The Netcop Retro Rant for In Your House V. (Ugh. THIS show.) – Before I forget, I just want to mention that Smackdown is the greatest wrestling game ever. Seriously. And coming from someone who thought he’d be slavishly devoted to Wrestlemania 2000 forever, that’s saying a lot. (Written before No Mercy came out, obviously.) I was skeptical when I saw the initial previews and movies, but having played it for what feels like 48 hours straight (WWF Champion Chris Benoit, BABEE!) I have to say that it not only plays faster and smoother than WM2000, but the moves are easier to pull off, more intuitive, and they look better. The role-playing aspect is neato-keen, as are the backstage brawls and really cool gameplay modes (example: When you play “I Quit”, you actually have to grab a microphone and jam it in the guy’s face). All the Titantron videos for the wrestlers are included in their glory (go ahead – TRY not to mark out when you see the Y2J one for the first time, I dare you). The only major downsides are the sucky and/or non-existent sound (inexcusable for the Playstation’s capabilities), horrifyingly bad Create a Wrestler appearance edit (can’t complain about the move editor though, no-sirree) and the usual fuzziness and jaggies associated with any system not starting with “Dream” and ending with “Cast”. Although if it’s ever released for THAT, I’ll never leave the house again. Overall, call it ****1/2 and an absolute must-buy for wrestling fans. Like with WM2000: Believe the Hype. (And then they went on to make a newer, mostly the same, version for another FIFTEEN YEARS. Also, what the fuck is a Dreamcast?) – On with the show. – Live from Hershey, Pennsylvania, home of chocolate and some indy promotion with really obnoxious fans and a balding booker. Original airdate: December 17, 1995. (Original rant date: Sometime late in 2000.) – Your hosts are Vince “We believe in free speech as long as it’s the WWF that’s getting screwed over and not some poor documentary maker” McMahon and Jerry Lawler. (No idea what I was referencing there.) – Opening match: Sid & The Kid v. Razor Ramon & Marty Jannetty. Hmm, what a dilemma: Do I explain the circumstances or start firing off the drug jokes? Well, I think we already know what a bunch of potheads the Clique and Jannetty were during this period, so I’ll just explain the setup: The Kid stole Ramon’s private stash, so…oh, wait, I guess I promised not to make those jokes. (Allegedly.) Okay, so this was a standard “spunky partner gets tired of condescending treatment from overly macho best friend and turns into capitalist sellout” angle, as the Kid joined Ted Dibiase’s Corporation and turned on Ramon, requiring Ramon to really scrape the bottom of the barrel and get a new partner in Marty Jannetty. (Hey now, come on. It could have been worse and he could have been stuck with the clown or the pirate or the ninja or something.) It was that old poetic justice thing again, because Marty had been tag champs with the Kid back in 1994 for about 10 seconds, before the WWF came to their senses and realized that the tag champs were MARTY JANNETTY AND THE 1-2-3 KID. Okay, well, I liked them, but they WERE total jobbers at the time. Oh, and by the way, Goldust is sitting at ringside admiring Razor, thus beginning the angle that REALLY changed wrestling, no matter what any other recappers on the ‘net might have you believe in ridiculously long-winded three-part columns on the WWF at this time. No names mentioned, of course. (It was CRZ.) The angle in question was that Goldust was in fact in love with Ramon and he started quite blatantly making passes at him on national TV, so blatantly so in fact that GLAAD majorly freaked out and they ended up killing off the Goldust character entirely by 1997. The angle changed wrestling because Goldust was the first wrestler to not only be overtly effeminate (like Gorgeous George before him), but to actually display outright homosexual tendencies and then act on them. The Marlena character was added to tone down the character somewhat while under the pretext of creating more ambiguity for him, but the message being sent by the Goldust character was a far more interesting one: Was he a bad person merely because of his sexual preference, or because he was trying to force himself on Razor Ramon, who clearly wasn’t “into it”? THAT was truly the first “shades of grey” angle introduced by the WWF, because really a case could be made that he was doing nothing wrong at first. He was attracted to Ramon and he decided to make it known. It actually took a lot of courage on Dustin Rhodes’ part to go through with the character, because he had to know it would end up scarring his career in wrestling for life, and yet he was never squeamish about doing everything asked of him. Later on, the angle was SEVERELY toned down, to the point where Goldust was now merely “playing mind games” with his opponents and acting out a character like he would a movie scene, but for the first few months Goldust was easily the first halting introduction to the modern Attitude era that would bring wrestling back to the forefront, sleaze and all. ANYWAY, the match itself pretty much sucks. (To say the least.) Sid and Kid were on the fast track to the titles, but here’s a shock: Sid left the promotion shortly after this, leaving The Kid dead in the water until finally getting fired later in 1996. (The Smoking Gunns were heavily rumored to be quitting at the time, and Sid & Kid were awaiting the title switch to happen any day. Which of course never did, and then Sid retired due to neck injury anyway.) Ramon and Jannetty take turns on LONG heat segments with nothing much of note happening aside from some good segments when Kid and Jannetty are in together. Ramon finally gets the final hot tag, and does the paint-by-numbers finish, ending with a second rope bulldog on Sid for the pin at 12:20. Nothing happening here. * (It was really REALLY boring. Sometimes I’m hard on a borderline match during the time I wrote this because I was bored or distracted or drunk or something, but this match was the drizzling shits and a whole lot of chinlocks with no flow.) – Jeff Jarrett makes his triumphant return after a 6-month contract dispute. Jerry Lawler presents him with a gold record for “With My Baby Tonight”. Nobody cares, as usual with Jarrett. (Another giant flop of an angle, as this was supposed to be JJ’s shocking return to freshen up the midcard and it just died.) – Ahmed Johnson v. Buddy Landell. This was just a huge inside joke for the smart marks. Ahmed was supposed to be fighting Dean Douglas, but Douglas was on the outs with the WWF and had a “back injury” (wink wink, nudge nudge). (He did actually have a serious injury. I feel kind of bad now knowing all the shit that Douglas endured, as the fake nature of the injury was basically a smear campaign from the Clique to paint him as a quitter, and it wasn’t until later that people realized Shane wasn’t actually lying about it. Even more hilarious is SHAWN MICHAELS calling someone out for fake injuries. That being said, it was a stupid gimmick and Douglas was terrible in the role anyway.) As a result, Douglas presented his “graduate student”, Buddy Landell, better known as “The Nature Boy”. Wink wink, nudge nudge. Landell is wearing a suspiciously flowing sequined robe and using music that sounds suspiciously like that used by another blond-haired Nature Boy when he passed through the WWF in 1992. Wink wink, nudge nudge. Ahmed squashes Landell in 30 seconds and finishes with the tiger bomb. DUD And just because I KNOW someone is going to e-mail and ask me why that was supposed to be funny, Shane Douglas hates Ric Flair with a passion and has been known to spend entire 4 hour shoot interviews whining and bitching about him and the treatment he received, and how he was supposed to “pass the torch” to Douglas and then never did. Get it now? (Poor Buddy, as he was actually supposed to continue on with the company and get a bit of a push out of this, but something like the day after this show he slipped in a parking lot and injured himself so badly that he had to quit the promotion and never came back. That man could fuck up ANYTHING ever handed to him.) – Hogpen match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Henry O. Godwinn. Okay, it’s time we had that talk again about why the WWF got killed by WCW around this time. See, the Old Ways of doing things were that a wrestler was given a gimmick, and then became defined by that gimmick rather than developing an actual character. In this case, Godwinn is a hog farmer, so his “speciality” is a match where the loser is the one to get dumped into a hogpen. This mentality survives to this day even with Ken Shamrock’s “Lions den match” and Kane’s “Inferno match” and a multitude of others. Back to Goldust for a second: He was one of the first people to be given a gimmick (movie reciting weirdo), and when that didn’t get over he was given a CHARACTER (weirdo in love with Razor Ramon) and THAT’S what got him over. Vince doesn’t learn very fast, unfortunately, so it took him a while to catch on. (That actually sums up 1995 pretty well. We were bombarded with pirates, clowns, garbage men, fitness gurus, evil dentists, guitar players, grunge rockers, Ultimate fighters, and vaguely defined Caribbean legends, but in the end the only ones the fans cared about were Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.) To the match: Neither man is over to great degree at this point, because both are boring with no character at this point. HHH is a Greenwich snob, but so what? Aside from heat for his formal bow, people have no reason to care about him. Ditto HOG, who carries a pig with him everywhere. Big deal, so he carries a pig. HOG ties HHH up in the ropes early on and rubs some slop in his face. Oooo, what political satire by the rapier wit of Vince McMahon, as the inbred hillbilly uses his country know-how to teach that fancy-pants Greenwich snob a thing or two. Hey, guess what: That sums up the NEXT THREE YEARS for the WWF. This match was not only a dumb idea, it was a god damned allegory, too, for the Monday Night Wars! Hunter gets understandably pissed off about this and hits a neckbreaker to take over. Then a kneedrop. Can’t forget the knee. Outside, HHH gets rammed into the stairs. They fight to the hogpen, where HHH nearly gets backdropped into the pen, but holds onto the sides and then drops an elbow on HOG from it. Okay, that looked cool. They head back to the ring as Lawler does some redneck humor. Godwinn takes over with power stuff as HHH bumps around. Back out to the hogpen, where Godwinn tries the slop drop but it’s blocked. He whips HHH into the pen, then hits the slop drop properly. HHH staggers to his feet, and Henry makes that same cardinal mistake: He charges with his head down, allowing Hunter to backdrop him up and into the hogpen for the win at 9:04. Surprisingly well-worked gimmick match. **1/2 (No way, this was terrible. One star, if that.) – Diesel v. Owen Hart. The Rick already covered the Syracuse thing a couple of weeks ago, so I won’t get into it here. Short version: Shawn Michaels got an enzuigiri from Owen on a live RAW and “passed out” in the ring. Diesel was still on good terms with Shawn at that point, so he wants VENGEANCE! Diesel tosses him around to start and clotheslines him to the floor. Back in, Owen hits a leg lariat and missile dropkick, then he works the leg. The ENZUIGIRI OF DOOM gets two. Diesel recovers and hits Snake Eyes and the Bossman rope jump thing. Big boot and jackknife finish…but he picks Owen up at two. The ref objects, so Diesel clobbers him to draw the DQ at 4:35. Well, that was just about the lamest ending possible. *1/2 (To be fair, no one got a pin off a music distraction at least.) – In another Ask the Rick moment, Ted Dibiase introduces us to…Xanta Claus! The best thing about the angle is listening to Vince McMahon’s hyperactive reaction to “Santa’s” selling out and how Ted Dibiase is the most evil person on earth because of it. Just the whole surreal nature of pro-wrestling acting like Santa, too, is not just a figment of someone’s imagination. Anyway, Xanta is of course Ballz Mahoney before he was any good. (Did he get good at some point that I missed?) – Casket Match: King Mabel v. The Undertaker. Mabel hits a quick Bossman slam, no-sold by the Taker. Bellies-to-belly suplex and a big fat legdrop are followed by a splash, and Mo helps drags UT out and into the casket. They conveniently forget to shut the lid and go celebrate, allowing UT to escape, kick righteous ass, and roll Mabel into the casket for the win at 6:11 to end Men on a Mission forever. Sadly, Mabel would return 4 years later as Viscera. I guess it took him that long to figure out how to escape from that casket. 1/2* (The beating delivered to Undertaker seemed to hint at a much more interesting direction for Taker, but then just degenerated into…this. Really the feud peaked with Taker destroying the Royals at Survivor Series, and they pushed their luck by extending it here. He should have just killed Mabel and sent him packing in November in that match and been done with it.) – WWF World title match: Bret Hart v. British Bulldog. Mat wrestling to start, as they trade wristlocks. Bret slides in and out of the ring and hits an atomic drop, but Bulldog catches him coming off the ropes with a knee to the midsection and hangs him in the tree of woe. Odd moment as Davey seems to nail Hebner legit on the backswing by accident, and then he HELPS HIM UP?!? What self-respecting heel would do that? (Waylon Mercy?) Smack him around now, say sorry later. Bulldog counters a crucifix and drops a leg for two. Cornette delivers a Santa-themed racket shot. Lots of resting here. Bret’s corner bump gives Bulldog a two count. Back body drop (or as Vince would say, “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK bodydrop”) gets two. Bulldog holds a side headlock. Criss-cross leads to a monkey flip and Bret takes over. Bulldog to the Bulldog gets two. Piledriver gets two. Superplex is blocked and Davey bounces Bret crotch-first on the top rope, and the poor guy goes about three feet in the air on the upswing. Ouch. Bret gets tossed to the stairs and blades. Bret and the WWF have since feigned innocence, but it was such an obvious spot, and Bret did the “blading position” for a minute afterwards, and it was to the forehead (really, now, when do you EVER see someone bleed from the FOREHEAD by accident in real life?) so I’m thinking someone was telling a fib here. (Yeah that would be Bret.) Bret stands up and there’s a HUGE pool of his blood on the mats. Man, that’s just ugly. ECW’s trained seals chant “He’s Hardcore!” right on cue for that one. Back in, Bulldog gets a piledriver for two. Hanging suplex gets two. Military press gets two. Diving headbutt gets two. He goes for a bow-and-arrow, but Bret reverses to the Sharpshooter, and Davey Boy escapes. Bret bails, and comes back in with a quick german suplex for two. The mat is literally covered in Bret’s blood, although the cut is hard to see because the camera is zoomed out. Oh, and Bulldog’s white tights are now pink. Pleasant, huh? Bret backdrops him out and hits a pescado, then tries what I think was going to be a quebrada (!), but gets caught and powerslammed on the floor. Bulldog pulls up the mats, but Bret blocks a suplex and crotches him on the railing. Back in, a superplex gets two for Bret. Bulldog eats foot on a blind charge. Majastral cradle gets the pin for Bret at 21:09. (A young Chris Jericho gave him that finish!) Well, that was a pretty underwhelming finish. Good match, though. **** I can’t give the bladejob more than 0.3 Muta in good conscience, because the actual cut was small and he wasn’t wearing the crimson mask. – Oh, to clarify for those who keep asking, the Muta scale refers to the severity of bladejobs that wrestlers do. It’s based on one that the Great Muta did in Japan a few years back against Masa Chono. He ended up with a bloody face, body, and the ring and most of Chono was covered in his blood. The cynical online fanbase was so impressed that they spontaneously decided that from then on, all future bladejobs would be judged against that one, with 1.0 Muta being the maximum and everything else rated below that as need be. The Bottom Line: The main event is really good, but it doesn’t save a lacklustre show by any means. (This was the literal definition of a one match show. Everything else on this show from the opener onwards was wretched.) This was really the Dead Zone for the WWF, as they tried to rebuild after Kevin Nash wrecked the company (where have we heard THAT one before?) and were just seeing what would get over until Wrestlemania, when Shawn Michaels would be “given the ball” for the first time. But then I’m pretty down on 1995-96 WWF in general, so my apathy to this show is no surprise, really. Recommendation to avoid.