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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 6

January 12th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: February 16, 1997
Company: WWF
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.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 4

January 10th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: December 28, 1992
Company: WCW
Show: Starrcade ’92
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: None
Roster (8): Van Hammer, Danny Spivey, Big Van Vader, “the Natural” Dustin Rhodes, Great Muta, Barry Windham, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams and Sting

I didn’t watch all that much WCW in my childhood and I especially didn’t see any WCW PPVs. The concept of Battlebowl always had me interested, though, and it’s something I’d love to see WWE bring back. The first step to it is the Lethal Lottery. A bunch of wrestler names are picked out of a hat to create very random tag team matches. For instance, at this show, Big Van Vader and Dustin Rhodes had to team up to face the Barbarian and Kensuke Sasaki. Vader and Dustin won, each advancing into the big battle royal to end the show. In Vader’s case, it also softened him up a bit for a scheduled match against Sting that he ended up losing.

Sting is the last entrance into the fray and as they hype him up as last year’s winner, Vader rushes out the ring and collides into him. He goes from repeatedly clobbering him to trying to choke him out while Harley Race cheers him on. Refs try to separate the two while the other six go at it in the ring.

Sting and Vader eventually find their way in there and for quite a while, a big pile of nothing happens. It’s made a bit more boring from the fact that whoever’s directing this feels the need to hold back on changing any camera angles. It’s just the same hard camera shot of eight men brawling for far too long. Eventually, they show two more screens of other camera angles, which makes an 8-man brawl look more complicated than it really needs to.

Dr. Death eliminates Van Hammer about five minutes in and finally we’re onto something, but it’s barely noticed as the focus is more on Dustin giving Windham a bulldog on the walkway to the ring. With the eight guys involved, the only two feuds that have any meat on them are Sting vs. Vader and Dustin vs. Windham, who were partners before Windham turned heel. Sting soon after eliminates Spivey and that too is rather underwhelming.

With six guys left, Vader cuts it down quite a bit by diving into Sting and taking them both out in one go.

That leaves Muta vs. Dr. Death while the Dustin/Windham fight keeps on keeping on. Once it’s time to reach the end, Dr. Death repeats the same exact spot as Vader and accidentally eliminates himself along with Dustin Rhodes. That brings us to Windham – who is bloodied from that earlier bulldog – and the Great Muta. The crowd suddenly wakes up at this point and there are huge chants in support of Muta.

Windham works on Muta and holds the advantage for a few minutes. After a nice dropkick, he figures it’s time to finish it and throws him over the top rope. Muta holds on, does the “skin the cat” spot and saves himself from elimination.

He bombards Windham with a couple dropkicks and sends him over the top, thereby winning the Battlebowl Ring in what Jesse Ventura insists is an upset. The place goes nuts and fireworks go off for our Japanese victor.

Keep in mind, this is a pretty mind-blowing finish for the time. Shawn Michaels made it memorable at the 1994 Royal Rumble, but that’s still just over a year away by this point. So that’s cool.

Speaking of Shawn Michaels, tomorrow is all about his absence and the need for a replacement.

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The Top 60 Wrestling Matches That Surprisingly Happened (60-41)

December 7th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

While in the midst of dropping the ball on their epic CM Punk story, WWE put together a match between John Cena and Rey Mysterio for the WWE title with no prior advertisement on free TV. Now, while Cena and Mysterio are not my favorite guys in the company, I can’t help but think that they screwed up by not trying to siphon money out of what could have been a major money match. Not only is Cena – the guy who claims to be an underdog – taking on someone who is actually an underdog, but the whole thing is like Hogan vs. Warrior for this generation of wrestling-watching children. More than anything else, it’s one of the few fresh matches.

I looked into it and found that prior to this, they had clashed years earlier on Smackdown for a tournament. That got me to thinking about the surprising nature about wrestling’s history. There’s always plenty of trivia to be found, no matter how long you follow it. Who knew that the tag team the Blade Runners would each go on their separate ways to become two of the most popular names in the late 80′s/early 90′s as Sting and the Ultimate Warrior? At a Tribute to the Troops show, when Steve Austin entered the ring and delivered a Stone Cold Stunner in response to John Cena giving him the “You can’t see me!” gesture, who knew that this would be such a significant footnote?

There are a lot of matches in wrestling history that fit this bill. Dream matches that aren’t in the right time frame to be labeled a dream match. One man might be in the twilight of his career, facing a new up-and-comer who’s yet to prove himself but one day will. Maybe a classic matchup will take place a decade before either man is worth knowing. Two men regularly separated by story and company may have mingled ever-so-briefly on a TV match that nobody truly remembers.

With the help of Something Awful’s Punchsport Pagoda sub-forum, I’ve put together a list of the 60 matches that make me lift my eyebrow and say, “Wow. That match actually happened.” Jobber matches, house shows, C-level shows, forgettable Raw segments and more that look more interesting in retrospect. Today we’ll start with 60-41.

I should note that while I’ve been watching wrestling forever, I don’t know enough about Japanese wrestling to include it. Granted, I have some matches that take place in Japan and even a few with Japanese wrestlers acting as tag partners, but I’m too out of my element to measure matches like Inoki vs. Sid and Great Sasuke vs. Bob Backlund. For that, I apologize.

Let’s get started.

60) VADER vs. THE ROCK
WWF, 1997/1998
YouTube

Vader vs. Rock isn’t an overly rare match as it happened three times on Raw over the course of 97/98, but there’s a generational changing of the guard that makes it feel unique. The first time around, it was Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia defending against the big heel Vader, who had Paul Bearer and Mankind in his corner. The match appeared rather even until Mankind needlessly interfered and hit Rocky with an urn, getting Rock the DQ win.

Later that year, the two faced off again, this time with Vader as the face and Rock as the heel. On one hand, Rock was distracted by Steve Austin watching the match on top of a monster truck with AC/DC blaring. On the other hand, Vader was constantly attacked behind the ref’s back by the Nation of Domination and the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust. Vader completely no-sold the People’s Elbow to the point of throwing Rock off of him and then took after Goldust, getting himself counted out.

Once again, they fought, this time as a qualifying match for the King of the Ring tournament. This time, Vader got taken out by interference by Mark Henry, who splashed him on the outside and made him easy pickings for a Rock Bottom. Rock won, making it 3-0.

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The Summerslam Countdown: Day Four

August 8th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Um… hm… This post is late as it is and I’m still having trouble figuring out an intro to show before the link jump. Lesse…

Austin Roll it is!

Austin discovering the beauty of the internet is an exhibit of evidence that God exists.

Now back to the regularly scheduled list.

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