The SmarK Retro Repost – Survivor Series 1996

– I haven’t watched this show in three years and I wasn’t terribly impressed with it at the time, so we’ll see if time has been kind to it

– Live from New York, NY

– Your hosts are Jim Ross & Vince McMahon.

– Free-For-All match: Bart Gunn, Jesse Jammes, Aldo Montoya & Bob Holly v. Billy Gunn, Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, Salvatore Sincere & The Sultan. I only include the pre-game match because it’s the Elephant Graveyard of Dead Gimmicks. Sultan (Today: Riziki Fatu, Sumo Wrestler) gets rid of Aldo (Today: Justin Credible) with a camel clutch without too much trouble. We take a short break in the action an AWESOME Austin-Hart promo. We return with Bart Gunn (Today: Mike Burton) taking a beating. He rallies to get Sal Sincere (Today: Tom Brandi) on a side slam. Justin Bradshaw (Today: Bradshaw) dominates Bob Holly (Today: Hardcore Holly) and pins him with the lariat. Jesse Jammes (Today: Road Dogg) cradles him in turn and pins him. Sultan comes in and suffers the same fate. Billy Gunn (Today: Mr. Ass) hits a fame-asser on Jammes and gets him, leaving the epic Smoking Gunns battle. It ends quickly as Bart gets the pin off a forearm shot at 10:42. Not bad, if totally rushed and all. **1/4

– On with the show for real

– Opening match: Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Leif Cassidy & Marty Jannetty v. Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon, Phineas Godwinn & Henry Godwinn. Well, 6 out of 8 isn’t bad. Slow start with Godwinns & Rockers squaring off. I still love Leif Cassidy and I wish Al Snow would channel that character (and specifically his workrate) again. HOG pins Jannetty with a slop drop. Owen dives in and gets HOG in turn with a leg lariat. Davey then gets rid of Phineas quickly with a powerslam. Hey, the dead weight is all gone! Furnas gets dominated by Owen in a cool sequence. Lafon comes in and gets Leif on a wild inverted superplex. Owen takes over on him, however, and it’s another great sequence. Lafon gets the Bulldog on a complex sunset flip, leaving Owen 2-on-1. Bulldog clips Lafon on the way out, however, evening the odds a bit. Owen works on the knee, and the Sharpshooter is broken up by Furnas. Furnas then gets the tag and absolutely destroys Owen with a series of suplexes, ending with a release german suplex, that looked like it could have broke Owen’s neck, for the pin at 20:38. Great opener, and a reminder of how great Owen was. ***3/4 Survivors: Furnas & Lafon.

– Mankind v. Undertaker. This was the debut of UT’s current biker look, with the black leather suit. Paul Bearer is suspended in a cage for this. UT is wearing bat wings and is lowered from the ceiling, for those who care about that sort of thing. This would be a rematch from the first Buried Alive match, where UT was, well, buried alive by Mankind. Taker goes all UFC to start, working on Mick’s arm to neutralize the mandible claw. UT no-sells the Cactus clothesline and they brawl into the crowd. Back in the ring and Mick controls, but UT bites his hand. Mick gets the claw but UT tosses him to the floor. UT hits the ropewalk for two. Mankind puts him down and goes to the top, but gets caught coming down. Mick counters with the Mandible Claw, however. Taker fights it off and chokeslams him, which was a really cool spot. Taker rolls out to take a breather and Mankind tries a somersault off the apron and misses, as usual. Back in the ring, and Mankind finds an object in his tights and plays Jerry Lawler with it. UT fights him off in the corner, however, and powers him into the tombstone for the pin at 14:49. God damn, no one gets the best out of Mark like Mick. *** UT gets five minutes with Paul as a result, but the Executioner (Terry Gordy) breaks it up and Bearer escapes.

– Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Crush, Goldust & Jerry Lawler v. Marc Mero, Rocky Maivia, Barry Windham & Jake Roberts. Rocky looks like such a tool. Hey, who’s the blonde chick at ringside with Mero? Rena-something, right? I would be remiss in not mentioning Sunny’s color commentary here as she goes all catty on Rena and squabbles with JR. She also claims to never smoke OR drink. Right, and I’m not the least bit biased or capitalistic. Incredibly boring start, until Rocky comes in and gets walloped. Hey, what’s that stuff he’s doing, where he gets hit and acts like he’s hurt? Oh yeah, it’s SELLING. It’s been so long since he’s done it, I’d forgotten he could. He hot tags Jake, who promptly gets a beating in the enemy corner. Lawler’s mocking of Jake is hilarious, until he takes a DDT and gets pinned. Oops. Windham then goes quietly from a Curtain Call via Goldust. HHH comes comes in and USES THE KNEE. Only took him 14 minutes to work it in. Boring Mero-HHH segment ends with Mero hitting the Merosault for the pin. He gets knocked out of the ring right after and counted out, then Crush heart-punches Jake and pins him. So it’s Rock 2-on-1. They double-team him, but heel miscommunicative wackiness allows a quick pin on Crush. Shoulderbreaker gets Goldust at 23:42 for a big face pop. Man, THAT sure didn’t last long after this match. Match was horrible, by the way. 1/2* Survivor: Rocky Maivia.

– Bret Hart v. Steve Austin. Austin gets all in Bret’s face, and a slugfest erupts. They trade hammerlocks, and Austin gains the advantage with power moves. Bret rallies, but gets caught with a stungun. Austin works the neck, and another slugfest develops. Bret comes back with an inverted atomic drop and a rollup for two. Russian legsweep gets two. Bulldog is countered by Austin, but Bret manages a top rope elbow for two. They fight outside, and Austin rams him into the post. Bret gets pissed and they fight into the crowd. Austin catapults Bret onto the spanish table and pounds him. He drops an elbow from the apron for good measure. Back in the ring, Austin continues punishing the neck. He uses that good ol’ heel standby: The rope-assisted abdominal stretch. Bret breaks and gets a stungun on Austin in a neat bit of irony. Rolling cradle gets two. To the top, but Austin gets a superplex. Bret pulls a Dynamite Kid and cradles Austin on the mat, however, for a two count. Austin manages the Stunner out of nowhere, but takes half a second too long to cover and only gets two. He keeps covering and gets two more two counts. You NEVER see that anymore. I can understand the kickout, since Austin didn’t kick him in the gut and flip him the bird first. Austin tries a Texas Cloverleaf, and I’m thinking Vince must be going nuts trying not to jump up and yell “RING THE BELL” from ringside. Austin sends Bret crashing to the post, but Bret reverses a bow-and-arrow into the Sharpshooter. Austin makes the ropes. Bret gets a sleeper, Austin breaks, and hooks the Million Dollar Dream. Bret walks the ropes and flips over for the pin at 28:34 to end an INCREDIBLE match, possibly the last, best match in North America before the Great Changeover to the Austin era in 1997. *****

– Faarooq, “Diesel”, “Razor Ramon” & Vader v. Flash Funk, Savio Vega, Yokozuna & Jimmy Snuka. Yeah, it’s the letdown of letdowns here, as the MYSTERY PARTNER OF DOOM turned out to the Superfly. This would be the debut of the retooled Faarooq and his Nation of Domination, Version 1.0. Vader & Funk start, with Funk pulling out a moonsault to the floor right away. Back in the ring, and “Razor” dominates Savio. Have I mentioned recently how utterly retarded that whole angle was? Yoko is so grotesquely, utterly, FAT here that I’m shocked he didn’t drop dead from walking to the ring. Big Daddy Dentist gets beat up in the face corner, but comes back to powerbomb Savio for the pin during a melee. Snuka gets the superfly splash on “Razor” for the pin, but then a big brawl erupts and everyone is DQ’d at 9:42 for the lamest ending ever in a Survivor Series match. DUD Survivors: None.

– WWF World title: Shawn Michaels v. Sid. Crowd reaction to Shawn is mixed, to say the least. Sid pounds on Shawn to start, and gets a big face pop. They get into a slugfest, which is pretty dumb on Shawn’s part. A foot race erupts, and Shawn clips Sid back in the ring, drawing big heel heat. The crowd reactions are almost as interesting as the match. Then the crowd actually starts chanting “Let’s Go Sid” during a figure-four. Sid shakes it off and starts overpowering Shawn, who then goes back to the knee and gets mad boos. Shawn does the skin-the-cat move back into the ring, and gets clotheslined by Sid. Heh. They fight outside, and Sid kills him. Back in the ring, more pummelling. Shawn manages to get to the top, but gets caught coming down with a shoulderbreaker from Sid for two. Shawn asks for more, so Sid pastes him a few times. Shawn comes back with a slam, but misses whatever from the top. Sid hits the cobra clutch, getting a two count. HBK escapes and tries the superkick, but Sid simply catches him and chokeslams him to a BIG pop. The psychology here is actually terrific, which is shocking for a Sid match. Powerbomb attempt, but Shawn reverses to a small package for two. Shawn makes the comeback, kips up, and Sid rips his head off. YEAH! Damn, I’m marking out for Sid, what the hell’s wrong with me? Sid grabs the camera from the cameraman at ringside (before y’all e-mail me, YES, I know this was “stolen” from November to Remember the night before) and nails Jose Lothario with it, who proceeds to overact a heart attack. Frighteningly, the crowd CHEERS this. Shawn hits Sweet Chin Music, but decides to check on Jose instead of covering. That costs him the match, as the ref gets bumped when Shawn gets back in, so Sid hits him with the camera to knock him out, then powerbombs and pins him to win his first World title (or major title of any kind for that matter) at 19:59. MAJOR face pop for that. This was quite possibly Sid’s best match ever, to boot. **** Shawn began a quasi-heel turn in the weeks following, which was logical, but then he did a 180 and turned face again at Royal Rumble 97, which surprised the hell out of basically everyone in the know.

The Bottom Line: What the hell was I thinking back then? THIS SHOW ROCKS, BABEE! Everyone kept e-mailing me and telling me I was nuts for panning it in my “Guide to Every PPV, Ever” but I thought it was THEM who were off. Man, goes to show what difference three years makes in your thinking sometimes.

Highly recommended for great wrestling and big historical value.