Bret Hart: The Best There Is DVD Review (Disc 1 and 2)

Bret “Hitman” Hart – The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be


Documentary:

Analogous to the Stone Cold DVD I reviewed, this was an exhaustive look at Bret Hart’s decorative career. Hart articulated the stories exactly how he witnessed them. Whether you agreed with his viewpoints or not, he narrated his story in a lucid manner. Hart added in a lot of little details, creating a detailed envision for the viewers. However, his egocentric attitudes on some things becomes somewhat annoying. He was one of the best wrestlers ever, but he can come off  a little condescending at times. I am sure almost everyone reading has somehow heard all of these stories before, but this was still an informative documentary in its time.
Disc Two: 

Bret Hart (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Ricky Steamboat (3/8/86)
This was booked to be on the Wrestlemania II PPV card, but it was bumped off at the last minute. WWF believed Hercules was going to be a bigger star than Hart, so they wanted him on the 2 card. On the other hand, Steamboat believed Bret had a lot of potential and wanted to give him some credibility and exposure. Bret attacks Steamboat when the referee is checking him for weapons. Bret keeps attacking Steamboat, who hasn’t even had time to take his jacket off. Steamboat fights back and takes his jacket off. It’s on! Bret comes back and hits a neckbreaker. Bret punches Steamboat, who spills to the outside. Bret hits a suplex that picks up a two. Steamboat picks him up for a press slam, but Steamboat’s legs cave from under him. That picks up a two for Bret. Bret hits a powerslam for another near-fall. Steamboat fights back with some hard chops and a backdrop suplex that get a two. Bret reverses an Irish Whip, sending Steamboat right into the referee. Bret delivers the Hart Attack, but the referee is still out cold. Bret dodges a clothesline from Steamboat, and hits a crossbody block from the other side. Steamboat rolls through, though, and picks up the victory @ 15:09.

Analysis: Steamboat and Hart’s selling capabilities were exceedingly off the charts. Their reaction time to move was seamlessly on point, and their head movements from selling a punch or strike were great as well. These two just demonstrated why selling is so imperative, and how it can draw in the fans into something in spite of having no importance or build around it. Selling can help make moves more evocative, a babyface garner sympathy from the crowd, a heel acquire more heat, and make it tremendously easier for the fans to become fervently invested into the action. All those things were demonstrated in this.

This was booked in a position where it was not supposed to be much of anything, but the acute components and realistic psychology made this an overachieving exhibition match. This could have been better if Bret Hart were more established and the contest was treated more like a big deal, though. *** ¾

Ted DiBiase (w/Virgil) vs. Bret Hart (3/8/89)
DiBiase was getting the Million Dollar Man gimmick over. Bret was coming off a botched push attempt, although he was still having good matches. No commentary for whatever reason. Ted spends too much time taunting the crowd, allowing Bret to attack him from behind. Bret hits a Russian Legsweep for two. DiBiase goes for a haymaker, but Bret ducks and delivers an atomic drop. Bret follows up with a crossbody. Ted decides to take a breather outside. Back in, Bret tries a reverse rollup, but Ted counters it into a small packaged for two. DiBiase fights back and viciously stomps on Bret’s chest. Ted hits a smashing clothesline and then a suplex that picks up a two. Ted argues with the referee over the pin. Ted goes for a another suplex, but Bret reverses it with a small package for two. Ted attacks Bret before he can get back up, expressing his frustration from his failure to finish him off. Bret catches Ted with a few small package rollups, causing Ted to throw Bret to the outside.

Back in, DiBiase locks in a chinlock. Bret fights back and hits the Hart Attack clothesline. Both men are now knocked out. Ted goes up to the top rope, but Bret catches and slams him. They trade some punches, causing DiBiase to back off and begs for mercy. Bret beats the hell out of him. Bret over-zealously charges the corner. Ted moves out of the way, and it messes up Bret’s knee. DiBiase attacks the knee with a Spinning Toehold. Bret pushes him out of the ring. They keep brawling outside and are finally counted out @ 15:59.

Analysis: DiBiase’s best work came before WWE, but this reveals how excellent he could be in the ring. He dictated the pace in the midst of the heat segments at a superlative level. Even though he methodically worked over Bret for a long time,  it never became boring.

That was mostly because he made sure not everything was not about him. After all, the story was not all about him dominating when he was on offense. It was also about Hart enduring a calculating beating, and DiBiase used physical responses to subtly articulate that. For example, he expressed anger when Hart kicked out of his pin-falls, and he did that by pounding the mat, yelling at the referee, and yelling at the crowd. In addition to that, Ted conveyed his anger by grunting about not being able to put Hart away. At last, he made it clear he was becoming tired from using gassed facial expressions, slowing down his movements, and grimacing in pain from using his back too much. The crowd picked it and were eager for Hart’s comeback, because of  Ted selling it so effectively. 

Unfortunately, Hart’s comeback was only momentary because this had  rushed finish attached to it. It didn’t allow Bret to dish out needed comeuppance on DiBiase, causing the story they were developing not culminate properly.

I get that they needed to protect both wrestlers, but the finish was way too lazy and cut off the entire “boom- boom-boom” portion of the match. Nonetheless, this had some of the best “pusillanimous/arrogant heel vs. the resilient/sympathetic babyface” work that I have ever seen. **** ¼

The Hart Foundation vs. The Rockers (4/28/90)
This was a number one contender’s match for Summerslam.  At this point, both teams were over. The Harts had more main event credibility, though. Bret and Marty have a few fantastic sequences together. Shawn tags in and hits a crossbody on Bret for two. The Rockers double team Bret. Anvil comes and clotheslines the hell out of both of them. HBK goes for a bodyslam, but Anvil counters it. Anvil tries to pick up HBK, but Shawn dropkicks him in the face. Both Shawn and Bret are the legal men. Bret hits Shawn with an atomic drop and then a clothesline. The Hart Foundation corner Shawn and go to work on him.

Anvil hits shoulderblock on Shawn that gets a two. Shawn hits a sunset flip on Bret for two. The Demolition comes down to watch. Bret yells at Demolition, allowing Shawn to dropkick him over the top rope. Back from commercial, Bret is working over Shawn. Bret goes for an elbow, but he misses. Shawn is able to make the tag to a fired up Janetty, who comes and nails Bret with a reverse elbow and then powerslams him. Marty hits the Superkick, but it only gets a two. Bret counter an Irish whip, but Marty sunset flips him for two. Bret fights back with a neckbreaker Anvil comes in and shoulderblock Shawn, sending him flying in the air. Anvil throws Shawn to the outside; the Demolition tries to help him back in. Marty doesn’t like that, so he starts a fight with them. This triggers a three-team brawl, causing a disqualification @ 9:17.


Analysis: This had an accelerating pace to it, in addition to some fluently executed back-and-forth exchanges and sequences. They were on the same page throughout and did not miss a beat while doing some really athletic and onerous sequences. Above all, they stayed true to their characters and did not sacrifice psychology or stop selling in order to have a rapid-fired pace. It is refreshing to see a match where you do not have the slightest clue of what is going to happen next. The wrestlers involved made sure they would give the fans their money’s worth regardless only having a condensed amount of time and an undeceive finish. *** ¾

IC Championship: Mr. Perfect (c) vs. Bret Hart (Summerslam ’91)
After about three years of stop-and-go pushes, the WWF finally gave Bret the push he deserved. Mr. Perfect was in poor shape here. His back was bothering him, and it caused him took an entire year off after this match. Bret delivers a crucifix for two. Bret delivers a sunset flip for two and then yanks Perfect down with a headlock. Bret catches Perfect’s leg and then stomps him in the midsection. They trade some moves, ending with Bret clotheslining Perfect over the top. Perfect tries to run away, but Bret chases him and rips his tights in half. Perfect takes over with a forearm and kicks Bret in the midsection, sending him to the outside. Outside, Perfect throws Bret into the railing. Perfect brings him back in and tosses him into the corner. They fight on the turnbuckle. Bret falls into the ring and then Perfect falls on top of him for two count. Perfect throws Bret across the ring by his hair. Bret fights out of a sleeper hold. Bret goes for a suplex, but Perfect counters it with a Samoan Drop for two. Bret takes his vintage bump in the corner. Perfect hits a Perfect Plex, but Bret kicks out just in time! Bret delivers Perfect a few atomic drops and hits a Vertical Suplex that gets two. He small packages Perfect, but it only picks up a two. Bret hit a Russian Legsweep for two. Bret hits the second-rope elbowdrop for another two. Bret and the ref argue about the count, allowing Perfect to execute a reverse rollup for two. Perfect starts dropping some legdrops to Bret’s midsection. Bret catches one of them and reverses to the Sharpshooter for the submission victory @ 18:02.

Analysis: This started with an interesting “anything you can do, I can do better” story,  and it allowed them to show off their technical proficiencies. Hart, as a babyface should, came off looking superior in the exchanges, which caused Perfect to resort to using cheap maneuvers to gain the advantage. The story continued to escalate because of their usage of transitions. 

Both wrestlers also kept tricking the fans by using cliché moments to their advantage. For example, they’d do a spot where a babyface typically makes a full-comeback, but they instead had the heel cut-off the comeback and remain in control. Hart portrayed a nice display of psychology on offense, as every big move he delivered was done to weaken Perfect’s back for the Sharpshooter. And most of all, he did them at realistic times. (in contrast to so many wrestlers who shoehorn them in, no matter the situation). This could have been better with a more dramatic finish, but all in all, this is some great stuff. **** 1/4

WWF Tag Team Championship: Hart Foundation (c) vs. Nasty Boys (w/ Jimmy Hart) (Wrestlemania 7)
The Nasties were feuding with the Steiners over in the NWA for the US tag straps. Six months later, and they are in a big WWF tag title match at WrestleMania. Jimmy Hart is wearing a motorcycle helmet out to the ring. Bret and Sags kick things off. Sags gets in a cheap shot in the corner, but Bret comes back with a Thesz press and punches. Bret goes to town on Knobs and then stomps Sags in the abdominal area. Both men tag out. Neidhart sends Knobs to the floor with a shoulderblock. Back in, Neidhart locks in an armbar, but he gets attacked in the Nasties corner. Bret tags in and hits some ten-count corner punches followed by a Russian legsweep. He delivers a flying vertical elbow drop for two. Knobs sneaks in and attacks Bret from behind. Sags clotheslines him out to the floor. Neidhart runs after Jimmy Hart around the ring. Knobs sends Bret into the guardrail. Back in, the Nasties take turns working over Bret’s back. Bret tries to escape, but  Knobs stops the tag to Neidhart. The Nasties go for a double-swing splash into the corner. Bret avoids and clotheslines Sags. Bret makes a tag to Neidhart, but the referee doesn’t see it. Jimmy Hart throws in his megaphone, but Sags ends up taking the megaphone to the face. Bret gets the hot tag to Neidhart, who nails the Nasties with clotheslines and delivers the Standing Powerslam on Knobs for two. They hit the Hart Attack on Knobs. Neidhart goes for the cover, but the ref is trying to get Bret out of the ring. Jimmy Hart throws in the motorcycle helmet. Sags nails Neidhart with it and Knobs rolls over on top for the win. New tag championship @ 12:05

Analysis: This was one of the better Nasty Boy non-gimmick matches. They kept it simple by using the standard tag-team formula. They also threw in some curve balls along the way, which was enough to bump this to ***.

IC Championship: Bret Hart (c) vs. Davey Boy Smith (Summerslam ’92)
This was the hardest recap I’ve ever done. There were too many tears in my eyes, making it hard to see the action. Davey Boy Smith smoked a lot crack before this, and he didn’t even remember this match the next day. They get into a shoving match, ending with Davey winning the exchange. Bret puts Davey in a headlock. Davey sends him into the ropes, but Bret slips out of a slam and rolls him up for two. Davey escapes into a hammerlock, but Bret elbows out and locks in a wristlock. Davey Boy cartwheels out and locks in an armbar. Davey Boy catches Bret off a leapfrog and then tosses him into the corner. Davey goes back to the armbar and then hits Bret with a crucifix. DBS locks in armbar again, but Bret throws him off into the ropes and delivers a knee into the gut. That crowd boos Bret. Bret stomps his mid-section and then delivers a legdrop. Bret puts back in a chinlock. Davey elbows his way out, but he runs into a right elbow from Bret. Bret nails an inverted atomic drop and throws Davey into the ropes. Davey tries the crucifix, but Bret slams him to the mat for two. Bret goes back to the chinlock. Davey shoves him off and delivers a monkey-flip. Smith throw Bret from corner-to-corner, but he runs into a boot. Bret hits the running bulldog on the Bulldog. Bret goes up top, but Davey slams him off the canvas. Davey heads up top for a diving headbutt, but Bret moves out of the way. DBS fights out of a slam. He goes to roll Bret up off the ropes, but Bret ducks and it sends DBS flying out to the floor.

Bret does a pescado to the outside. Davey is in the wrong place, so Bret just snaps him down by the head. Bret posts Davey and brings him back in the ring. Bret hits a Russian Legsweep that picks up a two. Bret hit some European uppercuts and then follows up with a backdrop for two. Bret locks in the chinlock again. Davey tries to stand up, but Bret maneuvers over into a front headlock to set up for a suplex. He then goes back to the chinlock. Psychology! Davey fights up again and gets a backslide for two. Bret fights back with the backbreaker and the vertical elbow drop for two. He locks in the sleeper, but Davey Boy fights to get to the ropes. Bret throws him into the ropes and reapplies the hold. Davey stands up out of it and sends Bret into the corner for a rope break. Bret is right back on top of him with the sleeper, though. Davey backs Bret into the corner and mounts a comeback. He lifts Bret up for a press slam, but ends dropping him awkwardly in the ropes. Davey looks like he is out to lunch. Davey delivers a few clotheslines that all pick up a two. He hits a Press Slam for another two. He nails a stalling suplex, but only gets a two! Davey Boy throws Bret into the corner for a chest-first bump for another near-fall. He delivers the Running Powerslam. New champion. No, Bret kicks out at two!

Davey knocks Bret outside and then tries to give him a suplex back in. Bret flips out, though, and hits a German suplex for only a two! Bret goes for a suplex, but Davey blocks it. He places Bret up in the corner and hits the Top-Rope Superplex, but Bret kicks out! They do a double knock clothesline spot, but Bret still manages to apply the Sharpshooter! The crowd is begging for Davey to reach the ropes. Davey fights through and makes it to the ropes. Davey reverses an Irish Whip. Davey ducks under a clothesline. Bret attempts a sunset flip, but Davey Boy sits down and hooks Bret’s legs for the win @ 25:14! The crowd goes crazy. Diana comes into the ring to celebrate with her husband. Bret looks like he is going to turn heel, but he instead hugs Davey Boy. They all celebrate in the ring.

Analysis: Bret used his technical aptitudes to try and win, but Bulldog fought back by using his power game. Hart also teased a  heel turn, as he resorted to cheap and uncharacteristic tactics. Hart’s execution and positioning were incredibly on point, although Davey botched a few spots and was out of position a couple of times. 

If Davey Boy was not drugged out of his mind here, this could have been even better. That’s scary to think about. The genuine emotion in this created intense drama and had all 80,000 fans in the arena on the edge of their seats throughout. In fact, this was one of the most monumental atmospheres ever.  It was also one of the biggest feel-good moments as well. **** ¾

Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (4/24/93)
This is from the WWF’s European Tour. Bigelow slugs away onto Bret, but Bret locks in an armbar. Bam Bam tries to press slam him, but Bret falls on top for two. Bret throws an elbow that sends him to the outside. He tries to jump on Bam Bam, but Bam Bam smashes him into the ringpost. Back in, Bigelow works over Bret’s back. He hits a backdrop suplex that gets two. Bigelow keeps headbutting. Bret fights back and hits a backdrop suplex. Bigelow fights back and hits a Butterfly Backbreaker. Bigelow goes for the Diving Headbutt, but Bret moves out of the way. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Bigelow pushes him away and locks in a bearhug. Bret attempts to backdrop suplex him, but Bigelow shifts his weight and lands on top. Bret blocks a charge and pins Bigelow’s shoulders with a Victory Roll @ 11:55.

Analysis: That was really fun. Hart was a master at adjusting his style based on who he was wrestling. Here, he played an opportunist, using his speed and agility to counter Bam Bam’s power game. Bam Bam was one of the better big wrestlers ever. I wish he had more opportunities to show it. *** 1/4

Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (King of the Ring 1993)
Bret is selling an injury done earlier by Razor, as his left hand is taped up. This one picks up quickly after Perfect escapes a headlock. They trade some slams and then Bret hits Perfect with a crucifix for two. Perfect foreshadows a heel turn by placing a knee in Bret’s gut to break away from the headlock. Perfect hits a standing dropkick, sending Bret to the floor. Perfect holds the ropes to help Bret back in, but he kicks the ropes and the ropes hit Bret where the sun doesn’t shine. Perfect delivers a knee lift that gets a two. Perfect throws Bret out to ringside. Bret makes it on the apron, but Perfect shoves him off into the guardrail. Ouch. Perfect hits another knee lift and then hits a missile dropkick. Perfect tosses Bret into the corner for the chest-first bump for a two. Perfect heads up to the top rope, but Bret superplexes him for two. Bret kicks Perfect in the back of the knee, causing him to flip all over the ropes. Hart locks in the figure-four, but Perfect makes the ropes. Perfect fights back and throws Bret in the corner. He tosses Bret across the ring by his hair and then locks in the sleeper.

Bret makes it the ropes, but Perfect holds on  the hold just until before five. He reapplies the sleeper in the middle of the ring and uses the ropes for leverage. Bret escapes by throwing Perfect’s face into the turnbuckle. Bret deliver a European forearm that almost takes Perfect’s head off. Bret throws Perfect across the ring by his hair. Bret hits an atomic drop and then Russian legsweep for two. He hits a backbreaker and then hits the vertical elbow drop connects for another two. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Perfect grabs and twists the taped up hand to counter it. Perfect goes for the Perfectplex, but Bret counters by giving Perfect a suplex over the top rope to the floor. They just make it back in before the countout. Perfect cradles Bret, but Bret reverses it for the one-two-three @ 19:05.

Analysis: This was a classical and competitive scientific match. The main story that was being told was Bret Hart was the better in-ring technician, but in order to try to win, Mr. Perfect had to stoop down to an unheroic level by cheating. This whole match was extremely crisp and smooth. All of the moves, holds, spots, and sequences were flawlessly executed. Last, but not least, they performed all of the moves in logical places, and that made this feel very realistic and a believable contest. This also coherently integrated and told an extremely lucid story about them trying to find strategic ways to win. These two were just the masters of in-ring psychology. **** ½

Brother vs. Brother: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (Wrestlemania 10)
Bret Hart wrestled twice this night; he faced Owen Hart in the opener and then Yokozuna for the WWF Championship in the main event. Owen gets out of a head scissors and brags about it. Bret tries a waistlock takedown, but Owen gets to the ropes. Owen grabs a waistlock, but Bret sends Owen flying to the floor. Owen climbs back in the ring and slaps Bret. Bret doesn’t do anything, but Owen sneaks under the ropes. They exchange some hammerlocks. Owen pulls Bret down by his hair. Bret flips over Owen and rolls him up for two. Bret goes to work on the arm. Owen fights out of a hammerlock, but runs into a monkey flip. Bret clotheslines him to the floor. They push each other, and then Bret slaps Owen and rolls him up for two. Bret goes back to work on the arm. Owen breaks out of the hold and hits a spinning heel kick. Owen pushes him out to the floor and throws Bret’s back into the ringpost. They head back into the ring. Owen throws Bret into the corner. Owen delivers a backbreaker and locks in a camel clutch. Bret elbows out, but runs right into a Belly-to-Belly Suplex for two. Owen hits a crossbody from the corner, but Bret rolls through for two. Owen tries a slam, but Bret falls on him for two. Bret gets out of a suplex, but Owen hits a bridging German suplex for two. Bret reverses a suplex into a small package for two. Owen delivers the Tombstone Piledriver. He heads up top for the Swandive Headbutt, but he misses. Bret fights back with an inverted atomic drop and a clothesline for two. He hits the Legsweep for two. He delivers the Backbreaker and flying elbow drop that gets a two. Owen fights back with an enziguri and tries to lock in the Sharpshooter. Bret stops him from locking in the hold. Bret tries to lock it in, but Owen just rolls him away. Owen picks up a two off a rollup.

The momentum from the kick-out puts Owen on the floor, though. Bret hits the pescado and jams his knee on the floor. Back in, Owen kicks away at the injured knee. Owen locks in the Indian deathlock. Owen delivers a dragon screw leg whip and that sets up the figure-four. Bret counters the hold by getting to the ropes. Owen goes after Bret in the corner, but Bret hits Owen with an enziguri. Bret throws Owen chest-first into the corner. Bret delivers a legdrop that gets two. Bret nails a running bulldog for two. Bret hits a piledriver, but Owen kicks out. Bret locks in a sleeper, but Owen walks over to the ropes and low-blows Bret. Owen applies the Sharpshooter, but Bret gets out of it. Owen charges into Bret’s right boot in the corner. Bret goes for a victory roll, but Owen puts on the counters and picks up the huge upset victory @ 20:05.


Analysis: This was a technical masterpiece and arguably the best ever. The timing of the spots, the smooth transitions, the unparalleled chemistry, and both wrestlers being able to progressively build the match all the way to its crescendo solidifies this as the blueprint on how to correctly carry out a wrestling magnum opus.

On top of that, the match told a great story. Owen Hart was fed up being overshadowed by his older brother, so in order to exercise his demons, he decided to prove once and for all that he was better than big brother Bret. The contest illustrated that Bret was definitely the superior wrestler, as he was always one step ahead of his young brother. But Owen cheated and was able to pull off a key reversal that allowed him to pull off a major upset. Owen treated his fluky win as though it had been a dominant performance, which helped him develop into an even more exaggerated, overemotional heel.

And after Bret Hart finally conquered his long-lasting quest to become WWF Champion, Owen came out with a look on his face that said, “Did you forget something? You didn’t beat me.” What was supposed to be a beautiful moment for Bret ended up as a bittersweet moment, because Bret knew that even though he finally won the title, his loss to Owen earlier in the night cast a shadow over what should have been the biggest night of his career. Like I said, there is a case for this match as the greatest of all time, thanks to phenomenal booking and superb work rate. *****

Final Thoughts on Disc Two: This was an awesome disc from top to bottom. Aside from his Flair and HBK matches, everything that should be on here is. I’ll talk about everything more on the next review, where I look at disc three and both the extras and extra matches, in the final analysis. Thumbs Way Up for Disc Two. 

Assorted April PPV Countdown: 1999

The Netcop Rant for WWF Backlash. As a guide, I’m watching this on tape instead of live, and sober instead of drunk. I know there are those of you who like to keep track of these things when reviewing my reviews… (This was another one where it’s crying out for a redo but my original tape was in such crappy condition that it wasn’t worth transferring over, being that it was a 2nd generation dub from a PPV descrambled with a black box…not exactly DVD quality stuff to begin with.  It used to be a pretty big chore to to rip off PPV and at least now you don’t have to have special equipment imported from Mexico or stupid shit like that, should you want to indulge in that sort of behavior, hypothetically speaking.)  Live from Providence, Rhode Island. Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Opening match: The Brood v. The Acolytes & Mideon. Christian and Mideon have a bizarre staredown to start. Crowd seems less than enthused by this one. Brood tries to double-team Bradshaw, but he no-sells. Christian ends up playing Ricky Morton as the match drags on. Hot ending as the Brood runs through their stuff on Bradshaw, with Christian getting a two count off a swinging DDT, but the 10 punch count gets reversed into a NASTY powerbomb for two. Christian and Edge do a double-team pescado on Faarooq outside the ring, but Viscera waddles down and squishes Christian, allowing Bradshaw to clothesline his head off for the pin. Didn’t see all of it due to getting dinner, but it seemed **-ish. (Now there’s a professional rating system.)  Hardcore title: Bob Holly v. Al Snow. Pretty standard hardcore match, with the in-ring sequence lasting a couple of minutes (and an Al Snow bladejob) before they fight to the parking lot and hit each other on trucks and the dumpster. Hey, garbage wrestling. (Like you’re better than me or something.  You all would have done THE SAME THING.)  Cute spot as they fight into the audio truck, and Holly takes a fall onto a waiting car. Snow finds some conveniently placed frying pans and uses them for a two count as we head back to the ring. Snow puts Holly on the TABLE OF DEATH, but gets clocked with a frying pan. Holly superplexes him onto the table. Nice spot. They lay around for a while, and Snow manages to grab the Head and whack Holly with it for the pin. Man, that thing must have a brick molded into it or something. I think I need a new rating system for garbage matches – the star system doesn’t seem to work well anymore. At any rate, this was subpar crap (as opposed to the entertaining variety) so we’ll go ** (1999 felt like a neverending blur of Hardcore Holly and Al Snow hitting each other with produce and household appliances.)  Intercontinental title match: The Godfather v. Goldust. Meanie debuts his Sable-riffing bit on PPV. (Word of explanation for those of you not fortunate enough to be around during the glory days of Mrs. Brock Lesnar:  They got it into their heads that Sable needed to get into the pre-match catchphrase business, so they came up with something about “the men who came to see me and the women who want to be me” while doing a bad stripper impression, and it never really got over.  Now picture the Blue Meanie doing the same routine.  There you go.)  Godfather comes out alone, drawing boos. So he brings out five hos and gets the face pop. Boring but not terrible match, until Goldust does the powder routine from the house show circuit, where he gets powder in the face and delivers the Shattered Dreams to Meanie. Godfather uses the Ho Train and Pimp Drop to finish it. Eh. Been there, done that. * #1 Contender’s match: The New Age Outlaws v. Jeff Jarrett & Owen Hart. May I just say about Debra’s outfit: Hominahominahomina. Is she just saving these “bikini and jacket outfits” for PPV or something? Jarrett gets major heel heat by covering up Debra. The bad thing about going to a house show just before a PPV is that the guys basically just run through the same match. Crowd gets an enthusiastic “Show Your Puppies” chant going for Debra. (Now the kids in the audience would be like “Ew, girls, yucky-pants.”) The heels can’t get anything going until a pier-six situation allows Owen to hit an enzuigiri and get the advantage on Road Dogg. JR posits that the crowd are dog-lovers. Owen and Jarrett do the old-school “distract the ref and beat on the face” bit to good heat a few times. Crowd keeps chanting for the puppies. You know, one of these days Vince HAS to let us see them. (He never did.)  Ross to Lawler: “Do you have a breast fetish?” Gunn gets the hot tag and we do simultaneous 10 punch counts. RD tries to solicit Debra’s attention, and then hits a pumphandle slam for two. More brawling, and Owen gets the Sharpshooter on Jammes, but Gunn hits the Rocker Dropper on Owen while in the hold and gets the pin. Good ending. *** (And that’s Owen Hart’s last match on PPV.)  Shane runs down his father, then Vince and Stephanie retort. Boiler Room Brawl: Paul Wight v. Mankind. (I guess he wasn’t quite Big Show yet.)  Winner escapes the boiler room first. I assume this is pre-taped. Mick breaks a few sheets of drywall over Wight’s head, so Wight stuffs him in a shopping cart and rams him into some stuff. Some candy glass gets broken and both guys blade. Mick is absolutely bumping for six here. Mick cracks open a valve and Wight gets steam in the face. Mick dumps a pile of pipes on Wight and crawls out the door, leaving a literal trail of blood. (Today you don’t even get blood in a Cell match at Wrestlemania between two of the biggest stars in the business.  Back then you get Foley slicing himself open for a nothing pre-taped midcard match.  And by the way, Big Show had only debuted, what, a month and a half before this?  And he’s ALREADY doing jobs for MANKIND?  No wonder he didn’t get over like a megastar.)  Bossman and Test attack and get chased off by Wight. Can’t really rate it – it was just brawling. (Lame!  Suck it up and give it a rating, wuss.)  It was okay. HHH v. X-Pac. Chyna is wearing the LOD Memorial Bra, complete with steel studs. HHH has new music, too, generic rock stuff. (Now, would that be the awesome “My Time” theme, I wonder, or just a random Jim Johnston composition that was in there until it got written for him?  Because I’m thinking he didn’t debut that song until after the “I am the Game” interviews started, but I could be wrong.  And in fact, I went to YouTube after writing that and looked up the match, and indeed “generic rock stuff” is about the best description of it; it’s just some random theme that I don’t even remember.)  HHH hammers on X-Pac in the early going, and dumps him over the top rope in a good bump from X-Pac. He gets the advantage back in the ring and goes for the Broncobuster, but Chyna distracts him long enough to miss the move. The announcers sell a neck injury for X-Pac as HHH wallops him. Man, HHH hasn’t used the knee yet. And he’s being quite the dick here, working the neck. You know the biggest tragedy about HHH’s heel turn? He’s let his hair go to shit. He used to be a lousy wrestler who at least had good hair, but now he doesn’t even have the hair. (The hair made a bit of a comeback, but it never reached the glory days of D-X again.)  Good psychology here from HHH, as Ross gets so concerned about X-Pac’s continued well-being that he offers to ring the bell and stop it himself. That’s why Ross is 10x better than Michael Cole. X-Pac makes the comeback with the heel kicks and a swinging DDT. Chyna distracts the ref, but it backfires as it allows X-Pac a low blow. They end up on the floor and HHH hits the steps. Ref gets bumped on the floor on a baseball slide. CUE THE OVERBOOKING! X-Pac gets the Carpetmuncher, (See?  I’ve been using that joke for at least 13 years.) but Chyna lowblows him and hits an inverted DDT. Nice one, too. Lights out, here comes Kane. JR gets to say “hellfire and brimstone”. Chokeslam for Hunter. Chokeslam for Chyna. JR approves. Kane sets up Chyna and HHH in a corner each, allowing X-Pac to hit the Broncobuster on HHH to a big pop, and on Chyna to a bigger one. It’s all for naught, however, as the second Broncobuster allows HHH to deck him from behind and hit the Pedigree for the pin. He had to win folks, because he’s going Main Eventer pretty soon. (Now there’s the understatement of the decade.)  Best HHH match in a while. **** (I actually watched the match on YouTube while I had it loaded up, and it was indeed a spectacular match.  I would actually stand by that rating.)  Ken Shamrock v. The Undertaker. I really hate that new mix for the Undertaker’s music. The one on WWF the Music 3 is the best. And the new outfit screams “S&M fetishist”. (Don’t tell Curtis Hughes.)  Undertaker controls early, but Shamrock gets an opening and kicks away to the leg of UT. UT comes back, but Shamrock gets going to the leg. This is, again, just like the house show match from last week. This is an interesting attempt to elevate Ken to the next level, I’ll give the angle that. Crowd loses patience with this one fast. These guys are just not compatible workers. Shamrock gets the Fujiwara armbar and the crowd breaks into a big “boring” chant. Without Bret and Shawn to carry him, it’s becoming apparent that Undertaker has outlived his usefulness as a wrestler. (Not quite the hatred of 2000 Undertaker, but I was getting pretty tired of him at this point.) He has the unmitigated gall to work in a bow-and-arrow. When has UT EVER used that move? Nice move as UT legdrops Shamrock and Ken grabs the leg and rolls into a submission move. UT reverses to a half-crab. Undertaker: Submission fighter? (I also do lottery numbers, thanks for asking.)  UT is selling the leg injury well. Bad looking pin as UT has a clear pin after a big foot but Ken forgets to lift his shoulder at two. Hebner stops anyway. Ken hits the rana and anklelock, but UT kicks out quickly. UT tries the tombstone, but Ken gets the anklelock again. Bradshaw comes down with a baseball bat, but Ken knocks him off and hooks an armbar. Now Bearer is up on the apron, which is enough for UT to get a cheap win with the tombstone. UT got seriously devalued here. **  (He’ll be OK.)  Bradshaw delivers a Texas ass-whooping for fun. Crowd has no reaction to any of it. (Shamrock was on the way out anyway at that point.)  WWF World title match: Steve Austin v. The Rock. Shane is of course the guest ref. On Heat, it was announced that this is No Holds Barred and if Austin touches Shane, he’s DQ’d and the Rock wins the title. Quite the face pop for the Rock. We do a couple of minutes of wrestling and then the brawl starts, as they head to the entranceway. Austin gets put through the fence set up by the entrance. Austin reciprocates on the Rock in kind, then drops a metal case on his head for good measure. Rock get tossed through a pile of railings and Austin clotheslines him off a pile of cases. See, Herb, Rock is taking bumps. (Old school RSPWers may remember that Herb Kunze HATED The Rock.  Herb was a great guy but he totally missed the boat on Rock’s potential as a worker.) Austin batters the Rock some more and drags him to the ring. Rock takes a MAN-SIZED bump, charging Austin but flying over the top. On cue, the Spanish table gets destroyed by the Rock Bottom. Shane stops Austin from using a chair, and Rock tosses him over the railing. Rock puts Austin onto the announce table and steals a camera and does some camerawork, shooting the crowd. Then, in a spectacular visual, he turns around to see Austin giving him the double-bird and Stunner on the table. That was just a magnificent bit. Back in the ring and Austin goes for the Stunner, but Rock pushes him into Shane. Rock hits Rock Bottom and gets two (with help from Shane). That didn’t work, so Shane grabs the WWF title and charges, but hits Rock by mistake. Shane refuses to count and runs. Except of course, that Vince is here with Earl Hebner and the Stone Cold belt. Vince wallops Shane with the belt, and Rock hits Austin with the other belt and gets a two count from Hebner. Austin is up with the Stunner, and he hits Rock with the title for good measure and gets the pin. Another great Rock-Austin brawl. **** Vince tosses the skull belt to Austin and walks off. End of…oh, wait. In the back, Stephanie gets kidnapped by Undertaker: Limo Driver for Hire. That’s not gonna lead to anything good, I can just bet. (SAY IT WITH ME!  YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!  And yeah, to say that it didn’t lead to anything good is also the understatement of the decade considering what the endgame was.  Two words:  Higher Power.)  Back to the ring as Austin downs some frosty beverages (sources say it’s actually Sprite, not beer), end of show. The Bottom Line: Well, I was expecting nothing coming in, and although it delivered two **** matches and nothing in the way of total crap, it didn’t really leave me feeling terribly excited one way or another. So thumbs in the middle this time out.  (No way, man, the Rock-Austin bit with the Smoking Skull belt is classic and it’s a great underrated brawl between them, plus the HHH v. X-Pac match is great and UNDERTAKER KIDNAPS STEPHANIE and nothing’s really bad on this show.  Easy-ass thumbs up.) 

April Assorted PPV Countdown: 1998

The SK Retro Rant for Unforgiven 98 – For god-knows-what reason, this is #1 with a bullet on my request list from the readership. Hey, I live to serve. – Live from Greensboro, NC – Your hosts are JR & The King. Have to get used to not typing THAT anymore.  (I guess this was written during the brief period when King had quit over the Miss Kitty stuff.)    – Opening match: The Rock, D-Lo Brown & Mark Henry v. Ken Shamrock, Faarooq & Steve Blackman. Quite the hodge-podge of different fates three years later here. Godfather is hanging around ringside, being a pest. Faarooq was of course freshly dumped as leader of the Nation of Domination, leading to the Rock’s hostile takeover of the group and slingshot move into the wrestling stratosphere. D-Lo & Blackman start, with the Lethal Weapon getting some kicks before taking a DDT. Blackman works an armbar, then Shammy continues. Faarooq comes in and whips D-Lo with his belt, with Rocky’s comical protests only serving to distract the referee further. (The early stages of Rocky v. Faarooq were really amusing, with Rock really developing his cartoonish heel persona.)  Irony can be so ironic. Mark Henry comes in and treats Blackman like a child with a pair of backbreakers and a mistimed clothesline. D-Lo comes back in and hits the Sky High for two. Faarooq comes in but makes the cardinal mistake of putting his head down and gets pounded. Rock makes his first appearance, drawing enough heat to scorch his sideburns off, and lays in the boots. Man, Vince must have made a downpayment on a new gold limo once he started hearing that sort of reaction to Rock. (Sadly the gold plated limo was blown up as a wacky prank by D-X in 2006, taking out 3 members of the Spirit Squad in the process.)  Henry gets an elbowdrop for two. Blackman tries his luck and gets powerslammed. Blackman is YOUR face-in-peril, thus making Rock’s heat look that much better by way of comparison. Rock fires off the People’s Elbow, irritating the HELL out of the fans, and goes into chinRock mode. (I remember the first time that Rock actually pinned someone with that move.  It was a house show against Mark Henry and you would think that the collapse of Western society was imminent judging by the massive amounts of hatred online fans showed.)  D-Lo misses the moonsault (no, no, don’t act so shocked), hot tag Faarooq. Faarooq, Faarooq, Faarooq is on fire! We don’t need no water! Okay, dumb reference, I’m allowed one per rant. (Well that quota sure gets exceeded a lot.)  Rock and Faarooq are left alone, which leads to a Dominator for the pin at 13:32. And that’s the highest Faarooq ever made it up the card. (Wait, what?  He challenged for the World title at KOTR 98, didn’t he?)  Boring mess, due to the lack of Shamrock involvement. * – Steve Austin stops by to harass the timekeeper. He lets him know that if ANY screwing goes on tonight, he’d better be calling for an ambulance. The timekeeper seems to get the message loud and clear.  (Oh, for the days when Montreal references were fresh and new.)  – European title match: HHH v. Owen Hart. This was pre-face turn for DX, but they were getting there. Sign in crowd: “Playboy Needs Chyna”. Well, THERE’S who we can blame. (That and her plastic surgeon.)  Speaking of Miss Congeniality herself, she’ll be locked in a steel cage and suspended above the ring here, ostensibly to prevent her from interfering, but in reality to allow Vince Russo to kill yet another time-honored booking tool. (Come to think of it, you really don’t see that one done anymore.)  Owen and HHH brawl down the aisle while they raise Chyna. Owen makes sure to ram HHH into the cage before she leaves. They head in and Owen clotheslines him right out again. Back in, Owen hits a backbreaker and dishes some CANADIAN VIOLENCE. HHH hotshots him to break the momentum, then USES THE KNEE. Ah, the old days when Hunter sucked. Suplex and kneedrop get two. Atomic drop and lariat get two. HHH does sort of a dragon sleeper as Chyna attempts to bend the bars. Owen’s sunset flip gets two, but HHH comes back with a neckbreaker for two. He goes to the sleeper, as Chyna keeps working on the bars. Owen comes back, but takes a facebuster for two. Back to the sleeper. Owen reverses out with a german suplex for two. Belly to belly hits as Chyna bends the bars. The ENZUIGIRI OF DEATH gets two. Leg lariat gets two. Piledriver and flying elbow, but Chyna escapes the cage to distract everyone. Owen dumps Hunter as Chyna hangs from the cage. The announcers talking about how she’s hanging for her life from the ceiling is really, REALLY disturbing and uncomfortable to listen to. It shouldn’t be, given that this took place a year before, but just having Owen there with this angle going on is pretty creepy. (That’s probably why they got away from doing the gimmick, come to think of it.)  Owen gets a DDT and hooks the Sharpshooter as the cage lowers (via Road Dogg, in an angle stolen from Ole Anderson), and Owen gets distracted. HHH nails him, but Owen reverses a Pedigree…and hits one of his own! X-Pac sneaks in, nails him with a fire extinguisher (not Raven’s FIRE EXTINGUISHER OF DOOM, though), and HHH gets the pin to retain at 13:38. Solid match, but Vince Russo had this weird hard-on for sixteen guys running in at once for every finish and it nearly ruined the match. ***1/4  (What was WITH HHH going over Owen all the time?  The original idea was for Owen to feud with Shawn, and yet he ended up winning the Euro title from Goldust (dressed as Hunter) and then doing two straight jobs to Hunter after that.  Good thing HHH has matured past that sort of selfish political manipulations.)  NWA World tag title: The New Midnight Express v. The Rock N Roll Express. Yet another step in Vince Russo’s master plan to humiliate Jim Cornette at every turn, poor Corney was stuck with Bob Holly and Bart Gunn in a pale knockoff of his one great accomplishment in the sport. (Well SMW was pretty good too.)  Today, Cornette has his dream job while Vince Russo sits at home, disgraced, with multiple concussions and no job.  (Well, Russo ended up with a long-term job with TNA and Cornette kind of blackballed himself from everyone but ROH, so I think Russo won the war in the long-term) Instant karma’s gonna get you. Bombastic Bob and Robert Gibson start, and Bob bails quickly. You know, I think the reason that Hardcore Holly got over so well has more to do with it being the total opposite of THIS gimmick than anything else. Back in, Robert works the arm and the RnR double-team. The entire crowd leaves for nachos. I mean, you can LITERALLY see the side of the arena facing the camera EMPTY in a two-minute span. The Midnights squabble, then Bart gets an abdominal stretch on Ricky as Cornette does a 1985 comedy routine with the ref in a desperate, sad attempt to make the fans care. Morton gets nailed by Cornette and plays himself. Bob misses an Alabama Jam (this gimmick is sacrilege on so many levels) and it’s a hot tag for Robert. DOUBLE DROPKICK OF DOOM, no ref. It’s so painful to have to mock their finisher like that, but that team did NOT age well. I’m almost glad the Midnight Express self-destructed before they became a sad parody of themselves, too. (And they’re still doing the reunion show circuit 11 years after I wrote this.)  It wasn’t so noticeable with the Rock n Roll in SMW, because that whole territory existed in a bizarre redneck timewarp stasis type thing, but back in the big leagues it was pretty glaring. Anyway, Robert rolls up Bart Gunn, but Bob bulldogs him for the pin at 7:20. The New Midnight Express actually got somewhat watchable for a short time, while the Rock N Roll Express was cut loose VERY soon after this. -* – Evening gown match: Lunda Vachon v. Sable. This was the first one, ever, believe it or not. Clothes get ripped, Marc Mero distracts Sable, and Luna rips her dress off for the win. DUD – Vince and Stooges come out to waste some TV time. That whole Russo-era habit of putting 20-minute interviews on PPV always bugged me.  (Good thing they don’t do THAT anymore!)  WWF tag team title: The New Age Outlaws v. LOD 2000. The catchphrase is there for the NAO, but not over yet. This was the WWF’s absolute last-ditch attempt to get the LOD over as something meaningful, but even with Sunny the Crack Whore and new outfits, it was still the same LOD. WCW would do well to remember that lesson. Jesse Jammes, never one to hold his tongue, even makes fun of the LOD in his pre-match banter, complaining about having to face the same dinosaurs yet again. (I bet the boys in the back were all upset about the LOD taking the spot of someone else on PPV.)  Between the steroids, pot and crack aggregately used by the participants in this match, a smart dealer could be set for life. Maybe Vince Russo should try peddling drugs – he certainly couldn’t get much lower on the food chain of life anyway. Plus at least he’d have a steady job. (TNA booker, drug dealer, either way.)  Speaking of Russo’s stupid ideas, Billy Gunn debuts the “Mr. Ass” tights here. Gunn misses a bodypress on Animal, and gets clotheslined for two. Gunn bails and Animal works on Dogg’s arm. Hawk runs through the usual as the Outlaws beg off. Gunn comes in and Hawk actually messes up a bodyslam. Just a plain old bodyslam. Of course, you could probably blame Gunn for that, too, given his habits as of late, but he was pretty decent back in 1998. (Let’s not get crazy here.)  Animal hits the chinlock. This is like watching UT & Kane shuffle through the tag ranks and desperately try to keep up with all the young and over teams today. Pier-six erupts, but the Doomsday Device is stopped with a well-timed clip, and Animal is painted-face-in-peril. NAO work the knee for a long time. Thank god for heavily caffeinated and sweetened soft drinks. Jerry & JR get so bored that they start riffing on Wild Kingdom to pass the time, despite it having nothing to do with the match. Gunn hits a fameasser for two. Hot tag Hawk, and katie bar the door, yada yada. Billy nails Hawk with the belt (the NAO’s finisher for the longest time) for two, but Animal suplexes Dogg for the pin. However, since both guys’ shoulders were down, the ref gave the champs the benefit of the doubt and counted ANIMAL out, so the titles stayed with the Outlaws. That wasn’t really explained by the announcers, but I’m using the Flair-Steamboat precedent which established that “tie goes to the champion” in 1994. Match was about as excruciatingly bad as one might expect. ½*  (I still don’t know why they were so obsessed with endlessly pushing and re-pushing the LOD in their degenerated state.  Vince is usually a smart enough guy to know when to let it go, but maybe he just really liked them?)  – Jeff Jarrett sings with Sawyer Brown. I fast forward. – Inferno Match: Kane v. Undertaker. Hey, a Kane v. Undertaker match, that should pick the pace of this show up! The ring is of course surrounded by “fire” here, in reality a pipe spewing butane-powered flames under the control of a pyro expert at ringside. To win, you have to set your opponent on fire. (Also, the most annoying game mode in the RAW v. Smackdown series.  Took me FOREVER to figure out how to win that fucking thing, as I would just keep beating down my opponent and get nowhere with it.)  They hammer on each other and UT hits an avalanche. Ropewalk and flames puff up, as they do with all the highspots in this match. Blind charge and Kane backdrops him over the top, but Taker seems to land awkwardly on the ropes and falls back into the ring. Kane stomps away to take over. UT goes to the eyes to counter. Thrilling stuff! Kane keeps stomping. Chairshot puts Taker down. He comes back with more kicks, as does Kane. I’m having trouble keeping up with the rapid-fire pace of complex moves here. Oh, and choking, sorry, almost forgot that. Taker gets a russian legsweep and elbow, which is no-sold by Kane. Chokeslam follows, but UT blocks the tombstone and chokeslams Kane back. Kane no-sells. Double boot and both guys are knocked unconscious by the effort required to stick their leg in the air. Kane ducks a lariat and sideslams him, then goes up. UT crotches and superplexes him, which Kane of course no-sells. UT tosses him, but Vader appears and pushes him back to ringside, where Taker comes barrelling out with his hands-free tope over the top rope, taking out both guys. He then knocks Kane “unconscious” by the ring apron, thus allowing Kane to prepare his gimmicked arm while UT chases Paul Bearer to the stage and beats him up for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Back to the ring, Kane sort of falls into the fire and UT wins at 15:53. Give it ½* for the tope. The arm coating looked incredibly fake.  (What is with WWF guys always losing their own specialty matches?  Is it like an offshoot of people jobbing in their hometown?  How do you humiliate someone from Parts Unknown, though?)  WWF title match: Steve Austin v. Dude Love. This is round one, as Vince withheld the identity of Austin’s opponent until a week before the show and then turned Mick Foley into his corporate zombie. (That was some incredibly ineffective marketing there, as we literally had no clue who was challenging for the title leading up to the show, and the resulting buyrate was pretty sad.  I’m still not sure if they just didn’t know who to run with as challenger or what.)  Dude jumps Austin, but gets his ass kicked, and bails. Back in, Thesz Press and elbow as Ross takes a shot at Bischoff for declaring that a guy in black boots and tights could never get over. Spinebuster and elbow, and Dude bails again. They brawl as Dude tries to run, only to get viciously clotheslined from behind by Austin. They head to the stage (a popular spot tonight), and Austin casually tosses him off, onto the bare concrete 6 feet below. Back to ringside, they slaughter continues. Austin drops an elbow off the apron, and back in we go. Austin misses the rope straddle and Dude bulldogs him. Elbowdrop and Dude punishes him in the corner. Dude works the neck with a body scissors as Vinnie Mac joins us at ringside. Austin breaks the move and yells at Vince, but Dude rolls him up for two. Austin posts Dude as Vince “observes” from ringside, near the timekeeper, wink wink. (Montreal!  That’s a thing that happened!)  Dude bails and Austin tries a piledriver, but as usual he gets backdropped. He hurts his knee and Dude leaves for the ring as Vince taunts Austin. Austin stalks him, but Dude returns the favor on that clothesline from behind. Dude tries a suplex in, but Austin blocks, so Dude necksnaps him to the floor. The ref counts, but Vince tells Austin to “be a man and get back in”, and that the ref is fired if he reaches 10, so Austin beats the count. (That’s tremendous.  I miss that Vince.)  Dude hooks the ABDOMINAL STRETCH OF DOOM (with which he got past the awesome challenge of Steve Blackman, even under dubious circumstances) and Vince goes crazy, telling the timekeeper to ring the bell. Austin reverses the move, and Vince goes equally crazy, telling him to ignore everything he just said. Funny stuff. Brawl outside, and Austin suplexes Dude onto the stairs. They fight into the crowd and Austin dumps him back in, and into the ring. Dude comes back with a neckbreaker. Sweet Shin Music is blocked, and the ref gets bumped. Stunner is blocked with the Mandible Claw, and Vince revives the ref…unsuccessfully. This would actually become a storyline point, as Vince declared the refs unfit and took the job himself at the next PPV. Austin dumps Foley, but scuffles with Vince. Foley charges with a chair, but gets it back in his face. Austin chairshots Vince out cold, and heads back in for a little KICK WHAM STUNNER action, and counts the pin himself at 18:48. It was later decided to be a DQ win for Dude Love, justifying the rematch at Over the Edge 98. Great brawl that got a little overwhelmed by the storyline at times. The next month, they would solve that problem by making the storyline the focal point of the match and building on it. ****  (A very underappreciated brawl, even by myself.  I think it’s just because the next month’s rematch was just so awesome, but Austin counting his own pin was great, echoed by the finish at Over the Edge.)  The Bottom Line: Nothing terribly exciting. The HHH-Owen match, while solid, has been done before and better, and the same with Austin-Dude. The rest of the card is the usual shitty 1998 WWF undercard, as the main events were totally carrying these shows back then. Mildly recommended.  (I’d have to go recommendation to avoid now.  Just so much crap and Russo nonsense to sit through.) 

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.

Undertaker’s Shaved Head

 When Stunning Steve had hair, he looked like a goofball. Sure, it worked at the time due to his heel persona, but never would’ve fitted the Stone Cold character. The shaved head on Austin fitted the gimmick and made him look more badass, although the same cannot be said about Undertaker. It’s uncommon for a guy look more badass with long hair, but Undertaker looked a lot more terrifying with the long hair. He looks like a creepy old man, similar to the Family Guy character Herbert, and completely out of shape in this picture. Hopefully, he does something with his look prior to Wrestlemania and/or WWE does a good job with makeup to make his appearance more intimidating and got back into shape because if he looks anything like he does in this picture, Baldtaker is going to be difficult for fans to take seriously.

Plus, it will be interesting to see how Taker calls spots in the ring. After all, for most of his career, he’s been used to his hair hiding him talking to his opponent.