Observe the two video packages. One represents football, the other WWF/E wrestling. Note the similarities: the use of slow-motion to add dramatic gravitas; the stylised use of colour and effects; the bombastic, over-emotional music. They share the appearance of conventional, modest videos, only injected with steroids (and PIZZAZZ!), and both promos share the same goal – to make the viewer really, really want to watch either football or wrestling.
But what of those who want to watch both? Those of us lucky enough to have witnessed the arrival of the Premier League may remember the marketing synergy scheme that saw the WWF and the Premier League stage a string of lucrative crossover events during it’s inaugural 1992-93 season. The brainchild of WWF chairman Vince McMahon and former FA chief executive Graham Kelly, the two companies combined in a mutually-beneficial agreement that saw both companies strive to increase global brand awareness.
Here are some of the highlights from an exciting, if thoroughly misguided, year.
* Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts vs. Oldham Athletic’s club badge
I think we all remember this for the merciless slaughter of an owl at the behest of ‘Damien’, the Snakeman’s beloved-but-ruthless pet cobra. Interference from then-Oldham manager Joe Royle with a steel chair was to no avail, but the shocking image of him wobbling down the aisle with a Mitre kit-bag, only to produce said foreign object from within, will endure for generations to come.
* Richard Keys and Andy Gray vs. The Legion of Doom
Pre-match hype was dominated by talk of Team Sky’s unflappable blend of smooth autocue reading and football punditry, but it was no match for the brute force of the LOD. Animal no-sold Keys’ constant declarations that Sky was the only place to see live Premiership Football, crushing him with a powerslam that fractured his misogynistic anchorman spine. Gray’s prediction that the previous season’s League Champions, Leeds United, would fail to mount a serious title challenge was brushed aside by a pummelling salvo of physical torment (history would, of course, prove Gray right though – Leeds finished 17th in the table that year). Attempted meddling from Martin Tyler came to nothing, as the LOD sealed a convincing win with the Doomsday Device.
* Teddy Sheringham vs Hulk Hogan
In theory, this was an ideal choice to main event what proved to be the only SoccerMania pay-per-view. Sheringham had enjoyed a fine first season with Tottenham Hotspur, finishing as the Premiership’s top scorer with 22 goals. However, Hulkamania was running really rather wild at this point, having registered 7.4 on the Richter Scale prior to this contest. It wasn’t to last and, with Hogan’s artistic differences with Christopher Lloyd blighting the filming of Suburban Commando, preparations for this match suffered. That being said, he still scored the win with the giant leg-drop after an attempted through-ball from Sheringham failed to find a marauding Nicky Barmby.
* Wimbledon FC vs. The Natural Disasters, Money Inc., The Nasty Boys, The Steiner Brothers, The Rockers and The Big Boss Man
A classic Survivor Series-style elimination brawl, notable for Efan Ekoku memorably revealing himself to be the alter ego of ‘The Bird Man’ Koko B. Ware, before siding with his WWF cohorts. This shocking turn wasn’t tolerated by Vinnie Jones, who kicked him in the gob, but still claimed to have played the ball. After a spate of quick-fire pin-fall eliminations, Wimbledon’s surviving pair of Hans Segers and John Fashanu faced the daunting task of fighting off four men. Fashanu’s top-rope elbow drop despatched of Scott Steiner, while Segers saw off the Big Boss Man with a sunset flip. Segers was soon pinned by Brian Knobbs, and with a sole Fashanu seemingly beaten, Dean Holdsworth emerged from under the ring to clean house, sealing the shock win with a nutmeg through the legs of The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase.
* The Undertaker vs. Graham Kelly
Kelly threatened to pull off a shock win after reciting the full FA Cup third round draw of 1993 in that famously dull voice of his. The Undertaker, unable to break free from the soporific drone, was only saved by the interference of Paul Bearer, who distracted a non-plussed Kelly by questioning his pronounciation of the word ‘Wolverhampton’. ‘Taker went on to win the match with a tombstone piledriver, which bent Kelly’s spectacles. Though the match remains a YouTube favourite, industry insiders claim that this was the beginning of the end of a fruitful working relationship between the two companies. In a story that has gone down in wrestling legend, it was claimed that Kelly had last-minute doubts about the pre-arranged ending to the match, and was reluctant to lose the match, fearing it would compromise his reputation for imperturbable clerical work. Famously, The Undertaker would assist in taping Kelly’s wrists mere moments before the match, threatening to legitimately pummel the man after the show if he failed to do the job as agreed. Visibly ruffled during the subsequent match, Kelly felt that his overall performance was only slightly compromised by the piss stain on his beige slacks.