TJR Retro: WWF Badd Blood 1997 Review (First Hell in a Cell Match)

It’s back to 1997 we go with this review of WWF In Your House: Badd Blood from October 1997. I wrote this originally in the mid-2000s and I have never posted it here before.

If you’ve seen this show or if you have read about it, you know it’s famous for two reasons. The first reason is that WWF superstar Brian Pillman passed away one night earlier in his hotel room in Minnesota. He was scheduled to wrestle Dude Love at this event, so they had to improvise by adding a match while also extending some of the others. Pillman was one of those guys that could get over as face or heel, cut a killer promo and then deliver a solid match. Sadly, injuries robbed him of the greatness he had in the ring, he turned to drugs to help him deal with the pain and that ultimately led to his tragic death due to a heart attack. He was a part of the Hart Foundation group that hit its stride in 1997 while also being one of the few close friends of Steve Austin among others, so his loss really affected the entire roster. Pillman was only 35 years old.

The other reason this show is famous is because it featured the first Hell in a Cell match involving The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. Michaels cost Undertaker the WWF World Title when he accidentally hit Taker with a chair shot while Shawn was refereeing Undertaker’s title match against Bret Hart. Michaels didn’t show that much remorse, so he turned into a top heel while fans clamored for Undertaker to get revenge. When they met at the September PPV, Ground Zero, Undertaker was so pissed that he beat up refs just to get to Michaels and they brawled all over the ring. The match got thrown out due to all the extracurricular activities, which left the fans wanting more. All of that led to the creation of the Hell in a Cell cage, which was a 15-foot high structure that covered the ring and also had room between the ropes and cage. It was unlike anything we had ever seen in the WWF before. Not only did they have a hot feud between two great wrestlers that were in their prime, but they also had a gimmick match that had never been done before. A lot of good stuff happening all at once meant a highly anticipated match that delivered the goods.

From a storyline standpoint, there was also interest in the Undertaker/Michaels because Paul Bearer had promised the Undertaker that Kane will arrive and the Undertaker’s life will never be the same. At the time, it was not universally known when Kane would appear or what he would look like. However, his music and a red light appeared in the weeks prior to this event basically to scare The Undertaker. Kane was an unknown. We didn’t know how big he would be or what he would look like. They did a great job of building up to his appearance.

Other than that, the Intercontinental Title was up for grabs due to Steve Austin having to vacate it after having his neck injured at Summerslam two months earlier, so Owen Hart (the former champ) would battle Farooq in the finals of a tournament to determine the winner. The World Title picture was pretty bleak even though Bret Hart was a great champion. The problem was there weren’t enough viable challengers, so Hart teamed with his Hart Foundation partner the British Bulldog to face Vader and The Patriot in a Flag match. Now you understand why this is a one-match show.

The last thing you need to know is that the blood for this show is so bad that they need to put a second D on the word bad to emphasize it. That’s how bad the blood will be on this show. You’ve been warned.

Note: There will not be any play by play rundown of these matches except for the Hell in a Cell match. I don’t really like that the style that I reviewed this, but this is such a bad card other than one match that I’d rather not sit through it again.

WWF In Your House: Badd Blood 
The Kiel Center in St. Louis, Missouri (Go Rams)
 
October 5, 1997

The announcers are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. Note that this is the last PPV where Vince McMahon would be an announcer. I have missed his “Ohwhatamove” or his “1…2…he got him…no he didn’t get him” reactions during the matches. How about you?

3 on 2 Handicap Match: Nation of Domination (Rocky Maivia, Kama Mustafa and D’Lo Brown) vs. The Legion of Doom

There was not a lot happening here since LOD weren’t known for their in-ring work, Kama was never very good and Brown was still pretty green at this point. Rocky was the key guy although they didn’t let him do that much. Still, the fans got on him a lot starting a lot of those “Rocky Sucks” chants that helped him get the opportunity to show what he could in the ring as a singles competitor. The match broke down, Faarooq ran down to distract LOD and Rocky got the pin with the yet to be named Rock Bottom for the win. Basically it took four guys to beat two here because LOD weren’t fans of losing. Let’s just put it that way.

Winners via pinfall @ 12:20 – Nation of Domination

Analysis: * Bad match that went too long. On the positive side, the crowd’s hatred of Rock grew, which of course was a great thing for the company going forward.

A tough moment followed with McMahon announcing Brian Pillman’s death, which they also did in the pre-show. I remember hearing about it through a friend that must have read about it on the internet because I wasn’t really reading about wrestling on the internet until after Survivor Series. Due to the death of Brian Pillman, a new match was added to the show.

Max Mini and Nova vs. Tarantula and Mosaic 

A pretty basic match featuring the little people with Max Mini getting the star spots because he’s shorter than the others and the fans would get into him more than the others. And of course, he got the pin.

Winners via pinfall @ 6:43 – Max Mini and Nova

Analysis: *1/2 Okay match to fill time, but nothing really memorable here.

WWF Tag Team Titles: The Headbangers (c) vs. The Godwinns (w/Uncle Cletus)

Uncle Cletus was TL Hopper earlier in his WWE career. The Headbangers won the belts a month earlier at Ground Zero, which was a big thing because they were basically losers. Thing is the fans liked them because they were different than the norm. This one had no flow, very little crowd reaction and not very much good work in the ring. The Godwinns were not good in the ring while the Headbangers could have okay matches with the right opponents, which the Godwinns were not. The match broke down so many times that it’s hard to know if the finish was even done correctly. The end result was that the Godwinns won after PIG (that’s Phinneas I. Godwinn) hit an ugly powerbomb.

Winners via pinfall and New Tag Team Champions @ 12:17 – The Godwinns

Analysis: * Bad match that was a shining example of how bad the tag division was at the time in the WWF. It would get better the following year.

We see a video package showing all the people that Austin gave the stunner too while being pissed about being injured. I can’t begin to describe how impactful this stuff was at the time. It was like a breath of fresh air because it was unlike the usual stuff we saw in wrestling.

Next up was a segment hosted by Jim Ross honoring some of the legends of the St. Louis area. The legends were: Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Dory Funk, Jr., Gene Kiniski, Terry Funk, Lou Thesz, and promoter Sam Muchnick. This was during a time when the WWF ignored their own Hall of Fame until 2004 and suddenly it was important again.

For the Vacant WWF Intercontinental Title: Owen Hart vs. Faarooq

Steve Austin had to give up the IC title due to his neck injury, so they had a tournament for it. Faarooq made the finals because I’m pretty sure Ahmed Johnson got hurt, which gave us a heel vs. heel final. To make up for the dead crowd, Austin came out to ringside to commentate as well as harass the announcers. I can’t imagine this being an easy match for Hart or Austin since both were so close to Pillman. The match was pretty bad because there was no rivalry to go on, Faarooq wasn’t a very good worker and fans were more interested in what Austin was doing. He ended up giving a belt shot to Faarooq, which led to Hart winning. It was confusing initially because Hart was his main rival, but it made sense because Austin wanted to beat Hart for his belt instead of somebody else.

Winner via pinfall and New Intercontinental Champion @ 7:12 – Owen Hart

Analysis: *1/2 They got through it, but it wasn’t that interesting until Austin showed up. That’s probably because it was heel vs. heel too. It was more of an angle than a match, really. Amazingly, this PPV was the last one Austin would miss for about two years despite the brutal neck injury he suffered at Summerslam 1997.

Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, 8-Ball and Skull) vs. Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Jesus Castillo, Jose Estrada, Jr. and Miguel Pérez, Jr.)

Do you want to know what one of the worst feuds in WWF history was? It’s DOA vs. Los Boricuas. They had multiple PPV matches against one another ranging from singles to regular tags to six man to eight man and they all stunk. This was no exception. Crush got the win with his backbreaker.

Winners via pinfall @ 9:11 – DOA

Analysis: 1/2* A clean PPV win. Did it end this awful feud? Of course not.

Flag Match: Bret Hart and The British Bulldog vs. The Patriot and Vader

Bret was the WWF Champion that didn’t have a title match on this show. The flags were placed on the ring posts despite the fact that Bulldog was British (he did live in Canada) and Vader didn’t come off as the most patriotic guy even though he was American. It was a long tag team match that dragged. The best part of the match came near the end when a drunken fan decided to enter the ring to get at Hart I presume and he got stomped on for his efforts while being taken out by security. That was great. I love stupid fans getting beat up. The finish came soon after with Hart beating Patriot with a rollup even though Hart had taken a beating. Hart grabbed the tights as well because that’s what heel champions do.

Winners via pinfall @ 23:13 – Brt Hart and British Bulldog

Analysis: **1/2 It was too long. It felt like a TV match more than anything except that they had about 30 minutes to kill, so they had to stretch it longer here. I felt really bad for Bret here because not only was he working with a heavy heart due to Pillman’s passing, but you could also sense that he knew the company was losing faith in him by only giving him a tag match despite the fact that he was the champion. They probably should have done Hart vs. Vader and Bulldog vs. Patriot instead although I’m pretty sure they were down on Vader as a performer at this point. It’s a shame we never really got a good Vader vs. Hart match because they would have worked really together given their ability to adapt to different styles.

In the backstage area, Michaels delivers a very cocky speech where he sarcastically makes fun of his “coveted” European Title and delivers a very nice line: “Ain’t nobody crazy enough to do this gig ‘cept for the Heartbreak Kid.” Awesome visuals of the cage coming down follow that. I can remember watching with my buddies and thinking how cool the whole thing looked.

The winner of this got to become the number one contender for the World Title. “Sexy Boy” plays and Shawn is HATED by the crowd while Taker gets a big pop.

Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

This write-up will be the full play by play because it’s one of the greatest matches ever and I think it’s important to cover the whole thing.

Shawn is scared, so he runs outside the ring. Taker stalks him back inside where he nails Shawn with a boot to the head that Shawn oversells. Taker tosses him into the turnbuckle three times and goes for a chokeslam, but Shawn fights back with some stiff punches. Taker whips him into the corner, Shawn flips upside down and bounces off so he can be drilled by a clothesline that gets a two for Taker. Taker works on Shawn’s shoulder and proceeds to deliver his patented top rope clothesline on the shoulder he just worked on. He follows with a slam and a legdrop and that gets two. Taker whips Shawn into the buckle and tosses him over the top to the floor via a back body drop. Shawn hits the ground hard and hits his feet on the side of the cage on the way down. Taker joins him outside as a small “make him bleed” chant starts. (I told you Shawn was hated.) He picks up Shawn and holds him up against the cage, Shawn begins to climb up, but Taker pulls him down again. JR mentions that there’s probably some idiot saying Shawn knows how to fall hard like that. Taker whips him into the cage, Shawn bounces off and is decked with a clothesline for another hard bump. Taker’s offense is described as a “physical dissection” by the announcers. He goes for a powerbomb, but Shawn fights it, so Taker decides to just ram his back into the cage twice as Shawn crumbles to the ground again.

Then Taker whips him into the ring post and punches him several times in the ribs, which sort of looks like a boxer hitting a bag in the gym. He picks Shawn up and tosses him around like a rag doll into the ringpost, cell, ringpost again and finally the cell once more. Taker lifts Shawn up again, but HBK tosses Taker into the cell, which leads to Shawn laying flat on his ass due to another clothesline because Undertaker was dominant. Shawn’s thrown into the steps, Taker sends him to the cage, but Shawn bounces off, ducking a clothesline and hammers Taker with several punches. As Shawn tries getting Taker inside the ring, he is met by a stunner over the top rope which Michaels sells as if he were shot out of a cannon. Taker is standing on the apron, Shawn gets up and shoves him into the cage, finally giving Michaels control of the match.

Shawn flies through the middle ropes with a plancha, ramming Taker’s head into the cell. Shawn climbs up the cage and drops an elbow in a very cool spot. He follows that up with a clothesline off the apron. Shawn goes for a piledriver on the steps, but can’t get him up and almost botches the move. Michaels recovers to deliver a VICIOUS piledriver on the ring steps. As Shawn makes his way up, he accidentally hits a cameraman yelling “get the f**k away from me!” This cameraman is stubborn and gets too close again forcing Shawn to say “get this s**t away from me!” Shawn climbs in the ring and delivers a double axehandle off the top to the floor as they finally get into the ring. Shawn punches Taker again and slides out looking for a chair, which he finds under the ring. The crowd pops huge as Vince yells out “OH NO!” because of their history with the chair. Shawn drills Taker twice in the back with a chair and only gets two. That pisses Shawn off and causes JR to wonder what Michaels will need to do in order to get a victory. Shawn puts him in the corner, but Taker fights back (pops from the crowd). Michaels kicks him and ties him in the ropes. Shawn runs at him and is met with a boot followed by an Undertaker back body drop over the top rope landing on a cameraman who just happened to be filming there. (It’s a brilliant move.) Shawn is angry, so he punches and kicks the camera guy as the announcers overreact saying the camera guy has a family. They say that he’s just a young cameraman and he’s not here to take a beating. Shawn shoves the camera guy conveniently in front of the door so some EMTs could help the poor man out. In the ring, Shawn nails Taker with the flying forearm, an elbow off the top (JR says nobody does it better. Randy Savage who?). As they open the door, allowing EMTs into the cage, Shawn drills Taker with the Superkick, but Taker sits up and Shawn practically shits his pants at least based on his facial expression. Great facial expressions there. Shawn runs out of the ring and out the door just as Hebner was trying to shut it.

The excitement builds as they are outside of the cell causing everyone, from the announcers to the fans, to go absolutely nuts. Of course, the thought of fans watching is “I hope somebody falls off the top of the cell” because everybody enjoys seeing others in pain. Wrestling fans are sick! Shawn was in control with a dropkick sending Taker into the cell but he gets greedy, goes for it again and Taker stops him there. At this point, pause the match and watch as Michaels brings out a razor and cuts his forehead open (in mid-move, by the way) delivering one of the greatest blade jobs ever. Taker slingshots HBK into the cell, punches him stiffly on the open wound and rams him face-first into the cell. JR describes Shawn as a “human javelin,” while Michaels was a bloody mess.

Shawn hits a low blow and climbs to the top of the cage because that’s the only place he can go to get away from The Undertaker. As Shawn climbs, Taker follows right behind him as the crowd’s response gets louder with each step the men take. Taker hits Michaels with a back body drop ON THE CELL (big pop), which he follows up with the old fashioned “grind the man’s face into the cage” causing even more of Shawn’s blood to leave his forehead. He follows with a Gorilla Press Slam on the cell causing an even larger pop from the crowd. A punch sends Shawn flying about five feet, so Shawn is hanging off the side of the cage right above the Spanish announce table. Taker steps on his fingers and Shawn goes through the table back first in a HUGE bump that was about eight feet high. Even if you have not seen the match I am sure you have seen the replay because WWE showed it 741 times in the months that followed. The crowd is as loud as they could possibly be as JR uses the infamous “He’s broken in half!” line. (This was the biggest bump in WWE history at this point until Mick Foley topped it twice in June 1998.)

Taker hip-tosses Michaels onto the broken table as Shawn’s blood is everywhere. His whole face is covered in blood as JR proclaims that he has never seen anything like this in his life. Taker drags Shawn to the inside and they come back into the ring as the cage is locked for the second time. The crowd is hot as Taker delivers a chokeslam off the top rope in a move that I still think is very cool even today. Shawn is helpless now as Taker brings in a chair (another big pop) and absolutely demolishes Shawn’s brains with a vicious chair shot to the head. That was his revenge for the shot he took two months ago at SummerSlam. That’s called storyline continuity and they call it a “receipt” in the business too.

Taker signals for the end to the delight of the crowd, but the lights go out, the organ plays, the building is engulfed in red and there’s a familiar person. THROUGH HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE IT’S PAUL BEARER! OH MY GOD!! I mean, it’s Kane! Vince had a famous line here: “THAT’S GOTTA BE KANE!” Kane rips the door off its hinges (almost), tosses Hebner into the cage and stares the Undertaker down. Kane sets the ringposts on fire, Taker looks away (dumb move) and is met with a kick to the gut and a tombstone from the big red machine. Bearer throws water on the ref, so that he can count the pinfall. Shawn crawls on top of Taker out of a pile of his own blood and gets the 1…2…3, thus giving him the WWE Title match at Survivor Series. The match went 30 minutes exactly.

Winner via pinfall @ 30:00 – Shawn Michaels

Extended Match Analysis: ***** I’m going the full five stars out of five. The ending doesn’t hurt it, in my eyes. It’s part of a great story that was told over the course of many months. I’ve got a lot to say here because it’s one of the best matches ever. I’ve probably watched this match 10-15 times because it’s that good. Like a favorite movie or top episode from a TV show, it never gets old. This was easily one of the most anticipated matches of all time. A lot of people did not even know what the cell was going to look like. That drew a lot of people to be interested in the match. Tossing HBK into the match made things that much greater because he was such a good performer. The feud was built so strongly that Shawn went from a tweener at Summerslam to the most hated man in the WWF by the time Badd Blood rolled around.

I know I mentioned how much Shawn bled in the match and honestly, it’s one of the biggest blade jobs I have ever seen. Not only was the blood in his hair and on his forehead, but it was dripping everywhere around the ring too. The angle with the cameraman was also executed perfectly because it allowed the wrestlers to get on top of the cage where the people wanted them to be. The match was booked perfectly because just as Shawn nailed the superkick, Taker sat up and the door was ready to close meaning Michaels wanted to get out of there. A lot of times little things are done wrong and it ruins the match but in this match, it was the little things like the blade job and camera guy that made it that much more special. It’s great storytelling because the chickenshit heel Michaels wanted to run away because Taker would sit up after taking everything Shawn could dish out.

I think the best thing about the feud was the use of the steel chair because none of this would have happened had it not been for Shawn’s errant chair shot two months prior. Keep in mind that chair shots in the WWF were not a regular thing by this time and that’s probably why the crowd reacted so well to it. When Shawn first grabs the chair in this match the crowd popped huge fearing for Taker’s life. Then later, after Shawn only gets two out of the chairshot it makes you realize just how tough Taker is. Later in the match when Taker seizes control of the chair he hits Shawn with a chair shot as hard as any I have ever seen. The crowd reacted perfectly to it because they wanted the heel to get what he deserved.

This match had everything including a storyline, plenty of heat for both men, tremendous psychology, great timing, a killer blade job and one hell of a bump by HBK. Throw in the fact that it was the greatest performance by the Undertaker (up to this point in his career for sure) and that Michaels was the best wrestler alive at the time and you have yourself one of those special matches that you will never forget. Plus, Kane’s debut was very memorable because it happened during this amazing match. It set the tone for a long rivalry with Kane and The Undertaker. Everything just seemed to go right. I know I certainly won’t forget it and if you’ve seen the match you probably feel the same way.

Simply put, one of the best professional wrestling matches ever.

The show ends with DX carrying Shawn out of the ring while we are left to wonder what’s next for The Undertaker and his debuting “brother” Kane.

 

Final Thoughts

3 out of 10 – That score is for the main event. The rest is mostly garbage. I figure if you give us one of the best matches ever in the main event the show deserves some recognition for having at least one really great thing on it. That’s why it gets the four.

It’s very hard to criticize people for having bad matches knowing that one of their friends (Brian Pillman) died less than a day earlier. That’s incredibly tough to deal with, so I do understand why there was some bad wrestling on this show. The other part of it is that the roster was so thin at this point that they were simply unable to have good matches from start to finish.

This was a one match show. That one match had a lot of hype and it delivered. And no, I’m not talking about Los Boricuas vs. DOA! It was all about Michaels/Taker. Immediately after the show not only were we thinking about how great this match was, but also what would happen when Michaels went after Hart a month later? Believe me when I say none of us had any idea of what would actually go down at Survivor Series.

 

Three Stars of the Night

1. Shawn Michaels – Awesome. Probably the best performance of his legendary career even to this day 12 years later. That’s saying something considering the greatness before and after this match. His heel act was fresh, he was in his physical prime before injuries slowed him down a bit and he was against a fresh opponent that he worked with perfectly.

2. The Undertaker – I feel the same way about him as I do Michaels. It was as good as he’s ever been. He was perfect in his role as the bully in this match even as the babyface.

3. Bret Hart – Bret did well even though he didn’t deserve being in such a lame tag match as this.

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In 2017, I wrote an in-depth column about the first Hell in a Cell match for The Comeback, so you can check that out here as well.

If you want to know what happened at the next PPV, which was Survivor Series 1997, I have covered that one in-depth right here and I wrote a lot about what’s known as the Montreal Screwjob.

I don’t plan on reviewing the last 1997 PPV and going into 2008. Instead, I’m going to focus on other PPV reviews I have been doing in 2007 and 2000. Those will pop up whenever I have time to review them.

Thanks for reading this review. My contact info is below.

Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter: @johnreport

Personal Facebook and TJRWrestling on Facebook

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TJR Retro: WWF In Your House: Ground Zero 1997 Review

It’s time for a retro post here on TJRWrestling where I am re-posting a review of a show I wrote probably around 2006 or so. I don’t remember exactly, but it was a long time ago. It has never been posted on this version of TJRWrestling, so I figured it would be fun for you to read about on a weekend.

The main event on this show was the much anticipated first-ever PPV match between two WWF mainstays, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. At Summerslam 1997 one month earlier, Michaels was the referee for The Undertaker’s WWF Title loss against Bret Hart. He hit Undertaker with a chairshot that was intended for Hart, which ended up costing The Undertaker the WWF Title and that’s what led to this feud. Michaels was now a full-fledged heel again for the first time in over two years while Undertaker was humanized more than he ever was before. Meanwhile, the story of the Undertaker’s younger brother was a big part of his storylines as well.

Bret Hart was the WWF Champion going into this show and we didn’t know it at the time, but he only had two months left in the company. His character was strongly against America, so it was only natural that his opponent would be The Patriot, who was a masked American wrestler that proudly waved the flag of his country. Hart got pinned clean by The Patriot on Raw to earn the title shot on this show.

The other big news was Steve Austin’s neck injury that caused him to be out of action for this show. Owen Hart’s errant piledriver at SummerSlam injured Steve’s neck so severely that Austin was on the shelf. He was scheduled to drop the tag titles he held with Dude Love (Mick Foley) on this show due to the injury.

The last historic note is that this is the first In Your House PPV to go three hours. Previously only the big five PPVs (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, King of the Ring, Summerslam and Survivor Series) went three hours with the other IYH shows going two hours. A big reason for that was because all of WCW’s PPVs were three hours, so the WWF felt like they had to match that. Now that you’re caught up on the main angles, let’s get to the show.

Note: There will not be any play by play rundown of these matches. It wasn’t a format I was using when I wrote this, so it’s a summary of the matches and thoughts on them all. 

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WWF In Your House: Ground Zero
Louisville Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky
September 7, 1997

The announcers are Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. This would be the second last PPV with Vince as an announcer.

Goldust (w/Marlena) vs. Brian Pillman
This is a rematch from Summerslam when Goldust won and Pillman had to wear a dress afterward. The story here was that we found out that Marlena, Goldust’s wife, used to date Pillman and I guess he missed her. However, Brian was a heel now, so she wasn’t into that idea. As a result, they had a match for Marlena’s “services” for 30 days. If Pillman lost, he’d leave the company. By this point, Pillman really wasn’t a good worker due to all the injuries that limited him in the ring, namely the ankle that he hurt in a motorcycle accident. The actual match was pretty forgettable although the crowd was pretty hot for it because Pillman really was a great, crazy heel. They went about ten minutes when Goldust hit his Curtain Call finisher while also knocking the ref out accidentally. That allowed Pillman to steal the loaded purse of Marlena (we later saw that there was a brick in it) and crack Goldust in the head with it to score the pin.
Winner via pinfall @ 11:05 – Brian Pillman

Analysis: ** There was a lot of running and chasing without much semblance of a story in the match due to the limitations of Pillman. This was the last PPV match he would ever wrestle.

Brian Christopher vs. Scott Putski
Very forgettable match. Four minutes into the match, Christopher jumps off the side of the ring into the arms of Putski, who proceeds to destroy his knee. It snapped and it was a torn quad. Putski never really came back from that as far as I could remember. Putski looked huge here, by the way. He wasn’t passing a wellness test if they had them back then.
Winner via countout due to the explosion of the knee @ 4:40 – Brian Christopher

Analysis: ½* It was not much of a match due to the injury to Putski, who had the look of a wrestler, but did not deliver in the ring.

Faarooq vs. Crush vs. Savio Vega
Part of the reason why I didn’t want to do a full play by play of this show? I remember how bad this match was. I watched it on fast forward and it was still difficult to hide the crap. Basically this is another match in the feud between the former Nation of Domination, which honestly wasn’t even needed by this point. Vega could be an okay worker with the right opponents, but the other two just weren’t it. The finish saw Vega win with a spinning heel kick. Yes, that was a finisher here. Better than Crush’s dreaded “Heart Punch.”
Winner via pinfall @ 11:29 – Savio Vega

Analysis: -1/2* I don’t give negative stars often, but this one deserved it. There were botched moves, there was no pace and no story told. Just a bad match that filled some time. Too bad it wasn’t the end of this rivalry.

Max Mini vs. El Torito
You might be wondering who are these guys? Little people. In Max’s case, a very little person since he was announced at 83 pounds here. It’s a pretty good match even though I think it’s crazy to ask people to pay money to watch little people wrestling when it doesn’t advance any storylines. Max had some comedy spots with Lawler throughout while also winning the match with a sunset flip.
Winner via pinfall @ 9:20 – Max Mini

Analysis: **½ the match was okay. It was not a bad way to fill ten minutes on a PPV. It was also not something anybody was going to remember a minute after it happened. This was an example of how thin the WWF roster was at this time.

Next up was the ceremony where Steve Austin had to give up the tag team titles with Dude Love. Due to his injury, he wasn’t able to compete, so he had to give up the titles. The fans had sympathy for him because he never actually lost the belt, yet he was being screwed over by management because they didn’t like the language he used or the middle finger salutes he always did. This was huge because Austin was continuing to get over as the hottest character in the WWF. Even though he was hurt, he was kept on TV to get the character over even more. Jim Ross interviewed him with Commissioner Slaughter also in the ring too. When Austin was told to give up the belt, he dropped it and made Slaughter pick it up. Then, without warning, Austin gave a stunner to Ross just because he was furious with the authority figures in the WWF. Ross wasn’t even in that position on camera, yet the fans ate it up because it was different from the things they were used to seeing. More people ate stunners after this and the fans loved it.

Analysis: At this point, Austin hitting Stunners on everyone was still very fresh and something I remember talking about with my friends in the days that followed because it only added to the cool persona of Stone Cold. Awesome segment.

Elimination WWF Tag Team Titles: Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs. Legion of Doom vs. The Godwinns vs. The Headbangers
Hey look, three of the four teams actually have names. I like that. We need more of that in wrestling. This match was for the tag titles that were just vacated. It was done elimination style. The crowd really wasn’t into it that much since they had to follow Austin, who of course was the one that the crowd most wanted to see. The first team to get eliminated was LOD when Animal hit the Godwinns with the slop bucket. Let’s just say that LOD didn’t like getting pinned very much. A couple of minutes after that, the Headbangers get the upset pin on the Godwinns with a sunset flip. The story picked up a bit with the Headbangers being the underdogs due to never being tag champs before. They got overwhelmed by the better team, Owen had the Sharpshooter on and then bang…there’s Austin with the Stunner. Austin was able to stay hugely popular even though he was hurt. Headbangers take advantage for the pinfall win.
Winners via pinfall and New WWF Tag Team Champions @ 17:15 – The Headbangers

Analysis: *1/4 Pretty bad tag match that went too long even with four teams. I always got the sense from watching LOD and the Godwinns that they legitimately didn’t like eachother, which could have played a part in Henry Godwinn breaking his neck while receiving the LOD clothesline. Anyway, the Bangers won their first and only tag titles here although it didn’t really last that long. It was good to see because they did work hard and were popular with most of the fans. I just don’t think Vince McMahon ever had that much faith in them.

WWF World Title: Bret Hart (c) vs. The Patriot
There are over 250 million Americans in the world and the best representative of the country at this time was The Patriot? Let’s just say I was glad to be Canadian when it came to rooting for somebody in this one. I don’t think anybody ever believed Hart would lose the belt in this match, not for a second. That’s not to say it was a bad match because it’s Bret Hart, who is somebody that rarely had a bad match. It’s just that it’s hard for fans to get behind the babyface wrestler when they know he has no chance. Hart had his working boots on like usual, busting out one of my favorite moves early: the ringpost figure four. The British Bulldog came out to help him cheat while Vader came out to help Patriot fight off the cheaters (the four would have a tag match a month later). Patriot came back, used his power advantage well and he did get some decent nearfalls. The finish came when the Patriot put Bret in the Sharpshooter, Bret reversed it into one of his own and The Patriot tapped out for the predictable loss.
Winner via submission @ 19:20 – Bret Hart

Analysis: ***1/4 A good match that was typical of what Bret Hart could do on a regular basis. Patriot wasn’t a bad worker by any means. He just didn’t last much longer after this because his character was very bland and he had some out of the ring issues. I think Hart could see a bit of the writing on the wall when he was booked in a match like this while Michaels was given the spot as the top heel going against Undertaker.

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
The story here is that the Undertaker’s pissed at Michaels for being the chickenshit heel that he is while Michaels is scared of Undertaker even though he won’t admit it because he’s too cocky to do that. Commissioner Slaughter comes out to prevent Michaels from running away, so Undertaker tosses a ref onto Slaughter and Michaels. The crowd was eating this up. They went for a few minutes before a ref finally rings the bell to start the match.

They had a match where Undertaker can’t be hurt by Michaels, so every time Shawn goes at him Undertaker comes back strongly to dominate the action. The only way Shawn got control was when he used a chair and the ref got accidentally bumped (seemed to be a common theme on this show), which led to heel tactics being used. There were lots of believable false finishes here, which is the sign of a good match. Michaels had help from Hunter Hearst Helmsley (soon to become Triple H as a regular name) and Chyna because this was around when Degeneration X was formed. There’s even a cool spot with Michaels using brass knuckles, then Undertaker steals them from him later and uses them himself. Right after that, Undertaker Chokeslammed a ref and another one came in to throw the match out.
Match ruled a No Contest @ 16:03

At the end of it all, with most of the wrestlers out to separate the two, Undertaker did a huge no hands plancha (leap over the top rope) onto about eight guys. That was very memorable. I remember they replayed it a bunch of times on Raw episodes for weeks after that too. For a guy that’s a legit 6’10” to do that is pretty scary. I don’t think anybody can ever question how good of an athlete Undertaker is for somebody his size.

Analysis: ***3/4 It was a fun, smartly booked match that holds up a decade later because it was a really fresh match that the crowd was very interested in. From a booking perspective, the finish made sense because they didn’t want to give away a clean finish the first time Michaels met Undertaker. That was a wise move. On its own, this is not an all-time great match that you have to absolutely go out of your way to see. However, if you want to see why Hell in a Cell was so amazing I think it’s important that you remember how this match did a perfect job of building to it. This was the appetizer for what would be a very memorable main course to come.

The show went off the air by driving home the point that the Undertaker/Michaels story wasn’t finished yet.

 

Three Stars of the Night
1. Shawn Michaels – Was at his absolute best here.

2. Undertaker – I’d say 1997 was his best calendar year and this match was a shining example of that.

3. Bret Hart – Carried a nobody like The Patriot to a good match.

 

Final Thoughts

3.5 out of 10 – That score is for the last two matches plus Austin’s stunners. The rest? Nothing to get excited about.

This was not a show that a lot of people remembered. It just kinda happened without much news coming from it. Remember that this was at a time in the WWF when the roster was very thin and they were on the brink of becoming something really special. The last two matches were pretty good although Undertaker/Michaels obviously had a better match one month later while the Hart/Patriot match was as predictable as any title match in the history of WWF PPV. The segment with Austin was also pretty important in his growth as a top guy in the WWF, so at least there is something you can take from this PPV as being memorable.

The problem is everything else on the show was largely forgettable. It’s basically bad match after bad match with very little happening in the way of newsworthy events. It was a sad sign of how poor the midcard in the WWF was at this time. It’s okay to look back at it now because we know that things got better, but Ground Zero was a bad show.

For more on this show, Bruce Prichard and Conrad Thompson did a Something to Wrestle episode about this show. Check it out below.

 

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Email: mrjohncanton@gmail.com

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The post TJR Retro: WWF In Your House: Ground Zero 1997 Review appeared first on TJR Wrestling.