Bret Hart (c) vs. Bob Backlund
Not everyone in our office likes Backlund. Most people can’t stand him. I, on the other hand, love Bob Backlund. His style really doesn’t fit into this era of the WWF, at all, but Bret can adapt to anything because he’s the best. If you can meet Bob halfway and find some joy in his shoot-esque style, he’s worth your time. Backlund has Owen Hart in his corner and Bret has Bulldog in his corner to offset that. The idea being that the cornerman will throw the towel in to hark back to Backlund’s title loss of 1983. This immediately handicaps Bret, as Owen will NEVER throw the towel in. For two reasons. 1. He hates Bret so much and 2. He really doesn’t care if Backlund gets killed in the process. Technically this is a submissions match, but it’s won or lost on the toss of a towel. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea because it’s a total throwback. The WWF did another phone-in poll about this match and 79% thought the Crossface Chicken-wing (CFCW) was a deadlier hold than the Sharpshooter, which shows you how hard they pushed the CFCW to lead into this show. To their credit these guys get a mat classic over. Bret largely works a headlock, which he counters into to block the CFCW. Everything Backlund goes for, including a shoot style pin attempt, gets countered into that headlock. Of course, a headlock won’t get a submission but it leaves Backlund expecting it, which opens him up for an abdominal stretch. They don’t really utilise the lack of rules, like Bret and Austin would at WM13. Especially Backlund, who you’d expect, as the heel, to take a shortcut or two. Backlund is far more focused that Bret and works at the arm to set up the CFCW. Vince references George Foreman, who recently came out of retirement to win the world title at 45, as inspiration for 45 year old Backlund. Not sure it falls in line with Vince’s “New Generation” though. Perhaps if they’d not been shilling the concept so hard it’d be an easier sell. Bret starts working the leg to set for the Sharpshooter and goes for the figure four, which makes the crowd think we’re near the end. Backlund pretty much collapses, but Owen won’t even consider throwing the towel in. They run reversals to keep the tension going, with both Owen and Davey refusing the throw the towel in. You know, they could easily have turned Davey at this point and run him against Hitman through the Rumble. Backlund sells the leg like a champ, and it helps that Bret destroys the muscles and leaves him hobbled. Backlund goes insane and gets the CFCW in the ropes, but the ref forces him to break it. What if he doesn’t? It being a submission match, the only way for it to finish is by submission. Sometimes wrestlers get confused by a lack of rules, and so do zebras, which is why everyone hates zebras. Although, the WWF is still in their white shirt and bowtie era. You can hear Owen say “I’ll never throw it in” when Backlund is near the corner. Bret starts working the neck over, which is wayward to his leg tactics. Sharpshooter but Owen jumps in the ring and Davey charges in after him. Not fast enough, as Owen gets a bulldog on the champ. Davey comes charging around the ring and gets tripped into the ring steps. He’s OUT. Now there’s nobody to throw the towel in! Bob surprises Bret with the CFCW while he’s checking on his cornerman, then they run superb attempted counters as Bret starts thinking about the mechanics of the move and how he can get out. Backlund gets it locked in and Owen shouts “I’m sorry” into the ring before turning his attentions to Stu and Helen. It becomes a story about the towel as Bret cannot escape the CFCW. The fans are mortified by this point as the Chicken-wing has been turned into this killer hold leading into the PPV and there’s Bret lying in it. Owen’s acting around ringside is sensational as he’s “concerned” for Bret’s career. Earl Hebner drops Bret’s arm three times but, because of a stupid stipulation, he can’t end the match. They miscalculate a bit and leave Bret lying around in the CFCW for like 7-minutes. Eventually Owen begs the Harts to throw the towel in. He encourages old man Stu to do it, but if there’s one man in the entire world who believes in never quitting, it’s Stu Hart. He probably figures he’d stretched Bret harder than that. Helen wants to throw it in so Stu has to take charge. “Don’t be a pussy, Helen, the boy needs to learn the hard way”. Helen grabs the towel and throws it in causing Owen to run to the back in celebration. Backlund is the NEW WWF champion. I really like the match up until the CFCW spot, because it runs for way too long. Fans angry about Backlund’s reign wouldn’t have long to complain about it, because Diesel Jacknifes him back into the midcard less than a week after this.
Final Rating: ***¾
Tangent: Here’s a bonus review for that match:
Bob Backlund (c) vs. Diesel
Nash kicks Backlund in the gut and hits the Jacknife. Match time is 9 seconds. Emphatic.