March 24, 1991
Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA
Tagline: “Super-Stars and Stripes Forever!”
Runtime: 3 hours, 30 minutes
TH: And we’re back with a new WrestleMania to kick off 2021! I gotta admit, WrestleMania VI was a really solid show, start to finish, with some compelling matches from Jake the Snake, Ted DiBiase, Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and others. The context for WrestleMania VII, especially the main event, is important. In the fall of 1990, an international coalition, including the United States, moved troops into Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, intended to deter Iraq from further hostilities against Kuwait (and, of course, to protect U.S. oil interests in the region.) In early 1991, Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm, which included five weeks of aerial bombardment followed by a mere 100 hours of ground combat and the decisive defeat of Iraqi forces. WWF, always with its finger on the pulse of American nationalism and jingoism, quickly brought the Gulf War angle into its storylines. Sgt. Slaughter returned from the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in late 1990, claiming that he had turned his back on America and was now an Iraqi sympathizer. Wearing an Iraqi army uniform and managed by General Adnan, he set fire to an American flag as part of his victory celebration at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Hulk Hogan, real American that he is, of course took issue with Sgt. Slaughter’s actions and vowed to take the belt back, FOR AMERICA. So here we are, a mere month after the end of military action in the Gulf, and America is still flying high on the smell of its own patriotic farts. (Of course the fact that his daddy’s troops failed to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 1991 would lead the second, dumber George Bush to an invasion of Iraq under false pretenses in 2003 and untold thousands of deaths.) There’s lots of flags, even more than usual, at this WrestleMania, and Faux Hogan, aka Hacksaw Jim Duggan, shows up in an Uncle Sam outfit with a star-spangled 2×4 (Hoooo!) to help with announcing duties. He looks so proud, I bet he wrote his name on that 2×4 himself (with the help of staff at his adult daycare, of course.)
As usual, we get a musical superstar, this time Willie Nelson, to sing “America the Beautiful” to kick things off. Willie is wearing quite the ensemble — a Hogan bandana with Bret Hart shades on top, a WrestleMania VII t-shirt over another long-sleeved black shirt, and a championship belt. (Sidebar: I contend that Willie Nelson is our greatest living jazz singer. There’s no one who can match his super cool, just behind the beat phrasing. Don’t believe me? Listen to his 2008 collaboration with Wynton Marsalis, Two Men with the Blues.) Most of the usual announcing crew — Mean Gene, Howard Finkel, Gorilla Monsoon — are back, with the notable absence of Jesse “The Body” Ventura, who was released by the WWF in late 1990 after a dispute with the company over the use of his image in a video game. How will we get through our first WrestleMania without Jesse’s heel commentary? Let’s get to it and find out!
RS: I like to refer to this as “Gulf War: The Pay-Per-View.” Gorilla Monsoon even refers to it as the “Stars and Stripes WrestleMania.” Wait, why aren’t they outside at the LA Coliseum?
TH: Well, the (kayfabe) reason is that Sgt. Slaughter had received so many death threats from his Gulf War angle that they moved it to a new location for security. The more likely reason is that ticket sales had been soft, and they couldn’t convincingly fill the Coliseum’s 78,000+ seat capacity. Oops!
Koko B. Ware vs. The Brooklyn Brawler (dark match)
TH: For the second time, a WrestleMania begins with a dark match that is not included in the WWE Network’s version of the show. If you can find it online, drop us a note! I’m sorry that we don’t get to see Frankie the Macaw in this installment. 😦
The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) vs. The Barbarian and Haku, with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
TH: I like the tradition of the wrestlers coming out in their finest for WrestleMania, so I’m happy to see the Rockers, Bobby Heenan, Haku, and Barbarian all dolled up for the opening match. Heenan is in a sparkly black tux, Haku in cool karate gear, Barbarian in furs and a horned helmet (yass!), and The Rockers in neon green and tassels, so many tassels. Haku and Shawn Michaels start things off, both looking good and quick on their feet. The Barbarian and Marty Jannetty slow it down a bit and Marty gets beat up for a good long time. Trying to get his groove back, Marty does a cool move sliding into the ring under the bottom rope between Barbarian’s legs. It doesn’t last long, because he catches a huge bodyslam from Barbarian, then a vicious clothesline that Marty sells like a champ. Barbarian catches Marty diving off the ropes and turns it into a power slam, before missing the falling headbutt off the top rope, which finally allows the hot tag to Shawn, who goes to work on Haku and hits a nice flying elbow. The LA crowd screams like maniacs for every spot in this match. They are pumped!! Now the Rockers are both up on opposing corners of the ring — Marty hits Haku with a dropkick from one side, then Shawn lands the flying cross-body for the pin and the win. Nice, clean face win and a fast-moving match to get us started!
RS: Shawn gets some mic time in the promo, normally it’s all Jannetty. At the Royal Rumble of this year, there was a brief spot between the Barbarian and Hogan that was pretty interesting. It’s too bad that never went forward. I agree with Tim that I like seeing everyone in their Sunday Best, so to speak. Shawn is looking a little thick — this might be the most built I’ve seen him. Haku is also looking a bit more muscular as well. The two teams are really trading some inventive spots with each other, with a dropkick powered Frankensteiner and a running clothesline slam into the top rope. Haku shows off his strength with a double backbreaker on Jannetty. I second Tim’s observation that the crowd is hot, hot, hot! But, when they’re on the hard camera, the ringside crowd seems pretty tame. There has to be all the kids from LA Public Schools up in the cheap seats making all the noise. Jannetty gets off an artful hot tag to Shawn who takes Haku to poundtown. Shawn gets some amazing height on that cross body! It’s about time they give The Rockers a WrestleMania win!
TH: Mean Gene interviews our celebrity guests for tonight — guest commentator Regis Philbin, guest timekeeper Marla Maples, and guest ring announcer Alex Trebek. RIP three out of four of this crew.
RS: With so many of these wrestlers being dead and now the guest stars too, would you say there’s a WrestleMania Curse? “Regis, you’re beautiful” – Mean Gene Okerlund
The Texas Tornado (Kerry Von Erich) vs. Dino Bravo, with Jimmy Hart
RS: Dino Bravo looks like someone chewed him up and spat him out into the ring. He looks like death. I‘ve seen the Texas Tornado at the previous pay per views leading to this ‘Mania and this is the first time I remember them referring to him as Kerry Von Erich as well as the Tornado. When I was young, I thought the Tornado was just the Ultimate Warrior without the make-up. Dino’s clubbing back punches look tired and uninspired. It’s followed by an ugly “flying” chop from the second rope by Bravo. Texas Tornado then lands his spinning punch to put this match (and Dino) out of its misery.
TH: Hacksaw Jim Duggan helped out with announcing duties for the first match while Heenan was in the ring, but now Heenan is on the announcing table with Gorilla Monsoon for most of the evening. Jesus, Dino looks terrible here. He seems to have put on 50 pounds (only some of it muscle) and 10 years since WrestleMania VI. This is the sixth WrestleMania we’ve seen him in, and he seems to be reaching the end of his tenure. The Texas Tornado, Kerry Von Erich, by contrast, looks like a Hollywood superstar and an Olympic athlete wrapped up in one very tanned package. He’s downright beautiful. Dino clotheslines Von Erich out of the ring before he can get out of his robe, but after that he’s super slow and doesn’t look at all like his usual self. Our second clean face win by pin for the evening! Kerry will be back for WrestleMania VIII, but the story of the Von Erichs, including Kerry and four of his six brothers, is one of the most tragic in a business that is full of tragedies. RIP, Texas Tornado.
The British Bulldog vs. The Warlord, with Slick
TH: We last saw The Warlord teamed up with Barbarian, as The Powers of Pain, in WrestleMania V, so when I first saw him here I thought the Barbarian was back for his second match of the evening. He appears to be from the future now, as indicated by his half-Destro mask, weird plastic armor, and metal “W” on a stick. “This is the future liberals want,” or something. According to his pre-match interview with Sean Mooney, his specialty is the full nelson, which we all know has been so entertaining in previous WrestleManias. </s>
On the other side of the ring, British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith is back for the first time since WrestleMania IV, and for his first solo appearance in a WrestleMania. This is “new look” Davey Boy, bigger than ever, with the braids and Union Jack cape and wristbands. My favorite, Matilda the Bulldog, is back, too! She looks gorgeous and chonky but doesn’t like Davey getting in her face in the pre-match interview with Mean Gene. “This is a match of pure power,” says Monsoon. Yep, and it better be quick, too, since it doesn’t look like either of these guys has seen a treadmill in a while. These dudes are absolute beasts — I can’t believe Warlord is actually bigger than Davey. He absorbs multiple shoulder blocks before Davey takes him off his feet. Warlord takes a moment to consult with Slick — maybe he’ll try a more finesse approach? Or maybe not. Back in the ring there’s some back and forth, including a surprising (but failed) crucifix from Davey, three big elbow drops in a row from Warlord, and a bearhug. (Sidebar: Who knew bears loved hugs so much? Makes me feel bad for being scared of them all these years.) After dropping Davey’s neck on the top rope, Warlord flips him to apply the chin lock from behind for roughly 90 minutes. This is taking forever. Davey is hulking up, but neither man is trying particularly hard to sell this as convincing and I’m bored. He eventually breaks the hold with some elbows, a head butt, and a 10-count ramming of Warlord’s head into the turnbuckle. Another reversal and Warlord slaps on the full nelson but can’t get his fingers locked over Davey’s ham hock neck. Davey scoops up Warlord and hits his running power slam, a move we loved in previous appearances by him, for the finish. What a power move, very little cardio required! I’m looking forward to seeing more of Davey Boy in future WrestleManias; Warlord, on the other hand, can get in his time machine and head on back to 2050.
RS: If they ever made a mash-up of Terminator and Phantom of the Opera, the Warlord is ready. He has all this Spaceballs-esque armor on and his finisher is a full nelson. How exciting. Yawn. I’m also in whenever there’s a pup involved and you can always rely on Davey Boy Smith to bring the dogs to the house. The Warlord is such a snooze; he’s so stiff. British Bulldog was blessed to be so muscular but also fast and agile. He’s running circles off the ropes on the Warlord. It’s interesting that when we started these WrestleManias, dropping your opponent’s throat on to the top rope was a match-ending maneuver. Now, they’re barely a two-count. But, I will say for a meathead vs. meathead match, this one is pretty good, probably because Bulldog can do more than just be strong. Ooooh! I know who Warlord reminds me of! Soda Popinski from Nintendo Punch-Out! Bulldog picks up Warlord and not only delivers a running slam, he walks around the ring with him. Total brute strength that is just so impressive.
The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags), with Jimmy Hart vs. The Hart Foundation (Bret “Hitman” Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart), WWF Tag Team Championship match
RS: Bret gets some real mic time in this promo, just like Shawn did in our first match. Normally, it’s almost all Anvil. I like Jimmy Hart donning a helmet to escort the Nasty Boys to the ring. God, I love when they show the fans ringside with signs printed out on the dot matrix printers with continuous feed paper. Also, where can I get one of those pink leather skull cap things The Anvil wears? I’ve been watching too much WCW-era Nasty Boys, as they look 100 lbs lighter each here. Like, they look like wrestlers. Bret throws such good punches. I know I’m a mark for him, but damn, he is the Excellence of Execution. While this match on the whole was very good, there’s some very slapstick-y moments from the Nasty Boys that repulsed me a bit.
TH: The Nasty Boys, making their WrestleMania debut, cut their promo with Jimmy Hart and Mean Gene. They’re nasty, apparently. And they’re after the Hart Foundation’s tag team title belts. I have to say that they have a great look — I love their Stone Cold mullets and graffitied leather jackets. They look like they just crawled out of a dumpster for this match. The Harts cut an amazing promo, too — Anvil is a goddamn maniac and I am here for it. The Harts’ entrance gets a huge pop, and they are rocking Sgt. Pepper-style jackets with shoulder tassels and pink leather flaps. Oh snap, Macaulay Culkin at ringside! I hope he has adult supervision. Gorilla says: “He doesn’t want to be home alone with the Nasty Boys, I’ll tell you that!” Hehehe, good one, Gino! It’s interesting that Jimmy Hart is managing against his old tag team here, so we’ll see how that plays out. Jerry Sags, who’s much leaner than I remember, starts off against the Hitman. Bret gives Sags a crotch stomp, and the crowd loves it even though it’s a heel move. Now Knobbs wants a piece of Anvil so Hitman tags him in — be careful what you wish for! After some brawling in the corner, Anvil blocks him out of the ring like he just had a flashback to his NFL days. Sags goes for the back body drop and Anvil yanks his head back and into the mat — hot damn, that’s a great spot! It’s interesting how the camera angles have gotten more sophisticated as we’ve progressed through the WrestleManias — here we’re shooting up at Bret as he climbs on the turnbuckle to punch Sags in the head. There’s some solid back and forth action, then Sags gets Bret in a reverse chinlock. Bret twice almost manages to power up and out before being thrown to the mat again, then both Nasty Boys beat up on Bret pretty good while he tries to drag himself up by the ropes. Whew, tough neckbreaker by Sags, then yet another chinlock (number four if you’re counting.) Bret’s chin has to be getting tired by now. After crawling on his elbows, Bret finally gets a tag but the ref, distracted by Knobbs, doesn’t see it. Bad luck! Uh oh, Jimmy Hart throws his megaphone to Knobbs, but Hitman ducks and he brains Sags instead. Womp womp. Anvil does some house cleaning, showing off his strength, and the Nasty Boys collide, knocking each other silly. The Harts hit their finisher and Anvil goes for the pin, but the ref turns to get Hitman out of the ring and misses it. Jimmy tries the megaphone toss again and Knobbs connects this time, then rolls on top of Anvil just in time for the ref to turn around for the pin. Wow, tough (dirty) heel win and a great match! Jimmy Hart is making out with the tag belt and I am deeply uncomfortable.
Speaking of the “Mouth of the South,” his presence here reminds me to heartily recommend Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin’. Jimmy Hart (along with Jerry “The King” Lawler of course) is all over this documentary about the glory days of wrestling in Memphis. There’s some incredible footage and stories of 50s, 60s, and 70s performers from the city that’s worth your time.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Rick Martel, blindfold match
RS: Everyone knows a man has five senses, but a snake has six. Fuck yes. Also, Jake’s entrance music is auditory Viagra. The Model has his own entrance music, if you remember from last time, but he’s just in the ring waiting like a jobber. This is fun, both of them with bags on their head. Jake uses his finger and crowd noise to find where Rick is hiding. What a brilliant use of babyface energy. Jake is truly a genius. These two are doing a suspenseful and dramatic match without even really touching each other. It’s the anti-spot match. It’s majestic. The crowd ringside is really buying that these guys can’t see. Big DDT! He finds him for the pin! Jake truly has a sixth sense! What a fantastic match.
TH: First there’s a recap of the Jake-Martel feud, including the key moment on Brother Love’s show when Martel sprayed Jake in the eye with his perfume (Arrogance, if you recall from WrestleMania VI! Bet it smells like Axe Body Spray.) Oh, I remember this angle, especially the part when a “blinded” Jake got ambushed and his sunglasses fell off to reveal a “damaged” eye! I remember being worried that Jake was permanently blinded, though now of course I can clearly see it’s a white contact lens. He cuts one of his psychological, whispery promos about man’s five senses vs. the snake’s six [zoology citation needed]. The crowd goes nuts for Jake, who looks mad and tough as hell in his black tights with a green snake outline and snakeskin wrestling boots. Those have to be custom-made. Martel is back with his Model gimmick, still being billed from Cocoa Beach, FL. I hope he still gets sad, all these years later, about betraying national treasure Tito Santana. So the gimmick for this match is that both men are wearing blindfolds, I guess because Jake was blind for like a week one time and so fair is fair? It’s a little unclear. Does anyone believe these guys can’t see through the hoods? I’m not convinced. I was skeptical of this gimmick, but almost immediately the audience begins helping Jake play “hot & cold,” cueing him toward his opponent with their cheers. It’s legitimately entertaining to watch the wrestlers attempt standard moves, like a whip to the ropes and back body drop, and just miss because neither of them can see. Oh now they’re gonna back into each other like Scooby and Shaggy! Now Jake, guided by his snake’s sixth sense [zoology citation needed] is honing in, guiding himself along the rope before he gets bumped out of the ring. Martel goes after him with a chair, and there’s a funny spot with him smacking the chair into the ring post. Back in the ring, Martel bodyslams Jake and goes for the Boston Crab, which fails, then, quick as a rattlesnake strike, there’s the DDT! Jake, master of building suspense, crawls around the ring a bit to find Martel for the pin. And he got him! Jake smiles and clearly says, “fuck” when the ref takes his hood off. Maybe they couldn’t see after all, or maybe it was just hot under there. Jake destroys the Axe Body Spray atomizer and wraps Damien the python around Martel’s neck, which The Model doesn’t like at all. There’s a terrific shot of Jake with Damien around his neck on the apron, triumphant.
Poor Marla Maples is on locker room reporting duty, so she has to witness the Nasty Boys, Jimmy Hart, Dino Bravo, Earthquake, and The Mountie, all yelling incoherently and pouring champagne over each other’s heads. Thoughts and prayers, MM.
The Undertaker, with Paul Bearer vs. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
RS: If you think I am marking hard for Bret Hart, you have no clue how I am with the Undertaker. He’s a legend. He’s the best. He’s my favorite. I’ve been jonesing to get to WrestleMania VII and see the Undertaker. In prep, I’ve watched the 1990 Survivor Series and 1991 Royal Rumble. ‘Taker has greatly improved his ring presence in just that short time. He’s deliberate, he’s minimalist, and he’s destructive. He has no wasted movements. As for the gimmick, the kids were pretty scared of him, but now that he’s with Paul Bearer, the package is complete and the crowd goes quiet when he enters. Paul Bearer joined him in February, right before ‘Mania VII. Fun fact – Paul Bearer is really a licensed mortician! The urn was surplus from his funeral home. Jimmy Snuka does a great job of making Undertaker look menacing and cold hearted. He sells everything. He even helps Undertaker recover from the botched spot for the finish, where ‘Taker just couldn’t quite rotate Snuka into the Tombstone after catching him from a cross-body. The Streak begins, 1-0.
TH: I knew Rich would be hyped for this one. I’m impressed by how fully formed his gimmick is from the very beginning — the funeral bell entrance music, Paul Bearer hamming it up with the urn, his black cravat, jacket, and hat. Honestly, it’s still pretty creepy, all these years removed. There’s some great reaction shots of a few kids in the audience who look freaked out. Oof, bowl cut on that kid — sorry, little man. (Also I forgot how red Undertaker’s hair used to be!) Superfly Snuka is not quite as ripped as in WrestleMania VI but still looks amazing for 48. The two start off with a staredown; I’m not sure how Jimmy didn’t pee in his loincloth. Undertaker, slow and methodical, brings the big shots and chokes and a super awkward flying clothesline. On the announcers’ table, Monsoon is trying to talk Heenan into adding ‘Taker to his stable. Seems like that would be an easy draft decision. Paul Bearer mugs for the camera like nobody else — whose ashes are in his urn, anyway? There’s a HUGE suplex of Jimmy from the apron and into the ring. Undertaker misses with an elbow drop while Jimmy’s shots on ‘Taker seem ineffectual. He attempts a slingshot off the rope but ‘Taker catches him easily and manhandles him into the tombstone piledriver for the easy win. A total domination by the Undertaker for his first of many WrestleMania wins, plus he scares the crap out of the kiddos for good measure.
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage, with Queen Sherri, retirement match
TH: This one has the feel of a co-main event, with two absolute superstars at their peak. (Well, maybe a little past it in the case of Randy Savage.) There’s the recap of Macho interfering in a match between Ultimate Warrior and Virgil, and Warrior gets his “Oh hell noooo” moment with Sherri. At the 1991 Royal Rumble, Sherri interferes and Randy ambushes the Warrior during his match with Sgt. Slaughter, and bashes him with the spotlight. Later in the same match, Randy brains Warrior with his scepter so Slaughter can get the pin. Cue Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood!”
Now down to the ring and a big reveal — Miss Elizabeth is in the crowd for this match! Hmm, I wonder if she will get involved in this match somehow? Macho and Sherri are carried to the ring on thrones by some jobbers who look like they’re struggling a bit. Macho still gets a good pop from the crowd though he’s obviously the heel, which he demonstrates by ordering his “queen” around in the ring. He’s got an amazing white outfit with a cowboy hat, arm tassels, the whole nine. Queen Sherri looks great in silver sequins and facepaint. There’s an even bigger pop for Warrior’s rock music, though he takes a while to come through the curtain, long enough that I thought maybe someone had to go get him from the bathroom. (Sniff) He looks huge and has quite the outfit — the world’s most superfluous shoulder pads, covered with dayglo tassels (that audience members keep grabbing,) pink boots, airbrushed portraits of himself and Macho on his coat and knee pads. Posing in their corners for the crowd, Warrior is the clear favorite.
When the action starts, we get the usual power moves from Warrior — a shoulder block, holding Savage up for a choke, an atomic drop that he holds forever. Warrior lands a good shot to Randy’s middle, and Gorilla misses a perfect opportunity to say “bread basket.” Warrior easily catches Macho off the top rope and sets him down on his feet so he can slap him. LOL. A frustrated Macho goes looking for a chair early, but ref Earl Hebner disposes of it while Sherri keeps up a steady stream of abuse from outside, like a Karen asking to see the manager. Warrior gets launched over the ring post to the floor, where he’s clocked by Sherri and Macho hits him with the ax handle off the top rope. Oh man, Sherri is beating his ass — Karens Gone Wild! Back in the ring, Macho slaps on a sleeper hold and Sherri is losing her mind, climbing halfway into the ring and giving us a, um, rear view. Where is that store manager, she wants to know. While the ref is knocked out, Sherri takes off her shoe and dives from the top rope, knocking out Macho by accident. Warrior gets distracted and almost pinned, then dumped onto the rope on his neck twice. What was Rich just saying about that? Macho’s going for his finisher, the flying elbow from the top rope… and he gets it! He’s gotta pin, right? Nope, he’s headed back up for another. And another. And another. And another. Five (FIVE!) flying elbows in a row (though the last one was a little sloppy.)
Gorilla assures us, “No one’s gonna be able to get up from this kind of punishment!” Wrong, Geno — Warrior kicks out. Finishers don’t matter! Even five finishers in a row, apparently. Macho is in shock, as are we all. Reenergized by being struck with five flying elbows in a row, which have the same caffeine content as a Red Bull matcha espresso, Warrior hulks up, dances around, and drops Macho with three clotheslines. He signals for the overhead press slam, gets it and the follow up splash, but Randy kicks out! Good gawd, finishers really don’t matter! Warrior looks to the heavens (or maybe the lighting guys), asking “What do I do?” “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Randy knocks him to the floor outside the ring — these fans in the front row are getting quite a show. Randy goes for the hammer from the top rope and hits the steel barricade chest-first. Warrior mouths: “Now I know!” He’s received a sign from above, his prayers are answered, and he pulls Macho Man back into the ring for a flying clothesline/tackle. Monsoon tells us the Warrior is “still talking to his hands, but now getting a different message.” I’m so glad we have Gorilla here to interpret the divine guidance from Warrior’s hands. A second flying shoulder knocks Randy out of the ring again, then a third time, and Warrior gets a somewhat disrespectful pin by putting his foot on Randy. Ouch. Like the main event from WrestleMania VI, I had reservations going into this match, but was pleasantly surprised. There’s a lot of drama, the match is 20 minutes long (main event territory) but action-packed and compelling the whole way. Sherri does a lot of pestering but doesn’t overdo it and doesn’t keep the action from moving along.
RS: Supposedly this is the WWF’s first career vs. career match. Really, though, the star of this match is Sherri. Sure, the guys are doing great work, but Sherri is taking bumps, distracting the ref, pushing her ass in the camera. She’s screaming louder than the audience on major bumps in-ring. Even later in WCW and managing Harlem Heat, she’s screaming like that, helping sell the ring action. She’s a true superstar. In the pre-match recap, they show her begging Warrior on her knees to fight Savage. At the moment where they cut, she’s seducing Warrior; after rubbing his chest and back and playing with his hair, she kneels. You can hear every post-pubescent male at the Royal Rumble get an erection. It feels like she’s going to blow him with Mean Gene and 20,000 other people watching.
Anyway, in non-Sherri action, the guys are working without breaks. Even with the amazing action, and the show-stealing match, the crowd keeps chanting for Hogan. I am really growing fond of The Ultimate Warrior. He’s Hogan but more exciting.
TH: Whew, I’m kinda exhausted from watching that one, but the drama’s still going. Sherri’s actually an amazing actress, and I’m happy to have her here for her fourth WrestleMania appearance in a row. She’s yelling at Randy, and attacking him while he’s down. I see an Elizabeth appearance on the way, and here it comes! Man, she looks great in her sparkly pants and starred sweater. She tosses Sherri out of the ring and attempts to comfort Macho, who throws off her touch, not knowing it’s her. He turns around with a fist raised, then looks to the crowd for an explanation, who are yelling their heads off. She’s never stopped loving him! (They’d been married IRL since 1984, would get (kayfabe) married at Summer Slam later in 1991, and divorced in 1992.) We get a huge hug between the two, and a tremendous pop from the crowd, who’s loving it. I guess the Macho Man is a face once again. Macho holds Elizabeth on his shoulders while we got shots of women absolutely losing it in the crowd. They probably haven’t cried like this since Steel Magnolias, maybe even since Beaches. Elizabeth holds the ropes for Randy to exit like she used to do, but he waves her off and holds the ropes for her. Chivalry’s not dead, but every performer involved in this match is.
RS: The only thing that could make this match even more dramatic would be if someone got some color, or if someone literally came back from the dead. Don’t worry though, Warrior says Savage can keep fighting until his contract is up. Later in the year, Macho will move to the announcers table. This match ends with amazing storytelling, Macho somehow becoming a babyface again thanks to Elizabeth.
TH: It feels like an intermission might be coming up here. I think we all need a break from this emotional rollercoaster. Monsoon tells us the event has set a record for the largest pay per view audience in the history of pay per view. Heenan interviews Monsoon, Regis talks to Undertaker, and Trebek hangs with Smash and Crush of Demolition, along with Master (formerly Mister) Fuji. There’s an awkward, mildly racist, interview with Regis and the Japanese wrestlers for the next match in which Regis resorts to saying Japanese car names when it’s clear they don’t speak much English.
RS: A classic Undertaker promo. No talking, just measuring Regis for his coffin. Everything else? Bleh.
Genichiro Tenryu and Koji Kitao vs. Demolition (Crush and Smash), with Mr. Fuji
TH: Speaking of those Japanese wrestlers, here’s our filler match for intermission. There’s a lot of empty seats down front and, with the exception of a few Japanese fans who get close-ups, nobody seems particularly into it. Mr. Fuji is back with Demolition, so I guess they’re heels again. Kitao (Heenan: “What’s his name, hand towel?”) is a former sumo grand champion who was actually ejected from the sport under some controversy, mostly for being a pain in the ass as far as I can tell. Per Wikipedia, Tenryu left All Japan Pro Wrestling to form Super World of Sports, which featured wrestlers who would compete with performers from other promotions. WrestleMania VII is one of the few events they did with the WWF throughout 1990-1991, though Tenryu participated in the 1993 and 1994 Royal Rumbles. Heenan drops some perfunctory racist comments (“I smell Kikkoman,”) Kitao knocks Crush off the turnbuckle, and Tenryu picks up Smash for a power bomb and the pin. Clean face win but nobody seems to care too much. I miss Ax.
RS: I think this match is part of the AJPW exchange program. They had also been working with WCW and NWA at this point. Some time in the future, near the end of Hogan’s WWF run, Hogan goes to Japan to fight The Great Muta. Earthquake also had a match in Japan with Kitao, in which the Japanese wrestler refused to sell ‘Quake’s moves until the two almost got into an actual fight in the ring. Stop distracting me. Anyway, Demolition has a different theme and I think Monsoon gets the members wrong — it’s Smash and Crush, Ax ain’t there. Heenan refers to Kitao as “one big fortune cookie.” Kitao and Tenryu look great though, and work over Demolition pretty good.
Big Boss Man vs. Mr. Perfect, with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, WWF Intercontinental Championship match
TH: Ah yes, the return of everyone’s favorite symbol of our racist criminal justice system, the Big Boss Man. He seems to have lost the weird shoulder stars from his uniform, but the traitor’s flag patch is still on his arm. In his promo with Mean Gene he tells us Mr. Perfect has hurt his mama’s feelings and drops some terrible criminal justice puns, wrapping up with “Crime does not pay!” He’s really sweaty again. Mr. Perfect looks amazing, as usual, this time in a light blue singlet. He and Heenan cut their promo with Sean Mooney and, I swear to God, are talking about Rodney King, the LA motorist who was brutally beaten by LAPD officers just three weeks prior to this event. (King was assaulted on March 3, 1991, and the video of the incident was released to KTLA four days later.) I *think* Heenan is implying that the footage of the beating that Boss Man is about to get is going to be his own personal Rodney King tape, which seems beyond the realm of bad taste, even for Bobby the Brain. But just in case that’s not enough for you, Perfect contends that in this match “you will not find Mr. Perfect on his back giving the Big Boss Man 56 free swipes at me.” (To refresh your memory, LAPD wailed on King 56 or 57 times with their nightsticks.) WTAF. All of that aside, Boss Man appearing as face in LA, three weeks after one of the most famous incidents of police brutality of all time, seems like incredibly poor timing. Nevertheless, there’s a big ovation for Big Boss Man (henceforth “BBM” in the interest of efficiency.) Bobby has to go manage again, so Lord Alfred Hayes joins Gorilla on announcing duties, our first sighting of him since WrestleMania V — welcome back, Lord Hayes!
We start off super-classy: Boss Man wipes his ass with a towel and throws it at Perfect; Perfect spits his gum at BBM; BBM spits in Perfect’s face. Perfect slaps him and high tails it outside the ring, where BBM gets in a slap that flips Perfect over, ass over tea cups. Back in the ring, BBM swings Perfect by his hair. Yikes! There’s an audible “Weasel” chant from the crowd for Heenan, LOL. Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) sells like a million bucks. He flips upside down when whipped to the corner, Ric Flair style. He gets BBM in a stretch submission hold and Heenan tries to get the timekeeper to ring the bell to end the match. That’s not how any of this works! Perfect looks so great in the ring, he is quite the technician. He lands a beauty of a standing dropkick, but goes up top too early and jumps into a big boot. Boss Man pulls Mr. Perfect by the legs into the crotch shot on the ring post. That’s the second crotch shot by a face in this WrestleMania, for those of you keeping track of home. (Note to Rich: Do we need a “CrotchTracker” API for this blog? Related note: What is an API, exactly and how do we make one? Never mind.) Outside of the ring now, BBM gets distracted by Heenan and Perfect tosses him face-first into the steps. Now Heenan is kicking BBM but the crowd is going crazy, and it’s Andre the Giant in a Hawaiian shirt coming to the rescue! Andre is moving slowly and limping badly, but there’s a nice chant for him from the crowd. He takes the Intercontinental belt and begins chasing Heenan around the ring very, very slowly. Perfect leans over the rope to yell at Andre and catches a ham fist to the head. Boss Man and Mr. Perfect are both prone in the ring, but BBM manages to wake up enough for the pin. Heenan stable members Haku and Barbarian break up the pin and earn a disqualification for Perfect, who retains the belt. BBM and Andre take it to Heenan and his goons after the DQ. Out in the aisle, BBM raises Andre’s hands, just two big guys forming a mutual admiration society. I can’t tell what he’s saying, but it’s clear Andre is complimenting Boss Man, who clearly responds with “You’re the man.” So I guess we count this as a clean(ish) face(?) win, but no transfer of the belt. WWF, you are a land of paradoxes.
RS: The Big Sweat Man has definitely swapped his Georgia flag uniform to go full Confederate. Heenan and Perfect imply that they will beat Big Sweat like he’s Rodney King. Clearly, they know their audience is white. During Perfect’s entrance, we see a 1991 time capsule kid: Hogan bandana and foam finger, Dick Tracy t-shirt. Pretty sure I had that shirt. After those promos and Big Sweat’s sleeve, I can only dream that both men get hurt and Koko B. Ware comes out and claims the title. Mr. Perfect is so good at throwing his body around. What a great surprise entrance during this match with Andre the Giant showing up to chase off Heenan, but what a disappointing and frustrating ending. Seems as if, at the time, fans only cared about who won or lost, not the how. What about the how!?
TH: JFC, Mean Gene is interviewing traitorous shitbird Donald Trump at ringside. WTF is he doing here, this isn’t Atlantic City or a Klan rally. “Unbelievable day, it’s a fantastic job,” he mumbles, in his usual brain damaged monotone. Fortunately we’ve got some other celebrities at ringside — Chuck Norris says he’s been watching since the Gorgeous George days, Lou Ferrigno says his kids are having a great time, and oh man it’s Henry Winkler!
RS: Posers all of them, except for The Fonz. I’ve met him, but he didn’t lick my face like the Bushwhackers did. I guess it’s easier to comp tickets for celebs and convince them to use them when they don’t need to travel to be there. Trump is probably there because around this time, Los Angeles used eminent domain to offer him $48 million to cede property to the LA school board. Also, please tell me Marla and Donald first met at WrestleMania.
Earthquake, with Jimmy Hart vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine
RS: Squash match. Onward. FIll the time.
TH: Come on, Rich, it’s one of my favorites, Greg the Hammer! He’s appeared at seven of seven WrestleManias so far, in rare company with national treasure Tito Santana, Andre the Giant, Bobby Heenan, and, of course, Hulk Hogan. Somehow I don’t think it’s gonna go well for him, though, because Earthquake is on a big heel roll here. He lifts up Hammer and walks around with him like a sack of flour, then power slams him and nearly gets the pin. It’s interesting to watch guys try to “kick out” from under Earthquake, as he doesn’t really go anywhere. Earthquake goes for a premature back body drop and Hammer nails him with an elbow to the top of the head, multiple shots and clotheslines, then finally drops him with an elbow off the second turnbuckle, Bret Hart style. Earthquake drops like a tree and Hammer does a headbutt to the crotch (CrotchTracker!) then goes for the figure four leglock but can’t quite get it on ‘Quake’s elephant legs. During a second figure four attempt, Hammer gets distracted by Jimmy Hart and Earthquake pulls him down, drops a huge elbow and follows with his finisher, the sitdown splash. Gorilla: “It’s history.” Add another sternum to the list of those destroyed by Earthquake. Fun fact: This sitdown splash led directly to the 6.7 magnitude Northridge quake of 1994 [seismology citation needed].
The Legion of Doom (Animal & Hawk) vs. Power and Glory (Hercules & Paul Roma), with Slick
RS: Fuck Hercules. And he did get fucked. Onward.
TH: Agreed. This is his third gimmick in like five WrestleManias. Who are the Hercules fans out there clamoring for him? Maybe he just worked cheap. I don’t know. After the Powers of Pain, Warlord and Barbarian solo matches, and three members of Demolition, it’s finally time for our first sighting of the original Legion of Doom (formerly known as WCW mainstays The Road Warriors.) They make such quick work of Power & Glory that I didn’t get a chance to finish checking the spelling of their real names before the match was over, so I had to rewind it. Hercules and Paul Roma are wearing matching t-shirts but Herc still has his chains. Legion of Doom looks pretty awesome with their face paint and spiked red shoulder pads. I have to admit they had a great gimmick. Herc and Roma (I’m not calling them Power & Glory) attack before the bell. Hawk gets double teamed but comes back with a big double clothesline. Roma and Animal go at it inside the ring while Herc and Hawk wail on each other outside. Animal catches Roma coming off the ropes and power slams him, then picks him up on his shoulders for the Doomsday Device, maybe the best tag team finishing move of all time. Ahhh, what a rush!
Virgil, with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. Ted “Million Dollar Man” DiBiase
RS: As a kid, the feud between Virgil and Million Dollar Man was everything. So, they play Piper in, but have no theme music for Virgil? Harsh. Virgil is basically doing a Roddy Piper fighting impersonation with the faux boxing. You don’t need me to go on about DiBiase being a Ric Fair clone. There’s our count out. Though no double count out at this ‘Mania, we still had to have at least one countout. The WWF is all about the rules.
TH: Virgil and Ted DiBiase’s feud has been building for a long time, through many humiliations while Virgil was serving as DiBiase’s valet. There’s some long recaps of their hostilities and how Roddy Piper got mixed up in it all, perhaps to atone for his blackface at WrestleMania VI and his general racist buffoonery going back to WrestleMania I. Virgil comes out looking tough to a big pop from the crowd who want to see Million Dollar Man (MDM) get his just desserts. Ringside, Piper tries a complicated handshake with Virgil. Yep, definitely not racist anymore. If he had a hat he’d turn it backwards. I’m just glad nobody asked Piper to comment on Rodney King. Anyway, let’s get to the action. DiBiase starts out wanting to box, which is a bad idea. Dang, this crowd is hyped up. As lit as this place is for these mid-card matches, I think the top might blow for the main event. MDM sells so well, pounding the mat with his hands when he’s frustrated. MDM is chopping Virgil against the barricades in front of DJT, who’s loving it. I have to assume that’s because MDM is beating on a Black man. I bet he and Piper would actually have a lot to talk about, if they had time. Ted gets a great scoop slam, and there’s a cool spot where Piper pulls the top rope down with his crutch so that Ted flips over it. MDM attacks Piper outside the ring, but takes too long getting back in and gets counted out!
After the bell, Piper tries to take the crutch to Ted, but Sherri (she’s back!) attacks from behind and she and Ted go to work on Piper’s “injured” knee, even stripping off the knee brace to get a cleaner shot at it. (I’m starting to think there may not have been a motorcycle accident.) Virgil finally manages to get the crutch and chase Sherri and Ted away. Having lost her primary source of income from the Macho King, Sherri is clearly moving on to Ted, who’s worth at least a million dollars. (It’s right there in his name.) Or maybe she was so inspired by the earlier romantic display between Randy and Elizabeth that she is in the mood for a, um, Million Dollar Dream. Either way, once they’re gone Virgil and Piper have a nice moment of friendship. Piper should be the new face of United Colors of Benetton (kids, ask your parents) for his commitment to racial diversity.
TH: Main event promo time! Sgt. Slaughter and General Adnan do their interview with Mean Gene. Sarge looks spittle-flecked and unhinged, in a black beret and Iraqi uniform. I’m not used to seeing him without his sunglasses. He should probably keep those on. Apparently he doesn’t like Hulk Hogan (“the ultimate slime”) or Hogan’s fans (“Pukamaniacs.”) He hints that he might even get himself counted out or disqualified during the match so Hulk can’t recapture the belt! Not cool, Sarge.
The Mountie, with Jimmy Hart vs. Tito Santana
TH: Jacques Rougeau, now solo (brother and tag team partner Raymond retired from wrestling in 1989-1990 due to injuries) is here with his new gimmick as The Mountie. National treasure Tito Santana is back and gets a big pop from the LA crowd. He looks amazing, as always. He, Greg the Hammer, and Jake the Snake are definitely favorites of these early shows for me. Heenan does his best to imitate Jesse Venture, slipping in some racist commentary: “I’m surprised he’s here. It’s only 150 miles to the border.” I’m not sure what that means, exactly. Why would Tito go over the border, especially when he’s got a big WrestleMania match? Anyway, there’s what looks like a blown spot with Tito trying a cross body while the Mountie thought he was supposed to jump over him. Tito knocks the Mountie and Jimmy’s heads together outside the ring and nails his opponent with a big atomic drop. Unfortunately, while the ref is distracted Jimmy helps the Mountie nail Tito with the cattle prod, and the Mountie gets the win. Booo! Dirty heel win and a perfunctory penultimate match to kill some time while we get ready for the main event.
RS: Man, they keep doing Tito dirty, but I guess that’s how you make a face? Definitely a blown spot and lots of sloppiness. Tito may be hurt? Either way another gap filler. This one really drags down the overall rating.
Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter, with General Adnan, WWF World Heavyweight Championship match
TH: Aaand here it comes! There’s the recap of the Slaughter-Hogan feud, a typical Hogan promo (though this time he works some lines from the National Anthem into it), and the introduction of our celebrity guests, Alex Trebek, Marla Maples, and Regis Philbin.
RS: I never want to be a victim of “twilight’s last creaming.” Especially from Hulk Hogan.
TH: Lol, I went to a boxing event one time where the singer forgot the words and, swear to God, she sang “valiantly screaming.” I still laugh about it. Trebek introduces the challenger as “the immortal Hulk Hogan,” and he comes out waving a big flag and wearing a starred bandana, his “Real American” theme music more on-brand than ever. Marla rings the bell for us, and the crowd immediately starts a U-S-A chant while Hogan chases Slaughter around the ring. To recap, Desert Storm had started two months prior to this event, in mid-January 1991, but was over by the end of February, so the audience here is rooting for a storyline that’s already irrelevant. Monsoon describes Hogan as a “Patriot Missile ready to explode at any moment!” I believe that’s a war reference and a penis reference in one line. There’s some fun banter between Heenan and Regis, with Bobby trying to get Regis to attend a victory party for Sgt. Slaughter. Regis: “I’m busy Tuesday night.”
Hogan is focused here, going for 10-count punches and pushing the ref out of the way so he can continue to hammer on Slaughter. He bodyslams Sarge, drops two elbows on him, then goes to the top rope. What?! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him do that, and he is making me nervous. Slaughter catches Hogan up there and slams him to the canvas. Now the tide is turning and Sarge takes over, even wrapping a cable around Hogan’s neck. (It’d be a riot if he accidentally cut the PPV feed.) Slaughter goes for the pin but General Adnan is distracting the ref. He almost got him! Slaughter can’t believe it. He grabs a chair and gives Hogan a pretty good shot to the noggin, giving Hogan some color for the first time since his steel cage match with Bundy in WrestleMania 2. (Regis: “That’s terrible.”) Hebner does the slowest count I’ve ever seen, and Hogan kicks out. Slaughter applies the Camel Clutch, and Hogan’s bleeding like crazy but he’s not tapping out. This is for America! A few more Camel Clutch and aborted “hulking up” attempts, then Slaughter covers Hogan with an Iraqi flag before going for the pin. Hulkster kicks out, shakes his head, and tears the flag in half, ‘Murica! Slaughter’s in trouble — Hogan no-sells his shots and gives him the finger shake! It’s all over, patriots. Three big right hands, a big boot, a big leg drop, the cover and the three count! The crowd is going insane. Cover and pin! Even Heenan is impressed: “He did it for the World Wrestling Foundation and the United States of America.” (Didn’t I tell you?)
RS: So, this match is a waste. Besides the story line that clearly indicates Hogan is going to kick Slaughter’s ass because ‘Murica, these two aren’t compatible. What makes Hogan work is him fighting a physical monster — Andre or Bundy — or someone who matches up with him well — Macho Man or Ultimate Warrior. He’s not a psychological face a la Jake the Snake and doesn’t match up well against psychological heels. Slaughter definitely hit the gym some between this and when he beat The Ultimate Warrior for the belt, but they’re still a mismatch. This should not be a title fight. Slaughter is nothing but a repackaged Iron Sheik here, but he’s just nowhere near as good or compelling as a heel or a performer. (Mad respect, Iron Sheik!) His character here was so offensive that, at the Royal Rumble earlier in 1991, Monsoon had to read a disclaimer about how Slaughter does not represent the WWF’s opinions of Iraq or of Arab people. (At this point, Slaughter is also an actual GI Joe and not on the side of Cobra.) Hogan gets some color but this isn’t the match for that. The crowd is in an inexplicable frenzy over this boring match. I will say that, as a kid, I was truly traumatized by Slaughter flashing fire in the eye of Hogan on Primetime. I thought Hogan and Jake the Snake were both really blind! Hogan drops the boot and it’s over and people lose their friggin’ minds. This is the first time Hogan doesn’t pull any heel stuff or anything and I don’t like it.
TH: Hogan puts the belt on and calls for the American flag. He should be calling for a towel to mop up his own blood. Oh, someone tossed him a flag and he wiped his blood on it. I’m reasonably certain that this violates the U.S. Flag Code. Monsoon declares, “The war is now officially over.” 30 days late, but sure. What’s next, you ask? Why, it’s time for an extended posing session, the music, and goodnight from WrestleMania VII!
TH: Randy “Macho Man” Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior. This match had everything. High flying, power moves, heel manager, drama, and romance. The return of Miss Elizabeth was great, and both men got to show off their best moves. I can’t believe I’m picking two Ultimate Warrior matches in a row as “best of the night,” but here we are.
RS: I agree, Macho v Warrior steals this show by far. It was nonstop action. I may be a convert to whatever sky spirit Warrior started to talk to during that match.
RS: The Mountie vs. Tito Santana. I hate to say that because we both love Tito, but this match was sloppy on behalf of the Mountie. Then it has a dirty finish to cover that. Blah.
TH: Ax-less Demolition vs. Tenryu & Kitao. Pure filler match, with no lead-up, no stakes, no drama. Who are the Japanese faces, and why are we rooting for them? The back stories of Kitao and Tenryu are more interesting than anything that happens in this (thankfully) brief match. Dishonorable mention goes to yet another appearance of treasonous ass boil DJT.
Oh Sh!t Moment
TH: In a match full of them, my ultimate “Oh Sh!t” Moment is Randy Savage going to the top rope for his fifth flying elbow in a row on Ultimate Warrior. What a maniac!
RS: I legit freaked when I saw Andre come out.
TH: I’m giving this one a 4.5, and revising my rating for WrestleMania VI to 4.5 as well. I think both of these last two events are more consistent than WrestleMania III, which had the huge emotional main event (and Hogan’s slam of Andre) but was also pretty uneven and had some dead spots. The Gulf War stuff for VII is an interesting time capsule, as are the regrettable Rodney King references and the perplexing facedom of the Big Boss Man. We have a decent main event but a really stellar mid-card match that’s almost a co-main event, a really strong Intercontinental Championship match, a Tag Team Championship title change, and more, including the first WrestleMania appearance for the Undertaker. Plus my perennial favorites Greg the Hammer, Jake the Snake, and Tito Santana!
RS: I’d give it 4 out of 5. The show peaked at intermission which is a shame. Macho vs. Warrior should have been the main event and for the belt. But at least we got The Undertaker, Jake the Snake and The Model doing an amazing job. I would argue that with Slaughter’s offensive storylines and the rise of gimmicks, we are on the cusp of the Attitude Era already. I think people have forgotten how edgy WWF was starting in the late 80’s. I mean, everyone says Stone Cold giving the impromptu Austin 3:16 promo is the turning point, but the WWF had been pushing the limits way before that. They are being bold and probably even crossed the line with Slaughter and Adnan. Interestingly, Slaughter still hadn’t dropped the Iraqi angle even by Summer Slam of 1991. But, this event starts a stunning 30 year run of my man, The Undertaker and that boosts it big time with me!
Andre the Giant
Animal (Legion of Doom)
Big Boss Man
“Lord” Alfred Hayes
Hawk (Legion of Doom)
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
“Queen” Sherri Martel
Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
“Mean” Gene Okerlund
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Randy “Macho Man” Savage
British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Texas Tornado (Kerry Von Erich)
10 thoughts on “WrestleMania VII”