The Netcop Retro Rant for IYH: A Cold Day In Hell.
With Summerslam 98 a mere two days hence, I thought it apropos to go back to the last time Steve Austin fought the Undertaker for the WWF title. (So that nails down the exact date this was written, at least.)
Live from Richmond, Virginia.
Your hosts are Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler.
Free For All match: Jesse Jammes v. Rockabilly.
Yes, it's the battle of the New Age Outlaws when they both sucked. Billy has his hair dyed brown for some reason. No heat on either side and Double J's music gets messed up by the sound techs. Nothing match as Billy controls and hits a DDT out of nowhere to halt a Jammes comeback and get the win. 1/4* (Astonishing that these two would be the hottest act in wrestling just a few months later.)
Opening match: Flash Funk (without Funkettes) v. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (without heat)
BREAK IT...oh, wait, never mind. This was the "in between" period for HHH, after the blueblood thing and before the DX thing. He didn't even have Mankind to feud with until Canadian Stampede. JR notes that the Hart Foundation bought five front-row seats from a scalper. (They should have just hung out outside the arena, probably would have gotten the same seats at that point from guys giving out comp seats.) Pretty bad match with zero heat. HHH does his four offensive moves and very little else. Chyna interferes now and then. More boring stuff happens with a nice Funk bump. HHH goes to the top rope (!) but misses. Funk gets a cross-body but picks up Helmsley and goes for the finisher but HHH suplexes him off the top and Pedigrees him for the win. * Chyna drops Funk on the top rope for fun. (Poor Flash lost his Funkettes due to budget cutbacks at this point, a fate that will probably befall Brodus Clay pretty soon, I’d imagine.)
Clips from the UFC re: Ken Shamrock.
Ken offers some soundbites on the situation.
Mankind v. Rocky Maivia.
After losing the I-C title to Owen Hart, Rocky got jobbing duty until coming back as a member of the Nation. (That was actually a good decision, because it allowed Rocky to blow off residual fan hatred of his babyface run.) Rocky gives an introspective interview about too much success before the match. The Rock is drawing no heat here. Back and forth match, Mankind does a nice somersault off the apron onto Rocky. Crowd is dead. Match is boring. Mankind takes a wicked Rock Bottom on the metal rampway and that gets a decent pop. Rocky goes for the finishing series (no People's Elbow) but Mankind rolls through a flying cross-body and applies the Mandible Claw for the submission. ** This loss was the catalyst for the heel turn. (And six months after I wrote this rant, they’d be main eventing for the WWF title.)
The original Austin 3:16 t-shirt commercial.
Let's take you back to RAW where we set up Ahmed's gauntlet v. The Nation.
Ahmed Johnson v. Savio Vega, Crush & Faarooq.
I miss PG-13 rapping the Nation down to ringside. A very porky D-Lo Brown is also there and is a non-factor. If Ahmed can defeat all three members of the NOD, then they have to disband. Crush is the first guy in and they have a bad match. Ahmed uses a horrible Falcon Arrow for two. JR makes note of Ahmed's gang roots, which was the prelude to his joining the Nation a few weeks later. Crush keeps signalling for the Nation to run in but Gorilla Monsoon prevents them. Crush goes for the heart punch but Ahmed rolls him up for the pin. Thank god. Savio is the next guy in and is actually looking very lithe here. Savio whomps Ahmed, but Ahmed comes back eventually to take control. It spills out of the ring and Savio takes to him with a chair and gets DQ'd, then destroys Ahmed with the chair. This was a decent segment (compared with the last one). That leaves Faarooq. Very quick match as Ahmed hits the Pearl River Plunge in short order, but Faarooq kicks out at two to a massive heel reaction. Faarooq clips him, Dominator and Faarooq gets the win. About *1/2 total. Ironically, about a month later the NOD would self-destruct, creating the Gang Wars, and Ahmed would join the new and improved Nation version 2.0. (I just redid this match on Vintage Collection recently, and holy god was it horrible. I think *1/2 was actually being exceedingly generous.)
More hype for Shamrock v. Vader.
Ken Shamrock v. Vader.
This is Shamrock's debut in the WWF and it's a submission match. (Has Vader ever submitted anyone in his entire career? Does he even know any submission moves?) Shamrock has different music from today's. Shamrock with some oh-so-stiff kicks that were likely real. (That was actually a real problem with Shamrock in his early days, as he had trouble with worked strikes and needed to work with people who could get him adjusted to wrestling. Oddly, no one told him that he didn’t know how to work and then buried him for months.) Good thing he doesn't do those anymore, otherwise there'd be muscle bruises all through the WWF. (People might have to get prescription painkillers!) They seem to be having trouble working together, which is understandable. Shamrock goes for a few submission holds which the crowd isn't digging. Ken does take a nice bump as Vader suplexes him over the top rope to the floor. Vader bleeds hardway from the nose from a stiff Shamrock shot. Vader seems legit pissed at Shamrock because of it. (Now he knows how 60% of his opponents felt towards him.) Vader gets the advantage and goes for the Vadersault, but Shammy barely moves out of the way. Shamrock with more submission moves and then starts pounding Vader in the corner with mega-stiff shots and Vader nails him with a legit-looking right to the head in retribution. Shamrock quickly grabs the leg for the ankle-lock and submission. **1/2 A less-than-thrilling debut for Shamrock. Vader is legitimately injured by the ankle-lock and limps out with help from the referee. (Sounds like an interesting trainwreck, actually.)
WWF title match: The Undertaker v. Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Austin is only really, really over at this point as opposed to the levels he's at now. The Harts make their way to ringside as UT and Austin do the staredown. Brawl to start and then Undertaker takes over. Long side-headlock from Austin. UT breaks free and Austin goes to work on the leg. Austin wraps UT's leg around the pole and then lips off the Hart Foundation. Back in the ring and Austin continues kicking at the leg, including an STF. Ross notes that if Lawler ever moved out of Memphis he might learn some more holds. Oooooo. More working on the leg from Austin, then Austin gets tossed outside the ring and Undertaker goes to work on *his* leg. Well, they've got the psychology thing down pat. Undertaker viciously stomps the braced leg of Austin. (Why didn’t more people do that, I wonder? Dude wore a target on his knee for YEARS and no one ever really went for it.) Austin responds with a spinning toehold, and goes back to work on UT's leg. UT tries the ropewalk and Austin drops him on the top rope. Superplex blocked by UT, but his big elbow misses. Double whip, sleeper and Austin counters with a jawbreaker. Austin gets put in the corner and rears back with the field goal to the Undertaker's...uh...creatures of the night. UT with his own lowblow (big pop), chokeslam, but Austin rolls to the ropes. Austin snaps UT's neck off the top rope, Stone Cold Stunner, but Brian Pillman runs over and rings the bell so Hebner doesn't count. Zombie situp, whip, reversal and UT goes for the tombstone, Austin reverses for his own, but Undertaker reverses AGAIN and hits it this time for the pin to retain. This was actually a really good match. *** (Note that they made sure to make Austin look like a legitimate threat before jobbing.) The Harts beat the hell out of the Undertaker after the decision, and Austin uses the moment to dump Bret out of his wheelchair and steal his crutches in order to make the save. The faces clean house and the Harts retreat. Then, in one of *the* defining moments for Austin, he jumps UT from behind and stuns him, just because he can. Fabulous.
The Bottom Line: Main event was a good piece of the Austin-Hart storyline, but the rest was pretty forgettable crap. The WWF was in a major rut at this time outside of the awesome Hart Foundation saga, and it showed as they missed Shawn tremendously. Recommendation to avoid, and see you at Summerslam! (This sounds like an interesting show on paper, actually, with Rock v. Mankind, Austin v. Undertaker and Shamrock v. Vader all on one two-hour show. Might have to track it down and give it another go sometime.)