April 26th 1996, Omaha, Nebraska.
As far as I can remember the UK never had access to the In Your House shows early on. The ‘B-level- pay per view show lasting only two hours rather than three seem a bit of a strange curiosity looking back. This show was headlined by a WWF World Title match between Shawn Michaels and Diesel, former associates and tag team champions. More on this one later though.
We opened up with what seems to be a singles match between The British Bulldog and Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. This is at least until Jim Cornette, Clarence Mason, Owen Hart and Bulldog produce legal papers banning Jake from bringing any kind of reptile to ringside. Despite this Jake removes the snake from the bag anyway, Cornette sells fainting like a pro and the ring clears before the ref regains order. Jake goes to the back to store the snake and brings back…Ahmed Johnson. We suddenly have a tag team match.
I can remember Ahmed coming into the WWF just before I stopped watching. I didn’t recall seeing how stiff he worked. There is a moment he seems to clothesline Owen’s nose off his face. The end comes when, behind the ref’s back, Bulldog cracks Jake’s knee with Cornette’s tennis racket and forces him into the most half arsed crab I’ve ever seen for the submission victory. Jake looks completely blown out at the end.
I popped big style for The Ultimate Warrior coming back at WrestleMania XII. If the Iron Man Match had put me off wrestling then the Warrior coming back was the closest thing on that card that would keep me there. The Warrior’s match at this PPV isn’t so much a contest more a twenty minute art installation featuring a man in face paint smoking a cigar. The Intercontinental Title match between Warrior and Goldust (the lack of the double ’D’ in Goldust surely means it should be pronounced ‘Gold-ust’?) is a show of stalling due to Goldie’s obvious knee injury meaning he can’t work.
Warrior ends up stealing Marlina’s cigar and puffing away in the middle of the ring waiting for the match to start. Not only that but the scoundrel also steals his director’s chair and jacket. Goldust ambles about on the outside before being invited in. As he takes a seat and everything looks comfortable Warrior clotheslines him off the chair and he runs. Most of the bumps are left to Goldust’s bodyguard (formerly Mantaur). Whilst a pleasing distraction it’s one of those events when you feel they could have cut it down by at least five minutes. You can almost hear Vince thinking they’re wasting TV time on this.
Next comes a small segment featuring The British Bulldog trying to gain access to Shawn Michael’s dressing room. We’re not told why Shawn is the source of his anger. It might, just might, be explained by the next PPV if we’re very lucky.
Whilst the ‘New Generation’ era of WWF is considered the last PG stretch we had it’s still unusual to witness a wrestler smoking in front of the cameras. I can’t imagine Seth Rollins walking down the ramp on Raw these days with a Richmond King hanging out of one side of his mouth.
The match between Razor Ramon and Vader would prove to be Scott Hall’s last match in a WWF/E ring until 2002. It’s actually not a bad contest between the two seeing as Hall was leaving and it would have been so easy to book Vader to squash him. After a back and forth battle, mainly based on Ramon trying to get Vader up for The Razor’s Edge, Vader goes over.
The tag team titles are defended next in a contest which highlights the more cartoon feel of the WWF on 1996. A match featuring two pig farmers and two fitness instructors would be laughed out of the building today. In fact, it barely gets by back then. The Bodydonnas are led to the ring by Sunny who I recall my 15 year old self having quite the thing for. The Godwinns also share this feeling it seems as they lose as a result of Phineas being distracted by a picture of Sunny which he later stores in his overalls for ‘later use’.
I watched an episode of Legends of Wrestling on the WWE Network recently which featured Eric Bischoff talking about the Monday Night Wars. He said whilst WCW usually had brilliant undercard matches on PPV their main event matches weren’t that great from a quality wrestling stand point. Michael Hayes then continued the point by saying the WWF had the reverse problem with great main events and average undercards. His point is neatly shown her as we go into Diesel vs Shawn Michaels in a No Holds Barred Match for the WWF Title.
If I could get my nit picking hat on for a moment, we’re now an hour away from seeing Bulldog gunning for Michaels. With this match being no DQ, surely now would be his chance to march on down and deck HBK one in the jaw? We’re not quite at the Attitude Era yet but if we were they’d have shown Bulldog being dragged out of the building by the police. Maybe he calmed down, I have no idea.
We’re shown Mad Dog Vachon at ringside before we get underway fully. Diesel says in a pre match promo that he’s got something for Vince McMahon who is on commentary for the evening. The match is a complete contrast to the scientific holds fest that the Iron Man Match the previous month was and it reflects on the skills of HBK that he could do both well. Looking back now this match seems to walk a fine line between brutal (the Jack Knife through the table seems tame today but would be fairly shocking at the time for anybody not watching ECW) and contained (there’s no blood to speak of). Of course the often discussed spot is when Diesel grabs Mad Dog’s false leg, leaving the poor man scuttling about in the aisle, and intends to use it as a weapon. It’s not a major classic match for the ages but it’s a step up from what we’ve seen so far. Shawn wins meaning his title reign continues.
In Your House 7 is filled with the sort of matches that these days would occupy Raw. I’m not sure if this says more about the booking of these old B shows or the booking of today’s episodes of Raw but it’s an enjoyable two hours regardless. The Razor Ramon and Diesel matches are worth a watch from not only a quality perspective but also to consider they are only a few weeks away from the major turning point in their careers and the industry as a whole.
Next up, we go forward a month and watch ‘In Your House 8: Beware Of Dog’ or ‘They’re Making Diana To Be Some Kind Of Huuuwwwwrrr’ as Stu Hart would call it.