Tonight’s the night! It’s that time of year again. Once again I am looking forward to sitting back and watching WrestleMania only this year instead of Real Ales I will be enjoying some Real Ciders my next door neighbor brought me back from his recent trip to a cider farm in Cornwall.
“Hulk Hogan don’t kid anybody! You come out here and say: ‘It’s for God!’ ‘It’s for your flag!’ ‘It’s for your country!’ ‘It’s for your PukeaManiacs!’ Tell it like it is, Hulk Hogan: it’s for this gold that’s around my waist. Hulk Hogan when I just got finished putting you in the camel clutch I felt the bones of your back crack! What are YOU gonna do on week away at WrestleMania VII? We are going to light your Immortal Flame, Hulk Hogan and then we’re gonna snuff it out once and for all.”
(Sgt. Slaughter one week before WrestleMania VII)
In my last edition of this blog, published here the day of last year’s WrestleMania, I took you back in time twenty years to the ‘Ultimate Challenge’ which headlined WrestleMania VI. I’d like to thank everyone who read and enjoyed that – it’s one of my favourite matches from that era.
So in keeping with tradition of covering the WrestleMania main events from twenty years ago, here’s a nostalgic look back at the WWF Title Match from the following year’s event.
“Hulk Hogan I am the new ruler in the World Wrestling Federation! You are playing by MY RULES now! I am the World Wrestling Federation Champion, Hulk Hogan, hahaha! And there’s NOTHING you can do about it.”
(Sgt. Slaughter, WrestleMania VII)
Held on the 23rd March, 1991 the seventh edition of WrestleMania was subtitled ‘Superstars and Stripes Forever’ with a patriotic theme and the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (it was originally set to be held at the outdoor Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) decked out in red, white and blue as Vince McMahon made the controversial decision to base the main storyline around the then-current real life Gulf War conflict.
“You know when I go into this battle you never know what might happen? I might GET DISQUALIFIED in which Hulk Hogan would not become the WWF Champion. No you’d win the battle, Hulk Hogan, but you wouldn’t win the war. I might even get myself COUNTED OUT! And again Hulk Hogan you wouldn’t be the Champion. Oh yes, you may be the winner but you won’t be the Champion! No sir, Hulk Hogan. Hahaha! And you know? When it’s all over and done I’m still gonna be laughing, haha!”
(Sgt. Slaughter, WrestleMania VII)
With how tasteless the angle was, it’s easy to forget how good some of Sgt. Slaughter’s heel promos were. I like the fact he openly admitted he might get himself intentionally counted out or disqualified just to keep the title.
It’s just a shame people call him a “poor worker” based purely on this era as ten years before then Slaughter was one of the best heavyweights around. Even in ’91 he still bumped like crazy, flying all over the ring for superheroes like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior.
Although not in the same league as the previous year’s headline attraction this match doesn’t get the credit it deserves partly because the main event marks the beginning of the era where I thought Hogan started to get stale. I can watch Hogan matches/promos from 1982-1989 all day long. Sure he already followed a formula to some extent (although he would regularly change it up so that if he was facing DiBiase he wouldn’t use the same moves as against Big John Studd) but almost all of his big matches back then were good fun, whereas from 1990 onwards some of them were lacking something for me.
This match was the polar opposite to the previous year’s main event. If Hogan/Warrior was a ‘Clash Of The Titans’ between “the Two Most Powerful Forces in the Universe”, then this was based around one superpower against an overmatched heel who realised just how overmatched he was.
The World Title Match is the most predictable WrestleMania main event since Hogan/Bundy way back at WM II. With Savage and Andre they were at least able to give the impression that they could beat Hogan, whereas with Slaughter he just seems overmatched: both from a more ‘smart’ point of view (in that they’d never put the ‘Iraqi-sympathizer’ over the ‘Real American’ on the biggest show of the year) and a kayfabe one (in terms of the amount of cheating/help he needs to get an advantage).
In fact, the story of the match is that he is willing to do anything to keep the title: he knows he’s overmatched so he’s happy to get DQ’d and keep the title this way. If you think about it along those lines the match itself is better worked than I remembered, involving liberal use of outside interference, various chair shots – including the weak one with the padded jacket to the Hulkster’s back, Hogan being busted open, choking Hogan with the camera wire and the big finish where Hulk pops up and tears up the Iraqi flag.
Hogan meanwhile is “The Hulkster of the Ninties” according to both himself (in his pre-match promo) and Monsoon (on commentary). The idea is that he’s got a new more aggressive attitude. In reality, what this means is he does a few moves he normally wouldn’t to counter Slaughter’s cheating ways such as climbing to the top rope for a forearm and slingshotting Sarge over the top turnbuckle into the steel post ala Curt Hennig vs. Brutus Beefcake at the previous year’s WrestleMania.
From a technical point of view this wasn’t the smoothest of matches but then it wasn’t meant to be. They made up for any technical short-comings with blood, intensity and a simple but effective match structure. Not a classic in the traditional sense, but I can see what they were trying to achieve and they did it pretty well.
I can see why some didn’t enjoy this match because of the ‘mismatch’ element but I think the way they worked the match was the right way to work the match. Portraying Slaughter as Hogan’s equal wouldn’t have worked so rather than try and work around that fact to try and hide it or shove it to the background, they made it the focal point of the story and emphasised it. Now That’s What I Call Wrestling!
Carl ‘TheBigBoot’ Robinson
P.S. Happy Mother’s Day in the UK!