WWF WrestleMania VIII Classic Review

1992 was a pretty lousy year overall for WWE and Vince McMahon; the first rumblings of the forthcoming steroid and sex scandal was brewing, and numerous workers were on the way out by WrestleMania VIII. Indeed, this show was the swan song for Roddy Piper, Sid Justice and Hulk Hogan, who would be off WWE television for most of the rest of the year.

wwf-wrestlemania-viii-classic-cover_0

Cert: PG

Length: (VHS) 168 Mins

WrestleMania VIII was billed as having a double main event, of Hulk Hogan versus Sid Justice, and Ric Flair versus Randy Savage. It’s probably true to say that the fans’ in attendance at the Hoosier Dome on the night would’ve picked Flair/Savage over Hogan/Justice if the show were only a single main event show.

In the weeks building up to the show, Flair had claimed Elizabeth, Savage’s manager and on-screen wife (they were married, but divorced around summer 1991) had the hots for him, which she obviously didn’t. Flair’s spiel and shtick towards Elizabeth was great, as you’d expect, and he made you believe he really believed she had the horn for him.

Going into the match, Flair was WWE champion, having famously won the Royal Rumble event two months earlier and the title in the process. Savage, a former champion had the Hoosier Dome rocking in his favour. In Flair’s corner on the night, was Mr. Perfect (Curt Hennig), as well as Bobby Heenan on the commentary rooting for Naitch.

Hulk Hogan’s Hulkamania run was showing signs of slowing down, with him losing the ability to pull consecutive monster crowds in once reliable parts of the U.S. His match with Sid Justice was billed as his possible retirement, with the angle being that Justice, thru his own craziness and dangerous mind, would destroy Hogan and end his career and send Hogan packing.

The real story is simply that management thought the possibility of Hogan retiring would boost buy rates, which it didn’t. However, not long after WrestleMania VIII, Hogan fell out of favour with WWE, and vice versa, when he thought his WrestleMania pay-off was on the low side.

If any, this show was when Bret Hart was made into a star, both by his own doing, and that of real-life friend Roddy Piper, with whom he worked a match on the show. Piper was the Intercontinental champion heading into the match, defending against Hart who dropped the title to The Mountie on a house show in January 1992. Being the former champion, Bret had the majority of the crowds’ fandom, but with Piper being Piper, had the crowd split not two minutes into the bout.

Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan were the announcers for the show, and blended greatly together. After the singing of the American National Anthem, the show opened with…

Tito Santana versus Shawn Michaels

Michaels was at the very, very beginning of a singles heel push, after dumping his tag partner Marty Jannetty in the famous ‘Barber Shop’ angle in which Michaels Superkicked Jannetty and slung his head thru the ‘Barber Shop’ (gimmicked) window. Michaels had awesome heel charisma around this time, acting the cocky heel that was arrogant about his supposedly superior good looks. Add to that a manager in the form of a slutty, sultry Sensational Sherry, and you have a great gimmick and duo that fit well together. Santana had somewhat of a revival of his career, with a new ‘El Matador’ gimmick complete with matching El Matador green, sequin tights.

The two weren’t involved in a program going into the match, as is evidenced indeed by the fact the match was the curtain jerker. Nonetheless, the two gelled well during the match. There was a little stalling by Micheals at the start of the match, giving him to work the crowd and get them against him and in the corner of Santana. A testament to the abilities of Michaels and Santana, the crowd was very into this one, more so because of Michaels’ heel work as the crowd really hated him when he was in charge of the match.

Michaels’ blended seamlessly between the cocky, arrogant Michaels in control, and the crybaby, begging-off heel when on the defensive. During the match, obviously, there was interference from Sherri, which got the crowd even more against Michaels and on the side of Santana.

Near the end of the match, Michaels hit his Superkick, which Santana kicked out of, but nevertheless it was Michaels who went over, with the finish being that Santana attempted to suplex him back into the ring from the apron, only for Michaels to fall on Santana in-ring and get the three count. Post match, Sherri laid down in front of Michaels while he did his crouching taunt, which worked too good heel effect.

Winner at 13:55 via pinfall, Shawn Micheals

Legion of Doom interview

LOD came out into the Hoosier Dome for a promo, and were accompanied by their original manager Paul Ellering. This was Ellering’s debut, and he did a great job in getting his charges over. The promo was to hype LOD’s forthcoming program with Money Inc., Ted DiBiase and IRS, led by Jimmy Hart. The threesome got a good pop from the Hoosier Domers, with Hawk and Ellering in particular excelling when verbalising.

Jake Roberts versus Undertaker

Jake the SnakeA set-up was done a few weeks prior to the match, in which Roberts appeared on the ‘Funeral Parlour’ segment. Roberts trapped Undertaker’s hand in his own casket, planted Paul Bearer with a DDT, and nailed Undertaker with a chair shot to the back. Pre-match promos were done by each, with Roberts obviously being the superior; he was in great form verbally. At the time, Roberts was on his way out of WWE, so the match outcome wasn’t exactly a mystery.

This was basically a glorified squash match, with Undertaker no selling everything Jake threw at him, including two DDT’s, from which Undertaker did his ‘sitting up’ horror movie monster shtick. The finish came when after Roberts nailed his foe with a DDT, went to ringside, levelled Paul Bearer with a right hand, trying to wrestle the Urn away from the pasty-faced one, until Undertaker sat-up, rolled to the outside spun Roberts around and hoisted him up for a ringside Tombstone Piledriver on the “concrete”, as Gorilla Monsoon put it.

Undertaker simply rolled Roberts in the ring, and covered him for the three count. The match did it was supposed to; get the Deadman over, at the expense of Roberts, but he was heading for the door marked ‘Exit’, so that matters not. And so as one WWE career started (Undertaker’s), another finished.

Winner at 9:26 via pinfall, Undertaker

Bret Hart versus Roddy Piper (c) for the Intercontinental title

Around this circa, Hart, much like Shawn Michaels, was in the prepubescent stages of a serious singles push, hence his match with I.C champion Piper. Before the match, promos were done by both, face to face, with Piper coming off the stronger due to his obvious great verbal ability.

Bret Hart and Roddy PipperThe two started the match with a clear idea of telling a story thru the match, as they hadn’t been involved in an extensive program prior to locking-up. They started slow, using arm-drags, collar and elbow ties ups etc, then slowly Piper started using a more brawling style which worked the crowd greatly. The crowd was 50/50, without hyperbole, until Piper started brawling more and using a few cheap tricks like slapping Hart across the face and spitting his chewing gum at him.

The basic story early on was that Piper couldn’t out-wrestle Hart, so he resorted to heel tactics and short cuts, which Monsoon played up to help get Hart over even more. At around the 8:44 mark, the referee pointed to Hart’s boot, as if something was amiss, to which Hart responded by reaching for his boot, only to have Piper nail him with a sucker punch right hand. The deal was, Piper was reaching for the blade for the impending bladejob.

Hart has never been a good blader, and this was no exception, although it worked to a certain extent because WWE didn’t feature many bloody matches around this time period. By this point in the match, Piper officially the heel of the match, with him getting roundly booed by the vast majority of the Dome. It was clear from midway thru the match that Hart was going over in this one, as he was built up great by Piper as the heroic babyface challenger, and add to that the way Piper was wrestling.

It was a little disheartening to see a ref bump as part of the home shot, when Bret had Piper in a headlock, and Piper shot Hart into the ref. With Hart down, Piper to the chance to go to the outside and get the ring bell, with intentions of losing Hart a few brain cells. With the crowd now 90% against him, Piper teased levelling Hart, but eventually tossed the bell ringside, and instead applied his Sleeper finish, only for Hart to kick up against the turnbuckle, and flip backwards with the Sleeper still on, and get the three count from the revived referee.

Piper hands over the IC Title to BretThe pop when he won was big, but that’s understandable when he had Piper doing everything to get him over and wrestling heel for large parts of the match. Post match, Piper snatched the I.C title from the ref, and teased a heel turn, but instead placed the title on the shoulder of the bloodied Hart on the mat, and helped him up. The two walked to the back together. This match was booked to get Hart over, and it did that to it’s fullest extent, and Piper should be credited as being a big help to establishing him a major singles force. Like Undertaker/Roberts, one man’s WWE career was ending, while another was just beginning.

Winner at 15:59 via pinfall and new Intercontinental champion, Bret Hart

Lex Luger debut angle

We go to Monsoon and Heenan, and the latter has a surprise for Monsoon and the fans watching at home. The surprise being the debut of Lex Luger. Thanks Brain. The recently signed Luger is ‘live’ from his very own home, and is joining the World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF), which was a short-lived hilarious idea from Vince McMahon, much in the same way the XFL was.

Luger talked about the talent in WWE, and how the WBF guys were all amateur no-bodies. Luger showed no promise whatsoever during this promo, trying to play the cocky heel, which he failed at. They should’ve left that to Michaels and Michaels alone. Basic premise that Luger is a heel with a great body, and is superior to all. A great body maybe, but he got a little help, from a pointy friend.

Repo Man, the Nasty Boys & the Mountie versus Virgil, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sgt. Slaughter & Big Bossman

This six man was a card-filler, which had a little history to it, as Virgil was wearing a nose protecting mask after the Nasty Boys had broken his nose in a working fashion. . The match was of average fare, with the heels getting most of the offence in, and the end came when, after everyone took a powder, Nasty Boy Jerry Saggs accidentally nailed Nasty Boy Brian Knobs with said foreign object while the referee was distracted, which allowed Virgil to get the due for his team.

Ric Flair (c) versus Randy Savage for the WWE title

This one was great, but you’d expect that with Flair and to a lesser extent, Savage involved. Curt ‘Mr. Perfect’ Hennig also played his role very well.

Mr Starting out at a hectic pace, Savage was working the proverbial man possessed chasing the Nature Boy all around ringside, and quickly gaining the upper hand in the ring. The two had the crowd behind everything, with Flair showing why he’s considered the greatest ever, using psychology to it’s fullest, and Savage reacting to everything Flair created. At moments, it was hard to believe that both had had fifteen year careers prior to this match, and it was rather like going back to when Flair was the NWA champion, and when Savage was an awesome worker for various different promotions in the South.

Mr. Perfect was also a key to the greatness of the match, interjecting himself at crucial moments, tweaking the match and working the crowd into more of a frenzy in the process. This one was booked as the classic ‘babyface overcoming all the odds stacked against him to the win the title’ match, and told a story via the match.

Savage and FlairThroughout the match Flair worked over Savage’s knee, using more psychology, and stacking even more odds against the challenger. Savage sold the knee awesomely as well, making the fans believe it was only a matter time before Naitch slapped on the his patented Figure Four Leglock finish.

Near the finish of the match, the gorgeous Elizabeth came to ringside, electing a big reaction from the Hoosier Dome faithful, and was followed by a horde of road agents and referees trying in vein tell her to go back to the dressing room. She refused, and the crowd heat was upped umpteen amount of times as chaos ensured with all the agents and refs yelling at Elizabeth to go to the back, while Flair had Savage in danger in-ring, with Savage’s ‘wife’ looking on and cheering for her ‘husband’.

Right near the finish, Mr. Perfect utilised some blatant interference, including Savage chasing him around ringside and into the ring, and grabbing hold of his tie, with referee Earl Hebner sandwiched in-between allowing the ‘Executive Consultant’ to throw his downed charge Flair a foreign object. The end result, Flair levelled Savage with the object, to which he only gets a (dramatic) two-count, to a massive pop.

The finish proper came when Flair grabs Savage’s left while both are standing, and throws a right hand at his challenger’s knee, to which Savage blocks, nails Flair with a right hand of his own, which makes Flair spin showing his back to Savage, and the hero babyface challenger uses a Schoolboy on Naitch for the one-two-three, and WWE title.

On an interesting note, Savage had a handful of tights when he pinned Flair, only a tactics used by heels during this circa. The two heels continue to assault the new champion after the match, working over his leg still, until a ton of officials drag them off. Savage and Elizabeth celebrate after Flair and Mr. Perfect are gone, to a jubilant Hoosier Dome crowd and pyrotechnics.

Winner at 21: 18 via pinfall and new WWE champion, Randy Savage

Rick Martel versus Tatanka

A nothing match, which Tatanka won after hitting a Cross-Body block on Martel for the win. This was Chris ‘Tatanka’ Chavis’ WWE pay-per-view debut.

Winner at 6:31 via pinfall, Tatanka

Money Inc.(c) versus Natural Disasters for the WWE tag team titles

The program for this one, being that Money Inc. manager Jimmy Hart had turned on Earthquake and Typhoon in favour of Ted DiBiase and IRS. Thus meaning the Natural Disasters were turned faces. With the size of Earthquake and Typhoon, the match was of a slow pace as is expected, and this was not a classic tag match, it wasn’t even of an average fare.

To make matter worse, the match was loaded with a phoney finish; after being on the defensive for much of the bout, Money Inc. simply got their title from the timekeepers, and walked out. They walked out, and the match ended in a count out. On the biggest WWE show of the year, the tag champs walked out cheating the fans out of a decisive finish either way. Why even bother booking a title match on a show if you don’t give a clean finish?

Winners at 10:23 via count out, Natural Disasters *Money Inc. keep the titles as a title change cannot happen on a disqualification or count out*

Owen Hart versus Skinner

I’m’ pretty sure this was only on the show because Davey Boy Smith versus the Warlord was scrapped because Smith sustained a knee injury and was unable to work. The match lasted the proverbial cup of coffee, with Skinner getting 90% of the offence in, hitting Hart was a shoulder breaker and a reverse DDT, before Skinner threw Hart over the top rope, only for him to reverse (ala Shawn Michaels at the 1996 Royal Rumble), and roll up Skinner for the duke.

Winner at 1:29 via pinfall, Owen Hart

Hulk Hogan versus Sid Justice

At the Royal Rumble, three months earlier, Sid cost Hogan the Rumble match, and WWE title as well, which was meant to turn Justice heel, but with the Rumble event taking place in New York where the fans are wildly unpredictable (just ask Shawn Michaels) the fans at the Rumble were split over who to cheer.

Heading into their match at WrestleMania VIII, Hogan was billed as Hogan and his legdrop of doomperhaps calling it a day after his match with Justice, which was just a ruse to help get a bigger buy rate for the show. The usual Hogan/big man match, Justice got the bulk of attack in, which no real method or story being told in the ring. The finish was a dud too, a disqualifcation after Justice’s manager Harvey Wippleman interfered after Hogan had hit his Legdrop of Doom ™ on the heel.

Post match, Papa Sango (aka Charles Wright, aka the Godfather) ran in and a two-on-one beating commenced. That was until the Ultimate Warrior’s music hit, and he ran in for the save. Oh joy. Hogan and Warrior then celebrated much to the delight of the foolish Dome crowd. Hooray.

Overall, this show was saved by Hart/Piper, Michaels/Santana and Flair/Savage. That said, the pay-per-view buy rate for WrestleMania VIII was significantly down from the previous years’, pulling only a 2.3, for around 920,000 buys, contrasted with the previous years’ buy rate of 2.8, for 1,120,000 buys. Indeed, buy rates would continue to fall for the next six years’ worth of WrestleMania events, until the somewhat historic WrestleMania XII.

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  • Ken

    Savage and Elizabeth separated in the summer of ’92, so they were still married at this point. Also, Davey Boy Smith was scheduled to wrestle The Berserker, not the Warlord. It was scrapped due to time constraints, not because of injury.

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