(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage – WWE WrestleMania VII
The 1990s was an interesting period in pro wrestling as we look back at a WrestleMania 7 match between the Ultimate Warrior and Randy Savage.
The NWA was dying with only one real brand based out of Atlanta able to complete with WWE’s juggernaut. Wrestling in Japan was heating up but on an international level it was still limited to tape traders and small communities. And the halcyon days of Hulkamania were either dead or dying, depending on your point of view.
To solve at least one of these problems, WWE experimented with a new wrestler named the Ultimate Warrior. He had proven himself capable at turning heads, making people cheer, and drawing in crowds. But once the asses were in the seats, did he deliver? Or were his matches, including this one, overhyped because it was being compared to the relatively poor wrestling around it? Read on to find out.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
Savage challenged Warrior for the WWF/E Championship several times but Warrior refused to accept. In response, Savage interfered in Warrior’s title defense against Sgt. Slaughter and ultimately cost Warrior the match and the title. Warrior challenged Savage to a match but he wanted Savage out of his life once and for all, so he asked for a retirement match and Savage accepted. So if Savage lost he’d have to retire from in-ring competition in WWE.
Before we get into the review, I must admit that I never saw Warrior wrestle before so I’m unfamiliar with the hype. But most of the stuff that I’ve read about Warrior implies that he was a very bad wrestler. A good character that excelled at controlling the audience, yes. But as an actual in-ring performer or competitor, he was said to be awful. But was he really? Was this match really just an example of Randy Savage doing the work of two men for twenty minutes? Let’s find out.
This match took place on March 24th, 1991. It was rated ****1/4 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer and ****1/2 by TJR’s John Canton. Canton also called it one of his favorite matches ever, which is what a lot of fans have said about it as well.
The two wrestlers start with a pose-off, trying to get the loudest reaction from the crowd. Savage goes for a sneak attack but Warrior turns around in time to avoid it. Savage gets an early advantage against the ropes but then Warrior shoves him back. Then Savage lands a few cheap shots and charges to the ropes but Warrior stands firm and knocks him down. Sherri gets onto the apron and distracts Warrior so that Savage can attack him from behind. But then Warrior reverses an Irish whip and lands a clothesline followed by a tree slam. Warrior follows with both a regular and an inverted atomic drop and then starts another tree slam. Sherri comes in to try and interfere but when Warrior releases Savage, Savage hits Sherri.
Warrior hits some slow punches and Savage gets tied up in the ropes. The ref frees Savage but Warrior shoots Savage into the ropes and lands a nasty gut shot. Savage blocks a back body drop with a kick and hits a running neckbreaker. Savage goes for a top-rope crossbody. Warrior catches him, but then casually releases him and then bitchslaps him. Savage leaves the ring and throws a chair into it, and then hits Warrior from behind as the ref removes the chair. But Warrior quickly regains control with some punches and a ton of corner stomps. He sends Savage into a corner and charges but Savage sidesteps and Warrior falls to the floor.
Savage distracts the ref as Sherri slaps Warrior hard. Then Savage dives off the top rope with an ax handle and goes back to distracting the ref as Sherri continues with her own cheap-shots. This goes on until Warrior shoves her aside, but then Savage comes back with another sneak attack. Savage pushes Warrior into the ringpost and then Sherri kicks Warrior so hard her shoe flies off. Back in the ring, Savage hits a scoop slam/knee drop combo for a two-count and then goes for a neckbreaker. But Warrior blocks it and completes a backslide for a two-count. Sherri tries another distraction but Warrior catches on and blocks a kick from Savage as he turns around. Warrior hits a short clothesline and winds up for a big splash. He jumps…and misses. Savage covers but only gets two. Sleeper hold by Savage. Warrior slumps down at first but then fires up. he escapes the sleeper and hits a shoulder block. He winds up again but this time both guys hit double clotheslines. Both wrestlers collapse.
Sherri distracts the referee again as Warrior counters a slam into a cradle. Warrior gets a visual three-count but by the time the ref turns around and counts Savage escapes by the two-count. Warrior argues with the ref and Savage hits a jumping knee from behind. The ref goes down and Savage holds Warrior in place for Sherri. Sherri dives off the top rope with her shoe in hand. But Warrior dodges and Sherri hits Savage instead. Warrior stalks Sherri around and in the ring and then finally gets his hands on her. But by then Savage recovers and lands a schoolboy pin. One, two, Warrior kicks out. Warrior hits a few punches but then Savage pushes him into the top turnbuckle. Savage drapes Warrior throat-first on the top rope twice and then clotheslines the back of his head.
Savage lands a simple scoop slam and only gets a one-count. Then Savage lands not one, not two, but five diving elbow drops and goes for the cover. One…two…th – Warrior kicks out! Warrior starts firing up again by shaking the ropes. Warrior lands his three punches and three clotheslines. Then Warrior hits the gorilla press slam/splash combo. One, two, and – Savage kicks out this time.
Warrior looks up to Heaven and channels the power of his gods. He starts talking to/at them, looking at his hands, when Savage knocks him off the apron and to the floor. Savage places Warrior against the barricade with Sherri’s help (in full view of the referee, not sure how this isn’t a DQ). But then Warrior breaks free. He sidesteps as Savage dives and Savage hits the barricade himself. Warrior powers up again and hits two big running shoulderblocks, each one sending Savage to the floor. A third one sends Savage onto the ring apron but Warrior pulls him back to the middle of the ring. Warrior covers Savage with his foot on Savage’s chest. One, two, and three! Warrior beats Savage! Savage must retire!
Winner after 20:48: The Ultimate Warrior
That’s it? That’s what the Warrior was all about? My God, what a letdown. I knew that he was limited, but holy crap. There was more smoke in mirrors in this match than in an Undertaker entrance. Warrior did f**k all and Savage did, in fact, carry this match. Warrior basically cosplayed as Hulk Hogan and didn’t do much of anything.
Forget John Cena, forget Bret Hart, forget Hogan; Warrior was the pinnacle of ‘Five Moves of Doom syndrome’. He did absolutely nothing athletic in this match besides run and a few simple clotheslines and slams. He was a living cartoon character, and I get it that such was his appeal. But even Hogan looked more realistic and, as we’ve seen in at least one unusual match, was able to wrestle when needed. Warrior was just so phony here; nothing he did looked convincing or even painful. Poor Savage was stuck selling and bumping like a champ for Warrior because that was his job here. He succeeded in making Warrior look like a million dollars, but Warrior made Savage look like he was made of glass. Savage wrestled with urgency when he was in control; Warrior took his sweet time and didn’t look concerned at all. Savage sold for Warrior like he was in actual pain; Warrior spent more time communicating with ‘his gods’ than he did making anything Savage did look like it was slowing him down. It was as if Warrior didn’t know what to do and just stalled with some cheesy theatrics in an attempt to be not just a cartoon character, but an over-the-top cartoon character.
But worst of all was the nonstop interference that turned this into a handicap match with Warrior “overcoming the odds”. Except that it never looked like Warrior was in any real danger. All of Sherri’s cheap shots and Savage’s limited offense looked like they annoyed Warrior more than they hurt him. So really this was less a competitive match and more a protracted squash match with Warrior playing Hogan by kicking out of everything possible and still looking as fresh and unfazed fifteen minutes into the match as he did fifteen seconds into it.
And while there was some tension with Savage’s five diving elbows, it was only some. By the time he climbed up for the fourth one I knew where the match was going. It was so predictable, so obvious, and so formulaic. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the future, someone from Vince McMahon’s inner circle reveals that Vince loved this match so much that he ordered that every one of his subsequent handpicked wrestlers studied it and made them behave (not wrestle, behave) as closely to Warrior here as they could.
As for the white-hot crowd reaction, well, that just doesn’t mean much anymore. As I’ve said in previous reviews, the nuclear crowd reaction is only an added benefit; after all, WWE has sold out bigger venues and had better matches with quieter crowds. And in some cases, they’ve had COVID crowds (read: either tiny or nonexistent crowds) and the matches shown on those shows far eclipsed what was displayed here.
Final Rating: ***
I went into this match with an open mind. I didn’t have the highest expectations of the Ultimate Warrior, but I’ve seen great matches from Savage and figured he’d do as well as always. And he did; but Warrior was such a disappointment. He didn’t do anything besides some very simple throws and strikes. I wasn’t expecting him to go to the mar and grapple but, for God’s sake, to a simple suplex or something other than the same five moves.
Maybe Warrior was secretly a genius; maybe he was able to get so far by doing so little. But to call this match some kind of classic would be an insult to one’s intelligence. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors and a prime example of WWE going to extremes to make one guy look good.
It has some decent moments, but nowhere near enough to make it worth of being called ‘a classic’.
Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.