Sunday, February 28, 2016

Random Network Reviews: Survivor Series 1997

Survivor Series 1997
November 9th, 1997 | Molson Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada | Attendance: 20,593

So, here we have one of the most infamous Pay-Per-Views in WWE history. We all know the reason why. The “Montreal Screwjob”. It is arguably the biggest moment in the history of pro wrestling. This changed everything. Bret Hart left the WWE, the Mr. McMahon character was born and the WWF was about to destroy WCW in the Monday Night Wars. This is the end of the Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart rivalry that is widely considered one of the greatest ever, but I’ve never been a big fan. Both guys have had far better rivalries against other people.

To open things, we see clips of the Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart feud. From the WrestleMania XII Ironman match down to the personal jabs they threw at each other. Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross are on commentary and they discuss how tonight’s main event is eighteen months in the making.

The Headbangers and the New Blackjacks vs. Road Dog, Billy Gunn and the Godwins
There may not be two stranger teams in the history of the WWE. At least Road Dog and Billy Gunn wear Southern inspired attire to try and fit in. Also, it’s funny that Road Dog only has one “g” here. Barry Windham and Phineas start. I assume Barry was happy to find someone in worse shape than him. Both guys tag to their usual respective partners. In a surprising move, Bradshaw eliminates Henry Godwin with an abdominal stretch rollup at 3:53. The heels get pissed, leading to Phineas evening the score by getting rid of Windham with a lariat at 5:15. I would have preferred Windham and Phineas out first though. Mosh steps in and there’s some backstory as the Headbangers recently lost the Tag Titles to the Godwins. The Godwins would lose them two nights later. Billy Gunn gets the tag, giving us the first taste of the future Outlaws. Gunn gets some “faggot” chants if I hear correctly. Gunn hits a nice looking front suplex of sorts to eliminate Mosh after 8:46.

Road Dog and Billy Gunn celebrate outside, leaving Phineas to face off against Thrasher. They work some dull wristlocks and such which is not at all their strong suit. What started out as decent fun has turned into a snooze fest. Seriously, who told these guys that they were technicians? A top rope ass splash I guess I would call it, eliminates Phineas at 12:39. Road Dog joins the fray for the first time, but it backfires as Bradshaw enters and manhandles him. He hits a short lariat that is not quite on the level of the Clothesline from Hell. Gunn gets in a cheap shot that allows Dog to roll up Bradshaw and he’s gone after 13:46. Road Dog goes for the Pump Handle Slam but it all goes wrong, so Thrasher awkwardly counters. A blind tag plays the difference as Dog’s next Pump Handle Slam attempt is again counters, but Gunn comes off the top with a leg drop to end this. However, he completely whiffs on the leg drop and it looked terrible.

Winners: Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and the Godwins (Survivors: Dog and Gunn) in 15:26
Perfectly acceptable match for the most part. With the exception of the painfully boring Phineas/Thrasher exchange, this wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t anything I’d recommend going out of your way to see. The right two guys survived as they would be cogs of the tag division for a while after this. **

The Disciples of Apocalypse vs. The Truth Commission
My biggest gripe with the year 1997 was the “Gang Warfare” stuff that we had to sit through. Neither of these teams have anybody that I would consider a good talent. The OA park their bikes by the entrance before running in to brawl. Multiple officials have to calm this down. Chainz, also known as the UnderFaker from 1994, starts with the Interrogator, also known as Kurrgan. Kurrgan puts him down easily at 1:16. Now, Skull and 8-Ball come in to attack the Interrogator. Recon, the future Bull Buchanan, tags in against one half of the Harris Brothers. As Jacob or Eli Blu is taken down, the Jackyl tags in to take advantage. It backfires as one half of Creative Control eliminates him at 2:50. Jackyl joins commentary after getting eliminated. Crush, who somehow kept a job for so long despite sucking, gets tagged and hits some weak leg drops. A clothesline by Ron Harris gets rid of Recon at 5:20. The Interrogator keeps distracting the referee like a clown, allowing the DOA to hit some double teams. He gets in a cheap shot that allows Snipe to pin Skull at 6:28. We’re now down to a basic tag match. Crush goes to a rest hold because that’s all he has in his repertoire. There should never be rest holds in Survivor Series matches because there can always be a fresh man in. Interrogator gets tagged and pins 8-Ball after a sidewalk slam at 8:48. Sniper comes back in, which is dumb since they’ve been playing up how dominant Interrogator is. Why would he ever tag out? Crush pins Sniper at 9:45and is then taken out by Interrogator to finish things.

Winners: The Truth Commission (Sole Survivor: The Interrogator) in 9:56
About as dull as they come. Neither team was ever really any fun and neither team really had any sort of talent on their roster. The best thing I can say about this is that it was kept relatively short. Side note, Crush would leave the company after this. He was 3-17 in PPV matches. *

Fans outside of the arena get polled about who is going to win the big WWF Title match and most of them surprisingly pick Shawn Michaels.

Team Canada (British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon) vs. Team USA (Goldust, Marc Mero, Steve Blackman and Vader)
Steve Blackman had just debuted as a “fan” who helped the Team USA participants. Interesting note is that he was supposed to debut a long time ago but caught a serious case of malaria and was bedridden for years. Before the match, Vader gets stuck cutting a promo. Team USA comes out to Kurt Angle’s theme. As if they weren’t going to get a great pop already, Team Canada enters to Bret Hart’s theme. British Bulldog and Marc Mero begin, as this was Mero’s return match after a big injury. You can already see how much his offense had to change because of it. Bulldog takes him down and plays to the crowd. Mero gets pissed at the crowd chanting “Sable” and is already showing heel tendencies. Vader gets tagged but it’s only so he can be a victim to Bulldog’s incredible feats of power. Each guy gets a chance to strut their stuff, highlighted by Blackman kicking Lafon’s ass. He looks kind of sloppy and awkward at some points though. He makes a mistake by brawling outside and is counted out at 5:47. Surprising result but it protected him as they put over how he doesn’t get the rules of wrestling because he’s a fighter. Jim Neidhart and Vader have a fun little powerhouse exchange that Vader wins because he’s awesome. A splash eliminates the Anvil at 7:32. Phil Lafon comes in, hitting some offense but he’s no match for the “Mastodon”. He is gone after a second rope splash at 9:40.

Doug Furnas is in and seems to have lost some muscle mass. Goldust, in his “Forever Unchained” gimmick, has yet to get involved. Mero enters, doing his boxing stuff. Forget what I said about his offense as he hits a double jump moonsault for two. Furnas tags out to a big pop as Bulldog beats down on Mero. Mero counters the powerslam and uses a jab to knock down the crowd favorite. Furnas comes back in to battle with Mero. He kicks out of a rollup, only to eliminate Mero with one of his own at 11:59. The crowd is sad about Sable leaving, so Vader poses for them which gave me a chuckle. Vader and Bulldog go at it now, which is more fun than it was earlier. Both guys need to tag after it, but Goldust refuses to join in. Vader doesn’t need it though, throwing Furnas around. Again, we get hot tag teases but Goldust steps off the apron. Furnas impresses with a belly to belly and hurricanrana on Vader for near falls. Vader gets pissed at Goldust and slaps him. They consider that a tag and Goldust is counted out as he pouts and exits at 17:01. Vader puts down Furnas with a Vader Bomb just as Bulldog grabs the ring bell at 17:35. Bulldog lays out Vader with the bell and pins him to win it.

Winners: Team Canada (Sole Survivor: British Bulldog) in 17:47
I enjoyed that. They managed to do well and tell a good story with all of the different personalities. You had Mero in the midst of a heel turn, rookie Blackman, Goldust going full on heel, while Vader and Bulldog both looked like beasts. Furnas and Lafon added some of their technical abilities to this, giving nearly everything a different feel which made this fun. ***¼

A video package airs of Kane’s path of destruction since debuting over a month ago at Bad Blood. He wants to face his brother but Undertaker won’t fight his own brother. At least, not until WrestleMania. After Kane attacked Dude Love, Mick Foley realized that Mankind would be needed against someone like Kane.

Kane w/ Paul Bearer vs. Mankind
Mankind was a good first opponent for Kane because he was great at taking a beating, which is what I expect from this. He also had the history with “Uncle Paul.” Mankind attacks before the bell and they fight outside. I’m going to point this out now, but the entire match is fought under Kane’s red lighting. Whoever thought this was a good idea is an idiot. The same goes for whoever put future Sin Cara matches under blue lighting, but that wasn’t as bad. Kane throws steel steps at Mankind and Earl Hebner kind of acts like he doesn’t see it. I’m sure he heard it though. I have no clue if this is no disqualification or not. This entire thing has been Kane dominating. Mankind finds an opening by sending Kane into the steel steps before blasting him with a steel chair. I guess it is no DQ. After a classic Foley piledriver, he applies the Mandible Claw on Paul Bearer. Paul sells it brilliantly. Kane sits up and choke throws Mankind through the announce table. Mankind is alive though, busting out the Cactus elbow. He is slammed to the floor outside before Kane hits a Tombstone to win.

Winner: Kane in 9:29
Not terrible but the lighting really hurt. Booking Mankind in this spot was great since he was over enough to lose and not have it affect him while getting Kane over. He also was known for his high threshold of pain so the idea of this match was in the right place. The execution was a bit off though. **¼ 

Michael Cole interviews Commissioner Slaughter and Vince McMahon. They talk about the heightened security and Vince straight up says he doesn’t know who will win tonight. Knowing what we know, it’s eerie to see everyone right before it all goes down.

The Nation of Domination (Faarooq, the Rock, Kama and D-Lo Brown) vs. Ahmed Johnson, Ken Shamrock and WWE Tag Team Champions Legion of Doom
D-Lo Brown starts with Hawk, who no sells his stuff. I am pretty stunned to see the Rock come in and eliminate him at the 2:15 mark. Stunning honestly. Ahmed Johnson comes in and ends up taking a beating. Brown even brings out a strap and whips him with it. Ahmed shakes it off before sending Faarooq with a Pearl River Plunge at 4:39. This was an early sign that Faarooq was on his way out of the Nation as Rocky would take over the following year. Brown nails a frog splash on Ahmed but taunts instead of pinning. Faarooq doesn’t leave ringside and holds Ahmed’s feet as Rocky pins him at 6:19. This leads to an Ahmed/Faarooq brawl to the back. Their feud has been going on for far too long. Animal and Ken Shamrock now work together for a bit. Kama gets tagged and stalls because he sucks. As Animal hits a shoulder block, the sound in the arena messes up. It’s annoying, though it’s funny to hear Jerry Lawler blame Kevin Dunn. Some showboating by Kama costs him as Animal rolls him up to even things out at 10:53.

Ken Shamrock gets the tag and beats up on D-Lo for a while. His hot run is slowed by a cheap low blow from Rocky. D-Lo was deceptively agile, busting out a second rope moonsault, though he misses. Animal gets a hot tag but is distracted when Billy Gunn and Road Dog come out in his shoulder pads. He is knocked outside, where Dog throws powder or something into his eyes and he gets counted out at 15:26. Being left alone, Shamrock snaps and takes out both guys. He makes D-Lo tap out to the Ankle Lock at 17:10. With the referee helping D-Lo out of the ring, Rocky waffles Shamrock with a chair in the back but only gets a near fall. These two would go on to have a pretty big rivalry in 1998, facing off at the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania and King of the Ring. Rocky hits a DDT and the People’s Elbow but Shamrock won’t quit. He fires up, countering a DDT into the Northern lights suplex. That’s one of my favorite moves in wrestling. Shamrock then makes Rocky tap out as well to survive.

Winners: Ahmed Johnson, Ken Shamrock and LOD (Sole Survivor: Ken Shamrock) in 20:33
Another traditional Survivor Series match that was fun. Ken Shamrock was still pretty hot and relatively new, so this was a great way to help get him even more over. An energetic brawl that is easy to watch. ***

WWF Intercontinental Championship
Owen Hart (c) w/ Team Canada vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

We have an obvious backstory here as not only does Steve Austin have issues with the Hart Foundation, but Owen Hart broke Austin’s neck at SummerSlam earlier in the year. Owen is sporting the infamous “Owen 3:16” shirt. Austin was less than two months removed from the first Stunner on Vince McMahon that launched him into another stratosphere. Jim Neidhart runs in before the bell but eats a Stunner. That allows Owen to attack quickly. He teases the piledriver but Austin counters. The crowd is rabid and they actually chant “break his neck”. So much for polite Canadians, eh? Owen chokes Austin with some cables at ringside. Inside, Austin stomps a mudhole before hitting a Stunner to win the gold.

Winner and New WWF Intercontinental Champion: Steve Austin in 4:02
Nowhere near the level of their SummerSlam battle but that is mainly because Austin should not have been wrestling here. He wasn’t fully healed and it caused them to limit what they’d do here. 

WWF Championship
Bret Hart (c) vs. Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels is the European Champion at this time. In classic 90’s HBK fashion, he humps the Canadian flag during his entrance. Despite both guys being in factions, they stop them from accompanying them to the ring. It’s interesting that both guys are top heels at this point. Shawn attacks early, leading us to a brawl. It goes through the crowd where some fans even sneak in cheap shots on Shawn. This causes Vince McMahon, Sgt. Slaughter and officials to come to ringside. The ringside scuffle goes on for nearly ten minutes before the bell even rings. The fighting is good, as it even spills up by the entrance. It makes sense because of the documented hatred these two shared for one another. When the match finally officially starts, Bret chokes Shawn with the Montreal flag. Shawn takes over and jaws with some ringside fans. A good old fashioned front face lock slows things down but Bret starts to rally. He wraps Shawn’s leg around the ring post, before moving to one of my favorite moves ever, the ring post figure four. Inside, Bret applies a normal figure four but HBK turns it over. Bret reaches the ropes quickly. Bret goes into the five moves of doom. Shawn counters by pulling the official into Bret and they collide. Shawn locks in the Sharpshooter, Vince calls for the bell and the screwjob is in.

Winner and New WWF Champion: Shawn Michaels in 12:19
Probably the worst of their big three matches. It’s rather surreal to see how this ended, including Bret spitting on Vince and Shawn throwing his fake temper tantrum. The match itself was solid, especially the early brawling but nothing to write home about. **¾

Overall: 6/10; Average. Shortly after the WWE Network launched, I watched this show and disliked it. Looking at it now, it’s pretty good. The Survivor Series matches, except for the DOA one, are all relatively fun. It also gets the score bumped up a bit more due to the historical value here. The main event, while not classic, kind of has to be seen by any and every wrestling fan. Up next on “Random Network Reviews” will be Tribute to the Troops 2006!