IN YOUR HOUSE XV: A COLD DAY IN HELL
May 11, 1997
Mankind . . . completely outworks the supposed blue chipper, although they’d have a few more chances to get things worked out.
Vader . . . welcomes Ken Shamrock to the WWF, with some insane lariats.
Steve Austin . . . nearly wins the WWF Title, by making the Undertaker have an actual wrestling match.
HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY vs. FLASH FUNK
This is a fun opener, but, HHH’s lackluster work keeps it from being anything more than that. Then again, between Flash’s bumping and selling, HHH didn’t need to be a super worker. It’s not very interesting to watch him work over Flash with chops, kicks, and clubbing forearms, but, it shows just how much of a jerk he is. Flash makes up the difference by selling his ass off, even something simple like a whip into the ropes shows that Flash is dazed and out of it. He also takes a couple of huge bumps, including a faceplant off the apron, and a backdrop suplex that turns him inside out. The only mark against this is that after his comeback spot, which was a desperation boot to the face, Flash is completely refreshed, with several dives, even though he looked all but dead a minute before that. He also ends the match on a sour note by taking a mediocre bump from the Pedigree.
MANKIND vs. ROCKY MAIVIA
Aside from a few big bumps from Foley, and a decent finish, this is rather unremarkable. Rocky isn’t bad or anything, but, he doesn’t show much personality and he doesn’t do anything to tell a story. His two best moments are the snap mare over the top, and, the (not yet called) Rock Bottom on the ramp. And they’re memorable for Mick being able to take them, rather than anything that Rocky does. Mick shows how much he’s hurt when he can’t even go along with a whip into the ropes. Luckily, they do have a good finish, and, although it’s designed to look like something of a fluke, when one compares each man’s performance, it’s obvious that the better man won.
Gauntlet Match: AHMED JOHNSON vs. CRUSH/SAVIO VEGA/FAAROOQ
The Ahmed/Crush portion is as hard on the eyes as you’d expect, complete with Ahmed botching pretty much every offensive spot that he does. Luckily(?) there’s a lot of punching, kicking, and rest holds from Crush, and he also adds a nice piledriver, so the match isn’t a series of blown spots. Ahmed countering the heart punch is a decent enough finish, and it’s not like anything else would have been appreciably better. The second wave, with Ahmed vs. Savio is almost watchable, thanks to Savio’s over-the-top bumping and selling, but, after a few minutes, he falls back on the same stuff as Crush, right down the nerve hold. Ahmed makes his comeback, and Savio rolls to the floor and uses a chair to get himself disqualified. The final leg of the match is kept short. Ahmed gets a fluke small package, and then Faarooq runs himself into a spine buster, which allows Ahmed to hit his finisher, and be too worn down to cover him. Faarooq recovers and pins Ahmed after the Dominator. If the time given to all three parts of this had been given to a singles match between Ahmed and Faarooq or Savio, it might have been decent, but, between the lack of storytelling, and the rushed nature, this isn’t anything special.
VADER vs. KEN SHAMROCK
This is a weird hybrid of pro-style and shootstyle elements that doesn’t come together very well to make this into a good match of either variety, but, it has its own set of positives that make it worth checking out. Most of Vader’s attributes are fully on display. He has no problem going up for Shamrock’s throws and suplexes, and he hits Shamrock with a couple of lariats that look like something he’d have done inside of a UWFI ring. For his part, Shamrock does a fine job playing up the ‘power versus technique’ aspect of this, by taking Vader by surprise several times and trying to lock in a submission, including the finishing ankle lock coming after Vader cleans his clock with a lariat. It’s also nice to see them build up the anticipation of seeing Shamrock suplex Vader. Shamrock tries for it, and Vader grabs the ropes or takes a powder, and Shamrock has to lure Vader into the center of the ring, before he can scoot behind him and takes him down. It’d have been interesting to see how this would have played out if Shamrock had gotten a few months to get back in the swing of doing worked matches again. But, Shamrock was too rusty and Vader couldn’t put in a performance like the Inoki match in order to make up for it.
THE UNDERTAKER © vs. STEVE AUSTIN (WWF World Heavyweight Title)
The wrestling here doesn’t really amount to much more than filler before the screwjob finish. But, it’s still fun to watch. This certainly wouldn’t be the pairing that one would expect to see a good technical match from, but it happens anyway. Austin wears down UT with headlocks early on, and then he switches gears and smartly targets the leg in order to take the big man down, including busting out an STF, which has to be one of the first times that it’s ever been used in a WWF ring. With Austin also coming off a knee injury, UT works over Austin’s leg as well, and although he’s not as good about it as Austin, he still looks decent. Add in some fun moments where they both stop what they’re doing to go after the Hart Foundation in the front row, and you’ve got an enjoyable main event.
Again, the wrestling itself is only filler. It’s too bad, because they had chances to try to make it mean more. The big one is the chokeslam, UT just goozles Austin and plants him. Austin could have gone for the leg to try to escape, or UT could have struggled to pull off the spot because of Austin’s having worn it down so much. The Tombstone reversal sequence that leads to the finish is another one, with the worn down legs being a factor in each of their inability to support the other man’s weight.
With how hot he’d gotten as a babyface, it seems odd to have Austin take a pinfall loss, even if he’s protected by the Pillman interference, a dq finish with the Hart Foundation running in was right there. But, in hindsight, it was the right call. The win firmly establishes UT as being above Austin in the pecking order, and it moves the Austin/Hart issue forward while UT can move on to other challengers.
Conclusion: This is certainly a step down from the previous month’s offering. The final two matches are both worth checking out, but, you can easily skip the rest.