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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wrestlemania Countdown: 14

(2012 Scott sez:  1998 was something of a transition time for my writing, as I was moving past the quickie recaps into ones with a bit more meat thanks to the influence of John Petrie, and getting ready to set up Rantsylvania.com.  But let’s talk about how absolutely fucking pumped the regular crew was for this show.  Because we were PUMPED.  The last three shows (11, 12, 13) had been more or less just another PPV, but this was the first Wrestlemania in a long while where you had a definite MAIN EVENT in Austin v. Michaels and an equally intriguing semi-main in Undertaker v. Kane.  That of course was part of the influence of Vince Russo.  Unfortunately the next year would show what would happen when he got too much influence. )

The Netcop Rant for WWF Wrestlemania XIV, Mar. 29 / 98

- Live from Boston, MA.

- Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.

- Opening match: 15-team battle royale, winner to get title shot.

The first 14 teams are introduced, then the "new" Legion of Doom, with Sunny (DROOL!) enter last. They don't look all that new, actually. (Malibu Stacy has a new hat!) Don't blink or you'll miss this one -- it lasts all of 7 or 8 minutes, if that. (Who doesn’t blink for 8 minutes?)  Everyone goes bang-bang-bang until it's just the LOD, the DOA, the Godwinns and the New Midnight Express. Thankfully the DOA and Godwinns get knocked out, leaving the Midnights in a familiar position -- getting beat on by the Road Warriors. The Midnights go bye-bye, and LOD celebrate their reunion to a *huge* reaction from the crowd. Decent enough opening. (Yeah, the LOD 2000.  Sounds like an As Seen On TV hair removal system.) 

- Lightheavyweight title: TAKA Michinoku v. Aguila.

The crowd just ain't into these guys, but damned if they don't try their hardest to get them into it. They pull out some eye-popping high spots, too numerous to list here. (Translation:  I was ranting live and drinking.)  However, there's no real psychology or wrestling going on, it's just spot-spot-spot like a Sabu match. Aguila still looks pretty green, but he at least was able to keep up with Taka. Still, can't fault 'em for effort. It was like a Jackie Chan movie that way -- the plot might not be the greatest, but the stunts were spectacular. Taka with the Michinoku Driver to retain. *** (1998 Scott, ladies and gentlemen.) 

- Gennifer Flowers interviews The Rock. I can't describe how much The Rock rules. I think his homeless solution could help the world. *Sniff*

- European title: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Owen Hart.

The live DX band plays HHH down to the ring. He's drawing heat! Holy shit! (That used to be a rare occurrence.)  It must be a special night, because we get 5 crotch crops from HHH. The Sarge is of course handcuffed to Chyna. The crowd is *really* into this one. It's announced that Earl Hebner is in the hospital for something or other watching Wrestlemania from there. (Recovery from the millions of dollars of plastic surgery he got in 1988?) Whoo-hoo! No slow three count in the main event! Hunter actually pulls out some new and different offense tonight. What a pleasant surprise. Owen bleeds hardway from the nose, starting a trend tonight. HHH works on the ankle (whoa! Psychology!) leading up to a bigtime hot ending where Owen throws everything at HHH and goes for the Sharpshooter. Chyna tosses powder in Slaughter's face, then HHH distracts the ref as Chyna gives the old Flair uppercut to Owen. Ding! Pedigree, pin, HHH retains. (A formula so nice HHH spent the next decade and counting doing it.)  Wow, I thought for sure it would be DX jobbing night. ***, much to my surprise and delight. Chyna beats on Slaughter some more. (In retrospect, this made sense because HHH was getting the renewed push the night after, and in fact that’s what turned around the Monday Night Wars.) 

- Mixed tag: Marc Mero & Sable v. TAFKA Goldust & Luna.

And this match doesn't suck! No shit! Goldust sells like a champ for everyone here, basically getting the crap kicked out of him by both Mero and Sable. Mero is the de facto babyface. Sable is the de facto PMS-ridden bitch. Wow, was she pissed off tonight or what? I like it. Mero's hair is coming in nicely. And Sable is showing Da Skillz! (I am not, however.)  Stiff kicks on Luna in the corner and just generally kicking some ass! Whoa! Doesn't she have a martial arts background of some sort? (Well, she gets banged by the biggest mixed martial arts draw in the world on a regular basis now…)  Mero even pulls out the old Merosault and a top-rope rana! He gets the TKO on Goldust, but Luna breaks it up. Then Sable POWERBOMBS Luna! WHOMP ASS~! (We used to get excited when the women would do more than catfight spots back in the days before Trish Stratus and Lita, you see.)  They fight some more, and Sable does her own TKO!! DOUBLE WHOMP ASS~!! (I was very into swiping from Dean Rasmussen at this point.)  Sable with the pin on Luna, and this match is GOOD! Can you believe this shit? Mero and Sable sort of reconcile after the match. This was about a million times better than it had any right to be, and for that I give it ***, which is 3 more than I had expected. (What a weirdly booked feud, though.) 

- Intercontinental title: The Rock v. Ken Shamrock.

Jeff Jarrett escorts Gennifer Flowers down for the ring introduction duty, and they compliment each other. It's apparently just "The Rock" now, no more Rocky Maivia. (Like that’ll ever get him over.)  The NOD is present at ringside, minus Farrooq. And could it be ANOTHER good match? What is this, a wrestling show? The Rock bleeds from the mouth hardway at one point. Shamrock loses it and shoves the ref, allowing Rocky to WALLOP him with a chair. But that just pisses him off more, and he kicks ass and puts Rocky in the anklelock for the tap-out and the title! BUT...he won't let go. He ends up taking out the NOD, about six officials, and Shane MacMahon before the decision is reversed, leaving the gold with our hero, The Rock. The Rock does a stretcher job, and Shamrock is so pissed that he beats the crap out of him on there, too. Faarooq came out at one point while Rocky was in the anklelock, but changed his mind and let him suffer. *** (He should have come out and said “Damn” and left again.) 

- Tag team title (dumpster match): The New Age Outlaws v. The Hardcore Legends.

No pantyhose for Terry tonight, it's Funk U all the way. (Perhaps he was just afraid of having spiders lay eggs in his ears.)  This is basically a casket match using a dumpster. I'm not sure what to say, except that this had some of the most vicious bumps you'll ever see. Most of them taken by Mick Foley. Billy bleeds hardway, completing the Trilogy of Blood. This is more hardcore than ECW these days. The usual garbage wrestling, including a wicked bump off a ladder into the dumpster, through the lid. Then everyone heads backstage to brawl some more, where ANOTHER dumpster (the backup one, I guess) sits. In one of the sillier spots of the night, both Outlaws end up laid out on a crate, and Terry Funk uses a forklift to boost them into the backup dumpster, and Cactus closes the lid. We have new tag team champions. Funk swears and takes out his frustrations on the dumpster, just for kicks. I'm still not sure if it was good or not, but it certainly wasn't boring. *** sounds about right, maybe lower given the goofy spots, but it was compensated for by the insane bumps. (This was a legitimate third semi-main at the time, which is kind of crazy if you think about it now and how little the tag titles mean.) 

- Undertaker v. Kane.

This match is going to have to suck balls to bring down the card at this point. Pete Rose is set to do ring introductions, but instead decides to insult the Boston crowd with a series of Lawler-worthy one-liners. The Bill Buckner one was my personal favorite. And then he earns his money, as Kane suddenly comes down and TOMBSTONES HIM! And it was a WICKED one, too, with Pete's head bouncing off the mat. Just to top him, UT then gets a totally breathtaking entrance, complete with torch-bearers and dramatic music. Talk about building up to a match. And how is the match? Not bad at all. There's a bad period in the middle where Kane chinlocks him for way too long, but everything else is solid. Long match, too, almost 20 minutes plus entrances. UT even pulls out his plancha dive, sailing over Kane and decimating the Spanish table. UT kicks out of the tombstone, and needs three of his own to finally put Kane away. And even then it was close. **1/2 Kane attacks him with a chair, but UT gets up soon after. I smell a rematch. (And a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch and a rematch.)

- WWF Title: Shawn Michaels v. Steve Austin. Austin gets the megasuperNUMBERONEANDTHEBEST face pop of the century here. Tyson is pretty much a non-factor during the match, thank god. Michaels hurts his back early on and is visibly wobbly most of the match. (Yeah, he hurts his back in January, more like.)  But he still takes his usual amazing bumps and of course moons the crowd. HHH and Chyna come down with him, but get bounced pretty quickly. Steve and Shawn brawl all over the place, indicating that both guys are less than 100%, as if we didn't know that. (This and other useless information brought to you by “Duh” magazine.)  "Holyfield" chant starts up once. This one just never really gets going, sadly. Shawn's back must be seriously fucked. (This and other useless information brought to you by “No Shit, Sherlock” magazine.)  He chooses to work on the knee instead of flying around. End comes when the ref gets bumped, and Shawn takes over and tries the Sweet Chin Music. Austin ducks it, they trade a couple of moves, then BAM! Stunner! Tyson rolls in, counts three, and the eight-year quest is over. We have a new WWF champion, barring any last-minute screwjobs. Nope, it's clean. ***1/4 And Tyson looks to be a babyface. Austin bestows a 3:16 shirt upon him, and Michaels wakes up pissed. So Tyson KO's him. Yep, it's a face turn. They drape the shirt over Shawn's body, and head back to the dressing room with the belt to massive cheers.

And they lived happily ever after. Until Unforgiven.

The Bottom Line: I have *everything* except the battle royale rated at around ***, all clean finishes save the I-C title, blood, tables breaking, satisfactory ends to most of the major feuds in the federation, and most importantly NOTHING SUCKED. This is without a doubt the best show the WWF has put on in years, and possibly one of the best PPVs I've ever seen. The main event was mildly disappointing, but given the health of both guys it's a miracle they got as much out of it as they did.

My hat is off to Vince McMahon. Now I only hope the buyrate supports the incredible effort given by everyone involved tonight.

The SmarK Retro Rant for WWF Wrestlemania XIV

- Live from Boston, MA, 03/29/1998

- Your hosts are JR & The King.

- Quick word of explanation here, as I wanted the Michaels-Austin match review for the book, but the original live rant of this show wasn't up to what I'd consider acceptable standards. And with RAW delayed three hours up here tonight, my pain is your gain. But please note - I only rerant on shows to change the writing style, not the opinions. If my opinions on a show have changed in the four years since the original rant, so be it, but I don't go back and redo a perfectly good rant just because times have changed. (Yeah, take that, Wrestlemania XIX nerds!) 

- Here's an interesting idea that I took from Roger Ebert: Home-brewed commentary tracks for DVDs. See, with the recent hubbub over who is and isn't allowed to participate in commentary tracks (ie. the director-writer squabbles) and how much they get paid (ie. Arnold's ridiculous salary demands), it's been noted that commentary tracks are getting worse by the DVD, and some great movies don't have any commentary at all. So what this have to do with me? Well, you may have noticed that recent WWF DVD releases have SUCKED ASS in terms of quality, with zero extras for the most part on their PPV releases and a subpar video transfer that would allow tons of extra audio. (This has actually been fixed with the transition into the HD era, of course.)  So here's what I propose: When I get another DVD-Rom drive for my computer in a couple of weeks, I'll take one of the current WWF PPVs on DVD (like, for instance, Royal Rumble 2000), turn the sound down, and record a running commentary while I'm watching, in MP3 format. Then you can download it (depending on the size, I guess), and play it back in Winamp (Anyone still use Winamp and not iTunes?) while you watch the same DVD with the sound down also. That way you can hear my thoughts on the matches as it's happening (which sometimes loses something in the written translation) or I can explain move names with a visual aid right there on screen, or you can just hear how I cringe every time Cactus and HHH do something sick in the main event. On the downside, I'll have to record at really low quality to keep the size of the file down, and hell if I know if I can find stuff to talk about for 2:40, but I think it's a worth a try to show the WWF what we as consumers are looking for in their product. (Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s still a great idea and I still want to try it someday, but motivation is a challenge for me.  That’s why I never got into smoking weed – I don’t need anything that makes me even LESS likely to get off the couch and do shit.) 

- Opening match, tag team battle royale:

We skip the intros of all the unimportant teams and move right to the returning Legion of Doom, or in this case, LOD 2000, as they were repackaged to look like drugged out extras from "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" and put with Sunny. Presumably she thought that "LOD 2000" was the name of a new prescription drug Hawk was taking at the time and by the time she realized her error, it was too late. (That joke beats the hell out of the one I came up with at the beginning of this rant.)  Yeah, those schoolboy tights make you look SO butch, Animal. (At least he wasn’t wrestling in skintight workout pants like his brother.)  Usual schmoz to start, quickly followed by Savio & Miguel getting tossed. Kurggan (who I guess had just turned face) invades the ring and gets rid of Sniper and Recon (One of whom is Bull Buchanan, as if you give a fuck). Barry Windham then does the same thing, eliminating Chainz and thus getting rid of mismatched partner Bradshaw at the same time. Man, did Bradshaw set the world record for crappy tag teams in one year before he found Faarooq or what? D-Lo goes out, thus taking Mark Henry with him. Ricky Morton doesn't even get a chance to play himself, as he goes flying out. So do Kama (Godfather) & Faarooq, as well as the two remaining Boriquas. Bob Holly dumps the Headbangers, and Scott Taylor (Scotty 2 Hotty) charges someone and gets backdropped out. Godwinns & DOA have the showdown that will give me nightmares until I'm 40, as Hawk no-sells everything and blows simple clotheslines. HOG dumps DOA to win that battle of attrition (or in this case, atrocious), but they SWERVE us by coming back in to get rid of the Hogwinns. So that leaves the Midnight Express to get clobbered by the LOD and dumped at 8:19. I don't rate battle royales, but this was pretty bad. The WWF tried the DOA feud and the "Hawk is a suicidal drunk" angle before giving up for good.

- Lightheavyweight title: Taka Michinoku v. Mr. Aguilla.

Speaking of changing personalities, Mr. Aguilla here was unmasked and repackaged as Papi Chulo before settling in as Essa Rios and getting overshadowed by his own valet, Lita. JR notes that Taka "ironically" won the title at the December In Your House show. I think he was going for another point there and got sidetracked, because that's pretty much the furthest thing from irony I can think of. Aguilla gets a leg lariat and Taka bails, so he follows with a baseball slide and quebrada. Back in, counter a suplex in and dropkicks him out, following with a high plancha. Back in, Taka stomps a mudhole and gets a pair of seated dropkicks for two. Aguilla tosses him, but Taka heads up, and gets armdragged back down. D'oh. Aguilla does Eddy's springboard wristlock sequence, and when Taka bails Aguilla follows with a SWANK corkscrewed tope con hilo. Zounds. Taka goes up and misses a moonsault, so Aguilla gets his own for two. Taka goes up again, but Aguilla forgets his end of things and they do an awkward splash-to-knees bit. Aguilla snaps off a top rope rana, but Taka comes back with a missile dropkick. Sitout powerbomb, but another moonsault misses and Aguilla gets La Majistral for two. Aguilla goes up, but gets dropkicked and Michinoku Driven at 5:59. Just a bunch of spots, nothing that WCW wasn't doing better on Nitro every week. **

- The Rock gives his classic asshole interview backstage with Gennifer Flowers, blowing off the world's social problems as long as they don't interfere with his lawn care. Funny stuff.

- European title: HHH v. Owen Hart.

This was one of the weirdest booking runs I've ever seen, as Owen came back to feud with Shawn Michaels and ended up losing a series of matches to HHH instead, not even being allowed to win the Euro title from him, instead "winning" it from Goldust (in HHH garb) before Hunter took it back a few weeks later. (Recently on the radio show, Dave Meltzer talked about how the plan for Shawn Michaels, had he continued past this show, was going to be a feud with Owen Hart where he’d put him over and make him a big new star.  Considering what happened in the HHH feud and what Shawn was like, Dave was notably sceptical about that idea ever happening, even if Shawn hadn’t retired.)  Ironically, HHH would impersonate Goldust almost a year later to the day for an angle with Kane. Chyna is handcuffed to Sgt. Slaughter, back in the days before she looked human. Owen tackles HHH and backdrops him to start, and pounds away. Rana gets two. Hunter elbows him and stomps him down and out, but Chyna is prevented from cheapshotting him. Hunter then misses a dive and hits the railing. Back in, Sharpshooter attempt is blocked and Hunter USES THE KNEE and clotheslines him to take over. High knee gets two. Hunter gets a suplex and kneedrop, but Owen slugs away gamely. Blind charge hits foot, however, and Hunter DDTs him for two. Finally he listens to Lawler and goes for the injured ankle while Jerry bombs with an M&M joke. Hunter goes to a toehold and works on the ankle with some pretty weak offense. Owen fights back and slides out to post him, then heads up for a missile dropkick that gets two. Belly to belly gets two. Leg lariat gets two. He pulls out the ENZUIGIRI OF DOOM, but hurts his own ankle on the move. He still gets two, but tries another rana and Hunter reverses that one to a powerbomb for two. Back up, Owen bodypresses him for two. Hunter's Pedigree attempt is reversed to a Sharpshooter, but Hunter shoves him into the corner…and Owen rebounds out and falls down with a headbutt to the groin. Hunter tries again, but they triple-reverse into a Sharpshooter, while Hunter taps like a madman. BUT WAIT! Chyna has managed to struggle away from Slaughter (who's quite useless, actually) and help him to make the ropes. She then powders Sarge and clobbers him, cans Owen, and it's KICK WHAM PEDIGREE for the pin to retain at 11:28. And thus the push from hell begins. Psychology was a little goofy, with the ankle injury coming and going, but Hunter worked his ass off to keep up with Owen. The Jericho-esque finish knocks it down a tad, though. ***1/2

- Mixed tag match: The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust & Luna v. Marc Mero & Sable.

I know what you're thinking - with this collection of nutjobs and headcases there MUST be an interesting backstory, but not so much. Marc & Sable were kinda sorta doing the breakup/spousal abuse thang, but Mero temporarily turned babyface again for this feud because, let's face it, compared to Goldust, Marc Mero looks sane. Goldust attacks, but Mero fends him off. Sable chases Luna next (with Sable getting a scary pop), but Luna runs and hides behind Goldust. Considering how Dustin was looking here, you could hide Big Show behind him. Mero backdrops him and Sable gets a back kick to send Goldust fleeing again. Mero keeps slugging away, but hits foot. Goldust hotshots him and chokes away. Mero crossbody gets two, and they butt heads for the double KO. Tags abound, and Sable just pounds the shit out of Luna until the crowd is going crazy. She tosses her around and nails Goldust for good measure, until Luna bails. Sable stands there yelling obscenities at her, looking quite pissed and showing fire that I've never seen from anyone outside of Jazz in the last four years. (And of course Eve Torres!) Luna makes a wise tag, but Goldust gets HIS ass kicked, too. Mero misses a slingshot splash in, however, but compensates by going low. The TKO is countered to a DDT for two. Curtain Call is reversed and Mero kneelifts him to set up the Merosault, which gets two. Blind charge hits elbow, but he crotches Goldust and gets a top rope rana for two. Rollup gets two. TKO is blown on Dustin's part, but Mero still gets two. Sable comes in and dodges a flying Luna, who hits Goldust by mistake. Sablebomb gets two, and that should have been the finish right there. Sable finishes with an anticlimactic TKO at 9:10. You know, if Sable could have maintained that fire without letting her ego get ridiculously out of hand, Marc Mero could have ridden her coattails right back to the uppercard for months. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20 and all that. For what this was, it was quite good. ***

- Intercontinental title: The Rock v. Ken Shamrock.

Last appearance of the classic IC title, I believe. (Until Cody Rhodes resurrected it.)  Shamrock snaps right away, and dumps Rock. He takes a walk, and Shamrock drags him back in the hard way. Back in, Shamrock gets a pair of clotheslines and a sidekick, and he goes all ground-n-pound. Rock dumps him and introduces him to the stairs to take over. Back in, People's Elbow (beta version 0.8) gets two. Shamrock comes back and tosses Rock, then grabs a chair. Rock uses it on him a twist of irony more bitter than tonic water (and what is UP with that shit, anyway? Do people actually drink that stuff or just remove old caulking from their bathroom with it?) and gets two. Shamrock snaps and finishes things in a jiffy with the anklelock at 4:51 to win the title. However, he keeps the move on past the normally-regulated zone of appropriateness and then beats up a bunch of local workers dressed as refs for good measure. (What a fucking hypocrite Shamrock is.  Remember at Wrestlemania 13 when he got all righteous on Bret Hart for not breaking the Sharpshooter?)  Can you see the Dusty Finish coming? I knew you could. Yup, the decision is reversed and Rock keeps the title. The visual of Rocky laying on a stretcher in mortal pain while holding the title in the air with his free hand is worth the price of admission. It's little things like that that got him over. *1/2

- Dumpster match, WWF tag titles: The New Age Outlaws v. Cactus Jack & Terry Funk.

Road Dogg is still working the kinks out of that there catchy-phrase. Brawl outside to start as Cactus runs Dogg into the dumpster, but can't get him in. He takes a dive off the apron towards the dumpster, but has to stand around and wait for Billy Gunn to hit his cue first, which renders the spot less than 100% true hardcore. Funk gets backdropped into the dumpster, but they can't get Jack in there. Funk escapes, but the Outlaws take turns slamming the plastic lids into their heads. That actually does hurt - the lid on the dumpster hit me while I was throwing out the garbage one time and it damn near knocked me silly. The old guys get put into the dumpster, but the Outlaws take too long closing the lids (dumpster psych?) and Jack claws both guys. Hey, no mixing gimmicks! Funk just uses a nearby bit of plunder. Well, in times of trouble, go with what you know. In the ring, Jack & Funk take turns abusing Road Dogg, and Jack drops a Cactus elbow on Billy. Jack finds a ladder, just because he's Jack, and Gunn & Cactus climb up before Funk accidentally knocks the ladder over and both guys tumble into the dumpster. Gunn recovers and powerbombs Funk into the dumpster. The spot breaks the lid off, which the announcers don't pick up on, so the Outlaws drag Cactus to the back for the standard hardcore backstage segment. Cactus gets tossed into a pile of gigantic Gatorade bottles (what is this, a Dick Sprang comic?) but Funk comes back with a forklift and dumps the Outlaws into another dumpster for the win at 10:00. Sadly, that dumpster was ruled ineligible by the Olympic committee the next night and they had a rematch that spawned D-X 2.0 and helped fuel the Attitude Era. This match was all sickish bumps from Cactus Jack in search of an ending that never came. **

- Undertaker v. Kane.

Much like VD, the buildup for this was much better than the end result. Pete Rose starts a tradition, doing ring intros and stopping to insult the Boston crowd and draw huge heel heat. Kane of course enters first and tombstones him, thus making Pete the best seller in the whole match. Undertaker then makes a spectacular entrance, complete with torch-bearing druids and extended theme. We start with some no-sell action from Kane, but he misses a charge. He gets a clothesline, no-sold. Kane hangs UT in the Tree of Woe and keeps pounding away. That goes on a while, until he comes off the top with a clubbing forearm to put Taker out. Back in, Kane just keeps on a'pounding. Taker tries jumping on Kane's shoulders in a bizarre spot, but Kane drops him. They out and wander around for a bit, as Kane uses the stairs in a manner most unbecoming of a gentleman. A hideously scarred face is no excuse for bad manners. (Later in the year I wrote this, we found out that Kane’s face wasn’t even hideously scarred at all.  So there’s really no excuse for those bad manners.)  Back in and Kane keeps slugging away while Undertaker keeps no-selling it all, until Kane chokeslams him for two…and picks him up. YOU BASTARD! Put him away and end this match! Kane hits the chinlock and it just goes FOREVER. UT fights free, but gets clotheslined. Elbowdrop and back to the chinlock. Did the IC match go 15 minutes short or something? Taker dumps him to break and follows with the REDNECK ZOMBIE OUTTA CONTROL hands-free plancha, but misses and destroys the Spanish table. Well, that'll show that table a thing or two. Back in, Kane goes up with his now-patented flying clothesline for two. They slug it out and Kane gets a tombstone, for two. They slug it out again and Taker goes clothesline, chokeslam, tombstone…for two. Another one gets two. A third barely finishes at 16:58. That chinlock was enough to put me down for the count at 10:00, thank you. Amendment to the original rant: This DID suck. *

- WWF title match: Shawn Michaels v. Steve Austin.

Mike Tyson is YOUR special enforcer, as he mugs like a mark in the ring. Steve Austin's pop is…uh…Austin-like. You've gotta feel for Shawn knowing now what he was going through. Shawn stalls, and Austin isn't impressed, and lets his fingers do the talking. A chase follows, as Austin unloads on him and literally kicks his ass. A backdrop puts Shawn out, but Hunter attacks Austin to buy time. The ref tosses HHH & his man-beast Chyna, so we're one-on-one. C'est juste. Shawn keeps on Austin in the interim, as they brawl up the ramp and Shawn uses the D-X band's drums as a weapon. Wonder if that's cymbal-lic of anything? Ahem. Back in, Austin catches him coming off the top and sends him into the corner with a bump that fucks up his back so badly that I can feel it four years later. It gets two. Austin works a wristlock, and gets a stungun for two. Stunner is blocked, but Shawn flies out and hits a table. He looks in SERIOUS pain from that Flair flip in the corner. Back in, Austin gets the FU Elbow for two. Austin hits the chinlock as they pow-wow about the back injury. Shawn jawbreakers out and wraps Austin's knee around the post, but Austin pulls back and reverses on him. More brawling, but Shawn backdrops Austin into the crowd and then Tyson ignores a bell to the head. They head back in, as Shawn can barely walk and you can see the pain on his face with every step, literally. He keeps pounding away as best he can, but Austin spears him down and tosses him. I have no idea how he can do that stuff in his condition. Shawn wraps Austin's leg around the post, however, to take control. He works the knee, but the back is getting so bad that he can't bend over and has to stop between moves to rest on the ropes. Austin bails, but gets dropkicked into the table. Tyson helps him back in (giving him a wedgie in the process) and Shawn clips him viciously. Figure-four gets some near-falls with the help of the ropes, but Austin reverses. Austin slugs back and catapults him for two. Shawn grabs the sleeper, but the ref gets Stinkfaced and bumped. Austin stunguns him and tosses him around, but Shawn gets a grounded version of the forearm and he amazingly manages to kip up. Good god. He goes up for the Shane O Mac elbow, no ref. Sweet chin music is reversed to the stunner, reversed to the superkick, reversed again to KICK WHAM STUNNER for the pin and the title at 20:00 as Tyson makes the count and then turns on Shawn. Say what you will about Shawn, but mad props for his last match. (Until about three months after I wrote this.)  Interestingly, this match was slagged by many in a sideways manner (as in, good but disappointing), but I think it was just WAY ahead of it's time, as Shawn was forced to tone down that high-flying shit and go to a more mat-based style that ended up being a precursor to the stuff HHH & Rock were doing in 2000. Everything from the heavy psychology to the brawling in the crowd to the triple-reverse finish hadn't yet migrated to the main event position, because Austin hadn't changed the style yet. This definitely warrants a higher rating, considering all the injury factors involved. ****

The Bottom Line: Not as much of a blowaway show as would come later when all the talent in North America moved to the WWF, but it was very entertaining for what it was at the time and discounting most of the undercard, it remains so today. That being said, Austin-Michaels is about the only thing I'd really go out of my way to see anymore, but it remains an overall good show if you happen to watch the entire thing.

Strongly recommended.

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