KING OF THE RING
June 8, 1997
Jerry Lawler . . . works the best match of the King of the Ring semi finals with minimal wrestling.
Mankind . . . does the heavy lifting in making HHH look like something more than just another guy with a gimmick.
Psycho Sid . . . looks like he could easily win the election to become the man who rules the world.
Semifinal: AHMED JOHNSON vs. HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY
Wow. This is just about the worst possible way to kick off a PPV. Helmsley goes over, but hardly does anything, and Ahmed can’t be bothered to sell anything other than the trip to the stairs. Hell, he puts over his missed elbow drop better than he sells anything from HHH. Ahmed stays down after the Pedigree, but then gets up so that he can chase HHH and Chyna down the aisle way. Not only does Ahmed, unnecessarily, dominate the match, but most of the spots and sequences look ugly and awkward. Lucky for him that HHH had better times ahead, because, lord knows how his career would have gone if he had to work with Ahmed on a regular basis.
Semifinal: MANKIND vs. JERRY LAWLER
Welcome to ‘Getting Heat 101' with Professor Lawler. Despite having almost no technical wrestling, this blows away the previous match. Lawler does little else than punch (with and without a phantom foreign object), bite, use the guardrail, etc. and between that, and how well Mick sells everything, this winds up being a really fun match. It also helps that Lawler was still throwing the best looking punches in the business at this time. The only real marks against this are the fact that Lawler’s piledriver is basically made to look worthless, and their miscue on what looked to be a swinging neckbreaker. The piledriver wouldn’t have been such a big deal, if the only time it was used was the finishing sequence, where Foley does the back drop counter and gets the Mandible Claw. But, before that, Lawler does one on the floor and then another in the ring for a near fall. The finish itself is still clever, and the impression it gives is that Lawler outsmarted himself by going back to it. But, it’d have been more effective, if they hadn’t already killed off the move.
GOLDUST vs. CRUSH
There’s really no reason that this match needed to be on the PPV part of the show. It’s not terribly long and the work is unremarkable, this would have been just as at home on TV. The only semblance of story is Crush working over Goldust’s back, and he’s as uninteresting as you’d expect. The one good spot from him is the press slam into a gutbuster. Dustin’s selling is the only thing that makes it work, and that only goes so far. Even the finish doesn’t really make sense. Dustin has to halt his comeback to save Marlena, and once he rolls back in he escapes a slam and hits a DDT for the win. The distraction on the floor only serves to momentarily delay the finish, rather than giving Crush a chance to take over the match, or even giving him a cheap near fall. The fact that Dustin didn’t need the Curtain Call or bulldog to finish him off is probably some indication of Crush’s spot on the pecking order.
OWEN HART/DAVEY BOY SMITH/JIM NEIDHART vs. PSYCHO SID/ANIMAL/HAWK
This isn’t really much of a match, but, it’s a fun little exercise in showing how much more over Sid was at this time than any of the others. The structure and the work of the match is perfunctory at best, although it didn’t help that both Sid and Hawk felt the need to blow off big spots, and the heat segment on Animal wasn’t very heated since his idea of selling was to just lay on the mat. Everyone does the right things at the right times, and that’s exactly how the match comes off. With the thunderous crowd reactions that he was getting, it seems stupid to have Sid drop the fall, let alone to have him do it cleanly. It’s plausible that Owen could beat Sid with a wrestling move, but, even something small like a cheap shot from Anvil or Bulldog to give Owen an assist would have been better.
HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY vs. MANKIND (King of the Ring finals)
From strictly a wrestling standpoint, this isn’t anything great. But, this scores some major points for how much it makes HHH look like more than just a goon with a gimmick. Granted, Foley does the heavy lifting with his selling and taking a couple of nasty head bumps into the guardrail, stairs, and the bump off the apron. But, HHH holds his own by being as much of a jerk as possible, even when he only does simple things like the knee drops, or spoiling the fans’ fun when they see Foley getting ready for the Cactus clothesline, and HHH cuts him off before he can do it. The finish puts Foley’s toughness fully on display, along showing with exactly how far HHH (and Chyna) are willing to go in order to win. Foley barely kicked out after taking both the Pedigree on the announce table, and then the bump off the apron, so, there’s almost zero doubt that another Pedigree will finish him off, which it does. It’s no wonder that a few years later, Foley was once again called upon to help make HHH into a legit top guy.
SHAWN MICHAELS vs. STEVE AUSTIN
It’s not much of a surprise that this winds up being the best match of the night, it’s the only match that makes good use of its time, and it’s also the only match that feels like it has a genuine intensity to it. Austin and Michaels have a good match, but, it’s nothing amazing. The way that it’s worked is a clear reminder that, despite becoming wildly popular, Austin was still a heel at heart. He even tears up the mats on the floor, and gets a good near fall by rolling through a flying body press. Michaels bumps left, right, and center for Austin, including a couple of big bumps to the floor, and when Shawn does his kip up and starts his comeback after Austin’s long heat segment, the crowd reacts in turn.
The only black mark on the match itself is the finish, because neither of them could really take a loss at this time. Austin and Shawn both get frustrated by a lack of action from the referee that seemingly costs each of them the match, so they take it out on the ref, and it causes another ref to throw the whole thing out. Considering the intensity they both showed, it would seem more appropriate to have them both get counted out while they were brawling on the floor, or even to have the Hart Foundation attack them both, rather than getting too cute with the stunner and superkick to the refs. Poor finish aside, it’s still a good match, and a nice reminder that Austin could have a good technical match with someone other than Bret. ***1/4
THE UNDERTAKER © vs. FAAROOQ (WWF World Heavyweight Title)
For all the talk of WCW putting on lousy main events during this era, the WWF could sure send everyone home with some stinkers too. There a few moments that wake up the crowd, like UT’s dive onto the NOD on the floor, and Faarooq getting the stairs kicked in his face. But, for the most part this is the most generic punch and kick match there is. UT’s selling is good, but, since Faarooq isn’t doing much in the way of real offense, other than a few power moves, it doesn’t do much to help. Even the finish makes UT look like a paper champion. He only gets the Tombstone because Faarooq gets distracted by Savio and Crush bickering. The Pillman angle the month before worked because the fans wanted to see Austin win the title. That doesn’t apply here, and, as a result, it only leaves an even worse impression on an already mediocre match.
Conclusion: Aside from the Austin match and the tournament finals, there’s nothing here worth going after.