June 23, 2008
Scott Criscuolo & Justin Rozzero

In Your House: It's Time
December 15, 1996
West Palm Auditorium
West Palm Beach, Florida
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross
Attendance: 5,708
Buy Rate: .35

Free For All:

Rocky Maivia (Dwayne Johnson) defeats Salvatore Sincere (Tom Brandi) at 6:01

Actual Show:

1) Flash Funk (Charles Skaggs) defeats Leif Cassidy (Al Sarven) with a moonsault at 10:31

Scott: This was an unusual combo to start the last PPV of 1996. Flash Funk, AKA 2 Cold Scorpio, makes his PPV singles debut here against a man without an identity. Al Snow came in to little fanfare, and was put with Marty Jannetty to be the New Rockers. That pretty much went nowhere, so now he’s floating solo. If he was just Al Snow, I’m sure he’d be fine. Snow’s popularity would soar in a couple of years. Flash Funk was a ridiculous gimmick for a man who was a fantastic wrestler in WCW and ECW. However as you all know, Vince never gives credit for anyone else’s ideas, so they made him look like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch, complete with dancers. This match was slightly entertaining, with some good spots, and some bad spots. I never understood how Flash was able to move around with those big floppy boots. It clearly takes away from what he really could do in the ring. The crowd is pretty dead for this opener, but Funk wins with a perfectly placed Moonsault, a move that’s becoming more popular with WWF superstars. Not a bad match, but not great. Grade: 2.5

Justin: I think this match is somewhat underrated, if only because it was a nice variant from what the majority of the WWF product was at the time. Funk was a great wrestler in the mid-90s, and it sucks that he didn’t receive a more serious push during this run, because he could have had a solid I-C Title run. He has a great run in ECW prior to heading North on 95 where he dominated the TV Title division for a short while. Cassidy was also quite underappreciated, as Snow was really busting his ass in the ring during this run in hopes of getting that oft-promised push of his. These two put on a good show and get this card off to a good start. This match however, is classic example of two guys who could bring it being reigned in at the time and thus, is the ultimate “could have been, but never happened” match, in the WWF anyway. A rock solid opener that doesn’t really get the crowd going at all, but then again, nothing really does after this either. Grade: 3

2) British Bulldog (David Smith) & Owen Hart defeat Diesel (Glen Jacobs) & Razor Ramon (Rick Bognar) to retain WWF Tag Team Titles when Bulldog pins Ramon after a leg lariat from Hart at 10:42

Fun Fact: According to sources, this match was supposed to start the Bulldog/Owen breakup, as Bulldog would keep getting victimized by Austin and Owen would ignore it and keep wrestling. The angle would continue on into the New Year and is about to reach a boiling point before Vince switched gears.

Fun Fact II: In a desperate attempt to match Bischoff’s relationship with Mexico (through Konnan), Vince struck a deal with AAA and started importing Lucha stars to his shows. The problem was he was bringing in fat, old and boring Mexican wrestlers instead of the young and exciting Cruiserweights that Uncle Eric was importing. As you would imagine, Vince gave up, and the AAA deal was dead in the water by February.

Scott: When are Bulldog and Owen going to actually wrestle good guys? They fuck around with the Smokin Tools for a couple of months, now they’re fighting the future Kane, and the future….uh….um….I don’t know what Rick Bogner did after this mess. The match actually picked up in the end, and the crowd got into it a little. However, there was a shitload of interference. First, Cybernetico and Pierroth, a couple of wrestlers from AAA try and start some storyline that never happened. Then, Steve Austin comes out to screw with Bulldog. Funny, didn’t Owen stand in the ring with Austin just 4 months before? Whatever, that’s how Austin operated anyway. The match itself was OK, with Owen getting the lariat in for Davey Boy to get the pin. Austin comes back out to pound on Bulldog some more. This goes back to an episode of Raw where Bulldog saved Bret Hart of all people from an Austin attack with a chair. In any event, this was the fake Razor/Diesel’s only real PPV moment. They’re at the Rumble, but then that’s it. Bulldog and Owen were getting some face pops, but that was mostly due to the losers they just faced. Grade: 2

Justin: Another solid match here. I feel bad for Diesel and Ramon, as they really worked hard in the ring and were pretty entertaining in general, but they were saddled with a stupid, useless gimmick. Glen Jacobs really is the ultimate company man, as he went through gimmick after gimmick and story after story, but you never read about any backstage problems from the man. He has had to pull out kid’s teeth, play a copycat of a former champion, light himself on fire, talk with a voice box, shave his head, light people on fire, rape a dead corpse, shock someone else’s testicles, face his alter ego, and endless other fiascos. He really deserves more credit than gets. Bulldog and Owen were in a groove at this point, and could bring just about anyone up to their level, and the result was unexpectedly good matches like this one. As Scott mentioned, Austin shows up halfway through and takes out the Bulldog with a nice chop block. He would continue to torment the Tag Champs and begin to drive a wedge between them as his never ending quest to torture the Hart family raged on. So far we are two matches in and both have been solid, if unspectacular, nut neither have gotten the crowd going yet. Grade: 2

*** Ahmed Johnson comes out to challenge Faarooq to a match at the Royal Rumble. Of course, Ahmed’s promo is mostly incoherent shit. Faarooq, now leader of the Nation of Domination, accepts the challenge, from the bowels of West Palm Auditorium. First of all, at this point the feud is starting to sputter. All this between these two happened over the summer. It’s now Christmas, and interest is waning. They’re finally going to get it on at next month’s Royal Rumble. ***

3) Marc Mero defeats Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) by countout at 14:03; Helmsley retains WWF Intercontinental Title

Fun Fact: This show started the Goldust face turn, as he comes down to ringside to confront Helmsley, who had made a pass at Marlena backstage during the Free-For All. The week after this show on the 12/23 RAW was the infamous King’s Court where Lawler asked Goldust if he “was a queer.” Goldust screamed “NO!” and drilled the King with a right hand, thus solidifying his face turn.

Fun Fact II: This show debuts Helmsley’s new “Ode to Joy” theme music.

Scott: This comes from the RAW screwjob when Mr. Perfect heeled out to help Helmsley win the IC title. Unfortunately, Perfect ended up leaving the WWF right after, which threw a wrench in the storyline. So Helmsley, who continues to walk around as a heel without heat, faces Mero in the rematch. Quality-wise, the match was good, not great. Mero was still pretty solid as a worker, but was slowly starting to lose the pops from the crowd, even with Sable. She wouldn’t get a solid push until late 1997 and early 1998. Hunter, on the other hand, is champ, and heatless. It’s not that Hunter was a bad worker, or a bad character. He just hadn’t really done anything to get the crowd to really hate him totally. Even then he was garnering a smattering of face pops. Screwing Mark Mero out of the IC title was bad, but not bad enough to get real crowd heat. Goldust comes in to help Helmsley lose, starting a multi PPV feud next month. Mero would be around for a few more months, but an injury would sideline him for most of 1997. Grade: 2

Justin: Definitely not the best effort between these two, but still a solid affair. The ending is a little weak, but I guess Vince wanted to keep Mero strong as he had some interesting plans for him in the year. As Scott said, Helmsley had little heat here, and Vince was desperate to get him over, so he started bringing in different bodyguards for Hunter. We will see shortly if the idea finally clicks and gets Helmsley over. This match brought an end to the 9 month HHH-Mero feud that began at Wrestlemania XII when Mero made his debut and saved Sable from a verbal lashing. Grade: 2

4) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats The Executioner (Terry Gordy) in an “Armageddon Rules” match with a tombstone at 11:31

Scott: It’s kind of ironic that this is called an “Armageddon Rules” Match, since eventually the December PPV would be called Armageddon starting in 1999. As for this match, it was a brawl, and not a very good one at that. This feud with Mankind was starting to get a little stale, and now Taker must fight Paul Bearer’s henchman, Terry Gordy with a mask. “Bam Bam” was a mess at this point, and Taker has to pretty much carry him through this match. Mankind comes out to take part in the battle, and eventually they fight all the way to the entrance, and start trashing the “In Your House” set, really the first time that had occurred. They actually fight all the way to the outside of the arena, and Executioner rolls down this grassy knoll into a pond. It looks quite stupid, but no one said matches like this were perfect. They finally get back to the ring and Taker tombstones him to put us out of our misery. Gordy was so bad in this match that he’s pretty much gone and never seen on WWF TV again. Taker takes a break from Mankind to focus on other things, including the start of his first Title run in 6 years. Grade: 1.5

Justin: Ugh. What an abortion of a match. They should have just had Mankind in the match, as he ends up getting physically involved for most of the match, despite being locked into a straight jacket as well. This feud was definitely sputtering to an end by this point, as Taker had pinned Mankind clean at Survivor Series, and had pretty much dominated the last 2 months of the feud. Due to his near-death overdose, Gordy was quite past his prime at this point, and I don’t know why Vince chose him to be under the mask, as this match could have been much better if a better worker, or at least a better bumper, had been chosen for the role. As 1997 rolled in, better days were ahead for Mankind and Taker, but 1996 will always be remembered for the burgeoning feud and the matches that finally rejuvenated Taker’s career. Grade: 1

5) Sycho Sid (Eudy) defeats Bret Hart to retain WWF World Title with a powerbomb at 17:03

Fun Fact: Shawn Michaels is on commentary here, and is just brutal in trashing Bret, Sid and everybody else in his path. This was supposed to push Shawn to the heel side, as he had been playing the Diesel-tweener role from a year earlier, but he would go back to full-fledged face in time for the Royal Rumble. Shawn lands some good verbal jabs at the Hitman and him costing Bret the match was supposed to start the build to their Wrestlemania XIII rematch, but, for reasons we will delve into soon, that match never happened.

Scott: Sid’s first title defense is against the confused Bret Hart. Hitman has a heel-type swagger about him, even though he’s the face, but Sid’s getting pops…I don’t know it’s all confusing, and Shawn Michaels commentating with his black suit on talking shit is more confusing. Who are the fans supposed to root for? Shawn has the line of the night, when describing Sid, says “This guy is the WWF’s most expensive piece of luggage, because he has to be carried every night.” Even though I love Sid, I must admit that was pretty funny. The match itself isn’t bad, with interference by both Shawn and Steve Austin, who continues his feud with Bret Hart. The booking by late-1996 was quite odd, with people feuding with multiple opponents, which led to the climate in the WWF in 1997. In the climax, Shawn gets on the apron talking shit, and Sid Irish whips Bret into him, dropping him to the floor. Bret is stunned, and Sid Powerbombs him for the win. This continues the nasty feud that was building both on and off camera between Bret and Shawn, and it gets worse as 1997 commences. More on that in future reviews. For now, Sid remains your champ, this match was average, and Bret is pissed. Grade: 2.5

Justin: Scott is right, things at the top are confusing, but for the first time in a while, there as genuine intrigue and the proverbial “shades of gray” at the top. You had four viable contenders who could be cheered or booed at the flip of a hat, with a few more on the way. All four hated each other and wanted one thing: the World Title. It brought some sorely needed excitement to the top off the card, and all of them could get good matches out of each other, so the top of the card was looking good headed into the New Year. The match itself was solid enough, with Bret doing the majority of the work. It was also good to see Sid get a solid PPV Title defense, as he was quite over with the fans. Shawn adds a lot to the match as well as he takes a bunch of shots at Bret adding more fuel to their already budding fire. I think this was considered a mild upset at the time, as many non-insider fans thought Bret would win the belt and start on the road to WM against Michaels again. However, little did they know how tumultuous the World Title picture would become as we enter 1997. The days of lengthy World Title reigns heading to the major shows were starting to dissipate, as the Monday Night Wars were forcing upon us the Era of rapid fire title changes to keep things interesting. Grade: 2.5

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Scott: In terms of buy rates, this is one of the least watched PPVs in WWF history. Watching it now, I can sort of understand why. The undercard isn’t great, but the title match was alright, and the psychology and drama of the storylines was just starting to pick up. However the chemistry within these matches wasn’t that great, which leads to the poor grade. The important transition year of 1996 is over and in that year, things have changed dramatically. The roster was fleshed out, with sloths like Diesel and Mabel out, and emerging stars like Steve Austin and Mick Foley in. 1997 would be one of the most controversial years in wrestling history. The WWF almost goes belly up, but survives, WCW is rocking with the NWO, and ECW is reaching its zenith in popularity, plus the single most shocking event in wrestling history occurs in 1997. That won’t happen for quite a ways down the road. For now, we have a popular champion, even though he’s becoming a heel, two emerging stars, and a feud that is growing nastier by the day on and off camera. Final Grade: C-

Justin: Holy Underrated Pay-per-Views, Vinny-Mac, break out the checkbook and pay Grandma for the rub down…this show was not bad at all. I have always been a fan of this show and I think it is unfairly trashed. The buy rate was low, but all ratings were low for the WWF at this point, so can you really pan the show because of it? WCW was extremely hot at this point with the new and very over NWO storyline, as well as the upcoming Hogan/Piper Starrcade match, so things at Titan weren’t so great, but this show deserves a little bit more credit than it receives. Four of the matches were solid to good and they all featured good storyline advancement. I am not saying this show is Wrestlemania X-7 or anything, but by no means is it garbage either. It was a good, year ending, filler show, and for that it served its purpose. It gave us some Main Event excitement and intrigue as 1997 was dawning and some solid undercard story arcs. 1996 was a very big transition year in not only WWF history, but wrestling as a whole, as WCW took the world by storm and ECW was establishing itself as a potential player, and as it comes to end, Vince and Company was in a position he hadn’t been in a very, very long time: on the bottom looking up. Final Grade: C

MVP: Steve Austin (For causing chaos without being on card)
Runner-Up: Shawn Michaels (For same reason as Austin)
Non-MVP: Terry Gordy
Runner-Up: Rest of undercard

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