What was the rationale behind the Bret-to-Backlund-to-Diesel transition? If the end goal was Diesel getting the belt, why not just have him win the Rumble and take it off Bret at Wrestlemania 11? They could have done Razor-Shawn II for the IC title too. With Bigelow-LT drawing the mainstream attention, they could have really showcased their top four guys in showstealing matches. Did Vince owe Backlund or something?
(2012 Scott sez: It’s kind of tough to do a connecting theme for months where there’s no big history behind them, but there’s been some interesting PPVs in April for WWE, so we’ll give it a go.)
The Netcop Retro Rant for In Your House VII: Good Friends, Better Enemies. (April of 1996!)
– Live from Omaha, Nebraska.
– Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler
– This would be the farewell show for both Diesel & Razor Ramon, as they departed for WCW in what was supposed to be a minor defection and ended up turning the company around. Sound familiar? Well, not that the WWF needs turning around these days, but hopefully someone at WCW was watching RAW on Monday night and paying attention to the response for the Radicals got, one that they couldn’t get in WCW due to politics. (Ah, politics.) Anyway, in the Survivor Series 95 rant, I commented that the Bret v. Diesel match there was Diesel’s second-best ever, and that he had a better one with Michaels. Many have e-mailed to ask what that one was, and herein lies the answer.
– Free 4 All match: 1-2-3 Kid v. Wildman Marc Mero.
This is Marc’s PPV debut after jumping from WCW due to squabbling with Eric Bischoff and working most of the internet in the process. Hey, Marc, guess who’s laughing at who now? (I’m pretty sure Sable is laughing at Marc from her giant house in Minnesota as well.) Karate showboating from the Kid to start. Quick sequence puts Mero in control with a flying headscissors that sends the Kid to the floor. Mero follows with a tope suicida. Slingshot legdrop gets two. Reverse rollup gets two. He goes aerial and gets crotched, then HHH (Mero’s first feud) makes an appearance. Kid hits some vicious kicks to take over as HHH stalks Sable. Mero escapes and goes to confront Hunter, and gets nailed by the Kid from behind. The ref tosses HHH, and Mero mounts the comeback. HHH runs in for the lame DQ at 7:20 of what was looking to be a great match. *** (Future) DX beatdown follows on Mero. (This would have been pretty late in the Kid’s WWF run, if not the last appearance of him, in fact.)
– Opening match: The British Bulldog & Owen Hart v. Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson.
(What a stupid choice for an opener.) Johnson was getting into Goldberg territory of overness at this point, although his work was stiff and sloppy, a dangerous combination. (So like Goldberg, basically.) Bulldog had the issue with Ahmed over arm-wrestling (gotta love the mid-90s WWF) so Bulldog hides on the apron and lets Owen handle things. That goes pretty badly for him, as Ahmed tosses him around like a doll and then Jake nearly gets the DDT. Some cheapshots from Bulldog finally allow him to come in without fear of death. (Poor choice of words there, as it would turn out. Sad face.) Ahmed plays face-in-peril for a bit, but doesn’t really sell anything and soon tags out to Jake and he gets beat on for a long while. Jake’s mobility is so limited by age and alcohol at this point it’s scary. Not as scary as Heroes of Wrestling, but scary. The match drags on and on. Ahmed gets the hot tag and screams a lot. Jake inexplicably comes back in to finish things, but takes a LOADED TENNIS RACKET OF DOOM to the knee and submits to a lame kneebar at 13:43. Just way too long. ¾* (I’ve always wondered about the physics behind the loaded tennis racket. Wouldn’t in fact an unloaded racket be more aerodynamic and thus has more impact? That’s the whole POINT of the tennis racket, to slice through the air and deliver a set amount of force to a small area.)
– Intercontinental title match: Goldust v. Ultimate Warrior.
You know how some matches are so bad that they’re good? Well, this is so bad that it’s just BAD. Goldust has a knee injury, so the “match” is literally him walking around the ring and stalling for FIFTEEN MINUTES to waste time. Finally he gets counted out to put us out of our misery. That’s all, folks. -***** How hard would it have been to say “Goldust is injured, so Warrior is fighting [x]”? (This was literally not even a match, so perhaps the full negative monty is a bit unfair. Not by much, mind you.)
– Vader v. Razor Ramon.
This was Graceful Job-Out #1 on the night, as Razor was wooed by WCW a few months before this. (Funny how Hall was such a problem to WWF around this time and a constant source of embarrassment with the drug issues and rehab, but when WCW made an offer suddenly he was an incredibly valuable part of the team and Vince started crying about tampering and unfair practices.) Ramon bumps around for Vader to start, as Vader basically squashes him. Ramon punches a lot to come back. Three clotheslines put Vader on the floor. Vader stalls. Cornette’s help allows Vader to continue his destruction of Ramon. Vaderbomb gets two. Ramon gets a vertical suplex to come back. Powerslam as Vader is coming off the 2nd rope gets two. Bulldog gets two. He tries the Razor’s Edge, but his ribs give out and he collapses. Vader goes for the moonsault, but Ramon brings him down the hard way. Razor’s Edge attempt #2, but Vader backdrops out and sits on him for the pin at 14:47. The selling and psychology were sound enough for a good rating, but the match was REALLY boring. *** (Sounds high to me. Like Hall. HEY OH!)
– WWF tag team title match: The Bodydonnas v. The Godwinns.
This was a rematch from the finals of the inaugural “Placeholder champions until Billy Gunn’s injury heals” tournament at Wrestlemania 12. (Man, things were so pathetic back then that the tag title match got bumped to the Wrestlemania pre-show! How stupid and backwards were the mid-90s. Thank god things aren’t like that today, and…uh…never mind.) Zip gets double-teamed to start as Vince says “scufflin’” about 14 times. What the hell is with him and hillbilly gimmicks, anyway? Are the southern states REALLY so much of a hotbed that he has to tailor entire gimmicks for them? The story here is that Phineas is in love with Sunny. Just give her some crack, Phineas, that’ll bring her around. (Tammy actually got somewhat sober again in the new century before seemingly going crazy and attempting to hire New Jack to kill her ex-boyfriend. Allegedly. Her Facebook page is a constant source of humor and I’m constantly disappointed that she hasn’t gone on Twitter to work out her crazy yet.) Highlight of the mostly-comedy match sees HOG pull out an Ocean Cyclone suplex (picture a german suplex, but starting with the opponent face-down on the mat) as the farmers dominate the champs. This whole period for the titles was a trainwreck, as the Bodydonnas were not over and Vince had no desire to help them become so (Cloudy, anyone?) and the Godwinns were, well, the Godwinns. Thank god for the New Rockers to save the tag division in 96. (I think I was being sarcastic there, but sometimes I can’t even tell myself.) The champs cheat and gain the advantage. Phineas gets all “riled up” (seriously, is this whole gimmick like one big cheapshot at Ted Turner or something?) (Yeah.) and hot tags HOG, but Sunny had conveniently brought a framed, autographed 8×10 of herself to ringside (which probably wasn’t far from the truth at the time) and uses it to distract PIG while the Bodydonnas pull the switcheroo and pin HOG at 7:12. Soo-ey, that sucked… ½*
– WWF World title match: Shawn Michaels v. Diesel.
This is the ultimate blowoff for their long-simmering feud, as Diesel was leaving for WCW and made it known that he was on one final run of destruction before he left. Shawn was hot off beating Bret Hart at WM12 and needed credibility. (And about 5 years’ worth of maturity.) This is no-holds-barred. Shawn uses his speed to avoid Diesel, then dropkicks him out and hits a moonsault tope onto him. He steals a boot from Hugo Savinovich and nails Diesel for two. Diesel gets pissed and knocks Shawn onto the railing, then tosses him back in and absolutely wallops him. Shawn sells like he’s dead. Diesel keeps shooting evil glances at Vince. Jumping side slam nearly puts Shawn though the mat, then Diesel undoes his wrist tape…and chokes out Hebner! He steals Earl’s belt and lays in some wicked shots on Shawn, then hangs him from the top rope and ties him there. As Shawn struggles to free himself, Diesel calmly grabs a chair and blasts Shawn. Back in for another solid chairshot. Lord, what a beating. One more, but Shawn ducks and Shawn gets the chair. That proves temporary, as a low blow gets two for Diesel. Diesel absolutely lays into him with forearms, sending him crashing to the floor. Vince keeps yelling at Shawn to “stay down”. Cool spot of the year: Diesel starts a long tradition, powerbombing Shawn through the announce table. He parades around with the title belt while Shawn, who is nearly dead, pulls himself out of the wreckage. Vince, his own microphone dead, does his usual awesome acting job, yelling “Just let it be over!” at Shawn. Shawn crawls to the ring, and finds a fire extinguisher, which he discharges into Diesel’s face. Flying forearm puts him down, and Shawn grabs a chair to even the odds. Two vicious shots follow, but Diesel won’t go down, and in fact hits the big foot to the face right away to KO Shawn. He takes too long, however, and Shawn escapes the powerbomb. Flying elbow sets up Sweet Chin Music, but Diesel calmly grabs his foot and rips his head off with a lariat. What is this, All Japan? He tosses Shawn out again and drops him on the railing, then gets inspired. He heads over to the front row and beats up Maurice Vachon, who is seated ringside, and STEALS HIS ARTIFICIAL LEG. Major, major heel heat for that. Shawn lowblows him, however, and steals the leg. He knocks Diesel cold with a shot from the leg, then waits for him to recover, warms up the band, and superkicks him for the pin to retain at 17:51. He didn’t win the match, he SURVIVED it. What a horrific beating and an AWESOME brawl. ****3/4 Shawn’s “in your FACE!” post-match celebration is amazing acting on his part, too, and it really makes the match. (Yeah, I reviewed this one again recently for Vintage Collection, and it’s truly one of Nash’s best matches ever. A lot of people think that it doesn’t hold up today, but they didn’t wrestle for internet nerds like us watching 16 years later and it was an awesome brawl for the time.)
The Bottom Line: Most of the show is pretty worthless, but that brawl is something else and sets the tone for garbage main events to follow for years to come. In the next in my little In Your House series, I’ll look at an even BETTER Shawn brawl from a few months later against Mankind. As it is, I’m still in shock to this day that Shawn won Match of the Year for the Wrestlemania match rather than the Diesel or the Mankind one. As it was, however, this match, rather than the Bret one, was the one that really put Shawn over the top as a credible champion and got him over. I wonder if that pissed Bret off?
Recommended only for the main event.