The SmarK Retro Rant for In Your House 11: It’s Time!
– This is a Smarks-exclusive do-over for the EZBoard geeks who have been bugging me to do an improved version of this show. If you haven’t read the original version, well, too bad because it’s deleted and you won’t be seeing it again, for good reason. Such is the price of art. This show will NOT be rated using donuts.
– There is of course a rather famous political to-do behind this show, as the WWF sent out the preview and title information to cable companies in September based on the assumption that Vader would be World champion by the time this show rolled around and the show would be based around him. Weeeeelll, not so fast said Shawn Michaels, as he refused to job the title to Vader and threw a temper tantrum until he got the belt switched to his friend Sid instead. Of course, this rendered the theme of the show into a complete non-sequitur.
– Live from West Palm Beach, Florida.
– Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Evil Jim Ross.
– Free 4 All match: Rocky Maivia (Duane Johnson) v. Salvatore Sincere (Tom Brandi). Yeah, like I’m gonna pass this one up. Sal was, I think, 5 years ahead of his time as a gimmick, missing out on the popularity of the Sopranos by a good three years. The gimmick, as it was, was part of the “Hey, BooÃ¢â‚¬Â theory of gimmick-making in the 90s, whereby you threw a stereotype out there with no character or motivation and the poor dumb rubes in the audience were supposed to go “Hey, that guy is of Italian descent! Boo!Ã¢â‚¬Â or “Hey, that guy is a plumber! Boo!Ã¢â‚¬Â. I mean, if Sal Sincere was stealing other guys’ equipment and then selling it out of the back of a truck at a 300% markup while doing hits on the side for other wrestlers, then I could see how the gimmick might get over, but as it was he was confined to speaking in a bad Italian accent and wearing pink. I mean, hell, the Godfather was a GREAT movie, why would I want to boo someone using the theme as entrance music? Even Vince Russo kind of grasped the potential in that sort of character by putting the Mamalukes out there and letting them get over, but by mid-2000 the management changes pretty much guaranteed they’d never get a fair shake, even with Russo still running things. Still, I firmly believe the mafia character has legs in wrestling yet and could make the WWF some money if handled correctly. Anyway, to the match, as they trade wristlocks to start and headlocks. Hey, have I mentioned recently what a load of crap Rocky Maivia used to be in the ring? It took him the better part of a year and a half to really grasp the basics and implement them, until he was a much more entertaining wrestler simply by knowing when to make his comebacks and when to sell, rather than by the number of backwards leapfrogs or flying bodypresses he could do. I’ve been seeing the same improvement in RVD since he jumped to the WWF, and he’s going to be a better wrestler for it, too. Anyway, the crowd is bored by everything they see, so Rock slugs away and Sal bails. Back in, Rock gets hiptossed, but no-sells (that’s where the kip-up spot originated with the Rock, by the way Ã¢â‚¬â€œ he was doing it back in 96 and just resurrected it recently) and goes back to the armbar. Rock gets shoved out of the corner and Sal follows from the middle rope with a clothesline for two. He goes up with a pump splash and they clothesline each other for a double KO. Rock wins a slugfest and a powerslam gets two. He goes up with a flying bodypress, rolled through for two by Sal. Sal misses a blind charge and Rock looks to finish with the shoulderbreaker (*guffaw*), but Jim Cornette runs in for the DQ lest that devastating finisher put Sincere out of the business for good. Match went 6:01 and felt like an Iron Man match. Ã‚Â½*
– PPV Opener: Leif Cassidy (Al Sarven) v. Flash Funk (Charles Skaggs). This is a double case of messing with a good thing. In the case of Cassidy, had they just let him be Al Snow instead of trying to find a goofy gimmick for him, he’d have been fine, if not successful. In the case of Funk, 2 Cold Scorpio was a perfectly good gimmick, but because someone else thought of it, Vince scrapped it and tried to force Skaggs to be something he wasn’t. Scorpio was pretty much doomed to fail in the WWF from the beginning anyway, but Snow was doing his best work in the Leif Cassidy gimmick, and had he been given a realistic chance at advancing, he might have been something more than the joke he became. Cassidy was quickly dying as a character by this point, while it was Funk’s PPV singles debut. The Funkettes were around at this point, but were fired for money reasons soon after, with the feeling being that the WWF was losing buckets of money and a couple of chicks at ringside weren’t putting asses in the seats anyway. Had WCW learned that lesson sooner, they might have lasted a while longer. Probably not MUCH longer, but longer. All the small things add up. Stalling to start. Mat stuff is controlled by Cassidy, and Flash works the arm. Counter-wrestling leads back to the armbar. Leif misses a blind charge, and Funk blows a bodypress for two. Back to the arm. Leif blocks a headscissor attempt with a facefirst powerbomb, and then suplexes Flash over the top as Funk takes a sick bump to the floor. Leif follows with a somersault plancha, wowing the crowd. Back in, Leif dropkicks him in the back for two. We hit the chinlock, and Funk comes back, but gets cut off. Powerbomb is reversed by Funk, but he walks into the Rydien bomb for two. Leif hooks a weird dragon sleeper variant, but misses a moonsault. Flash comes back with a handspring enzuigiri, Leif bails, and Flash follows with a tope. Back in, he goes up and hits a very nice moonsault for two. Leif lariats him, but they go into a pinfall reversal sequence. Funk finishes with a backdrop suplex and 450 splash for the pin at 10:33. Crowd wasn’t into it, but it was pretty far beyond what the WWF was doing at that point, so I don’t blame them. ***1/2
– WWF Tag title match: Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (David Smith) v. Diesel II (Glen Jacobs) & Razor Ramon II (Rick Bogner). THROUGH HELLFIRE AND TOOTHPASTE, it’s the fake Diesel. For those looking for absolute rock bottom for the WWF, here you are, as the created-from-desperation parodies of Nash & Hall were being paraded out there as serious contenders as Vince McMahon’s childish response to getting his ass handed to him by Eric Bischoff. It was literally ALL uphill from here, future ratings failures aside. They may have dipped lower in the ratings, but that was just akin to going through withdrawl after quitting smoking Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the system was purging the last of the cancerous material and getting ready to start fresh again. Diesel tosses Owen around to start as AAA imports Cybernetico and Pierroth hang around ringside promoting an angle that went NOWHERE. Razor & Bulldog try next, nothing happens worth noting. Steve Austin wanders out as they cue the overbooking torpedoes to try to find something worthwhile in the match, and distracts Bulldog, allowing Ramon to pound on Bulldog. He gets caught in the champs’ corner and double-teamed, however. He misses a blind charge and Owen missile dropkicks him for two. Diesel pulls down the top rope and posts Owen on the outside. Back in, Razor goes to the armbar as they actually salvage something by turning the Harts into faces and doing the ol’ face-in-peril formula. Diesel gets a sideslam, and Ramon hits a cool pumphandle fallaway slam for two. Diesel gets the big boot for two. Elbow misses, but Diesel cuts off the tag and they continue double-teaming. By the way, JR is sniping at Vince the whole match, but by this time the joke is tired and JR is back in his good graces in real life and is generally being a good company man so nothing that’s actually true is said. Diesel misses a blind charge and Owen hits the enzuigiri, hot tag Bulldog. Lariats for everyone and it’s BONZO GONZO! Legdrop gets two on Ramon. Suplex gets two. Pier-six and Ramon & Bulldog are left in the ring. Powerslam is reversed to the Fake Razor’s Edge, but Owen jumps into the ring and hits a leg lariat on the way by, giving Bulldog the pin at 10:44 to retain. Steve Austin lays out Bulldog for fun. Slow stupid start, but Jacobs and Bogner carried their end just fine once it got going, and the result was a hot crowd by the time they got to the finish. ***
– Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) comes out to cut his usual incoherant promo, and Faarooq (Ron Simmons) responds with his usual borderline-racist promo, setting up a match at Royal Rumble ’97 that sucked. The crowd chants “YUB GUBBA DUN!Ã¢â‚¬Â along with Ahmed to scare the NOD away.
– Intercontinental title match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (Paul Levesque) v. Marc Mero. This is the rematch from RAW where HHH & Perfect conspired to get the IC title off Mero, only to see Curt Hennig jump ship mid-angle and screw everyone over. Vince of course holds a grudge a LONG time, which is probably part of the reason you don’t see Hennig leading the Alliance. They trade hammerlocks to start, and Hunter backs off. Mero with a hiptoss and dropkick, and Hunter bails. Back in, Hunter slugs away, but gets backdropped. He hotshots Mero, but gets dumped. Brawl on the floor, Mero meets stars. Mero meets stairs again, in case he didn’t get a good enough look the first time, and we have some satellite troubles, which I’m sure thrilled Vince. Back in (and back on), Hunter gets a backbreaker and tilt-a-whirl version of same for two. Abdominal stretch wastes some time. Sometimes that move is good psychology, but in this case token working of the back was ignored by Mero soon after and didn’t figure in the finish. Hunter does the fight-with-Hebner bit that used to get a good pop at house shows due to Ric Flair & Tommy Young perfecting the act over 10 years, but Mero charges in and hits foot. He comes back with an atomic drop and lariat. Kneelift and headscissors get two. They head up and Mero gets a rana off the top, and the satellite goes out again. I’m of course above making up stuff during transmission problems, but I CAN speculate that a young Stephanie McMahon was doing whatever she did at the time at ringside, and Hunter checked her out and was like “Hey, once she’s legal I can start banging her and my push will NEVER end! Plus my buddy Shawn will be WWF champion for the next five years and I won’t even have to go on steroids to get my big push because I’ll be best buds with the champ! Yeah, man, life is pretty sweet.Ã¢â‚¬Â We return with Mero hitting a samoan drop and going up, but the ref gets shoved into him and Mero is down and singing soprano. Pedigree is reversed to a catapult into the corner, for two. Mero hits the Merosault for two. Ref bumped and Hunter grabs the title belt, but Mero knocks it away and rolls him up for two. Mero tosses Hunter and follows the somersault plancha, but Goldust joins us to set up that barnburning HHH v. Goldust feud that ended up spanning an excrutiating THREE PPVs, wipes out both guys, and Mero beats the count back in at 14:04. Well, I suppose that if Vince Russo had been doing the writing, he MIGHT have been able to think up a dumber ending if given time, motivation and the right amount of drugs, but that one was pretty stupid all by itself. Once again, Hunter proves to be no HHH. *1/2
– Undertaker (Mark Callaway) v. The Executioner (Terry Gordy). This was the followup to the Buried Alive match in October, and came about because someone in the WWF actually thought Terry Gordy was worth more than two minutes of their time at that point. I hope all those wrestlers taking all those drugs take those two minutes to stop and think about WHY Gordy was so horrible at this point, and what ended up happening to him. Taker pounds on him and gets a big boot. He stomps a mudhole, but misses a blind charge. He shrugs it off and slams Gordy. Elbow misses and they head out to brawl. Taker eats posts but clotheslines him and pulls up the mats. Mankind runs in because even he could see this match was dying. They double-team Undertaker, and then all three brawl out. Mankind takes a bump through the set piece by the entrance, showing that Gordy was such a vegetable by this point that he needed Foley to take bumps for him. Gordy & UT keep “brawlingÃ¢â‚¬Â, mainly consisting of standing around and swinging in the general direction of where the other guy should be. Into the ring, but the crack security force (best in the business unless you’re a babyface kidnapping a heel and threatening to throw him off a bridge) subdue Mick and spray “maceÃ¢â‚¬Â in his eyes. We know it’s mace because JR, sitting 30 feet away from the action, declares that his eyes are burning. That’s some powerful mace. Thank god they didn’t use pepper spray or they might have blinded the entire front row and had a class-action lawsuit on their hands. The worst perpetrator of this sort of silliness has always been Bobby Heenan, though, like when a heel would use ether on a babyface over by the entrance and Heenan (usually sitting in the press box 30 rows up or on the opposite side of the arena at the announce table) would immediately complain about the stench spreading through the entire building seconds later. UT & Gordy use the opportunity to head to the back, and indeed right out of the arena. Meanwhile, poor Mick gets locked in a straightjacket and hauled off. Outside, someone dressed like the Executioner takes a pre-taped roll into a pool on the outside of the arena, which I guess is supposed to simulate Undertaker throwing him down a rampway or something. Undertaker heads back to ringside to beat on the helpless Mankind, Gordy finally returns (bone dry), gets tombstoned, and the pin and 10-count are academic at 11:30. This was under death match rules, but god knows why, since they never actually used it until the finish of the match. Pretty much a disaster in every sense of the word, and Gordy was turfed immediately afterwards. Because god knows if you can’t have a good match with Undertaker, who CAN you have one with? DUD
– WWF title match: Sid (Eudy) v. Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels is YOUR guest commentator. And he’s just FULL of bitterness today, immediately lashing out at Bret for not passing the torch to the younger generation. He then gets the line of night, calling Sid the biggest piece of luggage in the business, because he has to be carried every night. OUCH. Bret attacks to start, but gets clotheslined and stomped on. Shawn sets a new world record for contradicting himself, as he goes on a rant about respecting the old-timers in the business like Jose Lothario less than 5 minutes after ranting about old-timers not respecting the youngsters. This man should be a politician. Bret comes back and rakes Sid’s eyes on the top, then elbows him and headbutts him low. Shawn spends this portion of the match going off on Bret in GREAT detail, with about 90% of the comments being so inside that casual fans would have absolutely no clue what he was talking about. Sid chases Bret and punks him out. Bret’s got this weird heel groove going on, despite ostensibly still being a babyface at this point. Shawn preaches that the truth scares most of the people in the business. Shawn must be absolutely terrified of it, then, because I’ve never heard him speak it. Sid opts for a powerbomb on the floor, but Bret posts him, injuring the back. Back in, Back goes to work on it, trying to make the best of a bad situation and salvage something over **1/2 out of Sid. Backbreaker and he pounds Sid with elbows and hits the chinlock. Bret chokes him out in the corner and pulls off a turnbuckle pad. Shawn seems to have expunged the vitrol by this point and is actually calling the match. Sid blocks a shot to the exposed steel, but Bret nails him in the back and a backdrop suplex gets two. Russian legsweep gets two. Snap suplex and elbow to the back get two. Bret goes aerial but gets slammed off. Sid slugs away and hits the big boot. Powerslam gets two. Short-arm clothesline gets two, legdrop misses. Bret pounces with a Sharpshooter, but Sid powers him right out of the ring. Bret staggers back in, very obviously selling a knee injury. So Sid goes right to work, completely ignoring the knee and hitting him in the head instead. Sid, master of psychology. Snake Eyes is reversed by Bret, but he still gets sent to the exposed steel after Sid botched the spot the first time. Chokeslam gets two. Bret comes back and they tumble out, but Sid gets all in Shawn’s face, and Shawn’s all like “don’t go there, sista!Ã¢â‚¬Â and Sid’s all like “You ain’t all that!Ã¢â‚¬Â and Bret’s all like “I was screwed!Ã¢â‚¬Â and Vince is all like “1-2-hegothimnohedidn’tÃ¢â‚¬Â and Jerry’s all like “Who’s the hot chick?Ã¢â‚¬Â and JR is all like “We feel there was some good effort in this event, but certain athletes must be thinking it’s Atlanta and working half-speed, because this ain’t ballet. We also feel that Ahmed Johnson is a hoss with a lot of potential, as long as he addresses his injury situation and learns to work less stiff or more stiff, depending on what Vince tells me to think on a given day. I’m also lobbying for more involvement from the smaller workers in the company, most of whom are good hands and show a lot of potential for improvement, as long as they’re capable of growing two feet and putting on 45 pounds of muscle mass. Overall, I’d give this show a 5/10, and I think there’s definitely some room for improvement from a lot of people, and everyone could certainly stand to drop a few pounds or be sent down to OVW for their conditioning situation.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ahem. Anyway, Shawn jumps on the apron to protest Sid’s behavior as being unbecoming of a champion, but Sid shoves Bret into him, powerbombs Bret, and gets the pin to retain at 17:06. Well, Bret got it above **1/2, but just barely. **3/4
The Bottom Line: Actually, not a bad show. The only brainfart on the card was the Undertaker-Gordy “brawlÃ¢â‚¬Â and the rest was pretty solid, even if almost everyone who showed a good effort got completely buried and the only guys on the show currently employed and enjoying a good push are Diesel II, Undertaker and Hunter Hearst Helmsley.