WWF Intercontinental Championship
Owen Hart (c) vs. Steve Austin
Michael Cole tries to get an interview with Austin backstage and Steve becomes one of the first WWF guys to threaten to kick Cole’s ass. Austin’s pop has gotten bigger since his heel act in Canada last month. The crowd explodes for him and every one of his spots gets massive reactions. He’s no longer on the verge of a big run, he’s into it. Owen goes after Austin’s knee, which now has that metal brace on it. That draws a deafening “Austin” chant. Austin retaliates by working the arm and they do some tidy counters, nothing complicated. Owen retorts again, this time aiming at Austin’s hands, perhaps angered by the double digit salute. I like that Owen takes Austin’s trademark taunt away from him. Austin responds with the Stun Gun and a swank powerbomb. This is enough for Owen and he goes to take a count out. Austin throws him back in only to get caught with a belly-to-belly and a neckbreaker. This is the start of Owen working over Austin’s neck, a sequence of moves that would almost cripple the future world champion before his most glorious run in wrestling. They rock some awesome counters until Owen nails a German suplex for 2 and heads into the camel clutch. The storyline is Austin’s neck and indeed Austin’s neck would be the story for a few months. These two don’t quite have the same chemistry as they both had with Bret and Shawn, but it’s not far off. They run sleeper spots leading to jawbreaker, which looks a lot like the Stunner and pops the crowd because of it. Then it happens; they counter back-and-forth before Owen settles on a sitout version of the Tombstone. Austin suffers a serious neck injury and stops moving. Owen, to his credit, spends a few minutes trying to start a “Canada” chant and telling the fans that Austin will now be forced to kiss his ass. Austin crawls over to him and scores the worst cradle in the history of wrestling for the win. Of course he could barely move so I’ll cut them some slack on the pinfall. The match was full of the kind of counters that made so many other Austin and Owen matches great in 1997, but the finish kills everything dead. Still, 15 good minutes of wrestling preceded the injury. You can tell Austin’s hurt because he doesn’t Stunner any ref’s for helping him to the back. The injury would be so severe that Austin would have to forfeit the IC title and indeed his neck would never be the same again. He ended up missing most of 2000 getting it fixed and retired early because of it.
Final Rating: ****
Video Control give us a shill package for tonight’s main event. This one makes everything very clear: Bret can’t wrestle in America again if he doesn’t win the title and Shawn can’t wrestle in America again if he favours the Undertaker in the title match. It’s kinda weird that an Undertaker title defence is all about Bret and Shawn. Their shoot-esque feud has totally taken over the WWF. Back at ringside, Vince tells us Austin is “hurt badly” and he looks crestfallen. His biggest merchandise shifter and rising star injured hits Vince really hard, and he’s got nowhere to hide.