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WWF In Your House #14: Return Of The Taker

by Scrooge McSuck

- I originally had planned picking up reviews of WWF PPV's with the 1997 edition of SummerSlam, but then I realized I stopped doing the IYH reviews after Final Four. We're in a grey area for me, as I completely dropped out of the wrestling picture as a fan, and even so many years later, I've only seen this show once. At least this time around, the person the PPV is named after is actually featured, and in a prominent role, too (see: IYH: It's Time to get the reference).

- COURTESY OF THE WWE NETWORK! Originally presented live, on Pay-Per-View, on April 20th, 1997, from the War Memorial Auditorium in Rochester, NY. Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Jerry "The King" Lawler are at ringside to call the action, unless otherwise noted. Featured on the Free For All, but not available on the WWE Network, is a heatless match featuring The Sultan (Fatu, Rikishi) and Flash Funk (2 Cold Scorpio).

WWF Tag Team Championship Match:
Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. The Legion of Doom:

A quick flashback shows us that there's more of an angle between the LOD and Godwinns rather than the Tag Team Champions, with LOD being slopped two weeks ago (by mistake), and then defeated due to interference from Owen and Bulldog. Owen and Bulldog's teased break-up was called off in favor of forming a Hart Foundation stable. I'm not complaining. Animal starts by easily over-powering Owen. Bulldog with a bit more success, getting Hawk to sell for his delayed suplex. Hawk fights off the Sharpshooter and Owen returns to being the LOD whipping boy. Animal with a slam and Hawk off the top with a splash for two. Vince actually refers to them as "The Road Warriors" and not "Legion of Doom." Owen with the enziguri on Hawk to take control, mostly with rest holds. Hawk slips out of the Powerslam and sends the Champs into each other. Animal tags in, sets up on the top rope, and connects with a Powerslam on Bulldog for thre at 6:57... wait, what?! Another referee comes out to inform us that there was no tag, and that Owen was still the legal man. THIS MATCH MUST CONTINUE! Owen blind tags in and hits Animal with the spinning heel kick, giving Animal a chance to showcase his selling skills. Owen with a neck breaker and leg drop for two. Owen misses a diving headbutt, allowing Hawk to get the hot tag. Clotheslines and boots to both men. They hit the Doomsday Device on Owen, but Bret Hart runs in for the DQ at 12:15. Looks like they mistimed it, as the referee stalled for time before counting. *3/4 Confusing booking that overshadowed the work, which fell a bit below par, considering Owen and Bulldog's hot run as a team. I didn't get the false pinfall and then punishing Bulldog and Owen by threatening to strip them of the belts. I guess the visual win for LOD was a way to keep them happy for not winning the belts.

- Michael "Doc Hendrix" Hayes informs Bulldog and Owen that Austin has arrived. Owen's response? "Are you sure, there's a lot of bald guys walking around." Sunny and "The Loose Cannon" Brian Pillman are here to pimp the WWF Hotline, Phone Number No Longer Active. Thank you, WWE Network interns.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
Rocky Maivia vs. Savio Vega (w/ The Nation):

You know how weak the roster is? Vega is challenging for the Intercontinental Title on PPV, against rookie Rocky Maivia, who the crowd has already turned on for being forced down their throats. Last week on Raw, Vega pinned Maivia in a Non-Title Match in Johannesburg, South Africa. Vega tries a sneak-attack, but Rocky fights him off. He takes Savio over with arm drags and grabs an armbar. Faarooq shows up, arm in a sling, to join commentary. Whip to the corner and Vega follows in with his signature heel kick. Vega slows it down further with a nerve hold. The match is basically background noise for Faarooq challenging Ahmed Johnson to a match with the fate of the Nation on the line... shouldn't AHMED be demanding that stipulation, instead of Faarooq just offering it? Then he practically says he wants to murder Ahmed, but not in those words. Rocky blocks a suplex and counters, Fisherman style, but it only gets two. Vega shows off his best impression of Kwang and continues to dominate. Rocky ducks under a heel kick and takes Savio down with the layin' the smackdown DDT. Rocky avoids a charge and connects with a back suplex. Belly-to-belly suplex gets two. The unnamed Rock Bottom connects... for two!? Rocky misses a dive and lands on Crush. Crush responds with the Heart Punch, and Rocky does the Count-Out job at 8:33. Crush and Savio have words, but Faarooq has them make peace by whooping on Rocky some more until Hacksaw Ahmed Johnson makes the save with his 2x4 in hand. DUD Just awful. Crowd was absolutely dead for the whole match, and what the fuck is up with two shit finishes to the first two (TITLE) matches?

- Doc Hendrix is backstage with Sable and the injured "Wildman" Marc Mero. Its a filler interview until we see Austin entering the mens room. Suddenly, there's a loud tussle going on until Owen and the Bulldog come out with pipes in hand, shoot the camera a quick look, and run like hell. Hilarious.

"Double J" Jesse Jammes vs. Rockabilly (w/ The Honkytonk Man):

After spending a good five months hyping that he was looking for a protege, Honkytonk Man introduces us to a repackaged Billy Gunn (who refused the offer two weeks ago, by the way), and the crowd doesn't give a fraction of a shit for it. That, on top of dead-on-arrival "New Double J", and you wonder why the WWF was being crushed by WCW? Jammes cleans Gunn's clock, knocking him to the floor, and coming off the apron with a clothesline. Back inside, Gunn hits the Rocker Dropper, but nobody reacts. Nor do they react to his awful impressions of the Honkytonk Man. Gunn with a neck breaker for two, then slaps on a chinlock. I'm bored, so I look hard to see how depressingly small this venue is, with a lot of empty space to the right of the hard camera. Jammes comes back with his jabs, but the crowd is in a fucking coma. Both men are more concerned with goofy dancing to "get over" their shitty gimmicks, and people wonder why this is bombing. Gunn dances AGAIN, and Jammes cradles him to put us out of our misery at 6:45. Felt more like twenty minutes. -* They job Gunn in the debut of his new gimmick? What the hell is the point of that?! Match was a heatless nightmare... it's amazing that these two recovered from this garbage.

- Steve Austin refuses to forfeit his match tonight, and continues to threaten whooping the ass of everyone in the Hart family. Hey look, it's Gorilla Monsoon! Anyone remember he was still the "President of the WWF" at this point? We throw it to some goober named Lance Wright, who is with the Hart Foundation. WHO THE FUCK IS THIS!? It's like The Miz and Josh Mathews invented a time machine, had a love child, and he turned into this goober.

WWF Championship Match:
The Undertaker vs. Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer):

Even though there's a lot of history between the two, the match was mostly set up with Mankind throwing a fireball in the Undertaker's face. After competing in a Boiler Room Brawl and Buried Alive Match, doing this standard rules feels underwhelming. Mankind attacks before the bell, and it's the usual exchange of blows, with 'Taker gaining the upper hand. They take it to the floor, with Mankind being thrown backwards into the rail. There's a concussion for you. Back in the ring, 'Taker works the arm. Mankind tries to avoid the Old School clothesline, but 'Taker still manages to hit it, diving halfway across the ring. Paul Bearer with a distraction, allowing Mankind to KO 'Taker with the urn. Mankind with a swinging neck breaker for two. Undertaker fights out of a chinlock, knocking Mankind to the floor. Mankind recovers and smashes a pitcher of water over his head. Mankind with a chair to the head (unprotected). Mankind to the second turnbuckle for a super-sized version of the Cactus Elbow.

Back in the ring, Mankind with a piledriver for two. Mankind claws at the "burns" on 'Taker's face and connects with another piledriver. Undertaker ducks under a clothesline and connects with his flying lariat. He traps Mankind in the corner with choking, and we get a referee bump. Mankind with the Mandible Claw. Referee Jack Doan comes in and gets the Mandible Claw, too. Huh?! Bearer tosses a chair in the ring, and Mankind brings in the steps. 'Taker sits up and dropkicks the steps back into Mankind's face! 'Taker with the chair, clobbering Mankind across the top of the head. He throws Mankind into the ropes, hanging him in the process. The mask comes off, possibly the first time revealing Mick's face. 'Taker with the steps, and he uses them to battering ram Mankind off the apron, HEAD FIRST THROUGH A TABLE! Back in the ring, Undertaker plants him with the Chokeslam, but it only gets two! He signals for the finish, and sure enough, the Tombstone Piledriver gets three at 17:26! Post-match, they set up for a spot for Mankind to accidentally throw a fireball on Paul Bearer's face, but botch it twice, so 'Taker grabs it and does it himself. Well, seems more fitting for 'Taker to do the deed, I guess. ***1/4 First half of the match was a bit sluggish, with a lot of directionless brawling, but the last 5-minutes or so really kicked it's ass into high gear, making up for the lack of interest from earlier. The fireball thrown at Paul Bearer would officially set the table for the introduction of another character, but more on that in the following months.

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Bret "Hitman" Hart:

Winner gets to face the WWF Champion at the next In Your House. This was originally supposed to be Sid vs. Bret, but was removed for reasons unknown (possibly to increase workrate, or Sid was at Softball Camp). Owen and Bulldog come out with Bret, but are ejected before the match begins. Austin wins a slugfest and takes Bret over with a suplex. They take it to the floor, with Bret being sent into the ring steps. Austin mocks Bret's signature pose and gets a fairly mixed reaction... I'm honestly a bit surprised. Austin tosses Bret into the "crowd", which is a depressingly empty 15 by 15 foot void not far from ringside. Austin with a near fall following the second rope elbow drop. Bret retrieves a chair, but Austin knocks it away before he can use it. Bret dropkicks Austin from behind, resulting in a Ref' Bump, and whacks the left knee of Austin with the chair. It's a shame WWF President Gorilla Monsoon is at ringside watching the whole thing and is powerless to do anything about it. Bret continues working the leg, in a more legal manner, after helping his best buddy Earl Hebner to his feet. Austin desperately tries to fight back while Jim Ross does the most half-assed shill of the WWF Hotline you will ever hear. Gene Okerlund would be spinning in his grave.

Back to the action, Bret busts out the ring post Figure-Four, because it's a friggin' awesome move. Bret uses the chair again, and this is somehow NOT seen (or heard) by Hebner?! Bret cuts off another comeback attempt and goes back to working the leg, exposing the knee by removing his knee brace. Austin goes low on Bret to slow him down, and again, the referee somehow ignores it. I sure hope this match doesn't end in a DQ. Austin misses an elbow drop, allowing Bret to resume the punishment on the knee. Bret brings him back in from the apron with a suplex and slaps the Figure-Four on in the center of the ring. Austin reverses the pressure, but Bret instantly grabs the ropes to force the break. Austin mouths off with Hebner, allowing Bret to kick his leg from under his leg. He tries to wrap the leg around the post, but Austin fights him off with all his energy. Austin dumps Bret into another empty void of the crowd and pounds away with rights. Back in the ring, Bret takes his signature chest-first bump into the corner. Austin chooses to pound away some more before going for a pin attempt. Austin goes for a piledriver, but the knee gives out. Austin surprises Bret with a Hot Shot onto the turnbuckle, but a cover only gets two. Bret hooks the ropes to counter the Stunner and goes low. Bret with the Super-Plex and goes for the Sharpshooter, but Austin whacks him with his knee brace and counters with a Sharpshooter of his own! Owen and Bulldog come out to create a distraction, then simply run in for the Disqualification at 21:09. Bret tries to injure Austin some more, but Austin whacks him in the leg with a chair and reapplies the Sharpshooter until a gaggle of officials break it up. ***1/2 Pretty good match with a fairly simple story (Bret beats the shit out of the knee, Austin has no quit in him), but is quite a disappointment thanks to putting on an all-time classic four weeks earlier at WrestleMania 13. Honestly, nothing is going to touch that one, so going in with those kinds of expectations is a bit unfair. I think Bret needed time off for some kind of surgery, but thankfully didn't lose his smile.

Final Thoughts: Two solid performances in what could be classified as a Double Main Event really pulled this show out of the crapper. Let's face it, that first half was a real garbage dump with a lackluster Tag Title Match (with a shit finish), an awful IC Title Match (with a shit finish), and ROCKABILLY. Even with one of the two highly promoted matches having a bullshit finish as well, the overall quality of the match was enough to look past it. Regardless, if you're in the mood for good Taker/Mankind and Bret/Austin matches, there's a handful of other PPV's to check out without having to sit through the undercard from hell. Mild Recommendation to avoid.

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