By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Jake Roberts vs Jim Neidhart 10/10/99
When you think about the sheer volume of wrestling that has existed and is out there in some shape or form, it is always somewhat impressive to be able to be considered a byword for ‘awful wrestling’. Whilst a lot of wrestling is amazing, exciting and engaging in equal measures, a significant amount of it either is a relative non-entity or outright sucks. With that being said, it takes a fair amount of misfortune, poor booking and incomprehensible ideas to produce one of the worst excuses for a wrestling show in history.
Heroes of Wrestling is a name that sends shivers down the spines of any wrestling fan somewhat in tune to the wider, non-WWF/WCW wrestling landscape in the late 90s. An attempt to celebrate the legends of the ring was a novel idea, yet it neglected to realise that wrestlers by the very nature of their occupation don’t tend to age gracefully. The mind may be willing, the body is pretty much always weak once you hit a certain point. The card was full with name value wrestlers who could no longer realistically be expected to carry a card that people were expected to buy on pay-per-view.
With the most capable wrestler on the show being probably 2 Cold Scorpio (who defeated Julio Fantastico in the third match on the card), contests pitting the likes of the Bushwhackers against the team of the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, alongside Abdullah the Butcher taking on One Man Gang and Jimmy Snuka meeting Bob Orton Jr., were never going to do the type of business the company hoped considering their desires to turn it into a franchise. It was an idea that was dead on arrival.
A shambles of a main event – an event that has transcended the original showing to be recognised by significantly more than had initially seen it – didn’t help in any way.
Following a rambling promo by a clearly inebriated Jake Roberts, Jim Neidhart would head to the ringside in relatively fine fettle considering how much he’d let himself go in time. The commentary team covered for Roberts leaving his snake in the ring before heading back up the ramp, though it became clear that it was just to allow him to remove his t-shirt. Never known for being overtly muscular, Jake was seriously out of shape, though this didn’t stop him from grabbing a middle aged woman’s hands and rubbing them over his chest.
A mentally sober Roberts could have made something of the match; very few wrestling brains could match his when it came to psychology. However, he wasn’t in any shape to be in the ring and a plodding, heatless (outside of the odd chant for ‘Jake the Snake’) match. Even Damien was trying to escape from the ring as his head poked out of the bag. Unfortunately, Roberts saw this as an opportunity to wave the snake around in an overtly sexual manner, as well as roll around on the mat and lick the snake.
Whoever was backstage could sense the need to do something, sending King Kong Bundy and Yokozuna down to ringside, the original main event, to turn this into a tag match. Bundy would initially join Neidhart as a distraction only, his presence on the apron halting an attempt at the DDT. Without any acknowledgement from the announcer or the referee, Bundy would join the action, prompting the arrival of Yokozuna. Having lost his job with the WWF due to weight issues, Yokozuna had only continued to balloon, yet somehow was by far the most capable wrestler at that moment on the face team. The promoter, Bill Stone, even had to come down to ringside to tell Neidhart and Bundy the changed plans whilst the whole thing was being broadcast live.
Neidhart and Bundy chair shots at least kept Roberts incapacitated and not in a position to further derail the match. As if to put the cherry on the crap sundae that the fans had been offered up, Bundy would pin Roberts thirty seconds after the Snake had made the ‘hot tag’ to Yokozuna. Pinning the illegal man should probably be the least of my worries, to be fair. As the crowd chanted DDT whilst the faces attacked Bill Stone, Roberts couldn’t even give them that. A Yokozuna Samoan drop allowed Roberts to drape Damien over Stone’s face as the show faded to black.
It is car crash material and indicative of the difficulties of booking a wrestling show. The idea to hold this on pay-per-view showcased hubris in the extreme and it was not surprise that this was the first and final show of the Heroes of Wrestling concept. It went down about as well as a show featuring wrestlers who just don’t have it anymore would expect to be received, and thankfully that was the end of that debacle.
Except for the mental scarring. That hangs around.