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The SmarK Rant for WWF King of the Ring 1996–06.23.96

The SmarK Rant for WWF King of the Ring 1996 – 06.23.96

I’ve kinda been hemming and hawing about this one, but the original rant isn’t great and it does contain one of the most important moments in the history of wrestling and all. Oddly, this is the home video version instead of the original PPV broadcast and is actually about 10 minutes longer than the PPV thanks to “Coliseum Video exclusive” material.

Live from Milwaukee, WI

Your hosts are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Owen Hart.

King of the Ring Semi-Final: Steve Austin v. Marc Mero

Mero has his grumpy jobbing face on during the ring entrance. Orton gets that one a lot, too. They trade headlocks on the mat to start and Mero puts him on the floor with a headscissors. Back in, Mero starts to work on the arm, but Austin stomps him down while Owen sums up the difference between Mero and Austin: “You don’t see Austin out there with some hosebag in his corner!” Austin offers a handshake and they go to the test of strength, which allows Austin to cheat and take over. He tosses Mero and drops him on the concrete with a press slam, which is a move you don’t see out of Austin very often. Back in with a snap suplex for two and Austin drops the middle rope elbow for two. Press slam into a backbreaker gets two. Boston crab as Austin busts out every bit of wacky offense in his playbook. Mero manages to power out of that one and gets a small package for two, but Austin puts him down with an elbow and goes back to the crab again. Mero powers out again (with help from some really well-timed cheerleading from Sable, which is impressive for someone so new in the business) and they trade near-falls off that, and Mero gets a rollup for two. Austin just slugs him down and counters a sleeper with a jawbreaker, but Mero launches out of the corner with a butt-butt. Mero makes the comeback and slugs away in the corner, and a double axehandle gets two. Mero tosses Austin (who is suddenly gushing blood from his lip) and follows with a dive, and back in for a missile dropkick that gets two. They fight to the top and Mero brings him down with a rana, which gets two. Austin comes back with a stungun variation out of a powerbomb for two, and the Stone Cold Stunner finishes at 16:48. And that was Mero’s first loss, so no wonder he was grumpy. Hell of an opener, with tons of crazy stuff from Austin and heat that built consistently throughout. **** Reading the original rant, I was thinking I must have overrated it, but no, Austin and Mero were working their asses off here.

King of the Ring Semi-Final: Vader v. Jake Roberts

Vader overpowers him and starts working the arm on the mat, and a big splash gets two. Jake blocks a blind charge and slugs back, but Vader escapes the DDT and beats him down in the corner. Corner splash misses and Jake gets the DDT, but the ref gets wiped out and calls for the DQ on the way down, giving Jake the win at 3:38. Nothing much to this one. ½* Vader completely destroys Jake afterwards to set up the storyline for the finals. Of mild note here is Owen calling him “Big Van Vader” during the beatdown, which probably got him a dirty look from Vince.

WWF tag titles: The Smoking Gunns v. The Godwinns

Thankfully this version of the show omits the pre-show match with Cloudi the transvestite managing the Bodydonnas, although they do show “highlights” here. The commentary and Billy’s pre-match promo really hammer home that the Gunns are HEELS NOW, DAMMIT, SO STOP CHEERING FOR THEM! Billy attacks PIG, who has immediately spazzes out while we cut to an inset interview with Cloudi. Was “she” ever seen again? I don’t recall the character lasting much beyond this. Meanwhile, Henry works on Bart’s arm, but a cheapshot turns the tide and the Gunns beat on Henry in a dull heat segment. Henry reverses a slam for two, but Billy continues working on the back before missing a blind charge and taking what would become a trademark bump. Bart comes in and misses a flying bodypress, and Phineas gets the hot tag. We get the requisite pier-six brawl, but Bart takes off his boot and nails PIG with it, giving Billy the pin at 10:00. Not terrible, but really, really, really boring. I was reading a recap of the 28-hour Marvel movie marathon over on the AV Club while watching this match, and now I know what he must have felt like by the time Age of Ultron rolled around. *

Ultimate Warrior v. Jerry Lawler

Lawler does a wonderfully cheesy rundown of the crowd on the way to the ring, basically insulting everyone in the front row one by one. I have to say, the impact of Warrior’s entrance is lessened a lot by the fancy pyro, because it minimizes the chances of him just storming to the ring and destroying someone. King attacks with the royal scepter and chokes Warrior out on the ropes, and Vince notes that Warrior certainly didn’t expect those sorts of tactics. I would presume that Warrior would have watched a Jerry Lawler match at some point in his life, in which case he should have expected those and more. Finally Warrior has had enough and no-sells a piledriver, making the comeback and destroying Lawler at 3:50. And that was the last time Warrior ever wrestled on a WWF PPV, although he did a couple of house show and TV appearances after this. What a way to go out. DUD This was pretty much exactly how the match needed to go, however.

Undertaker v. Mankind

This was looking to be another “urn thief of the month” feud for Undertaker, but then it suddenly caught fire and ended up evolving both guys. A severely pissed Undertaker attacks out of the darkness to start and pounds Mankind down in the corner, and Mankind bails for advice from the voices in his head. That advice: “Talking to yourself isn’t crazy. It’s only crazy if you answer yourself.” Back in, Taker works on the arm with the ropewalk, but Mankind slams him and slugs away in the corner. Mankind tosses him a couple of times, but he charges with a chair and that backfires on him. Taker backdrops him onto a chair on the floor. And you wonder why Mick is in the shape he is now. Back in, Taker gives him a shot with a chair behind the ref’s back, but Mankind escapes the tombstone and puts him down with a neckbreaker to set up the Mandible Claw, but Taker sits up to block it. It’s kind of amazing that they could get a simple move over to the point where Taker blocking it could get such a huge reaction from the crowd. He’s basically sticking his finger’s into a guy’s mouth, but the crowd is horrified and fearing for Undertaker’s safety when he does it, and overjoyed when Taker blocks it. Mankind with a Vulcan nerve pinch, but Taker slugs out of it and they brawl to the floor, where Mankind debuts the running knee into the stairs. Taker, not to be outdone, smashes in the face with a chair and they head back in. Taker beats on him in the ropes and adds the flying clothesline, but Mankind pulls out the piledriver out of nowhere for two. Mick gets all riled up and steals the urn from Paul Bearer, but can’t get it away from him. Taker seemingly moves in for the kill, but Mankind applies the Claw…and Paul accidentally hits Taker with the urn while aiming for Mankind, and that’s all for Undertaker at 18:18. Great brawl that kicked off a series of matches which gave us the first big reinvention of Undertaker’s gimmick. ***1/2

Intercontinental title: Goldust v. Ahmed Johnson

Much like Mankind, this should have launched Ahmed Johnson into the stratosphere, but unfortunately ended up being a peak that he was never able to achieve again instead. Ahmed bursting through the doors and knocking the poor doormen down in a great visual, as he charges to the ring and starts beating on Goldust. They head to the floor and Ahmed throws the stairs at him, which has Owen criticizing his aim. Owen was pretty great on commentary here as the snarky jerk. Finally Goldust dodges a blind charge and takes over with a lariat, slugging him down for two. Goldust goes to a chinlock, and a rather lengthy one at that, and a piledriver gets two. Back to the chinlock, but Ahmed fights out and Goldust knees him in the back to slow him down again. Goldust with a sleeper, but he releases the move so he can give Ahmed some mouth-to-mouth, at which point Ahmed wakes up, does the crazed angry black man comeback, and squashes him for good with the powerbomb to win the IC title at 15:27. Way too long in the middle leading up to Ahmed’s big comeback. Also, the whole nonsense with the Savio Vega title controversy really lessened the impact of Goldust finally losing the title. ** This was set up to be the launching pad for Ahmed, and it just didn’t happen. Not for lack of trying, however, as this felt like a big deal at the time and you could sense the rocket getting strapped to Ahmed.

Brian Pillman joins us at ringside to cut a crazed promo about how Jeffrey Dalmer should have eaten everyone in the city because Milwaukee sucks so much. Pillman’s gonna rape, pillage and plunder the WWF! If only he could have.

King of the Ring finals: Steve Austin v. Jake Roberts

Austin wisely goes right for the ribs and throws down on them. Austin slaps him around and tears the rib tape off, which brings Gorillla Monsoon out to check on Jake personally. Owen raises a good point – Why SHOULD Austin stop the beating unless he hear a bell? Jake decides to fight back, but Austin casually blocks the DDT by going to the ribs, and the Stone Cold Stunner finishes at 4:35 to kick off the Austin Era. DUD At least they kept it short.

And then, the REAL moment, as Austin cuts his coronation promo and buries Roberts for his bible-thumping promos. “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass” suddenly became the ultra-cool catchphrase for online fans everywhere, and soon there were signs all over TV. Although as awesome as this moment was, no one had any idea how big Austin would become.

WWF World title: Shawn Michaels v. British Bulldog

So weeks after the entire point of the match has been shelved for good (the Diana lawsuit), the main event of this show limps into the home stretch. Sadly, Curt Hennig is exiled to the outside referee position, as they can’t even resist a bait-and-switch for a guest referee stip. They trade headlocks while Owen vocalizes what we’re all thinking: We all KNOW Shawn is a gutless coward, so how can he retain his title without cheating or getting himself disqualified? I love how Owen was making no effort to get himself over as a cool hip guy here, just going all out to be an unlikeable lying jerk. Shawn dumps Bulldog and follows with a rana off the apron, and poor Cornette gets spanked with the tennis racket. Back in, Bulldog goes back to the headlock, but Shawn reverses into a cross armbreaker and then evades Bulldog’s power to stay on the arm. Shawn with a sleeper, but Bulldog runs him into the corner to break and tosses him around the ring. Shawn puts him down with an armbar and goes up with a flying axehandle to the shoulder, but Bulldog presses him and drops him straight to the floor in a crazy Shawn bump. Bulldog adds a suplex on the floor and then presses Shawn back into the ring again for two. Bulldog with a chinlock, and he whips Shawn around the ring again and hooks him with the Rito Romero Special, then bridges back for two. Back to the chinlock, and he puts Shawn down with a backdrop and legdrop for two, which gives us a rare burst of emotion from Diana at ringside. She almost smiles and emotes! Vince puts over Shawn’s fanbase and Owen goes on an epic rant about how wrestling fans are morons and Bulldog should be champion because he’s talented and a winner, like himself. He’s just such a great asshole. Shawn fights up and Bulldog puts him down with a lariat and goes back to the chinlock. Shawn escapes with a crucifix for two, but they trade finisher attempts and then Bulldog kills him with another clothesline. That’s the kind of stuff Bulldog should have been doing all along. Piledriver and Bulldog goes up, but he misses a diving headbutt in embarrassing fashion. Owen, without missing a beat, immediately accuses Jose Lothario of pulling the ropes and tripping him up. Shawn goes up and Bulldog brings him down with a superplex for two. Another one is reversed in mid-air by Shawn, for two. They slug it out and collide, and Shawn recovers first with a rana, which Bulldog turns into a powerbomb for two. Both guys are out, but Shawn makes the comeback and the ref is bumped. Shawn with the flying elbow and superkick to finish at 26:23. Perfect didn’t even factor into the match after all the buildup. **** Bulldog and Owen proceed with the heel beatdown, which turns into Camp Cornette beating down Shawn and Ahmed Johnson, and then Ultimate Warrior makes the save to set up the six-man for the July PPV that no one remembers.

The Pulse

This show had the misfortune to be sandwiched between two of the greatest PPVs in history on the WCW side and saddled with a main event angle that no one cared about, but it’s a pretty tremendous show during a shit time for the company. Bookended by **** matches and featuring a surprisingly great performance from Undertaker in the middle, it’s really only hampered by Jake Roberts stinking up the KOTR tournament itself. Check it out on the Network if you’ve never seen it!

Comments

  1. The Hardyz were said doormen, I believe

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  2. That July PPV was another the Warrior was supposed to be in a big role but didn't make it to, similar to Survivor Series '92. But I remember Sid's RAW return in July 1996 being pretty cool.

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  3. It's funny how Warrior's stints got shorter and shorter.

    He made it from almost 4 years in his initial WWF run from 1987-1991, eight months for his second WWF run in 1992, 4 months in his third WWF run and 2.5 months for his WCW run.

    It does seem like he left some serious money on the table, as I'm sure he could have basically been a headliner for a decade instead of just 5.5 years of it.

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  4. This is one of the shows I used to watch all the time as a kid. Tellingly enough, I would stop watching around the main event, which pretty much shows how interesting I found Michaels/Bulldog to be.

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  5. Hey, he's an important guy. Has shit to do...

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  6. That's when he stood back to back with Ahmed during an interview, correct? If so: very cool reveal!

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  7. So lucky they were dead set on a heel winning the KOTR because Mero or Ahmed were a way better choice to win it than Austin.

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  8. Mero was not protected at all. That may be why he was pissed. Doing a clean job to a nobody kinda lets you know where you stand.

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  9. Still loving that little moment where Pillman walks by Austin and tells him to break Mero.
    Such perfect timing, going from that coked out promo to his former partner on his rise up the card.

    Pillman was awesome!

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  10. Damn straight. Pillman wrestled cruiserweight style in WCW before Bischoff made it mainstream and Pillman had attitude before WWF went in that direction.

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  11. MaffewOfBotchamaniaMay 4, 2015 at 4:06 AM

    In Ahmed's shoot, he went over the kiss spot with Goldust beforehand and told him to put his hand over his mouth and kiss that.

    On the PPV, Goldust kisses him directly on the mouth. Ahmed's Hulk Up and resultant arse-kicking was real.

    (in fairness, maybe Goldust heard him but didn't understand what Ahmed was saying so he just politely nodded)

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  12. Quick question Scott, if the Network started including the "Free For All" pre-show & the pre-PPV Heats with the PPVs. Would you include them in your reviews if you were redoing the rant anyway?

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  13. Someone on here recently mentioned how great the Austin - Pillman dynamic could have been during Austin's run on top as a sometimes friend and sometimes foe.

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  14. Even black people didn't understand Ahmed.

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  15. Is their any other classic examples of "grumpy jobber face"? I never knew such a thing existed. That sounds awesome.

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  16. Destrucity wasnt built in a day y'know.

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  17. One of my favorite Botchamania moment is Ahmed Johnson cutting a promo on Jerry Lawler from the December 1995 in your house where you included subtitles! HA!

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  18. HowmuchdoesthisguyweighMay 4, 2015 at 6:10 AM

    Yup. And cornette lost his mind when he realizes it's Sid

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  19. I love Corny.

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  20. Doctor FunkopolisMay 4, 2015 at 6:16 AM

    Mero losing was probably also Vince testing him.

    "Go lay down for this Austin fella. I'll owe you one, pal."

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  21. Always seemed amazing to me that the WWF managed to take a tag match with Marty Jannetty & Al Snow vs. Chris Candido & Tom Prichard and still find a way to make it suck.

    Also, it's "Dahmer" not "Dalmer". :)

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  22. At the time I thought for sure Vader was beating Mero in the finals, so I was shocked when Austin won.

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  23. I bet a Vader/Mero match would have been crazy good.

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  24. Yeah that and then the next week when he comes flying into the picture in his caddy and they have a big brawl in the parking lot.

    PSYCHO SID????

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  25. Yeah I wonder if they ever fought on WCW TV? Must have crossed paths somewhere between 93 and 95...

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  26. It's all about the names. Chris Candito & Tom Prichard would have been a much better team than Skip and Zip...

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  27. I always liked Johnny B Badd better than Marc Mero. Isn't it funny, that they used his real name in WWF despite trying to control and getting the rights for everything?

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  28. King Van Vader sounds like an awesome name.

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  29. You should be able to understand what a main eventer says. ;) For me he was on top when he came in in 95 and then went down the card until he went to WCW. Whereas his look was IMO a little bit too wobbly. He was no Lex Luger or Warrior. But he also wasn't a Bam Bam Bigelow or so. He had muscles but they looked not hard, if you know what I mean.

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  30. kbwrestlingreviewsMay 4, 2015 at 6:32 AM

    I've heard that before but I've never heard it confirmed.

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  31. He was able to get himself over again with the whole NOD feud, but they made the same mistake they did with Rikishi 3 years later. Dude is super over as a face, but there's 2 or 3 faces above him? Let's turn him heel instead of pulling the trigger on a main event face run.

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  32. In hindsight he should have been King of the Ring and then facing HBK and winning the title. It would have taken all the heat from HBK and the fans wouldn't have turned against him. It also didn't help Austin to be King. He had his speech and then free for all...

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  33. I love this show ... forgotten classic much like your previous redo of Great American Bash '96. I must say though that is seems the WWF almost blew it with Austin ... once this show is over he's not heard from hardly ever until September when Bret Hart ramps up his comeback. I mean, he's on the Summerslam Free For All against Yokozuna of all people, he's not on the Mind Games card, and he's a replacement at International Incident against Hunter. I don't have the Raws up until that point but it seems to me that Austin Era almost died on the vine until Bret Hart chose him to be his comeback match.

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  34. Wasn't he set for a huge title match with Shawn right after Summerslam? Before he got hurt?

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  35. true, but I think if Austin didn't win this and give that speech...maybe he never gets the chance or gets people to realize what he can do.

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  36. Your mistake. That is a HELL of a match.

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  37. No chance. They were just a couple of pudgy jobbers and by 96 both Hardyz would have been recognizable to us now.

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  38. Well, WCW owned "Johnny B. Badd."

    Also, this was 1996. Vince was not nearly as paranoid in 96 about owning and controlling everything.

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  39. Shawn walking to the ring at WM23, saying "I've got a JOB to do, I'm gonna go do my JOB" was pretty hilarious, even if it wasn't grumpy, uninspired jobber face.

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  40. Maybe, both Bret Hart and Vince Russo were fans of his. Although a big reason why was Austin 3:16 (at least for Russo).

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  41. Wasn't HHH the replacement at Buried Alive (I think you mean Buried Alive and not International Incident). I always assumed that it was supposed Austin getting his win back at Savio, but the latter was injured.

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  42. That's what almost happened. Austin won the KOTR instead of HHH (because Hunter was being punished on account of the MSG incident) because Vince wanted an heel to win the thing, and he had a couple of minutes promo time for his coronation for Austin to say whatever he wanted since it wouldn't matter anyway.

    Bret wanting him as his return opponent coupled with Shawn being a little bitch were the first two lucky steps towards creating one of the greatest wrestling starts of all time!

    And don't believe the hype, none of that was planned, it was all luck, circunstances and coincidences. If everything had gone was Vince originally planned (HHH winning KOTR and Shawn facing Bret at WM) Austin would never had been anything but a midcarder.

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  43. And by sheer coincidence, I've been watching this show today as part of my PPV marathon!

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