July 11, 2009
WWE Championship: Undertaker (c) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
In Your House: Cold Day in Hell- 5/11/97
Ring Announcer: Howard Finkel
Commentators: Jim Ross & Jerry "the King" Lawler
Introduction: Ladies and gentlemen, you do not see this often on this website, yet I am about to do something historic. I alluded to the fact in my last review (here) that the match with Mankind would be Undertaker's greatest contest until Undertaker would meet up with Bret Hart at Summerslam. Earlier this week, my subconscious told me I was wrong, and that I got some words to eat. As good as that match was, there was a match that was even better, and it took place only 3 weeks after Revenge of the Taker. Stone Cold Steve Austin was named #1 contender for the throne, one night after defeating Bret Hart by disqualification at the same PPV where Undertaker successfully retained the WWE Championship. While he had the #1 contender status, Stone Cold also had to fight off the newly-reunited Hart Foundation, the return of Brian Pillman (who would later join the Hart Foundation, and also Brian is the man who was put out of commission by Stone Cold), and also had to deal with Shawn Michaels who was "helping" him during this time, but yet both men don‘t like each other at all. Though Stone Cold would not be the #1 guy for about another year, it does tell that not only Stone Cold was on his way to the top, but was unanimously cheered while he had something called a “tweener” status, meaning he was working heel with Undertaker yet was working as a face against the Hart Foundation. Though these two men would meet up again in later years, Stone Cold and Undertaker had a match here, like Undertaker’s match with Mankind the month earlier, is an unappreciated gem that thankfully WWE unearthed from their vaults. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The match: Todd Pettengill interviews Stone Cold backstage. Todd asks about Stone Cold’s thoughts before heading out to the ring. Austin vows to whoop Undertaker’s ass, and kick the Hart Foundation’s ass all the way back to Calgary, and put all the members in wheelchairs! Undertaker should watch the weather Stone Cold notes, because hell in about to freeze over! As Stone Cold walks to the ring, Todd does a voiceover over the confrontations with 3:16 and The Phenom. A funny botch happens when Todd accidentally announces a chokeslam with a Tombstone Piledriver! Back to the ring, Austin makes his entrance. Lawler makes note of a sign, “If Stone Cold was elected president, then the national bird would be the finger!” Austin got a modest pop, and when Undertaker comes out, Gorilla Monsoon would think this is deafening! When Undertaker goes to the corner and the lights turn on, it spooked everyone from Austin (who flinched), to King (“IT KNOCKED MY CROWN OFF!”) to JR, who couldn‘t hear what King just said. As the two opponents stare-off, the Hart Foundation makes their appearance felt by going down the aisle and taking their seats at ringside. Undertaker got distracted, and Stone Cold jumps at the opportunity as the match starts. The first minute of the match is just right-hands, seriously. Austin had his head nailed into the turnbuckle, and then off a Irish-Whip, Austin slides out of the ring. This gives Undertaker a chance to finally get his coat and title belt off! Austin though doesn’t take a breather: he starts beating on Owen Hart! Undertaker takes advantage, gives Austin a right hand, and whips Austin into the ring steps! Undertaker then nails Owen Hart right back into his seat, as well as the Bulldog! Lawler moans here that the Foundation shouldn’t be beat up because they bought seats, so of course JR has to explain why Undertaker and Austin both beat up on them! Austin slides back into the ring, just early enough so when Undertaker comes in on, Austin starts pounding on the Dead Man! After a exchange of a whip, Undertaker hits his flying clothesline for a 2-count. As both men got up, Undertaker slowly worked on Austin’s right arm for Old School, which Undertaker successfully did and got another 2-count for it! Undertaker tried to work over the arm again, but Austin take ‘Taker a eye poke, a right hand, and a side-headlock takedown. Undertaker tried to cradle it over a fall, but Austin countered back into the headlock with even more pressure. When Undertaker sat up, he tried to shoot Austin back into the ropes, but couldn’t and was put into a headlock once again via a side-takedown. Austin and ‘Taker trade nearfalls, but overall momentum is still in Stone Cold’s corner. Undertaker for real gets on his feet, and when Austin tries to knock down Undertaker, he can’t! Austin then kicked Taker in the gut, and took him over on the headlock for the third time. While this happens, JR makes an astute observation that Bret Hart made King kiss his foot! Lawler notes though that though the two men had many differences, Lawler is pleased that Bret looks at the idiots, aka the fans, and sees things Lawler has been seeing all along. Fans stirred up crap with the Hart Foundation at the same time, getting some reaction! Undertaker got to his feet once more, tried to nail a side-suplex, but Austin landed on his feet and took out Undertaker’s left-leg out from under him. Austin stomps on the weakened appendage at every corner. Undertaker though got a second wind, slams Austin back in the corner, and punches 3:16 back down the mat. Stone Cold then slips out of the ring, and while distracting the Undertaker, is able to knock him down in the corner and Austin wrapped Undertaker’s weak leg along the ring-post! Austin did it a grand total of 4 or 5 times, but after attempting a low-blow in the post, Undertaker used his strength to put Austin face-first into the post! The Hart Foundation approves. Meanwhile, with both men now back into the ring, Austin works over Undertaker’s leg again, with a takedown, a few elbows to the knee, and a rope-based attack jumping on the limb. Undertaker gets in a few body shots, but Austin kicks him in the face. Undertaker is put in the corner for even more leg-based attacks, but Undertaker gets out of the predicament. Austin is whipped into the ropes by Taker, is put in the Tombstone position, but Austin takes out both legs and puts Undertaker in a STF-ish/Crossface maneuver! Undertaker is not in it for long as he gets to the apron, but Austin positions Taker upper-body so that Taker can get a elbow smash to the chest on the ring apron! Austin did this multiple times as well, and then goes straight back to the left leg. Austin did a rope-based jump on the leg once, but numero dos doesn’t work so well as Taker boosts Austin over the top and onto the floor! Taker could have had a breather here, but instead goes on the attack, and puts Austin into the steps! Back in the ring, Taker starts to work on Austin’s left leg now! After a takedown, Taker elbows left knee, shades of what Austin did minutes before. Jim Ross also tells that this attack is important because Austin had his knee injured weeks before, and it was rehabbed, and now Undertaker is attacking the knee in revenge for earlier, but also as a smart champion. Austin uses Undertaker’s hair against him, and Austin uses his good right leg to smash Taker in the face, therefore getting out of the hold. However, Undertaker gets up, and goes back to Austin’s left leg. Austin is now in a bad way as Undertaker puts Austin in a half-Boston Crab, with all the pressure being put on the left leg. While Austin gets to the rope and has his leg attacked again, Lawler notes the Hart Foundation are just chilling out and acting appropriately. Ross has no problem with that, and that fans are intricate parts of their salaries! Austin slid on out, but is put back in the ring by Undertaker. Undertaker tried to do a boot with his right leg, but Austin attacks the left one again! Example of one step forward, two steps back for the champion. Austin twists and extends the leg, trying perhaps a figure-four or a sharpshooter, but Undertaker battles out and both men are now down in the ring. Austin slides out of the ring, and Undertaker stands up in it. Austin gets Undertaker down, and slams his leg against the side of the ring twice! Austin attacks Undertaker back in the ring, and a elbow to the chest gets a 2-count. Austin also hits a vertical suplex on the Dead Man which also gets a 2. Austin tries to get Undertaker up, but the Dead Man proceeds to attack the small of the back of Austin. Undertaker works the right arm of Austin, not for old school, but for a martial-arts-like kick to the chin! Undertaker tried old-school again, but Austin crotched him on the top turnbuckle! Austin then tried a superplex, but was thrown off by the Phenom. Undertaker got off the top turnbuckle, and tried to drop the elbow but the Rattlesnake slithered on out of it. Undertaker then was able to get Stone Cold in a standing-sleeper, but Austin stunnered his way out of it! After some slugs from both men, Undertaker gets Austin in a corner and beats him down. Austin though hits a low-blow out of the corner and Taker drops like a rock. Earl Hebner starts yelling at Austin, but there is no disqualification. With Earl’s back turned, Austin does the double bird, gets a mega reaction, and Undertaker nails Austin with a low blow! Austin got a bird from Hebner, and a chokeslam from Undertaker! Austin slid on it, was able to get Undertaker dizzy from the ropes, and Austin delivered a Stunner! A bell rings, but its just Brian Pillman acting like Brian Pillman! Austin and Hebner yell at Pillman, but as Undertaker sits up, Austin is back on the attack! Undertaker got out of it, attempted a Tombstone, Austin countered into a attempt of his own, but Undertaker finally hits the Tombstone and wins the match at 20:20. **** No time for celebration as everyone from the Hart Foundation but the mastermind Bret himself jumps on the weakened Undertaker. Earl tried to get some order in the ring, but was tossed by Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart. However, the tide turns when Austin finds Bret all alone in the wheelchair, turns him over, and takes a crutch! Austin hits Neidhart with it, and tried to get Pillman and Davey Boy with it, but to no avail. Owen eats a chokeslam from Undertaker. Austin stands on the turnbuckle with crutch, as JR notes Austin may have been cost the title because of the Hart Foundation. As Howard Finkel finally announces Undertaker as the winner, Austin gets another Stunner in on Undertaker, complete with bad-mouthing and fingers! Austin gets the crutch, and chases the Foundation with it, while Undertaker is able to get up under his own power with the title belt, and walks on back to the locker room. JR notes Happy Mother’s Day to Rose Anderson in Heaven, who I believe was Vince’s mother-in-law, and therefore its the reason why he wasn’t there. With that, the PPV feed ends there kids!
Aftermath: Austin and Undertaker’s beef wouldn’t die, as so much they were in the paths of the Hart Foundation. Austin would go on to have a magical summer, complete with different reactions on both sides of the US/Canadian border. Undertaker would go on with his Paul Bearer stuff as alluded to in the previous review, and his opponent for King of the Ring would be Farooq , aka Ron Simmons, of the Nation of Domination. As for Austin, his opponent would be no other than the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. Long story short, they teamed up to get the tag titles from the Hart Foundation (Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith), but couldn’t stand one another, and Disc 2 of “The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin” had these three matches (including the one just reviewed, the tag title match, and the tag champ vs. tag champ) all in a row.
Grade: This match, like Undertaker’s match with Mankind, is a rare gem. Unlike a lot of their matches in the next year or two, this one had a rare combination of brawling, technical skill, and it really showed Austin can do pretty much anything and everything in the ring. Undertaker was out of the element with the submission stuff here, but he was nowhere near bad, and he definitely did a fair share of the work. This match was also cut in between like 2 or 3 different storylines at once, and that is why this match worked out so well. It’s also one of the very first times JR and King called a match w/out Vince, and it really worked out well for both, as the commentary was intelligent yet it was always on-game, even during slow moments. I highly recommend this match to anyone who thought their matches at Summerslam 1998 or Fully Loaded 1999 were awesome, and to anyone who thought Austin wasn’t big before his title reign.