Wrestlemania VIII: The Macho/Flair Affair
April 5, 1992
This might be the only Wrestlemania better remembered for what didn’t happen that what actually did. Almost everyone remembers that this is the Wrestlemania where Hulk Hogan DIDN’T wrestle Ric Flair, and many fewer people remember what the actual main event of the show was (Hogan vs. Sid).
No one can quite nail down the exact reason the match didn’t happen. Was it because their matches weren’t clicking on the house show circuit? The matches at house shows weren’t drawing well? Sid had a clause in his contract guaranteeing him a spot in the main event? They couldn’t agree on a finish? We’ll probably never get the definitive answer, but the fact that there are so many reasons suggest they all combined to prevent the dream match from happening here.
But the silver lining of this show is that Plan B ended up being pretty spectacular: A great program and match between Ric Flair and Randy Savage for the WWF Championship. Flair won the vacant championship in the 1992 Royal Rumble, entering the match at #3 and lasting an hour to win. Hogan was initially announced as his challenger for Wrestlemania, but Hogan dropped out of the match to fight Sid instead. Savage was named as the replacement for the match. Flair decided to get into Savage’s head by claiming that he had an affair with Elizabeth, producing doctored pictures as his evidence. And he said when he beat Savage at Wrestlemania, he was going to display some much more…intimate pictures for the whole audience to see.
You don’t mess with a man’s family. But would Savage’s rage cost him the championship? Time to find out.
Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan are our hosts.
Shawn Michaels vs. Tito Santana
Shawn comes out to his theme sung by Sherri, not his more famous one that he sung himself. This is a good opening match, nothing too flashy. Shawn takes some big bumps and both guys show off their athleticism. Shawn gets the win when Tito tries to Suplex him into the ring and Sherri trips Tito. Shawn falls on top for the pin.
Rating: **½. Good opener, right guy went over.
Undertaker vs Jake Roberts
Undertaker turned face by preventing Jake from hitting Elizabeth with a chair. Even a deadman has standards. This is all about putting Taker over. Jake hits the DDT twice, but Taker sits up both times. Taker spikes Jake with the Tombstone on the floor, then throws him back in for the pin. Once again, the new guy goes over the veteran.
Rating: **. Wasn’t a ton to that, but I still enjoyed seeing two iconic characters go at it.
Classic pre-match interview with Roddy Piper and Bret Hart before the next match. Piper is being a jackass, going on and on about how he loves Bret’s family and remembers Bret when he was in diapers (apparently Bret wasn’t potty trained until he was eight). Bret isn’t in a joking mood and calls Piper a disgrace, which sets Piper off. Bret grabs Piper and winds up for a punch, telling him “I would have had you.” Piper reveals he’d undone his belt and wrapped it around his first, responding “no, you wouldn’t have.” Great stuff to get us ready for this one.
Intercontinental Championship: Roddy Piper (c) vs. Bret Hart
Bret lost the title to The Mountie after trying to wrestle with a fever. Piper stepped up to challenge Mountie at the Royal Rumble and put him out with a Sleeper Hold, winning his first championship in the WWF.
This match is all about two good guys who are friends struggling with what they have to do to win. Piper is the aggressor, throwing blatant punches and pushing the rules. Bret plays possum and gets a two count, which sets Piper off. Bret gets cut open, which was rare at this time and not at all allowed. Bret bladed here, but avoided getting fined/fired because he hid it well and convinced Vince that it was a hard way cut.
The turning point in the match comes when Piper accidentally whips Bret into the referee. Ref goes down, giving Piper and opportunity to grab the ring bell. He winds up, but can’t bring himself to use it. He puts the bell back, then traps Bret in the Sleeper Hold.
Bret’s on the verge of going out, but uses his last bit of strength to run up the turnbuckle and kick off into a bridging pin. There’s no way for Piper to get out, and Bret wins back the Intercontinental Championship.
Rating: ****½. Classic, classic match. Not a ton of action, but the story was unbelievably gripping.
This was Piper’s first televised pinfall loss in the WWF. Once more, the new talent is getting put over big tonight.
Big Boss Man, Virgil, Sgt. Slaughter, and Jim Duggan vs. The Nasty Boys, Repo Man, and The Mountie
This was just garbage. Slow, and lots of botches. Virgil pinned Jerry Sags after Knobbs accidentally hit him.
Rating: Dud. Terrible match.
WWF Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs. Randy Savage
Flair is out first with Mr. Perfect in his corner. Bobby Heenan stays on commentary rather than joining Perfect on the floor. Savage is out second without Elizabeth. He told her to stay in the back, out of harm’s way. Savage is on fire to start, beating Flair all over the ring.
The turning point comes when Savage charges Flair and gets Back Dropped out to the floor. Flair takes over and proceeds to beat the shit out of Savage for a solid ten minutes. They really push the limits of how long you can go without a comeback, but they make it work.
The crowd is restless. Savage finally gets some punches and hits a Swinging Neckbreaker! Both men are down. Savage deals on Flair, who falls to his knees to beg for mercy. Savage spits on him. Flair gets whipped into the corner, does the Flair Flip onto the apron, runs to the opposite turnbuckle and jumps off. Savage catches him with a Clothesline on the way down! Long two count. Crowd thought that was it. Savage sends Flair to the floor and hits him with the Ax Handle.
Flair is busted open, bleeding everywhere. Back in the ring, Savage scores with the Flying Elbow! 1……2…..Perfect breaks up the pin. Savage and Perfect get into it, allowing Perfect to throw Savage a foreign object. Flair levels Savage, but can only get two on the pin. Not a powerful kick out from Savage though, he’s clearly fading.
And then the crowd really goes wild, because Elizabeth has seen enough of this bullshit. She comes down the aisle with a purpose as agents, including Shane McMahon, try to hold her back. She reaches ringside just as Flair locks on the Figure Four. Savage is drained and can barely keep his shoulders off the mat. Savage is close to turning it over, but Perfect grabs Flair for leverage. Earl Hebner finally notices and breaks that up, allowing Savage to reverse the hold.
Both men to their feet. Small Package by Savage! Flair gets out at two. Once again, the crowd thought that was the finish. Flair hits a Kneebreaker on Savage. Now he goes for the kill. He turns the leg, but he takes too long posing. Savage rolls him up and grabs a handful of trunks. Savage pins Flair and wins his second WWF Championship.
Rating: *****. What an awesome match. This is one of the first matches I can remember with such great nearfalls. Before they were a played out trope. Flair’s heat segment went on so long the crowd was absolutely dying for Savage to come back. And they were rocking and rolling every time it looked like he was going to win. It was unusual for a good guy to cheat at this time, but given what Flair had done to Savage in the lead up to this match it was justified. Savage came after Flair’s family, and that’s a line you just don’t cross. Savage did the worst thing he possibly could to Flair by taking away his title.
In the back, we get a great promo from Flair. He’s covered in blood, but speaks calmly. He says Savage is going to be on the town tonight, claiming to be the world’s champion. But he’s not. And he promises that he’s not done with Savage.
Just like last year, Savage steals the show in the midcard. Pity for the guys who had to try to follow it.
Tatanka vs. Rick Martel
Not that bad a match, but the crowd is dead after the last one. Tatanka wins with the Cross Body after four minutes.
Rating: *½. Not awful for the length.
World Tag Team Championship: Money Inc. (c) vs. The Natural Disasters
Kind of awkward to have a tag match where the faces are both 400 pounds. Mostly, Money Inc. just get their asses kicked here. They give it up and walk away after eight minutes to save their titles.
Rating: ½*. That was dull.
Skinner vs. Owen Hart
Skinner was a big game hunter. Who wrestled. Owen was recently returned. This is over in a minute, as Owen scores with a roll-up. Meh.
Rating: Dud. One minute match at Wrestlemania? Back half of this card is pure filler.
Sid Justice vs. Hulk Hogan
Sid threw Hogan out of the Rumble back in January and Hogan was a little bitch about it. Hogan grabbed Sid’s arm and pulled him halfway out of the ring, allowing Flair to eliminate him. Then Sid rightly assumed that as the runner-up in the Royal Rumble, he would be the #1 contender for Wrestlemania. No dice, Hogan was awarded the shot. Sid and Hogan were paired against Ric Flair and Undertaker at The Main Event and Sid abandoned Hogan, refusing to tag in. Then he went on a path of destruction, destroying everyone he wrestled until Hogan agreed to fight him.
This is promoted as possibly being Hogan’s retirement match. Hogan was interested in pursuing a career in acting and the heat from the steroid trial was coming down the pike, so I think there was some truth to that. This match is pretty much you’d expect from Sid and Hogan. It’s not good, it’s ugly, but Sid doesn’t screw up anything too big. Sid eventually hits the Powerbomb, but Hogan Hulks Up. He appears to have it won after the Leg Drop, but Sid…kicks out. That’s curious. Apparently Papa Shango mistimed his interference and Sid had to kick out. Harvey Whippleman gets in the ring and the match ends in a disqualification. Shango finally gets there and he and Sid tune up Hogan.
Rating: ½*. Hard to expect much more from Sid vs. Hogan.
And then Warrior’s music hits and crowd goes crazy. Warrior sprints to the ring and he and Hogan run Sid and Shango off. Huge surprise, great moment.
Overall: I really love this show. Other Wrestlemanias surpassed it in terms of match quality, but this one has such interesting matches: Hogan vs. Sid, Flair vs. Savage, Bret vs. Piper, Taker vs. Jake. Lots of old vs. new matches with the new guys going over. Piper/Bret and Savage/Flair were both all-time classics. Also, the commentary was phenomenal here as Monsoon and Heenan were at their absolute peak. It was a tale of two halves, with the first half being great and the second half not offering much. But man, that first half was awesome.
Next: Wrestlemania takes over Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.