Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Road to Wrestlemania XXIII - Part 2

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Part one is here.

Road to Wrestlemania XXIII – Part 2

Wrestlemania VI, the last of the Manias called by the announce team of Gorilla and Jesse, was the first Mania to emanate from outside the US – in Toronto.

In addition to the announce remaining constant, wrestling in each of the first six Manias – Hulk Hogan. He won his second straight Legends Match, the first cage match in Mania history, beating the heel turned Dusty Rhodes. Also in each of those first 6 Manias – Tito Santana, and he went over his former tag partner Rick Maetel at VI.

The tag champs going into VI were veteran heels – Jake Roberts and Roddy Piper – but they dropped here, to the makeshift team of Rick Rude and Marty Jannetty, Marty’s 3rd tag title reign. The IC Champ was the Canadian hero, Bret Hart – in his second run with the IC belt – keeping over the now heel Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. After Bret’s win, the punky Michaels stole the Canadian flag – but was stopped from leaving with it by the returning Anvil, gone for a year and a half, and long since heel turned in two different feuds against Bret. But the Anvil scores with the Canadian fans, taking back the flag, dragging Michaels into the ring where he eats the Hart Attack from Bret and Neidhart.

The Main Event featured Randy Savage for the second straight year (after four years of Steamboat in the main event – 3 of those years being Steamboat v. Dynamite matches). The Macho Man failing in his attempt to regain the WWF Championship from Mr. Perfect – the iconic image here being Hennig tossing the WWF title belt over his shoulder to Heenan, as they walked back up the aisle following the clean win over Savage.

A year later – Wrestlemania VII from Los Angeles.

Gorilla continued here, this time with Piper as his color commentator. There were two Legends Matches at Wrestlemania VII, Hogan got his 3rd straight legends win, this time in an opening tag, teaming with Snuka (in his very first WM match) to go over Warrior and Sarge (in his first Mania match). Jake Roberts made a big to get a legends win against a newcomer who at the time had an undefeated streak.

Jake got squashed, the Undertaker getting his first Legends Win in his first Mania.

Davey Boy returned to the Wrestlemania after a 3 year absence, beating Rick Martel; Tito Santana had never been absent from a Wrestlemania, like Hogan, appearing in all 7 – he lost to Jacques Rougeau. Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels, former tag champs now sworn enemies, met in a singles match – with Jannetty getting the fall.

The tag champs – Hawk and Anvil, the Road Warriors, they made their Mania debuts and kept over Demolition. The IC Champ – still Bret Hart, defeating Genichiro Tenryu – and for the second straight year, the main event for Wrestlemania was Curt Hennig v. Randy Savage – it’s Title v. Retirement – and Savage still can’t win the strap.

Miss Elizabeth, estranged from Savage and out of the storyline since being injured by Hennig over a year previous, returns postmatch, entering the ring – and she and Randy leave together in the iconic Wrestlemania VII image – Randy, of course, is not quite done with the Wrestlemania, but this is it for Liz.

In 1992 it was Wrestlemania VIII from the Hoosierdome in Indianapolis. Gorilla, this time with Bobby by his side, worked his 8th Wrestlemania – and so did Hulk Hogan, he beat Jake Roberts in the Legends Match, his 4th straight win, tying Andre’s record. Making only his second Wrestlemania appearance was Owen Hart, he beat Shawn Michaels at the Clique v. Harts feud began to take shape. Te tag champs were DiBiase and Rotundo, Money Inc – and they remained the tag champs – defeating Tito (8 straight Manias!) and Martel, the reunited Strike Force. Santana first won the tag belts at Mania – and now it was Wrestlemania VIII and he was once again wrestling for those straps.

Despite losing the retirement match the year before, it wouldn’t be Wrestlemania without Randy Savage – he took the IC here, from Roddy Piper, in a streetfight that saw Savage using a fork, which was emblematic of Randy in this era and would become known as the WWF fork, popping up in occasional shows. And the main event featured the Wrestlemania debut of Ric Flair, the WWF Champion, with former Champ Mr. Perfect, who had been in the main event the previous two Manias, as his second – facing Bret Hart, who was in the main event 3 years previous, losing his attempt at winning the title that year…but coming through at Wrestlemania VIII – the Hit Man Bret Hart becoming WWF Champion and the first Triple Crown winner (tags, IC, Heavy) in modern WWF history (Pedro Morales was previous). The iconic image is the entire Hart Family – Davey Boy, Owen, Anvil, Stu and Helen – all the brothers and sisters and everyone we could get from Stampede – the full on Calgary portrait – flooding the ring in a show of Hart Family unity – as the Hart Foundation, as Bret Hart, wins the WWF Title at Wrestlemania VIII.

Wrestlemania IX means Vegas, baby. Toga-less, thank god.

Gorilla’s still there, all 9 Manias for Gorilla – but just for continuity, as JR takes over the lead position. It is the first ever on camera Mania for Vince McMahon – who announces that Mania will return to MSG for X.

Bob Backlund makes his first Mania appearance, winning the Legends Match against Hogan, whose streak stops at 4, and whose Mania streak stops at 9. Tito Santana also puts in his time in Vegas, losing to the debuting Luger – 9 Manias for Tito as well – hopefully, Tito, Gorilla, and Hogan took a picture together at some point that night.

The Steiners made their Mania debut at IX, they came in with the straps – they left with the straps, keeping over DiBiase/Rotundo. Returning to Mania action at IX, Mr Perfect Curt Hennig, the man who main evented at 6 and 7. This time he challenged Shawn Michaels for the IC title – and lost.

The main event – once again, it was the Hit Man, Bret keeping the title he won the year before, defeating Razor Ramon with a small package. As was the case at V, Mania ended with a full scale brawl in 1993, this time with the heels – Shawn, Razor, and a debuting Diesel, stomping out babyfaces Bret, Owen, and Savage. The enduring image is of the Clique – standing together for the first time, not just in a Mania ring – but in any ring – staking their claim to the WWF throne.

We conclude Part 2 on our Road to Wrestlemania XXIII (the build for that to come in March) with X from MSG – Gorilla Monsoon celebrates ten years on the announce for Wrestlemania, receiving a plaque at a ceremony before the show went live to PPV. Gorilla and Jim Cornette, working his first Mania, were the announce for X.

The Legends Match winner at X was Savage, going over Crush in the Texas Death Match, Randy making not just his last Mania appearance, but to this date, wrestling his last WWF match ever. Savage main evented WM 5-7. The tag champs entering ten were the second generation of the Rougeau Brothers, with the future Raven, Scott Levy, in their corner – they lost those straps at X to the makeshift team of Luger and Bigelow.

The theme for X was Brother against Brother – the advertisements for the show referring to X as having a “Double Main Event” – the first half of the main event – the IC title switching hands in the Ladder Match, with babyface Razor having split from the heel Clique, Michaels, Diesel, Waltman – and at X, he climbed the ladder and took the strap from HBK.

Owen Hart took the WWF Title from his brother Bret at X. It was Bret’s 4th main event out of the first ten, Owen was the babyface, Bret the heel – Bret’s two year title reign coming to an end. It is probably the most enduring image, the most iconic image, of the first ten years of Wrestlemanias – Owen Hart, lifted high in the air by Curt Hennig and Randy Savage in the middle of the ring, an incredible confluence of Wrestlemania past, a clear changing of the guard, Owen Hart high in the air, Hennig and Savage, both former WWF Champs, both on their way out the door, and Bret the Hit Man Hart standing alone in the aisle, his bitterness providing a frame for the moment.

2 legs down in our Road to Wrestlemania XXIII.

In March, we set it up – the main event, Hell in a Cell, only the 3rd Cell match in WWF history – Matt Hardy v. Edge.
3 World Title belts, the World title no longer undisputed, will be claimed at XXIII.
The WWF and NWA belts contested by the winners of their respective tournaments – on the WWF side, The Executioner Bobby Lashley, an undefeated monster of a wrecking machine, taking on the veteran Booker T – one of those men to become the first African-American World Champion…ever. And on the NWA side, multitime World Champion Ric Flair, in what, speculation is, may be his last ever match if he loses, taking on Fit Finlay.
And who will CM Punk take on for his ECW belt? Who? Who?
Sandman and Dreamer will defend their tags…Shane Helms defends his IC.

That’s 6 matches right there – 3 to go, the Legends Match, the Opening Tag, and, in what might be the start of a new Mania tradition, the Contract Match.

All coming soon – Wrestlemania XXIII!  The road continues.

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