(The one with the huge celebration over a countout finish)
We have Hulk Hogan to blame for this one.
At Wrestlemania IX, Hogan won the title. Senor BIGPALE does this travesty justice, so read his article on this match and come on back. (http://www.cagesideseats.com/2014/3/9/5396596/ranking-wrestlemania-main-events-worst-to-best-28-bret-hart-vs-yokozuna)
Let's pick up where BIGPALE left off. Hogan's the champ, defending it all over the count…oh wait, he went to Japan. But hey, he defended the belt there…no, he beat the Great Muta in a non-title match, then collected a few more big paychecks over in the Land Of The Rising Sun.
The next time Hogan defends the WWF title is the first time he defends the WWF title, at King of the Ring ‘93, where he loses to Yokozuna when a "photographer" lights a fireball in his face and he is blinded and loses to Yoko.
(What it took to get Hogan to do the job in the early 1990s)
This is the last WWF Pay-Per-View for Hogan for almost a decade. You see people, Hulk was on his way out the door, so instead of doing the right thing and putting over Yoko clean as a sheet in the middle of the ring, he half-assed it, dropping the strap but keeping himself strong.
Because – and if you haven't figured it out now, shame on you – it's ALWAYS all about Hulk Hogan first and foremost, and everyone else can go to hell. Hogan sat out the rest of his WWF contact and signed with World Championship Wrestling the following year. WCW even had a parade for the debuting Hulkster!
Vince McMahon, seeing his All-American, ripped to shreds babyface leave the company, decided to replace him with another All-American, ripped to shreds babyface. This ersatz Hogan was Lex Luger, who debuted his new gimmick on the deck of the USS Intrepid by bodyslamming (well, hiptossing, but whatever) the massive WWF Champion Yokozuna on the Fourth of July. Lex was huge (well, sort of, we'll get there) and he used to "knock people out" with the metal plate inserted him his arm after suffering a motorcycle accident. Lex used to keep this forearm under a pad until the finish, when he'd dramatically pull the pad down and bludgeon a guy with his bionic arm.
Luger spent the rest of the time between July 4 and SummerSlam cruising around the country in the "Lex Express" a giant tour bus blazed with red, white and blue. Yoko was doing Yoko things, literally squashing jobbers and having Mr. Fuji and James E. Cornette as his cornermen.
A match between the All-American Face and the Monster Heel was set for SummerSlam 1993 at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit. Cornett got Luger to agree to two stipulations: If Luger lost, he would get no rematch, and Luger must keep his bionic arm under a wrapping.
The WWF went all-out for this one. They had two dudes sing the Japanese and American national anthems, they had all the pomp and majesty of the entrances. Yokozuna came out, glared at the crowd and was immediately out of breath.
Then Luger came out. Well, a guy who looked like Luger, but was a lot thinner. See, the federal government had indicted Vince McMahon for distributing anabolic steroids and forcing wrestlers to take them. So, for the first time ever, Vince needed to put the kibosh on the juice. So a guy like Lex Luger, he of the chiseled physique, went from looking like the picture below this paragraph to looking like the man in the picture at the top of the page in about eight weeks.
Before we go on, let me go on the record: Steroids are bad, and I don't need my professional wrestlers to be giant 'roidheads to entertain me. Two of my favorites ever are CM Punk and Mitsuhara Misawa, two guys who hardly have chiseled, juiced physiques. I'm just pointing out how sudden Lex's loss of muscle mass was, especially for a wrestler whose prior gimmick was that he was the Narcissist, and would often flex his massive muscles after a match. (Note: People flexed a lot in the late 80s/early 90s)
McMahon himself was on commentary and he pointed out several times how Luger "slimmed down" in an effort to be more "agile" than Yoko, who was as obese as ever. So at least WWF went out of their way to acknowledge Lex's new physique
Basically, Lex looked deflated, and Yoko looked inflated.
The match begins, the two guys go back and forth until Yoko takes the upper hand, at which point a fairly entertaining match slows down to a crawl. Yoko would do a power move, make a cover, Lex would kick out, Yoko would clamp on a rest hold, suck wind, Lex would power out, Yoko would hit a power move…over and over again. Needless to say the crowd was less than thrilled.
Speaking of weight, at the start of the weight McMahon said Yoko was "around 470," then he said "we have no idea how much this monster weighs," then by the end of the match Yoko was "almost 600 pounds." I loved this.
After about a decade of Luger selling, Yoko goes for the feared Banzai drop. The big man misses it, Luger sort of hulks up and half-ass bodyslams the giant. The crowd pops huge, Bobby Heenan loses his mind yelling "HIPTOSS!" at the top of his lungs. Luger unwraps his bionic arm, runs at Yoko and bludgeons him with space-age aluminum. Yoko, sucking wind for twenty minutes, falls out of the ring and the ref starts counting.
Cornette (wearing a neck brace and bright red pants) jumps on the apron and gets a punch for his trouble. The ref counts the unconscious Yoko out and Luger wins! The hometown Steiner Brothers (sporting awesome mullets and University of Michigan inspired maize and blue matching singlets), Tatanka and even Macho Man (wearing appropriately themed red, white and blue ring gear), all mob the ring and hoist Lex, waving a giant American flag, on their shoulders.
There's even a balloon drop. Talk about pulling out all the stops!
Everyone celebrates for a few minutes until Bobby Heenan points out the obvious: Yokozuna was still champion. The belt doesn't change hands on a countout. Lex's win and celebration were as hollow as his physique. That still doesn't stop everyone from celebrating like Lex had just won the strap.
Non-definitive finishes in the main event of a PPV are dangerous. People pay their hard-earned money to see resolution to a match. It can work, but only if you are building to something better. And here's where it comes back to Hogan not losing cleanly to Yoko: Because Yoko didn't have that huge clean win over Hogan under his massive belt, the WWF was forced to hedge. They had to keep both Yoko champ and Luger strong, so he could wrestle Yoko at Wrestlemania X. Had Yoko beaten Hogan clean, it would have meant something for Luger to "knock" him out at SummerSlam. Instead, Yoko was never seen as anything more than a fluke champion, and he'd drop the belt to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania X, after DQing against Luger earlier that night. Having that horrible "If Lex loses, no rematch ever!" stipulation only put the WWF in a corner even further.
Luger himself never came closer to the WWF Championship. He was back in WCW two years later, debuting on the very first episode of Monday Nitro, eight days after SummerSlam 1995.
One last note before I wrap this up: Yoko could absolutely go when he was younger and slimmer. He unfortunately gained so much weight that he became the plodding wrestler in this match. His early WWF stuff vs. Randy Savage and Jim Duggan is worth taking a look at. Its just that for this match he was so large he couldn't really do much of anything without being winded.
Curtain Jerker's Star Rating – 1.5 stars. The finished killed it for me
Up Next – This next one involves a future president
Also in this series: