The SmarK DVD Rant for The Best of WWE In Your House (Blu-Ray
As a warning, this may be the laziest rant I’ve ever done. For those wanting to skip ahead to the new material, I’ll be redoing the No Way Out 8-man tag, the Final Four four-way match, Ken Shamrock v Mankind from Judgment Day, and Austin v. Bret from Revenge of the Taker. I figure that if WWE can’t be more imaginative than including the same matches they put on all Shawn Michaels compilations, why should I? I mean, I know it’s a hell of a match, but how many times do I NEED to watch Shawn Michaels v. Mankind? It has to have set some kind of record for appearances on DVD sets by this point, perhaps only rivaled by Bret v. Bulldog from Summerslam 92. Thankfully, they didn’t include that match here. Although they did include Bret v. Bulldog from In Your House 5.
Anyway, this is an interesting collection, because the “In Your House” concept was very much of a time, that being the late 90s during the WWF’s biggest downturn. The idea was Vince McMahon expanding the PPV market to 12 a year but still hedging his bets with a lower-priced option, which turned into a full-priced option after WCW started running the same number of shows. Generally not great shows, although at only two hours generally one good match was enough to justify the purchase.
Hosted by TODD PETTENGILL. Jesus, what radio station hell did they dredge his body out of? As usual he’s pretty laid-back and self-effacing about the whole thing.
Bret Hart v. Hakushi.
So this was the first match on the first In Your House. Hakushi was actually quite the breath of fresh air in 1995, getting over without speaking English or wrestling WWF Main Event Style. This of course was far too threatening to those on top and he was crushed by the Clique as a result. He was managed by “Shinja”, who was former Orient Express member Akio Sato in white-face makeup. Hakushi grabs a headlock to start and they do a stalemate sequence. Hakushi uses the hair to take Bret down and they exchange wristlocks before Hakushi gets a shoulderblock for two. To the armbar and they work off that for a bit before messing something up on a criss-cross, so Bret improvises with a hiptoss and armdrags to send Hakushi to the outside. He sneaks back in and attacks Bret from behind, but Bret pounds him in the corner. Bret gets reversed with his turnbuckle bump and Hakushi gets a pump splash for two. He stomps a mudhole and actually gets an early form of the Broncobuster, without the obvious gay undertones like with Sean Waltman. Bret tries a rollup, but gets reversed to the floor and attacked by Shinja. Back in, Hakushi pounds away with nothing of consequence and chokes him out in the corner. He starts chopping and gets a handspring elbow and more choking. There’s just too much dead space in between moves. They slug it out and Hakushi uses the good ol’ thumb to the eye and gets a backbreaker for two. To the top and a beautiful diving headbutt gets two. He heads to the apron and springboards in with a splash, but misses, and Bret makes the comeback. Wait for it…wait for it…FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Russian legsweep, bulldog, backbreaker, second-rope elbow and Sharpshooter in this case. He gets distracted by Shinja, but manages an atomic drop and clothesline (with a great 0.8 Jannetty sell by Hakushi) to keep Hakushi down. Bret hammers away on the ropes, but gets tripped up by Shinja and stops to hit him with a tope suicida. Back in, Hakushi dropkicks him coming in for two. “Not this way!” cries Vince. Not with a dropkick? Is there something inherently bad about dropkicks? Bret reverses a suplex and they do an INSANE double bump over the top and to the floor. I mean, they barely even touched the apron on the way down. Bret goes after Shinja again, and Hakushi hits him with an Asai moonsault that gets nearly 3 seconds of hangtime. The crowd actually starts chanting for HAKUSHI. Bret fights his way back to the apron and reverses a suplex in, and they reverse off that into a reverse rollup by Bret for the pin at 14:41. Hakushi’s offense was a bit plodding in the middle, but there was some CRAZY stuff in here that you didn’t see at the time and Bret gave his usual 110% PPV effort. ***3/4 Bret, however, with another match later against Jerry Lawler, twists his ankle leaving the ring and may be hurt.
Intercontinental title match: Jeff Jarrett v. Shawn Michaels.
From In Your House #2. Shawn is ungodly over here. He sends Jarrett flying into the corner with a pair of rights to start. JJ gets an armdrag and struts to celebrate. Shawn alley-oops over him in the corner, but gets nailed with a right and bails. Back in, JJ grabs a headlock and they do a complex hiptoss-reversal sequence. Shawn wins iteration #1 by poking him in the eye, then Jarrett wins the second one, only to get clotheslined to the floor. Great sequence. Shawn skins the cat back in, and Jarrett decides to walk out. He plays mindgames with Shawn, faking coming back in a couple of times before finally Shawn snaps and chases him. Back in, Shawn goes off the top but gets nailed coming down. JJ misses a dropkick and Shawn nails Roadie off the apron and dumps Jarrett, then follows with a tope that the crowd eats up. Back in, Jarrett ducks a cross-body, but gets sunset-flipped. He recovers and Shawn charges, but Jarrett backdrops him clear over the top rope and to the floor backfirst, the move that has since been dubbed by history as The Holy Shit Bump, for good reason. JJ tosses him back in, and hits a gourdbuster for two. He goes into the abdominal stretch, using the Roadie for leverage. Leaping DDT gets two. Jarrett chokes him out, but hits Roadie by mistake. Shawn rolls him up for two, but gets tossed to the corner and Flair Flips to the floor. Jarrett goes to the top to draw the referee over, then lets Roadie do the actual dirty work of clotheslining Shawn off the apron. Back in, Shawn rolls through a bodypress for two. Jarrett sunset flip is blocked for two, but he finishes the move for two. Jarrett hits a Holly-ish dropkick for two. Sleeper gets a two count, but Shawn escapes with a backdrop suplex and crawls over for two. Shawn makes the superman comeback, hitting a flying forearm. Double axehandle gets two. Flying elbow gets two. Shawn posts him and goes upstairs, but Roadie crotches him and Jarrett superplexes him. Figure-four, but Shawn reverses to a cradle for two. Figure-four again, but this time Shawn pushes him off and into the ref. Roadie sneaks in and clips Shawn, and Jarrett hits a flying bodypress for two. Jarrett comes off the ropes to finish, but Roadie is busy gloating about his interference and doesn’t even notice that he trips the wrong guy. Oops. Superkick, goodbye at 19:58 and Shawn Michaels wins the I-C title for the third time. ***** Just a terrific blend of the old-school southern mentality from Jarrett with the requisite sick bumps from Michaels and a super-hot crowd. On the other hand, I can certainly understand how lots of people might not love this match as much because of the stalling and generally slower pace, but I like it as a counterpoint to all of Shawn’s high-impact, fast-paced stuff. To each their own, and as Stuart Smalley might say, that’s…okay.
Intercontinental title: Dean Douglas v. Razor Ramon.
From the god-awful In Your House #4, the show in Winnipeg so bad that it basically resulted in Vince pulling the plug on Diesel as champion. Douglas bails early. Back in, Ramon works the arm. That lasts a while. Dean comes back and stomps Ramon, but walks into a blockbuster suplex and gets dumped. Stalling follows. Suplex back in and Ramon stomps him. Douglas bails again to keep up the excitement level. Back in, Ramon goes back to that arm. Razor’s Edge is reversed, and they brawl outside. Back in, Douglas goes upstairs and gets caught with a chokeslam. Slugfest is won by Ramon, and he goes for a superplex, which is blocked. Bodypress by Douglas is rolled through for two. Douglas takes over, but gets suplexed and pinned out of nowhere at 11:00, despite having his feet in the ropes. Nice of Ramon to basically give him no offense and then pin him with a transition move. No wonder Douglas is so bitter. This, by the way, is the shortest IC title reign ever. ½*
Hogpen match: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Henry O. Godwinn.
From In Your House #5. Okay, it’s time we had that talk again about why the WWF got killed by WCW around this time. See, the Old Ways of doing things were that a wrestler was given a gimmick, and then became defined by that gimmick rather than developing an actual character. In this case, Godwinn is a hog farmer, so his “specialty” is a match where the loser is the one to get dumped into a hogpen. This mentality survives to this day even with Ken Shamrock’s “Lion’s den match” and Kane’s “Inferno match” and a multitude of others. Back to Goldust for a second: He was one of the first people to be given a gimmick (movie reciting weirdo), and when that didn’t get over he was given a CHARACTER (weirdo in love with Razor Ramon) and THAT’S what got him over. Vince doesn’t learn very fast, unfortunately, so it took him a while to catch on. To the match: Neither man is over to great degree at this point, because both are boring with no character at this point. HHH is a Greenwich snob, but so what? Aside from heat for his formal bow, people have no reason to care about him. Ditto HOG, who carries a pig with him everywhere. Big deal, so he carries a pig. HOG ties HHH up in the ropes early on and rubs some slop in his face. Oooo, what political satire by the rapier wit of Vince McMahon, as the inbred hillbilly uses his country know-how to teach that fancy-pants Greenwich snob a thing or two. Hey, guess what: That sums up the NEXT THREE YEARS for the WWF. This match was not only a dumb idea, it was a god damned allegory, too, for the Monday Night Wars! Hunter gets understandably pissed off about this and hits a neckbreaker to take over. Then a kneedrop. Can’t forget the knee. Outside, HHH gets rammed into the stairs. They fight to the hogpen, where HHH nearly gets backdropped into the pen, but holds onto the sides and then drops an elbow on HOG from it. Okay, that looked cool. They head back to the ring as Lawler does some redneck humor. Godwinn takes over with power stuff as HHH bumps around. Back out to the hogpen, where Godwinn tries the slop drop but it’s blocked. He whips HHH into the pen, then hits the slop drop properly. HHH staggers to his feet, and Henry makes that same cardinal mistake: He charges with his head down, allowing Hunter to backdrop him up and into the hogpen for the win at 9:04. Surprisingly well-worked gimmick match. **1/2
WWF World title match: Bret Hart v. British Bulldog.
Also from In Your House #5. Mat wrestling to start, as they trade wristlocks. Bret slides in and out of the ring and hits an atomic drop, but Bulldog catches him coming off the ropes with a knee to the midsection and hangs him in the tree of woe. Odd moment as Davey seems to nail Hebner legit on the backswing by accident, and then he HELPS HIM UP?!? What self-respecting heel would do that? Smack him around now, say sorry later. Bulldog counters a crucifix and drops a leg for two. Cornette delivers a Santa-themed racket shot. Lots of resting here. Bret’s corner bump gives Bulldog a two count. Back body drop (or as Vince would say, “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK bodydrop”) gets two. Bulldog holds a side headlock. Criss-cross leads to a monkey flip and Bret takes over. Bulldog to the Bulldog gets two. Piledriver gets two. Superplex is blocked and Davey bounces Bret crotch-first on the top rope, and the poor guy goes about three feet in the air on the upswing. Ouch. Bret gets tossed to the stairs and blades. Bret and the WWF have since feigned innocence, but it was such an obvious spot, and Bret did the “blading position” for a minute afterwards, and it was to the forehead (really, now, when do you EVER see someone bleed from the FOREHEAD by accident in real life?) so I’m thinking someone was telling a fib here. Bret stands up and there’s a HUGE pool of his blood on the mats. Man, that’s just ugly. ECW’s trained seals chant “He’s Hardcore!” right on cue for that one. Back in, Bulldog gets a piledriver for two. Hanging suplex gets two. Military press gets two. Diving headbutt gets two. He goes for a bow-and-arrow, but Bret reverses to the Sharpshooter, and Davey Boy escapes. Bret bails, and comes back in with a quick german suplex for two. The mat is literally covered in Bret’s blood, although the cut is hard to see because the camera is zoomed out. Oh, and Bulldog’s white tights are now pink. Pleasant, huh? Bret backdrops him out and hits a pescado, then tries what I think was going to be a quebrada (!), but gets caught and powerslammed on the floor. Bulldog pulls up the mats, but Bret blocks a suplex and crotches him on the railing. Back in, a superplex gets two for Bret. Bulldog eats foot on a blind charge. Majastral cradle gets the pin for Bret at 21:09. Well, that was a pretty underwhelming finish. Good match, though. **** I can’t give the bladejob more than 0.3 Muta in good conscience, because the actual cut was small and he wasn’t wearing the crimson mask.
WWF World title: Shawn Michaels v. Diesel
This is the famous street fight from the “Good Friends Better Enemies” In Your House PPV (April 1996), as Diesel turned on his friend on the way out of the promotion. They show the video package for this beforehand and it’s epic stuff. Shawn runs in and attacks to start, then dropkicks Diesel out of the ring and baseball slides him. He adds a moonsault press, then steals the boot off the Spanish announcer and nails Diesel with it for two. Foreshadowing there. Diesel comes back and whips Shawn into the corner for a Flair Flip, then sends him crashing into the railing to take over. Back in, Diesel slugs him down and adds a short clothesline and Snake Eyes. He pounds away in the corner with knees while laying the badmouth on Jose Lothario, and the sidewalk slam leads to a break.
Back with Diesel holding a neck vice, but Shawn fights up and we get a great sequence with Shawn slugging away blindly and Diesel fighting him off until he finally goes down and out of the ring. Then another memorable spot sees Diesel setting up Shawn for a powerbomb on the floor, only to change his mind in mid-air and put him through the announce table instead, resulting in total chaos at ringside and a shocked crowd. Shawn is DEAD. Diesel grabs the title and actually straps it on himself while Vince tells Shawn to stay down, and this is all great stuff. However, Shawn gets a fire extinguisher and sprays it at Diesel, allowing himself time to make the comeback. There’s no commentary, which makes it all the more effective. Shawn gets the forearm and grabs a chair as Vince finally gets back on the air, and Shawn lays Diesel out with a sick chairshot to the face. Diesel is having none of this, however, and hits Shawn with the big boot as we take another break. Shawn blocks the Poochiebomb and slugs him down, then goes up for the flying elbow. That sets up the superkick, but Diesel CATCHES it and clotheslines him down. They brawl to the floor and Diesel drops him on the railing, as Shawn’s Ricky Morton selling is just off the charts. And then in the other most awesome spot, Diesel mugs Maurice Vachon at ringside and STEALS HIS ARTIFICIAL LEG. Shawn goes low to stop him, grabs the leg, and puts Diesel down with it, and then hits the superkick with his own foot to send Diesel to WCW at 13:11. Just awesome, with all kinds of crazy stuff that pre-dated the Attitude era by a couple of years. I’d say this is easily Diesel’s best match. ****3/4 My only issue is that Shawn recovered too fast from getting powerbombed through the table, but otherwise everything was spot-on and the selling from Shawn was impeccable. Plus I had forgotten a couple of the spots and I was going nuts watching it again as a result. Anything that can make me mark out after 15 years is GREAT.
WWF World title match: Shawn Michaels v. Mankind.
Of course, this was from In Your House Mindgames and a billion DVD releases. 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. 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. 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. *****
Steve Austin v. HHH.
From In Your House Buried Alive. This was hardly a money match, as Austin was supposed to be finishing off Savio 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, Vince” 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 ‘1-2-he-got-him-no-he-didn’t?”, 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
Buried Alive: Undertaker v. Mankind.
Also from Buried Alive, duh. 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
WWF Title: Vader v. Bret Hart v. Steve Austin v. Undertaker
So yeah, Shawn lost his smile and forfeited his title in February 97, and we get this match to determine the new champion at Final Four. The rules are somewhat goofy, with pinfalls, submissions and getting thrown over the top counting as eliminations. Undertaker quickly goes old school on Austin, but Vader puts him down with a belly to belly and tosses him. Not over the top, luckily. Vader and UT brawl and poor Finkel gets shoved around, but Taker boots a chair back in Vader’s face. He’s EATING THE STEEL, KING. Vader is already bleeding from the eye, and meanwhile Austin and Bret are having a perfectly cromulent match in the ring away from all the craziness. Vader and Taker continue stiffing each other back in the ring, and Taker chokeslams him before walking into an ugly Stunner gets two. So they switch partners and Austin hits Taker with a neckbreaker for two while Vader beats the hell out of Bret on the outside now. His eye looks like he got attacked by a dog or something, it’s pretty gory. Undertaker and Austin fight on the floor and Austin takes a backdrop on the concrete, which has the second ref checking on him and might be where he messed up his knee. He’s limping pretty bad, too, but still drops the stairs right on Vader’s head because WHY NOT? Vader drops him on the railing, but then charges and splashes poor Chad Yeaton instead, as the outside activities are actually far more entertaining than the in-ring portion. And then we switch off again, and it’s Bret turn to get beat up by Vader on the floor. It’s like he’s playing a real life No Mercy game or something, dragging out people one-by-one in a four-way to wear them down outside. Everyone ends up on the floor and Austin looks like he can barely walk, and then Undertaker punches Vader RIGHT IN THE BLOODY EYE. Austin gives Vader the Thesz Press and Undertaker just bowls Vader over as they are out there beating the hell out of each other for some reason. Bret piledrives Austin for two and Vader goes up to finish Undertaker, but misses the moonsault. Bret hits Austin with the middle rope elbow for two, but Austin rolls him up for two. Bret and Vader have an INSANE slugfest, just throwing down like crazy, and Bret kicks him in the nuts to win that. It only gets two. Things slow down with Vader trying an armbar submission on Bret while UT and Austin try to throw each other over the top, and then Bret finally accomplishes it at 16:51 when he puts Austin out. Taker hits Vader with a corner splash, but Bret pounds away to break it up until Vader clips Taker. He finally just gets rid of the bloody mask and goes up, but Bret cuts him off with a superplex. Sharpshooter looks to finish, but Taker breaks it up for some reason. Austin returns to beat on Bret some more and runs him into the post. Meanwhile, Taker hits Vader in the nuts to put him over the top, leaving Bret v. Undertaker. Bret charges right into a chokeslam, but Austin keeps interfering and Bret rolls up UT for two. Austin still won’t go away, so Taker goes to hit him again and Bret clotheslines him over the top to win the title back at 22:42. The honeymoon would of course be short-lived on that one. This was CHAOS, and I loved it. ****1/2
For Blu-Ray exclusives on this disc, we get some outtakes from Todd’s intros and the original minute-long feature with the kid who won the house in Florida.
Goldust, Ken Shamrock, The Legion of Doom and Steve Austin v. Brian Pillman, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldog, Owen Hart and Bret Hart.
Everyone from the US team gets SERIOUS heel heat. Steve Austin is nearly booed out of the building. The Hart Foundation is introduced one-by-one, with the ovation building with every guy, until the roof is nearly ready to blow off the place when Bret comes out. It gives me a lump in my throat to watch it. Austin & Bret start. Oh, by the way, the announcer make mention of a little documentary being shot at ringside. Something about “wrestling” and “shadows” or something like that. Bret beats the hell out of Austin, drawing INCREDIBLE face heat in the process. The crowd literally boos Austin’s every move. I mean, literally, when the guys MOVES they boo him. Austin quickly gets the cobra clutch, and they do the reversal spot in the corner for two. Austin misses the rope run, and Anvil tags in. Austin gets the Thesz press and tags Shamrock in. Zen sighting #3: He gets my masterpiece, “What’s Kayfabe?” on screen for a good chunk of time, and then had it confiscated by Adam (of George and Adam fame) about 10 seconds later. Shamrock controls easily, so Pillman tags in. He uses a blatant cheapshot and gets CHEERED for it. I know wrestlers always say that they like playing a heel and riling up the crowd, but Pillman had a grin about 4 miles wide on his face the entire match because of the babyface heat he was drawing. Backbreaker gets two. Shamrock hits a belly-to-belly, and everyone tags out. Owen & Goldust go. Enzuigiri gets two for Owen. Crowd starts with a VERY loud “Austin sucks” chant, and Austin wisely plays off it for fun. Hawk comes in with a legdrop on Owen for two. Flying splash gets two. Owen quickly comes back with the Sharpshooter, but Animal breaks. Big heel heat. Bulldog comes in with a hanging suplex and powerslam for two. Bret & Animal go next, and Bret kicks his ass. Goldust comes in and gets his ass kicked, too. Then he gets caught in the corner and a mass-beatdown results and the crowd is rabid and I’m nearly standing up and cheering even now. Owen comes in and hits the post on a blind charge, but comes back with a leg lariat on Animal and a missile dropkick. Rana is reversed into a powerbomb and powerslam. The LOD hits the Doomsday Device for two, and another brawl erupts. Austin posts Owen and smashes a chair into his knee, then takes a shot at Bruce Hart in the front row. Crowd lets Austin know how much he sucks as Owen heads to the back for medical attention. Austin gets pummelled in the corner to the delight of the crowd, but he fights free. Austin and Pillman go and a quick stunner ends that fight pretty quick. Bret bails him out and posts Austin, then smashes a chair into HIS knee and applies the ringpost figure-four as the announcers gasp in shock at the bloodthirsty crowd. Back in the ring, Bulldog crotches Hawk on the top rope for two. Austin heads to the back for medical attention, too. Animal & Anvil get into a test of strength. Anvil wins and the Harts double-team Animal. Bret gets caught in the corner, but Shamrock plays to the crowd and Pillman sneaks in and clotheslines him. Hey, Ken, you’re a HEEL here. Shamrock then gets caught in the Hart corner and sent to the floor, where Pillman gleefully launches him into the Spanish table. Pillman is just having the time of his life out there. Sadly, this would be the last great match of his career. It’s nice to actually see a smile on his face for an entire match, ya know? Hart gets the russian legsweep for two. Bulldog comes in and pulverizes Shamrock, but a low blow turns the tide. Ah, now you’re catching on, Kenny. Goldust comes in to clean up with a bulldog on Bulldog and the Curtain Call, but Pillman interferes again. Goldust goes aerial and gets superplexed down for two. Austin makes his return. It’s Bret v. Austin again, and Austin wins this round. Suplex gets two. Bret DDTs him and goes for the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM. Sleeper is escaped with a jawbreaker, and it gets two. Bret comes back and gets the Sharpshooter, but Animal saves, and the crowd is PISSED. Austin does his own version, and Owen returns now to make the save. Austin clotheslines him out to the floor and they fight there. Austin takes a shot at former referee Wayne Hart, and they end up brawling as Wayne jumps the railing. Bret comes over and nails Austin for hitting his brothers, then rolls him into the ring. Austin has some choice words for Bret, which lets Owen roll him up for the pin at 24:30. Like you need to ask what this gets. *****
Shawn Michaels v. The Undertaker.
Note to self: Don’t EVER piss off the Undertaker. Shawn was riding the babyface/heel fence at the time, and this is the match that put him over the top as a heel. D-Generation X would soon follow. The pyro guys screw up Shawn’s big entrance. Undertaker, who was destroyed by the thrown-together team of Shawn & HHH on a previous RAW, is so pissed that he flattens the referee before we even start. Shawn very wisely runs away. Sgt. Slaughter tries to stop him, and that allows Undertaker to toss our poor ref over the top and onto both of them. He chases Shawn up the ramp and indulges in some righteous and hellacious ass-kicking. Back to ringside, where he chokes Shawn out with a cable. A right sends Shawn sprawling onto the Spanish table, and another sends him flying from there onto the railing. Into the ring, where UT flattens him with a clothesline and drops two elbows. Shawn takes a nasty bump to the floor as ref #2 joins us. Shawn literally begs for a DQ, but the match hasn’t actually started yet, so no dice. Shawn sneaks in and clips UT as the match FINALLY starts. Shawn hammers him in the corner, but that just serves to annoy Undertaker. He goes up and gets caught coming down, and sent over the top. Onto the apron, as Shawn sunset flips in, and THAT doesn’t work either. He gets crotched in the corner, and clotheslined for two. UT works on the arm for a bit, but gets dropped on the top rope during the ropewalk. Shawn hits a baseball slide and a pescado, but UT casually catches him and rams him into the ringpost. Back in, where a massive backdrop gets two. Shawn gets a swinging neckbreaker, but UT ignores it. Shawn grabs a chair, UT ignores it, then grabs it for himself. The ref gets in the way and is wiped out. Shawn hammers UT and hits a flying elbowdrop, but there’s no ref. Another one gets two as Rick Rude joins us and gives Shawn a pair of brass knuckles. The REAL old-school kind, not the wimpy taped-up ones you usually see. Shawn bashes UT’s brains in with them for two. HHH & Chyna bring us another ref, and Shawn beats HIM up, too. Hunter & Chyna work UT over. Back in, it’s a slugfest. UT hits the floor and Shawn follows with a tope. Back in, UT blocks the superkick and pulls the brass knuckles out of Shawn’s tights. A good shot with them gets two. Undertaker chokeslams the ref, and finally another ref comes in and calls the whole thing a no-contest at 21:58. D-X tries a heel beatdown, but UT’s having none of that, thank you. Tombstone for HHH, and the lockerroom empties to pull them apart. Shawn escapes, so UT debuts the DEAD GUY OUTTA CONTROL no-hands plancha and sends the crowd into fits of cheering, taking out about 10 guys in the process. And THAT is the end of show. Pretty much the damnedest brawl you’ll ever see, and a match so intense that there was only one way to settle this feud…Hell in a Cell. ****
HHH, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn & Savio Vega v. Steve Austin, Cactus Jack, Terry Funk & Owen Hart
This was the main event of No Way Out (of Texas), with Shawn Michael getting replaced by the disappointing choice of Savio Vega. Given that he could barely walk at that point, it shouldn’t have been surprising that he couldn’t make it, but then perhaps they shouldn’t have advertised him. I recall not enjoying this initially due to the Shawn no-show, but perhaps time has been kinder to it than me. Austin kills everyone to start and clotheslines HHH for two, and they fight to the floor as Austin uses the non-proverbial broomstick on him. In the ring, Cactus and Funk double-team Road Dogg and abuse a table, and it’s just crazy brawling without a break. Hunter beats on Funk with a trash can and poor Hebner is tripping over all the weapons. Funk then takes a powerbomb from Dogg onto a pair of chairs, and keep in mind he was ALREADY a senior citizen at this point. That is FINALLY enough to get everyone onto the apron for the actual tag match portion at 7:00 in, and Gunn gets two. D-X gets to the business of beating up Funk in their corner, and Dogg suplexes him onto a can lid for two. Billy Gunn starts snarking at Austin, so we get the awesomest spot of all-time, as Austin grabs a trashcan and just HURLS it at Gunn from the apron, hitting him right in the face. That is why he’s the biggest draw of all-time. False tag to Owen allows the heels to dish out more chairshots to Funk. Finally he collides with Dogg and stumbles into a tag to Cactus, and he’s onto the Outlaws with a DDT of Gunn for two. Double claw on the Outlaws, but Hunter breaks it up with a nutshot and Jack is your bestselling author in peril. He bails to the floor and Gunn DDTs him out there. Back in, Hunter with a suplex for two. Savio brings the barbed wire into the match and wraps Jack up with it, which is definitely something Ricky Morton never tried. That’s a bit much, actually. Owen finally makes the save from that, but then Savio just blasts Jack in the head with a chair. So many unprotected chairshots in this match, it’s pretty sick. But then, it’s HOT FUCKING TAG Steve Austin and you’ve never heard a crowd go crazy like this. KICK WHAM STUNNER for Road Dogg finishes at 17:38 and that’s that. The first portion with the car-wreck brawl was amazing, but the tag match was pretty mediocre, and it didn’t feel like they ever built enough heat on the babyfaces to set up Austin’s big comeback. Plus Owen didn’t even tag in! I was at ***1/4 originally and I’d stand by that. If they had stuck with the brawl it would have been epic and remembered forever, but it just kind of got worse and worse as it went along.
WWF Tag title match: Kane & Mankind v. Undertaker & Steve Austin.
This started as a straight tag match before the WWF bookers had the bright idea of taking the tag titles off the hottest team in the sport — the Outlaws — and putting it on Kane & Mankind to be contended as a meaningless prize on a meaningless PPV (the Summerslam main had been announced a couple of weeks previous to this). Austin pounds Mick to start, but gets caught in the corner and worked by Kane. Quick stunner is blocked and we head outside. Back in, UT gets a russian legsweep (as if UT was ever rushin’ anywhere in his life…) and offers Austin a middle finger. Mick tags in and plays ragdoll for Undertaker. Poor guy goes 15 feet off the top of a cage, through a table, nearly dies, and he’s out there the next month bumping around again. I fear for his mental state in 10 years. Not much going on, at any rate. Kane comes in and chokeslams UT. A sort of face-claw type thing follows. UT plays face-in-peril as Mick gets the double-arm DDT for two. Cactus clothesline puts Taker on the floor, but Austin hipchecks Foley off the apron and into the Spanish table…and IT STILL DOESN’T BREAK! It’s the Toshiaki Kawada of tables! Hot tag Austin, who cleans house on Kane and blasts him with a chair for two. Ross way over-sells the chairshot, probably because everyone is moving so slow that there’s nothing else to talk about. Kane gets a big boot and tosses Austin into the clutches of Mankind. Back in, Austin plays cripple-in-peril. Yawn. Everyone in this is so limited by injuries (Foley, Austin) or just being themselves (UT, Kane) that it would have taken a miracle on a Shawn Michaels scale to get something watchable out of it. Austin and Foley go to the double-KO. God, this is boring. This is mid-card tag team booking in a main event match, and even the crowd knows it. Kane chokeslams Austin, but the tombstone is reversed to the stunner, and another one for Mankind. Undertaker doesn’t try terribly hard for the tag, pissing off the crowd. Finally, he reaches for and gets the hot tag, and finishes Kane with the usual at 17:59 to win the tag titles. *1/2 But can Austin trust Undertaker? SHADES OF GREY, BABEE!
Intercontinental title: Ken Shamrock v. Mankind
From Judgment Day 98, this was the dawn of ROBO-SHAMROCK, my favorite phase of the character and probably where he should have been from the beginning. Shamrock goes right to work on the leg and then goes to the arm instead. Mankind comes back with the legdrop for two, but Shamrock hammerlocks him. He throws some vicious knees, but Mankind gets the Mandible Claw and Shamrock bails to escape. Back in, Mankind gets the back and tries a claw from the mat, but Shamrock pounds him out and they fight to the floor as this thing is kind of meandering along. Shamrock kicks a chair back in Mick’s face and then lays him out with a chairshot, which is somehow not a DQ. Like, he hit the dude right in the face with a chair in full view of the referee! Even the announcers can’t justify that one. Back in, clothesline gets two. Shamrock with a wristlock, and the belly to belly sets up the anklelock, but Mankind comes back with the DDT and both guys are out. Shamrock gets hung in the Tree of Woe and they end up on the floor again. Shamrock slams Mick onto the stairs, which injures the leg, and it’s back in for the anklelock. Mick of course would never tap, so he devises the unique strategy of putting the Mandible Claw on himself, thus passing out instead of submitting at 14:20. Kind of a goofy, but famous, finish. Match was OK. ***
WWF World title, Last Man Standing: Mankind v. The Rock
Now remember, there MUST be a winner. I actually forgot that Mankind was the champion at this point. And don’t forget, there absolutely has to be a winner, no exceptions. Rock attacks to start and goes for the knee that he injured on Sunday Night Heat. Mankind comes back with a belt to the head, and that gets an 8 count. They fight up the aisle and Rock gets sent into the set, but comes back and whips Mick into it as well. Over to the website table, where Mankind DDTs Rock through the table. Rock answers the bell at 8. Back to the crowd, where Rock gets a sudden backdrop suplex and Mick takes yet another bump onto concrete, but he’s up at 3. Back to ringside and Rock gets whipped into the stairs. Into the ring for a People’s Elbow from Mankind, but it misses. Well, he’s not the Great One. Rock comes back and slugs Mick out of the ring, and follows with a suplex on the floor. Rock takes a break to do color commentary while the ref counts Mick down, but he’s up at 7. Rock threatens to give him “A Rock burger with a little extra Rock sauce on the side” but Mick attacks him to cut off the food-related smack talk and drops the elbow from the apron to the table. Rock answers the bell at 8. Back into the ring and Mankind charges with the stairs, but gets them kicked back in his face. Rock gets a chair and goes after the knee again, but does the silly spot where he hits the ropes and knocks himself out with it. Cactus clothesline puts both guys on the floor and they brawl back to the announce table again. Mick goes for a piledriver, but Rock backdrops him into the timekeeper’s table and thus hurts the leg again. Rock tosses the stairs onto Mick’s leg for good measure in a sick spot, but Mick still answers the bell. Rock grabs the mike and stops to sing “Smackdown Hotel”, but Mick awakes and gives him the Mandible Sock in mid-chorus. Rock answers the bell at 8 and comes back with a DDT, which puts Mankind down for 8. Mankind gets his own DDT for 8. Mr. Socko is countered with Rock Bottom and then they hit each other with chairs, and it’s a draw at 21:52. The crowd chants “bullshit”, rightly so given that they stressed several times that there MUST BE A WINNER. Definitely the lesser of their series, as they had good chemistry but not epic chemistry like Rock and Austin did. ***
Blu Ray Bonus Matches!
Bret Hart v. Steve Austin
From the throwaway “Revenge of the Taker” show in April 97, this was of course the rematch of the greatest Wrestlemania match of all-time. And I recall it being announced as a different match and changed to this as a result of an injury, but I can’t remember what the original match was going to be. Austin attacks and they brawl to the floor, which results in Bret getting run into the stairs. Update from Vince: Paul Bearer is currently writhing in pain and EMTs are working on him. Man, that’s a bit creepy out of context now. They brawl up the aisle and into the CAVERNOUS empty section on the floor, as this show did not too so well on the financial front. Back in, Austin with an elbow off the middle rope for two, and they head back to the floor again, where Bret grabs a chair but gets cut off by Austin. Bret finally gets the chair and pounds on Austin’s knee with it, relishing his new bad guy role. Bret kindly assists the ref to his feet, and then kicks Austin in the knee in a funny spot. Austin keeps fighting, but Bret pulls out the ringpost figure-four, and then starts banging on the knee with a chair for good measure. Austin fires back with elbows, but Bret casually kicks him in the knee again and goes right back to the leg. They head to the floor again and Bret keeps hitting him in the knee until Austin finally goes low to turn the tide. Austin goes up for another elbow, but misses and hurts the knee again on the way down. Bret goes to the figure-four, but Austin reverses it…and Bret kicks the knee again. Another ringpost figure-four, but Austin blocks it and they fight on the floor. Austin wins that one and they head back in, where Austin tries a piledriver…and the knee buckles again. Bret continues stomping on it, but Austin stunguns him for two. Austin wants the stunner, but Bret goes low to block it and they head up for a superplex from Bret. He goes for the Sharpshooter to finish, but Austin whacks him with his own knee brace to block, and applies the Sharpshooter himself. Sadly, we don’t find out the conclusion to this, as the Hart Foundation runs in for the DQ at 21:04. Well that was quite the shit finish to a PPV. This one hasn’t aged very well at all, with the dead crowd and relative inaction dragging it down a lot. ***
Light Heavyweight title finals: Taka Michinoku v. Brian Christopher.
Christopher starts right in with the stalling, killing the match right out of the starting gate. A wristlock sequence leads to yet more stalling. Taka flips out of a german suplex and a pair of dropkicks send Christopher to the floor, and Taka follows with the awesome springboard plancha that he hasn’t busted out in a while. Brian crotches him on the top rope and knocks him to the floor. He tries a plancha, but misses and rams his mouth into the railing, drawing impressive blood from his mouth. Back in, Taka misses a missile dropkick and gets hammered, but a blind charge from Brian misses. Taka gets a tornado DDT for two, and a rana sends Christopher fleeing. Taka follows with a quebrada. Lawler gets involved, rolling Christopher back in, which allows Taka to hit two seated dropkicks. Christopher comes back with the Stroke and some choking. Ligerbomb gets two, reversed by Taka for two. Brian gets a missile dropkick, but stalls again. Fameasser, and MORE stalling. This is getting ridiculous, as Brian is trying all his cheap Memphis tactics to get a rise out of the Russoized crowd. Backbreaker gets two. Christopher uses the Bossman sliding punch for some reason (a shot at then-WCW employee Ray Traylor?) and slaps Taka around. Brian mocks the Japanese by threatening to use his hamster-style on Taka (if you don’t get the reference, consider yourself lucky), then gets a lariat…and STALLS AGAIN. He finally covers for two. What a boring match. Christopher hits a release german suplex and stalls AGAIN. Standing legdrop gets two. Powerslam sets up the Tennessee Jam (the current Hip Hop Drop), which misses, and Taka gets the Michinoku Driver to finish and win the title at 12:00. This was pretty much the worst way to start off the title as you could hope for, short of Brian actually winning the thing. Christopher absolutely buried the match with his Memphis crap, when it was totally unwarranted. *1/2 for some highspots and not much else.
WWF title match: Shawn Michaels v. Ken Shamrock.
This had “bad idea” written all over it from the get-go, but at that point they figured they might as well try to recoup some money on their investment in Shamrock. Shawn escapes a press slam, but takes a kick to the head and bails, and stalls. Back in, Shamrock gets a hiptoss and backdrop, and Shawn bails again. Shawn hammers Shamrock in the corner, but Ken hits his own offense and Shawn bails AGAIN. I sense less than the usual effort from HBK tonight. Shamrock blocks a sunset flip and pounds on Shawn. We head outside again, where HHH lays in some shots and Shawn follows with a tope. They brawl, but Chyna shoves Shamrock into the ringpost, and slams him. Back in, Shawn works on the back. Dropkick gets two. Shawn bodypress is reversed for two, and Shawn goes to a chinlock. Geez, when does Michaels EVER go to a chinlock? He switches to a sleeper for some reason. Shamrock comes backs with two cross-corner clotheslines and a powerslam for two. Mini pinning sequence gets two for Shamrock. Ligerbomb gets two. D-X pounds on Shamrock, allowing Shawn to hit the flying elbowsmash. Sweet Chin Music misses, and the anklelock results, and the nW…er, D-X runs in for the cheap DQ at 18:26. Words cannot express how lame it is to have a DQ finish for a near-20 minute match that was dragging badly to begin with. Total brainfart on someone’s part here, as it looked like Shawn was none too happy about working with Shamrock and Shamrock was confused as all hell without Shawn to hold his hand through the whole match. Your basic trainwreck, in short. **1/4 for some decent stuff here and there.
D-Lo Brown v. X-Pac.
D-Lo was fresh off winning the Euro title from HHH, but this is non-title because D-Lo is a BAD PERSON. He uses the CHEST PROTECTOR OF DEATH to knock X-Pac down to start. Crowd tells him that he sucks. X-Pac armdrags him and offers some crotch-chops. Spinkick duel goes D-Lo’s way for two. D-Lo catches another X-Pac kick, but X-Pac hits an enzuigiri. Blind charge misses and D-Lo gets two. We HIT THE CHINLOCK! That lasts a while, with D-Lo forgetting to be a good little heel and put his DAMN FEET ON THE ROPES. Note to aspiring wrestlers out there, here’s some free advice when you’re working heel: Uses the ropes for leverage as much as humanly possible. It’s free heat and it never gets old. For those keeping track, consider that Rule #2 (after #1: Never repeat a blown spot.) X-Pac fights out but gets flattened and legdropped for two. Neat old-school psychology as X-Pac kicks at D-Lo’s chest to fight back, but it has no effect, because he’s wearing a chest protector. D-Lo misses a charge, then X-Pac misses a leg lariat. D-Lo gets an elbowdrop for two. Back to that pesky chinlock. Jawbreaker counters, but D-Lo pounds him down again..and misses a moonsault. X-Pac comeback and spinkick puts D-Lo in the corner, leading to the broncobuster, which the camera completely misses due to the retarded “Double Feature”. X-Pac nails the Godfather off the apron, but turns around and walks into the Sky High for the pin at 8:24. You’ve got no one to blame but yourself for that bonehead move, Sean. Match was only so-so, but they had a couple of better ones later in the year. **
Very little to complain about with this set, as you get a whole bunch of ****+ matches, albeit with almost no historical perspective of any kind. It’s basically an extended edition of WWE Vintage Collection (“This week’s theme: The best of In Your House!”) but since that’s what they’re essentially advertising it as, I can’t fault them for it. Match-wise, it’s terrific. Thumbs up!
Tags: attitude era, Blu-ray, Bret Hart, Mankind, shawn michaels, SmarK Rants, Steve Austin, Todd Pettengill, undertaker