(Merry Christmas, and here’s a repost of my most recent look at WWF One Night Only, written a mere 17 years ago, following off the most recent retro RAW rant yesterday. It’s Christmas, this is the best you’re getting out of me.)
The SmarK Retro Rant for WWF One Night Only (September 97)
– Please please please note before you write me about it: This is a review of the live version shown on PPV in 1997, NOT the commercial tape released in 1998, which is missing several of the matches. The only way you could have gotten this version is by being Canadian or British and taping the PPV four years ago. (Or subscribing to the WWE Network today, where the full show is available in all its glory.)
– Live from Birmingham, England.
– Your hosts are JR, The King and Mr. McMahon.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Dude Love.
These two got the opening slot a lot in 1997, and had some wildly divergent matches in terms of quality. Dude does some strutting, and gets a an elbow. Backdrop and Hunter backs off. Dude dumps him on his head, but Hunter goes to the eyes. Dude slugs away and clotheslines him. Hunter bails and Dude knocks him off the apron, then lets him back in and starts working on the arm. Dude does the armbreaker-over-the-shoulder bit, then changes it up by carrying through and turning the move into a judo throw. Hunter escapes and tries a drop toehold, but in just about the coolest thing I’ve seen in weeks, Mick simply hops over Hunter’s outstretched leg and does his own. Who says Mick can’t wrestle? He works off an indian deathlock and pounds away, then whips Hunter into the corner and ties him into the Tree of Woe. He pounds the knee and cues up the band for Sweet Shin Music, but Hunter bails. Dude chases, and gets CREAMED by Chyna coming around the corner. See, now that’s where she was always effective: Standing in the corner and hitting guys when they chased Hunter. If she had stuck with doing that and occasionally kicking guys in the balls, I never would have had a problem with her. Back in, Hunter snaps his neck on the top rope and hammers away in the corner. Chyna adds a cheapshot, and that gets two. Dude fights back, but puts his head down and Hunter USES THE KNEE! He goes to the abdominal stretch, with the ropes helping out of course. Hunter ends up doing his argument routine with the referee and bails upon losing it. Back in, Dude bulldogs him for two. Hunter gets a neckbreaker, however, and bows. Pedigree attempt is reversed to a catapult and both are down. Dude comes back and does the old turnbuckle bashes, and follows with an avalanche that’s actually a blown spot, because they do the same thing again and this time Hunter remember to get his foot up. Hunter goes up, but Dude suddenly pops up and armdrags him off the top. LUCHA FOLEY~! Sweet Shin Music looks to finish (that moves cracks me up every time, especially HHH’s sell of the kick to the shin), but Chyna puts Hunter’s foot on the ropes. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE finishes at 12:51. Still as good as I remembered it from the first time around. ****
Leif Cassidy v. Tiger Ali Singh.
You know, it’s really a shame that the WWF didn’t actually realize what kind of a talent they had in Al Snow until he was three years past his prime and no longer in a position to be any kind of a top card draw. They spent most of 96-97 jobbing the poor guy to every two-bit undercard experiment they had in their system, and then blamed him for not getting over. Case in point, as tonight he gets to be the job boy for Tiger Ali Singh, a guy who they spent the better part of FIVE YEARS trying to develop into ANYTHING resembling a wrestler before giving up on him earlier this year and firing him. Singh gives the most obnoxious babyface promo I’ve ever heard, declaring himself to be the “new Messiah” and encouraging all the children of the world to stay drug-free. And the place boos him. So if British children go home and smoke crack after seeing this show, Britain only has themselves to blame. The announcers let us know that he’s beloved in “all of Asia.” Including Vietnam? I think I’d need some empirical evidence before I’d accept him being “beloved” anywhere, actually. I’m not sure his own father even likes him. Leif attacks but gets pounded. Belly to belly suplex and Singh keeps stomping away. Leif comes back with a leg lariat for two, desperately attempting to carry the match like Atlas with the world on his shoulders. Singh screws up a rollup spot, but gets two off it. Singh goes up and finishes with a bulldog at 4:06, dubbed the “Tiger Bomb” by the announcers. I’d call it the “Taxi Driver” myself, but I’d like to think I’m above that sort of cheap humor. DUD (The WWF locker room was of course not above that kind of humor, which is what led to him leaving.)
WWF tag team title: The Headbangers v. Savio Vega & Miguel Perez Jr.
Big pop for the Bangers before the WWF flushed their career down the toilet in favor of the Hogwinns. In the long run, they probably should have stuck with the Bangers until the New Age Outlaws were ready to begin teaming, since the LOD didn’t mean anything to ratings anymore and thus there was no point in putting the titles back on them. Boriquas attack, but get cleared out. Mosh avalanches Miguel and grabs an armbar. Double-team clothesline from the Bangers and they double-hiptoss Savio. Thrasher grabs a headlock and they work off that for a bit. Thrasher takes a cheapshot and he’s YOUR freak-in-peril. Leg lariat sends him out and Miguel pounds away. Back in, Mosh gets jumpy and allows the Boriquas to double-team. Thrasher gets a bodypress for two, but Savio spinkicks him down again. Miguel gets a corkscrew senton for two and hits the chinlock. Suplex gets two, but Mosh saves and again allows more double-teaming. False tag, more double-teaming follows. Talk about using every dirty trick in the book. Miguel hits the chinlock, and Thrasher eats knee. Savio comes off the top, but misses. Hot tag…is cut off. More double-teaming follows as Mosh gets escorted out again. Perez goes back to the chinlock but gets sunset-flipped for two. Savio misses a blind charge and gets suplexed, and the place is about to riot if Mosh can’t get the tag. Hot tag, and he’s a house of fire. He dumps Savio and gets a top-rope rana on Miguel, for two. Powerslam gets two. It’s BONZO GONZO. Perez powerbombs Thrasher to catch a breather, but Mosh comes off the top with a Whoopie Cushion to finish at 13:34. Didn’t like the finish, but the match was a lesson in heel psychology and the tag team formula that I liked WAY more the second time through. Probably the Bangers’ best match ever, too. ***1/2
Flash Funk v. The Patriot.
Patriot’s flag-waving makes him a huge heel over in jolly ol’ England. Patriot works the mat, and Funk keeps up with him. They work a wristlock and Patriot overpowers him, drawing boos. Funk gets a dropkick, but gets clotheslined. Patriot hits the chinlock. He drops a headbutt for two after standing around trying to figure out how to react to the crowd. Blind charge misses and Funk gets a cross-body for two. Clothesline gets two. Funk hits the chinlock as JR uses his usual “well, it’s a clash of styles…” excuse for why this match is sucking. Patriot no-sells some chops and comes back. Backdrop suplex gets two. Back to the chinlock, but Funk reverses to a bizarre surfboard, and gets a spinkick for two. Patriot powerslams him for two. Funk rollup gets two. Patriot goes up with the Patriot Missile (flying shoulderblock) for two. Funk splashes him and goes up with another splash, for two. Back up as JR speculates on the likelihood of the “Funky Flash Flying Splash”, but sadly Funk goes for the moonsault instead and misses, and Patriot kills him with Uncle Slam (Test’s full-nelson slam) at 8:47. I almost wish he HAD gone for the finish just to hear Jim yelling “FUNKY FLASH FLYING SPLASH!” three times. HUGE heel heat for the result. Good finish, yawner of a match. **
The Legion of Doom v. The Godwinns.
Henry starts with Animal and they slug it out. Animal shoulderblock and Henry bails. Hawk & Phineas go next, but Hawk misses a charge. PIG chinlocks him and that goes on for a while. Henry misses an elbow and Hawk keeps pounding on him. Animal hits the chinlock, but HOG dumps him. Back in, PIG works the arm with a Herb Kunze armbar and trades off with HOG. PIG hits boot and Hawk cleans house. Neckbreaker gets two on PIG, but HOG tosses Animal and hits the Slop Drop on Hawk. It gets two, and the Godwinns work him over and go back to the armbar. Armbar, armbar…the move has lost all meaning for me. HOG drops an elbow for two. Hawk clotheslines both, hot tag Animal, you know the rest. LOD finish at 10:42. *
JR interviews Ken Shamrock, who’s sporting the World’s Most Dangerous Haircut these days. Blah blah blah, Rockabilly Gunn comes out to complain that Shamrock’s been stealing his steroids, a fight erupts, and Gunn ends up tapping. Man, remember the days when they pushed Gunn with a stupid gimmick and no one cared about him? Oh, wait, that was Monday… (That’s a sick 2002 era burn right there!) For those concerned, I heard that they made up later when Shamrock lent him a dose of HGH and Quick-Rise Yeast instead.
Vader v. Owen Hart.
Big face reaction for Owen. Vader overpowers him, turning himself heel in the process. Owen bails after another shoulderblock. Back in, Owen uses speed and gets a rana (!!). Owen hammers on him, bodypress gets two. Sharpshooter attempt is blocked, and Vader tries a suplex, which is reversed to a rollup for two by Owen. Another try for the Sharpshooter, but Vader makes the ropes this time. Owen uses a crucifix, but Vader falls back on him for two. He goes up for a splash for two. Vader sends Owen to the turnbuckles for his trademark bump and Vader just pummels him. Short-arm clothesline and Vader hits the chinlock. Avalanche and Vader works the armbar. He misses a charge, but Owen tries a slam and gets pounded. Not smart, Owen. Vader bars the knee, but Owen does a gutsy reversal and hammers his way out of it with brute force, just to prove that height and weight mean nothing on the mat. Vader splashes him for two. Vader tries the powerbomb, but YOU CAN’T POWERBOMB OWEN. Okay, normally you can, but work with me here. Enzuigiri pops the crowd huge, and he finally gets the Sharpshooter, but Vader makes the ropes. Owen tries the slam again, and GETS IT. That pops the crowd, too. Vader nails him and goes up, but misses the Vaderbomb. Owen gets a missile dropkick and leg lariat for two, and goes up to finish, but Vader catches him coming down and gets the pin at 12:14. ***1/2 Owen could pull a great match out of just about anyone, and this was just a variant on his series with Makhan Singh in Stampede.
WWF title match: Bret Hart v. The Undertaker.
This is the rematch from Summerslam 97 where Bret won the title. It’s astonishing that wrestling would probably be totally different today if Vince had just decided to keep the title on Undertaker there and move it to Shawn at Badd Blood instead. The crowd is violently divided here on the whole Bret Hart issue. Hart pounds away, Undertaker follows. Taker chokes him out, but Bret pulls off a turnbuckle for later use. Taker hits foot on a charge and Bret pounds away, but Taker clotheslines him for two. Bret clotheslines him back and hammers away, then dumps him. Baseball slide out of nowhere sends UT crashing into the table. Bret tries to follow with a pescado, but gets caught and posted. They brawl up the ramp and Bret scurries back to the ring. Back in, Taker stomps away, but gets DDT’d. Legdrop and elbowdrop keep Taker down for the moment, but he sits up. Bret chokes him down, but gets whipped into his own exposed turnbuckle by the cruel hand of irony, just like rain on your wedding day. Bret’s chest is hurting, so UT makes my jaw drop by pulling the HEART PUNCH OF DEATH out of his bag of tricks. Wow, psychology and obscure moves in the same match. Taker drops some elbows for two. Into a surfboard, and he turns it into a pinning combo for two. Bret suddenly starts kicking the knee in desperation, but Taker swats him away. Backbreaker gets two. Bret takes the knee again, but a charge misses. Taker gets two. He tries his own charge, but Bret moves and Taker’s knee slams into the top turnbuckle and Bret goes all Flair on it, destroying it with mechanical precision. Note to all you mindless sheep out there who keep e-mailing me to say that “Undertaker didn’t sell back when he was a zombie”, what he’s doing now is SELLING. So try using an argument that requires some thought next time. Bret wraps UT’s knee around the post and locks on the ringpost figure-four, nearly giving JR a heart attack in the process. Back in, Bret keeps on it and goes for the figure-four, getting some near-falls in the process. Taker counters the move, but Bret makes the ropes. Taker pounds him to come back, but Bret calmly ducks under the big boot and NAILS the bad knee (which Taker is supporting himself on while sticking his other foot in the air for the big boot) to take over again. That is why Bret is TRULY the “cerebral assassin” rather than HHH. Bret goes back to the knee, then works on the back to set up the Sharpshooter. Legsweep gets two, suplex gets two, second-rope elbow…misses? Taker & Bret clothesline each other, but UT sits up. Legdrop gets two. Another legdrop low, but Bret grabs the leg ala Summerslam 91 and reverses to the Sharpshooter. Taker appears to be screwed quite zestily, but instead of fighting for the ropes he simply uses his energy to power out. Bret tries again, but gets caught in a chokeslam attempt. Bret kicks his knee again to break, but Taker pounds him and legdrops him for two. Bret bails and grabs the bell, but Taker uses the big boot to knock it away. He grabs it himself, but the ref puts a stop to the shenanigans and Bret clips him. Taker shoves him over the top while they’re in the corner, and Bret takes out the cameraman in the process. Bret meets the stairs, and they head back in, where Taker whips Bret into the corner and into the post by extension. ROPEWALK OF DOOM, but Bret simply armdrags him down and rolls him up for two. Bret tries a tombstone, but Taker reverses, and they tumble to the ropes where Bret gets tied up headfirst. UT keeps pounding him, and the ref calls for the DQ at 28:35. That finish was CRIMINAL after the buildup. Given a pinfall or submission that’s a MOTYC, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered given the low exposure and Hell in a Cell a month later. ****1/2 It was also Bret’s last truly great match (not involving Chris Benoit), although he had some pretty good ones in WCW.
European title match: The British Bulldog v. Shawn Michaels.
Bulldog has his lying hosebeast of a wife and his cancer-ridden sister Tracy at ringside, so you’d THINK he’s gonna win, right? Shawn decides to do some stalling to start. Bulldog wins a shoving match in dramatic fashion, and Shawnie throws a tantrum. Shawn walks the ropes during a lockup, so Bulldog tosses him off the top and onto his face. Bulldog dumps him. Shawn takes a walk again, but when he jumps onto the apron, Bulldog rams him into both turnbuckles and then inverted-suplexes him into the ring again. Press slam and abdominal stretch follow, but Shawn escapes. He stomps away, but Bulldog casually tosses him and Shawn takes a dramatic bump to the floor. Bulldog slingshots him back in and works the arm. Shawn uses the cheapshot and eyepoke combo, but gets he goes for a rana and gets SMOKED with a powerbomb for two. Back to the arm. Shawn reverses, but Bulldog slams him and tries a Rita Romero Special. His shoulders are down, however, giving Shawn two. Bulldog screams at the ref about this, allowing Shawn to cheapshot him again and pound away. Bulldog suplexes him, but Rick Rude shows up as Bulldog gets a rollup for two. Rude pushes them over, and Shawn gets two. He trips up Bulldog and Shawn tosses him, allowing Rude to ram him into the post for good measure. Shawn nails Bulldog off the top and pounds on him on the floor. Back in, Shawn drops an elbow and goes to the sleeper. Bulldog eventually suplexes out of it and gets two. Shawn whips him into the corner, however, and hiptosses him into a short-arm scissors. Bulldog does the “power out with the other guy on your shoulders” spot that has been ruined for me since 1993 when I saw Bob Backlund do the same thing to Jeff Jarrett at a house show. They collide on a criss-cross for the double-KO, and HEEEEEEEEEEEEERE’S Hunter. Bulldog comes back and clotheslines Shawn, and catapults him for two. Blind charge misses and Bulldog eats post, however. Shawn goes up and drops a pair of elbows, and warms up the band. Bulldog ducks the superkick and goes for the powerslam, but Rude grabs his leg. Shawn gets dumped and they brawl, but Bulldog slips and hurts his knee, and the future D-X pounces on him 3-on-1 while Chyna distracts the ref. KICK WHAM PEDIGREE on the floor, and they toss him in. Shawn pulls off Bulldog’s knee brace and tosses it at his dying sister, once again proving himself to be the classiest guy in the business. Figure-four, using the ropes, Hunter’s hands, and a Mack truck parked three blocks away with a rope leading to the arena for leverage. Bulldog makes the ropes, but Rude nails him, and he finally has no choice but to black out at 22:53. The crowd is, shall we say, less than enamored with the decision. This was undoubtedly Bulldog’s last great, or even good, match. ****
Owen & Bret chase off the heels after Shawn endears himself to the crowd further by telling Diana that the win was all for her. In retrospect, this was a very sad match to watch because it was entirely political. (Well, yeah. Technically the reason was that Vince was supposedly going to put Bulldog over in a rematch the next year, but of course that conveniently never happened and never could have happened anyway. Given what we know now, it’s clear that Vince and Shawn were both lying to Bulldog about that and likely just wanted all the belts off the Harts before shit went down. Remember, at the point when this review was written, Shawn was still 100% denying any involvement and had plausible deniability at the very least.) Given Vince’s plans for the future, there was no justifiable reason to change the title here except to get it off Bulldog and humiliate the Hart family in the process to lead up to Montreal. When Bulldog had it, it was a trophy title but at least it was still a title. Once Shawn got it, it became a prop, something never defended and treated as a joke by both himself and HHH until it had already lost all meaning midway into 1998. It was a great match, but knowing now what we do, it’s a very sad match to watch and Shawn looks like even more of a pathetic, whiny, petulant, lying primadonna, albeit a talented one. As much as I’m sad to see a great talent like Shawn retired early, no one deserved his own fate as much as Shawn did, and I’m glad he’s miserable and hated by everyone in the business now, because he earned it and he has no one to blame but himself. (Oh. Yeah. So about that Shawn retirement, 2002 Scott…)
The Bottom Line: I kind of thought this show wouldn’t hold up after four years, but it still does, and outside of Canadian Stampede, it’s probably the best overall PPV the WWF did all year in 1997. Unfortunately the show was butchered for time reasons by WWF Home video, but if you can find a copy of the original broadcast, it’s an amazing three hour show and one that should have found a home in general release instead of just the UK.