by Joe Crowe
I've been writing about wrestling here and there since I first arrived on the net in 1994. I had a regular column called "On the Ropes" in MadDogJMF's Ring Report for awhile. In talking about wrestling on mailing lists, newsgroups, and in articles this entire time, one subject eventually comes up. My response to that subject is always "Don't get me started." This is because I could rant. My feelings are deep rooted and this situation made me the wrestling fan I am today.
The Honky Tonk Man.
I resist the urge right now to write "Don't get me started."
"I pick a mean guitar, I wear blue suede shoes, you ought to hear me sing the snakeskin blues."
AAARRGGH!! Now his theme song's in my head! Make it stop! I hated that guy worse than any wrestler I have reviled in my life. Not for any of the reasons you often hear. He's a stiff, his gimmick sucks, undeserved push, past his prime, the crowd dies when he wrestles. No, I hated him because he beat my favorite wrestler of all time.
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Right after Wrestlemania 3 in 1987, the HTM wrestled--I shouldn't say wrestled, because Steamboat ran circles around him--he fell on top of Steamboat, and pinned him to win the Intercontinental belt. And then went on to hold it longer than anybody else in history!
But that's all documented in the Apter magazines. What I haven't revealed is how this personally affected young Joe Crowe. I became a casual fan with my little brother in 1983, watching ever so often, mostly Continental Championship Wrestling. The rock'n wrestling thing caught my attention, because wrestling and wrestlers were everywhere. I loved Saturday Night's Main Event. Then Wrestlemania 3 rolled around. I was all wrapped up in Hogan vs. Andre, but moreso Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat was the tragic hero, constantly brutalized by Macho. Then the big news: WM3 would be on closed circuit big screen TV at Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham!
The family got tickets and there I was. I was in a wrestling crowd for the first time, and we were just watching it on TV. The place was packed. The only thing missing was live wrestling, but who cared? This was Wrestlemania! Steamboat fought Savage in one of the most intense matches I have seen to this day. Constant reversals, 2 1/2 counts, Steamboat obviously about to lose only to come back and triumph over his archfoe. He was the new champ! I almost toppled over the guy in front of me when I leaped out of my seat. Life was good.
Later that night, Jake the Snake came to the ring with Alice Cooper. Honky Tonk Man cheated, held the ropes, got the pin. Jake and Alice put Damien on Jimmy Hart, but that didn't erase the irritation I felt. I could sense that I truly did not like Honky Tonk Man. Little, oh little, did I realize the travesty he was about to commit. But life was still good. Steamboat was the man!
Then life got better. My birthday was coming up. The WWF was coming back to the Boutwell, LIVE this time--ON MY BIRTHDAY! And RICKY STEAMBOAT would defend the belt against Randy Savage! I was there. I had tickets. Then that morning, tragedy. I'm opening presents while Ricky defended the belt against the Honky Tonk Man. "Hey, Honky Tonk Man is on top of Ricky...what's...maybe the ref saw him cheat! No...WHAT KIND OF CRAP IS THAT?!" I did not use the word "crap."
Because of the great Steamboat, I was a fan of the good guys. I wanted to see them do well. They fought fair, come on. It was all Honky Tonk Man's fault. Did he mean to ruin my birthday? Did he mean to ruin my first live wrestling show? No. But he's a bad guy. He'll take the blame. It's his job.
I'm freaking out, I don't mind saying. My first live wrestling show. Rick Rude, the announcers said, was making his WWF debut there that night! He beat Cowboy Scott Casey. No Heenan, no colorful tights, no Rude Awakening. I appreciated the work of Cowboy Scott, and hoped Rick would get his comeuppance soon. Jake the Snake was supposed to fight Honky Tonk, Intercontinental thief. Then, more bad freakin' news: Jake the Snake was hurt! He couldn't wrestle!
Honky Tonk is getting off! He's got the belt and he doesn't have to wrestle! I was furious. Then Jake the Snake came out to the ring where Honky Tonk awaited. So Jake really couldn't wrestle, and he was in the building. That's not the norm. He says he has somebody to face HTM. Honky Tonk blew him off, saying he would fight anybody. That piece of crap! He stole Ricky's belt! Down the aisle came...
BRUNO SAMMARTINO??? An ANNOUNCER in wrestling trunks? I didn't know his credentials, and I didn't understand. Honky Tonk laughed at the old man. I felt sorry for Bruno. The bell rang. Then it happened.
Bruno started off with a punch. Then another one. Honky Tonk came back for more...Bruno body slammed him! The crowd began to chant "Bru-no! Bru-no!" I joined in. Bruno smashed Honky Tonk, over and over. He BEAT THE UNGODLY CRAP OUT OF HONKY TONK MAN! For 10 minutes at least, Honky Tonk had ZERO offense! Bruno whipped him like I had never before seen in a wrestling ring or anywhere else. Honky Tonk never laid a hand on him. He tried to escape, so Jake put Damian around him! IT WAS GREAT! Honky Tonk finally ran for his life and managed to escape Bruno and Jake. On my birthday, Jake and Bruno taught Honky Tonk Man a hard lesson.
I realized something about wrestling. Good guys win, but only after trying really hard. That's why they were good guys. If the bad guys didn't win on occasion it would not be any fun seeing them get whooped. That's applicable to real life. The release, that rush, of seeing your favorite standing triumphant and somebody you hate laid out on the mat is so nice. It makes you feel better. Man alive, I love pro wrestling.
I relaxed my anti-heel stance. I began to appreciate how they worked the crowd, their attitude, their interviews, even their wrestling ability. I found the NWA and likable bad guys like the Midnight Express, the Horsemen, and Ric Flair. Rick Rude came up, as did Mr. Perfect. Honky Tonk eventually lost the I-C to the Ultimate Warrior, in a stern, 30 second thrashing that I really, really enjoyed.
Wrestling was up and down, and other things happened in my life, I suppose. After awhile I realized, although I had beaten the symptoms -- I now liked heels -- I still suffered from the disease: hatred for the Honky Tonk Man. Ricky Steamboat's many triumphs, including beating Ric Flair for the NWA World Championship, dulled my rage. HTM fell off the national scene, so I didn't have to deal with him.
Then he came back. After a lame, brief stint in WCW, he showed up in the WWF again. He didn't wrestle, just commentated. No matter how loud the fans booed, he said he knew how much they wanted him to sing his song. This time I got it.
At Wrestlemania 13 he commentated during the Rocky Maivia/ Sultan match. Shameful I-C match after Steamboat/Savage of 10 years earlier. Honky jumped on Rocky's case and refused to let up! Lawler and Vince started egging him on. HTM sputtered and flew into a rage. "Cover him like a blanket, Sultan!" After the match, a beating for Rocky ensued at the hands of Iron Sheik, Bob Backlund, and Sultan. From ringside, Honky hollered "Get him! Hit him! Break his back!" Then he egged on the bad guys, screeching "Yeah! Rip his shirt off!" Highlight of the show.
Then the big test, although I didn't know it at first. Last year, the WWF came back to Birmingham for the first time in around eight years. It was a house show, and I had no idea who was wrestling. Didn't care. Honky Tonk came out and told everybody he didn't have time to sing his song. He was there for an arm wrestling match between Sunny and Marlena. Whoo-hoo! Honky Tonk put on a show. The women wouldn't lock up. Finally Honky Tonk said "You girls better do this in a hurry, I got chicks waiting on me back at the hotel." His dialogue went right over the kids' heads. Hopefully. "Pull, Sunny! Harder! Do it, Sunny!"
I laughed out loud. I enjoyed the show. At first, I thought this time HTM did not disappoint. That's when I realized. He didn't disappoint me the first time, either. Shake, rattle, and roll.
Joe Crowe is a comedian and writer based in Birmingham, Alabama, and a regular contributor to Solie's newsletter. He would like to remind everyone that Ricky Steamboat still rules.
Free-For-All - the preview show opens with a shot of the Boston skyline then cut to Dok Hendrix in the ring pumping up the crowd. He says Sunny is supposed to be there...and sure enough her music plays and she heads for the ring in a slinky aqua jersey dress. They banter for a bit. We see Michael Cole who is teasing an interview with DX later then cut to Kevin Kelly who is outside the door of Pete Rose's dressing room. He alledges that President Clinton will be watching the program from Africa and asserts that it is because of this lady...we see Gennifer Flowers then cut to a promo for the Kane/Undertaker match.
Paul Bearer is interviewed by Jerry Lawler - he vows that Kane will destroy the Undertaker tonight.
Back to the ring where Doc and Sunny continue to hype the event - talking about the Tag Team Title match tonight, the Tag Team Battle Royal and the Mixed Tag match featuring Mero/Sable vs. Goldust/Luna. Cut to Michael Cole still hanging around outside DX's dressing room. He sets up a tribute video that explains the "Road to WrestleMania" of Michaels and Austin.
This video consumes most of the rest of the Free-For-All broadcast. No free matches for this PPV...
Michael Cole finally gets the door open to DX's dressing room. HHH keeps him standing in the hall while he rants with Chyna and Tyson at his side. They cut to a video chronicalling Mike Tyson's involvement with the event.
The Godwins music starts to play then cuts off. Dok Hendrix is hyping the event in the entryway. The Headbangers show up and surround him - then they continue to the ring and we get another promo spot...
Howard Finkel introduces the DX Band to play an alternative version of the Star Spangled Banner. It is a hard rock version with a lot of screaming...
WrestleMania is on the air live from Boston, MA.
...but first lets look at another promo spot...
NOD music plays as Kama and Faarooq come to the ring - they are the first team in the Battle Royal, which will be the opening contest. They are followed by the Road Warriors accompanied by Sunny (my pick to win this title shot). Hawk and Animal are wearing new outfits including RoboCop type helmets.
The rest of the teams hit the ring on the bell. The New Midnight Express, both sets of Borequas, the Headbangers, the Godwins, a second NOD team , Kurrgan is at ringside - apparently not in the match. Chainz is Bradshaw's partner. Savio Vega is eliminated which takes out Miguel as well. Brian Christopher is in with Scott Taylor, the Rock & Roll express are eliminated early. Also Kama is knocked out which takes Faarooq out as well. The Headbangers are eliminated. The New Midnight Express is still in with LOD, the Godwins, 8-Ball and Skull.
Phineous Godwin is eliminated, which removes Henry. 8-Ball and Skull are eliminated. That leaves the New Midnight Express with LOD. Hawk is knocked out through the ropes leaving his partner to be double-teamed by ME. But he gets back in and they eliminate Bart. The Road Warriors win!!
Earlier, Barry Windham, who was not even in the match was the one who came in and eliminated Bradshaw. Kurrgan took out his former team mates Sniper and Recon early on.
Cut to clips of various events surrounding the PPV - autograph parties and tribute dinners, etc.
Taka Michinoku vs. Aguila - Light Heavyweight Title match - Aguila assumes the early advantage, the match goes to the outside and he throws a spectacular moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the floor. Back in the ring, Taka retakes the initiative, knocks his opponent to the floor and repays the compliment with a inside-to-out splash of his own. Aguila returns to the ring where Taka maintains his advantage until Aguila ducks a flying move and levers him out to the floor. Taka is back up and on the top buckle but Aguila hops up and armdrags the Champ to the mat. Taka recovers and after the next exchange mounts the corner again and throws a moonsault but misses. Aguila does not and he seems to be controlling the match at this point. Taka finally regains the initiative with a missle drop-kick then follows up with a powerbomb. His next move, another moonsault fails again. Aguila tries a splash of his own but lands on Taka's upraised knees. A Michinoku Driver wins the match for the Champ. After the match they embrace.
Gennifer Flowers interviews Rocky Maivia. He gives us his ridiculus views on such things as Poitics, the homeless and the judicial system among other completely useless topics.
HHH vs. Owen Hart - European Title match - Chyna is decked out like a barbarian warrior. Including studded breast covering. She will be cuffed to Sgt. Slaugter for this match. The King notices that Chyna has a set of handcuffs of her own hooked to her belt. Slaughter is forced to enter the ring to shackle her. She resists and gets nose-to-nose with him. He manages to slip the cuff on her and leads her from the ring before the challenger arrives. Owen downs his opponent and starts pummeling him right out of the chute. He goes right to work on the Champ - his ankle seems to be bothering him but not hindering him at all. He ends up outside the ring early on where Chyna tries to attack him but can't drag the Sarge's considerable bulk around to do it. HHH tries to drop on Owen from the apron but Owen sidesteps and sends him crashing into the railing. Back in the ring, Hunter finally gains some ground. He pounds Owen down in the corner, then kicks his injured ankle. A high knee gets HHH a two count. Helmsley continues his assault but then Owen turns the tables in the corner. They rush to the opposite corner where HHH regains the advantage. HHH starts to work on the ankle in earnest now. He applies a step-over toe hold. Owen is bleeding from a cut over his nose. Ross reveals that Owen just took his cast off today for the first time since his injury. Owen recovers again and surprises HHH by dropping out of the ring in the corner and pulling the Champs crotch into the corner post. Back in the ring he is in control once more. Now it is all Hart as Owen throws an Insuguri and almost gets the pin. Chyna is straining at the chain but so far has been helpless to lend her man a hand. Hunter blocks a Frankensteiner and executes a powerbomb. Now the match is see-sawing as the two counter each others signature moves. Chyna is threatening Slaughter on the outside, In the ring Owen gets a Sharpshooter but Chyna manages to drag herself over and pulls HHH to the ropes. Moments later she throws powder in Slaughter's and the referee's eyes then manages to deal a low blow to Owen from outside the ring. HHH gets the pedegree and takes the pin. Chyna is released and immediately assaults Slaughter and tosses him over the railing.
We now get a video review of the incidents leading up to the Mero/Sable vs. Goldust/Luna mixed tag match, coming up next.
Marc Mero/Sable vs. Luna/TAFKA Goldust - Ross reminds us that the last mixed tag match at a WrestleMania was when Dusty Rhodes teamed with his manager Saphire. Sable looks loaded for bear - she wants Luna to start but we get the men instead. After the first exchange Luna is tagged in which brings Sable in - but Luna runs from the contest and ends up tagging Goldust back in. The men clash again then Mero tags in Sable. Sable comes in and puts Goldust down with a martial arts kick!! Luna refuses the tag so we are back to the men going at it. Goldust takes the advantage until he and his opponent collide in mid-air - Mero lands on top. The exchange again and then collide again - both men are down. Finally both women get in and Sable grabs the advantage right off the bat with martial arts kicks and a beal. Luna bails from the ring then tags Goldust who rushes in to get downed again by the beautiful Sable. Mero is back in then Sabl;e distracts the ref so that Mero can get the low blow in. He hoists Goldust onto his shoulders but his opponent reverses the field and gets a DDT. The match is see-sawing and Mero is showing his flying stuff for the first time in months. He gets a top-rope Frankensteiner and almost gets the pin. Luna cheapshtots Mero but then Goldust rushes in and knocks her off the apron. Mero gets the TKO on Goldust then tags in Sable who covers Goldust until Luna throws a splash. Sable rolls away and Luna splashes her partner! Now its Luna vs. Sable and Sable is a wildcat. She ends a series of moves by catching Luna in a TKO of her own!! She gets the pin.
That was the best of the event so far.
Tennessee Lee introduces Double J accompanied by Gennifer Flowers.
Jarrett asks Flowers to confirm that he is great - she says "I've been with great...you are great, and you're pretty too." She remains in the ring to announce the next match.
Rocky Miavia (w/NOD) vs Ken Shamrock - Intercontinental Title match - Ken Shamrock comes in a house afire and knocks Maivia to the floor. He follows the Champ out and pummels him. Ross reminds us that there is a stipulation on this match that Maivia can lose the title if he is disqualified. Back in the ring, Shamrock continues his assault. The match goes to the floor again where th Rock turns things around. Back in the ring it's all Maivia until Shamrock sidesteps him and sends his opponent tumbling to the floor. The challenger brings a chair into the ring then knocks down the referee. Maivia has his own chair and the ref is out of it. Maivia brains his opponent but Shamrock is right back up. Moments later Shamrock executes the ankle lock submission hold and Maivia taps out. Shamrock is the new IC Champ!! Ken goes back to the ankle lock until Mark Henry enters the ring. The new Champ releases the hold long enough to deal with the intrusion then goes back to the hold. Faarooq appears and climbs onto the apron but then declines to interfere. A half-dozen officials pull Shamrock off and he goes berzerk - slamming several of them. He looks crazed as they cart Maivia away on a stretcher. The announcer says that the decision has been reversed. Rocky is still the Champ. Shamrock runs to the back and tosses Maivia off the stretcher then puts the boots to him on the platform. He grabs the Title belt but the refs won't let him leave with it. He drops it on the Rock's battered body before he splits.
New Age Outlaws vs. Cactus Jack/Chainsaw Charlie - Tag Team Title Dumpster match - to win this match, one team has to place both members of the opposite team into the dumpster. Charlie and Jack leave the ring to attack their opponents before they can arrive. Jack and Armstrong fight out on the floor, using the dumpster as a weapon while Billy and Funk go at it in the ring. Soon both teams are on the floor. This is a no DQ, no count-out match. Funk is the first to end up in the dumpster. The Champs doubleteam Jack but Funk escapes. Both of the good guys end up being smashed with the plastic lid of the dumpster. Funk and Jack are dumped in again but Jack pops right back out and puts the Mandible Claw on both his opponents. Both are in the dumpster but the lids are not down. The match goes back into the ring where Jack is using a cookie sheet. He fishes a ladder out from under the ring and tosses it in. He climbs the ladder while Funk steadies it. The NAO attack and Billy climbs up with Jack. The ladder is knocked over and Jack and Billy fall in. Both come out again. Funk gets powerbombed off the apron into the dumpster! The NAO drag Jack up the aisle and they all three disappear back stage. We are treated to replays of the recent action. Cut to the locker room area where Jack is being double teamed by his opponents. Backstage gear is flying all over the place. Funk shows up with a forklift. Jack loads the Champs onto a pallet and funk hoists them into the air then drops them into a backstage dumpster. he uses the forklift to lock the top down. Cactus and Charlie are the new Tag Team Champs!!
Video review of the Kane/Undertaker feud. Pete Rose is introduced by Howard Finkel to announce the next match. Rose insults the Boston crwd then says, "And now, imtroducing..." and the lights go out. Kane comes down without further ado. Rose stands his ground nervously. Kane grabs the former baseball player and Tombstones him!!!
The lights go out again. The sound of thunder is heard, the Druids appear with flaming torches and come to the ring in procession. They form an archway with their torches and the Undertaker's music plays. He appears with upraised collar and slowly makes his way to the ring.
Kane (w/Paul Bearer) vs. They Undertaker - the two combatants go eye-to-eye then the slugfest begins. They end up in the corner where UT rushes in and gets back-elbowed. They exchange blows then Kane levels UT with a clothesline. UT pops up immediately and they go at it again. Kane upends his brother and bulls him into the corner where he pummels him. Now it is all Kane as he displays tremendous power. Bearer is taunting UT at ringside as Kane continues his assault. Kane throws a pretty impressive flying move off the top rope as he continues to dominate the action. The match goes out to the floor and UT continues to be brutalized. Kane drops the ringsteps on his opponent twice! Back in the ring, Kane menaces the ref while Paul Bearer kicks UT out on the floor. UT climbs to the apron and is suplexed into the ring. The Undertaker seems to be coming back when Kane chokeslams him then pulls him up before the pin. He slaps on a reverse chinlock. UT is sinking into a prone position. Bearer is screaming for Kane to hold him down. UT struggles to his knees. He punches Kane's mid-section until he is released but Kane comes back and downs him again. Back to the reverse chinlock. UT struggles to his knees again then dumps Kane over the top rope as he gains his feet. Kane never leaves his feet, they struggle on the apron and UT throws a suicide dive but is side stepped and driven onto the foreign broadcasters' table. Back in the ring Kane does his best UT impression by throwing a flying clothesline off the top rope. Kane continues his assault but now UT is coming back. They trade blows then UT gets Kane into position for a Tombstone. Kane upsets the balance point and reverses the hold. He piledrives his brother but can't get the pin. Now UT has his second wind and Kane is starting to flag. UT gets a chokeslam. He then signals the end and gets the tombstone...but Kane kicks out! UT drops a leg on him then gets a second Tombstone. Kane kicks out again!! He climbs the buckle and downs Kane with the flying clothesline. A third Tombstone finally puts him away. Paul Bearer shoves the referee down then starts kicking UT. He goes back to Kane and gets blindsided by UT. Kane is up again and uses a chair on UT. He Tombstones the Undertaker onto the chair! Then the bad guys split. UT sits up in the ring after they leave but he is reeling. He sits on the apron a moment before departing the arena.
Shawn Michaels (w/DX) vs Stone Cold Steve Austin - WWF Title match - Mike Tyson is the Special Enforcer at ringside - Tyson enters first. I really can't imagine what his role will be since he will clearly be a biased official (unless he turns on DX - always a poosibility...) Marvin Hagler is shown at ringside. The challenger is introduced, Steve Austin strides to the ring. The crowd goes wild each time he climbs a corner. He gets nose-to-nose with Tyson who stands his ground. The confrontation is broken off and we see DX getting ready for their entrance. The DX Band revs up and we get the DX theme live as Michaels and his cohoorts make their entrance. Before the match begins Tyson is already trying to grab Austin's leg. Michaels avoids the first lock up and throws a left hand. He then does it a second time. He then runs out of the ring and leads Austin basck inside where Austin finally gets his hands on him. Michaels is almost pantsed then is backdropped onto Helmsley. Outside HHH gets involved and ends up being ordered away from ringside. Now Tyson is on his own out there. The fight goes to the floor where Austin attacks the departing HHH on the bandstand. Michaels then blindsides the challenger. Moments later he flings Austin into the side of the dumpster which is still sitting there from the Tag Match earlier. They battle back to the ring where Austin takes over. He grabs a knuckle-lock ad yanks on the Champs arm. The match see-sawa but Austin is still controlling things. Michaels is tossed onto the broadcast table breaking a monitor. Back in the ring Austin definitely has the upper hand. So far Tyson hasn't made a move. Stone Cold grabs a reverse chinlock.
Michaels escapes with a jaw breaker and the battle goes on. The Champ pulls the challenger t the corner and tries to pull him into the ringpost but gets pulled in himself. They brawl all over the ringside area. Tyson is staying out of the way. Back in the ring, Michaels sits on Austin's chest and pummels him. Then he stands him up in the corner and hits him some more. Back on the mat and puching some more. Michaels is holding his back as he flings Austin into the corner. The Champ pauses to acknowledge the crowd and gets speared by his opponent. He recovers quickly and drags Austin over to the corner where he works on his previously injured (months ago) knee. Now its all Michaels - he continues to assault the bad knee. Austin is having trouble standing. He is still in it but can't regain the initiative. Austin rolls out to the floor where Tyson stands by and does nothing. Michaels dives onto Austin then returns to the ring. Tyson finally does someting - he rolls Austin rather clumsily back into the ring. Michaels slaps on a figure four. He is using the ropes for leverage. Then Austin succeeds in turning the move over. Michaels gets to the ropes.
Stone Cold comes alive again and the fight is back on. Now Austin is dominating but just barely. They finally both go down. The ref is also down. Michaels is up first and goes to the top for an elbow drop. He sets up for the sweet chin music but Austin avoids it and then applies the Stunner. Mike Tyson runs in and makes the count! Steve Austin is the new WWF Champion!!!
Austin gives Tyson an Austin 3:16 t-shirt - was this a set-up? Michaels recovers and starts bad-mouthing Tyson - who lays him out with a short right to the jaw! He raises Austin's hand again. They leave the ring together.
An outstanding show I have to admit. Kane surprised me with his performance and Michaels and Austin put on a great match.
At least that's the way I see it...
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