January 19, 1997

Farooq . . . carries Ahmed Johnson to a watchable match.

Hector Garza . . . makes an effort to put on a show, but isn’t successful in making the WWF fans care about Lucha.

Psycho Sid . . . continues his trend of having surprisingly watchable WWF main events.

HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY © vs. GOLDUST (WWF Intercontinental Title)

There isn’t anything bad about this, but, aside from the story with HHH’s knee, there also isn’t anything especially good about this. It doesn’t have the hateful edge you’d expect from the feud between these two. Goldust drops the stairs flush on HHH’s back, and Goldust takes a big shoulder bump into the post, but, neither of these bumps slows them down, or has any big impact on the match. HHH’s knee gets singled out after his flying knee hits the rail. Goldust has a few good ideas, like the figure four and the knee drop, but, any number of great workers from the same time frame would have come up with half a dozen better ones. HHH’s selling is good for the most part. He always keeps it in focus, except for the finish, and, it was nice to see do the Ric Flair knee drop, and clutch his knee in agony. The finish is pretty much what would become commonplace on TV over the next few years, near fall thanks to manager interference (Mr. Hughes in this case), babyface takes out manager, and HHH hits the Pedigree for the win. This honestly wasn’t too bad, considering who was involved.


Considering the participants, this is eons better than one would probably expect. But, it helps that Ahmed pretty much stayed out of the way and just let Simmons carry things. Simmons mostly works over Ahmed’s back and ribs, targeting the previously injured kidney, and while still not great, he’s much better than Goldust was at going after an injury. Ahmed doesn’t really sell the beating, he mostly just lays around like a sloth until it’s his turn to do something. The Ahmed/Farooq feud isn’t something you’d equate with comedy, but, the best parts of this match are when they get campy. The first is when Ahmed is going after Farooq on the floor and he throws D’Lo (then an unnamed guy in a suit) into him to slow him down. Ahmed doesn’t budge, but D’Lo takes a bump. The others are later on, first when Ahmed is dropping onto Ahmed’s back and stops to play to the crowd and Ahmed picks him up on his shoulders and drops backwards, and before the finish, when Farooq is jawing the fans again and Ahmed starts to make his comeback, which triggers the NOD run-ins and the DQ.


The work here is fine, but the booking is atrocious. Yes, Vader wins (continuing the trend of UT having bad luck at Royal Rumbles), but, he’s regulated to being the third wheel in the Undertaker/Paul Bearer storyline. UT has worked with plenty of big monsters who can’t work, and Vader is a monster who can work, so the fans get a good show. UT bumps and sells in his usual ways, and Vader does the same for him, they even work in the spot where Vader jumps off the top and UT gives him a body slam on the way down. It’s all secondary to the Paul Bearer angle, Bearer pulls Vader out of the way from a leaping UT, so UT takes the bump on the rail, Bearer clocks him with the urn and Vader gets the pin with the Vader bomb. In a nutshell, this is a perfect example of why Vader’s WWF run was so unremarkable for him.


This is one of the least exciting junior heavyweight matches, from a promotion that never really focused on the smaller weight classes in the first place. Garza and Metal work some nice exchanges, and, Perro and Jerry work a nice bit with Perro outsmarting Jerry at every turn and taking him down. But, the match as a whole is just there. Nothing, aside from Canek’s ugly flying body press, is actively bad, but there’s no real story or theme to the match. All six of them just do stuff, until Aguayo barely makes contact with a diving stomp to give his team the win. This is miles behind what the Michinoku Pro boys did in ECW, and what was happening on Nitro every week. Aside from Garza’s corkscrew plancha to the floor, and the finish, the crowd didn’t even both to wake up.


This is a lot like the Rumble from the year before, the best thing is by far the booking rather than the match, and the few good things are pretty far spread out, so that the match drags with lots of downtime. Austin comes in at number five and wins the whole thing, but, his performance is a far cry from Flair in ‘92 or Benoit in ‘04. It’s fun to watch Austin dispatch the jobbers in such short order, but, he doesn’t do a whole lot more than that until the end. A few of the eliminations play off storylines, like Goldust eliminating HHH, Ahmed causing Farooq to eliminate himself, and Owen Hart eliminating Davey Boy to continue their dissension. The use of a few more Luchadores was a good idea in theory, but, they didn’t do anything notable except Mil Mascaras eliminating himself with a big plancha. The finish, however, is excellent, with Bret tossing Austin and nobody seeing (the two referees were separating Mankind and Terry Funk from their brawl on the floor), Austin gets back in, dumps both Vader and UT, and sneaks up on Bret and throws him out for the win. It’s somewhat of a screw job finish, since Bret was still mostly getting cheered at this point, but, it’s still much better than the non finish from three years before.

PSYCHO SID © vs. SHAWN MICHAELS (WWF World Heavyweight Title)

From bell to bell, this winds up being another good match between these two. Shawn is as fired up as you’d expect, the best moment of the match was Shawn bouncing Sid’s head off the mat while the fans went nuts. When Sid is in control, he stays firmly focused on Shawn’s back, to soften him up for the power bomb. He doesn’t have the vicious (ha!) edge that any number of better workers could bring to the table, but, Sid is able to make it work. Shawn takes his usual bumps, and sells big when he needs to, and nothing more, so it’s a bit annoying to watch him put over the bearhug perfectly well, but, then not show any lingering effects a few minutes later. But it’s only really bad when Shawn takes the powerbomb on the floor. They have a fun finish that plays off the match from November, and being in Shawn’s hometown, the crowd goes crazy for it. Jose jumps on the apron, and, Sid takes the bait, but, this time Shawn is armed with the camera and he clocks Sid. Sid gets up and eats the superkick to give Shawn the title back. The main event, and title match, really shouldn’t be playing second fiddle to closing the book on the Shawn/Sid/Jose story, but, wrestling being secondary seemed to be the trend tonight. ***

Conclusion: This isn’t a bad show overall, the worst match is the trios match, and, that was just dull rather than actively bad. But, no outstanding matches and a lackluster Royal Rumble makes this something that doesn’t need to be actively sought out.