(All right, you broke me down, but I’m not rewatching it. This was originally written circa 1999.)
- So you're the WWF. WCW pumps out Uncensored, Renegade, the Dungeon of Doom and Ric Flair in a dress...so what do you do to retaliate? Simple: Go back to the thing that defined the WWF: Really bad wrestling. (And big fat guys.)
- Live from Philadelphia, PA. Mistake #1.
- Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Dok Hendrix.
- Pre-game show match: Savio Vega v. IRS. See, Razor Ramon had already qualified, but got injured, so we got this to see who would face Yokozuna in the first round. Decent but unspectacular match which sees Jobbio hit a leg lariat for the pin. *1/2 (Final PPV appearance of IRS, in fact.)
- Okay, so the tournament looks like this...
- Mabel (d. Adam Bomb) v. Undertaker (d. Jeff Jarrett)
- Kama (d. Duke Droese) v. Shawn Michaels (d. King Kong Bundy)
- Roadie (d. Doink) v. Bob Holly (d. Mantaur)
- Savio Vega (d. IRS) v. Yokozuna (d. Lex Luger)
Conventional wisdom on RSPW at the time said that the tournament was merely a formality to put Shawn over. (Also conventional wisdom from Dave Meltzer and anyone else with half a brain.)
- Opening match: Savio Vega v. Yokozuna.
Yes, THIS is the match they picked for the opener. Savio had just made his debut as Ramon's buddy at the first In Your House. Yokozuna, who at this point had breasts larger than Debra, kicks the crap out of Savio for a while with devastating restholds and stomps. Wow, way to get the crowd going. It should be noted that Dok Hendrix is trying to do a less-edgy Michael Hayes-type color commentator here and not doing very well at it. (He had his moments, but had to tone it down a LOT.) Yoko misses the FAT-ASSED LEGDROP OF DOOM, and Savio makes the Pissed Off Racial Stereotype comeback. But Owen Hart appears at ringside to get some shots in on Ramon, triggering a sort-of brawl outside. Vega beats the count back into the ring for the win. DUD (Gotta protect Yokozuna, you know.)
- The Roadie v. Bob "Not Hardcore" Holly.
Okay, ya gotta admit that this match would be pretty cool today. (Ugh, OK then.) Poor Jesse was still playing Jarrett's lackey at this point, and they were about to start the "With My Baby Tonight" angle. Good stuff to start as they trade two counts, but Holly goes for a rana and gets powerbombed for a two-count and the Roadie advantage. Jammes was very inexperienced at this point and dances between moves too much. (As opposed to the smooth technical worker he became in the late 90s?) Plus his hair extensions are idiotic. Match is fine otherwise, and would turn out to be the only one of the show to be any good. Holly makes the comeback and they end up on the top rope, but Holly goes for something and hits Roadie's foot...and Roadie gets the pin? That was a pretty innocuous spot to get a pin from, and further it looked like Holly kicked out, but the ref counted three. Anyone know what happened there? *** (Nothing of note in the WON about it, that was just the finish they came up with.)
- Shawn Michaels v. Kama Shango Mustafa, the Supreme Pimpin' Machine.
The first hint that something was severely fucked up with this show: Shawn Michaels stops by the throne to goof around...and the crown doesn't fit. Kama is still wearing the melted-down urn around his neck at this point, and he gets a black wreath from the weird Undertaker fans at ringside, who are NOT Shane and Stephanie McMahon, by the way. (Really, was that a thing at the time? Obviously Steph would be way too young for the part at that point anyway.) A closeup reveals that quite clearly. (Thank you Sherlock.) Shawn bounces around to stay out of Kama's way for the first little bit. Kama hits a pretty stiff roundhouse kick to the gut and knocks Shawn over the top to take control. Kicks abound. Shawn bumps like a pinball for Kama as the announcers keep making reference to the time limit. Kama misses an early prototype of the Ho Train and we get the double KO spot. They lay around for a while to waste time. Once the timer counting down the remaining 2:25 appears, you can guess the ending. Michaels makes the comeback with the KIP-UP OF DEATH and the other Shawn stuff. Shawn gets a few pin attempts, but the time limit expires and the crowd is PISSED. Well, no problem, the Undertaker is still in the tournament, right? ** (Considering the tournament was essentially sold on Shawn’s involvement and the idea that Shawn is the star of the moment and ready to go to the next level, the crowd had a right to be pissed. Why even put him there? Guys like Lex Luger, Owen Hart, Jeff Jarrett or even the newbies like Man Mountain Rock or HOG weren’t even on the show and could have been stuck in that kind of death slot.)
- We take a look at Bob Backlund campaigning for President in Philadelphia.
- Mabel v. The Undertaker.
UT chokes a bunch, but Mabel hits the World's Worst Bossman Slam to take control. Mabel does a job of selling that can only be described as "looking mildly distracted". He hits a belly-to-belly and applies quite possibly the laziest rear chinlock this side of Stevie Ray. Man, that's just BAD. The match s.l.o.w.l.y progresses with Mabel taking every opportunity to rest that is humanly possible. (Well, he had to work TWO matches in one night, do you think he’s Tarzan or something? No human being could sustain that kind of gruelling schedule!) UT comes back and the ref gets bumped. Chokeslam, but Kama runs in, kicks UT in the head, and Mabel drops the leg for the pin. Talk about a brainfart. –* (Yeah, of all the people to waste a clean-ish Undertaker job on, they go with MABEL? They barely even had Taker appearing on TV at this point to keep him special. Again, so many other guys at a decent level who weren’t even booked on the show that could have put Barney over.)
- May I just ask who booked this crap? (Jim Ross.)
- We take a look at the Hall of Fame inductions from the night before.
- Semi-final: Savio Vega v. The Roadie.
The "Road Dog" nickname is coined in the pre-match interview. And what the FUCK is this doing on a major PPV anyway? Vince spends much of the match talking about how Savio is living a dream and all that crap. (That’s another problem with his “inspirational” run through the tournament, as he couldn’t actually beat Yokozuna and then his semi-final opponent was Jeff Jarrett’s bitch. How is this supposed to be impressive?) And speaking of crap, we have this match. Jammes kicks and punches, Vega does nothing. Crowd rapidly grows bored with this. Jarrett hops up on the apron, Roadie gets whipped into him, Vega gets the pin. DUD (That’s probably harsh, it was at least watchable.)
- Funny bit after the match as Carlos Cabrera interviews Savio and Dok provides "translation". (Now THIS was funny. I saw this again recently and it was the kind of edge that Hayes used to have.)
- Kiss My Foot: Bret Hart v. Jerry Lawler.
What is with Jim Cornette booking humiliation matches? (Well it’s a southern wrestling thing but this wasn’t Cornette booking.) They brawl for a bit, but go outside the ring and Bret gets tossed to the steps. Lawler alternates between pounding on Bret and jawing with the fans. Three piledrivers doesn't stop Bret, who makes the comeback. Lawler tosses him out of the ring and takes off his boot, nailing Bret with it for a two count. The story is that Lawler has been soaking his foot in horse manure for weeks, so the sock is colored brown and black in places. Fistdrop gets two. Hakushi makes the run-in, but hits Lawler by mistake and Bret goes into...wait for it...wait for it....THE FIVE MOVES OF DOOM! Jerry submits. (This was actually a pretty good finish with Bret convincingly beating the shit out of Lawler once and for all, and this time remembering to release the hold so as to avoid any reversed decisions.) Bret takes off *his* boot and shoves his foot in Lawler's mouth, then makes Lawler kiss his own foot. This finally ended the years-long feud between the two. 1/2* (It was better than that, like **1/2.) Vince sells it as the most humiliating moment of Lawler's career, although I'm pretty sure wrestling on an ECW PPV is right up there, too... (And then they actually managed to tie this in with the debut of Isaac Yankem in an impressive bit of booking gymnastics, so kudos to whoever pulled that one off.)
- Promo for the Special Olympics. So *that's* who booked this show...
- King of the Ring: Mabel v. Savio Vega.
This is, by the way, a special unadvertised match that I put on the end of Netcop Busts. (Yeah, no one would pay money for it even on that tape.) Yes, Vince, Savio's rise to the finals is indeed unbelievable -- it's NOT BELIEVABLE! (Well, the thing is, the character had only been introduced literally a month beforehand, so we didn’t even know who he was. You can’t do an inspirational story with a guy who’s basically a generic babyface. If it was 1-2-3 Kid, then absolutely they would have earned the underdog comeback story and it would have tied in with his character perfectly. Plus you also get the “Razor Ramon’s buddy” side-story out of it.) So we go punch, kick, punch, kick. And bearhug. Can't be a fat black man unless the bearhug is in your repertoire. I think it's a law. And, amazingly, Mabel even has a lazy bearhug. Then we go into the chinlock. Crowd gets so bored they start chanting "ECW" and Vince is suddenly at a loss for words. (Funny story behind that, as Vince heard the chants and demanded that the sound guys turn up the crowd noise because he thought they were chanting for Savio due to him not having any clue what ECW was. Then when he realized what was happening, he freaked out and had them turn the noise down equally fast.) Savio comes back and hits the leg lariat, but Mabel kicks out, thus sealing it right there. Big splash finishes it for Mabel and ends this joke of a tournament. DUD
- Men on a Mission destroy Ramon and Savio. The Kid tries a save but gets pummelled too.
- Mabel gets crowned, and the fans surrounding him absolutely pelt him with crap. Too funny. (And yet they STILL didn’t take the hint from that reaction.)
- Sadly, this show isn't over yet.
- Main event: Diesel & Bam Bam Bigelow v. Sid & Tatanka.
You know, they blew the whole Tatanka heel turn from the get-go. If he had changed his name back to Chris Chavis and stopped dressing like an indian it would have worked, but the Evil Native American thing never flew. (Yeah yeah, we know, this has only been in the last bazillion RAW rants.) I would also be remiss in not mentioning Bam Bam's...uh...interesting ring outfit, complete with flame-shooting gauntlets. I wonder if the Clique used to get stoned and think of shit like that to mess with the Bammer's mind. Okay, so the match: Diesel has a bad elbow, which the heels hit a bunch. Vince notes that they're "blatantly" hammering on the elbow...and it's legal! As opposed to what? Being disqualified for an *illegal* shot to the elbow? Bam Bam gets a hot tag, but falls prey to some devastating forearms to the back from Sid, and an admittedly impressive top rope chokeslam. Hey, that brings it above DUD. Tatanka with more kicks. Man, this is exciting. Viva la New WWF Generation. Sid comes in and kicks some more. Bigelow heads out of the ring, and trips Sid. Sid suddenly drops down and sells it as though he's been shot in the head with a high powered rifle at close range. Well, you have to admire the effort, but he missed the Oscars by several weeks. Diesel makes the hot tag, but drops an elbow using his bad elbow and has to tag Bigelow back in. More kicking and resting from Tatanka. He wasn't that great to begin with, but his workrate absolutely went to shit once he turned. (Not to disagree, but I think it was more that he could disguise his weakness by selling a bunch as a babyface and limiting his offense to short comebacks.) Finally, Diesel gets the hot tag and powerbombs the shit out of Tatanka, but picks him up at two. He wants Sid. Sid disagrees and walks, so Diesel drops an elbow on Tatanka and pins him to put everyone out of their misery, finally. Call it about 1/4* (What a TERRIBLE finish, making Sid look like a coward to build up another match between them. This was supposed to be the match to put Bigelow on the main event level and just made him look like another midcard geek like Tatanka.)
The Bottom Line: While certainly not the *worst* PPV of all time, it's certainly one that best makes the case for mandatory drug testing on the booking committee. (Was Michael Hayes booking yet?) But then, I think we all want to know what the WWF was thinking between 1993 and 1996. Sadly for Vince, King Mabel didn't quite turn the industry on it's ear the way he had hoped, and the whole stupid idea was dropped a few months later, but not before making everyone suffer through Diesel v. Mabel. (And what a funeral dirge the march to THAT main event was.)
Strongest recommendation to avoid this show.