WrestleMania 10: The first WrestleMania of the post-Hulk Hogan years had a complicated and multi layered build. That years’ Royal Rumble saw Lex Luger and Bret Hart become the events only dual winners in its history. This meant that both men were guaranteed a title match on the night. Bret Hart was also distracted by a feud with his younger brother Owen, who was determined to step out from the shadow of his multi time champion sibling.

    For the tenth iteration of the event WWF returned to its spiritual home in New York, Madison Square Garden, meaning we get the iconic shot of the entranceway being directly in front of the hard camera. We start the show with a video package throwing back to the inaugural event before a smash cut brings us right into 1994. Commentary has changed wholesale from the previous year, with Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler teaming up for this year’s event.

    Little Richard mimes his way through ‘’America the Beautiful’ to start the show proper. It’s a decent soul rendition hurt by how obvious his miming becomes as it continues.

    WrestleMania 10: Bret Hart vs Owen Hart

    After becoming the only member of Team Hart to be eliminated during their match at the previous years Survivor Series, Owen had been slowing turning on his brother. The final nail came when they teamed together at the Royal Rumble in an unsuccessful challenge for tag team titles. Owen famously kicked Bret’s ‘leg from out from under his leg’ and the stage was set for a feud that would ultimately carry the two for the rest of the year. A solid video package does a good job of laying this all out.

    Bret had been tentative about fighting his brother in the entire build up and this was the first time the two men had ever faced one another one-on-one. Lawler on commentary makes regular references to the Hart family, often running down matriarch Helen. Things are tentative in the early going, every time Owen gets the advantage he celebrates as if has won the match, every time Bret gets control, Owen complains bitterly. Chains and smooth technical exchanges before the intensity ramps up with a slap by Owen. The chemistry between them is obvious as they exchange holds, the pace ebbing and flowing really well, neither man controlling for too long.

    After seeming unwilling to truly punish Owen, Bret gets riled up enough to start throwing strikes as the tempers start to rise on both sides. They fight to the outside and the early scientific wrestling portion of the match gives way to a more physical brawl. Both men get some close calls with submissions and pinfalls, some very close pinfalls from Owen causing him to get even more frustrated as he can’t quite get the win.

    There are constant momentum shifts before an Owen ‘Tombstone piledriver’ looks to give him the advantage. Unfortunately for him he misses a top rope splash and can’t capitalise. Bret hits some of his classic offense, the ‘Inverted Atomic Drop’, the ‘Side Russian Leg Sweep’, the ‘Backbreaker’ and the elbow drop, but he can’t put Owen away. The two men then jockey for a sharpshooter as the call-backs to how well they know each other stack up.

    Owen heads to the outside but when Bret follows him, he tweaks his previously injured knee and leaves an opening for Owen. The younger Hart then zeroes in that knee with a series of attacks, showing just how much the brotherly love between them has faded away. The scientific wrestling is back, but with a level of intensity that elevates it to another level. A limping Bret does fight back but Owen gives it right back, neither man showing any side of giving up. Bret goes for a superplex for even more spectacle but takes too long to capitalise. They trade attempts at the Hart’s signature ‘Sharpshooter’, Owen getting it locked in first before Bret gets his own in, briefly.  The finish comes when Bret goes for a top rope victory roll pinfall but Owen blocks it and sits down to pin Bret for the victory.

    An all timer between of the best of their generation, and all time. A huge win for Owen, underscored with a great line from Lawler, ‘he didn’t step out from his shadow, he jumped out’. A great story, told not just with great sequences of moves, but the space between them.

    Owen gets a backstage promo where he lays claim to the ‘best there is, best there was, best there ever will be’ moniker and predicts a failed title challenge for Bret later in the night.

    We get the first of a series of ‘WrestleMania moment’ video packages throwing back to previous shows. For WrestleMania 2, the highlight is the battle royal apparently. It’s a bit early in the evening for a diversion, but we get one anyway, an in ring appearance from the President of the Hair Club for Men, he introduces Howard Finkel in a toupee. Thankfully it’s a short segment

    WrestleMania 10: Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna Vachon vs Doink the Clown & Dink the Clown

    This is the Ray Apollo Version of Doink, a more comedic version than the darker original. He’s been tormenting Bigelow with childish pranks and has ended up alongside his sidekick Dink, facing Bigelow and his ‘main squeeze’ Luna Vachon in sort of mixed tag team action. Vachon is only allowed to wrestle Dink, and Bigelow only allowed to fight Doink.

    Bigelow asserting his size advantage over Doink early on. For a big man he can certainly move quickly. There’s some comedy from Dink as he evades Luna for a while, in between taking a beating whenever he gets caught. The sequences between Bigelow and Doink feature the bulk of the action, with Dink peppered in as comedic filler in between. The visuals are fairly silly with the two clowns involved but the action isn’t terrible. Bigelow pins Doink to win. Dink tries to fight Bigelow post-match, but it doesn’t go well for him.

    We get a glimpse of a Bill Clinton impersonator in attendance before a look back at WrestleMania III. Given the fact the company would soon attempt to wipe Hulk Hogan from history, these packages are a rare look at him being feted despite having already left.

    WrestleMania 10: Randy Savage vs Crush – Falls Count Anywhere

    A long running personal feud between two real life close friends. Crush had turned his back on Savage after Savage apparently showed no care for him when Crush was injured. Savage has been primarily a commentator for the previous couple of years and this would mark his final match in the company. The rules for this one are unusual. Rather than being a standard falls count anywhere contest, anyone pinned on the outside of the ring must get back in the ring inside a 60 second count or they lose. A weird variation on the rules that thankfully didn’t become the norm.

    Savage is resplendent in black and white, getting a huge reaction in front of a crowd that still clearly care about him, despite the company thinking his in-ring days should have been over. The match starts off with Savage running down the aisle to attack Crush. It’s a big brawl, mostly fought in and around the crowd rather than in the ring. We get a very early pinfall for Crush, which means Savage has sixty seconds to get into the ring, he almost doesn’t make it but sneaks in at the last second. It’s not all that high paced, there are a lot of breaks due to the format of the match.

    Savage does get a good run in after Crush gets salt in his eyes, but the format strikes again. Instead of pinning Crush in the ring, and presumably winning, he instead pushes him to the outside for the fall, allowing Crush the sixty second window to recover. With Mr Fuji’s help from ringside, Crush just about beats the count. They fight out into the crowd and the action picks up, Savage taking charge and forcing Crush into the backstage area. Savage gets the pinfall in an equipment room and ties Crush up on a gantry to slow his recovery down. The knot almost immediately fails as Savage makes his way back to the win. Crush can’t follow him and gets counted out for a Savage win.

    The bare bones of a decent contest massively hampered by the dumb formatting. Had it just been a more standard version of the stipulation the physicality was there that it could have been decent. It’s a disappointing down note for Savage’s WWF career to end on.

    We go to the Clinton impersonator with Todd Pettengill. They make references to some tax issues for Clinton and banter a bit with Irwin R. Schyster. There’s a look at the Fan Fest from earlier, an early version of the modern Axxess events. The highlights of WrestleMania IV are next.

    WrestleMania 10: Alundra Blayze vs Leilani Kai – WWF Women’s Championships

    The first time the Women’s title was defended at WrestleMania since the second ever show, featuring a returning Leilani Kai against the then face of the division Alundra Blayze. Unfortunately, even though the title was finally back on the show, it was still a sideshow with little care paid to it.

    Blayze does at least get some pyro during her entrance. Kai was a throwback to the ‘Fabulous Moolah’ school of women’s wrestling and although she performs decently Blayze is clearly a step ahead. We get some glimpses of the classic cringeworthy Jerry Lawler commentary as he seems more interested in talking about the two women’s appearances than their skill.

    Kai gets quite a lot of offense in but is ultimately beaten in just over three minutes by Blayze. It’s a shame that Blayze never got too many opportunities to show her true level in the WWF.

    WrestleMania 10: The Quebecers (Jacques & Pierre) vs Men on a Mission (Mabel & Mo) – WWF Tag Team Championships

    Two of the more cartoony gimmicks of the era compete for the Tag Titles. Oscar, the manager of Men on a Mission, raps them to the ring, seeming to forget the words a few times.

    We cut away during their entrance to TV’s Rhonda Shear backstage. Shawn Michaels hits on her before he’s upstaged by Burt Reynolds, and we cut back to the Quebecers already in the ring. If that doesn’t underline who the real stars were, nothing will.

    The Champion Quebecers try to jump the challengers early but it doesn’t stick. The story of the match seems to be McMahon mixing up the two Quebecers and Lawler making fat jokes at the expense of Men on a Mission. The action is mostly pretty bland, but Pierre does hit a dive to the outside to spice things up a little. A lot of Quebecer double teaming on Mo before Mabel gets a bit of a run. The Quebecers try to suplex the mammoth Mabel, something they finally pull off but fail to capitalise on immediately, leading to a kick out by Mabel. Things pick up a little but a distraction from The Quebecers manager Johnny Polo (the future Raven) cuts off Men on a Mission when they look close to victory. Polo then pulls his clients from the ring and accepts a count out. Men on a Mission win the match, but the Quebecers retain the titles, even if MoaM pose with the belts in the aftermath.

    The feud would continue, with Men on a Mission winning the titles by accident on a house show.

    We get a look back at Mania VI before the celebrities are introduced for the first World Title match of the night. It’s Rhonda Shear from earlier, and Donnie Wahlberg from ‘New Kids on the Block’ (or NKOTB as they’re called on the night). Mr Perfect then appears as the guest referee, in a rather natty looking all-striped ensemble.

    WrestleMania 10: Yokozuna vs Lex Luger – WWF Championship

    The first of two guaranteed World Title matches on the night as Lex Luger gets his shot at the Champion Yokozuna. The winner will go on the face Bret Hart in the main event. Yokozuna has not only Mr. Fuji with him, but also Jim Cornette as his American representative. It will always seem off when the champion comes out first. Luger is in full ‘American hero’, with stars and stripes gear and a practically climaxing McMahon on commentary.

    A long face off before any action, Luger getting his licks in before a single Yokozuna attack knocks him down. Mr. Perfect interjects himself early by slowing Luger down when he chases Yokozuna to the outside. Luger shows off some rare offense for him, diving from the tope and leaving his feet voluntarily to try and knock the big man down. Yokozuna has the clear power and size advantage, but also a willingness to go to the low road, removing a turnbuckle pad as a tease for later.

    A long ‘nerve’ hold from Yokozuna slows things to a crawl as Luger tries his best to dig things from the Hulk Hogan playbook. Luger does fight back briefly but Yokozuna goes back to the most boring hold in wrestling, the trapezius hold. Yokozuna eventually mixes it up by throwing Luger to the outside but it doesn’t stop this being an incredibly dull contest. And now the dreaded double trapezius hold and finally Luger gets some distance, not that it lasts very long. The crowd finally wake up as Luger body slams the champion and hits him with his metal arm plate. Both Cornette and Mr. Fuji enter the ring and Luger looks to have the match won. Mr. Perfect chooses instead to try and revive both Fuji and Cornette, frustrating Luger into putting his hands on Perfect.

    After a lot of pantomiming, Perfect declares that Luger has been disqualified. Rubbish finish to an awful match. Perfect and Luger have an altercation backstage that was supposed to lead to a feud between the two, one that didn’t come to pass with Perfect going on hiatus instead. Audible ‘bullshit’ chants in the arena.

    We get a look at WrestleMania VII, showing off the blindfold match.

    WrestleMania 10: Earthquake vs Adam Bomb

    Harvey Wippleman is introduced and just takes the opportunity to berate Howard Finkel for some reason. Finkel pushes him down and Wippleman’s client, Adam Bomb appears. This brings out Earthquake and the bell rings for what is apparently a match. A big sit from Earthquake, and he wins in about 30 seconds. Was there any point to this?

    At least we then move on to a pretty good backstage promo from Jim Cornette, with Yokozuna. He manages to make Yokozuna seem decent, a minor miracle after the terrible match earlier on. Then it’s a look at Mania VIII, focusing on the Undertaker this time, strange given he is missing at Mania X.

    WrestleMania 10: Razor Ramon vs Shawn Michaels – Ladder match for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

    Michaels had vacated the title back the previous September and Ramon had claimed it. When Michaels returned he claimed to still be the true champion, carrying his own version of the belt and setting up a historic ladder match. Both men’s belts are suspended above the ring and must be retrieved for a victory. Michaels by this point is accompanied by Diesel, this match uniting three members of the soon-to-be Kliq. Michaels avoids walking under the ladder, but Ramon does.

    This match has gone down in history as a defining example of the ladder match format. There is only one ladder in play in contrast to modern iterations that regularly feature as many ladders as anyone needs. Right away there is more energy than we’ve seen since the opening contest, both men dynamic and technically sound in their movements. Ramon ends up on the outside, where he is attacked by Diesel, who gets ejected from ringside for his trouble. The ladder itself doesn’t come into play for a few minutes, the two just fighting in and around the ring instead.

    Ramon exposes the concrete at ringside but he ends up being the one to take a spill onto it. Michaels uses this time to bring the ladder down from the entranceway as the ladder comes into the match as a weapon. From here on the match is almost structured as a triple threat, the two men and the ladder as its own entity. Michaels uses the ladder to try and incapacitate Ramon before making the first attempt to climb for the belts. We get the iconic sight of Michaels hitting an elbow drop from the ladder with his tights pulled down, quickly followed by an equally iconic splash from the ladder in the corner. There are some great camera shots from directly above the ring which enhance the action even further, as Michaels is the first man to take a big spill from the ladder onto the ropes. The pacing is brilliant throughout and the way both men work around the confines of a single ladder is exceptional. Both men take and give tonnes of punishment, Michaels in particular showing off the spectacular bumping ability that would help define his legacy.

    We get a nasty looking landing for Michaels where he gets hit by a falling ladder before the soon to be overplayed spot of both men climbing the ladder from each side. The ladder gets bent in this sequence which leads to the interesting scenario of how they would have dealt with it if the ladder had been completely broken.

    A brilliant match full of instantly iconic moments. Michaels rides the ladder down from the corner onto a prone Ramon in yet another example. The finish itself is another of those moments. Michaels is knocked from the ladder and falls onto the ropes, getting his foot caught in the process. Ramon climbs and reclaims the belts, becoming the undisputed Intercontinental Champion in the process. It might be understated in places by the standards of ladder matches that followed but it is a perfect example of the form.

    Apparently, the ladder match overran and led to the removal of a scheduled WrestleMania 10-man tag match. A shame for those set to be involved but at least we got a classic ladder match out of the deal. We cut from the ladder match to an argument between the heel team for said match, this argument being the stated reason for why the match is cut.

    The Clinton impersonator is back in another meaningless moment, this time interacting with Ted DiBiase. WrestleMania 9 highlights next, focusing on Yokozuna screwing Bret Hart. These segments are weirdly short.

    WrestleMania 10: Yokozuna vs Bret Hart – WWF Championship

    The second World title match of the night as Bret Hart gets his shot against Yokozuna. A great video package for Hart pre-match features footage of him from childhood to the present day. It’s worth checking out the original version on YouTube with the Tom Petty soundtrack intact for the full impact… It cuts into a solid package for Yokozuna in reply. This match marks the first time in WrestleMania history that the same two wrestlers would face each other in World Title matches in consecutive years.

    The guest celebrities for this match are Jennie Garth from 90210 as timekeeper and Burt Reynolds as ring announcer. Roddy Piper is the surprise special guest referee. Once again Yokozuna comes out first as the champion. Hart is still limping as he makes his entrance.

    Yokozuna attacks before Hart is even in the ring all the way and he dominates. Hart does manage to fight back at times but struggles to establish himself in the match after that early attack. Piper starts out fairly even handed as referee, if idiosyncratic. Some of his counting is incredibly fast and his histrionics occasionally distracting. Cornette at ringside takes offense at Piper’s officiating at points. With Hart’s injured leg playing a big part in the match, the action is generally fairly slow, Hart having to resort to a more brawling style against the massive Yokozuna.

    Cornette pulls Piper out of the ring to break up a pinfall and gets knocked out for his troubles. Mostly dull action with Yokozuna on top in the most part. Once Bret gets his comeback things do pick up, as he runs through his ‘moves of doom’ and gets a couple of close pinfalls. Yokozuna goes for his ‘Banzai Drop’ but loses his balance and falls into the ring. Bret Hart pins to win and become the World Champion.
    A really strange finish, doesn’t exactly make Hart look strong that Yokozuna essentially only lose because he slipped. Lex Luger comes out post-match, he congratulates Hart and the babyface locker room (and the celebrities) flood the ring to celebrate with the new champion. A good moment for Hart given how the previous year’s show ended with him as an afterthought.

    Owen Hart stalks the ring from the entranceway but doesn’t enter. This would lead into the two brothers feuding over the title for the rest of the year, and their classic SummerSlam cage match.

    Overall – WrestleMania 10:

    Pretty much a two-match show. The opener and the ladder match are both absolute classics that should be required viewing for wrestling fans. The rest of the card is fairly drab. Neither World Title match is great but at least the finale gives Bret Hart the moment in the spotlight.

    McMahon and Lawler on commentary is a step down from previous years combination of Gorilla Monson, Jesse Ventura, Bobby Heenan & Jim Ross. It’s not egregiously bad but McMahon lacks gravitas and Lawler is too easily side-tracked.

    This show sometimes ends up pretty high on lists ranking WrestleMania but it drags a lot in the middle. The two classic matches elevate things but other than that it’s an unmemorable show. Loads of clips of WrestleMania 10 makes it way into modern WWE, including Shawn jumping off that Ladder onto Razor and Bret holding the belt up at the end of WrestleMania 10.