December 15th 1996. West Palm, Florida.
When I started this project of watching all the PPV shows I missed in the 90′s I knew I’d have to sit through some dross before I got to the fabled Attitude era. Before the Stone Colds and The Rocks there would be things that showed up the WWF’s struggles of the mid 90′s. This PPV is pretty much what I thought I was going to have to suffer.
The title of the show would be enough to make you believe that Vader would be a major part of it. He was supposed to be World Champion by now but for Shawn Michaels kicking up a fuss about losing the belt and wanting to place it on Sid instead. The PPV schedule had to be submitted to the broadcasters months in advance so here we are. For his sin of HBK just not liking him very much Vader isn’t even booked on the undercard.
The opener is between new boy Leif Cassidy and Flash Funk. Both men seem to have been taken from elsewhere after being successful and repackaged as something much worse in the most backwards ‘character building’ effort ever. Leif enters the arena as a fairly nondescript guy and Flash Funk is only given that gimmick so Vince can dance in the most awkward fashion possible.
The match is disjointed, almost like they didn’t plan anything beforehand and just had to wing it. Flash misses a moonsault at one stage by stumbling over the ropes. Leif also screws up a powerbomb by just dropping his opponent. The crowd seem to be silent most of the way through and no amount of Vince shouting ‘this is the greatest action’ will save it. Flash wins after an impressive 450 Splash from the top rope but it’s hard to care.
Remember Furnas and LaFon from last month when they pinned Bulldog and Owen Hart? Future title shot material? No, not by a long shot as it’s time for Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon to challenge Owen and Bulldog for the tag team titles. Once again Razor and Diesel M2 are referred to as if nothing has happened. For it to be anything else would mean Vince would have to admit he’d been outdone by WCW.
Beforehand Kevin Kelly interviews Bulldog and Owen about the fact Stone Cold Steve Austin is in the building. Bulldog somehow manages to say he doesn’t care about Austin being there as he’s concentrating on the match but then ends by saying he’s ‘coming after’ Austin. Owen soon corrects him.
The match itself is also terrible, not exactly helped by the fact a title match is given over to further other stories. Firstly two masked Mexican wrestlers from AAA come down to distract Bulldog and Owen. They do nothing at all of note but Vince does mention they’re in the Royal Rumble next month. I question the logic of promoting the fact two wrestlers no casual fan of WWF will have heard of will sell a PPV they are booked for.
Of course Steve Austin gets involved halfway through the match by attacking Bulldog which leads to a mass brawl by ringside. Eventually Razor nearly gets Bulldog up for a Razor’s Edge but Owen manages to hit a leg lariat for the win. Austin once again attacks Bulldog at the finish. Owen doesn’t exactly leap to his partner’s aid, preferring instead the carefully place his Slammy Award down in the corner.
There follows a completely incoherent promo by Ahmed Johnson who is returning soon from his kidney problems and going after his nemesis Farooq. Farooq has quickly gone from a blue gladiator managed by Sunny to being in his own faction of The Nation Of Domination. Ahmed mutters something about how he lost his girlfriend, his home and his car after Farooq attacked him. So this sex starved, homeless, bus riding man is after revenge. Farooq appears in the crowd and shouts about beating Ahmed up when they meet at the Royal Rumble. It’s a terrible promo, made worse by the fact Vince is standing there trying to make it better.
That’s our second mention of the upcoming Royal Rumble tonight. Why sell one PPV only to use it to promote the next?
Next up we have Hunter Hearst Helmsley defending his Intercontinental Championship against Marc Mero. Mr Perfect is featured in a video package detailing how he betrayed Mero which resulted in Hunter winning the title but Perfect has jumped to WCW so we can pretend he doesn’t exist also. Either that or Vince was ready to get somebody to grow their hair out, dye it blonde and pretend to be him too.
Hunter spends a lot of time during this match pushing the ref around, at one point Earl thumps on the badge emblazoned on his ref shirt in a Cartman style ‘respect my authoritaa!’ moment. Alas it hardly works because after some actually decent action Earl takes a ref bump allowing Goldust to come down and crown both Hunter and Mero with the belt. The ref recovers and starts the count for both men which Mero just beats giving him the count out victory. He obviously doesn’t win the title but takes it back with him anyway. This allows Goldust to further attack Hunter because heels do that to each other.
Undertaker has been having some brilliant matches lately with Mankind so the obvious thing is to leave him out (to begin with) and have Taker face Terry Gordy dressed as an Executioner. It’s ‘Armageddon Rules’ meaning that an opponent has to stay down for ten after being pinned for three. Taker, even at this fairly early stage in his career, has been involved in some turgid screw ups but this is high on the league table.
Taker dominates the opening before Mankind comes down to basically turn it into a handicapped match. They end up brawling up the aisle and manage to wreck the house set. Whilst Taker and Executioner battle to the back and through the building, Mankind is fitted into the straight jacket by a medical crew.
It’s a pretty good job that the medics in this arena have such a thing handy because who knows who might need sectioned at a moment’s notice?
We’re shown outside as Executioner tumbles down the side of the building and into the decorative moat at the bottom. Taker walks back to the ring and fights Mankind (who is still in the straight jacket) some more before Executioner comes back with water in his boots to take a Tombstone Piledriver. Taker pins him, some of the crowd obviously think that’s it, the ref takes an eternity starting the ten count which Executioner doesn’t manage to answer.
Yes, they had a match gimmick which they only used once. What was the point?
Sid defends his World Title against Bret Hart next. Shawn Michaels is on commentary and starts spouting barbs at Bret. Most of these are so ‘inside’ they fly over everybody’s head. Sid seems nowhere near as popular as he was last month at Survivor Series and Bret is trying out some of his moaning heel motions he’ll need later.
The match itself isn’t quite there either. It seems that Bret is trying to drag Sid into a decent match but it doesn’t work. There’s one moment in particular when Sid is supposed to throw Bret head first into an exposed turnbuckle but instead just flops meaning Bret lands in a heap in the corner. They actually get up and try it again straight afterwards.
The match itself is only there to start the seeds of the proposed Michaels vs Bret rematch at Wrestlemania 13. Shawn ends up getting involved as he marches up the apron right around the time Bret Hart is thrown towards him. Shawn goes flying towards the arena floor, Sid powerbombs Bret for the pinfall victory. The show goes off the air with Bret and Shawn daggering each other.
This PPV isn’t worth the bother quite simply. There’s not a match here that stands out and all the angles pushed forwards tonight go absolutely nowhere. Join me next time for the 1997 Royal Rumble with added Mexicans.