What the World Was Watching: The Action Zone – March 12, 1995

Men on a Mission say that they are excited to fight for the tag team titles on today’s show.  The Smoking Gunns do a lot of smiling and say that they will make Men on a Mission yell “Whoop, there they go!”

Jim Ross and Todd Pettengill are in the booth and they are broadcasting from a new taping location in North Charleston, West Virginia.  The tapings were done on February 22.

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The SmarK Rant for WWF In Your House: Mind Games–09.22.96

The SmarK Rant for In Your House: Mind Games – 09.22.96

Live from Philly, home of cream cheese and some crappy indy promotion. This show has some of the most muted crowd reactions ever due to the production guys turning the crowd mic WAY down to prevent any embarrassing reactions.

Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Mr. Perfect.

At the time I didn’t think about this as the low point of the promotion, but after a month of the most dire RAW taping cycle I’ve seen in forever, you’ve gotta think it’s a contender. Also, this was the last wrestling PPV I ordered for about six years, due to meeting a new circle of friends at this point who came armed with booze and a black box to watch scrambled PPV channels for free. Good times.

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What the World Was Reading: WWF Magazine – June 1995

by Logan Scisco


We return this week to cover my first-ever purchase of a
wrestling magazine:  the June 1995 issue
of WWF Magazine.  I remember getting it at Kroger when I went
with my dad on a grocery trip on a Sunday. 
We passed the magazine section and I wanted it, so he bought it for
me.  I clearly read this issue a lot as a
kid because the cover no longer exists. 
For example, this is what the cover looked like:

And what my copy looks like today:
I am sort of afraid to turn the pages because it might
disintegrate in my hands, but the demands of the Blog persist, so here we go.
The first page in shows that we are definitely in the
Dark Ages as there is a “Can You Guess the Secret Superstar” feature.  This shows a childhood picture of a wrestling
star and you have to guess who it is. 
With so many youngsters depicted, it is a shame they did not get Gorilla
Monsoon to lend his stamp of approval to it. 
This month’s superstar is clearly The Roadie, with such hints as “This
Secret Superstar sincerely believes that Willie Nelson recorded the hit song
‘On the Road Again’ in his honor!” and “This Secret Superstar claims to have
been affiliated at one time or another with such legends as Reba McEntire,
Vince Gill, Wynonna Judd, and Garth Brooks!” 
So, our picture of the future Road Dogg:
The next quick feature is “Federation FANatics,” which
shows some pictures of WWF fans talking about what they like and dislike.  Normally, you would think this feature would
be for younger fans, but oh no, we have a pretty old dude by the name of Louie
Payan that wants to share his thoughts!
While telling us that he loves working on his yard (and presumably keeping young heathens off of it) when
not watching the WWF, Mr. Payan, seventy-five years young, lets us know that he
loves the excitement of the WWF (in 1995?) and that if he were WWF President he
would suspend those who interfere in other people’s matches!  Unfortunately, he does not gripe about not
seeing Lou Thesz lace up the boots for one last WrestleMania because if 1995 WWF
was like today, that might just happen!
This month’s letters to the editor features a small gem
from a quasi-smart fan from Israel by the name of Ilan Zilbershtein.  He demands to know why Shawn Michaels, and
not Diesel, was named number one contender after Survivor Series and got to
wrestle Bob Backlund in the Garden for the WWF title.  The response given seems to come straight
from Vince McMahon’s mouth, saying that Diesel is a worthy competitor because
he is “7 feet tall and weighs well over 300 pounds!”  There is also something thrown in there about
how Diesel shows better sportsmanship, but I think that is a distractor.  Another fan gives us ten reasons why the
Undertaker is called the Undertaker:
We are then treated to a few music and video reviews by
Man Mountain Rock and Jerry “The King” Lawler for the “That’s Entertain MAT”
feature.  Rock highly recommends Bush’s Sixteen Stone album, while Lawler bashes
The Brady Bunch Movie by likening it
to the Hart family.  This was during
Lawler’s feud with Bret Hart, which had been ongoing for two years, so that was
to be expected.
This month’s “Rookies to Legends” column actually does
talk about a future WWF legend: 
Sid. 
Speaking of Sid, why isn’t this guy in the Hall of
Fame?  Does the induction not coincide
with softball season?  The piece
predictably glosses over Sid’s popularity in the 1992 Rumble, saying that he
became a full-fledged rule breaker after SummerSlam 1991.  Any mention of him wrestling down South, even
in a tongue-in-cheek manner, is disappointingly not used.  The article just recaps how Sid came in as
Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard before WrestleMania, how he has turned on him, and
warns us that the WWF will never be the same again!
In sadder news, this month’s magazine provides a small
obituary for Big John Studd, who had recently passed away from Hodgkin’s
disease.  It gives a few facts about his
battles with Andrew the Giant and highlights his 1989 Rumble win.  I remember being shocked that this guy won a Rumble because that was during a phase of
my fandom when I thought that Hulk Hogan would win everything, so the fact that
this guy I had barely heard of won the Rumble was pretty shocking.
These magazines also go really well with our discussions
on the Blog.  Scott was recently asked
about the WWF’s move to the In Your House format and this magazine reminds the
fans that starting in May the WWF will have pay-per-views every month.  You see, the WWF HAD to do this in order to
“meet the demand of our millions of loyal fans.”  The magazine promises that In Your House will
provide “seven action-packed, bodyslammin’, sharpshootin’ pay-per-view events
to air in those months between the BIG FIVE.” 
Yes, those of us who had the privilege of watching In Your House IV can
attest to this!
The magazine keeps giving us lots of lists, this time
giving us five reasons why King Kong Bundy is bald.  I bet Vince loved this stuff.  In fact, I can see John Cena using this material if he had to feud with Bundy today:
And Lex Luger wants your letters so that he can tell you
how to improve your “Body, Mind, and Spirit.”  Lex is all about educating the youth of America about fitness,
health, and drugs!  With such an awful
gimmick like this at the time, no wonder Lex headed for the greener pastures of
WCW.
One of the really cool columns of the magazine is
“Fantasy Warfare,” which breaks down the attributes of two WWF superstars that
have yet to face off in the ring.  This
month talks about the 1-2-3 Kid and Bob Holly, who had a one-day reign as tag
team champions in January 1995.  Bob
Holly in 1995 was a big superstar in WWF
Magazine
as they ran several pieces prior to this hyping how all the big
managers in the WWF were wanting to take Holly under their wing.  What is humorous about the piece is that it
tries to make Holly look like less of a jobber, saying that he lacks many key
wins, but that is “due to the lack of competitive matches he has received.”  Of course, in the next paragraph under “Key
Losses” it tells us that he recently lost to Bam Bam Bigelow.  Despite the evidence moving in the Kid’s
favor, the Editor (Vince Russo) predicts that Holly would win because of his
weight advantage.  I actually included my
own handwriting in the “What’s Your Prediction” part of this piece which
embarrassingly reads “Holly would win because he is quick and more heavy.”  Yes, sound analysis from nine-year-old me.
It is monthly interview time and our subject this month
is Razor Ramon, cruising the streets of Miami. 
He hopes to win the next King of the Ring and says that
he would not mind facing Diesel for the WWF title.  There is a heel vibe to this interview, as
Ramon continually makes fun of the interviewer and says he would not care if he
was booed by the fans, thereby feeding into the idea that the WWF was flirting
with a Ramon heel turn in 1995.  That
would have been the ideal booking strategy since the roster was too heavily
loaded with faces.
Since Russo is the editor of the magazine, one is not
surprised to see a lengthy piece about Jeff Jarrett because everyone knows the
country music gimmick he was sporting in 1995 screamed “next big thing.”
In this five page article, Russo discusses how Jarrett
made him wake up at two in the morning and immediately fly out to the West
Coast so he could hear about the shooting of “Ain’t I Great:  The Motion Picture!”  Everything about this Jarrett gimmick
screamed small time Memphis because let’s face it:  how much credibility is a heel going to have
if we are told he is doing all these big projects and yet we see none of
them?  At least the Miz has that lousy
direct-to-video WWE film.  Anyway, we
find out that Hollywood threw a big parade in Jarrett’s honor and they proceed
to deface a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Jarrett:
And you think the magazine’s writings about the Hollywood
aspirations of superstars are over?  Well
think again as the next piece talks about Bret Hart fielding offers as
well!  Seems funny that the WWF was all
about getting their wrestler’s side projects in 1995 but is scared of them
doing anything outside of the company today. 
We are told that Hollywood is facing “an endangered species” of leading
male action stars and we are reminded that “women sometimes refer to them
as…HUNKS” and that Bret might be able to fill that role.  Russo’s writing in this magazine can be
entertaining, but he clearly has very slanted views about women.  Well, the purpose of this piece is to breakdown
Bret’s venture into TV drama by serving a role on Lonesome Dove:  The Series.  Bret played the character of Luther, who was a wandering trapper.  We
are told that Bret’s performance was as flawless as “Arnold transposed into the
Terminator and Stallone became Rambo.” 
This is a picture of Bret in the role:
Bret wrote in his autobiography that he hoped his role on
Lonesome Dove would let him get out
of wrestling, but the series was short-lived and he had to return.  He did get an appearance on the Simpson and
did have an entertaining angle on Mad TV with Will Sasso, but that was really
it for the Hitman, despite the article promising that he was getting lots of
offers in 1995 and was just waiting for the right project!
We are treated to a breakdown of the results of
WrestleMania XI.  Now compare this write
up and detail with last week’s magazine:
It just does not compare. 
One of the nice touches was that you got quotations from the
participants in the matches.  Ted DiBiase
rips Bam Bam Bigelow, bordering near burial, by saying that he is embarrassed
that Bigelow just lost to a football player. 
I remember going to a Thunder taping where Bigelow wrestled in 1999 and
he was STILL getting LT chants.  We even
get some delusional responses, as Bob Backlund proclaims that “We won!  The chicken-wing prevailed!” following his
disappointing “I Quit” match with Bret Hart. 
And of course, we have to be reminded of all he celebrities that
attended to try to disguise a lackluster show. 
Jonathan Taylor Thomas, remember that guy?  And Salt-N-Pepa needs to return to a WWE
booking meeting, if only to tell them to “push it” regarding Daniel Bryan:
A recap is provided for the night after WrestleMania show
as well, which featured Sid turning on Shawn Michaels, Diesel making the save,
Alundra Blayze regaining the WWF Women’s title from Bull Nakano, and the debut
of Bertha Faye.  Well, at least three of
those things were significant.  The
facial expression of Vince in this action shot is priceless:
And remember the WWF Superstar Line?  Well, these were all the cool features in the
summer of 1995!  I wonder what the
valuable prize was on the WWF trivia, and I have a hard time believing people
would call to hear Stephanie Wiand’s thoughts on the company.
“The Supreme Fighting Machine” Kama gets the
most over the top feature in this month’s magazine as Russo talks about how he
would fare against TJ Combo, a character in the video game Killer Instinct.  In fact,
seeing these two side-by-side sort of screams “gimmick infringement,” no?:
There are a few gems in this piece.  One talks of how Killer Instinct will be released as the first game for Nintendo’s
64-bit game system due out in the fall of 1995 called “Project Reality.”  Of course, it would take until the fall of
1996 for the eventual Nintendo 64 to hit U.S. stores.  We are also treated to a Kama promo about TJ
Combo, with Kama saying that “Not even this…cartoon character” could withstand
his arsenal and he is insulted that Combo would be any match for him!  Kama promises to bring some kick boxing, judo
karate, and good ol’ fashioned wrestling to a future bout, but he did not say
jiu-jitsu, so I am not sure how good his chances are.  Russo says that he figured out who would win
by feeding all the statistics for both men into the “World Wrestling
Federation’s Cray Computer” and although Combo beat the tar out of Kama in the
fight, Kama knocked him out with an uppercut to win.  What else did the WWF run on this Cray
Computer in 1995?
The back of the magazine features our usual “smart fan”
features, this time from the “Informer.” 
It teases the return of Barry Windham, who it says had a previous
alliance with “Irwin R. Schyster.”  It
says that they may team together again and it is amusing to think of the U.S.
Express 2.0 coming back under a tax gimmick. 
I guess that could work, a pair of heels who are patriotic but couch
their patriotism in paying taxes to the state, thereby making them the heels of
every man, woman, and child in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Of course, Windham would not return for
another year so that point is moot.  We
are also informed that Sid is looking for a manager and may turn back to Harvey
Wippleman.  The most hilarious comment is
that “Jean Pierre Lafitte got into the face of Tatanka and accused him of being
just as responsible for the neglect of his grandfather Jean Lafitte as the
white man” thereby prompting a locker room scuffle between the two.
Another “smart” feature was Vic Venom’s “The Bite,” this
time written by him and not a guest writer, which is what the column turned
into by 1999. 
He rips Roddy Piper for calling for the bell at
WrestleMania XI because Backlund never quit. 
He alleges that Bret “Drip Man” Hart got his “bagpipe-wielding,
skirt-wearing friend” to rig the match in his favor.  Aldo Montoya’s upset of Intercontinental
Champion Jeff Jarrett is also blown off because clearly the referee missed one
of Jarrett’s shoulders from coming off the canvas!  It also fawns over the sexiness of Bertha
Faye and lets us know that “she is definitely Vic Venom’s kind of woman!”
This month’s “Private Eye” piece showcases the
Headshrinkers going to get a haircut. 
You see, it is all part of Captain Lou Albano adapting them to American
culture.  The WWF ran this angle so many
times during the 1990s with this, Barry Horowitz and Hakushi, Bradshaw and Taka
Michinoku, etc. and it met with failure EACH TIME.  It was like if you saw someone involved in an
angle like this it was immediate death. 
I mean, who is going to root for guys that are afraid of getting their
hair cut and holding stuffed animals?:
In our letters to the superstars segment, Alundra Blayze
tells a fan that if she had to date a superstar it would be Diesel or Bret
Hart, but you see, she cannot because they are married!  Well, we know that was not something that
stopped Bret on the road.  Bob Backlund
blasts a fan for not picking up a dictionary when the young man questions where
Backlund gets his big words from.  Shawn
Michaels tells a fan that if he had to do it over again he might have chosen
Bret Hart as a bodyguard because he “could have done a much better job.”  Oh, I am sure he could have!
Lastly, we get our Scoop Sullivan cartoon, about a young
fan who can morph into a federation superstar. 
This time, Mantaur keeps cheating against Doink, prompting Sullivan to
go underneath the ring and make a run-in. 
This feature would not last much longer in the magazine and the cartoon
did a good job showing how few people were attending WWF events in 1995 as NO
fans can be seen!  Some of the rhetoric
in this magazine, such as Sullivan’s character telling Mantaur “Back off
Furball!” is also eerily reminiscent of the awful language we get in promos
today.  Coincidence?  I think not. 
Unfortunately, my magazine is in such bad shape that it is hard to see
the full cartoon:
Next week we will look at the December 1999 issue of WWF Magazine, allowing us to look at all
of the great merchandise WWF fans were able to purchase at that time and how
Chris Jericho wants to square off with Steve Austin!

What the World Was Watching: In Your House – Revenge of the Taker

by Logan Scisco

Vince McMahon, Jim
Ross, and Jerry “the King” Lawler are in the booth and they are live from
Rochester, New York
.

I couldn’t find
footage of the Free for All match, but on that show the Sultan defeated Flash Funk
with a powerbomb at 2:55 for those that are interested.

Opening Contest
for the WWF Tag Team Championship:  The
Legion of Doom defeat The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (Champions) by
disqualification at 10:09:
It’s really disheartening that three of the four
participants in this contest are no longer with us.  The tag team champions face another tough
matchup in the opener of the pay-per-view and they had to be wishing for the
days when The New Rockers, The Godwinns, and the Bodydonnas constituted the tag
team division.  The crowd loves to chant
“LOD”, but they are subdued during much of the match, even in parts when it
looks like the LOD might win the titles. 
Animal hits a powerslam off the second rope to pin the Bulldog, but the
decision is overturned because it is ruled that the Bulldog was not the legal
man.  The champions start walking towards
the locker room dejected, but when they hear the announcement Owen gives a
great “I knew that!” expression.  After
the restart, it doesn’t take long for Owen to eat a Doomsday Device, but before
the three count, Bret Hart runs out of the locker room and creates the
disqualification.  This was just a
standard tag match, but it could’ve come off better with a more vocal
crowd.  Rating:  **
Dok Hendrix
interviews The British Bulldog and Owen Hart and Owen says that they didn’t
keep the titles on a fluke.  The
champions refuse to believe that Steve Austin is in the building to face Bret
later tonight
.
Sunny and Brian
Pillman hype the Superstar line and urge us to call 1-900-737-4WWF!
-Kevin Kelly
interviews Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia, who says that Savio’s in for
a hell of a fight in their upcoming match.
Intercontinental
Championship Match:  Savio Vega (w/The
Nation of Domination) beats “The Rock” Rocky Maivia (Champion) by count out at 8:34:
Savio defeated Maivia on Raw prior to the pay-per-view
and you would think that after the beating Maivia took on that show that he’d
bring some backup to this encounter. 
Faarooq wanders out to do guest commentary and he discusses the gauntlet
challenge that he laid down to Ahmed Johnson on last week’s RAW.  You can hear a pin drop for this match,
showing how little enthusiasm Maivia was generating as champion.  This isn’t much better than their match on
Raw, with Savio draining the energy of the match with chokes and nerve holds.  At least Maivia gets in more offense in his
comeback.  Savio tosses Maivia to the
floor and Crush gives Maivia a heart punch behind the referee’s back, but Crush
doesn’t roll Maivia into the ring and that costs Savio the title, much to
Savio’s chagrin.  There is some arguing
between the two before Faarooq gets into the ring and the Nation resolves the
problem by beating the young Maivia until Ahmed makes the save.  This match continued Maivia’s weak run as
champion and he’d lose the belt shortly after this.  Rating:  *
Ahmed gets on the
mic and accepts Faarooq’s challenge.
Ken Shamrock is
shown having some fun on America Online
.
Hendrix interviews
Sable and Marc Mero.  Sable says she
appreciates that she is a two-time Slammy winner and Mero says he hopes to be
back soon.  Austin goes into the bathroom
behind them, cursing the whole way, and an altercation is heard in the room.  The British Bulldog eventually emerges with a
deer in headlights look as he holds an iron bar in his hand and he runs
off.  Owen follows shortly
thereafter.  Dave Hebner tells Hendrix
that Austin is hurt and he needs help before also running away.  The whole segment was hilarious because of
the bad acting of everyone involved.
“The Real Double
J” Jesse James pins Rockabilly (w/The Honky Tonk Man) with a small package at
6:44:
This was the blowoff of the Honky Tonk Man protégé angle,
which had been going on for months, and the end result was terrible as Billy
Gunn, who had rejected The Honky Tonk Man two weeks prior to this, emerged as
the chosen man with a new name: 
“Rockabilly.”  Oh well, on the
other side of the coin you can look at this an encounter of the future New Age
Outlaws.  Billy dances around a lot, but
the crowd could care less and was probably wondering why they paid top dollar
for pay-per-view tickets by this point in the show.  The match is dreadful and James scores the
victory out of nowhere, thereby killing any hopes for the Rockabilly gimmick
out of the gate.  That’s a clear vote of
no confidence from the booking team.  Rating: 
DUD
Hendrix urges us
to call 815-734-1161 to get an Undertaker door banner for $29.95 (plus shipping
& handling)!
Kelly interviews
Steve Austin, who says that he’s still going to compete despite being hurt
tonight.  WWF President Gorilla Monsoon
says that he’s going to reorder the lineup to make sure Austin has time to
recover.  This lineup change makes
Austin-Bret the de facto main event.
Lance Wright interviews
the Hart Foundation and the Bulldog and Owen rant about Austin.  Bret merely gives a “Who’s crying now?” and
walks away, which is great
.
A video package is
played for the Undertaker-Mankind title match
.
Hendrix interviews
Mankind and Paul Bearer.  Bearer promises
that Mankind will be the next WWF champion and Mankind says that the
Undertaker’s screams will be music to his ear.
WWF Championship
Match:  The Undertaker (Champion) defeats
Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) with a Tombstone at 17:26:
The Undertaker is wearing a bandage over the right side of
his face because of the burns he suffered at the hands of Mankind several weeks
prior to this.  This is a wild brawl, as
Mankind takes some nasty bumps into the guardrail and delivers an elbow drop
off the second rope while the Undertaker is on the arena floor and the
Undertaker takes some stiff shots with the urn, a glass water pitcher at
ringside, and a chair.  Referees take a
beating as well, with the main one being sandwiched during an Undertaker blind
charge and another receiving the Mandible Claw when he runs out to assist.  Mankind brings the steps and a chair into the
ring, but the Undertaker kicks the steps in his face and then murders him with
a chair shot, a bump that is tough to watch based on what we know about
concussions today.  Just when you think
you’ve seen enough, Mankind loses his mask and the Undertaker knocks him off
the apron with the steps and Mankind goes head-first through the Spanish
announce table, which has to be the craziest WWF table bump I’ve ever
seen.  After that, things are just
academic.  Mankind was just a lame duck
challenger for the Undertaker in this contest, but credit Foley for nearly
killing himself to keep his character relevant and creating a good first pay-per-view title defense for the Undertaker. 
The match started slow, but after the first ten minutes everything was
stiff and brutal and it ended up telling a great story.  Rating:  ***½
After the match, they
try to work a spot where Mankind accidentally throws a fireball into Paul
Bearer’s eyes, but it doesn’t work, so the Undertaker grabs the materials and
tosses it into Bearer’s face, which is just as effective as far as future
storylines go.  Bearer leaves with his
suit coat over his head and he’s later taken to the hospital by paramedics.
Hendrix interviews
the Hart Foundation and Bret says that he’s going to make an example out of
Steve Austin tonight when he beats him for a third time.
“Stone Cold” Steve
Austin defeats Bret “the Hitman” Hart by disqualification when the British
Bulldog interferes at 21:10:
Keep in mind that this was originally supposed to be
Bret-Sid, but Sid no showed an episode of Raw so the card was changed.  I’m not sure what that would have done to
Austin’s role on this show, but I’m sure he would’ve made his presence felt
after Bret got his job back from Sid.  Owen
Hart and the British Bulldog try to come down with Bret, but they are ushered
to the back by WWF officials.  This is an
extension of WrestleMania XIII, as they brawl into the crowd and Bret attacks
Austin’s knee with a chair after an early ref bump.  Austin isn’t selling the attack earlier in
the evening, but that becomes a mute point once Bret targets the legs for the better
part of fifteen minutes.  Bret goes to
finish Austin with the Sharpshooter, but Austin clocks Bret with his knee
brace, which Bret took off early in the match, and applies the
Sharpshooter.  Before Bret can submit,
though, Owen and the Bulldog run out and the Bulldog clocks Austin with a chair
to draw the disqualification.  This tried
to recreate the climate of their WrestleMania encounter, but the electric
atmosphere that surrounded that match was missing here.  Nevertheless, it was still a good technical
match that continued the feud between Austin and the Hart Foundation.  Rating:  ****
After the match, Bret
tries to attack Austin with the ring bell, but Austin jabs a chair into Bret’s
knee and applies a Sharpshooter before Owen and the Bulldog can come to Bret’s
aid.
The Final Report Card:  This show
started like a bad episode of RAW, but the last two matches increase the show’s
quality.  The Austin-Bret feud would only
get hotter after this show and the Undertaker-Paul Bearer storyline would morph
into the “Kane” storyline that would dominate much of the Undertaker’s title
run.  The company was about to right some
of the wrongs that happened on this show as well, since Maivia was on his way
out as Intercontinental champion and Rockabilly never made another pay-per-view
appearance.
Attendance:  6,477
Buyrate:  0.5
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

Assorted April PPV Countdown: 1997

  (2012 Scott sez:  I  was tempted to go back and redo this one, but sadly this tape was one of the lost souls in the Great Videotape Purge Of 2005 and didn’t make the transition over to DVD.)  The Netcop Retro Rant for In Your House:  Revenge of the Taker. – On Monday night, Bret Hart said he beat Steve Austin every time they met.  Not true.  (Well, the man’s a stroke victim, you have to expect some memory problems.)  – Live from Rochester, New York. – Your hosts are Jim Ross, Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. Free For All:  The Sultan v. Flash Funk.  The Sultan is hot off jobbing to Rocky at WM13, and Flash is hot off jobbing to Billy Gunn. Flash still has the Funkettes, demonstrating that he’s two years before his time. (I guess I was going for the Godfather joke there, although really Funk was in fact 15 years before his time given that Brodus Clay swiped his whole act.)  The match is nothing, as they trade some stuff and then Flash tries a rana off the top, but gets it blocked into a powerbomb for the pin.  * for a couple of nice spots, but no wrestling to speak of. – Another great Freddy Blassie promo starts us out. – Opening match, WWF tag team title: Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith v. The Legion of Doom.  The Harts are fresh off re-joining with Bret Hart (and not earning many fans in the US by doing so) and the LOD are…well…the LOD. Animal controls Owen with some power stuff to start.  The champs take over, and Hawk no-sells a bunch.  Then Owen gets beat up by the LOD.  Then Hawk gets beat up by the champs.  It’s all as exciting as it sounds.  A heel miscommunication spot leads to the hot tag, and Animal hits a powerslam off the top rope…for the pin!  The LOD regains the tag titles and…oh, wait.  Here’s another referee, pointing out that the wrong man was pinned, so the match continues. Hey, the ending sucks already and we’re not even done yet.  Okay, we’re on again, and Animal is getting double-teamed by the heels.  Owen misses a splash off the top rope and Hawk gets the hot tag.  Doomsday Device, but Bret Hart runs in for the DQ.  Okay, that sucked.  *1/2 for the whole mess.  (I feel like I short-changed this one, commentary-wise, but holy shit was this a terrible opener.  Hawk was just a mess at this point.)  Intercontinental title match:  Rocky Maivia v. Savio Vega.  Rocky attacks early with a couple of ARMDRAGS OF DOOM and Faaarrrrrooooqqqq (is that spelling right?) joins us for racist commentary.  Rocky continues working on the arm. Savio takes over with a leg lariat and a VULCAN NERVE PINCH OF DEATH!  FFFFFFffaarrroooqqqqq challenges Ahmed Johnson to a match for the *next* PPV.  (That’s actually the kind of long-term planning that they could use more of, outside of Rock-Cena’s one year build of course.)  More devastating restholds and choking from Savio, thrilling the crowd.  Rocky hits a fisherman’s suplex for two, but Savio retaliates with a superkick.  Rocky hits the hurricane DDT out of nowhere and gets two.  Rocky makes the superman comeback.  Rock Bottom only gets two.  Savio tosses him to the floor, nailing Crush in the process, so Crush gives him the heart punch for the countout.  Lame match with a dumb ending.  1/2*  The Rocky angle was mercifully killed a couple of weeks later as Owen Hart won the IC title on a RAW.  The Nation does a big beatdown on future leader Rocky, but Ahmed Johnson makes the save.  (One would have to assume that this was setting up Rocky & Ahmed v. NOD in some form so they could pull the trigger on the Rocky turn, and the injury just delayed it a couple of months.)  – Dok interviews Marc Mero and Sable, and in the background Steve Austin goes into the bathroom.  Suddenly, you hear a bunch of yelling and screaming, and Davey Boy Smith emerges with a length of steel, bent at the middle.  He does a HILARIOUS double-take upon seeing the camera, and Owen follows, shoots another hilarious look at the camera, and they run off.  Funny stuff.  (See, this was the kind of anarchic fun that Vince Russo was GOOD at, and it freshened up the product because it was totally different than anything they had done before with the dull backstage interview segments.  Of course now that’s ALL they do.) “Double J” Jesse Jammes v. The Honky Tonk Man’s protege.  Yes, HTM spent months hyping his newest find, and we get…Rockabilly Gunn.  Oh you didn’t know that this match sucked?   Your ass better call somebody! (They should totally feature this match on the Are You Serious YouTube show.  Also, you should follow @WWEPuppetH, because I fucking love puppet HHH.)  Honky does a quick interview to explain the nonsensical Gunn turn.  The crowd is just gone, not caring a whit about either guy.  Astonishingly, Gunn and Jammes would be tag champions by the end of the year, and the most over tag team in WWF history within another 6 months.  (And then the geniuses at Titan Tower thought “Hey, if they’re doing great as a team, we can split them up and make TWICE AS MUCH off them!  We’ll make BILLIONS!”)  Rockabilly gets a two off a Rocker Dropper.  This match made the Netcop Busts compilation for sheer historical value of the stupidity.  Massive stalling and showboating from both guys here.  Jesse makes the big comeback with a bunch of punches.  Rockabilly goes for a suplex and Jammes reverses to a small package for the pin.  An awful match with an ending that made zero sense of several levels.  On the bright side, it sewed the seeds for the New Age Outlaws.  DUD  (God, I must not have been incredibly sick of Billy Gunn at that point.)  – ECW’s Lance Wright interviews the Hart Foundation about the Steve Austin attack. – Really weird promo for the title match. – WWF World title match:  The Undertaker v. Mankind.  What is with Mick main eventing the show after Wrestlemania, anyway?  (I don’t know, Seinfeld, you tell me.First here, then Unforgiven, then Backlash (before his injury changed that).  (And what’s with the WWF not being able to make up their damn mind about what their PPVs are named?  Do you know how tough it is to remember whether “Unforgiven” was in April or September or December or whatever in every given year?  I’m 37 years old, I can barely remember that Smackdown is on Fridays without my DVR taping it for me.)   Mick threw a fireball at UT to set this up.  Of course, the stuff that UT ended up doing in later years makes that look pretty tame by comparison. (The stuff that UT did to Mankind just one year after this makes that look tame by comparison, in fact.)  Vince notes how strange “WWF champion Mankind” would sound.  (WWF Champion anyone would sound weird now.)  Heh, just wait. They brawl outside the ring, with Mankind taking a couple of decent bumps.  UT continues the punishment with his ropewalking clothesline. Paul Bearer distracts the ref and Mankind nails UT with the urn for a two.  Mankind takes control with a devastating nerve hold.  They fight outside the ring again and Mankind whacks him with a pitcher of water. He drops an elbow from the second rope to the floor on Undertaker. Nasty.  Back in the ring with a piledriver for two.  Jerry Lawler asks Vince what the WWF suits would think of WWF champion Mankind, and Vince replies that “I’m sure they’ll find some way to market it”.  Socko, anyone? (Yeah, that’ll put butts in seats.)  Ref gets bumped and Mankind applies the Mandible Claw.  Another ref runs in and gets Clawed.  Fat Paul throws in a chair, but Mankind prefers a larger weapon and bring in the stairs.  UT dropkicks it back in his face, then just kills him with a chairshot.  Mankind gets tied in the ropes, losing his mask, and then takes the bump of the year (well, until Badd Blood), as UT rams the stairs into his head, and he flies off the apron, into the Spanish table, head-first.  Ouch.  Back in the ring, a chokeslam gets two and the tombstone gets three.  Wild match.  ***1/2 After the match, UT beats up Bearer while Mankind struggles to light a fireball.  UT grabs it from him and fumbles with it some more, finally setting it off in Bearer’s face.  This would be the angle that causes Bearer to change his hair color and eventually introduce the world to….Kane.  (Why DID he dye his hair back to black in 2004?)  Steve Austin v. Bret Hart.  (See, Austin was getting hot at this point, so to capitalize, at Wrestlemania they did the famous match where he got distracted by his girlfriend and pinned in 18 seconds by the babyface.  Oh, no, wait, that would be retarded.  My mistake.)  Slugfest to start.  Austin quickly gets control and nails Bret with an axehandle off the apron to the floor. Bret to the stairs.  Austin mocks Hart in the ring, then tosses him to the stairs again.  He tosses Bret over the railing, into the crowd, then hits an axehandle off the railing.  Bret is bumping like mad here.  Back in the ring and Austin with a “fuck you elbow” for two.  Bret grabs a chair it backfires, as Austin takes it from him.  Ref gets bumped and Hart smashes the chair into Austin’s knee a few times.  Vince talks about Bret’s ego.  Bret hooks the ringpost figure-four, then smashes a chair into Austin’s knee a few times.  Austin’s knee is gone.  Austin comes back with a series of elbows, but Bret simply kicks him in the knee to retake control. He rips off Steve’s faithful knee brace and works on the knee some more.  Back in the ring and Austin with a low blow to counter.  Dammit, that could cause a serious GROIN injury, the likes of which we’ve never seen before!  Ahem.  (That was referencing Bret’s WCW run at the point when I was writing this rant, as he was doing this weird heel thing where he was claiming a groin injury to get heat.)  Austin chokes out Bret with his tape.  The Fuck You Elbow misses and Austin lands on his knee. Bret, of course, goes back to it.  Bret hits a figure-four.  Austin reverses and they fight outside the ring again.  Austin drops Bret on the railing and clotheslines him from the apron to the floor.  Back in the ring and Austin with the CROSS CORNER WHIP OF DEATH.  Bret should do that bump in every match.  (He does.)  It gets two.  Austin tries a piledriver but his leg gives out.  Bret goes back to the knee.  Austin drops him facefirst on the top turnbuckle for two.  He goes for the Stunner but Bret makes the ropes.  Bret with his own low blow.  Bret with the superplex.  Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, and Austin grabs his wayward knee brace and whacks Bret with it, allowing him to reverse to his own Sharpshooter!  But then Owen and Davey Boy run in.  Austin breaks the move, chases them off, and tries the Sharpshooter again, but Davey Boy smacks Austin with a chair for the DQ.  **** Huge brawl breaks out and Austin fights them off.  The next night on RAW, all hell would break loose, triggering the biggest feud of the year. The Bottom Line: Sure, the first portion sucked, but for a two hour show you can’t complain too loudly about the co-main events.  Many people on RSPW called this one of the worst shows of all time, but it’s not even close. (Many people on RSPW were fucking morons.)  Definitely worth the rental to check it out a couple of years later for the good matches and interesting history. Very mildly recommended.

Assorted April Countdown: 1996

(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.