February 16, 1997


Lief Cassidy . . . nearly steals the show by making a remarkable effort when nobody would expect any effort from him.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley . . . has a totally watchable match with one of his most famous rivals.

Doug Furnas . . . has quite the forgettable homecoming, by being treated as afterthought in the semi main event.



Why is Al Snow, who was in the midst of gimmick hell, the one carrying this? Mero gets in a few spots toward the end, but the bulk of the match is Snow working over Mero’s knee. Snow isn’t amazing or anything, he mostly just kicks and stomps on the knee, and his only good hold is the figure four. But, it’s remarkable that the match is as focused as it is. Of course, Mero forgets about the knee once it’s time to wrap things up. He does a half assed tope while Snow is tied up with Sable, and he finishes with the SSP, rather than doing something else to protect the knee. A flash cradle or a crucifix would show that Mero, despite being hurt, won because he was a better wrestler.



The early intensity and the big dive from Scorpio are enough to make this better than the prior match. It also doesn’t go very long, so it doesn’t get the chance to be offensive. After the dive, the heels work over Scorpio, and while the three of them aren’t exactly workrate wizards, between Faarooq’s jawing with the crowd and Scorpio’s bumping and selling, it comes off just fine. Scorpio makes the hot tag to Bart and the match breaks down. Bart gives Faarooq the bulldog, but Crush intervenes behind the ref’s back and the heels steal the win.



It’s too bad that the finish is awful, because this seemed to be coming along nicely. HHH was no great shakes as a worker, and if not for the knee drop and the turnbuckle bump, you’d be hard pressed to find anything to show that he was inspired by Flair. But, the intensity he shows is a very welcome sight, especially when he gets upset at Rocky kicking out of his pin attempt and just starts throwing fists at him. It’s also nice to see HHH exploit the kid’s lack of experience, such as the crisscross segment when he ducks Rocky’s lariat and drops him with the jumping knee, and when Rocky catches the leg and spins him around, only to get clocked with a discus lariat.


Rocky brings a few nice spots to the table, like the float over DDT and the flying body press, but the onus isn’t on him to carry the offense. And, for all that lacked in the actual work department, between his cheating, intensity, and the ways he cut off Rocky’s comebacks, HHH more than pulled his weight. The finish with HHH getting distracted by Goldust, leading to Rocky getting the pin is more suited for TV, even with Rocky using a bridging backdrop suplex instead of a flash cradle, which is what he’d used to win the title in the first place. If HHH had interfered in the previous trios match and caused Goldust’s team to lose, then it would make more sense. HHH doesn’t even try to kick out. Rocky gets the pin and celebrates, and then leaves so that HHH and Goldust can continue their angle. If this had even a halfway decent finish, then it’d probably be something of a hidden gem.



Now the show is two-for-two with title matches having lousy finishes, but this had problems of its own before the finish. Despite some good exchanges between Owen and Lafon, this just never seemed to get out of first gear. Even when the champs were working Lafon over to build up to Furnas tagging in, there just didn’t seem to be much in the way of crowd heat, which is especially odd considering Doug’s history in Tennessee. Again, the Owen/Lafon exchanges are the best of them, but neither Doug nor Davey is bad in the least. The dissension between Owen and Davey is the centerpiece of the match, rather than the wrestling. There are some times that comes off well, like when the champs start bickering and Davey shoves Owen down. Lafon tries to capitalize, but Davey still makes the save, because he wants to win the match and retain the titles. The finish is awful, with Owen getting them disqualified to save the titles, and preventing Davey from doing the powerslam. Like the last match, it could have worked, if Owen was doing it to prevent Lafon from pinning Davey, instead of the other way around. All it really accomplishes is making Furnas and Lafon look like an afterthought, rather than title contenders. All things considered, it’d have been just as well for Furnas and Lafon to win the titles and have Owen and Davey’s issues spill over ahead of their showdown for the European Title.


BRET HART vs. STEVE AUSTIN vs. VADER vs. THE UNDERTAKER (Decision Match for the vacant WWF World Heavyweight Title)

Overall, this is more exciting than it is good. These sorts of matches weren’t commonplace yet, and the over-the-top rule makes it unique. As one might expect, due to the nature of the Hart/Austin and Taker/Vader feuds, there is plenty of brawling, but, there’s also next to nothing as far as structure or story goes. There are a couple of times that something happens to try to take the match somewhere, but it never pays off. The main one is Vader’s eye getting busted open, seemingly when UT kicks a chair in his face. A bit later, Austin attempts to slam Vader’s face into the stairs, causing the crowd to let out a surprising ‘oooooh’ knowing the ramifications of it. But, that’s the only time that anything happens with Vader’s eye. Another one is a bit later on, when they’re brawling on the floor and Vader gives Hart the sharpshooter, and Austin comes around and starts putting the boots to Bret. Austin isn’t trying to help Vader. He’s trying to hurt Bret. But, there aren’t any other cases of any of them working together to try to eliminate a bigger threat or get one over on their rival.


As nice as it is to see Bret not only eliminate Austin, but also go on to win the title and redeem himself after coming up short at both the previous IYH and the Royal Rumble, how it happens isn’t totally satisfying. There’s zero build to Austin getting tossed out. It’s fine that Bret does it. It continues their feud, and Bret doing it cleanly, as opposed to Austin’s chicanery during the Rumble, reaffirms their spots in the pecking order. But Bret just casually picks him up in a fireman’s carry and sends him out. There’s nothing happens to show that Austin is exceptionally worn down or hurt. Considering how their WrestleMania match played out, Bret cinching the sharpshooter would certainly have been appropriate, even if he just does it to let Austin up and throw him out while he’s hurt and unable to stop him. Vader probably should have left a while before he did, considering how badly he was bleeding, but his elimination is fine, with UT doing the sit-up before Vader drops the Vader bomb (which he’d used to beat UT at the Rumble), and kicking Vader off the turnbuckle.


But, it’s the final segment that’s the real head scratcher. Bret tries to surprise UT with a lariat and runs into the chokeslam. UT picks him up the Tombstone, and Austin jumps on the apron and pulls Bret down to save him. UT knocks Austin down and turns into another lariat from Bret to send him to the floor to give Bret the title. Why exactly is Austin going to help Bret? Sid was already promised the first crack at the title, and Austin’s being eliminated first is a good argument that he’s the least deserving of a title shot, so it’s not like he can use their feud to step into another opportunity. It’s a unique concept for a main event, with the right man going over, but, the execution of it left a lot to be desired.


Conclusion: There are a couple of inspired performances during the undercard, but the top two matches both failed to deliver.