Reliving A Title Run #7: Yokozuna As WWF World Champion ’93 – ’94
It took Yokozuna less than a year to win the WWF World Championship when he entered the WWF. When he won the championship, he could only manage to hold on to it for less than a minute. Yeah, at WrestleMania Yokozuna dethroned Bret Hart to win the WWF World Championship but twenty-three seconds later he lost the championship to Hulk Hogan who made a challenge to the sumo master.
Naturally losing the WWF World Championship only twenty-three seconds into the reign isn’t going to leave a good taste in someone’s mouth. Yokozuna wouldn’t have to wait too long to get a justified rematch as he would get a shot at Hulk Hogan at the inaugural King of the Ring pay per view. Leading into the match, Yokozuna worked mainly with Jim Duggan, a good friend of Hulk Hogan, and would win each contest against him.
Their showdown took place on June 13th, at the King of the Ring. America’s hero Hulk Hogan taking on the foreign destroyer, Yokozuna. Thanks to a overzealous cameraman who tossed a fireball into Hogan’s face wile on the apron, Yokozuna was able to regain the WWF World Championship and send Hogan packing out of the WWF. The real title reign by Yokozuna begins
Yokozuna’s first major feud as WWF World Champion would begin on July 4th and it involved a man that was not a likely competitor. Yokozuna had issued a challenge on the USS Intrepid to see if anyone could slam him. Several top WWF wrestlers tried failed, along with NFL players. However, one more person came to the ship via a helicopter and made his grand entrance. It was none other than Lex Luger. Luger, who had previously been a heel who was obsessed with himself, shocked the world as he was able to scoop slam Yokozuna and catapulted his way up the ranks as being one of the top babyfaces in the WWF.
Luger was awarded a championship match at SummerSlam in August of 1993. Luger had transformed himself into a Hulk Hogan like character being 100% USA, a drastic change from his previous character who cared only about himself. The fans were pumped for the showdown, and while Luger would beat Yokozuna he wouldn’t take the WWF World Championship. Luger only managed to win the match by count-out, which is one of the few ways you can win but not win a championship. This would be a turning point for Luger’s character as it would lose a lot of steam due to the loss.
Prior to SummerSlam, Yokozuna was defending the championship against Bret Hart inside a steel cage and put on a great match with Bret at a MSG house show on August 13th, 1993. After SummerSlam, Yokozuna would still defend against Bret Hart but he would also have several showdowns with the Undertaker.
An angle between the Undertaker and Yokozuna started on television as they were on opposing sides at the Survivor Series. Undertaker teamed with Lex Luger and the Steiner Brothers while Yokozuna teamed with Crush, Ludvig Borga and Quebecer Jacques. Yoko and Taker were eliminated after they were counted out for brawling on the floor. By the way, Yoko’s team would lose when Luger pinned Borga.
Yokozuna didn’t seem to have any weaknesses or fear, but that all changed by the tail end of 1993. The Undertaker and Paul Bearer stumbled upon the one fear that Yokozuna had, which just so happened to be caskets. That just so happens to be a good thing for Taker because he has a few in storage. They would meet at the Royal Rumble in January 1994 with the championship being on the line in a casket match.
At the Royal Rumble, Yokozuna was able to retain the championship after virtually every top heel in the backstage area helped him put the Undertaker in a casket. After the match, the Undertaker vowed their would be a rebirth. Oh, also at the event, Bret Hart and Lex Luger co-won the Royal Rumble and both men would get a title shot at WrestleMania X.
At the biggest event of them all, Yokozuna was in line to defend the WWF World Championship twice in one night. He first defended against Lex Luger, whom he had been having issues with since July 1993. Yokozuna was helped out greatly by special referee Mr. Perfect, who disqualified Lex Luger for pushing him. However, Yokozuna was so lucky the second time as he lost to Bret Hart in the main event and his reign came to an end.
Prior to WrestleMania IX, Yokozuna was presented as an unstoppable force and he was believable at being that. But, once he won the championship a second time that unstoppable force feeling was shattered. He came across as being beatable and that hurt his reign for me.
The fact that he couldn’t beat Lex Luger was something I found interesting. It may have been a poor time to change Luger into a Hulk Hogan like character, since he would need to get a lot of momentum for fans to believe in him. Plus, if you have Yokozuna lose the championship two months into his reign, during an era where there were hardly ever short title reigns, it would hurt Yoko’s creditability long term.
Looking back at the title run for Yokozuna, it wasn’t all that great or interesting. It would have been a far better run if he were able to run over everyone on the roster and then meet his match after a year or so. Instead he was booked as a dominating guy who chased after the gold but once he got it, he was just another guy who had to rely on others to retain the championship. That’s just disappointing for a big guy to do. Thus, this reign gets a thumbs down from me.
Thanks for reading.