by Logan Scisco
–Vince McMahon and Jim Ross are in the booth and they are live from New York, New York.
–Free for All: Bart Gunn (Captain), “The Real Double J” Jesse James, “The Portuguese Man O’ War” Aldo Montoya & Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly defeated Billy Gunn (Captain), the Sultan, Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, and Salvatore Sincere when Bart was the sole survivor after pinning Billy with a forearm at 9:02 shown:
Other Eliminations: Sultan eliminates Montoya via submission a Camel clutch at 3:55; Bart pins Sincere after a sidewalk slam at 5:11; Bradshaw pins Holly after a lariat at 6:51; James pins Bradshaw with a schoolboy at 7:02; James pins the Sultan with a small package at 8:00; Billy pins James after a Rocker Dropper at 8:15
Today, the WWE would’ve thrown Bart and Billy onto the pay-per-view as a singles match in the undercard, but back in 1996 you often had to settle your disputes in teams. If we were to look at things from a kayfabe perspective, I think Bart’s recruiting was a lot easier than Billy’s. I just don’t see Billy approaching the Sheikh and asking if the Sultan wants to be on his team. McMahon and Ross make the Sultan out to be the Bad News Brown of his team, but it he never walks out of the match. That might’ve added a much needed dimension to the Sultan’s character as well. This is an abbreviated Survivor Series match, as the last four eliminations happen within rapid succession. It’s not good or great, but it’s not terrible either. The crowd was into the encounter between the Gunns, though, which was surprising considering the lack of heat it was generating on television. Since this came down to Bart and Billy anyway, it’s pretty silly that they made this a tag team elimination match, but they must’ve felt the elimination concept might rope in a couple of new buys before the show. As a final note, I consider this the blowoff of the Gunns feud because their match on RAW a few weeks after this had an unsatisfying conclusion. Rating: **
-Now onto the pay-per-view, where Jerry Lawler has joined the commentary team despite being involved in a match later in the evening…
–Opening Contest: The Godwinns (Captains), Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon (w/Hillbilly Jim) beat The British Bulldog, Owen Hart (Captains) & The New Rockers (w/Clarence Mason) when Furnas & LaFon are the survivors after Furnas pins Owen with a release German suplex at 20:42:
Other Eliminations: Henry pins Jannetty after a Slop Drop at 8:12; Owen pins Henry after a spinning heel kick at 8:17; Bulldog pins Phineas after a running powerslam at 9:04; LaFon pins Cassidy after an inverted superplex at 13:43; LaFon pins the Bulldog after a sunset flip at 17:30
This is the debut of Furnas and LaFon and their presence is more than welcomed in a tag division that had grown stale by late 1996. Jannetty legitimately tweaks his ankle in the early going against LaFon and he tries to fight through the pain, but he’s pretty much useless in the ring on one wheel. This would be Jannetty’s last career appearance in the ring at a WWF pay-per-view. After the Godwinns are eliminated, the crowd loses interest in the match despite the solid action that begins to develop in the ring. The only thing that they pop for is LaFon’s insane elimination of Cassidy. There wasn’t ANYTHING that Al Snow wouldn’t do to get over. This is a textbook way to put over a debuting team strongly, as Furnas and LaFon not only hang with the champions but beat them head-to-head (albeit in an elimination format). It’s just a shame that they never got over with the WWF fan base. I remember loving this match in 1996, but time has not been kind to it. I never realized as a young fan how silent the crowd was during this match and how Jannetty’s injury messed up the first half of the contest. Rating: **½
–Ray Rougeau interviews Ahmed Johnson, who pledges to harm Faarooq and win back the Intercontinental title. Don’t forget to call 1-9—737-4WWF to hear more comments from Ahmed!
–Kevin Kelly interviews Mankind and Paul Bearer and Bearer is freaking out about being locked in a cage during the Mankind-Undertaker match.
-The Undertaker defeats Mankind (w/Paul Bearer) with a Tombstone at 14:53:
The stipulation here is that Bearer will be locked in a cage and suspended above the ring during the match. The logic goes that if the Undertaker wins, he will destroy Bearer when the cage is lowered back into the ring following the match. This is the third reincarnation of the Undertaker, as he’s ditched the colored gloves and hat and gone with a black leather ring attire. He makes his entrance by being lowered from the rafters, an entrance technique that still gives me chills nearly thirteen years after the tragic death of Owen Hart in Kansas City. The Undertaker is also much more mobile than previous versions and works in some mat wrestling, like drop toe holds and fireman’s carries. If you watch your WWF footage in sequence from the Undertaker’s debut to 1996, seeing this is pretty surreal. Much of the match centers on Mankind taking some vicious bumps on the arena floor and the Undertaker working over the Mandible Claw hand. This does have a payoff, as the Undertaker is able to break out of the Mandible Claw and catch Mankind with a Tombstone as Mankind is over top of him in the corner, jabbing a foreign object in his face. The crowd expects a payoff to the Bearer issue, but before the Undertaker can extract revenge, the Executioner comes to Bearer’s rescue and sets up a match with the Undertaker at the next In Your House pay-per-view. They tried to go for a different type of match between these two, but I found this incredibly boring. I liked some of the nuances, like the Undertaker learning that he needed to target Mankind’s Mandible Claw hand, but the rest of the action fell flat. Rating: **¼
–Log on to the WWF’s America Online website to chat with Doug Furnas, Philip LaFon, and other WWF superstars!
–Sunny comes to ringside and Vince looks like a dork trying to dance with her. Ross is apoplectic about this behavior near the sacred realm of the announce table. Ross is like the square you’d have at a party while everyone else is trying to have fun. Ross takes some funny shots at Sunny throughout the match. Sunny tries to retaliate, but Ross owns her.
–Dok Hendrix interviews Intercontinental Champion Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler, Crush, and Goldust. They say nothing of note.
–“Wildman” Marc Mero (Captain), Rocky Maivia, the Stalker & Jake “the Snake” Roberts (w/Sable) defeat Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Intercontinental Champion & Captain), Goldust, Crush, and Jerry “the King” Lawler (w/Marlena & Clarence Mason) when Maivia is the sole survivor after pinning Goldust with a shoulderbreaker at 23:44:
Other Eliminations: Roberts pins Lawler after a DDT at 10:00; Goldust pins the Stalker after a Curtain Call at 12:44; Mero pins Helmsley with a Merosault at 19:20; Crush pins Mero after Mero misses a pescado at 20:32; Crush pins Roberts after a heart punch at 20:55; Maivia pins Crush after a crossbody at 23:13
Mark Henry was supposed to be on Mero’s team, but suffered his first WWF injury prior to the show, so he was replaced by Roberts. Again, the Stalker wears no face paint and a WWF t-shirt, which is not in tune with his gimmick. That could why this is the only use of the Stalker gimmick on pay-per-view. This is the Rock’s debut and this match puts him over in a big way, as he defeats a veteran of the company in Crush and a prior Intercontinental champion. You can’t send a clearer signal than that to your fan base that you think a guy is the future of your company. The match as a whole is well booked and paced as Maivia gets an early shining moment in his career, Roberts finishes off his feud with Lawler, the WWE reminds the fans that Mero can beat Helmsley for the title in a fair matchup, Goldust ends his short feud with the Stalker, and the heels dominate the young and inexperienced Maivia for much of the match. Crush also came off looking strong in this match, as he got a small rub from Roberts and pinned the Intercontinental champion. However, the WWF did nothing with any of the momentum he might have generated from this match. Rating: ***¼
–A video package recaps the Bret Hart-Steve Austin feud.
–Todd Pettengill interviews Steve Austin, who says that he isn’t intimidated by Bret Hart heading into this match.
–Bret “the Hitman” Hart pins “Stone Cold” Steve Austin after reversing a Million Dollar Dream at 28:37:
This is Bret’s return to the company after his self-imposed exile following his defeat at the hands of Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII. It was announced on the Free for All that the winner of this match would receive a WWF title shot at the next In Your House pay-per-view, which always seemed unfair to me since Bret was gone for eight months. He’s the former champion and all, but other than that, what catapults him up the ladder to suddenly become the number one contender? There’s an interesting bit on commentary, when Ross argues that neither man has submitted in his career, which sets up the WrestleMania XIII submission match, and when McMahon says that it would be humiliating for Bret to be forced to submit to the Sharpshooter on such a grand stage, which is one of those eerie statements in retrospect. The match boils down into three phases: a mat wrestling phase, a phase where both guys have a crazy brawl outside of the ring, and a phase where there are false finishes galore and Ross starts losing his mind on commentary. It should be noted that Bret earns the distinction of becoming the first person to kick out of the Stone Cold Stunner in this match. Although fans mostly remember these two having an outstanding match at WrestleMania, this is the match that really made Austin a legitimate singles threat. His King of the Ring victory got him into the conversation as a rising star, but he floundered without a clear direction after that victory. This match showed that he could hang with the main event talent in the WWF and helped his gradual build into the star that he became. The finish was a nice touch as well, as Bret used his experience to outwit Austin and achieved a narrow victory. There is one sad point in the match, though, and that is that you see how great Austin was as a technical wrestler before his injury at SummerSlam nine months after this, which would force him to become a brawler. Rating: *****
–Hendrix interviews Sid, who says that he will do whatever it takes to become the WWF champion tonight.
–Captain Lou Albano comes out to join the Spanish announce table. He stops by the U.S. booth to shake hands with Ross, but not McMahon and Ross makes fun of McMahon for it.
–Vader (Captain), Faarooq, The Fake Razor Ramon & The Fake Diesel (w/Jim Cornette & The Nation of Domination) battle Yokozuna (Captain), Flash Funk, Savio Vega & “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka to a double-disqualification at 9:45:
Other Eliminations: Diesel pins Savio after a Jackknife at 8:34; Snuka pins Ramon after a Superfly Splash at 9:28
This match sees the debut of Flash Funk, the WWF’s attempt to turn 2 Cold Scorpio into a pimp. Cornette is on commentary for the match and is outraged at Funk’s entrance. Rumor has it that the WWF had hoped to sign Randy Savage from WCW and use him as Yokozuna’s mystery partner on this show, but the plans fell through and the WWF had to bring in Snuka, who was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame the night before, as a last second replacement. The crowd pops for it, but the pop for Savage would have been insane. It would’ve been awesome to get Savage back into the company just before the Attitude Era kicked off, but there’s no guarantee that he would’ve played a prominent role. This would be Yokozuna’s last pay-per-view appearance, as he’s bigger than he was at SummerSlam and was such a health risk that the WWF could not use him in the ring. Funk gets an “ECW” chant going when he moonsaults Vader on the floor, but I wonder why you’d toss a newcomer in there against Vader if you wanted to make them shine. Cornette actually refers to Ramon’s fallaway slam as the SOS, which is the name that Scott Hall had for the move. The double DQ occurs after Snuka pins Ramon with the Superfly Splash and Diesel starts wearing him out with a chair, causing the faces to rush to Snuka’s aid and pay no heed to the referee. I have no idea why the company thought that this type of finish did anything for anyone involved. If anything, it weakened Vader’s status in the eyes of the fans since this was his third consecutive pay-per-view appearance where he failed to notch a victory. Rating: *
–A video package hypes tonight’s Shawn Michaels-Sid WWF title match.
-WWF Championship Match: Sid defeats “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels (Champion w/Jose Lothario) for the title after a powerbomb at 20:02:
After months of beating bigger and stronger opponents, Michaels first reign as WWF champion comes to an end at the hands of his friend Sid, who has the Madison Square Garden crowd in the palm of his hand for this match. The men in the MSG crowd don’t take to Michaels at all and boo him out of the building, while the shrieks of women are the only support that he has. An apt comparison would be the WrestleMania XXII encounter between John Cena and Triple H because every time that Michaels goes on the offensive he is booed out of the building. While the entrances are taking place, I can’t help but think of how Michaels sexy boy routine is so out of place when you look at the mood of the show and the intensity of the Bret-Austin encounter earlier in the show. This is one of Sid’s better matches, as Michaels provides a perfect foil for Sid’s power moves and knows the right times to make his comebacks. Sid has an awesome spot in this match where he hot shots Michaels on the guardrail in the aisle and takes the time to fist bump with a few of the fans. Sid continues to cut off Michaels comebacks, but decides to grab a camera and this is where the match falls apart. Instead of letting Sid use the camera and let his man win by DQ, Lothario hops on the apron, so Sid hits him with the camera and Lothario feigns a heart attack on the outside. Referee Earl Hebner is then KO’d by a Michaels reverse body press and this allows Sid to nail Michaels with the camera when he goes to check on Lothario. Sid then hits his powerbomb and wins the title after a dramatic three count, with a lady near the hard camera screaming “NOO!” between the counts of two and three. I could’ve done without all of the overbooking at the very end, especially the distasteful heart attack ploy, which was not necessary and ruined the flow of a good contest. Still, the crowd dynamics mitigate some of this, as most of the fans go home happy that their national nightmare of Shawn Michaels as WWF champion is over, albeit temporarily. Rating: ***½
The Final Report Card: This is almost a perfect pay-per-view, with everything but one match clocking in at **¼ or over thereby making it the best WWF pay-per-view of 1996. At the time, I considered Sid’s victory in the main event to be a huge upset. Michaels had been overcoming the odds all the time during his title reign against bigger opponents and I thought that Sid would be another notch in his belt. I never thought that the company would have the faith in Sid to give him the title, since they didn’t give him the title in 1992 or 1995. Aside from the main event, this show did a great job building up new stars like the Rock and Doug Furnas and Philip LaFon. Although only the Rock proved a success in the long run, Furnas and LaFon did provide Owen Hart and the British Bulldog with some much needed competition in the tag ranks, so their presence on this show was not for naught.
Show Evaluation: Thumbs Up