Thursday, March 26, 2015

From The Musty Yellowed Pages--WrestleMania XI Program

Here we are once again, just days before the annual tradition known as WrestleMania. This year, we're all anxious to see the in-ring WWE/WrestleMania debut of Sting, The Undertaker's first WrestleMania match that will not be part of "The Streak," and just exactly how the WWE will handle a title picture that some fans aren't happy about. You can read my predictions on WrestleMania 31 (or "Play Button") on my other blog here, but for now we're going back twenty years to 1995. It must be long ago, as the champion going in and coming out of that WrestleMania is going into the Hall of Fame this year. Yes, the WWF was running on "Diesel Power."

The WrestleMania XI program is the first one to be over-sized. It was also not sold on newsstands. Technically the program from the year before was not either, although a variation of what was offered did show up. Since it wasn't sold outside of that weekend's events, it's the first of the WrestleMania programs that has seen a rise in demand. A complete version will include a poster stapled in the center. For the record, the poster is just a larger version of the logo/cover design.

Upon opening the program, we are treated to celebrities before we see any actual WWF Superstars. Nick Turturro, Salt-N-Pepa, Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, and Jenny McCarthy all appear. Even twenty years ago, I was very underwhelmed by this grouping. Though I may have raised an eyebrow or two at McCarthy, it wasn't until a few years later that she was singled out on my radar. Regardless, this was a fairly relevant cast of characters for the era, even if I was personally unimpressed.

The biggest celebrity of the evening appears on the next pages with the WWF Championship match. She was, of course, Pamela Anderson. The winner of the 1995 Royal Rumble won the WrestleMania title shot and Pam's accompaniment. I'd have preferred to see Dick Murdoch and Pam together, but we don't always get what we want. Like the celebrities, this main event was a product of the times. The show was "New Generation" through and through.

The last match of the show is next in the program, and certainly garnered the WWF a ton of mainstream attention at a time when the company was failing in that regard. The grudge match between Bam Bam Bigelow and football legend Lawrence Taylor was standard at best, but the angle itself was well-crafted and, as mentioned, gained the company the press that it wanted...then, now, and forever. The poster was placed right here, blocking out Nikolai Volkoff, Steve McMichael, or any of the other teammates of the participants that you might want to see.

Next we have the championship matches for the Intercontinental and Tag Team titles, respectively, with Razor Ramon battling Jeff Jarrett for the former. The tag team champions, The Smoking Gunns, put their titles on the line against Owen Hart and a mystery partner. Just as it was in the television build, the silhouette of Owen's partner is obviously not who it turned out to be, the mighty Yokozuna. Between my love for Yoko and Owen and not caring too much for the Gunns, I do believe that this was the most memorable moment of the night for me.

Our last two pages finish up the event with three more matches. Mr. Bob Backlund battled Bret Hart in an "I, Quit" match, The Undertaker faced King Kong Bundy, and The Allied Powers (Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith) went up against Jacob and Eli Blu. King Kong Bundy receiving another WrestleMania match eight years after his last was yet another highlight for me, a kid always fascinated by monster heels. On the other foot, Luger's final WrestleMania match is as lackluster as his first two. Dutch Mantell makes his WrestleMania debut here managing the Blu twins as Uncle Zebekiah. He would return to the big show eighteen years later as Zeb Colter.

WrestleMania XI is a favorite of very few fans and, aside from Bigelow-Taylor, the event largely plays out like an "In Your House" event, which were first announced at this show. While some events and moments from this era still hold up or contain special memories for fans (SummerSlam 1995 is a personal favorite as I was there), it is easily one of the weakest times in all of wrestling history. The glorious "bright" WWF era of the late '80s and early '90s was trying to mesh with the "edginess" of the rest of pop culture. It didn't work.

In any event, grab yourself a copy of this years program and enjoy WrestleMania XXXI!

No comments: