November 13, 2007
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

IYH: Beware of Dog I
May 26, 1996
Florence Civic Center
Florence, South Carolina
Attendance: 6,000
Buy Rate: .45
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler

Dark Match:

Bob Holly pinned Isaac Yankem

Free For All:

The Smokin’ Gunns defeated the Godwinns to win WWF Tag Team Titles in 4:57

Fun Fact: Sunny had started co-managing the Godwinns after they defeated the Body Donnas for the titles at an MSG house show (the same night as the “Curtain Call,” May 19). After this match, she jumped ship again and started managing the Gunns.

Actual Show

1) Marc Mero defeats Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) with a slingshot into the post at 16:21

Fun Fact: This is Helmsley’s first match following the infamous “Curtain Call.” The Curtain Call happened on May 19 at a house show in Madison Square Garden. The show was Kevin Nash and Scott Hall’s last appearance in the WWF. Hall lost to Helmsley earlier in the evening and Nash lost to Michaels in a Steel Cage match in the Main Event. Following the cage match, Ramon and Helmsley ran down to the ring and the four men (Michaels, Nash, Hall and Helmsley) all broke character (Nash and Helmsley were heels, HBK and Hall were faces) and hugged in the ring as a final send-off for the soon to be-Outsiders. McMahon, needless to say, was fuming after the incident, especially since the Clique pissed on kayfabe right in the middle of hallowed MSG. Since Nash and Hall were leaving, and Michaels was the World Champ, Helmsley was left alone to take the punishment for the incident. Internet legend has it that the main punishment for him was that he was no longer booked to win the King of the Ring the following month, and instead was jobbed out in the first round. Helmsley was buried for 4 months or so. Of course, the decision to make Helmsley not win the KOTR ended up changing the course of WWF and pro wrestling history, but more on that in the next review.

Fun Fact II: A little background on the “Wildman” since this is his official PPV debut. Marc Mero began his career as a boxer, winning 3 Golden Gloves in New York before entering the wrestling ring. He then gained his notoriety in WCW as the flamboyant Johnny B. Badd, winning the WCW Television Title 3 times between 1994 and 1996. Along the way, he married Guess-Jeans model Rena Mero, who is now, of course, Sable. He had won the TV title in February against Lex Luger, and then lost to Luger on March 6, just 3 weeks before being on camera at Wrestlemania.

Scott: We are about to begin the strangest night in WWF history. It started innocently enough, with a match starting a feud that would last many months, and soon include the Intercontinental Title. Helmsley was starting to gain some heel heat, although it wouldn’t be for a few months before he really reached his stride. This is the first match where I see Helmsley really dictate the tempo of a match successfully, and Mero was a great opponent for him. Nice job by the bookers to put these two together in a feud, as it really accelerated Helmsley’s work as a heel and gave Mero his wrestling legs. I wouldn’t put this in the Bret/Owen level of PPV openers, but it definitely should be remembered as one of the better opening matches in the last couple of years. Mero gets almost no offense in, although he gets a sweet reverse flip into a pin attempt at one point, but Helmsley spent most of the match cranking on Mero’s left arm/shoulder. Jerry Lawler is funny on commentary trying to say Sable’s ugly because she’s with the babyface Mero. In the end, Helmsley jaws with Sable and is about to drop the Pedigree, but Mero reverses it, slingshots Helmsley into the ring post, and pins the unconscious blueblood for the victory. A solid opener to what will be a bizarre night. Grade: 3

Justin: A really good match here, as would become the norm for these two guys. Helmsley knew he was in the doghouse, so I think he busted his ass a little harder here to get back on Vince’s good side. This is Mero’s first official PPV match, and he brings the goods immediately. It is a shame that the knee injury derailed Mero’s career and in-ring ability, because he would be flat out nasty in 1996 and put on good match after good match. This feud would rock on through the rest of the year, and would feature a couple of twists and turns to keep it fresh. A few other wrestlers down the line will get credit for helping make Helmsley a star, but Mero deserves credit for giving Hunter a bump up from the lower rung of wrestlers and giving him some credibility as a solid mid-carder with this feud. Mero would have a bumpy summer before things really go in his favor while Helmsley just rides out the storm created by the Curtain Call. Grade: 3

*** Just as Savio Vega was coming down the aisle for his match with Steve Austin, the terrible thunderstorm raging in the Southeast finally took the power from the arena. The power came back about an hour later. The following four matches actually took place in the dark arena, as a bonus to fans: Vega vs. Austin, Yokozuna vs. Vader, Undertaker vs. Goldust and Jake Roberts vs. Justin Bradshaw. The first three matches were scheduled for the PPV itself, while the Roberts/Bradshaw match was thrown in to stall for time. They announced that the rest of the card would be 2 nights later in Charleston, free for those that were in Florence, and those that bought the PPV that night. Also, it was mentioned that the two matches that took place: Helmsley/Mero and Michaels/Smith would be re-aired before the other three matches at Beware of Dog #2. ***

2) British Bulldog (David Smith) and Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) wrestle to a no-contest at 16:51when both men pin each other; Michaels retains WWF World Title

Fun Fact: This match is the first real in-ring example of Shawn Michaels’ perfectionist attitude and unprofessionalism. As the story goes, while in a chinlock, Earl Hebner was given the signal to end the match early due to time constraints. Of course, this did not sit well with old HBK. So he starts throwing a tantrum and yelling at Hebner about going home early. Right after the move, Bulldog whips Michaels’ into the ropes and goes to give him a clothesline. However Michaels dodges it completely yet still sells it and falls out of the ring. They show a few replays, but none can explain what happened, and Vince and Jerry try to cover it up but fail miserably. This would not be the last time Shawn threw a hissy fit in the ring when things didn’t go his way during this World Title run.

Fun Fact II: On the 4/29 Raw, Vince McMahon had an interview Jim Cornette, The British Bulldog, Diana Smith, and Shawn Michaels where Cornette makes the claim that Shawn lured Diana to the backstage area during IYH and tried to take advantage of her. Cornette verbally attacks Shawn and calls him a fornicator. McMahon asks if Diana then tells Shawn that she know he wants her. Shawn tells Diana not to flatter herself. Diana retaliated with a slap to which Michaels replied "I guess we all know who wears the pants in the Smith family!" That was all Bulldog needed to hear to attack, and the brawl was on. The next week, we were provided footage of an alleged former wife of a wrestler who claimed that Michaels seduced her and then when her husband found out, Michaels beat him down in the ring and drove him out of the business and basically ruined the marriage. Then, on the 5/27 Raw, Cornette officially provided a Temporary Restraining Order on Michaels against Diana, preventing him from being within 100 feet of Ms. Smith.

Scott: This would be the beginning of “The two faces of Shawn Michaels.” As a performer, he is a proper replacement for the hiatus of Bret Hart. He is a risk taker, a high flyer, and a great bump-taker. As a person, and a WWF employee, you won’t find a bigger asshole in all of wrestling. Well, maybe there are a few, but he’s pretty close. This would be the start of the saga that is Shawn Michaels vs. the Hart Family. Speaking of the Hart Family, I have to say; I would argue that Diana Hart-Smith isn’t really a Hart. At least for these next two PPVs, she’s never looked hotter. The Princess Diana dress could go, but she had a nice tan and a pretty face. Michaels performs a German suplex, but both men’s shoulders are on the mat, and backup referee Mike Chioda counts the pin. Chioda calls Bulldog the winner, while Earl Hebner, taken out by Bulldog earlier in the match, awards the decision to Michaels. In the end Michaels leaves with the title in a no-contest, but a re-match was slated for next month’s King of the Ring. Yes, Michaels’ bitching and whining gets worse as the year goes on. Grade: 3

Justin: Juvenile bullshit aside, this was a pretty solid match. Bulldog could be quite awesome when he had someone to push him in the ring to be great. When he was in there with someone who couldn’t work that well, the match suffered, which probably explains why he is considered one of the best wrestlers in WWF history, but not one of the greats of all time. Michaels whining bullshit in 1996 is very, very different than his political bullshit in 1997 for one main reason. In 1996, he complained and whined when something happened in the ring to alter the match, and he would get angry that his match was ruined and looked bad. In 1997, however, he started becoming a nightmare backstage by faking injuries, starting fights and refusing to job. He was a baby in 1996, but at least he was focused on making his matches top-notch and there was a somewhat legitimate reason for his tantrums, but in 1997 he was out of control. This was the third straight top notch Main Event, however, which is a trend that would continue throughout Michaels’ title reign. Before the match, Cornette’s lawyer, Clearance Mason presented Michaels with a subpoena that stated Diana was suing him for trying to seduce her and break up her and Bulldog’s marriage. The original storyline was supposed to be that Diana was trying to seduce Michaels, and he spurned her so she sent Smith after him for revenge, but for some reason the story was changed along the way. I have read that Diana didn’t want to go along with that angle, but not sure what the true story is. The storyline was never finished off or explained, even though these two would fight again at KOTR due to the screwy finish here. Grade: 3

Dark Matches (WWF regularly had extra dark matches after their 2 hour shows went off the air to give the crowd a full night of action):

Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) beat Jerry Lawler
Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig) beat Owen Hart

IYH: Beware Of Dog #2
May 28, 1996
Charleston Coliseum
Charleston, South Carolina
Attendance: 4,500
Buy Rate: .45
Announcers: Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect

1) Savio Vega (Juan Rivera) defeats Steve Austin (Williams) in a Caribbean Strap Match when Vega touches all 4 corners at 21:21

Fun Fact: The original stipulation for this match was that if Austin won, Vega would have to be DiBiase’s personal chauffeur. The Raw before this show, in order to up the ante from Beware of Dog #1, DiBiase added that if Vega won, DiBiase would leave the WWF. Of course, after Vega won, DiBiase left to a rousing ovation and showed up in WCW in August, becoming the seventh member of the NWO. With DiBiase out of the way, Austin finally got to show his personality and speak for himself, and we all knew where that would lead.

Scott: The first match of “Part II” sees Savio Vega get the better of Stone Cold in a Caribbean Strap Match. The object of the match is to touch all four turnbuckles, while you and your opponent are attached to a leather strap. The first couple of times I watched this match I wasn’t crazy about it. The strap constricts the action, plus they had this grueling match 2 nights earlier. Now watching it again, I do see some positives. The strap does add unique psychology to the match, as well as a weapon for some nice stiff shots. A nice spot is when Savio’s outside, and Austin is on the top rope. Savio pulls the strap, yanks Austin into mid-air over the post and Stone Cold crashes into in the guardrail. The match also keeps the crowd into it, as the drama builds with every tap of the corner. This was a much better match than I remember and the end of Austin’s days with a manager. This would be DiBiase’s last WWF PPV appearance. Austin is now solo, and he doesn’t mind one bit. Grade: 3

Justin: I agree with Scott here, as I think this match is incredibly stiff and fun to watch. The strap may constrict them a bit, but they find unique ways to incorporate it into the psychology of the match which makes this match fun to watch because it is so different and fresh from any other matches the WWF had been doing. These two really lay into each other and, when they are not killing each other with the leather, manage to throw in some great wrestling. The drama also added to this match, as DiBiase’s career is on the line. I think this a forgotten classic, due to it being on a bizarre show that is remembered more for the power outage than it is for the wrestling. This was a really great match, as most of Austin’s were in 1996. With DiBiase’s departure, we finally see the end of one of the most frustrating stables in WWF history. When DiBiase formed his Corporation, there seemed to be so much promise, as you thought he would use his great heel heat to get various wrestlers over. However, instead, he was given boring heels like IRS and Tatanka, over the hill veterans like Bundy and Volkoff and bad storylines involving the Undertaker’s urn. Outside of managing Bigelow to the Main Event of Wrestlemania and his run with Sid in 1995, DiBiase’s group was generally the home of the mid-card misfits. After Austin loses, which he would later claim he did on purpose to get ride of DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man is serenaded by the crowd and would not be seen on WWF TV again until 2005. Anyway, I highly recommend this oft-forgotten hidden classic on a show ripe of them. Grade: 3.5

2) Vader (Leon White) defeats Yokozuna (Rodney Anoia) with the Vader Bomb at 8:51

Scott: The growing heat and momentum of the Mastodon continues here, as he takes care of the beefy Yokozuna. Combined these two guys weigh close to 950 pounds, and that should pretty much give you a clue as to the quality of this match. Yoko tries to Bonzai Drop Jim Cornette, but Vader moves him and takes Yoko out for the win. Yoko’s star is dulling with every show, and the end is near. He probably could have continued to be a solid presence through 1997 and maybe the Attitude era with a little character tweaking. The problem was he was gaining another 20 pounds with each show. Vader’s heat continues to build, and this feud is over. Grade: 1.5

Justin: A pretty boring match here to finally blow off the Yoko/Camp Cornette feud. Vader had broken Yoko’s ankle on the April 8 Raw, resulting in the memorable moment of Yoko being carried from the ring on a forklift. This was Yoko’s first televised match back and Vader uses his finisher to finish this relative squash and move on to bigger and better things. Yoko did the right thing in using his credibility with the fans to put over the hot heel, so kudos to him. Grade: 1.5

3) Goldust (Dustin Runnels) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) in a Casket Match to retain WWF Intercontinental Title when he and Mankind (Mick Foley) put Taker in the casket at 12:35

Fun Fact: Mankind made his debut on the Raw the night after Wrestlemania, defeating Bob Holly. Later in the night, after Undertaker’s match with Bradshaw, Mankind jumped the Undertaker and laid him out with an elbow from the apron to floor and a Mandible Claw. That attack set off a feud that would continue on and off for the next 3 years. We will have more on the career of the man behind the mask in our next review.

Fun Fact II: On the 5/13 Raw, we saw an in ring interview with Paul Bearer and the Undertaker. During the interview, Goldust and Marlena came to the ring. Goldust began making sexual overtones to the Undertaker, including locking hands and talking about the stiffness of rigor mortis. Undertaker then applied some pressure and forced Goldust to buckle to his knees in pain and eventually flat on his back. It was at that point that Mankind ran in and beat Taker down, eventually leaving him lying. After being thanked by Goldust, Mankind quickly exited the ring, leaving Goldust and Taker alone in the ring. Goldust would then start to strip off his robe and would eventually slither onto the prone Undertaker, straddling him. After a few seconds, Goldust turned to taunt the crowd, but when he turned back, he was met by a pissed of Undertaker, who would clear Goldust from the ring. The next week on Raw saw more collusion between Mankind and Goldust, as Goldust came out while Jim Ross was interviewing Undertaker, who was sitting up in the casket that was going to be used for this match. As Goldust distracted Taker, Mankind made his move and was able to force Taker back into the casket and lock him in. He would then proceed to beat the casket with a metal pole before tipping it over and taking off with Goldust and Marlena.

Scott: Goldust still had a heavy knee brace under his costume, so his mobility was still very poor, and this match was substandard because of it. However, the moment of the match wasn’t really the two participants. It was the man who came out of the casket and cost Taker the match. Mankind, who was becoming a thorn in the side of the Deadman, comes out of the casket as Taker was about to win the match and the title and does Goldust’s dirty work for him. He started his feud with Undertaker after Wrestlemania, and he gets the better of the Deadman here. This unusual character was just what Undertaker needed, some sense of unpredictability in an Undertaker feud. It was fresh and new. Goldust keeps the title, but those days are soon numbered. Grade: 2

Justin: A very slow match, which would be the trend for these two in 1996. Undertaker would finally be given a true, unpredictable, exciting feud. For the first time in his WWF career, Taker is pushed to the limit, and the outcome of his big matches was really in question. It was a ballsy move by Vince, but one that needed to be taken in order to rejuvenate the Dead Man’s career. Goldust, who was hot heading into January, had cooled off a bit, mainly due to weak feuds, injuries and lame matches. Now he has forged an on screen relationship with Mankind, which is a duo that would wreak some bizarre havoc on the WWF over the next few months. Goldust picks up the surprising win over the Deadman that brings an end to one of the most unique WWF PPVs of all time. Grade: 2

FINAL ANALYSIS

Scott: This is a tough show to grade, since it was spread out over 2 days. The matches as a whole were OK, including a very convoluted, but well thought out title match. These matches against Shawn Michaels really brought out the best in British Bulldog, and would make him a big player over the next year and a half. Shawn Michaels had the World Title, but he didn’t have his running buddies, so he spent the rest of the year bitching and crying, crying and bitching. It wouldn’t affect his in-ring ability, but he would drive the rest of the company nuts. I’m sure all of them wanted to join Bret Hart on vacation. Steve Austin and Savio Vega put on a good strap match, and Mero/Helmsley was one of the best PPV openers in a while. I used to not be crazy about this show, but watching it again it’s grown on me. Final Grade: C+

Justin: I disagree whole-heartedly with Scott here, as I think this is a very underrated and underappreciated show. It was the first of the new era of stars (Mankind, Mero, Vader, Goldust, Austin) and featured three very, very good matches (strap match, Mero/HHH and the World Title match). If the show wasn’t so messed up by the weather, it would probably get the credit it deserved, but as is, I guess it will always be a forgotten classic. This is a show that you could watch and easily be satisfied when you are finished, something that was rare in early 1996. You could definitely feel the change in atmosphere circling around this show, as younger, more physical superstars were being pushed to the forefront in addition to the Main Event scene being focused on fast paced athletic matches. A good show to dig up and rewatch as it is something of a forgotten classic. Final Grade: B

MVP: British Bulldog and Shawn Michaels
Runner Up: Steve Austin and Savio Vega
Non-MVP: Goldust
Runner Up: Shawn Michaels

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