In Your House: Mind Games
September 22,1996
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
CorelStates Center

Announcers: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Mr. Perfect

Strap Match: Savio Vega vs. Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw
This is an impromptu match stemming from the Free For All where Savio beat Marty Jannetty and was then jumped and challenged by Bradshaw. The same tired strap match rules apply, as does the same tired finish. Bradshaw touches two corners right off the bat but Savio takes him into the steel post on the outside. A few unnamed ECW stars dump beer all over Vega in the front row and Vince is quick to sell it as a shoot. It was, of course, a work that started the brief cross promotion of the WWF and ECW. The ECW guys are quickly subdued. Back in, each guy touches three a couple of times, but the other prevents the fourth. Bradshaw touches three, but Vega touches each one right after him, unbenounced to the heel. Hmm, never seen this finish before. Savio of course touches the fourth one before Bradshaw to take the win at 7:07. **

"Razor Ramon and Diesel", seen only at a distance from behind, jump Savio Vega in the hallway, as JR gets in Vince's face with cries of "I told you so". In a last ditch effort to halt WCW's momentum and at least fight back in the ratings battle, JR had cut what was meant to come across as a shoot heelish interview on Raw the week before this, promising that he would deliver Razor Ramon and Diesel back to WWF television the very next week. Vince McMahon and many fans were extremely skeptical, but the WWF hoped it would create interest and increase ratings. Of course since Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had just signed WCW contracts that spring, it was a promise that couldn't possibly be fulfilled. So the next night JR made good on his promise by debuting two men resembling the characters of Razor and Diesel. Of course they quite obviously were not Hall and Nash, and the cheap imitations were booed out of the building. JR, now in full heel mode, supported the two, correctly stating that he never promised Hall and Nash, but only Razor and Diesel. It was an interesting concept that was probably worth a shot, but I don't think it really surprised anybody when it failed miserably. The imposters stuck around for a few months and were thankfully written out of history. The guy that played Razor, Rick Bogner, was let go, while the fake Diesel, Glen Jacobs, was kept around and repackaged a year later as the Undertaker's long lost brother Kane.

Jose Lothario vs. Jim Cornette
Cornette's protégé, Vader, lost to Shawn Michaels at Summerslam, so Cornette took his feelings out on Shawn's mentor, Lothario. So that's how we ended up with a manager against a retired 60 year old man on PPV. Lothario basically destroys him with a flurry of punches and pins him at 0:58. -*

The announcers hype the fact that the finals of the Intercontinental Title Tournament are to be held the next night on Raw, instead of here on PPV. Again, this was held on television to help ratings, since theoretically the top two matches on this show should have been enough to draw in anyone capable of being drawn in. The finals are to pit Marc Mero vs. Faarooq, by the way. Mero went over.

Brian F'n Pillman, documented loose cannon, makes his way to the ring to cut a promo and then introduce his buddy from Calgary, Owen Hart. Owen and Brian state that Bret Hart, who has been taking time off since his loss at Wrestlemania XII, was supposed to be here tonight, even though he was never scheduled to appear. They claim that Bret will never return because he's scared of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. They then bring out Austin so Steve can recite his now famous line: "If you put the letter 'S' in front of 'Hitman', you've got my exact opinion of Bret Hart." An all around great promo, but Austin was still lacking the cool, appropriate music.

It's interesting to think about the world of wrestling and how one thing directly affects another. Bret's epic feud with Steve Austin led to Bret's heel turn as an American basher, which Bret still regrets doing to some extent to this day, and was arguably the demise of his legendary career. It ultimately helped lead to his decision to leave the WWF for WCW, which of course lead to the infamous screwjob. Now Bret never would have feuded with Austin in the first place had it not been for the credibility Stone Cold gained during Bret's absence. Bret was quite upset at doing the job the way he did and how he was treated regarding the main event at Wrestlemania XII. This led to his six month sabattical. So really, could all of Bret's misfortunes be chalked up to the actions of Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon, not in late 1997, but rather early 1996. That may be some of it, but it's not all of it. Of course these would all be mute points had Austin not been so successful while Bret was off. But he was. In fact, it's easy to point solely to one event, King Of The Ring 1996, as being the one night that changed Austin forever and launched him towards a new level of popularity. That's because Austin won the King Of The Ring Tournament that night, and in doing so, finally got the opportunity to be interviewed. He cashed in on it and started a buzz for himself. But if Austin had never won the tourney, he never would have been given that particular opportunity. That brings us to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who was previously booked to win the crown before being demoted following an incident at Madison Square Garden in which he and Shawn Michaels broke kayfabe to bid farewell to their fellow Clique buddies, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who were headed to WCW, about to make history by forming the nWo. If Triple H hadn't done this, he never would have been punished, Austin's platform for success would have never existed, and his popularity wouldn't have skyrocketed, meaning there may never have been a Bret/Austin feud, and there never would have been a reason for Bret to turn heel. Furthermore, had Hall and Nash never gone to WCW to do form the nWo, WCW never would have started to slaughter the WWF in the ratings battle as it did. But in reality, that happened, and to answer back the WWF began creating a racier product, including D-Generation X, a controversial, rebellious group consisting of the aforementioned Shawn Michaels and Triple H. Bret took offense to these changes in content of WWF programming, and has stated that this was one of the main reasons he was upset with the WWF and ended up leaving. Furthermore, the decision to create DX called for Shawn Michaels turning heel and claiming the #1 heel slot in the company. Again, this spelled the end for Bret, as Shawn took over his spot. Bret now felt slighted, and cited that he couldn't suddenly turn face because the things Vince had him say about America were too damaging, and he couldn't simply go out and retract a year's worth of vicious statements about a country he actually loves. So although fans will long remember November 1997 as the time that Bret Hart was screwed out of the WWF, the seeds were really planted in early 1996, nearly two years earlier, and were the result of several factors that many fail to realize.

On a topic slightly less confusing, Mark Henry is shown in Philadelphia, the point being that he likes America.

Tag Team Titles: Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs. The Smoking Gunns (Champions)
Hey, nothing like a good old fashioned heel vs. heel match to get the crowd going. But to be fair, there's enough going on to keep them interested since Sunny is with the cowboys, and no crowd could ever resist getting into an Owen Hart match. Before the match, Sunny reveals a giant picture of herself, only to find that somebody has messed with it to make her appear somewhat less flattering. On commentary, Mr. Perfect automatically declares that it must be Owen because he's an infamous prankster. Clarence Mason comes down to be in the corner of the challengers since Cornette is apparently injured from his earlier match. The match gets underway and Owen outwrestles Billy to no one's surprise. Vince and JR have a disagreement, so JR starts walking a fine line: ".You also thought my announcement of Razor Ramon and Diesel was just a ratings ploy and it wasn't." Vince: ".I'd like to reserve comment on that." Ha! Shoot comments, especially in hindsight, complete with historical perspective, absolutely rule. Owen suckers Bart into the corner and tags the Bulldog for a surprisingly quick sequence that sees Davey Boy dominate. Owen tags in and brutally clips Bart's knee with unbelievable speed and precision. Owen and the Bulldog are ON here. They cut the ring in half and work the knee perfectly. Davey hits the huge delayed suplex and drops a leg for a two count. Billy saves, so the ref gets him out of there allowing Owen to cheat by entering the ring without a tag. Bart small packages him for two, but Owen strikes back with the enziguri. The Bulldog tags in, but the Gunns double team him behind the ref's back. Billy sends the Bulldog to the steps on the floor, then tags in. The Gunns do a modified Hardy Boy-like spot in the corner to set up their finisher, the Sidewinder. Clarence Mason springs into action and distracts the ref, and Owen clocks Billy off the top rope to a big pop before they can complete the move. Bart picks up a weakened Bulldog as Billy somehow becomes preoccupied talking to Sunny. The Bulldog shoves Bart into Billy from behind, so Billy turns around on instinct and shoves Bart back. right into a Bulldog running powerslam. Davey Boy hooks the leg as Billy realizes what he's done. He tries to make the save, but Owen cuts him off and nails him, and the Bulldog scores the three count at 10:55. New Tag Team Champions are crowned to a huge babyface pop. Totally non-formulaic tag match with awesome action and complete storytelling. ***1/2 Sunny throws a temper tantrum and fires the Gunns right then and there.

Kevin Kelly talks to Mankind and Paul Bearer in the basement.

Mark Henry vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler
The storyline is that Henry isn't quite ready to make his wrestling debut and Lawler's going to teach him a wrestling lesson. So they work around that premise, and it's actually not that bad as a result. Lawler pulls a foreign object out of his tights and uses it, but Henry no-sells. Man, when you take something out of your pants and use it on another person, the last thing you want them to do is no-sell it. Ahem. Henry goes to a backbreaker submission to pick up the win at 5:13. * The New Rockers jump him after the match for some reason. Oh, I see, so Henry can kick their asses. Hunter Hearst Helmsely follows suit, and Henry press slams him over the top onto Jannetty and Cassidy. Triple H being used as enhancement talent for Mark Henry; imagine that.

The announcers hype that the next PPV, Buried Alive, will feature an unsanctioned "Buried Alive" match.

The Undertaker vs. Goldust The Undertaker begins aggressively on offense, but some goldust to the eyes turns the tide for Dustin. Goldust gets several two counts, then goes to a clawhold. Apparently, this is a no DQ/no CO match, though that gimmick doesn't really come into play much. Taker comes back but a powerslam gets two for Goldie. Taker sits up and hits his trademark flying clothesline. Goldust goes up top but the Undertaker chokeslams him off and follows it up with a Tombstone for the three at 10:21. ** Decent enough. Big win for the Undertaker coming off his Summerslam and King Of The Ring jobs to Mankind.

Kevin Kelly interviews World Wrestling Federation Champion, Shawn Michaels. Shawn says he'll get the job done tonight. Yeah, that'll be the day.

WWF Title: Shawn Michaels (Champion) vs. Mankind Mankind is rolled down to the ring in a casket to mock the Undertaker. It remains at ringside for the duration of the match. Mankind controls the start of the match with a quick Cactus Clothesline putting both men on the floor. Mankind rips the protective padding off the ground, but Shawn dropkicks him, causing the padding to fall on top of him. Shawn quickly capitalizes with a reverse crossbody off the top rope to the arena floor. He then shoves Mankind's head into the concrete floor repeatedly. Well, I'd say that bit of strategy backfired, eh Mick? In, Shawn hits an axehandle off the top rope and maintains a quick pace, which of course is largely advantageous to him. Shawn rattles off a clothesline, bodyslam, and then heads to the top for a flying elbow. He tries for a Superkick, but Mankind wisely bails to the floor to avoid it. Back in, a slugfest develops. Mankind tries to choke him out, but Shawn stomps away. Mankind throws him to the floor and tries to use the spanish announce table to his advantage, but Michaels leaps over the thing and suplexes Mankind so that his legs smack the stairs on the landing. Mick is nuts to take that abuse. Back in the ring, Shawn clips his knee and slams it into Mankind's own casket. Mankind fights back, but Shawn hooks a Figure Four. Mankind breaks it, so Shawn dropkicks the knee and goes to a half crab. Mankind gets out of that, and Shawn tries to put him away with a crucifix attempt turned into a sunset flip. That gets two. Shawn somehow ends up on top of Mankind's shoulders, so Mick hot shots him on to the top rope to take over. The deranged Mankind takes a moment to stab his own knee with some sort of sharp object to try to get the feeling back. He chokes out Michaels, then hits the knee ram in the corner with his bad knee. Fortunately, he makes sure to sell it. Mankind's slow offensive portion starts to detract from the match just a little bit. Shawn manages a brief flurry of punches, but Mankind Flair flips him into a tree of woe and follows up with an elbow. Mankind boots him to the floor and goes for the knee ram against the steps, but Shawn moves, and Mankind's knee goes crashing into the steel. Ouch. Shawn drop toeholds him onto the steps. Double ouch. Back in, they fight for a suplex but Shawn outsmarts him and gets it. They trade elbows, then Michaels hits a powerslam for a two count. Mick gets hung in between the ropes with a priceless look on his face.

Shawn approaches him, but Mankind explodes with the Mandible Claw. They fall over the top to the floor, but Mankind holds on to the Claw. Shawn leads him towards the guard rail and grabs a chair, which he proceeds to use to destroy Mankind's body. He then viciously bites Mick's hand to make him unable to use the Claw again. That's like a Bret Hart level of intelligence right there. Back in, Shawn charges his opponent but gets backdropped over the top rope and all the way down to the arena floor. Huge bump. Mankind follows up with his elbow drop off the ring apron, then hits a neckbreaker before tossing back into the ring. Mankind hits a double arm DDT for one near fall, then gets two more after a piledriver and a cradle. Mankind becomes frustrated that he can't put the Champion away, so he starts violently tearing his hair out, then starts throwing chairs (including Mr. Perfect's) into the ring. The ref clears them out of the way. Mankind has no idea what to do, so he rolls Shawn into the casket at ringside. Shawn fights his way out of that particular predicament, hits a flying forearm, and then kips up, signaling his comeback. He lands a crossbody off the top rope for two. He goes up again, but this time Mankind crotches him and climbs to the second rope from the ring apron. Mankind back suplexes him off the top rope towards the outside of the ring, and they go crashing through the spanish announce table. Mankind actually ended up taking more of the bump since Shawn kind of shifted his weight in midair. After some downtime, they struggle to their feet. Mankind goes to the top rope with a chair, but Shawn superkicks it into his face. He covers, but only gets two. Vader runs in from the back to ruin all the fun, but Shawn takes him out. Paul Bearer knocks Shawn out with the urn, however, and after all that, Mankind is disqualified at 26:23. Michaels ally, Psycho Sid comes down to help, and he and Vader brawl in the aisle. The crowd is going nuts. Mankind puts the Mandible Claw back on Shawn and prepares to roll him back into the casket, but when Paul Bearer opens the lid, the Undertaker somehow pops out and absolutely obliterates Mankind. Shawn catches his breath and celebrates with the ringside fans, still WWF Champion. Awesome, unorthodox match. ****3/4 I can't go the full five stars given a few slow periods, an established knee injury that went on to be completely neglected, and the cheap non-finish, but both guys worked really hard and it was a hell of a match, much better than anyone expected them to churn out at the time given their clashing styles. Mick Foley refers to this as his best match ever, but I personally like the Royal Rumble 2000 street fight a little better just because in that case there was an awesome, compelling storyline in place and the match seemed to mean more. In this instance, Mick never really had any real feud going on with Shawn. In any case, this was an unbelievable match.

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