Date: February 16, 1997
Show: In Your House 13: The Final Four
Rules: Pins and submissions allowed
Stipulation: Winner becomes WWF Champion
Roster (4): Bret “The Hitman” Hart, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the Undertaker and Vader
The 1997 Royal Rumble ended with some controversy. Bret Hart eliminated Steve Austin while the refs were too busy dealing with an eliminated Mankind. Despite the crowd and cameras seeing everything clearly, nobody official noticed Austin was gone, so he got back in, threw out the Undertaker and Vader at the same time, waited for Bret to finish off Fake Diesel, then eliminated Bret to win the match. Bret was understandably pissed and Undertaker and Vader weren’t so happy either. For the next In Your House PPV, it was decided that they’d redo the final four (minus Fake Diesel, who was eliminated fairly) and the winner would become #1 contender against champion Shawn Michaels.
Plans change. Michaels made this big announcement that his knee wasn’t up to snuff and that he “lost his smile”. He gave up the WWF Championship and walked off into the sunset. Because of that, the Final Four match became for the vacated championship.
Really weird to have a PPV main event that’s just a four-man battle royal, but at the time, there’s a real feeling that any four of these guys could come out the winner. Remove the battle royal aspect and make it pin/submission only and it’s suddenly far too big for just an In Your House show. One cool little aspect of this match is that there’s no battle royal teamwork that you’d usually see, other than a brief instance of Bret holding back Austin so Undertaker can get a shot or two in. Our two heels are so independent that at no point do they want anything to do with each other.
The match goes a full 25 minutes and it helps that the weak link in terms of workrate is Undertaker. It’s a ton of brawling that’s mostly focused on Bret vs. Austin and Undertaker vs. Vader. They do mix it up quite a bit and the brief Austin vs. Vader heel/heel stuff is intriguing to watch, but we’re mostly treated to two matches going on at the same time. There’s a lot of guys going under the bottom rope for the sake of brawling on the outside.
Very early into the match, Vader runs at Undertaker with a chair and gets it booted right into his face. Vader’s eye pretty much explodes at this point. He doesn’t have a gusher, but it’s open enough that by wrestling for another 20 minutes, his face gets increasingly grosser to the point that it eventually looks like his face is a volcano.
Towards the end, he gets very wobbly and even removes his mask for the sake of vision.
Nearly 20 minutes in, we randomly see a shot of Bret holding Austin across his shoulders and he drops him out with a fireman’s carry. Since we don’t see any lead-up to this, it comes out of nowhere, but Austin is gone. Bret and Undertaker trade headbutts until Vader clips Undertaker’s knee and rolls him to the outside. As Undertaker gets to his feet, Paul Bearer – Vader’s manager at this point – smashes his skull with the urn. Bret wins out against Vader and puts him in the Sharpshooter, but Undertaker gets back in there and breaks the hold just because.
Soon Austin comes back and continues fighting with Bret, leaving us with more Undertaker vs. Vader. Vader takes down Undertaker and sets up for the Vader Bomb in the corner. Undertaker sits up and exploits the open advantage.
Out goes Vader, who later wanders around ringside screaming while covered in a disgusting amount of blood. We’re left with Undertaker vs. Bret, but Undertaker notices Austin is still stomping down on Bret. Undertaker clotheslines him out of the ring and begins to finish Austin’s job by chokeslamming Bret. He holds him up for a Tombstone, but Austin still wants a piece of Bret, so he pulls him off Undertaker’s shoulders. Undertaker keeps getting distracted by having to punch down Austin and after the third time, Bret is able to catch him with a clothesline, sending Undertaker over the top.
Bret Hart is champion for the fourth time while Undertaker wonders what the fuck just happened. Of course, this was originally supposed to be Bret winning a title shot for Wrestlemania so he could get his win back against Michaels, but that guy has a bad knee (which appears to be just fine shortly after) and he lost his smile and… well, what I’m saying is that 90’s Michaels is a jerk.
If anything, this match is an entertaining prelude to the infamous Montreal Incident.
Speaking of taking trips to WCW, tomorrow I’ll cover that company’s three-ring circus.
Oh! Oh, wait! Before you go, I almost forgot. One of the things talked about was that the winner would have to face Sycho Sid on the following Raw. To illustrate that, they’d occasionally show Sid backstage watching the match. Here’s a gif of Sid being King Galoot.