April 10, 2010
In Your House: Mind Games, September 22, 1996, CoreStates Center, Philadelphia, PA
Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, & Mr. Perfect
With Shawn Michaels retiring, or “retiring” if you prefer, this past week, I’m going to look back at a show featuring a classic match of his. Of course there’s many shows featuring such matches which makes it hard to pick just one, but I believe I have a good one here. Shawn is well into his first WWF Title reign at this point, and having finished up with Camp Cornette last month at Summerslam, he needed a new challenger. One of the hotter heels they’d had in awhile was Mankind, who had come in earlier in the year and was placed in a feud with The Undertaker. The expectation was that Mankind would just be another freak fed to Taker before everyone moved on, but instead something unusual happened: At King of the Ring, Mankind beat The Undertaker. Then something even more unusual happened as at Summerslam, Mankind not only beat him again, but was joined in the process by Paul Bearer as he turned on Taker. With this momentum, Mankind was deemed strong enough to headline here against Shawn for the Title, while Undertaker will take on Goldust in the Semi-Main for the blowoff of that feud which had been running concurrently with the Mankind one.
Free For All Match: Marty Jannetty (w/Leif Cassidy) vs. Savio Vega
It’s included here with my copy of the show, so why not? The PPV is only two hours long anyways. Savio sends Marty off the ropes and then gets him with a monkey flip before going to a side headlock. We then get an inset promo from Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw who complains about the fact that he has yet to appear on a PPV in the nine months since his debut, while Savio gets this match even after Bradshaw beat him. He promises that someone’s gonna pay for that. JR notes that this is technically not a PPV match, but who’s keeping track? So now Savio gets sent off the ropes with Marty trying a monkey flip, but Savio just drops a fist and rolls him up for 2. Savio comes off, but runs into a knee and then Marty elbows him down for 2. Marty works him over for a bit until Savio reverses a corner whip, but Marty gets the boot up and covers for 2. Kneelift gets another 2 as the first “ECW” chant of the night starts up. Vince lets us know that if we hear any unusual chants here tonight it’s due to the small, yet very vocal fanbase of a “local wrestling franchise”. JR then adds how great it is that those fans bought tickets to the WWF show tonight and thanks them for their support. Marty slams Savio and drops a fist for 2. He then tosses him to the floor where Cassidy gets in a shot. Back in, Marty slams him and goes to the 2nd rope, but Savio gets the boot up on him. Savio follows with a corner clothesline, and then whip him to the opposite buckle with Marty leaping to the 2nd rope and coming off with a crossbody, but Savio rolls through and gets the 3 count at 5:16. That was a decent little match. * Afterwards, Uncle Zebekiah comes out to distract Savio so that Bradshaw can jump him from behind an lay him out. Later on, Savio says that if Bradshaw wants to be on a PPV so badly, he can face him tonight in a Caribbean Strap Match. Bradshaw accepts and it’s on for tonight.
PPV Opening Match, Caribbean Strap Match: Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw (w/Uncle Zebekiah) vs. Savio Vega
Savio charges right in, but gets jumped and whipped with the strap before he can even get it on his wrist. Bradshaw tosses him around for a bit and touches two buckles before Savio stops him. Bradshaw stomps him to the floor and chokes him some more. Sandman, Tommy Dreamer and Paul Heyman are in the front row representing that aforementioned local wrestling franchise. Savio pulls Bradshaw into the post and goes on offence, but gets cutoff when Sandman spits beer in his face. This draws the agents out of the back to eject them while Bradshaw takes the match back into the ring. He touches two buckles before Savio gets him with a back suplex. Savio then whips him repeatedly and hits three buckles before Bradshaw pulled him back to the middle. The crowd is oblivious to a lot of this as the ECW crew are apparently making quite a commotion on the way out. Savio runs into a big boot, and then the Clothesline From Hell. Bradshaw drags him around touching three buckles, but Savio follows and touches them himself. It ends up as a tug of war for the fourth on and Bradshaw ends up pulling Savio into it for the win 7:08. It’s the second adequate match in a row for Savio. *
James E. Cornette vs. Jose Lothario
But wait a minute, something’s going on in the locker room. We cut to a camera charging to the scene of Savio Vega being beaten down by Razor Ramon and Diesel. They make their getaway before we can get a clear shot of them though. JR brags about how he had promised he would deliver the return to the WWF of Razor and Diesel, the next night on Raw, so now everyone who doubted him can shut up because there they are in the flesh. Vince is dumbfounded, even admitting that he thought it was nothing more then a “ratings ploy”. He really said that. Meanwhile, Cornette cuts a promo on Lothario saying that if Lothario wants to back out, he’s fine with that. Lothario comes out anyways and the match is on. And what a match it is as Lothario ducks a shot from Cornette, works him over for a bit and then finishes him with an uppercut at 0:57. DUD
Up next, out comes Brian Pillman, who had promised he would bring Bret Hart to the show here tonight, only to have Bret send in a promo from South Africa calling him a liar for ever promising that, and also calling his brother Owen a liar for participating in the scam. Pillman cuts a promo on Philadelphia, before introducing Owen who also makes his way to the ring. They defend themselves, saying that they did in fact have a guarantee from Bret that he would be here, but the reason he backed out of it was because he was scared. Not of Pillman or Owen (although Owen makes sure to say Bret is actually a little bit scared of him), but he’s scared of the man who’s been issuing him challenges recently, Stone Cold Steve Austin. So Pillman brings him out too and he agrees with them. “If you put the letter “S” in front of Hitman, you have my exact opinion of Bret Hart”, says Austin. He reiterates his challenge to Bret and says he hopes Bret does come back because someone’s gonna get their ass whipped and Austin 3:16 says it’s gonna be Bret, and that’s the bottom line ‘cause Stone Cold said so. This was an awesome segment with Austin coming off as a huge star in the making. In fact this whole angle from start to finish was awesome. They need to make today’s writers watch it over and over again until they finally learn that this is how it’s done. Great stuff
And from that we go to the “How Not to Make a Superstar” department with clips of Mark Henry visiting the sights around Philadelphia (see also: Luger, Lex). Fresh off his fourteenth place finish in the Olympics, he’ll be making his TV in ring debut later tonight against Jerry Lawler.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match: The Smoking Gunns (w/Sunny) vs. Owen Hart & The British Bulldog
Jim Cornette doesn’t make his way out with his team, so we go backstage to Dok Hendrix who finds that he’s still loopy from the match with Lothario earlier on. Clarence Mason is also there, and he has Cornette sign a document. More on that later. There’s some dissention teased between the Gunns during their entrance as Billy is more focused on Sunny then anything else, while Bart tries to get him to focus on the match. Then when they get in the ring, Sunny reveals a giant poster of herself, like she would before all matches around this time, only to find that it’s been defaced by the challengers which makes her all distraught so that Billy has to console her. She sits on the apron and pouts as the match gets underway. Billy and Owen start off as we see Clarence Mason make his way ringside to the challengers’ corner. The announcers speculate that he’s filling in for Cornette here, but the document he had Cornette sign earlier was to turn managerial control of the team over to him, so he is officially their manager as of this point. On to the match finally as Billy gets a quick rollup on Owen for 2. They trade holds and counters at a fast pace for a bit until Owen comes off the ropes with a bodypress for 2 and Billy backs off. More trading leads to a cradle for 2 by Owen, but Billy then kicks him and tags Bart. Bart gets a slam, but misses an elbow, allowing a tag to Bulldog. Bart shoulderblocks him, but then gets rolled up for 2. Bulldog gets a dropkick and armdrag, and then tags Owen. Owen clips Bart’s leg and goes to work on it. And that’s pretty much all he and Bulldog do for the next little while. Bulldog gets the delayed suplex for 2 with Billy saving, but that allows the challengers to switch off and Owen continues the legwork. Bart gets an inside cradle out of nowhere for 2, but Owen comes right back with the ensiguiri for a 2 of his own. Billy saved on that cover which allows another switch by the challengers. His whip is reversed and Billy nails him from the apron. Bart then knocks him to the floor from behind where Billy works him over, sending him to the steps in the process. Back in, Billy gets the tag and the Gunns do a Poetry In Motion type move, except Billy leaps into the corner with a clothesline. After a couple of quick tags, the Gunns go for the Sidewinder, which they hit, but the ref is distracted by Mason which allows Owen to come in off the top and break the pin. Bulldog covers and gets 2, but Billy recovers and gets the tag to Bart. Bart gets a slam and works Bulldog over with some knees. They trade him off a couple more times with Bart then setting Bulldog up for his own running powerslam, but Bulldog shoves him off into his own partner, who wasn’t paying attention because he was chatting with Sunny. Bulldog hits his running powerslam, and that gets the 3 count at 11:01. Owen and the Bulldog win the belts to kick off a good eight month reign as champs. Sunny, who has controlled the Titles since March by switching teams where necessary, is now so pissed at having lost them that she fires the Gunns although Billy follows he to the back, pleading with her to change her mind. **
Jerry “The King” Lawler vs. Mark Henry
So as noted earlier, Henry had competed in the Olympics over the summer in the super heavyweight weightlifting competition. The WWF had sponsored his amateur career with the idea that once he won a gold medal he would become famous and they would then parlay that into a wrestling career. Unfortunately for them, he got hurt and didn’t do so well in the Olympics, but they had so much money invested in him that they had to do something with him in spite of the failure. So, with maybe a month of training under his belt, they trotted him out there to try and make him the next babyface superstar. He got involved in the Jerry Lawler/Jake Roberts feud, making the save for Roberts following the match at Summerslam, so here he gets put in with Lawler, who I guess could be trusted to make himself look like a buffoon for the sake of getting the green rookie over. Lawler cuts his usual promo on the way to the ring, insulting everyone he can think of and then some. He even promises that the first thing he’s going to do is put Henry in a headlock, and that Henry won’t even be able to escape from that. So the match starts, and true to his word, Lawler gets him in a side headlock. But Henry shows his skills by reversing to a hammerlock, and then shoving Lawler off. Next, Henry get the side headlock, but this time Lawler reverses to the hammerlock. But Henry is able to reverse that and shove Lawler off again. Lawler tries a slam, but obviously ain’t getting it. Henry just pricks him up and press slams him with ease. Lawler tries a couple of shoulderblocks which of course fail. He charges again, but Henry sidesteps him and tosses him to the floor. Now Lawler gets serious, going into the tights for the phantom foreign object. He suckers Henry in by offering a test of strength, and then nails him a couple of times. Henry just shakes it off though and comes back with a series of knees. He pounds Lawler down and then puts him in the Jesse Ventura backbreaker for the submission at 5:13. After the match, The New Rockers try a sneak attack only to get beaten up as does Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who gets press slammed out to the floor. Henry would make a few more appearances, but he spent the next year or so in the minors getting trained before he finally returned as a full time guy in late 97. DUD
Final Curtain Match: Goldust (w/Marlena) vs. The Undertaker
These two have been feuding for much of the year as well as kind of an off shoot of the Taker/Mankind feud. Back in May at Beware of Dog, Goldust beat Undertaker in a casket match due to interference from Mankind. Then at International Incident, Mankind again got involved and prevented Undertaker from winning, so we have one more match here with the stipulation that there must be a winner, and it can only be by pinfall. This is also Taker’s first PPV match without Paul Bearer or the urn with Bearer having turned in him last month at Summerslam, although Vince McMahon kind of kills the gimmick by suggesting that the urn never meant anything anyways. Taker comes in and attacks right away, whipping Goldust to the buckle, giving him a throat toss and hitting a legdrop for 2. Goldust goes to the floor, with Taker trying to pull him in, but Goldust pulls him down on the ropes. That doesn’t help though as Taker is on him as he gets back in. But then Taker puts his head down on a whip and takes a swinging neckbreaker. He still sits up and catches Goldust with a big boot. Suplex gets a 2 count and then he tosses Goldust around for a bit before hitting the ropewalk. Goldust gets tossed, but he has a sack of powder that he pulls out. While Marlena distracts the referee, he throws it in Taker’s face to finally take control. Why they needed to distract the ref in this no DQ match is one of those questions you just don’t ask, I suppose. So Goldust works him over for a bit, and then takes it to the floor where he rams Taker to the table. Back in a clothesline gets 2. Taker comes back with a back suplex, but Goldust is to his feet first and goes right back to work. He gets a 2 count off a hiptoss. But then he makes the mistake of wasting too much time with the theatrics which allows Taker to grab him by the throat and toss him to the corner. A corner whip is reversed which leads to a collision and then Goldust nailing a powerslam for 2. Taker then ducks on a whip and comes back off with the flying clothesline. Goldust goes to the corner, but Taker charges into a knee. Goldust goes up, but Taker chokeslams him off. He then finishes him off with the Tombstone at 10:24. Not a bad match, and while it seems like it should have been a foregone conclusion, they did a really good job at making Taker appear vulnerable in 96 to the point where you believed he could lose matches like this. That helps the drama a lot when you think both guys have a chance as opposed to knowing only one guy can win. **
Main Event, WWF Championship Match: Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario) vs. Mankind (w/Paul Bearer)
Mankind gets wheeled out in a casket accompanied by new manager Paul Bearer. Shawn says in his pre match promo that if he knew he just had to come out and wrestle Mankind, he would win for sure, but since he has no idea what Mankind in gonna do, he’s a bit nervous here tonight. The match stars with Shawn getting sent off the ropes and Mankind nailing an elbow. He follows with a backdrop and a Cactus Clothesline to put them both on the floor. Shawn gets kicked to the barrier and Mankind goes to pull up the mats, but Shawn comes back and kicks them in his face. He then buries Mankind under the mats and jumps on him a few times. Shawn then connects with a crossbody to the floor. Back in the ring, Shawn gets him with a double ax handle off the top. He follows with a clothesline and a slam to setup the top rope elbow. He then looks for Sweet Chin Music, but Mankind sees it coming and bails. Back in, Shawn’s corner whip is reversed and he leaps to the 2nd rope, but Mankind didn’t follow him in. Shawn appears to go briefly into one of his patented for the time temper tantrums as he yells at Mankind and then appears to work him over pretty stiffly. Mankind then takes him down and hooks a bodyscissors while trying to get the Mandible Claw on, but Shawn ends up escaping. He tosses Shawn outside and drags the Spanish table into position, but Shawn leaps over it and attacks. He rams Mankind to the casket and then suplexes him so that his leg smacks into the steps. Shawn goes to work on the leg now, including hooking a figure four which Mankind punches out of. He then hooks a single leg crab, but Mankind makes the ropes. Shawn gets a sunset flip for 2, but then gets stungunned allowing Mankind to take over. He beats on Shawn for awhile, eventually hitting a running knee in the corner and a couple of faceplants. Shawn comes back with a back suplex, but Mankind is right back on him. Shawn slides through the legs on an Irish whip and nails him, but his corner whip is reversed and he flips up into the Tree of Woe. Mankind drops a couple of elbows in there, and then drops a leg once Shawn gets loose. He boots Shawn to the floor, but misses a running knee against the steps. Shawn then drop toes him onto the steps again. They fight over a suplex on the apron with Shawn ending up landing on the apron with Mankind, but he slides back in the ring as Mankind charges and hits the post. Shawn gets a powerslam for 2, but then puts his head down on a whip and gets nailed. Mankind charges with Shawn looking to toss him, but he gets his head hung up in the ropes. Shawn comes over, but Mankind hooks the Claw while hung up. Eventually the ref gets him free and the hold is broken as he tumbles to the floor. Shawn follows, so Mankind gets the hold on again with Shawn running him to the barrier to break it this time. Shawn grabs a chair, but Mankind punches it back in his face. He got the worst of it though as Shawn starts nailing him in the hand with it to neutralize the Claw. Back in the ring, Shawn charges at him only to get backdropped right back out to the floor. Mankind drops the elbow from the apron and then gets him with a swinging neckbreaker. Shawn struggles into the ring, so Mankind drops a leg on him and then nails the double arm DDT for 2. He follows with a piledriver, but than only gets 2 as well which frustrates Mankind. He tries a couple more covers, but Shawn kicks out again. He wants to put Shawn in the casket for some reason and does, but Shawn fights back. His whip is reversed, but he comes off with the flying forearm and kips up. After a slam, he goes up and connects with a crossbody for 2. He goes up again, but this time Mankind crotches him. He then suplexes Shawn from there through the Spanish announcers table on the outside. He drags Shawn back in the ring and brings a chair with him, but Shawn recovers and Superkicks it back in his face. Shawn covers, but Vader runs in and breaks it for the DQ at 26:24. Shawn clears him outside with Sycho Sid also running in to brawl with Vader. Bearer nails Shawn from behind with the urn to take him out and then Mankind gets the Claw on him. He goes to put him in the casket again, but this time when they open it, Undertaker pops out. He chases Mankind to the back which leaves Shawn in the ring to celebrate his DQ victory as the show ends. This was a really good match and the obvious highlight of a pretty mediocre show. The lack of a real finish sucks but considering Mankind wasn’t winning the Title and was main eventing the next PPV and therefore couldn’t be beaten it’s understandable. This was kind of a preview of what PPV Main Events would become over the next few years with far more brawling and out of the ring activity then just straight wrestling. And it worked well here. They didn’t do too much crazy stuff, but what they did d was built up and made to mean something. ****1/2
This was pretty much a one match show with everything other than the Main Event being pretty much a waste of time. That interview segment would be the number two highlight as far as I’m concerned. The Shawn/Mankind match is good enough to the point where it makes the show at least a Thumbs in the Middle since it does take up a quarter of the event so it’s not a total loss. But since the Shawn/Mankind match is on multiple compilation DVD’s (no less then two Shawn collections, two Foley collections, and the History of the WWE Championship), you’re better off getting any one of those instead to see that match.