The SmarK Rant for WWF Survivor Series 1996 – 11.17.96
I know the 11.11.96 Nitro is next in line, but I have a few hours free tonight so we’ll hit this one first.
Live from New York, NY
Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassidy v. Doug Furnas, Phil LaFon, Henry Godwinn & Phineas Godwinn
This was the first real appearance of Evil Leif Cassidy, with the goatee and perpetual sneer. I really thought that version of the character had some legs because it was basically just SMW Al Snow, but it wasn’t to be. Marty parades around as JR accuses him of being a GEEK, but LaFon out-wrestles him on the mat to control. Cassidy comes in and Phil takes him down with a heel hook and it’s over to PIG. Leif slams him and talks some trash as this match goes nowhere slowly. Owen & Bulldog get a cheapshot on PIG and double-team him, but Marty goes up and misses an elbow. Henry comes in and now Marty hurts his knee and can barely walk, so HOG finishes him with the Slop Drop at 8:08. Owen blazes in with a leg lariat to eliminate HOG at 8:19. PIG runs wild and dumps Owen, but walks into Bulldog’s powerslam at 9:02. So now we’ve actually got Furnas & LaFon v. Bulldog/Owen/Cassidy, which is a relief because the first 10:00 were the drizzling shits. Furnas gets triple-teamed in the heel corner and Leif hits a uranage for two. Owen with a leg lariat for two, but Furnas cradles him for two. Owen puts him down with a forearm and a fisherman’s suplex gets two. More double-teaming in the heel corner, and JR raises a good point: Why do we have two referees if the heels are still cheating anyway? Bulldog with a delayed suplex and Cassidy with a gutbuster, but LaFon gets the cold tag. This crowd is DEAD. He quickly superplexes Cassidy for the pin at 13:42 and drops Bulldog with a back kick. Cradle gets two, but Bulldog faceplants him. Owen with a belly to belly for two and a flying elbow for two. Enzuigiri gets two. Bulldog comes in with his new favorite move, the kick to the nuts, and Vince is AGHAST at this cheating on display. Owen cuts off the tag, but LaFon rolls up Bulldog for the pin at 17:28. So Owen is alone and he works on LaFon’s knee, since Bulldog was nice enough to clip Phil on the way out. Sharpshooter, but Furnas comes in to break it up, then gets the hot tag and throws suplexes on Owen before finishing with a german suplex at 20:50 to win it. Technically good after the Godwinns were dumped, but there wasn’t much heat for it and they’d have better ones later on. ***
Meanwhile, Mankind promises to stomp Undertaker like the cockroaches in MSG.
Undertaker v. Mankind
First major repackage of Undertaker here, as he trades in the original mortician outfit for a more modern leather look. It was a HUGE improvement. So if Undertaker wins, he gets 5:00 with Paul Bearer, who is also suspended in a cage for this one. I feel like Jim Cornette may have booked this one. Just a hunch. Taker beats on Mankind and works on the arm with a cross armbreaker, which is kind of a weird character change for a guy who was doing zombie situps and moving slowly just a couple of months prior. Taker beats on him outside and works over the hand, but Mankind comes back with a Cactus clothesline and tries to run into the crowd. UT backdrops him back to ringside as poor Mick just bumps all over MSG here, but he goes low to take over and hits Taker with a senton off the apron. Back in, Mankind with the running knee in the corner, but Taker pounds him down again. Mankind with a vicious piledriver, but Taker blocks the Claw and chucks him to the floor to break. Taker keeps working on the hand and gets the ropewalk, but Mankind puts him down with a neckbreaker and goes up. And then Taker wakes up from that as well and goes for the chokeslam, but it’s Claw time. At this point we can clearly see that Mick has dropped the gimmick he was going to use later in the match, and it just sits there on the mat with everyone ignoring it. Taker escapes with the chokeslam, but charges and hits the floor, so Mick the crazy man hurtles himself off the apron and misses completely. Back in, Taker gets a backdrop suplex and now Mankind magically finds the foreign object that prematurely fell from his tights before. Mankind works him over in the corner with it, but Taker tombstones him to finish at 14:49. This was pretty much by-the-numbers. **1/2 Sadly, the Executioner runs in for the immediate DQ, and Taker chases all the heels off. Nice bait-and-switch there.
Crush, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Jerry Lawler & Goldust v. Marc Mero, Barry Windham, Rocky Maivia & Jake Roberts
So of course this match was intended for a very specific purpose, which I’m sure you can figure out. Mr. Perfect is absent from ringside for HHH, and off to WCW in fact. The faces work over Goldust to start and Windham gets a lariat, as someone finally mentions that he’s a two-time tag champion! They’d been ignoring his whole history up until this point. Rocky comes in and quickly gets beat up by Lawler, but he comes back with his goofy Rocky Johnson comeback and the crowd immediately isn’t buying it. We get the first HHH v. Rock showdown and Goldust drops an elbow for two. Rocky plays face-in-peril for a bit, but gets the hot tag to Jake. Hunter blocks the DDT and now the heels beat on Jake for a while, but a DDT finishes Lawler at 10:00. Goldust with the chinlock, but Windham comes in with a floatover suplex for two. Sadly, Crush hits him with a kidney shot from behind and Goldust finishes him at 12:40. So much for his lucky boots that JR was just putting over. Over to Mero, and now Hunter works him over as even the announcers sound bored. The heels get a series of dull near-falls on Mero with stuff like clotheslines and bodyslams, until Hunter really ramps things up with an abdominal stretch. That goes on FOREVER as Sable tries to get the crowd going with no luck, and finally Mero gets a sunset flip to break. Hunter tosses him and Mero comes back in with a moonsault to eliminate Hunter at 19:22. Mero dives onto Crush and misses, and Crush pins him at 20:30. Jake comes in and gets heart-punched at 20:55. So Rocky is alone, but he gets a small package on Crush for two. Rock does his ridiculous comeback again and dumps Goldust, but a low blow turns the tide. Heel miscommunication results in Crush getting pinned at 23:15, and the shoulderbreaker finishes Goldust at 23:43. Both JR and Vince were falling over themselves to declare Rocky the next big thing in wrestling. And well, they were right. This match was pretty dreadful, though. *
Steve Austin v. Bret Hart
MSG goes nuts for Austin and you can really see the superstardom forming. JR supposes that someone might submit to end it, and Vince wonders if someone might actually put a Sharpshooter on Bret and make him submit. Yeah, right, like Bret would ever submit to his own Sharpshooter at Survivor Series. They trade hammerlocks to start and Austin puts him down with an elbow, but Bret reverses him and goes back to the arm again. Vince begins his subtle burial of Bret, noting that there’s not a lot of offense from Bret despite his control of the match. Austin catches him with a stungun and pounds away on the apron, sending Bret to the floor. Back in for the chinlock, but they slug it out in dramatic fashion and Austin wins that one. Bret comes back with an atomic drop and a rollup for two, and the legsweep gets two. Austin counters the bulldog, but Bret blocks a superplex and follows with a top rope elbow for two. Austin’s finally had enough and tosses him to take over, then goes to work on the back and catapults Bret into the Spanish announce table. JR notes that it’s always the poor Spanish announce guys that suffer, in a funny bit. And this was before it became a trope! Back in with a suplex and Vince is writing Bret off as old and washed up. Austin with a middle rope elbow for two and now JR jumps on the anti-Bret bandwagon, picking up on Vince’s vibe. Austin chokes away and gets two, and goes to the abdominal stretch as the crowd starts to split between Bret and Austin. Minor note: Austin’s double bird to the referee is blurred out, so this is the Classics on Demand edit of the show. They slug it out again with wild punches and Bret hits him with his own stungun, into a rollup for two. I think that was supposed to be an Oklahoma roll but it didn’t work out. Piledriver gets two. Bret goes up and gets caught, and Austin brings him down with a superplex, which Bret turns into a pinning combination for two. That was an old Dynamite Kid trick. Austin with the Stunner for two. Austin goes with a Texas Cloverleaf, but Bret makes the ropes before Vince can elbow the timekeeper. Austin just lays in the boots on Bret’s head in a nice touch of evil, and he sends Bret into the post for two. He wraps up Bret in a bow-and-arrow, but Bret reverses to the Sharpshooter and Austin makes the ropes. Bret with a sleeper, but Austin breaks that with a jawbreaker and he decides to one-up him with a Million Dollar Dream. But of course Bret walks the ropes to escape, and rolls him over for the pin at 28:30. I really wish they hadn’t lifted that finish from the Bret-Piper match, but this match remains fantastic, with Austin hanging move-for-move with Bret and coming out of it an even bigger star. ****3/4
Faarooq, Razor Ramon, Diesel & Vader v. Flash Funk, Savio Vega, Yokozuna & Jimmy Snuka Stevie Richards
Some notable rebrandings here, with Faarooq debuting his new Nation of Domination entrance and look, which is immediately a million times better and more modern, although offset by Scorpion debuting as Flash Funk and taking race relations back 25 years. Snuka remains one of the most legendarily disappointing mystery partners, in addition to probably being a murderer. If I was going to do a YouTube top 10 video of disappointing mystery partners, Snuka would probably be #1. Vader beats on Funk, who immediately dumps him and follows with a moonsault to the floor. Yoko comes in with a really bad slam on Vader, and Faarooq beats on Savio. We get the epic Razor-Savio showdown and JR disavows all relations with the Insiders, noting that he’s not their manager, and if he was they’d be doing much better than they are. Flash comes back on Faarooq, but walks into a spinebuster and it’s back to Savio. He gets nowhere and Snuka comes in for his big spots, which don’t amount to much. Savio gets pounded by Faarooq on the floor and Diesel powerbombs him at 8:30. Snuka hits the Superfly Splash on Razor at 9:25 to get rid of him, but Diesel grabs a chair and everyone gets disqualified at 9:50. WORST FINISH EVER. They didn’t even have a winner in a match filled with jobbers! This had to be a timing issue. ½*
Is it me or are the video packages different on the Network version than on the PPV version? I thought I remembered the “Attitude” style packages airing on the original show, but here it’s the lame Todd Pettingill-narrated “New Generation” type of videos. Is this maybe the Coliseum video edit of the show? Anyone have the Anthology box set to compare?
WWF World title: Shawn Michaels v. Sid
Vince can only tolerate so much flaming ratings death before he pulls the plug, and Shawn finally hit that level of non-draw by November. I mean, you can forgive a lot from his title reign, but he was clearly responsible for scoring the lowest rating in the history of the show, and at the very least needed to get away from the belt for a bit. Shawn controls with a bodypress and headlock to start, so Sid uses his own headlock and they slug it out. Shawn escapes a press slam and a powerbomb attempt, and the males in the crowd are clearly Team Sid. Shawn regroups and clips Sid’s knee, then goes to work on it with a figure-four. The crowd soundly boos Shawn’s efforts, but Sid comes back and we get a bit of foreshadowing as a cameraman on the apron gets too close and gets shoved away. Shawn keeps coming with a dropkick to the knee, but Sid clotheslines him to the floor as Shawn bumps like crazy for him. Only Shawn can have great matches out of spite. Sid beats him up on the floor and gets two, and pounds away in the corner as Shawn continues to fly all over for him. Shawn goes up and tries a bodypress, but Sid catches him to a MASSIVE reaction and dumps him with a backbreaker for two. Sid whips him around the ring, letting Shawn do all the work in a genius move, but Shawn fights back to a chorus of boos. And yet again he goes up and gets caught by Sid, and again flops all over the ring like a fish. Chokeslam is blocked with an eye poke, but Sid counters the superkick into a chokeslam and the crowd goes CRAZY. There is a very vocal contingent that wants this very badly. Shawn reverses the powerbomb into a small package for two, but Sid powerslams him for two. Shawn makes the comeback and Sid clotheslines him after the kip-up for another crowd-favorite spot. Sid has finally had enough of the idiot cameraman and steals his camera, then hits Jose Lothario with it for fun, but Shawn superkicks him as a result. Tragically, Jose has a heart attack and gets written out of the show, which leaves Shawn unable to make a cover. Ref is bumped, so Sid waits until Shawn is busy tending to his dying father figure, and hits him right in the back with the camera. That’s how a real man wins! Back in the ring, and the powerbomb finally ends the Boy Toy Era at 19:59, to the delight of the crowd. Like, you’ve never seen dudes so happy in your life. Easily Sid’s best match ever, and Shawn’s concern over Lothario lasted, like, a day before he never mentioned him again. ****
Most of the tag matches were pretty middling stuff, but the two main events way over-delivered and make this a classic show. Recommended.
Tags: Bret Hart v. Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels v. Sid, SmarK Rants, SmarK WWE Network Rant, Survivor Series 1996