Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Marc Mero
Triple H is in the doghouse thanks to the Curtain Call incident, so he’s being de-pushed, beginning a dramatic change in attitude for him as he has to earn his spot all over again. The demotion worked great for him in the long run as his new work ethic turned him into a star. That and Shawn Michaels. Mero meanwhile sees a fresh opportunity having come in to the WWF on the back of a horrible falling out with WCW. His popularity has immediately skyrocketed too, having been paired up with Sable who’s taken to wearing a lot of tight black leather and waving a whip around. Mero opens up by combining educated fists and high flying while Triple H is eager to show he can bump and sell which forms the basis of this match. He’s got elements of Ric Flair in him, and he looks noticeably bigger with more muscle tone than in recent months. He must have quite the workout regime because the change has been dramatic, or maybe he’s just got a giant stash of Python Powder. These guys have cracking chemistry based on the urge to have a good match, and styles that fit one another like a glove. Triple H looks to have been working on his heat, littering it with hope spots and flash pins from Mero. He destroys Mero’s arm for his own amusement, clearly not to set up a finish or anything but he does at least go after a cross armbreaker. Still, he doesn’t yet have the range to work prolonged head. Lawler, against his future horn-dog character, spends the whole match calling Sable ugly to the point where Vince thinks he’s strange. Vince! If Vince McMahon thinks you’re acting strangely you should probably seek medical help. Mero does a decent job of selling the arm, then his big comeback spot is a super ‘rana. Seriously, that’s how he begins his comeback so you know he means business. When he follows with a flying headscissors and a Million Dollar kneelift you think he might have blown his wad early but his execution on everything is really strong. He tries for a slingshot tope con hilo but Triple H moves and Mero blows his knee out. Bad arm, bad leg, both on the left side too. Hunter calls for the Pedigree and Sable can’t bare to watch so he gets all pissy about it and bails to make her watch. That delay however kills poor Hunter, allowing Mero to catapult him into the ringpost and pin him. The heat was a bit on the long side but both guys got their characters over well here. I was never quite sure why Mero’s push went so badly off the rails. Obviously the injury didn’t help and Sable overtook him in the popularity stakes but I still find it difficult to connect this Mero with the one from two years down the line. If you’re looking for Marc at his marvellous best, 1996 is a good year to go to.
Final Rating: ***½
Backstage, Jim Cornette announces Owen Hart is Davey Boy Smith’s official manager this evening and promises another bombshell for Shawn Michaels. Shortly after this promo the lights went out and the PPV was blown off the air. For night one we skip ahead to the main event.