Ground Zero: In Your House
September 7, 1997
Louisville Gardens, Louisville, KY
So tonight we put the days of the two hour PPVs behind us, as for the first time (and a move that would become permanent practice going forward) the In Your House events would all go for three hours, bringing them in line with the length of the major PPVs. It was the right move, although it will take a while before these shows really flow well in the new three hour format. Our main event tonight features the fallout from Summerslam as now former WWF Champion, the Undertaker goes one on one with the newly turned heel Shawn Michaels. There have been a few major developments heading into this show that have led to Michaels' change of heart, but for now lets just say he has become something of a degenerate. Also tonight, Bret Hart defends his WWF Championship against some guy known as the Patriot, because that's just an epic title feud right there. We also have a change in authority figures heading into this show, as WWF President Gorilla Monsoon stepped down from his duties shortly after Summerslam, ending his run as a regular on air character. In his place, the night after Summerslam on Raw is War, former WWF Champion Sgt Slaughter made his return to the company as the no-nonsense Commissioner of the WWF. Thats about all there is to cover for now, so lets get right into it. As always, follow me on twitter at @mpmcc91
We kick off with the opening video package focusing on the recent change in attitude of Shawn Michaels and his brewing rivalry with the Undertaker. Not even a mention of Bret Hart who is really an afterthought just one month after winning the title. Anyway we head into the arena where we are welcomed by our usual commentary team of Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler.
Goldust w/Marlena vs Brian Pillman This is a rematch from Summerslam, but things have gotten even more personal between these two. Of course, as a result of that match, Pillman was forced to compete wearing a dress on Raw leading into this show, with Commissioner Slaughter saying that he could only stop wearing it when he won another match. Pillman finally picked up a victory to loose the dress, but he continued to torment Goldust and Marlena, alleging that due to his past relationship with Goldust's wife, he was actually the father of Marlena's daughter Dakota. Pillman would challenge Goldust to another match here, which was accepted by Marlena on his behalf, furious with Pillman's remarks. The stipulations on this one were that if Goldust won, Pillman would leave the WWF, whilst if Pillman won, Marlena would be forced to spend the next 30 days with him. Now I mentioned Pillman wasn't in the best state at this point last month, so I won't get into all that again, but this is sadly the last PPV appearance of the Loose Cannon. Its a better match than last month, mostly due to how heated this rivalry has become, but its still a pretty bad showing. The crowd is really behind Goldust here, so that tells you this feud was working at least. Most of this match is Goldust beating on Pillman, but the referee gets bumped in the closing moments. Marlena goes to hit Pillman with her loaded purse, but (seemingly) by accident hits Goldust instead. Marlena looks distressed as Pillman scores the pin to win his final PPV match at 11:06. This means Marlena is now Pillman's for the next 30 days, although unfortunately, the Loose Cannon would not live out that time period. I'll get into that next month, but for now we say our PPV farewell to a man who could have given so much more to the company if not for his tragic personal issues.
Scott Putski vs Brian Christopher This is basically just to get the crowd used to the Light-Heavyweight division that is to be properly implemented soon enough. Christopher is actually Jerry Lawler's son, but the King never mentions this on commentary despite the others alluding to it. His opponent is Scott Putski, son of WWF Hall of Famer, Ivan Putski. This all started on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night back im July where Christopher and Lawler beat down Scott, leading to a tag match between Ivan & Scott against Lawler & Christopher on Raw is War. The Putski father and son duo were victorious in that match, and that brings us to this here. Had things worked out, this could have been a decent match, but during the match, Christopher tosses Putski through the ropes to the outside and then goes to follow up with a crossbody. When Christopher lands on top of his opponent however, Putski's knee blows out which is just sick to watch. The referee starts to count but after checking on Putski realises he is unable to continue. As a result he awards the match to Brian Christopher via count-out at 4:45 and I'm fairly certain thats the end of Putski's career. Post-match, Lawler gets in the ring and celebrates with Christopher as medical staff get Putski to the back via a stretcher. Obviously we didn't know this at the time, but looking back its kind of depressing to realise we've seen the end of two careers in our first two matches tonight.
Before going to our next match, we get a video package highlighting the Gang Wars between our three resident midcard factions. The three leaders of those gangs go at it next.
Crush vs Savio Vega vs Faarooq Not exactly the most exciting match to mark our first triple threat in PPV history. There's been a major change on the Nation front at least, since as I alluded to in the last review, Ahmed Johnson has been dumped after being sidelined. The following week, the returning Rocky Maivia would turn heel by assisting Faarooq in a match against Chainz on Raw, and officially joining the Nation of Domination in a move that may have single handedly saved the career of the future Great One. In the weeks that followed, Rocky cut promos against the fans for their lack of support in his face run, saying that he no longer was doing anything for them now that he was in Nation. Outside of that, the story is just the same here as all three factions have just been beating each other up all over the place. I think this match is probably the worst of the Gang Wars all up, as it is just incredibly boring. There's a ton of botched spots which bring the match even further down than it already was. Nobody seems to care about the match either. Savio finally puts us out of our misery by hitting a spinning heel kick on Crush to pick up the win for his Boricuas at 11:37. Not sure why Faarooq didn't go over here since the Nation was clearly the superior faction of the three, but this match is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things anyway.
Max Mini vs El Torito And now we have the midgets. Good god what an undercard this is shaping up to be. These guys are at least entertaining compared to usual midgets as the Max Mini brigade are actually able to have a fun match rather than resorting to the usual foot stomping and ass biting shenanigans we normally expect from most midget wrestlers. They actually have quite the impressive outing which says a lot for a match like this. The crowd don't care at all though as they have no reason to invest in either guy. The incredibly tiny Max Mini is obviously meant to be the face here as he is worked over by Torito for much of the match, but this was really just thrown together, and the more I think about it was probably just put together at the last minute due to the Putski/Christopher match being cut short due to the earlier injury. Anyway there's not really much to say here other than this is much better than you would expect it to be from an entertainment point of view. Mini ends up picking up the win with a sunset flip on Torito for the win at 9:21. Now who would have thought that would have been our best match so far? Says a lot for this PPV at this point.
Commissioner Slaughter now makes his way to the ring as Jim Ross joins him. Its time to deal with the tag title situation since Austin was hurt last month at Summerslam. We're about to have a match after this to determine the new tag champs, but first Slaughter needs the current champs - Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dude Love, to hand over the belts. Dude Love is the first one out and he ends up handing his belt over 'with a heavy heart and pained pancreas'. He leaves and now its Austin's turn. He gets a huge pop as he makes his way to ringside looking pissed. He's not going to just hand the belt over and leave as he gets in Slaughter's face, trash talking the Commissioner. He relinquishes the title but not before going on a verbal tirade against Slaughter, Ross and even Vince over at commentary. Jim Ross wishes Austin a speedy recovery from his injuries, but at that moment the Rattlesnake drops him with a stunner to a huge pop. He gives the finger to Slaughter before being escorted out by security. Vince is furious on commentary. In a few weeks time on Raw in Madison Square Garden we get the stunner that set in motion the greatest storyline of all time. JR is done as far as commentary for the rest of the night goes by the way.
We now cut to Owen Hart and British Bulldog in the back who criticise the American fans for cheering Austin's actions. They say that Austin should be jailed and Owen wants the I.C title returned to him as well. Alright time to get this tag title situation resolved, but not before Vince rips on Austin some more. It won't happen for another two months, but we are slowly getting our first glimpse at the Mr McMahon character.
WWF Tag Team Championship - Elimination Match:
Legion of Doom vs The Headbangers vs Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs The Godwinns Alright well now the belts have been vacated, the winners of this match are the new tag team champions. This is a pretty long are boring match for the most part though, which apart from the last segment with Austin seems to be the theme tonight. Surprisingly the LOD is the first team eliminated in this one when they hit the Godwinns with their own slop bucket around ten minutes in continuing their rivalry. The crowd aren't pleased as the LOD were pretty over here. The Godwinns are the next team to go shortly after as Headbanger Thrasher manages to pin Phineas following a sunset flip. We're now down to the Headbangers vs Owen & Bulldog, which was our tag title match the Raw following Wrestlemania which saw the beginning of the Hart Foundation's birth. Towards the end of the match, the heels look to be closing in on the titles as Owen locks in the Sharpshooter on Mosh. Meanwhile the referee gets distracted by a skirmish between Bulldog and Thrasher on the outside, which leads to Austin coming back out and dropping Owen with a stunner behind the ref's back (to a monster pop of course). Mosh makes the cover as Austin leaves, and the referee counts the three at 17:15. Quite the upset here as the underdog Headbangers are the new WWF Tag Team Champions. Decent ending, but the match was pretty boring until we got there.
The Headbangers make their way to the concession stands to celebrate their win as we head over to Jim Ross and Commissioner Slaughter in the back. Ross complains about being attacked earlier and says that something needs to be done about Austin causing chaos whilst he's inactive. We now send it to a video package highlighting events leading to our WWF Championship match.
Sunny is now standing by with the Patriot, moments away from his championship opportunity. They show some footage of his work in Japan before we go across to Bret Hart. Bret says he's going to win tonight and retain his title to stick it to all the American fans that turned on him.
Bret Hart (c) vs The Patriot I'm surprised to discover that the Patriot actually made his first WWF appearance all the way back in July as I always figured he was really new at the time of this show. This is pretty much an extension of the Bret Hart vs USA angle, but Patriot really has no chance of winning. The Patriot is a big muscly flag bearing masked man. He owns a recent non-title victory over Bret which earned him this match, but that's really all I know or can be bothered to find out about this match. Patriot comes out to a very tepid reaction, but its cool hearing his theme as the one that would become associated with Kurt Angle in later years. Despite being in the U.S tonight, Bret clearly out-pops his challenger. Bret attacks Patriot as soon as we get under way and this starts out as a brawl, but it evolves into a decent enough match. Bulldog makes his way to ringside to assist Bret at one point, but the recently turned face Vader takes him out and sends Bret into the ring steps before being ejected by the referee. This probably would have been better if Vader were Bret's opponent since he isn't wrestling tonight, but you can't win them all. The match continues and Patriot even locks in the Sharpshooter on Bret at one point. The Hitman gets out of it and ends up locking Patriot in his patented hold to pick up the submission victory soon after at 19:20. For a throwaway title defence, this was a pretty good match. Having retained his WWF Championship, Bret attacks Patriot, choking him out with his American flag as officials try to break it up. Bret beats up a few of them before leaving ringside. This feud will sort of continue over the next month.
After a recap of the events leading to our main event, we get a word with Shawn Michaels. Now officially a heel, he cuts a cocky promo saying that he will not rest in peace tonight.
Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels This is being billed as the first time these guys have met one on one, and to my knowledge that is correct. Of course, thats notable given the classic battles these two would go on to have in both the immediate and distant future. Anyway, after accidentally costing Taker the title at Summerslam, Michaels cut a heel promo the following night on Raw is War and then made his return to the ring the following week in a match against Mankind. During that match the returning Rick Rude made his way to ringside and assisted Shawn in that match, revealing himself as the insurance policy of the Heartbreak Kid. The following week, Shawn Michaels was forced to team with Hunter Hearst Helmsley to face Mankind and Undertaker - see where this is going? After a pretty good match, the yet to be named, future D-Generation X put a beating on Taker with a chair, but Taker sat up and chased them off. The faction hasn't officially been born yet though as Michaels makes his way out alone here to his usual entrance music (complete with malfunctioning fireworks). Taker follows and of course he gets a huge pop. Shawn stalls to start out and tries to leave, not wanting anything to do with the Phenom, but Commissioner Slaughter stops him in the aisle and forces him to return to the ring so that we can finally get going but Taker tosses the referee over the ropes onto Michaels on the outside. From here we get a total brawl as the action spills up the aisle to the entrance area. They finally return to the ring after beating the shit out of each other, and we officially get under way. The replacement referee eventually gets bumped indadvertedly which leads to Rick Rude making his way down to ringside to give Michaels a pair of brass knuckles. HBK takes the advantage and drills Taker with them, but there's no ref to count the pin. This leads to Helmsley and Chyna bringing another referee out to ringside, but by the time he makes the count, Taker manages to kick out. A frustrated Michaels decks this official as well and the united faction of Michaels, Helmsley and Chyna proceeds to beat the hell out of the Phenom for a bit. Taker ends up recovering and gains possession of the brass knucks, hitting Michaels in retaliation with them, but only scoring a two count. This results in Taker chokeslaming the referee, much as Michaels did earlier. Another referee finally makes his way out amongst all this chaos and calls for the bell at 16:20, disqualifying both men and ruling the match a no contest. Thats okay with me considering where this storyline is going in a month's time. After the match, Taker and Shawn continue to go at it, beating up any officials who get between them. The locker room empties as various superstars also try to separate them. Eventually Shawn, Hunter and Chyna manage to escape as Taker stares them down from the ring as we go off the air. A chaotic and main event that was really a precursor to the wild brawls to come over the next few years. Pretty entertaining stuff here despite all the interference as it made sense in the grand scheme of things. Michaels does an excellent job as a cowardly heel who lives to fight another day, whilst Taker looks like a destructive man with a vengeance. A solid end to a PPV that really needed something to get into.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This PPV had two solid main event matches, but a pretty horrible undercard. That might have been okay on the old two hours PPVs where the main events accounted for half of the show, but now that these shows are all three hours long its just not going to work. We'll get there eventually, but for now the midcard is pretty thin, and it shows on this one. Having said that, the main event was a very fun brawl that set up next month's encounter from hell perfectly, whilst Bret managed to get a solid match out of a man who really had no business challenging for the WWF Championship. The Austin stuff was also awesome as he continues to be portrayed as an anti-authoritarian badass, which will really come to a head in a few weeks time. Overall this was a below average show, but there's some stuff worth checking out here.
Three Stars of the Night: 1. Undertaker/Shawn Michaels (tie) - a really intense brawl that will only be topped next month
2. Bret Hart - wrestled a decent, albeit forgotten title match on a show that really needed some more good matches on it. Not the usual great performance we have come to expect though.
3. Steve Austin - excellent work despite not wrestling. It was this time period that he really took his anti-authority persona to the next level
FINAL GRADE: 4 out of 10
ALL TIME PERFORMANCE TALLY: What I do here is add the three stars of the night with each review so as to keep track of who we can say overall is the greatest PPV performer to any given time. First place scores 3 points, second 2 and third 1. The list is put together from all the shows I have reviewed thus far.