Coliseum Video Review: INSIDE THE WWF (1994)

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COLISEUM VIDEO REVIEW: INSIDE THE WWF

The Undertaker vs. Crush

Crush has recently turned heel and is managed by Mr. Fuji. Johnny Polo joins Gorilla Monsoon on commentary. Polo is good, because he has enthusiasm for the product and is clearly a mark at heart. That is probably what held him back in the staunchly po-faced WWF, when the workers did it only for the money, rather than any love of the business. Not all of them of course, but a lot of them. Guys like Kevin Nash and Lex Luger were not wrestling fans, they were guys who found a profession that accepted freaks of nature. Nash has even admitted as such. With this tape being from 1993/94, it will feature lots of guys who are not over and have stupid gimmicks. Crush as a “Japanese sympathiser” is among the dumbest. I mean, what is there to be sympathetic about? Their better economy? Superior rate of employment? Lack of gun crimes? Maybe it is because wrestlers from the country who work for the WWF were often shoehorned into racist stereotype gimmicks. If so, good on that man for recognising that and taking a stand! The crowd is so darkened here, suggesting a lacklustre draw. It certainly sounds like one. This very much looks like Madison Square Garden, what with the aisle being down the centre behind the ring, but it’s not, it’s Massachusetts. The match is pretty bad, by the way. If more modern fans want a reference, just watch KroniK vs. Taker & Kane from 2001, because it is similar in its badness, and obviously features two of the same guys. This is just all slow striking and out of context selling. The bright point is Polo, who playfully mocks Gorilla for not really knowing the difference between moves, and pointing out things that fans watching would have been saying. Crush does impress with a gorilla press, doing reps with Taker before slamming him to the mat. That is some strength right there. Crush goes for a Tombstone, which is among the dumbest things you can try to do on Taker, and he reverses it into his own for the win. Stupidity from Crush, but I am pleased we get a clean finish. Pleased and shocked, I should say. Match was slow and uninspiring until the very end.

Final Rating: *

Marty Jannetty & Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels & Diesel

The Outsiders and The Rockers have done a trade! This should be good. It comes from July 1993, and Diesel had only recently debuted. Unfortunately, Stan Lane and Ted DiBiase are the announcers. DiBiase actually wrestled Ramon in his WWF retirement match the next month at SummerSlam. They take an absolute age to get going, and after a brief but promising Michaels and Jannetty sequence, they stall for a good few minutes further, teasing Razor facing off with Diesel. Razor’s selling for his buddy is energetic. They fall into formula, which is a little disappointing actually because these guys know each other well enough and are good enough to work things a little differently. Diesel is still very raw, and in reality he had probably only had about 100 matches in his entire career by this point. What he does is simple, but well executed and solid, though a long bearhug is enthusiasm sapping. The effort has been very much house show level. Jannetty obviously takes the heat and makes the hot tag after rallying on Shawn. Razor comes in and Michaels bumps all over for him, then Diesel takes a clothesline over the top, before a Rock Bottom (!) from Razor finishes Michaels. Run that one by me again? A Rock Bottom… How curious. It is crazy that Shawn lost clean, and even more so that it was to a (then) non-finishing move. The match was ok, but didn’t ever go above that.

Final Rating: **½

WWF Studio Tour

Polo gives us a tour of the WWF studios. The amusing irony of this segment is that by the end of his WWF run, Polo was genuinely responsible for some of the content of Coliseum releases. He spent his time in the real video control offices because he was dejected about his role on-screen within the company, and whiled away the hours watching old footage and generally studying the game. I don’t blame the guy, I would have done the same. Just imagine having access to that incredible vault of archive footage. I bet there are some unearthed gems in there.

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Tatanka

Bigelow hates clowns, as has been documented in this tome already, but he also really hates “injuns”. Tatanka apparently hates bulbous guys with cranial tattoos, and the two go at it before the bell, before Tatanka takes over. Why do I feel like I have seen about a hundred matches between these two guys? The best part of this match, like the opener, is Johnny Polo on commentary. For all he is entertaining, he does detract from the match somewhat, as he just NEVER STOPS TALKING. In this match of non-action it is not an issue, but in a better match it could be a real distraction. Speaking of distractions: Tatanka’s tights are a little inappropriate because they ride right up his arse like a thong. I have to say, I don’t need to see his pasty white cheeks as he is rolling around the ring selling. Bigelow clearly agrees, dropkicking the hell out of him. He gets some impressive height on it, especially for someone that size. Polo absolutely cracks me up here, when he asks Gorilla who the head guy is at Coliseum video. Gorilla says “Marty, Marty is the head guy at Coliseum” and without missing a beat, Polo gleefully asks “Jannetty!?” You can tell he is amused with himself even asking. He further tickles me by telling Gorilla that Bam Bam’s gear is “flame retardant” and an exacerbated Gorilla says he wants to hit him with a hammer. Brilliant stuff. The match itself is boring, all heat and chinlocks. A long match is not epic just because it is long for the sake of being long. Bam Bam tries to up the excitement with an enzuigiri of DOOM, and Tatanka responds with the End of Trail ON THE OUTSIDE. Jesus! Tatanka beats the count and wins it. Bigelow hits Tatanka with another enzuigiri after the bell and then tries to cut his hair, but gets thwarted. Far too long, but there was some impressive heavy duty stuff towards the end, which elevates this somewhat. Polo’s commentary alone made this worth seeing.

Final Rating: 

Bret Hart vs. Adam Bomb

Johnny Polo accompanies Adam Bomb to ringside, meaning we go back to Lane and DiBiase on commentary. This comes from Grand Rapids, MI in August 1993. I don’t mind Adam Bomb. I cannot explain why, because he is just your generic WWF big dude with a moronic name and gimmick, but he could move around well and had colourful attire. Maybe it’s because his Hasbro figure is so rare and I have long coveted it… It gives him a mystique! Bomb bumps around for Bret in the shine, but things inevitably slow down for the heat. This is your standard Bret Hart against muscle guy match. You could easily sub in The Barbarian for example, in Bomb’s place. Mind you, I would personally take Bomb over him any day. I was going to ask out loud why on earth Johnny Polo is wearing swimwear and a towel robe, but I have figured it out: he is MENTAL! Loooooong chinlock from Adam Bomb as my interest wanes. All of the matches on this tape have been relatively long by Coliseum standards, and in most cases it has not been particularly welcome. Bret hardly gets any spots to show fire, Bomb just keeps whaling away on him. The Five Moves of Doom get cut off midway though, but Hart stops Bomb’s top rope clothesline attempt with a press slam, which is rather an impressive bump for a man Bomb’s size. Bret puts on the Sharpshooter and wins the match via submission as we get another clean finish! We are being spoilt here. Something awful is going to occur as a penance, I can sense it. As expected and mentioned earlier, this was a by numbers performance from Bret, though Bomb was superior to most of the other slug type workers that Hart has worked with, and he deserves credit for effort.

Final Rating: 

Johnny Polo mocks the return of Earthquake, politely calling him a fat bastard, and then continues his studio tour. We meet John Arnold, a man Polo doesn’t trust because he has two first names. Man, Polo was a RIOT. Genuinely. Arnold is in charge of twenty years of WWF footage, and there is a veritable plethora of tapes. It is a collection that would even make our resident collector Lee Maughan jealous. In a disturbing moment, Polo presses a button on the video wall that makes them close together like the garbage compactor in A New Hope. Polo gleefully states that he is going to get squished, as Wilhelm screams harrowingly fill the airwaves. Christ, what was that about!? That is right up there with Sean Mooney shooting someone dead in cold blood on a tape in Volume #2.

Doink the Clown vs. Macho Man Randy Savage

From June 1993 so Doink is still played by Matt Borne at this point, and is thus a heel and subsequently still awesome. I am not sure our TV can cope with the sheer colour on display in this match! Polo amuses me further by telling Gorilla what a shitty referee Joey Marella is. Much “lolz” to be had here, with Marella of course being the son of Gorilla. Doink’s facials at the start of this match are phenomenal. What an incredible portrayal of the character Borne gave. I know it has been said before, but Doink was a superbgimmick when he was heel. The early going sees a lot of Doink trying to avoid Savage, but it is all character driven rather than for the sole purpose of eating up time. Savage gets sick of Doink’s antics and takes things to the outside, where they have a bit of a donnybrook, and they spend a decent length of time brawling at ringside. How there is no count out I have no idea. Why can’t all tapes be like this one in that respect? Gorilla assumes Doink had an amateur background somewhere down the line, and the sheer thought of Doink doing that in his full regalia just tickles me to bits. He is certainly technically proficient though, and his timing is wonderful. Just as I say that, he misses the Whoopie Cushion and then gets clotheslined over the top. Doink #2 comes out and switches places with Borne, then jumps Savage from behind and sends him out of the ring. Doink #1 holds Savage’s legs as #2 breaks the count, and thus wins the match. It’s an ingenious finish. Ok, it was a count out, but that is one of the best count out finishes I have seen. Gorilla protests about there being too many Doinks, and Polo brilliantly and instantly asks: “how many Doinks are you allowed to have?” The decision gets reversed after the referee checks under the ring, which is a shame. Still, that was a fun match, and pretty wild, as most of it was fought at ringside.

Final Rating: **¼

Gorilla reassures us that John Arnold was saved from death at the last split second. Good work, Artoo. It does beg the question why he was screaming though. Pussy. In a special “insider” segment, Randy Savage gives Razor Ramon a pep talk about being a champion. He tells Razor that he might be doing good but can never do better than him, and then playfully asks for a title shot. Largely pointless.

WWF Intercontinental Championship

Razor Ramon (c) vs. Ludvig Borga

As far as slugs go, I like Ludvig Borga even more than Adam Bomb! I think he could have been a great top level guy. The gimmick was stupid, I mean, he was essentially a Finnish environmentalist, but he looked like a badass. This is a rare appearance for him on a Coliseum release. Borga shows how strong he is by tossing Razor over the ropes directly from a lock up. Cool spot. There have been quite a few impressive and unexpected things on this tape that have impressed. Shame there has not been a killer match yet though. Borga continues the displays of strength, lifting Razor up with ease after another lock-up, and generally throwing him around and looking powerful. Out of all the Kliq guys, I think Razor was the most accommodating of non-members, and the most willing to put others over with his bumping and taking losses. Shawn Michaels was a better bumper, but he was selective with who he did it for. After the opening few minutes, I am actually really pleasantly surprised with how much these guys have done here. Neither has shirked from bumping around, and there have been no rest holds to speak of. It has not been just clubbing either; they have done moves and put in effort. Borga was far better than people sometimes give him credit for. He hits a big clothesline and then another off the top, and the referee counts the three. Borga is the new champion! Only he is not, because Razor had his foot on the ropes and the match has to continue. They trade impact moves after the restart and both are down from an impressive back suplex from the ropes. Razor goes for the Razors Edge, but the ref gets bumped by Borga’s feet on the way up. Shawn Michaels runs in and nails Razor in the back of the head with the IC belt, and everyone is down. Borga recovers first, and the referee counts the three, this time making Borga the IC champion. Only he is not, as wrestling historians will of course be aware, because Borga never won the IC title. After a ref confab, the decision gets reversed. Jeez Louise. Two reverse decisions on the same tape? And back-to-back no less! This suffers slightly from the usual retarded match placement by Coliseum Video. For the record, a Dusty Finish (reverse decision) works better when a heel wins that way, not a babyface. So of course, two faces in a row have won like that. Moronic. The officiating clearly favoured Razor here. Kliq power! Borga should have been IC champ. Surprisingly good match, even if it was overbooked to hell. There was not a point where it was boring, and thus, I am rating it fairly highly. Borga’s shining WWF moment.

Final Rating: ***

WWF Intercontinental Championship

Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Lex Luger

Fresh off a WWF title shot at SummerSlam, Luger gets a chance at Shawn’s IC title, which is coming from the end of August in Grand Rapids, from the same show as the Bam Bam-Tatanka match. I would question the logic of putting an IC title match on that features a different champion than one established in the prior match, but that is Coliseum for you. The problem with this from a kayfabe perspective is that it makes Luger look desperate. He failed to beat Yoko for the WWF title, so he is going for the IC belt instead, a theoretically easier target. We already know he doesn’t win it, so he retains his career long reputation of being a “choker”. He was the same in WCW while Ric Flair was champion there. Michaels didn’t rate Luger, though according to Kevin Nash he always tried to stay friendly with the Kliq, because he knew he needed them to make him look good. And Shawn Michaels was the king of making guys look good. In this match he chooses instead to work a chinlock, for far too long. The crowd pisses me off by chanting “USA”. They are both American, you dumbasses. The crowd comes alive as Luger hits a clothesline, back elbow and powerslam at speed. Michaels was always better taking moves as a heel, and his heat was actually sometimes quite dull. He takes a pasting here though, but just as things start to get good, he gets himself counted out. Luger knocks Diesel senseless with the illegal forearm after the match. Count out wins in title matches are what Luger does best. For those keeping count, that is three matches in a row with non-finishes. This tape has gone downhill in that respect, but the quality of the matches had improved. I wonder if there is a correlation? This was mostly mundane but with a few flashes of excellence.

Final Rating: **

Jeff Jarrett tells us his name and then Johnny Polo mocks John Cleese. Some dude with terrible hair gets camera time, and Polo makes him write some segments for the rest of the tape that he knows will never air. What a heel. We cut to Gorilla, who has a giant hammer. I appreciate the continuity from earlier! Very nice touch. Jim Cornette gives Yokozuna a pep talk prior to the next match.

WWF Championship

Steel Cage Match

Yokozuna (c) vs. Bret Hart

This comes from December 1993 in Augusta, Maine. These two have a lot of history, and worked the main events of two WrestleManias back-to-back, opposite each other. No-one else in history can make such a claim. Taker and Michaels worked consecutive Mania’s and so did Andre and Hogan, but not in the main event of both. A cage match doesn’t favour Yokozuna here. If Bret gets high enough, how will Yoko possibly stop him? Surely the cage won’t hold him if he tries to climb it? They worry me by going to the slow “cage selling” early on, so either this is going to be brief or we are in for some tough viewing. Gorilla pleases me by pointing out that Yoko has no chance of being able to climb over the cage, and Polo takes umbrage to that. Gorilla calls him an idiot and says the whole thing would break in half. It would, taking half of the front row out in the process. Action-wise, there is a running theme here, with Yoko obviously far stronger and having much more impact with the moves he hits, but Bret countering with quickness and ring savvy. They go back-and-forth, though there are not a great deal of cage teases. When Bret does attempt it, Mr. Fuji interferes to prevent him. Fuji is Yoko’s equaliser in this match, as Bret has the speed and quickness to be able to climb out of the cage, but Fuji balances that. Yoko goes for the Banzai Drop, but Bret scurries over to the opposite side of the cage and tries to escape through the door, only for Fuji and Yoko to stop him. They work in some teases, and the crowd bites. It’s a tidy sequence, and these guys have good chemistry actually. Bret probably gave Yoko his best matches. Another note about Johnny Polo: Gorilla says it “beats me to death” how he has managed to do so well with The Quebecers. Polo responds by saying he would like to beat Gorilla to death. You know, there is a dark side to this Polo character. If he were to add a few layers of brooding and a grungier feel, he could really be onto something… Just for the folks at home who are not aware of what I am on about: Polo went onto do exactly that, becoming more famous as Raven. He had success with the character in all of the major promotions, most notably in ECW where he won their heavyweight title a number of times. Back to the match, and the ceremonial salt bucket gets introduced by Yoko, but after about five minutes of slowly battling over it, Bret manages to use it first. He goes for a pin, but as Gorilla points out, they don’t count in a cage match. Still, that doesn’t stop referee Danny Davis running in and counting anywhere. Well, that’s both dumb and confusing isn’t it? Yoko kicks out anyway, so I guess it is moot. Bret gets salted in the eyes twice, but it is not illegal because it’s a cage match, even though that is technically illogical. This has been discussed before, but the rules of a cage match are not anything goes, the cage is just designed to keep people out. Logic gaps in the WWF you ask? I know dear reader, I am astounded too. Despite being blinded, Bret tries to climb out with impaired vision, but Yoko makes it through the door first, and retains the title. It was another match that surpassed my expectations. I was expecting a slow and boring match fought at a snail’s pace, but instead got a thoroughly watchable 20-minute cage match, that was well worked and had a logical and sensible story. An impressive effort from both guys to get this over.

Final Rating: **¾

Final Thoughts: That was actually a really enjoyable tape. Unfortunately there was no standout great match to take this over the edge from good to classic, but equally, there was nothing bad at all. Everything moved at a steady pace, and there were some really good and unexpected spots thrown in some of the bouts. Johnny Polo is the star of the show though. A laugh-riot from start to finish, Polo should and could have been a legend as a broadcaster. He forged a rather successful career as a worker anyway, but I enjoyed his work here as Polo far more than anything he did as Raven. And I liked Raven. This tape is recommended.

— James Dixon, OWW contributor

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