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WWF @ Madison Square Garden
March 16, 1997

by Scrooge McSuck

- Strange case here: The WWF stopped running their local shows on the MSG Network in March 1992. For some reason or another, they televised one in March 1997, leading up to WrestleMania 13. Unfortunately, there was almost zero hype for it on local broadcasts, and I personally only knew of it through channel surfing and accidentally coming across it. It would be a one night return to the MSG Network, unfortunately, probably due to low ratings (and poor advertisement for the actual broadcast).

- Jim Ross and Jim Cornette are on commentary unless otherwise noted. Sounds like Jim Ross' headset is giving him problems. It doesn't sound nearly as clean as Cornette's.

Opening Match: Flash Funk (w/ The Funkettes) vs. The Sultan (w/ Iron Sheik & Bob Backlund):

These two wrestled way too much in 1997. Hey, look, Vladimir is right in full view as we get through Sultan's introduction. There's always got to be a Vladimir reference when you're recapping a card from MSG. Funk's entrance seems to get zero reaction, unless the acustics are terrible. Sultan attacks before the bell, and sounds like Funk's music is STILL playing, even after all that beating. Sultan (better known as Fatu or Rikishi) with thrusts to the throat, followed by a rake across the top rope. Whip to the ropes and Funk comes back with a reverse crescent kick. Funk with another as we're reminded that's Shawn Michaels' move. Too bad he lost his smile a few weeks earlier. Sultan takes a walk and gets some advice from the Sheik. We play games with a test-of-strength spot until Sultan lays Flash out with a right. Sultan locks the knuckles and gets a two count. Funk makes it to the top ropes to turn the tide and take Sultan over. Flash with a pair of dropkicks, but Sultan no-sells and connects with his own "thrust kick" (how many names does this move need?). Sultan with a stomach-buster for a two count. This crowd is REALLY dead. Whip to the ropes, and it's Sleeper time! Don't check the collective arm of the crowd, otherwise this match is over. Flash escapes with blows to the gut and takes Sultan down with a back suplex. Flash to the top and he hits a splash for two. Flash with a somersault leg drop, but the Sheik distracts the referee. Flash to the top again, and this time he dives on top of Backlund on the floor. Back inside, Sultan with a powerbomb to counter a hurricanrana, and the Camel Clutch finishes the stinker at 7:42. Thank goodness that was somewhat quick. Heatless and dull. Flash's "high spots" were his secondary's, so you can tell he wasn't trying too hard, either.

The Godwinns vs. The New Blackjacks:

(Henry & Phineas Godwinn vs. Blackjack Bradshaw & Windham)
What a random repackaging. I guess Windham's run as the Stalker wasn't getting over enough for Vince. The Blackjacks attack before the bell, which seems to be a trend so far tonight. Whip to the ropes, and the Godwinns come back with clotheslines. Henry with a press slam on Windham. What is the obsession with adding "NEW" to a tag team that's a rehash of an older idea? It never works. New Foundation, New Rockers, New Blackacks, New Midnight Express... New means sucks. Henry goes to work on the arm. Phineas tags in, and continues with the same. Bradshaw tags in and works over his future Ministry of Darkness stablemate. Henry slams Phineas across Bradshaw, but mostly lands on his face. Whip to the ropes, Henry with an elbow to the face for two. Bradshaw reverses another whip, and lays Henry out with a big boot. Order WrestleMania 13 for a 4-Team Elimination match between these two teams, as well as the Headbangers and Phil Lafon and Doug Furnas. Bradshaw with a cheap shot from the apron. Windham with a well placed low blow. I say that because it took him 10 seconds to set it up. Whip to the ropes, and the NEW Blackjacks with a double shoulder tackle. Bradshaw charges into the corners with clotheslines for a two count. Windham with a boot to the head for two. Windham with a back suplex for another two count. Phineas continues playing Hillbilly in Peril. Phineas counters a headlock with a back suplex, back drops out of a piledriver, and tags out to Henry, who gets zero reaction. He lays out the Blackjacks with clotheslines and slams. Heck breaks loose! Henry catches Bradshaw off the top with a powerslam for two. Henry with a belly to belly suplex for another two. He hits the Slop Drop, but Windham drops an elbow across the back of the head, and makes the illegal cover for the three count at 8:13. Heatless match, but I've seen worse from these two. That is NOT a compliment, either.

- Dok Hendrix brings out the Hitman, Bret Hart for a Very Special Interview. I'd rather watch him wrestle, thank you very much. He's hyping an upcoming match on Monday Night Raw against Sycho Sid for the WWF Championship. He also faces Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. Order now.

Aldo Montoya vs. Crush (w/ The Nation):

Who knew Montoya was still working WWF shows in 1997? Nice to know that with such a depleted roster, the booking team could split the Nation into three matches. Crush might hold the record for most look alterations without changing his name. He started out as a member of Demolition, comes back wearing bright orange, yellow and purple, then turns heel, grows out a beard and paints his face, as well as wearing darker colors, and then he comes back as a biker/jailbird. Montoya jumps on Crush's back with a sleeper hold, but is quickly snapmared off. Crush with headbutts. Montoya counters a suplex with a DDT. He heads to the top rope and comes off with a body press for two. Crush no-sells clotheslines and press slams Montoya into the air. He connects with a tilt-o-whirl back breaker, and finishes him off with the Heart Punch at 1:46. What a finisher... straight out of 1971. I guess that previous interview ran long? The Nation work Aldo over until Ahmed chases them off with a 2x4.

Ahmed Johnson vs. Savio Vega (also w/ The Nation):

Why go through introductions again when the entire Nation as at ringside and Ahmed just ran in? It was at MSG two months ago when Vega turned on Ahmed Johnson during a tag match against Crush and Faarooq. Talk about a surprise heel turn. Too bad no one gave a shit. Savio cuts a pre-match promo to further convince us he's a heel and to get Ahmed to turn to the dark side. Ahmed doesn't buy into it, and starts pounding away. Whip to the ropes and a back drop. Ahmed sends Vega to the corner, but posts himself on a charge attempt. Vega sends Ahmed to the corner and connects with his signature heel kick. Savio pounds away across the back and claws at his face. We blurr out the Superstar Hotline number, for obvious reasons (it's a sex hotline, now). Remember, at WrestleMania 13, Ahmed joins forces with the Legion of Doom to battle the Nation in a Chicago Street Fight, and it actually takes place in Chicago. Ahmed attempts a sunset flip, but Savio blocks. We actually take a mid-match break ON THE MSG NETWORK. That never happens. Ahmed plants Savio with the Rock Bottom and connects with a scissors kick. Whip to the ropes, and Savio slaps on a sleeper hold. Ahmed battles back to his feet and starts no-selling. Just call him Black Warrior. Ahmed misses the scissors kick, and Vega counters with a reverse crescent kick. Ahmed gets knocked to the floor, and fights off Crush's interference. Back in the ring, Ahmed with the spinebuster and Pearl River Plunge, but the entire Nation runs in for the Disqualification at 8:56 and lays a beating on Ahmed. Because they needed to protect SAVIO VEGA? Match was a boring pile of nothing. I'd suggest the LOD weren't there to make the save because they were working another show, but considering how weak the roster was, how did the WWF run two seperate house shows?

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
The British Bulldog & Owen Hart vs. Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon:

Thank you, finally something that might be a quality match. Before the match, Jim Ross compliments Davey Boy for beating Owen in the finals of the European Championship Tournament. I guess the Owen/Bulldog split was still in the works, up until the very last minute. Owen and Furnas start. They do a mat wrestling sequence, with neither man gaining the upperhand. They fight over a wristlock and a criss-cross sequence ends with Furnas taking Owen over with arm drags. LaFon tags in and continues working on the arm. Owen with a drop toe hold, but LaFon quickly takes Owen back down and grabs a hammerlock. Bulldog blocks a sunset flip, but has trouble doing much else, being sent to the floor following another series of arm drags. We get heel miscommuncation in the corner, leading to a bit of an argument between the Champions. LaFon interrupts with a double noggin knocker and connects with a spinning heel kick, sending Owen to the floor.

We come back from a commercial break (lame!), and replay the miscommunication from moments ago. Furnas with a side headlock takeover on Owen. LaFon tags in and takes a boot to the chest going for a back drop. Bulldog sends LaFon to the corner and pounds away. Whip across the ring is reversed, but LaFon misses a charge and posts himself in the process. Owen offers a helping hand, rolling LaFon back into the ring, where he's greeted by choking from the Bulldog. I've seen my fair share of matches of Bulldog and Owen, and know when they're dogging it, and they are definitely doing it here. Bulldog lays LaFon out with a clothesline, and Owen connects with a back breaker. He goes for the sharpshooter, but LaFon kicks him off. LaFon with a surprise small package, but the referee is distracted. Owen lays him out with the enziguri, but it only gets two. Owen with a gutwrench slam and knee drop for two, then it's chinlock time. Double clothesline from the Champions for another two count. Bulldog with a sleeper hold until LaFon breaks it with a jawbuster. Owen charges in with a clothesline to prevent a tag from being made. Furnas finally gets the hot tag, with no pop whatsoever. Furnas with a shoulder tackle and dropkick on Bulldog, followed by a powerslam for two. Furnas with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex for two. Frankensteiner gets two, broken up by Owen. LaFon with a snap suplex on Owen, followed by a double shoulder tackle on Bulldog. Furnas tries ro suplex Bulldog back in, but Owen hooks the leg and we know the finish. Time of the match was 13:33. Watchable, but as paint-by-numbers as you can get. Furnas and LaFon barely got any real momentum until the finish, so it's no surprise the crowd didn't care.

- Ken Shamrock comes out for another interview hyping the big Submission Match at WrestleMania 13. Weird to think Shamrock's WWF run only lasted from the Spring of 1997 through the Summer of 1999.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Rocky Miavia vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (w/ Chyna):

... Oh man, this is going to suck. Miavia won the Intercontinental Title from Helmsley on the special Thursday Night Raw (the same show as the Lost Smile speech). Miavia is greener than Kermit the Frog at this point, and Helmsley was still progressing at this point. That's a nice way of saying I didn't care for his ring work, either, but was improving in comparison of his stuff from 1995. It was only a YEAR later that both were solidly in their roles as outrageously raunchy douche (Helmsley) and self-centered arrogant jerk who refers to himself in the third person (Rock). Shows you how much can change in such a short period of time. Lockup, and they trade hammerlocks. Helmsley with a drop toe hold and front headlock, but Miavia counters with another hammerlock. Helmsley escapes, bitch slaps Rocky a bit, and hides in the ropes. Helmsley grabs a headlock and comes off the ropes with a shoulder. Miavia nips up, takes Helmsley over with an arm drag, and throws a pretty awful dropkick. Good elevation, but completely off the mark. Miavia with another arm drag, into the armbar. Helmsley with a hot shot/stun gun as the ringside camera operater zooms in on a nasty pimple on Chyna's back. Helmsley with a swinging neck breaker as we take a commercial break.

We come back with Helmsley still in control. Miavia with a small package for two. Helmsley takes Miavia to the corner and pounds away. Whip to the ropes, and a running high knee gets two. Abdominal stretch, and it would make Mike Rotundo proud, as Helmsley gets extra leverage from Chyna. Miavia finally escapes with a hip toss, but a splash meets the knees. Jim Ross hypes the next MSG card on May 17th. Too bad it didn't make it to television. Helmsley with a suplex and knee drop for another two count. They slug it out, but Miavia with an untimely charge to the corner meets the boots of Helmsley. He stomps Miavia to the floor, right in front of Chyna. Believe it or not, she doesn't interfere. Miavia sunset flips into the ring, but Helmsley blocks for two, using the ropes for leverage. Whip to the ropes and Helmsley with a back elbow. This is the third or fourth time he's put Miavia down, then done nothing to follow up. Helmsley with a slam, but a trip to the top rope is countered with an arm drag. Kurt Angle would eventually perfect that spot. Miavia with an inverted atomic drop, followed by a flurry of rights. Helmsley flips himself upside down in the corner and gets taken down with a back suplex for two. Miavia with a fisherman suplex for another two count. Belly-to-belly suplex for two. Miavia with that spinning DDT that was a pain in the ass to do in WWF War Zone. He heads to the top and hits the body press, but Chyna pulls him off during the cover. Helmsley hits the Pedigree, but Goldust runs in for the Disqualification at 14:45. He had issues with Helmsley, see. Yet another bullshit finish in a series of them tonight. Match was actually not too bad, if not on the slow side. You can tell Rocky was a ways from improving, but Helmsley did a solid job carrying it.

- Sunny comes out despite having nothing to do with anyone involved in WrestleMania 13. I guess she's doing ring introductions for the next match, and is really loud and annoying in the process.

Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Faarooq (w/ The Nation):

More filler before we get to the main event of the night. What's the deal with someone running in to conclude a match, and then having to work the next match? Wouldn't it have made more sense to put Crush/Aldo in this position of the card, and moving Goldust/Faarooq in their slot? That way the run in's have a little more impact later without the need to bring someone back for their match immediately after running in. The bell rings, and THEN Faarooq decides to cut a promo. Puh-Lease. Faarooq calls Goldust a "fairy", which definitely would not fly these days. Goldust attacks, but Faarooq quickly turns the tide. Whip to the corner, and a charge misses. Goldust with an arm drag and slaps on an armbar. More WrestleMania 13 hype: Goldust vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Order it on PPV, now... or buy the WrestleMania Anthology DVD set. Goldust with a snapmare for a two count. Faarooq thumbs the eyes to break out of the dreaded armbar and pounds away. Faarooq with a lazy slam, but a splash obviously meant to meet the knees meets the knees. Goldust goes back to the arm as I go back to wanting time to move faster. We actually take a midmatch break for this, and come back with Faarooq in control. Faarooq takes a shot to the gonnads to turn the tide back in Goldust's favor. Goldust misses an elbow drop, and that's that for his comeback. Goldust with a roll up for one, and Faarooq lays him out with a clothesline. Goldust offers another comeback but gets tripped by Crush. Faarooq with a piledriver for three at 8:26, despite Goldust having his foot on the ropes. Ugh. This might've been the worst match on the card.

- Sycho Sid with yet another in-ring interview, hyping a title match against Bret Hart on Monday Night Raw, and the WWF Championship Match against the Undertaker at WrestleMania, if he were to retain his championship.

Casket Match: The Undertaker vs. Vader (w/ Paul Bearer):

This is our "Main Event" of the evening. In actuality, the real main event wasn't televised, a steel cage match between Bret and Sid, no doubt because of their match hyped for the next episode of Monday Night Raw. I still feel kind of cheated, though. They exchange rights to start things off. Whip to the corner is reversed, and Vader follows in with an avalanche. Vader with rights and lefts, no-sold by Undertaker. He throws Vader into the corner and unloads with more rights. Whip to the corner and this time 'Taker explodes out with a clothesline. He grabs the arm and walks the ropes. VINTAGE UNDERTAKER! Undertaker boots Vader over the top, onto the casket. Undertaker grabs a chair and chases off Bearer, then bashes Vader across the back. COMMERCIAL! DURING THE MAIN EVENT. We come back with Vader in control. Undertaker turns the tide for a moment, until missing an elbow drop. 'Taker hangs Vader across the top rope, and Vader responds with a clothesline. Undertaker goes for a chokeslam, but Vader goes low to counter. Vader with an elbow drop across the midsection. He heads to the second rope and we get a very ugly powerslam spot. Undertaker with the chokeslam, and at least that looked good. He scoops Vader up and plants him with the Tombstone. He rolls Vader to the casket, but guess who's waiting inside... hint: It's Mankind. Same finish as from IYH: Beware of Dog, except Goldust is subbed out for Vader. Mankind claws 'Taker into the casket, and it's over at 7:26. That sucked. Undertaker pops back out and lays a beating in on Mankind, just for the hell of it.

Final Thoughts: I know that the roster had enough talent and capability to put on an entertaining show, but this just fell flat at every possible moment. First and most importantly, the crowd was hardly into any of the matches featured, so the WWF was clearly not giving them something they wanted. The roster depth was not a strength, and thus we got 8 matches to fill time. Combining all the Nation members into a 6-Man against Ahmed, Goldust, and even Aldo (or a suitable replacement) would've made for a better time than three terrible solo matches. All of the "important" matches had terrible finishes, including a protective finish to save Savio Vega face. Read that again, and try not to laugh. The best match is a 2-star affair between green Rock and boring Triple H... obviously I'm not going to recommend watching any of this show. Fairwell WWF on MSG, if this was any indication of what would have been expected on the MSG Network, we're lucky this experiment died after a one shot comeback.

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