May 11, 1997
Buy Rate: .57
Announcers: Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler
Free For All
1) Rockabilly (Monte Sop) defeats Jesse Jammes (Brian Armstrong) in 3:36
2) Legion of Doom defeat Owen Hart & British Bulldog (David Smith) by Disqualification in 5:00
1) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) defeats Flash Funk (Charles Skaggs) with a Pedigree at 10:04
Fun Fact: This was Flash Funk’s first match without the “Funkettes”, supposedly because they were afraid of Chyna according to JR and Lawler. Reportedly, they were cut due to budget slashing.
Fun Fact II: The night before this show on Shotgun Saturday Night, Helmsley was wrestling Mankind. As Mankind had the Mandible Claw locked in, Chyna came in and low-blowed him, forcing the DQ. That would be the “seed-planter” of that feud, and in our next review it takes its first big PPV step.
Scott: This is what you call Helmsley’s “tweener” period. The whole Greenwich Blueblood deal had run its course, but he was a few months away from helping begin the second greatest faction in wrestling history. It’s very odd what’s happened to Hunter since defeating Goldust at Wrestlemania. Chyna has given him solid heel heat since her debut, but after a Raw match against Goldust a couple of weeks after Wrestlemania, he somehow has been put on the backburner. He wrestled Undertaker on an episode of Raw, but was not at the April PPV, and really wasn’t involved in anything substantial on TV going into this show. Flash Funk is Funkettes-less, so now he just looks like Huggy Bear without chicks. The match itself is average, as Helmsley is still miles away from having any kind of a repertoire, and Funk’s aerial attack makes it watchable. Helmsley hits the Pedigree (for someone with no moves, he always had a great finisher), and gets the win. Helmsley gets his due next month, one year later than he was supposed to. Grade: 2
Justin: This is an interesting opener, because it seems like it was one last shot at garnering Helmsley some heat, mainly through Chyna, before he was elevated the next month. Since her debut, Chyna had been laying out Hunter’s opponents and assisting him in looking like a good ol’ classic chickenshit heel. Chyna gets a few shots in during the match, and after Hunter picks up the win, Chyna drops Flash crotch first on the top rope. Funk’s stock had fallen quickly, despite putting on good matches and still getting some good fan reactions. A decent opener that serves its purpose: a high profile win for the next big heel. This seemed like a bit of a step back for Helmsley, but I guess any PPV win was a good win at the time. Grade: 2
2) Mankind (Mick Foley) defeats Rocky Maivia (Dwayne Johnson) with the Mandible Claw at 8:46
Fun Fact: Mankind was originally supposed to face Sid, but for the second PPV in a row Sid was still injured and unable to fight, so Rocky was a last minute substitution.
Fun Fact II: Maivia’s improbable run as Intercontinental Champion came to an end on the April 28 Raw, when he lost the title clean to Owen Hart.
Scott: This is the beginning of the end of Maivia’s initial face run. He lost the Intercontinental Title to Owen Hart, and now is pretty much a jobber until leaving due to injury, and returning with a new attitude, swank black tights, and “new friends”. More on that in future reviews. Mankind is slowly watching his identity change, as he was once the psychotic heel that tortured the Undertaker and was booed by fans. Now he’s the psychotic heel that people are actually starting to like. Well he would be liked here, since most WWF fans hated Rocky to begin with. After this show Mankind would have the now well-known interviews with Jim Ross that makes his character so deep and captivating, it really shows the change in booking and creative direction. Characters were goody-goody faces and one-dimensional bad guys. Now characters have deeper emotional issues and charisma, a combination that would be the catalyst of the “Attitude” era. This match is not bad and fairly stiff, with Mankind slapping on the Mandible Claw for the win. Both these men would have exceptional matches against each other in the future. For now, it’s a lower mid-card match for two men going in opposite creative directions. Grade: 2
Justin: This was a turning point match in both of these men’s careers. This was Mankind’s final PPV match as a full blown heel, as his well-known sit down interviews with Jim Ross began airing very shortly after this show, leading to him getting cheered more and more until he finally turned face at our next show. Also as Scott mentioned, this was death knell of the Rocky Maivia experiment. They pushed him too hard and too fast, leading to a ton of fan resentment, proving the days of baby-kissing goody-goody faces were long gone. Within weeks, the future Rock would be on the DL until his big return in July. Honestly, this is one of Rocky’s best matches up till this point, as he shows some newfound aggression and works quite stiffly with the Mick. You can definitely see how awkward and uncomfortable he still was in the pre-match interview though and he comes out to complete silence. These two would go on to have some classics, but this was just the bottom step on their stairway to greatness. Grade: 2
3) The Nation of Domination defeats Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) in a Gauntlet match
Ahmed Johnson pins Crush (Brian Adams) with a Roll-Up at 5:37
Ahmed Johnson beats Savio Vega (Juan Rivera) by DQ at 12:10
Faarooq (Ron Simmons) beats Ahmed Johnson with the Dominator at 15:33
Fun Fact: If Ahmed would have won this match, the Nation would have been forced to disband.
Fun Fact II: On Raw the week before this show, Crush was in a gauntlet match against three jobbers to show off the Nation’s dominance. The third opponent was an unknown in a stocking mask and a Green Bay Packers jacket (the show was in Wisconsin). This person hooked the Pearl River Plunge and pinned Crush clean.
Scott: I have one question about this whole situation: Is this stupid feud over yet? For Christ’s sake, it’s reached 10 months. This isn’t Undertaker/Mankind. There’s no psychology, the matches suck, and the crowds are dead. Let’s move on from this, shall we? Ahmed is a clumsy oaf since his injury, and has been pushed so far down the mid-card ladder now if this was 2004 he’d be on Velocity. Fortunately, my prayers are answered as this whole scenario is soon switched around. Crush gets pissed off and quits the Nation, eventually starting his own group. Ahmed has a change of attitude, and Savio leaves also. This begins a failed storyline called the “Gang Wars”. This match is long, dull and tedious. The crowd seems to agree, as they seem quite numb to the whole thing. The mid-card is still looking for the right recipe, and there’s still plenty of work to do. Grade: 1.5
Justin: A really boring match here, which is par for the course for this insipid feud. The storyline would get a burst of energy come June, when the Nation ranks are shaken up and a few new factions are formed, but that excitement lasts about 3 weeks before getting stale again. It is sad to watch the continued deterioration of Ahmed Johnson. When he debuted in late 1995, he was a hot, fresh exciting face with an interesting repertoire and a good ring presence. Unfortunately, one kick to the kidneys ended all that success, as Ahmed became shaky and defensive in the ring and became very, very dangerous to his opponents. The Nation, just 7 months old, was already starting to run its course, and Vince does the smart thing by revamping the group and giving them more of an edge as 1997 draws to a close. It is nice to see Crush and Savio get some PPV air time, but they just weren’t delivering the goods, which was quite a drop for Vega, who always good for a serviceable and interesting PPV encounter. Since turning heel his in-ring work started to fade, probably because his strength was selling, but now he has to carry matches and it just is not working. The high point of this match was a great false finish where Faarooq kicked out of the Plunge to the shock of the crowd, who actually woke up a bit at the end for the final battle. Other than that though, there is not much here wrestling-wise, but the story is solid. Grade: 1.5
4) Ken Shamrock defeats Vader (Leon White) with the Ankle Lock at 13:19
Fun Fact: This is the pro wrestling debut of Ken Shamrock, who was more known in Ultimate Fighting as “The Most Dangerous Man Alive” (according to ABC News). After his refereeing job at Wrestlemania, he would come on Raw and commentate with Vince and the gang and take on the occasional challenger in an exhibition in the ring. Now this is his long-anticipated debut in the ring.
Fun Fact II: Vader had recently returned from Kuwait where he had been detained for a couple of weeks. WWF was overseas for a few wrestling shows in Kuwait and Vader and Undertaker appeared on a local morning talk show. When the host asked Vader if wrestling was real, Vader stood up and roughed up the host a bit to prove a point. The Kuwaiti John Stossel was less than impressed, and Vader was detained in the country while the rest of the crew returned home. As usual, Vince took advantage of the situation and kept giving reports of Vader’s status. It was during this period that the writers’ started portraying Vader as a bully who would attack people smaller than him (Jim Ross in one interview and the Kuwaiti host) but would back down from guys his size. Enter Ken Shamrock who had been putting on demonstrations every week on Raw, but was yet to have his first match, until now that is.
Scott: This was the wrestling debut of Shamrock, who was the referee for the classic “I Quit” match between Bret and Austin at Wrestlemania. He takes on Vader, and you can see that clearly these gentlemen are polar opposites. Shamrock is a technician with a bevy of very precise strikes. Vader just belts the shit out of you. It was a sloppy, if not entertaining match. Shamrock’s submission style is being put off by the fans, who stir whenever he tries to slap one on. Vader once again juices unintentionally, as blood is coming from his nose. At one point the stiff shots start coming from everywhere, as both men almost turn it into a shoot fight. To cap this bar brawl off, Shamrock slaps on the Ankle lock for the win. The problem after the match is that Vader’s ankle is legitimately injured, and he is help to the back by the referee. It also kills a lot of Vader’s aura having to tap out. Not that Creative had big plans for him anyway, but it’s worth noting. This was a fun stiff beatdown and a solid debut for Shamrock. Grade: 3
Justin: An ultra stiff match between two guys who just beat the piss out of each other. Shamrock legitimately busted Vader’s nose open and then fucked his ankle up as well. I guess no one had clued Kenny in on how to work a match yet. I always liked Shamrock, so I enjoy this match and feud, plus I always like seeing guys work stiff, and this was as stiff as it gets. Vader would get shunted down the heel tier for a bit, with one exception, before turning face in September. You can tell that the commentators weren’t really ready to be calling a Shamrock submission style slugfest, as Ross calls the Ankle-Lock “The Move” and would seem kind of lost on the rest of the holds as well. Shamrock gets the win by tap out, which now becomes en vogue in the world of wrestling, as just verbally quitting fades away. Grade: 2.5
5) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Steve Austin (Steve Williams) to retain WWF World Title with a Tombstone at 20:04
Fun Fact: Steve Austin earned this match by beating Bret Hart at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker.
Fun Fact II: Two weeks before this show, Austin had Bret cornered at the top of the ramp. Bret was in his wheelchair and Steve stood over him with his crutch. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Jim Neidhart nails Austin from behind and lays a few shots in, which leads to Bret whacking Austin with a crutch and he falls off the stage. This moment completes the Hart Family reunion and truly kicked one of the most exciting feuds and time periods in WWF history into overdrive. Neidhart hadn’t been on camera since January 1995.
Scott: The first of many, many, many PPV meetings between the Deadman and the Rattlesnake. Almost all of them would involve the WWF Title, including this one. Both men are huge faces, in particular Austin, who since Wrestlemania is unbelievably over. Before the match, coming down to ringside, are all five members of the Hart Foundation. The crowd was throwing trash at them, including their injured leader, Bret Hart. This was becoming one of the most compelling and psychology-driven storylines of recent memory. The match is very good, as both men leave it all out in the ring. At the turning point, Austin drops a Stunner, is about to win the World Title. Pillman pushes the bell-ringer out of his seat and rings the bell prematurely. The referee is distracted, and the pin attempt is not counted. Austin then reverses an “almost” Tombstone, Taker drops it, and retains his title. The Foundation comes into the ring and starts beating the hell out of Taker. All except Bret, who is stuck in the wheelchair. Then, in one of the coolest PPV moments ever, Steve looks at Bret with those devious eyes. He hops the barrier, flips Bret’s wheelchair over, and snags his crutches. He gets back in the ring, and cleans house with the crutches. Then, to put true finality to the night, he stuns the Deadman. This was classic Austin and the reason that he became the most popular superstar in WWF history. A match I really enjoyed even more watching it recently, and my grade reflects that. Grade: 4
Justin: An excellent match to cap off this decent PPV show. Austin has finally made that jump to the Main Events official with his first one-on-one PPV title match. This feud was clicking on every single level right now and was totally carrying the WWF during a time when Nitro was whooping up on them. Taker brings it and goes step for step with Austin, making this a very enjoyable and exciting match. The Harts at ringside add to the great excitement of this match because of their awesome heel dickishness, especially Pillman ringing the bell on the two-count. Another great moment is when Steve flips Owen over the barrier less than a minute into the match as Owen is hanging over trying to get involved. It was a great idea having the Harts at ringside, and Lawler insinuates that they bought the tickets from scalpers because Vince wouldn’t give them to them. I think Scott summed most of it up, so that is all I will say, but this very well done. Grade: 3.5
Scott: This was a so-so show, with an average undercard and an exceptional main event. The Hart Foundation/Austin storyline is growing by leaps and bounds. The crowds are slowly gaining back some confidence in the product, and the characters are becoming more compelling, more interesting, and more talented. Vince is still getting his ass kicked by WCW, and the mid-card is still a disorganized wreck, but at least RAW is live more than it used to be, and the storylines are much deeper than the last few years. The shows just get better as the year goes on. The real kicker in all of this is that with all this awesomeness at the top of the card that there really hasn’t been any Shawn Michaels involved. He’s had a few interviews on Raw, and has chased the Harts off with a chair, but otherwise hasn’t gotten involved…yet. Once he gets going things really start to get interesting. This show is OK other than the Ahmed/Nation mess, one I’ve enjoyed more watching it again recently, but the best is yet to come. Final Grade: C
Justin: A decent show that got the job done: establish Helmsley as a heel threat, give Mankind a solid win before his face turn, provide the next step in the Nation/Ahmed saga, give Shamrock an impressive debut and further the sweet Harts/Austin/Taker feud. By having the Hart Foundation cranking at such levels, Vince was able to quietly rebuild his undercard and establish other feuds and personalities. Just like he did one year ago, Vince is sorting through his talent and reshuffling the card. By August, the deck would be shuffled and set, and Vince was now ready to deal. An interesting show storyline wise and a decent one wrestling wise. Another interesting little fun fact is that this show had the first ever Taker/Austin and Mankind/Rock PPV singles matches. This is a fun little show if you have some time to kill and want to see the continuing growth and road to the Attitude era. Final Grade: C
Runner Up: Hart Foundation
Non MVP: Ahmed Johnson
Runner Up: Nation of Domination
All Time PPV Active-Wrestler Roster
“Special Delivery” Jones
King Kong Bundy
Andre the Giant
Big John Studd
Davey Boy Smith
King Tonga (Haku)
Dory Funk, Jr.
Billy Jack Haynes
Koko B. Ware
Honky Tonk Man
One Man Gang
Bam Bam Bigelow
Big Boss Man
Kerry Von Erich
Irwin R. Schyster
Jimmy Del Ray
Ted DiBiase’s Undertaker
Roadie Jesse Jammes
Squat Team #1
Squat Team #2
PPV Rest in Peace List
“Playboy” Buddy Rose (Wrestlemania I)
“Special Delivery” Jones (Wrestlemania I)
Uncle Elmer (Wrestlemania II)
Adrian Adonis (Wrestlemania III)
Haiti Kid (Wrestlemania III)
Little Beaver (Wrestlemania III)
Junkyard Dog (Summerslam 1988)
Big John Studd (Wrestlemania V)
Sapphire (Summerslam 1990)
Bad News Brown (Summerslam 1990)
Dino Bravo (Wrestlemania VII)
Andre the Giant (Summerslam 1991)
Texas Tornado (Royal Rumble 1992)
Hercules (Royal Rumble 1992)
Elizabeth (Wrestlemania VIII)
Sensational Sherri (Wrestlemania IX)
Ludvig Borga (Survivor Series 1993)
Captain Lou Albano (Royal Rumble 1995)
Dick Murdoch (Royal Rumble 1995)
Rad Radford (Survivor Series 1995)
Bertha Faye (Survivor Series 1995)
Bam Bam Bigelow (Survivor Series 1995)
Chris “Skip” Candido (Summerslam 1996)
Yokozuna (Survivor Series 1996)
Terry “Executioner” Gordy (IYH: It’s Time)
Next Review: King of the Ring 1997