One of the best things about tapping into wrestling history is that there’s so much of it. For better or for worse, the legacy of today is shaped in the past; whether it be a long time ago or much more recent. Every day we’re finding and sharing new stories across our Facebook and Twitter account, so to keep fully up to date make sure you’re checking those out. But some stories require a little more, so each week we’re going to bring to you a few either important or our favourite moments in time and delve a little deeper.
January 18th 1998 – Kane Puts The Undertaker Down
This was the first match of its kind for eighteen months (eighth overall) after a spell of four within the space of a year. Creative in 1995 was basically just a big red button that said caskets as far as The Undertaker was concerned. Speaking of repetition, the last time the WWF title was defended in such a way, it involved a big ol’ gang of lads coming out to try and help the champion retain. Replace Yokozuna with Shawn Michaels and we have the exact same match again, with the minor saving grace being at least these guys (Kane & DX as opposed to the hoard of fellas that came after Taker in 1994) are actually storyline wise connected. It is funny how Undertaker’s career is book ended with this seemingly endless run of gimmick matches though. At first they were to protect the character – make him not seem weak while still keeping him away from the title – whereas at the end it was all about protecting his body after years at the top had taken their toll. All this was of course to set up the very first – but not last – meeting between The Brothers of Destruction at Wrestlemania.
January 24th 1999 – Mankind Gets The Chair
If you’ve ever wondered where our wrestling podcast gets its name (click here to listen to it in all it’s glory), there is an old wrestling documentary called Beyond The Mat. Among other things, this film highlighted the brutality of what was already one of the most infamous matches of all time. Mick Foley is no stranger to taking a bump or two in order to add to the drama – but this wasn’t about a solitary spot. The story they were telling within the “I Quit” stipulation was one of increasing desperation on Rock’s part as he kept going to greater and greater lengths to put away his opponent, who simply would not quit. Unfortunately this led to a sequence whereby Mankind took nearly a dozen unprotected chairshots to the head as he was handcuffed. Considering what we know now regarding health implications of one of these, it’s safe to say that both men went a little too far in putting this one together. The aforementioned documentary makes this match even harder to watch, focusing in on Foley’s family who were watching at ringside.
January 20th 2014 – Big Dave’s Big Return
2014 was a big year for Batista. It’s hard to believe now but there was a time when the Guardians of The Galaxy was seen as something of a risk from Marvel, one that might not even come off. The same could have been said of Big Dave, having left the WWE to pursue an acting career. That particular part of the MCU went on to become among it’s most popular franchises and part of the reason for that is Batista himself. That being said, it wasn’t all plain sailing. A scheduled return to the company he made his name ahead of a surprise announcement in him being involved in the Royal Rumble started a chain of events that very nearly span out of control. A purported WrestleMania main event of Batista VS Randy Orton could have worked in different circumstances but that wasn’t the story that fans wanted forced down on them at that time. As a result, crowds turned on the former Evolution stable member and it wasn’t until the group reformed and would take on The Shield post Mania that Batista could embrace the heel he’d wanted to come back as all along.
January 19th 1998 – Tyson Adds To The Attitude
There’s no doubt the part Steve Austin played in the Attitude Era and subsequent boom in wrestling – more specifically the WWF – that dominated pop-culture. The wrestling part of that coronation would come at Wrestlemania 14 but in terms of his rise in star power, that was in no small part due to the intrigue that came with “Iron” Mike Tyson. Having been banned from all forms of boxing the summer prior for an incident that ended with Evander Holyfield missing part of an ear – and no they were not having Texas Death Matches like Mick Foley – the draw of Tyson was too much for Vince to resist. The so called “Baddest Man On The Planet” standing next to the “Toughest SOB in the world” did as much for hype as it does for generic stereotypes. The subsequent brawl between the two and continued build up for Austin’s match with Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania that saw Tyson aligning with DX gave the kind of edge to the main event from a casual stand point that Austin would carry with him long after, putting gasoline to the fire that was late 90s WWF television and fuelling the most watched and beloved period of wrestling to date.
January 19th 1992 – A Flair For The Gold
It didn’t work out for Ric Flair in the WWF first time around. Most of it revolves around what could have been. Unfulfilled potential, quite literally in the case of the matches and moments we didn’t get over the ones we did. That being said, the 1992 Royal Rumble – or moreso the legendary post match promo – WWF viewers got to see “The Nature Boy”. Passion is one of the first words that spring to mind when you think about Ric Flair, both in and out of the ring. His love for the wrestling business or his intense drive to be “The Man” are both fused into this electric celebratory pronouncement. There is also definitely something to be said for a guy who was more associated with WCW really putting over the WWF Title as the biggest prize in the industry.
Flanked by bonafide Hall of Famers all around him and yet somehow Flair still shines brightest. Jack Tunney, Bobby Heenan, Curt Hennig and Mean Gene all collectively play their part in what plays out like one of the great sporting achievements of all time. This is the kind of post game interview every athlete wishes he could give
Tunney epitomises that old school look and feel, shaking Flair’s hand before he passes on the belt along with his congratulations. It’s not quite a passing of the torch moment but looking back now there is a generational feel to it. Along with Flair to celebrate are Bobby Heenan and Mr Perfect Curt Hennig, who you get a real sense of genuine warmth and enjoyment at the victory. As everyone around him talks, Flair stares wild-eyed into the camera before delivering one more burst of trademark frantic energy in the direction of the locker room. We didn’t see the best of Ric Flair overall during this time but on this night, in that match and then after, we saw exactly what he was all about.