WrestleMania season is here. I’m sure if you are reading this, you are just like me and get nostalgic when Mania season gets here. I try to watch as many WrestleManias as I can before the show. If I can’t watch a whole show I will make sure to go and watch my favourite matches and moments from each show.
For me, there is one match that took place at a past WrestleMania that is just the perfect example of story telling from start to finish. And that match is The Ultimate Warrior vs Macho Man Randy Savage from WrestleMania 7, 30 years old today.
The build to the match is simple. Savage thought he was owed a shot at the WWF title. When Warrior told him no, Savage went out of his way to cost Warrior the title. At the Royal Rumble, Savage attacked Warrior during his title defence against Sgt. Slaughter. Savage hit Warrior right over the head with his sceptre (after also attacking him earlier in the match). Slaughter won the title and Warrior’s almost ten month title reign was over. This lead to the match at WrestleMania 7, putting both men’s careers on the line.
Before the match begins, you can already see these two are going to tell a great story. Bobby Heenan sees Miss Elizabeth in the crowd. She had not been seen in forever on WWE TV. I still would like to know how Heenan saw her all the way from the commentary table, but I never question the greatest mind in the business. Warrior comes to the ring walking, not running. That had never happened before. Warrior’s tights also have a picture of the WWF title on the back of it with a caption reading “It Means Much More Than This.”
Savage and Sherri try to pull out all the stops in the beginning. Warrior catches Savage at one point coming off the top and just puts him on his feet and slaps him, trying to get in the head of Savage. Warrior is in control of the match until he misses a charge and goes flying over the corner to the outside. I miss the days when the crowd is into EVERY MOVE like they are in this match. I mean seriously, punches, clotheslines, etc. They are into everything.
Warrior gets a small package but Sherri is on the apron so the ref doesn’t see it. Savage pushes Warrior into the ref. Sherri comes off the top but accidentally hits Savage with her shoe after Warrior moves. Warrior chases Sherri. Savage rolls him up but gets two. Savage drops Warrior neck first on the ropes twice. Savage goes to the top and drops an elbow. And another. And another. And another. And another. FIVE ELBOW DROPS from the Macho Man. Warrior is able to get his shoulder up before three.
The look on Savage’s face here is great. It is a look of “what the hell else do I need to do to win this match.” Warrior starts his version of “Hulking Up” and clotheslines Savage. Warrior press slams Savage then splashes him and only gets two. Now it is Warrior’s turn to question what he has to do in this match. No one (except Hogan, but they don’t mention that) ever kicked out of that move. Warrior looks up to the skies and his hands, questioning if maybe this isn’t his time. As Warrior ponders on the apron, Savage knocks him off.
Sherri holds Warrior on the metal railing as Savage prepares to jump off and crush his throat, like he did to Ricky Steamboat. But Warrior pushes away Savage and catches him with a shot to the gut off the top. Warrior brings Savage back in the ring and hits three shoulder tackles. Savage’s body is lifeless as Warrior drags him back in the ring and lifts him up each time. After the third one, Warrior simply puts his foot over Savage and covers him for the pin. Heenan is great here because he is making a point as the pin happens and just goes “Oh my god no!” after the three count.
Warrior poses in each corner after the match. Sherri comes in and berates Savage, because they play up that her career is over, too, without a “meal ticket” to manage. Sherri starts kicking Savage and paint brushing his face on the mat. Elizabeth, watching from the audience, jumps the railing and throws Sherri out of the ring.
Savage gets up and is shocked to see Elizabeth. Savage doesn’t know what to do as Sherri is taken away. He stares at Elizabeth, and they eventually embrace as they hug in the ring and the crowd loves it.
Everything about this is great. Savage lifts Elizabeth up on his shoulders as they pose in the ring. They cut to crying women in the crowd. Even Heenan, the heel, is good here. He makes fun of all the women crying but it doesn’t take away from anything that is happening in the ring. Elizabeth goes to hold the ropes open for Savage, but Savage takes her away and lifts them for her.
“He entered this ring, with 20,000 people on their feet booing him. And now he lost the match, got Elizabeth back and people love him.” That’s a great line from Heenan there. Savage and Elizabeth leave together as Savage gets to ride into the sunset.
Is it the greatest in-ring wrestling match in WrestleMania history? No. But when you combine all the factors playing into this match, from the story telling of all parties involved, I think it is the greatest story told in WrestleMania history.
Everyone plays their parts perfectly. During the match, Savage and Sherri play the heels who try to pull out all the stop. I think it is Warrior’s greatest performance in his entire career. And Elizabeth as the heroine who comes back to save the man she’s always loved caps it off perfectly.
From entrances to the last scene of the match, this is some of the best story telling in pro wrestling. It is so simple but so effective. The crowd is into every second of the match. It makes you cherish the old days of pro wrestling like this. There is pretty much no way you could pull off a story like this in today’s world of pro wrestling. The fans would ruin it, or they would have to make the story way more complicated than necessary.
Savage was known for laying out each move of his matches well in advance. He pulled off a perfect story here. Savage may have had better in ring matches, but he never told a better story than he did in this match.
The funny thing is that by the end of the year, Warrior would be out of the WWF and Savage would be wrestling again. It sucks watching this match back and realizing that everyone involved is no longer with us. We really missed out on a great Hall of Fame moment by having Savage and Elizabeth inducted on the same night, and having the show end with Elizabeth on Savage’s shoulders.
Pro wrestling is at its best when the story captures everyone watching. That happened in this match at WrestleMania 7, and that’s why I think it is the greatest WrestleMania story of all time.