September 26, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

In Your House: Ground Zero: The Clock is Ticking
September 7, 1997
Louisville Gardens
Louisville, Kentucky
Attendance: 4,963
Buy Rate: .45
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry Lawler

1) Brian Pillman defeats Goldust (Dustin Runnels) after hitting him with Marlena’s (Terri Runnels) loaded purse at 11:03

Fun Fact: Since their last encounter at Summerslam, a lot has happened in this entertaining feud. First, Pillman ended up wrestling two Raw matches with a dress on, as the newly appointed Commissioner, Sgt. Slaughter, told him he had to wear it until he won a match. Goldust cost him back to back matches against Bob Holly and Flash Funk, but we think he ended up winning a match on Shotgun Saturday Night to get the dress off finally. Anyway, after one of these losses, Pillman challenged Goldust to one more match, and if Goldust won, Pillman would leave the WWF. If Pillman won, he would get Marlena for 30 days. Goldust was reluctant, but after Pillman blurted out that Goldust and Marlena’s daughter Dakota was allegedly Pillman’s and Marlena’s love child, Marlena grabbed the mic and accepted the match on his behalf. Goldust was stunned, but went along with it. After Pillman won, over the next 30 days on Raw, we saw weekly “XXX Files” videos with Marlena dressed in very un-Marlena like outfits and Pillman teasing Goldust with what was going on in their hotel rooms. Pillman and Marlena appeared live on one Raw as well, with Marlena dressed in leather and sporting a nose ring. Goldust tried to save her, but Pillman escaped with Marlena in tow. The 30-day period was set to end at Badd Blood with Pillman taking on Dude Love (who offered to fight Pillman because he believed in “love”) and the following night, Dustin and Terri were set to renew their wedding vows. The original plan was for Marlena to turn on Goldust that night and stay aligned with Pillman (hence the “accidental loaded purse”), but Pillman’s tragic death on the night of Badd Blood caused them to re-book the whole thing. We will get into the new storyline come November.

Scott: Sadly, this is the final PPV match for the “Loose Cannon”. Watching Pillman disintegrate into a puncher and kicker who couldn’t really do full move sets anymore is a damn shame. When he was in the Hollywood Blondes with Steve Austin in WCW, he not only was immensely talented, he cut a good promo, and that talent got better as he got older. However, once he got in that terrible car accident in 1996, it all went downhill. His ankles were shot, and he leaned on painkillers for the rest of his days. This match is a mess, with posturing, punching, kicking, nut shots, and other simple, unimaginable moves. Pillman always seemed like he was moving in half speed during his WWF tenure. From his arrival in 1996 to his death 18 months later, he maybe wrestled 10 or 12 televised matches. Obviously he was hurt a lot during that time, but it was evident that he just had nothing left in the tank. Pillman would wrestle only 3 PPV matches in his WWF career, and he would go 2-1. I’ll elaborate on him more in the next review, but here he catches Marlena’s loaded purse “by accident” and gains the victory, and Marlena’s services for 30 days. This storyline really took on a life of its own after this show, but unfortunately Pillman’s tragic death stopped it cold. Goldust would then be re-booked in very strange ways, but we’ll get to that. Grade: 1.5

Justin: A decent brawl that shows just what a mess Pillman really was. He had deteriorated a bit in early 1996, but the car accident in June of that year is what really did him in. He had been set to start wrestling right away in WWF, but he totally fucked his ankle up and never truly recovered. He ended up rushing back and getting hooked on painkillers and that was what ended up doing him in. Goldust finally had some juice going here, thanks to Pillman’s awesome storytelling and promo cutting, as the story arc was quite entertaining, especially once Pillman’s XXX Files started up. It is very sad to watch The Pill in these last few shows, but I guess you to enjoy him when you can. Figures though, as Goldust finally found a pretty hot program that gave him some juice and then it gets short tragically and spins him off with nothing to do again. Not much to this match in the ring, but heel Pillman is always a blast to see ham it up in the ring as the madman Loose Cannon. Grade: 2

2) Brian Christopher (Brian Lawler) defeats Scott Putski by referee’s decision at 4:40

Fun Fact: After a match between these two on the 7/19 Shotgun Saturday Night, Jerry Lawler came in the ring and the two mercilessly beat down Putski. The next week, Putski announced that he was challenging the Lawlers to a tag match against him and his father, Ivan. The match took place on the 7/21 Raw from San Antonio, Putski’s hometown, in front of a very excited crowd. Scott and Ivan won the match, and Scott would wrestle on Raw sporadically leading up to this rematch 2 months later.

Fun Fact II: When Putski began wrestling in WCW in the late 90s he was dating Missy Hyatt, who has claimed in various interviews that he not “well-endowed” at all, probably due to steroids, she stated, and that he was very sensitive about it.

Scott: This was the beginning of Vince’s foray into Light Heavyweights. Scott Putski, who looked a lot like one of the Simpson brothers from World Class, and was indeed Ivan’s son, was a little too big for this weight class, but who’s really noticing. The fun fact about Missy Hyatt would seem to ring true if you really see Scott Putski. He was totally shredded, and it didn’t totally seem natural. Christopher is Jerry Lawler’s son, but the gag is neither admits it. After a while, it gets quite annoying. The match is OK, until Christopher goes for a move over the ropes onto Putski on the floor, and Putski, catching the eventual Grandmaster Sexay, completely destroys his knee, at one point his kneecap is halfway up his thigh, and the match ends. You never see Putski in the WWF again, which is a shame. Unfortunately, we do see Brian Christopher again. The light-heavyweight division continues to pick up steam as the year closes. Grade: 2

Justin: The match was building decently enough, but just as it starts cooking, Putski’s kneecap is disjointed and is practically floating up his leg. This is definitely one of the sickest in-ring injuries you will ever see, so I do not recommend watching this if you are squeamish with that sort of thing. If Sid breaking is leg is a 10 on the sick scale, this is about a 6 I would say. Each and every week on Raw, Vince and JR were pimping the burgeoning Light Heavyweight division and claimed that they were currently scouting talent to participate in the Tournament to crown a Champion. Random wrestlers started popping up and being billed as light heavies and a lot of times would only appear one or two times. The stars ranged saw the likes of the young Yoshihiro Tajiri and Devon Storm to the very old Fantastics, comprised of Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers. It was a very interesting time as Vince was trying his hardest to mix things up and get some fresh blood flowing. Anyway, let us move on, as this match is derailed as quickly as it started. Grade: 2

3) Savio Vega (Juan Rivera) defeats Crush (Bryan Adams) and Faarooq (Ron Simmons) in a Triangle Match when he pins Crush with a leg lariat at 11:35

Fun Fact: On the 8/4 edition of Raw, the Nation unceremoniously ejected Ahmed Johnson from the Nation, claiming that he wasn’t a true gang member, and that he wasn’t tough enough. The next week, Faarooq was facing Chainz in a one on one thriller, when all of a sudden the ref was bumped and someone ran in from the crowd to assist Faarooq in the win. That man was the returning Rocky Maivia, who had been out convalescing since May. Rocky ran into the ring, gave Chainz a Urinage slam, which would later be renamed the Rock Bottom, and put Faarooq on top for the win. The week after, Rocky claimed his joining the Nation wasn’t a race thing, it was a brotherhood thing. He was pissed off that he did everything he could to please the fans, but they continually shit on him, he even mentions the “Die, Rocky, Die” signs that started at Wrestlemania, and was sick and tired off kissing asses. This was a huge step in his character development and this is the character that would spawn the Rock we know and love today. I think the key to the whole thing was Rocky dispelling the Race Card. It made him legit and kept him a little bit above the rest of the Gang War feuds. I think it also helped legitimize the Nation, as they were now after bigger things than feuds with the DOA and Boricuas. They would still fight here and there, but by November, they stepped up to a bigger role, leaving the DOA, Boricuas and Truth Commission to fight amongst themselves. I guess the sign was prophetic, however, as Rocky Maivia did indeed die in 1997; and through his death, the Rock was born.

Scott: This was the first known Triangle/Triple Threat match in WWF PPV history, and….it sucked. This “Gang Warz” feud is really getting lame, mostly because the DOA, or the white faction, was jobbed over and over again, seemingly so Vince wouldn’t seem like a racist, by having the black and Hispanic factions lose all the time. The flow of this match was painful, there were about 4 blown spots, and Crush stood there letting Savio get the pin over Faarooq. That was most likely to end the match, and put everyone out of their misery. Unfortunately, the feud between these gangs continues on…and on…and on. I wish I could write more about this, but there’s not much more to tell. These factions were all run by mid-card stiffs, and fortunately for Faarooq, he moves on from this to better things in 1998. Grade: 1.5

Justin: A really boring Triple Threat match, as Faarooq was about 2 years away from whipping himself into shape and becoming interesting again, Savio was getting unwatchable in a heel role, as he was forced to carry matches with his non-existent offense and Crush is, well, Crush. Thankfully, wrestlers would learn how to better pace Triple Threat matches in future outings, as this one was a disaster of sloppiness and cures for insomnia. We have said enough above about the only interesting aspect about this feud, so that is all I will say. Grade: 1

4) Max Mini (Mascarita Sagrada Jr.) defeats El Torito (Mario Meija Jimenez) with a Sunset Flip at 9:19

Scott: Normally, I could give two hairy shits about midget wrestling, but for some reason this match actually wasn’t bad. For two guys whom barely come up to my crotch, they do put on some decent moves. I mean at least they took this match seriously, instead of being a stupid joke like Doink’s team at the 1993 Survivor Series, or Jerry Lawler’s fugly midgets at the 1994 Survivor Series. These little guys bust their ass and put on a match 4th on the card, which surprised me. Plus they got over 9 minutes, which for PPV is pretty good. Max Mini was actually very entertaining in this match, biting the referee’s butt, then getting on Jerry Lawler’s lap and putting the King’s crown on his head. You likely won’t see me compliment midgets this much again, so enjoy it now. Grade: 2.5

Justin: There are midget wrestlers and there are the Minis. The Mexican minis are some of the best performers in the wrestling world, and are often overlooked because of their stunted roles in any major American Federations. Old-school WWF fans are familiar with legendary pint-sized pugilists of the 1980s like Lord Littlebrook, Little Beaver, and Little Tokyo. Mid-90’s fans will recall that short-sighted booking of Vince McMahon when he pushed the antics of Dink, who also had a diminutive role as the Macho Midget and a short-term contract as Tiger Jackson in 1993, Wink, Pink, Cheesy, Sleazy and Queasy. Even long time fans of the New England Wrestling Alliance will fondly recall the time when the roster was short-staffed and undersized, and bookers called upon Half Nelson and Tiny the Terrible to keep the Indy crowds into their show, you know, with their short attention spans and all. But, in mid 1997, Vince placed a call to Mexico and asked if the Minis could come to American soil to play a miniscule role on his Television shows and PPV events, as he needed some matches to spell the crowd in between matches of his under-developed mid-card. Led by their leader, Max Mini, the Minis arrived and were ready to steal the show, which they did on many occasions. Now, these were some midgets. While the midgets of the 80s and early 90s relied on comedy sketches and in-ring antics, the Minis used there abnormal wrestling ability to win over the crowd. Enjoy these matches while you can. They may be short on ring time, and their run may be stunted by the growing WWF mid-card, but their talent is anything but short and their hearts are anything but undersized. Grade: 2.5

*** The continuing character development of Steve Austin takes a big step here when he stuns Jim Ross. After being stripped of the tag team titles due to his neck injury, Austin was frustrated, and chose to take it out on his buddy, good ol’ JR. The crowd went absolutely apeshit, and it was just the beginning. He would stun up the management ladder, until the memorable night of September 22, when he laid the first stunner to Vince McMahon at Madison Square Garden. One year from now, Vince would get back at Austin in a big way, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After taking Austin’s stunner, JR would be done for the night, and Vince and Jerry would announce the rest of the show. ***

5) Headbangers defeat Hart Foundation, Godwinns & Legion of Doom to win WWF Tag Team Titles

Eliminations:
Legion of Doom is disqualified at 10:00
Thrasher (Glen Ruth) pins Phineas (Dennis Knight) with a Sunset Flip at 12:44
Mosh (Chaz Warrington) pins Owen Hart after a Steve Austin Stunner at 17:16

Fun Fact: This was the second time in three months that a Steve Austin tag team was stripped of their titles. Austin and Michaels had their titles taken from them when Shawn was “suspended” in June, and now Austin and Dude Love were forced to hand them over due to Austin’s neck injury.

Scott: This was for the now vacant tag titles, and the new hot faces for 1997, Mosh and Thrasher come away tag team champions. Obviously, it didn’t hurt that Austin came to drop a fresh Stunner on Owen for the pin, sticking it to the Hart Foundation again. The tag team situation was very confusing, but now a fresh team was at the top, something the WWF was sorely lacking. The crowd could give two shits, but at least someone new wins. The LOD was slowly losing their pops, their ability, and if they’re not careful, their legacy will be permanently stained also. Its one thing to be a hot face tag team chasing the titles, but it’s now reached 8 months, and most of that time was Austin and his many partners. The Godwinns were still getting heel heat as the creepy red neck team, and Owen and Bulldog continue to be heel studs. Austin is once again making his presence felt, and it was good that even though he wasn’t in the ring he could raise hell in other ways. The pop he gets when he returns to the ring to stun Owen was off the charts. Right there I think Vince realized he had a bona-fide all-time superstar on his hands. Now if only he could stay healthy. A decent match with some good action and a rookie team is the champs. Grade: 2

Justin: A pretty pedestrian 4-way match here that doesn’t really pick up until it gets down to the Headbangers and Bulldog & Owen. The Bangers were a brief breath of fresh air for the ailing Tag Division. They were a very over team with a new and distinct look. They also had a wide arsenal of double team moves, and were a fond reminder of Tag Teams of the past like the Rockers, Power and Glory and the Smoking Gunns, who had a good look and focused on teamwork instead of brawling. Unfortunately, they only hold the straps for a couple of weeks, but that is another story altogether. Meanwhile, Steve Austin continues to antagonize the Hart Foundation, even after being nearly crippled by Owen (who would begin wearing one of the top T-Shirts of all time: Owen 3:16 Says I Just Broke Your Neck). The feud would continue until November, when the book is closed on one of the hottest feuds of all time. Grade: 2

6) Bret Hart defeats the Patriot (Del Wilkes) to retain WWF World Title with the Sharpshooter at 19:18

Fun Fact: Two weeks after Canadian Stampede, the Hart Foundation was cutting a promo in the ring when the wonderful sound of breaking glass was heard throughout the Arena. Out walked Steve Austin in front of a crazed San Antonio crowd, but he did not utter one word, he just glanced back at the curtain, and out came Ken Shamrock, who was decked out in black tights to match Austin. Austin held up two fingers, and then changed it to three, as the Patriot walked out to flank Austin and Shamrock; before now, the Patriot had only been seen in WCW and various Independents, mainly Global, and Japan but, and one of the few times up till this point, JR played it up that they knew who he was and that he had finally arrived in the WWF. Now, the odds were 5 on 3, so Steve looked back again, and out walked Sid, also dressed all in black, to a huge ovation. This would mark Sid’s final WWF appearance, and we have no idea why they used him here and got everyone’s hopes up about his return. Well, 5 on 4 still ain’t even, so the fifth member of Team Stone Cold busted through the curtain to the biggest ovation of all: the returning Shawn Michaels. The 5 just stood in the ramp staring down the Harts in an awesome moment. Of course, the five of them never teamed up. Steve was injured two weeks later, Shamrock drifted around the mid-card for a bit, Patriot got a huge push but was hurt and gone by December, Shawn wasn’t ready to wrestle until September and Sid would be gone as soon as the segment ended. But for those few minutes, it was an awesome team. Then, on the 7/28 Raw, the Patriot defeated Bret Hart with Shawn’s help. Commissioner Slaughter used that win, which happened before Bret was champ, as impetus to give the Patriot a shot at the strap here.

Scott: So, after winning one of the biggest matches of his career in July at Canadian Stampede, and becoming only the second man to ever win the WWF Title 5 times in August, he’s kicked down to the midcard? Just like in 1995, Shawn Michaels is calling the shots in this place, so Bret is forced to wrestle a match against the Patriot. It is actually a very good match, with some good back-and-forth moves, and a rare time that Hitman actually wins a PPV match with the Sharpshooter in a while. As you will see when Justin and I discuss his final W/L record, wherever he is on a card, main event or first match, Bret Hart brings it every single time. He does here as well, one of the few guys who can wrestle as a nasty heel and not need to cheat. After the match he would get a few more licks on Patriot, and pretty much kill all his face heat. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on the Hitman. The whispers begin backstage on the future, but Bret will have nothing of it. Grade: 3.5

Justin: Enjoy it while you can Hitman fans, as this is Bret’s last one-on-one PPV win for the WWF. Hart’s fears had come true: with Undertaker and Austin as the top faces and Shawn as the number one heel, he was pushed down the card a bit and played second fiddle despite being the Champ. When you watch Wrestling with Shadows, you realize just how much of what happened to him Bret had premonitions about, but he kept pushing them aside due to his loyalty. This is a pretty good match and a nice solid defense as Bret continues to bring it in the ring, despite all the backstage turmoil. This is the Patriot’s moment in the sun as far as the WWF goes, as he would end suffering a career-ending biceps injury at the end of the year. This was a fun little bout and kind of a throwback to years past where Bret would get a big chunk of time to work a solid and underrated Title match on PPV, and in a way, it was fitting that he would get one more of these chances before he was sent packing. Grade: 3.5

7) Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) and Undertaker (Mark Callaway) wrestle to a no-contest at 16:02

Fun Fact: Shawn Michaels made his in ring return on the 8/11 edition of Raw in a match against Mankind. Michaels claimed he had a very expensive insurance policy to watch his back during the match, and rumors began to swirl. Well, halfway through the match, out walked Ravishing Rick Rude. That is right, the Ravishing One was back, and he returned with a bang as he totally destroyed Mankind with a chair shot to the face. Michaels won the match and celebrated with Rude as the show went off the air. The next week, Slaughter forced Michaels to team up with Triple H, they played it off as if they did not want to team up and that they were pissed they had to, to face Mankind and the Undertaker, who was livid over Michaels costing him the title at Summerslam. The match was a solid brawl, but is remembered more for the post match antics. After the match, Michaels brought a chair in the ring and completely pasted Taker in the face with it. Taker did a ridiculous blade job and was covered in blood, but he still got back on his feet. Michaels and Helmsley were scared shitless but HBK wound up and drilled Taker again, putting him down for a brief moment. When Taker rose again, the newly formed stable of Helmsley, HBK, Chyna and Rick Rude bolted from the ring. After Taker rose, he rolled out of the ring and began stalking his way up the ramp and Raw faded on one of the most famous shots of all time: Undertaker’s face covered in blood. Man, what an awesome build-up for a match.

Fun Fact II: This is Rick Rude’s first WWF PPV appearance since losing the World Title cage match to the Ultimate Warrior at Summerslam 1990. He went off to WCW, where he would have a lucrative run as both US Heavyweight and “International” Champion until he suffered a career ending back injury in 1994. He resurfaced in 1997 in ECW, where he played instigator with Shane Douglas before retuning home to the WWF.

Scott: Except for the pyro in HBK’s entrance being off, this match was pretty exciting. One thing I’ve learned over the many years of watching the Undertaker: Don’t Get on His Bad Side. Before the bell even rings, Taker assaults referee Mike Chioda, and then he is beating the living shit out of Michaels; in the ring, outside the ring, on the ramp. This brawl just gets out of hand, with referees getting hit, shots into the Spanish table, on the railing. Finally, after 16 uncontrollable minutes, the 3rd ref of the night just ends the match. Shawn is still a “tweener”, but by the end of the match is full-blown heel, with his running buddy, Helmsley at his side. Besides the fact he never jobs titles, Michaels is also the master of the no contest or double DQ finish. The final vision of the show is Taker doing a Plancha over the top rope onto 10 guys. By the end of the night, D-Generation X is born, Taker is pissed, and a sequel needs to be planned. Can it top this endless brawl? You’ll see. Grade: 3.5

Justin: The crowd is jacked here and wants to see Taker get his revenge on Michaels. This match is just a great brawl that featured sound psychology and great bumping and it really set the tone for the next month. I know Bret was pissed about being pushed aside, but I can’t say the crowd agreed. With Steve out of the ring, Michaels vs. Undertaker, who had never met in the ring, a point HBK made on Raw, provided an even better reason to be jacked about the feud, and was the red hot feud of the fall of 1997. The crowd was always into Taker and they were pissed that Shawn cost him the title. Mix in career heels Helmsley, Chyna and Rude and you have quite the combustible situation. It is awesome seeing them battle all over the arena, including destroying the famed In Your House set in its final appearance on PPV. Just a great, great brawl capped off by an awesome visual: Taker flying over the ropes and taking out half of the WWF roster. This match is often forgotten, as its sequel is more well known, but it is still a fantastic match and set the stage for the October outing. Grade: 4

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: This was a very lukewarm show. It had its high points such as Taker vs. Shawn and its low points such as the quiet crowd during tag match and the Triangle match. It was a slap in the face for Bret Hart to defend the WWF Title on the undercard, but that was the nature of Michaels/Hart. They didn’t even look each other in the eye at this point. They knew a match between the two was inevitable, but wheels were in motion for the biggest event in wrestling history, that no one knew was coming. The undercard is not great, as the lack of real talent on the undercard leads to sluggish, plodding matches with no crowd energy. Even though Steve Austin was on camera, not being on the card takes a lot away when it comes to crowd energy. The Gang Wars are a malaise of talentless thugs, on top of the fact the crowd favorites, DOA, are getting jobbed at every turn. The WWF landscape is very combustible right now, on and off camera. The ratings are still low, and the money isn’t rolling in. Things haven’t reached rock bottom yet, but it’s getting there. Right now the shades of gray are everywhere, and no one really knows what’s on the horizon. This show had its moments, but after a red-hot Summerslam this was a disappointment other than the last two matches. Final Grade: C

Justin: Man, the Vinces were cooking with some serious heat now. The undercard was still a bit of a mess, but the Taker/Michaels feud was red hot and the crowds were eating it up with a spoon, and were dying for more following the non-finish of this match. They would get more the next month and it would be well worth the wait. Meanwhile, the Steve Austin vs. The Authority feud was in its earliest stages, and that would be the angle that finally catapults the WWF back in the wrestling driver’s seat, and the Pillman/Goldust feud was holding together the mid-card the best it could. The Intercontinental and Tag Team divisions were still a mess, but that would all be rectified by 1998. For now, buckle up and hang on tight, because it’s going to be a very bumpy 3 months we are about to embark on. Final Grade: C

MVP: Undertaker & Shawn Michaels
Runner Up: Bret Hart & Patriot
Non MVP: Legion of Doom
Runner Up: Anyone involved in the “Gang Warz”

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