June 25, 2009
Alexander Settee

King of the Ring 1996, June 23, 1996, The Mecca, Milwaukee, WI
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, & Owen Hart

King of the Ring was an annual June tradition in the WWF for ten years, so hereís a look back at one of those shows. 1996 was a real transitional year for the WWF as a lot of the stale talent that had been clogging up the cards either left or was let go, while a fresh crop of guys were brought in to take their places. This show represents the first big moment for one of those new guys, and while he wasnít even really expected to make the biggest impact of the guys they brought in, he ended up making one that was bigger then just about anyone who came before or since.

Opening Match, KOTR Semifinals: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Wildman Marc Mero (w/Sable)
In order to get here, Austin defeated Bob Holly in the first round and perennial rival Savio Vega in the quarterfinals, while Mero got wins over Skip and Owen Hart. They start out trading holds and reversals, and then we finally get going when Mero sends Austin out with a flying headscissors. A dive is teased, but Austin backs out of range. Back in with more trading. Austin gets the Thesz Press, but follows up with stomps instead of punches at this point. Mero comes back with a backdrop and Austin bails. He then offers a handshake, which Mero wisely doesnít go for, but he does go for a test of strength. Austin uses a cheap shot to take the advantage, and then tosses him to the floor. He pulls the mats up, and then picks Mero up and drops him on the floor. In the ring, Austin connects with a suplex, and then drops some elbows on the apron. Elbow from the 2nd rope gets 2, as does a backbreaker. He then hooks a Boston crab, making sure to keep Mero in the middle, but Mero is able to break and get a small package for 2. Austin quickly regains control and rehooks the crab, but Mero breaks it again and gets a couple of rollups for 2. Mero then goes to a sleeper, but Austin jawjacks his way out. Mero leaps back at him off a corner whip to take control. Dropkick follows that, and then he does the mounted punches in the corner and a backdrop. Double ax off the top gets 2, and then Austin gets tossed. Mero connects with a sommersault plancha, and then dives at him a second time through the ropes. Back in, a top rope dropkick gets 2, as does a rana off the top, but Austin comes back and stunguns him on the top. That only gets 2, but then Austin gets him with the Stone Cold Stunner, and that gets the 3 count to advance at 16:51. He didnít really have the Stunner technique down quite yet, but that would come with time. Really good match to kick things off in any case by these two guys who were relatively new to the WWF and really wanting to make a statement. ***1/2

KOTR Semifinals: Vader (w/Jim Cornette) vs. Jake ďThe SnakeĒ Roberts
Vader got here with a win over Ahmed Johnson thanks to the interference of Owen Hart, and then got a quarterfinal bye when Goldust and the Warrior went to a double countout. Jake, on the other hand, beat both Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Justin ďHawkĒ Bradshaw with the DDT. Theyíre really pushing Jake as the sentimental favourite given his age and ďrecoveryĒ from drug and alcohol addictions, but Vader was the real favourite considering he was expected to go on to face Shawn Michaels in the near future. Jake pulls the snake out during the introductions to scare everyone off, and then gets it back in so we can get underway. Vader immediately goes to the arm and takes Jake down. A couple of bodyblocks lead to a splash for 2. Jake gets the boot up on a charge and follows with a kneelift, but canít get the DDT as Vader back him to the corner. Jake ducks a clothesline and then connects with his short clothesline but Vader wonít go down. Vader hits his own clothesline now, but misses a splash in the corner. Jake hits the DDT, but in the process of going down, Vader collides with the ref and apparently thatís good enough for a disqualification at 3:29. Come on, I can probably think of a thousand better ways of getting to that finish, because thatís just horrible. Vader agrees and the post match attack is on. Two splashes in the corner and a Vader Bomb hit before the refs break it up, but itís too late for Jake as heís left clutching his ribs in pain. DUD

WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The Smoking Gunns (w/Sunny) vs. The Godwinns (w/Hillbilly Jim)
Hereís a rematch from last monthís In Your House where the Gunns won the Titles from the Godwinns. The idea was that Phineas was in love with Sunny, so back in May, just before Sunnyís Bodydonnas were to defend against the Godwinns, she seduced Phineas into signing her on as a manager. The Godwinns won that match, so she promptly dropped Skip and Zip so she could follow the belts. A week later was IYH where the Godwinns faced the Gunns, and with another Title change, Sunny switched teams again, now managing the Gunns, and it was also implied that there was something going on between her and Billy, that lucky guy. So on to this match now as Billy and Sunny make out to distract Phineas long enough for Bart to attack. Tag to Billy, who pounds Phineas down, but that just gets him all Riled Up and he ends up cleaning house. Tags are made on both sides. Henry gets Bart with a clothesline for 2 and the Godwinns maintain control for a bit. Eventually, Henry goes to the ropes, but Billy boots him from the apron to take over. Now the Gunns control with quick tags and get a couple of nearfalls. Billy hits a Fameasser, but thatís not a finisher yet, so it only gets 2. Henry comes back with a small package for 2, but Billy is right back on him. He misses a splash in the corner though which puts both guys down, but Bart successfully draws Phineas in and then makes the switch when the ref is distracted. He hits a backbreaker on Henry and goes up, but a legdrop misses and now Phineas gets the tag. Heís the house afire, taking on both Gunns, and before long all four are going at it. The ref eventually decides to put Henry out though and that frees Bart to nail Phineas from behind with his boot. Billy covers and gets the 3 count to retain at 10:11. Nothing special here, but this was just about the peak of Sunnyís hotness, so thereís that value at least. Ĺ*

Dok Hendrix interviews Davey Boy and Cornette in the dressing room. Pretty standard hype, but the Mr. Perfect strolls into the shot and a big deal is made about the fact that the ref in the main event is using the same locker room as the challenger. Bulldogís take on this is pretty funny as he says that Perfect canít share a locker room with Shawn, because Shawn would steal his wallet.

Jerry ďThe KingĒ Lawler vs. The Ultimate Warrior
If we were making a top ten list of the worst style clashes in history, this would probably be on it. The buildup here was talked about on the Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior where Lawler claimed that because Warrior had chosen to wear a baseball hat during their big angle, the effect of it was completely ruined. Iíd say the fact that Warrior simply no sold Lawler breaking a framed picture over his head was probably worse, but then what do I know? It starts out well enough as Lawler gets some pretty good zingers on the fans as he makes his way to the ring. But then Warrior comes out and we actually have to wrestle. Lawler attacks with a scepter he stole from the coronation area as he came down and starts choking him with it. He rams Warrior to the stairs and then starts choking him with his own robe. Now in the ring, he chokes warrior with his wrist tape. The phantom foreign object makes an appearance (or does it?), and then itís more choking. Lawler hits the piledriver, which Warrior no sells. He Warriors Up, and then pins Lawler with three clotheslines and a shoulderblock at 3:51, every second of which sucked. I hope someone got fired over this one. Actually, Warrior did get fired shortly after this, but it was for no showing house shows rather than crappy match quality. -*

Dok Hendrix is backstage again, this time with WWF President Gorilla Monsoon for an update on Jake Roberts, who we see getting taped up in the background. Monsoon says that he has decided to allow Jake to compete later on so we will have out final round match in the tournament.

Mankind vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer)
Now weíre on to a much, much better feud. Mankind has been a thorn in Undertakerís side ever since he debuted on Raw the night after Wrestlemania, but itís not until this point that the finally meet each other one on one in the ring. Undertaker doesnít appear during his introduction, so Paul Bearer brings the lights up instead, and when he does, Taker is on the top rope. He comes down with a flying clothesline and weíre underway. Take dominates the early portion here, even trying to rip the mask off at one point. He hits the ropewalk, but then Mankind comes back with an elbow out of the corner. Taker sits up after a slam, but Mankind just clotheslines him back down. He hits the running knee in the corner, and then knocks Taker to the floor. Elbow from the apron hits, and then he gets him back in, only to send him right back out again. He rams Taker to the stairs and grabs a chair, but Taker kicks it back in his face. Taker then backdrops Mankind on the floor and nails him with a chair. Back in the ring, a big boot sets up the Tombstone, but Mankind slips out and hits a swinging neckbreaker followed by a legdrop. Taker blocks the Mandible Claw, but Mankind maintains control. He hooks a nerve hold, which lasts a bit longer than I would like, but Taker eventually gets out and clotheslines Mankind to the floor. But from there, Mankind just drags him out and pounds him down against the stairs. That leads to another running knee, and then he slams Taker in the aisle to set up the big running elbow. He goes for it, but Taker gets the discarded chair from earlier and holds it up so Mankind hits that instead. Taker nails him with the chair again and then gets him back in the ring and goes to work with some headbutts. Flying clothesline hits, but then Taker puts his head down on an Irish whip and takes a piledriver for 2. Mankind grabs the urn from Paul Bearer now, and goes to use it, but Bearer comes from behind and grabs it away. Mankind decides to hook the claw instead, but Bearer remains on the apron looking to get in a shot with the urn. He goes for it just as Taker falls towards Bearer though and Taker gets nailed. Mankind reapplies the Claw, puts Taker out with it and the match is stopped at 18:21. Wow, a newcomer gets a clean win with his finisher over an established main event guy. What universe is this from? Not the WWE Universe, thatís for sure. All kidding aside, this was the moment that made Mick ďMankindĒ Foley into a player in the WWF. Prior to this the feud had gone just like any of a million other Undertaker feuds where the new heel of the month would destroy him in the buildup, but Taker always either got the clean win first time out, or on occasion took a major screwjob just to setup another match where he would win clean. This was a much needed breath of fresh air from that formula, as it established Mankind as a guy who really did have Undertakerís number and even though the match itself wasnít great or anything, it was really effective in what it was meant to accomplish. **1/2, which is *1/2 for the match, plus a bonus star for the reasons I just mentioned.

Dok has yet another interview, this time with Mr. Perfect who promises to call it right down the middle in the main event. Shawn Michaels then appears and tells him that heíd better do just that.

Intercontinental Championship Match: Goldust vs. Ahmed Johnson
This was setup by a confrontation on Raw where after Ahmed had been knocked out in his KOTR qualifier, Goldust appeared and offered mouth to mouth resuscitation. Naturally, Ahmed was pretty pissed at that, so we have this match. Ahmed is apparently still pissed off, so he charges in and goes right at Goldust. He pounds him down and takes him outside with a clothesline. From there he does an out of control dive where it looks like he could have killed himself, but he appears to be ok. After a whip to the stairs, he gets Goldust in, but misses a splash in the corner and goes tumbling back out. Now Goldust finally gets some offence in, whipping Ahmed to the stairs himself, and then he drops the stairs right on him. Back in, a clothesline gets 2, and he goes to a rear chinlock. This actually lasts long enough for the arm to drop twice, but Ahmedís subsequent comeback is cut off and Goldust hits a piledriver. He makes a slow cover though, taking his time to slither up Ahmedís body and it ends up only getting 2. He works over Ahmedís back for a bit, and then covers for 2 after Ahmed misses a comeback dropkick. Sleeper puts Ahmed out, but rather than go for the win, Goldust would rather go for that mouth to mouth again. Problem is that it works, and reenergizes Ahmed for another comeback. He connects with a spinebuster, and then the Pearl River Plunge for the 3 count and the IC Title at 15:35. Ahmed was getting over pretty well with the crowds, and it was clear that they had plans for him as the Next Big Thing, but those plans would be derailed about a month later when he suffered his first major injury, which put him on the shelf for several months. They kept trying with him for a bit longer after that, but the reputation of being injury prone and difficult to work with, as well as injuring several of his opponents ended up being too much and he was gone by early 1998. Kinda like the previous match, except just to a lesser degree, I can say that this wasnít a good match, but was still booked pretty well. *

Brian Pillman, the WWFís big free agent signing, comes out to be interviewed by Jim Ross. Itís too bad for him as he had finally gotten himself over as something more than an opening match guy, but it coincided with the complete deterioration of his physical capabilities. It would be about a year before he could even step in the ring, and he was just a shell of his former self at that point. As for the interview itself, it was Attitude before Attitude really existed, but comes across as not a big deal in retrospect.

KOTR Finals: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Jake ďThe SnakeĒ Roberts
Austin makes his entrance as Pillman is hobbling out and the Hollywood Blondes have a moment of recognition in the aisle. Weíre then told that since the opener, Austin has been to the hospital and received sixteen stitches in his lip due to an errant boot from Marc Mero. Jake makes his way out, injured ribs and all, and Austin is right on him as he steps through the ropes. Jake tries a comeback, but the pain is too great. Austin starts ripping the tape off until Gorilla Monsoon comes in and threatens to stop the match, but Jake convinces him to let it go on. The brief rest gives Jake a chance as he now gets in a few shots, but his DDT attempt gets countered by Austin running him to the corner. After several shoulders to the gut in the corner, Austin hits the Stunner and thatís it for Jake at 4:37. Austin wins the 1996 King of the Ring in a match that was short and not any good or anything, but it fit in with the established story so I canít really complain. DUD for the match, but the most famous thing about the show follows it.

The coronation interview sees Austin join Dok Hendrix on the podium. Iím sure youíve all heard about this one as he starts out by mocking Jake as heís being helped from the ring. ďTalk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16. Well, Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass.Ē He then goes on to serve notice that heís coming for whoever leaves here tonight as Champion whether it be Shawn Michaels or Davey Boy Smith, and finishes it off with what might also be the fist usage of ďAnd thatís the bottom line, because Stone Cold said soĒ. While itís certainly historic, this interview didnít single handedly make him a star like itís sometimes implied to have done. He really didnít reach the next level until he got into the feud with Bret Hart, and Iíll say that without that feud, he never would have made it as big as he did.

Main Event, WWF Championship Match: Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) vs. Davey Boy Smith (w/Jim Cornette & Diana Smith)
So Mr. Perfect is here to referee, but with all the controversy, Monsoon comes out and instead appoints him as the outside referee and says that Earl Hebner will be the inside ref. Camp Cornette objects to this, but thereís nothing they can do. Davey shoves Shawn down a couple of times to establish the power advantage. They go into a sequence of trading holds and counters, fighting to a stalemate. Shawn gets him with a headscissors to the floor, and then follows with a rana from the apron. Back in, Davey tries a press slam, but Shawn slips out and sweeps the leg for 2. Shawn goes to work on the arm now, holding an armbar for quite awhile. A one point, Davey grabs the ropes, but Perfect knocks his hand away. This leads to the hold being broken, but itís kept kind of ambiguous whether Perfect was actually helping him of if it was coincidental. Shawn stays on the arm with a single arm DDT. He then gets a double ax off the top for 2. Irish whip is reversed and Davey hoists him in a press slam, and then just kinda drops him out to the floor. After a suplex out there, he gets Shawn back in and hooks a rear chinlock. Shawn is out of that, but he takes a clothesline. Davey hooks a surfboard, which Shawn counters by rocking back, but that puts both their shoulders down in a call back to last month, but they escape at 2. Davey gets a legdrop for another 2. Shawn comes off with a bodypress for 2, but Davey gets him again with a clothesline, and gets another near fall. He sends Shawn off, but Shawn comes back with a crucifix for 2. They trade near misses on the finishers, but then Bulldog gets him with a clothesline and a piledriver. He goes up, but misses badly on whatever he was trying (headbutt, maybe?). Now Shawn goes up, but Davey has recovered enough to crotch him and hit a superplex for 2. He then tries a back suplex from the top, but Shawn falls on top for a 2 of his own. Shawn looks for a rana, but Davey counters to a sitdown powerbomb, which again only gets 2. Davey gets sent off, and Shawn nails the flying forearm. He then gets a slam, but the ref is knocked down in the process. Shawn drops the elbow from the top as the ref is already recovered, so I donít know what the point of that was. He sets up Sweet Chin Music, and it hits. Cover, but now Perfect wants to count. He starts it, but Owen leaves the commentary table to pull him out. It makes no difference though because Hebner counted the pin anyways and Shawn retains at 26:24. So after all that buildup, Perfect turns out to be a complete non-factor. I guess it was kind of a face turn in that he didnít help the heels cheat, but still underwhelming considering how big it was played up. **1/2 for the match, which was solid, but not really spectacular, and probably a bit longer than it needed to be. Post match action sees Shawn fight off Davey and Owen for a bit until they finally get it together and double team him. Ahmed Johnson makes the save, and does alright for a bit until Vader comes out to help his stablemates and they retake the advantage. Ultimate Warrior makes the final save, clearing everyone from the ring and thereís your tentative main event for next month.

Well, the show is famous for the Big Interview, and watching it again here I can see why thatís the only thing itís famous for. With the exception of Lawler/Warrior, itís not a terrible show, but also thereís nothing great here either. Austin/Mero wins match of the night at ***1/2, but then we only have the main and Mankind/Taker hitting **1/2, and nothing else even cracks *. There is one other non-in ring highlight for me though, and thatís the commentary of Owen Hart. He didnít have spectacular delivery or anything, but he did crack me up several times. He may have gotten old if used in that role regularly, but as a one time thing, I enjoyed it. Overall, itís a thumbs in the middle show. Weíve all seen the Austin thing a million times anyways, so itís not really one thatís necessary to see again in full.

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