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WWF SNME episode 31: Bret Hart vs. Papa Shango, Michaels wins Intercontinental title


The 90s were known for a lot of things: grunge rock, 2Pac vs. Biggie, historic TV, WWE vs. WCW, my unfortunate hairstyles, and tons more. Some call it the last great decade and some of you reading this were even born in the 90s, making the rest of us feel very old.

Episode 31 marked the end of the first era of WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event as the show would head into the caves for a 14-year slumber before returning in a modern and much different iteration in 2006.

Even though this two episode 1992 run -- known as the Fox era --- was largely forgettable, it still came at the end of a seven year run that brought America the biggest wrestling stars of the era in an unforgettable format. If you were a wrestling fan during that period, you watched SNME. It’s that simple.

By ‘92, the show was reduced down to an hour on a still emerging network and it lacked the emotional gravity that the previous NBC era had. There was too much excess, too few quality matches, and too much of a preview of what would become WWF wrestling until the Attitude Era. In watching this 42 minutes, it was hard to believe that this company would become white hot a few years later.

Before RAW, there was Saturday Night’s Main Event. While we have five episodes left, I feel like we’re sending an old friend out to sea before shooting flaming arrows into the boat. This show was the gateway to several years of major roster change and the near extinction of the company that now is the dominant figure in professional wre...err...sports entertainment today.

If you’re new to these reviews, here’s the disclaimer: no star ratings, no snark, no deep evaluation of matches. These are the musings of a 38-year-old with a dream assignment: watching old WWF matches from his childhood on the WWE Network. For those of you wanting to check out the old reviews, do a search on the site for 'Josh Nason' and a bunch will come up. A full listing should be ready in the next few weeks.

- Airdate: November 14, 1992
- Taped: October 27, 1992
- Runtime: 42 minutes
- Location: Terre Haute, IN | Hulman Center

Good news! The terrible open from the first Fox show has been vanquished in favor of a cold open with our new WWF Tag Team Champions coming out to the ring. Since we last saw the crew earlier in the year, we had new champions across the board and Hulk Hogan was nowhere to be found. Change wasn’t just here; it demolished nearly everything in its path in getting here.

Vince McMahon actually acknowledged the location of the show and he and Bobby Heenan are seated at a broadcast booth in front of a green screen, getting people excited for the “triple crown” tonight with three title defenses. If WWF was going down on network TV, they were at least going to draw blood.

WWF Tag Team Champions Money Inc. (Ted DiBiase/Irwin R. Schyster) w/Jimmy Hart vs. The Ultimate Maniacs (Ultimate Warrior/Randy Savage)

Like many of you, I had forgotten that the Maniacs even existed. McMahon said this will be “a scientific wrestling match and likely to be a brawl”. Alright then.

Warrior was back in WWF after being out for nearly a year due to contract issues. This was full singlet Warrior, however, and not the guy in the trunks that we all had to go to know. He was big, but not as big. Then, there was Savage with his dyed hair and full body red and yellow tasseled outfit. It just didn’t look right at all and honestly, it felt kinda sad -- especially when they both sprinted out to the ring.

During the match, Heenan takes us to “The Brain Scan” where he uses a telestrator to draw what’s going on. The result: a picture of “that loser H. Ross Perot”, the once U.S. presidential candidate.

Ominously looming in the rafters in the background was the giant ICO-PRO banner. God, this era of WWF was something else. We get an inset where Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, and Ric Flair are watching the action in the back because Heenan apparently got them a monitor. Apparently, these were a hot commodity back in the 90s. The build is toward a big tag match for Survivor Series...that never happened. More on that in a few paragraphs, but DON’T SKIP AHEAD THROUGH THE COMMERCIALS, OK?

Savage hit the big elbow on IRS, but DiBiase broke up the cover, robbing us of seeing Warrior/Savage in the record books that sit on Dave Meltzer’s maple desk. All four men were brawling (McMahon = soothsayer) and Warrior/Savage double-clotheslined the heels to the outside. DiBiase and IRS took off, leading to a countout. Jerks!

Also, Warrior ended Savage’s career in ‘91 and now, they came a DiBiase boot away from being champions together. Wrestling! Also pt. II, Savage had unretired in ‘92, completely negating the Warrior match. Wrestling!

As Savage and Warrior gave chase, Flair, Ramon and Perfect decided Heenan’s monitor was lame and ran out, laying out Savage and Warrior. All the heels jumped in which prompted about 15 officials to come out to break things up. Warrior covered up Savage during the attack which must have made Savage feel very manly.

McMahon says we’re going to see music video with Bret Hart...which we never see. However, I think I found it for you. Rock your kids to sleep with this, friends. #TomPetty

WWF Intercontinental Champion British Bulldog vs. Shawn Michaels

We get our first SNME glimpse of singles star Shawn Michaels who is going for the I-C strap tonight. However, the Braided Bulldog is over big with the fans in Indiana, so it ain’t going to be easy.

Just McMahon promises this will be a “technical” match, Bulldog tosses down Michaels off a lockup in a pure power move. Heenan thinks that Michaels will win the title and that his SS main event against Hart will be a title vs. title match. McMahon alerts us that Bulldog vs. Mountie for the belt is also set for that card.

McMahon explains that Sherri isn’t here by Michaels’ side because she’s recovering as a result of the injury to Marty Jannetty. I have no idea what that means.

Not surprisingly, this match overcame both competitors’ bad hairstyles and was pretty good. Michaels showed exactly why, even then, he was destined for something big. I always enjoyed Bulldog as a singles talent, so I had no doubts.

As BB began his comeback, a turnbuckle pad Michaels had earlier loosened just fell off and was impossible to not mention but they chose not to acknowledge it anyway. The first time they did was when Bulldog got Irish whipped into the buckle and McMahon said, “Wait a minute!”, choosing to then be surprised by the buckle pad being on the mat. Weird guy.

The end came out of nowhere as Bulldog went to superplex Michaels and instead, Michaels fell on top of him for the pin. We have a new champion on SNME for the first time! We have seen history! The story here, as they tell us after the fact, was Bulldog hurt his back when he got whipped into the buckle and thus couldn’t finish the superplex.

Wellll, that wasn’t the real reason as Bulldog was released due to steroid allegations and thus, had to drop the title. There’s always a reason, right?

“Mean” Gene Okerlund is with Flair, Perfect, and Ramon. We finally get a Flair promo and he tells us that he wants the winner of Hart vs. Michaels. Sounds great to me! Flair would leave WWF in February 93 though, so that idea was for naught. Ramon opines, “Who cares about good days, bad days, SummerSlam?” while saying ‘mang’ about 13 times including my favorite: McMang.

McMahon tells us to get ready as the best is yet to come.

WWF World Champion Bret Hart vs. Papa Shango

Time for an admission: I was a Papa Shango fan. He was big, tattooed, odd looking, and floated on that occult side of things. What wasn’t there to like? He was different and I thought that was cool. He just couldn’t hit time cues right, but I’m not going to judge. As Shango came out, they kept showing lots of kids looking terrified. Ah, so THIS is what it means to be the new face of fear. Better than showing people’s cell phones, I guess.

Gene is with our new champion and tells us about how Hart beat Flair for the belt in Saskatoon, Canada. Hart, wearing a Sgt. Pepper jacket, talked about how Stu taught him wrestling in the dungeon and how he dedicated himself to being the best when he got to WWF eight years ago. He goes through his title history and how it’s a dream to be the world champion. It’s a good promo, but he sounds a bit ridiculous when he says the words ‘Papa Shango’.

Bill Alfonso is our referee -- the only man that can contain all that is Hart vs. Shango.

McMahon and Heenan keep talking about a box that is up in the booth. Heenan wants to open it, but McMahon keeps telling him no. McMahon does say that Hart is the most “scientifically oriented” champion in recent history. This guy is a CEO, huh?

Kidding aside, this was actually a really fun match and further evidence of how great Hart was. Shango’s big mistake was going for a second rope elbow which Hart rolled out of the way of. You know what happened next: an offensive attack highlighted by the side Russian leg sweep, second rope clothesline, and finally the Sharpshooter, set up by Shango missing a running splash into the corner. Your champion!

We get another ‘Brain Scan’ which led to the word ‘champ’ on the screen. God, this was so lame.

We don’t get a Death Spot Match Of The Night, but the Funeral Parlor is our final segment so that seems appropriate. Paul Bearer talks about how the Undertaker has been hard at work constructing a special casket for Kamala who he faces at Survivor Series. We get amazing clips of Taker in a blacksmith shop actually working on said casket, complete with BLUEPRINTS featuring Kamala laying inside.

We get a clip from SummerSlam where Kamala ran from Taker, and then a casket on set opens (complete with creaking sound effects). Taker is a complete fan favorite at this point and delivers a fairly non-descript Taker promo as they were back then.

Back from break and Gene is with the successful Hart. Gene starts asking him about Michaels and guess who walks on set? Michaels explains how he beat Bulldog tonight, the same guy that “humiliated” Hart at SummerSlam to win the belt to begin with. Even though their much-more famous Survivor Series match would be five years later, you could feel the rivalry between them. Great stuff.

A strange segment closes us out, but one that makes complete sense now. McMahon tells Heenan that it’s time to open his gift and indeed, there’s a giant red box in front of them. (McMahon’s jacket is about two sizes too big, by the way.) Heenan is on the phone with Bryan Alvarez’s 900 number with a big scoop and says that Savage and Warrior won’t come out to the ring together at Survivor Series. Then right before they go off air, he adds, “One of them will have a new partner.” 

He was right. Between this taping and Survivor Series, Warrior left the company...again. On the November 16th Prime Time Wrestling, Mr. Perfect accepted Savage’s offer to team with him after Perfect and Flair had been having issues on previously taped shows. Got all that? Warrior wouldn’t return to WWF until 1996 and would never be on SNME again.

When we meet again, we’ll be 14 years in the future. The name of the company will have changed, the network will be different but the same, and a whole new group of, ahem, Superstars will become part of SNME history. The 90s are dead. Long live the 90s.

See you next Saturday!