The SmarK Rant for Bloodbath: Wrestling’s Most Incredible Steel Cage Matches!


The SmarK Rant for Bloodbath: Wrestling’s Most Incredible Steel Cage Matches!

– Wow, a title like that sounds like something you’d pick up for $5.99 in a Wal-Mart, but it’s actually the WWE’s newest and coolest DVD (although soon to be out-cooled by the Flair DVD in November), as they seem to FINALLY be using their footage library to its fullest potential. This is a Halloween-themed rant for y’all, what with Bloodbath right there in the title. Of course, by the time this is posted, it’ll be past Halloween by a couple of days, but work with me here.

– Your host is the Coach.

– Various people talk about the deeper meaning of the cage match and how fans knew it would mean blood and violence. Coach points out that “no one knows exactly when steel cage matches first appeared” (actually, we do – Paul Boesch invented it in the early part of the century), but we’ll start in 1979.

– Clips of Backlund v. Patterson. The full matches are on the extras, FYI, of which this is one of them. The actual program is CLIPPED MATCHES, so buyer beware. JIP fairly late in the match, both guys bleeding, as Pat tries to climb and Bob brings him back in with the atomic drop (which was a big deal back then), only to see Pat pull out the old brass knuckles and slug it out with Bob on top of the cage. Pat gets crotched, and Bob falls down as well. Bob crawls for the door and fights off Patterson, falling back for the win.

– Onto Bruno Sammartino, as I never thought HE’D make it back onto a WWE release again. Very brief clips from Bruno v. Larry Z in Shea Stadium in 1980, and background is smartly provided by Finkel and Brisco. Kind of scummy to advertise this on the box when it was maybe 15 seconds of footage.

– Bob Backlund v. Jimmy Snuka from 1980, with Superfly doing his famous leap from the cage three years before the one everyone remembers. Snuka was a heel at this point, which is probably why the Muraco match got the greater notoriety. JIP, and pretty slow stuff here, with Backlund using a lot of clubbing forearms and Snuka bumping around for him. Pretty impressive bladejob from Snuka as Backlund hammers away on him, but Bob makes the mistake of headbutting him. Bob sends him into the cage and goes for the door, but Snuka trips him up and fires back to take over. He goes up and drops a knee from the second rope, and a couple of more knees. Vertical suplex sets up the Superfly leap from the cage, which misses, and Backlund rolls out to retain. I’ve seen it in full before, it’s about **.

– Onto Snuka’s next big cage match, as he challenges Don Muraco for the I-C title in 1983, and this is the famous match with Mick Foley in the front row. Spike Dudley talks about the significance of Snuka doing a plancha to Muraco on TV leading up to this. We even get Snuka’s pre-match interview with Vince McMahon in an empty MSG, as he goes nuts and knocks over chairs. JIP (but shown in full in the extras) with Snuka chopping on Muraco, who comes back with a slingshot into the cage to bust him open. They fight on the top rope and Muraco gets crotched and lands on the mat again, but comes back to slam Snuka off the top. He goes for the door and goes low to keep Snuka at bay, but Snuka whips him into the corner. Muraco hits the cage and of course starts bleeding, which Snuka is happy to work over. Ever notice you didn’t hear the word “bleeding” without “profusely” when Gorilla was doing commentary? Snuka works the cut over and headbutts him twice, which Muraco sells so dramatically that he goes flying out the door to win. Snuka is of course unsatisfied by this ending, so he brings Muraco back in and hits the splash off the top of the cage to vent his anger, thus convincing a young Mick Foley to become a wrestler and changing wrestling forever.

– Next up, our first ***** match of the DVD, as we get an archival promo from Magnum TA to explain the backstory (and introduce rare footage of Tully winning the title in the first place!).

– Tully v. Magnum from 1985 at Starrcade, JIP with Magnum already bleeding and running Tully into the cage a few times. We cut to Tully doing the ramming thing with the microphone and getting a wooden chair from JJ, then breaking off a piece and trying to stab Magnum in the face with it. Magnum of course blocks it and retrieves the stake, then rams it into Tully’s face until he quits. Still one of the sickest and greatest finishes to an I Quit match ever. Full match later.

– Next up, the famous Hogan-Orndorff feud, which is what turned me into a wrestling fan. This of course leads to the cage match on Saturday Night’s Main Event, which is JIP with Orndorff quickly hammering him down and going for the door. Orndorff tries climbing and gets foiled by a hairpull, which leads to Ventura’s quip about Orndorff being champion if he were bald. Hogan chokes him down with his own headband and climbs, but gets brought back down and choked out. Hogan hulks up and goes for the door, but heel ref Danny Davis locks the door and keeps him in. They both climb the cage, leading to the famous false finish with both hitting the floor at the same time and the two refs declaring a different winner. So it continues with Hogan hulking up and destroying him with the usual, plus ramming him into the cage, all bloodless of course. Hogan climbs out to win. Pretty decent for a WWF climbing contest, but the lack of blood was weird.

– Back to the NWA, with a quick recap of Ric Flair’s time in the 80s, as we get a promo from World Championship Wrestling leading up to Starrcade 87: The Foregone Conclusion. That would be Ronnie Garvin v. Ric Flair, as the crowd turned on Garvin’s lame duck champion act and cheered Flair by the end of the match. They actually should have put Garvin’s original win on here as an extra, because it was a much better match. Long story short, we’re JIP at about 10 minutes, leading up to Garvin getting two off a high cross, and a backslide. Flair gets cheese-grated into the cage and Garvin just kills him with chops, and they fight on the top rope, which results in Flair going down and Garvin getting a sunset flip off the top for two. Garvin KOs him for two, but Flair hotshots him into the cage to regain the title. In canon, this was Flair’s fifth title, although I think it was something like 8 in reality.

– Okay, we skip 7 years and head to Summerslam 94, as Owen Hart challenges Bret for the WWF title in our second ***** match of the disc. Although this one is the source of some controversy, to say the least, in terms of that rating. Many disagree, but that’s why it’s a free country. JIP with Owen suplexing Bret off the cage and piledriving him, but Bret prevents him from climbing out. They both tumble to the mat, and Bret crawls for the door, but Owen hangs onto the foot to keep him in, and they scrap like children on the mat. Bret drags him into the middle for a catapult into the cage and crawls out again, but Owen dives to make the save in a spot that has the crowd going nuts. Owen whips him into the corner, and we’re clipped again further along, as Bret blocks a rollup and hurts his knee, but climbs out, only to get stopped by the tenacious Owen. Clipped again to Owen climbing out with Bret unconscious, but they fight on the top rope, with Owen taking a wicked backwards bump to the mat before fighting back to prevent Bret’s escape. Clipped again to Owen climbing over the far corner, but Bret stops him with a superplex off the cage. Clipped again to Bret crawling for the door, but Owen pulling him back in with a Sharpshooter. RING THE BELL! RING THE FUC oh, sorry, reflex action. Clipped to the finish now, as they fight on the outside of the cage and Owen gets hung up by the feet, allowing Bret to jump down for the win.

– Onto darker days, 1995, as Jerry Lawler introduces the match between Bret Hart and Jerry’s erstwhile evil dentist, Isaac Yankem. Nothing much shown of this, thankfully. I’m pretty sure I’ve reviewed it somewhere before, and it sucked. For those who haven’t received their smark primer flash cards yet, Isaac Yankem is much better known as Kane these days.

– Clips of HHH v. Mankind from Summerslam 97, back when he was just Hunter Hearst Helmsley and f*cked mannish women for fun rather than career advancement. This was a decent cage match with a notable blown spot by Chyna, as she came into the cage to make a save far too early and screwed up the designated finish as a result. Mick has the whole story in his first book, and it’s funny stuff. She was definitely not a master of timing in her early days. Full match is later on the extras.

– HHH v. The Rock. From Rebellion in 1999, with HHH defending the title against Rock. I probably have this tape somewhere. It’s got the goofy turnbuckle blurring going on, so the clips are VERY brief. British Bulldog runs in and beats on both guys, and Chyna slams the cage door on Rock’s head and HHH climbs out, but Rock grabs him by the hair. Bulldog takes out Rock and HHH finishes climbing out to win. Looked like a huge clusterf*ck. There’s also bizarre sound problems with the clips.

– Next up, the peak of Vince Russo’s booking career, as the Austin-McMahon feud leads to a cage match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. More wacky blurring here. Clipped to Vince taking his bump into the announce table from the cage and Austin beating on him while being carried out on the stretcher. Ironic moment about the blurring: Back in the day, they used to give WWF shirts to ringside photographers to make sure that logo was front and center all the time. And now they have to go back and blur it out, thus causing problems in the long run. Instant karma’s gonna get ya. The “match” as it were features Austin beating the crap out of a helpless Vince until Big Show makes his debut, bursting from under the ring and throwing Austin through the cage, giving him the win. The match is more or less complete here, by the way, which isn’t surprising given the participants.

– Onto Unforgiven in September 2000, as the Hardy Boyz finally win the tag titles from Edge & Christian after chasing them for most of the year. JIP with Jeff already out of the cage, leaving Matt to get beaten 2-on-1 by the champions. Christian tumbles out of the cage with help from a ladder shot by Jeff, leaving Matt and Edge one-on-one to settle it. Jeff tries to climb in again, and Edge is distracted enough to get suplexed by Matt, as Jeff climbs across to the middle of the cage and completely blows a corkscrew off the top of the cage. Both Matt and Edge sell it anyway. Lita comes out and takes out Christian, and everyone ends up fighting on top of the cage, with the Hardyz hitting Edge with a conchairto to knock him back to the mat, and the Hardyz climb out to win. This one definitely didn’t hold up.

– Clips of Angle v. Benoit from 2001, with the missed Anglesault from the top of the cage. Man, Kurt with hair, those were the days. Benoit comes back with the rolling germans, back when his neck allowed him to do 10 in a row if he wanted. Only 6 in this case. He then gets the headbutt off the top of the cage, which no doubt added to his neck problems in retrospect. Austin slams the cage door on Benoit’s head, and Angle climbs out for the win.

– And we wrap it up with Edge v. Angle from Calgary on Smackdown, last year. JIP late in the game, as Edge gets an Angle Slam on Angle for two while bleeding a lot. They trade anklelocks and Edge gets wrapped up in the ropes, allowing Angle to climb out, but Edge crotches him on top of the cage door and biels him back in. A spear from the top rope gets the pin, but puts Edge out of action for months and leads to his eventual neck surgery. Full match in the extras.

– Coach wraps things up.

And now, the EXTRAS!

– First up, go into the chapter menu, highlight the Bruno v. Larry match, and hit right to call up footage of Larry Zbyszko’s original heel turn on Bruno in what was supposed to be a scientific match. He hits Bruno with a wooden chair and it results in a gory bladejob by Bruno, with blood pooling on the mat. Disgusting and awesome.

– Next up, highlight the Ronnie Garvin v. Ric Flair match and press right, and you’ll get the “live update” footage from World Championship Wrestling when Garvin won the title in Detroit. I tell ya – TBS took AMAZING care of their tape library, because it’s pristine footage, too. This is about the last 5 minutes of a 40-minute match.

– Highlight the Jimmy Snuka v. Don Muraco match in the extras section (not the chapter menu) and hit right, to get the original confrontation between them from “Buddy’s Corner”.

Okay, those are the easter eggs on disc one, now the proper extras.

– I already reviewed Backlund-Patterson in Coliseum Video Rant XVII, and since it’s pretty much still my thoughts on the match, I’ll just reprint it here.

– WWF title: Bob Backlund v. Pat Patterson. This is from 1979, and I know what you’re thinking: How can any discussion of either manliness OR mindless violence include Pat Patterson (or Backlund for that matter). Read on, oh ye of little faith, and save the Patterson jokes for another rant. They fire away and Bob sends him to the cage. He learns this stuff fast. He drops a leg and climbs, but Pat pulls him back and goes for the door right away. Bob grabs a leg and hauls him in, and kneelifts him. Bob goes up again, but can’t fight Pat off. Bob eats cage, and Pat DIVES for the door, but gets stopped at the last second by Backlund, who proceeds to dive for the door himself in one motion, before Pat stops him and chokes him down. He goes up, but gets pulled down by the foot. Bob pounds away on top, and both guys tumble down. Pat recovers and bolts over again, but Bob barely catches him by the leg and hangs on for dear life. They fight on the top, with Pat half out of the cage hanging onto the top, until Backlund drags him back in again. Pat gets a lowblow to knock Bob off the cage, and he just pounds the shit out of him, opening up a cut in the process. Pat climbs, but Bob pops up and yanks him back in, only to get another stiff beating as a reward. Bob comes back and they butt heads for the double KO. Both guys climb, but Pat changes his mind and chooses to pull Bob back in instead. Pat headbutts the cut and they slug it out on the mat. Bob catapults him into the cage, drawing blood, and he crawls for the door. They slug it out again and Pat goes the cage a few times as Bob’s inner barbarian is unleashed. Bob starts dropping fists, Pat shoves him into the cage and climbs again. Bob atomic drops him out of the corner (that was his big finish at the time), and climbs, but Patterson finds an international object and takes a swing at Backlund. They fight on top of the cage, as Backlund knocks the knuckle dusters off Patterson’s hand and both guys tumble to the mat. Bob crawls for the door again, but Patterson grabs the leg. Bob just starts kicking at Patterson’s face like a maniac, until finally the momentum alone is enough to push him right out of the cage and to the floor at 13:25. ****1/4 Backlund earned his crewcut here.
– Bruno Sammartino v. Ivan Koloff. From 1975, back in the WWWF days. Koloff attacks him on the way in, which gets roughly nowhere, as Bruno kicks his ass and sends him into the (wobbly) cage on the other side. He whips him into the corner and stomps him down, and then sends him into the cage again. He seems upset about something. Kneelift and he keeps slugging away, and Koloff hits the cage again. Bruno keeps mercilessly stomping him down and sending him into the cage, although with all the give in the cage it’s not terribly impressive. Koloff catches him with his head down and takes over, pounding him down, but Bruno blocks a trip to the cage and sends Koloff into it again. Koloff slugs back, but Bruno one-ups him on that battle and resorts to trying to climb out. Bruno yanks him down and continues kicking his ass. Koloff goes into the cage five times, all without bleeding, but Bruno charges and hits boot. Ivan goes up and drops the knee, but Bruno prevents him from walking out the door and knees him in the head. Back to the cage for Koloff, and he charges and gets dumped over the top, and Bruno whips him into the cage again and slugs away in the corner. Bruno runs him into the turnbuckle from the apron and steps on his face. Man, this match would be laughed out of the arena today. That big boot-in-the-face spot was covering a Koloff bladejob, as he starts bleeding upon getting up. Bruno batters him in the corner and walks out the door at 9:42. This was seriously dull punchy-kicky stuff. *

– Don Muraco v. Jimmy Snuka. This is the full version of the highlights in the main program. They slug it out to start, won by Snuka, and Muraco backs off. Snuka pounds him with chops and Muraco bumps right over to the door, but Snuka cuts him off and sends him into the turnbuckles before chopping him down again. Muraco knees him in the midsection (although color man Pat Patterson thinks it was low, and certainly he’s the expert) to take over, and catapults him into the cage. Snuka does an impressive bladejob, but blocks a charge with a foot to the face, and tries to climb. Muraco cuts him off and they fight on the top rope, as Muraco boosts him onto the top of the cage, and gets crotched on the top rope for his troubles. Muraco quickly comes back and slams him off the top, and then gives him a much more blatant low-blow out of the corner. Snuka whips him into the corner to come back and introduces him to the cage, which draws blood. Snuka goes up and drops a fist from the middle rope, and chops him down again. Headbutt and a flying one sends Muraco crashing out of the cage at 6:40 to retain. Really, you don’t miss much with the clipping. **1/4 Snuka then of course brings him back in and delivers the flying splash from the top of the cage.

– Bob Backlund v. Stan Hansen. From MSG in 1981. Interesting choice. I thought Stan Hansen had been wiped from WWE history for whatever reason. Hansen of course attacks, but Bob sends him into the cage a couple of times to fight him off, and pounds him down. He rakes the face across the cage, prompting Stan to climb defensively, so Backlund brings him down, only to eat a knee. Stan sends him to the cage a few times, but Backlund returns fire in kind. Piledriver and Backlund climbs, but Hansen recovers too fast and brings him down with a low blow. Back to the cage, but Backlund blocks and sends him into it as well, and more face-raking results. Hansen kneelifts him down again and they slug it out, but Backlund sends him back into the cage again. Stan does kind of a wussy bladejob, as they keep exchanging blows until Backlund, of all people, kicks him in square in the nuts and goes for the door. Go Bob! Hansen gets even more angry and stops him, elbowing him down, but missing an elbowdrop. Bob does a little ground-n-pound and backdrops him, but Stan fights off the mat and slams him to set up a kneedrop. He goes for the door, but Bob grabs the leg and then lunges for the door himself. No luck there. They exchange shots on the mat and Stan quickly climbs, but Backlund pulls the tights down to keep him in there (I did NOT need the image of Stan Hansen’s bare ass) and they fight it out on the top rope. Hansen goes down first after a headbutt, doing an impressive ropewalk into a bump to the mat, but keeps trying to climb out, so Backlund yanks him down out of the corner again, into the turnbuckles. He’s knocked silly, and Backlund walks out of the cage at 8:44. Interesting how cage matches used to be about beating the other guy down enough to leave under your own power, before they got too cute with the booking for their own good and tried to make every match into an exercise in creative writing. Good intense brawl here. ***1/4

Disc Two:

I’ve already done most of these already, and my feelings haven’t changed on them, so we’ll do a little C&P to save time.

– “I Quit” cage match, US title: Tully Blanchard v. Magnum TA. Backstory: They HATE each other. That’s all you need. They slug it out, and fight on the mat like schoolkids, then slug it out again. Tully bails to the apron and TA rams him to the cage. Tully responds in kind, then drops an elbow and does it again. Rear chinlock and Magnum powers out in a rather famous visual. He presses Tully onto the top rope, but gets kneelifted. He slugs away on Tully, but gets tossed into the cage again and they fight on the mat. Tully goes to the cage, and then again out of a hammerlocked position. His arm starts gushing blood, but he headbutts Magnum low. Magnum keeps digging at that arm, but Tully potatoes him, and busts him open. Tully kicks away and uses the mike to pound on Magnum’s face and ask for the submission. Magnum refuses, so Tully rams it into his forehead four times. They actually do this a few times, resulting in the crowd hearing this charming exchange over the PA: “SAY IT!” “NO!” THUNK. Hotshot into the cage and Tully goes up and hits an elbow, then more hijinx with the mike. “SAY IT!” “NO!” THUNK. They slug it out, won by Magnum, and he uses the mike himself. “SAY IT!” “NO!” THUNK. They claw at each other’s eyes on the mat, and Tully knocks TA silly with a right. TA hits his own and grabs the mike, but Tully kicks him in the head to block. Inverted atomic drop and Tully just destroys him with the mike. “SAY IT!” “NO!” THUNK THUNK THUNK He drops some elbows and tosses the ref aside, as Baby Doll throws a balsa-wood chair in, which shatters upon hitting the mat. Ah, American workmanship. Tully grabs a piece and tries to stab Magnum in the eye, but it’s blocked. Magnum grabs it from him, jams it into Tully’s eye, and gets the submission and US title at 14:22. And you thought Mick Foley was hardcore. *****

– NWA World title, Ric Flair v. Dusty Rhodes. This is from Bash ’86, and I’d have to dispute anything with Dusty being on a “best of” anything compilation when there’s much better stuff out there, but I guess the really good Flair stuff goes on the Flair DVD. Mindgames to start and Dusty slugs him down and hits a quick elbow, and Flair is reeling. They trade hammerlocks, but Dusty won’t let himself get sent into the cage. Dusty goes for the arm and puts the laziest armbar I’ve ever seen on him. And that’s saying something, because it’s a friggin’ ARMBAR. Dusty overpowers him into a hiptoss, and they exchange shots, which has Flair reeling in the corner again. He comes back with a cheapshot, but gets caught in a sleeper. Flair makes the ropes, and then sells it like Dusty hit him in the head with a brick or something. Elbowdrop gets two, and Dusty goes back to his armbar thingie. Flair finally goes for the Achilles Gut, and rams Dusty into the cage. Shock of shocks, Dusty bleeds. Thus begins Dusty’s signature move: Laying on the mat and bleeding. Flair drops the knee for two. We get a little cheese-grater action into the cage and a necksnap on the top rope where Dusty barely even goes down for it, and Flair drops a knee on Dusty’s injured ankle. Figure-four time, but Dusty reverses, so Flair kicks out the knee again and gets a kneedrop for two. He sets him up against the ropes and charges, but Dusty falls forward with a lariat for two. Flair tries to run, so Dusty sends him into the cage and draws blood. Back to the cage and Dusty decides to try working on Flair’s leg, which prompts Flair to climb out of the cage to escape. Dusty stops him and Flair gets crotched on the top and it’s back to the cage again as Einstein’s theory of relativity goes OUT THE WINDOW and time actually slows down without the need for space travel. Flair goes up and slammed off the top, and Dusty gets his “version” of the figure-four, but Flair makes the ropes. Dusty chops him in the corner, drawing a Flair Flop, and then gets a backslide for two. Dusty comes back with another clothesline and elbow for two. Flair tries to escape again and settles for a high cross, which gets two. Dusty sends him back into the cage and cradles for two. Back elbow, but an elbowdrop misses, so Flair goes for a slam, and Dusty cradles to win the title at 21:02. Thankfully it only lasted a few weeks. Slow, slow, slow. Even Flair couldn’t get anything out of Dusty on his best days. **

– NWA World tag title, cage match: The Rock N Roll Express v. Ole & Arn Anderson. Robert dodges Ole and a pier-six erupts early. Arn gets caught in the wrong corner and retreats. Ole comes in, but can’t escape the RNR either. Ricky outguns him with some speed, and the Horsemen regroup again. Arn tries with Morton, but gets reversed to death. Rock N Roll work the arm, but Robert misses a charge and kneelifts the cage by mistake. Ouch. The Andersons just DIVE for the knee and destroy it. Robert kicks out of a figure-four, but Ole keeps up the punishment with a stepover toehold. Arn goes knee-to-knee on Robert and grinds it in. Robert gets an enzuigiri, tags Ricky, and he promptly goes facefirst to the cage to put a stop to THAT. Ricky Morton plays Ricky Morton and all is right with the world. Ole gets two off a snapmare and Arn bites at him. Back to the cage goes Ricky, and Ole methodically stomps away. Ricky bleeds huge. Arn switches to the arm and Ole keeps at it, slapping an armbar on. Hammerlock slam from Arn gets a pop and he goes to the 2nd rope, but gets nailed coming down. Ole comes in and pounds the arm, however, preventing a tag. Shoulderbreaker gets two. Morton kneelifts Arn, but can’t tag. Ole uses a stepover armlock, and Rick fires back, but Ole keeps at the arm. Rick fights back again, but gets double-teamed INCHES from the tag. The crowd is just about ready to riot at this point. He staggers up and walks into a spinebuster from Arn. D’oh. Ole comes off the top with a kneedrop onto Ricky’s arm, but Ricky won’t quit. Double-KO, but Ricky can’t capitalize. He fires away on Arn, lunges for the tag and Ole nails him, giving the crowd a heart attack. That’s just mean booking. He small packages Ole for two as Robert finally has had enough and brawls with Arn, distracting the ref long enough for the Express to double dropkick Ole and Ricky gets the pin with his last burst of energy to retain at 19:00. CLASSIC Ricky Morton here. ****

– Cage match, WWF title: Bret Hart v. Owen Hart. Owen attacks right off the bat, ramming him into two turnbuckles and doing the 10-punch count. Bret comes back with a lariat, but Owen stomps on his hands. Bret blocks a shot to the cage and DDTs Owen. Another slugfest erupts, won by Bret. He makes the first climb attempt, but gets pulled off by Owen. ENZUIGIRI, BABY! Owen nearly makes it out but Bret catches him going over the top and hits a backdrop suplex to the mat. Bret crawls for the door but Owen catches him and whips him to the other corner. Bret grabs a quick bulldog and tries for the door again. Owen yanks him away and dives, Bret yanks him away and dives, repeat twice. Bret tries to climb out, and gets slammed off by Owen. Now Owen climbs and again nearly makes it, but Bret grabs him by the hair and they fight on the top. Owen kicks him off and dropkicks him off the top rope. SWEET. Owen climbs again and they fight on the top again with Owen getting the better of the situation. Owen goes for a piledriver but Bret reverses. Whip, reverse, and double-KO. Owen lunges for the door again, but Bret stops him and drops a vicious looking elbow on him. Bret to the top, Owen stops him again. Bret kicks him in the face a few times, but Owen holds on and crotches him on the top rope. Owen tries for the door again, but Bret stops him. Headbutt to the groin puts Owen down and Bret goes for the climb out again. He changes his mind and goes for an elbowdrop, but misses. Owen climbs out, with Bret not moving. He pops up at the last second and blocks Owen, however, pulling him in by the hair in a great visual. He slams him in for good measure, then makes his own ascent. Owen brings him back in with a modified samoan drop. Owen tries to climb again, Bret stops him. Owen keeps control, however, and they end up ramming each other into the cage. Bret recovers first and makes it about 3/4 of the way down the cage…when Owen grabs his hair and pulls him back in. Piledriver on Bret. Both guys are exhausted, but Owen tries to climb out again. Bret meets him at the top, and they have a slugfest that leads to both guys collapsing to the mat below. Bret immediately crawls for the door, but Owen grabs his leg. Owen fights him down and then lunges for the door himself, but Bret blocks, drags him back in, and slingshots Owen into the cage. Crowd is WAY into this one. Bret crawls for the wrong corner to build suspense, then finds the right one…and Owen leaps over and stops him. Crowd is having a collective heart attack. Owen is up first and goes behind Bret, but ends up going facefirst to the cage. Bret is selling a knee injury, but still climbs up again. Owen gets up….collapses….and makes it juuuuuuuuuust in time to stop his brother from winning. Back in via the hair, and Owen hits a leg lariat. The crowd is absolutely losing it. Owen climbs to the top again, and makes it halfway out before Bret stops him. They fight on the top rope, with Bret getting a big field goal kick to send Owen flying. He pops up again and hauls Bret back in. Owen hits some european uppercuts, and we get another double-KO. Owen makes it up and to the top rope, but Bret stops him and superplexes him back in. Even Davey Boy, at ringside, is marking out. Both guys are out cold again. Bret crawls to the door . . . slowly . . . but Owen grabs him. Owen slaps on the Sharpshooter, screaming about how the belt is gonna be his the whole time. Bret breaks free and reverses to his own. He releases and climbs again, with Owen once again lunging at the last split second and grabbing the hair. Both men fall to the mat. Owen makes it up and to the top first, and both guys make it halfway down the cage, fighting the whole way. Owen rams Bret into the cage, but slips and gets hooked in the cage, allowing Bret to drop down at 31:51 to retain the title. Meanwhile, Jim Neidhart blindsides the Bulldog in the audience, taking Diana down with him. Owen and Anvil toss Bret back into the cage, chain the door shut, and beat the holy hell out of him as the Hart Brothers storm the cage. Oh man, this is so NWA. I love it. Finally the Bulldog (with his caveman hairdo and all) fights his way in and makes the save. This is easily the best cage match you’ll ever see in the WWF given the restrictive limits on rules and blood put on them, and it’s a terrific way to end the show. Sadly, it didn’t end the show – Undertaker v. Undertaker did. *****

– Mankind v. HHH. From Summerslam 97. Hunter dives for the door to start, but Mankind stops him and hammers away in the corner with the running knee. Piledriver and Mankind opts to set up for the Mandible Claw instead of walking out, but Chyna reaches through the bars to choke him out, breaking the move. He comes back with a clothesline and climbs, but Chyna punches him in the nuts to stop that rally, and Hunter suplexes him off the top of the cage. But then he decides to not to leave, either, and goes back in to toss Mick into the cage. The steel, as always in JR’s world, is unforgiving. Hunter drops a knee and pounds away. Back to the cage again a few times. Hunter climbs, but they fight on top of the cage, and Hunter shoves him to the mat. Mankind fights up again and cuts him off, and whips him into a kneelift. They head over to the cage again and stand around there, but Chyna interferes again. Mankind basically shrugs it off and gets an atomic drop and clothesline. Hunter USES THE KNEE to come back, but Mick suplexes him into the cage and hangs him upside-down in an awkward spot. Into the cage again for Hunter a few times, but Mankind charges and gets backdropped into the cage. There’s a few nice little spots here and there like that, but there’s just so much dead space between them that they lose their impact. Hunter tries to climb now, and they slug it out on the top rope, and now Hunter gets crotched and his foot hooked in the ropes. Mankind goes for the door, but Chyna slams it in his face, and attacks the ref, then throws in a chair for Hunter. Pedigree attempt is reversed by Mankind, and he catapults Hunter into the cage, knocking Chyna off. Chyna was standing there on the cage FOREVER to set up the spot. Mankind gets the DDT on the chair and climbs, and Chyna comes in early for her big spot, forcing Hunter to tell her to leave. Meanwhile, Mick makes it down to the floor, but changes his mind and climbs up again after shedding the mask and tearing off the shirt to reveal his Dude Love bodypaint (which had washed off by this point), opting to drop an elbow from the cage. And now he decides to climb out, and NOW Chyna gets her cue right and tries to pull Hunter out of the cage, but not in time, as Mankind drops down to win at 16:24. This was actually worse seeing it in 2003, because it’s so obvious how many spots were created around CHYNA rather than the competitors, and she screwed a lot of them up. *1/2

– Shawn Michaels v. Marty Jannetty. I’m 99.8% sure I’ve reviewed this one before, but we’ll give it another go and put a star rating to it. Marty attacks and gets a clothesline to start, hiptossing Shawn across the ring and preventing him from running away. He whips Shawn around while color man Johnny Polo makes comments about Shawn’s weight at this point. Marty dropkicks him and gets a clothesline, and is obviously stoned because he goes for a pin in a WWF cage match. Shawn comes back and sends him into the cage, and slugs away on him. Marty catches a dropkick and catapults him into the cage, for two, as the referee gets into the spirit and counts. Hey, why not? Shawn goes into the cage, but comes back and slugs away in the corner while Polo opts to sing “Light My Fire” in a bizarre non-sequitir moment relating to the door(s). Diesel bars the door, holding Marty back long enough for Shawn to stop him and pull him back into the ring. He chokes away and sends Marty into the cage again, but Marty stops him from leaving by desperately grabbing onto his leg like a whiny dog. I wonder if the meeting where they decided to split up the team was like that? Shawn climbs up the cage on the other side, but Marty clings onto him again. Shawn’s pants come down as usual, bringing him to the mat, as Shawn looks pudgy and rusty and Marty just seems f*cking wasted. On the upside, Shawn finally shows ass for once. Shawn grabs a sleeper as Johnny Polo carries the match with his commentary about how only wussies go out the door, as Marty rams Shawn into the cage to break the hold. Marty comes back and slugs away, with an atomic drop into the cage. He starts to climb, but Shawn grabs him by the hair and stops him, and then climbs out himself. Marty grabs HIS hair to stop him and hauls him back up, and they slug it out on top of the cage, and Marty slams him off the cage. Marty climbs and Diesel follows him up the cage and runs interference while Shawn goes out the door at 13:10. Not exactly their finest hour, to say the least. **

– Cage match: Edge v. Kurt Angle. We’re back to pin or escape rules again. Jesus, make up your damn minds already. Kurt grabs a headlock to start, but Edge takes him down and they do their thing on the mat. Edge slams out of it and Angle wants a timeout. Angle slugs away and gets an elbow, but they slug it out and Edge gets a leg lariat, and introduces Angle to the cage. Spear misses and he too kisses the steel. Angle lays the smackdown in the corner and chokes away. Suplex gets two. Angle goes to a facelock, but Edge gives him a belly-to-belly suplex and climbs. Angle tries to stop him, but Edge follows him down with a flying clothesline for two. Angle suplexes him with the rolling germans to stop that bit of sassback, and gets two. Angle wants out the door, but it’s locked. So he gives Edge some cold cage salad with blue cheese cage dressing on the side and cage croutons on top. Edge blades and Angle works on the cut. It’s a wussy bladejob until the ref helps it out a little and the good stuff starts flowing. Angle pounds him down again, but Edge slingshots him into the cage and gets the Edge-o-Matic for two. The blood starts to turn Edge’s blond hair red, which is the main factor in a truly MANLY bladejob. Edge bulldogs Angle for two. Ref bumped, and Angle suplexes him, loosening the wig. Buckwheat Angle climbs, but Edge follows him up and gets a backdrop superplex, which Angle manages to counter in mid-air, and both guys are down. Edge climbs again, but Angle goes low and gives him the Angle Slam off the top. Ref is still out. Hope he has medical coverage in case he ends up a vegetable due to being unconscious this long. Angle climbs out with ease, but of course it’s not official unless the ref is awake to see it. Hulk Hogan sends him into the cage, however, and back into the ring. Commercial, and we return with an Angle Slam for two. Edge gets his own for two. Anglelock, but Edge counters him into the cage and gets his own. Angle counters, but Edge tries to climb, only to get stomped down by Angle. Angle goes for the door, but Edge won’t let him. Angle climbs, but Edge follows and Angle crotches himself on the cage door. Back into the cage, Angle ends up on the mat, and Edge follows him down with a spear from the top for the pin at 14:34. More good stuff, but did we need the goofy non-finish and Hogan interference? ****

– More Easter Eggs! For Disc two, highlight the Owen v. Bret match and hit right, to see the full empty-arena interview with Owen & Anvil.

The Bottom Line:

Quite the collection of stuff here, and THIS is how they should be making use of the video library – showcasing their past matches to make a few bucks off them. Especially since it’ll prevent people from getting this same stuff from Joe Video Dealer with 4th generation quality on VHS. It’s worth it for Magnum-Tully in DVD quality alone, but the main program is pretty good stuff, too.

Highly recommended. Pick it up at Amazon, below.