April 5, 2008
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

IYH: Buried Alive
October 20, 1996
Market Square Arena
Indianapolis, Indiana
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler
Attendance: 9,649
Buy Rate: .4

Dark Matches:

1) Barry Windham defeats Justin Bradshaw (John Layfield)
2) The Godwinns defeat the New Rockers
3) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) defeats Goldust (Dustin Runnels) to retain WWF World Title

Actual Show

1) Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeats Hunter-Hearst Helmsley (Paul Levesque) with the Stone Cold Stunner 15:26

Fun Fact: This was the debut of Austin’s long running “Glass Breaking” theme song.

Fun Fact II: In the weeks leading up to this show, Mr. Perfect kept coming to ringside and stealing Helmsley’s valets and usually costing him the match as well. The next night on Raw, Perfect was scheduled to face Helmsley in what would have been Perfect’s first match in 3 years. In the opening moments of the show, Helmsley attacked Perfect backstage by running him down with a huge trunk. Perfect announced he was too injured to wrestle, and his buddy Marc Mero (Perfect had guided him through the I-C Tournament) agreed to take his place and even put the I-C Title on the line. As the match was nearing an end, Perfect turned on Mero and helped Helmsley win the I-C Strap, thus completing the “Perfect Plan.” Perfect stuck around and managed Helmsley for a few more weeks but then jumped ship to WCW where he finally returned to in-ring action. Helmsley claimed he used Perfect to get the belt, but then was done with him, so he fired him.

Scott: The opener pits two men who would share the responsibility of helping to build “WWF Attitude.” That wouldn’t be for a couple of years, but they do put a solid match on. Austin was supposed to finally end the Savio Vega feud, but Vega was hurt so Helmsley was inserted in. He was feuding with Mr. Perfect at the time, although as we see the next night, it wasn’t a real feud. It should also be noted that it would be 3 years to the month of their next singles encounter; the World Title match at No Mercy 1999. But, that excellent run wouldn’t be for a while. This was a solid match that was a little slow at times, but still was wrestled very well. The other part of this match is the hysterical commentary between Vince, JR, and Jerry. JR was the heel, bitching about getting fired. So during most of the show, his microphone mysteriously keeps cutting out. Jerry then says the classic line: “Don’t you hate when Vince says ‘1-2-he’s got him no he doesn’t’?” Vince then is uncomfortably quiet. Again, even as he’s trying to be the wussy babyface announcer, you can’t help but think “Yeah, VKM, you are quite annoying.” I almost wanted JR to get up and knock Vince in the teeth. After a while the microphone cutting out was getting irritating and was taking away from the match. Speaking of the match, Austin drops the Stunner after Perfect comes out to take Helmsley’s valet and Stone Cold moves on. This was his last “prep” match before the big one next month in NYC. Grade: 3

Justin: A very good match between two mid-card heels that were both about to get solid pushes. Hunter’s punishment from the Curtain Call was now over, and he was set to resume his push up the ladder. Austin’s career would be made the next month, and he would never look back. The commentator bickering definitely adds to the match, as JR always made a good smart-ass heel and it is funny to hear Lawler play the shit-stirrer. This was a solid win for the Rattlesnake as he continued his ascent to super-stardom. As Scott mentioned, Austin was supposed to take on Savio here, but he was pulled at the last minute. Not sure if the injury was legit or just a reason to get Helmsley on PPV, but either way the match changes at the last minute. Austin comes charging out to his new music, a theme that would be synonymous with the Rattlesnake for the rest of his career. Mr. Perfect continues to torment the Greenwich Blueblood, and their big match was officially set for the next night on Raw. It would be Perfect’s return to the ring since being injured at the end of 1993 and was being looked forward to quite a bit. This match was a fun opener and a cool match to look back on when you think about the start of a new era. Grade: 3

2) British Bulldog (David Smith) & Owen Hart defeat the Smoking Gunns to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when Bulldog pins Billy Gunn (Monte Sopp) after a leg lariat at 9:15

Fun Fact: This is the Smoking Gunns last PPV match as a team. Their PPV record as a team was 8-6. They were 1-0 at the Rumble, 0-1 at Wrestlemania, 2-0 at KOTR, 3-0 at Summerslam, 0-1 at Survivor Series and 2-4 at IYH events.

Scott: The final PPV for the Smoking Gunns as a tag team. The team’s apparent break-up was visible to pretty much everyone. As babyfaces, they had long mullets and moustaches. Then they cut their hair, shaved the ‘staches and turned heel. It was pretty evident that after Sunny kicked them to the curb for losing the titles at Mind Games that their run was coming to an end. As for Bulldog and Owen, they were on a roll as heel tag champs. This was a pretty good match, but not knowing who the heels are kind of kills the heat. Actually, there were more cheers for Owen and Bulldog. Now for most matches, you see a key moment where dissention and tag team breakups happen. Here, it’s the typical “obnoxious team member postures on apron while hard-working team member is Irish whipped into him” maneuver. But, let us get back to Owen and Bulldog. They rejuvenated the tag team division after the first six months of the year were quite sluggish. The match is solid, and one of the most successful and sometimes annoying teams in WWF history are through. Grade: 2

Justin: While the first match kicked off the start of one era, this match ends the run of one of the top Tag Teams of the mid-90s. The Gunns don’t usually get their due credit because they dominated during a down time for the Federation and tag division and were often injured and on the sidelines. When they were active however, they were always in the Title mix and considered one of, if not the best, teams in the WWF. Their breakup was a little overdue however, as they had become somewhat stale, mainly due to a lack of solid competition, and it is too bad they couldn’t hang on a bit longer, as help was on the way in the form of some new and fresh tag teams. On the flip side however, Bulldog and Owen would continue on to become one of the best set of Champions of the 90s. What was supposed to be a brief title run ending in a bitter feud ends up being rewritten into a major part of the Federation’s 1997 resurgence. This match itself was OK but will always be remembered as the Gunns’ swansong and the official launching of the Hart Family’s Title dominance over the next year. Grade: 2

*** JR gets into the ring and announces that he will bring Bret Hart to RAW the next night. He takes full credit for bringing the Hitman back. Hart does indeed come back on Raw the next night, announces he has signed a long term deal and says that he will accept Steve Austin’s challenge, slated for the Survivor Series. JR also rips into Vince, saying he’s an egomaniac who talks out of both sides of his mouth. It’s the first time the general fans who may not be really tuned into the inner workings know Vince owns the company. For all of us, it’s just another example of the Vince McMahon we all know him to be. Jim Ross then leaves the arena and Mr. Perfect takes over on commentary. ***

3) Marc Mero (Merowitz) defeats Goldust (Dustin Runnells) to retain WWF Intercontinental Title with a Shooting Star Press at 11:35

Fun Fact: This match was set to be a rematch of the I-C Title tournament finals between Mero and Faarooq as Mero had beaten Faarooq in the Finals with the help of his mentor, Mr. Perfect on Raw the night after Mind Games. However, Faarooq is attacked backstage by Ahmed Johnson and is injured by Ahmed Johnson. Faarooq then disappeared for a month, making his return on an episode of WWF Livewire with a new look and promises of change.

Fun Fact II: Goldust had a banner night: he did double duty and lost an I-C Title and World Title match.

Scott: This was originally supposed to be Mero vs. Faarooq in a re-match of the IC Title Tournament, but Ahmed Johnson, the man who was injured by Faarooq and the reason for the tournament in the first place, went backstage and beat the crap out of him. So Goldust, former champion, replaced him. Mero was really one of the better workers this year, and he is rewarded with the IC Title. Mero wins with a great Shooting Star Press. He had such talent to be a real player in the WWF. This is a great match, as both guys look really motivated. Mero’s window of opportunity is starting to close, however. Within a few months he would be hurt, take almost a year off, and come back a completely different wrestler: slow, lazy, and out of shape. It would be his wife/valet Sable who would be the superstar by 1998. Goldust has definitely added some flab since beating Razor Ramon for his first IC title back at the Royal Rumble. One of the highlights is watching some ugly Midwest hosebag trying to talk to Goldust on the outside. This was a really solid match and a highlight for Mero. Grade: 3

Justin: A decent match here between a hot I-C champ and a stale mid-card act. Mero was really on fire here, as he was very over with the crowd and was delivering stellar matches as well. He would stay in the upper-mid card, mainly continuing his feud with Helmsley, until February, which is when he was supposed to make a big splash, but instead blew out his knee and ended up missing most of 1997. Also, to help further the Helmsley/Perfect/Mero story, Perfect fills in for JR on commentary, which draws Hunter out and they start fighting on the outside. I feel for Goldust, as his character was neutered and he was forced to float around aimlessly. He started to get a little resurgent as the year ended however, and even received a World Title match against Shawn Michaels on a special Friday Night Raw the previous month. He would start to turn his attitude a bit in December. This was pretty good, and definitely better than their Summerslam affair. Grade: 2.5

4) Psycho Sid (Sid Eudy) defeats Vader (Leon White) in a “#1 contenders” match with a Chokeslam at 8:00

Fun Fact: There are various stories circulating around about the outcome of this match. The first is that Vader was scheduled to win here and at Survivor Series, but Shawn whined and bitched and forced Vince into having Sid take the strap instead. The other, and more prevalent, story is that JJ Dillon, a WWF booker at the time, jumped ship to WCW and told Bischoff of Vince’s World Title plans. Vince was forced to change things around at the last minute, and went with Sid as the unexpected Champion. This story does have some extra validity as well. The WWF often sends out their PPV posters, titles and information to cable companies and other media outlets a couple of months ahead of time to get the promotion of the shows rolling. Well, when you take a look at the December PPV, you see that the name of the show is “It’s Time,” as in “It’s Vader Time.” Also, the promotional poster featured Vader, thus showing that Vader was scheduled to win the strap or planned to be a major player around the Buried Alive time period. The early release of promo packages usually tips the WWF’s hat for future shows, and would occasionally come back to bite them in the ass (Vengeance 2001), but more on that when we get there.

Scott: This match was for the #1 contender spot and a title match with Shawn Michaels next month at Survivor Series in New York City. This was also a match involving who had the more devastating powerbomb. Vader hadn’t used a powerbomb in his moveset since WCW, but suddenly he gets one in the build up to this match. It didn’t matter however, as neither of them used it in the match. Since Vader had already had his big match with Shawn at Summerslam, it was kind of a forgone conclusion who was winning this match. Of course behind the scenes Vader was slated to win and defeat Shawn in the re-match at Survivor Series, but allegedly thanks to JJ Dillon, we know what happened there. Sid looked so different than he did in 1995. In the program with Diesel he looked lazy, and unmotivated. Here he’s pumped by the fans, invigorated by a new beginning, and takes out Vader to become the #1 contender again. Maybe it was being in Ted DiBiase’s Corporation, or maybe it was just the fact the overall product was bad, or maybe he just missed softball that much. Sid is a different wrestler now, and the fans realized it. I was clearly back on the Sid bandwagon. So, the main event is already set for Survivor Series: Shawn Michaels vs. Sid for the WWF Championship. Grade: 2

Justin: This was a solid power match here with a pretty surprising ending, at least for unsuspecting fans at the time. I don’t think anyone would have really expected Sid to take on Shawn Michaels for the World Title, so it was a cool outcome that led to some electricity surrounding a fresh and exciting Survivor Series Main Event. Vader would go on to bounce back and forth between the mid-card and Main Events over the next couple of years but would never reach the success of his initial 10 months. I really like this trend of 1995 and 1996 where Vince would have the next show’s Main Event announced by the end of the current show. It added importance and excitement and allowed extra time for build-up for the match. A big win for Sid here though, as he continues the biggest run of his career. As a side note, Michaels was on color commentary here and helped jumpstart the animosity with Sid with some of his comments. Grade: 2

5) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Mankind (Mick Foley) in a Buried Alive match when Taker puts Mankind in the grave at 18:25

Fun Fact: This was the first Buried Alive match and this show marks the first time in the PPV era that the World Champion did not wrestle on the actual show. Royal Rumble 1988, but technically that was not a PPV, as it was on the USA Network.

Scott: This is the third match (it seemed like more) between Mankind and the Undertaker. Their first meeting at King of the Ring resulted in a Mankind win due to an “accident”. The re-match, the Boiler Room Brawl at Summerslam, was a shocking heel turn by Paul Bearer. Now, the third match is a new Undertaker-only gimmick match. The object is to throw your opponent into a grave, and dump dirt on him. The match itself was again very stiff, with shots involving the steps, the apron, and the guardrail. They go from the ring to the makeshift grave at the back of the set near the entrance a few times. In the end, Taker Tombstones Mankind, then has to carry him down the aisle to the grave. As he’s doing that, Mankind slaps on the Mandible Claw, but Taker breaks it and chokeslams him into the grave, and ends the match. As he dumps more dirt in the grave, we get a Rumble ’94 rewind as the Executioner, played by former Freebird Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy, smacks Taker with a shovel. He and a band of heels help Mankind pitch Taker into the hole, and start dumping dirt on him. And then, we get another “Taker moment”. A bolt of lightning hits the shovel sticking in the dirt. Then, Undertaker’s hand comes up from the dirt, as the show goes off the air. Many continue to think that any post-match theater involving Undertaker is stupid and queer. Well I hate to say it, but the 90s WWF was the 1980s NWA. Some fans like being entertained with more than just a match. They like spectacle as only Vince McMahon can do it. Taker comes back next month with his first new look in quite a while. Mankind continues to be an enigma, and with each passing match we look even deeper into this complex character. This was a solid main event and a good way to end the show. Grade: 3

Justin: Another fun, intense and super-stiff brawl between these two. This had become the dominant feud on WWF TV and the fans were very rabid (as rabid as they got in 1996, anyway) to see Mankind and Paul Bearer get what they had coming. I guess the Burial gimmick part hinders that match a little, but then again, any new gimmick match, except Hell in a Cell, is usually a little shaky, as the combatants are learning the nuances of it as they go. The end is a little drawn-out, but the point was made: even though Mankind lost this battle, he was still in the war, and was not going away. It was so refreshing to see Undertaker finally involved in an entertaining, long lasting and dramatic feud where the end result was not a given. A good Main Event here that kept this hot feud going. Grade: 3.5

FINAL ANALYSIS

Scott: A pretty good show with a solid main event, and a pretty good undercard. The anticipation of Bret Hart’s return added some sparkle to this show. I wish that there would be some better face tag teams to face Owen and Bulldog, but at least the matches are good. Sid is being groomed as the next champ, if not inadvertently. Bret’s making his return to face the next big thing, Steve Austin. Things are really starting to look into focus for the WWF. Vince isn’t paying attention to the pounding he’s getting in the ratings from WCW. Within a few months, he will take a big step on Monday nights to fire his own cannon shots. He’s letting WCW shoot their collective load, because Vince knows that load is a small one. Right now he’s taking his solid core of talent, and letting them grow. His roster is improving its athleticism, character depth, promo skills. Sure WCW had Hogan, Nash, Hall, Savage, and Flair. Vince would let Atlanta have their moment. He was building for the future. This was a good example of how a nice mix of workrate and psychology makes a great show. Final Grade: B

Justin: A much underrated show that features 5 solid to good matches. Sure there is no show-stealer like at Mind Games, but this is a more balanced and consistent show than the September offering. So I guess your view on this show would be based on what you would prefer: a solid, consistent top to bottom show, or a weak undercard with an awesome Main Event. Things were definitely looking up at this point, as the overall product was getting better. Things were still shaky in early 1997, especially money wise, but starting in March, the WWF’s product would start to get better overall than WCW. Unfortunately, the mass crowds did not recognize that fact until 1998. This was a good set-up show as well, as it established Bret’s return, Austin’s emergence, Helmsley’s return to good graces (coinciding with the Mero/Perfect story), Sid’s major push and the early hints of the Hart Foundation. A good two hour time killer with a lot of entertaining moments (especially the JR-Vince battles) that is definitely worth watching. Final Grade: B-

MVP: Mankind & Undertaker
Runner-Up: Sid
Non-MVP: Vader
Runner Up: Smoking Gunns

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