The Scizz w/ The Apologist and Joe Pinzone
It's that time of year again. The Sabres are making their ever so late playoff push, the Bills are preparing for the draft after a mediocre....waaaaaait, I mean spectacular free agency run, and the biggest event in pro wrestling is about to go down.
Wrestlemania. This Sunday, the 28th in a series of awesomeness continues. It is the day where a bunch of adults who run this god-forsaken blog get together, drink beer, and watch grown men in their underwear wrestle with each other. HOT.
It should also be noted that during the year, most of us pay little to no attention to the "sport" or "sports entertainment" if you will. Yet, for some reason, when the Super Bowl of wrestling goes down, we get sucked in. It could be just another excuse for all of us to get drunk together and make asses of ourselves, but what it really comes down to is memories. Memories from childhood through teenage years through college debauchery in which wrestling played a weekly role in our lives. That's what this post is about: Three grown men sharing their favorite Wrestlemania moments. SAD.
I'll start with Joe Pinzone, on loan to us from Buffalo Wins, from....himself. If you follow Joe on twitter (and WHO DOESN'T, RIGHT GUYS?), then you'll already know that Joe is probably the biggest fan of all of us. Which also means his write-up of his fave moment is definitely the most interesting and well-written.
Take it away, Joe. @JoeBuffaloWins
To me, the 90s seemed to represent an era when the younger generation wanted to be heard and say fuck off to the authority. No one wanted a superhero. Superheroes are for chumps. You felt it in music with the grunge scene and every rock band trying to either kill themselves or their parents or tell someone else to fuck off. You could sense it in television as no one wanted to watch happy sitcoms like Full House or Urkel. Instead, they wanted to watch a white trash family like The Connors in Roseanne. In other words, the audience was looking for an edge. No more cookie cutter shit. That's not how the real world works and I want to relate to something that feels real.
In wrestling, the cookie cutter image was still running wild. You had guys like Bret Hart, Macho Man (RIP) and Hulk Hogan, who all had a couple of catch phrases and gave out chicken scratch autographs to appease the fans, but they were epically lame when it came to personalities. People wanted an edge. Someone they could live vicariously through.
That man was Steve Austin.
Steve Austin's rise to being a wrestling icon wasn't suppose to happen. It was a mistake, just like The Scizz being conceived. (Editor note: This is actually very accurate) He was suppose to be a mid-carder. Nothing more. Through hard work and the changing of pop culture, Steve Austin's rise happened pretty quickly. Before Steve battled Bret Hart at Survivor Series (November) in 1997, he was as a heel. No real difference from some of the past bad ass heels like the Four Horsemen or the Free Birds, but as I said, the times were a changing.
More importantly, so was Steve. Austin didn't have this great range with his promos in WCW or when he first debuted in WWE, but once he found himself, the game changed.
If you youtube some of his interviews with Bret Hart up to that point, they are goldmines of humor and toughness. Austin ended up losing to Hart at Survivor Series, but because of his awesome, badass approach, he started getting more cheers than boos. More signs were showing up in the crowd. Whether you were a 8-year old or a 24-year old, you loved the son of a bitch.
Fast forward 6 months to his rematch with Hart at Wrestlemania 13, which in my opinion, changed the business and set the standard for what a wrestling match should be. It was an "I quit" match, which the only way you could beat your opponent was if they said those two magic words: I quit.
The best thing to do right now is youtube the match. My words won't be able to describe the bloodbath that occurred. It was one of those physical matches that made you think wrestling was real (Which it is..duh!). Yes, wrestling can be laughable when done half ass with poor matches, and even shittier interviews, however, when you can get it right, it can be downright epic. Austin vs Hart was that epic confrontation. It was about Hart's frustration with the WWE fans, who thought his old 80's schtick was finished, and he couldn't deal with it. It was about how Austin wore his anger like a cloak, because of a perceived lack of respect from authority, it became his ally...his darker side.
Two things that I can point out:
1) Austin was the heel and Hart was the baby face heading into this match. Yes, there were probably a good 30% of the crowd rooting for Austin to begin with, but WWE had tried to force feed Bret as the face in this one. However, in a moment that I haven't seen since and the Russian crowd turned on Ivan Drago, they cheered like crazy for Austin. It wasn't because of a microphone or a something force fed by the writers, it was something genuine. The fans believed in Austin because he was anti-establishment, just like them. They wanted to tell their parents, teachers, and bosses to fuck off, and Austin was doing it for them.
2) The crescendo for this moment came when Austin was in Bret Hart's finishing move, The Sharp Shooter. With the crowd at a fever pitch, Austin's forehead was dripping out blood like a faucet. It was awesome. It was a holy shit moment. As the ref asked Austin if he wanted to quit, Austin, being the badass that he is, kept yelling "no" while the blood kept coming out. At one point, he almost broke the hold and the crowd went crazy thinking he did. Alas, he broke it for a few short moments, but Hart snatched it back in. Instead of quitting, Austin passed out. Hart won, but Austin didn't say those two words.
A star was born. Austin walked back to the locker room getting a standing ovation from the fans and they didn't stop cheering for the rest of career.
For me, this was incredibly easy. No need to over think it and narrow down from some excruciatingly long list, the choice was simple.
The Rock. Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Wrestlemania 18.
The match dubbed Icon vs. Icon was never expected to be the match it became. It was there for pure entertainment, as nobody, including me, ever though that 107 year old Hogan could still put on a quality match, even if he was being carried by "electrifying one", The Rock. In fact, as a Junior in college and preparing to get blitzed on a Sunday night and watch with friends, I remember being more excited for the other matches on the card, namely HHH vs. Chris Jericho and Ric Flair vs. Undertaker.
What went down, is still one of the coolest "sports" moment of my life. (Yes, I understand it's fake, hence the quotation marks shithead) The build up to the match was somewhat laughable. Owner Vince McMahon no longer loved the company he created and had decided to bring in the posion known as the NWO, who lead the WWE's rival company, WCW, past them in rating years ago. The members: Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash were never expected to work for the company ever again, but here they were taunting the WWE wrestlers and causing "problems" at every turn. The most innaproppriately hysterical being when Hogan, driving a semi-truck, ran it full speed into an ambulance supposedly a just injured Rock. Hogan uttered the words "I'm going to cripple his candy-ass as you could see him visibly shaking from the effort just to climb into the big rig. The Rock returned two weeks later. From a SEMI smashing into an AMBULANCE at FULL SPEED that was INSIDE OF. Isn't wrestling great?
Anyways, with all of that build up said and done, Hogan was the obvious villain heading into the match, with the Rock as the crowd-favorite hero who everyone, including my friends and I, absolutely loved. But then something happened. After the two traded punches, body slams, and siganture moves, the crowd slowly stopped cheering for the Rock, and started cheering for Hulk. I know, I know, this sounds just like Joe's Hart Vs. Austin pick, but it was different. The crowd wasn't cheering for Hulk Hogan because he was an anti-hero, they were cheering because a flood of memories and emotions from their childhood started entering into their minds. They were watching their childhood idol, Hulk Hogan wrestle in his first WWE match in over 10 years against "The Great One", and it looked like he never missed a beat. In an instant, Hulkamania was reborn, and it didn't matter how popular the Rock was, every adult in that crowd, and at home immediately returned to the days of Hogan telling them to say their prayers and take their vitamins. I was one of them. And, in great Rock fashion, as he started to get booed, he IMMEDIATELY relapsed into his old villanious persona, staring down the crowd and talking shit. It was awesome.
In the end, the Rock won, but the crowd gave both men a standing ovation, and the next night on RAW, the WWE officially turned Hogan back to a crowd favorite, soon to be followed by his old red and yellow gear, complete with "Real American" blaring as his entrance music. Now, if only he could get rid of that sex tape, gold-digging ex-wife, manly daughter, and murderer son, he'd be all set.
There never has been, nor will there ever be a bigger match, in my eyes, than the Ultimate Warrior facing Hulk Hogan for "the Ultimate Challenge" at Wrestlemania VI. Even people who have never given more than a second glance at pro-wrestling know who these two stars are. Since slamming Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan had been far and away the biggest star in professional wrestling for most of the 80's. But when the Ultimate Warrior broke onto the scene, people could tell this was the future star of the WWF. So Vince McMahon, set them up for one of the biggest main event's in wrestling's history. Champion versus champion.
To be fair, I was hardly aware of wrestling at the time. It wasn't until years later, strolling through Blockbuster (Remember those? No? Nevermind.), that I discovered it on VHS (Remember THAT? No? Geez, I'm getting old.) and ran home to watch it immediately. It was everything you could ever want in a wrestling match. Two huge stars at the height of their popularity, both defending titles, both with the crowd on their side. It was one of those rare moments in pro-wrestling where no one will be disappointed in the outcome, as long as the match is fun to watch. And the Hulkster and Warrior did not disappoint. For twenty minutes they fought in and out of the ring, using every move in their respective repertoires. And did I mention the match was called by the best commentating duo of all time, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Gorilla Monsoon? In the end, the Warrior survived Hulk's signature finishing routine, counter-attacking with his own finisher (Editor Note: The Gorilla Press!) and took both titles.
Now, maybe this match would be considered a snoozer by modern pro-wrestling fans, but I believe it's charm still shines through.
Sure. Hulk & Warrior's moves and theatrics shown against modern wrestling seem dated. Certainly Hulk's legdrop was never very impressive. But don't tell me we've moved WAY beyond this. The only difference between Hulk's legdrop and say, "the People's Elbow", is a couple dance moves. And besides, wrestling has never been about wrestling. It's about the pomp & circumstance. It's about the spectacle. And maybe there have been equally touted superstar vs superstar main events in similarly grand settings, but this one set the standard for how you treat a match of this magnitude.