October 16, 2009
Matt Peddycord
The Powerdriver Review

WWF In Your House: Mind Games
September 22, 1996
Philadelphia, PA
CoreStates Center

The current WWF champs were as follows:
World Champion: Shawn Michaels (3/31/1996)
Intercontinental Champion: vacant since 8/12/1996
World Tag Team Champions: The Smokin’ Gunns (5/26/1996)

Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Mr. Perfect.

Savio Vega vs. Justin Hawk Bradshaw (w/Zebekiah) – Caribbean Strap Match
This had been a long time coming, but Bradshaw finally sent Vega over the edge after the ‘Free For All’ match where Savio defeated Marty Jannetty and Bradshaw came out and attacked him. Bradshaw whips Savio around with the strap before they ever get tied together to gain the unfair advantage. Once they’re tied to each other, they head to the floor where Sandman stands up and spits beer in Savio’s eyes. If you’re going to send somebody from ECW to do that sort of thing, he’s probably your best guy. Tommy Dreamer is in the front row as well. Paul E. Dangerously, who was sitting in between these two, tries to hold them back while Vince mentions that a local Philly promotion is trying to get some exposure at the WWF’s expense. Meanwhile, Vega and Bradshaw take turns tapping three of the four corners before they get cut off. And then the finish comes when they do the classic strap match bit where Bradshaw pulls the strap over his shoulder while he drags Savio and walks forward. What he doesn’t see is Savio slapping each corner right behind him. When Bradshaw gets stuck on the fourth turn, he yanks Vega into the fourth corner to give him the win. (7:07) Standard strap match. I wonder if it’s any coincidence Sandman won the ECW world title belt for a fourth time just two weeks after this show? Hmmm. ¾*

Oh yes, the Jose Lothario workout video with Jim Cornette working his mouth off.

Meanwhile in the back, Diesel and Razor Ramon are stomping down Savio Vega! JR promised us last week on Raw they would be coming. Told you it wasn’t a ratings ploy, Vince! Before the camera man can get a real close look, Razor and Diesel flee the scene.

Jose Lothario vs. Jim Cornette
It appears Jim Cornette bought Andy Kaufman’s wrestling gear for this match. In what should be no surprise to anybody, it’s TIGHT. Cornette gives Lothario a chance to run while he’s ahead, but Jose refuses. Lothario goes all 1960s on Cornette and pins him after a right hand. (0:57) Waste of PPV time. Why not put this on Raw? CRAP

Here comes Brian Pillman. He promised he would bring Bret Hart to the PPV, but Bret says he never agreed to any such thing. Pillman points out some of Philly’s major problems and then brings out Slammy Award winner Owen Hart. Just when Owen thought everything was good between him and his brother – that Bret had finally realized that Owen was the best of the Hart family – he goes and lies about not showing up to the PPV. Why does he think Bret didn’t show? Because he’s scared of Stone Cold Steve Austin. That brings him out. Austin says that when he’s in the arena, Bret’s at home because he’s scared and that’s the bottom line. As soon as he came to the WWF, Bret took his bags and went back to Canada. He doesn’t even qualify for being a chicken – he’s the slimy substance that runs out of the south end of a chicken. And then the famous line comes, “If you put the letter S in front of ‘Hitman’, you’ve got my exact opinion of Bret Hart.” Austin hopes Bret returns to the ring because if he does, somebody is going to get their butt whipped and Austin 3:16 says it’s going to be Bret’s behind. AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE CUZ STONE COLD SAID SO! Pillman – “And Philadelphia sucks, because I said so!” Awesome. The complete opposite of a waste of PPV time.

Check it out. Mark Henry got to spend the day in Philadelphia.

In the back, Jim Cornette is laid out on a doctor’s table when Clarence Mason makes his sign some legal looking document.

WWF World Tag Team Champions The Smokin’ Gunns (w/Sunny) vs. Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith
Sunny’s picture drapes from the ceiling again, but this time Owen and Davey Boy drew all over it. THOSE JERKS! Clarence Mason steps in for Jim Cornette. Billy gets annoyed with Owen’s flurry of offense to start. Tag to Bart, Bulldog grabs hold of him while Owen comes in with the chopblock. They work over his knee for a while and then change over to the back as Owen grabs a Boston crab. In comes DBS with the Hourglass Suplex. Jumping legdrop gets two. Billy catches Bulldog as he comes off the ropes, so Bart clotheslines him out for Billy to send him into the steps. Back in, the Gunns concentrates on Bulldog and hits the SIDEWINDER. Clarence Mason prevents the count by grabbing the ref’s attention while Owen lowers the boom on Billy. DBS rolls over on top for 1-2-NO! Some more preferred heel-in-peril stuff follows until Bulldog shoves off a Bart powerslam into Billy. That’s not cool! Billy shoves his brother Bart back into a RUNNING POWERSLAM from Davey Boy for the 1-2-3. (11:00) We’ve got NEW tag champs and the eventual breakup of the Smokin’ Gunns so that Billy Gunn can become the huge superstar he deserves to be! Of course, Sunny goes with the belts, but Owen and Davey Boy are married, so she becomes the sassy interview girl/co-host of Livewire for the next year or so. **

In the back, Kevin Kelly interviews Mankind and Paul Bearer. Mankind believes becoming the WWF world champ is his destiny and when he realizes his dream, everybody will be able to have a nice day! Funny how ludicrous it was to think he could be WWF champion after this show yet two years later everybody felt he completely deserved it.

Mark Henry vs. Jerry Lawler
As usual with Lawler matches, he comes out and berates the town and his opponent. Anywho, this is Mark Henry’s in-ring debut. Henry applies hammerlocks and headlocks. They’re not complex moves, but I’ve seen wrestlers do worse. Lawler goes for a slam. Henry refuses and guerrilla press slams Lawler across the ring. Shoulderblocks won’t work on the World’s Strongest Man, so he sidesteps one and tosses Lawler out to the guardrail. That was quite the bump. Since nothing has worked up to this point for the King, he puts on the foreign object and pops Henry in the face to bring him to his knees. He keeps pounding until Henry NO-SELLS and applies a Canadian Backbreaker for the submission victory. (5:12) Vince mentions that we might see Henry at the next PPV, but he won’t return to WWF PPV until the ‘98 Royal Rumble. This wasn’t actually all that bad for a debut. Some of Lawler’s hired heels come out to stop Henry after the match – Leif Cassidy, Marty Jannetty, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. They all fall down at the hands of the ‘World’s Strongest Man’ Mark Henry. Dang, this is the first we’ve seen of Hunter on PPV since his punishment sentence for being involved with the MSG Incident. ½*

A Coliseum Home Video exclusive interview shows that while Clarence Mason had Jim Cornette sign what he believed to be some sort of subpoena to sue Jose Lothario, what he actually had Cornette sign was a contract turning Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith over to make them become part of his managerial responsibility. Such an evil lawyer! Of course, Owen and Davey Boy say that Cornette has been acting a little funny lately anyways, so maybe it’s not all bad.

The Undertaker vs. Goldust (w/Marlena) – Final Curtain Match
A ‘Final Curtain Match’ sounds fancy, but it just means that the match can only end by pinfall. This will end the UT-Goldust feud that really just stemmed off the UT-Mankind anyways. Weird not seeing any Paul Bearer here. Taker starts off strong, hits Old Skool, and tosses Goldust to the floor. Bad idea. Marlena hands Goldust her purse, which is filled with literal GOLLLD DUST! Or is that yellow cake uranium? Either way, UT takes it in the eyes and it BURNNNNS. From here, Goldust tries to rid the world of Taker’s eyeball by kicking and punching him directly in the socket. Taker unloads on Goldust a little bit, but then runs into a powerslam for two. Taker hits the Jumping Lariat and Chokeslams Goldust down from the top rope! TOMBSTONE! That will do. (10:25) Pretty slow and methodical stuff until the rather hot finish. Chokeslams off the top are always pretty cool. *½

WWF World Champion Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) vs. Mankind (w/Paul Bearer)
There’s no way this FREAK Mankind can possibly win the WWF champion! The druids bring out a casket before the match and out comes Mankind just to play “mind games” with the Undertaker. Mankind goes to town on Shawn to start and takes him to the floor with a Cactus Clothesline. Mankind starts to peel back the ringside mats when Shawn dropkicks him over and starts stomping him while he’s stuck under the mat! HBK heads up top and comes down on Mankind right onto the concrete. From there, Shawn leaps off the steps and slams Mankind’s head to the concrete for another nasty bump. Back in, Shawn hits the Flying Double Sledge and follows up with the Flying Elbow Drop. SWEET CHIN MUSIC? No! Mankind sees what’s coming and leaps out of the ring. He starts rocking back and forth as Paul Bearer hands him the urn, which has become sort of a pacifier for him. Back inside the ring, they brawl it out, which leads to Mankind attempting the MANDIBLE CLAW when Shawn goes for a snapmare. Shawn elbows out, but gets thrown out to the floor where the SAT gets turned around. Shawn has had enough and LEAPS over the table and onto Mankind for more punches. They fight over to the steps where HBK gives Mankind a snap suplex into the steps! OUCH, there goes your knee. As Mankind tries to get back inside, Shawn chopblocks the knee and then slams it down across the casket! That’ll teach him to bring out a casket to a match when he’s not even an Undertaker! Mankind sells the knee real well as HBK Japanese leg whips him into a Figure-Four! He reverses out, but Shawn dropkicks the knee and grabs a half crab. Mankind finds the ropes and hotshots HBK to take control. To get the feeling back in his leg, Mankind rolls to the apron and starts STABBING HIMSELF IN THE KNEE! WHAT THE F. Mankind starts to pound on Shawn and then drives his knee into his face while he’s down in the corner. He begins to drive Shawn’s face into the mat because of his jealousy for pretty boys. Shawn tries to come back, but Mankind reverses a corner whip as HBK tries the Ray Stevens bump and gets caught in the tree of woe. While he’s stuck, here comes Mankind with the running elbow drop! Down to the floor, Shawn avoids a running knee up against the steps, causing Mankind to crash knees-first into the steel. Mankind takes another bump into the steps as Shawn sends him face-first with a drop toehold. They fight over a suplex on the apron. Mankind charges him down the apron, but Shawn slips back inside as Mankind runs into the ringpost! Back in, HBK hits the Jumping Back Elbow and a powerslam for two. Shawn whips Mankind into the ropes when he gets his head caught in between the top and middle strands! SNAP! Once Mankind breaks free, he jabs Shawn with the MANDIBLE CLAW! Oh, but Shawn tosses Mankind off into the guardrail, as Hugo Savinovich falls out of his chair for no reason. Mankind tries to stab Shawn again with the MANDIBLE CLAW, but he blocks it with a chair. While the ref is with Paul Bearer, Shawn slams the chair down on Mankind’s knee and his Mandible Claw hand! Back in, Mankind tries the MANDIBLE CLAW anyways, but Shawn blocks and tries to break his hand. Off comes the finger glove! Shawn charges and takes a nasty backdrop to the floor, as Mankind follows him out with the Flying Elbow Drop off the apron. He continues to punish Shawn with the swinging neckbreaker on the concrete! Back in, the DOUBLE-ARM DDT gets 1-2-NO! Pull Up Piledriver gets another 1-2-NO! He tries with several pinfall attempts, but Shawn keeps kicking out. Mankind rolls Shawn into the casket, but he gets out of that REAL quick and starts his comeback. Flying Forearm is followed by the Flying Bodypress for 1-2-NO! Shawn gets crotched up top and they both go tumbling backwards down through the SAT! Well that was insane. Back inside, a chair is set up and Shawn jumps off the chair to deliver SWEET CHIN MUSIC to Mankind’s face while he’s up top with a chair in his hands! Steel chair + SWEET CHIN MUSIC = KO! Slow cover gets 1-2-WHAT. Shawn comes off the pin attempt and starts brawling with Vader! That’s a DQ, gentlemen. (26:23) Easily one of the best matches to ever end on a DQ finish. Also, this match should prove to anybody that these two men were the best bumpers in the business at the time. And it wasn’t just bumps here, there was a STORY to go along with the bumps and great selling from both men. In a perfect world where the original ECW was filled with other guys as talented as Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels wrestled there, this is the kind of matches he would be having on a semi-regular basis. They seemed to be building towards a Vader title change in the immediate future before Shawn would win it back to meet Bret at WrestleMania 13 for a rematch, but we all know that wasn’t meant to be. Shawn knocks Vader out of the ring with the Flying Forearm, but then Paul Bearer smashes the urn over his head. Doesn’t matter because the match is over. Sid runs in and beats Vader back to the dressing room to set up their match for the next PPV. Mankind applies the MANDIBLE CLAW on Shawn while he’s down and considers putting him in the casket. As Paul Bearer opens the lid, out comes the Undertaker! He sends Mankind flying out of the ring and walks them back to the dressing room. ****½

Final Thoughts:
As you can plainly see, this is a one match show. The HBK-Mankind match is included on several WWE DVDs, so it’s not necessary to purchase/download the show at this point in history. However, this show is the beginning of a slow change into the Attitude Era. The wrestling is a lot more rough, the language of the wrestlers becomes a lot less PG, and there’s less silly storylines. For that reason and only that reason, I’ll go with a mild thumbs in the middle. Recommended if you’re interested, but otherwise don’t buy it for HBK-Mankind. Just get their DVDs.

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