King of the Ring
June 8, 1997
Civic Center, Providence, RI
Alright we've filled in the backlog of missing shows, so from this point on I'll be covering a PPV each week in chronological order starting with the 1997 King of the Ring. As always, don't forget to follow me on Twitter at @mpmcc91 and provide feedback and thoughts.
As the winter of 1997 rolled around, the WWF was in an interesting time period. The foundations for the Attitude era were slowly being laid, and whilst the PPVs for the most part had really been just average for the most part, the company was producing incredibly hot TV shows each week on Raw is War. Of course, the company was still getting their ass handed to them by WCW, which was enjoying probably its greatest year at the time. As the month of June approached, it was time to crown another King of the Ring, as this show would once again feature an abridged tournament from the semifinals on. Also tonight, the Undertaker puts his WWF Championship on the line against Nation of Domination leader Faarooq, and new tag champs (more on that later) Shawn Michaels & Stone Cold Steve Austin go one on one.
Standard opening video package to kick off the show, and with that we head into the arena. We are welcomed by our commentary duo of Vince McMahon & Jim Ross. No Lawler tonight as he is competing in the KOTR tournament. Speaking of which, lets get going with our first semifinal match.
KOTR Semifinal Match:
Ahmed Johnson vs Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna This is actually a rematch from a quarterfinal match that saw Ahmed Johnson defeat Helmsley on Raw to advance to this round of the tournament. Hunter's loss was by DQ though, and he would complain to officials that he did not know it was possible to get disqualified from the tournament. Yeah that kind of makes him look like an idiot. Anyway, Ahmed was supposed to meet Vader here, but when the Mastadon was sidelined with an injury, Hunter was given a second chance, upon which he capitalised by defeating Crush to advance to this match. These two are really at opposite points in their career, as Helmsley is on the way up, whilst Ahmed is quickly falling from grace. This match is quite boring as Helmsley hasn't reached the level necessary to be able to carry a deteriorating Ahmed at this point. Ahmed tries to put Helmsley away with the Pearl River Plunge, but Chyna gets up on the apron to provide the distraction. From there, Helmsley hits the pedigree on his opponent to advance at 7:42. Post-match an angry Ahmed goes after Helmsley & Chyna, but the victorious duo escape to the back. Not the greatest start to the show here to say the least.
KOTR Semifinal Match:
Mankind vs Jerry Lawler Straight into our other semifinal match now. This is the beginning of Mankind's turn into a sympathetic babyface. Over the past few weeks heading into this PPV, JR conducted a series of interviews with Mankind, going into his past and explaining just why he had become so deranged. These added a whole new dimension to the Mankind character, and now that he had been separated from Paul Bearer, he began drawing more and more cheers (even if he did attack JR at the end of the last interview which kind of went against everything they were saying). Anyway, Mankind defeated Savio Vega to get here, whilst Lawler has a victory over Goldust under his belt. The fact that he is in this tournament is an indication of the depleted midcard at this point. Plenty of stalling from Lawler to start here as you expect from his heel persona. The match is pretty basic, but its at least more enjoyable than our opener - that's not saying much though. Lawler attempts the piledriver but is unable to put Mankind away. Mankind fights back and puts the Burger King away with the Mandible Claw to pick up the submission at 10:22. Mankind advances to take on Helmsley in the finals later tonight.
We now head to the back where Todd Pettengill is standing by with Brian Pillman. Pillman was initially pencilled in to face Austin at this show as a culmination of the whole gun incident in late 96, but sadly he was still unable to compete due to the accident he was involved in before debuting with the company. Nonetheless he trash talks about the Rattlesnake but doesn't notice Austin enter the room in the background. Stone Cold dishes out a beating on the Loose Cannon, flushing his head in the nearby toilet to add insult to injury.
Goldust w/Marlena vs Crush w/Nation of Domination Well this is...random. I'm actually not sure why this match is even taking place, although JR tells us that Goldust will face the British Bulldog the next night on Raw is War for the European title. I guess this is just to give the guy some momentum heading into that match then, as I really can't recall there being any major issues between Goldust and the Nation at this point. Goldust teamed to take them on in six man tag action back in February, but that was even just thrown together. Now I wouldn't complain if this actually led to a decent match, but this was pretty poor. In fact, its almost unwatchable. For some reason the crowd is into this, despite the guys just not connecting. In the end, Goldust puts Crush away with a DDT to score the pin at 9:57. The very definition of boring filler. Man this show is not starting off well.
Dok Hendrix is now standing by with Sycho Sid and the Legion of Doom. Ugh, I thought we had seen the last of Sid on PPV. Sid's pretty much turned face again to help the LOD against the Hart Foundation, but he won't be hanging around for long. We now cross over to Todd, who is with the competing members of the Hart Foundation that they are up against - Owen, Bulldog & Neidhart.
Sycho Sid & Legion of Doom vs Owen Hart, British Bulldog & Jim Neidhart Owen is I.C Champion, whilst Bulldog is European Champion. They are no longer tag champs, which I'll get into later. This is happening due to the Hart Foundation vs USA angle that has been running wild since Wrestlemania, and will lead to an excellent match next month. Sadly this does not live up to that at all, and I'd blame the face team for this. The LOD are starting to show that they are a little dated by this point, and Sid has just never been great to start with. At least we get the debut of the Hart Foundation's cool leather jacket attire for this one. Very basic match though. Sid is still over though because people just see things that I can't in the guy. His PPV career ends on a low note though, as he takes the fall on the way out the door here, as Owen puts him away with a sunset flip at 13:38. Just a filler match to put the Hart Foundation over some more as a dominant faction. Kind of surreal just how far Sid has fallen since main eventing Wrestlemania though.
In the back, Todd is with Mankind who is moments away from meeting Hunter in the tournament finals. Even in the early days of his face run, Mick's love of Disney comes out as he proclaims that he 'just can't wait to be king'.
Mankind vs Hunter Hearst Helmsley w/Chyna And so begins what will become a long standing rivalry, not just for the next few months, but on and off over the years as well. Thankfully their matches would get a lot better than what we have here. This is still the best we have had so far tonight though, which kind of makes this show approaching King of the Ring 95 levels of bad at this point. The match itself isn't anything too bad, its just way too long for what these guys set out to accomplish here. As a result the crowd dies in this one despite their support of Mankind. Helmsley starts out targeting Mankind's head after taking a piledriver from Lawler earlier in the evening, ripping off his mask in the early going. Plenty of Chyna interference throughout as was standard in Helmsley's matches at this point in time. She takes the ref's attention at one point as the two men fight on the outside, leading to Helmsley pedigreeing Mankind through the announce table. Mankind digs deep and returns to the ring however before he can be counted out and we are back at it. Just as he returns to the squared circle however, Chyna whacks him in the back with the King of the Ring sceptre, allowing Helmsley to stay in control. Helmsley toys with Mankind for a little before putting him away once and for all with the pedigree at a long 19:27. A bit too long for my liking, but Foley was taking his crazy bumps as usual. These guys would get much better together over time.
After the match, Todd enters the ring to congratulate Helmsley on winning the 1997 King of the Ring tournament. He puts on the crown and robe before continuing to beat Mankind down along with Chyna. These guys are just getting started.
We go to Dok in the back, who is standing by with Austin. He says that he doesn't care about the tag titles or the Hart Foundation. All that matters tonight is kicking Shawn Michaels' ass. After a recap of the events leading to that match, we head back into the arena.
Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation make their way to ringside. Bret was still out with his injured leg at this point. They draw some massive heat as Bret lays down the challenge for any five men to and together to take on the Foundation next month on PPV in Calgary. Yes, that's going to be awesome. As the Foundation leaves, Austin comes out for his match and they get into a brawl which is quickly broken up by officials. Dok also gets a word from Shawn backstage before we get going.
Steve Austin vs Shawn Michaels After being out of action since February, Shawn Michaels made his return to the ring on an episode of Raw is War in May as Steve Austin's surprise tag team partner in a match against Owen & Bulldog for the titles. The two were reluctant partners, but in the end would come out victorious in a very good match, and as a result are the reigning WWF Tag Team Champions at this point in time. I believe this was originally going to be Bret vs Shawn and Austin vs Pillman, but the respective injuries of the heels resulted in us getting this match instead. That said, this is nothing to complain about, as the two put on a very good match in what is Shawn's first one on one match back. The idea here is that the Hart Foundation manipulated these two into facing off here so as to make them easy pickings for Owen and Bulldog to regain the titles at a later date. The match gets held up early on as a Special Olympian jumps the railing and has to be taken out by security, but not before Shawn gets them to ease up on the kid. After that little incident we get back under way as business really picks up as we have some phenomenal wrestling between two of the all time greats. This match is often forgotten due to their much bigger profile match later on, and the fact that is a pretty crappy show overall, but I would recommend tracking this one down. The only thing that takes this one down a notch is the ending, but they were booked in a corner not wanting either man to take the loss here. Both men start beating up referees as they hit their finishers on each other but are unable to score a three count, resulting in Earl Hebner eventually throwing the match out as a double DQ at 23:00. Ending aside this was excellent stuff though that single handedly saved this show. Post-match, Shawn and Austin seem to get back on the same page, as they leave together, belts in hands, but still not completely trusting one another.
We now head back to the Nation of Domination, where Faarooq declares that he will capture the WWF Championship up next. Lets get this over with. We've seen the best this show has to offer.
Undertaker (c) w/Paul Bearer vs Faarooq w/Nation of Domination Well this is really out of nowhere as well. Then again Taker has been teaming with Ahmed Johnson against the Nation heading into this show, so there's that to explain why Faarooq has set his sights on the title all of a sudden. The real story here is that Paul Bearer is back in the Undertaker's corner, but they are far from being on the same page. Upon returning to TV following the fireball incident back in April, Bearer has begun to blackmail the Undertaker threatening to tell the world a dark secret regarding the Phenom's past if he did not. We'll get more into that as time unfolds. Taker has had some solid title defences so far, but this is not at all the case tonight, as we get a terrible main event to cap off what has been a terrible PPV outside of one match. Faarooq was never going to be taken seriously as a legitimate threat to Taker here and so the ending is pretty much a given before this even starts. The match is very basic, drawing boring chants, and sees plenty of Nation interference. That would be key in Faarooq's loss however, as the seeds of dissension are planted in the Nation as Savio and Crush get into an argument on the outside in the closing moments of the match. Faarooq gets distracted by the altercation and ends up getting tombstoned by Taker, allowing the champion to retain his title at 13:44. After the match, Taker chokeslams Savio and Crush before absolutely destroying the Nation leader with five chokeslams at the instruction of the twisted Bearer. Ahmed Johnson eventually makes his way down to ringside, seemingly to calm Taker down and get him to stand up to his blackmailing manager. Taker doesn't listen though, and the two start brawling, leading to Ahmed hitting the Pearl River Plunge on Taker. Heel turn alert (it will barely last). Having put Taker down, Ahmed leaves, allowing the champion to sit up and stalk his manager as we go off the air.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This has definitely been the worst show in quite some time. Its not quite as bad as the 1995 instalment of this show, but thats only thanks to the Austin/Michaels match which was very good. Taker has an off month here, although that can be attributed mostly to Faarooq who wasn't going to light up the ring at this point in time regardless of who he was in there with. The KOTR finals dragged a little, but the tournament as a whole did a decent job in getting Mankind's face turn over as well as giving Helmsley another accomplishment on his way up the ladder. Helmsley was a much better choice for king than Mabel after all, so this show is already better than the mess two years ago on that alone. Overall though, a very disappointing show and easily the worst of the year so far. Don't worry it gets much better next month.
Three Stars of the Night:
1. Steve Austin/Shawn Michaels (tie)
3. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
FINAL GRADE: 2.5 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. This show officially gives us a new man in third place, as Stone Cold overtakes the Macho Man.