Many people liked last week where I pulled a character that was a part of WWF Superstars in the early 90s and showcased him. I decided that I wanted to write about another wrestling moment from around the same era, this time focusing on something more popular that everyone should remember.
The Funeral Parlor
In the late 80s, after the popularity of Piper’s Pit, non-wrestling talk segments became popular. In an age where the television show was really an infomercial for things they were marketing, such as PPVs, toys, and other merchandise, having personalities interview other personalities was a useful way of starting and progressing storylines, because there’s only so many times you can watch the same guys beat each other up. The Funeral Parlor was one of these segments.
The Funeral Parlor was just that. It was a very dreary stage setup made to resemble a real funeral parlor. Paul Bearer, manager to The Undertaker, would interview wrestlers on this set. There were few memorable Funeral Parlor segments, but the one featuring The Ultimate Warrior stands out.
The Warrior was fresh off a victory at Wrestlemania VII against Macho Man Randy Savage in a match that “retired” (kayfabe) Macho Man; they kept Macho Man on the payroll as a heel announcer for WWF Superstars, but The Warrior continued his wrestling for the WWF. Kind of.
It’s difficult to predict exactly where the Warrior was going with his career, but the appearance of The Warrior on The Funeral Parlor was a perfect setup for a feud with The Undertaker.
You can watch the video of this unbelievable segment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNg95xuwuCs It’s 10 minutes long, but there are many things I’m about to extract for you.
Since you’ve watched the video (right?!?), you know that basically the Warrior comes out, gets interviewed by Bearer, gets attacked by Taker, gets locked in a casket, and then the officials have trouble getting him out.
There’s a lot of psychology that happens during the skit that was fun to witness as a young fan/mark. The Warrior was a mega-face; he was the good guy that everybody loved. He had been victorious against Hogan, against Savage, and was being marketed as the next big thing…even though you couldn’t understand what he was talking about. The Undertaker, on the other hand, was being pushed as a mega-heel; not only did he do the things that bad guys did, he also appeared to be impervious to anything and was billed as being undefeatable (except that he lost to Hogan due to cheating/whining). An encounter between the two was sure to be incredible.
But this appearance technically didn’t set up a Warrior/Undertaker feud…more on this later.
Once the Warrior is in the casket, and Bearer/Taker lock it and mosey along, officials start coming out to try to get him out. The things they do to help including the following: trying to open the casket with their bare hands, using a crow bar and a hammer/chisel to try to pry the casket open, drilling holes in the casket to get some air in, beating the casket with a crow bar, and beating on the top and side of the casket with a sledgehammer. All they needed to do was find Bearer/Taker and get the key. That’s how someone with a brain could figure out it was planned. But, hey, most of us were 10 or 11 year old kids, so we thought he was really struggling for his life.
The announcers managed to sell this better than the people who were on television. As you can probably tell, the commentators were Vince McMahon, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Macho Man Randy Savage. Vince was technically the play-by-play guy, Piper was a face announcer, and Macho was a heel announcer. During the attempt to “save the life” of the warrior, not only do the two face announcers express their worry for the Warrior, but Macho Man, who weeks earlier had been retired by The Warrior, even is disturbed by the whole thing. He even makes a comment when the door closes that Bearer/Taker proved their point, so they should take him out and beat him up some more. If the Macho Man (who should hate The Warrior and does at the start of the segment) has pity for The Warrior, it has to be real, right?
It’s the type of magic that a young kid falls for and is better for it, like Santa Claus.
The ridiculous attempts to get him out get filed under the category of things that makes this a fun thing to look back on.
But as I said above, this feud never led to anything that paid off between Warrior and Undertaker. In real life, the Warrior started playing games with his pay demands, and threatened to no-show major events, so Vince called his bluffs and let him fade into obscurity (to return at Wrestlemania VIII – See Backstage Politics). However, this led directly into one of the greatest heel turns of all time when Jake “The Snake” Roberts decided to help the Warrior train to face the Undertaker. In the process of this training, Jake Roberts became a bad guy. Most people who were fans at the time will tell you that his presence and psychology in and mostly out of the ring were unmatched. As a bad guy, Jake upped the ante by bringing out a “venomous” cobra instead of the less harmful boa constrictor. He also brought the Macho Man back out of retirement later in 1991, but that’s a whole ‘nother post entirely…