May 11th 1997. Richmond, Virginia
Always remember, even though you are about to introduce two hours of pro wrestling it’s very important to wish your Mother a happy Mother’s Day when the occasion arises. Jim Ross handles this with aplomb in the opening of this show. We’re also shown five empty chairs and told The Hart Foundation have bought these tickets and they have yet to appear. Something tells me they might just yet make it.
First up it’s Flash Funk against Hunter Hearst Helmsley. This isn’t really a match designed to get either of these wrestlers over but more a vehicle to demonstrate how much Chyna is a help for HHH. Nearly every single moment of this match involves
her in some capacity. After an opening of some rope running and hiptosses the action spills to the outside where Hunter hugs the ref to stop him seeing Chyna give a huge clotheslines to Flash. After being hit by a running knee and ending up on the ramp Flash rallies after Hunter screws up an aerial move. Flash gets a two count with a spinning legdrop and then connects with a crossbody which he doesn’t follow up with any pinfall attempt. Hunter later manages to shove Flash off the turnbuckle before he can launch again leaving him open to a top rope suplex quickly followed by a pedigree for the three
count. Whilst not a barn storming match, it’s okay for an opening contest.
Post match Chyna lifts Flash and crotches him on the top rope much to the delight of Hunter. Again, we’re reminded on commentary exactly how strong Chyna is.
Jim Ross then conducts an interview with Ken Shamrock who is set to take on Vader later in a No Holds Barred match. Shamrock is obviously making this transition into wrestling from MMA but he’s yet to master the mic skills as his promo basically boils down to ‘I’ll kill Vader’. We’re also shown footage of his UFC fights which, with both competitors wearing shirts, looks like a pub brawl in comparison to the polished product the UFC portray now.
Part of the fun of watching these PPV shows back in hindsight is seeing wrestlers face each other way up the card knowing years later they’ll main event. This is the case with Rocky Maivia versus Mankind. Mankind walks down to the ring minus Paul Bearer who we’re told is still recovering from the burns received by The Undertaker the month previous.
Backstage before his entrance Todd Pettengill interviews Rocky. Considering the bold, brash character he’s a year away from exhibiting on TV Rocky stumbles over his words here. Bearing in mind also that last month Rocky had a promo in which he seriously considered the implications of what would happen if he were defeated and it’s no wonder the crowds didn’t like him. He is currently an athletic man with a family background in wrestling and good teeth.
I originally thought this match would be for the Intercontinental title but it’s quickly revealed that Rocky lost the title to Owen Hart on a previous episode of Raw. It’s odd how the IC title never seemed to change hands on the PPV show around this time.
This is a battle between Mankind’s ability to absorb pain and Rocky’s athleticism. Mankind edges out the early going with a cannonball from the apron to the outside and a running knee to Rocky’s face. The tide only turns when Rocky manages to deliver what looks like an early prototype version of Rock Bottom to Mankind whilst up the ramp. He also brings out the shoulder breaker which will become his finisher at some point (I know this purely because that was set as his finisher on WWF War Zone on the Playstation, the game that helped get me back into wrestling at the time).
Rocky goes up for a crossbody, hits it but then Mankind manages to roll it through and apply the Mandible Claw for the knock out victory. It’s an inventive ending for a fairly decent match but it’s obvious something had to be done with Rocky’s gimmick at the time. Also, I’d totally forgotten about Mankind’s plinky piano music.
And now, part three hundred and seventy two of THE FEUD THAT WILL NOT DIE!
It’s Ahmed Johnson versus Faarooq again. This is the match that was mentioned on the last PPV show. Ahmed must fight his way through Crush, Savio Vega and then Faarooq
under gauntlet rules. If he gets the three victories then The Nation of Domination will have to disband. There’s a terrible promo with Ahmed first in which he barks his usual nonsense. If you’re going to make your promos have absolutely zero sense then go completely outlandish. It’s a tactic that worked for The Ultimate Warrior.
The Nation make their way down to the ring in one huge group and, to be honest, even their white man rap crew sound completely bored by this whole thing. Gorilla Monsoon
comes down to tell them that nobody is allowed ringside so anybody not involved in the match at this time must stand on the top of the ramp. Faarooq, complete with his arm in a sling, leads his troops up.
Crush versus Ahmed is a series of mistimed moves and botches. Ahmed hurls a strange looking scissor kick, Crush responds with a clumsy clothesline. “Big Johnson is hard to handle” says Jim Ross which is easy for him to say. Whilst Crush holds a sleeper he motions for the rest of the Nation to come down to ringside. They don’t move an inch. Crush then goes for the Heart Punch but Ahmed reversed it into a heel kick for the three.
Savio is said to have damaged his ankle, he limps a little getting down to the ring but then all seems fine once he gets going and takes control of the match. Ahmed does manage to come back with a brutal looking hiptoss before Savio manages to sell having his head hit the turnbuckle like he’s been shot. After an Ahmed powerslam only gets a two count Savio rolls out of the ring and gives a chasing Ahmed a superkick. Savio then grabs a chair and proceeds to beat Ahmed up with it resulting in his disqualification and elimination. The damage to Ahmed is done though.
Faarooq walks down to the ring. How will a man with a busted shoulder fair against a man who’s been battered with a chair for five minutes? Very well as it turns out because the sling was a set up all along! Faarooq removes the medical aid and goes on the attack. He nearly gets caught out by an Ahmed inside cradle though. Ahmed hits the Pearl River Plunge but Faarooq kicks out before Ahmed finally goes down to the Dominator. The Nation can continue, obviously an entire planet sighs in relief. This is a series of drawn out matches in an angle which seems to have gone on for the last year.
Vader is back from his little jaunt in the Middle East to face Ken Shamrock next. Firstly there’s a classic WTF moment in a Vader pre match promo in which he says “They might say he’s the most dangerous man in the world but they said nothing about the World Wrestling Federation”. Because of course, the WWF operates on a planet all of its own. The onscreen graphic says there will be ‘a standing 8 count’ then Jim Ross says there won’t be. I have no idea what a standing 8 count even is.
Obviously, Shamrock’s attack is very MMA based as he goes straight for Vader’s legs. Shamrock then manages to reverse a suplex and get his own arm bar locked in. Vader just about makes it to the ropes. Shamrock gets a huge takedown on Vader followed by a massive suplex. The story of this match seems to be that, despite his size disadvantage, Shamrock will utterly kill Vader if he can just get his hands on him.
After this series of technical takedowns and strategic fighting Vader gets Shamrock outside the ring and throws him into the steps. Back inside Vader goes for a moonsault which Shamrock rolls to avoid but he waits to long meaning that Vader bounces his face off Shamrock’s shoulder. This must have hurt a bit.
Just as it seems Vader is on top of things by delivering clubbing punches he gets wrapped up in a leg lock and taps out. Shamrock seems to have pulled a victory out of nowhere and something doesn’t quite flow right with the home stretch. It’s an obvious experiment to see if the WWF can ride on the UFC’s popularity. Considering Brawl For All is coming it looks like the thin end of the wedge.
We’re told The Hart Foundation have yet to arrive. I still think they might just make it.
Footage is then shown of Stone Cold confronting The Undertaker on Raw to gain this title match. This also features a proper Stone Cold Stunner for the first time I can recall. None of the walking backwards towards opponent, just a proper kick to the mid section followed by a jaw breaker. This has led to a match between two wrestlers the crowd usually cheer. Surely there must be something to bring some heel heat to the proceedings?
The fans go absolutely nuts for Stone Cold, it’s probably the first show I’ve watched during this project when you get an instant reaction to the shattering glass. Undertaker
gets an equal level of noise for his entrance even if it does feature fireworks. Just before this match can get underway we have the long awaited arrival of The Hart Foundation. Bulldog, Owen, Jim and Brian Pillman appear from the back with Bret Hart in a wheelchair. My only thing about this is if, as the storyline suggested, they bought tickets for the show then why are they coming out from the locker room?
The Undertaker doesn’t even get a chance to remove the belt before Stone Cold is onto him. Austin beats him with punches before going to the outside and throwing Owen Hart over the barrier and into the mats. The Undertaker then attacks Owen to throw him back over the barrier.
As pointed out on commentary, the tactic both Stone Cold and Undertaker use is ‘attack the legs’. Stone Cold achieves this by wrapping Taker’s legs around the turnpost. After doing this he flips the bird to Bret Hart in the front row. The crowd are fairly quiet for the action in ring but they pop for anything Stone Cold has against The Hart Foundation. Of course, the ‘USA’ chants started long ago.
The leg work continues as Taker snaps on a half Boston crab whilst Stone Cold applies his own figure four leg lock later on. This is before it gets underhanded with both Taker and Austin hitting each other in the downstairs department. Even if you are the undead it seems that kind of thing still hurts. Stone Cold survives a chokeslam and gets a Stunner on Taker. Before he can make the pinfall however Brian Pillman sneaks over the barrier
and rings the bell. A distracted Stone Cold is then hauled up for a tombstone and Undertaker gets the three count.
The Hart Foundation hit the ring and chaos erupts with Austin going to the outside to tip Bret Hart out of his wheelchair. Owen Hart then makes a reappearance to be chokeslammed by Taker. The Undertaker then receives another Stunner as we go to the end of the broadcast.
Once again this feels like a b-level show in which the undercard varies from decent (Mankind/Rocky, Hunter/Flash) to terrible (Ahmed/Nation) only really to be saved by a good quality main event. In this case though the main event seems to be there as a lead in to something else. It’s worth a watch for the title match but there’s not much else to go out of your way for.