WrestleMania 9: It’s the one with all the Roman stuff. Live from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the whole set and announcers are all decked out in Roman gear. It’s campy but everyone commits to the bit at least. This marks both the final WrestleMania of the ‘Hogan Era’ and also the first time we’re treated to Jim Ross joining the commentary team.
The opening ceremony features two people dressed up as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra being introduced to the crowd before Randy Savage enters, to join commentary. Bobby Heenan is next, sitting on a camel backwards and looking terrified. Some slapstick back and forth between Heenan and Savage. It’s all pretty silly but as mentioned, everyone commits to the bit.
WrestleMania 9: Shawn Michaels vs Tatanka – WWF Intercontinental Championship
Shawn Michaels’ singles run had kicked into a higher gear by 1993 and he went into this event as the reigning Intercontinental Champion. Tatanka was still undefeated in singles match to this point and had two recent pinfalls over Michaels on television, making him a big threat to Michaels’ reign. There’s also the added complication of Michaels’ former manager Sensational Sherri at ringside for Tatanka, countered by a debuting Luna Vachon joining Michaels in his corner. Michaels choosing to wear black entrance gear for the first outdoor Mania must have been a warm decision.
There’s a slow feeling out process before the pace picks up, Tatanka having an answer for everything Michaels can throw at him. A fun sequence sees Michaels trying and failing to get back into the ring three times in a row. It’s back and forth but occasionally bogged down by some slow sequences, a protracted standing arm hold being the worst offender. Michaels does bring some of his signature dynamism but that hold keeps coming back into play.
Tatanka does eventually speed things up himself, going to the top rope twice in a row. The first time works, the second does not. Michaels throws Tatanka to the outside and seems perfectly content to win the match via count out but he lets Sherri distract him a few times. Savage on commentary predicts that a woman could eventually challenge for the Intercontinental Title by suggesting Sherri challenge Michaels herself. The long, boring, hold bug catches Michaels briefly before he remembers who he is and goes to the top rope. It doesn’t pay off and Tatanka comes very close to winning. Tatanka starts his ‘war dance’ which is essentially his version of Hulking up and again gets a very close pinfall. The pace picks up plenty as we enter a stretch of close pinfalls for both men before Michaels take a nasty looking landing on the ring steps and pulls the referee out of the ring for no clear reason. Tatanka goes for a pinfall, but the referee instead calls for the bell to be rung. The result is called as a count out victory for Tatanka, meaning Michaels keeps the title.
A very disappointing finish that feels like they messed it up, it certainly made Tatanka and the referee both look dumb. The poor ending and the long slow sequences that dragged the middle of the match down mar what was the bones of a decent match.
Luna attacks Sherri post-match, this would kick off a feud between the two for the rest of the year. A further attack backstage would be mentioned during the following match.
Gene Okerlund is backstage, interviewing the Steiner Brothers. They promise to make Julius Caesar proud, and we move on to that match. Some good marketing for the University of Michigan mixed in there as well.
WrestleMania 9: The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) vs The Headshrinkers (Samu & Fatu)
One of the defining tag teams of the 90s make their WrestleMania debut, their only appearance at the show, individually or as a team. They had only debuted in the company in the previous November and were already building their reputation. Fatu of the Headshrinkers would go on to more fame later in the decade as Rikishi. As the Steiner’s make their entrance, we get the first outing of Jim Ross’ favourite word ‘slobberknocker’.
It’s amateur wrestling skill against pure viciousness, some classic takedowns and holds from the Steiners countered with big strikes from the Headshrinkers. It’s not all mat wrestling from the Steiners as they mix in some top rope moves and a taunt or two. The Headshrinkers get their mojo back by banging their heads together and they take over for a while. Scott gets dumped the outside of the ring with one of the scarier looking bumps of the show. He goes headfirst over the rope and disappears. The match is physical throughout. The Headshrinkers look like they’ve won the match, the referee even counts a three count, but it’s waved off and quickly forgotten. No attacks aimed at heads of the Headshrinkers work, as wrestling logic dictates, they are Samoan and therefore have the hardest heads in the world.
The beat down of Scott after he spills to the outside is a bit too long to stay really interesting but at least when Rick finally gets back in he raises the pace back up. Scott gets back in and hits the ‘Frankensteiner’, spectacular for the time, and pins to win. Outstayed it’s welcome a little with the long beating of Scott but it was physical enough to be interesting.
WrestleMania 9: Doink the Clown vs Crush
Matt Borne makes his return to WrestleMania for the first time since the inaugural event, but under the just slightly different gimmick of Doink the Clown. Doink had been tormenting Crush since attacking him with a false arm on television. In a pre-match promo Doink lays the groundwork for another Doink, saying Crush might have ‘double vision’.
Crush starts the match on top, manhandling the clown, who tries to beg him off. Both men’s gear add up to more than fulfil the colour quota for the afternoon, at least eight between them. The action is fairly simple, Crush in control for a while, then its Doinks turn. It’s only an eight-minute contest but it feels about twice that. At least the finish is interesting. The referee gets knocked down and a second, identical, Doink appears from behind Crush and attacks him with the prosthetic arm from the build. The two Doink’s mirror one another’s movements before the original pins to win. A funny cartoony finish after a nothing match.
Todd Pettengill is in the crowd, mixing his roman toga with some frat boy sunglasses. He tries to get a chat with some Japanese photographers for some reason.
WrestleMania 9: Razor Ramon vs Bob Backlund
Ramon (Scott Hall) was just under a year into his run in the company and already showing plenty of the cool charisma that would make him one of the defining stars of the mid-90s. He’s facing Bob Backlund, a legendary former World Champion making his return to the company as a kind of ‘man out of time’.
Backlund is only 43 at this point but he’s portrayed as completely overmatched and unprepared. An interesting contrast the way former champions were utilised in the 2010s in particular. And an interesting example of how what age is considered ‘old’ in the company, given Brock Lesnar is currently older than Backlund was then and is still considered one of the top stars around.
Backlund does get a couple of moments to show off his skill but he gets a bit too cocky and Ramon rolls him up into a pinfall for the victory.
We go backstage to Gene Okerlund and Money Inc. before a video package of what has led us to this point. Money Inc. had turned their back on Jimmy Hart, who was trying to protect Brutus Beefcake. They were joined by Hulk Hogan, who had been missing for most of the past year as the Steroid Trials came to a head. Money Inc. also use this time to take credit for the black eye that Hogan will be sporting during the match.
WrestleMania 9: Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Schyster) vs The Mega-Maniacs (Hulk Hogan & Brutus Beefcake) – WWF Tag Team Championships
Hogan and Beefcake had both been missing for long stretches of time in recent times. Hogan due to the Steroid investigation that the company were involved, and Beefcake due to the parasailing accident that meant he barely wrestled a match in the first three years of the 90s, and appeared for this match with a large mask protecting his face. This mid card tag team match was the lowest spotlight position Hogan had appeared on a WrestleMania to this point, but we’ll see where the rest of the night goes for that…
Beefcake takes a beating early on before Money Inc. start to try and attack his masked face for some reason. Hogan comes in, threatening the referee a couple of times for some reason. Hogan & Beefcake do have plenty of tag team chemistry, having started out in the industry together as the ‘Boulder Brothers’. Money Inc. attempt to run away but the referee changes the rules and makes it so that a count out would lose the champions their title. A bit of deus ex machina there to keep the match going.
Money Inc. choking Hogan repeatedly whilst Beefcake looks stupid, distracting the referee by complaining in that classic dumb tag team spot. DiBiase locks in his ‘Million Dollar Dream’ on Hogan, who fades and then magically comes back as he did with most submissions. This sequence repeats in a lot of Hogan matches and seems to get longer every time. Eventually it is only broken up by Beefcake, who puts his own Sleeper on DiBiase, which leaves both DiBiase and Hogan down in the ring. Hogan sits up ‘like the Undertaker’ (Savage’s words) and brings in Beefcake, who finally picks the pace up. Money Inc. finally go for the tactic they had teased pre match, and they remove Beefcake’s mask, who much like Samson with his hair, is almost powerless, briefly at least. DiBiase causes the referee to get knocked down as the match reaches the ‘overlong’ stage. Hogan uses Beefcake’s mask as a weapon and gets a pin but the referee is still down. Jimmy Hart then comes in, turns his jacket inside out to reveal referee stripes, and counts a three. What a stupid looking finish, especially as Hogan and Beefcake pose with the belts before a real referee comes down and calls the match as a disqualification win for Money Inc.
A dull match that was brought down even further by a dumb finish. And a very long posing party for Beefcake and Hogan afterwards.
Todd Pettengill is back, talking to some of the dullest celebrities that ever assembled at a WrestleMania. The CEO of Caesars Palace being a standout tells you all you need to know…
WrestleMania 9: Lex Luger vs Mr. Perfect
After the demise of the WBF, Lex Luger returned to his previous career as a wrestler, initially using a gimmick based on bodybuilding as ‘The Narcissist’, complete with mirrors to show off his physique from all angles. Perfect had had a strange few years, spending a long time out of action with a severe back injury before returning to the ring and defeating Ric Flair in an early classic of ‘Monday Night Raw’.
Luger has been attacking people with his metal arm in the build, including the champion Bret Hart at a pre-show brunch. Perfect’s pre-match promo is good but goes off the rails quickly when he can’t pronounce the word Narcissist. The four scantily clad women accompanying Luger distract commentary as Luger poses.
Given Luger was always fairly limited in the ring he actually looks good here, trading some smooth technical exchanges with Perfect in the early going. The ebb and flow is pretty good, Perfect providing bursts of action and Luger’s attempts to slow it down don’t drag things too far.
Perfect has the technical and speed advantages but Luger has the power and the mean streak. It’s honestly entertaining stuff, not bogged down by long holds or too much stalling, it’s not blow-away by any stretch but it stays at a good level throughout.
Luger tries to pin with his feet on the ropes but is caught out. Both men get some close calls for a win as Perfect starts to fire back with more strike-based offense. After a Perfect pinfall is broken up by Luger getting his foot on the ropes, a Luger pinfall sees the referee count the three despite Perfect being in contact with the ropes. A clever detail to the finish to end a match that overperformed. Luger puts an exclamation point on the win by knocking out Perfect with his metal plated arm. Camera’s follow Perfect backstage where he attacks Luger before ending up in a brawl with Shawn Michaels.
WrestleMania 9: The Undertaker vs Giant Gonzalez
It’s that match. Ranked by most people as the absolute worst of the vaunted WrestleMania streak for Undertaker. Built off the back of Gonzalez eliminating Undertaker in the Royal Rumble that year despite not being an entrant, it’s time to see if it really is as bad as legend.
Giant Gonzalez is dressed in the airbrushed hairy bodysuit of legend, thank god he’s very tall at least. Seeing the Undertaker coming out on a Roman funeral cart pulled by two men is certainly a mixed image. The moment where the 6ft 10 Undertaker stands looking upwards at Gonzalez is a hell of an image. It’s a shame the rest of the match then happens here at WrestleMania 9.
Undertaker walks the top rope to provide some excitement, as Savage suggests he’s Australian by saying he is ‘from Down Under’. Gonzalez isn’t as immobile as legend suggests, he’s by no means great but he can at least walk around smoothly at this point, something that couldn’t be said for some later Giant wrestlers.
Gonzalez throws lots of strikes, Undertaker sits up from all of them. Gonzalez wobbles but doesn’t fall over for a while. Gonzalez’s bodysuit has a distractingly anatomical vibe to it. Harvey Wippleman interjects to throw a rag to Gonzalez, he must have got bored and fancied putting us out of our misery. It’s a chloroform-soaked rag and Gonzalez is disqualified for using it. It’s over. Thankfully.
There’s a reason the WWE gloss over this match in the history of the Undertaker’s streak. The mixture of serious looking officials and toga clad extras who try and control the chaos post-match makes things even more unintentionally comical. It’s probably the weakest that Undertaker ever looked, but he comes back to the ring after being carried out and manages to finally knock the giant off his feet to at least somewhat come out with his head held high. If you watch it as a comedy match, it’s much more entertaining. If you try and take it seriously, it’s godawful.
Pre main event video packages fill in plenty of details of the build to this match. But we also Hulk Hogan getting a chance to comment on the main event, foreshadowing maybe? Hogan challenges the winner of the main event to a match. We go back to Todd Pettengill, who talks to a mute child, and some hyped fans in togas.
WrestleMania 9: Yokozuna vs Bret Hart – WWF Championship
It’s time for the Main event. There’s been a generation shift and this is just the second time a WrestleMania Main Event (on paper) doesn’t feature Hulk Hogan. Bret Hart walks in as the WWF Champion, having beaten Ric Flair the previous year, but he is facing the monstrous Yokozuna, who has been built up as practically undefeatable.
Given that Yokozuna is part of the Anoa’i dynasty of Samoan wrestlers, and was born in California, an awful lot of effort went into presenting him as a legitimate Japanese sumo champion. Cheesy, mildly xenophobic detail at times but detail at least.
Given his massive size Yokozuna is still fairly agile at this point and with Bret Hart involved there will always at least be one man in the match with class and poise. Yokozuna gets caught up in the ropes fairly early which lets Hart go to work on him. A series of clotheslines from the champion can’t get the challenger off his feet, one in return knocks Hart down. A big leg drop from Yokozuna looks to crush Hart’s face. The crowd start a ‘USA’ chant, interesting in a match between a Canadian and a fake Japanese Californian.
Yokozuna takes charge, and the pace gets pretty slow, ‘methodical’ if you’re being charitable. Hart finally manages to knock Yokozuna off his feet but takes a superkick for his troubles. The most boring hold in wrestling, the trapezius hold, returns. Hart doing the majority of the work at this point, starting to go through his classic repertoire of moves. As Yokozuna is about to slam Hart, a turnbuckle is accidentally exposed, Yokozuna hits it and ends up down for Hart to lock in a ‘Sharpshooter’. With the referee facing the wrong direction, Mr Fuji breaks the hold by throwing salt into Hart’s eyes. This puts Hart down for a three count and Yokozuna is the new champion.
A dull match that didn’t live up to the placing of main event of the biggest event of the year. But wait a second…
WrestleMania 9: Yokozuna vs Hulk Hogan – WWF Championship
Hulk Hogan runs down to the ring as soon as the pinfall is counted and Mr Fuji for some reason challenges him to a match, right then and there for the title. The crowd seem fairly happy with the idea. A salt attack from Mr Fuji backfires, he hits Yokozuna. Hogan leg drop. Hogan pin. Hogan is the Champion yet again.
It’s a hell of a downer ending to the show in retrospect, going down in legend as one of the worst Mania finishes of all time. But it’s worth saying the crowd in the venue seemed on side with it at the time.
This would be the final Mania to end with Hogan on top as he would leave the company later that same year to move in acting, before returning to wrestling with WCW in 1994 after a brief spell in Japan.
WrestleMania 9 – Overall
Whenever people talk about WrestleMania IX in retrospect, it is always placed right near the bottom of the all-time list, if not at the bottom. Is it that bad? In a word, yes.
One, maybe two, decent matches dragged down by a lot of bland stuff, one of the worst matches in event history, a silly theme that wears out its welcome, and an ending that makes everyone look stupid. Lex Luger vs Mr. Perfect being the stand out match is a damning indictment of the rest of the action given it’s not all that memorable, less a hidden gem and more a hidden pound coin. That’s probably the only thing work going back to see, unless you’re a fan of the terribly bad, in which case Gonzalez vs Undertaker, the finish to the Tag Title match and the ‘double’ main event are worth watching for the schadenfreude.