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The 1997 WWF Project


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I'm going to watch all of the WWF PPVs that happened on 1997. I'll cover the more memorable TV matches too. 1997 might be my favourite year for the WWF as there hasn't been a year where so much changed over the course of the year. If you compare January 1997 to December 1997, it's like looking at two different companies. Let's see if it holds up. 

WWF Royal Rumble 1997 (1/19/1997)

WWF Intercontinental Title Match    
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Curtis Hughes) (c) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)

Goldust is an excellent worker and Hunter was decent enough by this point in his career. Both men can throw a neat punch and they spent a lot of this one brawling outside the ring in between the less exciting moments when they keep it in the ring. Goldust gets a little too heavy-handed during the brawling and starts using the steel steps right in front of Earl Hebner, who does nothing. This really lit a fire under Jim Ross's ass as he chews out Hebner for not officiating correctly. Hunter does a Ric Flair-style flop beak-first onto the steel steps that the fans found amusing. Curtis Hughes makes his return as Hunter's new bodyguard and he was about as useless as you would expect Mr. Hughes has been throughout his career. The finish we got here was an overly-contrived screwy one, with both Hughes and Marlena getting involved. This was fine, if not a little dull in places. ★★½

Ahmed Johnson vs. Faarooq (w/Clarence Mason, Crush, D-Lo Brown, JC Ice & Wolfie D)
We are on our second match for the PPV and this is the second match on the show where a wrestler hits another weapon right in front of the referee and the referee does nothing! Ahmed is back from injury and you can start to see the wheels coming off for him physically by just how he moves around the ring. The guy looks in pain. Faarooq tries to get a good match out of Ahmed by trash-talking and keeping the action simple, but he's no miracle worker and Faarooq's best in-ring years were behind him by this point. Despite how unrealistic it was, I did enjoy seeing Ahmed scoop up Faarooq in the electric chair position when Faarooq was too busy jaw-jacking with the fans. This was short enough to not be too offensive, and the table bump during the post-match looked cool and it gave Ahmed and the NOD a reason to keep feuding. ★½

Vader vs. The Undertaker
Both men aren't afraid to lay it into each other and the punches here look very convincing. Seeing Vader cower away from Undertaker in fear during his shine just doesn't didn't sit right with me, even if was decent at being a chickenshit. The WWF really screwed up with Vader by having him be a cowardly heel instead of a kick-ass world-beater. Undertaker is one of the few stars that the dead crowd seems to give a crap about. Undertaker puts some effort in here by pulling out some different stuff, such as countering Vader's back body drop by landing a nice jumping leg drop as Vader bends down. Vader scores a rare pinfall win over Undertaker after Paul Bearer makes an appearance and hits Undertaker with the urn. Undertaker gets some of his heat back by choke-slamming the referee after the bell. This had quite a slow place and they would have a better PPV match later in the year, but I didn't hate this. ★★½

Fuerza Guerrera, Heavy Metal & Jerry Estrada vs. Canek, Hector Garza & Perro Aguayo
This was a failed exhibition for the AAA guys. They went way too long and they didn't give the fans anything to care about. It felt like no one in the audience had any idea who anyone in this match was. Heavy Metal tries and fails to get them involved by showing some love with a pro-USA rallying call. We got a few cool spots and sequences here and there, but they wouldn't keep the action flowing well. I did enjoy seeing Perry Aguayo as the old salty vet, even if he did fuck up the finish by completely missing his opponent with his double foot stomp from the top finish. He then had to come up with another finish on the fly and it was flat as a pancake. ★¾

Royal Rumble Match
This was quite a hard Rumble to sit through. It was so dull, with the fans sitting on their hands in silence for the majority of it. The AAA guys added nothing to the match, and it only went to show how egotistic Mil Mascaras is as he eliminated himself as didn't want anyone to get a rub from eliminating him. Owen ends up eliminating British Bulldog, which is the first sign of them teasing a break-up. Austin's reaction to Bret Hart coming out was by far my favourite moment of this match. His reaction was priceless. Jerry Lawler's being a surprise entrant and getting eliminated seconds later was genuinely quite funny and added some much-needed personality into the match. The match starts to show a bit of life once Bret and other stars join the match. I liked the screwy finish, with Austin sneaking back into the match after both referees were too pre-occupied with Funk and Mankind fighting on the outside to notice that Austin was actually thrown out by Bret. Austin gets the biggest victory of his career up to this point and it gave Bret a reason to finally start embracing the heel side. ★★

WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
Sycho Sid (c) vs. Shawn Michaels (w/Jose Lothario)

HBK had the flu here and you can tell that he wasn't running at 100%. Sid's stuff here was basic, but worked over Shawn's back and brought enough crazed facials to the table to keep his control segment interesting. Shawn using the TV camera was a nice callback to their Survivor Series match where Sid used the camera to dethrone Michaels as WWF Champion. This was an entertaining enough main event, but you can't help to think that this match (and the entire show) would have been improved if it happened at a smaller arena that was sold out with passionate fans instead of a stadium that had a heavily papered attendance. The fans were louder for this than any other match on this card, but it didn't quite feel like the triumphant homecoming victory that they were hoping for. ★★¾

Final Thoughts: This is far from being one of the worst PPVs that WWF had put up to at this time, but there's nothing here to go out of your way to watch. The massive stadium doesn't do that much to make things feel big-time when the atmosphere still feels so lifeless. 

WWF In Your House 13: Final Four (2/16/1997)

Marc Mero (w/Sable) vs. Leif Cassidy
This reminded me of the many Mero matches that used to open WCW PPVs, as this was a match that was decent enough to open the show without stealing the spotlight from the bigger matches on the show. Mero is a charismatic guy, and he can coast by on that and he was never really that interesting in-ring when you strip away all his presentation and the high spots from his moveset. Cassidy does a good enough job at working over Mero's leg. The camera keeps cutting to Sable and you can tell that the fed has big plans for here. Jerry Lawler can't stop making domestic abuse jokes about her, sheesh. Cassidy's downfall comes when he can't keep his eyes off Sable and it ends up costing him. Mero's finish is still quite a sight to see, even in 2022. ★★½

Bart Gunn, Flash Funk & Goldust (w/Marlena) vs. The Nation Of Domination (Crush, Faarooq & Savio Vega) (w/Clarence Mason, D-Lo Brown, JC Ice & Wolfie D)
The Nation beat a thrown-together team of babyface lower-card guys by playing the numbers game once again. Ahmed wasn't on the card tonight, so this felt like a TV match to heat up the Nation by giving them yet another victory before Ahmed and friends come to save the day. Funk gets to show off his agility and high spots during his shine and he was by far the most impressive man of the match. Funk gets his water cut off once the Nation comes to get and catch him during a dive attempt. Funk eventually makes a hot tag and the match turns into a fight with everyone getting involved, and Crush is able to sneak in and drop a leg on the legal Bart Gunn and seal the victory for the Nation. ★★

WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Rocky Maivia (c) vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley

This was quite impressive given that Rocky didn't even have a year under his belt at this point. Hunter tries to psych out Rocky by slapping him on the head, but this fails and Rocky shows a tiny bit of attitude and slaps Hunter back. Hunter carried the bulk of the match, and Rocky jumped through the hoops that Hunter set up. Rocky's stuff looks excellent, with his crossbody, arm drags, and dropkicks all looking nice and crisp. Hunter gets in some 80s wrestler worship by doing the Harley Race knee drop, the Flair turnbuckle bump, and the DiBiase front bump after getting punched in the mid-section after coming off the ropes. Goldust ends up costing Hunter the match, but Hunter gets the last laugh as Chyna makes her debut and chokes out Marlena. I can see why people started to turn on Rock at this time because of his character and booking, but you would have to be disingenuous to call him a bad worker as he clearly had all the tools to go far, even at this point in his career. ★★★¼

WWF World Tag Team Title Match
Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (w/Clarence Mason) (c) vs. Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon

This felt quite similar to the tag match these two tag teams had on Raw leading up to this. It's quite work-rate heavy, but they kept things different here by bringing some fresh exchanges to the mix and this bout had more emphasis on tag team psychology than their previous outing. Bulldog and Owen are constantly cheating behind the referee's back. Bulldog looked more fired up than I can ever remember him looking during his WWF run. Perhaps he was worried he would look outclassed by the other three talented men in this match and decided to put on his working boots? They are still teasing Bulldog and Owen splitting up and they come to blows here after a miscommunication sees Bulldog getting kicked in the jaw by Owen. I know some people weren't pleased by the DQ finish, but I thought it worked for the story they were trying to tell and it wouldn't have made sense to stick the tag straps on Furnas and LaFon as they weren't over enough to win them. ★★★½

WWF World Heavyweight Title Final Four Battle Royal
Vader (w/Paul Bearer) vs. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker

This was chaotic. We might see multi-man matches on a weekly basis in 2022, but this felt fresh and the crowd came alive for this. Undertaker kicks a steel chair into Vader's face and he bleeds a right gusher. Vader bleeding through his mask made for a harrowing visual that will stick with me for a while. We get a lot of brawling around the ring and up the aisle. Bret Hart can brawl as well as he can wrestle. Seeing Vader and Austin clobber the crap out of each other makes me feel sad that we didn't get a proper program between them. Austin is eliminated first by Bret, but that won't be the last time we will see him tonight. The over-the-top eliminations were obviously put in place to protect everyone, but I don't think it hurt the match. Bret gets one last babyface hurrah before his world comes crashing down on him and he finally turns heel. ★★★★

Final Thoughts: 
Even with Shawn vacating his title and forcing the WWF to create a new main event with less than a week's notice, this show is a bit of a hidden gem. The two hours just fly by and there's nothing offensive on the card. The last three matches range from good to great and the first two are decent enough. Give this a watch if you fancy something short and sweet.

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WWF Wrestlemania 13 (3/23/1997)

Four Way Elimination Tag Team Match
Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon vs. The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) (w/Hillbilly Jim) vs. The Head Bangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. The New Blackjacks (Blackjack Bradshaw & Blackjack Windham)

The New Blackjacks could have worked as a great hoss heel team if they weren't saddled knocking off a gimmick that was over two decades old at this point. I never understood Vince's obsession with making 'new' versions of classic tag teams. There's a bit of confusion about the rules as both Headbangers are the two legal men at one point. We are told that they have to fight or risk being disqualified, which is a dumb ruling as it makes zero sense for tag partners to fight in a tag match. Furnas hits a beautiful frankensteiner on one of the Blackjacks. Blackjacks and Lafon & Furnas are easily the most enjoyable parts of this match, although it's not long until both of them are eliminated in succession. Firstly the Blackjacks get DQ'd by attacking a referee, then Lafon & Furnas are counted out. The Godwins take control of The Headbangers as Lawler and McMahon have some great lines about McMahon being out of touch with rock music. The Headbangers eventually pick up the win after using their speed and aerial attacks. This did its job of getting over The Headbangers as a quirky yet likable opening tag team. Meltzer gave this one negative stars, but I have no idea why it's so low as it's a perfectly acceptable tag match. It's a bit clunky when all four teams were in the match, but some of the high spots make up for it. ★★

WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Rocky Maivia (c) vs. The Sultan (w/Bob Backlund & The Iron Sheik)

The Honky Tonk Man joins the commentary team for this and he's humorously out of place for 1997. The Rocky Maivia character has been a massive bomb so far, with many 'Rocky sucks' chants being heard throughout the match. Rocky can clearly work and he's got all the fundamentals down, but he desperately needs a different presentation. The Sultan can't work an interesting control segment to save his life. He keeps Rocky in a chin lock that felt like it went on forever. The only entertainment I got from this part of the match was the commentary. Rocky's dancing comeback is cheap initiation of his dad's, it's no wonder why he didn't get over initially. After hitting his signature top rope crossbody, Rocky goes for a pin only for the referee to be distracted by Bob Backlund and Iron Sheik at ringside. After a Sultan false-finish, Rocky scores a roll-up for the win. The heels lead a post-match attack and eventually Rocky Johnson gets involved and helps his son clean house. It's nice that they gave Johnson a moment at Wrestlemania, but it did his son no favours as it made him look like a Daddy's boy. This match was saved from being completely dull by the ending and the post-match stuff. ★¾

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)
Despite also being a heel, Lawler rips on Chyna's appearance. Stay classy, Jerry. Goldust starts this match with the shine you would expect any southern babyface to get. Great Punches Dustin brawls Helmsley all over the place, getting him tied up in the ropes, a spot that has to be as old as pro-wrestling itself. Goldust is cut off by taking a nasty spill to the outside after a failed top rope move. The rest of the match consists of Goldust keep getting cut off whenever he tries to make a comeback. After standing still the entirety of the match, Chyna makes her way to Marlena. Marlena ends up in a bearhug as Chyna violently ragdolls her about. This distraction is enough for HHH to land a Pedigree and get the win. This was nothing fancy, but both men know how to work and the Chyna attacking Marlena made for a scary sight. ★★¾

WWF World Tag Team Title Match
Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (c) vs. Mankind & Vader (w/Paul Bearer)
Both teams are heels, but Bulldog and Owen work as faces for this match. Bulldog does some cool power spots on Vader and Owen does a decent job at being a face, despite being a heel for most of his WWF run. I think he would have fared better if they gave us a reason to cheer him. Lawler absolutely loses his shit when he finds out that Stu and Helen Hart are at ringside, as he rips into them in typical King fashion. Bulldog gets a hot tag and throws Mankind violently into the turnbuckle twice. The match goes to a double count-out after Mankind and Bulldog get knocked outside. Looking at all the phenomenal talent in this match, this should have been better than it was. Being a heel vs heel match and having a weak non-finish all didn't help matters. Vader was clearly done with the WWF at this point, it's crazy to think that he would stick around for another year. ★★½

No Holds Barred Submission Match (Special Referee: Ken Shamrock)
Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin

Even watching these two trade punches is elite-tier stuff. They brawl throughout the crowd and it feels organic. The crowd, who have been quiet all night, wake up as soon as the crowd brawling starts. Once their back in the ring, Bret starts his assault on Austin's leg. Austin sells this so well, flailing all over the place. Austin tries to keep with Bret, but Bret keeps cutting him off. After getting cut open, Austin doesn't have much more to give. He tries to choke out Bret with an electrical cord, but Bret wails him with a ring bell. All the weapon spots have meaning and aren't just used to add a nice spot here and there. Austin passes out in the Sharpshooter, and Shamrock calls for the bell. J. R's call of Austin never giving up adding a lot to his face turn. This is so much more than just a good bladejob. This is still the best match that WWF/E have ever put on. ★★★★★

Chicago Street Fight
Ahmed Johnson & The Legion Of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk) vs. The Nation Of Domination (Crush, Faarooq & Savio Vega) (w/Clarence Mason, D-Lo Brown, JC Ice & Wolfie D)

Yeah, I still enjoy this a lot. By no means a perfect brawl as the match starts to lose some of its intensity before they wrap up, but LOD and Ahmed Johnson look larger than life handling the entire Nation of Domination. Ahmed looks like a total star rocking his LOD gear. LOD are well past their prime, but you wouldn't have noticed due to the chaotic pace of the match (if you can ignore that horrific piledriver spot where Faarooq gets dropped on his head). This type of ECW garbage brawling just wasn't seen in a major federation at the time. This is the only street fight that WWE has done that actually lives up to its name. ★★★½

WWF World Heavyweight Title No Disqualification Match
Sycho Sid (c) vs. The Undertaker

I'm something of a Sid apologist. I love that daft bastard, but even I can't justify this. No Sid match should go 20-plus minutes because the result is this stinker. Bret Hart coming down at the start of this match to cut a whining promo might just be the best part of this. Sid spends a lot of time keeping Undertaker in rest holds and the most interesting thing he does here is crap his pants, and we don't even know if he actually did the deed or if it's just some urban legend. Undertaker not being able to show emotion limits him when he's teasing a comeback. The worst match on the card and a stinker of a Wrestlemania main event. At least the crowd seemed to enjoy this. ★½

Final Thoughts:
It's hard to rate this show as it features what I believe to be the best match that WWF/E have ever put on, even if the rest of the card was lacking. Outside of Austin/Bret, the street fight is the only thing worth going out of your way to see. 

WWF 1997 TV Odds and Ends Q1

WWF Monday Night Raw (1/20/1997)
Doug Furnas & Philip LaFon vs. Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (w/Clarence Mason)
This was better than anything that was on the PPV the night before. Owen had eliminated Bulldog during the Rumble match, and even though we are told that Bulldog and Owen had patched things up, you still get the feeling that one miscommunication is all that this team needs to implode. They managed to keep things together for this match. The match itself was good stuff, a proper workrate sprint. I can see why Furnas and LaFon didn't make it in WWF due to them seriously lacking in the charisma department, but they are really fun to watch wrestle. LaFon was the quicker of the team, who could keep up with Owen during their exchanges. Furnas was more of a powerhouse and I loved watching him entering the ring by shoulder charging the socks off Owen. I'm looking forward to checking out their PPV rematch after seeing this, even if the result here was decisive. ★★★½

WWF Monday Night Raw (1/20/1997)
Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker

All it takes is one look at Austin here during this show and you can see why he blew up in 1997. He moves with a purpose and is so intense that you can feel him through your screen. This was a fired-up brawl that ends with Vader rushing the rings and forcing the match to be called off after ten minutes of total match time. Bret Hart comes out and we have a four-way brawl as Raw goes off the air. This match obviously wasn't booked to be a classic match or anything. Instead it felt like a teaser for the upcoming PPV and I'm sure this hot angle helped convince a good amount of people to part with their cash for the event. Fun fact: this was the third time that Austin and Undertaker had faced each other in televised singles matches and every match had gone to a non-finish! ★★★

WWF Thursday Raw Thursday (2/12/1997)
WWF Intercontinental Title Match

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c) vs. Rocky Maivia
It's still early days for Rocky, as you can tell he is still very inexperienced here. He put in a good effort here, even if he has already started to receive heckles from the audience. Hunter was calling this and did a good job at guiding his green opponent. This starts slow and takes a while to get going. The Honky Tonk Man comes down after the commercial break and joins the commentary team. Hunter brings some much-needed color to the match by slapping Rocky in the face and showing some aggression as he wails away at him. After Rocky takes a lot of punishment and kicks out all everything that Hunter throws at him, the fans seem to be into Rock and he gets a huge pop when Rocky is able to sneak away with the win after catching Hunter in a small package. ★★¾

WWF Monday Night Raw (2/17/1997)
WWF World Heavyweight Title Match

Bret Hart (c) vs. Sycho Sid
Bret had won the title the previous night during the Final Four match. Austin wants Bret dead after Bret eliminated him from the match. Austin had attacked Bret twice leading up to this match and you know he will make himself seen during this match. Bret had his work cut out for him here. Getting a good match out of Sid isn't easy, but he put in an admirable effort. This has a rocky start, with the match feeling directionless and cumbersome. Bret tries to work over Sid's leg while Sid clobbers away at Hart. Sid was working stiffer than usual. Bret's famous turnbuckle figure four makes its TV debut here. In a bit of foreshadowing, Bret shows his heel side by initially refusing the break the hold. Sid hits the ugliest sunset flip ever, but I give him props for trying something new. Austin eventually shows himself and brains Bret with a chair just as Hart had this won. The referee doesn't see this and Sid is able to take advantage of this and win the title. This had a hot finish and built up Hart and Austin's rivalry wonderfully, so it did everything it set out to do, even if the match is far from being one of Bret's best. ★★½

WWF Monday Night Raw (taped 2/26/1997, aired 3/3/1997)
WWF Intercontinental Title Match

Rocky Maivia (c) vs. Vader (w/Paul Bearer)
Vader previous had pinned Rocky during the quarter-finals of the European Title tournament earlier in the week. Vader is now out of the tournament but has earned a shot at Rocky's IC strap. Rocky getting paired with Vader is a smart move. Having Vader beat the hell of out Rocky and putting some hairs on his chest will give him a much-needed edge. One strike sends Rocky to the ground and Vader proceeds to hammer Rocky's pretty face up some more. However, it is not long before Vader starts to go on autopilot and works over Rocky with some uninspired holds. Vader was phoning it in here and this match is further hindered by a bad DQ finish. Just as the match starts heating up, Mankind comes out of nowhere and nails Rocky with Paul Bearer's urn. This was fine overall, but it's nothing going out of your way to see. ★★¼

WWF Monday Night Raw (taped 2/26/1997, aired 3/3/1997)
WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
Sycho Sid (c) vs. Mankind (w/Paul Bearer)

I was curious to see what Mankind could get out of Sid and the result is a decent brawl that featured nothing fancy. Sid wastes no time attacking Mankind as he enters the ring and they brawl on the outside, with Mankind taking a stiff bump into the ring post after missing a shoulder charge. The majority of the in-ring stuff here was basic, but we do see Sid pull out a Fujiwara armbar for some reason. Sid clobbers away at Mankind and pulls on his hair. Mankind is able to get on the Mandible Claw, but Sid easily fights out of the hold. Paul Bearer takes a tumble after Sid shoves Mankind into him. Sid follows this up for a chokeslam for a near-fall, before finally putting Mankind to bed with the powerbomb. It never felt like Mankind had a chance here. Sid looked over with the German crowd though. ★★½

WWF Monday Night Raw (taped 2/26/1997, aired 3/3/1997)
WWF European Title Tournament Final Match 
Owen Hart vs. The British Bulldog

Hart and Bulldog trade old Stampede and World Of Sport spots for 18 minutes. We get some jaw-dropping sequences here. Bulldog was super motivated here and was able to keep up with Owen. My main nitpick about this one is that eventually drop the brilliant story they were telling about Owen getting jealous of Bulldog and instead just do a finishing stretch that is just crammed full with false finishes with no story to it. It's still an exciting match and it's WWF's best Raw match up to this point in history. The performance that Owen put in as Bulldog started getting the better of him was great. He's forced to feign an injury, so he's able to get a few shots in. If they were able to have a finish that played off Owen's jealousy and the 'friendly rivalry gone sour' thing they had going on, then I could easily see myself giving this the full marks. ★★★★½

WWF Raw Is War (3/17/1997)
WWF World Heavyweight Title Steel Cage Match
Sycho Sid (c) vs. Bret Hart

This is the match where Bret goes full heel during the post-match and cuts one of the most blistering promos in company history. The match itself is kept simple and things don't get interesting until Austin interferes. Austin wants Bret to win this so they can fight for the title at Wrestlemania. Undertaker soon comes to Sid's aid. The four-man brawl on top of the cage was quite the visual and they had the crowd eating out of their hands. They do the spot where both men are trying to get out of the cage, with Bret trying to leave through the door while Sid climbs over the cage. Undertake is able to shut the door on Bret and Sid retains. After they come back from the commercial break, Bret shoves Vince to the mat and cuts the famous promo that must have pissed off the suits for the USA network with how many times Bret cursed! All four men brawl as the show goes off the air. This is more of an angle than a match, but what a hot angle it is! ★★★

WWF Raw Is War (3/31/1997)
WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Rocky Maivia (c) vs. Bret Hart

75% of this match was Bret working over Rocky, but Bret was so a pro at crafting a compelling control segment that I can't fault this! The way his heel side would slowly creep out was just masterful. Bret has just turned heel a few weeks early. His body language is sublime and you can tell that he's a heel just by how he circles Rocky before they lock up. He offers a disingenuous handshake, but Rocky refuses to shake his hand. They work holds, with both men kipping up out of arm holds. Bret doesn't do anything that bends the rules until after he cuts off Rocky with a stiff knee lift. Bret rains down with some stiff strikes on the rookie, before abusing rope breaks and making him work for that comeback. Bret looked like he was having the time of his life when he was soaking in all the boos from the audience. Bret's punishment really lit a fire under Rocky's ass, as he's all full of piss and vinegar when he makes his comeback. He looks the best he has ever looked in his career up to that point. Bret gets frustrated with Rocky and gets himself disqualified by refusing the break the figure four around the ring post. We get a super-hot afterbirth with LOD, Bulldog, Owen & Austin all rushing down to the ring. Bret made Rocky look like a million dollars here. ★★★½

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WWF In Your House 14: Revenge Of The Taker (4/20/1997)

WWF World Tag Team Title Match
The Hart Foundation (Owen Hart & The British Bulldog) (c) vs. The Legion Of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk)
Bulldog and Owen might be two of the better workers in the WWF in early 1997, but this was far from their best match. This was a big style clash. Owen and Bulldog aren't brawlers and LOD aren't exactly workrate wizards. The screwy-Russorific finish(es) didn't do much for me either. LOD initially win this one, but they pinned the illegal man, so the match is restarted. Bulldog and Owen aren't keen to get back in there, so the referee gives them an ultimatum: return to the ring or surrender their titles. The match actually ends on a DQ, after Bret Hart rushes the ring and attacks LOD just as they were about to win. This felt like a match you would see on Raw, not a PPV that you had to spend money to view. ★★¼

WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Rocky Maivia (c) vs. Savio Vega (w/Clarence Mason, Crush, D-Lo Brown, Faarooq, JC Ice & Wolfie D)

This was yet another match that felt like it belonged on a TV show and not a PPV. Two matches into this card and we've yet to have a clean finish. Rocky shows a little more intensity during his pre-match promo than you would expect from the happy-go-lucky rookie, but it's still not enough to save his act. They jump-start this and Rocky shows some fire and hits some slick-looking arm drags to kick this one off. Savio bumped well and Faarooq's guest commentary was solid enough, even if Faarooq hyping up another match while this one was taking place made this feel unimportant. Crush hits Rocky with a heart punch on the outside when the referee isn't looking. Rocky isn't able to make the count and Savio and Crush argue with each other as Savio obviously didn't win the title on a count-out victory. Ahmed rushes to the ring and accepts Faarooq's challenge of a gauntlet match in one of his more coherent promos. Rocky looked like an afterthought here. The actual in-ring stuff was fine, it's just that the booking sucked pondwater. ★★

Jesse Jammes vs. Rockabilly (w/The Honky Tonk Man)
With the product starting to feel edgier as a whole around this time, this match felt like it was straight from a 1995 In Your House card. It's pure New Generation camp cartoon wrestling. I can enjoy that when I'm in the mood for that, but this felt so outdated and lifeless by the spring of 1997. Jesse James had been feuding with Honky Tonk Man leading up to this and Honky is here to announce his new protégé. It turns out to be Billy Gunn and he comes out to crickets. The large group of fans leaving as soon as this one gets underway should tell you how much heat this rivalry had. Both men clearly put in the effort here, but they had no chance to get this over. James throws around some nice-looking punches and Gunn struts all over the place in a failed attempt to get his new gimmick over. The match suddenly ends with a James inside cradle. Hey, at least we got a somewhat decisive finish here. ★¼

WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
The Undertaker (c) vs. Mankind (w/Paul Bearer)

Mick Foley really brought out the best in Undertaker. Foley was so giving here, as he took some serious risks to make himself look fearless and get Undertaker over on his first PPV title defence. Mankind's head-first bump from the ring apron through the announce table was downright sickening. The first few minutes of this sees Undertaker kick all kind of ass as he violently slams Mankind's skull into the barricade. Mankind takes Undertaker's strikes well, by going all jellied-leg whenever Undertaker would land a big shot. Mankind is able to cut Undertaker off temporarily by striking Undertaker with the urn behind the referee's back. The constant rule-breaking happening right in front of the referee did eventually become tiresome, with even Jim Ross and Vince McMahon calling it out on commentary. With Undertaker mostly dominating this match, this felt quite one-sided, but I don't see that as a negative. Undertaker isn't the most compelling when he's down on his back selling and having him just throwing everything at Mankind made for much more interesting viewing. ★★★★

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
Russo's influence can clearly be felt on this show as 3 out of 5 matches on this card ended with either a DQ or a count-out! We have to deal with more blatant cheating in front of the referee here too, with Austin just straight-up hitting Bret with a low blow as Earl Hebner has to quickly pretend to look away. My gripes about the booking aside, this was a PPV match between two of the best ever, so the match itself wasn't going to suck at least. Much like their Wrestlemania 13 match, they open the match with some excellent brawling. This was smartly worked, with a great emphasis being put on limbwork as Bret systematically tears apart Austin's damaged knee. Austin's knee giving out when he attempts to land a piledriver was a great bit of long-term selling. I thought the finish here was flat. Bulldog nails Austin with the chair as he has Bret locked in the sharpshooter. Not quite on the level of their Survivor Series '96 or Wrestlemania 13 classic, this was still a fun yet flawed main event. ★★★¾

Final Thoughts:
If bad booking can ruin a show for you, than this show might not be for you! We get a lot of rough finishes here. It's not a terrible show as the last two match more than make up for everything.

WWF In Your House 15: A Cold Day In Hell (5/11/1997)

Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. Flash Funk
Hunter and Funk aren't involved in a program here and this match's purpose was to further push the Hunter/Chyna pairing. Funk has lost his Funkettes due to his budget costs, but the commentary team tries to claim that they are not here because of their fear of Chyna. Speaking of Chyna, she obviously looks the part and she looks good every time she gets involved when the referee isn't looking. Things only went down south for her when they decided to put her in actual matches. Funk opens this match with some crisp high-flying offense before Chyna cuts him off and Hunter works him over in a solid control segment. The crowd starts to root for Funk as he makes his comeback before Helmsley puts him away with the Pedigree and Chyna drops Funk on the ropes after the match to add insult to injury. This was nothing to go out of your way to see, but it was a decent enough opener. ★★½

Mankind vs. Rocky Maivia
This was a total nothing match. Two years after this takes place, both men would be two of the most popular men in the company, but the fans are sitting on their hands for this. Rocky had just lost the title and we are not long from him turning heel. Mankind goes the extra effort to stop this from being too dull by wailing all over the place like a psycho and still putting his body through punishment in some nasty spots. He hits a cannonball from the apron and takes a proto-Rock Bottom on the steel rampway. The finish itself is quite decent too, with Mankind countering a Rocky crossbody with a Mandible Claw to score the victory. This would be the last time that we would see babyface Rocky Maivia wrestle on PPV. ★★

Three On One Gauntlet Match
Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation Of Domination (Crush, Faarooq & Savio Vega) (w/Clarence Mason, D-Lo Brown, JC Ice & Wolfie D)

This was a tough watch, as this was three Ahmed Johnson matches back-to-back. The Nation agrees to break up if Ahmed can beat the gauntlet. Gorilla Monsoon orders the Nation members to move away from ringside so they can't interfere. Crush and Ahmed kick off the match and it's not pretty. It's very clunky and Crush spends way too much gesturing to his brothers to come closer to the ring. I was surprised to see Ahmed hit a scissors kick, no matter how ugly it looked. Savio comes out next and puts in a respectable showing trying to get the match over by landing some crisp punches and bumping and feeding for Ahmed. Savio gets himself disqualified so Faarooq can come in and pick the bones of Ahmed. Ahmed gets in a few hope spots which wake the crowd up, including landing a Pearl River Plunge, but he's too injured to cover. A chop-block and a Dominator later, this is over. The Ahmed vs Nation storyline should have wrapped up after Wrestlemania 13. ★½

No Holds Barred Match
Vader vs. Ken Shamrock

This shoot-style flavoured match felt very out of place for WWF in 1997 and I'm sure a lot of fans were turned off by it, but I was a big fan of this and I thought this did a wonderful job of getting Shamrock over during his WWF debut. These two smacked the crap out of each, with Vader audibly telling Shamrock to ease up. Shamrock getting frustrated by the rope breaks was a nice bit of psychology as they are obviously not a thing in UFC. Shamrock tries to chop Vader down with leg kicks and is always working to score the flash submission. He's able to mount a nice comeback after Vader misses his moonsault and lands a nice flurry before Vader cuts off his water by laying him out with a sickening palm strike. This match reminded me of UWFi Vader and I can't name you a better WWF Vader singles match than this one. It's funny to think that as this match was actually a punishment for Vader after he smacked a journalist about during WWF's Kuwait tour the previous month. ★★★¾

WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
The Undertaker (c) vs. Steve Austin

This was a face-versus-face match and the fans seem torn on who to cheer for. Austin is also feuding with the Hart Foundation at this time and they come to ring as fans as they have purchased front-row seats. People seem more into the match whenever Austin would start fighting with members of the Hart Foundation instead of working with Undertaker. We spend a lot of time in holds, but they are always working and the holds always have a struggle to them. I was expecting more of an explosive brawl instead of the slow and methodical match we got. The last few minutes are very exciting, with Austin getting the pop of the night after giving the referee the bird after the ref warns Austin for landing a low blow. Pillman sneaks over the barricade and rings the bell just as Austin has this won. Undertaker takes advantage of the distraction and retains his title and we are treated to a post-match brawl. Undertaker and Austin never had the best chemistry, but this was a so-so match with a molten-hot finish. ★★★

Final Thoughts:
This was the first ever PPV I brought on VHS. Even with all that nostalgia, I can't recommend this show. There's nothing terrible here, but it's so dull and average. Watch the Shamrock/Vader match and skip the rest. 

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WWF King Of The Ring 1997 (6/8/1997)

King Of The Ring 1997 Semi Final Match
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna) vs. Ahmed Johnson

I thought this would suck, but it was actually a solid effort as they kept this simple and focused on Ahmed's strengths, such as his intensity and power spots. Ahmed is still quite over here. Looking like an ice-cold killer, Ahmed stares down Hunter as the commentary highlights their different upbringings. Hunter was obviously carrying this and he's starting to look like a ring general. My hot take of the day: 1996-1997 midcard Hunter is a lot more palatable than post-2010 Triple H. Ahmed countering Hunter's back drop attempt by landing a scissors kick on his spine was actually quite creative. Hunter advances with the help of Chyna, but Ahmed gets his heat back by getting straight up after getting pinned with the Pedigree and chases after Hunter and Chyna. Although it's not exactly a high bar, this might be Ahmed's best singles match. ★★¾

King Of The Ring 1997 Semi Final Match
Mankind vs. Jerry Lawler

Mankind is starting to get some cheers from the fans, so it's a perfect time to start his babyface turn and there's no man better at garnering him some sympathy than Jerry Lawler. Lawler put in a great performance here, using all the old-school heel tricks such as using a concealed weapon, trash-talking, eye gouging, and just being a proper slimy bastard all-around. Mankind further scrabbles his brain by taking some nasty barricade spots, which I don't think were needed here as his selling and the great heat segment did more than enough to get the fans behind him. After his piledriver isn't enough to put away his opponents, Lawler goes night-night after Mankind locks on the Mandible Claw. I never believed that Lawler stood a chance, but he did his job in warming Mankind up for the finals. I wish we got more lengthy Lawler matches on PPV, as he was fantastic here. ★★★

Crush (w/Clarence Mason & D-Lo Brown) vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)
This stunk, by no fault of Goldust though. No one needed to sit through a cold ten-minute Crush match on PPV. He was so dull when working on top, sucking the life out of the arena whenever he lock Goldust in a lengthy resthold. Expect plenty of claw holds, camel clutches, and not a whole lot of action here! Goldust seems to be over as a babyface and he shows a lot of fire when he's on his feet. The Nation tries to get into Goldie's head by approaching Marlena, but this distraction didn't seem to faze Goldust as he's able to get back into the game and mercifully end this one with a DDT. The Nation looked like total chumps here. ★

Sycho Sid & The Legion Of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk) vs. The Hart Foundation (Jim Neidhart, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog)
Sid puts over the Hart Foundation on his way out. All three men on the babyface side were way past it. The heel side was only a slight improvement, with both Neidhart and Bulldog being past their best days (although Bulldog still had a good showing in him here and there). Despite all this, this was a fun watch. The quick tags certainly helped put a stop to someone stinking up the match. The babyface shine segment was quite entertaining, mainly to see Sid act all goofy and club the heels on the head. I didn't mind all the no-selling from the babyfaces as it suited their gimmicks. Sid gets right back up after a delayed suplex from Bulldog and Hawk does his classic no-sell piledriver spot. The Hart Foundation do their usual heel stuff and win when Owen is able to sneak the win by landing a sunset flip on Sid when he was attempting a powerbomb on another man. Sid fucked it a bit, but it's Sid, so you can't help but laugh at the daft bastard. So long, Sid! ★★★

King Of The Ring 1997 Final Match
Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna)

This had a slow start that put a lot of people off, including me, but they manage to pull this around with a thrilling conclusion that sees Mankind take some dangerous bumps and kicks off one of 1997's most underrated rivalries. The beginning of this featured Hunter working over Mankind's already injured neck by pounding away on him with some nice-looking punches and not much else. It made sense, but it felt quite dull. We get a couple of boring chants from the audience. Things start to get going when Mankind does the hangman spot. Mick Foley did everything in his power to get this match over. He even dusted off the Cactus elbow spot, where he would send himself hurling dangerously off the ring apron onto the concrete. We get a gnarly table and barricade spot, but Mankind still kicks out and the fans are solely behind him by this point. This made Mankind a huge babyface and it elevated Hunter from the mid-card. ★★★½

Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels
This is the last big Austin singles match that he wrestled with a more technical style before his neck break in August. We get a lot of holds, but they never forget to showcase their massive personalities and egos and it created an atmosphere where the fans were rabid for both guys. These two have wonderful chemistry and I loved how this one escalated from an old-school technical bout to a slugfest once tempers start to rise. Austin sends HBK over the ropes violently and then Austin gives Shawn a nasty press slam on the exposed concrete. We get a callback later in the match when HBK sends Austin over the ropes during a tackle attempt. After a number of intentional ref bumps, Earl Hebner comes down and throws this one out. I thought the non-finish would be a lot more palatable if these guys were able to actually have a proper blow-off match that wasn't plagued by injuries. This is a bit of a hidden gem, as I don't hear many people talk about this one. Imagine how could Wrestlemania 14 could have been if they both were healthy! ★★★★

WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) (c) vs. Faarooq (w/Clarence Mason, Crush, D-Lo Brown & Savio Vega)

Faarooq was certainly a bizarre choice to challenge for the WWF title at one of the big five PPV, but he did a decent enough job here. Paul Bearer has blackmailed Undertaker to take him back. It's an intriguing storyline, even if it does distract from Faarooq. There are enough interesting spots to stop this from feeling too pedestrian. I love how Undertaker mixed up the Old School here. Instead of coming off the top rope onto Faarooq, he instead does a trust fall plancha onto the members of the Nation at ringside. The Nation starts to bicker after interference not going the way they want and Faarooq tries to control the situation. This distraction is enough for Undertaker to do his Michael Myers sit-up and lay Faarooq out with the Tombstone. Not the most exciting PPV main ever, but far from the worst too. ★★½

Final Thoughts:
This isn't going to win any PPV of the year awards, but it's a good show. The main event isn't going to set anyone's world on fire and you do have to sit through a ten minute Crush singles, but the Austin/HBK hidden gem more than makes up for those shortcomings and the rest of the card range from solid to good.

WWF 1997 TV Odds and Ends Q2

WWF Raw Is War (4/7/1997)
Steve Austin vs. Mankind

The wrestling here is secondary to the storyline progression, but this, along with the Sid/Bret cage match from the previous month, is a good example of why WWF's TV product was so hot in 1997. This isn't going to make any MOTY lists, but it does its job of heating up the audience for the upcoming PPV. You've got Austin feuding with the Hart Foundation and Mankind feuding with Undertaker. Mankind was meant to be wrestling Sid here, but Sid no-shows and Austin is drafting into the match. Mankind cuts one chilling promo before the match. He is starting to show his human side here, as he references his family. Before accepting the match, Austin pressures Gorilla Monsoon to make Bret face him at the next PPV. This felt more like a post-neck break Austin match as he keeps it simple and takes no risks. He is mostly just walking and brawling here. He does a good job at it, so it's hard to fault him. Mankind still manages to get some nasty bumps in. Owen and Bulldog soon make their faces shown and this one predictably ends in a non-finish once LOD and Vader get involved. ★★¾

WWF Raw Is War (4/21/1997)
Street Fight
Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

Bret and Austin's last-ever televised singles is more of an angle than a match. Austin challenges Bret to a fight and Bret accepts. Both men were wearing street clothes here. Bret makes his way to the ring, but has Owen and Bulldog ambush him from the crowd. They pull Austin's shirt over his head as they pummel him. HBK makes the save, by coming from the crowd with a chair and cleaning house. Bret is left with Austin in the ring and he continues to pick the bones of Austin and lays him out with a beautiful piledriver. In a nice bit of storytelling, Bret tries to do to Austin what Austin did to Pillman and crush his leg in a steel chair. Austin is able to fight back and obliterate Bret's leg before locking on the sharpshooter and refusing to break the hold. Officials rush to Bret's aide, but the damage has been done. We then get an excellent segment later in the show where Austin attacks Bret again by sneaking into the ambulance. The Attitude Era might not have officially started yet, but this set the standard for what a TV wrestling show could like look for the rest of the decade. ★★★

WWF Raw Is War (4/28/1997)
WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Rocky Maivia (c) vs. Owen Hart

In his last big profile match before turning heel and joining the Nation, Rocky puts in a half-arsed performance and is dragged kicking and screaming to a decent match by Owen. Even when he enters the arena, Rocky looks tired and doesn't have the pep in his step that he did during all his early babyfaces appearances. I thought this was initially a bit of foreshadowing, but it seemed that Rocky was just having a bad day at the office. Rocky opens the match with a dull shine segment. Rocky's stuff looks decent, but there's no spark to anything he does here. It all felt like he was going through motions. The match improves once Owen takes control. Owen lands a beautiful drop-toe hold to leg grapevine and starts working on his leg. The crowd is shockingly quiet throughout the entire match. We get some fun moments during the go-home stretch with Rocky pulling out one of the worst Rock Bottoms that I have ever seen and Owen damn nearly beheading Rocky when he cuts him off with a spinning wheel kick. The finish here came out of nowhere though. Bulldog is with Bret at the top of the stage, but neither gets involved and Owen wins the strap clean as a whistle after countering Rocky and landing a victory roll for the three. ★★½ 

WWF Raw Is War (26/5/1997)
WWF World Tag Team Match
Owen Hart & The British Bulldog (c) vs. Shawn Michaels & Steve Austin

This is the kind of Southern tag that would make Jim Cornette splooge. This had all the trappings of a good tag match: a lightning quick pace, plenty of workrate, and the faces and heels acting exactly how they should do in a tag match. This is Michael's first match since February and he shows zero signs of ring rust. He's the FIP for most of this match and he's fantastic and it's clear that he hasn't missed a step. Austin and Michaels are teaming up here, but they are not friends at all. They are facing off at the next PPV and it seems entirely possible that this team could combust at any given minute. The heel team cut the ring in half and keep working down Michaels. There are a lot of teases of Michaels getting the hot tag and the crowd eats it all up. Once Austin's in, HBK lands the Sweet Chin Music amid all the chaos, and Austin covers and gets the win and all hell breaks loose as a massive brawl breaks out. ★★★★½

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WWF In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede (7/6/1997)

Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna)
Mankind continues to bring the best out in Helmsley as their feud continues to heat up. Hunter was a bumping machine for Mankind's shine segment, who is looking surprisingly natural as a full-fledged babyface. Mankind does Hunter's curtsy and the fans lap it up. Chyna lands a powerslam on Mankind on the outside when the referee is distracted. Mankind's leg violently collides into the steel steps during this move. Mankind can't have a match in 1997 without me feeling genuinely concerned for his well-being! Hunter is showing a lot more intensity as works over the Mankind's leg. The finish felt like it came out of nowhere, with little build-up. This isn't the last we would see of these two on this night, as they would continuously brawl throughout the arena as the show rolls on! Both guys put in the work here and this was a hot opener. ★★★½

Taka Michinoku vs. The Great Sasuke
These guys were in a tough spot as no one in the audience seemed to care about them when the match started, with the exception of the few smark fans in the building. They start slow, with TAKA trying to avoid Sasuke's strikes. We get a decent bit of mat action, but they start to wake up the people when Sasuke starts landing the strikes. They were stiff as hell. The audience finally becomes unglued once TAKA hits his batshit-crazy spaceman plancha. I was surprised to see Sasuke kick out of the Michinoku Driver, seeing as TAKA was about to be built up as the star of the division. These guys certainly won over the crowd with their stiff working style and their insane workrate. This is the only light-heavyweight WWF match that could hold a candle to some of the matches that the WCW cruiserweights were putting on at the time. ★★★★

WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
The Undertaker (c) vs. Vader (w/Paul Bearer)

Vader is subbing for Ahmed Johnson, who is injured. Clocking in at a mere 12 minutes, this was all killer and no filler. Just a big stiff hoss fight with little downtime. The crowd is so into the Undertaker that the building is actually shaking when they try to cheer him on when Vader has him locked in a nerve hold. Paul Bearer was tremendous at being a total creep. There were a few miscommunications and botches during the final few minutes, but they covered for them well and they never killed the crowd. Undertaker retains after scooping Vader up and landing a Tombstone. It made for a hell of a visual, and keeping Vader in the Tombstone position without dropping him on his head must have been a challenge! Despite this match having little build, I thought these two put in a hell of a shift. ★★★½

Goldust, Ken Shamrock, Steve Austin & The Legion Of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk) vs. The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Brian Pillman, Jim Neidhart, Owen Hart & The British Bulldog) (w/Diana Smith)
25 years on and I don't think I've seen a more intense crowd than the one we got during this match. These fans would have died for the Hart Foundation! Austin has the crowd wanting his head, and he didn't even need to change his act up much from his usual babyface persona. All he had to was flip the crowd off once and they wanted him dead! Austin and Bret open and they bring the hate as they trade punches. I liked the little nod to their Survivor Series '96 match as Bret gets a nearfall by countering Austin's submission into a pinning attempt. It's bizarre seeing the babyface maul a heel like a pack of dogs, but it made sense as these guys would still be villains to the US crowd watching at home and they were still the heels in the grand scheme of things, even if they were idolized by the Calgary crowd. Both Austin and Owen are removed from the match due to injury, but they come back and the hatred picked right where they left off. Austin can't help himself from fighting with the Hart family in the crowd and he even put his hands on Stu Hart! The other family members spill over and it's all out carnage. Owen is able to roll up Austin during the commotion and get the victory. The victors fight off Team USA and the PPV goes off the air with a feel-good ending, with all the family celebrating in the ring. One of my all-time favourite matches. Over half the participants in this match were way past their sell-by dates and even they couldn't have brought this one down for me! ★★★★¾

Final Thoughts: This is one of the best PPVs WWF/E have ever put on. It's only a step behind Money In The Bank 2011 and Wrestlemania X-7.

WWF Summerslam 1997 (8/3/1997)

Steel Cage Match
Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/Chyna)

This match was an important step in the career of Mick Foley and he was the main reason why this was good. Chyna fumbles the timing of some of her interference spots and Hunter seems to be on auto-pilot here. Hunter wasn't horrible here, it's just that his control segment was uninspired and it was only entertaining as Mankind was willing to slam his skull into the cage with no regards for his own safety. It might be overshadowed by Mankind's cell bump the next spring, but Mankind getting to emulate his icon and dive from the top of the cage was a great spot. That superplex from the cage was nasty too, as that ring looked like it had zero give. I didn't find that this match dragged or anything, it's just a bit of let-down when you consider that their previous matches together had been better and this was meant to be the blow-off. ★★★½

Brian Pillman vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)
If Pillman loses this match, he has to wear a dress on Raw tomorrow night. I'm not saying that this is a misunderstood classic or anything, but I thought that this was decent and people are selling this one short. Pillman isn't physically able to hit any of his high-flying stuff from his Flyin' Brian days, so they have to work around his limitations. Pillman is incredibly intense here and he doesn't let up. The deranged expression that he had on his face when he Goldust locked in a chin-lock stopped this part of the match from feeling like a rest-break. Don't expect any top-tier workrate here, as they keep the action simple to accommodate Pillman. This match was high on character work though. Goldust no-sells an inverted atomic drop and kisses Pillman on the mouth. The finish features a pretty nasty botch. Goldust doesn't quite clear Pillman when he attempts a sunset flip, so he ends up falling on his head and they have to improvise and fix the finish on the fly. The fans booed the botch, but I thought that they recovered quite well. ★★★

The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) vs. The Legion Of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk)
This wasn't pretty, but no one expected it to be. Henry's neck was broken by LOD earlier in the year, so they weave that into the match by having The Godwins use some neck-based offense on LOD. Hawk is able to get the hot tag and the LOD picks up the victory after a spike piledriver. I agree with the consensus that this wasn't exactly a babyface move, but the LOD were never wholesome babyfaces who had much care for their opponents so I don't think it matters all that much. This match was largely unremarkable, the quick pace stops it from dragging too much and it's over before it gets the chance to truly stink out the building. ★★

WWF European Title Match
The British Bulldog (c) vs. Ken Shamrock

For some unknown reason, Bulldog humiliated Shamrock by rubbing dog food in his face and that's why this match is happening. I don't think Bulldog was the man to carry Shamrock in his first traditional PPV WWF match. I don't think these two clicked and Bulldog was starting to feel washed-up by this point in his career. Shamrock opens this match by showing a lot of intensity and hitting some beautiful high spots, including a release belly-to-belly and a rolling leg lock. The match starts to wade into mediocrity once Bulldogs cuts him off and starts working Shamrock with some uninspired chinlocks. The commentators mention Shamrock is struggling to adapt to the WWF style. Not much of note happens from this point out until the ending. In what must be a first in wrestling history, a wrestler loses a match by nailing his opponent with a can of dog food. After Bulldog smears dog food into Shamrock, Shamrock snaps and gets himself disqualified and takes out a bunch of WWF officials in the process. The dog food stuff was goofy, but Shamrock looked like a total star when he snapped. That doesn't stop the match from sucking though. ★¾

The Disciples Of Apocalypse (8-Ball, Chainz, Crush & Skull) vs. Los Boricuas (Jesus Castillo, Jose Estrada, Miguel Perez & Savio Vega)
Just when you think Crush couldn't get any worse, they stick him with the freakin' Blu Brothers in an attempt to chase the success of the NWO by having multiple factions feuding with each other. They try to keep the action moving fast and utilize quick tags in an attempt to not expose the poor workers in this match. Los Boricuas were the better workers, but they are charisma blackholes and they do nothing to get the crowd into this. All that is in vain as the fans clearly don't care about this and it only takes a minute or two of in-ring time before one of the bald DOA members gets gassed and starts killing the match. The Nation of Domination coming through the crowd got a small pop at least. Ahmed ends up botching his one spot in the match. I can't believe we are going to have to put up with this angle for the rest of the year. ★½

WWF Intercontinental Title Match
Owen Hart (c) vs. Steve Austin

It feels wrong to give this match a star rating seeing as someone nearly died in the ring here, but the match was building up to be a classic before the infamous tombstone botch. Austin and Owen have fantastic chemistry and the action was quick and told a story. Owen works over Austin's hands before moving onto his neck. We get a lot of uncomfortable foreshadowing commentary about Owen working on Austin's neck. Austin wins the worst roll-up ever, but you have to give him props for finishing the match. The stipulation was that Austin would have to kiss Owen's ass if he lost, so that explained why they had to find a way for Austin to win, even if the man's neck was literally broken. ★★★½

WWF World Heavyweight Title Match (Special Referee: Shawn Michaels)
The Undertaker (c) vs. Bret Hart

The stakes of this match are very high, with Shawn Michaels being the guest referee. This match has one of my favourite finishes ever. It's not over-the-top, it's a perfect ending caused by very believable human error after Shawn's emotions get the best of him after Bret spits in his face and Shawn is put in the horrible position to count the pinfall or he would never be allowed to wrestle on US soil again. The stuff leading up to the finish was good too, with Bret working fantastically as a heel by keeping the pace slow by working over Undertaker's legs. The drama with Shawn as the referee was actually quite compelling. He has to call this down the middle, but numerous things happen throughout the match that tests him, such as Hart bending the rules and Undertaker getting frustrated with HBK after Shawn not being present to count a pin after Owen & Pillman interfere. Paul Bearer also comes down, but Undertaker makes sure to take care of him. This was a great main event that combined multiple storylines into one coherent package. ★★★¾

Final Thoughts: A mixed bag, but this event felt like a big deal. From Mankind's cage dive to the shocking conclusion of the main event, the product was starting to heat-up and feel exciting again. 

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WWF In Your House 17: Ground Zero (9/7/1997)

Indecent Proposal Match
Brian Pillman vs. Goldust (w/Marlena)

Marlena has to spend 30 days with Pillman if he wins, Pillman is out of the WWF if he loses. The storyline might not fly today, but the crowd was clearly into this, even if the in-ring portion of the match wasn't exactly top-level stuff. We get some stiff punches and chops here, as well as a generous helping of ball-based manoeuvres as Goldust counters Pillman's bulldog attempt by sending him crotch-first onto the ropes. Goldust did a good job carrying Pillman here. Pillman 'wins' Marlena after the referee goes down and Pillman intercepts Marlena interfering by grabbing her loaded purse and clocking Goldust with it. The grim implications of this stipulation really start to set in once you see Pillman forcing Marlena into the car as Jerry Lawler cackles on about the situation on commentary. ★★¾

Scott Putski vs. Brian Christopher
Despite being on the shorter side, lacking charisma and being way too jacked to be a light heavyweight, Scott Putski was a good looking guy who looked to be a solid enough hand in the ring from what we saw here. None of this matters though, as he seriously injures his knee minutes into this when he tries to catch Christopher as he's attempting a dive to the outside and they're forced to end the match early, with Christopher getting a count-out victory. You can see through Christopher's cocky demeanour, as you can tell that he's concerned for Putski. This was the last time Putski would wrestle for the WWF. I don't think we were robbed of a classic here. ½★

Savio Vega vs. Crush vs. Faarooq
The first Triple Threat in WWF PPV history turns out to be a right stinker. Crush is over with this crowd for whatever reason, but that fanfare soon dies down when the crowd is forced to watch this plodding mess. Jim Ross reprimands Crush for going for a chinlock when he has the option to go for a pin. Savio and Faarooq botch a neckbreaker and the fans just turn on this after that. All three men try to form alliances with each other and they predictable fall apart. We get plenty of half-hearted pin break-ups until Savio puts this out of its misery and wins this one. This was slow, sluggish, and had zero heat. This was so bad, that I'm actually surprised that the WWF attempted another Triple Threat after this. DUD

Max Mini vs. El Torito
I'm not entirely sure what the WWF could have gotten out of the minis long-term, but this match added some variety and comedy to the card. I found Max Mini endearing and he certainly won over the crowd with his ass-biting antics. Being the tallest of the two, El Torito bullied Mini by cutting him off with some of the world's smallest big boots. The match felt dull when Torito was on top as he didn't have much to offer outside of cutting Mini off. I have no idea why WWF insisted on making the In Your House PPVs 3 hours when they clearly didn't have enough talent on the roster to fill the cards up every month, as evident by them having to fly in the minis to eat up time. ★★★

WWF World Tag Team Title Four Way Elimination Match
The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) vs. The Head Bangers (Mosh & Thrasher) vs. The Legion Of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk) vs. The Hart Foundation (Owen Hart & The British Bulldog)

Steve Austin and Dude Love forfeit the tag titles before the match and this segment is much more entertaining than the following match. We still have to deal with that dumb rule where tag team partners are forced to face other if they are both legal men. This was a slog to sit through and this would have been much better if this was a straight tag match between Owen and Bulldog and the Headbangers. Perhaps as a way to avoid doing a job, the LOD get themselves disqualified and the Godwins follow soon after. Austin interferes during the finish and gets a huge pop and he's able to sprinkle some of his star power onto the Headbangers as they felt like a bigger deal by winning the vacant tag titles. The was a crap match, but the finish was great as Austin's interference enhanced the match without taking away from the Headbangers' victory. ★½

WWF World Heavyweight Title Match
Bret Hart (c) vs. The Patriot

You have to feel bad for Del Wilkes. As you can tell by his slick arm drags and his interesting control segment on Bret's arm, he clearly was a good hand in the ring, but he didn't have much in the way of charisma and he is saddled with a gimmick that would feel more at home during the Hulkamania era. He was never going to get over as the product was getting more mature. Despite all this, Bret Hart was able to make the audience in the arena believe that Wilke could actually pull this off and they were all biting on his nearfalls. It's especially crazy when you factor in that no one believed that The Patriot was winning this and this was just a filler title defence for Bret, The first half of this was quite slow yet technically solid, with Bret softening up Patriot's leg. Bulldog comes to aid Bret, but Vader soon comes out to stop this. I didn't like Vader just brawling with Bret right in front of the referee. You know Jim Ross would have something to say about that if he was still at the commentary desk! Bret is finally able to cut off Patriot's momentum by countering Patriot's sharpshooter into a sharpshooter of his own and The Patriot passes out. This didn't look interesting on paper, but Bret is able to get the fans invested and carry Del Wilkes to his best-ever singles match. ★★★½

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Shawn has now gone full chickenshit heel and he was a bumping machine here. The referee gets punched out before the match officially begins and Undertaker fights Michaels up to the stage, with Undertaker tossing HBK right into the In Your House set. I didn't think Undertaker did too much to make this interesting and the Shawn was the main reason why this was good. He was just a complete prick here. Rick Rude comes down and hands HBK some brass knuckles, followed by Triple H and Chyna coming down to inflict more damage on Undertaker. Tim White finally declares this a no contest after both men can't keep their hands off the officials. The constant attacks on the referees got tiring and it made this PPV main event feel more like the closing segment of Raw Is War. Still, Undertaker's big dive and the locker room coming out to separate the two made for a hell of a visual to close the show with. ★★★¼

Final Thoughts: It's bafflingly that WWF made the In Your House cards go three hours here, despite clearly not having enough worthy stuff to add to the card! This could have been a decent two hour card if they could have just trimmed the fat.

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