Thursday, December 20, 2012

Scott Watches WWF Royal Rumble 1997

I feel like watching some WWF 1997 so I'll probably just watch the PPVs. That's what I want to do. This was a pivotal year for pro rasslin in the US of A n shit. The WWF was reeling in the war against WCW, and then, slowly, it began to change. And in '98, it really changed.

This is some heavy shit in the intro:

"For Shawn Michaels, it's always been about being champion. Sure, he was branded cocky, flamboyant, a brazen showman in his youth. But the heart of a champion was always there. And when he defeated Bret 'The Hitman' Hart at WrestleMania XII, it was truly the consummation of a boyhood dream.

"But the true defining of Shawn Michaels' brilliant career may have been etched in defeat. Last November in Madison Square Garden, the dream was shattered at the hands of Sycho Sid. But for Shawn, that was of secondary concern. That night, the 'Boy Toy' grew up. Displaying compassion and humanity, he cared less for the title than for the welfare of his fallen mentor.

"Tonight, it's not about ego or accolades. There's more than just the WWF championship at stake. Tonight, it's about justice, redemption, a rebirth of sorts. For tonight, San Antonio's favorite son returns home, older, wiser, innocence lost. Tonight, the favorite son returns home...a man."

GODDAMN IT'S THE ROYAL RUMBLE YOU GUYS

January 19, 1997, at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio. Your hosts are Vince Mackman, Good Old JR, and Jerry "The King" Lawler. In Spanish, Arturo Rivera, Hugo Savinovich, and Carlos Cabrera. The dream team. Then in French, it's Ray Rougeau and Jacques Rougeau Sr.

WWF Intercontinental Championship: Goldust (w/Marlena) vs Hunter Hearst Helmsley (c, w/Mr. Hughes)

This came about because HHH tried to steal Marlena, like, literally pick her up and leave a building with her, and then when Goldust -- who had recently made clear to Jerry Lawler that he was not "queer" -- tried to stop that, he knocked Marlena over by accident. But another part of the story here is wondering whether or not Goldust is playing Helmsley by claiming to not be gay, and whether or not he really wants the title, or, um...intends to rape Helmsley in the ring?

Goldust was interesting. But so was the booking of Goldust, and given the dumbness of wrestling bookers, could always veer toward "questionable."

This is a solid PPV opener with a good story a-goin' on and an all time worst performance from Earl Hebner, whose indecisiveness and inability to keep pace with the action makes for a mess of a match and draws the ire of Vince, JR, and Lawler, and rightfully so. Marlena gets a kiss planted upon her, which turns up her eternally rock-hard nipples to OVERDRIVE, but in the end, Helmsley retains the belt with the pedigree. Mr. Hughes, in his HHH-assisting debut, also got involved a little bit, and Todd Pettengill yakked to Collin Raye in the crowd.

Pre-recorded comments from Bret Hart, Mankind, and that's it.

Faarooq (w/The Nation of Domination) vs Ahmed Johnson

I kept waiting for this feud to actually get good, but it never really did because Ahmed Johnson couldn't stop getting hurt and shit. But that was pretty dope when he Pearl River Plunged that goof on a car. YER GOEY DOW. YER GOEY DOW. After a video package where we see Ahmed Johnson scream about stuff, Vince says that Ahmed's "quiet rage" will explode.

THEY'RE GOING TO THE STREETS FUCK YEAH. Ahmed comes out and loses his shit on Faarooq right quick, and Vince again has trouble reading a situation, complimenting Johnson's poise. Not much of an analyst, really. Ahmed gets clumsily bodyslammed onto an open chair on the floor. These guys don't know what the hell they're doing with chairs. These guys can't work like Axl Rotten or Balls Mahoney. (Ahmed actually can't, which sort of ruins the joke.) This goes to hell once Johnson has to sell, which he can't do, and once Faarooq has to goon it up as a heel, which he's bad at, and the DQ finish (Ahmed win, interference) is weak, and then after that, a gassed Ahmed carelessly tosses Wolfie D to the floor and then a random guy through a table, monitors and all. God he was an awful pro wrestler. At least the Ultimate Warrior drew some money. Even Vince is skeptical: "Ahmed Johnson is back, but will he stay?"

Backstage, Texas legend Terry Funk talks about being from Texas. Then the Nation of Domination is with Todd, and Faarooq yells about Uncle Toms.

Vader vs The Undertaker

You know what would be a kickass match? 1993 Vader vs 2002 Undertaker. Instead all we ever got was 1997 Vader vs 1997 Undertaker. I have barely any memory of this match at all, but I remember I was excited for it when it happened because I hadn't totally given up on WWF Vader yet. Undertaker with his scissor kick of sorts, what a maneuver. This is solid -- roughly on par with the Canadian Stampede match, maybe not quite as good. Neither were special though. The awful Paul Bearer makes his way to ringside just when Undertaker is thinking about finishing this thing, so Undertaker punches him out. Eventually, though, Bearer's presence makes a difference, and Vader pulls off the upset with the Vader Bomb. After that, Undertaker all mad. Puts the hurt on a referee. Out of character for a dead fellow to lose his cool like that.

Pre-recorded comments from Stone Cold Steve Austin, the British Bulldog, who says, quite famously, that he'll win the Royal Rumble, "Because I'm bizaaaaarre!"

Fuerza Guerrera (43), Heavy Metal (26) & Jerry Estrada (39) vs Hector Garza (27), El Canek (44) & Perro Aguayo (51)

Not that I have anything against old rasslers, but this was a fairly hilarious move by the WWF, as they basically had no idea how to counter the WCW influx of luchadors, so they just got four famous veterans and two young guys, and said, "yeah, this will do, they're Mexican," because nobody knew what to look for. Fuerza Guerrera vs Perro Aguayo wasn't exactly the WCW cruiserweight division. That said, the match is fine, it's just that for what they may have intended, it's a total flop. HEAVY METAL LOVES USA!

Vince Mackman never does have much patience for new things, and you can hear him just wanting to pull the plug on this and kick it the fuck out of the Alamodome during the entire match. He hates this. He doesn't get it, it doesn't make sense, everyone's ugly or hooded (except Hector and Heavy Metal, and they're too little), and even the referee looks like shady. It's like a scene from Elf. "This is like the WWF, except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me." The finish is very non-American.

Royal Rumble Match

This is where I lay down on the couch and watch this because Royal Rumbles are stupid to type stuff about. Crush and Ahmed Johnson start and it devolves from there.

Entrance order: Crush, Ahmed Johnson, Razor Ramon, Phineas Godwinn, Steve Austin, Bart Gunn, Jake Roberts, British Bulldog, Pierroth, The Sultan, Mil Mascaras, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Owen Hart, Goldust, Cibernetico, Marco Mero, Latin Lover, Faarooq, Savio Vega, Jesse James, Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler, Diesel, Terry Funk, Rocky Maivia, Mankind, Flash Funk, Vader, Henry Godwinn, The Undertaker.

This is one of the more interesting Royal Rumble lineups ever. You have the hot talents of the day (Austin, Bret, Undertaker, Mankind, Vader), the rising youngsters (Rocky, Helmsley), some American legends (Funk, Lawler, Roberts), and then some guys who would never step into another WWF ring (Mascars, Cibernetico, Pierroth, Latin Lover). Plus, fake Razor Ramon (who gets dumped fast) and fake Diesel (who does not). Then your also-rans who never had any hope or anything, but some solid, reliable stars in there -- Bulldog, Owen, Faarooq, Henry Godwinn, uh, Crush, sorta.

Austin gives an ATG Rumble performance in this one, coming in early and doing his time, having some great runs, and always remembering to look vulnerable enough. Bret Hart is also terrific, particularly with the finish and his subsequent berating of Vince Mackman at ringside, to which Vince responds with a perfect attempt at a stone face, with concern seeping through it. Good comedy moment from Lawler, who gets out of his commentary position to enter the ring with only Austin and Bret in there, get punched in the face and knocked out, and return to his position with no memory of what happened to him. Mankind and Funk pair off for most of their time in there, leading to the distraction of the referees that allows Austin to steal the bogus Rumble win. And that's not even mentioning Bart Gunn.

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

Pete Lothario is also ringside making gestures and stuff. It's almost alarming the level to which Sid sucks when you really pay attention to him. I mean, Sid rules, because he's Sid, I love Sid, Sid's awesome, SIIIIIIID, but did anyone more consistently, obviously get caught calling shit? Sid's hilarious and it is the best.

Shawn is on his game here, hyped up in front of the home crowd, and Sid to his credit, does his best to, you know, make this as good as it can be with Sid involved. Sid has the win on a chokeslam, but the referee was all knocked over and shit, so Mike Chioda has to run in, but he's too late. Then Sid punches him. hahaha. SID!

Michaels hits Sid in the upper back with a camera, then pokes him in the chest with it, to add injury to injury on the other side of the body. After that doesn't work, Shawn kicks Sid in the face and wins the match. It's really not that great a match, but what can you do with Sid, really? It's as good as Sid gets.

Shawn loses his smile shortly after this.

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