Saturday, August 9, 2014

Random Network Reviews: Survivor Series 1996

Survivor Series 1996
11/17/96 – Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York – Attendance: 18,647

Okay, so this will be my first review here of a show from Madison Square Garden. The Garden is where I saw my first ten or so live events, including the 2000 Royal Rumble, so events there have a special place in my heart. 1996 was a very important year in the history of WWE. Actually, it might be THE most important. With WCW starting to take over due to the nWo and their edgier product, the WWE would slowly gravitate away from their cartoon like characters and move towards a more real and edgier product of their own. Survivor Series would turn out to be a pretty historic night. This show not only features the debut of The Rock but also the first ever meeting between Bret Hart and Steve Austin. The card looks pretty good so I'm excited to dive into this.

The opening video package shows how the WWF was all over New York City over the week leading up to this event. The commentary team is Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross.

Survivor Series Elimination Match
The British Bulldog, Owen Hart, Marty Jannetty & Leif Cassidy w/ Clarence Mason vs. Doug Furnas, Phil Lafon & The Godwins w/ Hillbilly Jim

Marty Jannetty as a heel? Furnas and Lafon get no pop as they're very new to the WWF. Maybe Jannetty isn't a heel as he's trying to rally the crowd but Cassidy is talking smack to them. Jannetty also needs knee pads. He starts with Lafon who outshines him in their encounter. Cassidy gets the tag and also loses a wrestling sequence to Lafon. Lafon gets a dragon screw and tags Phineas Godwin, so I'm sure the workrate is about to decline dramatically. Leif continues to heel it up by slapping and spitting at Phineas. Jannetty hits Phineas with a knee as he comes off the ropes and seems to hurt himself. See what I mean about him needing knee pads? Owen and the Bulldog finally get some work in as they beat on Phineas. Once Jannetty gets the tag, things go sour for his team although JR calls Phineas stupid for trying a superplex. Henry gets tagged and Jannetty's knees go out on him again. If only there was some kind of pad he could wear to protect his knees. He gets planted with the Slop Drop at 8:12 and his knees thank him. Owen runs in and spinning heel kicks Henry instantly to bump him at8:18.

Phineas throws a fit and has a Festus like rampage. Bulldog shows off his power by slamming Phineas and eliminating him after 9:04. Doug Furnas comes in now and has an impressive sequence with Bulldog until he messes up a dropkick. Cassidy gets the tag and continues to enjoy heeling it up with his partners. He hits a nice suplex but Furnas powers out of the pin. He plants him with a spinebuster but Owen blind tags in and nearly takes off Furnas' head with a gorgeous dropkick. Owen pulls out a fisherman suplex for a near fall. Bulldog tags in, does his awesome stalling suplex and shows off. Furnas finally makes the much needed tag to Lafon who wows the crowd with a reverse suplex from the second rope to eliminate Cassidy at13:43. 

We're down to Owen and Bulldog against Furnas and Lafon, four guys who would have a great tag match at Final Four three months later. Bulldog hits a flapjack on Lafon before tagging Owen. He's always had a nice belly to belly suplex and he uses it here for two. Owen connects with the ENZIGURI THAT KILLED SHAWN MICHAELS but Lafon kicks out. Bulldog goes low in front of the referee, who decides not to disqualify him. Things break down and Lafon gets a pin on Bulldog with a rollup at 17:22 which shocks a lot of people. Bulldog is pissed so he chop blocks Lafon. Owen wisely targets that leg after Bulldog leaves. Owen slaps on the Sharpshooter and raises his arm in the air to celebrate. Furnas runs in and Owen breaks the hold. Lafon hits a reverse enziguri and makes the hot tag to Furnas. He runs over Owen with a shoulder block, followed by a sweet dropkick for two. He bests Owen's belly to belly from earlier and gets two again. Furnas hits a release German suplex and pins Owen as well!

Winners: Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon in 20:41
Talk about establishing a new tag team. Furnas and Lafon came into this match with nearly no reaction but won over the crowd with their work and pinned the tag team champions. A really fun opener. ****

Mankind is in the boiler room or something with Uncle Paul, who is not happy about being suspended above the ring inside of a cage. He's hilarious shouting in his voice “I AM NOT AN ANIMAL! I'M NOT GOING IN NO CAGE BECAUSE I'M PAUL BEARER AND YOU'RE NOT!” Mankind ends it with a riveting promo as he's known for.

Mankind w/ Paul Bearer vs. The Undertaker
Coming into this match, Mankind was 3-0 against The Undertaker. Here's another example of correctly establishing a new star. Undertaker descends from the rafters with bat like wings and this was the debut of his new attire as he rid himself of the gloves and got a mole on his face somehow. He goes right for Paul Bearer which allows Mankind to get in a sneak attack. Inside Undertaker tosses Mankind around and uses a drop toe hold which shocks Jim Ross. This was the catalyst for a new Undertaker style, which led to his underrated 1997 title run. I loved a lot of Undertaker's stuff after WrestleMania 12 and disliked nearly every match before it. Different dynamic here as Undertaker focuses on Mankind's hand but it makes sense to prevent the Mandible Claw. They go outside and Mankind hits a somersault off the apron. The fight ends up back inside and Mankind wails away on The Undertaker but Undertaker bites his fingers when he tries the Mandible Claw. Undertaker sells the hell out of a piledriver. He tries the Claw again but gets a big boot. Taker goes for the Tombstone but Mankind manages to get on the Claw, only to have Taker toss him outside. Taker sits up after Mankind trips him up and kicks him into the rail. He continues to focus solely on the hand and nails Old School. This is the first instance I get of the “best striker in the game” that JR always calls Undertaker. Mankind gets the Claw on again but Undertaker fights out with a Chokeslam. JR rightfully points out that we're getting an Undertaker who wrestles more. Mankind has a weird weapon that he hits Taker with and he gets on Taker's back trying to do more damage. Taker counters into the Tombstone and earns the pinfall.

Winner: The Undertaker in 14:52
Really good stuff here. The psychology of focusing on Mankind's hand was introduced by Shawn Michaels two months prior, but it made even more sense here since it worked so well on Undertaker previously. ***1/2

The cage lowers and Undertaker is about to get his hands on Paul Bearer, when the Executioner, or Terry Gordy I believe it was, shows up. Bearer escapes and Taker clotheslines the Executioner before the heels retreat. 

Even in 1996, the WWF was trying to be ahead of the times as they have Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon chatting with fans using AOL. Sunny comes out to highlight the show because not much is hotter than 1996 Sunny. She joins commentary and does a little dance that Vince McMahon joins in on for about three seconds and it's glorious. Dok Hendrix is standing by with the upcoming Survivor Series team who are confident because Mark Henry is hurt and will not be able to compete, making it 4 on 3.

Survivor Series Elimination Match
Crush, Goldust, Hunter Hearst-Hemsley & Jerry Lawler w/ Marlena vs. Marc Mero, Jake Roberts, Rocky Maivia & The Stalker w/ Sable

Jim Ross and Sunny are oddly hostile towards each other. Marc Mero introduces the replacement for Mark Henry as Jake Roberts. Unlike the rest of his '96 run, he's topless tonight so there's that. For those who don't know, The Stalker is Barry Windham and I have no clue how that character is a face. Goldust and Mero start things off and we get some solid back and forth. Stalker and Hunter go at it for a bit but once Mero gets tagged back in, HHH exits and Crush comes in. Rocky comes in and impresses because he's a BLUE CHIPPER! HHH comes in against him and here is chapter one in a storied rivalry. When Jake gets the tag, he comes in and hits his offense to a big pop. He hits the DDT on Lawler and eliminates him at 10:41.Goldust and the Stalker do battle in the ring until he eats a Curtain Call and is bumped after 12:44.

Mero comes in and hits a high knee lift. He's in control until HHH finally enters with him and hits a backbreaker. Sunny rags on Sable throughout this match. Crush enters and bores me to tears sometimes. HHH puts Mero in the abdominal stretch which leads JR to mention the guy who invented the move. Impressive. Goldust gets the tag and the heels have isolated the Wildman. He recovers and hits a twisting moonsault off the top to eliminate the future 13 time World Champion at 19:44. Crush comes in and gets dropkicked outside. Mero goes to fly on him but misses and hits hard. A heart punch later bumps him at 20:33. Jake Roberts comes in and goes for the short arm clothesline but also eats a Heart Punch and he's gone at 20:54.

The BLUE CHIPPER rookie is left alone against Goldust and Crush. His hair just looks absurd right now as Crush calls for a test of strength and the rookie falls for it. Crush gets in a cheap shot but Rocky recovers and hits him with a slam before Samoan punching Goldust. A flying cross body on both men keeps his rally going but the numbers game hurts him. Crush goes for the one move he seems to know and accidentally hits Goldust with a Heart Punch. Rocky nails another cross body and gets rid of Crush at 23:12. A shoulder breaker on Goldust right after makes Rocky the sole survivor in his debut.

Winners: Rocky Maivia in 23:44
Not the greatest Survivor Series match, but entertaining for the most part. It was clear from the start that this was the Rocky Maivia showcase. **3/4

The promo for the upcoming match is good, but Austin's pre-match interview is just badass. 

Number One Contender's Match
Bret Hart vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Bret is sporting an orange outline on his attire, which is one of my favorite looks for him. Staredown to begin and Austin gives Bret the double bird. They trade some wrestling holds early on, with Austin being the aggressor but Bret having a counter for pretty much everything. EDDIE GILBERT hot shot from Austin is followed by elbows to the back of the beck. Austin wisely targets the neck of Bret now and wears him down for a while. Bret gets a rollup for two and hits a Canadian leg sweep. Austin counters a bulldog so we get the signature Bret sternum bump in the corner. They go up top and Bret counters a second rope suplex and follows it with his trademark elbow, but from the top! That only gets him a near fall though. Thing spill outside when Bret crashes out there, so Austin drives him back first into the post. Bret sends him over the rail and into the crowd, where he stomps on him. Austin manages to slingshot Bret onto the Spanish announce table in a pretty sweet spot. He places Bret on the table and drives his elbow onto him from the apron. This went from a wrestling match to a brawl nicely. Austin suplexes him back in the ring and hits Bret's elbow from the second rope for two. It turns into a fist fight and Bret now hits the EDDIE GILBERT hot shot, I don't care what you say JR, it's not a stun gun to me. Bret does an awkward rollup for two. Austin responds with a superplex and both men are down until Bret pulls him into a pin for two. Austin hits the Stunner from out of nowhere but takes a bit to cover so Bret kicks out. Austin is pissed as he fires away with PISTON LIKE RIGHT HANDS! Texas Cloverleaf from Austin, and I always hoped he would've done this move more often being from Texas. Bret reaches the ropes to break the hold though. He whips Bret into the corner, but he goes down and hits the post kidney first. Great spot. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter but Austin blocks it and Bret gets in some right hands. Sleeper hold from Bret, but Austin counters with a jawbreaker. Austin applies the Million Dollar Dream, reaching deep into his bag of tricks, but Bret walks up the turnbuckle and pushes off, resulting in a pinning combination that earns him the three.

Winner: Bret Hart in 28:36
Wow. That started slow but really picked up. Austin looked like a million bucks and only lost because of a minor error that he made. They would best this match the following year, but this was a great first chapter. ****1/2

Dok Hendrix interviews Sid, who is wearing a backwards baseball cap. I can't take anything that he says here seriously. 

Survivor Series Elimination Match
“Diesel”, Faarooq, “Razor Ramon” & Vader w/ Clarence Mason vs. Flash Funk, Jimmy Snuka, Savio Vega & Yokozuna

Oh god. The fake Razor and Diesel debacle. Snuka was a mystery partner who got a decent pop. I would've enjoyed Vader vs. 2 Cold Scorpio but as Flash Funk, it doesn't have the same appeal to me. Funk does do some impressive stuff like a moonsault to the floor. Vader slams Funk and Yokozuna thinks this is a Mexican style match because he comes in with no tag and takes out Vader. Faarooq is debuting his Nation attire as Savio Vega takes him down. Savio chops away at “Razor” He delivers ten punches in the corner and I wish we got the count in Spanish like ECW fans would do a few years down the line. Kane comes in with Funk and misses a big boot but hits a big clothesline. Isaac Yankem throws him to the mat and tags in Faarooq. Snuka ends up coming in and gets in offense on Vader, who should not be selling for him. However, Snuka actually slams him which impressed and surprised me. Savio ends up eating a Jacknife and is the first one eliminated at 8:39. Shortly after, Snuka hits the Superfly Splash on “Razor” and he's gone after 9:28. “Diesel” enters and clocks him with a chair and all hell breaks loose between everyone, resulting in a disqualification.

Match ends in a double disqualification at 9:48
Was on the card to give the crowd a break after the Austin/Hart classic. The ending was dumb too and this has been the only match worth skipping so far. *

WWF Championship
Shawn Michaels (c) w/ Jose Lothario vs. Sycho Sid

Did you know that Sid was the MASTER...AND THE RULER...OF THE WORLD? Sid and Vlad the SuperFan go back and forth with “WHOS THE MAN?” “YOU THE MAN” as Sid's incredibly fitting theme music plays. As the story goes, this was supposed to be Vader's shot and win but Shawn wanted his boy Sid instead. The crowd is behind Sid as Shawn gets boos. Sid starts off by hammering HBK and gets a pop for it. Shawn's high octane offense puts him in the driver's seat and he applies a headlock. Shawn counters a gorilla press and Sid goes for the Powerbomb but Shawn escapes and heads outside. Sid gives chase to Shawn outside, and once back in, Shawn takes out the knee. Shawn is getting a Cena like reaction with the guys booing and the high pitched fans cheering. A “let's go Sid” chant starts. Shawn applies the figure four and continues to focus on the knee. Sid gets back on the offensive for a bit but misses a big boot, allowing Shawn to dropkick the knee. Shawn gets knocked over the top but skins the cat, only leading to a clothesline over anyway. Sid has now slowed the pace and is dominating, which the crowd loves. Sid catches Shawn as he leaps off the top and delivers a big backbreaker. Shawn hits the corner hard as a girl in the crowd screams like it's the end of the world. He fights back and actually slams Sid with ease. We get the awful spot where Shawn goes for a double axe handle even though Sid's on his back, which allows Sid to get his boot up. Shawn oversells this. As he rallies, the crowd boos and Sid catches Sweet Chin Music and follows with a one arm chokeslam. The place is going nuts for Sid. Powerbomb gets countered into a small package for two. Despite staying in control, he steals the camera from a cameraman. Jose Lothario stupidly gets on the apron, so Sid levels him with it. Sweet Chin Music connects but Shawn sees that his mentor is basically having a heart attack and goes outside. Sid brings him in and Shawn hits the referee by mistake before going back out to Jose. Sid strikes him with the camera and hits the Powerbomb inside to become the champion.

Winner and New WWF Champion: Sycho Sid in 20:01
Probably the best match of Sid's career and it ends with his first WWF Title win. Good stuff that was even more interesting because of the crowd reaction. ***1/2

Overall: 8.5/10; Excellent. With the exception of the one Survivor Series match, everything here is good to great. The opener was surprising, Undertaker/Mankind was really good as was the main event, you get to see Rock's debut and Austin/Hart is must see. A very good show that helped cement what would be a badass 1997. Go see this for sure. Up next on “Random Network Reviews” is ECW Heatwave 1998!

Smackdown Report 8/9/14

I've yet to mention this, but I like the Smackdown opening theme song. Main Event and NXT also have good ones. Anyway, Dean Ambrose opened Smackdown because it's time to announce the stipulation that he chooses for SummerSlam. He says that he had the entire week to think about the stipulation and suggests JBL's Cowboy Hat on a Pole and a good housekeeping match. He gets interrupted by Seth Rollins. How great is it that The Shield produced three main event superstars? Ambrose picks a damn Lumberjack match. Seriously? Not a steel cage? Not something, oh I don't know, interesting? An f'n Lumberjack match. Stupid and it actually hurts my excitement for this match. Anyway, Seth makes a better choice when he's allowed to pick Dean's opponent for tonight as he chooses Randy Orton.

Big Show makes his return to the WWE next as he teams with another guy who just returned, Mark Henry. They take on Rybaxel, meaning that the "Big Guy" Ryback, is the second smallest guy in the match. JBl gets the line of the night when he says that while Henry and Show are a big tag team, the Truth Commission was bigger but they were five guys. As one would expect, this didn't last too long and Show and Henry picked up the victory. Cutting backstage, Dolph Ziggler is watching Seth Rollins lose to Heath Slater and telling jokes to the Divas, Adam Rose and Rosebuds. Rollins challenges him for tonight and we've got another fun match booked.

Sin Cara is in the ring when the show returns. Oh joy. They actually change the hashtag from #Smackdown to #999. Seriously. Damien Sandow comes out as a border patrol agent because apparently Sin Cara is an illegal immigrant. The match itself was average and of course, Sandow was unable to win so that damn Sin Cara gets to stay in this country illegally. JBL should step in next, he did throw Mexicans off the border hilariously in the past.

Time for two of my favorite guys on the roster to go at it. Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins! They've met a few times before and it's always a treat. Of course, it was once again a really good back and forth match. I feel like it's nearly impossible for either of these guys to ever have a bad match. Seth targeted the shoulder once Dolph crashed into the turnbuckle and it ended up leading to his victory. After nearly 13 minutes of fine action and some near falls from Dolph, Seth puts him away with the Blackout. I still refuse to call it the Curb Stomp. I know what the Curb Stomp is. 

Renee Young and her perfect self interviews Randy Orton, who mentions that both he and Dean Ambrose are unstable but he's going to show that he's also unstoppable. I would love a feud down the line between Ambrose and Orton. Divas action time, as Paige takes on Natalya. Side note, Natalya is going to be debuting new attire soon, she showed it off on Twitter last night. I'm glad we get a Divas match here. Raw didn't have one so I missed out. I mean, yea we got Summer Rae/AJ on Main Event and Cameron/Emma on Superstars, but still. Solid Divas match that Paige won with the PTO. Also, Paige is totally adorable.

So, did the WWE drop the Xavier Woods/Kofi Kingston/Big E stable? I mean, I understood Woods coming out with his old gimmick on NXT because it's pre-recorded from weeks ago, but to have Big E come out as his old self on Smackdown and be a face is weird. Then, he got squashed by Rusev in less than two minutes. Didn't they have competitive matches on Pay-Per-Views? Where were Kofi and Woods? Couldn't they find another face to get squashed. Then we get a recap of the build for Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt, with the focus on how Bray will be alone. Jericho then says that he will follow the buzzards and shove them down Bray's throat. Ouch. 

Main event time as we get Dean Ambrose vs. Randy Orton, one on one. Ambrose is his usual crazy self, launching himself outside onto Orton, but Randy is his vicious self as he targets Dean's messed up shoulder. They make it a point to say that the Lumberjacks at SummerSlam don't like Rollins or Ambrose, which makes the stipulation an even dumber choice. Ambrose trash talks Orton while in a submission, which is just perfect. After about 12 minutes, Rollins pulls Ambrose out of the ring to cause the disqualification. They brawl after the match but Orton being there puts Rollins in control. Orton leaves them and Seth pours soda over Dean in a bit of revenge for him doing the same thing to the briefcase on Raw.

In the end, every match on this show except for the main event and Ziggler/Rollins was very short. When I watch Smackdown, I expect longer matches, but the WWE continues to waste valuable television time with an absurd amount of recap videos. The two long matches were solid though, the Big Show return tag was not bad and the divas match was short but sweet so it wasn't all bad. 5/10.