Monday, August 10, 2015

The Infamous Heroes Of Wrestling PPV From 1999

Heroes of Wrestling.

If those three words don't mean anything to you, then chances are you weren't around when this special event took place in 1999, during the height of professional wrestling's most lucrative period. A time when professional wrestling was at its hottest peak and was pretty much all over the place whether you liked it or not. If those words do mean anything to you... bless thy hearts.

Nowadays, we treat the legends of wrestling with the proper reverence that they are due. Even if we don't care for them in some ways, we can't exactly deny their contributions and accomplishments to pro wrestling or sports entertainment. No matter how much of a scumbag or jabroni you think Hulk Hogan happens to be, especially in light of recent controversies, you have to admit that he was pretty instrumental in giving professional wrestling and sports entertainment that push to the stratosphere that otherwise wouldn't have been possible with anyone else. Wrestling has their legends and they're given their just due in terms of recognition... but this wasn't always the case.

You probably know about the Monday Night Wars; the long feud between the World Wrestling Federation and rival promotion World Championship Wrestling that had the side effect of bringing professional wrestling as a whole to new heights never before and never again reached. I'm not going to dwell too much on this, but the one bit of information worthwhile is that WCW had acquired a bunch of guys who made their name in WWF and it goes without saying that these guys were a little older; they were getting up there... and so WWF pushed the Billionaire Ted skits which mocked these guys' ages. Even when those sketches withered and died, there would be the occasional pot shot at WCW's "senior citizens." And that mentality sort of bled into the fanbase, with some claiming that WCW stood for Wheel Chair Wrestling. One could even bring up Steve Austin's hilarious "Monday Nyquil" promo from ECW, where he proposed a Bottle of Geritol on a Pole match featuring all the old codgers on their walkers and wheelchairs, or Kevin Nash's first WCW promo in 1996 when he brought up paleontologists and dialysis machines.

It became a point of contention with WCW, who were content with pushing established (older) talents like Hogan, Flair, Luger, Warrior, and others over trying to develop new stars from their younger talent, while the WWF pushed forth a new wave of superstars, such as Steve Austin, Mick Foley, HHH, The Rock, and others, to name a few. By 1999, the same big names that had dominated WCW's upper card were older, less mobile, and were simply incapable of executing the same kind of matches they had in their primes.

Hey, say what you will about John Cena's stale act, but at least the guy can move around, he can deliver good matches (when he feels like it), and he's a solid worker who can get the job done. Bitch all you want about the New Age Outlaws getting another WWE Tag-Team Title reign over a decade past their point of relevancy, but at least they can still go... faint praise at best. Trying to sit through a Hogan/Piper main event a decade past their prime years was almost an embarrassing affair back in 1997 and would be even more so in 2003. Hence, the old joke about Wheel Chair Wrestling.

So someone had the bright idea of gathering a bunch of wrestling legends and old-timers that weren't signed away by the major promotions or simply didn't have anything better to do and build something of a legends' reunion were all the legends would compete in matches against each other. In theory, it's not that bad of an idea. Mind you, some of these names were long retired and probably haven't done much of it since then, but seeing a bunch of the lesser-known or lesser-acknowledged old-timers in some form or another wouldn't be the worst idea for a one-off thing at least. If done by the right kind of people and done in a matter that pays proper tribute to these heroes of wrestling, it would've been something special.

Then again, who the fuck am I kidding? I've stalled long enough.

We have our first match between the Samoan Swat Team (Samu and Tama managed by some guy called Paul Adams) and the team of Marty Jannetty and Tommy Rogers... because sure, why not? SST wins that match; nothing of note and if anything, only highlights how horrid the commentary here. God bless, ol' Dirty Dutch Mantell (a.k.a. Zeb Coulter) does his best here and give us some decent color, but play-by-play Randy Rosenbloom just comes off as dull and uninformed, often calling moves by the wrong names (it's a dropkick, not a flying leg kick, you Rosendoofus) or stating the obvious.

Next up, we've got Greg "The Hammer" Valentine taking on George "The Animal" Steele and Sherri Martel's there, for some reason. This is the only match where both wrestlers look almost timeless; The Hammer might've looked somewhat heavier and the Animal a bit wrinklier, but all things considered, they look no worse for wear. There is a bit of controversy here as the referee threatens to disqualify Steele if he doesn't take off his shirt, but yet is a-okay with Valentine smacking the poor guy with a steel chair. I guess only the shirt was an international object while the chair was an American one.

Anyway, Valentine wins the match with an assist from Sherri, who took some timely potshots at the Animal while he wasn't looking and the announcers are SHOCKED by this development. I fail to see why... sigh, this was played for "teh shits and giggles" but I got no "shits and giggles" out of this. If anything, it made me want to pop in Wrestlemania 2 and watch Savage vs. Steel... or any other match that Valentine was in.

2 Cold Scorpio defeat some guy named Julio Fantastico... this Julio kid looked a bit too youngun to be a "hero" of wrestling and it shows. This probably would've been better off at some no-name indy promotion... or ECW, maybe. This didn't do much for me.

The next match is billed as the team of the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff facing off against the team formerly known as the Bushwhackers. Hindsight being 20/20, I'm almost surprised that Luke and Butch (who gets called "Dutch" by Randy Rosenbooze, much to Dirty Dutch's consternation) didn't decide to just use their old Sheepherder name from the Mid-South days, but I guess "Bushwackers" was/is a more recognizable name for them... anyway, we get the Iron Sheik showing off his skill with the Iranian Clubs (that's actually pretty impressive and must take some skill), we get Iron Sheik calling Hulk Hogan a jabroni for good measure, and we also get Nikolai Volkoff doing the Russian National Anthem... You'll note that I've yet to touch on the actual match itself. And there's a very good reason for this...

It's bad... it's very bad. Moves don't connect, by which I mean, there's like six miles of air between each punch. There's lot of stalling... there's more instances of Rosemburg talking over Dutch Mantell, who's doing the best he could to salvage this commentary portion of this program, and this crowd looks to be not so bright, doing a USA chant that features exactly ZERO Americans in this match, as the Bushwhackers are from New Zealand... an international object gets used and gives the win to the Bushwhackers. I'm just happy this match is over and done.

So we got sweet Stan Lane and Tully Blanchard going at it... and this one has some backstory, as Lane pushed Tully into the truck of a car before the show... well, it's something, at least... hell, we even got a good promo from Tully... hey, both guys look good for the most part. So... Stan Lane is supposed to be the heel, but for some reason, Tully's the one getting the heel heat... you suppose they're booing him because he failed the WCW drug test years ago and as a result, they had to endure the days where guys like Sting, Sid Vicious, and Paul Roma would be part of the Four Horsemen?

For two guys who had been retired for some time, both guys still look pretty good for the most part. And while the match is far from a classic - retired, after all - it's not visually offensive or anything and it's not much of a stretch to say they could probably get their groove back after a short run or so... and believe me, you can't say that much about a lot of guys these days. I, for one, cringe at the possibility of a Hulk Hogan comeback, but Tully or Lane going at it in 1999-2000? Hey, I wouldn't be turned off by the possibility... 1999 Dave would probably disagree. Anyway, the match ends with Stan Lane hitting the belly-to-back suplex and both guys have their shoulders on the mat, with Tully raising his shoulder up just before the 3-count. This ending somehow gets a mild Tully chant.

The One Man Gang vs. Abdullah The Butcher match... I believe Scott Keith put it best here; "Both guys bleed. Both are counted out at 7:29. There's your match highlights."

By the way, did I mention there were kids in the audience? I might have neglected to mention that.

Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka beat "Cowboy" Bob Orton in a match that... well, if nothing else, it's competently executed. A bit slower, a bit of a lesser pacing, a bit too much time spent on an armbar that almost put me to sleep, but otherwise, this was not a complete disaster. Dutch does a pretty decent job of trying to making the match sound better than it actually is, even if a good chunk of his time is spent bickering with Randy Rosenburger.  I would be remiss for not mentioning the creative chants of the crowd questioning the sexual orientation of Cowboy Bob, which I'd have to disagree with... Now, his boy Randy, on the other hand...

Now... following that match, we get this infamous Jake Roberts promo...

And this is followed by Jake Roberts vs. Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart... and this match is embarrassing. Clearly, Jake is stoned, drugged, and coked out of his mind. Neidhart does what he can, but Roberts is just out of it. There's the other infamous moment in the match where Jake is using the snake as a surrogate penis, which prompts King Kong Bundy to run interference... and then Yokozuna hobbles about... and this is suddenly a tag-team match... and then Bundy splashes Jake for the win... and the show ends without so much as a "Goodbye! Thanks for watching!" or anything like that. I'm blowing through this match, but honestly, this is a thing that defies description. This is a thing that has to be WITNESSED and EXPERIENCED to fully convey the absolute embarrassment that this match brought about... to say nothing of the entire event itself.

This was not a tribute to the legends of wrestling. This was a fucking farce. However well-intentioned the show may have been, the end result proved to be an unmitigating disaster of almost biblical proportions. From top to bottom, this was just a chore to sit through. It's clear that a good number of these legends couldn't perform at the level they used to and it showed through a series of some truly terrible matches. If they had someone booking these things that could play to the strengths of these legends while hiding their readily-apparent weaknesses through clever booking and matchmaking, then the idea would've had legs to stand on, but that's not the case. What should have been a celebration of these iconic legends of the squared circle became a subject of intense mockery and embarrassment, something that WCW viewers had to contend with on the main event level.

The only noteworthy moment (not highlight, but moment) in Heroes Of Wrestling is watching a drunken, completely debilitated Jake Roberts fumble about, delivering an eerily incoherent ramble of a promo and proceed to make a complete mockery of himself by looking completely stoned out of his mind, at one point using his snake as a masturbatory toy. Watching Jake being a complete mess of a human being here is almost disgraceful and there's generally part of me that felt sorry for him and a part of me that wished his misery would end one way or another. And yet watching this today, it provides a stark contrast to the Jake Roberts who would eventually be inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2014 in better spirits and it only goes to show how far he's gone with the help of DDP.

There never was another Heroes Of Wrestling PPV. I don't know if there were plans to produce more of these things - it's possible, considering the number of times Dutch referred to this as the first Heroes of Wrestling - but if there were, clearly this miserable effort put the kibosh on those plans.

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