September 30, 2009
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero
In Your House: D-Generation X
December 7, 1997
Springfield Civic Center
Attendance: 6, 358
Buy Rate: .44
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
1) Taka Michinoku (Takao Yoshida) defeats Brian Christopher (Lawler) to win WWF Light Heavyweight Title with a Michinoku Driver at 12:01
Fun Fact: Here are the brackets for the Light Heavyweight Title Tournament that started on November 3rd: Aguila beat Super Loco; Taka beat Devon Storm; Scott Taylor beat Eric Shelly; Christopher beat Flash Flanagan; Taka beat Aguila; Christopher beat Taylor
Scott: The first PPV of the post-Bret Hart era starts with the finals of a tournament to crown a champion not seen since the early 80s. Vince had tried a few times over the past few years to bring light heavies in, but failed because of he was a day late, and a dollar short. He tried to get all the Lucha stars from Mexico. The problem was Eric Bischoff had the best of those in WCW, so that never worked. Now, he takes one of Japan’s missing gems, and put him in a tourney with some of his smaller mid-carders, and had a fairly decent tournament. The final pits Taka, who debuted in July with Great Sasuke, against Jerry Lawler’s son, although they were still denying that on TV. The best aspect of this match is that “Too Sexy” ditched the Memphis bullshit and went move for move with Taka. He even took a nasty shot with the railing and split his lip. This Springfield crowd is pretty hot for this match, which tells you about New England/Northeast crowds, always hot for the big shows. The in-ring action is pretty good, plus Ross and Lawler’s chemistry is getting better. Taka hits his patented Driver, and wins the title. He holds it for quite a while, bringing legitimacy to the fledgling title. As for Too Sexy, he’ll float around for a while, but his niche is yet to come. Grade: 2.5
Justin: The opening match of the only PPV event hailing from Springfield, MA features the return of the Light Heavyweights to the WWF. Since July various Light Heavies popped in and out during Raw, and JR kept pimping the full time return of the division, and that return finally happened on November 3rd, with the start of the tournament. Vince brings in some decent talent, but he didn’t have the steady flow that WCW had because Bischoff tied all the great lucha wrestlers up when he made a deal with Konnan in 1995. WCW always kicked off Nitro and PPVs with a hot cruiser match to get the show rolling and Vince wanted to try and capture some of that excitement as well, he just picked the wrong guys to do it. Christopher is a solid wrestler and is very entertaining, but he wasn’t the type of light-weight the WWF needed. They needed crazy high flying spot machines; not mat based psychology based guys (who focused on stalling). This match is decent and Taka going over was the right move, but the division would stall a few times until really hitting its groove in 2000. Grade: 2
2) Los Boricuas defeat Disciples of Apocalypse when Jose Estrada pins Chainz (Brian Harris) after a cheap shot at 7:56
Fun Fact: This is the first DOA PPV match without their former leader, Crush. Crush left is the post Montreal exodus back in November and by this time was about to hook up with the NWO.
Scott: Oh God, do I have to describe another Gang Warz match? To hell with it, it’s the same punch-kick shit we’ve seen from these teams match in and match out since August. After the hot Light Heavyweight Title match, this cools the crowd considerably. Guess what? The Boricuas win, again. Let’s move on before I fall asleep. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Not much to see here, just be glad this insipid feud has pretty much sputtered to an end come 1998. Grade: 1.5
3) Butterbean (Eric Esch) defeats Marc Mero in a “Tough Man” match by disqualification at 9:56 (:10 into round 4)
Fun Fact: Trying to capitalize on his mainstream popularity and accentuate Mero’s history as a boxer, McMahon signed Butterbean to a guaranteed 2-match contract in late 1997. He had Butterbean sit in the crowd during an episode of Raw and in an interview he stated how he hated bullies. Well, during a Marc Mero match, Butterbean witnessed Mero berating Sable outside the ring (this had become a regular occurrence since Mero’s return) and came to her defense. Mero took offense and assaulted Butterbean, which led to this match here. Butterbean would complete his obligation when he is brought back into the wrestling ring at Wrestlemania XV.
Scott: What the fuck is this? Marc Mero goes back to his Golden Gloves roots against the super heavyweight monster with Apollo Creed’s shorts. First of all, this isn’t a boxing match, as Mero is cheap-shotting Butterbean with low blows and drop kicks. In the fourth round, Mero hits him low for the DQ, and then cracks him with the stool for good measure. Second, at least Mr. T and Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania II had some fun psychology to it. This just sucked. All it really did was continue the growth of Sable’s popularity. Maybe Vince should have brought the other boxer he invited for a PPV in 1998, now people would have paid to see that guy knock Mero out, but we will have more on this mystery pugilist in our next review. Grade: 1
Justin: This “match” was a mess from the beginning, as the fighting looked fake and the crowd could give two shits about Butterbean and didn’t hate Mero enough yet to want to see him murdered in the ring (that time would come). Vince was on the right track as far as bringing in a controversial boxing celebrity, but whiffed on his first attempt. He would knock the ball out of the park with his second swing, however, and save his company in the process. Grade: 1
*** The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust and Luna read “Green Eggs and Ham” in pink underwear. ***
4) Jesse Jammes and Billy Gunn defeat Legion of Doom to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when Hawk (Mike Hegstrand) is disqualified for using the slop bucket at 10:32
Fun Fact: The world was shocked on the November 24 episode of Raw, when the upstart duo of Jesse Jammes and Billy Gunn captured the Tag Team titles from the legendary Legion of Doom, who had just won the straps mere weeks before. It was assumed at the time that it was a temporary switch to pop a rating, but the longer they kept the straps, the more they got over, and the rest is history. The LOD would never see the titles again and Gunn and Jammes would end up being one of the greatest tag teams in WWF history. Amazing.
Scott: This tag title match was off for many reasons. First, Road Dog and Bad Ass, no funny spellings yet, have no heat as this was three months before joining DX. Second, LOD is very much reaching the end of their rope, and for long time Road Warriors fans like me, it’s very, very hard to watch. Third, the ending sucks. Henry Godwinn came in to interfere, and Hawk is caught with the bucket in his hand for the DQ ending. It makes everyone look bad, and worse, precipitates a re-match next month. Ugh. Grade: 1.5
Justin: An OK match with a brutal ending, as the LOD were pretty much finished by this point and the future Outlaws were still ironing out their kinks. Breaking away from this match for a minute, I want to talk about making stars and “fixing” wrestling. It seems to be the harder Vince tries to push a star and force him onto people the harder it is for said wrestler to get over. Vince needs to be patient, use the wrestlers he has now to the best abilities and wait for someone to step up to the plate and get over on their own volition. Once you see the crowd getting behind a guy and see that “something” click on, then you push them to the moon. There are 3 perfect examples in 1996 and 1997. 1: Steve Austin. Vince gave him a decent push to start, but let him fuck around the mid-card for a while and slowly build his fan base and tweak his character. Finally, he was given a chance to make an impact and he did. Now see, Vince didn’t force Steve out there and make him swear like a nut and be ruthless, he just started doing it slowly, but surely, and the more he did it, the more he caught on. Then Vince took hold and shoved him to the forefront. 2: New Age Outlaws. This was a team put together on a whim and given a decent push. They were given the tag titles but not seen as a permanent and money-drawing team. However, they got that chance to shine and then ran with it. After they started tweaking the movements in the ring and their catchphrases, the creative team got fully behind them and rode them to the top. 3: The Rock. When he first showed up as happy-go-lucky Rocky Maivia, Vince shoved him to the top, despite the crowd hating the guy. He was handed the I-C title, yet no one cared and his career was nearly ruined. Upon his return from injury, he was placed in the background of the Nation of Domination, and it is there that he began to hone his character and in-ring machinations. Come December, he was given that chance to shine, and then he got hot with the crowds and drew some serious heel heat. See, Vince was on the right track with Randy Orton back in 2004, for one example. Give him the chance to shine, let him get his feet under himself and simmer a bit while he gets himself ready, and then when he hits “that moment” you push the hell out of him. Orton has turned out fine, knew he was good enough to overcome it, but it took a little longer now for him to fully get over. Anyway, the Outlaws win to continue their shocking title reign. Grade: 2
5) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) defeats Sergeant Slaughter (Robert Remus) in a “Boot Camp” match with the Pedigree at 17:39
Fun Fact: Commissioner Slaughter had been at odds with D-Generation X since its inception as he constantly tried to reign in their various antics. There were a few memorable Raws featuring D-X in late November that helped spur on this feud. On November 17th, DX confronted Slaughter in the ring because he kept giving them a hard time about their childish antics (by the way, I highly recommend tracking down the “D-Generation X” home video that was released in 1998, and has since been re-released on DVD, as it features all of the great original DX moments in addition to some gems from the second version of the group). DX attacked Slaughter and proceeded to beat the absolute shit out of him, repeatedly beating him down with Rick Rude’s briefcase. This is a memorable moment; because it featured the first and only time (except the final Nitro) a wrestler would appear on Raw and Nitro in the same night. Rick Rude (who was working on a verbal agreement, not a signed contract) jumped ship to WCW that weekend without telling Vince. At the top of the hour on Nitro, a clean shaven Rude walked out to the ring with NWO and shocked the world by announcing he wanted nothing to do with the “Titanic” after screwing over Bret Hart. The major problem was that Vince had pre-taped Raw, and about 45 minutes later, Rude (with a beard) stood alongside DX in attacking Slaughter. It was quite the scene and made Vince look like a jackass for having a pre-taped segment that was so important and had to air. Rude would stay in WCW until his death in 1999. On November 24th, DX invited Jim Neidhart into the ring to offer him a spot in their group. Neidhart accepted and faced the crowd with his hands raised by Michaels and Helmsley, all of a sudden Chyna appeared and low blowed the Anvil. DX proceeded to beat him down until Slaughter made the save and got his ass kicked as well. Finally, on December 1, HHH took on Neidhart (trying to get revenge) in a match that Helmsley won easily. After the match, Slaughter and Shamrock (Michaels’ opponent for this show) stormed the ring to get some revenge on DX, and they did. Raw went off the air with the ultra-cool image of Slaughter locking HHH in the Cobra Clutch and Shamrock wrenching Michaels in the ankle lock while the Anvil detained Chyna.
Scott: I give this match a lot more credit than it looks at face value. You want to put Slaughter in a legitimate match, you’re gonna get Slaughter circa 1997, not Slaughter circa 1981 against Pat Patterson in the street fight at MSG. What did you expect to get against a guy almost half his age? Helmsley was still honing his craft as a heel, but since weapons were involved, I guess it wasn’t as bad. What’s weird is that Slaughter was supposed to be the face, yet within a few months he’d be one of Mr. McMahon’s stooges. Helmsley’s character was slowly growing, and soon the point that he became a solid heel wouldn’t matter, because by April he and the new D-Generation X would be faces. This match wasn’t unwatchable, but it certainly wasn’t top of the line. Grade: 2.5
Justin: A decent brawl that was about as good as you were going to get when you asked Slaughter to step in the ring and give you 18 minutes, but it helps in establishing Triple H as the ruthless prick that he continues to be this very day. This is pretty much Sarge’s swan song as Commissioner, as the Mr. McMahon character was being groomed to take over the on-air leadership role and Sarge would be relegated to a bumbling yes-man for the rest of his on-air stint. After a knee injury puts him on the shelf for a month or so, Triple H would finally step up to the next level as 1998 dawned, especially when his mentor goes down with a serious injury. Grade: 2.5
6) Jeff Jarrett defeats The Undertaker (Mark Callaway) by disqualification at 6:54
Fun Fact: Jeff Jarrett jumped from WCW in September, and on a Raw in October, Vince announced that a former WWF champion would be appearing later in the show. Well, when later came, out strutted Jeff Jarrett to the ring. He proceeded to tear-up WCW and even let Vince have it in his own unique way. Over the next few weeks, JR sat down with Jarrett and conducted interviews in which he shot on various topics, ranging from his year in WCW to how much he hated his “Double J” character and the “gold tooth.” Following Survivor Series, Jarrett was finally scheduled to appear in the ring, but each time he was set for a match, something would happen to prevent him from wrestling. Finally, the week before this show, he said he would lay down an open challenge for any opponent at the PPV. Well, the lights dimmed, and Undertaker made his first appearance since being laid out by Kane at Badd Blood. Taker accepted the challenge and the match was on. A lot of people claim that X-Pac was the first major free agent who jumped from WCW to WWF and helped ignite Vince’s comeback, but Jarrett’s defection was equally important and often overlooked.
Fun Fact II: Jarrett did have a lucrative time in WCW, winning the US Title over Dean Malenko on June 9, and held it until August 21, when he lost to Steve McMichael.
Scott: This was Double J’s first WWF match since plowing a guitar into Ahmed Johnson’s head at the 1996 Royal Rumble. He debuted his updated Aztec Warrior look, but it’s the same ol’ Double J. This match was simply to advance the feud with Kane, as he comes into the ring, chokeslams Jarrett to cost Taker the match, and move on. Was it supposed to advance Jarrett at all? Who knows, but if so, it was a lame way to go about it. Again, he was an innocent bystander of the Kane/Taker buildup. Grade: 1.5
Justin: Not much here. A poor showing for Jarrett in his return match, but as Scott said he was just the backdrop for the Taker/Kane feud. Jarrett would take a few months to really get on tract, but once he did he would go to have one of the best runs of his career. Taker also embarks on a new era of his career, as from here on out he is permanently in the Main Event scene and (until 2002) is usually involved with Kane in one way or another. From this point on, Taker always seems just a little bit more human, and we see more of his “personal side,” which is something I think he desperately needed to keep his character fresh. Grade: 1.5
7) Steve Austin (Steve Williams) defeats the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) to retain WWF Intercontinental Title with the Stone Cold Stunner at 5:31
Fun Fact: At the urging of Nation leader Faarooq, who was still pissed that Austin cost him the I-C Title at Badd Blood, the Rock, as he now called himself, stole Austin’s newly won I-C Title and began proclaiming himself the champ. Austin and Rock went back and forth during the ensuing weeks, launching various sneak attacks on each, all building up to a big I-C match at the PPV. Austin was still injured, but was ready to put on a short, yet entertaining match. On the December 8th Raw, Mr. McMahon came out and announced that he was granting the Rock a rematch due to a ref bump during the PPV match. Austin refused to face the Rock again and Vince ended up stripping him of the I-C belt and awarding it to the Rock. Austin said he didn’t care, because he now had his sights set on the World Title. Then, in a memorable Raw moment the following week, he proceeded to drive over to a nearby bridge and toss the I-C belt into a river. That marked the end of the classic I-C belt that had been used since 1986, as Mr. McMahon granted a new version of the title to the Rock.
Scott: This was a watershed match in the careers of both men. The match itself was OK, considering Austin was still not 100% from the neck injury, and Rock was still learning how to wrestle like a heel. The buildup for this match was actually pretty solid, as both men used their silver-tongued promo skills to nicely dress the other down. From this match, Austin is shot into the Main Event stratosphere, and Rock is now a legitimate heel; still a mid-carder, although by the end of 1998 that changes also. Again, the match itself is good. Austin moves on to his next objective, or as he says a “bigger fish to fry.” Rock stays in the I-C Title picture, and his next feud is involved in our final match of the night. Grade: 3
Justin: A very short, yet extremely entertaining match featuring the future of the WWF. This is the classic match where Austin drives his truck to the ring and ends up using it during the match as he back-drops D-Lo Brown into the windshield, and really gets the crowd juiced for their favorite. This was the first PPV encounter between these two future icons, and there would be many, many more, with each one topping the one that came before it. The match officially kicked off the Stone Cold chasing the World Title arc that would eventually help the WWF recapture the crown in the wrestling war. Grade: 2.5
8) Ken Shamrock defeats Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) by disqualification at 18:28; Michaels retains the WWF World Title
Scott: I’m probably the only person who actually liked this match. It was far from technically sound, mostly because HBK thought he had the entire promotion in his back pocket, and was pretty much fucking around from here on out, but it still entertained me. Shamrock was still learning the ropes, even though he’s been here half a year. Bret Hart helped Shamrock learn the WWF style, and he did the best he could with a man who truly is one of the most talented superstars in history, but is completely embarrassing himself with his attitude. Sure, DX was gaining popularity as the coolest faction not called the NWO, but the problem is Michaels is living the DX life, and it’s a major problem. A close to 20 minute match shouldn’t end in a schmozz, but at least it ends the year. Then after the match, Owen Hart, the only family member who didn’t walk off in disgust (mostly because he was under contract and couldn’t) comes from the crowd, jumps Michaels, and proceeds to punch the shit out of his face, breaking his nose and then runs out to the crowd. Instant Feud? No! They had one title match on the December 29 Raw, but Michaels was reportedly afraid Owen would really hurt him, so he was shunted to the mid-card for the rest of his career. Grade: 3.5
Justin: A pretty solid World Title match that has a terrible, terrible ending. I understand why they did it, but it just sucks to end a PPV Title match with a DQ. I think they should have had DX interfere and help Michaels win with a chair shot or belt shot, but what can you do? As much as the finish kills the crowd, Owen’s return brings them back to their feet and ends the show on an exciting note. Owen wanted to jump ship to WCW along with Bret, and Bret tried his darndest, but Vince refused to let Owen out of his contract early. Instead, he offered him a solid push and a raise, which Owen ended up accepting as his main goal was to wrestle for a few more years, save the big money and quietly retire back to his dream home in Calgary. The high spot of the match was a Michaels dive from the top rope to the floor, as most of the match was Michaels dominating. Whenever Shamrock would make a comeback, D-X would pounce and cheat and swing the match back to Michaels, which existed to get the point across that D-X had Michaels’s back all the time. Anyway, a messy ending to a messy year and the show ends with Michaels in shock at the return of the Black Hart. Grade: 3
Scott: This was the final PPV of 1997, and it really wasn’t very good. The undercard is again dreadfully boring, and the main event, although entertaining, has a really lousy ending. Well, 1997 is over and we had some big changes. Shawn Michaels is champion, but the main event situation is changing and one man is ready to take the industry by the throat, and “stun” WCW right out of the #1 spot on the sports entertainment mountain. Bret Hart is off to WCW, and that is a tragedy, but instead of harping on what is gone, the WWF should focus on what they do have: Steve Austin, The Rock, HHH, HBK, and a slowly growing mid-card. Vince McMahon needed a weapon to kill WCW. He finally found it, in the form of a beer-swilling, leather vest-wearing son of a bitch. Final Grade: C-
Justin: Well, as a whole this show was pretty damn bad, but it had to be expected when you look at the period as a whole. Vince was still feeling serious backlash from the fans and entire wrestling community as a whole. Several wrestlers walked out on Vince (Rude, Bulldog, Neidhart, and Crush) and others stayed, but were pissed off (Owen, Mankind, and Jarrett), and McMahon was left to rebuild his entire roster in the wake of it. He started pushing new faces and introduced new concepts. It was around this time that Vince went on TV and gave his famous “Attitude” speech, where he basically told the world that the WWF planned on becoming more adult and would erase the static, black and white heel/face characters and focus on “shades of gray.” He stated that they were going to give the fans what they wanted and were going to make a big splash in the wrestling world. It was actually Shane McMahon, with nudging from Shawn Michaels and Vince Russo, who proposed this change in philosophy and eventually convinced Vince to go along with it and make the speech. The first step in their plan was to get rid of those who opposed this direction and that was accomplished with the fallout from Survivor Series. So, as 1998 dawned, a new feel was in the air and it was one of unpredictability and excitement. Vince had weathered the violent and dangerous storm that began to brew in October of 1994 and the seas had finally calmed enough for him to re-take control of his ship. It is often said that the best times follow the absolute worst, and that stands true for the WWF. Things were bad through 1995 and rocky in 1996 and bizarre for most of 1997, but the worst blow came at the very end of the drought: the Montreal Screwjob. Fans were crushed and many analysts claimed Vince would be out of business for good by mid-1998. Rumors were swirling of a sale to Ted Turner and fans anxiously awaited the debut of Bret Hart in WCW. Well right after the worst, Vince was ready for the best, as WCW badly botched the Bret Hart debut and fans started to really dig these new faces that the WWF was pushing. Yes, times, they were a changing, and 1998 would begin Vince’s climb to becoming a billionaire, so kick back and enjoy the ride. Final Grade: C-
MVP: Steve Austin/Rock
Runner Up: D-Generation X
Non MVP: Owen Hart (For being the odd Hart out)
Runner Up: Gang Warz