I enjoyed doing Mind Games recently so let’s do the follow up show, featuring Mankind taking on The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match, whilst Sid and Vader collide for the #1 Contender status to the WWF Title
The event is emanating from Indianapolis, Indiana on the 20th of October 1996
Calling the action are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Heel Jim Ross
The pay per view intro is pretty great, all dark and foreboding.
The commentators do the intro and Ross is already feeling froggy about not being given a mic.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/ a valet Vs Stone Cold Steve Austin
This was the beginning stages of SHADES OF GREY BRO, as both of these guys are Heels but Savio Vega couldn’t compete so Hunter is filling in for him. Austin cuts an angry promo prior to the match, where he says he thinks that Savio isn’t injured and he also takes some cheap shots at Bret Hart as well. These two would of course go on to have MANY matches together over the years, but this was the first time they ever wrestled one another on TV/pay per view I believe.
Ross’ mic isn’t working to start and he’s very annoyed by it, whilst Vince seems amused by it. In a funny spot to open us up, both Austin and Hunter take a break to chat some wham to some fans in the front row to show that both of them are very much bad guys even though they are facing one another here. Heel Ross is pretty entertaining on commentary, with Lawler egging him on in a funny bit, which of course would change once Ross went back to being a babyface.
Hunter was feuding with Mr. Perfect and he was scheduled to face Hunter on the following edition of Raw, so the crowd chants for him at one stage. That match didn’t end up happening though I believe, with them doing a bogus injury angle that lead to Triple H wrestling Marc Mero instead. The wrestling is really good here, as Hunter was already mechanically sound in-between the ropes and Austin hadn’t suffered his slew of knee and neck injuries, so he can still really go on the mat.
The crowd isn’t entirely sure who to cheer, but they do like that the wrestling is good, so they react to the better moves, holds and spots in the match and seem to be appreciating the match as an athletic contest. Austin and Hunter were always good at working a competitive realistic looking match with one another, and this one is no exception. Both men’s selling, bumping and feeding is on point as well, and in general the action in this one is very good indeed.
Austin even busts out the Stun Gun at one stage, called as such by Ross, which leads to him getting a collection of two counts. Hunter gets some two counts as well, as this match has been built nicely. Eventually we get a double down off a double clothesline and that leads to Mr. Perfect coming down to the ringside area for a big pop. Perfect steals Hunter’s valet, which leads to Austin throwing a drink in Perfect’s face.
I like how both of the Heels were distracted by Perfect there actually, it was a cute subversion. They even wrestle for a bit more after that too, with Hunter giving up a Pedigree in order to try and get Perfect in the aisle, leading to Austin chasing after him and them doing some spots out on the floor, including Austin giving Hunter a big catapult into the ring post before chucking him back in for a Stone Cold Stunner for three.
WINNER: STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN
I really enjoyed this. Great wrestling and the stuff with Perfect was good as well. I also like how they actually wrestled a bit more after it too, so the finish didn’t feel that cheap
Ross is still annoyed over his mic not working.
We get a video package to hype the next match. Billy Gunn was infatuated with Sunny, but The Smoking Gunns lost the tag belts to Owen and Davey, leading to her firing them as clients. The Gunns now want the belts back, with Billy also wanting Sunny for good measure.
Michael Hayes is with The Smoking Gunns. Billy is still more focused on Sunny than the match, which is annoying for Bart and would eventually lead to the team splitting up.
WWF Tag Team Titles
Champs: Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith w/ Clarence Mason Vs The Smoking Gunns
This is another Heel Vs Heel match, but Owen and Davey will probably get more cheers due to them being cooler than The Gunns. This match has some really good wrestling in it, with Owen in particular being just fantastic. We see that Sunny is watching the match backstage, with possible intentions of taking The Gunns back under her wing provided they collect the gold again. She can hear the audio as well and even winks at Lawler when he asks her to.
The match is mostly back and forth, with everyone getting a chance to get into the ring and do something. It’s clear that The Gunns aren’t on the same page, with Billy trying so hard to win in order to get Sunny back that he isn’t thinking straight, leading to miscommunication. It’s a simple story but they tell it well and the wrestling is good, so I’m having fun with it. The only downside is that the crowd isn’t particularly into it, but aside from that this is a fun match. Eventually Billy takes too long coming off the top with The Sidewinder and that leads to Davey breaking it up so that Owen can finish Billy with a spin kick.
WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: OWEN & DAVEY
That was fun, although it would have benefitted from a hotter crowd
Jim Ross cuts a Heel promo in the ring, where he complains about Vince firing him twice and then promises that Bret will be on Raw tomorrow. He of course takes credit for Bret coming back. Ross then storms off.
Earlier tonight, Faarooq gets injured by Ahmed Johnson. Faarooq didn’t have The Nation of Domination with him yet, but this beat down was the impetus for him getting back up I think.
Mr. Perfect joins us at the desk to replace Jim Ross.
WWF Intercontinental Title
Champ: Marc Mero w/ Sable Vs Goldust w/ Marlena
Goldust is filling in for Faarooq now that Ahmed has injured him. Goldust had defeated Mero at SummerSlam earlier in the year, and the story here is that Mero has never defeated him, thus establishing that he has a mountain to climb here. That’s another example of simple storytelling but it works well and makes complete sense, so I’m happy.
Goldust wasn’t far off from a babyface turn here, and that shows a bit in his ring style, as he is working at a much quicker clip than usual and keeping the histrionics to a minimum. It’s good action early on actually, as Mero does some standard babyface fare such as arm drags and whatnot, before getting a big running flip dive to the floor to pop the crowd when Goldust attempts to head outside for some respite.
Mero keeps going for high risk moves, and that allows Goldust to cut him off with a powerbomb/slam styled move off the top rope, leading to some heat. Goldust is pretty aggressive in the heat, taking Mero out of the ring to slam him face first into the ring steps and just generally working on the front foot, which is night and day from the slow methodical pace he used to work earlier in 1996. The match is much better for it too.
Mero sells well in the heat, and Goldust grabs a mic at one stage to yell at the crowd, which succeeds in winding them up and getting them behind Mero to make a comeback. Mero subsequently does, getting a moonsault press off the top rope for two, leading into some more near falls. There are some shenigans involving Hunter and Perfect outside the ring at one stage, which leads to Perfect clocking Goldust whilst the ref is trying to get Hunter out of there. That allows Mero to get a Samoan Drop on Goldust before heading up top with a Shooting Star Press for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: MARC MERO
Another match that I enjoyed
Mero, Sable and Perfect all celebrate together following that, but Perfect would soon turn on Mero to assist Hunter in winning the belt. Goldust would then turn face and feud with Hunter into WrestleMania season, leading to a match at Mania 13
We get a video package to hype up the next match. Vader is annoyed that Sid is using a powerbomb because he sees that as his move, even though he’s never really done it in the WWF as a finisher and used the Pump Splash and Moonsault more.
Winner gets a WWF Title shot at Survivor Series
Vader w/ Jim Cornette Vs Sycho Sid
Sid is of course really over despite sucking on all kinds of levels, with even fans online seeming to love him as well for reasons I’ve never been able to work out. This match was famously pencilled in for the Main Event of Starrcade 93 until Sid went nuts with some scissors at a hotel in Blackburn and ended up getting sacked, leading to Ric Flair filling the void and going on to have one of the greatest matches of his career against Vader. Shawn Michaels was feuding with Vader and is friends with Sid, so he’s out for commentary here.
As usual with a Sid match, everything he does looks rubbish and his selling, bumping and feeding is all atrocious as well, but Vader does his best to try and get a match out of him. Sid’s punches in particular are just horrid, as he swings back and throws these plodding shots that would look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon let alone a Professional Wrestling bout. He somehow manages to do a Sunset Flip back into the ring without seriously hurting himself at one stage though, so he can hang his hat on that at least.
As a match between two big lads it’s structured well, but Sid’s execution is so bad that it hurts the overall match quality as a result. Vader’s stuff looks good and it seems he has it won with a splash off the second rope, but he keeps pulling Sid up at two, which is usually a bad move for a Heel to do in this kind of situation, and that indeed proves to be the case as Sid gets his knees up on a Pump Splash attempt before getting a big body slam and prepping for a powerbomb.
Cornette distracts Sid and the ref though, which allows Vader to clock Sid right in the Eudy’s and go for a powerbomb of his own, only for Sid to block it and then catch Vader with a Choke Slam OUTTA NOWHERE to pick up the three count and pop the crowd.
I just can’t get into Sid, but Vader’s stuff looked good
Shawn shakes Sid’s hand following that, but their relationship would disintegrate by the time they made it to Survivor Series.
Speaking of which, we get a Survivor Series hype video.
Jim Ross tries to stir things with Sid when it comes to the eventual match with Shawn.
Hype video for the upcoming match. Mankind debuted in the WWF and not only defeated Undertaker a couple of times but also stole his manager, Paul Bearer, for good measure. Taker got some brief revenge the previous month at Mind Games by stopping a Mankind beat down on Shawn Michaels and now we have a match where the loser has to get Buried Alive. This was a really good package.
Non-Sanctioned Buried Alive Match
Mankind w/ Paul Bearer Vs The Undertaker
There’s a grave at ringside and you have to bury your opponent in it to win. This is a really entertaining wild brawl, as was usually the case when these two went at it. The feud with Kevin Nash and then this feud with Mankind completely reinvigorated Undertaker after a mostly lousy 1995 and he was pretty hot going into 1997 as a result. I tend to say this a lot when I review this era of the WWF, but Undertaker morphing from the undead zombie to a more human wrestler who could actually sell and be hurt improved his matches hugely.
Normally these sorts of matches are pretty dull because you can’t really do near falls and everyone knows the match isn’t going to end until you start fighting around the gravesite, but they have such a fun brawl here that it’s entertaining all by itself and the lack of near falls doesn’t really hurt it. Both men take some hefty bumps, with Undertaker doing a number of big wild dives both to the floor and over the railings, whilst Mankind gets flung asunder on multiple occasions in order to get Undertaker’s rage and viciousness over.
There’s a great moment where Bearer distracts Taker at one stage and Mankind uses the chance to brain Taker with a relatively safe looking chair to the head (I think Taker managed to get his hand up) which leads to Undertaker selling on the floor whilst Mankind hugs the chair like it’s a beloved member of the family. Mick Foley just “got” that Mankind character didn’t he. They do fight over by the grave at different stages of course, which leads to another great spot where Mankind is on the defensive and thus throws a handful of dirt in Taker’s eyes to blind him so he can try and fight back.
In one of the many sick bumps Mankind takes, Under gets him up in an Alabama Slam and then falls back to send Mankind into the ring steps before clocking Mankind with the steps themselves a few times back inside the ring for good measure. The crowd is positively loving all of this and pop big when Taker finally gets Mankind with a Tombstone Piledriver and the drags him to the gravesite. Mankind applies a desperation Mandible Claw up there, but Taker fights off an urn attack and Choke Slams Mankind into the grave for the victory.
WINNER: THE UNDERTAKER
This was an excellent wild brawl and the crowd loved it
Taker wants to continue burying Mankind following that, with none of the refs being able to stop him. Terry Gordy under a mask as The Executioner does eventually make the save though by hitting Taker with a shovel and then fishing Mankind out of the grave. Mankind and Gordy then try to bury Undertaker but it takes a long time and Gordy doesn’t even have a shovel, so the rest of the Heel locker room runs down to help. It still ends up taking a while though. Undertaker would end up coming back at Survivor Series with a new attire to pay this off where he would finally get to pin Mankind and step away from the feud for a bit until they fought for the WWF Title in April 1997.
In the Home Video exclusive, Mankind and Paul Bearer cut a promo about what just happened and name The Executioner as such.
Meanwhile, back at the gravesite, Taker’s hand eventually sticks out of the grave in an iconic image to pop the crowd.
This show is pretty great. For a two hour show you more than get your monies worth with that opener and Main Event. Sid/Vader is the only match I really thought wasn’t that good, with everything else ranging from watchable to excellent.