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Wrestlemania Challenge: Wrestlemania XI

Well I’m happy to hear that FCW has been saved but I do agree that the WWE needs to change the way it does developmental work.

I threw this idea out in one of the RAW threads a while back but I think the WWE needs to use the guys in house (Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko, etc. etc.) as well as guys on payroll not doing much (Steve Austin, Undertaker, etc.) to help set up a new “territory” system.

Have Austin run a territory in Texas, try to convince Bret Hart to run a new version of Stampede in Western Canada, have Lawler and his friends put together something in the old USWA stomping grounds, etc. etc. and give them ownership, similar to the way Steve Keirn “owns” FCW. Give the developmental talent the opportunity to move from promotion to promotion and learn different ways to work from different voices and learn how to perform in front of different crowds that have different ideas of what entertainment is.

It would also be nice for some of the minor players on the current roster to get sent a work a territory promotion for a few months and regain their footing and return their gimmicks with the opportunity to work matches and improve their ring presence, charisma, mic skills, whatever.

That’s just my idea.

Wrestlemania XI
From the Hartford Civic Center in Hartford, Connecticut (I guess Vince knew this card wasn't going to draw shit so he didn't want to pay too much for company travel arrangements)
Hosted by Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

WWF World Heavyweight Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel

Quick “celebrity” update: Jonathan Taylor Thomas from Home Improvement was the guest timekeeper and Nicholas Turturro was the guest ring announcer. Nick actually looked very excited to be there to his credit. HBK is accompanied to the ring by Sid and Jenny McCarthy, I’m not sure which one would be more useful (still debating that to this day). Diesel has Pamela Anderson escorting him to the ring. Anderson was supposed to escort HBK but does it matter really? It’s Pam Anderson, who cares?

Diesel takes a swing at Sid and dumps HBK over the top rope so he can finish his introduction. Back in the ring they use a rope sequence and Diesel thwaps HBK with a nasty running punch. Shawn tries a different route, going with the armbar but Diesel tosses him into the corner and right back out of the corner. Big back body drop and Diesel tosses Shawn into the corner and over the top again. This is old-school Shawn, bumping like three men and doing it without hesitation. Shawn takes a powder and tries a Pearl Harbor job but Diesel catches him on the way in with a forearm. Shawn spits at his buddy and backs him the corner but Diesel shoves him off and meets him with an elbow. Press slam is countered by HBK but the vertical suplex is blocked and reversed. A kneelift sends HBK through the ropes and back to the floor. Diesel tries to pull Shawn in the ring so he goes to the eyes, a sunset flip is countered with a two-hand chokeslam into the ropes. Shawn ducks the big boot, however and clotheslines Diesel over the top and skins the cat back in. Shawn with a top rope crossbody onto Diesel on the floor and some ground and pound.

Shawn is back in the ring and hits a baseball slide, the second one misses but Diesel charges, Shawn ducks and Diesel hits post. Diesel appears to have hurt the ribs with the shot so Shawn goes to work and hits a running splash from the ring to the floor. HBK continues to work on the ribs and adds in some kicks to the knee. A running boot puts Big Daddy Cool down but HBK doesn’t go for the pin. Two super stomps to the face and Shawn hits the second-rope bulldog for two. Crowd starts to get behind Diesel but Michaels counters a corner whip with a second rope springboard elbow for two. Now there’s a “Let’s Go Shawn” chant going on as HBK works the back with a couple of hammerlock knees. Shawn goes to the top and lands the elbow drop on the back for another near fall. Front face lock but Diesel flips Shawn over. Shawn tries it again and Diesel powers out again so HBK hits him with a running punch in the corner. Diesel catches HBK on another springboard attempt but he gets run into the buckle instead. Sleeper hold by Michaels and Diesel goes to both knees. After a couple minutes of that Diesel rises and backs Shawn into the corner. A couple of elbows from the champion and two corner clotheslines officially turns the tide. Snake eyes and a sit down splash on a prone HBK but the champion tosses HBK to the corner and the floor instead of going for a pin.

Back in the ring and HBK tries to escape again but Diesel grabs him and we get the obligatory ass shot. Back outside the ring and a slugfest ensues. Off camera the official jumped to the outside of the ring to stop Sid from interfering and twisted his ankle. In the ring Shawn hits sweet chin music but there’s no referee. Finally the limping official returns and counts two. Big heel pop for that. Meanwhile Sid removes turnbuckle padding and instructs Shawn to inflict the damage but Diesel rallies with a back suplex and both guys are down. Shawn weakly rolls over for the pin but gets a near fall. He climbs the ropes but jumps right into the arms of his best friend. Sidewalk slam puts both men out again. Diesel grabs Shawn’s legs and catapults him into the buckle, I think the original spot was to have HBK hit the exposed buckle but they were too far away and he hit the middle buckle instead. Diesel hits the big boot and the jackknife gets the victory.

(Diesel def. Shawn Michaels, pinfall, ***3/4, terrific effort by Shawn and Nash was more than willing to keep up with his buddy. Shawn would turn face the next night and Diesel would hold the title for 358 days, which was a extremely long reign given the time period although Cena held it for over a year in 2006/07)

The Challenger

1996 In Your House 7: Good Friends, Better Enemies
From the Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska
Hosted by Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler

No Holds Barred Match for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship: Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels

We’ll get to the storylines later because these two want to slug it out in the middle of the ring and Diesel ends the rally with a knee but Shawn dropkicks Diesel over the top rope (which gives him time to remove his S&M gear). Michaels baseball slides Diesel and then climbs to the top and hits a moonsault to the floor. Michaels goes to WWF Deportes and grabs Hugo’s boot, which he uses coming off of the top for a near fall. Diesel reverses an irish whip and sends Michaels over the top and into the steel railing. Outside the ring but not for long as Diesel sends Michaels back in the ring and lays in the power stuff as the crowd tries to get a “You Sold Out” chant going. Short-armed clothesline by Diesel and he gives the champion snake eyes. Diesel totally working the angle as he taunts McMahon and Jose Lothario before choking Michaels away in the corner. Sidewalk slam by Diesel and he unwraps his hand tape and starts choking the referee. Awesome. He pulls the refs belt off and lays in some wicked lashes on Michaels. He wraps the belt around the champion’s throat and chokes him out as the referee revives himself. Diesel hangs Michaels off the rope and ties the belt to the rope so Shawn stays put. Diesel manhandles the Fink and grabs his chair, whacking Michaels in the back.

Back in the ring and Diesel has quickly won over portions of the crowd. Another chair shot on Michaels as the champion begs off. Diesel goes for the kill shot but Michaels moves and the challenge hits the ropes and has the chair bounce back in his face. Michaels grabs the chair and goes for a shot but Diesel gets a low blow first. Irish whip from Diesel and a big back body drop that gets a two count. Neck wrench from Diesel because kicking your friend’s ass has to be tiring. Michaels fights out of the hold but Diesel continues to pound away until he sends the champion back to the floor. Diesel follows Michaels to the floor and jackknifes him through the announce table! Damn! Move is doubly awesome because it was the main announce table and McMahon and Lawler had to clear all the debris off Michaels and fight their headsets. Diesel grabs the title belt and poses while Michaels fights to his feet with Vince screaming “it’s over! Let it be over!” Michaels grabs the fire extinguisher and sprays Diesel to change the tide. Flying forearm and the kip up gets the crowd excited. Michaels grabs a chair and drops Diesel with a shot to the face. Irish whip from Michaels but he sets too early and Diesel hits a forearm and then the big boot.

Diesel signals for a second jackknife but Michaels hammers away on the challenge at the top of the hold and fights out. Michaels from the top and he hits the big elbow. Time to warm up the band but Diesel catches sweet chin music and drops him with a clothesline. (both McMahon and Lawler are using microphones instead of the headsets as they were "damaged" in the table spot, cool touch). Both men back to their feet and Diesel clotheslines Michaels back over the top. Diesel with a hangman slam on the steel railing and he goes back…nope he does. Diesel whips Michaels in the ring and attacks Mad Dog Vachon! He pulls off his prosthetic leg! Diesel threatens to hit Michaels with it but Shawn goes low. Shawn grabs the leg and whacks Diesel across the head with it. Let’s tune up a band the second time and sweet chin music finishes a fucking awesome brawl!

(Michaels def. Diesel, pinfall, ****3/4, this was absolutely epic and the epitome of good vs. evil. By far Kevin Nash’s best match ever and he was beautifully over the top with his attempts to destroy Michaels.)

The Decision

Match: One is a very good heavyweight title match, the other was a match of the year candidate (1996 was actually a great year for the WWF in terms of high quality main events with Shawn carrying the torch with some memorable brawls and Bret/Austin closing the year with a ***** classic at Survivor Series). HUGE EDGE: In Your House

Storylines: The Wrestlemania match was more of a respect storyline as Michaels, the rising star, was booked as “the favorite” against the inexperienced champion. So Diesel was fighting for respect. The IYH match was based on a recent turn from Diesel and was more or less his “go home” match before heading to WCW. Simple, but effective. SLIGHT EDGE: Wrestlemania

Intangibles: There was certainly a belief from a few people (me included) that Shawn was going to win the Wrestlemania match since it wasn’t going to close the show so it was a mild surprise to see Diesel retain. It turned out to be the final step in Michaels’ ascension to the top as he was clearly the man in terms of workrate. A face turn all but made him the king of the promotion without the crowd, which came at Wrestlemania XII. There was no doubt who was winning the IYH match since Diesel was about to leave the promotion. That being said they certainly sold the hell out of the drama in the second match and a novice would think that Diesel was going to take that sucker. SLIGHT EDGE: IYH

Verdict: Really little doubt here as the In Your House match is a classic while most people don’t remember much about the Wrestlemania one as everything outside of the Lawrence Taylor-Bam Bam Bigelow stuff was throwaway.