Retro Review

Retro Review – WrestleMania VI

Matthew Roberts travels back to 1990 to give a retro review of WrestleMania VI.

With this year’s instalment just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes another trip in the TWM Time Machine.

This time he sets a course for thirty years ago and WrestleMania VI. 

If for nothing else than it’s main event, WrestleMania VI is a show that is still fondly remembered today by many fans from that era.  It’s an event that never gets too much profile when people discuss the “worst” WrestleMania’s of all time.  From a time when face vs face (and Champion Vs Champion) matches were not ten a penny, the meeting of the two most popular wrestlers in the WWE  in the form of World Champion Hulk Hogan and the Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior was HUGE news.  And as wrestling was much simpler (i.e there was no Internet) in those days there was a genuine pull behind the match.  Hogan almost never lost (and certainly not by clean pinfall), but Warrior was the fresh new thing with all the momentum.  It’s obviously in 2020 who would win, less so in 1990.

What re-watching the event thirty years on shows though is that this was virtually a one-match card.  And no matter how much that one match delivers, when the other three hours of a show has very little to write home about it’s going to be a slog. 

Of course this was in the days when the WWE programming on television was not chock full of “name” matches there’s the argument that the opening match of Koko B. Ware and Rick “The Model” Martel had some low marquee value.  Less than four minutes later when we’ve seen a squash match that only existed to mark out Martel as one to watch you might be wondering if this wouldn’t have been more appropriate on an episode of Superstars…

The Colossal Connection against Demolition at least has the allure of the Tag Team Titles being on the line (again, WWE TV in 1990 was not awash with title matches) and it has the historical value of being Andre The Giant’s last WrestleMania match.  It’s not got much else going for it as it’s a plodding, funereal paced match  that is only memorable for the fact that the titles change hands and that Andre turned babyface on partner Haku and manager Bobby Heenan afterwards.  Given those two things though it’s probably better than the latest squash match that follows it as Earthquake defeats Hercules in four minutes.  If we’re being kind, it was the biggest test of Quake’s burgeoning WWE career (he’d mostly battered jobbers up until this point) and this and the opener at least means that the WWE are building up heels for the year to come (a necessity on paper with the two babyfaces headlining this event).

When Brutus Beefcake is one half of one the most entertaining matches in the first quartet of a PPV you know you are in trouble.  Of course he’s in here with Mr Perfect, who in 1990 was in full “bump and sell to make everyone look a million dollars” mode so he made Beefcake look as good as he’s ever done.  And if the rumours are true that Hogan decided he had to win the 1990 Rumble to look strong (thus denying Perfect that win) maybe he was behind the utterly useless Beefcake being the first one to pin Perfect on PPV/TV in the WWE. 

To be fair though I’d rather watch one hundred Beefcake matches than have to see Roddy Piper’s get up for his match with Bad News Brown ever again.  Quite why Piper (or anyone) thought it was a good idea to paint the right side of his entire body black is beyond me.  Even his attempts to explain it years later didn’t shed any real light on it.  That it ends in a deeply unsatisfying double count-out just make the whole thing even worse; think about it.  A WrestleMania match that was essentially an angle to set up more matches.  Those who constantly complain about the 2020 WWE don’t know how lucky they are sometimes. 

As we’re in Canada you’d expect that the WWE would give The Hart Foundation something to get their teeth into;  instead they defeat the Bolsheviks in 20 seconds.  It’s always bothered me that it’s deemed a “babyface” thing to do to interrupt a foreign national anthem, but that’s by the by.  Heel Squash Victory number three of the evening is next as Barbarian destroys Tito Santana.  I’ll say one thing, the top rope clothesline finisher looked good/nasty (depending on how you view these things). 

You would think that a Dusty Rhodes / Randy Savage one-on-one match would have been a great idea here; instead we get Sapphire and Sensational Sherri added to the equation in a mixed tag match.  The crowd were digging the match and, sadly, it’s probably the best in-ring action we’ve seen so far tonight (when Rhodes and Savage are in there at least) but it does nevertheless seem a waste of two talents who could have delivered a great match if given the chance.

Shawn Michaels second WrestleMania appearance comes alongside Rockers partner Marty Jannetty to take on the Sato/Tanaka version of The Orient Express.  It’s little more than your standard 1990’s tag team formula match and the countout “finish” is another abysmal ending but we’ve been so starved of good wrestling on this show that even under those circumstances this is a breath of fresh air.  It’s no match for the Rumble 1991 match though. 

Watching Hacksaw Jim Duggan fail to engage a CANADIAN crowd is the only highsopt of yet another dud with Dino Bravo and the only reason the match seemed to exist was for Earthquake to destroy Duggan afterwards.  Jake Roberts then delivers the best 90 seconds of the show with one of his classic promos before his match with the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.  For the first time this evening this feels like what we would think of as a “Mania” match these days.  I mean, and bear with me here, it features two “name” performers in a match that has had build up and has interest surrounding it… Of course this is 1990 so we get a slow paced, dull match (the crowd do a Mexican wave during it) that ends in a countout.  Still at least Jake gives the fans a moment by decking DIBiase and throwing his money into the crowd.

DiBiase sticks around to batter the Big Boss Man on the latter’s way to the ring for his match against former Twin Towers partner Akeem.  It has little effect on Boss Man who wins this big grudge match in less than two minutes.  Boss Man at least showed a lot of intensity and fire. Rick Rude and Jimny Snuka follow that up with a three minute match which is only here to put Rude over.  It was a good night for the heels in squash matches generally. 

So far, so pedestrian.  But as mad as it seems to say it out loud, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior were on hand to save the day.  For the ONLY time this night this felt like a real WrestleMania memory in the making.  It was a big match that had fans intrigued.  Rumour has it that Pat Patterson was heavily involved in laying this one out and he does a wonderful job of it if that is true.  Some of the rest spots seem to go on a little too long but that’s perhaps understandable as these two were going over twenty minutes.  It’s no technical masterclass but the emotion and the psychology is palpable and even today, thirty years on, it can draw you in.  Yes, there’s nothing like being there in the moment (this, incindentally, was the first WWF match I ever saw) but I’d still argue that this holds up today. 

And it’s a good job it does, because the other three hours or so of this show generally don’t.  Most would be booed off TV in 2020 if it was an episode of Raw never mind a PPV and if that is perhaps unfairly maligning the show from a 1990 viewpoint (things were a LOT different then) there is still no way around what should be the biggest show of the year featuring loads of almost identical squash matches, other matches that seem to exist mererly to set up future matches and a general lack of interesting storylines leading up to most of the undercard.  Which is all the more frustrating as we I’m sure we could all fantasy book a much better card with the talent that was available (even if we stuck firmly within the WWE model). 

Watch this for the main event; avoid almost everything else. 

Photos courtesy of WWE

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