The Steel Cage

TSC: WrestleMania VIII

The Road to WrestleMania has begun with a bang, the ‘severely injured’ John Cena returned to WWE at the Royal Rummmmmmble with the No. 30 slot and fought for 3 hard minutes to secure his place in the main event of…No Way Out? Hmmm…anyways, somebody has to get the title off Orton before WrestleMania, I mean WWE wants to draw a few buys, right? Surely.
So, with WrestleMania 24 fast approaching, I thought I’d look back 20 years at WrestleMania IV….then decided against it and chose WrestleMania VIII. Indeed.
WrestleMania VIII, held is the then-Hoosier Dome on April 5, 1992 was really the last WRESTLEMANIA of the Hulkamania era in the World Wrestling Federation. (Yes, I know he was at WrestleMania IX you pedantic bast*rds)
At the time, the WWF was in severe trouble gaining horrible press for the Gulf War angle the year before and the huge steroid controversies that were rocking the foundations of the industry in general, so when the WWF announced it had booked the 65,000 seat Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, IN, people (specifically industry ‘insiders’ like Meltzer and Keller) laughed, claiming the Fed had no chance of filling even 1/4 of the building.
With the weeks passing leading into the PPV, they were being proven correct. The event tickets weren’t selling, at all. With 2 weeks to go, the WWF had sold only 16,000 tickets and, without a backup building planned like they had for WrestleMania VII, WWF were looking at running Hulk Hogans retirement and the biggest show of the year in front of a pretty empty arena.
The matches announced hardly grasped the publics attention. Hogan vs Flair for the WWF Title is what people wanted, what people had waiting YEARS to see, and they were robbed of it when Hogan and Vince decided to get him out of the WWF for a while during the steroids deal. So, Flair vs Savage and Hogan vs Sid Justice in his retirement were what we had on offer, and the fans werent buying it.
Hogans public image had been tarnished and people in general were a little tired of seeing him at that stage (and 16 years on, they cant get enough of him…ha! Fickle fickle people) and the thought of him retiring might have been something they were hoping for! His opposition, Sid, hadnt been in the WWF for more than a cup of coffee so their conflict lacked history, backstory or anything that makes people want to see a match. Infact, the best part of the build-up was seeing Sid smash up the Barber Shop and, in the process, get a face-full of talc and having to start there cutting a promo looking like a powdered doughnut.
Savage vs Flair had a semi-decent build with Flair proclaiming to be in possession of nude pics of Liz and the promise to flash them on the big screen in the Dome, staplemarks and all. Still, it wasnt driving the people into the building.
A last ditch effort on the final week with the WWF wrestlers and crew buying shedloads of media coverage and advertising along with ALOT of personal appearance by top stars saw a MASSIVE surge in ticket sales, eventually the final figure was 62,167 fans in the building, which may be fabricated as WWE love to do, but that 65,000 building was PACKED, so I’d say the figure seemed correct.
The worry of an empty building behind them, the WWF had to concentrate of building stars for the future with the impending ‘retirement’ of their biggest ever superstar in Hogan. If you go back and watch the event, you will see the younger guys getting wins over the older guys who had been the top dogs in the WWF for so long.
Shawn Michaels went over WWF mainstay and former IC and tag titlist Tito ‘El Matador’ Santana. Tatanka went over former tag champ Rick Martel. Undertaker went over long time WWF megastar Jake Roberts. Bret Hart went over the previously unpinned Roddy Piper for the IC title.
At the time, most likely didnt know or realise, but we were witnessing all the new crop of stars taking the torches from the guys who had been on top of the WWF for so many years. It was a visual changing of the guard and so blatant that nobody realised.
WrestleMania VIII will always be one of my favourites due to it being the final appearance for so many of my favourites (be it forever or for a certain amount of time), the return of the Ultimate Warrior, the final WrestleMania with Gorilla and Heenan on commentary and so on. The era I grew up loving came to and end at that PPV, with Real American playing us off the air and the Hulkster and Warrior posing in the ring.
I dont think I realised it as I watched it, but my beloved WWF had sang its swansong and would turn into the WWF’s ‘New Generation’ over the next 12 months. Dark times were ahead, but at least WrestleMania VIII sent us off with a bang.