With the contract signing being a big part of wrestling, Steve Cook explores the Top 5!
All Elite Wrestling’s very first public contract signing is taking place this week on Dynamite. Le Champion Chris Jericho & American Nightmare Cody will put their names on the likely non-dotted line to meet at the Full Gear event in Baltimore. I’ve been pretty pro-AEW & very pro-anything involving Jericho and/or Cody lately, but here’s the thing:
I hate contract signings.
I could go the rest of my life without seeing another one pretty easily. WWE’s really done the gimmick to death over the years, as it seems like they have one every couple of months for matches of all levels of importance. It’s one thing to have it for a PPV World Championship match. It’s another to drag it out for an Intercontinental Championship match or tag team match or something.
They’re all very predictable too. You know it’s going to involve a number of sick burns and somebody’s going to get beat up.
I need to try & get over this irrational hatred. WWE’s going to have another one in a couple of weeks anyway. So let’s jump in the time machine and look back at the Top 5 Contract Signings to remind ourselves why wrestling promotions hold them incessantly.
5. Bret Hart & Yokozuna sign to meet at WrestleMania IX
Mean Gene Okerlund was on point as the host here. He implored both men for decorum and ran the show. President Jack Tunney was out there and Okerlund seemed more like an authority figure to me. Except when he stumbled over the ropes while getting out of the ring.
The Hitman’s assertion he would be 100% for the match took a hit when Yokozuna attacked him. Bret impressed us all by eventually standing up after taking the Banzai Drop. That hadn’t been done up until that point.
4. Hollywood Hogan exposes Rowdy Roddy Piper prior to Starrcade ’96
The New World Order engaged in more than its fair share of beatdowns during its existence, but this was definitely one that stood out from the pack. Hogan & Piper’s Starrcade match was so big that the contract signing had to be on PPV as well, as World War 3 played host to it. Piper had changed a little bit since the last time he had wrestled, and Hogan & the NWO showed us how.
People were going to find out about the hip anyway, so it made sense to include it as part of the storyline. Hogan attacking it & spray painting Piper’s leg made him that much more despicable & made you want to see the Rowdy Scot take his head off.
3. Vince McMahon signs the contract for the End of an Era match with Steve Austin’s blood
There weren’t many more bitter feuds than the one between Stone Cold Steve Austin & his boss, Vince McMahon. It propelled the WWF to the the top of the Monday Night War and to bigger business than it had ever seen. But all good things have to come to an end, and Austin vs. McMahon had to end or else one of them was going to end up killing the other. So Austin’s match with the Undertaker was to have three stipulations:
-If Austin wins, Vince never appears on television again
-If Undertaker wins, Austin never gets another title shot
So, of course we needed a contract signing to make sure everybody agreed. And of course, there needed to be blood involved in the signing.
Vince liked doing this so much that he did a variation of it with Hulk Hogan prior to WrestleMania XIX. Shame he didn’t think to do it before WrestleMania 23.
2. Batista signs the World Championship Match contract for WrestleMania 21
When Batista won the 2005 Royal Rumble, he received the opportunity to face the top champion of his choosing: SmackDown’s WWE Champion JBL, or Raw’s World Champion Triple H. Evolution was still running strong with H, Batista & Ric Flair at this point, but Triple H was a bit afraid that the big man wanted his title. He first tried to convince Batista not to enter the Rumble, but that was a non-starter. Then, Hunter devised a plan to have Batista nearly hit by a white limo with horns on it that resembled one that JBL would ride around in. It almost worked, until Batista overheard H & Flair talking about how well the plan worked in the locker room. Womp womp.
Batista switching the thumbs up to the thumbs down was one of those amazing moments you love to see as a wrestling fan. Finally, the Animal was going to snap on his mentor. It’s easy to see why people thought he was going to be the #1 guy in WWE through the rest of the 2000s.
1. Hulk Hogan finally gives Andre the Giant a title shot at WrestleMania III
It’s extremely rare to see one of these televised contract signings end without fists being thrown, but that’s exactly what happened at the Hogan/Andre contract signing prior to WrestleMania III. Hogan’s crucifix had already been torn off, so Andre didn’t need to engage in any more physicality. The Hulkster was beside himself with rage. Bobby Heenan was in classic Bobby Heenan form.
It didn’t need violence. The way Andre brushed Hogan off did more to convince people that the Giant was going to win the title in the Silverdome than anything else he could have done. Hogan’s behavior told a better story of his mindset going in than an attack on Andre would have. Maybe it could have used a better set, but other than that it was perfect.