I’d like to start off by pointing out that as I got older, I grew an appreciation for Ric Flair. To me, he’s one of the best and most exciting wrestlers of all time. With that said, back in 1992, at the ripe old age of 5 years old…I hated Ric Flair. I didn’t understand what claim he had to the world title and I found his work boring. Back then my family family never watched WCW, so we didn’t understand why Flair was such a big deal. We watched one WCW Clash of the Champions and we really didn’t enjoy it. To my family, WCW was just a lot of chops and didn’t have those larger than life characters that WWE had ( I realize how silly this is now by the way). We all laughed when Flair came into the Rumble 92 at number 3 and thought, thank god he isn’t going to win. Of course, Flair would go on to win the Rumble, in arguably the greatest Rumbles of all time, but still we didn’t want Ric Flair as the world champion. At the time, we got our wrestling news from WWF magazine and from the Slammer, who wrote a quick article every Friday about the state of pro wrestling in the New York Daily News. Thus it wasn’t like today where everyone knows Kevin Steen’s entire history and can’t wait for his first match.
I remember for Wrestlemania 8, they did a press conference where they would announce the new number one contender to face Flair at Wrestlemania for the title. The likes of Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, Randy Savage & Roddy Piper were all in attendance and it was made to be a big deal. You can watch it below, if you’d like
I was pretty surprised when Savage got the call as Wrestlemania really was the Hulk Hogan show up to this poing & the Slammer was telling us WWF was going with Hogan and Flair so Savage seemed a bit out of left field.
As for this Mania itself, I remember being really confused as to why the world title match didn’t go on last and looking back, I’m still a bit confused. Savage and Flair had a natural story going into their match and it was a really great match, filled with a lot of passion that resulted in a clean finish and title win for Randy Savage. To me this would have been a great way to end WrestleMania.
Instead the main event was Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice. It ended up being the first time in WrestleMania history that the world champion wasn’t at least involved in the main event. I want to say the reason was because it was being teased that the Hogan-Justice match was going to be Hogan’s last match in the WWF but that wasn’t true as Hulk returned to the WWF the next year. As for this match itself, it ended in a disqualification which would then also make this the first time in wrestlemania history that the show ended without a clean finish. Sid ended up getting disqualified when newcomer Papa Shango hit the ring and began attacking Hogan. This led to a really surprising and great return for the Ultimate Warrior who hadn’t be seen in about six months. What’s funny is that I remember Warrior was a lot leaner and had a haircut so this led to the popular belief that the Ultimate Warrior had actually been killed and replaced by someone else, the belief was Kerry von Erich.
Looking back at this show, it’s really almost like a changing of the guard with that Wrestlemania. Following this show, Hogan & Piper took time off. Jake Roberts also left the WWF for several years following this show and by the next year’s WrestleMania, Flair and Warrior would be gone too. Instead Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart were getting ready to take on more prominent roles as the years went on.
Before I close the door on WrestleMania 8, I’d like to mention a personal story from later on in 1992.
I have mentioned in the past how I’ve had a history of being afraid of some WWE superstars and storylines. Giant Gonzales, Doink The Clown & the time the Undertaker came alive in the casket and flew out of it at the Royal Rumble 1994, to name a few. Well, if there was one guy who I feared more than any other it was unquestionably Papa Shango. Shango didn’t only look creepy but he performed voodoo on his opponents and made strange black goo pour out of the Ultimate Warrior.
On September 11th, 1992, my father got he and I two tickets for the WWF at Madison Square Garden. I couldn’t believe it as this was going to be one of my first live events, I didn’t even know what to do or think. We jumped on the Long Island Rail Road from Bayside to MSG and it was a feeling like none other. Everywhere looked there were wrestling fans, everyone was wearing a shirt and holding a sign, it was great. It would be the same feeling I would feel during every show I’d end up going to, but there was something that felt big time about MSG.
A we arrived to MSG, following an embarrassing moment where I took a leak in a potted plant at penn station, my dad told me he had a huge surprise for me. Before he revealed that, however, my dad bought me a program which always showed the match card. I opened it up and screamed off every big match on the card. Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker! Randy Savage vs. Razor Ramon! Then my face sank…I nervously proclaimed to my dad ” Dad, Papa Shango is wrestling tonight, he’s wrestling Bret Hart”. This only got worse when my dad revealed his surprise, which were front row seats!
I immediately began to scream as this was unbelievable and intimidating at the same time. I told my dad as great as this was we had to give the seats away. I couldn’t sit there petrified of Shango. I’m sure my father wanted to kill me but, being a good father, agreed to make someone’s day, by asking some fans to switch seats with us. We enjoyed the show from the sixth row until the Hart-Shango match. At this point, I had to use the bathroom and the only way this was possible would be to walk against the barricade and passed the first row. We tried to do this while Hart had Shango in a headlock and we were in the middle of tiptoeing past the front row when Shango disposed of Hart and ran at the ropes as quick as possible taunting the crowd. Well, that was it! I was off to the races as I ran quickly into the lobby. I had never seen my father run faster in his life as he screamed for me to stop. I eventually did but we hung out by the souvenirs until Hart won.
To make matters worse, I then pleaded with my dad to run up to the barricade to see the Undertaker up close. That’s right, the deadman was fine but Papa Shango was the problem! As for what happened to ole Papa Shango? Well, he had to retire as he soon realized that “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy!”
That’s gonna do it for now but next time I’ll be taking a look at the WWF in 1993. Wrestlemania the album is released and WWF head’s to Ceasar’s Palace for Wrestlemania 9!