June 8, 1997
Providence Civic Center
Providence, Rhode Island
Buy Rate: .5
Announcers: Vince McMahon and Jim Ross
***Note from Justin: I will do my live notes ala Rumble ’94, but I do not have as fond memories of this event as I did for the Rumble, so they won’t be as detailed. The live notes are noted by asterisks. ***
***Wayland Price drops off Jim and Justin outside the Civic Center for an interesting night of PPV wrestling. ***
Free For All:
Headbangers defeat Billy Gunn and Jesse Jammes in 6:10
***Check out the Free-for-All to see a great Dok Hendrix promo in the Civic Center concourse. At the very end of the promo, look to the left hand corner and see a handsome man in an Orioles hat shove a dude out of the way with his custom made KOTR: Providence sign. If you look even more closely, you can see the top of Jim’ head in the background. ***
Fun Fact: The whole card for the show was severely changed numerous times leading up to that actual date. The original Main Event was Undertaker vs. Ahmed Johnson, but that was changed to Undertaker vs. Faarooq and the original Tag Title Match was Austin & Michaels vs. Owen & Bulldog. Shortly after that, the matches were changed to Undertaker vs. Faarooq, Austin vs. Pillman in his return match, Bret vs. Shawn in a 10 minute challenge match where if Bret couldn’t beat Shawn in 10 minutes, he would never wrestle in the U.S. again and Legion of Doom vs. Owen & Bulldog. The week before the show, it was discovered that Bret would not be fully healed from his knee surgery in time for the show, so he had to be pulled. On the Raw before the PPV, the card was reshuffled to its present state, and Austin vs. Pillman was scheduled for Raw the next night.
***Justin and Jim arrive at their nosebleed seats. Since Lawler is wrestling, they begin to ponder if JR and Vince will be joined by a surprise commentator, ala Rumble ’94 (DiBiase). Once they realize JR and Vince are going solo, they realize this night may not be as special as the last one they attended. They also notice that there is no elaborate Coronation setup, which pisses them off even more because this officially seems like a half-assed PPV attempt. They also worry that they pull a Rumble ’94 and have co-winners, thus necessitating the elimination of the throne. They decide against that theory and just assume they are being lazy. Finally, after some convincing, Jim agrees to join Justin in searching for better seats. ***
***Jim and Justin arrive on the floor and find two seats about 6 rows back. Despite the numerous signs blocking their view, they decide to stay. ***
1) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley (Paul Levesque) defeats Ahmed Johnson (Tony Norris) with a Pedigree at 7:42
Qualifying Matches: Helmsley defeated Crush (Brian Adams); Ahmed Johnson had beaten Helmsley (Helmsley was given another chance due to a Vader injury)
Scott: A sub par opener to this show. Helmsley defeats the man many considered the favorite to win this thing, well, everyone except me. In my opinion Ahmed Johnson is way past his usefulness right now. I’m not saying it’s his fault. The kidney injury is a big deal, but unfortunately all his abilities went with it. He became a clumsy oaf, and his push went down the tubes. Helmsley is now getting great heat as a heel with Chyna at his side, and thanks to her interference as Ahmed goes for the Plunge, Hunter drops the Pedigree and pushes aside the Pearl River powerhouse, to move on to the finals. Just like the year before, the complete tournament was not on this show, a necessary move to add time to the bigger matches further up on the card. However it does take away from the uniqueness and importance to the tournament. The WWF will go back and forth from here on out as to how large the tourney will be on PPV. The Blueblood moves on, and Ahmed’s slide continues. Grade: 2
***Jim and Justin are forced to talk to some weird dorky guy with glasses, who seemingly has come to this show alone. He tries to convince them that wrestling is fake and that “the broad could probably beat both of them up.” ***
Justin: A decent match that shows, despite his deteriorating skills, Ahmed was still very over with the crowd and was the odds on favorite to win this thing. Helmsley was getting better and needed a big win to establish himself as a player, and, he gets that win here and advances to the finals. These two faced in the Qualifying round, but Helmsley lost by DQ. After Vader was injured, Hunter got reinserted into his match against Crush. The reasoning given was that Helmsley threatened to sue because he didn’t know you could be eliminated from the whole tournament by losing on a DQ. Pretty lame, and I don’t know why they didn’t just stick someone else against Ahmed in the Qualifiers, but that is neither here nor there. Helmsley picks up the duke, and the crowd is crushed when Ahmed is eliminated, kicking off an evening of disappointments. Grade: 2
***Justin rips up his King Ahmed sign in disgust. The duo also decides to return to their nosebleed seats because they can not stand the annoying dork that will not shut up. ***
2) Mankind (Mick Foley) defeats Jerry Lawler with the Mandible Claw at 10:24
Qualifying Matches: Mankind beat Savio Vega (Juan Rivera); Lawler beat Goldust (Dustin Runnells)
Fun Fact: In the weeks leading up this show, Jim Ross conducted a series of in-depth sit-down interviews with Mankind. The interviews delved into his past and showed interesting photos and video footage of matches from earlier in his career. This is the first time they really came out and stated Mankind’s real name and previous characters (Cactus Jack). The interviews were a success and achieved the original goal: turn Mankind face as beings to receive a noticeable amount of cheers throughout the night. To also add to the face turn, Paul Bearer is no longer with Mankind, as he is focusing solely on the Undertaker. Mankind makes that point clear before this match.
Scott: This was an unusual pairing. Why is Jerry still wrestling? Couldn’t they put some other useless heel in there? Mick Foley wrestles his first “tweener” match in the WWF, and it’s kind of slow, plodding, and well, very Memphis. Lawler does his typical crap to the crowd, which kills a good number of brain cells. Mick drops a couple of spots, including a nasty shot to the head with the stairs. Finally, after a piledriver from Jerry gets a two-count, Mankind slips on the MC, and that’s that. So, your KOTR final is Hunter Hearst-Helmsley and Mankind. This match was probably about 4 minutes too long, and it was barely watchable. Mankind is getting over more and more by the minute and with the next match would be a full-fledged fan favorite. Lawler would be back behind the mike next month. Grade: 1.5
***The crowd is slightly confused what to do upon Mick’s entrance but decides to give him a hearty ovation as he gets to the ring. ***
Justin: A decent, yet sluggish match that features Lawler’s usual meandering, slow-paced Memphis-based psychology sort of “action.” I am not really sure why the busted Lawler out for this match, but I assume it was to get Mick some solid face cheers by having him square off with a legit, heat-machine heel like Lawler who knows how to work a crowd better than most. This would have been better as a 5 minute squash to get Mick over, but what can gonna do. The Foley interview pieces were done so well and added such a human side to a previously evil character that it instantly put the fans on his side. Of course, showing the Japanese Death Match footage and brining up Cactus Jack didn’t hurt either. Those interviews will play a key part in a major storyline as the summer rolls on. For now, though, the once hated Mankind is now the underdog fan favorite heading into the finals. Grade: 2
During an interview with Todd Pettingill, Brian Pillman is jumped by Steve Austin, who’s stalking him and making awesome facial features behind his back. Austin tosses Pillman in the bathroom, beats the shit out of him for a few minutes and then flushes his head down the toilet.
***One of the few highlights of this night, as Jim and Justin were in Heaven seeing two of their favorites tear it up in the bathroom. ***
3) Goldust (Dustin Runnels) defeats Crush (Brian Adams) with a DDT at 9:54
Fun Fact: This match was never announced prior to the show. Justin had no idea it was happening until he bought a program and looked at the actual card. Scott, like everyone else watching at home, had no idea the match was scheduled.
Scott: There was obviously no backstory to this, but who gives a shit anyway? This show was becoming more and more of a mess as it went along. Goldust just doesn’t have the “oomph” he had from his debut in 1995 until he lost the Intercontinental Title to Ahmed Johnson exactly one year ago. He’s still getting some good pops, and his face paint design is quite swank on this night, but he’s still floating around. Crush is back to being a flunky, but his Disciples of Apocalypse would join the Gang Wars the WWF would start soon. Their “creating” of factions was a direct attempt to counter the NWO. It wouldn’t work. Surprisingly the crowd was very excited for this match. Those crazy Providence fans, they’ll cheer for anything. Speaking of Providence, both JR and Vince mention during this match the history of the actual KOTR tourney, including that it started in Foxborough, MA in 1986, and it ran right here at the Civic Center from 1988-1991. Vince finally admitting some history starts making things more legit. This match is not legit, it’s filler. Grade: 2
Justin: I have no idea why the crowd was into this match, but I guess they were digging the freshly turned face Goldust. You could throw Mario Mancini vs. Virgil and the Providence crowd would go apeshit, so I am not sure why Vince doesn’t run the Dunk more often. Nothing much here, as Crush is treading water until the impending Nation split and Goldust is enjoying some solid cheers for the first time in a while. The match, though, is as sluggish and pedestrian as you would expect from these two. Grade: 1.5
4) The Hart Foundation defeats Legion of Doom & Sid (Eudy) when Owen Hart pins Sid with a top-rope Sunset Flip at 13:37
Fun Fact: This is Sid’s final PPV appearance. He would show up on Raw one more time in July as part of Steve Austin’s backup against the Hart Foundation and then disappear from the WWF for good. Here is his all time PPV record: 5-11. He was 0-1 at Royal Rumble (0-2 if you count his loss in an actual Rumble), 0-2 at Wrestlemania (both were Main Events), 0-2 at King of the Ring, 1-0 at Summerslam, 1-1 at Survivor Series, 1-3 at In Your House and 2-1 at other events.
Fun Fact II: The Hart Foundation would debut their new swank leather jackets with the Hitman logo and all their names on the back, solidifying them as an actual gang.
Scott: This was another showcase for the cool heel team of Bulldog, Anvil and Owen. This would be Sid’s final WWF PPV. His WWF legacy would be choppy: Chapter 1: July 1991-April 1992; Chapter 2: March 1995-January 1996; Chapter 3: July 1996-June 1997. He’s had his high points (1996 Survivor Series) and his low points (every match in 1995). However, he will always have a great cult following. His 3 eras mired in controversy. He debuted in 1991 amid the early collapse of Hulkamania, and was caught in the clusterfuck that was Hogan saving his kingdom. In 1995, he was the definition of true mediocrity, stuck in a no-win situation against the 3-toed sloth that is Diesel. In his most recent run, he had the match of his career at the 1996 Survivor Series. Now, he jobs to Owen, and his WWF career is over. The match itself is OK, but again it just seems like its 6 guys with no real connection to each other, it’s just a time-filler. At least this match was mildly entertaining. LOD will continue to chase the brass ring, and Sid will go back to the Men’s Open C softball league in West Memphis. Grade: 2.5
Justin: An OK six man tag that really had no pizzazz to it because it seemed like there was no reason these guys were fighting, just like the rest of the card. The crowd is into Sid big time as always and is definitely surprised when the Harts pull out the shocking upset, especially with Owen pinning Sid. Sid really had such an up and down WWF career and it is funny to see him go on such a low note, since his comings and goings were always mired in some sort of controversy. He would resurface in WCW by 1999 where he had arguably the best run of his pro career. This match was just a way to get these guys on the card, but I think they should have stuck with LOD vs. Bulldog/Owen and thrown a number 1 contenders’ stipulation on it. Grade: 2.5
5) Hunter Hearst-Helmsley defeats Mankind to become 1997 King of the Ring with a Pedigree at 19:18
Fun Fact: Todd Pettingill makes one of his final WWF PPV appearances when he presents Helmsley with his crown and scepter after the match. Todd had made sporadic appearances throughout the year and would pop in and out for the rest of 1997, but would be replaced by Michael Cole as 1998 dawned. The end of an era is truly upon us. So long Todd, we hardly knew ye. Todd would re-join his partner Scott Shannon full time on the “Scott and Todd” morning radio show on 95.5 WPLJ in New York City, which he still does to this day.
Scott: So, a year later than expected due to the “Curtain Call”, Hunter Hearst-Helmsley wins the 5th PPV King of the Ring, defeating the “tweener” Mankind. This match, nowhere near either of their one-on-one matchups in 2000, is dreadfully boring. This could have been taken care of in 12 or 13 minutes, but almost 20? That’s a bit much for both of these guys. Hunter is growing as a wrestler, but I don’t quite think he’s ready for the 20-minute workrate buffets he’ll bring in 1999-2001. Mankind had that great match with Shawn Michaels the year before, but that’s when he’s dictating tempo as a heel. Here, as a tweener-face, he has to adjust his style and it was hit or miss at best. Chyna cheats like crazy to help Helmsley win, and this begins a 3-month feud between the two, but it also showcases Chyna’s usefulness as the heel valet. Every time Mankind gets a foothold on the match, Chyna takes it away. Get used to it, because that’s all that happens between now and August between them. Mankind’s popularity is growing and Helmsley’s repertoire is growing, but this didn’t have to be that long. Grade: 2
Justin: A really boring and long match that totally kills off the hot crowd. They were into Mankind as a face, but not enough to sit through 20 minutes, and same goes for Hunter as a heel. The whole tournament was half-assed and thus the crowd had no reason to care. There were no Qualifiers, the First Round on TV was a total clusterfuck with Helmsley getting 2 chances to get into the tournament and the PPV portion is a joke, as there was only one clear face and he lost in the first match of the night, not to mention Lawler was one of the four, and he obviously had no chance or no right to be there. This was just a total mess. The highlights of the match were the Pedigree on the table and Chyna breaking the scepter on Mick’s head which brought back memories of Savage and Warrior at Rumble ’91, but other than that this was an unmitigated disaster and light years behind last year’s up-and-coming heel winner. Grade: 1.5
***Jim and Justin look forward to Raw because Austin and Pillman are scheduled to fight. ***
Bret Hart comes out with the Hart Foundation to lay down a challenge for a 10-man tag team match at the next PPV, July 6 in Calgary.
6) Steve Austin (Williams) and Shawn Michaels (Michael Hickenbottom) wrestle to a double-disqualification at 22:26
Fun Fact: This marks the first time Tag Team Champions faced off in a one-one match on PPV. Tag champions have battled each other once before when Ax and Smash opened up the 1989 Royal Rumble.
Fun Fact II: On the May 26 Raw, Shawn Michaels made his much anticipated return to the ring as the reluctant partner of Steve Austin to take on the Tag Team champs, Owen Hart & British Bulldog. The four men put on a tremendous TV match which was capped off by the crowning of new Tag Team champs. The next week, it was revealed that Bret Hart wouldn’t be cleared to wrestle at the PPV, so he and Pillman put together a scheme and were able to convince Austin and Michaels to face off with each other instead and that Pillman would then face Austin on Raw.
Fun Fact III: Michaels is wrestling his first PPV singles match since defeating Sid for the title in January at the Royal Rumble.
Scott: This was another thrown together match. The original double main-event was Austin/Pillman and Michaels/Hart. However, since at this point Michaels and Hart couldn’t be in the same room without beating the shit out of each other, plus Bret’s knee wasn’t completely healed yet, Vince had to make adjustments. This was strange, considering Austin and Michaels are the Tag Team Champions, won over Bulldog and Owen on a classic Raw in May. To add some legitimacy, everyone’s playing it up like the Hart Foundation intentionally tried to push a wedge between the men, so Owen and Bulldog can regain their titles. HBK is a little rusty early, but picks it up quickly and the match is very good. The ending really sucks, as both men knock out referees, and a third referee ends the match. Good time killer, and an entertaining match, but it really doesn’t solve anything for the future. Grade: 3
***As the match starts, Jim, wearing a Shawn Michaels shirt, falls over the railing and starts to point and yell at Austin, but Michaels calmly walks over and takes him to the aisle where he is escorted out by some officials to a loud ovation. Oh…wait…that wasn’t Jim…that was a mentally challenged fellow sitting ringside who also happened to be a big Shawn Michaels fan. Same difference I suppose. ***
Justin: A really good match that I never give its due too, because I was so damn jaded over the card being reshuffled and us getting screwed out of Austin/Pillman that I did not allow myself to fully enjoy it. The crappy non-finish did not help matters at all, but the more I see the match, the more I enjoy it, and for those unjaded fans, I recommend it, because you will like it way more than I do. This match is really the only thing worth tracking down on this show, which started off in the tank and never really recovered. These two always meshed well, and the angle here was pretty good too. Unfortunately, the crowd had been beaten down so badly, the heat isn’t nearly as great as you would think it would have been for these two at this point. Things get nutty at the end, as each man takes out a ref and the third one then calls for the bell. The two men grab their belts and walk out together, eying each other carefully along the way. Grade: 3.5
7) Undertaker (Mark Callaway) defeats Faarooq (Ron Simmons) to retain WWF World Title with a Tombstone at 13:42
Fun Fact: Paul Bearer is back managing Undertaker here, as he was blackmailing Taker with a mysterious secret. Bearer claimed that if Taker did not allow him to be his manager he would tell the world his secret. Ahmed Johnson spent weeks telling Taker to be a man and not let Bearer blackmail him and that is what would have led to their PPV match here, but Taker would not listen. Vince decided to hold off on the blowoff to that here and went with Faarooq instead.
Scott: The last match would have been a fine ending for me, but instead we see this. Taker is a good champion, but Faarooq is un-carryable, and it’s absolutely awful to watch. The Nation is dissenting, distracting their leader, and Taker drops the tombstone for goodbye. After the match Paul Bearer inflicts his will on Taker by having Taker Chokeslam Faarooq 3 times. Ahmed Johnson comes in and tries to have Taker stop, but Taker won’t listen, so Ahmed drops him with a Pearl River Plunge. Taker had been holding his own as champ. Unfortunately, and I hate to insult Taker here, this match was scripted like a Diesel match in 1995. Faarooq is kicked down the card, and Taker moves along as WWF Champion, with an albatross hanging around his neck. Grade: 1.5
Justin: A total fucking mess to end this abysmal show. The crowd is just flat out bored, and with the exception of Taker’s entrance is just waiting for this night to end. Savio and Crush come out but end up costing Faarooq the match, leading to Faarooq firing them on Raw, but more on that next month. After the match, Ahmed came down to help Undertaker against the Nation. Undertaker got pissed at the help and started yelling at Ahmed. Ahmed, who had spent weeks telling Undertaker that he needed to be a man and not let Bearer control him, finally snaps and gives Taker the Pearl River Plunge to end the show. Grade: 1.5
***A dejected pair of wrestling fans make their way to Wayland Price’s awaiting car and sulk into the backseat. Wayland asks what they thought of the “bouts” and they say it was “OK.” He then gets excited and remembers the unbelievable news he heard on the PPV broadcast that the boys would not have heard. He tells Jim and Justin that JR said what Mankind’s real name was! Jim and Justin already know, but they humor the big lug and as what the name was. And, in a classic moment, Wayland says: “His name was Monty…Monty something…” “No Dad, it is Mick…” “That’s right! Mick…Mickey Walsh!” What an ending to a bizarre night***
Scott: Take away Michaels/Austin, and this show really sucks. Hunter Hearst-Helmsley was already getting over, so winning this thing was unnecessary. It does start a pretty good feud with Mankind, but for history purposes it’s not as necessary as winning the Intercontinental title the year before. Undertaker continues to be an OK world champion, and the secret storyline with Paul Bearer is gathering some steam, but the WWF is still ironing out the kinks creatively, and financially they’re still in the gutter. Shawn Michaels is back in the game from his “injury”, and Austin is looking better than ever. The Hart Foundation is in full heel mode, and with the next show the WWF turns another corner to get their fans, and their throne back. That’s quite redeeming considering what a mess this show was. This show is not an F, but it is forgettable. Final Grade: D+
Justin: What a friggen disaster. Re-booking and injuries totally ruined this show and it was a major step back in the re-building of the WWF brand. The matches, except HBK/Austin, all sucked as there was no drama, no back stories and no excitement. They managed to kill one of the hottest and forgiving crowds in the country with insipid half-assed booking. As much as I loved Rumble ’94, I hated this show, and that is a lot, and it took me a while to forgive Vince for that. The Fed would take a gigantic step forward the next month, but as for this show, watch it if you enjoy boring matches with no build-up or worthy aftermaths. Personally? I would rather listen to the dorky guy in the front row and my friend’s dad read lists of wrestlers’ real names. Final Grade: D
MVP: Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels
Runner Up: Jim and Justin for surviving this
Non-MVP: Vince McMahon (for messing with this show too much)
Runner Up: Faarooq
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)
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