This show came at a time when very little attention was being paid to the WWF. A month earlier, WCW shook up the wrestling world when Hulk Hogan turned heel and formed the NWO with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. To be blunt, no one cared much what was going on here.
Champ Shawn Michaels had a big title defense against Vader in the main event, and the Undertaker faced off against Mankind in a Boiler Room Brawl. We had Jim Ross on commentary along with Vince McMahon and Curt Hennig. Vince was way worse on commentary than anyone you complain about today.
The period was also noted for the absence of Bret Hart, who’d been gone since losing the WWF title to Michaels at WrestleMania 12. Hart’s absence really hurt the show here, as they could have really used a other high quality match from Bret vs somebody. Of course the recent departures of Hall, Nash, and 123 Kid left some more holes on the roster, too.
Another thing was that Stone Cold Steve Austin, fresh off of winning King of the Ring, was relegated to the pre-show, giving the lie somewhat to the notion that winning King of the Ring was Austin’s launching pad to stardom.
Savio Vega vs Owen Hart
Hart was managed by Jim Cornette, but Jim didn’t come to the ring with him because he was helping Vader get ready for the main event. Owen was sporting a cast on his left arm. A good back and forth to start, and a small chant for Owen came up a few times. They mainly stayed on the mat for a long stretch in the middle, which made me really want to skip to the end.
Things picked up later on but this one went way too long before Owen uses the cast to cheat his way to victory. Decent opener, but I’m guessing it played better live than watching it now. After the match Justin Hawk Bradshaw, who would later know as JBL attacked Vega.
Tag Team Title Match: The Smoking Gunns vs The Godwins vs The Bodydonnas vs The New Rockers
This was a four way elimination match. One of the hook for this match was manager Sunny, who was with the Smoking Gunns here but had previously been with the Godwins and the ‘Donnas. Lot of future stars here as Skip of the Donnas would find success in ECW under his real name Chris Candido, Leif Cassidy of the New Rockers would do the same as Al Snow, and Billy Gunn would go on to be a member of DC. Pretty pedestrian effort here that was actually shorter than the opener. The Gunns would win to retain the titles.
Psycho Sid vs British Bulldog
Sid had come back from injury a month earlier and was in a surprising face run for a few months. Sid always could get a rise out of the crowds despite being very limited in the ring. Short power match, about six minutes, won by Sid with a power bomb.
Marc Mero w/Sable vs Goldust w/Marlena
Pretty good match here. Mero had a lot of aerial tactics that were fairly new to WWF audiences. Mankind came out distracted Mero by approaching Sable, then Marlena distracted the referee so that he couldn’t make the count after Mero hit his finisher. Goldust would recover and get the win.
Jerry Lawler vs Jake Roberts
Lawler gets on the mic and unloads on the crowd, Roberts and his alcohol problem, and even Mark Henry at ringside (Henry was on commentary as he was set to debut soon). Lawler’s mic routine went longer than the actual match. Jake was on his last legs here. He’d be gone a few months later. Short match, four minutes and change. In a total dick move Lawler uses a liquor bottle as a foreign object to get the win then gets on the mic and taunts Jake some more after the match. This may have been a work that Jake agreed to but it looks really bad in hindsight given Jake’s real life problems. Lawler attacks Jake afterwards, pouring liquor in his mouth, before Henry breaks it up.
Mankind vs Undertaker (Boiler Room Brawl)
Match starts off backstage in the actual boiler room of the arena, and for the first couple of minutes it’s just Taker walking around in the dark looking for Mankind, before he gets snuck up on from behind beginning the fight in earnest. A bunch of things were used as weapons and they did a nice ladder spot. And with no Titantron in use yet, the fans in the front row got to watch the action on………24 inch TVs wheeled out in front of them. Talk about bootleg.
I have no clue why they had this go almost a half hour. One good thing that did come out of this was that Mankind held his ground and fought more like Takers equal than a victim. Mankind would prove to be one of Takers best foils in his career as this would be one of several victories he would score over him. As a fight it wasn’t bad but it could have really been cut in half, time wise.
WWF Title Match: Shawn Michaels (c) vs Vader
The prototype for this was the series of matches Vader had with Sting in WCW, Michaels was better at taking crazy bumps, but Sting was a more credible looking challenger. Who would make for the better opponent? Both guys did some really good work for this one, but the finish was way overbooked. Two overturned finishes before the final result….ugh. Those were totally unnecessary and took away from what would was a really good match on it’s own. The match was better than any main event WCW was offering at the time and didn’t need all of that.
A one match show, to be honest. There were some other good ones on the show but nothing memorable. This was par for the course at this point of the WCW vs WWF war; WWF had better main events but the buzz was with WCW so they were just more interesting all around. And one could only imagine how much better this show could have been with Hall, Nash, Bret, and 123 Kid around to fill it out. At the very least there could have been another really good match to give 15 minutes to and cut that Boiler Room Brawl in half. It was hard to stay dialed in for most of this one at some points. Show wasn’t bad but a lot of ‘I don’t care about these guys’ up and down.