Well here we are its back to Reviewing Main Events, starting with one of WWE’s traditional “Big Four” pay per view events of the year in the form of Survivor Series.
The original Survivor Series was created in 1987 as a way for WWE to mess with Jim Crockett Promotions, as they were holding Starrcade on the same day. JCP’s plan was to switch their show to a different timeslot so that fans could buy both events, but Vince McMahon then threatened to withhold WrestleMania IV from the pay per view companies if they showed JCP’s show, which led to a lot them refusing to carry Starrcade as a result.
Despite only existing as a way to mess with another company, WWE decided to keep the event going and it’s still around to this day. The early events started out with just Elimination Tag Team bouts, but as the years wore on they started adding normal match types as well, with the show eventually becoming more of a regular pay per view that had a token Survival match here or there.
This week we’ll be looking at the Main Events from 1993 to 1998
I haven’t done one of these for a while, so I’ll make it clear than I class the “Main Event” as the match that went on last. People get annoyed at that definition sometimes, but my opinion is that the match that closes the show is the most important one due to it being the lasting memory of the event, which makes it a Main Event in my book. If you disagree then fair enough, but I’m afraid that that’s how I’m going to do it.
WWF Survivor Series 1993
The Foreign Fanatics: Yokozuna, Crush, Quebecer Jacques and Ludvig Borga w/ Jim Cornette, Mr. Fuji and Johnny Polo
The All-Americans: Lex Luger, Rick Steiner, Scott Steiner and The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
Crush was filling in for Quebecer Pierre whilst Taker was filling in for Tatanka after Borga laid a whupping on him and ended his undefeated streak. Luger had failed to win the WWF Title from Yoko at Summer Slam, but he had won the match itself by count out. At this stage I think the plan was still to have Luger go through Borga on route to taking the belt from Yoko, but plans changed. Borga (Real name Tony Halme) was a powerlifter from Finland who actually competed in the 1992 G1 Climax tournament, and I believe he went on to become a politician when his wrestling career ended. The Quebecers had recently defeated the Steiner’s for the tag belts, and this is actually the penultimate pay per view match for Rick and Scott, as they’d go on to leave in 1994.
I think Undertaker might possibly be the most over guy on Team America, above even captain Luger. Yoko and Taker go nose to nose before the bell as well, whilst Luger and Borga do the stare down, so you could see where they were going here, with Yoko/Taker being one marriage and Luger/Borga being the next one, with I’m guessing Yoko Vs Luger at Mania being the end destination. Johnny Polo was Scott “Raven” Levy, back when he was a croquet mallet toting posho as opposed to a grungy nihilist angry at the world. It’s amazing to think about the 180 his character made when he showed up in ECW.
Interestingly they have the heels in the corner away from the hard cam, which is where they normally put the faces so it looks like the face has to “climb up-hill” when they try to make the hot tag. I’m sure Kevin Dunn was cursing a blue streak over that one. It’s pacey enough in the opening sections, with Luger and The Steiner’s getting to shine on the heels whilst Taker stands stoically on the apron. Sadly they botch the first elimination something fierce, as it looks like Borga is supposed to counter a top rope shoulder block from Steiner into a slam of some kind, but he completely loses him and it looks like they both fall over in a clumsy manner. Rather than ad-libbing a new spot to cover it, they just have Borga make the pin to send Rick back to his kennel.
Rick Steiner Eliminated by Ludvig Borga (1) – Botched Counter Leading to Pin
The fans understandably crap all over that, as they should because it looked positively rubbish. I will say this though, Jacques is fantastic as a cocky jerk, mocking Rick over his elimination and then mugging when Crush saves him from getting military pressed by Scott. Scott gets a fantastic under hook slam on Crush at one stage, showing his ludicrous strength back when he was still somewhat bordering on looking human before he got practically swollen by the late 90’s. Randy Savage was feuding with Crush at the time and tries to come down to get him some, which leads to agents and The Smoking Gunn’s holding him back.
Crush is in for a long time with Scott, and I have to say that it’s pretty dull. I mean, the work isn’t terrible or anything, but it’s Crush Vs a Tag Team guy in a pay per view Main Event, so it’s naturally got a ceiling you know? I mean, there are 7 guys remaining in this match, why do we need Crush and Scott Steiner to do a long segment? Savage rushes out again, and Crush decides to go out and attack him, getting counted out in the process. LAAAAAAAAAAAAME!
Crush Eliminated by Count Out
Really? Crush couldn’t at least get rolled up or something? Man, these eliminations were getting so lazy by this stage. No wonder the match type lost its lustre and they didn’t try Main Eventing with one of them for another 8 years after this. Luger finally gets a tag from Scott to wake the crowd up a bit, and he quickly puts Jacques away with an elbow drop off the second rope for three. Well, it was a pin at least, so I’ll take it.
Jacques Eliminated by Lex Luger (1) – Elbow Drop From The Second Rope
So the faces actually have the numbers advantage now, but the exhausted Scott decides he wants to go at it with Borga, despite Borga wanting Luger. I mean, I get that Scott wants to go next, but it makes Luger look like a bit of a chump to back down from the heel and then send his tired mate in to fight him instead. Scott gets worked over for a bit, but manages to superplex Borga off the top. However, this brings in Yoko (Without a tag) and he drops a leg to pin Scott. Well, that was a load of bollocks.
Scott Steiner Eliminated by Yokozuna (1) – Leg Drop
So now we’re down to Yoko/Borga Vs Luger/Taker, which is the match they probably should have just done to begin with, with a Tag Title rematch between the Quebecers and Steiners earlier on. Luger and Yoko do their usual match, which means that the action is fine until they both get knackered, at which point it grinds to a halt. Borga actually seems to have reasonable cardio, but his execution is nowhere near as good as Yoko’s. If Borga could have actually worked as good as Yoko then he could have been a huge star for the WWF, especially if they could ever coax Hogan back. He was like a prototypical Brock Lesnar almost. Sadly his work was miserable and it stopped him being the star he should have been.
Luger gets worked over by the heels and then tags in Taker, who does a fantastic little segment with Yoko, that not only looks good from both men but also pops the crowd big. They have Yoko blow through all of his big moves on Taker, but Taker just keeps getting up until Yoko starts getting worried, and eventually scared. Yoko sells it beautifully actually. The best bit by far is when they are fighting outside of the ring and Yoko slams Taker face first onto the ring steps, only for Taker to jolt up and give him the death stare like a horror movie monster, to a fantastic incredulous look from Yoko. Sadly the fight out there leads to both men getting counted out, in something I’d allow if it was the only time on the show they did it, but sadly it wasn’t.
Yokozuna and The Undertaker Eliminated by Count Out
So this leaves us with Borga Vs Luger, and that goes on for a while. It’s pretty dull to be honest, which makes me relieved that Borga didn’t stick around for much longer. I will say this; Luger is in fantastic shape here, looking lean and really athletic. He moves pretty well also, he just didn’t really have a lot of wind and that would be highlighted when he had to work a longer match. It’s not like this section is awful or anything, but it is quite boring and the crowd heat isn’t there for it as you’d expect, even when they threaten a cheap finish by having Borga hit Luger with Fuji’s salt bucket. Luger Lex’s Up from that though and goes into the comeback, getting some decent looking offence to be fair to him, and ends up winning it with the running forearm.
Ludvig Borga Eliminated by Lex Luger (2) – Running Forearm
SOLE SURVIVOR: LEX LUGER
MOST ELIMINATIONS: LEX LUGER (2)
This wasn’t actively awful aside from a few notable botches, but in general I just found it to be a really dull outing that kind of highlighted the problems with the top of the card for the WWF at the time. Thankfully Bret Hart would be returned to the Main Event picture in 1994, which meant we at least got some good matches at the top of the card again, even if his feud’s with Owen Hart and Bob Backlund hardly drew bags of money
WWF Survivor Series 1994
Casket Match with Chuck Norris as Special Troubleshooting Guest Referee
Yokozuna w/ Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji Vs The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer
Yokozuna had managed to defeat Taker back at Royal Rumble 94 thanks to half the heel roster running in to help him, so Norris is here this time to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Norris lived in Texas and his show “Walker, Texas Ranger” was shown on CBS at the time, so the WWF decided he’d make a good choice as a guest celebrity. He gets a good pop during his entrance, so it works in the arena if nothing else, although I have no idea if it had any real effect on pay per view buys either positive or negative.
They also were doing the usual “big scary heel is actually scared of something integral to the resident creepy babyfaces act” story here, like they did with Andre The Giant being scared of snakes, although in this case they’ve gone with Yoko being terrified of caskets. Hey, I’m all for having some kind of wrinkle for a monster heel, and Yoko to his credit sells the fear of the casket big, and the crowd is into the idea of the previously stoic big bloke having his feathers all ruffled.
This match itself is a decent enough brawl with some story elements, which was par for the course when Taker and Yoko met. They were friends in real life I believe as part of the whole anti-Kliq “BSK” faction (Yes, the WWF actually had real behind the scenes factions at the time) so they were always willing to work hard when they were in there with one another. Yoko of course gets tired at one stage, as was usually the case when he’d have to exert himself past the two minute mark, but the fact it’s more of a slugfest with “Will he stay in the casket” teases means they’re able to masque it a bit better than usual, and it generally remains entertaining for the most part.
Eventually they pay off the Norris appearance by having him stop some heels from interfering. King Kong Bundy and Bam Bam Bigelow both come out, but Norris stares them down, doing a pretty convincing job as a bad ass actually. However, whilst that is going on, IRS blindsides Taker and beats him up a bit to set up the upcoming feud between Taker and Ted Dibiase’s Million $ Corporation. Taker gets put to sleep and dumped in the casket, but he manages to survive it and goozles Yoko before he can close the lid.
This is Jeff Jarrett’s cue to come down and try to help Yoko, but Norris knocks him down with a kick. Jarrett sold that spectacularly and the crowd LOVED it. That’s how you do a big celebrity spot. You keep it simple and have them take out a mid-card guy who it isn’t going to be hurt by it in order to pop the crowd. Taker rally’s thanks to that and puts Yoko in the casket with some clotheslines before closing the lid to win.
WINNER: THE UNDERTAKER
That was alright. It dragged a little bit in the middle, but aside from that it was a decent brawl and the spots with Norris were well done. They did a super depressing WWF Title change earlier in the show, so this was the happy ending to send everyone home on a high, and it mostly delivered
WWF Survivor Series 1995
Champion: Diesel Vs Bret Hart
(I’m reusing an old review for this one, and it was clearly from a time where I was more into detailed PBP)
This match stemmed from both men having two PPV matches that went to non-finishes, so this match was given the No DQ stipulation to ensure that there would be a clear winner. Both men undo turnbuckle pads to start to show they both mean business. Stand-off leads to Bret shoving Diesel into the corner. Diesel pounds his way back and corners Bret, leaving him open to some big right hands.
Bret bails to buy himself some time, but Diesel slowly stalks him and beats him up in the aisle. Bret gets dropped neck first on the guardrail and then sent face first into the apron for good measure. Bret rolls outside again and Diesel follows, choking him with his boot on the floor. Back inside, Bret gets some kicks to the knee but Diesel slugs him down and sends him outside again, where Bret gets sent into the steps. Diesel is tapping into his old heel persona here to casually demolish Bret.
Bret gets sent spine first into the ring post and Diesel nails him out there with a chair as well. Back inside the ring, Bret gets sent spine first into the turnbuckle and collapses. Diesel signals for the Jack-knife power bomb, but Bret fights it off with everything he has. Bret slugs his way back into the match and even starts biting Diesel as both men continue to show no mercy to one another. Bret goes to work on Diesels legs in hope of weakening them for the Sharpshooter. Bret locks in a Figure Four as he continues the work on the legs of Diesel, but Big Daddy Cool refuses to uncle.
Both men have brought a methodical approach to this match and as a result the crowd is fixated on the action. They’re not going nuts but are watching intently, it really has a big fight feel to it. Bret tries the Sharpshooter but Diesel is just too big and kicks him away into the exposed turnbuckle. Bret fights back by wrapping Diesels leg around the ring post a few times and the takes things to a new level by getting an electric cable and tying Diesel to the post so he can’t move.
Diesel is now trapped in the corner with nowhere to go, so Bret is able to hit the now stationary big man with an axe handle from the second rope. Bret made use of the match rules and his ring smarts to take Diesel’s size advantage right out the equation there, which is the sort of sound storytelling you’d expect from The Hitman. Bret grabs the chair Diesel hit him with earlier and tries to dish out some meticulous payback, but Diesel is able to kick him away in desperation. Bret has success on a second attempt however and is able to drive the chair into Diesels left leg a few times.
Bret drops some elbows now and successfully delivers a back breaker to his bigger foe. Bret grabs the chair again and heads up top, but Diesel recovers in time and crotches Bret on the top before flinging him across the ring. The break in the action gives Diesel a chance to undo the cable around his foot and now he’s exceedingly unhappy to say the least. Diesel gets a side slam for two before sending Bret chin first into the unprotected corner, which Bret sells fantastically.
Diesel gets the snake eyes and then tries it onto the unprotected corner as well, but Bret is able to counter just in time and send Diesels face into the metal bolt instead. Bret follows up with the Hart Attack clothesline and second rope bulldog, but both moves only manage to net him a two count. Bret gets a Russian Leg Sweep for another two count and sends Diesel outside. Bret goes for a plancha but Diesel shows off the best way to counter such a move by simply moving out of the way. This leaves Bret knocked out on the floor as Diesel rolls back inside.
We then get one of the most business changing moments in history, as Bret stumbles back onto the apron and Diesel sends him tumbling off through the Spanish Announce Table. 23 years later (That would date this review as 2018 I think) and that spot is still happening. It’s lasted longer than the Hulkamania and Attitude era’s combined! Though it may be a bit of a running joke these days, back in 1995 this was shocking and cutting edge moment, and Bret is smart enough to sell it like absolute death. Back inside in the ring, Diesel tries for the Jack-knife but Bret just collapses. Diesel shows a momentary hesitation before going to pick Bret up, only for Bret to catch him with an inside cradle out of nowhere to win his, then, third WWF Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BRET HART
This is one of the best examples of storytelling in a wrestling match that I can think of. Everything from start to finish had me engrossed in the action, with every move meaning something. I know a lot of people think the Shawn Michaels match in April 1996 is Kevin Nash’s best, but this one absolutely runs it close. After the match Diesel does the mother of all beat downs by dropping Bret with THREE Jack-knifes before taking out about 10 officials for good measure as well. Now THAT’S a sore loser! This not only brought an end to Diesel’s awful smiling babyface act, but it also immediately rejuvenated him as a character as well. Ironically, he went from a character floundering as the champion to a character that could have easily carried the title, all in the act of losing the title itself. Wrestling is bloody weird sometimes isn’t it?
WWF Survivor Series 1996
Champ: Shawn Michaels w/ Jose Lothario Vs Sycho Sid
Sid had been Shawn’s bodyguard in 95 but had then beaten him up when Shawn had gone face before leaving in early 96, possibly to go and play softball or attack someone with a squeegee or something. However, when Ultimate Warrior flaked on the company in the summer of 96 they decided to bring Sid back as a babyface and they reunited him with Shawn as a pairing. However, when Sid defeated Vader to become the #1 contender for the WWF Title it split the reunited buddies up again, hence what we get as this match rolls on.
Being that this is taking place in Madison Square Garden there a tad more hardcore fans in attendance than usual, and they are of course into Sid because he remains one of the biggest blind spots that “smart” fans have for some reason, despite him being the dictionary definition of a stiff coasting on his looks, which is usually the sort of guy those fans hate. The women are still pro-Shawn though, including one particular lass on the front row opposite the hard cam, who is living and dying with everything Shawn does. Vince McMahon being all “cool dad” and gushing over Shawn was like a nuclear torpedo to any chance Shawn had of coming across as a cool character, which was thankfully something they didn’t copy when it was Stone Cold’s turn to be the top babyface.
This match is your typical “Shawn carries a useless lug to something watchable” outing, as he bumps around a lot for Sid and essentially does the work of three men throughout. Shawn’s Herculean efforts, combined with a responsive crowd, end up making this a pretty fun match, even though pretty much every offensive move Sid does that doesn’t involve Shawn taking his own bump looks all kinds of awful. He can’t even do a side headlock take down properly, doing it more like a bastardised hip toss as opposed to the nice snappy way Shawn does it by comparison. Shawn has a bit of attitude to his stuff here actually, and he reminds me a bit of late 00’s Tanahashi, in that he has the pretty boy looks but he also has a bit of an edge to what he does, especially when taking on another babyface.
I will say one thing for Sid; he sells a figure four well at one stage, as Shawn goes after the big man’s legs in an effort to chop him down to size. The crowd reactions are great here, as they really give the match some atmosphere and Shawn is smart enough to play up to them too, with subtle mannerisms placing him as the heel in the match. Sadly Sid all but forgets the work done on his leg once he manages to break out of the figure four, which pretty much negates that section of the match, and I think Shawn clues him in on it, as after walking around fine for a minute he starts magically limping again just as it’s time for Shawn to go after the leg with more offence.
Shawn takes some outstanding bumps in this one, including a clothesline over the top to the floor and a press slam onto the metal railings outside the ring, which leads to Sid controlling things back inside for a bit, with his usual array of rotten looking punches and stomps. The crowd continues to be into him though, and it makes this section watchable at least, as does Shawn’s continued bumping and selling. Shawn clearly rocked up to MSG and thought “Stuff it, I’m going to have a good match tonight if it kills me” and he’s doing his utmost to make that happen. Jim Ross is great on commentary actually, with Vince clearly being a step behind when it comes to calling the action. At times he actively takes a backseat to let Ross take the lead, as I think he knew it.
We head into the closing stretch, with Sid knocking Shawn down with a clothesline straight after the Champ nips up, in a well-executed spot that the Shawn-haters in the crowd LOVED, Sid grabs a camera and looks to hit Shawn with it, but he ends up hitting Jose Lothario instead, which leads to Lothario doing the big dramatic sell for it, acting like he’s having a heart attack. This would normally be the big heel heat spot for Sid, but the crowd continues to cheer for him anyway, and indeed he wasn’t really a heel after this and more of a tweener if anything else.
The ref gets bumped and that allows Sid to hit Shawn with the camera as well whilst he’s tending to Lothario, which gets another pop from the crowd. The power bomb follows back inside, and that’s enough for the pin, which causes the lass on the front row to practically deflate whilst the rest of the crowd goes bananas.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SYCHO SID
I was watching one of those “yearly recap” style DVD’s that Kayfabe Commentaries did with Jim Cornette, and he revealed that the Sid role was originally going to go to Vader, with Vader laying out Lothario and Shawn coming back for revenge at Royal Rumble. However, Shawn didn’t like working with Vader and I think Vader even suffered an injury around this time too, so they went with Sid instead.
I know a lot of people really like this match, but it was only “good” for me, and that was mostly down to the hot crowd and Shawn working his arse off to have the best match he possibly could. Sid was pretty much awful, with his selling being spotty and his offence looking hokey and sloppy. At least someone like Ultimate Warrior had a basic set of moves that he could perform with some level of aptitude, so that when you put him in there with a Rude, Hogan or Savage he could carry his end in a good match. Sid wasn’t capable of doing even that, and it took prime Shawn Michaels in all his glory to get him into the *** range, and even then he only barely managed it
WWF Survivor Series 1997
Champ: Bret Hart Vs Shawn Michaels
You might have possibly heard of this one. For those not au fait, Bret Hart had given notice to the WWF whilst still the Champ and was WCW bound. Logic dictated that he’d drop the belt here due to it being essentially the last big show he’d work for the company (I think he was contracted up until December’s pay per view, but by then WCW would have likely already announced the signing), but he didn’t want to lose in Canada due to seeing himself as a Canadian Hero and he especially didn’t want to lose to Shawn Michaels because he didn’t like the fact Shawn had previously stated he wouldn’t do jobs for anyone. Vince McMahon feared that if WCW announced that they had poached his Champ then it would do serious PR damage to the company, so he put a real life plan in place to get it back. Hence he told Bret the match would end in a DQ and that the Title issue would get sorted at a later date, but that wasn’t how things were to turn out.
Shawn was all about being a heel jerk during this period, and he makes sure to ingratiate himself with the Canadian crowd by humping the Canadian flag. It’s kind of interesting how precious American’s are about people disrespecting their flag when you consider how they treat the flags of other nations sometimes. Ultimate Warrior ripping up the Iraqi flag comes to mind. One interesting aspect of this show is that they have a French speaking ring announcer due to it being in Montreal, which is the sort of thing you never get in the more anodyne WWE of today where every show needs to look exactly the same as the last one. Bret is of course hugely over amongst his fellow Canadians, getting a great reaction for his entrance.
The cut of the show on the Network is one that omits “WWF”, which makes me think they just copied and pasted it from one of those anthology sets that they released before settling things with the panda shaggers. This match is a wild brawl to start, with both men brawling all over ringside and even into the crowd at one stage. It’s actually really good action and delivers what you’d want from the hate filled rivalry this had been promoted as being. This also gives an excuse for a gaggle of refs, Sgt Slaughter and Vince McMahon to come down to ringside, which will prove to be important later on.
After a really fantastic bit of brawling, we make it back to the ring where Shawn chokes Bret with the flag of Quebec before working some heat. Shawn really was a heat magnet during this period, as there are people on the front row challenging him to a fight, so he heads outside so he can beat Bret up right in front of them just so he can make them even angrier. That’s outstanding heeling I must say. This match really is great, it has the sort of intensity that matches today so rarely have, and it’s not like they’ve done anything really other than brawling and heat spots either, because they haven’t had to. Less can truly be more sometimes.
Bret eventually fights back by going after Shawn’s legs, getting the ring post figure four to a big pop from the crowd. Shawn sells that exceptionally, with the referee finally being able to prise Bret off. A standard figure four follows back inside, with Shawn again selling it fantastically. Say what you want about Shawn for what comes next, but his actual performance in this match has been top notch. Bret has been good too, showing a real mean streak and looking as believable as always. This is possibly my second favourite match I’ve seen from these two outside of the Smack Em’ Whack Em’ tape.
However, all good things must come to an end and thus does this match, as Shawn puts Bret in a Sharpshooter, ostensibly to allow Bret to counter it to one of his own and lead leading to a run-in for the agreed DQ finish. Before Bret can execute the counter however, referee Earl Hebner calls for the bell as if he tapped out, and Vince aggressively orders the timekeeper to ring the bell also. Thus Shawn is declared the “winner” and is handed the belt, whilst Bret looks on perplexed. They quickly end the show before we get to see any of the post-match where Bret destroys the ringside area.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: SHAWN MICHAELS
This was a great brawl, and in another time and place where they could have done a clean non-screw job finish it might have even rated higher. As it was, that would be Bret’s last match in WWE until 2010, and it laid the groundwork for Vince to become the evil Mr. McMahon character, thus giving hot babyface act Stone Cold his main foil and leading to the WWF fighting their way back to the top spot in North American wrestling. Its weird how things work out sometimes isn’t it?
WWF Survivor Series 1998: Deadly Game (Cause it’s a Deadly Game)
Final of the Deadly Game (Cause it’s a Deadly Game) Tournament for the WWF Title
Mankind Vs The Rock
The story here was that Stone Cold Steve Austin was the WWF Champ going into the autumn of 1998, but the now evil Vince McMahon was sick of having a wrestler he couldn’t control as the top guy, so he booked Austin in a glorified handicap match with Undertaker and Kane. Both Taker and Kane pinned Austin at the same time, thus leading to Vince declaring the belt vacant and booking a match between the two Brothers of Destruction for Judgment Day in October 1998. He decided to get cute though and force Stone Cold to be the ref, saying he’d either humble himself and raise the hand of a new Champ or be fired.
Austin of course chose to be fired instead and attacked both Taker and Kane for a no-contest (Which is a finish you can actually do on WWF No Mercy for the N64 if you play as the guest ref) which led to Vince following through on his threat and then announcing a Deadly Game Tournament (Cause it’s a Deadly Game) for the Title that would happen at Survivor Series. Shane McMahon decided that Vince sacking Austin was wrong, and instead brought him back to the WWF, which caused Vince to bust him down to status of referee as a punishment. However, it was a SWERVE, as Shane cost Austin his semi-final with Mankind to go heel.
Thus we have this Final, with Mankind as Vince’s chosen Corporate Champion and Rock the last hope for the babyfaces. They actually had Rock batter Vince on the go-home Raw to really push him as one of the top babyface candidates to win the belt, and he was super over coming into the show as a result. I do have to say that Survivor Series 98 is a pretty rotten show from a purely in-ring perspective, but the storytelling throughout the Deadly Game Tournament (Cause it’s a Deadly Game) is so good that it ultimately makes up for it in my opinion and I really enjoy the overall show as a result. I’m not exactly a huge fan of Vince Russo’s SWERVE happy car crash booking, but this show is one instance of him getting the balance absolutely right on the night.
They teased that the McMahon’s split from the building after screwing Austin. Yup, I’m sure we won’t see them again tonight. No siree, they’re long gone by now. Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, we cut to the back during Rock’s entrance to see that Vince and Shane are still in the building. HOW UNFORSEEN!!! So yeah, the odds are stacked even more in Mankind’s favour now that The McMahon’s haven’t left. Rock and Mankind would go on to have some decent matches, and this is kind of one of them, although it’s by no means their best due to them needing to call most of it on the fly. It always tended to work better when Rock was the heel, as it allowed Mankind to sell and bump to gain sympathy from the crowd. Rock hadn’t quite gotten his babyface match down yet and wouldn’t until 2000 really.
The McMahons do eventually join us, with Jim Ross being pretty funny on commentary with some of his barbs towards them. Man, back when JR was a really good commentator and not a grumpy old man who made fun of the other commentators for having the temerity to know who Toshiaki Kawada is. Halcyon days. Rock bumps Mankind around a bit outside the ring, but then goes to a chin lock back inside. The work here has been okay but they just haven’t managed to get a good flow going and the match has been stop-start as a result. Again, it’s understandable, but it’s not the Final you’d hope it would be. That being said, Savage Vs Dibiase at Mania IV was a disappointment too, so it’s not like this hasn’t happened in a WWF tournament before.
Rock does finally manage to wake the crowd up by clocking Mankind with a chair outside the ring, which surprisingly doesn’t lead to a DQ, and that gets him a two back inside. Of course, it would be explained soon why it wasn’t a DQ in a roundabout sort of way. I love the foreshadowing here, it really is some great storytelling as so many of the connecting pieces become clearer when you look back afterwards in an attempt to reconstruct the murder. This has picked up a bit since it became more of a brawl, with Mankind clobbering Rock on the American commentary table, which gets him a two back inside.
We head into the closing stretch, with Mankind taking a bump through the Spanish table from the second rope when Rock dodges an elbow drop in a pretty darn impressive looking bump that did not look fun due to his legs connecting with the front of the table as it collapsed. We get some near falls following that back inside, which eventually leads to Mankind applying the Socko Claw to seemingly put Rock out, only for Rock to hang on and then take him down with a Rock Bottom. We then get our biggest SWERVE in a series of them, as Rock shoots Vince the People’s Eyebrow and Vince returns it, leading to a Sharpshooter from Rock. We get a recreation of the screw job from the previous year, with Vince calling for the bell and Rock becoming the new Corporate Champion.
WINNER OF THE DEADLY GAME TOURNAMENT (CAUSE IT’S A DEADLY GAME) AND NEW WWF CHAMPION: THE ROCK
The match got cooking eventually, but it took a while. The crowd reaction was fantastic as they popped big at first but then it dawned on them what had happened, with it getting pushed over the edge when they saw Rock hug The McMahon’s to cement the new alliance. Mankind gets beaten up again post-match, both by Rock and a returning Austin, but his time would come soon enough. This was a super angle and a great way to lay the table for WrestleMania. Of course Mania XV ended up being a bit of a disaster and one of the worst Mania’s ever, but they had a strong base to build from at least thanks to this.
93 was a pretty forgettable match, but everything else was at least decent and some of the matches were really good, with Bret and Diesel being the best of the bunch.
Hopefully I’ll see you all next week when we cover 1999 to 2004