When it comes to ranking the top ten Wrestlemanias of all time, Wrestlemania XI doesn’t exactly spring to mind, and this was true even in 1995, when there were only 11 Manias to begin with.
The first thing you’ll notice about Wrestlemania XI is that its intro recalls moments from every Wrestlemania to date, but precisely zero of those moments have anything to do with wrestling. Instead, the focus is on the celebrities at those past events (except for Wrestlemania IX, the previously-inducted “toga party” whose only celebrity was Natalie Cole, who happened to be in the audience).
Yes, according to the video montage, Mary Hart’s entrance on a motorized wrestling ring at Wrestlemania III was more memorable than Hogan-Andre or Steamboat-Savage.
I would guess that this was done deliberately so as not to remind viewers of how much better the matches were at Wrestlemanias past and to instead focus on that year’s celebrity involvement, but XI’s star power was pretty dismal, especially in retrospect. Sure, there was Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson…
…but there was also tween heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas…
…Playboy playmate/MTV bimbo/future anti-vaccine fear-monger Jenny McCarthy…
…and Nicholas Turturro, at best the fourth most recognizable figure on NYPD Blue (behind Dennis Franz, Jimmy Smits, and Dennis Franz’s ass).
We can’t forget “musical guests” Salt ‘N’ Pepa, although WWE would prefer that you did, considering that they removed the group’s performance in later video releases to avoid paying royalties.
Of course, there was also Lawrence Taylor’s “all-pro team” consisting of former football players/future WCW wrestlers, pictured here with WWF champion Diesel, who in just four months had transformed from leather-clad badass to a seven-foot Jonathan Taylor Thomas with a goatee. Just look at Nash here. Don’t you think this pose would be more fitting of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor’s pre-teen son?
Then there was the venue. Wrestlemania III was held in the 78,000 — I mean, 93,000-capacity Pontiac Silverdome, VI was held in the Sky Dome, VIII was held in the Hoosier Dome, and X, just like the first Wrestlemania, was held in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. 1995’s biggest event would be held in an arena connected to a shopping mall, and unlike Eric Bischoff and the first Nitro, Vince didn’t have the excuse of having to shill Hulk Hogan brand Spaghetti-O’s when he picked the location.
To make matters worse, the whole event was plagued by technical difficulties, which was evident in the very first minute of the live broadcast when the microphone picked up only the last few seconds of Vince McMahon’s introduction of America The Beautiful. Speaking of which, in keeping with the low-budget theme of the year’s Wrestlemania, Vince selected a Special Olympian to sing the patriotic song. I will refrain from making a joke about a blind person being lucky for not being able to see the crappy Wrestlemania card. I have better taste than that, and Blade Braxton already made that joke about Ray Charles at Wrestlemania II. I will say this, though: her operatic rendition was a million times better than Rockin’ Robin’s at Wrestlemania V.
Kicking off the in-ring action were the Allied Powers, the infamous pairing of Lex Luger and the British Bulldog. As a kid, I thought that the two teammates were a perfect fit, seeing as they were both strong and they both wore their respective countries’ flags on their crotches.
Not until I was a little older did I realize that Davey Boy’s technical skill did not mesh at all with Lex’s, um, lesser technical skill. And speaking of not meshing well, take a listen to their team theme music, a mash-up of “Rue Britannia” and Luger’s “Eye of the Tiger” soundalike. Also, I swear Howard Finkel billed them with a total combined weight of 918 pounds.
The Powers were selected to open the card after having teamed once before against Tatanka and Bam Bam Bigelow earlier in the year. It wasn’t exactly the worst main event match in Raw history; no, it actually ended in a double-DQ and was restarted later in the night, making it the two worst main event matches in Raw history. Their opponents on this night would for no reason in particular be the Harris Brothers’ most recent personas, the Blu Twins, managed by Uncle Zebekiah (years before he used his last name, “Coulter” and started managing Jack Swagger). It did sound like a decent WWF Superstars main event on paper, but then again, this was supposed to be the biggest show of the year, one that people paid money to see rather than simply turn on their local UHF station on a Saturday afternoon.
You’ve got to feel for Lex Luger a little here, though. The year before, he was wrestling for the WWF title, while this year he would be curtain-jerking against two Berzerker lookalikes. He didn’t even get a Wrestlemania match out of his interminable feud with the Million Dollar Corporation and Tatanka. “Lex Loser” indeed.
The Allied Powers demonstrated their tag team coordination right off the bat when they went for dual powerslams and Lex slammed his opponent onto the Bulldog’s head. Still, the Powers made short work of the Blus despite their rampant use of Twin Magic.
Vince then sent us backstage to Nicholas Turturro in Pamela Anderson’s dressing room, but when we saw the NYPD Blue actor, it’s obvious that 1) his mic didn’t work, and 2) he was in the Million Dollar Corporation’s dressing room. Nikolai Volkoff was somehow still employed at this point, but the WWF never took the obvious step of having him represent the USSR as the third member of the Allied Powers.
Moving on from that stellar interview, Intercontinental champion Jeff Jarrett and the Roadie make their entrance before we catch a word from the 123 Kid. And by, “a word,” I’m almost being literal, as most of his promo wasn’t picked up on his microphone.
The Kid would be in Razor’s corner to counteract The Roadie’s interference in the fast-paced match with so many near-falls that Vince McMahon declared the match over via pinfall, no joke, at least half a dozen times. The Roadie tried to land cheap shots every chance he got, but the Kid was always able to fight him off… until one time he wasn’t paying attention and the Roadie broke up the Razor’s Edge, drawing a disqualification. And that, ladies and gentlemen (okay, this is Wrestlecrap, so probably just gentlemen), is why you will never hear about the “Double J-Razor classic.”
Still, Jarrett had a bloody nose by the end of the match…
…which must have satisfied the one fan in attendance who expected to see blood at a WWF event in 1995.
The four-man feud was supposed to continue at the next month’s In Your House pay-per-view, but The Kid suffered an injury that was presumably not as serious as the torn anus he is nursing at the time of this writing. Instead, Razor beat Jarrett and The Roadie in a handicap match and never won the title back from Double J (except for one time at a house show, but that was an accident).
Next, we were taken backstage once again to Nick Turturro, who had to re-do his previous interview and pretend like he had just found Jenny McCarthy in the green room.
Jenny offered up a lukewarm assessment of the Supreme Fighting Machine Kama before she and Nick were joined by Shawn Michaels and his new bodyguard. Sycho Sid told the viewers at home that Diesel’s dreams had “become to nightmares.”
Next up was the King Kong Bundy-Undertaker match, which centered around The Million Dollar Corporation stealing the Undertaker’s urn. Jerry Lawler reminded us of Bundy’s pin of SD Jones in “nine seconds,” which was considerably shorter than the actual 24-second duration of that match and unfortunately waaaaaay shorter than this snoozer. Vince mentioned the Undertaker’s undefeated Wrestlemania record, which at this point stood at a whopping 3-0.
Certified A-lister Larry Young was the special referee on this night, April 2nd, 1995, which coincidentally marked the end of the Major League Baseball strike (which was the only reason Young got this gig in the first place).
The only remotely entertaining aspect of this match was the fight over the urn, the source of The Undertaker’s power, which for some reason The Million Dollar Man brought to ringside instead of locking in a safe deposit box in one of his many mansions. The Undertaker merely walked up to DiBiase and took it out of his hands, then passed it to Bearer, only for DiBiase to get Kama to kick Bearer and grab the urn in one fell swoop. Kama then giddily told JR that he would melt the urn into a chain, further stretching out this feud until Summerslam. Oh, and Undertaker won after a bodyslam and a clothesline, after which Bundy promptly rolled out of the ring and walked backstage rather perturbed. Four and O! Woo!
Nicholas Turturro still couldn’t find Pam Anderson backstage, so he got the next best thing: Mongo McMichael! He then walked in on JTT beating Bob Backlund at chess. The former WWWF champion then drilled the Home Improvement star on the capital of Honduras, to which he answered, “Tegucigapla.” Wrong, it’s “Tegucigalpa,” moron!
Owen Hart then came to the ring for the second tag team match of the night, this time for the tag team titles. Jerry Lawler claimed to have told the sound man to cue up his mystery partner’s music, leading Vince McMahon to jokingly accuse Lawler of causing all the sound problems. This has been cited as fact on Wrestlemania XI’s Wikipedia page. Owen revealed his mystery partner to be Yokozuna, who had not been seen since losing to The Undertaker in a casket match at Survivor Series. Truth be told, Yoko had already lost to Taker in 42 straight casket matches on the house show circuit, but I suppose that 43rd loss was the last straw.
The heel team beat the cowboys after an okay match (high praise for this particular event), to which the grown-ups in the front rows responded with approval. No celebration, though, could compare with that of Owen Hart, who pinned Billy Gunn after a Banzai Drop from Yoko.
Backstage, Todd Pettengill and his mighty mullet interviewed Bam Bam Bigelow, who vowed to the Toddster that he would not be known as the man who lost to Lawrence Taylor. I would hope not, as that’s the kind of infamy that would ruin your career.
Next came what was sure to be an all-time classic, Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund in an I Quit match. Just over four months before, the two had competed in an underrated classic at Survivor Series, so their rematch on the grandest stage of them all would go down in the history books as one of the greatest ever, right? Well, dear reader, neither you nor I nor the audience counted on three things: a live microphone, special referee Roddy Piper sticking said microphone in the wrestlers’ faces every ten seconds and asking “Whaddaya say?!”, and the entire match consisting of the two wrestlers taking turns applying submission holds, psychology be damned.
To top it all off, Bob Backlund never even said, “I Quit,” but rather screamed, “Gaaaaaahhh!” into the microphone before Roddy declared Bret Hart the winner. No wonder Hart called the match his worst ever in his autobiography (obviously written before Wrestlemania 26). Roddy Piper hadn’t been involved in such crap since he tried putting over the Gobbledygooker on commentary, coincidentally in the Hartford Civic Center.What’s worse, Vince couldn’t even answer a simple trivia question about the Wrestlemania from three years prior. Actually, that still wasn’t nearly as bad as the match itself, but it was pretty pathetic.
We got yet another update from Turturro, whose microphone worked 95% of the time this time, to tell us that Pamela Anderson was nowhere to be found. Todd Pettengill then conducted an interview with a broken microphone. Let me rephrase that: he conducted an interview with Diesel using a broken microphone (although an interview with a microphone would probably have been much more effective at building the title match up). Diesel forgot that he was still the WWF champ before suddenly snapping from calm and collected to angry and shouting.
Come title match time, challenger Shawn Michaels was accompanied not by Pamela Anderson, but by another stunning blonde, and in addition to Sycho Sid, Shawn had Jenny McCarthy on his arm. I guess she was the booby prize.
Diesel then brought out Pamela herself before playing Goliath to Shawn Michaels’s David. A Goliath we were supposed to cheer for, by the way.
Instead, the same fans who rooted for Owen and Yoko cheered for Shawn at every chance and even chanted Sid’s name before he ever got involved in the match.
Softball Sid of all people should have been an expert at underhanded tactics, but when he finally attempted to cheap-shot Diesel outside the ring, Earl Hebner jumped off the ring apron and twisted his ankle… I think. All the cameramen at ringside failed to catch this key moment in the match.
In the meantime, Shawn superkicked Diesel and had him legitimately pinned (he’s the heel, by the way), but when Hebner at last got back in the ring to make the count, Diesel got his shoulder up a split second before the count of… two. Kevin Nash never really had a flair for the dramatic.
Sid then tore off the top turnbuckle, which would come back to haunt Michaels when he was slingshot by Diesel directly into the… second turnbuckle. Close enough.
Diesel then hit the jackknife, depositing HBK onto his butt, which was apparently still painful enough to put him down for a three-count.
Botches and all, it was still Kevin Nash’s best non-Bret Hart match ever, so he celebrated in style with two chicks at the same time. But this was 1995 WWF, so he had to bring the kid sidekick and the goofball into the ring, too.
Backstage, Shawn correctly claimed to deserve to be champion, while Sid complained that there should have been two referees. Who does he think he is, Gorilla Monsoon? I’m just glad that Mrs. Eudy didn’t suffer a miscarriage of Justice back in 1960.
Next up, Salt ‘N’ Pepa definitely did not perform “Whatta Man,” and we instead saw the entrances of the main event’s de facto lumberjacks, The Million Dollar Corporation and Lawrence Taylor’s All-Pro team.
Bam Bam charged at Salt ‘N’ Pepa for the derogatory lyrics that the group never sang about him in the performance that never happened.
I remember hearing people complain about this match years after it happened, and I couldn’t understand what the big deal was, until I actually saw the PPV on tape and realized that for some reason it was the main event of the whole night, and not an undercard match sandwiched between Bundy-Taker and the Smoking Gunns.
Although the main event got off to a fiery start, things started going south about two minutes in when LT got visibly winded. From then on, Lawrence Taylor spent the entire match doing a single move, a forearm smash. Granted, it was a pretty good forearm smash, but outside of a PWI poll from the 80s, nobody cares how well-executed your forearm smash is.
LT was supposedly trained by Diesel, but when it came time to do Diesel’s trademarked jackknife, Taylor flubbed it completely. Hmmm… botched jackknife, two moves total… maybe he was trained by Kevin Nash.
In a classic call-back move, just as it looked like Bigelow had the match in the bag, the lights suddenly went out, and who else but The Undertaker himself would come back and cost Ted Dibiase, Bam Bam, and the Million Dollar Corporation the main event, taking back his stolen urn in the process! No, just kidding. None of that happened. Instead, LT came back from behind to beat Bam Bam with, you guessed it, a forearm smash.
(Speaking of what-ifs, if this match had taken place just four years later, the WWF could have justified Bigelow’s loss by booking an angle where LT had paid off Kama to send some of his hos to Bam Bam’s hotel room and tire him out the night before, but that sort of risqué angle is the kind of thing you just can’t make up)
To make the ending of this Wrestlemania even more anti-climactic, LT’s victory celebration has had the Salt ‘N’ Pepa music removed from it on video releases, meaning that future generations will believe that after LT won the big one, he celebrated in near-silence from the audience. Which is probably what happened, come to think of it, but at least there was music played over top of it.
So in summary, this Wrestlemania saw an Allied Powers match, a DQ finish in a title match, Bret Hart’s worst match ever, a title match relegated to secondary status, and a main event where a football player beat a mid-carder, all emanating from the same shopping complex where the Gobbledygooker hatched from his egg. While that might seem like crap to you, there is actually a very good reason to consider Wrestlemania XI one of the greatest Manias of all time, and it comes from none other than the chairman himself, Vince McMahon:
Vince, can you hear us?
I’m sorry, we seem to be having technical difficulties that prevent us from hearing from Mr. McMahon at the moment. So yeah, this event was just crap.