What the World Was Watching: Thursday Raw Thursday – February 13, 1997

by Logan Scisco
This is a Thursday
edition of Raw that was dubbed “Thursday Raw Thursday.”  Did I mention that the show was held on
Thursday?
Vince McMahon
announces that Shawn Michaels will vacate the WWF title tonight and that the
winner of this Sunday’s Final Four match will become the new WWF champion.
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from
Lowell, Massachusetts.  After SkyDome
last week, this small arena is definitely a letdown, but it does provide a grittier picture for the show.

Opening Contest
for the Intercontinental Championship: 
Rocky Maivia defeats Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Champion) to win the title
with a small package at 13:26 shown:
Curtis Hughes is not in Helmsley’s corner, having been
fired by the WWF for reasons that are still unclear.  The story coming into this match is that
Helmsley has been booked against Ahmed Johnson for In Your House, but was so
confident that he could defeat Maivia that he signed for this match four days
before the pay-per-view.  A vocal part of
the crowd works up a “Rocky sucks” chant in the early going, but it’s gradually
drowned out during the match by pro-Maivia chants.  Helmsley, as the more experienced wrestler,
leads Maivia through a really good match that sees Maivia frustrate Helmsley by
kicking out of some high impact moves before catching him off guard to win his
first title in the World Wrestling Federation. 
This upset really did come out of left field, but it almost ruined
Maivia since he wasn’t over enough at this point to warrant getting the
title.  Rating:  ***½
Dok Hendrix
interviews the victorious Maivia, who says that he can’t believe that he beat
Helmsley and he’ll make his fans happy while he’s the champion.
Sunny comes out to
be our guest ring announcer for the next match. 
They really had no idea what to do with Sunny at this point, so for the
next year she’d do guest ring announcing and refereeing midget matches until
they tried to make her a manager again in 1998.
The Headbangers
defeat Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly & “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya
after Thrasher pins Montoya after a powerbomb/flying leg drop combination at
5:42:
This is an enhanced squash for the Headbangers, who have
settled into this gimmick after being billed as the Sisters of Love for the
first month of 1997.  It’s amazing how
long Montoya was able to stick around as a jobber to the stars in the
promotion, but having friends at the top of the company definitely doesn’t
hurt.  The match proceeds along just
fine, as the Headbangers showcase some of their double team moves, like an
inverted superplex spot, and pick up an easy victory over two WWF veterans.  Rating:  **
McMahon interviews
WWF Champion Shawn Michaels, who cuts his “I Lost My Smile” promo, where he
vacates the WWF title and hands it to WWF President Gorilla Monsoon.  It was announced that Michaels would need
knee surgery, but that never happened and some argue that Michaels came up with
an excuse so that he would not have to job to Bret at WrestleMania.  This speech also earned Michaels some
criticism because this was the fourth time he had vacated a title after winning
it (one tag title in 1994, the Intercontinental title in 1993 and 1995, and
this time).  Despite your feelings,
though, Shawn gives a very emotional speech here that is very convincing.
The Undertaker
defeats Savio Vega (w/The Nation of Domination) with a chokeslam at 8:48 shown:
You get the impression that the Undertaker wants to move
onto bigger and better things, but he’s gotten sucked into a small feud with
the Nation of Domination prior to In Your House so he has to deal with that
first.  Savio does a great job selling
the Undertaker’s initial onslaught, but after the first couple of minutes the
match significantly slows down.  It
doesn’t lose the crowd, though, who through sheer force of will want to be
heard and continue to chant “rest in peace.” 
After the match, the Nation swarms the Undertaker and beats up Ahmed
Johnson when he tries to help.  However,
the Undertaker eventually recovers and gets the Nation to flee.  This match was very pedestrian, but the crowd
reactions really enhanced it and made it seem like something special.  Rating:  **¼
Hendrix interviews
WWF President Gorilla Monsoon, who says that the Final Four match at In Your
House will be for the WWF title because it’s the most fair thing to do.  Monsoon says that Sid will get his title shot
on Monday against the winner of the Final Four match on Raw.  That hardly seems fair to me since Sid gets
the entire pay-per-view off and someone who goes through a beating has to turn
around and defend the title less than 24 hours later.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin defeats Sid by disqualification at 3:40:
Sid was supposed to wrestle Shawn Michaels for the title
on this show, but Michaels injury forced a change of plans.  However, it all works out because these two
were supposed to face each other the night after the Royal Rumble, which was
scrapped after it was announced that Sid was recovering from a minor
concussion.  Austin gets one of the
loudest chants of his career in the early going and you can tell that he’s
really starting to favor his knees, as they are more wrapped than usual.  Sid and Austin exchange blows for a few short
minutes until Bret Hart runs in and causes Sid to get disqualified.  Predictably, Sid isn’t very happy about that
and starts fighting with Bret until WWF officials run in and break it up.  Rating:  **
McMahon interviews
Vader, who cuts a choppy promo trying to justify why he’s the favorite for the
Final Four pay-per-view.  There is
Exhibit A ladies and gentlemen for why Vader never became WWF champion in 1997.
Highlights of
Shawn Michaels speech earlier in the evening are shown
.
WWF Tag Team
Championship Match:  Faarooq & Crush
(w/The Nation of Domination) defeat Owen Hart & The British Bulldog
(Champions) by count out at 9:20 shown:
It’s really sad to think that fifteen years after this
match took place that three of the four participants in it are deceased.  On a lighter note, this is another heel
challenge to Owen and the Bulldog’s titles. 
Faarooq and Crush earned this title shot by winning a four team
elimination match on Superstars and Clarence Mason, who normally manages the tag team champions, is in the corner of the Nation. 
The announcers don’t bring this point up, though.  Owen and the Bulldog play the role of faces
in this match, but that means that Faarooq and Crush control the offense.  Considering their size, you would think
Faarooq and Crush could work in a double spinebuster or something, but those
moves never come.  It’s really funny
seeing the champions placed in peril by the same tactics they like to use.  Owen pulls his knee trick again, which was a
problem on last week’s Raw, after Crush tosses him out of the ring and takes
the count out, but that leaves the Bulldog alone to be victimized by the
Nation.  Maybe Owen secretly joined the
Nation in early 1997 and just didn’t let his membership be known until
1998.  The crowd felt cheated by the
finish, but it made sense in storyline terms. 
Rating:  **¼
Rocky Maivia’s
Intercontinental title victory over Hunter Hearst Helmsley is the Western Union
rewind segment.
Bret “the Hitman”
Hart pins Vader after Vader misses a moonsault at 4:13 shown:
The Undertaker comes out before the match starts and
tells them that he’ll make them rest in peace at In Your House.  They run through an abbreviated match because
of the time constraints, where Bret is able to lock in a Sharpshooter and Vader
gets in his usual stiff shots in the corner. 
I’m surprised they went with a clean finish here since you would want to
keep Vader strong for the pay-per-view, but I guess Bret wanted his win back
from last month and they wanted to send the crowd home happy.  Rating:  **
The Final Report Card:  This is one of the hottest wrestling crowds
you will ever see and it made the product come off like a million bucks.  While the crowd was a bit smarkish, they
reacted “appropriately” to the big moments and foreshadowed the rabid crowds of
the Attitude Era.  Another great show by
the WWF, as they are starting to pull themselves out of the abyss.
Monday Night War Rating:  N/A
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Up

What the World Was Watching: Royal Rumble 1997

by Logan Scisco
Vince McMahon,
Jerry “the King” Lawler, and Jim Ross are in the booth and Ross is sporting the
black cowboy hat that will become his trademark for the first time.  Lawler tells McMahon that he’s in the Royal
Rumble, but McMahon doesn’t believe him.

Free for
All:  Mascarita Sagrada, Jr. & La
Parkita defeat Mini Vader & Mini Mankind after Sagrada pins Mini Vader with
a La Magistral cradle at 4:30:
I must admit that it’s hilarious seeing Mini Vader and
Mini Mankind come down to the real Vader and Mankind’s theme music.  1997 and early 1998 were a year when the WWF
had midget wrestling serve the role that the Divas division currently serves,
namely to provide a bathroom break during the show and a way to cool down the
crowd before big matches.  There isn’t a
great flow to this match, as it’s just the minis jumping around, but Mini
Mankind does pull out the Chris Hamrick bump to the floor.  This was quasi-entertaining, but the allure
of it wore off fast.  Rating: 
Now onto the show,
where the Spanish announce table is featured prominently.  The poor guys would have their announce table
broken on many shows in the coming years.
-A video package
hypes the Hunter Hearst Helmsley-Goldust Intercontinental title match
.
Opening Contest
for the Intercontinental Championship: 
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Champion w/Curtis Hughes) defeats Goldust
(w/Marlena) with a Pedigree at 16:50:
This is an interesting choice for an opener since both
guys don’t set the world on fire, but looking at the lineup for this show, I
have to concede that their options were limited.  Mr. Hughes returns to the WWF with this
contest.  He wouldn’t be around for long,
as Chyna would replace him by WrestleMania. 
Adding a manager really improved Helmsley’s credibility, since his track
record as a singles was very lackluster in 1996.  Goldust, still angry over Helmsley’s advances
at Marlena over a month ago (and they call Marc Mero jealous) rips into
Helmsley during his entrance and uses the ring steps as his weapon of choice.  Unfortunately, after the first couple of
minutes the match just dies, as Goldust works over Helmsley’s knee and
Helmsley’s offense can’t put a lot of heat on the match.  The crowd pops more when they see shots of
Marlena and the people in the front row are too busy showing NWO signs.  Hughes interferes to keep Helmsley from being
pinned after getting nailed with the Intercontinental title and when Goldust
confronts him, Helmsley seizes advantage and gets the victory.  They tried to combine technical wrestling
with brawling in this one, but it just wasn’t clicking with the crowd and it
hurt the match.  Rating:  *
Bret Hart says he
might be a marked man in this Royal Rumble, but that’s nothing new to him and
he’s going to win.  Mankind says the
Rumble is a time for him to hurt people he doesn’t like.  Hard to disagree with that reasoning.
Kevin Kelly and
Sunny are working the WWF Superstar Line tonight, so call 1-900-737-4WWF to
hear comments from the winners and losers!
A video package
chronicles the Ahmed Johnson-Faarooq feud
.
Ahmed Johnson
defeats Faarooq (w/The Nation of Domination) by disqualification when the
Nation interferes at 8:43:
After over four months of hype, this is the long awaited
confrontation between Ahmed and Faarooq. 
Faarooq might have set a wrestling record for the size of his
entourage.  There’s some great continuity
in the early going, as Faarooq targets Ahmed’s kidneys.  The crowd heat for this one blows the last
match out of the water, which more than makes up for some of the slow spots in
the action.  Faarooq is a great character
and pulls out some hilarious spots where he yells at the crowd and Ahmed is
able to capitalize and regain the advantage. 
Ahmed destroys the Nation after they interfere and in a spot that becomes
one of the most memorable of the event, he quasi-Pearl River Plunges a Nation
member through the French announce table. 
This was a drawn out TV match, but you would expect that since it’s the
first match in the Ahmed-Faarooq feud.  Rating: 
**
Terry Funk says
that he’s ready to rumble tonight
.
Todd Pettengill
interviews Faarooq and the Nation of Domination.  Faarooq chastises some Nation members for not
helping him when he was in trouble and he says that he’s going to end Ahmed
Johnson’s career.
Vader defeats The
Undertaker with a Vader Bomb at 13:20:
When this match was first booked, there were some
questions about why the WWF was making this money making match a midcard event
at the Rumble.  Unintentional hilarity
ensues during the entrances, as the lights do not come on when the Undertaker
gestures up towards the sky.  The
Undertaker continues to show the new flexibility of his character by giving
Vader a Rock Dropper in the early going and outslugging the big man.  You would think that these two would have
some great chemistry, but that’s not the case here as we get a slow and
plodding big man match.  The match gets
so dull that Pettengill goes into the crowd and interviews a Shawn Michaels fan
that bought her tickets by babysitting lots of kids in the San Antonio
area.  Ross drops a creative hint that
Jim Cornette and Vader are no longer working together because the referee
working the match is one that Vader injured a year ago and Cornette would not
allow that to happen.  Minor plot points
like that is just something you don’t see anymore.  Paul Bearer eventually wanders out and hits
the Undertaker with the urn and that enables Vader to score the upset and
thereby provide us with the reason why this match was used in the midcard:  to continue the Undertaker-Bearer feud.  For me, the association of Vader with Paul
Bearer is the day that Vader ceased being a serious contender to the WWF
championship.  After the match, the
Undertaker, angered at the result of the match, takes out his frustrations on
the referee and chews out McMahon at ringside. 
The whole tirade is eerily similar to what we would see in Montreal
eleven months later with Bret Hart.  The
match was too stop and go for my taste and there were way too many dead spots
between meaningful action.  Rating: 
*
Steve Austin and
the Bulldog give reasons why they are going to win the Rumble.  I like the Bulldog’s the most:  he’ll win because he’s “bizarre.”
Perro Aguayo,
Hector Garza & El Canek defeat
Fuerza
Guerrero, Heavy Metal & Jerry Estrada when Aguayo pins Guerrero after an
elbow drop at 10:54:
This is our customary AAA match of the show and despite
being just north of the border, the crowd cares very little for this match and
sits on their hands.  At least it
functions as a way to cool the crowd down for the Rumble match.  Vince and Lawler are completely out of their
element calling this match and Ross takes over many of the announcing
duties.  Think of him as playing the role
that Mike Tenay did in WCW when it came to the cruiserweights.  Unfortunately, a lot of his material doesn’t
relate to the WWF’s audience, since he talks about Canek’s battles with Lou Thesz.  Aguayo keeps teasing aerial maneuvers to the
floor during the match and the one that he does do, a simple dive from the apron,
goes awry.  It takes us about eight
minutes to get a semblance of a heat segment, but it takes Garza’s corkscrew
body press onto Estrada on the floor to illicit a reaction.  This match had no flow to it, with different
combinations of guys fighting each other in ninety second increments before
switching off, and I had to utter a sigh of relief when it was finally put out
of its misery.  Rating:  ½*
To show you how
far the crowd is gone, they don’t even pop when Finkel announces the WWF’s
worked figure for the crowd:  60,177
.
“Stone Cold”
Steve Austin wins the 1997 Royal Rumble by eliminating Bret “the Hitman” Hart
at 50:26:
For the first time since 1994, wrestlers in the early
part of the show are working double duty in this match, which shows how shallow
the depth chart was in the company at the time. 
Also, like 1994, this Rumble did not have a clear winner coming in,
which was nice.  The buzzer and clock are
malfunctioning in the early going, thereby depriving the crowd of part of the
fun of the Rumble match. While the King of the Ring victory in June was nice,
this is really Austin’s coming out party, as he lives up to the pledge he made
prior to the show by tossing ten “pieces of trash” over the top rope.  Much like Diesel’s run in 1994, the crowd
gets louder and louder for Austin as he tosses midcard talent like Phineas
Godwinn, Bart Gunn, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts in the early going and Savio
Vega and “The Real Double J” Jesse James much later.  Austin’s one-on-one runs through the Rumble
are stopped by the British Bulldog, who he kept sneak attacking during this
period, and Bret Hart, which gives us a great visual of Austin looking bug eyed
towards the entrance.  Aside from
Austin’s performance, the storyline about dissension between the British
Bulldog and Owen Hart continues, as Owen eliminates his partner from the
match.  Mexican legend Mil Mascaras is
also loathe to give a WWF superstar a rub from eliminating him, so he opts to
eliminate himself with an ill advised flying body press to the floor.  The last major highlight of the match is
Jerry Lawler being the wild card entrant. 
Lawler tells McMahon that “It takes a king…” before heading into the
fray, but he’s quickly dispatched by Bret Hart, enabling Lawler to go back to
the announce table and say “…to know a king” to complete his phrase and he
proceeds to keep commentating like nothing happened.  In a plot point that becomes important for
the next pay-per-view, Austin’s Rumble win is shrouded in controversy as Bret
tosses him near the end of the match, which the referees don’t see because they
are trying to break up a brawl between Mankind and Terry Funk, and Austin comes
back in and tosses Vader, the Undertaker, and Bret to win the match.  Bret throws a tantrum after the match,
pushing around the referees and yelling at the commentary team.  We’ll cover more fallout of Austin’s victory
when we recap the next edition of Monday Night Raw.  The Bret-Austin showdown was the big
highlight of this Rumble, but there weren’t a lot of other memorable moments
and most of that is due to the quick pace of eliminations in the first half of
the match.  Rating:  **¾
A video package
recaps the Sid-Shawn Michaels feud
.
Pettengill
interviews Shawn Michaels, who says that despite having the flu he’s going to
use the power of San Antonio to win back the WWF title.
WWF Championship
Match:  “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn
Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) pins Sid (Champion) with Sweet Chin Music to win the
title at 13:48:
This was Lothario’s swan song as Michaels manager and it
was long overdue, as his presence was not needed during Michaels first run with
the title.  This is the reverse crowd
dynamic that was present in Madison Square Garden at the Survivor Series when
Sid won the title.  With crowd dynamics
like that, it’s somewhat disappointing that they didn’t try to have a rubber
match at a more neutral site that would have an equal share of smarks and
marks.  Sid concentrates on the back for
nearly ten minutes, but Shawn shrugs it off during his comeback, which is
something that really gets on my nerves since it renders that portion of the
match meaningless.  In another ridiculous
spot, Sid powerbombs Michaels on the arena floor, but Michaels recovers mere
moments later to get back into the ring. 
In a nice piece of continuity with their Survivor Series match, Michaels
blasts Sid with a camera after the referee gets bumped.  The finish to this match was never in doubt,
since the main selling point of the show was to see Michaels regain the title
and the WWF, unlike WCW, had a knack for sending the crowd home happy.  This was not on the same level as their
Survivor Series match, since the back and forth action was limited, potentially
by Michaels illness, and it’s hard to buy into Michaels winning a match in Hulk
Hogan-like fashion.  At the time, logic
held that Sid had fulfilled his purpose as a transitional champion and after
this show would do some jobs to some of the main event and upper midcard
talent.  However, that reasoning proved
very premature.  Rating:  **½
The Final Report Card:  On paper, you would think that the Alamo Dome
would provide a great setting for a pay-per-view.  It’s a large venue and most times when you
pack a large number of wrestling fans into an arena you are going to be
guaranteed a great atmosphere.  However,
aside from the main event and parts of the Rumble, this is the quietest crowd
for a big time pay-per-view that you will ever see.  In terms of the show, nothing stands out
except for Austin’s spots in the Rumble and at the time that wasn’t worth the
price of admission since Austin would have bigger moments in 1997.
Attendance: 
60,525
Buyrate: 
0.70
Show Evaluation:  Thumbs Down

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.

Special Referee Shawn

Hey Scott,
Two quick questions about your rating of last night’s Hell In A Cell match between Undertaker and Triple H:  (1.) Would that match have been ***** without Shawn Michaels as the special referee? and, (2.) If so, was HBK’s performance the most influential of any referee in history?  No disrespect to Taker or HHH, but it seemed like HBK was nearly as important to the match as the two combatants because of the emotion he displayed.
 

Well last year there was no Shawn and it was ****1/2, but I don’t tend to rate matches based on the referreeing job anyway.  So for question, I’d say yes.  As for the second question, I’d say Earl Hebner probably will hold the record for a while yet.