Reliving A Title Run #12: Diesel As WWF World Champion In ’95
Diesel started 1994 as a bodyguard for Shawn Michaels. By the midpoint of the year Diesel was the WWF Intercontinental and WWF World Tag Team Champion with Shawn Michaels. He lost the Intercontinental Championship to Razor Ramon at SummerSlam and he split with Michaels at Survivor Series.
Three days after Survivor Series, Diesel won his first and only WWF World Championship when he pinned Bob Backlund in eight-seconds at Madison Square Garden. Following his win he gave former champion Bret Hart a title shot at the Royal Rumble.
Their title match at the event was very good but a decisive finish isn’t provided due to constant interference from various heels such as Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart and Bob Backlund. It wouldn’t be the last time that Diesel and the Hitman squared off for the championship during the year.
At the Rumble, Diesel’s former friend Shawn Michaels won the Royal Rumble and was made the number one contender to meet Diesel at WrestleMania XI. Michaels was jealous that his previous bodyguard had gotten the championship before him and now they’d square off at the biggest show of the year.
However, leading up to the event Michaels thought he needed some extra protection due to his high caliber celebrity. Thus, on the 2/20 edition of RAW Michaels introduced Psycho Sid as his new bodyguard. With Sid in his corner, Michaels believed he had the championship locked up.
April 2nd at WrestleMania XI WWF World Champion Diesel successfully defended the championship against Shawn Michaels. Prior to the match, Michaels told Sid to go backstage and that he would take care of Diesel by himself, which didn’t sit well with Sid.
So, the next night Sid turned on Michaels after hitting a power bomb and legitimately injured Michaels causing him to miss the next pay per view in May. Diesel came out to make the save for his friend and had a new challenger for his belt… Psycho Sid.
A couple of weeks later on the Action Zone, Sid was revealed as being the newest member of the Million Dollar Coporation led by Ted DiBiase.
May 14th saw Diesel retain the championship against Sid by disqualification after Tatanka and Bam-Bam Bigelow got involved in the match. Unlike his matches with Hart and Michaels, Diesel didn’t work a good match with Sid as it was a slow plodding match. That tends to happen with big man vs. big man matches. So, despite the lackluster match, the feud has to go on for two more months.
The angle would have an injury story attached to it as a way to get Diesel sympathy despite being an enormous man. On the May 29th edition of RAW footage of Side hitting Diesel with a power bomb and causing an elbow injury to Diesel was aired. In reality, the injury had not happened by the power bomb, but was used to further the angle between the two men.
They would meet again on pay per view at the June pay per view, King of the Ring. It would be a tag team encounter as Diesel teamed with former Corporation member Bam-Bam Bigelow to take on Sid and Tatanka. The main event took nearly eighteen minutes and Diesel won for his team when he pinned Tatanka following a power bomb. The singles feud between Diesel and Sid would continue for one more month.
Their feud would blow off at the second In Your House on July 23rd with a lumberjack stipulation. The match would go ten minutes with Diesel putting Sid away with a big boot to the face.
At this point, the title reign for Diesel was really starting to dip and become a lackluster run. At first, he was working with the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Those two are the best workers that the company had to offer at the time and the only way to go was down from there. It seemed as if McMahon was obsessed with a big man vs. big man main event scene and that trend would continue leading into SummerSlam.
Diesel’s challenger at the event was an unlikely one to say the least. Mabel, a perennial tag team wrestler, managed to win the 1995 King of the Ring and took the title to heart by changing his name to King Mabel. Leading into the event, Mabel got an extra ally to combat Diesel when the British Bulldog attacked Diesel on RAW. That would come into play later on.
So, at SummerSlam Diesel defeated King Mabel in less than ten minutes and the awful main events continued for Diesel as the WWF World Champion. The push of King Mabel is widely considered to be a failure, much like the title reign by Diesel is as well.
The following month for In Your House #3 on September 24th saw Diesel team with his buddy Shawn Michaels. Michaels was the WWF Intercontinental Champion and they put their belts up to take on British Bulldog and Yokozuna for the WWF World Tag Team Championships. At the event, Diesel pinned Owen Hart, who was originally scheduled for the match but was switched for Bulldog to seemingly win the tag titles. The decision was reversed the following night on RAW.
Davey Boy Smith, aka The British Bulldog, stepped up as the next challenger for the WWF World Championship at the fourth In Your House on the October 22nd pay per view. Lets be real, Bulldog was a quality in-ring performer and could have put on a decent match with Diesel. At least, that’s what would be a logical expectation. So, when the match was yet another major failure it was just a matter of time for Diesel’s run to run out of fuel. Bulldog won the match by disqualification due to Bret Hart’s interference.
The Hitman was the next guy to challenge for the WWF World Championship and got his shot at Survivor Series against Diesel in a no disqualification match. Leading into the event, both guys cut promos putting each other over but thinking they were going to win the title.
At Survivor Series on November 19th, 1995 the Hitman regained the WWF World Championship after putting on a fabulous match with Diesel that was hard hitting and featured the first broken table spot on pay per view for the WWF. Hart played possum and surprised Diesel with an inside cradle to win the championship. Following the loss, Diesel power bombed Hart and attacked referees to signify a heel turn.
The beginning of the title reign started off strong with Diesel working with the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels and putting on enjoyable matches on pay per view with both men in early 1995. Diesel had some quality television matches with Jeff Jarrett and Bam-Bam Bigelow as well. Notice how those guys were mostly smaller than Diesel and worked a different style and provided entertaining matches.
He went from working with Hart and Michaels to working Sid and Mabel. And we wonder how Diesel’s run was so bad for most of it. The match with British Bulldog should have been a lot better than it was, I’ll admit to that. However, the booking that Diesel was given following WrestleMania XI didn’t help Diesel at all.
At least the mostly miserable title reign came to an end with a positive match with Bret Hart at Survivor Series. I do believe that if Diesel had stuck with the company as the pissed off heel that his character would have that he could have a had a huge title reign as a heel working with the likes of Hart, Michaels, Taker, Ramon and Ahmed Johnson.
I think that Diesel was a victim of poor booking during his title reign. I really enjoy his matches with Hitman and Michaels but 75% of the reign is skippable.
What are your memories of Diesel’s title reign? Did you enjoy it or did it leave a lot to be desired?
Leave your thoughts below!
Thanks for reading.