Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Saturday, January 04, 2020

WWF King of the Ring 1995

"Philadelphia, the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed! But tonight, MONARCHY will reign!" I love that line, and Vince shouts it like a deranged Kent Brockman. I am ready for this.

Savio Vega vs. IRS

ER: Razor Ramon injured himself at a house show a couple weeks before the PPV, so this was the match to determine his replacement to battle Yokozuna. IRS honestly has one of my favorite looks in wrestling history. His build was perfect for the Tom Fitton fit, with the sick cuffed short sleeves and deep red braces. It's a great look. The match was quick, 4 minutes, but worked fast. Vega starts the match with a super convincing small package, convincing enough that I thought they were pulling a "4 second record setting victory" type of angle to give Savio a push out of the gates. But Savio gets a good reaction with a couple more quick pins, with an especially nice high cradle. IRS presses the pace nicely, and Vega is good at quick bursts, so it's a surprisingly effective match. IRS goes up top because he's a dummy, and eats boot off an axehandle, then takes an amusing belly flop bump. The finish is a fun quick killshot, IRS running fast into a super high leaping Savio spinning heel kick. I like how this show is starting.

Yokozuna vs. Savio Vega

ER: Damn, they really gave Savio the short straw here, starting off the night fighting his way into the tourney and then immediately facing a force like Yoko? I do like Vince's reasoning that this is to Savio's advantage because Savio has his heart rate up and momentum rolling. Yoko is always so stoic to start matches that it makes sense Savio's fired up energy from his win would possibly overwhelm Yokozuna. And, naturally, Yokozuna would have been spending the past several weeks training specifically to fight Razor. Savio has inroads here. Yoko waves that Japanese flag in the faces of these freedom loving Philadelphians, and Savio waves a joint American/Puerto Rican flag to a surprising amount of cheers. And they play into that great Savio spinning heel kick I mentioned the match before, and it ties into Yoko training for Razor but gathering intel on Savio, as Yoko belly flops quickly to the mat early in the match when Savio tries to finish early with that same spinning heel kick. Yoko takes a couple of his big bumps here, a large missed elbow and a great transitional missed legdrop. The standing exchanges between the two are really strong, with Vega landing hard strikes and Yoko reeling before hitting back harder. Savio does hit his spinning heel kick but Cornette interrupts the pin, then takes a great bump to the floor after Savio belts him. The finish is lamer than the match deserved, as Owen Hart runs out to attack Razor Ramon at ringside, and then Savio runs out there, and then Yoko runs out there, but the camera completely misses big bump into the ringpost and ring steps, the bump that allows Savio to get the count out win. The count out win is cheap, and I am somewhat resentful of the Savio victory because it kills the chance of Mabel/Yokozuna. That's stupid.

The Roadie vs. Bob Holly

ER: Roadie is making his solo PPV debut, and you know he has a nice show vest for his entrance. But dear God the gear on Double J and Roadie is just woeful. Roadie also debuts his new PPV extensions and it makes him look like a weirdo creep maitre'd at a crime front restaurant in Strange Days. But the MATCH rules, outside of a second straight lousy finish. This is an awesome match with a real zilch of a finish, and that's too bad, but there's still a ton of match here that is really great. I kept thinking about 80s Brad Armstrong fast paced 10 minute singles, which is funny because Holly was the one giving me those vibes, not Brad's brother. This felt like a 1995 Rey/Psicosis match, only worked within the parameters of two southern wrestlers. It was worked super fast, Holly going for small packages and school boys and other flash pins while confounding Roadie with high hip tosses and shoulder dislocating armdrags. Roadie bails to the floor, comes back in and takes over. Roadie did have really good offense, different than his Road Dogg offense. The dancing was integrated better during his '98 run, but he has a couple things in '95 that he later unfortunately dropped. The best was a hard elbow drop to the back of Holly's neck, while Holly was sitting up. The whole thing was really good, good enough that if a couple of other matches hit this level of quality, I'll come away with favorable impressions of this show. Now, we do get some evidence of an ongoing problem, as this is the second match with a real lousy finish. Bob Holly goes up top, jumps off into Roadie with another downed opponent axe handle (already seen in the opener as a significant transition spot), but here Holly flies into Roadie's boot and gets pinned. I don't think I've ever seen someone get pinned from jumping face first into a vertically lifted leg. To his credit, Holly made it look almost plausible as a finish, and Roadie's scrambling opportunistic pin sank that in. But even though executed well, it came off flat as hell. Starting the main show with two sour finishes is a tough pill.

Kama vs. Shawn Michaels

ER: Well we definitely have established the theme of this show, which is very fun matches with very stupid endings. This one goes to a 15 minute draw, fully establishing the 15 minute draw as the Alone, Eating Over the Garbage Can of wrestling finishes. I was fully into this until they popped a countdown clock in the corner. Kama starts by throwing big telegraphed bombs, with Michaels hopping around like Ali, made all the more amusing when they cut to Joe Frazier in the crowd looking absolutely perplexed at Michaels. The two lady companions with Smokin' Joe are even pointing and laughing at what they're seeing. But there's a chance that those ladies were just plain wrong about pro wrestling, and that Frazier - some 20 years removed from his Ali and Foreman beatings - was actually just punch drunk. Because this delivered much more than I was expecting it to. And that's with me still miffed that Kama took Duke Droese's rightful place on this PPV! But the cat and mouse is good, and it leads to a great moment of Michaels skinning the cat but then getting lambasted with a great Kama lariat. Michaels takes a couple of big important bumps that play into the story, including a great version of his flipping corner bump that is just insanely fast, sending him upside down and over to the floor. Kama works simple stuff like backbreakers and that big man move I love where Michaels is bent backwards over Kama's knee, Kama pressing back on Michaels' chin. And what's awesome is that Michaels punches his way out of that, and he really tightens up his strikes in this match, clearly just punching Kama right in the head several times. That continues when Michaels gets on top and throws mounted punches, throwing 8 shots right into Kama's forehead, hard enough that Kama clearly checks to see if a cut opened. But the countdown clock really dampens the mood, as neither man seems to notice the countdown, so Michaels is doing slow corner 10 count punches with only a minute left to go, and while they built to a good "he woulda had him!" pinfall right as time expired, the fact that neither really acted like they were trying to finish really hurt it. Bob Holly worked the first several minutes of his match, they way they should have worked the final two minutes of this match. The fact that Michaels just immediately hits sweet chin music out of frustration post match, only highlights how stupid it was that he didn't go for that during any of the previous 15 minutes. Also, not having either guy advance is D-U-M-B DUMB. These finishes are brutal so far.

Mabel vs. The Undertaker

ER: This lags at times, sputters a bit, but eventually evolves into a real nice Mabel performance. He really got a bad rap from the internet doofuses not long after this, but he's a guy who would have been a big territory start if he wrestled exactly like this 10 years earlier. So it's a shame he never fully took during this era. Was it the shiny purple onesie? If he just had the Big Daddy V gear. All black gear, with his size, big star. This is filled with both guys running into each other with hard shoulderblocks, Mabel falls all over the place, splats Undertaker and sits on him a couple times, and we get cool moments like Undertaker with his foot tangled in the ropes and a tug of war while that happens (Taker trying to pull Mabel to the floor while his foot is tied up, Mabel trying to pull him up), and a huge belly to belly from Mabel that looked really great. Mabel even hits a picture perfect piledriver, and the visual of a 550 lb. man doing a classic piledriver is so bizarre, but so amazing. I thought a lot of Taker's stuff looked a little too tentative here. Mabel had obviously a slower gameplan, slowly crushing Taker, and it needed Taker to respond with a little more energy instead of just working the same pace as Mabel. Mabel whips Taker into the corner and smooshes the ref, allowing Kama to run in and interfere, allowing Mabel to hit a great legdrop to the back of Taker's head for the win. This match really did not need a finish based around interference, and the inability to give any single person a convincing win in this tournament is just bizarre. "People didn't take ______ seriously and that's why business is bad" is a pretty obvious take when everyone who has advanced in this tournament has done so almost by accident. Let Savio pin Yoko, let Mabel pin Undertaker, let The Roadie get a normal win over Bob Holly for goodness' sake.

Savio Vega vs. The Roadie

ER: This was a perfectly fine match, treated to a really icy reception from the Philly crowd. It's hard not to buy into the narrative that a series of bad finishes was wearing on this crowd. You had to think all the kids were thinking they'd be seeing a semifinals of Razor Ramon vs. Yokozuna and Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, and instead they're seeing Savio Vega vs. The Roadie and No Match because of a Draw. They shorted them a match due to a Draw! So I get the icy reception, even though the match was fine. They got real cold during Roadie's control segment, quiet enough that both men verbally appealed to the crowd at different points. It sounds so foreign in a WWF environment to see Roadie first go "What does everyone think of the Road Dogg?" to silence, followed by Savio Vega stopping his comeback so that he could go "Come on!" to the crowd. It rattles them a bit and some stuff suffers, like Roadie doing his flashy jab combo with the big finisher right hand at the same time Savio is doing a salsa hulk-up, so Roadie's big punch combo that he is now doing for the first time, is ignored the entire time. It's just a middling layout in a match that could have been better. Savio gets the win, and in what should be his biggest babyface moment yet, he does a full ringside interview in Spanish with Dok Hendrix doing the translating; it's actually a really funny bit, with Hendrix saying things like, "He's saying 'I don't have a shot at beating Mabel...I'm considering just not showing up and going home...I don't know how I made it this far and I'm having doubts..." It's a genuinely hilarious bit, but the whole entire thing was done at the complete expense of Savio Vega. Vega is a guy who had been in maybe 5 TV matches before this PPV, and this was supposed to be his big hard fought struggle through the finals: He won a last minute dark match to make it onto the PPV itself, then had his first PPV match in the very next match! This was a hilarious bit at the expense of the guy who needed some help in that moment.

Jerry Lawler vs. Bret Hart

ER: In the TV leading up to this PPV, this match had to have had the most TV time devoted to it. Vince was absolutely giddy at the prospect of the first ever in history Kiss My Foot match, so we had a TON of segments with Lawler showing off comically gunked up bare feet, and so many segments with Bret calling Lawler a scumbag (which, well). But the segments clearly worked because this crowd despises Lawler. They are certainly treating this match as if it was the most important match on the show (though we can compare the reactions to the Bigelow/Diesel tag and Savio/Mabel). And the match itself is fantastic. I've never heard much praise for this match in their feud, but that was tremendous stuff. It's their great complementary styles compacted into 10 minutes, both guys work snug as hell, Lawler takes some of his best and unique bumps, and it's based around such a stupid horseshit mudshow stipulation that is the exact level of stupid horseshit mudshow stipulation that Lawler can get it over in his sleep. Hart had some awesome strikes here, really smashing his forearm across Lawler's nose, fast short uppercuts, tight headbutts; late in the match he punches Lawler while Lawler is on his knees, and Lawler takes this gorgeous gunshot bump to the mat. This show did a reported 16,000+ in attendance, and Lawler takes this admirable approach to things and works it like it was in front of 250 people in a church rec room. And this small focus work, getting into verbal spars with fans on all sides of the ring, really hammers home the threat of the stipulation, and this small focus work really starts to work for the entire arena. The match gets great heat and it's a beautiful thing to see small crowd Memphis heel techniques working on a big "workrate" Philly crowd. Lawler hits three big piledrivers on Bret, all angling Bret off the mat in different ways, but Lawler takes a ton of time between all of them to talk shit to the crowd. Then we get a great bit of BS where Lawler takes off his boot and has a bloody moldy sock that he tries to choke Bret with, Bret desperately hold the foot at bay. On the floor Lawler continues to show how he's the best ringpost bumper in wrestling history, getting pulled face first into it in such a convincing bit of magic that I expected to see a bloody nose. There was botched interference from Hakushi, more violent fast bumps from Lawler, a mean snap to Bret's familiar comeback offense (the Russian leg sweep and elbow off the middle rope landed especially sharp), the exact right amount of BS to go with the BS stip, elevated by perfect execution from both. This match was such an excellent use of time and really paid off the perfectly dumb TV time spent on it.

Mabel vs. Savio Vega

ER: This was a very good King of the Ring Final, easily the best of the actual KOTR matches tonight. This was an excellent match that the crowd TRIED to turn on with a loud ECW chant, and the match was good enough to get that crowd reinvested in the finish just moments later. Savio came out at the bell looking more impressive than he has in any appearance thus far, as he chopped Mabel into the corner - convincingly - and the visual of him backing up this mountain with chops made him like like a total pitbull. When Mabel is the slumped into the corner, Savio laces in with the best chops of the night; sometimes with both arms, always landing with a huge whipcrack. Savio Vega's attack on Mabel was great, peaking with Savio muscling Mabel over the top to the floor with a huge clothesline, Mabel taking a spectacular tumbling bump. Mabel smooshes Savio, hits his big belly to belly, and works a long bearhug that gets the fans restless. I liked it in the context of the match, Mabel playing the smart game, the odds, but it leads to an ECW chant lead by Straw Hat Guy and several other fans you've been distracted by while watching wrestling shows. But shortly into the comeback they can't deny the quality of the ringwork, and the match gets cheered to the finish. Vega got a great nearfall off a high cradle schoolboy, and also hit one of his best spinning heel kicks, getting unreal height. He gets a big kickout after a huge powerslam, but goes down to a big splash where Mabel really lays him out. This was a main event that did the tournament justice, something the rest of the tournament matches had fallen short of. This eventually got the positive crowd reaction it deserved, but it deserved it earlier.

Sycho Sid/Tatanka vs. Bam Bam Bigelow/Diesel

ER: The TV build up to this was all about Sid injuring Diesel's right elbow, Bigelow pledging his undying friendship to Diesel, and Sid making the best possible blinking crazy eyes facials in wrestling. Touched and crazy has always been a mode that wrestlers have struggled with, most commonly going far over the top or being too scared to do so. Sid finds the perfect balance and plays the man just on the edge of snapping better than anyone else. I wish we had a Sid cam, because occasionally the cameras during this era catch Sid on the apron just blinking and talking to himself - and this is during moments where he couldn't possibly know there are any cameras on him. A lot of this is kick and punch, with Bigelow occasionally taking a big dangerous bump to get people back into it. Sid kicks Diesel's elbow from the apron and Tatanka throws some tomahawk chops at it, and we get Sid really bending that bad elbow back across the ring ropes in mean ways, and the heels upheld their end of the bargain. Diesel didn't pay a ton of attention to it, outside of one big moment where he hit an elbowdrop on Sid, using the bad elbow, allowing Sid to go back on the offensive. But the problem is Diesel used his bad elbow for EVERYTHING. Every strike thrown, his big side slam, even posting up on the top rope while he was waiting for a tag. He used that elbow the whole damn match, and it really took away from the work of Sid and Tatanka. Bigelow tried some big things, including basically chokeslamming himself off the top rope. Sid backs him in the corner and gets Bigelow seated up on the top, choking him while Bigelow paws at Sid's face. I assume the plan was for him to be chokeslammed off, but Sid, didn't quite grab hold of him, and Bigelow just went for it anyway, taking a nice arcing bump and then selling it well on the mat; later Bigelow his a somersault senton on Tatanka and I'm not even sure that was supposed to happen, as Tatanka drops down and Bigelow does a big cannonball, but lands a little too vertically up on his neck. Considering the cannonball isn't a move that Bigelow commonly used, it felt like he was actually bumping but wasn't expecting Tatanka to be there? Vince and Dok were confused on commentary as well, but I like hearing Vince call it a cannonball. They also muff the hot tag to Diesel, as the way everyone was positioned in the ring made it look like Hebner was supposed to miss the tag, and to the crowd used to how tag wrestling works they clearly thought Diesel was going to be sent back to the apron, and even Vince was saying the referee didn't see the tag...but Diesel's hot tag was never allowed, this just means it was performed to no heat. I can't tell if Diesel was selling his elbow when giving Tatanka the Jackknife. He could have been, but if that's the case it just looked like he hit a really power Jackknife. I do dig the finish of him pulling up Tatanka at 2, then challenging Sid to get in the ring, only for Sid to back down before Diesel pins Tatanka. On a show with too many screwy finishes, at least Sid committed to standing down as a classic heel.


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