WWF In Your House: Ground Zero
by Scrooge McSuck
- Welcome to a new era of WWF Pay-Per-Views… originally introduced as a cheaper, shorter PPV in the months other than the Big Five, this marks the first IYH PPV being extended to 3-hours, as well as extending the price tag to $29.95. It was a necessary move to combat WCW offering 12 PPV’s at $30 a pop, and to try and balance out the financial losses. I honestly loved the format of In Your House, because you kind of knew that for a 2-hour/$15-20 show, you would get a good show, but wouldn’t expect a top tier effort. Now that everything is the same price, then it seemed even more disappointing when the non-Rumble or non-SummerSlam shows presented very little to write home about.
- Originally presented LIVE on Pay-Per-View on September 7th, 1997, from the Louisville Gardens in Louisville, KY and officially sponsored by Stridex (for you pimple faced, pencil-neck geeks). Vince McMahon, “Good Ol’ J.R.”, and Jerry “The King” Lawler are at ringside to call the action, unless otherwise noted. Anyone like how Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, without the Title, was pushed as the top program in the months following SummerSlam, while Bret Hart, reigning WWF Champion, is an afterthought? Montreal Conspiracy Theory! I don’t care if it’s 2015, it’s still topical.
Goldust (w/ Marlena) vs. Brian Pillman:
These two put on a stinker at SummerSlam that saw Pillman, in a losing effort, have to wrestle in a dress. As payback, Pillman claimed that Dustin and Terri Runnels’ daughter is really his, so now we get them fighting again, this time with Pillman’s career on the line against 30-days with Marlena, who accepted the challenge on behalf of her husband. Goldust attacks before Pillman can get in the ring. Whip to the ropes, Goldust with an inverted atomic drop and a clothesline. Goldust with mounted punches in the corner totaling 20. Pillman goes to the throat and uses his shirt to choke away. Pillman with chops and an elbow, then gives chase to Marlena. Goldust intervenes and drops him face-first across the steps. Back in the ring, Pillman sets up for a bulldog, but Goldust counters by crotching him across the top rope. They fight up the ramp, concluding with Goldust taking him over with a suplex. Goldust continues to dominate, wrapping the leg around the ring post. Goldust with a bulldog attempt, countered with a throw. Pillman controls, doing little of note. He settles into a seated chinlock until Goldust counters with an electric chair drop. Whip to the corner, Pillman get s am elbow up. He heads to the top, only to be crotched along the turnbuckle. Goldust to the apron, and he slams Pillman into the security rail. Marlena gets her cheap shot in before the action returns to the ring. Goldust sets up for a Super-Plex, but Pillman counters. He goes for a missile dropkick, but Goldust side-steps. Curtain Call connects, but the referee gets whacked somewhere in the set-up. Marlena tries using her purse, but Pillman intercepts and KO’s Goldust with it for the three count at 11:06. ** Goldust was very aggressive early, as he should be, and for the most part the action was solid, but Pillman’s limitations were obvious and it dragged down the middle portion of the match. Jerry Lawler recovers the purse at ringside and reveals a BRICK. Then, in what has to be an homage to SummerSlam ’90, Dustin chases after a pulling away car with Pillman and Marlena inside it.
Scott Putski vs. “Too Sexy” Brian Christopher:
Ah, the WWF’s Light-Heavyweight Division (flushes toilet). Smell the non-reaction. We see highlights from an episode of Shotgun nearly two months earlier where Lawler and Christopher worked Putski over (and yes, he’s the son of Polish Power, Ivan Putski). I’m pretty sure Putski worked as Conan 2000, notably in that awful AWF promotion. Lawler continues to deny being related to Brian Christopher. “Jerry’s Kid” chant to start the match. Putski hammers away with rights. Whip to the corner and he follows in with a clothesline, followed by a hip toss and dropkick. Putski tries another hip toss, but Christopher counters with a clothesline. He heads to the top rope and jumps into a fist. Putski with a hurricanrana for two. Whip to the ropes, Christopher hits what is basically the Miz’s Skull Crushing Finale. Putski offers a comeback, but gets taken over with a german suplex. Christopher tosses him to the floor and follows with a plancha. Putski looked to have hurt his knee on the bump, and it’s a Count-Out victory at 4:41. ½* Not much to this, but the few moves they did weren’t too bad looking. I didn’t know “Memphis” style meant “Light-Heavyweight” style.
Crush vs. Savio Vega vs. Faarooq:
Yes, the first ever Triple Threat Match on a WWF PPV features THIS trio. The leaders of the D.O.A., the Nation of Domination, and Los Boricuas. Seeing The Rock as a secondary goof to Ron Simmons just feels weird. Slugfest to start. Crush comes off the ropes with clotheslines to both men. Savio goes for a roll up, but Faarooq interrupts and whips everyone with his belt. Crush steals it away, but Savio breaks it up. He takes Faarooq over with a hip toss, then Crush counters with his own for a near fall. Faarooq goes low on Crush, sending him to the floor. Spinebuster to Savio gets two. Crush Crush returns and takes Faarooq down with a Powerslam for a two count. They trade blows on their knees, but the crowd doesn’t have much to react to. There’s absolutely NO rhythm to the match, and then Crush grabs a friggin’ CHINLOCK after tossing Faarooq to the floor. Crush gives him an electric chair drop, just because Faarooq likes doing the spot, even if it makes zero sense. Savio and Faarooq blow a basic neck breaker spot, drawing boos. Crush just walks around the ring, putting his hair up, while Faarooq and Savio do stuff. That’s a star off the rating for being incredibly lazy. Both Crush and Faarooq try to pin, but the referee won’t count. Where was this guy a year later at a September PPV when it was done? Savio casually coming back literally seconds after being tossed and taking a beating is some laughably booked spot. Savio and Crush blow a Spike Piledriver spot. Crush with the Heart Punch, Savio with a spinning heel kick, and Savio pins Crush for three to end it at 11:39. -* This was just a long mess. The crowd was barely into it, the action was chaotic in all the wrong ways, and it just seemed poorly structured from the opening spot.
Max Mini vs. El Torito:
Wait… El Torito? (checks Wikipedia) OK, different one. This guy worked primarily under the name Espectrito, but worked in the WWF under the Mini-Vader name. Max Mini originally went by the name Mascarita Sagrada Jr. before the change. You know how weak an undercard is when you’re getting a random Light-Heavyweight junk filler, a Gang Warz junk filler, and a MINI’S junk filler. Max Mini shows off his athleticism, and I’m going to be honest: I’m not a fan of Lucha Libre. He sends Torito flying with a spinning head scissors, then follows him to the floor with a suicide dive! Torito takes over, but misses a running senton. Max Mini works the arm until Torito bites his ass to escape. What is it with midgets doing that in all their matches? Max Mini complains about it happening again, kicks the ankle of referee Jack Doan, and bites him on the ass. The comedy continues, with him taking a lap around the ring, sitting on Lawler’s lap (“pretend its Brian at Christmas time!”) and wearing his crown. Somersault into the ring, and Torito knocks his head off with a kick. Max Mini comes back with a hurricanrana, but it only gets two. Torito wih a Powerbomb for two. Whip to the ropes and Mini with a sunset flip for two. Torito with a roll up for two. Mini comes back with clotheslines and arm drags. He sends Torito to the floor and follows with an Asai Moonsault! Back in the ring, Torito misses a charge and Mini comes off the top with a flying head scissors. Whip to the ropes, and Max Mini finishes with a sunset flip at 9:20. **1/2 Best match on the card, which goes to say something about the WWF’s undercard at the time. The crowd was actively into this more than any other so far.
- Sgt. Slaughter, acting Commissioner, is here for the following angle development: Steve Austin and Dude Love are forced to job the Tag Team Championships to Abeyance due to Austin’s neck injury at SummerSlam, and Jim Ross gets to eat a Stone Cold Stunner for sucking up to him. LONG segment, which leads us into a Fatal-Four-Way to declare NEW Champions. Did I mention that the only undercard Championship available to the booking team between SummerSlam and Ground Zero was the trophy European Championship?
WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
This is Elimination Rules, but only one of these teams is worth a crap in the ring. I honestly don’t know who is feuding with who. LOD and the Godwinns had issues leading into SummerSlam, so maybe that covers it enough. HOG and Thrasher start. Henry with a headlock and shoulder tackle. Thrasher ducks a clothesline and rolls him up for two. He tags out to Phineas, so it’s HOG vs. PIG (har har…). Henry quickly tags out to Mosh, robbing us of… I don’t know, I just lost my thought watching PIG spit in the air and catch it. Do you think Vince knows who Marilyn Manson is? He’s uncomfortable laugh suggests no. Thrasher from the second rope with a clothesline, and Animal wih an elbow drop. Animal and HOG do stuff that might suggest they are working a wrestling match. Now it’s Animal and Mosh, while Owen clucks like a chicken, the highlight of the match thus far. Animal with a Powerslam and Hawk from the top rope with a clothesline. Hawk with a sloppy press slam. He offers tags to Bulldog and Owen (the latter of which does the old short-arm) before slapping Davey Boy to constitute a legal tag. The Godwinns take turns working over Owen. Enziguri to Henry gets two. Animal tags in and quickly gets worked over. Phineas with a slam, but a jump from the second rope meets a boot. Hawk with clotheslines to both Godwinns. They tease a Doomsday Device, but Henry breaks it up. The slop bucket gets involved, and the LOD whack out Henry with it for the Disqualification at 10:00.
Legion of Doom vs. The Headbangers vs. Owen Hart & The British Bulldog vs. The Godwinns:
Thrasher works over Phineas but a double-team spot only gets two. Phineas to the floor, and Thrasher follows with a somersault plancha. Henry pulls down the ropes on him… or at least he’s supposed to, so poor Thrasher has to throw himself over the top rope like a dingus. The Godwinns continue to control, but a sunset flip out of nowhere finishes Henry off at 12:44, leaving the Headbangers and the Bulldog and Owen. Owen comes in to pound away on Thrasher and takes him over with a gutwrench suplex. Bulldog in with his signature delayed vertical suplex for a two count. He holds Thrasher in place for a missile dropkick from Owen, but it only gets two. Whip to the ropes and Thrasher with a body press for two. Owen with a neck breaker for two. Bulldog in, and they blow a spot that I couldn’t even have a guess what it was supposed to be. Mosh with a “hot” tag, working over both Owen and Bulldog. Owen accidentally hits Bulldog with a spinning heel kick. Thrasher to the top rope, but Bulldog crotches him after waiting an eternity for the spot. Owen goes for the Sharpshooter on Mosh, but here’s Steve Austin. He hits the Stunner behind the conveniently stupid referee, and Mosh covers for three and the Tag Titles at 17:19. Yes, THE HEADBANGERS are your WWF Tag Team Champions. ¾* Match was mostly junk, with the first ten minutes basically being a crappy Triple Threat between the LOD, Headbangers, and Godwinns. To be fair, Owen and Bulldog weren’t actively trying hard, either.
WWF Championship Match:
Am I alone in thinking it was weird that they acknowledged him as Del Wilkes and would show him without the mask? What’s Kayfabe? WWE would go on to recycle the Patriot’s theme music for some guy named Kurt Angle. I honestly have a hard time hearing it without the “You Suck” part attached to it. Bret with his customary kissing of the belt and immediately goes on the attack. Bret with a back suplex and a headbutt across the midsection. He traps Patriot in the tree-of-woe, and stomps away. Whip to the corner is reversed and Patriot connects with a hard clothesline. Whip to the ropes and Patriot with a dropkick, followed by another clothesline, sending Hart to the floor. Bret tries an ambush, but Patriot catches him with a trio of arm drags before settling into an armbar. Lawler goes through the trouble of naming every one of Bret’s siblings and overall carrying the conversation, while Vince is uncharacteristically quiet and flat. Bret turns the tide and starts working the leg. Patriot tries to rally, but Bret goes to the eyes and applies a spinning toe hold. He pulls Patriot to the corner and slaps on his (kick-ass) ring post Figure-Four. There’s a spot that needs to make a comeback.
Bret “Hitman” Hart © vs. The Patriot:
Bret takes a moment to jaw at McMahon, before returning to the ring and pounding the back of the Patriot with headbutts. For whatever reasons, Davey Boy Smith makes his way to ringside. Bret with a back breaker, but a suplex attempt is blocked and countered. Patriot with forearms and a sunset flip for two. Boot to the midsection and a DDT for another two count. Patriot meets boot on a charge, but still has it in him to catch Bret off the top with a fist to the sternum. Bulldog with a trip up, allowing Bret to roll him up for two. Patriot knocks Bret into the Bulldog, and cradles him for two! Uncle Slam connects, but Bulldog pulls Bret out of the ring. Yes, the Full Nelson Slam Patriot does was REALLY called the UNCLE SLAM. Suddenly Vader comes to ringside, and the referee allows blatant interference as he wipes out the Hitman. Patriot with a big boot… and I almost instinctively typed “and a leg drop.” Patriot to the top rope for the Patriot Missile (diving shoulder tackle), but it only gets two. Patriot with an atomic drop, followed immediately by a back suplex for two. Bret comes back with a cheap shot, takes Patriot down with a bulldog, and comes off the second rope with an elbow drop for two. They trade blows in the corner, leading to a ref’ bump. Patriot with another Uncle Slam, but Bret gets a foot on the bottom rope. Whip to the ropes, and they bop heads. Bret with a small package, but Patriot rolls through with his own for another near fall. Bret with a chest first bump to the corner. Patriot slaps on the Sharpshooter, but Bret reaches back to pull the leg, and counters it with his own. Patriot doesn’t tap, but the referee signals for the bell at 19:18, awarding the match to Bret Hart. ***1/4 Lackluster first half followed by a pretty good, borderline great, second half, with a bit of unnecessary interference. Bret did a great job in bringing someone up to a level that they clearly didn’t belong in. Post-match, Bret destroys a flag pole and chokes Patriot with an American flag. I thought degrading a flag was something only Michaels did.
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels:
Despite neither man being a Championship Belt holder, and as someone who doesn’t automatically think the final match is the Main Event, I can safely say this is the Main Event of IYH: Ground Zero. At SummerSlam, Michaels inadvertently cost ‘Taker the WWF Championship, and has since then fueled the flames by aligning himself with Hunter Hearst Helmsley and the recently returned “insurance policy”, Ravishing Rick Rude. Shawn trolls the pyro for going off late. Why isn’t everyone using their cell phones to light the way for ‘Taker’s entrance? Oh yeah, that’s because people still knew how to use lighters in this kind of situation. Michaels uses referee Mike Chioda as a shield, as Undertaker just decks him. Commissioner Slaughter orders Michaels back to the ring as ‘Taker picks up the referee and THROWS him over the top rope, onto Michaels! He soon follows, knocking Shawn up the aisle, scurrying for the door to the goofy IYH set. ‘Taker hoists him high and plants him on the set with a press slam, then throws him into the fake gardening set up. Michaels takes a comical tumble back to the ring area, with ‘Taker slowly stalking him. ‘Taker with some cables to choke Michaels out. Michaels continues being knocked around, bumping into whatever inanimate objects he can find.
‘Taker finally tosses Michaels into the ring, but we’re still without a referee. He pounds away, lays him out with a clothesline, and comes off the ropes with elbow drops. ‘Taker comically covers without a referee anywhere near the ring. Michaels does the flip into the corner and bump to the floor on an Irish whip. Suddenly Earl Hebner shows up, with Michaels begging for mercy, but he has no sympathy for him. After 5-minutes of brutality, the match officially begins with Michaels clipping the knee of a distracted Undertaker. He mounts him in the corner, but ‘Taker keeps throwing him off. He catches Michaels by the throat, but Michaels quickly fights out of it. He heads to the top rope, and jumps directly into a right fist. ‘Taker with a clothesline, sending Michaels back to the floor. Michaels with a shoulder to the midsection, but a sunset flip fails and ‘Taker throws him across the ring with a double choke lift. Whip to the corner, with Michaels getting hung up across the top turnbuckle. ‘Taker with a series of punts, knocking Michaels high in the air and crotched along the turnbuckle. ‘Taker lays him out with another hard clothesline, but a cover only gets two. ‘Taker goes to work on the arm, but an effort to go Old School is countered with him being dropped crotch-first along the top rope. Michaels sends ‘Taker to the floor, and quickly follows with a baseball slide. He gears up one more time with a plancha, but Undertaker catches it and rams him back-first into the post! Back in the ring, Taker hits Michaels dangerously low while making another escape attempt. Whip to the ropes, and he damn near back drops Michaels out of view of the camera. He tries to escape, and almost gets stripped in the process. Whip to the ropes, and Michaels from out of nowhere with a swinging neck breaker.
‘Taker easily sits up, sending Michaels running for an equalizer. He loads up for a chair shot, but Undertaker easily boots him down. Now he has the chair, but Hebner stops him. Michaels comes from behind with a dropkick, knocking the referee down in the process. Michaels pounds away and comes off the top with his signature flying elbow. He goes up again, and connects with another. Hebner with a slow two count as Rick Rude makes his way to ringside. He passes along a pair of brass knuckles and Shawn hits ‘Taker with a pre-Big Show version of the KO Punch. It’s only good enough for another slow two count after Jack Doan comes out to replace Hebner. Michaels disputes the call and lays him out, too. Michaels puts the boots to ‘Taker, and here’s Helmsley and Chyna for some assisted ass-kicking. Hebner is revived again, only to get knocked back out after taking a bump to the turnbuckle (pussy!). ‘Taker starts no-selling everyone until Michaels comes off the top rope with a double axehandle.
Michaels chokes ‘Taker out with a ringside cable while Helmsley puts the boots to him. Back in the ring, ‘Taker reverses a whip and goes for the Tombstone, but Michaels escapes. He sets up for Sweet Chin Music, but ‘Taker catches it and throws him into the corner. ‘Taker with the brass knuckles and he gives Michaels a taste of his own medicine. He covers, but it only gets a slow two count. Poor Hebner takes a Chokeslam, because it’s fun. Whip to the ropes and ‘Taker with his signature diving clothesline. Referee Tim White shows up to call for the bell at 16:03, officially declaring this a No Contest. Michaels with Sweet Chin Music, knocking ‘Taker into the Andre Special™. Chyna brings a chair in the ring while Helmsley lays out White. ‘Taker gets a boot up, knocking the chair into Shawn’s face. He goes for the Tombstone, but Helmsley saves. Michaels lays out Tony Garea and Gerald Brisco for trying to break it up. ‘Taker with a Tombstone to Helmsley! Here comes the entire undercard, but ‘Taker fights through all of his babyface buddies and debuts the no-hands suicide dive over the top rope, onto Michaels! ****1/2 Absolutely chaotic brawl with non-stop action, with only a non-finish to drag it down, but on the plus-side, was necessary to build towards the rematch the following month. There’s no way they could top this one… could they?
Final Thoughts: This was the definition of a one-match show. Take away the Main Event of Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, and you have everything wrong with the WWF at the time, with the exception being a good but completely forgettable Championship Match between Bret Hart and perennial midcarder, the Patriot. The Gang Wars offered us a Worst Match of the Year candidate, Mini’s working a decent match but served the purpose of nothing more than desperate filler, a tag team title match that showcased nobody, and a borderline tasteless angle where Jerry Lawler was told to sound excited over the prospects of Brian Pillman having sexual relations with an unwilling Marlena (a.k.a rape). Despite all the negative, this is a Mild Recommendation because the one match kicked enough ass to make up the difference.
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