeated in the ring. After previously trying to storm out, he was instead milking the situation in hopes of a final shaking of hands between the two. Instead, Michaels was handed the WWF Championship and motioned verbally to Bret that he should leave.
But it wasn't any motion from Shawn. Audibly, Michaels turned to Earl Hebner and had him deliver a message for Bret: "Tell him to get the F-ck out of My Ring."
The Lost Smile, WrestleMania 13
Of course, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were only about to begin their true hatred for one another. Everybody seems to know that backstage, Michaels was all about getting his way and would simply walk away if he didn't. Bret, meanwhile, let the bitterness swell and wasn't about to put up with too much more out of HBK.
The plan, as it were, was for Bret to repay the favor to Shawn from WrestleMania XII, thus winning the WWF Championship back from Michaels. But just about a month before WrestleMania 13, Michaels claimed a huge injury that would keep him out of action past Mania. Disappointed, Vince McMahon asked Michaels to cut a promo about the situation while forfeiting the Championship belt as the company was forced to completely rebook WrestleMania.
And so, HBK cut the infamous "Lost My Smile" promo, which was easily the least sincere or heartfelt retirement speech since Brett Favre. Michaels' adolescent antics left the WWF in a very tough place, having to redo much of the top of the card since their epic rematch was now off.
Instead of competing with Michaels, Hart would turn his attention to his up-and-coming new rival, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the WWF Championship would be held by Sycho Sid in a match against The Undertaker. Remarkably, HBK's career-threatening injury healed and he was back before the end of the summer.
The Greatest Double Turn, WrestleMania 13
The Double Turn. In professional wrestling, a double turn is an incredibly rare happening that may well be the WWF equivalent of Haley's Comet. And in the WWF, there was no greater double turn than the one pulled at the 1988 Survivor Series when The Powers of Pain aligned themselves with Mr. Fuji, who had just double-crossed Demolition.
Or was there?
Bret Hart and Steve Austin were about to create wrestling magic during their submission match at WrestleMania 13. Austin was a bloody mess and the callous heel who was about to get what was coming to him from the babyface Bret. As Bret locked in the sharpshooter, special enforcer Ken Shamrock came into play to check on the fallen Austin.
Screaming and writhing in pain, Austin lost more and more blood but refused to submit. Jim Ross provided the commentary, emphasizing the incredible grit and determination of Stone Cold not to give up. Austin eventually passed out and Hart was declared the winner, but the Hitman refused to relinquish the hold, leaving Shamrock to force him off.
As Bret left the ring, he was still somewhat cheered, but most were cat-calling Bret for his show of poor sportsmanship. Austin, meanwhile, left a battered, bloody wreck who was almost universally cheered for his performance. Bret wouldn't be a face within the WWF for another 13 years, while Austin led the biggest boom in wrestling since the 80's.
It was the start of the Attitude Era.
Chicago Snuff Fight, WrestleMania 13
Ahmed Johnson was, legitimately, scheduled to be the next big force in the World Wrestling Federation when he debuted in 1995. But his body and mind simply weren't in on the plan, and soon, Ahmed found himself the benefactor of unfortunate circumstances. He had been booked into a huge, year-long feud with former WCW Champion Ron Simmons (now parading around as Faarooq) and his stable, the Nation of Domination.
While the Nation had abused Ahmed seemingly forever, Johnson was about to get a measure of retribution with the help of the Legion of Doom, Hawk and Animal. So the Chicago Street Fight was set to commence at WrestleMania 13.
But what nobody really figured was that the backstage reputation of several of the stars in this contest could make for some onstage problems. Among them, Hawk of the L.O.D. and Crush of the Nation were notorious drug users. Ahmed had been involved just a year earlier in a fiasco over cocaine and Chris Candido's wife, Sunny.
Rumor has it that the backstage presence of at least one illegal substance led to these three entering the contest a little worse for wear. Cocaine and Carisoprodol (Soma) was the cocktail of the evening as Hawk and Ahmed emerged with jelly legs while Crush took his time executing nearly every move.
Luckily, more consummate professionals like Road Warrior Animal, Savio Vega and Simmons were still sober and able to keep the match from being a complete feldspar of awful.
Johnson's career never took off. He would emerge over a decade later, renamed Ezekiel Jackson.
What's That Smell?, WrestleMania 13
And finally, we come to one of the most unintentionally hilarious tales in WrestleMania history. Sid Vicious already had himself a number of legends heading into his final WrestleMania appearance for the WWF. Let's recap:
1. Sid had a pet squirrel that, at some point, tore into his ball bag.
2. Sid got into a bar fight with Brian Pillman and lost, then returned with a squeegee to get revenge.
3. Sid stabbed Arn Anderson in a hotel fight with a pair of scissors despite being leagues bigger than the Enforcer.
Somehow, none of these tales were as embarrassing as the one that says that Sid defecated in his tights during the finale with the Undertaker at WrestleMania 13. As Taker lifted Sid up for the finishing tombstone piledriver, reports claim that both he and the official noticed a foul smell emanating from Sycho Sid. While it likely could have been passed off as a fart, something with the texture and warmth of Apple Pie may soon have found its way into Sid's pants after he was planted on the mat.
Undertaker pinned Sid from a distance and won the WWF Championship this evening, and as he was celebrating, Sid exited the ring incredibly quickly. Rumors that he crapped on purpose in his final outing were unsubstantiated. After all, Sid's way of getting revenge during his final match with the company was to kick out of his opponent's finisher, not to lose bowel control.
This is just the first 27 Tall Tales from the first 13 WrestleMania events, stay tuned for Part Two...
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