Wrestlemania Count-Up – #11: Just Close Your Eyes. It’ll Be Over Soon.

Wrestlemania 11
Date: April 2, 1995
Location: Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, Connecticut
Attendance: 16,305
Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler
America the Beautiful: Kathy Huey

Oh goodness, we did have to get to this eventually didn’t we? If you remember my review of WM 9 being the worst WM ever, I should have said it would be the worst for the next two years. This show is one of the most interesting in wrestling history from a reaction standpoint. From the fans’ perspective, this show is what’s played on a constant loop in the seventh circle of torment, minus the WWF Title match.

The number one issue I have right off the bat with this is that it’s from Hartford, Connecticut. Seriously, HARTFORD??? Wrestlemania has broadcast from New York, LA, Chicago, Toronto, Las Vegas, and now HARTFORD? It just doesn’t sound right. Another factor here is that there’s a whopping total of 7 matches. What’s the main event you ask?

Would it be Shawn Michaels getting his first WWF Title match since becoming a main eventer against his former bodyguard Diesel? Nope. We get Bam Bam Bigelow who was wrestling a clown last year against Lawrence Taylor, a former football player and current contestant on Dancing With The Stars. The sad thing is, I’m not making this up. The weird thing though is, this show allegedly brought the WWF back into the war with WCW.

The ratings were decent and it got the company the main stream exposure it’s looking for. Think of it like the modern day TNA: the hardcore wrestling fans like us mostly hate it, but the common fans eat it up. Go figure. Anyway, let’s get on with this so I can look for a hammer to apply to my head.

The opening video is about various Manias through the years which tends to be a theme in these opening videos.

Your celebrities this year are Pamela Anderson (actual celebrity), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Randy on Home Improvement. Another child star that did nothing.), Jenny McCarthy (Mini-celebrity now, she was at the last SNME so points for that I guess), some guy from NYPD Blue, and Salt N Peppa, who hit on Bret Hart which just looks ridiculous. A special Olympian sings America the Beautiful, and it’s time for our first match.

Ok not quite yet as we get a very interesting chat from Vince and Jerry about what Wrestlemania is. You don’t get to hear that much from Vince. It’s short and sweet but it got the point across just fine. NOW on to the match.

Lex Luger/British Bulldog vs. The Blu Brothers

No that’s not a typo, it’s spelled Blu. These guys have the gimmick of being two incredibly hick brothers from the mountains. You know them better as D.O.A., the Harris Brothers, or those two big white bald guys that are in every promotion on the planet. My goodness how far has Lex fallen in a year? He’s going after the WWF Title and next year is curtain jerking in a tag match?

The twins are named Jacob and Eli in case you were so bored you were actually wondering. Lex and Davey go by the name the Allied Powers. That delayed vertical suplex by Davey never gets old. It’s nothing short of amazing. Definitely like the fact that Bulldog’s tights are about 3 sizes too small. Oh yeah we have a match to get to.

For some reason the Brothers come down second. The Brothers try to jump them which winds up in a pair of powerslams for them. Note that this is just a powerslam and not The Powerslam by Bulldog so it’s just a normal match. Bulldog is in trouble early on as the power of evil double teaming has him hurting.

A double big boot puts Bulldog down as Luger is just worthless on the apron here. The fans aren’t incredibly impressed. Jerry says that Bulldog has only lost once at Mania which isn’t true as he lost at both #3 and #4. Luger comes in and the fans pop just slightly. I guess the jump back to WCW was the right move indeed. Another powerslam gets no cover.

The loaded forearm gets two as the other twin makes the save. Uncle Zebekiah gets drilled and it’s Twin Magic time. One twin goes for a powerbomb/Piledriver but Luger makes a blind tag, allowing the Bulldog to hit a top rope sunset flip for the pin, prompting a fireworks display to go off.

Rating: D. Not bad, but just there. It’s nothing special at all and I’m not sure how many people really cared. The crowd was about as dead as I’ve ever heard for a Mania opener, and that’s including The Executioner vs. Santana back in 85. Wow I feel old for writing that. Anyway this was pretty bad and could have been on any Superstars show back in the day.

Jim Ross talks to the Uncle who says this is what they deserved for being in the big city. They pinned the wrong guy and that’s not the last you’ll see of the twins.

The NYPD Blue guy is with the Million Dollar Team (DiBiase’s stable of mostly jobbers) when he’s supposed to be in the dressing room of Pam Anderson but the mic doesn’t work. As an aside, during the show Lawler accidentally knocked some cords loose and he and Vince had to redo the entire commentary on the show from watching video. Due to that, the commentary you’ll hear on these matches isn’t live at all.

Lawler describes football as a game where eleven men spend hours trying to move a small object 100 yards, which is just like the post office. What that has to do with this is beyond me but it sounded good at the time. Oh it’s about the NFL guys here for the main event.

Intercontinental Title: Jeff Jarrett vs. Razor Ramon

No real story here other than they’re feuding for no apparent reason. Jarrett is in his country music gimmick here and even the Fink sounds bored out of his mind here. Jarrett won the title at the Rumble thanks to the Roadie (Road Dogg in case you didn’t know that) interfering. 1-2-3 Kid and Ramon are in the back and say that Ramon is ready.

Razor was so over back then it’s insane. Vince makes a weird comment saying that Ramon knows where he is at all times. Not sure why that’s a compliment. Don’t most people know where they’re located? It’s either a Vince line or a rib that 3 people get. Razor is all over Jarrett to start this off. Jarrett hits the floor and Razor gets to shoot off his pyro. He gets about three covers in the first 2 minutes, all off punches.

Double J may have hurt his tooth. Rollup gets two for Razor. Roadie saves Jarrett from the Razor’s Edge and Jarrett tries to leave but the Kid is waiting in the aisle to stop that. Five minutes in and JJ’s biggest move has been a hard Irish whip. You know for all of his detractors, Jarrett can wrestle quite well. I’ve always wondered why he didn’t get the recognition as a star that he deserved.

Jarrett tries to get on offense but can’t get anything long term going at all. He gets thrown to the floor again as the crowd dies all over again. Jeff gets some dropkicks in and here comes the guy from Tennessee. We hit the chinlock and the fans get going a bit. At least it’s a fast one as Razor gets a backslide for two. Sleeper goes on Razor and again it lasts just a few seconds. Oh hey here’s another chinlock to keep us interested.

This match just isn’t flowing. It’s like they’re working move to move and it’s showing badly. In a really stupid looking sequence, they both hit the ropes and hit head to head. Then they get up and hit the ropes again and both punch each other. It’s more or less the same spot twice in a row. Just looked stupid. This referee is counting ridiculously fast too.

Fallaway slam gets two. Discus punch gets Jeff down. Can Razor do anything else besides punch and go for the Edge? Razor hurts his knee going for a top rope bulldog, which is the same knee that was hurt THREE MONTHS AGO at the Rumble. Of course it’s still sore. Why wouldn’t it be?

Figure four by Jarrett as the Roadie pulls on Jarrett’s arms for more leverage. I’ve always wondered about that. How does it make it hurt more? I love how Razor’s knee is hurt badly, yet he can pick a 230lb man up, sit him on the top rope and belly to back suplex him from it without his knee giving out.

He gets him up for the Razor’s Edge but Roadie chop blocks him for the DQ. Post match, all four men brawl. JR asks Jarrett about his cheating and Jarrett says he’ll always be the IC Champion. If by always he means until he jumps to WCW and then back to the WWF, loses to Chyna after being hit by a fish and then is banned from the company because Austin hated him, they yes he’ll always be champion.

Rating: D+. This was WAY too many punches and rest holds. These two have had far better matches before, such as at the Rumble. Razor probably had 90% of his offense from throwing punches. Jarrett wasn’t anywhere nearly as serious as he should have been at this point and that change wouldn’t come for many years. Definitely a weak match from them.

Since there was no audio earlier, let’s redo the exact movements from the interview earlier on. Pamela Anderson is nowhere to be found. Shawn and Sid say that Diesel is afraid.

Todd Pettingil gets in a 3 point stance with a football player and that’s all there is to this pointless bit.

The Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy

This is the result of a mini feud with DiBiase and Kama over the Urn being stolen for about the 12th time. A baseball umpire is refereeing the match for no apparent reason. Bundy charges straight at him to start but that gets him nowhere. Old School can’t take him down. A bunch of clotheslines finally put the bald man down.

Bundy knocks him to the floor and Taker gets the Urn back. Now of course Bundy is in big trouble as Taker is all pissed off. Here’s Kama (Godfather) to steal it back again. This is going as fast as I’m typing it so it’s not like I’m skipping over a ton of stuff. Taker grabs Kama’s face but Bundy makes the save and Kama escapes.

Ross grabs an interview with Kama who says he’s going to melt it down and make a chain out of it and put it around his neck, which he wound up doing. Bundy chokes away in the corner, showing off his vast array of offensive talents. This referee is rather bad at counting. Bearer plays cheerleader to try to get Taker out of a chinlock. Avalanche hits in the corner but Taker is no Special Delivery Jones so it has no effect. A slam and the jumping clothesline of all things end this.

Rating: F+. Oh man this was bad. Taker was completely lacking direction at this point and it was painfully obvious that they had no clue what to do with him. He would feud with Kama for a bit before feuding with King Mabel for a bit until FINALLY Mankind debuted to give Taker something to do long term. Terrible match.

Oh look, the NYPD Blue guy still can’t find Pamela Anderson. Steve McMichael says he’ll take down Kama. The rest of the All-Pro Team says they’ll take care of the Million Dollar Team. The NYPD Blue guy does find Jonathan Taylor Thomas beating Bob Backlund at chess though. I never thought I’d have to type that. Backlund’s rant about the world being screwed up is hilarious.

Tag Titles: Smoking Gunns vs. Owen Hart/???

Owen has a mystery partner here. The Smoking Gunns are a great example of the failure of tag wrestling during this time period. They were definitely talented, but absolutely no one cared about them. They’re practically forgotten but were one of the most successful tag teams from this time frame.

As you probably know, the partner is Yokozuna. Oddly enough the partner comes out before the Guns, the champions, do. This is of course about Bret somehow because Owen is completely obsessed with Bret. Yoko weighs a few tons by this point and is straight up waddling to the ring. The Gunns say they don’t care who the partner is. Billy with a mullet and a mustache is freaky looking.

More fireworks for the champions here. What’s with that tonight for the tag teams? Owen and Billy start us off. That’s the most talented combination out there I guess. Apparently Owen and Neidhart were eliminated from the tag tournament to determine the #1 contenders so this is a result of that. The Gunns work on the arm of Owen to start which lasts only a few seconds as it’s off to Yoko.

The leg drop misses and Yoko takes over again. And never mind as it’s back to Owen again. Cornette is yelling at the fans which is one of the more entertaining parts of the show. Double Russian legsweep to the Canadian by the American cowboys. Yoko gets sent to the floor as we’re in the Colossal Connection formula here: Owen does the vast majority of the work while Yoko is brought in as the heavy hitter.

Apparently Men on a Mission have turned heel on the Gunns. Riveting indeed and unfortunately it set up King Mabel. The Gunns hit a modified Sidewinder (side slam/legdrop combination) for two on Owen. Yoko comes in and gets the legdrop on the back of Billy’s head to more or less kill him. I’m surprised Yoko has been in the ring this long.

LONG nerve hold by Yoko on Billy to waste a lot of time. Yoko misses a legdrop and Bart comes in. Everything breaks down and Billy gets killed by a belly to belly from the fat man. Banzai Drop ends Billy and Owen gets the pin for the title, which might be his first in the company if that’s possible.

Rating: D+. Eh just a tag match here. The Gunns were boring beyond belief and Yoko was so fat that he could barely move at all. This was simply to have a title switch on the show much like the first show in the series. Boring match and somehow the best one so far I think if that’s possible.

Bigelow says he’ll destroy Lawrence Taylor. There was a Mania Work Out and they had a skirmish there too. This feud never really got going for me but the media actually paid attention so there’s that I guess. This interview takes forever and nothing special is said at all.

Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund

This is an I Quit match with Roddy Piper as referee for no apparent reason. Vince says Roddy knows something about submission. What in the world would that be anyway? This was their second submission match technically as the other was a throw in the towel match that had to end in submission if I remember right. Piper would be Commissioner by the next Mania.

Backlund is more or less crazy here which was rather impressive given how completely different he used to be back in his glory days. I’m still mad about not getting Bret’s glasses when I was a kid. The annoying kid next to me got them. I did however get a Slaughter helmet. Bret gets a headbutt to start and the fight is on. Sharpshooter can’t go on early.

Vince doesn’t remember Piper losing to Bret at Mania 8. Some fan he is. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter again and can’t get it. You couldn’t tell that from Vince as he keeps changing his reaction every five seconds. “Yes! No. Yes! No.” Is he the Zodiac or something? Figure Four goes on but Backlund reverses it. Neither guy says they quit as we get a quick check-in with the German commentators for no apparent reason.

Bret works the knee again as this is rather boring. Piper needs to quit asking them if they quit so often. Backlund works on the arm as I try to find a good novel to read so I don’t have to watch this for awhile. Backlund hooks a Fujiwara armbar and Bret says No to Piper. That was a shocking line then apparently which is amusing given that in an I Quit match in 99 with HHH vs. Rock, HHH said Suck It when he was asked if he quit.

Backlund likes that armbar. Jerry talks about breaking into a pyramid (what the heck?) and seeing a picture of Stu Hart with a headlock on King Tut (where does he get these jokes from?). Sharpshooter almost goes on but Backlund gets to the ropes before it gets cinched in. Bret charges again and his shoulder hits the post to put him in real trouble.

There’s the Crossface Chickenwing and Bret is in trouble. And never mind as he casually reverses and gets a horrible version of it on Backlund for the submission. You know, from all that devastating work that he did on Backlund’s arm the whole time. This was an awful match if you didn’t get it.

Rating: F+. This was really bad. Backlund was just flat out too old to be a serious main event threat by this point and while Bret was sharp as ever, Bob just didn’t have it in him anymore. Bret has called it the worst match of his career and he might be right. Backlund’s I saw the Light thing led to an angle where he would run for President of all things. As you can guess, it went nowhere. Also, having a Bret match lack any and all psychology is very weird indeed.

Backlund is leaving and says he saw the light. This would mean he became a Presidential candidate.

Ok, the NYPD guy was annoying at first. Now he’s just making me mad. NO ONE CARES. They’re changing the celebrities around.

More audio issues as Todd tries to talk to Diesel. He finally says that he’s going to keep the title. He slips up when he’s trying to say if he’s going to regain or retain the title and finally screams HOLD ONTO IT. This was back when Nash was actually really good and got the reputation he’s lived off for years now.

Celebrities are introduced as Jerry Lawler reveals he accidentally unplugged some cords.

WWF Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel

The deal was supposed to be McCarthy came out with Diesel and Anderson, who was viewed as ten times hotter and more important than McCarthy (hogwash) would come out with the Rumble winner, Shawn. For obvious reasons, this got reversed. The NYPD Blue guy is the ring announcer and he’s miles better at this than he is as an interviewer. He shouts almost everything he says and for the sake of this, it works really well.

The story here is Diesel was Shawn’s bodyguard but realized he was awesome on his own so he turned face and won the WWF Title. Sid replaced him as the bodyguard and the exact same thing would happen in about a year. Shawn has finally morphed into the character that would make him a legend by this point. As weird as this sounds, Diesel is a freaking beast at this point. Sweet intro, the music was cool, he has Pamela Anderson, just the complete look. What in the world happened to that? Anderson simply couldn’t want to be here less if her life depended on it.

Shawn hammers away to start as we’re already into the power vs. speed area. Diesel had been champion since a few days after Survivor Series so he had almost 7 more months with the title here. Diesel sends Shawn to the floor as we look at the ladies. Sid distracts the referee but Shawn can’t get in a shot on Diesel. Suplex puts Shawn down.

Back to the floor again as Sid and Diesel stare each other down one more time. Diesel counters a sunset flip as this is more or less one sided so far. Nash gets sent to the floor but Shawn Skins the Cat and dives down to crush Diesel. Baseball slide has the champion in trouble. We look at Anderson again and sweet goodness does she want to be anywhere else but here.

The fans loudly chant for Sid, thus proving that this entire match is booked wrong. Shawn hits a splash off the apron to the floor as Diesel is in trouble. Back in the ring Shawn stomps away and hits a bulldog for two. I’ve never liked that move at all. Reverse cross body off the middle rope gets two again. Shawn works on the arm and gets a LET’S GO SHAWN chant in his honor.

Ok make that he’s working on Diesel’s ribs. A top rope elbow to the back gets two in what is for some reason a highlight reel clip for Shawn. Never really have gotten why but it certainly is. Off to the chinlock now as the fans still like Shawn better. Diesel fights back and gets Snake Eyes to get some momentum going. Flair Flip in the corner and Shawn hits the floor again.

Nash follows and it’s time to see Shawn’s tights pulled down as is the tradition for big matches he’s in for no apparent reason. They slug it out on the floor and the referee twists his ankle getting down. I guess it wasn’t an Attitude Era thing. Back in the ring Shawn gets Sweet Chin Music but there’s no referee which would be a factor in Shawn’s reasoning as to why he lost.

It gets two and the fans boo loudly on the kickout. Sid goes to an old school heel move and rips off the turnbuckle pad. Diesel gets a suplex to avoid being rammed into it and both guys are down. Shawn gets an arm over him for a long two as the fans aren’t seeming to care much here.

In a slick counter, Diesel catches a bulldog off the middle rope in a side slam. Nice move. Shawn circles Diesel but gets his legs tripped from under him. Diesel goes old school with a slingshot into the exposed buckle. If only that had actually been where he landed, as Shawn’s head hit the middle buckle instead of the top one. Big boot and Jackknife end this anyway.

Rating: B. As you can tell, I really like this match. It’s not famous at all but it’s definitely solid all around. There was a story with the ribs, a controversy that would lead to rematches and a clean ending. The match also got enough time to put on something decent and it showed. Shawn was clearly coming into his own but still wanted to prove himself. Solid effort all around and a very good match. These two had some of the most forgotten great matches of all time and this is one of them for sure.

Shawn and Sid complain to Ross and say it’s not over, which it wasn’t. The celebrities celebrate with Diesel forever and Nash gets both chicks.

Shawn whines even more in the back.

Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

If you have never seen a person die and you want to…actually if you want to I’d recommend psychiatric help. But anyway, right here you’re about to see a man’s career die right in front of your eyes.

Here it is. Let it be known throughout the universe and all the world, that the reason that WM 11 is called the worst WM of all time is this match and this angle right here. Here’s the idea: for those of you that don’t know, LT is one of the best football players of all time, bar none. He was at the Royal Rumble in the front row and Bigelow shoved him, leading to this.

Instead of the WWF Title being on the line in the main event of the biggest show of the year, we get a retired football player against a barely upper midcarder that was about 8 years past his prime. Do I even need to explain why this was a bad idea? Each man has a group of 5 supporters at ringside so it’s more or less a lumberjack match. Their entrances take the greater part of forever. Oh and Salt N Peppa sing LT to the ring.

Pat Patterson of all people is the referee. There are so many jokes I could make about that I don’t know where to start. This is by far and away the main event of the show which still makes my head shake. I used to complain that Lawrence couldn’t wrestle but that was the point I think: he wasn’t supposed to be able to wrestle but rather be able to fight.

Diesel had been showing him some stuff apparently. The bell hasn’t rung yet so we’re just hanging around and waiting to start. Patterson wants a handshake but Lawrence slaps Bigelow instead and it’s on. Taylor likes to throw forearms which makes sense as it’s a basic strike. Taylor sends him to the floor with Bigelow doing the majority of the work to get himself over the top.

Bigelow misses a corner splash and Taylor gets a belly to back for two. More forearms which keep working so naturally he keeps going with them. Taylor gets in the face of the Million Dollar Team as we’re still waiting on the big brawl between the guys on the floor. Lawrence gets caught on his way back in and now we get into the main part of the match.

They’re going very slow which is understandable here. Falling headbutt misses Taylor but he can’t capitalize and Bigelow takes over again. Boston Crab goes on which shifts into a sloppy half crab instead. Ok now it’s shifted into more or less Bigelow pulling on Taylor’s leg. This is a very different kind of match and not incredibly interesting.

The rope is finally grabbed and Taylor goes back to the forearms. A suplex gets Taylor out of trouble for a bit and both guys are down. Bigelow gets the advantage again and hits the Moonsault but hurts his knee, having to roll off. He covers shortly thereafter and gets two to ZERO reaction. I think the fans were confused or flat out didn’t care. Either way it’s not a good sign.

LT gets a gutwrench suplex that is called a Jackknife for two. Enziguri puts Taylor down again and this is really needing to end like now. Top rope headbutt gets two and a tiny reaction. Taylor makes his big comeback and hammers away with the forearms and now the crowd is getting into it. In the big spot of the match, LT goes to the middle rope and hits a flying forearm to get the pin. Taylor might have been hurt but he seems ok. DiBiase rips into Bigelow post match, setting up his failure of a face turn.

Rating: D+. Well they tried. I’ll give them that: they tried. For the life of me I don’t get why this is what they closed the show with. Well actually I do as it was certainly the biggest match, but it shouldn’t have been if that makes sense. Taylor’s offense made sense as he kept at it with the forearms, but the match didn’t work for the most part. Still though, not completely unwatchable but not incredibly good.

Overall Rating: F+. Yeah this show is still boring. It feels more like an In Your House rather than what it should have been, which is the biggest show of the year. Shawn vs. Diesel is good and that’s about it. Everything else is completely forgettable to say the least and the main event is one of the biggest headscratchers of all time.

To give you an idea of how odd this show is, it runs less than two and a half hours. Think about that. Wrestlemania ran less than two and a half hours. The show was shockingly well received though and it got a solid buyrate for the time. It doesn’t hold up well at all and that’s what kills it. 95 simply wasn’t kind to PPV and this is probably the second worst show of the year, after Summerslam. Bad show.

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