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Attitude Era Classics: WWF Ground Zero 1997

WWF Ground Zero: In Your House

September 7th 1997

Louisville Gardens, Louisville, Kentucky

Attendance: 4,963

Commentators: Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler

Buyrate: 0.45

   For the first time since its creation back in 1995, In Your House will go from being a two hour pay per view, to a 3 hour pay per view, putting it on par with the ‘big 5’ events. The main event was centred around the events which went down at Summerslam between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker. Shawn turned heel after the show and started to become somewhat of a ‘degenerate’. Undertaker was looking for revenge and he’ll get it tonight in this first time ever clash between the two legendary performers. Bret Hart was going to defend the WWF title against the Patriot. Bret talks about this in his book how he didn’t like the cartoony storyline he was put in. Don’t blame him to be honest, this sounds like something out of the 1980s! Gorilla Monsoon, the former WWF President, stepped down from his role and ended his on-screen character; he was replaced by former WWF Champion, Sgt Slaughter as the no-nonsense straight talking commissioner.

We kick off with a video package focusing on the change in attitude of Shawn Michaels and his feud against the Undertaker. Not one mention of WWF Champion, Bret Hart, who is now an afterthought. We cut to the arena as usual and we are welcomed to the show by our 3 man announce team. The first thing I notice is just how small the arena is! Thankfully, the attendance of the shows will increase as we continue through with our Attitude Era Classics series.

Our opening contest is between Goldust and Brian Pillman. Pillman lost to Goldust at Summerslam and was forced to wear a dress as part of the stipulation. Pillman taunted Goldust by telling him that he had a past relationship with Marlena and that their daughter, Dakota, was his. If Goldust won this match, Pillman would leave the WWF forever but if Pillman won, Marlena would be forced to spend the next 30 days with him.

Goldust /w/ Marlena vs. Brian Pillman

Now I mentioned Pillman wasn’t in the best state at this point last month and sadly, this turns out to be the last PPV appearance of the Loose Cannon. Its a better match than last month, mostly due to how heated this rivalry has become, but its still a pretty bad showing. The crowd is really behind Goldust here, so that tells you this feud was working at least. Most of this match is Goldust beating on Pillman, but the referee gets bumped in the closing moments. Marlena goes to hit Pillman with her loaded purse, but (seemingly) by accident hits Goldust instead. Marlena looks distressed as Pillman scores the pin to win his final PPV match.

Winner: Brian Pillman via pinfall

Rating: * ½

A lot better than their encounter at Summerslam but still, Pillman was very limited as to what he could do. The finish was poor which the loaded purse. As stipulated, Marlena would be Pillman’s for the next 30 days. A timeframe Pillman not live out. Such a shame for someone who could have given so much more to the company if it wasn’t for personal demons.

Pillman escapes in a Car with Marlena as an emotional Goldust looks on.

Scott Putski vs. “Too Sexy” Brian Christopher

This is basically just to get the crowd used to the Light-Heavyweight division that is to be properly implemented soon enough. Christopher is actually Jerry Lawler’s son, but the King never mentions this on commentary despite the others alluding to it (remember those “Jerry’s Kid” chants?). His opponent is Scott Putski, son of WWF Hall of Famer, Ivan Putski. This all started on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night back in July where Christopher and Lawler beat down Scott, leading to a tag match between Ivan & Scott against Lawler & Christopher on Raw is War. The Putski father and son duo were victorious in that match, and that brings us to this here. Had things worked out, this could have been a decent match, but during the match, Christopher tosses Putski through the ropes to the outside and then goes to follow up with a crossbody. When Christopher lands on top of his opponent however, Putski’s completely blows out. The referee starts to count but after checking on Putski realises he is unable to continue. As a result he awards the match to Brian Christopher via count-out.

Winner: “Too Sexy” Brian Christopher via countout

Rating: ½*

It’s sad to watch Putski get injured the way he did. He had the Superstar look about him but was too basic as a character, but I’m sure that would have changed over time. Listen to those cheers, Too Sexy receives upon arrival. That guy just oozed charisma and was a decent wrestler to boot as well. However, the only negative I could say about Brian was that he was trying too hard to get some heat on him. Putski left the WWF shortly after this match and joined WCW where he was mainly used as enhancement talent. He retired in 2004.

Jerry Lawler celebrates with Brian Christopher as EMTs check on Putski. They showed you close ups of his knee and it isn’t pretty. It’s halfway up his thigh! It’s sad to see two careers come to an end in our opening two matches.

Before our 3rd contest, we are treated to a video package of the three factions who have been involved in a ‘gang war’ over recent months.

Savio Vega (Los Boricuas) vs. Faarooq (Nation of Domination) vs. Crush (Disciples of Apocalypse)

If memory serves me right, this is the first triple threat match in the company’s history, not exactly the most exciting match huh? There’s been a major change on the Nation front at least. Ahmed Johnson was dumped by the Nation after being side-lined with an injury (again). The following week, the returning Rocky Maivia would turn heel by assisting Faarooq in a match against Chainz on Raw, and officially joining the Nation of Domination in a move that may have single handedly saved the career of the future Great One. In the weeks that followed, Rocky cut promos against the fans for their lack of support in his face run, saying that he no longer was doing anything for them now that he was in Nation. Outside of that, the story is just the same here as all three factions have just been beating each other up all over the place. I think this match is probably the worst of the Gang Wars all up, as it is just incredibly boring. There’s a ton of botched spots which bring the match even further down than it already was. Nobody seems to care about the match either. Savio finally puts us out of our misery by hitting a spinning heel kick on Crush to pick up the win for his Boricuas.

Winner: Savio Vega via pinfall

Rating; DUD

Such a boring match with no flow what so ever to it. To be fair, this was the first triple threat match in the company’s history (so I’m lead to believe) but it was riddled with botches and miscues. I’m actually surprised that Savio went over and not Faarooq. He had more star power then the other two and the Nation was the more superior group.

El Torito vs. Max Mini

It’s time for our midgets match. El Torito means “little Bull” and as the name suggests, he’s acting like a little Bull too. Well, I say little he’s actually quite tall for a midget. Biggest midget in the game huh?  Max Mini? Loved the little bugger back in the day. Good god what an undercard this is shaping up to be. These guys are at least entertaining compared to usual midgets as the Max Mini brigade are actually able to have a fun match rather than resorting to the usual foot stomping and ass biting shenanigans we normally expect from most midget wrestlers (ass biting galore in this one, Max bites the ref’s ass and gets a chase of him) . They actually have quite the impressive outing which says a lot for a match like this. The crowd don’t care at all though as they have no reason to invest in either guy. The incredibly tiny Max Mini is obviously meant to be the face here as he is worked over by Torito for much of the match, but this was really just thrown together, and the more I think about it was probably just put together at the last minute due to the Putski/Christopher match being cut short due to the earlier injury. Anyway there’s not really much to say here other than this is much better than you would expect it to be from an entertainment point of view. Mini ends up picking up the win with a sunset flip on Torito for the win.

Winner: Max Mini via pinfall

Rating: **

The best match of the night so far and that really is a cause for concern! Says a lot for this PPV doesn’t it? Saying that, it was a very entertaining match, much better than what I was expecting but fans didn’t really care about it which is a massive shame.

A Highlight video is playing showing just why the tag titles are being vacant. Austin broke his neck at the last PPV and will be forced to hand the belt over, along with partner Dude Love, to the commissioner Sgt Slaughter.

Jim Ross is in the ring with Commissioner Slaughter as they wait for the tag titles to be handed over to them. Dude Love is out first. He hands over the title belt with a “heavy heart and pained pancreas”. Austin is out next to a huge reaction, best reaction of the night so far. Austin looks pissed. He gets in Slaughters face. He trash talks the Commissioner, JR and even Vince on commentary. JR wishes Austin well in his recovery but Austin gives him a Stunner to a huge pop. He gives Slaughter the finger before being escorted out by security. Vince is furious, JR is done on commentary.

Doc Hendrix (Michael P.S Hayes) is interviewing Owen Hart & British Bulldog. Owen is also furious about what just happened. He even goes as far as saying that Austin should be arrested which I found funny. Davey Boy: “Jim Ross may be from Oklahoma but he didn’t deserve that.” That too was funny.

Back on commentary, Vince is still furious at Austin. It won’t happen until two months’ time but we’re slowly seeing our first glimpses of the Mr McMahon character.

WWF Tag Team Championship

Headbangers (Mosh/Thrasher) vs. Godwinns (Henry/Phineas) vs. Owen Hart/ British Bulldog vs. Legion of Doom (Hawk/Animal)

Alright well now the belts have been vacated; the winners of this match are the new tag team champions. Unlike normal 4-way matches, this one has elimination rules as oppose to the normal one fall finish. This is a pretty long are boring match for the most part though, which apart from the last segment with Austin seems to be the theme tonight. Surprisingly the LOD is the first team eliminated in this one when they hit the Godwinns with their own slop bucket around ten minutes in continuing their rivalry. The crowd aren’t pleased as the LOD were pretty over here. The Godwinns are the next team to go shortly after as Headbanger Thrasher manages to pin Phineas following a sunset flip. We’re now down to the Headbangers vs Owen & Bulldog, which was our tag title match the Raw following Wrestlemania which saw the beginning of the Hart Foundation’s birth. Towards the end of the match, the heels look to be closing in on the titles as Owen locks in the Sharpshooter on Mosh. Meanwhile the referee gets distracted by a skirmish between Bulldog and Thrasher on the outside, which leads to Austin coming back out and dropping Owen with a stunner behind the ref’s back (to a monster pop of course). Mosh makes the cover as Austin leaves, and the referee counts the three.

Winners & new WWF Tag Team Champions: The Headbangers via pinfall

Rating: *

Very slow match which was dull in places. Davey and Owen were clearly the best workers in the match so having the Headbangers win was a massive upset. There was a part in the match where Owen called Mosh a chicken and even walked along the apron like a chicken which was absolutely hilarious. A good finish but it took a while to get there.

The Headbangers are celebrating with the fans in the concession stands. Camera cuts to Jim Ross and Commissioner Slaughter in the locker room area. Ross complains about what Austin did to him and that something needs to be done about him. After that segment we are now sent to a video package recapping the next match, the WWF Championship match.

Sunny is now standing by with the Patriot who is confident of victory tonight. They show some footage of his work in Japan before we go across to Bret Hart. Bret says he’s going to win tonight and retain his title to stick it to all the American fans that turned on him.

WWF Championship

The Patriot vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart ©

This is pretty much an extension of the Bret Hart vs USA angle, but Patriot really has no chance of winning. The Patriot is a big muscly flag bearing masked man. He owns a recent non-title victory over Bret which earned him this match. Patriot comes out to a very tepid reaction, but its cool hearing his theme as the one that would become associated with Kurt Angle in later years. Despite being in the U.S tonight, Bret clearly out-pops his challenger. Bret attacks Patriot as soon as we get under way and this starts out as a brawl, but it evolves into a decent enough match. Bulldog makes his way to ringside to assist Bret at one point, but the recently turned face Vader takes him out and sends Bret into the ring steps before being ejected by the referee. This probably would have been better if Vader were Bret’s opponent since he isn’t wrestling tonight, but you can’t win them all. The match continues and Patriot even locks in the Sharpshooter on Bret at one point. The Hitman gets out of it and ends up locking Patriot in his patented hold to pick up the submission victory. Bret attacks the Patriot after the match. He chokes him with the American flag before he eventually leaves.

Winner & still WWF Champion: Bret “Hitman” Hart via submission.

Rating; *** ½

The Patriot is actually a pretty good wrestler. He held his own against someone of the same calibre as Bret. Overall, it was an enjoyable match which even found its way on the new Bret Hart DVD. Highly recommended for what is viewed as a throwaway title defence.

Post match interview with Bret and Bulldog. Bret says that America is full of losers and he can’t wait to go to the UK (for the next PPV, One Night Only) where they appreciate good wrestlers.

We view another video package of the Undertaker/ Shawn Michaels feud. After the video, we get a word from Shawn Michaels who says that he’ll never rest in peace for anyone. Cocky Shawn was fucking great!

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

This is the first time ever one on one contest between the two. Of course, thats notable given the classic battles these two would go on to have in both the immediate and distant future (Their match at Wrestlemania 25 was the greatest match in wrestling history if you ask me). Anyway, after accidentally costing Taker the title at Summerslam, Michaels cut a heel promo the following night on Raw is War and then made his return to the ring the following week in a match against Mankind. During that match the returning Rick Rude made his way to ringside and assisted Shawn in that match, revealing himself as the insurance policy of the Heartbreak Kid. The following week, Shawn Michaels was forced to team with Hunter Hearst Helmsley to face Mankind and Undertaker – see where this is going? After a pretty good match, the yet to be named, future D-Generation X put a beating on Taker with a chair, but Taker sat up and chased them off. The faction hasn’t officially been born yet though as Michaels makes his way out alone here to his usual entrance music (complete with malfunctioning fireworks). Taker follows and of course he gets a huge pop. Shawn is absolutely petrified of Undertaker, he’s doing an amazing job of acting scared. He stalls to start out by using the ref as a human shield and tries to leave, not wanting anything to do with the Phenom (“are you fucking kidding me Vince?”), but Commissioner Slaughter stops him in the aisle and forces him to return to the ring so that we can finally get going but Taker tosses the referee over the ropes onto Michaels on the outside. From here we get a total brawl as the action spills up the aisle to the entrance area. They finally return to the ring after beating the shit out of each other, and we officially get under way. The replacement referee eventually gets bumped indadvertedly which leads to Rick Rude making his way down to ringside to give Michaels a pair of brass knuckles. HBK takes the advantage and drills Taker with them, but there’s no ref to count the pin. Helmsley and Chyna bring another referee out to ringside, but by the time he makes the count, Taker manages to kick out. A frustrated Michaels decks this official as well and the united faction of Michaels, Helmsley and Chyna proceeds to beat the hell out of the Phenom for a bit. Taker ends up recovering and gains possession of the brass knucks, hitting Michaels in retaliation with them, but only scoring a two count. This results in Taker chokeslaming the referee, much as Michaels did earlier. Another referee finally makes his way out amongst all this chaos and calls for the bell. After the match, Taker and Shawn continue to go at it, beating up any officials who get between them. The locker room empties as various superstars also try to separate them. Eventually Shawn, Hunter and Chyna manage to escape as Taker stares them down from the ring as we go off the air.

Winner: Double Disqualification

Rating: **** ½

The double DQ doesn’t bother me that much considering the match we’ll get at “Badd Blood”. It was a chaotic, entertaining brawl with a solid ending that this PPV so badly needed. Shawn was excellent. He perfected his role as the cowardly heel who lives to fight another day whiles Undertaker looked like an invincible mad man hell bent on revenge. Superb match.

Random thoughts

  • Stone Cold was starting to perfect his role as the anti-hero who had little regard for authority figures. Notice all those “Austin 3:16” shirts in the crowd? The guy was on the verge of superstardom!
  • Shawn Michaels was awesome. He could play the role of a coward really well and we’ll see more of that at Badd Blood when he faces Undertaker in the first ever Hell in a Cell match.
  • The first two matches on the card saw two careers come to an end. Brian Pillman would pass away the following month and Scott Putski would go into brief retirement following his knee injury. So sad considering how young these guys were but especially for Pillman. I always thought that if Pillman was still alive he could have been a great addition to the creative team or even a booker. Pillman left us way too early.
  • Bret has always said positive things about Patriot but the idea of working a cartoony storyline clearly frustrated him. Being used as an afterthought after carrying the company for most of the year really did get to him.
  • I still don’t understand why Faarooq didn’t go over in the triple threat match. The Nation was more superior then DOA and Los Boricuas. The Nation would slowly be fazed out of the feud as Los Boricuas & DOA have yet another re-match at Badd Blood.

Best match: Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker – Clearly the best match of the night. Saved the PPV from bombing.

Worst match: Savio Vega vs. Faarooq vs. Crush – One of the early triple threat matches but was riddled with botches.

Attitude Era Moment: Austin gives JR a stunner. Austin’s anti-hero character would get stronger and stronger from here.

Top 5 Superstars:

1. Shawn Michaels – Outstanding as the cowardly heel. Lived to fight another day.

2. Undertaker – Looked like a destructive man hell bent on vengeance.

3. Stone Cold – Excellent work despite working. His anti-authority persona was starting to kick it up a notch.

4. Bret Hart – Wrestled a decent forgotten match on a show that really needed some more good matches on it.

5. Owen Hart – His “chicken walk” was beyond hilarious. Check it out.

Superstar Rankings

Stone Cold – 8pts

Undertaker – 7pts

Shawn Michaels/ Bret Hart – 6pts

Mick Foley – 2pts

Owen Hart – 1pt

Overall show rating (out of 10) 4

The show had two great matches but a horrible undercard. That may have been okay for the original two hour format but something different needed to have happen. Things would improve in the future, but for now the mid-card was very thin and it showed here. A below average show but there is some stuff on it worth checking out.

Pay Per View Rankings

Summerslam ’97 – 6

Ground Zero – 4

 

*Rif Van Der Sheriff

RifRasslin@hotmail.co.uk

@RifRasslin

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