WrestleMania 8: The One Without The World Title. For the first time since the inaugural show, the World Championship isn’t on the line in the Main event. It’s still got Hulk Hogan in it though because the company hasn’t yet quite moved on from him. Despite that we’ve got Ric Flair defending his title, the singles debut of ‘Mr WrestleMania’ himself and another chapter in the Undertaker’s Streak. It also features just nine matches and comes in at under 3 hours in length, a treat after a few overstuffed shows before this.
We’re back in a stadium again, this time the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, so there are 60 thousand plus in attendance, something that always helps make a show feel truly ‘big’. Worth noting that there was supposed to be a tenth match on the night, British Bulldog vs the Berzerker, but it was cut for time. Something that isn’t WrestleMania 8 exclusive either.
The broadcast starts with country singer Reba McIntyre singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, a break from the norm of ‘America the Beautiful’…
WrestleMania 8: Shawn Michaels vs Tito Santana
Michaels had only recent broken up his Rockers pairing with Marty Jannetty in violent fashion in the legendary Barbershop segment. Instead of facing Jannetty here though he is up against Tito Santana, who seemed to serve as somewhat of a gatekeeper at this point. This is Michaels’ first singles match at the event that would become synonymous with his performances. He’s accompanied by Sherri Martel and using the early version of his iconic music that Martel herself sung.
Michaels is already being talked up by commentary as a future champion, boy would that prediction come true. A slow, teasing intro from Michaels before the action starts in earnest. Crisp, athletic action from these two. Michaels’ taking every opportunity to break Santana’s momentum by fleeing the ring. Lots of shifts in control between the two men, things ebb and flow well between them. Santana seems to have an answer for most of what Michaels can bring, either avoiding or countering many moves. Martel stalks Santana on the outside when he gets thrown out but doesn’t get physically involved just yet. Its Michaels’ turn to take charge, Martel practically rabid on the outside shouting for him to pin Santana.
Santana gets another big run but can’t take advantage from the flying forearm after Michaels is able to roll to the outside and use the ropes to change the momentum when he is pulled back. A flash pinfall for Michaels and Michaels wins.
A fun opener that ends in a bit of an abrupt fashion, as a taster for what Michaels would bring to Mania in the future, it’s a good start. Heenan predicts he will the ‘star of the 90s’.
Gene Okerlund is on the arena floor to introduce the Legion of Doom, who are joined by a debuting Paul Ellering. His promo is mainly introducing himself to the WWF fans and reminding them of his long existing association with the LoD from their days as the Road Warriors. They also set up a future shot at the Tag team champions, whoever they are at the end of the night. It’s a bit long for such an early break in the action but it sets up the rest of the year for the trio.
WrestleMania 8: The Undertaker vs Jake Roberts
The second chapter in the Undertakers Streak sees him face Jake Roberts, who had attacked both Undertaker and Paul Bearer in the build-up. Roberts was on the way out of the company, having fallen out with Vince McMahon over an apparently promised position on the writing staff.
Two masters of mind games opposite one another makes for an interesting match up, even if Undertaker is still working the slow style of his early years and wouldn’t put on consistently brilliant matches for a few years yet.
Roberts manages to avoid Undertaker in the early going, getting a few shots in but only succeeding in knocking Undertaker to the floor rather than actually hurting him. This spill to the outside seems to wake up the Undertaker briefly but once they’re back in the ring it’s more Roberts, gradually managing to get more of a reaction from his opponent. Taker manages to take over with his power advantage, mostly just manhandling and choking Roberts. Not the most exciting action but the aura of the two men makes it interesting viewing. Roberts hits his DDT, a guaranteed killer in this era, but takes a while to go for a pin and Taker sits up. A short-armed clothesline and another DDT are both followed by the soon to be iconic sit up. Roberts allows Bearer to distract him which lets Taker hit him with a ‘Tombstone piledriver’ on the floor to take over. Back in the ring and Taker pins to win.
A strong way to further build the Undertaker’s legend, he was already a former World Champion by this point and would only grow from here.
A promo backstage next, Piper and Hart are face to face with Gene Okerlund playing peacekeeper. Piper makes reference to the length of their relationship and talks about their family ties. Hart is cool and collected in the face of the manic Piper. It briefly gets physical before they both head out for their match.
WrestleMania 8: Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart – WWF Intercontinental Championship
Two real life cousins and close friends go to war over the Intercontinental title. Hart was already a one-time previous champion as his singles run kicked into gear, Piper having won the title back at the Royal Rumble earlier in the year after a brief interregnum by the Mountie.
Piper is relatively stoic on the way to the ring in comparison to his usual self, which helps sell the seriousness of the encounter. The two men are eye to eye whilst the referee gives pre-match instructions.
Slow, methodical pace to the opening exchanges, a lot of classic chain wrestling and mat work. It gets intense quickly as Piper spits at Hart in response to a shove. A test of strength turns into an exchange of arm holds as Piper starts to throw strikes. Everything both men do is so smoothly executed. The tension and athleticism ramps up gently and inexorably as Hart lures Piper in with an apparent injury.
They spill to the outside but Piper doesn’t want to win by count out, holding the ropes to let Hart back in, a nice show of respect that he undercuts with a cheap shot seconds later. Piper starts throwing more strikes and gets nasty, making Bret bleed which adds further drama. With the blood wearing Hart down, Piper controls the action in between bursts from Hart, who shows a lot of fire to fight back repeatedly. It’s gone from a respectful grappling contest to a pure fight by this point. Hart plays possum to suck Piper in and take charge himself. Hart starts to run through some of his classic offense, the Russian Leg Sweep and the Inverted Atomic Drop before being fought off in a ‘Sharpshooter’ attempt and missing a Second Rope Elbow Drop.
The referee gets taken down and the fight gets even more vicious, Piper bringing the ring bell into play as a weapon but shows some confliction over using it. He eventually disregards the low road and locks in a Sleeper Hold. Hart is able to push off out of the corner and turn the hold in a pinfall for the victory.
An intense, well-constructed contest between two of the best to ever do it. Piper hands the belt over to Bret personally and shows him some respect to underline the spirit most of the contest was fought in.
We move on a bit too quickly for the moment to really. It’s former NWA World Champion, Lex Luger, making his company debut to plug the World Building Federation. He chats about some of the other talent involved in the WBF and uses the word ‘plethora’. Luger shows off his physique and drinks a glass of milk to finish this brief diversion.
WrestleMania 8: Big Boss Man, Virgil, Sgt. Slaughter & Jim Duggan vs The Mountie, The Repo Man & The Nasty Boys
A big mixed up tag match featuring a bunch of mid card talents. Both teams get a pre-match promo to put themselves over. The Mountie, the Nasty Boys and the Repo Man’s is comically over the top, fitting the gimmicks on show. The response features Sgt. Slaughter, who has fallen quite far from being World Champion going into the previous Mania. Duggan gives away his teams strategy of ‘Attack, attack, attack’ but neither team gets an actual entrance. Ray Combs from the Family Feud TV Show adds some celebrity spice to the mix as guest ring announcer. He makes a few wisecracks at the expense of the Heel team, some of which are pretty funny.
Combs’ jibes lead straight into a big cluster of a match, including some quadruple teaming from the babyface quartet before the match even begins. Heenan takes a moment to tell the viewers that Shawn Michaels has left the building. Nothing much to say about the action, everyone gets a change to get involved and we see most combinations amongst the eight men. Virgil is the only member of face team to get beaten up much as his team generally controls things.
Some attempted double teaming from the Nasty Boys goes wrong and Virgil is able to make up for his beating by getting the pin to win. A mildly diverting break in between two more important matches, served it’s purpose.
Ric Flair and Mr Perfect are backstage, teasing the intimate photos of Miss Elizabeth that they had been taunting Savage with. Flair cuts a typically enjoyable promo, it’s nuts as you’d expect but good fun. Okerlund can’t get an interview with Savage, who is locked away in isolation preparing for the match.
WrestleMania 8: Ric Flair vs Randy Savage – WWF Championship
Not just a feud over the company’s top championship, but one about romantic jealousy. Flair had been claiming for months that he had dated Miss Elizabeth before Savage. Flair had won the title in his legendary 1992 Royal Rumble earlier that year and Savage was already back in the ring having lost a retirement match at the previous year’s show. This is also Ric Flair’s first and only Mania appearance until Mania X8 as he would return to WCW early in 1993.
The Champion, Flair, coming out before the challenger will always feel strange, even if it is a particularly epic robe that Flair is wearing. Savage doesn’t let the sartorial side down with his very own all-gold ensemble.
The match starts out on the floor as Flair looks to be running away and Savage chases him, Mr Perfect interjecting himself to bring things back to the ring. The action starts off fairly even, Savage all fire and passion, Flair responding with both his signature underhanded tactics and plenty of chops. Savage may have controlled the early going but Flair takes over, as Heenan shows more of his Flair bias on commentary. It’s two stellar workers building a solid back and forth contest. The physicality of both men is a good nod to the personal animosity that has been built up. Things ebb and flow between the two, Flair largely in control but Savage ramping it up when he fights back. Flair gets thrown from the top rope in a signature spot of his and Savage takes control as Heenan loses his mind at the commentary table.
An attempt to beg off goes wrong for Flair, as does a dive from the top rope moments later. Savage gets his hits in as Flair starts to bleed. Once Savage is in charge, Flair takes an absolute beating, his bleached hair always making blood look that bit more visceral.
Savage gets a very, very, close pinfall from a top rope axe handle but follows it up with a picture perfect diving elbow. Mr. Perfect pulls Savage off the pinfall, getting involved properly for the first time, the referee getting distracted in the chaos and Flair managing to sneak attack Savage with a foreign object. There’s a kick out though as Flair’s cheating fails to pay off. More Mr. Perfect physicality, using a chair from the outside, before everyone involved is distracted by Miss Elizabeth running down to ringside. She is accompanied by 5 or so officials (including a young Shane McMahon) who are trying to persuade her to leave but it doesn’t work. A Flair ‘figure four’ almost gets him the victory on a few occasions but Savage manages to fight back even as the chaos at ringside becomes a little distracting. After a great sequence where Flair looks to have it won, Savage rolls him for a surprise finish, even grabbing the tights to give a little of the cheating aback to Flair. Savage wins and is the new WWF Champion.
Flair forcibly kisses Elizabeth, who responds with the most physicality she ever showed. Flair and Perfect try and beat down Savage even as more and more officials pile into the ring. The sheer chaos of the final moments of the match do distract from what a brilliantly fought match but they don’t bring it down too much.
The story between Savage and Flair would continue for most of the year, although Elizabeth would fade out as her and Savage’s real life relationship reached its end. Savage would lose the title back to Flair in September before becoming a full time commentator for the bulk of the rest of his run in the WWF.
Mr. Perfect, Flair and Heenan are backstage post-match, complaining bitterly about the handful of trunks that Savage held. Good, hypocritical, set up for the continuing feud between them. It’s a shame that this match was stuck in the middle of the card in favour of Hulk Hogan in the Main event. Savage does get a chance to reply, laying more ground work for the rest of the year.
It’s intermission time seemingly as we get a video package for the Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice. It does a decent job of making things seem big time and personal between the two men.
WrestleMania 8: Tatanka vs Rick Martel
Tatanka is undefeated in singles matches to this point as he starts to establish himself in the company. Martel’s ‘Model’ persona is still enough of an irritant, and he’s enough of a solid name, that this serves as a big test for Tatanka. Tatanka gets a sizeable entrance, alongside a group of Native American dancers, whilst Martel cuts a promo featuring as many sly digs at Native Americans as he can get.
Commentary are still talking about the Flair/Savage match and its aftermath instead of focusing on the match in the early going. It’s more than a minute in before they start to actually call the action in front of them, and even then it’s mostly about the dancers that joined Tatanka, rather than the match. Monsoon keeps referring to Tatanka as a youngster (he was 30 at the time) and Heenan gets to fit in as many Native American jokes as he can think of. There’s not much to the match itself, mostly Martel doing his best to make Tatanka look good. A high crossbody and a pin gives Tatanka the win and his undefeated streak continues. He would remain undefeated in singles matches for another 18 months but never won a title despite his promise.
A backstage promo from the Tag Team Champions, Money Inc, with Jimmy Hart before a dwarfed Gene Okerlund gets a crick in his neck interviewing the Natural Disasters.
WrestleMania 8: Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Schyster) vs The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon) – WWF Tag Team Championship
Jimmy Hart had betrayed the Natural Disasters and teamed up with Money Inc. and helped them win the titles instead of his then clients. Earthquake and Typhoon are on the hunt for revenge here.
This is a battle of sheer size and technical skill. Quake and Typhoon show off their power in the early going, simply throwing the champions about with abandon, and they’re not small men. The champions bounce around for the challengers and regularly flee the ring to recompose and break the Natural Disasters momentum.
The Disasters control things mostly until Typhoon takes a big spill to the outside to let Money Inc. take charge for a while. Earthquake keeps distracting the referee, which hurts his partner on occasion. When Quake manages to get back in the ring legally he shifts the match back towards his team. A splash from Typhoon almost leads into a big sit from Earthquake before Hart pulls I.R.S. out of the way. Money Inc. get themselves deliberately counted out to lose the match but retain the title.
A disappointing, feud extending, finish. The Natural Disasters would eventually win the titles on a house show in July later that year but lost them back to Money Inc. by October.
Brutus Beefcake is backstage, introduced as one of the all-time greats. Reference is made to the boating accident that led to his hiatus, but he mostly talks about Hulk Hogan.
WrestleMania 8: Owen Hart vs Skinner
A breather before the main event. Skinner had been fairly successful in the territories under the name Steve Keirn but he is fodder for the up and coming Owen Hart here. Hart had been in the company before, working as the Blue Blazer, but this is his first Mania under his real name.
Skinner is in charge from the bell and gets a decent amount of offense in before Hart gets behind him and rolls him up for a very quick win.
A nothing match that at least made Owen Hart look strong as he establishes himself as a character in his own right.
Sid Justice gets one more chance to sell the main event. He promises the match will not be a barnburner. What predictive powers he has. He also promises it will mark the end of Hogan’s career, so those powers weren’t perfect. An interview with Hogan from TV is actually a decent promo from him, he talks like a normal person instead of yelling as in a typical appearance.
WrestleMania 8: Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice
Hogan’s farewell match. Allegedly. In reality he was going on hiatus due to the Steroid Scandal that would lead to Vince McMahon going on trial. Issues between Hogan and Justice had been building ever since Hogan helped eliminate Justice from the 92 Royal Rumble and therefore cost him the World Title.
Harvey Wippleman is in Sid’s corner, and he announces Justice down to the ring. The disgust in Howard Finkel’s voice when he introduces Wippleman for this appearance is pretty funny. Commentary also set the stage for Sid’s future moniker of ‘Sycho Sid’ as he enters. Hogan is a bit more subdued on his way to the ring that usual, perhaps trying to sell the gravity that this could be his swansong from the ring.
Justice attacks Hogan even before his music has finished but is dumped out of the ring so Hogan can get a moment in the spotlight. For twenty seconds or so the continuing music seems like it will run over the start of the match proper but Hogan just poses and it fades out. Once the bell rings we settle into the standard Hogan match formula. Sid dominates and Hogan looks battered, getting brief bursts of offense whenever he looks too hurt. Whenever Hogan does come back, Sid stalls and backs away, meaning the match is generally slow and plodding. He also spends and inordinate amount of time shouting at the crowd to quieten down. We get the protracted test of strength, Hogan looking outmatched before fighting back. As we’d come to expect after nearly 9 years of Hogan on top by this point. Despite how played out the routine might seem in retrospect, the crowd in Indianapolis are still eating it up.
After this long sequence, Sid manages to choke slam Hogan and even cuts a mini promo to a ringside camera, just to really slow things down. We get the trapezius hold from Sid, an old school move if ever you’ve seen one. It goes on for what feels like minutes, Hogan looking like he has passed out before magically reviving. Sid hits his powerbomb, but Hogan kicks out and Hulks Up. A change to the formula as it takes a big boot and a body slam to get Sid down.
And away we go. The biggest cluster- of a finish in Mania to this point. Hogan drops the leg, but Harvey Wippleman appears on the apron. Sid kicks out of the leg drop. Something has gone wrong. The bell rings for a disqualification as Papa Shango runs down to the ring to attack Hogan. It turns out he was supposed to be the one causing the disqualification, but he missed his cue and Justice had to improvise by kicking out. The Ultimate Warrior then runs down, making his return for the first time in nine months, to help save Hogan.
Well there’s a lot to unpack there. A dumb and ultimately badly done finish to the biggest show of the year. And coming off the back of a boring match at that… And that was WrestleMania 8.
A couple of great matches dragged down by a poor main event and some pointless filler. The Flair/Savage match deserved to main event the show, and would have brought the general vibe of the show up. WrestleMania 8 won’t be the first time that the World Title is relegated to the mid card. That match, and Bret Hart/Roddy Piper are two standout matches, if you only have time to watch a couple of matches those are the two to pick out. If you’re a little more time, add the Shawn Michaels vs Tito Santana opener. WrestleMania 8 starts a little run of “poor” WrestleMania’s, something that the 90s are pretty well known for.
The venue definitely makes the event feel much bigger and the crowd are still hot, even if the Hogan schtick wears thin in retrospect. It wouldn’t be long until the Hogan era was over for WrestleMania and the first shoots of the next generation are on show, with both Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels starting their singles runs