September 22, 1996

Savio Vega . . . tries to pull off another miracle with the strap match, but, Bradshaw is no Steve Austin.

Owen Hart . . . discovers the key to having good matches with the Smokin’ Gunns, which is not to let them get in any offense.

Mick Foley . . . whilst in the prime of his career, puts on one of the best WWF matches of the decade (with a little help from someone else in his prime).

SAVIO VEGA vs. JUSTIN “HAWK” BRADSHAW (Carribean Strap Match)

This isn’t nearly as good as the match Vega and Austin had back in May, but it’s not bad. It helps that they more or less make this into a cliff’s notes version of the May match, with the same level of intensity and a few of the same idea, such as Vega yanking on the strap to send Bradshaw into the post (although Bradshaw’s bumping and selling aren’t close to that of Austin’s). The “U-turn” spot was funny, where Vega touches three corners and then Bradshaw yanks the strap and Vega goes flying the other way, but it wasn’t so brilliant that it needed to be done twice in a row. Even the finish is stolen from the May match, which either speaks volumes for how highly that match is thought of, or how little originality there is in booking these matches. Bradshaw drags Vega and touches three posts, with Vega touching them as well, and then he outsmarts Bradshaw to touch the fourth and win.


Matches between non-wrestlers and retired wrestlers aren’t supposed to be this amusing. Cornette looks like he’s been inflated with an air pump, and his overdone selling is hilarious. Cornette never has a prayer and gets KO’d by an uppercut, and then Jose does a second one to keep his mouth shut. I’d have rather seen this used to set up some sort of angle leading into the main event, or to set up next month, but this was amusing enough on its own.


Hey, it’s the first watchable Smokin’ Gunns PPV match, and, that has very little to do with the Gunns. Owen and Davey hog all the offense, and show off exactly what they can do, without letting the Gunns get in much of anything. It was disappointing to not see their leg work on Bart lead to anything, other than Owen’s swank figure four variant, even a token Sharpshooter tease would have worked, especially with how well Bart was selling. But, it’s not a big deal, because after four months of the Gunns coming closer and closer to curing insomnia, it’s that much more satisfying to just watch Owen and Davey work circles around them and roll out nice spot after nice spot. The Gunns don’t get in much of anything until almost the very end, and, to no surprise, they don’t bring anything close to the level of Owen and Davey’s work. The Gunns have a miscue and Bulldog gets the powerslam and pins Bart (to a huge crowd reaction), and that’s the end of the Gunns.


This is fun to watch, although it’s not exactly deep. I don’t think Mark had a lick of experience here, and it shows with the fact that match is pretty much Henry standing still while Lawler bumps himself six ways from Sunday. The only thing from Mark is the backbreaker that finishes off Lawler, which is a fitting finisher for the World’s Strongest Man. This is a good example of why the WWF should have invested into a real developmental program a lot sooner than they did. Maybe, then Mark would have made it to the top a lot sooner than he did.


I spoke too soon when I said that Goldust and Mankind never formed an alliance, the video package before this is a nice summary of the Goldust/UT feud, and it shows that Goldust and Mankind did have a bit of history together. This is about as good as the other UT/Goldust matches, which is to say not at all. UT has a renewed vigor and brings the fight early on, but once Marlena causes the distraction and Goldust takes over by blinding him, this starts sinking fast. UT’s selling is pretty good, considering that all Goldust really has to offer is a ton of punches and kicks. The one nice spot from Goldust is the powerslam, which allows UT to do the big sit up. After what feels like far too long, UT catches Goldust with the chokeslam and finishes with the Tombstone to finally end it.

SHAWN MICHAELS © vs. MANKIND (WWF World Heavyweight Title)

For one magical night in Philadelphia, all the stars were completely aligned, and the result is, quite possibly, the best WWF match of the 1990's. The work in the match seems almost effortless, they seamlessly move from place to place, spot to spot, and it seems like either Shawn or Foley could pull off the win at any time. Every big spot or sequence is perfectly believable. When Mick’s knee becomes the target, it’s not because Mick set up some big connvuluted spot that, predictably, backfired on him, it was because he happened to hurt his knee coming down from a suplex, and Shawn smelled the blood in the water. It was the same thing much later when Shawn goes to the hand, Mick was throwing a punch and Shawn just got up the chair to block it, and was smart enough to take advantage of the result. Shawn’s subsequent segments working over the limbs are excellent. It’s even more remarkable coming from Shawn, who was more known for his bumping and flying. But, he doesn’t look all that far removed from Bret, Hennig, or Flair the way he sharks at Foley’s leg.

The really great thing about their work is that, while they’re good about keeping everything logical, they don’t mind throwing caution to the wind and doing things they normally wouldn’t. An example of that is when Mick whips Shawn into the corner, and Shawn doesn’t take his usual big bump. Shawn, instead, opts to hang himself upside down, and Mick follows up with running elbow. The timing of it was perfect, Mick is already half way to Shawn as soon as it’s apparent that Shawn hung himself up. Shawn shows an intensity that hadn’t been seen from him before or since, he shows how far he’s willing to go in order to beat Foley and keep his title, and this is only a month removed from his being the huge underdog against Vader. The first sign that Shawn means business is when Mick lifts up the mats and Shawn dropkicks him onto the exposed concrete, and then starts stomping and kicking Mick, while he’s still under the mat, Shawn’s intensity never wavers, he doesn’t think twice about doing anything he’ll need to in order to keep the title. Shawn didn’t show a fraction of the anger and intensity in nearly two years of feuding with HHH that he shows in this one-off title match.

The only black mark on this is the stupid finish, there was no reason at all why Shawn couldn’t have pinned Mick after the chair-assisted superkick, but Vader, and then Sid and Undertaker run in for the big disqualification finish. But, even the horrible finish doesn’t detract from the twenty-five minutes of excellent, and smart, work before it. This match is also quite the anomaly, simply because of the notion that this is only time that Shawn and Foley could put on this sort of match. Shawn would be retired in eighteen months, and Foley wound up forgoing putting on these sorts of matches in favor of taking increasingly big (and totally unnecessary) bumps. ****1/2

Conclusion: The main event is the obvious big reason to get this, but it’s got a rather fun undercard, with the only the UT/Goldust match being offensive.