‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Before we get into your weekly dose of ATTITUDE!, I have the urge to write a bit on current affairs. What a week it has been for a wrestling fan. I don’t know about you guys but I feel like I have been on an emotional rollercoaster since Sunday night and I am not sure what to make of anything that is going on. Since I became a card carrying member of the Internet Wrestling Community, I have never experienced a week like it. All we can do right now is speculate on the goings on but depending on where you stand, you may fall anywhere between thinking WWE have totally lost the plot and are imploding, all the way to them pulling a dangerous stroke of genius and totally reinventing kayfabe.
ATTITUDE! KOTR 97 + Punk/Bryan Thoughts (CPR Productions)
By Maz and Mav
Jan 30, 2014 - 2:36:34 PM
Like all stories however, we need to start at the beginning and this madness begins with the Royal Rumble. Never has such a good PPV left me feeling so flat. And make no mistake about it, it was a very strong PPV. We had an opener that ranks among the best non-rumble rumble matches in history. We had Lesnar and Show give a nod to what The Rock and Mick Foley did fifteen years earlier in a brilliantly worked segment/match. We had the best rumble match in half a decade which was littered with fun moments and stories. Sure, the title match wasn’t a great effort but even that was nowhere near as bad as some are making out. The problem was however that “someone didn’t get what they want”.
It’s been a long road since SummerSlam and that road seemed to run right down the middle of the IWC. I found myself firmly on the side that believed the WWE knew what they were doing. I was convinced they had Bryan’s moment planned for WrestleMania and his fans would be vindicated on the grandest stage of them all. I scoffed at those claiming “burial”, was sure the Mania rumours were BS and knew that it would all be all rise for DB following the rock bottom moment of joining the Wyatts. He’s looked strong at every step he made against the champion through summer and autumn but then, in a moment he was meant to put the torment of Bray behind him, he lost, and more importantly lost clean. I was then even more convinced. Twenty years previously, Bret Hart lost a tag match, was injured and betrayed by his brother before going on to win the rumble later that night. Why not give Bray a bit of shine before going onto something bigger and better? There would actually be an even better fit a couple of months later as Bret put Owen over in the Mania X curtain jerker before winning the title in the main event. But Bryan’s moment never came. When poor old Rey booyaka’d his way out as number 30, I was deflated and angry. As was Pittsburgh. As was Twitter. Not just smarks, but respected names in the business too. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t need the vindication of him winning the rumble to appease me. But he needed some kind of story to move forward. Something. Anything. He’d lost his feud and Bray had moved on. Bryan was nowhere with nothing.
I woke up on Monday morning feeling like a guy who had found his girlfriend naked in bed with another guy and was desperately trying to find a scenario where it could be explained without her having cheated on me. But as time went on I started to think things over. WWE might not have expected quite that reaction from the crowd but they surely knew there would be a reaction. They had apparently cut short his stint with the Wyatts due to the reactions, no way they wouldn’t calculate for that. They had seen the insane response to his turning on Bray but in reality that night was not really a whole lot louder than any other night where Daniel was in the building. The question that remained was whether WWE chose to ignore the reactions and move on with what they wanted or did they chose to ignore the reactions to use it going forward?
We soon found out they would use it the next night, and they wouldn’t hang about in doing so. Triple H is a phenomenal villain but I doubt he has ever drawn the level of hatred he got during his opening promo, both in and out of kayfabe. And that is the key. The WWE have been mixing the two a hell of a lot since SummerSlam which is why you just can’t be sure about anything. Bryan, in his part, was brilliant too. His post SummerSlam Tweets seemed to be in character but that might have come at the request of management after hearing the reaction. By the time we got to the end of Raw, Bryan had booked himself into the Elimination Chamber match. Rumoured Mania opponent Sheamus had done so as well and it’s not hard to go from being in a chamber to a Mania feud. The opening segment had hinted at other doors being open too. By the time Raw went off the air, I felt much better than I did when the Rumble went off the air. I was sticking to my guns and holding hope that DB’s Mania would be bigger than a standard match with Sheamus, but at the same time a lot more cautious in my hopes than I was pre-Rumble.
I was so intrigued by what was happening on Bryan’s Road to WrestleMania that it took me a couple of hours to realise that somebody was missing on Raw. I didn’t think much of Punk’s absence. Elimination Chamber and Mania moves were being made all night but Punk’s seemed clearly pointing to Kane and then Hunter so a night off to sell his injuries at the rumble didn’t seem particularly strange. Then on Wednesday morning, before I’d even had time to digest the SmackDown spoilers, I saw the breaking news that Hustle posted on Lords of Pain. Of course, as a battle hardened IWC member my first thought was probably similar to that of any Premier League referee who sees Ashley Young down in the penalty area… “I’m being worked here”. But the more I read, the more my gut told me that it was legit.
I spent most of Wednesday glued to my computer looking at LOP and Twitter, getting thoughts from people. It was insane. I couldn’t keep away from wanting to read about it, to talk about it. I saw a lot of support coming out for Punk. There was this bizarre notion going around that he had done it for the people. There is such an “Us Against Them” mentality in the IWC right now and falling so close to the Bryan rumble disappointment, they kind of got thrown in together. In reality they could be related in a way but it clearly isn’t a case of Punk standing up for what anyone wants but himself. “Taking his ball and leaving” was my early reaction. I agree he may have legitimate gripes but at the end of the day, your job is your job. I don’t like the direction of my company a lot of the time. I have to do things I don’t want to do, but you know what? I get on with it. It would have to be something really bad for me to support him just up and leaving.
I do find it interesting that Punk has not Tweeted anything thus far. He is usually not shy at all when it comes to dropping a pipe bomb so on one hand his silence could point towards a work. It could also be that he doesn’t want to end things just yet. He might be playing hardball with WWE over his Mania role or something and is letting it play out a bit. WWE may be of the same frame of mind which would explain their silence over it as well. Punk appeared to get hurt in the rumble which could have put him in a bad mood and hearing something he didn’t want to hear might have caused an overreaction. The hissy fit would definitely be unprofessional, but it is a pressure industry and in terms of that I would hold out hope that the situation could be resolved in the next couple of weeks. The silence from both sides could also signal that the situation is bad and being cautious over a social media war of words is smart if you are potentially looking at a legal issue down the line.
If this does end up to be a work, then Punk will probably live up to the moniker of Best in the World. If it is not however most of you will probably fall into one of two camps. You can either hold Phil Brooks up as some kind of martyr or you can come to the conclusion that he has probably been a ‘Bitch Since Day One’. I know which camp I fall into despite sitting here typing this wearing a BITW t-shirt!
If DB’s booking at the Rumble and Punk’s walk out was planned, then WWE have pulled off a very ballsy move which may have just changed the way the industry works forever. It wouldn’t be the first time they have done that and with Mania season starting and the Network on the way, the timing would seem to fit. If they just totally botched the rumble and annoyed Punk into walking, then they have to take a serious look in the mirror. In reality it is probably nowhere near as black and white as either of the extremes but even if we are looking at the worst case scenario, there is still a whole lot of time to fix things. At the end of the day, pretty much all I care about is Daniel Bryan getting his WrestleMania Moment in New Orleans, no matter why and how we get there. If Punk decides to be a baby about it all, it’s not the end of the world although it would be a damn shame if he’s not there. If the WWE title match remains as Orton vs Batista it is bound to get booed all the way out of Louisiana and if it goes on last, the company would be playing a dangerous game. But I am going to leave you with a “what if”.
What if Daniel Bryan gets the chance to take out the man who has held him down since SummerSlam at Mania before going back to his hometown at Extreme Rules and finally winning the title the Authority have done everything to keep away from him? Would that make you accept Batista vs Orton at Mania? It’s a simple answer for me...
YES! YES! YES!
The dream still lives on and as a loyal part of the #YesMovement I won’t give up hope. You can check out Maverick’s thoughts on the CM Punk situation too over in the columns forum >>>HERE<<<. It’s another great read on the crazy situation currently going down. We also discuss things on tomorrow’s episode of The Right Side of the Pond on LOP Radio so be sure to look out for that, but now it is time to get back to our regular scheduled programming…
Maverick: Back in the mid to late 90s, King of the Ring was actually considered to be part of a “big five” along with Survivor Series, Summerslam, Wrestlemania and the Royal Rumble, and was therefore a three hour show, unlike the two hour In Your House editions we looked at for the past two weeks. King of the Ring had become notorious for signifying a big push in the Fed for the man crowned king at the end of the tourney. This could have good consequences- the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin- but could have negative effects too- King Mabel entering a championship feud with Diesel in the summer of ‘95. This time around the push was fairly obviously going to be awarded to either Mankind or Hunter Hearst Helmsley, both of whom would have a key role to play for the rest of the era.
Mazza: Since the PPV has been abolished, many quarters of the IWC have called for the return of the event. The concept was a strong and simple one and has served well as a career catapult for many guys throughout the 90s. As Mav said however, not all winners were great choices and you could surmise many of the others would have succeeded with or without a year spent as royalty. Judging the effectiveness of the King of the Ring concept isn’t why we are here today however. We are here to look at one particular edition of the event and see whether it was a fun night.
The Event: King of the Ring 1997
The Date: 8 June 1997
The Place: Providence Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island
BACKGROUND AND BOOKING
The booking for King of the Ring, much like that of Wrestlemania XIII, was hastily redrawn in the run up to the event, particularly at the main event level. The original plan was for Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart to return from injury at the exact same time and settle the differences which had been festering between them in kayfabe since February. However, a famous chain of events led to these plans to “gang agley” as Rabbie Burns would say...Firstly, Bret states in his autobiography that his knee was healing slower than intended and that he was unsure that he could trust Shawn to baby him through a match in the way he could have trusted Austin or ‘Taker to. However, Vince was persuasive and Hart was on the verge of agreeing to work the match, until the events of the May 12th Raw went down and relations between the two top stars of the New Generation went from frosty to sub zero. The angle was supposed to involve the Hitman ranting at Shawn from his wheelchair, until the Heartbreak Kid snapped and superkicked him out of his wheelchair to send Raw off the air. However, crowd heat was so loud that Bret missed his cue, and the broadcast finished with the Pink and Black Attack cussing Michaels out, with no retaliation from HBK. Shawn was furious and threw one hell of a backstage tantrum, believing that Hart had deliberately set him up to look weak. In fact, the Texan was only placated by the expediency of the missing Sweet Chin Music being replayed over and over again on Raw the next week. However, Michaels was nothing if not petty and conniving back then, so the next week in Mobile, he cut a promo in which he leered the immortal “Sunny days” line, implying strongly that the Pink and Black Attack had been involved in an extra-marital affair with the Original Diva. Disgusted, Bret told Vince the match at King of the Ring was off.
To cover for this, Stone Cold was booked to “catch Bret alone” and take him out yet again, giving the Canadian another pay-per-view in which to recover. The semi-main event slot would then be filled by Austin and Michaels, who were engaged in a “frenemies” tag champs run immediately familiar to anyone who saw Angle and Benoit or Team Hell No work together. Despite their common beef with the Foundation, neither HBK nor the Rattlesnake could bring themselves to commit to their alliance, with Austin actually leaving Michaels to get beaten down by Owen, Bulldog, Pillman and Neidhart in order to escape and pummel Bret.
Elsewhere, the picture was more stable, thankfully for WWF. Hunter Hearst Helmsley had been denied the King of the Ring push he was due in 1996 due to the Madison Square Garden “Curtain Call”, but had worked hard, paid his dues and had put himself back in contention at the upper midcard level. As we discussed last time, his alliance with Chyna was paying dividends and his heel smarts were emphasised through the fact that he was eliminated from the tournament but then reinstated in suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile, a now fully face Mankind was getting more and more over with live crowds as they sympathised with the lost, Uncle Paul-less maniac.
The undercard was rounded out by midcard stalwart Goldust, who was booked to face the Nation of Domination’s Crush, and by a six man tag match featuring LOD and Sid (now a face through the mere expediency of a two month hiatus) against Neidhart, Davey and Owen of the Hart Foundation. Legion of Doom had, of course, been prominent rivals for Davey and Owen’s tag straps earlier that spring, and the result of this match would have a bearing on the continuation of the feud between the Hart Foundation and American grapplers at the next pay-per-view.
At the top of the card was a curiously booked title match, The Undertaker vs Farooq. The Nation had been prominent on television all year, but I’m not sure they were ready for the main event level at this stage. ‘Taker went from facing Austin, arguably the most over man in the company, to Farooq, who nobody really saw as being on the Deadman’s level. I suppose with his band of merry goons, the audience were probably meant to buy into NOD interference being the key to a potential Farooq victory. The company prominently advertised the match as having the possibility of a first African American champion in WWF history, thus fitting in neatly with the Nation’s black power gimmick
Whilst the card at face value seemed less important than the previous couple of In Your House events, King of the Ring immediately feels like a bigger show. The intros and set up around ringside make it feel like an A-PPV. To be honest, it is a format I’d like to see WWE go back to. There is nothing wrong in having official tiers of PPV and as we enter “the network years” it may be a good time to do it.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (With Chyna) defeated Ahmed Johnson in 7:42 in the King of the Ring Tournament Semi-Final
We start out with the tourney semi-finals. Wrestling logic would give away the winner here before we begin as Hunter had already been eliminated in the previous round by Ahmed. He managed to find a secret door back in however and lightening wasn’t going to strike twice. That doesn’t mean that the announce team weren’t selling it as a competitive match however. Johnson had always been sold extremely well by the commentators and built up as a potential big time player throughout his career. This particular battle was being built in the way so many other Helmsley feuds were during Attitude - Brains vs Brawn. After the early feeling out process we quickly revert to the era default of brawling on the outside. Hunter throws Ahmed into the steps and that gives him control of proceedings for a while. It isn’t long until Johnson is back to his no-selling which, to be fair, does get a good reaction from the crowd. His offence however looks clumsy and slow. He hits a Spinebuster but Chyna interferes before he can follow up with the Pearl River Plunge. This allows Hunter to sneak in a Pedigree and escape with the victory. Johnson chases Helmsley and Chyna to the back post-match as the announcers sell the result as an upset. Not a great start to the event but Ahmed was very one dimensional despite fitting the company profile well. Fortunately it didn’t go on too long however and there was enough in the clash of styles to make it passable.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
Mankind defeated Jerry Lawler in 10:24 in the King of the Ring Tournament Semi-Final
As Mav stated in the background, Mankind was very much a face now and Lawler was probably a good choice of opponent for Mick as he was an absolute heat magnet at this time. Before the match gets underway, Foley sits in the ring to cut a promo. He wonders where Uncle Paul is but says his absence won’t stop him in his quest to become king. He says Lawler isn’t a king but a pawn in Mankind’s game. There is some madness in his speech however including talking about both him and Jerry being naked before he finishes things off by quoting Aretha Franklin. Lawler isn’t to be outdone though and cuts his own promo on the way to the ring. It’s your typical old school ‘heel insults the crowd and opponent’ deal but it’s very well delivered. The job had essentially been done before the bell rings but they still managed to put on a good show. It begins with a fight on the outside and Jerry takes control, running through the heel manuel as he goes. He works the head and neck including a couple of piledrivers, one on the outside and one in the ring which only gets a two count. He then goes for the classic foreign object in the tights spot before going to the piledriver once again. Mankind reverses it however and locks in the Mandible Claw. Lawler’s lights turn out and Foley sets up a date with Hunter in the final. I thought this was an extremely fun watch. A lot of basic stuff but when you have two people who are as competent at that stuff as Foley and Lawler, basic works.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **
Brian Pillman is being interviewed backstage. When asked if he feels responsible for the Michaels-Austin match, he says “yeah” but Stone Cold sneaks up from behind and ends up flushing his head down the toilet. Little things are going to pop up throughout this series that just immediately make you think “ATTITUDE” and a random swirly is definitely one of them.
Goldust (With Marlena) defeated Crush (With D’Lo Brown and Clarence Mason) in 9:56
Whilst the majority of this series is going to be pretty positive when looking back at the Attitude Era, there is an old saying that goes “you can’t polish a turd”. So I am not even going to try with this match. It starts out okay for a moment as there is some movement in the ring but Crush then takes control. The big Hawaiian is soon using that chinlock of doom and it is tedious until Goldie eventually manages to break free. To be fair to Crush, when he is hitting big impact moves, he doesn’t look bad but the pacing between it is horrible. The pick of his offence was a gorilla press down onto his knee which looks rather brutal but thankfully Goldust soon takes charge again. Things are a long way from great but just about passable with Dustin doing his thing. He then hits what appears to be a random DDT and picks up the win. There is a perception about Attitude that it was full of matches with multiple finisher kick outs but that definitely wasn’t the case all the way across the card, particularly in the early days of the era. As for the match, it is best off forgotten as quickly as possible.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *¼
Owen Hart, The British Bulldog & Jim Neidhart defeated Sycho Sid & The Legion of Doom in 13:37
Before the match gets underway we get insane promo time. The faces are up first and they revert to the late 80s/early 90s big guy norm of shouting incoherently, but not before Hawk starts things off with the words “by diddilydoosquat”. The heels don’t make a great deal of sense either and we get to hear Bulldog’s ridiculous accent (I have no idea where in the UK it comes from, must have been mixed up with Canadian by this stage) before Anvil just acts like a loony. The match starts out with the good guys cutting the smallest bad guy off from the rest of his team. There is an awkward early moment where Sid climbs the turnbuckle but fortunately his shin is up to the fall at this point of his career. The Sycho One then tries to lure Owen into a test of strength, but clearly nobody would be that stupid and Hart tags in Davey (totally negating the point of cutting Owen off earlier). Eventually we see a return to the early 90s tag division as Anvil takes on Hawk. There is some nice stiff action before Hawk no-sells a piledriver. Shenanigans kick in and we soon revert to the face-in-peril norm with Animal taking the beatdown. The Hart Foundation all prove their worth as tag wrestlers using excellent psychology to sustain the advantage on their opponents and the referee. Unfortunately this period of the match does seem to drag on a bit and it takes most of the heat out of the hot tag to Hawk. Things soon break down again and we get a nice little finishing sequence which is very reminiscent of the great multiman matches we have had on TV over the last six months involving the likes of the The Shield, The Usos and The Rhodes Boys. Sid hits a chokeslam on Bulldog but as he goes to finish things off with a Power Bomb, Owen comes off the top rope and lands a sunset flip for the three. Decent action on show here as the water carriers of the Hart Foundation continued to get some shine.
ATTITUDE! Rating: **½
We are treated to a fun package looking back at last year’s King of the Ring victory by Steve Austin before we start the match to crown a new King.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley (With Chyna) defeated Mankind in 19:26 in the King of the Ring Tournament Final
Mankind goes from quoting the Queen of Soul before his semi-final to the King of the Jungle here as be proclaims he “just can’t wait to be king”. Last time out we had Foley showing some early chemistry with the future Rock and today he shows the same with the future Game. We get a nice look at the gimmicks they are slowly starting to lose as Mankind rocks back and forth in the corner and Hunter aims a curtsey in his direction. We get off to a solid start as Helmsley tries to figure out a way to get the upper hand over his unorthodox opponent. One he has felt his way into the match, the intensity ups a notch and we see signs of the Cerebral Assassin. The crowd don’t seem to be enjoying it much and Foley takes control. Chyna’s presence is felt when she distracts the ref with Hunter in a pinning predicament. Mankind then reverses a Pedigree attempt into the Mandible Claw but Chyna interferes once again to break the hold. The action gets more furious now as HHH hits a neckbreaker across the top rope and Mankind flies into the barrier after missing an elbow. Hunter throws Mick into the steps and we get our big spot of the evening in the form of a Pedigree on the announce table. Foley tries to make it back to the ring but Chyna nails him with the sceptre. Remarkably he kicks out at two following that but a second Pedigree is used and that’s all she wrote. Chyna manhandles poor old Todd Pettengill into the ring for the coronation but it is Foley who ‘gets crowned’ as Hunter continues the beatdown. This was a decent match that set up not only a good direction for both men in the short term but one of the key long term rivalries of the Era. They would go on to have better matches against each other but this was definitely a decent start.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***
Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin fought to a double disqualification in 22:29
This match may have popped up at the last moment but it was sure fun getting there, as the pre-match video package proves. Before we get underway however, the third piece of the “hate triangle” makes sure he isn’t forgotten. Bret is surrounded by the Hart Foundation and throws out an open challenge to any five guys to take them on at Canadian Stampede - the next In Your House. Not the best Hart promo of the time but it sets up his return to action well. The Foundation then try and take over the announce booth but a bunch of officials usher them all backstage. We get a nice shot of Austin passing them on his way to the ring. The match itself starts out with a bit of one upmanship and Austin flexing his middle finger a la Oxide and Neutrino. The early action gets cut up due an incident with a fan falling over the barrier and Shawn helping him to the back but we soon get into things properly. There is a really nice slow-fast slow-fast feel to the bout at this stage. The explosive moments are hot and include HBK selling by doing a headstand on the outside. They do a good job to drag out the first half of the match and it is full of little touches like Austin suckering Michaels into a test of strength and immediately kicking him in the gut. We get a sequence of near fall counters before things spill to the outside and the intensity steps up a couple of gears. Stone Cold throws HBK onto the barrier, Irish whips him into the steps and press slams him on the exposed floor. It’s very much proof that Austin still walks to the beat of a heelish drum and he gets his fair share of boos. He amps up the bad guy act whilst in control. The announcers are quick to point out that the support for Shawn is much more high pitched than the pro-Rattlesnake portion of the crowd. Not that they’d play up to that or anything but Michaels’ arse is soon exposed for the umpteenth time in his career. The match seems to explode at this point (fortunately Shawn’s butt didn’t) as the tide turns one way, then the other before we get our obligatory ref bump. Stone Cold hits a Stunner on Michaels before lifting the referee to his feet and giving him a Stunner too. Shawn then lands Sweet Chin Music on Austin. Another ref hits the ring but only to check on the first ref. Big mistake! He gets a taste of Shawn’s boot before the first ref counts to two as HBK makes the cover. Before things can get going again, Earl Hebner hits the ring and calls for the double disqualification. The crowd boos the decision but the fight goes on as both men try to attack each other with their tag team belts. They eventually leave side by side with neither man willing to turn their back on the other. D.T.A. indeed. I’m a big fan of this match. If anything it is a little taster of a great and huge match between two megastars that never really came to pass. Neither man would be in great shape by the time they got to headline a WrestleMania together so this is pretty much what we have to go on when it comes to a fit HBK taking on a fit SCSA. They ran through a nice range of styles throughout the encounter and although the finish was inconclusive, it was something we were having to get used to seeing. In this case though it worked well in creating chaos between the two biggest enemies of the company’s hot heel faction.
ATTITUDE! Rating: ***¾
THE MAIN EVENT
The Undertaker defeated Faarooq (With The Nation of Domination) in 13:43 to retain the WWF Championship
I noted last time that much of this Undertaker title reign seemed to take place in the shadow of more compelling stories, and this match is very much of that ilk also. I like this early iteration of the Nation of Domination, but much of their heat had been built in the midcard, and this felt like a fairly random “challenger du jour” step up to the main event that wouldn’t last very long. The Deadman, meanwhile, just did what he always did in the 90s- made the best of a bad booking deal.
The bout begins with your standard brawling; these are two big, powerful men, heavy hitters unlikely to stand on ceremony. There’s added intrigue in the corners of both men in the form of the mysterious Paul Bearer, back by ‘Taker’s side, and in the form of the Nation. It’s the black power group who exert more influence in the opening stages, distracting the referee and pummeling the Deadman on the apron. At one stage, they even manage to prevent the Demon of Death Valley from hitting Old School, pulling him all the way to the floor, whereupon a vengeful Phenom takes all five henchmen out with righteous fury. Farooq is booked to remain in control through much of the match thereafter; this is fairly standard “face comeback” storytelling, all in all.
So yes, the pace is plodding, we get yet another “chinlock of doom” that eats up minutes and souls alike. The only intrigue is in the Nation’s own outside the ring squabbles; Crush and Savio take exception to each other, forcing Farooq to restore order, hastening his demise as he turns into the Tombstone. The goons rush the ring after that, but ‘Taker has chokeslams for all. Then begins a rather confusing passage where Bearer rants in the Deadman’s face until he agrees to continuously chokeslam a prone Farooq, bringing out Ahmed Johnson, who hits the Pearl River Plunge on the Phenom to try to bring him to his senses. It’s a very lame conclusion to what was, honestly, a very lame main event.
ATTITUDE! Rating: *½
Well I don’t think that it would be an unfair statement to say that this is the first dud event of this series. We had a very weak filler match, the business end of a tournament which was interesting at times but hardly had the feel of the important edition a year earlier and a title match where conflict within the competitors’ camps was given more focus than their issues with each other. The Hart Foundation vs Stone Cold and America storyline didn’t really get the same development either. Sid’s return as a face seemed a bit lost amid the six man tag and Bret not wrestling in addition to the issues and chopping and changing backstage didn’t really help the PPV. The match between Austin and Michaels was the big positive of the night for me and I found it thoroughly enjoyable, even if my co-host wasn’t quite as enthused as I was.
It’s not that I didn’t like the Austin vs. Michaels match, I did, but it felt like a slightly wasted opportunity in some ways. I don’t know if it was HBK’s legendary ego at play or what, but it seemed like there was something being held back. I really didn’t like the finish, either. I’ve always hated double disqualifications. Thankfully, they get much rarer as the Attitude Era goes on...in fact, we go in the opposite direction entirely! Elsewhere, I agree with Mazza’s assessment of this event coming off poorly in the final analysis. I did enjoy Hunter’s push to the upper midcard level with his King of the Ring victory and beatdown of Mankind. That would have some nice consequences for both men down the line. Otherwise though, the three hours weren’t used particularly effectively.
MVP - MANKIND
Over the years, there has never been a better performer at getting others over than Mick Foley, regardless of which gimmick he was wrestling under, while never looking weak in and of himself. He truly was a once in a lifetime performer, perhaps not discussed enough in “greatest ever” conversations. Every single one of the greats of the late-90s and early-2000s benefited from an association with Mrs Foley’s Baby Boy, and here, a magnificently sympathetic win against a very old school heel Lawler established him as the sentimental crowd favourite to win the tournament, only for him to fall short at the end in putting over Hunter Hearst Helmsley in an excellent match that helped the Blueblood gain yet more upper midcard credibility. It’s interesting to me to think of Hunter and Foley having a prominent feud two and a half years before the one that everyone remembers!
Both men definitely had a good night here and whilst historically we tend to think that it was early 2000 where Foley put Hunter over huge, it would be wrong to cast aside their feud in the summer of 1997. Over the next couple of weeks we will see this progress but the chemistry between the two men is clear for all to see since day one. This was Mick’s first major task as a good guy in the WWF and you could sense, even at this early stage, that this was going to be the moment where HHH was finally going to be elevated (that and the fact he took the prestigious crown of course). Whilst the event doesn’t hold up well historically, you can point to it as proof that Foley, whether in the ring or on the mic, as a heel or a face, against a young stud or a veteran, will get the job done.
THE ONE TO WATCH
This week Maz, the main talking point seems to be the trigger being pulled on Paul Levesque’s push, a year after it was nixed as a punishment for his involvement in the Curtain Call incident at Madison Square Garden. It’s fascinating to play “what if” with this one. If Hunter had got the King of the Ring win in ‘96, perhaps we would never have got Austin in quite the way we got him. Cream rises to the top, of course, but Austin 3:16 was born with the defeat of Jake Roberts in the King of the Ring final. Who knows whether he would have hit quite the heights he did if Helmsley had not been demoted? As for the Connecticut Blueblood himself, I think the year delay ultimately did him a favour. He was decent in 1996, but I don’t think he was ready for a starring role, which he certainly was by June 1997. He would go on to grasp the opportunity with both hands and be a feature performer of the whole era. Important foundations were laid here with Hunter’s win.
Quite. Obviously with 20-20 hindsight we wouldn’t change a thing when it comes to the ‘96 and ‘97 King of the Ring winners. When you think of just how long Triple H has spent and will spend at the very top of the company, a year is a small drop in the ocean. Stone Cold however, despite the magnitude of his impact, would have a relatively small window as the top guy and so needed to have his moment as early as possible. When you head back to 1996, Austin was still playing the heel and so if Hunter did get his win there, he’d have probably have slotted into the same place. In reality though, it wasn’t a considerably stronger tournament that year and without the 3:16 promo it wouldn’t have been a standout edition of the event.
Then you have the fact that the 3:16 speech wasn’t quite the golden ticket people seem to think it was. Austin spent his first four PPVs as king in throwaway midcard matches, on the Free For All or even not on the card. The fact that his rebellious streak was getting over helped him a lot during this time and Hunter wouldn’t have had that luxury to fall back on. He certainly wouldn’t have had the same amount of traction to heading into a feud with Bret Hart on his return. In fact, the rise of Austin’s popularity may have pushed him to the same point come Survivor Series. In contrast, spending a few months with Foley turns out to be hugely beneficial in the growth of Hunter in 1997 and, as we know, that would transition into a partnership with his Kliq buddy soon afterwards.
Helmsley may well have made better use of the actual King gimmick in 1996 however. Without a clear direction for the winner that year, it would have been a very slight transition from blueblood to royalty. Whilst he was still doing a touch of poncing about and curtseying a year later, he was beginning to evolve towards a more cerebral/degenerate type character. At the end of the day however, I believe that in the cases of both Austin and Helmsley, it was not a case of the crown making the man but rather just a small accolade that happened be achieved by both on the road becoming two of the lynchpins of Attitude.
While King of the Ring was no critical success, and actually no commercial one either (it drew a paltry 0.5 buyrate, less than either Revenge of the Taker or Cold Day In Hell, particularly poor for a supposed member of a “big five”), it did lay foundations for future successful storylines, particularly in terms of Hunter and Mankind, but also with Bret Hart’s in-ring promo calling out five Americans to take on his Hart Foundation. With Michaels injured, the Hitman was able to once again bathe in the limelight unchallenged by his New Gen rival, and the pay-per-view we’ll be looking at next time is perhaps the high water mark of Bret’s time as the architect of Attitude.
Canadian Stampede would definitely be an interesting test of what Attitude was becoming. The bad guys would be on home soil and the man who was evolving into the face of the company would go back to being the number one antagonist. Something would need to change fast for the WWF. As Mav said, the KotR buyrate was down from the previous in your houses whilst WCW was once again steady at 0.6. Again, this was from an event without Hogan or the world title. The Great American Bash was main evented by the Randy Savage-Diamond Dallas Page feud and backed up by the Outsiders taking on Piper and Flair. So despite the nWo storyline still going strong, there was a bit of an open door for the WWF to try and get themselves back into the Wars.
You can hear more from Mazza and Maverick on The Right Side of the Pond, part of LoP Radio. New episodes every are out every Friday at 9pm UK time/4pm EST.
This week we are joined by Joey Shinobi and Plan as we break down the Rumble, Raw, Bryan and Punk. We are also joined by BeyondKnight who was part of that infamous Pittsburgh crowd.
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Joey and Plan also have a column in the forums at the moment. It is an honourable mention Plan's 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die series and looks at the main event of WrestleMania 2000. Read it >>>HERE<<<.
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