– Live from Philadelphia, PA
– Your hosts are Vince, JR and Mr. Spiffy.
– Opening match: Justin Hawk Bradshaw v. Savio Vega. This is a Caribbean strap match, so by default I hate it already. Bradshaw whips him before the strap can even be secured. They fight to the floor, and when Savio gets near the front row the Sandman pops up and spits beer at him. This was BIG news on the newsgroup back then, as people wondered about a possible “shoot” on ECW’s home turf. With Taz turning up on RAW the next night, it turned out to be an angle, duh. Security tosses Sandman and cohort Tommy Dreamer while the announcers basically bury ECW. Match ends in the usual fashion, with Savio sneaking behind Bradshaw to touch three, then getting accidentally pulled into the fourth for the win at 7:07. *
– Jose Lothario v. James E. Cornette. This would be the extension of the Shawn-Vader feud, and a horrible match to boot. BUT FIRST! Back in the dressing room, Savio is jumped by two mysterious felons who dress suspiciously like Razor Ramon and Diesel. I’ve made all the jokes humanly possible about THAT situation, so if you’re still not clued into it, Ask the Rick. Jose punches and pins Cornette at 0:57. -****
– Brian Pillman conducts an interview with Owen Hart and Steve Austin, and they proceed to trash the crowd and then verbally bury Bret Hart. That would lead to Bret’s return against Austin at Survivor Series, and ultimately to Pillman & Owen siding with Bret against Austin.
– WWF tag team title match: The Smokin’ Gunns v. Owen Hart & British Bulldog. Sunny was managing the Gunns at this point, doing the tag team title whore gimmick. Better than the crack whore she became, I guess. Meanwhile, the delirious Jim Cornette was tricked by Clarence Mason (with legal offices based in “Sioux City”, nyuk nyuk) into signing over the contracts of Bulldog and Owen. Wasn’t this 1996 WWF New Generation crap just NUMBER ONE AND THE BEST? And Vince McMahon wonders why he lost so much money that year. No one really plays face or heel here, so the crowd doesn’t give a crap about either. Slow start, then Bart gets clipped and Owen & Bulldog spend the next 60 years working on his knee. Meanwhile, has anyone ever actually heard Vince McMahon use the word “Notwithstanding” as part of a complete sentence and in the proper context? Bulldog gets caught in the Gunn corner and Billy comes in to clean house on him. They hit the Sidewinder but Mason is distracting the ref. Billy hits on Sunny, allowing Bulldog to shove Bart into him, then powerslam and pin Bart at 10:53 without even tagging Owen back in. Weird. Bulldog and Owen get the titles and would hold them for the better part of a year. *1/2
– Jerry Lawler v. Mark Henry. You know, normally you wouldn’t think Worst Match of the Night would be a heated competition with Jose Lothario v. Jim Cornette on the undercard, but then Anything Can HappenÃ¢â€žÂ¢ in the WWF. Henry was just an overpaid Olympic Athlete and World’s Strongest Man rather than an overpaid sex addict and World’s Horniest Man at that point. Basically a comedy match to establish that, yes, Mark Henry is in fact a Big Scary Black Guy, in case it wasn’t glaringly obvious already. Lawler bumps around and plays “hide the foreign object”, but a devastating body vice gets the submission for Henry at 5:10. That’s $10 million well spent, guys. -** Meanwhile about a year before this, they lowballed Chris Benoit because he wasn’t marketable. The New Rockers and HHH storm the ring for god knows what reason and get routed. I just want to point out that no matter how bad it was for the WCW 4 under Kevin Sullivan, Al Snow was treated 100 times worse by the WWF in 1996.
– Undertaker v. Goldust. This is the culmination of the quasi-feud that Undertaker was having with Goldust in between jobs to Mankind. It’s also quite possibly the most boring match I’ve seen in the last two weeks. 10 minutes of Goldust punch and kick offense leads to an Undertaker comeback and tombstone for the pin at 10:22. Absolutely nothing of note happened in the middle. Ã‚Â¼*
– 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. Even the announcers comment on it. Mankind finally blocks a snapmare with a sort of judo choke (like the Tazmission, except not), 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. The finish is then changed on the fly by Vince McMahon, as he relays the instructions to wrap things up to the battered guys. 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. Original booking had Mankind winning the title here, but something happened and it was decided to go with either Vader or Sid instead. 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. *****
– This was the ONLY match that could have saved this show from the worst of all-time list, but at 30 minutes out of a two-hour show, it saved it in spades. It’s one of the best matches of the 90s, and again I cry foul at the vastly more boring Bret v. Shawn match from Wrestlemania XII getting the Match of the Year honors.
The Bottom Line: Once again, worth a rental ONLY for the main event. The rest is junk. Ã¢â‚¬ËœNuff said.