This week Throwback Thursday digs into the archives of the WWE Network to help get you ready for Sunday’s WrestleMania XXXIV by celebrating the 26th anniversary of a true WrestleMania classic: WrestleMania VIII!
By April of 1992 the wave the World Wrestling Federation had been riding for so long was about to crash. One scandal after the next involving sex and drugs were beginning to take their toll. Shortly after this event the WWF’s business would all but collapse and stars like Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, and Sid Justice would all be gone from the WWF while the industry writ large faced a long, dark, uncertain future.
Though the selling-point of WrestleMania VIII was the “farewell” match of Hulk Hogan, the event is best remembered for the Hogan/Flair “dream match” that never was. Beyond Hogan’s departure from the Federation the lukewarm reception the Hogan/Flair house show matches of the fall of ’91 received, particularity non-televised rematches, soured Vince McMahon on the “dream match” idea. Though fans never got their “dream match” on this night the resulting ““double main event” card produced a number of gems that made fans all but forget the showdown they never saw. Well, at least for one night.
But how well does WrestleMania VIII hold up after all these years? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
While edits are not an issue here, context is. All prior editions of Saturday Night’s Main Event and all prior PPVs are up on the Network but none of the weekly syndicated TV (Superstars and Wrestling Challenge) is available as of this writing. Though a Davey Boy Smith/Berzerker match was promoted it was, thanks to time constraints, cut at the last minute.
WWF WrestleMania VIII (WATCH)
Date: April 5, 1992 – Location: Hoosier Dome, Indianapolis, Indiana
Attendance: 62,167 – PPV Buyrate: 2.3 (>355,000 homes)
Commentators: Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Sean Mooney, & Bobby Heenan
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WWF World Heavyweight Champion: Ric Flair
WWF Intercontinental Champion: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
WWF World Tag Team Champions: Money, Inc. (“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & Irwin R. Schyster)
A brief vignette highlighting the big “double main event” opens the show while inside the Hoosier Dome (razed in September 2008) Gorilla Monsoon welcomes us to the show and attempts to run down the big matches on the card while Bobby Heenan is looking up for the long-promised Elizabeth centerfold.
In the ring Country music superstar Reba McEntire (“Arriba” to Heenan) performs the Star-Spangled Banner to a massive ovation.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 3:36)
“El Matador” Tito Santana vs. Shawn Michaels w/Sensational Sherri
This is a classic, old school opener. Santana dominates the early portion of the match before it becomes a back-and-forth affair. In the end Tito hits the El Paso del Muerte but Michaels rolls to the floor. HBK, holding the top rope, blocks a Tito bodyslam attempt and ends up atop Santana for the pin at 10:38.
WINNER is Shawn Michaels w/Sensational Sherri (Pin, 10:38)
Next “Mean” Gene, in the arena, brings out the returning Legion of Doom for an interview (they had been out for two months following Hawk’s failed drug test). This marked the WWF debut of the “bad apple” Paul Ellering who says that “revenge” has brought them back together. Animal and Hawk shout about getting even with Jimmy Hart and Ellering running the “”runaway train”. “When my boys are good they’re very good,” Ellering says, “and when my boys are bad they are very bad!”
Backstage Sean Mooney interviews Jake Roberts about Jake’s forthcoming match with Undertaker. Jake says WWF President Jack Tunney won’t allow him to bring the snake to the ring before we see footage from the February 29, 1992 edition of Superstars of Robert’s attack on Undertaker and Paul Bearer during the “Funeral Parlor”. When the time comes, Jake says, he’ll “hook the head and I will drive him through the mat. I will put the final nail in your own coffin. Trust me…”
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 25:01)
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer
This match almost never happened. After a promise to take Pat Patterson’s spot on the creative team fell through, as Jake tells it, Roberts negotiated and all but signed a hefty deal with World Championship Wrestling to both wrestle and join WCW’s booking committee. In turn, Roberts refused to work WrestleMania VIII until Jake was given his WWF release. This underrated match is Undertaker’s first great “Streak” match that features a decent story and psychology. In the end Roberts blasts Undertaker with two DDTs before going after Bearer on the outside. Undertaker sits up and (in a touch changed on the fly by Jake) tombstones Roberts on the floor before rolling Jake in the ring for the pin at 6:42 to improve to 2—0 at WrestleMania.
WINNER is The Undertaker w/Paul Bearer (Pin, 6:42)
Backstage “Mean” Gene interviews both Bret Hart and Intercontinental Champion Roddy Piper about their forthcoming title bout. Piper starts off talking about how much he loves the Hart family while gently jabbing Hart. The tone changes when Piper reaches to pinch Bret’s cheek and the two nearly come to blows.
— WWF Intercontinental Championship (WATCH – 37:18)
Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper(c)
This would be Piper’s last match for over two years and mark the end of Piper’s full-time career with the WWF. The synchronicity between Hart and Piper, talked about by both men, resulted in a rare NWA-esque masterpiece. Late in the bout Piper sends a bloody Bret into the referee and goes for the ring bell, preparing to attack Hart with it. The fans slowly change Piper’s heart, however, and Piper cinches in the sleeper hold instead. As the referee begins to stir Bret kicks off the ropes and, rolling backwards, traps Piper’s shoulders to the mat as the referee counts Piper out at 13:51 to give Bret Hart his second and final Intercontinental title and ending Piper’s lone Intercontinental title reign at 77-days. After the match a dejected Piper helps Hart to his feet and straps the belt around Bret’s waist before the two embrace mid-ring and leave together to the roar of the Hoosier Dome.
WINNER and NEW WWF Intercontinental Champion, Bret “Hitman” Hart (Pin, 13:51)
Next we get a pre-taped “interview” where Bobby Heenan, via “satellite”, talks with Lex Luger about joining the World Bodybuilding Federation. Taped ahead of time with Heenan simply talking over the built-in dead air, this thing is a train wreck.
Next we get dueling, rapid-fire Saturday Night’s Main Event-like promos from The Mountie, Repo Man, and The Nasty Boys first and Sgt. Slaughter, Big Boss Man, Virgil, and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan next regarding the forthcoming 8-man tag team match.
In the arena then-Family Feud host the late Ray Combs does the survey shtick to poke at the heels. Combs jabs Mountie and Repo Man but it’s the jokes about the Nasty Boys (“Two men sharing one brain”) that gets Combs run from the ring.
— “8-Man Tag Team Match” (WATCH – 1:00:16)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Ray Combs
The Mountie, The Repo Man, & The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags) w/Jimmy Hart vs. Sgt. Slaughter, The Big Boss Man, Virgil, & “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
Though the heels have a few moments here and there the match is all about the babyfaces and not very good as even Monsoon and Heenan look for better things to talk about. In the end it breaks down to a brawl before Sags blasts Knobbs with Virgil’s nose protector by mistake allowing Virgil to score the pin at 6:32.
WINNERS are Sgt. Slaughter, The Big Boss Man, Virgil, & “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan (Pin, 6:32)
Backstage Sean Mooney interviews Mr. Perfect and WWF World Champion Ric Flair about the forthcoming WWF title match against Randy Savage. Both men are reviewing the “prize photo” of Elizabeth they plan to show the world before Flair tells Savage to keep his eyes peeled for the photo and warning Elizabeth that she has “only last shot, baby, at Space Mountain!”
Meanwhile “Mean” Gene is outside Savage’s locker room where, Okerlund says, Savage is refusing all interviews before speculating what Savage must be thinking about.
— WWF World Heavyweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:11:57)
“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair(c) w/Mr. Perfect
This was the first one-on-one meeting between these two in the WWF, there were no one-on-one house show warm-ups and no matches on TV beforehand and a slim few afterwards. The match stands as one of the greatest WWF Championship matches in WrestleMania history, a match in which Flair’s blatant blade job earned the “Nature Boy” a hefty fine. Perfect’s interference saves Flair time and again and, after Perfect hits Savage in the left knee with a steel chair, brings out Elizabeth (with a young Shane McMahon in tow as a “WWF Official”). Flair batters Savage’s knee and taunts Elizabeth as he does it (“It’s for you, baby! Woo!“) when out of nowhere Savage blocks a Flair right hand and school boys the “Nature Boy” to score the pin at 18:03, with a handful of tights, to win his second and final WWF World Heavyweight title. This marked the end of Flair’s first (of an eventual two) WWF World title reigns at 77-days.
WINNER and NEW WWF World Heavyweight Champion, “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Pin, 18:03)
After the match Flair corners Elizabeth. “What about me?!” Flair shouts before forcibly kissing Elizabeth who snaps and attacks Flair. Savage jumps the former Champion but Flair and Perfect get the upper hand as officials try to break it up. With the ring cleared Savage’s music plays and Elizabeth and Savage celebrate in the ring.
Backstage Sean Mooney interviews Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect when Heenan shows up, shouting about Savage holding Flair’s tights. Flair challenges Savage to “do it again”, that ““one time means nothin’ to my career!” while Perfect says that Savage, like Liz, is “gonna be damaged goods!” We see a replay of the finish as Flair tells Savage he’s going to get his revenge. “And every time I see your old lady I’m gonna kiss her on those moist, wet lips. WOO!”
Next “Mean” Gene interviews the new WWF Champion Randy Savage and Elizabeth. Savage says the trunks don’t matter, that’s it’s only “a piece of what I wanted from you, Ric Flair!” and that Flair hasn’t “been beat up properly”. Okerlund tries to ask Elizabeth about vindication but Savage gives her the title and tells her to leave before shouting about Flair having all of Savage the next time around.
Up next we see a vignette highlighting the Hogan/Sid feud before returning to the arena where members of the Lumbee tribe, Tatanka’s native tribe from North Carolina, dance in the ring.
Backstage Sean Mooney interviews “The Model” Rick Martel about his forthcoming match against Tatanka. Martel says he’s going to have to disinfect the ring with Arrogance and says there may not even be a match “because I heard that Tatanka is still out there scalping tickets!”
— Singles Match (WATCH – 1:49:55)
“The Model” Rick Martel vs. Tatanka
Nothing like good old fashioned WrestleMania filler! Martel dominates much of this one until Tatanka hits a running high crossbody for the pin at 4:32.
WINNER is Tatanka (Pin, 4:32)
Backstage Sean Mooney interviews the WWF Tag Team Champions Money, Inc. about their forthcoming title defense against the Natural Disasters. In another SNME-inspired segment DiBiase talks of not writing checks the Natural Disasters can’t cash and I.R.S. talks about Natural Disasters being taken while “Mean” Gene interviews the Natural Disasters who are both focused on revenge against Jimmy Hart.
— WWF World Tag Team Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:58:28)
The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon) vs. Money, Inc. (“Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase & “I.R.S.” Irwin R. Schyster) w/Jimmy Hart
Heenan trashing a fan holding up six one dollar bills is priceless. Money, Inc. had recently won the Tag titles from the L.O.D. at a house show in Denver on February 7, 1992 after Hawk’s failed test. This is a fast-paced, physical battle all about speed against power. Money, Inc. dominates the latter portion of this match until Earthquake gets the hot tag and looks to be on the verge of winning the gold when Money, Inc. take a powder, grab the straps, and walk to the back, giving the Natural Disasters the win via count-out at 8:38.
WINNERS are The Natural Disasters (Earthquake & Typhoon) (Count-out, 8:38)
Backstage “Mean” Gene interviews Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake regarding Beefcake’s friendship with Hulk Hogan and this event potentially being Hogan’s final match.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 2:12:53)
Skinner vs. “The Rocket” Owen Hart
More filler here. Skinner dominates Owen until “The Rocket” skins the cat and cradles Skinner from behind to score the pin at 1:11.
WINNER is “The Rocket” Owen Hart (Pin, 1:11)
After replays of the finish we go backstage to “Mean” Gene who is with Sid Justice and Harvey Whippleman. Sid promises it will be Hogan’s final match before we see footage of the March 29, 1992 March to WrestleMania VIII: A Tribute to Hulk Hogan program in which Hogan says, “I just won’t know till I come out of the ring, if it was my last match.” After the clip Sid says he doesn’t “give a damn” about the history of Hogan and curses both Hulk Hogan and every “Hulkamaniac”.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:15:05)
Sid Justice w/”Dr.” Harvey Whippleman vs. Hulk Hogan
This one starts as a fight before the bell rings and becomes a standard Hogan match after the bell, including the dreaded Greco-Roman knuckle lock. Sid all but owns the match until Hogan survives the powerbomb, “Hulks up”, and lands the Atomic Leg Drop after a slam. Papa Shango is late for his run-in so Sid is forced to kick out before Hogan and Whippleman improvise a clash in the ring, giving Hogan the win via DQ at 12:26.
WINNER is Hulk Hogan (Disqualification, 12:26)
After the match Papa Shango finally makes his way to the ring and joins the attack on Hogan until Ultimate Warrior’s music hits and the Warrior, in his first appearance since SummerSlam ’91, sprints to the ring to make the save.
With the ring cleared Warrior and Hogan celebrate in the ring together as Hogan’s music blares, the fans roar, and the pyro blows the roof off the Hoosier Dome.
The first of the true modern WrestleMania’s, WrestleMania VIII, delivered four great matches—Michaels/Santana; Roberts/Undertaker; Bret/Piper; and Flair/Savage—and some of Bobby Heenan’s best commentary work of his career.
Aside from the 8-Man, the Owen/Skinner, and Tatanka/Martel matches every match on this card, in its own way, delivers, producing an event that remains, all these years later, a must-see instant-classic!
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Thanks for reading – enjoy WrestleMania and until next week, see ya at ringside!
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