IN YOUR HOUSE XIV: REVENGE OF THE TAKER
April 20, 1997
Rocky Maivia . . . plays second fiddle to Ahmed and Faarooq, in a match that neither of them is even involved in.
Mankind . . . takes an absolutely insane table bump that’s almost been completely forgotten about.
Steve Austin . . . gets one last (although we didn’t know it at the time) tussle with his archrival.
OWEN HART/DAVEY BOY SMITH © vs. HAWK/ANIMAL (WWF World Tag Team Titles)
The work is rather basic, and the booking is atrocious. LOD seems to win the titles, but the match gets restarted because Davey took the pin while Owen was legal. And it only serves to set up a disqualification after the restart when Bret interferes. Owen takes a few big bumps, including getting yanked up and then dropped by his hair, which was something Bret did quite a bit. But, again, the work is all basic and there’s nothing as far as any story goes. I suppose this is what causes LOD to join up with Austin at Canadian Stampede. But, this could just as easily have been done on TV.
ROCKY MAIVIA © vs. SAVIO VEGA (WWF Intercontinental Title)
Why was this needed for a PPV? The match is only about eight minutes long, it ends on a countout to create dissension between Savio and Crush (which puts over the heart punch, if nothing else), and is immediately followed by Ahmed running off the NOD and accepting Faarooq’s challenge. It’s got all the makings of a TV angle. Rocky shows off a few nice spots, including the move that would become known as the Rock Bottom. But, he’s more or less the third wheel in this situation, and that just shouldn’t be the case for somebody with a title belt around his waist.
JESSE JAMES vs. ROCKABILLY
As far as the actual wrestling goes, there’s almost nothing that separates this from the previous match other than the clean finish. They trade a ton of punches and both of them work in spots that they’d become known for later on, such as Billy’s overshot Stinger splash. Billy gets pinned on a flash cradle, just in case anyone watching got the idea that the debutante would be someone worth investing their time in. It wouldn’t be a big deal if Billy lost to someone who was being used more prominently like Rocky, Goldust, Sid, or Ahmed. But, losing to someone ranked as low as Double J only serves to kill any perception of him right out of the gate.
THE UNDERTAKER © vs. MANKIND (WWF World Heavyweight Title)
It’s not much of a shocker that this is better than everything that preceded it. The only way for this to not be an improvement would be for Foley to have an off-night, and, for UT to literally be a dead man. The intensity is certainly nice to see, along with a few smart touches to play on their familiarity, such as Mick backing up when UT is doing the rope walk, and UT landing on his feet when Foley does the Cactus clothesline. The brawling works better with the context of their history together and with UT having the bandage on his face. Even though they’d been cooled off from one another, you know exactly how much anger there still is when UT is bouncing Foley’s head off the guardrail.
There’s also some continuation from Foley’s match at ‘Mania, with how well the Mandible Claw is put over. UT is pretty much incapacitated from it, and when the second referee rolls in, Foley gives it to him and it puts him out too. If they hadn’t topped themselves the following year with the Hell in a Cell bump, then Mick’s headfirst table bump would probably be one of the most remembered bumps of his career. Foley’s toughness is fully on display when he kicks out after the chokeslam that followed the table bump. And, after barely kicking out, there’s virtually no doubt about UT being able to finish him off with the Tombstone. With as many times as these two have worked together, it’s no surprise that they could put on a match that’s at least this good (even without some of the bumps that Foley takes here), but after such a wretched undercard, it’s still a very welcome sight. ***1/4
BRET HART vs. STEVE AUSTIN (#1 Contender’s Match for the WWF World Heavyweight Title)
Despite the lame finish, this is a worthy follow up to their WrestleMania match. It’s got the brawling that would come to be the norm for Austin-style WWF main events, and both of them do a good job with the story of Bret working Austin’s knee, which carries the bulk of the match.
Most of Bret’s work isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen from him before, when he’s attempting to soften up an opponent for the Sharpshooter, but, he adds the ringpost figure four again, as well as a regular figure four, and even takes a page out of Flair’s book by draping the knee across the rope and dropping onto it. For his part, Austin’s selling is great. Granted, it’d be hard to not put it over well, especially with Bret’s constant sharking on it. But, in addition to selling while he’s being worked over, Austin adds his own smart touches in the form of the leg preventing him from making the comeback that the crowd is waiting for. The first instance of this is when Austin snaps Bret’s neck over the ropes. It does its job of getting Bret off of him momentarily, but dropping from the apron to the floor probably hurts Steve just as much as it does Bret, and once Austin gets back in, Bret is able to once again work him over. There’s a second one a bit later when Austin is able to fend off Bret a bit, and attempt a piledriver, but the knee stops him from doing the move. It’s a smart touch that doesn’t seem to be done anymore. The knee doesn’t stop him from lifting Bret, and Bret doesn’t do anything to fight out of it, but Austin’s knee just can’t take the strain of holding both Austin’s and Bret’s weight. Even Austin’s figure four reversal takes a lot out of him, as shown by the way Austin tries to heighten his base once he gets the hold turned over.
The only disappointment, other than the disqualification finish, is that Austin’s comeback doesn’t come until the match is over. Even though he seems to have the match won when Owen and Davey run interference. But, the match itself ends on a high note, with another smart touch. Austin gets some revenge for Bret’s bell shot at WrestleMania. Bret tries to lock in the Sharpshooter, and Austin clocks Bret with his knee brace (which Bret had removed earlier), and it stuns Bret enough to allow Austin to turn the tables and give Bret his own hold. Even more remarkable is that Austin’s application of the hold is done very well. It’s almost prerequisite that when a wrestler does their rival’s finisher to them that it needs to look ugly, but that’s not the case here. After the referee throws out the match, Austin gets to finish his comeback by returning the favor for Bret’s chair shots, and another Sharpshooter. Of course, Austin would continue his revenge on Bret the following night. For good reasons, this is often overshadowed by the two prior PPV singles matches between Bret and Steve. It certainly not a bad match, and it ends this show on a very high note. But, it’s a shame that this wound up being their last singles match together. They deserved at least one last match to blow off the feud properly. ***½
Conclusion: This is certainly a top-heavy offering. The last two matches are worth checking out, but the undercard is definitely skippable.