Shotgun Saturday Night (01/25/97)

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Lee Maughan:

 

Bret Hart vs. Mankind
Owen Hart joins Vince McMahon and Sunny at the announce table for this one, tights and all even though he’s not actually wrestling tonight. He and Bob Holly did lose to the Godwinns earlier in the day however. Mankind starts by crawling after a pair of go-go dancers in assless chaps until Bret makes the save and gives Mankind a pounding. Another dancer swinging around on a rope prompts Sunny to declare the scene “not for my virgin eye!”

They brawl around ringside for a while in uninspired fashion, though admittedly the guardrails are so close to the ring that it’s practically impossible to do anything out there, so they head inside where Bret breaks out a snap suplex and a leg drop. Mankind’s in the mood for a fight however, so they brawl up to the commentary position where Bret hits a suplex on the stage. Mankind quickly takes over and gets a legdrop for two, but Bret evades a charge and Mankind hits the deck again as we head to a commercial.

Back from that, Bret crotches Mankind on the guardrail before the annoying New York fans start chanting “HBK!” just to piss Bret off, and then wouldn’t you just know it? The now-standard “bWo! bWo!” chants break out, lead by Lenny the Superfan, a/k/a Faith No More Guy, who you might recognise from many WWF and ECW front rows of the late 90s. And yes, Vladimir is stationed next to him, just as he was in Texas last week. Bret clotheslines Mankind and sends him into the steel steps, just in time to cutaway to Todd Pettengill who’s found a woman in a fuzzy bra, which in his mind somehow makes her “Princess Leia.” Ugh. Mankind gets a crappy double arm DDT which Bret just basically forward rolls through, then misses another charge in the corner as Bret goes into the big finishing sequence: Side-Russian legsweep, bulldog headlock, spinning neckbreaker, side backbreaker, clothesline, Sharpshooter. And then Owen jumps in for the lousy DQ finish, the plague of Shotgun Saturday Night. Pretty average match if all be told.
Final Rating: **¼

Savio Vega vs. Rocky Maivia
Earlier today in Madison Square Garden, Savio turned his back on tag team partner Ahmed Johnson and apparently sided with the Nation of Domination. Savio apologises for his actions, claims to really like Rocky, and promises a good, clean match. The crowd immediately start on the “Rocky sucks!” chants, and one guy has the temerity to shout “Boring!” less than a minute into it. What a tail end. And then the “bWo!” chants break out again! Who knew the Blue Meanie was such a clubhead? Faarooq and Crush arrive at ringside in time for a round of “Die Rocky, Die!” chants, and then the crowd decides it wants the Legion of Doom back. Give it a month, lads. Rocky shows the same fire he has the previous couple of weeks, but Savio keeps dragging things down with a series of trapezius holds and armbars. In fairness to the guy, he’s already wrestled once today, but it’s a real comedown after his energetic performance two weeks ago. Savio throws Rocky over the top to the floor and Rocky injures his knee for the count-out (the kind of finish you might expect them to run before the Royal Rumble, not after it) to cap off a truly crappy match. Savio joins Faarooq and Crush in destroying Rocky after the match, then throws up his fist in support of the Nation. Bleh.
Final Rating: ½*

– Elsewhere, Jake Roberts makes out with Revelations. I know this is late-night but do we really need bestiality on the show?

This is not for my virgin eye!

Jake Roberts vs. Salvatore Sincere
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (whose friends call him “Bob” according to his comical on-screen graphic) joins the commentary team to mock Jake’s demons (and why would you book an alcoholic in a nightclub anyway?), and throw out a series of snappy lines. “This is the World Wrestling Federation, where the big boys don’t have time to play!” he declares in a pot-shot at WCW. “Hey McMahon, that Rocky Johnson had a real good match earlier on! Good play-by-play too.” Vince apologises for messing Rocky’s name up before an odd discussion on New York sexuality arises – “Around here, straight’s not the way to go… from what I hear.” Responds McMahon, “Yes, there are some luminaries around here.” Luminaries?! The crowd starts chanting “bWo” yet again, which has long since grown tiresome, and Jake finishes a routine squash with the DDT in what would actually prove to be his final televised match in the WWF.
Final Rating: SQUASH (Not rated)

– During the break, Helmsley gives poor Sal a Pedigree after declaring himself “second best”, owing to his status as Intercontinental Champion. Quite the night for old Bob.

Crush vs. Sycho Sid
This might have held some intrigue if it had been 1992. Sadly it’s 1997, so Sid just kicks his ass for a while until it’s time for a commercial break. Well of course it is, what with time running so low yet again. Back from the break and the Nation have found their way out to ringside, giving Crush the advantage. He goes for the heart punch but Sid goozles him instead for a chokeslam. He follows that with a powerbomb but the Nation get involved, leaving Sid to grab a chair which he absolutely belts Crush with, causing the DQ. Way too long for what it was, even with time running out and the adverts eating up a good three minutes of it.
Final Rating: ½*

 

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Mankind. His match with Bret was nothing to write home about but he was still willing to get bumped around on wooden stages and steel guardrails for my viewing pleasure, plus he provided amusement with his pre and post-match pursuit of a couple of strippers.

Least Entertaining: Savio Vega by a country mile. His shifting personality work was fine, but man alive were those rest holds ever tedious.

Quote of the Night: “I know you would do anything keep Bret Hart in the World Wrestling Federation!” – Sunny adds fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists everywhere as she address Vince McMahon after Bret “quit” the WWF last Monday on RAW.

Match of the Night: Bret Hart vs. Mankind. Outside of a few house show matches in England and Germany and a handful of six-man tags on RAW and at live events, this is actually the only high-profile in-ring meeting between Bret Hart and Mick Foley caught on film, giving it a curiosity value above its actual quality.

Summary: Not a good show this week as everyone looked to be on autopilot after pulling double duty at MSG earlier in the day, and that Savio Vega match was interminable.
Verdict: 22

In Your House 12: It’s Time

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James Dixon: There is much to say about the HELL that is this tape. When compiling these books we look to be as accurate and informative as possible, but we nearly didn’t make it with In Your House 12. We just couldn’t fathom out why it was never released by Coliseum Video, and what made it so special that it bucked convention and avoided a silly renaming. The reasons are still unclear, but at least we knew it did get a US release, only it was a direct port of the UK distributor Silver Vision’s version of the tape. However, the only difference was the format, being that the US version was NTSC rather than PAL, with everything from the artwork (albeit the American version sported a slightly darker shade of blue, for whatever reason) to the catalogue number the same. What that means for anal collectors is that both In Your House 12 and In Your House ‘97: Final Four (In Your House 13) have the same cat number. Maddening. If you have the US version (and make sure you do, because many an unscrupulous trader has attempted to make a quick buck from the UK one) then sell it and buy yourself a house. That’s how rare it is…

 

Arnold Furious: Part of the reason the WWF abandoned their event specific titling was that occasionally the booking went array. When they named IYH #12 as “It’s Time” it was back in the summertime when the intention was for Vader to win the WWF title from Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam and dominate the title scene toward the year’s end. Hence the riffing of “It’s Time” from his catchphrase “It’s Time, It’s Time, It’s Vader Time”. But Shawn nixed losing the title until Survivor Series, believing he needed a longer reign to prove himself to the marks, and eventually jobbed to Sid instead. The New York crowd at Survivor Series was clearly tired of Shawn’s title run and booed him out of the building, cheering a cheating Sid to his first world title. Maybe they’d caught wind of Shawn’s politicking backstage? New York has always been a smart crowd. After all, at the same event they happily latched on to new star Steve Austin. Speaking of which, neither Austin nor Michaels feature on this PPV, instead appearing in special dark matches for the live crowd. What? The two hottest talents in the company don’t work the PPV? They must have been mad.
For your amusement here are the dark matches from IYH 12:

 

Rocky Maivia vs. Salvatore Sincere

Brakkus vs. Dr. X

Steve Austin vs. Goldust

Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind

Can you believe this lot didn’t make the PPV? Rocky Maivia had only just debuted and he’s relegated to the Free For All. Meanwhile two potential showstealers are left to the live crowd. Madness. When you look at some of the shit that made the card you’d have to question the WWF’s sanity and the structure of In Your House shows. Brakkus is an odd fellow. A gigantic 300lb German the WWF signed with high hopes but he never quite mastered enough in-ring technique to get a push. He got farmed out to the USWA and ECW before returning in 1998 and getting shoved out the door after losing to Savio Vega in the career destroying Brawl for All. His opponent, Dr. X, is his trainer and former Heavenly Body and Bodydonna, Tom Prichard.

We’re in West Palm Beach, Florida. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross. The latter predicts Bret Hart will submit Sid to win the title.

Survivor Series ’96

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Arnold Furious: Fans in the UK often don’t give this show the credit it deserves. I daresay it’s because it aired on a several day delay on the then-new Sky Sports 3, and was VERY heavily edited to fit a 3-hour slot, with the Undertaker-Mankind match getting about 4-minutes and the Bret-Austin match losing 10-15 minutes, with both matches having ad breaks in the middle of them to account for the clipping. The response from fans in Power Slam magazine was overwhelmingly negative, because while Sky had begun showing PPVs live in ’95, this got the shaft because the England cricket team was on tour in Australia and thus needed the all-night slot since it got bigger ratings, and Sky Sports 3 used to close at midnight. But, I love this show. For years I had a copy taped off TV that I played over and over again. I eventually had to buy a copy because I wore it out. Not even from watching the entire show, but rather watching Austin vs. Bret. I watched that match more than any other during this era, including their WrestleMania 13 rematch that other people seem to prefer. When it came to claiming stuff for Volume #4, James tried to barter with me to get Survivor Series ’96, that’s how great this show is. The vibe of the show is that something special is going to happen. Some shows have an atmosphere to them before they even begin. Survivor Series ’96 is one such show.

 

We’re in New York City at Madison Square Garden, the home of professional wrestling. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jim Ross. The following match is from the pre-show Free For All:

 

In Your House 6: Rage In The Cage

 

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Arnold Furious: Seeing as the WWF had gained a busier PPV schedule, this In Your House PPV event would be the first “Road to WrestleMania” style show (though it is rather uncunningly released post-‘Mania by Coliseum). Shawn, having won the Rumble, now faces a challenge from the man who put him on the shelf: Owen Hart. He still doesn’t know his WrestleMania opponent as Bret Hart defends tonight against Diesel. An added twist is that it’s a cage match to stop potential Undertaker interference. This would becomes important later in the evening. The rest of the card? Razor and 1-2-3 Kid finally get it on in a “crybaby” match. Also, Yokozuna has turned face and now opposes Camp Cornette. The WWF has so little else going on that the other live match is HHH vs. Droese in a re-match of the dreadful Free for All bout at the Rumble. And the WWF’s hottest property Vader? He’s suspended for crushing WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. Roddy Piper has taken over the position until Monsoon is fit again. So no Vader match tonight. Boo! Jim Cornette does show up with Vader on the Free for All to promise Vader’s involvement this evening though. We’re in Louisville, Kentucky. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.

 

WrestleMania XII

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Arnold Furious:

 

WWF Tag Team Championship
The Bodydonnas vs. The Godwinns
This is from the pre-show Free For All. Sunny reminds us she was a 2-time winner at the Slammy’s last night. Her voice grates a touch. The Smoking Gunns had established themselves as the company’s top tag team, only for Billy Gunn to suffer an unfortunate neck injury and the belts were vacated a month ago. Now Sunny is out to prove her managerial skills by winning her first tag titles. The Godwinns have “critters” with them. Goats, specifically. The storyline in this one is classic speed vs. power. Henry can tell that story in his sleep. Likewise both Skip and Zip. As long as Phineas doesn’t get much ring time it’ll be ok. Of course, he has a good character where he gets his dander up if suitably provoked. Only Henry can calm him down when he goes off on one of these rampages. The ‘Donnas bail and then play the numbers game thanks to Sunny’s ability to distract. And how! The crazy thing is that both teams are good but just aren’t over, so this era is remembered as a nadir for tag wrestling, but it had simply become out of date. I think the ridiculous nature of both gimmicks didn’t help at a time when fans were turning off the more cartoonish characters. They goof a few times on counters, but Sunny remains the secret weapon as she reveals her undies, in the New Generation heel version of Elizabeth at SummerSlam ’88. Phineas’ mind is suitably blown, as the ladies from his part of the world don’t have butts like that, and he’s rolled up. The Bodydonnas win the tag titles and Sunny gets her first taste of gold. Oddly enough, winning the tag titles was the beginning of the end for Candido. The storylines presented Sunny as more and more whore-like and drove a wedge into their own relationship. He’d end up leaving in the middle of the year while Sunny remained a WWF Superstar. An early diva template and the most prominent female in the company, until Sable arrived. Which, incidentally, is tonight.
Final Rating: **

 

Royal Rumble ’96

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Arnold Furious: This show has a special spot in my heart. It was the first WWF PPV that I saw live. Living in England meant having to pay for almost everything wrestling related. Before obtaining Sky TV I used to watch PPVs that my friends had taped and I used to watch WCW Worldwide for my wrestling fix. But in 1995 I bit the bullet and bought Sky for myself. It was too late to watch Survivor Series, although I caught a repeat, but the Rumble was there to be watched, which is why the Rumble has always been a special match for me. It also explains why I was a big Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels fan. I loved them both anyway but when I started into the PPV world I could see just what made them so special… live, and that added an aura of unpredictability. Given my inexperience with big wrestling events, I went into the 1996 Royal Rumble not knowing what to expect. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious Shawn is going to win. All the hype surrounds him. All the long-term planning is blatantly aimed at getting Shawn over. Hell, he comes out for an in-ring interview before the event, where he renamed his fanbase “The Kliq”. Hindsight is 20-20.

 

We’re in Fresno, California. Sadly the tape contains the Free For All in full. Only two good things about that: 1. Jim Cornette hyping Vader in the Rumble. 2. A Jake friggin’ Roberts promo! Unfortunately Jake’s 1996 comeback tour was lame. Mainly because he was clean, but also because he was in horrible shape. At least it stopped jobbers using the DDT as a transitional move for a while. Every cloud has a silver lining. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Mr. Perfect.

 

Survivor Series ’95

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Arnold Furious: This kicks off a run of shows that I really like. The booking was getting more intelligent, moving forward from show to show and giving people genuine reasons to care about the talent. Coherent booking (or writing, whatever you want to call it) is key to enjoying the WWF’s product. Not every company has problems with incoherent booking as they can generally cover for uneven angles with great matches. Although it’d be fair to say that, in general, the best matches are combined with a good storyline. This PPV is littered with sprouts of recovery. It’s the hope that makes the difference. By this point the WWF was becoming aware of how badly it’d been sucking. It’d take time to adapt to the modern audience and transition into the Attitude era but at least they can’t re-do King of the Ring ’95. That monstrosity is in the books.

We’re in Landover, Maryland. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and a returning Mr. Perfect. He’s been out of the WWF, and wrestling in general, since mid ’94 with his back injury. Hennig won’t compete during this WWF run, but he would become a handy extra member of the commentary team, thus denying Dok Hendrix the opportunity to ruin any more PPV’s.

 

In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings

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Arnold Furious:

 

Sid & 1-2-3 Kid vs. Razor Ramon & Marty Jannetty
Survivor Series caused a rift between former tag partners Kid and Jannetty. The Kid had joined the Million Dollar Corporation but pissed Jannetty off when Sid helped him win the opening Survivor match. Ramon is still the IC champion and Goldust is just starting to get enamoured with him, thus leading to their IC title angle. Jannetty and Kid have decent chemistry and run some fun sequences. There’s no heat on it though, because the fans are eager to see Razor put a beating on the Kid. The Kid can’t get anything without help from Sid, which sums up their angle. The WWF went a bit far with it all and it damaged the Kid’s reputation, where he was totally humiliated every time out, to the point where he got legitimately depressed. The fans are strangely heel, which shows you how outdated the WWF was at the time. They chant loudly for “Sid” and one ringside fan has a sign marked “Marty must die”. The WWF get a bit bored and cut to Goldust for a promo where he wigs everyone out with his admiration of Razor Ramon. Vince doesn’t get it but it’s a killer promo. McMahon also turns on his own wrestlers by calling a slam from the Kid “sloppy”. It was, but it’s very strange hearing Vince actually say so. Kid started getting a bit loose going into 1996, which would lead to a de-push and his eventual move to WCW. Most people seem to put it down to drugs, but Kid isn’t the same talent from this point onwards. Hot tag to Razor and he cleans house. Bulldog finishes Sid off and the faces go over. Sid would promptly get fired/injured (depending on who you believe) and wouldn’t return until the summer. The match was decent to begin with but the Kid started making mistakes and Sid was incredibly lazy at the time. The WWF wasn’t keen on either of them, hence the job in a curtain jerker.
Final Rating: **¼

In Your House 3: Triple Header

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Arnold Furious: As 1995 started to wind up, you could see where the WWF experiment was going. Vince had spent all year injecting new blood. The dark matches for this show included bouts for Triple H, Ahmed Johnson and Goldust. Not all the new blood were talented, but the WWF were at least coming up with ideas and switching things around. Shawn Michaels was undoubtedly part of the driving force behind some major changes. That included a big push for himself, as the showstealer, and he was edging his way into the main events. The only problem being his buddy Diesel; the WWF champion. With this IYH it was decided that gimmicks were required to market and sell the show. The gimmick here sees a main event with all the titles on the line, with Diesel & Michaels defending both of their singles honours against the tag champs; Yokozuna & Owen Hart. But Owen is injured so cue shenanigans. We’re in Saginaw, Michigan. The crowd for this event was barely over 5,000 strong, which even for the WWF at a low ebb, is pretty poor (although this is a smaller venue, it’s not full). Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross, with the Oklahoman joining the announce team officially after bumming around doing interview jobs and such. I suspect this comes about based on Vince’s lack of knowledge when it comes to PBP and he’d certainly be better off just handing over to JR right here and now. I guess Vince figures he’s a better shill man. Everyone predicts Shawn Michaels will lose his IC title so that’s not happening.

 

Tangent: The In Your House music, done all country style at IYH2, is re-done as a bluesy number here, which immediately reminds me of The Wire where they’d re-jig the theme music each series. Same song, different approach. It’s actually fairly ahead of its time and I like it. Plus it’s not country music now, which is always a bonus.

SummerSlam ’95

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Arnold Furious: We’re in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the hottest show of the summer. I think the WWF realised the card for this one might suck and switched out Shawn-Sid for Shawn-Razor in a ladder rematch late in the game, just to give the workrate fans and the spot fans something to get excited about. The rest of the card leaves a lot to be desired. Mabel takes his shot at WWF champion Diesel in the main event. Vince McMahon was considering switching the title here too until the Kliq got their way. I assume the discussion went like this:

Mabel wins WWF title.

???

Profit!

Even the sure-fire, go-to stars were lumbered with horrible matches. Bret is stuck with Isaac Yankem, the wrestling dentist, which is Kane pre-mask and pre-talent. Alundra Blayze’s run of exciting matches against Bull Nakano ends with new challenger Bertha Faye. Vince can at least get his “fatty” jollies from booking the women’s title on a plump lump. Taker wrestles Kama… again. In a casket match… again. The matches I’m most looking forward to are Triple H’s debut against Bob Holly and Skip vs. Barry Horowitz, as that had the best storyline attached to it. Sad state of affairs, really. Hosts are Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler. Dean Douglas will be providing analysis. That’s Shane Douglas, wasted in his home town, with a professor (or something) gimmick.