Something happened as the calendar turned from 1994 to 1995, and I don’t think it was a good thing. The WWF was in the middle of rebuilding after most of its stars from the late-1980s and early-1990s defected over to WCW. And while WrestleMania X was almost universally praised as a great show and a key kickoff for the “New Generation,” WrestleMania XI felt like a throwback to WrestleMania 2 – an underwhelming card where a lot of focus was put on football players.
With only seven matches on the card (and a lack of stars to focus on adding more matches anyway), the show was more focused on celebrity interactions, with a number of backstage segments with NYPD Blue’s Nicholas Turturro, MTV’s Jenny McCarthy and Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas. This would all be forgiven if the matches were top notch contests. This is, of course, not the case.
Best Match: Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels – WWF Title Match. The story between these two former partners was actually built very well, from the moment Diesel won the Intercontinental Title from Razor Ramon almost a year prior. While this match pales in comparison to the “Good Friends, Better Enemies” brawl the two had a year later, it is easily the best match on this card. I remember being all in on Shawn Michaels beating Diesel when the match happened. Losing the main event, Michaels went away for a while and came back as a babyface, which made him a whole lot less interesting… to me, anyway.
Worst Match: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Bob Backlund – I Quit Match. This is not a condemnation of Bret Hart or Bob Backlund. This is a condemnation of the way the match was built and the way special referee “Rowdy” Roddy Piper inserted himself into the match. Constantly questioning if Backlund and Hart give up and sticking the microphone in their faces ruins the potential flow of the match and makes sure that nothing ever builds to anything even approaching good.
The Super Bowl of Sports Entertainment: Bam Bam Bigelow main evented a WrestleMania. Think about that. The most hyped match of the show featured Bigelow taking on New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor in a grudge match that came about from a spat after an undercard tag team match at the ROYAL RUMBLE. Sure, Taylor far exceeded expectations and the pair put together a pretty good match. But still, the main event of WrestleMania featured a midcarder facing a football player. The person involved in the match who ended up in the best position was Steve “Mongo” McMichael, who parlayed an appearance as a member of LT’s All-Pro Team to being a lead commentator on WCW Monday Nitro just five months later.
Height Of Mediocrity: I feel like I’ve already spent too much time talking about one of the dullest WrestleManias of all time. The seven matches on the show feature a mediocre title change (Yokozuna and Owen Hart beating the Smoking Gunns), a mediocre Undertaker match (against King Kong Bundy, with future WWE Hall of Famer Charles Wright stealing the urn) and a mediocre opening tag team match (Lex Luger and British Bulldog vs. Jacob and Eli Blu). Really very little to discuss.
Ranking The WrestleMania XI Matches
1 – Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels – WWF Title Match
2 – Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
3 – Jeff Jarrett vs. Razor Ramon – Intercontinental Title Match
4 – Undertaker vs. King Kong Bundy
5 – Lex Luger and British Bulldog vs. Jacob and Eli Blu
6 – Smoking Gunns vs. Yokozuna and Owen Hart – Tag Team Title Match
7 – Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Bob Backlund – I Quit Match
*DISCLAIMER* The Top 10 rankings are for discussion purposes only and in no way reflect an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion. If you disagree, let me know in the comments. New arrivals to the Top 10 are in bold.
1 – WWF Championship Match: Diesel (c) and Bret “Hitman” Hart battle to a draw – Royal Rumble 1995
2 – WWF Championship Match: Diesel (c) defeated Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XI
3 – WCW World Championship Match: Hulk Hogan (c) beat Vader by disqualification – SuperBrawl V
4 – WCW TV Championship: Arn Anderson (c) defeated Johnny B. Badd – Clash of the Champions XXX
5 – Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage defeated the Butcher and Kevin Sullivan – Clash of the Champions XXX
6 – WWF Tag Team Championship Tournament Final Match: The Kid and Bob “Spark Plug” Holly defeated Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka – Royal Rumble 1995
7 – Sting and “Macho Man” Randy Savage defeated Avalanche and Big Bubba – SuperBrawl V
8 – The Undertaker defeated Irwin R. Schyster – Royal Rumble 1995
9 – Sting defeated Avalanche by submission – Clash of the Champions XXX
10 – Lawrence Taylor defeated Bam Bam Bigelow – WrestleMania XI
Next up, 1995 gets extreme with ECW’s Three Way Dance! Stay tuned!