I have to admit that I usually skip any wrestling PPV from 1995 because, in my opinion, they were all pretty much terrible in terms of both wrestling and storylines. However, since this recap series has shown me that perceptions can be wrong, I’m willing to give WrestleMania XI a fair chance.
Since I avoid this year like the plague, I really don’t have very many recollections of what was going on in WWF/E. Diesel was Champion, HBK was not, and not happy about that fact, but the rest of it escapes me.
So, how was WrestleMania XI? Will your humble reviewer have to eat her words about the year 1995 when it comes to WWF/E PPVs? Let’s find out!
We start with a recap of the first ten WrestleManias and are told about our special guests: Pamela Anderson (Baywatch), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Home Improvement, Lion King), Jenny McCarthy (Playboy, MTV’s Singled Out), Nicholas Turturro (NYPD Blue), Salt-n- Pepa (one of the greatest women’s music groups ever, IMO), and the football players that will be backing up Lawrence Taylor, one of them being Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichaels.
‘America, The Beautiful’ will be sung by Special Olympian, Kathy Huey. Ms. Huey was a replacement for the band Fishbone, that had been advertised to appear. Ms. Huey sounds magnificent, I actually thought this was an opera singer Vince had booked.
Vince McMahon welcomes us and explains what WrestleMania was for the people who’ve never heard of it. He calls it ‘The Standard for Excellence in Sports Entertainment’. Lawler agrees, calling it ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Sports Entertainment’.
The Allied Powers (Lex Luger and The British Bulldog) vs The Blu Brothers
Bulldog and Luger are out first to a really good pop to a poppy version of ‘Rule, Britannia’. Davey Boy had ditched the cornrow braids, Luger still has the frosted mullet.
The Blu Brothers are out next with Uncle Zebekiah (Dutch Mantel) to little reaction.
This match was a melee right from the start. The fact that the Blu Brothers were identical twins, right down to their lovely, curly hair, was really played up well for the match. Even the commentators weren’t sure who was who. The tide begins to turn when one of the Blus misses an elbow drop, giving Davey Boy a chance to tag in Luger.
Luger hits everything in sight, hitting the legal (we think) Blu Brother with his plated forearm. The other Blu interferes, bringing in Davey Boy. In the ensuing chaos, the Blu Brothers do their version of ‘Twin Magic’ causing the not legal brother to kick out of the pin.
Winner: Allied Powers after Luger blocked a powerbomb attempt by one of the Blu Brothers, tagged in Davey Boy, who went to the top turnbuckle, turned a clothesline into a slightly sloppy Sunset Flip for the three count. Afterwards, Luger and Davey pose for the crowd.
Highlights: One of the Blu Brothers breaking up a pin that wasn’t being counted.
Comments: This was an okay match, Davey Boy and Luger looked good together. Luger still comes across as a little phony but putting him with the well-liked Davey Boy softens that a little.
Jim Ross tries to get an interview with Uncle Zebekiah that is hard to understand or make sense of, so JR gives up and sends it back to Vince.
We go to Pamela Anderson’s dressing room that is filled with WWF superstars and Nicholas Turturro, who is our backstage interviewer, apparently. Nick’s mic isn’t working, but Jenny McCarthy is there and apparently, Nick doesn’t know the difference.
Vince and Lawler discuss the audience and the Bigelow/Taylor match and Lawler gives the best summary of football ever: ‘It’s where eleven men spend a lot of time trying to move a small object a hundred yards’.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Jeff Jarrett (with the Roadie) vs Razor Ramon (with 1-2-3 Kid)
Double J and the Roadie come out first, and the crowd isn’t feeling it. We get a recap of how Jarrett won the IC belt from Razor Ramon back at the Royal Rumble
We go to Razor and Kid backstage; the mics are still not working properly. Razor’s mad and Kid predicts that he’ll get the job done tonight. He also warns the Roadie to stay out of the way or he’ll get taken care of.
Razor and Kid come out to a loud pop. Kid looks like an extra from one of the Karate Kid movies. Razor and Kid charge the ring, and both get a shot at Jarrett, but since the bell hasn’t rung, it cannot be a DQ.
This match starts with Razor going for the quick pins and Jarrett trying to counter power with speed. These two actually work really well together. The differences in styles meshes well.
Winner: Razor Ramon by disqualification, after the Roadie blatantly attacks him. Jarrett retains the title. Kid attacks Roadie and Jarrett before being attacked from behind by Jarrett and put in the Figure Four and beaten up by Roadie. Razor comes to his buddy’s aid and it becomes bedlam. Jarrett and Roadie finally bail out, but this feud is far from finished and Jarrett has a bloody nose.
Highlights: Kid threatening the Roadie, just because of how things will change in about three years.
Comments: This was a really good match. The wonky finish hurt it, in my opinion.
JR tries to get an interview with Jarrett and that Jarrett should be ashamed of himself. Jarrett says that he’s a champion and Razor is nothing and that paybacks are a you-know-what.
Audio difficulties have been fixed and we are back with Nick Turturro. He explains that he tried to find Pamela Anderson, but had no luck, so he went to the Green Room, where the Million Dollar Corporation is talking. He says he’s already met Salt ‘n Pepa and gets up close with Jenny McCarthy. Jenny says she’s having a great time and the Million Dollar Corporate members swarm in, but Jenny would rather stay with Nick, I guess. HBK comes in, much to Jenny’s delight and, when asked about Pamela, tells Nick not to worry about it. This conversation quickly gets out of hand when Sid opens his mouth and cuts a promo on Diesel.
The Streak: Undertaker (with Paul Bearer) vs King Kong Bundy (with Ted DiBiase)
Bundy is out first with Ted DiBiase, who is carrying the sacred urn, and we get a recap of why Undertaker is feuding with Bundy, who hasn’t been seen at WrestleMania since WrestleMania III where he fought Hillbilly Jim and some little people: IRS attacked Paul Bearer and ‘repossessed’ the urn. We are reminded that Bundy holds the record for the shortest match in WWF.
The lights go out, the thunder starts, and out comes the urnless Paul Bearer and Undertaker. Vince mentions, for the first time EVER, that Taker is undefeated at WrestleMania. Lawler’s response is to joke about Undertaker not having the urn. Undertaker is in the black and purple he came back with in his return to WWF, after knee surgery, at SummerSlam 1994.
Since this show is happening during the big baseball strike, our referee is a moonlighting baseball umpire, Larry Young.
DiBiase accidentally drops the urn, which Vince quickly explains away as DiBiase being so intimidated by the Undertaker and his power.
If you’re looking for a great technical match, you might want to skip this one. Same if you’re looking for a hidden gem where two contrasting styles surprisingly mesh seamlessly into a great match. This match was rough to watch. It wasn’t Giant Gonzalez rough, but it was close.
Winner: Undertaker by pinfall. Taker is now 4-0, surpassing Hogan’s previous streak of 3-0. Afterwards, Taker and Paul do their ritual salute, but they still don’t have the urn.
Highlights: Undertaker temporarily retrieving the urn. Undertaker tombstoning Bundy. Vince quickly thinking up a cover for DiBiase’s butterfingers.
Comments: I’m really ‘meh’ on this match. Taker and Bundy were not a good match up and the whole thing about repossessing the urn was silly.
Nick Turturro is still looking for Pamela Anderson. Apparently, she and HBK had a disagreement and she’s left. He runs into Steve McMichaels who cuts an odd promo on Kama for calling him a ‘creampuff’ and vows that Kama will get his at the Taylor/Bigelow fight. The rest of the All-Pro team cut promos on the rest of Bigelow’s team. Ugh moment when one of the all-pro calls Tatanka a ‘cigar store Indian’.
Nick continues his search and finds Jonathan Taylor Thomas playing chess with Bob Backlund. When Nick asks if they’ve heard about Pamela Anderson, Backlund starts ranting about the intrusion and how it’s what’s wrong with America. Backlund doesn’t know who Pamela Anderson is, and is checkmated by JTT. He doesn’t like that either, and starts ranting again. JTT doesn’t know what to think of this, and neither do I. When JTT correctly tells Backlund who the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is, the ranting starts all over again. Backlund, thankfully, storms out and Nick promises to keep looking for Pamela Anderson.
Tag Team Championship Match: The Smoking Gunns vs Owen Hart and Yokozuna (with Mr. Fuji and Jim Cornette)
After that bizarre interlude, we’re back to wrestling. Owen Hart is coming out for the Tag Team match, to loud boos, but he doesn’t have a partner. Lawler claims to know who it is and that it’s a ‘big’ deal. Owen gets on the mic and says that his partner is the man who did the one thing Owen himself has always wanted to do: Beat his brother, Bret, for the WWF Title. His partner is Yokozuna, who comes out with Mr. Fuji and Cornette to a mixed reaction. As usual, Cornette looks like he got dressed in the dark, with his eyes closed. Owen hugs Yokozuna and we await the Tag Team Champions, the Smoking Gunns.
We go to the Gunns backstage and are asked about the addition of Yokozuna. Billy Gunn (yes, THAT Billy Gunn) says that while they are surprised, they fully intend on walking out of WrestleMania still the Tag Team Champs. When Vince comments on this being an uphill battle, Bart replies that they didn’t expect Yokozuna but that they also weren’t sure who would team with Owen Hart given his mean and nasty reputation, but that they are going to win.
Smoking Gunns are out to a really great pop. Yokozuna waves the Japanese flag to a round of boos and the dismay of the Gunns. After a little discussion, we start off with Owen and Billy.
This was a really good tag match. However, Yokozuna’s increased size really hindered his athleticism, as opposed to his previous WrestleMania matches. That said, the crowd was really into the match and the Owen/Yokozuna team was a surprisingly good match.
We get a wonky moment where Billy Gunn is being given the arm test but I think Billy lost his train of thought for a minute. His arm dropped to the mat for the third time before he remembered that he needed to lift it. Chioda lets the match continue anyway. We also get a moment where it looked like the Gunns were going to win when Owen goes for a missile dropkick and Billy ducks, so Yokozuna get the kick instead.
Winner: Owen Hart and Yokozuna by pinfall. Owen and Yokozuna celebrate in the ring, Owen literally jumping for joy.
Highlights: Bart Gunn knocking down Yokozuna with a hairpull snapmare. Owen teasing a Sharpshooter, but going for the pin instead. Owen’s excitement over winning the tag belts.
Comments: This was a surprisingly good match and a surprisingly great team with Owen/Yokozuna
We go to Todd Pettengill who is interviewing Bam Bam Bigelow. We get a recap of the issues between Bigelow and Taylor. Mostly, Bigelow picking a fight with LT at the Royal Rumble. Bigelow vows to take down LT. Pettengill asks about fan reaction and LT’s lack of skill. Bigelow says he doesn’t care what the fans think and that he’s not going to be beaten by LT. When asked about the All-Pro team, Bigelow says that Million Dollar team has his back, so all he has to worry about is LT. Bigelow says LT doesn’t have a prayer and that LT isn’t going to come in and make a fool out of him.
I Quit Match: Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund Special Guest Referee – Roddy Piper
Finkel, minus his rug from last year, and gives us the rules for the ‘I Quit’ Match: No pinfalls, countouts, or DQs. Match only ends when someone says ‘I Quit’. He also introduces Piper, who comes out to a tremendous pop. Backlund is out next to a thunderous round of boos and is still griping about something. He tries to get the crowd on his side, but the crowd isn’t having it. Bret’s out next to a thunderous pop.
Bret dominates from the start, goes for the Sharpshooter, but Backlund blocks it. This basically is a regular match, the only difference is Piper there with the mic, asking either man if they want to quit.
Given the two people involved and the time period, this match isn’t nearly as hardcore as future ‘I Quit’ matches would be, but it was a really good match.
The match finally ends when Backlund gets Bret in the Crossface Chickenwing, only for Bret to not only get out of the hold, but put Backlund in his own hold. Bret gets Backlund to the floor and Piper asks Backlund if he wants to quit, but Backlund’s reply really sounds like more of a shout of pain than any words. Piper calls for the bell anyway.
Winner: Bret Hart, though there is some controversy over what Backlund said.
Highlights: Vince McMahon getting Bret’s WrestleMania VIII opponent (Piper) mixed up with the British Bulldog. Bret using the Figure Four. Piper’s refereeing. Bret beating Backlund with his own move.
Comments: This was an ‘eh’ for me. Backlund and Bret worked really well together, but as far as ‘I Quit’ matches go, this was kind of a dud, in my opinion.
JR is trying to get an interview with Backlund, but Backlund looks to be in a state of shock and says he’s ‘seen the light’. JR’s not sure what the heck is going on.
Nick says he can’t find Pamela Anderson and that there’s been celebrity changes since Ms. Anderson has vanished into thin air.
Todd Pettengill is with WWF Champion, Diesel. Pettengill mentions HBK’s vow that he’s not leaving without the WWF Title. Diesel says that’s funny because he’s made the same vow. He also says that he doesn’t buy HBK’s promise that Sid won’t be involved because he’s been in Sid’s shoes, and knows how HBK thinks. Diesel tells HBK that he’s going to show everyone why Big Daddy Cool is WWF Champion.
We are introduced to our guest ring officials. Jonathan Taylor Thomas as guest timekeeper, Nick Turturro as guest ring announcer. Nick tries to box with Finkel, but Fink just gets out of the way, but is a good sport about it.
WWF Championship Match: Diesel (with Pamela Anderson) vs Shawn Michaels (with Jenny McCarthy)
HBK comes out with Sid and Jenny McCarthy to a mixed reaction. Jenny takes her seat and doesn’t join HBK and Sid in the ring. We get another view of HBK’s terrible dancing as he takes off his chaps.
Diesel is out to an enormous pop and he has a surprise for us. It turns out that Pamela Anderson didn’t fly the coop, she was just with Big Daddy Cool.
Things get off to a crazy start when Diesel goes to take a swing at Sid, HBK tries to hit him from behind, but Diesel sends HBK to the outside, and invites Pamela Anderson into the ring.
The match starts with a slugfest with HBK wearing his hand out on Diesel’s head, and after some swing and misses by Diesel on the much quicker HBK, Diesel finally levels him.
This match was pretty back and forth, surprisingly. Also surprising was how good it was. HBK and Diesel really went out there to tear the house down. It didn’t quite do that, but it came pretty close. These were two fan favorites and those matches are always tough because there’s not a single person for the fans to get behind.
Winner: Diesel by pinfall. JR tries to get an interview with HBK, but Sid says that this isn’t over and HBK is not finished with Diesel. Afterwards, Diesel invites the celebrities into the ring for a celebration.
Highlights: HBK, the eternal terrier who believes he’s a Rottweiler. HBK getting mad at a member of the press who got in the way. Jenny McCarthy looking after JTT.
Comments: I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this match.
Pettengill with HBK and Sid backstage and HBK is PISSED. HBK says that he had Diesel beat and the whole world saw it. He says tonight proves that he is the best. Sid chimes in and points out that in the MLB or NCAA, there’s always more than one official to make the calls (which is true) and that if WWF had had an extra ref, HBK would be WWF champion and that this feud with Diesel isn’t over. HBK says he’s sick of talking, especially since he proved he was the best. He also throws down a challenge to Diesel: That if Diesel is half the man and champion he claims to be, he’ll give HBK another shot at the title.
Notes: According to Kevin Nash (Diesel), HBK was so frustrated that Vince wouldn’t give him a run with the WWF Title despite being, somewhat arguably, the best in-ring performer on the roster, that he deliberately botched the Jackknife Powerbomb to make Nash look bad. Nash doesn’t seem to bear a grudge against HBK for this and the two are still best friends to this day, but it’s an interesting look at HBK’s mindset back then that he’d make his own friend look bad because the friend got the chance HBK wanted for himself.
Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow
The Million Dollar Corporation comes out to various amounts of booing. The All-Pro team are out next to great pops. Salt-n- Pepa are there, cheering for the footballers. The Million Dollar Corporation circles the ring and the footballers invite them in. Pat Patterson, the special ref is having a hard time keeping order. Reggie White gets a shot in on Kama, who was on the apron talking trash. Another one takes a shot at Tatanka.
Bam Bam Bigelow is out first to a loud round of boos. He goes for Salt-n-Pepa for some reason. LT is out next to a thunderous pop.
This match starts with a staredown and slap.
This was by no means a technical or scientific match. It was okay, but I’m not a fan of this match. See my opinion below.
Winner: LT by pinfall. Afterwards, the footballers come in to celebrate and LT is hoisted up. JR tries to talk to the wrestlers and DiBiase is LIVID and berates Bigelow for losing to a football player. LT’s son comes in to celebrate, but LT is exhausted.
Highlights: Bigelow’s athleticism is always amazing to see. Guys his size didn’t do aerial moves in the 90s. LT finding out that wrestling is a little harder than football.
Comments: I did NOT like this match! The fact that WWF let an outsider not only compete in the company’s biggest PPV but let him go over on one of the superstars in a 1-1 contest is one of the worst decisions they could’ve made. Even with Hogan/Mr. T vs Piper/Orndorff, T never got the pin, Hogan got the pin to protect Orndorff. Same in WrestleMania II, T only beat Piper by DQ, which protected Piper.
In my opinion, LT beating Bam Bam lowered respect for the business because it made it look like anyone with a minimal amount of training could beat a veteran wrestler, and I’d feel that way if they’d replaced LT and Bigelow with Brett Favre and the Undertaker.
That rant aside, this was an okay match. It brought WWF a lot of mainstream attention and brought in casual viewers, but I can’t say I’d watch it again.
So, did your humble reviewer have to eat her words about a 1995 wrestling PPV? Overall, yes, I did. WrestleMania XI was a pretty good show. There were some stinkers, but the show didn’t suck.
Celebrities: I’m a little ‘eh’ about the celebrities. Since I was twelve in the spring of 1995, I recognized all of the non-football celebrities, but I can’t say they really enhanced the show that much. The fact that Salt-n-Pepa didn’t perform a song irritates me greatly.
Snoozers: Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund. It was a good match but it was pretty boring as far as ‘I Quit’ matches go.
Stinkers: Undertaker vs King Kong Bundy. That was rough watching. LT vs Bigelow for the simple fact that an outsider should NOT have gotten a win over a WWF superstar at WrestleMania in a 1-1 match.
Match of the Night: HBK vs Diesel for the story of two friends turning into rivals.
Final Thoughts: This WrestleMania is usually panned by fans, and I can see why, even if I don’t think it’s as bad as they think. This was also dubbed the WrestleMania that saved WWF during a downturn in the wrestling business.