September 28, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero
October 5, 1997
St. Louis, Missouri
Buy Rate: .6
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler
Fun Fact: This is the last PPV that Vince McMahon would commentate for.
1) Kama Mustafa (Charles Wright), D-Lo Brown (A.C. Connor) & Rocky Maivia (Dwayne Johnson) defeat the Legion of Doom when Maivia pins Hawk (Mike Hegstrand) with a Rock Bottom at 12:18
Fun Fact: Ken Shamrock was supposed to be on the LOD’s team, but due to injuries suffered during the Intercontinental Title Tournament he’s out for this match.
Scott: The first official PPV match for Rocky Maivia as a heel. Not called the Rock yet, but that will change soon. Ken Shamrock was originally slated to be on LOD’s team, but due to injury the Road Warriors have to go it alone. Rock’s style of wrestling is very different from what we are all used to now. He still wrestled defensively, as a face. It would take him a while to get adjusted to carrying matches like a heel. Most of the early portions of this match were very Memphis-esque, with Rocky walking around the ring posturing to the crowd. With every match the LOD seems to be moving slower and slower, and at times seem to be confused as to what their next move should be, in particular Hawk. Damn shame, I’ll say it over and over. I would much rather watch them crush jobbers during their AWA run than have to wrestle in half gear now. As for the Nation, well it’s now become a platform for the new heel, Rocky, almost the Rock. The match is workable, and is a solid opener to the show. Grade: 2.5
Justin: This match is here to simply showcase the freshly turned heel Rocky. LOD were really on their last legs by this point. They would get one final taste of glory 1 week after this show, but that would all be gone by the end of 1997. I am not sure if Shamrock was legit injured or just selling the storyline “internal injuries” he received from the Nation on Raw. I don’t think it was announced that he was out until the match was starting, so who knows. D-Lo and Kama were still just lackeys without personalities at this point, but they do make for a solid heel tandem. The Rock picks up the big win, and is steamrolling into the first marquee year of his career: 1998. Grade: 2
*** Vince announces due to the unfortunate death of Brian Pillman the night before, the match between he and Dude Love has been cancelled. ***
Scott: Justin will elaborate further on Pillman, as he was a much bigger fan of him than I was, but I’ll just say he was one of the most unpredictable and incredibly talented wrestlers of the past 15 years. His surprise run with Steve Austin as the Hollywood Blondes in WCW opened up his untapped potential as a character. His ability had always been well-documented dating back to the infancy of WCW’s Light-Heavyweight division, which would eventually be the Cruiserweight division. Unfortunately, his 1996 car accident and subsequent ankle surgeries led to lots of medication and his demons caught up with him. To repeat from last month, his final WWF PPV record is 2-1.
Justin: When Vince McMahon appeared prior to the Badd Blood telecast to announce that Brian Pillman had died, I nearly vomited in my mouth. Since his days as a Hollywood Blonde, I was always a premier member on the Pillman bandwagon, which was evidenced by the poster of the Blondes I had over my bed while growing up. His heel turn in 1995 was awesome and he added such a chaotic aspect to WCW at the time and was my favorite reason to watch Nitro and Saturday Night (which I did watch every week…). When I heard that he signed with the WWF, I was ecstatic. I was envisioning a Blondes reunion that would lead to violent beat downs of the whole roster and eventually lead to gold around their waists. When I discovered the Pill had been injured in a car accident, I was heartbroken and waited anxiously for his in-ring return. Even on crutches and in severe pain, Pillman showed 400X more talent that ¾ of the WWF roster in 1996. His debut at KOTR ’96 was great, calling JR a “stupid son of a bitch” and setting the tone for the madness that was to come. A few months later, and Pillman was on the receiving end of a Stone Cold beatdown (including a vicious move we now call the Pillmanizer), and I was rabid at the thought of an awesome feud between Austin and Pillman. Those hopes were risen even more by the infamous gun fight interview in October, and I figured it was only weeks until Pillman hit the ring to get his revenge. And then, I read more and more on the internet, and it seemed like the Timebomb would be out for a lot longer than expected. I was crushed, and very angry at the fact that Vince kept him off TV while convalescing. He made a brief return as a color commentator on Shotgun Saturday Night in early 1997, but was eventually “suspended” for beating up a fan. That “suspension” from commentating was done to setup his in-ring return (which we have followed closely in these reviews). It is funny, it seemed like the whole wrestling world knew Pillman wasn’t going to make it that much longer. He just seemed so insane and uncontrollable, that you just knew something was going to happen. Well, that did not make it any damn easier when he did die, it just made it that much sadder. I will always remember two of Brian’s final WWF moments: the first was on the June 23rd Raw, when Owen was forced to defend his I-C Title in a Triple Threat match against Goldust and Helmsley. Well, Pillman and Owen did not think it was fair that his opponents got to have Marlena and Chyna at ringside, while Owen had to fly solo. So, the two of them confronted President Monsoon and a number of officials and began pleading their case. In the midst of their yelling, Monsoon kept saying “OK…it’s fine…,” but they kept going on and on about it being unfair. Every time they would stop, Owen would go “what? Your not listening, it isn’t fair!” and they would start up all over again. Finally, Monsoon got his point across and Owen stops, goes “OK then!” and then deadpans to Pillman “see, I told you he would change his mind if we were persistent!” I still die laughing every time I see that skit, as it featured two comic geniuses and one top of the line straight man at their best. The second was his final Raw match, as it is one I have on tape and have seen many times. It was in the second round of the I-C Tournament and Brian and Owen Hart were forced to square off against each other. Well, when the bell rang, they put on the most entertaining 3 or 4 minutes you will ever see. They started doing collar-and-elbow tie-ups and pushing each other into the corner where they would do a clean break and hold their hands up high to show the ref as such. Then they did another tie-up, followed by a go behind by Owen and then a nice and easy snap-mere by Pillman. Then they repeated the spot, only in reverse. It was fucking hysterical. Eventually, they started fighting for real, and Owen won by DQ when Goldust interfered, but I always remembered that match, and look back at it with fondness. So, I guess you can see what I thought about Brian Pillman, and how much he meant to me as a fan. I was so heartbroken when he died, and to this day I wonder what could have been in 1998 with Austin as champion and Brian either at his side, or across the ring for him. Brian Pillman was the Attitude Era a good 2 years before there was such a thing. He was a pioneer on the microphone and was one the first wrestlers to truly perfect the “worked-shoot.” Back in the early-90s he was one of the top 5 in-ring performers in wrestling, and once injuries broke him down, he changed up his whole persona and amped up his personality. He was one of the greats, and I miss watching him to this day. Up in Heaven, I am sure he is working over the angels and just setting them up for that inevitable Brian Pillman heel turn.
2) Max Mini & Nova defeats Tarantula & Mosaic when Mini pins Tarantula with a crucifix at 6:40
Scott: I’m not grading this match for two reasons. Number one, it was the match that replaced Pillman/Dude Love on the card, so there was no preparation. It’s not fair to grade a match that was slapped together at the last minute. The crowd notices this as well, as they’re not really paying attention. Second, it just reminds us that Brian Pillman is no longer with us and that is tragic. This begins the run of shocking deaths due to various reasons in professional wrestling that continues to this day. So we’ll just move on from this and go on with the show. Grade: N/A
Justin: I echo Scott’s sentiments. Grade: N/A
3) The Godwinns defeat The Headbangers to win WWF Tag Team Titles when Phineas (Dennis Knight) pins Mosh (Chaz Warrington) with a Powerbomb at 12:18
Fun Fact: On Raw a few weeks prior to this show, the Godwinns faced off with the Headbangers in a non-title match. All of a sudden, out of the crowd ran a third Hillbilly-looking guy. He clobbered one of the Bangers with a horseshoe and helped the Godwinns pick up a big win. The Godwinns claimed the man was their Uncle Cletus and that he would help guide them to the Tag Team Titles. Cletus was portrayed by “Dirty White Boy” Tony Anthony of SMW fame. Anthony had also played T.L. Hopper in the WWF in 1996.
Scott: This match was unspeakably bad, as neither team was technically proficient. Uncle Cletus brings a little heat to the heel team, but that creepy Deliverance music was enough to freak the crowd out. The Headbangers had a decent run as tag champs, but since LOD was likely promised at least one title run when they returned in February the belts needed to be off another face team. So for storyline purposes the switch makes sense, although without the LOD Mosh and Thrasher would probably have had a longer run with the straps. This was a needed title change, but not a great match. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Well, I guess bringing in Uncle Cletus was a good move on the Godwinns’ part, as they did indeed capture their second, and final, Tag Team Titles. The crowd was totally flat for this match and was not happy about the popular Headbangers dropping their newly won straps to the hated hog farmers. The Godwinns had really outlived their welcome by this point and the fans were so damn bored with them that they totally shat on their title reign. In essence, the switch was only done to transition the Titles to the LOD, but at the time the move seemed like a total brain fart. They should have kept the belts on the Bangers longer than they did and allowed them a good run with the straps as they were young, fresh and relatively over. The Godwinns probably should have turned heel a lot sooner than they did, as they worked well the stiff and creepy hillbillies, but it was probably too little, too late to really salvage the team. The Bangers had a good 1997 so far, but their ship would now begin to sail aimlessly in the tag team waters as a new team takes control of the division by the end of the year. Grade: 2
*** They show a vignette of all the guys Steve Austin has stunned since nailing JR at Ground Zero. This video sums up nicely the complete character and attitude of Stone Cold. They follow that up with a tribute to the legends of St. Louis wrestling. Those in attendance were Gene Kiniski, Jack Brisco, Dory Funk Jr., Harley Race, Lou Thesz and Sam Muchnick. Yeah, we didn’t think Muchnick was alive in 1997 either. This is the first real kicker that Vince was willing to embrace history, and mention former competitor NWA. Although these last two segments were planned, Vince was probably glad to see time be used that was probably meant for the Pillman/Dude match. ***
4) Owen Hart defeats Faarooq (Ron Simmons) to win the vacant WWF Intercontinental Title after Steve Austin (Williams) hits him with the title belt at 7:14
Fun Fact: Here are the tournament brackets: First Round: Brian Pillman defeated Dude Love (Mick Foley); Owen Hart beat Goldust (Dustin Runnels); Ken Shamrock defeated Faarooq, but was injured, allowing Faarooq to advance instead; Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) beat Rocky Maivia; Second Round: Owen Hart beat Brian Pillman; Faarooq beat Ahmed Johnson
Scott: This was the finals of a tourney created after Austin’s injury led to the belt being held up, as well as Vince being stunned at MSG. Allegedly, it was supposed to be Ahmed Johnson vs. Owen for the title, but again, he either injured someone, or himself, so he’s out, again. The match itself is nothing to write home about, as Faarooq is not the same Ron Simmons who was WCW Champion just 6 years before, and Owen is just not himself on this night. The turning point comes when Faarooq is near the ropes, and Austin decks him with the IC title, allowing Owen to get the pin, and the belt. Obviously both Owen and Austin were very close to the now late Brian Pillman, so neither of them is on their game. Owen seems to be going through the motions, and Austin isn’t as witty and sharp with his tongue as he usually is. Austin wanted to win the title from Owen, and thus your logic as to why he helped Owen win. Austin is still healing from the neck injury, but he’ll be back in the ring next month. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Scott and I each rated this match, but in reality any rating should be thrown out the window here. When you consider how close he was with Pillman, there is no way Owen could have had a clear head out there in that ring and that is eerie, considering what happened in May of 1999 surrounding Owen. His confusion is obvious, as this match just isn’t up to typical Owen levels. Also, while he was somewhat entertaining on commentary, Steve Austin is also trying to shake out the cobwebs of losing one of his closest friends earlier that day and thus he isn’t on his usual A game trash-talking-wise. While the issue stays on Austin and Owen, Faarooq is none too pleased to be screwed out of the title, and he picks a fight with Austin the next night on Raw that would eventually lead to the first Austin vs. Rock feud in December. This match had ugly written on it before this night came around, but due to the terrible circumstances it never stood a chance. Grade: 1.5
5) Disciples of Apocalypse defeat Los Boricuas when Crush (Bryan Adams) defeats Jesus Castillo with a Tilt-a-Whirl backbreaker at 9:08
Scott: The only new wrinkle in this “Gang Warz” nonsense is that Los Boricuas finally ditched the ice cream man costume and dressed like real gang-bangers. The problem that still lingers is that not one fan gives two shits about this feud. The crowd is silent, absolutely silent. The main reason for that is the fans made DOA the babyfaces, but they kept losing in the big matches. Sure they win here, but by now no one cares. The crowd wakes up for the win, but not much else. One note about this match that doesn’t really have to do with the match: With Vince loosening the reigns on history, JR really opens up the creative license with history references all over this match, from Lou Thesz to Bruiser Brody. Otherwise this is just another boring 8-man tag match. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Another match in the endless Gang Warz feud that dragged on and on and on. Crush wouldn’t last too much longer, as he was part of the mass exodus following the Montreal incident in November, so the original Gang Warz battles were pretty much on their last leg here. The Boricuas were all solid wrestlers, but just had no heat or excitement surrounding them, which led to so many bland, boring matches in late 1997. There really is not much left to say about these guys at this point, so we will carry on. Grade: 1.5
6) Bret Hart & British Bulldog (David Smith) defeat Patriot (Del Wilkes) & Vader (Leon White) in a Flag Match when Bret pins Patriot with a roll-up at 21:14
Fun Fact: On an episode of Raw in August, Vader took on the Patriot. After the match, the Hart Foundation jumped the Patriot and joined up with Vader in beating him down. Following the beating, the Harts placed the Canadian flag over the prone Patriot. Well, while beatings are fine and dandy with the Mastodon, they better be All-American or else we got a problem. Vader grabbed the flag off of the Patriot and snapped it over his knee, gaining him a huge face pop and a big time beatdown from the Harts. Vader played the tweener role over the next couple of weeks, but by September he was a full fledged face and would feud with the Hart Foundation until Survivor Series.
Fun Fact II: On September 27, WWF held their first England-only PPV in Birmingham entitled One Night Only. The Main Event of said show was Shawn Michaels vs. British Bulldog for the European Title. Bulldog had held the title since its inception in February, and many saw it as a trophy belt for him to defend when he returned home every few months. Well, Shawn decided that he should win it and that it would help further the feud with Bret, so in front of Bulldog’s cancer-ridden sister and his home town, Michaels and D-X beat down Davey and won the title when Bulldog passed out from the pain of a figure-four. Despite the match being superb, it was quite the humiliating moment and the crowd filled the ring with trash following the match. Bret was pretty pissed about the whole deal, and only added to his overall frustration. He and Taker added to the sparkle of the show with a superb, 5-star title match, which Bret won by DQ. The show itself was highly regarded and considered one of the best PPVs in 1997.
Fun Fact III: Vader’s reputation and status with the company dropped further by saying “Bullshit” during a live promo before the match.
Scott: The first of two matches that almost eclipse half an hour, this is the last victory in a WWF ring for Bret Hart. It is a forgettable tag match, a tag match with the WWF Champion! God, this is pathetic. After Canadian Stampede, Bret Hart’s last few months in the WWF were downright awful. He is no longer the top heel in the company. He is the WWF Champion, and is treated like a second-class citizen. If I were him, I would have left for WCW too. By this time, it was getting around that Bret was going to leave, so the discussions began over Survivor Series. We’ll get to the results of those “discussions” in the next review. For now, this is a non-descript tag match best suited for RAW. Vader was now a full-fledged babyface, and the crowd was popping for him severely, although he was an idiot for swearing during the pre-match promo. The Patriot is right now nothing more than a glorified jobber with a mask. His shelf life is pretty much over. Grade: 2
Justin: A decent match that is just too damn long, even with Bret doing most of the work. There was a lot of backstage turmoil going on at this point, so Bret wasn’t really involved in too many feuds, besides his one with Shawn. Patriot was still riding the Main Event wave from last month, but is on borrowed time by this point. Bulldog is on cruise control, and was probably waiting to see what the hell was going to happen with Bret in upcoming months. Another overlooked point is the affect Pillman’s death had on these two as well, knowing how close the 5 Hart members were. All in all, Bret’s final PPV win is a forgotten one and such a far cry from just 2 months prior when he was on top of the world. In retrospect, Bret’s worries, as expressed in Wrestling with Shadows, were very warranted, as Michaels’ heel turn has left the Hitman as the Number 2 heel, despite being the World Champ. Grade: 2.5
7) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) defeats Undertaker (Mark Callaway) in a Hell in a Cell match after a Kane tombstone at 29:54
Fun Fact: Often overlooked, this was also for the #1 contender slot for the WWF World Title, with a title match slated for Survivor Series.
Scott: This was the debut of the new gimmick match. A cell is a steel cage that is higher, wider, and more intimidating. The vision of the cell lowering as Taker’s music hits is magical, and the tension is palpable. The participants: A new, more obnoxious, and very political Shawn Michaels, and the Phenom, who wants to rip HBK’s skeleton from his body, bone by bone. Their brawl at Ground Zero was awesome, but without a clear finish. Here, Taker actually has a large steel weapon with which to destroy Shawn easier. From a backstage, and personality perspective, he is wrestling’s biggest asshole. His in-ring abilities are pretty close to perfect. This is one of the few matches where the face dictated the tempo. Undertaker pretty much kicked HBK’s fucking ass 35 ways to Sunday, using anything imaginable, the steps, the cage, and his fists. You name it; Taker used it to maim the man who cost him the WWF Title at Summerslam. Shawn also does what has become his patented mid-air blade job. Boy, he gets at A+ for that one, as by the end of the match he is completely crimson, as is the ring. The crowd is eating all of it up, in particular the shot of HBK falling off the wall of the cage onto the Spanish announce table. The climax of this masterpiece: Taker plows Shawn’s head with a chair, and is a Tombstone away from finishing him off. Then….the lights go out. Strange organ music starts, and red pyro and lights come on. Paul Bearer comes out, and with him…in the immortal words of Vince McMahon, in his final PPV as an announcer: “That’s gotta be…That’s gotta be Kane!” Kane, Undertaker’s long lost brother makes his debut. He rips the door to the cell off the hinges, hits the pyro on all four corner posts, and looks Taker dead in the eye. Kane grabs Taker, hits him with his own move, the Tombstone (and honestly, not a very good one), and leaves. We’ll have more on him in our next review. HBK, about half a pint of lost blood away from death, scrapes his limp carcass the few inches, drops his limp bloody hand on Taker’s chest and gets the victory. The crowd was ready to jump from their seats and finish Taker’s job for him. The psychology in this match mirrored the action in the ring. This was the match of the year for 1997, establishes HBK as the escaping pussy heel who will do anything for his body to make a 5-star match, and Taker is set for his next feud, one that would really define him from this point forward. This was an awesome match to end an otherwise sub-par PPV. I overlook the illogical ending, and say this is a classic and is the standard by which future Hell in the Cell matches would be measured. Grade: 5
Justin: Now, don’t let my rating fool you. I love this match and it is definitely one of the greatest gimmick matches of all time. But, I know they wanted Kane to make a major splash and come in and cost Taker the match to ignite their feud, but the way they did it totally ruined the ending and nullified all of the preceding violence. Throughout the whole match, Shawn is beaten to a bloody, useless pulp. He is shoved into the steel, thrown off the cage and smashed with a chair. He was lying, near-death, in a pool of his own blood at the end of the match. Now, Kane comes out, his entrance is a great moment, don’t get me wrong, but he gives Undertaker the worst Tombstone in history which puts Taker out cold, allowing Shawn to barely crawl over and pin him. How is everyone supposed to accept all of the hell Shawn was put through and everything that was done to him over the course of 30 minutes and he was still able to have a very little ounce of energy left to crawl onto Taker, but a measly half-assed Tombstone lays Taker out for a good 5 minutes after he was barely scratched up from the match itself? I know what they were trying to do, but with that lame ending, they totally undid all the reality and hard work they put into the match itself. If only they had Kane wrap a chair around Taker’s head, or had Kane distract him while Helmsley or Rude nailed him from behind, it would have been much more believable. Like I said in the beginning, this is still a top level match of all time, but you can’t overlook the ending and the effect it had on the reality of the match. This match would change the way feuds were ended, as the words “Hell in a Cell” would come to mean the huge blow off of a major feud and, most of the time, guaranteed violence and great action. Taker and Michaels set the bar quite high in the debut of the match but many in the future will come very close to passing it. Grade: 4.5
Scott: As a whole, this PPV was not great. The undercard is still being tweaked with weak storylines, and in some cases, uncompelling characters. The Gang Warz is failing miserably, and Bret Hart is officially being flushed down the toilet and all this on top of the fact that not everyone was into the show after the news of Brian Pillman’s death. The main event however, jacks the grade up for this show quite a bit. Shawn Michaels is the federation’s top heel, the world title is practically forgotten for now, and Steve Austin’s importance to a PPV is established here. He doesn’t wrestle, so the undercard tanks. We have now come to the moment everyone is waiting for. Next up, we review the most controversial PPV in wrestling history. It ranks up there with Wrestlemania III and Bash at the Beach 1996 (for different reasons as those) as one of the most influential shows in the modern PPV era. Get ready, because the events of November 9, 1997 will live in infamy. Final Grade: C
Justin: A decent show that is more remembered for Pillman’s death and the Hell in a Cell than anything else that happened. I hate to sound negative about the Main Event, because it deserves its credit, and Kane’s debut was a huge deal and everything but the Tombstone was just terrible. The show pretty much signaled the death knell of the entire Hart Foundation. Neidhart returned in the Free For All, and I feel like they probably called him in to replace Pillman, but the whole group was falling apart backstage. The power shift was on, and DX was in control. I always look at this show as the official end of the era that started at Summerslam 1993: the Post Hogan Era. The period was re-invented in 1996 and taken to a new level in 1997, but this show marks the end of it. The next 4 shows I always viewed as a bridge period before the official kick off of the Attitude Era at Wrestlemania XIV. As we go along, we will track the next few shows and see how and why they bridged the gap between these two periods in WWF history. Overall, besides the Main Event this show is forgettable, but is worth watching for the history lesson you receive. Final Grade: A for historical importance, C for the actual show
MVP: Shawn Michaels/Undertaker
Runner Up: Bret Hart
Non-MVP: Ahmed Johnson
Runner Up: DOA/Los Boricuas
Honorable Mention: Brian Pillman