Shotgun Saturday Night (02/01/97)

Lee Maughan: “Back to where it all began!” barks Vince McMahon, as if the previous four weeks have been some sort of epic journey. Out in the streets, Paul Bearer and Vader are looking through the trash for Mankind, who almost gets himself run over in the streets amidst his excitement for nightclub sex.

Ahmed Johnson vs. Vader
Vader actually ended Ahmed’s undefeated streak last summer if you’ll recall. Naturally, that isn’t referenced here, which is a shame because it might add some colour to an otherwise bland, pointless affair. It’s not bad, it’s just not particularly interesting. Typical WWF big man stuff with punches, clotheslines, shoulderblocks, you know the drill. Ahmed gets a mighty spinebuster that sends Vader packing, but back from the commercial break we find Vader in control (what a surprise) with elbows and punches. Vader charges with an avalanche in the corner but hesitates on the Vaderbomb, allowing Ahmed to punt him in the gooch and land a spinning heel kick. He goes for the Pearl River Plunge but Mankind jumps in with a steel chair for the disqualification (hell, what would Shotgun be without a DQ to really get the party rocking?) Mankind and Vader tease accidentally nailing each other with the chair a couple of times (Mankind had belted Vader with a chair by accident on RAW this past week) before Ahmed takes it and runs both guys off. Average power stuff with no real point to it.
Final Rating: **

– Back in the green room, the Headbangers are busy pouring hot wax all over themselves because “this club sucks!”

Mankind vs. The British Bulldog
“Oh, what a body!” Sunny declares of Davey Boy. A pure coincidence then that Shawn Michaels has been removed from the source tape’s opening credits this week, yes? Davey is playing a total babyface here as part of his ongoing angle with Owen Hart that was to see the duo split before Bret Hart’s heel turn caused a cataclysmic shift in the WWF’s overall direction, resulting in the formation of his new Hart Foundation stable. Mankind is still at ringside after the previous match and isn’t actually prepared to wrestle, nominating Aldo Montoya as a substitute for him since he’s just here to party. You can tell that from his clobber, bedecked as he is in a raggedy old coat, sweatpants and white sneakers. Oh, Mick.

Bulldog starts tearing those party clothes to shreds and kicks Mankind’s ass for a while, with Mankind vainly attempting to return to the broadcast booth the whole time in a funny bit.  Bulldog follows him out and backdrops him up on the stage, drawing an “ECW!” chant from the crowd. Hey, at least it’s not “bWo!” again. Mankind takes a nasty leg-first spill on the stage so Bulldog goes after it. Mankind fights back and Davey really gets into the swing of things, over-selling a charging knee to the face much to my eternal delight. Mankind drops a leg across the back of Davey’s head as Vader returns just in time for another commercial break.

Action resumes with Bulldog countering a piledriver into a backdrop up on the stage for another round of “ECW!” chants, but Mankind uses Davey Boy’s tights for leverage to pull him into the path of Vader, who drops him across the security railing a couple of times before sending him back inside, where Mankind picks up an easy pin. Vader and Mankind then double-team Davey after the match, setting up their WrestleMania 13 crack at Davey and Owen’s tag titles, before Ahmed Johnson rushes the ring with a 2×4. Where the hell did he find that in a nightclub? Davey, not quite a babyface yet despite fist bumping a bunch of dudes in the front row during his entrance, takes umbrage at the presence of Ahmed, and the two get into a shoving match to set up a match that never happens. This was fun while it lasted though, and an interesting clash of styles that really mixed well to boot.
Final Rating: **½

Savio Vega vs. Jesse Jammes
Phineas Godwinn joins the broadcast team for this one, mainly just so he and Sunny can banter back-and-forth. I know Dennis Knight comes in for some serious stick from the scribes here at History of Wrestling, but credit where it’s due – he is perfectly acceptable as the dopey bumpkin here. Savio breaks out a few more interesting moves here than he did last week, like a crescent kick and a spinning heel kick, but he’s still finding his feet as a heel and has a seeming over reliance on nerve pinches, chinlocks and chokes. Jammes does what he can to make it interesting, using a jaw buster that he actually sells himself, and rallying with mounted punches, clotheslines and a back drop. Savio manages to counter a pump handle slam attempt with a hiptoss, and finishes with another spinning heel kick. Jesse showed a lot of fire when he was on offence and Savio tried really hard to get his new heel persona across, but the majority of his offensive arsenal was a one-way ticket to snoozeville.
Final Rating:

– Pettengill tries to get another interview with the Headbangers back in the green room, but Mosh gets sick and vomits all over Thrasher’s face… before the ‘Bangers wipe the puke up and eat it all. The WWF, ladies and germs. Lowbrow comedy at its low-browiest.

The Headbangers vs. The Godwinns
Yes, we’ve actually come full circle. And what a second half-hour this has been, huh? The crowd are now dead for this, but then if you will insist on booking pig farmers as babyfaces in New York nightclubs, you deserve everything you get. The Godwinns decide to work the arm as Vince decides to amuse himself by claiming Hillbilly Jim has gone duck hunting in Central Park. Back from commercial and nothing much is going on in the ring, though Vince does seem to get a zinger in on Sunny – “Well it is the flu season… and you should know!” Is that a reference to the fact she was knocking off Shawn Michaels, who had worked the Royal Rumble show despite being sick as a dog? Henry gets a supposed hot tag but nobody reacts to it, then all four guys spill to the floor and brawl into the crowd as the bell rings for a double DQ or a double count-out or a double something. It’s never adequately explained what the actual finish is, as the show goes immediately off the air, but I guess that’s better than just saying you’re out of time and promising to air the finish next week despite having no intention of ever doing so.
Final Rating:

 

THE SHOTGUN RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Mankind scoops the award for the second week running as his humour really shone through in his opening skit, his comedy and his match with Davey Boy Smith.

 

Least Entertaining: Savio Vega becomes another two-time award winner here, and on a 60-minute show with the Godwinns too! Shameful.

Quote of the Night: “I like how this headphone feels against my missing ear!” – Mankind joins Vince and Sunny for commentary during “The Man I Call My Friend” Vader’s match.

Match of the Night: Mankind also takes another consecutive award here for his match with Davey Boy Smith.

Summary: Remember when Ahmed Johnson powerbombed D’Lo Brown on the hood of a car? Remember when Marlena got her norks out and gave the Sultan a thrill? Remember when Terry Funk went on a profanity-laced tirade at the expense of WCW and everyone in sight? In less than a month’s time we’ve gone from that to lengthy, heatless matches with ring wizards like Savio Vega and the Godwinns, and the disturbing sight of the Headbangers blowing chunks into each other’s mouths. True enough, Davey Boy was working hard and Mankind provided some wacky fun, but this show has already jumped the shark. Hell, Todd Pettengill doesn’t even look like he’s having much fun out there any more, and Vince McMahon has clearly given up, having already dumped his casual WWF letterman jacket in favour of a much more conservative formal suit. The end is nigh.
Verdict: 21

Shotgun Saturday Night (01/25/97)

WWE.com

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

SummerSlam ’99

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James Dixon: We are in Minnesota, home of one Jesse Ventura, and the Governor is the special guest referee for the triple-threat main event tonight. Ventura gets into a debate with Triple H about following the rules, to which Hunter reacts like a petulant, whiny child. That is the way he came across to me for the entirety of his heel run prior to winning the WWF Title for the first time, with him acting like he had some sort of God-given right to the gold. Frankly after some of his performances from 1995 through 1997, he is lucky he even kept his job.

Backlash ’99

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Arnold Furious: This show comes right on the back of the WWF’s hugely underwhelming WrestleMania XV show, one I really detested. I think WMXV was the first big disappointment from the Attitude era. There had been other poor shows, but for a WrestleMania to not deliver in the midst of the biggest wrestling boom since the height of Hulkamania just seemed unacceptable to me. Eager to ensure Backlash didn’t fail, the WWF set about re-booking WrestleMania. They switched Mankind vs. Big Show into a Boiler Room Brawl, as opposed to the dull, straight-up match they had at ‘Mania, and gave Austin and Rock room to breath in their big rematch. 1999, arguably, only has three decent PPV events and Backlash is one of them. 1999’s event was the first Backlash PPV. It would continue on the schedules until 2009.

 

We’re in Providence, Rhode Island. Hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. The main event has recently been declared No Holds Barred, apart from Austin touching referee Shane McMahon, which is a DQ and results in a title change. Got that? Good.

 

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

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Arnold Furious: The WWF isn’t known for its class. There have been several dubious decisions by them over the years (including but not limited to; necrophilia, coffin surfing, miscarriages and faked death), but nobody ever seems to flag up their decision to name a 1999 PPV after the real-life murder of seven men. The actual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre took place some 70 years earlier so perhaps the WWF could be guilty of either ignorance, not knowing what happened, or considering enough time had passed to make light of those events. Given that one of the S’s in “Massacre” is backwards on the edge of the video cassette; I’m going with the former. However, what better gangster for the WWF to name something after than Al Capone? As American as Vince and company, and often in trouble with the government, Capone was a figurehead for his respective career choice. Al Capone is The Gangster. Much like Vince McMahon is The Wrestling Promoter. Vince’s own Valentine’s Day Massacre was buying out his rivals and firing them live on TV. Perhaps the title is more appropriate than at first glance.

 

We’re in Memphis, Tennessee. Hosts are Michael Cole (unfortunately) and Jerry Lawler. The latter is over HUGE, thus proving he was Memphis wrestling to many people.

Royal Rumble ’99

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Arnold Furious: I’m going to level with you right now; 1999 is a terrible year for wrestling. Dreadful matches, silly angles and not a decent in-ring performer in sight until the arrival of ‘The Saviour’ Kurt Angle toward the end of the year. My dislike of the year is intensified by this damn video tape, which has degraded worse than any other tape I own. I have tapes 15-years older that are almost immaculate. This one is all scratchy and has horrible audio.

 

Backstage: Video Control gives us footage of Rumble participants. They discuss the $100,000 bounty on Steve Austin and Chyna coming in at #30, but nobody cuts a shouty promo. They’re almost shoots, like Jeff Jarrett casually talking about the Rumble being a special match in a neutral manner. They’re more like the kind of interviews you see on superstar DVD releases nowadays.

 

We’re in Anaheim, California. Hosts are Michael Cole (urgh) and Jerry Lawler. Jim Ross recently had a relapse of his Bell’s Palsy, giving us my least favourite commentator pairing outside of Mark Madden and Stevie Ray.

In Your House 10: Mind Games

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James Dixon: Everyone that collects VHS tapes knows about this video. The US release is one of the rarest and most sought after wrestling tapes out there. It was one of the few that were only available from WWF Magazine mail order and thus had a very limited release. If you have an official copy (again, the Coliseum Video release rather than the Silver Vision UK title, which is fairly common and can be snapped up for around £10), hang onto it, because it can sell for over $200! An absurd amount for a video tape, but this does have a main event that almost makes it worth it…

 

Arnold Furious: Desperation is an intriguing thing. It makes you try new things, anything, to make a difference. With WCW absolutely killing the WWF creatively in 1996, Vince McMahon was suddenly open to doing different things, which gave us the Boiler Room Brawl at SummerSlam, Paul Bearer’s shocking heel turn and Mick Foley scoring a massive victory over the Undertaker. The original plan was to give Taker time off to build to another match, but desperation kicked in once again. So Foley found himself as top contender and challenger for the WWF title on this show, which would prove to be a great decision, while Taker would finish up with Goldust. Mark Henry is thrust into the PPV limelight here, following his run-in with Jerry Lawler the previous month, and makes his in-ring debut. Finally Owen Hart and the British Bulldog were set to team up and save the tag division. This was the first major show after Vince McMahon’s assertion that the WWF should change. Attitude really began in 1996. The changes had been happening (Goldust’s stuff especially), but the angles would start getting a little stranger from here on in. Case in point is the sheer number of quasi-shoot comments and occurrences on this PPV.

 

We’re in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect.

In Your House 11: Buried Alive

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Arnold Furious: This was released after the Survivor Series show that it preceded, so this is before Bret Hart returned and still during Shawn Michaels’ WWF title run. And yet he’s not on the show either, demoted to a live title defence against Goldust for the paying local rubes (with Goldust doing bizarre double duty where he challenges for both WWF and IC title in the same night). The PPV audience have to make do with a bizarre gimmick match between Mick Foley’s Mankind and the Undertaker. The winner being the man to bury his opponent alive. We’re in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. JR is having microphone problems as part of his “Evil JR” heel turn angle. Incidentally, the WWF had started doing preview pieces before the shows and this one is terrific. Mainly because Mick Foley was a great promo guy and Undertaker knew his character inside out.

SummerSlam ’96

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Arnold Furious: We’re in Cleveland, Ohio. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Mr Perfect. Lawler has a match tonight so he’s not commentating. Jake Roberts actually turned up for this PPV so Lawler’s match is still on. Ahmed Johnson’s isn’t however as his kidney problems caused him to forfeit the IC title.

 

The following is from the pre-show Free For All:

 

There’s a beach party going on, which gives Sable an excuse to run around in a bikini. Aldo Montoya wearing his head-strap and shorts makes him look like an uber-dork. Interesting that Marlena gets a huge pop for wearing her skimpy beachwear. She’d end up being the driving force behind Goldust’s face turn. Todd Pettengill makes creepy remarks about wanking into Sunny’s bikini. I’m not even joking about that. Steve Austin walks past for his match and threatens to kick Pettengill’s ass. His attitude is starting to pay off and he gets a decent reaction. Shame about his generic heel music.

 

Steve Austin vs. Yokozuna
Yoko was a WHALE by this point. Before the year was out he’d be sent home to get into a better shape than “round”. Austin flips him off, which would normally lead to a Stunner, but he runs into a Samoan Drop. Yoko goes for the Banzai Drop but he’s too fat and pulls the top rope off, allowing Austin to roll him up for the win. They’d done a similar finish before, most notably at WrestleMania X against Bret Hart, but this was the best version of it. I still don’t understand why they couldn’t rig the rope to do that at ‘Mania X. It would have made more sense than Yoko’s sudden inability to stand. Perhaps he suffered from an inner ear infection or something?
Final Rating: *

 

JR interviews the Undertaker and Paul Bearer. Jim mentions the Boiler Room Brawl is no DQ and asks Bearer about the match. Bearer mentions how the urn will be safe because he’ll be holding it. Hmm. In retrospect that sounds suspicious.

 

Backstage, Jerry Lawler appears to have shit in the pool so they call TL Hopper to sort it. Turns out it’s a chocolate bar. Poor guy. I bet he misses SMW already. They switch to a shot of Sunny sunbathing and WOW. That’s the money shot right there.

 

King of the Ring ’96

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Arnold Furious: This is a famous show for one very obvious reason; it’s historically become “The Austin Show”, as Steve Austin took the WWF by the scruff of the neck and made it his bitch. In one promo, Austin changed the WWF’s landscape forever, the profanity and aggression making him a huge fan favourite. Austin didn’t wait for his chance to become a star in the WWF, he just kicked the door down and beat everybody up. As I’ve mentioned before, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was originally due to win the tournament but his appearance in Madison Square Garden as part of the now infamous “Curtain Call” incident derailed his push. We’re in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Owen Hart, with the wrong one on play-by-play.