1996 WWF King Of The Ring Tournament
by Scrooge McSuck
- I've been in the mood for more 1996 WWF for whatever reason, and I've also wanted to do compilations of their King of the Ring Tournaments. I've done the 1993 Tournament before on Da' Board, did all the 1994 Qualifying Matches in my old reviews of my "taped from TV" collections, and I've done the 1995 PPV. That brings us to 1996 for fresher material, as I only had a handful of the tournament matches on tape back in the day, and never did a review for the PPV. No, I have no plans on doing the PPV anyway, since it's a total bore outside of the tournament matches. For whatever reason, they changed it up in 1996, by only featuring the Semi's and Finals on the PPV, and having all the 1st Round and Quarterfinal Round matches on Television. Notice I didn't say Qualfiying Round. That only comes into play for the first match of the tournament.
FIRST ROUND MATCHES:
The Ultimate Warrior vs. Goldust (IC Champ) (w/ Marlena):
From the May 27th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw, and one hell of a match to kick off the Tournament with. Hopefully this won't be like that awful bait-and-switch match from IYH: Good Friends, Better Enemies. The less said about that, the better. Warrior's tights have a graphic for Warrior University on them... remember the last sentence I said? You can reuse it right here. After some stalling, Warrior nails Goldust with a pair of clotheslines, followed by a reverse atomic drop, sending Goldust flying over the top rope, to the floor. Vince apologies for the IYH: Beware of Dog being disturbed by a loss of power due to a horrible storm. I'm glad we skipped ordering that PPV. Goldust surprises Warrior with a series of rights, but Warrior no-sells. Irish whip is reversed, and Warrior presses Goldust up into the lights. We head outside, where Warrior throws Goldust into and over the security rail. Goldust rakes the eyes and returns the favor, but Warrior no-sells and rams Goldust into the ring post. Back in the ring, and Warrior covers for... two. Goldust missed his cue there, I think. We plant the seeds for the Lawler/Warrior feud over Warrior's comic book. Yeah, don't ask. 1996 sucked for the WWF. Goldust takes control and slaps on a chinlock. Vince describing "Destrucity" is definitely an audio bit worth listening to. Warrior powers out and gives Goldust an electric chair drop. Goldust takes a hike, but Ahmed Johnson carres him back... why? They haven't established anything yet!
We return from commercial, and Goldust is working the Warrior over outside the ring. Warrior fights back and puts the boots to Goldust. Whip to the corner, and Warrior misses a charge. Irish whip, and Goldust casually throws Warrior out of the ring, onto Marlena's director's chair. Back in the ring, and Goldust works the arm, but Warrior has trouble selling long term. Irish whip, and Warrior with a back drop for a two count. Warrior with a belly-to-belly suplex for a two count. Where did he learn that from? Goldust distracts the referee and low blows Warrior, snapmares him over, and applies a chinlock? Why not, you know, go for a cover!? Vince continues to apologize for the PPV, talking about three matches taking place in complete darkness for the live audience. Irish whip is reversed, and Warrior with a nice looking powerslam for a two count. Warrior does his routine and comes off the ropes with a pair of clotheslines, followed by a shoulder tackle, sending Goldust out of the ring. Warrior heads out after him, and we get a Double Count-Out at 12:39. For whatever reason, Lawler grabs the chair and goes after Warrior, but chickens out, and Warrior chases Lawler around with it in hand. No winner, so no one advances. Much like the Royal Rumbles, you can't change the rules of the Tournament, just to satisfy your lazy booking needs. In all of the previous Rumbles, either matches were given second chances, or we had a completely new pairing to fill the spot, but here, nope. Suddenly, the entire spot is forfeited, and the winner of the other match in the bracket has an automatic bye into the Semi-Finals. * Not the worst match these two could've done, but it wasn't good either. I guess you can say it was watchable.
Ahmed Johnson vs. Vader (w/ Jim Cornette):
Also from the May 27th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. For those who don't live in Kuwait, Ahmed Johnson recently won the Kuwait Cup Tournament. This has to be a good enough way to lend crediblity to Ahmed's chances of winning. Did I forget to mention he's UNDEFEATED at this point? Hey, so is Vader, as long as you ignore stuff like Disqualifications. Something's gotta' give! Owen Hart has joined the commentary team of Vince and Lawler. Lockup, and no one gets an advantage. Ahmed with trash talk, so Vader spits on him. Ahmed unloads on Vader with some sloppy rights and even sloppier boots, falling down in the process. Nice intensity, at least. Vader thumbs the eyes twice and pummels Ahmed with his signature stuff. Whip to the corner, and Ahmed nails Vader coming with a clothesline. Ahmed with a cross body, taking himself and Vader to the floor. Cornette nails Ahmed with the tennis racket, but Ahmed doesn't sell and scares Cornette away from ringside.
We return from a commercial, and Vader drives a knee into the midsection of Johnson. Irish whip, and Vader with his pump avalanche move I always hate trying to identify with text. Vader to the second rope, and he comes off with it again for a two count. Ahmed blows a spot and Vader responds with rights. Ahmed ducks a clothesline and nails Vader with one of his own. Owen Hart has a such natural charisma as a heel commentator. Just felt like saying that. Vader squashes Ahmed in the corner, then floors him with a clothesline. That seems to be the move of the match. CHINLOCK! Vader goes for a suplex, but Ahmed counters with his own. That was pretty cool, but Vader's always been a good bumper, so it's not too surprising. Vader slams Ahmed into the corner and heads up to the top rope, but misses the moonsault. Irish whip, and Ahmed with, you guessed it, a clothesline. Cornette returns to the ring and Ahmed with ANOTHER clothesline. The mask is off! Ahmed with a powerslam, but Vader clearly jumped into the air for him. Ahmed goes after Cornette, and Ahmed with a spinebuster to Vader. Owen suddenly comes off the top with a casted forearm across the head, and Vader covers for three at 8:59. Ahmed, unconcious, gets carted off. Backstage, Goldust gives him CPR, and yes, the mouth-to-mouth is more than enough to freak Ahmed out, who goes psycho and threatens to hurt anything walking. Seriously, how many people are going to buy into these head games Goldust plays? That's FOUR feuds in a row where he's done it! 1/2* Oh, the match stunk, no surprise. NEXT!
Henry O. Godwinn (w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw (w/ Uncle Zebekiah):
From the June 2nd, 1996 episode of Superstars, with Vince, Jim Ross, and Mr. Perfect calling the action. Why did they have to trot Dutch Mantell out there as Uncle Zeb, long after the Blu Brothers gimmick was thankfully put to an end? Was Uncle Zeb such a clever name that it just HAD to keep going, even if it didn't make sense that he's managing a Stan Hansen wanna-be? Jim Ross drops the term Slobberknocker for this one. Lockup into the corner, and they are tusslin'. Godwinn with a side headlock, followed by a shoulder tackle. Lockup, and Godwinn with another headlock. Irish whip, and Godwinn sells a knee injury on a leap frog attempt. Godwinn manages to take Bradshaw over with a hip toss, but falls down whipping Bradshaw to the corner. Bradshaw with a knee to the midsection, followed by a russian leg sweep. Godwinn mule kicks Bradshaw out of the ring, then takes his head off with a clothesline. We return from a commercial, and they're brawling in the corner. Godwinn boots Bradshaw on a charge attempt. Bradshaw with boots to the midsection and face. Irish whip, and Bradshaw with a big boot, followed by an elbow drop for a two count. Slugfest, won by Bradshaw, followed by a scoop slam and a second rope elbow drop for another two count. Bradshaw talks trash and goes for a suplex, but Godwinn blocks and counters with his own. Bradshaw to the top rope, and comes off with a flying clothesline, but that only gets a two count. Bradshaw heads to the top again, but this time he slips and Godwinn climbs up for a super-plex. Godwinn crawls over and covers for a two count. Irish whip, and Godwinn with a powerslam, but he misses a knee drop. STUPID! Bradshaw witth the lariat, and it's over at 7:37. ** Surprisingly fun match, and obviously the most enjoyable of the Tournament so far. That's not really a compliment, but more of a slap for how bad and/or boring the last couple of matches were.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
From the June 3rd, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. Remember what happened at Madison Square Garden roughly a week before the tapings for these Raw episodes took place? Well, it's time for someone to be punished, since he's the only person that was touchable for such a thing. Roberts had returned at the 1996 Rumble, and was doing a "Born Again" character who preached and quoted the bible. I know, the one word to describe that is hypocrite, but we'll just ignore that for now. Lockup, and Helmsley with a side headlock, followed by a shoulder block. Helmsley with another headlock, but this time Roberts takes him over with a hip toss. Jake goes for the DDT, but Helmsley escapes not once, but twice. I guess this match is so boring, Lawler interviews Helmsley's escort at ringside. Back in the ring, and Roberts works the wristlock, then changes up into an armbar. Roberts, one of the New Generation stars, is 43 years old according to McMahon. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Vince McMahon says "Diesel and Razor Ramon" are pawning themselves off as members of the WWF, when, in fact, they aren't, in a rival company. Check out the Superstar Hotline and WWF on AOL for details. Or watch Nitro. Back to the match, and Roberts continues working the arm. Helmsley escapes the ring as we get a shot at the ominous bag.
We return from commercial, and Helmsley is in control. Helmsley with a snapmare, followed by a knee drop for a two count. Lawler and Vince discuss the Warrior, setting up the wonderful incident where Warrior broke the cardinal rule of not wearing a baseball cap. Don't ask. It was on the Warrior DVD that WWE released in 2005. Helmsley with an elbow drop for a two count. Roberts with a series of blows to the midsection, but the short-arm clothesline misses, and Helmsley knocks Roberts down with a right. Helmsley chokes away, then slaps on a chinlock. Roberts fights free and hammers away, and this time the clothesline connects. Helmsley counters the DDT again and sends Roberts to the corner. Helmsley with an elbow for a two count, and it's ANOTHER commercial break. We return, again, and just as suddenly, Roberts hits the DDT for the three count at 9:13 (excluding two commercial breaks). Well, that came out of nowhere. Watching Jake Roberts matches where he's the babyface are such a bore. They almost always center around him failing to hit the DDT about 8 times, and getting trapped in chinlocks. DUD Match was a complete bore to sit through. Helmsley's punishment tour begins, here.
Bob "Spark Plugg" Holly vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Also from the June 3rd, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. Austin has lost the services of Ted Dibiase at Beware of Dog, but in storyline mode, Austin claims he threw the match to get rid of Dibiase from holding him back. There should be no surprise as to who is winning here. Holly was so much of a scrub, they might as well have given Austin a bye into the second round. Lockup to start, and Austin gives a clean break?! There is some trash talking, though. Austin with a side headlock, then turns it into a hammerlock. Holly counters into his own hold. They fight over an overhand wristlock, with Holly taking Austin over and slapping on an armbar. They take it into the ropes and force a break. Austin sweeps the leg and drops a series of elbows across the elbow, then grapevines the leg. Holly drops a pair of legs across the face to escape. Austin teases a knuckle lock, but opts to boot Holly in the chest and ram him to the buckle. Austin with chops in the corner, and Holly responds with slaps across the chest, followed by a hip toss. Austin escapes with an arm drag, then dropds Holly with a back elbow. Austin with an elbow drop, followed by a press slam into a back breaker. There's a move Austin didn't do every day in the WWF. Austin with a snapmare, followed by a knee across the chest. Austin to the second turnbuckle, and he comes crashing down with an elbow drop for a two count. Holly mounts a comeback, but Austin flings him out, through the ropes, then comes off the apron with a double axehandle. Austin hangs Holly up across the top rope, snapmares him over, and slaps on a chinlock. Holly with shots to the midsecttion, followed by rights and lefts. Irish whip, and Austin punts Holly's head off to a big pop. Austin drops an elbow across the back of the head, and drops a knee across the throat for a two count. We return from commercials, and Austin has a chinlock applied. Holly fights to his feet, but takes a knee to the midsection. Holly rams Austin into the turnbuckles, but takes a thumb to the eyes. Austin heads to the top, but gets crotched. Irish whip, and Holly with a ba-a-ack body drop. Irish whip, and Holly with a back elbow for a two count. Holly with mounted punches in the corner, but Austin shoves him off, and slaps on the Million Dollar Dream (also to a big pop), and that's all for the victory at 9:16. **1/2 Entertaining, perfectly acceptable wrestling. Nothing to write home about, but it was fun to sit through, even when the outcome was pretty much determined before the match began. Austin faces the winner of the next match...
Savio Vega vs. Marty Jannetty
Ugh, seriously... who's going to win this to face Steve Austin in the Quarter-Finals? From the June 9th, 1996 episode of Superstars. Jannetty recently formed "The New Rockers" with Leif Cassidy (Al Snow in bad gimmick #2 for his WWF run), and turned heel, without ever doing anything heel-ish to tell the crowd "hey, I'm a bad guy now." Out of nowhere, they were paired up against faces, cheated, and acted like complete dorks. Jannetty more than Snow, er, I mean Cassidy, somehow. Savio, sportsman of the year, tosses his vest at Jannetty for no reason. Lockup, and Jannetty with a side headlock, followed by a shoulder. Jannetty acts like a dork and pretends to be Shawn Michaels. I don't have to go any further with that joke. Jannetty with a headlock, and another shoulder block. Savio has enough of this bad heel acting and takes Jannetty down with an arm drag. They slug it out, with Savio taking control. Irish whip, and Savio thumbs the eyes as Jannetty goes for a monkey flip. Savio with the Popeye Punch™ for a two count, then goes to work with the armbar. Jannetty tries a sucker-kick, but Savio blocks and clotheslines Jannetty over the top rope. Back in the ring, and Jannetty slams Savio face-first into the canvas. The entire match seems to consist of the PBP team questioning Jannetty's lack of aggresiveness. Whip to the corner, complete with over-sell. I cannot express how irritating it is watching Jannetty flail around every five seconds, trying to be a heel. We return from a commercial, and Jannetty slaps on a chinlock. Savio escapes and comes off the ropes with a cross body for a two count. Jannetty is up first and puts Savio down with a clothesline for a two count. Jannetty with a snapmare, and he dances his way to the corner and eats boot going for a fist drop. Savio with a series of rights. Irish whip, and Savio with an elbow, complete with the inside-out sell from Jannetty. Savio with mounted punches in the corner, but Jannetty counters with a reverse atomic drop. Irish whip, and Vega tries to sweep the leg, but Jannetty jumps over it, but the follow up spinning heel kick is enough for the three count at 7:25. 1/2* Pretty bad match, but a cute little finish. Marty Jannetty might be the worst heel I've ever seen, and that's covering a lot of people. I hope he wasn't really trying, because it was pathetic watching him.
Yokozuna vs. Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette)
From the June 10th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. My, how the mighty have fallen. At the inaugural King of the Ring, Yokozuna killed Hulkamania. In 1994, he was in a Tag Title Match, in 1995, he jobbed in the opener of the PPV to Savio Vega, and now, here he is, a babyface, getting ready to lay down for his ex-partner in the preliminary round. Three years ago, Owen Hart won the King of the Ring Tournament, you know. Owen attacks before the bell, hammering away with rights. Irish whip is reversed, and Yokozuna with a pair of chops. Whip to the corner is attempted to reverse, but Yoko's flab is too much for Owen. Whip to the corner is reversed again, but this time Yokozuna takes Owen down with a clothesline, followed by a big slam. Yokozuna goes for something, but lands flat on his back. Has he ever hit that move? Cornette with a racket shot behind the referee's back, allowing Owen to pound away. Crowd chants "We Want Bret", because this match stinks. Owen finally does something of interest, connecting with a spinning heel kick. Owen heads to the second rope, but misses an elbow drop. Vince claims Yokozuna was 666 pounds here. That's an evil weight if I've ever heard one. Yokozuna goes Samoan on Owen and hits him with a giant headbutt. Irish whip,, and Yokozuna with a back elbow. Whip to the corner, and Yokozuna knocks Owen off his feet. Yokozuna goes for the Banzai Drop, but he falls off, and Owen covers, using the ropes for leverage, for the three count at 3:58. Later on, backstage, Yokozuna does the "I suck, I need to find myself" crap. DUD Match was a total turd, but at least it was kept short.
"Wildman" Marc Mero (w/ Sable) vs. Skip of the Bodydonnas
Seriously, this just seems way too random. I could've sworn the Bodydonnas did a "face turn" (see opposite the New Rockers), and why not use a singles scrub to put over Mero, like, I don't know... anyone else? Was the talent pool that thin at this point they couldn't dig up another heel? Jake Roberts joins the commentary team, for whatever reason. Lockup into the corner, and Mero gives a creepy looking clean break. Lockup, and Skip gives a clean break, too. Mero with a side headlock, followed by a hip toss. Mero with a pair of deep arm drags and a dropkick, sending Skip out of the ring. Vince describes Mero as a "black panther", because that doesn't sound intolerant. Back in the ring, and Mero works the arm. Mero with a hip toss out of the corner, but he runs into a boot on a charge attempt. Skip hammers away and suplexes Mero across the top rope. Skip with a snap suplex, followed by a fist drop from the second turnbuckle. Mero sweeps the legs and hammers away, but Skip thumbs the eyes. Skip lays a beating on Mero, but gets crotched across the top turnbuckle, somehow. Skip shoves Mero off, but both men attempt dropkicks. Jake Roberts makes fun of his own age, and it's JUST LIKE THE JOKE about the "Huckster" not leaving the ground, almost word for word. Skip remains in control, but he blows a top rope hurricanrana. Mero comes flying off with a sunset flip, but Skip rolls through with it and takes Mero's head off with a clothesline. Good save for the blown spot, at least. We return from commercial, and Skip drives a knee into the midsection. Skip with a gutwrench suplex, but that only gets a two count, so Skip slaps on a chinlock. Skip with a slam and an elbow drop for another two count, then back to the chinlock. Mero escapes with elbows to the midsection, then punts Skip into the fourth row. Mero with a series of roundhouse rights and a running knee lift. Mero goes for a cross body, but Skip ducks, and Mero goes flying over the top rope. Skip with his own high risk manuever, and he goes splat, too. Mero with a somsersault plancha onto Skip, then back in the ring, with a slingshot splash for a two count. Mero takes Skip to the top turnbuckle, and he connects with a head scissors for the three count at 10:27. *1/2 Didn't really care much for it, but it had a decent pace and some nice spots. It's still hard to believe that Skip was given that much control when he was easily the lowest in the chain of believable heels among all the others in the tournament... okay, maybe that's Jannetty.
We've narrowed the field down from 16 to 7, thanks to a lame double elimination result. Vader gets an automatic spot in the Semi-Finals, to take place on the King of the Ring PPV, and the rest of the brackets form the following pairings: Jake Roberts vs. Justin Bradshaw, Savio Vega vs. Steve Austin, and Marc Mero vs. Owen Hart. I think it's pretty obvious who's winning which matches, but for all intent and purpose, we'll just play dumb and act like we don't know.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw (w/ Uncle Zebekiah):
From the June 16th, 1996 episode of WWF Superstars. They've been promoting Roberts as some kind of middle-aged underdog compared to all the "young bucks" of the WWF. Will his Cinderella run continue, or will Stan Hansen Lite move on to the next round to face Vader? Lockup to start, and Bradshaw grabs a side headlock. Irish whip, and Bradshaw plows through Roberts with a shoulder block. Jim Ross hypes the Action Zone and a special interview about the personal life of Jake Roberts, and it even gets the old inset promo treatment. Roberts with a headlock, but Bradshaw powers out into an overhand wristlock, then goes back to his own headlock. Irish whip, and a criss-cross leads to Roberts connecting with a knee lift. He calls for the end, but Bradshaw rolls away. What a surprise. Commercial break, and we return with Roberts working the arm in the corner. Bradshaw escapes with a pair of knees into the midsection. Bradshaw charges to the corner, but Roberts boots him coming in. Roberts goes for the DDT again, and this time Bradshaw rams him into the corner. We hype the signing of Brian Pillman to a guaranteed contract, as Bradshaw drops a pair of elbows across the back. Bradshaw continues to work over the back, whipping Roberts hard to the corner. Bradshaw with a pair of shoulders to the midsection, then covers for a two count. Bradshaw talks trash and slaps Roberts around. Irish whip, and Roberts boots Bradshaw in the chest. Roberts with a series of jabs, but the short-arm clothesline misses, and Bradshaw knocks him down with a big boot. Bradshaw calls for the end, but Roberts ducks the lariat, and the DDT comes out of nowhere for the three count at 6:17. Not the most convincing of victories, but the DDT works as a finisher that can come at any point, in any situation. * Match wasn't very good, but it was more watchable than what Roberts and Helmsley sleep-walked their way through on Monday Night Raw. Hennig, for whatever reasons, talks about Roberts' ribs hurting... forshadowing?!
Savio Vega vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
From the June 17th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw. For those who forgot, Savio Vega beat Austin in a Caribbean Strap Match at Beware of Dog, but the end result was more setting up Austin to break away from the departing Ted Dibiase rather than pushing Vega further than what he already was. Austin attacks Vega as he enters the ring, and lays into him good. Austin stomps a mudhole in the corner and rams Vega to the buckle. Vega turns the tide with chops and rights. Whip to the corner is reversed, and Vega connects with an enziguri for a two count. Austin rolls out of the ring, trips Vega up, and wraps the leg around the ring post several times. Austin rolls back in and clips the knee from behind. Austin with a single leg trip, followed by an elbow across the knee. Austin uses the ropes to punish the left leg of Vega, then clotheslines him from behind, knocking Vega to the floor. This time Savio trips up Austin, and introduces his left ankle to the ring post. Back in the ring, and Vega does his best Owen Hart impersonation. Savio with chops in the corner, but Austin collapses on a whip attempt. Vega goes back to punishing the leg, then jerks Austin back into the center of the ring. Vega rams the knee into the canvas and applies a toe hold. Austin uses Vega's tights for leverage to throw Vega into the turnbuckle. Austin goes for a slam, but falls under the weight and Savio lands on top for a two count. Savio bounces off the ropes for a high cross body for another two count. Savio with an atomic drop, Nature Boy style, for another two count. Vega with a scoop slam, but he splashes the knees, and Austin thankfully sells the leg, too. THANK YOU! Austin uses the left knee to drive into the chest of Vega, and goes down again. Whip to the corner, and we get a head colission as we go to commercial break. We return, with Austin missing a splash across the second rope. Vega hammers away with rights, and Austin retaliates with his own. Vega gains the upperhand and levels Austin with a knife-edge chop. Irish whip, and Savio sweeps the leg from under Austin, again. Irish whip and Vega with a spinning heel kick, but Austin rolls into the ropes on the impact. Savio hammers away, but suddenly Austin surprises Vega with the first ever Stone Cold Stunner, and it's over at 8:14. And now he has the newest, kick-ass finisher that can come at any time. *** I don't know why, but Savio Vega and Steve Austin had incredibly good chemistry together. Vega wasn't an awfui worker, but he was very bland, and Austin seemed to get the best out of him for all their matches.
"Wildman" Marc Mero (w/ Sable) vs. Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette)
Also from the June 17th, 1996 episode of Monday Night Raw, and the last of our Quarter-Final matches. Winner moves on to the PPV to face Steve Austin. This past weekend, we see NEW referee Harvey Wippleman screwing Owen out of a victory over Barry Horowitz. Well, that was pointless. Lockup to start goes into the corner, and Owen accuses Mero of hurting his casted arm. Lockup into the corner, and Owen gives a surprisingly clean break. Owen with a waistlock, followed by a drop toe hold and slaps on a front headlock. Mero escapes and works a hammerlock. Owen counters, but Mero flips over and takes Owen down with a hip toss. Lockup, and Owen slaps on a wristlock. Mero counters, then pounds away on the injured arm. Owen with a side headlock, but a criss-cross leads to a monkey flip from Mero, followed by a hip toss and drop toe hold. Mero goes back to working the arm. Owen tries countering with a monkey flip, but Mero holds onto the arm. Irish whip, and Mero with a back elbow and a back drop. Mero with a scoop slam, then heads to the top rope, and he misses some sort of somersault move. Owen stomps away and slaps on a chinlock. Mero fights free, but Owen takes his head off with a spinning heel kick. Owen with a back breaker and gutwrench suplex for another two count. Mero tries slugging it out, but Owen connects with a dropkick to stop that momentum.
We return from commercial, and Mero goes for a sunset flip. Owen blocks at first, but Mero takes him over for a two count. Mero rams Owen to the buckle, but Owen takes over with a rake of the eyes and a headbutt. Owen with a suplex, then he slaps on a Boston crab. Mero doesn't submit, of course. Mero powers his way free into a pin attempt, getting a two count in the process. They exchange chops until Owen boots Mero and takes him over with the Perfect-Plex for a two count. I guess it wasn't so perfect, after all. Owen with a slam, but he meets the knees on a splash attempt. Didn't we just see that spot in the last match? Irish whip, and Mero with a back body drop, followed by a running knee lift. Owen rakes the eyes again and hammers away. Whip to the corner, and Owen goes for an atomic drop, but Mero surprises Owen with a victory roll for the three count at 9:45. After the match, Owen knocks Mero out of the ring and drops cast across the back. Owen has choice words for the camera as everyone tends to Mero. Oh well... ** Decent enough match, but this seemed to be in slow motion at times. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the last week worth of tapings during a long session of them. Where's Goldust to give mouth-to-mouth to Mero, like he did for Ahmed Johnson?
The rest of the Tournament, all three matches worth, were broadcasted on the King of the Ring PPV, brought to you live from Milwaukee, WI. As a kid, I honestly couldn't predict the winner here, since all four men had a believable chance of winning. I think I remember originally picking Mero vs. Vader as the Finals, but remember, I was 11 years old at the time this show took place, so be gentle with me.
"Wildman" Marc Mero (w/ Sable) vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
This is the PPV opening match, with Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Owen Hart caling all the action. We look back at how both men got to this point of the tournament, but we'll ignore that since you can just scroll up to see who beat who to get here. Lockup to start, and Austin grabs a side headlock. Mero counters with a head scissors, and it's back to a nuetral position. Austin with a headlock, then turns it into a hammerlock. Mero counters, and Austin with a waistlock takedown, then goes to a chinlock. Mero escapes with elbows to the midsection, but he runs right into an elbow. Slugfest time, and Mero with a headlock, followed by a shoulder block. Criss-cross sequence, and Mero with a head scissors to send Austin out of the ring. Mero teases a high risk manuever, but Austin, wisely, moves out of the way. Back in the ring, and Mero with a side headlock. Owen makes fun of Jake Roberts' age (I think he's in his 50's) as Mero takes Austin over with an arm drag, then goes back to the headlock. Someone's been watching tapes of Ricky Steamboat. Owen Hart using the term "hose bag" is pretty entertaining. Austin with a Lou Thesz Press (the first time I've seen him do that in the WWF), followed by a pair of rights. Irish whip, and Mero takes Austin over with a back drop. Austin rolls out of the ring again to break Mero's momentum. Back inside, and Austin offers a handshake. Mero isn't THAT stupid. They go for a test-of-strength, and Austin predictably boots him down to the canvas to a positive response. Mero fights back to his feet and returns the favor. Irish whip, and Austin tosses Mero over the top rope to another babyface reaction. Austin exposes the concrete floor and slams Mero onto it to another pop. I didn't know Milwaukee liked Austin that much. Back in the ring, and Austin with a suplex, excellently executed. Austin drags Mero to the edge of the ring and drives an elbow across the throat. Austin takes him to the opposite side of the ring, and does it again.
Back inside, and Austin rakes the eyes using his boot laces, then drags Mero's face across the top rope. Whip to the corner, and Mero sells the impact of it. Whip to the corner again, with the same results. Austin teases the Stunner, but chooses to snapmare him over instead, then comes off the second rope with an elbow drop for a two count. Austin scoops Mero up and presses him into a back breaker. Someone's been watching tapes of Nikolai Volkoff. That's only good enough for a two count. Austin drags Mero to the center of the ring and applies a Boston crab. Austin did it pretty badly back then, too. He doesn't sit back enough on it. Mero with a small package out of nowhere for a fast two count. Irish whip, and Austin with a back elbow. Austin pulls Mero back and goes back to the Boston crab. Mero counters for a two count, then rolls Austin up again for another two count. Whip to the corner, and Austin goes for an atomic drop. Mero kicks up the arms for a victory role, but it only gets two... and it busts Austin's mouth wide open. Austin levels Mero with a clothesline, then nails him with a jaw breaker as Mero grabbed a sleeper hold. Whip to the corner, and Mero springs off the second rope, crashing into Austin. Irish whip, and Mero comes off the ropes with a running dropkick. Mero with rights in the corner, then some of the mounted variety. Irish whip, and Mero with a back drop. Mero heads to the top rope, and he comes off with a double axehandle for a two count. Whip to the corner, and Austin boots Mero coming in. Mero dumps Austin over the top rope and connects with a somersault plancha. We get a close up shot of Austin's bloody mouth. Mero heads to the top rope, but Austin rolls back out of the ring. Mero responds with a suicide dive up the aisle, but the instant replay almost missed it! Mero to the top rope, and he comes off with a missile dropkick for a two count. Mero sets Austin up across the top turnbuckle, and takes him down with a hurricanrana! Good luck doing that with Austin after the neck injury. That only gets a two count, by the way. Mero argues the count, and Austin does a weird spot where he lifts mero up for a powerbomb, but the momentum takes Mero over his head, across the top rope instead. That only gets two. Austin with the Stunner, and just like that, it's over at 16:52. Sadly, Mero over-sells it like his name was Tito Santana, looking as if he kicked out during the pinfall the entire time. ***1/2 Pretty good match with a clean finish. Started off with a nice wrestling sequence, and never was bogged down with boring rest-holds. Mero's sloppy offense busted his opponent open hardway, but that's just a minor gripe that doesn't take away from the match quality. Like I mentioned earlier, I love when the heel actually gets a clean victory in a situation like this.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. Vader (w/ Jim Cornette)
This is the only problem with Tournaments, because now the Finals is a lot more predictable with Steve Austin already in the Finals. Vader only wrestled once to get here, and Roberts got by two future WWE Heavyweight Champions. Vince keeps hammering home Jake Roberts' age, as if that's supposed to make us buy into him... okay, so maybe I thought he might win. Owen Hart brings up Roberts being injured in his match with Justin Bradshaw. Roberts unleashes the snake, and it's not the albino python this time. So does that count as Revelations or Damian? WE MUST HAVE ANSWERS! Lockup to start, and Vader shows off his chubby muscles. Vader with a waist-lock and smothering facelock. Vader takes Roberts down with an armbar, driving an elbow into the shoulder as well. Irish whip, and Vader with his pump vertical splash. Irish whip, and he does it again, then follows with a splash for a two count. Whip to the corner, and Vader charges into a boot. Roberts with rights and lefts, followed by a running knee lift. Roberts calls for the DDT, but Vader powers him into the corner and pounds him into mashed potatoes. Roberts fights back again with rights, then connects with a short-arm clothesline. Roberts hits the ropes, but runs right into the massive arms of Vader. Whip to the corner, and Vader misses a splash. Roberts hits the DDT, but Vader throws the referee down at the same time, and it's a Disqualification victory for Jake Roberts at 3:31. Whatever! After the match, Vader attacks Roberts from behind, splashing him in the corner repeatedly. Vader drags Roberts to the corner, and drops a Vader Bomb. The entire referee locker room hits the ring to prevent Vader from punishing Roberts further. I love how Vader manhandled his own manager at times, yet Cornette stuck by him the entire time. I just realized that Roberts might've been symbolizing what the WWF was doing with the Billionaire Ted sketches. He's a "washed up star of the 80's" being pushed for whatever reason... and we'll see the conclussion to that in the next match. 1/2* It wasn't boring, all three minutes of it. What a waste of Vader.
King of the Ring Tournament Finals:
It's been a long, winding road, covering countless, but we're finally here, the King of the Ring Finals. Will the freshly pushed and crowd pleasing Stone Cold Steve Austin, or washed up, recovering drug addict and alcohol Jake Roberts, be crowned the King of the Ring? We're only moments away... and now the time is here. The commentators mention Austin having to have his mouth stitched up since his last match. During the entrances, Austin comes across Brian Pillman, who cut an ECW style promo leading into this match, but no one talks about it. Roberts is wrestling against physical consultant orders, selling the horrible beating from the hands of Vader. Roberts is dragging the ominous bag behind him for emphasis. Austin attacks Roberts as soon as he enters the ring, and stomps away like a maniac. Austin drops a series of axehandles across the ribs, then comes off the second rope for more punishment. Roberts lays there like a slug, like it's his only defense. Austin slaps Roberts across the face, and now Roberts is fighting back with boots to the midsection. Austin goes back to the ribs, though, throwing Roberts back to the canvas. Austin undoes the Superman Magic Tape that heals all wounds and this brings out Gorilla Monsoon to bring an end to things... but Jake wants to continue! Gorilla says OK, and leaves. Roberts uses this time to get back to his feet, then sucker punches Austin. Roberts with jabs and a roundhouse right. He calls for the DDT, but Austin rams him into the corner and drives shoulder after shoulder into his torso. Austin pulls Roberts off the canvas, hits the Stunner, and we've got the new King of the Ring at 4:36. 3/4* There wasn't really much of a match, but it worked within the context of the story it wanted to tell.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
- Steve Austin immediately heads over to the special podium for the Coronation ceremony, along with Dok Hendrix. Steve Austin wants Roberts out of the ring and out of the WWF, because he doesn't have what it takes anymore. "You sit there and you thump your bible. You say your prayers and it didn't get you anywhere. Talk about your pslams, talk about John 3:16... Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!" And thus, the greatest catchphrase of the Attitude era was born. I don't think I've ever seen a wrestling t-shirt more prominently worn in public like the Austin 3:16 shirt's. Austin says when he gets his shot, he's going to be the next WWF Champion, "and that's the bottom line, 'cause Stone Cold said so." Austin thankfully doesn't wear a stupid crown and cape, like the previous winners have.
Tournament Final Thoughts: Much like all previous (and future) King of the Ring's, the first round was basically just a bunch of random matches. I did like the booking decisions though, using Jake Roberts as the old-timer underdog looking to capture glory, going up aganst all the young lions, before ultimately failing to the one guy who had no mercy in him, Steve Austin, who closed things out with one of the most memorable promos of his era. Not a whole lot of good wrestling, but a very watchable collection of matches for the most part. I think I finally burned myself out on the 1996 WWF stuff after this, though.
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