January 26, 2008
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero
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July 21, 1996
General Motors Place
Vancouver, British Columbia
Buy Rate: .37
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler
Justin Bradshaw (John Layfield) beat Savio Vega (Juan Rivera) in 4:44
1) The Body Donnas defeat the Smoking Gunns in a non-title match when Zip (Tom Pritchard) pins Bart (Mike Plotcheck) after a Missile Dropkick at 13:04
Fun Fact: Cloudy and Sunny were supposed to have a Bikini Showdown at Summerslam, but thankfully Cloudy was sent packing and the Contest was changed to a “Bikini Blast Off” with Sunny, Marlena and Sable…a much better idea.
Scott: The opening match was a non-title match for no other reason than Sunny didn’t want to put the titles up. What? In any case Skip and Zip, now faces because Sunny kicked them to the curb, outwrestle the Gunns, although that doesn’t take much. Billy Gunn is distracted by Sunny, causing Bart to get distracted, causing the reversal and the loss. By October the Gunns will be finished, but for now they’re still the champs. The match itself is average, with very slow pacing and a crowd that’s a little quiet for Western Canada. This would be as close as the Body Donnas get to the belts. Thank god Cloudy was gone, because I don’t think I could have dealt with that any longer than a month. All in all, this was a blasé opener to the show. Grade: 2
Justin: A pretty slow and plodding match to get things started here. I guess I see why they went Non-Title here, so the Donnas could beat the champs and be in line for a shot down the road, but they never really built on it, so the whole thing is quite pointless in retrospect. The Donnas were fading fast at this point, and thanks to a neck injury to Skip, they would be gone by the end of August. The Gunns are still rolling as champs (despite the loss) but their impeding split was definitely on the way, as they continue to bicker their way through these defenses. This was a pretty boring opener that doesn’t do much to help the crowd as the tag scene continues to limp along through 1996. Grade: 2
2) Mankind (Mick Foley) defeats Henry Godwinn (Bill Canterbury) with the Mandible Claw at 6:52
Scott: This was merely a chance to pump up Mankind’s character for the Boiler Room Brawl next month at Summerslam against Undertaker. Godwinn is replacing the injured (inebriated) Jake Roberts. What pisses me off about this whole scenario is that Vince had Jake booking, and he was doing a good job! I guess trying to get Shawn Michaels to not flip out in the middle of matches would cause anyone to fall off the wagon. At least Jerry Lawler had some sharp one-liners about Jake’s drinking problem (Roberts sees the writing on the floor…). Back to the match: After the big upset at King of the Ring, Mick Foley’s character is very hot right now, and it’s the perfect example of how 1996 is so much better than 1995 was. Characters fans actually give a shit about. For Undertaker, messing with him in the build to a match is one thing, but actually beating him in a match is something completely different. Usually the only time that happens is title matches, and at this point we’re not surprised at that. Since 1990, not many pinned Taker’s shoulders to the mat, but Mankind did and it not only gave him the rub, but it also elevated Taker to a whole new level. This feud takes another shocking turn next month. Grade: 2
Justin: The best part of this match is Jerry Lawler’s wisecracks about Jake’s drinking problems (which in turn would set up their Summerslam match). Godwinn puts up a good fight, but this is basically a squash to get some more heat on Mankind. As Scott said above, the biggest difference in 1996 is that Vince was giving the fans 3-dimensional wrestlers with deeper character backgrounds. In 1995, he would throw up any jabroni with a gimmick and the fans sat in silence as the guys wrestled to no heat. Now, here is a guy with a deep background and some serious psychological issues who just single-handedly laid out the Dead Man, thus, the fans are digging the character. A quick match here with one point: show how tough Mankind is. Grade: 2
3) Steve Austin (Williams) defeats Marc Mero (Marc Merowitz) with a Stone Cold Stunner at 10:46
Fun Fact: In a fun little point of continuity, Austin fakes a mouth injury after Mero tries the same move he did at KOTR (which busted Austin open). When Mero goes to check the damage, Austin suckered him in and poked him in the eye.
Fun Fact II: This will be the only pay-per-view Steve Austin will ever have some kind of design on his black tights, as he has some form of Stone Cold logo on his butt.
Scott: This is a re-match from Austin’s semi-final win at KOTR, and that match was a little better than this one. It’s also one of the only times that Austin actually has something on his tights. “Stone Cold” on his butt. It definitely didn’t fit him, and next month they’d be gone. An average match with some OK spots, as Austin continues to show the mean streak that has been building for a month. The match ends with a Stunner and the legend continues to grow. Marc Mero’s pops have leveled out but he would get a boost in a couple of months. As for Austin, well he would have a quiet August, but in September would make the first overtures toward his first real high-profile feud. Grade: 2
Justin: Looking back at this match, I was wrong last month. The KOTR bout between these two was much better. It was faster paced and featured more high-impact stuff. However this match is still pretty stiff and features some nice moments. Mero hits some nice aerial moves to get the crowd going, but the fans are definitely torn in this match, as there is a lot of cheering for Austin going on, especially when he nails the Stunner to polish off the Wildman. It is funny to see how rigid and set-up the Stunner was in the early months. He actually set the move up and held the persons head on his shoulder for a second before dropping down which is an odd sight to see now-a-days. A solid win for the Rattlesnake here, but he would be shunted down the card for the next two months, then finally shatter the glass ceiling by the end of the year. Grade: 2.5
4) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Goldust (Dustin Runnels) by disqualification at 12:05
Scott: For the 18,589,493th time this year, Undertaker fights Goldust. Once again, Mankind interferes from through the ring, and Taker gets the DQ win. This feud with Goldust was getting quite stale, mostly because Goldust stopped wrestling, and has taken to the Memphis school of stalling. The hype was really growing for the match at Summerslam, and most anticipated Taker would win. The two men brawl backstage after the match, and the emotion is at a fever pitch. Taker would get his back in the second biggest show of the year, right? Well, think again and we begin to see one of the reasons why Vince McMahon is the most brilliant man in the industry. We’ll expound on that in our next review. Goldust would toil around with various opponents involving the IC Title, but would undergo some changes by the end of the year. Grade: 1.5
Justin: A really boring match as usual for these two. Goldust features his main maneuver of the second half of 1996: stalling being passed off as psychology. Goldust was awesome at incorporating his mind games into his matches in late 1995-early-1996 but by now the mind games had become pure stalling, and that killed most of his matches. The knee injury in April coupled with playing second fiddle to Mankind in this feud with the Undertaker put a serious dent in the Golden One’s momentum. He effectively has become stuck in neutral and begins to trade off wins and losses throughout the rest of the year. Mankind pops up through the ring to further his feud with Dead Man causing the DQ. Taker gets tossed in the hole Mankind came out of but pops through another hole on the other side of the ring and takes out Foley. A really bad match as expected from these two, with an interesting ending that helps the slow build to Summerslam. Grade: 1.5
***Some unintentional comedy as some boob sitting behind the broadcast booth put a Burger King crown on Jerry Lawler’s head while he, McMahon and Ross were talking on camera and Lawler was pissed, even saying on camera that the guy should be thrown out. ***
5) British Bulldog (David Smith), Owen Hart & Vader (Leon White) defeat Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom), Psycho Sid (Eudy) & Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) when Vader pins Michaels with the Vader Bomb at 24:30
Fun Fact: Ultimate Warrior was originally scheduled to be a part of the face team, but he had no-showed some events that Vince wanted him to do and was fired immediately, thus leaving the Fed with an open hole in the Main Event just two weeks before the show. On the July 8 edition of Raw, Gorilla Monsoon appeared at the beginning of the show to announce that Warrior had been suspended indefinitely, but first Warrior and Owen Hart wrestled to help set up the PPV. Since the show was pre-taped, Vince had to leave the segment in. That was Warrior’s last WWF match to date. Camp Cornette beat him down anyway, so it worked out. Shawn announced that their third partner would be announced later in the show. In a backstage interview, Shawn and Ahmed were shown talking, but you could see someone standing behind the World and Intercontinental Champions. As Shawn stepped away Sid spun around, asked Shawn Michaels “What have you done?”, and announced that he was back to kick some ass (prompting an awesome “PSYCHO SID?” from Vince). On Raw the following week Shawn, Ahmed and Camp Cornette were brawling in the parking lot when all of a sudden a silver Crown Victoria came flying into the picture, almost taking out all 5 men. Sid jumped out of the car and helped run Camp Cornette off. And that, my friends, is how you create a suitable replacement (and one for the better, as Sid was far more over than Warrior was at this point).
Scott: A huge main event for a secondary show. It’s the 3 biggest heels against the 3 biggest faces right now. This was a case where a 6-man tag match was a good idea. The match tells a good story, and is the only match that really gets the crowd going. The storyline was great, for this was a great chance to pump up the Summerslam title match of Michaels vs. Vader. This match was set up after KOTR, when Owen and Vader came in to attack Michaels after he defeated Bulldog in the main event. Ahmed Johnson and Ultimate Warrior came in to help, and thus the match was signed. Warrior would be “suspended” by Gorilla Monsoon, an on-camera way of saying Warrior bolted like a neurotic freak again. The MAN would suitably replace him, and after a year of main events that made your eyes bleed I can mark out again for the return of the real Sid. The Sid that just clubs opponents with fervor, not the cowardly stupid heel he was in 1995 with Ted DiBiase’s Corporation. The Sid I always liked is the one that goes by the beat of his own drummer. This Sid brings me back to the 1992 Sid who went on that 2-month squashfest leading into Wrestlemania VIII against Hulk Hogan. In classic storyline style, Vader pins Michaels with the Vader Bomb and sets up the World Title match next month. This is the only PPV that Ahmed Johnson is the Intercontinental Champion, and he isn’t even defending it. His kidney ailment would haunt him, and hinder the rest of his WWF career. The action is non-stop and is one of my favorite lost classics in PPV history. Grade: 4
Justin: A really fun and fast paced match that had the crowd hot and heavy for 25 minutes. All six men were pretty good workers at this point, so the match is really fluid. Plus, Camp Cornette had great crowd heat at this time, so the fans are digging the match big time. Cornette had guaranteed a win for his team, and claimed that if they lost he would refund everyone’s money. Even with that over-the-top guarantee, it was still a pretty big surprise that the heels came out with the win, but it was necessary to make Vader a strong challenger heading into Summerslam. The crowd is also digging Sid big time, as he starts the most successful WWF run of his career. On the other side, Camp Cornette was everything to 1996 that the Corporation couldn’t be for 1995: a dominant and threatening Main Event heel stable with great wrestlers and legitimacy. Having a great heel stable made it easier for the face team to play their roles and thus everything clicked beautifully. A really fun, if unimportant (long-term wise) match that carries this show on its back and one that should be checked out if you have never seen it or it has been a while. Grade: 4
Scott: Even though most of these matches weren’t that great, I always thought this was an entertaining PPV, and a good prelude to next month’s Summerslam. A very entertaining main event and a solid undercard of singles matches makes for a solid secondary PPV. This PPV was laid out just like any other one; the difference here is that once again the characters are compelling. Mick Foley has made everyone hate Mankind and they’ll hate him even more next month. Stone Cold Steve Austin is slowly gaining his following and next month kick starts his feud with the returning Bret Hart. This is also the month that the NWO starts in WCW, and from here till late-1998, Vince is playing catch-up in the ratings. People slam this show, and the buy rate is dreadfully low but I’m not going to totally crucify it. Final Grade: C+
Justin: A pretty fun show to kill two hours with, but the undercard isn’t the best effort Vince put out in 1996. The Main Event more than makes up for it though, as it is just a fun exciting battle to watch with the right guy coming out on top. As Scott said, one glaring point of this show is the pushing of new talent, which is always a great plus. The WWF had just been put in a huge hole though, as the NWO had debuted two weeks earlier, and WCW was starting to catch fire big time. Vince still had a lot of work to do and he knew it, but Vince is always at his best when he is being pushed and challenged, and this was the biggest challenge of his life as bankruptcy was knocking on the door of Titan Towers. Vince would battle valiantly, and, in a breath of fresh air, instead of panicking and trying to resign big name and aging stars, he forges ahead with his young studs and fresh faces as he attempts to turn the tide in the wrestling wars. This show has no long standing effects, but it is worth a watch if you are in the mood for some solid storyline development and a red hot Main Event. Final Grade: C
MVP: The Main Event
Runner-Up: Steve Austin
Non-MVP: Ultimate Warrior