July 21st 1996, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
It probably says something about the attitude of an American wrestling company who can stage a show in the country next door and call it an ‘International Incident’. In retrospect it sounds quite tame for a wrestling PPV. Was ‘Subcontinental Squabble’ already taken?
Anyway, we’re opening up tonight with some tag team action featuring a non title match between Skip and Zip of The Bodydonnas and WWF Tag Team Champions The Smoking Gunns. The deal is that Sunny doesn’t think The Bodydonnas deserve a shot at the straps. As the Gunns make their entrance with Sunny we see a backstage interview with The Bodydonnas in which they are asked about their replacement manager ‘Cloudy’ who is very much absent from proceedings. Apparently Cloudy has given them the belief that they don’t need a manager to entertain these fans. So, if we’re following the story line here, Cloudy talked herself out of a job.
It a fairly decent opener but once again they cannot resist the urge to place Sunny stage centre. At one point she ‘faints’ and when Skip (Chris Candido, her real life boyfriend) goes to help he’s instantly battered by Billy Gunn. The Bodydonnas are getting a right pasting when showboating starts to creep into the Gunn’s tactics. Bart has Zip up for a sidewalk slam whilst Billy and Sunny are shouting at the fans on the outside. Skip takes to the top rope, dropkicks Billy which allows Zip to roll him up for the pin. Sunny (who else?) is left to express how much this defeat means.
So the WWF’s tag division in mid 1996 consisted of The Bodydonnas, The Godwinns and The Gunns. Whilst this seems dire in retrospect and it is indeed limited, it’s three dedicated tag teams as opposed to teams made up of singles wrestlers with nothing better to do. In a way it’s actually better than what we have currently.
Jake Roberts will not be wrestling tonight so Mankind instead faces the might of Henry Godwinn in singles action. Mick Foley has gone full on with his hairstyle tonight, shaving great lumps off his scalp to portray the Mankind character. Whilst a little disconcerting it’s nothing on the sheer hell of Henry’s mullet.
The commentary team hype up Mankind’s Mandible Claw finisher like it’s the most devastating thing on Earth. It was certainly an off beat finisher which probably fitted an off beat character like Mankind. They also put across how much Mankind is willing to hurt himself as well as his opponents. Henry Godwinn tries the slop drop but he’s far too close to the ropes as Mankind grips on. Whilst Henry attempts to get back to his feet Mankind slaps on the Mandible resulting in a submission victory.
Next up we have Stone Cold taking on Marc Mero (again). Much is made of Stone Cold needing stiches to his mouth after Mero kicked him in the face at King of the Ring the previous month. Sable still walks with Mero to the ring but she’s there purely as part of his act, at no point does she get involved in the match and the camera does not linger on her for very long. Considering we’ve just seen Sunny draw attention away from The Smoking Gunns and remembering the great heights of fame Sable will achieve in the years to come this seems odd.
It just about tops their effort from last month, it feels slightly longer in a good way and Austin again gets to show his brutal side. Despite picking up the win it feels a bit hollow for Austin, like he needs to move on and stop wasting time with Mero and Vega. Towards the end of the match Marlena appears with an usher to pass a note to Jerry Lawler on commentary.
Next up is The Undertaker vs Goldust, this time minus any casket related violence. It’s one of those odd wrestling combos that shouldn’t really work. You’re being asked to watch a highly camp film buff wrestle a guy who is supposedly dead. Because Taker and Goldust are two very good wrestlers however, it gels pretty well. After some good back and forth action Undertaker has Goldie up for a Tombstone Piledriver. Suddenly Mankind comes up through one corner of the ring with the use of a Stanley knife (which is rather wonderfully discarded by the ref with his feet). Mankind drags Undertaker down into the pit before emerging alone. Smoke billows out of the hole until Taker rises up from the opposite side of the ring to gain vengeance. The two brawl up the aisle, the ring crew bring out the canvas repair kits.
Where oh where however is The Ultimate Warrior? Footage is shown of the end of King of the Ring when Camp Cornette ended up in the ring against Michaels, Ahmed Johnson and Warrior. It’s unclear as to how exactly they were going to get around the fact that Warrior had left the company. I had thought they would just cut his appearance out and only show Ahmed Johnson entering the ring to save Shawn. Not only do they show Warrior entering the ring but footage from Raw is shown with Camp Cornette attacking him, the idea being that they removed him from the main event as a result of his ‘injuries’.
Upon speaking with Conquistabores resident retro expert Geordie Alan he told me that they cut the footage just before Warrior completely no sells the Vader Bomb and rises up to take on everybody. Gorilla Monsoon is shown giving the official word of the WWF suspending Warrior for no showing three house shows. I imagine the Raw angle was taped before all this occurred and was edited to suit the change of storyline. Warrior himself claimed that he took this unauthorised time off because his Father had died. Whatever the reason, The Ultimate Warrior would not set foot in a WWF/E ring again until 2014, two days before his death.
Before the match begins we have Camp Cornette giving a promo with backstage interviewer Mr Perfect. Yes, the same man who was the outside referee for the title match last month is now reduced the holding a mic whilst The British Bulldog bellows into it. I’ve seen Bulldog wrestle three times now on this wrestling journey and I’m bored of him already. His promos are from the SHOUTING ABOUT BREAKING ARMS school and are very samey as a result. Cornette promises that should Camp Cornette lose this match he’ll refund the ticket prices of all those in the arena and the PPV fees of everybody at home. A sum of $7 million dollars is estimated. I had no idea managing three heel wrestlers was so profitable. Bulldog has Diana beside him but says the arena is no place for her tonight so she’ll be staying in the back. Stu Hart will be pleased.
As our three babyfaces are interviewed backstage you can really tell something is wrong with Shawn. He hardly looks at the camera, cuts a fairly generic promo and then almost walks off mid sentence after he’s done. HBK seems to think he’s above all this.
The Warrior’s replacement in this match is Psycho Sid. It seems a very odd choice as Sid isn’t exactly what you would call a natural babyface wrestler. His entire gimmick, of some kind of mentally disturbed psychopath, doesn’t sell that many T-shirts. When Sid enters the arena he still has that strange eye twitch which he must think is visual shorthand for “I’m mental me” and his music remains the Norman Bates sharp violin tweaks. It’s bizarre that the crowd go absolutely nuts for it. Sid is probably the most over performer in this match and he seems to be loving every minute of it. There’s a moment when he’s standing on the apron encouraging the crowd to cheer on Shawn so he can get a hot tag.
As a side note it seems Ahmed Johnson provided inspiration for Ryback’s wardrobe today.
The match itself is actually really good, a solid 25 minute blast with enough twists and turns to satisfy. Vader ends up grabbing the win for his team after Cornette grabs Michaels’ ankle to stop him using the Sweet Chin Music. This is turn puts Vader forward to a title match with Shawn Michaels at Summerslam next month. As the presentation goes off the air Gorilla Monsoon not only suggests this match but also confirms that Mankind and The Undertaker will contest a Boiler Room Brawl at Summerslam as ‘no ring can contain these two’. So not only is he happy for a 41 year old man with broken ribs to continue wrestling but he’ll also stick two men in a room with concrete floors and large metal objects. Monsoon might have the appearance of a lovable old man but he’s a blood thirsty tyrant under it all. In a previous life he was obviously Emperor of Rome or something.
It’s a PPV based on one match and, whilst the main event is worth a watch, it’s all very much filler between two ‘A Shows’. The main event saves it from treading water too much but it’s hardly a show you’d beat a path to see. Next we move onto Summerslam or ‘The One When Shawn Had That Tantrum’.