– Boredom sucks. Let’s rant.
– Live from Indianapolis, Indiana.
– Your hosts are Vince, King & EVIL JIM ROSS!
– Opening match: Steve Austin v. HHH. Five years ago, this was hardly a money match, as Austin was supposed to be finishing off Jobbio Vega for good here, but injuries to Vega prevented that and HHH took his place. Austin’s pre-match promo is awesome (for 1996), as he cusses everyone out and says that those who have a problem with his language can kiss his ass. That’s why he was the coolest guy in wrestling at that point. Jim Ross’ microphone has mysterious transmission problems, most notably when he’s bitching out McMahon for firing him those other times. It’s a running gag throughout the match and it’s a damn funny one. HHH gets an armdrag to start and hits the FORMAL BOW OF DOOM, which is 1/5 of his offense at the time right there. Hunter bails and jaws with some fans at ringside, and stalls. Back in, Austin flips him off and works a headlock. JR, meanwhile, claims full responsibility for bringing Bret Hart back to the WWF as Vince rolls his eyes. Hunter bails and stalls. Slapfest and Hunter bails again. Back in for a criss-cross and Austin hits a pair of elbows for two and works an armbar. Austin goes to a wristlock, which Ross sarcastically helps Vince out with calling. You haven’t LIVED until you’ve heard Jim Ross going “That’s called a wristlock, VinceÃ¢â‚¬Â in his most patronizing voice. HHH goes low as Lawler tries to defuse the situation by calling THAT, but Austin clotheslines HHH for two and he works the arm again. HHH knees out and takes over, pounding Austin in the corner. Austin rallies, but gets backdropped out of the corner. Hunter suplexes him and hits a kneedrop for two. Backdrop suplex gets two and we HIT THE CHINLOCK. Sleeper, reversed by Austin, reversed again by HHH, but Austin counters with a jawbreaker for two. See, now THAT’S how to do that spot in a fresh way without just doing the stupid sleeper/reversal bit. Stungun and the FU Elbow get two. HHH USES THE KNEE to come back and comes off the 2nd rope with (what else) a kneedrop for two. Then one of those surreal moments hits as Lawler tries to stir the pot at ringside by egging JR on with “Don’t you just HATE it when Vince goes Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ1-2-he-got-him-no-he-didn’t?Ã¢â‚¬Â, drawing ominous silence from Vince. Too bad that Ramon & Diesel Mark II was such a stupid idea, because the bickering announcer bit was hilarious. Double KO in the ring, and Mr. Perfect struts out to a big pop. He was feuding with HHH at the time, and he continues his MO from that time by stealing HHH’s valet. Austin jumps Hunter, and then gets in Hennig’s face for good measure. HHH uses the distraction to take over again, but stops mid-Pedigree to chase after his wayward valet. Austin follows, but gets suplexed on the floor. Pedigree attempt out there is reversed into a catapult that sends HHH into the ringpost, and back in we go for a Stunner (with no KICK or WHAM) that gets the pin at 15:28. For those keeping track, this was the match that indicated once and for all that Austin was being groomed for the main event. ***1/4
– WWF World tag title: Owen Hart & British Bulldog v. The Smoking Gunns. Poor Billy and Bart were having problems, what with Sunny dumping Billy and all, and this actually ended up being their last match on PPV. I’m convinced that cutting their hair and shaving their porn-star moustaches off was the deathblow to the team, but maybe I’m alone in that feeling. Billy grabs a headlock, frustrating Owen. Owen tries his alley-oop wristlock counter, but gets clotheslined. Billy goes up, but misses and the champs double-team him into oblivion. Bulldog misses a blind charge and the Gunns work him over. Bart powerslams him, but misses a bodypress. Bulldog hits his own for two. Owen comes in with a missile dropkick for two, and Bart is YOUR cowboy-in-peril. Bulldog literally whips Bart from pillar-to-post. Owen gets a legdrop for two. Billy does some showboating on the apron, and Bart accidentally collides with him on an irish whip. DISSENTION! The Gunns cheapshot Owen and hit a double legsweep for two. Billy gets a neckbreaker but won’t cover. Bart hits his own for two. The Gunns get their own version of Poetry in Motion and set up for the Sidewinder, but Bulldog casually sneaks in, pushes Owen out of the way, and Owen hits the stunned Bart with a leg lariat for the pin at 9:13. Decent little tag match, but the lack of clear heel-face lines hurt the heat. **1/4
– JR storms out of the broadcast position and hits the ring for some random bitterness, absolutely letting loose on Vince McMahon and claiming total credit for bringing Bret back. He finishes with a flurry, calling Vince an egomaniac who talks out of both sides of his mouth, and then departs.
– Earlier tonight, Ahmed Johnson punked out Faarooq, resulting in him taking a month off and resurfacing as the leader of the Nation of Domination. Faarooq thus loses his rematch from the I-C title tournament finals and is replaced by Goldust.
– Intercontinental title match: “WildmanÃ¢â‚¬Â Marc Mero v. Goldust. Goldust fondles Mero to start and pounds him. Mero comes back and works the arm energetically. Goldust nails him, but gets speared and backdropped, so he bails. Mero follows him out with the somersault plancha, then tosses him back in for a slingshot legdrop that gets two. He goes up, but Goldust pulls him down with a chokeslam and tosses him. Back in, lariat gets two. Mero runs into a knee and Goldust gets two. Criss-cross leads to a Mero bodypress for two, but Goldust hits a lariat and stops mid-match to cut a promo about the usual “kissing everyone in the audienceÃ¢â‚¬Â nonsense. Mero comes back with a backdrop suplex, and the Merosault gets two. Goldust tries the Curtain Call, which is reversed to a rollup for two. He dumps Mero, drawing color commentator Mr. Perfect over. Hunter of course joins us as well, jawing with Perfect to keep him from helping Mero. Back in, Mero finishes with the samoan drop and Shooting Star Press at 11:36. I tremble with disbelief at how good Mero was and how not-good he became mere months after this era. **1/4
– Sid v. Vader. Winner here gets the shot at Shawn Michaels for Survivor Series. Oops, gave away the winner. Slugfest to start, won by Sid. Legdrop gets two. Vader nails and pounds him in the corner, and knocks him down with a clothesline. Avalanche and Sid bails. He sells a back injury on the floor for what seems like an excessively long time, but it might just be the usual time-space dilation that occurs when watching a Sid match, which renders each minute into an hour. Sid tries a sunset flip in, but gets a butt in the face. Vader hits a pair of short-arm clotheslines, but Sid suplexes him. Vader misses a blind charge and Sid goes upstairs(!), but Vader catches him and hits a Big Fat Splash for two. Another one, but he picks Sid up at two. That’s never smart. Rule #3 of wrestling: Don’t EVER pick the babyface up at two. Pump splash hits knee, and Sid comes back with a slam. Big boot leads to the powerbomb, but Vader goes low to block and tries his own. That doesn’t work either, and Sid chokeslams him for the pin at 7:58. Sid wasn’t looking too cooperative there for whatever reason. *
– Buried Alive: Undertaker v. Mankind. Slugfest to start, won by Mankind. Taker comes back, so Mankind bails and gets kicked in the head and into the railing. Taker goes up top and follows him out with a tope(!). Air Callaway! They fight down the aisle and over to the grave, where a shovel gives Mankind the upper hand. Both guys roll down the hill and head back to the ring. Taker pounds on him and Mankind bails again. Taker follows and chokes him down with a cable, and they head into the crowd. UT then tosses him over the railing, and follows with a dive over the railing himself, onto Mankind! It’s LUCHATAKER tonight, kids. Back in, Taker keeps pounding poor Mick. Ropewalk, but Paul Bearer crotches him. Choking follows. Taker fights back, but Bearer slips Mankind an international object, and he makes good use of it. Taker comes out of the corner with an elbow and takes over with the object. Flying lariat and legdrop put Mankind down. He stops to chase Paul, but gets decked with a chairshot. They fight back to the grave, where Mankind beats him down and puts him into the hole. UT rises from the dirt and pulls Mankind in with him, but a well-timed DIRTBALL OF DEATH blinds UT. He manages to hiptoss Mankind off the dirt mound and they head back to the ring. Mankind gets a pulling piledriver and pulls some of his hair out. Taker comes back, but misses an elbowdrop and Mick DDTs him on the chair, then rocks out with the urn. Zombie situp and UT chairshots Mankind and a legdrops a chair on his face. Mankind retreats to the apron, and necksnaps Taker on the top rope. Piledriver attempt on the floor is reversed, and UT falls backwards, with Mick hanging upside-down on his back, right into the stairs. SICK. UT brings the stairs with him back in the ring and blasts Mankind with them. It’s like playing No Mercy. Tombstone kills Mankind dead, and Taker carries him to the grave on his back. Mankind suddenly slaps on the Mandible Claw, but Taker breaks and chokeslams him into the grave, and buries him alive at 18:29. The gimmick pretty much ruined the match, as the finish was too anticlimactic thanks to Taker having to carry Mick to the grave, but it was an effective brawl otherwise. ***1/2
– Suddenly, Terry Gordy, as the Executioner, attacks out of nowhere with a shovel and the heels proceed to burying our hero. Then, amazingly, an electrical storm breaks out, and it just happens to be localized inside Market Square Arena, as the lights go on and off and Undertaker escapes through the trapdoor. Er, I mean, moves onto the next spirtual plane. A bunch of heels come down to help with the shovelling, and after a brisk 10 minute dirt-piling session, the grave is maybe Ã‚Â¾ of the way full. Well, no one ever accused the average heel of being a perfectionist (with one notable exception), so that’s good enough for them and they leave. BUT WAIT! After Gordy sticks a shovel into the symbolic grave, a LIGHTNING BOLT strikes from the ceiling, and Undertaker’s gloved hand pops up through the grave. Geez, even in DEATH the guy has to get one last babyface comeback. Undertaker would of course be resurrected just in time for the next PPV, with spiffy new threads and a more realistic character, and I’m not sure what happened to that Mankind guy.
The Bottom Line: I don’t remember liking this show originally, but it’s a surprisingly solid outing from the WWF at a time when the only solids being produced by them were of the fecal variety. I could live without Sid v. Vader, but everything else is good->really good and the finishes are all clean, so no complaints here. I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to track it down outside of the novelty of the opening match, but if you’ve got it, it’s worth a looksee.