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WWF In Your House #13: Final Four
by Scrooge McSuck
- I'm really sorry for these whining introductions, writing off the product at the time and piling on the list, reasons why I stopped watching the WWF for the majority of 1997, but this show, and the surrounding booking and drama around it, really was the last straw. The idea, originally, was simple: Bret Hart had eliminated Steve Austin during the Royal Rumble Match, but because of a ringside distraction, the referee's didn't see it, and Austin returned to the ring to eliminate the Undertaker, Vader, and lastly, Bret Hart, to "win" the match and the title shot at WrestleMania 13, leading to yet another lengthy rant about being screwed over by Bret Hart. This lead to WWF President Gorilla Monsoon (yes, he still was hanging around in that role) to "correcting" the problem, by sanctioning a "final four" match between the last remaining participants illegally eliminated by Steve Austin. Winner gets the title shot.
Then came the special Thursday Night Raw, and things hit the fan. Honestly, I don't know what the truth was behind what was supposed to happen and what was just patheticly bad fantasy booked rumors, but the common trend seems to point that Bret Hart was meant to win the WWF Title from Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 13, or at least get his job back, even if Shawn wasn't the champion anymore. Either way, the scenario never came to light, because on this special episode of Raw, Shawn Michaels came hobbling out, giving one of his sad sack speeches about having "lost his smile", and forfeited the title, citing a career-ending knee injury as the final straw to him having to do this. Now, I'm not one to call anyone a liar, and no, this isn't my 20-something year old mind talking: As a 12 year old, I was well aware of Shawn Michaels tendencies of not "losing" titles (I didn't know the term "jobbing" yet). He held the Tag Titles without losing them, he held the Intercontinental Title without losing it several times, and now he was doing the same here. I vividly remember in 7th grade, joking with my wrestling fan friends, how Shawn Michaels lost more titles without being pinned than all the titles histories combined. Truth be told, I didn't believe his sob story, and when they aired a rehash of the "Tell Me a Lie" music video on Raw a week or so later, I shrugged my shoulders at the whole thing. At this point on, I had lost any positive feelings for Shawn Michaels, and sadly, THIS is the Shawn Michaels that I remembered for so long, before he came back from a "real" career-threatening injury and made peace with the wrestling world.
So, with that out of the way, the Final Four main event will award the winner the WWF Championship, rather than a chance to challenge for it at WrestleMania 13. Honestly, after typing all that out, I have absolutely no desire to continue with the review, but I'll saddle up, since it's yet another show I have never seen, and couldn't tell you the lineup without looking it up.
- Originally broadcasted live, on Pay-Per-View, on February 16th, 1997, from the UTC Arena in Chattanooga, TN. Jim Ross and Jerry "The King" Lawler are at ringside calling the action... where's Vince McMahon? Seems odd he isn't at ringside, too.
"Wildman" Marc Mero (w/ Sable) vs. Leif Cassidy:
Wow, "Leif Cassidy" is still hanging around in a considerable enough position to get a Pay-Per-View spot? Mero was teasing a heel turn around this time that was to lead to a program with Rocky Miavia and winning the Intercontinental Title, but a nasty injury left him on the shelf until the Winter, and when he came back as "Marvelous" Marc Mero, he seemed to have checked his ability at the door, too. Leif doesn't get an introduction, so I take anything I said back. Mero wins a bitch slap match, and takes Leif over with a pair of arm drags. Mero with a fireman's carry takeover, and working of the arm. Leif takes it to the floor, getting SABLE involved, allowing Mero to take over. Back in the ring, and Mero with a slingshot splash for a two count. Cassidy kicks at the knee, and takes Mero down with a pair of basement dropkicks. Mero attempts to fend Cassidy off, but he keeps going for the leg. Leif with a sweep of the leg, and a modified leg grapevine applied in the center of the ring. The crowd seems more into Sable than the actual match, which is always a shame, and was the motivation behind Mero's eventual heel turn. Cassidy with a snapmare as Lawler mixes two 80's songs together mocking Sable, "She thinks her future is so bright, she has to wear her sunglasses at night." For the record, those two songs are "Sunglasses at Night" by Corey Hart and "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" by Timbuk3. Sorry, back to the match... Cassidy with another takedown, and it's Figure-Four time! Jim Ross references the Nature Boy... Buddy Rogers. Oh yeah, it was back when WCW and all it's performers didn't exist in WWF Universe. Mero manages to get the ropes, with a mild assistance from Sable. Cassidy is pissed, and rightfully so, chewing Sable out, so she slaps the bubble gum out of his mouth. Mero comes to life and hits a suicide dive, no-selling all his previous leg work, driving his own knees into the canvas. Mero rams Cassidy into the post, hits the Samoan drop, and finishes him off with the Wild Thing at 9:31. Well, other than the complete lack of selling of the knee at the end from Mero, this was a solid opener. Nothing outstanding, but got the job done.
- We recap the "Lost My Smile" Speech to fill time. No thank you, I already ranted about it for several paragraphs already...
Goldust, Flash Funk, Bart Gunn (w/ Marlena) vs. The Nation of Domination:
What in God's name happened to give us THIS? Judging from the "recap" stuff, looks like Bart Gunn was screwed over in a match against Faarooq by the Nation, and then a match from Toronto's SkyDome between Goldust and Crush, "ruined" by Savio Vega. Oh yes, forgot, Savio Vega turned heel. I'm sure I touched on this in a review of Shotgun, but in short: he's a terrible WWF Villain. I know he worked most of his career as a heel in Puerto Rico, but that's a different style. The Nation comes to the ring via the crowd, but no one cares. Their entourage includes Clarence Mason and PG-13. Everyone brawls to start, with the Nation being cleared of the ring by the makeshift babyfaces. Flash heads to the top, and dives off onto the collection of the Nation. Back inside, Faarooq gets worked over until planting Flash with a spinebuster. Savio tags in, but falls victim to a hurricanrana from Flash. We get an awkwardly set up spot where Bart tosses Funk over the ropes onto the Nation, but they catch him and lay a beating in for the effort. Crush pounds away on Flash, and takes him down with a belly-to-belly suplex. Crush was working an ex-con gimmick, by the way. Faarooq bitch slaps Flash while making questionable remarks about hicks. honestly, what's the point of Bart Gunn being out there? He's added nothing to this, and it's almost over. Spike piledriver on Flash gets two. Whip to the ropes, and a unique counter leads to Flash taking Savio and Faarooq out with clotheslines. Bart gets the hot tag and lays everyone out with clotheslines. Whip to the ropes, and he takes Faarooq over with a powerslam for two. Everyone gets into the act now. Bart with a horribly staged bulldog from the top on Faarooq, but Crush drops a leg on him, and Faarooq makes the cover for three at 6:43. Ugh... This reminded me of a match you would see on Superstars where an entire stable, like the Heenan Family, teamed up to face a random collection of faces. The result was obvious and it wasn't very fluid of a tag team match.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Rocky Miavia © vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley:
We recap the Thursday Raw earlier in the week, where Miavia upset Helmsley for the Intercontinental Title. Three years later, this was the hottest main event in the country, but in 1997, it's incredibly heat-less. Lockup, and Helmsley grabs a headlock. Whip to the ropes seems to be in slow motion. Helmsley with a drop toe hold, and a series of slaps to the back of the head. Tasteless joke of the match, as Lawler insists that Peter Miavia is watching this from hell. Miavia with the takedown, and he returns the slapping. I have to admit... I HATED Rocky Miavia, just because he was incredible dull. Whip to the corner, Miavia with a back drop, arm drag, and back to the armbar. Criss-cross, and Hunter dumps the champ over the top rope. Helmsley with a baseball slide, knocking Rocky into the security railing. The Nation is on the Superstar Line, RIGHT NOW! Just thought everyone needed to know that. This match is so dull, Jim Ross has referenced both Rocky Johnson AND Killer Kowalski for training the participants here. Helmsley works the back, and takes him over with a suplex. Helmsley comes out of the corner with a knee to the forhead for two. Hunter settles into a chinlock. Miavia with a surprise roll up for two. I think that's how Miavia won the belt in the first place. Helmsley's ponytail comes undone, and he's MAD! Helmsley with a back breaker for two, then back to the chinlock. Helmsley goes for another knee drop, but Miavia rolls away from it. Whip to the corner, Miavia blocks a boot, but gets wiped out with a clothesline... to a babyface pop. Helmsley to the top rope, but he jumps into a well placed fist. Miavia with a reverse atomic drop, followed by a series of roundhouse rights. Whip to the ropes, and Miavia with a powerslam. He heads to the top rope, and comes off with the cross body press for two. Miavia with mounted punches in the corner, and Helmsley counters dropping Miavia face-first across the buckle. Whip to the ropes, and Rocky with his float-over DDT for a two count. Miavia calls for the finish, but Helmsley thumbs the eyes. Whip to the ropes, and Hunter with a knee buster, followed by a neck breaker. Suddenly, Goldust comes to ringside, distracting Helmsley enough for Miavia to pin him with a bridge suplex at 12:29. Then out of nowhere, Marlena gets attacked by a monster of a... "woman" from behind the security rail, who was later introduced as Chyna. The match was long and dull, and the only reference of this match in later weeks was the post-match antics involving people that weren't even part of the match.
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The British Bulldog & Owen Hart © (w/ Clarence Mason) vs. Doug Furnas & Phil Lafon:
I don't think there was much behind the two teams, but we've been teased a Bulldog face-turn for a couple of months at this point. Remember, it was at the Royal Rumble where Owen Hart "accidentally" eliminated the Bulldog. Probably because he was bizarre. Furnas and Lafon debuted at the Survivor Series, but did little since. How sad is it that 75% of the wrestlers in this match are gone? I guess the only "good" thing is that only one was steroid/drug abuse related. Furnas and Owen start, with Furnas working the arm. Lafon tags in and exchanges near falls with Owen. They fight over a hip toss until Lafon takes him down and applies a leg lock. Owen grabs the ropes and bitches out the referee for Lafon not releasing the hold quicker. Bulldog tags in, and quickly gets rolled up by Lafon for a two count. They go through a series of counters until Lafon hits a spinning heel kick for two. Owen with a knee to the back from the apron, and it's a mugging, to quote Jim Ross from earlier in the show. Lafon takes a beating in the corner at the hands of Owen. Whip to the corner, and Lafon rolls through a cross body for two. Owen with a gutwrench suplex for a two count. Back breaker for another two. Bulldog tags in, and a double clothesline and wish bone from the champs. Whip to the ropes, and Lafon with a sunset flip, but Owen creates a distraction to prevent a pinfall. Bulldog is up first, and runs through Lafon with a clothesline. Owen goes for the sharpshooter, but Lafon kicks off. We're informed about the situation with Marlena and her "attacker", which means it's a work. Bulldog and Owen with the suplex-body press combo, but it only gets two. They do a small package spot, with each teammate turning it over. Lafon rams the champs together, and Owen accidentally hits Bulldog with a spinning heel kick. Bulldog comes to and lays Owen out with a clothesline, then makes the save on a pin attempt from Lafon. That was pretty cool. Furnas tags in, and hits a dropkick for two. Furnas with an overhead belly-to-belly for two. Double back drop for two. Lafon with a Northern-Lights suplex for two. Furnas with the Frankensteiner for two. Lafon with a superkick and DDT, and Furnas drops a leg for two. Owen Hart is SUPERMAN. Owen counters a suplex, and KO's Furnas with the enziguri. Bulldog runs in with a dropkick to Lafon, and throws him in the air with a body press. Lafon turns a crucifix into a victory roll for two. Owen and Bulldog get rammed together, but Bulldog is up at two. Lafon goes for a monkey flip, but Bulldog dumps him onto the buckle. Bulldog scoops him up, and suddenly Owen uses the Slammy on Lafon to draw a DQ at 10:33. Why?! Bulldog hit the powerslam, thinking he won the match, but instead it's awarded to Furnas and Lafon. They continue to fight after the match, with Owen arguing they're still the champions. Bulldog responds by accidentally breaking Owen's Slammy, which upsets Owen more than throwing the belts down. Started slow, but damn did it build to an awesome second half. I could've done with a clean finish, but it all worked in the grand shceme of things... until they aborted Davey Boy's face turn in favor of a Hart Family reconciliation.
WWF Championship; Final Four Match:
Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. The Undertaker vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Vader:
The rules are simple: It's pretty much a battle royale, where pinfalls and submissions count. Last man standing is the NEW Champion, and defends against Sycho Sid the next night on Raw. Bret and Austin obviously had the issues here, but Undertaker and Vader had a minor program going on around the time of the Royal Rumble, too, but damn if I can remember it. Bret/Austin and Undertaker/Vader are our pair-ups. Undertaker quickly comes off the ropes with a diving clothesline on Vader. He send Bret to the corner, then goes "old school" on Stone Cold. Vader with a belly-to-belly suplex on the Undertaker, but he quickly sits up. Vader and Undertaker take it to the floor, with Vader in control. Vader dumps the Fink for a chair, but he misses a big swing. Undertaker boots it back in his face the second time, and Vader is a bloody mess less than three-minutes in. Back inside, Bret connects with a back breaker on Austin, then drops an elbow. Bret slaps on a sleeper, but Austin escapes with a jaw buster. Undertaker with a chokeslam on Vader, and Austin with the shittiest Stunner ever on 'Taker. Looks like Undertaker anticipated a swinging neck breaker. Undertaker quickly comes to, and lays into Austin in the corner. Vader bops Bret across the back with the chair as we finally get a clean shot of Vader's eye... ew. Austin takes Undertaker up the aisle, and unwisely goes for a piledriver. Just guess the result of that one. Back in the ring, Bret knocks Vader out of the ring with a clothesline. Undertaker takes Bret down with a suplex, and covers for two. Austin with the ring steps, and he piles them on top of Vader. Vader responds by slugging away at Austin with rights and lefts. Bret goes to work on the knee of 'Taker, but the camera's main focus is what's going on with Vader and Austin. Vader avoids being whipped into the steps, and takes out a ringside crew member instead. Austin uses the WWF title to pound on Vader, but Vader turns the table, just using his fists. Poor Vader has the worst luck when it comes to his eyes. That's just nasty.
Austin goes to the top rope and gets stradled by Undertaker. Bret and Vader take it up the aisle, then over the security rail. It's honestly like watching a video game come to life. Undertaker actually tries tossing Austin over the top rope, but austin hangs on and takes Undertaker down with a clothesline for two. Meanwhile, Vader turns over a Sharpshooter. Undertaker nails Vader right in the eye, because it's the dickest thing to do. Austin comes off the ropes with a Thesz Press on Vader, and pounds away. Whip to the ropes, and Vader lays Austin out with an avalanche. Undertaker takes Vader down with a clothesline, and chokes away. Bret with a piledriver on Austin for two. Vader goes for the moonsault, but Undertaker rolls away from the impact. Vader and Undertaker go back to the floor again, while Austin stomps a mudhole in Hart. Vader and 'Taker take turns choking each other with cables while Austin tries tossing Bret over the top rope. Bret with a second rope elbow on Austin for two. Austin with a roll up for two. Everyone slugs it out until Bret goes low on Vader in retaliation to an earlier similar attack. Bret with a Russian leg sweep for two. Undertaker tries tossing Austin, but no luck on that attempt. Vader grounds Hart, and works an armbar. Austin gets tossed over but he hangs onto the ropes. Undertaker with a short-arm clothesline to Vader for two. Bret tosses Austin at 18:08, which seems to have come out of nowhere. Undertaker works Vader over in the corner, and now Bret goes to work over the Undertaker. Vader clips the knee of the dead man, and helps put the boots to him. Vader rips the mask off, because he means business, and takes Bret over with a suplex. Vader heads to the top, but Bret was playing possum. Bret pounds away and takes Vader over with a super-plex! Bret with a sharpshooter, but Undertaker breaks it for whatever reason. Austin comes back to ringside to take shots at Hart. Inside the ring, Vader climbs the ropes, gets hit low, and tossed at 22:29. Austin enters the ring again, and gets knocked out by Undertaker. Bret charges and gets caught with a chokeslam. Undertaker signals for the end, but Austin makes the unlikely save, pulling both men down. Bret uses the distraction to roll him up for two. Undertaker misses a clothesline, and a clothesline from Bret eliminates 'Taker at 24:02, giving Bret Hart his 4th WWF Championship reign. Just a wild brawl from start to finish. Thing slowed down for the second half, but I think it's understandable considering the pace they were going for the first 10-minutes. The match meant nothing in the long run, though, with Bret dropping the title to Sid the next night, setting up Austin/Bret at WrestleMania 13.
Final Thoughts: It's yet another in the line of shows featuring quite a few good matches ruined by a completely deflated crowd. The main event isn't an absolute must see, but it's worth a viewing, both because of the actual quality and it was the only match to get significant reactions from the crowd. The undercard doesn't fair as well: the Tag Title Match is outstanding from a quality point of view, but overall, the dead crowd makes it hard to get into. The opener was going well until going home almost right away and the overall work of the leg was completely ignored. The rest was just filler, with the only notable moment from the IC Title Match being the debut of Chyna. Take a pass on this, the main event isn't a classic or something that has to be seen and isn't enough to recommend the whole show.
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