(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)
In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies
April 28, 1996
Omaha Civic Auditorium
News & Notes: Razor Ramon gave his notice to the WWF in February. He signed with WCW and would soon leave. Not long after that, Diesel also gave his notice. WCW offered higher pay for a lighter schedule. It was an offer too good to refuse. Razor missed WrestleMania because of his suspension, but he returned before this event. Good Friends, Better Enemies is the swan song for both Razor and Diesel. But, Diesel is going out on top. He faces Shawn Michaels for the WWF Title. Before Mania, Diesel cemented his heel turn by attacking Shawn with a chair. Despite losing to Taker at Mania, they named Diesel as Shawn’s first opponent. Diesel antagonized Michaels by appearing on commentary during his matches. He even wore an HBK t-shirt to mock him. Then, Diesel clocked Shawn in the head with the title belt. Tensions grew between both men, so Monsoon made the match No Holds Barred.
Meanwhile, a new superstar debuted after Mania. He’s not on this show, but I want to discuss him. He will be a significant part of the company going forward. Shortly before Mania, vignettes aired depicting a dark brooding figure. He hung out in dingy boiler rooms and made friends with the rats. You couldn’t see his face. He wore a leather mask modeled after Hannibal Lecter and he sat in the darkness. But, they showed a close up of his mangled ear. Anyone with a keen eye knew this man’s identity. It was Cactus Jack/Mick Foley. However, this was a new character. The WWF almost called him Mason the Mutilator. (The creative team is at it again! First, they had Chilly McFreeze. Now, it’s Mason the Mutilator. They also suggested things like Eric Eargone and The Mad Crimmer. What’s a Crimmer!?)
Foley hated the name. He created something unique instead. He suggested calling him Mankind. Whenever commentators speak about him, it sounds like profound statements about humanity. He also wanted different intro and outro theme music. A creepy tune played before his matches. After he won, a soothing piano melody calmed him. It was the first time a wrestler used two different songs. To top off this bizarre character, they gave him a dark backstory. It was a tale of abuse and self-mutilation. (Mankind rips out chunks of his own hair during matches.) It explained Foley’s scarred body in a way that deepened the gimmick. It was unlike anything the WWF did and Foley played it to perfection. He debuted on RAW in a forgettable match with Bob Holly. However, the episode ended with Mankind attacking the Undertaker. He left him unconscious and used a hold called the mandible claw. (A doctor-turned-wrestler named Sam Sheppard invented the move. He’s the guy that inspired the movie/TV-show The Fugitive.)
Affiliate of the Week:
According to the narrator, Diesel is a reckless rebellious malcontent. But, he’s not a pessimist. His glass is half full. (Yeah, it’s half full of that WCW money.) On the other hand, Shawn Michaels’ glass is half empty. He fulfilled his dream and lost a friend in the process. Shawn yields a physical and psychological advantage to Diesel. Will David slay Goliath? As far as the narrator is concerned, he believes they will hate each other even more when it’s over. (What a cynical man. He would fit in well with wrestling fans.)
After the opening video, they show a WWII bomber dropping In Your House bombs on Omaha. (I see the In Your House logo has progressed from home invasion to nuking a city. That escalated quickly!) Vince welcomes everyone to the show while fireworks explode. He says, “You want to talk about fireworks?” (No, not really.) Neither does Lawler. He predicts the WWF title will change hands again. Lawler believes Diesel will ruin Shawn’s life.
The British Bulldog arrives for a match with Jake Roberts, but he has Clarence Mason with him. Vince doesn’t like where this is going. During the entrance, Vince interviews Jake Roberts. Jake says he always has a plan. Vince interrupts him to ask if he sees what is happening in the ring. Jake says he doesn’t go anywhere blind. He has something for them. He then heads into the arena with his snake bag over his shoulder. Lawler freaks out because he too is afraid of snakes.
The British Bulldog & Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette & Clarence Mason) vs. Jake the Snake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson
Notes: They booked this as Bulldog vs. Jake Roberts. It still seems that way during the entrances. They show clips from the German tour. Davey attacked Roberts after a match, but Jake put the snake on him. Vince says Bulldog is afraid of snakes. Jake cuts his promo and enters the arena. However, Clarence Mason presents a paper saying they banned the snake from ringside. Roberts rips it apart and retrieves his pet. Everyone except Cornette leaves the ring. Jim then faints when he sees the snake. They revive Cornette and he claims the snake spat on him. (That got a laugh from me.) Jake finally relents and takes the snake to the locker room. But, he returns with Ahmed Johnson. Since Ahmed is there, they turn this into a tag team match. (Bulldog had an injury, they changed to a tag match to work around it. Also, I should point out they show Diana Smith in the crowd. That will come into play during this show.)
The Match: Owen starts the match because Bulldog is reluctant to enter the ring. He keeps tagging out again when he sees Ahmed. (Vince mentions they had an arm wrestling contest on RAW. Bulldog broke Johnson’s thumb during it.) Owen then evades some DDT attempts. He also reluctantly gets into a test of strength with Ahmed and loses. Then, Owen & Davey take control with double-teaming. Bulldog is eager to enter the match when his opponents are hurt. They control Jake with holds and more double-team attacks. But, Jake counters a sleeper with a jawbreaker. He tags Ahmed, who nails a spinebuster. However, Johnson tags Roberts after only a minute. Owen stops another DDT and then distracts the ref. Bulldog uses the opening to nail Roberts’ knee with Cornette’s racket. He then places Jake in a legbar for a submission.
Thoughts: This was a solid tag match. I liked the story they told with Bulldog. Plus, he and Owen were entertaining in this bout. There were a few moments where it dragged, but it was still good. Making this a tag match was the right idea. I know Davey had an injury, but Jake was also winded from the action.
Winners: Bulldog & Owen (13:47)
Vince plugs the Superstar Hotline. They show Marc Mero and the 1-2-3 Kid having a heated exchange while Sable stares blankly at the camera.
Intercontinental Title Match: The Ultimate Warrior vs. Goldust (c) (w/ Marlena & The Bodyguard)
Notes: Goldust interrupted an interview with the Ultimate Warrior. He did his usual antics, which prompted Warrior to say, “I don’t give a shit what you’re into!” (Wow, it’s odd hearing Warrior curse. Also, we all know Warrior’s real feelings on that subject.) They booked this match, but Goldust suffered a knee injury. They explained it by saying Goldust slipped and fell while Warrior chased him. Instead of calling off the match, they decide to work around it. (We will see how that works in a moment.) Meanwhile, Goldust brings a bodyguard with him to the ring. He is the former Mantaur in a gangster outfit. (He doesn’t last long.) They show a clip from the Free for All. Marlena blew gold dust into Warrior’s face. It infuriated him. (I realize how that sounds, but I’m not changing it.) I also need to mention Goldust briefly lost the IC Title to Savio Vega, but he regained it. He’s now a two-time champion.
The Match: Goldust stalls for a long time while the bodyguard distracts the Warrior. It doesn’t work. Goldust then retreats down the aisle and Marlena drops her cigar. The Warrior grabs it and begins smoking the thing. He also takes the director’s chair and places it in the ring. Warrior even drapes Goldust’s robe and wig on it. Then, he sits down and has a nice smoke. The fans start chanting derogatory things at Goldust, so he threatens to kiss every one of them. Warrior finally lures Goldust into the ring and shares the cigar with Marlena. (That’s unsanitary!) Warrior even allows Goldust to sit in the chair. Goldust gets comfortable and offers his hand to the Warrior. The Warrior takes the hand—and puts the cigar out on it. He then clotheslines Goldust out of the chair. Goldy has enough. He retreats, so the ref counts him out.
Thoughts: Well, that was—something. It wasn’t a match. It was a segment. I found it amusing, but they promised a bout. Postponing the match makes more sense. They had a hot crowd, but you can tell it disappointed them. However, I doubt the quality of a real match between these two. Perhaps this is better.
Winner: The Ultimate Warrior (by Count Out) (7:38)
Warrior chases Goldust’s bodyguard into the ring. He attacks the Warrior, but Warrior hulks-up. He nails clotheslines and a shoulder tackle. Warrior then rips off the bodyguard’s clothes and slams him. He leaves, so Warrior puts on Goldust’s wig and the bodyguard’s hat. Vince calls it a strange sight.
Meanwhile, Dok Hendrix is backstage. An angry Bulldog stands outside Shawn Michaels’ locker room. He yells at Tony Garea and Dave Hebner while Hendrix gives Vince an update. Dok doesn’t know what happened, but Bulldog is irate at Michaels. Dok says Davey mentioned something about his wife Diana. Hendrix promises to follow the story. (This sets up a feud between Bulldog and Shawn. I’ll explain more in my Beware of Dog review.)
Vader (w/ Jim Cornette) vs. Razor Ramon
Notes: Razor’s suspension ended, but his remaining time in the WWF is short. They tasked him with putting over Vader on the way out the door. The WWF has big plans for Vader in the summer. A win over Ramon makes him look strong. There wasn’t a build for this match, but Vader was busy. He injured Yokozuna’s leg with a few Vader Bombs. They wheeled Yoko out of the arena on a forklift.
The Match: Vader shoves Ramon around and out of the ring. He also peppers him with punches, headbutts, and short-arm clotheslines. Razor attempts a Razors Edge, but Vader backdrops him over the ropes. Razor fights back with his own punches and sends Vader to the floor. He regroups and keeps breaking the ref’s count. When Vader returns, Cornette distracts Razor. Ramon almost evades him until Vader nails an avalanche attack. Vader follows with a splash before both men trade suplexes. Then, Vader hits a Vader Bomb. It only garners a two count. Razor rallies and catches Vader on a dive. He slams him and lands a diving bulldog. Razor stops another Vader Bomb. But, Vader also prevents a Razors Edge. When Vader tries a moonsault, Ramon gives him an electric chair drop. He then attempts another Razors Edge and fails again. This time, Vader nails a splash for the victory.
Thoughts: This was a good hard-hitting match, but it dragged. However, it had enough impressive spots to counter the lags in the action. I enjoyed this, but it wasn’t great. Vader’s conditioning seems off. You can tell he was winded. His weight started becoming an issue around this time.
Winner: Vader (14:49)
Dok stops Vader and Cornette for a word after the match. Hendrix says he spoke with Gorilla Monsoon. He chose Vader’s opponent for the next In Your House. Vader will face the six hundred pound mammoth, Yokozuna. (Does that mean it’s a mammoth versus a mastodon? This is becoming prehistoric!) This upsets Vader, who pushes Cornette. Jim says that can’t be possible because Yoko is hurt. Cornette then says Yoko made a mistake. He’s stepping into the danger zone. (DANGER ZONE!!!) Cornette also claims Vader made Razor look like Margot Kidder. (I’m unsure of the connection, but it sounds like a tasteless joke.) Then, Cornette warns Yoko they will injure his whole body because Yoko is entering the Vader Zone! (This time, the WWF goes through with the Vader/Yoko singles bout. We will see how it turns out.)
Next, they show the Undertaker and Paul Bearer speaking on the Superstar Hotline. Paul talks about Mankind’s mandible claw and mimes sticking fingers in his throat. (It’s amusing out of context.) Then, Todd takes us on a tour of the WWF Shop. They’re selling polo shirts and hats with superstar logos on them. These are tame and understated compared to the usual gaudy t-shirts.
Tag Team Title Match: The Bodydonnas (c) (w/ Sunny) vs. The Godwinns (w/ Hillbilly Jim)
Notes: The Bodydonnas won the tag titles on the Mania preshow. Sunny distracted Phineas by flashing him. She teased and mocked him ever since. I mentioned Phineas in a previous review, but I’ll give more details. His character is more dim-witted compared to his cousin. Phineas gets riled up during matches. It consists of him throwing wild mule kicks until someone calms him. He’s also easily manipulated and Sunny uses that to her advantage. (I also want to mention the Godwinns pets. They brought animals to the ring. They seemed rather distressed. They removed this from the network. I guess WWE didn’t want complaints from PETA.)
The Match: Henry fends off some double-teaming and tags Phineas. He starts biting Zip’s arm before tagging Henry again. Godwinn gives Skip some shoulder blocks and a slam. He follows with a battering ram into the corner and a wheelbarrow slam. The Donnas try twin magic, but the ref isn’t falling for that! However, they low-bridge Phineas. Skip gives him a hurricanrana and the Donnas double-team Phineas. It riles him up. He throws mule kicks and tags Henry. He cleans house with backdrops and press slams. But, Sunny distracts Phineas with an autographed photo of herself. Hillbilly Jim threatens Sunny with the slop bucket. He then takes the photo and shoves it into the pig slop. The shenanigans distract Henry, so the Donnas swap places. Skip rolls up Henry for the victory.
Thoughts: This was a fun tag match. I liked the storytelling. The action was basic, but they did a good job. A couple of the spots were impressive. Plus, it established the characters of the two teams well. I found it enjoyable for a short bout.
Winners: The Bodydonnas (7:17)
After the match, Henry is pissed about the Sunny photograph. He shoves it back into the slop bucket and admonishes his cousin. However, Phineas pockets the picture when Henry and Hillbilly Jim leave.
Then, they show a commercial for the next In Your House. Yokozuna faces Vader. Stone Cold fights Savio Vega. Triple H wrestles Marc Mero. Plus, the WWF Title is on the line! The commercial leads to Dok Hendrix interviewing Marc Mero and Sable. Dok mentions Triple H attacked Mero during a match against the 1-2-3 Kid. Mero doesn’t understand why anyone would release the beast from his cage. He says Hunter stuck his silver spoon where it didn’t belong when he messed with Sable. He unleashed the fury and entered the jungle. (I’m halfway surprised Mero didn’t throw in a Tarzan yell for good measure.) They show a clip from the Free for All of Triple H giving Mero the Pedigree. Mero whispers Hunter will see what the wildman is made of. (He whispered most of this promo. I could barely hear him.)
Next, they recap the Shawn Michaels/Diesel feud. They speak about Mania, but Vince says No Holds Barred is a different picture. (Well, yeah. It’s a Hulk Hogan movie.) Lawler says Diesel will ruin Shawn’s life. A video airs. It shows the history of Shawn and Diesel’s friendship. Diesel realized the dream first, but a year as champion made him bitter. Shawn overcame adversity to realize his dream. He defeated the same man that ended Diesel’s reign as champion. Todd narrates the video. He calls Diesel a seven-foot punk. One man will walk away champion, having destroyed an ex-friend. One man will walk away, having lost everything. Then, they show comments from both competitors. Shawn promises a party with the Kliq. They will dance all over Diesel’s face. On the other hand, Diesel claims he has something for Vince and the Kliq. He says when it’s live, he’s digging it the most.
No Holds Barred Match for the WWF Title: Shawn Michaels (c) (w/ Jose Lothario) vs. Diesel
Notes: Lawler claims Vince is worried and sweating about Diesel’s warning. Diesel spent much of the build antagonizing Vince. It’s one of the few times they acknowledged McMahon owns the company. During Diesel’s entrance, he throws his vest at Vince. Lawler loves it. Meanwhile, they show Shawn backstage. Jose motivates him and gives him a quick massage. (I should also point out someone in the crowd. They show former wrestler, Mad Dog Vachon. Vince mentions a car wreck cut his career short. It left him with a prosthetic leg. Remember that. It will be important.)
The Match: They brawl and Shawn gets the advantage early. He dropkicks Diesel out of the ring. Then, Shawn gives him a baseball slide and a flying crossbody. However, Diesel takes control after sending Shawn into the barricade. Diesel then chokes out Earl Hebner! He does it so he can remove Earl’s belt. (Oh, my!) Diesel whips Shawn with it and uses it to hang him over the ropes. Michaels breaks free, but Diesel uses a chair. Diesel continues until the chair bounces back into his face. Shawn’s rally is short-lived. Diesel takes him to the floor and puts Michaels through the announce table with a Jackknife! Vince begs Shawn to stay down, but he crawls to the ring. Shawn finds a fire extinguisher and sprays Diesel in the face. Shawn then nails a jumping forearm and uses another chair. But, Diesel hits a big boot. Michaels blocks another Jackknife, but Diesel also blocks Sweet Chin Music. They fight to the floor again where Diesel spots Mad Dog Vachon. He gets a devious idea. Diesel removes Vachon’s prosthetic leg. He tries hitting Shawn, but Michaels gives him a low-blow. He then nails Diesel with the leg and gives him Sweet Chin Music for the win.
Thoughts: This was great. I loved the intensity and violence. It was different from what the WWF did at this time. This felt more like a match from the Attitude Era. Plus, that finish was unique. Vachon claimed for years he didn’t know Diesel would do that. But, it was planned. (Good ol’ Mad Dog. He was still protecting kayfabe in ’96.) Diesel found his groove again, but it was at the end of his WWF run. Where was this in ’95?
Winner: Shawn Michaels (17:53)
After the match, Shawn screams at Diesel. He tells him to leave. He also throws his gum at him. You could see the frustration he felt about his friend leaving. Shawn even mocked Hogan’s pose. Fireworks then explode while Vince says they set a new standard.
Before I wrap up this review, I want to discuss what happened after this event. This was Diesel and Razor’s final PPV. But, it wasn’t their last show. Their final appearance happened in May at a house show in MSG. Shawn faced Diesel in a Cage Match. After the bout, Razor and Triple H entered the ring. (The 1-2-3 Kid wasn’t there, so he didn’t join them.) The Kliq members hugged in front of all the fans. They wanted to say goodbye to their friends. This infuriated the traditionalists backstage. The Kliq broke character in front of the crowd, which was a major no-no. This is the infamous Curtain Call of the Kliq. Razor and Diesel left. Shawn was the champion. There was only one man Vince could punish for this incident. Triple H bears the wrath for the next few months. (He also holds a grudge for years to come because of the punishment.)
The main event was great.
The opener was solid.
The Tag Title Match was fun.
Goldust/Warrior was weird.
Marc Mero’s promo was kind of weak.
Performer of the Night:
I’m giving it to Diesel. He was great in that main event. That’s the Diesel I wanted to see in ’95. It’s too bad he found that after his title run.
The main event took this from a decent show to a good one. Nothing was actively bad. Even the Goldust stuff had amusing moments. I call this an easy watch with a great match at the end. The WWF is off to a strong start in ’96. Unfortunately, the next PPV brings it down a notch. But, it’s not the WWF’s fault. (I’ll explain more in the review.)
Thank you for reading. My next review is WCW’s Slamboree ’96. Look for it next Sunday!