Something new this week, as I take a look at a period in wrestling history and some of the shows that defined it. Specifically, we’re examining the WWF’s “New Generation” of the mid 90’s and we will be taking a particularly keen look at a wrestler by the name of Nelson “Mabel” “Viscera” “Big Daddy V” Frazier.
In 1995, business was down for the WWF and Vince McMahon was desperately trying to make Kevin Nash into the new Hulk Hogan by giving him the WWF Title and pushing him up the card. This was not unusual for McMahon. Whenever business wasn’t where he wanted it to be he always went back to what he knew; pushing big men, and the bigger the better as far as he was concerned.
Nash, under the gimmick of “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, certainly had a presence and was capable of putting on enjoyable showcases when matched up against the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. But with both of these men involved in other things and fellow good guys, it was decided a new foe was required for Diesel so that he would have someone to feud with over the summer and autumn months once his current program with Sycho Sid came to a close.
Thus, McMahon decided to anoint Mabel as the new big monster for Diesel to slay and supposedly draw buckets of money with along the way. Mabel was currently in a tag team with Moe, named “Men on a Mission”, so both men were turned heel and a big show was made of Mabel being the first man to qualify for the upcoming King of the Ring Tournament. It was time for The Mabel Trilogy to begin.
Just an FYI, I’ll be using the Five Star System to rate these matches.
We’re in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Hosts are Vince McMahon and Michael Hayes. Vince narrates overhead footage of Philly as we go into the opening match.
King of the Ring Qualifying Match
Irwin R. Shyster w/Ted Dibiase Vs Savio Vega w/ Razor Ramon
Winner of this gets a spot in the Quarter Finals, and Vince is already ramming home the plot point about how impossible it would be to win four matches in one night. Savio is taking the place of Razor, who hasn’t been cleared to compete due to injured ribs.
Savio works the headlock and tenaciously holds on when IRS tries to wriggle free. IRS cuts Savio off somehow but we don’t see how as the director missed it. IRS tries to come off the top with something but Savio gets his boot up and IRS takes a foot to the mush.
Savio fires up and hits a suplex for two, causing IRS to decide to run away. Rather than take the count out win and conserve his energy, Savio follows IRS outside, throws him back in to the ring and then knocks him out with a Spinning Wheel Kick for the win.
WINNER – SAVIO VEGA
RATING – *
We now get the official show opening. As an interesting bit of trivia, the two squires who open the door in the entrance way would end up going onto considerable fame, until one of them became broken. The other would then go on to lose a tooth at the hands of a burly Irishman 22 years down the line.
King of the Ring Quarter Final
Yokozuna w/ Jim Cornette Vs Savio Vega w/ Razor Ramon
Yokozuna is currently one half of the WWF Tag Team Champions with Owen Hart. He’s announced as weighing in at 641 pounds, and is looking every ounce of it. Yoko defeated Lex Luger by count out to qualify for the Quarter Finals.
Savio cuts a fired up promo with Todd Pettengill, some of which is in Spanish. Hayes has a bash at translating for him, in a derogatory manner of course, and it’s pretty funny. Yoko waves the Japanese flag at the start of the match for some cheap heat and it gets a “USA” chant in response. For the man from Puerto Rico. Riiiiight.
Yoko can barely walk here, and essentially stands in one place as Savio bounces off him. Savio rams Yoko’s head into the turnbuckle pad over and over but Yoko doesn’t go down. Savio goes for the Spinning Wheel Kick but Yoko dodges and takes over. COME ON, how do you miss a 641 pound man for heck’s sake?!
Yoko goes to perhaps the laziest rest hold of all time, the Sumo Nerve Pinch™ and sits in that for a while. It really agitates me that a man as big as Yoko uses a nerve pinch. You’re a 600+ pound man, put him in a camel clutch or a chin lock, something that actually uses your weight instead of doing a bad impression of a chiropractor. Yoko finally misses a leg drop and Savio starts his comeback with a bunch of clotheslines. Yoko teeters hither and thither but won’t go down. Savio finally manages to knock him over with the Spinning Wheel Kick and it gets a huge reaction. The classics are still the best.
Cornette climbs on the apron and takes a right hand from Savio for his troubles. This causes Razor to stalk Cornette on the outside but he’s jumped from behind by Owen Hart, wearing a swanky Tux. Yoko and Savio both come out to help their respective partners as the referee starts counting both of them out. Savio beats the count back in while Yoko lingers outside and that’s enough for Savio to get his hand raised.
WINNER – SAVIO VEGA
RATING – *1/2
The fans pop for the finish, seeing it as an actual win for Savio as opposed to a cheap way to get out of Yoko taking a clean loss. The match itself was alright, if dull during Yoko’s heat portion. They kept it simple and the fans reacted where and how they were supposed to.
Jerry Lawler and his rancid right foot cut a promo on Bret Hart backstage. See, they’re having a Kiss My Foot Match tonight, so Lawler has gone out of his way to make sure his foot is as dirty and smelly as possible for when Bret has to kiss it later. I really love that as it’s such a great bit of old school villainy. It’s so silly yet so quintessentially Pro Wrestling.
King of the Ring Quarter Final
The Roadie w/ Double J Vs Bob “Spark Plug” Holly
Roadie beat Doink The Clown to qualify for this stage, whereas Bob defeated Mantaur. So an evil sound checker beat a clown whilst a race car driver beat a half man/half bull hybrid. And they actually were surprised that business was so poor at this time?! I mean, I get booking for kids and everything with these colourful gimmicks, but even a six year old would struggle to care about these guys.
This is good fast paced action to start, with Holly getting the better of it and going for some quick pin attempts. Holly gets the standard babyface offense of shoulder tackles and arm drags, but when he goes for a hurricanrana Roadie counters it into a powerbomb to take over. Roadie got a noticeable pop for that move as well.
Holly takes some hard bumps into the turnbuckle and Roadie struts around before dropping some elbows. Roadie keeps taunting instead of pressing the advantage and this allows Holly to get back into the match with a flying head scissors and the “I wish I was Jumbo Tsuruta” Dropkick. Powerslam gets two for Holly as Roadie clings on.
Roadie gets the upper hand again and sets Holly up for a superplex but Holly fights him off and pushes him down to the mat. Holly goes for a splash but Roadie gets his foot up and then pins a downed Holly for the three count. The cover was extraordinarily lax though and it really didn’t look believable that this was enough for Roadie to get the win. Had he done a proper cover and hooked the leg it might have looked less ridiculous. Holly, perhaps realising this, kicks out at 3.1 of the count and I wouldn’t be surprised if the usually surly Holly chewed Roadie out about it backstage.
WINNER – THE ROADIE
RATING – **
Abrupt ending aside, that was pretty good.
Todd is backstage with Shawn Michaels, who says he’s ready to be King and that size means nothing when you’re getting kicked in the face.
King of the Ring Quarter Final
Kama (The Supreme Fighting Machine™) w/ Ted Dibiase Vs Shawn Michaels
Kama beat Duke The Dumpster to qualify, whereas Shawn pinned King Kong Bundy clean with the Sweet Chin Music (Which I’m sure Bundy just LOVED considering his view on smaller wrestlers)
Kama is currently feuding with The Undertaker after he stole the urn and melted it down. Welcome to 1995 everyone! On the way to the ring, Kama gets into an argument with two Undertaker fans and destroys a black wreath they have with them.
Shawn’s entrance is incomplete, showing him in the entrance way and then cutting to him getting into the ring. If Scott Keith’s review is anything to go by, Shawn mucked around with the crown and throne during his entrance and the crown was far too big for him, which kind of gave away that he wasn’t winning the tournament. Oops! No wonder they cut that out for the home release, which is the version up on the WWE Network for some reason.
Shawn successfully sticks and moves to start, much to Kama’s frustration. Everything Shawn does is so smooth and looks great. Kama eventually manages to get a handle on the bout after delivering a stiff kick to Shawn’s midsection before throwing him outside the ring. Shawn goes back first into the post and Kama takes over back inside the ring with a back breaker.
Kama stays on top of Shawn with rest holds and sends him outside now and then for the occasional Dibiase cheap shot. It’s all competent stuff, if not exactly thrilling. A clock in the corner of the screen shows that less than three minutes remain in the time limit. Shawn starts his comeback but doesn’t especially pick up the pace considering time is ticking away. The match just sort of peters out, with Shawn getting some token pin fall attempts as the time dwindles away.
WINNER – TIME LIMIT DRAW
Rating – **1/4
A frustrated Shawn clocks Kama with Sweet Chin Music following the bouts conclusion. The work was fine in this, but it lacked urgency and Shawn really wasn’t given much of a chance to kick it into a high gear.
They show a hype video for Mabel Vs Undertaker, clearly positioning it as the tie of the round whilst also trying to make out that Mabel is a player on the level of Taker. The winner of this match now gets a bye straight to the Final.
We now get a skit of Bob Backlund, firmly entrenched in the “crazy old man” stage of his career, walking around Philadelphia and yelling at passers-by. The highlight is where he gets a Philly Cheese Steak and says he’ll stick a big carrot in the middle of it so the people of Philly can get their vitamins. I’m not sure what the point of all this was but it was entertaining at least.
King of the Ring Quarter Final
Mabel w/ Moe Vs The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
What’s with pretty much everyone having a manager or second with them tonight?
Mabel defeated Adam Bomb to qualify, whereas The Undertaker pinned Double J
Undertaker’s entrance music has loud wind sound effects on it that I don’t seem to remember. I’m guessing he didn’t have this version for long? Taker unloads with right hands to start but Mabel won’t go down. Finally a clothesline manages to take Mabel off his feet. Undertaker follows that up by going Old School (Or I guess back in 1995 it would be “Contemporary School”?) but Mabel manages to hit a sloppy looking STO not soon after.
Taker is unperturbed and sits up from this before continuing to slug away. Eventually Taker gets his leg tangled in the ropes and Mabel is able to take control with some weak looking offense. A distraction from Moe allows Mabel to flatten Taker with a belly to belly suplex and he follows that up with a camel clutch, which at least makes sense as a rest hold for a man his size.
Mabel continues to work Taker over as Bearer grimaces outside the ring. Taker manages to get a desperation boot up when Mabel charges him in the corner, but Mabel is soon back on top with a nice looking piledriver for a count of two. How come Mabel can deliver a big move like a piledriver so well but then struggle so much with a simple stomp?
Taker mounts another comeback, with a Stinger Splash in the corner of all things, but the ref ends up taking a bump in the ensuing scuffle. Taker manages a Choke Slam on Mabel but the ref is still out and can’t count the pin. Kama sneaks in and delivers a sly kick to Taker, allowing Mabel to recover and drop a big leg to pick up a three count from the now revived ref.
WINNER – MABEL
RATING – *
This was a dull match that had the odd nice looking move thrown in. Taker stalks Kama post-match, who escapes to the back.
We now get a Hall of Fame montage, back before it was a yearly event that happened at WrestleMania. The inductees of the 1995 class are Fabulous Moolah, Ernie Ladd, George Steele, Antonino Rocca, The Grand Wizard, Pedro Morales and Ivan Putski. I can’t argue with any of those. In a nice touch Bill Murray, on elephant back, delivers a message to Steele.
King of the Ring Semi Final
The Roadie w/ Double J Vs Savio Vega w/ Razor Ramon
Vega starts brightly and clotheslines Roadie outside. Back inside, Roadie fights back and hits a sloppy looking Shake, Rattle ‘N’ Roll that would have even Honky Tonk Man rolling his eyes for two. The fans are not particularly invested in the ongoing action, probably because they don’t buy either of these guys as a potential threat to Mabel.
Roadie gets a diving heabutt from the second rope for two, but there’s no water in the pool when he tries it a second time. Savio gets a big boot for two, as the fans are starting to get a bit more into the match. Double J trips Savio, but hops onto the apron as Ramon approaches. This leads to Roadie and Jarrett colliding, allowing Savio to pick up the win with a school boy.
WINNER – SAVIO VEGA
RATING – ½*
Savio does an interview post-match with Carlos from the Spanish announce team. Hayes does his “translation” routine again, and once again it’s pretty funny as he makes out that Savio is saying he has no chance in the final.
Bret Hart cuts a promo backstage saying he’s going to make Jerry Lawler pay for embarrassing him, his family and his fans.
Kiss My Foot Match
Jerry “The King” Lawler Vs Bret Hart
So this is the big blow off to a nearly two year feud between the two, which started when Lawler attacked Bret after The Hitman had won the 1993 King of the Ring Tournament. Things intensified during the May In Your House Event, as Lawler managed to score a pin fall win over Bret thanks to interference from Japanese wrestler Hakushi and his manager Shinja.
This is all so silly, and I love it! Lawler makes sure to insult the fans before the match starts, just in case any of them were harbouring any desire to cheer for him. Bret’s entrance finally wakes up the crowd, who have had the wind taken out of them due to seeing both Shawn and Taker eliminated from the tournament so early.
Bret takes its straight to Lawler with right hands, and the fight spills outside. Lawler begs off and then pulls Bret into the ring steps to take over. Lawler drops Bret with three piledrivers back inside. If this were Memphis in the 70’s they’d be taking Bret to the hospital right now and Lawler would be in cuffs, but because it’s the WWF in 1995, Bret manages to kick out at two.
Lawler chucks Bret outside and removes his right boot to reveal his rancid foot. As Bret comes back in, Lawler is able to slyly hit him with the boot just out of the refs eye line for two. That was such an awesome bit of old school heel antics, and the crowd are most displeased as Lawler taunts them. I love how Vince on commentary is essentially stating that Bret’s career is on the line here, because his pride would never allow him to keep wrestling if he had to degrade himself and kiss another man’s foot. The implication of course being that a nefarious villain like Lawler would dare to come back because he doesn’t have any shame or honour.
Lawler tries to stomp Bret in the corner with his rancid foot, but Bret catches it and takes him down with a single leg before delivering a head butt to the gut. Lawler literally scampers to the corner and manages to catch Bret with his boot once again, and once again it’s unseen by the ref. Lawler gets the second rope fist drop for two and then tries to pull Bret crotch first into the post, but Bret ends up pulling Lawler face first into the post with his legs.
Hakushi and Shinja run down to help Lawler, but their interference goes awry and Hakushi ends up hitting Lawler by mistake. Bret uses this opportunity to lay out Lawler with the Five Moves of Doom before finishing him off with The Sharpshooter.
WINNER – BRET HART
RATING – ***
Bret teases not releasing the hold, which once cost him a previous match with Lawler as the referee reversed the decision when he refused to break the hold. On this occasion though Bret does release in time and gets his hand raised, nice call back to a previous moment in the feud though.
Lawler ends up not just getting Bret’s foot shoved in his face, but Bret also manages to make Lawler kiss his own rancid foot in the ultimate moment of a villain getting hoist by his own petard. Props to Lawler for being able to get his own foot to his mouth like that. He sells the incident admirably, as you’d expect a wrestler of his calibre to do.
We take a look at previous coronations to prepare us for the upcoming King of the Ring Final.
King of the Ring Final
Mabel w/ Moe Vs Savio Vega w/ Razor Ramon
Savio unloads with chops and punches to start, but Mabel shrugs it all off and gets a slam. Elbow drop misses and Savio sends Mabel outside. Both men take turns eating the steps outside before Mabel takes over inside with a bearhug. What this match didn’t need was a long rest hold, but then again its Mabels second match of the night and he weighs over 500 pounds, so it’s kind of pointless crying over spilt tournament at this stage.
The bearhug drags on and on, and it’s utterly tedious. Just as I’m starting to think that Godot is going to get here before something actually happens in this match, Savio boxes Mabel’s ears to break the hold. However, Mabel is right back on top with an ugly looking Bossman Slam and then treats us all to a chin lock. Truly thrilling stuff here in this King of the Ring Final.
Now the rebellious Philly crowd decides to make it’s discontent known by starting a loud and very noticeable “EC-Dub” chant, as ECW was a big deal in Philly at the time. It’s funny seeing the famed “Hat Guy” on the front row encouraging the chant. Savio chooses now of all times to get a desperation roll up, but it doesn’t get any reaction as the fans are too busy voicing their general displeasure.
Spinning Wheel Kick finally knocks Mabel down, but it only gets a two as fans are at least paying attention to the match again now as it looks like it’s heading to the home stretch. Mabel catches a Savio cross body and flattens him with a move not unlike The World’s Strongest Slam, but Savio manages to kick out at two, which actually gets a bit of a pop from the crowd. Mabel follows straight up with a splash however and that’s enough to put Savio away clean.
WINNER – MABEL
RATING – ½*
Mabel and Moe assault Razor post-match. 1-2-3 Kid tries to make the save, but he also gets creamed. Mabel eventually gets crowned and Moe delivers an awful declaration that drags on for ages, with even Vince on commentary calling for him to wrap it up. This all could have gone much better.
Meanwhile, Lawler is eating an entire tube of toothpaste whilst also trying to keep his lunch down. The toothpaste was a hint to what was about to come, and trust me we’ll cover what that was in Part Two.
Stephanie Wiand is backstage with Sid, Tatanka and Dibiase. Sid brags about injuring Diesel’s elbow at the previous Pay Per View Event.
Main Event Tag Match
Sycho Sid and Tatanka w/ Ted Dibiase Vs WWF Champion Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow
Sid and Tatanka are both members of Dibiase’s “Million Dollar Corporation” and Sid has been feuding with Diesel since WrestleMania XI. Bigelow used to be a member of Dibiase’s group, but they kicked him out after he lost to Lawrence Taylor at Mania. Diesel’s right elbow is heavily braced after he landed on it whilst taking a powerbomb from Sid.
Tanaka has a good heel sneer on him, it must be said. Shame he never really made any significant changes to his look or attire when he joined up with Dibiase. I do very much enjoy Bam Bam’s music. Jumpstart and the babyfaces clean house. Eventually things settle down and a Sid cheap shot to Diesel’s elbow leads to him taking some heat.
Sid and Tatanka work Diesel’s arm and elbow over in ways that I’m sure would bemuse The Anderson’s were they to see it. Sid misses a leg drop (A heel missing something whilst the face is on the ground appears to be the hope spot of choice tonight) and Bammer gets the tag. He runs wild for a while and manages to hit Sid with a head butt from the top rope, but the ref is distracted. A distraction from Dibiase allows the heels to get back on top and Sid drops Bigelow with a mighty chokeslam, but chooses to taunt rather than go for the pin. A lot of stupid heels on this show.
Bigelow bumps like a champ for the heels, but the fans just aren’t biting. It looks like they make an utter hash of a false tag spot, as Sid has Bigelow in a front face lock with Bigelow edging closer towards his corner every few moments. As Bigelow gets closer, it appears that Tatanka tries to come in and distract the ref meaning he misses the tag, but Tatanka doesn’t get there in time and Bigelow actually makes the tag, so the ref has to let it stand.
Diesel drops an elbow with the injured arm and tags straight out again, which suggests the tag was a botch. The heels restart the heat on Bigelow with a chin lock. Tatanka gets a lovely looking jumping DDT on Bammer for two. That was an utter peach! There’s a double clothesline and Bammer makes the hot tag to Diesel for real this time.
Diesel drops Tatanka with a side slam and then hits a frankly awful looking Jack-knife Powerbomb. I’ll put that down to the elbow injury and let him off. Diesel pulls Tatanka up at two and demands Sid come in, but Sid refuses and walks away. Diesel just drops an elbow on Tatanka (His injured one I should add) and then covers for three.
WINNERS – DIESEL AND BAM BAM BIGELOW
RATING – ¾*
This match was such a mess. Bigelow is good, Diesel and Tatanka can both be decent in the right scenario and Sid is pretty rotten. It just never really built any momentum and felt like a Raw Main Event, not something you’d see headlining a Pay Per View.
I think the biggest problem with this show was not so much that they went with Mabel as the winner of the tournament (Although that certainly didn’t help) but rather the fact his opponent was Savio Vega. The Savio Vega character had only been in the WWF for little over a month when this show took place, so fans hadn’t really had a chance to connect with him. As a result, it was jarring for them to suddenly see him in such a high position on the card. With Mabel had at least been getting a steady push leading up to the event.
The original plan for this show was that the Savio role was to be played by 1-2-3 Kid, and the tournament would essentially operate as a showcase for him before eventually culminating in a defeat to Mabel in the Final. However, due to an injury, Kid was unable to compete and Savio got the slot instead on account of being the next best option.
Not only had Kid been around much longer than Savio, thus meaning he had much more of a connection with the fan base, but he was also a better in ring performer as well as someone who could have believably won the tournament. Savio, despite reaching the Final, never seemed like he had any real chance of beating Mabel and thus Mabel’s big win didn’t have the same impact it would have had if he’d defeated an actual star like Kid. Plus, Kid was not only feuding with The Roadie at the time of the show but he’d also been Tag Team Champions with Bob Holly earlier in the year. Due to this there would have been intrigue going into the Semi Final match regardless of who he faced. Also, getting a win over Yokozuna would have raised Kid’s stock considerably.
Once Kid went down with his injury they probably should have gone with a different idea, but McMahon wanted the underdog storyline, so Savio was what we got.
King of the RIng 1995 is a show completely messed up in numerous ways. They had a great opportunity to showcase Michaels in three matches but only had him wrestle one, and the tournament was full of either big stiffs who couldn’t do much, like Yoko and Mabel, or lower card guys with no real star power, like Roadie and Holly. Contrast this with the 1993 Tournament, which had Bret Hart wrestling three completely different matches against Razor, Mr. Perfect and Bigelow, thus showcasing him whilst also delivering three really enjoyable bouts along the way, and a field of guys such as Lex Luger and Tatanka, who were all over to a certain degree thus giving the event prestige.
And even though I was digging the Lawler and Bret stuff, it was symptomatic of the problems the WWF was facing at the time, with outlandish storylines such as Kama melting down the urn or Lawler’s rancid foot. One of those types of storyline here and there works as something different, but when the whole company is based around them it just makes everything seem silly.
In a lot of ways King of the Ring 1995 is one of the all-time low points for the WWF. I wouldn’t go as far to call it the worst show they’ve ever done as some do, but it’s certainly not a good show either and really is enlightening as an insight as to why the company was struggling so much at the time.
I’ll catch you all again in Part Two, where the new king takes on the leader of the New Generation, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon revisit their rivalry and Bret Hart gets more than a sticker and lollipop when he has to visit the dentist.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time;