October 5th 1997, St Louis, Missouri
Ask yourself this, when did the Attitude Era truly begin? If you could pinpoint it down to a match or a show then exactly when would it be? The WWF history books would have it as the moment Stone Cold Steve Austin gave his ‘Austin 3:16’ promo at King of the Ring 1996 but, as we’ve seen during this project, that’s blatantly untrue. Was it the Montreal Screwjob, clearing out the last remnant of the older generation in the shape of Bret Hart? We’ll get to that next month. For now though I’d argue that the Attitude Era could be said to have begun the Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels at Badd Blood.
The event itself begins on a low note however as Vince McMahon announces from the commentary table that Brian Pillman, who was due to wrestle Dude Love on tonight’s card, has been found dead in his hotel room earlier that day. It’s a curious thing in the wrestling business that a high profile member of the company can die and the show goes on regardless. It does beg another question in wondering how good would Brian Pillman have been in the Attitude Era itself? How much would the Loose Cannon persona have fitted in with the full blooded product the WWF are about to put into full swing?
Ken Shamrock’s signing must have seemed like a cracking idea at the time. His MMA background meant he had a ready made aura right from the start of his wrestling career. Sadly, he seems to be extremely injury prone. The opener was supposed to be a six man tag team match between The Legion of Doom and Shamrock against the Nation of Domination. It’s explained on commentary that Shamrock was injured first by Faarooq, then recovered but was injured again by Vader in a recent match in Japan. Perhaps Hawk and Animal can recruit a replacement for tonight’s match? Not likely, just after their entrance Hawk grabs the mic and tells the crowd that they don’t back down from anybody even if they’re outnumbered. This will be a three on one handicap match.
Faarooq is conspicuous by his absence in the early part of this match. The Nation of Domination is represented by D’Lo Brown, Kama and a very heelish Rocky Maivia. The
‘Die Rocky Die’ chants have not dissolved completely but his character is far removed from the white toothed, gleaming face that we saw almost a year ago at Survivor Series 96. It’s also far better. It’s only a couple of minutes into the match when Rock steps down
from the apron and tries to block out the crowd chanting.
I hold a special memory of the Legion of Doom from my youth, having them down as serious arse kickers and yet whilst watching all these PPV shows I’ve found them to be
extremely formulaic and a bit boring to watch. Like all their matches so far they hardly sell for anything and as such must have been a nightmare to work with at the time. D’Lo discovers this to cost as he Irish Whips Hawk into the ropes, bends to give him a backdrop and is quickly met with a stiff kick to his face. Vince then describes D’Lo
as ‘the Lennox Lewis of the WWF’ for some obscure reason.
Another Legion of Doomism comes into play as they’ve obviously drawn the straws to see how does the ‘face getting beat up’ tonight. It’s Animal’s turn for this one. The Nation
systematically take him apart. Rock knees Animal after running the ropes but his attempted pinfall is broken by Animal grabbing the ropes. Rock follows this by punching Animal in the bollocks. D’Lo Brown gets a really impressive looking splash onto Animal for a two count. Rock and Animal knock each other down with a double clothesline, Animal recovers first to hot tag Hawk who goes completely crazy. A powerslam to Rock is very quickly followed by a neck breaker to D’Lo.
Whilst Kama and D’Lo are thrown outside The Rock gets hoisted up for a Doomsday Device but Faarooq runs down the aisle. Whilst Hawk argues with the leader of the Nation on the outside he’s hit from behind and Rock Bottomed (although they don’t
call it that) for a three count. It’s a fairly knock about opener which might have gained a little more from Shamrock being involved but needs must.
Next we see Sunny and Dok backstage twittering about something. I’m only distracted because Sunny is actually not showing her cleavage to the world for once.
Vince is in an even more sombre mood when we return to the commentary desk as he proceeds to give more information about Pillman. The only advance he really has is that
it’s being handled by the authorities and he was discovered in his hotel room earlier that day. Vince then cheerfully says that whilst we cannot have Dude Love versus Pillman as scheduled he hopes that what they’ve come up with entertains just as much. We then get the Mexican midget match.
Yes, Pillman versus Dude Love has been replaced by a match featuring Mosiac and Tarantula against Nova and our old friend Max Mini. During this entire match Vince utters the words ‘What was that?’ about four times and he’s correct to do so. Much of this looks completely reckless and the four of them fall about the place. It also seems apparent that they’re competing this match under ‘Mexican rules’ which means your tag partner is allowed to be in the ring if you’re on the outside even when you haven’t
tagged. J.R seems to be the only one of the three man commentary team who knows this however. Max Mini wins a bodged together match by using a crucifix pin on Tarantula even though the shoulders aren’t down.
They replaced Pillman versus Dude Love with this by the way, did I mention that?
Sunny comes sauntering to the ring in her capacity as part time ring announcer to do the duty for the upcoming tag team title match between The Headbangers and The Godwinns. Sunny of course used to manage the Godwinns for a short while and this is mentioned on commentary. The Headbangers go on the attack straight away but this is swiftly followed by a five minute stretch when there’s nothing going on in the ring bar staring and spitting. I wish I was making that up I really do. Not long after this we have a classic Vince commentary line of ‘Phineas trying to yank Mosh off’.
Eventually they get back to it and Thrasher aims a really awkward looking Hurricarana off the apron Phineas. The move screws up and Vince utters something like ‘that
didn’t go as planned’. This is apparently code for ‘Do it again’ as that’s exactly what they do seconds later with much more success.
Lawler accuses Vince of being against the Godwinns because they’re from the South. Vince responds by saying he was born in South Carolina whilst the Headbangers completely dominate the early going. Only when Henry enters the ring illegally to attack Thrasher does the tide turn. Uncle Cletus, the Godwinns’ manager of sorts, remains lurking on the outside. In amongst Thrasher getting beat up the ref manages to get distracted a miss a pinfall attempt by the Headbanger on Phineas. A later side suplex to Henry means that Thrasher can get the hot tag to Mosh. The fresher side of the champions goes crazy, attacking both Godwinns with gusto. It all comes undone however when Mosh goes for a top rope drop kick that is reversed into a powerbomb by Phineas for a winning three count as Cletus holds Thrasher back from making the save. The new WWF Tag Team Champions are the racist pig farmers, something Sunny feels obliged
to screech at the top of her voice.
The Godwinns mount an attack on the Headbangers after the bell to the point that they’re warned by the ref that they’ll have the decision reversed if they carry on. They
then leave the ring with the belts, shouting at the fans as they do.
Before we go on, I’ll just leave this here, from the Cambridge English Dictionary.
‘A poisonous snake found in Southern parts of the US that, when
annoyed, makes a rattling noise by shaking its tail’.
According to the video that comes up next Stone Cold Steve Austin is ‘by definition, a rattlesnake’. No, he’s really not.
It’s getting really obvious right now that a lot of this PPV has been forced to resort to filler because of what has happened to Brian Pillman. Next comes a screening of what happened on Raw previously as Vince McMahon gives Stone Cold three options regarding his recovery from neck surgery. Firstly he can bring a note from his doctor saying he’s okay to wrestle (like he’s doing a PE lesson at school or something), secondly he can wrestle but the WWF take no legal responsibility over his physical health and thirdly he can leave the WWF altogether. It’s not exactly the greatest back to work scheme ever devised but there you go.
There’s a quick interview as Michael Cole talks to Owen Hart backstage. The strangest part of Owen asking if Cole can say ‘law suit’ which Cole then does. Owen then walks off, satisfied that Cole has fulfilled his role as parrot for the evening.
More filler up next as J.R stands in the middle of the ring saying that ‘St Louis is the greatest wrestling city on the United States’ to mass cheers. It then goes into some kind of hall of fame ceremony as he brings out names such as Jack Brisco, Dory Funk Jr, Harley Race, Lou Thesz and Terry Funk to receive awards for their work in the territory in years gone by. It seems strange that Vince would spend PPV time acknowledging a territory he probably helped put out of business. I was half expecting Stone Cold to march out halfway through and Stunner everybody, maybe giving a poetic Lou Thesz Press to Lou Thesz but it doesn’t happen.
Next comes possibly the most intriguing thing Vince will say this evening, possibly all year. It’s nothing to do with what’s happening in the ring, more outside it. More information seems to have come through about Pillman as Vince gives us the news that no foul play is suspected yet it could possibly be a drugs overdose ‘maybe prescription or recreational’. Vince McMahon, the owner of this entire company, has just acknowledged on air that a member of his talent roster may have taken drugs. He does quickly add that this ‘is a problem in all sports and entertainment’ but it’s astonishing to hear him say those words.
Next up we have the final of the tournament to decide a new Intercontinental Champion between Owen Hart and Faarooq. Both men are thoroughly booed upon walking to the ring. The match itself isn’t the main draw here though, in fact it’s pretty much an irrelevance apart from just placing the belt around Owen’s waist again so he can have another match with Austin once Stone Cold has recovered. After both combatants are in the ring Stone Cold’s music begins and he marches down ringside with purpose. Steve Austin will hand the I.C title over to the winner tonight, not before he’s given a quick one fingered salute to Owen though.
Austin rings the bell to start the match himself. He then wanders over to commentary to steal Vince’s headset. Owen starts working on Faarooq’s knees when Austin moves across to the Spanish announce table to steal their headsets also. Owen is thrown into the turnbuckles at speed as Stone Cold moves across to the French announce table, informing them he’ll ‘knock the French right out of them’. I’m usually the first to complain if focus is taken away from the match itself by somebody on the outside but it fits Stone Cold’s character so well to just be messing around around with the usual run of things.
Faarooq misses a top rope leg drop and Owen manages to snap on the sharpshooter. Faarooq then kicks him off only for Jim Neidhart to appear at ringside. Faarooq spinebusters Owen for a two count and, whilst the referee tries to get Jim Neidhart away, Austin cracks the IC title belt over Faarooq’s skull enabling Owen to get the pinfall victory. Stone Cold throws the IC title in the ring for Owen to pick up and exits. J.R goes crazy on commentary wondering why Austin would bother to help The Hart Foundation. Owen holds his title aloft and screams about how he ‘did it all myself’. The match itself was fairly forgettable but the ramifications for future storylines mean it’s well worth it.
The second match added to the card tonight in the wake of Pillman’s death if the eight man tag team match between Los Boricuas and The Disciples of Apocalypse. It’s yet another chapter in the continued feud involving former members of the Nation of Domination. It’s incredibly hard to get worked up about because, bar Crush and Savio Vega, we know very little about any of the other six. “Boots, fists and clotheslines” says Vince about halfway through. He was trying to describe the brawling style of both teams but in reality he pretty much sums up the match. Two points of interest from this shower of rubbish are the fact that Vince says he reckons Savio Vega looked like an ice cream salesman when he first made his debut and Jerry Lawler mentions something about ‘the WWF attitude’ which is probably the first time anybody has mentioned it on screen. Crush gets the pinfall on somebody after a tilt the world backbreaker. I say ‘somebody’ because I have no clue who it was and I’m not that bothered to go back and find out.
He usual rules of a flag match are to grab your own flag from the corner but for some reason this will be altered slightly tonight to include victories by pinfall and submissions. Apparently we’re told it’s been agreed by both teams but quite why this would be the case is never really revealed. Backstage on the night it’s said that all four men were carrying injuries of some sort so it was decided to make the match a little more ground based to save on bumps.
Before all this though we get some promo fun which includes some confusion from Bulldog as he mentions they’re going to raise the Canadian flag ‘right here in St Louis, right here’. Vader then also manages to say ‘Bullshit’ live on PPV. They’ve beeped it out of the WWE Network version but judging by Vince’s sheepish apology on the broadcast it must have gone out live on the night. The Patriot also fails to look towards the camera during his promo so this is going really well already.
Both teams then walk down to the ring with their respective flags in hand already. Vader and Bret start brawling using the flag as a weapon whilst Bulldog and Patriot set off in the opposite direction doing pretty much the same. After a short period of Bulldog and Bret gathering themselves in the aisle the match begins proper. During this time Lawler screams that Vader should have just climbed up and got the flag there and then. He’s probably right.
Bulldog spends the next sequence getting battered from pillar to post. Patriot does end up going for the flag eventually but Bret just punches him off. This seems to be a reoccurring problem throughout the match as the flags are placed right alongside the opposite tag partner. Bret tires to go for his corner post figure four on Patriot but Vader runs him off. The ref then goes to remonstrate with Vader and Bret locks it on anyway. Bret also later manages to lock a Sharpshooter onto Patriot but it’s reversed meaning Bret nearly falls victim to his own finisher. Patriot also has a moment when he climbs over Bulldog, Bret and Vader in order to reach the flag. It doesn’t end well for him. The one thing to note about this match is that, for being a flag match, there aren’t that many attempts on actually getting the things down. Most of this match is an outright wrestling
Vader is often seen as a clubbing brute but he was very agile for a guy his size. One of the main examples of this is when he goes for a Vaderbomb on Bulldog, changes it to a moonsault, sees Bulldog is back up and still lands on his feet. Bret has gone for the time keeper’s bell in the meantime which he quickly uses against Vader. After following this with a DDT he only gets a two count. Patriot then Uncle Slams Bret but Bulldog breaks it up.
At this point a fan attempts to enter the ring but is quickly shoved back out. Even the ref manages to get a boot in.
Whilst Bulldog and Vader brawl outside Bret reverses a roll up and pins Patriot for three whilst pulling the tights. Bulldog and Bret make a sharp exit down the ramp which, as a result of the opening brawl, has an American flag Bret can throw around for a bit. Whilst the match itself is good it is very odd to consider that Bret in the World Champion at this point and rather than defend his title in the main event he’s placed in something of a throwaway tag match.
The main event is coming though and Shawn Michaels seems thankful it’s not for his ‘coveted European title’. This backstage promo from Shawn is cut off before Triple H can get a word in. For some reason, as the Cell is being lowered, Commissioner Slaughter goes looking under the ring with a torch. I have no clue what he expects to find under there.
I’m not sure if Shawn had some kind of ‘refreshment’ before he went out to wrestle here or not but his entrance and subsequent reaction to the cell being lowered. Whilst he’s walking down the aisle with Chyna and Triple H he looks like he hasn’t got a care in the world. Once his DX team mates have been sent to the back and the Cell has been fully lowered with him in it his mood switches to that of being absolutely petrified. It’s wonderfully done, the arrogant heel has finally clicked onto the situation he’s got himself into. Once Undertaker is in the ring and the door is padlocked then Shawn seems desperate for a way out.
Here’s something that struck me whilst watching this. In WWE today we see probably about three or four Hell in a Cell matches in a year. As a result the whole thing seems old and tired, matches that take place in them often feel restrained and pretty similar. Much like how the Triple Threat match between Crush, Savio and Faarooq a few months back felt very different from more recent ones then this too is made to feel fresh and different. It’s strange that the actual Cell is never really referred to during commentary by that name, they’re still calling it a cage.
Shawn sells like a crazy thing to start with. Undertaker begins proceedings by booting him in the face. He also gets an Old School in early doors. Shawn really has to resort to desperation tactics after punching Undertaker out before he gets chokeslammed. At the pinnacle of this arse kicking Undertaker backdrops Shawn so high that his feet touch the ceiling of the Cell. Shawn also gets thrown into the cage and Undertaker clotheslines him full force. This spot must have been good because they repeat it straight afterwards. Undertaker tries to get Shawn up for a powerbomb whilst outside the ring but HBK grabs the steel mesh and punches Undertaker in the face instead. “This is not a good night to be a Shawn Michaels fan” says Vince. To be honest, I’d be more worried if I were Shawn Michaels.
Shawn’s first big offence in the match comes in the shape of using the steel ring steps to piledrive Undertaker right on top. At this point a cameraman gets in Shawn’s way and he makes his annoyance very obvious. HBK then grabs a steel chair and, after a couple of direct chair shots, only gets a two count. Undertaker ends up getting locked in the ropes but still manages to boot Shawn as he attacks. Shawn goes for another try only to get backdropped over the ropes. On the way down he hits the cameraman again, this time punching him out. “We apologise to the family of that cameraman” bellows Vince as the employee in question is motionless.
Whilst Shawn gets a good top rope elbow in Commissioner Slaughter marches back down to open the Cell door so that the cameraman can get some medical attention. It’s a key point in the match because it allows Shawn and Undertaker to actually leave the Cell whilst the door is unlocked. A brawl up the aisle results in Shawn being catapulted into the side of the Cell. As a result of this he begins to bleed heavily. Shawn then finds that the only way to escape the Undertaker’s clutches is to climb the Cell. Of course, Taker follows.
Undertaker backdrops Shawn on the roof and then body slams him. This actually means a part of the structure buckles. As Shawn hangs off the side of the Cell Undertaker kicks his hands away and HBK goes crashing through the Spanish announce table. To top this off he’s then thrown into the French announce table. Eventually some sort of order is restored as they get back into the Cell and the door is once again locked.
After enduring a top rope chokeslam Shawn is pretty much out of the floor as Undertaker goes for a steel chair. It’s at this point the lights go out and some organ music begins. Paul Bearer then walks down to the ring with a large gentleman in a red mask. “That’s got to be Kane!” yells Vince and he might just be right. Bearer’s threat of bringing up a part of Undertaker’s past, something which has really been going since around SummerSlam 1996, has finally come to fruition. Kane rips the door off the hinges of the Cell, pushes Earl out of the way and stands face to face with Undertaker before Tombstoneing him and walking back out. A bloody, beaten Shawn Michaels then holds one arm over the floored Undertaker and Ear initiates what must be the slowest ever three count. As a result of winning here tonight Shawn goes on to face Bret Hart for the title at Survivor Series.
I’ve always wondered what Glen Jacobs must have been thinking that evening before he went out. He’d already played Isacc Yankem on television and he had also been lumbered with the awful Fake Diesel gimmick at the start of the year. Somebody must have asked him to try this mask on and become Undertaker’s pissed off little brother and I bet he didn’t think he would still be using that character eighteen years later.
Badd Blood is fairly terrible as an overall show. The changes forced upon them in the wake of Pillman’s sudden death mean the card takes a definite knock in quality. The tag team flag match even seems like it could have been something more but never really reaches the heights. It’s saved by the classic Hell in a Cell match though. Whilst Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker might be overshadowed by Mankind’s performance at King of the Ring 98 I think it’s a superior match for all out wrestling.
For the next instalment we’re in Montreal for Survivor Series 1997. It’s Bret Hart’s last night in the company so surely they’ll give him a warm send off after all he’s given for the WWF over the years, right?