For starters, despite the Forum being a huge venue, I was a little shocked at how small the crowd size was upon arriving. I assume that is where the early low number reports of only 1,800 came from. Needless to say, as the show went on many more people showed up and the event looked to draw an impressive number. Five to six thousand seems accurate (although I’m not an expert at judging crowd size). Jimmy Hart was out first, and after hyping up the crowd announced Lance Russell and Dave Brown, which I thought was an extremely classy way to begin the show. Any wrestling fan in the Mid-South has fond memories of these two calling the action every Saturday morning, including myself. After talking to the crowd for a bit and getting some much deserved respect, they brought out Corey Maclin. He introduced Memphis mayor Willie Herenton, who was to ring the bell to start the night. After numerous scandals, Herenton is widely loathed by much of the city, and he definitely heard it tonight. We practically booed him out the building during his entire entrance and time in the ring. It was announced that the show was being taped, but not what for. I’m not sure if it will air at some point on television or be released as a DVD (hopefully). It was also announced that VH1 crews were there as well taping for Hogan Knows Best.
The Moondog/Barbarian match got a good reaction from the crowd, probably due to it being the first of the night. Despite looking slow and excessively planned, the hardcore spots of Barbarian shattering numerous wooden boards over Cujo’s back were impressive live and got good reactions. As much as I read you guys complaining about unprotected chair shots, you may be relieved to know that all of them in this and the following matches (including Hogan’s) were done with chairs having a padded seat. This only flew with us because it was the same chairs as what the crowd was seated in, but it still made them look pretty weak and unimpressive compared with the impact of the usual metal chairs.
Mr.. Hughes did a great job heeling the crowd and getting heat on himself all throughout his match with Valentine. Tons of interacting with the crowd and responding to all the heckling aimed at him. This made the match much better as Valentine was very much showing his age (still great to see him though). The crowd popped HUGE for Valentine throwing on the figure-four. Lots of “WHOOOO!” and “tap out!” chants. Despite Valentine’s fame, the heat Hughes got on himself accounted for much of the crowd reaction after the roll-up finish. Fun match.
Jazz rapped her own entrance music on the way to the ring. When they announced her and said she would be performing her own entrance theme I started to cringe, but she didn’t sound bad at all. Almost like Shawnna from Ludacris’s DTP label (for those of you who follow hip-hop). The 3 way with Christie Ricci and Miss Passion was decent; much better than the typical WWE ‘diva” match. Wasn’t on the level of a Trish/Mickie/Lita/Melina match, but it definitely beat the usual “bra & panties” stuff we get on Raw. Ricci took a nice looking DDT early and was outside the ring for most of the ending, which saw Jazz get the win.
Abdullah the Butcher/Big Al Greene was most definitely a bloodbath! Abdullah was busted open right at the beginning, at the end of the entrance ramp. He quickly took control and spent the rest of the time dragging Greene around ringside stabbing him in the head with a fork and busted beer bottle….seriously. No blade jobs here (although I didn’t see how Abdullah got busted); Greene was definitely bleeding hardway. Being 4th row ringside, a good amount of the fork shots was within feet of me and they were pretty nasty-looking. It appeared the plan was for Greene to just take as many jabs in the head as he could bear before leaving, as once he got free of Abdullah he simply left back up the entrance, resulting in the no contest. However they booked it, the effect worked and had the crowd into it for nothing else than the sheer brutality of the fork stabs. Afterwards, Abdullah threatened Hart (who was ringside, possibly announcing), taking his microphone at one point before leaving.
Superstar/Mantell/Valiant got a great reaction from the crowd….Dundee looked pretty good for his age. He seemed to really enjoy the crowd, acknowledging cheers aimed at him (including one from me). Match saw Dutch taking most of the damage from Eaton (who looked really good as well) and Koko before making the hot tag to Dundee. The crowd was really into this match as well, and had me hoping that the taped version of the show does a decent job at reflecting how hot the Memphis crowd was practically all night.
For all of his troubles that have been reported lately, Beefcake was in really great shape physically, especially compared to other guys today from his era. I will say that Memphis had no love for Bubba the Love Sponge and let it be known. Huge pop for Beefcake throwing on the sleeper after the match to take out Sal for the haircut.
Bagwell was out next, and after a big ovation heeled the crowd big time by talking bad about Memphis. It did the trick as we were all over him for his match with Brian Christopher. Before the match, Christopher did a prolonged routine of hyping each side of the crowd up for who he would throw his bandana to. He eventually spotted an 8 or 9 yr old kid in the front row (right in front of me) with his mom and had the kid lifted over the barricade so he could pull him up on the apron and let him throw out the bandana. I thought that was really cool of him to do as I’m sure the kid will remember that for the rest of his life. My brother next to me caught the bandana and after he was lifted back over to his seat, we yelled up the 3 rows to get his and his mom’s attention so we could toss him the bandana back. Only seemed fitting he have the souvenir of something like that. His mom was really grateful to us. The match was a really good one, with Christopher getting his top rope/goggle routine for the finish.
Ricky Morton was up next, and announced that Robert Gibson couldn’t be there, which really disappointed the crowd. We were all pretty hyped to see them together again. Morton apologized and announced his partner as “the future”. Kid Kash did a great job using his athleticism to make up for the crowd’s reaction over Gibson not being there. Tag champs Too Cool 2 had a ton of heat, both for their “white gangsta” gimmick as well as being from Union City (100 miles north of Memphis and definitely somewhere that no gangsters come from). Our section was especially brutal to them. The title change was really surprising and got a huge reaction. After winning they were announced as “The NEW Rock & Roll Express”, so I guess reports I have read of plans for the duo are true.
Everyone knew there was only one match left, and after the new tag champs left chants of “Hogan” immediately began. Paul Wight was obviously out first and looked to be in better shape than his last months in WWE. It looked like the time off has definitely done him a lot of good. As soon “Real American” hit, the roof blew off the FedEx forum. It was deafening! The ovation was so loud I couldn’t hear my brother next to me yelling and could noly hear myself (note: after ripping off his shirt and throwing it into the crowd my brother and I came THIS CLOSE to catching it, with the guy in front of us managing to snag it down). With Hogan’s age and Wight’s size, I completely expected a slow spotfest much like the opening match. While anyone with any knowledge of previous Hogan vs. big man matches (or Big Show vs. anyone) could have easily predicted the match’s booking, the two of them really busted it and put on a good match. You could tell that Wight’s time off and Hogan’s desire to prove McMahon wrong on drawing power definitely improved this match, as despite following somewhat of the predictable course, both guys added an amount of physicality that I didn’t expect. The crowd was hot throughout the entire match, which saw Hogan kicking out after a choke slam. He hulked up, then sent Wight over the top rope with a big boot. Once back in the ring, Hogan nailed the expected body slam (which looked AWESOME in person). That and the following leg drop for the pin had the crowd going insane! Anyone with respect for Wrestlemania history and every 20-something yr old’s inner Hulkamaniac was in Heaven for that 30-second period of their lives. It’s a shame that Wight’s contract expiration/desired time off and Hogan’s falling out with WWE prevented this match from being on Wrestlemania 23, as they put on a great one that would have been worthy of being the 20th anniversary tribute to the match that made WWE what it is today. My hat goes off to both of them for giving us in Memphis what everyone should have seen on April 1st. Afterwards Hogan ate it up with the crowd doing his usual routine before leaving.
Nothing post-show to report, as we were thanked for coming and that was it.
TONS OF BACKSTAGE NOTES:
No official figure, but I am guessing close to 6000 fans with a gate close to $256,500â<80>¦Jazz performed her own entrance music to the ringâ<80>¦Koko had Frankie and got Lance Russell to dance with himâ<80>¦NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies Mascot – The Grizz came out and was shooting t-shirts out to everyone at intermissionâ<80>¦Before the show started, it was announced that “Too Cool 2” [Flex/Tim Grind] had regained the Southern Tag Team Titles from The Moondogs [Cujo/Spike]. That was one of those phantom changes. They announced Grind/Flex vs Rock N Roll Express for later in the show, but it turned out to be Kash/Mortonâ<80>¦After Bubbaâ<80><99>s match they brought some kid from St. Jude down and Bubba had the kid on his shoulders. VH1 cameras captured that and it was a kewl moment for the kid and the crowdâ<80>¦I got to say “great job” to Corey Maclin and crew for putting the local guys – Flex/Grind in the semi-main event. All my bitching about them not featuring the local guys and they do go and do this — perfect way to get them over being seen by so many fans. I would have loved have seen them win, but apparently they got plans for Morton/Kash and Flex/Grind down the roadâ<80>¦I was told all in all a fun show and crowd loved it.
It was interesting to note that a sizable portion of fans hung around in the lobby and concession areas during the early portion of the show, watching it on the in-house arena monitors while socializing and drinking, coming to their seats as the evening moved closer to Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Wight.
The actual event was produced for Maclin by Jimmy Hart, Dave Penzer, Sal Corrente, and Colin Bowman in order to give Maclin the freedom to handle promotional work the day of the show and other aspects of Hulk Hogan’s involvement. Penzer handled ring announcing while Bowman directed the show. Corrente worked backstage and also appeared on the show as a manager. The gorilla position was handled by Memphis Wrestling’s Jim Doty.
The show’s lineup was put together by Cory Maclin with Jimmy Hart’s crew booking the finishes with Maclin’s input and final approval. The exception to that was the main event of Hogan vs. Paul Wight was put together by Hogan and Wight alone with no one backstage being clued into the planned finish before they went to the ring.
The actual production of the show was originally planned to be two and a half hours, including intermission but they ended up going longer due to some segments and matches (including Abdullah the Butcher vs. Al Greene, which went 15 minutes longer then planned with all the Abby shenanigans and brawling) as well as the live crowd’s reaction, which was strong all night, leading the wrestlers to improvise and go longer at times, as opposed to ignoring the crowd and sticking to the planned times. The feeling was that if the crowd was into the show, they weren’t going to rain on the fans’ parade.
Hulk Hogan made 13 media appearances on the day of the show, starting at 6 AM and going all the way until 2 PM. He then took a four hour break at his hotel before arriving at the Fed Ex Forum at 6 PM. Hogan took part in the pre-show meet and greet for the 500-600 ringside fans, who were allowed inside the ringside area for free autographs and photos. There was concern about putting Hogan with the other wrestlers for fear that everyone would immediately mob him, but that didn’t happen as everyone was respectful.
Hogan was followed by three VH-1 cameras at all times during the day, filming him from the side, behind, and in front of him without exception. Hogan’s family was not in attendance at the show. Although he had his own locker room, Hogan interacted with everyone backstage and didn’t stay off to himself. He signed a number of autographs and posed for photos with everyone who asked, staying more then an hour past the ending of the show to hang out backstage and accommodate everyone.
For those who have asked, Jerry Lawler was not backstage at any point of the show.
The entire show was taped by both VH-1 and Memphis Wrestling, although there’s no word on if there are any plans on distributing it via retail at this point. One of the main concerns with VH-1 filming was the lighting of the show as there was no real professional lighting truss brought in, so the production was in a position where they didn’t want the building too lit so they could hide the empty sections, but at the same time, VH-1’s producers were concerned about the footage coming off too dark.
Jimmy Hart, Lance Russell and Cory Maclin did commentary for the entire show. Sirius satellite radio recorded the feed and will be editing that commentary into some sort of taped delay special, although there was no firm confirmation on whether it would be part of the Bubba the Love Sponge’s regular broadcast or a stand alone deal.
The event itself received a ton of local mainstream press coverage, including 15 different photographers at ringside at one point. The Memphis Commercial Appeal filmed video footage from the show, which they posted on their website at this link.
Al Greene received 12 stitches as a result of his brawl with Abdullah the Butcher, the only real injury of note I’ve heard coming out of the show.
Another casualty of the show was Sal Corrente’s hair as apparently Brutus Beefcake and Bubba the Love Sponge cut way more off than he had been expecting, so Corrente is likely going to end up having to shave his head completely.
Memphis names Reggie B Fine and Sweet Georgia Brown as well as TNA’s Jeremy Borash were backstage visiting at the show. I’ve also heard Doug Gilbert may have been in attendance, but haven’t confirmed that.
JJ Maguire, who co-wrote a number of wrestling theme songs with Jimmy Hart in WCW and the WWF, performed the national anthem to open the show.
Former WWE and ECW star Kid Kash was made Ricky Morton’s partner after Robert Gibson dropped out of the show due to WWE’s influence. Kash and Morton often teamed under the Rock N’ Roll Express name in the early 1990s.
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