The SmarK Rant for In Your House: Mind Games – 09.22.96
Live from Philly, home of cream cheese and some crappy indy promotion. This show has some of the most muted crowd reactions ever due to the production guys turning the crowd mic WAY down to prevent any embarrassing reactions.
Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Mr. Perfect.
At the time I didn’t think about this as the low point of the promotion, but after a month of the most dire RAW taping cycle I’ve seen in forever, you’ve gotta think it’s a contender. Also, this was the last wrestling PPV I ordered for about six years, due to meeting a new circle of friends at this point who came armed with booze and a black box to watch scrambled PPV channels for free. Good times.
Strap match: Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw v. Savio Vega
So after giving the poor people of Philadelphia FOUR Savio matches at the last PPV in the city, they get stuck with only two of them this time around, since this was set up by Bradshaw attacking him during a Free For All match. Bradshaw quickly beats him down while a bunch of nerds in ECW shirts watch from the front row. One even looks like Paul Heyman. They fight on the floor and Sandman spits beer at Savio while Vince notes that a “local wrestling promotion” is trying to cause trouble. Oddly, had they countered the nWo with that invasion angle, they might have had something. Back in the ring, they crawl around trying to touch turnbuckles while the crowd ignores them and cheers for the ECW guys who are busy getting kicked out of the building. That was literally the only interesting thing going on in the match, as the rest was Savio and Bradshaw crawling around for the corners before doing the stupid finish where both guys touch three and then fight for the fourth before Savio gets the miraculous win at 7:10. * Unfortunately the ECW angle didn’t pay off for months and it was pretty much too late to do anything for the WWF by that point, although Heyman got some good juice out of it.
Meanwhile, in the locker room, “Razor” and “Diesel” attack Savio Vega. At this point everyone realized that the angle wasn’t going anywhere good, to say the least. It was shot from so far back that it could have literally been anyone in the gear.
Jim Cornette v. Jose Lothario
This is an offshoot of the original main event, which was supposed to be Shawn & Lothario v. Vader & Cornette before it was changed to Shawn v. Mankind, leaving us with this classic. This is of course a total comedy squash for Lothario as Jimmy bumps all over the ring like a rodeo clown before Lothario pins him at 1:00 after a punch. About as bad as you’d imagine, but at least it was really short due to Cornette’s knee injuries. DUD
Brian Pillman joins us to rant about how the city has become a cesspool of drug abuse and illiterate scum. Isn’t that Detroit? Brian brings out Owen Hart to address the rumors of Bret’s return and how he had come to accept that Owen was truly the best there is. And yet he’s not here tonight for some reason. Perhaps because he’s a coward of some sort, due to the presence of Steve Austin. Vince stresses on commentary that they never actually advertised Bret being here tonight and only alluded to it. Steve Austin then brings the awesome by calling Bret “the slimy substance that comes out of a chicken” and notes that “putting an S in front of Hitman sums up his thoughts on Bret”. That is some QUALITY shit-talking. The “Bottom line because Stone Cold said so” tagline really starts here in effective fashion.
Meanwhile, Clarence Mason tricks a delirious Jim Cornette into signing away the contracts to Owen & Bulldog.
WWF tag team titles: The Smoking Gunns v. Owen Hart & British Bulldog
British Bulldog signed a new 5-year deal shortly before this, with the tag title a condition of the contract, so the result here wasn’t exactly a huge surprise. Of course he would deeply regret that contract about a year from now. Owen and Billy trade armdrags to start and the Hart side works on Bart after Bulldog takes control with a dropkick. It’s heel v. heel and the crowd is really unsure of who to care about here, but I guess the Gunns are slightly less annoying and so get to be babyfaces. The Harts double-team Bart while the crowd chants “Bart sucks Billy”, so maybe they’re not the faces here after all. Bulldog with a legdrop for two and Vince derides the shenanigans in the corner by noting that “you’d have to be a rubber man or Plastic Man or Andre the Giant to have arms long enough to make that tag”. The pop culture reference you were looking for there was Stretch Armstrong, Vince. Stretch Armstrong. Billy gets a “hot” tag, looking skinnier than I’ve ever seen him. It’s almost as though he started taking some kind of “magic drug” to become more muscular shortly after this. But that’s crazy. The Gunns hit the Sidewinder on Bulldog as this thing desperately flails around looking for a heat segment, but Owen hits Billy with the cast and Bulldog gets two. Sunny is doing her best to sell the match at ringside but they’ve already lost the crowd. The Gunns continue working Bulldog over and Billy goes to a chinlock. Bulldog escapes, runs the Gunns into each other while Billy is flirting with Sunny, and powerslams Bart to win the tag titles at 10:50 of boredom. ** Sunny fires the Gunns afterwards, and the team would split up shortly after THAT. And after she left Faarooq to his own devices, that was it for her managerial career until the LOD2000 deal a year and a half after this.
Jerry Lawler v. Mark Henry
Henry’s ridiculous American flag tights might be some of the ugliest gear ever. The announcers openly point out how terrible and green that Henry is at this point. Well that only took about 15 years to correct. Lawler keeps trying simple stuff but Henry overpowers him in the least convincing way possible. It’s amazing that someone who was legitimately one of the strongest men in the world at that point couldn’t pull off the character of someone whose only attribute was “very strong”. So Lawler goes to the old standby, the phantom foreign object, but Henry pounds away with god-awful offense in the corner and finishes with the backbreaker at 5:10. Frankly I’m shocked that he didn’t immediately suffer a shoulder injury requiring him to be out for 6-8 weeks, since that pretty much became his career path. DUD Oh, and then afterwards, the Rockers and Hunter Hearst Helmsley all run out for some reason and Henry beats them up too. Clearly this was the guy who should have won the war against WCW by himself. On the bright side, the job squad running in and getting beat up like a bunch of geeks got the best reaction of the show by far.
Undertaker v. Goldust
This feud is a feat of nature, in that you have a super powerful zombie fighting a movie-obsessed cross-dresser and yet they still managed to have some of the most boring matches in wrestling history together. Goldust runs away for a bit, but UT gets a suplex for two and throws him around. Goldust takes over with a cheapshot via the GLITTER OF DOOM to the eyes and runs Taker into the stairs to take over. Yeah, he can shoot lightning bolts from his fingers and rise from the dead, but a trip to an art supply store is apparently his secret weak point. So Goldust hammers away in the ring while Taker’s hair is all pretty and sparkly now. Hopefully he’ll do a YouTube how-to video for all the pre-teens out there who want the same effect. Vince notes how bored Marlena looks while watching this. She’s not the only one. Finally Undertaker has had enough restholds and fights back in the corner because he’s even boring himself with this one. Goldust powerslams him for two, but Undertaker makes the big comeback, chokeslams him out of the corner, and finishes this dog with a tombstone at 10:30. And from there it was…back to Mankind again. You think there was maybe a depth problem on top at this point? *
WWF World title match: Shawn Michaels v. Mankind.
If, for the sake of argument, you ever needed clinical proof of Mick Foley’s insanity, here’s a good start. The Druids wheel him in a casket to ringside. Mankind starts with a quick backdrop and Cactus clothesline, putting both on the floor. He pulls up the mat, but Shawn dropkicks him to the concrete, then stomps on him. He heads back to the ring, and comes back out with a tope onto Mick. He then comes flying off the apron and viciously slams Mankind’s head backwards into the concrete. Man, that’s just SICK. Back in for a double axehandle and jabs. Flying elbow, and he warms up the band, so Mankind wisely runs away to the outside and rocks for a bit. Paul gives him the urn for comfort. It just cracks me up to see Mick get so completely in character here, considering what a goof he became later. Back in and Shawn absolutely pummels him in a kind of weird segment where he looked legitimately pissed off for some reason, which turned out to be “worked shoot” deal that referenced the Vader tantrum from the month before.
Mankind finally blocks a snapmare with a sort of judo choke, and from there he tries to apply the Mandible Claw. Shawn escapes and Mick floors him with a right, then tosses him. He pulls the Spanish table out to a weird angle, but Shawn vaults over the table onto him and they brawl at ringside. Shawn suplexes him onto the stairs, right on his knee. Shawn clips Mankind’s knee on his way back into the ring, then drops him on the casket knee-first. He viciously works on it back in the ring, going borderline heel. Shawn gets a figure-four, Mankind reverses. Shawn dropkicks the knee again and uses a Hennig kneebreaker, drawing protest from Mr. Perfect himself at ringside. Half-crab, but Mankind breaks. Sunset flip gets two, but Mankind blocks a rana and drops him throatfirst on the top rope. Funny bit follows as Mick solicits some sort of pen or pencil from Paul Bearer and proceeds to stab himself repeatedly in the knee to get the feeling back. Shawn gets dumped to the floor, then back in for the running knee to the face. Mick rams him into the mat a few times, but Shawn hits a quick backdrop suplex to awaken himself. Slugfest goes Mankind’s way. Another slugfest ends with Shawn getting whipped to the corner and flipping into the Tree of Woe. Mankind drops a couple of elbows on him.
Shawn gets up and Mankind boots in the mouth, down to the floor. Mankind charges but hits the stairs again. He gets up and Shawn hits a drop-toehold, sending Mankind face-first to the stairs. God, this is getting downright ugly. In a good way. Shawn gets back in first and they fight over a suplex on the apron. Mick wins, but Shawn lands on the apron. Mick charges him and crashes into the ringpost. Back in the ring, Shawn gets a powerslam for two. Mankind does the “head caught in the ropes” bit, but Shawn goes after him, he gets the Mandible Claw out of nowhere! Both men collapse to the floor, so Shawn uses a little strategy and grabs a chair. Mankind punches at him and Shawn blocks with the chair, then hits Mick in the hand with the chair, thus disabling the Mandible Claw hand. Michaels works on breaking Mankind’s fingers back in the ring. Shawn charges and takes an absolutely MAN-SIZED backdrop to the floor. Mankind drops a Cactus elbow for good measure, then slides out again and hits a swinging neckbreaker on the concrete. Shawn crawls in and Mankind legdrops him on the ropes as he comes in. Double-arm DDT gets two. Pulling piledriver gets two. Amateur-style rolling cradle (!) gets two. Mankind gets REALLY frustrated, pulling out his hair and tossing chairs into the ring. He tries to roll Shawn into the casket for some reason, but Shawn comes back. Flying forearm knocks Mankind down and a flying bodypress gets two. He goes up again but gets crotched. Mankind suplexes him off the top, through that Spanish table. That’s it, I’m declaring BOTH guys as nuts. Mick grabs a chair and climbs to the top, but Shawn dropkicks it back in his face and covers, but Vader runs in for the lame DQ at 26:20. Paul Bearer KO’s Shawn with the urn, and Mick tries to roll him into the casket, but now UNDERTAKER pops out of it and does some righteous ass-kicking. Quite the finish there, and the DQ wasn’t enough to drop it from the full monty for me, even after a million viewings and DVD releases. *****
This is literally a one-match show, which also showed a stark contrast in the PPV quality between WWF and WCW at the time. WCW was starting to produce 3 hours of incredible undercard matches with a bullshit main event, whereas WWF was filling hours of TV time with crap and then blowing the roof off with great main events. In this case, the undercard was HORRIBLE, but the main event was so good that it turned the show into a thumbs up anyway. However, here in the age of YouTube and the WWE Network, you don’t need to waste your time with the dogshit of the undercard and can just watch Shawn v. Mankind literally whenever you want, so this one is a strong recommendation to avoid.