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WWF at Philadelphia Spectrum
January 8, 1993

by Scrooge McSuck

Bret Hart

The WWF runs the usual loop of the Spectrum, Boston Garden, and Meadowlands Arena (the last of the three that to the best of my knowledge wasn't taped from the audience), which lines up perfectly for them to present the debut of "Monday Night Raw" live from the Manhattan Center the following Monday. This is an incomplete show, and the lineup looks familiar from other fan-cams from this period. Matches not featured on the recording: Virgil def. The Brooklyn Brawler, The Steiner Brothers def. The Executioners (Barry Hardy and Duane Gill), and Tatanka def. Damian Demento.

Bob Backlund vs. The Berzerker:

OH LORD. I still am haunted by the match these two had in Reno the day before the Royal Rumble. It would be a gross understatement to say Backlund had poor chemistry with a lot of the roster the WWF accumulated by the time of his return at the end of 1992. Berzerker charges at Backlund and crashes into the turnbuckle. Lockup to the ropes, Backlund avoids a cheap shot and sweeps the leg, causing Berzerker to do the splits before bailing out. Back inside, Berzerker calls for a test-of-strength. After a little bit of stalling, the battle is on, and Berzerker has the early advantage. Backlund battles to his feet, only for a well-placed boot to drop him to his knees again. Backlund rolls through and counters with a top wristlock, but Berzerker quickly counters with a slam. Berzerker kindly allows Backlund to his feet. Backlund grabs a side headlock and is no match for a shoulder block. He surprises Berzerker with a mule kick and follows up with a hip toss and slam. Berzerker has his ears rung and powders out again. Berzerker suckers Backlund over and hangs him up across the top rope. Back inside, Berzerker punishes the back and catches Backlund off the ropes with a bearhug. Backlund briefly counters, but his back can't handle the strain. Berzerker capitalizes and connects with a back breaker for two. Backlund counters another bearhug with a Thesz Press for three at 7:45 (shown). I don't know if there was any editing (I didn't hear an opening bell, so adjusted accordingly), but whatever the case, this was at least watchable. *½

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Marty Jannetty:

Earlier in the show, they did the gimmick where Jannetty attacked Michaels before the bell, postponing the match until later in the night. Michaels wanted out of the defense, but super-serious authority figure Sgt. Slaughter ruled against and is forcing him to defend at less than 100%. I never got the idea of stacking the odds against the HEEL, setting up the FACE for failure. Seems counterproductive. These two wrestled COUNTLESS times around the horn during this time. Michaels tries ambushing Jannetty entering the ring, but Jannetty is ready for him, throwing a flurry of right hands. Whip to the ropes and Jannetty whips Michaels backwards by the hair and continues to pummel him. Running knee lift connects and a clothesline sends Michaels over the top rope. Jannetty gives chase as Michaels attempts to take a walk. Back inside, Jannetty ducks a wild right hand and sends Michaels out of the ring with an atomic drop. Jannetty follows again, diving off the apron with a flying FIST ATTACK. Jannetty goes to the well once too often and pays for it (off-camera due to a bad angle of the action). This is the problem with cameras that aren't in the balcony. Back inside, Michaels targets the midsection that has met the cold steel of the ring steps. Whip to the ropes and Michaels hooks an abdominal stretch. Yes, he uses the ropes for leverage. I'm sure Mike Rotunda was nodding in approval somewhere. Marty fights free, but the hip toss fails with his ribs injured. Michaels reapplies the hold, and it's clear this is the day off performance from him. Jannetty counters a slam with an inside cradle for two. Jannetty spins out of a third abdominal stretch and lays Michaels out with a clothesline. Michaels meets an elbow in the corner, then meets the post charging in blindly. Jannetty throws another series of rights and sends Michaels out of the ring with the Harley Race bump out of the corner. Jannetty gives Michaels a taste of the steps before sending him back into the ring. Whip and Jannetty connects with a powerslam. Michaels avoids a flying fist drop but is caught off-guard with a DDT for a near-fall. Michaels whiffs on a Super-Kick and Jannetty connects with his own for another two-count. Slingshot into the corner. Jannetty meets the post diving into the corner and Michaels drops an arm across him for three at 11:59. Weak middle, but the opening and ending sequences were clearly working out and would be incorporated a bit into their match at the Royal Rumble. ***

High Energy vs. The Headshrinkers:

To the best of my knowledge, the only time I've covered a match between these two teams was the opener for Survivor Series ‘92. It was decent, but unspectacular. Now that I think of it, Owen and Koko didn't last very long as a team, did they? Maybe 8-9 months. Owen and Samu start. Lockup and Owen is sent crashing to the canvas. Owen grabs a top wristlock, and we get the same result. Owen with a side headlock and shoulder block that has little effect Crisscross, and Owen runs wild with an arm drag and a pair of dropkicks. Fatu tags in and is met with some unflattering gestures. Owen does his signature counter out of a wristlock and unloads with right hands. Koko with a headbutt. Fatu no-sells, so Koko stomps his feet and clears the ring with dropkicks. To add insult to injury, he does a "lift your leg up like a dog" pose that would get you a yellow flag in the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct. Back inside, Fatu sends Koko to the ropes and lays him out with a clothesline. We get heel miscommunication, allowing Koko out of the corner to hit Fatu with a swinging neck breaker. Owen comes off the top with a double axe-handle and grabs a headlock. Owen makes the mistake of going after Samu, allowing Fatu to drop him with a Super-Kick. Samu with a leg drop for two. Side slam for two. Samu WHIFFS on a spinning Super-Kick (think the Mick-Kick) and covers it by throwing a dropkick. Owen fights out of a chin-lock, only to get yanked down by the hair. Fatu takes a shot at Koko, drawing him in and allowing a double-clubbering in the corner on Owen. Samu meets the post missing a dive into the corner, allowing Koko to get the hot tag. He throws more dropkicks and lays connects with a DDT. Heck breaks loose with all four men in the ring. Koko with a missile dropkick on Fatu, but the referee ushers Owen out first before going for the count. This allows Samu to hit a flying headbutt, putting Fatu on top for three at 10:26. Nothing special, just a by-the-numbers tag team match with one bad botch. **

The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Papa Shango:

Just to let the record know, Paul Bearer was important enough to bring along on the house show loop, but Afa (the Headshrinkers manager/trainer) wasn't. Maybe he just missed the show, but at the time, non-essential managers were kept off the road to save money on airfare. I'm going to assume Shango was filling dates originally intended for Nailz. Shango throws the first punch. Taker no-sells and fires off some rights of his own before grabbing a choke in the corner. Whip is reversed, with Taker taking a hard bump into the buckle. Shango meets the boot charging in, and Taker wastes little time walking the ropes and dropping a clothesline across the back of the neck. Taker no-sells a punt countering a back body-drop and plants Shango with a slam. Shango rolls away from the elbow drop but is caught with a Hot Shot. The referee is again easily distracted, allowing Shango to shoot a fireball from his voodoo skull in the Undertaker's face. Shango dumps Taker to the floor and follows, whacking him with a chair. HOW IS THIS REFEREE SO BLIND? Wait a minute... it's BILL ALFONSO. That explains things. Back inside, Taker resumes his no-selling superpowers, only to get caught in a sleeper. Taker counters with a jaw breaker but is quickly laid out with a clothesline. Shango drops a bunch of elbows, but nothing can keep the Undertaker down. Whip is reversed and Taker misses the diving lariat. Taker escapes Shango's signature shoulder breaker. He nails the lariat on the second try and finishes with the chokeslam at 7:05. Wow, this was decent. Didn't hurt they were good friends, and it was kept reasonably short. **

WWF Championship Match: Bret "Hitman" Hart (c) vs. Ric Flair:

Main Event and final match of the show. I'm sure both men probably hated every match they had together, but so far, as a fan watching with my own perspective, I don't see a huge discrepancy in quality compared to the rest of their work from this period of their careers. They would run Boston the next day with a "Marathon Match", so who knows what to expect as far as general effort is concerned. Lockup into the corner and Flair gives a clean break (and "woo"). They tease locking up again and Bret gives Flair an open-palm strike (a.k.a. slap). Flair brings Hart to the canvas with a hammerlock. Bret counters and ends up on top after slipping out of a front face-lock. Flair yanks the hair, but Bret nips up, backing him into the corner. Flair sends Bret from one corner to another and unloads with a series of short rights. Flair yanks the hair again as he works on the left arm. They love doing the spot where Bret clenches his fist, the referee prevents him from using it, and Flair grabs the hair. Bret fights to his feet, only for Flair to grab the hair and regain position, using the ropes for leverage on the hold. Whip to the corner, with Bret taking the bump chest-first. Flair tries tying him up near the ropes, but Bret keeps kicking out. Based on the 10-minutes we've seen so far; this is a night-off performance. Bret reverses a whip to the corner and takes Flair over with a back body-drop. He traps Flair in the Figure-Four Leg Lock, but Flair gets to the ropes to force the break. Bret continues working the leg, dropping elbows and hooking a grapevine.

Flair blocks another Figure-Four by landing a boot to the face, then adds a thumb to the eye for bonus points. Bret gets dumped and hung up across the top rope. Back inside, Flair throws his first chop of the match nearly 15-minutes in. New record? Bret and Flair exchange blows, with Bret gaining the advantage, but Flair counters the mounted corner spot with an inverted atomic drop before doing his signature flop to the canvas. They trade blows again. Flair reverses a whip to the corner and surprises Bret with an inside cradle for a near-fall. Crucifix cradle with a handful of tights for two. For the third time, they trade blows out of the corner. Whip to the ropes and Flair catches Bret in a sleeper. Bret grabs the ropes and HOLDS THEM FOR WHAT FEELS LIKE FOREVER, but Hebner doesn't force the break at any point, allowing Flair to maintain control of the hold as he brings Bret to the canvas. Bret uses his momentum to send Flair face-first into the turnbuckle, breaking the hold. Whip is reversed and Bret applies his own sleeper. Flair immediately counters with a back suplex but can't capitalize. Bret blocks a hip toss and takes Flair over with a back-slide for two. Flair goes for his signature atomic drop to the knee, but Bret blocks and connects with a headbutt. Flair sweeps the legs and stacks Bret up in the corner for two. Whip to the corner and Flair puts Bret down with a chop. He climbs the ropes and is predictably slammed to the canvas. Whip to the corner, sending Flair to the apron. He dives off the top and is met with a fist to the midsection, followed by a Russian leg sweep for two. Back breaker and elbow drop for two. Bret straddles Flair across the top turnbuckle and connects with a super-plex for two. Flair blocks the Sharpshooter, sets up for the Figure-Four, and Bret cradles him for three at 27:19 to retain. Yep. Day-off effort here. Technically OK, but a huge disappointment. **¼

Final Thoughts: The biggest attraction on the card ended up the biggest disappointment, which always leaves a sour taste. Surprisingly, only one match dipped below the average mark, and that was watchable compared to other outings, so it almost gets a bit of a boost for not being an absolute dumpster fire. If you like the era and are OK with fan-cams, this is a solid 82-minutes, even if Bret and Flair under-delivered.

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